Archive for June, 2012

Liz-tistics – DH Edition

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I’m giggling as I write this. If you know me even a little bit, you know I know next-to-nothing about baseball statistics. So I made up my own. Called Liz-tistics.

And in this episode, we’ll review the results of my scintillating and scientific designated hitter research in last week’s GirlieView. I know you’ve all been waiting!

  • My hypothesis: Old folks like me, brought up on baseball before the Steroid Era, prefer no designated hitter, while younger people love it.
  • My testing methodology: Ask VFTB readers their preference. And their age.
  • My assumptions: I guessed at the ages of those who didn’t provide them. (Good for another giggle.)
  • My results: My hypothesis was maybe half right. The elderly among us don’t care much for the DH, but young guys don’t either. Only those in their 30s prefer it.

Now where can you find exciting stats such as these as we wind down on a Friday afternoon and wait for a Cubs game? (No real need to answer that!)

Here’s the next Liz-tistics question, and when Joe has an open spot on the writing roster again I’ll be back with the exciting results! (read: because we’re bored and there’s only so much stuff we can rehash this season.)

  • List your top three favorite Cubs in order. They can be anywhere in the system, not just at the MLB level. Thanks for answering!
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Diamondbacks Series Preview

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Friday at 9:40pm EDT – Jeff Samardzija vs. Joe Saunders

Samardzija has struggled on the road, posting a 2-3 record and 6.00 ERA compared to a 2.36 ERA at home. The right-hander has to remember to slow things down and not try to muscle pitches. He has one win in his last six starts. Pitching against his former team on Saturday, Saunders made one costly mistake to the Angels in his six innings. The lefty served up a two-run homer to Mark Trumbo and took the loss, as the D-backs were shut out on one hit against Ervin Santana.

Saturday at 10:10pm EDT – Paul Maholm vs. Ian Kennedy

Maholm is 0-3 with a 5.59 ERA in his past seven starts. In his last outing against the Red Sox, he was charged with two first-inning runs. The lefty now has an 8.31 ERA in the first inning. After allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Rangers on June 12, Kennedy bounced back on Sunday, giving up just two runs to the Angels over eight innings. Unfortunately for the D-backs ace, his offense was shut out for the second straight game.

Sunday at 4:10pm EDT – Matt Garza vs. Wade Miley

Garza earned his first win since April 29 in his last start against the White Sox. He gave up five hits, including home runs to A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, and also struck out six.

How to Pitch to the Big Boys

Each series we’ll take a look at the top three home run hitters in the opposing team’s lineup to establish how to get them out and minimize the damage.

Aaron Hill – 10 HR’s

Paul Goldschmidt – 9 HR’s

Jason Kubel - 8 HR’s

 

 

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Northside Archives: The Resurgent Soriano

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Alfonso Soriano, he’s so hot right now! Hotter than at any time since…

Wait, wait – this isn’t about WHY he’s been hot. Or HOW badly we might need/want to trade him. Or even IF we can expect him to get this hot again anytime soon. I don’t want to talk about his contract, his defense (or lack thereof), his bonehead plays, or any of the other regular Soriano flashpoints.

He’s been absurdly hot, and I want to acknowledge and quantify it.

2012
Coming into play yesterday, he had registered 34 hits in 32 games. More than half of those hits went for extra bases (20). His stat line during those 32 games was .288/.344/.678 – as a point of reference, his career line is .274/.323/.505 – and the best year of his career, the one year with the Nationals, he put up .277/.351/.560; he hasn’t finished a year hitting better than .258 since 2008. He’s been mashing the ball; but he’s also had 8 multi-hit games and a remarkable 9 walks during that stretch as well.

2011
He had 20 extra base hits in 35 games during the second half last year- the best part of that stretch was the end. In 12 games he put up .310/.375/.667 with 7 extra-base hits. Soriano started last season with a 15 game stretch that saw him hit .291/.328/.618 and 8 extra-base hits. Combine his best two 2011 stretches – that’s pretty similar to what this recent barrage has been.

2010
There was another preposterous stretch in May 2010 – in 14 games Soriano battered pitching to the tune of .404/.426./.827 with 12 extra-base hits. He’d started 2010 hitting .356/.396/.667 with 9 extra-base hits in the season’s first two weeks (14 games).

2009
In July 2009, for 16 games he went .410/.455/.623 with 7 extra-base hits. He had more frequent, but milder – and shorter – hot streaks during 2009. He’d go crazy for a series or two and have a rough string of games.

2008
All-Star Soriano went off for 21 games in August 2008 with a line of .348/.398/.618 with 12 extra-base hits. One of his hottest streaks was in May and helped him get to that 2008 All-Star Game. For 12 games he posted an absurd .500/.500/1.065 with 12 extra-base hits. That’s the Soriano that was winning games single-handedly.

2007
But perhaps the stretch that compares most favorably to the current streak, during September 2007 Alfonso propelled the division champs with 28 games of .320/.354/.754 and 25 extra-base hits. It was his hottest, prolonged streak of his initial season as a Cub – and he’s nearly replicated it in his 6th season.

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We Stinks

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

by Michael Jimenez

“We played like a triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team, for the owners, embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing. That’s the word here for this team. We should know better than this. … We stinks.” ~ Carlos Zambrano, former Cubs pitcher, June 5, 2011

What held true last June still holds true today… this team stinks.  The only difference is this year’s team is playing like a AAA team because  the roster is full of players who should be playing at Iowa, not in the confines of Wrigley Field.  It’s also only going to get worse this summer after the team makes the trades many of us expect.  Sure, Anthony Rizzo is coming up within the next few days as his arbitration clock pushes back after June 22nd and we will probably see Brett Jackson at some point this year too, but neither are saviors. Especially not with this team being as bad as it is.

In all of baseball the Cubs offense ranks 3rd to last in WAR, 9th to last in batting average, 3rd to last in on-base percentage, 7th to last in slugging percentage, and 2nd to last in wRC+. The pitching staff has not been much better.  Anchored by Dempster’s Cy Young caliber season thus far the team’s starting pitching is in the middle of the pack.  Our starters rank 15th in WAR, 15th in SIERA, 10th worst in ERA, 16th worst in FIP, 12th worst walk rate and have accumulated the 11th worst strike out percentage.  The bullpen has been horrendous as the Cubs’ relievers rank last in SIERA, 5th worst in ERA, last in FIP, last in BB%, last in K%, and collectively have blown the 4th most saves.

A few seasons of bad baseball is a small price to pay to rebuild the organization for the sustained success Theo and Co. envision.  Developing prospects and stockpiling high draft picks – or assets as Theo likes to call them – is a higher priority than trying to win, with this team, right now.  The Cubs currently sit a half game ahead of the Padres for the worst record in baseball.  In fact, this team is constructed so well to accomplish its goal,  the team is actually on pace for the worst single-season record in the club’s 137 year history.

Year

Winning %

Record

2012

.348

24-45

1962

.364

59-103

1966

.364

59-103

1981

.369

38-65

1901

.381

53-86

It is not all that surprising the 1901 team and the 1981 strike-shortened team did not perform very well, however, those 1960s teams that are currently are atop this list are.  The 1962 club featured four future Hall of Famers including Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo and the 1966 Cubs had Banks, Santo, Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts, and a Hall of Fame manager in Leo Durocher.  I did not expect some of the most talented teams this franchise has ever seen to be associated with the worst teams in franchise history.

As for this year’s team  they are destined for the basement of the NL Central and most likely a record they do not want to be associated with, but we won’t remember the 2012 Cubs for their futility.  No, instead, we will remember it as the first step in the right direction.  It’s not the year we are all waiting for, but it is the year that got us to that year.

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Game 69: Bloops, Walks and Shutout

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I could see it coming from a mile away, The Cubs actually had a few things going for them coming into this game. The White Sox had been struggling, playing terribly at home, Gavin Floyd had given up about 5,000 home runs per start and so you thought the Cubs could win the BP cup. So of course Floyd pitched a 4 hitter and shut the Cubs out thru 6 and a third.

Randy Wells struggled with command, walks killed him, he had 4 in 3.2 innings. When you walk a guy who is hitting .190 in Eduardo Escobar to lead off an inning, it usually doesn’t turn out good. Every Single RBI the White Sox had was hit to the opposite field. Most weren’t hit all that hard. Konerko, Ramirez and Beckham all had bloop hits to right that fell for an RBI. Even Beckham’s three run homer wasn’t hit all the hard but sneaked over the right field wall.

The Cubs had 2 lead off extra base hits and couldn’t get them in. David DeJesus  got a lead off double and as far as he went was third but by that time there were 2 outs and he was stranded. Castro led off the 6th with a triple and for the second straight game the Cubs couldn’t get a lead off triple into score. It’s really pathetic but it has been pathetic all year so at least they are consistent.

DeJesus will be playing center for the foreseeable future, even with LaHair back at first the still stick DeJesus in center. Most likely  meaning when Rizzo comes up next week, they plan on playing LaHair in right regularly.

The game was a pretty tough watch, not a lot of hits, poor pitching and all those bloop hits fell for the Sox. Starting Friday the Cubs play the Diamondbacks who have averaged 10 runs the last three games so the offense will need to pick

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Chet’s Corner: How Do We Rebuild?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

“When you make a mistake in the draft, you just keep drafting. You keep finding another player to develop. When you make a mistake in free agency, you’re stuck with it for the duration of the deal and it can be a real impediment.” ~ Theo Epstein in a recent interview with Boston Globe

I recently stumbled across a piece from Jon Greenberg,  journalist for ESPN Chicago, that not only confused me but left me somewhat irritated.  The column basically states that waiting for prospects to pan out, or building the core of a team from within, is not a realistic way to run a major market ball club.  He then goes on to make note of the recent disastrous high dollar free agent signings made by Theo’s former team, the Boston Red Sox, while Theo was still at the helm.  What left me irked was his blatant pandering to the casual fan with the win now mentality.  He almost encourages the exact same mess we witnessed from the last twelve years.  He also sends a message that high priced free agents can be a risk, after all look what happened to Lackey and Crawford!

I guess I can’t figure out which way he wants the Cubs to go, or maybe he is warning us that Theo has a penchant for making poor decisions on the free agent market.  Whatever it is, the column sounds as desperate as some fans.   I had the pleasure of watching the Cubs play the Tigers last week at Wrigley and also had the pleasure of sitting next to a few terribly ignorant Cub fans.   They spent a chunk of the game bitching about Soriano and his large contract and the rest lamenting the fact that the Cubs didn’t sign Fielder or Pujols.  Some of us aren’t really learning from the past are we?

So here are a few questions for the readers of VFTB…..

1) While every team technically  has a chance to be competitive year in and year out (I mean, why bother playing the games right?), what year do you mark as the Cubs first realistic chance at competing for the post season?

I am going with 2015.  Realistically this team needs a lot of pieces.  It could happen before then, but I don’t see it.

2) Would you support a large, long term free agent signing before the start of the 2013 season at a position of need, or would you rather see the Cubs hold on to the money and attempt to build that position from within throughout the next season or two?

Call me gun shy from Soriano, Bradley, or Fukudome but I would hold the money until we get closer to competing for the division.  Keeping this seasons coming trades in mind and the current youth we have in the system,  I would hate to see a player get blocked by another big contract before we even get out of the gate.

3) This trade deadline should be a busy one for the Cubs, what potential move or moves will mark it as successful in your mind?

I am keeping mine simple, I would like to see us acquire a top 15 overall prospect and try to find a suitor for Soriano.

That’s about it, what are your thoughts on the rebuild process? Can you wait it out or do we need to start competing for the post season soon?

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Farm Report – Team OPS Leaders

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

If you follow the minor leagues, you may have heard how some leagues are “pitchers leagues” and some are “hitters leagues”. Included below in the team leaders are the league averages. The raw numbers tell you a little about a player, the numbers relative to the league they play in tell you a little bit more. Matt Szczur might have a higher OPS than Arismendy Alcantara, but the latter’s age, relative to the rest of the league, makes his offensive performance a bit more impressive than Szczur’s.

As you can see, Iowa plays in quite the hitters league, with an average OPS of 775. In fact, that is the highest of any of the minor leagues. So while it’s nice that Josh Vitters has nearly an 800 OPS, he’s basically a bad game or two away from average. On the plus side, he’s significantly younger than the average AAA player. These are a couple of factors that people seem to leave out of their analysis and is also a reason why I, for one, am not ready to give up on Josh Vitters being a big league regular.

The average age could be a bit misleading, however. For example, AAA has a number of 30+ year old men to skew it on the high side. Also, guys like Peoria’s Paul Hoilman is also skewing the average age for the Midwest League by playing there instead of Daytona. And that would be one reason why Hoilman isn’t really much of a prospect.

Three players on this list, not including Anthony Rizzo, intrigue me:

  1. Junior Lake is having an excellent season in AA, at the plate anyway (he’s struggling in the field and on the basepaths this year). What I like most is the career best walk and strikeout rates. If those continue to hold, he’s got a future in Chicago at some yet to be determined position, be it third base or perhaps right field, where he can showcase his arm.
  2. Kevin Goldstein recently commented on Arismendy Alcantara saying he has the tools to stick at shortstop, has plus speed, and described him as a line drive hitter with a quick bat. Scout see him as a utility player at the least, with the chance to be an everyday guy. I’m a big fan of his performance as he is the 8th youngest player in the Florida State League.
  3. 2011′s top draft pick, Javier Baez, is crushing the ball down in Peoria. It’s a small sample, but there has been a lot of hype about his power and quick bat. He’s also showing some speed with 7 stolen bases without being caught, in only 18 games. He’s still playing shortstop, but a move to the hot corner is likely in his future.

So, anyone in particular impressing you? Besides Anthony Rizzo, of course.

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Game 68: So This is What a Bullpen Looks Like

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I’ll admit it, I didn’t have high hopes with the matchup tonight. Jake Peavy against Travis Wood, on the surface, doesn’t seem very fair, but the Cubs did just enough to squeak out a win and secure a series win thanks to a good outing from Wood and some clutch pitching from the pen for the second straight night. What’s crazy, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I think we can still win that stupid BP cup trophy if we win tomorrow night. That would mean a series split and it’s my understanding that the winner of the final game is the tiebreaker for some stupid reason.

  • Bob was audibly frustrated with Buckner as home ump as Len was announcing who was working the plate, which makes me laugh. Buckner is not known for being a good umpire, but Bob’s reaction made me laugh out loud. I really enjoy the fact that he wears his frustrations on his sleeve. It made me wonder how he would speak to Buckner if he was nose to nose in an argument with him if he were to still be managing. Would he insult his ability to call a game? I’d pay to hear that conversation.
  • Wood did a good job to get out of the second with limited damage. I thought about the fact that we could shake off the hook with the eight hitter up. I thought if we could just get him, then we get the pitcher. Then, I remembered this was the AL rules.
  • Tony Campana continues to frustrate me by showing bunt each and every at bat he gets. His speed is a tremendous asset that is valuable when he can get on base. Why he feels that it also means that the only way he can get on base is by bunting is beyond me. In my opinion, he should be showing bunt less and focus more on just putting the ball in play and using his speed to force the fielders to be perfect in not only the fielding of the ball, but the throw. I see his comp to be Juan Pierre. If he can model his game after him, he will be just fine.
  • The White Sox have never had a 50 home run season by a hitter. That surprises me considering the numbers of seasons put up by Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko.
  • As I was watching, I had a thought that might be fun. It will probably be shouted down, but that’s ok. What if, for one inning, the broadcast booths were combined to form one booth made up of the home and away television teams. The team who is at bat would have their play by play guy due the primary work for that half inning while the other three would serve as glorified color guys. The main concept would be the niter action between the broadcasters and discussions that would take place. That would be interesting to me.
  • If you missed the highlight reel catch by Starlin Castro in the 5th, take a minute and watch it on the highlights. I thought for sure that the bloop hit was going to drop in left center but Castro got to it, knocked it off his glove and then barehanded it. Outstanding grab. I don’t watch Baseball Tonight, which seems wrong since its an ESPN blog, so if someone that does can let me know that catch came in on the web gems countdown, I would appreciate it.
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Book Review: Wherever I Wind Up

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

I don’t write many book reviews so the fact that I’m writing my second in less than a month is a little surprising. I tend to write them when the book that I read was really enjoyable. That’s the case with the biography / memoir of R.A. Dickey, Wherever I Wind Up.

When I first received this one in my mailbox, I was reluctant to pick it up because it wasn’t Cubs related. I didn’t feel like it would interest me. Then I began to hear some of the reviews of it and decided to see what it had to say. What I was greeted with was a memoir that I enjoyed just as much if, if not more, than similar books by Tony Dungy, Josh Hamilton, and Jim Bouton.

“Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” is available on Amazon. Click the image to be taken to the page.

For those not familiar with Dickey, and that is totally understandable before this year, he’s one of the only players in the Majors who still throws the knuckle ball with any regularity. Coming out of the University of Tennessee, Dickey was a member of the USA Olympic team and a highly touted power pitcher going into the 1996 draft where he was selected by the Rangers 18th overall. The book discusses that process and the bad news he was given just hours before being ready to sign his contract. From there it takes you through dealing with those struggles while battling a host of other demons in his life while continuing to pursue his dream.

What I liked most about the book is his open and honest attitude with the reader. It’s not a book for kids, as Dickey discussing things like sexual abuse that he was a victim of, but it’s blatantly honest writing from someone who is still in baseball and doing very well these days. That’s hard to do when you know fans and teammates will be reading and could use that information to be harsh and cruel. Dickey opens his heart on how the abuse affected him in his life and how he dealt with it.

He also discusses his marriage and how that struggled as a result of his past and how he dealt with those struggles as well while maintaining the life of a fringe prospect bouncing from organization to organization trying to find a permanent home for his family and his career. It takes a big man to admit failure as man when it comes to things like being a husband and a father and Dickey does it openly, humbly and honestly.

Finally, the central theme running throughout the book is Dickey’s relationship with Christ. I make no secret about my faith and have mentioned it on here a few times to mixed feelings. I’m not going to sit here and preach about why you need to believe the way I do on this forum. If you want to talk more about that, e-mail me. Instead, I want to encourage you to not let the mention that a major theme of the book is his Christian walk deter you from reading it. Whether you agree with those views or not, the book should not turn you off as a result.

Overall, Dickey’s memoir is well written, thoughtful, and very informative. I would highly recommend picking it up. It’s an easy read that you can have finished in just a few sittings.

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