Archive for July, 2007

From Right Field

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Last week Joe, the awesomely cool proprietor of this internet establishment of Cubs fandom, asked me if I’d like to do a weekly column. What could I do? I jumped at the chance. I’ve managed to somehow pull the wool over his eyes to where he lets me post my thoughts on the Cubs any old time I want. And you lucky souls get to read it. To which I am truly sorry. No, honestly. I am sorry. I never meant for my inner thoughts on the Cubs to ever see the light of day. Mostly because they frighten me. They probably frighten you. I mean seriously, I wanted Cesar Izturis to be the starting shortstop. Surely something is very wrong in this head of mine. I even like Jacque Jones, and I keep pulling for Scott Eyre. How did I get one Joe Aiello, to let me ramble on a few times a week? It’s all in the wrists, my captive little readers.

As we all know, there’s a lot more going on out there than just Cubs baseball. Calm down folks, the idiocy of that comment will pass…..just….wait….for…. it. With “From Right Field,” I’m going to attempt to tackle some stories outside of Northside baseball, and cover stories elsewhere in the MLB. Heck, maybe even something outside of baseball. It will all depend on my mood, which changes as often as the wind direction in Wrigley. Which brings me to why I’m even writing.

We’ve all established our roots into Cubs fandom by some experience, family mantra, or the shear fact that being a White Sox fan is probably even more painful. At least the North Siders get the publicity, right? 2005? What the heck happened then? I jest, of course, as I have Sox fan friends. Silly little fellas and fella-ettes they are.

My first experience with the Cubs dates back to 1983. My Dad took me out to the old ballgame one dreary April afternoon, to watch the Cubbies take on the Philadelphia Phillies. I can still see the field from our seats in the upper deck looking down the left field line. As an eight year old, I don’t recall much of the game, except that Ron Cey hit a home run that went right down that said left field line. I, being quite the “Penguin” fan, rejoiced at seeing my very first Cubs home run at Wrigley. It didn’t last long, as the crew in blue, called it foul after quick meeting. Which resulted in the immortal Jim Frey coming out to have a little “Come to Jesus” meeting with these fine umpires. They reversed the call, making it a home run once again. Lordy, this baseball is exciting stuff! Naturally, Philadelphia’s manager Pat Coralles, not to be outdone, discussed the matter further, which in turn resulted in the ball being called foul again. Benches cleared, and a brawl of mammoth proportions ensued. My eight year old brain was tumbling with thoughts of how cool baseball was. Homeruns, arguments, and full blown fist-a-cuffs. It can’t get any better than this! Where was this in my t-ball games?

That one game, sparked my life long sentence of loving the Cubs. Through hell and high water, I’ve stood by them, although sometimes I’m more likely to be hiding quietly in the shadows. They’ve annoyed, tormented, loved back, and beaten me over the head these past thirty two years, and I wouldn’t change it for a lifetime of winning. This franchise is a fantastic character when each year a new chapter is written that is full of drama, comedy, horror, and sometimes a little science fiction. Players that have come and gone, some even welcomed back. Guys with names of Jody, Ryno, Leon, Shooter, One Dog, Mickey, Sammy, Moises, Kerry, and Bob. Yeah, that’s right. I said Bob.

My love for the Cubs can be summed up in one little statement. It’s from the movie “Jerry Maguire,” to which I’m sure many of you will remember the scene. Jerry is discussing the latest contract negotiations between the NFL Cardinals and his ego bloated client, Rod Tidwell.

Jerry says, “I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, OK?”

And so is my love for the Cubs.

“From Right Field” will appear every Monday. Except in cases where Matt loses track of time while dreaming of Cesar Izturis.

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Breakfast on the Farm

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Spotlight on Mark Holliman (Player Page) – This is one of my favorite Cub prospects and I’m not sure why. I tend to favor pitching prospects over hitting prospects, so that has to have something to do with it. Holliman is also a college guy, which is also something I tend to favor. High School players, especially pitchers just tend to be a lot more risky. Holliman is a 3rd round pick from 2005 out of the University of Mississippi. He didn’t get a chance to pitch in ’05, probably due to the college workload and a late contract signing, but he spent 2006 with High-A Daytona. He was average down there, but received a promotion for this season due to his age (23). He’s responded well with an ERA very close to being under 3.00. He’s cut down his walks a tad, but has seen his strikeouts drop as well. He’s not been dominating hitters, but he’s getting the job done. What has impressed me the most this season is his ability to be efficient with his pitches. He’s been able to get into the 7th, 8th, and even 9th inning fairly regularly, which is something that can’t be said of highly touted, Donald Veal. He’s probably not going to be better than a lower end of the rotation starter if he can’t begin to overpower the lesser competition, but for some reason I’m a big fan of his. I’m excited about seing him pitch next month when they come to Carolina.

John Sickels had the following to say about Holliman in his prospect book (buy the book)

Mark Holliman was drafted in the third round in 2005, out of the University of Mississippi. He made his pro debut last spring and pitched OK in the Florida State League, although he wasn’t spectacular. Working with a 90-92 MPH fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, he has a four-pitch arsenal and tries to keep people off-balance by mixing his pitches at all points in the count. He is not overpowering, and when he makes a mistake high in the zone he can be hit hard. His ratios for Daytona were a mixed bag. He needs to improve his command within the strike zone at higher levels. Grade C</blockquote

News and Notes

  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus released his minor league positional rankings for second base on Thursday. Our own Eric Patterson made the list at number 3.

    3. Eric Patterson, Cubs
    Age: 24.3
    Hitting: .302/.364/.489 atTriple-A (99 G)Patterson is such a different player than his older brother. Corey far surpasses him in terms of athleticism and tools, but Eric is much more of a baseball player, armed with sound instincts and a good approach. He√≠s also no slouch tools-wise, though, with above-average speed and enough juice in his bat to slug 12-18 home runs annually. He deserves a shot at the Cubs’ job in 2008, but the parent club is loaded with veteran infielders, which leaves Patterson with no obvious opening unless one is created for him. (Source)

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 6, Salt Lake 1
  • AA – Tennessee 9, West Tenn 7
  • High-A – Daytona 9, Jupiter 1
  • A – Peoria 6, Dayton 5
  • Short Season – Boise 3, Vancouver 7
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs 4, Athletics 7View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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    Game 103 – Bring on the East

    Sunday, July 29th, 2007


    July 28th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2   6 13 0
    Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   0 3 0
    W – C. Zambrano (14-7)  L  – M. Belisle (5-8) S – None
    Homeruns: D. Lee (11)

    Box Score

    Imagine how nice it would have been to come back and get that win on Friday which would have given us the sweep of the Reds. Instead, we’ll come home riding a two game win streak and face the NL East.

    Carlos Zambrano tossed another gem to become the NL’s first 14 game winner this year. He’s been ridiculously good since the fight with Barrett and has begun to make a legit case for why he is the 2007 NL Cy Young leader. He predicted at the beginning of the season, as he did last year as well, that he would win the award this year. After the brutal start, it was looking as if he was on crack. Now, you have to wonder what winning a Cy Young in a contract year would do to the price tag he’s going to command. How much does it raise per season? $1 million? 2? I mentioned a few months ago that I wanted to see Zambrano traded because I was tired of him. I want to apologize and say that I was a moron. This is a contract that needs to get signed. With the departure of Michael Barrett, who figured to be the other big contract that was expiring, it’s vital that the Cubs pony up to keep this guy in a nice Cubs uniform. The key will be when the team sale takes place. If it happens early, the owner will probably want to make a splash of some sort to show the fans the serious commitment to winning. Signing Zambrano long term would be a just that move. On the other hand, if the team gets sold later in the off-season calendar, it could spell doom for re-signing Zambrano for the simple reason of who wants to wait around. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    Not only was big Z dominant on the mound today, he got the job done with the bat, picking up three hits at the plate in four at bats. I was curious about who the best hitting pitchers in the Majors were this year, so I decided to take a look. I used a minimum plate appearances of 50, which means you’ve really had a chance to show your stuff. 12 guys met that requirement coming into today’s game. Here is how they’ve looked:

    It looks like Zambrano is the best hitting in the NL as of right now. When he’s in the lineup, it’s almost as if we are playing with a DH. I really wish that he would stop trying to field every line drive with his pitching hand. He’s out there playing with reckless abandon, and we can’t afford that. He did it again today, but missed, thankfully. Len and Bob mention it every time he does it, and I think they’d like to see it stop just as much as I would.

    Aramis Ramirez had another nice game, and you have to wonder where we would be had he not re-signed this off-season. He’s quietly making not only a case for the MVP award, but also for his first gold glove award. He’s not their yet, but he’s close. He’s third in fielding percentage behind Pedro Feliz (SF) and Scott Rolen (STL). He’s committed just 5 errors, one behind Feliz and Rolen. The problem is, there isn’t a good way to definitively measure defensive play. It’s not just a matter of least amount of errors or highest fielding percentage. As we all know, the gold glove also takes into account what you do at the plate (don’t ask me why). I don’t think Ramirez will win it this year, but next year is definitely a possibility. How cool has it been to see his transformation into a legit gold glove candidate compared to where he was when he came to Chicago in 2003. Like Zambrano, I still have a criticism on Ramirez. He’s propensity to admire his long doubles is getting to the point where it’s turning into a Sammy Sosa-esque annoyance. Toward the end of the road, Sosa would hop and then bolt to 2nd only to be thrown out or narrowly be called safe. Ramirez is falling into that same trap and it’s going to end up getting him hurt.

    Alfonso Soriano seems to have broken out of his slump, but I’ve convinced myself that he’s just a streaky type of hitter. I have no statistical proof, and I’m too lazy to go looking for it today, but you have to admit that when he’s on, he’s hot as hell. When he’s off, he’s cold as ice. Hopefully, we’re in line for another one of those hot streaks, basepaths included. He picked up two steals today, and probably should have picked up a couple RBI’s on a homerun that was called a double due to fan interference. The replays were inconclusive, but I’m giving the hitter the benefit of the doubt. What was frustrating to me about the play was the baserunning mental lapse by Zambrano.

    RULE 3.16 – When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

    The idea of the umpire nullifying the interference essentially means that they give the baserunners the amount of bases it’s assumed they would have reached. For Zambrano, he was given third, but would have been given home as well had he not held up on the fly ball with two outs. My only guess is that he was either admiring it or really forgot how many outs there were. Thankfully, it was a play was didn’t factor into the outcome.

    Finally, Derrek Lee continues to make the critics stick it where the sun don’t shine as he’s got his power stroke back. He’s now hit 5 homers in the past 8 games and is up to 11 on the year. It’s not the 40 that I think we were all hoping for coming in, but at this point, it gives us the power we’re needing in the middle of the order.

    Misc. Notes

  • It appears that Al Yellon has changed his tune after calling for a trade of Sean Marshall for Jon Garland. After Marshall throws yet another solid game, suddenly he’s become valuable to Al. Come on Yellon, have a spine and stick to your beliefs for more than a day. (Source)
  • The Red had Scott Hatteburg in the leadoff spot today, which made me salivate. He’s one of my favorite hitters and I would love to see a guy like that hitting leadoff for us. I’m not saying we should go out and get him, because I would have no idea of where to put him, but his hitting approach makes me giddy. He takes walks and works deep into a count. MMMM, Walks!!!
  • Lou Piniella was flirting with Ken Griffey last night during the game. Griffey looked over into the Cubs dugout and Lou caught his eye. Lou stuck his tongue out and smiled. Isn’t that what you do when you like a girl and want her to notice you? Maybe Lou’s working his magic. Lou, can you pull A-Rod’s ponytail as well?
  • Changes have finally come to the veteran’s committee voting process, but unfortunately for Ron Santo, one of the changes was not to give him a complimentary induction to Cooperstown or to vote every year. Sorry Ron, better luck in 2009.
  • Jason Jennings got rocked today for the Astros, giving up 11 runs in just 0.2 innings of work.
  • Kerry Wood could be back as early as Thursday if all goes well this week in his rehab work.
  • Homeplate umpire, Ed Rapuano had a tough day today. He took a shot to the chest twice in areas that weren’t protected. Hopefully he has the day off tomorrow. He deserves it.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Carlos Zambrano (42.3%)
  • Second Star – Aramis Ramirez (13.6%)
  • Third Star – Derrek Lee (10.3%)
  • Turd of the Game – Mike Fontenot (-9.0%)

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  • Game 103 – Open Thread

    Sunday, July 29th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano is coming off a win over the Cardinals, his second this season. In the game, he gave up two runs, five hits, three walks and struck out five. Since June 6, the animated right-hander is 8-2 with a 1.56 ERA, serving up 12 earned runs over 69 1/3 innings while striking out 71. He leads the NL in wins, and is moving up the ranks in strikeouts.

    Matt Belisle – Belisle remains winless since May 29 after his most recent start, a 5-3 loss against the Brewers on Tuesday night in Cincinnati. The right-hander was removed after giving up four earned runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. In his past 10 starts, Belisle has given up an average of 3.7 earned runs and 7.4 hits in under six innings of work. In six of his past 10 starts, he’s settled for a no-decision.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Matt Belisle – ESPN Splits

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 2, Salt Lake 5
  • AA – Tennessee 3, West Tenn 1
  • High-A – Daytona 5, Jupiter 2
  • A – Peoria 0, Dayton 4
  • Short Season – Boise 1, Vancouver 3
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs 3, Mariners 6

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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  • Game 102 – The Marshall Plan

    Saturday, July 28th, 2007


    July 28th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 2 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 2   8 9 1
    Cincinnati 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   1 9 0
    W – S. Marshall (5-4)  L  – A. Harang (10-3) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (17 & 18) D. Lee (10)

    Box Score

    I’ve got some discussion questions for you tonight. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on these. Don’t be shy. Click the comment link and leave some love. Also, we’ve added an auto-updating standings widget in the sidebar. It updates at the close of every game. Thanks for the suggestion whoever it was. Ask and you shall receive.

    1. What would it take for you to be confident in Rich Hill, Sean Marshall, and Jason Marquis for the stretch run?

    Maybe you are already confident in what they can do. Personally, I’m happy with what we have in this rotation. At some point, you have to show some confidence in your farm (i.e. Marshall and Hill) and trust your free agent signing. One “highly respected” blog went clamoring for the Cubs to go out and get Jon Garland before the deadline, suggesting a price of Marshall and Cedeno. I don’t know if maybe Al just spouts this crap for sake of discussion, but Marshall is pitching better than Garland and is younger and cheaper. That seems like a downgrade there Al.

    If you take a look at the numbers, I can’t see why anyone would make this deal, let alone suggest it. I’d like to hear everyone’s take on this rotation, but be prepared to defend your views.

    2. Adam Dunn was a name rumored to be a trade target for teams this year. Would you platoon him?

    When you look at the numbers for Dunn, he’s not been pretty against the lefties. Take a look at this:

                    AVG     OBP     SLG
    VS. Righties .298 .407 .671
    VS. Lefties .211 .295 .353

    I know it’s Adam Dunn, but those are some bad numbers when he’s facing the lefties. What would you do?

    ***** Trade News *****

  • Tampa acquired RHP Calvin Medlock, LHP Brian Shackelford and future considerations from the Reds in exchange for INF Jorge Cantu, OF Shaun Cumberland and cash AND traded INF/OF Ty Wigginton to the Astros for RHP Dan Wheeler

    I was a little surprised to see Wigginton go to a non-contender before the deadline, but I guess it’s always a good thing. The Rays pick up a pretty good reliever who has struggled this year to help that pathetic bullpen of theirs.


    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Derrek Lee (17.6%)
  • Second Star – Sean Marshall (13.8%)
  • Third Star – Alfonso Soriano (13.7%)
  • Turd of the Game – Mike Gosling (-19.0%)

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