Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Episode 12 – The OOTP Baseball Episode

Monday, April 21st, 2014

This week’s episode of the show we welcome special guest, Brad Cook of Out of the Park Developments to talk about the release of OOTP Baseball 15 and iOOTP14

Check out the game at www.ootpdevelopments.com


Download the Show (42 min / 10 MB)

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

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Puig Grabs Attention, Stanton Hits Moonshots & More!

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Though the season may be off to a rough start for the Cubs, at least fans can rest easy knowing they’re not rooting for the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose once-bright season has already gone down the drain.

Thankfully, not all the news has been bad over the past week. The Cubs got a win yesterday, and Jeff Samardzija is off to a great start. There’s been good and bad, but we’ll start off with the unexpected/odd.

Yasiel Puig’s Off-Field Problems Grab The Spotlight

If he wasn’t such a boisterous player in one of the biggest markets in the world, the problems surrounding Yasiel Puig may not have made many headlines. Unfortunately for him, it seems that his behavior off of the field is getting more attention than his play on it.

First, he was arrested this offseason after going 110 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone, and although the charges of reckless driving were eventually dropped, that’s not exactly what the Dodgers want their star player doing.

The issues that he is facing now are far more serious than speeding, however, as it was recently reported that a member of the group that brought Puig over from Cuba was spotted at Spring Training and was allegedly trying to collect a debt that is owed to him.

As you would expect, these aren’t your typical businessmen that are looking for a late payment, they are smugglers whose threats should be taken very seriously. It may be the rest of the league adjusting to him, or these off-the-field problems could be hurting him at the plate, as he’s hitting just .241 on the year. This is an incredibly delicate situation, and not one that teams are used to handling, so if you were in Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly’s position, what would you do with Puig?

Big Name Acquisitions Still Struggling

The allure of bringing in a big name player is often too much for front offices to pass up, no matter the price. These players are often built-in marketing tools and they can be used to excite fans about the upcoming season. As we all know, not all of these big-name, high-dollar moves end up working out, which is something we’ve already seen so far this season.

When Prince Fielder was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers, he was supposed to find the power stroke that he had lost once he transitioned to the American League, but so far he’s just looked lost. With a .194 batting average and 2 home runs thus far, the Rangers may be feeling a bit nervous about their big investment.

Much like the Rangers, the Orioles are paying quite a bit of money to Ubaldo Jimenez, and given his track record and start to this season; they may already be regretting the deal. Currently, he sits at 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA (6.77 FIP) which is certainly not what the Orioles were hoping for after giving him $48 million prior to this year.

Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski has to be feeling pretty good about this offseason, too, as along with Fielder, two other former Tigers have started the season slow. Curtis Granderson (who was traded in a 3-way deal that brought Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to the Tigers 4 years ago) has 8 hits in 57 at bats (.140) for the Mets, and Jhonny Peralta is hitting .183 for the Cardinals with a strikeout rate hovering around 25%. What, in your opinion, are the worst offseason moves so far?

Giancarlo Stanton Asserts Himself As The Best Pure Power Hitter

With home run numbers down quite a bit since the days of Sosa, Bonds, and McGwire, the league has been without a consistent threat to hit 50 or more dingers per year. This year may be the year that that changes, as Giancarlo Stanton is once again proving the kind of power that he possesses.

After he hit 37 home runs in just 123 games in 2012, many people began to take notice of the then-22 year old slugger. His start to this year is starting to gain some notoriety, too, as he leads the league in home runs, RBI, and intentional walks.

Not only does he put them over the fence, but he also puts quite a bit of force into them as evidenced by the length of the bombs he hits. He currently has 3 of the top 5 longest home runs this year, with distances of 457 feet, 469, and a monstrous 484- foot shot in the season’s opening week against the Padres.

If he’s able to stay healthy over the course of a full season, I’d have to say that he’ll lead at least the National League in home runs pretty safely, and probably the MLB as a whole. Is Stanton the best power hitter in baseball? If not, who is?

This Week’s MVP: Joey Votto (.429/.571/.857, 3 HR, 7 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Martin Perez (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 10 K)

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6 Things I Learned From Cubs Baseball Last Week

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Week three is in the books so it’s time to check out what I learned this week. I learned a lot of things this week, so let’s get right to it.

The Cubs Can’t Score For Jeff Samardzija – As long and wavy that Samardzija’s hair is, you’d think it would lead to some sort of scoring. Unfortunately the Cubs just can’t do it. It’s as if the offense is wearing a chastity belt when Shark is on the mound and they expect him to do it all on his own. In four starts this season, he’s posted an ERA of 1.29. It’s not even fair that not only is he winless, but he’s 0-2. I feel like the first win is coming this week against Wade Miley, but even a matchup that you would think would be a given proves to be difficult.

Not Winning The Masahiro Tanaka Signing Sweepstakes May Have Been A Big Mistake – I wrote about it the other day, but it bears repeating. Tanaka has really really good stuff. What I was surprised to see, though, was that two other Cubs have “nasty stuff”. That was encouraging as both Travis Wood and Jason Hammel fit into the future in some way. For Wood, he’ll be here long term and Hammel should be able to bring a decent return before the deadline in a flip, which adds to the rebuild. However, the big question is how much the Cubs will regret not breaking the bank on Tanaka because he’s really good.

Billy Hamilton Can Look Really Bad at the Plate, but He’s Not the Worst – That distinction may belong to Bartolo Colon. In case you missed it, it’s worth a look at both and you can make the call.

I think I’m going to give the nod to Colon, but barely. That said, as bad as Hamilton looked, he looked really fast as he beat Anthony Rizzo to the bag on a grounder to first base. You don’t usually see that, but Rizzo hesitated just a small amount and that was all it took.

Wellington Castillo Can Be Stolen On – He’s just not throwing the ball as well as he was last year. He did get a great throw off in Sunday’s game that should have nailed Hamilton, but Castro flubbed the tag. I think we’ll see improvement soon. He can’t possibly finish this bad.

Jose Veras and Carlos Villanueva Need To Get Off My Roster – I can’t stand watching either of these clowns pitch. Villanueva looked awful yet again today and Veras, who came into the game in a low leverage situation wet the bed again. Carrie Muskat wrote about how Renteria wants to see him win back the closer job. Screw that. I don’t want his tail anywhere near the mound in a key situation.

There Are Still People Who Believe in Edwin Jackson – Need proof? See this article.


 

MVP – Homer Bailey (.249 WPA)

At what point will this team win a series. I’ve been talking about this all year, but the last time the Cubs won a series, it was the first part of September 2013. Today we had a chance, until you looked at who we had on the mound and then you realized it wasn’t going to happen. What makes me most frustrated is the fact that this team is either all in or all out when it comes to the result lately.


by Ryan Morrison (@InsidetheZona)

Like the Cubs, the Diamondbacks have five wins. Unlike the Cubs, the Diamondbacks have sixteen losses, and have lost eight of their last nine. As National League foes go, the D-backs are not the Cubs’ greatest challenge. In some ways, the D-backs have underachieved as a team: their offense is better than their team 82 wRC+ would indicate, and the bullpen has actually been quite decent, if not at the most critical times. The struggles of the rotation, however, are completely legitimate.

After 21 games and 106 innings, the D-backs rotation sports a 7.42 ERA, more than two full runs worse than the next-worst crew of starters. For the four-game series with Chicago, the Diamondbacks line up with Bronson Arroyo, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley and Mike Bolsinger. Arroyo is no different (or, certainly, not better) than his recent Reds days, and temporary fill-in Bolsinger might be the definition of replacement level (8 ER in 7 IP).

Miley, on the other hand, has been Arizona’s best and most consistent starter this season, pitching like a strong #3 starter. McCarthy’s results in 25.1 IP so far this season have not been good (7.11 ERA), but for what it’s worth, it has appeared as though he’s been burned by some critical missed strike calls and terrible luck with home runs. His 3.38 xFIP indicates that he’s a threat to be taken seriously.

On the offensive side, this is the same team that Cubs fans saw last year, except with a fully healthy Aaron Hill, rookie Chris Owings, and new acquisition Mark Trumbo, who shares the league lead with 6 home runs. Every everyday player not named Paul Goldschmidt is currently struggling to perform at 2013 levels.

With Owings installed at short, the D-backs boast what should be an above-average hitting infield, including Martin Prado at third. It’s the outfield that presents the real puzzle. A.J. “Action Jackson” Pollock and Gerardo Parra are both elite defenders with slightly below average bats, making them well above average overall. But Cody Ross has recently joined in the mix with Trumbo for playing time after being activated just a few days ago, and we’re likely to see at least three different outfield alignments during the series with the Cubs. Parra could get pushed to center field if Ross starts over Pollock, which is unfortunate for Arizona, as a huge part of Parra’s value comes from his throwing arm.

Meanwhile, at the plate, it’s just not clear what Cody Ross can bring to the table at this point, with his surgically repaired hip in his load leg. That makes the outfield an almost unsolvable puzzle, especially with Kirk Gibson favorite and former Cub atony Campana also likely to get work. But the outfield is also the D-backs’ main source of bench offense. Whichever outfielders sit in a given day will be accompanied by Eric Chavez as the D-backs’ main pinch hitting threats, as backup infielder Cliff Pennington offers little with the bat and backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch offers nothing.


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Edwin Jackson Gets His Win

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

MVP – Devin Mesoraco (.173 WPA)

Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!

The Cubs finished out week 3 with a win, ending their 5-game losing streak. Edwin Jackson was on the bump and pitched 5.2 innings of giving up 8 hits and 2 runs. He also struck out five (!) batters.  You may proceed with the Ed-onewin Jackson jokes.

Offense:

Emilio Bonifacio continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the leadoff spot. Today he went 3-for-5 with two runs scored. He’s batting .358 on the season.

Justin Ruggiano went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.

Mike Olt, Darwin Barney, and Welington Castillo all had home runs today. (Yes, THAT Barney for all you non-believers out there…)

Castillo now has 8 RBI on the season, tied with Rizzo for second place. Starlin Castro leads the team with 9 after this week.

Anthony Rizzo left today’s game with back spasms. Hopefully he doesn’t have to sneeze anytime soon. I’d hate to have another Sammy Sosa incident.

Defense:

The Barney/Castro/Rizzo combo is a great one.  Today they combined for a beautiful double play that was dubbed the Premier Play of the Day by MLB Network.

Ruggiano also made a beautiful sliding catch in right field. He might maybe be on the path to usurping Nate’s throne as my favorite right fielder. (Don’t tell Nate.)

This past week was a rough one on the North Side. A five game losing streak is as deflating as it gets. Jackson snapping the skid is as surprising as it gets.  This season is going to be a roller coaster ride. Strap on your seat belts, folks. It’s going to be a long season.


Homer Bailey

MLB.com

In three starts, Bailey has blown four leads already and has been unable to get beyond five innings. He allowed four homers during a no-decision to the Pirates Monday. The bright side? There were no walks and nine strikeouts.

Wikipedia

Bailey leads with a four-seam fastball in the 93–96 mph range. He also has a two-seam fastball at 94-96. Bailey throws three breaking balls, his main one being a slider in the mid-high 80s and the other being a curveball in the upper 70s. Lastly, he throws a splitter in the mid 80s.



David Nail is the second-most played artist on my iPod. He’s got an easy voice and his tunes are pretty catchy.

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Why Can’t The Cubs Score For Samardzija?

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

MVP – Alfredo Simon (.206 WPA)

I’m not sure what it is about when Jeff Samardzija pitches, but the Cubs just can’t seem to give him any run support. In his four starts so far, the Cubs have scored two or fewer runs for him in three out of the four games. As you might expect, that leads to an 0-2 record with an ERA of 1.29 and a WHIP of 1.07. It’s just another example as to why the pitcher win stat is not particularly useful, especially by itself. I don’t really want to get into that debate in this post, though feel free to engage in a civil manner in the comment section, but my point is that for some reason it seems like the offense puts it in a lower gear when Jeff is on the mound, and I’m not sure why. For this team to be successful, that has to change. You can’t waste games when you have your best person going for you.

Does it concern anyone else that the Reds stole five bases off the Cubs in this game? I understand they have Billy Hamilton, but he only accounted for one of them. Wellington Castillo now has a runner thrown out percentage of just 8%. Granted, it’s not all on the catcher. The pitcher on the mount at the time has a lot to do with the result, but it’s alarming given that he’s always been a better option when it comes to throwing out would be basestealers. To compound his day, he also had a catcher interference error, which oddly enough is the second one for the Cubs catchers this week (how weird is that), and he’s hitting just .209 after being one of the most productive members of the offense last season. I’m not overly concerned at this point, but for this rebuild to happen successfully, you can’t have guys you’re already counting on to be part of it suddenly regress. Let’s hope Castillo is just off to a cold start.

Finally, if you missed the game, you missed one of the worst, most awkward looking strikeouts I’ve ever seen by anyone, including amateurs. Hamilton fanned so badly in the first inning that I thought I was going to die laughing. This is why I posed the question as to if he would out steel Emilio Bonifacio this year. I don’t know that he can produce enough offensively to justify being on a Major League roster. Take a look.

Tony Cingrani

MLB.com

Cingrani gave up only two runs over 6 1/3 on Sunday vs. the Rays but had to escape some jams. “He was able to make pitches when he needed to, which was important. He was able to get outs with runners in scoring position,” catcher Devin Mesoraco said.

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Reasons For Optimism With Edwin Jackson

Friday, April 18th, 2014

The Cubs haven’t scored since Sunday afternoon and the offense has sputtered throughout the season. But one bright spot has been the starting pitching. Led by ace Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood, along with newcomer Jason Hammel, have been giving the Cubs a chance to win every time they pick up the ball and get up on the mound. One starter has gotten the most heat since early last year and that is Edwin Jackson.

Jackson, who signed a 4 year $52 million deal before the 2013 season, has not gotten off to the best start in his young Cubs career. He finished last season with the most losses in the NL, 18, and an ERA of 4.98, which was one of the worst of his career. But to go along with those stats, there were some sports that gave hope when looking forward to this year. He had an above average FIP (Fielding Independence Pitching) of 3.79. FIP is a stat that measures how well a pitcher actually pitched given what he can control. Looking forward to 2014, there was a lot of hope that Jackson would turn it around going forward, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

Through three starts, Jackson has a 6.19 ERA as he has given up 11 earned runs in 16 innings. Walks have been an issue for Jackson as he has walked 12 in those 16 innings. These stats have gotten Cubs fans and analysts going nuts. People saying that the front office missed on Jackson, saying that Jackson should be traded, and saying Jackson will not be on the team when the team goes on to, hopefully, win the World Series in a few years.

Many people say that, but in my opinion, I don’t believe any of that is true. Of course, it is hard not to look at the struggles and come to that conclusion, but there are positive things to look at when looking at Jackson going forward.

Number one item I like going forward about Jackson is his contract. Now, people may say they over paid for him, but I don’t see it that way. Sure, he got paid $13 million last year to compile an ERA close to five, but going forward, it is actually not that bad. From 2014-2016, Jackson’s contract is worth 3 years and only $33 million. If you look at these next three years, including this one, that deal is a great find going forward for a middle of the rotation pitcher with occasionally number two, or even number one, stuff.

Let’s take a look and compare Jackson’s deal going forward (3 years, $33 million) to a deal that was made this offseason. Let’s take Matt Garza’s deal to compare. Garza signed a 4 year, $50 million deal with the Brewers in the off-season. Now, I’m not saying Jackson is better than Garza, but Jackson has had a better FIP the last two years. Also, Jackson has logged more innings than Garza, who has been a health risk for his entire career. Garza is owed $12.5 million over the next 4 years. Isn’t Jackson the safer bet going forward? Jackson is more durable than Garza and for a number 3 starter, Jackson is a perfect ft for the Cubs.

Reason number two Jackson looks good going forward is where are you going to find established starting pitching? Jackson is a perfect 3 starter going forward on a winning team, or even a 4. Now, the Cubs do have some pitching accumulating in AAA and AA, but you don’t know if these guys can come in and perform well in the major leagues. Also, if the Cubs are going to trade Jeff Samardzija, they are going to get young pitching talent, but most likely single A arms. Jackson can help build the bridge to the young arms and help them get their confidence in the bigs. Another way you can get starting pitching is through free agency, but that seems less likely to happen, seeing as teams are eager to lock up their young arms on team friendly deals that buys out their arbitration years. So if you are going to sign someone through free agency, you are going to get a guy who is equal to Jackson’s talent or worse. Flippable pieces are nice, but they are only on one year deals and you get talent back for them, but it is younger prospects. In my opinion, Jackson is a stable piece in the rotation and can be that for the next three years.

The last reason is that Jackson can actually turn this season around.  Jackson’s walk rate is irregularly high for him. Also, Jackson has given up a .396 average in balls in play, which is also abnormally high. Jackson’s three starts have come against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Pirates at home, and in St. Louis. Not exactly three teams that are easy to get out. His first start in Pittsburgh was his best, giving up two runs in 5.1 innings, and only one of those runs were earned. The second start against Pittsburgh was a little bit rougher. He gave up six runs in 4.2 innings, but it is tough to face a team back-to-back to start the year. Teams have a good idea what is coming and it showed. Jackson gave up nine hits in those 4.2 innings. And his final start was in St. Louis where he gave up four runs in six innings. But, during the game, Jackson gave up three runs in the first two innings, and then the rain came. After almost an hour, Jackson only gave up a run in the four innings after. If Jackson can cut back on his walks and get more groundballs, he can get back to form. And crazy enough, his FIP is better than last year at 3.73, where 3.75 in above average.

Now I’m not saying Jackson is an ace, but he is a solid pitcher for the Cubs. I am looking forward to getting to watch him pitch for the next three years and I hope he shuts the haters up.


The Cubs take on the division rival, Reds this weekend and so we have a guest blogger in to preview why the outlook is not good for the Cubs.

Why The Reds Will Crush the Cubs

by Greg Daffler
www.redlegnation.com

Not only have the Reds (6-9) gotten off to a slow start in the standings, but the Reds’ bats were on a delayed flight from Spring Training and arrived in Cincinnati about two weeks after the start of the season. The Reds scored only 28 runs in their first 11 games, which included three 1-0 pitcher’s duels. New manager Bryan Price made a lineup move five games ago that you’d never see in a Dusty Baker lineup card: Joey Votto batting #2 in the lineup. Since the team has busted out for 30 runs in their last four games against the Rays and the Pirates, I suspect we’ll see Votto in his new lineup spot for the foreseeable future.

Highlighting the Reds biggest lineup change from one year ago is centerfielder and leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton. Hamilton can change the game with his speed if he could just get on base. Case in point, to lead off the first inning in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Pirates, Hamilton walked, stole second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch. Devin Mesoraco has replaced Ryan Hanigan behind the plate as the full time starting catcher. Though an oblique injury delayed his start to the season, Mesoraco has been crushing the ball in 6 games since being activated, including with 11 hits, 3 doubles, and 3 homeruns.

Given the recent resurgence in run production and the often stellar pitching, I like the Reds chances to win 2 or 3 of the games this weekend. The Reds have allowed the 3rd fewest runs per game in the NL this season. Four of the five Reds starting pitchers rank in the top 21 in National League ERA.

The toughest pitching matchup on paper for the Reds will be Friday’s afternoon affair against Jeff Samardzija. While Mat Latos is on the DL with a right elbow injury and an unknown timetable for his return, Alfredo Simon (Friday) has stepped in and made two big starts already. Starting for the first time since 2011, Simon has pitched 15 innings and allowed just one run in each of his appearances.

Tony Cingrani (Saturday) hasn’t allowed more than 5 hits in any of his first 21 major league starts (h/t to Neal Kendrick). While Homer Bailey (Sunday) has had a rough couple of starts this season, last year he ranked 21st among National League starters in WAR.

The Reds bullpen has been hit the hardest with injuries to their primary 8th and 9th inning relievers. Aroldis Chapman broke a bone near his eye during spring training and won’t return until May. Jonathan Broxton has only made two appearances since recently returning from the DL. Sean Marshall is currently on a rehab assignment with AAA Louisville and could be activated to face his former team sometime this weekend.

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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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