Archive for March, 2007

Today and Tomorrow

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Today:
I am not a huge numbers guy, but I do find some of the modern statistical analysis to be mind blowing. Here’s an interesting item that I stumbled across today. Enjoy!

Tomorrow:
A wrap up of my weekend in Cubs camp. It took me this long to get over my hangover and return my brain and liver to normal function. Sorry.

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Time to fish or cut bait Cubs fans

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Today we saw a great comeback when Darryle Ward hit a walkoff granny against Sammy Sosa and the Texans. I love seeing Texas being beat at anything, I have no love for that state or it’s sports franchises. I’d just as soon visit Albania as Texas. To be truthful, I’d rather visit Albania…

Anyway, pretty soon those of us who write for VTFB will be doing our divisional predictions. I’d like to encourage the readership to preempt us and predict the NL Central. Who do you pick and why?

Time to speak out Cub Nation, do we have it this year? What about the outfield defense? Zambrano, Hill and Lilly are set, are you afraid about our #4 and 5 starters? Let the readership be heard!

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Where are they now?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

I thought it might be fun to take a look around the league and see what some former Cubs are up to these days. It’s always fun to keep in touch. This is my way of doing that with two players that many have probably forgotten.

 

 
 
Kerry Wood – threw 25 pitches Tuesday in his first mound session since being diagnosed with a strained triceps.
 
Wood is hoping to avoid a trip to the disabled list to begin the season, but it seems likely that he’ll miss at least the first week. He’s thrown just three innings this spring, so he needs some more work to get ready for Opening Day.

Ryan Dempster – returned to the mound Tuesday and pitched a scoreless inning against the Rockies.

Dempster missed a week due to back spasms. He has a 1.80 ERA in five innings this spring, and with Kerry Wood injured again, his job as closer is as secure as it’s been since last May.

For more player news, visit Rotoworld.com

 

Todd Walker
Walker was one of my favorite Cubs when he was here. He was dealt to San Diego late last year. Rotoworld reported on Walker on February 27th saying “The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Padres may release Todd Walker prior to March 15 because they would only be required to pay him $658,000 of the $3.95 million he received in arbitration.
Walker is currently a bench player for San Diego and both sides have indicated that a trade might be for the best. The newspaper also reports that the player’s union might protest such a release.”

This spring, Todd has seen action in nine games and has a total of 28 at bats. He’s hitting .267 with a .286 On Base % in that time. This don’t look good for Todd. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the Cubs making him a minor league off if he was released.

John Koronka
In case you’re unsure who this guy is, he pitched for the Cubs in 2005, making just three starts. I was pretty critical of him back in 2005 saying “Mitre seems to be putting it together as insurance. God knows he can’t be worse than Koronka. I do not know why Dusty cannot see this. He’s essentially a one pitch pitcher, because of the quality of his other 2 pitches. His fastball is slow and doesn’t move. Every game i’ve watched, he comes in around 90. His 3rd pitch is a breaking ball of some sort, but it is almost non-existent. The only pitch he has that is any good is his changeup. When you get to the majors, you better have at least 2 good pitches or you’re going to get shelled. Hopefully the Cubs will see this and give Jerome Williams a shot for the next Koronka turn in the order.”

John was dealt in a three team deal that netted us the wonderful acquisition that was Freddie Bynum. Last year, pitching for Texas in their rotation, he started the year off fairly well, going 6-5 with an ERA of 4.63. However, in the second half of the season, he only made 5 starts and was shelled. According to Rotoworld on March 7th, ”
John Koronka bounced back from a shelling at the hands of the Royals to pitch three hitless innings Wednesday versus the Diamondbacks.
He gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings in his first outing. That won’t be held against him too much, but he should be behind Josh Rupe and Kameron Loe in the competition to become the Rangers’ fifth starter.”

I might be wrong, but if you’re getting pounded by the Royals, something is seriously wrong with that equation.


I’d like to know your feedback on this post. What do you think of these guys? Do they have potential to 1) Make their team out of camp, and 2) Make an impact for their team this season?

Also, what did you think of the idea of looking back at Cubs that have gone away in terms of where are they now?

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Bandwagon ridin’

Monday, March 19th, 2007
 

 
  1934 - Babe Didrickson, a renown female athlete, pitches the first inning of a Philadelphia A’s exhibition game. The founder of the LPGA gives up no hits and walks only one Dodger.

1973 - In a special election, the BBWAA select (393 out 424 votes) the late Roberto Clemente to be a member of the Hall of Fame. The usual five year rule had been previously waived by the organization’s board of directors.

1989 - Peter Ueberroth, the commissioner of baseball, announces MLB is conducting an inquiry into gambling allegations concerning Reds’ manager, Pete Rose.

All information courtesy of Nationalpastime.com

 

Every morning I pick up the Red Eye on my way catch the Metra on my way to work. It’s a great way for someone with a short attention span to get the most amount of news in the shortest amount of time. In this morning’s edition, I came across a DotComment from ChicagoSports.com’s message board that someone felt needed to be printed. To be honest, it left me a bit perplexed, but got me thinking. As my friends know, that’s a dangerous set of circumstances.

“There’ll be all kind of jumping on the [Sammy] Sosa bandwagon now. Too bad [GM Jim] Hendry didn’t get on it. He spent 300 mil beefing up the Cubbies, but wouldn’t come up with pocket change (500 thou) for Sosa. A player with almost 600 homers should have been welcomed on any team, but too many front office honchos put their pride before ‘forgive and forget.’ Good for Texas.”

Now I’ve questioned some of Hendry’s moves over the last few years, but I’d hardly consider him someone that would put his ego before the organization. Sure this year’s club has some holes, for the most part, the most prominent holes have been filled. He’s admirably filled in the starting rotation, the bullpen, the bench, the infield and the outfield in less than four months. Granted he overpaid for some of the talent, but he went out and got what was needed and available to make the club competitive in a what may be the weakest division in baseball. Quite honestly, I was figuring at least one year of filling a few holes, letting some of the kids get more seasoning, and the occasional fireworks from Pinella this year. I was prepared to bet the farm that if we saw the Cubbies return to the post season, it’d be next year. It’d give Hendry a good chunk of this season to evaluate what he’d created this year, and work on placing an even better product on the field next season. Besides, what Cubs fan isn’t used to having a couple of down years in between that one fleeting moment of possible post season glory?

What I think the above poster had backwards, is the bandwagon on which to hop a ride on. We’re talking about a gentleman that gave up on a team on the last day of the season, and who had alienated himself within the clubhouse so badly, that no one wanted him around. I’ve played with some great teammates, and some characters that made playing on a team a real heartache…..and a headache. Sosa left Hendry really with no other choice, and with no real bargaining chips so to speak. Did we get little in return for what looked to be one of the most prodigious power hitters of his era? Heck yeah. Two years later, I’m liking what I’m seeing on the field a whole lot better.

So hop on that Sosa bandwagon. Watch him struggle to get to 600 homers while batting .245. I’ll be happily cruising along on what looks to be a entertaining, and perhaps even magical season on the Cubbies bandwagon.

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Zambrano is Closer?

Monday, March 19th, 2007

No, the title of the post is not Zambrano is A closer. The fact is, according to the Chicago Tribune, who talked to Carlos about his current negotiations on a new deal to stay with the club past this year, he said

 

 
 
The Chicago Tribune reports that manager Lou Piniella "virtually named" Angel Guzman the Cubs’ long reliever to begin the season.
 
Guzman had been competing for the fifth-starter job that appears set to go to Wade Miller. "Quite frankly, that’s the way you should bring up a young pitcher," Piniella said. "Put him in long relief and let him get some experience there. He can be protected, but at the same time he’ll get his work and watch other major-league pitchers the way they go about their pitches."

For more player news, visit Rotoworld.com

 

“Yeah, probably, We talked to them, we’re talking. We’ll just see what happens. I always say that because I want to put in my mind positive things. I always say I’m going to sign. We want to get it done” However, the next sentence makes things a little scarier.

The Tribune says “It turns out, according to insiders, the two sides have barely talked, although they could begin bargaining in earnest soon.”

If you ask me, I can’t tell you who to believe. I really want to believe Carlos, because I really want to see a deal go down. I believe he is really serious when he says that he will leave if a deal is not done by opening day. I don’t think it was a flippant statement like some believe. Playing with this stuff is like playing with fire. If you hold your hand close enough, you’re going to get burned. It happened with Greg Maddux and that caused the Cubs and their fans a huge amount of heartache. Let’s not let this happen again please.

On a side note, I want to draw your attention to the VFTB official prize pool. I have a lot of good books in there, but I can’t think of some good contests to run in order to give some of those books away. If you can think of some good contests, leave us a comment and let us know. I like to pass along good books, I just need a reason to.

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A time to celebrate

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Hope you all are having as much fun with the View From the Bleachers NCAA brackets as I am. I picked Vanderbilt early as a darkhorse and they have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, having defeated Washington State in double overtime. It seems like every time my Commodores make it to the NCAAs they make it to the final sixteen, only to be eliminated by the champion or semifinalist.

Next up is Georgetown, we lost to ‘em this year but beat ‘em last year. Let’s go Dores!!

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Sabermetrics for the Common Fan

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

If you’re like me, you have no clue about all of these new stats that have surfaced now that mathematicians like Bill James have taken such prominence in baseball. For awhile, I couldn’t understand why exactly Bill James has had such a big influence on the game of baseball. Then a couple of books arrived in the mail from Acta Sports, who is always so kind to me in sending me good reading material for my bathroom time. I’d like to take the time in this post to do two things that will hopefully point you in the right direction toward your journey of understanding some of the new baseball statistics.

I know you’re probably like me. You’re probably skeptical that this will turn you into a total stat geek that does nothing but analyze baseball with your calculator rather than your eyes, heart, and mind, but I assure you it won’t. Granted, if you want to go in that direction, I’m sure there is definitely a place for you in baseball. Who knows, you might even be able to make a career out of it. But, you can love statistics, especially some of the ratio stats that are common to SABR guys and still love the game of baseball for everything that it is, including what you hear, see, and smell.

1. The Idiot’s Guide to Sabermetrics
In my quest to find out a little more about some of the news stats available to us on Baseball Reference, I sought out someone far more knowledgeable about the subject than I am. I had a 25 minute conversation with Jeff Sackman, who writes for the Hardball Times, Beyond the Box Score, and Brew Crew Ball. He’s the creator of Minor League Splits as well. He’s very much a jack of all trades and really made the stats that I asked him about very easy for the common fan to use. He provided some explanation to what they measure as well as gave some benchmarks for evaluating using them. To me, that’s always a tough one. I can look at the stats, but I don’t know what they mean. Jeff helped me in that area. We discussed OPS, OPS+, ERA+, VORP, and even mentioned some ways to look at young pitchers beside the current Wins and ERA stats.

If you would like to listen to the show, here is the link to the post. You can play it right on the site.

2. Go get these two books
The first book that I recently read is How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball. It’s a short read, only 144 pages, and is perfect for readers who have a short attention span. The book is broken down into 3 or 4 page essays by some of baseball’s greatest writers and some influential people as well. The book seeks to justify why Bill James could have possibly been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. When I first saw that list, I was skeptical as to his appearance on it. However, reading the book, I realize a little more why people are so high on the man.

The book takes you through each person’s opinions on how he was influenced by the man. At first, it seemed like it was just one big Bill James lovefest, but then I got to some of the authors that said they hated Bill James until they met the man, and saw how genuine he was. They saw how honest he is about not knowing everything. He’s not afraid to come back and say that he was wrong. Reading that alone was worth the time it took to read the book. It helped me have a lot more respect for his research and his thoughts now that I know he’s constantly trying to improve them. If you’re looking for a good, easy read before the season starts, go pick this one up.

The other book that I read, I wasn’t as high on. It’s not that it was a bad book, because it certainly was not. The reason I didn’t enjoy it as much, was because I felt it was geared for the less stat oriented fan. The book is The New Ballgame: understanding baseball statistics for the common fan. The book addresses some of the following, and this comes directly from the Acta site.

  • Definitions for all the stats currently used in baseball
  • A historical breakdown of statistics in the game
  • Keeping score during a game
  • Reading a box score
  • Fantasy/simulation baseball games
  • The future of statistics in baseball
    If those are some things that you’re not sure if you understand fully, definitely pick this book up. It’s worth you time.

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  • Felix Pie on Minor League Ball

    Friday, March 16th, 2007

    John Sickels, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable people in baseball on Minor League prospects ran a piece yesterday called Prospect Smackdown. Basically, what he does is compare two prospects that are fairly similar and looks at them to see which one he feels is in better shape for success.

    This particular post compared our own Felix Pie to Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos)

    Here are the comments on Felix Pie


     

     
      Facing Double-A hitters, Mark Prior allowed one hit and struck out four in four scoreless innings on Friday.
    He did walk two and hit a batter, but it was a small step forward anyway. He hit 90 mph on the gun for maybe the first time this spring, though he was typically clocked at 85-88 mph with his fastball. Also, he got his curve over more often. “[My command] was better,” Prior said. “I threw a lot of [breaking pitches] for strikes. That was the goal, to locate it a little better.” The Cubs will wait to see how Prior feels tomorrow before scheduling his next outing. If he’s slated to work in another minor league game, it’d be a strong sign that the Cubs have no intention of carrying him on the active roster to begin the season.

    For more player news, visit Rotoworld.com

     

    Background & Intangibles
    Pie was signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. He made his full-season debut in the Midwest League in ’03, and has made steady progress up the ladder in the Chicago system. He was erratic in ’06 but strong in the second half for Triple-A Iowa. Cubs officials have good things to say about his work ethic and makeup, particularly his ability to stay positive when things don’t go well.

    Physicality, Health, and Tools
    Pie is a 6-2, 175 pound lefthanded hitter and thrower, born February 8, 1985. Pie is an outstanding overall athlete. Like Ellsbury, his speed is a major asset on defense, but his arm is stronger (suitable for right field). He has more raw power, and more present power, than Ellsbury, but is less refined as a hitter and fielder, and needs particular work on his strike zone judgment. He missed more than half of the ’05 season due to an ankle injury, but showed no ill effects last year.

    Performance & Polish
    Pie hit .283/.341/.451 last year in Triple-A, his career mark now standing at .294/.353/.459. His BB/K/AB ratio not very good: 46/126/559 last year, and 164/438/.1945 in his career. His MLE OPS last year was about .810 with about 17 steals.

    Projection
    Some people are starting to compare Pie to Carlos Beltran. I don’t think he’ll be quite that good, but Pie (like Ellsbury) could develop into a .280-.300 hitter. He’ll have more home run power, but his OBP and strike zone judgment could be more erratic, and I think he’ll lose his speed more quickly. PECOTA upside VORP is 158.5.

    Minor League Ball ~ by John Sickels


    I always enjoy John’s writing. It has helped me to learn a lot more about the farm systems in baseball. If you’re not a big fan of following the farm, I would urge you to reconsider that one. A good fan should at least know about some of the team’s prospects. It deepens your understanding as to why Hendry does some of the things he does. Granted, sometimes I still have no clue what he’s thinking, but overall, I can begin to piece the puzzle together and see where he is going with his plan.

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    Prior history?

    Thursday, March 15th, 2007

    As most of you know, Mark Prior’s minor league start was pushed back from today to Friday, despite the fact that Prior claims to be healthy. Rotoworld reports that Mark will begin this season on the Iowa roster (he still has options) or on the DL for an “extended spring training.”

     

     
     
    The Marlins are considering making an offer for Angel Pagan, perhaps using shortstop prospect Robert Andino as bait, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
     
    Such a deal wouldn’t solve the problems of either team. Pagan wasn’t quite as bad as expected for the Cubs last year, hitting .247/.306/.394 in 170 at-bats, but he doesn’t have the range in center to make up for his bat and he’d be fortunate just to have a long career as a fifth outfielder. As for Andino, well, he’s just 22, giving him plenty of time to improve. However, he’d be a downgrade from Tomas Perez in a utility role right now. He hit .255/.303/.363 in a great hitter’s park at Triple-A Albuquerque last year.

    For more player news, visit Rotoworld.com

     

    Mark’s velocity is way down and he is unable to spot his fastball. And his curveball is nonexistent, thusfar in 3 1/3 innings pitched Prior sports an 18.90 ERA, having given up eight hits and five walks.

    It’s embarrassing for a guy who supposedly worked all during the offseason that he came into camp not ready to pitch again. Except this time there is no Dusty Baker to make excuses and mommy-coddle a pitcher who’s time in the big ring known as Wrigley Field appears to be dwindling. In today’s Sun-Times Jay Marriotti calls for Prior to be traded, I’m not sure there would be much offered in return. I think it’s time for Prior to learn some humility – he’s pitching like a minor league pitcher, therefore he should start living the life of a minor league pitcher. No more excuses, onward and downward to Des Moines, Prior should earn his way back up.

    UPDATE: According to Sports Illustrated, Kerry Wood has just been shut down due to triceps soreness. It appears as though Wood will not be ready for Opening Day; my guess is that this makes a roster spot for Rocky Cherry almost guaranteed if he continues to throw well. Who knows, we might even see Samardzija for a cup o’ coffee but methinks Cherry is more likely.


    On another note, EFNET #cubs Yahoo fantasy baseball league is looking for six more teams to fill out an eighteen team roster. This is currently not a keeper roster, it’s head to head with scoring rules similar to real baseball. If you are interested contact Mark Strickler using the contact us form for more info. Live draft night is Tuesday March 27th.

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