Archive for July, 2011

VFTB Radio – Episode 2

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Episode 2 of the VFTB Radio show had this as the show agenda.

Leading Off

Reaction to an interesting idea from David Kaplan

What’s the Word?

  1. Last week Mike Quade made some controversial comments to the media, calling out middle infielders Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney while defending the play of his veterans.  Quade’s comments were _____.
  2. Aramis Ramirez’s refusal to waive his no trade rights is _____.
  3. I am ______ that Jim Hendry has yet to make a trade in the month of July.
  4. My reaction to the Cubs sweep of the Astros was that of _____.

Over or Under

  • 1.5 trades by Jim Hendry before Sunday’s deadline
  • 0.5 more three game winning streaks for the Cubs this season
  • 3.5 more blown saves by Carlos Marmol this season.
  • 4.5 players on the current Cubs roster that will still be on the team when they return to the postseason
  • 3.5 weeks until Brett Jackson is called up to the big leagues

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Game 104 – Zack Attack

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Cubs 0, Brewers 2

Box Score / Highlights

The Cubs could only muster 4 hits against Zack Greinke and the Brewers while being shut out for the seventh time of the season. Two runs was all the Brewers needed to send the Cubs back to 20 games below .500.

What went right:

  • Overall, the pitching was solid. 6 hits and 2 runs will win you a lot of games with an average offense.
  • Starlin Castro can turn infield hits into outs. He got Nyjer Morgan by bare-handing a hard hit check swing on the infield dirt and making a strong throw to Pena for the out.
  • The Bratwurst won the 7th inning sausage race. I love brat’s. Especially the cheddar filled brat’s.

What went wrong:

  • Runs. They couldn’t get any. The Cubs have started a new streak; 17 innings without scoring.
  • Starlin Castro can turns outs into infield hits. He had a hard time getting the ball out of his glove on a hard hit grounder allowing Rickie Weeks to leg out a single. Should have been an error, but it wasn’t, and we have better ways of measuring defense these days anyway.
  • Rickie Weeks took a nasty spill on that play, rolling his ankle. Hopefully not too bad, no word as of this writing other than it wasn’t a break.

Notes:

  • Ryan Braun. I can’t stands’m! Let’s a foul ball drop, doesn’t run out the play, and is as cocky as anyone in the game. Good hitter though.
  • Prince Fielder had an opposite field homer on a ball at chest level, showing his massive power. Can the Cubs add $15-$20 million in payroll next season? What if the Cubs resign Aramis and then sign Prince and CC Sabathia while losing Fukudome, Grabow, and Samardzija (about $21 million)? Does that make them contenders (Won’t happen, just askin)?

Around the League:

  • The St. Louis Cardinals  made it a little easier for the Cubs to beat them in the 2012-2014 seasons by trading centerfielder Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays for some immediate help in Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel. The White Sox saved a bunch of money by sending Edwin Jackson to Toronto along with Mark Teahen. Good to see the White Sox saving money when they’re 3.5 games out of first and good to see the Cardinals letting Tony LaRussa make the personnel decisions.
  • The Giants will soon get Carlos Beltran for a few minor leaguers, headlined by Zack Wheeler. The Giants are then expected to release Pat Burrell. Why would any team take Alfonso Soriano, even if the Cubs paid 90% of the remaining dollars, over Pat Burrell at a few hundred thousand?
  • Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter against the Indians, but seems overshadowed with the trades and the bad call in the Pittsburgh-Atlanta game on Tuesday.

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

1st Star – Zack Greinke (.385 WPA)

2nd Star – Prince Fielder (.087 WPA)

3rd Star – John Axford (.080 WPA)

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Book Review: The Juice

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The complete title of this book is “The Juice – The Real Story Of Baseball’s Drug Problems”. It was written by Will Carroll, with William L. Carroll, Ed.D., and Foreword by Alan Schwarz. It was published in 2005.

The following synopsis is located on the back cover: “…’The Juice’ offers a wide-ranging investigation of the drugs now being used or contemplated, the athletes who use them, their scientific effects and side effects, the testing procedures, and the impact of drugs on game performance. Will Carroll…also explores the grey area of legal supplements, reviews the law involved in the BALCO case, and speculates on the next generation of performance enhancers that may well include gene therapy. In exclusive interviews he profiles the motives and experiences of professional players, student athletes, and drug creators.”

That just about covers it.

In the Introduction author Will Carroll, in describing his motivation for writing “The Juice”, quotes Alan Schwarz: “’I wrote the book because I wanted to read it. It would have been much easier for me to have gone to the bookstore and bought it, but it wasn’t there.’ …the material that follows is something I could not find, yet wanted to see in print.”

There is information included in “The Juice” that I was not aware of, and didn’t even suspect.

Rob Neyer, of ESPN, is quoted on the front cover: “Don’t say another word about ‘steroids’ until you’ve read ‘The Juice’.” It’s time to treat the problem

Not too long ago I read an on line discussion about the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in baseball. This was just as I was beginning to read “The Juice”. Gee, all of the points people were getting at in that discussion are presented, clarified &/or answered in “The Juice”.

Along those lines, Allen Barra is quoted on the back cover, thusly: “Everyone talks about steroids, but no one knows anything about them. Will Carroll’s ‘The Juice’ is the first step in our education.” I found Mr. Barra’s quote to be very accurate.

In the Foreword, Alan Schwarz opines: “What Will brings to the steroids issue is calm, measured analysis of a subject that too often drowns in sanctimonious pap.” Once again, a very accurate description of this book.

I found the chapters featuring profiles of various participants in this drama (the player, the tester, the student, and the creator) to be of particular interest. Very enlightening.

Similarly, the chapter titled: “Pre-trial Commotion: The Legal Issues of Steroids and Sports”, which was prepared with the help of Pat Cotter, a white-collar criminal defense attorney from Chicago, I found to be extremely enlightening.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, from the book:

– “…the issue was never about science, it was about emotion.”

– “Assumption is the marshal of this parade. Fact is stuck somewhere in the back of the ranks.”

– “When does a lifesaving drug become an illegal performance-enhancing drug? That’s a question for the ethicists, but I’ll go as far as saying that the difference lies in intent.”

– “Framing a debate is often a matter of language. Entire books have been written about choosing words carefully, and most of the terms in this particular debate are loaded (no pun intended).”

– “Every son of a bitch in here is on something. Aspirin, Advil, Vioxx, whatever. I have to get spiked (injections of painkillers) just to get on the field.”

– “De Coubertin, who wrote the Olympic Oath, was an idealist who foresaw the Olympics as an apolitical gathering of pure athletes where the emphasis would be on competing rather than winning. ‘The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle’ was probably his most famous saying. The Baron died in 1937, before the Olympics became the chemically enhanced, political, and commercial circus it has become today.”

– “…it is obvious that baseball players have been involved in chemical warfare…”

– “The first weapon in any battle is knowledge. Consider yourself armed.”

– “But for every good thing a performance-enhancing substance has to offer, it always seems to carry serious baggage.”

– “For Major League Baseball, the message should be loud and clear: Don’t clean up baseball for public relations reasons. Don’t clean it up for the fans. Clean up baseball for the game and for the health of its players.”

– “Used properly, there is a place for supplements. Used improperly, they are at best a waste, at worst a gateway to stronger, more dangerous drugs. This industry is ripe for regulation.”

– “The three greatest motivations are desire to excel, desire for glory, and money – not necessarily in that order.”

– “Remember that drug tests are not as omnipotent as the general public is led to believe.”

I enjoyed reading “The Juice”, because it is factual, rather than speculative.

I recommend “the Juice” to anyone with an interest in drugs, sports, human performance, or just in reading a well written book.

I thank Joe Aiello and Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, for making a copy of “The Juice” available to me for reading and for review.

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Game 103 – The Winning Streak is History

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

 

Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning and failed to score.  Alfonso Soriano bounced one to third that could have easily been a double play, but the Brewers ended up only getting the force at the plate.  Then, Darwin Barney went ahead and hit another infield bouncer.  This time, the Crew turned two to end the inning.
  • The Cubs continue to give up runs in the first inning.  Ryan Dempster was hit pretty hard in the first and the Brewers plated three.
  • Chris Narveson settled in and pitched five strong innings after allowing two runs in the first. 
  • The Cubs did nothing against the Brewers bullpen all night long.
  • Blake DeWitt struck out in the ninth to end it with the tying run in scoring position.
  • Mike Quade’s options were limited because Kerry Wood, Koyie Hill and Reed Johnson are all still fighting illness.

What Went Right

  • Aramis Ramirez stayed hot with a first inning two-run homer. 
  • Ryan Dempster settled down after the first inning as well.  He pitched a solid game to keep his team in it.
  • The Cubs’ bullpen was equally as strong as the Brewers’ pen.  Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija both posted zeros on the board.
  • Starlin Castro had three hits and Jeff Baker posted two, including a lead-off single to setup the Ramirez homer.
  • Tony Campana pinch ran in the ninth inning and stole second despite the Brewers pitching out.

The Takeaway

The deciding factor in the game was the sixth inning in which the Cubs failed to score.  This was a frutrating game to watch, but many of the Cubs fans are growing used to it this season.  The loss snapped the Cubs first streak of three straight wins this season.  This was the first game of a difficult ten game road trip.

 

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

1st Star – Kameron Loe (.339 WPA)

2nd Star – John Axford (.171 WPA)

3rd Star – Casey McGehee (.150 WPA)

 

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Mid-season Minor League All-Stars

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

As a follow-up to last week’s Cubs mid-season top 10 prospect list, this week I decided to choose my mid-season minor league all-star team.  As opposed to last week’s list, which looks at performance and upside, this all-star team is decided purely on who has the best stats this year at their respective position.

So, without further ado, here are your 2011 All-Stars:

CATCHERWelington Castillo, Iowa(.304/.370/.557)

Castillo has hit 16 homers between class A Daytona and Iowa.  Could he be the Cubs catcher of the future?

Honorable Mention:  Steve Clevenger, Iowa/Tennessee (.309/.368/.481)

FIRST BASEBryan LaHair, Iowa (.338/.415/.671)

In addition to his ridiculous slash line, LaHair has posted 28 homers in just 331 AB’s at Iowa.  At 28, he’s a little old to be a prospect, but a Carlos Pena trade could give him a shot to prove he’s not a 4-A guy.

Honorable Mention:  Richard Jones, Peoria (.304/.353/.541)

SECOND BASED.J. LeMahieu, Iowa/Tennessee (.348/.378/.462)

LeMahieu has split his time this year between third (41 games) and second (38 games), but he played mostly at second during his brief stint in the majors, which is why I put him here.  However, he would be an all-star at either position.

Honorable Mention:  Logan Watkins, Daytona (.288/.375/.405)

THIRD BASEGreg Rohan, Daytona/Peoria (.317/.370/.436)

Third is a pretty weak position for the Cubs, so Rohan takes the prize.  He hasn’t shown much power this year (just 5 HR’s), but has hit for a good average and gets on base at a good clip.

Honorable Mention:  Marquez Smith, Iowa (.283/.353/.448)

SHORT STOPMarwin Gonzalez, Iowa/Tennessee (.314/.365/.446)

With Starlin Castro in the majors and Hak-Ju Lee now with Tampa, Gonzalez may be the Cubs top short stop prospect.  But that’s not saying much.

Honorable Mention:  Junior Lake, Tennessee/Daytona (.276/.307/.433)

OUTFIELDEvan Crawford, Daytona (.333/.393/.436); Matt Szczur, Daytona/Peoria (.300/.348/.415); Brad Snyder, Iowa (.306/.349/.506)

While Crawford’s season stats looks nice, he’s old for class A (23).  Snyder has been at AAA for the last 5 years, so he should have it mastered by now.  Szczur is the one to watch here.

Honorable Mention:  Jae-Hoon Ha (.270/.308/.425)

STARTING PITCHERSRobert Whitenack, Tennessee/Daytona (7-0, 1.93 ERA); Nicholas Struck, Iowa/Tennessee/Daytona (8-6, 3.25 ERA); Austin Kirk, Peoria (5-7, 3.63 ERA); Zach Rosscup, Daytona (4-2, 2.54 ERA); and Aaron Kurcz, Daytona (4-4, 3.53 ERA).

Whitenack is lost for the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery.  Struck has advanced quickly and has held his own in the notoriously hitter friendly PCL.  Kirk and Rosscup may not wow you with their stuff, but they get outs.  Kurcz has split his time between starting (12 games) and relieving (10 games) and has a 3.72 ERA as a starter.

Honorable Mention:  Chris Rusin, Iowa/Tennessee (4-2, 3.96 ERA)

RELIEVERSFrank Batista, Daytona (2.05 ERA, 19 saves); Jeff Beliveau, Tennessee/Daytona (1.29 ERA, 3 saves)

Right hander Batista leads all Cubs minor leaguers with 19 saves.

Lefty Beliveau has been dominant, striking out 70 in 55.2 IP (11.3 K/9).

Honorable Mention:  Scott Maine, Iowa (3.67 ERA, 9 saves)

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