Archive for July, 2012

How Has Carlos Marmol Changed?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I want you to close your eyes for a second….well, now that I think about that maybe that’s a dumb thing to say because it means you can’t read the rest of the post. Anyway, pretend you’re closing your eyes and imagining back to 2007. Imagine watching Carlos Marmol, a pitcher out of the bullpen for the Cubs who was flat out dominant. In case your memory is not that good, here is a quick refresher on the numbers that year.

To put it bluntly in a way all the cool kids these days would understand, his stuff was sick that year. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder he even garnered some MVP votes. It was lights out when Marmol came into the game, regardless of situation that season. As a result, his ascent to the closer role began.

Now, open your eyes if you were dumb enough to still have them closed, and fast forward to 2012 and the disaster that is Marmol as a closer. Things are not quite the same for the right-hander who has seen his stock fall to some of the worst it’s been in quite some time. What happened? How can a guy go from posting a 1.43 ERA to being demoted from the closer’s role and being scorned by fans? It doesn’t make sense. There has to be a cause.

I decided to look at some secondary statistics to make some observations. Are they the reason for the decline? I don’t know. They could be. I’m not an expert, just a fan with an opinion and access to the internet (i.e. – I have no idea what I’m talking about).

The first thing I took a look at was his pitch selection. Perhaps there is a difference in how he’s approaching the hitters. Below is a breakdown of Marmol’s usage of his two primary pitches, the fastball and the slider courtesy of Fan Graphs

Looking at those numbers you’ll notice that with the exception of this season, his fastball usage has declined each year, while his reliance on his slider has increased. There must be a reason that is causing that change, so let’s dig a little deeper to search for why Marmol would alter the formula that was so successful in 2007.

In his time in the Majors, here is his effectiveness based on the two pitches:

Looking at those two charts, there are a few things that stand out.

  • The ability to strike guys out with the fastball is just not there anymore, which the ability to strike hitters out with the slide still remains just as strong as it’s ever been.
  • His ability to control the slider has declined each year which is evidenced by the increased walk rate on the slider.
  • The fastball has become very hittable, to the tune of a batting average over .300 the last two seasons.

As I did more research in an attempt to explain the loss of effectiveness when it comes down to the fastball, I could find only one thing…movement, which leads us to one more chart.

Look at the drop off in movement in 2011 and 2012. It’s a direct correlation to the spike in batting average against. If you throw a fastball to hitters, no matter how fast you throw it, they’re going to catch up to it if it’s not moving. You can’t just rely on heat alone. It doesn’t work. As for the ability to control the slider, I’m not sure I know how to explain that, but when you can’t control that and you’re throwing a flat fastball, you’re going to get hit and get hit hard.

The conclusion to all of this? Well, there really isn’t one. What I set out to do is make some observations. We’ve done that and come to the conclusion that his pitches are just not as effective as they were in the past. I know it sounds like a captain obvious (not that one) statement, but hopefully this was more a look at why the drop in effectiveness.

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GirlieView (07/26/2012)

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Hope you’re enjoying this countdown to the trade deadline. Maybe something real will happen at some point! But let’s not bother ourselves with that right now. We’ve got Lizzies to award!

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks)
  • Top 10 of 2012 = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Let’s go!


  • The Capn is 40 and batted under the mendoza line against 60 year olds, he still needs some seasoning so we sent him down to play with the 70 year olds until he finds his swing.
  • The scoring isn’t perfect, but it’s better than calling a hard hit ground ball through an Actuary’s legs a base hit.
  • Triple slashes mean nothing without a BABIP to anchor them in reality.
  • it reminds us that agents of an institution will protect the entity of the institution before protecting individual victims of the institution.
  • Paterno wasn’t the complete scumbag that Sandusky is, but he is just as culpable.  He could have put a stop to it.
  • If I have to choose a lesser evil, let it be the Pirates
  • this is the most anticipated trade deadline I can remember.
  • I think a fake mustache would be the icing on the cake of wooing him.
  • Of course if you were related to Raker, the moustache would not be fake.
  • the worst seats in Wrigley are still seats in Wrigley.
  • I created a player the exact height, weight and skill set as Anthony Rizzo in the Road to the Show game style of PS3′s The Show. Naturally I named the player after myself because who wouldn’t actually want to be the savior of the Cubs? Early numbers aren’t promising.
  • we don’t have to worry about the dignity of being a competitive team for long.
  • mark it down, July 15 2012 Raker admits he was wrong.
  • The Marmol sweats
  • If this roster is gutted (Let’s hope!) Our return to worst in MLB will be swift and magnificent.
  • a good bat will not make a bad hitter good but the wrong bat sure can make a good hitter bad
  • tchotchkes
  • I still think they should have had Fontenot mullet-head bobbling in the boat with Theriot.  Arm in arm.
  • Better. Best would have been if Fontenot was caught on the end of his fishing line.
  • Under different circumstances, [Ozzie] might have been our manager this season.  Dale looks even better by comparison, doesn’t he?
  • Jim Hendry called Thed, he wants Jeff Baker as a Yankee, they offered Billy Martin and a gift card to Togo’s, not a bad deal.
  • there was an interesting tidbit that said it would take me (unemployed) 90 years to make his annual salary.  Well, back at the job hunt as I don’t expect to live until 134.
  • I read a tweet last night that Wood was cruising toward a no hitter. Can’t believe a thing you read on twitter.
  • People can post crazy things on Twitter sometimes.
  • “I’ve waited my whole life and they are finally playing well and we are going to tear them apart?  They could make the post season!”  I almost ripped my stereo out and threw it into oncoming traffic.
  • I can’t wait for them to gut this sucker and start over.
  • Never did I ever think that making a simple plea for rain for farmers would be the most controversial/debated thing I could write for this site.
  • In the history of modern medicine, no sober cardiologist has ever ordered or eaten the pile of cholesterol and triglycerides known as the grand slam breakfast. On the flip side, it is a favorite of chubby realtors and eye chiropractors.
  • What shape are your feet?  If square or round you never have to worry about putting your foot in your mouth.
  • They are playing well of late, but I predict they fade like a Doc Raker 3 wood.
  • Cruel joke, Cap is well aware of Raker’s inability to use wood. Lens grinding accident, made a spectacle of himself,  and was permanently maimed.
  • It’s one thing to beat the Diamondbacks and the Marlins. It’s another thing to stay hot on the road against the leaders in your division.
  • Jeans Shorts Nation
  • Dear God I hate the Cards.
  • The good was as scarce as rain
  • Speaking of trade rumors, has anyone heard anything about Dempster possibly being traded?
  • Just goes to show us that we don’t know what Theo is thinking.
  • If they’re that bad with substance abuse, imagine how terrible they’d be without.
  • The MVP of the weekend was an easy choice. Vicki Santo was eloquent, funny, charming, and gracious as she gave Ron’s Hall of Fame speech on his behalf Sunday.
  • Perhaps I’m just unaware of the species of shark known for sporting skeevy facial hair and losing sight of the strike zone for weeks at a time–after all, I’m no Jacques Cousteau.
  • Sports reporting is especially crappy these days.
  • Crank that Soler Boy!
  • Petulant fans step aside and pipe down.
  • you are the only one looking out for you and yours.
  • [Lalli] was passed over in favor of Koyie Hill as the backup catcher at one point this season. When you see that sentence in a summary of a player, it’s safe to say there is not much in his future.


  • I’m offering up, “Cubs offense pulled e-brake and slammed into a bridge abutment.”

Shout Outs

Congratulations to the following commenters who received their first 2012 Lizzie this week. Thanks for hanging out with us! We’re happy to have you here!

  • Bigcubsfanintx
  • Christopher Allen
  • Jamie Giffin


  • Congratulations to Jeremiah Johnson, the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around! Twice in a row! Way to go Jeremiah!

Top 10 of 2012

1. Jeremiah Johnson
2. Doc Raker
3. jswanson
4. Jedi Johnson
5. Seymour Butts
6. cap’n Obvious
7. Buddy
8. JoeAiello
9. Chuck
10. Chet

Lizzie’s Kitchen

  • No recipe needed for these. Just add some toppings to your favorite dish to turn it into Olympic celebration food!

Chit Chat

As you’ve probably guessed, I adore the Olympics and they start tomorrow so I’m a happy gal! There are 36 sports making up the summer olympics (you can see them all here, but just for fun you might try naming them first to see how many you can get. I think I got about 10 when I first tried!)

Interesting tidbit: This is the first Olympics in which women will be represented in all sports. Those newly introduced to the Olympics have been required to offer competition for women since the early 90s, but existing sports had many years to comply. The final sport is complying this year (want to guess what it is? I’ll be back later with the answer.)

Interesting’er tidbit: The Opening Ceremonies (Friday, July 27, NBC, 7:30 pm E/6:30 pm C) will feature live animals. (I have always wanted to be a farmer. If my programming gig ever goes belly up, you’ll find me out in the country with a pitchfork wearing chaps!) 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese, 7 sheep, and 3 sheepdogs will entertain us along with some 15,000 humans.

My chit chat questions for today:

  • Do you enjoy the Olympics and will you watch?
  • And, what’s your favorite competition?

I like the common favorites but please allow me to introduce you to one of the less popular Olympic sports: Trampoline. With only two days of competition (Men August 3, Women August 4) you’ll miss it if you blink so keep those dates in mind. It’s worth seeing. We have a guy in our subdivision who thinks he looks fierce jumping around on his backyard setup. Let me assure you, this is NOT your neighbor’s trampoline!


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Alfonso Soriano’s Elite Defense

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There’s three significant factors to being a good defensive outfielder.  First, you must have good instincts.  Quickly figuring out the trajectory of the ball off the bat can buy a good defender a few steps over an average defender who is slower to respond.  Second, and most obvious is, speed matters.  The ability to get to spots that slower players cannot get to is imperative to be strong defensively.  The third, and most undervalued is the arm.  Stopping hitters from trying to snag an extra bag or scoring on hits into the outfield saves runs and can potentially wins games but you don’t see this unless the runner is thrown out.  It’s difficult to quantify these factors but strides have been made with Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Baseball-Reference’s Total Zone (TZ) stats. Defensive metrics still have a ways to go, but you can get a good picture on a player’s defensive abilities by looking at the aggregate of the past few years of UZR and TZR.

As for Alfonso Soriano’s defense the narrative has been something like he’s horrible out there and he’s better off being a DH in the American League.  However, the advanced metrics paint an entirely different picture:



Ultimate Zone Rating




Best defender

Worst Defender



Alfonso Soriano, 32

Pat Burrell, -20.9



Carl Crawford, 16.4

Delmon Young, -19.4



Carl Crawford, 17.5

Ryan Braun, -13.4



Brett Gardner, 25.7

Jonny Gomes, -17.7



Brett Gardner, 25.2

Raul Ibanez, -18.9



Alex Gordon, 11.2

Carlos Gonzalez, -17.9



Total Zone Runs Above Replacement




Best defender

Worst Defender



Alfonso Soriano, 18

Jason Bay, -17



Carl Crawford, 18

Delmon Young, -20



David DeJesus, 15

Carlos Lee, -14



Brett Gardner, 21

Jonny Gomes, -24



Brett Gardner, 31

Raul Ibanez, -23



Alfonso Soriano, 19

Carlos Gonzalez, -14

*qualified players only
Looking at these charts, you can see Soriano has been far better than average (which is represented as zero) most of the time. Only once has his UZR dipped below average and only twice did his TZ. Never has he been horrible or even close to the worst defensive LFer in baseball.   Placing him against his contemporaries Soriano ranks as the best defensive LFer since 2007 using UZR. This year he ranks second trailing only Kansas City’s Alex Gordon.  According to TZR he ranks as the 4th best defensive LFer among active players trailing only Carl Crawford, Brett Gardner, and Johnny Damon.  He is also tied for the 24th best LFer since 1954.  Even more intriguing is Soriano has the best UZR since 2007 out of every player in baseball at their respective positions. All signs point to a good-great defensive left fielder.

When trying to figure out why the narrative contradicts the stats I can come up with two explanations.  First, Cubs fans just don’t like him. For some reason as if Soriano is bullying children for their lunch money to get every last cent of Chicago as possible, fans have given Soriano a short leash.  I completely acknowledge there is merit in the arguments that he’s overpaid, was the best player on 2 teams that got swept straight out of the playoffs, and is the poster boy for the failures of the previous regime.  But I also acknowledge that his contract was a byproduct of Sam Zell trying to squeeze every cent out of the sale of the team as he used back loaded overpriced contracts that left the new ownership with the bill; he was on pace to be worth every cent of that deal until a guy who never got injured had a freak injury that left a baseball sized hole in his leg; he’s been a mentor to young players his entire tenure here in Chicago; he’s well liked among all of his teammates; and everyday he goes out there and plays as hard as he is physically capable of despite the criticism.  How easily could he have pulled a Milton Bradley (the real poster boy for the failures of Hendry), flipped the middle finger and said I have 136M reasons to not care what you people think…?

My second and better explanation is his defense is just plain ugly.  He had that hop, he doesn’t look very fluid while running, he has the ugliest slides/dives I’ve ever seen, and then there’s those times he dropped routine fly balls for errors which seemed to come in bunches.  But I don’t think the stats lie, the overall numbers say he’s been barely below average at his very worst and one of the best defensive LFers the rest of the time. As for my litmus test of good defenders, Soriano makes great reads off the bat, has enough speed left to get to most balls, and still has that really great arm. He shouldn’t be playing right or center, but as far as left fielders go, he’s definitely near the top of my personal list of active players.

I’ve always been a Soriano defender though so maybe I am biased in support of him.   Are you guys believers of Soriano’s D or do you think there’s something wrong with the advanced defensive metrics? Do you have a better explanation for the difference between the narrative and the stats? Leave your comments below and I’ll check back in to see your opinions.

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Game 97: Dempster Denied, Management Miffed, Cubs Lose

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Cubs 2 @ Pirates 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Apologies to Dustin, he had the unenviable posting time of 4pm EST on a day where the Cubs played at 12:35pm EST. Definitely give his article The Plight of the Unwanted a look.

Dempster On The Mound:
A ‘quality start’ today, but just barely. 6 IPs, 5 hits, 3 ERs, but 2 costly HRs. Each of Pittsburgh’s solo shots tied the game, and eventually the Pirates took the lead on Garrett Jones’ 6th inning double. Kevin Correia was better today, and I hear he’d be open to pitching for the Braves.

Dempster Off The Mound:
I realize this will be a point of contention, but nonetheless I’m going to go there. Dempster’s public behavior the last few days belies all those stories you hear about him being the consummate professional. A quick reminder of the facts and reported suspicions:

1. FACT: The Cubs worked for days, perhaps even weeks, to get Dempster traded to the Dodgers. This was Dempster’s first wish – if traded, he preferred LAD.

2. FACT: The Cubs and Dodgers could not agree on players.

3. FACT: The Cubs shifted their attention to the second team on Dempster’s wish list, the Braves.

4. FACT: Sometime on Monday the Cubs and Braves reached an agreement on the players involved in a trade centered around Dempster.

5. FACT: Someone leaked specifics of this potential CHC/ATL deal to the media; Dempster balked – his approval is inexplicably still pending.

6. FACT: Dempster spent the vast majority of two straight days reiterating, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that his preference is for the Dodgers.

7. FACT: Two days later, the Braves have said they’ve moved on. That deal is dead. REPORTEDLY: The Dodgers have zero incentive to boost their offer since Dempster has removed most of the Cubs’ leverage. There is no LAD deal in sight.

8. REPORTEDLY: The Cubs are now 1) waiting for Dempster to change his mind about ATL, 2) waiting for the Dodgers to up their offer, and/or 3) resigned to the fact that if neither of those things occurs they’ll make Dempster a qualifying offer after the season ends and gain a compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere in free agency.

9. REPORTEDLY: At no point in this process has there been any requirement for Dempster to sign an extension with either the Dodgers or the Braves – every report to that effect has been pure speculation. Even ATL GM Frank Wren has suggested that wasn’t a condition. This disagreement is quite literally about where Dempster will pitch in August and September.

10. REPORTEDLY: Multiple reports have the Cubs front office understandably frustrated that everything unraveled so quickly and needlessly. If it was the Braves who leaked the info that led to Dempster’s decisive indecision, the Cubs are just about the only party here that hasn’t actively launched a grenade on this process.

I’ll sum up my problem with Dempster in a word – duplicitous. You don’t give your employer a short list of teams to which you’d be willing to be traded, and then renege when an agreement is reached with the second team on that list. Presumably if there was a good reason for Dempster to balk at the ATL deal, he would’ve blurted it out in 140 characters already. While Dempster has rushed to Twitter and the media to be sure his message is understood, the Cubs front office has been very professional.

Back To The Game:
The Cubs lost today in large part because only Anthony Rizzo and David DeJesus were able to hit the ball hard. In a familiar storyline, the Cubs didn’t see an overwhelming amount of pitches, and only managed two walks to go with their five hits. That’s not a lot of scoring opportunities. Barney was the only other Cub to get a hit.

DeJesus’ Double:
In the 3rd, DeJesus hit a ball that found the seats in RF. It didn’t bounce, but second base umpire Country Joe West ‘saw’ that some fans in RF had interfered and he determined it to be a ground-rule double. Watch the replay, even if that the case (and I don’t think it is), there’s no way any infield umpire could’ve possibly seen that. The closest position player to the ball (Pirates’ CF, Andrew McCutchen) didn’t voice even the slightest of complaints upon viewing the play live from about 20 feet away. West is famous for being stubbornly wrong – a good rule of thumb with Country Joe, the more stubborn he is, the more wrong he is. The video evidence was deemed to be inconclusive. In the end, it didn’t really matter, DeJesus came around to score on Rizzo’s single two batters later.

The Cubs have an off day tomorrow, they’ll resurface on Friday at Wrigley against the Cardinals. That is Ron Santo Day at the park, and one can only hope that the Dempster saga doesn’t drag on until then.

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The Plight of the Unwanted

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012


Three months ago, I walked into my boss’ (now, former-boss’) office in Philadelphia and told him that I had accepted a position with another company and was resigning. He looked at me, shook my hand and asked why I was leaving. I loved my job, worked for a great company, and had the pleasure of working with some of the top people in my industry. However, for a myriad of reasons, including family matters, it was time for me to go. Upon hearing my explanation, he didn’t stand in my way, didn’t push me to stay…he knew I didn’t want to be there anymore and he let me go. Fighting for someone who doesn’t want to be there isn’t worth it, they just end up being unhappy and leaving down the road…often under even worse circumstances.

More recently in Philadelphia, at the same arena that I worked at, a situation similar to mine (plus hundreds of millions of dollars) played out with much different results. For those who don’t follow hockey (which I would bet is most of you), the Philadelphia Flyers signed Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (a restricted free agent, but aren’t we all…) to a huge offer sheet. Weber indicated to anyone that would listen that he no longer wanted to be in Nashville and desired strongly to be in Philadelphia, even if the Predators matched the offer and leveled the playing field.

So what did Nashville do? They, of course, matched the offer and retained their best player…their best player who clearly no longer wanted to be there. The Predators were the unwanted, but thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, they had the leverage and could force an unhappy employee to stay under their control. This is probably a smart move in the short term, but how does it play out down the road? Will Weber simply set his personal desires aside for the next 14 years? My guess is no. The unwanted rarely come out victorious.

Take a trip south on I-95 from Philadelphia and eventually you’ll end up in (or near, at least) Orlando. If you’re on Twitter, or watch SportsCenter, or are mildly interested in sports, you know what has been going on with Dwight Howard for the past year. The Magic are the unwanted, but they control the situation. Rather than cut the unhappy party loose, they’ve overplayed their perceived trump card (control over contract and trade price) and are in the process of potentially devastating their franchise for years. All of this was done in the name of keeping someone who doesn’t want to be there. The unwanted lose again.

Here in Cubs-fandom, we’ve watched this play out from the opposite side for the past few days. The Cubs have made it clear to Ryan Dempster that they no longer want him. They’ve had conversations with him, and tried to make the split amicable, but in the end he holds the chips. He has collectively bargained rights that allow him to block the team that doesn’t want him from sending him somewhere he’s not sure he wants to be.

Quite honestly, I don’t blame him a bit (nor do I blame the Predators or Magic for their positions). Being the jilted lover is hard, and it takes time to get over being cast aside, but what is it that Dempster gets from failing to accept the fate that comes along with being a part of the unwanted? Two more months playing for a bad team? A transformation from beloved fan-favorite to scourge of the fanbase? The unwanted never win, even when they’re in control. We’ll miss you Demp, but the sooner you recognize this point, the sooner we can all move on. Yourself included.

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Searching for the Next Bryan LaHair

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Over the last few years, Cubs fans have been “treated” to a couple of guys that many consider too old to be considered a prospect that have come up from the minor leagues and contributed to the big league team. One good…and one bad. Who is the next to fill that role?

At the age of 28, Micah Hoffpauir came up to the Cubs in 2008 and saw 80 plate appearances to the tune of .340 / .400 / .534 with 10 extra base hits. Immediately he stole hearts of many Cubs fans who made him their boyfriend only to come back in 2009 and 2010 and produce poorly before leaving to play in Japan. His performance left those fans feeling like they gave up their innocence only to be burned by the boyfriend who moved on to the next person with no regards to what they had. As of the 23rd, here are his numbers in Japan:

Let’s just say his performance leaves something to desire. It’s no wonder Cubs fans were a bit apprehensive when it came to the hype surrounding Bryan LaHair when Theo and Jed announced that he was going to win the job out of spring training at first base, blocking the prized prospect, Anthony Rizzo. It’s no wonder they felt like they would give their hearts to another only to once again have them broken by an older player considered a non-prospect due to his age. His story has been different. His stats have not dipped. He’s maintained his offensive production despite, for the most part, being a dud in the field. That got me wondering who are some other names down on the farm who are a little older that may eventually get to the Majors to make an impact, even if it’s later in their baseball careers.

A quick look through the system reveals seven names that have seen a decent amount of plate appearances this year that are old enough to probably take the prospect tag off of. Let’s take a look at them.

Alfredo Amezaga – I actually almost excluded him from the list because of the fact that he’s seen the most service time in the Majors of all the people on the list combined, but I included him for one reason. Rumors are swirling that the Tigers are interest in the services of Darwin Barney. If he goes, it means there is a spot for another infielder to be called up. I don’t anticipate it would be Amezaga, considering he’s not even on the 40 man roster, but if we’re searching for the next LaHair, we’re going to turn over rocks with nothing under them.

James Adduci – The outfielder has spent nine seasons in the minors and the only thing that the Evergreen Park, IL native has to show for it is the fact that his dad still leads the Major League hit contest 34-0. He’s a speedy outfielder with a little more power than Tony Campana, which isn’t saying much. He’s hitting the ball well this year, but he’d need to see someone removed from the 40 man roster to get his chance. Best case scenario for Jimmy is that somehow he catches the eye of Theo and Jed. Worst case scenario is he catches the eye of Katie, who has a thing for speedy little outfielders.

Matt Tolbert – 30 years old, hitting .249 with no power at third base. Yeah, no thanks. We can get crappy production like that from Luis Valbuena. Moving on.

Rebel Ridling – About three years ago I interviewed Ryan Flaherty and I asked him to name a teammate that people wouldn’t know much about who fans should watch. His answer was Ridling. This year he’s failed to produce, but it appears he may be plagued by the dreaded every other year syndrome so I’m willing to be patient for one more season.

Ty Wright – He’s not really been considered a top prospect in quite some time. Drafted out of Oklahoma State University by the Cubs in the 7th round in 2007, Wright has put up decent numbers over his career in the minors. In six seasons, he’s hit .296 / .356 / .434. He just hasn’t done anything to stand out and it’s got to be frustrating for him to produce nicely and not get a look.

Greg Rohan – See Matt Tolbert

That brings us to our last possible option for the next Bryan LaHair

Blake Lalli – Of all the names on the list, Lalli is the only one on the 40 man roster, which explains why he’s the only one who has seen any service time with the big club this season. Unfortunately, in six games he managed just two hits and was passed over in favor of Koyie Hill as the backup catcher at one point this season. When you see that sentence in a summary of a player, it’s safe to say there is not much in his future.

So there you have it. A look at the farm system shows very few prospects capable of being the next Bryan LaHair. On the positive side, I think we did locate seven seriously capable of being the next Micah Hoffpauir. That’s always nice…everyone likes Hoffpauir.

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Game 96: Discussions on Trades and Paul Maholm’s Gem

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Admit it, it’s hard to watch the game and not think about the trade deadline. I find myself constantly checking Twitter to see if there are any new rumors, especially regarding the Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza situation. Because of that, I feel compelled to talk about it despite the fact that it has nothing to do with tonight’s game.

The are a lot of mixed feelings right now toward Dempster. Suddenly, a guy considered a fan favorite has drawn the scorn from Cubs fans who consider his decision to be childish. Even on this site there are mixed feelings. To be honest, I don’t know what the right feeling is because I can understand both sides.

On one side of the argument, it’s understandable to see Dempster’s side. He’s played by the rules and earned the no-trade clause because of a rule that was collectively bargained by the players and the owners. Why should he be expected to suddenly waive that right? Imagine if you worked for Apple, and you had worked for them for a long time and were happy there. Suddenly they come to you and say they’ve decided to move you to IBM and you have to move to another state. My first reaction would be to ask what’s in it for me, to which the reply, “nothing, but it helps us as an organization and since you’ve been here for so long and care about the company, you’d want to see that, right?” Stop and think about that conversation for a second and look at it in that context. It would be absolutely unheard of. Why is it any different when it comes to baseball?

The other side of the argument is that Theo and Jed spoke with Dempster, expressed the desire to move him for pitching and asked where he preferred. He gave them two particular teams with the Dodgers being preference number one. As a result, the first team that was called was the Dodgers and there was rumors that a deal was close on Thursday night. That fell through so the Cubs moved on to the Braves (Dempster’s # 2 team). Nowhere in these discussions did they come to Dempster with a team not on his list and try to put pressure on him to accept. As a result, you can argue that he should accept the deal to the Braves considering it was a team on his list and to not do so and drag discussions out is selfish.

No matter which way you feel, I think you’re justified. The problem is that this has brought out the worst in Cubs “fans”. A quick check of the #Dempster tag reveals the following:

  • “I don’t care if it makes you look bad. Threaten to bench Ryan Dempster for the rest of this season.”
  • “I’m good with demoting Dempster to closer too. He’ll shit himself under the pressure as normal and it’ll help the #Cubs improve draft-wise.”

This person falls into neither category so I cannot defend his position. Ultimately, I believe the deal will happen with Atlanta, followed by a Garza deal to LA shortly after. Maybe that’s me being optimistic, but I think it’s still going to happen.

Turning our attention to the game itself, there was talk that tonight’s starter, Paul Maholm, may not leave Pittsburgh because he would be acquired by the Pirates to fill a need in the rotation for them. There were rumors going around that they were interested, but those rumors have all but died as it was announced late in the game that the Pirates had acquired the services of Wandy Rodriguez. Maholm continues to pitch well for the Cubs, which makes him that much more attractive to teams looking for a starter down the stretch at a cheaper price than Dempster or Garza. He’s signed through this season with a team option for 2013 at a rate of $.65 million with a $500K buyout. Based on how he’s pitched, the value on the trade market should still be there for Maholm and I would be surprised if he’s a Cub after the deadline.

Offensively, five runs of offense was more than enough for Maholm. Alfonso Soriano continues to swing the bat well and keep the potential for him to be traded on the table. He’s been more than acceptable offensively to go with the fact that, believe it or not, he’s been average to above average defensively. In case you didn’t know, he’s not committed an error all season. From a defensive metric standpoint, he basically grades out at league average in most of the categories. His value this year has been strong and it’s been clear that he’s not the problem, aside from his contract, this season.

Tomorrow afternoon the Cubs will go for the sweep of the Pirates, a team I believe is over-rated. I’ve taken to Twitter the last few days and proclaimed that I believe they are the third best team in the division at best and that they will not make the playoffs this season.

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Pulling For The Underdog

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012



Everybody loves the Cubs; The underdogs, the Lovable Losers. What’s not to love? The Cubs have team history that is filled with iconic players like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, and announcers like Harry Caray – it doesn’t matter where you go or who you talk to, people recognize those names. Wrigley Field is a travel destination of baseball fans around the world. There is only one thing that Cubs are missing: A World Series championship in the Modern Era.

To some, it’s a joke. To others, it’s a dream. Regardless of their lot in life, people want to see the Cubs win. Even Cardinals’ fans, in the deepest recesses of their rotten hearts, would like to see the Cubs win one just once.

Everybody pulls for the underdog at some point. The Cubs just happen to be the perennial underdog that is just out of reach of the goal, regardless of the talent of the players on the field or the reputation of the coaches in the dugout. Even the strongest fan base in baseball cannot pull them out of the mire of perpetual losing.

Baseball fans, regardless of the team, respect the Cubs’ fan base and its unconditional loyalty to the team and the players. It is a fan base that allows Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano grace the backs of fans from all walks of life. It is fan base in which kids still dream of being Sammy Sosa, hitting a home run off the Budweiser rooftop across Waveland. It is fan base that seems to remember and love everybody, except for their own underdogs.

Even to this day, everybody loves Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, even though Wood is newly retired and Prior is attempting a comeback with the Red Sox organization. Sammy Sosa is a household name, even after the corked bat episode and the strange skin-lightening incident. Mark DeRosa won the hearts of the lady Cub fans, and they were livid when he was let go.

But what about the underdogs of the Cubs? The men that epitomize who the Cubs are? These are the guys that work hard to help pull the team together behind the All Star players. A few of them are recognized, but the rest become punchlines in jokes or float off into oblivion.

Most fans remember the likes of Moises Alou and Corey Patterson, Sosa’s supporting cast in the outfield in ’03 and ’04. Patterson, the up-and-coming prospect and Alou, the veteran left fielder. But who remembers Kenny Lofton?

Lofton batted .327 in 2003. In the NLCS he batted .323. Kenny was great for the Cubs, and a few people can be seen sporting his jersey around Wrigley Field any given afternoon.

The Cubs finished the 2004 season at 89-73. By then, Patterson and Lofton were beginning to fade into the background. Todd Hollandsworth was the new name in the outfield. In one of his first games as a Cubbie, he made a leaping catch against the ivy, expecting the wall to absorb some impact. Little did he know that under the ivy is solid brick. He came away bloodied and bruised, with a .318 average that year. Unfortunately, now he is pounding his head against the metaphorical brick wall as his less than stellar announcing abilities are scrutinized by Cubs fans across the nation.

Midway through 2004 and into 2005, the infield was graced with Nomar “Nomar Curse” Garciaparra. With all the excitement over Nomar, Todd Walker got overlooked. Most people seem to forget about him, yet he hit .305 that year.

And let us not forget Adam Greenberg, the aspiring young ballplayer that embodied the spirit and desire to win that every Cubs player has. And, much like the Cubs organization, he experienced an ill-fated, unforeseen turn of events that ended his season in an instant.

The underdogs. The guys that make the Lovable Losers so lovable are forgotten more than they are remembered. Even the underdogs, the mediocre players, have bursts of greatness that rival those of the star players. But once the burst dies down, their efforts and contributions are forgotten like leftovers that are left in the fridge too long: the good moments are forgotten, and the not-so-good moments are fresh in everyone’s memories.

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Prospect Spotlight: Jorge Soler

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Usually I use this space to talk about at least a few prospects at a time.  However, it’s rare occurrence for someone who could be a No. 1 prospect in an improving farm system to make his professional debut. And we’re going to have it two weeks in a row. Late last week, Cuban phenom Jorge Soler debuted with the Arizona Rookie League Cubs. And first round pick Albert Almora started his professional career in the Arizona League on Monday night.

How good are these two guys? Well, heading into this season a lot of optimistic Cubs fans were envisioning a future starting outfield with Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur manning two of the three positions. After bringing Soler and Almora into the system, it isn’t clear that Jackson or Szczur will have an available position by about 2015.

As of writing this piece, Soler has only played in two games and had 7 plate appearances, so the statistics don’t really tell us anything, although Soler’s Rookie League statistics won’t tell us anything (he SHOULD be above the talent at the level), and he should only be in Mesa for a few weeks.

This is also the first truly live pitching and competitive baseball Soler has faced in more than a year, so it would not be a surprise if his timing is off a bit. However, as Joe let us know yesterday, Keith Law saw Soler in person at his debut and liked the swing. It’s good to hear someone’s initial description include both explosive hands and the ability to generate power with his lower body.

Soler hit his first professional home run on Sunday, which was definitely of the crush it and get out of the park quickly variety. A video is available here. Hopefully it will be the first of many as Soler quickly moves through the Cubs system. I’ll look at Almora next week, but will also provide a brief update on Soler when we’ll at least have double digit plate appearances to look at. Also, for those of you who may be wondering, the guy Soler knocks in with that home run is 2011 second round pick Dan Vogelbach.

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