Archive for July, 2013

Home Run Derby and Other News

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

News and notes from around the league

  • Yoenis Cespedes won the Homerun Derby last night defeating Bryce Harper in the finals. Cespedes put on a show in the first round with 17 homers and again in the finals when he topped Harper’s 8 homers with 5 outs left.
  • Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer will start the All-Star game for their respective teams.
  • Travis Wood shaved for the All-Star game.

Other Cubs News

With the All-Star Break, there’s not much news around the league. David Kaplan wrote that Garza was likely to be traded this week according to “sources” and then a semi-juicy rumor started by a Texas sports show host out of Dallas (take that for what it’s worth) saying the Cubs, Mets, & Rangers have a deal in place that will send Garza and Byrd to the Rangers, with Olt being the centerpiece involved. I don’t think Olt’s a target for a Cubs system with quite a few high end 3B and there’s no reports confirming this. However, there’s a moratorium on official news from teams during the All Star break so nothing official can happen until later this week and with all the recent debating amongst Cubs fans about trading versus extending Garza I wanted to share my 2 cents before a deal does get done one way or another.

Garza’s going to get at least 5 years, 15-20M per year on the open market, from some team who wants to pay him until he’s 36, maybe 37. If I had to guess I’d say he gets around the 5/80 deal every second tier pitcher seems to get, like Anibal Sanchez, John Lackey, etc.  If Garza was taking a 3 year extension for around 15-18M per year then I’d say yes, or even 4 years with a slightly lower AAV then I’d be willing, but obviously he’s not or the Cubs would have locked him down to a team-friendly deal already. He might want to be a Cub but he wants to get paid like the front line starter Garza  of 2011 (and the first 6 weeks of 2012). Except the Garza pitching for us know is not pitching the same way.

He’s already showing some signs of decline with his injuries and a decrease in velocity (1MPH drop on average fastball this year compared to 2011). The velocity is a major concern because his out pitch is his fastball which he’s throwing 68% of the time this year. He’s returned to using his fastball the amount of his Tampa/Minnesota days when he used to use it nearly 70% of the time. In 2011, his first year with the Cubs and his best season of his career, he only threw it 53% of the time.










% of fastballs





















This year













I thought his evolution to a front line starter was directly related with his lower usage of the fastball and increased usage of his off-speed repertoire. Due to the injuries, he’s reverted back to his old, lesser productive ways. You can already see the same trends building from his earlier years with this year. His HR/9 is up, his K/9 is down, his groundball percentages (GB%) are down, and his flyball percentages (FB%) are up. He’s been helped by excellent defense from the Cubs and has a career low batting average against and BABIP right now (which was ultra low before last start’s 10 hits). Despite his low ERA, it’s a recipe that will not keep yielding these results. With all the peripherals matching his production of his pre-Cub years, it’s only a matter of time before the hits, and thus runs, catch up to him this year which will show he’s more of a #3 or 4, not a #1 or 2.

I don’t think this front office is going to spend big money on players on the wrong side of 30 which Garza hits this year. History shows the vast majority of pitchers start declining right around 30 and Garza already has some red flags. The only pitchers worth risking big money, long term deals on past the age of 30 are the top 2% of pitchers like Sabathia, Hernandez, Price, Verlander… because when they decline, they slip from aces to mid rotation guys. When a mid rotation guy slips, he’s a back-end starter or worse. The Cubs should and most likely will flip him for prospects while his value is high which will give another shot to an already strong farm system.

If you believe in run differential which has an excellent track record of predicting win/loss records, the Cubs have performed right around a .500 team.  The front office knows this, and the Cubs are much closer to being competitive than the record indicates. That’s why I expect the Cubs are only going to trade a handful of players this year including Garza, Schierholtz, Navarro, Gregg & possibly Soriano with an eye on next year being the first season the Cubs are competing, not rebuilding.

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We Interupt This Strech of Decent Cubs Baseball To Bring You the All Star Break

Monday, July 15th, 2013

We’re always told that the All Star break brings welcomed relief from the burden of a tough and grueling schedule, which it does. What we may also see is that it very much could be a momentum killer for this Cubs team. For the last month or so, this team has played much better. While the record is still poor, you can definitely see improvements in play. My fear is that the time off may kill that, especially if the team is greeted with the news that Matt Garza and perhaps others have been dealt to the contender. There is something very deflating and defeating when your team begins the fire sale and I fear we’re on the eve of some really bad baseball as a result.

I watched most of last night’s game. I turned it off out of exhaustion after the Darwin Barney home run. Apparently that was a bad plan, but when you’re out all day on vacation with the family, you’re tired by the end of the day. Couple that with the fact that I was watching on my iPad, which always means I’m laying in bed, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I don’t know that I went into the game hoping for a win, but the game and the series win was there for the taking and we didn’t take it.


  • Over the weekend, the Cubs designated Henry Rodriguez for assignment as a result of a waiver claim on Cole Gillespie from the Giants.
  • News is that the Cubs are listening to interest in David DeJesus, but feel comfortable bringing him back in 2014, if needed. I like that news. I like what DeJesus brings and I’m fine with moving him before his deal is done next year.
  • Rumors are that the two teams most involved in the Garza talks are the Rangers and the Blue Jays, but there were rumors that the Cardinals have also inquired.
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Prospect Report: The Promoted

Friday, July 12th, 2013

For the rest of the season, Norm and I are likely going to veer away from the hot/not format a good bit, in large part because we’ve already hit on everyone interesting and we’ve gotten well into repeat territory on that front. On that note, we’re in the middle of the period of the season where we see a lot of promotions within the system. Below I am going to look at several players who were promoted since the middle of June. While we will ignore their numbers since promotion (too small of a sample size to be meaningful), we will look at their numbers in their prior level and attempt to determine if the move was made too soon, should have been made sooner, or the time was just right.

Javier Baez (SS, Age 20)
Assigned from High A Daytona to Double A Tennessee on June 28
High A Stats: 337 PAs, .274/.338/.535, 17 HRs, .310 BABIP, 6.2% BB rate, 23.1% K rate
Timing: Too early

Baez likely reestablished himself as the Cubs’ top prospect in June, but without one huge game and Jorge Soler getting hurt, it’s unclear if that would be the case. Baez’s walk rate (8.9%) and strikeout rate (19.8%) were significantly improved in June. This is particularly true in comparison to Baez’s April, where he only put up a 3.6% walk rate to go along with a concerning 27.7% strikeout rate. The problem was this was just one month. And a lot of Baez’s massive slugging improvement in June was his huge 4 home run game. I would have liked to see Baez continue his progress for one more month before making the jump from High A to Double A, which is well known to be the most difficult aside from a promotion to the Majors.

John Andreoli (OF, Age 23)
Assigned from High A Daytona to Double A Tennessee on June 28
High A Stats: 303 PAs, .318/.394/.405, 0 HR, .400 BABIP, 11.2% BB rate, 18.8% K rate

Timing: Should have happened sooner

Andreoli has never been a big name prospect, but he spent all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 getting on base in 40% of his plate appearances in the Florida State League. He does not hit for any power, but clearly draws walks and steals bases (55 SBs in 75 attempts last season, 23 in 26 attempts this season). Andreoli’s lack of power limits his potential, and definitely could stall out at the higher levels of the minors where better defenses will limit his BABIP somewhat. But the walks, speed and ability to play all over the outfield mean he could be a solid bench option. However, one of his best skills, the speed, is often one of the first things to leave a player as he ages. Andreoli is not going to add power, so there was no reason not to see if his combination of speed and patience could have succeeded at Double A a little earlier.

Pierce Johnson (RHP, Age 22)
Assigned from Low A Kane County to High A Daytona on June 20
Low A Stats: 13 GS, 69.2 IPs, 3.10 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 9.56 K/9, 2.84 BB/9
Timing: Should have happened sooner

Had we been told when the season started that Arodys Vizcaino would not pitch in a real game all season, no one would have been surprised to see Pierce Johnson establish himself as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, which he quickly did. The problem was that he just wasn’t challenged at Low A, and no one should have expected him to be challenged at Low A. At the very back end of being 21 and at age 22, Johnson should be dominating a league where the majority of good players are the age of college sophomores. No one learned anything about Johnson from him striking out a bunch of 20 year olds. He would have been better off starting the season at High A, or at most getting a half dozen starts to get his feet wet in full season professional baseball at Kane County before being bumped up the ladder.


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A Cubs Fan Walks Into a Bank

Friday, July 12th, 2013

…..Would be the name of the story if anyone ever wanted to document how my day started on July 11, 2013. My wife and I found out we are moving back to the Northeast in a few weeks, so we found ourselves sitting on a flower-printed couch in the middle of a small Jackson, Mississippi bank.

One of the customer service guys–for the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Seymour–called us over to his desk and immediately commented on my Reed Johnson jersey tee. Yes I still wear that once every few weeks. Before I could counter with the friendly, “Oh are you a Cubs fan too?” conversation, he magically whips out a Cardinals mug from some unseen compartment in his desk.

“Seymour” was a nice guy and knew his baseball, but some part of me said that I should not be banking with a division rival. On the way out he wished me well and said he hopes the Cubs turn around their season. A subtle knife in the back to take home.

Unbeknownst to my suddenly forgetful brain, the Cubs and Cards were set to play a four-game set starting tonight and I was in charge of the now-defunct recap. Usually this spells doom, especially since I get shackled to Edwin Jackson starts more than anyone it seems, but my childish glee was in full effect as the text updates rolled across my iPhone screen.

Anthony Rizzo’s RBI-hit times two during the first three innings was enough for Jackson, as he matched a season-high seven innings pitched. The Cubs shutout St. Louis only one day after giving up a season-high runs in a game against the Angels.

Still Chicago has won five out of six games with three more against their St. Louis arch rivals leading up to the All-Star break. If the Cubs improbably sweep the Cards, they will only be five games under .500 entering the break. One can dream can’t they?

In a season that has been downright miserable to watch at times, winning games like Thursday make games like Wednesday worth skimming over watching. “Seymour” was probably none too happy with today’s result, but the earlier interaction made the game more enjoyable to follow along.


  • New ESPN wonder boy Yasiel Puig was not named as the vote-in player representative for the National League, with that designation going to Freddie Freeman. Puig’s month-ish time in the league has been nothing short of magnificent, but I think the fans made the right call.
  • In a pretty horrible, but not uncommon mistake. A kid was accidentally called a “Home run Hitler” in his school yearbook. That’s unfortunate.
  • PETA has found a new organization to be upset with

The teams are back in action tomorrow afternoon at 3:05 CT with Carlos Villanueva going against Joe Kelly.


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GirlieView (07/11/2013)

Thursday, July 11th, 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.


  • Not much that Dale Sveum has touched has turned to gold this season
  • He signed Milton Bradley at all.
  • On THIS? There is no question. Milkit Badly.
  • Holy shit.
  • The Sherm?
  • The triangle mouth is a dead giveaway.
  • Hendry’s hubris on curing Hasbro’s behavioral problems with a 3 year $30M contract was laughable from the get go.
  • I think it’s more to do with the .201/.319/.417 triple slash line that he’s sporting in AAA than Sveum
  • Value:  A bottle of generic aspirin
  • About this time my cable thankfully cut out
  • winning breeds winning
  • The Cubs management has a plan. Granted it is a painful plan, but it would be far worse to half-ass it at this point.
  • Turns that my face was covered by the “C” logo on the score line for most of the time.
  • You are like Norm’s wife, never to be seen, or like Rhoda’s doorman or Tool time’s neighbor, good thing the broadcast team knows you have a face for radio.
  • So Marmol is about to become a Dodger? That should solve their problems!
  • I’m on the edge of my seat here. Will we get a bucket of balls in return? Two buckets of balls? Exciting times, my friends.
  • Some old gals likely suffered retinal damage from Richard Simmons’ sequins in the 80’s version of Insanity. Do the people who tell you what exercises to do still wear sequined tank tops?
  • I’m not yet used to the taste of victory.
  • SHERM! Please write us a song about this awesome 2013 team….
  • It is a great time to be a Cub fan.
  • I hear the White Sox are looking for people to root for them.
  • Milton Bradley has been sentenced to more than three years in jail. Good for him. Have fun in there. You’ll fit right in since most people in jail blame others for their problems.
  • Heck, you could make a good case Tim Tebow should be there.
  • it’s virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which he’s totally innocent.
  • I considered the the actual players as “my junk for your junk”.
  • this offense wouldn’t strike fear into the heart of a batting tee
  • I don’t know. This offense would miss the ball on the tee a lot and hit the tee. They do swing hard. It could hurt the tee.
  • The positive from the game was that no one got injured so everyone is still tradable.
  • A post-game red, white and blue snow cone is hard to beat.
  • I can’t tell if it’s blind Samardzija love or just a blatant disregard for what Wood has accomplished.
  • He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.
  • This is weird. I actually don’t dislike Soriano lately.
  • DFA’d Camp!
  • That made my Camping day!
  • If nothing else, call Jim Hendry.


  • What Gregg is doing has far greater ramifications than just the trade potential. It is now exceedingly difficult to curse on this website.

Shout Outs

Many thanks to these commenters who logged their first Lizzies of 2013 this time around.

  • Michael Jimenez
  • Scott E. Entsminger (RIP)
  • Sherm


Congratulations to Seymour Butts, the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around!

Top Ten of 2013 (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Seymour Butts
3. Eddie von White
4. Doc Raker
4. Jedi Johnson
6. Joe Aiello
7. Chuck
8. Jeremiah Johnson
9. Buddy
10. Doug S.

Chit Chat

A Lizzie from this week: “It is a great time to be a Cubs fan.” (Thanks Bones!) I heartily agree, but I know there are many who think this season is horrible for the team and the fans. Where do you stand?

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