Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Thursday Morning Odds and Ends, Swapping Out The Lefties Edition

Well, as it turns out, Jim Hendry doesn't make his personnel decisions based upon what he finds on blogs. (Even if the Tribune will now report on our derision!) I honestly can't say I'm surprised.

Jim Edmonds is officially a Cub. Here's the breakdown:

The Cubs sent Pie to Triple-A Iowa after the game to make room for Edmonds, as well as for Pie to get his act together in the minors.

There may be another move in the offing as well. Outfielder Daryle Ward came up with a bad back Wednesday, and although Piniella said Ward wouldn't be placed on the disabled list "right now," he figures to go on it by the weekend.

The Cubs will bring up left-handed hitter Micah Hoffpauir to replace Ward. The 28-year-old first baseman currently is playing in right field at Iowa in preparation for a call-up.

There are some things that I don't get, by which I mean I think people are wrong. There are other things that I don't get, because I honestly don't understand the thinking enough to even try to argue with it. If the Cubs are as certain of putting Ward on the DL as Sullivan claims, why go into tomorrow with the short bench?

Also, Micah Hoffpauir... look, I understand the reasoning in calling him up if you view him as taking Ward's spot on the team, and then define Ward's spot as being a big left-handed bat off the bench with zero defensive utility. Personally, as much as I love having Ward's bat on the bench (and I love having Ward's bat on the bench) I'm often a little frustrated in dealing with the costs of having Ward's bat, and I don't mean his salary. He's awfully one-dimensional, maybe half-dimensional. You can burn through three of your five bench guys in one at-bat trying to get Ward into the lineup. He's a liability on the field or on the bases.

(There's also the question of whether or not he can really stay healthy for long - apparently he's got a herniated disc. Ouch.)

But you keep him around because of one very special skill he has - his bat doesn't get cold sitting on the bench. Most players have a problem pinch hitting - they're not as effective as they are if they're playing the field. Ward is a guy who can hit effectively off the bench, and if it weren't for that talent, the Cubs wouldn't have a lot of use for him.

And that's about how I feel about Hoffpauir - I don't see the use for him. I know a large segment of Cubs fans developed a mancrush on him in spring training, but a lot of hitters can look good in Arizona and fail to take that with them into the regular season. I don't want to call him a bad hitter, because he isn't, not precisely - ZiPS projects him to hit .265/.321/.459, CHONE projects him to hit .262/.320/.440 - that's not awful, but for a guy whose natural defensive position is first base, that's not good enough to be an everyday major leaguer. (Which is why he's a 28-year-old playing ball in Des Moines.) To the extent that he outhits Mike Fontenot, it's not likely to be great enough to matter over as little playing time as he should be getting. And at least Mike Fontenot, however poorly, can play second base.

The Cubs have been trying Hoffpauir in the outfield, and really all the rules say is that one guy has to be on the mound, one guy catching what that guy throws, and seven other guys can play pretty much anywhere between the foul lines. So he might get fantasy eligibility in the outfield, but if you were intent on it you could use Henry Blanco at shortstop or Derrek Lee at catcher - it's largely an act of self-deception.

That said, he's unlikely to get enough playing time to actually hurt the team, and again, the Cubs are unlikely to consult my opinion before making the move. I just find myself consistently frustrated by the lack of versatility on our bench (the five-man bench really makes it hard to build a versatile bench in the first place).  And, to be honest, his legion of fans annoy me; there's something about such passionate devotion to such marginal ballplayers that I lack the capacity to understand. And it gets really frustrating talking to them because I just end up talking past them - they view things through a very different lens than I do, and a couple of correlation coefficients sprinkled liberally won't convince them otherwise.

And since we're going to discuss the uncomfortable meeting place of emotional attachment with the facts on the field... how about Kerry Wood?

This is apparently an uncomfortable topic in the Cubs blogosphere, but let's not be afraid to discuss it. I'm not about to advocate throwing him under the bus or anything like that. His strikeout rate is encouraging, but his hits batsman rate is very troubling - Wood has hit 5% of batter's he's faced. To put that in perspective, Reed Johnson gets plunked 5.7% of his plate appearances. That's a lot of hit batters.

Sure, he's converted 70% of his save opportunities, but he's blown 50% of his saves when the lead is one run. Kerry Wood hasn't been very effective in the tight spots, when it maters most.

What does this mean? I don't know yet. But it's a subject that seems to be hard to discuss as Cubs fans. Why? Because Kerry Wood is family, and it's hard to speak ill of family members.

An actual discussion of Wood's merits - and we should probably have that at some point here - is a complex and tangled mess that brings along with it a lot of distracting tangents and complexities. Is Wood our best reliever? Should our best reliever be our closer? How should a manager decide which pitchers to pitch when? What is the save trying to measure, and does it tell us anything of real value?

But it's a discussion a lot of Cubs fans don't seem ambitious to have, and seeing how Ryan Dempster's been treated the past two seasons, my hunch is that it's because Kid K is beloved among Cubs fans. And fair enough - 20 innings isn't much to evaluate a pitcher on. So for right now let's just punt, shall we?

Well, yes, Kid K is beloved, yet...

...he really hasn't proven he can be counted on to close games at a championship level. If you are the Cubs, your closer needs to be about 95% effective...that's 19 out of 20, in order to actually win a championship. That is because you have so many other things to overcome. You can talk about curses, and completely dismiss them. But there IS a psychological hurdle that needs to be overcome, and when approaching that hurdle, I'd prefer to be as absolutely bulletproof as I can be.

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