Archive for November, 2007

Johan Santana to Boston, Bonds on HBO, and Mitchell’s Names

Friday, November 30th, 2007

In the absence of a Jacki Rossi column due to her wisdom teeth, I present some questions for you as we head into the weekend.

1. Have you taken the time to make your feelings heard in our survey for who should be the 4th and 5th starters next year?

Shame on you if you haven’t done this yet. Stop right now and click here to cast your vote. I’m giving away a copy of the 2008 Bill James Handbook to one random participant. We’ve had a good turnout at the polls as of now, but as is the case in this country, not all eligible to vote have done so.

2. Sources are saying that Johan Santana may be headed to Boston. Would you rather see the Red Sox or the Yankees get him, if it came down to one of those two.

Personally, I’d rather see the Yankees get him, because what I read as the backbone of the deal with the Sox doesn’t impress me. I’d like to see the Twins get a lot in return, and Coco Crisp in the deal does not represent that.

3. A movie based on Game of Shadows, the Barry Bonds steroids book is slated for HBO. Are you interested? – (Source)

Seeing that I don’t have HBO, I don’t anticipate myself caring about this one too much. Bonds just doesn’t interest me all that much. In fact, I didn’t even stay up late to watch the record breaking homerun.

4. George Mitchell’s investigation results are due to release before Christmas and he’s expected to name names. Do you anticipate the results will sour your feelings toward baseball, much like the strike of 1994 did?

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Mining For Gold in the 2008 Bill James Handbook

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I want to start out by saying that if you haven’t yet made your voice heard as to who should be our 4th and 5th starters next year, the poll takes all of about 2 minutes. Pleaase click Here to cast your vote. You may be the proud winner of the book we’re about to talk about.

For the past two years, I’ve been privileged to receive a review copy of the Bill James Handbook. I get a lot of books in the mail to take a look at and review. When one strikes my fancy as particularly worth mentioning to you, I take some time to present it to you. This year’s handbook is one of them. Because I’m not a big fan of writing a “review” of a book (that’s so middle schoolish), I’ll present some things I liked about this year’s book as well as some golden nuggets of information I mined from it.

Things I Liked About the Book
It provides a complete statistical summary of every Major League player’s career. It’s like Baseball Reference without the internet. Because of this, it’s a book that can be kept in your laptop bag and used on that occasion you don’t have internet, but you want to see a player’s numbers. It’s also useful to bring to the ballpark next year to see what a player has done throughout his career, when all the park is showing you is his current season’s numbers.

At the end of the book, there is a great baseball glossary that explains a little about some of those weird stats you hear mentioned, but don’t quite understand how they’re calculated. For example, the book mentions that Range Factor is calculated by taking putouts plus assists and multiplying that by 9 and then dividing by the number of innings played at that position.

The Fielding Bible Awards were presented and were a different look at the gold glove. Only one award is given for each position instead of the one per league, and the voting is by a panel of ten well respected baseball guys, including Hal Richman who is the founder of Strat-O-Matic Baseball and is considered one of the expert fielding evaluators around.

Golden Nuggets Mined This Year

  • No Cub won a Fielding Bible award. Derrek Lee finished 6th at first base behind Albert Pujols, Casey Kotchman, Kevin Youkilis, Todd Helton, and Lyle Overbay.
  • John Dewan, the founder of Baseball Info Solutions, devised a +/- system that evaluates defensive ability and presents it in a form similar to the +/- system in hockey. The higher in the positive a player is, the better defender he is considered to be. Obviously, there is no sure way to evaluate players, so this is just another tool to use. For the Cubs, only two names were noteworthy. Aramis Ramirez ranked 4th and came in with a +15, behind Pedro Feliz who had a +27. Jacque Jones in centerfield finished 7th with a +13. Carlos Beltran was first with a +25.
  • The Cubs led all of baseball in outs on the bases with 31. The Braves were the best at just 13. When we talk about outs on the bases, we’re not talking about things like double plays. It’s just a sum of things like guys tagged out trying to stretch out hits for that extra base, or being doubled off on fly balls, etc. Basically, it’s bonehead plays. That sounds about right for our team to be leading all of baseball in those mental errors.
  • The starting staff was known for their inability to hold runners on base. Worst of them was Jason Marquis who allowed 91% of the runners to steal successfully. Only 2 out of the 22 were caught stealing. What I found interesting was that only seven runners attempted a steal on Carlos Zambrano. Three of those were caught. For some reason, runners were not interested in running on Carlos.
  • The Cubs were the most difficult team in the NL to manufacture a run against and were ranked 5th in the NL in manufacturing runs. The Rockies were the most successful team at manufacturing runs.
  • Lou Piniella’s constant shuffling of lineups drove many insane all year. He was constantly harped on and encouraged to pick a lineup and stick with it. Lou used 125 different lineups in 2007, but was not the worst for this. Tony LaRussa led all managers in baseball with 150 different lineups. Wow!!! Bobby Cox was the most consistent with just 86 different lineups used. Lou was also one of the most effective in the NL at using the intentional walk.
  • Wrigley Field had the second highest park index for errors in the infield in the NL. As you know, so many people complained that the infield was a terrible surface and desperately needed to be redone. I’m interested in seeing how the index ranking changes now that the field has been leveled and resodded.
  • If you had to guess which Cub starter had the highest game score in 2007, who would you guess? Jon Lieber had the highest in the NL with a score of 92 on June 9th against KC. For the Cubs, their highest score was turned in not by Ted Lilly or Carlos Zambrano, but by Jason Marquis on May 9th against Pittsburgh. Who would have thought? On a side note, Yovani Gallardo put up the worst game score at -12 when he gave up 11 earned runs on 12 hits in just 2.2 innings of work.
  • Everyone is all about Dontrelle Willis and how the Cubs royally screwed up by giving him up. The more he pitches, the more I’m not so sure. He’s shown he’s very inconsistent and actually averaged the 5th lowest game score per start in the NL
  • Bill James put together a brief snippet on some of the tremendous young talent in the game today. Unfortunately, none of the Cubs made the cut. As a result, the Cubs ranked 29th in young talent ahead of just the Astros.Those are some interesting nuggets I found. Obviously there is a wealth of other information in the book that I can’t lawfully copy. Go out and pick up the book. It’s $21.95 and well worth the money. Visit Acta Sports to purchase.
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    The 4th & 5th Starter Election

    Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

    Assuming we’ve finally put the Johan Santana to the Cubs talk aside, it’s time to take a look at the starters we have in house and see what you the reader thinks would be the best course of action for the club to take for this year’s rotation.

    I’m going to go ahead and pencil in Zambrano, Lilly and Hill in as the first three starters, but the 4th and 5th spots seem to be up for grabs. We need your vote. I’ve set up a poll for you to vote with. I am giving away a copy of the Bill James Handbook to one random participant that completes the poll and leaves contact information in it. Have fun with this and it’s time to meet the candidates. I’ve included their 2007 stats for your reference, with each name hyperlinked to their player page on Baseball Reference:

    Name YR Level W L IP ERA WHIP
    Jason Marquis 2007 MLB 12 9 191.2 4.60 1.39
    Sean Marshall 2007 MLB 7 8 103.1 3.92 1.37
    Ryan Dempster 2007 MLB 2 7 66.2 4.73 1.34
    Mark Prior 2006 MLB 1 6 43.2 7.21 1.70
    Sean Gallagher 2007 AAA / AA 10 3 101.1 3.10 1.22
    Kevin Hart 2007 AAA / AA 12 6 158.0 3.99 1.30
    Angel Guzman 2007 MLB 0 1 30.1 3.56 1.35

    Click Here to cast your vote

    Polls close on December 7th, a day that will live in infamy, at 5pm EDT

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    2006 Draft in Review

    Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

    I thought it would be fun to take a look at how the 2006 draft picks, round 1-10 performed for the Cubs in 2007. All were still in the system as of today, so it was nice to see who did well and who did not. Remember, this was a draft that the Cubs were a little short on picks and didn’t draft in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds. That being said, it’s tough to expect much out of a draft like that, but there were some pleasent surprises in the seven players the Cubs picked in the first 10 rounds. Here is the breakdown of their year with comments.

    RD

    Player

    POS

    Avg / OBP /Slug
    Rec / ERA / WHIP

    Comment

    1 T. Colvin OF ‚àë.299 / .324 / .488 with 16 HR & 88 RBI Many said he was an overdraft due to Samardzija, but with his development, he’s proving the critics wrong.
    5 J. Samardzija SP ‚àë6-11 / 4.57 / 1.55 Seemed to figure things out when promoted to AA. 2008 will be a key season for his development and we should see a good indicator of what we can expect from him.
    6 J. Lansford 3B ‚àë.273 / .305 / .354 in Low A Saw his batting average increase but overall plate discipline decrease significantly. Baseball America ranks him as our best defensive infielder in the system
    7 S. Clevenger SS ‚àë.340 / .378 / .441 between low and high A. Spent the year playing 1B/C/DH and has not played SS at all since being drafted.
    8 W. Muldowney SP ‚àë2-4 / 4.97 / 1.50 in 8 starts between rookie ball and A ball 23 years old, so needs to show something soon.
    9 C. Anderson OF ‚àë.293 / .335 / .448 in rookie and low A ball All but 2 of his 47 games were in rookie ball. He’ll probably get the full year in Boise or Peroria in 2008
    10 J. Renshaw SP ‚àë12-8 / 4.33 / 1.38 in High A Peoria Could be poised for a nice year and could turn into a fairly nice prospect with more development this season.
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    Kerry Wood Re-Signs for 1 Year

    Monday, November 26th, 2007

    From the Cubs Media Dept:

    CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher Kerry Wood have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for the 2008 campaign. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    A member of the organization since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft, 2008 will mark Wood’s 14th season in the Cubs organization. The righthander has posted a 72-57 record with a 3.67 ERA in 211 appearances (178 starts) in all or part of nine major league seasons with the Cubs. Wood ranks fourth on the club’s all-time strikeout list with 1,323 while his .215 batting average against is the lowest of any Cub pitcher in franchise history (minimum 1,000 innings pitched).

    The 30-year-old Wood pitched exclusively in relief in 2007 for the first time in his career, going 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 22 appearances after making his season debut August 5 vs. the Mets. That outing was his first since June 6, 2006, as he missed nearly 14 months due to right shoulder ailments.

    Overall in 2007, Wood tossed 18 scoreless appearances and allowed one run or less in 21 of 22 appearances, as six of his nine runs allowed came in two outings. He limited opponents to a .207 batting average and struck out 24 batters in 24.1 innings. He finished the campaign with eight consecutive scoreless appearances covering 9.2 innings, striking out 13 and walking only three in that span.

    Wood was named the 1998 National League Rookie of the Year after posting a 13-6 record with a 3.40 ERA in 26 starts, making history when he became the youngest pitcher in major league history to strike out 20 batters in a game at the age of 20 on May 6, 1998 vs. Houston. Wood was also a member of the 2003 N.L. All-Star team when he went 14-11 with a 3.20 ERA in 32 starts in helping to lead the Cubs to the National League Championship Series.

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