Alfonso Soriano

The Cubs lost for the sixth time in seven tries as the Marlins scored three times in the 7th inning to overcome a 2-1 Cub lead and go on to win 4-2 at Wrigley Field.

You wouldn't think a team could pack so much failure into a simple 4-2 loss, but well...

LIfe is better when the Cubs win, but failure has a way of stoking a Cub fan's creativity, doesn't it? This dramatic reinterpretation of a call into David Kaplan's post-game "Tenth Inning" show is the work of WGN listener Edwardo, who was clearly inspired by Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers."

Theories have been abundant on the rapid decline of $100 million dollar man Alfonso Soriano, from age, to bad legs, to just a bad season in 2009 because of bad legs and his age.  As our man Transmission showed last year, as well as Joe Posnanski and a few other articles, part of the puzzle was teams throwing more sliders to Soriano as well as Soriano not doing his normal damage on fastballs.

So let's see how Opening Day went for #12 with the caveat that Pitch F/X and its pitch recognition isn't 100% accurate.

Alfonso Soriano had three hits including a two-run HR and Carlos Silva threw five innings of shutout ball, as the Cubs blanked the Colorado Rockies 2-0 before 10,005 fans in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in breezy & (mostly) sunny Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.


 

Travis Buck homered to key a three-run 9th, as an Oakland A's split squad defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & breezy Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.


 

Fausto Carmona threw six innings of two-hit shutout ball and Austin Kearns reached base three times and scored two runs, leading the Cleveland Indians to 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in warm & sunny Mesa.


Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

It looks like Jim Hendry accomplished the first splash of the offseason. Rudy Jaramillo is the new Cubs hitting coach. The highly respected Jaramillo has signed a 3 year, $2.42 million deal (according to a David Kaplan tweet and a Bruce Levine/ESPN post) to spin his 5 point hitting magic on Cub hitters both young and old ($800K a year, but we all know you-know-who likes to write back loaded contracts). Bruce Levine reports that Jaramillo will fly to Chicago Wednesday to meet with Cubs officials and after he officially signs his new contract, will attend a mid-afternoon press conference. Jaramillo has spent the last 15 seasons with the Texas Rangers and sports the resume of helping the likes of Mark DeRosa, Michael Young, Lee Stevens and early in their careers, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell. He won the Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year in 2005.

The Cubs hope he can fix whatever was broken last year with Alfonso Soriano who still has 5 years left on his contract. Soriano in his 2 years with the Rangers loved working with Jaramillo.   Soriano said, ‘We had very good communication because he speaks Spanish. He’s very good and smart. He works very hard, too.’’

Maybe the Cubs read TCR afterall...

After Dr. Hecht pleaded with the Cubs to liberally use the DL and get Alfonso Soriano off the field, they announced he's been shut down indefinitely to rest his knee. Piniella says Soriano was agreeable to the decision. Yes, one of the five worst players in baseball this year(with meaningful at-bats), is okay that you sit him. Well phew, I'd hate it if he was upset.

I'd applaud the Cubs for the move if this was July, but now it's just desperation and an offseason talking point.

In roster move news, Bobby Scales has been called up and Derrek Lee is still in Chicago for the birth of their second child. Fuku, Theriot, Bradley, Ramirez, Hoffpauir, Baker, Soto, Fuld and Z are taking on the Mets as we speak.

Allyssa Milano says have a happy Labor day holiday. 
Just a little rant from me after a game where Soriano left his pants on the left field chalk line. After he did the pretzel dance, I thought that chalk outline was from a CSI scene. Someone should press criminal charges for that effort.Tired ol' Lou Piniella just grunts and shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, ah, ah...Whaddya expect me to do about it?" Clearly he's been beaten into submission by overexposure to Cubbery.

After torturing myself by listening to local sports talk outlets, with the only brief reprieve coming from occasional banter about a meaningless preseason Bears game, I think I've had enough pain to land on my own personal DL. Steve Stone with glee in his voice said, "that's what you get for playing a DH in left field." I get the message. Listening how the Cubs are held hostage to their long term contracts with no end in sight (well it's 3-5 years before we see the end to this tunnel), forcing them to play overpaid, under performing players (Soriano in the role of 40/40 guy and Bradley in the role of rbi machine) or under performing players with a brief track record of performance (Geo Soto, Kevin Gregg, The not-Hanks...Aaron Miles and Heilman) or under performing players without a track record of performance (better when in small doses, Fonte-NOT), it dawned on me that there is a simple solution. 

Apparently Alfonso Soriano's cranky left knee was bothering him enough during his outfield play this past Friday that his plans to get an elective MRI (magnetic resonance image) in a few weeks got moved up to Saturday morning since he wasn't going to start today. In this video interview he says it's been sore for four months but with (approximately) 40 games left why can't he keep playing with the same pain? The pain seems to bother him more when he runs (rather than when he hits) so it's affecting his limited outfield abilities and I expect it's been a factor regarding his on and mostly off offense this season too.

Soriano was in no hurry to get the MRI as recently as this week.  He originally expected to take the time to get it on their next day off, Sept 10th (after returning from the trip to NY and Pitt), but his limp became more noticeable after his game winning 3 run HR on Friday so they moved it up to Monday and when it was clear he couldn't start today they sent him for the test this morning.

Carrie Muskat from cubs.com reports that the MRI results just showed inflammation and the outfielder will likely get a cortisone shot (based on the manager's postgame comments) and be sidelined a few days. From the horses mouth, in the postgame interview, Lou Piniella said  the team orthopedic specialist (probably Dr. Gryzlo) will look at Soriano on Sunday, and he most likely will get a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

Hoping to understand Alfonso Soriano's hot and cold streaks this year, I turned to the incomparable Fan Graphs to break down his present and historical success against different pitches.  The results suggest that Soriano is losing the skill that made him one of the more feared hitters in the game, but that he might have found a method to compensate for this loss.  Below is a chart showing the percentage of fastballs Soriano has seen each year since 2005, with 2009 broken down per month. It also shows his ranking among hitters seeing the fewest fastballs, his "runs above average"  number on fastballs, (wFastball) and how high he ranks among all hitters, and his overall OPS. (As in, not specific to fastballs)  The most important thing to notice here is his wFB rank.

 

Date  Fastball%  FB% Rank  wFastball wFB Rank  OPS
2005  47.9  147/147  27.6  15/147  .821

2006

 54.1  150/159  23.7  25/159  .911
2007  54  150/161  23.3  27/161  .897
2008  53.2  134/145  17.9  38/145  .876
April 2009  45.9  196/197  3.3  55/197  .965

May 2009

 43  185/185  3.6  60/185  .657
June 2009  49.1  180/184  2.4  72/184  .585
July 2009  44.8  190/190  .7  112/190  .992
August 2009  36.7  179/190  -.6  156/190  .220

 

You probably have noticed a couple of striking trends going on here.  First, Soriano has progressively moved from being one of the most effective hitters in baseball against the fastball to being quite pedestrian. Second, pitchers have not noticed and adapted to this change:  They contiue to avoid throwing fastballs to Soriano as if he were the same hitter he was in 2005.  He's not.

So how do we explain Soriano's April and July, when he hit like the hitter for whom the Cubs offered that premium contract?

Finding  that answer requres looking at Soriano's results swinging at sliders.

Saturday, 10 AM UPDATE: Bruce Levine's ESPN AM-1000, Talkin' Baseball radio show from this saturday morning has updates
on Soriano's injury saying it's just a jammed finger and not a
dislocation. Also, Lilly's knee symptoms are related to a meniscus problem
and Dempster may just miss one more start.

Also he interviewed Oneri Fleita (Cubs VP of Player Personnel)
who comments on all things in the Cubs minor league system as well as
the recent rule 4 amateur draft, saying 2nd round pick LSU infielder DJ LeMahieu is close to signing.


A dark cloud seems to loom even with a two game winning streak after tonight's 3-1 win vs the Gnats.  So I ask, is dropping like flies worse than dropping flys?

This is not following Lou Piniella's script for the 2nd half of the season:

1) Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

2) Score runs

The "Road to Wrigley" game with the Iowa Cubs vs the Vegas 51's isn't coming until August 9th but it looks like the Iowa Cubs will be staying with their parent club just a bit longer, as two more Cub starters are possibly out for days and maybe more.

 

 

 

In the friday night 6-2 win against the Nationals, Alfonso Soriano dislocated his right little "pinky" finger (his throwing hand) in a base running mishap during the 4th inning. He singled to center on a play where DLee was on second but Lee rounded third and held there based on a strong but high throw to the plate by Nyjer Morgan. The catcher, Josh Bard caught the throw well in front of the plate then caught Soriano half way between first and second in an 8-2-6-4 putout. On the replay you can see that Soriano jammed his hand sliding into the base and he pulled on the finger right away apparently reducing the dislocated knuckle. The Comcast telecast also showed Soriano getting treatment from trainer Mark O'Neal as soon as he got back to the dugout but he stayed in the game and even batted again (he grounded out to 3B in the 6th and walked in the 9th). This type of injury doesn't swell until a few hours later but once the swelling develops the finger stiffens up making it hard to grip things (like a baseball or a bat).

Carrie Muskat wrote yesterday that Alfonso Soriano has been playing with a sore knee since April 23rd, when he "banged his knee against the wall" while running after what turned out to be a Joey Votto home run.

"It hasn't been the same since,"
Soriano said. "It's getting better."

Lou Piniella said athletic trainer Mark O'Neal hasn't told him that Soriano can't play. He'll take it day by day.

"Soriano is a tough kid and wants to play," Piniella said. "If it
persists, we might have to get him out of there for a few days."

In 31 games since April 23rd, Soriano, has hit .233/.266/.431/697 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS).  He has hit 7 HR, though none in his last 10 games. His current line of .253/.313/.495/807 is a season low, across all categories.

Not since some bright guy invited Stephen Colbert to the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinners, have we been able to witness a more uncomfortable public verbal flogging.

Hat tip to Big League Stew for the link.

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