Cubbie kool aid

Greetings, Cubs fans. Well, first things first, some sad news (uh, depending on how you feel about me): I’m afraid this will be my last “In the News” report for a while. I’m heading out on vacation this Thursday and will miss the last week or so of the Cubs’ season. And, after that, I’m going to be focusing more on my contributions to SB Nation Chicago. If you’re fan of Chicago’s other sports teams, please check it out.

I do want to thank Joe for giving me the opportunity to write here. Even though the 2010 Cubs haven’t exactly made it easy to stay inspired and motivated, it has been fun keeping everyone up to date on the some (most?) of the major team-related story lines as well as getting in my two cents regarding various issues. I’d also like to thank Lizzie, Chet, Mark, CubbieDude and everyone else who’s been so welcoming. I hope to be back again to contribute at some point, and I’ll definitely be checking in via the comments section when I get a chance.

And now … on with the news:

Tyler Colvin is recovering. It appears the Cubs’ young outfielder’s gruesome impaling hasn’t been officially covered here, so let’s get up to speed: Tyler was nailed in the upper chest by a piece of catcher Welington Castillo’s broken bat on Sunday afternoon. Colvin was rushed to a local hospital where he will remain for another day or so. You can see the injury and read Tyler’s statement from his hospital bed here.

As it should be, Colvin is done for the season. And what a season it was. After making a very brief appearance as a defensive replacement in 2009 (he may have gotten one start), Tyler showed up to spring training with those now-mythical “extra 25 lbs.,” and absolutely crushed the ball throughout the team’s Cactus League schedule. Although his plate discipline problems didn’t exactly evaporate at the big league level, he hit for a remarkable amount of power, earning him a decent (if slow to materialize) amount of playing time under Sweet Lou and then Mike Quade.

Tyler ends his 2010 campaign as follows: .254/.316/.500 (.816 OPS, .350 wOBA) in 295 plate appearances, good for a 1.8 WAR. Although the low OBP is (and will remain) concerning, he hit for enough power to counteract its shortcomings. (That’s what wOBA is for.) As rookie campaigns go, I’d declare his a success — if for no other reason than he forced the team to keep him in consideration as a starting player next year. Whether he’ll actually be one will, in part, depend on what becomes of Fukudome next season. If Kosuke is dealt, Colvin should get the nod as the starting right fielder.

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Tyler all the best on a speedy recovery and restful off-season. In a season that turned out to be more about the future than the present, he’s given us all some hope.

Also done for the year: Geo. A few hours before Colvin’s horrific on-field accident, the news came down that Geovany Soto, in consultation with the Cubs’ training staff, has decided to undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery. As detailed in this Bruce Miles’ blogpost, the successful surgery went down yesterday and Geo has already been discharged from the hospital. The team (and player) decided to go forward with the surgery now to enable Soto to be fully ready for baseball-related activities by January 1st. That should have him fine playing shape by spring training.

Geo ends his 2010 campaign as follows: .280/.393/.497 (.890 OPS, .385 wOBA) in 387 plate appearances, good for a 3.5 WAR. Those are, in my humble opinion, spectacular numbers for a catcher. I was hoping throughout the season that Geo would be able to keep his OBP at or over .400, but I’d say a slugging percentage that flirts with .500 makes up for the .007 shortage. Among all MLB catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Soto placed 5th in value (WAR). And, among NL catchers under those criteria, he still leads all in wOBA, though the Giants’ Buster Posey or perhaps the Braves’ Brian McCann could still pass him.

So, again, we thank you, Geo, for doing pretty much everything you could to quell any remaining suspicions that your rookie year may have been a fluke. It wasn’t. You are a good and valuable player at a premium position. May you also have a speedy recovery and restful (though not too restful) off-season. I’d like to see the Cubs go into the 2011 season with a Soto/Castillo catching crew.

A couple remaining questions as the season winds down:

1. Can Big Z keep it up? Since returning to the rotation from the restricted list on Aug. 9, Carlos Zambrano has won six of eight starts, struck out 42 batters in 51 innings, surrendered only one home run and has a 1.59 ERA in that time. He’s lowered his overall season ERA to 3.75 (.381 FIP, 4.45 xFIP). A strong finish to the season may either convince Jim Hendry to say, “Aw, shucks, Z. I can’t stay mad at you,” and keep him around. Or it could boost Z’s trade value enough to enable Jimbo to work out some sort of deal with another team, though that still seems pretty unlikely given how much money is involved. And I don’t feel a bad contract swap is justified at this time. Then again, I’ve always been able to let Z’s bad/strange behavior roll off my back better than others.

Again, at this point, assuming Cliff Lee is not a viable option (which he probably isn’t), the Cubs don’t have many viable options for the top of the rotation. So they might as well hang on to the anger-management-mellowed Z for another year of his deal.

2. Can Marmol pull it off? And by “it” I don’t mean one of his patented, filthier-than-thou sliders. I’m referring to the single-season K/9 record. The Cubs wiggly armed closer currently has a K/9 (ratio of strikeouts to nine innings) of 15.64 (124 Ks in 71.1 innings pitched). That’s well ahead of the MLB record, which I believe is held by Eric Gagne, who compiled a 14.98 K/9 in 2003 with the Dodgers. I guess it’s a little too early to call it, but Carlos is still on the road to making history. He’s been a 2.7 WAR pitcher in the closer’s role and, I believe, is due for an arbitration hearing this off-season. So that should be interesting.

And, last but not least, one more…

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg. What the hell — I’m just going to leave Ryno in the top spot. If only because of the comments Tom Ricketts made at a recent sports business event hosted by a local Chicago sports radio station. He basically said the next manager needs to be someone who:

  • Knows the team’s history, culture and general atmosphere,
  • Who’s young enough to stick with them for a while, and
  • Who can still act as a coach (not just a manager).

That pretty much describes Sandberg, though, on the other hand, it also describes …

2. Mike Quade. Yes, I think the former third base coach has built up his resume quite substantially since taking over. He has all the qualities that Ricketts mentions — and even more minor league coaching experience. He also has a 17-7 (as of this writing) record since taking over, including the best road trip (in terms of winning teacher) IN CUBS’ HISTORY. I have to admit, I like Quade a lot more than I thought I would. He’s intense, focused, engaged and, in particular, I like how he gives a round of applause to a starting pitcher he’s about to pull from the game. I just dig little things like that.

It would not surprise me at this point if the Cubs shocked the universe and offered him the job. He’s youngish (53), from the Chicago area, very familiar with the current players and Wrigley atmosphere, an accomplished minor and major league coach, and now, in an admittedly very small sample, a successful big league manager.

3. Bob Brenly. The Sun-Times reported last week that BB will interview for the job. He’s not exactly young — he’ll be 57 next year. But he could conceivably stick with the team for a good 10 to 12 years at that age. Brenly is presumably well-acquainted with the players as well as Cubs culture at this point, so he fits the bill. He’s also a fan favorite who would bring a certain amount of butt-kicking to the table. I’m just not sure that’s what the team is looking for and why I think a more “positively motivational” guy like Quade has the edge.

4. Eric Wedge. Baseball guru Peter Gammons caused a kerfluffle this past week by supposedly “predicting” that the former Indians manager would become the Cubs next manager. He actually said Wedge would be the “best fit,” which isn’t really a prediction. It’s just an opinion.

Still, Wedge will be only 43 next year, so he has youth on his side. I don’t really know how familiar he is with Cubs history or the fan/media atmosphere around Wrigley, however. I guess if Hendry does want to go with an “experienced” choice, Wedge seems fairly feasible as he’s younger (as noted) and available.

5. Bob Melvin. ESPN has reported that Hendry will be interviewing the former Mariners and Diamondbacks field general sometime around “the end of the season.” Melvin turns 49 next month, so he’s not as old as I suspected and still younger than Brenly. But he’s another outsider who I can only assume is being given a shot for due diligence purposes. He’d make for a boring choice in my opinion, but I guess you can’t count him out.

6. Joe Girardi. I know I should count ol’ Joe out, but I just can’t. He’s a dark horse. He probably won’t escape the clutches of the playoff-bound Yankees. But you never know.

Eliminated: Alan Trammell and, reportedly, Fredi Gonzalez.

Naturally, there are probably a variety of other candidates I’ve neglected to mention. (I simply can’t imagine Torre or LaRussa coming here.) But those are the guys on my radar at the moment. Feel free to chime in with others in the comments section.

OK, guys and gals, that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the rest of the season and … yeah, I’ll say it … go Cubs!

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