Archive for November, 2009

Baseball, Chicago Style

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

I enjoyed the previous book I read by Jerome Holtzman, so I decided to try another. This one was written by Jerome Holtzman and George Vass. The full title is “Baseball, Chicago Style – A Tale of Two Teams, One City”. It was published in 2001.

First of all, that title reminded me of the TV comedy show from the 70s: “Love, American Style”, the stupid theme song of which is going through my head right now. And the name of that TV show reminded me of the Marcello Mastroianni movie “Divorce, Italian Style” from the 60s.

And so we have: “Baseball, Chicago Style”. As you might guess, this is a book about the two teams currently known as “The Chicago Cubs” and “The Chicago White Sox”.

I know I’ve said this before, but the White Sox might as well have been playing on the moon for all I know about them. I don’t have anything against them, I just never paid any attention to them.

And since I only followed the Cubs during the 50s and 60s, and again during the past year and a half, there’s a lot I don’t know about them, too.

I enjoyed reading this book. It describes, with 20/20 hindsight, what was happening to these teams simultaneously, since at least as far back as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and up through the 2001 season.

Here are some favorite excerpts:

– “If we cannot be first we care not for second, which is but the anteroom to oblivion,”

– “Times have changed. Today the women don’t shoot. They sue.”

– “He could speak 12 languages, but couldn’t hit in any of them.”

– “According to some people…losing is the worst thing in the world. Well, it isn’t. What’s worse is allowing yourself to be eaten alive by it.”

– “In a perverse way, 1948 was a ‘miracle season’, the White Sox and Cubs accomplishing the unprecedented and uncomfortable feat of both finishing in last place in the same year.”

– “Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko, an ardent, if realistic and hard-bitten, Cub fan, remarked whimsically: ‘Maybe that’s what they should put on his plaque when he goes into the Hall of Fame: ‘Ryne Sandberg, who walked away from one of the biggest paychecks in baseball, because he didn’t think he was earning it’.’”

– “Either a brief burst of hope followed by a period of despair, or a period of despair followed by a brief burst of hope.
It’s been that way since 1946, and the Cubs have always run strictly true to that inconsistent pattern since their last pennant in 1945.”

– “Rather than attract fans with his batting prowess, Belle repelled them with a surly, belligerent attitude.”

– “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Well, I was born great.”

– “Wrigley’s principal concern was maintaining ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field,’ more than the team itself. ‘We can’t guarantee a winning team,’ he said, ‘but we can guarantee the physical properties. We can take care of that’.”

– “To Grimm, baseball was fun, not war.”

– “I’d rather be a lamppost in Chicago than a millionaire in any other city.”

– “a manager must adapt his style to what material he’s got. There’s no other way to do it.”

The front cover proclaims: “Cubs- Sox Pictures, Bios and Anecdotes Capturing the Best and the Most Memorable”. Also: “Untold Stories about the Black Sox Scandal and Cubs Intrigue”

I enjoyed reading “Baseball, Chicago Style”, and I recommend it to any and all with an interest in Chicago baseball history.

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GirlieView (11/27/2009)

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Really wish some exciting Cubs things would start happening, I’m bored. I’ve got nothing to talk about. And, apparently neither do you … not even giving a Lizard this week as there were so few comments to choose from.

But, I did find some amusing little ditties:

Lizzies

  • Have fun down at Boca Vista where they dispense Viagra out of vending machines in the bingo room.
  • It’s desert vs. swamp in a no-holds barred schmoozefest.
  • Looks to me like whoever built the signs had some Home Depot gift cards leftover from last Christmas.
  • Here is the breakdown of this elite club of suck.

Have a great week. Next week maybe I’ll make a VFTB crossword puzzle to keep our minds sharp while we wait for some action. Til then …

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Did You Know? K’s > Hits

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Happy black Friday. Did you know that 2009 saw Alfonso Soriano qualify for the batting title and yet have more strikeouts than he had hits. This was only the 9th time a Cub has achieved this feat since 1900. The interesting this is that all of them occur after 1960 and all but one occur after 1990. Here is the breakdown of this elite club of suck.

Player Year SO H PA R 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS
Alfonso Soriano 2009 118 115 522 64 25 1 20 55 40 .241 .303 .423 .726
Sammy Sosa 2004 133 121 539 69 21 0 35 80 56 .253 .332 .517 .849
Alex Gonzalez 2003 123 122 601 71 37 0 20 59 47 .228 .295 .409 .704
Mark Bellhorn 2002 144 115 529 86 24 4 27 56 76 .258 .374 .512 .886
Alex Gonzalez 2002 136 127 568 58 27 5 18 61 46 .248 .312 .425 .737
Jose Hernandez 1998 140 124 533 76 23 7 23 75 40 .254 .311 .471 .782
Sammy Sosa 1997 174 161 694 90 31 4 36 119 45 .251 .300 .480 .779
Rick Wilkins 1994 86 71 358 44 25 2 7 39 40 .227 .317 .387 .703
Billy Cowan 1964 128 120 520 52 16 4 19 50 18 .241 .268 .404 .673
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Who are baseball’s best and worst baserunners?

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

In The Bill James Handbook 2010 we analyze a player’s baserunning ability.  For each player, we measure his ability to move first to third, second to home, and first to home in addition to the number of outs he records on the bases and how he fares in double plays.

While this year’s Handbook evaluates how each player performed in 2009, I thought it would be fun to take a look at baserunners over the past five years.  We took a look at each player’s baserunning gain (stolen bases are not included) in order to determine baseball’s best and worst baserunners for the past five seasons.

Best Baserunners, 2005-2009

Player

Baserunning Gain

Grady Sizemore

+104

Chase Utley

+96

Willy Taveras

+95

Ichiro Suzuki

+91

Randy Winn

+90

According to this study, Grady Sizemore is the best baserunner in baseball with a  +104, despite only a +4 in 106 games played this year.   Think of that +104 as 104 extra bases taken compared to an average runner. Chase Utley, the only infielder on this list, comes in second with +96 and had an excellent year this year with a +27.  Willy Taveras is slightly behind Utley, followed by Ichiro Suzuki and Randy Winn.

Worst Baserunners, 2005-2009

Player

Baserunning Gain

Bengie Molina

-106

Carlos Lee

-97

Brian McCann

-83

Yadier Molina

-82

Mike Lowell

-81

Ordinarily, when we do a Stat of the Week that involves catchers, the Molina brothers appear on some sort of  “best-of” leaderboard.  When it comes to baserunning, however, the two Molina brothers with starting jobs are two of the five worst baserunners in baseball over the past five years.  At -97, Carlos Lee is right behind Bengie Molina’s league worst net gain of -106.  Mike Lowell also makes the list of worst baserunners, and is the lone infielder in the bottom five.  In 2009, Lowell was an abysmal -27.  The worst baserunner in 2009, Juan Rivera at -35, just missed the five-year list with -80.

Interestingly, despite Rivera’s -35, the Angels were baseball’s best baserunning team with a +77 team score.  The top five teams in 2009 were:

Best Baserunning Teams, 2009

Team

Baserunning Gain

Los Angeles Angels

+77

Colorado Rockies

+70

Toronto Blue Jays

+62

Philadelphia Phillies

+46

Arizona Diamondbacks

+45

San Francisco Giants

+45

The Kansas City Royals were the worst at -97 as a team.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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And now it’s…the Morning News With the Daver!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Greetings, VFTB faithful and welcomed guests! My name is the Daver and your gracious host, Joe Aiello, has invited me to share some morning news items with you several times a week. Some of you might know me as “Dat Cubfan Daver” from Bleed Cubbie Blue and Twitter. If so, I apologize for all the bad jokes and hope to do better in the future.

I’m going to try to keep these posts brief, to-the-point and, naturally, Cubs-focused (as opposed to MLB-focused). Don’t look for any rhyme nor reason beyond that. I’m just going to hit you with whatever interesting items catch my eye. And now – on to the news!

The Cubs’ future in Arizona remains uncertain. Now that we’ve got that whole pesky ownership thing figured out, we can start wondering (and, for some, worrying) about where the Cubs will hunker down for spring training. It’s desert vs. swamp in a no-holds barred schmoozefest. Stay tuned.

Ho-Ho has a new Grand Puba. In a related story, Hohokam Stadium has named Mark Gallo as the new stadium manager, replacing previous manager Dave “Don’t Call Me Adam” Dunne. Hey, I didn’t promise all of these items would be earth-shattering.

Next stop, Wally World. Another Cubs-related hiring – the team now has a new (deep breath) executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer (exhale). He is Wally Hayward and I love that name.

Cubs going all Scorsese on Horseshoe Casino. In case you haven’t heard, the team has erected signs in the left field bleachers to block Horseshoe’s unsurprisingly garish rooftop billboard across the street. Looks to me like whoever built the signs had some Home Depot gift cards leftover from last Christmas. I also think if the signs stay there, they’re going to piss off the ball hawks on the street below.

New USA Today Team Report! New USA Today Team Report! If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed me passing along these USA Today Team Reports. To be clear, I’m no fan of the newspaper nor am I affiliated with it in any way, but whoever writes these team reports really knocks them onto Waveland. They’re great summaries of the Cubs current goings-on chock full of savvy stats and interesting items. Does anyone happen to know who writes them?

Twins still eying Harden. I know, I know – TWSS. But, seriously, Twins beat reporter Kelly Theiser notes that those pesky piranhas are still interested in the controversial strikeout master.

No rest for uberprospect Starlin Castro. After ripping up the Arizona Fall League, the Cubs much-talked-about shortstop prospect has moved on to Caribbean Winter Ball, playing for the Leones del Escogido. Hey, he’s young. Also note that former Cubs pinch hitter extraordinaire Daryle Ward is on the roster. Wow, really? (Thanks to Pitch F/X Ace Harry Pavlidis for passing this item along on Twitter.)

The Trib’s AFL wrap-up. For those of you who missed the Arizona Fall League action, the Chicago Tribune actually offers something (gasp) useful in this nice wrap-up of the Cubs big players. This is the first I’ve noticed this Tom Carkeek character. I shall keep an eye on him.

Jake the Rake in the DR! In other winter league news, it appears Jake Fox is playing left field for the Dominican Republic’s Licey Tigers. Hey, why not? It can’t hurt to get Jake some more defensive reps – maybe he could put in some time at third base and second base, too. Assuming he hits well, this could at least boost his trade value. (Please note: The linked article is in Spanish but includes a picture. If any cunning bilingualists out there wish to translate, please feel free. I’d run it through Google’s translator but I’ve really got to get moving along here.)

And, last but not least, let’s take a moment to honor Derrek Lee’s stupendous 2009 season, shall we? Thank you, Fangraphs.

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