Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Odds and Ends

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/managed/grota/drupal/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Cubs, Cubans and Augies Oh My

You have to give to Jim Hendry sometimes, because it now seems that he is intent on getting the band back together. The only problem is that usually does not work in baseball. Lets look at the crop of players that Hendry has brought in and judge if they have a chance to make the team.

Augie Ojeda
Last Seen in Chicago:
Career OPS: .633
Career UZR: 3.6
WAR: 2.1

Ojeda's value comes from defense, because he's had a negative value with the bat except with the Twins in 2004, of course that was a very small sample size of 72 PA. Last season Augie has an OPS under .500 while hitting just a .196. The only thing I see here is that Jim thinks he might provide depth to the system if Darwin Barney makes the big league club. If not, Augie will most likely latch on with some bottom feeder before calling it career. Did you know he's 36 now? Man, I'm really getting old if Augie is now 36.

Reed Johnson
Last Seen in Chicago:
Career OPS: .748
2010 UZR: 6.9 LF, 0.2 CF, -1.4 RF
Career WAR: 8.6 (0.6 Last season)

Reed hit .262 last year in about 200 AB's, which isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. Fangraphs still like's his skills in LF, but he's replacement level or worse everywhere else. The problem with Reed is the Cubs have five OF's on the 40-man right now. Marlon Byrd (9.3 UZR) is not going anywhere in CF, and Reed's defense and the fact he hits RH has well doesn't help. Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin and Fernando Perez all look to have roles on the club. Perez is the question mark, but his speed might earn him a spot.

This is just a quick look at two options. I will be taking a look at the Cubs compared to the rest of the league pretty soon as the season gets closer.

In other news, it looks like the Cubs have signed two Cuban players to add to the A-ball club. It looks like it is a low-risk kind of signing to help fill out the minor league system after Jim Hendry made the Matt Garza trade, according to Bruce Miles.

Reader Blog: Notes after a Frustrating Loss

Some notes after today's frustrating game:

1)Cubs are now 2-4 in 1 run games and 3-6 in games decided by 1 or 2 runs this year. It's frustrating but with a little luck, the Cubs would have a much better record.

2) Aramis' K rate is alarmingly high in the early going this year. Coming into today's game, He was striking out close to 35% of the time. His career K rate is only 15%. I'm hoping this isn't something that continues.

3)Geovany Soto is fine. I think the Cubs are hurting themselves by keeping him in the 8 hole. This is where you should place your worst hitter in the lineup (usually the pitcher). If you don't put the pitcher there, I can think of at least 2 or 3 players who would better suited for that spot over Soto.

4) Despite today's blown save, I am very happy about Marmol's control this year. After today's game, Marmol has walked just 2 betters in 6.2 innings. It's early but if he can keep his walk rate significantly below 4, he is likely to make the All Star team.

The internets ate my post

...so what was a short post before will now be so short that it could capably work as a body double for mini-me.

While we wait for AJ's recap I just thought I'd mention a few quick things.

First -- I wouldn't worry about Carlos.  While some players come back from trips to the DL in tip-top shape, I can think of several times this year alone that a Cub has returned only to look like a buffoon.  Not a big deal.

Second -- the next Cubs 101 is scheduled for tomorrow.  In the meantime I am working on taking a closer look at the draft-picking stupidity of the Cubs organization for the past decade-or-so.  It should be ready to go late this evening.

Third -- as promised yesterday, I'm done with displaying in all their glory some of the unpleasant comments by various members of Desipio.  However I might take a page from BK's book over at HJE and someday ad a testimonials page -- which would display some of the nice and angry comments that have been written about us.  It's just too funny an idea to ignore.

So, back to your regularly scheduled program of the Cubs sucking the hopes of fans everywhere into an abyssmal pit of despair. 

Joe Posnanski is a good writer.

Joe Posnanski is one of the best sportswriters out there, and following Kurt's addition to yesterday's recap, I'm reminded of some of his work.

Joe writes some non-sports stuff in addition to his SI cover stories. He's even got his own movie rating scale, which he writes about here (scroll down to the second paragraph in italics).

Everyone's heard of the typical overall score--your standard, 3 out of 5 stars, or whatever it is, rating. The interesting scale Joe uses is the "Expectation" scale. If you went into the movie theatre THINKING you were going to see a 2-out-of-5, but ended up seeing a 4-out-of-5, you'd probably have had a better time than someone expecting a 5-out-of-5.

The point is, expectations have a lot to do with your level of satisfaction with a given performance. We all thought the Cubs would be the class of the NL, and they're not. At the same time, 4.5 back on August 14th, they still have that glimmer of hope left. Would you rather it be 2005, or 2006?

Doesn't that Totally New and Fresh Perspective change your view of the Cubs' season this year? I figured it would!

What Jersey would you want?

OK, this is a sort of poll, only I don't want to restrict options, so I'll just tally it by hand after a few months.

If you could have one, and only one, top-level professional jersey (this includes MLB, the Negro Leagues, and the Japanese leagues), from any player who
ever played, who would it be? 

Personally, I can't decide between Greg Maddux, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, Sadaharu Oh, and Josh Gibson.  Although I'm extremely Caucasian, so that kind of rules out Gibson (a Negro Leagues player).

Blogger's first superstition post, 2009 edition

In the GROTA ShoutBox, it was mentioned that Sports Illustrated is predicting for probably the third time this decade that the Cubs will reach the World Series in aught nine.  Some Cub fans have chosen to respond in an extremely reasonable manner to this story -- ie by panicking, swearing loudly, and proclaiming doom because somebody is trying to jinx the team we follow.

Those who responded with panic to the SI article probably won't like what is to come with GROTA in 2009, because for the most part we are confident that the Cubs are the team to beat.  See the following as evidence of our stance on the issue:

This is the Year 1

This is the Year Revolution
This is the Year 3
This is the Year 4
Yes they Can Thumb

In other words, we are not superstitious.  Maybe the Cubs will reach the World Series in 2009, maybe they'll win 81 games while battling a ridiculous assortment of injuries, but whatever happens has nothing to do with us.  Nothing.  Neither you, nor I, nor SI will jinx the Cubs by predicting post season glory.  We need to relax and recognize that we are bystanders in all of this.  But if you get sweaty palms any time a jabrone like me says the Cubs are the team to beat, then this probably is not the blog for you.  We'll be saying it a lot this year.

Extremely early roster thoughts: 2009 Edition

Despite the "predictions" tag I used, I'm not trying to be Goatstradamus here or anything.  I am not saying that this is what I expect to happen.  I'm not even saying that the guys who decide about things on these matters will agree with me.  But if today was opening day and in a moment of frantic desperation Jim Hendry called me up for advice, this is the Cubs team I'd trot out to face the league.

1. Carlos Zambrano
- Arm problems?  Inconsistent delivery?  Loss of "ace" status to Ryan Dempster last October?  Zambrano remains the best Big Game Pitcher the Cubs have.
2. Ryan Dempster - A 17-game winner and receiver of a large contract this past winter, Dempster probably won't have as good a 2009 but he should still be a reliable #2 starter.
3. Ted Lilly - The Ice Man has been worth every dollar of his contract so far.  Another 17-game-winner, Lilly just might be the best #3 pitcher in the NL.
4. Rich Harden - Call him the defacto 5th starter if you want, but it's an insult to his talent to even have him listed as the #4 guy.  If Harden had a healthy arm, he'd be a perennial Cy Young contender.  If he can be healthy enough to give the Cubs 25+ starts in 2009, then he'll be hands-down the best #4 pitcher in the game.
5. Jeff Samardzija - My first controversial pick!  Here's the logic: he's proven that, in a limited capacity, he can pitch effectively in the Major Leagues.  He's young, will certainly encounter growing pains, may get his ass handed to him from time to time, but pitching for an offensive juggernaut on a team with four other extremely talented guys in the rotation means that there is room to grow.  In other words, the Cubs can afford to allow the Shark to struggle.  And while he is unlikely to have the same impact as the '98 version of Kerry Wood, he just might be one of those feel-good stories that comes along every once in a while.

Note: The next section has been edited on account of how I forgot about Heilman.  Vizcaino has subsequently been moved to long relief and Heilman has been inserted into the MR role.  My official take is this: if Guzman gets "awarded" another option, let him start out in Iowa out of the rotation.  If he doesn't, then his fate will be determined by the guys who are gunning for the 5th spot of the rotation.  If Shark actually does win, Guz is done.  If Shark loses and starts his year in Iowa, then Guzman becomes the defacto Long Reliever, Vizcaino gets bumped back to Middle Relief, and all is well. 

The Bullpen
LR - Luis Vizcaino -
He's sort of the forgotten man on the Cubs pitching staff, at least by fans.  From 2004 to 2006, he was a reliable arm.  In '07 he was Howry-like, and in '08 he was even worse.  The good news is that he remains an effective strikeout pitcher (which tells us a little bit about his stuff).  The bad news is he gave up a Howry-load of homeruns in '08 (even though he was pitching in Colorado, but he gave up an even number of homers at home and on the road).  If he can rebound, he'll be a reliable arm.  If not, he'll just be another Gas Can.  But he won't be able to do too much damage as a long reliever if he's running on fumes.
LHMR - Neal Cotts - I don't like him.  Watching him pitch is a sweat-inducing experience.  Unfortunately he's entrenched and I doubt that any other lefty reliever can outperform him. 
RHMR - Aaron Heilman - He wants to start but he might not get the chance.  He's possibly good enough to serve in the setup role, perhaps even better than Gregg if he finds his groove again.  When you consider how unreliable the Cubs pen was after its three best pitchers, and you then look at this year's bunch, it's really Heilman who puts them over as having improved.  With him - and even with Cotts and Vizcaino occupying roster spots - the Cubs might be five strong out of the pen -- and that sort of thing can make a huge difference in the playoffs.
RHMR - Chad Gaudin - Gaudin wants to start.  Can't say I don't blame him.  In my pretend scenario, he lost the gig fair and square to Samardzija.  Last year as a Cub he was pretty good until he got hurt and was Piniella's whipping boy in the August 22nd game against the Nationals.  Based on his age and ability, I'd expect him to be reliable.
LHSU - Sean Marshall - Not that he's shown a ton of ability to be an Out pitcher, but between he and Cotts it's a no-brainer.  If Piniella needs a lefty in the 8th inning, Marshall will be his guy in '09 in this pretend scenario.
RHSU - Kevin Gregg - It's true - Carlos Marmol is better for this job.  For 2 years, Kevin Gregg has been a reliable-if-not-unimpressive closer.  If baseball was a computer game, I'd assign this gig to Marmol.  Since baseball is played by people with egos, it goes to Gregg.
CL - Carlos Marmol - The most dominating setup man of my lifetime has earned his shot to close.  I can't see why he'd fail.  Marmol shutting down the opposition in the 9th would be a refreshing change on the North Side.

The Regulars

C - Geovany Soto - In his second full season, I'd hope and expect Geo to have a year similar to that of many premier catchers in their second full years.  In his second year, Johnny Bench saw his OPS go up by almost 100 points.  Carlton Fisk saw his power numbers go up, but his AVG dropped by about .50 points.  Pudge Rodriguez's OPS went up by about 70 points.  Mike Piazza's numbers were almost identical.  Granted, none of that is at all relevant to Soto.  But I do not think he'll do worse, and based on his age he could do better. 

1B - Derrek Lee - If they made a movie about Lee's life at this moment, maybe they'd call it The Slow Decline.  I'd still expect Derrek to be a reliable bat in the lineup and glove in the field, although he was defensively shaky in '08.

2B - Mike Fontenot - Bats lefty?  Check.  Good pop to his swing?  Check.  Gritty?  Check.  Shawty has played well and I expect that he will earn his way to the starting role come April. 

SS - Ryan Theriot - I believe that Theriot will probably produce numbers somewhere between his '07 and '08 output.  That would land him at a .287 AVG, 25 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers, and about a 75% base stealing success percentage.  Oh, and his OPS would be at .358.  Actually that about puts him right where he'd need to be to leadoff.  More on that later.

3B - Aramis Ramirez - I don't think Ramirez will hit 38+ homeruns again, as he appears to have elected not to go the Sammy Sosa route in terms of career progression.  But at 30, he is still well within the window of legitimate Massive Production.  If A-Ram has the kind of year he is capable of, then the Cubs opponents will weep.

Lf - Alfonso Soriano - This guy is bound to stay healthy sooner or later, right?  I mean, he was never injury prone before he began dodging Wrigley Field potholes, so we may have a healthy '09 to look forward to for Sori.  Imagine the kind of runs the Cubs would score if he was smashing the ball with regularity all season long.

CF - Kosuke Fukudome - Before he came to Chicago and tried to bring back the twist, Fukudome was a pure hitter of science and grace.  Call me crazy, but I believe he could return to form.  Maybe he'll never be a hitter of Matsui/Ichiro proportions, but if he can actively increase his offensive output in 2009 then the Cubs will have a phenomenal lineup.

RF - Milton Bradley - Crazy Milton had the best OPS in baseball last year.  He walks a ton.  He hits the ball a ton.  He gets injured a ton.  He hasn't had a healthy year since 2004.  Maybe he's due?


C - Paul Bako - What does Paul Bako have in common with only two Cubs on the current roster?  He's played for the Cubs when they won playoff games and a playoff series.  Not that it means much.  I can't believe he'll live up to the work of Henry Blanco, but as a backup how much will it matter?

IF - Aaron Miles - He's replacing the versatility of Mark DeRosa without the actual hitting ability.  He's spent time playing every position but catcher and first base, and while he's not a homerun hitter, Miles does get his fair share of singles.  If he can match his career averages of .289 in a limited capacity, then he might be extremely valuable in 2009.

IF - Luis Rivas - Based on their current available players, the unlikelihood of pursuing another Nomar, and their undeniable need for another infielder who can play shortstop, it's pretty hard to deny that Rivas will break camp with the Cubs in April.  He's offensively about as exciting as Neifi Perez was in his heyday, but as long as he isn't as stupid with the glove as Ronny Cedeno was, I can't see him being any worse.

OF - Reed Johnson - Reed Johnson is one of the best bargains Jim Hendry has acquired in recent years.  Picked up off the scrapheap after back surgery, Reed delivered unto the Cubs a great performance in 2008.  Based on his consistency (apart from the year of the back surgery), it's safe to bet that Reed will see more at bats than any other backup outfielder in 2009, and he should do well there.

OF - So Taguchi - Probably the second most controversal "choice" I've made, this selection is where Childhood Dreams go to die.  Micah Hoffpauir turns 29 in a week or so and had a great month with the Cubs last year.  Joey Gathright is a 27-year-old bases-stealing fool.  Taguchi can converse fluently in Kosuke Fukudome's native tongue.  I love Hoffpauir, but I don't think it's realistic that he will be a successful major leaguer.  I've made this point before, so here it is again: if he's as good as you think he is, then how come he's on the bubble with the Cubs and not a single Major League GM has attempted to acquire him?  Don't you think a tight-budgeted team would spring at the chance to acquire a guy who - according to you - will outperform Derrek Lee and his 12 million dollar 2009 contract?  Sorry, just thought I'd point that out.  Anyway, probably Gathright is the better choice, although both he and Taguchi both suck fairly badly.  There are really only two things working in So's favor - a) he could be a friend for Fukudome, and b) he bats righty, and the Cubs have a lot of lefty bench bats. 

Lineup and unscientific projections:

Taking this scenario a step further, below is how I'd bat 'em and how I think they might do (if the stars align correctly)

1. Ryan Theriot - .285 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 SB, 5 CS
2. Mike Fontenot - .285 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 2B, 15 HR, 5-10 SB
3. Aramis Ramirez - .300 AVG, .370 OBP, 40 2B, 35 HR
4. Milton Bradley - .300 AVG, .400 OBP, 40 2B, 25 HR
5. Alfonso Soriano - .285 AVG, .340 OBP, 40 2B, 40 HR, 20 SB
6. Derrek Lee - .290 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 2B, 20 HR
7. Geovany Soto - .280 AVG, .340 OBP, 30 2B, 25 HR
8. Kosuke Fukudome - .280 AVG, .360 OBP, 30 2B, 10-15 HR, 10-15 SB

That would be potent.  It's also surely on the high side a little but don't forget, we are blogging from pretend land today.

Anyway, I like this team.  I like the roster.  The rotation is solid, the bullpen isn't weak, the lineup is amazing (and probably could score the most runs in all of baseball), and there is enough depth for me to not feel too worried about potential injuries.

Since it seems like Hendry's ass is dragging...

martha stewart would shit

...it appears that now is a good time to announce the completion of The Cubs Basement V2.0.

Not even hundred-year-floods can wash away the greatest bastion of Cubs hope west of Clark Street!!  New additions include the gorgeous blue microfiber sofa, the Miller Lite - Wrigleyville sign, and do NOT include a Cubs slot machine, since the slots do not offer the odds that roulette or even blackjack boasts.

Now that temperatures are below zero, I have a cozy cave to hibernate the winter away, only to reappear once again when Hendry finally signs the left-handed right fielder everyone says we so desperately need.

Until then, buy the book and don't stick yer tongue on any basketball poles.

Gracie Fan Poll

I implore ye, if ye haven't already, to avail thyself of the current Fan Poll regarding Mark Grace and his chances in the upcoming Hall Of Fame vote.  Tomorrow, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I want to comment on the findings. 

And for gosh sakes, if you HAVE in fact had relations with good old #17, please include your story in a blog entry, or at least in the comments.  Use LOTS of descriptive adjectives and adverbs.  Don't forget to mention the type of drink he purchased for you.

Saving a few bucks on Black Monday

It's the so called 'Black Monday' and I am apparently going to be joining much of the US in making some online purchases today. First, my shoe has a hole in the sole and with the *phenomenal* weather in Chicago, I've decided that ice water in my socks isn't something I'm into.

Second, my ESPN Insider account is up for renewal in a few days, so I called the good folks at ESPN to cancel (1-888-549-ESPN). There are a handful of things I enjoy about the subscription, including their trade rumors page, but on the whole I don't spend as much time with ESPN as I did when I was in college.

Well, I'll volunteer that the only other call center I can think of with better service than the ESPN call center is the AICPA's. 'Ray' was non-judgmental when I asked him to cancel my subscription and then smoothly transitioned into the 'wait, don't leave us! We have a bargain for you!' phase of the call. And even as we waited for screens to fill in and the such, we had a nice conversation about Green Bay's loss to the Panthers yesterday.

I'll save you the blow by blow, but with Ray's prodding, my subscription cost decreased from $40 to $15, and the ESPN Insider magazines that I haven't been receiving for the past three and a half years are now being redirected to a military ship rather than my old college apartment.

So in sum, I saved $25, I donated a year's worth of magazines to some soldiers, and I can still check the MLB Rumors page when I feel like it. And all I had to do was call and cancel my subscription.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award