View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Tuesday

6

August 2013

42

COMMENTS

The Newest Cub, the Science of Sports Performance, and Biogenesis

Written by , Posted in General

Thomas Neal is the newest Cub. Neal is 25 years old, big (6’2’, 225 lbs.), and he throws and bats right-handed. He was recently DFA’d by the Yankees, and was hitting .325/.391/.411 over 297 plate appearances with AAA at Scranton Wilkes-Barre (a nice line, for sure, but he only hit 2 hr – that’s a little worrisome). He was a former top 10 prospect in the Giants system, but he’s had a few injuries. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can assume an upward trajectory. It would be nice if he could be the Cubs 4th outfielder or assume a platoon role in 2014 – although the fact that he’s been let go by three teams (Giants, Indians, Yankees) within the last two years is definitely a red flag. Rafael Dolis (remember him?) was added to the 60-day DL to make room for Neal on the 40-man roster.

I heard an intriguing interview with Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein today on NPR’s Fresh Air. He has a new book, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, which sounds so good that I think I’m going to buy it. Anyway, Epstein has dug into the research on genetics as it relates to sports performance. He spends a good deal of the interview discussing how major league hitters are able to recognize a pitch, decide to swing, and finally make contact. A few of the highlights: 1) “reflexes” are largely mythical in this context – in fact, baseball players often don’t score that well on tests of reflexes, 2) visual pitch recognition out of the pitcher’s hand is the real key, 3) baseball players might as well close their eyes once the ball is halfway to the plate, because all of the mental processes and mechanical actions must be in motion by then, 4) the average pro baseball player has 20/12 vision – so, a good way to tell if a kid might be a good hitter one day is to get his/her vision tested (good vision won’t make him/her a good hitter, but poor vision would probably prevent it), 5) talent is being redefined as the genetic predisposition to respond well to training. Overall, it’s a highly interesting interview. Best of all, you can listen free here:

http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/

Ugh, I suppose I should comment on the biggest story of the day, the Biogenesis scandal. I’m sure you’ve read about this from the 349382749837 sources covering the story today. The short version: 12 players were suspended 50 games (included the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, the Padres’ Everth Cabrera, and the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta) and suspending Alex Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season. Apparently, A-Rod intends to appeal, blah, blah, blah. Does anyone care anymore? Is there anyone who isn’t completely sick of A-Rod’s act? Guys like A-Rod and Lance Armstrong just need to go away. We can debate on the actual effects of steroids on performance (considering the information from the interview above, Lasik surgery might be a more effective way to “cheat”) and the moral/ethical issues. That debate aside, it is against the rules of the sport, so these players knowingly did something they knew was wrong and hoped to get away with it. The great thing for all of us is that no Cubs players were involved (insert joke about how obvious that should have been).  Honestly, I see this as a failure of baseball: the sport turned a blind eye to the issue for years, and now this “harsh justice” seems disingenuous. I’m looking forward to the day when the most reported baseball stories are positive – it seems like we’re a long way from that point, though.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
First Base

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Dan Vogelbach who was the second round pick by the Cubs in 2011. Vogelbach played in just six games after signing, hitting three doubles and bombing his first professional home run. Played in 24 games with the rookie-level Arizona Cubs, hitting .324/.391/.686 that season. After those 24 games he was promoted to rookie-level Boise and hit at a very similar line .329/.391/.696 in 20 games at that level. Vogelbach has the type of offensive tools in approach, hitting ability and legitimate power  but that set of skills has to fully mature for him to be an impact player at an offense-oriented position. For the 2013 season we have seen Vogelbach play at Kane County which is the Cubs Low A Minor League Affiliate. His stats continue to be great as he moves through the system which includes 16 home-runs and 68 runs batted while having a line of .283/.360/.450. Vogelbach seems to only project as a designated hitter/first baseman due to his lack of speed and defense which raises questions since Anthony Rizzo just signed a seven year contract who also plays 1st Base for the Cubs presently. Most scouts say that he has the potential to hit 30 home-runs in a season consistently and also hit for average as well. The problems that arise with Vogelbach are his defense which becomes limited with his lack of range and athleticism due to his size. His speed is below average which is what you would expect but even for first base his speed is way below average. I have personally seen Vogelbach at Kane County this summer and have seen him do wonders with the bat which makes him a very intriguing prospect over the next couple years. Considering that the Cubs are replenishing their system I definitely could see him being a throw in to a deal to acquire a Top Pitcher/ Impact Bat in the near future.

Sleeper: Justin Bour was highly touted in 2012 after completing the year at Double A Tennessee. In 506 at bats he clubbed 17 home-runs and 110 runs batted in while having a slash line of .283/360/455. After Anthony Rizzo got called up last year to the Cubs most people believe Bour would get a chance at Triple A after he proved through out the year he was ready. Bour didn’t get that chance and ended up back at Tennessee this spring where he has struggled hitting for average as his batting average has dropped 53 points since 2012. A positive to take away from this season is his slugging percentage went up 50 points to .493 and he has hit 15 home-runs in 300 less at bats than last year. He is a big first baseman at 6’4″, 250 lbs he finally seems to be harnessing that power that some what alluded him in 2012. If you take a look at Bour’s advanced stats on FanGraphs something that jumped out to me was that he lowered his strikeout rate while increasing his walk rate which is tremendous. Bour’s story relates to Rafael Lopez in yesterday’s post about how they have talent but are still stuck at Double A and they’re not getting any younger. As long as Bour get’s called up Triple A by the end of the summer I see no reason for him not to get called up in the summer time of 2014 barring any injuries

  • Doug S.

    At the sports bar yesterday I got good natured (I think) cracks about zero Cubbies in the suspensions.

    A-rod playing last night is one of the more selfish acts you’ll see. He certainly doesn’t do himself any favors. No surprise they got thumped. Looking forward to a year and a half without this clown.

    • Eddie Von White

      A-Rod is taking the victim approach… Bud Selig, Major League
      Baseball, and the Yankees have been conspiring to prevent him from
      playing, misdiagnosing and improperly treating his injuries that have forced
      him to seek medical treatment elsewhere. I would not expect a superstar to act anyway but selfishly. I’m not saying I agree with it, just saying they’re pretty much all the same…

  • Doug S.

    At the sports bar yesterday I got good natured (I think) cracks about zero Cubbies in the suspensions.

    A-rod playing last night is one of the more selfish acts you’ll see. He certainly doesn’t do himself any favors. No surprise they got thumped. Looking forward to a year and a half without this clown.

  • Love the NPR story, but how about that reporter sneaking in a Mary Lou Retton name-drop?

  • Love the NPR story, but how about that reporter sneaking in a Mary Lou Retton name-drop?

  • Eddie Von White

    Very good reporting, Sean. (In fact, I had to go back and look because I thought it was Joe).


    My two cents worth: Superstars from every walk of life have been pampered and cajoled for so long they consider themselves above the rule of law of the common man. That is why so many seem to fall – they think they can’t – they believe they are bigger than life itself and that rules are for someone else. Enter: A-Roid, Braun, Nellie, Aaron Hernandez, Lance Armstrong, O.J. Simpson, etc, etc.

    • Doc Raker

      George Mitterwald.

      • Eddie Von White

        The Baron

    • Joe Aiello

      Thanks Eddie, the check is in the mail

      • Eddie Von White

        You’re welcome. I’ll let the mailman know.

    • Sean Powell

      Thanks, Eddie.

    • Mary Lou Retton, etc., etc.

  • Doc Raker

    The tide is turning with the players in regards to PED’s punishment. The players union has always fought against PED punishment and they still do but many members in the players union now want harsher penalties to rid the game of the cheaters. Until the players union stops protecting cheaters it will be difficult to stop the cheaters. Everyone bags on the owners partially because the media is pro union and most of you readers are half wit minds of mush that can’t think past the media’s pre scripted narrative of greedy owners turning a blinds eye for higher profits. But I ask you, don’t the players make more money because increased performance? Isn’t the union really protecting the inflation of player contracts which enriches all players. Players contracts are paid off of the top contract so when the PED cheaters get more money so does everyone else. Furthermore one of the priorities of the union is the safety of the players. If a corporation made employees take PED’s so they could work faster and produce more widgets the union for those employees would be screaming about health risks for those employees. The union would use the PED health issue to support disability claims and do everything within their power to stop the corporation from forcing the employees to take PEDs. But in the business of baseball where increased performance equals many more millions of dollars for the players the union fights to allow the health risks to continue while the media and the minds of mush blame the owners. Who do you think opposes a contract that would be void if a player gets caught with PED’s, owners or the union? The union minds of mush, get it straight.

    • Eddie Von White

      You are correct. We must think past the media’s pre-scripted narrative – not only in sports but everywhere.

      • Doc Raker

        Dont get me started. I have been told Anthony Wieners wife is ‘smart and accomplished’ by the NY Times, CNN, ABC and various other networks and news outlets. No one mentioned she is so power hungry she is willing to stay married to a laughingstock high tech pervert. That narrative is filed under “GOP pervert narrative” which can be found on shelf 14b (ii) in the NY Times narrative library. Since it is a liberal sexual deviant the narrative is from 13a (ee) “Make the wife look smart and accomplished’.

      • Eddie Von White

        Sherm told you to stop and you told me not to get you started, but nonetheless, you are on a roll.

    • Sherm

      Stop. You had me at “half wit minds of mush”

    • Sean Powell

      Absolutely. PED use will only be curbed when non-users and the union stop covering for cheaters and fighting for their “right” to cheat. The tide is turning, as many players are breaking the code of silence and speaking out against the users. The point of a union is to fight for the best interest of its members, and I think that many of the union members are finally realizing that PEDs are going to harm the sport (and thus their bottom lines) going forward. Let’s not pretend that the owners and Selig have no responsibility here, though. They were happy to see the crowds come back in ’98 during the homerun chase, contributing to the increase in team values and TV contracts. Also, the market is set by the highest paid players, but the owners are the ones offering those contracts in the first place. It’s a closed system – the best players are going to get the most money, but what that number is is determined by what owners will offer (and what agents can negotiate). The genie is out of the bottle, and Selig looks a little foolish trying to put it back in. I’m hopeful, since the players’ attitudes are changing, we may be on the right track.

  • Seymour Butts

    There is a reason to be snickeringly supportive of ARoid in his quest to have his punishment shortened. The Yankees are paying his salary. Anything that penalizes the Yankees, I’m in favor of.

    • Doug S.

      Not a Yankees fan Seymour? I like them but not a real fan. As far as penalizing teams go, I save my wrath for the Red Sox, Braves, Cards and Reds.

      • Seymour Butts

        Hate the Cards, dislike the Reds and Braves, ambivalent about the Red Sox.
        The Yankees deserve a special place on the river Styx due to their century of successfully exploiting an unfair advantage in talent acquisition.
        A Yankee – Cardinal world series, I’ll send the stadium co-ordinates to Al Qaida.

      • PLCB3

        What unfair advantage have the Yankees exploited? Since when have they broken any rules? Oh they spend too much!! Boohoo!! Waaaaaaa!!!! They have to pay luxury tax bc they spend so much. Anyone who thinks that A-Rod being suspended will mean they’re big spenders again bc it wil reset their tax rates is nuts. They’ll spend like Barry no matter what.

    • Doc Raker

      That would mean the union is foolishly supporting and perpetuating the use of PED’s which is a direct health risk to their members, which they are. How is this for some balls on the otherwise shriveled up testicles of ARoid. His legal argument is this: The Yankee’s medical staff misdiagnosed him so he had to get medical treatment outside the organization and was given PED’s by the outside medical care, i.e. Biogenesis. So he is a victim, it wasn’t his fault, it was the Yankee’s fault. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should represent him, they are so good at playing the victim card. The NY Times is great at this narrative, library file 18H (ll) “Minority mistreated by the US Health Care industry and Big Business.” The difficulty ARoid will have is so many half wit minds of mush already hate him, the half wits are starting to understand this issue so the Obama misdirect might not work. The misdirect works with the ‘complicated’ issues of deficit spending er ‘investment’ and the worst law ever written, not read and signed into law, Obamacare but the half wits might not be buying into ARoid’s legal argument this time around.

      • Seymour Butts

        The sad part is that I know you can form coherent thoughts when you leave out politics.
        All I’m saying is that ARoid serving as a hindrance to the Yankees is something that can be enjoyed from afar.

      • Doc Raker

        I know what you are saying, you made a flippant funny, good one. I am saying something a little deeper, a little more ‘coherent’ to some of our more pressing problems. Unfortunately the media shapes our views with their bias so for those of us that understand that we would like to take this opportunity to point it out to those of you that are unaware and to those of you who have a false sense of intellect and or think the media is on the right side of teaching America what to think.

  • Noah_I

    I find it pretty unlikely that Bour will ever be on the Major League roster for the Cubs unless Rizzo gets injured. An NL team just can’t afford to keep a second player who can only play 1B on its active roster, especially in a situation that doesn’t call for a platoon. I find it more likely that Bour will spend the rest of his career bouncing around, largely as a minor league free agent with a cup of coffee or two in a couple of MLB stints.

    Vogelbach’s lack of elite power at Kane County also has me a bit concerned about if his usable power will meet his raw power potential in higher levels. He had a shot to join some Top 100 prospect lists if he put up numbers similar to his showing in the Arizona Rookie League and Northwest League last season, but the only decent power he’s shown this year combined with his lack of athleticism means I think it will be highly unlikely that he’ll get any consideration for even Top 150 lists. At best, he’ll be the number 9 prospect in the system behind the big 4 (Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler), Alcantara, Olt, Johnson, and Edwards. I’d also definitely put Amaya in front of Vogelbach, and there are a bunch of others that I could make argument for the number 10 slot for. I’d probably put Hendricks at number 10 for the Cubs, and Vogelbach 11.

    • Dusty Baylor

      I can see your point on Vogelbach. The only caveat I’d add is that he is 4th in HR, I mean he’s performing above league average in avg/obp.slg. Agreed, a leap forward in power will be reassuring.

    • Are we talking about the same kid? Slim Dan has been pegged by some analysts as a likely corner OF or 3B prospect with his lean new frame. Look for the SBs to climb too as he becomes more fleet-footed.

      • MinorLeagueRob

        Appreciate the comments guys. Bour is in a tough spot after not getting called up after last year to Triple A. Hence my comparison to Lopez in yesterday’s article. Depth is a good problem to have just keep that in mind.

      • Wait…is Sean Powell MinorLeagueRob? 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.

      • MinorLeagueRob

        Nope although that would be quite the story, I’m Rob Willer I contribute the minors daily during the week. Nice to meet you all.

      • PLCB3

        Hi, Rob! I once worked with a guy named Rob. He was a redneck

      • Seymour Butts

        Small world, I too have once known somebody named Rob.

      • PLCB3

        Was he a redneck?

      • Eddie Von White

        I have a cousin named Rob and I was once robbed.

      • PLCB3

        Was the robber who robbed you named Rob?

      • Eddie Von White

        Idk – he was never caught.

      • Doc Raker

        I have a patient named Rob, tall dark hair, scare over his right eyebrow.

      • Goulet?

      • I’m not sure that Homza/Muskat thing has ever been satisfactorily resolved. Heh.

      • PLCB3

        That mystery was solved before I discovered this blog. Because Muskrat posts idiotic questions on her blog. Like if Barry being elected will make the Cubs try harder to build a winner because he likes the trash, or the Cubs trading Bozo for Papi so we have a DH for the interleague games in AL parks.

      • MinorLeagueRob

        Appreciate all the Rob stories everyone. Really makes me feel welcome.