Archive for September, 2009

Jake who?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Well it’s nice to be back in Guitar Town, the Cubs are now officially out of the race but I got to see them play twice in AT&T Park in San Francisco, it’s always nice to see the Cubs play in person. It was especially interesting to hear the boo birds in somebody else’s park – at one point SF was closing on the Rockies but the Cubs effectively knocked them out of playoff contention. Sorry Giants fans but that’s paybacks for 1989.

AT&T is a nice venue to see a ballgame from – you even get the fog for free. We flew in on Tuesday and stayed at the Grosvenor on Knob Hill. If you are planning to visit San Francisco sometime be forewarned – the “hills” have very steep inclines and it is sometimes necessary to use public transportation to go two blocks as a consequence. From our hotel we could watch the fog roll in across the bay and by night time it was misty with low visibility. In the ballpark one could see the fog roiling above the playing field and seagulls were cruising in and out of the stadium, one can only imagine the distraction that that might present to an outfielder. I saw two superb pitching performances by Ryan Dempster (who has to be considered for Player of the Month in September) and Carlos Zambrano – Z went out and whupped Lincecum and Randy Johnson came in for a spot appearance. We sat right in front of the Giants’ bullpen so it was neat seeing a future Hall of Famer get warmed up and do his thing.

I still can’t understand why Piniella is starting Bobby Scales in the outfield and benching Fox. Granted, the guy has made two errors at first base and he’s not going to win any Golden Gloves, but how is going to improve his defensive skills warming the bench? I’m wondering what Fox said to tick the Cubs manager off – perhaps Piniella sees Scales as the next super-sub in the outfield but I can’t understand why. I don’t dislike Bobby but in my opinion the Cubs have a difficult decision to make insofar as Fox and Hoffpaiur, I don’t think there will be room on the 2010 bench for both.

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Billy Williams

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I was reading a very technical and very detailed statistical treatise, which required much more intense concentration than I was able to muster at the time. I decided to set that book aside, temporarily, and lighten things up a bit. This one was on the shelf and it fit the bill.

The complete title of this book is “Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime With The Cubs”, although a more accurate title might be: “Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime (a small part of which was spent with the Chicago Cubs, who really didn’t appreciate me)”. The book was written by Billy Williams with Fred Mitchell.

I actually enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about Billy Williams, and about professional baseball, and about the world of professional athletes.

Some of the opinions stated here struck me as a little dated. I asked myself if this book was published back in the ‘60s or the ‘70s. But, no, it is a new book, published in 2008.

The single largest chapter in the book contains inside info about folks Billy has known who played for the Cubs at one time or another. This was the chapter which interested me the most. Here are some of the highlights:

- Ernie said things in the clubhouse or the dugout like “Do you have change for three cents?” or “The weather will be cold, the weather will be hot. There will be weather, whether or not.”

- “On the second strike to Martin, his bat slipped out of his hands and landed near the pitching mound. Brewer reached down to give Martin the bat. That’s when Martin sucker punched Brewer and broke his jaw. Someone held Brewer back after the punch, but I think if he had gotten to Martin, he would have killed him. That’s the kind of individual he was.”

- “When Lou would come to the plate, most of the Cubs coaching staff would tell him – because he had such great speed and he was a left-handed hitter – ‘Try to hit the ball to the shortstop and run like hell. Either do that, or bunt.’ That’s what he heard all of the time from our coaches.
Lou would tell me that he couldn’t play that way. When he went to St. Louis, their manager, Johnny Keane, told Lou to just play baseball and have fun. Lou told me later that piece of advice was the thing that really turned his career as a baseball player around.”

- “When I am at bat, I am in scoring position.”

- “Baseball is easy. Life is hard.”

- “But Adolfo’s temperament seemed to work against him. He thought everybody was picking on him all of the time. That’s the kind of guy he was.”

Speaking about himself, Billy says:

- “But I found that if I waited long enough and made them throw me a lot of pitches, at some point I would get a pitch that looked like it was sitting on a tee.”

- “I remember that after I had the outstanding 1970 season, I wanted $100,000. I wanted to be the first Cubs player to make that much money.” “Later in my career with the Cubs I had to go to the office of Mr. Wrigley on Michigan Avenue.” “In one of our conversations he said, ‘Ernie Banks never made $100,000 with the Cubs’.” “It appeared evident that Mr. Wrigley had a particular problem paying a black man that kind of money.”

As I said, I enjoyed reading this book and I’m glad I read it. All Cubs fans should read this book. They will become more familiar with Billy Williams and with his view of things. However, I must tell you that Mr. Williams comes off a little less likable in this book than other former Cubs have in theirs.

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Who are the MVP leaders based on Total Runs?

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Teams are clinching playoff spots almost daily now that we’re in the last week of the season, but has anyone sewn up the MVP award? As we did last week for the Rookie of the Year candidates, let’s use the Total Runs metric first introduced in The Fielding Bible—Volume II to see who the MVP leaders are for each league. The key to Total Runs is that it takes into account three other components of the overall contributions of a player besides hitting: baserunning, playing defense, and playing an important defensive position.

In the National League, the engraver probably finished putting Albert Pujols’ name on the MVP trophy back in June, but is there anyone that can challenge the two-time MVP?

2009 NL Most Valuable Player Candidates
Player Runs
Created
Baserunning
Runs
Runs Saved Positional
Adjustment
Total Runs
Albert Pujols, Cardinals 145 6 13 12 176
Chase Utley, Phillies 121 5 14 29 169
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins 121 4 4 31 160
R. Zimmerman, Nationals 103 2 22 22 149
Prince Fielder, Brewers 130 -1 0 12 141

Albert won the MVP award in 2008 but Chase Utley, thanks to his defense, was the total runs leader for that year. Utley is hot on Mr. Pujols’ trail once again this year. How many people would have had Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the top five in Total Runs? Zimmerman’s stellar season in the field (22 Defensive Runs Saved) helps him overcome any offensive (103 Runs Created) shortcomings. All in all, the Total Runs system likes Albert Pujols winning his third National League MVP award this year.

In the American League, the MVP debate is centering on Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Miguel Cabrera, but Total Runs suggests a few other options to consider:

2009 AL Most Valuable Player Candidates
Player Runs
Created
Baserunning
Runs
Runs Saved Positional
Adjustment
Total Runs
Zack Greinke, Royals 168* 4 172
Chone Figgins, Angels 99 6 31 23 159
Ben Zobrist, Rays 98 -1 30 23 150
Joe Mauer, Twins 120 0 4 25 149
Derek Jeter, Yankees 113 3 1 31 148

*Pitchers use Pitching Runs Created from The Hardball Times website.

Neither Teixeira nor Cabrera appear in the top five in Total Runs and each player trails a teammate that doesn’t make this list. Teixeira is third on his own team (behind Jeter and Robinson Cano), while Curtis Granderson ranks above Cabrera in Detroit. Joe Mauer, considered by many to be the favorite to win the award, leads the American League candidates in Runs Created, but finds himself in fourth place behind Zack Grienke, Chone Figgins and Ben Zobrist. If you believe the numbers, and you believe that a pitcher should qualify for MVP voting on equal footing with hitters, and the MVP can come from a non-contending team, Grienke is your MVP. Do you believe?

The outstanding defense by Figgins and Zobrist catapult a pair of multi-faceted players to second and third place on the list. The numbers here don’t even factor in the tremendous value that each player brings to his respective team with their ability to play multiple positions at an elite level. While it is unlikely that either Figgins or Zobrist will win the award, their exceptional seasons will not go unnoticed here. When it’s all said and done, I’m quite comfortable with Mauer or Jeter winning the MVP award, but wouldn’t it be great if a Figgins or a Zobrist could be recognized for their defense and versatility by winning the award?

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

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Cubs Essential

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

The title of this one is “Cubs Essential – Everything You Need To Know To Be A Real Fan”. Additionally, the cover proclaims: “Stories, Statistics, Facts, Figures, Anecdotes, Trivia…And More”. Written by Lew Freedman (“a sportswriter with the Chicago Tribune, where he has worked since 2001”). Published in 2006.

The book follows the Cubs from their inception (“1876…the year of Custer’s Last Stand”), through Ryne Sandberg’s induction/enshrinement into the Hall of Fame (2005).

There are trivial facts and trivia questions sprinkled throughout the book. There is also a Chicago Cubs All-Time Roster (listing players who have appeared in at least one game with the Chicago Cubs). The facts were interesting, the questions stumped me, and the roster could be helpful in computing the ex-Cub factor as the postseason approaches (at least through the 2005 season).

Let me share some notable items from the book:

- “Most players will tell you that they would have given anything to play at Wrigley Field during the time I did,” Banks said. “It’s simply beautiful. The fans there and the ivy on the wall. I think people should take their shoes off when they go there.”

- I feel obligated to point out that at Wrigley Field, the visitors’ dugout is along the first base side, not along the third base side as is (mis)stated in the book.

- “I was quite a guy back in those days,” Wilson said. “I had a lot of natural talent. I sure lacked a lot of other things, like humility and common sense. Baseball came so easy to me that I thought the whole world was my oyster. Hack Wilson knew everything. It didn’t catch up to me for a while.”

- “It is no mystery to (Jerome) Holtzman why the top-notch Cubs teams of the 1930s are not better remembered.”
“There aren’t too many people alive from the 1930s,” he said.

- P.K. Wrigley made the following point in defense of his “College of Coaches” concept: “We certainly cannot do much worse trying a new system than we have done for many years under the old,” Wrigley said.

- “…Cubs fans love Santo’s commentary as much as they loved him as a player.” “Whatever the moaning and groaning I do, and I don’t even realize I’m doing it, I’d be doing it at home,” Santo said.

- Two paragraphs worth of Lee Elia’s 1983 rant about “some” Cubs fans are included, and are pretty entertaining to reread. It’s definitely a highlight. I have never met Mr. Elia, but I think we’d get along. His poetic rant tickled my funny bone and brought a tear to my eyes.

- The complete lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” are included, with some discussion as to the true identities of Ms.s Katie Casey and Nelly Kelly.

- Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s 24 line homage to the 2003 Cubs is found here in its entirety. It’s not bad.

As the front cover proclaims, “Cubs Essential” is full of stories, statistics, facts, figures, anecdotes, trivia…and more. I think that “real fans” would agree: you don’t need to know everything, or anything, contained herein to be a real fan. However, there is a lot of information here which might be of interest to someone like you or me. I recommend it to the curious fans among us. Wanna know stuff?

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GirlieView (09/25/2009)

Friday, September 25th, 2009

So this morning I attended a 90-minute presentation on the current state of Health Care Reform. It was a fantastically informative presentation and I thought I’d share it with all of you because I know how important this information is to you …Kidding! I did attend the presentation, and it was fantastic, but it’s not an off day! :-)

So, let’s move on to this week’s Cubs. Lou said he wants an RBI guy next season. What’s on your wish list? Share with us and as usual I’ll keep tabs and report back.

Lizzies (note new “Weekly Winner” designation. In addition to the list of Lizzies, I’ll pick my very favorite each week. Might have to come up with a new catchy name for it (any ideas?) but for now Weekly Winner will do!)

  • Definitely Brown sugar cinnamon.
  • As I see it, there is some truth in what everybody is saying, and there’s a lot of bullshit on both sides.
  • Don’t go away mad, Milton. Just go away.
  • I don’t think I ever said the Cubs and Bradley would be skipping hand and hand, to the soundtrack of Hair.
  • I think he is being made a scape goat. At the same time he is able to be made the scape goat because of things he has said.
  • I go with my gut.
  • I just had to add this unrelated note, my spellchecker came up with “irregardless” for regardless. Somebody shoot me.
  • What about those of us who believe the both character and stats matter?
  • Should he be back next year? No. But in all honesty I’d say he is just a blip in the reasons this season went south quickly.
  • Soriano is not likeable. At least not in my eyes. He’s lazy.
  • On the upside, the grandson, now 27 months, is doing pretty well betting college football.
  • And, the Weekly Winner: Too bad we can’t have these “discussions” over a beer.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Pitching Trivia

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Got a few questions for you to work on today all stats dealing exclusively with the first decade of the new millennium (2000-2009)

1. Name the 9 pitchers with at least 200 saves

2. Name the 12 pitchers with at least 130 wins

3. Name the 9 pitchers with at least 100 losses

Have fun with this one. Remember to let me know which question your guesses are for when you comment. I’ll keep it up to date on the answers throughout the day.


Saves

1. Mariano Rivera – 395
2. Trevor Hoffman – 361
3. Jason Isringhausen – 284
4. Billy Wagner – 284
5. Francisco Cordero – 249
6. Joe Nathan – 243
7. Francisco Rodriguez – 241
8. Armando Benitez – 230
9. Troy Percival – 219

Wins

1. Andy Pettitte – 147
2. Randy – Johnson – 143
3. Jamie Moyer – 140
4. Roy Halladay – 137
5. Tim Hudson – 137
6. Roy Oswalt – 137
7. C.C. Sabathia – 135
8. Mark Buehrle – 134
9. Greg Maddux – 134
10. Mike Mussina – 134
11. Barry Zito – 133
12. Derek Lowe – 130

Losses

1. Livan Hernandez – 124
2.
3.
4.
5. Barry Zito – 105
6.
7.
8. Greg Maddux – 101
9.

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Ask and you shall receive

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

There was a request for a collection of links to all the books reviewed on the site by Cubbiedude. I went ahead and post a section in the right sidebar called CubbieDude’s Bookshelf in which I linked to all the wonderful posts he’s written.

I think I’ve gotten them all, but I may have missed some. Feel free to let me know if you find anything and I’ll be sure to update the list. Enjoy!!!

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Banks to Sandberg to Grace

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The complete title is “Banks To Sandberg To Grace – Love and Frustration with the Chicago Cubs”, Compiled by Carrie Muskat, Foreword by Bob Verdi. It was published in 2001 (the year I retired).

The front cover features a beautiful photograph of the Wrigley Field outfield wall with thick, plush midsummer ivy, and the bleachers and the center field scoreboard, taken from the right field warning track (at the 368 foot marker).

The back cover has a paragraph from Hank Sauer talking about the fans at Wrigley Field. He thinks very highly of them, and apparently the feeling is mutual. Here’s a piece of that paragraph:
- “….That’s how great the people of Chicago were. They were the kind of people who just knew. If you give them 100 percent, you’ll never get booed. If you screw up, you let up, they’ll boo. And they’re right to do it….”

The book itself consists of about 70 short chapters, arranged by decade (the 1940s through the 1990s), each told in the words of a different storyteller. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

- “When I was there, Wrigley’s philosophy was that you could come to the ballpark any day. There were no advance ticket sales. It was like going to a game in the playgrounds. You could come in, and watch the game, and have fun.” (Ralph Kiner)

- “Most people thought Leo didn’t like me and I didn’t like him. I never met a person I disliked. That’s my philosophy. The players didn’t know it, some of the fans didn’t know it, the media didn’t know it. It didn’t matter to me. He was the boss, he was the manager. That was his job. My message to players is whoever is in charge is the boss.” (Ernie Banks)

- “Cub fans are highly intelligent people who really think (about the game). They used to keep score here. When I first came, every fan – there weren’t that many – they used to keep score. It’s a thinking audience that understands and deals with logic and not make-believe stuff. (Ernie Banks)

- “So now, I want it to happen for me. I want my ashes to be spread over Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out.” (Ernie Banks)

- “That’s one thing that the Cardinals organization did, they make you feel comfortable. They absolutely made you feel at home. In Chicago, it was more the ballplayers who made you feel at home and not the front office. The whole organization in St. Louis made you feel at home.” (Ernie Broglio)

- “Beck and I came up the same year. We had guys like Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams, and Ron Santo, and George Altman. These were great guys. Not just good players, but great guys.” (Don Kessinger)

- “I felt I wasn’t going to win a ring, regardless of the three or four Hall of Fame players on the team, unless they changed their philosophy. I found out after I left that I was right. I played on two of the greatest teams in history in Oakland and saw what you had to do to win. It took 25 guys.” (Ken Holtzman)

- “It’s so important to have proper equipment. They’ve got to have two gloves, two pairs of shoes, two shirts. They say, “I can’t afford it.” I say, “You got a car? Sell it.” (Jimmy Piersall)

- “All those guys that we got – Eckersley and all the different trades that we made – we basically thought about what kind of people are they inside. Not only their talent, but what can they bring to the table in terms of clubhouse, and rapport, and gamesmanship when it comes to tough times.” (Dallas Green)

- “To this day, I assume that’s where the philosophical differences became important to them. I’m sitting here and they’re still wondering what happened to the Cubs.” (Dallas Green)

- “But I always said I play the game one way and that’s all out. And if I can’t play all out when I’m out there, I’d rather someone else was out there.” (Andre Dawson)

- “When the people criticize me, I like it. That motivates me. That pushes me. That gives me more energy to do my job much better.” (Sammy Sosa)

“Banks To Sandberg To Grace” is a great book. It’s not new (having been published in 2001) but it is of historical significance. There are 69 or 70 individual points of view, reviewing over 60 years of Cubs history. First hand analyses from the people who were there. I loved it.

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A Look Back at My Predictions

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I thought I’d have some fun and take a look back at the fool I made of myself (as usual) by predicting the order of finish for the MLB season.

AL East

1. New York

2. Tampa Bay

3. Boston

4. Toronto

5. Baltimore

NL East

1. Atlanta

2. New York

3. Philadelphia

4. Florida

5. Washington

AL Central

1. Detroit

2. Cleveland

3. Minnesota

4. Kansas City

5. Chicago

NL Central

1. Chicago

2. St. Louis

3. Milwaukee

4. Cincinnati

5. Houston

6. Pittsburgh

AL West

1. Los Angeles

2. Oakland

3. Texas

4. Seattle

NL West

1. Arizona

2. Los Angeles

3. San Francisco

4. Colorado

5. San Diego

I seemed to have the AL pretty well. Unfortunately the NL, which should be the league I pick with more accuracy, was a bit of a letdown for me. Boy that Arizona pick really looks bad now. I also wanted to highlight a little something from the comments section of that post.

Wow — same picks as my grandson made. And he’s 21 months old.

I’ll tell you the same thing I told him — “You’re nuts.”

Detroit? Only if they can score 14 runs a game. The White Sox should win their division fairly easily. Watch KC, as they are much improved.
Yankees? They might not even make the playoffs. They sure as hell won’t win that division. ~ Sherm

Good call Sherm. =P

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