Archive for December, 2009

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®,

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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New Possibilities at CF

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Phil Rogers of the Trib brought us this nugget of information buried deep in his column about ranking the rotations in baseball (The Cubs tied for 9th).

If the Red Sox wind up with Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, the Cubs immediately would make a major effort to land Jacoby Ellsbury to fill their center field/leadoff hole, according to sources.

That scenario helps explain why the Cubs have been so patient in studying their options. The best way to do such a trade might be for GM Jim Hendry to facilitate a three-team deal that sends first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to the Red Sox by packaging a group of prospects, possibly including one or two of their top ones, such as third baseman Josh Vitters, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and pitchers Andrew Cashner and Jay Jackson.

~ Phil Rogers (Chicago Tribune – 12/27/09)

He also mentioned in another column that same day (why he didn’t combine them I have no idea), that perhaps Fernando Perez of the Rays might be a good fit. So we get two new names to throw into the mix with Rick Ankiel and Marlon Byrd and I’d like to see what your feelings are on all four names.

It’s weird, because if this rumor is true, we should actually be cheering for a team like the Red Sox to get richer. We should actually pull for them to add a stud like Gonzalez to play 1B for them and a huge bat like Holliday in the OF so we can pick off some of the excess goodness. It’s as if we’re homeless and the Sox would essentially let us eat off the fruit that falls off the tree. Let me tell you this: Jacoby Ellsbury would be some mighty sweet fruit. The question then becomes “How much talent are you willing to part with to get him”.

Cincinnati Reds v Boston Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury makes a catch (Picapp)

If we look at the four names Rogers mentions above and add to it a guy like Starlin Castro to it, we have to ask the question of if we’d be willing to part with two of those names to get Ellsbury. It’s important to keep Vitters based on Ramirez’s health of late and the lack of depth in the system at the position. That leaves the two SS and two Pitchers. I’d package one of each to get Ellsbury with my preference being to include Cashner and Lee, despite the fact that I think both have the higher ceiling. I like Cashner, but he projects at as a bullpen arm in my book, while Jackson should be able to start. Lee probably have a better skill set than Castro, but the fact that we’ve only seen one year of him at such a low level means I’d rather take a chance with the lower ceiling (although not much lower) of Castro. My guess is those two names might be good enough to get him, considering the Sox would have a major logjam in the OF.

Personally, I don’t consider Perez a major option unless his price tag is very cheap. A name I’d look at is Desmond Jennings, who has a lot better skill set than Perez and seems to be a better option to succeed at the Major League level because of the fact that he’s been more successful in the minors and isn’t coming off shoulder surgery like Perez is.

Looking at the three major sources I consult on prospects we get the following on Jennings at the start of 2009

Deric McKamey – “Lean/athletic OF with plus speed and impressive on-base skills, priming himself for a leadoff role. Possesses solid bat speed, with projectable power. Plus range and average arm strength make him solid in CF. Missed most of season (2008) due to shoulder surgery and a strained back”

Baseball America – “…has exceptional speed and the discerning eye to become a prototypical leadoff hitter and center fielder. His strike-zone judgment rates among the best in the system. While he has some pop and the ability to drive the ball in the gaps, he knows his role and focuses on getting on base. He covers a wide swath in center and has an average arm.”

John Sickels – “…has what you need in a leadoff man: lots of speed, good strike-zone judgment, fine OBP skills, and enough pop in his bat to keep the pitchers honest. His arm was weak even before the injury, so his throwing won’t be an asset but otherwise his defense is very good.”

I’m not sure if he’d truly be available for a reasonable price, but he’s a name I’d rather see Jim Hendry look at. I believe the Rays may look at him in CF for 2010, which also might mean someone like B.J. Upton may be available after a down year in 2009.

Rays Index chimed in about the matter via e-mail:

Perez is tough. On the one hand, the Rays don’t have a spot for him on the big league roster, and there will be one or two outfielders in triple-A ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. At 27, he probably is no longer part of the Rays future. He just never learned to hit from the left side of the plate as well as the Rays had hoped. Towards the end of ’09 he was almost exclusively bunting when he faced right-handed pitchers. But the Rays also still have two minor league options on Perez and they know he can contribute if needed, so there is no need to move him. Therefore the Rays aren’t going to give him up for a bag of balls even if there isn’t a need for him in the foreseeable future. My guess is that it would take a legitimate big league prospect. Otherwise, why not keep him around for depth and insurance? If that prospect played catcher, first base or pitcher, they are more likely to listen. In all likelihood, the Rays will want a guy in single-A or double-A. A catcher or a pitcher that projects well to the big leagues and is not on the 40-man roster. But is Perez worth a legit catching or pitching prospect? I doubt it. So what about young, cheap power arm that can contribute in the bullpen this season?

That being said, Perez can be an everyday big league outfielder. He might struggle against righties. But even if he bunts every time he faces a righty, he could still get on base at a .330 clip based on his speed and ability to draw a walk.

Jennings: The Rays will never say a player is untouchable. I mean, everybody has a price. But the price for Jennings will be very high. He is a legit top 5 prospect with all the tools. Unlike Perez, there is a need in the foreseeable future for Jennings, assuming the Rays cannot resign Carl Crawford after the season (or trade him before then). So if the Cubs (or another team) wants to try and pry Jennings away it would probably take a young, cheap player that can contribute at the big league level this season and is a considerable upgrade over the player currently in that position. And the only spots that can stand to use an upgrade are catcher and the bullpen. And the Rays aren’t giving up a top prospect for a relief pitcher. Do the Cubs have a Buster Posey or Matt Wieters laying around?

It’s still a weird situation to be in for this team. There is a good chance we may go into the season with a rather putrid situation at CF or a potentially big impact type player in Ellsbury manning the position. Should be an interesting next month or so.

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