Is Pie the guy?

Tony LaRussa seems to have enough respect for Felix Pie, a .220 hitter, to always bring in a lefty reliever to face him. TLR used two southpaw relievers yesterday when Pie was due up, and in both cases Fukudome, the other lefty hitter (besides Lilly) in the lineup, had already batted the inning before.

He burned two relievers for nothing, since Pie drew walks both times. In the eighth inning at-bat, I could swear I actually saw Pie check his swing twice. One was a swing that he tried to check but couldn’t (but I’ll give him credit for trying); and the other was a good old-fashioned check on a ball that broke low and outside. The end result was a base on balls.

Normally a checked swing is not big news. In Pie’s case, I made the observation in May that he started his swing too late to ever check it. I thought Pie looked like a normal hitter last night, not like a project. A normal hitter with tools that would enable him to get better and better over time: that was what we’ve been hoping for from Pie.

Starting your swing earlier means swinging harder. Pie’s RBI single in the second inning was a hard grounder between short and third, not his customary blooper to left.

This is all good, and I’m inclined to renew my call for a new hitting coach in Chicago next season. Von Joshua, the batting coach at Iowa, should replace Gerald Perry. Perry can take the run totals generated by the Cubs’ offensive juggernaut and land a good job elsewhere. Hendry and Piniella deserve the credit for the Cubs’ offensive production, Hendry for acquiring the hitters and Lou for writing the lineups. In individual cases–I would cite Pie, Cedeno and Derrek Lee–I don’t think Perry deserves much of a pat on the back. Cedeno was a good hitter (defined as someone who looks for a pitch he can drive) when he last came up from Iowa. Now all his hits are bloopers to right, like his big “double” on Sunday. Lee can no longer hit anything to left except on the ground. I don’t know if a veteran like Lee has much interaction with the hitting coach, but the younger guys certainly do. If someone can make the case that Perry helped Soto or Fontenot, fine, go ahead.

I think Perry and Rothschild coach like Sinatro drives. What young players have they mentored? Everybody at Iowa always hits, and they give credit to Joshua.

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