Archive for February, 2013

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore (But It Still Feels Like It)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Good morning from Phoenix, Arizona. It is sunny and brisk outside, with a chance of delayed flights and uncertain traveling arrangements popping up throughout the day. Most of the Top 30 contestants have boarded shuttles to the airport and are checking in to their respective flights. A few of us are sitting in the hotel lobby due to delayed and/or cancelled flights, reflecting on the week and bonding a bit more before we head our separate directions.

If there is one thing that stuck with me this week, it is that every single person in this contest is amazing. Even the Cardinals fans were cool (They paid me to say that*). Peoples’ team alliances became an afterthought. Baseball was the glue that held us together, and their personalities drew us closer.

*They didn’t really pay me to say that.

**Please don’t tar and feather me for saying that.

The week was a whirlwind. So much happened in such a short amount of time that it is all still soaking in and swirling around in my mind. I will try to sort out the important pieces of the trip.

Let us begin. And what better place to start than at the beginning?


  • Picked up by a professional driver in a Lincoln Towncar (I secretly was hoping it would be Ryan Gosling. You can’t always get what you want.) and taken to O’Hare.
  • Met up with a couple of knucklehead contestants* who were also from the Chicago area.
  • Flew to Phoenix.

*I mean that in the most loving way. Travis Miller (Mets) and Marcus Hall (White Sox) were those two knuckleheads.

Monday’s events then concluded with approximately twenty of us going to the local diner, having dinner, and generally causing a ruckus. And then we all took the ruckus to the hotel hot tub area. Generally, it was the beginning of a great love story few days.

On Tuesday, the real fun began:

  • Free, fantastic, made-to-order breakfast.
  • Shipped to Chase Field.
  • Group meeting with the Head Honchos.
  • Lunch (ballpark food – pulled bbq chicken. yum.).
  • Tour of the stadium.
  • Elevator pitches.

And, the very most, absolutely incredible, ama-za-zing part of Tuesday:

Ten of us were chosen at random to have a brief interview with Greg Amsinger. You know, that awesome guy on MLB Network that talks and stuff. I love him.

When it was my turn to chat with him, I had to put in an ear piece and stand just so in front of the camera with a bright light shining in my eyes and Chase Field stretching out behind me. And then, “Oh, we have a 45 minute break. You don’t get to talk to Greg right now.”

Day. Ruined. I was so bummed.

But 45 minutes later, after the elevator pitch, I got a second hack at Greg and it was life-changing. He asked me things such as: “Why are you a Cubs fan?”; “Todd Walker is your favorite Cub? Why?!”; “You’re a farmer? What’s that like?”; and we laughed and laughed. Did I mention that it was highlight of my week?

Later that night we had a team trivia challenge (hosted by Eric Byrnes) and karaoke. Then it was back to the hotel for the night for more hot tubbing and ruckus-causing. The hot tub closed at midnight, but the security guard let us stay a little longer than we were supposed to.

When Wednesday morning rolled around:

  • Individual interview with Head Honchos. It was a very nerve-racking experience, as I was positioned in the center of a U-shaped table set up, with between 10-20 people analyzing every word which came out of my mouth. The two most important words I said during the entire interview rolled off my tongue in the following order: Duck Dynasty.
  • Three groups of ten were sent to 3 different Spring Training facilities: Surprise, Goodyear, and Salt River. I was at Salt River, where the players and coaches were not. They were having a players vs. coaches paintball tournament. That should have been a qualifying challenge for the Top 30, but  I didn’t make the schedule or plan the challenges, so we didn’t do that.
  • Split into teams, made promo videos (Which, I assume, will be posted on the FanCave website at some point. During this challenge, I almost died*). My group consisted of me and 4 men. One of them was Hayden Moss, the winner of Big Brother 12. I forgot who the other 3 were. The other three were Nick, Calder, and Michael. They were a good bunch.
  • Filmed a parody of this commercial.
  • Went bowling.

The bowling event was held at Lucky Strike in downtown Phoenix. It was the cherry on top of the cake of an amazing week.

*A little piece of me got left behind in Arizona, but that’s because my buddy Calder tried to slide tackle me during one of our commercials.


  • Came back to Illinois (lame).

Unfortunately, we did not go to Mesa, I did not get to see any Cubbies, and it hailed/snowed one day. But hey, can’t let that get you down, Jack! This week had so many high points that not seeing the Cubs only made me cry for a few minutes.

If you would like to see some of the photos I took from the week, you can check out my instagram site.

If you would like to see some photos taken by the professional photographer, you can check out MLB FanCave’s Facebook page.

And, finally, if you would like to familiarize yourself with the Top 30, you can go here.

It was cool to actually meet these people in real life and see their personalities come to life. The people I met this week are the best group of people I have met in a long time. Whoever makes the FanCave deserves it. Everyone is worthy of a spot in the Cave (I just hope one has my name on it).

They will be announcing the Cave Dwellers next week some time. Of course, I will keep you posted on what the outcome is!

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Best Defensive Players of the Decade (Part I)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

by John Dewan

In the last Stat of the Week, we kicked off our celebration of 10 years of Defensive Runs Saved analytics with a look back at the best defensive teams of the decade. This week we continue our retrospective with individual defenders, broken down by position. We’ll start with the middle infield: second basemen and shortstops.

First, here are the ten best second basemen of the last 10 years according to Defensive Runs Saved:

Most Defensive Runs Saved at 2B, 2003-2012





Chase Utley




Mark Ellis




Orlando Hudson




Placido Polanco




Dustin Pedroia




Chase Utley has a 25-run lead on the second-place second baseman Mark Ellis. Given the similar number of innings played by Utley, Ellis and Orlando Hudson—the only other players within shouting distance of Utley in Runs Saved—Utley is the definitive champion. His defensive excellence is built predominantly on his range and positioning, and that, remarkably, has not declined substantially despite his degenerative knee condition. Utley has played at least 81 games each season since 2005, and he has never had fewer than eight Plus/Minus Runs Saved in one of those seasons.

Next, here are the ten best shortstops of the last 10 years according to Defensive Runs Saved:

Most Defensive Runs Saved at SS, 2003-2012





Adam Everett




Jack Wilson




Brendan Ryan




Clint Barmes




Troy Tulowitzki




Compared to second base, shortstop is a little less differentiated at the top. Adam Everett beats out Jack Wilson by just four Runs Saved for first place. When you consider that Wilson played more than 2,000 extra innings in the time frame, Everett looks like a clear winner, but using that same criteria, Brendan Ryan makes a compelling case to be the best defensive shortstop. Ryan has 91 Runs Saved in 4,608 innings, a slightly better pace than Everett’s 119 Runs Saved in 6,505 innings. I’ll give Everett the nod, mostly because of timing. The 10 years of Defensive Runs Saved data happen to match his playing career nearly perfectly. Before it is all said and done, Ryan may have the better career defensive resume.

Our holistic Defensive Runs Saved metric is made up of several runs saved components. Two primary components of Defensive Runs Saved include the Plus/Minus System, which evaluates the range of fielders at every position except for catcher, and Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays. Defensive Runs Saved for second basemen and shortstops also includes Double Play Runs Saved.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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GirlieView (02/21/2013)

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

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 2013 = 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!


  • It’s a tall order to catch a Swanson, but As long as the Johnsons are behind me……wait, even I don’t like the way this sounds.
  • My mancave includes a kegerator, TV, PS3, and numerous Cubs and music paraphernalia.  Think Jason Segal’s room in “I Love You, Man”, minus the tissue station.
  • Time away from the grind is time with family – the best time of all.
  • No comments this late after the story posted says just one thing.  Chicks dig the long ball.
  • The Giants had won and the Cardinals were eliminated from a postseason that they arguably should not have even been a part of anyway. The dark forces had been defeated.
  • CED, Cardinal Elimination Day is always a day of celebration for me.
  • “I made it.”
  • the fanny slap, encouragement, or creepy
  • There it was, my brother was right, I was standing in Wrigley Field just to the third base side of home plate. I got my first view of the bleachers, then I saw the green vines, the big players in their bright white uniforms, I was in awe, time stood still for the moment.
  • As long as Tony goes somewhere that will consistently utilize his skill(s), I’ll be OK.
  • Hey how ’bout those Cubs?  Pitchers and catchers….baseball….
  • Say hello the the MLB FanCave Top 30.
  • Dibble also hosts a bad radio show with the unfortunately named Amy van Dyken
  • Cub pitchers seem to have a way of not staying healthy.
  • I’m still debating if the two 17 year olds we got are older than Campana looks.


  • My Dad always says I was “made” at Wrigley, does that count?!?


  • Congratulations to Katie the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around! (And for making it to the top 30 in the MLB Fan Cave contest. Can’t wait to hear about Arizona!)

Top Ten of 2013 (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)
1. jswanson
2. Seymour Butts
3. Doc Raker
4. Buddy
4. Eddie von White
6. Chuck
6. Jedi Johnson
8. cap’n obvious
8. Gymjok
8. Joe Aiello
8. Katie

Chit Chat
I’ve got nothing. Does anyone have anything they’d like to discuss?

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Cubs Opening Day Starter Is……

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Just a few news and notes on this Thursday morning as Spring Training already feels like it’s been too long. When do games start again?

  • We talked yesterday a little about the fact that Matt Garza had some tightness in his lat, which will cause him to rest a little and see where he’s at. That may set him back a little and open the door for an opening day start for, drum roll please…..Jeff Samardzija. It’s obviously way too early to discuss this seriously at this point, but Dale Sveum will need to monitor how Garza prepares to properly determine if he’s ready. In the event he’s not, Samardzija may be the man. See how fun spring training news is? We get nuggets like this crap.
  • Rumors are swirling that Starlin Castro is in need to a psychiatrist after his most recent statement regarding gold gloves. This quote came from a recent Paul Sullivan article: “I want to be like Barney and win a Gold Glove,” he said Tuesday at Fitch Park. “It’s going to be fun winning Gold Gloves at shortstop, second base and first base, because (Anthony) Rizzo is pretty good, too.” I hope he’s right, but I’m not holding my breath. Defense is not what makes Castro valuable. It’s his bat and his speed.
  • Theo Epstein sat down with David Kaplan recently and talked about the team. The video interview is just under 10 minutes and is worth a listen. There is something about Theo’s interviews that always leaves me excited. He’s so dreamy.
  • The Cubs recently announced that changes were coming this year to the 7th inning stretch this season. Rumors are that they will try to refine the conductors list too people who actually have somewhat of a clue or tie to the team or the city. Personally, I’d like to see the whole process scrapped and just see a recording of Harry played every game.
  • Noah talked yesterday about the fact that Baseball America posted it’s top 100 list recently, but what he failed to mention was a blog post they put up about potential top 100’s for next year. One of the BA staff felt a certain controversial Cub may make the list. “Conor Glassey: Cubs first baseman Dan Vogelbach is only 20 years old, but he already has a long track record of turning doubters into believers. They doubt him by discounting his hefty, 6-foot, 260-pound frame and then believe in him after seeing him launch balls into the lights. Excluding the Latin summer leagues, just 15 players last year with 200 or more plate appearances had an OPS greater than 1.000. Only three of those players were younger than Vogelbach—Addison Russell (who ranked 48 on the list), David Dahl (53) and Joey Gallo, who just missed. But Vogelbach isn’t just a slugger—he has an excellent feel for hitting and working the count and posted a .322 batting average in 2012 between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Boise. He’ll need to continue to improve his defense, but Vogelbach has one of the best all-around bats in the minor leagues.”
  • Finally, our comment system was updated the other day. If you are having issues, please e-mail me at


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Morning News: Garza Health Update

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

All good news today. Matt Garza’s MRI on his ribs revealed no significant damage, although they will have him rest a week before re-examining him. At this point, there’s nothing that would indicate he shouldn’t be ready when the season starts. At worst, it would push him off a presumed slot on Opening Day.

Baseball America revealed their top 100 prospects yesterday, and four Cubs made the list. The big three made it with Javier Baez at 16, Albert Almora at 33 and Jorge Soler at 34. That’s about ten slots higher than most other publications have put the trio. Joining them is pitcher Arodys Vizcaino at 83.

The publication also listed ratings for the quartets’ tools on the 20-80 scouting scale. For each of the prospects, their top tools are: (1) Baez’s power and arm (65); (2) Almora’s defense (75); Soler’s power and arm (70); and Vizcaino’s fastball and curveball (70).

More details have come out about Jesus Castillo and Erick Leal, the two young pitchers the Cubs received in return for Katie’s crush, Tony Campana (good luck to Katie in Arizona, by the way). They both are projectable arms with at least one advanced secondary pitch, especially for 17 year olds. They’re lottery tickets, but a lottery ticket is much better than organizational filler.

Last but not least, it’s my wife’s birthday today, so happy birthday to her!

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