Archive for July, 2009

Congrats to Buehrle on his perfect game

Friday, July 24th, 2009

That notwithstanding, Ozzie appears a bit over-zealous in his congratulations. Methinks this picture (complements of the Chicago Tribune) needs a caption:

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GirlieView (07/24/2009)

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Quick Weekly Wrapup

  • Friday, 07/17: @ Washington, W (3-1)
  • Saturday 07/18: @ Washington, W (6-5)
  • Sunday 07/19: @ Washington, W (11-3)
  • Monday 07/20: @ Philadelphia L (10-1)
  • Tuesday 07/21: @ Philadelphia L (4-1)
  • Wednesday 07/22: @ Philadelphia W (10-5)
  • Thursday 07/23: off day

As road trips go, this was one of the Cubs’ better outings. Even if you include last year’s road trips. But it’s still difficult to get excited about this team. I want to, don’t get me wrong. And I will, if things continue to go uphill. I do think there’s an ever-so-slight uphill trend. Just no way that I can see, to get to the top of the mountain. What do you guys think?

On a non-baseball, non-politics note, yesterday the Porter County Fair started here in Northwest Indiana. I’m looking forward to a week of farm animals and fair food … there’s that deep fried dough + manure smell that you really can’t replicate any other time of year, while you sit on a bench eating your pickle-on-a-stick playing ‘count the mullets’. Ahhhhhhhhhhh that’s livin’.

Weekly Highlights

  • In a[n] extremely prescient 2007 quote, Lou said: “You don’t take superstars out of the lineup.”
  • Joe and I were downright giddy after the 7 run inning at Wrigley, um I mean at the Nats park (sure felt like Wrigley)
  • One out of three would be like kissin’ yer sister
  • This just in. Michael Jackson? Still dead.
  • Dear Jason, Beat $80,400 per win in that 5th starter spot. I didn’t think so. Have a nice second half. Try not to completely implode this year. Hugs & kisses, Randy Wells
  • I like Sherrill, but the problem is that everyone else does [too], including the O’s.
  • Maybe if I check eBay, I can find an Aramis Ramirez Pirate jersey
  • A game like last night, where things go to crap from the outset, allows you to accomplish something else that day with the game on in the background, or not.
  • I am not a Bradley hater, I just hate seeing him in a Cubs uniform, especially in a Cubs uniform in a batters box during a Cubs game.
  • I don’t know what to do with this team.
  • Good job, Mr. Hendry
  • Consider that for 2010 the team already has $114 million commited to 8 players
  • Though the Cubs have the fewest losses in the division now, can they be in 1st outright by the end of the weekend. It’s a real possibility. Stay tuned.

Hat tip to Mark Buehrle … love the Sox or hate ’em it’s still impressive. Hope everyone has a great weekend. I’m off to the fair!

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Organizational Breakdown – Hitters

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Scouting The Starters

Aaron Harang’s winless streak continued for the Reds on Saturday against the Brewers. After he cruised through three hitless innings, he gave up four runs to the Brewers. That inning was the difference in a 4-1 loss. Harang now hasn’t won a game since May 25, a string of 11 starts. Over that time, he has gone 0-6. Harang will look to break his drought against the Cubs. He earned his second win of the season against them on April 21 in a 7-1 win. He gave up no earned runs in the start. (MLB.com)

He uses his size to his advantage and is fairly durable, able to pitch effectively beyond the fifth inning. Can strike batters out with aplomb. Has trouble getting ahead in the count and struggles against right-handed hitters. Injuries are also a concern moving forward. A good mid-rotation right-hander. (TSN.ca)

Harang’s Pitch Usage

Randy Wells – Early in the season, Wells couldn’t get a win, despite pitching well. Now, he’s won five of his last six starts, and in his last outing, got the “W” despite what he called an ugly outing. Against the Nationals, Wells gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings. He struck out one and walked one, and got a lot of help from his teammates as they rallied from a 4-0 deficit. His sinker wasn’t sinking and his changeup wasn’t working, but somehow Wells held on. This is on the job training for the rookie, who should benefit from an extra day’s rest. (MLB.com)


Organization by Position (Hitters)

We did this about a month in to take a look at where we stood from a depth standpoint in the system and we’ll do it again position by position. Monday we’ll take a look at the pitchers. Last time I grouped and ordered them by level in the organization. This time I went a different route. The minimum plate appearance cutoff was 125 and then I ordered the guys by OPS. I usually use a baseline of .800 OPS for a successful / impact bat in the lineup. I’ve noted that benchmark in the graphs. Let’s take a look. All stats are through games on July 22, 2009

Catcher – If you looked at the list last year, Geo would definitely have been above that benchmark line. Instead we see only Chirinos, who has been playing in High-A, which seems a little low for a guy his age. Not that encouraging to start. I think in the end, Geo will probably be able to finish above the benchmark, but my confidence is chased with the bitterness and frustration that was Rick Wilkins.

First base – Blake Lalli, a favorite of mine, shows that you don’t need to be a home run hitter to be “productive”. He’s not a power guy, but gets on base and hits enough doubles to be a productive player. I’m a little surprised Ridling is as low as he is. He drives in runs, but doesn’t seem to be as productive as I thought.

Second base – Let’s just say we need to address this position….seriously. Can’t wait to get Aaron Miles back.

Shortstop – Sorry Tommy, The Riot doesn’t quite make the cut, though his increase in power this year has put him just on the outside looking in. If he can continue to improve, I see no reason why he can’t be above .800 by season end.

Third Base – Rammy and Vitters have me excited. And to think that this was a position we used to have guys like Salazar, Orie and Buechele manning that position. Explain to me again why Scales is not on the roster? Why did we go get Jeff Baker again?

Outfield – What? Milton and Sori aren’t above the cut? But, we’ve paid so much for them. Only Kosuke is above the fold, and he was all but left for dead after last year. Thank God we have him this year or who knows where our outfield would be. Good to see Brett Jackson, the only guy I waived the 125 plate appearance minimum for, off to a hot start after being drafted in the 1st round this June. Josh Harrison intrigues me as well because of his ability to play the IF as well. Perhaps he deserves a shot at 2B.

Minor League Notes

  • Casey Fossum only allowed one run in 7.0 innings pitched
  • Hung-Wen Chen only allowed 1 ER over 6.2 innings pitched
  • Craig Muschko pitched 5.0 scoreless innings
  • Justin Bristow struck out 8 batters and pitched 6.0 scoreless innings
  • Jovan Rosa was 2-for-3 with 5 RBI

Top Prospect Tracker


Photo Op

Jovan Rosa is batting .314 with a homer and 10 RBIs in 15 games with Peoria. (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

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Welcome to MLB Hell

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

There is a phenomenon that I hear discussed often on Chicago sports radio often referring to the Bulls. It has to do with the term “NBA Hell.” The term refers to a team that is good enough to make the playoffs in one of the lower seeds but not good enough to win it all. Because they make the playoffs they are also not bad enough to score one of the high picks in the draft and pick a real game changer to build your franchise around. The Bulls “lucked out” last year by landing the first pick and picking Derrick Rose who is hopefully a franchise turn around type guy. However, without that stroke of luck a team can be mired in this territory for years. This is not a fun place to be.

After watching the series’ against the Nationals and Phillies this week I fear that the Cubs are in Major League Baseball Hell. They are good enough to beat bad teams and bad pitching but will struggle against good teams and good pitching. Sometimes they will win series against good teams. Other times they will not. They will be able to play a little above five hundred and hang around in a weak division, but it would seem that they will be no match for the better teams if they make the playoffs.

I know that the stats guys say that it is all up for grabs in the playoffs, and this might be statistically true. However, there is one thing that I feel almost always demonstrates itself in the playoffs. You want to have a shut down ace to pitch games one, four, and seven in a series. You want to have the guy that both teams would pick to start game one for them if they had the choice. This guy might lose a close game and the series might shift on that, but you can be sure that this guy will keep you in the game and give you a chance to win. Is there anyone on the Cubs that you would feel this way about? We know that Big Z is a stud and also nuclear. He seems to have one or two bad innings every game, and if these go real bad you have lost the game. He has that talent that makes you  feel like you want him on your side going to war, but a psyche that makes you know that you don’t really know how that will end up. Dempster has been down this year, and who knows what you will get with him. Harden goes seven at the most, but has days where he (in his words) is throwing batting practice. Wells is unproven. Lilly is the ballsiest, guy on the staff. But he has never been seen as a dominant pitcher. Thinking about all of the teams you could see in the playoffs, there probably is not one whose game 1 starter you would not rather have than whoever ours might be (and many game 2 starters that I would prefer over our game 1).

We all know about the holes that we are currently seeing in this team. We hope they will change. But even if they do what makes us think the playoffs will be different than previous years? Will Soriano be able to hit quality starting pitching (Will most of the players for that matter)? They might be good enough to squeak into the playoffs- but then what?

My fear is that this will be the case for many years to come. Of course, over those years, our core guys will be declining as they age. A team that is not scoring runs now will probably score less runs as their run producers get older. This team was built to win now (two years ago) and leave a boatload of bad contracts and aging players and millions of dollars in salary to a new ownership…along with a championship to bask in the glow of. Unfortunately, there is no new owner and continued delays in finding one…and no championship. But the contracts, and dollars, and no trade clauses are piling up.

You can see the terror of the Cubs situation playing out every day. Milton Bradley was overpaid by Jim Hendry (who outbid himself) and has now just seen his third year option become real because he went less than 75 games on the disabled list this year. Which seems like an odd conract clause (but who am I to evaluate that) and seems odder when you consider that there were times this year when he should have been DL’ed but wasn’t. Alfonso Soriano has five years remaining on his contract which will pay him $18 million annually. He also has a full no trade. Which means that barring some team wanting to take that contract off your hands, Soriano will be playing left field for you for five more years- or be the highest paid bench player in the game. Ryan Dempster (he of the one good post-injury year of starting pitching) will make on average $13 million for the next three seasons. Kosuke (slap hitter extraordinaire) is signed through 2011, will average $13 million over that time and also has full no trade protection. Ramirez, Lee, Lilly, and Samardzija also have no trade clauses. And by the way Aaron Miles will make almost $3 million next year.

The scary thing is that this team is your team for a while, especially if there is no money to add in coming years since so much is already eaten up. Consider that for 2010 the team already has $114 million commited to 8 players: Zambrano, Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, Dempster, Bradley, Fukudome, and Lilly. Which means that if the team keeps their current payroll (At a time when most teams are dropping payroll right now…which would seem to be a desire of new ownership) you will have about $20 million dollars to spend on the other 17 players on your roster. To make things worse: Marmol, Soto, Theriot, Marshall, Fontenot, Guzman, Hoffpauir, Wells, and Jake Fox all make around $500,000 on deals that expire this year. Now, I am not sure how MLB contracts and years work but eventually these guys will need to get paid. You have very liitle to pay them.

You can see how dire it is in the Cubs current approach to the trade deadline. They have deep needs and they can do nothing about it. The pop they would have coming from the farm system is blocked by high paid talent that you cannot give up on. While teams like the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Phillies are talking about big names like Halladay, and Holliday the Cubs might not be in the position to even add a guy like Freddie Sanchez who the Pirates will be looking to trade and could make a huge difference to the Cubs lineup.

On paper the team was built to win by now. Probably with 2010 being the last real chance at winning as constructed. It seemed that the team would be sold by now and bad contracts would be the worry of the next ownership. These things are blowing up in their face. Which has tanked faster the ecomony or the talent on this team? The ownership situation is still unresolved. The team has not won and looks weaker than the teams that got bounced from the playoffs without a win the previous two years. Jim Hendry miscalculated on almost every move last off season. And there is no championship for a fan base that finds losing unacceptable now and seems readier to jump ship than ever. Welcome to Hell…MLB style. It seems the old saying is true. After throwing a lot of money around for a couple years, the Cubs have found out that the devil is in the details.

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Minor League Report

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

No games today and I’m enjoying the debate on the healthcare. Tomorrow we’ll have a post taking a look at the complete system by position. We did it a couple months back and I think it will be fun to do it again now that the farm seasons are in the home stretch. That being said, after the jump is our top prospect tracker, minor league notes, and photo op.

(more…)

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