Does That Hill Turn a Corner?

The AZL Cubs defeated the AZL A's 3-2 at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning.

box score

The game featured another fine outing by RHP Julio Pena, and the victory was probably saved by a nifty 6-4-3 DP to end the top of the 8th inning, started with a super stop by SS Junior Lake, then a quick flip with a fast turn by 2B George Matheus, and completed with a nice stretch by 1B Sean Hoorelbeke. Too bad AZL games aren't televised, because that one would have made the highlight reel!

Today's AZL Cubs offensive heroes were RF Nelson Perez (a double and an RBI single) and catcher Jose Guevara (a double and RBI single through a drawn-in infield).  

Prior to the game, Rich Hill threw a simulated game that featured his new delivery, and it looks like he may actually have found the cure for his version of Steve Blass Disease. 

He no longer tilts his shoulder and head back to the exent he had been doing (a la Fernando Valenzuela), which allows him to keep his eyes on the catcher's target. That might sound like a simple thing to fix, but we're talking body memory here, and that can be a stubborn force to work against.

And the results this morning were that he was able to throw his fastball and curve over the plate pitch-after-pitch, just like he was doing in 2006 and into Spring Training 2007 and through most of last season. He was absolutely unhittable today.

The curves literally buckled the knees of the young AZL Cubs hitters, and (probably more importantly) he was able to consistently throw his fastball for strikes  And maybe most importantly, Hill looked relaxed and he even was able to crack a smile at one point. (One of the telltale symptoms of Steve Blass Disease is the inability to smile).  

Now the key is whether he can keep the new delivery in his head and make it repeatable from outing-to-outing. If he can, the Cubs might have the rotation starter they think they need for the stretch run right in their own backyard (Fitch Park).

Kudos to AZL Cubs pitching coach Rick Tronerud and Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins for getting Hill as far along as they have in just ten days. How much longer Hill will remain at Fitch Park is probably still TBD, but I would think getting him back to Iowa ASAP to build up his pitch count, face tougher hitters, and work with umpires who can call balls & strikes a little bit more consistently than is the case with the "rookie" umps who work in the AZL, would be a priority.  

In case you are wondering what AZL umpires are like, they work in two-man crews, and most of them are in the early to mid-20's (think Richie Cunningham and Potsie), and they tend to make more mistakes than do umps at the higher levels. They can also sometimes be a bit overly thin-skinned.

Like today, in the top of the 5th inning, the home plate umpire called time and stepped out in front of the plate to announce (for all to hear) that the Cubs were trying to show him up and they better stop that and get back to work.

What happened to cause this interruption? 

Well, at Fitch Park, the scoreboard is operated by one of the Cubs pitchers who is not scheduled to pitch that day. The pitcher operating the scoreboard, as well as another Cubs pitcher who is "charting" the game and a third Cubs pitcher who operates the radar gun, all sit behind home plate in a cage. (The opposing team has two or three guys back there, too)

And after a pitch was called a ball that everybody in the park thought was a strike, the error light lit up on the scoreboard. And the umpire saw it. And he got mad. Blew a gasket. Had a cow. 

Or as Governor LePetomane would say... "Harrumph!!"  

On the injury rehab front, Angel Guzman (September 2007 TJS) expects to be at Fitch Park another two or three weeks. This actually makes sense and it explains why Guzman has remained at Fitch Park even though it's pretty clear he is ready to move on up.

See, the Cubs can send Gooz out for a maximum of 30 days on a minor league rehab assignment, and then they have to make sure that he doesn't spend more than 19 days on optional assignment to the minors after that (that's a total of 49 days maximum combined), in order to preserve his 4th minor league option for next season (in case the Cubs need to send him to the minors for some work at the end of Spring Training or any other time during the '09 season).

So operating under those parameters, the absolute earliest the Cubs can send Guzman out on a rehab assignment would be July 14th (with the rehab ending on August 12th, followed by no more than 19 days on optional assignment, 8/13 through 8/31), and that's only if they are planning to recall him from his optional assignment immediately when rosters expand on September 1st.

And the Cubs have signed their 2008 2nd round draft pick, RHP Aaron Shafer (Wichita State). Shafer received a $625K bonus, which is right about exactly what he should have expected to receive based on his slot (overall pick #65). 

So the Cubs have now signed 25 of their first 27 2008 Rule 4 Draft picks, with RHP Andrew Cashner (1st round pick out of TCU) and RHP Alex Wilson (10th round pick out of Texas A&M) the only two picks out of the first 27 left outstanding.

The deadline to sign players selected in the Rule 4 Draft--as well as non-drafted free-agents (NDFA) who were eligible for selection in the Rule 4 Draft--is August 15th.

 

Comments

That's great news about Rich Hill. If Riggins and Tronerud have fixed him they should both be made Vice Presidents.

Next project: Carlos Marmol. If he were Rich Hill he'd be packing his backs today. He says he feels fine, same as Hill, but that delivery.... It's all over the place and so is his command. A trip to the home of AzPhil might just be what he needs.

Rich Hill's 19.2 IP for the Cubs this year that got him optioned to Iowa:

2 HR
9 ER (4.12 ERA)
18 BB

Carlos Marmol's last 20.0 IP (goes back to May 19)

5 HR
15 ER (6.75 ERA)
15 BB

Marmol's ERA by the month

April 1.69
May 1.93
June 7.36
July 36.00

If Hill came all the way back and returned after the AS break - well, how awesome would that be? I'll keep dreaming.

Well if you're dreaming, you might as well imagine it with CC Sabathia in that rotation as well. I certainly could live with:

Z
Sabathia
Dempster
Lilly
Hill (back to good)

Instead, we'll probably have

Z (if he doesn't get injured)
Dempster (returning to mediocre)
Lilly (ditto)
Marshall (third time through and he's a goner)
Marquis (Marquis)

Oh well.

With Marmol coming down to earth and the so-so performances of Weurtz and Cotts & the "injury" to Eyre - the bullpen's smelling kinda shitty. So if Hill came back into form it would allow either Gallagher or Marshall to go to the pen. Gallagher would certainly be an upgrade over Ascanio, though he's done very well as a 22 year old MLB #5.

I'm sure Lou won't want to wait for Hill to prove himself before getting an extra pitcher, so if CC is a Brewer and Burnett or Harden becomes a Cub, the potential pitching staff is something like this: (If Hill comes back and pitches like last year, you can move Marquis to the pen. His family will starve, but Lou won't care.)

Z
Demp
Lilly
Burnett/Harden
Marquis/Hill

Wood
Marmol
Howry
Eyre/Cotts
Gallagher
Marshall/Weurtz/Marquis
Lieber

Down to minors: 2 of Weurtz/Cotts/Marshall (or all 3 if Hill is back)

Keep it up Rich. That would be a helluva rotation for the second half

It makes a lot of sense keeping your eyes on the target throughout the windup and delivery.Arizona Phil......did any of the AZL Cubs get any decent hits off of Hill or was he really unhittable as you described? I bet they hit a few of his 91 mph fastballs.I hear that his curveball is nasty. Best of luck to him with his newfound mechanics on the mound.

Does anyone know what is up with 2006 35th overall supplemental draft pick (Padres) Kyler Burke? In 2007 he split his season at Ft. Wayne and Boise and batted .233. This year after 35 games in Peoria he was batting .206. Now after 14 games back in Boise he is batting .111. Is he possibly bothered by some sort of nagging injury? If not, what is the outlook for a once promising career?

Re: Burke - some say he's homesick.

Recent comments

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  • the factual correction on your mistakes on your post that I barely bothered to read the first time because it had nothing to do with anything I wanted to talk about is indeed a sign of my degenerative brain condition. I appreciate the safety tip and will be looking into with extreme urgency now.

    Rob G. 18 min 54 sec ago view
  • it took you 4 posts to get to this?

    have you checked the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector?

    #droppingknowledge #savinglives

    crunch 43 min 31 sec ago view
  • Fwiw, Billy Hamilton's actual WAR numbers that relate to the ones that I posted for Mike Trout are:

    • 2014: 2.5
    • 2015: 1.0
    • 2016: 2.6

    But by all means #crunchsplain on the stupidity of WAR while exaggerating your points. I can't wait to read more.

    Rob G. 48 min 49 sec ago view
  • jacos 48 min 58 sec ago view
  • *stroking intensifies*

    crunch 52 min 27 sec ago view
  • #crunchsplaining

    Thanks for the awesome give and take today and for the 535 words you spilled filling in all the gaps that I woefully neglected. We're all a little wiser and better for it. I look forward to your play-by-play summary later in the comments.

    Rob G. 58 min 56 sec ago view
  • it was about a post comparing players based on WAR...and comparing WAR values of a CF to a slew of other players...a post that you made...and i made a comment...that talked about D weighting of WAR...and comparinging WAR values of a CF to a slew of other players...etc etc...

    hell, we didn't even get in deep. i didn't even involve UZR or FIP versions and their strengths/weaknesses...or position mandated "handicapping" in points...etc.

    let's not talk about that...cool, fine, awesome. context sucks. san dimas highschool football rules.

    *shrug*

    crunch 1 hour 6 min ago view
  • Ha

    jacos 1 hour 22 min ago view
  • Thanks for shining a light on this very important topic and steering it away from the frivolity that was the awesomenes of Mike Trout, but moreso on the foolishness of WAR as a metric to judge the value of center fielders. We're all a little wiser now and your contributions are invaluable to this community and to America's pastime. God Bless!

    Rob G. 1 hour 45 min ago view
  • so...what's chan-yong lim up to these days?

    http://www.thescore.com/mlb/news/1088746-korean-le...

    oh...

    crunch 3 hours 9 min ago view
  • 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 3 hours 29 min 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 5 hours 48 min ago view
  • ^^^#WARTruther

    Rob G. 5 hours 59 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 8 hours 31 min ago view
  • MyrtleBeachPelicans [email protected]

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

    QuietMan 8 hours 49 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 8 hours 55 min ago view