Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Bring on The Buccos

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

The Cubs finished out the weekend with a solid performance all around as the Cubs beat the Phillies 8-3 on solid performances from Ryan Kalish and Anthony Rizzo. Kalish got his first hits since September 2012 boosting his average to .286. Kalish doubled and tripled and drew a walk on the day showing great plate discipline with three quality at bats. Villanueva gave a solid effort pitching five innings on seventy one pitches. It was good to see Villanueva get the win as he suffered two losses in relief in the first series of the season he’s going to be a key piece to help save the bullpen and the pitching staff with his durability. Jose Veras continued to struggle not able to notch the save while increasing his earned run average to 16.20 in his two appearances.

 Get To Know Your Opposing Pitcher
Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is on the bump for the Pirates a career 30-49 pitcher with a 4.66 earned run average. He’s pitched in 110 games including 109 starts over his seven year career and has a WHIP of 1.50 in his career. Morton pitched game two of the opening series against the Cubs pitching six innings in his debut giving up four hits and no earned runs. He also struck out six cubs and walked one which gives him a .83 WHIP for the season.

Why The Pirates Will Win The Series

As the Cubs saw in the opening series, the Pirates are all about pitching. The Cubs already saw Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez – the first two starters of this series – but they are scheduled to get their first look at Gerrit Cole on Thursday. Cole is fourth in the rotation to start the year, but he definitely profiles as a top of the rotation pitcher with his elite fastball and often-devastating curve/slider that can reach the low 90′s. With Morton and Cole on the mound against a Cubs team that has struggled at the plate so far, I like the Bucs’ chances in those two games.

A player to watch at the plate for the Pirates is Pedro Alvarez. He was quiet in the first three games but woke up against the Cardinals over the weekend. He crushed two homers in his first two AB’s on Friday and took five walks over the rest of the series – a sign that he is seeing the ball well. Pedro is an extremely streaky hitter (when he’s hot, he can destroy baseballs out of stadiums and carry a team…but when he’s cold, he’s a strikeout machine) and it looks like he’s ready for a hot week or so.  ~ Brian (www.raisethejollyroger.com)

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Episode 10 – Should Jose Veras Be Removed As Closer?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

This week’s episode of the show, Joe and Sean covered a number of topics related to the opening week of baseball, including:

  • Lack of Offense – Is this what we can expect? If so, what style baseball would be best for this team to be playing?
  • Jose Veras As The Closer – After his rough two outings, Joe and Sean differ in opinion on where to go from here with him.
  • Overall Pitching A Major Strength - Quality starting pitching and overall great bullpen work.
  • The Starlin Castro / Anthony Rizzo Rebound Week 1 – A look at how each performed.

We also addressed several mailbag tweets we received as well as a few over / under questions to close the show out.

Download the Show (45 min / 10.6 MB)

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

Follow the hosts on Twitter


Show Links

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Surprising Hot Streaks, Playoff Contenders Stumbling & More!

Monday, April 7th, 2014

The MLB season is only about a week old, but we have already hit the ground running with news to catch up on. We’ve milestones (Miguel Cabrera’s 2,000 career hit), historic starts (Emilio Bonifacio’s 8-11 beginning to the season) and even some surprising weather (Oakland having a game rained out for the first time in over a decade).

We’re finally underway, and even though some teams and players haven’t started off the way that we had hoped for, the fact that baseball is back is still more than enough reason to be happy.

Unheralded Players Have Hot Starts

For a player that was brought in during the middle of February, Emilio Bonifacio has certainly turned some heads. Although the Cubs are just 1-4 thus far, Bonifacio has been nothing short of phenomenal.

With 14 hits in 28 at-bats, he has had one of the hottest starts not only of this season, but also in MLB history. It would be unreasonable to expect him to keep up at this pace, but at the very least he should be able to set the table at the top of the order.

He’s not the only surprise player this year, as Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies has stepped up, too. The 27-year old outfielder is currently hitting .600 (12-20) and has been a fine replacement for Dexter Fowler, who was traded to Houston over the winter.

On the American League side of things, the typically offensively challenged Minnesota Twins have had the blessing of Chris Colabello getting hot to start the year. In the first week of the season, he has nearly doubled his career production for runs batted in with 11, and he’s leading the league in the category.

Unexpected Slow Starts For Playoff Contenders

What a difference that one year makes. Coming into last season, the Boston Red Sox were projected by many to finish last in the AL East. As we all know, they wound up putting all of the right pieces together and rallying to win their first Word Series since 2007.

With that, they came riding into this year with a target on their backs. Thus far, they’ve shown a bit of vulnerability, limping out to a 2-4 start. Even with this start, I fully expect them to contend for their division crown, and I wouldn’t dare let this lower my perception of them.

With all of the high-priced talent that the Los Angeles Angels possess they, too, were expected to be front-runners in their division. After missing the playoffs in each season since 2010, it doesn’t appear that the team is on the right track. They, like the Red Sox, are off to a 2-4 and will be looking to get things going next week.

After losing Patrick Corbin for the year, the Diamondbacks were expected to take a bit of a step back, but I don’t think anyone would have expected this start. Including their two games in Australia, the team has been by far the worst in the league, with a 1-7 record. They’ve allowed 16 more runs than any other team, and it doesn’t seem as if they’ll be able to turn it around.

Surprising Division Leaders

On the other side of the coin, there have been a few teams who have exploded out of the gate. Whether it is because of big free agent acquisitions or young players developing, these teams have certainly shocked the baseball world thus far.

The Seattle Mariners are more than likely the least surprising team on this list, given their signing of Robinson Cano, among others. Their 4-1 start has been solid, but the American League-leading 12 runs allowed is even more impressive. If their pitching can stay on top of it’s game, they’ll be able to hang around for quite a while.

Still recovering from Jeffery Loria stripping down their team before last season, the Marlins were again expected to be cellar-dwellers in the NL East. Due to some explosive hitting led by, you guessed it, Giancarlo Stanton, the team has jumped out to a 5-2 start. While it has made a good early-season story, I don’t think they have the talent to handle Atlanta and Washington for a full season.

Closing out the division leaders is another team that was expected to finish near the bottom of the pack, the Milwaukee Brewers. The return of Ryan Braun and stellar starting pitching has guided them this far, but much like the Marlins I’d be shocked if they kept winning just because of the team’s lack of depth.

This Week’s MVP: Emilio Bonifacio – Chicago Cubs (.500/.548/.571, 5 Runs, 4 SB)

This Week’s Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 K)

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Six Things I Learned This Week About The Cubs

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Week one is in the books, and while it didn’t turn out quite the way we would have wanted, there were some things I learned as the week came to a close.

Runs Are Going To Be Hard to Come By Unless We Get Extra Base Hits - The more learning about advanced statistics that I do, which is a never ending quest for me, the more I see the value of power when it comes to scoring runs. Power doesn’t have to equate only to home runs, though those are always nice. Power simply refers to extra base hits. One of the stats I’ve been looking more into over the last week or so is ISO. It stands for isolated power. It’s basically a measurement of how well a player or team can hit extra bases. Fan Graphs has a really nice definition on it on their site. The problem I saw with this team over the first week was the lack of extra base hits. Let’s take a look at the games from this week.

Game # Result # of XBH
1 Loss 1
2 Loss 2
3 Win 2
4 Loss 1
5 Loss 1
6 Win 3

It’s early, but what you can at least see with Sunday was that we had a few more extra base hits and scored a few more runs. It doesn’t have to be home runs, but it has to be doubles and triples at the very least and a bunch of them. This team isn’t built for a lot of power at this point so we’re going to need to do the best we can with what we can do, and that is to hit the gaps and slap triples with our speedy guys.

Jose Veras May Need To Be Demoted – I try very hard not to overreact when a player or a team is struggling, but it’s hard to ignore what we’ve see from Veras to this point. It started in Spring Training when, in nine appearances he posted an ERA of 7.00. It’s easy to exaggerate reliever’s ERA numbers since one bad outing can completely blow up a guy’s ERA, but 12 hits in nine innings of work doesn’t strike fear into a batter’s heart. He wasn’t getting guys out in spring. Week one was no different. His implosion in the 16 inning game on Wednesday that cost the Cubs the win coupled with the complete bed wetting on Sunday is about as low a leverage situation as possible has me worried. In the 10+ years I’ve written about the Cubs, I’ve said it countless times that I am not a fan of paying for free agent relievers. I understand that Veras has a good track record, but I can’t help but see visions of failed relievers we paid for that didn’t quite deliver what we had paid for. At this point it’s probably too early for Rick Renteria to make a big statement and remove Veras for Pedro Strop, but I think this week showed us that move may be closer than we think.

I Need To Start Listening To Sean More Often When It Comes To Player Evaluation – We talked about Ryan Kalish on the podcast quite a few times over the past couple weeks and how he (and Chris Neitzel) both believed he would not only make this team, but that he deserved the spot. I wasn’t much of a believer and politely dismissed the notion. In just nine plate appearances this week that joke proceeded to lead the team in RBI with three and post a .286 / .444 / .714 slash line. His day on Sunday was outstanding and he earned his paycheck this week.

In addition to Kalish, we highly debated the likelihood that Emilio Bonifacio would make this roster out of spring training. Based on the title of this section of the post, you can guess which side I fell on in that argument. What is important to realize is that this was one week and that it’s important not to overreact, but both of these guys were a huge and pleasant surprise for me this week and I learned that maybe I don’t know a whole lot about talent evaluation.

Anthony Rizzo Is Improving Versus Lefties – I was please to see Rizzo get all the starts this week in spite of a couple tough lefties on the mound against the Cubs. Rizzo really struggled last year against the southpaws. For him to be in contention for the top 10 in the MVP ballot that I predicted, that will have to change for him this year. This week showed me that it was possible. While he looked horrible on opening day against Francisco Liriano, striking out three times on sliders away, he really rebounded nicely against Cliff Lee with a pair of singles. Since opening day, he’s looked better against the lefties and I think we’ll see improvement continue as we get him more and more at bats. He’s the future at that position so it’s important to let him learn.

Not Everyone Is Buying What Theo & Jed Are Selling – I had a brief banter on Twitter with a follower on Sunday about his frustration with the team just five games in. Needless to say, he’s not buying that this team will be any good. I politely disagreed and challenged him to favorite my tweet and re-evaluate it at the end of next year. I think at that point, he’ll like his baseball team, assuming that team is still the Cubs.

CAPS Is A Super Fan….of VFTB – This guy was at the game this week and this was the sign he held up. Dude can drop the mic and walk off stage without any words. That sign says it all in so many ways.

Carlos Villanueva pitched better than I would have expected. I tweeted this out before the game.

While I wouldn’t say Villanueva was outstanding, he did what he needed to do considering he was going on short rest after being used twice out of the bullpen this week. The fact that he was able to get out of two jams essentially untouched was amazing to me. He is obviously not a long term starting pitcher option, but the ability to have him in the long relief / swing-man role is valuable and today he did a great job.

We touched earlier on Veras and his implosion this week, but outside of him, the bullpen continues to pitch very well. Strop did come in to relieve Veras and promptly throw a wild pitch, but other than that the bullpen was really good again. It’s a completely different feeling when you can watch a game and in the back of your mind not worry as much that any lead we get will be given right back once we get to the pen. Now we just need to figure out a good way to actually get said lead more often and we’ll be cooking with gas.

Rest!!! Rest for our bullpen. Rest for us as fans and writers. You don’t realize it, but it can be quite burdensome when you have to watch a game and then write about it right after. I savor the off days more than you can imagine. Monday we’ll lay low, enjoy an update on the rest of baseball from Brian this afternoon, record a podcast episode and look forward to a series with the Pirates that features two pitching rematches and our first look at Gerrit Cole this season. Should be fun.

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Emilio Bonifacio Is the Stuff of Legends

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

There is no denying that Emilio Bonifacio is our most exciting hitter right now. He has 13 hits through the first five games of the season. Junior Lake showed some gumption this week, legging out doubles and even wearing the wrong uniform against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Rizzo blasted his first home run of the season, and Travis Wood got to pinch hit in the 16-inning marathon on Wednesday night.

Please tell me that I’m not the only one that is ridiculously excited that Cubs baseball is back. Also, please tell me I’m not the only one who noticed that the Cubs picked up where they left runners on second and third to end the inning. And please tell me I’m not the only one who is… concerned about the RISP problem. Before yesterday’s game, Pat mentioned that the Cubs were 4-for-40 (.100) with RISP so far this year. There is a lot of baseball left, but it is a bit concerning that the RISP problem is so prevalent this early.

In other news, replay is already looking to be a huge time-waster during games that already last for many hours (let’s not forget about extra innings!) and Mike Trout is going to have a phenomenal season… again. It’s so good to have baseball back.

  • Jeff Samardzija had a quality start. It’s nice to see our ace go out there and take care of his responsibilities on the mound. Now we just have to teach him how to hit a la Wood.
  • The bullpen was great. James Russell and Justin Grimm combined to throw a 1 hit effort.
  • The Kids went 0-for-7 with RISP.

Tomorrow the Cubs play the Phillies at 1:20 PM Central on WGN. Hopefully we will be able to pull some offensive flair out of thin air and score some runs against Sandberg’s crew.

 Get To Know Your Opposing Pitcher
AJ Burnett

Yes, it is true that he once blew me a kiss a couple years back. In his debut with the Phillies, he went 7 innings, gave up one run, and got the no-decision. Hopefully the Bonifacio, Lake, and Crew will be able to tag him for a few more runs tomorrow.

He made his Phillies debut Tuesday in Texas, allowing seven hits and one run, with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings. He hopes to build on that as the Phillies play without injured lefty Cole Hamels. ~ MLB.com

Burnett throws four pitches. His main pitches are a four-seam fastball and sinker at 91–94 mph, as well as a knuckle curveball at 80–83. Less frequently, he also throws a changeup to left-handed hitters at 87–89 mph. The curve is especially good for swinging strikes with its 44% whiff rate for Burnett’s career. The changeup has also been good for getting groundouts — it has a ground ball/fly ball ratio of better than 5:1.

Burnett has faced considerable control problems in his career. He has led the major leagues in wild pitches twice and hit batters once. However, Burnett has also been a good strikeout pitcher; he led the American League with 231 strikeouts in 2008. ~ Wikipedia

 

I listen to a lot of country music. Eric Church has made his way to the top of my “most played” list, and I can’t get this tune out of my head.

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Why Are Managers Involved In Replay? How It Should Change

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

As I was watching the game tonight, I couldn’t help but think about how I would change the replay system after watching Rick Renteria chatting with the home plate umpire about if Darwin Barney was hit by a pitch or if it hit the bat. I didn’t time the conversation, but it was at least a few minutes before Renteria walked back to the dugout and gave up the argument. We’re not privy to the conversation or the result, since no one is mic’d up, but my guess is that Renteria was stalling for time to give their replay guy a chance to view the replay. What bothers me is the fact that managers are able to do this.

Brad Ausmus, manager of the Tigers, was interviewed today on Baseball Today with Buster Olney and talked specifically about the fact that he does it. He’ll walk to the mound to stall for time and then look back to the dugout for the thumbs up or thumbs down. That is not a good system. Why the manager is even involved in the process is beyond me. There really needs to be one umpire in the booth somewhere with the ability to buzz down to the crew on the field when he wants to take a look at a play. If he feels like the play was close enough to view, he needs to buzz down and let them know to halt play for 30 seconds or a minute to give him a few extra seconds to review. There is no reason why a manager should have time to stall and then possibly not even want to challenge. MLB has said the system is a work in progress, so we’ll see how they adjust as the year goes on, but I think when all is said and done, the manager’s role in the process will all but be eliminated.

  • Travis Wood, despite a fairly high pitch count early, pitched really well. It was a tough day to pitch with the wind gusting out, but he did a good job. It was interesting to see him mix in a few more curveballs than we’re used to seeing. Last year he used the curveball just under 2% of the time. I’m curious to see if that will be higher this season.
  • Welington Castillo absolutely crushed the home run he hit in the 2nd inning. It was one of the hits that as a fan, I feel comfortable flipping the scorebook and watching it fly. No need to run that baby out.
  • I continue to be baffled by Renteria’s lineup construction. Today, a day after Mike Olt went yard, he sits…with the wind blowing out.
  • On the flip side, I do like the fact that Renteria is willing to leave a reliever out there for more than a batter. I’m not much of a fan of the traditional LOOGY concept so I was happy the other night to see James Russell face a righty and seeing Wesley Wright pitching a good amount of pitches instead of going with someone else.

Get To Know Your Opposing Starting Pitcher
Cliff Lee

Lee certainly hopes to rebound in a big way from Monday’s effort on Opening Day in Texas. He allowed 11 hits, eight runs, one walk and struck out just one in five innings, uncharacteristic for one of the game’s top lefties. ~ MLB.com

Lee’s repertoire includes two fastballs (four-seam, two-seam) that reach 90-93 mph, an 85-88 mph cut fastball, an occasional slider, as well as a circle changeup and a curveball.

Lee usually appears stoic and confident on the mound. It is considered one of his greatest attributes when pitching in pressure situations

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Morning News – The Ricketts Are Selling The Team

Friday, April 4th, 2014

This morning I had an issue in the shower that made me wonder if I was the only person who experiences this. Usually I wash my body first and then wash my hair. Today, I washed my hair first and then my body. However, when I finished washing my body, I had a moment of panic as I couldn’t distinctly remember whether or not I had actually washed my hair. Because I did things out of order, I really didn’t feel good about if I washed my hair. At that point I was faced with a major dilemma. Do I trust that I washed my hair and get out, risking that I didn’t wash? Or, do I wash my hair again and waste time and soap? Am I the only on who has had this issue? Seriously, tell me I’m not. On to the news.

Interesting ownership nuggets were in the news today with two separate stories. First, Tom Ricketts was quoted as saying that the Cubs are comfortable taking legal action should the rooftop owners bring a lawsuit against them for blocking their view. It’s clear that this thing appears headed to court and appears headed for a dramatic showdown. Ultimately, I don’t see how the rooftop owners win. They can’t afford the legal expenses and will probably end things accepting a buyout of some kind. It’s just a little discouraging that it may have to come down to the two sides parting ways in a less than amicable way.

Also in the news is the note that the Ricketts family are considering selling minority shares in the ownership of the team in order to finance the renovation project. This one confuses me a little. They seem to have the money to eat the cost once the scoreboard is up and running the ads, so why sell equity in the team?

  • I have to admit, I didn’t expect much from Jason Hammel, but he looked really strong today. Overall, the pitching has been really really good. It makes me feel good that I actually look to have predicted something correct. There is an overall perception that Hammel is this year’s Scott Feldman, and that he’ll be gone by the trade deadline if he shows enough to make himself appealing. I’m OK with that, but if we’re going to do it, I want to do it like we did last year and move him late May or early June when the market is thin.
  • Pedro Strop got the save in the game, though my guess is that was a product of the fact that Jose Veras pitched way too much last night to be available. He did a great job after allowing a leadoff single to Neal Walker. The only issue was a collision between him and John Baker that could have turned really bad. I will continue to say it until we see it. Strop needs to be the closer.
  • Junior Lake wore the wrong uniform for the first inning.

It’s nice to get a win to avoid the sweep and go into Friday with a little momentum after two heartbreaking losses.

Opening day at Wrigley field, which means all the pomp and circumstance associated with Monday gets repeated, this time in the brutal cold. It appears that the rain will hold off enough to get the game in without delay, but it is certainly not where I’d want to be watching the game. As for me, I’ll be watching in my pajamas on Friday night on the DVR.

Get To Know Your Opposing Starting Pitcher
Roberto Hernandez

He was a regular part of the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation for six years under the name of Fausto Carmona, which he had used to obtain a visa to pitch in the United States. After his true name and age were revealed (he had claimed to be three years younger than he is), he missed much of the 2012 season due to lack of a valid visa, followed by a suspension from MLB for identity fraud. He returned as a regular starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013.

He is known for his hard sinker and exhibiting good control of his pitches. He did not throw exceptionally hard when he debuted in the minor leagues at age 21, but has since developed a fastball that can reach 97 mph. He also throws a slider and a changeup, but relies mostly on his hard sinker to get many ground ball outs. ~ Wikipedia

The Phillies signed Hernandez with the hopes he can enjoy more success leaving the American League for the more pitcher-friendly National League. Results were mixed in Spring Training, but the Phillies hope he can just be consistent. ~ MLB.com

Why the Phillies Will Win the Series

“The Phillies have the clear starting pitching advantage in the last two games of the series with Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett opposing Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Villanueva. The wild card is the first game, with Roberto Hernandez opposing Travis Wood. Winning the first game should guarantee at least 2 of 3 for the Phillies.” ~ Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley

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GirlieView (04/03/2014)

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Without even realizing it I forgot to wrap up the offseason Lizzie standings so we can start fresh this time around since (YAY!) we are now officially in season! Nevertheless we are starting fresh today, and I’ll also include the final standings from the offseason. Let’s get to it!

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

  • Joe’s new cartoonist is lights-out.
  • Yea, but it’s kind of creepy real looking. That could be an actual person.
  • I love baseball and love going to the live games, but I like to keep that event as special.
  • Being at a live game is a great experience, but I think it would lose it’s lustre for me if I was constantly at the ballpark. That along with the fact that it might get a little expensive commuting to Chicago from Toronto for every Cubs homegame (although there are several flights a day to Midway).
  • with career and family commitments, I envy anyone who can attend that many games a week nowadays.
  • A pseudonym? where ever did you get the idea?
  • ? Lollypops on Lizzie ?
  • BAT SPEED OF THE GODS.
  • So, even though I’ve stated that Baez is already my favorite player, I’m more than happy to wait to see him at Clark and Addison for all the reasons I’ve discussed above. I think it will be worth the wait.
  • I have never heard of staying in the minors being detrimental to player development when the player is this young, however here are scads of players whose development was stunted due to being rushed to the Majors.
  • Recent reports have the field clear of snow, and the troughs down to 4″ of frozen urine.
  • I routinely express my disappointment for my boyfriend, Josh Vitters, and his demotion on the podcast.
  • It is what it is.
  • The Romance is Gone….It’s a Whores Game Now
  • A whole day with that headline and nobody mentioned Cindy Sandberg?
  • It is what it is.
  • It was like a good sitcom, the cast would just keep returning season after season, playing their role and occasionally a newcomer would be added or a bit player dropped, but the core was always there.
  • Somewhere between the stitches there is a certain amount of theater and a certain amount of honesty that gets played out for the public.
  • Will all of the Cubs’ prospects make it? No. Has there ever been a time in baseball history where prospect rankings indicate success as strongly as they do today? No.
  • How Renteria handles these playing-time issues will be a huge test for the first-year manager. If he pulls this off, we may have found ourselves a keeper.
  • Lizzie was nerding out on primes when I was learning my times tables…
  • One other thing, to quote George Washington: “There’s no such thing as a necessary evil. If it’s evil, it’s not necessary.”
  • Beef appears to be having some Johnson issues of his own.
  • Somehow, the MLB quietly agreed to a system that will enforce performance-enhancing drugs better than any of the four major sports leagues.
  • Plus, poor Welington Castillo had the hardest ball hit all day by a Cub, too bad he was playing defense.
  • On the bright side of things we are only 1 game out of first, we are still in contention just as I predicted.
  • My guess is that you haven’t read the post.
  • Is that required?
  • Those graphs of odds of winning over a game kill me. The amount of games the cubs lost last year when they were above 90% was ridiculous.
  • Player Who Will Look Most Improved Despite Changing Nothing
  • I think that how this list of players performs this season will greatly affect whether the window of contention can possibly open next season, or if we’re waiting until 2016: Castro, Rizzo, Olt, Castillo, Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, young bullpen arms.
  • Jackson will only suck a little bit.
  • I found this pretty, pink logo so I have to use it now.
  • You can tell baseball season has started because Joe is in such a good mood. Great piece.
  • I like my hotdog between two buns.
  • And again we ask “Where are the Johnsons”
  • Joe- don’t confuse ‘Fans really like spring training’ as ‘fans really like spring training baseball’.
  • Maybe next year the VFTB crowd should all meet in PHX for some spring training fun and a nice dinner at Don and Charlies.
  • So, next time you youngsters out there in your 20s and 30s start griping about the current state of the Cubs, take a look back at this inept squad that a young boy attached his hopes and dreams to.

Lizard

  • I gave serious consideration to editing Lizzies comment to just read “I enjoy a good hard Johnson” and deleting the rest. I refrained, but boy was it hard. (insert rim shot here)

Shout Outs

Well since we’re starting fresh this time, everyone who got a Lizzie got their first 2014 Season Lizzie! Big shout outs to Brian Rzeppa, Chet West, Chris Neitzel, Chuck, Darlin_Starlin, Doc Raker, Doug S., Eddie von White, Joe Aiello, jswanson, LVCubFan, Mark from Toronto, Noah Eisner, Ryno, Sean Powell, Seymour Butts. And everyone else who commented or even just lurked around!

MVL

Congratulations to Joe Aiello and Seymour Butts, our co-Most Valuable Lizzie-ers this time! Thanks for all the laughs!

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

1. Joe Aiello
1. Seymour Butts
3. jswanson
4. Chet West
4. Doc Raker
4. Sean Powell
5. Chris Neitzel
5. Eddie Von White
5. LVCubFan
5. Noah Eisner

Final 2013/2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Doc Raker
3. Seymour Butts
4. Eddie von White
5. Sean Powell
6. Joe Aiello
7. Doug S
8. Noah
9. Jerry in Wisconsin
10. Chet West
11. Jedi Johnson
12. Chuck
13. cap’n obvious
14. Bryan
15. Buddy
15. Katie
15. Tom C
17. Sherm
18. Chris Neitzel
18. Dusty Baylor
19. Bill Fell
19. Bones
19. Jeremiah Johnson
19. John Winger
19. L lips es
19. LVCubFan
19. Mark From Toronto
19. Rob Willer
19. Still not Dave

Chit Chat

A little addition to our season ticket discussion from last time … as I am writing this (Wednesday evening an hour+ into the game broadcast) they are still offering a “limited amount of game day tickets available” for Friday and our nephew-in-law who did take the plunge this year can’t get rid of his opening day tickets at face value on Stub Hub. It kind of makes me sad, but is not surprising to me. I wish for clear skies, clear views from the bleachers, and a clear win on Opening Day for our Cubs and especially for those of you who will be attending!

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Morning News – Do You Want To See My Donut Hole?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

  • Cubs Donut For Sale – The Cubs have announced that Dunkin Donuts is participating with the Cubs to create a donut to be sold for charity from now until April 9. If you’re curious about what it looks like, Carrie Muskat posted a picture on her blog. I am a Dunkin Donuts guy in a place that obsesses over Krispy Kreme, so I think this one looks really good. There is just something that gets me excited when I hear the words “blue drizzle”.
  • (Former) Cubs Prospect Gets Paid – The Tampa Bay Rays announced a press conference for Tuesday at 12pm. No other details were given, but when all was said and done, former Cubs top prospect, Chris Archer got himself a contract extension valued around $25 million total over six years. If you aren’t familiar with Archer, he went to high school about 6 minutes from my house and was traded to Tampa in a deal back in January of 2011. The trade was: Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to the Rays for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup. So far it appears that the Rays may have gotten the better of that deal, but then again that may not be the case when we factor in the production we got from Garza and the players we received in return when he was dealt. It still remains to be seen, but I’d probably make that trade again in hindsight.
  • Where Should I Sit? – Have you ever wondered what the best section would be to sit in when you go to a game at Wrigley? Don’t worry, the Chicago Tribune has you covered with a quick gallery of some of the best seats in the house.
  • Prospect Nuggets to Get Your Seeds Hot – Two highly respected sites came out with a couple of nice posts about various farm systems in baseball. Seeing that our system is now filled with guys that have us anxiously wanting to pull pages off our day by calendar by the handful, I figured these posts may get you excited. Baseball America has a post (Subscription Required) about organization talent rankings by organization and has the Cubs ranked # 4 overall. Fangraphs.com also did an interesting piece projecting the top 50 prospects based on projected WAR. This basically means a look at guys who are essentially ready to make an impact of some sort at the Major League level. Javier Baez came in ranked 13th with a 1.8 WAR projection.

Is there anything you enjoy more than a four and a half hour game of baseball? Of course….A six hour game. Do you sense my sarcasm? What is it about blogging that makes you jaded toward things? Let’s get right to the game notes.

  • I’m still a little confused about the lineups. I thought maybe it was just because we were facing a tough lefty on opening day, but the lineup in game two continued to confuse me. I don’t understand why Starlin Castro is hitting in the 3rd spot in the order. It doesn’t make sense. He’s not ready for that role yet. In fact, it was even more confusing when he was given the 3-0 green light in the 12th. It just doesn’t make sense.
  • Emilio Bonifacio needs to know how sorry I have for having said anything bad about him when we signed him. I didn’t mean it, man. It was all about ratings. Hopefully he understands.
  • Here is my feeling on a home plate umpire issuing a warning to both benches when someone is hit by a pitch. I’ll try to be as simple to understand as possible. “Stay the heck out of the ballgame and just call balls and strikes!!!!” Bob Davidson did not have a good night behind the plate (we’ll get to that in just a little bit), but why he felt the need to warn the benches after Anthony Rizzo was hit shortly after Starling Marte was hit is beyond me. It was fairly clear that neither was intentional. In fact, the only HBP that appeared somewhat intentional was later in the game when Rizzo was hit again with 1st base open in the top of the 8th. Bosio argued that Mark Melancon should have been ejected, but Davidson had to continue his consecutive streak of innings being a moron.
  • I am telling you, I really like this bullpen and what it’s made up of. I understand that we lost and it was partly to blame on the pen tonight, but we’ve got a ton of power arms in the pen. This pen will be top 5 in the NL when all is said and done. Can it happen any other way when Jesus is a member of your bullpen? Oh wait, we have Jose Veras. Scratch that. Honestly, I’ve seen enough already of him and I want Pedro Strop in there as the closer.

Grading the Umpire – Bob Davidson

This guy was awful all night, especially on the outside part of the plate to lefties / inside to righties. At one point in the 9th he called one a strike on Bonifacio that was so far outside it was humorous. His overall correct call rate for the night was a below average 85.8, but it felt a lot worse. Here is his correct call rate by zone.

We close out the series today with a look at Wandy Rodriguez. You might remember him from such teams as the Houston Astros. He’s not quite the pitcher he was in short stints a few years ago. Let’s see what the scouting report is on him.

The lefty’s convincing comeback from forearm tendinitis takes to the main stage, as he makes his first start since June 5. Rodriguez isn’t quite all the way back to his pre-injury form, but kept getting stronger with each spring outing. – MLB.com

OK, so hey, maybe we can actually score a run against the Pirates starters for once.

When he was scouted by the Astros in 1998, Rodriguez falsely stated his name was Eny Cabreja and that he was only 17 years old. He had convinced a friend to let him borrow his identity. The real Cabreja was born on August 18, 1981, while Wandy was born on January 18, 1979. Wandy lived under the name Eny Cabreja until 2002, when he admitted to the Astros that he was in fact Wandy Fulton Rodriguez and that he was not really 21 years of age but 23. – Wikipedia

I’m now dumber having read that.

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