Archive for December, 2009

Who Am I? – Guess to win a prize

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

I decided to modify the Who Am I game a little and turn it into a more interactive, 20 questionsesque type game. 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. All players may or may not have Cub ties.
  4. Leave your question (one question per comment) in the comments section and it will be answered as soon as I see it.
  5. When making a guess, please use the following phrase “Are You _______?”

Today, because we’re in the Christmas spirit still, we’ll play for a prize. The winner of this first edition of the game will have their choice of one of the following prizes:

Because we’re playing for a prize, this one won’t be easy.

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In the News: Capps to Nats

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Hello, all. I don’t have much time, but here’s a few news items to chew on to get you warmed up for Grandma’s fruitcake later this evening:

Matt Capps chooses the Nationals. Apparently the Nationals sweet talk better than Cubs LHP John Grabow, because Matt Capps has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the perennial NL East punching bags. So he goes from getting few save opportunities with the Pirates to perhaps even fewer with the Nationals. Ah, well. This just opens up another bullpen spot for one of the Cubs’ young arms. Oh, and I also heard Jim Hendry is on vacation and that the Cubs never seriously pursued Capps to begin with. So maybe this was just never meant to be.

The Dread Pirate Kevin Gregg? Apparently, former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg is getting a look-see from the Buccos. Hey, why not? If he does go to Pittsburgh, let’s hope Gregg doesn’t lose the acute case of long-ball-itis that plagued him in ’09.

Your new hitting coach: Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg. Ever want to take some BP under the watchful eye of former Cubs second baseman (and potential future manager) Ryne Sandberg? If so, you could get your chance by attending Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Festival sponsored by RCN Corp. on Dec. 28.  Maybe Bruce Sutter will come out of retirement to throw Ryno a couple meatballs.

Class of ’69 catcher speaks out. Randy Hundley was the backstop for the tragic 1969 Cubs and, at a recent appearance in Bloomington, Ill., he spoke candidly about what went wrong that fateful season. This isn’t exactly news if you’re familiar with Cubs history, but interesting nonetheless.

Here comes the Cubs caravan. The Daily Herald reveals when and where it will be arriving. Oh, and this Peoria Journal Star article tells you who will be there.

Happy Holidays to all my fellow Cubs fans!

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Milton Bradley’s Heartfelt Ingratitude

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I found this too good not to share. It comes from a site called Tauntr. Happy Holidays to everyone.

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In the News: Let’s Go Byrd Watching!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Greetings, Cubs fans, and welcome to “In the News” with the Daver. Yes, at Joe’s suggestion, I’ve decided to rename my bi-weekly (er so) posts to make the headlines pop a little more. Plus, “Morning News With the Daver” may not have made much sense to many of you slackers anyway, considering you don’t get up before noon. Yeah, I said it.

Anyway, with Milton finally in our collective past, I’d guess the biggest “about to happen” Cubs news stories are: a) Marlon Byrd signed to play centerfield, and b) Matt Capps signed for the bullpen. Sure, I could be wrong on either (or both) counts, but that’s the scuttlebutt on Twitter (Twitterbutt?) and both developments feel pretty likely to me – especially now that the Yankees have traded Melky Cabrera (and others) for Javier Vazquez. We shall see. That bit of Daver-based speculation aside, let’s get to the news:

Giving Milton the last word. I’m assuming most of us have soaked in and sweated out all the vitriolic Bradley-Silva trade coverage by now. But, to give us all a little bit of closure, I suggest taking a Zen approach and letting Milton have the last word. Bruce Miles gives a clear, concise recap of what Bradley said in his trade-announcement conference call. And with that, the story is over.

Ryan Dempster has started a charitable foundation. As noted in last week’s news, Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster’s baby daughter, Riley, was born with DiGeorge Syndrome. Ryan and his wife, Jenny, have formed a foundation to combat the syndrome as well as help fund other charitable causes. Check out this great profile by George Castle.

Cubs in on Cuban lefty fireballer. Aroldis Chapman is a recent defector from Cuba who throws from the left side of the mound at 95+ MPH. I failed to mention the Cubs interest in him last week because, well, I sincerely doubted the team’s financial capacity to sign him. But it does appear the Cubs are in on the bidding, so file his name away for future reference. (Bear in mind, however, that Phil Rogers wrote this story.) For some reason, I have a feeling Chapman may end up a closer. No idea why.

Mesa supporters feeling good. The spring training saga wears on. A group of businessfolk from Mesa, Ariz. met with Cubs officials last week, and they like their chances of retaining the team’s spring training activities.

The new USA Today Team Report is out! The new USA Today Team Report is out! You’d think I’d get a free subscription out of doing this or something. Seriously, give it a read.

It’s back…back…back…HEY! HEY! Yes, the Jack Brickhouse statue that mysteriously disappeared from outside the WGN peep-show studio on Michigan Ave. has been refurbished and returned to its rightful place amongst shoppers, sidewalk marketeers and sad-sack working slobs like me.

Fisted foul…and CAUGHT! for a new job. In other former Cubs broadcaster news, Chip Caray will resume his fanfistic play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves next season. First they lose Vazquez and now this.

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The Tiger and the Mariner

Monday, December 21st, 2009

I recently had a chance to sit down with The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 and was completely captivated by the quality writing and analysis it contains.  I cannot recommend a book more highly than this year’s THT annual.  I was honored to contribute a piece on two interesting defensive developments from the 2009 season.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The Tigers

Two years ago, in 2008, the Detroit Tigers were going to set the world on fire.  There was talk of scoring 1,000 runs as a team, a feat accomplished only twice in the last 70 years.  They were supposed to be an offensive juggernaut.  They threw defense to the wind.  To bolster the offense, they moved their slick-fielding third baseman (Brandon Inge) to catcher.  This made room for the newly acquired basher Miguel Cabrera.  At that point Cabrera already had proven with his previous team (Marlins) that he was woeful at third, but the idea was that his offense would more than make up for his defense.

That particular experiment lasted exactly 14 games.

Cabrera made five errors and lost three runs defensively in those 14 games.  The Tigers then threw everything and everybody but the kitchen sink at the third base position. It was like tee-ball. (You know: Everyone gets a chance to try out at every position.)  Seven different players played third for the Tigers that season, and every single one of them lost runs defensively for the club.  Except Inge, the guy they could have been playing all along:

Defensive Runs Saved – 2008 Detroit Tigers Third Base


Defensive Runs Saved

Carlos Guillen


Miguel Cabrera


Jeff Larish


Ramon Santiago


Ryan Raburn


Mike Hessman


Brandon Inge


This motley third-base crew lost 21 runs defensively for the Tigers, their worst defensive position in 2008.

The thing is, in 2007 the Tigers were a very good defensive club. They had 57 defensive runs saved as a team, fourth best in baseball, and they won 88 games.  And third base was their strongest defensive position with 20 runs saved, thanks to Inge.

In 2008 the Tigers lost 88 games, and third base was their weakest defensive position.

In 2009 the Tigers rediscovered defensive religion.  They realized that what they tried in 2008 simply doesn’t work in major league baseball.  All offense and no defense doesn’t cut it.  A team needs balance.  Inge went back to third base, and the Tigers brought in one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, Gerald Laird, to take his place behind the plate.  At shortstop, the offensive-minded but mediocre defensively Edgar Renteria was sent packing.  He was replaced by the best defensive shortstop of the 21strrd century so far, Adam Everett. (That is my assessment based on my defensive metrics outlined in ! The Fielding Bible and The Fielding Bible, Volume II.)

What happened? The Tigers improved by 29 runs defensively at third base.  They improved by 17 runs at shortstop.  They improved their win total by 12 games and won 86 games for the season. They just missed the playoffs by losing the 163rd game of the year to the Twins, but they spent more time in first place in 2009 than any other team in the American League.

The Mariners

The Seattle Mariners were the most improved team in baseball in 2009.  They improved their record from 61-101 in 2008 to 85-77.  That’s an increase of 24 wins in one year.

The Seattle Mariners also were the most improved defensive team in baseball  this past season. This is not a coincidence.  They improved their Defensive Runs Saved as a team from 17 runs saved in 2008 to 109 runs saved in 2009.  That’s an increase of 92 runs in one year.

The rule of thumb among stat-heads is that 10 runs is about equal to a win.  Using this, we can estimate that Seattle’s defensive improvement gained the Mariners about nine additional wins in 2009 over the 2008 club.  That certainly doesn’t account for the entire 24-win improvement.  After all, hitting and pitching are also essential, but it does show how much defense matters.  Nine games out of the 24-win gain are significant. Give any team in major league baseball 92 more runs and see how far it moves up in the standings.

How did the Mariners do it?  Outfield defense is the main answer.  In 2008 they had only 11 runs saved defensively from their entire outfield.  Defensively, all they had was Ichiro.  He split time between right field and center field.  In right field he saved 15 runs defensively, but in center field he was pretty much average (-1 run saved).  In 2009 the team brought in two of the best defensive outfielders in the game to join Suzuki.  Franklin Gutierrez had just completed two seasons playing right field for the Indians, where he saved a total of 32 runs defensively.  Endy Chavez saved 23 runs playing all three outfield positions in the previous two years for the Mets.  And neither player was a regular on his team those years; neither started as many as 100 games in either season.

On the 2009 Mariners, Ichiro was moved back to right field and Gutierrez became the center fielder.  Chavez didn’t play full time, but played most in left field.  The results were spectacular. The outfield saved 56 runs defensively, the best in baseball.

Don’t like defense? Then you would be clueless in Seattle.

Team defensive charts accompany the article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010, and full defensive analysis is available on Bill James Online.  (Full disclosure:  THT 2010 is published by ACTA Sports.)

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

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