Monday, April 30, 2007
The Cubs have to get the free swinging Soriano out of the top of the order and get anybody that understands that when you bat one or two in the order, your main job is to get on base, anyway you can, period! Top of the order guys usually have good speed but they also have good plate discipline, which results in a high OBP.
Let me use the example of another power hitting left fielder to illustrate my point. If the Cubs had Adam Dunn in left field instead of Soriano, it would probably be a wash in the power department and strikeouts. Soriano has tons of speed but Dunn is a plow horse. However, Soriano has an OBP of 301 and Dunn has a OBP of 363.
Now you certainly wouldn't put Dunn in the leadoff spot just because he has an excellent OBP and the Cubs shouldn't put Soriano in the leadoff spot just because he has speed.
Of course I said most everybody, and I'm specifically referring to The Fonz, as being the exception.
So I have a few questions for you.
Does anyone think Soriano is an effective leadoff man?
A leadoff man's primary responsibility is to get on base, correct? Steal bases second, correct? Hitting home runs, is kind of down the list on requirements, correct?
Do you think that the primary reason Soriano was obtained this offseason was because of his speed or power?
If it was his speed, he's not using it much as his 301 OBP is lower than any other regular other than Izturis.
Soriano's career numbers shows he will steal bases and hit for power to be sure, but they also show his OBP is around 320.
So again I ask you, did the Cubs acquire Soriano primarily for his speed or power?
Piniella has to evaluate Soriano just like everybody else. The Riot has shown he can do the job at leadoff and we have Murton, DeRosa and even Barrett for goodness sake that have solid OBP and can do a credible job in the two hole. Who knows, a move of Soriano to a run producing spot in the order might even take a little pressure off him and get his bat going.
The Cubs would then have a devasting 3,4 5 punch with Soriano following Lee and Ramirez.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I've been saying this forever, but Piniella has to start looking at the long term ramifications of his lineup, even if Hendry didn't. It's early in the season, but it is becoming more apparent day in and day out, that the vaunted offensive Juggernaut is not all it's cracked up to be. The best offensive performers so far are Lee and Ramirez, and they were here last year. The problem, as it's always been, is having anybody on base in front of them.
Piniella has to forget this fantasy that Soriano is a lead off man and put him down in the order where he can do some real damage. Soriano's speed is just an extra asset to his game, not the key part of it.
The Riot has more than enough speed to lead off, not to mention a decent OBP and keen eye at the plate.
What the Cubs need in their lineup is more speed and better defense. Why? Because speed and defense never go in a slump.
With Soriano in the 5 hole in the lineup, imagine the fear the Cubs would strike in opposing pitchers hearts. The Riot and Murton at the top of the order puts the two highest OBP hitters in the lineup where they belong, in front of the Mashers.
The three kids, Murton, Pie and The Riot, have to be given an opportunity to play most everyday, regardless who's kicking and screaming for playing time. It's not like the team is going gangbusters with the veterans anyway.
Let the kids play their way out of a starting job. They just have to much potential to sit around and platoon. You already know what kind of player Jones, Floyd and DeRosa are. They all have some power it's true, but have horrible OBP's and are suspect at best defensively. An MO like that screams bench player, bench player, bench player.
Murton can play defensively on a par with Jones, Floyd and DeRosa. The Riot plays as good as defense as DeRosa and more importantly, because of his speed and OBP is more suited as a lead off man and allows for Soriano to move down in the order. Pie's defense alone, no matter what he hits, anchors a stinko of an outfield without him. I for the life of me can't figure out why it's ok to not worry about Izturis hitting but Cubs management gets their underwear all bunched up about Pie's. Who has a future with this team, Izturis or Pie. Case closed.
Piniella has to find out what these kids can do on an everyday basis as it's become quite apparent, the status quo isn't getting the job done.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Piniella is now faced with this absurd surplus of outfielder's of which none can actually field their position. If we look at this team objectively, you understand how Piniella's hands are tied.
Backup player's are the type player who brings something to the table the starter doesn't. Like Blanco for instance. When we look at the Cubs outfield personnel, that's not the case.
I'm sure Piniella would have felt comfortable going to war after spring training with Pie in CF, but how many damn outfielder's was he going to carry?
Hendry dropped the ball by not trading Jones and eating some salary if need be. Pie is the LH bat that replaces Jones and his superior defense, as evidenced in yesterday's game where at least Ohman wasn't brought in until Piniella had no one left, demonstrated that superior defense can help the offense just like a HR or RBI.
As Cubs fans we just don't see great defensive play very often. When was the last time you saw a Cubs outfielder defensively intimidate the opposition's base runners?
Pie's defensive play yesterday demonstrates how numb we've become and how clueless Hendry is realizing how great defensive play can help the team. When Soriano comes back are you going to tell me he belongs in CF after seeing Pie play there? Why should Pie be sent back down? Is it money? My answer is yes and I'll tell you why. Outside of Soriano, Jones is the biggest contract in the outfield. If it wasn't a matter of money, why wasn't Jones traded when Floyd was acquired? You guessed it, the Cubs would rather eat their children than eat part of a contract. Unless of course they are trading away a HOF pitcher. Don't you think the Cubs would've received a player like Izturis for Jones? Of course they could have.
Hendry's dumb moves go even further with the signing of DeRosa. Now don't get me wrong, I like the way DeRosa has performed, but why would you pay a career utility man starters money when you had The Riot on the team? The organizational scouting department is clueless.
There was a study done by one of these Baseball America type organizations that showed a player's stats on what percentage of the time he scored per plate appearance. This list included Pujols, Seizmore, Utley, Beltran and players of that stature as scoring with the greatest frequency per plate appearance. Do you know who was #1 on that list last year? Ryan Theriot aka The Riot.
The Riot has speed and more importantly knows how to steal bases, doesn't strike out much, good OBP, seems to play at least average defense, and cost what, $600,000?
Want more great Hendry moves? Ok let me ask you this. How does Guzman get sent down to bring up Pie and not Ohman? I'm waiting? Cat got your tongue? Let me share with you this little nugget. Do you know San Diego has zero LHRP's and they are leading the league in ERA? What good is a LHRP if he sucks? Guzman was sent down because he has options but Ohman should be released. It's to bad because we could've made a deal with the Indians this off season as their bullpen was and is still a mess. Come on, the Indians have 42 year old Roberto Hernandez as a setup man and 38 year old Borowski closing. But once again, Hendry's failure to make a trade and move Ohman in the off season means that after his showing during the regular season, the only option is to release him. Will Hendry do that? Ohman makes only a couple of million a year but that's still no guarantee they'll eat even that paltry sum. Enough said as I could go on and on.
So now what? Well if I had Hendry's ear, the first thing I'd tell him is that his only chance of keeping his job is to Win or at least be in the World Series. Then for him to make these moves.
Pie's defense has to be in the starting lineup even if he hits 240.
Jones needs to be traded immediately, even if it means eating some of the contract which they may not have to do anyway.
Option Ohman to the minors, he probably won't clear waivers but who gives a shit. His contract is peanuts.
If Miller struggles after a couple of more starts, option him as well and slide Guzman into the fifth spot and bring up Rocky Cherry.
This team is definitely a work in progress but Pinella seems more than willing to play his best people. If Hendry would clear some of the dead weight that ties Piniella's hands, the team will be in much better shape.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
You started to wonder in spring training when Quade held up runners but I tended to give him the benefit of the doubt as he might not be that familiar with his players.
Unfortunately it was a precursor of thing to come.
After the gaff in the Cubs 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, when he didn't send Soriano from 2B on a single to CF late in the game, I started to realize my previous doubts were confirmed. Soriano is our $138 million dollar speedster that is batting leadoff and single handedly creating at least a 5 degree wind chill drop in the temperature every time he whiffs. Now we finally have Soriano on base and he's held up at 3B? I don't want to here all this bullshit that you never make the first or third out taking the extra base. The Cubs are struggling mightily at the plate against Lohse that day and Soriano is after all, our $138 million dollar stud.
Now again today Quade shows how inept he is when in extra innings he calls time out in a critical stage of the game when The Riot was at the plate with a 3-1 count. When the camera panned around, after The Riot was called back into the batters box, it showed Quade raising his palms upward and shrugging his shoulders as if to say, sorry Ryan, I was trying to get the umpires attention as I just remembered the punch line to the joke I was telling him between innings.
Quade, you're the joke. You and that meathead Ohman. How the both of you are on this team and not riding a bus in Iowa is beyond me.
Well I'm pretty sure the Ohman situation will handled quickly, as the most likely reason he was retained when Pie was called up and Guzman was sent down, was because of Guzman's long relief appearance last night.
Monday, April 16, 2007
It's true they've faced some credible pitching, but when you give up a 5 run lead in the 5th inning and can't scratch across one run to take the game into extra innings, there is something wrong.
Hopefully The Riot is showing what a gamer he is and Piniella will move the kid into the lineup regularly. The Riot belongs in the leadoff spot followed by Murton. When Murton sits Piniella should insert Barrett into the 2 hole. Those three hitters, Murton, Barrett and The Riot, have the best OBP on the team without sacrificing much power in RBI situations.
Don't get me wrong, I like on how DeRosa is playing but not at the expense of sitting The Riot. The point is DeRosa doesn't have enough speed to move Soriano out of the leadoff spot, The Riot does. DeRosa can get plenty of AB's in RF platooning with Jones. If Murton and Floyd can platoon, so can DeRosa and Jones. DeRosa also can pick up AB's at 3B and 2B. It might be worth it to experiment with Soriano in the 2 hole where he would have the protection of Lee following him. Otherwise, whiff machines like Soriano and Jones belong down in the order where their lack of OBP won't hurt the middle of the lineup's production.
Uncle Lou says he breaks the season down into 10-16 game intervals, then he evaluates his players based on that 16 game stretch. Well the Cubs are 4-7 and the clock is ticking. 5 games to go for Piniella's shakeup if he doesn't get into a fist fight first.
You the man Lou, you the man!
Lou Piniella's 1st Cubs tirade on ChicagoSports.com
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I bring in a relief pitcher that's throwing 40' Curve balls!
I can start to see why this team has been Losing games they way they have!
Well I don't know about the rest of you Dear Cub Fans, but Piniella is showing his real pedigree here. He doesn't like losing, he doesn't accept excuses, and if things don't change, his shoe is going to find it's way up some players ass!
You see Piniella believes if you can't give him 100%, then you don't play, period! It doesn't matter if you're hurt or you're a Lollygagger. Piniella only wants players on the field that can give 100%.
Now Zambrano's act of getting in the umpire's face and his lack of maturity in picking up his teammates when there is a defensive miscue on the field behind him, is starting to wear thin on me. I don't know about you but Zambrano, although still young, is by no means a rookie. He is a great talent and been in the league long enough to understand he has to make adjustments. IMO, Zambrano's got zero chance of winning a Cy Young and being a true stopper in a rotation if he doesn't stop blaming everyone but himself for letting a game get out of hand.
Piniella hasn't seen these explosions by Zambrano as often as we have but I have no doubt, he's going to rip Carlos a new one, if Piniella hasn't already, if Zambrano doesn't grow up.
We've been watching this same thing over the years time and time again with Zambrano and everyone explains it away, myself included, with phrases like he just gets to amped up or he's just a hot blooded Latin but look how good his stuff is. Well let's face it Cub fans, for a pitcher it's not all about the stuff, it's about how you manage the game.
If you care to remember, about the same time Zambrano came up to the Cubs, there was another pitcher that was trying to break into the rotation that was initially thought more highly of than Zambrano and had just as filthy as stuff. His name was Juan Cruz.
Now the comparison I'm trying to make is not that Cruz is as good as Zambrano, but the reasons really don't matter. Cruz had such movement on his pitches that he just couldn't stay consistently in the strike zone. Zambrano on the other hand, let's his lack of maturity get in his way when things don't go his way.
Zambrano has to take a long hard look in the mirror and start realizing that he is his own worst enemy. Otherwise...
Thursday, April 12, 2007
It also hasn't taken long for the team's defense to show it's shortcomings. The Cubs have opted to roll the dice on two of the more important defensive positions catcher and CF, in hopes those players offensive production will make up for their defensive lapses. Throw in a 3 error game by the other critical defensive position SS, and WTF! If this team doesn't hit, they'll have as much a chance of holding any lead as you would of eating soup with a fork.
Fortunately for the Cubs, the skipper won't stand long for this. He's has already shown the willingness to rotate players around and it hopefully won't take long for him to bench the whole starting lineup if things don't improve. Over/Under on base throwing or fisticuffs in the dugout, is dropping faster than the temperature.
The rotation is doing enough for the Cubs to win but as I've said over and over again, baseball is a zero sum game. Score more runs than the opposition, you win. I'm sure the offense will perform better as the season progresses, but as this early season has shown us, hitters go in slumps. If the Cubs want the best chance to be in every game, they need to place a higher importance on the defense. Blanco can hep prevent runs, he needs to start at least 25% of the games. Felix Pie needs to be called up to anchor that outfield defense, regardless of how much screaming you get from Murton, Jones and Floyd for playing time.
Unlike the offense, the defense never goes into a slump and when the team is struggling to score runs, could very well make the difference in a win or loss.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Like the series in Cincinnati, the Cubs seres against the Brewers got two nice pitching performances from their starters and one stinko. We can only surmise that if the rotation holds on that course the Cubs will have a successful year ending with an appearance in the postseason.
A couple of observations from the Brewers series however seem to indicate some areas of concern.
One, although the teams approach at the plate seems to be much more patient than the free swinging clubs under Dusty, it still is quite apparent that this is a fastball hitting team and that crafty off speed pitchers just give them fits. Now don't get me wrong, Capuano would've been tough on anyone yesterday, still I can't recall many more ugly swings by Cub hitters this young season. Which means they didn't read those damn scouting reports or Chris Capuano is already having his Bust bronzed for Cooperstown.
Second, it seems that with all the talk about the Cubs having two many right handed bats in their lineup, that someone other than Ronny Cedeneo with his mighty stroke, could be coming off the bench late in the game. Now Cedeneo didn't pinch hit yesterday and has actually been doing better than I thought he would this young season. However, when the Cubs had the bases loaded late in the game Uncle Lou, had no choice but to trot out Daryle Ward, who struggles mightily against lefties.
Piniella in his excitement to load up the starting lineup with RH bats against Capuano, neglected to leave himself any viable RH power off the bench. The Cubs are very light hitting from the right side on the bench and it would've behooved them to have considered that when choosing the 25th. man for their roster.
All in all though the team is only going as far as the starters can take them, and I'm pleasantly surprised with them so far. As far as the lineup, hopefully things will become clearer to Piniella and some adjustments will be made as to how it's configured and who stays on the 25 man roster.
Up next, Home Opener vs: Astros. It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood, Go Cubs Go!!
Friday, April 6, 2007
First, the starting pitching performed well enough to at least win 2 of 3 instead of the other way around. Since most in the baseball world will concede a teams rotation is the biggest component to it's success, we should be pleased with the starters performances so far. The bullpen, reportedly the strength of the Cubs pitching this year, evidently thought the memo from Uncle Lou, to throw strikes and not walk anyone was meant just for the starters. Let's face it, walks are never a good thing but for a bullpen pitcher they are sure death. That needs to change.
Second, the defense performed average at best. Michael Barrett can't throw and is average at best fielding behind the plate. I know he's an above average hitter, especially for his position, but the truth of the matter is that your catcher is one of the most important defensive positions on the team. There is no reason Blanco shouldn't get 50 or so starts behind the plate regardless of his offense. Jacque Jones can't throw but is the best defensive outfielder on the team. Can anyone tell me why he's not in CF where his arm wouldn't be anywhere near the liability it is in RF? There is a reason most teams are willing to sacrifice offense for defense behind the plate and place their best oufielder in CF, they want to win! Defense never goes into a slump and hopefully Piniella will make these adjustments.
Lastly, the offense has been less than spectacular. This probably is the hardest aspect of the Cubs performance to effectively asses after just three games, but when men are in scoring position and consistently not being driven in, there is always cause for concern.
The Cubs have spent a lot of money on new players and a new manager. It is imperative Piniella continually evaluate this team and make changes accordingly.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
In game one, it didn't matter that Zambrano was the Cubs ace when he's not in command of his emotions. To get fired up for the season opener is fine, everyone likes to see that. To lose your cool is not good. Yes he was squeezed by Home Plate umpire Randy Marsh, but Marsh's strike zone wasn't any different for Aaron Heurang. Big Z's loss of control had more to do with his temper than his arm not being in the right slot.
The Cub hitters further compounded the teams demise by failing to understand that Marsh was calling a tight strike zone and not demonstrating the patience needed at the plate. When Heurang had near 90 pitches thrown thru 5 innings and is able to go through 7 innings, you know the Cub hitters were clueless.
In game two, we saw the #2 pitchers for both teams that had great control. This again is where we see the positive effects of a pitcher staying cool and keeping his emotions in check. I'm sure that every pitcher wants to perform well, and maybe we'd see a different outcome in game #2 if Randy Marsh was behind the plate for that game instead of the opener. Still when your Ace's emotions get in the way of him adjusting his game plan and the hitters being clueless as to the advantage they have with a guy like Marsh calling balls and strikes, you have a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully Uncle Lou seems to understand this an will not put up with it. Last night's game illustrated this in spades. First Murton wasn't in the lineup. Yes I know Arroyo is tough on righties but Murton's performance on Monday made Piniella's decision automatic. Secondly, when Dempster went into his Farnsworth impersonation, Piniella didn't send Rothschild out to the mound, Uncle Lou went out there himself. I sure the only word spoken by Piniella that wasn't X rated was the word ball.
Baseball is more than any other sport, a game played between your ears. Let's hope Sweet Lou, can get this point through these hard heads or we'll be in store for some fireworks.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Big Z still shows his propensity to get over excited on a big stage, but he'll have a Zambrano type of season and perform well. The playoffs of course will present another test for our hot blooded Latin hurler, as big stage will then be spelled with capital letters. We can only hope Randy Marsh, has a month long family vacation planned in October.
When Thunder Matt, has 3 pathetic AB's resulting in strikeouts, you know the pressure and spotlight got to him as well. Still, he'll perform well over the course of the season as his approach at the plate is one of the more fundamentally sound in the lineup.
In both instances however, patience was absent in either players approach yesterday, and this was one of last year's Cubs most inexcusable traits.
Last year's impatience was primarily the result of a lack of discipline, which this year appears will not be tolerated. Piniella is not going to have any Lollygagging on his ball club. But it is interesting to note, that controlling one's emotions with the spotlight on, is not easily mastered.
One game is just that, one game. Still the players will have to overcome the spotlight that is shining more brightly on the team than ever. Sweet Lou, has been there and seems impervious to the attention, but he doesn't hit, play defense or pitch. Can that "cool under pressure" mindset be taught? I don't know the answer, but it's definitely a trait that separates the pretenders from the contenders.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Girl's gotta a lot of heart, don't you think?