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   1. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 09, 2009 at 08:22 PM (#3097040)
Vizcaino, Gaudin and Zambrano have pitched poorly the last turn through the rotation. But recently most of the runs have been given up by guys like Stevens, Atkins, Fox, Hart, Mateo, Kadokura, Cashner, Stanton and Berg.

One of the things you have to give the Cubs credit for is developing pretty good pitchers from players who seemed useless or marginal. Rich Hill came out of nowhere (unranked by Sickels in '05 and a B- in '06). Carlos Marmol was converted from catcher. Ryan Dempster looked done until he became a Cub. Sean Marshall was a marginal prospect (consistent B- from Sickels). Marquis was the worst pitcher in the majors who wound up a relatively good deal in retrospect.

Heilman has matched Marshall so far this ST and might be the next Cubs reclamation success. They had coveted him for a while, so I hope they saw something that could enable him to at least return to his 2007 form. If he pitches well enough, I wonder if he'll force his way into the rotation picture.
   2. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: March 09, 2009 at 11:37 PM (#3097237)
Fontenot had another big day at the plate today.

With all the moving pieces - and crap awful lot that is the bench - Fontenot's success as the strong half of a 2B platoon is critical. He moves Miles into the utility role his skills are best suited for (now about that contract...) and provides a 2nd LH bat of consequence (I'm counting Bradley's LH side of the SW equation as 3/4 and Fukudome as 1/4).

I'm not at all worried about the staff - not even Harden's progress (or lack thereof). I think the Cubs still have the best pitching in the NL - top to bottom - so long as Harden can make more than half a dozen starts this year.

My main concern is still what looks to be a highly inflexible, offensively punchless, and scarily shallow bench. It may not be as bad as F Troop, but we're looking at a lot of potential guys that have very limited uses... Even Hoffpauir - whose bat I DO like a lot - is a 1B masquerading as someone who can play a corner OF spot. I'm still lighting candles for the Cubs to break camp with 11 pitchers... though I know it will never happen. I see big Z getting a fair number of PH appearances this year, as Micah's lack of flexibility means he's most often going to be a one and done type PHer... and beyond situation flips (RH reliever with Fontenot on the bench + flip-flopping Johnson/Fukudome) - there's just not a lot of room to maneuver.

If you're going to be playing with two platoons in your starting lineup -- you really need at least one Jose Oquendo type player that can move all over the diamond, especially in the age of 12 man staffs.
   3. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 10, 2009 at 02:50 PM (#3097843)
Some more links:

Vizcaino might not make the team. Which means there might be 2 bullpen spots open (sorry, zonk, just accept the 12 man pitching staff already; I did years ago and it doesn't bug my anymore). The only possibilities in that article are BPJ - which I'd prefer him as a RP, I don't see a future for him as a SP - and some lefty named Jason Wadell. I'm fine with that type of guy (I know absolutely nothing about him), cause he's easy to dump if it doesn't work out. That article also mentions a salary swap with Oakland for Crosby, which doesn't really help the week bench.

As zonk mentioned, Fontenot is doing everything he can to win the 2b job outright (or at least the bigger half of the platoon).


Harden gets his first start today.
   4. Weeks T. Olive Posted: March 10, 2009 at 03:10 PM (#3097872)
(or at least the bigger half of the platoon)

Heh.
   5. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 10, 2009 at 06:45 PM (#3098266)
fontenot hit lefties (in a small sample) pretty well last year, but he still has a .683 career OPS vs. them. Miles has a career .720-ish OPS vs. them. I'm not sure I'd even want Fontenot to be an everyday 2B. Though I'd be happy if really Fontenot has figured something out against them.

I'm happy at the prospect of Vizcaino not making the team. If we have to have a reliever around to put up a 5.00 ERA, I'd rather he be Angel Guzman. I wouldn't even be mad if Luis went somewhere else and put up an ERA of 3.50.

Crosby sounds like a decent acquisition to me as fits a need on the Cubs roster. A middle infield backup with a whiff of upside who can play good defense and put up an OPS+ around 80 makes for a solid backup.

I don't like the idea of giving Lou another matchup lefty, but as Moses noted, it probably won't make a huge difference. In fact, it could be a good thing. Having a disposable guy in the last bullpen spot gives the Cubs the flexibility to call up an emergency long man for doubleheaders or go with an 11 man staff if someone gets hurt for a few days.
   6. Meatwad Posted: March 10, 2009 at 07:07 PM (#3098317)
what is the roster even looking like so far?
lee, soriano, ramirez, soto, kfuk, johnson, bradley, theriot, fontenot, miles,
then theres zambrano, dempster, lilly, harden, marmol, gregg, cotts, marshall, heilman, gaudin.

that leaves 5 sports open, 2 pitchers and 3 bench, one of which will be backup catcher.
hoff and who else?
maybe guzman and bpj?
   7. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 10, 2009 at 07:32 PM (#3098354)
Crosby's owed $5.25 million next year, so unlike the article I doubt the Cubs would need to kick in a prospect to get him.

I think Vizcaino is still the favorite to win a BP spot. Lou's just trying to light a fire under his ass. If Vizcaino continues to suck, the Cubs will just cut bait on him after a month or so. Gathright still has to be the favorite to win that last spot on the bench.

My guess:

Fookie, Gathright, Johnson, Bradley, Soriano, Hoffpauir, Ramirez, Theriot, Fontenot, Lee, Miles, Soto and Gabor.
Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall, Heilman, Gaudin, BPJ, Gregg, Vizcaino, Cotts and Marmol.

If Vizcaino does make the team, the ideal scenario is that he pitches well and the Cubs manage to dump him when another team suffers an injury.
   8. Meatwad Posted: March 10, 2009 at 08:50 PM (#3098490)
our bullpen would look much begtter with wood and wuretz in there, and the bench better with derosa still there instead of miles
   9. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: March 11, 2009 at 01:13 PM (#3099589)
I think Gathright and the Dominican Captain Tightpants - he's certainly got the Farnsworthian mix of stuff, but no brain and moxie to use it properly, even if he opts for better fitting duds - both make the team.

Problem is - Lou would basically be playing a man short with Luis in the pen, as he'd just rot there for weeks at a time whether he deserves to or not. I suppose someone has to live in the bullpen doghouse, so better it's Vizcaino than someone we've got higher hopes for like Heilman, Gaudin, or BPJ.

I don't disagree that I'd prefer Wood or Wuertz over Vizcaino - but that ship sailed when Hendry did whatever calculus he came up with to sign Bradley.

Still... That's not a bad pen at all. Age-wise, Luis is the only one that you couldn't say is either approaching or in the middle of his prime.

Weak from the LOOGY perspective, but then - the NL central has shed a fair number of LH bats over the last few years. Milwaukee is RH heavy - only Fielder bats from the left. All STL bats that give me any pause are RH. I suppose Cincy has Votto and Bruce, but not Dunn any more. Houston is virtually all RH (though, you do want to make berkman bat from the right side if you can). Pittsburgh has McLouth, but I don't think there's a lineup that scares me less than the Bucs.

I'm happy for Marshall's success - he certainly deserves a shot in the rotation - but the pen would be a lot better with him in it... you'll forgive me if I'm not sold on Cotts.
   10. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: March 11, 2009 at 01:22 PM (#3099596)
he's certainly got the Farnsworthian mix of stuff

You mean a fastball?
   11. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: March 11, 2009 at 01:28 PM (#3099603)
You mean a fastball?


Well, yeah. Good K rates, but far too many gopher balls to be effective short man.
   12. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 11, 2009 at 02:01 PM (#3099636)
Harden was sharp in his first start yesterday. I heard similar things from some family members who were at the game. It's a shame the writers can't just write about Harden, and have to bring up Mark Prior everytime. It's lazy, and it's been done before and isn't interesting. Dempster and Heilman both pitched 3 innings as well, both without giving up a run.

Fukudome might start the year hitting 2nd. Who knows, maybe he'll get off to a hot start again. Japan plays the Cubs tomorrow. Koskie is at camp now, but likely starts the year in AAA. Sounds like Fontenot is the backup 3b for now. That article also mentions Oakland played Crosby at 3b, but he didn't look comfortable.
   13. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 11, 2009 at 02:05 PM (#3099642)
I think Gathright and the Dominican Captain Tightpants - he's certainly got the Farnsworthian mix of stuff, but no brain and moxie to use it properly, even if he opts for better fitting duds - both make the team.

I think this is possible, if not likely, mostly because it doesn't sound like anyone else has done anything to beat either of them out. If, and when, they scuffle, they'll be shipped out, I'm confident.

our bullpen would look much begtter with wood and wuretz in there, and the bench better with derosa still there instead of miles

I agree with zonk that we still look to have a good pen this year. The ship has sailed for me on missing Wood and Weurtz. The Cubs did spend their money is better places than a closer, albeit a very sentimental favorite. Weurtz's boat sailed last year when he was sent down to AAA, and quite frankly, he just isn't good enough to deserve 2nd thought. I'm not saying he's bad, but he's fungible and replaceable.

Fookie, Gathright, Johnson, Bradley, Soriano, Hoffpauir, Ramirez, Theriot, Fontenot, Lee, Miles, Soto and Gabor.
Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall, Heilman, Gaudin, BPJ, Gregg, Vizcaino, Cotts and Marmol.


This is the most likely roster, IMO as well. Only possibility is another LOOGY sneaking in if the Cubs want BPJ to be a SP in AAA, but it sounds like Lou'd prefer him up here in the pen.
   14. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 11, 2009 at 02:26 PM (#3099657)
Oh, and Marmol blew the save in the WBC last night that eliminated the DR:

Pinch-hitter Sidney de Jong doubled to start the bottom half against Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol. A groundout by pinch-hitter Curt Smith moved de Jong to third, and he scored on Kingsale's single to right.

Marmol then uncorked a wild pickoff throw that caromed toward the right-field line and allowed de Jong to reach third.

After Sharlon Schoop struck out, Randall Simon was intentionally walked and Yurendell DeCaster slapped a one-hopper toward the first-base line that could have been handled by Aybar. But it glanced off his glove and rolled away into foul territory as Kingsale raced toward the plate.

Aybar retrieved the ball, spun and threw to Marmol covering first, but it was too late. DeCaster beat the play with a feetfirst slide to the bag, then popped up and jumped into the arms of a teammate.
   15. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 12, 2009 at 06:09 AM (#3100820)
Marmol didn't look THAT bd in the last inning of the WBC. The double was off a cookie, but I assume someone had just emphasized the importance of throwing strikes before he took the mond. Kingsale's single was of the sawed off variety. de Caster looked overmatched and was way behind. Marmol didn't look sharp, but he was good enough to muddle through an inning.

As to the roster, Hendry's proven himself flexible in making in season moves, so it's best not to get too bent out of shape about it. Last year the Cubs nabbed a top starter and a CF platoon during the season.

Two years ago, it was Jason Kendall and Craig monroe. Both of whom filled a need. Kendall was the best of a bad lot in replacing Barrett. Monroe filled the Cubs need for a right-handed platoon bat. Trading for Trachsel was dumb.

Three years ago it was getting Jose Ceda for Walker and Izturis for Maddux. The Izturis deal may seem dumb, but at that time, Ronny Cedeno & Neifi were competing against ech other to see who could put up the lowest OPS+ at SS. (Neifi won 53 to 54.) A SS who could put up a 70 OPS+ and play good defense would have been a godsend. Ceda was a pretty spiffy prospect and netted the Cubs Gregg.

This season, if there's a significant OF injury, I'd hope the Cubs will make a deal for someone like Josh Willingham. If Ramirez gets injured, I'd imagine they'll make a deal for someone like Teahen. That's assuming Koskie isn't up for the Majors, which I'd guess will be the case, but hope won't be 'cuz i like him. Grudzielanek or Durham would probably be on the radar if Fontenot goes down.

Every year the roster has looked a lot different on the last day of the season than it did on opening day. Guys like Theriot, Fontenot, Edmonds, Johnson, Harden and Soto have gone from utilitymen or afterthoughts or players on other teams to important pieces of the Cubs roster. Ideally, good health and good performance will mean that the Cubs will only have to make marginal moves to improve the club. That's not the most likely scenario, so it's good to know that if an opportunity arises, hendry will be willing to seize it. I doubt he'll let Gathright or Vizcaino will stand in the way.
   16. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: March 12, 2009 at 01:23 PM (#3100893)
I have every confidence in Hendry's inseason roster makeover abilities. However, I still think his offseason maneuvering leaves a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we're only 3 weeks away from his wheelhouse.
   17. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 12, 2009 at 06:35 PM (#3101267)
Very well said, TRHN. I agree completely, and I'd include Lou in that as well. He has no problem giving guys shots and benching guys not producing.
   18. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 13, 2009 at 01:42 PM (#3102012)
Entertaining article, recapping the Cubs/Japan game and the Zambrano/Dempster opening day starter competition.

"It's good," Dempster said. "I never expected to start Opening Day. It would've been neat, but I really don't care. … I can go to WrestleMania Sunday night in Houston. There's a positive side to everything. You just have to look for it."

Zambrano joked that he and Dempster competed in several sports to earn the Opening Day nod and that he came out on top.

"He beat me in hockey, I beat him in a home-run-hitting contest and then we played soccer and tied," he said. "In the end … he doesn't like me, I don't like him. Who cares about him?"

In turn, Dempster said the Cubs would try to get Zambrano that elusive Opening Day victory and also "see if we can keep him from being kicked out" of the game.
   19. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: March 13, 2009 at 04:56 PM (#3102200)
From that article:
With the first four rotation spots set and Mike Fontenot virtually sealing the second base job, the only decisions left are at backup catcher, whether to use Carlos Marmol or Kevin Gregg as the closer, a final bullpen spot and whether to have Micah Hoffpauir as the 25th man or find a utilityman who can play short and third.


Weird. I didn't know there was a backup catcher battle or that Hoffpauir was in any danger of not making the team.
   20. CFiJ Posted: March 13, 2009 at 05:24 PM (#3102235)
“Look, spring training wins and losses don’t mean anything,” Piniella said. “But you don’t want to get in the habit of getting your [butts] kicked every day either. That I can tell you, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.”


IIRC, the 2001 Mariners got their asses kicked all Spring Training...
   21. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: March 13, 2009 at 05:29 PM (#3102244)
I didn't know there was a backup catcher battle

I thought it was between Paul Bako and Koyie Hill, or is Bako out of the running now?
   22. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: March 13, 2009 at 05:31 PM (#3102249)
I thought it was between Paul Bako and Koyie Hill, or is Bako out of the running now?

That's correct. I think Mark Johnson has been getting a decent amount of playing time as well.

I didn't know there was a backup catcher battle or that Hoffpauir was in any danger of not making the team.

From what I've read everywhere else, The Hoff is making the team. It's Gathright's spot that is in danger.
   23. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: March 13, 2009 at 05:34 PM (#3102251)
IIRC, the 2001 Mariners got their asses kicked all Spring Training...

Didn't Piniella manage the 2001 Mariners?
   24. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: March 13, 2009 at 06:42 PM (#3102354)
IIRC, the 2001 Mariners got their asses kicked all Spring Training..


As did the 1984 Cubs (a record for spring futility, I think -- something like 19 straight losses) and the 1989 Cubs.

Also - the Cubs have inked Esteban German to a minor league deal. No room for him right now, but I like the signing... He plays everywhere (horribly, in most cases), but I think he's exactly what I would want in a 2nd utility IF.

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