Archive for May, 2009

Hope?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
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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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About Last Night: I Have My Doubts

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The great thing about this blog is that it has readers who disagree on a number of topics. Today, the topic is panic over the season record and play of the last week. To some, it’s time to panic. To others, it’s not quite time yet. To even others, it’s never time to panic because it’s the Cubs and they’re fun to watch. The great thing is that we’re all right. If you feel it’s time to panic, then panic. If not, then wait patiently. It changes nothing whatsoever, so if it makes you feel better, do it.

With the losing streak now at eight (the longest in the Piniella era), I am beginning to have my doubts on a number of things. I’m not sure if they’re true or not, but it has me thinking.

Lack of Production from Key Players

  • Geovany Soto – Could it be that last year’s performance was a Rick Wilkins type season for Geo? To completely write the question off is irresponsible. After all, Soto was a player that was described by most scouts as a good backup catcher in the Majors who probably wouldn’t hit much but could call a good game and be serviceable behind the plate. All of a sudden he has a career type year in AAA (his third year there) and suddenly he jumps up the radar. Perhaps last year was an illusion and not the real deal. Perhaps the league has figured Geo out and he hasn’t adjusted as a result. I’m not giving up on him yet, but you have to wonder.
  • Milton Bradley – Hear me when I say that Milton Bradley is a vital piece for this team. I believe in him. Why he’s here is because I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps Jim Hendry might have thought he was better than he was. There is no question he had a tremendous year at the plate when he was healthy last year, but the key is health. He spent the year at DH and was injured. Playing RF doesn’t help his health. He’s going to be a good hitter for us, but I’m beginning to doubt we’ll see the type of production we saw in Texas, even over 120 games.
  • Mike Fontenot – Do you wonder whether or not Fontenot was better as a power threat off the bench and not as an everyday starter? I’m starting to worry that he was better off on the bench for this year. He’s filled in at 3B, which is great because of Rammy’s injury, but I don’t feel comfortable in the lineup on an everyday basis. Say all you want about DeRosa and how he needed to keep him (keep in mind that he’s struggling too), but the fact remains that 2B is a need for this team and Fontenot / Miles / DeRosa probably wouldn’t have been the answer. I’m beginning to wonder if Fontenot was a flash in the pan.

Moves That Beg to be Made

  • Alfonso Soriano moves to 2B and lower in the order - See Spot Run video Oh God, not this debate again. Yes, it’s time for Soriano to move to the middle of the order, primarily because we need guys to drive in runs. I, personally, like Sori at the leadoff spot, but with this team not scoring runs it’s time to move things around if nothing more than for a temporary solution. Moving Sori to 2B would free up Lou to mix and match guys like Reed Johnson, Fukudome, Hoffpauir and Milton Bradley in the OF based on matchups and things like that. It would weaken the defense in the IF, but with a strikeout staff that we have, it wouldn’t be as bad as you would think. I’m willing to take the chance, if nothing more that temporarily.
  • Return David Patton to Colorado and replace him with Jake Fox – There is no reason we need 12 pitchers on the roster, especially when guys like Patton go two weeks without action. If you’re worried about bullpen health, then cross that bridge when you come to it. Patton needs to be returned to Colorado and bring up Jake Fox for no other reason than to pinch hit. The debate around here is that he can hit but has no place to play. If that’s the case then put him in the lineup as a pitcher. Just get him up here. He’s played at 1B for Iowa and it hasn’t killed them. Worst case scenario is that you put him there and see if his bat will out slug his glove.
  • Replace Neal Cotts in the bullpen – The bad thing about this one is there really is no solution in house. You can take your chances with a guy like Jason Waddell (AAA) Jeremy Papelbon (AA), or John Gaub (AA) or you can move someone like Sean Marshall to the pen in favor of Randy Wells in the rotation. That move would force the hand of the Cubs to recall someone like Jeff Samardzija to start until Rich Harden returns. None of those excite me that much. That being said, it’s time to begin looking for a trade for a lefty. We have an excess of middle IF and it’s time to move one in exchange for a southpaw for the pen.

Last Night on the Farm

Iowa 3, Sacramento 5 – (Box Score)

  • Jeff Samardzija started the game and went 4.2 IP, giving up 4 ER on 8 H and 2 BB. He allowed a HR and threw two WP. On the season in Iowa, he’s been less than impressive with an ERA of 4.39 and a 1-1 record in 7 outings.

Tennessee 2, Birmingham 8 – (Box Score

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  • Darwin Barney and Blake Lali each had a pair of hits. Barney is having a great season so far, hitting .338 / .392 / .417 with 1 HR and 16 RBI.
  • Tony Thomas had a tough day, going 0-for-3 with a pair of K’s and a walk. Last twitter entry “At the field to get much need extra work in. Somebody is always working but I’m going harder!”
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Tristeza

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Aside from being the name of a post-rock band, tristeza means “sadness” in Portuguese.   And that’s how I feel right now, sort of a melancholy funk – each season is like a roller coaster with it’s ups and downs. Usually our ups exceed our downs. But watching the Cubs right now is sorta like watching a plane that has lost part of it’s tail section, it’s nothing but a downward spiral. We can only hope that things turn around – right now the club looks like a vanquished team, one that is conditioned to lose.

Without going into a rant on “why we stink” let’s highlight a few key moments from tonight’s game:

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  • There was a terrible running play early in the game by Theriot, why was Ryan running with the ball hit in front of him?
  • Dempster made a horrible throw to second, what was he thinking?  Was his head in the game?
  • Why in the world did Piniella put Cotts in the game?  This guy shouldn’t even be on the roster…and why did he stick with him even after he was clobbered.  Perhaps Lou’s mind is addled to the point that we should consider a change at manager, he doesn’t appear to have his head in the game let alone his heart.  What happened to the days when Piniella made aggressive moves and went out and got tossed when the team needed a spark?  It’s time for the shot-callers (Kinney, Hendry and Piniella) to start getting pro-active, and
  • What about that terrible throw by Theriot?  I like ya Ryan but I also think you can play better defensively than you have been.

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It’s too easy to dwell on negatives, especially when one is “in the moment.”  I love this Cubs team and I’ll be rooting for them tomorrow but it’s now time for all concerned to think about what they specifically are going to do to turn things around.  At this point we’re experiencing a total organizational meltdown at the major league level and either the players are going to have to rise to the occasion or the management team must.  It’s not even June 1st and we’re still within five games of first; all is not lost but it’s starting to get hairy.

Congratulations to Carlos Marmol, he is in New York for the birth of a new child.  And my respects to all of you who are veterans or sons and daughters of vets, we have a lot to be proud of.

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When will it ever end?

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Today’s loss marked the seventh consecutive loss; during the last six games the Cubs have scored a total of five runs. This is nothing less than anemic and it’s time that changes should be made. Ironically Derrek Lee (who has hit safely in 12 of his 27 at bats) was forced to sit today due to flu symptoms, his lack of production is one of the main reasons the Cubs are a .500 team but he is our hottest hitter.

I’m starting to wonder why we have so many role players that don’t produce. Every team is going to have periods when their best hitters don’t hit; when that happens they substitute their role players and soon the big bats come back and start hitting. Our bench guys come in and they seem to make things worse – I like the job that Scales is doing (although he is not hitting well any more) but I’m very disappointed in what Aaron Miles and Ryan Freel are bringing to the ballpark. These guys look like Neifi and Jose Macias did and they really handcuff the team as they occupy bench space that more productive hitters could take. IMO Jim Hendry should look at moving or DFA’ing at least one of these guys. I still like the idea of getting DeRosa back. And why are we benching Hill in favor of Soto? If any guy deserves some “rest” no one is more deserving than Geo.

It’s also getting a little frustrating seeing the Cubs go up to the plate and hack at pitches instead of working counts. Way too many low pitch counts for opposing starters, too many fly balls. Are the Cubs coaches talking about this? I like the input that Perry and Piniella can give hitters but why haven’t they turned this trend around?

Tomorrow is another day, St. Louis lost again and MIL is losing to the Twins. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that our boppers can snap out of this drought and let’s see how Bradley does tomorrow with the Boo Birds.Nothing But the Truth the movie

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Good news and bad news

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
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Obviously the good news is that Carlos Zambrano will be returning from the DL tonight; Carlos has admitted that he will be taking it easy on the basepaths (as well he should.) The bad news is he will be taking Rich Harden’s spot on the roster – Rich appears headed to the disabled list with lower back trouble that he allegedly got while running the bases. What’s gonna be next?

It was reported on many sources that Lou Piniella has a nuclear option, i.e. returning Soriano to playing second base. Would it not make just as much sense having Soriano come in to pitch? As Steve Stone has said of many players, Alfonso “has the hands of a sturgeon.” All of this makes for much hilarity on the Cubs blogs but I think there’s a method to Lou’s madness. Let’s see if our second basemen begin hitting the ball starting tonight.

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GirlieView (05/22/2009)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
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Going to try a new abbreviated format for GirlieView for this week, for three reasons:

1. I have been too long-winded in previous episodes.
2. I’m on my way to Pennsylvania for a wedding (not mine).
3. Not a lot of uplifting thoughts are coming to mind about the Cubs this week!

I’m not in a panic, I don’t think the whole team should be benched or the whole coaching staff fired. But a well placed statement here or there (via benching, firing, or some sort of acquisition other than Jake Peavy) wouldn’t hurt.

Recap:

Date

Opponent

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W/L – Score

Notes

Friday
05/15

Houston

n/a

Rained Out – Make up Thursday 07/30

Saturday
05/16

Houston

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W (5-4)

Randy Wells 6 innings of shutout pitching, Guzman and Marmol both good in relief, Gregg allowed them to tie it up in the 9th. No decision for Wells. Scales walked, Miles
bunted, Soriano singled scoring Scales to win in bottom of 9th.

Sunday
05/17

Houston

L (6-5)

Rich Harden had only one bad inning,
kept Cubs in the game until Jose Ascaino relieved him and hit two batters who eventually scored. Rally in 9th fell one run short.

Monday
05/18

Off

n/a

Off Day

Tuesday
05/19

@ St. Louis

L (3-0)

Loss for Lilly – no offense

Wednesday
05/20

@ St. Louis

L (2-1)

Loss for Dempster – no offense

Thursday
05/21

@ St. Louis

L (3-1)

Loss for Marshall – no offense

VFTB conversation this week made the rounds from Mustaches The Spirit film to Sabermetrics to whether Derrek Lee needs traded, to Mark DeRosa back to Derrek and his stats to what to do? I’m hoping the what to do Notes on a Scandal trailer conversation continues … even if your suggestion at this point is to “do nothing” I’m still interested in what everyone would do if they were the boss.

Have a great week!

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Let's face it peoples

Thursday, May 21st, 2009
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Joe will likely offer a more analytical article soon about tonight’s Cubs game. What I want to comment upon now is the fact that we haven’t looked too good recently but all is not lost. It isn’t even June first and the Cubs are within four games of first. Are we playing good ball? Of course not, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an offense as anemic as this one. Three runs in twenty-seven innings in a crucial series is nothing less than under whelming. Our offense isn’t even going through the motions, it’s sleep-walking.

So what should be done? Should Uncle Lou throw a hissy-fit and get tossed tomorrow? Might not hurt but methinks more concrete actions should be taken. Right now we need bats. What I’d like to see is as follows:

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  1. Bring Jake Fox up immediately and demote Fontenot or Scales
  2. Hoff should be substituted for Bradley for a few games and Lee for one or two
  3. Hill for Soto until results prove otherwise
  4. The Cubs should get a deal done for DeRosa. Miles/Fontenot/Scales/Freel ain’t getting it done at third and super-sub and moves should be made.

Now I’m sure that there will be lots of people that don’t agree with my specific causes of action, anybody can disagree. But what concrete steps do you as readers think should be taken? What would you do if you had the reins for the team?

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About Last Night: On the Farm

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Tennessee 2, Chattanooga 0 - (Box Score

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Star of the Game – Casey Lambert

(SP) 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in either of his last two starts and now has an ERA of 1.91 as a starter. He also went 1-for-3 at the plate.

Forgettable Performance of the Game – Ty Wright

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Peoria 2, West Michigan 6 The Accidental Husband Body Bags hd – (Box Score)

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Star of the Game - Changing Lanes divx Josh Harrison was 3-for-3 with three doubles, a walk and a run scored. The three-hit day raised his already league-leading average to .386.

Forgettable Performance of the Game – Chris Siegfried hit two batters and gave up a run in his two innings of relief. His ERA is now up over 6 at a forgettable 6.23. Considering it’s his third year in Peoria and he’s 23, I think it’s time to start having some success or he could find himself out of a job very soon.

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Sources: Peavy to White Sox deal awaits his OK

Thursday, May 21st, 2009
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Sources: Peavy to White Sox deal awaits his OK Ruthless People

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