Archive for April, 2011

Are the Cubs Handcuffed to Ramirez in 2012?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

We’ve talked about the hole at third base for as long as I can remember before Aramis Ramirez came over from the Pirates in 2003. He’s anchored a position that featured a host of terrible options since Ron Santo. Now, it’s coming time for the Cubs to make a decision on his future for 2012, but is there really any decision that needs to be made? Do the Cubs really have a choice in the matter? Let’s first take a look at some of the details of Ramirez’ contract.

After the 2010 season, Ramirez had the right to void the final two years and become a free agent. He chose to exercise his player option and return this year. We knew that was going to happen given the injury issues and lack of production in 2010. Now that puts the ball back in the Cubs court. The Cubs have an option to bring Ramirez back at a rate of $16 million, a $1.4 mil raise over the 2011 salary, or buy him out for $2 mil. You can call it an option, but is it really? What options do the Cubs really have?

Free Agents

A quick look at the crop of upcoming free agent third baseman not named Aramis yields three names. Greg Dobbs from the Marlins, Casey Blake of the Dodgers and for Cub and current Giant, Mark DeRosa. Maybe those names excite you a little, but they don’t do a thing for me. That means the replacement would have to come in the form of the farm system or a trade.

Farm System

The biggest name in the system, the guy that was supposed to be the heir apparent, is Josh Vitters. He was drafted out of high school in 2007 which was supposed to give him four years to develop and be ready to slot in there next year when the Cubs declined the 2012 option. Unfortunately, Vitters hasn’t developed as quickly as you would hope and leaves the Cubs with a gap before he’s ready (assuming one day he will, in fact, be ready). I’m not really ready to bet on Vitters at this point, if he was listed in the baseball lines found at BetUS.

The other intriguing name, and it could be a viable option for a temporary solution while we wait on Vitters, is Marquez Smith. He had a nice year in 2010 and turned some heads in the process. He’s still learning at the AAA level, but should he continue to improve, he may do enough to at least be given a shot. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a lock right now out of the farm system. Just some dice we can roll and hope.

It’s hard to predict trades, especially because the Matt Garza trade depleted the farm a little, so at this point you really have to ask yourselves whether or not the Cubs really have a choice on bringing Ramirez back next season.

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Chet’s Corner: Five Burning Questions

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

My round of golf was canceled at the last minute on Saturday, so I had the pleasure of attending my first Cubs game of the year.  It was a doozy, filled with the usual sloppy defense, questionable coaching decisions, and plenty of the newly priced $7 beers!   The Cubs did manage to win but it took 10 runs. The entire time I was asking myself (and anyone else who would listen to my drunken babble) questions regarding the mystery that is the 2011 Chicago Cubs.

Without further ado, here are some of the peaches that were fluttered about section 11.

1) Quite a few Cubs hitters have gotten off to a nice start (and some unexpectedly), which player is most likely to go into a slump in the month of May?

I hate to say it, but I think it will be Jeff Baker.  Somehow, he seems to be way above his usual level of performance from both sides of the dish.  Personally, I think he is having a hot start and I wish it would continue, but fair is fair and at some point he will bottom out.

2) Has Jeff Samardzija finally figured it all out?

This may be an exaggeration but Jeff seems to be “getting it”….or at least he is getting something.  A guy who couldn’t find the strike zone is now all over it.  Did Mark Riggins fix him? Is this the first Mark Riggins success story? He would be a nice surprise in relief if he can pull it all together.

3) What will Starlin Castro’s batting average be at seasons end?

My guess = .319

4) How many errors will Starlin Castro finish the season with?

My guess = infinity

5) If you had to pick one Cub from the current roster, based on April,  to represent us at the All- Star game who would it be?

Me= Starlin Castro.  It is sad because I literally cringe when even an easy grounder gets hit his way, but I am not sure anybody else stands above him. What are your thoughts? Am I missing a performance from the first month that should get recognized?

And Finally:

A fantastic article about preserving what is left of Tiger Stadium and my hometown. It is an “insider” article, so you need the subscription.

Here is bit on the MLB playoffs expansion…..say it ain’t so.

-Your official All-Star ballot.

-Not that any of us need a walk down this memory lane but I will probably watch it……

-An article about Starlin for those who know little about his past.

That’s it for this week folks…enjoy your Cubs!

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Game 23 – Cubs fall to three games below .500

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Cubs 3, Rockies 4

Box Score / Video Highlights

I’ve been watching this season with a sense of growing apprehension, particularly because of the Cubs starting rotation. Going into 2011 the Cubs looked to have one of the better starting staffs, at least one that was better than average. But the results so far have been slightly less than abysmal – going into this evening’s game the Cub starters sported a combined ERA of 5.81, last in the majors. Tonight Jeff Russell did nothing to improve that and the Cubs lost the game 4-3.

What went right:

  • The top of the order impressed once again – Castro and Barney are the new daily double. Don’t you love these guys? If Starlin can just shore up his defense the Cubs appear to be set up the middle for years to come.
  • Jeff Baker continues to impress: I’m surprised but he’s hitting both righties and lefties. This is really big because so far Carlos Pena appears to be a big bust – the Cubs first base version of Corey Patterson. Thank goodness he’s a rent-a-player.
  • The Cubs bullpen is hot – they’ve pitched over sixteen innings of scoreless baseball, at least when it comes to earned runs. Berg, Marshall, Woody and Grabow all had effective relief innings tonight.
  • Soriano homered which is always a good thing.

What went wrong:

  • Jeff Russell continues to be unimpressive as a starter – I’m finished with Russell after being patient, this guy doesn’t presently have what it takes to start at the Major League level. For example: Gopher balls thrown to Helton and Wigginton – these guys can hit, why did we throw pitches they could jump on? I can excuse Helton’s first home run but not the next two. Mike Quade has been patient – he’s the team manager. But my patience has run out – send this guy down now, not tomorrow.
  • The wind was blowing out tonight, why didn’t our hitters hit more line drives? Quade did the right thing and loaded up the order with right handed hitters but the hitters didn’t respond. If the Cubs want to be one of the two top teams in the division rank and file players have to produce – we have what we need in the one and two holes, what about three through eight?

So the Cubs go three games below .500 and look to avoid a sweep tomorrow. The game will be televised on CSN and begin at 1:20 CDT. The Cubs have now lost four out of five to the Rockies and I’ll be glad to see them leave town.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Jorge De La Rosa (.257 WPA)

2nd Star – Todd Helton (.139 WPA)

3rd Star– Ty Wigginton (.139 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-3 (.400)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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Game 22 – Wash Out

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Cubs 3, Rockies 5

Box Score / Video Highlights

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Kosuke Fukudome kept swinging a red-hot bat, collecting five more hits.
  • Surprise slugger Darwin Barney drove a breaking ball through the wind for a 1st-inning home run. It was his first homer as a big leaguer.
  • Alfonso Soriano went to RF and delivered a sac fly to make it 3-0 Cubs.
  • Matt Garza battled the elements and bad defense (including his own) to give the Cubs six respectable innings. He struck out seven and gave up one earned run. Unfortunately, he left the game trailing by two.
  • Jeff Baker filled in nicely for Aramis Ramirez with three hits and a walk.
  • Marlon Byrd actually walked against a RHP. Can the winning lottery ticket be far behind?
  • The Shark tossed two more scoreless innings. I’m not sure how he’s doing it, but the Cubs need to ride this horse until it breaks.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • I couldn’t believe my eyes, but Starlin Castro made three errors (not a typo) in the 2nd inning and allowed Colorado to tie the game. It was like watching an animal get tortured. Or a Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson movie.
  • Castro’s bad night in the field followed him to the plate as he went 0-5.
  • Matt Garza’s throwing error with two men on gave the Rockies a 4-3 lead.
  • The Cubs stranded 12,754 baserunners. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
  • Carlos Pena went hitless again and even chewed out the home plate umpire for good measure. Weak.
  • Len and Bob didn’t call in sick today, which meant I had to listen to them call the game. Yes, I could have turned down the sound and listened to the radio broadcast instead, but I’m pretty lazy.
  • The Reds won. I can’t stand the Reds.

ANOTEHR ROUND OF RANDOM THOUGHTS

It seems like only yesterday when the Colorado Rockies joined the National League. In reality their first season was 1993. In addition to thinking about how many beers I have consumed since then, I thought it might be interesting to look back at the Rockies original roster (or at least the bulk of it)…

  • C-Joe Girardi: The Rockies selected Girardi as the 19th player in the MLB expansion draft. He rewarded them with a .290 batting average, which of course doesn’t mean much in Colorado. Still, Joe was a fine defensive player in his day.
  • 1B-Andres Galarraga: At age 32, the “Big Cat” put up monster numbers during his first year in Denver (.370/.403/.602). He would go on to enjoy an impressive second act to his career.
  • 2B-Eric Young: The future Cub posted a .355 on-base percentage in 1993. To nobody’s surprise, he was much better at home. However, he was still very fast everywhere.
  • 3B-Charlie Hayes: Mr. Hayes muscled up in the thin air, swatting 25 homers for Don Baylor’s club. He didn’t approach those power numbers again.
  • SS-Vinny Castilla: Vinny never met a pitch he didn’t like. In 1993 he walked 13 times in 357 PA. In the next few years he would graduate to bigger and better slugging stats, but the walks wouldn’t follow.
  • LF-Jerald Clark: Did you know that Clark attended Lamar University? That’s the most interesting fact about the Rockies forgettable LF.
  • CF-Alex Cole: The former Pirate played 126 games for the Rockies and didn’t hit a single home run. He did swipe 30 bases, which was second to E.Y.’s 42.
  • RF-Dante Bichette: Ah, Dante. How many times did you go deep against my pitching staff in Earl Weaver Ball? Too many to count. As a result I still hate this guy, but Rockies fans sure didn’t. By 1995, he was a 40-homer player.
  • SP- How would you like to be the pitching coach for this rotation? Armando Reynoso (who was actually pretty decent that year), David Neid (completely terrible), Butch Henry (made Neid look like Greg Maddux), Kent Bottenfield (checking in with a sparkling 6.10 ERA), and Willie Blair (there aren’t enough guys named Willie in baseball these days). If that staff doesn’t turn your stomach, nothing will. However, the fan-base didn’t seem to mind. The Rockies drew 4.5 million that season.
  • RP- Baylor’s closer was RHP Darren Holmes. Holmes saved 25 games in 1993, easily his all-time high. He knocked around for 10 more years, finishing his career with Atlanta. Other relievers from the 1993 Rockies included Steve Reed, Bruce Ruffin, Gary Wayne (who?), Jeff Parrett, Curt Leskanic, and future starter Andy Ashby.

Colorado finished that first season at 67-95. Two years later, they were in the playoffs. Not too shabby.

Back to present day…On a tough night to play baseball, the Cubs defense made things even tougher. Hopefully the bats (and gloves) get going in game two. With James Russell on the mound, Quade’s crew will need all the offense they can possibly generate.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Matt Lindstrom (.227 WPA)

2nd Star – Kosuke Fukudome (.219 WPA)

3rd Star– Chris Ianetta (.140 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-2 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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Cubs / Rockies Series Preview

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Matt Garza vs. Esmil Rogers

Garza is still searching for his first win. He ranks among the National League leaders in strikeouts, with 34 in 24 2/3 innings. He faced the Rockies April 15 and gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. Rogers will try to bounce back from a rough start his last time out, when he gave up eight runs in just three innings in an 8-1 loss to the Giants. Rogers is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA on the road this season.

James Russell vs. Jorge De La Rosa

This will be Russell’s third big league start, and this time, the Cubs will make sure he throws a side session before the game. Before his last start, Russell made two relief appearances. He’s 1-2 with an 8.00 ERA. De La Rosa continued his strong start to the season with a four-hit, two-run performance over seven innings in the the Rockies’ 10-2 win over the Giants. The lefty is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his career against the Cubs.

Casey Coleman vs Jhoulys Chacin

Coleman was roughed up in his last start, giving up six runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings. All of the hits and runs came in the third inning. He threw 90 pitches in the shortened outing, including 51 in the third alone. In his last start, Chacin struggled with controlling his fastball. He allowed the first batter in each of the first four innings against the Marlins, and the 23-year-old took his first loss.

Logan Burdine’s Scouting Report on the Rockies

Who’s Hot – Todd Helton went 4-16 last week.  While a .250 batting average is far below standard for Helton, all four hits were doubles.  In addition to the doubles, he hit several balls on the screws.  The solid contact is a good sign for an aging player with back trouble.  So far this year, he’s been on the field and productive.  Currently, he’s hitting .315/.377/.463 with five doubles and a homerun.

Who’s Not – Carlos Gonzalez is mired in a wretched 1-20 slump.  He’s been swinging at everything in sight and making very little contact.  Also, he’s been struggling against lefties – 2-23 on the season.  It’s a little early to start worrying about CarGo, but it would be helpful if he was able to get something going against the Cubs.   The good news for Rockies’ fans is that CarGo had a much better game on Sunday.  The left-fielder pieced together four solid at bats.  He was 0-2, but one of those outs was held up by the wind and would’ve been a line-drive run-scoring double in most stadiums.  He also worked a walk and had a line-drive sacrifice fly.  For the first time in over a week, it’s looking like he might bust out soon.

Interesting Note – In three of the Rockies’ last six games, the opposing pitcher has taken a no hitter into at least the sixth inning.  It’s not surprising that the Rockies lost all three contests.  The first was by Giants’ ace, Tiny Tim “Mitch Kramer” Lincecum.  Last Monday, he dominated the Rox, holding them hitless until the seventh inning.  On Friday, Anibal Sanchez didn’t allow a hit until the ninth inning.  And, yesterday, Josh Johnson took a no-no into the sixth inning.  Needless to say, I’m tired of watching hitless baseball.  There has been far too much of it over the last week.

Prediction for the series – I’ve heard that there is a 100% chance of rain in Chicago on Monday; I’m predicting rain delays.  If they get all three games in, the Rockies should take two of three.  I’m guessing that most Cubs’ fans know this, but the pitching matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t exactly in their favor.

Logan is the Lead Writer/Editor for RoxPile, a Colorado Rockies blog on the Fansided Network.
You can follow him on Twitter @Logan_Burdine.

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