Archive for February, 2009

World Baseball Classic (and a bit of an intro)

Saturday, February 28th, 2009
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So I’m Liz, another of the new bloggers here. By way of introduction I will tell you that I’m a transplant, only living in the Chicago area since 2001. But, I’m no less of a Cubs fan for it, and have been a student of the game since about age 8 when my dad took me to my first game at Yankee Stadium. My dad was a die-hard Mets fan, but he also had a temper similar to Lou Pinella’s back in the day and the 2-hour straight-shot into the Bronx was a much nicer drive for him than “F**^%$ Flushing” (his description, not mine. Personally I preferred Shea but I wasn’t doing the driving!) So, I saw a lot more of Lou and his colleagues than I did of Keith Hernandez and that cast of lovable losers.

I’m not heavy into stats and will likely contribute more of the human interest, softer-side topics, which might annoy some of you but may encourage others. Time will tell. Since I continue to be a student of the game, I will be much more interested in hearing your opinions than in giving my own, though I will always have one.

On that note, let’s talk a little bit about the upcoming World Baseball Classic. For anyone who may also be playing student today, it starts on Thursday (5th) and continues through the 23rd, double-elimination in four brackets starting in various locations around the world then moving to the US for later rounds/finals. Notable Cubs who will be playing in the tournament are Lilly (USA), Fukudome (Japan), Soto (Puerto Rico) and the on-again off-again now-this-morning-on-again Marmol (Dominican Republic).

How do you feel about the World Baseball Classic? Good thing? Bad thing? Good thing with bad timing? Do you even care one way or the other? Do you worry that someone, say, Geovany Soto heaven forbid, will come back injured? (You will learn over the course of the season that he is my favorite Cub.)

Let’s hear your thoughts!

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The King of Pessimism?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Okay, fine, I will be the King of Pessimism for the time being. It beats being the Queen of Apathy.

I have tried to be optimistic this entire off season. We all do, I think, every year. We try to convince ourselves that the team is improving and the management is doing all it can to field a champion. After last year’s regular season success, there wasn’t much we needed to address. So what did Jim Hendry do? As far as I can tell…not much good. Let’s dig deeper.

In no particular order…

  • The first mistake this offseason, in my opinion (and I’ll no doubt take some heat for this) was not signing Rafael Furcal. He could have been had, especially early on, for the same type contract we gave Bradley. Why was it a mistake NOT to sign him? He filled two major holes for us. Solid defensive shortstop. Great, switch-hitting leadoff batter. That would have made us a much better team. And it would have allowed us to trade either Theriot or Fontenot or both. More on that later.
  • Trading Mark DeRosa. For nothing. Minor salary dump on the team MVP and all around good guy and versatile player? Huh? What the…oh yeah, Joe has rules on this blog. You get my point. Put on your thinking cap. Imagine Furcal at short and DeRo at second. Nice thought, isn’t it?
  • This one is optional. Take it or leave it. With Furcal, we could have gotten Peavy. Trade the Padres Theriot, Fontenot, Marshall, Hill and all the other out of options players we have. And some arms from the farm. Thinking cap time again. Imagine this rotation: Zambrano, Lilly, Peavy, Dempster, Harden. Filthy. Best in baseball. Hands down.
  • Right field — why isn’t Adam Dunn our right fielder? He wanted to play for the Cubs and you can mail in 40 – 50 homers and 100+ walks. How would that look in the middle of our lineup? Pretty good to me. At half the Bradley price tag.
  • Aaron Miles — good move. One of the only ones this offseason. Would have been a better move if we’d done what I mentioned above. Furcal/DeRosa with Miles as the backup? Plus we’d still have DeRo for backing up Ramirez.
  • Heilman — good pickup, too. He can be nasty. Live arm. Could fill the five spot if necessary or pitch out of the pen. Even better if we have Peavy, because he becomes Harden’s insurance.

So (not Taguchi — don’t get me started) here we sit. We added a head case and lost a great guy. Couple of minor moves and some NON-moves that hurt us. Do you blame Jim Hendry or the ownership issue? I blame Hendry this time — and that is not to detract from past good things he has done. This year, though, I think he blew it. I hope I am wrong.

The King of Pessimism. (But not forever)

Sherm

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Inside the Boxscore: Game 3

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

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Boxscore

I’ve realized something about spring training over the years that makes laugh. I enjoy spring training box scores and stats, but on a game to game basis, I could care less who wins. In fact, oftentimes, I don’t even know who we’re playing (or care) until I look. I often wonder if the players take the same approach. I’m sure the rookies put their time in and may even do a little scouting of the pitchers / hitters, but I would guess most seasoned vets tend to coast a little in spring training and, at times, forget who the opponent is that day. That being said, let’s take a look at what jumps out in the box.

Ryan Theriot got the nod in the leadoff spot, which makes three different guys in that role in the first three games. Interesting, because all three have been successful there in those opportunities so far. Theriot seems to have been the weakest of the three games, with just two singles and a caught stealing. The biggest knock against him that I have is his baserunning instincts. He’s just not as good of a basestealer as his speed would suggest, which lends itself, all to often, to a low steal success rate. In 2007, he came into the season with some late season success under his belt and took people by surprise with his speed. Last year, I think he got to ambitious and tried to force the issue a little too much. If he can focus on getting good jumps and running in good situations based on the count, hopefully he can improve on the regession in success rate from last year.

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Micah Hoffpaiur continues to rake the ball to start out the spring. There is no question that he can hit. Unfortunately the strike against him is defense. It really comes down to the numbers game. His best chance to make this club is to hit so well that the Cubs have to find a way to have him on the roster. Force their hand and make them adjust their plans. If he can continue to hit the way he’s hitting, it definitely lends itself well to disproving my theory that he won’t make this club outright for opening day.

Mike Fontenot Clash of the Titans rip It’s All About Love divx hit the ball well and drove in 4 RBI. He did leave three guys on base, though.

Explain to me again why we have So Taguchi in camp? Seriously, this guy is not good.

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Jake Fox picked up another hit and is 3-for-6 early on. He reminds me a little of Hoffpauir, but he’s younger and a little more versatile. He’s probably not versatile enough to serve as the corner IF backup, but certainly with his experience playing 1B, OF, and C, he could have a role on this team. I actually wouldn’t be opposed at all if he made the roster as the backup C / 1B and then the Cubs would just need to keep a 3B instead of someone who could play both. Fox certainly has a better bat and more upside than someone like Koyie Hill.

Ted Lilly made a “start” before heading to the WBC and pitched two strong innings. I’m very happy with him slotting in there as a top tier 3rd starter type guy. He’s definitely proved a lot of the critics wrong, especially any that had something to say about potential anger issues.

That’s all I’ve got. What did I miss? Let’s discuss!!!

 

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Stat of the Week: Longest Hitless Streak

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I decided to see what the longest streak for a player who played a regular position, and not just exclusively a pinch hitter, for this team was.

Here is a summary of the results:

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Each week, Stat of the Week is provided in conjunction with a partnership with Baseball Reference and it’s Play Index tool. Check it out today.

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Milkit Badly

Friday, February 27th, 2009

A laurel, and hearty handshake, for our new right fielder and training table spacehog, Milkit Badly.

Tightness? I’ve got tightness, too. In my chest. Every time I think about the rightfielders we DON’T have. Adam Dunn and the fifty homers that he WANTED to bring to Wrigley. Bobby Abreu and the mere $5M deal he was willing to accept.

It’s not even the thirty mil we’re paying the guy (hey, it’s not my money.) It’s the three years we are going to have to deal with this.

Here’s a perspective worth mentioning: between Bradley and Fukudome, we’ve tied up $78 Million dollars! That’s right. For a Japanese Dreidle and guy who could be a guest star on House (Tuesdays at 9, 8 Central on Fox. Do I get money for that?) I’ll save you the diagnosis. It’s in his head. I don’t have a good feeling about this guy. There’s a reason he has a closet full of different jerseys.

$78 mil. Could have had Manny in rightfield for that. And say what you want about defense, blah, blah, blah…you KNOW you’d love to see Manny in a Cub uniform.

I’ll address centerfield and THAT three headed beast later. For now, let’s hope that Milky can fight his way through this latest devastating “owie” and return to play the game. Sooner rather than later.

More later. Or not.

Sherm

Gordon’s Thoughts

Honestly, I didn’t know about Bradley’s injury until I read Sherm’s post.  I wrote my comments below last night as my wife was upstairs ridding herself of food poisoning.  They started with a simple question, What should the Cubs expect to get out of Bradley.

I spent an hour this morning trying to figure out what we are getting in Milton Bradley.  I was not in favor of his signing.  He might be a great guy.  He might be obsessed with winning.  He might be a changed man.  But before I looked at his numbers, I felt there were to many question marks, from injury to personality, to make him the cornerstone of our free agent class.

What numbers do you expect from your right fielder, 3,4,5 hitter, major free agent signing (I should have written this before I looked at his numbers, but I’ll try to be fair)?  140 games. 500+AB’s
280-300 avg. 380-400 obp. 450-500 slg.  25-30 HR. 90-100RBI. 80+ runs scored. 50+BB’s. 100 K’s

Each of these numbers could be a post/argument in themselves. Be nice.  I would argue that the Cubs should expect the high end of each of these numbers.  We want to be an elite team, we (should) spend elite money, and those are the baseline for elite offensive numbers.

The Cub closest to these numbers is Ramirez who last year (and for his career) is at or exceeds the high end of all the numbers except for career OBP.  which is .341.  Both Lee and Soriano have had multiple years with those types of numbers. Although Soriano’s .obp has been chronically in the 320’s-330’s. And last year his runs, walks, and rbi  were below those numbers.  Lee had a 4-year span from 2002-2005 where he was exceptional, and even last year, when most fans began to notice a decline he fell within the range (except for HR’s).

All of this leads up to Bradley.  Except for BB’s (80), OBP (.436),  SLG (.563), and AVG (.321) Bradley has never really been close a premier hitters numbers, (and his career numbers are significantly less than last years).  Still, those statistics do look positive in a post Moneyball world but how do those averages play out into a baseball season?
What Bradley has not done, startled me.

  • He has never played 142 games in a season.  His season highs are 141 (2004), 126 (2008), 101 (2003).  In 9 seasons (discounting the first 2 where he was breaking in) he averaged less than 90 games played.
    • Lets put this in perspective…the “injury prone” Aramis Ramirez has not played less than 123 games since 2001 and has played 140+ all but 2 years.
    • Put another way, Ramirez and Bradley are the same age, but A-Ram has played 500 more games, and has 2000 more AB’s.
    • The injury prone Alphonso Soriano had never played less than 145 games before he came to the Cubs.  He’s played in 135 (2007) and 109 (2008) so his 2 worst years health wise still beat Bradley’s 2nd and 3rd best years.
  • He has never hit 25 HR’s: His season highs are 22 (2008), 19 (2004)
  • He has never driven in 80 RBI: 77 (2008) 67 (2004) 56 (2003)
  • He has never scored 80 runs: 78 (2008) 72 (2004) 61 2003)
  • Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano each have multiple years exceeding these numbers.

So Bradley is not an elite player, what is he?  It turns out he might just be a less flexible, less healthy, slightly more offensive Mark DeRosa.  In 23 more games DeRosa drove in 10 more RBI and scored 30 more runs. Bradley walked 11 more times and hit 1 more HR in 90 less AB’s.

Wouldn’t you rather have DeRosa? Where you know day to day what he is going to give in all phases of the game. Offense, defense, chemistry as opposed to Bradley’s wild card?

I have not even begged the question for what we are going to do for the 40,50, 60 games that Bradley most likely will not play?  Fukudome? Hoffpauir?  How does these moves make us a better team?

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Inside the Boxscore: Game 2

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Joey Gathright – He surprised me a little by not only playing leadoff, but by playing it well and going 3-for-3 with a walk. Four times at the plate and all of them yield a time on base. That’s what a leadoff man does. Great job. I don’t see him having any chance at winning the starting CF job right now, but I’d love to see him make a run at it.

Milton Bradley - Left the game with tightness in his left quad muscle. Here we go. First game and first injury.

Jake Fox – Had a big day at the plate. I’m not sure if he’s comfortable playing third, but if he could be the guy to establish himself at the plate, perhaps he could fill that backup IF role at the corner and we could same the money / resources this spring by having to go out and find one.

Nothing else really jumped out at me. What did I miss?

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Lollipop Guild

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Greetings to all you loyal readers of VFTB – I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I’m Sherm, and I’m one of the new bloggers here. Rather than tell you all about me at one time, I’ll delight you with tidbits over time. Perhaps years. Or longer. We’ll see.

For the time being, suffice to say that I am a big Cub fan – a prerequisite for blogging here, of course, and I have the tattoo to prove it. Same tattoo that keeps me from being able to go undercover at other team’s fantasy camps. Didn’t think that one through, apparently.

I hope that you will all enjoy the words I post here and have comments galore. Or hate my words. And have comments galore. Nah…I don’t really care. I like my words. That’s all that matters. Not really. I care what you think. All of you. Truly. (Might as well be nice on the first day.)

My first real baseball topic of my first VFTB blog is the middle infield, which I like to call “The Lollipop Guild.” The real battle between the three little Cajuns is to determine which one gets to sing the song to Dorothy. Between the three, Theriot, Fontenot and Miles…it’s a serviceable enough middle infield. Serviceable being the operative word. None of them are that good. None of them are that bad. Theriot has earned shortstop for the time being, which only means that we don’t have anyone better on the horizon. I would still prefer to see him play second base everyday. It hurts watching him throw the ball across the diamond. (No, Ryan, the pitcher is not the cutoff man.) Fontenot, who I really like, and would love to see with more at bats…just isn’t that good a second baseman. He’s fine if you hit the ball right at him. His range is suspect, and he always plays too low. Milot? He’s got better range than Fontenot, but has some trouble with balls hit right at him. I don’t care how you slice it…neither is as good at the position as Mark DeRosa was. Period. DeRosa had the bad sense to bat right handed, though, and therefore had to go. And none of them can play third base if (dare I say “when?”) Ramirez needs some days off for whatever reason.

I think Milot (yes, I know it’s Miles, but I like the silent T’s that the other guys have so I thought I’d give him one, too. Just be glad I don’t type Soriano, Soto and Zambrano all year. This, like all things, will pass.) Anyway, I think Milot is going to be the semi-super infield sub. Kind of like Ronny Cedeno, but hopefully without the low IQ. I think Fontenot wins second base – with his bat – and will hit twenty homers this year (helping fill the DeRosa Homer Void.) I think Theriot gets the lion’s share of shortstop starts and will spend most of his time batting second. I’d rather see DLee in the two hole, but that’s another blog entirely. Not today. Aaron Miles (happy?) is an upgrade over Cedeno and I think that will show up early and often this season.

Anyway – the Cubs are playing the Brewers right now…I won’t give away what is happening. Let someone else talk about that. I really just wanted to say hello, to introduce myself and talk a little bit about the Lilliputian’s, or Lollipop Guild, or whatever they are. Maybe they should bat 1,2,3 and all crouch way down. Give them fractions for their jerseys.

Welcome to Sherm’s World.

More later. Or not.

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Inside the Box score: Game 1

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Macbeth hd

Box score

Today was game one of the march toward October and I wanted to take a look at the box score and see if we can note some things after one outing.

  • Alfonso Soriano – We saw him in a limited role, but nevertheless, still in the leadoff spot. I’ll be honest with you. I’m really OK with that. If that’s what the lineup looks like come opening day I don’t mind. At the plate, Sori was on base in both trips to the plate with a single and even a walk. Yes, you read that right, a walk. He’s not really a guy on the bubble to make this roster, but it was encouraging to see him due what a leadoff man does in the very first game.
  • Ryan Theriot – The Riot had the honor of the # 2 spot in the order, which is also where I feel his bat belongs. He mentioned that if given the shot to leadoff, we’d see more than 30 steals from him, but what people forget is that with those will come 20+ caught stealing as well. Theriot is not the best base runner and doesn’t have the best instincts. That being said, I like him in the second spot because it limits the running slightly, while not completely curbing it like the 8th spot does.
  • Micah Hoffpauir – Uh oh, now the Hoffpauir for MVP folks will be out in full swing. Micah not only hit a homerun, but it was a grand slam. The fact remains, there really isn’t a spot for him on this roster due to the numbers game. Even if the Cubs carry five outfielders out of camp, that would leave Gathright out of the mix and I believe Hendry wants that speed on the roster. It would be fine for Hoffpauir to fill that backup infielder role IF he could actually play defense in anyway and had experience backing up 3B. Look at the numbers folks. 5-OF, 2-C, 12-P leaves room for 6-IF. Lee, Ramirez, Miles, Fontenot, Theriot are slotted for 5. None but Ramirez has any significant experience at 3B. That final IF spot has to go to someone who can play the corners. I don’t know who that guy is at that point, but my guess is he’s not currently on the roster. Carrie Muskat mentioned “With Mark DeRosa gone, the Cubs need to find a backup third baseman. Luis Rivas, a non-roster invitee who has played for Minnesota, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, was working out with the regulars on Tuesday and will get a good look.” We’ll have to wait and see, but I don’t think the answer is on this team right now. A guy like Nomar Garciaparra makes a lot of sense for this team because of his versatility. We’ll have to wait and see.
  • Mike Fontenot

    The Devil’s Brigade hd

    – Game one of the second base battle goes to Miles, who didn’t even play. Fontenot went 0-for-3 with a LOB. Not a good start for Mike.

  • Jeff Samardzija – He’s battling for that 5th starter spot and got the “start” today, even though that means just two innings. In that time, two runs on two walks and three hits were the result. A less than impressive start. Mitch Atkins, an outside competitor for that spot as well after his 17 win season in the minors, came in the game in the third and was a shade better, though not much.
  • David Patton – Rule 5 guy that is intriguing to me. He used to be a highly touted prospect at one point. I’m curious to see what he can do over the course of the spring. Even if he doesn’t make the active roster, perhaps he’ll clear waivers and be declined by the Rockies to take him back. If that turns out to be the case, he could be placed in the minors and try to work his way to the Majors as a starter.
  • Jason Waddell had two strikeouts in his inning, but do you care?

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Cubs Agree to Terms w/ Several Players

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

The Chicago Cubs media relations department sends along the following:

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