Archive for May, 2009

Piniella's new "nasty boys?"

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Have the Cubs become the new bad boys of baseball?  Sure looks that way, Carlos Zambrano got ejected in colorful fashion today as the Cubs won their second in a row.  Z’s departure came after throwing a wild pitch only to lose a close call at the plate (from my angle the runner was safe by a hair, getting his left hand around Zambrano’s block and tag.)   After that was the ensuing argument, Carlos and the umpire made incidental contact and the ejection occurred; Zambrano earned a likely suspension by symbolically ejecting the umpire, throwing the ball to the left field warning track and slamming his mitt on the way to the dugout.  After reaching the dugout it was time to take his fury out on the Gatorade dispenser and go to the clubhouse for a debriefing with Cubs’ anger management counselor Lou Piniella.

This makes two days this week where the Gatorade machine has come out on the short end of a disagreement with a Cubs pitcher (the first being with Ryan Dempster.)  The Cubs are still waiting to hear from MLB’s chief disciplinarian Bob Watson about Ted Lilly’s ejection and comments earlier this week.  And we all know about Milton Bradley’s recent suspension and comments about the quality of officiating.

  • So my first question to the readership is simple:  Are the recent spate of incidents constructive or destructive to the team’s morale and performance?

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I do not want to see an ongoing string of Cubs being tossed but I think the outbursts come at a time when the Cubs can benefit from a little excitement.  A few games into the losing streak it appeared as though they were sleep-walking; they’re sure not now!

  • My second question involves whether or not Zambrano should or will get a suspension.

From what I saw the ump made incidental contact first but Z’s actions after the ejection will probably cost him a start (and rightly so.)  And some fines.  And some repair costs on what looks to be a rather expensive Gatorade dispenser – PepsiCo can’t be too happy with the abuse that their Gatorade brand is getting from the Cubs starters…perhaps they should move that machine away from the clubhouse entrance and put a traditional water cooler in it’s place.  This Cubs team is starting to show some spunk!

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Jake Fox Gets His Chance and Neal Cotts to AAA

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

From the Cubs Media Department:

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– The Chicago Cubs today recalled infielder Jake Fox and selected the contracts of infielder Andres Blanco and left-handed pitcher Jason Waddell from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs optioned left-handed pitcher Neal Cotts and infielder Bobby Scales to Triple-A Iowa. Additionally, the club placed infielder Aaron Miles on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 26, with a right shoulder strain.

Blanco will wear uniform number 13, Fox will wear number 5 and Waddell will wear number 43. All three are available for this afternoon’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 38 players.

Fox, 26, is leading all minor league players this year in the “Triple Crown” categories with a .423 batting average (63-for-149), 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 40 games for Iowa. The right-handed batter also has 40 runs, 14 doubles, two triples, a .503 on-base percentage, a .886 slugging percentage and a 1.389 OPS this season. He has seen action at first base, third base, left field, right field, catcher and designated hitter this season. Fox has twice earned Pacific Coast League Player of the Week honors for the periods ending April 19 and May 17.

Originally selected by the Cubs in the third round of the 2003 Draft, Fox joins the Cubs riding a 17-game hitting streak during which he batted .453 (29-for-64) with five home runs and 19 RBI.

Spider ipod Fox last appeared in the big leagues in 2007 when he made his major league debut and batted .143 (2-for-14) with two doubles, three runs scored and one RBI in seven games for the Cubs.

Blanco, 25, is batting .314 (48-for-153) with nine doubles, four home runs and 25 RBI in 43 games for Iowa this season. The switch-hitter is batting .342 (39-for-114) against right-handed pitching and has a .364 mark (16-for-44) with runners in scoring position. Blanco has played exclusively at shortstop in the field this season.

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Signed by the Cubs as a minor league free agent following the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Blanco has played in 78 career major league games with the Kansas City Royals covering parts of three campaigns (2004-06), batting .252 (57-for-226) with six doubles, four triples and 19 RBI. Blanco has played shortstop (51 games) and second base (31 games) at the major league level.

Waddell, 27, joins the first major league roster in his nine-year professional career. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA (10 ER/16.2 IP) in 18 relief appearances, limiting right-handed batters to a .205 average (8-for-39) while lefties have batted .346 (9-for-26) off the southpaw. The 2009 campaign marks his first pitching above the Double-A level. He had 270 minor league appearances, all but 13 in relief, prior to his call-up today. He was originally selected by San Francisco in the eighth round of the 2001 Draft and spent his first eight professional seasons in the Giants minor league system.

Signed by the Cubs as a minor league free agent last November 21, Waddell attended camp as a non-roster invitee and spent nearly the entire spring training season with the major league club. He posted a 0.90 ERA (1 ER/10.0 IP) in 11 Cactus League relief appearances.

Cotts was a member of Chicago’s Opening Day roster and is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA (9 ER/11.0 IP) in 19 relief appearances this season.

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Miles is batting .204 (20-for-98) with six doubles and four RBI in 37 games for the Cubs this year.

Scales is hitting .257 (9-for-35) with two doubles, one triple, one home run and five RBI in 14 games for the Cubs this season. The 31-year-old had his contract selected from Iowa on May 4 and made his major league debut the next day, collecting his first big league hit off Tim Lincecum. Scales is batting .303 (23-for-76) with five doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBI in 21 games for Iowa this season

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About Last Night: Finally

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Chi Cubs 6, Pittsburgh 1

  • I went to bed after the 2nd rain delay and I’m glad I did. I didn’t think they would wait too long to make a decision with today being a day game. We got on top early and reaped the benefits. Sometimes I wonder if the umps take the score into account when making the call to end a game due to rain. For example, would they have been more patient if Pittsburgh had bases loaded and down one run?
  • Micah Hoffpauir looked good at the plate. He hit a long double to drive in a run and went the other way for a single to drive in the 2nd run. There is little I enjoy more than seeing a guy go the other way with a runner in scoring position. Good game for Hoff. Let’s see him in there again today.
  • Mike Fontenot grabbed two hits, including a double down the right field line. We really need his bat to be the kind of bat we expected when he was given the starting job. Imagine how much better this lineup would be if he’s producing.
  • Milton Bradley worked a couple walks, which I’m OK with. Sometimes walks are the sign that the hitter is seeing the ball well and is coming out of a funk.
  • Kudos to Sean Marshall for a complete game, though it makes me laugh when he’s given credit for that with only five innings of work. He was really good on the mound, except for a few minor hiccups, great in the field, and helpful at the plate as well. He’s a favorite of mine, and I really want to see him stay in the rotation despite the lefty need in the pen.

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  • For some reason, Blake Lalli got into the game in relief again. He pitched 0.1 innings and got the out to end the inning.
  • Marquez Smith was named today by the Southern League as the Southern League “Hitter of the Week,” for the week of May 18-24. The award is the first one given to a Smokies player this year. Smith led the Southern League last week with nine runs scored. He started off the week in Chattanooga combining for six hits, five runs, two home runs and four RBIs. He would add another home run and two RBIs in games later in the week against the Birmingham Barons. During the week he had three multi-hit games and three games where he scored multiple runs. The Ocala, Fla. native was promoted to the Smokies in April 30 following a 15-game stint to start the season with High-A Daytona. Through May 25, Smith is hitting .294 (25-85) for Tennessee with three home runs and nine RBIs. His eight doubles are tied for third on the team. Since May 9, Smith is hitting at a .344 clip.

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  • Tony Campana went 3-for-5 with a double out of the leadoff spot.
  • Andrew Cashner had one of his best outings of the young season, extending to 5 IP, allowing 3 H and 1 ER with 5 K and 0 BB. (10 GB / 2 FB) “Cashner’s previous high for innings pitched this year was 3.1 and he had not had a performance without a walk all year. He lowered his ERA to 2.41 and he has struck out 19 while walking 8 in 18.2 innings of work. He has held hitters to a .225 AVG and has not yet given up a HR. The walks are really the only problem with his game at this point. He is keeping his ERA down by not giving up many hits and if you are going to walk people you better not also get hit hard. This was an encouraging outing to say the least for Cashner and hopefully he can continue to build on this. Maybe the almost week-long lay-off for Daytona allowed him to work on his mechanics and find a flaw in his delivery to caused him to be so wild. Either way it is a great sign; his control is the only thing that is holding him back from moving through the system quickly.” ~ Young Cubs World

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  • The Chiefs were within one at 4-3 through five innings but Clinton busted it wide open with a five-run sixth.
  • Starter Chris Carpenter threw one inning spotless inning but was pulled after a 49 minute rain delay.
  • Josh Vitters

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    went 2-for-4 on the night, hitting his eleventh home run of the season. In total he scored two runs and walked. Vitters home run was his fourth in the first inning this season and second in a row. Vitters now has ten home runs in the month of May. He was announced as the MWL player of the week.

  • Wednesday is another Wacky Wednesday at O’Brien Field when all fans can enjoy free hot dogs and peanuts through the seventh inning. There will also be a salute to competitive eating with numerous eating contests throughout the game.

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For the full organizational report, visit the Cubs First Inning Page

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Well how about that

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

It was a rain-out but I’ll take it – at this point I’ll take any kind of win at all.  We got some more hitting tonight, some great stuff from Hoffpauir and Fontenot and Marshall looked real good on the mound.   No defensive miscues, ugly weather, lots of wet Cubs fans but we’ll take it!  Saint Louis appears destined to take down the Brew Crew tonight so that will put the Cubs four games out.  It also appears that Milwaukee has another big injury to deal with – Ryan Braun was hit in the wrist by a pitch.  This could be as devastating to them as our injury was to Ramirez – things have a way of evening out.  Let’s hope we can string together some victories and put this terrible period behind us.  Good win Cubs fans!

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Lately, especially around here, I have tended to be the voice of hope about the Cubs, trying to keep people from panicking about this current team.

But this is not because I have any “Cubs”-colored glasses. Instead it is because I still think that this is a good team based on players previous performances along with their performances this year, and I want to lay out why.

First I want to look at how players are performing in relation to both last season and their career numbers. I have left three players out of this analysis (Hoffpauir, Scales, K. Hill), as they don’t have any meaningful previous performances to compare to. I am looking at OPS+, as it is a good indicator of how a player performs in relation to the rest of the league in a given year:

Player Career 2008 2009
Soto 110 120 58
Lee 122 110 85
Fontenot 102 131 70
Theriot 89 93 100
Ramirez 114 128 155
Soriano 116 121 108
Fukudome 100 90 136
Bradley 163 116 76
Miles 75 99 32
Freel 89 82 18

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Now this is either good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. I see it is good news. Kind of.

With a huge sample size caveat when looking at these numbers, it is clear in the chart that the Cubs are, overall, significantly under performing in relation to both last year and the individuals’ career numbers. Now… this doesn’t mean that these players are guaranteed to perform better. Each player is different, and each player has his own issues – Lee has age and a back injury (and a previous wrist injury), Fontenot is playing full-time in the big leagues for the first time, Soto is in his second year and the league may be adjusting to him, as well as he has a shoulder injury, Miles just kinda’ sucks, Freel has had injuries, is older, and no longer has the speed he once had, etc. And then, of course, there is Milton Bradley, who is a headcase that can hit. And isn’t hitting.

On the other hand, Lee has appeared to be turning things around a bit, Soto and Freel can get healthy, Bradley could control his temper and remember that he is one of the better hitters in baseball, etc.

Overall I think that you can assume, or at least hope, that most/all of these struggling players will start to recover and move closer to their career numbers. Why can we assume this? It is simply: past performance is the best indicator of future performance. And when I say past performance, I do not mean 40 games this season, but instead larger samples of previous years

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But I am not just hopeful because of the above chart. There are other reasons to be hopeful, and one of them is some of these same players BABIP. For the uninitiated, BABIP is a player’s batting average on balls in play. What this does is take out home runs and strikeouts (i.e. balls not hit in play) and look at the “luck” factor. The league average for BABIP hovers right around .300 each year. You will occasionally see variation with certain players, but for the most part you look to see a BABIP around .300 – anything above is considered relatively “lucky,” while anything below is relatively “unlucky.” The Cubs currently have a team BABIP of .281, well below the league average of .300.

So how do the Cubs’ everyday players look:

Player 2009 Career Dif
Soto 0.267 0.328 -0.061
Lee 0.274 0.322 -0.048
Fontenot 0.220 0.314 -0.093
Theriot 0.296 0.315 -0.019
Ramirez 0.370 0.290 0.080
Soriano 0.271 0.308 -0.037
Fukudome 0.360 0.315 0.045
Bradley 0.205 0.320 -0.115

We now see the problem. The Cubs have been unlucky, and sometimes significantly so. And while this explains a good portion of the poor performances of these players, it also should give us hope, in that it is unlikely that so many Cub players will continue to be unlucky and see so few of their balls hit into play land for hits. We can also probably expect Ramirez and Fukudome to see a decrease in production, as they have been, so far, fairly lucky.

Now… some will say that baseball is about the unknown. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will rebound. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will see their BABIP increase. And that is correct. We don’t know for sure. And that is not what statistics try to do. Statistics don’t tell us what WILL happen. They tell us what is LIKELY to happen.

And the statistics tell us that it is likely that the Cubs will start to hit better. It just a matter of when. Maybe last night was the start of that.1999 mambo no sex download mp3

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