Spring Training Matchups - Possibly the final edition
Confession time: I'm no fan of Spring Training. It's about as entertaining to me as learning algebra. But for perhaps the final time, we'll be taking a look at the Cubs Spring Training numbers of interest. And if I list a player who's already been cut, well, it's only because I'd rather chew my arm off than be forced to actively follow along.
In no particular order ...
Micah Hoffpauir - 21 for 71 (.296) 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, .905 OPS
The Hoff has slowed down just a bit. We've still got some Cub fans who believe that he's the Next Big Thing. I hope I'm wrong, but if you still really believe that he'd be a better starting first baseman than Derrek Lee, then I have an awesome, authentic Rolex watch I'd like to sell you for $50.
The Demoted Jake Fox - 21 for 60 (.350), 5 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1.033 OPS
How could I have been the only one to appreciate his amazing production this year, coupled with his ability to play minimally five positions in the field? Anyway, he never spent a moment's time at catcher this Spring. But if he had, then he could've been the backup catcher assuming he outplayed these two:
Paul Bako - 11 for 31 (.355) 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI .910 OPS
I am admittedly impressed that Bako has discovered his stroke. (No, he hasn't rediscovered his stroke, because he never had one to begin with.) But I'm heartbroken because his successful hitting makes him the likely backup catcher, which means that we have to suffer through another season of Gabor being the first line backup for Geovany Soto.
Koyie Hill - 15 for 39 (.385) 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI .967 OPS
Hill has sipped from many cups of coffee in his playing career, but he's never been successful in the majors post-march. And as impressive as his numbers have been so far this spring, I'd just like to remind everybody that in 21 at bats last year, the guy struck out 12 times. Even Dave Kingman and Rob Deer are impressed by that ridiculous ratio.
Outfielders vying for a spot they will not likely get
Joey Gathright - 11 for 40 (.275) 0 extra bases, 6 SB, .658 OPS
So Taguchi - 9 for 37 (.243), 2 2B, 1 3B, 10 RBI, .742 OPS
Notice the difference here... in 3 fewer at bats, Taguchi has 2 fewer hits, equating for a difference of 30 points of batting average. I can't see Lou going with 3 backup outfielders and 7 relief pitchers, but that's the position he'd be in if either Joey or So make the squad. If neither of them do, I hope that one or the other will be willing to play in Iowa because, chances are, they'd be called upon before too long regardless. Just ask Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, who are not permitted to travel without a tire jack and spare wheel for fear of breaking down.
Infielders vying for a spot
Bobby Scales - 14 for 42 (.333) 5 2B, 11 RBI, .843 OPS
Luis Rivas - 6 for 26 (.231) 0 extra bases .490 OPS
Andres Blanco - 14 for 45 (.311) 1 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI .733 OPS
If the Cubs do not go with another backup outfielder, then either Scales, Rivas, or Blanco will make the team. My vote goes to Scales, although Blanco is an adept Neifi-like sub who can play a number of positions. But Bobby Scales is BOBBY effin' SCALES. Besides, everybody likes the story of the career minor leaguer who finally gets his chance, and Jake Fox has already been demoted.
The Bullpen Conundrum
Aaron Heilman - 15.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 18 SO, 6 BB
It could be just me, but it seems that, since Heilman lost out on the rotation, he's come a little undone. I'm not saying we should toss the guy under a microscope (or a bus) but his ERA was sub-2 before a decision was made.
Chad Gaudin - 11.2 IP, 10.03 ERA, 7 SO, 8 BB
He might make the bullpen due to a contractual obligation, but Gaudin has done nothing at this point to justify that kind of decision. If he can't have a solid week before the season starts, then I'm predicting that he will suffer from a mystery injury in order to buy him some time at extended Spring Training.
Kevin Gregg - 8.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 10 SO, 2 BB
Carlos Marmol - 8 IP, 4.50 ERA, 10 SO, 1 BB
I still argue that in order to save Marmol, Marmol must save. His roughest patches last year came at a time when Lou was using him almost daily. That's no good. If he closes, Lou will be less inclined to pitch him multiple innings multiple days in a row. I'll probably write more on this this weekend, or on Monday.
Neal Cotts - 7.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, 5 SO, 2 BB
Luis Vizcaino - 7.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 9 SO, 4 BB
Earlier this Spring, Piniella said regarding Vizcaino that he wouldn't be afraid to cut deadweight pitchers with big contracts. Since then, the former Rockie has buckled down and now has a respectable ERA and K total. Maybe Piniella should reiterate that sentiment for Golf-Ball-Through-a-Garden-House Gaudin. (That's a cumbersome nickname)
In a dog fight for the last spot
Tim Waddell - 8.2 IP, 1.04 ERA, 9 SO, 4 BB
Waddell - who is NOT the Rule V selection according to intrepid reader Chief - is really trying to stay on the Major League roster. Goat Writer Jason even points out that he throws with the right hand to make the team! (Lefty) But will he defy all odds and stay in Lou's good graces? Stay tuned to find out!
Dave Patton - 9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA, 10 SO, 2 BB
It's Patton who is the Cubs Rule V pick, and he's doing even better than Waddell. It'd be awesome if he could make the team - I love underdog stories; I'm a lifelong Cubs fan - but it remains to be seen if Piniella has the stones to find a spot for the kid.
Jeff Samardzija - 12 IP, 9.75 ERA, 8 SO, 5 BB
I just can't see the Cubs going with Shark in any circumstances to start the season. His numbers clearly imply that he belongs in Iowa for now.
Chad Fox - 9.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 8 SO, 2 BB
When, oh Lord? When will Chad Fox retire? If the Cubs cut him, another team may give him a shot. But I'm starting to think that Fox is a masochist who pitches only because he enjoys the pain.
Randy Wells - 8.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 7 SO, 3 BB
Mike Stanton - 8 IP, 6.75 ERA, 5 SO, 3 BB
Stanton must have recently gotten rocked. He'd had half-decent numbers but his ERA is now half way toward Gaudin territory. He remains Lou's only lefty-alternative option, but I think I'd rather see Piniella use somebody who throws right handed but gets out lefties.
Besides, this whole "two lefty" approach is stupid. After all ... conventional wisdom says that if you have a right handed relief pitcher, your opponent will go to a left handed hitter. But what if the righty reliever mows down the lefty hitters like they're weeds in his garden? Isn't it an advantage to defy convention in the name of success and use that guy in those situations?