In what was one of the best outings by any Cubs starting pitcher so far this ST, Wade Miller tossed five innings of shutout ball and appeared (in the process) to have maybe nailed down the 5th starter job, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 3-2 at Scottsdale Stadium today. box score
Carlos Zambrano threw six innings of one run ball, Ronny Cedeno and Aramis Ramirez hit home runs, Mark DeRosa was 2-4 with a single and a double, and Michael Barrett was on base four straight times on two singles and two walks, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 6-2 before a capacity crowd of 12,752 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
Opening Day is still more than a week off, but the prognostication season is well under way. Sports Illustrated’s annual preview was mentioned here yesterday, but The Hardball Times and Baseball Prospectus are also out with their player-by-player predictions, as is Baseball Think Factory’s Dan Szymborski, father of the ZIPS Projections.

THT, BP (with their PECOTA Projections) and Szymborski each employs a unique methodology, which I won’t even try to summarize or explain. Regardless, I thought it would be worthwhile to stack all three sets of Cub player predictions side by side, focusing on the eight likely starting position players plus Cliff Floyd, the five starting pitchers including Wade Miller, and the closer, Ryan Dempster.

The THT numbers come from their most excellent season preview book featuring the work of one Rob G.; the Baseball Prospectus numbers come from BP 2007; and I pulled the ZIPS Projections from the Baseball Think Factory site. (Thanks again, Dan, for your permission to use them here.)

Also, to round out the field, I consulted my old friend, Phil, a very smart, very dedicated Cub fan who can calculate slugging percentages in his head and who, coincidentally, turned me on to The Cub Reporter what seems like a very long time ago. Phil employed no simulation models or complicated algorithms in coming up with his picks, but rather, a time-honored technique called educated guesswork that took about 15 minutes.

The Cubs stay home in Mesa to play the first of back-to-back games versus the Giants, Zambrano vs. Lowry today.
I have a few here I've been saving for a slow day....
  1. Who holds the single-season record for most home runs by a Cubs rookie?
  2. Who has hit the most home runs as a pitcher in Cubs history...bonus if you can name how many?
  3. In 1962, The Chicago Cubs used the first African American Major League Baseball coach. Who was he?
  4. Who was the youngest pitcher in Chicago Cubs history?
  5. Name the winningest left-handed pitcher in Cubs history...by total number of wins?
As always, do your best to answer without the benefit of a web search...
Mark Prior threw four solid innings at Peoria in his best outing of the Spring, and Jeff Samardzija threw four shutout innings in a minor league game at Fitch Park today, before the next round of thunderstorms crashed through the Valley of the Sun.
More drama with another Mark Prior start today...snore. Greg Maddux takes the hill for the Padres. Rich Hill set to relieve Prior, supposedly after four innings but I'd start warming up early if I was Hill.
I’m putting together a look at how some of the online pubs and soothsayers foresee the Cubs season ahead. In the meantime, the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview edition is on the street. SI has the Cubs pegged for second in the NL Central, behind the Cards and out of the post-season picture. The magazine, which ranks the Cubs as MLB’s 15th strongest club overall, figures the Brewers, Astros, Pirates and Reds will fall in order behind our heroes in the Central. In a sidebar to Albert Chen’s full preview of the Cubs, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggests that the Cubs would be 39 runs better off by the end of the season if Michael Barrett hit leadoff and Alfonso Soriano batted cleanup. The conclusion is based on a computer simulation of the season using BP’s PECOTA projections. I agree with the notion that Soriano could help the team more if he hit further down in the lineup, though Matt Murton would strike me as a better replacement in the top spot than Barrett. Still, it’s kind of a cool idea. I wonder if they’d kick Barrett out of the catchers union if he told them he was batting first.
It appears that Ronny Cedeno has won the final bench spot on the team. Piniella likes the improvements he's made with the glove and bat and has told Hendry unless a substantial move can be made, he's ready to go to war with the soldiers currently in camp. (Cedeno apparently did make one of the more spectacular plays you'll ever see today, although I have yet to see it). While it would be foolish to write-off a 24-year old kid who hit reasonably well for his age and position in the minors, he's got plenty of warts on his game. He strikes out far too much for a guy with little power and has never shown much of an ability to draw a walk. And of course, the tool that got him promoted through the minors - his defense - got left somewhere in Venezuela, two winters ago. But he seems to be a different player so far in camp, his spring training stats are promising, although ultimately meaningless. He's hit to a tune of 310/408/429 and more importantly seven walks to only ten strikeouts in about fifty-two plate appearances. Sure, a whole lot of who cares, but better that he's hitting well; rather than not....to state the obvious. And if he's used as a proper 25th man/defensive replacement, this will be a whole lot of nothing.
Just like old times. A Cubs Spring Training game at HoHoKam Park. Sammy Sosa in the outfield. Heck, even Wayne Messmer and his wife Kathy are at the game, singing "God Bless America" before the game and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle of the seventh inning. Best of all... Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!! Cubs Win!! Yes, Daryle Ward clubbed a one-out grand slam HR in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 11,674 fans at cloudy and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. Ward, who has now gone 5-10 with 10 RBI in his last three ST games, had earlier given the Cubs a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the 7th, with a two-out line-drive RBI single. box score
Today in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs will square off against the Texas Rangers in Cactus League action, which would normally pass by without much reason for the casual Cubs fan to pause. Today though will be a little different, today the Rangers bring with them a man that is as synonymous with the Cubs as the ivy planted in the outfield at Wrigley, a man who very much like Ernie, Fergie and Ryno, needs only a first name introduction - Sammy. The rise and fall of Sosa has been discussed and dissected; ad nauseum. What made him famous ending up making him infamous. The rumors repeated so often, they're essentially accepted as facts. Did he or didn't he? The definitive evidence will likely never be revealed to settle the case. But to be convicted in the court of public opinion, the burden of proof is far less stringent and the verdict was delivered long ago. The man abused and fans were not amused, a matter of fact, many felt used.
I wasn't at the game, but the Cubs dropped a 4-2 decision to the Colorado Rockies today at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. box score After the game, the Cubs announced several roster cuts, optioning C Geovany Soto to Iowa, and sending NRI LHP Ryan O'Malley and Carmen Pignatiello, C Jake Fox, 3B Casey McGehee, and 1B Micah Hoffpauir to the minor league camp at Fitch Park. The Cubs have also released RHP Eli Diaz and Alfredo Francisco, LHP Nate Bland, C Kevin Ciarrachi, 1B Jason Hart and Luther Murphy, INF Derek Wathan, and OF Tony Miller and Nate Price from minor league camp, and OF Davy Gregg has retired. Diaz was a 2006 40th round draft pick out of Texarkana JC who pitched at AZL Mesa last season, Francisco was a one-time hot-shot Dominican 3B prospect who received a big bonus from the Cubs five years ago, but was converted to a pitcher when he couldn't learn to hit curve balls and sliders, Murphy was a 2005 "draft+follow" JC player (selected in the 46th round out of Palm Beach CC) who signed with the Cubs prior to the 2006 Rule 4 Draft and then was assigned to AZL Mesa, Price was a '06 NDFA (University of Iowa) who hit a combined .263 as a "4th OF" at Peoria and Daytona last year, Ciarrachi was signed last December after playing in professional independent leagues the previous five seasons, and Bland (ex-HOU) , Hart (ex-TEX), Wathan (ex-FLA), and Miller (ex-COL) were minor league FAs signed to minor league contracts during the off-season by the Cubs. Gregg was a speedy CF selected in the 27th round of the 2005 draft out of the University of South Carolina who played at Boise in '05 and at Peoria last year.
I don't really want to wait around till Friday on these, so a bit of link-mania. - For some reason folks keep wanting to ruin their fine podcasts by asking me to appear on them. In this case, 14-year old phenom and Red Sox fan Alex Reimer asked me to talk about the NL Central(Episode #111) and do one of my least favorite things, make predictions. I was a bit skeptical at first at the whole 14-year old thing, but once you hear the open to his show you realize he's going to be taking over the world at any point and I'd like to get on his good side. - John Sickels does a prospect smackdown between Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury and Cubs CF (you may have heard of him) Felix Pie. Sickels gives the nod to Pie and has him quite a bit higher than most prospect lists at around #22 overall in baseball, although he originally had Ellsbury one spot above Pie, but seemed to change his mind in the midst of writing his article. - Hardball Times uses their projection numbers that you can find in their preseason book (including an article by yours truly) to try and predict the division races. They've got the Cubs and Cardinals in a virtual dead heat, with the Cards winning by one game finishing with 85 wins. - SI.com has revamped their team pages and made it considerably more fan-friendly. So much so, that our RSS feed (along with a few other fine Cubs blogs) are included at the bottom. Smart way for SI.com to try and differentiate themselves from all the other sports sites if I do say so myself.
Cubs travel to Tuscon and throw Ted Lilly on the mound to start, Ryan Dempster is set to make an appearance as well. Brian Lawrence goes for the Rockies.

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