Archive for January, 2008

Webtopia

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Here are the links for this week:

  • Statistically Speaking has a mind spinning look at Johan Santana that includes Pitch Fx and all types of other colorful graphs. I try to learn as much as a I can about various stats these days and stay knowledgeable regarding how to evaluate talent using them, but this is hard stuff. – (Source)
  • Sabernomics asks a very good question on his blog. “Where do we draw the line on performance enhancement?” Apparently the Olympics are ruling that his prosthetics are giving him an unfair advantage. Blah, that’s retarded. – (Source)
  • The Hardball Times has a piece on how to evaluate hitters, and uses the subjects of Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, and Tony Gwynn as examples. It’s an interesting concept. – (Source)
  • The Biz of Baseball has posted the complete Spring Training schedule for all of Major League Baseball in a handy PDF file. If you’re interested in downloading it, you can do so right from here. – (Get PDF)
  • Pinstripe Alley makes the case that Baseball should level the playing field between pitchers and hitters and raise the mound. – (Source)
  • The Hardball Times posts their results from a study of who had the best OF arm last year. Not only did Alfonso Soriano lead all left fielders, but he was head and shoulders above all of them. Check out how he stacked up against some of the right fielders as well, which is generally regarded as the position with the strongest arms in the outfield. – (Source)
  • Balls, Sticks, and Stuff released a new search option for Baseball called Baseboogle. It’s powered by Google and includes some of the top baseball sites around. They were even gracious enough to include us (blushing). I’ve linked to them in the sidebar as well. – (Source)
  • Flotsam presented an interesting post about the top 50 “grittiest” seasons of all time. He even goes into how he calculates it. I have to admit, the concept makes me laugh a little, but maybe the stat heads can even calculate the stuff that makes Ryan Theriot a fan favorite. – (Source) One reader even commented:

The Cubs may not ever win the world series(what, this gag’s been used before?) but Ryan Theriot will make his mark in the top 50 grittiest season performances before his career ends, you mark my words

  • Did you know that Matt Williams hit 62 home runs in a season? Stat of the Day Blog, which is run by Baseball Reference, actually compiled the strike shortened season with 2005 in the beginning and found this nugget. – (Source)
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy chimes in on why so many bats have been breaking in the games these days. – (Source)
Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Saturday Morning Trivia

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

This one may be tough for the young fans, but some of the seasoned vets should get it.

Who is the only player in Cub history to go straight to the Major Leagues without tasting Minor League ball?

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section if you knew the answer to this one.

Answer – Click Here

On a side note, don’t forget that if you have Facebook or even if you don’t yet, become a fan of VFTB by going to our page.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Cubs Sign Chad Fox with an Invititaion to Spring Training

Friday, January 11th, 2008

From the Chicago Cubs Media Department

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today signed right-handed pitcher Chad Fox to a one-year minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to 2008 Major League Spring Training.

Fox, 37, is 10-11 with six saves and a 3.57 ERA (89 ER/214.1 IP) in 214 major league relief appearances in all or part of eight big league seasons with Atlanta (1997), Milwaukee (1998-99, 2001-02), Boston (2003), Florida (2003-04) and the Cubs (2005). He has 261 strikeouts in 224.1 innings pitched, an average of 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and has limited opponents to a .231 batting average.

The righthander last pitched professionally in 2005 with the Cubs, posting no record and one save with a 6.75 ERA (6 ER/8.0 IP) in 11 relief appearances before landing on the disabled list on April 26 with a right elbow strain, an injury that ended his season.

The six-foot-three, 190-pound Fox enjoyed his best major league campaign with the Brewers in 2001, going 5-2 with two saves and a 1.89 ERA (16 ER/66.2 IP) in a career-high 65 appearances. Fox was also a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins, going 2-1 with a 2.13 (6 ER/25.1 IP) in 21 outings after signing with the club that August.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Hall of Fame Emotions and Reasons Why the Hawk Should Be in the Hall

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is I get to write about the baseball’s Hall of Fame, an institution I am becoming more and more jaded by. It symbolizes the game we all love, rooted in abstruse statistics and over-analysis.

The good news is because of said institution, I also get to write about my favorite Cub of all-time, Andre Dawson.

Before I do, I have to give my two cents on Cub trade talk. I know Brian Roberts was on my holiday wish list, but, if getting Roberts (and according to David Kaplan as of Thursday morning) means Rich Hill and several much more highly regarded players that could include Felix Pie, minor league outfielder Tyler Colvin, and others, then I have two words for Jim Hendry – forget it! Please, please, please do not trade away all of our home-grown talent. The Cub’s farm system is FINALLY starting to look a bit promising, and although I am as anxious as the next fan for a World Series, what I’ve seen is that winning, consistent teams are built around a strong farm system.

Moving on, in case you haven’t heard, the only member of the Cooperstown Class of 2008 is Goose Gossage. He became only the fifth relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame, earning baseball’s highest honor in his ninth try on the ballot. The Goose received 466 of 543 votes (85.8 percent) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

I think voters have overcome their bias against relief pitchers but Gossage will be the last one to join the likes of Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter for a long while. Relief pitching has become so compartmentalized and specialized. These days, we are lucky to see the closer for three outs, whereas Gossage just pitched and pitched and pitched. I think baseball fans will have to wait for the next generation of relief pitchers to be inducted – the names Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman come to mind.

HOF voters may have overcome their bias, but they didn’t overcome some really bonehead votes. Travis Fryman accumulated two votes? I didn’t even know what team he played for before I looked it up. Then you have Rick Telander, who didn’t even fill out his ballot this year. Are you telling me that because of the Mitchell Report and voters like Telander, who have “no wind in their sails,” legitimate HOF candidates may be denied their proper place in the history of the game? That is just bogus.

Speaking of legitimate candidates, hometown favorite Andre Dawson did not make it again, although I wasn’t as much surprised as I was sad. He came up short for the 2007 edition as well, garnering 56.9% (309) of the votes. There are two reasons I think Andre Dawson should be in the HOF. The first appeals to the inner baseball card nerd in all of us, statistics. First and foremost, hitting 400+ home runs and stealing 300+ bases puts you in pretty elite company. He was dominant in his era with 1,373 runs, 2,774 hits and 1,591 RBIs, and don’t forget about the eight Gold Gloves.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that in terms of the HOF, the bigger the club, the less prestigious it is. I also understand that, while most everyone would say Dawson was good, not everyone agrees that he was on a whole different level than the rest of the field. In my mind, the HOF would not be worse off with Andre Dawson in it.

The second reasons why Andre Dawson should be in HOF will appeal to the giddy Cub fan in all of us – purely sentimental. And yes, I do realize sentimental reasons do not get players in the HOF. Dawson was the first Cub that I officially labeled my “favorite” and because of that I chose # 8 for every team I played on. Who doesn’t remember that Chicago poster back in the day, the Hawk with a bat, Walter with a football and MJ holding a basketball – all in tuxedos no less? When Dawson stood in the box, do you remember how intimidating he looked? He didn’t intimidate in that big, meat head type of way either, but more of an “I dare you to pitch to me” sort of way. Who can forget his rocket from right field?

Remember that game in 1987 against the Padres when Dawson took an Eric Show fastball to the cheek? As I was watching it on television, him laying there motionless, I honestly thought he was dead. He couldn’t even move to charge the mound, so you know what happened? His teammates did it for him. Dawson is that type of guy. The HOF voters are always preaching integrity and class as critical components of the voting process, well then wake up because Andre Dawson encompasses both.

The Hawk also exemplified my favorite type of baseball player; one who works hard, plays hard and for the most part, doesn’t say much. He let his on-field talent do the talking. Dawson won the National League MVP the year the Cubs finished last. How often does that happen? Besides A Rod, not very often. Also, remember the man’s knees? Sometimes it just hurt watching him.

He has HOF backers. Ryne Sandberg said this about Dawson at his own Hall induction:

“No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987, and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Brian Roberts and Other Fun Thoughts

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Everyone was all jacked up yesterday about rumors that a deal to bring Brian Roberts to Chicago was done and ready to be announced. The Orioles squashed those rumors mid-day and we’re left speculating not if anymore, but rather when. I’d like to say that I am sold on the fact that Roberts is coming, but as I mentioned before, I don’t know that the Cubs are willing to part with enough to get him. Rumors had the Sean’s and Ronny Cedeno going for Roberts. That’s too steep a price to bring in a guy that may still be disciplined in some form by the Commissioner for his role with PED’s. Roberts would make this lineup better, for the simple fact that his presence forces Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot. I just don’t know that I’m ready to part with two guys that could be difference makers for us in the rotation this year and in years to come.

Phil Rogers said on his blog:

Jason Marquis and Dempster project as the most likely 4-5 starters for Lou Piniella. If Marshall and Gallagher were both traded to Baltimore, the cast behind them would be headed by Kevin Hart, the fragile Angel Guzman and unproven prospects Donald Veal, Jeff Samardzija, Adam Harben and Jose Ascanio.

That scares me. I’m not ready to go into this season knowing that if we have injuries or a Marquis second half explosion, our next option is a kid that hasn’t made a big league start (Hart), and a guy that can’t stay healthy. Why not keep Marshall at the very least?

———-

Rick Telander, who has a Hall of Fame ballot due to his massive history as a baseball writer, posted a column yesterday about how he didn’t fill out his ballot this year because “The Steroid Era has taken the wind out of my sail.” Many people are up in arms about the fact that he wouldn’t send it in. Marc Silverman of ESPN 1000 said that Telander should have his ballot privileges revoked as a result.My question to you is twofold. First, Do you agree with Silverman? And second, Why do guys like Vin Scully, Marty Brennaman and Bill James not have votes? These are guys that know baseball like the back of their hand. Why does Joe Reporter have a vote and they don’t? This is why I could care less about the hall of fame.

———-

Finally, I recorded the latest edition of the podcast on Tuesday with Brandon Rosage. On the most recent show, we talked about the Roger Clemens mess. It’s a compact 25 minute show that I think turned out well. Click here to download the mp3. Remember, you can also subscribe to the podcast feed by going to www.mvn.com/thepitch

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

We’re on Facebook

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I guess that means you can be our friend. If you have a Facebook account, here is a link to our profile ID: View From The Bleachers ~ Become a Fan

Also, our friend Phil Zuber caught up with Len Kasper in the latest edition of his podcast as part of Cubs Obsession. – (Source)

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Good Things Are Coming

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

If you haven’t noticed over the past few days, things are slightly different here at VFTB. We’ve been undergoing a bit of an internal face lift. Nucleus, the system we were using to manage the blog, was not offering us enough of the features we wanted to bring to the table. As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have a very capable webmaster move us and all of our belongings to a new content management system called WordPress. It’s one of the most popular CMS’s around and will allow us to bring you some cool new features. Here is a rundown of some of the things I am excited about bringing you in the next days and weeks in an effort to make this more of a community of Cub fans.

Reader Diary System – If you’re familiar with Bleed Cubbie Blue and other blogs on the Sports Blog Network, you’ve probably seen that the readers have the opportunity to create user accounts and then post what are called diaries. A diary is basically a blog within a blog, and allows their readers to post content of their own which is linked in the sidebar and available for other readers to read and comment on. We’re putting the final pieces in place to allow you guys to do that as well. In the next week or so, we should have the system in place to allow you to register for an account and contribute to the site. This has me excited because I know you have good things to say, but often no avenue with which to present them. You never know, you may even be featured on the homepage or even asked to join the staff.

Improved RSS capabilities – For some, this may not make sense at all, but if you are an RSS junkie like myself, you will probably be excited about this. We’re putting together the ability for readers to subscribe to a lot more content, but in a specialized way. You will have the ability to subscribe to individual authors (i.e. Rob, Matt, etc.), comments, individual categories, etc. It should make for good times. If you have no idea what RSS is, Problogger.net has a great explanation here. Go check it out.

Better Sorting Options – If you notice now, our posts are broken down into categories, which are hyper links. When you click that category, it takes you to an archive of all posts in that category. The “General” category is currently by far the largest, as most of our old posts were lumped into that one. Moving forward, we’ll be good about specializing them into correct categories. You’ll also notice that at the base of some posts are tags, which are certain hot topics contained in the post. These are also links that will take you to all posts containing those tags. This should allow you to quickly reference a post if you wanted to use it to refer back to a comment or something of that nature.

Misc. Other Additions – The other improvements are simple. Recent posts will be linked in the sidebar to eliminate the need to scroll down. We’ve also improved our comment spam filtering system.

One of the primary reasons behind these changes had to do with the reader survey we did late in the season. Your feedback is what prompted me to seek out a way to add the things you wanted to see. Feedback is very important, so don’t ever hesitate to give it. I hope you’re pleased with the new additions. I will be keeping my eye out for bugs, but if you notice something, let us know. Also, I am currently looking for a volunteer or two or three to moderate the diaries to prevent spammers from killing it. In addition, they would be our eyes for content that was either repetitive (i.e. 5 diaries about the Cubs trading Angel Pagan) or offensive. This is a person that is on the internet consistently. If you might be interested, let me know:

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Chicago Cubs Mailbag Commentary

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

One of my favorite things to do is to look at the weekly mailbag section on Cubs.com and see how much I agree or disagree with Carrie Muskat’s replies to the readers. This week, the first question dealt with the Angel Pagan trade.

Why would the Cubs trade Pagan when he offers a right-handed-hitting option in unsettled center field? Unless either/both of those [Minor League players] received are projected highly, I see no reason to weaken the current roster by trading a switch-hitter with speed, solid defense, some power and versatility who is both inexpensive and young. I just don’t get it.
– Ty W., Ramona, Calif.

Pagan is a career .219 hitter vs. left-handed pitchers, so he didn’t provide much of a right-handed option. He also has a career .189 average as a pinch-hitter, and the Cubs wanted more off the bench. For whatever reason, the Cubs saw more potential in the players they already have.

I’ve seen some bloggers question the Pagan move and make the comment that they don’t understand why the move was made. When you look at Pagan, remember that he was stricken with colitis late in the year, and missed a good amount of time. It wasn’t the first time in his career that he was injured. The Cubs looked at what they had in the OF spot and simply ranked him as the # 6 outfielder on the depth chart. With Felix Pie and Sam Fuld both available to play all three positions, there simply wasn’t playing time available for Pagan. The team figures to go into the season with Soriano in left and Fukudome in right. Center should be a battle between Fuld and Pie with Matt Murton filling in as a corner guy off the bench. Don’t forget that Eric Patterson is waiting in the wings as well.

Geovany Soto is a fine young catcher. But the only backup is Henry Blanco, a soft-hitting veteran who is prone to injury. Are the Cubs thinking about getting another catcher, promoting someone from Iowa, or just leaving it as is?
– Wes T., Portage, Ind.

Blanco had a freak injury to his neck last season, so I don’t think that makes him injury prone. He did play this winter in Venezuela, batting .243 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 47 games. The Cubs also will have catchers Koyie Hill and JD Closser in camp this spring. Both have big league experience. Hill hit .161 in 36 games for the Cubs last season with two homers and 12 RBIs — including five vs. the Giants on July 18 — and batted .322 in 47 games for Triple-A Iowa. Closser has a career .239 average in 160 big league games over three seasons with Colorado. He began last season with the Brewers’ Triple-A team, and hit .188 in 17 games before he was dealt to Oakland, and hit .238 in 81 games for the Athletics’ Triple-A team.

Closser is a better option compared to Hill, and it’s my hope that he gets more of a chance as the third catcher should a need arise. We should be able to know what’s on the team’s mind based on where the two of them are assigned out of spring training. I really hope that Closser gets the starting nod in Iowa with Hill filling in as a backup.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

From Right Field – You’re On Mute

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Last week, as I sat watching the USC Trojans beat down the Illini in the Rose Bowl, I realized a few things. One, this was the first college football game I’d watched all year. Two, I then noted that I had only watched one and a half Bears’ games. With the exception of the lone Bulls game I attended, I’ve also only watched one of their games on TV. It all came down to one thought. The broadcast teams stink.

I’m no fan of the Illini, or any college football program for that matter. I guess when you attend a school without a football team, you don’t get too jazzed up about it. However, the absolute orgasm-fest that Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit had over USC over the course of the game was enough to make my stomach turn. Multiple times. Now I only took one broadcasting class back in high school, but I’m pretty sure I recall having the following rule beat into my head: Be impartial. Cover both sides equally. Obviously, if you’re employed by a team, like Len and Bob, you’re going to be more like a fan, which is acceptable for home team crews. Hey Brent, you’re on a national broadcast team, cover both sides because, I gotta tell ya, you’re a little fella that obviously loves the Trojans more than any play-by-play man should.

It made me come up with this fantastic list of broadcast teams I loathe, and a couple I love. And yes, I’m into lists this year. I deem 2008, year of the Matt lists.

Yuck, Yuck, Yuck

  • Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit: If there’s a game with these two big program love fiends on, I’m not watching. Their impartial views toward the big programs, and one sided reporting makes me want to spew. Did you know that the number seven team in the nation (USC) only had one flaw? If you could find it that is, and that was their wide receivers. Really? I would think that a team that had only one flaw might be ranked….Oh, I don’t know perhaps 1 or 2. Just a guess. If this was the only game these two botched like this, I’d let it go, but it’s not. They’re all like this. One of Brent’s other fine moments, “Did he get enough for the first down?” Well, Brent seeing that the play is still developing and he’s still running upright, let’s see if he does, before asking such questions.
  • Joe Buck and Tim McCarver: Joe’s going to kill me for this, but I honestly cannot stand Joe Buck, and to pair him with Tim “Master of the Obvious” McCarver makes it worse. Again, if these two guys are on, I’m typically watching something else, or finding the radio broadcast. Tim’s insider’s view is usually not very colorful, and most often a guess or a “back when I played” story. With such horrendously moronic graphics, like that dumb lead of ‘O’ meter thing, he’s constantly contradicting himself. As for Joe, I’m never a fan of a known organizational broadcaster being a national broadcast member. I don’t need to know the inside workings of Albert Pujols, while I’m watching the Indians and Red Sox. It’s inconsequential, drop it.
  • Tom Dore and Johnny “Red” Kerr: I know, I know. We all listened to them during the Championship years. How dare I? Unfortunately, Tom seems to be trying to be a bit to hip lately, and Johnny (and I always liked Johnny) is more like Harry Caray nowadays. The old dude that’s kind of the face of the broadcast, but no one really listens to him anymore. The biggest problem, they’re trying out Stacey “hey, baby” King in what looks to be a replacement role. Ugh. I don’t know who’s worse. I stopped watching last year after Kerr couldn’t pronounce Chris Duhon’s name correctly once during three different games, and Dore kept using the phrase, “Giant killer” to describe a floater in the lane. Give me more!
  • Len Kasper and Bob Brenly Two years ago, I cringed whenever Bob brought up his time with the Diamondbacks. Now, he’s mixing in stories of his playing days, and is adding a good bit of insight and more importantly wit. Len and Bob have great chemistry, and there are games where I’m torn between wanting to listen to them versus Pat and Ron. That’s a good thing, I’d rather choose, then not want to watch or listen at all. More importantly Len does his homework, add gives us info on the opposing team, and never tries to be “the” broadcast. He just gives the game to you. Ah, the way it should be. I still giggle when I recall Bob’s, “argggh” during a visit against the Pirates.
  • Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger (Troy Aikman) I mostly recall Dick from his days teaming with Hubie Brooks on TNT for the NBA. That broadcast team got me to be a fan of the league, not just the Bulls. I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Stockton’s play-by-play, as he’s always brought a fair assessment to the game for both sides. Pair him with Baldinger or Aikman, whose still a little rough around the edges, and you’ve got a nice combo. When Sotckton’s doing a Bears game, I’m watching. I don’t need Kenny Albert yelling in my ear, thank you very much.I don’t think you can even touch on this subject without bringing up Bill Walton, or John Madden. Good gracious, I’d rather jab blunt objects in my eyes than put up with those two gum flappers. I haven’t watched a NBA game with Bill Walton in over eight years. The minute I see him, I flip channels. Thank goodness John is on Sunday Night Football, as I typically don’t care to watch the Pats, Colts or Ravens every week.I’m through venting. Good old Brent got me all hot and bothered, and I need to let loose. I know some of it’s from my aggravation with the ABC/ESPN monopoly on horrendous broadcasters that seem to be thrust down our throats. Well, guess what? I’ve gagged for the last time. I’ll watch something else.
  • Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: