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   1. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 04:05 PM (#3145502)
Given the number of ABs involved, it's too early to draw any conclusions based on minor league performance. Nonetheless, what's the fun of baseball if you can't dream on 30 minor league ABs.

On the minor league front:

The Good
Jose Ascanio: No runs, 5 hits, 1 walk and 8Ks in two 4 IP starts. If he continue to perform well as he adjusts to starting, the Cubs could have one of the better 7th/8th starters in baseball.
Jake Fox: I slagged him a bit during ST, but it's hard to argue with a 1.615 OPS with 13 XBH in 46 ABs.
Jeff Samardzija: After getting hit pretty hard in his first appearance, he's settled down in his last two starts: 10 IP, he has 9Ks vs. 2 BBs, 3 hits and 2 runs for a 1.80 ERA & a 3.75 ERA overall.
Hung-wen Chen: Nine strikeouts, 1 walk and 0 HR in 11.2 innings of 4 run ball at AA.
Josh Vitters: The homerun power hasn't shown up yet. Still, he's hitting .423/.464/.538 with 3 Ks in his first 26 ABs of 2009 in Peoria.
Ryan Flaherty: .370/.469/.630 at Peoria.
Aaron Shafer: The 22 year old 2008 2nd rounder from Witchita State has a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts at Peoria.

The Bad
Richie Robnett: The return on Wuertz has been putrid so far. The 25 year old corner OF has hit .120/.185/.320 at AA. The silver lining is the power, I guess.
Jay Jackson: He's given up 8 runs in 9 IP with 4 BBs in his first two starts this season at AA.
Wellington Castillo: He hasn't shown much in his first 20 ABs as a AA repeater with a .433 OPS.

The Confusing
Tyler Colvin: .219/.390/.281 with 9/6 BB to Ks in 41 PAs. Obviously, that's bad. At least he's taking walks and he's cut down on the Ks.

The good news is that despite a weak system overall, the players the Cubs might depend upon this year are doing pretty well: Fox, Ascanio & Samardzija. It's also nice to see the Cubs' two best prospects, Vitters and Flaherty, off to good starts.
   2. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 20, 2009 at 04:27 PM (#3145554)
Awesome, thanks, TRHN.

I didn't realize the Cubs had converted Ascanio back to a starter (this is the same guy that briefly pitched out of the pen last year, right?). How has Kevin Hart done? I'd guess he's first in line for a spot start, until Samardzija is ready later in the year.
   3. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 04:36 PM (#3145571)
Kevin Hart's pitched like poop: 3.1 IP, 5 ks, 3 BBs, 1 HR and 5 runs.

Ascanio threw a few innings last year in May and looked pretty solid. He was the guy they got for Ohman and Infante in 2007. Man, both of those guys would look good on this roster in the place of Cotts and Miles.
   4. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2009 at 04:57 PM (#3145595)
Teams that score a lot of runs leave a lot of runners on base.
   5. Harris Posted: April 20, 2009 at 05:19 PM (#3145629)
I'd say whatever you do....don't play your AAA squad the last week of the season against another team fighting for a playoff spot. Bad Karma.
   6. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 05:25 PM (#3145639)
Also, a team with a low batting average but lots of walks and IsoP is going to be more prone to men LOB.
   7. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 20, 2009 at 06:02 PM (#3145677)
Also, a team with a low batting average but lots of walks and IsoP is going to be more prone to men LOB.

This is what I was getting at. There was a lot of discussion last year about how many chances DLee had to ground into double plays. The Cubs haven't scored as many runs as I would have expected given their OBP. (13th in runs, 8th in OBP, 14th in SLG, and 19th in BA). Obviously, it's way too early to draw any useful conclusions.
   8. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: April 20, 2009 at 06:06 PM (#3145683)
If I had $25 million or more laying around, investing in the Cubs would be a no-brainer.
   9. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: April 20, 2009 at 06:10 PM (#3145685)
Troll much, Harris?
   10. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 06:28 PM (#3145702)
The improvement in batting average for the sinkholes--Lee, Bradley, Miles & Soto--should more than offset the declines of Fookie, Soriano, Theriot and Ramirez. The walk rate and maybe some of the power might drop off a bit, though.

As for Fookie, I believe in him. I can see him as an .800-ish OPS contributor. Maybe a bit higher if the NL's offensive environment stays high. He has a longer track record of being a good contributor than he does as a pile of putresence.
   11. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2009 at 06:44 PM (#3145722)
I'm waiting to see how Fuku handles the eventual pitching adjustments to him.
   12. Cabbage Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:28 PM (#3145769)
re: KF

I see H. Matsui as a comparison. His power stroke really showed up during his second season.

At least, that is what I'm hoping for...
   13. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:32 PM (#3145775)
He isn't supposed to have as much power as Matsui, so this is still more than should be expected. We haven't seen as much flailing at pitches yet, which is when things were going really bad. I haven't paid close enough attention to see how he's being pitched this year compared to last to know if it's a true adjustment by him.
   14. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:37 PM (#3145782)
Jayson Stark has an article today about the hot/cold starts of players/teams and whether they're real or not and has the wonderful anonymous "scouts" give their comments. Only part relevant to the Cubs:

Derrek Lee (.217 AVG., 283 OBP, .348 slugging percentage) -- REALITY: We had a couple of "illusion" votes on Lee, but they didn't carry anywhere near the conviction of the people who think this man is fading. "This is a tough one, but Derrek Lee might really be slowing down," one front-office man said. "He's only 33 years old, but his power completely dropped off in the second half last year, as did his other numbers." Another variation of the same theme: "He really hasn't been the same guy since getting hurt [a broken wrist in 2006]."
   15. Walt Davis Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:46 PM (#3145792)
Where's the Koyie Hill love? He's had probably the best 24 PA of his career and he can't even get a shout-out.

As to Fuku, I'm not particularly worried about him as long as he can handle CF defensively. He put up a 742 OPS vs. RHP last year (251/355/388) which doesn't make you jump for joy but is decent.

Besides, we're the Cubs and having an actual good CF would just be confusing to us.
   16. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:48 PM (#3145794)
They were starting him off with first pitch fastballs to start the season. Now it appears to be more first pitch changeups & breaking balls (the Cubs are lucky if he spits on those, as slow pitches can make him look pretty stupid). His approach seems to be a bit different, as he's looking to yank the ball to RF more.
   17. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 20, 2009 at 07:54 PM (#3145804)
Heh, I did forget about Koyie. He has been a pleasant surprise. He seems perfectly adequate as the backup. How's Blanco doing in SD?

Besides, we're the Cubs and having an actual good CF would just be confusing to us.

That, or he'd be an ####### ex-Cardinal and that would just confuse us even more.
   18. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 08:08 PM (#3145824)
As to the anonymous scouts, Derrek Lee's been exactly the same since his wrist injury if you view 2005 as an outlier. Right now, while it's possible that Lee's completely toast, I think a .775-.825 OPS is a more likely result of Lee's age 33 decline than a .630 OPS.
   19. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: April 20, 2009 at 08:13 PM (#3145828)
How's Blanco doing in SD?

He homered twice in his first 9 at-bats. Don't know what he's done since...
   20. Bunny Vincennes Posted: April 20, 2009 at 10:14 PM (#3145967)
I think Fukudome is holding that lead shoulder in a bit more and not pulling off the ball as much. And I think he gets a decent first jump off the ball in center.
   21. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 20, 2009 at 11:31 PM (#3146023)
The Cubs haven't scored as many runs as I would have expected given their OBP. (13th in runs, 8th in OBP, 14th in SLG, and 19th in BA).


I meant to respond to this, but I guess I forgot to post. The Cubs have played fewer games than most other teams. As a result, they're actually 4th in the NL & 10th in baseball in R/G. (I LOVE the BB-Ref redesign.) If everything stays the same, they'll be a solid team this year.

Also, the Cubs have already had a bit of luck this year vs. Pythagoras. It'd be nice if the Cubs kept that up. They've been -3, -5, -1, -4, -2, -1 since 2004.
   22. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 21, 2009 at 12:08 AM (#3146045)
Jack:

I agree. Fukudome doesn't look like a total doofus at the plate. We will see if it lasts.

Puzzled that Lou is pushing Carlos so early. But if he doesn't trust the pen I guess Z gets to foot the bill.

Soriano always does the walk thing during a hot streak.
   23. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 21, 2009 at 12:47 AM (#3146072)
I also vote that Fukudome looks a lot better at the plate. Even his outs are louder - excepting the bunt attempt on Saturday.
   24. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2009 at 02:23 PM (#3147769)
DeRosa: .241/.323/.431 11 runs, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 65 PA
Fonten: .205/.367/.333 6 runs, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 49 PA
   25. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: April 22, 2009 at 02:37 PM (#3147787)

The Confusing
Tyler Colvin: .219/.390/.281 with 9/6 BB to Ks in 41 PAs. Obviously, that's bad. At least he's taking walks and he's cut down on the Ks.


I think Colvin had offseason surgery and as a result, was pushed back down a level so he could DH full-time for the now. I've never been that high on him anyway -- beyond Vitters, whom I'd be more than willing to trade for the right piece, I don't see Colvin as much more than trade bait for a nominal LOOGY or something.

I'm really trying to temper my excitement on ###'s start -- I remember chatting with Harvey on last year's all-star game chatter and being confidant that the month preceding the ASG was simply a matter of the league adjusting to Fukudome, and that he'd return the favor in the second half... that obviously didn't happen.

He doesn't need to be an all-star in this lineup. I would be thrilled with league average and average to slightly plus defense - anything beyond that is gravy, assuming no massive injury wave beyond the to-be-expected Bradley dings.
   26. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 22, 2009 at 04:42 PM (#3147952)
He doesn't need to be an all-star in this lineup. I would be thrilled with league average and average to slightly plus defense - anything beyond that is gravy, assuming no massive injury wave beyond the to-be-expected Bradley dings.

I completely agree with this. It'd be nice if he was above average, just to make up for Bradley being out. But I love the fact that Lou played Hoffpauir in RF against every righty they faced when Bradley was out. That means our fear of Gathright starting appears to have been overblown, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Gathright off the team sooner than later when it's obvious to Jim and Lou that he can't hit. I also think it means something that Lou had the Hoff starting at first in the rainout game.
   27. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2009 at 05:02 PM (#3148008)
Lou has always been a guy who will play a player that is hitting and is not afraid to sit a player that is not hitting or stops hitting. He did this when Fontenot first came up, he did this to Eyre when he got off to a slow start, he did it to Edmonds, Soto, and other players as well. If Hoff can hit and continues to hit Lou will find a spot for him. Lou is definitely no Dusty who would refuse to play anybody that wasn't one of his grizzled vets.
   28. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 22, 2009 at 07:31 PM (#3148298)
Taking the broadest possible view of his MLB performance, Fukudome's at least an above average offensive CF, as his career OPS+ is now 99 & his career Eqa is .268. And just using those numbers discounts the upside suggested by 6 straight seasons of .900 - 1.000+ OPSes he put up in Japan.

That's not to suggest that it's time to hop on the Fukudome's a superstar bandwagon, he might be a .775 OPS guy or an .850 OPS guy. It's just that I think there was a tendency to overinterpret the shape of Fookie's 2008 season without looking at the whole of it. His 2008 April showed upside, his September downside and his season totals--plus translations of his performance in Japan--the most likely projection going forward. Figuring out trends on the basis of a couple months worth of data isn't always the best way to work. I think that, while we might hope for more, we'd all be happy if Fookie had an OBP heavy .775 OPS when the season ended. Noting that if that's where he winds up, he might be a below average all around player as BPro and UZR have him in the -10 to -20 range in CF.
   29. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 22, 2009 at 07:35 PM (#3148313)
he might be a below average all around player as BPro and UZR have him in the -10 to -20 range in CF.

There's no way we can put any reliance on those numbers yet. And that's seems impossible with what we've seen so far, he may be below average but he appears to be doing passing work out there so far.
   30. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 22, 2009 at 08:37 PM (#3148447)
Agreed, Moses. Still, even with the small sample size, the results aren't too far off from my expectation for Kosuke going into the season. Based on what I've seen so far, I'd picture him finishing closer to -10 than -20. He's looked about as good as I'd hoped: fundamentally strong, but not particularly fast or instinctual.
   31. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 22, 2009 at 10:14 PM (#3148599)
I'm posting this all over the place:

The Cubs will call up Jeff Samardzija from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday to join the bullpen, general manager Jim Hendry said Wednesday.

Neal Cotts is in no danger of being optioned, and Hendry said Sean Marshall will remain in the rotation. This could mean Luis Vizcaino is in danger of being released.
   32. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: April 22, 2009 at 10:45 PM (#3148653)
For the sake of completeness:

The decision to call up Jeff Samardzija on Thursday signals the end of Luis Vizcaino's brief career on the North Side, while giving Aaron Heilman a companion as the bridge to Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.

"He'll help out in that sixth, seventh inning role to start with," Piniella said. "He's been starting,so he's built up his arm. I probably will use (David) Patton and (Angel) Guzman a little longer. Jeff will be one of my shorter people- not in heighth. Anyways, we'll use him an inning plus. He's not going to be pitching long. We'll use him like we're using Heilman.

Neal Cotts managed to survive once again, but obviously will be on a short leash due to his control issues. Piniella spoke to Cotts after Tuesday's game and told him to "make the hitters hit it" instead of nibbling around the plate.

"I told him to relax and throw the ball," Piniella said. "Seems like he's aiming some. Last year he finished up the season really really strong and came to spring training and really pitched well three quarters of the way through spring. I told him to just relax and throw it. You've got a good arm- use it."

Actually, Cotts' struggles date back to last August, when he compiled a 6.10 earned-run average. He had a 6.00 ERA in September, but had two scoreless outings in the playoff loss to Los Angeles.

General manager Jim Hendry said he's confident Cotts will turn things around.

"We've got faith that Neal is going to come out of it," Hendry said. "He pitched very well at the end of last year, and pitched very well, except for (one) game in spring training. It's April 22nd. He had a couple of bad days. We're going to keep giving him more chances, and I think he's going to be tough enough to figure it out."

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