Archive for March, 2010

Let’s Not Get Carried Away With the Colvin Love

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Monday came and went and did you notice the big surprise? Nope, the poem by Moe Thacker was not it (apologies on botching his name in the credit). Instead, the big news has been pushed to opening day.

Yesterday the final roster spot was announced so we can now wait the last few dead days of spring training before the real games start. Sometimes I wonder if you should only have to play spring games until you’ve decided on your roster. At that point, you should be allowed to stop playing games and just have practice until the season starts.

Part of that opening day roster is Tyler Colvin, who is this year’s Jake Fox. Last year I campaigned and pleaded for the Cubs to bring Fox up despite the fact that so many poo poo’d the idea of a kid without a position being on the roster. This year, Colvin raked in spring training and merited the call up, despite the fact that he’s in a somewhat similar situation. He also is a man without a position, not because he can’t play any of them, but because all of his are currently held by high priced players and we know it’s all about money these days. That fact has led some to call for Fukudome to be put on the trade block in an attempt to reward Colvin with the starting nod in RF. I would caution that move for a few reasons.

1. Colvin has never played beyond AA – That’s not really a knock against him, but more of a fact.  Here are his minor league numbers broken down by year and level courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year   Age   Lev  PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS

2006    20    A- 288 12  6 11  53 12  5 17  55 .268 .313 .483 .796

2007    21 AA-A+ 519 35  5 16  81 17  5 15 101 .299 .324 .488 .812

2007    21    A+ 262 24  3  7  50 10  4 10  47 .306 .336 .514 .850

2007    21    AA 257 11  2  9  31  7  1  5  54 .291 .313 .462 .774

2008    22    AA 602 27 11 14  80  7  4 44 101 .256 .312 .424 .736

2009    23 AA-A+ 459 18  9 15  60  8  2 29  84 .286 .332 .480 .812

2009    23    A+ 129  5  2  1  10  3  1 13  27 .250 .326 .357 .683

2009    23    AA 330 13  7 14  50  5  1 16  57 .300 .334 .524 .859

Looking at those numbers, it’s hard to make the case that a couple of hot weeks against sub-par pitching in spring training means you need to anoint the kid with a starting job. He needs more experience before I do that.

2. Remember Brant Brown? Dwight Smith? Jerome Walton? – I only went back that far primarily because 1989 was really my first year really watching baseball with any weighted interest. That year we had two promising young outfielders anointed with a starting job. Smith replaced the Rafael Palmiero in LF and Walton replaced Dave Martinez. Both had great years and raised hopes tremendously only to slap us in the face the following years.

Brant Brown was another one that so many people liked and were afraid to trade for fear that he would turn into an all star somewhere else. Let’s just say that never happened.

It’s hard for me to be optimistic about trading Fukudome when we’ve seen the history of a few outfielders in the past that have fizzled out so quickly and so dramatically.

3. Was Fukudome really that bad? – Coming into 2008 we all had visions of Fukudome being a monster hitter in the US. After all, just look at guys like Matsui and Ichiro. Couple that with the fact that he was compared by many as a combination of both. A disappointing ’08 campaign led many to question his ability. 2009 saw ‘dome move to CF, not his natural position, in an attempt to make room for the one we shall not speak of. Playing out of position all year, which does have an effect on the offensive production, Fukudome saw his numbers improve to the point that he was considered above average offensively, if only slightly.  Looking at the numbers, there are a few things that jump out two me.

Year    R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+

2008   79 129 25  3 10  58 81 104 .257 .359 .379 .738   89

2009   79 129 38  5 11  54 93 112 .259 .375 .421 .796  104

First look at the dramatic increase in power, not in the sense of the longball, but the doubles. That increase made him a lot more valuable as a number two hitter. Second, despite the fact that he continued to strike out more than you might expect for someone who draws a lot of walks, he continued to draw a lot of walks and raised his OBP to .375. It’s still not around .400 like I’d like to see, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more increase this year as he continues to learn the American game and the pitchers he faces.

4. What happens when Soriano gets hurt? – We know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when. At that time, who will be the every day answer out there? What better option to have than some depth in the OF.

At this point, I don’t trade Fukudome unless it yields something this team sorely needs and doesn’t require us paying for his contract. I let Colvin get 2-3 starts, possibly more, each week and see how he does. If it’s not working I move swiftly to send him to AAA where he can play everyday and replace him with Sam Fuld.

Joe’s Question of the Day

If you could be one superhero for a day and have all their super powers as well as their look, which would you choose and what would you do all day?

My first thought was be to be Spiderman because of the ability to swing from tall building to tall building, but then I considered the fact that not only do we really not have any building that meet the requirements to make it worth it, but I think I would pee in my spidey suit from fear of heights.

My next idea was to be Superman for the simple fact that I would have the ability to look through walls. Then I again considered the heights thing and decided to pass.

I decided to go with the Incredible Hulk because I think it would be cool as crap to be completely ripped for a day and on top of that be bright green. Under normal circumstances this would send fear deep to my heart because of the fact that so many would stare and comment under their breath about what kind of crazy disease I must have contracted to turn my skin the color of an avocado.  When you’re big and ripped, no one will have the onions to even come close to staring, let along poking fun. How great would that be?

Just a few more days till opening day. Hang in there.

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Cubs set their roster

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Today the Cubs completed their roster moves; in doing so they made a couple of minor league assignments and they gave Kevin Millar his unconditional release.  This means that Chad Tracy makes the 25 man (yes, he of the mediocre spring batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.)  But Tracy does give us a viable backup for oft-injured Aramis Ramirez at third – he’ll be better over there for thirty games than we’d be with Fontenot and/or Baker.

It’s a shame Millar didn’t make the club, he’s a class guy and he’ll probably end up in somebody’s organization in a management role.  I’d like to think that the Cubs offered him a stint in Iowa and more than likely he declined that.  That notwithstanding I’d be surprised if he gets a job with another team, hopefully he will.

From an offensive standpoint we look better than last year.  Gone are Hoffpaiur (whom I had hoped would succeed,) Blanco, Miles and the unspeakable name.  Yesterday Mr. Unspeakable mocked Piniella in their team game by throwing first base – it amused me that this class guy (or his manager) chose not to start him against the Cubs in their exhibition game.  Bad news Milton, the Cubs play the M’s in the regular season.  Will you have the cajones to show up at that game?  I doubt it, Bradley’s all hat and no cattle.  This Cubs team doesn’t have the respect going into the regular season that last year’s team had but it sure has better chemistry.  These guys like playing together and it shows.

I’m also positive about where the ownership is in this season’s start – I think Ricketts is watching like we are.  So another season starts – we have reason to hope.  Cards fans feel like we did last year, let’s see what happens.

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In the News: Last Man Standing (Updated)

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

What is up in your funky house, Cubs fans? We’re rounding the last turn headed for the home stretch in spring training and, at the risk of sounding like Suzie Sunshine, I like what I’ve seen from this team. The pitchers look ready; the hitters have been hitting (more or less, give or take); no one is too-too injured (uh, except for poor Angel Guzman, of course); and the roster contains some nice depth at just about every position. (I’m still uneasy about the backup shortstop plan, but let’s see how it goes.) Oh, and there hasn’t been a whole lotta drama – which is nice.

I’m going to assume most of you are aware of the developments of the past few days: Namely, Tyler Colvin has made the team as the fourth/fifth outfielder (depending on how you look at it). And apparently Lou is reading my “In the News” segments because he basically said what I suggested last week: That Colvin will be rotated throughout the outfield, giving each of the regulars a day off here or there. The upside of this is it will get Tyler’s scorching bat into the lineup and keep the crafty veterans well-rested. The downside is it may keep those crafty vets from getting into a good rhythm and Tyler’s questionable plate discipline may come back to haunt him in those still-limited appearances. (Bruce Miles asked Lou the $10 million question regarding Colvin’s ability to draw walks. Check out Lou’s response here.) But, hey, once again, let’s see how it goes.

The other big story from over the weekend was the trade of Andres Blanco to the Rangers for the clubhouse-friendly PTBNL or cash. I was a little sorry to see Andy White go because he was/is a great glove man who could have done the team a lot of good. But his lack of options and waiver-wire desirability made trading him the right move. If this Fontenot-as-backup-SS thing doesn’t work out, the Cubs could call up Blanco’s younger counterpart, Darwin Barney. Of course, that would probably mean Tyler Colvin goes back down to Triple A. See what I did there? The circle is complete.

And now…on the with the scant few news stories* of the day:

Let’s be honest: It’s Millar v. Tracy.  Depending on who you ask, Lou will announce the winner of the FINAL 25-man roster spot either later today or tomorrow. Technically, Millar, Tracy, Fuld and Hoffpauir are all in the mix. But, let’s be honest, Fuld lost his spot to Tyler Colvin, and Hoffpauir has never really been in the running. (He’s also OPS’d only .675 this spring in 46 ABs.) Micah seems like a great guy, so I don’t want to rip on him. But he’s likely destined for yet another season at Iowa or, as I’ve said half-jokingly but it does make some sense, he could probably rake if he went to Japan. (Hat Tip to Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Al Yellon for first suggesting this.)

My vote is still for Chad Tracy: He’s looked good enough in spring training; he can back up third base and first base; and he can be the left-handed counterpart to Nady’s right-handed bench bat. And, ultimately, I think Tracy will get the nod. One Rangers blogger for mlb.com has speculated that Millar could grab a spot on Texas’ bench as they need a right-handed 1B backup.

UPDATE: According to multiple sources, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times, Chad Tracy has won the last spot on the Cubs 25-man roster and Kevin Millar has been released. Carrie Muskat confirms, chiming in that Hoffpauir and Fuld have been optioned to Iowa.

Ted Lilly update: No news is good news.  Ted is still targeting somewheres in the vicinity of April 19 – 21 for his return. All hell can’t stop him now.

Spring training is almost over, but the new facility funding flap is not.  MLB Commissioner has declared the “Cubs tax” dead and, if you believe Phil Rogers, the Naples, Fla. folks are far from defeated. Mesa officials are now scrambling to find a way to fund the Cubs new spring training facility. The war is not over.

Cubs President Crane Kenney bought a house.  Hey, it’s a slow news day. Before you click on that link, guess which tony Chicago suburb Kenney opted for. Were you right? I was close but a little off.

Yesterday’s (Monday’s) game results: Cubs dominate Reds 8-1. Let’s hope our guys can manhandle Dusty’s crew this well during the regular season. Colvin got his obligatory RBI double while Byrd, Baker and Fontenot went yard. Randy Wells didn’t get quite as far into the game as I believe was intended. He made it only five and two-thirds innings and gave up seven hits. But, as Randy is wont to do, he limited the damage to only one earned run and he counteracted many of those hits with an impressive five strikeouts.

Today’s (Tuesday’s) game: Cubs vs. Giants, 3:05 CDT. Tom Gorzelanny gets the start for the good guys, former Cub Todd Wellemyer goes for the other guys. Here’s the Cubs lineup via Carrie Muskat:

Theriot SS

Colvin RF

DLee 1B (←Yes! He’s back!)

Aramis 3B

Byrd CF

Soriano LF

Fontenot 2B

Hill C

Gorzelanny LHP

And, last but not least, Joe’s Question of the Day:

If there were three foods that you could eat non-stop and never get full, fat or have adverse effects on your health, what three would you choose?

Oh wow – well, I’ve maintained for some time now that my three favorite kinds of food are: Indian, Persian and authentic badass, down-home BBQ. Now if we’re talking specific foods…um, probably honey, BBQ ribs and chips & salsa.

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*Reddish text = hyperlinks to my sources. Check back for updates! And leave a comment for Byrd’s sake.

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A Poem for 2010

Monday, March 29th, 2010

DREAM # 010 by Moe Thatcher

In springtime, a young man’s fancy turns to ………Addison and Clark?
And things that will happen in the Wrigley Park,
This could be the year the Cubs will make their mark,
It’s been more than one hundred years of dark,

Even though they didn’t spend much money,
And to many it may seem funny,
In spring, the outlook is always sunny,
Looking forward to days of milk and honey,

This is the time to lift our mood,
instead of no, let’s say we could,

Big Z lost all that weight,
So did Soto, his battery mate,

Without all that blubber,
Carlo’s pitches will be like flubber,

The opposing team will gape,
Geo’s in great shape,

Dempster’s ready to go this year,
Randy Wells’ time is near,
Marshall is still here,
Carlos Silva no longer drinks beer,
Lilly’s injury, never fear,

Marmol’s ready from start,
Grabow, Caridad, and the Shark will do their part,

Losing Guzman was a blow,
But Berg, Russell and Marshall will vanquish any foe

This years team will score way more.,
If they hit three, we’ll hit four,
The hitting will be no more punch and judy,
Now that our batting coach is Rudy

With D-Lee and A-Ram as three and four,
Giving us a strong core,
Soto and Soriano as they were before,
Theriot like Sandberg in 84,

Fukudome getting on base,
Nady, Byrd and Fontenot smashing it into space,
How bout that Colvin?
He’s hitting the ball all over the place,
I’m saying right here and now, we’ll win this race.

The lineup will be much better,
Can you write another song, Eddie Vedder?

You will say that I am crazy in the head,
And it’s hard to believe all that I’ve said,

By mid May, I may be ready to scream,
But sometimes things are better than they seem,
As everyone knows who follows this team,
Spring is the time to hold onto the dream,

By July or August it may be gone,
like the dry grass on the front lawn,
like old watches sold for pawn,
like the night sky at dawn,

But our new owners are wealthy,
and if Soriano and our pitching remain healthy,

and if Theriot, Fukudome and Big Z all have a career year,
Lee and Ramirez provoke fear,
Marmol, Grabow and Caridad have no peer,
Well let’s just say, it can happen here.

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Dang me!

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Is it time to eat my words or what?  Is this the same Tyler Colvin that I saw in San Francisco in September?  The kid was lanky and looked utterly clueless against curveballs in AT&T Park – now he’s filled out somewhat and he looks like he’s spent the offseason in the batting cage working with a curveball machine.  The way he turned on the breaking ball in the 5th was impressive – were I Piniella I’d be ready to cut him loose for a couple of days with instructions to find an apartment in Chicago.  This is a real positive sign – we’ve got a guy that has a chance to give us backup in all three outfield positions as well as a hot bat off the bench.  So somebody hand me my hat, I’m ready to eat.

Silva also impressed me today; he had a lot of good sinking action on his pitches and he only threw one “hit me hit me” pitch.  He also pitched out of his jam early and left the game with one on base and a 1-1 score in the sixth.  Russell has continued to impress and Caridad might be a surprise player for us in the pen.  I’d still like to see us get an experienced reliever though, three rookies out there is a daunting challenge to say the least.

Today the Cubbies traded Blanco for future considerations, the clear message is that they are going to chance it with Fontenot as a stopgap at SS.  Barney or Castro will be called up immediately if there’s any question about an injury with Theriot.  This also solidifies Theriot’s position as he will be starting nearly everyday at short.  The Cubs are really touting Jaramillo when it comes to his interaction with The Riot; one thing I’ve noticed insofar as the Cubs’ hitting instructor is that he always seems to be taking notes.

A minor injury question came out of today’s game as Byrd got hit by a pick off attempt and got a rather ugly knot on his cheek – let’s hope he’s okay.  Also taken off the roster today was Rule 5 selection Parisi who was outrighted to Iowa.

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