January 2007

Mark Prior and the Cubs have agreed on a one year deal, terms have yet to be disclosed. I imagine they'll just agree in the middle and Prior will get the same that he did last year which was $3.65 million. The Cubs should demand from Prior a public apology for even thinking he deserved a raise, but the MLBPA would probably shoot it down. Hendry will have to close a substantial gap between Zambrano and the Cubs numbers($15.5m to $11.025m) to keep the Cubs streak of avoiding arbitration alive (14 years running since Grace in 1993). UPDATE: The Cubs played hard-ass and got Prior to agree to $3.575 million, but he can earn an additional $150,000 if he makes 27 starts and another $150,000 if he makes it up to 30 starts, which if I add it up correctly means he could make $3.875 million next year which is exactly what he asked for when the two sides exchanged arbitration numbers. Isn't that cute?
Beyond my normal day job, I'm working on a bunch of other stuff for the site from articles to some permanent features to new contributors and so forth, so you'll have to bear with a few slow days until spring training starts. In the meantime, Scout.com released the Top 100 prospects for the 2007 MLB draft and with us picking third (and 31st I believe), I'd imagine that would interest us all. Any of the first four picks sure sound interesting : David Price (LHP): ...electrifying, 6-foot-6 lefty who not only has the projectability and explosive stuff, but the college polish to go along with it. Andrew Brackman (RHP): ...the towering 7-foot righty... (What else do you need to know?) Matt Wieters (C): He has thunder in his bat and has an outstanding arm behind the plate that scouts are already raving about. He's one of the best hitting prospects to come along in recent years. Rick Porcello (RHP): ....armed with a 96 mph fastball and a hard curveball, and his 6-foot-5 frame gives him a huge amount of upside. For an added bonus, three of the four (excluding Porcello) are in college right now so the road to the majors should be a little shorter.
No, this isn't a betting column although I've never been able to figure out what the gambling lines on a baseball game mean. I had this wonderful post all ready to go running down the various prospect lists that have been circulated over the last few months. We're talking pictures, animated charts, flash demos, in-depth interviews, a whole streaming webcast with Tim Wilkens and Oneri Fleita set-up so they could answer your questions live and then Baseball America moved back the release date of their top 10 Cubs prospects for a week. (And much like a Cubs injury report, about half of that last sentence is true). So instead, I'm wondering if you guys could help me out with a problem that's got me baffled? A certain website asked me to do a write-up on our beloved Chicago Cubs (hint: I recently reviewed one of their books). So I'm supposed to provide a name for the most overrated Cub and the most underrated Cub and I just can't pin it down. The most underrated Cub seems easy enough, find a guy that flies under the media radar or is overshadowed by a bigger name, but quietly gets the job done. But do I go with an unproven no-name like Ryan Theriot with less than 150 major league at-bats or someone with a little more seasoning whom the spotlight passes over such as Bob Howry who quietly got it done quite consistently last year with little fanfare. The overrated player really has me racking me brain. First, how can anyone on a 66 win team be overrated? Second, it seems like such a slap in the face to the unfortunate player tagged with the label. For example, that certain team that's going to be playing in the Super Bowl this upcoming week has a middle linebacker who seems to find his way on the most overrated list every once in awhile. And everytime he's on one of those lists, I immediately think to myself, "What the hell? Urlacher doesn't suck, you people are morons." Of course, that's the problem I'm having, you see someone on an overrated list and you start equating that with a "These players suck" list, rather than it's intended meaning which is that they're just not as good as the hype machine has made them. (But just to be clear, those people are morons, Urlacher is worth the hype.) So there you go, who are the most underrated and overrated Cubs players? Now hopefully they're different players, although I bet you I could make a pretty convincing case for Carlos Zambrano on both accounts. And give me some reasoning behind the choices because I'm going to have to justify them somehow.
The Arizona Republic is reporting that late yesterday or early today, someone broke in to Bob Brenly's home to steal the emmy he won for his work with Len last year. This demands a serious investigation. First of all, how did Bob Brenly win an Emmy? Ok, maybe it would be better to start with an easier problem: Who stole Bob's Emmy?
I actually wasn't going to do one today, but after spending all morning working on something for the site, I felt the need to unveil it upon you all. But first... - Dayn Perry HATES the Cubs. The article ranges from the absurd to the obvious. My favorite gem:
(Derrek) Lee must stay healthy. While it's not likely he'll ever again be as dominant as he was in 2005, he is capable of returning to his typical "very good but not great" self. Provided he avoids injury.
While certainly there's truth behind the statement, who's really worried about him getting injured? A bad luck broken bone last year and we're walking on eggshells with him all of sudden? Didn't Sammy Sosa get hit by a pitch in 1996 that prematurely ended his season? Was everyone freaking out that he'll never be able to play a full season again?
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Butterball Rusch's days as a Cub are over, the team has released him to make room on the 40-man roster to fit in Cliff Floyd and Jeff Samardzija. There were no statements from Rusch or the team as of yet, so I'll just make some up.
"Did you see him pitch last year? My apologies to Cubs fans everywhere." (Jim Hendry) "I've fooled 4 different teams over 9 years, convincing them that I could pitch in the majors. So yes, I consider my career a success." (Glendon Rusch)
All kidding aside, best wishes on recovering from the blood clot that ended your season Glendon and I hope you continue your career with the St. Louis Cardinals one day. The fact that I defended Glendon on far too many occasions (conveniently I can't link to any of them right now as our archives are in Internet limbo) makes this move even better in my book, since he won't be around anymore to make me look bad, which I can do all by myself anway. AZ PHIL: Rusch is owed $3.25M for 2007, and the Cubs are on the hook for the entire bag of coins unless some other MLB GM chooses to sign him for the MLB minimum, in which case the Cubs will only owe Rusch $2.87M. My guess is that Rusch will sit-out the 2007 season and make sure the blood-thinner medication is working, and then maybe mount a comeback in 2008. After signing Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Floyd and adding them to the 40-man roster, the Cubs will still need to remove one more player from the 40-man roster. My guess is that player will probably be Buck Coats.
TCR is happy to announce the addition of Joseph Hecht, M.D. as a guest contributor to the site. You may recall his detailed insights in the comments as "Cubster" on the various medical woes that our team has suffered throughout the years. He's a board certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience, currently running a private practice just outside of Chicago, in Munster, Indiana. He'll be providing us with insight on the various ailments that will undoubtedly befall the boys in blue as the season progresses. --- Cliff Floyd, the most recent Cub addition will immediately fit in with the Cub tradition as he’s been a walking wounded athlete much of his career. His current malady for which he had surgery last October is Achilles Tendonitis. Recent Cubs surviving this Epic Malady include the “Marks” Grudzielanek and Prior, although neither of those athletes needed surgery for the condition. From Greek Mythology and Homer’s Iliad come the origin of the concept that the Achilles tendon is the weak spot of many a legendary hero. Thetis (Achilles Mother) held the young Achilles by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx; everything the sacred waters touched became invulnerable, but the heel remained dry and therefore vulnerable. I don’t believe Cliff Floyd’s mom’s first name is Thetis although she might have listened to a song or two from the band Styx. But seriously folks, this stuff hurts…
UPDATE: Here are the contract details, Floyd gets one year, guaranteed at $3 million. He has a vesting option that kicks in at either 425 plate appearances or 100 games started for 2008, and if it does vest, it becomes a player option and Floyd can opt-out and become a free agent once again. If it does not vest, the Cubs hold the 2008 option. He can make up to $7.5 million this year by reaching all of his games-played, plate-appearance and roster incentive levels. If he has 550 PA's in each of the next two season, he can make up to $17.5 million. If he gets to only 500 PA's in each of the next two years, he'll make up to $15.5 million. And now we know why this deal took so long to complete. ----- As AZ Phil pointed out, the Floyd deal is finally done. As I've mentioned in previous comments, I'm not completing against this deal despite it likely taking at-bats away from Matt Murton. Floyd can most definitely hit the righties (281/368/496 career) and that's likely all he'll be asked to do. It's certainly better than trotting out Todd Hollandsworth off your bench or as a starter, that's for sure. There is no doubt though that he's in a slow and steady decline though. Here are his charts (courtesy of Fangraphs.com) for his ISO and RC/27:
After what only seems likes months or perhaps years, the Chicago Tribune and numerous other Chicago media are reporting that the Cubs have (finally, at long last) signed FA OF Cliff Floyd. Terms are being reported as $3M for 2007 plus some type of mutual option for 2008. Although Floyd was rated an MLB Type "A" free-agent, the Cubs will not lose a pick in next June's Rule 4 Draft because the Mets declined to offer arbitration to Floyd.
In addition to signing Jeff Samardzija to a major league contract last week and INF Tomas Perez to a minor league contract (with an NRI to ST) the week before, and while waiting for Cliff Floyd to decide what he wants to do, the Cubs have signed several additional FAs to minor league contracts recently:
I received a 2007 Cubs desk calendar that every once in awhile comes up with a good trivia question. If there's one that stumps me that I need to go search for the answer on google(well actually I just have to look at the bottom of the calendar), I may post them on the slow days. So try and answer without a web search:
"Who was the first member of the Cubs to hit an All-Star Game home run?"
If you're the first to answer correctly, you'll win eternal fame and glory without having to give up your soul.
The AP is even picking up on the story now and says that Cliff Floyd deal is going to happen any time now. It looks to be a one year deal with the possibility of some type of player option for 2008.
Reader MannyTrillo was kind enough to give us his take on the happenings at Cubs Convention. 

Friday- Opening Ceremonies:

-          Hendry said “I am going to promise two things.  We will be good and we will stay good.”

-          Kerry Wood looked great. Definitely lost some weight.

-          The video highlight from the previous year was pretty weak, but not surprising coming off a 96-loss season.

-          Loudest cheer was for Barrett’s punch to AJ.

-          Biggest boos were for George Bush, Larry Rothschild and Dusty Baker.

-          Video was mostly about offseason stuff and quotes about offseason or next year.

 

Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory; Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly. We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation. Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown. You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down.
There was a good crowd at Chad's Bears Chat site last week, so might as well stick with it if you wish to discuss the game. - In baseball news, the Sun-Times is saying that Cliff Floyd should be a Cub on a one year deal now that Alfonso Soriano seems willing to play center field and the team won't need to waste a roster spot on a veteran stop gap until Felix Pie is ready. Why this is any different than if Jacque Jones was willing to play center field is beyond me though. - Apparently after a bit of booing of Larry Rothschild at the morning Q&A, both Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella were quick to defend Rotschild including this little bit from Piniella about injuries:
"You can't blame a pitching coach for that," he said. "You can't blame a strength coach for that. You can blame a manager if he allows a guy to go out there and throw 100, 145 pitches consistently, and all of a sudden he breaks down, and that won't happen.
Is that a manager taking responsibility for his team? I didn't know that was possible.
Get a bunch of Cubs together in a hotel and you get some actual Cubs stories. - Lou Piniella is warming up to the Soriano in centerfield talk .
"If Soriano can do it, that would take care of a lot."
Welcome to the party, Lou. - Then of course, Piniella says Ryan Theriot will get a shot as well at centerfield. Theriot is up to the challenge:
''So I ordered me an outfield glove and started messing around and getting after it,'' Theriot said. ''The single-mindedness of guys putting themselves before the team has hurt us in the past. If every player can do that, say, 'You know what, if you got to move, you got to move."
- The same article says that Piniella talked to Jacque Jones for about 20 minutes and let him know that there's room for him on the team and that he Piniella did not get any sense from Jones that he wanted out. - Carlos Zambrano says the deadline for an extension is Opening Day, otherwise he plans to test the free agent waters. Let's not play chicken on this one Jim. - In "This Moments in False Hope" with Mark Prior, he says he's ready to go for Spring Training and that he's already had five to six bullpen sessions and feels good.
- A final thanks to "Dying Cub Fan" for his advocacy pieces on Ron Santo's Hall of Fame candidacy. If you do have a moment, at the very least, please go visit santoforhall.com and sign their online petition which will be forwarded to the Veterans Committee.
Some of you might remember back to last June, when the Cubs selected Notre Dame RHP (and WR) Jeff Samardzija in the 5th Round of the Rule 4 Draft (June Draft). The Cubs subsequently gave Samardzija what was reported at the time as a record-setting multi-million dollar bonus that the Cubs hoped would ultimately dissuade Samardzija from pursuing a career in the NFL. Not so, apparently
Jim Hendry will be making some sort of announcement at 1:30 CST time today at the Cubs Convention. There's some radio reports from the Score that it will be to announce an extension for Carlos Zambrano in the $16 mil range, years unknown. It's still firmly planted in the rumor stage though. UPDATE: Told you it was a rumor, a mean, vicious rumor at that. It seems the press conference will be about 5th round pick Jeff Samardzija choosing the majesty of baseball over the brutality of football. You can read AZ Phil's post on recent developments in his contract as well. UPDATE #2: We've got all kinds of stories on this now and it appears to be a five year deal for $8 million in guaranteed money. A few reports seem to indicate it could be as high as $9 million and a number of incentives are sure to be included. UPDATE #3: The same ESPN link from above has been modified and says there's likely to be signing bonus that will push the deal in the $10 million range and the Cubs hold options for 2012 and 2013. FINAL UPDATE: Sullivan at the Trib says the bonus is for $2.5 million and he'll get $7.5 million over the next five years. The two club options in 2012 and 2013 could make the final deal worth up to 7 years and $16.5 million. THE FINAL, FINAL UPDATE: Oh yeah, there's a no-trade clause as well. Dumb. Samardzija offered to return the bonus money if he goes back to football. Yeah right!
"Dying Cub Fan" finishes his look at the career of Ron Santo and what has kept him out of the Hall of Fame to this date. ------------ Why has Santo been overlooked? Santo did not do well in BBWAA voting when he was eligible for consideration by the writers. He was considered by the BBWAA 15 times, and his best showing came in 1998 (his last year on the writers' ballot), when he received 204 votes (43.13%, well short of the 75% needed for election).14 He was removed from the ballot after the 1980 election (the first time he was eligible for BBWAA consideration) for failing to receive the required 5% vote; he was reinstated to the ballot in 1985. Under the selection process of the reconstituted Veteran's Committee (which has elected no one since being reconstituted in 2001, following the former Veteran's Committee's pick of Bill Mazeroski, and which now considers players every two years), Santo received 56.8% of the vote in 2003 and 65% in 2005, each time short of the 75% vote needed. The former Veteran's Committee did not publish their voting results.
"Dying Cub Fan" continues his look at the candidacy of Ron Santo for Baseball's Hall of Fame in the second part of this three part series. -------------- Brooks Robinson In 1964, third basemen won the MVP award in both the American League and the National League. Brooks Robinson won in the AL, playing for an Oriole team that won 97 games and finished third, and Ken Boyer won in the NL, playing for the Cardinals, who won 93 games and the pennant. The Cubs won 76 games and finished 8th. Santo had a better year than either Robinson or Boyer and finished 8th in MVP balloting. 6
  AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+
Boyer 628 100 185 30 10 24 119 70 85 .295 .365 .489 130
Santo 592 94 185 33 13 30 114 86 96 .312 .398 .564 164
Robinson 612 82 194 35 3 28 118 51 64 .317 .368 .521 145
Santo had more home runs, a higher on-base percentage and a higher slugging percentage than either Robinson or Boyer. Santo won the Gold Glove over Boyer, who had won it the previous five years. Playing for teams that scored significantly more runs and had higher team on-base percentages than the Cubs, both Robinson and Boyer had more RBI than Santo; Robinson led the AL in RBI and Boyer led the NL (Santo finished second).
The Cubs proposed $11.025 million and Carlos Zambrano had $15.5 in mind. This one is going to take some work. Will this be Hendry's first arbitration case? My guess is that Hendry would like to speed up the extension talk and get Z under contract for the next 5-6 years, avoid the arbitration case and make up whatever differences between the two sides over the course of a long-term deal. Mark Prior had the audacity to ask for a raise at $3.875 million. The Cubs have offered $3.4 million. Prior made $3.65 million last season. They might as well just agree to meet in the middle and keep him at the same money he was at last year.
The Cubs have signed Ohman for two years avoiding an arbitration case this year and next. Financial details have yet to be disclosed. I would assume this means he's still in the Cubs plans rather than being trade bait as has been rumored. UPDATE: Ohman will receive $900,000 next year and $1.6 in 2008. Bonuses include $100,000 for appearing in 75 games next season and 70 in 2008. He'll get $200,000 for appearing in 80 games in 2008. And in what has become a Hendry staple, there's bonus money for finishing games that begins at $25,000 each year for finishing 15 games, up to $150,000 for finishing 35 (or more).

On February 27th, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the voting results of the 84 members of the Veterans Committee. In a three part series, guest columnist and reader, "Dying Cub Fan" takes a look at the candidacy of former Cubs third basemen, Ron Santo.

---------

"Red Sox Nation: In your opinion, who's the best player not in the HOF? Bill James: Ron Santo"

10/27/04 Interview with Bill James on RedSoxNation.Net, 1 http://www.redsoxnation.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=11048 Ron Santo has a meritorious case for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are currently thirteen third basemen2 in the Hall of Fame: Frank "Home Run" Baker, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Jimmy Collins, Ray Dandridge, Judy Johnson, George Kell, Freddy Lindstrom, Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Pie Traynor and Jud Wilson (who was inducted in 2006). When compared to the ten major league third basemen currently in the Hall of Fame (leaving aside, for purposes of this discussion, the three Negro League players, Johnson, Dandridge and Wilson), Santo's offensive numbers fit squarely in the middle of that group. The offensive numbers demonstrate that Santo was better than five of the major league third basemen currently in the Hall of Fame. The numbers indicate that Schmidt, Mathews, Brett, Baker and Boggs (in roughly that order) were better than Santo. Santo has a clear edge on everyone else. During his career Ron Santo was a nine-time All-Star. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting four times. He had the fifth highest RBI total of all major league players during the 1960s (topped only by Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson). During that period no player in the National League drew more walks. 3 He won five consecutive Gold Gloves at third base, and led NL third basemen in putouts, assists, chances and double plays in many seasons. He was among the league leaders in on base percentage and slugging percentage throughout the 1960s; he finished in the top 10 in both categories in his league in every season from 1964 through 1967. He hit more home runs in his career than any third baseman currently in the Hall of Fame other than Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. He combined power and defense to a degree that was unprecedented for third basemen. He coupled that with an ability to draw walks that added value in a manner that has often gone unappreciated. In his 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract Bill James ranked Santo as the 6th best third baseman of all time; he ranked Robinson 7th. He ranked Traynor as the 15th best third baseman (behind Stan Hack, Darrell Evans, Sal Bando, Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles and Al Rosen), Collins 17th (after Ron Cey), Kell 30th and Lindstrom 43rd. Santo fits squarely within the middle of the group of third basemen in the Hall of Fame. Santo was arguably the best player at his position in the major leagues for an extended period of time, a dominant hitter and a great defender. He should be in the Hall of Fame.

...make every play clear the way to victory; Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly. We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T-formation. Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown. You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down.
I didn't have time to check for a chat program this week, so stop by Chad's Bears Chat site if you wish to discuss the game. If you want baseball news, I've got nothing other than Shawn Estes just won't die.
A little extra this week to get you through the three day weekend... UPDATE: Cubs signed infielder Tomas Perez to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. - If I had a vote for the Hall of Fame, it would have went to Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire, Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Bert Blyleven and Alan Trammell. I still can't forgive Lee Smith for Game 4 of the NLCS, so screw him on my imaginary ballot that doesn't count for anything. - Here's one that Cubs.com seemed to miss or just didn't care about. It seems pitcher Adam Harben (the bounty in the Phil Nevin trade) whom we just invited to spring camp had Tommy John surgery in October after a few games in the AFL. If you recall, he was removed from the 40-man roster during the offseason and part of the condition of him resigning with us on a minor league deal was that he'd get a spring training invite even though all he'll be doing is rehabbing at that point. That's an odd little series of events. Harben who was up there on some of the Twins prospects lists a year or two ago has been suffering from some loss of velocity on the fastball. We'll see if the surgery helps him regain some of that along with his prospect status.
Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports is reporting that FA outfielders Darin Erstad and Steve Finley are "on the Cubs radar" as potential stop-gap CF candidates for 2007, and that they are still interested in signing Cliff Floyd as a part-time LF. Rosenthal also mentions Bernie Williams as a possible bridge (and mentor) to Felix Pie, although it is not clear whether Williams will retire if he can't get a new deal done with the Yankees. Rosenthals's comments presume that Jacque Jones leaving the Cubs is a given, and maybe it is. But it is at least theoretically possible for the Cubs to just keep Jones and play him in CF until whenever Pie is ready, and then move Jones at that time. But maybe Jim Hendry has promised Jones that he positively will trade him prior to Opening Day. I don't know.
The Cubs have announced the names of 11 more players who have received Non-Roster Invitations to Spring Training. Together with the five players who received NRIs to ST in November, the new list of NRIs is: * bats or throws left # bats both PITCHERS (9): Jason Anderson Sean Gallagher Adam Harben Ben Howard * Ryan O'Malley * Carmen Pignatiello * Les Walrond John Webb Randy Wells CATCHERS (2): Jake Fox # Koyie Hill INFIELDERS (3): Mike Kinkade Casey McGehee * Eric Patterson OUTFIELDERS (2): * Tyler Colvin Chris Walker Four notable names NOT on the Cubs NRI list are: RHP Federico Baez 2B Mike Fontenot 1B Micah Hoffpauir RHP Jeff Samardzija Baez--a rubber-armed swingman and one-time infielder in the Orioles organization--pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC last Spring and split time between AA and AAA in '06; Fontenot--the one-time DP partner of Ryan Theriot at LSU, who was acquired by the Cubs from BAL in the Sammy Sosa deal a couple of years ago and who has been the starting 2B at Iowa the last two years--almost certainly has no future in the Cubs organization, but he probably at least deserved a courtesy NRI to the big club's camp; Hoffpauir tied Scott Moore for most HRs among Cubs minor leaguers in '06 and would appear to possibly have a future as an MLB 1B-LF-LHPH; and Samardzija was supposedly promised an '07 NRI to ST when he signed with the Cubs last Summer.
Congratulations to Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn on their elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Goose Gossage reached the 70% plateau and was just 21 votes shy of induction, so it appears it's just a matter of time before he gets in. Andre Dawson was at 56.7% and Lee Smith was at 39.8%. You can view the final vote tally here. Anyway they're moving some stuff around in hopes of getting rid of the glitchiness over the last few weeks. Bear with us.
I wanted to introduce myself to you since it seems that you’ve never heard of me, which is a bit surprising since I’ve played against the Cubs a total of seventy games over the last six years. Of course you probably haven’t watched much baseball over the last few years if the Cubs record is any indication….(Hmmm, I think that came out wrong, let me start over). My name is Craig Wilson and I wanted to offer my services to the 2007 Chicago Cubs (and hopefully beyond). I assume you’re unfamiliar with my credentials, you’ve probably been too busy driving a $100 million dollar team into the ground while keeping the fanbase excited about the season trying to build the World Championship team that the good fans of Chicago deserve. Sorry to hear about the bad ticker by the way, Ryan Dempster will do that to a fella..haha!
There's probably some law against driving and digital cameraing, right? I think that the real authors around here have a bunch of good things in the pipeline. Until then, here's a new thread.
The first Friday of the New Year, the first edition of TCR Friday Notes for 2007. - The annual Cubs convention is fast approaching, January 19th to the 21st. I've never been but I hear good things if you like insanely large crowds. I'm supposing though that many of you are going and I'd like to throw two things out there. First, if anyone cares to volunteer as our TCR correspondent, we'd love to have daily reports. You can do it anyway you wish and I suppose it depends on your schedule and Internet access. Either update as the day goes on or just provide a daily recap at the end of the day. The most important element that needs to be covered is the Q&A with Jim Hendry which I believe is on Saturday morning. Never being there I don't recall if it's at the same time as the session with Hendry, but also anything with Lou Piniella or any of the other higher-ups like Oneri Fleita. And it doesn't have to just be one person, if different people want to take different days, that would work as well. Secondly, if the readers who are going care to meet up, I'm more than happy to help facilitate it any way possible. Someone would have to volunteer to sort of spearhead the whole thing like when and where to meet, but if you need me to post something so everyone is on the same page, just let me know.
I figured I'd borrow one of their concepts since I'm about to plug their book. For those unfamiliar with The Hardball Times, well where have you been? Great baseball writing, informative well-researched topics and it's free. This though was my first foray into picking up their annual and it was well worth the twenty-ish bucks I put down. Our pitching really sucked That's not earth-shattering in of itself, but usually when you give up a lot of runs like we did last year, some of that can be attributed to a shoddy defense. That just wasn't the case for the Cubs last year and THT aren't the first to pick up on it. John Dewan has an essay on Team Defense using the metrics he helped created in The Fielding Bible. A real basic summary is that his researchers watch every single inning of every single game and record detailed information and then compare each player to his peers at the position basically rating everyone on a plus/minus system. A "+43" for a player means they made 43 more plays than the average player at that position. Pretty cool stuff and I keep meaning to pick up the actual book. You can find the 2006 season numbers for individual players in the Bill James Handbook 2007. As for our overall defense, it's broken down quite wonderfully into middle infield, corner infield and outfield along with information on turning double plays, handling bunts and outfield throwing. I know, you're dying for the results. Well, our outfield was exceptional, +44 for the unit, good for fifth best among outfielders with the Braves leading the pack at +63. The overall rank for the defense was a +49, also good for fifth best in the league, the middle infielders received a +8 and the corner infielders (surely missing Derrek Lee although he didn't rate so great individually if I recall in previous years) received a -3. We sucked at turning groundball double plays (28th), middle of the road at fielding the bunt (16th) and very surprisingly turned up above average at outfield throwing (11th), which takes into account opportunities, how many extra bases are taken and kills (runners thrown out). I'll venture a solid guess that unless Soriano is a trainwreck in the outfield, we'll even be better as a unit next year. My only criticism/question is where do catchers and pitchers fall? If I read the explanation right, they don't seem to be accounted anywhere. I'm sure it's explained in The Fielding Bible but if anyone knows, let me know in the comments.
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