May 31, 2012


The Cubs web site reports:

The Cubs signed free agent pitcher Shane Lindsay and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs also have released pitcher Nate Robertson, and he is now a free agent. In December, Lindsay signed with the Dodgers as a Minor League free agent and was a non-roster invite to Spring Training.  He was 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in eight games for the Albuquerque Isotopes from April 27-May 19, before getting released. Last season, Lindsay was 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA and four saves in 45 games for Triple-A Charlotte and was named to the International League All-Star team.  He was called up by the White Sox on Sept. 2 and made four appearances for his first big league action. Lindsay originally signed with the Rockies in 2003 as a non-drafted free agent out of his native Australia. He missed the entire 2007 season due to shoulder surgery.  Entering this season, Lindsay was 22-17 with a 3.37 ERA and six saves in 169 career Minor League games (46 starts) with the Rockies (2004-10), Yankees (’10), Indians (’10), and White Sox (’11). Robertson was 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in 14 games with Iowa.

At age 27, Lindsay has been bouncing around the minors since he was 19. His minor league record is not special. In 8 seasons, he has compiled a 22-18 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.449 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 IP, but 6.9 BB/9 IP.  So, the Cubs have signed another reliever with control problems that has been released by a west coast team.  It sounds like the Cubs management is trying to find another lightning in a bottle in a Shawn Camp, a reclamation project that manager Dale Sveum called the team MVP so far this year.  

May 30, 2012


With the additional wild card teams, more clubs will believe themselves to be "in the race" for the playoffs by the time the July trade deadline.

There are also teams that used to be considered "sellers" because they are traditionally non-playoff contenders, who are near the top of their divisions. The Indians, Nationals, Orioles, Marlins, Blue Jays and Rays may believe they have a shot at a wild card. At best, they may be marginal, specialist buyers.

That leaves fewer "sellers" come July. Or does it. The Twins, Cubs, Padres and Astros are the four horsemen of mediocrity this season. Each club may have one or two players a team would want or need for the stretch run.  But most general managers today are not willing to overpay for veterans, or rent-a-players (those who are free agents at the end of the season).

The reason is simple. With the new draft signing slots, draft prospects are more valuable. Teams dod not have to overpay to sign draft choices. Contending teams are not going to mortgage their future (with three prospects) for one veteran player who may or may not put them over the top.

The rash of injuries to starting pitching in Texas and Philadelphia complicates things. The Rangers are to sign FA Roy Oswalt was insurance, and the Phillies are apparently going to replace Halladay internally. The Phils are so injury prone that they will not be buyers this season; they may write off this campaign as bad luck and look forward to 2013. The Rangers signaled to the world that they were "all in" this season by breaking the budget to sign Yu Darvish. But it is doubtful the Rangers have any more salary space to accommodate a veteran trade.

Second tier teams used to sell of their veterans to re-stock their systems with cheaper and younger talent. However, since the Rays and Marlins have been successful in developing and playing prospects at a young age (and winning), teams are more willing today to keep and promote their talent.

May 29, 2012

10 & 5

The 10 & 5 rule in baseball means that a player with 10 years of major league experience, and five with his current club, can veto any trade. This rule will come up often in the next two months as Ryan Dempster situation unfolds by the trade deadline.

Dempster is having a career year at age 35. He is 0-3, 2.14 ERA, a career low 1.061 WHIP and career high K/BB ratio of 3.33. With starting pitching injuries on contenders such as the Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers and Cardinals, Dempster will be in high demand.

But Dempster may not want to move. He has been a Cub since 2004. He has been the "good soldier," being a closer when needed, then returning to the rotation. With Kerry Wood retired, Dempster is the last of the pitchers from the overachieving 2000 championship run clubs. Dempster has assumed the leadership role in the media. He has the traits the Ricketts like: loyal family man, charitable foundation, good media presence and team spokesman. So one part of the organization would want to keep him around (like Wood), while the rebuilders would like to get young "assets" in a trade.  In all probability, Dempster would probably veto a trade this season to remain close to home with his family.

Dempster is in the final year of his contract. He would be a free agent after the season. However, SunTimes reports that contract talks on an extension are being re-examined. This is going to be Dempster's last professional contract, so he probably has the most leverage in the situation.

The question is whether it makes any sense to re-sign Dempster at $15 million/season.

If you look at the current Cubs roster, there may be 10 players that have a future in the organization, and maybe five that you would want to build your team around (Castro, Maholm, Garza, LaHair, Samardzija).
Garza is having an awful run of starts lately; whether that it concurrent with trade rumors is unclear. Maholm started off slow, but has been a consistent #4 in the rotation. But Maholm could also be a valuable trade chip as a lefty starter.

GM Jed Hoyer stated that "pitching will be a priority" during this year's June draft. We have heard this line before; Hendry and Wilkens overloaded on pitching selections for more than a decade. However, only one has panned out to be a current starter, Samardzija, and the jury is still out on whether he can put together a full season. So if the focus will be re-stocking the organization with young pitching talent (which means at least 2.5 years before they would be expected to try out for a major league roster spot), do the Cubs need to retain veterans like Dempster, Garza and Maholm until the new crop of draftees arrives in 2015?

Starting is not the only pitching issue to address. The Cubs have gone through 5 closers so far this season. Marmol lost his job, got hurt, and now has returned from rehab as a middle reliever. Dolis was handed the closer job, looked good then really bad, and now was demoted to Iowa to "work on his control." Former Hendry draft choices Wells, Coleman and Russell are failed starters who are now attempting to hold on to the collapsing bullpen. It appears that Coleman, Russell and journeyman Camp are now the closers by committee under Sveum. If pedigree were a clue, Russell would have an edge but he does not have his father's dominant fastball to be an effective strikeout closer. It is interesting to note that AAA closer Blake Parker is not in the discussion to become the Cubs closer.

As noted as the season started, the new management blew up the bullpen in order to shore up the starting rotation. However, the starting rotation has been shaky and the bullpen has been awful. Now, do you blow up the quality starters in order to shore up the bullpen and add arms to the minor league system via trades?

In one respect, that is the (Dempster) $15 million question. Do you spend that 2013 money on Dempster, or on signing Garza?  Do you trade Dempster and/or Garza to free up $22 million and hit the free agent market in 2013? Besides Travis Wood, are there any starting pitchers ready to go in the system for this year or next?

With a top ten pick in the draft, the Cubs probably should focus in on the best available college starter with the game plan to sign him quickly, and assign him to AA to begin the fast track to a rotation spot in 2013. A rush promotion adds to the risk of a prospect busting, but if you listen to the grumblings of the Cub fans as they watch the product on the field the Cubs may not have time to be patient.

May 28, 2012


As the first long, holiday weekend of the season is upon us, there is a ton of marinated meats being seared on grills.  Likewise, the Cubs are being grilled into bits of charcoal as they have now lost 12 in a row with no signs of turning the streak around.

There is an old saying, "you have to hit rock bottom before you can move up." Well, Cub fans thought the team hit rock bottom in April. The current record is the 5th worst in team history, equaling the 1962 squad. The 12 game losing streak is the second longest in team history (14 is within sights).

While Cubs president Theo Epstein came into town with a vague message about re-tuning the team to bring about a championship, owner Tom Ricketts banned the use of the term "re-building." Re-building does not sell tickets or bring excitement to the ball park. Ricketts sole focus has been ball park improvements instead of team improvements. He is out in public begging for $150 million in taxpayer dollars from the city and state when both are fiscally bankrupt and cutting needed social services.

A Black alderman was quoted in the paper that before one dollar of public money is spent on the private toy of a rich family, that Ricketts would have to show that any such expenditure would help "the entire city," and create permanent jobs and economic development.  In objective reality, there is no way for Ricketts to convince this alderman.

A long losing steak hurts the club in more ways than just in the standings. A losing streak puts in the minds of the public and their leaders that it "lost money" to follow a team that cannot put a decent team on the field. Why put tax dollars into a private business that created their own money losing situation?

A losing streak also has the effect of constricting second economies around the ball park. A fan going to a game is an investment of both time and money. Ricketts has consistently raised ticket prices to such levels that a family of four really cannot afford to go to the park. In addition, the time to get to the park on city side streets, parking and the commute home puts a three hour game into six hours of time. There are many different entertainment options available to Cub fans, most cheaper and closer to home.

A losing streak also brings down an already shaky secondary ticket market. Two years ago, ticket brokers and season ticket holders who wished to "profit" from their inventory of game tickets, sold them on StubHub, eBay or in classified ads. When the Cubs were drawing 3 million fans and the bleachers were the biggest beer bash Oak Street Beach happening, the secondary ticket market was very good. So good that the Tribune set up its own scalping division.

But a recession hit, unemployed spiked up and the Cubs were no longer competitive. Season ticket holders who made money on re-sales, renewed their packages then found themselves holding unwanted tickets for most of last season. This year, the situation is worse. Chicago ticket brokers have said that they are getting "murdered" out their in the market. You can tell by the increasing number of non-sell outs (the White Sox series at Wrigley was not sold out for any game; a first) and number of no shows (which are now thousands per contest), the demand for the Cub experience is falling hard.

Just as a long losing streak has a negative effect on morale of fans, it has to have some burden upon the players. Players are a competitive animal who throughout their career have been trained to win games. But there is a fine line between being a good professional player and being a bad player being demoted back to the minors. The Cubs roster is filled with AAAA players and marginal journeymen utility bench players. The media is reporting on their losing which has to sting. When it gets to historical stories, players begin to press in order to succeed which often creates more trouble. Example, the Cubs starters are getting no run support. Ryan Dempster threw another quality start and lost 1-0. So the other starters have to believe that they need to pitch a near perfect game in order to get a victory. So they try "harder," and in the case of Matt Garza, left strikes in the middle of the plate for monster Pirate home runs.

The Cubs return home to play the woeful Padres, but the pressure is all on the Cubs to win. The Cubs are so far behind, they are basically eliminated from the playoffs before the trade deadline of July 31. As such, players must think in the back of their minds that they could be trade bait or "designated for assignment" like Blake DeWitt. A complete blow up of the roster could occur just to show the world that management realizes that this team, as constructed, need drastic change. But ownership will have none of that: it is counterproductive to its marketing campaigns. No matter what is now said in the Cub front offices, their credibility has been lost.

Supporters will say that there is one silver lining in losing: high draft picks. The example of the Washington Nationals, who have had massively poor years back to back, selected potential All Stars in Strasburg and Harper. The Nationals turnaround is shown as an example of getting top talent and turning around a team quickly. However, the one variable needs to be proven: that Theo and his team are really the genius talent evaluators. Skeptics will say that not one of the players Theo has brought to the Cubs so far has been a game changer. The Cubs have left Hendry's organization (which itself over-reached for players who busted out) in place for this year's draft.

In addition, the Cubs high pick(s) will happen in 2013 and 2014. That means players drafted in those years will need a year or two of development, which means the time table for starting a young, competitive team is 2016 or 2017 (which is at the end of Epstein's contract). It is hard to swallow paying top market prices for bad Cub baseball for another six or more seasons under the sales pitch that the Cubs will be good, soon. For this transition phase, there will be more losing streaks and losing seasons. In the end, there may be only a charred remains of a franchise doomed to bottom dwell (i.e. the Royals).

May 21, 2012


In the midst of a six game losing streak, Manager Sveum is thinking about mixing up the top three in the lineup because they are not producing runs.  The Cubs offense was woeful yesterday, with the wind blowing out at a gale. The White Sox had no trouble taking Maholm's mistakes onto Waveland Avenue. But the timid Cubs rarely got a ball out of the infield.

The top three in the order of managerial ire are DeJesus, Campana and Castro.
It seems an odd choice to single out the top of the order on "run production."

The team only has three .300 hitters: LaHair, Campana and Castro.
The team has only three 20 RBI men: LaHair, Soriano and Castro.

From a statistical standpoint, Castro is doing well batting #3.
Campana is hitting for average in the #2 hole, though his speed and bunting for hits is M.O.
DeJesus is batting .276, 1 HR, 9 RBI and 0 SB.

DeJesus is not a lead off man. However, that is the position he has played in the past and Cubs have continued it on this season. Campana is not a solid contact hitter to be a good #2 hitter, but only has speed to be a lead off guy. But his defense in CF is weak.

What will Sveum do? Flip DeJesus and Campana in the batting order?

Besides LaHair and Soriano (who recently hit his first two homers of the season), the only weak power is Stewart at third, but his .201 average and 13 RBIs has disappointment written all over that Colorado trade.
The injured catching corps has not produced sustained offense. Barney is a total non-factor at the plate.
The pre-season fact that this Cub roster is not a balanced, run producing line up has come home to roost.

Sveum appears to be ready to pull the trigger and start full time platoons (but those never work out in the end): DeJesus-Baker in RF; Barney-Cardenas at 2B; Stewart-Mather at 3B; Campana-Johnson in CF.

Then the glimmer of hope is the anticipation of Iowa sluggers to be called up and provide instant offense. Anthony Rizzo has hit 14 HRs in AAA. However, the team is not going to push him into service time while LaHair is still productive at first base. Brett Jackson could be the solid OF, #3 hitter of the future, but he is scuffling at AAA, batting under .250.  There is no rush to call up solid prospects to play part time on a bad Cubs team. This is a rebuilding season; no, more like a a season on hold until next year where the rebuilding process will start.

May 19, 2012


ESPNChicago poll question: is Kerry Wood in the Top 50 Cubs of all time?
It is an insult to the Cub legacy to vote yes.

As predicted, the admiration, dolting excess of pro-Wood media attention is on full bore.
But to even think Wood was the greatest Cub of all time???
Maybe the greatest disappointment of all time, as "Kid K" came to the majors with
the expectations of being the next Nolan Ryan.

But Wood's career was not even close to being considered a Hall of Famer.
He was not a dominate pitcher. As a starter, 86 wins is below average for time in the majors.
As a reliever, he was never a dominate closer with 63 saves. He stayed in the game longer
than most because of his dazzling start as a rookie and his old stats that he had a 95 mph fastball.
Power pitchers are the golden arms for general managers.

It is false praise to even consider Wood as one of the greatest Cubs of all time.
Take off the blinders, people. The objective evidence shows Wood may be a fan icon, but
not a great player.

Just look at the Cubs enshrined in Cooperstown.  It is not easy to get  voted in (ask Santo):

Pete Alexander1918-1926
Cap Anson *1876-1897
Richie Ashburn1960-1961
Ernie Banks *1953-1971
Roger Bresnahan1900, 1913-1915
Lou Brock1961-1964
Mordecai Brown *1904-1912, 1916
Frank Chance *1898-1912
John Clarkson1884-1887
Kiki Cuyler1928-1935
Dizzy Dean1938-1941
Hugh Duffy1888-1889
Dennis Eckersley1984-1986
Johnny Evers *1902-1913
Jimmie Foxx1942, 1944
Clark Griffith1893-1900
Burleigh Grimes1932-1933
Gabby Hartnett *1922-1940
Billy Herman *1931-1941
Rogers Hornsby1929-1932
Monte Irvin1956
Fergie Jenkins *1966-1973, 1982-1983
George Kelly1930
King Kelly *1880-1886
Ralph Kiner1953-1954
Chuck Klein1934-1936
Tony Lazzeri1938
Fred Lindstrom1935
Rabbit Maranville1925
Robin Roberts1966
Ryne Sandberg*1982-1997
Ron Santo*1960-74
Al Spalding1876-1878
Joe Tinker *1902-1912, 1916
Rube Waddell1901
Hoyt Wilhelm1970
Billy Williams *1959-1974
Hack Wilson *1926-1931
* Played more games with the Cubs than any other team.

There is 38 players right there.

And there are the players on the HOF ballot like Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter.

And there are hundreds of other good players who were All-Stars and had long, productive careers who played with the Cubs like Rick Monday, Bill Buckner, Don Kessinger, Gabby Harnett, Rick Reuschel, all were clearly better than Wood.

How Wood's name gets into the discussion of greatest Cubs of all time shows the lack of baseball intelligence.  Which is probably the explanation why the Cubs continue to draw with really bad teams; with players who also have limited baseball intelligence on the diamond. Maybe that is the Cub fan connection that keeps the franchise in limbo: hoisting praise on mediocre stars.

May 18, 2012


Numerous reports state that Kerry Wood is going to retire after today's crosstown game against the White Sox.

Many Cub fans are still in a dream state in regard to Wood. They only dream about Wood's 20 strikeout performance against the Astros.  He was turned into "Mr. Cub 2.0" on mere expectations alone.

With Mark Prior, another phenom, the Cubs were going to win several championships. End result: total failure.

Wood was part of the staff which got the Cubs to one NLCS.

Fans will remember what might have been with the power pitcher, and be confused by reality.

In his 14 year career, Wood has 85 wins.  That is a paltry 6 wins per season average. He also had 63 saves, which is a meek 4.5 saves per season average. Those are not Hall of Fame (Cooperstown or even local Chicago) numbers.  The reality is that Wood's career is that of a marginal, below average journeyman.

It may be part generational, but older fans appreciated power pitchers like Nolan Ryan. The increase in walk up ticket sales reflected who was pitching that day (for either club).

Wood had more stints on the DL than years of service in the majors.  He had flawed mechanics in his delivery (his arm would cross his chest instead of moving forward down the line towards home plate) which contributed to his injury history. One of the faults is that no one in the Cubs organization corrected those mechanical flaws. No matter how much coaching there is in professional ball, it is still the player that controls his own fate.

So the Chicago media will eulogize Wood as being a great Cub, a fan favorite, a player that the team will miss.  But it is hard to ego the brash ego on his final day. If you were going to retire, just retire. No, Wood wants all the attention this afternoon. The actual game is irrelevant. Wood will be in the bullpen getting cheers for the fans all day long. They will scream to put Wood in one last time (even if the starter has a perfect game going), just because they want to see Wood pitch one last time.

The reason Wood is retiring is that he should have retired two years ago. He does not have the command, control and power of his pitches anymore. He has imploded on the mound just like Carlos Marmol.

Baseball history is littered with the stories of "can't miss" prospects failing to reach their potential. Wood has to be added to that list.

May 15, 2012


There has been a lot of discussion recently on two minor topics that at times have big implications in a game: bunts and balks.

MLB and the umpires have agreed to change one of the rules of play. The "fake" throw to third and spin move to pick off a runner at first will become a "balk" if the pitcher's foot remains on the rubber. Currently, a pitcher can use this deceptive pick off play. The players association has yet to agree to the change.

The whole concept of a balk really should be eliminated by a rule change. Runners on the base paths use deception to get bigger leads, get into a pitcher's head about stealing, or disrupting the rhythm of pitcher. Deception should go both ways. If a pitcher can get a runner leaning off first by twisting his release like a magician beyond the 45 degree angle leg kick toward home, let him pick off the runner.

The current balk rule is too subjective to have consistent application. Some former major league pitchers admit that just about every good move to first is a balk. It has to be to have any chance to pick off the runner.

Calling a balk on a pitcher has a dramatic effect in a game. It advances a runner, and makes the pitcher steam. It throws adversarial nature of manager against umpire.

The second aspect of the game should be the simplest to execute. The bunt. Now, excuse makers call it "the art of bunting."  It is not an art, but a skill. A skill apparently lost to most major leaguers.

Sveum emphasized bunting in spring training. He had a huge bunting tournament to get his players better bunters. Sveum loves to call bunts. Including at strange times like last night's game where Castro, your best hitter, was called upon to move runners on first and second with a sacrifice with no outs. Yes, that makes no sense.

A sacrifice bunt is a simple out. The batter must turn to face the pitcher, choke down on the bat, crouch down and level the bat across his chest over the plate.  As the pitch comes in, you don't swing the bat, you merely raise or lower the barrel to make contact. The defense knows a proper bunt is coming and calls their own infield wheel plays to try to get a lead runner. A good bunter can direct the bunt to either side to force the defense to throw to first.

The mental side of bunting to a modern player is the kiss of death. It does not help the player's stats, which is the key to their long term big bonus contracts. Chicks dig the home run (remember that slogan?) Hitters want to hit,  not advance runners. There is no incentive for hitters to become good bunters. So the vast majority of players are bad bunters.

In the late 1800s, in the dead ball era, bunting for base hits and stolen bases (speed was more important than home runs) were the keys to winning low scoring games. The modern game will never go back to the simplicity of that old era. Technology and training have developed a more power game: power pitchers and power hitters. The duel between pitcher and batter is what most fans want to see.

But then again, all fans want to see their team win. And to win close games, a manufactured run via sacrifice bunt or a suicide squeeze play is becoming a lost skill set.

May 10, 2012


Bryce Harper has arrived for the Nationals, and people who have seen him play say "he's the real deal."

His quick rise through the minors is like the White Sox second baseman, Gordon Beckham.

Beckham quickly moved up the Sox minor league system. He only had 14 games in A ball and only 45 AA-AAA games in the year he was called up in 2009. His 2009 minor league season line was .326 BA, 4 HR 25 RBI .378 OBP.

When Beckham hit the majors, there was a cocky swagger to him. And he found instant success: in 103 games he hit .270, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB, .347 OBP.

White Sox fans were delighted with their Rookie of Decade.

It is one thing to play in the majors without any pressure of organizational or fan expectations. If you come in under the radar and make a big splash, people will take notice. Fast.

But ever since Beckham's rookie season, the expectations skyrocketed on the kid. So much so that he has never gotten back to his rookie season performance.  There is always a notion of a "sophomore slump" for players, who suddenly don't have to struggle to make the team but feel more pressure to perform.

Geo Soto was that way, too. He had a blow out rookie of the year season, but has struggled with his average, power numbers and nagging injuries for the past few seasons. Instead of being a cornerstone backstop of the future, Soto is becoming just an average catcher in the minds of the fans.

In 2011, Harper played 109 games in the minors. His stat line was good: .297 average, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 7 SB, .392 OBP. Now he is in the big shoe making his presence known in the Nationals lineup.

How well will Harper handle the expectations in Washington? If recent history is taken into account, it is not the rookie season that is the threshold, it is the seasons afterward.

May 9, 2012


Cub fans h
ave lamented about the Cubs bullpen woes.

Wild man Marmol and Mr. Irrelevant Woods. The two latest examples of
of the pitching staff imploding into its self shame.

It is also the management of the pen that concerns some:
Dolis is being overworked and Russell is now the de facto closer.
Wood is injured more than rust on a 1972 Ford.
Camp warms up more times than actual game appearances.
Bowden only comes in to mop up games that are lost.
And Lenny Castillo may have been left at the airport after the second
road trip because he is MIA. (The Rule 5 claim has to stay on the roster
or he must be tendered back to the Phillies).

So the Cubs are playing games with in reality a four man bullpen:
Camp, Marmol, Dolis and Russell.

To say the Cubs starters are overproducing to compensate for the weak
bullpen would be an understatement.

I checked the standings to be amazed that the Astros are in third in the
NL Central. The Astros? Everyone gave them up for a AAA dead team.

How are the Astros doing it? Smoke and Mirrors?

Well, they are getting some hitting from their no-name middle infield;
and a couple of power hitters have been driving in runs. So they have a
middle of the pack offense.

The starting pitcher except for Wandy Rodruiguez have been HORRIBLE.
DREADFUL. GAWD-AWFUL. The other starters have ERAs of plus 6.00.

But what is key to early season success: the Astro bullpen has been stellar,
and closer Myers has 8 saves.

A stellar bullpen apparently is the key to the Astros success, counter intuitively,
the opposite of most GMs thoughts that the key to a pitching staff is great
starting pitching.

Look at the Cubs: new management BLEW UP the bullpen to bolster the
starting rotation, and the problem this season is the poor bullpen.

Now the Astros near .500 surprising season could crash and burn at any moment,
but it is an interesting fact that bullpens really do matter just as much, or in some
cases MORE THAN a starting rotation.

May 8, 2012


Ex-Cub Carlos Zambrano threw his fifth quality start for the Marlins, getting his first victory (a complete game). He has had three games blown by the Marlins closer, Health Bell.

How are the center piece Cubs from Hendry's era doing with their new teams?

Pitcher   Games W-L ERA WHIP K/BB ratio

Zambrano: 6 G, 1-2, 1.98 ERA, 1CG, 1 SHO, 1.024 WHIP, 2.29 K/BB ratio
Marshall: 11 G, 0-2, 5 saves, 1.355 WHIP, 4.67 K/BB ratio
Cashner: 15 G, 2-2, 3.95 ERA, 1.683 WHIP, 1.00 K/BB ratio

Hitters: G  Avg  HR-RBI-SB OBP

Ramirez: 28 G, .215 2-14-2, .259
Colvin: 21 G, .289, 2-10-1, .313
Theriot: 19 G .192, 0-2-0, .232

All three pitchers would be contributors on the Cubs this season.
Ramirez is off to another slow start which is his SOP.
Theriot and Colvin are bench players, but Colvin's part time work is on par with DeJesus.

May 7, 2012


When the Cubs brought up Travis Wood to spot start for Matt Garza, the latest Cub to catch the locker room flu bug, the Cubs designated for assignment Blake DeWitt.

As stated in the earlier post, there is a market for veterans who can play third base. Numerous injuries on multiple teams who want to contend bring even Cub talent in play in the trade market.

A DFA is a contractual device for a team to take a player off their 25 man roster, but retain his rights for 10 days or so. In that time period, the club can put him through waivers or try to trade him.  When a team goes DFA to create roster space, it is a clear signal that this player is available.

DeWitt was the odd utility man out at the end of spring training, went to the minors briefly, then returned as an early season Sveum favorite. But now, he could be moving to the Giants, Phils or Rays for low level prospects.

May 5, 2012


There is a sudden demand for major league third basemen. ESPN's Jason Stark reports that the Rays and the Giants are looking for third basemen to replace injured stars Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval. Stark states that he believes the Rays are looking for more of a utility player they can use after Longoria returns. Also, the Phillies are in the market to replace Placido Polanco, who is at the end of his career.

A few names in the discount trade bin are Baltimore's Mark Reynolds, a power hitting strike out machine, and Minnesota's Danny Valencia.

This early in the season, teams with major injuries are not necessarily looking to permanently replace their fallen stars, but pick up salvageable journeymen who can plug the gap until the return of the regular.

Again, this type of news should have the Cubs GM Hoyer on the horn to make deals for prospects or other major leaguers to fill the holes in the current North Side roster.

Example, who would have thought that ex-Cardinal Joe Mather would have more HRs than ex-Cardinal Albert Pujols?  Mather's stock is peaking right now. He can play LF, RF, 3B and 1B. But on most teams, including the Cubs, he is the 4th outfielder. Mather would be a good bargaining chip in a trade right now, especially to the Rays who are looking for a multi-positional player in return.

Blake DeWitt also fills that utility role. He can play third, second and outfield. And he is a left handed bat.
Jeff Baker is the same type player, only he bats from the right side. Ian Stewart has been a disappointment at third for the Cubs. He lacks the power and average that was promised when the Cubs got him from the Rockies. Stewart is not the Cubs long term answer at third. The Cubs have a roster loaded with utility journeymen candidates. Since the Cubs are going no where but hovering around the cellar this season, there is no reason to hang on to these players who are not important foundational pieces in the rebuilding for 2014.


The Chicago Tribune reported the strange news from the White Sox camp.  A dejected Chris Sale left his manager's office after being told that he was being replaced in the rotation. He was assigned to the bullpen to be the new team Closer.

As the Tribune noted: "After showing promise with a 3-1 record and 2.81 ERA in his first five starts, the Sox decided to move him to the closer's role after he experienced soreness and tightness in his left elbow."

The White Sox claim that the move was in Sale's best interests.

"We're doing it because we feel it's best for him, his career and his health," pitching coach Don Cooper told reporters.  "It's the best way to keep him healthy and strong."

But this is truly a dumb move.

If you want to keep Sale healthy and strong, you skip a start, send him to the doctor to check on the elbow and have him do physical therapy.  You don't put him into a more stressful situation of being the bullpen closer - - - on call every game to pitch. There is probably more stress on the arm getting up and down warming up in the pen during a week, and throwing several innings of relief than a starter taking the mound once and throwing five or six straight innings then resting for 5 days.

But what is worse is the mental bomb Sox management exploded on their promising starter. It was a demotion. There is no two ways around it. Sale, after being one of the Sox's best starters this season, was demoted to the bullpen. It makes no sense. Quality starters are harder to find than relief pitchers. 

To say that a closer's value is greater in saving one or two games a week is more important than a starter who can win a game a week is comparing apples to oranges.  A starter's value is in eating up innings during the course of a season. You want your best pitchers to be starters to have more quality innings of work during the course of a season.

So Matt Thorton blows a save, and as the second Closer of the season fails, the White Sox panic and look for a replacement on their staff. What about Crain? What about the minor leagues? No, the man to fall on the hand grenade of a bad bullpen roster is Sale.

Part of this move has to be to appease the fan base by remaining near the top of the AL Central. The Sox slashed ticket prices in the off season to get more bodies into the Cell for games. The Sox need to continue to have a good record and be near the top of the standings to draw fans. And to do so it costs the team real development of a quality starter, so be it. A truly dumb move.

May 3, 2012


Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

Cub fans dreamed of the possibility of stealing away Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols this off season.
The best hitter in baseball was a free agent looking for a long term, $25 million per season deal.
New Cub management played along with the fantasy, but had no real desire to tie up $250 million in one player. Instead, they made the trade for their first baseman of the future: Anthony Rizzo.

Some general managers have learned from the mistakes of others, especially giving veterans expensive long term contracts as the player's swansong contract.  Soriano is still owed $53 million. He is unmoveable: as a trade candidate, at the plate, on the bases or in the outfield. The Cubs are stuck with an overpaid, underperforming player. It's called dead money.

The Angels made the move to sign Pujols to a huge, career concluding contract. Cue, Soriano theme song. For as the season moves into its second month, Pujols has been a huge disappointment.

Pujols is batting only .208. His on base percentage is a woeful .252. He has zero home runs, and only 5 RBIs.  A rookie would have been optioned back to the minors.

In contrast, the Cubs one year stop gap at first, Bryan LaHair is batting around .380, a .429 OBP, with 7 HRs and 16 RBIs.  He is literally the entire Cubs power so far this season. The Cubs have lucked out with their 29 year old career minor leaguer being paid the minimum salary.

On a cost benefit analysis on performance to date, the Cubs are clearly better off with LaHair than Pujols.

May 2, 2012


By the next season's trade deadline, the Cubs should be in a position to turn over most of the Hendry era roster to transition into the Epstein era.

By midseason 2013, the Cubs team will probably look like this:

OF: Soriano, B. Jackson, DeJesus, Campana, Sappelt
IN: Vitters, Castro, Cardenas, Rizzo, LaHair, Baker, Barney
C: Castillo, Clevenger

SP: Garza, Maholm, Samardzija, Volstad, T. Wood
RP: Russell, Dolis, Marmol, Maine, L. Castillo, Bowden

Your starting lineup:

1. DeJesus RF
2. Cardenas 2B
3. Castro SS
4. B.Jackson CF
5. Rizzo 1B
6. Soriano LF
7. W. Castillo C
8. Vitters 3B

The projected starting rotation could change if Iowa's Rusin or J. Jackson excel to the point that they are better choices than Volstad or T. Wood.  This season, Blake Parker is the Iowa closer so he may be in the mix to be the eventual replacement for Marmol in the bullpen.

May 1, 2012


There are various rumblings from fans when will the Cubs 2.0 management call up hot prospects Rizzo and B. Jackson. The simple answer is in 2013.  That is not a joke.

The new breed of general manager is more focused on controlling their prospects free agency time line than quickly promoting a player to the major league roster. The reason is simple: after a certain time period, a good prospect can turn into a Super Two ( two plus years of ML service) as being the top 17 percent of the rookie crop, which means one less year of arbitration (one year earlier for free agency). The status also means a bump in pay, too.  So cost conscious teams want to limit the amount of Super Twos on their roster.

The Cubs rank last in power stats. LaHair has half of the team's total HR total. The current starting outfield (Soriano, Campana and DeJesus) have zero.  Statistically, LaHair may be the second best NL hitter behind LA's Kemp. LaHair's fast start is another reason that Rizzo will remain in Iowa for the full season.

Another reason is that the Cubs are on pace to lose 106 games. An 8-15 April does not show the team is ready to compete for the division. Why start the free agency clock when the team is not going to contend?

A third reason may be marketing. By leaving Jackson and Rizzo at Iowa to build up monster numbers, the Cubs PR machine will use them as new hope for 2013 (in an attempt to get season ticket renewals from an exhausted fan base). Yes, it is a cheap and unrealistic ploy on the team's part.

Another reason Jackson and Rizzo will not be called up soon is that they are effectively blocked by current players. Manager Sveum has stated that Campana is going to play 80% of the remaining games as his center fielder. That blocks Jackson from playing every day. Campana is a one dimensional player (speed) compared to a five tool prospect like Jackson. But Sveum thinks he can use Campana in the second hole and create some offensive, steals and scoring chances for the middle of the order.

LaHair's fast start blocks the need for Rizzo to be called up to play first. LaHair has no other natural position to go to; playing him in LF instead of Soriano makes the team weaker, since Soriano is still the number one HR power source on the club. Playing RF instead of DeJesus would be a stretch because LaHair is not fast to cover that corner. It would also highlight a potential mistake in signing DeJesus in the first place, a thing that the new administration would loath to give the media fodder to criticize the Theocracy.

Rizzo and Jackson are part of the Cubs future. But the Future is still a long ways away.