Trying to Read a Waffle Iron
I talked with Cubs Organizational Hitting Instructor Dave Keller today, and he admitted that he was the guy in the tower yelling at Felix Pie (in Spanish) after Pie left the AZL Cubs game on Sunday, but that the conversation had to do with Pie verbally being given the hitting schedule for Monday at Fitch Park (which otherwise was an off day for the AZL Cubs), and that there was no animosity involved in the exchange.
I will say this about Coach Keller. Both Felix Pie and the AZL Cubs (as a team) have apparently responded very well to the hitting guru's presence at Fitch, as the Cubs hitters banged out 21 hits on Sunday and had another big day today, and Pie drilled a double, took a bases loaded walk, and hit a grand slam HR over the CF fence in the AZL Cubs 18-1 victory on Sunday, before returning to Iowa yesterday and going 2-4 with a two-run HR, a walk, and two runs scored in the I-Cubs 10-4 victory over Omaha.
Maybe Dave Keller should ask for a raise!
But Keller can't coach the pitchers, too, and contrary to some early reports in the "traditional" media that Rich Hill had been showing improvement since arriving at Fitch Park last week (I didn't see any), the fact is nothing appears to have changed (at least so far) as far as getting Hill out of his season-long funk.
Hill got the start yesterday at Peoria versus the AZL Padres and lasted just 1/3 of an inning before being removed from the game, with the following game log:
HBP, BB, BB, E5-RBI, BB-RBI, and 1B-RBI.
Today, Chris Huseby (who has been struggling to throw strikes since Minor League Camp in March) got the start for the AZL Cubs, and he also lasted just 1/3 of an inning before getting the hook, with the following game log:
HBP, HBP, WP, HBP, SF-RBI, BB.
That's right. Huseby hit the first three batters of the game (ding, dong, dang).
But Miguel Sierra came into the game in relief of Huseby with one out and the bases loaded, and immediately induced a DP grounder to end the inning.
The AZL Cubs then unloaded, scoring seven runs against the AZL Mariners, including a mammoth HR over the CF fence by 3B John Contreras, his third dinger of the young AZL season (today was game #9). The Cubs then hung-on for a 7-6 victory.
The 21-year old Contreras was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Dominican Republic, and he is the prototypical third-baseman (although he plays 1B, too). He has a heavy lower body and "Popeye" powerful forearms, just perfect for hitting bombs away
Besides Contreras's missile, the other offensive hero today was LF Jericho Jones (2008 20th round pick out of Louisiana Tech), who reached base three times on a single, a double, and a walk, stole a base, and scored two runs.
Best play of the day was a picture-perfect hit & run pulled off by the Cubs in the bottom of the 1st inning. With one out and the Cubs trailing 1-0, Bryan Jost at bat, and Starlin Castro on 1st base, Castro broke for 2nd. The second-baseman left his position to take the anticipated throw from the catcher, and Jost hammered a single right where the second-baseman had been stationed, sending Castro to 3rd base. Castro would later score on a FC ground out. That HAD to make Dave Keller happy.
Later that same inning, Nelson Perez absolutely CRUSHED a ball off the CF green metal hitting background 400+ feet from home plate, but was thrown out (albeit just barely) trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. He did get an RBI out of it, though.
Today's game marked the pro debut of Cubs 2008 4th round draft pick Matt Cerda (Oceanside HS - Oceanside, CA). The 18-year old Cerda served as the DH and hit lead-off, going 0-2 with two walks before being removed for a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 8th.
Cerda played SS in HS, but the Cubs are moving him to catcher (with his consent). Actually, the young man is being moved BACK to catcher, because he was the starting catcher on the 2001 Oceanside LLWS team that went all the way to Williamsport.
AZL Cubs coach Danny Fatheree is mentoring Cerda in the art of catching. And the youngster couldn't ask for a better teacher.
In AZL Cubs roster news, 2008 24th round pick RHP David Cales (St. Xavier by way of UIC, the U. of Missouri, and Mt. Carmel HS) has arrived at Fitch Park, and he joined the other pitchers sitting in the grandstand about midway through today's game. I hope David is enjoying the 114 degree heat!
I don't know when Cales will get into a game, but it probably won't be too long because he was pitching for the Eau Claire Express in the Northwoods League (a collegiate "wood bat" league) up until the middle of last week, so his arm should be fairly close to "game ready" right now.
The AZL Cubs are still awaiting the arrival of 21st round pick SS Logan Watkins, who has agreed to a $600K bonus (that's a $500K signing bonus plus $100K in college tuition) to give up his chance to play college baseball at Wichita State. The left-handed hitting Watkins was a star baseball and football player at Goddard HS in Goddard, KS, and it took an offer of "2nd round money" from the Cubs to get him to turn pro.
With the signing of Cales and Watkins, the Cubs have inked 29 of their 51 2008 draft picks, including 24 of their first 27. The only three still unsigned among the Cubs top 27 picks (with August 15th the signing deadline) are 1st round pick RHP Andrew Cashner (TCU), 2nd round pick RHP Aaron Shafer (Wichita State), and 10th round pick RHP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M).
The Cubs will receive compensation picks in next year's Rule 4 Draft if they are unable to sign Cashner and/or Shafer (#20 overall if they don't sign Cashner, and/or #66 overall if the can't sign Shafer).
Correct. Castro 5th, AJax 6th; I'll edit my lineup post to fix this.
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, Castro, AJax, Montero, Hendricks, Russell
if he put ajax 1st/2nd in the f'n playoffs he deserves to lose his nearly sure-thing MOY award to terry collins.
I believe Castro batting fifth, Ajax (LF) sixth
Maddon did not listen to me yesterday re Strop, or EricS on Schwarbs today.
Wtf is up w/that?!
Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?