Alfonso Soriano

As you've certainly heard by now, Alfonso Soriano headed out to a minor league rehab stint with the rookies in the Arizona League. He lasted all of three at-bats against the AZL Padres in beautiful Peoria, Arizona going 0-2 with a walk, a strikeout and a run scored before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. Speculation arose on why he'd leave the game early and Will Carroll hinted that he might be activated for tonight's game.

Shae (Chicago): Will, there are rumors that Soriano might leave the rehab. game early and could even play tonight, what's the latest?

Will Carroll: That's what I'm hearing. I have someone at Sky Harbor watching ...

I'm not sure what that someone is watching at Sky Harbor since it's a 35 minute drive from Peoria, AZ to Phoenix, AZ, but don't be surprised if he's in the lineup tonight and (I would assume) Micah Hoffpauir gets sent down.

In the second inning of Wednesday night's game, Soriano was late to react to a high and tight fastball from Braves' emergency-starter Jeff Bennett, and got hit on his left hand. He was taken from the game to a nearby hospital, where X-rays evidently revealed a "minimally displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal."

 

I will leave it to our resident M.D., "Cubster," to fill in all the relevant medical details. (Any new visitors to TCR coming for Soriano information really owe it to themselves to come back and read his expert analysis, when he gets the chance.) The early report from the ESPN broadcast team indicated that Soriano might be out for at least six weeks. (Sportscenter now reporting "up to" six weeks, while the article at mlb insists "a minimum" of six weeks.)  On the local broadcast, Len also referred to several weeks on the DL.

 

Regardless of whether it was a direct response, this HBP comes a day after Ted Lilly threw a pitch over Brian McCann's head, the first pitch after having given up a three-run home run to Greg Norton. In the first draft of his post at the Tribune, Paul Sullivan reminded us that last year at Turner Field, Tim Hudson threw at Soriano, leading Lilly to throw at Edgar Renteria the following night, which then led to Renteria throwing a forearm at Mike Fontenot on a play at second. He also is reporting that Micah Hoffpauir will be called up tomorrow to fill the roster spot.

 

Six weeks from now would be July the 23rd, or 34 games between now and then. In the meantime, I would guess that Theriot moves to the leadoff spot with DeRosa being moved to LF and the two-spot in the order, with Cedeno and Fontenot covering second. (quick first update: that said, a quick review of the box scores from the last two weeks of April, when Soriano was out due to a leg injury, indicate that Fontenot and Reed Johnson split lead-off duties, with Eric Patterson also leading off once. Theriot stayed in the two-spot the entire time. While I could live with either of those two options leading off, again, my vote goes to a Theriot-DeRosa combo.)

 

To some extent trying to put a silver lining on this is like pissing in a river, but here are a few attempts. Remeber that Pujols looks like he also will be out for at least three weeks with a leg injury, and the Cardinals' offense is far more dependent on his bat that we are on Soriano's. (And in a complete lay-man's guess, I'd bet that the leg injury is more of a lingering problem than Soriano's finger.) The Cubs and their deep bench should be able to weather this better than the Cardinals will with Pujols out. Theriot and DeRosa won't be miscast at all as a 1-2 duo, and if anything, it should improve the defense a bit. Finally, remember how the Cubs did when Soriano was out for two weeks earlier this season due to a bum leg. The Cubs went 9-5 from April 16th, his first day out of the lineup until his return on May 1st. They averaged 7.35 runs in those games, including four games in which they scored 12, 13, 13, and 19 runs.

 

That said, get well soon, Alfonso.

 

Oh yeah - Cubs win, Dempster pitched a fantastic game.

Paul Sullivan writes in the Tribune that the Cubs will recall Micah Hoffpauir from Iowa as the team begins its interleague schedule with three games at SkyDome this weekend. Lou Piniella's plan is to let Hoffpauir play first base and left field, which will alternately allow Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano to "rest" as they see DH duty.

Daryle Ward, still on the DL, took batting practice Tuesday and according to Sullivan "will report to the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday to get
some at-bats before going on a minor-league rehab stint at Iowa."

We all know Alfonso Soriano has been dealing with leg issues for awhile. Last August, against the Mets, he pulled up lame rounding 2nd base with a hamstring pull that kept him out of the lineup for a month and prevented him from running the bases aggressively the rest of the 2007 season. During spring training this year, people were questioning why he wasn't running all out. Manager Lou Piniella said in spring training he didn't want his left fielder running much to prevent any leg injuries. Certainly there was enough time for his hamstring injury to have healed in the offseason, so the Cub braintrust knew something wasn't right this season from the beginning in Arizona. This April, he pulled a calf muscle sometime before or after making a signature hop-catch in left field, which cost 2 weeks on the disabled list.

Last night after two days of rest (he didn't play the last game in Houston), Soriano obviously wasn't running normally on what should have been an easy leadoff double to the RF corner where he gimped toward 2nd base and had to do a headfirst slide to get into 2nd safely. Two plays later, Soriano "boldly" took off early on a line drive rope by Derrek Lee which Pirate right fielder Xavier Nady just missed making a diving catch. The ball popped out of Nady's glove letting Soriano score. If the catch was made, it would have been a baserunning blunder. His play in the outfield shows that his running is causing problems there as well. A single by Jason Bay in the bottom of the 1st, which if he had normal wheels would have been his fly ball to catch. It dropped in softly for a single and was ultimately fielded by CF Reed Johnson. In the 4th inning Zambrano and Soriano singled, Theriot walked. After a fielder's choice putting Sori at 3rd base, ARam hit a medium deep fly to right. Although Nady has a strong arm in RF, if Soriano had any confidence in his legs, I am sure he would have challenged Nady's arm, instead Nady's throw was cut off since it was obvious Soriano and his leg wasn't a threat to score. In the 5th, he hit into a double play and even the Pirate TV commentators were showing replays on how funky his running looked while not even making the play at first base close. Soriano was mercifully replaced in the bottom of the 6th by Micah Hoffpauir and as it was a blowout game one wonders if it was the score or Lou's frustration with Soriano's running that lead to that move. The Chicago TV feed had their camera's on the Cub dugout showing the intereaction between Piniella and Soriano where it appeared to me that Lou was trying to get Soriano to fess up and admit that his leg is hurting, although he adamantly denied being injured.

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning during a week that can only be described as Sorianolicious, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):

#5 Big Hit: Wednesday, v. the Padres, 7th inning — The Cubs had knocked Jake Peavy from the game and taken a 4-0 lead before the Padres drew to within a run, thanks to a 3-spot in the top of the fifth. Geovany Soto then smashed a Wil Ledezma pitch for a two-run homer to give the Cubs some breathing room. WPA .143

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning during a week that began with a disappointing series against a team in the throes of a long losing streak, but ended with a sweep of the club with the best record in the National League, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):

#5 Big Hit: Tuesday, v. the Reds, 4th inning — After Geovany Soto whiffs with men at second and third, Ronny Cedeño connects for a two-out, two-run single to extend the Cubs lead to 3-0, which turns out to be more than cushion enough for Carlos Zambrano. Cedeño's hit was far and away the Cubs' biggest one during the three games in Cincinnati. WPA .172

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning during the past. not terribly successful week against the teams we'll have to beat if we want to take the division, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):

#5 Big Hit: Tuesday, v. the Brewers, 7th inning — The opener of the Cubs' three-game series with the Brewers is getting out of hand when Mike Fontenot hits a two-out, bases-clearing double that brings the home team to within two runs at 9-7. WPA .133

By now, most of your are familiar with Fangraphs fantastic Win Probability Added charts that chart the chances for a team to win a game in real-time. Here's last night's exciting, albeit ultimately disappointing loss:

Cubs-Cardinals WPA graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That though misses the big story of Alfonso Soriano's escapades and his effect on us fans watching the game. So we're introducing TCR's CFPA (Cubs Fan Popularity Added):

Both Gordon Wittenmyer and Paul Sullivan are reporting that Alfonso Soriano will return to the Cub lineup without an intervening rehab assignment and that, according to the manager, Soriano will also step right back into the leadoff role upon his return, on or around May 1st.

From Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times:

Alfonso Soriano won't be hopping down the rehab-assignment trail, but
he will jump right back into the Cubs' leadoff spot when he returns
from the disabled list in another week, manager Lou Piniella said
Wednesday...

''We want to make sure that he can do all the things that a leadoff
hitter needs to do,'' Piniella said. ''We don't want to take any
chances here early in the year, bringing him back too soon, and all of
a sudden we've got another problem on our hands.

''But, yeah, when he comes back, he'll go to left field and lead off.''

I wasn't around much for yesterday's festivities, so let me get a few things off my chest. I realize the Cubs have won three straight and eight of their last ten and I should probably just shut-up, but this sh** is bugging me.

- The "hop" that Soriano does before he catches a flyball is kinda lame. Then of course, I have a hard time relating to anyone who could drive a car like this. Lame as it is, it didn't create his calf strain and I'm not just saying that because the Cubs are in full-press denial mode. You can just look at the highlights of it. Soriano didn't leap more than six inches off the ground and landed just fine; he didn't roll his ankle or overextend his knee or anything. Whatever the problem was, it was already there and if it didn't happen on that play, it certainly would have the next time he ran out a ground ball or slid into a bag.

But if makes him stop leaping like one of the seven lords, then by all means, it was the "hop" that caused it.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Josh Fogg SP Carlos Zambrano
  1-1, 7.00, 6 K, 3 BB 1-1, 3.20, 18 K, 2 BB
       
CF *Corey Patterson 2B *Mike Fontenot
SS Jeff Keppinger SS Ryan Theriot
RF *Ken Griffey 1B Derrek Lee
2B Brandon Phillips 3B Aramis Ramirez
LF *Adam Dunn RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B Edwin Encarnacion LF Mark DeRosa
1B *Joey Votto C Geovany Soto
C #Javier Valentin CF Reed Johnson
P
Josh Fogg P #Carlos Zambrano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As reported by the Trib's Paul Sullivan, the Soriano-less Cubs will have Mike Fontenot leading off, Mark DeRosa will be manning left field, and Eric Patterson will be in the wings. (This will be the first time in Fontenot's Major League career he has been penciled into the leadoff spot.)

As for E-Pat, he was hitting just .222 at Triple-A, with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 12 K/3 BB in 36 at-bats for the I-Cubs. He stole one base.

Tonight's head-scratchers and eye-openers:

Wrigley Field will be drowning in Pattersons tonight as the Cubs' Eric will be in the dugout opposite the Reds' Corey. E-Pat has been called up from Triple-A Iowa as Alfonso Soriano and his strained right calf muscle go on the 15-day DL.

More momentarily in the Gameday Thread.

Déjà Vu all over again, Alfonso? For the second time in two years during mid April, Cubs star left fielder Alsonso Soriano injured a leg.

Last year he missed just a week from a mild left hamstring strain on April 16th. He returned to the lineup by April 22nd but was limited in his running as well as his outfield play for a few weeks after that injury.

Here was the immediate reaction to last April's injury on cubs.com:

...his status is day-to-day. The center fielder was injured when he dove trying to catch Clay Hensley's single with one out and a runner at second in the fifth. "I don't like to be hurt," Soriano said. "I like to play every day. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

This isn't to be confused with his more significant right quadriceps strain last August 6th. I vividly remember seeing Soriano pull up lame after rounding 2nd base against the Mets in the game Tom Glavine got his 300th win. Third base coach Mike Quade helped Alfonso off the field that evening. Soriano returned to action by August 28th.

In last night's game vs the Reds, while making the third out in the top of the 1st inning by catching a flyball from Ken Griffey Jr. and doing his signature hop to make the catch, Soriano once again came up lame. He needed to use CF Felix Pie to limp off the field. In the bottom of the inning he was replaced by Mike Fontenot with Mark DeRosa taking his spot in LF.

Again cubs.com says (Carrie Muskat must have a macro key for her Word application regarding this stuff. Ironically, when she hits the F7 key, the macro spits out something about being day-to-day):

Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano had to leave Tuesday's game after the top of the first inning with a strained right calf. His status was day-to-day.

This time the preliminary diagnosis is a strained right calf. To recap the anatomy, the quadriceps is the major muscle in the front of the thigh. The hamstrings are the muscles behind the thigh. The larger muscles that make up
the calf are the gastrocnemius which
is more superficial and the deeper soleus which blend together as they go toward
the lower portion of the leg until they connect with the achilles
tendon
. They are responsible for pushoff in running activity. Just like
any other muscle injury they are graded by extent of injury, rarely
need surgery and usually take from 2-6 weeks to heal.They shipped Soriano off for an MRI Tuesday night so the results will be available in the morning. Hearing Lou Piniella on the postgame interview, he didn't sound optimistic with the most recent comp injury being Phillie OF Shane Victorino who was put on the 15 day DL the day after his calf strain on Saturday. Matt Murton, Jake Fox or Eric Patterson...please check your answering machines.

It could be worse. The Ides of April ruined the 2006 Season on April 19th when Scott Eyre fielded a Raphael Furcal bunt. The sooner they get this month over with the safer I will feel.

UPDATE: It's official.  Eric Patterson gets the call-up as Fonzie goes on the 15 day DL. Stay tuned for the Patterson brothers reunion deathmatch tonight.

One of the latest and most exciting developments in baseball research is the measurement and analysis of individual
pitches. For instance, the Pitch f/x system created by the
company Sportvision
tracks the in-flight movement of pitches from two different cameras,
thereby assessing a pitch's velocity, horizontal and vertical
movement. A bit less than 1/4th of all pitches from last year were so
assessed, and MLB has made the raw contents of that data available at this location. Better yet, there are several bloggers who, unlike me, have the
talent and dedication to transform that heaping mess of data into
meaningful findings. Most notable, Josh Kalk
has been developing player cards,
a la what's available at baseball-reference or fan graphs or baseball
cube, except with graphs incorporating this incredible new source of
information on pitch selection and pitch behavior. He also has
developed a remarkable application where you can select any
player and any pitch with just about any limiting parameter you could
want - say, Bob Howry fastballs to right-handed hitters on 0-2 counts with a velocity above 93 MPH that resulted in swinging strikes - and then view the results on a handy X/Y graph.

As if that's not enough, there's the more user friendly if less revolutionary pitch data commercially available at Baseball Info Solutions which is being applied by the talented folks at Fan Graphs.
Fan Graphs now offers data on individual players' pitch selections and
velocity, all thoroughly sortable. For instance, Tim Wakefield
and Chad Bradford feature the two slowest average fastballs in the
major at 74.2 and 78.6 MPH, respectively, while no one threw a changeup
with greater frequency last year than Matt Wise, at 54%

There's a gold mine of potential information available at our
fingertips, with The Baseball Analysts and The Hardball Times leading
the way in this sort of analysis. With far less sophistication than
what those guys can offer, let's see what it can tell us about the
Cubs' staff.

An incomplete list, in no particular order...

Bad Weekend

Jason Marquis. Though Lou Piniella apologized for "overreacting" to Marquis' comments following Saturday's game, the pitcher's "I have a family to worry about" statement made him look stupid and foolish and...like a modern-day Major Leaguer.

Alfonso Soriano. Broke the tip of this right middle finger on Sunday during a drill meant to hone his ability to catch balls up against the outfield wall. Expected to miss game action for the next five days.

Neal Cotts. Pitched two-thirds of an inning on Sunday and now has a 27.00 ERA. 'nuf said.

Geo Soto's waistline. I hope AZ Phil can confirm or refute this, but it appeared to me from Sunday's telecast that Soto has regained a lot of the weight he lost last year, when he had his big season in the Pacific Coast League and was so impressive in his limited debut with the big club.

Kerry Wood. Tagged for a longball by the Angels' Torii Hunger, plus two singles and a double in one-third of an inning on Saturday.

Good Weekend:

Matt Murton. Went 3-for-3 in Saturday's loss to the Angels.

Felix Pie. Knocked his second Cactus League home run on Sunday; hitting .273 in the early going.

Carrie Muskat groupies. Carrie got some air time during Sunday's telecast and revealed that she had business cards printed up in Japanese to help her establish rapport with Kosuke Fukudome. I'm wondering how many cards she had printed up and how many she'll have to give Fukudome before he finally replies, through his interpreter, "What am I supposed to do with all of these cards?"

Sam Zell. As this NYT profile makes clear, Sam has little chance of being the game's most odious owner as long as Hank Steinbrenner is around.

 

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