Archive for January, 2010

Stat of the Week: Going First to Third

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The Angels in 2009 advanced from first to third on a single 128 times — twenty more than any other major league team. The only three major league players who have gone from first to third on a single more than 50% of the time in their careers (50 or more opportunities) are Torii Hunter, Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar — all Angels in 2009.

Angels 2009- Advancing 1st to 3rd
Advances Opportunities Pct
128 367 35%

This is an example of over 300 nuggets from the Bill James Gold Mine 2010, coming out in March. Here’s another nugget:

Why Does This Always Happen to Cleveland?

The Indians lost their last 15 road games of the season, the most consecutive road losses by any major league team to end a season since the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

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

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In the News: Happy ARB-or Day

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

 

Greetings, Cubs fans. As of yesterday, I thought this might be a slow news day. But I’ve actually come across a number of items, so let’s get right to today’s top stories*:

Jim Hendry busy trying to avoid arbitration hearings with Ryan Theriot and Carlos Marmol. As you may or may not have heard, the Cubs came to terms with five arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday: Jeff Baker (who will earn $975,000 in ’10), Tom Gorzelanny ($800,000 in ’10), Angel Guzman ($825,000 in ’10), Mike Fontenot ($1,000,000 in ’10) and Koyie Hill ($700,000 in ’10).

The latest blogpost by Bruce Miles details the challenge now faced by the team’s GM: Staying out of awkward arbitration hearings with shortstop Ryan Theriot, who’s asking for $3.4 million (Cubs’ counteroffer: $2.6 million), closer Carlos Marmol, who’s asking for $2.5 million (Cubs’ counteroffer: $1.75 million), and swingman Sean Marshall, who’s asking for $1.175 million (Cub’s counteroffer: $800,000). Bruce thinks Theriot could be the first player since Mark Grace to go to a hearing.

Kickin’ it with Kiko Calero. Jim Hendry made it fairly clear during the Cubs Convention that he’s looking for a right-handed, veteran arm to add to the bullpen. That arm could be attached to Kiko Calero, who made 67 appearances with a sparkling 1.95 ERA for the Florida Marlins last season. Jeff Morosi reports negotiations are under way.

Update: Bruce Levine reports the Cubs have had talks with Calero’s agent but, and I quote, “have no interest in [Calero].” Bruce precedes this remark by letting us know that Calero’s agent also represents Jose Contreras. Hm, call me crazy, Bruce, but isn’t it more likely that the Cubs are talking to said agent about Calero, not Contreras? Levine also says the Cubs are looking at trades with the Padres (for RHP Luke Gregorson or possibly even Heath Bell) and Blue Jays (for RHP Jason Frasor) to bulk up the bullpen.

Jake Peavy wanted to be a Cub. No, really. Maybe we shouldn’t dwell on this, but Barry Rozner has some choice quotes from the, ahem, Chicago White Sox No. 1 starter that make it clear he was quite amenable to accepting a first-class ticket to the Friendly Confines. Jake says the Cubs ownership uncertainties caused the deal to fall through. Interestingly, at the Cubs Convention, Jim Hendry seemed to scoff at the idea that he let Peavy “slip through his fingers.” Ah, well. C’est la vie.

Jimmy Ballgame wants back in the game. As Mark mentioned in his post yesterday, former Cubs centerfielder Jim Edmonds is looking to get back onto a major league roster in 2010. (I think Jim used to be a Cardinal, too. Let me check Baseball-Reference on that and get back to you.) I don’t think Edmonds really fits the Cubs needs, as he’s not an ideal candidate to play right field and face left-handed pitching in place of Kosuke. But perhaps Lou could put Jeff Baker out there in those instances and sign Edmonds to back up first base and left field as well as pinch hit. It doesn’t hurt to take a look, I guess.

Eric Byrnes released by the Diamondbacks. Another name to scribble at the bottom of the fourth outfielder list is now former D’Back Eric Byrnes, who the AZ snakes released from his rather sizeable contract yesterday. Byrnes has been injured and otherwise awful for the last couple of years. But he’s now quite cheap (could be signed for league minimum) and can, theoretically at least, play all three outfield spots and slug a little. Hendry could sign him to a minor league deal to see what he’s got.

Bad news out of Milwaukee. That’s right, the Brew Crew have signed slow-tossing southpaw Doug Davis to a one-year deal. Ugh! Davis doesn’t strike many batters out and he gives up a ton of hits. But he always seems to own the Cubs, who quickly succumb to his sleep-inducing pitching style. And his ERA+ has been above league average for three years running. With Gallardo, Wolf and Davis atop their rotation, the Brewers now look at least a little more intimidating.

Free-swingin’ Randall Simon is back! No, not with the Cubs – with the rip-roarin’ Rockford Riverhawks. (Or at least he’ll probably be playing there. The deal isn’t finalized yet). Do the Riverhawks have a mascot that Simon could put the smack down on?

Are you ready to rock? Then stay away from Wrigley again this summer. Sorry, folks, don’t mean to editorialize with my own musical tastes. But it looks like the Cubs are in talks with the usual assortment of yawn-inducing artists/bands to tear up the outfield and annoy the neighbors. I know, I know…I shouldn’t complain. This is another good revenue source for the team, and a lot of people seem to like the shows. (I have a friend who saw The Police at Wrigley a couple years back.) But I’d just as soon see the ballpark stick to baseball in the summertime.

*As always, the bolded phrases at the beginning of each paragraph are hyperlinks to news stories.

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More outfield speculation

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Having announced that Sam Fuld is penciled in as the clubs fifth outfielder, the Cubs are still in search of a corner outfielder, preferably one that can play a little first. Today it was announced that the Diamondbacks have released Eric Byrnes; this means that the hard-hitting but frequently injured Byrnes could be had for the major league minimum.

I like this possibility – the Cubs are looking for a bat off the bench and someone who can spell Soriano and Fukudome occasionally in the corners. I certainly like it better than the possibility of getting Baldelli, there was some speculation about that reported on Rotoworld. Byrnes has one year remaining on his contract and would be a free agent after 2010. In other words, no strings attached.

Also in the news it is being reported that former Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds is staging a comeback. Edmonds will be 40 in June and might be worth a look – he didn’t play at all in 2009 but had a very respectable year in 2008. I felt that Jim was a good Cub after coming over from the arch enemy Cards; it took a while for the fans to warm to him but he was humble and had some clutch hits. Given budget constraints it might be worth an invite to spring training and an incentive-based contract should he make the team.

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Trivia Time: See Ball…Hit HR

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Q: Since 1900, seven players have had a season in which at least 35% of their hits have resulted in home runs. Can you name them?

Note: One player did it four times.

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In the News: Xavier Nady, come on down!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

 

Hello, Cubs fans. I hope you all enjoyed (or were at least entertained by) this past weekend’s Cubs Convention, either as a participant or as a distant observer like me. If you missed any of the sessions, or would like to hear them again, WGN Radio has posted audio and video clips, as well as a bunch of pictures, here.

The Cubs Convention usually doesn’t bring much surprising news – it tends to just confirm stuff we already suspected. And, sure enough, Jim Hendry is busy looking for a fourth outfielder and, apparently, another right-handed bullpen guy. This may or may not mean the Cubs are giving up on Ben Sheets. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get to the news*:

Professor X off the bench?  As mentioned, the Cubs are in hot pursuit of a fourth outfielder to play some right field and take some ABs vs. left-handed pitchers; maybe play some left field and first base to rest Soriano and Derrek Lee, respectively; and pinch hit. In my last post, we discussed the idea of Jermaine Dye filling this role. (And, reportedly, the Cubs are in preliminary talks with Dye on a one-year deal.) Now another name has appeared on the list: Xavier Nady. On paper, he may be a better choice than Dye – he’s younger and has much more experience backing up first base. The big question is how well he’s recovered from recent Tommy John surgery. (Fan favorite Reed Johnson is still in the mix, too.)

Yet another Ben Sheets update. Recent indications seem to, uh, indicate that Sheets is out of the Cubs’ price range. Plus, at the Cubs Convention, Jim Hendry revealingly grumbled about the constant worry of Rich Harden’s injury status, implying that perhaps he’s done taking flyers on oft-hurt hurlers. So Sheets is out, right? NOT SO FAST. This Canadian newspaper published a tantalizingly certain remark that the Cubs have “all but signed” Sheets. So maybe Jimbo was just being coy. Stay tuned.

Build it and they will come. Rehab it and…well, it’ll look pretty cool. Tom Ricketts and the rest of the Cubs new ownership group revealed this past weekend that a massive Wrigley Field rehab project, dubbed “Wrigley 20-14,” will begin in (you guessed it) 2014. Here’s a cool illustration of what the expanded ballpark and brand-spankin’-new Triangle Building will look like.

Nutritionist joins Cubs clubhouse staff. I found this news item, buried in a Southtown Star article, quite interesting and important. That is, the Cubs have hired a full-time nutritionist to help prepare the team’s meals. This could be key to helping the newly svelte Geovany Soto and fitter Carlos Zambrano stay in shape.

Spring training decision next week. Or so tweets Carrie Muskat.

Remember So Taguchi? Yeah, I don’t either. Just kidding. He was a footnote that appeared at the end of the disappointing 2009 season but, just in case you were wondering, it looks like So (released by the Cubs last year) will be heading back to Japan to finish out his baseball career.

The new USA Today Team Report is out! The new USA Today Team Report is out! As usual, use this to tie up most of the loose ends of what’s up with the Cubs right now.

Big Z has a charity. Hey, that rhymes. And, hey, this is news to me. Carlos Zambrano has joined Ryan Dempster and Derrek Lee in establishing a charitable organization. Carlos’s Big Z Foundation will seek to help underserved families in Chicago and developing countries. He really wants Jim Carrey to appear at his next charity event. Alllllllllllrighty then.

Speaking of Ryan Dempster’s charitable organization… Here’s the lovely Sarah Spain’s account of The Ryan & Jenny Dempster Family Foundation’s event at Hub 51 this past Sunday. (Pictures included!)

Boycott Paul Sullivan. On a parting note, I’d just like to thank the brilliant Chicago Tribune scribe Paul Sullivan for blocking me and several other Cubs fans from following his Twitter stream. As if I couldn’t lose any more respect for the guy whose bias against – and obsession with – Milton Bradley has been an embarrassment to him, his employer (which, thankfully, no longer owns the team) and Cubs fans everywhere. And who recently reminded us all that, y’know, Carlos Zambrano isn’t really from Chicago, he’s from Venezuela. (Gee, thanks, Paul.) Suffice to say, I won’t be linking any of my news items to Paul’s stories, and I urge you all to ignore him as well. It’s not like Gordon Wittenmyer doesn’t write basically the same crap anyway.

*As always, the bolded phrases leading off each paragraph are hyperlinks.

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