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Lineup Follies: Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Tuesday 9/1, 7:05 CT

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As Alfonso Soriano's numbers tailed off during May and June -- now we know why -- the chorus calling for him to be dropped in the batting order got louder and louder. Finally, in early July Lou listened, and on July 4, Kosuke Fukudome was installed in the leadoff spot. The Cubs lost that game 11-2, but Fukudome led off virtually every day from then through August 7, a little over a month's worth of games. During that time Fukudome started only three times without batting leadoff (one game batting third and two batting fifth).

From July 4 through August 7, the Cubs went 18-12 (17-10 with Fukudome hitting leadoff), and Fukudome hit .299/.405/.495.

Then, for some unfathomable reason, Lou decided that the Cubs would be better off with Ryan Theriot leading off. Fukudome has continued to produce in the 20 games since then -- going .290/.372/.507, virtually the same OPS -- but the Cubs have been 8-14 since August 7, and even though Theriot has hit .303 in the leadoff spot, his OBA is only .333 in those games (he's started 20 of them), meaning he's gotten on base at a much poorer rate than Fukudome, over a similar stretch.

Since August 7, Milton Bradley has been installed as the #2 hitter (hitting third once), and is hitting.317/.423/.512 in 22 games (21 starts). That's outstanding production. I believe if Fukudome had remained the leadoff hitter, with Bradley hitting behind him, that would have produced a ton of baserunners for Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to drive in. Theriot should have been dropped to eighth in the lineup. Clearly, it was working -- the Cubs were winning.

Why do managers do this? It's not the only reason for the freefall, but it has to be a significant factor.

Site note: Josh77 wanted me to let you all know that his internet service is out -- that's why there was no minor league wrap this morning -- he hopes to have it back by tomorrow.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
Cubs
vs. Brian Moehler
Brian Moehler
Astros
9-7 W-L 8-9
3.06 ERA 5.26
78 SO 77
33 BB 39
11 HR 17
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Randy Wells 9-7 20 20 0 0 0 0 126.2 121 48 43 11 33 78 3.06 1.22


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Brian Moehler 8-9 23 23 1 0 0 0 125.0 150 77 73 17 39 77 5.26 1.51

The Cubs have already defeated Brian Moehler twice this year and his ERA, in three 2009 starts vs. the Cubs, is 13.97. Seriously, this is a pitcher the Cubs should beat handily. (I know what I'm risking by posting that.) Moehler will be 38 in December and one of his teammates during his 1996 September callup was... Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell. Derrek Lee has used him as a BP pitcher (7-for-17, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 7 RBI).

Randy Wells has started twice vs. Houston this year, beat them at Wrigley Field on July 29, and has not allowed them a run in 14 innings, and only 10 hits, all singles. Seriously, this is a game the Cubs should win easily.

For the third consecutive day, WGN will be carrying tonight's game. I know it shouldn't matter, but the Cubs have a far better record on CSN than on WGN (see records on left sidebar). It's also on FSN Houston. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Astros site The Crawfish Boxes.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.