Goatriders of the Apocalypse


Blanco an agent of freedom

As was reported here in the shout box and elsewhere, Venezuelan legend Henry Blanco saw his option declined by the Cubs yesterday.  This doesn't mean that he's done as a Cub or a Major Leaguer, it just means that the Cubs want to bring him back for less than the 3 million he would have made had his option been exercised.

Blanco has earned the reputation of being a good teammate and coach material.  The Cubs would probably like to keep him around one way or the other, although with Geovany Soto growing into the role of a great catcher, Blanco isn't as needed as he was back in the days of Michael Barrett.

In other news, Rich Hill is pitching in Venezuela and has done well there in his first 2 starts, allowing 4 walks in 9 innings.  You never know, Hill very well might "figure out" what he was doing wrong, and he could have the best winter ball season ever, but we won't know if he's got even the slightest chance of making it back until he's pitching in front of scrutinous crowds and questioning media.  The pressure in that case would be all mental, but that's just the point - the inability to locate the strike zone is very much a mental deal.

Anyway, I'm off to eat at the best Jewish Deli in Toronto.  Have a good Saturday.

Kicking off the hot stove

Okay, folks, here’s everything I know that’s worth knowing as we move into the official start of the offseason.

Ken Rosenthal says the Padres are going to explore trading Peavy to the Cubs:

After failing to strike a deal with the Braves — at least for the moment — the Padres intend to explore deals with two other clubs on Peavy's preferred list, the Cubs and Dodgers.

Peavy has the right to veto any trade. The Astros, another National League team he likes, have too little to offer the Padres. The Cardinals, the final team on his list, are not expected to make a bid.

The Peavy discussions will resume next week at the general managers' meetings in Dana Point, Ca. The Cubs have long had interest in Peavy, but do not have quality young pitching to send the Padres. However, their interest could grow if they fear losing right-hander Ryan Dempster, who filed for free agency on Thursday but is still expected to re-sign with the club.

I don’t see the Cubs acquiring Peavy and retaining Dempster, so this probably depends on what teams are willing to offer Dempster and what he wants.

Lou Piniella doesn’t expect the Cubs to continue the spending sprees from the past few offseasons:

Piniella said the Cubs' main agenda these next few weeks will be to re-sign pending free agents Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood and explore trade options for lefthanded hitting and bullpen help. He also said he plans to move Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs' $48 million Japanese import whose second-half slump exasperated the manager, to center field as part of a platoon with Reed Johnson.

"We don't know if the team is going to get sold this winter," Piniella said, "and I don't see us getting into any big spending in the free agent market. We need to get more athletic and younger and we're probably going to have to fill our needs through trades."

I've been advocating moving Dome to center. Not that I think Lou goes, "Hey, that guy on Goatriders thinks Dome would work out in center. Let's try that next year, shall we?" But hey.

Bruce Miles wants to remind Cubs fans that our best players aren’t trade bait:

First, the Cubs aren't trading third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Yes, he's had two bad playoffs, but he's on his way to becoming the most productive third baseman in team history. During the season, a lot of people were singing his praises as the Cubs' most "clutch" perrformer after some late-inning heroics. Ramirez also has no-trade protection in his contract.

Speaking of no-trade clauses, the same thing applies to first baseman Derrek Lee, whom everybody wants to deal this winter. I got news for you _ the Cubs aren't trading Lee, who took a lesser deal to stay with the Cubs a couple years ago in exchange for that no-trade clause.

Put the above together, and what does it say for the super-cool scenario you just posted on your blog where Lee and Cedeno are traded to the Orioles for Brian Roberts, and then the Cubs sign Teixera?

I’d say forget about it.

And you’ll be hearing about this, so I’ll mention it: some Cubs have filed for free agency, specifically Ryan Dempster,  Jim Edmonds, Chad Fox (no, really!) and Bob Howry. Remember, players have until the 13th of November to file, and until that point their current club has exclusive negotiating rights.

A quick look at momentum

In the comments of an earlier post, it was brought up (I forget by who) that momentum going into the playoffs - specifically, a winning record in September - translated into winning in the playoffs. So I decided to test this.

Fair warning: this is not a detailed study. This is the simplified study that it took me 30 minutes to do. I took a quick look at playoff series from 1995 to 2007, essentially the Wild Card era.

First, let's look at the correlation. The correlation between a team's win-loss record has a .38 correlation with their postseason win-loss record. So, not terribly strong, but certainly notable. A correlation between a team's W-L record in September and their W-L record in the postseason? -0.02. In other words, basically meaningless.

Now, to the head to head record. The team with the best regular season W-L record won each series 61% of the time. The team with the best September W-L record won each series 39% of the time.

Just so's I'm clear, here is what I am saying:

  • Momentum is not a very good predictor of playoff success.
  • The best teams in the regular season tend to be the teams to win in the playoffs.

I am not claiming that there is no benefit whatsoever from momentum; that study would require more detail than what I am showing here. But if there is an effect from momentum, it is probably a very tiny effect, sort of like the difference between letting Jason Marquis hit and letting Casey McGehee hit (who is now the Brewers' problem, by the way). Certainly it's better to win ballgames in September than to lose them - hell, I advocate winning all 162 of them if at all possible. I am 100% behind the idea of winning as many ballgames as is humanly possible.

But I don't think there's any reason to think that momentum is the reason the Cubs lost in the playoffs this year, or that getting momentum next season would greatly improve the Cubs' chances.

Team leader...

Is there a true definition?

Leader by performance, but not much of a talker?  Sandberg, Dawson, Lee Smith, Maddux & Derrek Lee come to mind.

Leader by having a fiery attitude?  Bowa (player/manager), Piniella & Durocher.

Combination of both?  Performance & emotion?  Grace, Buckner, Zambrano and dare I say Dunston?

Leader in the clubhouse?  And do we even know what that entails?  Gives pep talks?  Takes a rookie under his wing and helps him out?  Hell, many of the young guys thought Daryle Ward was a good clubhouse leader.

Since he was a rookie, he couldn't be considered the 'team leader' but maybe as early as next season, Geo Soto could easily become the face of the Cubs.  First, he's the 'quarterback' on the field.  He's already been extremely impressive on how the pitchers listen to and work with him.

I know I know...he's only been around one season.  But you can sense the leadership qualities emerging on the field and in the dugout.  I see lots of Pudge & Pudge, Jr. qualities in him.

Although he has the longest eyelashes in MLB history, don't let the Mike Piazza/Richard Grieco looks fool you.  He looks like a guy that could be wearing the 'C' for captain for a long time.

Just a funny...

Five Chicago sports fans were climbing a mountain one day. Each was a fan of a different Chicago team and each proclaimed to be the most loyal of all fans to their team.

Finally as they reached the top, the Blackhawk fan hurled himself off the mountain, shouting, "This is for the !!!" as he fell to his doom.

Not wanting to be outdone, the Bulls fan threw himself off the mountain, proclaiming, "This is for Jordan and the greatest team of the 90's!!!"

Seeing this, the Bears fan walked over and shouted, "This is for DITKA and BUTKUS!!!", and leapt to his death.

The two remaining fans just looked at each other in stunned silence. After a minute, the Cubs Fan shouted, "This is for everyone on the North Side" and pushed the Sox fan off of the mountain!

Hendry speaks

Now that Hendry’s extension is out of the way, he’s started to talk about the direction the Cubs are headed in this offseason. The interesting thing is that the storyline is shaping up to be Dempster stays, and Wood goes.

From Bruce Miles:

"I had a lot of talks with Ryan - not dollars and cents talks - during the season," Hendry said. "Ryan knows we want him to stay here. He's never expressed a desire that he wanted to leave. We have not had formal conversations yet. But I expect to speak with Ryan's agent and Ryan himself, possibly, in the next week or so."

And Carrie Muskat:

"Ryan knows we want him to stay here, and he's never expressed a desire that he wants to leave," Hendry said Monday. "Certainly, the year he had and type of clubhouse presence he is and total team guy, we certainly have every intention of trying to keep Ryan."

Now, here’s what he says about Wood:

"We're going to get our plan together, and we'll try to move forward with what we think is best for the organization," Hendry said. "Kerry has done a terrific job in the closing role. But at the same time, there's a lot of conversations that have to happen with his representatives and him as to what his desires are and what type of contract he's looking for."

The tenor there seems different. Keep in mind that Wood is probably the consolation prize for whoever wins loses the K-Rod Derby – it’s a thin crop at closer this offseason, especially if Hoffman gets retained by the Padres and the Brewers exercise their option on Salomon Torres. There’s nothing the hot stove loves to do more than shower stupid money on relief pitching. Especially for guys who are “proven closers.”

Also, Kremlinologists among you can have fun parsing this statement about Felix Pie:

"We feel Felix is going to be a good player," Hendry said. "You're talking about a 23-year-old kid. He'll be an out-of-options player. Without any kind of injury or significant change, he'll have a very good chance to make the ballclub out of Spring Training."

Of course, I’m glad that Hendry isn’t simply looking at this as a way to fix the team’s October “problem”:

"I don't know how you differentiate between you build a team for April to September and then you try to build something different for October," Hendry said. "We had as good a team as there was in the National League. We had the best record. We just played bad baseball for three days. We stunk last year against the Diamondbacks. We're all going to put our heads together and see if there are other ways we think we can improve the club. All you do is try to get in every year and keep working on trying to get better once you get in there to accomplish that goal. There's a whole history in professional sports of clubs that kept getting close and kept getting close and finally they knocked that door in. That's what we're going to continue to try to do."

Your milage may vary.

Another Idea for a Big Bat.

This is mostly just another idea spinning off my last one that is a little bit less complicated.  As many of us should know, Soriano started his major league career as a second baseman for the Yankees.  However, it seems that we are in the need of a RF.  What could this possibly in common?  Hmmmm, well we do, infact, have a second basemen who can play some right field and a free agent market that seems to be completely stuffed with LFs.  So why dont we move Fukudome to center (as planned), move DeRosa to right, move Soriano to 2B, and sign one of the many LFs to play left.  Again, I would just drool to see Adam Dunn play 81 games in the friendly confines.  once again, imagine...


R  SS  Theriot

L  CF  Fukudome

R  3B  Ramirez

L  LF  Dunn

R  2B  Soriano

R  1B  Lee

R  C   Soto

R  RF  DeRosa

-   P   Pitcher

I Just Been Thinkin'...

So ever since the three games of agony lost to the Dodgers I been thinking about what the Cubs could do to improve upon this already spectacular season (I use spectacular lightly after those three games)  My brains been a turnin' and from what I understand the Cubs need a big, let me rephraise that, BIG left handed bat, preferably in the form of a right fielder in order to move Fukudome to center.  Well, why not Adam Dunn?  STOP!!!  Dont crucify me just yet.  I know the man playes Defense like a Brazilian Street Ho but i think it would work.  Not Dunn in right field but at 1B.  STOP AGAIN!!!  We already have a first baseman in the form of good ol' DP-Lee.  And From what the Grape Vine has told me (we're pretty good friends, me and the grape vine) he's being shopped this year.

Now I know we've looked at a lot of west coast teams like the Angels and Giants but we haven't looked at one team that I find desperate for a first baseman:  The Yankees.  Now i hate the Yankees as much as the next bitter old Cubs Fan but I think it could work.  But what could we get from the Yankees?  Answer:  nothing.  But we could get something from the Twins.  The Twins are reportadly shopping Delmon Young, who I believe is a pretty could athlete and fielder and could easily handle the trechorous Wrigley right field.

If this were to take place (and remember, this rumor only exists in my own twisted mind) i would see a three way trade.  The core of this would be DP-Lee to the Yankees, Robinson Cano to the Twins, Delmon Young to the Cubs.  Now obviously there would have to be more involved. Maybe a Pie to the Yankees, a low level prospect to the Twins and $300 and a warm bucket of spit to the Cubs.  That leaves 1B open and the Cubs could make a move for Dunn (or in my twisted mind, Tex).  Just the thought of Dunn playing 81 games in the Frendly Confines makes me a little light headed.

I really believe this could work for all teams.  The Cubs need an adiquet fielding RF and a big lefty bat (Dunn or Tex.  *drool drool drool*) the Yankees need a 1B and all the cash possible to throw at CC and other starting pitchers and the Twins have a logjam in the OF and need some serious infield help.  Obviously there would need to be more pieces to the puzzle but i think it would work.

just imagine...

R  SS The Riot

L  CF Fukudome

R  3B Ramirez

L  1B Dunn

R  LF Soriano

R  RF Young

R  C Soto

R  2B DeRosa


Note: Fukudome still draws walks like a beast, why not put him in the 2 hole in front of all that power.

If you'll excuse the interuption...

As some of you may have grokked to by now, I'm actually two blogers - Colin Wyers, Goat Rider, and Colin Wyers, full-on baseball statistician for Statistically Speaking. I try not to mix the two too much; I presume that most of you only have a passing interest in the difference between Root Mean Square Error and Absolute Average Error, and I presume that my StatSpeak readers aren't particularly interested in my opinions on Ryan Theriot.

(Some of you are probably wishing I'd figure that out about this blog, too, I'm sure.)

But today the other StatSpeak writers discuss the Cubs' offseason, and we've invited Daily Herald beatwriter Bruce Miles to join us. I think you'll like it. We also discuss the free agent market and the best way for the Pirates to rebuild.

Real, honest news!

Carlos Marmol, in spite of his car accident, seems to be perfectly healthy. Rich Harden, in spite of his lack of car accidents, could have surgery in the offseason. If the Cubs do not pick up this $7 million option, they go to arbitration, where Harden could well make even more.

As for Henry Blanco’s option, the Cubs may buy it out and try to ink him to a smaller deal.

The Cubs have a Fukudome problem and are likely to bring in a free-agent right fielder as “competition.”

To be frank, I still can’t figure out if P-Sully is passing on the latest insider info or just reading the FanPosts on Bleed Cubbie Blue. Among what he says:

  • Soriano could be moved down in the order, possibly for Brian Roberts, who is being shopped by the Orioles! (No, really this time!)
  • Rich Hill is headed to winter ball to see if he can’t fix his control issues.
  • Derrek Lee “could be asked to lift [his no-trade clause] if he's dealt to a team in California for pitching help.” Let’s narrow this down a bit. The Padres have Adrian Gonzales and so are not in the picture. Lee doesn’t sound like a good match for the A’s and their philosophy (by which I mean he gets paid in money). I’m tempted to start a very irresponsible Lee-for-Cain rumor here, but won’t. Very weird all-in-all.
  • Ronny Cedeno could be traded, “after yelling at trainer Mark O'Neal during a nasty exchange before a game in Milwaukee on the final weekend of the regular season.” Consider this Exhibit #348 in the growing case that Ronny Cedeno really doesn’t appreciate how hard my life is as de-facto leader of the Ronny Cedeno Fan Club.

I'm already regretting passing on that bit about Lee, by the way. God help me.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award