Archive for July, 2013

Chet Chat, Vol. 1 – A Tale of Two Cubs

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The non-waiver trade deadline is approaching within the next few hours and there are still a lot of playable cards left in the Cubs deck.  Actually, I am writing this on trade deadline eve, so maybe by the time I wake up guys like Jeff Russell, David DeJesus, Kevin Gregg, Shark (yes, lazy, don’t want to spell it all out),  Nate Schierholtz, Ronnie Woo-Woo, and the white haired lady with the visor they always show during the seventh inning stretch will have already been cashed in for the prospect of future wins.

Deep down I even feel guys like Junior Lake are being shopped in a weird sort of way.  Call me crazy, but he doesn’t really fit the Epstein mold.  I don’t see him sticking around if a team liked what they saw and offered up a nice package.

This brings me to a trade that happened last week.  The Soriano trade reminds me of death.  No, not the death of our beloved ball club, nothing that extreme.  It is similar to how we say nice things about somebody after they pass on, we chose to recognize Alfonso for all the great things he did after he was traded and then almost, maybe I am stretching here, but we acted as though we would miss him.  I can’t remember an outpouring of affection like this for Soriano in all his years in Cubbie blue.

I will admit, I was saddened a bit.

I think of my Cub fandom in two chapters; the Sosa years and then the Soriano years.  I liked Sosa for the first few years of his chapter.  He provided a certain amount of excitement that was above and beyond the norm at a sporting event.  He was doing things otherworldly there for a while.  I feel he may have been doing them with a little help (wink, wink) but that was when the league was the wild west.  I am shocked we didn’t see a cyborg jump out of the dugout and take a few cuts for crying out loud.

Sosa’s chapter ended with a teammate smashing his boom box while he drove off the Wrigley player lot before fan appreciation day made it to the latter innings.   Also, we must not forget the bewildering and sometimes downright idiotic defense in right field,  the at times stupid baserunning, the corked bat, and the late and ever so grand “This is my house!” entrances at spring training.  Most everyone on the north side of Chicago felt it was time for Sammy to leave, he had worn out his welcome.

Soriano’s chapter ends with glowing articles written by most of Chicago’s press and bloggers alike.  Everybody seemed to speak of his professionalism and love for the game.  Teammates couldn’t stop gushing over his leadership and value to the young players.

I begin to wonder, if Soriano had half the contract and gave the same effort and results, would he have been more loved by fans during his time with the team?  Could he have been one of the most loved Cubs of all time?  If Bob Brenly were not so quick to judge Soriano on his effort and heart during live broadcasts, would some fans see him in a different light?

The question for me will always be, was Soriano unfairly judged due to the size of his contract?

I know I enjoyed the Sosa chapter more, but most of the joy was not because of Sosa’s towering homeruns, but more because of what the team accomplished.

Soriano’s chapter will always be a question of what could have been and what should have been.  I begged on more then one occasion, usually while watching a game in frustration, for the team to trade him.  Yet, for some odd reason, along with many other fans and writers, I inexplicably miss him.

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Cubs Bullpen Picks a Horrible Time to Choke

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Gotta start off with a quick PSA. In case you were considering choking and think you have picked out a good time to do it, don’t let my headline fool you. There is never a good time to choke, boys and girls. It’s not advised, but for the Cubs bullpen, particularly Kevin Gregg and James Russell, yesterday was about the worst possible day for it to happen and it happened to both of them.

For the last few weeks, both have been on the trade market and have had suitors. With today’s 4pm EDT deadline for non-waiver deals quickly approaching, the blow ups by both of them in the double header against the Brewers was not helpful. On the small picture side, the blowups probably cost the Cubs both games and assured the series loss. Looking big picture, the blowups are the last thing scouts will see before the deadline since the game tonight isn’t until after the deadline. Now we have to hope that the teams interested in both of them are swayed more by the body of work and less on the last thing they saw. I’d like to report a deal for both of them tomorrow morning. I’m a firm believer that you cultivate your pen from within the organization and with scrap heap filler / flyers like Gregg. If you can build a solid pen from that on the cheap, you can spend the money on guys who play on a regular basis and in turn flip those pen guys as assets.

I expect at least one deal today, despite the rather cold stove for the Cubs since the Alfonso Soriano trade, but I don’t know who to tell you it will be.

by Rob Willer

Kane County Stars Shine

Cougars 4 Timber Rattlers 2 

Game Recap: The Cougars started their four game series with the Timber Rattlers with a bang as they pulled out a 4-2 win on Tuesday night. Starting Pitcher Jason Amlung went three innings giving up no runs and four hits while striking out three lowering his earned run average to 4.42. Nathan Dorris was next to hit the mound as he is one of the better middle relief options for the Cougars. Dorris pitched four innings giving up two runs and six hits. His earned run average is 2.81 and he picked up the win improving to 6-3. Dorris regularly hit between 88-90 with his fastball and showed off his curve which sat anywhere from 74-76. Steve Perakslis threw the final two innings without allowing a run for his fourth save.  Right fielder Reggie Golden hit home run number six and it was a towering drive to left-field that still hasn’t landed. Some other notes from the game were Catcher Carlos Escobar who was 2 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored. Cougars left fielder Oliver Zapata chipped in with a 2 for 4 performance with an RBI triple in the eighth inning.

Possible Promotion for Almora -The atmosphere was electric at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark where we might be in the final days of Albert Almora at Kane County. Almora went 1 for 3 on the night with a walk and is batting .328 on the year for the Cougars. It seems its only a matter of time before he gets promoted to Daytona. For now the Cubs feel he is doing just find in Kane County. Should be an interesting month of August with Cubs Prospects as many promotions could be in order.

Interview Alert– I will be attending Wednesday’s game as well and have a interview in place with Cubs prospect and third baseman Jeimer Candelario. If I’m able to do the interview I will record it and post it for Thursday’s Down with the Farm piece.

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Game Notes – Brewers 5, Cubs 0

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

I wrote in this week’s ESPN Power Rankings that “The Cubs have posted a .545 winning percentage since May 26, which trails only the Dodgers, Cardinals and Pirates in the NL.” With a four game series against one of the worst teams in baseball, you’d think that win percentage would continue to rise. Unfortunately it took a little dip Monday night. Thankfully there are three games to go.

  • Jeff Samardjiza pitched great and had a no hitter into the 5th. It got me thinking and reminded me that I’ve never watched a no hitter from start to finish without prior knowledge of the fact that it was going to happen. I say it that way because sometimes I watch games delayed on DVR or we jump into a game in the 7th because you go get word so and so is close. I missed the Carlos Zambrano no hitter because it was blacked out on TV. One day I’ll see one.
  • We faced a guy last night in Kyle Lohse who is a master at the first pitch strike, which got me wondering a little bit about our staff and how our guys do in that area. Be on the lookout for some research being reported on my end very soon.
  • My boyfriend, Pedro Strop, signed the scorecard on his first rough outing of the year, allowing five earned runs in the 9th and leaving with the loss. His ERA instantly jumped from 0.00 in the NL to over 4. Ouch. That’s why looking at ERA for relievers is so deceiving. If that’s all you go by, you’d be misled based on how well he’s pitched this year, especially how well he did the other night getting out of a bases loaded, no out jam.
  • Today we have a double header, which means both the Cubs and the Brewers are allowed to carry a 26 man roster today due to the fact that it is a day-night double header. Newly acquired starter, Jake Arrieta, will take the spot for the Cubs and get the start in the night game.
  • In case you missed it, the Brewers are now giving away $10 vouchers for future games for every game you purchase in the month of August and September. It’s a good PR move for a team that has been horrible and has lost one of it’s stars to a suspension for the remainder of the year. Sometimes, it’s about doing the right thing. They didn’t have to do this, but in the long run, they will come out ahead for it with the concessions alone once those vouchers are used.
  • Also in the in case you missed it file, former Cub starter and current minor league pitching coach, Frank Castillo, passed away on Sunday near his home. He drown on a boating outing. He was 44 and is survived by a wife and two kids. He was one of my favorite Cubs pitchers growing up. Sad to see people go so young.

Minor League Recap 7/29

by Rob Willer

Iowa Cubs- Brooks Raley was once again dominant on the mound pitching a sharp six and two third innings. Henry Rodriguez struggled again and ended up with the loss giving up two runs which raised his earned run average to 5.40. Mike Olt continues to struggle at Triple A Iowa where he is 2 for 23 which is good for a .087 batting average. Second Base Prospect Logan Watkins pitched in a two hit night also adding a double while Ty Wright hit a home run and knocked in two runs.

Looking Ahead– Iowa will travel to Salt Lake City for a four game series with the Salt Lake City Bees. Current Triple A starter Jake Arrieta will be called up Tuesday to fill in for the night cap of the double header. Since this is a double header the Cubs are allowed to have 26 men on the active roster for the game.

Tennessee Smokies- Dae-Eun Rhee pitched quite the ball game as he went six and one third innings. Rhee gave up two runs both earned and struck out five batter while walking one batter. Arismendy Alcantara had a breakout game going three for four with three singles and four runs batted in. Alcantara is batting .273 through 388 at bats at Tennessee with 13 home-runs and 55 runs batted in. You may remember seeing Alcantara in the futures game where he hit a towering home-run to right representing the Cubs system well. Overall the Smokies managed 10 hits and had eight runs to go along with those hits.

Brett Jackson Demotion– Brett Jackson was struggling in Arizona on his rehab assignment which led him to being sent to Tennessee while Marcos Mateo got promoted to Iowa. Jackson went one for four with a single in his first game at Tennessee.

Featured Article for the Week: Tuesday night I have tickets for the Kane County Cougars game against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Fifth Third Ball Park. Wednesday morning’s article will be centered around the game as I will include in game analysis, scouting reports and even some commentary from some fellow writers that will be attending the game.

As always follow me @Rob_Willer for the latest on Cubs Minor League News or stay here at

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Farm Report: CJ Edwards Dominates

Monday, July 29th, 2013

by Rob Willer

The Cubs had added Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm to its already talented pool of prospects earlier this week and added Corey Brock on Friday. In this edition of Down on the Farm were going to take a look at C.J. Edwards and Corey Brock.

CJ Edwards

Acquired from the Texas Rangers as part of the package for right-hander Matt Garza last week, the 6 foot 2 right hander made his Daytona Cubs debut Sunday night.Edwards was spectacular striking out the first seven hitters he faced with relative ease by retiring them with his mid 90’s fastball.

On the night Edwards finished with 8 strikeouts and only allowed one hit on just 63 pitches in five innings. He projects to be a number three starter to the back of the rotation all depending on development over the next few years. Either way today was a great start to the Edward’s era and gives Cubs fans hope with talented young pitching prospects. Overall this guy knows how to pitch and its going to be fun to watch him for the rest of the season.

Edwards Watch: His next start will be Friday in Daytona for his home debut..

Corey Black

We then transition to right-handed pitcher Corey Black who was acquired from the Yankees in the deal that sent outfield slugger Alfonso Soriano back to the Bronx. Black is a 21 year old right hander who is considered to be a power arm and pitched in High A with the Yankees this season.

Stats-  Last year Black posted a 3.08 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a .222 opponents batting average in 52 2/3 innings between the Gulf Coast League Yankees, Class A Short-Season Staten Island and Class A Charleston. These numbers are great to see across all three levels with a such a young pitcher. Early indications are that Black most likely will end up in the bullpen with that dominant sinking fastball.

Corey Black Alert- Via Black’s twitter account he announced that he will be starting Thursday for his Cubs debut. Black features a high 90’s fastball with movement.

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Who’s Shifting and Who’s Not

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Over the last few years, the use of The Shift Defense has increased dramatically in baseball. Here are the Major League Baseball totals of the number of shifts in baseball, as tracked by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS).

2010 2011 2012 2013 Projected
2,465 2,358 4,577 7,586

Note: These are the number of plate appearances when a shift was in effect when a ball was put in play.

For many years now, most teams have employed The Shift, but only against a handful of players (David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome, etc.). Research done by BIS in recent years has shown there are as many as 100 batters against whom The Shift is likely to be effective. More and more teams are now shifting on more and more different players. Here are the teams shifting the most this year:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Orioles 344 10
Pirates 335 7
Yankees 302 0
Rays 299 9
Red Sox 291 8

Overall, BIS estimates that teams have saved themselves 89 runs by using The Shift this season.

But even as often as these teams are shifting, they are still not shifting against anywhere near the 100 players suggested by Baseball Info Solutions. The most aggressive (and progressive) teams are now up to about 30 different players against whom they use The Shift Defense. We believe that there is still room for even better results by shifting against as many as 100 different players in MLB.

The Shift Defense. Think of this terminology like you would a special defense in football. Like the Goal Line Defense, the Nickel Package, and the Cover Two. Baseball’s Shift Defense is a special defense to be used in a special situations.

Here are the teams who haven’t yet fully bought into the concept and are shifting the least in baseball:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Phillies 23 -1
Cardinals 27 0
White Sox 31 -1
Nationals 32 1
Dodgers 38 0

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

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