Ian Stewart Has Big Shoes to Fill in 2012


While opening day is merely days away, there’s a sense of urgency in the Cubs’ step.

The 2012 Cubs have been essentially dismissed by many baseball analysts and experts, stating that they’re in a rebuilding phase and wont be competitive for a playoff spot come the half way point of the season.

Yes, its quite obvious that the Cubs are in a rebuilding phase… hard to disagree with them when you look at the team on paper.

But spring time is a season of renewal – a season of change. The Cubs are following this spring theme to a tee with lots of off season moves to compliment their new staff in the front office. Similarities between the 2011 and 2012 cubs are few and far between.

This is a brand spankin’ new baseball team with a fresh attitude towards winning – and it seems to be working in their favor. All these “predictions” about the Cubs’ season seems to be motivating them further to be a better team prove the skeptics wrong.

Great attitude fellas. Lets keep it up!

As much as having a good attitude and doing things “The Cubs Way” will motivate your team to win games, it all comes down to execution.

No one knows this more than Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart.

Stewart, who was picked up by the Cubs during the offseason from the Colorado Rockies, has a bit of a daunting task ahead of him. He’s been called on to replace a fellow by the name of Aramis Ramirez.

You know… that “power hitting strong defense all around solid player” Aramis Ramirez? Yeah, that guy.

For as long as the Cubs have been having success, Ramirez has been in the picture slugging away and posting fairly consistent numbers. Raking up a solid 149 games last season, he showed off his power by belting 26 dingers, hitting a solid .306 and SLG a massive .510. Jeepers… this guy’s bat is like a cannon when he turns it on. He isn’t walked a whole lot because he’s a “swing first look later” kind of hitter, but he’s accurate and disciplined at the dish, posting a respectable 11% K/AB ratio.

Ramirez is now property of the Milwaukee Brewers and will probably continue to have success at the plate. So be it.

So how does Stewart measure up to Ramirez? Aramis was a strong hitter and a great pickup for any fantasy pool because of his defensive prowess as well. Stewart must be decent enough to viably replace Ramirez… right?

Well… he’s a ballplayer… and he’s still better than you or I. Is he Aramis Ramirez? No.

Lets break down his numbers.

Stewart hit a dismal .156/.243/.221, driving in 6 RBI and crossing the plate himself 14 times. Power is lacking having posted a .066 ISO in 2011 and seems to have an affinity for striking out. That’s about all we can say about him.

He also his as many homeruns as I did in the majors last year: none.

I know what you’re thinking…. “Who is this guy?! And why are the Cubs paying him to play baseball in Chicago? Why isn’t he in the minors?! Does he bat with a wet noodle?! Blah blah blah”

Hear me out. Ian Stewart is a good quality player despite his numbers. You must take into account that he only played 48 games with 146 major league plate appearances in 2011. For our more casual baseball fans reading this, it means he didn’t play a whole lot… at all. The guy needs more frequent exposure to major league pitching if you want him to be consistently good. He’s already done his time in AA and AAA within the Rockies system and is no rookie when it comes to playing baseball at a professional level.

For example, in 2009, Stewart played 147 games, had 491 PA, hit 25 HR, .464 SLG and was a respectable 1.3 WAR (a stat which dictates value over the next possible replacement). Those are some decent numbers!

All this potential is very good for the Cubs, but unfortunately its not 2009. So what happened to Stewart? Why all the problems at the plate now when 3 years ago he was a batter that a lot of pitchers would have taken seriously?

Simple answer: injury. Stewart suffered a wrist injury in 2005 sliding in to second base and its never really left him. Its been giving him lots of problems this year as well. Wrist injuries are normally a little more delicate than other injuries and his numbers suggest he’s more tuned to power hitting than hitting for average. A wrist injury can be a death sentence for a lot of power hitters.

Stewart was asked about his injury less than a month ago. He was quoted saying:

"It’s not like it’s broke or anything. It’s just inflammation and general soreness type stuff. The best chance [to eliminate it] is in the offseason and even then, guys nowadays, we start working out right when the season is over. It’s just one of those things where if I had a whole year off it would probably be better."

Yikes. That quote scares me a lot… especially considering he’s the Cubs’ go-to third baseman.

Stewart’s success is going to depend a lot on whether he stays healthy or not. He’s already shown in spring training that he’s skilled enough to play 3rd at a major league level and has displayed his power at the plate in the past.

I believe in this guy. He’s has everything to prove not only to the Cubs’ organization, but to himself.

Stewart is in the right spot to make a serious comeback: a rebuilding franchise where no one player is above another. If he continues to work hard, stays healthy and embraces “the Cubs Way”, he just may find himself a permanent resident of the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Im really looking forward to watching him work in 2012.