Archive for August, 2009

Are throws to first to hold the runner a waste of time?

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A fast runner is at first and the pitcher keeps throwing over to hold the runner. Sometimes this can get pretty monotonous for us fans, especially after the first couple of throws. Is the pitcher getting anything out of this?

About a decade ago, we examined the issue based on data in the 1990s and found that pickoff throws did make a difference in stolen base success rates. As teams have become more efficient with stolen bases over the past few years, it’s possible that the results have changed.

As it turns out, it still does make a difference. Based on actual data from 2002-09 the stolen base percentage of a runner decreases if at least one throw is made over to first by the pitcher:

Stolen Base
Percentage
No Throw Made 75%
At Least One Throw Made 64%

In fact, it even makes a difference if he makes more than one throw:

Stolen Base
Percentage
One Throw Made 66%
Two Throws Made 65%
Three or More 64%

Both of these conclusions match what we found last time. If it’s your pitcher making the throws, cheer him on. But if it’s the opposing pitcher, it’s your job as a fan to let him know that you don’t appreciate all those throws!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Something to think about

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

During this week’s news coverage of one of the significant news events mention was made of one family’s mantra. It went as follows: “To whom much is given much is expected.”

I thought about how this might apply to a person that made ten million dollars a year and that naturally led me to think about a certain Cubs right fielder. One who got cheered resoundingly a couple of times today when he performed well, it made me wonder whether or not there was some kind of disconnect between what this man perceives and what really goes on. If some nutjob in the right field bleachers yells the N word does that really mean that Wrigley is a racist environment? If some goofball shows up at an Obama speech wearing a sidearm and a sign that promotes violent overthrow does that mean that New Hampshire is a hearth of rebellion?

I compare and contrast Bradley’s antics with the actions of a young footballer for my alma mater Vanderbilt. Kadri made a brash decision that he later regretted; he asked permission to re-join the team and was later quoted in the Nashville paper as saying: “It feels good to know that I can make a mistake, be going through some things and they’re still willing to welcome me back.”

This is a young man who has learned the value of humility, he has learned that he is an imperfect human being that makes mistakes. I’m really rooting for him and hopefully he will one day wear Titan or Bears blue. Will Milton Bradley learn this? I think not – he’s been through seven teams in almost as many years, his history shows that he gets passed around more than a party girl at a fraternity PGA sorority swap. I’m talking about character here, a trait that Mr. Bradley must learn if he’s to salvage what appears to be a disastrous season and a career that is now in a dubious state.

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A Chicago Tavern

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

When traveling, I generally try to avoid obvious tourist spots.

A few years ago, my wife and I were in New York City, staying in a Manhattan Hotel. I observed (just by watching) a steady stream of hotel guests exiting the elevators, making a beeline for the front desk, pleading for directions to “The Soup Nazi Place”. I’m not that big a fan of Seinfeld, but I knew what they were referring to. I just didn’t want to spend time going there.

I did spend a lot of quality time running through Central Park. We saw a Broadway show. We wined, dined, sipped and supped (thank you, Tom Waits) in great restaurants and delis. The high point of the trip might have been catching two Monday night sets at The Iridium with Les Paul. Now that was special.

We were in NYC for a week and I can tell you we didn’t make it to The Soup Nazi Place.

A few years later a similar meeting occurred in my home town of Chicago. We decided to do the “Tourist Thing” and stay at a hotel for the week, although we could have easily commuted. Since I was the local boy, all week long I was asked for directions and recommendations, which I was only too happy to provide.

I mention this because one pleasant evening, as we returned to the hotel on foot, a group of friends made a beeline for me on the sidewalk, and just bubbling with enthusiasm, pleaded for directions to “Billy Goat’s”.

Now I’ve got nothing against “The Billy Goat Tavern” (established 1934). I’ve been in a lot of taverns. Hell, I grew up in a tavern. So I tried to explain to our friends that between where we were standing (on South Michigan Avenue), and where The Billy Goat is located (under North Michigan Avenue), there are plenty of places to get a burger and fries (“No fries, Cheeps”) and a Coke (“No Pepsi, Coke”) or anything else you might want. But they would not be deterred.

So I directed their attention about 2 miles north along the west sidewalk of Michigan Avenue to the beautifully illuminated white terra-cotta facade of the Wrigley Building and said: “Walk up to that building, then wrap tightly around it (indicating a counterclockwise direction with my hand). Go down the stairs in the sidewalk, turn right, cross the street, turn right again, walk about 100 feet, and you will find yourselves standing in front of Billy Goat Tavern. Go in and have a great time.

Which, I can only assume, they did.

I was reminded of that occasion as I paged through “A Chicago Tavern – A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream – First Edition” by Rick Kogan. (Author Rick Kogan is a Chicago newspaperman.) This book was published in 2006 and contains some definitely Chicago, definitely historic photographs.

William Sianis (the original “Billy Goat”) was a hustling 16 year old Greek immigrant who became a self-promoting entrepreneur. I have to admire the stories told herein. This is definitely Chicago barroom inside skinny.

A paragraph captures this hustling spirit:
– On the first day of the 1944 Republican National Convention (taking place right across the street from his saloon), Billy is disappointed to have done only $20 in business. That night he puts a hand-made sign in the window: “No Republicans Served Here.” Word spreads quickly across the convention floor and soon dozens of angry delegates, most of them wearing buttons touting the eventual nominee, Thomas Dewey, pack the tavern and demand to be served. When they stumble from the bar and back to the arena, they proudly announce, “I guess we showed that Democratic son of a bitch! Go over there and make him serve you a drink.” Meanwhile, Billy is on the phone: “Send over five more barrels of beer. Business has never been better.” That day he takes in $2,600.

My grandfather would have appreciated that one.

Another paragraph describes Billy’s “three favorite types of customers – politicians, policemen, and newspaper reporters – in addition to members of whatever shows are at the Stadium: circus clowns, ice skaters, cowboys, bearded ladies, tattooed men, hockey players, midgets…and their fans.”

Billy’s nephew Sam was also born in Greece. “On July 4, 1960 he arrives in Chicago to work at the Billy Goat Inn.” Sam currently owns and operates the franchise brand.

The infamous “Billy Goat Curse” is exposed in great detail, including numerous retractions and semi-retractions.

There are numerous Mike Royko stories and column excerpts included here.

Another paragraph tells a story, beginning: “Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, and Leo Durocher walk into a bar…”

The Wendella Sightseeing Boat cruises are mentioned. I remember taking one Chicago River and Lake Michigan boat ride during our previously mentioned “Chicago Tourist Week”. I especially enjoyed the narration, which was presented in an unmistakable heavy Chicago accent. Truly music to my ears.

A man who has been tending bar at Billy Goat’s since 1981 is introduced. Since he’s been there a long time, he is quoted extensively. His name is the same as a guy who was a high school classmate of mine (and of my wife’s). I guess I’ll have to stop in and see if they are one and the same person.

Sam Sianis tells the story of enlisting the aid of Cub pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in a 1973 attempt to once again get his goat into Wrigley Field. “He was the only one to understand” Sam says. “So, whenever he pitches, the curse will not be in effect.” Although Fergie’s Hall of Fame numbers would seem to indicate that no curse affected his pitching career, I do not recall him mentioning the goat incident in his most recent autobiography.

When the bachelor Sam Sianis inherited his Uncle Billy’s bar, customer Mike Royko “urged him to go back to his native Greece and find a nice girl who knows nothing of checking accounts, charge accounts, Bonwit Teller, Gloria Steinem, tennis clubs, and property laws. My motives were partly selfish. Billy Goat is my favorite tavern, and a tavern is only as happy as its owner, and a tavern owner cannot be happy with a wife who expects him home before 3 am.”

I do not, routinely, divulge the endings of books I review, but I am going to make an exception in this case. The book ends with three pages of acknowledgments, the last one thanking “the Cubs for being the Cubs.”

Reading “A Chicago Tavern” was a wonderful, nostalgic, emotional roller coaster for me. I recommend it very highly, especially to Cubs fans and to Native Chicagoans.

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GirlieView (08/28/2009)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I’m late!

Quick Weekly Wrapup

Friday, 08/21: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, L (2-1)
Saturday 08/22: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, L (2-0)
Sunday 08/23: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, W (3-1)
Monday 08/24: off
Tuesday 08/25: vs. Washington, L (15-6)
Wednesday 08/26: vs. Washington, W (9-4)
Thursday 08/27: vs. Washington, L (5-4)

Question of the Week

Let’s play a game. (We’ve got nothing else to do for the rest of the season!) I’m going to list off a random collection of Cubs (this week, pitchers), you tell me whether you would like to see them on the team next year. You can justify your choices if you want, or you can just give a simple yes/no. (For the cynics among us, I know that we won’t be able to wave a magic wand and get rid of these folks … contracts and no-trade stuff and maybe even the fact that no one else will want them will certainly play a role. But not here. Here, you are the almighty, and you can vote however you want regardless of whether it can actually happen or not.) Results in next week’s GirlieView. Please don’t spend time telling others why their choices are wrong. We already know we won’t all agree. Just play along and give your own choices. Here you go!

Which of these Cubs do you want to see on the team next year? (Pitchers Edition)

  • Ryan Dempster
  • Tom Gorzelanny
  • John Grabow
  • Kevin Gregg
  • Angel Guzman
  • Rich Harden
  • Aaron Heilman
  • Ted Lilly
  • Carlos Marmol
  • Sean Marshall
  • David Patton
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Jeff Stevens
  • Randy Wells
  • Carlos Zambrano

Lotsa Lizzies

(too much to choose from this week, so I picked lots!)

  • remember who your worst enemy is Milton – you see him every morning when you shave
  • It won’t be the same when the 69 guys go to the Wrigley Field in the sky.
  • This ugly August has shredded any reason for confidence.
  • The Cubs are buried in the grave that they have dug for themselves.
  • If they roll over, so be it, but here’s hoping they go down like they’re defending the Alamo.
  • Triples. That is all.
  • Stand up triples? Or all triples?
  • Only those in which the runner must slide feet first and to the home plate side of the bag.
  • Well, that’s fair. For a moment, I thought you were being ridiculous.
  • I’m never ridiculous.
  • I thought the Cubs made a clear statement in LA. It just wasn’t one any of us wants to hear.
  • I bet he wears sunglasses at night though.
  • The prize should be an AAron Miles baseball card.
  • Loser gets one, too, but it’s signed.
  • The photo of Aron Miles on his baseball card is life sized.
  • We won’t even get started on how he offered to show a female reporter his shirtless physique to prove he isn’t lazy. (Note from Liz: ewww)
  • Every real cub fan must admit, That this year’s team has played like shit
  • Plus he’s got a cool name. [Rebel Ridling]
  • nice job representing, Joe. Also, nice job of staying off the topics of Milt and health care. and BABIP.
  • I guess I can unblock the month of October on my social calendar now.
  • I’m glad [Zambrano] “felt good” out there, because I was feeling rather nauseous at home watching him.
  • We’d be lucky to get a purple goat with the number 4 shaved on his side out of some lady’s trunk.
  • DeRosa has sucked balls this year.
  • One has the stuff and no brains, one has the brain and no stuff.
  • Bradley’s yap needs a filter.
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Let the selloff begin

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that Cubs pitchers Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman have been claimed off the wavier wire. This means that the teams who have submitted the claims have until Monday to work out a deal or the Cubs can pull them back. This is not an uncommon thing this time of year as many teams will offer players just to see what they could get in a trade; they also do it to gauge other teams’ interest in their prospective free agents. However in this instance I think that Hendry’s putting these guys on the market because he thinks it’s doubtful that he will be offering the kind of money that Harden will be wanting; in Heilman’s case it is likely that he’s trying to get something/anything for a guy that he has no intention of bringing back next year.

It’s likely that other players have been waived as well, perhaps even untouchables such as Ramirez, Zambrano and Lee. And you can bet the farm that Milton Bradley is on the wire too, it’s just doubtful that anyone will be wanting to damage their mojo in the midst of a pennant run. The Cubs are going to have to pull off a Todd Hundley-type trade to get rid of Bradley, besides what city is less “racist” than Chicago, a city that loves previous sports icons such as Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Mr. Cub himself? This guy’s act is getting beyond old and it’s time for Milton to get dressed down in public. It’s a shame because he’s finally starting to hit.

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Cup O’Joe: Jim Hendry

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Lou Piniella has gone on record saying that he will be back next year. With the new ownership in place sometime very soon, would it be a wise move to change general managers? Here are my thoughts:

  • Hendry has done a good job getting us to be a competitive team for the better part of this decade, with a few hiccups mixed in there. It’s actually been somewhat fun to be a Cub fan.
  • At the same time, while we’ve seen some success, we’ve also seen three playoff years of complete colapse. I count 2003 in that statement because of how grand they blew it against a Marlins team that we were better than. Obviously a GM can do only so much, but perhaps a change would help.
  • Long term contracts that include no trade clauses, while helping to bring in big name talent, has also locked us in pretty heavy to an aging payroll.
  • Changing GM’s this year, while it might be best from a team standpoint to get a new voice and decision maker in there, might not be the wisest move considering it will take whoever is the new choice awhile to get acclimated to the position, which would put him at a disadvantage for this off-season.

Just a few thoughts on the issue. I’d like for you to weigh in as well. Oh yeah, and the Cubs won yesterday 9-4 if anyone cares. Milton Bradley and Koyie Hill combined to go 7-for-7. No serious, I’m not kidding, take a look.

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From the VTFB Fantasy Baseball files

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

To say that this season hasn’t exactly been fun for Cubs fans is an understatement.   It has been somewhat akin to root canal – you still have the tooth but you have a sore experience and it cost a bunch of money.

I was amused by the last few transactions in the VTFB fantasy league – for those of you that didn’t participate this year there’s always next year.    The last five guys that were dropped were as follows:  Geo Soto, Khalil Greene, Johan Santana, David Price and Matt Weiters.    The guys that were picked up list as follows:  Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, John Smoltz, Jeff Niemann and Marlon Byrd. Harry must be watching from above.

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The Yogi Book

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

This 1998 entry into the “Books by Yogi Berra” marathon, “The Yogi Book”, comprises 2 page layouts with a big photo on one page, a “Yogi-ism” in big colorful print on the other page, and a smaller paragraph of explanation. As an example, page 31 features a double image photo in which Yogi appears to resemble George W. Bush.

The book opens with a two page foreword by Yogi’s lifelong best friend, Joe Garagiola, followed by a two page introduction written by Yogi’s three sons; Larry, Tim and Dale Berra, and then the body of the book, the two page treatments of Yogi-isms.

I enjoyed the photos and I enjoyed the story flesh outs, but I’m beginning to recognize some overlap in this series of books by Yogi Berra. Nevertheless, I would like to share some of my favorite stories and quotes from “The Yogi Book”:

- I’ve gotten lost more than once going to Yogi’s house in New Jersey, so now I call for directions. Each time, I get a memorable response. A favorite is, “I know just where you are, Joey. You’re not too far. But don’t go the other way, come this way.”
Joe Garagiola

- I could always see bad balls good. Yogi

- A writer asked me, “What makes a good manager?” I answered: “Good players!” Yogi

- Nolan Ryan says: If Yogi had gone to college, they would have made him talk clearer, but not better.

- “It was hard to have a conversation with anyone, there were too many people talking.” Yogi

- Playing golf one day, I started to complain that my shot was going to go into the water. My friend Kevin Carroll said, “Come on, Yogi, don’t be like that. Think positively.” I replied: “Okay, I’m positive my shot is going into the water.”

- I believe you have to take the good with the bad, otherwise how do you know when things are good? If the world were perfect, how would you know? Yogi

- “If I didn’t wake up I’d still be sleeping.” Yogi

- “I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.” Yogi

- “We have a good time together, even when we’re not together.” Yogi

- “You can’t lose if you win.” Larry Berra (Yogi’s son)

As I said earlier, there is some redundancy in these books written by Yogi Berra, but there’s also fresh stuff to savor in each one. I recommend “The Yogi Book” highly to any fan of baseball, or fan of Yogi, or student of life.

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Morning Cup O’Joe

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

One of the features this off-season will be a segment called Morning Cup O’Joe. This can range from trivia to discussions to links to, well just about anything. Seeing that I can’t possibly imagine that anyone wants to talk about last night’s game, I figured we’d bust this out a little early. Then again, maybe it’s not too early, seeing that our season is done. My question to you is this:

If you could put Alfonso Soriano on waivers right now and actually see someone claim him, would you let him go for nothing? Also, assuming you do, would you be fine with Jake Fox playing LF full time next year?

You know my Soriano hate and my Jake Fox love, so I think you know what my answer would be.

Discuss:

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