Good day to you, Cubs fans. And I don’t mean that in a snide way. Well, we haven’t had much to cheer about as of late, but the win last night (Monday) at least put the St. Louis Cardinals a full seven games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds and it gave us at least some modicum of hope for Mr. Jeffrey Alan Samardzija.
I managed to catch some of his innings pitched on TV and, well, there’s something there. (♪♫ What it is ain’t exactly clear. ♪♫) He still gave up some walks, though four isn’t too bad and, with Pujols and Holiday in the lineup, perhaps a base on balls isn’t the worst result. His breaking stuff did look a little better than I remember it being — especially a pitch he kept landing on the outside corner to left-handed hitters. And he’s still got the mid- to upper-90s fastball. So, though I’m far from completely sold, I’d say he made a nice first step toward respectability. The Shark will pitch again this weekend against the Marlins.
And now on with the rest of today’s news:
“Hey, Aramis Ramirez, would you like to stay for dinner next season? We’re serving Stove Top stuffing!”
“Stove Top Stuffing? I’m stayin’!”
Or so the conversation went, sorta, between the Cubs’ third baseman and Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer. Aramis mumbled something over the weekend (or maybe it was late last week) about perhaps testing the free agent market after this season, citing the fact that, despite his many problems at the plate, he’s hit 20 home runs and 70-some RBI this year. Granted. In fact, to be exact, he’s hit 22 home runs and driven in 73 runs as of this writing.
But that conveniently ignores his ghastly .295 OBP (.322 wOBA) and 18.8% strikeout rate — both the worst in his Cubs career. And I’m not sure whether WAR has made it into contract negotiations yet, but Aramis is currently a 0.9 WAR player with just a couple weeks left to go. That’s just flat-out embarassing for a player of his caliber. He’ll be putting up his lowest WAR since his 2002 campaign with the Pirates. (Was he injured or something that year? He got 570 plate appearances. Clearly, I need to brush up on my Aramis Ramirez history.)
Long story short, given his value as a player this season and the economy in general, he and his agent probably don’t want to spend the off-season getting low-balled by various big league GMs. So expect to see Aramis back at the hot corner next year. This may not be a bad thing if he’s fully healthy and can somehow get back to the player he was from 2004-2008. Those were all 4+ WAR seasons (i.e., good ones).
Chris Archer: A name to remember. The news came down yesterday that Chris Archer was named the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year. And that’s a name to file in your mental rolodex and expect to hear mentioned a lot during spring training next year, much as Tyler Colvin was last year.
I’ve heard from a couple of credible sources that Archer is being fast-tracked through the Cubs system and could be a surprise addition to the rotation in 2011. Of course with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, Casey Coleman, and Jeff Samardzija already either claiming or vying for a rotation spot, it’s hard to see how Archer could find a toe-hold. But there’s a whole off-season to go, and we don’t know who might be traded.
Also, let us not ignore the Cubs 2010 minor league player of the year, Brandon Guyer. A fifth round draft pick in 2007, Guyer put up a .986 OPS (.398 OBP, .588 slugging) in 410 plate appearances for the Double-A Smokies this season. Sadly, he appears to be a dedicated outfielder and the Cubs currently have plenty of those. I can’t help wondering whether the Cubs would shock the world and convert him to a first baseman for next season. Seems highly doubtful, but it would make a great story, would it not?
Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, the aforementioned Tennessee Smokies are facing the Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League Championship Series. Game one is tonight (Tuesday)! You can listen in here. Go Smokies!
Speaking of Tyler Colvin … He got nailed by a Jaime Garcia pitch in last night’s Cubs-Cards game and is day-to-day with an elbow contusion. I really hope he can play through the pain and make it to an even 20 home runs. Just because. It seems unlikely he’ll be able to tie or break Billy Williams’ record of 25 bombs for a Cubs rookie. But I guess you never know.
In “Aw, Isn’t That Sweet?” News … The Portland Tribune is doing an occasional “DARWIN BARNEY WATCH” feature to track their hometown boy’s triumphs and travails with the Cubs. I love stuff like this.
Hendry interviews Bob Melvin. This was the “big” news today. Mr. Melvin shall have a place in my next “Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings,” assuming I find the energy to resurrect that feature at some point.
And, last but not least …
The Boston Red Sox have called up former Cub Rich Hill. He’s a bullpen guy now who struck out 55 batters in 53 innings pitched for the Pawtucket Red Sox this year. His walk rate was still pretty high.