Archive for July, 2012

Northside Archives: Post-Break Cubs

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

We did this dance last year. And it turned out alright – the 2nd half I mean – we don’t all have to agree about the article.

2011
Mike Quade’s tenure ended respectably. Huh? That can’t be right. Why isn’t the backspace key working? The Cubs finished last season on a relative tear. After limping to a horrible 37-55 record at the 2011 ASG, the Cubs finished 34-36. In fact, it was reminiscent of the 1982 season. There were many factors that made those two years analogous.

2012
What was the Cubs’ first half record of 33-52 most like? Hint: you won’t like the answer. Dusty Baker’s 2006 squad. They hit the break with a 34-54 record that was not improved upon significantly, going 32-42 to finish with a putrid 66-96 record.

Why is 2012 different than 2006?
The roster was rounded out with the likes of Henry Blanco, Neifi Perez, John Mabry, and Phil Nevin. Sean Marshall started 24 games, Carlos Marmol started 13. In all, the Cubs had 14 different pitchers start at least 2 games, and Jae Kuk Ryu held the title of 15th starter – getting one start himself. Of the 46 players to register their name in a box score, 14 of them were under 25 years old. Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Marmol, Geovany Soto, and Marshall were the only ones who became even slightly memorable. The team had many young players – unfortunately, not many who were any good.

Contrast that with 2012; a roster rounded out with Jeff Baker, Joe Mather, Steve Clevenger, Luis Valbuena – perhaps not as notable for their names, but significantly younger than the 2006 group and actually more productive. Only 7 different pitchers have started a game for the Cubs. But most importantly, the team isn’t headed for an off-season overhaul – at least not of the management variety.

Turnover
By the 2006 ASG, the Cubs were sunk – much like they were this year. But Dusty Baker was counting his days while Dale Sveum is not. The Cubs NEEDED a big off-season splash after 2006; that roster was aging, they needed to get healthy and add a few pieces – not blow it all up. The current roster just lacks premium talent, of any age. It isn’t that we need one single big acquisition, we need talent – premium talent – at a host of positions. We don’t have a supremely talented outfielder. We have a massive void at 3B, inconsistency behind the plate, and a stopgap at 2B. In some ways, this team has produced a better record with less talent than the 2006 version was able to put forth.

Injuries
What’s the one thing that could easily keep this team from putting up an improved record during the second half of the season? The same thing that ultimately was the downfall in 2006. Injuries. Whether it was Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee or the many other Cubs that spent varying lengths of the season on the DL – the 2006 Cubs were victimized by injuries.

Any Guesses?
Five games in and we’re 4-1. That’s not going to continue. But we do have the chance to be significantly better. The lineup looks a little less like a joke with Rizzo in there. But the pitching staff might be depleted due to trades. Only in 1982 and 1944 did a Cubs team with a pre-break record south of .424 manage to have a post-break record of .500+; so that doesn’t bode well. But I have faith, I do think this team can play above .500 in the second half. It will be tough if Garza and Dempster are both traded, probably impossible, but with one or both of them – I think it can be done.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Placing Dempster’s Streak in Historical Context

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

By now you know, Ryan Dempster has pitched 33 straight scoreless innings, an incredible feat for any pitcher.  What you probably don’t know is that this is actually the second time he’s pitched over 30 straight innings without allowing a run for the Cubs.  He also had a 30.1 scoreless innings streak end that spanned 31 games in 2 seasons from August 16, 2005 through April 19, 2006.  Even more interesting is where this streak will be placed historically; according to Elias Sports Bureau Inc., this is only the fifth time in the last century that a starting pitcher has won five straight games while allowing zero runs:

Pitcher

Year

Team

# of games

# of scoreless innings

Orel Hershiser

1988

Dodgers

6

55

Don Drysdale

1968

Dodgers

6

54

Bob Gibson

1968

Cardinals

5

45

Brandon Webb

2007

Diamondbacks

5

41

Ryan Dempster

2012

Cubs

5

33

 

I know it was not all that uncommon to go all 9 innings back then, but I was still amazed that all 3 guys on the top of the list pitched every inning during these streaks, and Hershiser even had to go 10 innings for one of those wins.  Webb also pitched 3 straight CGs during his streak which is just as impressive given the era he pitched in.  While Dempster’s inning count during this streak is much more modest, you have to remember it spanned a  DL stint that sidelined him for 23 days and he has been relegated to a pitch count since returning.

Another fun fact about Dempster’s streak is he is one of 3 Cubs starting pitchers since 1938 to have scoreless innings streaks of at least 30.  The most recent was Ken Holtzman who also had 33 straight scoreless inning stretch in 1969.  Holtzman’s streak spanned 4 starts, including 3 CG shutouts, and another 1-run CG.   The other Cub pitcher to accomplish such a feat was Bill Lee who did it twice in the same season in 1938, with streaks of 37 and 35.

In any case, Dempster’s streak is still impressive but all signs point to it not continuing with the Cubs.  Rumors are the Cubs are determined to trade Dempster this week, to clear the way to focus on Garza heading into the deadline.  The Dodgers are the rumored frontrunners for Dempster’s services, and word as of yesterday, is the Tigers are out on Dempster because the Cubs’ asking price is too steep.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 90: Clutch Hitting + Rain = W

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Marlins 1 @ Cubs 5 (F/8 innings)

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Annie Savoy would chalk this one up to Church of Baseball, but I prefer not to try to explain the mysteries of baseball and just enjoy the ride. Moments after some late inning offense provided by the likes of oft-maligned Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Jeff Baker the skies miraculously opened up over drought plagued Chicago.  Play was halted in the top of the eighth, and Mother Nature and Jeff Samardzija were too powerful of a combination for the Marlins to overcome.

The Good:

The Shark: Jeff Samardzija wasn’t able to pick up his second win since Memorial Day, but he did more than enough on the mound to keep the Cubs in a position to win. The Shark appears to be regaining his early season form after an abominable June. His pitch count (96) was higher than you’d want in five innings, but he struck out nine and wasn’t hurt by any of the six hits he allowed aside from a Jose Reyes homer in the third. Things definitely are moving back in the right direction for Samardzija.

Clutch hitting: That’s right, the Cubs continue to scratch out hits with runners in scoring position in big situations. As referenced above, a few of the favorite punching bags of Cubs fans everywhere were instrumental in the late inning rally. The Cubs went into the seventh inning with a 1-1 tie (powered by a Starlin Castro basket-shot in the fourth), but had scratched out just two hits on the night. A lead-off single by Soriano got the inning off to a positive start. Soto drove him in with a one out single to give them the lead, followed by singles by Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena set the table for a two run double by Jeff Baker. David DeJesus capped the scoring with a sac fly that drove in Valbuena.

Rain: Let’s forget the game for a minute – a lot of the upper Midwest has finally gotten some much needed rain the past two days to help area farmers that are facing a very dire situation. I hate my brown lawn, but it’s the people whose livelihood depends on the weather that I’m most happy for…here’s hoping it continues for a while, as we’re far from out of the woods. Now, back to baseball: a rain-shortened game meant there was no concern about Marmol blowing the game in the ninth. This is a huge win.

The Bad:

The Cubs couldn’t buy a hit until the fourth inning, Jose Reyes circled the bases in the third, and  Emilio Bonifacio was a home run away from the cycle…but none of these concerns were enough to keep the Cubs from putting themselves in position to win their third straight series.

The Cubly:

I like Will Ferrell (usually) and I like Zack Galifianakas (most of the time), but I found their pre-game appearances to be uninspired and flat. Sorry guys, I’ll watch your movie, but not because you made dumb jokes in front of a half empty stadium while reading the starting line-up. Andre Dawson singing the seventh inning stretch was much more entertaining.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Chet’s Corner: What will the 2013 Cubs look like?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Ahhhhh, trade season is upon us.  It’s our first of the Epstein era and to be quite honest probably the most exciting one in years.  We may see the largest single season change of a roster in Cub history.  We could legitimately say goodbye to six, maybe seven players …….if all goes well.

Hang on a second though….. yes, there are actually some out there crying for the Cubs to press on, attempt to make the post season and become buyers.  Putting up an 8-3 record in the first two weeks of July will make the idiots fall from the woodwork.  Some feel that adding Rizzo was something of a missing link to the puzzle, and while I love what he has done, he ain’t the only picture in a championship montage.

During my relatively new commute, I actually listened to a caller on sports radio rant on and on about the Cubs needing to seize the momentum for once and try to get that brand new wild card spot.  He ended his rant with the all too familiar, “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.  A few wins seem to turn this fan base to mush all too often, it’s about time they finally witnessed a year in year out contender so they know what championship caliber baseball looks like.

Maybe I am just as much a rube to think Theo and Co. can make this club shine.  I will tell you this much,  I can’t wait for them to gut this sucker and start over.  We can lose out the rest of the season, I don’t care….and truly, neither do you if it means playing for the post-season every year from 2014 on into the future.  Without further ado, here are the current major league Cubs I think MUST return for the 2013 opening day roster in no specific order….

1) Starlin Castro

2) Anthony Rizzo

Okay, so that’s a short list.  These are only the guys I see as MUST returns.  There are others I wouldn’t mind keeping but also wouldn’t mind trading such as:

1) Travis Wood

2) Shark

3) Jeff Russell

4) Bryan Lahair

5) Darwin Barney

6) David JeJesus

7) Shawn Camp

As you can see, I am not too high on this team as a whole.  I didn’t include Garza and Dempster on this list because I need them to go.  I respect their service for the Cubs but we need to get some young players and they are the best trade chips, so I am hoping they are gone by August 1st with a nice stash of prospects coming our way.

On The Topic of Trades…..  

A lot of people seem to believe that we won’t get back any top of the line prospects for Garza or Dempster, but something we need to remember is this market is different from years past.  There are far more buyers then sellers.  Of those that are selling, the options for teams trying to add pitching pale in comparison to what we have.  It is not unrealistic to think we could get a Nick Castellanos or Jacob Turner back from the Tigers for either one of our trade chips.  If you are a team built to win now, you do just that, and you forgo a bit of the future to make that World Series happen.  It’s happened for years, as a matter of fact it happened back in 1987.   Does Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz ring a bell?  It does if you were a Tiger fan in the 80′s and then of course in the 90′s.  Doyle was the modern day equivalent to Dempster, not a flashy pitcher but a guy who was available and having an okay season (he was actually 5-10 but coming on strong at the trade deadline…..I think.)   The Tigers needed the push and parted with their top prospect….John Smoltz.  The Tigers made it to the post season and Doyle went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA.  Of course, he only gave them that season, the next two were less then great and we know what happened to Smoltz.

I guess I am saying this, when it comes to winning now, teams will gamble to make the best push possible and, all things staying the same, Dempster and Garza are this years best push.

Here is a great article on this very point.  If I had my druthers I would throw Barney and Garza at the Tigers for Castellanos and call it a day.  We will also eat Soriano’s contract and throw him in as you could use a power bat to hit DH, of course now we need Jacob Turner too….oops , did I go too far?

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Top 20 Prospects Update

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

It’s about time for another update on VFTB’s Top 20 Prospects. The position prospects are doing pretty well while the results have been ugly on the pitching side. The past draft hopes to rectify that as the Cubs signed a number of high upside arms led by Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn, and Duane Underwood.

First, the hitters:

Despite all of Brett Jackson‘s strikeouts, he’s been producing in the PCL. I just don’t think he’ll be able to produce like that in the majors with a K rate so high. Shades of Dallas McPherson, if you’re familiar with him.

The top two picks of the Cubs 2011 draft, Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach, are both crushing the ball in the early stages of their careers. You’ll see Baez somewhere around the Top 25 Prospects in the game when next years Top 100′s come out. Kevin Goldstein recently said he’s become the top offensive prospect in the Midwest League with scouts putting a 70 on his hit and power tool.
Although Vogelbach is hitting, you won’t see him on any Top 100′s. As a 1B only player, likely a DH, you really need to hit and hit and hit some more. He’ll have to do this year in and year out for the pro’s to believe.

Ahhhhh….Matt Szczur. Cub fans love them some Szczur. I admit, he’s doing better than I thought he would thanks to a complete turnaround in his walk rate. Still doesn’t have much power and needs to be in AA, but his stock is slightly up in my book.

Josh Vitters is also doing much better than I had imagined he would…his approach has always been the issue with him, and his walk rate isn’t so terrible while keeping his K’s in check. His BABIP is on the high side for him, so there may be some good fortune involved, but we’ll see Vitters in Chicago by the end of the year.

Skipping down to Arismendy Alcantara…he’s a guy I brought up on the last update that’s really impressing. He’s one of the younger guys in the league and has a chance to stick at SS and is on his way to a .300 hitting, 10 homer, 30 stolen base season.

And the pitching….

I’ll start at the bottom with some pitchers who have jumped into the running for Top 20 for next year. Michael Jensen is one of the few Cub pitchers with a K rate over 7 per 9 innings. Not that impressive, but combined with a low home run rate and good walk rate, he’s showing that he’s someone to keep an eye on.

For everything I said about Jensen I can say about Nick Struck, but Struck is doing it in AA. The Cubs rushed him in 2011, giving him innings in High A, AA, and AAA where he struggled. Back to a more appropriate level in 2012, his numbers are promising.

Alberto Cabrera is a future bullpen guy; potentially in high leverage situations. Back in Spring Training he was throwing 95+ with good movement and he is just carving through hitters this season. Might see him this year and could be a fixture in the pen beginning in 2013.

In his 4th year in the organization, Jose Rosario is starting full time for the first time in his professional career and is not disappointing. We need to see what happens in higher levels, but he’s putting up numbers in line with both Jensen and Struck, except that he’s giving up a few more hits along the way.

Back to the top, Dillon Maples hasn’t pitched yet as he’s been nursing an injury. I believe he’ll be throwing at some point in the next couple weeks. Trey McNutt was recently moved to the bullpen which was the expected path for him. Dae-Eun Rhee was a favorite of mine that has struggled in AA. One thing I noticed with him, McNutt, and Eric Jokisch; once they hit AA their strikeout rates plummeted. Gerardo Concepcion looks to be a bust; but he’s young and I wouldn’t give up on anyone until they have to. Dolis looks like he’ll have a career as a RP so long as he can carry over those K’s to the big leagues. Ben Wells was in the running as my top Cubs pitching prospect, but Tommy John ended his season.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 89: A Travis Wood Clunker

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Because I didn’t get to watch any of the Diamondbacks series, Tuesday night was the first baseball game I’d watched in almost two weeks. Since I have to be awake early in the morning now, it’s tough for me to stay up late to watch the game if it doesn’t appear worth my time. Looking at the graph above, it’s not too hard to figure out where I checked out for the night. Nonetheless, I did have some thoughts on what I watched.

Travis Wood – He tossed a bit of a clunker last night, which disappointed me, but you had to know it was coming. Despite the fact that in the previous seven starts he had gone 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, he’s still a back of the rotation starter. He’s not going to be a number 1 or 2 guy in the rotation and probably won’t even amount to a number 3. That said, you have to expect some duds, but when you look at his logs over this season he’s really only had two rough outings and both came at Wrigley with the wind blowing out. Hopefully that can be of some encouragement when you wake up after digesting what you saw last night. I like Wood a lot. He’s one of my favorite Cubs right now. I like his athleticism on the field and the approach he has on the mound. You just have to try not to over expect things from him that he really has no business delivering on a nightly basis.

Jeff Baker – If you wont make fun of me, I’ll tell you a secret. Promise? Ok, here it is. I actually like the fact that Jeff Baker is on this team. Hey, you said you weren’t going to make fun. Baker fills a role on this team and it’s a vital one. He provides versatility and a little bit of power off the bench. He’s a poor man’s Mark DeRosa that, aside from this season, has a nice role as a platoon guy against lefties. In his career, including this year’s numbers, he’s hitting .305 / .354 / .522. What people fail to remember is that every team, even championship ones, has guys that aren’t that great or have major warts. That’s what makes them bench players. Where the Cubs have gone wrong is using Baker too often against the righties. Use him in the platoon and he has value. Use him to block someone like Bryan LaHair when we’re trying to see what we have with him, and he doesn’t. If used properly, Baker can help this team.

Bullpen Usage – Before the game, Doug Padilla tweeting that before the game, due to lack of usage, Rafael Dolis and Jairo Asencio had to toss simulated games to get their work in. Maybe it’s nothing, but wouldn’t that mean that they got loose, tossed X amount of pitches in the game and then should have been done for the day? Instead, both then pitched in the game, which means they would have then had to get loose again and throw pitches that counted. Asencio even tossed two innings. Maybe it’s nothing, but that just seems odd to me.

Notable Performances Down on the Farm

July 17, 2012

Luis Acosta, DSL Cubs2: 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
David Bote, AZL Cubs: 2-3, 2B, BB, R
Michael Burgess, Tennessee: 0-1, 3 BB
Edwin Contreras, DSL Cubs2: 1-2, 2 BB, R
Shawon Dunston, AZL Cubs: 2-4, BB, R
Kelvin Encarnacion, DSL Cubs2: 2-2, HBP, RBI
Darien Martin, Boise: 3-3, HR, SB, 2 BB, R, RBI
Carlos Penalver, AZL Cubs: 2-4, BB, RBI
Roderick Shoulders, Boise: 2-3, BB
Elliot Soto, Daytona: 1-2, 2B, BB, 2 R
Matthew Szczur, Daytona: 3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI
Shamil Ubiera, DSL Cubs2: 2-4, 2B, HBP, RBI
Daniel Vogelbach, AZL Cubs: 2-5, 3B, HR, R, 3 RBI
Logan Watkins, Tennessee: 2-5, 3B, R
Matthew Loosen:, Daytona: 7.3 IP, 1 R, 5 H, ER, 6 K, 3 BB
Chad Martin:, AZL Cubs: 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 3 K
James Pugliese:, Boise: 5.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 5 K, 2 BB

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Marlins Series Preview

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Tuesday @ 8:05pm EDT – Anibal Sanchez vs. Travis Wood

After an up-and-down first half, Sanchez seeks his first win since June 27, when he beat the Cards. He is coming off back-to-back no-decisions. The righty was on the hook for a win in St. Louis on July 8, but Miami lost in the ninth. Wood won his last four starts leading up to the break, giving up three earned runs over 26 2/3 innings. It’s an encouraging trend after posting a 5.94 ERA in his first three games. He’s faced the Marlins once and lost, lasting 3 1/3 innings.

Wednesday @ 8:05pm EDT – Josh Johnson vs. Jeff Samardzija

Johnson matched his career high of 11 hits allowed in his last start, a loss to Washington. On April 17, Johnson faced the Cubs in Miami, settling for a no-decision. He gave up two runs in seven innings that day. Samardzija finished the first half with a loss to the Mets, giving up three runs on seven hits over seven innings. He’s been able to make in-game adjustments, not get rattled and impressed the staff with his maturity.

Thursday @ 2:20pm EDT – Mark Buehrle vs. Paul Maholm

Make it four straight starts in which Buehrle has gone at least seven innings and struck out at least seven. The lefty has given up three earned runs over 28 2/3 innings in that stretch. On April 18, he beat the Cubs in Miami. Maholm stayed in a groove on Friday against Arizona, allowing one run in seven innings to earn his third straight win. The southpaw has surrendered two runs in his last four appearances (three starts), spanning 22 1/3 innings.

How to Pitch to the Big Boys

Each series we’ll take a look at the top power hitters in the opposing team’s lineup to establish how to get them out and minimize the damage. Power doesn’t always mean home runs. It can also mean doubles and triples. To examine that, we’ll focus on Isolated Power. The heat maps show each player’s isolated power based on area of the zone. If you’re not familiar with the stat, Isolated Power or ISO is a sabermetric baseball statistic which measures a batter’s raw power. The formula is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average, which removes all the singles that are included in SLG%. The final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat. By limiting extra base hits, you drastically increase your chance to win the game.

Our Take

by Jeremiah Johnson

When the Cubs visited Miami in mid-April, the new-look Marlins took all three games.  Ineffective starting pitching, faulty relievers, and anemic hitting made the Northsiders an easy team to beat, and Miami was happy to oblige.

They’ll face a very different Cubs team today.  We’re not world-beaters by any stretch, but many of the fatal flaws of that early squad have been addressed, or at least hidden on the bench.  Our starters seem to have found a groove, we know what works (and what doesn’t) in the bullpen, and we’ve got a few potent threats in our lineup.  The Cubs today are a competitive squad that can beat any given team on any given day–that, at least to start with, is what you want from your ballclub.

Expect to hear more grousing from Guillen about how much he hates Wrigley Field–like it or not, he knows it’s on his greatest hits album, and he’s eager to please his fans.  I’m not sure he even really means it.  More and more I think he just likes to hear himself say outrageous things, and basking in the attention that follows.  Under different circumstances, he might have been our manager this season.  Dale looks even better by comparison, doesn’t he?

I’m pleased the Cubs won’t face off against Carlos Zambrano in this series.  I don’t think he was nearly as despised in the Cubs’ clubhouse as he was in the press room, and a showdown on the field would only give further reason to dredge up all his past misdeeds (of course, Paul Sullivan will do it either way).  It’s no surprise he’s been on his best behavior for his friend Ozzie–again, who doesn’t look good when compared to Ozzie Guillen?

Regardless of the personal history, the Marlins are a team on the decline, while the Cubs are showing some real signs of life.  Let’s hope it continues.

Prediction: Cubs win two of three for another series win.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Prospect Spotlight: The (Somewhat) Recently Acquired

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

One of the clear goals of the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod regime has been to improve the Cubs’ farm system. The Cubs have made some big signings in the international amateur market, headlined by the Jorge Soler deal. And, according to the reports, the Cubs had a strong draft. It is also well known that the Cubs are going to trade some of their more valuable veterans to add more prospects. But the Cubs started that process this past offseason. While the biggest name the Cubs picked up this year, Anthony Rizzo, is not a prospect anymore (but for the good reason that he is mashing with the North Siders), there are still several prospects that were added via trade in the offseason that are worth talking about.

Ronald Torreyes (2B)
How Acquired: From the Reds for Sean Marshall.
2012 Statistics: With the High A Daytona Cubs, 315 PAs, .246/.317/.362, 4 HRs, 7.0 BB%, 7.0 K%, .251 BABIP, 8 SB, 3 CS.
The Good: Torreyes has elite contact skills, with a career minor league K rate well under 10%. Based upon prior seasons, where Torreyes posted BABIPs above .370, it is very likely that his batting average is depressed by some by bad luck. The walk rate has improved greatly since the 4.6% he put up last season in Low A.  He reportedly is a pretty good defender at the turnkey.
The Bad: Aside from the contact skills, Torreyes does not have any plus tools. He is not going to steal a ton of bases, and does not hit for power. On top of that, Torreyes is listed at a tiny 5’9″, 140 lbs, and based on the reports I’ve heard that height is a significant overstatement. He also probably cannot play shortstop in the Majors, limiting his defensive value.
Ceiling: Starting second baseman, playing good defense and hitting over .300 while collecting enough walks and doubles to not make the average empty.
Floor: The contact skills aren’t enough as he progresses through the minors and he becomes an organization guy.

Dave Sappelt (OF)
How Acquired: From the Reds for Sean Marshall.
2012 Statistics: With the Triple A Iowa Cubs, 369 PAs, .249/.307/.333, 4 HRs, 7.3 BB%, 12.2 K%, .275 BABIP, 8 SB, 2 CS.
The Good: Sappelt is essentially MLB ready. He can play all three outfield positions to one degree or another. Like Torreyes, his 2012 numbers in Iowa are probably at least somewhat the result of bad luck, as his career minor league BABIP is well over .300. Sappelt also has several at least average skills: contact, speed and plate discipline.
The Bad: Sappelt’s ceiling is limited to, at best, a second division starter. On a good team, he is a fourth or fifth outfielder. He reportedly does not use his speed particularly well, especially in the outfield where most say he doesn’t get great jumps. As such, his best position is left field, where his limited power potential reduces his ceiling.
Ceiling: Second division regular.
Floor: Backup outfielder.

Casey Weathers (RHP)
How Acquired: From the Rockies along with Ian Stewart for Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu.
2012 Statistics: With Double A Tennessee, 20 G, 0 GS, 24 IP, 5.63 ERA, 6.49 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 11.25 BB/9.
The GoodHe throws really, really hard.
The Bad: He walks everybody. At 27 years old, time has all but run out for a former top prospect who just could never figure out how to throw with any semblance of control in professional ball.
Ceiling: If he figures out how to throw strikes with any semblance of consistency, he could still be an elite late innings reliever based on his stuff.
Floor: Out of baseball after this season. This is much more likely than the ceiling.

Zach Cates (RHP)
How Acquired: From the Padres along with Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na.
2012 Statistics:  With High A Daytona, 7 G, 7 GS, 24 IP, 10.50 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 3.5 K/9, 4.88 BB/9. With Low A Peoria, 4 G, 4 GS, 18 IP, 3.50 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 6.00 K/9, 2.50 BB/9, with Rookie League Arizona Cubs, 1 G, 1 GS, 2.70 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 13.50 K/9, 2.70 BB/9.
The Good: Has a mid-90s fastball and reportedly at least flashes a plus change up. Since returning from the DL and going to Peoria, his peripherals have improved, albeit in a small sample size.
The Bad: Struggled at the start of the year following a promotion to Daytona. He was sent to the DL, but I have yet to find  a solid report regarding an injury. It’s possible he was actually hurt, but also possible his mechanics got completely out of whack. Or it’s possible that he was exposed at High A. Only time will tell.
Ceiling: Mid-rotation MLB starter.
Floor: Organization guy.

 So none of these prospects are particularly exciting, although Torreyes and Cates are both worth keeping an eye on as they progress. Sappelt will be up with the Cubs at some point this year, either following a trade of Reed Johnson, due to injury, or at the latest when rosters expand in September. He will probably be a backup outfielder for the Big League club at the start of 2012.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

In Praise of Promotional Giveaways

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

I recently bought a Zim Bear.  But perhaps that’s not the best place to start.

To some degree, everyone likes receiving free stuff at a ballgame.  Even when the stuff isn’t really 100% free, and even when it’s sure to clutter your home or collect dust in your garage, there are still plenty of us who thoroughly enjoy the promotional tchotchkes that are regularly handed out in ballparks across the country.

Some people love the utilitarian nature of the giveaway items–who couldn’t use another hat or t-shirt?  Some enjoy the novelty of the item itself–where else can you find a superhero action figure bearing the likeness of your favorite power hitter?*  Others are easier to please–they indiscriminately line up for the swag simply because it bears the insignia of their favorite team.  And still others have some twisted compulsion toward accumulating junk to litter their homes (those people are often called hoarders, and the less said about them, the better).

*I didn’t make this up–one of my nephew’s favorite teething toys was an Andre Ethier action figure called “Super Dre.”

Ideally the best swag has some real-world use.  Hats are the most immediately useful item, and along with t-shirts, probably give the advertising sponsor the best publicity bang for their buck.  But I’ve been handed all kinds of useful giveaways as I walk through the turnstiles–novelty pens, keychains, wallets, and watches all have staying power.  Even the less worthwhile items (is there anything more useless than a bobblehead?) can be allowed to linger in your home or office indefinitely if it strikes a chord with you.

Regardless of what compelled you to keep it, I’d wager that if you’re reading this, you’ve got some promotional giveaway item somewhere in your house right now.

It doesn’t even have to be Cubs-related.  Just the other day my mom asked me why there was an Anaheim Ducks hat in her laundry room.  I couldn’t give her a good answer–although I knew I wasn’t the one who left it there, since I stopped taking other team’s free stuff a while back.**  As a general rule, I waive off any opponent swag I won’t personally use.

**The final straw: I had four Cesar Izturis bobbleheads from his time with the Dodgers that I absolutely could not give away.  The might as well have been used syringes–no one would take them off my hands.

And frankly, we’re living in the Golden Age of useful swag.  Back when I was a little kid, the best you could hope for was a classy pin, a cheap pennant that wasn’t too cluttered with advertising, or maybe a few oddly-sized baseball cards.  You hoped against hope that you’d be handed a free baseball upon arrival.  But free baseball days mostly died out of popularity.***

***I remember a game in San Diego many years ago when Cubs fans threw back their free balls after a couple Padre homeruns, halting the game for several minutes.  That may have had something to do with it.

Then there was the inexplicable Beanie Baby craze, and suddenly every team had their own branded, vaguely animal-resembling toy to hand out to eager children and lonely women.  Bobbleheads enjoyed a similar wave of popularity, and the promotional giveaway industry hasn’t been the same since.

Today the “free” giveaways are pretty creative and staggeringly diverse.  Hats, t-shirts, and bobbleheads are commonplace–the Cubs will give away several of each this season, along with a variety of bags, some branded stationary, and a set of winter accessories.  Look through their schedule of promotional items and you’ll see there’s almost nothing they can’t slap a Cubs logo onto and hand out by the thousands.  And I think that’s great!  Who wouldn’t want a Cubs-branded iPhone skin (August 25th) or luggage tag (September 1st)?  Personally, I’d love to have a wall clock that looks like the Wrigley Field scoreboard (July 29th), even if it is sure to be tackily emblazoned with an unsightly MasterCard logo.

As far as I’m concerned, the high-water mark for the Cubs’ 2012 promotional giveaways comes on Friday, July 27th, when they will bestow a replica of Ron Santo’s Hall of Fame plaque on the first 10,000 fans in attendance.  Any way you cut it, that’s a classy promo.

That’s not to say they’re all gold.  Remember the Ryan Theriot Gone Fishin’ bobbleheadOr the Kosuke Fukudome bobblehead that looked nothing like him?  For every useful giveaway (seriously, how great is the fridge magnet schedule?), there’s a creepy Jeff Samardzija bobblehead (from June 29th) you wouldn’t dare bring into your home, a Cubs-themed Dora the Explorer doll that clearly wants to murder your children, or a camouflaged bucket hat you’ll never wear again.  When you’re giving away that much stuff over the course of one season, they can’t all be winners.

Which brings me back to the Zim Bear.  There’s really nothing classy or redeeming about it.  It’s Don Zimmer’s face on a teddy bear body in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform–that’s it and that’s all.  It serves no purpose and has no function, unless you count creeping out friends and family.  It simply exists to draw a little attention to the Rays and to the Tampa Bay Times (who sponsored the distribution of the bizarre man/animal half-breed collectible).  It’s 100% novelty, and it could only exist in the world of promotional giveaways.

And I think that’s fantastic.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: