February 2010

Running a Yellow Light

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.

"A" Team Throws "Live" BP at Fitch

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.

The Cubs Bench Picture Becoming Clearer

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.

Derrek Lee Missed the Memo

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":

Red Sox and Yankees Latest to C***block Cubs

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.

Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Starlin Castro

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.

Cubs News from Arizona

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.

Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Jeff Gray

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.

Is Ryan Theriot Worth $3 Million?

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.

Cubs 2000's Decade Trivia

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.

Cubs and Marmol Agree on Deal & Other Cubs News

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.

TCR Monday Notes

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.

Recent comments

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  • Outfielder Chris Young signs "multiyear" contract w BoSox.

    Wow, Dombrowski is an bufoon

  • well, that's the past. we're left with the present. even though that past you're seeing is some weird black/white either/or where hybridization of ideas isn't allowed...nonetheless...

    the present is ice skating, movies, concerts, beer gardens, hotels, office space and other wonderful baseball activities based around a young, successful baseball team.

  • All money making ventures, which would have been offset with a reasonable TV contract that previous ownership screwed up

  • Brilliant!

  • Nah, I'll probably just contemplate how they should've done a Padres-style all-in plan.

  • of course not. maybe go ice skating and think about it a while. make advanced reservations at the hotel they're starting construction on. check new releases for possible entertainment from the movie screens they want installed. think about renting an office in the new office spaces. write a letter to the cubs requesting your favorite beer be added to the beer garden. lobby your favorite band to play the outdoor venue.

    ...and in between that maybe they can find $40-50m to invest in the product that all of this revolves around.

  • let's not get caught up on phrasing for a setup and lose the gist of the post. i don't care what one wants to call the playoff exit.

    -crapping out
    +they lost their playoff attempt

    there. now we can focus on something other than not liking the tone of a line that's setting up a point.

  • I didn't like the entire post, if that helps.

  • Making the NLCS with a young team = "crapping out of the playoffs with a young team."

  • I'm guessing 3/30 and all the two foot long hot dogs you can eat didn't work


  • Yes! In a 12-way tie for first!

  • Shit.

    Blew my prediction! I had them signing Zimmerman and trading for another arm.

  • Damn wanted Zimmermann

  • Yeah, this market. Remember when Ted Lilly signed a 4/$40m with the Cubs? It was like "Well, I guess if you can throw a ball, that's what the 3 and 4 starters are all getting." I'm glad I'm not a GM. Of course, they're spending our money...

  • in this market that seems like a decent deal relative to the market.

    given that d.price will probably get 30m-ish a year, 22m for 29yo zimm doesn't seem bad. i wouldn't complain about him suiting up for the cubs. one less option gone...