Archive | November, 2009

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Infield Report Card – Derrek Lee – A-

Posted on 10 November 2009 by Lou

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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…

Derrek Lee – 1st Base

2009 Report Card Grade – A-.  One of the few “bright spots” for the Cubs in 2009.  If not for his bad start (.198 batting average as late as May 16th) I may have even given Lee a “Straight A”.  From that point on, Lee was by far the Cubs most consistent hitter in 2009.  Given the fact that he was playing in a mostly “inept” lineup for most of the season, it makes his numbers look even better.  If not for neck spasms that periodically flared up during the season, Lee’s numbers may have been even better.

2009 stats – 141 games; 532 at-bats; .306 batting average; .394 on-base percentage; 35 HR’s, 111 RBI’s; 93 runs scored; 109 K’s; 76 walks.

2008 stats – 155 games; 623 at-bats; .291 batting average; .361 on-base percentage; 20 HR’s, 90 RBI’s; 93 runs scored; 119 K’s; 71 walks.

Lee’s 6th season with the Cubs was his 2nd or 3rd best with the Cubs.  The home run and RBI totals were close to his best with the Cubs as the 111 RBI’s were a career-high.  His batting average and on-base percentage were both the 3rd best of his career with the Cubs.  In addition to his stellar hitting, Lee was the anchor that held the infield together.  Lee is always one of the best defensive infielders in the game and his .995 fielding percentage proved just that.  Lee had 94 assists and just 6 errors in 1,231 innings played.  Not bad.

The 2010 MLB schedule is the final year of Lee’s 5-year, $65 million deal that Lee signed in 2006.  That seems like a bargain right now given some of the awful contracts that GM Jim Hendry has burdened the Cubs with over the last few seasons.  At the age of 35, it is unlikely that the Cubs will offer Lee a long-term deal to stay with the ball club at the end of the season.  It’s a shame.  Lee has been a class act with the Cubs.  He has made Chicago his home and given back so much to the community.  If 2010 ends up being Lee’s last season in a Cubs uniform, it will be a sad day for Cubs fans all across the country.

Lee is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field and let’s hope that Lee has another solid season left in the tank for 2010…

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Outfield Report Card – Milton Bradley – F

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Lou

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Let’s take a look at our outfield – I wish we didn’t have to.  The trio of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley left a LOT to be desired…

Milton Bradley – Right Field

2009 Report Card Grade – F – seriously.  It is hard for me to give someone an F, but because I don’t think Bradley really even tried, Bradley gets the lone F (see Alfonso Soriano from a few days back with his D+).

2009 stats – 124 games; 393 at-bats; .257 batting average; .378 on-base percentage; 12 HR’s, 40 RBI’s; 61 runs scored; 95 K’s; 66 walks.

2008 stats (with Texas Rangers) – 126 games; 414 at-bats; .321 batting average; .436 on-base percentage; 22 HR’s, 77 RBI’s; 61 runs scored; 112 K’s; 80 walks.

We should have known that the Bradley signing was going to be a mistake when he got injured the 1st week of the season.  Next to the Soriano signing, this will go down as GM Jim Hendry’s 2nd worst move of his career.  The 2008 MLB season was only the 3rd season of his 9-year MLB career where Bradley played over 100 games.  He had a history of injury issues and he never showed that he could play a full year in the outfield.  In 2008, Bradley was the Rangers DH, and even then, he only accumulated 414 at-bats.  Throw in his poor fielding (when he was out there) and his hot temper, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Hendry had already hurt the Cubs payroll with the signings of outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome each of the previous 2 off-seasons, and now he was adding a 3rd 30+ year-old player to the mix with another 3-year deal.  Going into the 2009 season, the Cubs were then stuck in the outfield with long-term deals with Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley for the next 3 seasons.  I’m not sure how Hendry thought this was the right way to go, but somehow he convinced himself that he knew what he was doing.  Further, in order to sign Bradley, he had to dump innings-eater Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies for Luis Vizcaino (whom the Cubs released less than a month into the season) and fan and clubhouse- favorite Mark DeRosa for 3 minor league pitching prospects from the Cleveland Indians.  I think Hendry must have been on something when he made these moves last off-season.

In any event, the deal was done, and all that was left to happen was waiting for the shoe to drop.  Bradley’s performance on and off the field made that easy.  Bradley had 4 hits in the month of April – .118 batting average.  By the end of May, Bradley was on fire with his batting average over .224.  After finally reaching the .250 mark on July 29th, Bradley reached his high water mark of .269 on August 30th. Yippee.  12 HR’s & 40 RBI’s?  Jake Fox had 11 HR’s and 44 RBI’s in just 216 at-bats in 82 games.  Even Micah Hoffpauir had 10 HR’s and 35 RBI’s in just 234 at-bats in 105 games.  And like we said about Soriano, Bradley’s fielding was atrocious.  How many balls did he misplay?  How many balls did he lose in the sun?  How many balls hit him in the head?  It was comical out there in right field.

To top it all off, Bradley had the worst attitude.  He took it out on Cubs fans.  He accused people of being racist.  He never took any responsibility for his own actions.  And he always had an excuse for why he was not playing well for the Cubs.  It all reached a head when Bradley went off on the Cubs organization and the Cubs were forced to suspend him for the rest of the baseball season.  Now the Cubs are in a no-win situation.  They cannot bring Bradley back into that Cubs locker room in 2010.  But now, every other MLB team knows that the Cubs have to get rid of him with 2 years and $20 million remaining on his contract.  Any team that takes Bradley will likely make the Cubs eat at least half of the deal in order to take a “chance” on the troubled Bradley.  It goes from bad, to worse, to horrible for Hendry and the Cubs.

So while we’ll still have to live with Soriano and Fukudome struggling in the outfield for the next several years, at least we don’t have to worry about Bradley creating problems both on and off the field.  His 2009 F grade is clearly deserved.

Let’s hope Hendry can get a little creative over the next few seasons, or else Cubs fans will be calling for Hendry’s head louder than they ever did for Bradley’s in 2009…

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Outfield Report Card – Kosuke Fukudome – B

Posted on 08 November 2009 by Lou

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Let’s take a look at our outfield – I wish we didn’t have to.  The trio of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley left a LOT to be desired…

Kosuke Fukudome – Center Field

2009 Report Card Grade – B.  One of the few “bright spots” for the Cubs in 2009 and I use that term loosely.  Fukudome appeared to play better in his 2nd major league season, but when you look at the numbers, it really doesn’t play out that way.

2009 stats – 146 games; 499 at-bats; .259 batting average; .375 on-base percentage; 11 HR’s, 54 RBI’s; 79 runs scored; 112 K’s; 93 walks.

2008 stats – 150 games; 501 at-bats; .257 batting average; .359 on-base percentage; 10 HR’s, 58 RBI’s; 79 runs scored; 104 K’s; 81 walks.

In any event, because Fukudome didn’t have such stark differences between his 1st and 2nd half in 2009, he seemed to be a more consistent player in 2009.  Fukudome showed good stretches during the 2009 campaign, but the .259 average and 100+ strikeouts 2 years in a row is a little concerning.  Fukudome just finished the 2nd year of his 4-year contract.  Paying an unproven 30-year old Japanese outfielder close to $50 million for a 4-year deal seemed a bit much at the time Jim Hendry convinced Kosuke to play for the Cubs.  And once again (see Soriano), the numbers proved that true.  Kosuke probably did not deserve a 4-year deal and he definitely did not deserve almost $50 million.  This will go down as another bad outfield move by Hendry – it followed the Soriano debacle and preceded the Bradley debacle, so Hendry really has to feel the pressure to produce over the next couple of years.  The Cubs payroll is mortgaged and inflexible because of the moves that Hendry has made the last 3 seasons, particularly in the outfield.  If the players don’t produce, or if the Cubs miss out on younger, more dependable free agent outfielders over the next few season (see Jason Bay, Matt Holliday), someone has to be held accountable.  And guess what Cubs fans, that person would be Jim Hendry.

On a positive note, Fukudome seemed to be a little more comfortable playing at the major league level in 2009.  If he can continued to find his rhythm here in the states, that could translate into better numbers.  He is also a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field so that also helps his cause.  Let’s hope Kosuke can right the ship a little bit more in 2010…

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Outfield Report Card – Alfonso Soriano – D+

Posted on 07 November 2009 by Lou

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Let’s take a look at our outfield – I wish we didn’t have to.  The trio of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley left a LOT to be desired…

Alfonso Soriano – Left Field

2009 Report Card Grade – D+ – seriously.  I was tempted to give him an F, but I just don’t think anyone who at least tries a little bit deserves an F (see Milton Bradley in a couple of days).

2009 stats – 117 games; 477 at-bats; .241 batting average; .303 on-base percentage; 20 HR’s, 55 RBI’s; 64 runs scored; 118 K’s; 40 walks.

2008 stats – 109 games; 453 at-bats; .280 batting average; .344 on-base percentage; 29 HR’s, 75 RBI’s; 76 runs scored; 103 K’s; 43 walks.

As bad as we thought 2008 was, 2009 was that much worse.  It’s almost comical.  One of GM Jim Hendry’s best/worst moves in his career.  It was a good move, because Soriano was the most sought-after free agent player at the end of the 2006 MLB schedule. Someone was going to throw a LOT of cash at Soriano and while Hendry made a big splash to get him, he also mortgaged the franchise in one of the worst baseball contracts ever.  Soriano was 31 years old at the start of the 2007 season – to give him an 8-year contract at approximately $17 million per year was a bad business decision.  Did Hendry and the Cubs really think that this guy would be worth $17 million per season at 36, 37, 38, 39?  In just his 3rd year of the contract, Soriano has already started breaking down, and the decline will likely continue.  The guys on-base percentage is barely over .300.  He hit only 20 HR’s.  55 RBI’s?  We could go on and on and we haven’t even started to take about his horrendous fielding.

I just wish Jake Fox was a left-handed hitter – then we could at least platoon Soriano and Fox in the outfield.  Or maybe the Cubs agree to eat half of the $85 million still remaining on Soriano’s contract.  Take that $40 million liability with the $10 million the Cubs will likely have to eat in order to move Bradley, and the Cubs will probably be playing 2 players around $50 million to NOT be on their roster.  That’s more than the team salaries for several major league teams – Pirates, Royals, Padres…

So long story short, Soriano will come back to haunt the Cubs for years to come.  His 2009 D+ grade is deserved.

Let’s hope Hendry can get a little creative over the next few seasons, or else Cubs fans will be forced to watch Soriano patrol left field at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field for 5 more years.  Yippee!

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Cubs GM Jim Hendry Asleep at the Wheel Again

Posted on 06 November 2009 by Lou

CHICAGO CUBS JIM HENDRY LOU PINELLA

Tom Ricketts 1st move as Chairman of the Cubs should be to fire GM Jim Hendry.  Enough is enough already.  After saddling the Cubs with bad, enormous contract with the recent signings of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley each of the last 3 seasons, now it is his inaction that has cost the Cubs a leg up on the competition.  Over the last 2 seasons, the Cubs have mentioned trying to acquire Mark Teahan from the Kansas City Royals or Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins.  Now, both players are off the market because other more qualified GM’s beat him to the punch.

The Boston Red Sox and GM Theo Epstein acquired Hermida from the Marlins for 2 minor league left-handed pitchers.

The Chicago White Sox and GM Kenny Williams acquired Mark Teahan from the Royals for Chris Getz and Josh Fields.

Pretty light prices to acquire talent like that.  Is it surprising that the Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles under Epstein since 2004 and that Williams delivered a World Series title for the South Side Chicago faithful in 2005?  Not at all.

Hendry must go!!!

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Ted Lilly Undergoes Shoulder Surgery – Start of 2010 in Jeopardy

Posted on 05 November 2009 by Lou

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Ted Lilly underwent successful shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.  Dr. Yocum found no major damage as he performed a washout and cleanup of the shoulder.  Lilly’s shoulder still bothered him during the first few weeks of the off-season, so he opted to have the surgery now so that he would be ready to pitch for the bulk of the 2010 MLB schedule.  Lilly had this to say: “All the news that I’ve been given leads me to believe it was the right decision.  It was something I didn’t want to do, but I also started to feel that after a month and it still wasn’t getting better, I had thoughts of going into the [2010] season trying to battle through shoulder problems all year and I didn’t want to do that.  I thought if I get it taken care of now and get it behind me, I’d be all right.”

A typical recovery from a surgery like this would project Lilly to be ready to pitch in April.  Lilly will start a shoulder strengthening program and immediately and then will be re-evaluated at the beginning of 2010 when the Cubs set a throwing program for Lilly.  Lilly made 27 starts in 2009, going 12-9 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.  Lilly had a career high 21 quality starts and struck out 151 batters – his 4th straight season in which he has reached the 150 strikeout plateau.

Let’s hope Lilly can be ready fairly close to that April projection.  The one bright spot all season long was the Cubs starting pitching with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Lilly.  Going into the 2010 campaign down 1 guy will put the Cubs in a difficult position.  The good news is that it appears that there is no significant structural damage in Lilly’s shoulder which would have required additional time off.

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Starlin Castro – Star in the Making

Posted on 04 November 2009 by Lou

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Starlin Castro is on the fast track to the major leagues.  At the ripe young age of 19, the Cubs want to take it slow with Castro.  But Castro is playing so well in the minor leagues, he is making it very difficult for GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella not to be too giddy about the prospects of Castro playing at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field very soon.

During the 2008 MLB season, Castro played at both Class A (.302 batting average) and Double A (2.88 batting average).  The Cubs felt that he handled the progression so easily that he was ready for the Arizona Fall League.  The AFL showcases some of the best prospects from just about every club, so for Castro to be there this soon, you have to be impressed.  Castro is the youngest player in the AFL and he started off the 1st week of the season with a .500 batting average.

Cubs minor league infield coordinator Franklin Font had this to say about Castro – “He’s one of those special players in baseball.”

Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita heaped even more praise on Castro: “I haven’t had a player go through the system who has done what he’s done… I think we would have been happy if he hit .250 in Daytona.  He’s certainly surpassed any expectations we’ve had.  To finish at Double-A and get a chance to play in the [Southern League] playoffs – and he contributed to them winning.

Get ready Cubs fans – Castro could be pushing current shortstop Ryan Theriot to 2nd base if he continues to develop like he has so far…

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Will Mike Fontenot Rebound in 2010?

Posted on 03 November 2009 by Lou

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Mike Fontenot struggled mightily in 2009.  The Cubs are hoping that he can regain his 2008 form in the off-season.

In 2008, Fontenot played a solid reserved role mainly at 2nd base.  In 243 at-bats in 119 games, Fontenot hit .305 with a .395 on-base percentage.  He hit 9 home runs, had 40 RBI’s and scored 42 runs.  He struck out only 51 times and walked 34 times.  He was a solid defender (.996 fielding percentage) and he was a key component to the success of the Cubs team.

But in 2009, Fontenot regressed under the pressures of being an everyday player.  He racked up a lot more innings – 377 at-bats in 135 games – and the reduced offensive output really showed.  Fontenot hit the same number of HR’s – 9; drove in 3 more runs – 43 RBI’s; but scored 4 less runs with only 38 runs scored.  His strikeout numbers soared all the way up to 83 while his walks remained basically the same at 35.  Hence the bad batting average – .236 – and poor on-base percentage – .301 – for a contact hitter like he is.

Manager Lou Pinella stayed with Fontenot because of the Aramis Ramirez injury and because Fontenot could play both 2nd base and 3rd base.  He had a .989 fielding percentage in 70 games at 2nd base and a .963 fielding percentage in 50 games at 3rd base.  These are very good numbers for someone who was struggling so much at the plate.

The Cubs hope that the overall lack of production from the Cubs offense also affected the types of situations that Fontenot batted in.  Fontenot is probably not a .300 major league hitter, but he’s also probably better than the .236 he hit in 2009.  Fontenot is arbitration-eligible, as is his biggest rival for the 2nd base job – Jeff Baker whom the Cubs acquired from the Colorado Rockies.  Baker played in 89 games for the Cubs and put forth a solid effort – .305 batting average; .362 on-base percentage; 4 HR’s; 21 RBI’s and 27 runs scored; plus a .995 fielding percentage in 49 games at 2nd base.

It will be interesting to see what the Cubs do with the 2nd base position in 2010.  I don’t really think that Baker or Fontenot are dependable enough to be everyday ballplayers.  But since both players are such good fielders, they could platoon depending upon how much the Cubs would have to shell out to keep both players.  Only time will tell and we’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything here at MyCubsToday

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Carlos Marmol – Closer – But Where Does That Leave the Rest of the Bullpen

Posted on 02 November 2009 by Lou

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I am thrilled with the prospect of having Carlos Marmol as the Cubs’ closer for the entire 2010 MLB schedule.  Marmol was a rock in save situations at the end of the 2009 season – racking up 11 straight saves (in saves situations) from August 23rd on.  Marmol did have 3 hiccups in non-save situations, suffering 2 losses and giving up 5 ER on 5 hits and 5 walks in the process.  But if you ignore those situations, Marmol was as reliable as it gets for a closer.  Barring any off-season setbacks, Marmol should be good to go to shoulder the load for the Cubs in 2010.

Esmailin Caridad pitched very well for the Cubs at the end of the season, but his experience is a factor (he is only 26 years old).  In 14 appearances, Caridad went 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 17 strikeouts and just 3 walks.  John Grabow also pitched well – 30 appearances, 3.24 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 16 strikeouts and 12 walks.  Grabow is also left-handed, but he is a free agent and the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry still have a little work to do in order to sign him.   The Cubs also have Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman, Justin Berg, John Gaub, David Patton, Jeff Samardzija  and Jeff Stevens.

Spring Training 2010 will give each of these players a chance to prove their worth as a reliable and dependable reliever out of the pen.  Manager Lou Pinella and his staff will have to be at the top of their game to make sure they select the right combination of players that gives the Cubs the best chance to be successful in 2010.

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Mesa v. Naples – Cubs Spring Training Battle Alive & Kicking

Posted on 01 November 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have called Mesa, Arizona their “home away from home” during the Spring since 1979.  But it looks like that could come to an end if the Ricketts Family decides to move the team’s spring training facilities from Arizona to Florida – and specifically Naples…

What the team is looking for – 120 contiguous acres; stadium with seating capacity of at least 15,000; 6 practice fields; sufficient parking; and a training complex that could be used 11 months out of the calendar year.

Arizona’s edge – the team is comfortable in Arizona having been there since the 1950’s.  Their current home has been the team’s site since 1979.  Mesa city leaders have indicated that they will do everything possible to keep the Cubs in Arizona.  They have highlighted a large-scale development area near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport where Gaylord Entertainment Co. plans to builds a resort and conference center within the next few years.  The Cubs new facility would be nearby that center.  Travel times between Cactus League teams average just 30 minutes – travel time among the Grapefruit League teams in Florida is much longer with an average of 3 hours between sites.

Florida’s edge – it would be something new.  Florida has proposed developing a “Wrigley Village” that will be a “destination spot” for Cubs fans all across the country.  The Florida group has started a website called floridacubs.com but they said that they will not get into a bidding war with Mesa.  Florida reps have indicated that Arizona has had to build 3 facilities for the Cubs in 50+ years and they now have to build another for the team.  The site in Florida would be a state-of-the-art facility that would hold the Cubs operations for years to come.

We’ll keep you posted as this all plays out over the next few months…

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