Preview: Wrigley Rantings
N.L. Central Preview Day Two
In 2004 the Cincinatti Reds turned out the record of 76-86, which in my opinion is much better then the record they should have had. They finished 10th in the league in offense, and 15th in the league in pitching. Griffey and Kearns had their yearly injury spells to rob them each of 300 ab's, and Barry Larkin complained about how the team was treating him. The pitching saw narry a starting pitcher on the good side of 4.00 ERA. Paul Wilson was their best starter, and he faded down the stretch bringing his era up to 4.38. On the flip side, Adam Dunn finally started hitting the ball enough to use his mammoth power. Dunn broke the 40 home run barrier for the first in what will likely be many seasons. Danny Graves returned to the closers role, and pitched like he had never left it, recording 41 saves.
Free Agent Additions
Unlike the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cincinatti Reds actually attempted to fix their pitching staff for 2005. The key word being "attempted".
The Reds signed Mercker to a 2 year deal worth 1.3 mil a year. His previous team was the Cubs. He was a fine pitcher last year ending with a 2.55 era and a 2-1 K:bb ratio. He has great stats but if you believer in clubhouse karma and all that crap, then Mercker isn't your man. I don't have to remind Cubs Fans of what he did last year. For you Cincinatti Fans, Mercker supposedly called out our broadcaster on the plane because he said something unkind about him on the broadcast. He(among a couple others)supposedly attempted to get broadcasters kicked off the team plane. Not really a team player in my opinion.
Free Agent Rating: B
I understand the Reds were trying to address pitching, but why would you go get the most overrated starter on the market and pay him 8 million a year to pitch for you? Eric Milton has never put up good numbers, likely will never put up good numbers, and he got Matt Clement money. Glad the Cubs didn't go after him.
Free Agent Rating: D (Doesn't fail because the Reds pitching is so bad)
Jokin' Joe Randa
Randa was a cheap upgrade over the mass of hacks they had at the position last year. Considering the market vale of most players, Randa at around 2 million was a bargain.
He is a good fielder and a league average hitter at a difficult position to fill.
Free Agent Rating: B
Weathers was a solid signing. He had a couple of good years preceeding the last year, which was not good at all. This is an example of buying low, and if the Reds are smart, selling high.
Free Agent Rating: C
Ben Weber managed to succeed three seasons in a row with terribly low K rates while giving up a hit per inning. Last year he finally blew a gasket and couldn't do it anymore. I expect more of the 8.06 era to come. I hope the manager for the Cincinatti Reds tosses him out to pitch every time the Cubs come to town.
Free Agent Rating: F
Wilson is the perfect case of a pitcher that made this paycheck on half a season. The first half of last year the Reds actually thought he became an ace. He threw several complete games, and kept his era in the 3's. Wilson then reverted to form and started pitching terribly. He ended the year in the low 4's. Paying him over a couple a mil a year was foolish. The Reds will realize that when he has a 6.00 era next year.
Free Agent Rating: F
Free Agent Depatures
The Reds lost one good player. Their veteran shortstop Barry Larkin. He wasn't the best anymore, but he's probably better then what they will play there next year. The fact that they were not nice in letting Larkin go might not help them attract many free agents. Besides Larkin they lost a whole lot of nothing.
The Reds attempted to fix their pitching, but failed. They signed crappy pitchers for absurd amounts of cash. The only way the Reds get better is if Griffey is actually healthy, and [...]
Milwaukee Team Preview
The 2004 Milwaukee Brewers finished the season 67-94. Their problem was very basic, they couldn't score runs. The only team that was more futile in the N.L. were the Diamondbacks. Thankfully the pitching wasn't nearly as bad as the offense. They finished 9th in pitching in the N.L., and Ben Sheets developed into an ace posting a 2.7 era with 264 k's and a measly 32 walks. Doug Davis also pitched well posting a 3.3 era with a 166 k's giving the Brewers a good 1-2 punch. Dan Kolb turned into a good closer, pitching his way to a 2.98 era with 39 saves. Unfortunately they traded him for prospects.
Free Agent Additions
Normally there would be analysis here of why it was great they picked these guys up, however none of these guys fix the offensive black hole that Milwaukee is. They gained nothing special in free agency and are doomed to mediocrity once again.
Free Agent Departures
The good news (if you want to call it that) is they didn't lose any of their terrible players. They'll probably have the same payroll next year and make tons of money off of the poor baseball fans of Milwaukee.
Actual Good News!
Bud Selig and his entourage of idiots actually sold this team. Until the new owner proves his incompetence and or tight purse strings with no ideas of how to manage a low payroll team. Milwaukee' Fans actually have a reason to smile and raise their chin a little.
Another positive for the Brewers are the prospects rising through their farm system. Richie Weeks is a talented offensive player that had his cup o' joe with the Brewers last year. He plays second base and has been compared to a young Joe Morgan. Hopefully the offense is there, but the mouth isn't.
Prince Fielder is the second of their highly talented players coming soon. He plays first base just like his father (Cecil Fielder) did, however he keeps his body weight under control and makes more contact with the baseball. Look for a yearly total of 35-40 dingers out of this big fella.
The Brewers aren't going to be as awful as last year. They will score more runs with Weeks getting a season in with the big club. Prince Fielder should come up in August or September and start making his bat known. Their pitching is coming along nicely and should stay level with last years numbers. This is a club, that with 2006 free agent signings could be dangerous. For this year they are looking at a 7 or 8 win improvement. My guess? 75-87
Tommorow - Cincinatti Reds
Tony Saunders to make comeback bid.
The first thing that came to mind when I read this.
There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
(Excerpt from When You Believe
- Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston)
In 2000 Tony Saunders broke his arm pitching for the second and what appeared to be the final time. He announced his retirement
in a press conference stating that "It's just hard knowing you're done". Well he was wrong, he wasn't done.
Last year he started coaching baseball in Tampa and threw batting practice every day with no pain. He started thinking about making a comeback and consulted an orthepedic physician, who informed him the bone was solid and he could give it a try. The only thing that could happen is breaking the bone again. Saunders has spent a good part of last summer and this winter strengthening his arm for his comeback bid.
Saunders is one of the most heartfelt and inspirational stories in my time with baseball. He has broken his arm twice, both while pitching. Yet he is back because it's what he loves doing. If one day I could be this enthusiastic about my job i'd be a happy man.
When he comes back this year, lets give him a big big ovation. The man deserves our applause for what he has gone through, and how he has looked adversity in the face.
Hendry Get Off Your Butt!
Earth to Jim Hendry.......Earth to Jim Hendry
Jim Hendry was on the ESPN Radio the other day. I believe his modus operandi was to give each and every Cubs Fan a heart attack. Here are several things he had to say.
"Kyle Farnsworth might be ready for the ninth inning"
"Dubois is not the household name that everyone wants, but he deserves the chance to play everyday."
"I talked to Borowski recently, he said he was 90%. Borowski is a strong-willed guy and could be real helpful."
*beatbeatbeatbeatbeat* ARGH! My heart!
Hendry should be trying to work with the options left available to him. I scanned the remaining free agent list found on ESPN. I found four players that may be of use to us.
Do I really
need to say more? If he can control his bone edema problem, and is healthy, he would be the savior to our offense. Maggs consistently hits for a .320 average with 30 dingers and less then 75 strikeouts. He's a younger, better fielding and better baserunning version of Alou. Lets hop on this bandwagon and see where it takes us.
Offseason Move Rating: A
To be honest, I only put him on here because he can hit dingers. We don't really need him and his free swinging ways on the Cubs. If acquired he'd hit 35 homers, to go with a .245 average and a probable break of the new strikeout record. He's probably better then a rookie, but there are a lot of guys better then a rookie.
Offseason Move Rating: C
I know what you are thinking. "That Rusty Greer? Is he still in baseball? You have GOT to be kidding me." Well at one point Greer was a hell of a ballplayer, he hit for average, decent power and just played all out baseball. That's how he got hurt. He's trying to make a comeback, so why not sign him to a minor league deal and let him do it here? Low salary contract with incentives like Dempster. If he makes it back he could be a great edition to our lineup. He can also play first base, so he could give Lee days off when needed. What do we have to lose? Give him a chance.
Offseason Move Rating: C
Mecir is a screwballing righty who can get lefties and righties out equally as well. He made 3.3 mil last year, which isnt terrible for a decent reliever. My problem with him is that this is the first year in three years he has been a good reliever ERA and WHIP wise. We already have enough inconsistent relievers. As much as I like his versatility I think i'd have to pass.
Offseason Move Rating: D
There really are no good closing options left via FA (alas). So lets pick up the best available outfielder, which in my opinion is Maggs, stick our tail between our legs and hope we can trade for a closer or one of our guys (not Farns, oh gosh not Farns) can get 'er done.
Is some of that good ol' Sosa still left?
I was bored today, and since I didn't feel like reading I started browsing baseball statistics. For those of you that know me, this is no shock. Those of you that don't....well let it be no shock.
For some reason I happened upon Sosa's Game Log from last year. I saw nothing real special until I looked at the monthly totals. Only then did I see exactly how good Sammy was before injury, and then how horrid he was after his injuries.
We rewind to May 15th. Sosa had started strong, and while he didnt look like the Sosa of old, he certainly had re-instilled fear into the pitchers. He was currently hitting .291/.385/.590 with 10 homers, 24 rbi's and 21 walks in 130 ab's. Cub Fans were pretty happy with this production and cheered their right fielder on to his best season since 2001. His numbers extrapolated for 155 games would put him at 45 homers, 109 rbi's and 91 walks. Now there's the Sosa we used to know and love.
Boom, he gets hurt. Diagnosis is a couple weeks he's out. Hollandsworth takes over and produces great in Sosa's absence.
We get him back on June 18th. Our lineup needs a boost because Alou has gone into his prolonged slump. Instead of providing a boost, Sosa is standing in the on deck circle trying to hit the ball. Taking bad pitches is no longer in his vocabulary. He flails away at every slider that is thrown at him, and his average plummets. He seems to try everything including moving back towards the plate, but his swing has more holes then a George W. Bush war story. The fans start booing him, and he finishes out the season with a .253/.332/.517.
Sammy was still hurt last year and came back too early and tried to do too much.
I think that if we can't get anything decent for Sosa in a trade then lets hang onto him.
Answering a couple questions:
Is he a cancer? Probably
Manny Ramirez was a cancer before last year, now he's a winner
Does he make too much money? Certainly
However, where are we going to get a good bat to replace him now?
Can't we trade him for Cliff Floyd?
Sure we could do that, but name me the last time Floyd was healthy?
Is he potentially the best hitter on the team? Without a Doubt
This is why we shouldn't deal him unless we get value. Sosa could still have a great year or two in him, especially since this is his contract year. We can't trade a superstar in the year where he could potentially produce his last great season. There are limited options left on the market, and the Tribune has pulled the pocket strings tight. Sosa is our last chance at a productive hitter.
After my computer took several crashes and deaths, I have returned. I will be posting some more of my wonderful thoughts tonight.
Another Robb Nen Idea
I wrote an article earlier this week asking for the Cubs to take advantage of Nen being a free agent. Last year he had the heater back in the mid 90's but had no breaking ball because he can't snap it off. I have a new idea, why doesn't someone teach him a changeup?
A changeup causes no stress on additional stress on the arm. It's thrown the same way as the fastball, except the ball is held further back in the hand. So there is no snap of the elbow to throw it. If he could throw a mid 80's changeup then hitters wouldn't be able to sit on his heat. Keith Foulke is a fastball-changeup pitcher, doesn't throw nearly as hard as Nen, and his changeup makes his fastball seem like it was 95 mph. Nen's fastball would probably seem like it was 105 mph if he threw his changeup in the low to mid 80's.
So if successfull learning a changeup, and the Cubs signed him, we'd have a 2 pitch closer who could throw 95 mph and had a good changeup. Nothing not to like there. We should be giving that a try.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
How ridiculous is that? I bet there will be Angel Fans that can't remember the entire team name. "What's team are you a fan of?" The Anaheim...err....Los.....errr...California Angels of Ana...LA?
Don't make fun of them for this, they might hit you with their thunderstick.
On to Cubs' News today.
Colorado is on the verge of signing Rob Nen. This could very well be a minor league deal, and a very good value for Colorado. Last year Nen got to the point where he could throw his fastball in the mid 90's but couldn't snap off a slider. If he can get the slider back, he probably turns back into a dominant closer.
Gee I can't think of a certain favorite team of mine that could use a dominant closer can you? DING DING DING The Cubs! You are right! What do we have as the prize for my wonderful readers? (deathly long pause) A vintage 2003 Joe Borowski needle with steroids still in it!
The 10 million dollar question now is "Why the heck is Hendry dragging his feet on finding a closer?". He didn't get Kolb, he didn't get Benitez, he didn't get Percival and now he doesn't get Nen either. I understand with Benitez, Percival and Kolb. That was a matter of cost in prospects or cash (which hopefully we are saving for a run at Beltran). However, Nen is a minor league deal away from signing with a team. There is no excuse in not spending 500K's on a guy that potentially could be a stud.
Consider that with a good closer this year the Cubs were most likely in the postseason. If this is the case next year, and Nen performs well the Tribune will actually lose money in not signing him. The Cubs make several million in revenue from each post season game, not including the merchandise they sell if they win any of the post season series. I see this.
Spend 500K on good closer
Cash Flow = -500K
Make Playoffs, have two games at home
Cash Flow = 3 mil
Net Cash Flow = 2.5 mil
So they make money by adding something small and making the postseason. Sounds good to me. Hendry you listening?
All I Want For New Years
This was Carlos's walkoff blast from opening day last year. Cubs sure could use a guy like this to hit some bombs and catch some balls. Considering recently that Scott Boras said the Cubs were out of the picture, then said we were still interested brings joy to Cubville. Next time he says we are out of it we will probably sign him two days later. Remember how Vlad signed last year? Lets hope we are the darkhorse this time.
C'mon Hendry give us something to smile about!!!!
BRING US CARLOS!
Stop throwing gas on the fire!
Unfortunatly as you all know, Ryan Dempster is currently slated to be our closer. Dempster was a year off surgery last year and at times looked like an excellent relief pitcher. He certainly has the stuff to get the job done. He works with a mid 90's sinker and a mid-high 80's slider that dips and darts away from a right handed batter.
Dempster's problem, and actually most of the Cubs Bullpen problem, is control. When he is staying on top of his slider and sinker they stay around the strike zone and he can get swings induced on balls because they look like strikes. When Dempster isn't staying on top of the ball and throwing around the strike zone, they just wait for him to walk them. Then he is forced to come straight down the middle, and he gets hammered just like every other pitcher that comes down the middle with a fastball.
Some of his control problem will be fixed as he recovers more from Tommy John surgery and gets feel for his pitches back. Dempster really never had good control to begin with though. A good indicator of control is bases on balls per 9 innings. Here is what Dempster has done throughout his career.
1998 - 6.3
1999 - 5.7
2000 - 3.9
2001 - 4.8
2002 - 4.0
2003 - 5.5
2004 - 5.7
It is said (now this is rumour, who actually knows when he got hurt) that he got hurt in 2001 or 2002. This would explain the rising walks rate. His best year walk rate wise was 2000, no big coincidence in that he had his career year that year. However, even if he did get his walk rate down to his career best, it's still not good enough to be a great closer.
So what we are doing is giving a pitcher the closers spot who has a chance to be a mediocre closer if he improves his control. Thank you cheap ass Tribune!
Our Inept Leadoff Man
Leading off and playing Center Field......
First thing that is wrong with this picture, he is still leading off. I don't care how fast he is, I don't care how projectable he is, and I certainly could give a care less that he is going to work with Vince Coleman in spring training on how to be a leadoff man. Vince had three things going for him. He could bunt, he was fast as hell, and he had good base stealing instincts. Ok, so he could teach Corey how to bunt. Anyone could teach Corey how to bunt-heck my grandma probably knows how to bunt and could teach him-however, Vince's other skills were either natural or gained from experience.
What Corey needs is a fricking pair of glasses. I don't see very many leadoff hitters that strike out 155 times in a year, and have an on base percentage of .320. Well, I take that back. I don't see very many of those guys on Playoff Teams
So if I
see this, why doesn't the front office? The problem lies here: Corey hit .320/.387/.550 when he was moved to the leadoff spot. Dusty (Moron) Baker thought it was because he seeing better pitches, because he was hitting leadoff. That would be all good and dandy, if it were not for the fact that he went on a month and a half long slump afterwards while still hitting leadoff. Gee golly gosh, He had a fricking hot streak, it wasnt because he was hitting leadoff.
Dusty Baker after reading this *chew chew* *chew chew* "Nah.......that can't be it......."
Corey should hit 6th or 7th in this lineup. If he is still hitting leadoff on opening day, Cubs Fans will know once again it is "Wait 'Til Next Year!".
Tommorow - #2 hitter and second baseman Todd Walker
Nolan Ryan Part Deux?
It is rumored that when/if/hopefully not Randy Johnson gets traded to the Yankees, a 2 year extension will be placed on his contract. If he doesn't retire before the contract is up-and he probably won't- the last year of his contract will have him hurling 97 mph of raw limburger cheese at 44 years old. Unless you are Nolan Ryan, which fortunatly for most hitters he is retired, this is unprecedented territory. Even stranger yet? At 40 years of age he had his best full year of his career rate-wise. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was the highest it has ever been at 6.59:1, his OPS against was the lowest it has ever been at .555 and he threw a career low 14.8 pitches per inning. (You paying attention Kerry Wood? He threw 7 innings per start, averaged over 10 k's per 9 innings and still only threw 100 pitches per start! This is who you could be! Or you could be that uncontrollable, inconsistent waste of talent you are!) Don't forget about that perfecto! So my question is "How far Johnson can get into the record books?" A couple of issues stand in the way of him reaching far into the books. Of course, I detail the most prominent.
Randy Johnson has had two surgeries that effect him pitching wise. His first surgery was in 1996, and that was on his back. Randy's back is very important to his delivery. He generates tremendous velocity by creating large amounts of momentum. Large amounts of momentum cause extreme torque on his back. Too much torque and a twist the wrong way? Ker-Pop, end of career.
The other surgery he has had was in 2003. The surgery involved removing almost all of the cartilage from his right knee. Cartilage is the substance that is between bones so bone does not rub against bone. Since Randy is left-handed the right knee is his landing leg. This leg takes tons of punishment since he explodes forward onto it before releasing the ball. Currently Randy takes several injections of lubrication into his knee to keep the joint working, and to preserve the final pieces of cartilage. However, eventually the final cartilage will break down and Randy will be forced to pitch in pain or retire.
How is Randy still pitching after these delabilitating injuries and surgeries? Since his back surgery in 1996 Randy has kept himself in peak physical condition. His workout regime includes: using weights, balance boards, rollers, resistance equipment and stretching exercises to keep his back in shape. After his knee surgery he hit the weights strngthening his lower body to take stress off his knee. Plus the fact that he's a genetic freak with a bionic arm.
Career Strikeout Record:
Nolan Ryan - 5714
Randy was and still is the nastiest pitcher of his generation. Years and years of 300 k's paint a picture on his resume. Unfortunatly for Randy, Nolan was the bionic man and pitched longer then my grandma has been sewing. Randy is still 1513 k's away from the seemingly unbreakable mark. If we took Randy's career average of 11.18 k's per 9 innings and project it out, he would need to pitch 1220 more innings. When healthy he averages approximatly 240 innings, this places him breaking Nolan's record 5 seasons from now. Randy would be 46 years old, the same age as Nolan when he retired from baseball.
Chance of this happening?
IF he doesn't blow out his knee, IF he doesn't blow out his back, IF he doesn't blow out his arm, IF Stewart Scott stops using his tireless cliches on Sportscenter......you get the idea.
Zero Nil Nada None
Randy Johnson Currently-246
Despite not coming into his prime until the age of 30, Randy has a shot at 300 wins. He does need a couple of things to make this run possible.
1. He needs to be dealt away from the D'Backs to a good team
2. A 2-3 year extention must be reached with t[...]
When Sammy Sosa signed his four year, seventy-two million dollar deal he was coming off the best season of his career. He hit .328/.437/.737 with sixty-four jacks.
Cubs Fans could envision him hitting sixty homers for several more years, riding his contract out in stardom, then slowly fading but gloriously riding into the sunset donned in Cubbie Blue. The vision fades and we arrive in.....
July 20, 2004
Runners on first and second, one out. A ringing "BOOOOOOO" can be heard from the crowd as Sosa strides to the plate. Can these be the same fans that imagined Sosa riding out his career in Chicago? Indeed they are and rumours of Sosa's terrible clubhouse presence as well as fading skills have soured fans on him.
As the offseason progresses, more and more Sammy Sosa trade rumours come to the forefront. I've heard it all. Sosa to the Braves for Andruw Jones, Sosa to Kansas City for Mike Sweeney, Sosa to gosh knows where for so and so. Will the madness ever end? Quite seriously if anyone trades for Sosa they are out of their right mind (Kenny Williams please report to the service desk). Sosa makes 18 million next year, and if traded he has a option year that kicks in for 19 million. I'd sure like to pay Sosa 19 million dollars for a .258 average, 30 homers and 150 k's. I've got a better idea! *Picks up phone
* "Hello is Rob Deer there? I'm offering you a contract to come back and play in the majors! I'll pay you 1 million dol......" Well you get the idea.
What happened to one of the best hitters in baseball?
1. Plate Discipline
Sosa's patience has gone down in recent years. He is only seeing 4 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) now. This is compared to the 4.9 P/PA he was seeing when he was hitting abnormal amounts of home runs.
Sosa has lost muscle mass and bat speed. I attribute both of these to the strong possibility that Sosa was on steroids. MLB has cracked down on steroids in the last two years. Suprise Suprise! Sosa has lost a great deal of muscle mass in these past two years. Sosa also built that muscle faster then naturally possible. Humans can only naturally gain six pounds of muscle per year. Supplements can improve that speed, and some are legal, but none can put on the pounds as quickly as Sosa gained them.
HGH (Human Growth Hormore) a steroid that Sosa may have taken, is believed to improve eyesight. Sosa's plate improvement in his breakout years could be just another indicator that he did cheat.
3. Mental Toughness
Sosa is mentally broken. Even if he could still hit without the muscles, without the eyesight, and without the steroids, Salomon Torres put the last piece in the puzzle by hitting him in the head with a fastball. Sosa can't hit while being afraid. If you haven't noticed, Sosa hits somewhere near the on-deck circle now. Barry Bonds couldn't hit .300 standing where Sosa is. Well, maybe he could, but he's only the best hitter of our generation. Back on topic, Sosa will never hit well until he overcomes his fear of being hit. Sosa also prides himself in his fans and how much he means to them. As long as Sosa is boo'ed his large ego will continue to take hits and he won't play up to par.
So in short, we have a superstar and superstar salary that were based off of a substance that can no longer be used. Rendering the superstar to normal, with the superstar salary still existing. Come one, Come ALL, Sammy Sosa is up for trade! He will put butts in the seats! COME GET HIM PLEASE!