Afternoon Delight

A few more links from this afternoon and an invitation to Parachat for tonight's game on WGN per request by Carlos. I may stop by after the kids are in bed.

- If you're worried about Milton Bradley being healthy enough this season and need a national writer in your corner, Joe Sheehan has your back.

That's why this signing was a mistake. It has nothing to do with Bradley's anger-management issues, ones that have defined his career. It has nothing to do with Bradley's skill set as a hitter. It has nothing to do with the money, which was in line with what Adam Dunn and Raul Ibañez signed for. No, the problem is that the Cubs signed a player to do a job that he's not capable of doing. Signing Milton Bradley to be an everyday outfielder is like signing Mark Prior to make 34 starts, or trading for Carlos Delgado to be your catcher, or bringing in Will Carroll to endorse hair-care products. You're asking people to do things their bodies long ago stopped being able to do, and that's a recipe for failure.

- Bradley did return to the lineup and went 1-3 with a double. On cue, the beat writers get to file their weekly "Is Milton Crazy or Not?" report.  

- This shouldn't be news to any of our loyal readers, but Fangraphs notices that the Cubs pitchers have a eight year streak of leading the majors in strikeout rate and wonders if the Giants staff can surpass them this year. I'm a bit too lazy to look it up, but I believe the Cubs were in second or third for a good portion of last season until they acquired Rich Harden (and probably some injuries to the staffs ahead of them).

- "Blame Paul Bako" - the title says it all. (Hat tip to Wrigleyville23)

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Comments

Hard to blame a guy who's only going to be in the organization for another four weeks. *fingers crossed*

How's that choice of Josh Vitters over Matt Wieters looking right now? About as bad as we all said it would at the time. Nice.

Mark Pawelek--I take it this guy is done, right? Haven't heard a peep about him. Clearly, scouts think he is a non-prospect bust.

Can Phil tell me what the situation is with Caridad? I'm confused on that one. Does he literally need to be on the 25-man roster all season to keep him?

Hokay.

It's too soon to ask this question.

Wieters will be 23 in May. Vitters will be 20 in August. Wieters played three years of college ball.

I'd blame Paul Bako, but I agree with his politics, so it's all good.

Holy balls, there's a game coming on WGN in a few minutes.

Cubs announcers, no less. I feel all giddy and stuff.

Hey! Al Maestri gets the W for Italy 5-1 over Nolasco and the Fish.

Btw, the Cubs drafted after the Orioles iirc, and Weiters was gone already.

Anyway, since Vitters is barely 19, I'd give it a little time hickman, before passing judgement.

Huh? Facts:

1. David Price (Rays)
2. Mike Moustakas (Royals)
3. Josh Vitters (Cubs)
4. Daniel Moskos (Pirates)
5. Matt Wieters (Orioles)

Also, Matt LaPorta (Brewers, #7)

you seem to think vitters is done or has failed at something...

10 GMs out 10 would pick wieters to hit the majors before vitters...a significantly less margin of them would expect the 6'5" catcher to actually stay a catcher for very long, but that's another discussion.

wieters also got a bucketload of money. he was no shock or surprise to anyone and his quick advancement, though fast paced, doesn't have people going WOOOOOOOAH!?!??!?!

Believe the Orioles paid Wieters twice what we paid Vitters, and if I recall, they still had trouble getting him/Boras to sign, even for that money.

As others have said Wieters was seemed to be unsignable for most teams. He's a 6'5 catcher who, most likely, won't be one for long. He was also a college player and was supposed to be on a fast track to the league while Vitters was not. Also, tell me where Wieters would be playing for the cubs right now? C? 1B? No where? Thought so. Wieters is getting fast tracked for two reasons. 1) Being a college player helps and 2) The O's blow.

It's not as if Vitters is doing horrible or is out of the game. By most accounts he's a top tier prospect and will be an above average major league 3B.

Let's allow the 19 year old kid to grow up and play some serious ball before we already sign him off as a bust and a "we could have had ________"

And, Jim Hickman's Bat is on the bench...

Just looked at the lineup for tonight and, predictably, it sucks.

that was a good game, btw...esp. for this early in the year and the wind blowing out at 20mph+ the whole game.

"DH did return to the lineup and went 1-3 with a double."

after which he was immediately removed for a pinch runner.

Bruce Levine's blog updated with info on Ricketts purchase, Comcast vs WGN revenues to the Cubs and his thoughts on Crosby (yuck).

http://stations.espn.go.com/stations/espnradio1000...

The Cubs' and White Sox's match-ups in Vegas March 4th and 5th will gross the Cubs $1 million and net the White Sox $150,000. In reality, both teams are being paid $150,000 for their two-day excursion, but the Cubs and WGN-TV have a tourism deal with the city of Las Vegas that ups to ante for the north siders with a continued connection between Las Vegas tourism and Cubs advertising.

WBC Recap: Japan 450, China 052. Fukudome 4BB, 1R, led off 3 innings (4,6,8) He really looked like the Fuk we all saw in ST last year, make of it what you will.

*Also, Yu Darvish looked very mature on the mound. Went 4IP, 1BB, 0H, 3Ks. Granted it was China, but he did what he needed to do.

The commentators for ESPN, were a lot more forthcoming this go-round with the difference in baseballs (in Asia they use a different hide, whereas in the States we use rawhide). In 2006, they were going on and on about how none of the Pool A teams were used to the ball, and it went on adnausium.

Submitted by Jim Hickmans Bat on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 8:41pm.

Mark Pawelek--I take it this guy is done, right? Haven't heard a peep about him. Clearly, scouts think he is a non-prospect bust.

 Can Phil tell me what the situation is with Caridad? I'm confused on that one. Does he literally need to be on the 25-man roster all season to keep him?

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

JIM HICKMAN's BAT: Esmailin Caridad was originally signed by the Hiroshima Carp and attended the Carp Dominican Academy before moving up to a Japanese minor league and (briefly) playing for the Carp.

Caridad became a free-agent on some technicality after the 2007 season, and the Cubs (Oneri Fleita) signed him as a non-drafted free-agent (NDFA) to a Uniform Minor League Player Contract around Christmas 2007, which means he does not have to be added to the Cubs 40-man roster until after the 2011 season, although it could be earlier if the Cubs want to bring him up to the big leagues before that.

As for Mark Pawelek, he has never had any arm problems. His problems were all mechanics, and a lot of that has to do with the Cubs changing his arm slot (making it more conventional), telling him not to throw everyday (which he had done throughout high school), and then making him junk his power slider and mid-90's four-seam fastball and just go with his more-pedestrian (and less-explosive) high 80's two-seamer, curve, and change-up. But it just messed him up. It was like Jon Garland and Donald Veal all over again.

Pawelek's father was his pitching coach going back to Little League, and he's a bit like Mike Marshall. He has some unconventional theories about pitching (like pitchers should throw every day and pitchers should have an extensive arsenal of pitches so that hitters don't see the same stuff too many times the second or third time through the order), and it worked great for Mark (he set all kinds of pitching records in HS).

But the Cubs have a "Do It Our Way or the Hit the Highway" approach to player development, and while that's fine if it is applied to a "blank slate" from Latin America or a position player converting to pitcher, it is sometimes counter-productive when applied to a pitcher who already has had a lot of success prior to signing with the Cubs, and it can cause a unique talent like Garland, Veal, or Pawelek to fall through the cracks. The Cubs just are not capable of adjusting their coaching to an individual player. But I believe Pawelek has finally decided to just do things his own way.

So this is a "make or break" year for Pawelek, and he has to make (at least) the Peoria Opening Day roster, although he wil probably be assigned to the Daytona Group at Minor League Camp because of his age and experience. If he doesn't make the Peoria (or Daytona) Opening Day roster, he will probably get traded or released, and I know there are at least a couple of organizations who are waiting for the Cubs to give up on him.

One thing to remember about Pawelek is that he's only 22, and if he had gone to Arizona State instead of signing with the Cubs in 2005, he would have finished his junior year at ASU last Spring. So if he can start the season at Peoria, he wouldn't be all that far behind where he should be.

BTW, Pawelek absolutely, positively wants to be a starter, but because he can throw everyday day, I think he would (like Donald Veal) advance much faster and have more success if he were to be used as a power-lefty reliever. That way, he can throw every day and stay sharp. (BTW, that approach seems to be working for Donald Veal this Spring with the Pirates).

For me, that's a rather stunning assessment of the Cubs' development system from an astute observer such as yourself.

Asking you to play Carnac for a moment: Would you blame the Cubs' situation on ignorance, or stupidity, or stubbornness, or is there an actual legitimate reason for this one-size-fits-all approach that can be backed up by concrete examples of scenarios where it's saved the career of young pitchers?

Because from my perspective, following the Cubs of Chicago and maybe Iowa to an extent, it sure seems like we must be doing something in the lower part of the system to screw up a lot of this talent.

Any insight?

These little nuggets of reporting on the innards of the Cub's system are pure gold. Thanks.

Also, it somewhat confirms what I feared about the Cub's farm system and why I don't get too bothered over trades that trade our 6 best prospects for Jake Peavy, for example. Because the likelihood is we won't get much out of our minor league prospects anyways.

Maybe that's just life in a big market organization.

No I think it's life in the Cubs organization. It goes back a long time too; I'm a defender of the Dallas Green regime but I know that they drafted Derrick May with the idea of making him a power hitter, which he wasn't. His dad, former big leaguer Dave May, was his coach and mentor and set him up as a line drive guy. The Cubs wanted him to drop the shoulder more, and he never panned out completely.

I've mentioned before on this site that I spent some time with a long time minor league scout back when Patterson and Choi were at Lansing, and he said that word had come down From Above that there was to be no coaching of these two players in particular, that their hitting styles were fine just as they were and they would get to the big leagues using the same mechanics. They also used that "leave em alone" method with Kerry Wood and Pat Cline. Which is contradictory to what AZ Phil reports about Pawelek, but goes to show you, something is fundamentally wrong with the consistency of the Cubs' system from level to level - besides several years of bad drafting. And the examples I cite are from the Ed Lynch era, I believe, so I wonder if Wilken has had any influence on the quality of the instruction system.

You should first ask, Has Wilken improved the quality of the players in the Cubs system since he took over the draft?

THT ranked the Cubs minor leagues 26th out of 30 the other day.

Yea navigator, but those are just numbers and facts...those aren't very fun when you're trying to have an argument...

Ryno,

When the Cubs won six playoff games in 2003, their 1 and 2 starters were top-five draft picks.

Now their starting staff is mostly veteran acquisitions, and they haven't won a playoff game since 2003.

So there's something to be said for draft picks. I can't really comment on AZ Phil's examples of player-development goof-ups. Garland was a long time ago. Nolasco was 41-17 in the Cubs' system. Sean Gallagher was 38-17 in the minors. Rich Hill was 13-2 at Iowa in the two years before his 11-win 2007 full season with the Cubs.

I think it mostly has to do with the quality of the players drafted. I thought the two Wilken picks in the Vegas game last night--Samardzija and Barney--looked great.

When the Cubs won six playoff games in 2003, their 1 and 2 starters were top-five draft picks.

Now their starting staff is mostly veteran acquisitions, and they haven't won a playoff game since 2003.

So there's something to be said for draft picks.

Huh? Last I heard, the Cubs ace was a Cubs draft pick.

And do you really think that the Cubs haven't wont a playoff game since 2003 because their starting rotation is made up of "veteran acquisitions" rather than draft picks? Really?

I thought the two Wilken picks in the Vegas game last night--Samardzija and Barney--looked great.

Samardzija looked great last night?

When the Cubs won six playoff games in 2003, their 1 and 2 starters were top-five draft picks.

Now their starting staff is mostly veteran acquisitions, and they haven't won a playoff game since 2003.

So there's something to be said for draft picks.

brilliant analysis...I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

last I checked Zambrano was a Cubs farm system product and Rich Hill started one of those six losses.

Phils: Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton

Red Sox: Beckett, Schilling, Dice-K, Lester

Cardinals: Carpenter, Reyes, Weaver, Suppan

White Sox: Contreras, Buehrle, Garland, Garcia

Red Sox: Wakefield, Schilling,  Pedro, Lowe

Marlins: Beckett, Penny, Redman, Pavano

Angels: Lackey, Appier, Washburn, Ortiz

DBacks: Schilling, Johnson, B. Anderson, M. Batista

 

Are you trying to say the having some combination of Schilling/Beckett will win you the series (4 of 8)? The cubs need to sing Schill ASAP...even if I don't agree with his politics...(countdown to argument in 3...2...1...)

The context here was, let's trade #3 pick Josh Vitters.

So I mentioned a #2 pick and a #4 pick and what they did for the Cubs, versus what all the expensive veteran imports have done.

Except the Yankees, nobody has fewer homegrown players than the Cubs, not even the Red Sox.

I'll define homegrown as drafted, or acquired in a trade while in the minors or still an ML rookie. So Fontenot is homegrown. (But he has never been a starter.) Shane Victorino is homegrown.

Homegrown Phillies who started in the playoffs last year: Hamels and Myers; Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Burrell, Carlos Ruiz.

Homegrown Cubs who started (or closed) in the playoffs last year: Zambrano and Wood; Theriot and Soto. Fontenot didn't get a start until the third game when Lou finally got fed up with Fukudome. The previous year, it was Zambrano, Hill and Wood; Theriot and Soto.

The Phillies played the Rays in the series. Homegrown Rays who started (or closed) in the series: Kazmir, Shields, Sonnanstine and Price; Upton, Longoria, Crawford, Zobrist.

Homegrown Red Sox starters (or closer) in 2007: Lester and Papelbon; Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Varitek.

The Red Sox played the Rockies in that Series. Homegrown Rockies starters (and closer): Francis, Jimenez, Cook and Fuentes; Holliday, Helton, Atkins, Hawpe, Tulowitzki, Spilborghs.

The Cardinals in '06 were patched together and not very good, and may have had fewer homegrowns than usual. Homegrown pitchers were Reyes and Wainwright; regulars were Pujols, Molina and Duncan.

The Cards played the Tigers, who had three homegrown starting pitchers, Verlander, Bonderman and Nate Robertson, plus Zumaya in the pen. Homegrown regulars were Granderson, Monroe, Inge, Santiago.

I'm pretty sure we went over this last year when you brought this up. The Cubs are not really abnormal at all. There is no correlation between homegrown players and winning. In fact, we would expect the worst teams (Pirates, Royals, Marlins) to have a TON of homegrown players because they can't afford to sign many free agents. Homegrown players certainly don't help them win many games.

Last year the Cubs had contributions from Soto, Fontenot, Theriot, Zambrano, Marshall, Marmol, Wood, Cedeno, Pie, Hoffpauer, Wuertz, Hart, Samardzija, and you should also count Fukudome since he was a rookie with the Cubs. This is in line with other teams, playoff or otherwise. Hell, even you cite the 2007 Red Sox and list 5 homegrown players that started in the playoffs, and then immediately list the Cubs who had 5 both last year and the year before!?!?! And the Red Sox won. So I am not following.

Okay, so you need a mix. What's the right mix?

Jim Hendry pulls one way, Piniella pulls the other. Piniella likes young call-ups. That's why Theriot is a starter. When Soto was MVP'ing in Iowa, Hendry lined up Kendall to be the catcher in the playoffs.

Hendry likes guys like Andres Blanco, who reminds me a little of Neifi.

After watching Jake Fox's swings the last couple of days, I have to say that I like homegrown players in theory, not necessarily in practice. But Fox is another non-Wilken draftee.

"Piniella likes young call-ups. That's why Theriot is a starter. When Soto was MVP'ing in Iowa, Hendry lined up Kendall to be the catcher in the playoffs.

Hendry likes guys like Andres Blanco, who reminds me a little of Neifi."

what?

where the hell did you get this piece of mind reading?

hey, i say theriot is a starter because he won a game of dice vs. ronnie cedeno. i say soto was still in AAA because hendry was fearful of the amount of doughnut shaped 'O' in soto's name.

Was it really Hendry who wanted a veteran over Soto? Wasn't Piniella pushing for that one? Granted he started Soto in the post season, but Lou's history of catchers and a couple things he said when Barrett left led me to believe it was he who wanted experience over Soto.

Lou is definitely a "shit or get off the pot" kind of manager, but he has a lot less patience with young players than he does veterans who struggle. If Soto had stunk it up for a couple of months to start last year, you can bet the Cubs would have been looking for help there. Pie did stink, and he was sent packing.

I think Lou manages to expectations... if the Cubs were not supposed to contend last season, maybe he has a little more patience with the young guys who having issues at the major league level. As it is, the Cubs are built to win now and don't have time to let guys like Pie and Hill (despite their upside) struggle on the big club. Baltimore has the luxury of letting them play, since they aren't realistic contenders for the foreseeable future.

There's a group of mind readers who follow the Cubs and tell us things about Piniella, things that we wouldn't otherwise know, such as the fact that he didn't like the way Scott Eyre and Jason Marquis pitched.

I subscribe to their newsletter.

Weren't they awesome because the Cub's had Kuritz or whatever his name is? The pitching coach that made Kerry Wood awesome? I disagree that those good starters we had earlier in the decade was due to an inherently healthy farm system, rather I think it was the work of a single good pitching coach.

And anyways, I'm talking about the current state of the farm system. We have young batters with raw talent that can not be effectively coached.

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were awesome because of a pitching coach?

That would have been Rick Kranitz, who's in Baltimore now to resurrect Rich Hill. I remember Dick Pole was anointed Saint of All PC's when Maddux started to take off and Sutcliffe had the good seasons here, and Herm Starrette took exception because HE was the one who turned Greg into a Major League Hurler.

I think putting a coach on a pedestal due to his association with a superstar's success, coincidental or not, is part of baseball tradition. Well, until PEDs and such came into the picture.

Az Phil, Bob Brenly said on the Cubs broadcast last night that the Cubs have a group of 25 minor leaguers already at Fitch. Some of them got into the game yesterday afternoon. (Sellers, Spears, Camp, and Aducci, and Mike Brenly ) Is this an elite group? Who is there, if you know?

Submitted by Hagsag on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 11:15am.

Az Phil, Bob Brenly said on the Cubs broadcast last night that the Cubs have a group of 25 minor leaguers already at Fitch. Some of them got into the game yesterday afternoon. (Sellers, Spears, Camp, and Aducci, and Mike Brenly ) Is this an elite group? Who is there, if you know?

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

HAGSAG: Because of the WBC, MLB Spring Training games started a week earlier than normal, so Fitch Park was to be vacant for a week until pitchers & catchers are required to report (which I believe is Saturday). So a number of Cubs players were invited to report to Minor League Camp early (starting March 1st), with the understanding that the ones who did would possibly get a chance to play in big league Spring Training games. I guess they could be called "elite," depending on how you would define that.

Submitted by John Beasley on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 9:22am.

Would you blame the Cubs' situation on ignorance, or stupidity, or stubbornness, or is there an actual legitimate reason for this one-size-fits-all approach that can be backed up by concrete examples of scenarios where it's saved the career of young pitchers?

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

JOHN B: I wouldn't call the Cubs Player Development people stupid or ignorant. They just have a particular idea of how the system should be run and they apply this to everybody and everything. They don't like to make exceptions.

The main problem with some minor league coaches is they don't know when to intervene and when not to intervene. This requires really getting to know each player and developing some insight into each player's personality and what has proven successful for that player and what motivates each player. Some coaches and administrators tend to want to blindly spread their "philosophy" throughout the organization, even if it doesn't work for everybody.

For instance, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot became major league players only after they stopped listening to the minor league coaches, or at least they might have listened (politely), nodded their heads affirnmatively, and then did it their own way. They aren't the only ones, but they are a couple of good examples.

AZ PHIL: Your insights into the Cubs system is invaluable and THANK YOU so much for sharing them.

I've been reading your take on the Cubs coaching philosophy for a couple of years now, so my question is: how is this poor coaching culture changed?

Whose job is it to design, institute, and sustain a more enlightened coaching philosophy?

As most cultures are a reflection of leadership, who/where is the head of this culture?

Uh oh. Juan Pierre is available.

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/03/04/sports...

look at CitiField which no one will be able to afford to go to...

So, then, AZ PHIL:

Since you see many of the same scouts year in-year out (even working for several clubs at once), which teams do you say to yourself, "(Self) ____ really gets it!"

Angels? Cards? Braves? Brew? (Cards and Braves eat the Grapefruit, I know) Tribe?

It seems as if the Cubs up until a couple years ago, really had a one-way mentality towards the minors in my opinion: 1. Raise capable pitchers, and, 2. trade position players for vets.

That is the only "plan" I have seen. Again, it is too early to pass judgement on Wilken, in spite of what NAVIGATOR or others wish to do, I would think.

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