Archive for August, 2008

The Pitch: MLB Week 22

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The world is upside down in Major League Baseball this week, starting with the debut of instant replay for big league umpires and the AL East’s top team (the Rays) drawing 13,000 in their home ballpark in August. The Pitch tears apart both issues, as well as the Pirates’ second-overall MLB draft pick Pedro Alvarez and his attempt to void his $6 million deal with Pittsburgh.

Hosts Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage also weigh the decisions by the Red Sox to trade for Mark Kotsay, by Jimmy Rollins to call his fan ‘front-runners,’ by the Twins to reacquire “Everyday Eddie” Guardado and by Angels manager not to let up on their push to improve their record and lead in the AL West.

The discussion also veers into a Connecticut Little League Baseball league that booted a nine-year-old for being too good and the impending 250,000th all-time home run in MLB

007 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ipod

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Plus, the show features more divisional notes and the conclusion to August’s Pick-Off competition. Enjoy and interact via e-mail at thepitch@mvn.com or via phone at 360-450-MVN3.

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Sigh, Cy Young talk already?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

During my short hiatus, no thanks to some glitch in the systems, I had to depend on other sites for my baseball fill. My VFTB withdrawal was a hard pill to swallow when you’re stuck reading substandard baseball reporting from the “big” sports news networks. Ugh. I can spew more worthless information about two East coast teams, whom will remain nameless, than I care to know. Double ugh. Yesterday, I came across this gem, “Why C.C. Sabathia should win the NL Cy Young,” by Steve Aschburner. It brought up some interesting history of AL guys coming over to the NL and making a case for the CY Young award even though they had roughly half a season of work. 

Wht C.C. has accomplished up north of the Illinois border, is nothing short of impressive. I’m not so sure I’d just hand it over to him just yet though. With about six weeks of baseball left, things go go south in hurry, it’s a little presumptious to be giving out awards just yet. If, and I don’t think it’s going to happen, the Brewers take the Central from the Cubs, then I would most certainly seriously consider it. Kind of like a certain redhead the Cubs snagged back in ’84.  What is it with the Indians?

That being said, I’d still have to look at C.C’s American League portion of the season before I went and handed him the award as well. I’m sorry but, I still think you have to look at the total resume. Granted he pitched on a underperforming Indians team, but he’s been there before. His 6-8 record was nothing to get too weepy over. Although his other numbers (WHIP, BB-K ratio, etc.) were impressive.  A dominant pitcher should still get a poor team a chance to win everytime they take the mound. It’s exactly why I don’t think Zambrano will ever win the award. the Cubs can’t count on him to shut down the opponent each and every game. He’s too inconsistent. 

I’m not sure how you can completely discount Brandon Webb, or our very own, Ryan Dempster. These two guys over the course of the entire season, have been the most consistent guys to take the bump. I guess, when I think Cy Young award, I think who was the most consistent pitcher that showed he was out classing hitters each and every game. For the whole season. Maybe I’m looking at all wrong. I just don’t think you can hand an award out to someone based off of a segment of their work. That’s like your manager giving  you a bonus based on two weeks of awesome work, while you sluff it the rest of the year. It don’t make no sense to me.The Siege trailer

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Winning Ugly

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

When the White Sox (I am allowed to mention them here?) were headed towards the AL West Division title in 1983 an opposing manager said that they were “Winning Ugly” because they never seemed to lose. The same might be said about the Cubs having won their last eight series…a feat that they have not accomplished in over 100 years. However, tonight’s victory over the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates would have to be quantified as winning ugly in the regular ugly sense of the word.

A major question that is beginning to develop regards the volatile Big Z, supposed ace, Carlos Zambrano. His last outing against the Reds now appears like an aberration in contrast to his starts of recent. Z didn’t have it again tonight as he seems to be falling into the third spot in the playoff rotation. He was wild again in the first inning and having thrown over thirty pitches the night looked long as the Cubs found themselvesin a 3-0 first inning hole. He improved for a couple innings but still gave up baserunners. The plus 3 WHIP might be something that could hurt Zambrano if it does not improve. 6 earned runs, 4 walks, and 8 hits in 4.1 innings probably is not the thing Cy Young awards, or World Series, or even getting wins are made of. Even after the Cubs erased the deficit and gave Zambrano a chance to get an undeserved win he gave up two more earned runs and was pulled from the game without even finishing the fifth. I cannot imagine how Zambrano will not be the pitcher in game one of the playoffs…but having said that I can’t imagine how he could either.

The Cubs bats were big again tonight. Geo Soto had a monster night batting 3 for 5 with 3 runs scored and 7 (count them 1,2,3,4,5,6,7…lightning flash “Ah ha ha ha ha” seven rbi). DeRosa and Soriano also had real good nights at the plate. Fukudome was 0 for 3 but did have 2 walks and he seems to be improving somewhat after receiving special attention from Lou and the gang. However, maybe by the end of the season he will be able to lay off the sweeping off speed pitch that ends up in the right handed hitter batter’s box and makes him spin like a top. Maybe if he knew how foolish he looked he would be too self conscious to swing at the pitch in the first place and let it go by more often.

The Brewers won again tonight and the Cardinals seem to be toast. Which is not surprising because it is unbelievable that they have hung in there this long. The Phillies took a small lead over the Mets in the East and the D-Backs continue to lead the West. It would be nice not to have to face Brandon Webb in the best of five in the first round and if we do I would wish we could have Harden facing him down (he almost threw a no hitter against the snakes in Arizona earlier this year) , but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Cubs and Brewers are looking more and more solid to go. I must admit that it would be fun if both of those teams made it. By the way through a few Wisconsin trips this summer I have found a delicacy in fried cheese curds, which are life Mozzarella sticks…but not at all. Pick some up for artery clogging goodness.

Instant replay enters the picture beginning Thursday. I am surprised by the opposition to it. The home run instant replays will probably arise once every four days and it will be more clear cut. I think it makes a lot of sense as long as this does not open the door for more and more replay down the road. Just home runs. The ballparks are goofy and some parks have to paint yellow lines to determine home runs because they don’t have seats for the balls to fly into. It makes sense. The home run call is black and white and all or nothing (or close to nothing). Get them right…it is ridiculous not to. But I wish that the replay calls involved the umpire needing to go under a hood of some sort in order to make the call. The bottom line is this: any reason to hear “Freeze Frame” by the J Geils Band more often is a reason that should be seriously considered and accepted. 

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Stick with Fukudome….for now

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

A reader of Cubs.com wrote in and asked “How much longer is manager Lou Piniella willing to give Fukudome to get his offense going before he opts to replace him in right field? I understand the Cubs are trying to give him as much time as he needs, given the investment and initial hype Fukudome brought to the city, but it appears that he has had plenty of time and nothing has changed. I used to be optimistic when Fukudome came to the plate, now I’m not.

I have to say that I agree, but the problem I’m finding is that by switching out Fukudome for someone like Mark DeRosa in RF, you’re significantly weakening your defensive ability in the outfield. It would be different if Soriano wasn’t playing the outfield like he has been this year (have you noticed that the assists are down?). Here are some splits for Fukudome coming into yesterday’s solid effort that I think help his case for staying in the lineup.

With runners in scoring position, he’s hitting: .291 / .400 / .496 with 44 RBI. That’s more than acceptable to me.

In late and close situations, he’s hitting: .291 / .326 / .380. While not overwhelming, that’s acceptable given what many feel about him on the whole.

Finally, he does have an on base % over .360, which when you think about it on the whole means that if he can shorten that stroke just a little and cut down on the strikeouts, he should see that average go up. When he puts the ball in play, he has a .318 average.

The Incredible Hulk dvd He hit a pinch hit home run Sunday and went 3-for-4 yesterday with 3 RBI. I’m hoping this is the turning point and that it’s coming at the best possible time in our run. I’m not giving up on him just yet.

Adam and Eve trailer

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Say it ain't So Bill…Say it ain't So

Monday, August 25th, 2008

This goes against everything I’ve been saying for the past. I’m sure it will thrill Matt to no end:

Are long at-bats more productive than short ones?

It seems obvious. Work the count. Make the pitcher labor. Foul off those two-strike pitches. As you go deeper in the count, it’s going to work in the batter’s favor.

Or does it?

The numbers beg to differ. Here are the major league averages for long and short at-bats (Short defined as three pitches or less, long as four pitches or more):
Avg On-Base Slugging OPS
Short At-Bats .301 .317 .467 .784
Long At-Bats .223 .352 .348 .700

Surprisingly, the OPS for short at-bats is significantly higher than long at-bats. What’s clear is that there is an advantage to hitters when they put one of the first three pitches in play. They hit almost 80 points higher and slug over 100 points higher.

There are two things that work in favor of hitters who work the count for longer at-bats. OPS is a great stat but not perfect. One of it’s imperfections is that it undervalues on-base percentage. Hence, the 84 point difference suggested is really less. The second element is hard to measure. There is certainly value to making pitchers work harder (i.e. throw more pitches) over the course of the game that is not measured here.

What about the really short and long at-bats (one-pitch ABs and ABs with seven or more pitches)?
Avg On-Base Slugging OPS
One and done .344 .349 .543 .892
Seven-up (7+) .230 .406 .372 .778

In both cases, hitters get better. Hitters, in general, are more selective on that first pitch and look for something in their wheelhouse as the pitcher tries to get ahead in the count. Nevertheless, it also pays off to really work deep into the count.

This is a new profile that we just added to Bill James Online. For more in-depth information (including short and long at-bat performance for every player going back to 2002), check out www.billjamesonline.com . It’s a subscription service, $3/month.

Turistas movies The Incredible Hulk ipod “Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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The Pitch: Red Hot Mama Interview

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

We sat down with the Red Hot Mama and the Crack Technical Staff over at www.red-hot-mama.com to make fun of Dusty Baker, Corey Patterson, and other aspects of the Reds season.

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A Good Problem To Have….Or Is It?

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

A lot of the talk lately has been about the playoff rotation and who will take the ball in game 1. I’m more worried about who is going to NOT take the ball in the series. I think it’s a given that guys like Sean Marshall and Jason Marquis are not being considered for the rotation in the playoffs, apart from them you have four talented guys that probably can get the job done and yet only three spots.

Carlos Zambrano, since June 2nd is 5-4 with an ERA of 4.50, serving up 11 HR in those 12 games. It’s hard to think of him as the game 1 guy at this point but you have to factor in his ego when making your decision. Will he take the news well if someone like Ryan Dempster is out there for game 1? Would he pout and break all of Dempster’s bats over his knee in the clubhouse? I’d like to think he’s done some growing up this year, but I’m not so sure. I know one thing. If we were to give the spot to someone other Zambrano, and he did pout, he needs to be traded. We could get a ton out of a team for him. Deep down inside, I think the talk is going to drive him down the stretch and he’s going to earn that spot.

Ryan Dempster, as I mentioned earlier, has to be a lock for the rotation and should probably be the top guy. He’s outpitched everyone on this staff all season long and has been one of the biggest surprises in a season of surprises around baseball. After Dempster, you have Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. Which one do you send to the bullpen? Do you really move the guy you brought in via trade to the pen? If not, do you go with three righties when you have a good lefty that can start a game?

I want to know. What would you do if the playoffs started this Sunday?

My rotation would be…

Game 1 – Ryan Dempster

Game 2 – Carlos Zambrano

Game 3 – Rich Harden

Game 4 – Dempster or Lilly (Demp if we’re down 2-1 or Lilly if we’re up 2-1)

Game 5 – Ryan Dempster or Carlos Zambrano (depending on game 4)

 


 

Misc. Notes

  • Mark Pawelek has been shut down for the rest of the season and it’s safe to say that this former 1st round pick is a bust. I had high hopes for this hard throwing lefty and he’s done nothing but dissappoint since tripping over his Playstation a few seasons ago.
  • Bleed Cubbie Blue had an interview with Mike Fontenot the other day. (Source)
  • Manny Corpas has been waived by Colorado. Seriously, jump on this guy. He’s young and could be huge for this pen as we try to replace an aging Bob Howry.
  • Ryan Flaherty hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Kyler Burke hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Doug Deeds was 3-for-5
  • Micah Hoffpauir was 3-for-5
  • Tyler Colvin (AA Tennessee) was 2-for-5 with a home run
  • Josh Kroeger (AAA Iowa) was 2-for-5 with a home run

Iowa 5, Oklahoma 8

Tennessee 4, Montgomery 6

Boise 3, Spokane 2

AZ Cubs 1, AZ Rangers 8

DSL Cubs 6, DSL Reds 1

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Cubs 5, Reds 0 – Audio Recap

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In this edition of the VFTB podcast we introduce the Strike Three Format in which I pick three topics and quickly break them down.

Strike 1 – Rich Harden’s Dominance

Strike 2 Spread on dvd – The 7 and 8 hole in the lineup

Strike 3 – The Red Offense

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Cub Fans Owe the White Sox a Thank You Card

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

As we head into the series with the Reds, I’ve decided that it’s time to give Kenny Williams and the White Sox a call and say thank you. Before you stop reading, let me explain why it’s important to take a time out and thank our cross town rivals. I’ve always been taught to be appreciative when people do things for you and to say ‘thank you’ in return for that kindness. With that being said…’Thank You, Kenny Williams and the White Sox for….’

  1. Trading for Carlos Quentin in the off-season – In December, Kenny Williams made a deal for Quentin in exchange for a nobody. Quentin was coming off a rough year in which he was a part time player for the Diamondbacks and was bad at that. The Diamondbacks were fresh off rocking the Cubs world in the first round and looked to be getting better this year with age and experience. By Williams pulling Quentin from the Sox, it got a potential MVP out of the National League. If the Cubs win this division, there is a good chance they will play Arizona in the first round. Imagine how bad that could be with a guy like Carlos Quentin in the mix. Thank You Kenny!!

  2. The Loss of Quentin prompted the Diamondbacks to acquire Adam Dunn – This brings us to the Reds. We face the Reds six more times this year and that will take place without Dunn, who has hit the Cubs better than any other team in the National League. The Reds offense doesn’t look anywhere near as imposing with the loss of the big slugger and that should allow us to steal some easy games down the stretch as we try to wrap this division up as soon as possible. Last year we were forced to drag it down to the wire. This year it’s going to be over and over soon for the Brewers and Cardinals. Thank You Kenny!!
  3. The White Sox success has taken some of the focus away from the Cubs – All year last year, with the Sox struggling, the Cubs had the spotlight shining on them. With that pressure and the talk about the 100 year drought, we came out and laid an egg in round one. This year, with the Sox playing well, it should be a little easier for us to go in with a little less pressure and more confidence. There is always going to be that talk from ESPN and the like about the 100 year garbage, but the Sox winning this season has to take some of the pressure off us and for that I say a big, hearty, Thank You Kenny!!!
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