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First series shows a still-developing picture for Cubs
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Cubs right fielder Milton Bradley (21) makes the catch for the out against Houston Astros' Miguel Tejada to end the fifth inning Wednesday in Houston.

 

Associated Press

The Cubs' Ryan Theriot runs across home plate in front of Houston Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez on Tuesday at Houston.

 

Associated Press

The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome watches his solo home run in the ninth inning Wednesday. The Cubs won 11-6.

 

Associated Press

The Cubs' Derrek Lee breaks his bat as he grounds out in the first inning against the Houston Astros on Tuesday.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 4/10/2009 12:01 AM

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Trends don't develop over three baseball games. About all we can do is look at a few snapshots.

No, Milton Bradley is not going to hit .000 for the rest of the season, as he is now. And Ryan Theriot is not going to end the season with an OPS of 1.282.

But let's take a look a few Polaroids from the opening series in Houston and see if we can find some meaningful pictures.

Milton Bradley: The new Cubs right fielder is 0-for-9. That's really no big deal. If Bradley is anxious to impress his new team, he's not showing it. And once the hits start coming, they'll keep coming.

Although Bradley is without a hit, he has 4 walks. According to STATS, Inc., Bradley is second in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance, at 5.36.

That's second to Jerry Hairston, and no other Cub is in the top 20.

This squares with the type of season Bradley had last year with Texas, when he led the American League with an on-base percentage of .436, setting a Rangers record.

In other words, Bradley rarely swings at bad pitches.

Kosuke Fukudome got a lot of credit early last year for a similar approach. If Bradley keeps this up - and there's no reason he won't - and Fukudome returns to his early 2008 form, the Cubs should have another monster year on offense.

Last season they led the NL in walks, OBP and runs scored. That went a long way to adding up to 97 wins and a division title.

Ryan Theriot: In three games, Theriot has batted in three different slots: eighth, second and seventh.

On Opening Day, he hit eighth and grounded out to first, hit a sacrifice fly to right, singled to right and walked.

The next night, he batted second and flied to right, doubled to left, walked and singled to right.

In the series finale, he batted seventh and singled to right, walked, grounded to short and hit into a forceout at short. That's 13 plate appearances and eight times on base, plus a sacrifice fly.

He has hit the ball to the right side six times, also in keeping with his hit chart of last year. During spring training, Theriot said he'd like to improve on last year's solid OBP of .387.

That seems a bit lofty, and no major stats-projections have him coming close, but he might do it.

Theriot's approach also makes him an attractive option to bat second behind Alfonso Soriano and hit to the ride side when Soriano is on first base.

It also makes him a good option to bat down in the order to provide Soriano with more RBI chances.

Kosuke Fukudome: After an 0-for-4 Opening Day and a seat on the bench for most of Game 2, Fukudome came out with a career night Wednesday (perhaps fearing his Cubs career was at a crossroads, given the impatient nature of manager Lou Piniella).

The most interesting aspect of Fukudome's night was that he swung at the first 3 pitches he saw - over a span of three innings - and came away with 2 singles and a double, with 2 hits being pulled toward the right side.

Fukudome worked a walk the next time up. In the ninth, he yanked a homer to right-center. Perhaps Piniella and hitting coach Gerald Perry told Fukudome not to wait if he gets a good pitch to hit.

Derrek Lee: The Cubs first baseman, whom many fans would like to see moved out of the No. 3 spot, opened 2-for-13 (. 154).

Both of Lee's hits - an RBI single and a run-scoring double - went to the right, or opposite, side. It's worth watching to see how many balls Lee drives hard to left and left-center. In his 13 at-bats, he has 4 strikeouts, and he has walked once.

Piniella respects Lee, who says he's feeling fine. A 4-for-4 game will help to change perceptions, but one thing that's not likely to change is Lee's spot in the order.

Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park

TV: Channel 9 Friday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday; ESPN Sunday

Radio: WGN 720-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Rich Harden (0-0) vs. Braden Looper (0-0) Friday at 3:05 p.m.; Carlos Zambrano (1-0) vs. Dave Bush (0-0) Saturday at 6:05 p.m.; Ryan Dempster (0-0) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-1) Sunday at 7:05 p.m.

At a glance: The Cubs were 9-7 against the Brewers last year, 5-2 in Milwaukee. The Brewers were traveling back from San Francisco on Thursday after a late-afternoon game. Dempster has held Ryan Braun to 2-for-15, but Braun is 5-for-16 with a homer vs. Zambrano. Derrek Lee is 21-for-45 against Suppan with 4 homers and 9 walks. Ryan Theriot is 7-for-16 vs. Suppan. Sunday's game is the first of back-to-back Sunday night games for the Cubs.

Next: Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field, Monday and Wednesday