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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  • This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.

    johann 1 hour 1 min ago view
  • CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now. 

    LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.  

    RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.   

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 10 min ago view
  • AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).

    I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):  

    * bats or throws left 
    # bats both

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 38 min ago view
  • Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.

    Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)

    VirginiaPhil 2 hours 14 sec ago view
  • E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season  either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.

    Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.  

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 6 min ago view
  • Rob Richardson 2 hours 35 min ago view
  • Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.

    Send Soler down!

    Old and Blue 3 hours 29 min ago view
  • Awesome thanks AZ

    Old and Blue 3 hours 31 min ago view
  • Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.

    John Beasley 4 hours 21 min ago view
  • Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!

    Hagsag 7 hours 9 min ago view
  • given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.

    i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.

    crunch 8 hours 22 min ago view
  • Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?

    He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.

    My guess? Toronto.

    tim815 8 hours 45 min ago view
  • PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.

    The E-Man 8 hours 50 min ago view
  • Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?

    azbobbop 12 hours 50 min ago view
  • Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.

    Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.

    The E-Man 13 hours 38 min ago view
  • Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.

    While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.

    billybucks 14 hours 11 min ago view