Cubs Analysis

My latest little pet project at Wiklifield after completeing the team-by-team transactions is to put together player pages on the entire Cubs organizations from the majors to the minors. I got through the basic info on the 40-man roster this weekend and have discovered with some very simple coding, that I can start putting together some interesting lists. One such list is how the Cubs' 40-man roster was put together, so I thought I'd share.

So here's the breakdown from the Cubs' 40-man roster found at Wiklifield (not to be confused with the 40-man roster maintained by Arizona Phil):

The Chicago Tribune had a story on Melissa Isaacson's blog where readers got the chance to play GM for a day. I wanted to take a few seconds to point out some of the choice cuts.

If I could be a GM for a day, I would choose to be the GM of the Cubs. The only real order of business on my plate for that day would be finding some way to get rid of Soriano, who is the biggest face of the failure of the last two years in the playoffs? Soriano. Hopefully I could find a way to get rid of Soriano and then Hendry could take back over and do whatever it took to sign Manny Ramirez to replace Soriano. - Jim Fannin, Morris, Il.

What I can't understand is why everyone is so quick to get rid of Soriano. To me, moving him to get Manny Ramirez doesn't make sense. Do you really think Manny is done being Manny? Do you think he'll just come here and be a model player? I understand that people dont like Sori's contract, but to throw him and his production to the curb is just silly. I'm also sick and tired of the playoff production excuse for why people justify moving a player. I'm fine with Sori on this team. If moved to the middle of the order, he can be a very good run producer for this team. Am I wrong?

I'd be the Cubs GM for a day: 1) I'd make the deal for Jake Peavy (in the proposed three-team deal). 2) I'd trade for Brian Roberts (take whats left of the value of our minor leagues and a position player or two like Cedeno or DeRosa and trade them for a World Series win). 3) I'd sign free agent Milton Bradley and play him in right and platoon Reed and Fukudome in center. 4) I'd sign free agent Randy Johnson (figuring that Marshall is gone via trade for Peavy). I'd like the Big Unit on our side for once. - Keith Davi, Lansing, Ill.

Come on Keith, trading for Peavy and then signing Randy Johnson? So that gives us six pitchers for five spots. Brilliant GM'ing. Also, Ronny Cedeno doesn't have any value as a trade piece right now. Teams know he's out of options and doesn't have a role on this team. There is a really good possibility he'll be designated for assignment this spring and be available for nothing.

Dunn can play first and Gathright can play RF and be a pesky leadoff hitter -- assuming he can learn to take a pitch or two. - Brad, Twin Cities, Minn.

Pesky? What makes a hitter Pesky? Why do all the speedy guys or small guys get labeled that?

If I were GM for a day: I would try to get Manny Ramirez and Jeremy Bonderman. I would keep Soriano, move Ryan Theriot to center, AKA Mickey Stanley in 1968, and insert Rodney Cedeno at short and DeRosa at 2nd, and move Hoffpauir to first. Ramirez would play right, Soriano left. Bring up Sam Fuld, I think that is his name and use him as a spark plug. Bring Ryan Sandberg up to be tutored by Piniella so that there is continuity when Piniella retires. Finally stop trading and build the farm system with pitchers who can pitch. The Cubs do not need flame throwers, they need pitchers. - Mark Nielson

Good God, this guy is just retarded. I cant take this anymore. I open it up to you. Play GM for a day.

I'm a relatively patient person - a dog, twin 3-year old daughters, the Angel-fan wife and being a Cubs fan do that to a person. But the antics of Bob Howry have grown tiresome. And yeah, I'm probably the last on that bandwagon (see above about being patient).I mean, he was good for us in 2006 and 2007. Not great, but good; as he posted ERA's of 3.17 and 3.32, along with respectable win probabilty added scores of 0.93 and 1.73. So I think some of that patience was warranted - unfortunately so does manager Lou Piniella.

Lou's consistent reliance on Howry out there in crucial situations, even with a depleted bullpen of late, is near Dusty-level stupid. The decision to let Bob Howry pitch to notorious Cub-killer Carlos Lee with first base open yesterday, is Andy McPhail-stupid.

Let's take a look at what could be troubling Howry...

As if it isn't bad enough that my wife, my daughter, and I have all been sick for the last three days, today I have to wake up and find out that the Cubs actually went to three years on Jacque Jones. The one thing I've been clinging to these last few weeks was the knowledge that only the Royals had offered him the third guaranteed year. I hoped that would be enough for him to decide to play there instead of in Chicago. So much for that. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that I don't hate this signing. I certainly don't think it's terrible, like giving nearly $40M to Jarrod Washburn, or like giving any money at all to Tony Batista. It's only about $5M a year, so it won't break the bank. In general, I guess I'm ambivalent, leaning barely toward grudging acceptance. Mostly, it's the third year that upsets me. Let's assume that the Cubs are working toward signing Juan Pierre to a long-term deal. If that happens, then Felix Pie has been effectively blocked by the organization, which strikes me as one of those moves that might help the team in the short run but is going to damage them down the road. If they had blocked Pie with a star player, that would be one thing, but to do it with guys like Pierre and Jones exhibits a short-sightedness that is upsetting.
Because this season terminates here? Well, the last few days might suggest as much, because you don't need me to tell you that 4-6 against the Giants, Diamondbacks and Phillies just doesn't cut it. Then again, there's still some reason for hope: today the Cubs activated Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson from the disabled list, disabled Jerry Hairston, demoted Sergio Mitre to Triple-A Iowa, and designated Mike Remlinger for assignment. Is it enough to save this team? Not in my opinion.
When the Cubs acquired Jody Gerut just a fortnight ago, I wrote that...
With so many similar hitters to Gerut, it's difficult to see just exactly where he fits in right now. I suspect though that Gerut will replace Ben Grieve on the major league roster with immediate effect, thereby effectively ending his Cub career, and that we won't see Adam Greenberg again this season either. Dusty will probably use Gerut in a straight platoon with Jerry Hairston as the centre fielder and leadoff hitter, which, despite Hairston's reverse splits, is probably the right way to go. It would not surprise me if, having become an irrelevance, Hairy were then traded before the deadline... And, finally, if Gerut performs, particularly with regard to his power returning, this could mean the end for Corey Patterson in Chicago. For such a seemingly minor move, this trade could end up having some pretty major long-term ramifications. We will see.
That all fell down from the "Dusty will probably..." bit onwards, perhaps because the great man's allergic to "the right way to go". Gerut made just two starts for the Cubs in his shortest of tenures, neither in centre field, where he didn't play an inning for the Cubs. And the second of those starts was cut short by the trade. Otherwise, he was limited to occasional pinch-hitting and late-inning defensive work in left field. In all, he went 1-for-14 as a Cub, with a double, two walks and three strikeouts, and a single run scored. It was Gerut himself that became the irrelevance, not Hairston, and Gerut that quickly found himself traded. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for that is that it's not been hard to see where Gerut's power has gone. His swing right now consists of a real downward chop on the ball, and groundballs have a nasty habit of not going over the fences. Without power, and with an enormous platoon split, in the long-term Gerut is highly unlikely to amount to anything as a starting major league outfielder. It may be that the Cubs have seen enough to think that Gerut's power may not be coming back any time soon, and that it's time to move him now before other teams come to the same conclusion. Whether or not the Cubs would be right in such an assessment of course remains to be seen. Whatever, it turns out the trade of Dubois for Gerut will have no long-term ramifications at all. Instead, it's this new trade, for Matt Lawton, that holds potentially interesting implications...
Just the other day I was complaining about the state of our bullpen. Now, hardly heartened by events in New York over the weekend, my critical eye is increasingly being tempted to waiver elsewhere. And by elsewhere, I mean the top of our batting order. The Cubs yesterday managed to load the bases with just the one out in the top of the seventh inning when Jason Dubois was predictably plunked. Trailing by four still at that reasonably late stage, putting something on the board then was pretty much essential if the Cubs were to have any chance at all of avoiding the sweep and winning a first ever game in Yankee Stadium. To the plate came Neifi Perez. There was a time earlier in the season when that would have been no bad thing (with only slight reluctance, even I lent my backing to the Vote Neifi! campaign back then!). But it was only when Neifi slapped the second pitch of the at-bat right back to Mussina, who turned the inning-ending double-play, that I thought to take a closer look at Neifi's performance this. And how well the game of baseball as it's played on the field hides even the gravest of sins. For until yesterday when Neifi went 0-for-5 with that big GIDP, with the Neifi-0-meter discontinued I hadn't quite noticed the extent of his slide back to his usual oblivion...
Neifi PerezPABAOBPSLGBABIP
Through April 27th66.393.422.607.404
Since207.251.271.364.257
What slaves baseball players are to the fickle mistress that calls herself BABIP. To start the year, Neifi was seeing the ball so well, his swing was in such perfect sync, his contact was so square and true and/or his luck so lucky that he could put the ball between the foul lines and in front of the fences and on those balls in play hit .404. The only real difference since, bar a little less power, has been those balls in play no longer all going his way. Without the power or patience to weather that drought, Neifi's production has dried up altogether. Periods of hot and cold - they're the story of every player's season (well, except Derrek Lee). It's the balance of those hot and cold streaks that determines a player's overall numbers. And the trouble with Neifi's overall numbers right now, at least until he gets hot again, is that they're simply not good enough. For Neifi, it's been the same for his entire career, a few superficially fruitful years in Coors Field aside. And, that's why, obviously, Neifi signed as a backup shortstop on account of his glove more than anything. The Cubs had no right to expect any more from Neifi than they've received from him to date. Indeed, they were somewhat lucky that he had that hot streak to begin the year in the first place. But the Cubs have the right to demand more both from shortstop and from their lead-off man. It's not acceptable to give the most plate appearances of all your hitters to the man least likely to get anything from them. It's scarcely acceptable that the Cubs give Neifi any plate appearances at all. For that reason, the Cubs should perhaps be seriously considering something extremely radical - giving genuine lead-off hitter Jerry Hairston time at shortstop, defence be damned. Neifi's defence is largely very good, but good enough that we overlook entirely the failures of his bat? Hairston certainly failed to live up his reputation as an above average defensive second baseman earlier this year, but that he had such a reputation in the first place is in itself a positive, and his defence at second shouldn't be written off on the basis of a few clumsy plays in new surroundings. Hairston hadn't played a major league inning at short until a week or so ago, but he grew up a shortstop (and a good one at that if you believe the word of his coaches), and played there regularly in college and occasionally in the minor leagues, so the idea isn't as far-fetched as it may seem. If his defence can cut it, and the experiment will be worth it even if the answer is it can't, Hairston's on-base percentage at the top of the order (and the absence of Neifi not only from the top of the order but the lineup altogether) will really help run-scoring matters. The incentive for Hairston is obvious too - being able to add "can fill in at shortstop" to his resumÈ could add quite a few dollars to his paycheck when free agency rolls around after 2006. At the very least, it's worth a try on the Cubs' part, even if they only want to advertise it as "giving Neifi a much-needed day off here and there". Also batting ahead of Derrek Lee these days is Corey Patterson. That has to change too, and the quicker the better, with Todd Walker, whose knee seems fine to me the way he was running at the weekend, the obvious best "solution" to replace Corey batting second. Maybe more on that, with some idle speculation about Corey's psyche on my part, some other time.

Finally, the long-awaited position player roundup. Now we can start writing about things like why Baylor bunts so much.

The fact that every first baseman on the market has been mentioned as a possible Cub says something about the success of the Matt Stairs/Ron Coomer/Julio Zuleta troika. They’ve hit a combined .250 with a 745 OPS – hardly what you want to get out of a power position. With Fred McGriff on the way, things should improve here, but up to this point the first basemen get a C-minus.

Recently, I’ve seen a few online columnists I read talk about how Eric Young isn’t a very good player. Usually, it revolves around how his stats aren’t the type of numbers you want your leadoff hitter to put up. It seems to me that, aside from not walking 100 times a year, he’s doing everything you could ask. His on-base percentage is .333 – not in the top ten in the league, to be sure, but among the leaders as far as leadoff hitters are concerned. He’s stolen 21 bases, and his steal percentage is 65%, right around the break-even point. On a team that scores as little as the Cubs do, it would be nice to get your leadoff man onbase a bit more (and into scoring position without giving up an out by bunting), but I’ll take what he’s giving the team. Grade: B

Third base has been a disaster since Bill Mueller went down in May. Ron Coomer, Miguel Cairo, and Augie Ojeda have filled in, less than admirably. About the only good thing that happened was that the Cubs didn’t sign Vinny Castilla (of course, look how he’s doing for Houston). Here’s hoping Mueller comes back and plays as well as he did at the beginning of the year. Grade: INCOMPLETE

Chip Caray has taken to calling Ricky Gutierrez “the Secret Weapon.” While I wouldn’t go that far, I do think he’s an underrated player. He will hit just about anywhere in the lineup, has a bit of power, and (this year at least) has been close to automatic with runners in scoring position (he’s got an 830 OPS in those situations). He could walk more, but the NL is short on shortstop talent right now, and beside Rich Aurilia and Jimmy Rollins, Gutierrez is the best out there. Grade: B+

As far as the outfield goes, it’s a mess. Rondell White is putting up really good numbers when he’s healthy, which appears to be about never. As a result, left and center have seen a revolving door of AAAA players like Todd Dunwoody, not-ready-for-prime-time-players like Sarge Jr., and retreads like Delino DeShields. I was amazed (in a good way) when the Cubs cut Damon Buford loose, but I wish they could have done it with someone in mind to take his place. The Franchise is not ready to play center every day, and it’s unfair to stick him out their occasionally, watch him put up an 0-for-4, and then bench him for not performing. Better to send him to Iowa to play every day and learn the strike zone, like they did with Rosie Brown. So now we get Michael Tucker, who at least didn’t cost anything to acquire. Who knows, maybe he’ll start hitting….

As far as right field goes, I could (and will someday) write a whole column about how Sammy Sosa has changed his career by becoming more selective at the plate, but for now, let’s just say that whatever it was the Cubs ended up paying him, it’s looking like a really good investment right about now. Outfield grades: D-plus, C-minus, A.

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