Mike Fontenot struggled mightily in 2009. The Cubs are hoping that he can regain his 2008 form in the off-season.
In 2008, Fontenot played a solid reserved role mainly at 2nd base. In 243 at-bats in 119 games, Fontenot hit .305 with a .395 on-base percentage. He hit 9 home runs, had 40 RBI’s and scored 42 runs. He struck out only 51 times and walked 34 times. He was a solid defender (.996 fielding percentage) and he was a key component to the success of the Cubs team.
But in 2009, Fontenot regressed under the pressures of being an everyday player. He racked up a lot more innings – 377 at-bats in 135 games – and the reduced offensive output really showed. Fontenot hit the same number of HR’s – 9; drove in 3 more runs – 43 RBI’s; but scored 4 less runs with only 38 runs scored. His strikeout numbers soared all the way up to 83 while his walks remained basically the same at 35. Hence the bad batting average – .236 – and poor on-base percentage – .301 – for a contact hitter like he is.
Manager Lou Pinella stayed with Fontenot because of the Aramis Ramirez injury and because Fontenot could play both 2nd base and 3rd base. He had a .989 fielding percentage in 70 games at 2nd base and a .963 fielding percentage in 50 games at 3rd base. These are very good numbers for someone who was struggling so much at the plate.
The Cubs hope that the overall lack of production from the Cubs offense also affected the types of situations that Fontenot batted in. Fontenot is probably not a .300 major league hitter, but he’s also probably better than the .236 he hit in 2009. Fontenot is arbitration-eligible, as is his biggest rival for the 2nd base job – Jeff Baker whom the Cubs acquired from the Colorado Rockies. Baker played in 89 games for the Cubs and put forth a solid effort – .305 batting average; .362 on-base percentage; 4 HR’s; 21 RBI’s and 27 runs scored; plus a .995 fielding percentage in 49 games at 2nd base.
It will be interesting to see what the Cubs do with the 2nd base position in 2010. I don’t really think that Baker or Fontenot are dependable enough to be everyday ballplayers. But since both players are such good fielders, they could platoon depending upon how much the Cubs would have to shell out to keep both players. Only time will tell and we’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything here at MyCubsToday…