Archive for December, 2007

Bah….Humbug

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

We are on vacation visiting my family in Chicago and I had the chance to visit with Rob last night. We were talking about what we think will happen before opening day. It got me thinking about how much of a difference there is between our thinking. In the spirit of Jacki’s wish list yesterday, I decided to post my un-Christmas list of sorts. It’s more a list of what I do not think will happen. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys.

1. The Cubs Will Not Get Brian Roberts – I’ve mentioned this one before and I’ll bring it up again. With Miguel Tejada’s exit to Houston, Baltimore has two major commodities that are in somewhat of a demand. Because of that, they have to make sure they get the most they can for the few products they have to sell, especially after the pathetic package they got for Tejada. If we were to get Bedard it would take a lot more than he would really be worth. It’s not happening.

2. The Cubs Will Not Get Dan Haren – Rob mentioned this one to me last night and it made me laugh a little. Haren is younger than Eric Bedard and Johan Santana. He’s won at least 14 games over the past three years and plays for a team overseen by the thrifty Billy Beane. That has the makeup of a huge price tag. Good luck with that.

3. The Cubs Will Sell The Naming Rights on Wrigley Field – This one pains me to say it, but doesn’t bother me enough to really make a stand against it. We live in a sponsorship age, this site is no exception, and the Cubs will continue to maximize their revenue with any means possible. I don’t know when it will happen, but I can see something to the effect of “Cialis Park at Wrigley Field”. Would it bother you? Would you quit going all together? I don’t think it would both me, but I tend to stay far away from Wrigley already due to cost.

4. The Cubs Will Not Sell The Team Before Opening Day – Sam Zell went on record this week to say that the team would be sold before the start of the season. Considering the fact that no bids have been taken at this point, and the public doesn’t even know who officially submitted paperwork to the league, and the fact that MLB wants to make sure this sale is the right fit, I do not see it happening in three months. I go on record right now to say it’s not going to happen.

Rob’s side of the story:
I did not say the Cubs will get Dan Haren, I said the Cubs will make a run at Joe Blanton. However,my main point is that I completely disagree with Joe’s premise that the Cubs do not need another starting pitcher. Joe said that he does not like a potential trade for Erik Bedard because it might also involve giving up Rich Hill and that Erik Bedard is not really a great pitcher anyway. To which I responded that Erik Bedard consistently is near the top in strikeouts every year and that a rotation that begins with Zambrano, Bedard,and Lilly is pretty good. Joe makes good points about comparing our four and five pitchers to other teams four and five pitchers, but I would like to see the Cubs go get a two or three not a four or five. And I will go on record saying that I think the Cubs will go get another pitcher.

I do think the Cubs will get Brian Roberts because when they are so intent on something they usualy do it. I just don’t know if they need to.

Finally, I do have passionate feelings about the Cubs selling the naming rights to Wrigley Field. Here they are: DO IT!!! Sell the rights and put the money back into the team. Anyone who thinks that it matters is too nostalgic to be running the team. For the Cubs losing is nostalgic. I would like to see that change.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope I did not ruin your holiday completely by getting down off my usual optimistic horse to feel the real ground.

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My Christmas List

Friday, December 21st, 2007

It is time for Christmas List 2007 Seven Up, Seven Down style (mostly Cubs style). This year, all I want for Christmas is:

For Cub fans to use some common sense and realize Fukudome may start off slow. He may slump. Please, do away with the booing. While I agree fans have the right to voice their displeasure, think of it this way, even if you boo Fukudome, he wont understand what you are saying anyway.

For Brian Roberts to be in the starting lineup come Opening Day. Gold glove second baseman…check. Potential to steal 50 plus bases…check. Admitted steroid use…check. Oh well, two out of three isn’t bad. Here comes the “Are his numbers really that good or did the steroids inflate them?” chatter. By the way, did I mention I really like high OBP guys?

For Fukudome to teach some of the current Cubs the value of FUNDAMENTAL baseball. You know, things like hustling during batting practice, not missing signs and running down the line. These are the things most little leaguers know how to do. On a another Fukudome note, Ronnie start practicing how to pronounce his name….now.

For Mark Prior to not return to 2003 form and burn the Cubs. don’t get me wrong, I wish the man the best, but out of all the teams I have heard rumored to be interested in him, a couple stand out with varying degrees of annoyance for me. The Yankees, yawn, are always in the mix. San Diego, well Prior is a California guy. So it does make sense. BUT, what if the unimaginable happened? Mark Prior, the ace of the Cardinals rotation? No, thank you. Even better, how about this little scenario? Introducing #22 for the Chicago White Sox, Mark Prior! I would have to poke my eyes out.

For the American League to NOT beat the National League in every interleague game this year. See my next wish.

For the Tigers to NOT run a lineup in 2008 in which seven of the nine everyday players have made at least one All-Star team since 2005. Oh wait….

For Cubs fans to think for a second before they call in to WGN, ESPN or the SCORE. Comments such as: “We should have never gotten ride of Jason Kendall” or “I think we should split time between Fukudome and Murton” make me cringe.

For the Cubs to reach .500 baseball before July! I don’t think I need to elaborate there.

For Cub fans to definitely enjoy, but not drink the kool-ade of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot. Hear me out, I love Theriot, love his work ethic, love his passion for the game but he must come into spring training in the best shape of his life in order to have a successful season. He ran out of gas last year. Fontenot is good but let’s not get carried away with how fiercely Cub fans put him on a pedestal.

For Carlos Zambrano to learn how to leash the crazy. I am all for him embracing it, but sometimes you can literally see him psyche himself out of games. Don’t lose the crazy Carlos, just leash it.

For Roger Clemens to stop hiding behind lawyers and carefully worded statements and end the speculation. Roger, if everything said about you is wrong, sue them up and down. Before you do, though, you better make sure you have NOTHING in that closet of yours. Highly unlikely.

For Jose Canseco to just go away, period. Oh, and take Pete Rose with you. While I am on that tirade, Curt Shilling you can go away too. Sometimes I think he likes to hear himself talk. By the way Curt, weren’t you a .500 pitcher until you were 30, then won 20 games three times after 30. See what this speculation talk is going to do to us? Oh and Sammy, consider yourself VERY, VERY lucky you have flown under the radar thus far.

And finally, one a semi more serious note, one hundred years is a long time to wait. My final holiday wish is for my dad and me to be able to see the Cubs win a World Series together!

As I was putting together my wish list I realized I could have gone on and on. I never even touched on my wish for Ryan Dempster to NOT be the closer, but I will turn it over to you. What is on your holiday list?

I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday.

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Which Teams Had the Best Hitters In 2007?

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

One of the coolest things to do in the off-season, especially now that the winter meetings are done and baseball heads into a bit of a lull is to look back at the season that was and see what we can mine from it. I did that a few days ago with the cost of production from the 2007 Cubs as well as the look at how well our pitching staff performed. It’s that time again, with a look at how the Cubs lineup stacked up by position against the rest of baseball.

For this study, I used the stat OPS+, which is an adjusted look at On Base % + Slugging. What this does is take the park a player plays in out of the equation. It attempts to balance the playing field a little. An OPS+ of 150 or more is excellent, while an OPS+ of 50 or less is poor. I broke down the main contributor by position for each team in baseball last year below. Leaders by position are highlighted in yellow.

After looking at the data, I notice a few things that can either encourage us or worry us.

  • We were below average at the catcher position, though we already probably knew that. What was surprising, at least to some, was that we were also below average at the SS, CF & RF position. RF figures to improve significantly with the Fukudome signing, but as of right now, I see a regression even further at CF with Pie in that spot and hole at shortstop with Theriot in that spot. I know people like to think Theriot is a great player, but look at the numbers. He had an On Base % of just .326. Very few teams had a SS with less production last year than the Cubs with Theriot.
  • Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Minnesota & Oakland all had DH’s with OPS+ below 100. All the guy has to do is hit. Can’t they find someone a little better?
  • The New York Yankees had a beast of a lineup, but we already knew that.
  • Where did Carlos Pena come from for Tampa Bay? This was a guy that the Rays practically pulled off the scrap heap. He comes in and posts the highest production in all of baseball for first base.
  • The C, SS & CF position appear to be the lowest offensive positions in baseball. That being said, it makes me feel a little better to know that those are our weak spots in the lineup.
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    What are your thoughts on this?

    Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

    From the AP Wire: (Source)

    NEW YORK — Pete Rose thinks players who use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are “making a mockery” of baseball.The career hits leader, banned by the sport for gambling, weighed in on the Mitchell Report in an interview with Dennis Miller that was slated to air Wednesday night on VERSUS.

    Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada and Andy Pettitte were among the big stars implicated in last week’s report by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

    Clemens denied the allegations. Pettitte acknowledged last weekend that he used human growth hormone twice while rehabbing from an injury in 2002.

    “I never thought anybody would make me look like an altar boy,” Rose said.

    “I’ve been suspended 18 years for betting on my own team to win,” he added. “I was wrong … but these guys today, if the allegations are true, they’re making a mockery of the game.”

    Rose was banished from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on games while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds, his former team. He denied the gambling allegations until 2004, when he came clean in his autobiography. He is not eligible for the Hall of Fame.

    “If you’re going to put these guys that supposedly did steroids into the Hall of Fame, I mean I’ve got to get a shot somewhere,” he said.

    Rose finished with 4,256 hits, breaking Ty Cobb’s career record.

    And if steroids were prevalent in his day?

    “I would have got 5,000 hits,” he said.

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    Dave Littlefield Joins the Cubs Scouting Dept.

    Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

    From the Cubs Media Relations Dept:

    CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today announced Dave Littlefield has joined the organization as a professional scout reporting to General Manager Jim Hendry.“We are extraordinarily pleased to add someone of Dave Littlefield’s caliber to bolster our baseball operations efforts with the Cubs,” said Hendry. “I’ve known Dave a long time and am confident that he will add valuable perspective and another experienced voice to our baseball operations department.”

    Littlefield has spent nearly 20 seasons within front offices of major league clubs, most recently wrapping up a seven-season stint as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to joining the Pirates on July 13, 2001, Littlefield was the Assistant General Manager to Dave Dombrowski with the Florida Marlins, a position he had held since November 6, 1998. He was promoted to a vice president with the Marlins on March 6, 2000.

    Littlefield, 47, began his Major League Baseball career with three seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization as an area scout and East Coast Scouting Supervisor before joining the Montreal Expos in 1991 as a National Crosschecker and East Coast Supervisor. Within the Expos system, Littlefield climbed to director of player development, a position he held for his final three seasons with the organization before joining the Marlins in 1998.

    Upon joining the Pirates, Littlefield led a system that was named the 2002 Organization of the Year after the Pirates showed a 10-game improvement at the major league level from 2001 while their minor league clubs combined for 399 wins.

    Prior to his front office career in the majors, Littlefield served as an assistant baseball coach for three seasons at his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, followed by three seasons in the same capacity at Clemson University. Littlefield played baseball and football at UMass, was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a minor league free agent and caught for three years in the Phillies and Yankees farm systems.

    Dave, his wife, Joanna, and their two children reside in Pittsburgh.

    This is exciting. Dave Dombrowski has done great things in Detroit in terms of building with the farm system. With Littlefield and Tim Wilken in the mix, the Cubs have some good baseball people on board.

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    Let’s Laugh

    Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

    With the Bears doing terrible last year, let’s remember one of the great SNL skits

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    From Right Field – It Was Supposed To Be Better Than Cats

    Monday, December 17th, 2007

    Way back in elementary school, the musical “Cats” was all the rage. Our music teacher, the way hip Mr. Vaanenen, got us all excited about this incredible musical performance that Broadway had never seen the likes of. Naturally, my sister and I were all wound up about it, and my parents decided to take us when the show came west to Chicago. To this day, and I’m not a huge fan of musicals or plays, but I remember being mezmorized by that show. The lights, the scenes, the make-up, and of course, the music.

    OK, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, and I’m talking Broadway musicals on a baseball blog, allow me to segue. I’m trying to tie this into good old boy, Mark Prior. How you had me all excited and full of visions of you carrying the Cubs to the promised land. You had me mezmorized. In some cases, I think you may of had me delusional. A rotation of Prior, Wood, and Zambrano had me drooling so hard, I’d need a feed bag to contain it. This was it, the pitching that would take the Cubs to the long awaited World Series and end a drought that even Boston, and the White Hose have been able to vanquish.

    When the Cubs selected Mark in the draft, I could hardly contain my excitement. The Cubs had selected a pitcher that would not only be good, but be ready for the Major League in a hurry. With Wood being healthy, and this young stud joining the ranks, we had nowhere to go but up. Then it happened.

    What seems to be a reoccurring dream, or nightmare depending on how you look at it, the injury bug hit, and Mark couldn’t get his poop together. Arm and shoulder injuries, and freak accidents. Flipping over Marcus Giles between 1st and 2nd base? A line drive off the elbow? How does this stuff keep happening? Somewhere in there, I lost my faith in number 22. He seemed pampered and couldn’t get his mind over matter. Baseball is a grueling sports that spans over six months a year. Bumps, bruises, muscle strains, pinching, you name it, occurs on a daily basis. It takes mental strength to get through some of it. Mr. Prior, I do not believe you had an ounce of that.

    They keep showing clips of Mark’s Cub career on Comcast Sports Net, and a majority of them are him calling to the dugout for the trainer. It irks me a little bit. What should of been an anchor for our rotation for years to come, was over in five years. In actuality, he was really only useful two of those years. What a waste.

    Of course, now he’ll go onto some west coast team, which is where his heart really wanted to be anyway, and probably come back to have a semi-successful career. It is what it is. Another blip on one of the many touted pitchers that have come through Wrigley Field with high expectations, only to flame out quicker than you can make an overkilled Bartman reference too. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even that upset by Prior being released. I just don’t think he’d work well with the current roster. I’m not sure he would fit into Piniella’s hard nosed system, where “sallies” aren’t appreciated, and you better come ready to play.

    I can sum up Mark’s career quite simply. I laughed, I cried, but it most certainly wasn’t better than Cats.

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    Projecting Fukudome

    Saturday, December 15th, 2007

    I found a couple of projections for Fukudome for this upcoming season. Obviously, any projection on a player who has never played in the Major Leagues has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s still interesting to see how various people project him. It has be excited, at least.

    Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus has him projected via his PECOTA system.

    PA   R   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  BA    OBP   SLG
    465  80  30  4   15  58   70  94  9   3  .289  .401  .504

    Keep in mind that those are a little low in part because of the injury he had last year.


    Baseball Think Factory weighed in with their ZIPS projections as well:

    2008 ZiPS Projection - Kosuke Fukudome
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI  BB  SO  SB    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS+
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Projection   457  66  134  33  2  13  67  64 100   1  .293  .382  .460   114
    2009?        444  66  129  33  1  14  66  59  93   2  .291  .376  .464   113 
    2010?        386  57  108  26  1  10  57  55  85   2  .280  .372  .430   104 
    2011?        327  45   90  20  0   8  50  43  72   1  .275  .362  .410    97
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Opt. (15%)   537  91  170  42  3  19  87  87  95   4  .317  .415  .512   135
    Pes. (15%)   376  46   98  25  0   8  45  44  86   0  .262  .341  .391    87
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Top Comps:  Jay Johnstone, Dixie Walker
    
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    Cubs Trading for Joe Nathan

    Friday, December 14th, 2007

    There is a rumor floating that the Cubs are talking to the Twins about a deal for their closer Joe Nathan. Nathan has been a premiere closer for a number of years. WSCR in Chicago is reporting that in order for the deal to happen the Cubs would need to include Carlos Marmol in a multi-player deal. Last season Nathan had 37 saves and an ERA of 1.88. He is under team option for the coming year. Last season he made 5.25 million.

    Like most rumors this one probably will not happen, but it is some interesting hot stove talk.

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