Archive for April, 2011

Game 17 and 18 – A Split = A Series Win

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Cubs 2 – Padres 1

Cubs 4 -Padres 5

Box Score (Game 1 or Game 2) / Video Highlights (Game 1 or Game 2)

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza was much improved in game one. If you take out the 6th inning, he was flat out dominant. I’m still a big believer in Garza. I still see him winning 16+ games and finishing with an ERA in the high 2′s or low 3′s
  • Jeff Samardzija struggled with his command, but he got the job done in a crucial situation in game one. Despite walking three men, he managed to log two scoreless innings of relief in the 10th and 11th and get the win.
  • Reed Johnson hit a home run to lead off the 11th in game 1. It’s always more fun when it’s a walkoff edition.
  • Alfonso Soriano hit a two run bomb late in game 2 to try to give us a chance. Fukudome would reach base, but Darwin Barney couldn’t keep the rally going in the 9th.
  • Despite losing the 2nd game of the DH, the Cubs managed a series sweep and sit tied for 1st in a very yucky NL Central.

What Went Wrong

  • The James Russell as a starter experiment went wrong and continues to go wrong. At some point we need to pull the plug on the idea and get someone else in there. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s not Russell and it’s not Samardzija. I’m going to watch Trey McNutt pitch tonight at the AA level, but I don’t think he’s the answer at this point simply because of a lack of experience. If we’re going to move in a different direction in the rotation, my first choice continues to be Sean Marshall and if not Marshall, then probably a guy like Ramon Ortiz and pray for a lot of rain outs on his day to pitch.
  • This was one of the few times I can remember seeing Starlin Castro finish this poorly in the box score at the plate. He was a combined 1-for-9.
  • The Carlos Pena experience continues to be one that leaves you less than satisfied. It’s kind of like that mini tootsie roll you eat. It’s really good, but you just don’t get enough from it to leave you walking away with a feeling it was worth it.

Game 1 Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Matt Garza (.377 WPA)

2nd Star – Reed Johnson (.354 WPA)

3rd Star– Jeff Samardzija (.291 WPA)

Game 2 Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Heath Bell (.214 WPA)

2nd Star – Ryan Ludwick (.205 WPA)

3rd Star– Aaron Harang (.178 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-4 (.556)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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Chet’s Corner: The Prospect Rule

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A while back I shared my formula for “assigning blame in a loss” (AKA “who to credit for a win.) Not sure if you remember, but it was the whole concept that a game hinges on a five run benchmark, or as I refer to it in some circles “the greater then or less then five rule”.

Well, I have another rule that I carry, and I am pretty sure that it will meet a round of boos, but I’m gonna share it…..

THE PROSPECT RULE

When a prospect fails to find significant time on the big league club within four years of starting his minor league career in “A” ball, then said prospect probably won’t be a star player.

There are two things we need to define in this rule…..

1) “Significant Time” means a starting position or damn near close.  This is not a September call up.

2) I am not including time spent in Rookie ball or any other developmental stage.  For our purposes the minor league career starts at low A.

3) A star player is somebody a franchise is built around.  An All-Star not once or twice but perennially.

I created this rule because I got sick of hearing about all of the once uber talented prospects now toiling in the minors.  The fans wait and wait and wait……well I don’t anymore.  You get four years max.

Now for a challenge to the readers……

Find me one star player who spent more then four years in the minors to start their career.  I am sure there is one out there somewhere and people love to prove a writer wrong.  So fire away!

I thought about this while considering the recent success of Starlin Castro.  He shows no signs of sophomore slump, or the evil darkness that smothers young future star ballplayers.  Tyler Colvin is fighting the evil darkness as we speak…..one game winning hit at a time.  Keep up the good fight Tyler!

Odds and Ends…..

-Mike Leake stole six t-shirts.  Rumor is he put all of them on at once and forgot he was wearing them…..walked right out the front door Lohan style.  That was joke,  I am here all night folks.

-File this away in bizarre minor league nicknames.  I am referring to the team that beat the Smokies.

-Randy Wells is playing catch.  As long as I don’t see him whipping a towel around I will hold out hope.

-Did anybody know that we actually drafted Tim Lincecum?  You learn something new everyday.  Apparently he felt going to college and trying to boost his draft status was a better option…….jerk.

- Marlon Byrd is hitting .150 with runners in scoring position.  He only has 4 RBI’s.   He is our number three hitter……..nuff said…….

-…….which is why the Cubs are thinking Castro may be a good fit for the number three spot.

See you all next week!

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Game 16 – Cubs Win, Fans Freeze

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Cubs 1 – Padres 0


Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Right

  • Strike-out stuff: Zambrano was punching out Padres left and right, fanning 10 in eight shout-out innings. I always thought Big Z was nuts, but how could he possibly pitch in short sleeves tonight? I was cold watching him on TV. However, I still managed to force down a beer or two.
  • Laying one down: Carlos Pena beat the radical infield shift and bunted down the third-base line for a hit. He even managed to get it down with two strikes.
  • Late help: The bullpen rebounded from Sunday’s slaughter and pitched a scoreless 9th and 10th.
  • Free baseball: Even in crappy weather, you have to love extra innings.
  • Patience is priceless: Fukudome drew a base on balls to start the 10th inning rally. Soto reached on a fielder’s choice, then scored the winning run on a ringing double by Tyler Colvin. Great to see Colvin get a big knock!
  • A fresh take: The Cubs television broadcast was blacked out in my town, so I got to watch and listen to San Diego’s Dick Enberg and Mark Grant instead. Overall, it was very entertaining. Enberg told a humorous story about a game he called when the Chicago Bears played football at Wrigley Field. Apparently, the Bears used to sell seats on the opposing team’s bench. Somebody needs to bring that promotion back.

What Went Wrong

  • Cold bats for everyone: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it was an awful night for hitters (except for Colvin). Fortunately, the Cubs managed to scratch out just enough offense to win the game.
  • The wind: Ramirez and Pena hit deep fly balls that may have sailed out of the park on another day.
  • Jason Bartlett’s glove: The Padres SS made a great play to rob Fukudome of a single in the 3rd.
  • My right ankle: It’s really been bothering me lately.

RANDOM THOUGHT ALERT! Anybody who knows me well knows that my mind wanders frequently. During tonight’s game I found myself thinking about intriguing players from the Padres past, and not just the obvious names like Tony Gwynn. Here are a few Friar favorites (including the years they spent in San Diego) in no particular order:

  • Terry Kennedy, C, 1981-1985: Kennedy had a decent Strat-O-Matic card in 1982, so he’ll always have a special plate in my heart. During the 1980s, it was rare to find a left-handed hitting catcher who could contribute with the bat. Kennedy was no star, but he was a solid player in an offensively challenged era.
  • Champ Summers, 1B/OF, 1984: Champ was at the end of the road in 1984, but I do remember him taking an active part in the legendary brawl with Pascual Perez and the Atlanta Braves that season. If you’ve never seen the footage, it’s worth finding on the Internet.
  • Craig Lefferts, LHP, 1984-1987 & 1992: The former Cub was a serviceable reliever for many Major League seasons. Maybe the best thing about Lefferts was how he used to sprint to the mound when he got the call from the bullpen. I’m laughing out loud just thinking about it.
  • Mark Davis, LHP, 1987-1989 & 1993-1994: Davis was a strikeout machine for much of his long career. During the late 1980s, he was a workhorse closer for the Padres. Twice he pitched more than 90 innings in that role, racking up 72 saves in those two seasons.
  • Bip Roberts, IF/OF, 1986-1991 & 1994-1995: Little Bip was a fixture at the top of my Earl Weaver Baseball lineups for many years. Roberts was known for his speed and versatility, but he had a real knack for getting on base. (Imagine that—a leadoff man who gets on base. What a concept!) Bip topped the .375 on-base mark four times from 1989 to 1994.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the Padres. The 1984 NLCS debacle is still a fresh wound for countless Cubs fans. And who can forget those turd brown uniforms? Still, the Friars had a few interesting players who resonate with me even today. I’m honestly not sure why.

Anyway, enough rambling. The Cubs got a great start from Zambrano and evened their record at 8-8. After two more games with the Padres, the Dodgers and Rockies come to town. How does a 6-3 home stand sound to you? Maybe some nicer weather, too?

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

1st Star – Carlos Zambrano (.570 WPA)

2nd Star – Tim Stauffer (.458 WPA)

3rd Star– Tyler Colvin (.432 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 4-3 (.571)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)



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Cubs / Padres Series Preview

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Carlos Zambrano vs. Tim Stauffer

Zambrano is riding a 10-game winning streak, dating back to last season. He’s coming off a win over the Astros in his last start in which he gave up five runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. His wins haven’t been pretty, but they’re still “W’s.” Stauffer pitched 4 1/3 innings in last start against the Reds, allowing two runs on six hits. He threw 99 pitches, 63 for strikes.

James Russell vs. Dustin Moseley

In his first big league start on Aug. 12 at Houston, Russell couldn’t last through two innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings. He’ll be followed by Jeff Samardzija again as the Cubs try to fill Andrew Cashner’s spot. What can you say about Moseley, who is 0-3 but has a 1.83 ERA? The Padres haven’t scored a run for him in his three starts, though he’s pitched well. That streak spans 19 2/3 innings. He got 15 ground-ball outs in his last start against the Astros.

Matt Garza vs. Aaron Harang

All Garza needs is a little help from his teammates. The Cubs have been shut out in his last two starts. He pitched well enough vs. the Rockies, giving up five runs on seven hits over six innings. Garza now has fanned 25 over 18 2/3 innings. Say this about Harang — he’s been remarkably consistant in his first season with the Padres. He’s allowed one run over six innings in each of his first three starts. He struck out eight in his last start against the Astros on Friday.

Geoff Young’s Scouting Report on the Padres

Who’s Hot – Nick Hundley started strong, got moved up from the no. 8 spot to no. 5, and then stopped hitting. Newcomers Orlando Hudson and Cameron Maybin have been solid on offense and defense. Maybin is the Padres’ most exciting player to watch right now. Dustin Moseley has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation, although the club has yet to score a run for him in three starts. Local product Aaron Harang looks like his old self in the early going.

Who’s Not – The offense has been nonexistent. Jason Bartlett and Will Venable are off to slow starts. Ryan Ludwick has continued last year’s struggles and is hitting under .200 in nearly 300 plate appearances since joining the Padres. Brad Hawpe is swinging at everything and missing most of it.

News & Notes – Former Cubs farmhand Eric Patterson is on the roster. He had a terrific spring before starting the season on the disabled list due to a bad hamstring. The Padres lead the National League in stolen bases and rank near the top in bases on balls, but are at or near the bottom of almost every other offensive category. On the other side, they lead the league in ERA.

Prediction for the series – Predicting the outcome of a short series is a fool’s errand, but that’s no fun, so I’ll say Padres take two out of three. The key is Ludwick, who should do better in the NL Central’s smaller ballparks. If his bat comes to life, the Padres will have a good series.

Geoff Young covers the Padres at the Ducksnorts blog, part of the SweetSpot Network and can be followed on Twitter @ducksnorts

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GirlieView (04/18/2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Lots to talk about again here at VFTB. Here’s all the details. Hope everyone has a great week (including our Cubbies!!)

Lizzies

  • and Woody lost the lead in the 8th to Casey “I Became Good Just In Time For The Cubs To Trade Me To A Division Rival” McGehee.
  • I am getting a little exasperated with Jeff Alphabet on the mound however, he’s twirling balls more often that Elton John..
  • It is too early to be getting our undies in a bunch with reporters!
  • My security word is golf. Which is what I believe the Cubs will be playing in October.
  • We could replace our first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, left fielder, center fielder, right fielder, third and fifth starting pitchers, and four of our relievers with the Hackensack Bulls and maybe lose four games in the standings.
  • there are certain artistic freedoms that come with being on top of the Lizzie Leader-board.
  • It’s early in the season so I am happy to get off to a great Lizzie start but the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Koyie Hill is still on the team. Sorry, I should really keep comments like that to myself.
  • Soto is hitting under .200, and no one even mentions him here. But Pena, for gods sake……better get out there and beat him down.
  • always a fan of Buddy posts. (skim-skim-skim-find something really funny-back to top-read-read-find more clever lines-read-read-comment)
  • When you have one or two bad guys on your roster, you can hide them. When 20% suck, it’s hard not to notice.
  • Not that I think Russell is the answer, but it would have been interesting to see how he would have done if the Cubs would have played defense.
  • At this rate, by winter I will have enough would to heat my home.
  • I don’t have anything amusing or topical at the moment, but couldn’t resist typing TICKLE in the little box.
  • if you get a “subscription package” of some sort from a cable or internet service, one hell of a baseball orgy can ensue on any given night of the week.
  • I am pretty sure nobody in Florida even knows they have a team.
  • every time he takes a huge cut at the ball I cover my testicles.  It’s reactionary, I can’t help it.
  • I attended one such game last April where the attendance (it’s free) was 2. Me and a nice little baseball Annie in the opposite teams stands.
  • It is great to get the persepctive of other teams and their fans, I found it calmed me to know I wasn’t the only one tortured by his favorite baseball team.
  • Chet, You confused me before and now you’re doing it again so I have to ask…What are these other divisions of which you speak?
  • I had brunch with Jake Fox last Sunday. He’s fine. He said to tell everybody “hello.” Rich Hill didn’t return my calls.
  • I could have never imagined that Barney in particular would be as good as he’s been so far this year.
  • It’s no surprise that Zambrano was on tilt, the good news is that he didn’t trash the Gatorade cooler or take a swing at Aramis.
  • My word was seymour. I had to post.

Lizard

  • Well, since I ripped Marlon Byrd last week he has turned into a doubles machine, so all I have to say is that Marlon Byrd Sucks, Carlos Pena sucks, Garza Sucks, Wood sucks, in fact the Cubs suck and they’d be lucky to beat my hometown High School squad. There.

Lizzie Standings

Each week I’ll post the cumulative standings for the Lizzie contest. Remember you get one point for each Lizzie and three points for a Lizard. We currently have 23 commenters with points. Here are the top 10 (actually 11 since there are a few ties).

1.) Doc Raker
1.) jswanson
3.) Buddy
3.) Chet
5.) Seymour
6.) Chuck
7.) Aaron
7.) Rich Beckman
9.) cap’n obvious
10.) Joe Aiello
10.) MJ

The Weekly Aura

Last week I started up a weekly survey to get a feel for the aura around here. How are you feeling about the team and the way it’s playing? Each week I’ll tell you the previous week’s aura, and ask you to rate how you are feeling this week. When we’ve got a few weeks under our belts I’ll even post the results as a graph so we can watch how we’re feeling as the year progresses. Last week we were at about a B-. If I graded on a curve I’d have scored it a solid B.

How are you feeling about the Cubs now?
a.) Good. We’re on the right track.
b.) Ok. I’m still confident.
c.) Fair. I’m concerned.
d.) Poor. We’re in trouble.


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Game 15 – No lead is safe in Coors Field

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Cubs 5 – Rockies 9

Box Score / Video Highlights

Tonight the Cubs gave it their all and fought back from a 4-1 deficit, only to give up the game in the eighth. It’s never fun to go to Coors in my estimation and the North Siders lost the series 2-1 after barely holding on last night.

What went right:

  • The Cubs played very scrappy baseball; after falling behind by three runs in the first they came back. So far this team shows a propensity to give their best even when they are behind, they don’t give up easily.
  • Both Castro and Barney continue to scald the ball at the top of the order, I think we’re on to something here. Continued strong play from these guys means that we could free up a roster spot currently owned by Baker or DeWitt and possibly get a righthanded 1B/OF backup to come off the bench.
  • Ramirez continues to impress me with his early season hitting, he looks like a totally different hitter this year. He’s hitting the ball where it’s pitched, laying off pitches he doesn’t like and hitting line drives to all fields.  A resurgent Ramirez and Soriano could put the Cubs into playoff contention this year.

What went wrong:

  • Another shaky outing by Dempster, he kept himself in the game but he’s been leaving too many balls out over the plate and that is never a real good idea in Coors, even during the “humidor era.” His problem today seemed to be hitting his spots and getting behind in counts.
  • Pena continues to have trouble with making contact. From what I’m seeing he’s flying open and not keeping his head down and right shoulder square. He’s also trying to pull everything and makes some judgement errors on what he swings at. Will Jaramillo make an impact with Carlos? I don’t think he will, he’s pretty set in his ways just like Corey Patterson was. He is what he is and that’s what you get.
  • Mateo blew up in the 8th giving up the winning run plus three more in the 8th.

So, the Cubs fall back to one game below .500 and come home to face the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies in a nine game homestand, tomorrow night’s game being televised on WCIU. Both Cashner and Wells are going to be examined tomorrow and this team is in need of some good news.

On this date in baseball history:

  • In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat a group of Cincinnati amateurs 24-5, it was the first ever fielding of a professional sports team. Later in the year the Red Stockings beat the Mansfield Independents 48-14, which was the first-ever baseball game between two professional teams.
  • Red Barber called his first game in Crosley Field in 1934.
  • In 1951 Mickey Mantle had his first major league at bat. Two years later on the very same date he hit what many consider to be the longest-ever homerun in baseball history, a 565 foot shot that left Griffith Stadium.
  • On this date in 1976 Mike Schmidt hit four consecutive homeruns, powering the Phils to an 18-16 win over the Cubs. Sadly I remember this game as well as another Phils win over the Cubs that had an even larger score. These factoids courtesy of www.nationalpastime.com as well as a couple of other sites.

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

1st Star – Seth Smith (.225 WPA)

2nd Star – Dexter Fowler (.222 WPA)

3rd Star– Jeff Samardzija (.176 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Joe 4-3 (.571)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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The Minor League Week in Review

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Trey McNutt, perhaps the top pitching prospect in the system and the reason the Cubs felt comfortable trading Chris Archer in the Matt Garza deal, left his first start on April 10th after just 2.2 no hit innings of work due to a blister issue. Blisters scare the crap out of me partly because they’re flat out gross, but mainly because they always seem to be an issue that will rear it’s ugly head over and over. Hopefully this is an isolated issue for McNutt because we’re counting on him to be ready to make an impact on the big team sooner rather than later. We’ll have to see if he makes his next scheduled start and go from there.


Pictured Above: Trey McNutt

J.J. Cooper of Baseball America had an article the other day that pointed out the youngest players at each level of baseball. Not surprisingly, Starlin Castro made the list for the National League and is the overall youngest in the Majors. Also on the list was Josh Vitters, who ranked as the 10th youngest player in the AA Southern League. We toss a lot of pressure and criticism Vitters way, but the fact remains that while he hasn’t shown as much promise we had hoped when we picked him in the first round early, he has time on his side still. So far his AA numbers are encouraging:

PA   R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
28   5 9  4  0  1   6  3  2 .360 .429 .640 1.069

Those numbers have turned heads a little so far. Jim Callis answered a question about the hot start in his April 13th chat:

Ead (Chicago): Encouraged by Josh Vitters so far? Or is it too soon to tell?

Jim Callis: Too few games to read much into. But I did find myself looking at his stats the other day and think that maybe he is on the way to the breakout year the Cubs swear is coming in 2011.

Just for reference, Jae-Hoon Ha also made the list as a RF for the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League.

Some notable pitching performances this week on the farm:

  • Ramon Ortiz made his debut on Monday since signing a minor league deal, going 5.2 innings with 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K, 5 Hits. There has been talk that he could make a start for the Cubs when James Russell’s spot comes around. Other options would be to use Russell again or even give Jeff Samardzija a shot at starting.
  • Thomas Diamond, another name on the 40 man roster that could push for a start real soon, was shelled in his outing on Tuesday giving up 9 ER in just over 3 innings of work. I seem to remember someone on Twitter fussing at me saying that Diamond should be in there over Russell. I’m gonna go with….NO.
  • Robert Whitenack, which I think would be more fun if it was spelled Whitesack, tossed a gem for Daytona on Tuesday, going 6 innings and striking out 12.
  • Hayden Simpson was highlighted last week for his debut. Start number two wasn’t as good, but wasn’t bad.

What They’re Saying

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus on Michael Burgess

“A supplemental first-round pick in 2007, Burgess was acquired from the Nationals for Tom Gorzelanny, and while he has well above-average raw power, it’s his pure hitting ability that has him starting his third consecutive year at High-A. With four home runs in five games, he seems to be tapping into that power, but to prove the small sample size issue, his on-base percentage still matches his batting average (.313) and he’s struck out in one-fourth of his at-bats. There’s no answer here yet, but it’s better than him starting off with zero home runs, no?”

Staff Reporters from Baseball America on Brett Jackson

“Jackson’s well-rounded skill set helps him do a bit of everything. The Cubs’ No. 1 prospect has a solid swing, works the count and can drive the ball, while his plus speed is a weapon on the base paths and in the outfield. He’s been an on-base machine early for Tennessee, including a 3-for-3 showing with a walk to help chase Rays lefty Matt Moore from the game early on Wednesday.”

Ben Badler of Baseball America on Darwin Barney

“I think he’s bound to come back to Earth soon. Not a guy who’s going to strike out too much so he could hit .300, but he’s not a power guy and he hits the ball on the ground a ton, so he has to rely on a lot of those balls sneaking through the infield for hits. More of a bottom of the order hitter, for me.”

    Ead (Chicago): Encouraged by Josh Vitters so far? Or is it too soon to tell?

Jim Callis: Too few games to read much into. But I did find myself looking at his stats the other day and think that maybe he is on the way to the breakout year the Cubs swear is coming in 2011.

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Game 14 – Top of the Order Shines Bright

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Cubs 8 – Rockies 3

Box Score / Video Highlights

Short and sweet this morning since we had some bad storms yesterday. As a result, I missed the Bulls game and the Cubs game. Taking a look at the box score:

What Went Right

  • The top of the order continues to impress with Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney combining for six hits, four RBI, and two runs scored. I don’t know if Barney will be the real deal up there, but it appears Castro is comfortable in the spot he’s it, so let’s not mess with him and move him all around. God forbid we have a leadoff hitter that can get on base and steal the occasional base.
  • Casey Coleman picked up win # 1 of the year and worked into the 6th inning before leaving due to a line drive to the leg. I don’t know that you can really hope for much more on a consistent bases from Coleman. I don’t see him as a deep into games type of guy anyway. I’ll take his outing and be happy with it.
  • Kosuke Fukudome came back to the lineup after missing a few games with the leg injury and logged himself a hit and a walk.
  • Pinch Hitting – Reed Johnson and Blake DeWitt both got pinch hits. Perhaps that’s what caused the storm at my house.

What Went Wrong

  • Koyie Hill played – He got a hit, but the fact remains that he played. Anytime that happens, it goes on this list.
  • John Grabow – Is he hurt again? Remember that was the excuse they used to brush off his suckage last year. What will it be this year because we know he sucks. I wonder if we hadn’t given him that two year deal (or that two year johnson as Bruce Levine would say), if he’d still be on this roster.

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

1st Star – Starlin Castro (.254 WPA)

2nd Star – Casey Coleman (.244 WPA)

3rd Star– Alfonso Soriano (.220 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Joe 4-3 (.571)

Mark 1-1 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

 

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Contender or Pretender? The Predictive Value of the First Ten Games of the Season

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Much has been made of the slow starts of the Red Sox and Rays, each losing the first six games of the 2011 season. The Rays, who finished with the best record in the American League last year, were expected to contend despite heavy offseason losses but have limped to a 2-8 start. The Red Sox, after trading for slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signing outfielder Carl Crawford, were heavy favorites in AL East heading into Opening Day but have started the season 2-8. Are these slow starts reason to panic?

We looked at the first ten games of the season for every team since 2002, specifically focusing on teams that won 90 or more games on the season and/or made the playoffs.

Performance in First Ten Games (2002-10)
Wins in First 10 Teams Finished 90+ Wins Pct of Total Made Playoffs Pct of Total
0-3 39 1 3% 3 8%
4 62 13 21% 13 21%
5 69 18 26% 21 30%
6 59 19 32% 18 31%
7-10 41 19 46% 17 41%

It’s clear from the chart that there is some correlation between a team’s first 10 games and the rest of the season. Out of the 39 teams that won three or fewer of their first ten games, only the 2002 Angels finished the season with 90 or more wins. (After starting the season 3-7, that Angels team won 99 games and the World Series!) Two others (the 2006 Padres and the 2007 Phillies) managed to make the playoffs despite slow starts. Though it wouldn’t be an unprecedented comeback, the Red Sox and Rays have a lot of work to do to catch up to preseason expectations.

On the flip side, the Rangers are off to a 9-1 start in their quest to defend their American League Pennant. Of the 41 teams in our sample who won at least seven of their first ten games, 17 (41 percent) have made the playoffs. They’re far from a lock to make the playoffs at this point in the season, but they’re off to a great start.

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

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