Archive for May, 2005

Happy Anniversary Ernie!

Thursday, May 12th, 2005
I know we don’t normally reprint a post from another blog but I trust in this case you will allow an exception. From our friends over at the WGN Baseball Blog:

35 years ago today, Ernie Banks hit one of the most memorable home runs in Cubs history. Mr. Cub lined a pitch from Atlanta’s Pat Jarvis into the left field stands for his 500th home run, the crowning achievement of his Hall of Fame career. It was also another memorable call by the great Jack Brickhouse:

It’s a ball 1-1. The wind is not a big factor, it’s out of the southeast at 7 miles per hour. Jarvis fires away. (CRACK) There’s a fly ball deep to left…back…BACK…THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT! HE DID IT! ERNIE BANKS HIT NUMBER 500! A LINE DRIVE SHOT INTO THE SEATS IN LEFT…THE BALL DROPPED INTO THE BULLPEN. EVERYBODY ON YOUR FEET! THIS IS IT! WHHEEEEE!

Happy Anniversary Ernie! banks_ernie_5

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Cubs new pace – 100 victories!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

The facts speak for themselves. The Cubs have won two of their last three contests (Nice game, Greg!) If they keep this pace up for the remainder of the season, their final record will be 100 wins, 62 losses.

Let the dancing on Rush St. begin.

What? You donít believe me? OK, then, it is equally true that the Cubs have lost eight out of their last ten. If they were to maintain that pace for the remainder of their schedule, their final record is something like 40-122. Yikes!

Now, neither scenario is very likely but it sparks an interesting debate on the use of statistics. Numbers are the lifeblood of many within the CBA. I use them, most everyone crunches the numbers at one time or another.

An axiom that I learned many years ago states that figures donít lie, but liars figure. We can make the numbers say anything we want them to say. Now. I started off with obvious overreaching. Most of the time statistics abuse is more subtle.

The world of politics does it all the time. During the presidential campaign one party ran on increased spending for education. The other party swore that the spending was actually a cut.

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Could both be right? Depends on the figures, or rather more precisely, how one uses the figures.

Why do we do this? A plethora of possibilities. One, we lack true interpretive expertise so as amateurs we think we are making intelligent analysis when in fact weíre merely speculating. Honest mistake.

A more sinister reason is that we want to promote a certain agenda. Some thrive on misery so they will spin the numbers toward the negative. Others are disciples of Norman Vincent Peale so the silver lining will outshine any other consideration.

Letís say we are a member of the Michael Barrett Fan Club. What will we write about? Well, his May numbers of course. Michael sports a very impressive .958 OPS so far this month.

Barrett

And for those who wish Joe Girardi was still the Cubsí backstop? They will look at the entire season thus far and cite Barrettís rather pedestrian production of .253 batting average, only seven runs scored and .272 on base pct.

So what is a blogger or a reader of the same to do? Keep one eye open to a wide array of possibilities as far as the numbers are concerned. Watch for individual bias and maybe leave the speculating to the professionals.

(I reserve the right to ignore my own advice.)

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Interesting Study

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

This is a link one of the readers pointed out that is pretty interesting.

Hamilton, ON. May 4, 2005 — Exasperated parents practicing throw-and-connect skills with their young children will be relieved to know that their child’s inability to hit a slow-moving ball has a scientific explanation: Children cannot hit slow balls because their brains are not wired to handle slow motion.

“When you throw something slowly to a child, you think you’re doing them a favour by trying to be helpful,” said Terri Lewis, professor of psychology at McMaster University. “Slow balls actually appear stationary to a child.”

This explains why a young child holding a bat or a catcher’s mitt will often not react to a ball thrown toward her, prompting flummoxed parents to continue throwing the ball even slower. By adding a little speed to the pitch, Lewis and her team found that children were able to judge speed more accurately. There are several reasons for the phenomenon.

“Our brain has very few neurons that deal specifically with slow motion and many neurons that deal with faster motion,” says Lewis. “Even adults are worse at slow speeds than they are at faster speeds. The immature neurons in a child’s brain make a child especially poor at judging slow speeds — immaturity disadvantages the few neurons that are responsible for seeing slow speeds more so than the many neurons responsible for seeing faster speeds. Once the brain develops to maturity, it becomes more adept at handling slower speeds.”

Lewis’ research, which will be published in July in Vision Research, was triggered when she and her team began detecting a correlation between eye problems and perception. For instance, children born with cataracts and treated as early as a few months of age were found to encounter problems with seeing motion later in life. Deficits in motion perception are particularly pronounced when a person encounters slow motion.

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New ìKidî on the Block

Monday, May 9th, 2005

I finally understand why William T. Riker never left the Enterprise. Oh, he had several offers to command his own vessel. But he stayed put in Picardís shadow. He realized that serving as back-up on the Federationís Flagship was better than sitting in the captainís chair flying around the cosmos in his own little puddle jumper of a starship.

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Which is precisely what I have been doing since March. My ship was CubTracker and I think Iím gonna like the View From The Bleachers a whole lot better. Let me personally thank oh captain, my captain, Joe Aiello, for this opportunity. Heís not a trekkie so this will not be his favorite post of mine but itís a long season as the Cubs have 132 games or so left to right their ship and so do I.

Although the newest member of the crew, I find myself to be the oldest as well. Born during Ikeís administration in the late 50ís, I was already graduated from college, married and working when the rest of The Viewís mothers were packing their little boyís Ryne Sandberg lunch boxes.

All that means is that I might have a different take on the ballclub (notice, I didnít say better, just different). I remember Steve Stone when he pitched for the Cubs! Having languished with the team for 35 years perhaps I donít have such a hair trigger when it comes to firing Dusty Baker. I enjoy going against the tide just for the fun of it whether my opinion is all that different or not. Never have been a big fan of the staus quo.

All right, now, the Cubs have a 1 game winning streak and Derreckís hit string is up to 18. Itís about time to have some fun with the team and with The View.

And I can’t wait to meet Barbara Walters.

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Prescription Lenses For Hindsight

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Baseball Prospectus, an excellent baseball analysis website, keeps track of all sorts of statistics. One of those stats is “Pitcher Abuse Points”, which basically measures the quantity and severity of high-pitch-count outings for starters. After Zambrano’s 136-pitch outing yesterday, he landed himself in the #2 spot on the list in abuse points, and became the only starter in baseball with a “Category 5″ outing (133 or more pitches).

Here’s an interesting little blurb from the description of Pitcher Abuse Points, written in June of 1998 (italics mine):

And, of course, I can’t write this article without mentioning Kerry Wood. At 21, he’s the youngest name on this list, and he’s in the middle of the pack as far as abuse goes. He hasn’t thrown more than 128 pitches in a game this year, but he has a number of outings in the 120+ range. I don’t think he’s in grave danger of injury – he’s a big guy with good mechanics, relies on his fastball, and doesn’t throw a splitter. But I do think that Jim Riggleman should take a little more care of the most prized arm of the decade.

Oy.

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News & Notes

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

A good win for the Cubs today, in the sense that any win is a good one. Carlos Zambrano made Dusty Baker’s life a little easier by throwing 9 innings of 1 run ball at the Phillies. The problem is that the offense seems as stagnant as last year: the Cubs only two runs came on solo shots, and everybody appeared to be swinging for the fences. This is where the team misses Nomar and Walker, because both are good line drive hitters, who can hit to all fields.

Anyway, today’s game aside, the reason I’m posting is that there are a few notable news items on the Cubs today, and I wanted to put them out there and give my thoughts on each one.

1. Ryan Dempster has been officially named the Cubs closer.
The announcement was made today, and Dempster was actually warming up in the 9th inning. Jon Leicester was recalled from Iowa to start tomorrow’s game. As you may know, I came out in favor of Michael Wuertz getting the job, but since he was hit hard in his next appearance, I won’t complain much about this move, especially since it gets LaTroy out of the closers spot. I’m still not sold on Dempster (remember, it was Dempster who walked two batters in the 9th before LaTroy’s fateful gopher ball against the Mets last September), but I’m consoling myself with the hope that Ryan’s simply keeping the 9th inning warm until Joe Borowski returns.

2. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs are interested in aquiring Jeff Conine from Florida to play left field.
Not exactly the splashy move we’re all hoping that Hendry will make to improve his offense. I think most Cubs fans were hoping that any new left fielders would be coming from Florida’s American League team. Conine is riding the pine in Florida, mostly serving as a pinch hitter. If the Cubs traded for him, it would mean essentially mean that Jason DuBois would be going back to Iowa to terrorize AAA pitchers until Jim Hendry finds him a new home. Baker’s never had a reputation for developing young players, and his reasoning that DuBois is too much of a defensive liability to make up for his bat stinks. Why isn’t the coaching staff working on this with him? Maybe the thought of Ramirez at 3rd and DuBois is left field gives the Dusty nightmares of routine grounders caroming off the left field wall. Besides, I think if DuBois wasn’t thinking about being removed from the game for the slightest mistake, he might loosen up and feel more at home in the field.

Anyway, I’m not sure about this move. The offense does need some serious help, and replacing Todd Hollandsworth is the most glaring upgrade. While I feel that Conine is probably the best the Cubs are going to do this early in the season, I’m not sure that a team beset by injury woes should necessarily aquire a 38 year old left fielder with a history of back problems.

3. The Cubs signed Darren Oliver to a minor league contract.
Oliver gave up 9 runs on 9 hits in 2.1 innings on Sunday.
It’s official, we’re desperate.

4. The Pittsburgh Pirates have released catcher Benito Santiago for refusing a minor league rehab assignment.
Not a Cubs item, per se, but keeping in mind that Santiago played for Dusty when the Giants went to the World Series in 2002 and that he’s a spry 40 years old, I expect the Cubs to offer him a deal any day now.
Be afraid.

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Mother’s Day Notes

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

What’s this? A win? You’re joking right? Well, the Cubs are on a win streak of 1. Here are the notes from the game.

  • Ben Grieve got the start today in Left and it got me thinking about Dusty’s reasoning. If you’re not going to play Todd Hollandsworth, why would you start Ben Grieve in Left? Why not get Dubois as many opportunities as possible to win a job?

  • In todays lineup, Hairston was batting 8th, which seams to be a waste of his leadoff ability and speed. Why bat a guy 8th who has leadoff ability and bat Corey, who has no leadoff ability, 1st? Dusty’s reason baffles me at times.
  • In the 3rd inning, Carlos Zambrano started a great double play, but he needs to quit swatting at line drives with his pitching hand. I know it’s instinct, but he seems to do it more than any pitcher i’ve seen. One of these times, he’s not going to be as lucky as today and will end up with a broker finger, broken hand, or a Joe Borowski special, broken wrist. I’d rather see a healthy Z than a broken Z but a killer double play.
  • How about Brett Meyers? He takes a shot off the head and still stays in to pitch and pitch well. What a stud!!!! Usually, when you see guys get hit by comebackers to the mound, it immediately means a trip to the hospital and then the DL. It was good to see Meyers was not only OK, but showed no ill effects.
  • As of the 6th inning, the Cubs had managed 3 hits. Two of them were HR and one was a hit off Meyers head. Way to go Gene Clines. Keep up the great work as our hitting coach.
  • Play manager for a second. Do you bring Zambrano in to pitch the ninth after he had already thrown 112 through 8 innings? I don’t think I do. Then again, Dusty is the genius, right?

No matter what, a win is a win and I’m glad this god awful losing streak is done. Now we can get to work planning the big June Swoon (pardon the spelling if it’s incorrect)

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Lucky # 7

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

It’s getting to the point that I am actually rooting against the Cubs just to get Baker out of town. I find it funny that Chevy is running an ad with Dusty Baker these days on Comcast Sports Net. In the ad, Dusty is quoted as saying “We accept nothing short of excellence.” Dusty, if that is the case, why was Jose Macias in the lineup today? Why was Todd Hollandsworth starting in LF? Why do you continue to use the King in a closer role? It seems to me that if anything less than excellence is unacceptable, then these things should not be happening.

The time has come for this team to do something. They lose 3 to the Brewers, then are on the verge of being swept by a team that ranks 13th in the NL in runs scored. Something drastic needs to happen and it has to be far more severe than the players shaving their heads, which looks horrible for guys like Mike Remlinger. The fact of the matter is, this team is not playing like it wants to win. They get runners in scoring position and do not drive them in. They get leads and give them back wrapped neatly and tied with a bow. Jim Hendry, show some balls and fire the man who says he accepts nothing but excellence but seems to accept anything but excellence. Save us Jim, because I don’t know that I can take much more of this.

Update: – Anyone interested in dating John Rocker? If so, click here to contact him.

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Huzzah for Chris and Tommy!

Saturday, May 7th, 2005

One of the great things Joe does is make sure View from the Bleachers is active and full of content. When he hired me to write, it was clear that he was going for quantity over quantity (self-deprecation — if you agree, please pretend you don’t). I’m like the Ben Grieve of the team–I’m here because, well, I was standing there.
The addition of Chris and Tommy puts some Derrek Lee into our lineup and should increase our IPPW (Interesting posts per week, a popular metric). Welcome, gentlemen!

Until their profiles are up, please consider these bios the gospel truth. You’ll have to substitute the names, but everything else should be right on:
Chris Troha Bio
Tommy Marker bio

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