Cubs Pwned the First Half

I can say, with some fair amount of certainty, that very few Cubs fans that read this website have been witness to the outstanding level of play that our beloved Cubbies put up during the first half this season. .600 winning percentage, utter dominance at home, best run differential in the league, best starting staff in the NL, best offense in the NL, and top three in defense and overall pitching. And to all that, we just added an pitcher who could end up being our ace and are due to get back one of our best hitters,  who has only played 53% of our games to date.

Gawk in amazement at our statistical dominance after the jump... 

Team Performance

Category Number Rank in NL
Wins 57 1st

Winning Percentage

.600 1st
Run Differential +102 1st
Strength of Schedule .491 6th
Runs Scored 507 1st
Batting Average .281 1st
On-Base Percentage .360 1st
Slugging Percentage .443 1st
Walks 382 1st
Home Runs 102 5th
Runs Allowed 401 3rd
Team ERA 3.89 3rd
Starters' ERA 3.88 1st
Relievers' ERA 3.92 8th
Strikeouts 707 4th
Walks Allowed 320 7th
Home Runs Allowed 98 9th
Team Defensive Efficiency .713 3rd
Team Fielding Percentage .983 8th
Team Errors 58 7th

Starting Pitchers (NL Rank by Position)

Name
Win Shares
VORP
Pitching Runs Created
ERA
Zambrano 14(Tied 1st) 36.8(6th) 64 (6th) 2.84(Tied 4th)
Dempster 10(9th) 28.0(12th) 58(11th) 3.25(11th)
Lilly 5(Tied 31st) 10.8(69th) 43 (27th) 4.68 (40th)
Marquis 3(Tied 50th) 12.0(59th) 34 (47th) 4.44 (34th)

Relief Pitchers (NL Rank by Position) 

Name WXRL WPA
Wood 1.389(14th) 0.43(Tied 47th)
Marmol 2.484(6th) 1.52(8th)
Howry 1.262(23rd) 0.89(22nd)
Wuertz -.204(264th) -0.58(199th)
Marshall 0.512(61st) 0.53(39th)
Eyre 0.463(64th) 0.43(Tied 47th)
Lieber 0.578(56th) 0.02(98th)
Cotts 0.097(104th) -0.03(121st)

Individual Performance (NL Rank by Position)

Player
Win Shares
Defensive Win Shares
VORP
Runs Created
 RAA2
GPA 
OBP SLG
 Soto 14(1st) 4.8(2nd) 27.8(2nd) 51(3rd) 6 .288(3rd) .369(3rd) .522(2nd)
 Lee 11(Tied 5th) 1.4(2nd) 28.5(3rd) 60(6th) 5 .286(5th) .372(6th) .508(4th)
*DeRosa 12(5th) 3.3(4th) 18.9(5th) 54(3rd) 7 .274(4th) .377(2nd) .453(5th)
Theriot 9(Tied 6th) 3.4(4th) 20.4(8th) 49(4th) 3 .262(5th) .394(1st) .369(9th)
Ramirez 13(3rd) 2.3(4th) 26.0(3rd) 63(Tied 2nd) 1 .294(4th) .386(2nd) .515(2nd)
**Soriano 8(Tied 27th) 1.3(Tied 36th) 15.8(8th) 38(12th) 7 .278(7th) .332 .547
***Edmonds 5(Tied 44th) 1.4(37th) 12.6(9th) 26(15th) -2 .295(2nd) .328(16th) .424(11th)
Fukudome 13(Tied 9th) 2.6(7th) 11.9(9th) 57(2nd) 9 .266(6th) .383(2nd) .408(12th)

* - Not sure which categories account just for DeRosa's time at 2b (53 games played) or his overall numbers at all positions.

** - For all the outfielders, rankings for Win Shares is among ALL
NL Outfielders. Soriano would rank 7th in OBP and 4th in SLG if he
qualified.

*** - For most cases, Edmonds rankings reflect his time with San
Diego. His Cubs numbers are 269/369/552. That would rank him first in
OBP and SLG, but that's in only 157 plate appearances as a Cub.The
negative 2 RAA2 for his defense though is just as a Cubbie, he had a
postive 2 as a Padre. The only regular Cub that has not been a postive
with the glove so far.

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Comments

I've heard there are some issues with large amounts of white space after a table (like the lineups in a game thread). I just downloaded Firefox 3 and it's not doing it on my end, so I'm a bit perplexed.

If there's a web developer out there that knows what's happening, let me know. There are a bunch of line breaks after each table to get the text below it, but no idea how to fix it....at least not yet.

Only the first table is displaying properly in IE 7 running Vista on a Dell Dimension.

Can see all the tables fine with Firefox 3.

Off topic: Maybe you could explain what some of the fielding stats are trying to measure.

you can click on the column headings, should take you to a definition of them. Click on Win Shares for the Defensive Win Shares although it doesn't give you much. Long, complicated formulas but they give a better idea beyond Fielding Percentage and Errors.

RAA2 - Runs Above Average fwiw....

more thorough explanation of Win Shares
http://www.baseballgraphs.com/main/index.php/site/...

Rob:

For whatever reason, you're getting long strings of unnecessary

 < p > & nbsp; < /p > 

strings after your tables (spaces added so it'll render). FireFox sometimes ignores these empty tags and sometimes renders them -- not sure why. I'm getting no spaces between charts (though the tags are there) but I do get extra space below the final chart. That may be because there's an extra "*-" in there.

FF3/XP, FWIW. Not sure if it's doing it on the Mac at home too, but I can check later.

I have to add those spaces to get text to show up below the tables, no idea how to workaround it, other than try a "Width="100%", but then ridiculous sized columns for small tables.

I think your problem is that you have align="left" on your tables which works like the img align in that it wraps text around it. Removing that (along with the p tags) should fix your issues.

If you're trying to set the text to align on the left side of all your table cells, you should do a style="text-align: left;" on the table, or set align at the td level.

I'll give it a try...thanks.

alright, I made the changes and it seems to be looking better for me on IE7 and FF3. Those who were having problems, is it any better?

That fixed it perfectly.

FF3 on Mac OS 10.5.4

I hate to say it, Rob, but my problems just haven't gotten any better. Try again, please. Good job fixing those tables, though.

All this and no one notice the headline reads 'Cubs Pwned the First Half?' I presume that should be 'Owned.'

LOL!!!

My friend... read this. Or this.

There are two (2) <div> tags that start before the Game Thread Table that close </div> after the table is displayed.

The entire table must be "built" and displayed before the <div> and the associated "styles" are displayed.

Remove or close them before laying out the table and you'll see the effect of the <p>&nbsp;</p> paragraph tags that you'll want to remove once accomplished.

Internet Explorer is much more forgiving than Firefox in adherence to browser standards.

That's nice, real nice gang. Way to go! That's just super duper.

Hmm... how is Theriot 4th in defensive win shares if he is so bad defensively?

And how does he have a positive RAA2?

Well there you go. Rob G provides the numbers that confirm Theriot is a net positive for this team. It becomes even bigger when combined with how much he actually makes.

because DLee bails out his low throws.

oh wait..that's not factored in because that's not a factor in theriot's D...

...hold on...

wait a minute...

*cough*

Seriously? Now you are trying to say that D. Lee transforms Theriot from a bad to a good defensive shortstop? C'mon.

no, im just saying you put another 1st baseman out there and theriot might not rank so highly. his arm can be an adventure. that's part of what lee is paid for, though.

Where's Koyie Hill when you need some boost on your fastball?

i am not the only person who's seen dlee dig theriot's throws out more than a few times a game almost every game.

this isnt in the same field as a catcher making a guy throw faster...this is a legit criticism of theriot.

he makes a lot of low throws and dlee digs them out.

in fact, i'd say he probably throws a majority of his stuff at waist-knee level or lower to dlee...if not a majority its way more than it should be.

dlee's D at 1st is a pretty damn important part of EVERY infielder's D on this club.

Crunch is right... Lee makes his other infielders better, because he is so damn good at catching the ball, especially balls in the dirt.

well, to be fair...having dlee on 1st does add 4-5mph to the throws of the infielders.

True. Taller = heavier, so Wrigley tilts a bit toward first base when Lee plays there, meaning the other infielders' throws are going slightly downhill.

QED.

Actually, he has a point. D-Lee's defensive abilities give the other guys the confidence to just let it fly.

Remember Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace? Sandberg was considered a great defensive second baseman. He threw balls in the dirt all the time--because he knew that Grace was going to pick them. Sandberg developed a bounce pass to first. Maybe Theriot is taking a similar approach. Or maybe he's just a little wild and getting away with it.

grace on dunston...

"I owe him a lot. Nobody would know how good I was at digging balls out of the dirt if it wasn't for him and all those bad throws."

rock.

Defensive win shares have the same inherent flaw in them that offensive win shares. They unfairly credit players who play on a team with a lot of wins (2008 Chicago Cubs). Over a career these things tend to even out, but not over half a season. A mediocre player on an above average team is going to look better.

But I'm sure you already knew and understood that part.

Defensive Win Shares don't use play by play data to my knowledge, so you shouldn't put much stock into them anyhow. Again, I'm sure I'm preaching to choir here.

That's a chicken or egg argument because the people who created that stat say the players are responsible for the winning/losing. Now you are saying that the winning/losing is responsible for the player being good or bad.

No... he is right. Win Shares are dependent on a team's wins.

If you have two players with the exact same numbers, the player on the team with more wins will have more win shares.

Win Shares are not a perfect stat, and a player is aided by playing on a good team.

Really good line on Jeff S. today for Iowa---6 innings, 9 k's---that's what we'er looking for---look for him in relief this year

What is it with Samninja getting promoted after struggling and doing good at the next level? That's great news. Can any of you guys think of this happening with another big name pitcher?

At the time he was promoted to AAA he wasn't struggling at all. That's why he was promoted. The only thing the least bit controversial about it was Donnie Veal was doing better and got skipped over.

"Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that"

HJS

Pretty amazing numbers, especially considering the 3 or 4 losses of the last 2 weeks that probably should have been wins. If Harden and Soriano (and everyone else) can stay healthy, this team should be pretty set for the second half.

It just so happens to be my luck that I'm moving to Italy next week, but I'll do my best to keep up with the Cubs and TCR.

What part of Italy Andrew?

Rome. So it'll be hot as hell in the summer time. Woo!

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/10540...

Soriano to take batting practice in Houston and will go on a short rehab assignment when he feels ready, probably won't be back until the Marlins series.

Marshall likely staying with the club even when Eyre returns.

Lou on Theriot:
''He's a scrappy kid with a lot of heart, power, speed,'' Piniella said. ''He wants to do well, and he's got some nice tools.''

The manager said it ''took a while to realize he was a shortstop'' after he was told that Theriot was ''more a second baseman and utility player.''

Power?

Political power?

Sex power, Chad.

He sleeps nude in an oxygen tank which he believes gives him sexual powers?

He also has a pet chimp and lives in an amusement park.

Power bottom.

Thanks for the post, Rob. Really interesting stuff on the first half.

And about Samardzija, it really is weird -- but at the same time, thrilling. It's common knowledge that players in AAA have more bat control than those in AA so if Jeff is starting to miss bats with consistence, it might be more of a direct effect of his performance and talent (he does have a really good fastball) than a fluke. Really good news, all in all.

I'm guessing the latest tweaks in his delivery have his pitches getting DOWN in the zone where they belong because his GO/AO has drastically reversed.

Tennessee GO/AO 0.64
Iowa GO/AO 1.42

His BAA has gone up at Iowa by the way, from .252 at Tenn. to .263 at Iowa. Hits/9IP has gone from 8.41 to 9.24 .

Walks down -1 a game, strikeouts up +2.5 a game, BAA up ten points. This is kind of what you would expect from an effective sinkerball pitcher if they have him trusting his stuff and concentrating on throwing strikes down in the zone.

I don't think anyone has mentioned any of this yet. The All-Star Blog reports that:

1. Geovany Soto loved catching Rich Harden for the first time and thinks he's going to be a huge addition. You won't see any of that on tape because some camera guy next to us kept turning his lights on and off during our answer trying to get lighting for his guy. I gave him an evil glare. He didn't care.

[rats!]

....

4. Carlos Marmol is happy to have a few days off. He feels that his recent run of ineffectiveness might be because of the **number of innings** he's pitched recently...

[Uh,oh! cue the theme music]

Batting order for tonight's HR Derby

1. Dan Uggla
2. Grady Sizemore
3. Evan Longoria
4. Chase Utley
5. Lance Berkman
6. Justin Morneau
7. Ryan Braun
8. Josh Hamilton

MLB - PED =
So far in 2008, the homers-per-game rate is 1.96, which is only slightly lower than last year's rate (1.97) and the lowest since 1993 (1.78).

for today and tomorrow's festivities.

actually it's always open if you want some hot gay talk with Chad.

Actually that applies to all days that in in a "Y".

parachat is lonely...

Speaking of gay-
3 doors down for hr derby entertainment?

Does anyone else think Penny Marshall is hot?

Given these stats, what theories do people have for the lousy road record?

stealing signs?

I kid...

I chalk it up to baseball weirdness...

Lack of uppers. And Theriot being worn out after driving the Scrap-mobile from ballpark to ballpark. That's what I would blame it on.

He should let Fontenot and Reed drive it some. Although,
I still say that Fontenot's 497 SLUG is so high that he's disqualified from being scrap.

http://www3.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/padres/2008...

Padres shortstop Khalil Greene recently attracted an inquiry from the Chicago Cubs, but because Greene's trade value has dropped so far, the Padres will hold onto him, according to a club official.

No idea what that would be about, I would assume as a bench role and they'd try and move Cedeno back for him and as a fallback in case Theriot slumps in the second half again like last year.

Hmmmm Khalil Green he of a career .249 BA, and .305 OBP. Hey he sucks but he can hit HR's....whoppee frickin do.

We looking for the second coming of Alex Gonzalez again? A guy that will hit .250 (maybe) and hit 15 HR's? Yawn....passsssssss.

Green has had 6 years to figure things out and is on the wrong side of 28, and is showing no signs of improvement. Yeah he had 97 RBI last year but he still hit in the .250's and it screams "career year" where teams will waste time and money hoping for that year again only to be disappointed that it will never happen again. I can see if he was raising his average and cutting down his strikeouts but he is actually getting worse across the board. He sucks big time.

Mike should get the "Post of the thread" award. Greene is horrible and I dont get why his name keeps coming up in trade talks for this team. He is a Vlad-type hacker without the 420 career HR and also makes 5.5 Million dollars.

BTW: They really need to change the HR derby rules. They need to cutout the Semifinal round and then carry over the amount of Homeruns from the 1st round into the final round. Its only logical that the guy who hits the most Homeruns wins it. Oh well, what can you expect from the idiots in charge of MLB who think its a good idea to determine homefield for the WS by who wins an exhibition game.

If they carried the over the 1st round homers, Hamilton many not have had to bat. (assuming Morno batted first)

I never understood why once they had a guarantee into the next round would the batter not lay up a bit to save energy.

Or maybe I'm putting to much thought into a video game like exhibition.

IMHO, I think the winner of the Derby should be the guy who hits the most homers so I wouldnt have an issue with it. The biggest problem with the current set-up is the length of the contest and that the guy who hits the most HR's isnt guarnteed to win it. Under the current rules a performance that Hamilton did in the 1st round is discourged because you end up wearing yourself for the finals, but that is the best thing about the HR derby watching a guy hit about 10 in a row. If you cut it from 3 to 2 rounds and carry over the results from the 1st round into the finals you fix both of the problems.

Is Theriot on the right side of 28? Is this his career year?

Well... I think the point is that even if it is a career year, it would be better to have a career year from Theriot than a shitty year from Greene.

Ouch... Greene is not only having an awful year, but he is WORSE on the road, away from Petco, so you can't even blame the pitchers ballpark he plays in.

The HR Derby is such a waste of energy and attention. And will someone please kill Chris Berman.

Oh, and could we possibly here more about Josh Hamilton's drug problems...

(Yes, cross-country flights make me cranky/crankier...)

I could borderline tolerate Chris Berman, but when you add to that Joe Morgan with his usual smug comments detached from reality then you have a loser there.

Anyone else watch the softball game?

One of the announcers talked about how George Lopez should win manager of the year, even with what Maddon has done with the Rays and Tony La Russa has done with the Cubs.

Yes... he really said La Russa with the Cubs.

Compounding the insult was that it was Sutcliffe. But obviously a slip of the tongue.

Unless Lou changes the pattern, Geovany Soto is on pace to play 150 games this season.

Fukudome and Soto batting 8th and 9th for the NL tonight.

If all goes well in pre-game BP this weekend at Houston, Alfonso Soriano could bat lead-off and DH in the three AZL Cubs games that are scheduled while the Cubs are in Phoenix next week. Of course it would mean getting up pretty early in the morning (AZL game times are 10:30), but it would allow Soriano to get four ABs each day in the three minor league games without having to leave his team and go to Iowa, Tennessee, or Daytona, and he could even DH in the AZL Cubs game Wednesday morning, and if he feels up to it, get reactivated from the DL in time to play LF in the Cubs-D'backs game Wednesday night.

Or if he needs a few more ABs, he could remain in Arizona for another day or two after the Cubs return to Chicago and go down to Tucson and get some AAA ABs when the Iowa Cubs play the Tucson Sidewinders at Tucson Electric Park Tuesday night 7/22 through Friday night 7/25 (next week).

As for Rich Hill, with the Iowa Cubs in Tucson the week of July 22, he could get one more start with the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park (probably this Thursday) and then rejoin the I-Cubs in Tucson and get a start versus the Sidewinders on Tuesday or Wednesday.

And Scott Eyre could do something similar. He pitched (ineffectively) in a couple of games at Peoria this past weekend, but if he's not ready to get reactivated immediately after the ASB, he could throw in a couple of AZL Cubs games next week (like maybe Monday and Tuesday or Monday and Wednesday) while the Cubs are in Phoenix, and then if he's ready to be reactivated, he could travel back to Chicago with the Cubs after the final game of the D'backs series Wednesday night.

Or if he needs more rehab work, he could go down to Tucson after the Cubs leave town and throw in a couple of games for AAA Iowa, like maybe Thursday night 7/24 and/or Friday night 7/25 (the I-Cubs will still be playing in Tucson for a couple of more days after the Cubs have left Phoenix), and then rejoin the Cubs in Chicago. 

Koyie Hill in his last 15 games at Iowa: 418/467/818 with six HR, two doubles, and a triple, and five BB over 60 PA. He's also thrown out 36% of opposing base stealers, best among the #1 catchers on the Cubs full season minor league clubs except Josh Donaldson (who just got traded to OAK). So I am fairly sure that Koyie Hill will be brought up after the rosters expand on September 1st to be the Cubs #3 catcher.

Lest anyone think Welington Castillo (who played in the Futures Game) will get a September call-up, Castillo has committed six errors and has allowed 15 passed balls (with 32% CS) in just over half a season in 2008. He led Cubs minor league catchers with 13 PB and 13 errors last season when he threw out 40% of opposing base stealers, so he's already exceeded his PB number from last season and his CS% has gone down.

I like Castillo. He's a talented young catcher, but also VERY raw. His bat is actually more-advanced than his receiving skills right now. He's probably two years away.

All I know is, Lou is impatient with guys who don't hit. He may not be impressed by 15 games at Iowa. The Cubs won't be looking for a defense-oriented catcher, since they already have one making $3.175 million (acc. to espn.com; I hope it's a typo.)

The Cubs could be thinking of Hill as Soto's backup next year when Blanco is gone, in which case it might make sense to call him up in Sept. even if he never plays.

Maybe Blanco can join Scott Eyre on the perpetual DL. Then the Cubs can call up Hill, Castillo can go to Iowa and Lalli can be the everyday catcher at Tennessee.

The Cubs could be thinking of Hill as Soto's backup next year when Blanco is gone

Woo! I am already excited about how hard Cubs pitchers will be throwing whenever Soto sits.

Hill would have to be added to the 40-man roster though to do this. Do you see the Cubs adding him given that they just took him off last year?

Well... the Cubs have an opening on the 40-man roster right now, so that may not be that big of a deal.

The bigger deal may be that he simply is not that good of a baseball player.

AZ PHIL: Since the Cubs have now traded their #1 pitching prospect for a pitcher who is either brilliant, or hurt and can't pitch, can you please tell us who is the next in line?

In your opinion, who in the minors, has the best shot of being a 1-4 slotted pitcher in the majors within the next year or two?

I had thought it was Pawelek, but it does not seem like it will happen that soon. Veal? Still has control issues. JEff Russell? The Notre Dame wide-out? Not enough pitches developed yet. Kevin Hart? From what I've seen in-person, he has no confidence against major-league hitters.

Gallagher at only 22 years old, had some terrific stuff, and a bright future in the majors.

Please tell us what's down the pike. Thanks.

I could swear you've asked this exact same question before...

at any rate, regarding Donnie Veal. His peformance has really taken a hit since Samardzija got promoted to AAA ahead of him. In his six starts prior, Veal was averaging ~6 IP/start, 2.12 ERA (actually better than his April and May averages). In his 4 starts since he's allowed 16 earned runs in 18.1 IP.

ERA by the month

April 2.38
May 2.72
June 4.94 Samardzija promoted
July 6.59

I did ask the same question. It went unanswered. Thanks for your attentiveness.

Except he didn't answer your question.

Samardzija was no better in AA than Veal -- didn't stop him from being promoted.

BB/IP Veal 4.72
BB/IP Smrdz 4.97

samninja's being fasttracked (no matter what any talking head says to the press...that crap dont matter....never has, never will).

wouldnt be surprised to see him this sept. just hanging out with the pro club trying to get a few innings in (if everyone's healthy).

Not to mention the fact that Samardzija has a major league contract and Veal doesn't.

Nice usage of pwned, btw.

I agree. W00T. Rob is teh 1337.

The Cubs will add a third catcher in September to allow Lou to PR for his catchers and to provide an in-house option for the post-season in case something happens to Soto or Blanco, and I'm just saying (for better or worse and whether you like it or not) it will be Koyie Hill. I just wanted you to be prepared for when it happens.

I remember getting a tour of the Cubs locker room (among other things) last year and asking the guide on the sly why the hell Hill was still in the bigs. When he said the rumor was that it wouldn't be long I didn't realize they were going to send him down within the next two days.

I can't imagine that Koyie Hill will actually get any ABs in September post call-up. Hank White can't seem to find his way to home plate with a map right now.

AZ PHIL: Since the Cubs have now traded their #1 pitching prospect for a pitcher who is either brilliant, or hurt and can't pitch, can you please tell us who is the next in line? In your opinion, who in the minors, has the best shot of being a 1-4 slotted pitcher in the majors within the next year or two?

I had thought it was Pawelek, but it does not seem like it will happen that soon. Veal? Still has control issues. JEff Russell? The Notre Dame wide-out? Not enough pitches developed yet. Kevin Hart? From what I've seen in-person, he has no confidence against major-league hitters.

Gallagher at only 22 years old, had some terrific stuff, and a bright future in the majors.

Please tell us what's down the pike. Thanks.

========================

E-MAN: I had rated Sean Gallagher as the Cubs #1 pitching prospect coming into the this season, but now that he's gone, I would rate the Cubs Top 5 pitching prospects (AA and AAA levels only) as:

1. Jose Ceda, RHP 

2. Kevin Hart, RHP 

3. James Russell, LHP 

4. Donald Veal, LHP  

5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP  

Ceda was moved back to the bullpen after getting promoted from Daytona to Tennessee (he was used as a starter at Daytona to force him to use all of his pitches), and he has been dominating so far at AA. He could be as good as Marmol, but like Marmol (recently), Ceda is prone to command problems where he can't throw strikes. But so far that problem has not surfaced at AA. His best pitches are a 98 MPH hummer with a mid-80's slider. He probably was told to throw a two-seamer and a change when he was used as a starter, but those aren't his best pitches. He has had some shoulder problems off and on over the past couple of years, but he has not needed surgery. It is a concern, however.

Hart is a definite MLB rotation starter prospect, although the Cubs will probably trade him. He's not as valuable when he works out of the bullpen because he can't take full advantage of his arsenal/repetoire and stamina, where he can (if necessary) go through a batting order three or four times and where he can maintain the velocity on his fastball up to and beyond 100 pitches. He has a clean medical history, and he can be an innings-eater if used as a starter.

Russell has a plus-change and curve, and he paints both sides of the plate with his fastball. He really knows how to work hitters. VERY smart pitcher. He probably learned a lot about pitching from his dad (Jeff), who had a lengthy MLB career. He is very advanced for somebody his age (22) and it's amazing that he is already at AA when he has less than one year of pro experience. He was the Cubs 14th round draft pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas, but got "3rd round money" to sign just before the August 15th deadline. If he stays healthy, he will be an MLB middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Veal is considered the top Cubs pitching prospect by one scout I know from another organization, just because he has such a high ceiling. Actually, he's high risk, high reward, and high maintenance. He's like an Italian sports car. When he's "on" he has a plus-curve, a fastball with movement, and a deceptive change, too. His big problem is that he gets out of whack fairly easily. He has problems repeating his delivery and sometimes he'll suddenly change his release point in the middle of a game. And when he gets into a jam, it tends to snowball and he has difficulty extricating himself. He throws a lot of pitches-per-inning, and he can single-handedly burn out a bullpen. Personally, I believe he will eventually end up as a lefty reliever (Arthur Rhodes-type).

Samardzija has that 94 MPH power-sinker, but he has had difficulty finding secondary stuff that works. I believe he is now throwing a slider and a splitter, and they must be coming along, because he has pitched well so far at Iowa. Like Derek Lowe, Samardzija is a "pitch-to-contact" guy who gets a lot of ground balls when he's on his game, and moving up to AAA should help him get better results just because the infield defense is so much better as you move up through the minor leagues. Better infield defense should help his confidence, too. But he needs to develop his secondary stuff and make it work consistently if he wants to be an MLB rotation starter. But if he can't he could still be an MLB middle-reliever.

Relying only on numbers and box scores, and never actually laying eyes on these guys, the starting pitchers in the organization who look most interesting to me are Alex Maestri (Tennessee but mostly Daytona), Hung-Wen Chen (Daytona but mostly Peoria) and Dae-eun Rhee (Peoria). Rhee has been the most dominating but he's on the DL for the second time this season with arm problems.

These guys are a far cry from Gallagher, which is why there is a lot of pain associated with the recent trade.

We still have some youth with Zambrano, Harden and Hill, but all three have to pitch.

Alex Maestri is on the Tennessee DL with a shoulder injury and Dae-Eun Rhee had Tommy John surgery today. Not good news.

Between Suarez and Rhee, the Cubs have had their top international free agent signing in consecutive years have Tommy John surgery in a span of 4 months.

AZ Phil, where would you rank the Cubs HITTING prospects, or are you saving that for a midseason Top-10 post? (which I would love BTW).

Seems like our top position players now are:

1. Josh Vitters--good start at Boise
2. Wellington Castillo--raw as you say
3. Micah Hoffpauir--Is he still a prospect? Not high ceiling, but certainly MLB player
4. Tyler Colvin--slipping though
5. Tony Thomas--Also slumping

The cupboard seems pretty bare in position players. Only Castillo is really stepping up this year.

Who's responsible for that?

John Stockstill?

Steady,

that question is an intelligence test.

I figure you are trying to hang it on Tim Wilken. However he just completed his 3rd draft last month. He gets a pass for 2 more years before we get to hang him.

I personally blame Michael Barrett for the general lack of elite talent in the cubs ML system.

Wow, thanks for the update as always, AZ Phil. It sounds unfortunate that the Cubs are likely to trade Hart primarily because he's not a BP guy, you'd think they'd like to keep him around awhile to see what shakes out before the '09 season.

Thanks much, AZ PHIL. "His big problem is that he gets out of whack fairly easily."

This is the problem, as you cite, with Italian sports cars!

balls when he's on his game

At Tennessee 60% of his outs came on flyballs ---was their infield defense really THAT bad?

It's reversed at Iowa, where 60% of his outs have come on groundballs.

Would really like to know what's changed.

Submitted by navigator on Tue, 07/15/2008 - 1:26pm.

balls when he's on his game

At Tennessee 60% of his outs came on flyballs ---was their infield defense really THAT bad?

It's reversed at Iowa, where 60% of his outs have come on groundballs. Would really like to know what's changed.

============================

NAVIGATOR: I remember when Samardzija was at Minor League Camp in March he was throwing a lot of sliders (mostly hanging sliders) and some kind of change up that he couldn't keep down (it might have been he was trying to learn the splitter, but I'm not sure), but whatever pitches he was throwing he wasn't getting ground balls with them.

Maybe now that he is at Iowa the Cubs are letting him throw more two-seamers, although I would think he will need to mix-in the secondary stuff at least occasionally if he ever wants to make it as an MLB starter.

The fact that he got nine Ks in his last start could indicate he's getting punch-outs with the slider and/or the splitter.

That's interesting about the new pitches, AzPhil. He doesn't talk much about the pitches he's working on at his blog, but fwiw this is what he said a few days ago,

7/10/08
For any of you who know me or read the blog on a regular basis, know that I'm not a numbers guy. However being locked in and now with a record of 3-1 feels pretty good. I've been working pretty hard since TN to become more consistent and cut down on the walks. Last night was was evidence of that with no walks and 7 K's. I will say one important thing that a lot of this is a result of a nasty Iowa team.

It's easy to be a pitcher when you know your offense is going to go out every night and but up big numbers.

I'm just doing my best to not disrupt their rhythm and do whatever to help them win.

This is the value in loading up prospect-depleted Iowa with AAAA types and marginal major leaguers (and AA Tennessee for that matter where Hendry optioned Sam Fuld, Jake Fox, and Matt Craig ---who's back with Iowa).

Submitted by Dmac on Tue, 07/15/2008 - 1:21pm.

Wow, thanks for the update as always, AZ Phil. It sounds unfortunate that the Cubs are likely to trade Hart primarily because he's not a BP guy, you'd think they'd like to keep him around awhile to see what shakes out before the '09 season.

==============================

DMAC: I believe if Hendry has a chance to get somebody like Brian Fuentes or Damaso Marte, that Kevin Hart would be a part of the deal. Jose Ceda, too.

I still think Hendry will virtually sell the farm system if he thinks he can improve the Cubs even marginally going into the stretch. He'll go for any little edge he can get.

Remember last year when Hendry traded Scott Moore, Rocky Cherry and Jake Renshaw for Steve Trachsel? He WAY overpaid for Trax, and he didn't seem to care.

A painful memory to be sure - yeah, we all remember that fire sale. I would hope he'd be just a little more circumspect this time around, but probably not.

Levine was just on ESPN 1k and said he would be "surprised" if Jimbo did not get a speedy OF who can hit. I dont know why Jimbo is in the market for one? Is Soriano's injury worse than they are letting on? Did Jimmy Baseball get caught using something he stole from the LaRussa Institute for Performance Enhancement in Sports? Is Fukudome shoulder bothering him? The only name Levine mentioned was that of Scott Hairston, who would be an improvement over Cedeno in the 2nd RH off the bench role if they want Dero backing up SS. Though he has been productive this year and should be cheap next year so I dont know why the Padres would let go of him for something that does not have alot of value.

Well... being that the Cubs don't really have a 2nd backup outfielder right now, it makes perfect sense that Hendry would be looking to add one.

DeRosa is not a good defensive OF, and when he plays the outfield the defense is often weakened at 2n also with Fontenot.

LouPa has been talking about needing any outfielder, but when the options are Hoffpauir or Dubois, it sure makes sense to me to add another outfielder if possible.

As long as they arent giving up anything of value I wouldnt have an issue with it. With a healthy Soriano I dont think getting another OF is that big of a priority. I would rather have 2 pen arms, an inpact RH bench bat, or even another backup C before a 5th OF to be a defensive replacement/pinchrunner type.

A third catcher? Why? Lou doesn't even use his second catcher.

I would also say that the RH bench bat could equal a 5th outfielder.

I would like a second catcher that Lou would feel comfortable playing. At this current rate Soto could end up being like Theriot and suck down the stretch because of overuse throughout the course of the season. If the 5th OF is a RH who can provide some pop off the bench like Scott Hairston then yes its a good pickup, if its Scott Podsednik type guy then its over GMing on Jimbo's part.

Is there a 2nd catcher available that is better than Blanco?

And I agree on the Pods type - I am not interested in that either.

sweet...so when's jay payton getting here?

A little power and a little speed in center, that would be nice. The Cubs have a couple of athletes with size in Pie and Colvin, but so far neither one can hit. There are a bunch of smaller, "scrappier" types along the lines of Reed Johnson and Sam Fuld, with names like Wyatt and Wright and Aducci, but there's not much pop in that group. The problem is not a backup outfielder this year, but a starting CFer this year and next year and beyond. Centerfield is the gaping hole that never gets filled.

Edmonds has been serviceable, and more, but his failure to score on that sac fly in St. Louis was ominous. He's old and slow, playing a speed position. If you don't get speed from center and from second, where are you supposed to get it? That's why the Cubs are always looking for a second baseman (Roberts, 27 SBs at the all-star break) and a CFer.

but his failure to score on that sac fly in St. Louis was ominous.

Yup - that one play makes him worthless.

Lets completely ignore this line: .269/.369/.552 OPS: .921

Yup - he sucks. Lets get a new one.

Pie is a speedy outfielder, and he is hitting over .300 since returning to Iowa from Fitch Park. Are we giving up on him as a prospect?

Would Randy Winn be available on a crap Giants team? Speed, SH, and some power. Plus, nice MLB experience.

Yeah if you want to pay him $12.25 Mil over the next year and a half. I hope we pass.

Z to pitch innings 3-4 according to ESPN 1k. Also Lincecum will not be playing due to being hospilzed with the flu. I am assuming Hurdle's plan is:

1&2: Sheets
3&4: Z
5: Volquez
6: Wilson
7: Wagner
8: Valverde
9: Lidge

Boo... Sheets should pitch as long as possible, preferably all nine innings.

That way Dempster, Marmol, and Z can all sit and rest.

# 81

if only we had a decent hitting outfielder who
was fast and played great defense we could just
bring him up from minors and not trade away
those prospects

Well you got it on the "fast and played great defense"; the jury is still out on the "decent hitting".

Submitted by Q-Ball on Wed, 07/16/2008 - 8:35am.

AZ Phil, where would you rank the Cubs HITTING prospects, or are you saving that for a midseason Top-10 post? (which I would love BTW).

====================================

Q-BALL: I think Josh Vitters is proving that when he's healthy (he had mono last year and tendinitis in his hand this past Spring), he is a primo hitting prospect. Whether he can remain at 3B remains to be seen, but he's only 18 so I guess there is plenty of time to figure that out. Personally, I think he will end up at 1B, but we'll see. But he is the Cubs #1 position player prospect right now.

Welington Castillo has a lot of potential and he's a very confident kid, but he is also VERY raw and will need some time to develop. His bat will probably get him to the big leagues before his glove, although he should eventually become a plus-defensive catcher. But right now he needs to work on his receiving skills.

Tyler Colvin has been moved very fast through the Cubs system, and has been young for his league everywhere he's been. So I wouldn't be too concerned about his slump at AA in 2008. I would be concerned about the Cubs trying to play him in RF, though, because the "arm strengthening program" the Cubs put him on post-2006 resulted in a sore arm that has plagued him ever since (he played 1B in HS and LF at Clemson, but he does have the speed to handle CF, although he is by no means a "Gold Glove"-type defender).

Tony Thomas is a concern because he is a poor defensive second-baseman and so he has to put up some stellar numbers for a lead-off hitter if he is still to be considered a hot prospect, and he isn't doing that right now at Daytona. At least Eric Patterson has the athleticism to maybe play CF. With Thomas, it's probably 2B or bust.

One name I would definitely add is 3B Marquez Smith (Tyler Colvin's teammate at Clemson). Playing both 2B and 3B (but mostly 2B), Smith committed 13 errors from Opening Day through mid-June at Peoria. But since being moved from 2B back to 3B (his natural position) a liitle over a month ago, he has committed just ONE error combined between Peoria and Daytona (and that's going back to June 14th). So in over a month of games, Smith has committed just ONE error. And Smith has legitimate HR power, too. He has hit 299/374/516 with 14 HR & 53 RBI, 19 doubles, five triples, and 38/67 BB/K in 375 PA (90 games) at Peoria and Daytona so far in 2008. He is a stocky 5'10 or 5'11, but he has plus bat speed and really puts the hammer on the ball, with the type of swing that should result in a lot of "long flies." He reminds me of a young Jim Ray Hart.

I also think Jovan Rosa will benefit defensively from moving back to 3B (his natural position) from 1B, and once he learns to elevate his swing and turn on the ball he should start to hit some HRs (he's a "doubles machine" right now). And Dylan Johnston is back on the prospect radar again after moving to RF from SS. Johnston has put on a lot of weight (hopefully mostly muscle!) and he could develop into a big-time left-handed power hitter as he matures (he's only 21). Both Rosa and Johnston are at Peoria.

2008 Supplemental 1st-round draft pick Ryan Flaherty (compensation pick for losing FA Jason Kendall) bears watching, especially if he can stay at SS (he played SS at Vanderbilt, but he played 2B for Team USA). And Josh Harrison (U. of Cincinnati) may actually turn out to be a better 2B prospect than Tony Thomas (but that's still TBD). Both Flaherty and Harrison are presently at Boise.

The Cubs drafted and signed several really big dudes last month (Ryan Keedy, Jericho Jones, Rebel Ridling, and Sean Hoorelbeke), and if one of them were to develop into a HR hitter, he could have a possible MLB future. We'll see.

I also like what I have seen so far of Matt Cerda, the Cubs 2008 4th round pick out of Oceanside HS in suburban San Diego. Cerda was moved from SS back to catcher last month at Fitch Park (he last played catcher in Little League), and he has made some nice strides with his defense behind the plate already (he picked a runner off base in an AZL game the other day). Offensively, he reminds me of a young left-handed hitting Craig Biggio. For an 18-year old, he has an advanced approach at the plate, and he knows the strike zone (unfortunately not all of the AZL umpires do!). He has some power potential, too. 

Among the Latin players at Fitch Park, RF Nelson Perez is quite a specimen. A protege of Alfonso Soriano, Perez looks like a left-handed hitting Sammy Sosa, and (as you might expect) he has plus-power. He also has probably one of the three-best OF arms in the organization (Ryan Harvey and Kyler Burke have the other ones). On the negative side, Perez sometimes has a problem catching the ball in the outfield, and he is an EXTREME first-ball fastball hitter. That's because he struggles to hit breaking balls and change-ups (unless he knows what's coming), and he's "dead meat" when he has two strikes. 

Excellent as always Dr. Phil.

Have you heard any scuttlebutt about Kyler Burke or Ryan Harvey finally making the mound transitions they seem destined for? Both guys were first round picks and both guys are really struggling with the sticks.

Submitted by Dr. aaron b on Wed, 07/16/2008 - 11:58am.

Have you heard any scuttlebutt about Kyler Burke or Ryan Harvey finally making the mound transitions they seem destined for? Both guys were first round picks and both guys are really struggling with the sticks.

================================

DR AARON B: No I havent. But both probably should seriously consider it, especially Burke, who is struggling to hit .130 at Boise (and he was there last year, too.),

BTW, Kyler Burke does lead all Cubs minor leaguers in OF assists with 13 (the next most is eight by Sam Fuld), and Burke has done that in only 2-1/2 months, because he spent about a month at Extended Spring Training after he got demoted from Peoria in May.  

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