Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Alfonso Soriano

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You! You! You! and YOU! Shut the HELL UP!

People, THAT was one helluva great time!!

First of all, shout to my guy Big Snoop Drew (aka Summerguy811), not to be confused with Big Daddy Drew, our homeboy from Black Lung who came with us to Miller Park.  Huge Cub fan and frequent Goat Reader, and someone who actually talks about the Cubs more than I do. I didn't think it possible.

Anyhoo, I'd say the fan mix last night was about 50/50, with a lot of the good 'season ticket' seats sold to big shooters from Illinois like me!  We sat about 15 rows off of the grass, close enough to deal with all the cheezeheads yell "Coooorreeeey" every half inning after he finished playing catch for a lousy ball.  My lovely wife, who enjoys people watching more than anything, was real impressed by Beer Field - clean restrooms, wide walkways, a nice roof to keep the cold out.  She was also impressed by the incredible drunkedness of the folks who'd been tailgating for three hours before entering.  There was Ass Crack Girl and her friend, who were actually Cub fans from Indiana - I figure they must have been strippers for Deja Vu in Michigan City.  Anyway, she kept dropping her cell phone in her beer, and kept getting up to blow-dry it in the washroom.  Every time she got up, I would hold my fingers up like a calipers to measure her 'butt crack cleavage', and hold it up for my section to see.  The biggest gap was around 3.25 inches.  That actually drew polite applause.  She was, of course, oblivious.  Can't beat fun at the old ball park.

Anyway, Z must not have had anything last night but his fastball, but reminiscent of his whole career, he battled hard and gutted out six, which was one key of the game. Many of us thought he was only good for five, or even four, but taking that extra inning made things that much easier for Uncle Lou, who, lets face it, is absolutely CLUELESS about his bullpen.  I don't think Neal Cotts is long for this world, as Lou went down in the tunnel to "have a word" with him after his hit batter.  (But, Lou, Cotts ain't no LOOGY - every single one of us knows that).  I think we have all figured out that the pen, and Lou's ability to manage it, is going to be THE issue for 2009.  Heilman's a keeper. (Suck IT, Mets fans).  Gregg will be alright, at some point.  Cotts is only good for mop-ups.  We still need a LOOGY, and if Lou doesn't feel like he can count on Patton, Vizcaino, or Guzman, well, dammit, we need three more guys he CAN count on. 

Anyway, the highlight of the night, of course, was the chance for me to tell the knuckle-dragging auto mechanics who were shooting off their big stupid mouths all night to SHUT THE F UP after Soriano's JACK in the ninth.  Hey, it's their house, we were invading, and they have the right to heckle, even if it was not the least bit funny or clever.  So for 8 innings, we took it like men, mainly because of the scoreboard - can't argue with the scoreboard.  Ahh, but once we took the lead, I stood up and shut their ass up.  (And I didn't hear another peep).

I must issue this plea - Lou, GET LEE OUT OF THE THREE HOLE!  It isn't like this is a new trend - the man batted there all year last year, on the so-called best offense in the NL, and he only got 90 RBI!  He hasn't been a 3-hole hitter since 2005.  Ramirez deserves the shot, and wouldn't you all rather see Ramirez get those extra 20 ABs this year than Lee?  I KNOW I would.  Today. I want to see Ramirez bat third, Hoffpauir bat fourth, Fontenot fifth and White Slice sixth in RF.  Wouldn't think Lee would need a rest at this point, or Bradley, but they're killing us at the moment.  Let them have a day to gain some perspective from the cold hard bench. 

I'm still holding true to what I said yesterday - I'm not going to panic after one week - but there does seem to be a couple of major issues to be concerned about.  Fortunately, it appears, at least with the bullpen, that the Cubs realize it as well.

Quick factoids for 3/16/2009

Major league leader in Spring Training total bases: Mike Fontenot: 32

Major league leader in Spring Training RBI (tie): Micah Hoffpauir: 13

Cubs leaders in batting average (tie): Carlos Zambrano&Ryan Dempster: 1.000

In regards to Kyle's review of Alf Soriano - c'mon, kids.  We can all agree that Hoppy is being PAID to be a 40/40 guy, and we can all HOPE he will be a 40/40 guy, and we can see that he APPEARS to be in decent shape, perhaps the best he has been as a Cub.  But that doesn't mean he WILL be a 40/40 guy.  I mean, I can squint my eyes reeeeeal tightly closed and cross my fingers and hope and pray and chant incantations, and I can pray not only that Soriano will go 40/40 but also for Lee to regain his 2005 form, and for Fukudome to be the guy we paid for coming out of Japan, and for Zambrano to win 20 with 2 no-hitters.

Don't mean it's gonna happen, and in fact, you could go to Vegas and get pretty long odds on ALL of those.

2009 Player Previews - Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano

Quick Links:

Hoppy McHopperson tantalized us this offseason with rumors of a possible decent deeper into the heart of the batting order and out of the leadoff spot...only to have those rumors shot down days earlier.

Now going into 2009, Alfonso Soriano appears to ready to terrorize opposing pitchers and his own fan base from the No. 1 spot yet again.

While we could sit here and debate where Soriano should hit in the order for days on end, we’re going to just focus on looking ahead to this upcoming season.

Since coming to the Cubs two seasons ago, there seems to be one consistent theme to the Soriano story: He will get hurt.

So now that we can all expect Fonsie to limp off the field at some point this year, let’s not freak out when it happens.

Despite only playing in 109 games last season, Soriano still led the team in homers (29) and the Cubs enjoyed quite a bit of success without him.

That being said, there should be no worries. The guy will still produce and the Cubs should be able to sustain themselves without #12 roaming the outfield.

Although some reporters were writing about Soriano looking fresher and having more energy than he has had the past few years, I tend to take this information with a grain of salt and a bullsh!t card.

We’ve all anxiously been waiting for the  40/40 Soriano circa 2006 to reappear, but it ain’t going to happen friends. That Fonsie is long dead and gone. What we’re left with is a dinger-smashing strikeout artist who loves to make every routine catch into dramatic theatrical production. The speed isn’t there anymore and he’s too fragile to play enough games to hit 40. He got older and his production dropped. That’s what humans not on steroids do.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however. I fully expect Soriano to put up nearly 30 homers this season (can you imagine if that power was being generated from the fifth or sixth spot in this batting order...anger rising) and to hit somewhere near .280 again. Hell, the guy might even steal 25-30 bases if he can stay healthy for nearly a full season. And while it’s easy to predict those numbers based on his past performances, his stats also suggest that we shouldn’t expect anything more.

So I guess it’s a given. The guy is going to bat leadoff, hit homers and eventually get hurt. Same story, different year, lots of hopping.

Piniella/Soriano batting order red herring

This is what passes for news out of Mesa - Uncle Lou sez that he talked to Al Soriano, and Al don't care where he bats, as long as he gets to stay where they put him.  (A reasonable reply, if you ask me)  Then Lou says that if the season started today, Al would bat leadoff anyway.  And every single solitary news source prints it breathlessly, well, that and poor pictures of Z's macho-stache.

Can't someone get us a really clear picture of the stache?

And, I don't blame Lou for not wanting to spend the whole spring answering the Leadoff question.  Lou probably ought to take the hint, though.  If the whole world thinks its a good idea to move the guy, then maybe it should be considered.

I'm not sure, though, if Milton Bradley is the answer, as Rosey from the Trib seems to think.  Of course, he led all humans in OBP last year.  Let's chew on that, shall we?

Really really boring day. 

OK, this is gonna sound crazy

You can tell that Pitchers and Catchers Report is coming up soon. 

The natives are getting restless.  Bored with waiting for the Big Trade to happen, brains frozen solid, we're all getting bat guano crazy around here.  Picking fights with one another.  Making stupid proposals.  Pretending that Mikey Fontenot is the difference between glory and mediocrity-as-usual. 

I'm no better.  I've not taken a decent breath for four days.  My throat is raw, but not as raw as my nostrils.  I'm all Ny-Quilled, I feel like Mike Phelps on the business end of the bong.  So here's my thought for today.

We haven't won a World Series for over a hundred years, and as presently constituted, will not win one this year, either.   I mean, we COULD, I guess, just as we could have last year, and the year before.  If we get ALL the breaks...but in my humble opinion, we've enjoyed more than our share of breaks the past two years.  The Houston series in Milwaukee?  Ben Sheets going down again and again?  Not to mention Gallardo?   Tony LaRussa losing his battle with the bottle?

We can't rely on breaks anymore.  we need to spend some money....

...but we HAVE!  Who spent more money in 2007 than Hendry?  Who then went out and gave Fukudome another 40 mill in 2008?  Who then went out on a pre-emptive strike and retained Dempster, which in retrospect looks like an over-pay?  Sure, the payroll has not yet been brought in line with their revenues (remember, chant it as a mantra if you must, 3rd in Revenues, 8th in Payroll), but money has been spent.  In fact, each year that passes, things get worse.  Ramirez, Zambrano, Soriano, Dempster, Fukudome, they all have huuuge back-loaded deals that start to kick in with a vengeance in 2010 and beyond. 

This is why, when we all look at Jake Peavy, when all it would take for us is to throw a couple of handfuls of "prospects" at the Padres to bring him here?  Peavy's contract is back-loaded, too.  When the five guys above are cashing their big checks, Peavy will be getting one just as large, if not larger.  Although his role as Ace Pitcher fits in perfectly with our staff, and would make us the prohibitive favorite in the entire league, it is possible to understand why Hendry isn't making the deal.  His salary is no good fit with ours.

But we HAVE to win NOW, dammit!!! 

There's one other man that can do the job.  A man who has never played on a losing team.  A man who has carried his teams to 10 playoff appearences in the past 14 years.  Four World Series.  Two World Championships.  A World Series MVP.  A man who has led the league twice in outfield assists, who hits 30 points higher with men on base. 

A man who wants a long term contract, yes, but could possibly accept a one-year deal for the right price.  So sign him for a year, and in the meantime, work out a trade that would send one of our other long-terms packing (either Z or Soriano, preferably the latter), and then maybe keep this guy around if everything works out.

Yep, I'm talking Manny!!  He turned down one year at $25 million with the Dodgers.  You know what, it ain't My money, I don't care.  Find out how much he WOULD take for one year?  I bet the number will be more than the A-Fraud ($27MM).  But even if he wanted 30 or 32 million for 2009, it wouldn't cripple us down the road, and our payroll would still be in line with our revenues.

I am convinced that with this guy, the good far outweighs the bad, even though there's a lot of bad.  Yes, he quit on the Sawx last year.  SO WHAT??  It's the Sawx!  Screw 'em!!  They deserve it, the Massholes.  If we sign this guy, then move Soriano to second base, we lead the league in errors, we score over 1,000 runs, we have an assload of FUN, and we win a pennant! 

Tomorrow I promise to lay off the Ny-Quil.

Saturday Links

Taking a tour of The Hardball Times, we find a few interesting links...

The Hardball Times has an article looking at the best arms in baseball and how many runs they save.  The #1 left field arm?  Not surprisingly, we find Alfonso Soriano at the top with 8 runs saved on defense with his arm alone.  Helps make up for any bad routes he takes out there, huh?

Also not surprisingly, we find Juan Pierre towards the bottom of the list.  What shocks me to my very core is that he's not at the very bottom.  Did Jacque Jones find his way back into a starting lineup, you ask?  Nope, it just turms out that Luis Gonzalez was actually worse in the field than Pierre with his arm.  Although, I suppose this makes sense as Gonzalez has had some surgury on his throwing arm.  Based on being rated below Pierre, I'd have to guess that the surgury was an amputation.

Oh, and for those wondering (like me), Fukudome came in right above average.  That's kind of surprising, but I do seem to remember a fair number of his throws being off line during the season, something we never saw with Soriano.

Our very own Colin has an article with the Hardball Times (Wow.  Colin's, like, famous and stuff) where he discusses a player's value and various aspects of the models people use to calculate value.  My favorite line:

I'm a firm believer in testing, and showing proof. If anyone shows you a model for player performance, he should be showing you the evidence that his model works. If he isn't, you should be very careful in accepting his conclusions - even if you otherwise find him trustworthy.

As a former experimental physicist, that's music to my ears.  I look forward to part 2.

Did you know that The Hardball Times also does a regular piece on baseball history too?  It's a bit...um, different than mine.  And by different, I mean "smarter".  And a bit less "made up".  "Fact based", if you will.  Not once is the phrase "snails down his pants" used.  Despite that, it still seems good.

2008 Cubs Recap: Alfonso Soriano

Soriano Recap

Gettin' to it early today, in hopes of being able to devote the afternoon with glad Ronnie the Pizza Boy tidings...ALSO, READ THIS!  In its entirety.  Just DO it!  I command you!

Much was said earlier this year, by me, as well as others, about the Highest Paid Cub in History, Alfonso Soriano.  I don't begrudge him a cent of his money, no no no.  I also don't hold it against Hendry and the Cubs for signing him as they did, not a bit.  I will always maintain, even if he enrolls in the Andruw Jones School of Conditioning this off-season, and never contributes a thing ever again, that the Soriano Signing was a significant milepost in Cubs History.  In the winter of 2006-7, only three years removed from what should have been the 2003 National League Pennant, the Cubs were in an all-too-familiar postion, that of league doormat. 

Credibility had to be regained (or simply "gained", depending on your point of view) and it was going to cost money.  For money was the resource the Cubs had, and time was the resource they lacked, with the 100-year-curse anniversary looming.  Soriano was THE top free agent that winter; we got him, and along with Uncle Lou and, to a lesser extent, the rotation depth provided by Lilly and Marquis, brought our favorite ballclub to a contending level, amongst our rightful place as a "Have" rather than a "Have-Not". 

The Cubs draw far too many people, and sell far too much merchandise, and draw far too high of ratings to ever be considered a Have-Not.  Regardless of whether or not the Tribune considers declaring bankruptcy - the Chuck-o-sans and Byrons of the world can further comment on the business wisdom of Sam Zell's latest manuever, but suffice to say that this is the most comprehensive proof yet that the Cubs need to be sold as soon as humanly possible, because Zell don't give a turd about media, news, people, jobs, and he sure doesn't care about the Cubs.  Making money and not having to spend money is where it's at with this clown, and even though the Cubs make more money that probably any other franchise in all of professional sport, even it isn't the kind of return Sam Zell is interested in.  THIS is the type of greed that is ruining our country, a man worth billions willing to run a 150-year-old media empire into the ground for the return he would reap on its spare parts. 

Why have I wasted three paragraphs on the oldest story in the world?  Because the story of Alfonso Soriano is always going to be about money.  Right now, at this moment, his legs are healthier than they've been since he's come to town.  He missed most of June and July due to his wrist injury, but he was available when needed the rest of the way in.  I will elaborate why this particular injury was critical to him, but a winter's rest and recouperation should be beneficial.  Healthwise, there is reason to believe he will have a big year next year, both in terms of games played and offensive punch, which once again, is what is expected from an $16MM asset in 2009. 

I didn't mention defense, did I?  No, I didn't.  He didn't come up as an outfielder, and much has been made of the moves made by various organizations to shift him from 2B to CF to LF, where he now toils.  It is true that he initially balked when Frank Robinson suggested his first move to the outfield with the Nationals, but in hindsight, he really hasn't complained about it since.  When he started with us, Pinella placed him in CF, and he started real slow.  Not exactly earth-shattering, a new Cubs player starting out slow...happens nearly EVERY time, right?  But when you're the $126 Million Dollar Man, this shouldn't happen, says the crowd!  He is moved to LF, and his bat heats up, and the crowd deduces that he didn't like playing CF, and that he is a moody, petulant player. 

My current theory is that, based on his 2008 performance in LF, that moodiness had nothing to do with his woes while playing center for us.  The fact is, Soriano might be the worst fielder we have had since Dave Kingman, and when you consider Matt Murton, Keith Moreland, Candy Maldonado, and Tuffy Rhodes, that is saying a lot.  I heard a lot last year about "center field being an easy position to play in Wrigley", to which I say Bunk.  There ARE no easy positions in Wrigley, but left might be the easiest.  Al has a strong arm, and he showed some quick reflexes a couple of times last year, cleaning up his own drops to throw guys out.  But to suggest that he could play anywhere else on the field but left is utterly out of the question, and it isn't a psychological matter, but simply a lack of fielding ability.

Soriano isn't a very coordinated man.  This is why he has been such a bust as a leadoff guy.  A leadoff hitter needs to be in control of his abilities.  He needs to be able to lay off pitches, and handle the bat, as well as run the bases when he gets on.  Soriano can't do ANY of those things.  He is fast when his legs are healthy, and he can throw the ball well.  He has only one other talent, and fortunately it is a big one. 

He has world-class wrists.  Without them, he has no chance of swinging his choice of lumber, perhaps the biggest bat currently in use today.  Without them, he has no chance of reaching the pitches he sometimes hits into the seats.  Soriano IS the Wild Thing.  At the plate, he is balls out all the time, and thanks to his unbelievable wrist speed, he overcomes his complete lack of control and technique with coiled superhuman strength.

Problem is, in 2008 he was hit by a pitch, breaking bones in his hands close to his wrists.  His biggest weapon was taken away from him, which explains his reduced power rates (SLG down .030) after the injury.  One small positive was improved plate discipline, as his OBP went up the same .030 after the injury, which left his OPS static throughout the year.

All in all, not a bad year, 29 taters and a .280 batting average, while missing over a month with a broken hand.  Not bad for a human, but not quite enough for the $126 Million Dollar Man.  His .344 OBP wasn't too bad, either, but once again, it ain't quite enough for your leadoff man. 

I have lived in fear the last two years because of my perception of Soriano's sensitive nature.  "Leave him be," I reasoned, "because he will get pissed off if we move him down in the order, and he won't produce as well.  He can't function in the middle of an integrated batting order."  Well, too bad.  It's time to move his funky ass down to the fifth spot, where all that power will be better utilized to drive in more runs, runs that will be on the bases, because we will (by default?) employ a man with a higher OBP in his old spot.  He will be "protected" by the sixth hitter, whether it be Lee (my choice) or Soto.  I am excited about his chances in 2009, and cannot wait for them to hit the field again.

Now, Zell, sell the effin' team already.

The wheel man

As tempted as I am to write a long, pithy post about the numerous talents of Jake Peavy and why he is worth the first born of every Cubs fan, I thought I would instead address another area of need by the Chicago Cubs - the leadoff hitter, aka The Wheel Man. (Note: the leadoff hitter is not in fact called The Wheel Man. I just made that up. If you see it used elsewhere, they stole it from here.)

We all know that the Cubs do not have a wheel man. They don't have a guy who will lead off a game by working 10 pitches before finally drawing the 4th ball, trotting to first, and then stealing second before the Cubs #2 hitter can smack a soft shot into the outfield porch and drive him home. What they have instead is an uber-rich star slugger, a left fielder with great bat speed who also has the ability to steal bases and prefers to bat leadoff despite being better suited to bat 5th. Phew. Long sentences so far in this one.

The cry to let Fonzie be Fonzie is not only plagiarism, it's also wrong. I don't believe he's as flaky as some think he might be, so treating him with kid gloves is unnecessary. After all, we have now seen Soriano bat leadoff for the Cubs through two post season appearances, and in both cases he appeared lost and inadequate. Coincidentally or not, so did the rest of the Cubs lineup and we the fans had to put up with watching our team get blown out by a collective score of 36 to 12. That's 12 runs in 6 games. Do the math. Wait, on second thought don't, because if you're anything like me it will end in a pit of depression, a drinking binge, and waking up in a seedy Detroit hotel with what appears to be a nude transvestite. The transvestite I could deal with, but Detroit? Oh no, my friends, you do not want to do the math.

Rob has already expressed his views that the Cubs need a Real Leadoff Hitter. He believes that it should be a top off-season priority and has suggested that, for a second winter in a row, Jim Hendry pursue Brian Roberts, who is presently wasting away in Baltimore for a perpetually crappy team (thereby proving that a leadoff hitter alone is not enough). However, I thought I'd put the anal back in baseball analysis and take a closer look at the players we already have. After all, surely the Cubs must have somebody who'd be a good leadoff hitter, right? Let's take a look.

Alfonso Soriano - 443 AB, 29 HR, 75 RBI, 19 SB, 3 CS, .287 AVG, 100 SO, 42 BB, .350 OBP, .894 OPS
In his second season as a Cub, Soriano put up those numbers while batting in the #1 spot of the lineup. Pretend he doesn't have a power game, and 19 steals in 22 tries plus a .287 AVG plus a .350 OBP puts him right in line to be a good leadoff guy. But the fact is this - Soriano is a free swinger. His actual numbers leading off an inning - as opposed to batting #1 in the batting order - are not great.
Leading off an inning: 168 AB, .286 AVG, .318 OBP, 36 SO
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 648 AB, 39 HR, .299 AVG, .335 OBP, 135 SO.

Some people are afraid that the Fonz would be too much of a headcase to succeed elsewhere in the lineup. I disagree. He may be one of those sensitive types who needs to know his jorb in order to feel comfortable, but he'd adjust. Quite frankly, he has expressed a willingness to bat elsewhere in the past, but after a shiz-itty start to the '07 season, the Cubs returned him to his comfort zone. He then had an equally crappy start to the '08 season, which leads me to believe the more likely scenario that he's just a slow starter in cold weather. So, relax already and move on. The Fonz is not the solution, nor should he be a problem if he gets relocated to 5th.

Kosuke Fukudome - 58 AB, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB, 1 CS, 8 BB, .276 AVG, .373 OBP, .804 OPS
Ah, Fukkie. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that, back in March, our own Rob predicted that Fukudome would put up exactly the numbers he actually put up. Rob, heed your own advice: When asked who would be the biggest turd of the '08 season, you said "People are gonna say FukU because he is NOT going to hit for a high average in 2008... probably around .250. His OBP will still be over .350, though." (You also predicted he would hit 13 homers, by the way.)

The 'dome did not spend a lot of time batting leadoff, and in the second half he also didn't spend a lot of time hitting the ball. But he is above all else a professional hitter, and I am convinced that he'll have a decent 2009. Considering that he has respectable speed - he could probably do better than 12 steals in 16 tries, and I suspect he will next year - and especially considering that he has epic patience at the plate, then Fukudome might be a sensible in-house leadoff guy. However, I am intentionally ignoring his "lead off inning" numbers, because although he has a better OBP in those situations (.336 to Soriano's .318) he otherwise sucks.
Leading off an inning: 104 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 BB, 24 SO, .240 AVG, .336 OBP, .663 OPS

Reed Johnson - 77 AB, 4 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 2 CS, .234 AVG, .302 OBP, .666 OPS
If I was trying to talk myself into Reed Johnson as a leadoff choice, I promptly talked myself out of it when I looked at that line. However, taking it a step further, in the past 3 seasons as a leadoff hitter Johnson has had 724 AB, and he has a .290 AVG, a .360 OBP, and a .784 OPS. In other words, he's not an unreasonable option.

By the way, his "lead off inning" numbers also sucked last year, but doing the 3 year split thing, Johnson has had 377 at bats leading off an inning, and he's batting .281 with a .342 OBP in that situation. Here's the full splits:
Leading off an inning: 93 AB, 6 2B, 0 HR, 2 BB, 18 SO, .226 AVG, .265 OBP, .555 OPS
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 377 AB, 25 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 19 BB, 71 SO, .281 AVG, .342 OBP, .740 OPS

Ryan Theriot - 68 AB, 3 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 1 SB, 1 CS, .368 AVG, .419 OBP, .831 OPS
I've argued for the past season that Theriot is either a #1 hitter or a #8 hitter. He doesn't have the slugging ability to bat anywhere else in the lineup, and Colin very well might disagree with me even on that premise. Theriot's numbers obviously benefit from limited at bats, but in terms of hitting, getting on base, and stealing, Theriot had a respectable '08. The one concern I'd have with him offensively as a leadoff guy is that he was caught stealing way, way, way too often this past season. His EOBP* was .364 last season, roughly 20 points lower than his OBP of .387.

(*EOBP = Essential On Base Percentage. Basically H+BB-CS divided by AB+BB = EOBP, or the number of times a player was actually a factor on the base paths for his team. It's a stat I invented a few years back that, I swear to Gawd, will someday catch on)

If Theriot can cut down on the basepath blunders, he might be a good choice to bat leadoff. Although, in reality, I believe that like Rich Hill before him, Theriot should be Trade Bait this off season.
Leading off an inning: 129 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 18 BB, 20 SO, .287 AVG, .374 OBP, .715 OPS
Leading off an inning '06-'08: 301 AB, 21 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 31 BB, 31 SO, .276 AVG, .343 OBP, .758 OPS

Mark DeRosa - Did Not Bat Leadoff in 2008, nope, not once
Ah, DeRosa, the dark horse. On a team where steals don't matter, DeRosa is a possible leadoff man, although he remains in my mind the best #2 hitter on the Cubs. Just consider even only his career line - .279 AVG, .348 OBP, and he actually was 6 for 6 in steals in '08. If DeRosa returns to the mean and puts up a .350ish OBP next season, he'd still be a fine choice to bat near the top of the lineup. (Sidebar - what's actually most impressive is that DeRo batted 6th last year 243 times and he batted 7th another 150 times, and he still managed to score more than 100 runs for the Cubs. Christ, that was a Complete Offense.)

Also, any way you cut it, DeRosa is one of the best when it comes to actually batting first in any inning. I can't believe this guy isn't batting second in the lineup at the very least.
Lead off an inning:
115 AB, 9 2B, 5 HR, 11 BB, 14 SO, .330 AVG, .394 OBP, .933 OPS
Lead off an inning '06-'08: 331 AB, 28 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 34 BB, 54 SO, .299 AVG, .370 OBP, .820 OPS

And now, just for crits and grins, let's take a look at Rob's Coveted:

Brian Roberts - 609 AB, 51 2B, 8 3B, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 82 BB, 104 SO, 40 SB, 10 CS, .297 AVG, .379 OBP, .831 OPS
Roberts is clearly a pro when it comes to this gig. In all ways, he's better than any Cub out there - but how much better? If I guessed, I'd say that were Colin to crunch the numbers, Roberts might account for a win difference of perhaps 2 or 3 games if the Cubs shuffled their lineup to bat Roberts leadoff.

But the place where Roberts might make a difference is when those 2 or 3 games would count the most - the DS, the CS, and the WS. There are so many little factors that go into playoff success, and I truly believe that the best team rarely wins. It often has a lot to do with luck, and who's hot. Roberts could easily enter the NLDS and tank. Soriano could enter the NLDS and light the park on fire with his bat. We really never know, but any advantage gets put under a microscope in October, and Roberts would be a good one to have. Although I would argue that, realistically, the Cubs do have a few options to bat leadoff who could get the job done, and perhaps their best option would be to find a more potent #3 hitter/RFer. Just a thought, assuming they can't do both.
Lead off an inning: 256 AB, 22 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 26 BB, 40 SO, .301 AVG, .365 OBP, .834 OPS
Lead off an inning '06-'08: 728 AB, 58 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 79 BB, 99 SO, .291 AVG, .361 OBP, .796 OPS

Incidentally, over the past 3 seasons leading off an inning, I would argue that the only difference between Roberts and DeRosa is pure speed. DeRo looks surprisingly comparable to Roberts otherwise.

So, who will be the Cubs wheel man? It's a tough call. If the team plays it in-house, the easy prediction is Theriot or Fukudome if he regains his stroke. If the team plays the free agent market and ponies up the cash, the best option may be Furcal. But if the Cubs are looking for their best option for scoring runs in the playoffs, then they need to reshuffle their lineup and pursue another big stick to play right field. A pure leadoff man of Robertsesque quality would be great - great - to have, but this is where I disagree with the Sloth. As great as it would be, it's probably not the end-all be-all move the Cubs can make.

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

THE HUNT FOR BLUE OCTOBER: Soriano and Ugly Betty

The next several Cubs related posts will be collectively known as THE HUNT FOR BLUE OCTOBER.  The focus will be on the 2008 team and the drive for the World Series.

First up is Alfonso Soriano, who many people already known is a bit of a douche nozzle.

Just within the past week, Deadspin released photos found on a 24-year old woman’s Facebook page that shows her canoodling with the married Soriano.  The photos show Sori in a wife-beater (how appropriate!) surrounded by alcohol and smokes.

The question of his douchyness is less due to him cheating on his wife, which in itself is an unfortunate commonality among all MLB players and sports teams in general.  The pure Cubs question is whether Soriano’s partying like this is on days off or game days?  Is he dropping balls because he is hungover from dropping balls….in chicks mouths?

Tastless, yes.  Unfortunate, yes.  Unacceptable, yes.

This Cubs team is going to go down in history as one of the best of all time.  The last thing we need is a controversy to draw attention away from the field.  Sure, we can crucify Soriano and every other player who does the scummy thing like this, but wait until the season is over.

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