So what to make of Nate Schierholtz and his 2013 season with the Cubs?
It's all in the splits.
The Cubs signed the low-key Schierholtz as a free agent before last season, and he quietly had a career year in some respects. The now-30-year-old right fielder tied his career high in games played (137), got a career-high 503 plate appearances and capitalized with 21 home runs, by far his best total.
Schierholtz gladly will take those power numbers again, but he'd no doubt like to even out a few things. For one, he tailed off significantly in the second half of the season. Before the all-star break, he put up a line of .269/.327/.498. But after the break, it was .230/.268/.435.
Included in the second-half fade was a .214 batting average in July and a .177 mark in September.
The left-handed hitting Schierholtz also would like to even things out against lefty pitchers and be able to pile up even more plate appearances.
Of his 21 homers, 20 came against right-handed pitching. He batted .262 against righties compared with .170 against lefties.
"That's a huge goal of mine, to play every day and not necessarily platoon as much," Schierholtz told cubs.com this week in Mesa, Ariz. "That's one of my big goals this spring."
Those kinds of splits weren't lost on the number crunchers. Baseball Prospectus took an evenhanded approach to Schierholtz' 2013 season.
"If we were representing Schierholtz in an arbitration hearing, we'd be sure to point out that his 54 extra-base hits against righties last year tied Jay Bruce for the most among National League outfielders," the book's authors wrote. "While his lefty stroke proved to be a terrific fit in Wrigley, such statistical cherry-picking hides the fact that Schierholtz doesn't hit for a high average, rarely walks, is stretched in center field and can't hit lefties."
The Cubs decided to tender the serviceable Schierholtz a contract for this season. After all, the numbers were decent enough, and he played a solid right field, navigating a tough sun and tricky wind at Wrigley Field. He also has winning experience, having been awarded two championship rings with the Giants.
The organization also needs time for 22-year-old Cuban Jorge Soler to mature and develop. Soler, signed to a nine-year major-league contract in 2012, played in only 55 games last year at Class A Daytona as he was slowed by a stress fracture in his left leg.
He also got into some hot water over a bat-wielding incident during a game.
"I understand that I have to respect the game, and things like that will not happen and should not happen," he said through a translator during January's rookie development camp at Northwestern University. "With the injury, I understand that preparation has a lot to do with it, and going into this year, I've prepared myself a little better."
Soler has just 89 games of professional experience, and the Cubs can afford to wait. He got 20 more games of experience in the Arizona Fall League, hitting 1 homer and putting up a line of .271/.311/.376.
Baseball Prospectus sounded a cautionary note over the makeup issues, but remained positive overall: "The organization feels he's matured and isn't concerned about his makeup. The lost development time hurts, but Soler remains a top prospect with a prototypical right fielder's tool kit: speed, a laser arm and the potential for 30 knocks at his peak."