Archive for February, 2008

Saturday Notes

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Inside the Ivy has a Q & A (Source) with former first round pick in 2005, Mark Pawelek. You might remember that Pawelek injured himself last season when he tripped over his Playstation 3 in the middle of the night. As a result, he fractured his radial head in his non-throwing arm. He’s had two seasons now and has disappointed in both. This year he’s been working on his control as well as conditioning. I have to wonder what happens if he struggles again this season. Because he’s a first round pick I think he earns a big of extra patience, but eventually you have to begin to call an audible much like what happened to Bobby Brownlie.

Baseball America had their recent edition of the Cubs Organization Report (Source) on Tuesday and the first line made me laugh. “Don’t worry. Rocky Roquet is OK.” My first thought was that not only do most fans not know Roquet was injured at the end of the AFL this off-season, but most have probably never even heard of Roquet to begin with. In response to his hernia injury, Roquet said:

“It was nothing too serious, but something that needed to be taken care of,” he said. “I tried working through it for the most part. I worked through it in August and September. It was no problem. After a month in the fall league it was acting up and it wasn’t worth risking further injury. I had surgery the first week in November and I’m back fully now. Everything is working out.”

Ryan Dempster is slated to start the first Cactus League game on the 28th (Source). I’ve seen people get upset about that. I just don’t see how spring training news means that much to people. If I could, I would make it so no spring training news was ever released. It’s useless. Veterans that have their spots locked up are working on new things, so their number should be taken with a grain of salt. Invitees and players on the bubble are playing hard, but oftentimes are facing less than ML ready competition, so their numbers aren’t particularly accurate either. I’m just waiting for March 31st. That’s the day that matters to me.

Kosuke Fukudome is set to hit third in the lineup until tomorrow when he’ll be hitting 5th and then on Tuesday when he’s hitting leadoff. In other words, Lou has no idea what the Opening Day lineup is going to look like, and I’m OK with that. Why should he know already? He’s never seen Fukudome face a live ML pitcher in a game situation before. Give it time and quit pestering the guy.

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Spotlight on the National League Central

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

It is that time of year again. The time when every Major League baseball team believes they have a shot at winning the division and dreams of playing baseball in October. Well, except maybe the Pirates. So, from now until opening day, I will take you through my predictions for each division. Obviously, these aren’t the most in-depth, groundbreaking predictions ever made; I am not Peter Gammons. They are however, a little preview on how this baseball season could play out. Feel free to laugh at me or agree with me, either way is fine.

Chicago Cubs (89-73) – Just for the record, I am staying away from writing about all things that involve 100 years, anniversaries, curses, goats, fate, destiny and all the other hoopla. With that being said, I believe the Cubs are better than last year, but – there are some questions marks. First things first, someone smack Lou upside the head for his refusal to take Soriano out of the leadoff spot. He says that they will “Just keep talking about this and having a little fun with it.” Stop having fun with it and bat him down in the order, especially if his leg is only 75 percent or so.

Then we have the obvious, bullpen by committee. Some people hate the idea, some people love the idea, but at least Lou has had success shuffling closers in the past. Wood needs to stay healthy (I am going to Google that and see how many times that sentence has been written) but I think he will be effective as a set up man. Howry seems to be the front runner right now. We will also have to keep an eye out for Geovany Soto. While I am glad we went with the youth route, thinking Soto is going to catch 4 days out of 5 (130 games) and not suffer some sort of fatigue is ridiculous. Oh, and who is going to play center field?

Milwaukee Brewers (86-76) – Chicago fans say the Cubs won the division last year; Milwaukee fans say the Brewers choked it away. With names like Fielder, Hardy and Braun, the Brewers will be fun to watch. The starting rotation is OK, but raises many red flags, mainly regarding Ben Sheets’ health and Jeff Suppan’s effectiveness. As far as their bullpen is concerned, I do not think Gagne will return to stud closer form, and that is going to cause some problems. Prince will continue to make Sports Center highlights for both his home runs and his sliding ability. All I can say is here we go again.

Cincinnati Reds (83-79) – This team is very hard for me to predict because they are going to have good pitching, plenty of offense but horrible defense. The starting rotation features Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo which is scary, if they both peak at the same time. Enter Dusty Baker. I feel like I am in a flashback with a solid pitching staff and Baker at the helm. The Red pitchers better insure their arms now because under Baker’s careful eye, they will pitch and pitch and pitch and pitch. You see where I am going there. The Reds need to find a way to minimize the defensive failings and let their offense and pitching shine through and see if Baker will be a fit. Stay tuned.

Houston Astros (80-82) – The Astros are a team I never feel comfortable with. You think they are out of the race, you start to relax and here they come with their late season shenanigans. There is no doubt this team will be able to hit, Berkman, Lee, Tejada, and Wiggington, that type of lineup is going to produce some runs. Will Tejada face a long suspension due to the Mitchell report? Only time will tell. Outside of Oswalt, their pitching staff is rocky. I think it will be a mix of games where the Astros score a billion runs and win and then the next night, they will give up a billion and lose. Without some sort of middle ground, I predict the a .500 season

Cardinals (76-86) – Well, they’ve got Albert Pujols…and, um who else do they have? Scott Rolen…nope, Jim Edmonds…nope. David Eckstein…he’s not there either. Outside of Pujols, this team is full of problems. Do they have a lead of man? Troy Glaus has been injury prone the past few years and strikes out an awful lot. What’s more, I think pitchers will be ready for Rick Ankiel this year. Pitching doesn’t look much better. Anytime your No. 1 and No. 2 starters are out until possibly the second half of the season, you have trouble. Wainwright and Looper might be decent, but our friend Matt Clement will have to pitch like ’03 form for this staff to have any success and seeing that he won’t even be ready for opening day, well that might spell trouble. When it is all said and done, this will be a rebuilding year for the Cardinals and they will end up on the flip side of .500. And they will be frustrating to watch at times, causing manager Tony LaRussa to drink, oh wait…

Pirates (70-92) – I don’t want to be snarly here but the Pirates just can’t seem to get it right or build a team with any kind of cohesive plan in mind. With that being said, Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez are bright spots, but if they don’t find a bat to protect Bay, he is not going to see a pitch all year. Catcher Ronny Paulino has to get back to his 2006 form. What else is there to say here? Veteran players are unhappy with management’s ineffectiveness and it looks like it will be another long season for the Pirates.

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I Disagree…but Am I Wrong?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Jeff Moore of Dugout Central has a post and lists the “10 Most Important Players to the Success of their Team.” Listed at number four is Carlos Zambrano with the following blurb:

On this, the 100th year anniversary of the Cubs last World Series title, the hopes on the north side of the Windy City are once again high. After a playoff run last season, the Cubs seem primed to take the next step. Zambrano is a true ace who heads a deep rotation, but upon closer look, what would that rotation consist of if he was not in it? The combination of Lilly, Hill, Marshall, Marquis, Lieber and Dempster is not going to get them to the top of any division, even the NL Central. Zambrano is the key to 100 years of shattered hopes. No pressure Z. (Source)

Let me start by saying that Zambrano is a hugely important cog in this machine. I understand that. What I don’t agree with is the fact that he is the most important piece to this team’s success. Why? Because, as I’ve said before, we have pitching depth. We have seven or eight Major League ready guys vying for five spots. There is no question Zambrano is the Ace, but could the Cubs get by with a patchwork job in the rotation without him? I think they could.

I would argue that the most important player on this team from a depth point of view is either Derrek Lee or Aramis Ramirez. If one of them goes down for the season, who replaces them? For Lee, it’s probably someone like Mark DeRosa or Daryle Ward with an outside shot going to Micah Hoffpauir. For Ramirez, who plays for him? DeRosa again? You certainly can’t rush Josh Vitters to the majors, so does Matt Craig get a shot?

The point is this. When I look at the post important pieces, I look at the guys we can’t afford to lose. While it would hurt bad to lose Carlos, it would hurt worse to lose a corner IF. That’s just my opinion. Am I wrong? Who’s the most important guy to this team?

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Five Guys You’ll Know This Time Next Year

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Covering the minor leagues for several websites over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that reader interest in minor leagues often varies from person to person. There are those like myself who check the minor league box scores every morning, others who check out the stats for their team’s farm clubs periodically, still others that browse the top 10’s of their team to see who is going to come to the big club soon, and finally those that could care less until the player shows in the majors. While the latter group probably saves themselves quite a bit of frustration, the minor leagues certainly has it’s place to the daily fan.

Today, I’d like to present to you a few names that likely aren’t on the Cubs’ Top 10 Prospects lists you’ll find on the web. These are guys that will hopefully take a step forward in the organization this year…

Robert Hernandez

Just 19, Hernandez won’t turn 20 until October, but throws strikes, walking just 28 in 103.2 IP, while giving up just over a hit an inning. Hernandez can touch 92-93 but is projectable as he is still filling out his body.

Jovan Rosa

I’ve got to have at least one hitter in the bunch, and Rosa is a good selection. Rosa is a third basemen that has really good pop in his bat and good size, think an Albert Pujols type build.

Rafael Dolis

Dolis has a big arm, and before getting injured last year started to put things together. Dolis just turned 20, and went 3-1 with an ERA of 1.80 last season at Peoria.

Ryan Acosta

The son of former Cubs pitching coach, Oscar Acosta, Ryan was as polished as you will find a 18 year old in his first professional season last year.

Larry Suarez

Suarez has a big arm but just hasn’t figured out the finer arts of pitching. When and if Suarez figures things out, look for his stock to skyrocket.

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Previewing the Cubs via Podcast

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

We’ve been doing team previews and yesterday was the Cubs. I’ve been waiting to do it for awhile and Rob G was a great person to do it with. Thanks go out to him. Here is the post we did on the Pitch:

Forget about Lou Piniella kicking dirt or Carlos Zambrano going after his catcher in the dugout. Chicago Cubs fans agree: 2008 is as good a year as any to think World Series.

“The Pitch” confirms Cubs fans’ feelings, albeit with two of the web’s biggest Cubs homers in the mix. The Cub Reporter’s Rob G. joins the show to offer his take on outfield addition Kosuke Fukudome, who anchors the new bullpen now that Ryan Dempster is taking a shot at the rotation, Félix Pié’s battle for center field and predictions for the Cubs’ big bats.

The Cub Reporter (Rob G., author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

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