Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Newest Cuban

I think everyone pretty much knows who Dayan Viciedo is, but I think we need to take a closer look at this guy. Viciedo is a 6 foot tall 225 pound third baseman. He's just 19 years old and has been playing professionally in Cuba since he was 16.

This is a BP session that was taped well before Spring Training ever started. Looking at this he looks like he is quite the beast. Obviously it's hard to tell where those balls are ending up, but he's spraying them all over the field with some power. If you search his name on YouTube there are a lot of videos which will continue to back these ovservations.

So far in Spring Training games Viciedo is 3 for 6 with a solo homerun off Jon Garland. I'm really pushing for him to beat out Fields for that starting spot, but I will accept him at least getting in as a backup. I'll keep posting how he's doing as Spring Training continues.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Know Your Victim Part 5: The Cardinals

I'm gonna do a little something different for the Cardinals. I've got 10 reasons why they won't win the division this year, and 2 reasons why they might have hope.

10 reasons why the Cardinals won't win the NL Central

10. Their fans (who claim to be the smartest in baseball) are upset at the loss of Aaron Miles, because it will hurt them on the field.

9. Todd Wellemeyer is being asked to be a full time starter again, it worked once but it won't work again.

8. Kyle Loshe already had his bullshit season. He isn't good at baseball and that will continue this season.

7. Ryan Ludwick came out of nowhere and had a MVP season. That's not happening again.

6. They want an outfielder named Skip Shumaker to play second base everyday. 

5. They need Chris Carpenter to be healthy for the entire season.

4. They bat the pitcher 8th. I swear this costs them a legit RBI chance every single game of theirs I see. There is always a man on third and two out when that eighth spot comes up.

3. They still don't have a closer. Chris Perez will try and get the job done, but if he fails they are screwed.

2. Their best starter, Adam Wainwright isn't as good as the Cubs fifth starter Rich Harden.

1. In order for them to even think about winning the division they need all the above mentioned players to play out of their minds for the entire season. Perez has to be great, Ludwick, Loshe, and Wellemeyer must duplicate and maybe even improve their numbers from last season. Carpenter and Wainwright can't get hurt, and Shumaker has to be able to play a competent second base. Can you really tell me that all of that will happen?

Two reasons why the might contend in the division
1. Albert Pujols is pretty good at baseball

2. Tony LaRussa usually gets every bit of result that he can out of his players, and that's what it's gonna take.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Know Your Victim Part 4: The Reds

Oh the Reds, it seems every year when spring training starts the Reds get a small underground gathering of people who think that if everything turns out just right, maybe this is the year the Reds start contending. Usually people point to their offense, but this year people are pointing to their young pitching and saying that it might just become a really good staff. 

Gone are Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and Ryan Freel who seemed like they played in Cincinnati forever. Instead the Reds will count of super prospect Jay Bruce this season, Bruce came up last season and tore up the league for about a week, then reality hit and he became a real average hitter really fast. That is to be expected from rookie hitters, and I would expect that he improve a bit this season. Probably not enough improvement to be the guy that a lineup is centered around, but he would be a six hitter on a good team. Brandon Phillips is always a solid bet to have a good season, but he loves to strikeout and isn't very big on taking walks. Actually striking out and not walking is a common theme for the entire Reds offense. Joey Votto is probably the best on the team at taking a pitch, he had a solid rookie season last year and I don't see why his numbers would fall off this season. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion rounds out the quartet of major league quality hitters on the Reds, his career numbers are pretty much average, his career OPS+ of 103 is a good demonstration of this. 

After those four, this team has some issues on offense. At least they got rid of Corey Patterson. Jerry Hariston Jr. must have found some steroids last season because he put up a 124 OPS+ before he got hurt. This won't happen again because Hariston has had only one other season with an OPS+ over 100, and spent the two previous years with an OPS+ of 40. Chris Dickerson and Jacque Jones won't do anything of note, neither will Norris Hopper if he starts. Ramon Hernandez was brought in to catch, and I think he will help the pitchers. His bat is pretty good for a catcher, but his best days are in the rear view mirror.

Starting pitching is supposed to be the strength of this team, and it is as long as they stay healthy. Aaron Harang was a great pitcher before Dusty Baker got a hold of him. Of course Dusty is baseball retarded and after a poorly made decision in June, Harang was never the same. If the Reds are going to be good Harang HAS to be the pitcher he was in 2007 not the pitcher he was in 2008. Edinson Volquez had a breakout season in 2008, and despite falling off a bit in the second half he finished with a 3.21 ERA. His numbers won't be that good this season because the league will have caught up with him a bit, but I still think his ERA will be around 3.75 which is pretty good. Bronson Arroyo is good for 200 innings and 10 wins every season. He will have some great starts and some awful ones, in the end his ERA will settle in the low 4's. Johnny Cueto was another rookie last season and after a stellar first few starts he fell off, finishing with a 4.81 ERA. Cueto gives up a lot of homers last season, and watching him pitch you can tell he has problems with his emotions (some call that the Latin fire). Micah Owings is a SportsCenter poster boy because he is a good hitting pitcher (Zambrano is waaaaaaay better). Owings was an awful pitcher last season, though injury played into that a bit. Owings should be put in the rotation and left there to see what he can bring to the table over the course of the season. 

Their bullpen is strong at the end with Francisco Cordero and David Weathers setting him up. They have some other pieces that will be able to get some outs, but will also give up some runs. 

If the Reds pitching isn't destroyed by the WBC and Dusty Baker, they will win some games, maybe even finish .500. If Dusty gets in the way, they could be really bad. I think they will make a run at the wild card until mid-July and then we won't hear from them anymore.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cubs and Sox in the World Baseball Classic

Rosters were officially announced by and much to my dislike there are some Cubs who made the cut.

Chicago Cubs on WBC Teams
Ted Lilly- USA
Kosuke Fukudome- Japan
Geovany Soto- Puerto Rico
Carlos Zambrano- Venezuela

I don't want any Cubs involved in this joke, but besides Zambrano we got pretty lucky.

White Sox on WBC Teams
Matt Thorton- USA

Sox did a good job of minimizing the damage this thing can do.

Sox 4th and 5th Starter Slots

Right now the White Sox are in a situation where they do not have a solid 5 man rotation. Granted it's not the worst thing in the world because it is not even March yet. However I have a feeling we will enter the season still not thrilled with the way the staff sets up. Obviously it's Buehrle, Floyd and Danks as the top 3, but then it gets awfully hairy. That's why I'm here to clear it up a little.

The front runner for the 4 spot right now is Bartolo Colon. And judging by this picture we might be in a little bit of trouble. However I have heard that his velocity is up, he's in shape (again look at that picture and tell me how that's the case), and his attitude is right. I actually like the idea of Colon being the 4 starter. The biggest reason for me is that it allows the Sox a situation where there is balance between left-handed and right-handed and soft-throwing and hard-throwing. Contrary to what most people think about him for whatever reason his numbers last year were not bad in the limited innings he threw. So maybe he will be able to hold down the fort if that spot does indeed go to him.

Another 4 starter possibility is Jose Contreras. Every time we count this guy out he comes back and proves us all wrong. For me, I'd rather see some youth in the rotation, but if Jose is on his game he can be deadly. I think he may still be around because he is a Cuban hero and the Sox continue heading in that direction. But if he does well during Spring Training a spot may very well be his.

If I were to guess right now I'd say Colon OR Contreras will be the 4th starter and the other one will be in the bullpen as a long reliever (if not off the team entirely). Therefore the next set of guys are all in the running for the 5th spot.

The leader in the clubhouse to me is Clayton Richard. The former Michigan quarterback has some tough competition to beat out for that slot but he may have the upper hand based on his spot starts and middle relief appearances last year.

The man next in line if Richard screws up is Aaron Poreda. I can honestly say I do not know that much about Poreda. I do know that he is considered one of the top pitchers in the Sox system and he is expected to make a run at that coveted 5th spot. I will wait to give my scouting report on him until I get to see him, but the Trib is saying he's got a great shot at making the Opening Day roster, and Rotowire compares him to Aaron Harang, so he must be pretty good. I didn't even really know what he looked like, so odds are most people don't either, so there's a picture for everyone.

The last option outside of any dark horses is Jeff Marquez. Marquez was part of the deal for Swisher which means he comes from a Yankee system full of pitching talent but out side of Joba Chamberlain none of them have really turned out. The Tribune says he's similar to Jon Garland, which would be nice but in all honesty if we wanted Gar back, why didn't we just sign him. So to me he will end up in Triple-A or as long relief to start the year, but don't forget about this guy.

White Sox Blogger

Since this is Talking CHICAGO Baseball, the owner of this blog hired me at a reasonable price at $0 per story to write about the White Sox. Therefore, starting right now the South Side is officially being covered on TCB.

I am a White Sox fan and have always been. I agree with Justin's statement saying we need a place to vent thoughts about the team and homerism and extreme bias is not going to be out of the ordinary.

Know Your Victim Part 3: The Astros

In years past the Astros were one of the power players in the NL Central, led by a host of steroid filled pitchers and hitters they made the playoffs in 2004 and 2005. The past three years have been a small struggle for the Astros, they haven't made the playoffs, but they have been in contention in some sort of way each year. Last season they made a giant push towards the playoffs in the last two months of the season, but Carlos Zambrano and Hurricane Ike ended their postseason dreams on September 14th with a no-hitter. 

Coming into this season the Astros have the chance to possibly make a bit of noise with their lineup. Lance Berkman is one of the better first basemen in a division full of them. After Pujols he might be the most important player to his team in the division. Berkman plays a good defensive first base and can hit a ton from both sides of the plate. Noted Cub killer (and I mean killer) Carlos Lee "patrols" left field, but he is around because he is one of the best power hitters around. The man is automatic 30 homers 115 RBI every season. His defense might be awful, but his bat makes up for it and its not like Houston has a large left field anyway.  Hunter Pence is a pesky SOB who can hit a bit, but in my opinion he gets help from the ballpark he plays in. Really pence is nothing more than an annoying pest who runs up pitch counts. Miguel Tejada is a solid SS and a great hitter, but he might not be around too much longer. He lied to Congress, admitted guilt and legally speaking should be deported once the legal stuff is taken care of. Of course he is a baseball player so he will be above the law and allowed to stay. The Astros really need his bat, I'll assume he stays in the country and is allowed to play. Apart from the Cubs, Houston might have the best lineup in the division.

Pitching is a concern for the Astros this season, and what will ultimately stop them from being a real contender. Roy Oswalt is the best pitcher in the division, no question in my mind about that. He only gets to start every fifth day and after him they don't have much. Wandy Rodriguez is hardly passable as a two starter, his numbers last year were actually pretty close of Oswalt, but his career shows he is nothing more than a league average pitcher. They plan on using Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler (who I don't think allowed a hit to the Cubs last year) and Brandon Backe (who didn't get an out against the Cubs last year). None of those names scare me at all over the course of a season (Moehler will destroy the Cubs, but nobody else). 

Their bullpen is actually above average, especially at the end of games. Jose Valverde is a douche, but he gets the job done. I still don't think LaTroy Hawkins is a good pitcher, but he had some success setting up Valverde last season and could be good at it again this season. The bottom line is, I don't think their starting pitching will create enough chances for Valverde to actually close out the game for them.

This team could get hot starting pitching and win 85 games. More likely they hover around the 78-80 win range and battle the Reds and Cardinals for second place.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Know Your Victim Part 2: The Brewers

The main competition to the Cubs the past two seasons, the Brewers have gone through a bit of a face lift in the offseason. They went all in to make the playoffs last season, trading for CC Sabathia to bolster their starting staff. It worked, because they did win the NL Wild Card mostly because Sabathia lost one game the entire time he was on the Brewers. Unfortunately for the Brewers (but lucky for everyone else) they didn't have the money to sign Sabathia or often injured fellow ace Ben Sheets. 

They do return a decent offense, Prince Fielder is one of the better power hitters in the NL even if he might eat himself into the American League by 2011. Outfielder Ryan Braun is one of the best hitters in the game, and now that he is in left field his defense isn't ruining most of his run production. Corey Hart fell off at the end of last season, but he is a decent hitter in right field, despite being pretty bad at defense. Other than those three, the Brewers have a collection of pretty average hitters including Mike Cameron, Rickie Weeks, and Bill Hall.

As far as starting pitching goes the Brewers aren't very good. This season's ace will be Yovani Gallardo who had a good start to last season before tearing his ACL. He has the possibility to be a fringe ace, more likely a two starter on a serious contender. He will be joined by a crack staff that includes Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Braden Looper, and Jeff Suppan. Parra was a halfway decent pitcher last season until the last two months of the season. That had a lot to do with him never pitching a full major league season before. The other three aren't good pitchers no matter what excuses people can try and make.

It gets worse, their bullpen is one of the worst around, but might not be as bad as some other ones in this division. Trevor Hoffman is a bit over the hill, but he still can get the jobs done as closer. Blowing leads was one of the biggest problems for the Brewers last season and they hope Hoffman can cut down on that a bit. Aside from him they don't have much, their situation was so desperate that they needed to resign Eric Gagne who figures to be their setup man. 

This team isn't going to do much this season unless they have career years from the starting pitching staff, and the bullpen is able to hold leads. I don't see that happening, which means the Brewers will finish with about 72 or so wins and finish in fifth place.

Know Your Victim Part 1: The Pirates

This is part one of a five part series previewing the rest of the NL Central. I'm calling it know your victim, because with any luck thats what the other five teams in the central will be this season. I will try and do this in projected order in the division, starting from the bottom and working up. This means we start with the Pirates.

There are no thoughts of contending in the minds of the Pirates, and this season will be used by them to develop some potential young talent. They do have some nice pieces to the puzzle, but they also need a lot of help both in the pitching staff and in the field.

Solid Players
Nate McLouth-OF
He had a breakout season last year hitting .276 with 26 homers and 94 RBI. He hit the Cubs pretty hard, getting 10 extra-base hits and a .384 OBP. He especially hits Carlos Marmol well, with a .714 BA and two homers in seven at-bats. I would say he is the current face of the franchise, but also that his numbers will come back to earth a bit.
Ryan Doumit- C
Doumit hit .318/15/69 last year. Pretty solid numbers from a catcher. Along with McLouth he is one of the few threats in the lineup.
Matt Capps- Closer
Capps is a solid young closer who had a 3.02 ERA last year with 21 saves. He did go through a bit of injury trouble, but when healthy he can definitely close out games.

Not much else to say about this team. They will probably get around 70 wins and finish either last or second to last in the Central. As the teams in the division get better, I'll write more about them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who is the Fourth Starter?

It seems like the Cubs starting rotation is in pretty good shape going into the season. Zambrano. Dempster, and Ted may be the best 1-2-3 in the NL. Rich Harden is one of the best pitchers in baseball when he is healthy, but he is never healthy (sound familiar?). So four of the five slots are taken, though the Harden slot will only be used by Harden about 15 times this season, so there will have to be a suitable backup ready. Because of his health concerns I'm calling Harden the fifth starter this season. Meaning that somebody will have to step in and be the fourth starter. There are a few guys who could get the job; Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Aaron Heilman, and Jeff Samardzija. Each guy has some strengths and weaknesses, and I think there is one clear choice to be a full time starter, and another clear choice for Rich Harden bailout.

From last to first
Aaron Heilman
The thing about Aaron Heilman is that he isn't really a starter. He started a few games at the start of his career, and wasn't really that good at it. Once he moved to the bullpen he was actually really good up until last year. He had three years of an ERA in the low to mid 3's. Then for some reason he just blew up last season with a 5.21 ERA. This could have been because of overwork or maybe he had an injury, but I think he could come back and be a solid bullpen guy and maybe be the normal seventh inning guy. Of course he could also be just as bad as he was last year, and considering what we gave up to get him, I wouldn't be very happy about that. In the interest of thinking positive, I'll take Heilman as a good bullpen guy, only to be used to start if we are really desperate.

Chad Gaudin
Chad came along with Harden last year and had an interesting first season with the Cubs. He arrived and actually had a great start, with a 1.84 ERA in his first 14.2 innings. Then he went drinking and fell into a dumpster, and his back gave him problems the rest of the season. He had four awful outings and finished the season with a 6.26 ERA with the Cubs. Again he was injured, and considering that he had a decent season before the dumpster crash, I think he will be another guy who could be the seventh inning option, but also he will probably be the long reliever, mop-up man. He also could be used as part of the Rich Harden insurance package. Gaudin will serve his part on this team, and I'll bet he gets 5 starts this season, but for the most part he will come out of the bullpen.

Jeff Samardzija
The Shark will have his time in the majors as a starting pitcher, but not quite yet. He came up last year to fill a spot in the bullpen, and did a nice job, but his future is as a starting pitcher and starting in 2010 he will get his chance. I think that he will get sent to AAA to start the season so that he gets to be a full time starter and start every 5 days. Since Rich Harden will be hurt by June 1st, the Shark will get a good number of Big League starts as well. I'll guess about 15 starts for the Cubs this year. I would think his big league starts would average to about a 4.5 ERA, maybe a bit lower. 

Sean Marshall
This is going to be the new member of the Cubs starting rotation. I have almost no doubt, which makes it seem weird that I would even be talking about this. Marshall has been pushing towards making that starting rotation for a while now, and this is finally his time. He should be able to stay healthy the entire season and will hopefully bring a slightly sub-4 ERA. I think that he will be a solid fourth starter and possibly one of the better fourth starters in the NL. I may be higher on Marshall than some people, but I have a lot of faith in him. 

Bottom line, Marshall will get the chance to start 30-35 games if he stays healthy, and I think he can get the job done. At the very least I think he can help get this team to the playoffs and IF Harden is healthy at that time, move to the bullpen. The Shark will get a good number of starts because of Harden getting hurt.

This is one of the better starting rotations in baseball, and without question the best starting rotation in the division. If we get lucky and Harden stays healthy, look out baseball, but since he won't I'll be content with the best rotation in the NL Central.

The Most Irrelevant ST Position Battle: Backup to Geo

I'm going to make an effort to preview all the spring training battles the Cubs have, and there aren't many. I mentioned center field in my Fukudome post and I will have more on that later. The fourth starter competition will be interesting, as will the fight to start at second base (Lou will just have Miles and Fontenot fight each other to the death). 

Today I'm going to talk about the most irrelevant battle, backup catcher. In reality Geovany Soto's backup won't get more than 30 starts this year, and even that may be too many. Last year Henry Blanco was as good a backup catcher as a team could ask for, but for some reason the Cubs decided that they no longer wanted him around. So Paul Bako makes his return to the Cubs to battle with Koyie Hill for the right to sit on the bench and play once a week. Neither brings much in terms of hitting, Bako is a .231 career hitter with a 62 OPS+ (100 is an average player), Hill has a .095 career average with a 38 OPS+. Both can be decent defensively and I'm sure both can handle the pitchers, though I hope that Soto is always the catcher when Z starts.

For the sake of making a prediction, I think Hill ends up making the team. He is cheaper than Bako, and I don't see any difference between the two. Either way hopefully Soto can remain healthy this season so that we don't have to see the backup more than once a week all season.

Quick addition Carlos Marmol is reconsidering playing in the WBC. All I can say is thank you!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Uh, Fukudome What are you thinking?

So, I'll admit I hate Kosuke Fukudome, I think he is a waste of money and would be best used by the Cubs if he was sent back to Japan with a nice buyout check. I also understand that that will never happen, Dome has too much pride to just give up and the same goes for Jim Hendry. Not to mention it sets a dangerous precedent that I don't think the players union would really like. So the Cubs are stuck with a $12 million a year outfielder who has only shown the ability to play defense. 
To make matters worse Fukudome has decided that instead of being at Cubs spring training, he will play for his home country of Japan in the World Baseball "Classic". 
Without going into too much detail as to why the WBC is the dumbest thing ever invented, a player like Fukudome shouldn't be playing in it when his JOB is on the line. Dome doesn't have himself a spot in the outfield right now, he has to earn it. Honestly the best Dome can do is flat out win the CF job, and most likely he will be platooning with Reed Mantle to start the season. The thing is Joey Gathright is also fighting to be the left-handed part of the centerfield platoon. 
So basically Fukudome is showing up a month late and going to try and fight for a job that he will only be doing half the time. In my mind, that isn't a good plan for anybody involved. The Cubs biggest position player unknown makes himself more of a mystery by not showing up until two weeks before the season starts. I can't imagine Lou Pinella is very pleased with that. 
This team doesn't need Fukudome in order to succeed, the signing of Milton Bradley took care of that, but it would be nice to get something productive out of this guy who is getting all this money. Instead he will have to split time with Reed Mantle and really his only use is if Soriano or Bradley get hurt (which they very well could).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lou's Doghouse

During the season I will do my best to track who is in the infamous Lou Pinella "doghouse". This winter provided quite the housecleaning of the doghouse. Michael Wuertz, Felix Pie, and Rich Hill were all sent away. Right now it appears the only guy in the doghouse is Kosuke Fukudome, though as spring training continues I'll bet another guy or two get the treatment.

Lou's Doghouse Current Residents
Kosuke Fukudome

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Soriano will stay the leadoff hitter

Ever since his arrival in Chicago Alfonso Soriano has been public enemy number one. I don't think I've ever seen a more polarizing player in my time rooting for the Cubs. Everybody has an opinion on him, some of us believe he is a very valuable part of the team and are perfectly fine with him being the leadoff hitter. The other group thinks Soriano hitting leadoff is the worst thing that has ever happened to baseball, and that his at-bats make baseball a little worse with every swing.

I'm fully in the Soriano is good, let him hit leadoff group. So far the results have been pretty good, two division titles in his two years on the team. He has had some health issues, which have been rather annoying, but when he is in the game and hitting leadoff the Cubs have a great record and are a better team. Honestly if there were a better leadoff option on the team I would be more than willing to consider him. If Brian Roberts or Ichiro were on the Cubs, then Soriano would hit lower in the order. Since a guy like that isn't on the team, Soriano is the best option. For the sake of argument I'll take a look at some of the names I've heard people mention as better in-house options.

Ryan Theriot
This is the name I hear the most, and quite honestly its not a great idea. I'll admit that Theriot is my least favorite player on the team now that Matt Murton is gone. I know a lot of people look at his batting average and OBP and think LEADOFF GUY! The problem I have with Theriot leading off is I'm not convinced he is as good a hitter as everyone thinks. His numbers have fallen off as the season gets late the last two years, he hits way too many singles and isn't even remotely a threat to steal a base. Lou has said he likes the idea of Theriot hitting 8th, and I agree thats where he is best suited. I think over the course of a full season Soriano batting leadoff and Theriot hitting 8th will make for a more productive lineup.

Kosuke Fukudome
Lou has mentioned him as a possibility, and if he were the player that he was for the first six weeks of last season then I would understand hitting him first. The problem is I think he is much closer to being the player we saw most of last season. A .250 hitter who can play some defense and every once in a great while have a good day at the plate. I honestly expect him to play about 3 times a week while splitting time with Joey Gathright and Reed Mantle. This means he will either hit second or seventh when he plays.

Mike Fontenot
Fontenot was brought up in the system as a potential leadoff guy so I can understand why Lou might want to try him out. Greg has more detail about Fontenot later on, but I'll just say that maybe a year or two down the line if he proves he is a solid major league hitter, Fontenot might be the guy to leadoff, just not yet.

Aaron Miles
No. I would prefer that Miles stays far far far far away from the Cubs, but since he is here I can hope he is only used once or twice a week.

Bottom line is that Soriano is the best option right now to leadoff. He is far from the perfect leadoff guy, but based on his competition he is the ultimate choice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Steroids and Chicago

Given the recent A-Rod steroid admission, once again steroids dominate the baseball conversation. Since there are 103 other names on the A-Rod list, one would have to think there will be at least 5 Chicago players named from those 2003 tests. I'm gonna take a stab at figuring out who those 5 guys are.

Right off the bat Sammy Sosa is almost a given to test positive in 2003. In Sosa's defense he has never been mentioned in any of these steroid reports, books, anything. Obviously Sosa put up ridiculous numbers from 1998-2002, but I fully admit that he was most likely on steroids. He went from 30-30 guy to 60 homer hitting mammoth. So guy number one on the list will be Sammy Sosa.

The second name seems to be another easy one to pick out, Magglio Ordonez. The kiss of death here is that Jose Canseco said that he injected Ordonez with roids. Canseco has yet to be wrong about a single guy using steroids, as this recent A-Rod thing proves. Plus what White Sox fan doesn't want Magglio to be busted for roids?

After those two it gets a little harder to figure who is using and who isn't. Mark Prior seems to be an easy target, and I think he is the choice for the third player. Prior had a dynamite 2003 season going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. After that season Prior has gone through a series of every single injury known to man, despite having what people called "perfect mechanics" when he got to the majors. Sure some of the injuries were flukes (see a line-drive going off his elbow) but a lot of them have to raise some sort of suspicion. 

Jose Valentin goes fourth on this list, and his numbers provide me with plenty of reason to suspect him. He went from 16 homers and 49 RBI for the Brewers in 1998 to 25 and 92 in 2000 for the Sox. Part of that has to do with US Cellular field being such a power hitting park, but steroid suspicion has to follow somebody who gets a five year power jump at age 30 coming off an injury.

I'll go with Joe Borowski to finish out the list. After being injured in 2001 Borowski had a two year stretch where had a 2.70 ERA and got 33 saves in the 2003 season after never having had a season with an ERA under 4, and he only had one season under 4 the rest of his career, that being 3.75 with the Marlins in 2006. Borowski could be argued to the top of the list, except that he is easily the most useless name on the list.

Honorable mention to Esteban Loaiza, Loaiza had a one year outlier season in 2003, winning 21 games with a 2.90 ERA. 

Who knows if any of these names will be seen on the 2003 drug test results, but based on what I've seen and what the numbers show the six players I mentioned seem to be the most suspicious from the 2003 Chicago baseball season. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cubs Closer Competition

Going into spring training last year the Cubs had a three-way competition for who would be the closer. Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, and Kerry Wood all were considered, and Wood came into the season as the closer. That decision seemed obvious from the beginning, Marmol was needed to put out fires earlier in the game, and Howry couldn't be trusted to do anything.
This season Marmol comes in as the favorite to be the closer, but yet again Lou Pinella will have somebody to compete with him, recently acquired former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg.
At first glance it would seem that Marmol is the obvious choice, he had a 2.68 ERA last year with 114 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings. He got 7 saves filling in when Wood got hurt last year. Gregg did close games for the Marlins, with 29 saves and a 3.41 ERA, but he has low strikeout numbers and a high walk total. Pinella has a decision to make, go with the veteran who has shown some ability to get the job done before, or take the young not as proven player with the electric stuff. Both will be able to get the job done, I have no doubt about that, and because of that I think Gregg should be used in the ninth.
Marmol is way too valuable to be tied down to the ninth inning. When Luis Vizcaino loads the bases in the seventh I don't want Gregg coming in and walking guys, I want Marmol to come in and blow people away with his slider. Marmol has a ton more value right now as a setup man than he does as a closer. In the long run, Gregg may blow a save or two more than Marmol, but Marmol will get out of way more seventh and eighth inning jams than Gregg will.
When it comes down to the playoffs, Marmol can be used in the ninth if Pinella wants, but for the 162 game season that makes sure there are playoff games, Marmol is needed to put out fires, Gregg can get the last three outs of the game.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The 2009 Offseason So Far

The Cubs went into this offseason needing to make a bit of a change, yet keep the same core team around that won 97 games last season. The need for a solid left-handed power hitter became obvious after the second straight playoff sweep. The Dodgers just used right-handed pitchers the entire series, which of course neutralized the Cubs right-handed hitters. The team also needed to make some decisions on key free agents Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood.

Dempster was the priority of the off-season and the Cubs were able to get him at 4 years $52 million. Perhaps they gave him a bit too much money for somebody who only had one good season as a starting pitcher, but they paid a bit under market value so thats not a big deal to me.

Letting Kerry Wood go was hard to see, but he wanted/deserved more money than the Cubs were willing to offer. Maybe the Cubs are able to get him for cheaper than they thought, but who knows. Hopefully he is a lights out closer in Cleveland.

Coming into Chicago are closer Kevin Gregg from the Marlins, Milton Bradley from the Rangers, Joey Gathright from the Royals, Aaron Miles from the Cardinals, Aaron Heilman from the Mariners, and catcher Paul Bako from the Reds.

I won't lie, I'm pretty dissapointed in this offseason for the Cubs, but as the last two years have shown that winning the paper offseason has nothing to do with in season results. One thing is for sure, this team will not be winning 97 games. That doesn't mean they won't win the NL Central, because it appears to me that nobody in the division has gotten any better meaning that barring an unforseen jump in skill from the Reds young pitchers or the Cardinals magic dust striking a lot of people, the Cubs should be in the playoffs for the third year in a row. I don't say that as a cocky Cub fan, but by saying that the Cubs have regressed only a little, and certainly haven't regressed to be even with the rest of the division.

More to come.


The goal of this blog is to talk about Chicago baseball (duh). I'm a big fan of the Cubs and I feel like I need a place to share my thoughts about them, even if nobody else reads. That is the purpose of this blog, to talk about baseball with extreme bias and homer analysis.