May 28, 2015


There was some question on whether the new electronic scoreboards at Wrigley would affect home runs because of new wind patterns.

There is not enough evidence to make any final conclusions, but the current home run distribution chart has some circumstantial evidence.

ESPN's home run tracker puts a dot for every home run hit in every ball park. In the first 24 games at Wrigley, 42 home runs have been hit. That is an average of 1.74 HR/game. The National League average is 1.82 HR/G. The American League average is 1,95 HR/G.

Milwaukee leads the majors with 73 home runs (2.81 HR/G) followed by Cincinnati (2.71 HR/G), the Dodgers (2.36 HR/G) and San Diego (2.30 HR/G).

At Wrigley, the home run distribution was:

23 to LF (54.7%)
6 to CF (14.3 %)
13 to RF (31.0%)

The number of "front row" home runs were:

14 in LF (61% of total)
2 in CF (33% of total)
4 in RF (31% of total)

The question is whether the large LF video board is creating a down force in the left field bleachers that is creating a larger percentage of home run balls landing in the first rows.


All the attention of the "fan experience" reasons for the new Wrigley video boards has been overshadowing a concern: it helps the opponent.

The LF video board is in direct line to the visitor's dugout.

The manager, coaching staff and players have a clear view of the video replays, including the Cubs pitcher's pitches on strike outs. This is real time scouting information during a game.

During the Washington series, I observed the Nats looking at the video board after at bats. Seeing how a Cub pitcher's spin, bite and arm angle of that day's "out" pitches can lead to quicker adjustments for batters.

It is one thing to have a scout in the press box looking at the TV broadcast PitchTrack to relay information to the dugout. But it is another to have a player actually see the replay of the pitcher's game arsenal. 

I doubt that the Cubs realized that a video board could be used in this manner by their opponents. The motivation for the new signage was revenue. New revenue.

May 26, 2015


Memorial Day usually marks the date where teams start to evaluate their seasons. Sportswriters will sharpen their pens to begin to write their updated "buyer" and "seller" trade deadline stories. GMs will begin to see if their teams are over-achieving or under-performing so far this year.

What have been the biggest surprises so far this year?

Tampa Bay in first place in the AL East was something no one saw coming at the end of spring training. It was supposed to be a Boston runaway rebuild and the Yankees sneaking around second.

Kansas City itself believes its last year playoff run was real so it is not a surprise that the Royals are in first place. But the Tigers being in third place is more of a surprise. But not as bad as the White Sox being in last place in the division when on paper Chicago had the best off-season.

Houston is the biggest surprise with best 29 wins and a 5.5 game lead in the AL West.

The Mets hot start was a surprise with its young rotation, but being in second is still better than expected for this underachieving team.

The Cubs being in second place for most of the season is a surprise. Being four games over .500 (24-20) and 4.5 games behind the Cardinals is better than most people expected from the young Cubs.

The biggest downside surprise may be the Padres. An aggressive off-season has yielded a weak fourth place (7 games behind) in the NL West.

Based on these surprises, there may be less "sellers" this year as teams that should not have been so competitive (Rays, Astros, Cubs, Mets) won't be looking to next year.

May 25, 2015


Bryce Harper comes into the Cubs series with 16 HRs and 41 RBI. He appears on record setting pace. But Harper does not get the positive accolades of a Mike Trout because Harper is a bit of a loose cannon. He was ejected twice last week from games. He is reckless in the field. He is animated on the bench.

As a result, his career high in games played is 139. On that pace, he would end 2015 with 51 HR and 130 RBI.

But there was some hint that he could challenge the big record: Hack Wilson's.

In 1930, Cub OF Wilson tallied an amazing 191 RBI with 56 HR. He did it in 155 games played.

If Harper plays 155 games this year, his pace would get him to the 56 HR mark, but only to 144 RBI.

Which again, shows how outrageous is Wilson's record.


In the heat of the game, players could be distracted by the situation. But you have to know the rules, and follow them.

The league announced an eight-game suspension for Brewer pitcher Will Smith, who plans to appeal. Here's the MLB announcement:
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Will Smith has received an eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm during the bottom of the seventh inning of his Club’s Thursday, May 21st game against the Braves.  Joe Garagiola Jr., Senior Vice President of Standards & On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement.
Smith’s suspension had been scheduled to begin tonight, when the Brewers are to continue their series at Atlanta. However, he has elected to file an appeal. Thus, the discipline issued to him will be held in abeyance until the process is complete.
After the game Thursday night, Smith admitted that he had a mixture of sunscreen and rosin on his arm. That's in violation of MLB's rules, however it's not a particularly uncommon way for pitchers to get a better grip on the ball. Smith said  he had it on his arm in the bullpen, but "forgot" to clean it off when he took the mound.

The video of the incident clearly shows a shiny substance on Smith's arm. When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez came out to speak to the home plate umpire, after Smith had hit a batter to load the bases, everyone assumed it was about the HBP. But after a few moments, the umpires got to the mound and inspected Smith's arm. One touch of the area, Smith was immediately ejected. 

But as Smith was leaving the mound, he turned to the Brave dugout and loudly cursed profanities at Gonzalez. Why? If he knew he was supposed to clean off his arm and did not do so, he broke the rules. Gonzalez brought it to the attention of the umpires, who tossed Smith from the game. Why blame the opponent for your own rules violation?  Sportsmanship should require accepting one's mistakes and not blaming someone else for getting caught.

May 23, 2015


The Dodgers have been quite aggressive in signing Cuban ball players. The problem with scouting and evaluating Cuban players is that the U.S. trade embargo makes traditional due diligence difficult.

We don't know the full story on the latest issue with a Cuban prospect. It could be culture shock. It could be a personality problem (hot Latin temper stereotype; the macho thing). But it is almost a trend that multi-million dollar bonus babies are getting quickly into trouble.

The Associated Press reported that Dodgers prospect Erisbel Arruebarrena  was suspended for the remainder of the season for what the team said was ''repeated failures to comply with his contract.''
Club officials declined further comment.

Arruebarrena signed a $25 million, five-year contract in February 2014. He split the season among four minor league teams and the Dodgers and made his big league debut on last May 23. He hit .195 in 22 games for Los Angeles.

The Dodgers designated him for assignment on Dec. 31, and when he cleared waivers he was sent outright to the team's Triple-A affiliate.

The 25-year-old Cuban remained at extended spring training and did not play in any minor league games this year, when his deal calls for a $3 million salary. The club does not have to pay him while suspended list.

The team had previously indicated that it was not related to a testing program violation. It is unknown what other contract provision was breached to get a full year suspension. However, Arruebarrena was at the center of a major brawl in Triple-A last year, at one point taking off his helmet and throwing it at former major leaguer Mike Jacobs. If the player or his agent appeals, it would be heard by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Other teams may not feel too bad for the Dodgers wasting signing bonus money on a suspended prospect. But there is a lesson for all general managers who are looking to the Caribbean and Cuba for the next great prospects. The mental make-up of players is just as important as the perceived skill levels.  In fact, the former could be the most important issue in a player's development.

May 21, 2015


It took less than a week to juggle the Cubs roster.

The Cubs still have a 13 pitcher heavy staff. Maddon used six pitchers last night so it seems that trend will continue.

One less catcher is one more position player: journeyman Mike Baxter is your newest AAAA replacement player. He can play outfield and first base. He was called up with Junior Lake to get the squad back up to five outfielders.

The biggest impact on trading Welington Castillo will be on catching: Miguel Montero will now have to catch more games and David Ross needs to stay healthy to be useful beyond Jon Lester's personal back stop.

Whether all these recent moves makes the Cubs a better team? Not really, since a lot of these moves have been to replace tired bullpen arms.

As it stands now, the significant moves have been:

1. Moving Travis Wood to the bullpen for T. Wada. In the overall scheme of things, this may be a wash and not an upgrade from the rotation standpoint, but some could consider Wood an upgrade over a Phil Coke.

2. Baxter to 5th outfield spot over Matt Szczur. Again, nothing special that Baxter brings to the bench.

So long as the core starters remain healthy, the Cubs can maintain their status quo in performance.

May 19, 2015


This is quite the rarity for a National League Club.

The Cubs are carrying only three outfielders (Coghlan, Fowler and Soler).


Because the Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers!

With three catchers still on the roster, that leaves only a bench of one utility infielder (Herrerra).

Travis Wood has had three lackluster starts, and was put into an emergency save situation during the home stand when Joe Maddon ran out of players.  Now, the front office has given him a merry-go-round bullpen with call-ups and options to Iowa.

Tsuyoshi Wada will take Wood's place in the rotation. Wood will take the long reliever role that Edwin Jackson had once assumed, which presumed that Jackson will move down the line toward 7th inning chores. James Russell is back to be the lefty specialist. Zac Rosscup is holding a spot until Neil Ramirez returns from the DL.

The imbalance in the roster is foreboding if any position player goes down.

It is never good to have players playing out of position, especially in an emergency. Kris Bryant played an inning in center field because he was uncomfortable in left field. Wellington Castillo could play an emergency first base (we think). Suddenly, Herrera becomes the most important Everyman on the team.

With David Ross Jon Lester's personal catcher, and Castillo playing well off the bench, the Cubs will keep three catchers to the trade deadline. Ross is like another bench coach so his job is secure. The Cubs don't want to give away Castillo in a trade so it is possible he will remain as the power bat off the bench.

The Cubs are carrying two extra pitchers because Maddon likes to use a lot of pitchers during a game once a starter leaves. This may put more strain on a bullpen.

We should see this shake out in the next week.


I have been blamed for pushing Beef out the door, as this morning the Cubs traded Castillo to the Mariners for reliever Yoervis Medina. The Mariners were looking for a back up catcher, and the Cubs are trying to find and stash as many bullpen arms it can find.

MLBTR stated that Medina seemingly represents "a buy-low arm" of the sort that the Cubs have targeted in recent years. Medina,  26,  has struggled with just 6.8 K/9 against 5.3 BB/9 this year — the walks are nothing new, though he had struck out better than nine hitters per nine innings in prior years — he still owns a 3.00 ERA in his 12 innings of work. And Medina has compiled 125 innings of 2.81 ERA pitching over the prior two seasons.

Medina has shown significant velocity loss this year, dropping from last year’s 94-95 mph range down to 92.4 mph with both his four-seamer and two-seamer thus far in 2015. In addition to a quality sinker, which he went away from this year, Medina also features a rather promising curve ball.

Since Medina has only 2 years of ML service, the Cubs can send him to Iowa.

May 17, 2015


An Ohio high school baseball diamond was subject to a recent eco-prank:

Someone planted a 25 foot tall tree between the pitcher's mound and home plate.

May 16, 2015


Oh, what a strange one.

I got home and saw the end.

But before, my gawd, sending Castro on the short fly ball to right field was stupid.
He was out by a country mile.

Then the exact same inning unfolded for the Cubs.
Bases loaded, one out, same batter up (Szczur) and
same runner at third (Castro). Same lazy fly ball to
short right and . . . Polanco trips over some grass blades,
falls - - - game over.

What a bumbling, stumbling, lucky victory for the Cubs.

The game could have been lost by over-managing by both Maddon and Hurdle.
You don't run out of players by the 10th inning.

The Pirates were out of position players, and had no relievers left.
The Cubs had one position player, an injured Ross, and one reliever left, Coke.

Starters were pinch hitting for gosh sakes.

Edwin Jackson was pitching in the extras, so he should have been told he was
going to throw to the conclusion of the contest. But no, the pitcher's spot in 
double shifts wound up 4th - - - meaning in a tie game, Jackson was pulled for
a short reliever.

Lucky for Maddon, it never got that far as the Cubs won at that at-bat.

May 14, 2015


Matt Harvey is a good pitcher . . . . very good. Jason Hammel is a good pitcher . . . pretty good.

It was one of those classic pitcher duels on a cold Chicago evening.

It was also nice to get a fresh broadcast perspective on the Cubs. ESPN's crew did a good, balanced job on their coverage. For all the side nonsense and controversy, Curt Schilling does know about pitching. (Poor Doug Glanville, he was exiled to Siberia in CF for most of the game.)

The game and the commentary should be a documentary for young pitchers on how to become quality major league starters. Location, command and pitch efficiency were all on display last night.

As Schilling eluded, a top pitcher can control a game from the mound, but an ace pitcher can get himself out of jams even when he makes "mistakes" such as a breaking ball that backs up into the zone (in a few occasions, it backed up inside jamming the hitter into lining out.) It was a clinic on cold weather pitching, the grip, the strategy to attack pitchers and fielders in such conditions.

This is the hardest transition for pro pitchers. It is not about getting strikeouts, it is about getting outs. It is about how to set up a hitter to a) swing and miss; b) take a strike; c) or induce preferred contact such as a ground ball to start a double play. Most young pitchers who have dominant fastball rely too much on it to get the big leagues. However, the problem is that every major league hitter can gauge a fastball, adjust and crush it.

Both starters were excellent last night:

Harvey threw 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9K, 2 BB. He threw 100 pitches, 70 for strikes (70%).

Hammel threw 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 1 BB. He threw 97 pitches, 68 for strikes (70.1%).

Cub manager Joe Maddon is becoming a risk taker. In the 9th after Anthony Rizzo got a single, Maddon replaced his best hitter with a pinch runner, Matt Sczcur. In a tie game that could go to extra innings, this seemed to be an odd move. Then Starlin Castro got a single, with Sczcur getting to third base. This put additional pressure on the Mets bullpen. An intentional walk, then a strike out to Jorge Soler, Mets closer Jeurys Familia walked Coghlan to give the Cubs the win.

It was the bullpen that cost the Mets the game. As discussed, the game of baseball is now constructed to rely more on a solid bullpen than on five solid starting pitchers. Teams are carrying 11 or 12 pitchers now just to bolster the bullpen which is now expected to take the game from the 7th inning to the end game after game. It is rare to get a box score where both starting pitchers throw past the 7th inning.

During the cable pregame, there was some discussion on how good and young the Mets pitching staff is - - - that it could contain five aces. The staff is jelling to comparisons of the great Atlanta Braves staffs of the 1990s. So there is a natural thought pattern that the Cubs and Mets would be ideal trade partners since the Cubs have a surplus of young hitters.

A few people believe that the Mets would be foolish to trade any of their young starters. Finding an ace pitcher is very hard. Finding more than one is rare. Having three or more on a staff is unheard of. One commentator believed that he would never trade a HOF caliber starter for a HOF caliber hitter.

The example would be trading Harvey for Kris Bryant.

Bryant is expected to play 155 games in the field, bat .275, hit 30 HR, 85 RBI.
Harvey is expected to start 33 games, have 16 wins, 2.37 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 5.0 WAR.

Yes, Bryant will play in more games, but his production and impact  is the 4 times he is at the plate. Harvey directly impacts 20 percent of the Mets starts, and controls the ball for at least 25 batters a game.

It is often said that great pitching will temper great hitting. So who is more valuable?

A professional pitcher like Harvey may be more valuable as a central foundation piece for a franchise. Quality starts create stability in the pitching staff. Quality starts give teams the ability to win series. Winning series consistently means a winning record and playoff berth. A professional pitcher will share his knowledge of the game with his teammates, thus increasing the coaching efficiency of the team. (Greg Maddux was credited with the same mentoring in Atlanta and Chicago).

The Mets rebuilt their franchise through young starting pitching. The Cubs have rebuilt their franchise on young power hitters. It will be interesting to see which club has the better run, short and long term.


The Mets have had a series of quality young starters come to the majors. In this homestand, the Mets latest young gun, Noah Syndergaard made his debut.

He threw 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 K and 4 BB. He threw 103 pitches, 56 for strikes (54.3%). The Mets lost the game to the Cubs, behind Jake Arrieta who went 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 10 K, and 2 BB. Arrieta threw 116 pitches, 70 for strikes (60.3%).

An infield hit by Kris Bryant, who flew down the first base line, kept an inning going with two outs. It seemed to rattle Syndergaard. He threw many more pitches because of that hustle play, so it ended his night early.

What was interesting to see is the contrasting styles of the two starters.

Syndergaard has a short arm power delivery which can get his fast ball up to 97 mph. His motion is a bit of a mechanical cheat to increase velocity since he is whipping his forearm and wrist during the motion to the plate. This adds velocity but it also adds torque to his elbow ligaments.

Young pitchers are fixated from youth baseball through the minors on two points: fastball velocity and strikeout totals. Those two stats gets pitchers noticed in high school, college, the draft and signing a pro contract. Young pitchers try to get the most velocity they can with their mechanics. Every person is built differently; each with his own body tolerances and elasticity. Chris Sale has mastered a buggy whip delivery which most other pitchers could never control. During the telecast, Syndergaard was compared to Wade Miller, a former pitcher with a short arm delivery.

Miller had a so-so career. He had shoulder and elbow problems which caused him several stints on the disabled list. And that should be the concern for the Mets, that Syndergaard's delivery could increase the risk of injury. During his pro start, one could tell that he began to fall off the side of the mound instead of pushing straight toward the plate. This slide adds another motion (or force plane) to an otherwise stressful delivery.

In contrast, Arrieta has a long straight arm motion delivery to the plate. It is a circular catapult-like motion that looks "easy" and flowing. Pitching coaches like this style of delivery because it puts less stress on shoulder and elbow. And that this motion is easily repeatable - - - getting a pitcher in an early game rhythm is important.

Arrieta averaged 4.83 pitches per out in his victory.
Syndergaard averaged 6.4375 pitches per out.

Rookie pitchers tend to try to overpower hitters because that is what has worked throughout their development. But pitching in the majors is more an art form than power play. Arrieta was much more efficient in getting outs, therefore he lasted longer in the game. And being efficient does not mean Arrieta could not gather strike out victims.

It is clear that Arrieta is a more polished pitcher than Syndergaard. However, if Syndergaard can keep off the disabled list he should be another fine addition to the young Mets rotation.

May 13, 2015


Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Barry Bonds will file a grievance against baseball owners for allegedly blacklisting him from baseball.

Bonds claims collusion by teams that prevented him from obtaining a playing job following the 2007 season. He has long contended that a collusion of MLB owners effectively ended his career after the 2007 season when he set the career home run record with 762 homers.

However, Bonds was 42 years old during the 2007 season. He was well beyond the normal age for a productive baseball player. And he was under extreme scrutiny both inside and outside of baseball for allegations of PED use.

In 2003, Bonds' name came up during the BALCO scandal when his personal trainer, Greg Anderson was indicted by the U.S. and charged with supplying illegal anabolic steroids to athletes, including baseball players. This led to speculation that Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs during a time when there was no mandatory testing in Major League Baseball. Bonds declared his innocence, attributing his changed physique and increased power to a strict regimen of bodybuilding, diet and legitimate supplements.

During grand jury testimony on December 4, 2003, Bonds said that he used a clear substance and a cream that he received from his personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, who told him they were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis. Later reports on Bonds’ leaked grand-jury testimony contend that he admitted to unknowingly using "the clear" which was reportedly a form of the designer steroid THG and "the cream"  which was reportedly a concoction designed to mask certain hormone ratios helping the user to beat drug tests.

In August 2005, all four defendants in the BALCO steroid scandal trial, including Anderson, struck deals with federal prosecutors that did not require them to reveal names of athletes who may have used banned drugs.

On November 15, 2007, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Bonds. He was charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. "During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment reads. The charges focus on Bonds' responses to the grand jury in his 2003 testimony, specifically his denials when asked if he had used steroids, and whether Anderson had administered steroids to him.

The case went to trial, with Bonds being convicted on one count of obstruction of justice (the jury was hung on other counts) for lying to a grand jury about his alleged steroid use. His conviction was recently overturned on appeal.

Since the BALCO matter is now completed, it appears Bonds is ready to move ahead against MLB.

Bonds and his agent have said that Bonds, despite having a good season (.276 BA, 28 HR, 66 RBI) he received no offers to play in the 2008 season. His reputation of being difficult with the media, aloof from the fans, and caught up in baseball's steroid scandal hurt his chances to becoming a Hall of Fame inductee despite being the game's greatest home run hitter.

It is unclear that Bonds' grievance against the owners will have any traction. Did a 43 year old player with baggage worth a contract offer?

May 12, 2015


The Cubs started off the season with some new found plate discipline.

However, with the weather changing so has the home run swing attitude.

The Cubs team strike out totals have increased quickly back to bad form.

The Cubs lead the National League in team Ks with 312. The league average is 242.

The Cubs have 70 more strikeouts (29% above the league average).

In 31 games played, the Cubs average 10.06 K/G. The league average is 7.56 K/G. That means the Cubs are striking out 2.5 times more per game than the league. That means that the Cubs are basically giving away an inning a game by not putting a ball into play.

On a brighter note, the Cubs are still above average in walks. The Cubs have "accepted" in Maddon's terms 107 base on balls, while the NL team average is 94. That means the Cubs have 0.42 more walks per game than the league average.

Putting the two stats together, we find that the Cubs new mean is still about 2.1 more strikeouts (being unproductive outs) than the league average.

Given that a team only gets 27 outs in a game, the Cubs put themselves in a statistical hole by really having only 25 outs per game. In other words, since the Cubs are striking out more than the average NL opponent, their opponent has a 7.4 percentage statistical advantage over the Cubs before the start of the game. In a close contest, two quality at-bats can mean the difference between winning and losing the contest (the dreaded RISP stat comes to mind).

Player     PA    K     K%/PA

Soler      134    46     .366
Bryant    103    34     .330
Russell     71    30     .423
Fowler    134   28     .209
Castro     131   26     .198
Coghlan  103   22     .214
Rizzo      138   17     .123

Three key players have 110 strikeouts (35.2% of the team total).  Yes, they are all rookies. Yes, opponents have quickly scouted Soler, Bryant and Russell to feed them a ton of breaking balls and change-ups. But every batter needs to adjust to "his book" otherwise he will not be productive.

The current strike out trend is not a good sign for the Cubs.

May 11, 2015


The public perception is that the Cubs are doing just fine, even though they are 6.5 games behind the Cardinals.

However, there is panic on the South Side as the White Sox are off to a slow start, a couple of suspensions, and major criticism of its manager, Robin Ventura. The strength of the White Sox, its starting rotation, has faltered (including Chris Sale getting lit up by the lowly Twins) as well as the revamped offense.

But despite all the faults, flaws and losses, the White Sox are also 6.5 games out of first place.

The Cubs are trying to rebuild their bullpen on the fly by bringing back Russell and Grimm. The Cubs have been consistently getting on base and scoring runs, but the bullpen has ballooned to a 7 ERA in the past week.  But there is no panic in Wrigleyville. Maddon continues to give the beat reporters his daily quips so everything is ice cream and rainbows.

Meanwhile, the press is looking for hangman's rope for Ventura. But he has a veteran team that should come around as the weather heats up. Carlos Rodon's first start started rocky but smoothed out for his first career victory. It would seem that Rodon will push himself into the Sox rotation earlier than expected as Noesi has an injury.

It is another tale of two teams within one city. The Cubs are getting all the attention since the White Sox have given the press little to cheer. The White Sox have a modern ball park with cheap ticket prices for families but that gets little attention to the Cubs open construction site debris field still draws large crowds.

The perceptions of the teams is completely different. But both teams are basically in the same situation: 6.5 games out of first place.

May 9, 2015


This was a recent Jeopardy Final Answer clue:

All the contestants got the answer WRONG.

May 8, 2015


Friends have continued the debate about the Cubs lack of a left fielder.

Chris Coghlan is not the long term answer. In fact, no one on the current roster is the answer in left field.  Kris Bryant has shown that he can play a competent major league third base. He is used to that position, don't mess with his mind by moving him around to the outfield.

With Addison Russell settling into second base, and Starlin Castro is staying at shortstop (even though Addison and Javy Baez are better defensively at that position), it means that Baez appears to be the odd man odd.

Unless Baez is the one to move to LF, he seems that he is the most likely July trade bait. Last year, we thought that Castro would have been traded to the Yankees as the replacement for Derek Jeter. But that seems to be a long shot now.

Joe Maddon has started to settle in to a more or less consistent line up with Rizzo and Soler flipping 2-3 slots (but perhaps Bryant will move permanently to the 3rd slot and Soler to clean up). This puts Castro in the 5th spot where he can do some free swinging, the left fielder batting 6th, catcher 7th and Russell batting 9th.

Coghlan is batting .203 and recalled Matt Szczur is batting .200. Junior Lake hit .286 in limited playing time before being sent back to Iowa.  He seems to be deemed only a replacement player. Mike Baxter is hitting .303 in Iowa but lacks power.

So the Cubs are in a bind in left field.  They need to upgrade the position, but it will probably cost them at least Baez (if he is hitting) and a potential pitching prospect (like C.J. Edwards). The question is always whether it is worth the risk to acquire a veteran outfielder for a wild card push or hold onto the prospects for next season.

May 7, 2015


Last night, Joe Maddon morphed into a little Lou Pinella tirade.

Maddon believed that  home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn was giving the veteran Cardinal team a more favorable strike zone over the young Cubs players. Maddon gave the umpire a piece of his mind before being ejected from the game.

“I had enough,” Maddon told reporters afterward. “I had enough. I had enough. It was the whole game. It was egregiously bad. I mean, you cannot permit that to happen. We’re trying to ascend. And we’re not going to take that from anybody, anywhere, at any time.

“We play a veteran club with some veteran battery and you got guys that barely have a month in the big leagues. I’m not going to take it. Our guys deserve equal treatment. And I’m not going to take it.

“And I’ll further add: I thought all of our guys – (Kris) Bryant, (Jorge) Soler, (Addison) Russell – handled the moment extremely well. I’m really proud of the fact that they didn’t turn on an umpire. They didn’t say anything disrespectful. They didn’t act like a bunch of babies. They didn’t do any of that. And I thought that was spectacular also.

“Not going to put up with anything, I’m not, OK? We’re trying to get something done here. And I’m not going to permit our guys to get shortchanged based on the fact that they haven’t been here a long time," Maddon said.

This is one of a manager's duties: sticking up for his players. Whether Maddon's tirade changed the outcome of the game (the Cubs hung on to beat the Cardinals 6-5) is debatable. It is an important lesson to his team that Maddon will have his players back so they do not get into trouble with the umpires. In the unwritten rules of the game, umpires like players can hold grudges. Umpires do not like it when players attempt to show them up - - - make grand gestures or grouse about strike calls. A young player does not want to get a reputation of being a complainer. That is where the manager puts himself between his player and the umpire - - - to send a message to both of them.

All the teams require from the home plate umpire is a consistent strike zone. If the umpire is going to call the high strike, then call it all game long for both teams. If the umpire is not going to give strikes at the knees, do it for the entire game. Pitchers know they have to adjust during a game to both the batters and the umpire's strike zone.

May 6, 2015


Perhaps since it is the oldest American sport, baseball legends have a shelf life that lasts multiple generations. The best current example of this was today's article marking the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth's first home run.

It never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in knowing that on May 6, 1915 Ruth hit his first of 714 major league home runs.

But even today's causal fans know about Ruth. He was a larger than life legend from the Golden Age.

He began as a pitcher with the Red Sox. The team owner got in financial trouble, so he sold Ruth to the dreaded rival New York Yankees. This led to the Curse of the Bambino, an excuse fostered by Red Sox fans for decades since their team failed while the Yankees became a championship dynasty.

Ruth, being in New York, held the attention of the national media. He was a celebrity. His off the field pursuits, beer, food, women, were covered as much as the game stories. He was an every man and a superman. His home run totals for his era far exceeded his peers. His career WAR is still the gold standard for player performance.

But why does his legacy endure?

Today, we have only scratchy black and white short films and photographs of Ruth. He looks like a large grizzly bear at the plate whipping a stick through the strike zone. He does not look like a modern baseball player.

But the connection is that baseball adores its history. It is stat driven game where people can compare eras based upon objective evidence. Old baseball tales were the bar stories for generations. Fathers past down stories from their fathers to their sons. When a fan base appreciates their sport's history, old players can have a lasting legacy.


Cameron says the the pre-season forecasts had the White Sox only going 78-84, with just an 8% chance of winning the AL Central and a 6% chance of winning one of the two Wild Card spots; the Rangers and Twins were the only AL teams with a lower chance of reaching the postseason. There was a scenario where things broke right and the White Sox became legitimate contenders — the Astros are currently in the midst of that scenario at the moment — but it was going to require the team’s role players step up and fill some of the areas where the team was expected to get replacement level production. 

That hasn’t happened. 

The projectionists concerns were  at catcher, second base, third base, right field, and the last two spots in the rotation. Conor Gillaspie had been adequate at third but lacked power; Tyler Flowers can play adequate defense but was a offensive liability; back end starters John Danks and Hector Noesi were not very good last season; and the team would have to rely upon rookies at second base in Micah Johnson or Carlos Sanchez. So far, all those players  have all been below replacement level. That’s just too many voids for a contender, and when guys like LaRoche, Cabrera, and Samardzija struggle too, then you end getting pummeled by a lousy Twins team on your way to an 8-14 record after the season’s first month. 

After getting outscored 31-8 in their four game series against Minnesota, there is a great deal of "badness" to pause.  By BaseRuns projections, the White Sox  should actually be 7-15. The Sox have played worse than any other team in baseball, including the Brewers, the team that just fired their manager. The White Sox aren’t actually the worst team in baseball, but this isn’t a team that has played well and just run into some bad luck, or given up runs at the wrong time; as Cameron writes: they’ve just been straight up awful. 

The White Sox are so far behind the Tigers and Royals at this early stage of the season,  the White Sox a 2% chance of winning the division and a 3% chance of capturing a Wild Card spot. Thus, the irony of having one of the best off-seasons in baseball has quickly turned to having one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

Cameron opines that the White Sox  have roughly 80 games to get back in the race before the trade deadline  and if Detroit and Kansas City play at even their modest projected rest-of-season winning percentages, the White Sox would have to play  approximately .650 baseball to overtake them by the end of July. That means the White Sox will have to win every series (2 of 3 games) until the All-Star break to make a competitive run in the second half of the season.

Cameron doesn't think the White Sox have to start the fire sale tomorrow. There is still the core of a good team  but there are just too many weak spots on the current roster to make a real serious run in 2015. 

However, Sox fans will disagree.  If one believes that players will eventually get "back to their baseball card numbers" the White Sox pitching staff will rebound. And pitching is still the key to win in the American League Central. Sale, Carlos Quintana and Samardzjia are three quality starters. Robertson is a proven closer. Matt Albers and Nate Jones will come off the DL this summer to bolster the bullpen. Carlos Rodon will get better in the bullpen (he has not been that bad so far). Geo Soto is an upgrade as a back up catcher and could easily move into the starter role over Flowers. Avi Garcia, coming back from an injury last season, could be a steady influence in the middle of the batting order, helping to protect MVP candidate Jose Abreu. Like most NL players, LaRoche is having a tough time adjusting to being a full time DH. A quick fix would be to platoon LaRoche at first base.

The counter position is that the White Sox need not be Sellers, but could actually "buy" one or two pieces to help solidify the club. A starting pitcher and/or a third baseman could all that is necessary to turn things around. But those pieces are hard to come by.

Now, some fans think that the real problem is manager Robin Ventura. The question is whether he is getting the most out of his players. A few have called for his firing, with the Sox rehiring firebrand Ozzie Guillen. Guillen led the Sox to their 2005 championship, which was built on a brilliant four man starting rotation (who threw 4 consecutive complete game victories in the ALCS). But hiring Guillen is not an option for the front office. 

So it is too early to write off the White Sox 2015 season. Baseball is a strange game. If the Astros can run off a ten game win streak, so could the White Sox.

May 4, 2015


The old saying is true: it is better to get off to a hot start.

Or get burned.

The Associated Press reports that the Milwaukee Brewers fired manager Ron Roenicke on Sunday night, hours after their 5-3 victory over the Cubs in Chicago.

The Brewers are a major league-worst 7-18 (.281 winning percentage) after a 2-13 (.133 winning percentage) start. Even the slow improvement in winning percentage could not keep Roenicke's job. The team said it will announce a replacement today.

"This has been a difficult start to the season, something that we certainly didn't anticipate," president and general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. "Over roughly the last 100 games, we have not performed at the level that we should. It's all about wins and losses, and after the first month of play this year we didn't see the progress and improvement we had hoped for.

"We appreciate all that Ron has done for our organization, and he has handled his duties with great professionalism and dedication. The reasons for our disappointing start are many, but we determined that it's in the best interests of the club to make this move."

The victory Sunday gave the Brewers their first consecutive victories of the year and first series win. Before this year, the most games Milwaukee needed for consecutive wins was 18 in 1972, according to STATS.

In four-plus seasons, the 58-year-old Roenicke was 342-331.

The Brewers slow start included a few injuries, including their starting catcher. However, every team has to deal with injuries.

By comparison, league laughing stock Houston Astros are in first place in the highly competitive AL West. The Astros 18-7 start (.720 winning percentage) shows that if the team merely goes .500 for the rest of the season, the Astros will have an 87 win season (.537 winning percentage) and a possible wild card spot.