A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for Rockies

Esmil Rogers threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball, and the Colorado Rockies defeated a split squad of Cubs 4-2 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson at HoHoKam Park in sunny & warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.

box score (Mesa)

Randy Wells got the start for the Cubs, and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits, a walk, and a HBP, with two strikeouts, in five innings of work (69 pitches - 45 strikes, 7/4 GO/FO). He pitched very well, retiring ten of the first eleven men he faced before the Rockies strung together back-to-back-singles and a sacrifice fly to plate a run in the top of the 4th.

Colorado scored two more runs in the top of the 5th, as Wells walked the lead-off hitter (Chris Iannetta) and then surrendered a one-out single to Hernan Iribarren, putting runners on 1st and 2nd. Rockies pitcher Esmil Rogers showed bunt on the first pitch, but then swung away on what looked to be a botched butcher-boy play on the second pitch. As Rogers swung & missed, the two Rockies runners were left hung out to dry in the base-paths. Cub catcher Geovany Soto opted to throw behind Iannetta (who was caught between 2nd & 3rd), but it was a bad decision because Iannetta was able to advance to 3rd base easily, and then Iribarren moved up to 2nd base on the unnecesary late throw to 3rd (Iannetta was already standing on the bag). Rogers hit a sacrifice fly to LF to score Iannetta from 3rd, and then Iribarren scored from 2nd (unearned run) when Alfonso Soriano threw the ball into the 3rd base dugout, for some unknown reason.  

Carlos Marmol worked the 6th and walked the bases loaded, getting out of the jam by inducing a pop-out to end the inning and leave the bases jammed. Marmol threw 31 pitches in his one ining, but only 15 were strikes.

RHP Kyle Smit pitched the 7th and actually got four outs (three ground balls and a strikeout), the 4th out thanks to a Blake DeWitt throwing error on what should have been an easy 4-3 GO.  Smit was one of 18 players cut today, and he should be the closer at Tennessee at the start of the season.  

RHP Justin Berg (who was not cut today despite having a terrible Spring) looked as shaky as usual, throwing 1.2 IP (37 pitches - only 21 strikes), walking two and allowing one hit. He did not allow a run. Jeff Stevens got the final out of the 9th.

Meanwhile, Esmil Rogers was outstanding for the Rockies, completely shutting-down the Cubs for five innings. He faced the minimum number of hitters (15) in his five-inning stint, allowing just a Carlos Pena one-out opposite field single with one out in the 2nd, but the slow-footed Pena was out by a mile trying to stretch the single into a double.

Facing RHRP Matt Belisile, Jim Adduci and PH Scott Moore lined consecutive one-out singles in the bottom of the 6th, but both were left stranded when Matt Camp flied out and Blake DeWitt grounded out to end the inning.   

The Cubs got two more runners on base against Rockies closer Hustonn Street in the 8th, as Koyie Hill reached base on an E-4 with one out and Adduci singled to center. But Ryan Flaherty flied out to the base of the Batter's Eye "Green Monster" in dead CF, and Matt Camp popped-out to RF to end the inning.

A cadre of Cubs minor leaguers attempted to mount a last-ditch rally in the bottom of the 9th.

Down 4-0 and facing RHP Edgmer Escalona, Blake DeWitt struck out swinging to open the frame, but Tony Campana lined a single to CF, and advanced to 3rd when Josh Vitters roped a line-drive double down the LF line. Steve Clevenger plated Campana with a sac fly to left, and then Jae-Hoon Ha knocked-in Vitters, rifling a two-out line-drive double into the LF corner. That brought up Koyie Hill (representing the tying run), but Hill struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.   

Meanwhile, Welington Castillo drove-in three runs with a two-run double and a solo HR, Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin smacked solo home runs, and five Cubs pitchers combined to toss a three-hitter, as the other squad of Cubs defeated the A's 8-1 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. (W. Castillo is now hitting 692/733/1.000 with one HR and five RBI, while Koyie Hill is 1-23 and hitting 042/083/087).  

box score (Phoenix Municipal Stadium)  

Andrew Cashner got the start for the Cubs split squad in Phoenix, allowing one run on two hits (the first two men he faced in the game), and three walks (including the last two men he faced in the 4th before being relieved with one out). I don't know Cashner's pitch count because I wasn't at this game, but Cubs starters are throwing between 60-70 pitches per-game at this point in Spring Training, so he must have thrown a lot of pitches in just 3.1 IP.  He did get a ton of ground balls, though (6/1 GO/FO, including one GIDP).


Second time in three days that Stevens has cleaned up a mess in the late innings - probably a small sample size but maybe he's starting to figure things out a bit.

On the Garza trade front, Tampa Bay optioned Brandon Guyer to AAA last Friday, and Robinson Chirinos was optioned to AAA today. Sam Fuld (who is out of minor league options) and Chris Archer are still in big league camp with the Rays, although Fuld is hitting just 091/200/091. Archer has an 0.00 ERA but a 1.62 WHIP, mainly because he has issued five walks in just 4.1 IP. He has not yet been stretched-out as a starter.

carlos marmol 2.0

wonder if TB sees a closer or if they're not in a huge rush to get him in starter shape.

If Archer becomes a reliever that makes the Cubs end even better. I'd deal any closer in baseball for a 26 yr old 200 ip SP who can win 15 games. (Now watch Garza have some freak accident, like finding out his body is haunted and is the basis for a new horror film)

Heh... By now the Cubs ought to have a 'haunted body' out clause in all of their contracts.

I'd probably take Mariano Rivera over Jason Marquis, but that's just me.

Is Jason Marquis 26, throwing 200 ip, winning 15 games per year, and team controlled at a low salary for 3 years?

I am pretty sure that's the point, isn't it? At one point Marquis was younger and better - two years later he had an ERA in the 6's.

And Elvis was going to use the bathroom and come right back.

Not sure what Marquis and Garza have in common other than a Cubs tie?

Garza is more likely to turn into Marquis and Archer is more likely going to turn into Rivera?

Now I understand......

Totally reasonable to expect a kid with 1 good AA season to be a future HOFer. Maybe Archer and Felix Pie get inducted in the same HOF class?

No, that's not it at all. I was simply pointing out the genius logic behind " I'd deal any closer in baseball for a 26 yr old 200 ip SP who can win 15 games."

Which translates that you would trade the best closer in history for Jason Marquis, doesn't it?

What am I missing?

You're using history to know that Marquis eventually had problems. That's a dumb argument and a bad comparison.

I could make the same idiotic argument. I would trade Dan Plesac for Andy Pettitte. Wow, I win that trade. That makes me look like a genius.

Back to reality...

Pitcher A - 60 ip
Pitcher B - 200 ip

Either one could get hurt at any time.

What is more valuable to a team, a pitcher who throws 60 good innings or a pitcher who throws 200 good innings? Easy choice. End of argument.

Tom Verducci had a good article a few weeks back about how overrated closers are. Baseball history shows it's easy to find a closer, it's much more difficult to find good starting pitching.


From 1996-2010 there have been 43 pitchers who threw 200 ip with an era under 3.00
During the same period there have been 90 pitchers who saved 30 games in a season.

To quote Verducci: "That's not the number of times that those thresholds have been reached; it's the number of pitchers to reach them, and the 30-save closer group includes such names as Rocky Biddle, Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb and Shawn Chacon. Basically, it's twice as easy to find a guy to save 30 games as it is to find a frontline starter."

Closers are asked to pitch 1 inning at a time, often coming in at the start of an inning with nobody on base. It's a much easier job than being a successful starting pitcher. The numbers prove it.

And obviously, if Archer is used in relief by Tampa that must mean he would have won 40 games a year as a Cub in the rotation.

I've never seen such consistent complaining by people over trading never-was and unknowns with extremely limited minor league success for a legitimate starting pitcher with a track record of major league success. OMG, we traded a weak hitting A-ball SS, a 1 year minor league SP, and two 27 years old's who can't crack the majors for a 200 ip quality SP. What the hell was Hendry thinking!!???

From 1996-2010 there have been 43 pitchers who threw 200 ip with an era under 3.00"
"During the same period there have been 90 pitchers who saved 30 games in a season.

It is easy to prove something with numbers if you get to choose which numbers get to be used.

Give us the same argument, but eliminate the sub-three ERA, (which you did not mention in your first statement) and since you said "any closer in baseball), use 40 saves as the cutoff point, rather than 30 saves, which I agree is quite easy to reach).

I suspect the numbers would give quite a different story.

Joe Posnanski did some research into the impact having a dedicated closer has had on winning baseball games. What he found was that having a dedicated closer has had virtually no impact on a team's winning percentage when they go into the 9th inning with the lead.


I wonder if the other teams had dedicated closers, though. What happened in 1957 when a team came back in the 9th (on the road) to take a one run lead?

He also lists the 1950's Yankees and Ryne Duren as an example. In 1958 when Duren lead the league in "Saves" he finished 33 of 44 games he appeared in. The team had 53 complete games, so in the non complete games Duren got a save in 20 of 101 "chances", about 20%. I am sure the percentage he got in games that they won, which weren't complete games is much higher. Last year the Cubs closer got a save in 38 of 161 chances or 23%.

It's almost like, Posnasnki doesn't know what he's talking about...

He used ALL games where the team had a lead going into the ninth. But closers are usually only used when going into the ninth with a one, two or three run lead. I suspect that teams going into the ninth with a lead larger than that win almost all the time, closer or no.

What he should do is compare the success of a closer going into the ninth with only a run run lead, with the teams before closers became popular going into the ninth with a one run lead.

And compare the same one run figures for a top closer like Rivera against one run figures for teams with the worst closer. Then we could make a better decision.

Part of the "we don't get it" problem you guys are experiencing is the portfolio issue. Go to your 401K company, have them turn all your stock into, let's say GM stock. Let me know how that works out for you.

I'm sure a lot of folks would turn 5 $1 stocks with some potential, but that could also go bankrupt into one solid stock that pays regular dividends at a good percentage and with room to grow.

Some might not...

You didn't get the point. Garza can bankrupt at any time.

so could GE, but the odds are a lot lower.

We all get your point that Garza is just okay and the prospects the Cubs sent away will be great or at least good major leaguers and the Cubs should have just punted 2011.

Some of us have other opinions that disagree with that. The sun will still rise and set tomorrow.

The odds of Garza blowing his arm out are a lot lower than any of four players reacher their potential? I beg to differ.

That same argument can be used any time you trade four players for one (actually two in this case). In other words, that the chance of one player blowing out his arm is greater than four players not reaching their potential. Using that same argument, you would not have traded the four Cubs minor leaguers for Roy Halladay. You don't really think that, do you?

I'd have liked the trade more if we got Dunn instead of Pena.

3 years of Garza control makes the deal seem like a no brain-er? The least you should get is draft compensation in 3 years when he leaves.

Only if we offer arbitration to Garza. How often do we do that?

I'm banking on the next GM being more competent in 3 years.

You found a way to get Dunn into a discussion on Garza. Well played!

Why would the manner in which the Rays use Archer determine if it was a good deal? If they use Archer as a reliever because they have a wealth of starters, that doesn't mean he wouldn't have been a starter with the Cubs.

In my opinion, the value of a deal should be judged on (1) does it help the team meet the objective for making the trade (i.e. rebuild farm system, free up cash, make run at division title), and (2) did you receive comparable value for the players you traded (i.e. had you offered them to other teams, would you receive more/same/less than you did receive).

I think the Cubs failed on both. On point one, even if my opinion that Garza is overrated and will struggle at Wrigley is wrong, he doesn't give the Cubs a legitimate shot of winning the division (at least on objective analysis this offseason, which is when the trade needed to be judged). Thus we traded prospects for a few more wins and no championship.

On the second point, this is much vaguer and hard to quantify, but I think the package we gave should bring more than a starting pitcher who has had a few pretty good seasons, but really has not been dominant. I know I overvalue prospects, but I would take the potential of Archer alone over what Garza will provide the Cubs.

Apart from the entire farm system for Pujols, what Cubs prospects would bring back a player or players that would give them what you feel is a legit shot at winning the division?

None, so don't make the trade.

I couldn't say it better.

Unless you can package all the crappy veterans in the deal, trading for more vets isn't going to help.

We have holes at 1b/2b/LF - with below avg production.

As fun as Marlon Byrd is, he put up below avg numbers for a CF last year. (Which would likely have been better if he was surrounded by better players).

3b is a question mark but has the chance to be ok for the season if ARam gets his head on straight and can also avoid injuries.

SS could again be a defensive problem, but at least if we're going to stink we can give Castro another year of experience and see if he shows any improvement on d.

Our rotation is better with Garza but Z is a question mark, and production from the 4-5 slots are also questionable.

The best position is, barring injuries, our late inning relievers (Marmol/Wood/Marshall).

I don't know what trade we could possibly make that puts us in contention. The best thing that can happen to the Cubs is probably some serious injuries to our competition. Otherwise, I can't see us making a deal that benches Soriano, Pena, Ramirez, or Byrd, and it's not likely we make a deal to improve 2b.

I can't see how he doesn't give the Cubs a better chance of winning the division over the next three years. Any argument in which he doesn't assumes a serious performance regression.

Are you just talking about the 2011 season? The odds improve from 'almost definitely not' to 'probably not,' but since when can we judge transactions based only on the first year of impact? If that's the game, the Soriano contract was a big win for Hendry.

In 2011, Chirinos would have improved the Cubs. In 2012, Guyer and Archer can be expected to be in the big leagues. In 2013, Lee may be able to contribute at the big league level.

Chirinos would NOT have been the backup catcher in 2011.

You have to leave this argent piece off the table.

2011 is Koyie Hill's gig.

I am still hoping something heavy (like a non-Marmol Carlos) falls on Hill... but we are talking about what the Cubs should have done (kept the prospects, jettisone the flotsam), not what they will do (waste the prospects, give a raise to the flotsam) are we not?

The rest of us were talking about whether Garza improves the Cubs. I won't speak for you, as you're usually a wild card.

it's moot anyway given 150-200ab from a backup catcher could be filled by a suitable replacement in w.castillo if they wanted to go that route vs. not having another starter. 6m for garza is part of the trade package, too...the reduced cost.

archer wasn't fun to give up, but he isn't a 2011 solution and the other pieces given up don't leave a hole in the system...besides A-ball SS. as neat the A-ball SS is, he's still years away and isn't even showing doubles power yet (not like 19/20 year old middle IF'rs generally do, though).

If he continued at last year's clip, Guyer probably would have been up by mid-2011 (especially if there is an injury in our OF).

Does Garza give us a better chance in 2011? In theory yes, but the odds of us winning the division still are so low that the increase in neglible and therefore the answer statistically is no.

Does Garza give us a better chance over the next three years? Maybe. I don't think Garza is that good, actually, and think he will likely perform slightly worse than he did last year with Tampa.

Even if I am wrong, though, we still don't get much better overall over the next three years without development of prospects (or signing Pujols). Without such development, our ends are still minimal that we will be a division contender next year or in 2013. Once we say we are counting on this development to make us a contender, then we need to consider the prospects we traded and their development. Archer's ceiling is to be a better pitcher than Garza -- will he reach this? Likely not. But hard to say now that we are better in 2013 with Garza than a 23 year old Archer and the money saved from the Garza deal.

Throw in Chirinos (who perhaps plays with us, perhaps traded for another player), the uncertainty of Guyer (finally healthy last year, dominated AA, then hit .340 in winter ball) and the potential lead-off speedy SS of Lee...hard to say we are better.

The trade makes sense if Texas does it. It doesn't make sense for the Cubs.

Since Garza is signed for the next three years at a reasonable rate, don't you have to consider whether or not he will help the Cubs win the division in the next three years, not just 2011? He may not help them win in 2011, but he almost certainly would have been off the market if the Cubs had waited a year or two.

Why would the manner in which the Rays use Archer determine if it was a good deal?

If Archer is this 15-20 win machine so many people on this board somehow think he has become after 1 standout season in the minors, the Rays wouldn't be using him in relief. There was talk about his future being in the bullpen before the trade was made as some analysts thought he would be better off in relief. As I said before, any team in baseball would trade a closer for a 200 ip 26 yr old SP who is under team control for 3 more years any day of the week.

You seem to be describing Wells. I wouldn't have wanted the Cubs to trade those 4 prospects just to get another Wells.

As far as closers are concerned, I certainly would perfer Marmol over Wells.

Marmol had a ridiculously good season last year and his WAR was 3.0. The last two years Wells' was 3.2 and 2.9. Starters are simply worth more.

Not to mention that Marmol made over 2 million last year and is set to make 3, 7, and 9.8 million over the next three years. Wells made just 427K in 2010.

So even if Marmol absolutely dominates the next three years, the Cubs will be paying $20 million for about 9 WAR. Wells will likely achieve a very similar total for about a third of the cost.

That's only if Marmol and Wells pitched innings of the same importance. Marmol was worth about five and a half wins last year...


Those statistics are not comparable. WXRL compares relievers to replacement level relievers put in the same situations, it's a nice way to compare relievers to each other, but it isn't equivalent to total value of a player to his team like WAR or WARP is.

What do the W's stand for in each stat again?

If you want to insist on using the same stat - there's Win Probability added - Marmol 3.92 and Wells came in at .03. So it would take about 130 Wells' to equal one Marmol.

Link may not work...


Not sure I agree...if the Rays rotation is doing well and Archer fills a role as a set-up man or closer, would they check to see if he could be better as a starter?

Your argument appears to be that talent is always used most appropriately by big league managers, which I believe is incorrect, particularly when that talent is young and the future development uncertain.

AZ PHIL: Thanks for the local vibe as always.

Are Jim Hendry, and, to a lesser extent Mike Quade really that hardheaded and blinded not to see that Koyie Hill is not good at baseball anymore?

Im assuming the team is not gonna carry three catchers, right?

With the team coming off being one of baseball's worst offensive clubs in 2010, does Castillo or MaxRam make the pitcher's pitches slower - or - do they not speak a lick of english?

Additionally: Have Castillo and/or MaxRam shown an ability to stop tough pitches and keep runners at first base?

That's a very good question.

I looked at passed balls and wild pitches recently for various mostly NL catchers including Soto and Hill and several Cub prospects and ex-prospects. Wild pitches are blamed on the pitcher, of course, but many are preventable by the catcher. Steve Clevenger, e.g., blocked three pitches in the dirt in the ninth inning Sunday in a tie game versus the Dodgers.

I produced a chart that you can see here. Baseball Reference gives wild pitches for catchers in the majors but not in the minors, so I didn't have those numbers for Castillo and Ramirez, except for 5 games last September in Castillo's case and 30 games for Ramirez. We know how many passed balls Castillo had in the minors, though, and his rate was almost twice the minor-league rates of Chirinos, Soto, Ramiriz and Hill, and more than double the rates of Luis Flores, a Cub minor-league defensive stud, and Clevenger.

It's a tiny data sample, but just in those five major league games, Castillo "witnessed" four wild pitches, almost one per game.

So I'm not sure Castillo is ready to be a useful backup catcher.

Now Clevenger, that's a different story.

Very nice analysis. I don't think it is fair to compare minor league catchers (who probably see a bit more in terms of wildness) to major league catchers.

As far as K Hill goes, I mean a 250 batting average over a 190 batting average is real nice and all, but stopping a slider in the dirt when you got a guy standing at 3rd base in the ninth inning... those are the kinds of things that save ball games. THIS is his job.

If, on the other hand, you are depending on K Hill's bat in the 9th inning, then I would say the manager has made a mistake and I would not blame K Hill. This is NOT his job.

Keeping runners close and nailing them when they do make an attempt... that's a whole other matter. Geo is dreadful.

Oh, I see you also compare Soto & Hill in the minors. Nevermind. Nice work.

That is some very nice collection there. I also agree with your (unstated?) hypothesis that passed balls and wild pitches are often the same pitch, separated only by the catcher or pitcher's repuation and the official scorer's preference. It's nice to see what I've been saying about Soto put into actual numbers.

It would have been a little more fare, I believe to do the rates based on defensive innings, and not starts (you could have then multiplied the rate by 9 to give convert to 'games' rate). Koyie, for instance, counter-intuitivley averages more innings per start than Soto.

FWIW, Chirinos had 3 passed balls in ST games.

Has Koyie Hill?

Yep, that's an equally important question.

The other issue is that Castillo will be just 24 this April, and has only played in essentially less than three full seasons of minor league games (363). If you think that this is as good as he gets, then putting him as a backup to Soto will be an improvement over Hill. But if you think he has the chance to be a starter some day, putting him in the big leagues now and as a backup playing once a week is a quick way to kill his development.

A back-up catcher might be worth, what, 1-2 wins for the team a year? Maybe. So the gain of adding him now is not that great.

But if you keep him in AAA and Soto gets injured, then you can call up Castillo who has been playing everyday, rather than having your back-up start and calling up someone else from the minors to be the backup. And if later in the season they are in the pennant race and Hill is hitting under .200, you can release him then and call up a hot Castillo who has been playing everyday.

If you make this move now, and then Castillo hits .190 off the bench and in spot starts, then you are screwed because you have no fallbacks and you might have hurt his long-term development.

I agree in terms of Castillo. Keeping Hill over Max, who will get lost if he's not the backup, is shitdiculous.

It's all about game calling and pitcher's comfort level!

Good point, but the pitchers are retarded and I am smart. I used to work with retards, so I am qualified to make this evaluation.

Submitted by The E-Man on Wed, 03/16/2011 - 6:56am.
AZ PHIL: Thanks for the local vibe as always.

Are Jim Hendry, and, to a lesser extent Mike Quade really that hardheaded and blinded not to see that Koyie Hill is not good at baseball anymore?

Im assuming the team is not gonna carry three catchers, right?

With the team coming off being one of baseball's worst offensive clubs in 2010, does Castillo or MaxRam make the pitcher's pitches slower - or - do they not speak a lick of english?


E-MAN: The only way the Cubs would carry three catchers is if they combine the 5th OF slot (R. Johnson/F. Perez) with the utility middle-infielder slot (Barney/Ojeda), and Matt Camp is the only one around who can do both. So if the Cubs were to keep Camp on the Opening Day roster, he could be the back-up SS, late inning defensive replacement for Soriano in LF, and PR. It's just that although he has played there a lot in AAA, Camp is a below-average defensive SS (he bobbles balls and has a Theriot Arm). He is much better at 2B or (especially) CF. Bob Dernier LOVES Matt Camp as a CF. If the Cubs kept Camp, they could release R. Johnson and Ojeda and option F. Perez and Barney to AAA.

As I've said before, if it was up to me, I'd play Barney at SS, Castro, at 2B, and drop F. Perez, R. Johnson, Ojeda, and either DeWitt or Baker (probably DeWitt, because he has options left). That would allow the Cubs to keep both Barney and Castro, with Camp the combo IF-OF-PR (with Camp's shakiness at SS less of a liability because Castro could be shifted back there when necessary), and then there would be an opening for a 3rd catcher (M. Ramirez). But of course that is not going to happen.

If Cub pitchers had their way, Koyie Hill would be the #1 catcher. They really like the way he calls games and receives pitches. I don't think pitchers care much about a catcher's offensive contribution or even if he can throw out base-stealers (they probably should, but they don't). It's just that a certain catcher can sometimes provide a pitcher with a comfort level that's not there with another catcher.

The most obvious example of this would be if a certain catcher gives a pitcher confidence to throw a strikeout pitch in the dirt with men on base (like Dempster's splitter or Marmol's slider), or if a catcher can cheat when he frames a pitch, or when a catcher can out-think a hitter. Actually the young catcher who gets high marks in the catcher-psych-out-the-hitter dept is Steve Clevenger. Pitchers like throwing to him even though he is still a bit stiff back there and doesn't have the best arm.

That said, pitchers do not have to be given (and probably should not be given) the right to pick and choose their catcher. As it is now, Geovany Soto is the starting catcher because of what he brings to the table offensively (he is probably the Cubs best offensive player) and he is at least passable-average defensively. But management gives Cub pitchers their guy (K. Hill) as the back-up, and the pitchers are happy with that. I think Hendry and Quade probably can see very clearly (as we all can) that K. Hill is a slug at the plate, but they don't care. If it was up to me, I'd have Soto play 1B on days he's not catching (to keep his bat in the lineup) and have a 3rd catcher (either W. Castillo or M. Ramirez) who can be the starting catcher (and hit better than K. Hill, or at least hit with more power) when Soto plays 1B. But that's not going to happen, either.

Welington Castillo projects as a frontline MLB catcher. He has the best arm of all the catchers in the Cubs organization, and he slugged nearly 500 at AAA last season at age 23. But he has had a history of showing off his arm with unnecessary pick-off attempts (at all three bases) that sometimes have resulted in throwing errors and led to unearned runs scoring, and his receiving still needs polish (he racks up Passed Balls like Frequent Flyer Miles). He did have some trouble with English earlier in his career, but that is no longer an issue.

So W. Castillo has shown improvement in all areas, and he is now probably fairly close to being ready to be an MLB catcher. I just don't think the Cubs want him to be the #2 guy in Chicago in 2011 when he can be at Iowa getting regular playing time as the #1 guy there, because he still has some rough spots that need polish and he can only get that with regular playing time.

Max Ramirez is more of an offense-first back-up catcher type, and if you take M. Ramirez over Hill, you're taking offense (especially XBH power) over defense (although both have below-average arms), but there is no guarantee that M. Ramirez will hit at the MLB level. He almost certainly would be an offensive upgrade over K. Hill, but his defense is below-average in all areas, and the Cubs care about that, perhaps more than they should. Still, I am disapointed that M. Ramirez hasn't gotten more playing time so far.

The most obvious example of this would be if a certain catcher gives a pitcher confidence to throw a strikeout pitch in the dirt with men on base (like Dempster's splitter or Marmol's slider), or if a catcher can cheat when he frames a pitch, or when a catcher can out-think a hitter.

For whatever it's worth, and I know this is the Cubs' pitchers (and many others) proporting this fantasy and not AZ Phil, there's no evidence that game calling skill (and pitch framing would fall into this) exists.

A really great and free (I think) read on it for those of us with a half an hour to kill:


Though we would colloquially say that game-calling doesn’t exist, it’s more accurate to say that if there is a true game-calling ability, it lies below the threshold of detection. There is no statistical evidence for a large game-calling ability, but that doesn’t preclude that a small ability. For example, a genuine game-calling ability that reduces a pitcher’s ERA by 0.01, resulting in a savings of about 1.6 runs per year for the entire team and could be masked by the statistical variance in the sample size we have to work with. Players would need to play thousands more games than they actually do to have enough data to successfully detect such a skill statistically.

*Edit - Actually, now that I look at it, he's bungled the logic a bit. I like that Joe Girardi was really bad and Damno Berryhill was really good, though.

That article is a decade old. The debate is still very much ongoing about how to effectively measure this, and no conclusion is agreed upon (certainly not a conclusion that there is "no evidence"). For example, just a few weeks ago Baseball Prospectus had an article demonstrating that a catcher's pitch framing ability could account for 20 runs a season:


There is plenty of other stuff out there engaging these issues.

That's interesting, but doesn't actually refute the original, since the orginal says that yes, in a given season one pitcher may have a better rapport with a catcher than another, but there's no correlation cross seasons. In the graphs they show you've sample size problems, and there's no adjustments made for anything else that may influence the strike zones (ump, time of day, opposing hitters).

But at the end of the day, if Cervelli does get more strikes for his pitchers, it's not a useful skill if it doesn't lower runs allowed.

We know that Hill likes to give advice to pitchers. We know it, because it sometimes spills over into the press. Many catchers (Soto?), if they have any thoughts whatever about pitching, keep it to themselves.

Let's suppose that Hill's advice to pitchers is good advice. If you say that has no value, what do pitching coaches get paid for? What's so great about having Maddux around?

If you say, make him a coach, then, and free up his roster spot, I would say that that isn't too far off. Meanwhile, pitchers probably don't mind having a coach behind the plate giving the signs.

Pitching coaches also give mechanical advice. The next time Hill goes out to the mound a pitcher makes a mechanical correction will the first, or at least the first that I or any of the commentators or really anyone here has seen.

As AZ Phil said, the pitchers clearly like him, but that doesn't really mean that he's good at his job, just likeable.

Well, everybody is replaceable, even Koyie Hill. I'm just not sure that Castillo (too many passed balls) and Ramirez (too many stolen bases) are suitable defensively.

I was impressed by Clevenger last Sunday on WGN. Two late-inning singles including one that started the winning rally. Three blocks (or "saved" wild pitches) in the top of the ninth, two with the bases loaded. Average arm, no worse than Soto/Hill. Looks like the best of all Cub catchers (save Flores, but it's close) at avoiding passed balls. Dependable hitter, mostly singles. Pitchers like him, acc. to AZ Phil, apparently for most of the same reasons they like Hill.

He's the perfect back-up, isn't he? I don't think he'd get stale on the bench. He looks like he could roll out of bed and go up there and hit a single.

I was impressed by Clevenger last Sunday on WGN. Two late-inning singles including one that started the winning rally

I don't really have a comment, just wanted to hightlight that bit.

RYAN THERIOT sucks. He blames the Cubs....

I kid u not


Going into '09, though, Theriot says he was asked to be something different. The Cubs wanted him to swing away more, put away his patience in favor of hitting the ball farther. He did the first part -- drawing 22 fewer walks and striking out 35 more times. He did hit for a little more power, but not enough to make up for how much less often he was getting on base. Theriot became a less effective offensive player, and in 2010 it just got worse.

I don't know how much I trust Theriot's word, but sounds like standard operating procedure for the dumb-ass Cubs. On the other hand, they had just brought in Fukudome and signed Bradley that offseason, so clearly some patience at the plate was being seeked out.

He also blamed 2009 on Bradley ruining the clubhouse, but didn't take any personal responsibility for 2009 or 2010. He's starting to sound a lot like a "it's never my fault" guy. Good riddance.

seeked out


It was a pun on "freak out" since they signed Bradley.

A brief follow up: Riot batted lead off today and went 0/2 to lower his BA to .166
while walking twice. (So far this ST he's walked 7 times and struck out once in something like 43 PA's.)

LaRussa may want him to be aggressively selective at the plate but it looks like the Riot Plan is just to try to walk as often as possible while not striking out.

Luis Loses eye:

tragic culmination of the foul ball mishap:


Horrible. I always like Salazar, very friendly guy and an excellent bench player for us.

fascinating stuff...


I'll jump to the conclusion, read the article for the methodology, "top prospects" are considerd BA Top 100 from 1990-2003.

Prospects usually make you wait. They rarely have even league average seasons right away. Although it is unclear how much of this is because they are not yet average talent players, or because they are not given the opportunity to show how good they are over a full season of regular playing time.

Most top prospects (58.6%) blossom in their second or third major league season. But for any prospect, there’s a significant chance that he’ll blossom anywhere from his first to fifth season.
Top pitching prospects have their first league average MLB season a little earlier than position player prospects.
On average, you have to wait until a position player’s third season, after about 120 games and 440 PA for his first league average season.
On average, you have to wait until a pitcher’s second or third season, after about 33 games, 19 starts and 130 IP for his first league average season.
Age at first MLB call up is not a meaningful variable in how long it takes a top prospect to succeed in the majors.
Better prospects (by BA rank) succeed a little more quickly than lesser prospects, but the difference is not great.

A little more support behind the TINSTAAPP argument there.

There's a little cause and effect missed in: " While better prospects succeed a bit quicker, the difference is surprisingly small. The wait is usually still around two seasons, 450 PA’s or 130 IP."

Felix Pie got a grand total of 287 PA's with the Cubs, and then proceeded to have a 1.9 WAR over his next 589 PA's with the Orioles.

I show 1.4 fWAR for Pie over 2 seasons, almost all due to allegedly good defense in 2009 by UZR numbers...not that it matters much.

what's fWar? I cannot keep up with the rate of ripoff with the WAR wars.

fangraph version of WAR versus Baseball Reference version

I prefer Gwar

they have guitars.

they'll go real far.

they'll eat your car.

Colour me confused, because I got the 1.9 from BR.

Btb article uses fwar, just trying to keep it apples to apples.

Some of those charts are neat. The Jeff Bagwell chart... :(

Reminds me of flip flop flyball

from the retarded as hell "yanks looking at silva" front...

i.nova threw 59 pitches of goodness today (he was given an 85 pitch limit leash, but didn't need it)...add colon's decent outings (and velocity) to the mix and it doesn't look good for that rumor.

mitch moreland (tex) playing RF tonight...c.davis playing 1st.

guess TEX wants to make c.davis happy until/unless they can trade him.

Could just be a showcase, in the "hey, do you mind if we, you know, watch him play?" sense.

Brewers @ Mariners

a-a-a-nd Milton Bradley in a complete meltdown after a called strike three he didn't like. Tossed out of the game in the third inning and later grabbed by manager Eric Wedge in the dugout and escorted to the showers.

paul sulivan hasn't tweeted about it yet...amazing.

Nice pitch. Close enough to the strike zone that you don't take it and hope for a ball with two strikes. Milton has been given some bad calls in the past, call it ump conspiracy or whatever, but this isn't really one of those. It was close enough.

I remember the call he got in his first game as a Cub... that was truly a shitty call.

But arguing over it in a spring training game... dude... man up.

carrie's mailbag...

Why don't the Cubs let Welington Castillo back up Geovany Soto? All I ever see Castillo do is hit. I can't stand to watch another .203 year from Koyie Hill. Yes, Hill handles the staff well. But he simply cannot hit. And defensively, if we can handle 20-plus errors out of Starlin Castro, Castillo will not lose us any games. What's the deal?
-- Andrew E., Chicago

A catcher's first priority is to handle the pitchers, which is what makes Hill so valuable. He's had a major impact on the young pitchers, such as Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner. The Cubs aren't that strong defensively up the middle, so Castillo's defense is key. As for Castro, let's hope the hard work he and the coaches are doing will help him avoid another 20-plus errors.


The funniest thing, that she only answered like three questions, and that wasn't her worst answer.

Nice article in the Chicago Sun-Times about Scott Maine and his near death accident.


This happened recently in my vicinity. A Lincoln barge full of ladies aged 77-99 was driving down the highway and the 88 year old driver pulled to the left to pass a slower car in front when she suddenly noticed that there already was a car in the lane next to her. She panicked and pulled hard right and the car went off the road and down an embankment at 65 mph.

Rolled twice on the way down too.

Car was crushed but everybody survived. They all were wearing belts.

suppose to pitch today

2B Baker, SS Castro, CF Byrd, 3B Ramirez, C Soto, 1B Pena, LF Soriano, RF Fukudome, P Dempster

the "vs lefties" lineup in full effect...soto batting 5th...cute...

pitchers scheduled

Dempster, Grabow, Marshall, Samardzija, Wood, et al

no work for ninja without extras...dumpster goes 6 and ninja's the odd man out.


and marshall gives up 2 runs...tie game.

Nice to see Soto getting a whiff of the middle of the lineup. Fukudome batting 8th for a season would probably have a .410 OBP.


it's from a fantasy perspective and I don't think it's breaking any new ground, but groundball vs. flyball pitchers.

The guy doesn't understand the survivor effect.

However, also notice that pitchers with "terrible" ground-ball rates perform better in ERA than pitchers with "below-average" and nearly as well as "above-average" ground-ball rates.

Because the guys who give up a lot of home runs, and don't strike out a lot of guys never reach the majors.

Really the article is an indictment of why WHIP is a stupid stat to use, because it punishes people who get outs via double plays.

gives up a 2-run HR to Suzuki, then fails to get a sac bunt down with Fuku on 1st, followed by Baker GIDP.

Cubs are already in midseason form.

~hangs up sign~


grabes gets his inning in...

1ip 1h 0r 0bb 0k

k.hill gets an AB today...another wasted one.

1-24 on the spring...at least it was a double =p


luke scott (bal) 2-30
j.gomes (cin) 2-28
conner jackson (oak) 4-35 (today's hero in the OAK game with hit #4...neat)

from the also-suck-spring-stats of mlb-probable roster guys

matsui would make the list if not for his 2 hits today (5-33 now)

k.hill gets an AB today...another wasted one.

I think that I have discovered the problem. Maybe Koyie Hill doesn't just make his own pitchers throw 5 MPH faster, but also the opposing pitchers!

Soto HR, 2-run HR by Soriano, 2-run HR by R. Johnson gave Cubs the lead

Wood, Marshall and a F. Perez error give the runs back. 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth

and C. Jackson wins it with a double, 6-5 A's

Koyie Hill gets the loss.
He gave up 7 hits in the last two innings.

Jake Fox hit two homers today and now has SEVEN (7) this spring...

it's 2009 all over again.

seriously, though...7hr in about 45ab...damn.


S. Marcum leaves start with shoulder tightness

The Lord sure is wrathful this spring


"According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Shaun Marcum's fastball was clocked at only 86 MPH on Thursday."


That happens when you don't throw to Koyie F'in Hill.

for those wondering...including me...

c.archer is still a starter for TB, at least as of now...starting for AAA durham is the plan.

That'll make it easier for him to win his 14 world championships.

Rob Whitenack will be the Trey McNutt of 2011. There might not be room for him in the Tennessee Opening Day starting rotation (he is blocked by McNutt-Dolis-Cabrera-Rusin-Raley), but he will begin the season as the #1 starter at Daytona. He has been an extra pitcher at several Cubs Cactus League games but hasn't gotten into a game yet. He has a killer knuckle-curve. If I was making a Cubs Top 15 Prospect list right now, Whitenack would be in the Top 10.

Az. Phil, did the minor lge exhibitions begin yesterday?

mets released castillo - any takers?

I would take a flyer as long as you don't have to take on any money other than mlb minimum. Dewitt has an option left, send him down to work on defense. Castillo might fill lead off role and might improve with Jarimillo.

Yeah, i think I would take a chance on him, at league minimum...

Helluva plan. You can always call DeWitt up if Castillo sucks.

I'm not sure I would call it a helluva plan. Just one with relatively small downside...

defensive upgrade, no?

Castillo can turn the pivot, seems to be more than Dewitt can do. I wish someone would ask Quade if he plans on using Barney as late inning defensive replacement at second. He definitely needs too!


UZR/150 numbers since 2008: -9.5 (2008), -12.7, 6.3

BR's defensive numbers: -23, -6, -3

and he hasn't had a good offensive season since about 2006.

-edit- to be fair to Castillo, a good offensive season for him is getting on-base and stealing a few bases, so you could say 2009 wasn't too bad.

I don't have any idea what those stats are. I will nod and agree...

defensive runs versus the average

Okay, so that means that in 2008, he allowed 23 fewer runs as a 2b-man than average?

What are Dewitt's numbers? Baker's?

you can look them up at fangraphs or Baseball Reference, it's not worth putting a lot of stock in them as they haven't played many full seasons.

DeWitt's one almost full season at 2b, he put up a -6.2 UZR/150

Baker shows a little better but never played more than 45 games in one season.

Fangraphs posts a new article about Scott Rolen's HoF chances, which also kicks off an amusing group of arguments in the comments.

Santo better get into the Hall before Rolen.


defensive 3bmen aren't gonna get a lot of love from voters...

He may get in if he can stay on the field somehow in the twilight of his career, but he's as fringey as they get.

.284/.369/.498...OPS+ of 124...

He's a defensive 3B?

I'm not saying that he should make it....but there are worse guys in the HOF I'd wager.... He's always been a dangerous hitter...and a Gold Glove caliber fielder. Eh.....Santo should get in first, IMO...but 3B has always been an odd position as far as the HOF requirements...

all of that is true, but yeah, it's the 8 gold gloves and regarded as the best defensive 3bmen besides Brooks Robinson that will be his ticket.

Obviously he was quite solid with the bat during his peak years and when he's not injured. I sure think he deserves it, but I don't see the voters falling over themselves to get him in,

phillies? cubs not mentioned [yet]...



"I don't know," Quade said when asked what was wrong with Zambrano's wrist. "I can see the same thing you do. Guys wrap their arms and their shoulders. I don't pay much attention to that. The only thing I want the guy to do is pitch. But guess what? If I see where we can err on the side of caution, that's what we will do."

I was kidding about this the other day, but all indications are that one of Q-ball's secrets to unanticipated managerial success is:

If player salary > Q-Ball's, THEN

1)avoid them if possible, don't even strike up a conversation, just say hello, how are you, leave it at that.

2)praise them effusively to the media even when they suck lemons, NEVER criticize, just tell media you expect great things from them

3)if player effs up, discipline some other player whose salary < Q-Ball's

yes to all of above...

just wondering why this was so difficult

(Q-Ball sees Z's wrist wrapped in locker)

Q: Z!!! What happened to your wrist?

Z: (swears at him in Spanish)

(pretends to understand)
Q: Alright, thanks.



Kevin Goldstein has something nice to say

Lake's .264/.333/.398 line at High-A Daytona last year might not impress, but it was a solid season for a 20-year-old tools player, and he made clear progress in his approach by cutting his strikeout rate while nearly doubling his walk ratio. The real problem is that he's probably not a shortstop, but he has more than enough arm for third base and burgeoning power in he can make some progress against breaking balls.

fwiw, BA also recently cited Lake as one of the few minor leaguers with an "80" tool (Lake's arm) on the 20-80 scouting scale ...


Read on someone's prospect list a week or two ago that if Lake doesn't have offensive success this year, it will be tempting to see his arm on the mound. It was probably Mayo's list. I wonder if anyone in the Cubs organization has actually shown an interest in having Lake pitch, though.

Well Lake is just turning 21 this season....and he showed some improvement moving from Lo A to Hi A last season:
2009 Peoria: .248/.277/.365, 18BB, 138K
2010 Daytona: .264/.333/.398, 35BB, 99K

It seems like he's awfully young to move to a pitcher, considering he is having some success at the plate. This will be a big season for him.

It seems like he's awfully young to move to a pitcher, considering he is having some success at the plate. This will be a big season for him.

If he signed when he was 16, this will be the 5th year in the system and his Rule V time is coming soon.

Hmm.. so 2 seasons in full season ball....he improved his second season, at a higher class....

My point is, it seems hasty to discuss moving him to pitcher, after only 2 seasons of full season ball. Now...I would like to see continued improvement...and his fielding has just got to be better.

Colvin, Castro, Byrd, Ramirez, Pena, Soto, Soriano, DeWitt, Barney

Z pitching and getting DH'd cause of the sore left wrist...

K, BB, K, FO-8 for Z in the first

2nd inning

K, 2B, 1b (1R), FO-9, GO 5-4

3rd inning

K, 2B, BB, HR (3R), 1B, FO-6, Z Picks off Bruce from 2nd to end inning

4-2 Reds

Cubs got a double by Pena, Single by Soto, infield pop-up by Suckiano, DeWitt ground-out for a run, Colvin ground-rule double for another run

Cubs bats alive vs. Sam LeClure

Byrd 1B, Ramirez 1B, Pena 1B (1R), Soto pops out, Soriano 2B (1R), DeWitt sac fly (1R), Barney 1B (1R)

6-4 Cubs

I'm guessing more of Punchy Z might have been hurting today than just his LEFT wrist, but since his manager and the rest of the media don't seem to care we don't know.

Silva- two batters, two doubles,... to the tune of

(plus three more singles, plus an error by Alfonso ... 4 runs and counting)

Whew... Silva, that is putrid. Please tell me they are seeing this for what it is... a HUGE gaping maw of suck!! Cut him loose!

Silva gave up 8 runs in 3 IP, but JUST 5 ER!!!

Z blames the air

#Cubs Big Z said he had trouble getting grip on ball because of dry air. "Thank God, we play in Chicago and not Arizona. It's better air."

So now the media has documented incidents where Z's had a problem with dirt, water, and air. He just needs fire for the quadfecta.


He IS the fire!

If he ever runs into that Avatar kid he's screwed.

/ need kids to know that one

I just had a mental image of Z kicking all of Earth, Wind & Fire's asses. Some exploitation funk is playing in the background. EWF is from Chicago, right?

W. Castillo 2/2 up to .733 BA

rally falls short though, lose 14-13

D. Barney goes 3/4 with a 2 BB, 1 R, 1 RBI, probably has won his spot by now. Might be competing for DeWitt's really soon.

Cubs had 22 hits...only 5 of the XBH variety.

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  • yes, those hamilton WAR numbers are very reasonable. i'm on your side now based on that biting commentary and reasoning of why he's a 3.5-ish WAR player over a 600 PA season.

    those numbers are obviously well deserved and worthy of no scrutiny...none at all. no issue.

    CF D is rarer than a jon lester pickoff at 2nd...totally irreplaceable...no way in hell there's good D, low/no-hitting CF's in anyone's system that could do what hamilton is doing. guys like this don't exist...you get like, 2-3 at any given time in history.

    crunch 11 min 18 sec ago view
  • Please do not discuss War here. I think the Cub Reporter should be politics free.

    But yes, whether you support War or Peace...Mike Trout is ridiculously consistent and good.

    blockhead25 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • ^^^#WARTruther

    Rob G. 2 hours 41 min ago view
  • "According to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi, Tim Tebow's baseball workout Tuesday in Los Angeles will be attended by scouts from "roughly half" of the 30 major league teams."

    "One scout told ESPN.com last week that Tebow's swing is so long it might "take out the front row." That's not a good thing."

    crunch 5 hours 12 min ago view
  • MyrtleBeachPelicans [email protected]

    The #MBpelicans and @Cubs have extended their PDC through 2020!
    Carolina League getting 2 new teams too.

    QuietMan 5 hours 31 min ago view
  • CF WAR is ridiculous...billy hamilton is pulling a 3.0 WAR somehow...and managed a 2.0 WAR last year (even though he missed a month of the season)...and a 3.7 WAR in 2014.

    yeah, a lot depends on how one is doing relative to others at a given position, but WAR is common used (right or wrong) as a blanket comparing all kinds of players.

    trout's one of the best, and at this point should probably win over donaldson (and should have more MVPs in the past, too), but the defensive aspect of valuing WAR still needs more tweaking...imo.

    crunch 5 hours 37 min ago view
  • Rob G. 6 hours 10 min ago view
  • Don't know if Cubs will recover from "spanking" Gordo


    jacos 8 hours 43 min ago view
  • 2nd in defensive WAR, NL.

    6th in NL in RBI

    Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.

    The E-Man 21 hours 10 min ago view
  • Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.

    billybucks 22 hours 25 min ago view
  • Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.

    billybucks 23 hours 9 min ago view
  • There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!

    billybucks 23 hours 9 min ago view
  • Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.

    billybucks 23 hours 11 min ago view
  • Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.

    Jackstraw 23 hours 14 min ago view
  • Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.

    Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.

    billybucks 23 hours 15 min ago view
  • Baez still learning

    jacos 23 hours 42 min ago view