Archive for November, 2011

GirlieView

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

It’s that time again! The Magnificent Lights Festival in Chicago kicked off the holiday spirit this weekend. A chill in the air is FINALLY making it feel like mid-November. Christmas music is playing WAY too early on the radio. And you all get another edition of the best of the best this week!

The Wizzies

  • Just say ‘no’ to long term, high priced, relief pitchers.
  • If I can’t have Tony LaRussa, give me Satan. Satan could easily make a deal with himself in order to produce wins. Satan would be unlikely to lose an argument with an umpire as they are his subordinates. Satan could make the wind change directions depending on which team is batting. Carlos Zambrano would act like a choir boy, and finish the season with an Era around zero. The only down side would be any hispanic players in the minors with the first name of Jesus would need to be traded. No sense freaking out the new manager.
  • All of the front office personnel should be with held from “marital favors” by their spouses until they ramp up the pitching depth of the whole system.
  • Seattle sounds like the perfect place for Buerhle to sign a five-year deal for more money than he’s worth.
  • I hope I am wrong, it does happen every now and then…………………1978 I last recall.
  • I’ll be nervous if he starts in with the Starlie, Jeffie, Marmie stuff.
  • If the Cubs are chasing Grady Sizemore, they should catch him easily. He can barely walk after all the knee injuries.
  • I wonder if we’ve ever hired bald managers in succession. 
  • I hear that Sveum has already had the fungo out and has Castro’s defense top-notch. He also caught a bullpen session where he worked out Marmol’s heater. He is currently tossing bp in the cage to Byrd, and his patience at the plate is rapidly improving.
  • I guess it’s easier to spell than Samardzija.
  •  Sub-par-mardzija.
  • So you’re saying Rodrigo Lopez won’t win 300 games?
  • Shark’s only 288 shy of 300.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-43

Doc Raker-41

Jswanson-35

BLPCB-25

Seymour Butts-23

Doug S.-21

Aaron-17

Jedi-15

Chet-11

Eddie Von White-11

Question of the Week

One positive and one negative about Dave Sveum. Aaaand go.

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Has the 300-Game Winner Become Extinct?

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

It seems like every time a pitcher reaches the magical mark of 300 wins, many fans and baseball people wonder aloud: “Is this the last time we’ll see someone reach 300 wins?”  That was a popular sentiment after Greg Maddux reached the mark in 2004, then Tom Glavine (2007), and most recently Randy Johnson (2009).

At the end of the 2011 season the closest active pitcher to 300 wins was Tim Wakefield, Boston’s 45-year old knuckleballer.  Wakefield notched career win number 200 on September 13.  Of course, the seemingly immortal Jamie Moyer has 267 career wins and is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery, but Moyer turns 49 in four days (November 18).  It seems unlikely that either of these two veterans will reach 300 wins. Is the 300-game winner an extinct breed?

Not at all.

Each year, in the Bill James Handbook¸ Bill lists the players he thinks are the most likely to reach 300 wins based on a formula he devised to measure a pitcher’s chances for this sacred milestone. The key to the formula is the pitcher’s momentum (wins in recent seasons) matched up with his win total thus far in his career.

Here are the top-five 300 win candidates heading into 2012:

Player

2011 Age

Career
Wins

Chance at
300 Wins

Roy Halladay

34

188

49%

CC Sabathia

30

176

48%

Justin Verlander

28

107

31%

Cliff Lee

32

119

24%

Dan Haren

30

107

19%

Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia each have around a 50-50 shot at winning 300 games.  Justin Verlander only had a 10% chance at 300 wins entering the 2011 season, but after a 24-win season, his chances skyrocket to 31%.  The chance that one of these five gets 300 wins in his career is about 90%.

For the complete list of 300 win candidates, check out the Bill James Handbook 2012, in stores and available at ACTASports.com now.

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

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To Buy or Not To Buy

Friday, November 18th, 2011

I have a problem.  It’s not a big problem.  It’s not even a real problem–more of a quandary.  But there’s a time limit on this quandary, and you good people might be able to help me make my decision.  Or at the very least, liven-up the decision-making process.

My conundrum: should I buy Cubs season tickets?  (Remember, not a real problem.)

Let’s begin with a little history.  I don’t remember when I first heard about the Cubs’ season ticket waiting list, but I’m pretty sure I originally signed up well over ten years ago.  I do know that it was so long ago the email address I used at the time–my college email address–is no longer even active.  The Cubs ticket office had to contact me by phone to get a new email address (and I’m not entirely sure how they got my current phone number, but that’s for another time).

In fact, it was so long ago that I had forgotten I had signed up at all, and signed up again years later with a different email address.  And if I log in to the Cubs’ wait list page with that second, current email account, there are more than 46,000 people in front of me in line.  Which means that if I pass on this current opportunity, more people than can fit inside Wrigley Field would either need to purchase and then surrender their season tickets or pass them up altogether before I’d have another chance to buy them myself.  When you add in all the current season ticket owners, and factor in that most people aren’t simply one-year-and-done when purchasing season tickets, it’s entirely possible that I could wait another decade before I make it to the front of the line.  And not altogether impossible that the opportunity might never come up again.

Now if I still lived in Chicago, there’d be no question about it.  But I live in Los Angeles.

(Like I said–not a real problem, but a significant quandary nonetheless.)

You see, if these were tickets I could use every day, or if I could split them with friends and attend even half or so of the Cubs’ home games, I’d have no qualms about buying them.  But if I plunk down the necessary cash for season tickets now, I’ll do it knowing that I can probably only hope for one or two weekend trips back to Chicago, at the very best.  I’ll wind up selling the vast majority of these tickets on StubHub.

And while getting some of that money back does make the initial investment a little easier to swallow, it also takes some of the shine off the purchase in the first place.

Now there is a chance that the Cubs could return to being relatively competitive next season, that tickets to Wrigley would once again be in demand, and that I could make back most of my money.  Possibly even enough of a profit to help pay for those trips back to Chicago.  But that’s probably wishful thinking, and it’s more likely I’d struggle to break even on the tickets I can’t use.

That’s most of the downside, as I see it.

The upside?  The Cubs will eventually be competitive again.  They’ll even get back to the postseason.  And as a season ticket holder, I’d have the first shot to buy playoff tickets.  And depending on how long I could keep buying the seats, I would potentially be guaranteed a seat in the bleachers when the Cubs finally return to the World Series.

Of course, I could also save all the season ticket money from now until then and have plenty of spare cash to buy scalped playoff seats on StubHub (possibly from some enterprising season ticket holder).

And sure, that’s a fine fall-back plan.  Heck, that’s been my primary plan for a while now.  But today, I have a chance to aim a little higher.  I have a chance to own a little piece of Wrigley Field.  (Probably a couple seats in the bleachers, because really, why bother sitting anywhere else?  Also, the closest seats are crazy expensive.)

For the moment, I have a chance to be a Cubs season ticket holder.

What would you do?

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The Astros are Moving

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The Astros are Moving: The Astros have been sold and they will be moving to the American League by the year 2013. Bud Selig thinks all of this is a “historical” event and it will be a long term change. Because of this move, the playoff scene in the MLB will be changed around a bit. There will be 10 playoff teams and another one-game wild card playoff added to the schedule. Longer playoffs? My dream come true (note the sarcasm)! Does this mean that the World Series will end in November or will the regular season be shortened to make room for more playoffs? Hopefully somebody besides will occupy the basement of the NL Central when the Astros leave.

Other News:

  • Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young. It’s the first time since Orel Hershiser that a Dodgers starter has won the award. Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young in a unanimous vote. Will a pitcher be the MVP?
  • Remember the Bears-Lions game last Sunday? Does anyone remember the color of Earl Bennett’s shoes? Neither do I. But the NFL didn’t like the hue of orange they were and fined him $10,000 for it. Isn’t that a bit steep for a pair of shoes?
  • The Broncos pulled off another win last night. They’re now 5-5, and 4-1 since Kyle Orton was relieved of his duties as starter.
  • The new CBA is supposed to be announced. Lockout free for 6 more years! Thank goodness for baseball.
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The Cubs Have a New Manager

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

And so it’s official.  The Cubs have hired Dale Sveum to be their new manager.  It’s reportedly a three-year deal.  His official introduction will be tomorrow morning at Wrigley Field at 9am CT.

That the Brewers’ hitting coach and former Red Sox’ third base coach had been chosen to be the new Cubs manager might have been one of the worst-kept secret in baseball.  Rumors began popping up all over Twitter yesterday evening that Epstein and Hoyer were going with Sveum (pronounced “swaim”).  The choice isn’t a total surprise–Theo and Jed have a long history with Dale (pronounced “dale”), and he’s reported to take a similar approach to combining statistical analysis and old fashioned scoutin’ as the Cubs’ new brain trust.

One interesting wrinkle is the timing of their decision.  Shortly before the Sveum-to-Cubs rumors started swirling, the Red Sox front office seemed headed in Sveum’s direction.  Cubs’ president Epstein and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino had a semi-public falling out, and it’s possible that the Cubs’ decision was sped up by a desire to pluck away a primary candidate from Boston.  We probably won’t know for sure, but it’s clear Sveum was in-demand, and that at least two clubs looked to be vying for his services.  Now Boston goes back to the drawing board, and we prepare to put our confidence and our beloved team into the hands of another journeyman coach.

I’ll update this post throughout the rest of the day with the latest news and reactions on the Cubs’ new manager.

ESPN’s Gordon Edes writes about Sveum’s hiring, and what it means for the Red Sox manager search.

Paul Sullivan writes about the Cubs new manager, and wonders if his relationship with Prince Fielder increases the chances of the Cubs signing the corpulent power-hitter.  It also includes a short video of Sveum talking about taking over the Cubs.

Phil Rogers wrote earlier today that the if the Cubs really stole Sveum from the Red Sox, Boston might turn around and tab Ryne Sandberg to be their next manager.  I don’t think it’s a likely scenario, but it’s an interesting idea and his column hints at the icy relationship between Epstein and Lucchino.

Bruce Levine writes about the possibility of Sveum bringing Prince Fielder with him.

Although it’s not specifically about the Cubs, here’s an article from Ken Rosenthal about the search for the next Red Sox manager, and how Epstein made have taken their first choice out from under them by hiring Sveum.  The front office rivalry with the Red Sox might be just getting started.

Bruce Levine writes about how Sveum’s skills match up well with the Cubs’ needs.

Jon Greenburg gives some insight into who Dale Sveum is, and what his hiring says about the new direction for the Cubs.

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Minor Additions

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

It’s still early in the offseason, which means the list of free agents is plentiful. We know the big names on the market. We’ve all got plans on how we’d like to see the spending happen, but what about the names that don’t make the ESPN top 50 list? What about the guys that if you ask the average fan would not even be identifiable as having played in any capacity in a team’s system? Let’s go shopping and try to fill skill specific needs with some guys that meet those requirements.

ON BASE %

We’ll start with everyone’s favorite “Moneyball” stat (even though that’s not the concept behind the philosophy in the book) and look at guys who just flat get on base.

Rk Age Tm Lg Lev Aff OPS PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP ▾ SLG
1 Maxwell Leon 27 MTN MEX AAA 1.094 243 49 70 16 5 14 43 .341 .421 .673
2 Jose Yepez 30 TAC PCL AAA SEA .846 181 30 47 6 2 3 26 .307 .414 .431
3 Jesus Lopez 23 MCD,OAX MEX AAA .901 151 26 43 10 2 3 24 .328 .397 .504
4 Brad Coon 28 CNG,ABQ SOUL,PCL AA,AAA LAD .750 347 46 76 18 4 0 20 .269 .390 .360

It’s important to note that none of these guys are really “prospects” with the exception of Jesus Lopez who is still young.

SPEED

Age Tm Lg Lev Aff PA H 2B 3B HR RBI SB ▾ CS BA OBP SLG
Quintin Berry 26 CAR,LOU SOUL,IL AA,AAA CIN 397 96 16 1 6 41 42 7 .284 .383 .391
Miguel Abreu 26 FDK,BOW,NFK CARL,EL,IL A+,AA,AAA BAL 421 96 18 3 5 44 35 8 .243 .279 .342
Archie Gilbert 27 HRB,POT EL,CARL AA,A+ WSN 388 108 23 0 12 42 31 4 .313 .383 .484
Jeff Dominguez 24 JUP,JCK FLOR,SOUL A+,AA FLA 538 127 20 4 8 61 26 6 .260 .307 .367

This is not really a skill I’d seek out specifically in the minor league free agent relms unless there were other tools there as well.

HOMERUNS

Age Tm Lg Lev Aff HR PA 2B 3B RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Ian Gac 25 WSM CARL A+ CHW 33 587 31 1 96 58 144 .279 .358 .535 .893
Brahiam Maldonado 25 BNG EL AA NYM 28 530 16 5 74 38 146 .222 .285 .453 .737
Mauro Gomez 26 GWI IL AAA ATL 24 557 34 2 90 38 131 .304 .356 .522 .878
Jamie Romak 25 NTA TL AA KCR 23 505 21 1 71 55 88 .251 .343 .460 .803
Eric Duncan 26 SPD TL AA STL 22 385 21 1 62 25 78 .274 .322 .527 .849
Eric Campbell 25 CAR,BAK SOUL,CALL AA,A+ CIN 20 487 37 1 83 45 69 .307 .387 .540 .927

I also reached out to members of the SweetSpot Network and got some interesting names:

Adam Loewen is interesting as a story. Less so as a viable big leaguer. 4th outfielder at best, I think.” (Drew from Ghost Runner on First)

“There are three people from the Cleveland Indians that kind of caught my eye – pitchers Joe Martinez, Adam Miller and Jeremy Sowers.  Martinez was the hero of the playoffs for the AAA Columbus Clippers in their national title run (he even pitched during the national championship game against the Kansas City affiliate).  Still, it’s not a huge deal…he’s never pitched in the Majors, is approaching 30, and doesn’t really have exceptional stats or anything.

Adam Miller was set to be their number 1 starter a few years back, until he developed hand problems.  He could consistently hit 100 on the radar, but it took a toll on his middle finger.  He had a number of muscular surgeries (at one point he developed a hole in his finger).  He was trying to make his way back to the Majors with a refined motion (something less violent on the hand) but he was never really the pitcher he once was.  I don’t think he made it higher than AA on his return attempt.

Sowers is the only one on the list who spent considerable time in the Majors (except for Nick Johnson, who didn’t spend any time in the Majors with the Indians).  He was a soft-throwing former first round draft pick, who at times showed promise, and at times was downright dreadful.  I’m pretty sure he sustained an injury at one point, but it was obvious they’d given up on him anyway.” (Stephanie Liscio from It’s Pronounced Lajaway)

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Morning (Evening) Roundup

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

The New Manager’s Here, The New Manager’s Here: Multiple sources are reporting that Dale Sveum has/will be offered the Cubs job. Reportedly, Sveum would accept the job without considering offers from other clubs. It’s not a done deal yet, but apparently Maddux has ruled himself out and Hale, Mackanin, and Alomar Jr. weren’t as high on the list. (Francona removed himself from speculation for the position, though he’d not interviewed and wasn’t being listed as a finalist…thanks for ending the suspense, Terry).

Dale Sveum: Cliff’s Notes Version Remember when the Brewers were fighting for a playoff spot back in 2008 (one they eventually secured) and Ned Yost was making a horrible decision or getting ejected on a nightly basis? That’s when Dale Sveum stepped in as interim manager for the final two weeks of the season and the playoffs. He’s been a minor league manager (Pirates), 3rd base coach (Red Sox, Brewers), bench coach & hitting coach (Brewers). He was a journeyman utility player for 7 teams during 12 seasons, the best of which was his second year in the league. His final season as a player was 1999.

Can’t Skip This: Kerry Wood is talking about a multi-year deal with the Cubs. It’d be a very nice gesture if the new regime started their tenure by locking down Wood.

Occupy: The cadre of paid protesters, out of work hippies, college students, bums, and others are taking their show on the road today after being evicted from Zuccotti Park. They’ve scheduled “non-violent” roaming protests around NYC that will reportedly include a primer on the effectiveness of a Molotov cocktail. If you’re in New York – be safe; otherwise, enjoy the dumpster fire of activity on your evening news.

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Chet’s Corner : There’s Change on the Horizon, But How Much?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

My wife asked me how much the 2012 Chicago Cubs will differ from previous models.  She asked the question because she has heard so much about the new “Cubby Way” of thinking since Epstein and Co. came to town.

My answer lay somewhere between “we aren’t sure yet” and “hopefully a lot.” 

The real answer probably lays beneath the apocolyptic quagmire of the last three seasons.  Imagine it this way, the bombing raid of Milton Bradley,  bad contracts, Jim Hendry, Mike Quade, and finally Carlos Zambrano over the last three years have left craters in the Cub landscape.  In many ways it is kind of like Beirut, once a nice vacation spot, now a pile of rubble.

Theo and company were brought in to clean up the shelled town and restock it, from the ground up, with talent and promise.  This is what they do.  This is what they are good at. 

With a minor league system depleted and a major league team full of holes, one can expect the equivalent of a lost season in 2012, but in the famous words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend!  It won’t be the record of the Major league team next year that I will watch, but the changes made for the future.  You have to lay an infrastructure before you can rebuild the village.

I see five things that could be done to create some change in the right direction.

1)  Trade Carlos Marmol asap. 

The market for closers could not be better….if you are a seller.  With the high price closers currently on the market the Cubs could actually get something in the way of prospects for Carlos at this point.  His career arc is trending downward and I fear one more year will totally expose him for the very average closer he truly is.  Plus, I really want to see what Andrew Cashner would bring to this roll.

2) Release Zambrano

On one hand, you have a pitcher who probably possesses the most talent in our sickly rotation.  On the other, you have a petulant child who can’t seem to put the team before himself.  Nobody will harness this guy and to be honest, he is best left unchained.  I think he loses effectiveness when his emotions are controlled.  Not too mention, his Venezuelan league stint is going a little rough.  Has he lost it?  Eat the money Mr. Ricketts, this is addition by subtraction.

3) Eat Soriano

Don’t release him, but eat most of this meal in a trade.  An AL team will take a flier on him as a DH, which is where he belongs.  Grab a prospect in the deal but more importantly, OPEN AN OUTFIELD SPOT!  We have a few young guys who need regular time and plopping an oft injured, $17 million fielding liabilty that hits slightly above average, down in left field is not productive.  Once again, cut bait and try again.

4) Don’t go international!

The latest international pitching craze goes by the name Yu Darvish.  Don’t know him? Google him.  The Cubs are seen as possible front runners.  Tom Ricketts loves the international exposure these guys bring.  However, they should all come with a disclaimer that reads, “Caution: Japan is not the Majors. Pitcher may break down or become extremely hittable within months.”  For some reason, the juice is never worth the squeeze.  When Matt Murton is setting marks for hitters in Japan, you begin to wonder about the quality of pitching.  I would rather not sink  $40 million before contract into this unproven commodity.

5) Find Brett Jackson.

No, he did not go missing, but I think we need to see what this guy can do at the Major League level.  If we don’t trade him for proven talent, then we need to see if he is all that.  So far the Cubs track record with outfield prospects has gone the way of Corey Patterson.  The jury is still out on Colvin but if I had to bet for or against his success, I would bet against. Who’s next in line?

 

These are just a few things.  I think Cubs fans will see some household names involved in trades.  Names that the old regime touted as the next great thing.  It will be a deprogramming of sorts.  The Geovany Soto’s and Carlos Marmol’s of yesterday could be in a new uniform before the season starts.  We also may see some guys we never heard of take the field on opening day.  Or maybe, as it takes time to rebuild a franchise, we may see very little change at the top, while there is a world of commotion going on underneath.

 

 

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MLB is Going to Get a Deal Done On Time

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Good morning everyone. Some interesting things being reported lately.

THE HEADLINE

The big story has to be the fact that it was reported on ESPN.com that the players and owners were close to signing a new collective bargaining agreement for MLB. According to the story:

This deal, however, figures to be especially historic, as baseball positions itself for the 21st century. Among other things, it will pave the way for realignment of the sport into two 15-team leagues, adding a second wild-card team in each league, spreading interleague play throughout all six months of the regular season and making significant changes to the draft, free agency and the so-called “Competitive Balance Tax.” – ESPN.com

The team that would be moved from the NL to the AL is rumored to be the Houston Astros, who would obviously be moving to the AL West. There are a lot of people that can’t stand the inter-league play concept, and I understand their point of view, but I’m all for it. The second wild-card idea is exciting because it makes it just a little bit easier to get to the playoffs, and we know all it takes is getting there and you have a chance to go all the way. The changes I’m curious to read more about are the changes to the things like the draft, free agency, salary structure, etc. I’m curious to see if any changes are made to the salary plan as it currently is where players do not hit arbitration until they have amassed three years of service time and free agency with six.

In the end, it’s such a huge announcement to make as fans have been bombarded with the NFL lockout this summer and now the NBA lockout which is turning out to be quite hopeless. MLB is doing the right thing by getting the deal done and getting it done on time.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Aramis Ramirez and his agent are not happy with the comments that Bob Brenly made early in the off-season when he called Ramirez a “Number’s grabber”. Gordon Wittenmeyer reported “For a broadcaster to come out and say that, I think it was very low class,” agent Paul Kinzer said Monday as the annual general managers meetings opened in Milwaukee. “Especially when a guy’s a free agent, to try to damage his [value]. … That bothered Aramis and bothered me a lot.” I like Brenly for always speaking his mind, but eventually he’s going to get in trouble similar to what happened with Steve Stone when he was critical of the players from the booth.
  • The Cubs announced that Shiraz Rehman joined their front office as an assistant to GM Jed Hoyer. I’ve never heard of him, but in Theo I trust.
  • Jerry Crasnick reports that the Cubs are one of eight teams interested in the services of Grady Sizemore. We wrote about Sizemore earlier in October, but I can’t see a use for him.
  • Jon Morosi is reporting on Twitter that “Cubs have had multiple discussions with the agent for Mark Buehrle, source says.” I had someone ask me on Twitter what I think and I explained that I like Buehrle if the price is right. His velocity is not high and if it were to go any lower as he ages, that seems like it would make him very hittable. He’s a winner, though.
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