Archive for December, 2009

Remembering Dave Beyer: Robot Pitching Memo

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Memo from Cy Borg, Pitching Machine Project Leader

CLEMEN Industries Robotics

Date: 6/2/04

Status: Models A-R disabled. Clemen S and Clemen T in active duty.

ClemenS Update:

Still our most successful model, The ClemenS pitching robot was in retirement due to worn parts over the offseason. However, lead field researcher Pettitte was able to get ClemenS up and running in tme for the season’s start. He has won all seven of his decisions and has no-decisions in three starts. ClemenS has given up 2.38 runs per nine innings this year, walking 26 and striking out 76 in 64.1 innings of service. Researcher Pettitte devoted himself full-time to ClemenS maintenance for a portion of the season, curtailing his own career. Now that Pettitte is dividing his time between pitching and maintaining ClemenS, our team is concerned that the robot will break down. However, early returns on the season are extremely promising; remarkable given that the expected life span of this robot has long been exceeded and its inning meter has recently passed 4300.

ClemenT update:

Intended to be an upgrade over the Clemen model S, ClemenT has shown certain design flaws that have made its performance wildly unpredictable. Despite top-of-the-line pitch algorithms, ClemenT has had trouble with release point, target identification, and target accuracy. The addition of the Chin Patch has helped significantly, but ClemenT unit still suffered occasional breakdowns. Due to recalibration of key targeting systems, this robot has been very effective this season, rivaling the performance of the ClemenS this season. It has won six decisions against three losses in ten starts, with 24 walks and 65 strikeouts. The robot’s season inning meter is currently at 65.0 and shows no signs of needing tune-up.

Project goals for 2004:

ClemenS can show significant drop in performance this season and the project will still label its performance a success.

ClemenT, despite improvement, needs to maintain its current output over a full season to renew Clemen Industries’ service contract for this unit with the Chicago Cubs. They are very pleased with ClemenT’s performance thus far and have ordered production of a ClemenU, ClemenV, and ClemenW. Our project is staffing up to meet the Cubs’ Needs.

Report Update:

ClemenS and ClemenT will be in the same place simultaneously for a Houston-Chicago game. Let us hope, for the sake of our project, that the Clemen Industries “Houston Electromagnetic Pulse Grid” project does not go on-line today.

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Cubs Sign Marlon Byrd

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO — For the second straight offseason, the Cubs have signed an outfielder from the Texas Rangers, but this should be a better fit.

On Thursday, the Cubs inked free agent Marlon Byrd to a three-year, $15 million contract to fill their gap in center field. The deal is backloaded so Byrd will be paid $3 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012.

“When I knew I had the opportunity to become a Cub, I was really hoping this would be my landing ground,” Byrd said.

Byrd, 32, batted .283 last season with the Texas Rangers and set personal highs with 20 homers and 89 RBIs. He’ll be reunited with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who signed this offseason with the Cubs. Jaramillo helped sell Byrd to the Cubs.

“We knew he was a good guy,” general manager Jim Hendry said of Byrd, about whom the Cubs inquired prior to the 2008 season. “He plays very hard and fans are going to like that. He comes to play every day, doesn’t want days off and gives you 110 [percent]. When Rudy told us about the other things he brought to the table, it enhances his reputation even further.”

That sounds the opposite of Milton Bradley, the other Rangers outfielder whom the Cubs signed to a three-year deal prior to the 2009 season. Kosuke Fukudome had switched from right to center to make room for Bradley, but he will go back to right field now that Bradley has been traded to the Seattle Mariners after a tumultuous year in Chicago, which ended with a 15-game suspension.

“I haven’t talked to [Bradley] as far as baseball,” Byrd said of his former teammate. “He said it was tough. We tried to go over things as far as what was going on with his swing. The big thing about me and Milton is we have a relationship off the field. I love Milton Bradley. I’m a little biased when it comes to him. I think he’s a great guy. I’m going to talk to him today about coming here. I’m sure he’s happy to start in another place, get a fresh start and try to put things in the past.”

The Cubs are happy to move on.

“Since the day we hired Rudy, he came to the [organizational] meetings and was passionate about his belief in Marlon and that he would be the right guy,” Hendry said. “[Jaramillo told us] don’t worry about right-handed or left-handed and that his defense had been underrated in the past. Rudy had a strong influence on us and the way we thought.”

With the addition of Byrd, the Cubs are very right-handed, but Hendry pointed out that’s how the lineup was in 2007, when the team won 97 games and the National League Central.

The outfield options the Cubs have from the left include Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir. Hendry mentioned that Jeff Baker also could play some outfield. Signing Byrd most likely means free agent Reed Johnson, a right-handed hitter, will not return.

Byrd has benefited from playing in Texas and has posted a .522 slugging percentage at home compared to .414 on the road in the last three seasons. In 2009, he batted .282 at home with a .538 slugging percentage, compared to .285 on the road with a .419 slugging percentage.

He said he simply felt more relaxed at home, being around his family, and that his numbers were not a product of the ballpark.

“The park situation can be overrated at times,” Hendry said. “I think a lot of people felt that way when Mark DeRosa came out of Texas. You’ve got the best hitting coach in baseball who believes it finally clicked with Marlon in the last year or two and that it will continue over the next three, four years. That’s what we went by in the end is Rudy’s belief that the player finally got it and it clicked.”

What did Jaramillo do to get Byrd on the right track?

“Rudy teaches five steps,” Byrd said, “and going over the five steps, I was missing about four of them. He basically implemented the four and made me start trusting in myself and believing in myself.”

Byrd was drawing interest from other teams, and some reports listed the Braves, Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Mets and Giants as possible suitors. He wanted to stay in Texas, but the Rangers did not offer a multi-year deal.

Finding a center fielder has been an issue for the Cubs. Byrd will be the sixth different Opening Day starter in the last six years.

As far as defense goes, Byrd credited former Cubs outfielder Gary Varsho with teaching him the basics and moving him to center. Gold Glover Gary Pettis also worked with Byrd as did Andruw Jones, who helped as far as reading a hitter’s swings.

“Being out there every single day really helped,” Byrd said.

Hendry still has some tweaks to make, including finding an experienced right-handed reliever and some backup help for the bench.

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Updated 25 Man Roster Projection

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

STARTING LINEUP
1.
Kosuke Fukudome – RF
2. Ryan Theriot – SS
3. Derrek Lee – 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez – 3B
5. Marlon Byrd – CF
6. Alfonso Soriano – LF
7. Geovany Soto – C
8. Jeff Baker – 2B

BENCH
Sam Fuld – OF
Micah Hoffpauir – IF / OF
Mike Fontenot – IF
Koyie Hill – C
Andres Blanco – IF

STARTING ROTATION
1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Ted Lilly
4. Randy Wells
5. Sean Marshall

BULLPEN
1. Tom Gorzelanny
2. John Grabow
3. Angel Guzman
4. Carlos Marmol
5. Justin Berg
6. Esmailin Caridad
7. Jeff Samardzija

Other Roster Candidates
(All Stats from 2009)

Catcher
Robinson Chirinos
Wellington Castillo
Steve Clevenger
Chris Robinson

Corner Infield
Blake Lalli
Bobby Scales

Middle Infield
Tony Thomas
Starlin Castro
Darwin Barney

Outfield
Tyler Colvin

Pitchers
Mitch Atkins
David Patton
Blake Parker
Neal Cotts
John Gaub
Marcos Mateo
Jay Jackson
Andrew Cashner
J.R. Mathes
Jeremy Papelbon
Carlos Silva

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New Year and a New Look

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

2010 is here and with it comes a new look to the site. If you’ve followed us from the beginning, this is only the 3rd major overhaul we’ve done to the design if you don’t count the moment of stupidity that was the conversion to MVN. Hopefully this new look will be a good one. It brings with it a few new things (nothing major, but fun nonetheless) that I’m excited about. I wanted to take just a minute to point those out to you.

  1. Twitter Feed Integration – If you’re not on Twitter, that’s OK. We’ll get you eased into the water with the twitter widget you see on the right of the new layout. This widget is actually a combination of my account and dat_cubfan_daver’s twitter feed. You may see a few duplicate stories from time to time if we both see something that is of note, but overall, it should be a nice addition. You can even get interactive with it (if you have a twitter account) right from the widget by replying and retweeting.
  2. Featured Post Slider – I haven’t decided on how many “featured” stories I’m going to be rotating just yet or how long they’ll be up there, but this should allow us to have some posts stay near the top for a longer period of time and get more conversation going as a result. That makes for a better community and reading experience in my opinion. After all, we’re all fans of the same team, so why not talk about it?
  3. Magazine Layout – This is a major change for me…and I hate change. It took me a lot of time to finally get up the nerve to change how the site is viewed from the homepage. Now, below the slider bar you’ll see the non-featured most recent posts with a thumbnail image to peak your curiosity. With them (as is the case with all posts now) is a brief summary of the post. To view the full post and comment, you’ll need to click through. It’s taken me some getting used to, but I like it a lot better because of the cleaner look. Give it a try.
  4. Comments – I’ve added the ability for you to reply directly to a comment to create a thread that should make for easier reading and replying. I’d love some feedback on how deep you’d like a thread to go. Right now it’s set at 3. As you get more, it gets messy with formatting, but I’m always up for feedback.
  5. Gravatars – If you have no idea what those are, it’s you’re own personal icon that identifies you as the commenter. If you don’t have one, go to www.gravatar.com and sign up for a profile. Once you do, set up an image icon and then every site you comment on that incorporates gravatars, your icon will show up. All I ask is that you keep the image clean. It’s fun, and I’d highly recommend it because it’s free.
  6. Blockquote (grey box) – Gone is the insulting grey box. It has been replaced by navy blue quotes. That should be less offensive.
  7. Footer Tools – At the base of the site, you’ll see four sections. The first section is the organizational links that includes the 25 and 40 man roster as well as links to the minor league team sites. The second section is for our site originals like the projected roster, top prospect list, etc. The third section is a collection of quality resources I use on the site. The final section is an RSS feed of great Cubs blogs we read.

That’s it. I’d love your feedback on the new look as well as any bugs you might find. Here’s hoping 2010 is the year we reset that friggin AC sign to 00 00 00.

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Cubs shopping Zambrano?

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Today Rotoworld intimated that the Cubs were floating Carlos Zambrano in trade talks, they later modified their article to say that Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman had asked about Zambrano, both articles – both entries indicated that the chances of Z waiving his no trade clause were slim to none.

That notwithstanding it amuses me that people are talking about trading Zambrano again. Admittedly he had an offseason and didn’t deliver the goods in 2009; he had more distracting episodes as well. But does that mean the Cubs should put him on the market? Methinks not, unless of course it is a blockbuster trade that includes Soriano for all of some team’s top prospects. But they’d have to be some pretty awesome prospects. Here’s the reality of our situation – Zambrano is a constant for our pitching staff, he’s the anchor of the rotation. When he’s in good form he’s a dominating influence on the game with both his arm and his bat. I’m looking for a rebound year for Carlos this year but I’d also be interested to hear from those readers that disagree.

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Aaron Harang’s New Year’s Resolution

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The Following is used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

I, Aaron Harang, resolve to get more run support in 2010.

Harang received the worst run support in baseball last year as the Reds only scored an average of 3.2 runs per nine innings while he was on the mound. Basically, the Reds’ offense hit opposing starters like they were facing Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia every time out.

Here’s the list of pitchers who received the lowest run support in 2009:

Lowest Run Support (minimum 162 IP)
Run Support Runs Allowed
Player Team Innings Per Nine Innings Per Nine Innings
Aaron Harang Reds 162.3 3.22 4.55
Barry Zito Giants 192.0 3.38 4.17
Matt Garza Rays 203.0 3.68 4.12
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 171.0 3.68 2.89
Jonathan Sanchez Giants 163.3 3.69 4.52

Harang’s record was 6-14, thanks in large part to an offense featuring Willy Taveras, Jerry Hairston, Paul Janish, and Alex Gonzalez. With persistent rumors about a trade to a contending team, Harang’s resolution is likely to come true in 2010. But even if he stays with the Reds, his run support should improve anyway. While the Reds’ team scoring rate of 4.13 runs per nine innings is poor, it is still well above the 3.22 runs they averaged for Harang.

Barry Zito pitched well for the Giants despite his 10-13 record. The Giants were 18-15 overall in Zito’s starts, and the former Cy Young Award winner allowed just 4.17 runs per nine innings. Matt Garza (8-12 record) received the lowest run support in the American League at just under 3.7 runs per nine innings despite pitching for one of the league’s stronger offense.


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Who Am I? – Vol. 2

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

We played this the other day and it worked great. Just in case you missed it, here was the last game in which the answer was Adam Greenberg.

Here are the rules:

  1. Only yes / no questions are allowed.
  2. You are allowed as many questions as you would like, but only one guess per reader unless we open it up for a second
  3. Leave your question (one question per comment) in the comments section and it will be answered as soon as I see it.
  4. If I answer your question, you can’t ask another until someone else has asked one.
  5. All players may or may not have Cub ties.
  6. When making you official guess, please use the following phrase “Are You _______?”

No prize today, just bragging rights. Game on!!!

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In the News: Could This Be Dawson’s Year?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Good day, Cubs fans. As visions of Jacoby Ellsbury swirl in your head (see Joe’s post below), take a gander at some of the other news waddling across the frozen virtual tundra of the Interwebs:

1. Andre Dawson is in ’87 form in the Hall of Fame voting. Per this link, and as of yesterday, he had over 85% of the voting. (Thanks to Colin Wyers for passing along that blog post on Twitter.) It’s still too soon to call it a win, but things are looking good for The Hawk. And if you can’t get enough of Andre, here’s a nice article on him published this week in a Lawrence, Kansas newspaper.

2. Contreras? Spilborghs? What? Once again, Bruce Levine has us all chasing our tails with his strange rumors. Why would the Cubs be looking at the aged Jose Contreras? What, Carlos Silva won’t be stressful enough to watch take the mound? One interesting theory is that Hendry may sign Contreras to befriend hotshot (and expensive) Cuban free agent Arnoldis Chapman, in whom the Cubs have shown some interest. But that’s…well…kind of a stretch. (Something Contreras ends up pitching out of quite often.) Levine also mentions the Cubs may have an interest in Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs. But this article by Rockies beat reporter Troy Renck clarifies that the interest is minimal at best.

3. Wrigley Field shall remain named thusly.This recent New York Times piece allows new owner Tom Ricketts to reiterate his ownership group’s commitment to upgrading and preserving Wrigley Field. And he has no plans to offer naming rights to anyone. Sorry, Viagra.

4. Ex-Cub news, Part 1: DeRo is a Giant. Naturally, we all  knew Mark DeRosa was a giant among men. But now he’ll wear a Giants uniform as well. He just signed a two-year, $12 million deal. I wonder whether AT&T’s spacious dimensions will curtail Mark’s late-blooming home run stroke, but if he hits a lot of gap line drives, he should do just fine. A Giants blogger I follow on Twitter says the team likely hasn’t decided exactly where DeRo will play. The Giants may still pick up a Dan Uggla or a Jermaine Dye.

5. Ex-Cub news, Part 2: Howry is no longer a Giant but, rather, a Diamondback. Yes, a guy who went from being a prime set-up guy for the Cubs to being many fans favorite bullpen punching bag will be in Arizona next season. I always liked Howry’s cool, steadfast persona; it was just his straight, flat fastballs that bothered me – at least in 2008. He was pretty good in the two preceding years.

6. Ex-Cub news, Part 3: Ed Lynch is finally gone. Yes, one of the worser (?) GMs in Cubs history is FINALLY off the payroll. (He’d been quietly employed as a scout for the last several years.) He’ll now be working for a shadowy Canadian baseball organization based in a place called “Toronto.” Your guess is as good as mine.

7. Len and Bob’s Bash is back! Every year, Cubs TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly hold a charity event at the House of Blues in downtown Chicago. Well, here’s the scoop on this next year’s bash. Sounds pretty cool.

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Poo Poo on You Bruce Levine

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Bruce Levine shot down my excitement about the possible Jacoby Ellsbury move in his blog yesterday:

Speculation that the Cubs, Red Sox and Padres have talked about a three-way trade that would send Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz to the Cubs was shot down on Monday.

Although the Red Sox and Cubs have talked recently about other matchups, a deal that would send pitcher Andrew Cashner and Josh Vitters as well as a third minor-leaguer to San Diego, which would send first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, has not been broached.

The Padres have not said they will trade Gonzalez, a San Diego native who had his first 40-home run season in 2009. A major-league source said the deal has not been discussed by the three teams.

Baseball Beat w/ Bruce Levine – 12/28/09

Obviously I know that doesn’t mean that the rumor is false, nor does it mean that the mention of it on ESPN means it’s true. What I do know is that it’s out there, and when it’s out there, it’s possible.

I did like the fact that Clay Buchholz was mentioned in Bruce’s report, because I never remember seeing him mentioned anywhere else. Where would that have come from? Getting both Buchholz and Ellsbury would allow me to feel better about Vitter’s name being in the deal along with Cashner.

The waiting continues.

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