Eric ‘Pudding Lane’ Patterson sparks River Cats’ offense
By Albert Samaha
Sports Informant Contributing Writer
All it took was one. The Great London Fire of 1666 can be attributed to a single source. A single spark, a single flame, a single home caused the burning destruction of London, the absolute obliteration of four-fifths of the great city. Initially, Londoners blamed the French and the Catholics and the sins of Man. One insane individual even falsely confessed to starting the blaze. In actuality, the hellacious inferno was sparked by the King’s baker, a man named Thomas Farriner, who lived on a street called Pudding Lane. Maybe he left the oven glowing, maybe a candle toppled, maybe his pet gerbil spontaneously combusted. The exact cause remains a mystery to this day. But it all started on Pudding Lane. And thanks to densely clustered houses, thatched roofs, and a general lack of fire preparation, the city fell like flaming dominoes. It is remarkable to consider that the most infamous inadvertent disaster in British history was sparked by a single source, a single home on Pudding Lane.
So if one of the most epic catastrophes in human history could have been sparked by that single home on Pudding Lane, is it really that inconceivable that the entirety of the River Cats’ offense could be sparked by a single player?
The Cats tend to score in bunches, an inferno of scoring, if you will. And it’s sparked by Eric “Pudding Lane” Patterson. Pudding Lane Patterson is the glowing oven, the fallen candle, the spontaneously combusting gerbil. He’ll get on base, steal a base then score a base. Speed and contact make a dangerous combination when a twinge of cunning is added.
In 76 games this season Pudding Lane is batting .315 with 29 stolen bases and 61 runs scored, leading the team in all three categories. The offense goes as he goes. In Sacramento’s past two games, both slugfest wins in Reno, the Cats scored a total of 27 runs. For those games Patterson hit 6-11 with five runs scored and two stolen bases. To contrast, in Sacramento’s late June series loss to Colorado Springs, their first series loss in nearly two months, the Cats scored a total of four runs in four games. Patterson totaled one hit in the series, a dismal 1-13 slump. It all starts with Pudding Lane.
A great leadoff hitter changes the game. You can play the odds with a free swinging slugger. You can walk a professional hitter. But you can’t do much to contain a great leadoff bat, other than maybe light some prayer candles at the local church. In baseball, runs come in bunches. When guys get on base, batters gain confidence knowing that the balls are hittable, and pitchers lose confidence knowing the balls are hittable. Scoring snowballs. The River Cats will go scoreless eight innings out of a game, but have a four run spurt in the seventh. Since the game is such a mental grind, runs are not independent of each other. It’s not a coincidence that everybody catches fire at the exact same time.
Pudding Lane Patterson sparks that flame. When he gets on base, batters come to the plate with a greater sense of urgency. They know their hits will matter more. They don’t take the at-bat for granted. For instance, take Daric Barton, a statistical anomaly. Do not let his .253 batting average deceive you into thinking he is a just marginal hitter- with runners on base he is hitting .363 with a .488 OBP. With runners in scoring position he posts a .389 clip with an incredible .513 OBP. Even though, out of his 221 at bats, he has only come to the plate with runners in scoring position 54 times, half of his home runs have come in such situations. In all, four of his six home runs have come with runners on base.
Daric Barton is also hitting .177 with the bases empty. In fact, his slugging percentage with the bases empty, .277, is less than his batting average with runners on.
Daric Barton won’t spark the fire. He’ll turn a flame into an inferno, but he won’t initiate it. He is the thatched roof, not the fallen candle. A great leadoff man cannot pick his spots-he creates the spots. Each at-bat is as important as the next. He doesn’t decide what at-bats are important- he determines when other hitters’ at-bats are important. Each hit produces the potential for a big inning. The great leadoff man knows that he cannot mail-in even the most seemingly trivial at-bat, can’t give in down 0-2 in the count with two outs, because each single spark can induce a flame, and each flame can evolve into an inferno. All it takes is the spark.
And it all starts with Pudding Lane.