January 2009

TCR Friday Notes

- Colin Wyers, whom writes at GROTA and Statiscially Speaking, begins a series at the Hardball Times looking at the überstat systems like Win Shares, WARP and WAR.

-  The Hardball Times also looks at hitters with an affinity at swinging at first pitch fastballs - Gathright (in a bad way) and Soto (in a good way) are mentioned.

-  Fantastic piece by Stats Inc. on newly acquird Aaron Heilman and his repertoire. There's some words of warning in there, but it's pretty clear he has filthy stuff.

More after the jump...

Bako is Backo

UPDATE: ESPN AM 1000 reports the deal as a $750K non-guaranteed contract that becomes guaranteed if Bako survives (on the roster) to the end of March. Bako gets $150K if he is released before the contract becomes guaranteed, and he can earn an additional $300K in incentive bonuses, based on At Bats (or more likely Plate Appearances?)... -- AZ Phil


Jim Hendry's Plan #44

Before I get to what's going on with Aaron Heilman's knee, I've got a few odds and ends to mention.

I've figured out what the heck Cubs GM, Jim Hendry, is up to this offseason. In a nutshell, in an attempt to beef up the middle of the lineup he wanted to add one of the all time great sluggers to the Cub lineup. Unfortunately Hank Aaron is just about to turn 75 years old. So this great idea came to him in a dream...swap out Hanks (Blanco, Williamson) and accumulate Aarons (Miles, Heilman). Voilà, plan #44!

The newest acquisition (Aaron Heilman) grew up as a Cub fan. It seems that this is the first directive from Tom Ricketts, all new organizational members must be diehard fans.

On to Aaron Heilman's medical issues. I've not been able to find a precise diagnosis to his 2008 left knee ailment other than it being labeled tendonitis. This LINK goes to an article from Sept 12th, 2008 discussing what problems Heilman was dealing with last year.

Last night on WGN radio, David Kaplan interviewed Aaron Heilman and specifically asked him about his knee problems. All we got was "athlete speak." It does seem that they have a therapy treatment plan that was worked out for him to address his issues this offseason.

Kaplan:  In terms of your knee. I'm reading an article on ESPN today, it said knee pain played a role in your 2008 struggles. Would you agree that your knee was a problem and how is it today?

AH: Right now it's great. I feel healthy, everything feels good. I struggled a bit early on in the season trying to figure out a routine that would work best for me. By the end of the year I had figured that out. It certainly took a lot longer than I thought it would and that I hoped it would. It certainly wasn't 'the' factor that caused me to have a year I wasn't particularly pleased with. When you are going through something like that, you're trying to figure it out, you're trying to do different things every day, you don't really quite have a routine because you're not sure how you're going to feel the next day, that can play a role into it.  We've got all those issues hammered out. I'm looking forward to staying with a good program, staying healthy all year and just going out there and competing. 

Tendonitis refers to inflammation of a tendon and there are several tendons around the knee. The largest two are the quadriceps tendon (which inserts into the patella/kneecap) and the patellar tendon (which goes from the patella to the tibia below the knee).  Tendonitis of either one is common. There are also hamstrings (medial or lateral) and even the gastrocnemius which is more of a calf muscle but the tendons go behind and above the knee attaching to the femur.

Cubs Trade Ronny Cedeno; Get Living, Breathing Pitcher in Return

The Cubs moved yet another once-upon-a-time prospect in Ronny Cedeno today, along with left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners for Aaron Heilman. You'll remember Olson as the pitcher the Cubs received along with Hank Williamson for Felix Pie about a week and a half ago. That makes the net trade:

Cubs get: Hank Williamson, Aaron Heilman

Cubs lose: Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie

Cedeno's fate was likely sealed when the Cubs acquired Aaron Miles and I'll shed no tears on this loss. Cedeno might be more talented than Ryan Theriot, but he's shown all the baseball intelligence of a junior high dropout. I also find it a bit amusing that the one rookie that Dusty Baker ever gave much of a legitimate shot of playing time to - besides maybe Matt Murton - was Cedeno in 2006. Dusty Baker's eye for talent strikes yet again.

Cubs Current 25-man Roster and Lineup

A whole lot of nothing going on and I haven't had much time to polish up a few articles I've been working on, so in the meantime, let's play "Guess the Cubs Opening Day Roster".

If you haven't checked out our depth chart or 40-man roster list recently, know that Arizona Phil has taken it upon himself to do the bulk of the updating, which instantly classes up the joint by about 300%. Also, you'll see that the Cubs bullpen is rather set unless the Cubs trade or cut some players before Opening Day, which is most definitely possible. Assuming the standard roster make-up of 13 position players and 12 pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers), here's your 3:2 odds for the Cubs opening day roster.

Bye-bye, Blanco

Addendum: If the Cubs do, in fact, replace Henry Blanco with Paul Bako (per all the rumors) and the explanation is tied to the team wanting to "become more left-handed," these numbers might be of interest:

Paul Bako's lifetime batting line against RHP: 2015 PA's, .240 / .317 / .321 / 638 OPS
Henry Blanco's lifetime batting line against RHP: 1708 PA's, .222 / .281 / .352 / 633 OPS

Not much of a gain, especially considering all of those intangibles that Blanco was said to have contributed to the team--the same intangibles that are cited by the Padres upon their signing him.

The Padres signed 37-year-old Henry Blanco to a one-year, $750K deal on Wednesday. Blanco will back-up and mentor young Nick Hundley (no relation to Randy or Todd).

Cubs Invite 21 to Camp; Sign Michael Wuertz

The Cubs signed Michael Wuertz for $1.1M today, thus avoiding any ghastly arbitration cases with any of their players. Not including auto-renewals - which Arizona Phil on the right sidebar estimates at around $3.5M total -  the Cubs payroll for 2009 is at $134.1M, so they still have a few million in wiggle room.

They also released their NRI list for spring training.

17 Cubs on WBC Rosters

MLB has released the 45-man provisional rosters of the national teams that will be playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Rosters will need to be cut-down to 28 (with at least 13 pitchers) by February 24th. 

There are presently a total of 17 Cubs major leaguers and minor leaguers on the provisional rosters of the WBC teams:  

Orioles Order Pie to Go, Leave Two Pitchers Behind

In what may be a precursor to an eventual trade for San Diego Padres ace RHP Jake Peavy, the Cubs have traded OF Felix Pie to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Garrett Olson and minor league RHP Hank Williamson. Olson was thought to be one of the pitchers Padres GM Kevin Towers wanted back in a Peavy deal.

The 25-year old Olson was a Supplemental 1st round pick (48th overall) of the Orioles in the 2005 Rule 4 Draft out of Cal Poly (he was selected with the compensation pick Baltimore got for failing to sign their 2004 #1 draft pick, RHP Wade Townsend), and was rushed to the big leagues by the Orioles after being named their Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, logging MLB time in both 2007 and 2008. A scouting report from his senior year in college showed him having three quality pitches, including a fastball that sits at 88-90 MPH but has touched 93, a 12-6 "hammer" curve (his "out" pitch), and a decent change-up. He has performed very well at AAA over the past two seasons (he was a AAA IL All-Star at Norfolk in 2007), although he has been hit hard to the tune of a 6.87 ERA and 1.82 WHIP with 21 HR allowed in 165+ IP in 33 starts so far at the big league level. Olson was a college teammate of Cubs prospects RHRP Rocky Roquet and 3B-turned-RHP Josh Lansford, and he supposedly wants to be an FBI agent if his baseball career doesn't pan out.


''His arm action's good; he's throwing free and easy...He's not close to throwing off a mound yet. There's some issues
there, no question.''

No, not a reprint of a 2005 article or 2004 article or 2006 article, but rather Larry Rotschild talking about Rich Harden at the Cubs Convention on Saturday. Don't worry though, the Cubs have the spin ready.

 Cubs insiders say Harden is right on schedule toward a strong, on-time
and well-conditioned start to spring training and the season

Of course they believe that...but what about this?

Update on The Latest Cub Unicorn

There is this article in today's Sun-Times about Rich Harden's winter rehab. He's working on a  6 day a week strengthening program that could be the most rigorous of any Cub this offseason. It's designed to "ease" him up to pitching conditions "by the end" of spring training. Fine. I remember this somewhere in the not too distant Cub past (including the Larry Rothschild quotes). Flushed with a strong sense of Déjà vu, I finally saw some new information in the article:

But sources also confirmed Saturday that Harden has a tear in the joint, just severe enough that some players might seek surgery but slight enough to be in a range often treated effectively with a strengthening program, therapy and a well- managed work schedule.

Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times doesn't give enough info to make me absolutely certain but the implication is Harden is putting up with a "Kerry Wood type" rotator cuff tear. I do recall that Harden underwent an MRI/Arthrogram after the season to better assess his shoulder issues and before the team decided to pick up his $7 Million option. The press was told this on October 8th:

General manager Jim Hendry said an MRI-arthrogram on Harden's shoulder revealed no tears of the labrum or rotator cuff, referring to Harden's problems as "subtle instability in the shoulder."

At the Cubs Convention yesterday GW's article says "sources" confirmed Harden has "a tear in the joint." This implies the rotator cuff tissue has an area that is showing structural damage on the MRI/Arthrogram, but not involving the full thickness of the cuff tendon and thus without any detachment from it's insertion on bone (greater tuberosity). Any surgical repair has to take down some degenerative tissue that is worn but not detached. The results of surgery on that type of situation would be iffy for a high end starting pitcher, especially if they were counting on him for 2009. Hence he's on a non-surgical treatment protocol analagous to what Kerry Wood went through after his MRI/Arthrogram in July 2006.

Free Agent Frenzy Update and More...

I always had this idea about the phrase "and more". When I first started out here in Los Angeles, I was editing commercials for musical artists, not really my thing, I'm more a movie guy, and it didn't help that about 99% of the artists were trash and the music industry is darker than a snuff film.

So we did a lot of compilation albums, soundtracks for stuff like "The Matrix" or all the Grammy artists, etc, stuff you're sure to have seen at some point. And all these albums would list like four to eight of the more popular artists or songs , something like (in your best Don LaFontaine voice) - Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Rob Zombie, Rage Against the Machine, And More!- acknowledging the bands whose agents weren't as good to get them advertised, but at least they made the album. So the sort of inside joke I always had with my bosses at the time was that if I were to ever start a band, I would call it "And More".

Think about it, you'd be listed on nearly every music soundtrack or compilation CD commercial ever done. Do a little viral Internet video and instant buzz for your group.
So to the would-be rock stars in our readership looking for a band name, you're welcome, let me know how it goes. And if you don't like "And More", I recommend "Skull-Fuck Cedeno", "Gay Witchcraft", "Bees" or "Johann's Mom".

FA Frenzy update "and more" after the jump...

Cut and Paste

We're in a bit of lull here until spring training or at least until the new owner is chosen. Luckily, The reporters found Hendry yesterday and we have some soundbites and speculation to dissect.

When the Cubs traded Mark DeRosa to Cleveland the same day they signed free agent Aaron Miles, conventional wisdom suggested Miles would be DeRosa's replacement.

I question this conventional wisdom...I thought everyone assumed it would be Fontenot? If Miles gets regular playing time versus righties over Fontenot, I'm predicting he'll be the new Neifi! whipping boy.


Baseball America Top 10 Cubs Prospects and Mark Prior News

The BA Top 10 came out yesterday...and surprise! Josh Vitters is #1.

  1. Josh Vitters
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Andrew Cashner
  4. Dae-Eun Rhee
  5. Welington Castillo
  6. Kevin Hart
  7. Starlin Castro
  8. Ryan Flaherty
  9. Jay Jackson
  10. Hak-Ju Lee 

You can view every BA Top 10 list since 1992 (sans 1997 and 1998) at this incredible new site started by some really smart people.

Rice, Andre, and My Retroactive Hall of Fame Predictions

Rob invited us to pitch in with our Hall of Fame predictions on Sunday night, but I didn't have a chance to reply until now. Here goes:

I predict Ricky Henderson will receive somewhere around 511 votes, Jim Rice will finally get in the Hall with, oh, I'll say 76.4% of the vote, and two clowns will even cast ballots for Jay Bell.

Reflections on the Veterans Committee Vote

Dying Cub Fan, the author of the three-part series on Ron Santo's Hall of Fame merits, returns with a look at the flaws of the Veteran Committee vote.

From Ron Santo’s standpoint, it’s hard to see how the 2008 Veterans Committee voting could have gone any worse, particularly when you compare the results to the voting results announced in February 2007. Due mostly to rules changes, there were 18 fewer ballots cast in 2008 than in 2007. Santo’s vote total this year decreased by 18 votes, perhaps not entirely a coincidence. In 2007, 25 electors that returned ballots did not vote for Santo. In 2008, the same number of ballots did not vote for Santo, again perhaps not entirely a coincidence. From 2007 to 2008, Santo went from being five votes short to being nine votes short, and his voting percentage dropped from 69.5% in 2007 to 60.9% in 2008.

Bradley's Contract Details and Scout.com Top 20

We finally get word on the specifics of Milton Bradley's contract from the Sun-Times:

The contract pays $5 million in base salary in 2009 and $9 million in
2010 -- with a $4 million signing bonus split over the two seasons --
with $12 million due in 2011. But a multilayered set of clauses turns
the final year into a team option (with a $2 million buyout) if
Bradley's health becomes a serious problem this season.

Should the Cubs Be in on John Smoltz?

A small blurb in the Boston Herald about the Red Sox going after John Smoltz made me wonder if Smoltz should be the Cubs top target. Oh sure, a 27-year old Jake Peavy not coming off arm surgery sure sounds swell, and the Sun-Times is stoking those fires again.

''Hopefully, we'll still add another pitcher before Opening Day.''  (Jim Hendry)

But the numerous roadblocks to that destination still make it highly unlikely that the Cubs will ever land on planet Peavy. If Hendry is intent on adding another pitcher, and I assume starting pitcher, I sure hope he's looking into John Smoltz over the normal grab bag that has produced Wade Miller, Jon Lieber and Glendon Rusch the last few years. But then of course, considering Smoltz just came off arthroscopic shoulder surgery to fix his labrum, sounds like Smoltz might fit the pattern.

Jay Mariotti Discovers the Internet

The folks at Deadspin already had this covered and Fire Jay Mariotti looks to be back in business, but let it be known that Jay Mariotti is back for the New Year and he's proclaiming that the Internet is the wave of the future. Mariotti is also predicting a deep global recession, the U.S. voting in a black president., Ken Griffey Jr. being traded to the Reds and that one day, people will walk around with telephones in their pockets. 

Of course, his entire article is just more of the same bullshit he spewed on the back inside cover of the Sun-Times three to four times a week, there's little point in dissecting it. More importantly though, they've allowed AOL users to comment on his articles.

No good shall come of this...

January, Chicago's Hottest Month of the Year

I love baseball newsy days in January. I love roster moves. You can see that I don't even mind listening to a baseball guru or two.

Fox's Baseball analyst, Ken Rosenthal was on WGN Radio's "Sports Central" show hosted by David Kaplan tonight. For those not able to listen, here's a summary of his take on all things recently swirling in Cubsville. He takes on Milton Bradley vs Lou Piniella (a dangerous mix). Could these two ever be as lovable as Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in the 2003 film, Anger Management? Somehow, I just can't see LouPa getting Bradley to sing, "I Feel Pretty".

Plus a bit more on the shrinking odds to acquire some guy named Jake.

On to the details, after the jump...

The Week That Was....

The rest of the world might have been on holidays the last few weeks, but general managar Jim Hendry was busy shuffling the deck chairs on the Cubbie Titanic. Things happened at a rather fast and furious pace last week, so let's revisit with a more in-depth look. What you may have missed while in your drunken egg nog stupor...

Cubs Sign Gathright

Granted, this was before the holiday break, but it's not like I can let a Cubs move go without commenting. Gathright, as we all know by now, can jump over a car and he can also jump over a pitcher if needed. He'll also take a swing at Julian Taveraz which certainly warrants a +1 if this was Deadspin. We also know that Gathright grades at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for speed, one of those five tools that Corey Patterson supposedly possessed. A shame that scouting scale hasn't been revamped to include a sixth tool for "baseball IQ" or "can't layoff a breaking pitch".

Back to Gathright, we know he's fast, we know he can jump a car or player, but what he can't do is play baseball very well.  He's a track star wearing a baseball uniform. The speed is fun and all when you're getting a .365 BABIP like he did in 2007, but when lady luck isn't on his side, he's a .265 hitter with a slugging percentage below his on-base percentage. When Ryan Theriot says you hit like a girl, you've got problems.

And as for his 80-grade speed, you'd think a guy so damn fast could steal at better than a 75% clip. While passable by the laws of baseball sabermetrics, when your only real benefit on the field is your wheels, he should be much closer to the 80% or higher range like Dave or Brian Roberts. Of course, speed also is beneficial in the field, but Gathright rates as below average by BP's fielding metric over his career

I still contend that on a one year, $800K deal, he was brought in as no more than a backup plan and motivation for Felix Pie this spring training. I don't think that contract will keep the Cubs from cutting him if Pie can put together a nice spring training. If he does stick, we just hope Piniella uses him appropriately, which would be not much at all.

Fleita Afoot

The weekly radio baseball gabfest known as "Talking Baseball" (ESPN AM 1000, Chicago) hosted by Bruce Levine (and frequently Chet Coppock, in the role of sidekick) is a nice source of Cub information. Of course you have to wade through lengthy questions that often take minutes to unfold. Interviews with management are usually cloaked in generalizations, clichés and unrequited hope.

This saturday's show featured an interview with Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita, as well as some discussion on the management's thinking behind the recent Mark DeRosa for prospects trade.

Fleita was not going to short change us on clichés like  "You've got to play the games" and  "Everybody starts in first place." Still it was good to hear about prospects in the news like Josh Vitters and the 3 newest pitching prospects acquired from Cleveland.

Bruce Levine updated and opined about the state of the Cubs roster changes including keeping the roster flexible as well as the progress on acquiring a sense of left handedness with attitude (feisty Milton Bradley, scrappy Aaron Miles and the even scrappier Mike Fontenot).

He also has an opinion about Jake da Ace, aka he-who-must-not-be-named.

The incredibly wordy play by play after the jump...

One More Look at Hawks/Wings

TCR reader Jacos survived the cold and wind and a close encounter with Ronnie Woo-Woo to return with some nice shots from the Blackhawks/Red Wings game (including a shocking image of Red Wing players having to pass through a cloud of poison gas on their way to the rink--an allowable "home ice advantage" under NHL rules). Enjoy.



McDonough Looks for Another Marketing Hit

The last hockey player had barely stepped off the temporary ice rink at Wrigley Field Thursday afternoon following the 2009 NHL Winter Classic before Blackhawks team president John McDonough was in front of the reporters' microphones with another big idea.

In a reversal of sorts of the Blackhawks/Red Wings game at Wrigley Field, McDonough is proposing that the Cubs and Cardinals move their July 11th game from Wrigley to the United Center.


Recent comments

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  • 14 in attendance. What's the record for attendance in the fall? I guess I should ask what the record attendance listed is in one of your recaps.

  • I was there too, with my grown son. This is my miracle year-- I rose to the top of the season ticket list after eight years, completely unexpectedly, and my wonderful wife agreed to put the ticket fee on the emergency credit card. The whole point of course was that the Cubs were going to be good this year, and then for a while, so to get season tickets with the guaranteed shot at the postseason was incredible timing. We got to the remote lot at 4:10 after stopping at Nhu Lan for our usual banh mi sandwiches, only to find the lot full, way earlier than normal.

  • Wrigley was electric tonite
    Not many card fans
    Video board was great, they played "there goes my hero" by foos over ryno highlights before he came out. Spectacular

    Good times hopefully they win tomorrow but think Lester will beat poopy pants on Wednesday.

    Happy 4th anniversary of Theo's signing

    Go Cubs !

  • Yeah. "Goodbye!" is a lame HR call.

    I miss Len and JD -- although, driving home from a friend's, WBBM played all 6 HR calls in a row -- and Len got to call the Bryant/Rizzo back-to-back. Very fun.

  • Lackey has been a beast against us. His stats on 3 days rest, however, not as nice. There is plenty of hope.

  • And, no dreadlocks grown yet.

  • Captain Obvious Strikes Again!!!

  • Amen, brother.

  • In the wild card game he mentioned that aram started with the Pirates, then played for the Brewers, and now he's back with the Pirates. Uhhhh, missed a step there, guy.

  • i like ron darling the person, the interview, and the studio desk guy...but him calling a game can lead to some really stupid stuff coming out of his mouth.

  • If you think these announcers are bad ,the ones doing the Mets vs Dodgers (Ron Darling ,Cal Ripken and someone else)
    are worse they did the wildcard game I never knew Joe Jackson and Derrick Fowler played for the Cubs this year you
    would think there would be research by them.

  • daaaaaayam.

  • Soler's OPS in the NLDS? 3.750.

  • ...and HRs are good.

  • Theo: "So, let's see...should we put Soler on the post-season roster? Ummmm, yeah, I mean what the hell."

    Wow -- if he can bring that focus and plate discipline next year -- yowza! Seems like Manny has really helped him.

  • 2-1 series!

    1st team hit hit 6HR in a game in the postseason. woo.