Archive for December, 2010

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. ;-)


  • 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.


  • 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®,

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A Christmas Blizzard

Friday, December 10th, 2010

The book is titled: “A Christmas Blizzard – A Novel”. It’s the latest effort by Garrison Keillor.

First let me tell you this little book is a gem. And it is a “little” book.

It must be a very popular book. I had a hard time finding it. When I finally came across it, I could only check it out for 2 weeks, with no renewals.

Also, the little tab on the book’s spine, the ones which sometimes say “mystery” or “suspense” or “new book”? This one says “HOT” in red and yellow letters!

So what is this book about? Well, it’s not about Lake Wobegon.

I hope I’m not giving away too much when I tell you the book opens with a husband and wife living in Chicago. How’s that for local interest?

Turns out the wife is originally from Wauwatosa (aka “Tosa”), Wisconsin, adding even more local interest.

Again, I hope I’m not giving too much away when I tell you the story occurs around Christmastime. And includes a place called, roughly, “papa-oooh-mau-mau”.

I really cannot tell you any more about it, but I will include this one quote:
– “That’s the whole problem with marriage. Trying to maintain your course and not get sucked into the gravitational field of someone else.”

“A Christmas Blizzard” is 180 pages of Garrison Keillor hitting nails on the head. I enjoyed reading it and I recommend it very highly.

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In the News: Who’s On First

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I typically pride myself on being a generous tipper when I go to a restaurant. If you’ve ever worked at a job where tips are a big part of how you get paid, you know what it’s like to get the shaft in that area. On Sunday, Mrs VFTB and I took the kids out to eat Mexican food after church. Child # 2 is not quite 1 year old so he needs a high chair. They provided us with one that had no buckle at all. Because of that, the little man wanted to climb out of that chair like his hair was on fire. I had to hold him the entire meal. If you’ve ever had to do that, you know it’s tough to eat that way. On top of that, the waiter got my order wrong. I ordered a quesadilla with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. The order came with no mushrooms. Unfortunately he never came back to check on us until we were finished with the meal. I mentioned to him that my order was wrong when I went to pay the bill and he asked why I didn’t say anything at the time. I replied that I didn’t because he never came back to give me the chance to speak up. Common sense would say that when a customer complains about your service, you do what you can to make it right. Am I wrong? Instead he just ran my card and went about his day. Little did he know that I only tipped that fool 10%. My question to you is this.

How do you handle tipping? – Do you have a system that determines what percent you tip? Have you ever not tipped? Let’s talk tipping.

Cubs Sign Carlos Pena to 1 yr deal…more coming?

I was beginning to worry that Jim Hendry wasn’t aware of the fact that Derrek Lee was no longer a member of the team. I thought he might just be under the impression that the position was taken care of and that was why he hadn’t been moving on filling the need. We saw Adrian Gonzalez traded. We saw Lance Berkman sign. We even heard rumors that Prince Fielder was going to be moved. None of those news stories involved the Cubs, who have a terrible need at 1B. All of a sudden the Cubs news came fast and furious and may not be done. With the Pena signing, there are still rumors that Hendry has had talks with Texas on a deal that would send Robinson Chirinos and Rafael Dolis to the Rangers for Chris Davis and Darren O’Day. If this deal gets done, it’s a huge win for us. Chirinos probably isn’t going to play with us in anything more than a backup role for the next few years. Dolis is intriguing, but definitely not untouchable. Davis would give us a prospect to fill the spot once Pena left after 2011 and O’Day would instantly make the bullpen better. If this deal is there, it needs to get done.

Discussion Question: What are your thoughts on the Carlos Pena deal? Grade it out. I give it a B with the potential for an A if Jaramillo can fix that batting average.

Could Matt Garza be coming to play with Pena?

There has been overwhelming talk that the Cubs need to address the rotation this year. We’ve seen rumors that Brandon Webb could be a target. While that’s a nice story and a guy well worth trying to resurrect from the dumpster, a legit starter is very much a need. Consider the fact that a good part of the reason that the Cubs finished where they did in terms of starter success was because of the late push by Zambrano and great starts from Ted Lilly. Both could be gone. Zambrano’s showing may be just another mirage and Lilly isn’t coming back. The Cubs have question marks in that rotation and Matt Garza would go a long way toward filling that void. Bruce Levine mentioned that Cubs have interest there and that the Rays are looking for prospects in return. No word on who those prospects are, but I can’t imagine he’d be cheap. If we can get him, I’d do it.

Also mentioned in the Levine report is the fact that the Tigers have offered Armando Galarraga for Tom Gorzelanny. Thanks but no thanks on that one.

Congress Honors Ron Santo

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