Professor Pentland and the Homer's Odyssey

Jeff Pentland played with Reggie Jackson and has tutored Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp, to name-drop just a few. He has advanced degrees in biomechanics. His playing days were on both sides of the chessboard; pitcher and hitter. What he doesn't know about the art/science of hitting may not be worth knowing.

No wonder the Dodgers fired him as their hitting coach last year.

It's not like there wasn't a precedent. But gurus like Pentland are never out of work any longer than they care to be. This year he signed on with the Seattle Mariners (again) as the hitting coach for their Triple A affiliate, Tacoma of the Pacific Çoast League. The Rainiers hit only .235 in April but this month they're banging away at a better than .300 clip and carrying a 13-game homer streak as Pentland settles in. He stepped away from the batting cage while the Rainiers are in Des Moines taking on the Iowa Cubs and talked with TCR.

Pentland said he's still occasionally in touch with Bonds but has no contact with Sosa. In fact, he parlayed his history with Bonds, dating to Arizona State where he coached while Bonds played, into a breakthrough with Kemp when Pentland was trying to establish a rapport after joining the Dodgers.

"I just mentioned something I'd once worked on with Barry," Pentland said. "Matt's eyes lit up. He said, 'You worked with him?' I had instant credibility." With Kemp maybe, but not enough with the Dodgers when the brass went looking for a scapegoat despite the breakout success of the latest Pentland protege.

Ask Pentland if any of his former star pupils got carried away with experiments in home remedies for slumps like brainiacs who cheat on exams without needing to and he gets circumspect. Inasmuch as he didn't blow any whistles when investigators interviewed him for a couple of hours during the compilation of the Mitchell Report it's no surprise that Pentland didn't confide anything while he sat and spat there in the confessional of the visitors' dugout at Sec Taylor Field. Whatever personal suspicions he may harbor are kept to himself.

"I didn't make judgments one way or another," he said when asked specifically about Sosa's power surge. "He was a grown man and I treated him that way." Read into that what you will.

Pentland joined the Cubs midseason in 1997. Over the following winter he had a heart-to-heart with Sosa, convincing him to swing easier to make more contact. The following summer Sosa and McGwire mugged Ruth and Maris in what's since become a dark alley of the record book.

"Sammy had very big, very strong hands," Pentland recalled. "He liked to use a bat that was thicker-handled than sluggers usually use." And lighter-barreled?

Pentland was gone from Chicago by the time Sosa's infamous corked bat incident occurred but he seems sympathetic about it, recalling that equipment used to come at Sosa in bunches during his seasons in the sixties.

"I used to check out his bats because he got 'em all the time from manufacturers and I never found one that was altered. You can tell a corked bat just by the sound the ball makes coming off of it," Pentland said, adding that if he'd found a suspicious weapon in Sosa's arsenal he would have pointed it out to him.

He brought up the juiced balls conspiracy theory during the discussion of enhanced performance.

"I remember George Brett at that time saying how the balls bounced twice as high as they used to," he said.

Pentland's been in the game for decades now. He says the same approach doesn't work for everybody and believes players are generally more sensitive than formerly due to the increased pressures that come along with increased paychecks. Besides PEDs and turbocharged gear, Pentland notes the modern player has tools at his disposal that are completely legit and equally accessible to pitchers and hitter alike.

"All of the videotape and the computerized spray charts and tendency data are so sophisticated now," he said. "You really have to take advantage of that stuff. I tell the guys here about guys I know in the big leagues that got there and stayed for 10-12 years, more by working hard than raw talent."

He may look and sound like just an ol' country batting coach spouting his accumulated wisdom like tobacco juice but it's more complicated than that. He's a biomechanic who tinkers under the hoods of living, breathing machines. Just picture him talking applied physics to Sammy Sosa and try to imagine how many bombs Einstein might have hit with a database, juiced balls, weight training and a good video tech backing him up.

Baseball might have been very, very good to him, too! 


I seem to remember Sosa hitting a lot more singles past the second basemen when Pentland was around. Hitting a bit more to all fields. I've given up on Rudy. This team would get out hit by the EXST team.

Or, at the very least, the I-Cubs, who have been tearing it up lately.

Nice write-up Mike,

I'll take in my first Iowa Cubs action of the season. When they stroll into Memphis for a weekend series.

What is Gerald Perry up to these days? I liked the offense when he was the Hitting Coach in Chicago. And he has shown OBP improvement at every stop he has made.

SI writeup on 1st overall picks...

Check out the pictures of J.Mauer and A.Gonzalez...they look like (because they are) kids. Mauer looks barely old enough to be selling band candy.

The "kids" selling candy in Chicago are like 30. They have beards and are usually smoking cigs.

yo, you like...wanna buy some magazine subscriptions dude?

"Armando Benitez has agreed to a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League."

wow, he still exists.

he's 39, btw...i would have guessed older.

He got signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1990. So most likely he IS older than that.


also, joey gaithright is back in AAA (Reds), purchased from indie ball.

RE: the twitter in the twitter box:

TomLoxas profile

TomLoxas Speaking of #Cubs rebuilding have always agreed with @dan_bernstein when he says watching your team get good is the most fun in sports.

That may be true. Watching it get bad, however, is the least fun.

yeah...still waiting on the "get good" part.

the guy i thought would do best is in AAA right now (i still love his upside) and lahero is slowly turning back into lahair. least rizzo tearing up AAA. the cubs haven't had a legit plus-power prospect this close to the majors in a long time.

I'm still super happy about Samardzija being useful. That might carry me until LaHair's next hot streak or the inevitable Rizzo callup.

oh go him.

Well, Lahero's window has never been very big, and his window to adjust to the adjustment is going to be small I think. But Theo predicted this slump, and indicated he'd show some patience to see how he handled it. It's rather amazing that LaHair began his slump almost, literally, the day after Theo predicted it.

I'd feel better about the rebuild if we had ANY guaranteed impact guys in the minors.

I'm not sure what guaranteed means when it comes to prospects (how many "guaranteed" guys are injured or playing badly in MLB right now?) but Rizzo seems as close to it as you're gonna get.

That puzzled me, too. Outside of maybe guys like Harper or Trout or Strasburg, who is guaranteed to make an impact?

jason dubois and dave kelton

Jason Heyward and Ben McDonald, duh!!!

here's a fun list of the top 100 prospects by BA each year.

lot of good names, and then there's Ben Grieve and Delmon Young.

Ben McDoonald is no Jim Abbott

You're evil.

The early returns on Vogelbach are anything but positive. Does anyone have any insight into what is going on? Seems like he should be stuck at Fitch until he shows SOMETHING.

Texas claims former Cub, John Gaub, from the Rays.

#22 (and Joe Mauer)

chris archer AAA dizaaaamn.

6ip 12k...unfortunately 5h/2bb/3er, too.

he's really been cranking out the Ks the past 3 games (16.2ip 30k).

Another callout to AZ from Phil Rogers, no link on the web version but the mobile version of the article did have a link:

Baez "through Wednesday had eight homers and 26 RBIs in 25 games, according to's unofficial stats."

Good to see we're not the only ones who see AZ's reporting as the definitive guide to Cubs prospectdom.

Has anyone ever seen Phil Rogers and Arizona Phil in the same place. In fact what does Phil Rogers look like when he takes his glasses off...

I hope to hell he is sending Phil a check for Pete's sake!

The guy has a hard enough time writing anything of value yet he is naming our PHIL as a source for his column.

Actually, I have a feeling that it is difficult for a mainstream media guy like him to even acknowledge our Phil in any way. It's a little like a Neanderthal praising the human as the human is kicking the shit out of him and wiping out his species.

If they're trying to replace Bonifacio, I was thinking Campana. You might actually get a middling prospect since he has 5+ years of club control.

Trading Johnson might get you Jose Ceda's broken tendon back.

CCO is also reporting AZ Phil's numbers from EXST. Unfortunately they need to be paddled because he's not getting credit for "unofficial numbers".

Javier Baez (IF) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .329, five doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 26 RBI, 10 stolen bases
Jeimer Candelario (3B) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .315, eight doubles, three triples, home run, 14 RBI, two stolen bases
Dan Vogelbach (1B) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .183, three doubles, triple, two home runs, eight RBI

thanks for catching that, I have publicly shamed him as well.

jumbo "liked" this.

I made a similar comment at NSBB about citing Phil as the source. My traditional citation expectation wasn't popular, but nobody was hostile over it. TCR owns all my Cubs-blog loyalties.

Hey now, I always credit Arizona Phil and post a link back to TCR whenever I post anything from him on NSBB (which is often). And I believe I agreed with your comments about properly citing/linking back here.

You are correct. Some were not as polite as you. To clarify, it is most often that AZP is listed.

I was surprised that a couple people were upset about it though.

Should say I appreciate the site quite a bit - some very intelligent and sane members

NSBB? Really?

I regularly read the minor league and amateur forums. A lot of good content, a lot of people who watch a lot of baseball.

Agreed, I see no reason to be upset about properly citing something.

Arizona Phil rightfully has a great reputation throughout the Cubs Internet fandom.

Does the fact Baez has 1 Walk in over 100 Pro at bats bother anyone else?

'[Theo] answered a query of mine earlier this week by saying Baez "is working hard in Mesa on certain aspects of his game.''

I too hope that one of those game aspects Baez is working on is pitch recognition.

Are they looking to convert him to pitcher?

good news, Castro in his rightful #2 spot
bad news, Joe Mather batting 3rd.

vs. Burnett

not that it makes a heap of any real difference

Carrie [email protected]
‪#Cubs‬ Ian Stewart sidelined because of soreness in left wrist. Nothing new, just same discomfort he's dealt with all season

no campy vs burnett? weird.

mather in CF? alright...

Baseball America chat:

Itto (Aguadilla, PR): Is it time to start worrying about Brett Jackson SO rate and recent slump?

Ben Badler: The strikeouts are a concern, but we've always known that's just part of who he's going to be. The swing and miss is going to keep his AVG down, but he does take his walks, he hits for power, he has speed and can be a quality defender in center field, so I think we're talking more about small adjustments than any radical overhauls that need to be made here.

Navin (Pasadena, CA): What are your thoughts on the slow start in Peoria for SS Marco Hernandez?
Ben Badler: Concerning. It's not time to panic, but I'm very surprised he's struggled so badly at the plate.

Itto (Aguadilla, PR): What kind of numbers Anthony Rizzo is capable to have once he reach the majors?
Ben Badler: A .290/.360/.480 type guy with good defense in his prime years is certainly possible. I'd chop some off those numbers at first though as he adjusts to major league pitching.

Badler thinks he's going to hit for a high average but have a slugging percentage under .500 whiled doing so? Doesn't seem that likely. If he hits .290, seems like that slugging is going to be up higher.

i found the .480 slugging a little weird with a .290/.360 split, myself.

i dunno if his homers in AAA are line drives or bombs, though...

I've seen Carlos Pena with a little bit less power as a common comp. That seems fairly reasonable to me.

I think he might end up being better than Pena at the plate, but, like Pena, it seems more likely he'll top .480 slugging than .290 batting average.

seen him pull some bombs & hit a couple windblowns the opposite way that were relative cheapies...

ESPNChiCubs Doug Padilla
Cubs-Reds rain out at Cincy on May 1 has been rescheduled for Aug 18 as the opener to a day/nite twinbill.

Great that is going to screw up the rotation for the stretch run.

the cubs can always call up...oh wait...hahah...nevermind.


Signed: C Brian Esposito (released by Reds), SS Diory Hernandez (released by Astros)
Released: RHP Charles Thomas, 1B Ryan Durrence
Acquired: LHP Hunter Cervenka from Red Sox as player to be named for OF Marlon Byrd
Acquired: C Koyie Hill from Reds for cash considerations
Recalled: RHP Randy Wells, LHP Scott Maine, LHP Travis Wood
Added to 40-man roster: RHP Blake Parker, C Koyie Hill, C Blake Lalli
Removed from 40-man: 2B Blake Dewitt (outrighted to Triple-A)
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Scott Maine
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Zach Cates, RHP Casey Weathers, LHP Jeff Beliveau, C Chad Noble
Reinstated from DL: RHP Starling Peralta, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, C Micah Gibbs

They released Charles Thomas of the routinely 98 MPH fastball? Hmm.

casey weathers already has enough competition for the walk-the-yard upside slot in the cubs system.

Anyone know what's wrong with Beliveau?

via cm's twitter, via rotowurld:

"Steve Clevenger (oblique) is slated to play nine innings with Triple-A Iowa on Monday and Wednesday before being reevaluated."

...also, marmol is slated to throw today/tomorrow for AAA, evaluated, then back to the bigs if it's all good.

...and in garza-trade news, bad news for a good dude

"Rays manager Joe Maddon said Friday that Brandon Guyer needs surgery on his left shoulder."

Carlos Correa to Cubs in the newest mock draft, Almora dropping to #9 and the Marlins.

M. Stroman of Duke to Nats at #16. Recent tweet said Theo was in the stands scouting him.

great scouting report on him here...

he was around last weekend, scouted his thursday's game.

how is his game?

Am I going out on a limb that he will be the smartest 1st rounder selected?

i dunno. the article linked seems to know a lot about him, though.

i try to stay away from metal bat baseball unless i get dragged out to a game.

They don't have the injured high school pitcher who hit 100 before getting injured as a choice...obviously his medical report will determine everything, but I think the Cubs will take him if it is passable.

You think it's wise to spend 6th pick slot money on an already injured HS arm? There's no indication he's willing to take a discount and you could spread the money out to other picks.

I think this is a weak draft and he has the highest upside of anyone. Obviously it depends on his medical report, but I would take a chance, try and get him for about slot, and if he doesn't sign, get the compensation pick next year in a better draft.

Dempster mishandles an easy DP comebacker and only gets guy at 1b. Then gives up 2 out single.

Miguel Montero 5/60. Yikes.

Also, why wasn't Koyieieieieieieie sac bunting in his first ab after Barney stole second? He ended up grounding out to the right side, but shit, if you have an opportunity to take the bat out of his hands you fucking do it, dammit!

I presume that was a joke. Dempster was up next and there was 1 out.

Oh yeah. I forgot we have 9a and 9b slots in the batting order. Either way, he sucks. Michael Barrett's fault.

Barney shows off nice range at 2b and then misses LaHair by 10 feet. Had nothing but time.

Rod Lopez taken out with some sort of injury after starting and throwing one pitch. Jay Jax takes over.

No Rizzo in the lineup tonight. Clevenger is batting 3rd and catching. Lined out to SS in his first at bat (and Sappelt gets doubled off of 2nd).

Soriano showing his baseball smarts, runs into Alvarez.

Nah, he just hates how Alvarez wears his hat.

this team is very hard to watch night after night...

Poor Dempster. Not even a Cub deserves this.

clevenger (AAA) 1-3 (double)

marmol (AAA) 1ip 1h 1bb 1k (0r/0er)

The I-Cubs actually won last night, 2-1 over the Memphis Redbirds.

Sac fly by BJax in the 7th scoring Clevenger who started the inning with a double and a top of the 9th HR by Valbuena.

Maine gets out of a bases loaded jam on the bottom of the 9th.

Marmol had a scoreless 7th (BB, single)

RLopez came out in the 1st after one pitch with a tight groin and is so far day to day per a Muskat tweet. Jay Jax had his best outing pitching 5 innings of one run ball.

Rizzo didnt start, pinch hit in the 8th and grounded out.

Tim posts an awesome set of pics "Dempster can't get any support"
(poor Mrs. Dempster)

oh, and don't miss the story he promised to tell if the Cubs lost 10 straight!

Love the pics, and the story seems very appropriate to any of us who maybe didn't give much thought to just how painful a rebuilding year(s) could be day-in and day-out.

just call him Tim Metaphor Souers

I should consult with you guys before posting.
That woulda been a great slant.

I could see the vasectomy scenario retold with Theo as the doc, a la the stuck in Cubby prison toon.

But I think the way you have it told here, in its true-to-life detail, might be much more awesome.

I hate the phrase, "rebuilding year". It implies that there is some actual construction going on. So far, best as I can tell, the only brick laid down is a Rizzo block, and there are no guarantees with prospects. Shark has been a pleasant surprise, but no credit for TheoCorp there. He's been in the system for some time.

I know I'm supposed to give this time, but so far, I'm pretty underwhelmed.

I hate the phrase, "rebuilding year"
More of a deconstructing year?
--More hits than runs
--Good starting pitching without wins

At heart, any deconstructed dish (ball club) should contain all the classic components found in the “original.” The difference is in the preparation. When creating a dish (ball club) utilizing deconstructive techniques, the ingredients are essentially prepared and treated on their own. It is during the plating and presentation stages that everything is brought together.

Problem is we're not at the plating stage.

You can choose what seems more appealing... For example, just make sure you add enough vodka:

Our run differential is're right, we're not plating anyone.

But on the bright side, we are dead last. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Recent comments

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  • AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.

    Hagsag 2 hours 43 min ago view
  • Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!

    Hagsag 2 hours 44 min ago view
  • Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.

    Eric S 12 hours 26 min ago view
  • With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.

    johann 15 hours 23 min ago view
  • it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.

    crunch 15 hours 36 min ago view
  • It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.

    Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.

    The E-Man 15 hours 45 min ago view
  • That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.

    I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.

    Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...

    These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.

    No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.

    The E-Man 15 hours 50 min ago view
  • a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...

    it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...

    crunch 16 hours 8 min ago view
  • Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.

    johann 16 hours 45 min ago view
  • Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.

    johann 17 hours 2 min ago view
  • Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.

    The E-Man 17 hours 4 min ago view
  • soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.

    he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.

    crunch 17 hours 22 min ago view
  • j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.

    crunch 17 hours 29 min ago view
  • so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.

    im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.

    crunch 18 hours 25 min ago view
  • That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.

    johann 18 hours 43 min ago view
  • 9 pitches in and this game already rules.

    HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).

    ...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.

    crunch 18 hours 47 min ago view