Gameday Open Thread / Rangers @ Cubs

Ryan Dempster takes the mound today to celebrate his appointment to the starting rotation. The Rangers counter with lefty Kason Gabbard.

In site news, I've added the TCR blogroll  which you can access via Quick Links on the left sidebar or under TCR Junk Drawer up top. I'm sure I missed a few Cubs blogs, so drop me a note if you want yours added.

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PS - the game is on MLB.tv and I'll be hanging around the chat room.

I'm in chat, too.  But on MLB.TV, I'm getting the conclusion of some fishing tournament.  WTF?!?!?

Ron is filling in for BJB on the tv telecast, sweet.

Pre-season rankings:

5. Chicago Cubs
The weakness of the division is a major factor here. The Cubbies are set for the divisional race as they have a deep lineup and rotation. This should afford them plenty of time to shore up that shaky bullpen anchored by Kerry Wood.

http://sportshubris.com/content/mlb-preseason-rank...

I am not sure what how the weak division makes the Cubs a better team, and I thought the bullpen was a strength not a weakness.

I love how the Yankees pitching gets the benefit of the doubt from all these sites doing predictions.

Good point, the Yankees pitching is pretty thin and full of major question marks. Too bad nobody else in the division, other than Boston, has a decent team this year. It would be sweet to see the Yankees finish 3rd or lower with that giant payroll.

Rob:
"I am not sure what how the weak division makes the Cubs a better team, and I thought the bullpen was a strength not a weakness."

It makes them a better team as they will win more games playing in the NL Central than if they played in the NL East or West. But I don't think we should complain at all if in fact we are the 2nd best team in the NL, which is hard to believe.

If Dempster wants to start he's going to have to learn how to fucking bunt!

Nice 3 run homer by DeRosa in the 1st

"It makes them a better team as they will win more games playing in the NL Central than if they played in the NL East or West."

Not to split hairs, but winning more games against weaker teams doesn't make you a better team.

It is certainly a good thing for the Cub's chances to make the play-offs, but IMO shouldn't impact a power ranking.

Rob:
"Not to split hairs, but winning more games against weaker teams doesn't make you a better team."

In a vacuum, you are correct, but at the end of the year, and 20 years from now, we would be considered a better team if we won 87 games in the NL Central and won the division than if we won 81 games and missed out on the playoffs in the NL East.

Hey Rob G., I hate to be the pessimistic Cubs fan here (a lifetime of rotten teams makes me question how good we really are), but how about a thread discussing what worries could come to the forefront to interfere with our self-anointed world championship. I'd rather slip in under the radar rather than have a team keep talking about how we're going to the world series. There are too many holes on this team to think we're going to win a lot of playoff games unless something strange happens.

I just think that there are some major question marks and a few spots that could really throw a wrench into things, such as:

Soriano's legs. If he continues to run this poorly he's going to be a major disappointment, both offensively and defensively. Sore/tight quads can cost him power on his swings, and will cost him several steps running the bases and in the outfield.

The rotation: it just doesn't look like a rotation of a team with a $125 million payroll.

Dempster being Dempster. If he returns to the pitcher he's been his entire career - a 1.50 whip, he's going to help sink the rotation.

Rich Hill. If he can't get his form back, we're sunk right off the bat.

Marquis/Lieber. They can't pitch like they did last year, specifically Marquis' awful second half and Lieber's very high opponent batting average.

Injuries to Z and/or Lilly. Perhaps if the Brewers play poorly we could still win the division minus Z or Lilly for a significant period of time, but we wouldn't go anywhere in the playoffs. And for that matter having only two decent starters is not a good formula for going deep in the playoffs.

The Schedule. Tons of early home games in the (likely) cold weather of Chicago. Lots of road games in the second half, including the final 7 games of the season. Cross your fingers for a nice warm April/May, but if I hear our players making excuses again for not hitting in cold weather while a team like the Dodgers come in and score 12 runs in a game I will shoot myself.

Even the bullpen, despite how talented our relievers are and what a great job they collectively did last season, how often do relievers have excellent back-to-back seasons in this age? I could see Howry and Marmol having average or even below average years, and suddenly we aren't much of a world series contender.

Fukudome. Even the best projections only have him hitting 12-15 hr's. But look at Iwamura last season with Tampa. Iwamura is another lefty hitter who came from Japan and was an excellent player with a very similar line to Fukudome - .311 hitter last 3 seasons, .385 obp, .560 slg., hr totals of 44, 30, 32. Then in Tampa last year he hit 7 hr's 34 rbi's, and a line of .285/.351/.411. I could see Fuku not doing much more than that his first year, especially with his lack of power this spring.

Geovanny Soto. He's looked more like pre-2007 Soto than the guy who looked like a top prospect last year.

Just throw a few of those possible problems together and the season could be turned on it's head. Soriano declining offense, Soto hitting .245 with 8 hr's and 40 rbis, Fukudome not being an impact bat, Dempster being Dempster, relievers returning to earth, etc. Those are all realistic scenarios.

There are just as many realistic and optimistic scenarios, though. Hill might break out as true front of the rotation guy, Zambrano might pitch like an ace for a full season and win 20+, Lee might find his power again and hit 30+, etc. Some things will break good, some will break bad. That's baseball.

I'd hold off the chicken little stuff until they've at least played a real game or two.

None of those are a stretch, and based on what the players are doing right now that's what would happen, with the exception of Dempster having a good spring. I'll make my Dempster prediction based on his 11 years of being a bad major league pitcher instead of 3 good spring training starts.

Fukudome looks overmatched offensively. What will they do if he's hitting .198 in mid-May? He'll have to go to Iowa.

Even if Lee and Ramirez have great years there are problems in the 1, 2, 5, and 6 slots in the lineup.

My point is, all of this offseason of claiming we're going to win the world series isn't being realistic. Yes, the division sucks. We'll probably make the playoffs again barring a complete disaster. But what good did just having a team that can get to the playoffs do last year? This team, with Jim Hendry's shopping sprees, is still poorly built, has a weak starting rotation, and too many other holes to be proclaiming they are going to win it all. Teams who talk about being a sure thing to win it all eat their words 99.9% of the time. Look at the Bears last year. All of the Cubs teams in the last 30 years who have gotten something done in the playoffs, even just playing well before bowing out, were no-name underdogs who came out of nowhere. The 84, 89, 98, and 03 teams weren't expected to do that well and overachieved. Those were fun seasons. 98 was a complete aberration because it was mostly Sammy, the rest of the team stunk. But I can do without the early victory laps. The 2008 team hasn't won squat.

if it makes you feel better, I don't think the Cubs resemble anything like a sure thing to win the division. 

Brewers are just about equal in talent...Reds could surprise if their young pitchers can come through. Heck, the Astros have a lot of offense. If Cards can stay in it long enough for Carpenter and Mulder to come back...who knows?

 

Couple potential problems you forgot to mention were:

1.Potential Alien attack hits Wrigley killing cubs entire active roster.

2.Cubs bought by an ownership group headed up by Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf.

3. Long Chicago winter makes shut-in Cubs fans even more obese than usual. Enormous stress from extra weight causes upper deck to collapse on season ticketholders below.

Fans on waiting list ecstatic.

Forgot One:

4. "Hawk" Harrelson replaces Len Casper as cubs play by play announcer.

I can only wish! maybe i'd budge from 32,000th in line!

Locusts
Plagues
Cats and Dogs living together

Well, that's pessimistic.

:)

Marmol vs. Salty, bases loaded, 2 outs....Nasty

Result: K

Felix Pie finished the game hitting .340!

Cubs Minor League Organization Scorecard

Cedeno .308
Hoffpauir .382
McGehee .417
Murton .345
Patterson .298
Pie .340

Others:

Blanco .345
Cintron .316

Rosenthal article says the deal is not going to happen by opening day ("the two sides are at an impasse")

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7949132/Sources...

WALK AWAY JIM, WALK AWAY FROM MCFAIL'S TABLE JIM. YOU DO NOT OWE ANYTHING ELSE TO THAT GUY. WALK AWAY!

and Rosenthal on the Cubs pursuit of Reed Johnson

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7949068/Sources...

http://www.denverpost.com/rockies/ci_8664871

The expectation is that the Cubs will eventually ship off starter Jason Marquis to Boston for center fielder Coco Crisp. Chicago has clearly soured on Felix Pie. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Pie included in the Brian Roberts deal with Baltimore.

Is there a problem that I'm not aware with Pie that has not been publicized?

I love when these small market reporters toss in gossip about large market clubs in order to attract some attention. I immediately disregard any information that comes from the newspaper that employs Woody Paige.

As asecrest said, random rumor from Denver beat writer don't mean much. 

I don't get it either... the Cubs are apparently "sour" on Pie and Lou's crying about not having centerfield sorted out, but Pie's hitting .327 and has struckout less than Fuku. Sure he doesn't walk much, BUT HE'S 23!!! Let the kid play!!!!

So - can someone tell me - WHY - it has just been thought of THIS YEAR that Micah Hoff-POWER should start getting some training in RF?

He has been with the club, with others playing his position, for several years...

Yeah, his name is DUSTY BAKER.

Lou gave Hoffpauir 24 AB's last spring. Dusty gave him a grand total of 4 the entire time he was managing the Cubs.

hoffpauir's own problems are hoffpauir's fault.

he's basically a 1st baseman, he's slow, and his power isn't as developed as it should be.

it's only been this spring he's been mashing like he has...

he's 28...

besides, hendry probably had a lot more to do with that...and hoff's own health.

WRONG --- as usual.

FOR EXAMPLE, last spring Hoffpauir hit .292 .370 .708 1.078

AND .319 .365 .552 .917 with 16 HR in 310 AB's at Iowa.

JUST for example.

1- i said nothing about spring

2- you say what i said is wrong and you talk about spring stats

umm what?

hoff hasnt gotten his "chance" cuz of his own limitations.

---edit---

oh, you mean i was wrong about how he's only mashed this spring.

okay, you can have that one.

but the bigger issue of why he's not made the bigs in the past (and probably wont break with the team this year, too) has a lot to do with what he is, not what he's done during the spring.

You act surprised. Are your comments ghostwritten or something?

At any rate, Micah Hoffpauir has one of the sweetest swings you'll ever see. What he's doing rotting in the Cubs organization I'll never understand. We don't need a first baseman.

i act what?

dude, this is a blog...not your highschool football glory days.

there is no competition here. and well...yeah, dusty probably didnt have much to do with hoffpair's career being derailed.

the guy has limitations...they're his.

Er, dude, at this point I no longer care.

cue twilight zone music

navigator:
"Yeah, his name is DUSTY BAKER."

Good one...:)

Did anyone see how we pulled the game off in the bottom of the ninth?

From the looks of the boxscore, it was a Pie 3B and an EPatt GW 1B. Could be wrong though, as I'm not watching.

and E-Pat knoced him in with a single up the midddle.

Pie had a terrific day almost hitting for the cycle and great D.

Well, with the new rumors that Felipe Lopez is being "scouted" by the Cubs, it is pretty interesting to me that the 1st Round 1998 draft he was selected 8th by the Jays.

Other prominent MLB players from this round include:

1. Pat Burrel - Phils
2. Mark Mulder - A's
3. C-Pat - Cubs
5. JD Drew - Cards
7. Austin Kearns - Reds
9. Sean Burroughs - Pads
10. Carlos Pena - Tejas
14. Jeff Weaver - Tigers
17. Brad Lidge - 'Stros
20. CC. Sabathia - Indians

Can someone please tell me exactly what Felipe Lopez brings to the Cubs' table besides his switch-hitting? So far as I can tell, except for 2005 he's generally been a poor hitter who would end up hitting at the bottom of the order. Do we really need to give up prospects/players for someone who hits the same or worse than our current starting shortstop (Theriot)?

He is only 28. Younger than Theriot. Shown flashes of being an upper echelon SS offensively. Really seemed to be getting it together until he got traded to hitters purgatory in Washington. Plus he really shouldnt cost anything because the Nats apparently just want to be rid of his contract. Prototypical "buy low" high upside type of pickup. Something that Hendry used to do, but for whatever reason has shied away from recently. I'd trade Cedeno for him even up today. I'd bet the nats would make the same deal.

I agree with most of that, but if you give him a pass for hitting in RFK then you have to question his stats in Great American Ballpark as well. The year he hit 23 home runs 9 guys had double digit homers for the Reds. In the majors he's basically played in two extremes. Based on his minor league numbers he projects, in a normal ballpark, to hit about 15 HRs a year.

As for defense his fielding percentage (career .959 at SS) is worse than Theriot's (career .978 at SS), but his range is better. Whereas Theriot is below average on range factor (3.56), Lopez (3.99) is almost exactly at the league average (around 4.00).

Neither guy is winning a GG anytime soon. I don't think you give up anything great to get Lopez. But if the cost is a few $ and/or Ronny Cedeno,why not do it? If he sucks,release him and play Theriot. All Lopez would really need to do at a minimum,is replace Ronny Cedeno as the 25th man on the roster. Best case is that he repeats 2005-2006. He solves your SS black hole. And he relegates Theriot to the utility role that he is best suited for. I just do not see any downside.

Pat Burrell... it's not rational, but he's been a dream-cubbie of mine for a long time for reasons I can't explain.

Btw, my prediction for winner of the TCR fantasy baseball league was the team that drafted Burrell, who got him?

* And thanks to TCR for adding my blog to the blogroll! :) I feel like I need to update it more often now.

i drafted him in the 3rd.

Er - he had one shitty OBP year, last year.

Maybe he's a decent SS, who can switch hit, former AS (Hendry loves those - Itzturdis, etc.), has recent track record of SB's in the 20's, and has a plus arm.

we have no clue as to what would have to be given up at all...

How well did Izturis work out for us? My point is that we shouldn't be giving up ANYTHING for Lopez because he's not better than what we have out there currently. Except that he happens to hit from the other side of the plate once in awhile.

Here are Lopez' career stats batting lead-off - he has been used as a lead-off hitter or 2nd in the order, by a large margin. His stats are fairly improved from the "2-Hole", but it is a difference of less than 10 AB's:

Av OBP SLG OPS+
.257 .318 .386 .704

Indeed, Theriot could probably match this if not exceed. However, whomever wants to can check out RF, etc., to see if there is a big disparity in fielding.

Rosenthal also says:

The Cubs, contrary to published reports, are not interested in Nationals infielder Felipe Lopez.

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7949132/Sources...

2005 291/352/486 with 23Hrs and 15sb

2006 268/355/394

Not a single person here can reasonably expect Ryan Theriot to put up lines anywhere near those this year. Why wouldnt you take a flyer on the guy? Especially when it would cost 1/10th of what Brian Roberts would.

The problem is Aaron is your cherry picking stats....look at Lopez's career line...

.258 BA, .328 OBP

Ryan Theriot can match that easily, and to it for 300k versus Lopez's what 3 million or more?

Theriot has better strike zone judgement, better speed, and better defense. Lopez is probably the worst SS defensively you will ever see.

Izzy bad?

I'm not really cherry picking stats any more than you are. His age 25,26 and 27 season's seem more relevent than his age 21 and 22 seasons. He had a horrible year last year in the worst hitters park in Baseball. It seems that Hendry and Lou are dead set on getting a lefty Middle infielder. At worst Lopez is a better Cedeno for this year. Plus it allows us to keep Gallagher,Veal,Ceda and whomever else McFail would eventally extract from Jimbo in any Roberts deal.

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