Monday, April 13, 2009

7 Games In

Well our beloved have actually come out of the gate pretty well so far and that sure beats the hell out of the alternative. Still it's awfully early and we all realize injuries could throw a monkey wrench into the whole operation.

Soto and Bradley are nicked up and we can only hope this isn't a precursor of things to come. But their are other weaknesses that could rear their ugly head apart from injuries and hopefully they won't be summarily dismissed because the team is winning.

Of course Lee's performance this far at the plate won't continue all season any more than Soriano will continue hitting home runs at this torrid pace. But Lee has been showing a decline in production for a couple of years now and I can't see the reason why he should receive more AB's almost every game than Ramirez. Lee should be hitting no higher than 5th and I'm being generous saying that.

The Cubs are also presented with a more fundamental problem with their SS. We all love Theriot's effort and while his torrid pace thus far cannot be sustained, clearly shows he is more than capable to get on base with the regularity needed from a hitter with so little power. The concern lies with the size of the gray matter between his ears especially on the bases and his decision making on defense. That doesn't even bring up the lack of arm and only average range for someone playing one of the most defensively challenging positions on the field.

The last concern is already starting to appear in the long relief of the bullpen. I'm not concerned if it's Marmol setting up Gregg or the other way around, but someone other than Heilman has to start showing some ability to throw strikes and get hitters out. It's fine to throw Marshall into the mix now when the schedule allows some flexibility with the 5ht starter, but when the season has those 15-20 game stretched with no days off, that luxury won't be available.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Swing Batter Batter, Swiiiiiing, Batter Swiiiiiiiing



Well the 2009 season starts in about an hour with our beloved men in blue opening up tomorrow night in Houston. I know it's a long season but I can't help but get a little pumped up for the Cubs first game of the new campaign.


What do you think will be the lineup? Will Zambrano go at least 6 strong innings? Will Fukudome screw himself totally into the ground when he swings and misses?


Whatever happens Lollygagger Girl Kerry, wishes every Cub fan a season to remember.



Go Cubs!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Questions That Must Be Answered Correctly.

If the reasoning behind having Soriano bat lead off isn't flawed, then wouldn't hitting Bradley in the lead off spot be superior?

Does anyone still believe D Lee is the best hitter on the team? If he isn't, why is he still projected in the 3 hole?

We know that spring training stats don't mean that much but can anyone tell me they think Miles will be anywhere near as effective as Fontenot, and why Theriot doesn't deserve to hit lead off?

If Ramirez, the best hitter on the team the past two years is willing to hit in the 5 hole, what beef could any other hitter have hitting there?

What hitter other than Soto, is on the upswing of his career?

With the history of how this lineup has performed, is there any justification to bat Fukudome any higher than 8th?

What's wrong with the following lineup?

1) Theriot
2) Fontenot
3) Bradley/Ramirez
4) Bradley/Ramirez...Soto if Bradley isn't in the lineup
5) Soriano
6) Soto...Lee if Bradley isn't in the lineup
7) Lee...Fukudome/Johnson if Bradley isn't in the lineup
8) Fukudome/Johnson/Gathright

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bench Strength?





Let's face it folks, Jake Fox, Joey Gathright and Micah Hoffpauir are bench players for a reason. It's often a combination of things but whatever these players shortcomings are, they will need to play an effective role for the 2009 Cubs.

The Cubs have only played 2 games this spring but a grand slam and outfield assist from Hoffpauir, a 3 for 3 plus stolen base from Gathright, and a 3 run HR from Fox, are good signs from the three of them. Every team needs complimentary players that can provide some bench strength, versatility and insurance for the team's starters. It's a likely scenario that either Fox or Hoffpauir won't make the MLB roster when they break spring training, but hopefully the players that do go north with the Cubs will be important spokes in the Cubs wheel for 2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The One/Two Punch

Much to my delight on this lazy Sunday afternoon, MLB network re-broadcast what they called "The Sandberg Game" from 1984. This was the game Ryno blasted 2 HR's off Bruce Sutter, one to tie the game in the 9th and the other to tie it in the 10th as the Cubs went on to beat the Cucking Fardinals.



Although much of the heroics went to Sandberg and deservedly so, another stat came to light from the broadcast booth. Before Sandberg belted his two HR's, it was noted that the lead off man Bobby Denier and the two hitter Sandberg, were 6 for 8 in the game and 17 for their last 28 AB's. When a team has two hitters at the top of their order that get on base so frequently, it is certainly easy to understand the great opportunities it provides them to score.

Of course anyone who was around during that season knew the Cubs just didn't have a run of the mill lineup behind Denier and Sandberg, but a murderous middle of the lineup with the likes of Sarge, the Bull, Zonk, Davis and the Penguin.

So how does our present day Cub lineup compare against that '84 lineup? Well as long as the Fonz is in the lead off spot, the lineup is weaker than it needs to be.

For your frame of reference, here is the '84 Cubs most used lineup...

Denier CF 278BA 356OBP 718OPS 63BB 60K 3HR 26DB 3TR 45SB
Sandberg 2B 314BA 367OBP 887OPS 52BB 101K 19HR 36DB 19TR 32SB
Sarge LF 291BA 410OBP 838OPS 103BB 97K 14HR 21DB 2TR 17SB
Bull 1B 279BA 369OBP 874OPS 69BB 86K 23HR 30DB 4TR 16SB
Zonk RF 279BA 326OBP 748OPS 34BB 71K 16HR 17DB
Davis C 256BA 315OBP 736OPS 47BB 99K 19HR 25DB
Penguin 3B 240BA 324OBP 766OPS 61BB 108K 25HR 27DB
Bowa SS 223BA 274OBP 542OPS 28BB 24K 0HR 14DB

So share your opinions on how to best set our Cubs 2009 lineup.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If a 1 turned out to be 5



Piniella is now publicly suggesting he is going to explore moving Soriano out of the lead off spot. He states that he has spoken with Soriano and his star player is
willing to do so as long as he isn't bounced around between his new spot and his previous one, lead off. So the stage now seems set for their to be a legitimate open competition for the 1 hole in the lineup.

Much has been debated on Soriano's effectiveness in the lead off role even before he came to the Cubs. When Soriano was with the Yankees, he so frustrated Joe Torre that he was jettisoned down in the order before being jettisoned out of town.



Soriano is a hybrid player similar to Ricky Henderson, amazingly gifted athletes with speed and power. However, that is where the comparison ends. The main function of a lead off hitter is to get on base and create havoc for the opposing pitcher with the threat of stealing a base. Why Henderson was so valuable in the lead off role was that he could work the count and also get on base via the walk, which was reflected in his career OBP of 401. Soriano on the other hand does not have a good command of the strike zone and avoids walks like the plague, which is reflected in his career OBP of 329.



A more apt comparative player to Soriano is Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay. Crawford is another one of those hybrid players with not quite as much power. He was a staple in the lead off role for the Rays until they brought in a manager that realized how not having a patient hitter in the lead off spot hurt the team. Crawford ehibited many of the same characteristics that Soriano had with great speed and good power, but a poor OBP. Crawford's career OBP is 330.

Now Tampa Bay's manager moved Crawford to the 5 hole and explained to Crawford that in fact he was still given the opportunity to steal bases when the 3 & 4 hitters in front of him had the ability to clear the bases. Crawford also wouldn't be hampered by trying to do something he wasn't capable of, exhibiting patience. Crawford moving to the 5 hole would also allow him to approach is AB's naturally as the free swinger with power that he is. Piniella should take a cue from his replacement in Tampa and move Soriano into the 5 hole.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Playing Time

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training a week from Friday and I'm pumped, so I thought this little YouTube Video would get you all in the mood as well.

With much of the Cubs off season wheeling and dealing appearing to be over, I thought I'd propose how and who should make up the rotation and starting lineup. Of course we have a considerable number of givens here, but even though these suggestions may only mean small incremental improvements in the teams performance, why shouldn't they be done? Don't we often throw shit at the TV when a player makes a bonehead play or a manager makes an ill advised pitching change?

Givens in the rotation are fairly easy baring any injuries as Big Z, Dempster, Lilly and Harden in no particular order mind you are your first 4 starters. The 5th starter seems to be an open competition with the most deserving based on past performance being Marshall. I know we've all read how Piniella likes having Marshall as a swing-man but is that really what's best for the rotation? Do the Cubs really need a LHP that is most likely their best 5th starter to be the long man out of the pen? It's not like Marshall is going to be the 8th inning LH specialist to get that one monster LHB out is he?

Marshall as the 5th starter gives the rotation 2 LH starters which also helps negate some of the more prolific balanced lineups like the Phillies. The argument that Harden won't make all of his starts doesn't hold water if you use another pitcher on a consistent basis in the rotation that isn't as good as Marshall does it? I don't know who Marshall has to blow to get in the rotation but unless he's a total bust this spring he helps the Cubs the most in the rotation.

The number of givens in the everyday lineup is also pretty much set with Soriano LF, Bradley RF, Ramirez 3B, Theriot SS, Fontenot 2B, Lee 1B and Soto C. Most of the early press has centered on the platooning of Fukudome and Johnson in CF and this is where I have some reservations.

Fukudome's preference and for that matter his best defensive position is RF. Now I couldn't give a shit about what Fukudome's preference is but when we expect that Bradley may need a platoon partner for possibly as many as 60 games, that is who Fukudome should be platooning with. Fukudome would have to show me that he could be more productive offensively than Gathright to play more than that, which he most assuredly will if he platoons with Johnson in CF.

Now Gathright is a light hitter but does a number of things a top of the order guy must do and this is my point. Moving Soriano out of the lead off spot will increase the teams production. Gathright has plenty of speed and knows how to get on base via the bunt. In 279 AB's last year he had 15 bunt hits and platooning him with Johnson who had over a 350OBP last year, will mean no disruption in the lineup to accommodate the lead off hitter.

No one would be happier than me if Fukudome could hit 280 and bang out 20HR's, but unless he can show he has abandoned the twirly bird AB's this spring, his offensive production won't be as valuable to the team as the superior CF'er Gathright would in the lead off spot. If Fukudome has a great spring then I'm fine with him platooning in CF but if he reverts back to the pirouetting style that he employed the second half of last season, he has no business getting over 100 starts.

We all realize that other starters will get a blow especially during those long summer stretches of no days off but one player who might have the most productive replacement from an offensive standpoint is D Lee. M Hoffpauir is certainly not the typical replacement type player as most replacement players provide good defense but usually very little offense, which is not the case with Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir doesn't bring a lot to the table defensively but 1B is his strongest position and would hurt the team less there. He also should get some starts in LF and both of these positions are the least challenging defensively.

We've all seen Lee isn't the same run producer he has been in the past and more time off could only help him. Soriano has had some leg issues the last two seasons and especially in those hamstring tightening cold spring months could sure use a day off now and then.

Anyway, I'm sure some of you might disagree with some of my evaluations but who and when you give days off to and the replacement Piniella uses when he does, can when added together get the most out the talent he has to work with.

Sorry but I just can't help myself, here is one more YouTube Video for you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

He used to be good, now he's Wuertz


I always liked Michael Wuertz, the RHRP with a nasty ass slider, who now has been jettisoned to the Oakland Athletics for Richie Robnett, a minor league outfielder with a career BA around 250 but has been said to have some raw power and Justin Sellers, a minor league middle infielder whose batting average is so low it fell off the chart and his biggest asset is he is a slick fielder.

I would think Hendry would much rather have received one player that could do both, but no other sane GM was going to trade for the $4M L Vizcaino, so Wuertz gets sent packing.

I'm scratching my head on this trade and will reserve my judgement after I see Vizcaino perform.

Over the Hill


Rich Hill, the former can't miss prospect of the Chicago Cubs, who started game 3 of the 2007 playoffs against the Arizona Diamondbacks has been sent packing to Wrigley Field East, the Baltimore Orioles.

The southpaw Hill's MLB career numbers, 18W 17L 4.37ERA 337IP 291H 309K 137BB 1.27WHIP,
on most any objective appraisal would appear to net the Cubs more than the infamous PTNL, but with Hill out of options and little chance of making the Cubs opening day lineup, he's gone for virtually nothing.

The story behind Hill's numbers is the real reason for his box of used jockstraps value, Hill had about as much intestinal fortitude as a spoiled Mama's boy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clearing The Deck


The Cubs are trying to get as much value as they can from players that are out of options and are blocked by others that are a known quantity. It first happened with Pie and now Cedeneo is traded for Hendry's long coveted pitcher Aaron Heilman.

These moves can be questioned but IMHO, the Cubs are serious playoff contenders and in essence moving Pie and Cedeneo actually netted about as much as could be expected.

Heilman is only 30 and except for last season was very serviceable out of the pen for the Mets. Heilman has long wanted to start and the move provides him this opportunity while at the same time providing the Cubs pitching depth and legitimate competition this spring for the 5th. starters spot.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie



Unfortunately Pie's package, no not those five tools he was noted to have but his "ouch it hurts me to even think about it" almost gelding like surgery, is what we'll remember as the most significant bit of news for the Cubs most recent position player failure.

The Cubs sent Pie packing to "wrigley field east" where Andy McPhail is still looking for validation of his GM tenure when with the Cubs. The Cubs did receive two pitching prospects from Baltimore and when added to the three pitching prospects acquired from Cleveland in the DeRosa deal, might give the Cubs the prospects needed to pry Peavy from San Diego. In any event, Pie days with the organization were numbered and the prospects received for him probably was as much as could be expected.

Good luck Felix. You deserved a better shot at making it in the bigs with the Cubs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Holy Triumphant!

Many teams success derives from having better players to be sure, but when constructing a team most people in charge stand by the principles of the Holy Triumphant, pitching first, defense second and offense last.

The dynamic of placing these three aspects of building a team in this order is based on the assumption that every run allowed requires the team to score two runs to overcome. We all cringe when our pitchers walk hitters and our defense gives the opposition extra outs in an inning through errors for this reason. Now it is certainly true that a superior offense can make up for some of these shortcomings in the other areas, the fact remains that scoring runs even with the most prolific offense is the most difficult facet of the game to rely on day in and day out. I'm not saying it's even possible to build the perfect team, but to gamble on the quality of the pitching and defense in favor of offense is just neglecting reality.

So if we apply this model to the Cubs as presently constructed, we get an idea of what can or should have been done within certain budgets constraints, to build the most competitive team.

Pitching...Starters

The Cubs rotation is probably one of the best in baseball. The talk of possibly adding a pitcher like Peavy would certainly improve the already formidable rotation and if the other areas of the team are up to snuff, it certainly makes sense to improve the biggest known factor in effecting the outcome of a game.

Pitching...Bullpen

The Cubs have certainly weakened the bullpen by not resigning Wood, but most teams have budgets constraints and usually other weaknesses to address. Still, we have seen over and over again how many a strong team has faltered repeatedly by not being able to hold a lead provided. I have confidence that Marmol will be an effective closer but that most certainly leaves a tremendous hole for the present setup candidates to fill with Marmol's departure to the closers role. Also the team is short of an effective relief specialist to negate many of the oppositions best LHB's.

Defense

One glaring hole exists at the most important defensive position on the field not considering the catcher and that is SS. While slick fielding SS's don't grow on trees, the Cubs SS is ranked as one of the worst fielding SS's in either league. This is an area that cries out for improvement and Hendry should deem this weakness as one of his most pressing needs.

Offense

Apart from a legitimate lead off man, the Cubs offense is poised to score a shitload of runs. The moves made this off season have addressed the unbalanced lineup and added a significant offensive hitter as well.

If indeed money is available to acquire a salary the likes of Peavy, we should also consider that money isn't the only thing that it will cost the Cubs. A tremendous number of players will be forfeited as well by trading for Peavy and if the Cubs feel they need to add another starter, I'd much prefer a FA.

In Conclusion

Still it is questionable if adding another starter is the best use of additional payroll. Our old trading partner the Pittsburgh Pirates, are desperately looking to dump J Wilson's $7M salary. The Dodgers were interested before they resigned Furcal and I think the Pirates might even eat a million or so of Wilson's salary if they could receive a couple of young pitching prospects and a ML ready SS. If it took throwing in a Pie and/or Cedeneo as well, it's still a deal Hendry should make.

Theriot is coming off a career year at the plate and his value will never be higher, and the Pirates are a small market team that routinely needs to move players they can no longer afford. Wilson's range and fielding percentage rank only behind Tulowitzki and Furcal and if Hendry has more payroll at his disposal, upgrading a position that anchors the infield defense with one of the best fielding SS's who will most likely replace Theriot in the 8 hole in the lineup would seem to be the best use of that payroll.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bing, Bang, Boom

Happy New Year you Hammerheads. Two of most Cubs fans wishes for the new year have finally happened. Marquis is jettisoned a mile high to the Rockies and the big left handed banger has been signed to patrol RF for the second year in a row. Of course this year we signed a player who has actually hit MLB pitching, and boy has Milton Bradley hit MLB pitching by putting up the highest OPS in the American League last year.

Many have decried the signing of Bradley due to his checkered past but Bradley is only 30, can still play defense at no worse than a league average level, and is a stud from either side of the plate.

Marquis departure was purely a salary dump and the Cubs cleared around $5M as a result. The Cubs did acquire L Vizcaino, a RHP pitcher that has never been anything better than average if that, but like I said, this freed up payroll to go after Bradley. Marquis was probably one of the better 5th starters in baseball but at almost $10M was a no brainer to move when a younger LHP Marshall that costs zip, will probably be better than Marquis and give the Cubs a second lefty in the rotation.

All in all, a good day for the Cubs who have implemented many of the priorities this off season by balancing their predominant RH lineup and becoming more athletic. I think they could still upgrade the bullpen with another LHRP, but I'm more than willing to go to war with this new version in 2009.

Thursday, January 1, 2009