Archive for August, 2013

Northside Archives: Hometown Scoring

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

August 29, 2012: Darwin Barney sits on 113 straight games without an error. It is already the Cubs’ single season record. It is tied with David Eckstein for the longest errorless streak for an NL second baseman (single season). Then…in the 7th inning…this happened.

The official scorer charged Barney with an error on the throw to Valbuena at third. If you’ve played the game at all, you can probably appreciate the scorer’s predicament. If Valbuena picks that cleanly, the tag is simple and everyone raves about the great play by Barney. But regardless of how it appears in replays, that is NOT an easy throw to handle. Barney hurls it sidearm, off-balance, and on the run – those things together are what gives the throw such crazy late movement. On top of this, the throw is coming to Valbuena over the shoulder of Jean Segura raising the degree of difficulty for the catch even more.

But is it really an error to Barney? I say yes. If Barney makes that same tailing throw to Rizzo at first and Rizzo can’t handle all the movement it would almost surely be deemed a bad throw and an error to Barney. It shouldn’t be any different simply because the ball is thrown to third base on a play where a tag is required.

But that night the official scorer changed his original call and credited the error to Valbuena – not Barney. It meant that David Eckstein’s kidney wasn’t the only thing that had been gruesomely wrangled from Eckstein’s possession. Barney would finish that game without further incident, breaking the little guy’s record.

And in a weird, but symmetrical, twist – Barney’s next milestone was the MLB record errorless streak in a single season for a second baseman. Placido Polanco held that streak at 141 games. But on September 28th of last season, Barney came within 3 outs of passing Polanco. Then Barney fielded and hurled this ball towards Rizzo at first. (See, I told you they’d score that an error!) Barney only managed to tie Polanco.

Curiously, Polanco’s streak was extended on August 26, 2007 under similar dubious official scoring changes.

It all begs the question: does every MLB team need their own official scorer? Why allow a clearly biased individual the responsibility of making so many subjective calls? The best answer I can proffer – that’s baseball. No, we can’t have Questec in every park because what if it’s not calibrated similarly everywhere (as if all 94 umpires have the same strike zone! – CB Bucknor might have 30 different strike zones just by himself). No, we can’t review safe or out; only objective things like fair/foul or HR/not a HR (because somehow safe or out is harder to determine than either of those).

That’s baseball; we get mad at pitchers for not throwing it over the plate, then get furious when they throw it over too much of the plate. We want guys to be aggressive on the basepaths, until they get thrown out. And we call it an error unless we can make a valid argument to the contrary – because I think we all know that Barney would still have that error to his credit were it not for his streak.


  • Dale must’ve needed a nap – he got ejected before the Dodgers could even complete one at-bat on Wednesday. I’d love to know if a manager has ever been ‘successively ejected’ (that’s what I’m calling it) on check-swing related calls? Remember, this happened about 10 days ago. The blown call from yesterday wasn’t nearly as horri-awful as the Donnie Murphy one; but still, it wasn’t close. Puig MORE than swung his bat. Just judging from Sveum’s indignation, I wonder if his issue was that Lance Barksdale wasn’t paying attention to Puig’s at-bat (because if he had been, that was an easy check-swing to ring him up on). Or maybe Dale ran out of his Kashi Go Lean and missed breakfast on getaway day.
  • Johnny Manziel is set to serve the most preposterous suspension in the history of suspensions. He will miss the first half of Texas A&M’s first game. Thank you NCAA for giving Bud Selig a new idea – in 5 years when he hears about this story, Bud will have someone suspended for the first 15 outs or 75 pitches (whichever comes first).
  • Aaron Hernandez, it is claimed, was a heavy PCP user (maybe I should say IS, because for all I know he’s still getting the angel dust in jail). He seems like such a normal guy other than that…and the fact that he’s probably killed at least three people…and shot another guy…and has a myriad of crazy-looking tats…including some that adorn his wrists. PCP just seems out of character. *Isn’t Aaron Hernandez just the real-life Demetrius Harris? (The RB from the ESPN drama Playmakers)
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The 40 Man Roster Crunch

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Coming in to the offseason every year, one issue every team faces is who to keep on the 40 man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft? Many appear to think the Cubs are going to face a pretty rough roster crunch this winter for two reasons: (1) the Cubs have a large number of positions they platoon, increasing the number of fringe right handed hitters who can only hit left handed pitching on the active and 40 man rosters; and (2) the Cubs have a few formerly highly touted prospects in the high minors who haven’t shown they can make the jump to the Majors yet, but have 40 man roster spots. But a quick look at the roster shows that the Cubs will turn over at least a quarter of the 48 players currently on the 40 man roster and 60 day DL. Combine that with the lack of quality prospects who need protection from the Rule 5 draft in the upper minors, and the Cubs really shouldn’t have to work hard to protect anyone marginally important.

How the Rule 5 Draft Works

Arizona Phil at the Cubbie Reporter is the master of the Rule 5 draft in the Cubs’ blogosphere, so up front I have to credit him for compiling a lot of this info. For the complete list of all Cubs’ farmhands eligible for the Rule 5 draft and a detailed breakdown of all related rules, you should check out Arizona Phil’s Corner over there. He’s also a great resource during extended spring training.

Here’s how the eligibility for the Rule 5 draft is determined: A minor league player who was 18 or younger on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract is eligible for selection starting with the 5th Rule 5 Draft after he signs, and a minor league player who was 19 years or older on the June 5th immediately prior to signing his first contract becomes eligible for selection starting with the 4th Rule 5 Draft that followed his signing. As a note, this means that most high ranking international prospects only get four years of minor league experience prior to being eligible for the Rule 5 draft, since they don’t play until the season after they sign.

The Current 40 Man Roster

The Cubs currently have 48 players on either the 40 man roster or the 60 day DL. Once the season ends, the 60 day DL ends until the start of the next season, so you cannot stash injured players there for the Rule 5 draft. I’m not going to run through every player, but you can see the complete list on the Cubs’ website. The following, though, are the players who are unlikely to be on the 40 man roster at the time of the Rule 5 draft and why.

Free Agents: Scott Baker (RHP), Kevin Gregg (RHP), Matt Guerrier (RHP), Dioner Navarro (C), Ryan Sweeney (OF)

Near Certain Non-TendersJ.C. Boscan (C), Donnie Murphy (IF), Cody Random (IF), Brian Bogusevic (OF), Cole Gillespie (OF), Darnell McDonald (OF), Thomas Neal (OF)

So before the Cubs will even need to make anything approaching a tough decision, they will be down to 36 players on the 40 man roster. If a few others do get non-tendered, look towards fringy relief pitchers, with Michael Bowden, Zach Putnam and Eduardo Sanchez as the most likely candidates.

Players Who May Need to Be Protected:

Back in the day, players used to be eligible for the Rule 5 draft a year earlier. This would result in some really talented players being occasionally available in the Rule 5 draft. These days, it’s rare that anyone that will make much of a difference will be picked in the Rule 5 draft. For example, the Cubs lost two players fans were a bit annoyed about in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2012 season in infielder Marwin Gonzalez and utility man Ryan Flaherty. Gonzalez’s career OPS is .591, and Flaherty’s is .633. So if someone is left unprotected, particularly when they played in Double A or Triple A the year before, the odds of them being much of a Major Leaguer are slim.

Player the Cubs Need to Protect: Arismendy Alcantara is the sole member of the “needs to be protected” list. The switch hitting middle infielder has emerged as the fifth best prospect in the system and the Cubs’ likely next second baseman of the future, potentially as early as July 2014. If he wasn’t protected, the Astros would pick him up with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft and be more than happy to keep him on the MLB roster all year. 

Others that Would be at Risk of Being Drafted: Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha posted solid numbers at Double A this season before struggling upon a promotion to Iowa. He will never hit for power, but is reportedly a very good defender and could be a solid 4th or 5th outfielder type. A team could stash him as a defensive replacement for a year. Left handed pitcher Eric Jokisch just threw a no hitter in Tennessee. As a command and control lefty, he’s never going to be a top prospect, but should be a Major Leaguer with a ceiling as a 4/5 starter. Joksich actually is likely the second highest priority for the Cubs to protect after Alcantara. Dallas Beeler and Dae Eun Rhee could both be drafted as Double A pitchers who have had some success, but neither have had good strikeout numbers in the Southern League. The command and control guys who typically have shots at MLB success still tend to put up at least solid strikeout rates throughout the minors (see Kyle Hendricks). They have also both dealt with injuries over the past year or two. While both are at risk of being taken, I wouldn’t shed any tears over either of them being picked.

Players Whose Names You Will Hear but are too Far Away to be Drafted: You’ll hear a lot about second baseman Gioskar Amaya leading up to the Rule 5 draft, and for a decent reason. He’s arguably one of the Cubs’ top ten prospects, and definitively one of their top fifteen. However, he hasn’t played above low A, and it’s really hard to keep a position player who can’t at least kind of fake it on the active roster all year. On top of that, there’s no reason for the Cubs to think Amaya will be anything more than a level a year type of prospect. That means that if the Cubs add Amaya to the 40 man now, he’ll get one year at Daytona, one year at Tennessee, and one year at Iowa, then be out of options. There’s a very small chance someone might take a flyer on Amaya in the Rule 5 draft, but the odds of them not returning him to the Cubs in spring training are even slimmer.

Shortstop Marco Hernandez falls into the same boat, and isn’t much of a prospect anymore anyways. Right handed pitcher Juan Carlos Paniagua has barely played professional ball as he’s dealt with identity and contract issues.

In short, the Cubs should have no problems protecting their vital prospects without having to DFA anyone of significance currently on their 40 man roster.

Tuesday Night’s Game

I’m going to be honest here: the game is on the west coast and won’t end until well past my bedtime. With that said, I’m going to make an educated guess: Clayton Kershaw dominates the Cubs, Travis Wood pitches well, but either he lets a couple of runs through or the pen does. The Cubs score 1 run or less, the Dodgers score 3 to 4 runs. As of bedtime, though, Travis Wood has shut out the Dodgers through 3 innings while the Cubs pushed across an unearned run against Kershaw.

In other news, former Cub Marlon Byrd was traded along with catcher John Buck to the Pirates for prospects. Early reports have it as an overpay for the Pirates in terms of the prospects going back to the Mets, but the Pirates have been terrible in right field and are desperate to make the postseason this year. They’d have to blow a 9 game lead to not make the playoffs, but a deep playoff run could reinvigorate baseball in a town that is still attending games at only a mediocre rate. As strange as it sounds, in a tight race Marlon Byrd could be the difference between winning the NL Central or facing a play in game.

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Radio vs TV

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

After the VMA snafu on Sunday night I began to look for older music from some of the performing artists at the award show. (Disclaimer: Miley Cyrus was not one of those artists). I knew of Macklemore’s connection to his hometown of Seattle and was pleasantly surprised when I came across a song written as a tribute to Mariners’ great radio announcer Dave Niehaus, who passed away following the 2010 season.

Niehaus had one of the most recognizable voices on the airwaves for decades and was the original announcer for the M’s until his death. He finally was bestowed with the honor of the Ford C. Frick award in 2008, which is given to only the most deserving of baseball broadcasters.

Macklemore’s song “My, Oh, My” recounts the 1995 season where the M’s made the AL Championship Series over the Yankees. The first time listening to the song, it gave me chills hearing Niehaus’ call as Ken Griffey Jr. crosses the plate to send them to the ALCS.

Calls like that are why I grew up dreaming about getting into sports radio. Calls like that are why I was okay with leaving the TV due to mom’s enforced bedtime so I could crawl into the cozy sheets and turn on the radio. Calls like that paint us a picture of a beautiful game that HDTV can only provide on a surface level.

I spent much of my summer observing a good friend Kyle Tait, who is the play-by-play guy for the Mississippi Braves. Kyle’s still learning the tricks of the trades—only three years out of undergrad at Georgia Tech—but sticky Friday nights wouldn’t have been the same without the deep voice of baseball coming through my Apple earbuds.

My grandfather was my idol growing up because of his tireless work ethic and the way he treated people. He told me that radio would always been an important medium because of the craving to be engaged with senses other than sight. As much as television advances have dominated the attention of the general population, I think there is some truth to his ideals.

Experiencing a game with the reliance on someone else painting the picture to you is something that cannot simply be replicated by high-quality picture. Radio allows you to imagine the smells of peanuts and beer, while at the same time picturing the way the bright lights shimmer off of the individual blades of grass in centerfield.

Some of the greatest calls and broadcasters of all time didn’t have the luxury to rely on a television crew to capture the game’s descriptions. They forced themselves to be the eyes and ears for those not lucky enough to be at the game.

I think of the movie Angels in the Outfield where a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his buddy from the orphanage J.P. are outside the California Angels ballpark listening to the call of their floundering Halos. The raw emotion they felt with the twists and turns of the game are the experiences everyone should want to feel when listening.

What say you VFTB family, do you enjoy listening to games on the radio or is TV really the better media?

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A Look At the Under Armor Showcase

Monday, August 26th, 2013

by Rob Willer

Early Thoughts (Home-run Derby)-The day started off around 11:00 am where I met John Arguello of Cubs Den and Harry Pavlidis who contributes to a variety of things which include but are not limited to Baseball Prospectus, Washington Post and created Pitch/FX. We proceeded to the front row right next to the scout seats where the likes of Keith Law, Jim Hendry, Sahadev Sharma among many other great baseball minds. First up was the home-run derby and boy was that a show. The two stars of the day were Chase Vallot and Jacob Gatewood. Gatewood put up a very impressive six home-runs showing great bat speed as well as ability to drive the ball. Vallot followed Gatewood with an impressive performance of his own hitting 6 home-runs himself in the opening round. Projects more as a catcher but could end up at 1st base the ball really exploded off his bat. In the end, Gatewood won the derby by defeating Vallot in the final round setting the stage for the Under Armor Game.

Pitching Prospects

Touki Toussaint– Touki Toussaint is a RHP with a 6-2 195 lb. frame from Coral Springs, FL who attends Coral Springs Christian Academy. Toussaint was sitting 93-95 on his fastball through the inning he pitched.  Topping out around 97 while mixing in a big breaking curveball which sat around 73-75. Toussaint showed great poise by retiring the heart of the American League Lineup.

Dylan Cease– He repeats his delivery very well and seems very mature with his age. Like Toussaint he was bringing some serious heat sitting in the 92-95 range topping out at 97. When seeing him live it really seemed like his motion was very easy and retired the side 1-2-3. He ended the first with a high fastball to retire Dazmond Cameron quickly the pitch had a lot of movement on it.

Cobi Johnson- Johnson pitches for Mitchell High School in Holiday,Florida. He stands at a 6 foot 4 and provides us with a fastball that sits in 87-90 works well downhill as he gets a lot of downward movement. He mixed in a curve that sat at 77-79 mph, retired three of the five batters he faced giving up a walk and a single in his one inning of work.

Sam Hentges- Hentges is from Minnesota where he pitches at Mounds View High School. What makes Hentges unique is he is a left-hander that stands at 6 foot six he projects to be a power arm in the future. For his fastball he had it in the range from 86-88 and maxed at 89 on the radar gun for the day. Relatively uneventful half of an inning although he did make quick work of Alexis Pantoja striking him out on a high fastball. Overall has a solid delivery and looks to be ready for the MLB Draft already with his body type and track record.

Tyler Kolek- Kolek was the surprise of the day already looking like Jonathon Broxton mixing in a fastball that regularly sat between 94 and 97 miles per hour. His stocky build provides him with an established reliever body type. He measures at 6 foot 5 and 250 pounds with a power fastball that hit 99 miles on the gun. Very easy motion and repeated it well throughout his inning of work. Kolek definitely caught many scouts eyes when he regularly reached back for his plus fastball.

Tuesday: We will continue the Under Armor Recap with some of the top high school hitters in the country.

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GirlieView (08/22/2013)

Thursday, August 22nd, 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.

Lizzies

  • they believe they are bigger than life itself and that rules are for someone else.
  • This could be the biggest VFTB scandal we have seen since the Homza/Muscat incident. Now we need to figure out who Resident Raker, Eddy Von Beige, actualword, Mark from Manitoba, and Seymour Muffintops might be.
  • This is largely due to the Cubs not trotting out starting pitchers that just are not good enough to get by the in Majors, are not ready for the Majors, or both, 4 out of 5 games.
  • we’ve been looking for our Johnsons all week.
  • The Cubs should move down to 16U in 2014 to compete. They could take the USSSA World Series for sure!
  • I’m not trying to sound preachy but the insider guy has done some basic deductive reasoning and for the most part hasn’t committed to anything other than speculation. This is not an insider.
  • Just for disclosure purposes, As someone who has had a conversation with Theo and Dale, in a third base dugout operated by the Cubs, I have no inside information what so ever, and they would not recognize my name. Please keep that in mind when absorbing my blather.
  • We’re also going to get a glimpse of what this regime is going to do with a big amount of cash to spend for the first time and that should give us some insight into the timetable they are expecting.
  • Shark has been busy working his porn career, that can take a lot out of your legs.
  • The DH is an abomination that strips most strategy from the game.
  • let’s put it on a tee so that we don’t lose any players to a HBP for months.
  • would be nullified by the new appearance of injuries from tripping over the tee on the way to first.
  • So let’s have the pitcher stand opposite the hitter and soft toss the pitches in there – that’ll solve the TJ surgery epidemic too.
  • But it would increase the likelyhood of line drives, and we do not want to go into the vagaries of those.
  • Eliminating either the field of play or batted balls would help there, Jerry.
  • Baseball without vagarious line drives isn’t baseball.
  • Wiffle ball is the answer.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • And not at all in accordance with the fact that the Tigers need another bat (and another bullpen arm).
  • There’s no reward because let’s face it, it’s the third child and ‘hey you’ or ‘stop that’ will probably suffice until he’s 14 anyway
  • I would name him Axel. People don’t mess with kids with names like that.
  • I’m still voting for Abe Froman Johnson.
  • It’s gotta be Harold. Name the kid Harold.
  • How about naming him Alfonso? Just remember though if you do, he won’t be all that productive in April.
  • I really don’t think you can top Max Johnson. That is the manliest name I’ve ever heard.
  • It has porn star written all over it.
  • All over what?
  • That’s my two-year-old you’re talking about!
  • Josh Johnson has a nice ring to it.
  • My wife and I named our son Colvin (after former Cub not-so-great Tyler Colvin) and he responded by taking a shard of bat in the chest so I am monitoring my son’s heart health closely.
  • Hugh G Johnson. It will intimidate other boys and provide that self esteem boost most kids now a days seem to require.
  • Since you haven’t really shut down the idea of Hugh, let’s kick the tires on Jazz as a middle name. Hugh Jazz Johnson. Sounds pretty legit.
  • Peter. Redundant.
  • How about Major, Major Johnson!
  • How about Reed? Reed Johnson.
  • I hear he play hard.
  • We could go with Reed Major Johnson, but that would condem the kid to playing a woodwind instrument.
  • Waveland Johnson sounds nice.
  • Dumping Carlos Marmol and Shawn Camp at the end of June were major steps in the right direction
  • Why do they still use corded phones hanging on the wall to call the bullpen? Nobody has those anymore.
  • The fax machine is on the fritz.
  • It is probably more difficult to hack a land line than a wireless signal.
  • Yeah, I suppose you wouldn’t want anyone to read your lips when you tell the lefty to start warming up. Keep the suspension up until the camera actually shows him get up.
  • Shhhhhhhhhh!
  • How is this news? So if a pitcher keeps opposing runners off base, and keeps them from hammering extra base hits and home runs, he’s effective. Got it.
  • Greetings from Cooperstown All Star Village.
  • You know what will affect winning? Regularly embarrassing your young talent at every chance.
  • I’m of the opinion that a fair amount of Cubs fans just need a team pariah.
  • I’d love to see Cub fans stop eating their young.
  • The only way those guys can talk 24/7 is to invent controversies
  • Baseball either needs to start paying Minor League umpires a good enough salary to attract solid talent or just switch to an all computers, video, and man in the booth umpiring format.
  • Most of us are not professional athletes, but most of us are a professionals of some sort that work as part of a “team” (however you want to define it), and we all know, anecdotally, that one’s work environment can affect your job performance and morale. So, I think there is probably something to “chemistry,” even if it can’t be quantified – but the question is, how much does it actually affect the bottom line of wins and losses?
  • If a team were better on the field, they’d probably have better chemistry, and that’s probably the most important interaction between the two concepts.
  • I believe “chemistry”, as it applies to sports, is only a negative force. Great team chemistry won’t really help you win more games because talent will win out in the end as long as it is not mismanaged. However, a toxic clubhouse will suppress winning because negative attitudes will tend to produce negative results in subtle ways.
  • you are not allowed to use the word “grit” in an article without also using the word “moxie.”
  • Wow, that’s a surgeon’s butt in the photo. Who knew?
  • I thought everyone did, actually.
  • While we are clearing things up, I don’t actually manage an Orange Julius. I am a shift leader at the Orange Julius, which is more or less an assistant manager position.
  • Assistant to the manager position.
  • Same thing.

Lizard

  • Nothing lends itself more to credibility than a handle of Assman2

Shout Outs

We had no new Lizzie contributors this time around but we’re so grateful for our regular commenters who keep this site flowing with good conversation and hearty laughter. Shout outs all around.

MVL

Congratulations to Jedi Johnson, who returned to the US and to VFTB with a flourish this week. He’s 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. Jedi Johnson
5. Doc Raker
6. Joe Aiello
7. Chuck
8. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Doug S.
10. Jeremiah Johnson

Chit Chat

Today’s chit chat comes to us courtesy of one of Chuck’s Lizzies (thanks Chuck!) … and I quote: “The DH is an abomination that strips most strategy from the game.” I completely agree. Here’s your chance to make your case. How do you feel about it?

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