Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

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

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

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.

  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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 –

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

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.


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:



  • 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)

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