Archive for December, 2006

A Tribute to Ernie Banks

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

Saturday and Sunday are slow days for readers. With that being said, we’ll be running small, simple things on the weekend. Generally they will be videos, pictures, or even links. Here is an example. A nice YouTube tribute to our own, Ernie Banks.

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No Offense, but I Take Offense

Friday, December 29th, 2006

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m addicted to the Hardball Times. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up their 2007 Baseball Annual, you really need to look into that. It’s loaded with great articles that will help you cope with the off-season down time that is the month of January. One of my favorites is the review of the World Baseball Classic, which is an event I didn’t have much time to watch. Reading their breakdown was a nice treat. Anyway, enough about that and on to what I wanted to talk about.

Geoff Young, who blogs about the Padres on Ducksnorts, wrote a column entitled “Thirty New Years Wishes for Thirty Teams” in which he basically broke down each team briefly. I took offense with his wish for the Cubs.

Cubs: A way to get back some of the $294 million they spent on free agents this winter. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but giving huge wads of cash to the likes of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis just ensures more desperate times. In Lilly’s case, though, he at least has one consecutive year of not sucking.

There are many that don’t like the money that Jim Hendry has spent this off-season, but I can’t understand why. Offense and pitching, so basically everything, was what we needed and it’s exactly what Hendry added.

Coming into this off-season, we needed to bring back Aramis Ramirez. Hendry did that in remarkable fashion by not allow the negotiations to get out of hand and move through the month of December. With virtually no free agent third basemen on the market, Hendry sensed the urgency and brought back the best one on the market at a slight home town discount. Sure, you can argue that a guy like Akinori Iwamura may have been a better option, but I disagree. Iwamura is a risk because he’s a foreign player with no MLB experience. Essentially, he’s a crap shoot that we can’t afford to gamble on. If he busts, we’re stuck with another Kevin Orie at third and longing for the good ole’ Ron Santo days. Ramirez, when surrounded by other hitters in the lineup who can protect him and help carry the load, is one of the best offensive third basemen in the game today. Baseball Prospectus has Ramirez ranked 5th among all 3B with at least 500 AB’s in 2006 in terms of VORP.

1. Miguel Cabrera – 78.7
2. Garrett Atkins – 62.7
3. David Wright – 54.3
4. Alex Rodriguez – 51.6
5. Aramis Ramirez – 44.5

Obviously there is a big gap between Ramirez and Cabrera, but when you factor in the fact that Atkins plays at Coors, it brings him down closer to Wright. So, Ramirez is close enough to be considered one of the top 3 in the majors, especially considering that the numbers he had last year were basically done without Derrek Lee in the lineup.

Others will complain that the Lilly and Marquis signings were not the right moves for this team, but I also take offense on this one as well. People tend to look at the contracts they signed and immediately look at the half empty cup of Cubs Kool Aid and not want to drink. You need to remember that the Cubs are not a poor team. People are constantly complaining that the Tribune Co. is never opening the wallet. This year, there were three huge names on the market in terms of FA. Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, and Daisuke Matsuzaka were all potential # 1 starters available. The Cubs did not go out and get any of them, much to the dismay of the majority of fans. However, by going out and addressing the pitching need by bringing in Lilly, it allowed Hendry the opportunity to play a hunch when we signed Marquis. We were able to add two pitchers for the cost of just one of the other three.

If you look at the VORP for pitchers who pitched at least 150 innings last year, Lilly ranks 49th, which tells me that he’s a low # 2 starter if you take the top 30 and make them Aces. I’ll take that. Taking a look at Lilly’s Translated Pitching Stats, which is a way of converting pitching stats into a standard context. Lilly’s numbers are as follows:

Stats Wins Loss ERA
Actual 15 13 4.31
Translated 17 13 3.90

That’s a good looking set of numbers when you factor in the fact that he may have lost a few wins due to offense. With the Cubs upgrade this off-season, I think he’ll get more than enough run support to win 17 games in 2007.

Marquis numbers also translate out a little better. He doesn’t pick up any additional wins or losses, but he does see his ERA go from 6.02 to 5.26. I’ll be honest with you. I have no idea what went wrong in 2006 for Marquis. All I know is that he credits it to mechanical issues that have been diagnosed and fixed. If that’s the case, is it possible that we could see a return to 2005 form when he had 13 wins and an ERA of 4.13? Or is it possible that we could even see a return to the 15-7 season in 2004 with an ERA of 3.71? Hendry isn’t dumb. He spent a lot of time as a scout and was the Director of Player Development, in charge of scouting and minor league operations. He knows prospects and I believe he has the ability to see talent when maybe others do not. He saw potential in Michael Barrett and Ramirez when no one did. Those guys are anchors now for us.

Complain if you want about this off-season, but does it really make the job of being a Cub fan easier or more fun? Why not get excited that this team will be significantly better than last year and has the real possibility of winning the division this season.

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Barry Zito worth 8 Years?

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

And you thought Jim Hendry was crazy for what he gave Alfonso Soriano. Apparently, Barry Zito has rejected offers from the Texas Rangers and is likely to sign with the Giants.

A diary on the McCovey Chronicles mentions that the deal could be for 7 years and $126 million dollars.

No source is quoted so take that for what it’s worth. Regardless, this seems to be where Free Agency is headed and it is something that Major League Baseball needs to get under control or they risk completely pricing out small teams with low payrolls from the entire market.

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January Writing Project

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

As we head into the new year, I figured I would steal an idea I saw and participated in on a blog called ProBlogger. Each month, he runs a community writing project. My thinking is that we can turn this into a fun monthly feature on this site and even offer some prizes. This is a new concept, so we’ll start real easy.

The Topic
This month’s topic will be a fun one. In 500 to 750 words, make three predictions for the upcoming Cub’s season and explain your reasoning for each one.

The Rules
All entries for the competition need to be submitted via E-mail to by 5pm EDT on January 19th. We reserve the right to edit for spelling and readability purposes. After all the posts are in, the best ones will be posted over the next week and a winner will be chosen.

The Prize
This month, the prize is a good one. The winner of our contest will receive a brand spankin’ new copy of The 2007 Bill James Handbook. It’s loaded with stats and the usual quality Bill James analysis. What better way to ease through the off-season than to sift through this gem of a book.

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All Your Secrets Exposed

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

What would you do if someone stole your identity? Suddenly, all your deep, dark secrets would be known. Got a lot of debt on your credit card? They’d know about it. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be, especially if it was due to no error on your part. That was the case for a number of baseball players according to a story I found the other day.

CLEVELAND — Former Indians player Jim Thome is one of close to 90 major leaguers whose identity could be at risk.

SFX Sports represents some of the biggest names in a variety of sports, and police said 38-year-old David Dright went through a Dumpster outside the agency’s Northbrook, Ill., office and recovered personal information on 80 to 100 Major League ballplayers.

“He was actually going through trash receptacles or Dumpsters and recovered numerous paperwork, documents, things like that,” said Detective Adam Hyde, of the Lincolnshire police.

Police weren’t looking for the ballplayers personal documents when they searched Dright’s Chicago apartment but knew what they had once they found them.

An attorney for SFX said they will work with their clients to ensure no identities were compromised, and Illinois police are doing the same.

“We’ve been in contact with Major League Baseball, also the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, and we’ve also contacted some of the players individually,” said Detective John Anderson.

Police said it appears that Dright attempted to get credit cards using the identities of at least two players. The extent of the fraud won’t be known until police can process Dright’s computer.

I wish those guys all the best. No matter how much people loathe the amount of money professional athletes get paid, we can’t help but to feel bad for them when something like this happens. Especially around the holidays.

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