Archive for October, 2008

Year in Review: Derrek Lee

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

What They Said Before the Season:

Ron Shandler – “It took another half-season for power to return; luckily high 1H h% propped up his value while we waited. 2H surge (and 7 HR/164 PX Sept.) gives hope for still more power recovery. Return to 40 HR level not out of the question”

My Pre-Season Thoughts – After injury cut 2006 short for Lee, many expected him to return to his 2005 numbers and become a poor man’s Albert Pujols for the Cubs. While Lee continued to hit for average and get on base at a great clip, he saw his homerun production decrease from 46 in 2005 to just 22 in 2007. Lee will continue to play a gold glove first base and be an on base machine. The big question is if the power stroke will return. Look for Lee to improve on the 22 long balls but not hit more than 30 this season. (Editor’s Note: I think I did pretty well with that comment from the beginning of the season)

Projections vs. Actual Ransom the movie

Ron Shandler was pretty solid here, except for the prediction for Lee to return to being a power threat.

The Double Play Breakdown

We had a question yesterday about who was on base during Lee’s double plays. I decided to take a look and break it down for you. Here are the results.

Ryan Theriot – 16 times

Kosuke Fukudome – 3 times

Alfonso Soriano – 2 times

Mike Fontenot – 2 times

Mark DeRosa – 1 time

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Eric Patterson – 1 time

Reed Johnson – 1 time

What I take from that is a few things. First, Ryan Theriot clearly did his job by getting on base in front of the heart of the order. Secondly, the same doesn’t appear to be true for our leadoff hitter, Soriano. As the leadoff hitter, shouldn’t he have been the one doubled off by Lee more than twice, especially more than Fukudome.

Questions for Discussion

  • Would you be open to the Cubs trading Derrek Lee if it meant Micah Hoffpauir would become the starting first baseman next year?
  • Will we ever see Lee hit more than 25 homeruns in a season again?
  • If you were an opposing GM, would Derrek Lee interest you and how much would you give to get him?
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Lunch Break: Lefty Bat on the Horizon?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

I hope your day is going well so far. I wanted to drop some misc. thoughts on you at lunchtime and see what your thoughts are.

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  • Jim Hendry is reportedly seeking left handed help for a lineup that was terribly right handed in 2008. Names rumored are Brian Roberts and Raul Ibanez, who I mentioned for RF a week or so ago. The question then becomes what you do with Kosuke Fukudome if you bring in Ibanez. You can’t possibly find enough at bats for the both of them in RF, so Fukudome would have to either be traded, demoted to Iowa, or quietly negotiated out of his contract and shipped back to Japan. I don’t think I’d go that far, but Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue thinks that will be what happens. What’s the answer? I’d like to see Fukudome start the year in Iowa and if he succeeds, platoon him with Ibanez in RF and Pie in CF.
  • According to the NY Post, the Braves are leading the campaign to trade for Jake Peavy. I don’t think Peavy is essential to us winning the world series next year, but you certainly would agree that it would go a long way toward that goal. The main hurdle I see for Hendry and the Padres is the fact that we have intentions of bringing Ryan Dempster back. Because they’re not going to bring in both, it puts Hendry in a pickle. The Padres want to get the done soon and I don’t see Dempster getting signed early.
  • Andrew Jones has reportedly asked for a trade. Is there anyone in all of baseball that doesn’t deserve the right to ask for something more than Jones? Who’s going to want him and his contract? You think the Cubs had a hard time moving Jacque Jones in 2007, wait till you see what the Dodgers would have to eat to move Jones anywhere.
  • Taco Bell is running a free taco promo during the World Series. Stay tuned to their website on MLB.com here.

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Year in Review: Ryan Theriot

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

With this series, I want to take a look back at the major players on the 2008 team and evaluate what we got from them this past year. Let’s start off with everyone’s favorite, Ryan Theriot

What They Said before the season:

Ron Shandler – “Scrappy player had a very strong first full MLB season. Nice base skill growth in 2H. The power he showed late in ’06 turned out to be a fluke, but the speed is here to stay. Good bet for 30+ SB.

My Thoughts – The little engine that could is definitely a fan favorite, but fan love doesn’t assure success in the Major Leagues. Theriot flew under the radar last year in part because many felt he was misused in the lineup in the number two hole. The leadoff role seemed to be his best spot in the order, with a .300 average and a 100 OPS+. The fans feel he can handle that role, but whether Lou Piniella agrees is another story. Theriot should be slated for the starting SS job out of spring training, but could be on a short leash if he struggles and Ronny Cedeno shows some success at the ML level.

This will anger a great deal of Cub fans, but by far the most overrated player on the team last season was Theriot. After bursting onto the scene in 2006 with sparkling offensive production to the tune of .328 / .412 / .522 and an OPS+ of 135, Theriot regressed significantly in the full time role posting .266 / .326 / .346 and an OPS+ of just 72. Very few shortstops were more inept offensively than Theriot, despite his Charlie Hustle type attitude toward playing the game. There is no question he plays hard and has a heart the size of Texas. Unfortunately, most fans fail to look at the numbers before affixing their man crushes on him.

Projections vs. Actual

Best Games / Worst Games

April 7 – vs. Pittsburgh – (WPA .461) – Comes into the game in the 9th inning to replace Michael Wuertz and play SS with the score tied at 8-8. Walks to leadoff the 10th and proceeds to steal second in front of Soriano. Went to third on Daryle Ward reaching via an error, but is stranded when Derrek Lee and Aramis both strike out to end the inning. In the top of the 12th, with the score still tied at 8, Theriot again leads off with a walk and steals second. Soriano causes hell to freeze over when he walks and both advance to scoring position on a wild pitch to Felix Pie.Theriot would go on to score on a sac fly by Ramirez and the Cubs win 10-8. (Box Score)

April 24 – vs. Colorado (WPA -.368) – Grounds into a double play in the 1st inning. Grounds into an out to the shortstop in the 3rd. Strikes out swinging in the 6th. With runners on first and third with 1 out in the 8th, lines into a double play to end the inning. Commits an error in the 8th. Cubs lose 4-2. (Box Score)

Where he ranks at his position among 17 MLB qualifiers

Batting Average (.307) – 2nd

On Base % (.387) – 2nd

Slugging % (.359) – 15th

OPS (.745) – 10th

Stolen Bases (22) – 4th

Runs Created (81.7) – 11th

BB/K Ratio (1.26) – 1st

Fielding % (.975) – 10th

Range Factor (3.90) – 17th

Zone Rating (.818) – 11th

VORP (27.3) – 10th

Projected Role for 2009

My guess is that, barring some sort of blockbuster trade, Theriot will remain in tact as the starting shortstop next year. There are mixed camps on that fact, but the fact remains that, looking at the numbers, it could be a lot worse. I don’t think 2008 was a career year. It’s important to remember that he’s still young and improving his game. If he can begin to develop a bit more gap potential, he instantly goes from the average shortstop pool to the above average pool. He’s never going to be an elite guy in the middle of the lineup, but he can be valuable in the 2nd spot of the order and, I believe, even the leadoff spot.

Question(s) for Discussion

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  • Do you feel my claim that Theriot’s 2008 was not going to be his career year is correct?
  • Will he continue to improve his game?
  • Do the Cubs need to be looking to improve at the SS position for 2009?
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Cub Convention Passes on Sale 11/6

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs today announced weekend passes for the 24th annual Cubs Convention will go on sale Thursday, November 6, at 10 a.m. CST.  Passes will be available for purchase through two methods – by visiting www.cubs.com or by calling tickets.com at 1-800-THE-CUBS.

The 24th annual Cubs Convention will be held at the Hilton Chicago, 720 South Michigan Avenue, from Friday, January 16 through Sunday, January 18, 2009.  Each fan can purchase up to four weekend passes while they last.  The convention pass, valid for entry during the entire convention weekend, costs $60 plus convenience fees.

The hours of the convention are as follows: Friday 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Included with each pass is access to all autograph/photo sessions, question and answer sessions as well as the memorabilia and vendor booths.

Rooms at the Hilton are currently sold out for Convention weekend, but fans can check back for cancellations or availability by calling 312-922-4400.  As a reminder, fans with room reservations under the Cubs Convention rate can purchase weekend passes for $15 each (limit four per room).

Proceeds from the Convention benefit Cubs Care, a fund of the McCormick Foundation.  The 2008 Cubs Convention raised more than $300,000. To date, the Cubs Convention has raised nearly $4 million for Cubs Care.

The McCormick Foundation, through its fund Cubs Care, has granted more than $13 million to Chicago non-profit organizations since 1991. Grants help support non-profit organizations which aid children with special needs, support youth sports programs, help victims of domestic violence, and assist social service efforts in the Lakeview community.

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Cup of Joe: Aerodynamic Bats, Coach Greg Maddux, Manny Ramirez

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Notes from around the Web for this morning

  • The Cubs released RHP Leonel Perez and removed LHP Carmen Pignatiello from the 40 man roster. – (Source: Baseball America)
  • In the latest edition of Carrie Muskat’s mailbag, a reader asked the question about the Cubs need for a leadoff hitter. Carrie mentioned that Jim Hendry may revive talks with the Orioles for Brian Roberts, but that it would force Lou to have to convince Soriano to hit lower in the order. I’m tired of this “convince” terminology. What ever happened to the days that the manager decided who played, where they play, and for how long? I want to believe that Lou doesn’t feel like he has to cater to Soriano, but I’m not convinced. – (Source: Cubs.com)
  • Jesse Estrada is slated to do some starting in the Arizona Fall League. Estrada is a fringe prospect at this point for the Cubs and probably needs to do something this fall to show the Cubs brass that he can make a trip to the Majors. He’s 24 and was less than impressive in Iowa this year, finishing with a ERA over 5.00. He did show a lot more propensity to strike batters out once he was promoted to AAA. One of the toughest challenges Estrada faced in 2008 was a line drive off the face in May. – (Source: Inside the Ivy)
  • Phil Rogers asked the question recently as to whether the Cubs would entertain the idea of bringing in Manny Ramirez and addressed the issue of moving Alfonso Soriano to LA to “soften the blow” for the Dodgers. Not only do I not want Manny and his antics, but I think it would be foolish to put him out there over Soriano, who is younger and less crazy. – (Source: Chicago Tribune)
  • Nick Carado mentions that Greg Maddux is considering retirement and has an interest in becoming a bench coach. I love Alan Trammel, but there has to be a way to get Maddux in here to help out on the bench. Even if it means two bench coaches, it’s worth it. – (Source: Boston Globe)
  • Jon Heyman had this quote about Andrew Jones. “[Frank] McCourt, who reportedly has unusual financial issues for the owner of a marquee team, is said to have been apoplectic over Jones’ putrid performance and at one point is believed to have considered the extraordinary but absurd step to request a refund of Jones’ $18.1 million salary.” That would be outstanding. If anyone needs to refund some money, Jones is the guy. What a massive bust. – (Source: SI.com

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  • Reebok introduced a new line of baseball bats called the Vector O series. The concept is that the holes near the base of the barrel, above the handle allow for a more aerodynamic swing thus creating more bat speed and a greater amount of power. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the argument against non-wood bats always been that they propel the ball at speeds to high for the pitcher to react to? Isn’t a bad idea, then, to create something that will be even more dangerous for the pitcher?
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Cubs Extend Jim Hendry

Monday, October 20th, 2008

CHICAGO

– The Chicago Cubs and General Manager Jim Hendry have agreed to a four-year contract extension through the 2012 season.  Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“Jim Hendry has helped build a sense of urgency and create a winning environment throughout our organization,” said Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney.  “Jim’s aggressive nature and tireless dedication to improving our club are well known but equally important is his assembly of one of the most-talented baseball operations departments in the industry.

“Jim’s leadership and the continuity of our baseball operations department are critical to finishing the job we began six years ago.  We fell well short of our goal this year and that will fuel our work this offseason.”

“It’s an honor to receive this long-term commitment from the Chicago Cubs,” said Hendry.  ”We know there is work to be done in reaching our goal and I thank my staff for their commitment to this organization.  We’ll continue to do everything it takes to reward our great fans for their dedication to this team.”

Hendry, who enters his 15th season with the organization, has been the club’s general manager since July 5, 2002.  With more than six years in the position, he already is the third-longest tenured general manager in franchise history, trailing only John Holland (1957-1975) and James Gallagher (1940-49).  The club is 537-513 (.511) with Hendry as general manager, including four winning records in his six full seasons.

In 2008, Hendry, 53, became the first general manager in franchise history to assemble a Cubs team that made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, as the club in 2007 and 2008 qualified for post-season play in consecutive campaigns for the first time in 100 years (1906-08).  Overall, he has seen three of his six clubs make the playoffs (2003, 2007 and 2008), the lone general manager in club history to take three teams to the postseason.

Following a last-place, 66-96 finish in 2006, Hendry has helped orchestrate a 31-win turnaround the last two years as the club won 85 games in 2007 and recorded an N.L.-best 97 wins in 2008 to earn consecutive National League Central Division titles.  In addition to resigning Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano to long-term deals, Hendry has landed notable free agents in the last two offseasons such as Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa and Kosuke Fukudome while making key in-season acquisitions last season such as Reed Johnson (in March), Jim Edmonds (in May) and Rich Harden (in July).

Hendry joined the Cubs organization in November of 1994 and spent his first seven seasons with the Cubs as director of player development (1995), scouting director (1996-2000) and assistant general manager (2000-02), overseeing a minor league system that signed and developed current Cubs stars such as Geovany Soto, Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol and Zambrano.

Prior to working for the Cubs, Hendry spent three years in the Florida Marlins chain in various roles, including a minor league manager, a scout and a special assistant to General Manager Dave Dombrowski.  He was the head baseball coach at Creighton from 1984-1991, leading the Blue Jays to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and earning National Coach of the Year honors in 1991 after Creighton finished third in the College World Series.A Good Man Is Hard to Find divx

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Reviewing the Season: Top 13 Predictions

Monday, October 20th, 2008

At the beginning of the year, I made some bold predictions that I felt would happen throughout the course of the 2008 season. I didn’t do all that bad after all was said and done. Here are the results:

southchiKosuke Fukudome will shorten the name on the back of his jersey to just the first four letters to give the finger to RF fans after they begin to boo him for his poor start to the season.

While this one was obviously done in jest, it is interesting to note that I felt Fukudome would struggle. I felt it would be early and would slowly work itself out. Instead, it was the opposite, which couldn’t have been worse for us. Imagine what we might have looked like offensively with Fukudome’s left handed bat down the stretch. There is no question the lineup was too right handed and has been for the past two seasons. It’s something we very much need to improve this offseason if we’re going to have any amount of success in the 2009 season.

The Cubs will win the NL Central by at least 10 games.

I actually just missed on this one. I know they won by only 7.5, but when you factor in how poorly they played in September (12-12), it was totally reasonable to say that they should’ve won this division by double digits when all was said and done.

Lou Piniella will be ejected from four game throughout the course of the season, but will not be issued a suspension. The Contractor release

Maybe someone can help me on this one, but I can’t remember any ejections for Lou this year. I’m sure I have to be wrong on that one, but none come to mind. One thing I’m certain of is that he wasn’t ejected. I guess I missed on this one. Lou has tamed himself down drastically as he gets older.

Rich Hill will, once again, lead the staff in strikeouts.

OK, I completely missed on this one, as did everyone that made any predictions regarding Rich Hill this year. I wanted to make myself feel a little better so I decided to look at what Ron Shandler had to say about Rich coming into the season. His predictions were generous as well. 13-8, 201 IP, 205 K’s, 3.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. Let’s just say we all missed on Hill this year. The big question then becomes what to make of him for 2009. The key, in my opinion, is to not count on him as a valid asset to the rotation. Essentially, treat him the way we as fans treated Mark Prior and Kerry Wood once we figured out the injuries were bad. If we can get something out of him, it’s gravy. Personally, I think Hill will come back and make a difference for this team next year. It could be my cautious optimism coming into play, but he can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year, right? Anyone? (insert crickets chirping here)

Jon Lieber will replace Jason Marquis in the starting rotation after Marquis is traded to the Red Sox. Lieber will promptly get injured and open the door for Sean Marshall to step in.

I felt like Boston would make a deal for a starting pitcher after the loss of Curt Schilling was announced. Instead they made due with Clay Buchholz, Paul Byrd and Bartolo Colon and received a huge year from Jon Lester. Lieber ended up being a reliever and essentially a non-factor for this team. Marquis, on the other hand, was league average according to his ERA+ (100) and that’s all you can ask for from your 4th and 5th starters. He did the job he needed to do.

Derrek Lee will fail to drive in 100 runs or hit 30 home runs, but will win the gold glove.

This was easy to call. If you know anything about Derrek Lee, you know he’s not a run producer. I am somewhat of a Lee hater, but when you look at the numbers and see a player that will be 33 years old next year that has only driven in 100 runs once in his career in spite of batting in the center of the order, it’s hard not to shout “Overrated”. Lee is not the problem on this team, don’t get me wrong. The problem is that too many people feel he’s more than he truly is after that breakout year in 2005.

Kerry Wood will make one trip to the DL this season, and will finish the year with 22 saves.

I was right on with the DL prediction, though it looked like I might be wrong for the majority of the first half of the season. What I missed on, and I think many did as well, was Woody’s effectiveness as the closer. He improved his first strike % to a career high 61% as well as his overall strike % to another career high 67%. The key? Woody threw strikes and went back to trusting his stuff. He didn’t overpower guys all the time, but pitched like a veteran. There is no question in my mind that he needs to return to this team as the closer again in 2009 and gradually turn over the reigns to Carlos Marmol when he’s ready.

Alfonso Soriano will have one of his legs fall off during the season and be forced to play the rest of the year on one leg. This injury will finally cause him to go to Lou and ask to be put in the fifth spot to avoid the pressure of stealing bases on one leg.

Obviously what I was going for here was that Soriano would have leg issues. Two straight years tells me that it’s going to be a recurring issue for the remainder of his career. What didn’t happen was the move of Soriano to leadoff. Can you really blame Lou? Has he really been provided with a viable option to replace him? Think about it for a second before you go flinging poo at Piniella. Don’t you think he wants a better option to lead off? Of course he does, but until Hendry provides him with someone that will do a better job in that spot he’s forced to stick with Soriano. Perhaps the answer to that dilemma is a move for Rafael Furcal in the off-season.

Aramis Ramirez will be thrown out at first by a right fielder one time during the regular season.

This one didn’t happen, but boy would it have been fun.

Fukudome and Geovany Soto will finish second and third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Joey Votto of the Reds.

I missed badly on this one for Fukudome, but I think you can make a valid case for Joey Votto over Geo for the rookie of the year award. Look at the numbers and tell me how you don’t have a valid argument:

Geovany Soto – .285 / .364 / .504, 23 HR, 86 RBI, 122 OPS+
Joey Votto – .297 / .368 / .506, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 124 OPS+

The argument, in my mind, that separates the two is position. Geo did all that he did while managing a pitching staff, battling the physical demands of the catcher position and preparing for not only his at bats by watching game film of pitchers, but also film of hitters to prepare for calling a game. That puts him ahead in my book.

The sale of the team will not take place during the season.

Wanna hear another bold prediction? The sale of the team will not even take place before next season is over.

Ryan Theriot will cement his spot at the top of the order will a breakout season at the plate.

This one will drive Dave crazy, but Theriot really did have a breakout season at the plate. At the same time, and hear me close, Theriot was a below average player when you look beyond just the batting average and on base percentage. He simply didn’t have the secondary numbers to justify a lock to start next season status that I would love for him to have. I like Theriot. I’d even be so bold to wear a Theriot jersey if given one as a gift (hint, hint). What I won’t be so bold, or should I say foolish, enough to say is that Theriot is an all-star shortstop. Take these arguments. Among 17 qualified ML shortstops (a player must average at least 3.1 plate appearances for every game his team has played)

  • Ranked 15 of 17 in slugging %
  • Ranked 17 of 17 in doubles
  • Ranked 17 of 17 in homeruns
  • Ranked 17 of 17 in RBI (13 RBI behind the 16th ranked player.)

The St. Louis Cardinals will finish last in the division and the Pittsburgh Pirates will finish fourth.

Dang Tony LaRussa. Why does he have to be such a good manager that gets something out of nothing? He did a great job managing with the team he had. He’s one of the best in the game and doing that and you’ve got to tip your cap to his efforts time and time again.

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Cubs Announce Deal for Jake Peavy

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

The Great Raid the movie It came over the wire early this morning and hit my iPhone like a tidal wave. We all thought that the most recent news that Jim Hendry and the Cubs were close to signing on for an extension was the biggest story in town. Now the news that Hendry pulled off a deal for Jake Peavy sparks new life into a team still seathing from the playoff sweep at the hands of Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers.

The deal reportedly went down last night late and was announced to the media in the morning. If you’re keeping score at home, it went something like this:

Cubs Receive: Jake Peavy – SP

Padres Receive: Felix Pie – CF, Sean Marshall – SP, and Jeff Samardzija

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney:

Multiple sources consider it likely the Padres will deal Peavy in the weeks ahead, and that it is a virtual certainty he will be traded before the July 31 deadline next season. The Padres are seeking at least two young pitchers in return, along with someone who can become the team’s everyday center fielder sometime in the immediate to near future. - Source

Hendry felt he could make that happen and jumped on the opportunity in a similar way to when he signed Ted Lilly from the hospital bed. That’s just how he rolls. With rumors that an extension for Ryan Dempster are in the works, the Cubs become the clear cut favorite for the World Series title in 2009.

 


Man how I want to right that story, and why can’t we? Peavy, himself, recently mentioned that if he was to be traded, he wanted it to be to Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Houston or CHICAGO. If the Padres really are looking for the two starting pitchers and a near ready Major League centerfielder, why can’t we provide that? Heck, I’d even give them Fukudome or Tyler Colvin if they wanted one of them instead of Pie. Imagine a rotation of Zambrano, Peavy, Harden, Dempster, Lilly in no particular order. Yikes!!!

 

I know it’s not going to happen, but wouldn’t it be nice?

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Manny Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano

Friday, October 17th, 2008

If you were given the option right now to take Alfonso Soriano and his contract for the next 6 years or Manny Ramirez at his price for the next 6 years, which would you want? Why?

For me, it’s got to be Soriano for the simple reason that Manny is too much of a head case. I can’t deal with a player like that. I can’t stand his antics and I am not so sure he has all that much left, given his age. I know he takes great care in how hard he works preparing for at bats, but I’ll take the upside of Soriano and the hot streaks he brings and ride out his age. It’s a no-brainer for me.

On a side note, the new design of the site has been delayed due to some issues with the content management system MVN is going to be using. No word on when it will be resolved, so we’ll keep on plugging away on our end. That was the reason for the lack of posting this week.

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