Archive for November, 2013

Jed Hoyer Buying a Suzuki?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

The off-season rumors are in full swing, so let’s get to it.

  • The Cubs are looking at Kurt Suzuki as an option at backup catcher. It wouldn’t be a flashy move, but it could signify that the front office sees Wellington Castillo as a long-term piece.
  • Jed Hoyer has reiterated that the Cubs are indeed interested in Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and will be in on the bidding (yay). Patrick Mooney sees them as a long shot, however (boo).
  • Not a rumor, but related: Speaking of bidding for Japanese players, there was an apparent agreement between MLB and the Japanese league that would involve a blind bidding system, with the highest bidding team winning the negotiating rights. However, it seems as though the smaller market teams are making a push to modify or eliminate the posting system, since they feel they are being priced out of the process.
  • No Cub player has been the center of more trade discussion than Jeff Samardzija. We’ve heard about the rumored interest from the Diamondbacks and Nationals, but there are now reports that the Pirates and the Blue Jays are interested as well. For what it’s worth, Gordon Wittenmeyer, after speaking with several GMs, seems to think that Shark will get traded this off-season.
  • Jon Morosi tweeted that the Diamondbacks are interested in Nate Schierholtz. Could a package of Nate and Shark bring back a nice return?
  • Mark Feinsand tweeted that the Cubs could be “stealthily waiting in the wings” on Jacoby Ellsbury. Weird.
  • Matthew Cerrone tweeted that the Cubs (among other teams) have shown an early interest in Curtis Granderson. It sort of sounds like an “agent leak” type story to me, but who knows?
  • Not a rumor: MLB will be instituting NFL-style replay challenges next season.
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GirlieView (11/14/2013)

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Welcome to the first off-season GirlieView. As you can imagine we go through some dry spells here at VFTB when there’s not much Cubs news to discuss. And there are other times where we just don’t want to discuss them. So we turn to humor, at times baseball-related, at times not. Here’s a collection of interesting tidbits from the past two weeks.

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 the 2013/2014 Offseason = 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

  • I hope everyone had a great Halloween. I had a dentist appointment yesterday – worlds colliding or worlds aligning?
  • there’s really no one out there worth pursuing anyway, especially for the cost
  • maybe Brad Pitt can coach 3rd base. Imagine Seymour’s excitement bringing new meaning to the definition of fantasy camp when he dines with Brad at the Mesa AZ Subway.
  • I hear he has already started bouncing foot-long and meatball jokes off of the anesthesiologists.
  • The foot-long thing…it’s no joke.
  • at Randy’s camp I swear every time an outfielder had to move more than 2 steps to make a catch he lead off the next inning. For a 68 year old lawyer to move more than 2 steps I would rate that as a 5 in the Craig Wright defensive grading system which is why they have 6 outfielders at fantasy camp.
  • Meters, kg, moles, candelas, Kelvin, seconds, “Craigs”, and amps. That’s all you need.
  • Renteria was never a catcher but did stay at a Holiday Inn Express while interviewing in Chicago.
  • I want to know about his stance on forearm tattoos and if alopecia runs in the family.
  • Moreland is going with the Michael Jordan excuse that he wants to spend more time with his family so expect him to be suiting up for the Birmingham Barons this year and then announce via fax that he’s back.
  • Apparently Cindy Sandberg never got her hands on Rick
  • I don’t think it was her hands that were the problem.
  • Let the barely-tangential, broad-sweeping political comments begin!
  • my money is on Seymour….but it might be Sherm.
  • Not me… I’d have cursed more…and I like to use these little dots a lot..
  • the Captain thought and thought … and then thought some more.
  • Murton is a star both on the Japanese field and Japanese TV, his whacky sitcom with Bryan LaHair is getting rave reviews. There goofy neighbors, Japanese female Lenny and Squigy’s, are always dragging them into trouble.
  • there were 3 or 4 guys on that team better than all of those guys. They went on to be a gas station attendant, a haberdasher, and a teacher.
  • Haberdashery is an underrated line of work.
  • exactly how I feel.
  • Thanks for single handedly making sure I always return to this site…fella.
  • I’m predicting that ‘fella’ becomes the new ‘Gregg.’
  • I’m having a hard time picturing Johnson in a Cubs uniform.
  • Think long about it… the vision will come to you.

Lizard

  • In case you missed it: THE CARDINALS LOST THE WORLD SERIES

Shout Outs

Because I started the counts over for the off-season, it’s everyone’s “first Lizzie” today. Shout outs to everyone: cap’n obvious, Doc Raker, Eddie von White, Jedi Johnson, Joe Aiello, jswanson, L lips es, Sean Powell, and Seymour Butts!

MVL

Congratulations to Sean Powell our Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around!

Top 10 of the 2013/2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard) – actually top nine since that’s all we’ve got so far!

1. Sean Powell
2. jswanson
3. cap’n obvious
3. Doc Raker
5. Seymour Butts
6. Jedi Johnson
7. Eddie von White
7. Joe Aiello
7. L lips es

Chit Chat

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to do a chit chat topic each time in the offseason, so chat amongst yourselves about whatever you find interesting today!

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Cubs In On Josh Johnson?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Is it just me, or does it seem like we’re going to pay this year for the reasonibly mild winter we had last year? Living in NC, we never really get snow other than a dusting that goes away by noon, but yesterday we had a freezing rain and over the weekend it was 35 degrees out. It just seems like an imminent sign of things to come this year and I’m not excited about it. Let’s, instead, focus on the hot stove.

  • Buster Olney recently posted a column about 10 potential bargain starting pitchers this off-season. As we know, these guys aren’t allpro type guys, but they are guys who tend to be low risk and medium to high reward if they pop and can be moved before the deadline for future talent. We’ve seen this become the model for Theo and Jed the last two seasons and I expect it to be the case again this year. It’s an insider piece, but a name on the list that most seems to fit the mold is Josh Johnson, who is coming of surgery to remove a bone spur last month. I like the model because it’s turned a guy like Scott Feldman into parts who can be useful going forward.
  • Apparently the Cubs continue to be interested in expanding their international talent pool with rumored interest in Masahiro Tanaka. I read a piece by Keith Law recently that he is less like Yu Darvish and more like Hiroki Kuroda. Personally, I’m not a fan of investing in international talent from Asia where it involves a posting fee. I’d rather focus on snatching up talent from Latin America for cheap when they’re 16 years old.
  • Theo recently came out and admitted they got out over their ski’s a little with the Edwin Jackson signing last off-season, but I actually disagree. Jackson gives you a guy who can take the ball every day and eat innings. His season last year was not good, but I think we’ll see him rebound this year across the board and given the fact that the rotation was so thin last year before the seasons started, I was OK with the move.
  • Quick, name the hitting coach for the Cubs last year. Admit it, you probably can’t do it. The answer is James Rowson and he has left the team to take a job with the Yankees. There are rumors that former Cub, Bill Mueller is a potential replacement. I’d love to see him get the job simply because he was one of my favorite Cubs when he was with the team. He’s a “professional hitter” as they say in the business.
  • Former Cub Matt Murton is signing an extension to stay in Japan, fresh off leading the league in hits for the third time in four seasons. Let the Murton supporters begin their rant about how he never got his chance and how if he’d only had a chance he could have been a star.
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Friday Notes

Friday, November 8th, 2013
  • As you know, Rick Renteria is the new manager for the Cubs. It blows me away (but it doesn’t surprise me) that some fans are already calling the hire a failure BEFORE HE HAS EVEN GIVEN A PRESS CONFERENCE, MUCH LESS MANAGED A GAME. The front office really took their time and vetted all their candidates, so there’s no reason to think they aren’t confident that he is the right man for the job. The Renteria hire has been praised by many in baseball, and the Padres consider this a significant loss. I mean, who were we supposed to hire as manager, Jesus Christ? The most important task for the new manager is to facilitate the development of the young players that will be coming up to the big league club in the next few years, and, by all accounts, Renteria is a good teacher. His Latino heritage can only be seen as a plus in this area as well. I, for one, am happy with the move, and I’m looking forward to rooting for his success (rather than proclaiming him to be a failure in November). Besides, if you read my post from October 11, you’ll see that managers don’t really matter all that much anyway!
  • As far as Renteria’s staff is concerned, we already know one member. Chris Bosio has agreed to a two-year deal to remain the Cubs’ pitching coach. I really like this move – Bosio’s work with Travis Wood, among others, has been impressive. I think his emphasis on ground balls will serve our young pitchers well in Wrigley going forward.
  • Via Crain’s, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted the Cubs permission to expand the outer right field wall 25 feet into Sheffield Avenue. This step was necessary since the wall will jut into public property. The original plan was to extend the wall by 15 feet, but this compromise was reached when the Clark Street bridge plan was scrapped, along with adjustments to the hotel plans and a reduction in night games from 46 to 43. The battle with the rooftops rages on as ever (ugh). Let the barely-tangential, broad-sweeping political comments begin!
  • Who would you like to see replace Keith Moreland on the radio broadcasts? Gracey would be fun (if unlikely), and I’ve heard Kerry Wood’s name being mentioned. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Rick Renteria It Is….

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Our long wait has ended and there was a flurry of Cubs news yesterday so let’s get right to the notes for this morning.

  • The wait for a new manager seemed like it was dragging at the speed of molasses. On Wednesday that wait ended as the Cubs finally filled the most overrated position on the team by hiring Rick Renteria. Renteria, who had been serving as the San Diego Padres bench coach, managed the Mexico squad in the WBC and is a former player in the Majors. To be honest, I could care less about the move. The only thing I care about is that he speaks Spanish, so hopefully he can get inside Starlin Castro’s head.
  • As a way to celebrate, the Cubs also announced that they were exercising their out clause with WGN after this season. I, like probably all of you, grew up on watching day baseball on WGN. It’s sad to see that contract coming to an end, but if it means that the team can make more revenue with a deal for an exclusive Cubs channel, I’m all for it. These days the channel really means little with the vast amount of media options available for consuming the product.
  • Keeping with the WGN news, it was announced that Keith Moreland will be leaving the WGN radio booth. I could care less about this one as I don’t live in Chicago so I never listen to the Cubs on the radio. Moreland is going with the Michael Jordan excuse that he wants to spend more time with his family so expect him to be suiting up for the Birmingham Barons this year and then announce via fax that he’s back.
  • Finally, Outfielder Aaron Cunningham has agreed to a minor league deal.
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Making a Great Defensive Play Then Leading Off the Next Inning

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Announcers are always saying, “Isn’t that amazing! Dokes just made that incredible play, and sure enough, here he is leading off the next inning. That sure seems to happen more often than not.”

Of course, the probability that the player who made a great play in the previous inning coming up to bat lead-off is one out of nine. There are nine lineup positions and there’s a one-in-nine chance his lineup position is due up first. But does it actually happen more often than that? I recently had an email conversation with Craig Wright on this subject where he said “We have the old adage that when you make a great play you often lead off in your team’s next at-bats. It seems like a false connection simply made up in our minds, but who really knows without actually checking it out? Maybe the more distant we are from our last at-bat the more focused on defense we are and likely to make a great play.”

We can check that! Baseball Info Solutions tracks plays defensively on a scale of one to five, with five being impossible plays (hits that fall in that no one could possibly have fielded) and one being the most routine of plays. The most difficult playable plays are scored a four. Last year, plays scored a four were only turned into outs about once per game. This is truly a great play.

Looking at our data, if we exclude plays made in the final half-inning of the game (where there was no opportunity to bat the next inning) and plays that occurred in the same inning as each other (such that one player could preclude the other from leading off the next inning), there were 2290 times during the 2013 season that a fielder made an out on a play scored a four. How often did that player bat lead-off the next inning? 233 times. That’s 10.2 percent, or a little less than the one out of nine (11.1 percent) chance he had of leading off the next inning anyway. If we limit ourselves just to plays that were scored a four and were the third out of the inning, there were 735 of those, after which the fielder that made the play led off the next inning 70 times. That’s 9.5 percent. So it doesn’t look like there is any truth to that old adage after all.

P.S. Craig Wright just came out with a really cool new book called Pages from Baseball’s Past. Even if you are not into baseball history, I assure you that you will love these stories. Check it out!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Cubs Add Three to the 40 Man Roster

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Happy Tuesday everyone. In case you were wondering, I completed my Tough Mudder run this past weekend. I am planning on putting together a post discussing it. In the meantime, there are a few nuggets of interest as we are just about a week into the off-season.

  • The 40 man roster has been changed a little with the addition of Kyuji Fujikawa, Arodys Vizcaino and Mat Gamel from the 60 day DL. After the move, the roster stands at 37. There will still need to be changes as free agency has started and we inch closer to the rule 5 draft.
  • Cubs minor league shortstop Elliot Soto was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. He was banned after a second violation for a drug of abuse. Soto was a 15th round pick in the 2010 draft, and posted a combined .219 average in 84 games at class A Daytona and Double A Tennessee in 2013.
  • The Cubs are rumored to still be interested in pursuing a trade involving Samardzija to the Diamondbacks. We’ll see what happens as we get closer to the winter meetings on this one.
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Friday News Roundup

Friday, November 1st, 2013

I hope everyone had a great Halloween. I had a dentist appointment yesterday – worlds colliding or worlds aligning?

  • The Cubs installed another mock-up of the proposed sign in right field at Wrigley. The Cubs contend it doesn’t block rooftop views – and of course the rooftop folks contend that it does. Check it out for yourself here. A couple of caveats: it doesn’t look like the sign was completely in place when the photo was taken, and the sign will be 15 feet closer to the rooftops once the extension to the outer wall is complete (which should lower the sign from the rooftops point of view). Obviously, there is money to be made (and potentially lost) on both sides here, so I expect this issue to remain contentious. Maybe the Ricketts could put an end to this issue once and for all and just buy the rooftops in question. (http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/10/24/source-cubs-could-buy-rooftops)
  • Free agency has begun, and we should all expect the Cubs to be relatively inactive. The only moves I can see the team making are minor – filling out the bench, minor league depth, etc.. I agree completely with this approach, since a) it’s not a smart way to build a team for long-term success,  b) there’s really no one out there worth pursuing anyway, especially for the cost, c) the young “core” isn’t ready, so it doesn’t make sense to load up on free agents for a team that is a few years away. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs go hard after Masahiro Tanaka, though. His age and position make total sense for the club at this point (and how often do you get a change to acquire a proven – albeit in the Japanese league – starting pitcher and give up none of your prospects in return?). For what it’s worth, the Cubs free agents are Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier, and Dioner Navarro. (meh)
  • In case you missed it: THE CARDINALS LOST THE WORLD SERIES
  • Speaking of the Cardinals, there have been whispers that they are looking for a shortstop and could be interested in Starlin Castro. This was apparently discussed on MLB Radio, but I’ll do some more digging and report back if I hear anything more substantive. The guys over at Cubs Den are looking into it as well. I don’t see this having legs – but we all know that if he is traded to the Cardinals, he’ll be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.
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