Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brewers Reds opening game

My strongest reaction to this game, is that the Brewers are sending out a lineup which inclueds Carlos Gomez (.293 career OBP) in the 2 hole, and Kotsay, Betancourt, and Nieves 6-8. These for people are a complete pile of waste, every one of which is worse than the Cubs worst hitter, probably Blake Dewitt/Jeff Baker platoon. This is supposed to be the only team that can hang with the Reds?

Even when Corey Hart plays I don't think this lineup is salvageable. Hart hasn't had a very good career outside of last year. You also have to figure Weeks will probably be injured by then, so the lineup will actually be worse.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Central Division Hype

We know that the Central division will be a two team race between the Brewers and the Reds, with the Cardinals 3rd and the Cubs fighting to a 4th place finish. That much is a given, the experts have called it. Ok, I am totally joking. Baseball experts love to buy into hype, and that never changes.

The Brewers are exciting because they made big improvements from last year's team. The Reds are exciting because they surprised a lot of experts last year, although it was obvious to me they'd be pretty good. The Cardinals have a reputation of being good. These are were the rankings come from. I see all 4 teams as being good this year.

I think the Cardinals fell back with the loss of Wainwright, and it will take some serious luck for them to maintain contention. They have some dead weight hitters in Schumaker and probably Theriot, and their defense is worse than any of recent years. I expect this to serious impact Garcia and Carpenter the most as groundball pitchers.

The Brewers defense was very bad last year, and got even worse this year with Yuniesky Betancourt, who is also dead weight at the plate. They are solid hitting 3-4-5 with Braun, Fielder, McGehee, but have real questions after that. If you look at Hart and Weeks last year, they were awesome, but if you look at them any other year they are not. Odds are they won't help out much. The pitching added two really good starters, but they are still a complete waste at 4-5. I think McClouth was a good addition for them though, and I am forced to give them serious contention status.

The Reds this year are basically the same team as last year. Last year they won the division, having a lot of things go right. Seemed like it was more of an example of the other teams losing than the Reds winning though. They are serious contenders but can easily be had.

The Cubs are in it to win it this year and they should be able to hang with the other teams. There is a lot of undeserved negative hype keeping them down in the eyes of experts. Pena hit below 200 last year, but he fought injuries and still maintained an ok OBP with 28 homers. He'll rebound for sure. There is nothing wrong with Aramis Ramirez after a rough 2010. Then there are hitters like Castro, Soto, Soriano, Fukudome, and Colvin who are better than the corresponding lineup positions on the other teams. The Cubs lack a Greinke-type ace but the pitching is still very solid, best overall in the division, and the bullpen looks to be air tight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Andrew Cashner wins Cubs 5th starter

I'm so happy!

Quade has hinted that he wants Cashner in the rotation, but that hasn't stopped me from worrying. Silva might be able to handle the role, maybe. But he likely doesn't have a future with the Cubs and Cashner does. It was the only sensible solution.

Let's not forget that Cashner has great stuff. His control isn't great yet, but hang in there. This move will pay huge dividends in the future. Cashner might even have ace potential.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney make the Cut

I'm not too familiar with Darwin Barney. He seems to be good enough defensively to fill in wherever needed. Offensively he's high-contact low-power guy. His average was only .249 last year with an OBP on the wrong side of .300. Going forward, I see him hitting for a much higher average [.270?] because of his contact abilities, but .300 doesn't seem likely. He will probably bat 7th or 8th when he plays.

I'm a big fan of Reed Johnson. He's not good enough to be an everyday player (sorry) but he is a lefty masher and a solid defender. He should have usefullness, manning right field vs lefties. Masher may be a bit of an overstatement, he will not hit many homers against lefties but has been historically high average, high OBP vs southpaws. He could maybe even be a better lead-off man than Jeff Baker.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Cubs preview: The starting pitching

The first pitcher the Cubs will use this year is Ryan Dempster. I'll agree that he's earned it, however because of tradition I would like to see Zambrano in that role again. Hard to expect much other than more of the same from Dempster. A quality pitcher but doesn't stack up to a lot of #1s so his record might not be as good as his stats indicate.

In game 2, Carlos Zambrano will take the hill. I said I'd prefer him in game 1, but pitching game 2 instead will probably help him. Historically, he's had a lot of bad opening day starts. Talent-wise he's probably about a tie with Dempster, but his bat gives the Cubs an extra weapon.

Game 3 goes to the newly acquired Matt Garza. I like it when a pitcher switches leagues. They get what I call an "unfamiliarity bonus." If a hitter hasn't seen much of a pitcher, the advantage goes to the pitcher. What's worrisome is the fly ball tendancies moving to a pitchers park to a hitters park.

Randy Wells is another solid starter, and well above average for a #4. The best way to predict him is to average his first two years, and probably give him a little improvement on that with experience. He's looked very good this Spring.

The #5 starter is still up in the air as outlined in an earlier post. I would love to see Cashner in this role. He's got great breakout potential with his stuff so he's worth trotting out there every 5th game to see if he can put it all together. Worst case, I expect him to be at least ok.

In summary, the pitching is a lot like the hitting, lacking dominance at the top, but very good throughout. That's just fine for the regular season, but it could be a problem in the post season. I guess we'll cross that bridge later.

2011 Cubs Preview:Defense

The defense of the Cubs was pretty bad last year, most of the problems coming on the infield. Seems as thought the defense isn't doing so good this Spring either. Here is the lineup again:

Kosuke Fukudome, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Marlon Byrd, CF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Geovanny Soto, C
Blake Dewitt, 2B

The defense was good in the outfield. Soriano looks foolish sometimes, but he has good range to make up for it. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), a measure of defensive value, has Soriano as having saved 5 runs over an average defender. Byrd has been an average center fielder career, but shined as a Cub last year, 9 runs saved by UZR. It had Fukudome as a below average defender, but he's been above his other three years. The best bet is he's around average right now.

The infield will largely stay the same, with the exception of Castro being better with more experience. Pena should probably be about what Derrek Lee was last year, and Dewitt a little worse than Ryan Theriot was. Aramis Ramirez is the worst defender, missing enough to be 7 runs below average.

Overall the defense is fairly unchanged, but we can hope the same batch of guys does a better job. They are all happy with Mike Quade as their manager, and as long as they stay in contention I think there will be some improvement, however I still expect the defense to be the weakness. I'm hoping for an average performance.

2011 Cubs Preview: Offense

Based on the spring lineups we have seen, The Cubs will go with something like this:

Kosuke Fukudome, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Marlon Byrd, CF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Geovanny Soto, C
Blake Dewitt, 2B

When a lefty is on the mound Jeff Baker will lead of f and play second base. I suspect Reed Johnson will be in left field.

I very much like this lineup, and you should too. It’s good. There are a lot of bad reputations here that are undeserved. Fukudome is a well above average OBP guy vs righties. I hope Castro stays out of a sophomore slump. Byrd is actually a bit overrated but still productive. He probably shouldn’t be in the #3 hole but that’s ok. Career numbers indicate that the first part of 2010 was a fluke for Aramis Ramirez, and he will be quite good this year.

Pena is a wild card. Battling Plantar Faciitis he put up a .196 average last year. Quite terrible, but his OBP was a bit better. The average probably won’t be stellar but the 35-40 HR should come back and the OBP should get back above .360. Wrigley is a much easier place to hit homers than Tampa.

Soriano is thought of as a bad hitter. It’s true he’s lost a lot and is overpaid but he’s still a good hitter. Soto is one of the game’s best hitting catchers. I’d like to see him in the 2 hole actually, but catching is already a big workload so I don’t mind him at the bottom. Last year he was underused in favor of more games for Koyie Hill. Let’s hope that’s over. Dewitt is decent, better than most 8 hitters. Wrigley will help his numbers a bit to.

While this team lacks a 3-4 punch like the Cardinals or Brewers, it’s better 5-9 and maybe 1-2 than any other team in the division. OBP appears to be a big strength, which I like. More guys on base means a lot of good things, and it’s accepted that hitters perform better. There’s a lot of home run pop here too, so many of those base runners will be cashed in.

Cubs 5th Starter: Cashner vs Silva

The biggest decision left in spring is who will be the Cubs 5th starter? The contenders are Carlos Silva and Andrew Cashner. Reportedly, Well’s rotation spot was also in jeopardy. It would have been ridiculous if he was not starting, so I’m glad he has nailed that down. Maybe it was just something that was said that wasn’t really true. I believe Braden Looper is officially in contention, but let’s just ignore that and hope it goes away.

Carlos Silva has a history of being pretty bad, until early last year, when he was dominant for a while. The wheels fell off later in the season as he battled injuries. His struggles have continued this spring. Despite this, the Nationals and the Yankees reportedly have interest. He’s had most of his problems vs lefties, which he can be protected from in the bullpen.

Andrew Cashner didn’t have a great rookie season but he was just a rookie. It looks like he has great stuff including a fastball that can touch 100 mph. Side note, negating back to back 6 ER outings, his ERA was 2.88. He looked very good in triple-A last year. He has good strikeout stuff as evidenced by his 8.28K/9 innings.

It’s easily possible Silva would put together a better season as a starter, but I’m not sure how likely. It wouldn’t be by much, while Cashner has real break out potential. Silva is gone after this year, if not sooner, while Cashner could be around for a while. It’s much wiser to put Cashner into the role and use Silva where he’s needed. I believe Mike Quade is planning on going with Cashner. I hope he sticks to that plan. Trading Silva would be ideal if the Cubs can make that happen.

Welcome to the Loan Wolf Mike Quade

About this blog:
I'm not going to promise no-nonsense analysis. There will be plenty of nonsense here. This blog should last at least two years, the duration of Quade's contract. However, if the Cubs fall out of contention at some point in 2012, they might trade him to a contender.

Who am I? I am a big Cubs fan who has been frustrated by years of bad management, but so far I like Mike Quade a lot. Hopefully there is a lot more praise than critism.

No free passes will be issued for wins despite bad managing, just as a loss will not automatically be bad. I fully appreciate that anything can happen in one game. Bad decisions can save a game, good decisions can blow a game. The immediate results have to be ignored, going with what makes since before you know what happens.

The title draws from a Chuck Norris movie, not meant to be indicitive of whether or not Mike Quade is actually a lone wolf.