Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Potential September Callups

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

As the calendar continues to grow closer to the end of the “dog days”, the Cubs will not be competing for a playoff spot, obviously. An interesting scenario is about to arise as the schedule turns to September 1st, the roster expansion. By rule, any player on the 40 man roster is eligible to be called up to the majors. Kris Bryant will not be on this list and will not be called up in September, but there are some interesting players that could be fighting for a closer look in spring training next spring.

Pitchers: Felix Doubront, Dan Straily, Dallas Beeler, Arodys Vizcaino

Aside from the obvious candidates like Blake Parker, Brian Schlitter, and Chris Rusin, these guys could be interesting new names to the mix. The Cubs have said that they will tinker with the starting staff once the calendar turns to September. With Jacob Turner making a start yesterday, he will stick in the rotation. A few guys I listed (Doubront, Beeler, and Straily) will also make starts when they are called up. Doubront is currently on the 15-day DL and has made rehab starts in AA Tennessee. An acquisition from the Red Sox in July, the left hander could make his Cubs debut as early as this week. As for Beeler and Straily, they have both made starts in Chicago this season. With Iowa looking like they will not make the playoffs, don’t be surprised to see these two guys back up with the big club. Straily, an acquisition from the A’s in that block-buster deal, has pitched better since being traded. In nine starts with the Cubs AAA club, the right hander posted a 3.42 ERA in 50 innings while nearly striking a batter out per inning. As for Beeler, he has been even better in Iowa. Throughout the season, the 25 year old right hander has started 19 games for the I-Cubs, posting a 3.61 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 117.1 innings pitched. The dark horse to be called up is one of the Cubs top prospects, Arodys Vizcaino. Acquired for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson in 2011 from Atlanta, the 23 year old right hander missed over two years with Tommy John surgery and complications from the surgery. Vizcaino came back in 2014 ready to roll, as he has posted a 3.60 ERA through 40 innings spanning three levels of the Cubs system (now in Iowa). In those 40 innings, the righty has held opponents to a .245 batting average and only 1.35 walks and hits per inning. Vizcaino has been on the 40 man since being acquired, and that could lead to his promotion in September.

Position players: Mike Olt, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake

With Logan Watkins, Jorge Soler, and Matt Szczur up in the big leagues already, a trio of players with something to prove will be called up in September. The first of which is Mike Olt. The third baseman started the year with the Cubs and really struggled to make contact consistently, only hitting .139 with a .575 OPS in 187 at bats with the Cubs before being demoted to Iowa in late July. The one big problem Olt had was the strikeouts. The 26 year old struck out in 36.9% of his plate appearances with the Cubs. Since being demoted, however, Olt has turned it around. The third baseman, who has switched to playing first base because of Kris Bryant, is hitting .302 with a .933 OPS in 115 plate appearances and has lowered his strikeout rate to 29%. If Olt can come up and secure the third baseman job in Chicago, that would cause the Cubs to move Bryant to the outfield or could be a useful trade piece. Another player who started with the Cubs this year and has been demoted is Junior Lake. The outfielder played in 98 games with the big league club, hitting .216 with and OPS of .608 over 305 plate appearance. Lake struck out in 33.4% of his plate appearances and was sent down to work on his contact issues, much like Olt. Since being sent down, the 24 year old is hitting .318 with a .862 OPS and only a 23.4% strike out rate. Lake is trying to hang on the big league roster as a backup outfielder. The third and final player that will be called up is a guy who is, essentially, on his last chance with the Cubs, and that is Josh Vitters. The third baseman turned outfielder was, at one time, the big prospect in the Cubs system. After being called up and hitting under .200 with a 33% strike out rate in his only MLB experience in 2012, Vitters has hit a wall in AAA after a very good 2013 season. In 2014, the former first round pick has hit .213 with a .607 OPS in 404 plate appearances, while striking out 26.5% of the time. This is Vitters’ last shot with the Cubs. His spot on the 40 man roster could expire after this season with the influx of young talent coming up. This could spell the end for the 25 year old with the Cubs.

When the Cubs reach September, there are very interesting pieces that could come up and play a significant role. With the Cubs looking to be competitive in 2015, the players coming up this next month have some time to audition to be on the team when the Cubs are doing damage around the league soon.

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2008 Cubs: Great team or overachievers?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I remember the last time I looked at the Cubs as a winning ball club.  It was 2008, what a summer! The Brewers were second in the NL Central with 90 wins.  The Cubs division title was no cheap feat as they won it by 7.5 games!  They had the most wins in the regular season of any National League team with 97.

I remember thinking Ryan Theriot and his .307 BA were the answer at shortstop.  Mike Fontenot was growing on me quickly along with a gutty Reed Johnson.  It was Geo’s first full season with the Cubs and in my opinion his best.  I didn’t think we would need a catcher for quite some time.

Then the playoffs happened…..

The Dodgers crushed any hopes Cub fans had of a post-season run to the series by a 20-6 margin over three straight games.  The headlines during the series and after the third game read like this….

“Curses (and Reverses) Distracting”

“Cubs thumped by Dodgers again, on cusp of heartbreak”

“For Cubs, it’s a tale of two seasons”

The first one is unique and I enjoyed reading it, which is why I gave the link.  It brought back all the Cubbiness of that 2003-2008 stretch.  I had almost forgotten about the amount of “Curse” talk and mystical hubbub that surrounds this club when they start winning.  I had no idea the team hired a Greek Orthodox Priest to perform an exorcism in order to vanquish the curse of the Billy Goat!!! Holy Hell, for real?   Apparently it was the chairman’s idea (whoever played that roll back then), the players and Piniella were unaware until they saw it on TV.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yah, the last time I viewed the Cubs as a winner was six years ago.  The question I keep asking myself is, How good were they? Were they really that good, or did they overachieve?

As I type this the Cubs are finishing off a win against the Reds…their fourth in a row.  Something feels different about this team and the team we may see over the coming year.  I get excited to see Rizzo, Baez, and Mendy hit.  I caught myself running to the TV to watch Rizzo tonight…..rewarded with a homerun (his 30th).  I haven’t run to the TV to watch a Cub hitter since 2012 and it was Rizzo then too.  Prior to that it was 2008 and it may have been situational and not a specific player, I don’t remember it was so long ago.  My point is, this team is exciting again.  They may not be the refined version of what they are to be, but it’s a start.

Now we get Soler who, if healthy, will put on a show at some point.  That’s five hitters including Castro that make the Cubs worth watching again.  Some people think the tipping point for this team happened weeks ago with the call up of Baez.  That could be true but we may start tipping a little faster tonight against the Reds with new Cub Jacob turner on the mound and Soler in the lineup.  Now, Turner could get racked pretty badly and my whole thesis is blown, but we are getting real close to the future here.  We now have five very talented bats in this lineup and I have not even mentioned the rentals we signed to fill gaps that have played above and beyond this season.

We will probably win ourselves out of a draft pick in the top 5 over the next few weeks, but I could care less and I think the management is starting to feel the same way.  At some point it’s time to start winning.  It’s good for the soul.

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Sox Acquire Another Cuban Outfielder, AL East Star Out For Season & More!

Monday, August 25th, 2014

We’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of the MLB playoff races and teams are still adjusting their rosters in order to one-up the competition. With all of this movement, as well as some other big news, there’s more than enough to talk about this week. Let’s get to it!

Red Sox Sign Castillo

After months and months of speculation, the bidding for star Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo finally came to an end this week, with the Boston Red Sox coming to terms with him on a 7-year, $72 million contract that will run through his 34th birthday.

This has to be seen as redemption of sorts for the Red Sox, who lost out on heavy-hitting Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu last year. Abreu has been tearing up the league and will wind up running away with the AL Rookie of the Year this year, so it’s clear Boston didn’t want to let this guy slip through their fingers.

As for what Castillo brings to the table, he’s been described as a smaller version of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. He’s known to have above average speed, as well as solid contact and power skills. In the field, he’s capable of playing both center field and right field.

I’m definitely a fan of this move for the Red Sox. At just around $10 million per year, the investment in him isn’t so great that it’ll hinder the team’s flexibility in the future, and if his game translates as well to the MLB as Abreu, Puig and fellow Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has to this point, it could be seen as a bonafide steal. Do you wish the Cubs had upped their offer for Castillo?

Tigers Tumbling 

With a hot start to their season back in April, the Detroit Tigers looked like they were solid contenders to make a World Series run. With 3 aces at the top of their rotation and Miguel Cabrera in their lineup, it looked like this year could be the season that the team finally broke through and won the title.

Over the past couple of months (and the past week especially), it’s looked like the Tigers will be lucky just to even make it into the playoffs. Even the acquisition of David Price hasn’t been able to offset the struggles of the team and it really doesn’t look too bright for them right now.

After getting embarrassed by the Minnesota Twins in a 20-6 thrashing, the team followed that up with yet another loss. They turned things around yesterday, but consistency has been a problem for them all year long.

With a payroll sitting around $170 million (good for third in all of baseball) it would have to be seen as a colossal disappointment if they somehow managed to miss the playoffs. It’s definitely not too late for them to turn it around, but they’re going to have to start winning games sooner or later. Do you think the Tigers will end up topping the Royals in the AL Central?

Orioles Get Bad News; Make Changes

Back to the AL East, as the division-leading Baltimore Orioles are going to have to overcome a major loss in their lineup. After tearing a ligament in his left knee to end last season early, Manny Machado has done it yet again, tearing the same ligament, just this time in his right knee. Yet again, he’ll be done for the season.

This is a major blow for the Fightin’ Showalters, who are trying to clinch their first AL East title in 17 years. Along with this stroke of bad luck, the team also decided to replace one of their big free agent acquisitions from last offseason in the starting rotation.

Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed a contract worth $50 million towards the end of the offseason, wasn’t putting anyone’s doubts to rest this season. Those who saw his post All-Star break numbers from last year as a fluke may be proven correct, as they’ve replaced him in the rotation with Miguel Gonzalez.

Overall, I still think the Orioles have what it takes to wind up taking home the divisional crown, but the loss of Machado will really hurt any chances they had for a deep postseason run. Looking towards the future, yet another knee injury to their young third baseman can’t look all that great, either. Do you think the Orioles will win the AL East?

This Week’s MVP: Marcell Ozuna (.478/.480/.957, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.64 ERA, 14 K)

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The Cubs’ Weird Week

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

 

A lot of strange things happened in Cubland this week. Let’s recap.

1. Tarpgate

There was a LONG rain delay Tuesday night as the Cubs’ groundscrew had some issues with the tarp once rain hit. It was only about a 10-minute shower, but it dumped enough water on the field to make the surface unplayable. The grounds crew took a ton of flak for this (and they were no doubt embarrassed), but this really seems like a freak occurrence. There was no rain in the forecast – and no rain visible on the radar – so the morning crew was cut from 20 to 17 (a standard procedure). There were also reports that the tarp was put away improperly the previous time, but you have to believe that a full crew would have been able to handle it. Bruce Levine has the full story here.

In any case, after about a 4 1/2 hour delay, the game was called – and since 4.5 innings had been played, and the home team was in the lead, the game was deemed official, and the Cubs were awarded a win. The Giants were understandably upset and filed a protest. Amazingly, against every pundit’s prediction, the protest was honored and the game resumed on Thursday (after another rain delay!). It seems like a dangerous precedent to set – after all, it’s in the rules that a game is official if called after 5 innings (or 4 1/2 if the home team has the lead). To their credit, the Cubs’ did apparently offer to resume the game the next day. It all didn’t matter in the end in this particular case, as the Cubs held on to win 2-1.

2. Starlin Castro takes bereavement leave.

Starlin Castro’s cousin and three close friends were killed in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic, and Castro has taken bereavement leave. We wish Starlin and his family all the best as they try to get through this difficult time.

3. Edwin Jackson goes on the DL with a “lat injury.”

Edwin Jackson has not been good at throwing baseballs this season. His stuff is still there, but he seems to have no command or confidence. Although he’s long denied that he was hurt, he finally went on the DL with a “lat injury” this week. Call me cynical, but I think this is simply a phantom injury that accomplishes a couple of things: 1) It gives Edwin an excuse to take a breather and get his head on straight and 2) it gives the Cubs a chance to get some starts for their new pitchers Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront, and Dan Straily (and maybe others). If Jackson comes back this season, I predict he’ll pitch out of the pen. Who knows? Maybe he’ll have some value down the road as a reliever. To his credit, Jackson is making no excuses and stated that he has a lot to prove to the team and the fans. Let’s hope he finds his way back into a productive role.

4. Some rooftops sue city, but not Cubs

They’re challenging the Landmark Commission’s decision to allow for the outfield signage that blocks their views, claiming that the view of the rooftops from Wrigley is part of what makes it unique, and thus a landmark. Seems like a stretch.

5. Matt Szczur, Logan Watkins, Zac Rosscup called up

Not weird, but notable. Logan Watkins was once an exciting, fast-rising prospect, but his bat has really cooled off over the last couple of years, and Arismendy Alcantara has surpassed him as the super-sub of the future.

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GirlieView (08/21/2014)

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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 2014 Season = 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

  • Ok, I’ll bite. What is a walk tool?
  • I’m trying the saber thing where you say a baseball word and then “tool.” Then you say a number that doesn’t really mean anything.
  • Excellent! One thing I often think of when reading about advanced metrics is what great tools they must be.
  • Wax cup toast, bud. Not as definitive as a glass glass, but the ice does make some noise when it bumps around in the Mountain Dew.
  • Nate Schierholtz was DFFC, designated for fantasy camp. Nate will now be free to roam the fantasy camp locker rooms and dine with Seymour. What will it be, Italian baked with provolone, turkey and swiss or tuna melt on squaw?
  • I wonder what type of Sun Chips Nate will go for. I’m thinking Garden Salsa.
  • I’d like to thank the lowest common denominator, the source of all good grade school humor.
  • I’m not so sure this team will make the playoffs next season, but I do think they will be a definite improvement over this year (it really can’t get any worse than 0.0% playoff odds).
  • In years past the Cubs have took a lot of losses after the trade deadline. This year they seem to be getting better after the trade deadline.
  • It’s been fun to follow these prospects in the minors the last few years, but I am looking forward to shifting my attention to the big league club.
  • All Cub fans are welcome on the bandwagon, genius fans and ignorant fans……………why argue over who is who…..
  • You guys are starting to get that late season chippyness. Where’s the April love on VFTB?
  • My guess is one or two guys will not vote Jeter in the first year. Then they might get interviewed to explain.
  • The differences in talent between this group and the current one is fully understood, but it does show why we shouldn’t worry about a logjam of players at one spot.
  • My sweat factor is way down with this years pen compared to last year.
  • Amen. I have cut my Rolaids bill down by nearly 50%!
  • There is no money going into the curse jar.
  • Do you believe man can control the climate?
  • More importantly, I know it’s possible for a man to control the climate in his bedroom. It’s very easy to make that a very cold place, so be careful.
  • Will you be my friend?
  • Do you have chocolate?
  • Yes. Come over and have some with me.
  • At which exhibit at the National Zoo would you feel most comfortable naked?
  • Definitely the monkey / ape house. I’m a hairy dude.
  • Monkeys are known to throw some pretty unpleasant things,
  • it’s true, but they have good aim, and usually target cardiologists and optometrists….
  • What happened to the prom dress link?
  • Unfortunately, the demand for prom dresses appears to have decreased as more and more girls are skipping the prom and just going right to the hotel with their date. No need to spend the money on a fancy dress.
  • When you dine with Seymour do you bring reading material so you are not bored?
  • I have only had the privilege of dining with capn obvious (he paid), Tom C (he always pays), and Chet (comped meal). In the event that Seymour would like to visit, I’d be glad to let him pay and I would be facinated to know how he took the photo at that angle for his avatar.
  • Len Kasper was intrigued by The Pumpkin Eaters new release “Banana Jack”. He said he couldn’t wait to see them live in October. DeShaie’s was busy breaking down the quality starts delivered by Kyle Hendricks and that Wada guy. Len thought Wada was a hip hop artist.
  • I’ll always have a spot for Jackson in my Cubs history books, but unfortunately a good thing can’t last forever. Goodbye, Brett.
  • Now if only the Cubs could find someone to take the other Jackson off our hands.
  • 2 Johnsons are missing, maybe it’ll be 2 Jacksons next.
  • As Met’s broadcaster said, “The Cubs have always lived and died, mostly died, with free swinging teams. Sure there have been exceptions like Mark Grace and Bill Buckner but this free swinging team are easy outs for guys with good sink or good sliders like Familia (the Mets reliever at the time). Len was heard commenting on the Beatles show at Shea Stadium back in the day and how he wished he could have been there. “Maybe the Beatle tribute band Fab Four will play at Citi Field soon, that would be fun. Strike 3, that’s 14 K’s for Met’s pitchers today. It’s really hard to tell the difference between the Fab Four and the real Beatles sometimes”
  • Len said the ball landed in what will be back stage seats for the upcoming Night Ranger concert next weekend at Citifield. Sister Christian will be the warm up band for the show, Len is stoked.

Lizard

  • I think the Cubs are getting better with every call up and trade and it has been a long time since the Cubs finished a season stronger than they started.

Shout Outs

  • Big shout outs to Bryan, and Michael Rice for their first 2014 in-season Lizzies!!!! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Doc Raker, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go Doc!

Top 10 of the 2014 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Doc Raker
3. Seymour Butts
4. Eddie Von White
5. Joe Aiello
6. Doug S.
7. Dork
8. Chuck
9. Mark From Toronto
10. Noah Eisner
10. Sean Powell

Chit Chat

Are you watching/listening to more, less, or the same amount of Cubs baseball as you were before the All-Star break? And how much is that?

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Five Burning Questions : Turning the Page

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

 

In Cubs lore we will look back at the years 2009-2013 as the lost years.  What is also known in baseball circles as the “rebuilding years”.  2014 peddled along at the same disastrous pace until some new faces, showing new promise, arrived at the ballpark.

I personally link the downfall of the Hendry regime to the signing of Milton Bradley, but many will say, and they are probably right, that the tire fire started long before that.  Whatever you want to call the last four years is your choice, but it’s apparent as Cub fans, we may actually have to get around to thinking as winners sooner than later.

With so much young talent in the pipeline there is no doubt that the Cubs will soon be dealing in the opposite direction than we have become accustom to at the trade deadline.  With that in mind it is time to pop on our thinking caps and ask some questions….

 

1) If the Cubs are to part with one of their heralded prospects at next years trade deadline, out of the following, who would you let go of:

A) Javier Baez

B) Addison Russell

C) Jorge Soler

D) Albert Almora

 

If I had to choose one it would probably be Almora.  He is still yet to prove he can hit a AA.  My regret would be that we are dealing from a mild weakness in that we have less outfielders in the immediate pipeline than we do infielders, but I would probably get over that if Almora turns in another season next year like this year.

 

2) If you could bring back one Cubs manager to manage the team going forward, maybe somebody who did not get a fair shake, who would it be?

A) Lou Pinella

B) Jim Riggleman

C) Dusty Baker

D) Lea Elia

E) Jim Frey

F) Your Choice, but tell us why

 

I think I go with Jim Frey, he may be the best bet to play the young guys.  Dusty Baker would just go find Lenny Harris and give him a zillion plate appearances again.  I think he is still waiting for Lenny to get hot.

 

3) If you had the choice between sitting on a rooftop or sitting in the standing room only at Wrigley, which would you choose?

No comment.

 

4) The Cubs current payroll this season is at $73,546,000, which ranks them third last in all the league.  What will the Cubs player payroll look like next season:

 

A) $60,000 – $80,000,000

B) $81,000,000-90,000,000

C) 90,000,000 – 100,000,000

D) 100,000,000-$120,000,000

E) Over $120,000,000

 

I gotta say it sits around $100 Mill. tops.  They would have to add quite a bit to get higher in one off-season.  Personally, I don’t think Ricketts heart can handle that, he doesn’t strike me as a spender.  $100 mill would put them at about midway point of the league in spending by the way.

 

5) How many games will the Cubs win this season?

 

A) 65

B) 70

C) 75

D) More….and you better explain yourself!

 

Thanks for playing guys.  Leave your answer in the comments and here’s to a promising end of an era!

 

 

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Should the Cubs Pass on Signing an Ace this Off-Season?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Last week I asked you all to ask me anything. I think that post went really well, so I think we’ll make that a semi-regular feature here on the site. So as to not get stale, we’ll probably run it once a month or every other week. Something to that effect.

I was intrigued by one of the questions and I wanted to give it a little more depth than I did in the comment section. Bryan asked:

Would you rather the Cubs have a starting rotation of one #1, one #3, and 3 #5s, or five #3′s?

I went with my gut reaction when I answered the question and as I reflected on it that day, I was paranoid that it went against all that I had done in terms of research on the topic recently for ESPN.

You’ll remember that I did a study on what defined each slot in the rotation. Looking at the numbers, we found that the average WAR produced by each spot in the rotation was:

#1 – 6.0

# 2 – 3.9

# 3 – 2.8

# 4 – 1.8

# 5 – 0.2

So, the simple answer to Bryan’s question would be to map it out. If we add the WAR for his two proposed rotations, whichever one is higher from a combined total would be the better option.

Option 1 (Mixed Rotation) – Total WAR = 9.4

Option 2 (All # 3 starters) – Total WAR = 14

So, not only is it option two, but it’s really not even close. With that said, would the Cubs be better off trying a non-traditional route as they seek to build around the plethora of young bats that are on the verge of breaking into the Majors? Perhaps the strategy shouldn’t be to invest this offseason in an ace, but rather to stock up on a two or three second and third tier type guys to fill out the rotation around what we have already?

I ran a list of what a “number three” starter would have looked like over the last four seasons to get an idea what we’re talking about. Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I searched for pitchers who qualified for the ERA title and posted a WAR between 2.5 and 3.0 from 2010 – 2013. It yielded 34 results. What those results told me was that a pitcher in this category typically looks like the following:

12 – 10 record with an ERA of 3.58 over approximately 198 innings pitched. In 2013, the pitchers that fell in that category were Gio Gonzalez, Mike Leake, Jon Lester, Ervin Santana, Patrick Corbin, John Lackey, David Price, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Andy Pettitte. As you can see, there are some guys that may have had a down year, but other guys that aren’t really considered aces, like Corbin or Lackey.

So far this season, Jake Arrieta has posted a WAR of 3.9, so even if we pencil him in with a regression, we can expect at least a WAR of  3 from him. Kyle Hendricks has posted a WAR of 2.3 so far. Let’s assume he doesn’t get to three next year, but can be around 2.5, knowing that Arrieta can make up for him. That gives us two of the five we’ll need.

Looking at the internal candidates for the rotation next year, we’ve got Travis Wood, Dan Straily, Jacob Turner, and Edwin Jackson. I think it’s safe to say that we can rule out Jackson as being able to produce what we need, and I’d venture a guess that we can get 2.5 WAR out of one of Wood, Turner or Straily. That would mean we need two guys off the free agent or trade market to give us a rotation of at least five number three starters. That’s entirely doable. Chris Neitzel took a look recently at the market this 0ff-season. I think we can find our guys there and it doesn’t have to include someone like Lester (though I really want him), and given the nature of pitcher injuries these days, I think that may be the best route to go.

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It’s Time to Stop Comparing Javier Baez to Gary Sheffield

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Javier Baez has truly amazing, turn the wind around with the power of his wrists, bat speed. I saw him live for the first time last Wednesday, when he sent a screaming line drive on to Waveland for his first Wrigley Field home run. His bat speed led to comparisons with the king of elite bat speed from the prior generation of players: Gary Sheffield. You heard the comparisons when Baez was drafted. You heard them as he sped through the minors. You heard them when he was promoted to the Majors, and over the past two weeks numerous outlets have shown side by side swings of Baez and Sheffield.

But is Sheffield actually a good comparison Baez?

In short, no, he is not. Sheffield had elite bat speed that went along with an advanced approach at the plate not only from the day he hit the Majors Leagues that led to him walking more than he struck out over his career (13% walk rate, 11% strikeout rate), but also in his short time as a prospect in the Minor Leagues, where Sheffield struck out in just 8.5 % of his plate appearances and walked more than he struck out. On the other hand, Sheffield was a very poor defender both as a shortstop very early in his career, and as an outfielder after that. Despite his defensive issues, the primary reason Sheffield is a fringe Hall of Famer as opposed to a sure fire one is time missed due to injuries, particularly in his prime.

Aside from the bat speed, Baez has nothing in common with Sheffield aside from being drafted and moving through the Minors as a shortstop. Baez has an approach at the plate that needs a lot of work, with a 38.7% strikeout rate and a 3.1% walk rate in his brief Major League career. His similar issues in his minor league career, particularly a high strikeout rate (26% for his minor league career), were also widely reported. On the plus side, Baez should be at least an average defensive second baseman, with good odds of ending up as above average to plus at the position.

In other words, aside from the bat speed and some bat waggle, Baez and Sheffield have nothing in common as Major League baseball players. If you want a better comparison for Baez, look to recent Cub Alfonso Soriano, who had elite power but also tallied a lot of strikeouts. Baez won’t steal nearly as many bases as Soriano did through his prime (Soriano stole at least 30 bases in 4 of 5 seasons before joining the Cubs), but should play far superior defense to Soriano at second base, where Soriano was terrible. And if Javier Baez ends up being Alfonso Soriano with better defense, that would be a great result for the Cubs. Well, as long as they don’t decide to lock him up to an 8 year, $138 million contract starting his age 31 season.

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Baseball Gets A New Boss, Pair of Aces’ Streaks End & More!

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Postseason races are heating up as we’ve now reached the middle of August. All of the moves made at the trade deadline are now starting to make their impacts (one way or another), and it excites me to say that there’s still a month and a half of regular season baseball to play. There was some big news this week, so let’s get to it!

MLB Chooses Selig’s Replacement

After 21 years at the helm, Bud Selig decided that one more year would be enough for him. It was a historic reign over an era, which will probably stand out in history (the Steroid Era), but it also meant that the league would have the exciting task of choosing a new commissioner.

On Thursday, the owners finally picked their man, deciding to go with Rob Manfred over Tom Werner of the Boston Red Sox. Manfred, who has worked with the MLB since 1998, will be the 10th commissioner in league history and will be tasked with injecting some youth into an old sport.

By all accounts, Manfred seems like a great choice. He was vital in the labor negotiations that have gone on over the years, which should help once the current bargaining agreement expires (some feared a lockout). Along with that, he was also vital in the joint drug agreement between the MLB and the Players Association.

While some might not be happy with the choice (they expect more of the same since Manfred was Selig’s right hand man), I am staying optimistic about it. His work with the labor agreements is incredibly promising and as shown by Adam Silver taking over for David Stern in the NBA, progress is still possible even with an internal replacement.

Rockies Lose Two Stars For The Year

It’s safe to say that things haven’t went as planned for the Colorado Rockies this year, and the bad news continues to pile up. After a relatively hot start for the first 30 or so games, the team has completely fallen off the table, and that slide will continue with the announcement that they will be without their two stars for the rest of the year.

Early in the week, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was ruled out for the season with a hip injury, and now outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has been sidelined for the remainder of the year with a knee injury. Given the injury history of both of these players, as well as their status on the team, this is not good news for Colorado.

Realistically, there’s a pretty decent chance that both of these two have played their last games in the Mile High City as members of the Rockies. Tulowitzki has been growing increasingly disgruntled with the seemingly endless rebuild and Gonzalez could fetch a pretty hefty haul should they decide to move him.

It’s pretty unfortunate that both of them are out for the year (you never want to see anyone get hurt), but it’s unlikely that they would’ve made a difference anyways. The Rockies have been one of the worst teams in baseball all season long and they weren’t going to change that. Should Gonzalez or Tulowitzki hit the trading block, would you want the Cubs to go after either? If yes, which one, and what would you be willing to part with for them?

Aces’ Streaks End

With the two best pitchers in baseball throwing on the same day, fans were expecting the continued dominance of both Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez, but surprisingly they both faltered and in doing so, lost two lengthy streaks that they were both riding on.

First, in Detroit, King Felix snapped a streak of going 7 or more innings and allowing 2 or fewer runs that spanned all the way back to May 12th, as he was pulled after just 5 innings in a loss to the Tigers. It’s not that he was pitching poorly (2 runs through 5), but more likely it was a ball that he took off the leg in the 4th inning that contributed to his early exit.

Next up in Los Angeles, Kershaw went the distance and allowed only three runs, but the Dodgers bats failed him and in turn snapped the streak of 11 straight decisions going his way. His last loss, prior to this one, happened all the way back on May 28th. In allowing 3 runs, his ERA jumped all the way up to 1.86.

It was truly incredible what these two aces were able to accomplish over the last few months, but I’m sure they’ll pick right up where they left off in their next starts. I think it’s pretty unquestionable that Kershaw will win the Cy Young in the NL this year, but the AL race seems to be up for grabs a little bit more. My pick is still Felix, but there’s a few different ways the voters could go. How do you see the Cy Young races playing out?

This Week’s MVP: Chris Carter (.333/.345/.778, 4 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 K)

(All C’s for the awards this week)

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