Archive for August, 2012

Game 129: A Record is Broken

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I debated naming this, “I’m your Daddy” due to the nature of the Cubs embarrassing 3-13 record against their closest divisional opponent, but it is more enjoyable to focus on the positive.

I’ll try and get this punched out rather quickly with the impending threat of losing power at any time down here in Mississippi. The storm has slowed down a bit since it has reached me here in Jackson, but continue to pray or think of those who again have been devastated by storm damage seven years to the day of Katrina.

The Good

Darwin Barney is now your all-time leader in the National League for consecutive games without an error at 114. Barney was erroneously charged with an error on the Segura debacle scoring-play, but it was correctly reversed an inning later by the official scorer. The throw was low by Barney but Luis Valbuena should have snagged it and tagged out Segura easily. In a season that has had a lot more doom and gloom than good, it is nice that Barney can be having a banner year. Sometimes it is the little things that makes everything better.

I thought Samardzija pitched extremely well in the losing effort. He had two mistakes where he left the fastball over the heart of the plate that almost any big league hitter will take advantage of. It’s always something with this team that flounders. Shark has pitched well enough to deserve better than the 8-12 record that he sports. At this point, our starting pitchers just need to keep the team in the game and pray that the offense will come through. Unfortunately, both them and us know better than to hope for anything more.

The Bad

N. Aoki (yes I don’t feel like looking up the spelling of his first name, remember time is of the essence) continues to be a quiet Cub killer in 2012. The Japanese import has brought a stability to the top of the Brewers lineup that they really haven’t had in recent years. Here’s hoping they don’t realize it and trade him out of the division with Marcum (who was placed on waivers this week).

The fourth through sixth inning were just disgustingly awful. Thankfully they were also quick. Shark made quick work of the Brewers lineup for three straight innings, returning ten guys in a row until the error he had in the top of the seventh. Unfortunately, the Cubs offense struggled to gain any steam against a sharp Mike Fiers (not fears, but fires). The Cubs looked clueless at the plate all night, but I suppose you all know that already.

The Ugly

Social Media sites. Twitter was unbearable tonight with the Republican Convention going on tonight.  I can’t stand talking or listening to politics. I create my own opinion based on reading a variety of different things in hopes that I don’t let myself too far one way or the other. I digress; last time I looked we lived in the United States of America. It is unfortunate that it is anything but united.

Cubbies try and avoid the sweep tomorrow with the always impressive Brooks Raley on the mound. Go get ’em big fella.

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Game 128: A Stinker

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012


Brewers 4 Cubs 1

Box / Highlights


I originally intended to post this first thing but my dog was sprayed by a skunk this morning in the wee hours and the day sort of unraveled from there.  My apologies to all the faithful readers.

This game, as has been the case with many Cubs games of late, was less than entertaining.   It was the annual “Len and Bob hang out in the bleachers with the common folk”  game, and that was the extent of the entertainment.  Bob marveled at the Budweiser bottom filling beer tap contraption and Len bantered about the beauty of sitting in the bleachers.  All in all, it was the usual shtick in a slightly different setting, with the word Budweiser thrown in about 50 times per inning.  The sponsor got there moneys worth last night.  The bleachers were very empty as were the terrace seats and, well, most of the ballpark.  Here is some of the good and bad those in attendance and watching at home were able to witness….

The Good:

  • Travis Wood was okay on the mount last night.  He went seven innings and gave up five hits and three runs.  
  • Travis Wood was good at the plate last night.  He hit a homerun, his first in a Cub uniform.
  • The cameramen were especially cognizant of the attractive ladies in the stands for this game.  It seemed that every time they broke for a little tour of the ballpark or bleachers (happened a lot considering last nights broadcast from the bleachers) they managed to fill the screen with busty women.   
  • Luis Valbuena is trying his hardest to keep a job… least defensively.  He made two diving stabs down the line and threw both runners out. 

The Bad:

  • Rizzo struck out three times and looks to be struggling with the slow off speed stuff lately. 
  • The only runs Travis Wood gave up came off a three run bomb by none other than Jeff Bianchi.  Who? Oh yah him, of the baseball Bianchi’s!
  • The Cubs struck out 11 times last night.  Len rattled off a stat in the ninth regarding Cub strikeout totals against the Brewers this year.  It was something like 62 strikeouts in five games.  Somebody please tell me that is wrong.
  • The cubs have dropped 12 of 15 to the Brewers this year.  The Cubs still lead the all-time series 117-116 though, so we have that going for us. 

Watching the Cubs right now is a lot like watching spring training.  It seems like everybody is working on something.  Half the batters that stepped up to the plate last night came with the cavaet from Bob that they were working on something or making adjustments.  Such is life when you have a team full of youngsters. 

That’s about all I have for this gem.  Now, off to figure out how to get that damn skunk smell out of my nose, clothes, and house.

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Minors Leaders – BB/K for Hitters

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The walk is still, IMO, an underrated aspect of a position players offense. It is sometimes just as good as a single, and it is always better than an out. And strikeouts, IMO, aren’t a bad thing, but it is an indication of a lack of contact.

You can still be a good offensive player if you strikeout a lot and you can still be good when you walk a little. But if you do both at the same time, you’re going to be bad. If you can manage to walk a lot and strikeout a little? You’re probably going to be good.

For reference, if we looked at BB/K ratio for major leaguers, you would have to go all the way down to #20 to get to a guy with an OBP under .337. That’s a pretty good OBP. The bottom 30 guys in BB/K ratio all have an OBP worse than .337.
10 of the worst 15 are under a .300 OBP, while 5 of the best 11 are above .400 (there are only 10 players in baseball with an OBP over .400).

So, a high BB/K ratio is a good thing. A low one is bad. What minor leaguers have the best BB to K ratio?

I limited the list to those about a .6 BB/K ratio. If you can do that in the majors, that’s the top 25%. Only 11 major leaguers have more walks than strikeouts this year. The Cubs have 4 in their minor league system doing so.

I seem to like Adrian Cardenas more than most, mainly due to this number. Ronald Torreyes is another favorite of mine. Although they are close on this list, they are complete different hitters; one with high walk totals, one with low walk totals. We’ve already seen Cardenas in the majors and I think we’ll be seeing Torreyes in another two years.

The highest ceiling players on this list would have to be either Dan Vogelbach or Matt Szczur. One thing you’ll notice on this list is a lack of power, until you get to Vogelbomb’s .648 slugging percentage. Seeing him here makes me feel better about our pre-season ranking of #4 in the system. I was done on Szczur coming into the season, but he has me intrigued now that his approach has improved so much.

I wanted to mention a few other notes. Albert Almora is near the bottom of this and has the lowest walk rate in the system (minimum 100 plate apps). He also has the 2nd lowest strikeout rate, so if his numbers are indicative of anything (they’re not), he’s going to be quite the aggressive hitter.

Joining Almora in the .20 and below range (.20 is bottom 5% of players in MLB!) is stud SS prospect, Javier Baez. These low BB/K rates don’t worry me yet, but they are something to keep an eye on.

Dave Sappelt is 23rd on the list at .51.

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Turning the “Fenway Plan” into the “Wrigley Plan”

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

by Matt Eurich

This past Saturday a dream I had had for years finally came true, I got to see a game inside Fenway Park. The sights, the sounds, and the smells all had a familiar feel to it and made me wonder, can Wrigley Field benefit from the “Fenway Plan”?

I have been lucky enough to have seen many live sporting events in my life but for as long as I can remember I have wanted to see a baseball game inside Fenway Park. This past Saturday a dream of mine finally became reality and I got to see a game inside historic Fenway Park. Although always compared to each other, Fenway proved it had a leg up on Wrigley Field and while there I was overcome by not only their similarities but the differences.

As game time approached on Saturday evening, my friends and I wandered up and down Yawkey Way alongside Fenway taking pictures, looking through Red Sox shops, purchasing surprisingly good slices of pizza and cooling ourselves off with ice cold beer. The more we wandered around the more and more it felt familiar. Sure, there wasn’t the busyness that surrounds the neighborhood of Wrigley Field, but the smell of the popcorn and the buzz in the air made me feel at home.

An hour or so before game time Yawkey Way is barricaded off and the only way to enter the area is with a valid ticket for that evening’s game. We found ourselves in a bar (Who’s On First) at that time but when we finally decided to enter the stadium there was an employee right outside the bar who would only let us enter Yawkey Way if we had our valid ticket.

The mixture of metal and concrete again conjured up memories of the friendly confines and I was just as excited to walk towards field level of Fenway as I was when I walked in to Wrigley Field for the first time when I was ten years old.

Much like Wrigley there is nostalgia and an aura to the field itself. I stood there gazing at the green monster and realized that so many greats had stepped foot on that field before; Ruth, Williams, Yastrzemski, Fisk and the list goes on and on. There I was, literally standing in a baseball museum.

After gazing around the ballpark it dawned on me, there is almost no part of the stadium that does not feature some form of advertising. There is the famous Citgo sign hovering beyond left field, Covidien plastered on the green monster (along with various others), Coca-Cola near the left foul pole and Budweiser near the right, as well as a slew of others ranging from Dunkin Donuts to New Balance. Fenway Park is a sellout in every meaning of the word. We were seated along the third base side in grandstand 30, but because of little to no renovations in that area we deemed those particular seats too uncomfortable to actually sit in.

With the opportunity to wander the park we were able to view various parts of the game from out in center field by the beautiful jumbo screen, along the first base line, and my favorite, up on the highest level just under the Coca-Cola sign that gave us an incredible view of the whole stadium.

While leaving the stadium I thought to myself, “Could the Cubs really pull this off?” Sure, throughout recent years the Cubs have become more and more willing to include advertisements throughout the park and even though they can be a bit of an eyesore the Red Sox have proven that advertisement revenue can go a long way towards increasing payroll and building a contending team.

In April, Mayor Emmanuel laid out a plan that he dubbed the “Fenway Plan”, a plan that would mimic what the Red Sox did with their historic stadium and provide a new abundance of revenue to the Cubs and the surrounding neighborhood. The proposal envisioned shutting down Waveland and Sheffield for every game just like they shut down Yawkey Way.

The shutting down of Yawkey Way works because it isn’t a normal functioning family neighborhood like Wrigley is people still need to get to and from their residence and closing down the roads will only further their frustration. The Cubs have tried a similar approach this summer hosting a “block party” but they were met with little to no fanfare.

Whenever the subject of more advertising at Wrigley Field is brought up, Cubs fans become angered. Some fans were in an uproar over the Toyota sign out in left field and the Under Armor signs on the outfield walls but to me, I see advertisements and I see more revenue that can be spent on players and the stadium in the future.

Does every corner of Wrigley need to be plastered with Nikon, Coca-Cola, or Sony? No, but in order for not only Wrigley to be improved but the team to be improved, advertisements need to happen.

Fenway Park does a great job of blending old with new. The jumbo screen next to the green monster blends in so well now you would have thought it was there when Carlton Fisk was willing his ball fair in the 1975 World Series. Fenway takes something old and iconic and does not look to degrade it but improve it. Cubs’ fans have long been against the addition of a jumbo screen fearing the demise of the iconic scoreboard. If done right a jumbo screen can be added without the degradation of the scoreboard.

Fenway Park and the “Fenway Plan” proved to me that a stadium can still have the charm of an old stadium with a touch of modernism but still bring in revenue that can benefit the team. Does the added revenue immediately improve the team? No, but that revenue could not only be spent on player development but could help improve a stadium that is in dire need of an upgrade.

People will continue to come to Wrigley Field solely because it is Wrigley Field but sooner or later improvements are going to have to be made and it is going to be tough to market both a struggling team and a struggling stadium.

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Prospect Spotlight: Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

At the start of August, the Cubs called up 2007 first round pick Josh Vitters and 2009 first round pick Brett Jackson. This was actually something of a surprise. Vitters appeared to be turning a corner this year at Triple A Iowa, but he was only a few months in to seeming to potentially have figured out how to be a bit more patient at the plate. On top of that, he continued to be not particularly impressive at third base.

Jackson was having his worst year as a professional, largely a result of a 33.8% strikeout rate. It’s just really hard to see a lot of success in the future of a prospect who walks back to the bench without making prospect more than 3 times out of every 10 plate appearances.

My wife and I went to the game on Saturday, and I was able to get my first live look at the players.  I was down the left field line, so I was not able to judge pitch location at all, but it was fun to see them for the first time.

Vitters went 0-4, but absolutely smoked the ball three times, twice to left and once to center. He just had problems hitting it where they weren’t. He was only challenged once defensively early in the game, where he had to dive for a hard hit ball and it bounced off his glove. I could not tell, however, if it was a sign of lack of range or the sort of play that was difficult for anyone.

Jackson went 2-3 with a double, home run and walk. The home run was wind aided, with a right to left wind pushing the ball just far enough left of center for it to get out, but it wasn’t one of those hit a long pop up and let the wind take it out types. The sole disappointment was that Jackson wasn’t sent on attempt to steal second after the walk. Instead, for some unknowable and apparently insane reason, the coaching staff waited for Joe Mather to walk behind Jackson and then sent them on a double steal. Mather was caught at second for the final out of the inning.

Unfortunately, they both also showed signs of their reported worst habits in their final plate appearances of the game. In the eighth inning, Vitters weakly popped out to the first baseman on the first pitch he saw. And Jackson struck out looking on four pitches for the final out of the game.

With that said, both of them showed some promise, and it was good to see them live. I still think the promotions were more aggressive than necessary, but I did enjoy the benefit of the fact that seeing Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters is more exciting than seeing Adrian Cardenas and Dave Sappelt.

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