Archive for the ‘General’ Category

GirlieView (04/17/2014)

Thursday, April 17th, 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
  • There is just something that gets me excited when I hear the words “blue drizzle”.
  • Emilio Bonifacio needs to know how sorry I have for having said anything bad about him when we signed him
  • Themed fried dough is the best type of fried dough.
  • The Cubs were apparently waiting for Lizzie to start the season.
  • First Lizzie in almost a year. I’m turnin this franchise around.
  • Wash your hair, Bill.
  • A word of warning, multiple vigorous scrubbings of some areas of the body can lead to addiction.
  • Ricketts is selling, let’s take up a collection and buy the Cubs. Anyone got a billion sitting around?
  • Please tell me that I’m not the only one that is ridiculously excited that Cubs baseball is back.
  • And please tell me I’m not the only one who is… concerned about the RISP problem.
  • We are only 2 out of first and 2 out of the wild card, we are still in contention as predicted.
  • It didn’t sound like let’s go Cubbies, it sounded like 34,000 teeth chattering.
  • 34,000 teeth. Most adults have 32, but if you apply the state of Illinois deliverance factor of .9 (pretty good, by the way) that equals ~1180 fans. Seemed like more. For contrast 34,000 teeth at Busch ~ 1800 fans.
  • 34,000 teeth at Busch equal 38,000 fans.
  • Maybe we can all pitch in and get you a broader Sharpie.
  • I blame Jswan, He went with the triangle mouth and then ditched it, and things went downhill from there.
  • Joe’s soft pop rock jam of the day selections aren’t afraid to explore matters of the heart.
  • I didn’t know he had such a tender side.
  • About the only circumstance where it seems too long is watching a game on TV doing absolutely nothing else. If that is how you watch anything, get off your lard ass and do something.
  • Any coach or manager who comes on to the field to discuss something with a player, must forfeit 1 inch of any bodily appendage for each trip. This will make sure these are really important. A manager must retire when he has been whittled away.
  • Did you mean to say what we should expect from Bonafacio, or what we would accept?
  • Did we wet the bed or Schlitt the bed?
  • Chin up, Wes.
  • Perhaps Wright’s nine day absence was due his strong resemblance to a bat boy.
  • Maybe JCPenny had jean shorts on clearance. You never know. Speaking of jorts, would somebody go find our Johnsons…this is getting concerning.
  • I know where my Johnson is.
  • It’s just like American Express…I don’t leave home without it.
  • Somebody should make a website about this stuff. I bet somebody would use something like that.
  • Agreed. It’s a chore calculating this stuff by hand with my abacus.
  • I’ll fax you my slide rule guy’s number.
  • My fax paper is all out. Can you Morse code it to me?
  • My tapper arm broke off my Morse machine…I hope my carrier pigeon makes it through Appalacians.
Lizard
  • What do you say to a White Sox fan who has bad breath? … Go brush your tooth.
Shout Outs
  • Big shout outs to Jerry in Wisconsin and Katie (coincidentally also in Wisconsin) for their first 2014-season Lizzies this week! Hugs and kisses!
MVL
  • Congratulations to jswanson, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! You rock!
Top 10 of the 2014 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Joe Aiello
2. Seymour Butts
4. Doc Raker
4. Eddie Von White
6. Chet West
6. LVCubFan
6. Sean Powell
9. Chris Neitzel
9. Darlin Starlin
9. Doug S.
9. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Katie

Chit Chat

Who is your favorite Cub right now? (25-man roster)

 

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Which Pitchers Have “Nasty” Stuff?

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Watching Masahiro Tanaka pitch against the Cubs and seeing how easily he put the lineup down via strikeout caused two things.

First, it caused a great deal of envy knowing we were so close to getting him. I don’t know how much he’d have helped this team this year, but being able to watch that every 5th day instead of Carlos Villanueva would be awfully nice. Second, and more importantly, it caused a lot of awe. I know our offense is not the best, but he was missing bats with ease. They talked a little about it on the broadcast, but I decided to pull some numbers to look at who has the “nasty stuff” in their arsenal.

The first stat we’re going to look at is related to pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. Any good pitcher will tell you that the key to pitching isn’t all about throwing the ball in the zone. It’s about strategically planning and placing the ball where you want, when you want. The goal is to get the batter to swing at a pitch that they really can do nothing with. To be able to be effective in that quest, you have to be able to get hitters to swing at balls outside of the zone. Let’s take a look at the leaders, coming into today’s games, in terms of getting hitters to swing at pitches outside of the zone.

O-Swing% – The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone. (League Average = 30%)

O-Contact% - The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat. (League Average = 68%)

Looking at these numbers, we see that Tanaka has been the best in the business when it comes to getting hitters to swing at bad pitches. Most likely he stuff looks so appealing and the movement so sharp that they can’t hold up and then can’t make contact when they do swing. Not only does he have a tremendous ranking when it comes to getting the guys to swing, but even when they do swing, half the time they don’t even hit the ball. Of the 46% of the time they actually make contact, those have resulted in an OPS of just .350. Remember, OPS is on base + slugging, so .350 is pathetic. Unfortunately, no Cubs made the list, but don’t worry, it gets a little better.

The next stat I looked at on my guest to find the nasty stuff guys was swinging strike percentage. Fan Graphs describes this stat as “The percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on.” League average is 8.5%. Here are the leaders for the season so far.

Once again we see Tanaka right at the top, but this list contains two names that weren’t on the other list. Both Travis Wood and Jason Hammel make this list, with Wood finishing in the top 5 so far. It’s interesting that Jeff Samardzija didn’t make the top 15 list. I would have generally hypothesized that he had better overall deception on his pitches.

The final list I ran was a list of overall contact rate. Again, Fangraphs describes this stat as “The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.” League average is 81%.

Once again we see Tanaka up near the top, but once again we see Wood and Hammel making the list.

What does it mean? Well, for one thing, it’s clear that Tanaka as well as guys like Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana, Felix Hernandez, etc have nasty stuff, but it also shows that the Cubs have guys who can miss bats as well, and that is key to being successful.


  • Bizarre catcher interference play in the first game allowed Joe Girardi a chance to pick which result he wanted to go with. I liken it to when a coach in football has the option to decline or take a penalty on the other team based on the result of the play.
  • The Cubs came into the game with the longest streak of putting up at least four runs in a game. Needless to say that streak is over.
  • Zac Rosscup was the 26th man on the roster, which is allowed for the double headers and pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless ball in the 2nd game. Nice to see.
  • Darwin Barney‘s primary skill that he brings to the table is defense, so when he’s not hitting, the last thing he wants to do is make an error, but that’s what happened to him in game 2.

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Are the Cubs’ Pitching Prospects Underrated?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If you mentioned the phrase “Cubs prospects” to most who follow baseball prospects, the first players you’d hear in response would be the Cubs’ high tier offensive talents: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara. Sure, you have C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson there, but you have to get past the Jeimer Candelarios, Dan Vogelbachs and Christian Villanuevas of the system before you see other starting pitching prospects in the rankings. But is the Cubs’ system really that devoid of pitching talent?

The Best Cubs’ Pitching Prospects

The Cubs lack one very big item among their pitching prospects: the clear top of the rotation arm. The guy who something doesn’t have to really break right for to be a number 1 or number 2 in a good rotation, but just needs to stay healthy. The Cubs’ most talented starting pitching prospect is C.J. Edwards, who has excelled in three Double A starts this season (2.45 ERA, striking out more than 1 per inning) after dominating both full season Single A levels in 2013.  But the caveat on Edwards is, and has always been, his size. He is a rail at 6’2″ and about 160 pounds, and there are legitimate questions regarding if someone like him can hold him to the rigors required of a MLB starting pitcher. With that said, to this point Edwards has a clean injury history.

Pierce Johnson is more a solid mid-rotation type with number 2 ceiling if everything breaks right. Johnson has yet to pitch this season due to a minor injury in spring training, but should make his first starts in Double A soon.

Arodys Vizcaino is in a similar boat as Edwards, but a couple years older and after having dealt with injuries, including Tommy John Surgery. Vizcaino’s stuff is electric, top of the rotation stuff, but his arm may only survive being a late innings reliever. The Cubs sent the right hander, who they received in a trade for Paul Maholm in July 2012, to Daytona to start the season in better weather, but he will be up in Triple A once the weather warms up in Iowa. Vizcaino will only be considered in a relievers role this year, and likely next as well. If his arm holds up, the Cubs may reevaluate whether to try to convert him back to a starter at that point.

Other Interesting Arms

I wrote about Kyle Hendricks during spring training, and he remains what we thought he was (that is a phrase I will never grow tired of hearing, by the way): a potentially solid back end of the rotation arm.

The Cubs’ Double A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies, has three additional interesting pitching prospects. Corey Black and Ivan Pineyro, who the Cubs received in the Alfonso Soriano and Scott Hairston trades, have pretty good stuff, but their repertoire and health may hold up much better in the bullpen in the long run. Armanda Rivero, a Cuban right hander, is also an interesting bullpen option with late innings potential. For those of you waiting for a mention of Tony Zych, however, he has not continued to impress as he moved up the system, has somewhat stalled out at Double A, and is now viewed as nothing more than a potential middle reliever.

The Cubs drafted a host of arms from the second through tenth rounds in 2013, highlighted by second round pick Rob Zastryzny, a left handed pitcher out of the University of Missouri. His likely track and projection reminds me of Pierce Johnson.

The Cubs also drafted a few of high ceiling lottery tickets in 2011 and 2012, highlighted by Dillon Maples, Paul Blackburn, and Duane Underwood. Maples has struggled in his limited time on the mound, also dealing with injuries, while Blackburn and Underwood are in the midst of their first tastes of full season ball in Kane County.

The Top of the Rotation Prospect Is (Likely) Coming

The strength of this year’s coming draft? College starting pitching, and the Cubs are highly likely to add an elite college arm with the fourth pick in the draft. Next time, we’ll look at the most likely players the Cubs could take in the first round.

In short, while the strength of the Cubs’ system is definitely its bats, its pitching is not as devoid of talent as some believe.

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Cubs Offensive WAR Leaders

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Since we had a rainout yesterday, I have nothing really to look at in terms of news. So, I have a quiz for you. We started the blog in October 2003. That means this is season # 11 for the site. Today we look at the offensive WAR leaders cumulative for the Cubs since the inception of the site. Below is the table with the names invisible, but with a link to them if you click the blank. How many can you guess.

Rk Player WAR/pos
1 Aramis Ramirez 23.3
2 Derrek Lee 22.5
3 Geovany Soto 9.3
4 Alfonso Soriano 7.9
5 Starlin Castro 7.8
6 Darwin Barney 6.2
7 Welington Castillo 6.1
8 Ryan Theriot 6.1
9 Michael Barrett 6.0
10 Carlos Zambrano 5.9
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Enemy Territory: Why My Visit to Busch Stadium Was So Disappointing

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I was in St. Louis last weekend for a conference, and it just so happened that the Cubs were in town for a series against the Cardinals. I got to attend the games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I won’t recap the games here, since that’s been done elsewhere (although, obviously, Friday night was AWESOME and Saturday sucked). I would, however, like to share my experiences as a Cubs fan in Cardinal land – and why it was so disappointing.

I knew that there would be plenty of Cubs fans at Busch – there always is. So, I wasn’t expecting to be all alone in blue. What I did expect – in fact, what I was looking forward to – was some aggressive, good-natured (or even not-so-good natured) ribbing/heckling/etc.. I expected to hear it from the gloating Cardinals fans. As I donned my Cubs shirt and headed down to the stadium, I was imagining the kind of things I would hear (I was sitting in the cheap seats, after all), and what some witty, sharp responses might be. Hell, Cubs fans in the bleachers heckle EACH OTHER incessantly during games at Wrigley. Much to my disappointment, I wasn’t harassed one bit. Not even a joking “Cubs suck.” Not a single “Wrigley Field is a dump” or “Starlin Castro is awful.” Nothing. Although I enjoyed watching the games, I was severely let down by the lack of back-and-forth with the Cards fans.

I have a larger point to make here. We always hear (mostly from those in the national media, as well as Cardinals fans themselves) that Cardinals fans are “baseball’s best fans” (@BestFansStLouis is a hilarious Twitter follow, by the way) because of their supposed knowledge of the game and respect for visitors. What I felt at Busch stadium wasn’t respect – it was apathy. During Friday nights game, when the Cards were down 2 runs in the 8th, at least two-thirds of the stadium emptied. All those who left were Cards fans. This was on an absolutely gorgeous FRIDAY night. I was at the Cubs’ home opener 2 weeks ago. It was 35 degrees with 30 mph winds. The Cubs were down 7-2 in the bottom of the 9th – and almost no one left. It was a stark contrast to atmosphere I saw in St. Louis. I wonder if winning so much makes fans like this – or if fans in St. Louis would be this way no matter what…

The thing that irked me the most, though, was Ballpark Village. This is the Cardinals’ completely contrived, corporate, vanilla version of Wrigleyville. Here’s the tweet I sent out when I visited Ballpark Village after the game on Saturday:

Ballpark Village comes complete with its own rooftop building. It looks very much like one of the Wrigleyville rooftops (it’s across the street from the park, there are bleachers and a bar on top, fans can see the game from the roof, etc.), but it differs in major ways: the Cardinals own the building, and the attendance on the rooftop counts as attendance for the ballpark. Interestingly, Ballpark Village is on Clark Street. You can’t blame the team for cashing-in on what’s obviously something that fans enjoy – but the fact that it imitates the ballpark atmosphere of your hated rival seems so strange. I guess what I’m saying is that this is another piece of evidence that Cards fans may lack passion. Do you think that the Yankees would build something that looks like Fenway? Again, is it the winning that makes these guys so complacent, or is it something inherent in the nature of St. Louisians? (is that a word?)

The Cardinals giveaway on Friday night was a Michael Wacha bobblehead. I was originally going to run a contest looking for the most creative way of destroying the bobblehead (I was going to post video of it on the site). I thought that I could probably do more good with this thing, though, so I’ve decided to auction the bobblehead on ebay and give the proceeds to Cubs Charities. So, spread the word to all those Cards fans you know.

Catch ya later…

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A Common Fan’s Guide to the Daytona Cubs

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

At 2-8 the Daytona Cubs have struggled out of the gate after much of the roster from last year has moved up to the Tennessee Smokies the Double A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Taylor Scott has been one to watch this year. In his first start of the season he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Scott allowed just two singles over his seven innings of work, walked one and struck out two.

The Cubs are led by five players that spent time with the Kane County Cougars the Low A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs this past season. These five players include Albert Almora, Bijan Rademacher, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez and Chen. Rademacher leads the way for the club registering 10 hits in his first seven games good for a .435 batting average. Rademacher split time between the cougars and cubs and seems to be an early candidate for a promotion later on in the season. Almora has shown great plate discipline through his first 40 at bats only striking out twice while having five extra base hits. If he can stay healthy throughout out the year we could see him at Tennessee by July.

Dan Vogelbach and Rock Shoulders two former Kane County Cougars have struggled early on registering .156 and .132 batting averages respectfully. As with before it’s very early only 10 games in but Shoulders already has struck out 14 times in 32 at bats which is concerning.

Everyone is talking about the possible bullpen piece in Arodys Vizcaino who is a former top prospect with the Atlanta Braves. Vizcaino dealt with injuries last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. So far through four innings of work he’s registered a 2.25 earned run average which is very encouraging as long as his health stays intact. Zach Cates and Andrew McKirahan have combined to pitch 11 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball through six appearances out of the bullpen. Another impressive stat is their combined strikeout to walk ratio of 12 to 1 which is incredible.

Felix Pena has been the standout pitcher on the Daytona staff so far pitching to a 1.50 earned run average over his first two starts. He has pitched 12 innings only allowing eight hits and one walk to combine for a WHIP below 1 at 0.75. Pena’s strikeout to walk ratio is 8 to 1 and he’s poised for a big season with the chance to possibly move up to Tennessee in August.

As the season develops we’ll see a lot of movement between Kane County and Daytona as a lot of the young kids will start to develop a name to keep an eye on is Jeimer Candelario. He’s got a lot of potential and at 20 years old is another top cubs prospect. His only problem at the moment is he’s blocked by Kris Bryant at Tennessee and Christian Villanueva at Iowa. The best spot for him is Daytona as it’s a pitchers league. He’ll certainly continue to refine his swing and defense I see him starting next season off at Tennessee if he continues his development.


The Cubs make their first visit to new Yankee Stadium for a short, two game series, before coming home to face the Reds. Let’s just hope the snow melts before then.

Why the Yankees Will Crush The Cubs

by Michael Eder – www.itsaboutthemoney.net

The Yankees finally saw their first off-day of the season yesterday, but not before the early-season wear and tear caught up to them. With Mark Teixeira and Brendan Ryan both hitting the disabled list at the beginning of the month, the Bronx Bombers were forced to rely on young players like Yangervis Solarte, Francisco Cervelli, and Dean Anna, along with aging players like Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts for larger than expected roles. After 13 consecutive games, the Yankees barely made it through their latest game without using a pitcher in a position spot. Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts are currently day-to-day with quad tightness and back spasms, while Francisco Cervelli is headed to the disabled list.

The Yankees’ bullpen is also somewhat shaken up after losing their closer David Roberston to the disabled list after the first week of baseball. Shawn Kelley picked up the slack in his absence, but the rest of the depth in the bullpen is highly reliant on young unknown arms. Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and Cesar Cabral are far cries from the big bullpen names often featured on the Yankees, but they’ve also been managed very efficiently thanks to Joe Girardi.

They’ve dealt with some tough luck in their infield and bullpen during the first few weeks of baseball, but those were also the expected weaknesses of the clubs. The strengths of the Yankees were the new names added to both the lineup and rotation.

The Cubs are unfortunate enough to face the Yankees’ two “new” starters. Masahiro Tanaka became a household name during the offseason, but regardless of his record in Japan, the Japanese pitcher has a lot to prove in the MLB. In his first two starts of the year, Tanaka showed that his splitter and slider translate to strike outs, while his fastball control is good enough to keep his walk rates miniscule. There was once a thought that Tanaka could not be the dominant strike out pitcher that Darvish has become due to his low-90′s fastball, but the consensus has now changed. From what the Yankees have seen from the 25 year old, he could very soon be the ace of their staff. Tanaka will start the first game of the series, and it’ll likely be a tough pill to swallow for fans hoping that the right-hander would end up in Chicago this January.

After Tanaka, the Cubs get to face the Yankees’ best starting pitcher thus far, Michael Pineda. Pineda was obviously a household name just a couple of years ago with the Mariners, but his 2 year absence from a shoulder surgery stifled most expectations in New York and around the league. Pineda returned this season with a mid 90′s fastball, his wipeout slider, and a new and improved change up. Even with the Yankees limiting his pitches, Pineda went 6.0 innings in both of his starts, and allowed just 2 runs total in his 12.0 total innings against the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Good command and whiffs have brought Pineda’s expectations back up to a possible top rotation pitcher, and the Cubs will likely find it difficult to combat both his slider and impressive new change up.

Offensively, the Yankees’ new hitters have been exactly what they expected and more. Not only have the big names of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran contributed with power and contact, but they’ve already started adapting to the confines of Yankee Stadium. Guys like Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter, and Yangervis Solarte have also contributed in unexpected ways.

After a slow start to the season, the combination of pitching and hitting upside on this team powered the Yankees to 3 wins outs of 4 games in their last series against the defending world champion Red Sox. The Yankees are starting to prove to many that they are not only a playoff caliber team, but after some injuries to the Rays and Red Sox, perhaps the favorites to win the AL East. Against a team like the Cubs, the Yankees should have no problem beating up an organization who’s best talent is probably still in the minor leagues.

Scouting Today’s Opposing Starting Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka

MLB.com

Tanaka struck out 10 batters in his Yankee Stadium debut last time out against the Orioles, taking a no-decision as he allowed three runs on seven hits. The big blow was a three-run homer off the bat of Jonathan Schoop, coming on a hanging slider.

Wikipedia

Tanaka is a right-handed pitcher who throws from a high three-quarter arm slot in a drop-and-drive motion. He throws two fastballs (four-seam, two-seam) usually in the low-90s that top out at 97 mph. He also has a plus 84–88 mph splitter with late downward action, a plus slider in the low to mid-80s, and an occasional curveball.


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Episode 11 – The Mustard Episode

Monday, April 14th, 2014

This week’s episode of the show was jam packed with a host of different topics:

The Week in Review

  • Resurgence from Starlin Castro & Anthony Rizzo
  • Emilio Bonifacio continues to hit
  • Bullpen wasn’t quite as good this week
  • Closer Change
  • What happens when Jake Arrieta comes back?

The Week Ahead

  • Two games at NYY then weekend series home vs. Reds

Mailbag Questions:

Greg

Jerry

  • I think that a team’s record in 1 run games is a reflection on how good the bullpen is.  Do you agree?

More Or Less

  1. Will Emilio Bonifacio have MORE or LESS stolen bases than Billy Hamilton this season in the Majors?
  2. Will Starlin Castro’s home run total be MORE or LESS than his error total at SS this season?
  3. Will Jason Hammel make MORE or LESS starts than Jeff Samardzija for the Cubs this Season.

Download the Show (50 min / 11 MB)

Remember to subscribe to the show on iTunes and email the show with any questions or feedback you might have.

Follow the hosts on Twitter

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Rule Changes Draw Criticism, Big Time Injury News and More!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

We’re now headed into the third week of the MLB season, and it appears as if some things are starting to level out. The Miami Marlins and Houston Astros have regained their positions at the back of the pack, and star players who got off to slow starts like Bryce Harper are finally starting to turn things around.

Even with all of the action going on on the field, it seems as if the major headlines took place either in the video review booth, or in the trainer’s room.

Controversy In New York

The always highly-anticipated Red Sox/Yankees matchup featured quite a bit of intense action, but most of what had many fans up in arms had nothing to do with traditional baseball issues.

The first incident happened when Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was on the mound. It was spotted in his previous start, but it was drawn to our attention in his second start that he had covered his hand in pine tar, and it didn’t really even seem as if he was trying to conceal it.

The next was late in the game on Saturday, when Yankees backup infielder Dean Anna was attempting to steal second base. He got there first, but as he was getting himself up, he lost contact with the base, all while Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts kept the tag on. While it was an obvious call, the umpires went to replay and eventually ruled Anna safe.

For the Pineda incident, he claimed that it was dirt, but it was widely accepted by both sides that it was, in fact, pine tar. He was not suspended for this, which I think is outrageous. Not disciplining him sets a bad precedent for pitchers doctoring the ball, and we’ll now probably see more of it.

With the replay error, we saw that the MLB still has some kinks to work out in its system. Anna was clearly out, but the umpires seemed to rush through their decision. The fact that the MLB admitted their error following the game helps, and I don’t expect it to be too much of a problem moving forward.

Questionable Rule Changes, and Possible Rule Changes Don’t Sit Well

When it was announced that the MLB was going to be banning collisions at the plate, many questioned the decision. Sure, it might prevent an injury or two, but it seemed as if these plays were more spur-of-the-moment type instances rather than a player actively trying to hurt someone.

It appeared as if the base runners were going to be losing a big edge when they came to the plate, but a rule change regarding catchers blocking the plate was supposed to curtail that. As Joe noted his recent article (LINK to your story), we saw this in action in a recent Cubs game, and it personally didn’t sit well with me.

Along with that, we had another suggested rule change that was touched on by Chris Neitzel earlier this week. Fans of traditional baseball should probably stop reading right here if they’re offended easily.

One MLB executive suggested that the league change from 9-inning games to 7 innings in an effort to appeal to a larger audience who may currently find baseball boring. I have no comment on this idea, other than that it’s the worst.

Injuries Cloud Headlines

It didn’t take long for the injury bug to start biting, and unfortunately for some teams it has started to take out some of their key players, and in some cases for potentially long periods of time.

On the mound, the Tampa Bay Rays have been hit pretty hard lately by injuries, as Matt Moore may be done for the year. He’s going to try to throw soon, but if things don’t work out, they’ll shut him down. On top of that, Alex Cobb is also headed to the DL.

Mariners young lefty James Paxton also found himself placed on the injured list, as did Cole Hamels, Brett Anderson (big surprise), and Yankees closer David Robertson. Across town, the Mets lost their closer, Bobby Parnell, for the season and have now resorted to using Jose Valverde to end games (Yikes!).

In the field, teams have also been plenty affected. Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is going to be out 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb, Josh Hamilton will be out 6-8 weeks with thumb problems, Shane Victorino is out with shoulder issues, Avisail Garcia is done for the year, also with shoulder problems, and star shortstop Jose Reyes has yet again started the year by getting injured.

Not all of this injury news is bad news, fortunately, as Aroldis Chapman, who as you remember was hit in the head with a line drive in Spring Training, has begun to throw again. Manny Machado, who tore his Achilles, is set to start hitting again, and Clayton Kershaw is bound to return at any time after nursing a sore muscle in his back.

This Week’s MVP: Ryan Braun (.458/.462/.917, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Yu Darvish (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 15 K)

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3 Things I Learned From Cubs Baseball This Week

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Week 2 is in the books and it yielded another pair of series losses. While that is disappointing, there is always something to be learned as you watch the games unfold. Let’s get right to it.

The Offense Is Not As Bad As We Thought – A big issue in week one was the inability for this team to put up runs. That really wasn’t an issue this week, which was encouraging especially given the caliber of pitching we faced in the Cardinal series. By no means do I think this team is ready to compete offensively with the big boys, but I also didn’t think they were as bad as we saw in week one. What is of particular encouragement is the start to the season by both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. For both, this was a year to show they belonged and deserved the money they were given to lock them up through their arbitration years. There were a lot of pundits and fans who had given up on one or even both before the season. Both have answered the call early and that is encouraging.

The Starting Pitching Is Not As Good As We Thought – After week one I was all a glow about how well the starting staff did. Even Carlos Villanueva, who looked so bad in relief in two outings rebounded to have a nice first start. Week two was a little different. Watching the games on Saturday and Sunday, which featured a start by Villanueva and then Edwin Jackson, I felt like I was in hell. It really should be against the rules to have to run these two jokers out there in back to back games. We’ll get into the Jackson start in just a little bit, but let’s just say that this was not a fun weekend of watching Cubs starting pitching. The return of Jake Arrieta will hopefully help ease some of the burden, because it forces Villanueva out of the rotation and, if it were up to me, off the roster completely. The issue of having to see Jackson out there every fifth day still remains and all we can hope is that he gets his mess together or a bullpen that I feel could be a strength of this team is going to get taxed really quickly.

12 Man Pitching Staffs Are Incredibly Stupid – I wouldn’t say I learned this one this week, but rather confirmed it again. I have long been a critic of the way the Major League roster is assembled these days, with pitching staffs consisting of seven man bullpens. There just isn’t enough work to go around with the seven man pen and you end up with guys like Wesley Wright making his first appearance in nine days today. That kind of crap is unacceptable in my opinion. It doesn’t allow for a guy to stay sharp and simply wastes a roster spot that could either be used to allow for a pitch hitter late in the game or the ability to carry a third catcher. What really set me off about it this week was the fact that the Cubs made a move on Saturday to recall Chris Rusin (which I was fine with) because Rick Renteria said they had really taxed the pen. If I’m Wright, I’m interrupting that answer to the press and introducing myself to my manager because apparently he had forgotten Wright was even on the team. It sucks for Brian Schlitter, who was sent down to make room for Rusin, because he wasn’t able to be recalled right away and has to stay down there a little now when he wasn’t even pitching poorly.


MVP – Kevin Siegrist (.246 WPA)

  • We talked about Jackson’s start briefly, but let’s look at it a little closer. First, he allowed at least one base runner every inning he pitched, most of the time via a hit of some sort. When you do that and you’re a pitcher who notoriously struggles with control and had a tendency to walk hitters in excess, you’re asking for trouble. His WHIP is now up to 1.88, which is grossly unacceptable and needs to come down. Each and every inning he pitched himself into a jam of some sort. It was painful to watch and it’s not getting better. Take one run off the board and he’s got a quality start, which tells you everything you need to know about how stupid that stat is. It seems like each time he’s on the mound, the Cubs offense gets him some sort of help only to see him cough it right up and give it back in excess. About the only positive thing I can say about the outing was that he was able to come back and pitch a few innings after the rain delay to save the pen. Jesse Rogers had a nice piece on what to do with Jackson going forward.
  • Rizzo helped the team get off to an early 2-0 lead with a home run in the 1st. Overall the offense as a whole looked really effective in the inning, seeing a lot of pitches and coming away with a lead before the Cardinals even had a chance to take to the plate. Unfortunately that was about all from Rizzo at the plate, but I can’t complain about the day. He accounted for runs and that’s what you’re looking for.
  • Castro saw his mini hitting streak snapped with an 0-for-4 day at the plate.
  • We saw the season debut of a guy I thought should have made the club out of spring training, Blake Parker. Parker came in to pitch in relief and made me rethink my opinion. The two runs he gave up proved to be the difference in the game. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs recall Schlitter after his mandatory 10 day stay in AAA or stick with Parker until Arrieta returns.
  • Wright somehow made it into the game, though only for three pitches. Chin up, Wes.
  • Javier Baez was placed on the 7 day DL due to ankle soreness stemming from an issue on Friday when he was fielding pre-game ground balls. That puts 2 of the big 4 prospects on the DL early in the year, as Jorge Soler has been there since day 1.

Off day on Monday, which means we can’t possibly lose. It also means we get to stew over yet another series loss. Keep an eye out this afternoon for a look at the comings and goings in the rest of baseball with a post by Brian and don’t episode 11 of VFTB Radio due out around 9pm. It should be a good day. Feel free to send us a mailbag question to address on the show. It can be serious or silly.


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