Archive for February, 2010

State of the System: Catcher

Monday, February 8th, 2010

You know me, and you know how I like to see the big picture of the system from a position to position basis. Today we begin our journey of taking a look at names to know in the system as we head into spring training and beyond. We all know that just about every player on the 25 man roster will come unto scrutiny sometime during the season. At least this series should provide you with the ammunition needed when you’re calling for someone’s head. If you’re gonna do it, at the very least know who to call for as a replacement.

We begin the series with a look at the catcher position. As a whole, it’s probably one of the weaker spots in the system. It doesn’t provide a lot of hope and insurance if Geo falters in 2010. Here are two names to know behind Soto and a few other notables with a smaller profile.

Note: All scouting quotes from the Baseball Prospect Book 2010 by John Sickels.

Geovany Soto
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2009    26 389 27 19  1 11  47  1 50 77 .218 .321 .381 .702   79

Expected Level: Major League Starter

How Acquired: 11th round draft pick (2001)

What the Scouts Say: "The key for Soto was losing 30 pounds after spring
training started, allowing him to maintain his bat speed and get to inside
fastballs better than he had in the past. Now that he has seen what it can
do for him, Soto must remain in top shape." (Baseball America - 2008)

My Comment: I’ve been critical and hard toward Soto because of his weight and dramatic slump in 2009. Baseball America saw it back in ’08 after a great year in 2007 and predicted it in advance. Hopefully the slimmed down, bleached tipped version of Soto will yield a return to the 2007 & 2008 season numbers and we’re not faced with the idea of a return of Rick Wilkins in the form of Soto. There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”. I think that about sums my 2010 approach to Soto.

Wellington Castillo
Year   Age Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2009    22  AA 339 27 16  0 11  39  1 15 71 .232 .275 .386 .661

Expected Level: AA Starter

How Acquired: Non-Drafted Free Agent

What the Scouts Say: "Castillo's best strength is his ability to throw out
baserunners, nailing 40% last year due to his strong throwing arm and quick
release. Offensively, he has good power in his bat, but his strike zone
judgment remains below average and he will have trouble hitting higher than
.240 against good pitching unless that improves."

My Comment: It’s hard to call Castillo a top prospect in our system, but he makes the handbook put out by John Sickels this year. I’m not sure what happened to him in 2009, but his numbers dropped dramatically in AA compared to what he did in the lower levels the years preceding. What alarms me the most is that it’s been three full seasons and in each, he’s seen his walks decrease. He just doesn’t seem to “get it” at the plate. At the very least, Castillo can be a good armed backup in the future that is inserted at times to either help pitchers who struggle managing the running game or when a team is a particularly speedy team. Unless his offense improves, it will be a struggle for him to see a Major League field in the near future.

Steve Clevenger
Year   Age    Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2009    23 AAA-AA 340 33 16  4  1  36  4 25 39 .290 .344 .378 .722

Expected Level: AAA Starter

How Acquired: 7th round draft pick (2006)

What the Scouts Say: "He won't hit for power, and mediocre plate discipline means
his OBP is going to be very dependent on his batting average. It he can hit .300
in the Majors that's okay, but I think he's more of a .250-.260 hitter at the
major league level."

My Comment: Clevenger is a guy that I’m fond of in the system, primarily because of his work ethic. Most people wouldn’t just up and switch from being an infielder to being pounded with foul tips and being burdened with the most taxing job mentally and physically on the field. Clevenger has done that and is slowly developing into the making of a nice backup catcher / utility man. I like to compare him to a Brandon Inge type player, and I’ll take that guy on my team any day. Hopefully 2010 brings better strike zone knowledge and plate discipline to help him in his quest for the Majors.


Other Notable Names

  • Michael Brenly – Son of Bob Brenly and yet another weak hitting guy behind the plate in the system
  • Chris Robinson – Outside chance of making the roster as the backup catcher
  • Robinson Chirinos – Breakout year in the lower minors. Age could be an issue. 2010 is an important year for him.
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The Missing Ingredient of Pitcher Defense

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Mark Buehrle won both the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award last season, and justifiably so. The White Sox southpaw saved a league-leading seven runs by fielding his position, according to the Plus/Minus System.

However, Buehrle also excelled in the often-overlooked part of pitcher defense: controlling the running game. Buehrle only allowed four stolen bases in 213 innings, but he didn’t get any help from his catchers. Buehrle caught four runners stealing without a throw to the plate, and picked off four additional runners, tops in the league. All said, this adds up to four Runs Saved for the holding runenrs component:

Stolen Bases Runs Saved Leaders
SB CS by CS by Runs
Player Attempts Catcher Pitcher Pickoffs CS % Saved
Mark Buehrle, CWS 8 0 4 4 50% 4
Clayton Kershaw, LAD 13 3 4 3 54% 4
Justin Verlander, Det 25 15 1 2 64% 4
Several Tied 3

Over the past seven seasons, Buehrle has led the league four times and has totaled a remarkable 27 Stolen Base Runs Saved by controlling the running game.

Carl Pavano is the other extreme. Pavano has rated below average in six out of the past seven seasons costing his teams an estimated ten runs (-10 Runs Saved); the only thing that kept Pavano from rating below average in 2006 was an injury which forced him to miss the entire year. AL Central baserunners were thrilled to see Pavano re-sign with Minnesota this offseason. The worst pitcher at holding runners over the last seven seasons was Tim Wakefield with -10 Runs Saved.

Stolen Bases Runs Saved Trailers
SB CS by CS by Runs
Player Attempts Catcher Pitcher Pickoffs CS % Saved
Carl Pavano, Cle/Min 39 6 0 0 15% -4
Brad Penny, Bos/SF 31 2 1 0 10% -3
Jose Contreras, CWS/Col 26 3 0 0 12% -3
Tim Wakefield, Bos 26 3 0 0 12% -3
Chris Young, SD 20 0 0 0 0% -3

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

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A Florida Spring Training “Go-By”?

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

The title of Tim Dorsey’s latest novel is “Gator a-go-go”. It was published in 2010.

All of Tim Dorsey’s novels have been set in Florida, and this one is no exception. The concept is that Serge and Coleman (aka “Captain Florida & Lord of the Binge”) participate in “Spring Break” for the purpose of creating a video documentary of the annual event.

Along the way Serge metes out justice, and Coleman provides comic relief.

A sticker on the book spine says “Mystery”. One of the testimonials on the back cover calls Tim Dorsey “the undisputed king of the comic crime novel”. I think “comic crime novel” is a more accurate description of the genre than “mystery”.

I have to warn everyone that there are plenty of F-Bombs and other potentially offensive words and activities included here, as in all of Tim Dorsey’s novels. I was certainly not offended in the least.

The action occurs in Panama City, Daytona Beach, and Fort Lauderdale with plenty of other locations included. Some of the action takes place at a place called “The Alligator Arms”. Many historical references are presented.

I have been waiting for the release of this book for some months now, and it was well worth the wait. I found myself pleasantly amused by the reading. It brought many smiles.

I recommend this one very highly. It’s a treasure.

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GirlieView (02/05/2010)

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Can you believe it’s time for another GirlieView already? I can’t! It seems like just yesterday I was begging for some commentary on lineups. What can I beg for this week? Nothing. Too busy planning our Super Bowl festivities. Or should I say “The Big Game.” I don’t think I’m allowed to call it the Super Bowl. Oh well. Here’s a super simple recipe for your Big Game Shindig. Never really knew what it was called so we just call it “Good Dip”. It’s sure to spike your blood pressure with its salt content if it’s not already spiked because your preferred team is losing.

Good Dip

1 container sour cream (16oz.)
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup bacon bits
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
crackers, pretzels, etc.

In a bowl, combine the sour cream and ranch dressing powder. Mix well. Add bacon bits. Mix well. Add cheese. Mix well. Refrigerate a few hours for flavors to blend. Or not. Serve with pretzels, crackers, or sturdy chips.

Lizzies

  • Is Font’nBake some sort of variation on the oven that cooks with a light bulb I remember from the 60’s?
  • Boycott Paul Sullivan.
  • Fat chance I can sell them for postage on eBay.
  • I just think [Prior] should recognize that his career is over.
  • The, ahem, BJ’s

Lizard

  • Plays hard, plays just about anywhere, great facial hair.
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In the News: Ryan Theriot to Cubs – Oh, it’s on!

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Hello and how are ya, Cubs fans. Another Thursday has arrived with much ballyhooing and brouhaha. Actually, it’s rather quiet at the moment as most baseball fans mull their teams off-season moves and countdown the days ’til pitchers and catchers report. (Or, as I call it, PCR Day.) Here are a few Cubs-related stories* to get you in the mood for…something:

Arb-down at the OK Corral.  As I reported a couple weeks ago here at VFTB, Jim Hendry and Ryan Theriot appear to be headed for a straight-up throw down as the two sides cannot agree on a salary figure for the scrapacious shortstop. Bruce Levine reported yesterday that talks have ended so, unless a last-minute deal is brokered (Mike Fontenot! Where are you?!), Hendry and Theriot will sit with an arbitrator and hash the whole thing out death-match style. (Theriot wants $3.4 million; the Cubs are offering $2.6 million.) Want to read a couple good takes on the situation? The check out Bruce Miles blogpost on it as well as the Another Cubs Blog guys‘ stats-based assessment.

I was somewhat on Theriot’s side at first, based on his undeniably (and perhaps inexplicably) strong WAR showings the last two seasons as well as the fact that he’s been paid very little (relatively speaking). But I’m now thinking he shouldn’t be quibbling over the $800,000 difference – especially if, as it’s been reported (uh, somewhere, can’t find it at the moment) that the Cubs did up their offer to a flat $3 million. Much of Theriot’s value as a player is based on the fact that he’s played solid defense at a premium position. ((I know the defense thing is hard to believe but, if you buy into UZR, he’s done it.) Problem is, well, he’s just not a very good overall hitter and, assuming Starlin Castro is for real, Theriot won’t be playing shortstop for the Cubs for too much longer. (Uh, though if he could hold down the position for 2010, that’d be great.)

UPDATE:  The Cubs and Carlos Marmol have agreed to a $2.125 million dollar deal. That leaves Theriot the only remaining arbitration-eligible player to have not settled.

Kevin Gregg likely to dodge draft unemployment by heading to Canada.  I don’t believe it’s official yet, but reports are coming in that former Cubs closer – and prodigious giver-up of the home run ball in 2009 – Kevin Gregg is closing in on a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Implications for the Cubs: The, ahem, BJ’s may be willing to trade away one of their decent bullpen arms for (let’s hope middling) prospects. Chicago-area native Jason Frasor, for example, had strong numbers last season out of the pen and would probably make a good addition.

Lame MSM article alert!  Although I generally enjoy and appreciate Yahoo! sports’ MLB coverage, this “Hot Stove Daily 2010″ piece by Steve Henson contains a blatant inaccuracy and is lamely snarky. (So why am I passing it along, you ask? Eh, slow news day and it’s kinda like finding spoiled milk in your refrigerator. “Ugh, you gotta smell this!”) The inaccuracy: He writes, “Nady is recovering from a shoulder injury…” BUZZ! Wrong answer! He had Tommy John surgery on his ELBOW.

And then Henson insists on ending the article with a mega-lame goat/Bartman joke. Are mainstream writers contractually required to bring that crap up in every freaking article? All that said, I can’t really argue with Henson’s overall thesis. Yeah, the Cubs gotta stay healthy. (So does, like, every other team.) And, yeah, we’ve got a lot of expensive, long-term deals on the books. (But, psst, many of them are coming due soon.) Anyway, enjoy. Or don’t. Just wanted to vent.

Lou Piniella wins an award.  No, he wasn’t recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for his use of the word “look.” He won a Thurman Munson Award at a gala to benefit the AHRC-New York City Foundation, which assists children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Cool.

Andrew Cashner, you are so money.  Are you familiar with the name Andrew Cashner? You should be. This right-handed fireballer (with a reportedly devastating slider) is among the Cubs top prospects. We may even see him pitch out of the pen in ’10. (Hey, that rhymes.) Minor league pundits are currently debating whether the Moneyman should focus on starting or relief (he’s got closer stuff) so, while they do that, check out this nice profile.

****

UPDATE:  The Kevin Millar minor league deal and spring training invite is now official.

*Bolded phrases leading off paragraphs are hyperlinks. Click.

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In the News: Boycott Paul Sullivan

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I’m not a negative person nor do I enjoy stirring up negativity towards anyone or anything unless I really feel doing so is justified. (I trust my posts here have made that clear.) But there’s something going on in the Cubs blogosphere right now that I think deserves the attention of every knowledgeable Cubs fan.

As I first mentioned here some weeks ago, Tribune beat reporter Paul Sullivan took it upon himself to block several (perhaps many) Cubs fans from his Twitter feed – apparently because we dared take issue with his utterly pathetic and unprofessional handling of the Milton Bradley story from start to finish (though it’s hardly over from Sullivan’s perspective). Those of us who were banned fumed about it momentarily and then moved on. Like I said at the time, it’s not like we can’t get the same or better info from Gordon Wittenmyer or Carrie Muskat. And, honestly, those of us who follow the team closely and have any working knowledge of the game whatsoever know that Bruce Miles is really the only beat reporter this town needs to begin with.

In any case, the Sullivan Problem exploded again yesterday on a couple of other Cubs blogs. First and foremost, see Tim McGinnis’ blog here. He sums up the issue quite well. And, most interestingly of all, a commenter implying close familiarity with Sullivan was kind enough to post several comments in defense of his good buddy. That defense revealed a staggering lack of understanding of the fundamental difference between professional journalism and fan-based blogging, as it included the following question/statement:

Why should newspapers be held to different standards than blogs?

I don’t even know where to begin with this statement. Because professional journalism should mean something? Because it should aspire to the highest levels of truth and objectivity? Because you’re asking us to buy your freaking product?! (Oh, and that product is dying by the way…for a reason.)

I guess we should be flattered that Paul Sullivan is so envious of the freedom bloggers enjoy that he has deigned to join our ranks. There’s just one last step you need to take, Paul: Give up your paycheck and stop calling yourself a journalist. And if your employers at the Tribune are telling you to “write like a blogger,” try to grasp the concept that “being a blogger” doesn’t necessarily require being negative at every opportunity and taking on personal vendettas against Cubs players – no matter how much of a jerk they might be in the clubhouse. Just an FYI.

The cause has also been taken up here on Another Cubs Blog, where mb21 makes several other important points about just where and how Paul Sullivan has gone wrong and essentially poisoned his relationship with the very fans he should trying to impress.

To sum up, I’d just like to reiterate the request I previously made to all Cubs fans: Boycott Paul Sullivan. Don’t buy his newspaper and don’t give his articles or blogposts your hits. And if you follow him on Twitter and have the great fortune of not yet being blocked, unfollow him. It’s really nothing personal, Paul. I have no reason to dislike you other than the exceedingly bad attitude and lack of professionalism you’ve shown in your work. It’s really rather amusing – you sought to ally yourself with the blogosphere with your snark but you’ve only turned us against you.

Here’s a few other stories* (besides the prospective Millar signing covered in Mark’s post) to check out today:

Aaron Miles is back in the NL Central! Woo-hoo! In a rather bizarre trade yesterday, the Reds sent light-hitting speedster Willy Taveras and infielder Adam Rosales to the Oakland A’s for our favorite 2009 punching bag Aaron Miles and that mythical slugger PTBNL. (Oakland GM Billy Beane then almost immediately DFA’d Taveras.) The Reds now have a fairly old infield - with Scott Rolen at third, Orlando Cabrera (also signed yesterday) at shortstop and Brandon Phillips at second. (Cubs killer Joey Votto at first is the lone exception. Er, well, on second thought, Brandon Phillips will be only 29 this year.) An injury to any of those starters could force allow Dusty Baker to give Aaron Miles significant playing time a la Neifi Perez in 2005.

Reed Johnson has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This Bruce Levine article from yesterday states the deal is pending a physical, but the latest word on Twitter is that RJ did, in fact, pass that physical and is now a Dodger. I’d guess most Cubs fans are somewhat sad to see Reed go. He’s one of those players who is virtually impossible to dislike: Plays hard, plays just about anywhere, great facial hair. Unfortunately, his skill set is somewhat limited. He’s effective at the plate mainly against left-handed pitching and, despite some spectacular plays in the field, his only really outstanding defensive position appears to be left field (per UZR, at least). He’s also been nagged by his surgically repaired back and other unlucky injuries (namely, the foul-ball induced broken foot last season). Anyway, Reed should be pleased playing for the team he grew up rooting for. Good luck, RJ!

It’s Groundhog’s Day! You know what that means, right? No, I’m not referring to Punxsutawney Phil nor the great Bill Murray movie. I’m talking about Mark Prior’s annual comeback bid! It’s on, people. Again. (Actually this story is a few days old but, as I mentioned on Twitter, Prior’s agent REALLY should’ve tied this to Groundhog’s Day.)

Lane Tech high school may get a Wrigley Field replica. The Cubs are working with the Chicago Park District to possibly build it. Hey, why not. Between this and the new spring training facility in Mesa, the Cubs should get some kind of construction industry award. Oh, and no word yet on whether Lane Tech will upgrade their boys’ bathrooms to include troughs. C’mon, troughs and high school students – what could go wrong?

*As always, the bolded phrase leading off each paragraph is a hyperlink.

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Who Am I?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I once had a season in the 90′s that saw me get 500+ plate appearances and strike out more than twice the amount of times that I had a hit. I am the only player do ever do that.

Feel free to ask YES / NO questions

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