View From The Bleachers

July 31, 2008

smell that? it's called swagger (some Brewer meanderings)

Filed under: General — Rob Bukowski @ 2:24 am

So  did anybody think that we would be here after the first three games of this series? Not me. And while we’re at it did anybody think that Ryan Dempster would be this effective? Not me.  And is anybody ready to talk about the Cubs being in the World Series yet? Not me. But it might be fun to begin to think about it.

I had the privilege of going to the first two games of the series at Miller Park (which I love) and I want to take some time to bring up some of the things that I noticed.

The Brewers are a fun team to watch

In case you did not notice the Brewers are a tough team to beat. With Sabathia, Sheets, and Parra at the top of the rotation they are fornidable. But their line up is dangerous. With Durham, Hardy, Braun, Fielder, and Hart you could stack those guys up against almost anybody’s top five….offensively.

The Brewers have holes

Those five guys are strong offensively and weak weak defensively. Multiple bad plays have allowed the Cubs to dominate this series the way they have. The throw away on the double play ball in the first game, misplays in the outfield in the second game, the wild pitch ball that got away from Kendall and was thrown awaying allowing the Cubs to score the first run in game three and the Cubs score big runs on all of them.

Their weaknesses vs. our strengths Creature from the Black Lagoon divx

The Brewers bullpen is noticably bad. In game one the Cubs  fans were actually cheering when Erik Gagne came into the game. You might ask how I know it was Cubs fans and not Brewers fans who were cheering him? I’m not sure, but I know it was.  The Brewers need bullpen help and we will see if they  get any before the deadline.

I feel like the Brewers have a tremendous weakness when it comes to their manager. I think Ned Yost left Sabathia in too long in game one (and definitely waited too long to warm someone up), left Sheets in too long in game two, and Parra in too long last night. With Sheets and Parra the game was almost lost once the reliever was brought in. Because the cities are so close, and because the teams have been close for a couple years I have watched a good amount of Brewer baseball and I am shocked at many of Yost’s decisions. That has been apparent in this series.

The catalyst

The last time I wrote I gave a mea culpa on my thoughts about Soriano. I was wrong. He is the catalyst or the Cubs offense. I think it is interesting that our most explosive hitter is Soriano, our most consistent hitter is probably D-Lee, and our most clutch hitter is A-Ram. That’s nice that the three are different. Since Soriano returned he has ignited the offense. I think he as also taken more pitches and walked more. He has undoubtedly been more of a threat to steal a base as well. He seems to be all healed now and this could be deadly.

The bats

I like how Lou is using DeRosa everyday and rotating Fukudome, Johnson, Edmonds, Cedeno, and Fontenot. Just another way that I think we have the best manager in baseball. Fukudome seems to be rested and is hitting smarter and better again. By the way I was surprised to hear that D Lee is among the league leaders in hits and other consistent offensive categories. Hits are hits and I guess he comes through more than I thought. People used to say that Sammy only hit home runs when it didn’t matter. I don’t know how you hit 600 meaningless home runs. Lee gets hits and they matter. Theriot continues to shine with another multi hit game- something like 45 multi hit games now.

The starters

What can you say- amazing. Except Lilly did the home run hop twice the other night. And I have never seen a pitch hang like the one he threw to Ryan Braun in the first game. Remember last year when Lilly was our number two going into the playoffs? Hello number four (if necessary).

The Pen

I think Bob Howry has given up a  solo home run in every appearance this year. How big does the addition of Chad Gaudin look? I like that Lou used Cotts to close the game last night. Now that Marmol is rested more he seems to be sharper again. How bad can a blister be? Can you believe the Samardzija love? What has he done to deserve it? He might be good, but he isn’t there yet. How bad can a blister possibly be?

The Rivalry

The first two games were playoff like but I think the crowd was quieter last night because the Cubs hit them hard the first couple games. The first two games were 45,000 plus seemingly split half and half. The rivalry is a lot of fun and it doesn’t seem as hated as others. It is just good and the toe to toe of the first game was something to behold.

The trade deadline

Today is the day and there is rumor that the Cubs are looking at Raul Ibanez from Seattle. I doubt it will happen. However, it might make sense because Ibanez is a better option than Ward and can play outfield positions. I guess to me it seems like Ibanez is really a replacement for Ward depending on all of the permutations of the thing. It might be interesting. I think the Cubs might look at making a run at a bullpen guy because I think they are becoming less confident in an imminent return for Woody. Everyone seems to think that Eyre will be traded today.

Hopefully the Cubs can score some runs and get Rich Harden a win and a sweep of he Crew.

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  • lizzie

    Doesn’t it make you think there’s more to the blister than just the blister? Even when I wear my worst shoes my blisters heal in a month’s time. Course I’m not trying to throw 90 mph fastballs with my cramped up toes either.

    Samardzija’s from beautiful Valparaiso, IN which is about 5 minutes south of me. So if you think he’s getting a lot of love around there you should feel it here! I like him, but the love concerns me. Many a young’un has had this kind of stuff go to their head in a not-so-good way. You would think at least the Cubs (if not the fans) would be a little more careful in the way they perpetuate it.

  • Lou

    I’m actually not the best manager, though I am pretty good. I’d say Mike Scioscia gets that nod.

    And Derrek has been a bit too consistent in hitting ground ball outs and striking out with runners in scoring position.

    =)

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    With Durham, Hardy, Braun, Fielder, and Hart you could stack those guys up against almost anybody’s top five

    Not sure why Durham is included in that group, as he has rarely played since being traded to the Brewers.

    Doesn’t it make you think there’s more to the blister than just the blister?

    No. Blisters, especially for pitchers, can be a huge problem. Pitchers rely on specific tight grips on their pitches, and a blister can seriously hamper the way that you grip a ball. There have been numerous examples of pitchers missing significant time with blisters. Josh Beckett has been on the DL at least 6 times due to blisters. And if you rush it back, it just makes it worse and extends the time it takes to heal.

  • TOMMY

    Month by Month
    D Lee AVG OBP
    April .371 .446
    May .234 .269
    June .283 .371
    July .320 .364

    Ryan Theriot
    April .340 .415
    May .308 .407
    June .309 .369
    July .330 .385

    Now who do you think has been our most consistent hitter?

  • randall

    I am glad everyone has stepped away from the building ledge that you where on at the beginning of this series. Pitching wins out almost everytime. CC and Sheets are good, dont get me wrong, but that is all they have. No bullpen, two good starters and a lineup that when they get frustrated start swinging at everything(doesnt that sound like the Cubs of last year?). I told a friend at the beginning of this series that I felt the race for the central and wild card will be the Cubs and Cardinals. The Brewers are starting to fade just like last year. Cubs, keep kicking ass and taking name later.
    GO CUBS GO!!!!

  • jose

    I go through blister problems every year from December – February. For those two months, I don’t play much. So when February comes up, my hands blister because I do not use batting gloves. For the first two weeks, I have four or five blisters on my right hand. But after that they turn into calluses and then no more problems for the rest of the year. How long does it take for a pitcher to heal his blisters? If anything they should be healed by now. I think there might be something else. I hope not, but I am not buying the blister excuse.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    Now who do you think has been our most consistent hitter?

    Theriot may be more consistent, but that does not mean that he is the better hitter.

    And when you add in his mediocre defense and his poor base stealing numbers, Theriot becomes less valuable pretty quickly.

  • TOMMY

    Did I say our best hitter? The original post stated that D Lee was our most consistent hitter. That statement is blatently false. I am always having to defend Theriot and I don’t know why. He is deserving of a lot more credit than he receives. At least the broadcasters acknowledge his contribution to this team and his manager knows his value. Good thing because they are the only ones who do.

  • MGAD

    dave,

    What’s the deal with the Theriot bashing? Anyone who has spent much time watching/following the Cubs this year can see that he has made a big contribution to the amount of success the Cubs are having.

  • jose

    Tommy: Amen. But here is some friendly advice. Leave Theriot comments out of the blog. At the beginning of the year, I was doing exactly what you did. People kept saying exactly what Dave said and to add, thought Cedeno was a better SS. I am a big Theriot fan. He plays the game with passion – 100%. Every at bat and every play. I would recommend that you just enjoy watching him play. He will be our SS for at least the next three years. He is a solid hitter and a GOOD defensive SS.

  • TOMMY

    MGAD

    Bless you.
    former VFTB Chaplain

  • TOMMY

    Jose,
    I guess many of the Theriot supporters are closeted.
    Well, it gets downright stuff in there so I must emerge from time to time to blow the stink off, as my grandmother used to say.

    Your comments are appreciated. I’m just scared someone will trade him at some juncture. I lost Greg (twice!).
    I want to enjoy Ryan for quite some time.

    Last night they said he was the first Cub shortstp to hit .300 since Ernie in ’59. Is that true?

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    I don’t hate Theriot. And I have been quite happy with his performance this year with the bat.

    But I still think that he is overrated by a lot of Cubs fans because he “plays the game with passion – 100%.” I don’t care about passion. I care about performance.

    But again… his performance has been more than adequate this year, which, to admit, has surprised me.

    And no… Theriot is not a GOOD defensive SS.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    Theriot’s defense…

    In RZR (Revised Zone Rating) – he is 9th out of 11 qualifying NL SS’s.
    In OOZ (Out Of Zone) he is 11th.
    In Fielding % he is 9th out of 11.
    In RF (range factor) he is 9th out of 11.
    In ZR (zone rating) he is 10th out of 11.

    In other words, in every defensive metric this year he is one of the worst defensive SS’s in the National League.

  • rob

    Theriot has a good average that is good. Lee is consistent as well. He has been for years…not two seasons. When I am atlking about consistent I am talking more than just average. Everyone knows that average is not the only game in town. Average, on base, slugging, ops, they’re all important statistics and I would rather have Lee up than Theriot. I have nothing against how Theriot is hitting and I mention him in the post.
    I mention Durham with the other four just because he will set the table for the big guys and his on base percentage is .380. My point was not that he has added a lot to the Brewers so far. My point was that he is part of a tough top five to deal with in the future. Actually reading the meaning of the posts and not trying to contradict everything would be helpful. Although it would make for less debate.
    And I know finger blisters are bad for pitchers since they actually pitch with their fingers. However, the issue is not with how bad a blister would be. This issue is with how long it is taking to heal. Although it was not written that way in the post.

  • jose

    Tommy: I do not know. But I would not be surprised. While Bowa, DeJesus, Kessinger, and Dunston we our best SS for the last 30 years, I do not think they ever hit .300. But someone else might know better.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    I mention Durham with the other four just because he will set the table for the big guys and his on base percentage is .380.

    I agree with this… but it doesn’t seem that he will be getting the majority of the starts (or at least hasn’t up until now). If Durham is not getting the majority of the starts at 2b, I personally wouldn’t include him in the Brewers “top 5.” That was my point.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    Last night they said he was the first Cub shortstp to hit .300 since Ernie in ‘59. Is that true?

    Yea… the highest any qualifying Cubs SS has hit since 1960 is .296 (Dunston, in 1995).

  • rob

    Dave
    I meant top five in the lineup one through five. And I think regardless of whether it is Durham or Weeks it is still one of the best top fives in baseball because of the four guys who bat behind the lead off guy.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    I meant top five in the lineup one through five.

    Ah… makes sense.

    The only reason I brought it up is because you right – with Durham that is a really impressive 1 thru 5.

    But I was surprised to find out that Durham has not really gotten the opportunity to get playing time since the trade, even though is significantly better than Weeks. The Brewers are a better team with Durham than Weeks and his sub 700 OPS.

  • ManInTheBox

    My usual random samplings:

    -Ryan Theriot has hit .462 for the series thus far. Any votes for offensive MVP of the series for him?

    -Does it seem to you like Lou has the Cubs more aggressive on the base paths? That’s because it’s true. The Cubs have stolen more bases in the first three games of the Milwaukee series (7) than they have in the rest of July (6). Chicago is currently 7-for-8 in steals in this series. They only made seven previous attempts all month. Aramis Ramirez was picked off on July 23rd against the Diamondbacks, but I don’t count that as an attempted steal. Neither would he.

    I love the Cubs being more aggressive. Is it because the coaching staff knows Jason Kendall a little better than most rival catchers? Whatever the reason, I hope they continue to force the issue a little more.

    -The Cubs have scored 20 runs in three games so far. Don’t you think it’s time they get Harden a few today? Me too. Sure, it’s greed, but I don’t care. It’s the Brewers- pile it on.

    -Though I haven’t seen the lineup card, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jim Edmonds in today. He’s hitting David Bush at a clip of .375 with a .750 slugging percentage. Mark DeRosa should also feast well today. He’s hit Bush to the tune of .364 with a .636 slugging percentage.

  • jose

    Dave:
    You list some real solid ranking numbers. And you know what you are talking about. I mean that as a real compliment!! But let’s have some fun and let’s dig a little deeper. I like using FoxSports and fielding % as my benchmarks. They have Jimmy Rollins listed as the best fielding NL SS (using fielding %). Here are his numbers regarding F%/Errors/Assists/Put Outs/2008 salary: JR: .985/5/215/120/$8,000,000. Here are Theriot’s: .973/11/242/149/$428,000. Jimmy Rollins does field better than Theriot. Theriot is -12 points lower. That means for every 1,000 chances, Rollins fields 12 more balls. Doesn’t seem like a lot. Rollins also has only 5 errors with Theriot at 11. This may be alarming, but who knows. However, Rollins makes $8,000,000 whle Theriot makes $428,000. So what does $7,572,000 buy you at SS. 12 more fielding plays and 6 less errors. I will take Theriot over Rollins everyday of the week. And we have not even covered the fact that offensively, Theriot is much better. So for my money and for overall value (offense + defense) – I pick Theriot over Rollins.

  • TOMMY

    Go Jose Go.
    You’re my new hero.

  • Steve H

    I think it’s notable that while the Cubs are leading the NL in runs scored, none of their hitters is really having a monster year. No one has an OBP over .400, though Theriot is very close at .397, and the only players with an SLG over .500 are Soriano (.555), Edmonds (.546 for the Cubs), Fontenot (.530), and of course Carlos Z (.524).

    This team’s performance so far has drawn a number of comparisons to the 1977 team, but that team had players playing way over their heads in the first half; when they returned to normal (and Sutter went down), the team dropped like a rock. This year, the batters are mostly having normal seasons.

    Even with the pitching, the only starter who is having an unusually strong (for him) year is Dempster.

    As a lifelong Cubs fan, I really, really hate to say this, but this gives me great hope for the rest of the year.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    Theriot is -12 points lower.

    Fielding % is one isolated stat that also tends to be distorted by range. Fielding % tends to be skewed and hurts people who get to more balls. But as the rankings above show, Theriot doesn’t get to a lot of balls, and still has a poor fielding %. If a player has poor range AND a poor fielding %, that is a problem.

    Look… I don’t hate Ryan Theriot. I actually kinda’ like him. But he simply is not a good defensive SS, and every defensive metric shows this.

    And Rolllins has been a much better offensive player than Theriot over the last three years, though Theriot has had a better offensive season this year. But not much better.

    Now… if we factor in money and value – then sure, Theriot, for the minimum salary, provides a high value. I do not deny that.

  • T

    It’s about time the Cubs are aggressive on the bases against the Brewers. The Cubs know first-hand they should be running on Kendall.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    The Cubs know first-hand they should be running on Kendall.

    Kendall has the highest caught stealing % in the league this year.

    He isn’t the same rag-armed Jason Kendall that we knew last year.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com/meetmatt.php Matt Jacobs

    So what does $7,572,000 buy you at SS?

    About 50 more stolen bases. And 30 more homers.

  • jose

    Matt:
    No it does not. Jimmy Rollins has never stolen 50 bases and hit 30 HR only once. Over his career, he has averaged 16/17 HR and 37 SB. He may reach his career average in SB this year. But not HR’s. Now if you are talking over the course of a few years, make sure you multiply the $7,572,000 by the number of years you are projecting. He is not worth $8,000,000 per year. In my book Theriot is a better SS. He fields his position slightly less than Rollins (-12 points), has shown this year that he can hit for better average. And is by far a better value. Even if Theriot winds up being a .280 hitter, I would take him over Rollins. Rollins is way over paid and I believe will never reach again the numbers he flashed during 2006-2007.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com/meetmatt.php Matt Jacobs

    ^ You’re right abouot him probably being overpaid. But he is an MVP, which instantly makes him more dollars.

    I wonder what this discussion will be like when Theriot comes up for a new contract. Surely he’ll be around the 4-5 mil range by then.

  • jose

    Matt admits that someone is right. Hell must be getting cold. :)

    On a serious note – Theriot would need to produce a couple more years like this year and last year to justify 4-5 MM and I think he will. I see him as a gamer. You know he can play good defense, runs well, hits well, and plays hard. Even at 4-5 MM, I would still take him over Rollins. I do not see +12 points in fielding %, let’s call it 13 more HR’s, and 20 more SB worth an extra 4-5 MM. I would rather spend it somewhere else, like signing Dempster. Or blister therapy for Woods. I would ask myself this – Self, is Rollins twice as valuable as Theriot. I do not think so. But, let’s face the reality of this good discussion. Thank God Rollins is Philly’s over paid player.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com ddave

    you know he can play good defense,

    Haven’t we covered this already? He is basically the 9th best defensive short stop in the NL out of 11 that qualify. That is not good.

    runs well

    Did you know that Theriot has been caught stealing more than anyone else in the league this year? He has been caught over 40% of the time. That means that he is hurting the team with his base stealing (the break even point for helping your team stealing is around 71-72%).

    And wow… Rollins only makes 8 million a year? That is a steal in today’s market for a guy who plays top notch defense, runs the bases well (26 for 27 stealing is … well… awesome), and hits for power at a position that often doesn’t give you power. His OBP skills are lacking, but overall he is one of the top SS’s in the game, and 8 million is a great price to pay.

  • randall

    So what I am seeing is that if Philly said, “We will trade you Rollins for Theriot straight up” you would not do it? O hell yeah I would and so would everyone that has two halves of a brain. Theriot is a hustle beast who makes up for what he doesnt have by playing hard and smart. Rollins is All World and a former MVP. Theriot is doing just fine where he is at. The only way I would trade him is if we got Rollins or Reyes back. (Not Jeter, he blows)

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com ddave

    SS’s I would trade Theriot for immediately, without a second thought:

    H. Ramirez
    Rollins
    Reyes
    Jeter

    SS’s I would seriously think about trading Theriot for:
    Guzman
    Hardy
    Drew
    Peralta
    M. Young

  • Kris

    So I’m not about to say the rest of the season is a lock, but I am confused at the constant desire on this board to find greener pastures and get someone better. We’re five games up, people. Biggest lead of the season.

    Why would we mess with that? Complain all you want about Theriot, Lee, Soriano, DeRosa…we’re winning. Enjoy it!!

    The one thing I really wish I hadn’t heard this week was that Wood’s blister is healing much like a diabetic’s hand would. Now I’m sure they’d have caught something that serious by now, but I really hope this is just a one-and-done bizarre situation–for his sake as much as for the team/fans.

  • http://www.marigoldengine.com saaricom

    Baseball is momentum combined with emotion dictated by talent. Hopefully we will grab all 3 by the balls and we won’t repeat 1969.

    Sorry to even bring that year up.

    Earache

  • jose

    Dave:
    I think you are way overplaying the Rollins defensive advantage. +12 points is not a big difference. It is like saying that a hitter that hits .312, is way better than a hitter that hits .300. Or a pitcher with a 3.12 ERA if much better than a pitcher with a 3.00 ERA. They are not. They are just slightly better. I think your ranking report overstates the vaules because it force ranks. I was a sales analyst for my company for 8.5 years. Whenever I wanted to increase the value of my brands over the competition, I would use a forced ranking report. There is really no difference between +12 points.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com ddave

    Like I already mentioned, fielding percentage is a very flawed stat, as it becomes distorted by one’s range. If player A gets to more balls than player B, then they also will have more opportunities to make errors, often on more difficult plays.

    But here is the thing… it is not just fielding % that Theriot lags behind the rest of the NL ss’s. It is EVERY defensive metric that shows Theriot WELL behind all but two qualifying shortstops.

    And 12 points? Doesn’t sound like a lot, but 1 – it is probably statistically significant, and 2 – Theriot is on pace to make about 10 more errors that Rollins. That is significant. And when you add the ten more errors to the dozens of balls that Theriot doesn’t get to that Rollins probably does, that is a big difference.

    Let me put it this way… what all of the defensive metrics say is this: Theriot gets to LESS balls, and makes MORE errors, than all but 2 NL shortstops.

    When you are only better than people at your position, you are not a good defensive player. And when looking at defense by position, one easy way to look at how good a player is by looking at where they are ranked. Obviously SS is a more difficult defensive position than others, and in turn Theriot is probably a much better defensively skilled player than many who play other positions. But when you compare him to other shortstops, he simply is a bad defensive SS in comparison the rest of the league. And they only two SS’s that he is consistently better than in the fielding metrics are significantly better offensively – Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes.

  • TOMMY

    Regardless where you stand, it is refreshing to have a dialogue on one of the best players of this team this year. You can pick apart any player if you look hard enough but can we celebrate the strengths each player has brought to the table this year?
    And for the love of all things that are holy, let us not discuss the words “Theriot” and “trade” in the same sentence again, shall we? I realize I have done so in passing but upon further reflection this was a mistake.

    If I were Hendry I’d give Ryan a nice million dollar bonus for this year for all he’s doing for the team as a gesture of good will.

    Hey, it’s not MY money!!

    Bring on the Pirates.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    BTW … I am not really interested in trading Theriot or replacing him. I definitely think he has a significant role on this team.

    And, as I have already said, I have been more than pleasantly surprised at his level of production this year. I am still a bit cynical that he can maintain that level of production, but I sure hope that he can.

  • TOMMY

    I think he will. Seems to be a hard worker and one who will listen to the right coaches of how he can get the most out of what he has.

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave

    I think he will. Seems to be a hard worker and one who will listen to the right coaches of how he can get the most out of what he has.

    Well… optimism is good, but based on last year I am not quite sure where the optimism comes from. I am assuming he worked just as hard last year, and listened to the coaches just as well last year, yet he still saw a significant drop off in production at the end of the year.

    Hopefully you are right. I want you to be right.

    Note… I am not saying that he WILL drop off. I am just saying that I am a bit cynical that he will be able to maintain this high level of production.

    Then again… I am just cynical about most things… :)

  • TOMMY

    And hopefully he learned from that experience. So far he has not dropped off.

    I am a Cubs fan. I’m tired of always being suspicious and expecting the dreaded curse to rise from the ashes of disappointment.

    Easy to be optimistic when you wake up on August 1st with a 5 game lead.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com/meetmatt.php Matt Jacobs

    I have one question. Jose uses the term “gamer” and a certain poster doesn’t jump all over him?

    That ain’t right. If I can’t use that term, no one should. Or is their commentor bias? :razz:

  • http://www.mindfulmission.com dave l

    If I can’t use that term, no one should.

    You are right… no one should! :)

    At least they shouldn’t use it in a positive sense.

    The term “gamer” is only used to justify love for players with less ability.

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