Archive for August, 2012

Brewers Series Preview

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Monday @ 7:10 pm CT – Justin Germano vs. Mark Rogers

Germano posted his first quality start of the season on Wednesday, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings vs. the Astros. Opposing teams keep calling him a “crafty right-hander.” Germano won’t overpower hitters, but he does keep them off-balance. Searching for the first win of his career, Rogers is coming off a five-run, seven-hit performance against the Rockies. Still, for the third time in four starts, he was in line for the win before the bullpen blew a save.

Tuesday @ 7:10 pm CT – TBD vs. Marco Estrada

(It looks like Chris Rusin will make his first major league appearance for the Cubs on Tuesday, but I couldn’t find any confirmation. You can read up on him here.) Winless in 15 starts and six relief appearances this season, Estrada has been frustrated with his last two trips to the mound. He gave up four runs and didn’t make it past the fifth inning in either outing.

Wednesday @ 1:10 pm CT – Travis Wood vs. Yovani Gallardo

Wood gave up six earned runs in five innings Friday in Cincinnati, after holding the same Reds club to one run in seven innings less than week earlier. He is looking for his first win since July 6 and has allowed six or more runs in four outings over that span. Manager Ron Roenicke said Gallardo’s curveball was the best it’s been this season on Friday, when he allowed one run on four hits in seven innings against the Phillies. He’s given up just six runs in his last 28 2/3 innings.

Our Take

I’m tempted to keep posting Mr. T’s prediction for all the rest of the non-Astros series this season. But that would be cheating, and increasingly less funny.

Here’s a question for you: what do you think Ryan Braun’s reaction was to Melky Cabrera’s suspension? Or to the subsequent news that Cabrera’s people set up a fake website to sell a fictional substance which he attempted to blame for his positive test?

Braun must be loving this. Through his chicanery, he’s kicked off a new wave of attempts to discredit or otherwise avoid the consequences of a positive test. We know some of the more outlandish stories of players from other leagues trying to subvert the testing process, but I can’t remember any earlier instances of high-profile players like Braun and Cabrera focusing their efforts on calling the system into question.

Also, don’t you want to get a look at the fake website? While I’m not OK with Cabrera cheating, I am intrigued by the lengths he went to in his attempts to avoid his suspension. While Braun drilled down and insinuated a one-man conspiracy, Cabrera and his crew dreamed up an entire company and tried to bring it to life.

Even though the plan failed miserably, you’ve got to think Braun is at least a little jealous his imagination wasn’t as grandiose.

Series Prediction: The Cubs shock the Brewers for a couple wins, and at least one of the in-game sausage races ends in tragedy.

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Random Thoughts

Monday, August 20th, 2012

It’s harder and hard to watch this team, which is why I’ve not been watching much. I tend to watch a few innings and then get my fill with the condensed game. I figure if I have to watch a loss, might as well get it over in 10-15 minutes instead of three hours. That said, I’m always someone who has an opinion. Here are some random nuggets making their way around the inside of my brain.

  • Josh Vitters is struggling bad, but I still love him – I openly called for him to be promoted to get an extended look before the end of the season in an effort to see what he had and reduce the amount I have to see Luis Valbuena on the field. Despite his struggles, I still believe it’s the right call. He was playing well this season in AAA and deserved the opportunity when the spot came open to show what he can do. At this point, it’s hard to watch him struggle, but I think the experience will be good for him. I don’t want to see him sitting on the bench. I want him in their on a daily basis. No more Valbuena.
  • I’m standing by my Volstad prediction – I wrote the other day that I felt that Chris Volstad would get at least two wins before the end of the season. That is not meant to infer that I believe wins for a pitcher are an appropriate metric for measuring success, but rather a commentary on the fact that I think he’s pitching better than he was earlier this season and even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. He didn’t get the win in the game on Sunday, but it’s coming. Trust me.
  • I’m in favor of the deal for Castro – If you missed it over the weekend, it’s leaked that the Cubs and Starlin Castro are putting the finishing touches on a deal that will buy out all of his arbitration years, he’s a super-two, and at least two of his first free agency eligible seasons. The deal is rumored to be approximately $60 million, which when you factor his age and potential, seems like a steal of a deal for the Cubs. The only worry by some is that he will get the money, which is guaranteed, and simply stop trying to get better. As long as the deal does not include a full no-trade clause, as was the norm in the Jim Hendry era, I don’t think you need to worry about the development. I trust that Theo and Jed believe he can continue to develop and improve. He’s not really the prototype of the player they typically crave, so the fact that they’re willing to invest in him says something about the trust they have in him.
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Game 120: Can’t Volsta(n)d to Watch Anymore

Monday, August 20th, 2012

                                                                            

Now before you jump me for the title, this isn’t directed at the Cubs as a whole. I was pleasantly surprised with the way the Cubs played during their four games in three day trip to Cincinnati, which thankfully didn’t end in another sweep.

I, like Jeremiah, have been hoping that Mr. Volstad would get his first win since July of last year. While he hasn’t pitched incredibly well, surrendering less than three runs only once in thirteen starts this season, Volstad has pitched well enough to keep the team in a position to win multiple times.

It’s hard to see the guy labor through his one bad inning a game, with a look on disappointment on his face as they show his slow walk back to the dugout following the inning. I’ve never been much of a Volstad guy, even during his solid rookie season for the Marlins in 2008 where he tallied a sub 3.00 ERA in 15 outings. Despite all of his talent, the guy doesn’t have ability to harness it and put it all together over the course of an entire season. I’d like to be wrong about this, but unless he has a Shark type of turnaround next season I can see the team giving up on him sooner rather than later. For now, I’d just like to see the poor guy grab a win before the end of the season.

There’s not much bad I can say about the game today to be honest.

Camp would probably be the least valuable player if I had to chose someone quickly. He got a bit unlikely with Xavier Paul hitting a triple on the second pitch of the inning that was just inside the line. The pitch wasn’t a mistake, but Paul ripped it and virtually ended the game with no outs in the ninth. The outfield played “prevent” defense with Ryan Hanigan and he hit a meatball to left-center for the walk-off win.

The rest of the bullpen pitched well in two innings of work. Michael Bowden and Jeff Beliveau gave up only one hit combined in their two innings and didn’t allow another base runner. I haven’t seen enough to decide whether these guys will have a spot in the bullpen come 2013, but I can only assume that they will decide their fate with how they pitch in their opportunities over the final 42 games.

David DeJesus finished up an impressive week with a 3-4, 2 run performance in the losing effort. DeJesus has come out and said he wants to be a part of these young team going forward. I’m not sure what kind of loyalty it takes to be committed to a rebuilding franchise, but I feel good knowing that Theo might keep an older guy or two around to mentor the  young guys. If DeJesus wants to be one of those types of players, more power to him. He plays hard, puts up respectable numbers at the plate and isn’t an liability in the outfield.

 

Bullpen Move

The Cubs claimed Alex Hinshaw off waivers from San Diego. He posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 31 appearances for the Friars this season, but has struggled with his command. Raw talent-wise I can see the intrigue, but one has to wonder how many pitchers we can have in the bullpen that are allergic to having good command of their pitches.

 

Justin Germano gets the start against rookie Mark Rogers at Miller Park tomorrow for the start of a three game series.

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Games 118 & 119: Day & Night, Night & Day

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Cubs 3 @ Reds 5

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Johnny Cueto v. Jeff Samardzija – Advantage Reds
After the game, Dale would say Samardzija’s progress this year has been ‘better than expected’ – and I totally agree. But Johnny Cueto is a real ace, Jeff Samardzija is just a guy who has nicknamed himself and happens to be the best starter in a really crappy rotation.

Alfonso Soriano
During an at-bat which in no way helped normalize Alfonso’s BABIP, it appeared as if Cueto and Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan were NOT on the same page as to what pitch should be thrown.  Soriano had worked a 3-2 count with 2 down in the first, Hanigan seemed to want a steady diet of sliders to put him away, but Cueto insisted on the fastball. It was Cueto’s lone mistake of the afternoon; Soriano deposited it in the second deck. Hanigan’s reaction was priceless.

With the blast, Soriano became only the sixth player in MLB history to compile 1000 RBIs, 400 2Bs, 350 HRs, and 250 SBs. Andre Dawson and Willie Mays did it without PEDs, Gary Sheffield may have done it clean too – Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez took a shortcut to the milestone.

Other Notes
Not really much to the early game – Cueto was unstoppable after the first inning. The Cubs got something going in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman, but they NEEDED 3 runs just to tie. That wasn’t going to happen. Samardzija wasn’t terrible, wasn’t great either. It was the four extra-base hits that really cost him. Remember, this is our defacto ‘ace’ and he’s sporting a 4.17 ERA – I’m not sure he even fits into the Angels rotation and they’re barely a .500 team. He might be our ‘ace’ but he’s a slightly worse than league-average pitcher.

 

Between Games
The Cubs and Starlin Castro reportedly came to an agreement on a significant contract extension that hit the news late in the first game. The front office spent the rest of the day denying anything had been finalized, but the details that have leaked seem to indicate the two sides are very close to making it official. Effectively, the Cubs would buyout the remainder of Castro’s arbitration and three further years of free agency, locking him up through 2019 with an option for 2020. A little context – Castro will only be 30 when the deal ends. So it’d be 6 years for $60mil, or 7 years for $76mil depending on whether the Cubs picked up the option for 2020.

 

Cubs 9 @ Reds 7

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Starlin Castro
He certainly played like a man who’d just received some good news. Castro fell a HR short of the cycle in the nightcap. That’s twice in four days that he’s narrowly missed the cycle. The lineup for the night game had Castro hitting fourth between Rizzo and LaHair – it worked well, but I wish Dale would stop the persistent lineup tinkering. In any case, it seems like an extension is shortly forthcoming for the Cubs’ All-Star shortstop. (Baseball-Reference has ‘page sponsors’; the sponsor of Starlin’s page, a gentleman named Matt – of whose acquaintance I’d be pleased to make – leaves only a brief note in the section dedicated for the page sponsor. It reads, “If you don’t like Starlin Castro, go step on a land mine.” I couldn’t agree more, Matt).

Brooks Raley v. Todd Redmond – Advantage Hitters
So we’ve seen Brooks Raley twice. He was terrible and then just ok – two losses. Today he was just ok again, and got the win. The early run support seemed to settle him down; and he looked more confident against the Reds than he had in either of his previous starts. Perhaps that’s a by-product of this being his second start in 7 days against Cincinnati. Redmond had, until today, the interesting distinction of being the least useful callup of the year. He was traded in July from the Braves to the Reds, but he’d been added to two different MLB rosters a total of three previous times and had never made an appearance. Today, in his fourth callup of the year, he finally got a chance – and he completely squandered it.

Cubs’ Offense
The Cubs battered Redmond to the tune of 7 hits and 5 walks in just 3.1 innings. Though they were only able to turn that into 4 runs, Redmond had to throw 91 pitches just to get 10 outs. The first line of Reds relievers saw the lead balloon by the top of the sixth to 8-2. Brett Jackson hit his first MLB homer and David DeJesus hit a ninth inning solo shot of his own to give Marmol some breathing room.

Distress From The ‘Pen
It’s not uncommon during doubleheaders for at least one reliever to draw duty in both games. Today that role fell to Manny Corpas. He was great in the first game when the Cubs lost, and terrible in the nightcap with the Cubs trying to hold a lead. He gave up a two-run bomb to Ryan Ludwick (his second of the game) and when Shawn Camp allowed an inherited runner to score just one inning later, the Cubs lead stood at 1. But Marmol locked it down and Raley recorded his first MLB victory – Volstad sulked in his locker (ok, I made that up…but he probably did).

Other Notes
There was a lot to like in the night game – the infield consisted of Valbuena, Castro, Cardenas, and Rizzo. They combined for 8 hits – although Valbuena did make an error. Contrast that with the first game; Vitters, Castro, Barney, and Rizzo combined for a single hit and 5 strikeouts. Yes, a completely different quality of pitcher on the mound for the Reds as well – but I can’t abide Barney seeing just 9 pitches in 3 at-bats or Vitters’ .091 average batting second. Even contact-averse Brett Jackson is hitting .182 now.

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Game 117: A Blessing Can Also Be A Curse

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. My brother and I would get our shoes from Payless, when all the other kids would get theirs from Foot Locker. As a result, they’d have Nike’s and I’d have XJ-900′s. We also didn’t have Cable TV, so I wasn’t able to follow Sportscenter in its Hey Day. Now, I’m old enough to purchase things for myself, and one of the things I have is the MLB Extra Innings package. It allows me, living in North Carolina, to watch every Cubs game I want. I can use my DVR and record the day games and watch them when I get home that evening. It’s wonderful how much technology allows me to do. Unfortunately, and this is the case all to often, the team is not very good, and the technology advantage becomes less of a blessing and more of a curse. Case in point, last night. With my wife out of town and me home with the three kids, I would normally have gone to the Redbox and picked up a movie. Instead, thanks to the wonder of technology, I was on recap duty for the game. So, might as well get to it.

What Went Right

  • My least favorite Cub, Luis Valbuena, told Josh Vitters to stick it in a sack and went out and posted a 3-for-4 day with a solo home run and a double. At the time, the home run gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead and you thought maybe this will be a fun night to watch.
  • Darwin Barney made a couple of really nice plays at second base. Both are in the highlight package linked in the top of the post. One came on a dive in the 6th and then a charging glove to glove exchange in the 8th. I’m wondering more and more if he will win the gold glove. He’ll have to beat out Brandon Phillips, which could be tough considering the award factors in offense for some reason, but you can make the case he’s played well enough to at least be in the conversation.
  • Three scoreless innings by the bullpen turned in thanks to Michael Bowden and Alberto Cabrera
  • We only had to play one game, unlike the sorry spectacle that is going to take place today with the day / night double header.

What Went Wrong

  • Travis Wood got rocked. He lasted just five innings, surrendering three home runs and all seven of the runs allowed in the game. He also made an error in the field, which is unusual for him.
  • Josh Vitters didn’t play (I just put this in cause I hate Valbuena)
  • Brett Jackson continues to be a strikeout machine, posting another two.
  • After a great game the other day, David DeJesus put up an 0-for-5 day out of the leadoff spot.
  • I had to recap.

That’s all for now. Please remember to keep Jedi in your thoughts and prayers as he has the unenviable task of watching and recapping both games today. Bess you Jedi.

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What’s Hate Got To Do With It?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

The world is not as gray as we sometimes try to make it. There are absolutes, and there are issues that come down to right and wrong, good and bad, black and white.

But Alfonso Soriano is not one of those issues. I’m tired of the school of thought that says if I don’t like Soriano, I must hate him. Moreover, I probably just hate him because of the amount of money he makes, because his actual performance isn’t all that bad. So really it comes down to jealousy and/or misguided anger over money–and not even my money–that clouds my judgement.

What a bunch of condescending, patronizing horse hockey! Allow me to correct a few of the often tossed-around misconceptions on behalf of Soriano detractors everywhere.

First of all, there is a vast chasm between dislike and hate. I dislike when I’m misunderstood, or when I can’t get my point across clearly. I hate when that point is ignored in favor of a half-truth or a straw man that’s easier to criticize, marginalize, and ignore. Dubbing someone a Soriano-hater is a shorthand way of saying he’s incapable of appreciating anything Soriano does well, and abruptly undercutting any valid criticism he might have to offer. “He’s just a hater–don’t bother listening to him.”

You see that mentality at work throughout the sports world. Yankee and Laker fans use it against Bill Simmons to dismiss anything negative he writes about their beloved teams. Dodger fans use it to slough off any criticism of the violent element that’s taken root within their ranks. Cubs fans use it against Marty Brennamen (although in that case, it’s valid). You want to prove you’re incapable or unwilling to successfully argue a point? Call your opposition a hater and ignore what he has to say. It’s super convincing.

Frankly, there are plenty of good reasons to not like Soriano that have nothing to do with his contract. Yes, he does get paid too much, but he’s far from the only baseball player, or even the only Cub. In fact, I say good for him that he was able to cash in on one last monster contract before his body and his talent started to fail. Coming off an MVP-caliber season, he was one of the only impact free agents available, and he was able to leverage his career-year against Jim Hendry’s angst over missing out on signing Rafael Furcal in the previous offseason. The Cubs were willing to overpay, Hendry was determined to not be out-bid again, and Soriano was the only obvious target available. Somehow that’s his fault? If you want to be angry about Soriano’s contract and the impact it’s had on the Cubs, be angry at Jim Hendry, Crane Kenney, Sam Zell, and the Tribune Co. board that OK’d their massive spending. They’re the guilty ones.

And just a side note–if you are one of those Cubs fans who does hate Soriano because of the money he makes and that alone, please feel free to shut up about it. You’re making the rest of us look bad.

Because our distaste for Soriano has nothing to do with the sizable checks he cashes, but everything to do with his performance in the field. Specifically, with the lack of adjustments he was able (or even tried) to make throughout most of his time in Chicago. It has to do with his consistent willingness to widen his strikezone, his failure to work counts, and his lack of familiarity with situational hitting. It has to do with the bad lines he takes to the baseball, the way he frequently misses cut-off men or throws to the wrong base, and his nearly unconquerable fear of Wrigley Field’s brick walls. It has to do with his incessant hopping “timing device” for catching fly balls, his reluctance to move out of the leadoff spot, and his propensity to watch even his shallowest pop flies instead of running out of the batter’s box every time. Face it: statistics or no statistics–if you’ve watched Soriano play almost six seasons for the Cubs, you’ve got plenty of reasons not to like him.

Having said all that, I actually like Soriano more this season than I ever have before (hey, look–nuance!). He’s made a variety of adjustments both at the plate and in the field, and he’s actually grown as a player, even as his talent has receded. He’s swinging a lighter bat to greater success, he’s taking better lines to the ball in left field, and he’s even charged into the wall a few times–on purpose! He stopped hopping (seriously, I haven’t seen him do it once this season) and he seems to be listening to and learning from his coaching staff. He’s also proven to be a good teammate and a mentor to the Cubs’ young stable of players–and to Starlin Castro, in particular. By all accounts, he works as hard or harder than anyone else on the team, and that work is showing up on the field. Finally!

He’s always been able to get hot and carry the Cubs for a few games–sometimes even a few weeks. That’s been an almost impossible challenge this season, but he’s shown up bigtime in a lot of the games they’ve won, and even been a bright spot in several they lost.

Here’s how good he’s been–his laughably untradeable contract isn’t so laughably untradeable anymore. In fact, he’s turned down at least one proposed deal to San Francisco, and had to reiterate his position earlier this week when Melky Cabrera was suspended. And since he’s cleared waivers, that may not be the last offer he has to consider before the season is over.

Personally, I doubt he’s going anywhere this season. But based on the progress, growth, and character he’s shown, I will be a little sad to see him go when it does happen. Not very sad–just a little. Because while I may not like Alfonso Soriano, I don’t hate him either.

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Reds Series Preview

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Friday @ 6:10pm CT – Travis Wood vs. Bronson Arroyo

Wood gets another chance to beat his former team after the Cubs’ bullpen blew his chance last weekend. In that outing, Wood tossed seven innings of one-run ball and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts. He also allowed five hits and walked one. Arroyo lasted eight innings for the third time this season Saturday, holding the Cubs to two runs on five hits for his eighth win. He had allowed nine earned runs in his previous 11 1/3 innings, but is now one win shy of matching last season’s mark.

Saturday @ 12:10pm CT – Jeff Samardzija vs. Johnny Cueto

In his previous start, Samardzija matched his career K high, with 11. He held the Astros to four hits over seven innings and finally got some offensive support. He can only hope he gets the second game; he’s 5-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 night outings. Cueto was stellar again Sunday, hurling eight shutout innings and allowing just three hits for his 15th win. He may get the call for the early half of the doubleheader Saturday, as he’s 10-0 with a 1.55 ERA in 12 day games this season.

Saturday @ 6:10pm CT – TBD vs. TBD

The Cubs will add a 26th player for the doubleheader, and were expected to call up left-hander Brooks Raley from Triple-A Iowa. Raley has made two starts for the big league team, giving up 10 runs on 13 hits over 10 innings so far. (Editor’s note: I strongly doubt it will be Raley.)

Sunday @ 12:10pm CT – Chris Volstad vs. Mat Latos

The wait continues for Volstad, who now has gone 23 consecutive starts without a win. He lost his last outing to the Astros, giving up four runs on eight hits over five innings. He struggled with command and his pitches weren’t very “crisp.” Latos continued his hot August, silencing the Mets through seven innings, giving up five hits in a no-decision outing Tuesday. The righty hasn’t lost in a month and is 1-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three August starts.

Our Take

Let’s see… the Cubs shaky pitching staff away from the Friendly Confines and in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, playing four games in three days, with a special appearance by a pitcher who has yet to be named, and a series finale starring Mr. One Bad Inning himself? Against the hard-throwing, sharp-fielding, power-hitting Reds lineup? My expectations aren’t necessarily at a new low, but they might be as low as they’ve been all year. I’d be thrilled if we could split this series, but the way we’ve been playing lately gives me no reason to think that’s going to happen.

Series Prediction: Take it away, Mr. T.

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The Theo Way: Mastering the Name Game

Friday, August 17th, 2012

 

By now you’ve certainly all heard the news that the Cubs “parted ways” with long time player personnel executive Oneri Fleita. Fleita had spent 12 years overseeing the Cubs’ minor league system and was given a four year extension last season after Jim Hendry was dismissed.

The move to send Fleita packing can’t be viewed as a complete surprise (or a surprise at all, for that matter), considering he was stripped of most of his duties in November when Jason McLeod was put in charge of scouting. Friday’s promotion of Tim Wilken to a special assistant role should have been seen as additional writing on the wall for Fleita that his days were numbered. Like most of us, he certainly knew this day was coming.

What he didn’t know…what none of us knew…was why the move was being made. Luckily we’ve received a transcript* of the final conversation he had with The Theo, which sheds a little more light on the move:

TE: Jed, get Oneri in here.

JH: Oneri, The Theo will see you now.

(Oneri enters The Hall of Theo)

TE: Oneri, I’m going to skip the bullcrap and cut to the chase here. This probably isn’t a huge surprise to you, but we’ve got to let you go. We appreciate your service and dedication, but you don’t really fit what we’re trying to do here. Obviously, you’re under contract for three more seasons, so I would encourage you to take a couple nice long vacations and clear your head. I’ll be happy to provide a reference where ever you decide to move onto next.

OF (sobbing): I understand. I knew this day was coming…I just wish I knew what I could have done differently.

TE: It’s not you Oneri, it’s that name of yours. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

OF: It…what?

TE: Here on the Goodship Theo, we like to keep names simple. There’s no time to worry about screwing up names when you’re rebuilding a moribund franchise. No time at all. Isn’t that right Jed.

JH: Yessir, no time at all for funny names.

TE: Look at who we’ve brought in as part of our team, Oneri. We’ve got Jed here. Dale’s doing a hell of a job. We brought Jason in when we got here. Tim just got a big promotion. Not a lot of Oneris on that list are there Jed.

JH: No sir, not a lot of Oneris.

TE: Ol’ Rudy almost had it right, but how could I look myself in the mirror knowing that my staff was losing precious time trying to pronounce Jaramillo?

JH: You couldn’t sir.

TE: Damn right I couldn’t.

OF: This is just about that most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Besides – you mentioned Dale…sure that’s easy, but no one knows how to say Sveum correctly.

TE: That’s a great point Oneri. Here’s the thing – its only one syllable, you can just sort of mumble your way through that one, no problem.

OF: Well, you could just call me O, how about that?

TE: Well, O isn’t really a name now is it?

OF: I guess not…I still don’t understand Theo…I’ve got to talk to my agent, but I’m really not sure you can fire me because you don’t like my name.

TE: You’re probably right, Oneri. Ok, here’s what I’d like you to do. Go out there and punch Starlin Castro right square in the jaw as hard as you can.

OF: I’m not going to do that.

TE: Well Oneri, that sounds like insubordination to me. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go. Jed, please show him out…and grab Wasserstrom on your way back in. Way too many things going on with that one…

*Full disclosure, this transcription may not be entirely or even vaguely accurate. The truth is, when The Theo came into the mix at the end of 2011, we knew (hoped!) big changes were coming. Admittedly, many of us probably expected them to come sooner – I even put together a quick top 10 list of things The Theo needed to accomplish before the season started.

However, leadership and culture changes don’t happen overnight. The Theo seems to be a very astute leader, and clearly understood the organizational dynamics involved in taking on a job like his, and despite impatience from some, he took his time to assess the situation and see what he had before burning it all down and rebuilding it his way.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the rebuilding has begun – veterans are being shipped out, kids are being called up and now the front office reshuffling has begun in earnest.  The Theo Way is officially underway…we the jury can start paying attention now, though deliberation is probably still a few years away.

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Just a Few Things I’ve Been Thinking About…

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Initially, I was going to go see Daytona play the Lakeland Flying Tigers on Tuesday night, in which I had planned on taking videos of Javier Baez and provide you all with a first-hand scouting report on the Cubs top prospect, but the game was postponed due to unplayable field conditions… so instead of getting some awesome analysis and videos of the best bat in our system you get some lingering thoughts about the team… enjoy!

I still like Chris Volstad

Despite being terrible this entire season after giving up another big inning in his last start, I still want Volstad on the team next year.  Not really about advanced numbers saying he’s better than he’s been, believing Volstad is a part of the future, or any crazy idea like that.  I think Volstad could be valuable to a contender next deadline – It’s a lottery ticket system.  I’m buying another Volstad ticket and hopefully this time we win. His stuff isn’t bad…  so he’s gotta be tipping his pitches.  Or at least that’s what I will continue saying next year when he’s getting shelled.

When will the Cubs be competitive again?

Looking at what we have now and where our prospects are… I am leaning towards 2016 now  instead of my initial guess…  2015 still has a shot, but everything needs to go right – which just doesn’t happen often for the Cubs.  We’d need Castro to rebound, Rizzo & Samardzija to continue to develop, Baez & Soler to shoot through the minors, Vizcaino to return and stay healthy… and probably another piece or two to work out.  Then the rest is depth for the bench, bullpen, injuries and trade bait.  We need a core of young players to build around before we entertain free agency.

It’s not only chicks that dig the long ball

You ask Kevin Goldstein or Keith Law why Matt Szczur is seen only as a 4th outfielder and their answer is because he’s a slap hitter with no power potential.  Despite plus speed, hitting for a high average and showing good discipline he’s seen “nothing to get excited about.”  On the other hand, you ask why Jim Callis likes Szczur so much, it’s because he saw a Szczur batting practice where Szczur was crushing balls in Arizona, flashing power that he has yet to tap into in games.  I’ve wondered why fans fall in love with guys like Colvin and LaHair over a hot month of hitting… and will flat out trash valuable players like a Kosuke Fukudome or David DeJesus…. I’ve come to the conclusion, dudes dig the long ball too.  No matter how good advanced metrics tell you a player is, if he doesn’t hit HRs the majority of fans don’t care.

Speaking of LaHair

What would you do in his situation?  He’s not part of the Cubs’ long term plans.  He’s not a lock to be on the 25-man roster next season.  He’s not even a sure thing to be retained by the team given his age, production drop off, and state of the roster with recent call-ups.  Japanese teams called last year, and it’s a pretty safe assumption they’d still be interested this season.

Would you go over there and make a bazillion yen (conversion rate may not be accurate), be worshipped by an entire country just to hit mammoth HRs or would you chase the dream of staying in the majors at only 500K a year.

Has any player ever made the ASG in their first full season and by the next year be out of the MLB because they couldn’t hack it?

Soriano’s bat change

A lot was made out of Soriano going to a lighter and shorter bat, but has anything really changed?

I would say the only thing that has changed is his BABIP normalized to league average this season after a career low last year(and for his career it’s .303).  Everything else is right in line with standard deviation.

Next year’s draft

Looks as we are pretty safe in top 3 and have a good chance at the second pick.  I would love to get #2, which would nearly guarantee us Mark Appel, if we want him.  I don’t think Houston would take him after what happened with this year’s draft.

I don’t normally advocate for drafting for need, but in this case I would.  Appel should be ready for AA by the end of next season given that he’s a 4 year college arm.  Slotting him with a 2014 late season call up, and in the rotation by 2015, the same time the core of our farm should be hitting the majors.  The trio of Samardzija, Vizcaino, and Appel would be a nice foundation for a rotation.

Darwin Barney’s Defense

First, I think Barney is deserving of a gold glove this year.  Even though he has a few weaknesses, he’s steadily improved since becoming the everyday 2B.   He’s been the best defensive second basemen in baseball this year, but these types of rewards are more based on reputation than merit, so watch out for Brandon Phillips getting another.

Second, at some point this week Barney’s WAR was 4.6 and Ryan Braun’s WAR was 4.5.  People were calling this a limitation of WAR because no one in their right mind would choose Barney over Braun.  But is it?

While I wouldn’t take Barney over Braun either… but can you not win the game with defense just as easily with offense?  If you make a great play that stops the tying run from scoring, isn’t that just as important as the guy who knocked in the winning run?

I think baseball just needs more straightforward defensive stats like other sports for the masses to truly understand what players are doing.  You can say their UZR/TZR is +15, but what does that really mean?  You can laugh at people who try to mention fielding % & errors in arguing how good a player is defensively, but is it really their fault?  Now if I said Barney made 22 plays that saved a run more than the next second basemen, you understand that.  If I said Rizzo made 64 picks this season that saved errant throws, that’s easily understood.  That’s why people still cling to errors, fielding %, and assists so much, they’re easy to understand.    We need simpler defensive stats to make it easier to decipher who’s actually good at defense and who’s not.

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