Archive for November, 2011

Chet’s Corner: Prepare for a Face Lift!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

There is no doubt in my mind the 2012 season will bring about change for the Chicago Cubs.  The win column may not see the effects yet, but the face, or faces of the team will change. 

Money be damned, we may even see some moves that were once thought of as ridiculous or impossible.  At least this is what the rumor mill is saying.  Here are a few examples from around the web:

Pujols and Fielder

According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Cubs have significant interest in Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.   Supposedly, Pujols is the front runner as the Cubs are liking his defense over Fielder.

Ever since the Soriano deal, albatross contracts scare me.  Granted, at least Pujols and Fielder have backed up the numbers they will get with year in year out play.  Soriano had one good season and was still strikeout/injury prone prior to the deal we gave him.

I still hear the comment echoing from the initial interview with Epstein when the Cubs hired him, “We want to pay for what a player will do, not what he has done.”

Does this fit that line of thinking?

Which brings us too…..

Alf0nso Soriano

Apparently there is a chance we could still move Soriano.  We would have to eat most of the $54 million left on his contract.  As Rosenthal writes here, there are teams “kicking the tires” on Soriano.

As long as those teams don’t kick to hard (he may get injured) then I am all for it.  Dump him, open up an outfield spot, and let’s be done with the worst contract ever in Cub history.

It will be deals like this that show me what Epstein and company are made of, and also how serious Ricketts is about winning.  If we can pull a prospect or two along then it could be a winner in the long run.

 

Ian Stewart & David DeJesus

On the incoming trade front we have David DeJesus and Ian Stewart.  Both players have been rumored by multiple outlets as players the Cubs might have interest in.  Ian Stewart is a former top ten pick of the Rockies and never really lived up to potential.  He is seen as a utility guy that can play third. 

David DeJesus is an outfielder who, up until last season with the A’s,  had a career .800 OPS and a consistent 3.0 WAR with Kansas City.  He is 31 and most likely on the downside of his career. 

Neither of these guys gets me excited.  I feel like we have plenty of this already.  

*Update (1:53pm CST): The Cubs signed David DeJesus to a 2 year deal worth $10 Million.  He will be the everyday right fielder. Details here.

 

Garza & Wells

Why would the Cubs, light on pitching talent, want to get rid of two young pitchers?  Answer: because it is the only commodity we have that will bring any young prospects to our farm system.  Buster Olney tweeted recently that the Cubs are ready to move Matt Garza if the deal is right.  Bruce Levine also chimes in on Garza here.

Meanwhile,  Jon Paul Morosi writes that the Cubs are willing to move Randy Wells.

I am pretty sure this means we are open for business.  Let the bidding commence!  If the Cubs are willing to shop these two guys, who is safe?

The answer is nobody!  Judging by the past three seasons, this isn’t a bad thing. I say clean house!

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Cubs Add David DeJesus

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Cubs signed former Oakland A’s outfielder David DeJesus to a two year, $10 million deal today to be their everyday right fielder. I would think this means the end of the Tyler Colvin experiment and marks the first splash in the free agency market for the new regime.

DeJesus will be 32 years old for the 2012 season and is coming off a down year in Oakland where he hit 240/323/376 (309 wOBA) on the year. In his seven seasons in Kansas City, DeJesus put up a line of 289/360/426 (342 wOBA), which looks better but is still only slightly above average for a corner outfielder. In fact, those numbers look awfully similar to a former red headed Cub left fielder that went on to have success in Japan this past season.

A deeper glance at his 2011 shows that DeJesus made contact at a career low rate which led to a career high rate in strikeouts. It’s also true that his BABIP was a career worst .274 (career .316), so there may have been some bad luck involved.

Bottom line is the Cubs are getting a RF with solid defense and a decent OBP that bats from the left side. How does 270/350/400 with 12 or 13 homers sound for 2012?

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Morning News: Buying, Selling, and Leaving

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Lots of stuff to discuss today. To be honest, I actually had to cut things out to make sure this post didn’t go crazy long. Let’s get right to it.

TOP STORIES

Teams are interested in Cubs players – There have been multiple reports since Theo mentioned that everyone is available that teams have interest in Cubs players. I’ve seen rumors ranging from interest in Matt Garza (more on this tomorrow) to Carlos Marmol to Alfonso Soriano. Yes, you read that correctly, teams are kicking the tires on Alfonso. I go back and forth on my feelings about dealing guys. Obviously, if teams have interest in Soriano or Zambrano, guys that aren’t a part of the future, I see it. The question then is how far do you want to take it. I’m one that subscribes to the theory that teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, etc should never really undergo a full fire sale type rebuild. They simply don’t need to because of the payroll they can afford to carry. They have the buffer to make up for mistakes. Teams like the Rays, Twins and Pirates don’t, which is why they try to continually get young. If you’re one that is in favor of the complete rebuild, then you have to entertain serious offers right now on Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. They, along with Garza, have big value to teams trying to add that final piece. Personally, I believe all three are part of the future. It’s an interesting discussion when you factor in the next note.

Cubs are reportedly interested in Albert Pujols AND Prince Fielder – Obviously not both at the same time, but there have been reports that due to the changes in the amount of spending that can be done for the amateur draft going forward as well as a small amount of sluggers on the market in the coming years, the Cubs have interest. Even last night on ESPN it was being reported that the Cubs had made preliminary contact with Pujols in an effort to negotiate. Personally, I’d rather have Fielder if we were going to get one of the two, but suddenly this story just got a whole lot more intriguing. I’ve got to wonder if this is just a play to get the Cardinals worried and cause them to overpay.

Greg Maddux waives goodbye….again – Maddux has left the building. Since the firing of Jim Hendry, I kind of wondered when Maddux would go. He took a job as special assistant to the general manager, this time in Texas. It’s the same position he held here, so this move is probably because Hendry left and the desire to be with family. I don’t blame him. In all honesty, I don’t think we’ll even notice he’s gone from a fan standpoint.

MINOR NOTES

  • Jame Quirk has signed on to be the bench coach under Dale Sveum. Quick comes over from the Astros where he served as their bullpen coach for the past two seasons.
  • Bears Offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, is interested in the ASU head coaching gig to which I say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”. Martz has failed to adjust his “genius” offensive scheme to the personnel that he has in Chicago and continues to call curious plays at curious times (i.e. A reverse with Earl Bennett in the NFC championship game)
  • Vin Scully turned 369 years old (84) yesterday. Happy Birthday Vin. If only your one man booth didn’t bore me to sleep when the Cubs go west to LA.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

SONG OF THE DAY

Sorry to go from Outkast in my last post to Nickel Creek, but I have a wide taste in music. These guys are one of my favorites out there. I wish they would get back to touring and making music together.

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Ron Santo for HOF?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Since the inception of the veteran’s committee that supposedly elects players that were missed in the regular process of Hall of Fame Voting, Ron Santo has had his heart broken. Now, in the first vote since his death last year, several people had some things to say on the topic.

Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times has a nice piece on the process for this year and looks at the candidates with the best shot of getting in. He puts Ron Santo in at the top of the list, saying “Ron Santo is both the best candidate on the ballot and the most likely to go in. It’s nice when those two items go together. There are at least three factors working on Santo’s behalf.” and then goes on to explain his reasoning.

Graham Salemme at Bleacher Report also addressed an interesting issue:  “Third base is the hardest position to play to get into the Hall of Fame. Third base has the fewest representatives in the Hall. Why is this?”

Finally, Ashley Bolton weighed in with her thoughts in a reader submitted piece on the issue:

Last year I can say was one of the hardest years of my life as a baseball fan, no it wasn’t because of the awful season the Cubs turned in. It was because my favorite player and Chicago Cubs Legend Ron Santo had passed away. I remember driving back and forth from school and listening to Ron and Pat on the radio, he was everything a Cub fan should be, he lived and died with every pitch. He wasn’t there to just announce the game he lived the game for 9 innings with you and depending the outcome felt the pain with you till the next day. Although I never watched Ron play I manage it was as amazing as listening to him talk about the Cubs.

So yes, I know all I have to base my argument on is stats and what I have been told from others that did watch him play, but it is a travesty that Ron went to his grave without being inducted into the Hall of Fame. For his time he was one of the greatest at his position, and with everything health wise he was battling it is amazing he was even able to take the field on most days. Now for as far back as I can remember I can tell you how bad it hurt to see the Hall of Fame ballot come back and to see he didn’t make it. It was like being told that your own grandfather wasn’t good enough. I can’t even manage what it must have been like for Ron to every time be told that your best wasn’t good enough even when you and so many knew it was.

Now I will admit the day Ron died I shed many tears, as I did the day I watched his funeral on TV. However no day hit me harder than Opening Day this season when I went to turn on the radio and listen to Pat and Ron and to realize that once again it wasn’t a bad dream that Ron was really gone. Listening to the radio isn’t the same without Ron yelling and screaming when the Cubs do something great or groaning in misery when they do something bad. So that’s why this year when the voting for the Veteran’s committee comes up it will be so bitter sweet, because if he does finally get in he won’t be there to enjoy it and we all know how much Ron would have enjoyed it. He wore his heart on his Cubs sleeve and is a Hall Of Famer in every Cubs fans heart, it’s just a shame that when he gets that call from Cooperstown that it will be too late. However I am sure that we will hear him clicking his heels when he does get in.

I don’t know if Ron will get in this year, and to be honest, I don’t know that I care that much. How much does it really mean if you have to ask and ask and ask and ask and then finally people say OK? I’m sure most of you have different thoughts, especially those that saw him play, but for me, it’s not much of an issue.

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Morning News: Suh, Johnson, and maybe some baseball!

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

A Boy Named Suh: Ndamukong Suh may be required by the NFL to take anger management courses. Does he need to? Possibly. Mike & Mike told me the other morning that if you type “Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player” into the Google browser, you’ll get over 70,000 hits (I got 147,000 in 0.32 seconds). Yowza. I never really noticed anything about Suh other than his talent on the field, but then after seeing a few clips of some of his hits (and kicks and throwdowns), I was convinced. He is a dirty player. Does he deserve to be suspended? I think so. What’s the over/under for his suspension?

The Finest Form of Flattery?: Did anyone watch the Bills and the Jets on Sunday? No? You missed a great mimicry of Plaxico Burress (click the link to watch a short clip of it). It was hilarious. However, the NFL did not think it was hilarious. Steve Johnson will most likely be fined for his imitation of Burress. Is it that big of a deal? The Sanchize did throw an interception that preceded the touchdown, so they sort of shot themselves in the leg, right? C’est la vie.

Baseball News?: I have not seen anything groundbreaking from the baseball world, other than the Yankees and Garza may be communicating with each other. I like Garza. He was our best pitcher this year. We should keep him around for at least one more year.  But other than that news, there hasn’t really been anything very newsworthy. I cannot wait until Christmas Break when MLB Network will be watched incessantly by yours truly. World Series highlights from 1972? Don’t mind if I do!

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Two Random Stats Worth Noting From 2011

Monday, November 28th, 2011

As I was racking my brain on what to write about today I decided to play around with a few of my favorite websites and look for things that stood out to me. I make not conclusions from them, but rather wanted to make them known.

1. Ryan Dempster’s BAbip Was Unusually High

If you’re not familiar with the stat, it stands for Batting Average for Balls in Play. It’s a measurement of how guys do when things like strikeouts are factored out of the equation. In 2011, the league average for pitchers BAbip was .298. Prior to last season, Dempster came in with a career BAbip of .306. In 2011, he posted a .331, his highest total since his pre-Tommy John days with Cincinnati. Norm did a cool look at part of the cause for the rise, citing the location of his splitter in 2011 compared to 2010:

2010

2011

What I also notice is a drop in fastball velocity. In 2010, Dempster’s average fastball clocked in at 91 mph. In 2011, it was down to 90.3 mph, the lowest of his career, yet his usage was up to 56.8%, the highest since his first year with the Cubs in 2004 when he was coming out of the pen and could afford to crank it up and rely more on the fastball.

2. Matt Garza’s WAR Was Head & Shoulders Above Everyone Else

And yet, there has been a lot of talk that he could be dealt this off-season in a rebuilding effort. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It’s designed to measure how many more wins a player provides when compared with the average AAA call up that would not normally have a job if not for injury to someone on the Major League team. A team made up of replacement level talent could expect to win somewhere in the range of 45 to 48 games over the course of a season. Garza’s 5.0 WAR means, you guessed it, that he’d get us up to 53 wins. Compare him with the second best starter on the team, Ryan Dempster, who posted a 2.8 WAR.

What I found very odd, and it was the subject of much critizism in 2011, was the drastic decline in the usage of his fastball. A look at the graph below shows a massive replacement of the usage of the fastball with usage of the slider.

I’m not sure what the cause is, but is a massive change in game plan.

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Morning News: Holiday wish lists, Basketball returns, Winning with Tebow

Monday, November 28th, 2011

There are just 28 shopping days left until Christmas and, in an effort to be somewhat helpful to my loved ones who have a difficult time shopping for me, I spent a portion of the weekend perusing various online retailers and updating my wish list. One thing that caught my eye while checking out the wares on Cubs.com was the recently released “Ron Santo: Cubs Legend”, a CD produced by Pat Hughes featuring some of Ronnie’s “Greatest Hits” from his Cubs broadcasting career. Looks like a fun novelty stocking stuffer for any serious Cubs fan, but I can’t help but think that they missed the boat by not donating a portion of the proceeds to Ron’s beloved JDRF.

Speaking of Holiday Shopping:  The MLB Free Agent signing period is just starting to heat up and the Cubs have yet to make any big moves, which means rampant speculation and wishful thinking is still in order. With the front office and managerial openings filled, the focus has turned squarely to the players that will be on the field next season. What is the name at the top of the wish list that you’ll be sending off to Theo Claus this holiday season? Prince? Yu? C.J.? No one?

NBA Lockout Ends: In other sports news, this Thanksgiving weekend was joyous for us fans of the NBA as players and owners have come to a tentative agreement that will save a large portion of the season. As it currently stands, the season will start with a triple-header on Christmas Day. As excited as I am for basketball to return, I’m even happier for friends I have that work for NBA teams won’t have to spend the holiday season wondering about their futures.

The Zooker Goes Out with Class: As a lifelong Iowa football fan, you won’t see me shed too many any tears over the Illinois Fighting Illini historic collapse in Big 10 play this season (for those who don’t follow college football, Illinois was the first team ever to start 6-0 and finish the season 6-6). I have to commend former head coach Ron Zook though, who showed an amazing amount of dignity in getting fired yesterday. Trust me, if I walk in tomorrow and get told to pack up my things, I wouldn’t have such nice things to say. I don’t take away all the bad things I’ve said about Zook, but I feel a little bit worse about them now.

Yes, I’m Talking Tebow…: After three great NFL games on Thanksgiving, this weekend’s action seemed like an after thought. There were three QB-related story lines I was following today though:

  • Caleb Hanie – the almost hero of last year’s NFC Championship game looked like a guy that had only thrown 14 regular season passes entering the game. Though he had a couple nice throws late in the game to keep the Bears in it, his three interceptions killed him. And then there was that fake spike, fake pass, spike debacle on the final play…
  • Matt Leinert – for some reason, I found myself rooting for the former golden boy to put it together and make the most of his opportunity to replace the injured Matt Schaub in the middle of a playoff race. The lefty’s road to redemption came to an abrupt end in the second quarter with what is being described as a likely broken collarbone.
  • Tim Tebow – whether you like him or not (and I don’t), and whether you think he deserves the credit or not (and I don’t), the guy is 5-1 as a starter this season after taking over for a 1-4 team.
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GirlieView

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Happy Sunday, all. Hopefully everyone has recovered from their food coma after a fruitful Thanksgiving feast. Despite eating way too much, I have thoroughly enjoyed a couple days off from my hectic life relaxing with my family for more than 24 hours. But all things must come to an end, and that is why I bring you another compilation of witty comments, in an attempt to ease the pain of what is looming ahead.

The Wizzies

  • Positive: He’s not Mike Quade. Negative: I still can’t pronounce his last name.
  • Anyone else catch the story about Z getting nailed in the grill by a ball in winter league? Stitches in his lip. One can only hope that Michael Barrett was the batter…revenge is best served cold.
  • MLS? Is that a disease?
  • Uh…comparing missing DLee….to missing Hee Seop I Can’t Hit an Inside Fastball? Really?
  • That’s the genius of the humor Dusty Baylor, tongue and cheek, foot in mouth, finger up nose. VFTB commandment 11- don’t take everything seriously.
  • Little known fact: Reagan’s home run call was “TEAR…DOWN…THIS…WALL! Its a rouuuuuuund tripper!”
  • I’m thankful that one of the first things Theo did was toast Quade.
  • I over ate these past couple of days Buddy, don’t make my food come back up with that Pena talk of yours.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-44

Doc Raker-44

Jswanson-37

BLPCB-25

Seymour Butts-23

Doug S.-22

Aaron-17

Jedi-15

Chet-11

Eddie Von White-11

Dusty Baylor-11

Poll of the Week

What is the best offseason distraction?

a) Other sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc.)

b) Work

c) The holidays

d) Keeping up with baseball news

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Stats To Be Thankful For

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

by John Dewan

I’d like to wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!

In keeping with the theme of thankfulness, here are some numbers in the baseball world to which this sentiment applies.

21 – That is the number of consecutive years of labor peace that baseball is guaranteed with MLB and the MLBPA having agreed on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.  As contentious as baseball’s labor history has been, the general state of harmony that has existed since the last players’ strike ended in early 1995 represents the longest such stretch since the MLBPA was formed in 1953.  In that time the NHL has lost a full season, the NBA lost part of the 1998-1999 season and has already canceled games for this season, and the NFL went through an extended lockout this year before coming to an agreement just before the season started.  Life is good for baseball fans right now.

2,728 – That is the number of career wins for future Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa.  Tony goes out on top, having led the St. Louis Cardinals to an astonishing World Series victory after prevailing in an equally thrilling National League Wild Card race on the last day of the regular season.  That gives him three World Series titles to go along with six pennants.

160,000,000 – That is the total dollar value of Matt Kemp’s new contract extension to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It is great to see that one of the league’s premier franchises is beginning to move past the prolonged financial troubles and legal battles that have been hanging over the club.  Kemp and 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw are two of the bright young stars of the game, and this signing shows that the Dodgers may yet have a bright future ahead of them.

24 – That is the number of different teams, out of 30 total MLB franchises, that have reached the playoffs in the last 10 years dating back to 2002.  Furthermore, there have been eight different World Series champions in those 10 years.  While there may be some degree of luck involved in getting through the playoffs and winning the World Series, it is an impressive accomplishment to sustain success over the 162-game regular season to make the playoffs.  That level of parity is a reason that every fan should feel hopeful that their team could very easily become the next great contender.  Even Cubs fans have reason to hope!

Infinity – That’s the number of thank yous I’d like to give my staff for all their help in bringing you Stat of the Week.  My name is on this feature, but they do more than their share of the heavy lifting.  Thank you to Rob Burckhard, Charles Fiore, Ben Jedlovec, Amanda Modelski and Joe Rosales.  You guys do great work!

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

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