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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    Cubs Sign Fukudome

    Monday, November 26th, 2007

    I know that’s what everyone is itching to hear come over the wire. As you know, he’s a free agent with good power and tremendous plate discipline from the left side, which seems to fill the exact need the Cubs have in that spot. That being said, the Cubs aren’t the only team out there with interest in him. My question to you today, and I’d love to see a lot of feedback on this, is:

    What will the Cubs do in RF if they DON’T get Fukudome this off-season?

    My guess is that they’ll have a couple of options.

    1) Move DeRosa to RF and either start Fontenot at 2B or step up the efforts to get Kaz Matsui if he’s still available.

    2) Play Murton in RF and roll the dice

    3) Seek outside help via trade or free agency. One name I could almost bet they would consider would be Geoff Jenkins, who would be akin to the Jeromy Burnitz experiment.

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    Johan Santana to the Cubs?

    Sunday, November 25th, 2007

    All I’ve been seeing lately is how Johan Santana needs to come over to Chicago and team with Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly on a huge rotation that would bring the Cubs a World Series. While I love the idea of it, I’ve got some news for everyone. It’s not going to happen, and here’s why:

    One major league star, multiple prospects and a seven-year, $140 million contract.

    That’s what it will take according to Ken Rosenthal, who quotes the Twins rival executives who have interest in Santana this offseason. We don’t have that, case closed.

    However, just to appease the natives, I’ll break it down for you. Let’s start with the “Major League star” part. We have that in Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Carlos Zambrano. Problem with those guys? They all make more money than the Twins want to spend on a player. The Twins have showed they don’t want to spend a great deal of money, as evidenced by letting Torii Hunter go via free agency, so to think they would then bring in Soriano at his price tag is absurd. Factor in that Lee doesn’t fit due to salary and a certain player named Justin Morneau and you’re down to Ramirez. While Ramirez does fit a hole in the Twins lineup, you can’t expect them to bring in a guy signed for four more years at $67 million. It just won’t happen.

    Instead, the Twins appear to be most interested in dealing for younger, more inexpensive talent like Jose Reyes or Robinson Cano, who makes absolutely no money at all at $490K this past season. At just over two years on ML service time, Cano isn’t due for a raise for quite awhile due to the rules laid out in the CBA and that’s exactly what Minnesota wants. We’ve seen in the past that the Yankees are willing to trade a rising young second baseman for a proven star and this time appears to be no different. I would not be shocked one bit to see the Yankees put together a package that included Cano, Joba Chamberlain, etc to bring in Santana. They can afford to sign him to the extension, and you can bet that the pinstripes and the chance of winning every year would be enough to entice Santana to waive that no-trade clause of his.

    While I’d love to have Santana as much as the next guy, it’s simply not going to happen. We don’t have the ML talent, or the money to sign him to the type of extension he commands. Let’s stop dreaming, OK?


    You may have noticed the flash Harry Caray ad running in the sidebar. It’s a documentary about the life and career of Caray and I think it would definitely be worth checking out. I don’t usually promote the ads on the site, but this one peaked my interest. It might be a cool gift for a big fan this Christmas, especially considering it’s pretty cheap. Just so you know, if you click the ad, it takes you to the site, but you can also adjust the volume on the ad on this site as well. It’s defaulted to off for your benefit.

    In the aftermath of Francisco Cordero signing with the Reds, Jesse Motiff is stiff upset, to which I say “Someone cal the whaaaaaaamulance” Boo Hoo for the Brewers fans.

    So good luck to you Francisco Cordero. You are a liar and a hypocrite for what you said in the media at the end of the season. You are going to a team that was not competitive last year and still has major issues with both starting and relief pitching. You turned your career around in Milwaukee, but you still struggled away from Miller Park. You now have a full year of pitching away from there and you now face the challenge of pitching in hitter friendly Great American Ballpark. I just don’t see it ending well for you Coco. Good riddance.

    Brewers Bar – 11/24/2007

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    Coco Crisp to the Cubs? Brewers Lose Big

    Saturday, November 24th, 2007

    As I was sitting in bed yesterday, I had was mulling around something someone asked me about the other day. I thought I would share it with you. What are your thoughts on bringing in Coco Crisp via trade from the Red Sox to play centerfield? There is no doubting that Crisp can go out and get the ball in center. He came in ranked third in the Plus/Minus Leaders in CF courtesy of the 2008 Bill James Handbook, first in David Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range for centerfielders, first in Range Factor, and third in Zone Rating. He can also steal bases, averaging 25 over the past six seasons, which would add the speed that Lou Piniella is craving this offseason. At the same time, would Crisp really provide more in center with the bat than either Felix Pie or Sam Fuld can bring? Looking at the numbers, Crisp has a career batting average of .280, which is so so, and a career high OBP of just .345. That’s less than impressive, especially considering that was two years ago. Pie has struggled in the majors in his short career, but seems to have a higher ceiling than Crisp. Fuld, who came into the season last year a lot less talked about than either Pie or Crisp, has increased his stock dramatically with his performances last year and this offseason in the AFL. After winning the batting title in the fall league, I put him slightly ahead of Pie on the depth chart. That being said, would you rather see the Cubs make a run at a guy like Coco Crisp, or go into the year with Pie or Fuld in center full-time? If you know anything about me by now, you know where I stand. Let the kids from the system come through the system and play.


    Word came in yesterday that Francisco Cordero, the second best bullpen arm on the open market this year is switching teams within the NL Central. Cordero, who spent last year with the Brewers has decided that the Reds are his best place of residence. It always amuses me when players go from a really good team, with a great amount of promise, to a team whose future isn’t quite as bright. The Brewers, in my mind, are the favorites coming into this season in the division. For Cordero, signing elsewhere tells me that winning isn’t as important to him as the money is. I’m all about making money and taking advantages of the opportunities that come your way, but it’s also quite fun to win, and even have a chance to make it to the World Series. For Cordero, that won’t be happening now any time soon.


    I forgot to mention this one the other day, but the White Sox signed Scott Linebrink for four years and $19 million on Friday. For the White Sox, you had to figure on a move to improve the bullpen. They thought they did enough to address it last year with the additions of Andy Sisco and David Aardsma. While they both threw extremely hard, they had a tendency to close their eyes when they threw the ball and as a result, come nowhere near the plate. I kid, but both of these guys were terrible in their control last year and in blew up in Kenny Williams face all year. The Sox had the 28th ranked bullpen ERA in all of baseball last year at 5.47. It’s an area that they will probably continue to try to address, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at a guy like Octavio Dotel


    This comes from Baseball America, which is one of my favorite sites. I only wish I could afford the subsription to go with it. It lists the updated draft order now that a few players have been signed via free agency.

    First-Round Picks
    1. Devil Rays
    2. Pirates
    3. Royals
    4. Orioles
    5. Giants
    6. Marlins
    7. Reds
    8. White Sox
    9. Nationals
    10. Astros
    11. Rangers
    12. Athletics
    13. Cardinals
    14. Twins
    15. Dodgers
    16. Brewers
    17. Blue Jays
    18. Mets (Tom Glavine, A, to Atl)
    19. Cubs
    20. Mariners
    21. Tigers
    22. Mets
    23. Padres
    24. Phillies
    25. Rockies
    26. Diamondbacks
    27. Twins (Torii Hunter, A, to LAA)
    28. Yankees
    29. Indians
    30. Red Sox

    Supplemental First-Round Picks
    31. Twins (Hunter)
    32. Brewers (Franciso Cordero, A, to Cin)
    33. Mets (Glavine)
    34. Brewers (Scott Linebrink, A, to CWS)
    35. Cubs (Jason Kendall, B, to Mil)

    Second-Round Changes
    42. Brewers (Cordero to CIN)
    43. Brewers (Linebrink to CWS)
    69a. Braves (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Joshua Fields)
    84a. Red Sox (for failure to sign 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris)

    Supplemental Third-Round Picks
    98. Phillies (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Brandon Workman)
    99. Astros (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Derek Dietrich)
    100. Padres (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Tommy Toledo)
    101. Angels (for failure to sign 2007 third-rounder Matt Harvey)

    Remaining Possible Compensation Free Agents (must be offered arbitration)
    Atl: OF Andruw Jones (B), LHP Ron Mahay (B).
    Bos: RHP Eric Gagne (B), RHP Mike Timlin (B).
    Cle: OF Kenny Lofton (B).
    Col: RHP Jorge Julio (B), C Yorvit Torrealba (B).
    Det: LHP Kenny Rogers (B).
    Hou: INF Mark Loretta (B), RHP Trever Miller (B).
    KC: RHP David Riske (B).
    LAD: OF Luis Gonzalez (B).
    Mil: RHP Francisco Cordero (A), 2B/3B Tony Graffanino (B).
    NYM: OF Shawn Green (B), C Paul LoDuca (B).
    NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (A), 3B Alex Rodriguez (A), RHP Luis Vizcaino (B).
    Oak: C Mike Piazza (B), OF Shannon Stewart (B).
    Phi: RHP Freddy Garcia (B), 2B Tadahito Iguchi (A), OF Aaron Rowand (A).
    StL: SS David Eckstein (B), RHP Troy Percival (B).
    SD: C Michael Barrett (A), OF Milton Bradley (A), RHP Doug Brocail (B), OF Mike Cameron (B).
    SF: OF Barry Bonds (A), 3B Pedro Feliz (B).
    Sea: OF Jose Guillen (B).

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    Torii Hunter, Hiroki Kuroda & Other Notes

    Friday, November 23rd, 2007

    Torii Hunter reached an agreement with the Angels on a five-year, $90 million contract on Wednesday night, which means the second big name is off the board, A-Rod being the first. For the Angels, it’s the second big move this week, as they traded Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox earlier for Jon Garland to help out their rotation. It will be interesting to see what this does to the Angel outfield, as they now have Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Mathews Jr., and Garrett Anderson. One will have to shift to the DH role and I’m curious to see how that affects the ego of that person. Matthews appears to be the odd man out, from what I read, but I’d think that with the way Vlad runs, he should get the shift to the DH spot.

    What this means for the Cubs – Not much, to be honest. The Cubs hadn’t been in the market this offseason for a centerfielder, as they seem content to go into the year with either Sam Fuld or Felix Pie manning that spot for them. It does mean that there is one less bat on the market, though, which makes Kosuke Fukudome a little more in demand for teams looking for outfield help.


    If you think Japanese baseball, you have to think Seattle Mariners, and they made a pitch to Hiroki Kuroda, who many have rumored the Cubs to have been after over the past two offseason. Personally, I’m not all that excited about this kid. When you look at the influx of players from Asia, pitchers do not seem to have near as much success as the hitters. Look at some of the names that have come over. It’s hit or miss with the Asian pitchers.

  • Hideo Nomo
  • Shigetoshi Hasegawa
  • Chan Ho Park
  • Byung-Hyun Kim
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki
  • Chien-Ming Wang
  • Kasuhisa Ishii
  • Jae Seo
  • Hideki Irabu
  • Kei IgawaWhen you factor in the fact that Kuroda has seen his fastball go from topping out at 95 mph to the now 89-92 mph range, it doesn’t make a person all that excited about what he can do for us. I’d like to see the Cubs stay away from him and put some trust in what we have in house. We have more than enough arms for the rotation, and I will stick to my position that it’s time to trust them as they mature.


    Kaz Matsui remains on the Cubs radar, though I’ve seen a lot of talk lately that he’s close to a deal with the Houston Astros. Bruce Miles mentions that Hendry has Matsui on his radar to fill some of the need for left-handed hitting in the lineup. My guess is that if signed, Matsui would be the starting shortstop, with Ryan Theriot filling in as the middle infield utility role. The problem I have with signing Matsui is that he hasn’t done anything outside of Coors Field. When you look at his numbers with the Mets (.246 / .304 / .344) compared to his numbers at Coors (.348 / .403 / .486), it scares you. Even if you make the case that Matsui finally figured it out last year, and just happened to be playing for the Rockies, the numbers prove that to be incorrect. His home and away splits were as follows: (.330 / .381 / .482) at home versus (.249 / 304 / .333) away from Coors last year. I’d like to see the Cubs steer far away from Kaz Matsui and let Houston feel the pain of signing off of one year’s numbers.

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