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August 2009

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Much ado about nothing

Written by , Posted in General

Tonight the Cubs showed us all why it’s going to be difficult (if not impossible) to lock up another playoff berth. This is a road series that had to result in a sweep – instead the struggling Cubs were bested once again by a young upstart Padres team.

With just 42 games remaining the Chicagoans are in a dash for the finish line – this team appears to have cement shoes despite a remaining schedule that’s mostly at home against sub .500 teams. So why am I pessimistic? Aside from being 6 games down in the Central and nearly as many games back in the wildcard I’m more concerned about the team’s many question marks. These will likely be character faults with the 2010 team as many of the people that are underperforming will be back next year. So let’s dichotomize this Cubs team and where it’s going.

Geovanny Soto has been a disappointment at catcher; voted Rookie of the Year last year I’d put him in the running for Chump of the Year in 2009. Injuries notwithstanding this guy looks like a 2008 version of Jerome Walton to me – let’s give him one year to turn it around and then cut our losses.

Derrek Lee has really surprised me in a positive respect; where would this 2009 team have been without his timely bat? At second Fontenot let us down but Jeff Baker has done a commendable job filling in; this duo will likely compete for at bats in 2010. Ryan Theriot and Blanco will likely be back at short next year; everybody always seems down on The Riot but he’s one of the team’s few consistent performers.

Ramirez will be a question mark due to his left shoulder, he is the first to admit that his swing may result in further injury. Hopefully Josh Vitter can ramp up in terms of his development, we might just need it. Soriano is a total disappointment in left – the biggest waste of money the Cubs have ever had. Can we jettison this guy and try something else? I doubt it, he’s going to either ramp up his play and change his approach at the plate or get used to boos and pinch-hitting. I doubt he’s capable of either, we’re dealing with a guy that has a very limited intellectual approach to the game.

Fukudome and Reed Johnson are both questionable as well. Both can play a decent center field but why are we spending all that money when Fuld gets the same job done for less than a million? Another belly flop for Jim Hendry, more contracts that must be eaten. In right Milton Bradley can play either good ball or bad ball, it depends on the night.

The pitching staff will be inconsistent for the foreseeable future – Zambrano isn’t getting his job done and the rest of the starting staff (excluding Lilly) is questionable on a game to game basis. The bullpen is weak – why did we sign Gregg anyway? That guy sucks as bad as LaTroy Hawkins did, I will be very disappointed if he wears Cubbie Blue next year.

So the net-net is that I will continue to watch this Cubs team despite the fact that I have given up realistic expectations for this year. Will Hendry make some moves in the offseason? One can only hope.

  • Mike

    Why not go after John Smoltz? These idiots in the pen are obviously not getting things done. I say try and sign Smoltz for the minimum and let him give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Also, St. Louis is about sign him. St. Louis has been making good moves all season long. Obviously, they see something in him. I’d like to see the Cubs get in there and atleast try to sign him and give him a chance.

  • MJ

    give him one year to turn it around and then cut our losses.

    Of course.

    Derrek Lee has really surprised me in a positive respect; where would this 2009 team have been without his timely bat?

    Benched if they had listened to any of you. His numbers right now are better than his numbers at this time last year. Yeah, he’s on the downside of his career…

    we’re dealing with a guy that has a very limited intellectual approach to the game.

    That’s the first thing you’ve write in weeks that I agree with.

    why are we spending all that money when Fuld gets the same job done for less than a million?

    Because he’s not as good. Even Len and Bob said that the other night. He’s a 4th or 5th outfielder at best.

  • Doug

    I think getting rid of Soriano however it’s done, even Alex Rios him away if there’s a taker, would be a positive move for the Cubs.

  • Both can play a decent center field but why are we spending all that money when Fuld gets the same job done for less than a million?

    There is absolutely no way that Fuld would be as good as Fukudome. I really don’t know where people get this idea from.

    Fuld has a career minor league line of .287/.370/.407 OPS: .777

    Fukudome has a career major league line of .263/.372/.413 OPS: .785

    Fukudome has put up the same numbers in the majors as Fuld has put up on the minors. Further, Fukudome’s line this year of .272/.390/.462 OPS: .851 is better than Fuld has ever put up in the minors.

    Fuld is a nice 4th or 5th outfielder. But he will never put up an OPS over 800 in the major leagues if he is playing every day.

  • cap’n obvious

    Because he’s not as good. Even Len and Bob said that the other night. He’s a 4th or 5th outfielder at best.

    If you feel your baseball IQ is enhanced by listening to what Len and Bob say, this explains a lot. You need to understand that they are shills for the organization, and see the world through the Cubs colored glasses. That is thier job. Not that he would be an all star by any means, but Fuld could certainly be a lefty platoon to everyday outfielder and be quite serviceable. What he lacks in the physical ability of a Bradley or Soriano, he makes up for by being leaps and bounds smarter at the plate and defensively. The Cubs have precious few fundementally sound players, and I would like to see more Sam Fuld-types in the lineup and fewer free swinging brain deads…

  • Doc Raker

    Sam Fuld can also steal bases, something our $160M man is supposed to do.

    I think Z wants out of Chicago. Publicizing he is lazy and doesn’t put his work in with an $80M contract. That is disrespectful to the fans and organization. He wants the fans to want him gone.

    Dlee has been a nice surprise. He is a class act, always hustles and always always works hard. I am glad to see him return to a serious threat at the plate eventhough I did not have the confidence in him. If it was his wrist that was holding him back he may be back for the remainder of his contract.

    Contract hell.

  • MJ

    If you feel your baseball IQ is enhanced by listening to what Len and Bob say, this explains a lot.

    Where did I ever say that?

    All I was saying is that Sam Fuld seems to be the new overated player a select few have gravitated towards. Len (and it was mostly Bob), said the same thing the other night. How is that being a shill? Stating that this guy isn’t as good as everyone makes him out to be?

    Or are you one of the same group of guys that probably gets a hard on while listening to Steve Stone?

  • cap’n obvious

    How is that being a shill? Stating that this guy isn’t as good as everyone makes him out to be?

    Of course he says this, he can’t say that Fuld is better than the $40+ million worth of outfielders (Fuko, Bradley, Sori)the Cubs already are shelling out for. It would make Hendry look stupid. I am not saying that Fuld is more talented than any of these guys, but day in and day out, a smart player with less talent can be nearly as effective. To me, if the Cubs could get 3/4 the production from Fuld at 1/10th the cost, it would be smarter, as they could afford a top flight closer and more decent pitching, which they sorely need. You can’t expect a team to have all-star caliber players at every position and be able to afford them every year, unless they are from New York. As far as I am concerned, the contracts Hendry gave Dempster, Soriano, Bradley, Fukodome, and Zambrano will extend the drought and set the franchise back at least 5 years. There is no way to get rid of these guys without throwing the money away…

  • Come on… do you all seriously think that Fuld would be better than any of the Cubs’ current starting OFers?

    The guy is mediocre, at best. He has been mediocre in the minors at the plate, and there is no reason that believe that he even duplicate his numbers in the majors.

    Yes, he is good defensively, and a solid (but not great) base runner. He only has a 72% stolen base success rate in the minors.

    But he is not that much of an upgrade defensively over Fukudome, and the ~15-20 SBs a year isn’t going to help the team enough to make up for his mediocre bat.

  • rob

    If it is safe to say that we have probably faded from the race (or are fading quick) I would be interested in sending some of the big contracts through waivers and see if anything can happen. The team has no financial flexibility to do anything probably for the next two years at least. So this is what you have. It might be good to send Bradley, Soriano, Dempster, and Zambrano through waivers to see if anything comes up. Probably not. But I think you might be looking at a rebuild.

  • Seymour Butts

    I’m getting awfully Gregging tired of using the word Gregg to substitute for my every day vocabulary. Can’t we grow up a little?

    Any who…

    It’s hard to think of the Cubs going into rebuild mode, It’s not the way they operate in the Hendry era. They have the cash (usually) and see them selves in the Yankee/Red Sox mold of always being able to buy a contending team. It has worked for the others and could potentially work for the Cubs, so as long as a new owner eventually gets in place, and has the same mind set, look for a shuffling of the deck chairs, but not a rebuild.

  • Kris

    If you feel your baseball IQ is enhanced by listening to what Len and Bob say, this explains a lot. You need to understand that they are shills for the organization, and see the world through the Cubs colored glasses.

    If you’ve been listening at all in the last few weeks, I’m not sure how you can say this. Bob, at the very least, has been pretty critical of several players, numerous playing errors, etc. I’d also think the Bob, as a former player and coach, offers some insight into the game that does in fact enhance our baseball IQs. Do they have to toe a line as employees, sure. But I don’t think he is exactly a shill for the organization.

    I turned on Pat and Ron in the car last night, and I was greeted to Ron saying, “Boy oh boy oh boy” (followed by a big sigh). Ron may be the biggest Cub in the world, but even he and Pat have sounded defeated lately.

    As for Fuld–no one said platooning him would be bad. But there is this ridiculous tendency in Cubs’ fans (generally speaking) to look for “the answer” in one player. Pie was supposed to be our salvation. According to this board, Hoffpauir and Fox should have been it this year. Fox has certainly been a good addition, and I think Fuld will be, too. But one player is not likely to save a season for an entire team.

    All I can say is what the crap is wrong with our pitching? Some consistency from game to game and season to season would be appreciated. And some coaches who can correct the issues would be lovely.

  • cap’n obvious

    I never said nor meant to say that Fuld was a savior…simply that the Cubs could get NEAR the production of the current outfielders at 1/10th (or less) the cost…I realize also that Brenly has been somewhat critical of the players on the field, but would never question the front office moves that have, in my opinion, been the problem that brought said players into the mix. As far as advancing baseball IQ, Brenly certainly brings a lot of information to the ballpark, but dumbs a lot of it down for the “masses” so I rarely hear or get anything new from him…

  • Kris

    I realize also that Brenly has been somewhat critical of the players on the field, but would never question the front office moves that have, in my opinion, been the problem that brought said players into the mix.

    Why should we expect members of the media to do something most of us have the smarts not to do? If I walk into my boss’ office and say, “I cannot believe you hired that clown–it was a horrible move on your part,” I’d be out the door pretty quickly. Brenly was hired to analyze the game and the players–and that’s what he does. It would be a dumb move on his part to start slamming the people writing his paycheck. That doesn’t make him a shill–it makes him a normal guy who wants to keep his job and be employable in the future.

    I agree totally that management made some horrible moves in the off-season. I just don’t think it’s Len and Bob’s job to start spouting that off during a game. They’re there to entertain listeners and provide insight.

  • rob

    I agree that we are not talking about a rebuild through the system idea. But the biggest pieces that make the most money (not Lee or Ramirez) are overpaid and have underperformed. So you could go out and sign big name, big dollar (probably cheaper these days) free agents to replace them. But you obviously cannot do that unless you get rid of their contracts…which is probably impossible but worth a shot.

  • simply that the Cubs could get NEAR the production of the current outfielders at 1/10th (or less) the cost

    Define this for me. How good would Fuld need to be to be “NEAR the production” of Bradley, Fukudome, and Soriano?

    And what in Fuld’s past would make you think that he could be “NEAR the production” of those three?

    I would be interested in sending some of the big contracts through waivers

    Chances are that Hendry has already placed most/all of this team on waivers, and they either cleared waivers, or they got pulled back after being claimed.

    It is basically standard operating procedure to place the entire team on waivers, at some point in August, in order to make sure that options are option.

  • cap’n obvious

    How much worse off do you believe the Cubs would be today if Fuld had played every day at any of the outfield positions? 3 losses? 5? How many games have been won by stellar play from any of the regular outfielders? If you want me to quantify it, take a look at any or all of the stats of Fuko, Bradley, and Soriano. If he played every day, I belive Fuld’s production would be near any of them…with the exception of Soriano’s 19 HR’s…but then he’d have 1/2 the K’s…he’d certainly have 30 RBI’s by now. You think Fuld couldn’t hit .260? Come on…

  • rob

    Here is the problem. This team was built to win the World Series this year. To win the World Series Soriano cannot hit .250. Bradley needs more than 30 rbi -regardless of his OBP. You need much bigger numbers from Bradley and Soriano in a lot of areas in order to win the World Series. So while it might be right that Fuld could have matched the current numbers of Bradley and Soriano- you do not go to or win the World Series with Sam Fuld in the place of Bradley or Soriano…and that is what matters.

  • If he played every day, I belive Fuld’s production would be near any of them…with the exception of Soriano’s 19 HR’s…but then he’d have 1/2 the K’s…he’d certainly have 30 RBI’s by now. You think Fuld couldn’t hit .260? Come on…

    No, I am not convinced that he could hit .260. Though not sure why we want to isolate one faulty stat. And no, I am not convinced that he would have 30 rbi, but again, not sure why we want to look at one isolated, team- and lineup-dependent stat.

    I don’t think that Fuld would have an OPS close to Fukudome, or Bradley. He might come close to Soriano’s this year, but at this point I think that we need to assume that this year is an outlier and that he will rebound next year.

    I think that Fuld, over a full season in the bigs, would be lucky to put up a line of 280/350/380.

  • MJ

    We’re also talking about a guy that’s had less than half a year in the bigs, and couldn’t even make AAA last year.

  • cap’n obvious

    not sure why we want to look at one isolated, team- and lineup-dependent stat.

    Lineup dependent be damned, Bradley has hit in RBI producing spots in the order for much of the season, and look what he’s done…

  • Mark Strickler

    I feel that there’s some nitpicking going on here – regardless of what people think of Fuld it would not have made much difference if he’d been the everyday center fielder. A few less homeruns than Fukudome/Johnson, a few more stolen bases, probably a fairly close OBP, a whole lot less salary! That was my point, we’re not getting very good value in center. We are also getting very poor value insofar as left and right, a major point in my original post.

  • cap’n obvious

    well said, Strickler….

  • Bradley has hit in RBI producing spots in the order for much of the season, and look what he’s done…

    That is pretty irrelevant. His lineup spot doesn’t matter as much as actual plate appearances with RISP. While Bradley has struggled with RISP, he is also only 6th on the team in ab’s with risp.

    That was my point, we’re not getting very good value in center.

    Not so sure about that.

    The Cubs CFers have put up a line of .273/.372/.460 OPS: .832, which is good for 5th in the ML (in OPS). So the Cubs CFers have arguably been more productive thank 25 other teams. That seems like pretty good production to me. It is also a level of production that Sam Fuld would not be able to come close to.

  • rob

    What statistics don’t get is that the issue with Bradley is an issue of not meeting expectations. So he was brought in and paid as a run producing rbi guy. That means you expect a .300 average with 25 home runs and 90 rbi. This is interesting that this would be the expectation because he has never reached some of those numbers, but that was the expectation. So this is why quoting statistics does not bring an end to the debate. Because the debate is based on hypothetical expectations and statistics are a different ball game. Maybe the statistics say that the expectations should have been different. But you expect a certain thing out of a run producer. You expect a certain thing out of a guy who hits fourth or fifth. You have not gotten this from Bradley.

  • So he was brought in and paid as a run producing rbi guy.

    Was he? I think that this was the expectations of a lot of fans, though I am not sure that this was the expectation of the Cubs.

    That means you expect a .300 average with 25 home runs and 90 rbi.

    I didn’t expect that. I expected a line around 300/400/450. I expected 15, and hoped for 20, home runs, and around 80 RBI.

    I don’t recall how Hendry talked about Bradley when he signed him, but I am not sure it was a “run producing rbi guy.”

  • rob

    I think you respond as if everyone is naturally against you. The fact that Hendry paid him thirty million dollars over three years tells me that he thought he would be a run producer. He certainly didn’t pay him that for his defense or his ability to take walks. The point of what I am saying is that this was the expectation of a lot of fans and maybe it was an unrealistic expectation but that adds a whole lot to the frustration.

  • MJ

    Was he? I think that this was the expectations of a lot of fans, though I am not sure that this was the expectation of the Cubs.

    I was going to say something about this earlier, and got sidetracked. After last year, Lou said the lineup needed to be more left handed. Not anything about needing another run producer. Hendry signed Bradley, whose high OBPS last year, I think that made Cubs fans decide that Lou meant they needed more of a “run producing RBI guy,” when in actuallality Lou just wanted the lineup more balanced, and Hendry found a guy that has been an a high OBP guy his entire career, and would make a pitcher work that much harder at getting A-Ram or D-Lee out knowing you had a guy farther down that would get on base in multiple ways.

    That was my point, we’re not getting very good value in center. We are also getting very poor value insofar as left and right, a major point in my original post.

    But we are getting a decent value in CF. Fukudome is killing righthanded pitching, which he’s supposed to do, and he’s played a fairly good CF. How is that not value?

    I’ll agree with LF, Soriano is a total waste of money at this point. But then again, we’re only looking at one year out of his whole deal, this could be a blip. As for RF, sorry. Wrong. The other three major outfielders on market last year got similiar deals. Have they produced better numbers offensively? Yes. But Bradley should have too. And I’ll take his better defense over those three guys anyday.

  • The fact that Hendry paid him thirty million dollars over three years tells me that he thought he would be a run producer.

    I disagree that this is what it means. What it means is that Hendry thought that 30 million dollars was worth the value that Bradley would bring to the team. You think that such value is as a run producer. But I would argue that it is not what the Cubs needed after last season.

    The Cubs didn’t need another run producer; they already had Lee, Ramirez, Soto, and Soriano. What they needed (or at least wanted) was a more balanced lineup.

  • Oh wait… MJ already said half of that.

    But FWIW, I don’t think that Bradley, or Hendry, should be punished for the fans having unrealistic expectations.

  • rob

    I agree with that. I dont think it is bradley’s fault that the fans had different expectations.

    However, i can’t think it is a serious argument to say that Hendry paid 30 million dollars for a guy to work the count as a left hander to get to Lee and Ramirez. I also don’t think Hendry thought “We need to get more balanced. So I will give $30 million dollars to a guy that I don’t expect to produce that many runs…as long as he works the count.”

    I think the Cubs needed a bigger threat from the left hand side. To me this is the reason why Hendry went and got Bradley. To balance the lineup but also bring a threat to the lineup that other managers would have to think about, factor in, and make pitching changes based upon because he posed a threat to score or drive in runs.

  • Doc Raker

    I thought we already went over this Bradley RBI thing. At the beginning of the season Lou wrote him in the 3-4-5 spots in the line up, i.e. RBI spots in the line up. So it is safe to say they signed him to be an RBI guy. Now that Lou realizes he can’t hit from the left side and loves to walk he is in the 2 hole, but he wasn’t there to start the season.

    So as long as you believe the 3-4-5 spots in the line up are RBI spots, then you have to believe the Cubs signed Bradley to be an RBI guy.

  • Kris

    After last year, Lou said the lineup needed to be more left handed. Not anything about needing another run producer.

    I sort of see the logic in this. But at this point I think we all know this backfired. Bradley is doing fine now, but I’d have given up the lefty hitter in the lineup to have some runs produced by whoever could do it!! [Enter comment about missing DeRosa here.]

  • But at this point I think we all know this backfired.

    Perhaps… but that isn’t really because of the loss of DeRosa and the addition of Bradley. It was because Bradley underperformed. Soto underperformed. Soriano underperformed. Fontenot underperformed. Lee underperformed early. Ramirez got hurt.

    Would DeRosa have helped? Sure. But he alone wouldn’t have made this team into the best offense in the league again.

    Again – this team was one of the best in baseball, and had a great offense. Lou and Hendry thought it needed to have more left-handed bats, and Bradley was able to be that bat. But quite simply, the Cubs didn’t need a 25-30HR guy, or a 100 RBI guy. They already led the league in runs without that. They needed (or at least wanted) balance.

  • cap’n obvious

    Fuld is a left handed bat, and he sees a lot of pitches, and again, I feel his OBP would be NEAR where Bradley’s is for 1/10th the money.

    And I’ll take his better defense over those three guys anyday.

    Where is this great outfield defense Bradley has been showing off? Does it only happen when I switch over to watch reruns of The Office? The 2 0r 3 defensive plays that he has meade that Dunn or Ibanez wouldn’t have are assuredly worth his horrible lackof production hitting in the 5 or 6 hole.

  • Kris

    Would DeRosa have helped? Sure. But he alone wouldn’t have made this team into the best offense in the league again.

    I mostly agree with what you’re saying. Where we’re at has been an overall lack of production by the team as a whole. I’m just saying that we may have done better if we’d just left well-enough alone. But there’s no way we could have known that at the time.

    My major issue with the DeRosa trade was that we had no backup plan for third, which was ridiculously stupid. I don’t care about a left-handed bat if we have no one to play third and are iffy at second…and just traded away the guy who can play third, second and outfield.

  • Doc Raker

    The 2 0r 3 defensive plays that he has meade that Dunn or Ibanez wouldn’t have are assuredly worth his horrible lackof production hitting in the 5 or 6 hole.

    Don’t forget after making those defensive plays he needs to take the next day off. Also, Bobby Abreu was available also and he has been a big plus for the Angels, without the petulant mentality.

    My major issue with the DeRosa trade was that we had no backup plan for third, which was ridiculously stupid. I don’t care about a left-handed bat if we have no one to play third and are iffy at second…and just traded away the guy who can play third, second and outfield.

    Exactly! How do you construct a team without a quality backup for often injured Aram?

  • MJ

    Don’t forget after making those defensive plays he needs to take the next day off.

    Let’s not have your perception fog a good discussion…..

    Here’s the Fielding Percentage and Range Factors (per 9 Innings) for all four of the major free agents:

    Bradley – .982 2.04
    Dunn – .947 1.89
    Ibanez – .994 1.95
    Abreau – .971 2.10

  • MJ

    And to further the discussion on Bradley sitting out. Bradley has played in 99 of the 118 games That’s a pace to play in 130+ games for only the second time in his career.

  • rob

    Interesting…
    Guess who led the National League and American League in Range Factor last year:
    Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez.

    Certainly a stellar statistic.

    Range factor is a bogus ridiculous stat.

    Anyway, I would move to ban range factor from discussions. Stats are a science. Range factor is unscientific because it works off of the assumption that everyone’s outfield experience in equal. This is not the case. To play 81 home games on turf is different than playing them on grass. To deal with the roof at the Metrodome is different than anywhere else. The wind and weather factor and how they differ city to city would effect range factor. The statistic sets everything up as equal when factors such as city, weather, stadium, field, conditions, and game times are all diverse and do not pan out equally across 162 games. Someone playing 81 games on artificial turf at home will never have that pan out because most other players will not play 81 home games on artificial turf. The weather in an outdoor stadium for 81 games will never pan out with the weather in an indoor stadium for 81 home games. The cold Aprils in Chicago will never be equalled for a player from the west coast or south. Just think about the swirling winds of old Candlestick Park and think about whether an outfielder who played 81 games there had the same experience as the outfielder who played 81 home games anywhere else.

  • Rob Bukowski

    here is a link to an article about range factor, by the guy who invented range factor, explaining all the reasons why range factor is a potentially flawed and unreliable statistic…

    http://www.billjamesonline.net/fieldingbible/relative-factors.asp

  • Ok… then lets look at UZR (or, actually, UZR/150), which most statisticians believe does the best job at measuring defensive ability.

    Ibanez is a strange case, as his UZR has been pretty inconsistent, though overall his numbers are bad. Dunn has always been bad, while Abreu has been bad for several years. Bradley has had consistently good UZRs, and has good total UZR numbers.

    2009:
    Bradley: -2.6
    Abreu: -6.0
    Ibanez: .9
    Dunn: -28.6

    2008:
    Abreu: -25.3
    Ibanez: -10.4
    Dunn: -28.3

  • Oh… and the Fielding Bible (which is what Bill James did to replace Range Factor, and is what you linked to) has Abreu as the 2nd worst RF last year, and Ibanez as the 2nd worst LF last year. Dunn wasn’t listed.

    From 2006-2008, Dunn and Ibanez were 3rd and 4th worst in LF, while Abreu was 4th worst.

    All three are quite bad defensively.

  • MJ

    Yeah, I just threw range factor up there because I’d get the “Fielding Percentage used alone sucks” argument. 😆

  • rob

    I wasn’t arguing that they were good fielders. I was just saying what their range factor was because that was what was presented earlier.

  • Seymour Butts

    Mark’s original title has become evident as amazingly on target.