February 2010

Will Carroll, BP's staff writer focusing on team health had this very interesting recent quote, from his "Cubs Team Health Report":

Age is a poor predictor of injuries. Younger players get hurt more, but they heal more quickly. Older players get hurt less, a variant of the survivor effect, but heal more slowly.

The media that follows baseball does it's best to understand and decipher sports injuries. It's a tough job for them and much gets lost in translation of medical terminology. Injured athletes often don't understand what they are being told about an injury or they are just afraid to fess up that their ache might be a significant problem until it goes on for weeks or longer. Trainers and medical staff are often reluctant to discuss information on the grounds of patient-physician confidentiality and some teams are just less open to giving what information they have to the media. The information is important to us fans, since key players dealing with even minor injuries and not performing to their best ability can drastically affect how a team plays. In 2009, Alphonso Soriano apparently had a knee injury that he tried to work through until it was so obvious that he couldn't run, leading to his arthroscopic knee surgery in September. An injury that flies under the radar screen of the medical staff, as in Soriano's case was costly and not in a way you can put the usual "days lost" analysis to.

Ten Cubs pitchers threw their second "live" BP session at Fitch Park today.


Twelve Cubs pitchers (essentially the "B" team -- Mitch Atkins, Casey Coleman, Thomas Diamond, Jeff Kennard, Marcos Mateo, J. R. Mathes, Mike Parisi, Blake Parker, David Patton, Vince Perkins, James Russell, and Jeff Stevens) threw their first "live" BP session (25 pitches) at Fitch Park yesterday (six on Field #2 and six on Field #3), and 14 more pitchers (essentially the "A" team) threw their first "live" BP today.


Lou started hinting yesterday that Mike Fontenot would get some reps in spring training at shortstop. The idea being that if he can manage to not completely fuck it up, he could keep Andres Blanco off the roster and open up another spot for a legit bat or for Kevin Millar to spin fanciful tales of his World Series days and entertain the press corps.

As it stands now, the assumptions were that the bench would be Koyie Hill, Baker or Fontenot depending on who was starting that day, Andres Blanco, Xavier Nady (or whichever outfielder he's starting for) and then one of Chad Tracy, Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, Kevin Millar or possibly even Brad Snyder, Bobby Scales or Bryan LaHair. If Fontenot could handle the back-up shortstop duties without being a complete liability, that could open up two spots on the bench and send Blanco back to the minors. Blanco is out of options, so he'd have to go through waivers if that happened, but hardly a loss if someone did decide to give him a 25-man spot.

The Baseball America Top 100 prospects list for 2010 is out. Here is where the Cubs placed:

Starlin Castro - 16th

Josh Vitters - 70th

Brett Jackson - 74th

Andrew Cashner - 95th

Jay Jackson - 98th

Once again, Baseball America flips some prospects on their top 100 list from their top 10 organization lists. In this case, they had Brett Jackson #2 and Vitters #3 on the Cubs list, but ranked Jackson below Vitters on their top 100 list. It's happened a few times in the past as well.

The five Cubs are the most placed on the top 100 since 2008. Castro at 16th is the highest Cubs ranking since Mark Prior and Juan Cruz were 2nd and 6th in all of baseball in 2002. It's the highest position ranking since Corey Patterson landed 3rd and 2nd in 2000 and 2001. You can always view past lists at Wiklifield.

From the Daily Herald:

"I don't think that was our problem last year," Lee said of bad
chemistry. "I just think we didn't play good baseball, and the injuries
mounted up on us."

Woah, Woah, Woah! Slow down there, Derrek! I realized you were one of the last team members to make it to Arizona so you might have missed the welcome packet, but please take a look at it, particularly page three on "Talking to the Media" and the subsection on "Discussing 2009":

"All employees of the Chicago National League Ballclub are required to discuss the improved clubhouse chemistry of the team in 2010 because of the departure of Milton Bradley. Whenever asked about the 2009 season and what went wrong, please direct all responses to a difficult clubhouse environment and if possible mention Milton Bradley by name. Eachy mention of how fun it is to have Kevin Millar around will earn you an extra $10 in per diem money."

The Cubs went from hording minor league pitchers to hording minor league shortstops when they hired Tim Wilken as scouting director. One target was Cuban defector Jose Iglesias, who defected back in July of 2008 when the team was in Edmonton and then signed with the Boston Red Sox in September of 2009 for 4/8.25M. He played some in the Arizona Fall League and his defense is considered "special", but at just 20 years old he still has some time to grow into his bat.

Rumor has it though that the Cubs were actually the top bidders, but Iglesias chose the Red Sox because they were his favorite team growing up. Curse you childhood allegiances!!!

For what it's worth, BP has him as 3-star prospect and #6 in the Red Sox stocked system.

I stumbled across this video from July 23, 1991 where the Cubs beat the Reds 8-5. Not only do you get some classic WGN with Dan Roan  - who I believe is still there - but also appearances by Doug Dascenzo, Rob Dibble, Jim Essian and Lou Piniella in his Reds days.

As you'll see, it's also the game where Dibble throws at Dascenzo's legs out of frustration(1:48 mark); a moment Dibble admitted was on purpose since(at least I heard him say it on XM radio). I'm sure MLB will be forcing it off youtube at any moment, so be sure to check it out quickly. There's a variety of ways of downloading youtube videos to your computer if you want it for your archives, something I wish I did with the Soriano incident at WWE last year.

The little LSU engine that could was defeated by the almighty Cubs Inc. today in their arbitration case. Theriot will take home a cool $2.6M instead of $3.4M in his final year as the Cubs shortstop and probably with the Cubs.

"I've known Ryan since his LSU days," Hendry said. "He's a good kid. He'll be an important part of the club this year.
It's a matter of what side of the fence, business wise, you happen to
be on right now. We'll get through it. Ryan Theriot's going to be
playing on Opening Day here, and we need him to play well."

And Lou:

``Everything I've heard, he's a can't-miss kid. But this year,
Ryan will be our shortstop,'' Piniella said. ``Remember, Castro is
young, and there's nothing wrong with putting a good foundation under
him at AAA.''

(H/t to Wrigleyville 23 for the find and formatting)

We'll see if that extra $800K is enough for the Cubs to bring in a reliever. There was some rumors by Bruce Levine if the Cubs won the case they might be able to afford Chan Ho Park, who is still looking for $3-4M.

As most of you know, Cubs pitchers and catchers have reported to Fitch Park, and a number of infielders and outfielders are also in camp.


As the top prospect on a lot of Cubs' prospect lists this offseason, Starlin Castro isn't all that obscure. But my idea for this little series of articles was to focus on some of the less obvious names that could impact the team in 2010 beyond the usual suspects. And it might not be right out of spring training, but somewhere potentially down the winding road. And even though Castro has been hyped up quite a bit lately, there aren't many of us that have gotten to see him on a regular basis, so let's dive a little deeper into the almost 20-year old phenom. Of course, I haven't seen him play myself besides a few video clips, but that won't stop me from pretending I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING, for it's not the Internet if you can't pass yourself off as a faux expert.

Castro was signed in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 and played in the Dominican Summer League the following year with good results (299/371/371). At age 18, he found his way to Arizona and improved to 311/364/464 in the AZL and started to place on some of the prospect lists. The Cubs under scouting director Tim Wilken have obviously stressed the middle of the diamond and with Castro, Hak-Ju Lee, Darwin Barney, Logan Watkins, Junior Lake and Ryan Flaherty, they could afford a few risks with their promotions. Castro was the benefactor thanks to his coachability and got the bump to Hi-A Daytona to start off 2009. He managed it well and as a 19-year old earned a mid-season All-Star selection in the Florida State League and then a promotion to Double A Tennessee. He finished the year at 299/342/392 between the two levels, all before his 20th birthday. The Cubs then rewarded him with a nod to the Arizona Fall League where he put up a  376/398/475 slash line in the friendly hitting environmet and played in the "Rising Stars" game. This was enough to earn him a non-roster invite to the big league club and talk that he'll push Ryan Theriot out of a job.

The Cubs prospect hype machine has been at full throttle with Castro since last year and I've heard comparisions from Shawon Dunston to Edgar Renteria to Derek Jeter. Arizona Phil's comparision may have been my favorite:

Castro has been everything the Cubs hoped Ronny Cedeno would be, but never was.

Well if he can manage to not overslide second base to end a game on a walk, I can only envision great things.

I believe today is the first official workout and we're starting to get some much needed Cubs news in our morphine drips.

- Muskat says Ted Lilly was playing catch yesterday and says his shoulder feels strong. Lilly thinks he can be ready by Opening Day. The quotes from Paul Sullivan though are a bit more tempered.


"I expect to be ahead of schedule," Lilly said. "I think the real test, first, is when you get on a mound and start throwing downhill off a slope, and then when you get into a game situation and really try to dial it up. That's when you find out how healthy you really are."

- Some of the early birds among the position players include Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin and Andres Blanco.

- Greg Maddux is in camp. Don't get too excited that he'll ever take over pitching coach duties from Larry Rothschild though.

Now entering his ninth season with the Cubs, Rothschild has coached under three managers and will be around as long as Hendry is here.

Rumors have also been that Maddux would want a higher profile gig than pitching coach when he does decide to return full time to the game.

- Z was taking grounders at shortstop today. As one Cubs blogger noted, Z has out OPS'd Theriot over the last two years. Watch your back little man.

In my quest to fill out some pages at Wiklifield, I thought I'd take a deeper look at some lesser known guys in the organization that could make an impact.

Jeff Gray

The center piece as far as the Cubs were concerned when they moved Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to the A's in December(the Cubs also received Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer). The 28-year old right-hander was drafted in 2004 by the Oakland A's in the 32nd round and saw a brief 4-inning cup of coffee in 2008 despite struggling in the minors with a 4.32 ERA.  After the season, he reworked some issues with his mechanics in the AFL and enjoyed a more successful 2009 with a 1.54 ERA in Triple A over 41 innings with 16 saves and then a solid 3.76 ERA over 26.1 IP with the A's after being called up on four occasions. His strikeout rate dropped significantly in 2009, although he still maintained a fantastic K:BB ratio(4.75 in the majors, 3.76 in the minors) and keeps the ball in the park with a remarkable 0.36 HR/9 rate over his minor league career.

He claims to throw five pitches - a four-seamer, sinker, slider, changeup and curveball - but says his sinker and slider are his bread-and-butter pitches.

He'll compete for one or two bullpen spots that will be open to competition this spring. Jim Hendry compared him to Angel Guzman when the Cubs acquired him in December. I assume that was a comparision to their pitching style and not injury histories as Gray seems to have stayed healthy so far through his career. If he doesn't make the club out of spring training, he does have one minor league option left.

After the jump, the bulk of his Wiklified entry.

From "Boys of Spring"...

Naturally, Z is working on his hitting.

There's some more pics of John Grabow, Randy Wells and Sean Marshall as well if you follow the above link.

The actual figures submitted are $3.4M by Theriot's camp and $2.6M by the Cubs, and those unfamiliar with the baseball arbitration process might think that either side has to prove their figure worthy. But as one astute reader noticed, $3M is the halfway point between the two figures and essentially Theriot's camp has to convince the panel that he's worth $3M or more and the Cubs have to convince them that Theriot is worth less than $3M. If Theriot's camp is successful, he'll get the $3.4M, if the Cubs are successful, he'll get $2.6M.


(Click on image for full size)

Man, why me?

There were a MILLION idiots at the Jewel buying chips and salsa and beer for the Superbowl, and they were all in line in front of me. Why?  Well apparently I was one of those idiots too.

Tags: 

Which NL franchises did the Cubs have the best and worst records against from 2000-2009? Click on the links or check after the jump.

Best: .590% - Cubs lose the season series just twice in 2000 and 2006.

Worst: .403% - Cubs win the season series just twice in 2003 and 2008.

Complete list and other decade trivia after the jump.

The Cubs will avoid an arbitration hearing with Carlos Marmol, as the two sides agreed on a deal for $2.125M...exactly the midpoint of their two submitted figures of $1.75M and $2.5M.

- Kevin Millar was on XM Radio this morning excited about signing with the Cubs. Apparently he lives in the Mesa area and wanted to go to camp with a team nearby so he could spend time with his 2 kids and a third on the way in June. He says he knows that if he as any chance to make the team, he'll have to re-learn third base and try to play some outfield. That should be fun to watch.

In the same radio interview, the hosts referenced an interview with Reed Johnson yesterday where Reed talked about the confines of the clubhouse at Wrigley. Reed seemed to suggest that the lack of space made it difficult on the team last year to escape some of the drama with Milton Bradley and so forth.

I don't have any thoughts on a post today, but I was playing around with adding an easier way to embed videos on the site. Here's Starlin Castro during the Arizona Fall League.

 

As spring training approaches, the Cubs are pulling out the heavy weapons to fill out their roster. Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Cubs will sign Kevin Millar to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP IBB
2004 32 BOS 150 588 508 74 151 36 0 18 74 57 91 .297 .383 .474 .857 117 16 0
2005 33 BOS 134 519 449 57 122 28 1 9 50 54 74 .272 .355 .399 .753 98 12 0
2006 34 BAL 132 503 430 64 117 26 0 15 64 59 74 .272 .374 .437 .811 111 14 3
2007 35 BAL 140 562 476 63 121 26 1 17 63 76 94 .254 .365 .420 .785 106 8 2
2008 36 BAL 145 610 531 73 124 25 0 20 72 71 93 .234 .323 .394 .717 89 8 3
2009 37 TOR 78 283 251 29 56 14 0 7 29 31 49 .223 .311 .363 .674 79 10 0
12 Seasons 1427 5382 4688 648 1284 296 15 170 699 564 838 .274 .358 .452 .810 110 117 17
BOS (3 yrs) 432 1725 1501 214 423 94 2 52 220 171 273 .282 .362 .451 .813 109 42 5
BAL (3 yrs) 417 1675 1437 200 362 77 1 52 199 206 261 .252 .352 .415 .768 101 30 8
TOR (1 yr) 78 283 251 29 56 14 0 7 29 31 49 .223 .311 .363 .674 79 10 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/1/2010.

As you can tell by the last four years, baseball has passed Millar by, but at least he'll get some per diem money in spring training. By some miracle, if Xavier Nady's rehab isn't going so well and he has to go to the disabled list to start the season, or Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Micah Hoffpauir and Chad Tracy all get hurt stepping into gopher holes at Fitch Park, I suppose Millar could make the team in a bench role.

I was suppose to post this Friday night, but life got in the way the rest of the weekend...

- Arizona Phil does what only he can do...an amazing retrospective on how the 1969 Cubs were built and his memories of the season.

- Ryan Theriot is losing fans in the Cubs organization apparently by sticking to his $3.4M demands. Bruce Miles on the radio and Bruce Levine both saying that an arbitration hearing looks inevitable. It would be the first arbitration hearing in 17 years between the Cubs and a player (Mark Grace).

- Orlando Cabrera signs with the Reds on a 3 million deal for one year with a $1M buyout on a $3M mutual option in 2011.  They then acquired Aaron Miles from the A's for Wily Taveras and Adam Rosales. As long as they don't land Johny Damon...

(Interesting twist to this story, A's DFA Taveras immediately. Also, the A's are sending a PTBNL to the Reds as part of the deal).

- Reed Johnson was offered $800K by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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