Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Ask Joe Anything

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

We’re going to try something new here to see if it goes over well. If you are good, you can have nice things, but if not, we’ll take it away. The design here is an open forum for you to ask me anything. Maybe it’s questions to get to know me better. Maybe it’s questions regarding the Cubs or Major League baseball in general. Maybe it’s a sports question. Maybe it’s just a quirky random question. Whatever is on your mind, have fun with it. There are just a few rules.

1. The CAPS rule – Do not blow up the comments with a zillion questions by one person.

2. The Seymour rule – Try to keep it semi-clean knowing that if it’s too far past the line it won’t get answered.

3. The Sherm Rule – Don’t post something and then disappear. Come back and see the answer.

Follow those rules and we’ll have a lot of fun. Just to give you an idea on quirky questions, see one of the editions of the Deadspin Funbag and you’ll know what I mean.

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2015 Free Agent Pitchers: My Quick Take

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

I think the Cubs signed Jon Lester this week…at least that’s what I heard? No really, apparently his “friends” expect him to sign with the Cubs. I am not sure which of his friends said this or even how many friends Jon Lester has. I have a lot of friends…many of whom I am not sure I would label as “friends” more like “acquaintances” or even “potential acquaintance”.   Hopefully these were some of the closest friendliest friendly friends that Mr. Lester has. I just imagine this: Jon Lester’s cousins’ friends’ sister said she saw Jon at 31 Flavors last night; and she said she heard Jon say he is most definitely possibly considering thinking about the idea of signing with the Cubs.

All rumors from “friends” aside (and the cast of Friends), the Cubs will have money to spend, and Lester could be a prime target. If you want to see a FULL list of potential free-agents…I would advise against looking at it. It’s a bit like going through your grandparents attic…you will find some valuable things…but much of it is worthless and smelly. So, I did the digging for us…and I will list some potential Cubs’ targets. I will examine the possibility of that player becoming a Cub, and add my own take/opinion. I decided to focus on pitchers this week, because we all know the Cubs’ are totally set at ALL other positions forever!(seriously, I may tackle other needs later)

JON LESTER

I am going to have to disagree with Jon’s friends; I am not sure I see it happening. If he would sign a contract similar to what Cole Hamels has left on his deal (4 years at $90M plus) then the Cubs will be in. If it takes a 6-7 year deal…I wouldn’t blame the Cubs’ for passing. I will give this a POSSIBLE. 4 for 100(maybe)… 5 for 125(pushing it)…6 for 150(no thanks)

MAX SCHERZER

If it’s true that Scherzer turned down a 6 year $144 M deal during the offseason…I see no way Cubs top that. If they pass, it’s not because they are cheap…I just think without a warranty guarantee on his velocity…it would be a really bad signing. I give this signing a chance of NO WAY. Some team is going to over pay…and they may be stuck with a Justin Verlander type contract…without the benefit of Kate Upton being around.

JAMES SHIELDS

Shields has been a consistent starter for the past for seasons. Shields will be 33 on Opening Day 2015 and unless he goes to the Roger Clemens’ Fountain/Pharmacy of Youth (…hey, I worked that one in again!) he is not going to improve. Never underestimate the AL to NL benefit though…Shields could be dominant for a year or two in the NL. I give it a chance of SLIGHTLY POSSIBLE, but with most of the guys in this group it will all come down to the length of the deal.

JUSTIN MASTERSON

Masterson’s has a history with Theo and Jed; therefore this is definitely POSSIBLE. I hate to rely on my fantasy baseball experience here…but I would say, please GOD NO! The Cardinals (the smartest baseball organization in the history of the universe)…are finding out that his velocity is down, and his “rockings” are up…way up. Masterson is currently sporting a 5.94 ERA this season, and 11.25 for the Cards. (Geez…that’s too bad) He may yet turn it around this season, but he is maddeningly inconsistent….and he is murder on your fantasy team’s ERA.

JORGE DE LA ROSA

If you are a Simpsons’ fan like me; when you see his name you may think of Santos De Los Halpos. If the pitching market doesn’t go completely crazy (not bloody likely), De La Rosa is a lefty who could benefit from playing somewhere not named Coors Field. De La Rosa has put up pretty decent numbers including an ERA plus of 126; for non-Saber types, this adjusts for his ball park and 100 is considered league average…so De La Rosa has been good again this year. He will be 34 next season, so a 3 year deal would probably be max. POSSIBLE

SCOTT FELDMAN

Maybe we can sign him to a one year deal, and then flip….oh yeah.

JOSH BECKETT

I am highly in favor of the Cubs signing Josh Beckett…as long as they have a time machine and get the 2003 version of Josh. NO CHANCE

JASON HAMMEL

Whenever players get traded away midseason…there are usually people who say “They can sign him over the winter anyway”….the problem is, it almost NEVER happens. However, I would not dismiss the possibility with Hammel. Hammel found his greatest success as a Cub, and a return to the NL on a reasonable 3 year deal (?)…and I would say SLIGHTLY MORE THAN POSSIBLE.

FRANCISCO LIRIANO?

MLB Trade Rumors does not list him as a free agent, but Baseball Reference does…I am saying he is…and if he is, I want him. His injury history may deflate his price, and he will only be 31 next season. If anybody out there could settle this for me, I would greatly appreciate it…Free Agent or Not? Assuming he is, I would still put him as DOUBTFUL due to teams that will overpay. Full disclosure, I watched him pitch the other night and I was just drooling over the way his change-up was diving away from righties and he was hitting 95 on the gun…that was just one outing…so I probably shouldn’t ever be a scout.

BRANDON MCCARTHY

While not the sexiest name on the list, he has been pitching really well since being traded to the Yankees. McCarthy will be 32 next season, and peripheral numbers outshine his traditional baseball stats. Example: McCarthy’s FIP (fielding independent pitching) has been much lower than his ERA, the last 4 seasons…meaning he has pitched better than his ERA suggests. I could see the Cubs taking a “flyer” on McCarthy if he remains unsigned close to spring training, but otherwise…I say HIGHLY DOUBTFUL.

There are too many variables for one to accurately predict if the Cubs will wind up with any of these arms…but just for the fun of it…I will complete a quick wish list, then I am interested to hear what you have to say. Mine would be

  1. Lester 2. Liriano   3. Shields  4. De La Rosa   5.Hammel

I have already mentally prepared myself for the possibility of the Cubs getting NONE of these guys. Oh, and before we get your opinion…here are the guys I deemed not good enough to include:

Kevin Correia, Chris Capuano, Gavin Floyd, Aaron Harang, Roberto Hernandez, Josh Johnson, John Lannan, Colby Lewis, Paul Maholm, Jake Peavy, Edinson Volquez, and Jerome(we had him like ten years ago) Williams

I told you there wasn’t much else to see on the list.

I did not include pitchers that have either a club or player option and are likely to remain with their current clubs.

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The Real Strength of the 2014 Cubs: The Bullpen

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

All of the attention surrounding the Cubs right now is focused in on the prospects and young stars, and rightfully so. These kids are exciting and it is perfectly fine to zone in on the top prospects, but that isn’t the only part of the puzzle that seems to be solved. The part that might be the best section on the major league club right now is the bullpen.

Now when you look at the stats as a whole, it doesn’t look impressive. A 3.57 ERA in 375.1 innings this year is good for 8th best in the NL. However, you have to think that Jose Veras’ 8.10 ERA (12 ER in 13.1 innings) is included in there. If you exclude Veras’ numbers, the bullpen has a 3.42 ERA, which is good for 6th in the NL and 13th overall in baseball. To go along with that ERA, the relievers have combined for a FIP of 3.42, which is 9th in MLB and included Veras’ stats. This year’s bullpen is far better than the bullpen that posted a 4.04 ERA in 474 innings last season (25th in MLB) and the second worst FIP at 4.23.

There are a few reasons for the resurgence of the ‘pen. One of these reasons is a stable closer. Cubs’ fans have gotten used to seeing Carlos Marmol or Jose Veras blow games in such a way only they could. Since Veras’ release in June, Hector Rondon has taken over the closers role and performed terrifically. A Rule Five draft selection last year, Rondon has posted a 3.45 ERA in 44.1 innings while striking out 49, posting a 2.10 FIP, and converting 14 of 18 save opportunities.

Another reason for the improvement in the bullpen is the power, middle relief arms. The Cubs received two bullpen arms in the Matt Garza deal last year, Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm. The first of which, Ramirez, has pitched in 28.2 innings this season and has only given up 4 runs. To go along with his sparkling 1.26 ERA, his FIP is 2.89 and he has struck out 36 over those 28.2 innings. Grimm, on the other hand, has struggled a bit, but has an average 4.21 ERA in 51.1 innings. Also, his FIP is above average at 3.70 and has struck out more than a batter per inning (52 in 51.1 innings). Another guy that has emerged this year, actually it started last year, is Pedro Strop. Acquired in early July last year for Scott Feldman, has pitched 43.1 innings this season compiling a 2.70 ERA and a 2.99 FIP. During that span, Strop has struck out 49 batters and owns a 1.11 WHIP.

The final reason for the bullpen’s bounce back season is the help of some crafty pitchers. The leader in appearances for the ‘pen this year is none other than Brian Schlitter. Wait, what? Yes, Schlitter in his first full season in the big leagues leads the Cubs with 53 games pitched. In 49.1 innings through this year, Schlitter has a 3.47 ERA, 3.68 FIP, a 1.18 WHIP, and only giving up 0.4 HR/9. Another crafty veteran is swing man Carlos Villanueva. Besides having an amazing mustache, Villanueva has been one of the most reliable pieces in the Cubs bullpen the last two years. After starting the season in the rotation and getting hit hard, the right hander has turned it around in the ‘pen. In 42 relief innings, Villanueva has a 2.57 ERA and a .222 batting average against while giving the Cubs a long relief option out of the pen. The lone lefty that has been in the bullpen all year is first year Cub, Wesley Wright. A free agent signee in December, Wright has compiled a 2.78 ERA and a 3.39 FIP in 35.2 innings over 45 games. Actually, the lefty has fared better against right handed batters. Righties are hitting .213 with a .617 OPS against Wright while lefties are hitting .293 with a .626 OPS.

There are other names that have plugged in the bullpen this year including Zac Rosscup, Blake Parker, Chris Rusin, and Kyuji Fujikawa among others. Also, the future looks bright for the bullpen as well. In AAA Iowa, two top prospects are lighting up the radar gun and mowing down Pacific Coast League batters. Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino both should get a nod in September and will have a shot in spring training next March to make the bullpen in 2015.

Regardless, any way you look at it, the bullpen in much improved from last year. My favorite stat comparing the two bullpens is: 2013 bullpen -0.5 WAR, 2014 bullpen 2.8 WAR. That is ridiculous. As much as a crazy thought it is, the facts are the facts. The bullpen is the strength of this team and could be another strength, with the mega lineup, in 2015 and beyond.

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Back to the Cubs Future: A Look Back at the Baseball America Top 10 List from 2011

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

I grew up watching the Cubs as I was in middle school and high school in the early and mid-90′s. While I don’t have as much pain and heartache on my fan log, I do vividly remember following the team quite close. Since it was before social media and even before the internet, I lived for the morning newspaper. Weekly they would post the complete, updated stats for all the Major League teams. Every now and then, I’d get my hands on a sporting news publication, but nothing related to prospects.

Times have changed and now, in the midst of a massive rebuild of the farm system, fans are more interested in the prospects than they ever were before. At one point, ESPN Chicago had their beat writer, Jesse Rogers covering the team in Iowa rather than the big league club. It shows you just how far things have come when it comes to prospects. It’s hard not to get excited about the future as we see guys like Javier Baez come up and flex his power early in his career, but I thought it might be fun to take a look back to see what we were getting excited about just three short years ago.

Each year, Baseball America releases it’s top 10 list for each organization and then projects the lineup for the Major League team three years out. With this being 2014, I thought it interesting to take a gander at what that 2011 list looked like to see how they did. Here is the list in 2011 as Baseball America saw it:

At first glance, this doesn’t look so promising, and it really isn’t. A look at that list reveals no player currently on the Major League roster, with a good amount of them either out of the organization completely or on their way out. Let’s take a look at where these guys are now.

Chris ArcherThis one wasn’t a miss by the Jim Hendry regime when they acquired him from Cleveland in a Mark DeRosa trade. There is a reason he was the number one guy in the system at that time and he’s showing it in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation. Before we get frustrated that he’s not a part of our system, let’s see what he turned into. Archer was sent to the Rays before the 2011 season along with Hak-Ju Lee, Sam Fuld, Robinson Chirinos, and Brandon Guyer. A quick look at the top ten list will reveal that three of those five names were in the at that time top 10 list. Keep in mind that the system was fairly barren at that time. In return, the Cubs received Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and Zac Rosscup. The Cubs would get quality production from Garza for 2011, 2012, and half of 2013 before shipping him to Texas for Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, and Neal Ramirez. So, while Archer isn’t a part of the organization right now, I feel like the overall result is OK.

Brett Jackson – He’s still in the system, but you would never know it given the hype and talk about the rest of the bats in this system. Jackson had his window open albeit briefly in 2012. He got the call late in the season, struggled to the tune of .173 / .303 / .342 and hasn’t seen a call up since. He’s no longer listed in top 20 lists and quickly moving off any radar whatsoever. In 2014, his 4th season with at bats in AAA, he’s hitting .210 / .300 / .352. At this point, the only reason he’s still in this organization is where he was drafted. It’s hard to admit a hiccup in the draft at the top and you tend to give those guys as much opportunity as possible to rebound. He’s on the 40 man roster still, but I don’t see him in the organization at the start of 2015. With the kids getting ready to come up soon, spots are going to be needed on the 40 man and Jackson is expendable. Look for him to be included as a wild card flyer in an off-season deal to acquire a starting pitcher.

Trey McNutt – McNutt had a tremendous first full season in the minors, going 10-1 with a sparkling 2.48 ERA in 2010 between A, High A, and AA. He was rising quick and looked to be a top arm in the system. Since then he’s faltered and has not pitched in 2014. To be honest, I can’t even find news as to if he’s even still a part of the organization.

Hak-Ju Lee – He was always compared to Starlin Castro and fans wondered what the Cubs would do when both players reached the Majors. Would Castro shift to 2B? Logjam at SS…sound familiar? Lee still hasn’t made it to the Majors and has struggled in AAA this season. Things don’t look so good for him.

Josh Vitters – He’s still quietly on the radar, but no longer a potential vital cog in the wheel. At this point, Vitters will either hit enough to find his way onto the roster as a 4th or 5th OF or get traded and get a chance to start fresh. Either way, this one looks very much like a miss.

Chris Carpenter – Not that one. We got the bad Carpenter. His claim to fame was his name and the fact that his trade to the Red Sox was met with much contention between Theo and his former employer. He’s pitched out of the pen in Japan this season after recovering from Tommy John, but nothing really to write home about.

Matt Szczur – He’s been a disappointment since being drafted in the 5th round. He has finally made it to AAA this season and has a slugging percentage lower than his on base percentage, which is hard to do.

Hayden Simpson – Don’t even get me started on this one. This pick had bust from the moment his name was announced. He didn’t pitch at all in 2010 after being drafted in June due to a bout with mono. When he finally took the mound in 2011 he sucked. In 2012 he sucked some more and found himself sucking for an independent team before being released due to severe suckage. In my mind, he’s one of the biggest bust picks by the Cubs in a long time.

Rafael Dolis – No longer in the organization. The fact that a MR was in the top 10 shows just how weak this list was.

Brandon Guyer – He’s in the lineup for the Rays, but not anything more than a spare outfielder.

Overall, not a good state of the system at that time. What makes me laugh is where our projected lineup was supposed to be for 2014.

Thank goodness we have a new era when it comes to talent down on the farm because this lineup is just a tad bit discouraging.

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Division Races Begin To Heat Up, Record Books Change & More!

Monday, August 11th, 2014

After a week away from the column, I’m back in business. Over the past week, even though I’ve been on vacation, I’ve still got to soak in quite a bit of baseball (including a look at the Daytona Cubs ballpark). With that said, let’s get to it!

AL Central Race Tightens

Going into the season, the Detroit Tigers were seen by many as World Series favorites and many also thought that they’d easily plow through to yet another AL Central title. Much like last year, though, the division hasn’t been the cakewalk they expected.

Just about three-quarters of the way through the season, the Tigers hold the lead in the Central by just a half of a game, and that lead is withering away with every day that passes as the red-hot Kansas City Royals have rattled off 7 games in a row.

Many of the problems that Detroit has faced have been blamed on their bullpen (I’m looking at you, Joe Nathan), but their supposedly daunting lineup has come up flat over the past week. Miguel Cabrera has found himself in a rare slump and it appears as if JD Martinez is finally coming back to earth.

With one of the highest payrolls in the league, it would be a colossal failure if the Tigers somehow managed to lose their lead on the division. With the upstart Royals coming for their heads, they’re going to need to figure things out quickly. With all of this being said, however, I still see them taking home the division crown. How do you think the AL Central will shake out? Will the Royals grab a Wild Card spot if they don’t win the division?

Jeter Moves Up Hit List 

No, not that kind of hit list.

In what has been a farewell tour of a season for New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, he has reached yet another historic milestone in his illustrious career. Though a Hall of Fame spot is already locked up, this only adds to his resume.

In the sixth inning of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Jeter came up to the plate against Corey Kluber (who was 9 years old when Jeter made his MLB debut). He hit a slow-rolling grounder to the third baseman, but beat it out and in turn moved up to 6th on the all-time hits list.

Realistically, this is probably where he’ll stay given that he’s 84 hits behind the player in 5th place (Tris Speaker). Also with his hit, he moved past Honus Wagner and became the leading hitter amongst shortstops in the history of the game.

With all of this being said and all of his accomplishments being taken into account, what do you think are the chances that Jeter becomes the first player to get into the Hall of Fame unanimously? Along with that, where do you place him amongst the best shortstops of all-time?

Brad Penny Starts, Wins Game For Marlins

Don’t worry; you didn’t hit your head. This is actually 2014, not 2004 like you may think from the headline. That’s right, Brad Penny (now 36) started and won a game for the Miami Marlins (he probably had to get directions to the new stadium) this week.

After spending the last decade bouncing around both the MLB and Japan, Penny has found himself back in the place he called home for the first four and a half years of his career. He spent last year overseas, but the Marlins signed him to a minor-league deal back in June.

His homecoming of sorts (the game was in Cincinnati) was a successful one, as he tossed 5 innings of one-run ball and put the Marlins in a position to win. His 4 walks were a tad bit concerning, but overall it was an impressive effort for someone who’s been a bit down on their luck the past few years.

With all of the injuries that have occurred to the Marlins staff, there’s a decent change that Penny could stick around as an innings-eater if he’s able to pitch well enough. All that’s needed for the Marlins is to trade for A.J. Burnett and sign Dontrelle Willis and they’d be right back in business. With a nostalgic story like Penny, who’s one non-star player you’d like to see back in a Cubs uniform?

This Week’s MVP: J.J. Hardy (.423/.444/.769, 2 HR, 7 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: James Shields (2-0, 1.06 ERA, 7 K)

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Monday Musings

Monday, August 11th, 2014

While you were glued to the PGA Championship, which was a tremendously good finish, there was Cubs baseball going on that afternoon. Let’s get to some news nuggets.

The Cubs won the battle, but lost the war over the weekend – It was a rare series against the Rays, a team that features a number of former Cubs on their roster and in their system. After losing the first two games of the series, the Cubs managed to claw out a win with a walk off hit by Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the 12th inning on Sunday behind one of the better starts by Travis Wood in a little while. At this point, series wins and even game wins are fairly irrelevant. What’s important for the last month and a half is the continued development of the young talent on this roster, starting with Javier Baez. I think you’ll see him struggle a little, as he always does at a new level, and then begin to figure it out right as the season is coming to a close. That should set him up nicely to be ready to go for the start of the 2015 season.

Two pitchers added and two subtracted – In case you missed it, newly acquired pitcher Jacob Turner was added to the active roster along with Neal Ramirez. To make room, Brian Schlitter was placed on the 15 day DL with shoulder soreness and Chris Rusin was optioned back to AAA. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Turner and even Ramirez. Both have the ability and the stuff to be in a rotation and with the Cubs needing starting arms to build around for the future, I’m curious to see if both will get a look at the rotation before the end of the season. My guess is Ramirez will not, but will potentially be given the opportunity come spring training. I could see Turner getting a few looks down the stretch. Lord knows he’s got to be better than Edwin Jackson, right?

Ryan Kalish was outrighted to AAA after clearing waivers. – He was designated for assignment early in the week, cleared waivers and has been removed from the 40 man roster. It’s not a big story, but I know there are those that think highly of Kalish. I never really thought much of him. My guess is we won’t see him in a Cubs uniform again.

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Welcome to the Bandwagon

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Today, Javier Baez made his Wrigley Field debut. For those of us who have followed Cubs prospects the last few years (“prospect hipsters” according to Jon Greenberg), this marks the beginning of the long-awaited turnaround. Perhaps this is the “Tipping Point” that Chris wrote about.

I totally understand that most fans are casual fans. That is, they keep up with the overall play of the big league club and don’t care too much about the minor leagues – I get it. I also understand that even more serious fans aren’t going to be interested in the teams’ prospects as much as someone who writes for a blog or is active in the Cubs Twitter community is. Most fans are going to lose quite a bit of interest if the major league club isn’t playing well…or, they will complain loudly that this team is the “same old losers”/Ricketts is a cheap bum/Theo is overrated/whatever. Now that the prospects that many of us were following and anxiously anticipating are finally making it to the big league team, many bandwagon fans will follow. You know what? I’m OK with that. After all, we’re all on the same side, and I think Cubs fans spend a little too much energy criticizing each other (it happens out in the bleachers all the time). Yes, I find it absolutely frustrating when I hear ignorant folks criticize the front office for moves that they totally don’t understand (it’s usually the same people that argue that wins are the most important stat for a pitcher), but I’m ready to welcome those fans aboard the prospect-driven bandwagon with open arms. Come on in, it should be a fun ride.

I have a theory about why so many baseball fans don’t see to understand the farm system/prospect development aspect of baseball. I blame the NFL and NBA. In those leagues, players who are drafted (especially those who are early-round picks in the NFL and lottery picks in the NBA) can often step right into the starting lineup of a team and contribute right away. In those sports, if you are a gifted athlete, you can use your talents to play the game at a high level right away while learning the finer nuances of the sport as you go. Baseball is more about applying athleticism to discrete skills – and those skills simply take time to develop. You can be the greatest athlete in the world, but if you can’t recognize pitches at the plate or control a breaking ball, it’s all for naught. It’s very rare to have a player like Bryce Harper who can come straight out of high school and play at the major league level. Many casual fans – who are influenced by the way things work in those other sports – don’t understand this need for skill development. I’ve had friends ask me why it took Javier Baez (if he’s so great) so long to make the majors – and he’s TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD.

So, like I said, I get it. It’s up to those of us who follow prospects to educate those who don’t understand, although it can be difficult in the face of so many losing seasons. It’s been fun to follow these prospects in the minors the last few years, but I am looking forward to shifting my attention to the big league club. I just hope that the “casual” fan can appreciate the planning and patience it took to build the system the way it was built – the pay-off is coming. After all, all great players were once prospects. I mean, we can’t all own Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler Tennessee Smokies shirseys.

In other news:

  • The Cubs completed the trade for Marlins’ starter Jacob Turner, and the Cubs gave up a pair of minor league relievers – Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer. This is a slam-dunk no-brainer for the Cubs. Turner is a former top prospect with good velocity, solid stuff, and promising peripherals. He’s been down lately, but the potential is there. With Chris Bosio’s track record of success working with these type of pitchers (see Arrieta, Jake), it makes so much sense to make this deal. Arias and Bremer’s absolute ceilings were as middle relievers, and they are a dime a dozen (have any of you stayed up late to see Arias/Bremer stat lines from recaps?). Turner had to be added to the 25- and 40-man rosters, so the Cubs DFA’d Ryan Kalish, who showed so much promise during spring training.

[As an aside, I remember being laughed at in the comments when I mentioned that the decision to keep Bosio on the staff was a great one because of his work turning around pitchers and increasing ground ball rates through work on the two-seam fastball – and it was by the same guy who defended pitcher wins.]

  • The Cubs did not complete a trade for Cole Hamels, whom they had claimed off waivers from the Phillies. Apparently, the Phillies were asking for Addison Russell as the beginning of any package, and I think it makes sense for both teams that the trade wasn’t made right now. At least we know that the Cubs were willing to take on his hefty contract, which is a great sign (and should – but won’t – silence critics who say that Ricketts won’t spend money). Perhaps they will revisit acquiring Hamels in the offseason.
  • The Cubs held a private workout at Wrigley Field for Cuban 3B/OF free agent Rusney Castillo. Scouting reports on Castillo vary from top-of-the-order impact player to good fourth outfielder. The Cubs seem to be interested, especially since they did the “sell job” of working him out at Wrigley rather than at their spring training facility in Arizona. It will be interesting to follow this story. The Cubs could certainly use another outfielder going into next season, even with the impending arrival of Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant.

 

Happy Weekend!

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GirlieView (08/07/2014)

Thursday, August 7th, 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

  • “Theory” is not a guess…In academic usage, the word theory refers to analytical tools for understanding, explaining, and making predictions in various fields of study.
  • Get off your soapbox. Just yesterday our insightful Wood commentary was praised by a newcomer.
  • I need some vodka for my kool aid.
  • I shall send you some.
  • Should Rizzo even be in consideration at all? I mean with his well documented anti-social behavior in Iowa and all.
  • Moot. He hit two homers for a sick kid, so we’re good to go.
  • I believe that in all of the commotion of Jeff and Jason leaving someone forgot to close the door and the Bupkiss’ dogs came in and ate all of the homework
  • Instead of following the unsolicited advice of Mark from Toronto and making sure I get enough sleep every night, I stayed up to watch the Cubs
  • I’m on the west coast. The time zone means I’m awake for Cubs games, good and train wrecks like last night.
  • I couldn’t take it I flipped over to the Iowa cubs
  • Congrats Jswan. Let’s meet at the Vegan Eaterie for a granola bar and some soymilk to celebrate your commentary brilliance. How about around 4PM, Seymours Chevy Volt starts running out of battery power around 5PM so we need to do a blue hair special.
  • I could use some flax.
  • I write to you from sunny Denton, Texas, where it is a refreshing 102 degrees.
  • When done in the right way, I think acquiring pitching through free agency and through trades is a lower-risk proposition than spending first-round draft picks on pitching.
  • I think that the nature of the market these days is that it’s unavoidable to assume some of the age-related risks of established starters. It’s the other side of the coin of avoiding assuming the risk of first-round pitching prospects in the draft … Either you’re going to assume the risk in the front end with the draft, or on the back end in the after-30 years.
  • Shift ban. I’ve heard it all now.
  • That only leaves 2 options. Direct drive, or a continuously variable transmission.
  • I have an idea – why don’t the hitters just learn how to hit better?
  • that’s just crazy talk
  • Looks like the Cubs officially have no chance at the playoffs now as I see the playoff odds are now down to 0.0%. At least that also means those odds can’t get any worse!
  • That’s lower than a prom dress at 1:15AM.
  • Darwin Barney traded to the Dodgers for a PTBNL …good for him.
  • I bet it’s Puig.
  • Everyone knows the next chapter in this story right? Plays well for the Dodgers, makes playoff roster, gets World Series ring.
  • Disney approaching Barney this week for movie deal. Johnny Depp lined up for role.
  • I met Darwin in the locker room at Fitch Park a few years ago. Over the past few seasons I’ve also had conversations there with Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster. Perhaps speaking to me is not in the best interest of any player who wants to stay a Cub.
  • I met Seymour in the locker room at Fitch Park, we chatted. I didn’t get signed to be a Cub. Now I know why.
  • This comment is not Lizzie-worthy because realism.
  • FYI – there are other reasons that your comment isn’t Lizzie-worthy, but hey, why rub it in?
  • Just subtly mention wieners and you’ll be good to go.
  • What is this “subtly” of which you speak.
  • I am pretty sure that if Baez, Bryant, and Soler hit .350 with 35 HR each season coupled with normal progress from Castro and Rizzo and the rest of the guys, Theo could cobble together a pitching staff good enough to make the playoffs. The Cubs would have the #1 offence in the NL by far. Heck, even Edwin Jackson would be able to win a game or three with that kind of run support.
  • If Theo can shop Jackson at his contract price he’s a genius….or a swindler.
  • Sometimes they work and sometimes they fail miserably, but no team can survive a season without the band of merry gentlemen coming out of the pen
  • arbitration is a bit awk(ward for you oldies).
  • Switch hitting catcher/3b – #7 prospect in the ATL organization, so I wouldn’t say hosed. You think those two trade aways were long term in the Cubs plans? I don’t.
  • A 20 year old at that. A good trade, thought the net hair balance is unchanged on the club
  • Wait. What? The NHB?
  • Bonny bald – Russell well a few too many hairs – it all evens out
  • I still haven’t figured out why they all want to look like Karen Carpenter on the mound. Real intimidating, fellas.
  • If we can just get Schlitter to tone down his mountain-man look we can have a presentable ball club again.
  • The Cubs received their player to be named from the Dodgers in the Darwin Barney trade – and hey, he isn’t nothing!
  • For now, Doubront has been placed on the disabled list with a, ahem, *cough* real leg injury, so the Cubs won’t have to find a spot for him on the MLB team right now. Isn’t it convenient that this injury would pop up right now? I mean, what are the odds?!
  • I almost think that they are hoping he will struggle and use that as motivation to make the final tweaks he needs to make in order to get back and stay for good.
  • Is it time for the hope wood pitches hard tomorrow comments?
  • Not quite. But if he gets a start in Boston on Patriots Day, it would be morning wood. I think we all know how hard that can be.
  • Unobjective homerism is fun and all, but not meaningful analysis.
  • Finally, please, for the sake of the children, never say the phrase “splash the cash” again. Every time you say that phrase, a kitten is swallowed up by the earth right in front of her child owner, who has no friends aside for that kitten.
  • I know it won’t happen, but I hope enough fans are patient enough that he’s allowed to struggle and adjust without too much pressure.
  • I have high hopes for this week’s ode as well.

Lizard

  • When your worst case scenario is sending a 22 year old player back to Triple A for a half season to work on a pitch recognition and plate approach refinement, you’re in pretty good shape.

Shout Outs

  • Big shout outs to cap’n obvious, Jim Jones, and Josh Cornwall for their first 2014 in-season Lizzies!!!! Thanks for being here. Except for Jim. He’s not particularly welcome.

MVL

  • Congratulations to jswanson and Seymour Butts, our co-Most Valuable Lizzie-ers this time! Thank you for giving us so many laughs!

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

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

Chit Chat

Which would you rather, and why?
a.) A 2015 team which is in the playoff race all season long with no assurance of post season appearance or success
or
b.) A mediocre 2015 team but a guaranteed playoff spot in 2016?
(Yes I am aware this is fiction. Just trying to see how hungry you are, or if you’d be willing to sit through another season of boredom if the 2016 payoff was guaranteed good.)

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Are the Chicago Cubs at the Tipping Point?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

95,242. That’s my place in line.

This morning I decided to sign up for the Cubs’ season ticket waiting list.  I did so knowing I would have no chance of having them anytime soon. Considering I will have a child in college for 12 of the next 13 years, my disposable income will be…let’s just say… limited. I joined just to see where I would place on the list. I have heard unconfirmed (maybe one of you can confirm) reports that waiting listers were getting calls just last winter from the Chicago Cubs…stating that their numbers had come up and they could get tickets.  If this is true, and anyone passed…that person may be waiting a long time for another opportunity.

I know very little about the ins and outs of season tickets and ticket brokering, but I know a little about supply and demand.  For the last couple of summers, I have heard angry callers to sports radio begin conversations with “I am a season-ticket holder, and…” they then rant about Jeff Samardzija being traded or whatever other move they are upset about.  My thought when I hear these rants? Get rid of your tickets then. I have a friend who has a ticket business on the side…and I have listened to him lament for the last 3 summers regarding the Cubs.  This may sound insensitive to those who have had tickets for the last 3 summers, and watched bad, bad baseball…but they didn’t have to keep them.  Yet if you did, I think you are about to be rewarded for your patience.  I view season tickets like stocks…buy low, sell high. If you bought Chicago Blackhawks season tickets in 2006, the idea would have seemed rather silly. Yet, in 2014, those lucky enough to have done so have 41 sold-out dates each year to use or sell at their leisure….and they have benefited greatly during two Stanley Cup runs.

I spoke with my long-time friend, Dale Bradley, a financial adviser with 25 years of experience, of Bradley Investment Center in Evanston…and a Cubs’ season ticket holder for the last 20 years. In regards to his tickets, Bradley stated; “You love them and you hate them…when times are bad you are tempted to sell.  When times are good, they are golden”. In my opinion…times are about to be very good for the patient ones.

This brings me to my “Tipping Point” regarding the Chicago Cubs.  The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that combines economics, human nature, and social trends.  The book may be a bit “thinky” for some, but here is how Gladwell defines a tipping point: “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.   Gladwell demonstrates messages, ideas, products and behaviors that race like wildfire through our society…after reaching their tipping point.  In my opinion, as year three of the Theo Epstein regime comes to a close…the Cubs are either at a tipping point or on the precipice of one.

Am I just a Cubbie blue Kool-Aid drinker?  I will let the reader be the judge, as I give my reasons why the tipping point for the Cubs’ organization is nigh:

  1. Before we get to the fun stuff (players)…lets address an off the field issue.  It appears as though the renovations to Wrigley will finally begin.  With the way this issue has played out, I will keep my fingers and toes crossed, but the Cubs finally give the impression that they have their “ducks in a row” on this. The dark cloud regarding future revenues concerning the park…might finally be lifting.  In fact (fingers crossed, fingers crossed), we may see some of these changes take root during the 2015 season.
  2. The contract of Alfonso Soriano (the equivalent of two Presidential terms) is finally off the books in 2015.  Not including players eligible for arbitration, the Cubs currently have $31.2 million allotted to salaries in 2015.  Let’s give them a modest payroll of $85 million for 2015…you are looking at a heck of a lot of dough the Cubs will have to allocate to free-agents.  They will not enter 2015 with a $40 million dollar salary.  However, I would like to caution those of you who already have Jon Lester in the 2015 Cubs’ rotation…if Lester wants anything more than a five-year deal…that might not be where the money goes.  Regardless of Jon Lester and other top of the line free-agents, the Cubs will have the flexibility to sign, and trade for contracts they have not had for the past six off seasons.
  3. Recent events, the call ups of Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, and now (cue, shining light coming through the clouds) Javy Baez, have me thinking that Theo and Jed are ready to at least compete in 2015.  They have stated numerous times they like to call players up to stay…if that’s true, these players will be on the opening day roster in 2015.  A line-up that will include the current NL home-run leader in Rizzo…and perhaps some of the other amazing offensive prospects the Cubs have in the system. These call-ups signal to me that the regime is not concerned about tanking the last two months. I am not alluding that Baez, Alcantara and Hendricks are going to give the Cubs a winning record for August and September…but I get the feeling that the regime isn’t  worried as much if the pick 3rd or 7th overall next June.
  4.  I know some people will always be suspicious of prospects…but when you have respected national writers stating that this may be the best assortment of position prospects ever assembled…you can dismiss those thoughts of Ty Griffin, Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber seem to hit home runs daily.  Alcantara (yes, small sample size) has looked as smooth to me as any prospect in recent memory upon arriving in the Majors.  The Cubs system is “boiling over” with offensive potential.  The “graduation” of these prospects will not leave the minors barren of talent, as players such as Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres will ascend to the top of prospect lists.
  5. Almost under the radar, the Cubs have done an excellent job of stockpiling young power arms for the bullpen.  Justin Grimm has shown flashes, yet still inconsistent. (side not…you don’t have to pitch him every day Ricky) Hector Rondon has stepped in nicely as the current closer, and Neil Ramirez has been filthy for most of the season.  Pedro Strop, although not as young, has displayed his magic slider recently.  At Iowa, the Cubs actually may have the two best power relievers in the system in Armando Rivero (83 k’s in 54 innings) and Arodys Vizcaino.  The Cubs could enter spring training next year with 6-7 relievers who throw 95 mph.

I have had this Tipping Point concept floating in my head for the last month or so…and I finally decided to own it.  I loved Gladwell’s book and the analogies made sense to me.  Some of you may take a much more pessimistic view about 2015 for the Chicago Cubs…and that’s fine. If you do have a negative outlook on the future for the Cubs…please try to convince the 95,241 people ahead of me on the season ticket list that they should drop off.

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