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Cubs Win, Blog Update, Cubs Win

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

The season is winding to a close (or it did last week, if VFTB is the center of the Cubs’ universe). And the Cubs got a rather unfortunate win on Wednesday. Unfortunate is probably the wrong word; but I especially hate when Cub wins are roundly celebrated by Cardinal fans. In fact, based on where the NL Central now stands I wish the Cards had clinched against the Nationals. Now the Cubs will very likely be in the visitors dugout when STL celebrates avoiding the dreaded play-in Wild Card game. 40,000 in jorts, baseball’s so-called smartest fans, dusting off the rally squirrel t-shirts, feathering their mullets, fiddling with their lone remaining front tooth, sister/wife at their side ready to celebrate with some Skoal and Bud Light…I hate September games at Busch. When all is said and done, the Cubs will finish with fewer than 70 wins, only a handful of games to show for improvement on last season. And dutifully the vast majority of the Cubs faithful give Theo & Co. a second mulligan…

  • On Monday the Cubs state their intentions for the man with the forearm tattoos. In hindsight, it’s a great thing Theo & Jed didn’t make the mistake of hiring Ryne Sandberg two years ago. It takes a special manager to work through the July Fire Sale Festival. Unquestionably, Sveum was uniquely suited for the job – a delicate blend of spineless, non-descript, and devoid of imagination. Seriously though, how anyone can pretend to judge Dale on anything that’s happened over the last two seasons is laughable. The only thing I know for sure is that he’s better than Mike Quade – but then again, even my four-year-old wouldn’t be hitting Jeff Baker cleanup and playing him in LF.
  • If you missed the Brewers-Braves game last night, you need to watch this video. Total respect for what Brian McCann did; I’m not sure I’d even have had the foresight to consider the move. Carlos Gomez is a clown; I don’t care what you have against a guy – that kind of thing is bush league.
  • So much for an extra wild card adding more suspense. Before the season’s final series begin, the NL playoff teams are set, and two divisions only have one team. In the AL you have 3 teams for 2 spots (where before last season you would’ve had 3 teams for 1 spot…that’s less suspense Bud). Plus, 2 of these teams will be in the “playoffs” for exactly one day.
  • If you were born roughly 2,274 days (or more) after the first scheduled night game at Wrigley, this is only the second postseason in your lifetime that will not include the New York Yankees.
  • After 159 games, I consider this season to be even more lost than last year. At least when 2012 ended there was reason to think some of the franchise’s young stars were ready to cement their status as an everyday fixture for the next decade at Wrigley. Then Rizzo didn’t hit as well, Samardzija pitched much worse, and a bunch of coaches decided Castro should stop doing everything that made him so valuable. Along the way, only Junior Lake added his name to the ‘Cubs of Tomorrow’ plan – and even he has been a weird combination of electric and ineffective. At this point, I could be convinced that any of those players is traded before 2014 ends; and I could also be convinced that any of them would be a 2014 All-Star.
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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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Embarrassing: Umpires, Manager, Shortstop

Monday, August 19th, 2013

If you missed the Cubs this weekend, you certainly missed controversy.

This actually happened.

Joe Torre (in charge of Major League Operations, On-Field Operations, On-Field Discipline and Umpiring) needs to act. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi doesn’t need to be making that call; and if he does and the entire Cubs bench looks surprised and angry, would it really kill him to ask for help? It’s this behavior from officials that EVERY other major professional sport has successfully gotten under control. In basketball, football, and hockey you see officials huddle together when one of them has clearly butchered a call. But baseball is more like tennis – some crotchety old guy tyrannically interpreting the rules through his own faulty vision, insistent that he couldn’t possibly need help. If Cuzzi had bothered to consult Chris Guccione at first base, I’m still not sure they’d have gotten it right – that’s how bad umpires are these days, protecting one another until the bitter end. Not until the league starts making examples out of these guys (and I mean firing the worst of them – Angel Hernandez!) will any of them bother to change their ways. Just look at this list – you should only know a couple of those guys by name…instead I know at least a dozen of those guys simply because of an ignominious decision they’ve made at a crucial time. And many of them – like Cuzzi’s ridiculous call on Sunday – could’ve been avoided if umpires were just a little less ‘it’s us against the world’ all the time.

Because of Cuzzi’s absurd punchout, both Dale Sveum and James Russell were ejected on Sunday. I really wish more of the team had forced an ejection – Baseball Tonight will give a few minutes to the bad call, but the Cubs could’ve really put some momentum behind the umpire-hating if they’d gotten ejected en masse. Dale looked intent to get tossed though; but he was probably still sour from Saturday…

When this happened.

If you haven’t yet heard the commentary that accompanies the video that I linked to, you need to watch that. I think it’s the best explanation of exactly what happened on that play – again, terrible umpiring (in my opinion anyway, admittedly this is debatable). You don’t call the infield fly rule as the ball is falling into Castro’s glove in LF. As the announcer says in that piece, the ENTIRE Cubs team relaxed when Castro caught the ball because generally you don’t have to worry about advancing players on an infield fly. Embarrassing play, no excuse to let the guy score but can we please stop pretending as if this dramatically altered the course of the game? The Cubs didn’t score in this game. AT ALL.

You know what will affect winning? Regularly embarrassing your young talent at every chance. No idea what Dale thought he was accomplishing by yanking Castro from the game at the end of that half inning. It solves nothing, it teaches nothing. All it does it put the conversation right back on Castro’s shortcomings (perceived or otherwise); not usually a great tactic for inspiring and encouraging one of your best assets. This was not an Andruw Jones refusal to run hard to a catchable fly ball. And Castro’s response (as it has been EVERY single time something like this happens) was perfect; he takes full responsible, never says anything that sounds like a partial excuse. I thought pulling him from the game was a cowardly move. Exactly when has Dale stood up for Castro? He seems quite happy to throw him to the wolves whenever possible.

I’m of the opinion that a fair amount of Cubs fans just need a team pariah. And in the absence of someone who blossoms into the role like Sammy Sosa, someone who earns it right out of the gate like Milton Bradley, or someone who did a bit of both like Carlos Zambrano, Castro has ‘earned’ the role because basically he rubs people the wrong way. He swings at bad pitches, he has bad posture, he makes a mess of the routine. And for all of this, the 23-year-old is called lazy, disinterested, and a whole lot worse with regularity. Never mind that he has yet to make any excuse for one of these shortcomings, in fact he owns up to it so quickly, I think the media enjoys heaping it on him as quickly as possible (much like they did to Zambrano at times). I’d be curious to know how it’s all perceived by Soler, Almora, Baez, Bryant and the rest of the Cubs’ prospects…because personally, I don’t think there’s a place in baseball where the fans are setup for more unrealistic expectations of the future. I’d love to see Cub fans stop eating their young.

Ryan Dempster beaned A-Rod…who then propelled the Yankees to a come-from-behind win against the Red Sox.

Miguel Tejada says he was banned because MLB won’t give him a medical waiver for a doctor prescribed pill that he needs to take. (This is where Bud Selig tries to explain how Ryan Braun gets to negotiate the terms of his suspension, but Tejada can’t take something that a doctor says he needs…of course this would all shake out the same way if Selig had never owned the Brewers)

I’d be thrilled if I thought this kid would do any hard time…but he won’t.

State of the System


by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Tony Zych

Bio: Zych attended St Rita High school in Chicago Illinois, he then attended the University of Louisville to continue on his baseball career. Finally the Cubs drafted Zych in the 4th round of the 2011 draft after trying to draft him in 2008 in the 46th round. Zych was finally coming home to Chicago to start his professional career with his hometown Cubbies. He measures at 6 foot 3 and 190 pounds according to In his first year in the Cubs organization, he split time with the Rookie League and the Boise Hawks. Zych’s numbers ended up being a 2.25 earned run average in four games pitched (three games finished) over his span with both clubs. He also registered an eight strikeout to three walk ratio in his first season in the Cubs organization.

2012-2013 Season: After showing success in the rookie league as well as Boise in the short season league the Cubs decided to move Zych to the High A Affiliate Daytona Cubs. Zych pitched in 27 games (24 Games Finished) over his Daytona tenure where he had an earned run average of 3.19 with 36 strikeouts in 36 and 2/3 innings. After registering similar success in the Florida St. League, Zych got the call-up to the Double A Affiliate the Tennessee Smokies. Zych’s number’s at the Double A level were not as encouraging as Daytona as he struggled to a 4.38 earned run average in 20 games. He did however register 28 strikeouts in 24 innings which was good for a better than one strikeout per innings. The 2013 season is where Zych finally broke out, Zych has pitched in 41 games (14 games finished) where his earned run average is below three (2.52 to be exact). He has pitched 50 innings which shows he has been a durable reliever for Double A Tennessee. Most likely Zych will finish out the year with the Smokies and hopefully get some playoff appearance with them and start next season with Triple A Iowa.

Sleeper Prospect- Trey Masek

Masek attended Texas Tech University where he started to make a name for himself with continuance of dominance against Big 12 opponents. This past June Masek was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the 2013 amateur draft. Masek measures at 6 foot 1 and 185 pounds which is pretty close to the prototypical pitcher in today’s game. So far Masek has pitched in two different leagues for the Cubs this summer. He first went to Arizona to shake off some of the rest which the draft period attributes to. Masek’s stats with the Boise Hawks consist of 1.20 earned run average in 9 games where he struck out 18 in 15 innings pitched.

Masek was drafted as a starting pitcher but most likely will end up as a relief pitcher in the near future. With his work ethic and high baseball IQ i see no reason for failure at the big league level. Over time I can see Masek and Zych becoming the closers of the future for the Chicago Cubs. Masek will start next season at either Kane County (Low A) or Daytona Cubs (High A) depending on member involvement. In my mind Masek, has the potential to be very dominant in the pen, maybe not so much Miguel Cabrera but a decent OPS and slugging percentage never hurt a player.

by Joe Aiello

I decided to add this section to the morning posts because it’s important to give you, the reader, as much time away from work as possible during the day and the way to accomplish that is to not only make the posts longer, but to get them more interactive by starting a discussion. So with that, let’s get right to it with a topic that is sure to apply to both stat guys and scout guys.

When evaluating players, there are many things that people favor. Some like stats and believe you can make the majority of the decisions based on the numbers, whereas others say stats are helpful, but that it’s your eyes that need to be the guide. If we cater to both groups, I want to know what would be the most important thing you’re looking for.

For stat guys, if you were given one stat and one stat only that you could see on a player, which stat would you choose to use to evaluate pitchers and which would you use to evaluate hitters? Remember, you can’t see the player play and you can see no other numbers other than that one stat. Also, why do you choose the stat you do?

For the scout guys, what one tool do to most value when you see a batter hit and a pitcher pitch? If you’re scouting and somehow can only see one tool for the hitter, what would you most value? Why?

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Soriano’s Binge & Name That Child

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

First off, apologies to our blogfather, Joe – it looks as if he was shouldering the burden of posting for a couple of weeks. In fact, being either 15 or 17 hours ahead (of my usual Pacific time) while I was gone, it would’ve been quite simple to post after the events of the day here in the States had long been put to bed…if I’d had a free moment.

I did, however, have reliable internet capability through one method or another for most of the time I was away. And it was thru these random, brief updates that I would hear of yet another Cub being dumped on a team who fancied themselves in the pennant race. I’ll admit, when I first saw that the Yankees were maneuvering to reclaim the player they’d used to acquire A-Rod – I thought for a second that being nearly a day ahead of the US had given me a portal into some alternate version of the internet.

It seemed too clean…and too easy. And not at all in accordance with the fact that the Tigers need another bat (and another bullpen arm).

But a few weeks later, and for those Cub fans who remember when Soriano would routinely propel the Cubs to a win streak seemingly on his own – the Yankees are getting a taste of that too.

The last two nights, Soriano has piled up 13 RBIs on the strength of 4 home runs. Tuesday night he was a measly 3-for-6 with 6 RBIs, so he followed that up with 3-for-3 and 7 RBIs last night. Ridiculous. The last player to have that many total RBIs in successive games was Sammy Sosa in 2002 (who actually had 14).

It’s actually only happened 8 times since 1920 – so it’s rarer than a no-hitter, a perfect game, a 4-HR game; a 20-strikeout performance is about the only thing that happens less frequently. A couple of good nights for Alfonso, made me wish I really was looking at an alternate internet and his 13 RBIs came in a Cubs uniform.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

That was really just half of a post; the other half is like nothing you’ve seen from me before – but my wife and I are at an impasse. Our third son is due in mid-October, and he’s yet to be named. We have two sons already, Ray & Max. It’s not that we can’t agree, it’s that neither of us has stumbled upon another name that we like. Soon I’m going to start dropping by the hospital on the way home from work to see what other people are naming their children, so give me some help. (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).

Left Field

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Oliver Zapata

Bio: Zapata was born in the Dominican Republic and started with the Cubs organization at the young age of 17. He got his start with Dominican Summer League where he batted .241/.328/.333 where he also got 14 extra base hits and 33 runs batted in. In 2011, Zapata age 18 spent the season with two minor league affilates with the Cubs (AZL Cubs and Boise Hawks). He combined to hit .278/.383/.412 where his walk to strikeout rate was almost even since he had 32 walks and 33 strikeouts over both affiliates. As with mentioned below Ty Wright he struggled with the second level in the 2011 season after being promoted to the Boise Hawks. His stats at Boise really tell the story .224/.287/.388 compared to the .324/.453/.431 at the Arizona Fall League. Surprisingly after Zapata’s poor season at Short Season Affiliate Boise he still got promoted to the Peoria Chiefs.

2012-2013 Season’s: Once Zapata got promoted to Peoria to start the season he ended up playing the full year there where he put up a sub par line of .225/.302/.282. The batting average worried me at first glance as I would like to see him hit somewhere around the .250 to .260 mark where he can realistically hit. When looking at I found that his BABIP or Batting Average on Balls Put in Play was surprisingly elevated at .286 which begs the question is Zapata really struggling this badly. Usually the numbers are flipped where a certain player has an elevated average due to a higher BABIP or a lower batting average due to a low BABIP. Zapata becomes an intriguing case as he fits in neither of those categories. Presently Zapata is at Kane County the Low A Affiliate of the Cubs refining his skills and playing a solid left field for the club. His line has greatly improved since last year where he is now hitting .243/.316/.378. Most likely Zapata will finish out the year at Kane County and be in the discussion for a call-up to Daytona next year. If his average creeps up to the .260 mark I can see him being moved up although with Almora being on the watch list for Daytona we’ll have to keep an eye if their is room for Zapata to play everyday.

Sleeper Prospect: Ty Wright

Bio: Wright was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 7th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Over the course of 2007 Wright jumped right into Short Season A Boise where he contributed a line of .317/.408/.529 which adds up to an OPS of .937. He was able to register 60 hits over 189 at bats, 22 of those went for extra base hits. Another impressive stat Wright had at Boise was his walk to strikeout ratio where it was 23 walks to 22 strikeouts which is unheard of in today’s game at any level. After Wright’s impressive start to his career he earned a call-up to Low A Peoria. Wright played 19 games there and had the line of .284/.329/.378 while stealing 5 of 6 bases.

2008-2009 Season’s: Wright continued his impressive run through the Cubs system as for the next two years he went from Daytona in (2008), Tennessee (2009). In comparison to Wright’s season at Boise he performed just as well producing a line of .300/.371/.411 while contributing 30 extra base hits. Wright also knocked in 72 runs. In 2009, Wright got the call to Double A where he did what he always did just plain hit. The line at Tennessee was .290/.349/.412 while achieving 34 extra base hits and 58 runs batted in.

2011-2013 Season’s: Iowa Cubs left fielder Ty Wright has had an amazing story throughout his six years with the organization. Wright is a loyal player, who has been in the Cubs system since 2007 and still hasn’t got up to the majors. For the past four seasons, he’s bounced between Tennessee and Iowa, filling in where he’s needed and not complaining. Moving on to the 2011 season Wright split the year between Double A Tennessee and Triple A Iowa. He combined on the season to hit .322/.382/.487 also getting 24 extra base hits on the season. The numbers really don’t tell the story as Wright tore it up at Tennessee after getting the second year of experience while he did struggle a bit at Iowa only hitting .240/.284/.309. His 2013 season has been just like his past four season splitting the time between Tennessee and Iowa. The line at both clubs is .260/.319/.396 where he has 28 extra base hits and 48 runs batted in.

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All Good Things Must End

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Jumping The Shark
If HRH Keith Law ever gets a couple of nights off to watch actual baseball games (instead of scouting T-ball leagues in Cuba), I hope he watched the Cubs the last two nights. On Sunday, Klaw said this:

  • I don’t know if the Nationals discouraged Bruce Bochy and the league from taking Stephen Strasburg — who belongs on merit, and on star power — because they’d rather have him rest for those three days. I’d take any of those four pitchers over Jeff Locke, whose 2.12 ERA is bursting with good fortune, from the league’s third-lowest BABIP to its highest strand rate, and who has never pitched like this before and is unlikely to do so in the second half. The same could be said of Travis Wood, who isn’t even the most deserving starter on his own staff.

At first I thought maybe he started compiling this particular piece on Opening Day and didn’t ever get around to updating his lone sentence on the Cubs. Whatever the reason for his stupefying conclusion, definitive proof of Travis Wood’s All-Star merits were on display Tuesday night. On Wednesday night, Jeff Samardzija’s inconsistent 2013 was equally on display.

Due to the Cubs usually anemic offense, the game was effectively over when each of the first four batters scored before the Cubs recorded a single out. Next up, Edwin Jackson against the Cardinals tonight at Wrigley.

More Cubs News

  • Kris Bryant, the Cubs first selection in the amateur draft, has reached a tentative agreement with the team.
  • Jen-Ho Tseng‘s signing continues the rash of international newcomers. If you know any foreigners who are familiar with baseball, haven’t yet completed high school, and for whom ‘summer in Boise’ isn’t a vomit-inducing proposition – the Cubs are interested in inking them to a deal. Email with contact information. (Did they even check to make sure Jen-Ho is a guy?)

Around The League

  • Chad Gaudin found out that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
  • John Rocker is still an idiot.
  • Yu Darvish is one of the first to find a convenient way out of the All-Star Game.
  • Kris Benson has a crazy soon-to-be ex-wife.

Other News

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