Archive for December, 2010

GO: Hotties

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

If you could wake up one morning and look like one of these current or former Cubs, which would you choose? (Note to the fellas, answering this does not make you gay!)

  • Marlon Byrd
  • Tyler Colvin
  • Derrek Lee
  • Xavier Nady
  • Carlos Pena
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Geovany Soto
  • Ryan Theriot
  • Kerry Wood
  • Carlos Zambrano

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In the News: We Got Wood

Friday, December 17th, 2010

This week I have a whole bunch of stuff for you. I’m not really sure what order it should be in, so we’ll just say it’s in a “special” order.

  • Minor League Free Agent Leader boards – I meant to post this one a week or so ago, but Baseball Reference has a cool little feature that lists minor league free agents and lets you sort them by last year’s stats. Most of the time these guys aren’t anything special, but sometimes it’s fun to look over and sort them by your stat of choice to see if anyone strikes your fancy. Take a look and let me know if there is anyone that peaks your interest.
  • 2011 Top Prospect List – John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com has posted his preliminary list of the Cubs 20 best prospects in the system. I’m surprised which of the catchers he ranked higher. I’ve been meaning to take some time to go through and come up with my list, but it probably won’t be until closer to spring training.
  • Andrew Cashner may start in 2011 – Carrie Muskat answered a question in a recent issue of her mailbag on the topic of the possibility of Cash getting a spot in the rotation this year. I go back and forth on my feelings for this. I’ve been torn since we drafted him and still haven’t fully decided where I want to see the Cubs go with this kid. He’s got incredible stuff, so to not try to capitalize on that by using him as a starter seems wrong. At the same time, I just don’t know if I believe in his ability to consistently pitch deep in the game, which is what you want to see from your top of the rotation guys. I think for now, let him compete for a spot. You can always move him to the pen.
  • Non-Roster Spring Training Invitations – So far the Cubs have invited Bryan LaHair, Brad Snyder, Angel Guzman, Scott Rice, Scott Moore, Bobby Scales and Jim Adduci to compete for a roster spot out of spring training. I could actually see LaHair, Guzman (assuming he’s healthy), or Rice making the team.
  • So Long…Farewell – The Arizona Diamondbacks have signed Xavier Nady and Henry Blanco. I hadn’t even realized that Blanco was still playing. Good luck to him. I’m interested in the Cubs bringing him back to be a member of the coaching staff or a manager in the organization when he retires.
  • We Got WOOD – Not much to say. He’s my favorite player and I’m thrilled to have him back. A one year deal seems to be Jim Hendry’s theme this year. That tells me that this regime is fine with trying to compete, but they’re really buying time till these bad deals come off the books.
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Name That Ballplayer

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Name That Ballplayer

As always, what follows below are three clues to consider when guessing the mystery ballplayer. See how many clues it takes before you can correctly guess. Start with clue # 1 and work your way through. Good luck. If you’re interested in more of these, they can be found in the book, Name that Ballplayer by Wayne Stewart

Clue # 1 – This man’s career was fleeting; he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1980, and just 70 games later, played over a two year span, he was through.

Clue # 2 – He was widely known for his many wild antics, such as opening beer bottles with his eye sockets.

Clue # 3 – He was a Cleveland outfielder and his initials are “J.C.”

Click here for the Answer

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The Winner of the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The wait is over: on Monday night, Cliff Lee agreed to a five-year contract with the Yankees Rangers Phillies. There’s good reason Lee was so highly coveted this offseason, as his 2010 season was one of the most masterful seasons in baseball history. In 212 innings, Lee struck out 185 batters while unintentionally walking just 18. From the Bill James Handbook 2011:

American League SO/BB Ratio Leaderboard (2010)
Pitcher SO/BB
Cliff Lee 10.28
Jered Weaver 4.31
Shaun Marcum 3.84
James Shields 3.67
Francisco Liriano 3.47

Not only was Lee’s 10.28 ratio miles ahead of every other pitcher in baseball last year, but that figure also rates as the second-best season in baseball history.

Best Single Season SO/BB Ratio
Pitcher Season Strikeouts Walks Ratio
Bret Saberhagen 1994 143 13 11.0
Cliff Lee 2010 185 18 10.3
Curt Schilling 2002 316 33 9.6
Pedro Martinez 2000 284 32 8.9
Greg Maddux 1997 177 20 8.8

Note: since 1900, minimum one inning pitched per team game

Additionally, Cliff Lee joins a Phillies’ rotation which already features Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, making the Phillies the popular favorites in the National League. Here are our projections for the Philly aces from the 2011 Handbook:

Phillies’ Pitcher Projections for 2011
Pitcher ERA Wins Losses Innings Walks Strikeouts
Roy Halladay 3.16 18 9 245 38 190
Roy Oswalt 3.38 16 9 221 52 176
Cole Hamels 3.45 15 9 219 58 209
Cliff Lee 3.50 14 10 216 49 169

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

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Chet’s Corner: Let’s Just Hope……

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

So Cliff Lee signed……with the Phillies!

I have to say, I didn’t see that coming, which is shocking because I thought I had all of the social/news media outlets covered.  I mean, between the internet and it’s vast array of  blogs and sports websites, twitter, and television stations like ESPN, FOX, MLB Network……you know where I am going with this.

It’s amazing that anything has the ability to happen anymore without a picture/video/twitter montage of it taking place.  I am thanking my lucky stars they didn’t have all this technology readily available when I was in college.  The house I lived in throughout my days in Kalamazoo,MI  had a rule; if you got skunked or shut out in any sort of competition (i.e. Darts, Video Games, Foosball, Pool, Euchre, the list goes on) you ran naked to the neighbors mailbox and back.  Let’s just say my Favre dangled in the wind more then I would like to say!

So, that being said, I shared the Cliff Lee signing shock with everybody else.  Then of course, was subjected to eighty different baseball writers breaking down his contract like it is the national deficit or something.  Here is what you need to know; he took less money to go to the Phillies.  End of Story….oh and he got paid a lot.

With that being said lets compare the Phillies and Cubs projected rotations……

Phillies:

Cliff Lee

Roy Halladay

Roy Oswalt

Cole Hamels

Joe Blanton or whoever else they really want to throw in if he gets traded…….

Cubs:

Carlos Zamrano

Ryan Dempster

The Bee Gees

Eat Me

I don’t care……..

Yah, we sort of have an issue.  Past Dempster we are amazingly bland, unproven, and up in the air.

The more I think of this, the more I am bothered.  Find me one big market team that has a starting rotation with so many holes.  The scary thing, the REAL scary thing is that we don’t know what to expect on a year to year basis from Z and Dempster……and they are the only guys I can think of with a guaranteed spot in the rotation!

Here is where my frustration starts……I have been watching Philly, New York, DC, Boston, Texas, and LA at least attempt to make some big moves and succeed in many areas, yet nothing from us.  Sure, we overpaid for a guy with a “big stick” to play first base for one year but after further diagnosis what did we get? A guy whose overall 9 year career has seen two good years and they are in the rear-view mirror by a couple of miles!

Here is my point, I know the whole big market/small market gripe is old.  I know spending isn’t everything.  Player chemistry and timing probably means  more in the grand scheme of things, but when you have the glaring holes that the Cubs have, how can you stand by and basically say 2011 will be better then 2010?  How can you hope to keep your loyal and large fan base happy by raising ticket prices year over year and saying you need to curtail spending……all the while your counterparts are out throwing money at good players to become even better then they were?

Unfortunately, as Cubs fans, I feel we have nothing to look forward to in 2011.  My initial intent was to write about the five things I was looking forward to in 2011 as a Cub fan…….I couldn’t get past the introductory sentence so I cried in my beer and wrote this.

Something good is bound to happen to this team in the future, I just hope I get to witness it.  In the meantime maybe twitter hasn’t uncovered all the gems, maybe there is one left for us Cub fans.

Speaking of gems, last night I was looking through some old photo’s and memorabilia from my youth and came across something cool.  An Ernie Banks autograph on loose leaf paper that my grandmother acquired for me in person at the Duke Childrens Classic in 1984.  It reads….

To Chet

Ernie Banks

Hope

1984

Hope……. there’s that damn word again.

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Carlos Pena: A Closer Look

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The Texas Rangers selected Carlos Pena in the first round of the 1998 amateur draft. After three solid seasons in the minors, Pena made his big-league debut in September of 2001. That year he hit three home runs in 62 at bats and compiled a .361 on-base percentage. He was 23 years old.

During the offseason he was dealt to the A’s in a deal that included Ryan Ludwick, Gerald Laird, Jason Hart, and Mario Ramos. Half way through 2002, Pena was sent packing once again, this time to the Tigers in a three-way trade with the A’s and Yankees. The mega-deal involved some interesting names: Jeff Weaver, Ted Lilly, Jeremy Bonderman, Jason Arnold, and the great John-Ford Griffin.

Though he changed teams twice, Pena saw plenty of playing time in 2002, racking up decent numbers in 397 at bats: .242/.316/.448.  His walk rate was respectable at one every 10 plate appearances.

Pena spent the next three seasons in Detroit and showed steady improvement, particularly when it came to free passes.  In 1,372 plate appearances he drew 154 walks. Contact was an issue but his power was steady, as Pena swatted 63 homers over the same period.

Pena struggled in the batting average department in 2005. His .235 mark was a career low as an everyday player. Apparently that performance was enough to discourage the Tigers, who released Pena on March 26, 2006.

Stops in Boston and New York were disappointing and brief, but Pena found new life after signing with Tampa Bay in 2007.  The former first-round pick exploded that season:

.287/.411/.627, 46 home runs, 103 BB

The 28-year-old slugger had finally fulfilled his potential (the dreaded P word).

The next two seasons were productive, but not spectacular:

  • .247/.377/.494, 31 home runs, 96 BB
  • .227/.356/.537, 39 home runs, 87 BB

The Rays were winning, and Pena played a key role. In 2010, he took a major step backward. The power and plate discipline were still there (28 home runs and 87 BB), but the batting average plummeted to an embarrassing .196.  After filing for free agency, Pena was signed to a one-year, $10-million experiment by the Chicago Cubs.

So what does 2011 hold for Carlos Pena? Supporters predict something close to his productive years in Tampa Bay. Detractors are concerned about his sinking batting average and high strike-out rate.

Considering the options at 1B, I think the Cubs did quite well. Is $10 million too much for a player who hit under .200? Perhaps. However, batting average only means so much for a hitter with tremendous power and a knack for drawing walks. In addition, the Cubs desperately needed a LH power bat. Throw in a solid glove, and Pena should help the Northsiders in 2011.

Worst-case scenario, Pena falls on his face in the National League and the Cubs move on very quickly. I don’t think that will happen, but I also thought Milton Bradley would hit. Hopefully I’m right for a change.

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The Lineup: A Discussion

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

With Carlos Pena in the fold for 2011, with a deferred contract no less, it’s time to look at what I believe is the lineup for opening day and give you my rationale for each position. In return, I ask for your critical comments and snide remarks, along with your lineup and reason behind it.

1. Kosuke Fukudome (RF) – Remember, we’re talking opening day here. Kosuke is Mr. first half and so he should probably be in the lineup on opening day as a result.

2. Geovany Soto (C) – I actually strongly considered him for the leadoff role for the simple fact that he’s learned to take a walk and got on base like it was going out of style at one point early in the year. He doesn’t really have the power for a 3-6 hitter, so why not try him in the # 2 spot?

3. Aramis Ramirez (3B) – This has long been D-Lee’s spot in the lineup, though I think Ramirez was more deserving of it. He’s been a better hitter / run producer than Lee in his time here and I’m excited to see him in this spot, especially if he’s back completely healthy.

4. Carlos Pena (1B) – I hit him here for the sole purpose of the three or four run home run possibility. He’s a huge bat behind Rammy that you don’t want to fool around with. In the event that he draws a walk, it just leaves the table set for Marlon Byrd

5. Marlon Byrd (CF) – He was a great bargain for us last year. He should fit this spot nicely. I could also see him in the two spot.

6. Starlin Castro (SS) – I think Quade will probably put Soriano in this spot, but hear me out on this one. The lower you hit Starlin, the more you waste his speed. With an acute lack of speed in this lineup, it’s key to take advantage of it. I think we’ll see his baserunning get a lot better in 2011 now that he knows he belongs here. He can relax a little and focus on his all around game. In addition, having Soriano behind him actually allows for a little protection for him.

7. Alfonso Soriano (LF) – This won’t stroke the ego of the over-priced slugger, but where else should he be?

8. Blake DeWitt (2B) – This is a weak spot for us. I think I’d actually consider the pitcher in the 8th spot in games that Zambrano starts.

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Name That Ballplayer

As always, what follows below are three clues to consider when guessing the mystery ballplayer. See how many clues it takes before you can correctly guess. Start with clue # 1 and work your way through. Good luck. If you’re interested in more of these, they can be found in the book, Name that Ballplayer by Wayne Stewart

Clue # 1 – This third baseman (he also played some first base), who attended Arizona State University, is one of a handful of men to swat four home runs in a single game

Clue # 2 - His final season, 1988, was spent with the Cardinals, but the rest of his career found him in an Atlanta Braves uniform.

Clue # 3 – In 1978 he won the Rookie of the Year Award

Answer – Click Here

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GirlieView (12/13/2010)

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Good morning! You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for jumping right into the week in review. I’ve got to go blow. Snow. Blow snow. With my big snow blower. Get yer minds outta the gutter. ;-)

Lizzies

  • My wife and I just named our 8 month old son’s teddy bear “Ron Santo.”
  • Geo Jr. = Wellington Castillo. I think they look pretty much identical…Lizzy may disagree.
  • Please teach Alfonso Soriano how to swing only at strikes. If he’s receptive to your suggestions, maybe you can work on his defense as well.
  • Please help Carlos Marmol improve his control. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but just a little better command would do wonders for my blood pressure.
  • Castro appears to be the real deal, so I don’t want him damaged, injured, scratched, crumpled, inconvenienced, or disturbed in any way.
  • now i only ask for hendry to pull his head out of his butt . no offense seymour .
  • Does Santa hit left-handed? If so, maybe he can play 1B.
  • the best vision floating through my head was of ole Trader Jim, lounging in his Cubs suite/war room, watching reruns of Ren and Stimpy and trying to figure out which cheap and mediocre option they would sign as first sacker next year.
  • if anybody wants to give me an award, do it when I am alive please.
  • I sat on the toilet so long following my twitter feeds regarding the winter meetings that I forgot why I was there in the first place and I lost feeling in my legs.
  • don’t sit on the toilet too long, you’ll get hemrhoids… gravity is a cruel mistress
  • Hemi’s run in my family.
  • Has a habit of selling a pickle as a cucumber.
  • There was some sort of kid-in-the-bleachers quality about Ronnie.
  • He deserves the HOF but I don’t think they deserve him.
  • Do your job.
  • Give them nothing and make them think.
  • Pitching was not the problem over the last few years, hitting was.
  • I go to restaurants for the food and I return based on the service.

Lizard

  • take the biggest Cub fan you know and imagine, but before they became a fan,  they actually played for the Cubs and over the course of a decade became one of the best Cub players  ever.  Now take that person and make him an unwavering ambassador and the voice of the Cubs over the radio for years to come.  All the while he has the keen baseball sense of a nine time all-star mixed with the heart of a 10 year old and the will of a superhero.  That was Ron Santo.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

Today’s “question” consists of some options for you, depending on what your chat preferences are this morning!

  • If you’re in the mood to talk baseball and dissect this yet again (even though it seems like we’ve done it ad nauseum all off-season long): MLB’s winter meetings came and went with the Cubs’ big move being the Pena signing. What’s still needed? Or should they just tuck in now and wait for spring?
  • If you’re in the mood to discuss my blizzard, rank your seasons in order of preference. Here’s mine: Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer. That does indeed seem odd since I’m such a baseball fan and an avid gardener. But I hate the heat, and I love the snow! Other than the wicked winds, today is my kinda day! You?
  • If you’re not in the mood to discuss anything, you might want to save up for Joe’s Lineup Discussion tomorrow morning. You’ve got today to prepare your card!

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How much does Adrian Gonzalez help the Red Sox?

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

The Boston Red Sox made the offseason’s biggest move so far, finally acquiring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego for three top prospects. With the move, Gonzalez leaves the cavernous PETCO Park for the cozier confines of Fenway Park, while Kevin Youkilis shifts across the field to reclaim his original third base position.

First, let’s look at Gonzalez’s move. In the last four years, Gonzalez has hit 90 home runs on the road. That’s an average of 23 per year. The problem for Adrian has been that PETCO Park is such a difficult home run park. At home he has averaged only 12 home runs per year. It is not unreasonable to suggest that, had Gonzalez played in a more normal park for home runs, he would have averaged closer to 45 or 46 home runs per year in those four years, rather than his actual figure of 34 long ones per season.

In the Bill James Handbook 2011, the home run park factor for all left-handed hitters playing in San Diego over the last three years is 59. That means that, overall, lefty swingers have hit 41 percent fewer home runs there than elsewhere. Gonzalez’s performance is consistent with that, though a little worse.

Also in the Handbook, we projected the lefty slugger for 33 home runs and a .890 On-base Plus Slugging mark. This is based on playing half of his games in PETCO Park. Moving him to Fenway Park, his projected batting line improves tremendously. Not only do his expected home run totals improve, but his batting average should improve dramatically as well. His home batting average over the last four years was .260 while he hit .306 on the road. In the new park, we project him to hit seven more home runs, raise his batting average by 27 points, and create about 30 more runs in the same number of at-bats in Fenway compared to PETCO.

Adrian Gonzalez’s 2011 Projection
Team AB H 2B HR RBI Runs Created AVG OBP SLG On-base Plus Slugging
Padres 600 171 35 33 102 115 .285 .378 .512 .890
Red Sox 600 187 51 40 125 143 .312 .399 .600 .999

To accommodate Gonzalez, Youkilis (an above-average first baseman) moves back to third base, replacing former Fielding Bible Award winner Adrian Beltre. While Beltre had a tremendous 2010 season at the plate and in the field, he is unlikely to reproduce the same offensive performance in 2011.

We projected Youkilis to save seven runs at first base defensively next year, compared to Gonzalez’s three. That’s pretty much a wash. At third base, Youkilis has done fine in limited playing time. There’s no reason we can’t assume he’ll continue to be at least competent at third base. But as an average third baseman, he’s a tremendous drop off from one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, Adrian Beltre, for whom we project 17 Runs Saved for 2011. All in all, that’s about 20 runs lost defensively in the Gonzalez deal for the Red Sox comparing Youkilis at first base and Beltre at third to Gonzalez at first and Youkilis at third.

However, we project Gonzalez to create 143 runs with the Red Sox next year, a full 52-run improvement over Beltre’s projected 91 Runs Created if he’d stayed with Boston.

Even if the Red Sox can’t work out a long-term extension with Gonzalez, the trade improves their 2011 squad by about 32 runs (more than three wins)! Not a bad day at the office for General Manager Theo Epstein and his crew.

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

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