Monday, February 28, 2005

Earth to Dusty

There is a note on about Clines and Mathews swapping their coaching duties this year(1st base and hitting coaches), but still both assisting the hitters. Here is a portion:

"They have basically the same ideas," Baker said. "We had some guys who had some good years last year -- Derrek Lee had his best year, Michael Barrett had his best year. Corey [Patterson] had his best year. Aramis [Ramirez] had his best year. We had some guys who improved. Geno will hopefully keep that improvement going."

Ummm Lee? Yes Ramirez and Barrett had their best years. Corey had a very hot/cold year and didn't pick up where he left off before the injury, but sadly it was his best full season. I'd say Aramis's improvement has more to do with him being 25 than anything else, but the coaches can take the credit for Aram and Barrett if they want to.

Lee, however, did not have his best year. This is the kind of information I would like the manager of my favorite team to know.

2002 688 .270 .378 .494 19
2003 643 .271 .379 .508 21
2004 688 .278 .356 .504 12

Lee's OBP was down 20 points from the previous 2 years with about the same SLG. 20 points!!! Can all of that have come from walkaphobic coaching? I certainly hope it was just a fluke and that our coaches can't hold down OBPs that much. Lee had stretches where he was incredible in 2004, but he also had very terrible stretches which the coaching staff shouldn't be bragging about. I don't see any way 2004 can be considered Lee's best season...can you?

If the manager of the team can't figure this out, how can we trust him to set proper goals for the players and team? Somehow it is not surprising that this is the same guy who lets Macias and Neifi play and abuses our starting pitchers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


#5 Anthony Nomar Garciaparra

.308 AVG, .365 OBP, .477 SLG

When the Cubs aquired Nomar Garciaparra to man SS at the deadline last summer, they changed the team's worst offensive position into one of their best. Nomar is a high average contact hitter who could help any lineup, but replacing Alex Gonzalez in a high strikeout lineup makes Nomar especially appreciated in Chicago. I expect a droppoff in Nomar's power because he will no longer get doubles off the Green Monster but he is still a hitting machine. I just wish the Cubs had more OBP guys to go around him and Aramis.

A career .322 hitter, Nomar isn't a question mark with the bat and will be vital to the success of the offense. Health however is another story. Nomar missed half of the season last year and almost all of the 2001 season with an achilles and wrist injury, respectively. If you want to look on the bright side Nomar has averaged 607 ABs over his other 6 seasons. I am hopeful Nomar won't have any soccer accidents this year now that Mia is retired and he'll be good for 150 games.

Ignoring my suggestions, Hendry decided to play it safe with Nomar and only offer him a one-year deal. I was hoping the Cubs could buy low and get Nomar for a reasonable three-year deal because I expect him to come up big this year..which may lead to himnot being a Cub in 2006. He is 31 so I understand not wanting too much of a commitment, but I don't see the Cubs comming up with a better player at SS anytime soon. Hopefully Nomar will do well enough in 2005(lead the team deep into the playoffs?) that the Cubs won't be able to let him slip away.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

3rd Base

#16 Aramis Ramirez

.318 AVG, .373 OBP, .578 SLG

Aramis Ramirez is the luckiest thing that has happened to the Cubs in my lifetime. With the Pirates Ramirez had 3 seasons(98, 00, 02) with at least 250 ABs in which he put up an OBP under .300 and a SLG under .403. The Cubs couldn't have known that he would put it all together when they aquired Ramirez for the stretch run in 2003. In Ramirez's first full season with the Cubs he put up career highs in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, R, and BB. Ramirez is a 26 year old offensive force and the Cubs got him for practically nothing! I would be very surprised to see Aramis regress significantly this year, he seems to have established a new level of performance.

Clearly Ramirez belongs in the heart of the order, I don't think it makes much difference whether he hits 3rd or 4th. Ramirez led the team in OBP and AVG and put up a 59.6 VORP in 2004 despite missing 17 games. Without a similar performance from Ramirez the Cubs have very little chance in 2005.

I believe Aramis will NOT be a FA after 2005...but I am not sure. Either way I'd like the Cubs to sign him to a 3-4 year deal, longer if necesary. At 26 years old Ramirez has a lot of good years in front of him and it would be smart to sign him before his perceived value gets much higher. It's time for the Cubs to lock up some talent and start adding to the core.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

2nd Base

#7 Todd Arthur Walker

.274 AVG, .352 OBP, .468 SLG

The players that are the most fun to root for are the ones who want to be on the Cubs, take the game seriously, and can help the Cubs win. With Todd Walker at 2nd base the Cubs not only have all of those things, but also a player who was willing to take less money to be on a good team with his buddy Nomar. What's not to like?

Todd was only granted 424 PAs from King Dusty in 2004 despite being one of the healthier Cubs and 1 of 6 to have an OBP over .350. Now Todd has been promised 2nd base all to himself and is a good offensive contributor for his position and salary. Walker has above average power for a 2nd baseman which is great, but what the Cubs need from Todd is for him to keep his OBP as high as possible...prefferably at the top of the order so the big boys can drive him in.

Generally regarded as a poor fielder, Walker is not going to help the team with his glove. Fortunately for the Cubs they are striking out as many batters as a team ever Walker won't get as many chances as any other 2nd baseman. I don't think he is as bad as people say and I don't think he'll hurt the club at all, but I'm not too familiar with useful defensive stats so I can't prove it either way.

Will Jerry Hairston Jr. encroach on Walker's playing time at 2nd? I have a feeling he will, but only time will telll. The only way I want to see Hairston play over Walker is if Hairston can put up that .375 OBP he showed in limited ABs last season(which I don't think he can), and if Burnitz and Dubois/Hollandsworth were tearing the cover off the ball. In that case Hairston would be a legitimate leadoff man....otherwise Todd is our man in 2005.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

1st Base

#25 Derrek Leon Lee

.278 AVG, .356 OBP, .504 SLG

The Cubs need Lee to step up and be more than just an average offensive 1st baseman. Derrek had an amazing June 2004(.385/.444/.673) but the rest of his season did not quite meet expectations in his first year with the Cubs. He ended up with an OBP of .356, 20 points lower than the previous 2 years. Lee needs to get his OBP above .350 for more than 2 of the 6 months in 2005 to do his part in turning the Cub offense around.

Fortunately Lee is not grossly overpaid for his abilities, and is an overall positive for this Cubs team. With size and agility at 1st, Derrek's defensive presence seems to have helped cut down on throwing errors from the other infielders. On such a poor defensive team it is nice to have Lee as one of the high points in the field. If he can get his OBP back up Lee would be a good canidate for the #2 spot in the order.

Derrek is under contract through 2006 when he'll be 31, and I'd like to see him stay with Cubs if he can get a consistent OBP. If not, there will always be sluggers to be found for 1st base.

Monday, September 06, 2004


#8 Michael P. Barrett

.295 AVG, .344 OBP, .492 SLG

Barrett has been everything I hoped for this year and more. There aren't many things that excite me more than above average production from a catcher. Barrett has the highest slugging percentage among National League Catchers by 20 points, and the 4th best OBP. He has also been one of the Cubs more consistent performers, with only 1 poor month(June .598 OPS).

A good contact hitter with more than adequate defense and a strong consistent arm, Barrett is almost the perfect catcher for the Cubs. I like the attitude Barrett displayed in his feud with Oswalt, he's a tough guy and a leader. He is also campaigning for Nomar to re-sign, and enjoys being a Cub:

“This is a dream come true. I remember as a kid watching WGN and watching Cubs games, and now being a part of this and being here is a tremendous honor. I don’t feel I deserve to be here.” --Barrett

You ain't in Montreal anymore Michael. There is only 1 problem with Michael P. Barrett: he is a free agent at the end of this season. I am sure the Cubs will re-sign him because Hendry loves him, Barrett has fit in perfectly, and he's only 27, but a large salary increase(only $1.55M this year) may force the Cubs to cut corners elsewhere.

Of the countless problems that have plagued the Cubs this year, Barrett is one of the few innocent parties.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

State of the Team

The Cubs only have 2 problems: inconsistent hitting, and inconsistent pitching.

Since the Nomar aquisition, the offense has been considerably better despite the recent slump. I think the Cubs have a good chance at scoring 4-5 runs every time they take the field, which is exactly what this team needs to do. The Cubs cannot manufacture runs, don't do a good job with situational hitting(not many contact hitters), don't have ideal OBP, are incredibly right handed, and are absolutely horrible baserunners. How do we score ANY runs?! Well, say hello to my lil' friend. It's HIGH, it's DEEP, it's GONE. Backbackbackbackbackbackback...

Homers. Cubs lead the NL. Alou, Ramirez, Lee, and Sosa will all have 30. Nomar, Patterson, Walker, and Barrett can all take one out from time to time. Too many of the homers have been solo shots, due to the unspectacular OBPs, but there have been plenty of homers. I think the reliance on homers is most detremental to the Cubs on cold days at Wrigley when the wind is blowing in. Often the other team can scratch out a run or two with some combination of walks, our poor fielding, and a lucky hit from a contact hitter of theirs. The Cubs, on the other hand, have a hard time scratching out runs. With Patterson/Lee/Nomar at the top of the lineup I think the Cubs have improved somewhat in this area, with Patterson's blazing speed, Lee's OBP, and Nomar's frequent base hits. Nomar has truly solidified a lineup that desperately needed a high average contact hitter.

Most of the pitching problems have been the bullpen. I believe this is either due to bad luck or bad coaching, Hendry tried to piece together a decent pen and just hasn't had any luck. Borowski fell off the face of the earth, Hawkins decided to be less stud reliever and more batting practice pitcher, and Farnsworth is still Krazy Kyle. The bullpen has been fine at times, sometimes very good. But at all the wrong times the pen has been very, very poor. The starters are fine, Prior is the only one who hasn't proved he is ready for the stretch run. His 2 games before the latest "Oh Canada!" disaster were actually pretty good, I thought Prior was building up to a really solid performance. Maybe he still is, I hope he is close to figuring it out.

Even if Prior can't get it right this year, this rotation and somewhat flawed offense is good enough to win the Wild Card. There are two things to be won here: a playoff spot, and a Nomar contract. It is time to get to work boys.