Archive | November, 2009

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Chicago Cubs, John Grabow Agree on 2-Year, $7.5 Million Deal

Posted on 20 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Reds Baseball

The Chicago Cubs and John Grabow have agreed to terms on a 2-year, $7.5 million deal that will keep the veteran reliever on the north side of Chicago.  The Cubs acquired Grabow in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the trading deadline and became one of the Cubs most consistent relievers the rest of the season.  He made 30 appearances for the Cubs during the latter half of the season and did not allow a single run in his 1st 12 outings.  In 25 innings pitched, Grabow finished with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP and had 7 holds.  His 75 appearances (45 with the Pirates) were a career high.  He will provide a veteran presence for an otherwise young bullpen in 2010 and will likely serve as Closer Carlos Marmol’s primary set-up man in the 8th inning or against tough lefties. The other top candidates for the bullpen – Marmol, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Jeff Stevens, Justin Berg and Esmailin Caridad – are all under 27 years old.

Grabow said it was a “no-brainer” for him to want to pitch for the Cubs for the next few years.  He lives with In Arizona with his family so he won’t have to go too far for spring training.  Plus he loved the atmosphere playing in Chicago – “I pretty much let everyone know before I left that I wanted to come back.  It’s a good situation for me and my family and for the Cubs.  They brought me in there, they made a trade to bring me there and I fit in right away… The atmosphere that’s inside the clubhouse, everyone gets along pretty good and it’s kind of a veteran team, and everybody goes about their business.  I figured that’s a pretty good situation for me.”

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Cubs Trade Aaron Heilman to Arizona Diamondbacks for 2 Prospects

Posted on 19 November 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs traded Aaron Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 2 prospects today.  The move was done to move an arbitration-eligible player like Heilman – the Cubs still have 7 other players who are arbitration-eligible.  That list includes – Carlos Marmol, Ryan Theriot, Sean Marshall, Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill and Angel Guzman.

Heilman made 70 appearances for the Chicago Cubs during the 2009 MLB schedule – his only season with the Cubs, the team that he rooted for as a kid growing up in Indiana.  Heilman went 4-4 with 1 save and 6 blown saves.  He had a 4.11 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, striking out 65 while walking 34.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry explained the move this way: “As we move forward in the winter, the way our big league club sets up and the way we have a lot of arb guys, we felt we needed to move some people a little bit before we get to Indianapolis… We feel like we got two solid prospects from the Diamondbacks…  We feel we have some young arms who can take [Heilman’s] place in that part of the bullpen.”  Those arms include Guzman, Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg.

So just who did the Cubs get for Heilman:

Lefty Scott Maine – 4-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 7 saves in Double A and Triple A during 2009.

2nd baseman Ryan White – .266 batting average with 6 HR’s, 52 RBI’s and a .371 on-base percentage at the Class A level in 2009.

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Randy Wells Looking to Build on Strong Rookie Campaign

Posted on 18 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

What a year for rookie starting pitcher Randy Wells.  Wells was the biggest surprise for the Cubs during a miserable, disappointing 2009 MLB schedule.  Wells tied Ted Lilly for the club lead in wins with 12 victories and he led the team with a sparkling 3.05 ERA – 10th best in the National League.  18 of his 27 starts were quality starts and his 1.28 WHIP was stellar in a season in which he logged 165 1/3 innings pitched.  He had 104 strikeouts with just 46 walks and seemed to pitch with the poise and confidence of a veteran who had been in the league for 5 or 6 years.  His efforts were rewarded as he finished in 6th place in the race for National League Rookie of the Year – an award his teammate Geovany Soto won in 2008.

So how will Wells fit into the Cubs picture for 2010?  Right now, Wells will start the season as the Cubs 4th starter behind Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly.  Wells has already indicated that he won’t go too crazy this off-season with a different workout regimen or anything.  Right now, Wells is focused on golfing a little bit, resting up and gearing up for the 2010 MLB season: “I’ll take some time off and do things a little differently this year.  I’ll start playing light catch through the offseason.  Nothing extravagant or anything.  I’ll do my weights and keep my range of motion.  I’ll start thinking about it pretty early.  I probably won’t get cranked up until mid January.  By January 1, I’ll start throwing.”

Wells has gotta be a little tired after pitching a full season for the Cubs in 2009.  He seemed to stay fairly strong and consistent down the stretch and his control was never really an issue – a great asset for a young pitcher.  Let’s just hope Wells stays healthy and focused during the off-season and comes ready to pitch on a full-time basis right off the bat in 2010.  Another good year from Wells could help the Cubs make a push to regain the NL Central Division crown from the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2010 MLB schedule…

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Carlos Zambrano Named NL Silver Slugger

Posted on 17 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Reds Baseball

Carlos Zambrano won his 3rd Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting pitcher in the National League in 2009.  Big Z slugged 4 home runs and had 11 RBI’s with a .217 batting average.  Zambrano also won the award in 2008 when he had a phenomenal .337 batting average and back in 2006.  Cincinnati Reds pitcher Micah Owings and Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson each hits 3 home runs and drove in 10 runs and finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively in voting.

Zambrano has 20 career home runs and 47 career extra base hits.  Zambrano became the 3rd pitcher in major league history to win the Silver Slugger Award 3 times (Rick Rhoden and Don Robinson are the other 2 pitchers to accomplish that feat).  Mike Hampton has won the Silver Slugger Award 5 times in his career, while Tom Glavine has won the award 4 times in his career.

Big Z needs to focus a little more on pitching these days though.  Zambrano injured himself swinging the bat during batting practice in August and missed a few starts because of the injury.  His 9-7 record, 28 starts and 1.38 worst numbers of his career since he became a full-time starter back in 2003.  Zambrano needs to regain for 2004-2008 form in which he won at least 14 games in each of those season.  Zambrano is considered to be the ace of the staff and he needs to show it with at least 15 wins in each season.  At the age of 28, Big Z should still have a lot of good years left in him…

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Randy Wells Finishes 6th in National League Rookie of the Year Voting

Posted on 16 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Reds Baseball

Randy Wells finished 6th in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, denying the Cubs a winner for the 2nd season in a row (Geovany Soto was an easy winner in 2008).  Wells was a major surprise for the Cubs starting rotation in 2009 – one of the few brights spots during an otherwise disappointing 2009.  Wells made 27 starts, going 12-10 in 165 1/3 innings pitched.  He showed signs of tiredness towards the end of the season, but still finished with a stellar 3.05 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.  He had 104 strikeouts and 46 walks.

Wells finished with only 3 points, well behind the Marlins’ Chris Coghlan (105 points) and the Phillies’ J.A. Happ (94 points). Tommy Hanson of the Braves finished with 37 points, while former Cubs standout Casey McGahee finished in 5th place with 18 points.  Despite the low points total, Wells made the most starts of any rookie pitcher and he was second in wins and innings pitched.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Wells: “He took hold and pitched exceedingly well, and he’s been very consistent the whole summer.  The good thing about it is he’s gotten the chance to pitch all the way through September.  Next year, you’ve got a starter who’s pitched that extra month.  We look forward to Randybeing in our rotation next year.”  Let’s just hope all the work this year hasn’t tired him out too much, setting him up for a “sophomore slump”.  Going into a 2009 off-season where the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry won’t have too much flexibility to make a big splash in free agency, the Cubs are going to need everybody to play at the top of their game in 2010…

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Cubs Cardinals Rivalry – A Glimpse at the 2010 Schedule

Posted on 15 November 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs – St. Louis Cardinals game dates for the 2010 MLB schedule feature 4 weekend series – 3 at Wrigley Field in Chicago and 2 in St. Louis.  The 3 Wrigley Field series are as follows:

Friday – Sunday – May 28-30, 2010 – Memorial Day Weekend 

Friday – Sunday – July 23-25, 2010

Friday – Sunday – September 24-26, 2010 – the final 3 home games for the Cubs at Wrigley Field during the 2010 MLB schedule

The 2 series in St. Louis are as follows:

Friday – Sunday August 13-15, 2010

Monday – Wednesday – September 13-15, 2010

The Cubs are Cards battled for 4 months of the 2009 campaign until the Cards pulled away with a stellar August and September.  Cubs Manager Lou Pinella and Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa are both back at the helm for another year guiding their respective MLB teams.  The games should be fun to watch, but it is usually even more entertaining to watch the typical managerial tirades that we have come to expect and love with LaRussa and Pinella,,,

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Infield Report Card – Jeff Baker – B+

Posted on 14 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Jeff Baker – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – B+.  Baker was a pleasant surprise for the Cubs in 2009.  In a disappointing season, Baker didn’t let the negative outlook/clubhouse affect his play.  He split time with Mike Fontenot at 2nd base, but came into favor with Manager Lou Pinella as Fontenot struggled through the long MLB season.  Baker performed at a high level both at the plate and in the field, and he also showed his versatility by being able to play 3rd base as well, giving the team an extra weapon to give another infielder a little extra rest from time to time (like Aramis Ramirez).  Baker could be a fixture at the Cubs 2nd base position for years to come.

2009 stats – 69 games; 203 at-bats; .305 batting average; .362 on-base percentage; 4 HR’s, 21 RBI’s; 27 runs scored; 46 K’s; 17 walks.

2008 stats (with Colorado Rockies) – 104 games; 299 at-bats; .268 batting average; .322 on-base percentage; 12 HR’s, 48 RBI’s; 55 runs scored; 85 K’s; 26 walks.

Baker came over from the Rockies in early July 2009 and he put forth a solid effort in a Cubs uniform for the rest of the season.  The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez (when he played), but Baker didn’t seem to let that affect him.  You have to like his good on-base percentage number and the fact the he puts the ball in play.  He averaged just about 3 at-bats a game, however, so we would need to see more from Baker to make sure that he can handle the everyday 2nd base job.  I’m definitely a little gun shy with the Cubs 2nd baseman, especially after Mike Fontenot clearly showed that he couldn’t handle playing everyday after succeeding so well in 2008 in a limited role.

The good thing is that Baker also excelled in the field,  even when he played 3rd base to give the injured Aramis Ramirez an extra day off here and there.  In 49 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Baker recorded a solid .995 fielding percentage, committing just 1 error in 220 total chances.  In 17 games at 3rd base – Baker recorded a respectable .960 fielding percentage, committing 1 error in 25 total chances.

Baker is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Baker back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Mike Fontenot – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Baker and Fontenot to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Baker seemed to endear himself to Cubs fans at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field during his 2009 stint, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

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Infield Report Card – Mike Fontenot – C

Posted on 13 November 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Mike Fontenot – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – C.  This is kind of a tough one.  I really like Mike Fontenot and he tries harder than just about everyone on the team.  That being said, he failed to show that he could handle the everyday 2nd baseman job and it is unclear where Fontenot fits into the Cubs organization in the future.

2009 stats – 135 games; 377 at-bats; .236 batting average; .301 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s; 38 runs scored; 83 K’s; 35 walks.

2008 stats – 119 games; 243 at-bats; .305 batting average; .395 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 40 RBI’s; 42 runs scored; 51 K’s; 34 walks.

The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez (when he played), so it’s not surprising that Fontenot struggled as well.  The huge rise in strikeouts and the steady walks rate despite more at-bats, led to the corresponding decrease in Fontenot’s on-base percentage (just .301).  That cannot be the case for a contact hitter like Fontenot.  Sure, he may have been facing more adverse hitting situations without runners on base (unlike in 2008), but you have to rise to the occasion, and Fontenot didn’t respond in 2009.  His hitting weaknesses were exposed as an everyday player and that led to some pretty poor numbers for Fontenot.

On the other hand, Fontenot did not let his offensive woes affect his play on the field, even when he played 3rd base to fill in for the injured Aramis Ramirez.  In 70 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Fontenot recorded a solid .989 fielding percentage, committing just 3 errors in 264 total chances..  In 50 games at 3rd base – Fontenot recorded a respectable .963 fielding percentage, committing just 4 errors in 107 total chances.  Given the fact that the team was in shambles for most of the season, you have to give Fontenot credit for staying focused and playing well in the field.

Fontenot is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  Given his poor showing in 2009, one would think that the Cubs and Fontenot could work out a 1-year deal that is acceptable to both sides.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Fontenot back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Jeff Baker – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Fontenot and Baker to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

With a healthy Aramis Ramirez back in the middle of the lineup, I hope there will be a trickle down affect that will help guys like Fontenot, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano play better in 2010.  Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Fontenot is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

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Infield Report Card – Aramis Ramirez – B+

Posted on 12 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder and when no 2nd baseman stood out from among the pack, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed…

Aramis Ramirez – 3rd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – B+.  This is kind of a tough one.  His numbers were solid as usual, but with only 3+ months to grade, it is tough to really analyze Ramirez based upon a full season.  Ramirez did not get the surgery he needed during the season, so he probably was not 100% healthy at any point after he dislocated his shoulder back on May 8th.  On the other hand, when he did play, he produced, so he has to be commended for his dedication and commitment, even when it was pretty obvious that the season was a lost cause by the middle of August.

2009 stats – 82 games; 306 at-bats; .317 batting average; .389 on-base percentage; 15 HR’s, 65 RBI’s; 46 runs scored; 43 K’s; 28 walks.

2008 stats – 149 games; 554 at-bats; .289 batting average; .380 on-base percentage; 27 HR’s, 111 RBI’s; 97 runs scored; 94 K’s; 74 walks.

If you process his “half-season” numbers out over a full year, you’d be loving life.  30 HR’s, 120+ RBI’s, 90 runs scored, high batting averages and on-base percentages, plus a strikeout number under 100 which is surprising for a power hitter.  In fact, in Ramirez’s 7 season with the Cubs, he has never struck out more than 94 times.  Pretty damn good.  At the age of 31, Ramirez still has a lot of good years left in him.  When healthy, Ramirez is the Cubs’ best hitter, even better than Derrek Lee.  Ramirez makes opposing pitchers respect everyone else in the lineup – he produces for the club even when he draws a walk or makes pitchers throw a lot of pitches to get his pitch counts up.  The Cubs clearly suffered from Ramirez’s 2-month absence in 2009.  The Cubs led the league in runs scored in 2008 and those numbers severely dwindled in 2009.  Sure, several other key players were either bad (Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot) or had been traded (Mark DeRosa), but I really feel like Ramirez is the pulse of the Cubs offensive unit. So Aramis goes, so the Cubs go.

Ramirez should be healthy and ready to go for the 2010 MLB schedule.  With a healthy Aramis back in the mix, I have a good feeling that the Cubs offense will start to click again.  Theriot is solid at the top of the lineup, Kosuke Fukudome showed a greater comfort level in 2009 than he did in 2008, and if the Cubs can find a good replacement for Milton Bradley (someone that actually tries every day), the lineup should be able to produce at an acceptable level – maybe not as good as 2008, but definitely better than 2009.  Soto and Soriano can’t be any worse than they were in 2009, so there should be a lot to cheer for in 2010 with the Cubs.

Ramirez is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  Ramirez has 2 more years left on the 5-year, $75 million deal that he signed back in 2007.  The Cubs and Ramirez also have a mutual option for the 2012 MLB season, so hopefully the 2 sides can figure out a way to keep him in a Cubs uniform for at least another 4 years with some sort of 2-year or 3-year extension.  Health and consistency will be 2 keys for Ramirez in 2010, so let’s hope his off-season regimen gets him strong and ready for 2010.  That will make him a very popular man on the north side of Chicago…

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Infield Report Card – Ryan Theriot – B

Posted on 11 November 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs ryan theriot 1

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder and when no 2nd baseman stood out from among the pack, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed…

Ryan Theriot – Shortstop

2009 Report Card Grade – B.  One of the few “bright spots” for the Cubs in 2009, although it was not as good as it could have been.  For the past 3 seasons, Theriot has been one of the most reliable and dependable players on the entire Cubs roster.  Theriot has played at least 148 games in each of the last 3 seasons, with a career-high 154 games in 2009.  At the beginning of the season, Manager Lou Pinella emphasized that he would try to spell Theriot as often as possible with back-ups like Aaron Miles, but it wasn’t meant to be as both Mike Fontenot and Miles consistently struggled at 2nd base.  And when Miles spent a fair amount of time off the field with injuries, Theriot was stuck logging a lot of innings – 1,311 total.

That could be part of the reason why Theriot’s season was just good and not great.  The other reason could be the lack of explosiveness throughout the rest of the lineup.  Who knows – if people ahead of him and behind had hit better, his numbers would have probably been great.

2009 stats – 154 games; 602 at-bats; .284 batting average; .343 on-base percentage; 7 HR’s, 54 RBI’s; 81 runs scored; 93 K’s; 51 walks.

2008 stats – 149 games; 580 at-bats; .307 batting average; .387 on-base percentage; 1 HR’s, 38 RBI’s; 85 runs scored; 58 K’s; 73 walks.

Love the increase to the home run and RBI numbers, but I am very concerned about the higher strikeout numbers and lower walk numbers.  That’s not the combination you want for an on-base percentage guy who isn’t a power hitter.  That being said, because the offense struggled so much in 2009 (9th worst in all of baseball), maybe Theriot was trying too hard to do too much.  Bottom line, though, in a solid lineup (like 2008), Theriot is the real deal.  He will get on base for you, he does not make base running errors and he comes to play everyday.  He is an above average fielder – .976 fielding percentage at the toughest position in the infield.  He had career highs in assists (441), double plays turned (90), total chances (632) and innings played (1,311), so his fielding was exceptional.  But he also had a career-high in errors by one with 15.

Theriot has really settled in as a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  Theriot loves Wrigleyville and the Chicago area and it looks like he has found himself a home away from home from his Louisiana roots.  I really believe that if the Cubs can find a more consistent bat in the middle of lineup, that will help everybody out, including Theriot.  And with a healthy Aramis Ramirez back in the lineup each and every day, that will also help Theriot.  Look for Theriot’s on-base percentage numbers to go up a little in 2010 as the Cubs offense comes back to life with a solid 2010 campaign…

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