Archive for March, 2012

What’s Everyone Talking About? Cubs Edition

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Chet's on vacation today. Actually he's just got a case of writer's block. Instead, Joe takes a look around the internet to see what people are saying about the team we love.

If you normally tune in on Wednesday afternoon because you have a mad crush on Chet, I’m sorry to inform you but you’ll have to wait till next week. Instead, you’re stuck with my ugly mug and I wanted to update you on various Cub related things around the internet over the last few days.


It’s that time of year. Everyone who is anyone is doing previews of the season. Some are good and some suck. Ours will probably suck. In the meantime, here are the highlights from some of the ones I’ve read so far.

At an age when most players would be happy to hit .300 down in Tennessee or Daytona, Castro has done it twice in the big leagues. The Central is going to be really scared of him in a few years. My biggest fear would be someone that young skirting a little bit of his practice time for time out on the town—but that’s a blanket fear I have for all young 20-somethings with big bank accounts. ~ Baseball Prospectus NL Central Preview

I love that Castro is young while he’s doing this, but that immaturity also worries me, just like it does them. We saw flashes where the concentration wasn’t there last year, even to the point of being on National Television when it happened. I chalk it up to him being a kid who has earned a lot in a very short period of time. I also chalk it up to the foreign factor as well. A lot of times players signed from Latin America do not come from wealth or fame. He has both and has it at an age some are just graduating college. Think about how dumb you were at that time, and you may have had parents who had any kind of money at all to hopefully lend a bit of guidance. My hope is that as Castro matures, so will his judgement.

Moving on, our fellow SweetSpot counterpart for the Brewers had a bold prediction for Bryan LaHair this season:

It might only be a year of glory, but I’d bet a boutique LP of your choice that LaHair (a) Outslugs 2011 Carlos Pena, and (b) Leads the Cubs in home runs. ~ Disciples of Uecker 2012 Preview: Chicago Cubs

When I first read that prediction, I thought he was out of his mind. Then I gave it some thought and really couldn’t come up with another name that might eclipse him. LaHair probably has the most power potential for anyone on the opening day roster so assuming he had hold his own at the plate and gets 500+ at bats, I think this is very plausible. The only person who I could see eclipsing him would be Alfonso Soriano, and that’s provided that the tweaks he’s supposedly made at the plate are legit.

The good folks over at the Hardball Times also took a crack at a preview in a different format. They asked five questions about the team to themselves and then proceeded to give themselves an answer. I’ll look past the opening question “What can Cubs fans look for in 2012? Answer: 2013” and comment on the meat of the post.

While pitching and defense were the prime culprits last year, the offense threatens to make them look good by comparison in 2012.

Going in, the Cubs appear to have the puniest homer-hitting infield in forever; the four guys who figure to take the field Opening Day totaled 14 major league homers last season. The presumptive starting eight had these 2011 on-base percentages: .310, .377, .313, .341, .243, .289, .324, .323. That outlying .377 was Bryan LaHair—in 59 at-bats. ~ The Hardball Tmes: Five Questions Chicago Cubs

Well when you put it that way, I guess we’re not going to be very good. Obviously I already knew that, but the more I look at this offense, it’s hard to see how we’ll score more than a few runs per game.


Matt Eddy of Baseball America had a post about how the new CBA will have an effect on a few minor league contracts.

Article XX(B) free agents signing minor league contracts who are not added to the Opening Day roster or unconditionally released 5 days prior to Opening Day shall receive an additional $100,000 retention bonus and the right to opt out on June 1.

For the Cubs, this affects Rodrigo Lopez and Trevor Miller. If they do not make the opening day roster and are not released before opening day, they will get the bonus. It’s not a big deal. Personally, I could see Lopez making the opening day roster. Miller, I’m not sure.

Former GM now turned writer for ESPN, Jim Bowden, highlighted a position battle at SP for the last two spots in the rotation. The article is subscription based so I can only give you a smidge.

“The Cubs have four pitchers fighting for the last two spots in the starting rotation behind Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. Volstad is the front-runner to land one of the spots. Samardzija’s stuff says he could be the best of the four, but his lack of control and command will probably land him back in the bullpen, leaving the final spot for Wells or Wood. I would go with Wood because he can keep the ball on the black, change speeds and move it up and down. He’s younger and has a little more upside, and the Cubs should be giving opportunities to guys like him.”

Keith Law, also subscription based, posted on when various franchises can expect to contend again. I love the fact that he didn’t include the Pirates, as they are just hapless and hopeless. Prediction for the Cubs? Sorry folks, Law says it’s 2015.

Finally, I leave you with something dumb to help distract from your work day. I got this from our friends over at Crashburn Alley. It’s the eye test. See how you do.

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Player Preview – Ian Stewart

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Polarizing figure Aramis Ramirez played his final season with the Cubs in 2011. To fill the void, the Cubs decided to trade the disappointing Tyler Colvin and slap-hitting DJ Lemahieu to the Rockies for the disappointing Ian Stewart and the disappointing Casey Weathers.

Stewart is expected to be the everyday third baseman for the Cubs in 2012 in the hopes that he can fulfill some of the potential that made him Baseball America’s #4 overall prospect back in 2005. Unfortunately, 2005 was the peak of Stewart’s value, and here we are seven years later, still waiting for production.

His career line is 236/323/428. That line isn’t very good and it’s even worse if you choose to focus on batting average instead of the more important on-base percentage. He has contact issues, which leads to high strikeout numbers, but he also throws in a few walks and has a season high of 25 homers….so there is a non-zero chance he puts up an average offensive season.

One thing we’re bound to hear is that if Stewart couldn’t hit in Colorado, he’s not going to hit anywhere else. Maybe that’s true. But his home/road splits aren’t all that different and he’s actually hit for more power (more doubles and more homers leading to a higher ISO) on the road than he did in the friendly thin air of Coors Field. And one surprising bit of information I ran into over at StatCorner was that Wrigley Field was actually a bit more friendly to left handed hitters in the home run department than Coors Field was.

The projections listed at Fangraphs have him hitting about that same 236/323/428 line for 2012. Rudy Jaramillo was supposed to be the best hitting coach in baseball when he was signed a few seasons ago, so maybe he helps Stewart click and hit the over on those. I’m not expecting much and I don’t think the Cubs front office is either. He’s a lottery ticket. Not even a Powerball ticket, but a $2 scratch off that may pay $5 or $10 if you’re lucky. If not, no big deal, you lost $2.

So while we won’t see the same offense that the disliked Aramis Ramirez put up over the last eight seasons, one thing we should see that won’t show up in the projections is improved defense. By all reports I’ve read, Stewart is an above average third baseman, and one report I came across even said he could play “Gold Glove” defense. With the infusion of ground ball pitchers Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm, this may be an overlooked benefit Stewart provides.

He’s arbitration eligible until 2014 so he may be here a few years. I’m hoping for good defense, an average OBP (ML average was .320 in 2011), and good power in 2012 with the Cubs finding a new third baseman by the time they are ready to compete again.

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The Taming of the Shark

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Jeff Samardzija has relatively low big league mileage for how loathed he is among Cubs fans.  Or should I say was loathed–his surprising second half last season seems to have wiped away the memories of inherited runners jogging the basepaths and leads vanishing in an instant.  There was a time not so long ago that Samardzija couldn’t be trusted in a close game, and only saw the mound when the team needed to eat up some garbage time.

Fast forward to his start last Wednesday, when Samardzija looked dominant–or whatever the early Spring Training equivalent of dominant is–against the Royals, striking out three batters over three scoreless innings of work.  Twitter quickly flooded with excited Cubs fans ready to name the Shark as a semi-lock for the third slot as a starting pirate pitcher.  No less than seasoned beat reporters and professional skeptics paused to bask in the glow of Samardzija’s hot start.

That’s high praise, even if you factor in Sullivan’s constant ironic detachment.  From the moment he stepped off the mound that day, Samardzija has been the Hansel of the Cubs’ camp.

But it seems not everyone was buying the instantaneous hype.  No less than HRH Keith Law was not looking for space on the Samardzija bandwagon.

And who can blame him?  Even after five years of limited duty–and even more limited production–it’s hard to know what we can reasonably expect from Samardzija.  The simple fact is he pitched more last season than he has in all his previous big league stints combined.  And seeing as his first half wasn’t stellar, there’s not a lot of positive work on the field to draw confidence from.

Yes, he was effective in his setup role last year.  But he’s also fallen on his face plenty in that same role, and never done enough to earn a consistent spot in the rotation.  So which segment of his body of work should I look at and which ones should I ignore to make up my mind about a guy who has spent most of his career falling short of expectations?  Should I really believe that he’s finally committed to the hard work, that he’s determined to earn a starting spot?  Or should I remind myself that he’s usually good for only 20-30 pitches, that anyone can look dominant in the first week of Spring Training, and that his performance yesterday was more in line with the Samardzija we know?

My gut says that Samardzija might pitch well enough in Mesa to earn a starting spot, but that he won’t hold onto it all season.  With all the hype surrounding him and the lack of viable arms in camp, I think the Cubs might be inclined to give him one last good shot to show what he can do with the opportunity.  But I don’t see him having the success or the health to stick it out for the season. I’m not confident that his skills or his arm are up to the increase in workload, so one way or another, I think he’s heading back to the bullpen before the season’s over.  Which is fine, since he proved last year that’s a role he can be successful in.

But what do I know?  My gut is far from prescient–I wrote this about Alfonso Soriano last week and he’s currently hitting in the .570’s.  If it means a more reliable pitching staff and more wins for the Cubs, I’m happy to be proven wrong.

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Ryan Dempster: Let’s Gamble

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Ryan Dempster looks to rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign and win Joe a bet.

Before you really offer up a preview of Ryan Dempster, I think it deserves mentioning that Jim Hendry does deserve a massive amount of credit for the signing. A quick history less on Demp. He was originally selected in the 3rd round of the 1995 draft by the Texas Rangers, where he spent a small amount of time in the minors before being traded to the Marlins where he made 121 starts and compiled a 4.64 ERA before being traded again to the Cincinnati Reds. While in Cincinnati his ERA rose to 6.54 in his final season with Reds before being shut down in August to have Tommy John surgery. Shortly after he was released by the Reds. Hendry had the foresight to sign Dempster, while he was still rehabbing, to a minor league contract with the hope of mining a gold nugget from a scrap heap. Remarkably, Dempster would not only pitch in 2004, but would pitch well, just 12 months removed from the surgery. In 20+ innings of work out of the pen, Demp compiled and ERA of 3.92 and picked up a pair of saves. In 2005, after starting 6 games, Dempster was named the closer for the Cubs, replacing LaTroy Hawkins. He collected 33 saves in 35 opportunities, the best save percentage in the league; in both blown saves, he collected the win. He is the only Cub and one of just three players ever to both start a game and collect 30 saves in the same season.

Since signing with the Cubs he’s gone on to win 62 games and save 87 all while posting an ERA under 4.00. It’s not “Ace” type stuff, but it’s certainly production far more than anyone could have expected when he signed that minor league deal.

I chose to do the season preview on Ryan Dempster because I’m passionate that 2012 will show a significant upgrade over last season’s results for Dempster. In fact, Cap’n Obvious and I even went so far as to put a little wager on it. While we haven’t yet seen the lines on TopBet Sportsbook, there is a bet, though the terms of the bet have yet to be discussed.  It’s sure to be the talk all throughout the summer around the water cooler at work. The time is now to decide who’s side you’re on.

Cap’n and I chose five categories and then set a number for each. On each stat, I have chosen the under, while he has chosen the over. The table below details Dempster’s 2011 numbers, his career average, and the 2012 over / under numbers for the bet for quality starts, Home runs, base on balls and strikeouts per 9 IP as well as ERA.

As you can see, the Cap’n was more than generous in the numbers he gave me to choose from. Looking the ERA, I don’t see a way he’s over 4.90. It’s never happened for him as a Cub. In fact, the last time it happened to him, he was pitching out of the bullpen. Since that time, as a starting pitcher, he’s posted an ERA under 4.00 up until last season.

Looking at the ration numbers for home runs, strikeouts and walks, Dempster has been very consistent as a starter. For the Cubs, in the last four seasons he’s been a full time starter he’s posted numbers of 0.9 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 8.3 K’s/9. To think he’d suddenly drop in production that significantly seems ludicrous to me. I’ll gladly take those categories as well, which leads to the final one, which is the biggest lock. In 2011, Dempster posted a quality start percentage of 62%. Cap’n has been kind enough to set the number at….wait for it….a league average number of 49%. Poor poor Cap’n. This one is a sure lock.

All of that leads to what we should be expecting going forward for Dempster. He exercised his player option before this season to return for $14 million in 2012, plus an amount from 2010 that was deferred over two years in 2011 and 2012. Odds are he will not be re-signed after the season so while here his role needs to be one of leadership and upper rotation production. We need to see the return to good production to avoid the embarrassment that was 2011. I believe we’ll see it…wanna bet?

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GO: Embarrassed a Bit?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Tell us about the movies you’re just a little bit embarrassed to admit you like!


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The Aftermath of a Sports Divorce

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that the frequency with which athletes change teams these days means fans are reduced to cheering not for people, but for laundry.

In principle he’s right–your team is your team, even when they sign Milton Bradley to an ill-advised $30M contract.  Likewise, Carlos Zambrano didn’t have a lot of fans ’round these parts, but that didn’t make anyone less of a Cubs fan, or less interested in seeing him succeed for the good of the team.  The same would go for the near-universally reviled Ryan Braun–if he was traded to the Cubs tomorrow, we might not like him, but we’d want him to play well for the sake of the Cubs’ success.  In that regard at least, we are cheering for laundry.

But not always–sometimes fan loyalty transcends the uniform.  We got a good reminder of that on Wednesday when the Indianapolis Colts parted ways with Peyton Manning.  If you listened to sports radio or watched ESPN you probably saw tearful testimonies of fans vowing to burn their Colts gear and never return to Lucas Oil Stadium until Peyton comes back to “kick the Colts’ butts.”  Others were too busy to grieve as they pre-ordered their (future Hall of Famer) Andrew Luck jerseys.  The divorce between the franchise and the franchise quarterback marks a tipping point for many Colts fans–should they stay or should they go?

I feel a lot of sympathy for Colts fans caught in the middle of this sports divorce.  The business of sports isn’t often sentimental, and watching one of your favorite teams push one of your favorite players out of town can feel like a cruel betrayal.

I’ve felt it myself in the past when the Cubs parted ways with some of my favorite guys.  I felt like I’d been punched in the gut when they let Mark Grace’s contract run out and he left for Arizona.  And I wanted to punch Jim Hendry in the gut when he didn’t resign Kerry Wood in 2008–even if he did it so Wood could sign for more money than the Cubs could afford to give him.  And I felt it again when, for the second time in two years, the Cubs denied Ryne Sandberg a coaching job.

I can tell myself that it’s just a business decision, and that I should be as dispassionate and unsentimental as professional sports have become.  But that usually goes out the window the minute I see one of my guys in another team’s uniform.

My solution wasn’t–isn’t–to burn all my Cubs gear and vow some sort of proxy revenge on the team.  I’m not sure what it would take to make me quit the Cubs–whatever it is, if it even exists, they haven’t done it yet.

But that didn’t keep me from being  fan of Grace, Wood, Sandberg, and others after they left the Northside, either.  I’ve never cheered for a non-Cubs baseball team the way I rooted for the Diamondbacks in the 2001 playoffs.  If Grace couldn’t win a ring with the Cubs, I wanted to see him make the most of his chance with Arizona.  And I shed a few happy tears when he singled off Rivera to kick-start the Diamondbacks’ ninth-inning rally, and hoisted the World Series trophy a few minutes later.

I was similarly pulling for Wood to get a ring in 2010.  It didn’t matter that it meant cheering for the Evil Empire, or that A-Rod and Jeter would also add to their collection of postseason hardware–if Wood could win a World Series, I wanted to see him do it.  And I was bummed for him when he didn’t.  The same goes for Ryno–if he can’t coach or manage the Cubs yet, then I want him to succeed with any teams that do want him (so long as it’s not the Cardinals).

As Seinfled’s joke illustrates, that kind of deep attachment to a player is becoming rarer and rarer in sports.  The rise of sabermetrics can lead us to viewing players dispassionately, more in terms of cold stats and rankings (don’t get too worked up guys–I know some of you still have hearts).  Fantasy sports can further divide your loyalty–heaven help you when your ace is pitching to your best hitter, or your lockdown defense is facing off against your most productive receivers.

Free agency, roster turnover, salary caps, and all sorts of other factors have aligned to keep fans from closely identifying with any one player or players these days.  Instead the fans who are crushed when their favorites leave look like simpletons for caring too much.  The jaded, dispassionate sports world would tell us we have only ourselves to blame, and our disappointment is the price we’ve chosen to pay for getting too attached in the first place.

So while I feel a lot of sympathy for Colts fans this week, I don’t pity them.  They’ve had more than a decade with one of best quarterbacks to ever play the game.  He helped build a semi-dynasty, carrying the team to the playoffs with Braves-esque frequency.  He helped win a Super Bowl, and took them to another one.  And he revived a dead-end franchise and helped make Indianapolis one of the (surprisingly) great NFL cities.  And the love affair doesn’t have to stop here–they can follow him throughout whatever career he has left.

Instead, I’ll pity the sports fans who never get attached enough to a player to have their hearts broken like that.  They are the ones who are missing out.

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Jeff Baker – One Trick Pony

Friday, March 9th, 2012

When I asked Joe to throw me a couple of the players no one else wanted to write about in the preview series, I had a feeling one of them would be the rather insignificant Jeff Baker. Baker’s just a boring player. He is the prototypical bench player – he’s limited offensively and can fill in at multiple positions – but bench players just aren’t very exciting. Even Baseball-Reference lists “Pinch Hitter” first for Baker’s “position”.

He was drafted by the Rockies in the 4th round of the 2002 draft, right ahead of the Cubs pick of LHP Rich Hill (sidenote; Baseball-Reference has them being exactly as productive as one another with 2.0 career Wins Above Replacement). Baker had a pretty solid minor league career, amassing over 1500 plate appearances while hitting 302/377/507. He even had a season where he knocked 20 home runs.

Despite the good minor league numbers, from 2005 through the first couple months of 2009, Baker would only accumulate 617 plate appearances for the Rockies. On July 2, 2009, the Cubs traded a 23 year old Single A relief pitcher named Al Alburquerque to obtain the seldom used Baker (Alburquerque looks to be much more valuable than Baker today; thanks again Jim).

Since the acquisition, the Cubs have used Baker in a way that Colorado did not; they are giving him more at bats against lefties than they are against righties. Over the last two seasons, Baker has seen over 64% of his PA’s against southpaws. Against left handers in 2011, he hit 314/349/463 with all three of his home runs. In 2010, he hit 350/395/550 with all four of his home runs.

And that’s what Baker is, a hitter that can only succeed against lefties. There is no need to over analyze anything with him. The projections are high on the amount of playing time, as he *shouldn’t* get more than 200 plate appearances. As a Cubs he’s gotten around the 220 mark. I would imagine it would be the same under Sveum, but most of these projections are forecasting over 300, which seems a bit ridiculous.

With this tiny sample size, anything can happen with his AVG/OBP/SLG. If three extra hits fall in with Baker getting 200 at bats, you may see a batting average swing of 15 points (.250 to .265, to be clear) and an OPS swing of 30 points. What I’m hoping to see out of Baker is a rebound in his walk percentage and continued solid hitting against lefties. If he doesn’t do that, he can easily be replaced by any number of AAA players at a fraction of the cost.

Baker becomes a free agent after the 2012 season and I wouldn’t expect him to be resigned, so we’re likely watching the final 220 or so at bats of Jeff Baker in a Cubs uniform. Exciting, huh?

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GirlieView (03/08/2012)

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

As you’ve seen, the closer we are getting to the new season, the more “real” baseball stuff we have to talk about! Expect a similar shift in the Lizzies! (Quotes reviewed through Sunday, March 4.)


  • considering his options “I cheat at baseball” or “I have an STD” it’s a bit easier to understand why he might not be quite as forthcoming
  • May there be gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.
  • at least now we know the 9th inning will never be dull…
  • Look out for a herpes outbreak this season. “Doc, I got this sore on my package, I want those slugging percentage boosting meds, I got cash- no insurance billings on this one doc..”.
  • I do love the fact that we have a direction and purpose
  • I just wanted to stop hearing Sox fans say that it was fair compensation to get Garza or Castro.
  • New administration doing things = possibility of ANYTHING FRICKING ELSE THAN WHAT WE HAVE HAD FOR OVER ONE FULL CENTURY.
  • Williams, Evans, Budinger, and George CPAs, LLC…I’d definitely trust them to do my taxes!
  • Our police department holds a dunking contest every morning over at the doughnut shop.
  • I believe the rules include blatant pandering for the purpose of garnering a Lizzie being grounds for disqualification (I wish I had said it first).
  • I know! Let’s have a spelling contest!
  • I’m your huckleberry.
  • the lull between Randy’s camp and Mesa box scores is a strange, strange time at VFTB.
  • To borrow an illustration from my youth, Braun Johnny Cochraned his way out of trouble.
  • shocking that a member of the Brewers was able to game Bud Selig’s system…
  • When in doubt Raker is right, it is simple enough.
  • My mouse has this little wheel that allows me to quickly pass thru such conversations. I use it every time I see a post from Raker.
  • Poster C: I was in a band in college called Unconditionally Gray
  • I was in a band in college called Poster C.
  • As an aside, this post had 15 comments when I compiled this.  The advanced defensive stats post had 2.
  • Note my commentary completely missing from yesterday’s stat driven post.  Also note, almost all commentary missing.  Just sayin’
  • Cubs pirate pitcher Jeff Samardzija has a new headshot, and it’s a doozy.
  • If you are only sweating because the ambient temperature is hot, then it is not a sport.
  • Well, I’d certainly trade hair with him.
  • Me too.  Athough we can’t really see what is under the cap…  He could be rocking a skullet
  • Seymour, you get Smarja’s head of hair and he get’s your back hair, as volume goes Smarja actually nets out more hair in that deal.
  • Soriano doesn’t like his name in trade rumors, well I don’t like Soriano in a Cubs line up and I bet my point of view get’s more votes than his point of view.
  • I don’t like Soriano trade rumors.  I would prefer they be Soriano trade facts.
  • I can’t fault the collector for following the procedures he was presented with.  It seems to me that the bigger issue is that the company procedures don’t match up with what was agreed upon.
  • Baseball – the sport where it’s good to have herpes.
  •  It’s as if the producers of the MLB Network know that most baseball fans have ADD or the attention span of a gnat
  • I feel like Mark Prior has become the poster boy for young phenoms whose arms turn to mush, and apparently, so does the MLB Network.
  • I don’t even think Stephen can shake more then 5 hands with his right arm this season per day….too many….might get hurt.
  • Next they will restrict extra curricular activities like toilet flushing, blowing your nose and belt tightening as these are all actions that require a full range of motion usually performed with the dominant arm which is typically your throwing arm.
  • If Las Vegas ever gets a major league team I bet a Soriano type contract would end in an insurance claim with a shallow grave in the desert somewhere.
  • I’m just surprised that there were ten previous Joshbgoods.
  • New coach, new players, guys fighting for positions and trying to make a good impression on their new overseers.
  • Maybe it’s the optimism of a new season, the surprising prospect or two who look ready for a promotion, or watching the roster take shape.
  • You won because you identified and created a patsy–because you were willing to fling all kinds of accusations against the wall and just enough of them stuck.  You won because you were able to shift the blame onto someone else and completely dodge the burden of proof.
  • I haven’t had urine on my desk since St. Patty’s Day 2008…


  • Come Monday I can sit here at my desk and listen to Cub baseball!!!!

2012  Full Standings (1 point for each Lizzie, 3 points for the Lizard)

  • jswanson – 27
  • Jeremiah Johnson – 26
  • cap’n Obvious – 25
  • Doc Raker – 25
  • Jedi Johnson – 21
  • Seymour Butts – 19
  • Buddy – 17
  • Chuck – 15
  • Dustin Godsey – 9
  • Chet – 7
  • Kris – 7
  • Doug S. – 5
  • JoeAiello – 5
  • BLPCB – 4
  • flyslinger2 – 4
  • gymjo – 4
  • Josh Cornwall – 3
  • Noah – 3
  • Norm – 3
  • chris in illinois – 2
  • CubbieDude – 2
  • Dragon – 2
  • Katie – 2
  • Tom C – 2
  • Allan – 1
  • Bruce Miles – 1
  • Bryan – 1
  • Danny B – 1
  • David Beyer – 1
  • Eddie Von White – 1
  • Eric Smith – 1
  • Evan – 1
  • Jeremy The Kid Johnson     – 1
  • john – 1
  • Lee – 1
  • Mark P.  – 1
  • mbg – 1
  • MJ – 1
  • randy – 1
  • Rich Beckman – 1

Shout Outs

Congrats to the following folks who got their first  2012 Lizzie this week!

  • David Beyer
  • Evan
  • mbg

Lizzie’s Kitchen

March Madness

Don’t forget we’re running a College Basketball Tournament Pick’em here on VFTB for anyone who cares to participate. It’s just for fun. Time is of the essence since the tournament starts in a week. You can’t pick your bracket until March 11 but you can get yourselves set up ahead of time. I believe we currently have about a dozen participants, and looking at the competition I’m confident I’ll win. Here’s how to prove me wrong.

  • Go to
  • Click on Join a Group (yellow button, middle of page)
  • Click on Join Group (under Accept an Invitation to Join a Group)
  • At this point you’ll be asked to sign into your Yahoo ID or create one if you don’t have one.
  • Also at this point I can’t really continue with the step-by-step instructions since I already have a Yahoo ID and also already signed up for the Tournament. But eventually you’ll need this information:
    Group ID = 4275
    Password = lizzievftb
  • You’ll be asked to create a name for your bracket. It would be helpful if you used something similar to the name you use to post around here but that’s not essential. And you’re welcome to play along even if you never post here.
  • Once the teams in the tournament are determined and the games scheduled, you’ll be able to go back in and actually pick your bracket.

If you have any questions or need any assistance please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at

Chit Chat

The Cubs first WGN-televised spring training game is coming up on Saturday vs. the Brewers (2:05 CT). Will you be watching?

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Season Player Preview: Carlos Marmol

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

When he is on, they say he is untouchable.  When he is off, well, he is so far off it makes you wonder if he should go back to being a catcher.

Carlos Marmol makes you want to scream with joy and anger all in the same at bat.  He has the ability to throw a slider that looks like a strike down the pipe until, at the last moment,  it becomes unhittable with a canoe paddle.  The frustration sets in when he backs it up with a slider that either hangs and gets crushed or starts out in the other teams dugout and was an obvious ball from the moment it left his hand.  Before you know it, the  three run lead you staked your closer is gone in five or six at bats (See August 16th, 2011 against the Houston Astros.)  Carlos Marmol is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of closers.

Closing is an inexact art form.  It’s 1/3 power pitcher, 1/3 location-finesse , and 1/3 crazy all wrapped up in one inning of work that often decides the winner of a game.  Sometimes one of the three qualities overpowers the others.  The only thing that matters is getting batters out…any way you can.  Oh, and the other thing, having a short memory.  We’ll be counting on Carlos to have one of those short memories going into the 2012 season.

2011 was a bit of a disaster for Carlos Marmol.  Losing his job for a stint in mid-July,  he led the league in blown saves (10).  He certainly was a different pitcher from his otherworldly 2010 edition.  The 2010 edition was so good it won him a three year $20 million contract from GM Jim Hendry.  Let’s take a look at a few graphics representing the past few years:

This chart from Fangraphs shows Carlos Marmol’s velocity with his fastball year over year.

As you can see Carlos lost a little off his heater towards the end of 2010 and it continued right into 2011.  Once your fastball starts dropping into the low nineties it loses that other-worldly presence. Now let’s take a look at the slider:

So the slider is speeding up while the fastball is getting slower.   Carlos’ slider, as many do,  tends to lose its horizontal movement when the speed is cranked up too high as seen in the movement charts here.

2011 also saw Marmol’s K/9 rate take a dive down to 12.04 from an astounding 15.99 in 2010.   2011’s numbers are nothing to scoff at, that 12.04 is still quite awesome.  However when we see his ERA ballooned up to 4.01 from 2.55 in 2010 we start to see the rest of the story.  While his GB% stayed about the same his FB/HR ratio jumped from 1.9% up to 7.1% in 2011.  His WHIP also climbed to 1.38, up a little from 1.18 in 2010.

The story on Marmol’s success and failure has always been linked to his fatigue and mechanics.   We hear a lot about arm slots with Carlos.  When he is going good he tends to keep that arm slot high and when he goes bad it drops down.  He definitely has a somewhat violent delivery and can throw his mechanics off at times when he tries to overthrow his pitches.  It will be interesting to see if Chris Bosio is making multiple trips to the mound when Carlos starts to waver in an effort to keep an eye on Carlos and his mechanics.


I have no information on the ZiPS projections but I can tell you that Mr. Bill James sees Carlos logging 36 saves in 2012.  I am going to predict 38.  Mr. James also feels that Carlos will lower his K/9 rate to 11.49 and raise his BB/9 to 6.16.  Here is where I differ.  I think the K/9 rate stays the same.  I also feel he lowers his walk rate to around 5.25.  The defense behind him will make up the difference, as we should see an improvement overall there.  Blown Saves gets back down to a manageable 5 or maybe 6.

In my opinion, that strike out rate and walk rate are the crossroads to Marmol’s performance.  The strikeout gets Marmol out of a lot of jams that the walks get him in to.  If Carlos can regain control with the slider and keep the fastball on the edges of the plate with velocity, we could see 2010 all over again, when he was simply dominant.

Overall, Carlos has got to be one of Chris Bosio’s pet projects this season.  There is a lot of fire power in Carlos Marmol and harnessing that power could be as easy as micro managing the mechanics and keeping Carlos well rested.  I know this for sure, one more bad season and the Cubs could be shopping for a closer in 2013.

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