Archive for September, 2013

Racks on Racks on Racks? The Cubs Financial Sitch

Friday, September 6th, 2013

We heard from two of the Cubs’ leaders this week in regard to the team’s financial situation….well, it doesn’t sound too rosy. On Sunday, Theo Epstein gave an interview to WSCR in Chicago and, among many other things, gave his thoughts about the team’s ability to spend on free agents:

“We simply don’t have the payroll flexibility that we would need for a quicker talent infusion given some of the limitations and timing of our business plan and the realities of a lot of circumstances surrounding the ball club right now.”

That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Obviously, we don’t know just how much this is a bit of posturing to put pressure on the stakeholders involved in the renovation discussions – or how much is a hedge in case 2014 is as long a season as it appears it will be. Given the popularity of the Cubs – and how valuable the franchise is overall – it may seem obvious that the Cubs could have a top-end payroll if they wanted it.

Well, things may not be so bad. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke to Gordon Wittenmyer on Wednesday, and he said that the long-term rebuilding strategy, not money, is the main reason that the Cubs won’t be going after high-priced free agents this winter. From the Wittenmyer piece:

“I know it’s not a money issue,’’ Ricketts said of the methods the baseball department is using to restock the farm system and overhaul the organization — and the consequent results at the big-league level. “You can’t just throw money at the problem. We have to build the organization from the ground up. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Despite these quotes from the front office (or perhaps because of them) we still don’t really have a clear picture of the team’s finances. For me, it actually doesn’t matter at this point, and here’s why: spending big on free agents this off-season isn’t going to do anything for the long-term development of this team into a consistent winner. First, I don’t see any young, big-time free agents becoming available this off-season that would really be the kind of player that could help turn a franchise around. Second, the timing isn’t right: it would be better to sign a major free agent or two to compliment the young “core” (whatever that winds-up being) so that the team is ready to compete top-to-bottom when they’re ready – we’re not there yet. Third, and this is a secondary concern, I don’t want to block any up-and-coming prospects before they have a chance to show what they can do in the big leagues.

The one free agent I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs pursue (in fact, I would love it) is Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka is considered by most scouts to be the best Japanese pitching prospect since Yu Darvish, and he has top-of-the-rotation potential (some have said he may have the best splitter on the planet). He’s only 24, so Tanaka would fit the mold of a player who could be in his prime when the Cubs young “core” is ready for the bigs. I’d love to see the Cubs go all in on him (and if they don’t win the bid…please, please don’t let it be the Dodgers!).  John Arguello over at Cubs Den seems to think that the Cubs will be in on Tanaka, so we’ll see.

OK, Cubs fans, I have a question for you. All of us that read, and especially post (and especially write articles!), for Cubs blogs are obviously die hard fans who have stuck – and will stick – with this team through the tough times. However, even Job had a limit, so the question is this: when, if ever, will you throw your hands in the air and stop caring about this team? I’m not asking if any of you would ever stop being fans of the Cubs (I doubt any of you would say that), but will there come a time when you’re just going to refuse to put in any emotional investment? I know that I haven’t been watching all the games lately. My classes have started back, so I’m busier than I was most of the summer, but I’ve also grown a little weary. Moreover, I’ll have to admit that even though I root for the Cubs to win every game I watch, I’m actually hoping that they lose when I don’t watch. I want the better draft pick next summer (although I always hope that Castro and Rizzo have good games). So, when will it be for you? Middle of next season? 2015? Will you ever stop checking Cubs blogs or keeping up with the farm system? I’d love to hear what you think.

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GirlieView (09/05/2013)

Thursday, September 5th, 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.


  • There appears to be one thing the old-school and advanced metrics agree on: Starlin Castro sucks at defense.
  • I am actually for the DL (Designated Liver) since I don’t want my pitchers living their lives. I only want them pitching. That’s what I pay them for. Walking around outside or driving a car or even taking a leak may be too dangerous. I propose the use of the DL because it provides broader coverage than just the DH.
  • when I worked for Anheuser-Busch, I had a designated liver. Carried it around after all the big drinking nights in a briefcase with a Budweiser logo.
  • “How Do You Google That”
  • Your beard looks stupid.
  • Shut your triangle-hole.
  • You do realize that you ALSO have a triangle hole, right?
  • I’m pretty confident that’s supposedly a stupid beard on jswan’s face too.
  • To the untrained eye, that indeed may appear to be a beard on my face. I commissioned my portrait to have a 5-o’clock shadow, which was realized via the spray paint can in MSPaint. Next level shit.
  • Let’s just say that telling your wife that you beat the Johnsons on Lizzie’s Girlie View is a mistake you will only make once.
  • Why stop at the pitcher? Why not expand roster to 36 so we can have 12 guys who can only hit, 12 who can only pitch, and 12 who can only field? Each team would consist solely of designated hitter, designated fielders, and designated pitchers.
  • I take it we have just stopped acknowledging the fact that there are Cub games currently being played.
  • I figure the 40 man should be down to about 6 soon after the season ends.
  • Or maybe Dale ran out of his Kashi Go Lean and missed breakfast on getaway day.
  • I’ve made it a habit to NOT check out the ball boys.
  • Lance was looking at a rack in the 3rd row when the pitch was thrown…he guessed wrong.
  • crappy official scoring can result in aging eye care practitioners having delusions of hitting .833 at fat camp.
  • Don’t be bitter just because you hit .083/.083/.083 against sally arm pitching and crippled defense. You have to put the ball in play to take advantage of crappy defense or crappy official scoring, K’s are very rarely mis scored as hits.
  • Pretty sure the Jugs machine would prefer the handle “Juggsy” over “sally arm.”


  • The first time I got a Lizzie I was so excited that I ran to the other room to tell my wife (she didn’t care) but in the process I ran out of breath. I thought, “I am too young to become short of breath this quick” so I have started exercising regularly. The moral of this story is that Lizzies save lives. True story.

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.


Congratulations our three Most Valuable Lizzie’ers this week! Bryan, Jedi and jswanson tied for the most contributions!

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

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

Chit Chat

What’s your current Cubs involvement?
a. I still watch or listen to every game I can.
b. I watch/listen occasionally when I have nothing better to do.
c. I watch/listen when I have nothing better to do but I always have something better to do.
d. There are still Cubs games going on?

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News & Notes Roundup

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

This morning will be short and sweet. I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s trivia. I found it quite interesting, myself. Today we hit on a couple news nuggets before a day game this afternoon.

  • Sunday Roster Moves – There have been a series of roster moves, which is to be expected this time of year with roster expansion. On Sunday, Eduardo Sanchez was designated for assignment and Alberto Cabrera was recalled from AAA. Sanchez has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Iowa. Luis Valbuena was activated from the DL and Ryan Sweeney was placed back on the 40 man roster in the spot vacated by Sachez after being activated from the 60-day DL. Overall, nothing really exiting on Sunday other than the return of the DL players.
  • Tuesday Roster Moves – Yesterday brought the first wave of roster call ups. Many will ask why teams don’t just recall 15 guys as of September 1st, when rosters expand. The answer is two fold. First, only players on the 40 man roster are able to be called up and some of them are injured. Second, by calling a player up, you begin the countdown to having to pay them via arbitration and/or free agency so there is not much of a point recalling a player who will not see a decent look during that month. That said, Brooks Raley, Justin Grimm and JC Boscan were all recalled. The Cubs also selected the contract of Zach Rosscup, which meant we wave goodbye to Dave Sappelt’s time on the 40 man (thank goodness).
  • MLB Postseason Info Announced – This just in: The post season will start in October and the Cubs won’t be a part of it. If you’re like me, that means you check out at the end of September and get your football on instead. If you watch the postseason instead, then here is a look at what you can expect.
  • Info On Neal Ramirez – I meant to post this the other day, but John Sickels (who we had an interview with the other day) posted some info on Neal Ramirez, who came over from Texas to complete the Matt Garza trade.
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Tuesday Trivia: Triple Double

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Basketball has the triple double, which is a game in which a player posts double digit stats in three of the four main counting stats (points, rebounds, assists, or steals). That got me wondering about the baseball equivalent. The first one that came to mind was a season that had double digits in doubles, triples and home runs in a season. You’d think it would have happened more often than it has, which leads us to our trivia question.

Since 1961, five Cubs hitters have posted a season in which they had at least 10 home runs, 10 triples, and 10 doubles. Can you name them?


To view the answers, click each player link to be taken to their baseball card. In addition, here is the link to view the individual seasons.

Please do not post the answers in the comment section. Please post how many of the five you were able to guess on your first try.


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Talking Cubs Prospects With John Sickels of

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

I think we’re all a little weary of the Cubs and their play recently and we’re all excited about the future so here’s another prospect interview with one of the hardest working guys covering baseball, John Sickels. As you’ll notice I recycled a couple questions to get a comparison with the recent Jim Callis interview as well as interviews coming in the near future.

John Sickels is a baseball writer and analyst at SB Nation. He is the author of the annual Baseball Prospect Book and is the Senior Editor at  You can also follow him on twitter @MinorLeagueBall.

Q: What do you look for when you are scouting a prospect [pitching & position]?

Sickels: I try to take a comprehensive approach. For pitchers, I look first at size, arm strength, mechanics, and consistency of mechanics. A guy with unusual mechanics doesn’t bother me that much as long as he repeats them well and his body is used to it. I look at his fastball, of course, how fast it is, but also how fast it plays. Oftentimes I don’t look at radar readings until after he’s thrown several pitches; I try to rate his fastball quality without looking at the gun or being prejudiced by the readings. My idea here is to get a read on how deceptive the fastball is, or how well it moves, and how well he locates it, before knowing what the radar says. All the standard questions apply from here of course: what kind of breaking stuff? Can he change speeds? Does his delivery change when he uses a different pitch? How fast does he work? Does he appear confident? How does he handle tough situations?

Statistically I look at all the normal things: K/IP, K/BB ratios, considered within league context, batting average against, statistical splits, ground ball and home run rates, etc.

For hitters, again, I try to look at everything: overall athleticism, arm strength, running speed, etc. Batting eye, plate discipline, etc…type of swing…does he go for line drives or is he an uppercut power type? Is he a fastball hitter or does he handle breaking stuff well? Is he too aggressive? Too passive? If he’s fast, how well does he USE that speed? And statistically I look at all the stuff you normally look at, the standard numbers, BB/K/PA ratios, home/road splits, line drive rates, etc.

Basically I look at everything I can.

Q:   Who are the top 5 Cubs prospects and in what order do you rank them? Which Cubs prospects are in the mix for next year’s top 100 [or 150 if you go that high again]?

Sickels: Well I won’t be doing an exact ranking for a few months yet. Once the season ends, I have a very specific process that I go through for every organization, examining and ranking each prospect, and skipping steps in the process tends to trip me up. I would say off the top of my head that the top 5 are Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant in some order, Baez first but after that I’m not certain yet. I’d be looking at CJ Edwards and Pierce Johnson and Arismendy Alcantara to round that out. The big international guys that were signed I need to study more before knowing where they will slot.

Q:  You are higher than most on Dan Vogelbach, what do you see in him to rank him that high?

Sickels:  The thing for me that stands out for DV is that he isn’t just some slugging masher. He has pure hitting skills, too, good plate discipline and feel for hitting to go with the strength. Obviously he has to keep his weight under control, but the guy can really hit.

Q:  For good and bad, which Cubs prospects have surprised you the most this year?

Sickels:  I thought Christian Villanueva and Gioskar Amaya would have better years. They haven’t been bad, but I thought they would be breakout guys and they weren’t. Alcantara ended up being the breakout guy.

Q:  CJ Edwards is off to a great start in the Cubs system. Do you think his frame (6’2”/155), even if he fills out a little, can sustain the rigors of a 162 game schedule based on his power approach?

Sickels:  It could be an issue but he’s a really good athlete and that gives him a chance to pull it off. As long as his workload is managed reasonably, I don’t think his injury risk is any higher than it would be for any other pitcher his age. Which is still pretty high, of course…young pitchers get hurt a lot even if they are handled wisely and even if they are good athletes. But I don’t think his risk is abnormally high.

Q:  The Cubs are still pretty weak in pitching within their system but there are some interesting names and potential rotation pieces in the farm. What are your thoughts on some of the other Cubs top pitching prospects and when should we start seeing them? Is there any pitching help for next season?

Sickels:  Pitching is still the weakness in the system but they are addressing it. Johnson has performed well, the trade for Edwards helps a lot, and they have been aggressive with international arms though of course we don’t know how those guys will pan out yet. I don’t see any super impact arms ready to help in 2014. Kyle Hendricks will get a shot but he is more of a control type. You could also see Alberto Cabrera make a return engagement. Eric Jokisch could get there, but like Hendricks he is more of a complementary arm than a future anchor. There should be more available in 2015 than 14.

Q: The knock on Christian Villanueva before the 2012 season was that he added a few pounds and lost a step in the process. Was that premeditated in order to boost strength and power numbers? His SB numbers have dropped significantly this season. As he progresses, could he regain the speed and possibly project to a 20/20 type guy?

Sickels:  I don’t know if it was premeditated or not. It could just be the natural maturing process but at this stage either way he’s not likely a 20 steal guy at the major league level now. I’d be more concerned about his strike zone judgment than his speed frankly.

Q: I recently wrote about Baez; his contact problems and plate approach are very worrisome for me and I have him ranked 4th behind Soler, Bryant, and Almora because of that. I think he’s either going to figure it all out and be a superstar or be a huge bust with no chance of anything in the middle. Since I wrote about him, he’s been crushing it. How do you feel about him? Can he succeed at the majors with his ultra aggressive approach that has worked thus far or will something have to give if he is going to become a major leaguer?

Sickels:  Baez is tough. He is very aggressive as you point out and yes, I do have some concerns about his approach. But his bat speed is so good that Double-A pitchers have been unable to expose this weakness. My guess is that Triple-A will be more of a challenge, though of course the environment in Iowa and the Pacific Coast League will play to his strengths. If I had to draw a scenario for next year, I’d say that he gets off to a slow start at first in Triple-A, but that after a couple of weeks he starts blasting the ball as the weather warms up, and by late June it is clear that the PCL won’t challenge him further. He’ll get to the point where only major league pitchers will teach him what he needs to know. That’s probably 11 months from now, although who knows…if he has a great spring, maybe they will accelerate that.

Q:  Arismendy Alcantara was in the middle of a breakout year last season before injury. He’s been even better this year. What kind of future do you see for Alcantara at the majors?

Sickels: I think he has a 14 year career and some years as a regular, never quite an all star but solid and productive.

Q:   The organization is very strong on the left side of the infield. What position do you think the following players will end up at and what kind of defensive ability will they have there.


  • Starlin Castro -some other team
  • Javier Baez -I think he sticks at SS for 5 years but is 3B by the time he’s 30.
  • Arismendy Alcantara – second base, slightly above average
  • Kris Bryant – decent enough to stick at 3B until he gets old, above average if moved to 1B
  • Mike Olt – All facets of his game slipped this year, including his defense which was previously rated potential Gold Glove caliber. I don’t know what is wrong with him but something is. It isn’t just the strikeouts eating him up. The glove had declined too
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