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YEAH! WOOHOO!! YES! YES! YES! GOOD! GREAT! AWESOME! WOOHOO! TERRIFFIC! EXCELLENT! YEAH!
From time to time I have a little difficulty figuring out how to express myself eloquently, but today is one of those times when eloquence is not needed... its just too good to be true.
I have 37 million thoughts running through my head on this trade, but I am going to try and slow down long enough to make them coherent. Its been 4:44 minutes or so since I woke up, and checked ESPN.com to find that the Cubs had not done anything at the trade deadline... or so I thought.
My roommate was in town, helping to clean the carpet in our apartment, which we are moving out of in a 11 days, and he is only a half Cubs (casually interested, but also roots for the White Sox, not a huge baseball fan) fan. He was asking me what I thought about the Cubs lack of a trade, and I said dejectedly... "I was hoping they would do something, but unless they were going to trade for Nomar or Cabrera, any other trade they are gonna do can happen as a waiver deal. I don't really want Cabrera, because to get him the Cubs would have to overpay... and to get Nomar, I don't want to give up Clement, plus... its Nomar, he's not actually going anywhere."
Ten minutes later, my phone rings, and my best friend Chris yells something that sounded a little like
"Noooomaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!" a pause, "Nomar, Nomar, Nomar, the Cubs got Nomar!"
To which I reply, "Holy (Byron has developed a potty-mouth at college)! Are you kidding me? You're kidding me!"
"No, the Cubs got Nomar!"
"Did they give up Clement? They didn't give up Clement did they?" (pleading) "You're kidding me right?"
"No, I am not joking, they didn't have to give up Clement either!"
--- "Holy (Byron has really developed a potty-mouth at college)!"
"They sent Alex Gonzalez and some minor leaguers to Boston for Nomar! It was a four team deal!"
"!!!Uh-Oh, which minor leaguers... they're not all the same, was it Guzman, Brownlie, Pie? Not Sisco?" I worried.
"Uh, I think Brownlie was involved..."
Anyhow, the conversation went on like that for about 5 minutes before we started looking for the actual facts. When we did find out what happened, I was even happier. Bobby Brownlie remained a Cub, so did my other prized prospects, and Matt Clement was stickin around Chi-Town for a crack at the World Series.
My post below this discusses the actual trade details, so I am not going to repeat the trade specifics again, but analysis follows.
I feel Omar Minaya's evaluation must receive a great boost for this trade.
The Expos made out like bandits in this trade, and here is why: they gave up nothing to get 2 prospects. Career numbers indicate that A-Gone! is the same player as Cabrera (the main reason I was against a trade with the Expos) but they got two prospects and the same player back.
Expos - Cabrera + A-Gone! + Beltran + Harris = Expos + Beltran + Harris.
Hence, Minaya essentially got two prospects for nothing. Cabrera was leaving anyway after the season ends, his team is horrible, and it is moving after the season... so winning now is not crucial, but having a better stocked minor league system is important. Additionally, the prospects Minaya got from the Cubs are ready for AAAA (4 A) ball in Montreal.
Terry Ryan's stock might go down a bit as a result of this trade. The Twins are in contention, and they didn't improve their club with this trade. I can't understand moving a component of your roster for a prospect when you are trying to win a division. However, since Mientkiewicz was a back-up and Jones is supposedly an A+ prospect, you can't really evaluate Minnesota's trade yet.
Jim Hendry's stock should be going through the roof... as explained above.
Nomar to the Cubs is worth a win flag.
OK, here is the trade, as I wrote down what Jim Hendry said at the News Conference, (I'm no reporter, and this is coming from memory, so bear with me since the facts are
1st Trade Cubs with Montreal Expos Cubs trade Alex Gonzalez, AAA prospect Francis Beltran, and AAA prospect Brendan Harris to the Expos for Orlando Cabrera.
2nd Trade: Cubs with Red Sox The Cubs send Orlando Cabrera and minor league A prospect Justin Jones to the Red Sox for Nomar Garciaparra, minor league prospect Matt Murton (OF) and 'cash considerations,'
3rd trade: Red Sox with Minnesota Twins The Red Sox send pitching prospect Justin Jones to the Minnesota Twins for Doug Mientkiewicz
|Alex Gonzalez |
|Nomar Garciaparra |
|Orlando Cabrera||Doug Mientkiewicz|
|Nomar Garciaparra |
|Orlando Cabrera |
|Alex Gonzalez |
UPDATE: 6:14 p.m.
Here's the breakdown: the Cubs traded left-handed pitcher Justin Jones to the Minnesota Twins for infielder Doug Mientkiewicz. The Cubs then sent Mientkiewicz, infielders Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris and right-handed pitcher Francis Beltran to the Red Sox.
Boston sent Nomar Garciappara (correctly spelled Garciaparra), minor league outfielder Matt Murton and cash considerations to the Cubs, and the Red Sox also sent Gonzalez, Beltran and Harris to the Montreal Expos for infielder Orlando Cabrera.
The official report contradicts what I wrote (which is what I though Jim Hendry said on WGN), except that the end result is the same... which I guess is what is important... well actually what is important is that the Cubs get NOMAR, and didn't have to give up Matt Clement.
The Cubs lost to Philly 4-3 before the Nomar trade. I was sleeping after a long night of apartment moving prep... I might comment on this later, but probably not.
The Cubs took the opener from the Phillies 10-8. Mark Prior pitched poorly, but Aramis Ramirez hit three (3) home runs... this game was eerily reminiscient of the 'Pujols Game' when Albert hit 3 dongs to sink the Cubs.
In the final game of the series against Milwaukee, The Cubs pitchers racked up their 4th shutout of the season behind an excellent Carlos Zambrano start.
Showing their familiar flair for scoring few runs, the Cubs went down in a heap 6-3 to the 'mighty' Milwaukee Brew Masters. Kerry Wood had good stuff tonight, but had a fair amount of trouble retiring the lead-off hitter in most innings.
Woody allowed the first Brewer to reach base in 4 of 6 frames. In both the first, second, and fourth innings, the leadoff batter reached base and subsequently scored. Moreover, in the fifth inning, Scott Podsednick reached on a single and then stole second. He would have undoubtably scored on Geoff Jenkins' double had Wood not picked him off second base a batter earlier. In fact, the only two Brewers to score against Wood that did not reach as leadoff men were Bill Hall and Ben Grieve who scored the old-fashioned way... by hitting the ball over the wall.
Despite pretty decent stuff, Wood took the loss with a rather ugly line: 6 IP, 5 (earned) runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, and 10 punchouts.
On the Offensive side of the ball, the Cubs left their bats at the hotel... again. They scored thrice, first on a Michael Barrett Solo shot in the second inning, and again in the seventh inning when Aramis followed a D. Lee double with his own single. In the eighth Alex Gonzalez lead off with a double, advanced to third on a Corey Patterson ground out, and scored from third on Todd Walker's sacrifice fly. Although the Cubs scored 3, they only had 5 hits and 2 walks (one of which, Kerry Wood, got picked off first). This offense can certainly be pathetic.
In Other News: Aside from moaning about the Cubs offensive woes again, its time for me to catch up on some observations I have noticed but not necessarily recorded lately.
Back up in Milwaukee, for another game tonight. The Cubs made it easy, posting 2 runs in the first, 2 in the third, and 3 more in the 9th. With an early lead, Greg Maddux pitched excellently for his third straight start, picking up his 10th win this season and 299th career win. The Cubs finished the game with a 7-1 lead.
Maddux' line tonight was 6 innings pitched, 1 run on 4 hits, including a solo home run to Russel Branyan in the 6th inning. He struck out 6 and walked 1, running his record to 10-7 and dropping his season ERA to 3.91. Also of note, Maddux pitched only 79 pitches before being pulled for pinch hitter Tom Goodwin in the top of the seventh.
On the offensive side, Todd Walker, Sammy Sosa, and Derrek Lee all went 2 for 4, with at least one RBI.
Wrigley Field North... The Brewers have had 8 games this season with home attendance of 40,000+. Opening day, Saturday games in June and July, and 5 games against the Cubs. The Cubs by contrast have had fourteen 40,000+ crowds at Wrigley with official capacity of 39,558.
I wanted to add these two charts to yestereday's post. The first chart is a bar chart (histogram) showing frequency of the Cubs runs scored per game. (For example, the Cubs have scored 0 runs 9 times... etc.)
This second graph is the same as the first, except it depicts runs allowed per game by the pitchers and defense.
Looking at the two together, its obvious to see the Cubs have outscored their opponents, and it also shows that the Cubs pitching has been more consistent than the offense. (In 83% of all games, the Cubs pitching has limited opponents to 5 runs or less.)
After watching Baseball Tonight yesterday, I went back and watched the highlights of the White Sox vs. Twins game yesterday. The Twins lost their second baseman to a broken collarbone when he was trying to field a Willie Harris bunt.
Later in the game, one of my favorite players, Torii Hunter, sent White Sox catcher Jaime Burke to the hospital on a collision at the plate. Only, it looked pretty clear to me that Hunter took a cheap shot and went out of his way to hit Burke... tsk, tsk, tsk Torii.
It sure is nice to run up the white and blue 'W' flag. Tonight's game was on WCIU, and I was taking an exam and then working, so I haven't gotten to see any of the game or highlights. But, the Cubs won 3-1 over Milwaukee, finally getting Matt Clement enough run support to give him a victory. (Not that 3 runs, all of which came after Clement threw his last pitch... is all that much.)
I did see that there was a Derrek Lee home run, and that Mark Grudzielanek went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI, but I want to watch the game later so I'm not digging in too deep to the boxscore.
Tonight's post is one that has been in the works for a few days now. I wanted to look at the Cubs offensive output for signs of a trend, or consistency. What I came up with is not profound, or anything that a half way conscious Cubs fan couldn't tell you... the Cubs have been Wildly Inconsistent.
First, the pictures.
This is a graph of the Cubs average runs scored for the previous 10 games. (i.e. the average runs scored for games #5-15 are the data point for game #15.)
This is a graph of the Cubs average runs allowed for the previous 10 games. (i.e. the average runs allowed for games #5-15 are the data point for game #15.)
This graph lays the previous two graphs on top of each other for comparison.
This final graph shows the Cubs predicted winning percentage, using the Pythagorean standings vs the Cubs' actual winning percentage.
Now, The Numbers: as of July 26,2004 after the game.
In this year, the Cubs' year, nothing it seems has gone to plan. The Cubs were supposed to dominate all the way to the NL pennant... no one expected Mark Prior to have a sore achilles, for Sammy to sneeze, for Kerry to feel discomfort in his elbow, or for the rest of the team to go down with everything short of internal parasites... and no one expected Eric Milton would throw a no-hitter for 8 innings against the Cubs.
The irony of the game is that Doug Glanville was inserted into the game in the 9th as a defensive replacement. In his first chance in the outfield, Glanville broke back on a Michael Barrett Texas Leaguer, and then came sprinting in too late to catch the ball.
Eric Milton then retired the next two batters, which would have capped off his no-no, except Barrett was standing on second. A clean Mark Grudzielanek single up the middle followed by a Corey Patterson double off the centerfield wall nearly 400 feet away scored both Barrett and Patterson to tie the game. With the no-hitter and shut out gone, Larry Bowa replaced Eric Milton to pull the plug on the complete game as well.
Two pitches later, Ryan Madison retired Sammy Sosa on a ground ball to Jimmy Rollins.
Jim Thome lead off the bottom of the ninth by walking, and was advanced to second by Doug Glanville's sacrifice bunt. A Pat Burrell single scored Thome from second and LaTroy Hawkins picked up his 3rd loss.
Speaking of which... Does your team need a weak hitting, speedy centerfielder with a solid glove, and a reputation for good veteran leadership? Rumor is Doug Glanville is available.
Steve Stone summed it up well: "For the Cubs, another bitter loss."
The last time the Cubs played nine innings without recording a hit (or even a walk) was in 1965 when Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game. That Cubs' lineup included Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Ernie Banks.
The Cubs lost on Saturday 4-3. Despite home runs from Sammy, Derrek, and Aramis... all three dingers were solo.
Excerpt from: "Baker tells fans: It's decision time, 'You're either for us or against us'"
"Manager Dusty Baker had a message for anyone planning to jump off the Cubs' bandwagon after their recent free-fall from the NL Central Division race:
Don't bother climbing back on board come October.
"Last year we didn't have all the expectations, we didn't have everybody picking us, we didn't have all the trials and tribulations we've had this year," Baker said Thursday. "But that's what's going to make it even sweeter. The way I look at it is you're either for us or against us.
"I'm no front-running man, or a front-running manager. I'm not crazy about front-runners, but that's human nature..."
"I didn't come all the way here from California to lose and be away from family," he said. "I came here to win. It's my most difficult year, yeah, starting from the beginning."
Gut Check Time: Come On Dusty! You are a great manager, and no matter how often you are second guessed, 95% of the second city will say so. However, whining about people "jumping" off the bandwagon is a bit ridiculous. QUICK! lets check the Attend-O-Meter 2004.
... So far, through 49 home games, the Cubs have had 1,929,199 fans attend the games, for an average of 39,371 or 99.53% of capacity! At Wrigley, you have never played in front of fewer than 37,307 fans this season, and with 32 home games remaining, your season attendance has already surpassed that of every year from 1876 - 1983, 1986, 1994, and 1995. You are on pace to play in front of 3.18 million fans this year, which is nearly 200,000 more than you played in front of last year, the Cubs all-time high. All of this with the second most expensive average ticket ($28.45) in Major League Baseball!
When fans jump off the bandwagon, they stop coming to games (see Montreal... or even the South Side for that matter.) Yeah, fans are going to be upset that the Cubs aren't dominating the division like the media promised we would, but that doesn't mean that we as fans are abandoning the team... these are Cubs fans you are talking about.
Besides, Cubs fans can get on or off the bandwagon whenever they please! Its our money! We pay for tickets, TV advertising, Cable bills, team memorabilia, and Dusty Baker bobbleheads! So we'll come and go as we please! (But I am on it, and staying.)
My rant aside, the Cubs played two games of decent baseball after getting swept in their third series of the year. (A two game series in Houston, a three gamer in Milwaukee, and the two against the Cards at Wrigley.)
They responded to near divisional elimination by sweeping the second place Reds into third place. With a 5-4 victory on Wednesday and a 13-2 schelacking of the Cincinnati ball club on Thursday, the Cubs reclaimed second place ten games behind the St. Louis Yankees. (So this is what its like to be a Red Sox fan.)
Anyhow, with the return of 8 healthy starters into the lineup, the Cubs offense is starting to produce a few runs. Aramis returned to the lineup on Sunday, and Alex Gonzalez returned on Monday. Since then (Monday), the Cubs have scored 4, 8, 5, and 13 runs. I'm not ready to proclaim the offense "fixed," but it is definitely improved.
I also should mention Mr. Maddux, as the last time I had a sizable post on him, I was rather frustrated with his performance. Since then, he has turned it around and pitched quite well. His last two outings have both resulted in complete game victories. In 18 innings pitched, he has allowed 2 (earned) runs, 9 hits, 0 walks, 10 Ks, and lowered his ERA by 0.48. Over the stretch, he has an ERA of 1.00 and a WHIP of .50. Welcome back Greg! His last victory was also #298.
Greg Maddux Sacrifice Bunt Watch: After spending half the season chronicling how bad Maddux looks trying to put down a sacrifice bunt, (despite an approximate 100% success rate) I called off the watch. So what happens? Greg goes out and pops up a sac bunt yesterday. Oh well. At the time the score was 3-1 Cubs, but they went on to score another 10 runs, and he pitched a complete game... I think I'll let it slide.
I checked my hit counter this morning, and saw that I have had 1,034 visits from 598 visitors (unique IP addresses) this month. Since this is my first month with more than 1,000 visits, I would just like to thank all of my loyal readers for coming back as often as you do... and feel free to leave comments whenever you want.
Since I started working on this website regularly in April, TheCubdom.com has seen a great growth rate in interest from Cubs fans, and I just want to thank those other people/websites who have linked to me and helped get out the word. I really never expected so many people to drop by so soon... its just been great.
Byron Clarke - Cubs Fan, TheCubdom.com Webmaster, and Proprietor.
The Cubs are playing the Reds as I post this. I'm at work and have the gameday up on one screen while blogging on the second. Although I had to be here to babysit the lab at 2:00, I did get to see the first inning on ESPN and what I saw was typical of the Cubs season. They get two outs, load the bases, and then an out, scoring 0 runs. Now, the Cubs have done this two outs bases loaded bit (sometimes even scoring runs) numberous times this year... and I have also been saying that the Cubs need a #2 hitter... so here are the Cubs stats so far this year, broken down by batting order position.
Splits as of July 20th, from ESPN.com Cubs Splits.
Keying on two statistics (OBP and SLG), we see the Cubs failure to get sufficient production from the #2 (and #3) spot. With an OBP of .305 in the second hole, the Cubs are tacking on an extra out right before bringing up their power hitters.
Lineup Suggestion: Our current lineup has really been struggling to put up some runs, so I'll suggest this lineup.
#1: Todd Walker .363 - OBP in the leadoff over Grudz' .309
#2: C. Pat .334 OBP - speed at the top is nice
#3: D. Lee .371 OBP, .535 SLG - sorry Sammy... best hitter hits #3.
#4: Aramis Ramirez .371 OBP, .551 SLG - umm I mean best hitter hits #4.
#5: Moises Alou .339 OBP, .527 SLG - Mr. Clutch will have more men on
#6: Sammy Sosa .356 OBP, .538 SLG - With baserunners comes more fastballs
#7: Michael Barrett .342 OBP, .493 SLG - will see those RBI climb
#8: Alex Gonzalez .252 OBP, .390 SLG - strikes out too much for #8, oh well.
#9: Starting Pitchers
I don't want to ramble on and on about the lineup, I typically leave that up to Dusty, but I do want to point out some probabilities.
The probability of three batters with OBP of .336, .305, and .314, (the current performance levels) getting out in order is: 31.66%, and the probability of getting them all on base safely is 3.22%.
However, if the batters' OBP are .363, .334, and .371 (the suggested lineup) the probability of all three getting out in order falls 5% to 26.68% and the probability of getting all three on base is 4.50%.
Consequently, the first lineup has a 68.34% chance of getting at least one man on base while the second lineup has a 73.32% chance of getting one or more men aboard.
All rumors aside, while at work I occasionally have to help people, and so this post has taken a while to create. Its currently (4:58 pm Central) the 8th inning with the Cubs up by 1 run (5-4)... I'm gonna post now, but check back later in a few hours because I will append a second post to this one discussing the game, and hopefully a little chart I've been working on about run consistency.
Check that, I got busy and will try to post again tommorrow. (11:55 PM)
This is to proclaim that Today, Tuesday July 20, 2004 is "Albert Pujols Game" day.
The date, 7/20/2004 will be forever recalled in much the same way that 6/23/1984 is remembered. The day that the Cubs and Cardinals faced off and a young future Hall of Famer single handedly launched his team to a play-off berth.
Like Ryne Sandberg before him, Albert Pujols smashed multiple home runs and RBI's to help his club overcome a large deficit against their rivals. Today's game will be a legendary game for years to come... only this time it came at the Cubs' expense.
Albert Pujols went 5 for 5, with 4 runs scored, 5 RBI, 3 home runs, a double, and a single, while the Cardinals overcame a 6 run deficit to beat the Cubs 11-8, sending the Cubs season spiraling down the toilet, and propeling the Cardinals to a 10 game lead in the NL Central.
First At-Bat: 1st inning --> Double
Albert hits a double with a full count and 1 out, driving in the Tony Womack from second for the Cardinals first run of the game.Cardinals 1, Cubs 0
Second At-Bat: 3rd inning --> Solo Home Run
After the Cubs scored 7 in the second inning, Albert hits a 2 out home run off Glendon Rusch to help the Cardinals begin their comeback. Cardinals 2, Cubs 7
Third At-Bat: 6th inning --> Single
Keying a 4 run sixth inning, Pujols leads off the inning with a single to Cubs Centerfielder Corey Patterson. Pujols later scores on a Jim Edmonds single. Cardinals 6, Cubs 8
Fourth At-Bat: 7th inning --> Solo Home Run
Albert greets Kyle Farnsworth rudely by leading off the 7th inning with his second solo home run of the day, on the first pitch he sees. The home run brings the Cardinals within 1 run of the Cubs. Cardinals 7, Cubs 8
Fifth At-Bat: 9th inning --> Two Run Home Run
Hitting his third home run of the game, Pujols gives the Cardinals the lead for the first time since the secind inning. This time, Edgar Renteria is on first, and the home run comes off Cubs closer LaTroy Hawkins. Cardinals 11, Cubs 8
The Cubs also lost yesterday, (Monday) by a score of 4 to 5. Carlos Zambrano gave up 3 home runs and the Cardinals held off the Cubs for the victory, sending the Cubs to a 9 game deficit in the division.
Well... Ummm... At Least... As of Tuesday, Lance Armstrong is back on top in the Tour de France. Go Lance, lets get #6!
Trade Rumors abound... Randy, or Nomar... or Orlando Cabrera... or huh? What do we need? Lets look at some numbers
Solo: 87 - 50.6%
2-run: 59 - 34.3%
3-run: 25 - 14.5%
Grand Slams: 1 - 1.2%
Runs driven in via the HR: 284
Total: 117 (on pace for 208, increase of 21% over 2003)
Solo: 77 - 65.8%
2-run: 27 - 23.1%
3-run: 11 - 9.4%
Grand Slams: 2 - 1.7%
Runs driven in via the HR: 172 (on pace for 306, increase of 7.7%)
Summation: Despite an increase of just over 21% in the number of home runs hit by the 2004 Cubs, they are only realizing a 7.7% increase in runs scored.
Possible Conclusions: The 2004 Cubs are hitting a substantial number of back to back home runs, or home runs very soon after another player has just hit a home run.
The 2004 Cubs are not getting as many men on base, so when a home run is hit, those men are not being driven in.
So which is it?
2003 Cubs OBP: .323
2004 Cubs OBP: .326
Wow! I sure didn't think that was gonna be the case. Well, the conclusion then has to be the first one. The Cubs added home run pop is driving in the same runners that would otherwise have been knocked in...
Still, my gut and memory tells me that the Cubs offensive woes are a result of not having a good 1, 2 combination at the top of the order... a "daily double" so to speak.
OK, one more shot at vindication. Aramis and Kenny Lofton came over on July 22nd, 2003. So, lets check the press notes from July 23rd last year.
Cubs Homers - Total: 101, Solo: 55, 2-run: 29, 3-run: 16, Grand Slams: 1
Well sorta, after Kenny Lofton was acquired to get on base the Cubs solo HR percentage dropped about 5% and the 2-run home run percentage increased by 5%. A change over the rest of the 2004 season would result in about an estimated extra 5 or 6 runs...
Final Conclusion: Although I would prefer a high OBP #1 or #2 hitter, the statistics say Randy Johnson would be a better pickup.
Wait A Minute You Say: Not all runs are scored on the home run you say? Yeah, you are right, but... some interesting tid-bits I ran across in researching this post...
Chicago Cubs offensive runs/game pre July 23rd, 2003 (a.k.a. Pre- Aramis and Kenny) 4.58 Runs per game. Post 7/23/03 - 4.30 Runs per Game.
2003 Cubs Pitching pre July 23: 4.418 Runs Per Game and 3.90 RPG July 23 and beyond.
The Cubs dropped the last game of the Brewers series, which I didn't see... Woody pitched well, but the bullpen blew it in a 4-2 loss to the Brewers.
Finally made it over to "the temple" today. It was loyal Cubdom.com reader Myles' birthday, and so I threw him an impromptu party up at Wrigley.
We got up early and drove out to Wrigley to stand in line at 8:50 am to get standing room only tickets. Then, we waited around Wrigleyville until the gates opened four hours later. Watched BP, and then took in a 2 hour and 5 minute game.
The game was awesome. The weather was just perfect, if not a bit chilly from the wind blowing straight in from left field. Maddux was cruising right from the start when he got a double play in the first to get him out of his typically troublesome first inning.
Three double plays and nine innings later, Maddux had completed the game with a
five six hit shutout. He was quite efficient with his pitches and just cruised.
Despite the aforementioned wind conditions, the Cubs' hitters went yard three times. A Sammy solo in the first to get things started, an Alou solo, and a two-run shot from C-Pat. Add in a run scoring on a wild pitch and the Cubs won 5-0 over the Brew Crew.
I'll have some more reflections later, but for now, I'm just going to say that you have to see Derrek Lee in person to appreciate just how large and strong he is. This guy is a monster, and when he swings, the ball absolutely rockets off his bat. I couldn't help but think about what the scouts were saying about him... as in "Moneyball" where the scouts dream about what a player will become. Frankly, I think the man is too big to play baseball... its not really fair.
Following Saturday's game, the Cubs were back to trailing the Cardinals by 7 games, as the Reds defeated the Cards.
Only caught bits and pieces of the game on the radio, but the story is that Matt Clement got another loss on a poor offensive showing. Although only allowing three runs, Clement got tagged with the loss in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the mighty Brewers.
After Friday's game, the Cubs dropped to their season worst, 8 games behind the St. Louis Yankees, who won on Friday over the Reds.
In many ways, I despise the All-Star break. Right as the season is warming up, trade rumors are flying through the air, and the "games back" column is starting to pressure the bubble teams... baseball takes a three day break.
Anyhow, after escaping near certain banishment to the wild card race on Monday night, the Cubs had Mark Prior on the hill vs. the overachieving Brew Crew, at home, playing under the lights. In a phrase, it was a wonderful evening for a ballgame... or was it?
By now, you know Mark Prior was felled with a mighty blow to the elbow while on the mound by gargantuan aliens invading from outer-space in an attempt to stop the Cubs from running away with the Central division... or something like that.
ALL CUBDOM PANICED
And now its time to take a deep breath and relax. I'm not going to insult my readers by saying/implying that Prior's health isn't important and vital to this team's success. However, I will say that since the Cubs have had their starting rotation intact for all of 10.2 innings, we shouldn't be flipping out over a return to the status quo.
Yes, in the first half, we took on the Red-Birds with one arm tied behind our backs (actually a lot more than one... lets see Remlinger 2x, Prior, Wood, Wellemeyer, Borowski, etc.) and the Red-birds licked us. That doesn't mean we can't get off the mat and try again.
Last year, the Cubs had a .500 record at the break, and lost 2 of 3 out of the second-half gate. While the NL central is definitely tougher this year, the NL as a whole is not. The Cubs are in an excellent position to make a run at the Wild Card, and if we take care of business, we might upgrade to the NL Central title if the St. Louis Yankees start playing like the St. Louis Cardinals.
Thursday Night's Game: Mark Prior pitches 1.2 innings, allows 1 run on a Scott Podsednick leadoff two bagger, and two sacrifice flies. After coming down with a sore elbow, Prior gave way to Glendon Rusch (I've been trying to figure out a nick name for Glendon that involves the letters MVP... kinda like Cy Zambrano... although MVP Rusch just doesn't have the ring). Glendo-man proceeded to pitch 5.1 innings of shutout, emergency spot-startish relief. The bullpen (Remlinger, Farnsworth, and Hawkins) chipped in another 2 scoreless. In total, the Cubs pitchers combined for nine innings of 1 run baseball, allowing only 5 hits, striking out 5, and walking 9!
The last part about walking 9 made for both an exciting/stressful game, and an interesting opportunity to look up some trivia... Drum roll please... The last team to walk at least 9, while limiting the opponent to 1 or fewer runs was the Atlanta Braves on July 4th, 2002. In an ironic twist, the Cubs were the opponent and Prior was pitching in that game, although it was the Braves who walked 9, but only allowed one run. (The run resulted from a Prior double and a Sosa single... no walk resulted in a run Thursday, or two years ago.) (Other trivia: There have only been 10 games with 9+ walks and 1 or fewer runs since the start of the 2000 season.)
The Offense had a decent night Thursday, scoring 4 runs. D. Lee drove in the first run when he hit a line drive home run in the second. Coming right after Prior left the game, Lee's home run seemed like a big pick me up, as if he was saying... "Mark, you're not losing this game, just fix the elbow."
In the sixth, the Cubs pushed across three more runs. Jose Macias reached on a speed induced error committed by Craig Counsell. In a rush to get the 'fleet of foot' Macias, Counsell bobbled the ball on the transfer from glove to throwing hand. Corey Patterson followed up with a single in the gap, and Macias (perhaps unwisely) tested Podsednick's arm... just barely beating the throw (would have made the first out at third). With C-Pat playing heads up ball, he cruised into second allowing Sammy to come to bat with men on 2nd and 3rd with none out. A Doug Davis wild pitch later, and Macias scored with Corey advancing to third. Despite a Sammy Sosa strikeout, Moises Alou followed up with a sinking line drive that Podsednick dived for and missed. The ball nearly rolled to the wall, and Moises Alou had a triple. Derrek Lee then picked up his second rib-eye of the night when his shot to the wall remained in the vines for a ground rule double.
Unfortunately, the St. Louis Yankees prevailed again last night, and the Cubs remain 7 games back.
In other news, I am gonna be "in communicado" for the next three days or so. Have a great weekend everyone.
Editor's note: Sorry about that, I jumped to a conclusion and just assumed it was the achilles. Mark Prior has apparently suffered a sore elbow... at least thats what Chip and Steve just said on WGN.
I think I would have preferred it to be the achilles.
Hee Seop Choi 2004 splits from ESPN.com's Hee Seop Choi page
Derrek Lee 2004 splits from ESPN.com's Derrek Lee Page
If you knew me when the Derrek Lee - Hee Seop Choi trade went down, (before I started this Cubdom thing), you would have heard me complaining about how much I liked Hee Seop and how I thought this was another Rafael Palmeiro trade, where the Cubs were giving up a potential All-Star for years to come in return for an opportunity to win now. At the time, I was resigned to knowing with my head that the trade was necessary to win this year, but disappointed because Hee Seop was a Cubs farm product, and I wanted to see him stay.
In fact, I still feel this way about the trade. Please don't get me wrong, looking at the numbers now, I still would have made this trade, but it doesn't make the pain subside.
At the end of April and May I wrote a post comparing D. Lee's performance with his trade-brother Hee Seop Choi.When we last left the D. Lee / Hee Seop analysis, I had this to say... going to the way, way, way, back machine.
D. Lee's average is a bit higher than we would expect, but we should see the average climb between 30 and 50 points over the next couple of months. Also, the slugging percentage is higher than would be expected, but we can expect some extra thump for the next two months. Finally, the OBP should climp by about 40 points in the next couple of months. May 31st
I noted last week that Lee's swing was looking better, and maybe its starting to pay off (although I ought to mention there was a 1-20 stretch in the last week)...
The two firstbasemen are pretty well matched offensively. Choi has slightly better offensive numbers, but Lee's stellar defense more than makes up the difference. After two months, the biggest difference between the two players is that Choi earns $310,000 while Lee is paid $6,166,667. Still, I am witholding a preliminary judgment on who "won" the trade, (although through two months, the Marlins clearly have comparable value and a fatter wallet). May 30th
Which brings us to the here and now. At the ASB, our two heroic first basemen are pretty well matched on the percentages. D. Lee has a sizable advantage in batting average, and a marginal lead in SLG. Hee Seop has a decent sized lead in OBP and OPS. However, the major difference is that Lee has been more durable, and has had more opportunities. Lee has nearly 60 more plate appearances than Hee Seop and has hit twice as many doubles, leading to a significant lead in RBI's (49 vs. 35). However, the two are tied in Runs scored, which kind of indicates that Lee is the last consistent hitter in the Cubs' attack while Hee Seop is being moved across the plate by his teammates.
Despite being pretty equal in the mid-year numbers, Derrek Lee caught fire again in June, as his reputation indicated.
Indeed, the annual Hee Seop Choi, post april slump has set in. The Cubs look to have achieved what they wanted when they traded for Lee. They have a more consistent bat heading into the Summer months, and the glovework between the two isn't even comparable. Derrek has clearly been superior to Choi since June 1, and frankly his numbers on the year are better than Hee Seop's as well.
The Salary difference however might come back to bite the Cubs later on, as we could sure use the spare $5 million this winter. On the other hand, if the Cubs are to win a World Series this year, Lee's added performance over Hee Seop will be one of the major components.
This post is in no way declaring one team "a winner" of the trade, and another team "the loser." In fact, both players are pretty young and their careers and length of stay with their team will have a bigger impact in deciding who won, than the June 2004 statistics. However, both sides will tell you that they got exactly what they bargained for... and thats a relief.
The Second Half Starts Tonight and all I have to say is GO CUBBIES!
Watching the All-Star game is always one of my favorite games of the year. I always enjoy watching all of the stars having fun and batting one right after the other against insanely good pitching. However, Fox' coverage has been absolutely brutal.
The Blues Brother's theme was dumb enough in the voting, but extending it to the pre-game show made even less sense. OK, lets all watch Roger Clemens and his family run out of their front door and into a car as quickly as possible (the over under is 11 takes to get it right). Next, Joe Torre and Jack McKeon get shuttled into Minute Maid in their cars and it just made me cringe.
The Pre-game commentators, Kevin Kennedy and Jeannie Zelasko made me jump when I first saw them. Ms. Zelasko has the worst looking hair mess I've seen on TV in a while, and Kennedy looks dumb with a bright yellow corsage in his suit pocket.
To make matters worse, Fox brings in Fantasia (winner of American Idol, a Fox program) to sing the star spangled banner... I'm still waiting for her to get finished.
Next, the lineups are announced, which is typically an exciting part of the game, but some Marketing weenie decided to have the players come out of the crowd, up a set of stairs onto the dugout roof, twenty feet down the dugout, down another set of stairs, and then out to the foul line. Its taking about 20 seconds to announce each player, and the crowd isn't cheering much, leading to lots of dead air time.
After Muhammad Ali gets tabbed to walk two baseballs out to the mound so some kids who won a drawing can throw the first pitches. We wait another 5 minutes while Derek Jeter and Ali have a phantom boxing match... can we play baseball now?
Yeah! after 46 minutes of pre-game festivities, we finally get underway.
1st: Ichiro and Pudge Rodriguez have started out the game by giving Sammy two chances to mkae nice plays, on neither of which he did. (He also missed the cut-off man trying to show off his arm). Oh Rocket! Manny sends a no-doubter into the right field seats, AL 3-0. Next, after an A-Rod punchout, Jeff Kent boots a baseball allowing Giambi to reach base followed by a Derek Jeter single and an Alfonso Soriano line drive that cleared the fence by 10 feet, but probably would have traveled 500 feet. AL 6, NL 0... but this one counts. (In case you forgot, its also written in 5 foot letters down 60 feet of the first baseline.)
With the top of the first finally in the books, we now get to laugh at the Astros players who have dug a 6 run deficit all by themselves... Mark Mulder doesn't look as bad as Clemens, but he isn't gonna throw a shutout. After getting Edgar Renteria to ground out, Albert Pujols nearly parks a pitch, but it is to deep center and bounces over the wall for a ground rule double. Mulder decides to pitch to Barry, and suprise, suprise he pops out. Sammy comes up to hit and he must be using a Todd Hollandsworth special because the bat absolutely disintegrates... which turns into a good thing as the ball falls three feet in front of Vlad Guerrero. Sammy picks up an All-Star RBI, and the inning ends with a 6-1 AL lead.
2nd: Danny Kolb comes on to relieve "the Rocket" and gets Ichiro (nice play by Pujols). Pudge Rodriguez singles to center, and Kolb puts the next ball at 95 MPH right under Vlad's chin. Vlad nearly backs his way into the dugout getting out of the way. Vlad flies out and Manny Ramirez grounds out to Renteria, keeping the AL within striking distance. 6-1 Junior Circuit.
Mark Mulder hits his spots in the second inning, setting down Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent, and Barry Larking in a row.6-1 American League leads
3rd: The Big Unit comes on to pitch in the third. Joe Buck can't resist the opportunity to talk about Randy's openness to a trade. Then, Fox debuts an animated baseball named Scooter who explains the difference between a fastball and a slider... COME ON!!! This is the all-star game, its not a game between the Devil Rays and Expos. There is enough star power in this game to sell the game on baseball, we don't need all of these stupid "special preset pieces." As I'm writing, we are being treated to a Randy Johnson music highlight reel... This TV coverage is awful.
In the meantime, while bellyaching about Fox, Jeter and Giambi have reached base, with Soriano up. He's got a chance to make it 6 RBI if he can get a hold of one. Soriano dribbles one between Renteria and Rolen, loading the bases for Ken Harvey, the Royals lone representative... the Big Unit racks up a strikeout against Harvey, but must now retire Ichiro with the bases juiced... and he's bailing out of the box. Ichiro grounds out to Pujols on a play that is almost identical to his firt at-bat. Johnson escapes without allowing a run, 6-1 AL
Esteban Loaiza takes over for Mulder, and I'm sensing the NL's opportunity to get back in the game. Loaiza's stats don't merit an All-Star selection this year, so maybe Albert, Barry, Sammy, and the boys will rack up some runs this inning... not going so well, Renteria and Pujols both ground out, but Loaiza can't bring himself to throw Bonds more than 1 strike. (Barry looks lighter than last year.) Rolen knocks one through the hole at short. Sammy comes up with two on and two out... Sammy! Sammy! Sammy! the crowd should be chatting... a ground ball to Soriano and the inning is over.
Expecting wholesale changes from now on out, I'll just update on runs for the rest of the game.
4th: Cy Zambrano takes the mound and makes quick work of Pudge Rodriguez and Vlad Guerrero. But David Ortiz draws a walk off Zambrano and Lance Berkman misplays a ball into an Alex Rodriguez triple. AL 7-1.
C.C. Sabathia comes in to pitch and retires Piazza and Berkman before Kent and Beltran reach on singles. Renteria hits a ground rule double because some fan reached over the wall by third base, scoring Kent. Albert Pujols takes the second pitch he sees and cranks it against the right field wall scoring two before Bonds pops up. AL leads 7-4
Bud Selig's annual All-Star Interuption Bud Selig gets on the field in the middle of the game and decides to present an award to Roger Clemens... although this presentation looks like it might only take 5 minutes... Can we play baseball now?
6th: David Ortiz sends a two run shot off of Carl Pavano deep into the right center field bleachers. No doubter. AL leads 9-4
... but I doubt we'll get it. Even with Wood returning, (which I see as a detriment to our chances to win tonight, just because he's coming back and hasn't pitched for two months,) I don't think the Cubs have a win in them. Not with a starting lineup that includes Rey Ordonez, Jose Macias, and an ice cold Moises Alou (as in 0-15 cold)
The game is just getting underway on ESPN, and it is easily the most important game of the year. Still, part of me says that win or lose, this game won't make a difference in the final standings, but rather the division will be decided in the second half. On the other hand, ask the 2003 Houston Astros what one additional win over the Cubs would have meant... So yes, this game is a must win.
The irony of this game, is that it might be more beneficial for the Cubs if they lose this game. SACRILEGE! you allege, but I think that if the Cubs took 3 days off and had to ponder a 9 game deficit and a six game losing streak... we might see a more determined team return from the break. If we win this game, I am concerned that Dusty will spin a positive picture for these guys and we won't see a team with a sense of urgency after the break.
Of course, I may just be full of it, another one of those ignorant, outspoken web bloggers out there... in fact, I'm pretty sure thats the case, so I'm saying GO CUBS! tonight.
Auditioning as Nostradamus: I wouldn't be suprised if Kerry Wood hits a home run tonight. He has a habit of hitting home runs when he comes back from an injury. Like in 2000 during his first start... I think there is another one too... I'll look it up later.
In Game Update: Sammy just hit a three run home run in Kerry Wood's return. Somewhere, Matt Clement is feeling a tingling sensation in his elbow... might get some offensive support that way.
Post Game Update: Whew... Cubs looked to have a laugher on their hands after an 8-1 lead, but LaTroy Hawkins had a rocky 9th, allowing three runs (one earned due to a C-Pat error) and recorded the final out with two men on.
All the end-of-game drama aside, Cubs won 8-4, with Kerry Wood allowing three hits, one earned run, and 5 strikeouts with 2 walks in 5 "pitch-count-limited" innings. He proved to be what the doctor ordered as the Cubs offense finally had a break out game.
As mentioned above, Sammy had a three run smash and 5 RBI's. Michael Barrett also hit a solo home run and an RBI single to drive in Moises Alou, with Corey Patterson contributing an RBI with an infield single ahead of Sammy Sosa's two out three run homer in the third.
Greg Maddux Sacrifice Bunt Watch: This section has been dead for about a month now, but gets revived because Maddog pinch hit tonight for Mike Remlinger in order to get a sacrifice bunt. Also related, the Cardinals' pitchers failed to get down another sacrifice bunt today (Chris Carpenter in the 3rd), which makes two this series.
All-in-all, this was a good game, and a relaxing one for Cubs fans who will now be able to stop hyperventilating for the next three games. However, I am still concerned that this team will not return after the break with a sense of urgency... which it needs.
The Cubs lost their fifth straight game yesterday, 5-2 to the Cardinals. Again, this loss should be blamed on the slumping offense, however Glendon Rusch allowed two runs in the eighth when he came on in relief, allowing a 3-2 Cardinals lead to become 5-2.
The Cubs got schelacked again last night. For all of us panicked Cubs fans, our four game losing streak is murdering us. However, perusing some blogs, I was comforted by the optimism over at Desipio Media Ventures - so check Friday July 9th's post.
Watching the game yesterday, Paul Bako caught a pop-up behind the plate. In doing so, he removed his mask and threw it away as a catcher is supposed to do. It reminded me that I have seen Michael Barrett forget to remove his mask several times in the past couple of weeks, two of those occasions resulted in Barrett droping the ball... one of them ended with Barrett sitting on his bum.
Moises Alou misplayed a ball off the left field wall AGAIN yesterday. While I like Alou, there is no way he should be brought back next year. I am not qualifying this statement at all. I frankly don't care if Moises signs for the minimum. Unless he is signed as only a backup, bench player, for almost no money, Mo should go. His fielding is atrocious more often than not. His lack of speed consistently turns doubles into singles, and his bat will likely never be up to par for a full season again.
Sorry Mo, I really do like you, but there are too many excellent outfielders available on the market this winter to pass up the opportunity.
Apologies to demi-god Jim Hendry, but John Schuerholz is the best GM in the game. He has built 12 consecutive division winning teams and might make it 13 this year (I still am picking the Phillies who beat the Braves in a come from behind extra inning game last night.) Anyhow, the reason I bring up the GM angle is that Schuerholz has had an uncanny ability to let star players leave Atlanta right before serious diminishment of baseball skills sets in. Although everybody thought Maddux was allowed to leave for financial reasons, Maddux doesn't look like he's gonna turn it around soon, perhaps John Schuerholz strikes again.
Last month, I posted a chart of Maddog's ERA progression by start... and now its time for a revisit.
First, an apology for my loyal readers. This week has been a hectic one, and unfortunately, the blog was odd-man-out for the week. However, with my big presentation completed this morning, rest assured your favorite Cubs blogger will be working hard to remain/become your favorite.
Second, despite not having time for the blog, I did make time to go watch "Anchorman" today. Its a great movie, and I recommend you go watch it if you appreciate Will Ferrell's typical brand of adolescent comedy.
Finally, I'm home and watching a ball game live, so I'll be updating throughout the game.
Lineups: The Cubs lineup looks pretty bad again tonight. Part of it is due to injuries to Aramis and Gonzalez, and part of it is Dusty's committment to using all 25 men on his roster. However, with this game being probably the most important game of the year, I would have rather seen a slumping Barrett over Bako. However, the it is the continuance of the failed Rey Ordonez era that is really frustrating me.
The Cardinals look like they are running out their "every-day" lineup, with the possible exception of John Mabry in left... I'll have to check and see if he's their everyday left fielder.
First: Cubs Its a good thing Sammy got a single in the first. Grudz saw two pitches, Ordonez 4, and Sosa 2. Eight pitch innings won't help. Ideally, the Cubs should see more than the 12 they are seeing.
Cards Well, Maddux didn't make it out of the first without giving up a run, I know he's given up first inning runs in each of his last three starts at least, but I was hoping. However, the damage was limited to a solo homer by Edgar Renteria... better than the typical three. Now, lets hope Maddog shuts 'em down for the rest of the game like he often does.
Second: Cubs Pizza's going in the oven as D.Lee hits a solo shot to give Maddux a reprieve. Ramon Martinez also got a hit, and I'm thinking Marquis might not have great stuff today... there's a wild pitch...
Cards Paul Bako throws out Jim Edmond's swiping second, but that doesn't stop Reggie Sanders from stealing. How in the world has Greg Maddux won 296 games allowing runners to steal at will?
Third: Cubs I think the Card's have managed to steal the Cubs' hit and run signal. With Grudz on first, and Ordonez batting. Jason Marquis kept trying to pick of Mark Grudzielanek, and then throw's a slider about 20 inches off the outside of the plate, which Ordonez swings at while Grudz is being thrown out on the foiled hit and run. Marquis just walked Sosa.
Cards Tony LaRussa has already been ejected for arguing balls and strikes... he's like Lloyd McClendon only he wins.Tony Womack gets on base, and Stony says "its just a question of when to call the pitch out." He's right as Womack attempts a steal on the third pitch. Unfortunately, Renteria chooses that pitch to dump it over Lee's head sending Womack to third. An Albert Pujols sac fly later, and the Cubs are down 2-1. Next, Renteria steals a base. The Cards have now attempted 4 steals off Maddux in three innings. Not suprisingly, the Cards have only had 4 baserunners. Just remember Correlation does not equal Causation... or so they say.
Fourth: Cubs D. Lee and Martinez reach for men on first and second with one out... but the Cubs are slumping so Bako hits into a double play. Chance over.
Cards Well, it looks like the Cards have a jumbled platoon in Left Field, although Ray Lankford is the primary starter. (The platoon or is it quadtoon? includes Lankford, Mabry, So Taguchi, and Roger Cedeno.) Maddux just went 1-2-3 with an 8 pitch inning. This is better.
Fifth: Cubs Nothing doing but a Rey Ordonez single off the second base bag.
Cards: Jason Marquis hurts himself by not getting down a sacrifice bunt after Yadier Molina's lead off double. Womack grounds out to the right side, which would have scored Molina if he was standing on third. Instead, Molina goes to third on the grounder but doesn't score on Renteria's flyball to C-Pat.
Sixth: Cubs Corey Patterson grounds into a double play. Its his sixth time this season, which seems a bit high, except I can remember three of them, all by about half a step.
Cards Albert Pujols goes yard... solo. 3-1. Jim Edmonds goes yard... solo. 4-1.
Seventh: Cards Womack goes yard... solo. 5-1.
Eighth: Cards I'm really wishin I hadn't bothered watching this game. Scott Rolen doubled, then stole third off Mercker, and then scored on a single by John Mabry, 6-1.
Anyhow, I'm giving up on this game and heading to the video store to return the Bourne Identity before I have to pay an overdue fine... Can't wait for the sequel to come out in a week or so.
Final score, 6-1 Redbirds. The Cubs are now 7 back of St. Louis.
Again, I didn't see Thursday's game, but the Cubs got shut out again by the Brewers. This time, the final score was 4-0 Milwaukee.
This is the first time the Cubs have been swept in a three game series since Dusty Baker took over. While the pitching has remained solid if not spectacular, the Cubs offense managed only 2 runs the entire series. Aramis Ramirez' strained groin is killing the offense. With the left side of the infield as Rey Ordonez and Ramon Martinez instead of Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs are slipping in the standings (now 6 back of the st. Louis Yankees.)
Last night, ESPN's OTL (Outside the Lines Nightly), their 17 minute feature piece each night between SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, discussed Fred McGriff's chances of making the Hall of Fame (he's at 493 HR's and about the 5th man on Tampa Bay's 1st base depth chart).
Anyhow, as always happens, there was some discussion of the Home Run inflation of recent years, and so I wanted to see just how much "home run" inflation we have witnessed. This first chart shows the number of Home Runs hit in the American and National Leagues from 1901-2003. (These numbers came from Baseball-Almanac.)
Wow! The lines go up pretty quickly. However, a quick study of this chart and a little thinking goes a long way towards saying... woah, wait a minute.
From 1901 - 1960, there were 16 Major League Teams. In 1961, the old Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities and became the Minnesota Twins. At the same time, an expansion team was granted to Washington D.C and the new Washington Senators began play in 1961 (they lasted 10 years before becoming the Texas Rangers). Additionally, the Los Angeles Angels (now from Anaheim) joined the AL. In 1962, the Metropolitans of New York and the Colt .45s from Houston (now the Astros) began play. Having added four teams in two years, MLB now had 20 teams.
Seven years later, in 1969, the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals, and Seattle Pilots joined the league, bringing baseball to 24 teams. Although the Pilots left Seattle for Milwaukee after only one year, the '69 expansion teams have been fairly stable.
Still not satisfied with 24 teams, MLB added a second Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Seattle Mariners in 1977. This was the first expansion which did not add an even number of teams to both leagues. From 1977 - 1993, the AL had 14 teams and the NL 12.
In '93, the Colorado Rockies, and Florida Marlins began play as baseball's 27th and 28th franchises. Since both teams were added to the National League, both leagues were even again at 28.
However, 5 years later, the Milwaukee Brewers switched leagues and began playing as a National League team, while Baseball admitted another two franchises, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Since 1998, the NL has had 16 teams, and the AL 14.(I used Baseball-Reference.com to verify some dates etc.)
Additionally, in the first round of expansion, in '61 (AL) and '62 (NL), each league increased the number of regular season games from 154 to 162. The additional 14 franchises and 8 games more per year means that the National League started the 2004 season with 2,592 team games scheduled (vs. 1,232 in 1960) and the American League has 2,268 team games per year (vs. 1,232 in 1960.) In total, their are now 4,860 team games each year. From 1960 to 2004 MLB has increased the total number of team games by 97%.Their are two "team games" per actual game played. For example, the Brewers and Cubs are playing tonight at Miller Park in one actual game. However, since both the Cubs batters and Brewers batters will have a chance to hit a home run, there are two "team games" being played tonight in Milwaukee.
Anyhow, sorry to be incredibly long winded above, but the jist of the matter is that looking at the total number of home runs hit isn't a fair comparison. However, a fair statistic would be home runs per game.
Since I couldn't find a listing of total games played per year, I used the normal number of games played in years with no work stoppage (or early ending due to World War I), and just multiplied the number of games played by the Cubs in shortened years by the number of teams in each league. The second chart shows the increase in home runs hit per year by league, from 1901-2003. Yes, the numbers still went up incredibly, but this second graph is a more accurate view of "home run inflation."
I didn't see yesterday's game against the Brewers. I am actually taking classes this summer and just didn't have the time to see it. Moreover, seeing the final score... I probably won't bother going back to watch it with MLB Total Access.
The Boxscore said: Mark Prior gave up 4 unearned runs in 4 ip(Brendan Harris made a first-inning error in his big league debut), but Prior gave up a 2-run homer in the first. Frankly, a home run should never be considered "unearned." The Cubs bullpen (Leicester, Mercker, and Wuertz) went another 4 innings of no-run baseball, but the Cubs offense couldn't solve Victor Santos, touching him for only 2 runs. The Cubs lost 4-2.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals are chasing down the Yankees for the best record in baseball and have built a 5 game lead over Chicago's best team. The Cubs Wild-Card lead has shrunk to 1, with the Brewer's looking to sweep us this evening. Kerry Wood pitched well for AAA Iowa last night, and may be back against the Cardinals next week.
Finally, MLB issued a press release saying the following: In the National League Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs and Bobby Abreu of the Phillies are in a virtual dead heat for first.
We can discuss the merits of Abreu or Ramirez later, but you only have til 5 minutes before the Cubs game starts (7 pm Central) to vote... So, stop reading my drivel and go vote as many times as you can for for Aramis Right NOW!
On behalf of all Chicago Cubs fans, TheCubdom.com would like to thank you for the excellent entertainment you provided us while in Chicago this past week.
During your recent visit to the Friendly Confines, 118,450 fans came out to enjoy your performance. We watched you bat 6 for 13 (.462 AVG), driving in 6 while scoring 5 runs, including 4 home runs, two walks (.533 OBP), and a single strikeout. In addition, you also stole 1 base, giving you 15 on the season which is more than any Cubs player.
During your visit, you certainly exhibited your value as a baseball player, and now all Chicago Cubs fans would like to remind you of the advantages of playing full-time at Wrigley Field for the Chicago National League Ballclub.
Our owners, the Tribune corporation, have hired one of the best General Managers in baseball, and have enabled him to increase his payroll whenever necessary. General Manager Hendry has built a team with a solid young nucleus that is expected to contend for many seasons to come. Additionally, Mr. Hendry also brought Dusty Baker to Chicago to serve as our skipper.
The Cubs feature one of the best young pitching rotations in baseball. As headliners, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior both have devastating fastballs, excellent mound presence, and the ability to strike out opposing hitters at an alarming pace. Furthermore, Carlos Zambrano, who is only 23, has been one of the best 5 pitchers in the National League this season. Aditionally, all three of these players are signed for at least another three years.
In the field, we have some exciting young talent that will also be around for a number of years to come. Derrek Lee, a gold glover at first, signed a contract extension before the season that will keep him a Cub through 2006. Corey Patterson, our centerfielder is also two years shy of free agency, developing quickly, and expected to stay a Cub for a long time. Our third baseman, Aramis Ramirez is a fan favorite and is expected to be signed to a multi-year deal following the 2004 season.
Mr. Beltran, by coming to Chicago, you would become another vital component of a dynasty in the making. You would be permitted to choose between left or center field, and would play alongside one of the all-time greats, Sammy Sosa for at least another two years.
With your important decision coming up this fall, all of Cubdom would like you to strongly consider making Chicago your home for the next decade. Cubs fans are confident that you would help to complete a team that will be competitive for years to come, playing in the best park in the League, with the best front-office, and best manager. We also fervently believe that if you give Chicago a chance, you will find that Cubs fans are the best fans in baseball.
All of Cubdom
The Cubs bested the SouthSide hitmen today in a rain-shortened affair. After posting 3 runs in the 1st, and another run in the 5th, the Cubs were in the lead 4-2 when the fourth rain delay of the day forced cancellation of the final three and a half innings.
Greg Maddux won his 7th game of the year, and 296th of his career. He pitched 5.1 innings, and waited out three rain delays, while striking out 3, walking 1, and surrendering 5 hits and 2 runs. Mike Wuertz picked up his first career save by pitching the final two outs of the sixth inning.
The Cubs offense witnessed a rare home run from Ultra-back, back, back-up shortstop Rey Ordonez (thats back-back-back to the minor leagues as far as I'm concerned). Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou also hit home runs.
Last week, I wrote about a new statistical tool I felt would better describe the offensive production of the running man in baseball. I brought it up after reading about Rickey Henderson's 130 steal season in 1982. His OBP that year was .398 and his slugging percentage was .382, for an OPS of .780. (In 2004, that would tie him with Junior Spivey for 100th best in the major leagues. In 1982, it placed him about 77th in the league.)
The logical conclusion is this: as great as OPS may be for tracking runs/game, it isn't the definitive statistic to describe a player's contribution to the offense. Typically, speedsters don't have tons of power, but they take extra bases on thefts (and lose on base opportunities when caught.) As a result, I modified our beloved OBP, SLG, and OPS to form OBP-CS, SLG+S, and OPSS.
OBP: On base Percentage = (Hits + BB + HPB)/(AB + BB + HBP + SacFly).
I'll modify OBP by subtracting Caught Stealing from the numerator (the top one). If you think about it, if I get a single, and then get caught stealing, its just like getting thrown out by the catcher at first.
OBP-CS: On base Percentage adjusted for steals = (Hits + BB + HPB - CS)/(AB + BB + HBP + SacFly).
SLG: Slugging % = (Total Bases) / (At bats).
I'll adjust SLG by adding stolen bases to total bases, because if a batter gets a single and then steals second, its essentially the same as a double. This should show up in our adjusted slugging.
SLG+S: Slugging & Speed % = (TB + SB) / (AB).
OPSS: On-base plus Slugging & Speed = (OBP-CS)+(SLG+S) is just like its cousin, Onbase plus slugging, but adds my two new stats.
These new statistics should do a better job of factoring in the role of speed in a player's game. Furthermore, if a player is an excellent base stealer, they will be rewarded statistically for not racking up the Caught Stealings. On the flip side, a poor baserunner will cannibalize their OBP-CS each time they are caught stealing.
To Continue: After reading my post, Brian Hipp, of CubsNow blogging fame, created a fictious character who increased his OPSS over OPS, but was caught stealing just as frequently as he was successful, and asked me to try and show an improved correlation between OPSS and Runs/Game as opposed to OPS and R/G... so I did.
Gathering the statistics and sifting through them took a ton of time, but the results are pretty interesting.
I began by compiling the team statistics for each team over the past 10 years. In all, there were 292 seasons played between 1994 and 2003 (The D-Backs and D-Rays began play in '98). I then used those 292 data points to construct a number of linear and multiple linear regressions to see which statistics most accurately describe the runs/game a team could expect. By all measures, the OBP and SLG method currently used are highly effective... but first the results.
So, the bottom line is that my new statistical invention doesn't remarkably increase the accuracy of the current method (.6% - .8%), but it does allow individual players like Rickey to be valued more accurately, and does not degrade the statistical accuracy of the OPS system.
Rickey Henderson - 1982: 130 SB, 42 CS, 75.6%
OBP: .398 + SLG: .382 --> OPS: .780
OBP-CS: .334 + SLG+S: .625 -->OPSS .959
Yesterday's game against the Brew Crew (our first of eleven this month) was entirely frustrating. Matt Clement allowed a solo home run to Craig Counsell in the first inning, and then no more runs for the next six innings. The bullpen was also perfect, allowing no runs, but the Cubs lost 1-0.
Ben Sheets (and Matt Clement) took advantage of the weird sun conditions for a mid-day game at Miller Park. The two pitchers, and the bullpens racked up 28 strike outs in 8.5 innings (51 outs) of baseball game. Yes, the two teams were the Brewers and Cubs... occasionally known for the K, but still.
Anyhow, despite not having his best command (six walks in seven innings) Clement and the bullpen allowed only one run. Yet, the Cubs offense failed to notch a run for the eighth time this season. Memo to Offense: No matter how well your pitching staff pitches, it is impossible to win a game without scoring... come on!
Get Out the Brooms! Oops, I forgot, Carlos Lee still gets an at-bat, and you know what that means in a cross-town series. Boom... stop running the broom-relay race out on Waveland... Ok, start running again, the White Sox just pulled a Cubs and walked in the winning run!
Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye...
The Cubs (and WhiteSox) were snubbed in the All-Star selections (Moises' and Esteban's selections not withstanding).
Aramis Ramirez definitely deserves to be on the All-Star team, so go Vote Now!!! to elect our third baseman in the fan's final choice.
Editors Note: I will be voting for Aramis and Paul Konerko, I suggest you do too.
The Cubs and Sox are just getting under way, Go Cubs Go. I've got my broom nearby... and I want to brag :^)
With the White Sox visiting Wrigley Friday, Carlos Zambrano pitched well, going 6.1 innings before leaving with a muscle cramp in his forearm. He gave up two unearned runs in the first inning when he walked the leadoff batter and Derrek Lee made an error on Juan Uribe's sacrifice bunt. After striking out two, he walked Paul Konerko. With the bases loaded, Ross Gload hit what was initially ruled a Grand Slam, but then the umpires correctly declared the ball a foul. Gload then hit a two RBI double, before Zambrano got out of the jam.
Despite a rocky start, Zambrano and the Cubs bullpen (Beltran & Hawkins today) shut down the Sox the rest of the way. The Cubs offense scored 6 runs by chipping away at the White Sox pitchers, with the final score 6-2.
With a 9-3 record and a 2.41 ERA, Zambrano should be a lock to make the All-Star squad, which will be announced Sunday. Sosa is also expected to be elected, and Aramis Ramirez (.326 AVG, .374 OBP, .550 SLG, 15 HR, 56 RBI, and 60 R) deserves the nod as a backup third baseman to Scott Rolen.
If all three make the All-Star team, it will be the first time the Cubs have had 3 all-stars since 1995 when Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa, and Randy Myers all made the team.
Other Cubs who may receive some consideration will include: Derrek Lee, Moises Alou, Michael Barrett, Matt Clement, and LaTroy Hawkins.
My guess however is that none of these 5 "possibles" will make the team. Lee plays first, which has a plethora of players performing very well. Lee is 6th in Avg among NL first basemen, 11th in OBP, 10th in SLG and HR, and not in the top 5 in any other important categories, except he is first in SB. Additionally the names above him include Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, Jim Thome, Todd Helton, Sean Casey, and Jeff Bagwell. ESPN has had a few pieces saying that 1st on the NL squad will be the best position represented.
Moises Alou probably would have made the team at the end of May, with Sosa on the DL for sneezing, and Alou red-hot. However, Moises jumped on the grenade for the rest of the team and took the full helping of June Swoon for himself, sparing the rest of the team. "Moisture" Alou batted .192 with a .263 OBP and .375 SLG in June. Despite the lowered averages however, Alou's home run, runs, and RBI production didn't tail off too badly. Alou hit 7 HR in April, 6 in May, and 5 in June. Anyhow, with a weak finish in June, Alou won't make the team, because the Cubs won't get two marginal All-Star picks in the same outfield. (Sorry Sammy, but a month on the DL makes you a marginal All-Star pick.)
Barrett is the most likely darkhorse candidate to be named the Cubs fourth All-Star. He is tied for second among NL catchers with 9 home runs, and his averages are all in the top ten. However, with Piazza (another strong NL firstbasemen) probably getting the starting job from the fans, Barrett would be competing with the Braves' Johnny Estrada, Jason Kendall, Paul Lo Duca, and Mike Lieberthal. If I were managing the All-Star game, I would rank the NL catchers: Estrada, Kendall, Lo Duca, Barrett, Pierzynski, and Lieberthal. Thus, Barrett would be the fourth or fifth catcher on an All-Star team with Piazza... not impossible, but not real likely.
Matt Clement has the 7th best ERA among NL starting pitchers, but has been hurt by poor run support. With a 7-6 record, Jack McKeon will probably ignore his 5th place ranking in strikeouts, and the fact that he is only one of six (full-time, non-injured) NL starters with more than 1K/inning. Even if Clement is picked, he probably won't play in the game, unless it goes to extras. So lets all hope that Clement gets a three day weekend to go play with his son, and get some R&R, (and maybe sign a new contract with the Cubs...)
Finally, despite impressive numbers, Hawkins won't get the nod because he has only had the closing job for one month, and because he probably doesn't deserve it.
The Cubs won the rubber game of their Ugly, Ugly, Ugly series against Houston. The final score was 5-4, and the game ended in dramatic fashion with Sammy Sosa's 10th inning walk-off home run that landed out on Waveland Avenue.
Mark Prior pitched his best outing yet, allowing 3 earned runs in 7.1 innings. However, 2 of those runs scored when Kent Mercker allowed a three run shot to Carlos Beltran during the 8th inning which tied the score at 4 per team. Beltran's home run was his second of the day, and fourth of the series. I think he likes Wrigley Field! :^)
If the Cubs had not played so poorly, I would have blamed Wednesday's loss on third base umpire Dana DeMuth. Tuesday, DeMuth was behind the plate and had an erratic strike zone (to be kind). Today, DeMuth was officiating at third and blew a huge call at third. Then, rather than accepting the fact that he was wrong, he ejected Sarge Matthews about two or three pitches later. The blown call cost the Cubs at least one, but probably two runs, and seemed to change the momentum in the Cubs 3-2 loss to the Astros.
Matt Clement struggled with his control, walking 5 in 4.1 innings. He left in a jam, after pitching 104 pitches. However, Clement showed his pitching ability by only allowing a single run despite his struggles. That run was scored on a Craig Biggio lead-off home run in the first inning.
In the top of the eighth inning, Corey Patterson threw out Morgan Ensberg at the plate to end the Astros half of the inning. After getting run over by Ensberg, Michael Barrett was the first batter in the Cubs half of the eighth and hit a home run to tie the game at two apiece. However, with two out in the ninth, LaTroy Hawkins surrendered a home run to Carlos Beltran, and the Cubs lost the game. Again, the defense was rather poor throughout the whole game.
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