It's National Rumor Week
It's everyone's favorite time of the year, so gather the kids around the fire and let's speculate away to our heart's content.
Cardinals - Like those annoying folks that get their Christmas shopping done early, the Cards are probably done wheeling and dealing picking up Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. They missed out on the Christmas sales and paid a steep price in prospects, but they should help a team that has basically been riding a 16-7 April to justify the spending spree.
Brewers - They found an early deal getting Felipe Lopez to play second base for them and you know they're searching far and wide for a starting pitcher. They seemed to scoff at adding Doug Davis into that Lopez deal, but looks like they have their sites set on Wisconsin native, Jarrod Washburn. Considering they have the third worst ERA in the league, and second worst among starters, I'm not sure adding Washburn and his Safeco-aided ERA is really gonna be much of a boost.
Astros - Quietly the best team in the Central since June, they've been pretty quiet in the rumor mill. Despite some reported financial struggles, Drayton McClane has a never quit mentality, so I wouldn't be surprised if they skip this deadline and look to make an August waiver trade if necessary.
Reds - Rumors abound that they were still looking for hitting, and they are in desperate need of some, but the current 6-game losing streak, has put them a lot closer to last than first. We'll see if they switch to sellers and start pawning off some of their bullpen or be bold and look to move Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo, although that's doubtful. Arthur Rhodes has received the most buzz so far as a player that could be moved.
Pirates - The Pittsburgh Perpetual Sellers still have a few chips they could move, namely Zach Duke, John Grabow, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson. And Grabow and Sanchez sure wouldn't be poor additions to the Cubs. Sanchez though has that $8M vesting option based on plate appearances(600 since he made the All-Star team) which it looks like he'll hit, so that complicates matter significantly. If the Cubs could fit that $8M into the budget, my guess is they're going to try and keep second base flexible for a run at Chone Figgins this offseason.
Cubs - There's no doubt that Hendry is working the phone lines and trying to find something. Lou recently pined for that left-handed middle of the order bat again as Bradley isn't cutting it there with the walks and the singles. Chances are they'll just have to hope he figures it out in the last two-plus months.
A left-handed reliever seems to be the main focus. With the potential additions of B.J. Ryan and a trade, they could move Sean Marshall back to the rotation and try and weather the starting pitching injuries that have recently hit the team. Some names mentioned are Grabow, Rhodes, Joe Beimel and George Sherrill.
Knowing Hendry, he is looking to go big and I wouldn't be surprised if he's at least kicked the tires on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and then realized the sticker price is too high. I guess if there's one pitcher that may justify the load in prospects it could be Dan Haren. He's having another fantastic season in Arizona, with an obscene 7.42 K/BB ratio to follow up his 5.15 from last year. He's also signed through 2012 with a 2013 club option. The problem with Haren though is that he seems to tail off in the second half with a 3.08 career ERA before the break and 4.10 after the break, although the win percentage has stayed about the same if you're into that kind of thing. Plus he's an ex-Cardinal, so the Cubs can get back at the Cards for acquiring Mark DeRosa.
Bruce Levine also mentioned Mark Teahen and Orlando Cabrera in his article yesterday. I guess you can't have enough utility players in the NL. Cabrera has warmed up a bit since his awful start and brings solid defensive work with him and could move Ryan Theriot to second base at times.
We get a sideshow to go along with the actual show this week, as those super-hot Astros show up for a four-game set to take on our FIRST PLACE Cubs.
Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, AJackson, Castro, Montero, Hendricks, Russell
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?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.