Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stats, Statistics, And More Damn Lies!

I've finally decided to do a number crunching thing, not my forte mind you, to answer the pin heads out there that point to Soriano performing so much better out of the leadoff spot than further down in the order.

Since Soriano's career numbers are heavily skewed by the preponderance of stats accumulated batting leadoff, his numbers vary only slightly batting in a different part of the order. What I'd like to point out however, is his effectiveness to the teams total offensive production, or the total runs the team scores when Soriano hits in different spots in the lineup.

Soriano's greatest number of plate appearances other than leadoff come from the 5 hole in the order.

2227PA, 138DB, 9TP, 121HR, 281RBI, 117SB, 38CS

5 Hole
618PA, 37DB, 3TP, 34HR, 107RBI, 31SB, 3CS

When we look at Soriano's effectiveness hitting from these two positions in the lineup, we see some alarming variables.

As a leadoff man Soriano gets an extra base hit 12% of the time.
Out of the 5 hole he gets an extra base hit 11.9% of the time.

As a leadoff man Soriano attempts a stolen base 6.9% of the time and is caught stealing 24.5% of the time.
Out of the 5 hole he attempts a stolen base 5.5% of the time and is caught stealing a base 8.8% of the time.

As a leadoff man Soriano hits a HR 5.4% of the time.
Out of the 5 hole he hits a HR 5.5% of the time.

As a leadoff man Soriano has an RBI 12.6% of the time.
Out of the 5 hole he has an RBI 17.3% of the time.

There are two interesting facts to point out when looking over these numbers.

One, Soriano creates an out at a rate of almost 3 times the frequency attempting a steal when batting leadoff compared to hitting in the 5 hole. Negatively effecting the heart of the order's ability to score runs.

Two, Soriano drives in a run 37% more frequently out of the 5 hole in the order than he does hitting leadoff. Positively effecting the heart of the order's ability to score runs.

Throw in 150+ strikeouts and suspect defense in CF, and the team suffers mightily from the misuse of this wonderfully gifted athlete.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I would just like to pose to your dear fans the game of "Russian Roulette" Piniella is playing with his lineup. Now don't get me wrong, Piniella is saying all the right things, but his roster and projected starting lineup looks to fly in the face of some of them.

You all understand the game of "Russian Roulette', where you gamble your life that the squeeze of the trigger has only a one in six chance of making it a bad day.

Well when Piniella dictates that his pitchers throw more strikes, the usual outcome is that more balls are put in play. Now with an outfield that should be wearing hard hats, it's like adding another round into one of the empty chambers.

We've often witnessed that come crunch time, the ball always seems to find the weak link in the field. The Cubs can help themselves out in this situation by fielding the best defensive team possible. After all, didn't Piniella proclaim that if you can't catch the ball you won't play?

There are two things that never go in a slump during the season and they are speed and defense. The Cubs are presently configured to be suspect in both of these areas. The question is why? Speed and defensive help were in camp this spring training and it's not like the players that exhibited these traits underperformed.

The game of baseball is a zero sum game. The team with the most runs wins. The fewer runs you give up, (pitching and defense) the fewer runs you need to score.

It is certainly a legitimate question to ask, just how stellar the Cubs rotation will be this year. So it seems more imperative the Cubs field their best defensive team.

Pie did nothing but have an excellent spring at the plate, the one concern of Cubs management, and would solidify the suspect outfield defense.

The Riot also piggy backed this springs numbers on an excellent last month or so from last year, showing he understands the importance of knowing how to get on base.

Both Pie and The Riot bring an element of speed to the team that's only real base stealing threat is Soriano.

How many HR's are the Cubs going to half to hit to make up for a suspect defense and turtles running the bases?

The issue that has seemed to force Piniella's hand with his lineup was the offseason signing of Floyd. That isn't what the Cubs needed for another LH hitter, an American League DH. Instead they could've got Lofton or even Finely for goodness sake. That way you'd have a little defense, speed and plate discipline from your backup outfielder.

The Cubs roster has plenty of mashers already on it with Soriano, Lee, A-Ram, Jones and Barrett. They could easily afford to play Pie and The Riot everyday to help the team with it's speed and defense.

My suggestion would be to option Ward and have Floyd take his spot as the number one hitter off the bench. Bring up Pie to play CF. Platoon Jones and Murton in LF, all you Murton fans relax please and have The Riot as your leadoff man at 2B. Murton and Jones could alternate in the 2 hole in the lineup and slide Soriano down to at least 4th in the order. DeRosa looks to bring more defensive versatility than The Riot and has demonstrated he can perform well in the super sub role.

A fact that is often overlooked on last year's Cardinals team success in the playoffs was, they were the best defensive team of the eight that were in the playoffs.

Lollygagger Girl Kerry's, 2007 Chicago Cubs Starting Lineup!

The Riot 2B
Murton/Jones LF
Lee 1B
A-Ram 3B
Soriano RF
Barrett C
Pie CF
Izturis SS

A lineup with plenty of power, above average OBP and speed in the leadoff spot, with better overall team speed and defense.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Final Countdown!

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until "Sweet Lou", makes the change. The Riot belongs in the leadoff spot, not Soriano.

Through Sunday, and with just a week 'till opening day, the numbers are becoming more and more evident that what's in the best interest of the team is to have Soriano moved down in the order. I've detailed numerous times apart from this spring performances, why it's in the Cubs best interests so I'll just give you the facts on their performances this spring and let you make up your own mind.

57AB, 16H, 2DB, 1TR, 3HR, 4RBI, 15K, 3BB, 3SB, 1CS, 281BA, 328OBP

The Riot
56AB, 21H, 5DB, 3TR, 0HR, 5RBI, 5K, 5BB, 5SB, 0CS, 375BA, 435OBP

Pretty amazing? Well considering Soriano's career OBP is below 330, it's not a big shocker.

With all the pontificating about the importance of being selective at the plate going on with the new hitting coach Perry, and the big man Piniella, you have to ask yourself WTF?

If all this talk about how glorious it would be to see all these fastballs hitting in the 2 hole between Soriano and Lee makes any sense. How much would our swing happy Soriano benefit from having one of the better OBP hitters with speed on in front of him, with Lee immediately following?

We're not splitting the atom here kids, this is as obvious as the Cubs 99 year drought since a World Championship.

Is this really what we want to see 150 times from our leadoff man?

Friday, March 23, 2007

85 to 93

Well it looks as though the kid is alright, health wise that is. No pitcher goes from throwing 85 mph in one start, then follows it up with 93 mph in the next one if he's hurt. It seems that Mark Prior yesterday finally has had enough. Like the kid in grade school that just is teased unmercifully, Prior has finally remembered he's got a "Y" chromosome and, isn't going to take it anymore.

Actually I believe Prior hasn't been as motivated by words in the press as by his own dissatisfaction of what's transpired this spring. Sometimes life's changes good or bad, can come at you pretty damn fast and when your career path had done nothing but go in a straight line UP, most people have trouble adjusting. It's certainly true that many of Prior's injuries, although not of the magnitude of his teammate's Kerry Wood, have been legitimate. The collision with Marcus Giles in 2003 probably separated or came close to separating Prior's shoulder. The line drive off the bat of Brad Hawpe that hit Prior flush in the elbow was no make believe injury either.

The point is, Prior may very well be a little bit of a head case, he does hail from California not Texas after all, but he also was definitely abused like Wood, by "In Dusty We Trusty," makes you just want to hurl doesn't it. Prior's had every doctor from Dr Frank Jobe to Dr Joyce Brothers, give him a clean bill of health and it just looks like Prior has had a hard time believing it.

Prior's performance yesterday showed us and him two very important things. One, is that potential when unrealized can be spelled with FOUR letters and they're not STUD. Two, is that the shoulder is really healthy.

Prior may never be a damn the torpedo's and full steam ahead type of guy, but there is no doubt that healthy, he can DOMINATE!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Cold Hard Facts!

It's becoming apparent that Piniella is finally starting to see the true MO of his band of merry men this spring.

First, the offense is powerful, but the ugly scenario of having men in scoring position with less than two outs and not putting any runs on the board, is still a concern.

Second, the pitching staff has been mandated to throw strikes and so far the Cubs have actually taken more walks than they've given up.

Third, the defense with the reported projected lineup, is starting to show it's true colors. When the best defensive outfielder Jones, appears to be the one most likely traded, you know their is a problem.

Piniella has made it known that spring training isn't band camp. It's the time for a team that is overcrowded with talent for a number of positions, to step up and show you belong here. At this stage of spring training Piniella has to do more than just talk the talk, he has to walk the walk and field the best 25 man team possible.

Piniella has, much to my delight, been holding players feet to the fire and letting it be known in the press what he expects and demands from his team. His most recent comments illustrate just what a departure his tenure as manager will be from his predecessor's. Yesterday when he was asked what he saw in Neal Cotts? Piniella said, "I see he gives up runs every time he pitches." Priceless stuff I tell you.

Now Piniella has to actually back up his statements and walk the walk. If Prior can be shipped down to the minors to work out whatever it is he has to work out. Then Piniella has to do the same with the everyday roster. If defense is a problem then fix it. If we need more situational hitting, then fix it. There are players in camp that can do the job, if Piniella will back up his statements.

Say what you want about trading for Neal Cotts and signing Mark DeRosa. But it is becoming abundantly clear that they are not living up to expectations. Neither of them has a bigger contract than Mark Prior. If Prior can be sent to the minors, so can Cotts. The Riot is continuing to show that his speed and plate discipline will serve the Cubs best as an everyday player. DeRosa needs to assume his super-sub role, damn the contract. It won't be as bad a misuse of payroll as the $9 million three headed 2B of the past. That team wasn't close to being a contender, this one is.

The same goes for the porous outfield. If Piniella is willing to toy with the idea of Jones in the 2 hole when Floyd is in the lineup, why not Pie. Felix has already shown he has made strides in being more disciplined at the plate. If fastballs would be good for Jones in front of Lee and following Soriano, just think what the speedster Pie could do batting out of the 2 hole. Not to mention the defense he'll provide to make the outfield at least respectable.

If the Cubs have to trade Jones, then trade him. If DeRosa has to play super-sub, so be it. The speed and defense of Pie and The Riot, not to mention what appears to be superior plate discipline, just can't be ignored.

It's time to walk the walk Piniella. That's the cold hard fact of the matter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Point Further Illustrated!

To carry forward the previous posts position, let me try and explain it with the help of some visual aides.

Would you think this is the best use of Elisha Cuthbert aka Kim Bauer, incredibly gifted physical talents,

or this?

Case closed!

Updated Mission From God!

As the Cubs move to make their first cuts of spring training, I'd like to show a couple of stat lines at this midway point.

Ryan Theriot aka The Riot
29AB 2DBL 1TRP 0HR 15TB 5RS 1RBI 3BB 2K 1SB 0CS 455OBP 379BA

Alfonso Soriano aka The Fonz
27AB 2DBL 0TRP 1HR 12TB 3RS 2RBI 1BB 6K 2SB 1CS 286OBP 259BA

It's a small sample I understand, but if The Riot continues with a stat line anywhere near this when camp breaks, how does he not when piggybacking these numbers on last year's, make the most sense to start at 2B and bat leadoff?

DeRosa is slow and has demonstrated the versatility to play multiple positions, a key to being an effective utility player.

Soriano has a career OBP under 330, a big negative out of the leadoff spot.

Soriano has already gone on record that he is willing to play and hit anywhere Piniella thinks he'll be the most effective. The jury is still out on his ability to handle CF, but it doesn't look like he'd have any chance to win the CF job if the Cubs didn't have a surplus of outfielders that would be beating down Piniella's door for playing time.

Yes it's a valuable asset to have a strong bench with quality players, but not at the risk of undermining the effectiveness of the lineup and weakening the defense.

Soriano batting leadoff and playing CF does both! If it means playing Jones, a proven CF'er until he's traded, and pissing off Floyd because he won't get enough AB's, who gives a shit? How in the hell can't Soriano be more productive hitting fourth than leadoff? Speed for a power hitter is just a bonus, not a criteria for hitting leadoff. Soriano's power and strikeouts dictate he hit in the middle of the order, where he would see better pitches to hit with A-Ram protecting him in the 5th. spot, than he would with a 2 hitter following him batting leadoff.

The leadoff spot belongs to a player like The Riot. He's showing he has enough speed and discipline at the plate to be a better option at leadoff than anyone else on the team, and it's not like he's replacing a gold glove, stud hitter with a huge contract at 2B.

It's a "NO BRAINER," Piniella! Get over your man crush on Soriano and do the right thing already, will ya?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Performance Evaluations!

We've all had them. That wonderful time at work where our employer now has to pony up with a raise for job well done. Of course in the world of MLB, we're sometimes left scratching our head, wondering he makes WHAT? For HOW many years?

In the everyday world of us mere mortals, most of our ceilings don't even rise above the basement, let alone reach the floor of the pay scale as professional ball players. Not to mention, they actually get to play a game for a living. Damn, if my father had only been 6'5" instead of 5'6", I'd have been of Hall Of Famer! lol

However, in the brave new world of Uncle Lou Piniella, it seems that many of the players in spring training will be faced with the ramifications of some ugly performance evaluations. This has all been made possible by changes in the Cubs front office that have resulted in a plethora of talent brought in to try and fix the 20+ years of neglect by the Cubs absentee owner, The Tribune Co.

So when March 20 rolls around, the Boss will call each player into his office. It is imperative that Piniella, regardless of a player's pedigree or contract, to not only swing the axe to cut the dead weight, but possibly more important, reward those that have shown they are deserving of a starting spot in the rotation or as an everyday player.

The youth on the ball club is starting to strut it's stuff. Piniella has to demonstrate his baseball pedigree, by damning the torpedo's and full steam ahead. He has no reason at age 63, to care about appearances or what anyone else thinks. All of the planets are properly aligned, as Piniella has zero history with his players and the front office's proclamation to "Just Win Baby", has given Piniella the opportunity send the message, "without exceptions, your playing time will be dictated by how you perform between the white lines."

It would be as refreshing a sign for all of us Cub fans, as the first sun kissed day of spring, to see our team actually have the best 25 men they could possibly have in the clubhouse come opening day. Who can say if the Cubs have enough talent to win it all, but to see the best players we have, used by a manager that actually understands how to manage a game, would be good enough for me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I'm On A Mission From God!

I've decided to get out front on the issue of our new leadoff man, The Fonz! I don't support him batting leadoff, not now, not ever.

We have a little history on Soriano, so let's look into it.

Soriano in 2006 had 46HR, 41DB, 41SB, 17CS, 160K and 95 RBI. Can you tell me why a player with 87 extra base hits should bat leadoff? How is that using his ability to best serve the team? It's not, pure and simple. When you have 87 extra base hits and only 95 RBI's, you start to see the fallacy in this scenario.

Oh but you say, he stole 41 bases and we don't have a proven leadoff hitter. Well when you're CS 17 times, you've taken yourself off the base paths 41% of the time when you attempt a steal. Do you think those 17 outs cost the team more runs than the 41 extra bases contributed to scoring runs? There is no doubt that the outs were more damaging.

Since baseball is a zero sum game where runs scored and runs allowed both have equal weight when you want to chalk up a game in the win column, let me put it to you this way.

If Soriano had the top of the order up in front of each of his AB's, do you think the team would score more runs than if he has the bottom of the order up in front of each of his AB's.

If Soriano is caught stealing with the heart of the order following him, do you think the team would score as many runs if he didn't steal a base at all?

The answer is quite clear. Soriano can generate more runs for the team batting in the middle of the order than his legs would provide at the top of the order.

If Soriano hit between Lee and A-Ram for example, he'd have protection following him in the order to make sure opposing pitchers have to pitch to him. Soriano doesn't have that protection with the 2 hitter following him in the order.

Any two hitters the Cubs have that have a high OBP, it doesn't matter if it's Murton and Barrett, they will give the Cubs their best opportunity to score the most runs. They both have the two best and above average OBP's with excellent bat control, who cares if they can steal a base. You can't steal first base and the team isn't sacrificing a monster run producer in the leadoff spot. It's a no brainer, the Cubs would have significantly more run scoring opportunities with those two at the top and Soriano's big bat following them then the other way around.

Let me give you another one of the most common occurrences in the NL. Punch and Judy are usually bringing up the rear of the lineup with the pitcher to follow. When either of those hitters get on base in front of the pitcher, what happens? The pitcher bunts that man to second base, that's what. Now we have Soriano coming to the plate with first base open and the 2 hitter on deck. Do you think the opposing pitcher is going to pitch to Soriano or walk him?

Baseball is the same today as it was when I played. At Oklahoma State, the emphasis was always put on being patient at the plate and learning how to hit defensively if you got behind early in the count early. That's the way I was taught and the way I coached in HS as well, and it is a key fundamental of any high run scoring team. The players that were the most disciplined at the plate, unless they had prodigious power, hit at the top of the order, period. It's no different today in the majors. Sure you need some power hitters but many teams have power hitters and don't have a good runs scored total. When you look at teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who lead the league or are in the top 5 in OBP year after year, you see the value of giving your team the best opportunity to score as many runs as possible when the run producers are at the plate.

This is a leadoff man.

This is not.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Upside Down Show!

Overheard from a White Sox fan at yesterday's Cubs/Sox game at HoHoKam Park, "Maybe if you spend another $100M the Cubs might be 500."

Unfortunately I wasn't there to deliver a right cross to this lame's jaw but what he said was just what I would've said if the shoe was on the other foot.

Piniella sees the same thing that all of us do, with few exceptions the Cubs are just Lollygagging their way around in these games.

Thankfully we seem to have a manager that isn't going to stand for it and heads will start to roll, maybe even before Piniella's foot finds a players ass.

The White Sox bring three starters to the game, against the Cubs mighty revamped lineup that has a starter at every position but catcher, and pound out 5 HR's and score 13 runs? WTF!

The Cubs exhibited in true Dusty fashion yet again, the lack of ability to understand the game situation. The first inning says it all.

Soriano swings at first pitch and hits a double, Juan Pierre with power but clueless with a glove so far in CF. Mind my words, he won't go 3/3 everyday and his lack of OBP is going to hurt this team, just like Pierre did. Any idiot can see the his offensive skills are wasted in the leadoff spot. No matter how many bases Soriano steals, and if memory serves me correctly, Soriano didn't have as many steals as Pierre last year, did Pierre help the team in the leadoff spot?

Murton does his job at the top of the order and should be a poster boy for every hitter on the team. However Murton, will most likely suffer the most by being the number one guy asked to sit so Floyd can get his AB's. Insane I tell you, INSANE!

D. Lee gives a valiant effort after getting behind early in the count to eventually work it full before striking out. Like Murton, Lee seems to have understood the game situation where the Cubs had a terrific opportunity to rough up a stud starter from the White Sox and put a big crooked number up.

A-Ram, the next object of our desire or is it Ire, swings at the first pitch, then almost falls flat on his face doing his best "Charlie Hustle" imitation 358' to early, and hits into a double play.

I know it's only spring training and many of these players are going to be on the bus tour soon, but Piniella needs to take a long hard look at his lineup and understand that having two hitters at the top of the order that are tough outs and can extend the opposition's pitcher, are vital components of having an effective offense. You have to look back no further than 2003 with Lofton and Grudzelianek at the top of the order, to see how successful two tough outs can be in the 1 and 2 hole.

The Riot should be given a chance to not only earn the 2B job, but the leadoff spot as well. If spring training is the time to find out who can do what and help the team the best, why isn't that happening?

PS Has DeRosa even been on base yet?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Medical Concerns!

Well the bloom is certainly off the rose now. It seems that this is definitely going to be an entertaining year with Pinella at the helm. If that translates into a significant increase in the win column is the burning question.

The Good: Marquis threw 14 out of 20 pitches for strikes and didn't walk anybody.

The Bad: He's not fooling anybody either.

The Good: The Cubs staff yielded only one walk.

The Bad: They only had one strikeout.

The Good: The regulars played credible defense.

The Bad: Ronny Cedeneo and Scott Moore should be bagging groceries instead of playing baseball.

The Good: Piniella is calling a spade a spade and doesn't mind saying so publicly.

The Bad: At age 63, he will most likely need to start or increase his blood pressure medication.

All in all a very forgettable day between the white lines in Mesa except for Piniella asking if the Cubs have a PPO or HMO plan.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Wood's New Approach!

Kerry Wood has gone through quite a metamorphosis since his decision to move into the bullpen. He has undertaken an extensive off season training program and worked tirelessly on rehabbing his shoulder to make sure he's in the best physical condition possible. However, Wood insists it's his new mental approach that what will make him a dominant force again.

Wood states that using the positive visual imagery of firing each pitch in the ear hole of Albert Pujols, has been the key.