Archive for September, 2011

Can The Cubs Actually Compete In 2012?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

(NOTE: I’m not endorsing this plan, but it’s a scenario worth discussing, especially now that the season has ended and we honestly don’t have too much else to talk about.)

Maybe I’m foolishly optimistic. Maybe I’m newly inspired by watching the Arizona Diamondbacks go from worst to first. Or maybe I just had too many beers last night. In any case, I woke up today with a powerful vision for the 2012 Cubs. Believe it or not, next year may not be a lost cause.

If you’re going to play along with my crazy idea that appeared like a bolt of lightning at 6:45 a.m., you have to accept that the NL Central won’t be particularly strong next season. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m assuming that Pujols re-signs with the Cardinals and Fielder inks a seven-year megadeal with some team not named the Chicago Cubs. Next, let’s pretend that the Northsiders hire a competent GM and bring in a new manager who knows how to run a pitching staff and construct a lineup.

Are you with me so far? If you haven’t left this page in disgust, here’s a quick and inexpensive blueprint for next year’s contending team (NOTE—I don’t have spellcheck when I’m dreaming. Apologies in advance!):

  1. Sign a backup catcher who can actually hit a little bit, thereby keeping Geo Soto fresh and reviving his tired 2011 bat. One-year (and potentially cheap) options include Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, and Kelly Shoppach.
  2. Bring back Carlos Pena on a one-year deal and platoon him with Jeff Baker. The key here is limiting Pena’s exposure to lefties and Baker’s exposure to righties. For those of you scoring at home, here are Pena’s 2011 numbers vs. RHP (as of this writing): .261/.390/.516. He’s only 33, so a repeat season isn’t out of the question.
  3. Do everything in your power to develop D.J. LeMahieu and give him a chance to win the 2B job. I know Darwin Barney plays solid defense, hustles, gives to charity, loves animals, sings in the church choir, and keeps America safe for democracy, but he’s not an everyday player. Nice guy to have on your bench however. If LeMahieu can’t hit any better than Barney, it’s time to make a deal or grab a free agent on a one- or two-year deal. Kelly Johnson would certainly be worth a shot, and he shouldn’t break the bank. Maicer Izturis would be someone to pursue via trade.
  4. Take a breath fans…pick up the option on Ramirez. I know some Cub followers think he’s the devil in pinstripes, but Ramirez is still a very productive player. The Cubs have no in-house options for 3B, so one more year of Ramirez is the way to go if at all possible. Plan B would be another one-year free agent. Wilson Betemit perhaps? Plan C is to pull a fan out of the stands at random and let him play 3B for a day. OK, maybe not.
  5. No need to talk about SS other than to say Thank God for Starlin Castro!
  6. The OF puzzle is a little messy, but I woke up with a slightly odd model that just might work. First, take advantage of the Marlins very public battle with Logan Morrison and make a deal for the talented Twitter addict. The Marlins are rumored to be interested in a RH hitter, so how about Marlon Byrd with Andrew Cashner, Campana, and maybe a prospect tossed in for incentive? The Cubs may have to pay part of Byrd’s 2012 salary, but LoMo is worth it in my book. As far as CF goes, I’m hoping Brett Jackson is ready for the bigs. If not, free agent Coco Crisp would be a reasonable fit (again, on a one- or two-year deal). He’s 31, a switch hitter with a decent idea of the strike zone, and blazing fast. For the other corner OF spot, I’m really hoping Bryan LaHair steps up and takes this job. This would be another platoon situation, maybe with Reed Johnson. Or maybe he splits time with an available lefty thumper like Cody Ross or Jonny Gomes. And now we come to Alfonso Soriano. Here’s the cold, hard truth…Soriano is untradeable. However, that doesn’t mean he has to play LF every single day. Play him against lefties. Play him against select righties. Play him when LoMo or LaHair need a break. Hell, try him at 2B now and again if you’re desperate. He’s on the payroll no matter what, so use him in a way where he can actually contribute offensively. As you probably guessed, Tyler “only the mailman walks” Colvin is not in my 2012 picture. Deal him if you can. Maybe the Marlins will take him in the LoMo trade.
  7. This year’s rotation was a mess, and the Cubs have to fix it to even have a prayer in 2012. Garza is solid, and I think Dempster and Wells have potential to be league-average pitchers next year. For the next two spots, the Cubs should pick two from the following list of cost-effective free agents: Javier Vazquez, Joel Pineiro, Jeff Francis, Chien-Ming Wang, and Brad Penny. Not to sound like a broken record, but these will only be one- or two-year deals. Do you see a pattern here? And as for Big Z, do what you can to show him the door. I’m not sure how that will work logistically, but he can’t return to the Cubs under any circumstances.
  8. The bullpen looks like a potential strength with Marshall, Marmol, Wood (re-signed), the Shark, Russell, and Carpenter. If you missed it above, I have Cashner going to the Marlins.

So how might the Cubs’ 2012 lineups look?


Crisp or Jackson CF

Castro SS

Morrison RF

Ramirez 3B

Pena 1B

Soto C (spell him often!)

LaHair/Soriano LF

LeMehieu/Barney/????? 2B




Crisp/Johnson/Jackson CF

Castro SS

Ramirez 3B

Soriano LF

Morrison/Ross/Gomes/Johnson RF

Soto C (spell him often!)

Baker 1B

LeMehieu/Barney/????? 2B


Is this the best offense in the National League? Of course not. But it should be much better than 2011, and it has the potential to be top five. LoMo and Castro are the keys. Both could break out big next year.

Now, how about this starting rotation?




Wang/J. Francis/Pineiro/Penny


This bunch should be light years better than the 2011 staff that included turds like Zambrano, Coleman, Lopez, and Davis. Two big questions will be 1) Does Dempster still have gas in the tank?  2) Which Wells will we get in 2012?

OK, so it’s not up there with Paul McCartney dreaming “Yesterday,” but it’s the vision I woke up with, and it really doesn’t seem too farfetched. How good could this “dream team” be? I’m guessing around 85 wins with reasonable health and good old fashioned luck. Given the potential state of the National League Central in 2012, that just might be enough.

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Who Are the Worst Cubs’ Backup Catchers?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

It’s the off-season, well at least for the Cubs. This off-season we have plans to run two posts per day during the week and one on the weekend. In the AM you’ll get a discuss / minor post (usually put together by me). In the afternoon around 2p eastern time, you’ll get a feature post written by one of the various writers for the site. This should be an exciting off-season for the Cubs so I look forward to some of the content we’ll be seeing in the coming months on the site.

Three Strikes for Discussion

  • STRIKE ONE – The wild card race was spectacular this year in both leagues, capped off by one of the best nights of baseball that I can remember. Would you expand the wild card race to add another wild card spot? The two wild card winners would then play a 1 game play in game to see who wins the right to go to the division series. This year that brings us a game between the Red Sox / Rays and the Braves / Cardinals
  • STRIKE TWO – Does the Red Sox early exit help or hurt the Cubs chances for Theo Epstein leaving Boston to come to Chicago? Do you want him?
  • STRIKE THREE – Was Jose Reyes bunt single in one at bat a bush league way to win the batting title?

It’s not a secret that I’m not a fan of our catching situation. I’m not a Geo guy and as much as I like the way Koyie Hill plays, I don’t like the result he produces. I present to you a list of the worst backup catchers, ranked by OPS+, for the Cubs since 1960. Only requirements being that they played at least 75% of their games at catcher and had within 150 and 250 plate appearances.

Steve Swisher 35 220 1977 25 7 0 5 15 9 47 .190 .229 .298 .527
Koyie Hill 44 231 2010 31 13 1 1 17 12 61 .214 .254 .298 .552
Ken Rudolph 45 182 1973 26 8 1 2 17 7 25 .206 .239 .300 .539
Tim Blackwell 46 159 1979 26 3 1 0 12 32 25 .164 .338 .205 .542
Paul Bako 47 157 2004 32 8 0 1 10 15 29 .203 .288 .283 .571
Koyie Hill 50 153 2011 32 3 1 2 9 14 40 .194 .268 .276 .545
Cuno Barragan 52 158 1962 30 6 1 0 12 21 28 .201 .306 .261 .567
Damon Berryhill 57 172 1991 27 7 0 5 14 11 41 .189 .244 .327 .571
Chris Krug 61 186 1965 25 5 0 5 24 13 52 .201 .258 .320 .578
Jim Sundberg 61 161 1987 36 2 0 4 15 19 40 .201 .306 .302 .608
Paul Bako 67 213 2003 31 13 3 0 17 22 47 .229 .311 .330 .641
Vic Roznovsky 69 193 1965 26 4 1 3 15 16 30 .221 .295 .308 .603
Henry Blanco 73 178 2005 33 6 0 6 25 11 24 .242 .287 .391 .679
Chris Cannizzaro 76 234 1971 33 8 1 5 23 28 24 .213 .311 .340 .652
Joe Girardi 76 172 1989 24 10 0 1 14 11 26 .248 .304 .331 .635
Rick Wilkins 76 200 1995 28 2 0 6 14 36 51 .191 .340 .315 .655
Jack Hiatt 82 215 1970 27 12 1 2 22 31 48 .242 .352 .354 .706
Rick Wilkins 83 235 1991 24 9 0 6 22 19 56 .222 .307 .355 .662
Barry Foote 84 216 1980 28 13 1 6 28 13 18 .238 .282 .401 .683
Jason Kendall 84 202 2007 33 10 1 1 19 19 15 .270 .362 .356 .718
Michael Barrett 84 231 2007 30 9 0 9 29 17 36 .256 .307 .427 .734
Tim Blackwell 89 182 1981 28 10 2 1 11 23 23 .234 .331 .342 .673
Dick Bertell 91 235 1962 26 6 2 2 18 13 30 .302 .343 .377 .720
George Mitterwald 91 240 1974 29 7 0 7 28 18 42 .251 .310 .381 .691
Jody Davis 94 207 1981 24 5 1 4 21 21 28 .256 .333 .361 .694
Jeff Reed 97 181 1999 36 11 2 1 17 28 34 .260 .381 .380 .761
Jimmie Schaffer 103 153 1963 27 7 0 7 19 11 35 .239 .294 .437 .731
Ed Bailey 119 187 1965 34 6 0 5 23 34 28 .253 .385 .393 .778
Tim Hosley 123 171 1975 28 7 0 6 20 27 25 .255 .382 .433 .815
Hector Villanueva 143 214 1991 26 10 1 13 32 21 30 .276 .346 .542 .887
Scott Servais 144 203 1995 28 12 0 12 35 23 37 .286 .371 .560 .931
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/29/2011.


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Northside Archives: Familiarity Breeds A Beatdown

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

There are a lot of reasons to be happy that the 2011 season is finally over. But perhaps the biggest reason is that the Cubs won’t have to face an NL Central foe again until next year when the Brewers come to Wrigley on April 9th. That gives us a great chance to start the year (against the Nationals) with the chance at a couple of wins. What am I talking about? The 2011 Chicago Cubs were historically bad in a lot of ways, specifically within their own division.

Take a glance at the team by team grid at ESPN or the expanded standings at SI and you’ll see a common theme. The Cubs struggled against virtually everyone in the NL Central.

The Cubs managed a winning record against only one team in the NL Central – the AAAAstros. And even that record was an unimpressive 8-7.

Except for the four game sweep in Pittsburgh during the first week of August, the Pirates owned the Cubs taking the other four series’ 2-1 each time (for a combined 8-8 record against the Pirates).

Each of the other division opponents (Reds 7-11, Brewers 6-10, Cardinals 5-10) battered the Cubs routinely throughout the year.

We won a total of 6 series against the 4 teams that finished ahead of us in the standings. Oh, that’s out of 21 possible series. 6 of 21!

Still don’t believe me? From 2003 through 2009 the Cubs compiled annual records within the NL Central of at least .500 – remember, some of those teams were mediocre at best. But they were good enough to feast on the dregs of the NL Central. Even in 2006 when the Cubs only won 66 times, they kept a .500 record in the division (42-42).

But the last two years have been bad. In 2010, the Cubs were 34-45, this year they were 34-46. The Cubs have a long road back to respectability. It starts with winning games in their own division. Only one team that finished .500 or better this year had a losing record within their division (the Angels). And only one team that finished below .500 had a winning record within their division (the Reds).

It’s no coincidence that in the past two seasons – the worst consecutive seasons since 1999 and 2000 – the Cubs have been really bad within their own division.

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Game 162 – The End

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Cubs 2, Padres 9

Box Score / Highlights

The final game of 2011 plays just like the rest of the season as the Cubs finish with a 71-91 record. Ryan Dempster finishes the season at 10-14 with a 4.80 ERA as he gives up 9 earned runs in less than 6 innings, capped off by a Will Venable grand slam.
The offense couldn’t get anything going with only 6 hits and 2 walks. The first run scored on an infield single by Tony Campana and Starlin Castro added a sac fly in the 5th. But that was it. 9-2 Padres and the end of a rough season.

What went right:

The Cubs season ended and with it Mike Quade’s managerial career in Chicago.

What went wrong:

This season can be summed up pretty well with this game. Starting pitching was weak. The manager left the starter in too long. Starlin Castro and DJ Lemahieu made an error each. The team was 1-7 with runners in scoring position. The only thing missing was a Carlos Marmol walk or two in the ninth.
That’s all that needs to be said about this game, I’m sure there will be a season recap at some point, but we all know how 2011 went. Let the offseason begin!

Around the League:

The wild card races were unbelievable tonight and might be the most exciting night of baseball I’ve ever seen (Cubs games excluded). In the National League, the Cardinals easily put away the Astros 8-0. The Phillies/Braves started an hour earlier, but the Phils tied the game in the 9th inning and into extra innings they go allowing the Cards to sit by their lockers and watch their destiny unfold. In the 13th inning, the trade deadline addition of the year, Hunter Pence, comes through with an RBI single to put the Phillies up 4-3. Freddie Freeman would ground into a game ending double play a few minutes later, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals into the postseason one more time.

In the American League, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were tied in the standings with both games starting at the same time. Tampa Bay’s David Price got roughed up early and the Yankees jumped out to a 7-0 lead behind two home runs and five RBI’s for Mark Teixeira.
Over in Baltimore, the Red Sox jump up 1-0 in the third inning but the Orioles strike back for two of their own. Boston would score one run in each of the 4th and 5th innings and it would remain 3-2 while scoreboard watching the Yankees-Rays game.
Back in Tampa Bay, with the Yankees on top with a commanding 7-0 lead, the Rays score SIX runs in the 8th inning  including a 3-run home run by Evan Longoria and one more in the 9th and send it into extras!
In Baltimore, the Red Sox bring in Jonathon Papelbon to close it out in the 9th, but with two outs, Nolan Reimold doubles in the tying run! Robert Andino comes up next with a single and the O’s score two in the 9th to put the Red Sox fate in the Rays hands.
The crowd in Tampa Bay realizes that the O’s have beaten the Red Sox and erupt during a BJ Upton at bat in the 12th inning. He would strike out for the first out. The next batter…Evan Longoria. Line drive down the left field line over the fence for a walk off wild card clinching home run, sending the Red Sox home after one of most epic September collapses in history.

I love baseball!

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

1st Star – Nick Hundley (.207 WPA)

2nd Star – Wade LeBlanc (.145 WPA)

3rd Star – Cameron Maybin (.109 WPA)

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Chet’s Corner: Reliving Hell

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

“Scapegoating really is an ancient ritual and deeply hardwired in the human psyche.”

Alex Gibney, Director of Catching Hell


October 14th, 2003 …… Does this date give you a chill? No, that wasn’t last night’s chili dog passing through you, it was a chill brought on by an inning of horror.  An inning that happened eight years ago and apparently we can’t let go of it. 

Last night, with the help of Alex Gibney and ESPN, I was re-introduced to the horror that was game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.  The Documentary, Catching Hell, premiered on ESPN after about a year of build up and promotion.  It was two hours long, which could have been cut down to about an hour if they didn’t replay the fateful “Bartman foul ball”  about 100 times.  Like a repeated punch to the groin we got to see it in all its glory from multiple angles. 

I will say this for the documentary,  Alex Gibney did a great job of reminding me that the Bartman incident was a very small piece of the tragedy that took place on this fateful night.  The unraveling actually started before Bartman…..

The Seventh Inning Stretch

What was Bernie Mac thinking?  Chosen as the guest conductor for the seventh inning stretch, Bernie decided to replace “root, root , root for the Cubbies” with “root , root , root for the CHAMPS!” 

I wonder, if a Cubs pitcher had a perfect game running into the eighth inning and Bernie Mac was in the ballpark, would you want him sitting near the dugout?

I could see him walking into the dugout and pulling up a seat right next to the pitcher, “Hey pitch, nice prefecto you got going, don’t blow it!”

Talk about jinxing us!

Paul Bako

Catching Hell reminded me of something, Koyie Hill is not the worst catcher to wear a Cubs uniform in the last decade.   Good ol’ Paul Bako was our catcher in game 6 of the NLCS. 

After Mike Mordecai flew out to start the inning, Juan Pierre muscled a double down the left field line.  Then came the Luis Castillo plate appearance.   The foul ball to Bartman aside, there was another key moment in this at bat that often gets overlooked.  With Pierre on second, Castillo gets walked.  It wasn’t just the damage of the walk however, as the fourth ball got by Bako.  The scorer recorded the pitch as wild but Bako gave an extremely pedestrian effort in blocking it.  He never even hit his knees and the ball just scooted under his glove.

In an important contest such as this, with what looked like a slider low and in, would you not be on gaurd? Would you not throw your body in front of anything that appeared questionable?

The wild pitch/pass ball allowed Pierre to take third from first.  He would score on a line drive single to left in the next at bat.  Would he have scored from second?  Probably not.

Dusty Baker

Just for being Dusty in this whole conundrum. 

Instead of seeking higher ground, Dusty piled it on Bartman in the press conference.  First of all, I have a tough time seeing a manger such as Jim Leyland or Joe Maddon directing any amount of blame for a loss to a fan interference.  Not Dusty though, he was more then happy to direct it at Bartman.

Hey Dusty, what about the fact that Prior was still pitching, well past 100 pitch count I might add, into the eighth inning with a three run lead?  He pitched well over 100 pitches the week before.  I guess I understand running him out there to grab an out or two, but you had nobody up in the pen as insurance!!!!!  After the first hit he should have been yanked for relief. 

But then again,  did Dusty ever take any blame for a loss?  No, but he was great at looking out for number one.

Moises Alou

This is a tough one, but since we are blaming the loss on one foul ball, why not take a look.

In the seventh inning, Moises Alou had a chance to step on the Marlins throat once and for all.  With the Cubs up 3-0 and runners on first and third, a struggling Chad Fox was trying to hold it together on the mound for the Marlins.  He was really reeling.  He had just thrown a wild pitch that walked Sosa and scored a run from third.  He had a 1-1 count on Alou and he hung a curve.  It’s the kind of pitch that makes your undercarriage tingle when you see it.  Nine times out of ten Alou parks this ball on Waveland….this happened to be the tenth.  Alou’s flailing attempt could do nothing but pop a can of corn to the right fielder for the third out….threat averted.

The Aftermath….

We all know the rest, Alex Gonzales boots a taylor made double play ball and the house of cards crumbles.  Eight runs later the crowd was removed from the game and the atmosphere became hostile. 

*Did you know that Alex Gonzales led the National League in fielding that year?  An interesting tidbit.

I remember being astonished at the fragile nature of the moment.  I remember the fans and the team just falling apart mentally.  When people ask me about this game Gonzales’ error always shines bright over the rest of the debacle.  Seeing the replay in documentary style however, reaffirms that it was never  just one thing that caused the demise of the 2003 Cubs, but a series of events.   








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