Archive for December, 2006

What I expect from the 2007 Chicago Cubs Starting Pitchers

Monday, December 18th, 2006

I know it’s early, but I’d like to enlighten you on my expectations for this year’s rotation as it’s constructed right now.

Say what you want about Jim Hendry and his free agent signings, but the fact is, we needed pitching and Hendry went out and got it. You may not like the fact that the Cubs spent a good chunk of change to get them. You’re entitled to that. What I ask you is, is it your money? Alright, don’t answer that. With the Cubs saying that ticket prices are not going up, I have no problem with the team opening the wallets and going out to get two starters to help this team out. Is the rotation as strong as it could have been? No, but it’s definitely a rotation that can win some games for us, especially when you factor in the amount of depth we have in the event the injury bug comes biting.

I expect more big things from Carlos Zambrano as always, especially in a contract year. This could be the year he wins the Cy Young and 20+ games. You should be able to pencil him as a given. Where a lot of people think the rotation gets hairy is in the 2-5 spots. I’m not worried. I think Rich Hill is going to turn into our version of Barry Zito, who incidentally is not all he’s cracked up to be. When you look at Zito’s numbers, he doesn’t wow you the way his contract this off-season will.

After winning 17 games in 2001 and 23 the year after, Zito has rung up totals of 14, 11, 14, and then 16 in 2006. He’s going to get paid like a # 1 starter, but he doesn’t put up ace type numbers. He’s a number two starter and will always be a number two starter. Don’t let the dollars fool you. With that in mind, we have a cheaper version in Rich Hill. He’s a little older than Zito was when he hit his stride, but when you look at the numbers Hill put up down the stretch last year, I think we’re poised to see a nice season of double digit wins from Hill. In August, he made 5 starts, posting an ERA of 3.38, an opponent average of .216 and 3 wins. In September, the numbers got better as he won another 3 games while posting an ERA of 1.93 and an opponent average of .178.

At the three spot, I expect Ted Lilly to fill in nicely. People were up in arms about the fact that the Cubs spent money on Lilly. What they seem to forget is that he won 15 games for a team that failed to make the playoffs. If you throw out 2005, where Lilly had an ERA of 5.56, you have a guy that was chugging along nicely. In 2002, his ERA of 3.69. In 2003 and 2004, he posted ERA’s of 4.34 and 4.06 respectively. Last year an ERA of 4.31. Factor in the fact that he’ll be going to a league that is much weaker in the hitting department. My one fear with Lilly is that he does throw more flyballs than groundballs and has seen his homeruns given up increase to 28 last year, which ranked him 10th in the AL (Carlos Silva from Min. had 38). If Lilly can keep guys off base, he’ll be OK. I think he makes a very serviceable number three starter.

The number four and five spots are where I start to get a little nervous. These two spots have the potential to be huge or horrible. There really isn’t much in between. If Wade Miller can find his groove and pitch the way he did in Houston when he won 45 games in a three year stretch, then we’ve got ourselves one of the best back end starters in the majors. It really will depend on his health. When he’s right, he’s an above average pitcher with the ability to keep the ball in the park and limit damage by not allowing an over amount of baserunners. Hopefully our lineup can bail him out when he’s not on.

Jason Marquis, who Cubs fans seem less than thrilled to have, should round out the rotation, assuming he doesn’t get booted by a healthy Mark Prior or a suddenly emergent farmhand like Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, or Carlos Marmol. You can complain all you want on this one, but i’m not budging. I like this signing and I think Marquis is a lot better than the numbers he put up last season. Sometimes you have to play a hunch and that’s what Hendry’s done. When the Cardinals too a chance on Chris Carpenter, no one thought it would work out the way it has. Here are his numbers in Toronto.

2000: 10-12 with an ERA of 6.26
2001: 11-11 with an ERA of 4.09
2002: 4-5 with an ERA of 5.28

Suddenly, he goes to St. Louis and wins 15 games, posting an ERA of 3.46. The next year, he wins the Cy Young with an ERA of 2.83. Last year an ERA of 3.09 was coupled with 15 more wins. Sometimes guys just need a need start. The Cubs have given that to Marquis and I think we’ll see the benefits of it. Will we get Chris Carpenter type numbers? No, but at the number five spot, all I want is double digit wins.

Alright, now it’s your turn to let me have it. Go ahead and call me a homer and ask what I’m smoking. Remember this though. When the Cubs have five starting pitchers with double digit wins, a Cy Young winner, and a division title, i’ll be cooking up the crow for all to dine on. In the meantime, feel free to talk about your expectations for this pitching staff next year.

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Getting Your Money’s Worth

Monday, December 18th, 2006

One of my favorite sites is The Hardball Times. I can lose myself in the amount of baseball information getting thrown at me on a daily basis. The guys over there have such good information that you can’t help but get smarter just by reading. Last month, I ran across a post entitled Net Win Shares Value 2006. This looked at what kind of win shares you’re getting from guys based on what type of money you’re paying them.

Bob Costas had a book that talked about competitive balance in which he said:

The fact is, the single biggest indicator of a team’s opportunity for success from one year to the next is whether the team has a payroll among the top few teams in the league. Period.

On a side note, the book really is a good read, despite the flaw in his logic on this topic. The problem with Costas’ logic, according to THB, is that “He forgot about a couple of little things called minimum salary and salary arbitration. Just remember this factoid: 37% of all 2006 Win Shares were contributed by players making the minimum last year (or close to the minimum). Ryan Howard made $355,000 last year. Joe Mauer made $400,000. Hanley Ramirez made $327,500. That’s great production from guys who weren’t paid a lot of money. If your team is able to gather a lot of these players (as were the Twins and the Marlins), then you’re going to have a great year without spending a lot of money.”

What are your thoughts on what wins championships? Is it who spends the most money? Tomorrow, we’ll look at how the players we had fared based on the money we were paying them. It should be fun. In the meantime, let’s talk about what the recipe for bringing a championship to town is.

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#31 not a useable uniform number

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Ted Lilly was informed by the Cubs brass that uniform number 31 is not to be used; however he was informed that 21 was very useable. It makes you wonder when we will look up on a foul pole and see Jenkins and/or Maddux’ name flying above the green grass and ivy. It might be seven years or so but it’s evident what the intent is here. I would like to see both players honored…

How do you all feel about retiring #31 and should Jenkins or Maddux (or both) be on the flag? And what about #21? I personally am not in favor of seeing 21 up on a foul pole…

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Judith Regan – Fired!

Friday, December 15th, 2006

I’m not going to put myself on a pedestal and portend to be a “journalist.” I write my opinions and observations for (arguably) one of the best baseball blogs on the “internets.” That having been said, I really hate seeing poor journalism, especially when I think that somebody is attempting to manipulate the public readership for personal gain. Therefore it gives me great pleasure to announce that Judith Reagan has been fired by Harper Collins which, along with FOX Network, is a property of international financier Rupert Murdock.

Recently Regan stooped so low as to pilot a book and FOX miniseries about the OJ Simpson murders entitled “If I Did It.” I had no interest in seeing this chicanery since I feel *I know* how OJ did it. Granted he’s an innocent man in the eyes of the law, but he sure ain’t innocent in my eyes. The LA District Attorney’s office and a couple of LA policemen totally botched this case and consequentially Simpson deserved his judgment. Which doesn’t exactly make him “innocent” in the eyes of his Maker. But that’s to be decided later, isn’t it.

What really sealed the casket of this journalistic impostor was the recent allegations thrown at deceased Yankees player Mickey Mantle. Now the Mick was no poster boy for sobriety – I remember seeing him drunker than a fiddler’s bitch at a church next to Hinsdale Junior High School in the early 70s. But nobody who knew the Mick will corroborate these allegations. And these insinuations also cuckold a dead man – one of the greatest ballplayers of all time, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, a quiet man who seemed almost embarrassed by all the attention that was paid to him, a guy who only wanted to go out and play his position to the very best of his abilities.

So Judith Regan is fired. Good riddance to bad rubbish, she’s scum just like the former footballer she wrote about. And congratulations to Rupert Murdock, who occasionally makes the right decision.

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Cubs might use Pie in centerfield

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Jim Hendry had an interview on 670 The Score today, he suggested that using Felix Pie in center is a strong possibility. Last year for Iowa, Pie hit .282 with an OBP of .341 and an slugging percentage of .451. He stole 17 bases but he gets caught a lot. He’s also a free swinger and needs to cut down on his strikeouts.

I am not adverse to this idea for several reasons. First of all, you can’t spend $8-15 million at every position and eventually we need to give our center field prospects (Pie, Walker, Fuld and Colvin) a chance. Or we need to trade them. Secondly, we need a strong defensive center if we are going to have Soriano in left and Jones/Murton in right.

Hendry also defended his signing of Jason Marquis, stating that Marquis’ numbers were comparable to Zito and Schmidt’s wins and innings pitched for the past three years. I thought this comparison was absurd, since the Cards had a far stronger rotation surrounding Jason and his purpose was arguably to *eat innings.* While Marquis averaged near fifteen wins a year, so did his losses and he played for a team that has made the playoffs three years in a row. So Hendry’s argument in this respect was at best specious.

Ultimately The Cubs GM’s job will hinge on the signings of Liily and Marquis – if they are busts he’ll either be fired after 2007 or spend 2008 grooming his replacement. For what it’s worth, he also said that he’s still in the market for a left handed bat. Were I to guess it would be to replace Jones’.

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