Archive for January, 2007

January Writing Project – Finalist # 2

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

This month we ran a writing project open to all readers. The project called for predictions for the upcoming season and why they felt the way they did. Here is one of the finalists that is in line for the 2007 Bill James Handbook.

This entry comes from Jason Hook. Thanks for the entry.

1. Prior and Wood will be back with a force.

We all know what Prior can bring to the table when healthy and after a non-injury spring training Prior will be ready to roll in 2007. There is virtually no pressure on Prior this year as seemingly nobody expects Prior to be fully healthy. Mark now knows that nothing is wrong with his shoulder and the reason it has been hurting is because of the genetic makeup of his shoulder. I’m sure Mark also knows that this is a big year to show the world that he isn’t an injury waiting to happen and can turn into a great major league player. Meanwhile while he may not begin as the closer for the Cubs I would fully expect Kerry Wood to prosper and take over the closer spot by the all-star break. The move to the bullpen will save the wear and tear on Woods arm from starting and pitching many innings. Such moves have helped start and save the careers of Eric Gagne and John Smoltz. Wood will not have to worry about saving his best stuff for later in the game and it will benefit the Cubs and Kerry Wood. The Cubs will finally have a closer who is feared in the majors and who has dominating stuff.

2) Matt Murton will have a breakout year

Matt was one of the best hitters to finish out the year last year hitting (.360), July, (.317), in August, and (.326) in September and October. After the All-Star break last year Murton hit .319 with 9 homeruns and 35 RBI with an OBP of .390 leading me to believe he may have got it late in the year of his first full season with the big club. An addition of Cliff Floyd could hurt Murton’s production but, even with the addition of Floyd, presumed to happen, Murton will win playing time over an inconsistent Floyd. Cliff Floyd has had many problems staying healthy so I think the majority of playing time will go to Murton anyway in the end of things, but Murton is the better choice anyway. Murton has been one of the clutch guys to get a big hit in his first year and half with the Cubs. Murton has hit .299 with Runners in Scoring Position last year and .429 with the bases loaded. Murton also hit .330 at Wrigley Field during his first full season in the big leagues. Murton will force Cliff Floyd to the bench as one of the best pinch hitters in the National League by the mid-season point.

3) The Cubs will win the NL Central

This is a bold prediction for a team that finished in dead last in the central, but the pieces have been put into place. Hendry smartly didn’t overpay for aging Jason Schmidt and overrated Barry Zito, instead opting to go with lesser-known guys by the names of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. The Cubs may have finally gotten the memo that big names do not equal championships. What these guys bring to the table is average ERAs, but more importantly, they are healthy pitchers. If the Cubs starting pitching can avoid major long-term injuries the team will easily win the central. The Cubs everyday lineup will be one of the best in the National League and comparable to the Cardinals, last years World Champions. Meanwhile everybody else in the NL Central has gotten much worse aside from the Pirates, who cant get much worse, and the Brewers who have gotten slightly better. The Cardinals, who seem to be the Cubs top competition, have many holes in the rotation along with an aging everyday lineup that has the question marks with Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen’s knees holding the lineup together. Meanwhile the Astros have gotten Carlos Lee to help an otherwise pathetic everyday lineup, but have lost Andy Pettitte and seemingly Roger Clemens as well. If the Cubs can avoid major injuries (Derrick Lee last year) you can expect them to win the NL Central and once you get into the playoffs you never know.

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January Writing Project – Finalist # 1

Monday, January 29th, 2007

This month we ran a writing project open to all readers. The project called for predictions for the upcoming season and why they felt the way they did. Here is one of the finalists that is in line for the 2007 Bill James Handbook.

This entry comes from Jason Powers. Thanks for participating Jason.

With the Cubs, the predictions are almost more important than the season itself. Looking from a sunny bleacher, the grass is always greener before the season (if it is warm and she’s wearing a bikini) than it is in September, usually. After 99 years since the last ‘dynasty’ of the Cubs, and when the Wright Flier and Teddy’s Big Stick still were relevant topics, we are thinking: this is our year.

1) Lou Piniella will entertain the media.
Managing in the fishbowl of Chicago, Lou’s current mellow nature will turn back into Fighting Lou. Once he sees Jacque Jones airmail a cut off or Ramirez take a snooze on a pop up, he’ll have plenty to say, and the media will too. Luckily, he can fall back on his New York experiences to adroitly handle Chicago scribes, whose only real talent is to gossip about how much money someone makes, a player’s girlfriend or whether throwing at a player constitutes domestic violence on the field.

2) The Cubs will improve by 20 games.
Starting at 66 wins, this should not be impossible. Derrek Lee at 2004 statistics: .280(.360), 32HR, 110RBI, Ramirez at: .290 (.360), 35HR, 110RBI and Soriano at:.285(.330), 40HR, 95RBI, 25SB and Michael Barrett at: .275(.350), 15HR, 70 RBI provides plenty of right hand pop. Jacque Jones is the sole left hand man and will not cut it. Ryan Theriot should be the starter at 2B. He’s got more plate patience than DeRosa, he’s faster and younger. Piniella will see this, I hope, and insert him as either #1 or #2 hitter with successful output of: .275 (.345), 5 HR, 45RBIs, 35SBs. DeRosa, hot prospect Felix Pie and Angel Pagan, will support Murton in the outfield. Izturis and Cedeno will somehow get .260 (.310), 5 HR, 45 RBIs and 15 SBs between them. 800 Runs scored.
But what about pitching and fielding??? Zambrano is an ace. Likely, if not abused like a ‘Dusty’ doll, will get 200 IP, sub 2.75 ERA and 17-20 wins. Ted Lilly is a 4.30 ERA in the American League. Can he improve against weaker lineups? I believe so to the tune of 15 Wins and 3.75ERA. That leaves 5 pitchers for 3 starting spots. Rich Hill. Jason Marquis. Wade Miller. Sean Marshall. Mark Prior. I don’t expect better than 30 wins from the back end. That’s 65 Wins.
Piniella in 1990 ran a three-headed monster out to win ballgames from the bullpen: Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, Norm Charlton. (Forgotten is Tim Layana.) Pinnella will use Neal Cotts, Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Kerry Wood and Dempster to form a five-headed Dragon to battle through. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are likely relievers playing starters with all their injuries. Somehow Lou will get 21 wins – blackjack! – like he did in 1990 without one 16-game winner on a 91-win team. The Cubs will allow 750 Runs. 86 Wins!!! Yeah!!! (If Bill James’formula works…)

3) Cubs will trade Mark Prior, after a nice two-month run of pitching, in late July for an thirty-something outfielder from California.
(Garrett Anderson???) It’s totally possible, I mean, whoever the Cubs draft, and destine great expectations for, is soon hurt, ineffective or disillusioned. Prior has issues that someone drinking beer with him could only know. Going after an older player, with a high salary, assuming he’s not hot, or getting hot, or is soon retiring, is a maneuver the Cubs make at least thrice (not twice) a decade. At this moment, I know nothing about Anderson, except he’s 35 in June, which makes him eligible for the Cubs Care for Old Outfielders Plan. And Prior will go back to 2003 form and win 15 games for a decade in LA-LA Land where 6′ blondes appear in bad action movies. El Paso!!!

If Lou gets to manage for four or five years, expect a playoff. Or maybe it is 1969 all over again. With Alfonso Soriano being here until he’s well past his prime, the Cubs better get it now…in 2007! But given they spent 300 million this off season, even at 100 wins, that’s 3 million per win. If only 75 wins, it 4 million per Cubs victory. Wow.
Absolutely…wow!!!

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Who is the Official MR. UGLY?

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I was thinking about this lighthearted topic the other day. Who is the ugliest man in baseball’s great history? Here are a couple nominees on my part. What I’d love to see us do is post some links in the comment section to pictures of some ugly folks in the history of this great game. I know this is just asking for bad links and naughty stuff. Know now that posting links to porn and other things like that will cause your IP address to be banned. Let’s act mature and have some fun with this.

Here some ugly to get you started. Randy Johnson and Gary Gaetti

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Breaking News – Cubs Sign Cliff Floyd

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

A deal that took forever to get done is finally complete.

The Cubs have signed Cliff Floyd to a one year contract with a mutual option for 2008.

I’ll be back later tonight with my thoughts on this signing. Until then, let’s discuss it in the comment section.

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Pat Hughes Stops By For A Chat

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

As is our tradition in January, we like to have Pat Hughes and Len Kasper stop by for a chat. In case you missed the chat with Len Kasper, it can be found here.

Last night, Phil Zuber and I had about a half hour to talk with Pat about his thoughts for the upcoming season, Ronnie almost dying in the booth, and his CD project “Baseball Voices

Enjoy the interview and let me know your thoughts.

On a side note, if you do enjoy the interview, we’d welcome you to subscribe to our podcast using iTunes, RSS Feed, or even e-mail. All the details are on the site.

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Keystone Cubs?

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Again, the baseball Gods seem to opening up a can o’ whupass up on my poor head. Recent indications from Cubdom are that Hendry and Piniella believe that Alfonso Soriano has undergone an amazing transformation. Soriano has indicated to the Cubs faithful that he will be willing to try center field. So be it. The Cubs brass will “will” Soriano to be a good center fielder, therefore it shall happen.

Let’s project ourselves forward to May, with an outfield that consists of Floyd/Murton in left, Soriano in center and Jacque Jones and his powerful arm in right. And we thought that Alou, Patterson and Sosa were comical? I can just see the balls flying over Cubs left and center fielders heads, and Jones making accurate ten-hop throws to second…

It’s easy to hide one guy out there who doesn’t have the best defense but the Cubs are going to have to replace the infield with Georgia red clay and water it down every inning. That way we can slow down the opposing team’s baserunners. What if Michael Barrett expressed an interest in playing center, should we do it?

C’mon Hendry and Sweet Lou – put on your thinking caps. Let’s get a center fielder or go with a defensively adequate but offensively-challenged Felix Pie. But no Soriano in center please, we don’t have time for experiments, it’s time to get the job done. Cubs fans have waited long enough.

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Instant Classic

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

manning

Thatís how Peyton Manning described the game of his career, a 38-34 come-from-behind thriller over his nemesis Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the game that sends his Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl in two weeks to face the Chicago Bears. ( Mastrick’s Bears’ Super Bowl preview here)

Witnessing their Colts fall behind 21-3 early in the 2nd quarter, the home crowd seemed shell shocked as fears of repeat disappointment of past AFC Championships loomed on the horizon.

Pats-Colts

This time it was different. Manningía final drive before halftime revealed a chink in the Patriotís armor, a tendency for the big defensive line to get tired. So instead of calling a myriad of timeouts which would have given the Patriotís D a chance to recover between plays, Peyton and company trudged on in a relentless pursuit of history. They settled for a field goal, cutting the lead to 21-6 with the prospect of getting the ball first in the second half.

Just after the intermission, the Colts picked up where they left off, establishing a rhythm that would result in 32 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters against a Patriot defense that ranked among the elite in the NFL this year.

But it was the Indy defense that would come up big. With time running out and leading 34-31, all Brady had to do was get a fresh set of downs or two to ice the victory and the 4th Super Bowl appearance for his Pats in the last 5 years. Bob Sanders, perhaps the Colts MVP in the playoffs, tipped the ball on 3rd and four, forcing a punt and giving Peyton one more chance to exorcise a few demons that have plagued him for his entire professional and collegiate career.

With a minute left on the clock, rookie Joseph Addai waltzed into the end zone, giving the Colts their first lead of the evening. It was all they needed as another defensive gem, an interception, sealed the deal and kept Brady from one of his patented miracles.

Tony Dungy and the Colts will be joining close friend Lovee Smith and the Bears in Miami, a historic moment as no black coach has ever been in The Game. And to think, now there will be two. Both classy gentlemen. Both classy organizations.

This is definitely going to be something special.

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The Bears have a Super Sunday!

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Recognizing that this site is predominantly a Cubs baseball site, we also must tip our hats to the Bears for winning the NFC Championship today in chilly Soldier’s Field. I was really concerned about the upstart Saints – they are truly an explosive offensive team and they’re only going to get better. Look for them to be thorns in the Bears sides next year as well.

The Bears defense never really gave Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense enough time to get on track, although at one point the score was 16-14 Bears and it looked like the Bears’ Super Bowl chances were unravelling. An amazing touchdown catch by Bernard Berrian and a sprint by Thomas Jones into the endzone proved to be the decisive factors as the Bears went on to win in a 39-14 romp amidst the falling snowflakes.

This Bears team has what it takes to win the Super Bowl against either of the two AFC finalists who remain at the time of this writing. Provided that the Bears defense is just as opportunistic and aggressive, we also must hope that Grossman won’t make crucial mistakes (he didn’t last week or this week) and let’s pray that Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson can get the job done again on Super Bowl Sunday!

Da Bears. Da Conference Champions. Da Super Bowl.

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Signed, sealed, delivered

Friday, January 19th, 2007

He’s yours! The Cubs and Jim Hendry just hoodwinked the NFL, costing some team a middle of the first round-quality wide receiver. No, the player pictured at right is not Randy Johnson, Jr., it’s former Notre Dame pitcher and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, who opted today to forego the NFL and concentrate his efforts on baseball instead. In return this 6-5 righthander will receive $10 million for five years, with club options for two years.

Many of you can recall that Samardzija spent time at both short season Boise and Low A Peoria this past season. Jeff has a plus arm, throwing in the mid to high nineties. Some highlights from his 2006 performances in both the minors and the Big Ten: At Boise, Jeff had a very nice 2.37 ERA in 19 innings pitched. He was then promoted to Peoria, where he compiled a 1.09 WHIP in 11 innings. At Notre Dame Samardzija posted an 8-2 record, improving his career stats there to 21-6 with a 3.82 ERA. He held collegiate opponents to a .256 batting average.

I project this guy to be a strong middle of the order pitcher or possibly a late innings guy. He will fit in nicely with the next wave of quality Cubs arms, joining Mark Pawelek, Donnie Veal and Sean Gallagher as guys that should hit the bigs in the 2008/2009 time horizon.

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