Archive for June, 2014

Arrieta is Good, Rizzo is Good, Twitterites are Morons and I Don’t Like Renteria

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

MVP – Jake Arrieta (.289 WPA)

If you missed the game yesterday, I came away from it with four thoughts that I wanted to share.

1. Arrieta is really really good. – Noah wrote about it yesterday that when the dust settles, he may be the best starter on the staff. It makes the trade to acquire him look amazing. In case you forgot, the deal was Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Yeah, that’s an alright trade. Last night Arrieta took a perfect game into the 7th inning, which prompted my second take away.

2. People on Twitter are morons. – David Kaplan and Len Kasper were both tweeting that Arrieta had a perfect game working, and caught hell for it. Kap in particular had a pretty good back and forth with some moron woman who I think honestly believed that somehow Kap mentioning the no hitter caused him to lose it. Honestly people, if you believe in that BS, you need to seriously consider mental evaluation.

3. Ricky Renteria over manages the piss out of a ballgame. – I’m trying to like Renteria. I really am, but watching him be completely clueless when it comes to roster management is starting to wear on me. The fact that we’ve been carrying eight pitchers, which I believe is solely for the purpose of giving him bullpen training wheels, is beyond frustrating. Last night he’s bringing guys in the for one pitch. It’s as if he doesn’t realize that this has adverse effects on a guy’s health. It’s not just one pitch that he throws. He has to warm up. If you’re going to use a guy, then use him.

4. Anthony Rizzo is really good. – That’s really all you have to say. I hadn’t seen him as a 30-35 home run guy, but he hit his 17th of the season last night and is starting to look like he has that potential. If he’s capable of producing that kind of power and you pair him with guys like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and even Starlin Castro, this lineup has the potential for a scary amount of power up and down the lineup.

This is our first edition of this today, so we’ll make it Arrieta themed after his knockout performance last night.

Q. Would you rather anchor your pitching staff with Arrieta or Travis Wood?

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The Best Option for Cubs Ace of the Future May Not Be Who You Think

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Off the top of your head, name the Cubs’ starter with the most strikeouts per nine innings and best ERA? No, it’s not Jeff Samardzija. He also has the best ground ball rate among Cubs’ starters, and the second lowest walks per nine innings? Not Jason Hammel either. He has the lowest FIP and xFIP of any Cubs’ starter by more than half a run too. Travis Wood? Nope.

It’s Jake Arrieta, the pitcher who many groaned to see be the biggest piece the Cubs received in return for Scott Feldman early last July. Sure, Arrieta was a highly regarded prospect in the Orioles organization, where he was named a Top 100 prospect in both 2009 and 2010. But he never converted his plus stuff into results, and for the most part was unable to even convert it to consistent strikeouts, at least not without also giving up far too many walks.

Some adjustments to his pitches and pitch selection, though, have given the 2014 the Cubs a decent sized look at the dominance many thought Arrieta could achieve. Through his first nine starts, Arrieta sports a 1.98 ERA, 2.31 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, 9.90 K/9 and 53% ground ball rate, besting all other Cubs’ starters on those rates. On top of that, only Jason Hammel has allowed less walks per nine innings (1.87) than Arrieta (2.70).

The only negative to Arrieta’s 2014 is his average of less than 6 innings per start, compiling 50 innings in his 9 starts to date. The Cubs, however, heavily influenced that rate by being extremely cautious with Arrieta during his first three starts of the season after he missed the first month of the season due to minor shoulder soreness. After averaging under 4 and a half innings per start over those first three games, Arrieta averaged just over 6 innings in his most recent half dozen starts, throwing less than six innings only once.

The small sample size caution should be noted because Arrieta has only pitched about a quarter of a season’s worth of innings, but the peripheral statistics pointing to a meaningful possibility of sustainable success (strikeout rate and walk rate in particular) are among the first statistics to stabilize.

Quite simply, no one would have guessed Jake Arrieta would do what he is doing this season. Just as many people in the industry thought the Cubs should have converted Arrieta into a reliever. But if he can keep performing like this all season, the “will this pitcher be extended” talk won’t focus on Samardzija or Wood. Instead, the discussion will be if the Cubs should try to lock up Arrieta through his early 30s just as he enters arbitration.

Q: Who is the only Cub to steal at least 20 bases in a season at age 40 or above?

A: Click Here

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Baseball Loses Another Legend, Kershaw Makes History & More!

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

For the second week this month, we have some terrible news to report. Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad, but this loss was a big one to take.

Gwynn Gone Too Soon 

After losing Don Zimmer a couple of weeks ago, baseball was rocked with yet another tragedy as 54-year old San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn passed away after a long bout with mouth cancer.

Over the course of his 20-year career (all for the Padres), he hit below .300 just once, and it was his rookie year where he hit a still impressive .289. That 19-year streak of hitting over .300 is one of the best in history, topped only by names like Ty Cobb.

His high level of baseball ability was matched only by his kindness and work off of the field. He was generally known as one of, if not the nicest man in baseball and he always did what he could to give back to the game. With Gwynn gone, baseball has truly lost one of its biggest legends.

The troubling part about his passing is that it seems as if it was relatively preventable, as chewing tobacco caused the mouth cancer he had. With this being known, are there any further steps that the MLB could take to prevent the use of chew?

Kershaw Throws First No-Hitter

If it weren’t already clear, Clayton Kershaw took the hill Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies and yet again established himself as the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. While he is normally dominant, he took it to a new level in this game.

Throwing 107 pitches (79 strikes), Kershaw struck out 15 of the 28 batters that he faced. The lone base runner for the Rockies was Chris Dickerson in the 7th inning, who reached on a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez. With that, Kershaw threw the first no-hitter of his already storied career.

At 26 years old, Kershaw should have quite a future ahead of him. He’s as dominant as ever this season, and he should be on his way towards another Cy Young Award, or at least be in contention for it. His FIP of 1.59 shows that things might even improve for him this year, too, if that’s even possible.

Kershaw highlights this new era of the pitcher and it’s truly a joy to watch him take the mound (as long as he’s not pitching against your team). Is there any pitcher in the league that you would rather have than Kershaw? If so, who and why?

Samardzija Talks Heat Up

After strong performances in each of the last three seasons, Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija has really taken a step forward this year. While that can’t be seen in the win column, it’s safe to say that Theo Epstein & Co. have taken notice. In fact, they reportedly already threw a contract his way.

It was recently reported that Samardzija turned down a 5-year, $85 million contract from the Cubs and given the money that is hurled at pitchers every offseason on the open market that was probably the correct decision for him.

While he can’t yet be considered one of the elite pitchers in the game, he will certainly have quite a bit of value if the Cubs decide to trade him. His impressive work this year will certainly net the Cubs at least a top prospect, and probably more.

He will still be under team control until the 2016 offseason, so the team that eventually trades for him won’t have to worry about him bolting right away (which will also increase his trade value). As Cubs fans, how tired are you of hearing the constant rumors about Samardzija, and what do you hope the team does with him?

This Week’s MVP: J.D. Martinez (.444/.429/.963, 4 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 15 K, No-Hitter)

MINOR LEAGUE MONDAY

by Joe Aiello

Over the last three drafts, we’ve seen the Cubs draft hitting, despite being in need of pitching. Of those last three drafts, all three of the players selected, have become part of the core five guys in the system that our offense is waiting for. Usually a college bat is the safest pick you can make, and the Cubs have done that two out of the last three drafts, but let’s take a quick look at a college hitter selected just a little further back, whose stock has sunk and sunk fast.

Brett Jackson was the 1st round selection by the Cubs in the 2009 draft, selected 31st overall because the Cubs were actually good the year before. For the next several years not only did Jackson find himself on top whatever lists, he often found himself near the top of most of them. He even got a cup of coffee in the Majors in 2012. Since then, Jackson has done little to show he still even belongs in the system, let alone in the Majors.

So far this season, his third at AAA, Jackson is hitting .197 / .279 / .341. At what point do you stop giving him regular at bats and look elsewhere? I think the time is coming soon.

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Fake 2014 Cubs Season – Week 1 Recap

Friday, June 20th, 2014

So I mentioned this week that on Fridays, I was going to begin to discuss my version of the Cubs rebuild using one of the best baseball simulation games on the market today, Out of the Park Baseball. The newest version of their game is OOTP 15 and is actually on sale right now for $29.99 till June 28th. Grab a copy of it. You won’t be disappointed.

We begin our journey with a little intro into a couple changes I made to the rules. First, I have incorporated the DH rule in the NL just to royally annoy CAPS. Honestly, that’s the sole reason I did it. I also set all levels of minor league teams to begin play on April 1 and play a full 162 game season with no playoffs. The purpose of this is to really get a good feel for how guys performed over a full season. Other than that, the basics are in play so let’s begin.

Before the season even begins, I am actively looking to upgrade this offense. With the benefit of hindsight watching the real life Cubs, I know this team will hurt for offense so I immediately make a move to deal Carlos Villanueva to the Kansas City Royals for Billy Butler with the purpose of playing him at the new DH spot. I wasn’t in the mood to start the season and have to watch Villanueva so I used the shop a player tool and the Royals were offering Butler straight up. The deal ended up being Villanueva and Santiago Rodriguez for Butler and Elier Hernandez. I figure that Rodriguez probably never makes the majors and in return I get a young SS to develop in the minors. The Royals promptly placed Villanueva into their rotation in the 3rd spot. Ouch.

Other news before the season began was injury related. Mike Olt strained his quad just a week before opening day. The game didn’t tell me how he did it so I like to think it was in the gym getting ripped. He missed the first few games of the season, but has since healed and put up an 0-for-2 in his first game back. Also injury related was news that Jake Arrieta‘s injury would take a little longer to heal. He’s expected back in the rotation around the end of April if all goes well.

As far as the games themselves, the first week did not go well.

Series 1 – @ Pittsburgh

Game 1 – Jeff Samardzija got shelled, posting a 3.1 IP outing that included 7 H, 6 ER. Hector Rondon and Brian Schlitter finished the game out of the pen and the Cubs lose 7-1 despite the fact that Francisco Liriano left the game after recording just the first two outs of the ballgame before leaving the game with shoulder tendinitis.

Game 2 – Looking to rebound from opening day, it was instead a mirror image of the day before. This time Edwin Jackson was on the losing end, leaving after 4.2 IP and taking the loss. Gerrit Cole pitches 7 strong innings and gets the win.

Game 3 – Trying to salvage something from the opening series, Travis Wood takes the mound and saves the day. Great outing for him as he tosses eight strong innings before Pedro Strop comes on for the save with a blemish free 9th inning. Unfortunately, Strop would rupture a tendon in his pitching hand in his next outing and is on the shelf for the next four months. Blake Parker has been recalled to replace him in the pen, which puts Jose Veras as the closer. Offensively, the Cubs were led by Anthony Rizzo who went 2-for-5, including HR # 1 of the season. Cubs win 7-4

Series 2 – vs Philadelphia

The Cubs come home for their first series of the season and proceed to get swept by the Phillies. The offense continues to struggle early, putting up just one run in each of the three games and losing 1-2, 1-2, and 1-8 in the series. Samardzija’s second start, after a horrible opening day outing went even worse than the first outing, if that’s even possible. Final line in start # 2 for him: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K. His ERA after his first two outings, a stellar 29.46. Anyone interested in trading for him? Out of curiosity, I asked him what his price is for an extension. His response: a 3 year deal for $49 million. I’ll pass.

Other Notes

  • Seeing a need for ML ready pitching in the event of an injury, I made a minor league contract offer to Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. Both accepted and have been assigned to the rotation at AAA Iowa.
  • The White Sox made an early season trade with the Rays, dealing Adam Dunn to Tampa for Heath Bell and a minor league catcher.
  • Raul Ibanez and Miguel Cabrera both reached the 2000 career hit club.
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Promotions For Everyone

Friday, June 20th, 2014

A late start for me this morning. Before we get to the news, I want to rant a little. I was clearing some brush in my yard over the weekend and got my first ever experience with poison ivy. Holy crap. That mess hurts. Thankfully it’s just on my right shin, but it feels like death. Any home remedies for me? On to the news.

In case you missed it, the Cubs promoted super prospect, Kris Bryant to AAA and he made his debut last night. When the dust cleared on the night, he had done what he always does…hit a home run. What’s exciting to me is that two of the core four of prospects are now just a phone call away in Iowa. Obviously we won’t see Bryant this quick, but you have to admit you’re starting to see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. I know I am. I’m still approaching with caution, but it’s hard not to get excited about 2015 and 2016 with these guys on the cusp.

Also promoted was this year’s first round pick, Kyle Schwarber, who spent just five games at short season level ball before being promoted to Kane County. My advice would be to go see him now before he’s moved again. College guys that hit the baseball tend to move through a system fairly quickly. In his five games at Boise, Schwarber hit .600 / .625 / .1350 with four home runs in those five games.

Finally, two more power arms for the bullpen were promoted. The first was my preseason pick to succeed, Arodys Vizcaino. I still maintain that he will make an impact on the Major league roster this year, and now he’s a step closer after being moved up to Iowa with Armando Rivero. Both are guys who could add depth to an already really good bullpen. What that does is free up the ability to move a guy like James Russell before the deadline.

The next few weeks will be an interesting couple weeks.

Finally, for the last few weeks, I’ve been toying with the idea of having a different theme to close a post out each day of the work week. Obviously this would have to include me actually posting each day of the work week, but what I’ve come up with is this.

Minor League Monday – A look at who’s hot over the last week and who’s not

Trivia Tuesday – Pretty self explanatory

Would You Rather Wednesday – Taken from my favorite podcast, the Waddle & Silvy show on ESPN 1000, I’ll give you some questions to answer

Baseball Reference Play Index Thursday – This one will be my favorite day, and I think you’ll see how cool it is once we do it.

Fake Team Friday / Friday Five – I will give you two special things on this day. First will be a look at the season I am simulating in OOTP Baseball with the Cubs. Basically an update on Joe’s Cub rebuild as he plays GM and leads the team to the World Series. Also included will be a top five list of some sort.

Should be fun, so be on the lookout for that and let’s get the series started off right today with a win this afternoon. Don’t look now, but this team is just 10 under .500.

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