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Cubs Outfield Depth, Alfonso Soriano and Phone Books

By bullpenbrian - January 30, 2013 - 9:15 am Leave a comment.

Yellow Pages dropped off a brick of 12 phone books at my condo complex this week, which I lugged inside the main doors while wondering when’s the last time I used an actual phone book to look up anything? Pre 2000 is my best guess.

I can’t help but think the printing of phone books is dead money to the company. But two days later the books had disappeared from inside the main walkway. I’m thinking another resident hauled them away…probably to the dumpster.
The addition of Scott Hairston last week gives the Cubs some quality outfield depth the roster lacked in 2012. It’s not a dynamic outfield by any means, but it should, in theory, help improve a weak offense and help bridge the gap to guys like Brett Jackson, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.

Here’s a closer look at the Cubs outfield heading into spring camp and how it could play out if Alfonso Soriano is traded…CLICK HERE


Another Former Cub Joins John Vander Wal Tour of Duty

By bullpenbrian - January 14, 2013 - 11:45 pm Leave a comment.

John Vander Wal
John Vander Wal was the hitting equivalent of a ‘loogy’: an average big leaguer whose left-
handed swing kept in the game until he was 38.

His lifetime career average vs. right-handed pitching is .267 with an .819 OPS. He also amassed 126 career pinch hits, 17 of which were home runs.

Vander Wal never played for the Cubs but frequently played against the North Siders while spending the later half of his career on a rust belt tour of the NL Central. First Pittsburgh, then Milwaukee and finally Cincinnati (2004).

Jim Edmonds followed Vander Wal’s lead four years later when he left St. Louis and ended up with the Cubs in May of 2008 at the ripe age of 38.

Chicago parted ways with Edmonds after one season despite his 19 HR, 49 RBI and 135 OPS+ in 85-
games. He took the next year off and then signed with Milwaukee, who in turn traded Edmonds to the Reds in August of 2010; his ‘John Vander Wal Tour of Duty’ now complete.

Corey Patterson is another who’s stepped into Vander Wal’s footprints. A lefty batter who broke in with the Cubs and later bounced from Cincinnati to Milwaukee to St. Louis (among other stops).

And now another left-handed journeyman, and former Cub, is on the brink of turning the Vander Wal trick. Cesar Izturis, 33, who played for the Cubs (2006-07), the Pirates (2007), St. Louis (2008) and Milwaukee (2012) has signed a minor league deal with the Reds.

In the name of John Vander Wal, who’s next! Louis Valbuena, Tony Campana, Brett Jackson?


Mays, Mantle and Brett Jackson

By bullpenbrian - August 17, 2012 - 2:30 am 2 comments.

It’s too early to determine exactly what kind of hitter Brett Jackson will become at the major league level. He’s played in all of nine games having made just 35 plate appearances.

What we’ve seen thus far, albeit expectedly, hasn’t been pretty. Jackson is striking out at a horrific pace, even more frequently than he did at Triple-A Iowa, fanning 18-times, which is right at 51-percent of his total plate appearances.

Theo & Jed, however, have quickly come to Jackson’s defense referencing the early struggles of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle upon their arrivals in the big leagues in 1951.

Mays hit .163/.294/.326 through his first 51 plate appearances, including seven hits, four for extra bases, one home run and five RBI. He drew seven walks vs. five strikeouts.

Mantle’s first 50 plate appearances looked like this: .222/.289/.575. He totaled 10 hits, two for extra bases, no home runs, six RBI and five walks (one intentional) vs. 10 strikeouts.

Jackson enters this weekend’s four-game series at Cincinnati (where he should hit 50 total plate appearances) hitting .188/.257/.281. He’s managed six hits, two for extra bases, no home runs, one RBI and three walks vs. the aforementioned 18 strikeouts.

So what can we make from comparing Jackson to Mays & Mantle? I’d say, not much.


First of all, there’s a noticeable age difference with Jackson, who turned 24 on August 2nd. The Say Hey Kid was 20-years-old when he made his debut for the New York Giants. Mantle was 19 when he debuted for the Yankees.

When Mays was 24 he hit a major league-leading 51 HR, drove in 127 RBI and finished fourth in the MVP Award. His slashline was .319/.400/ with a major league-leading .659 SLG. The OPS was 1.059 and his OPS+ a marvelous 174!

Mantle at 24 hit a major league-leading 52 HR and 130 RBI. He also scored a major league-leading 132 runs with a slashline of .353/.464/.705. The OPS: 1.169. His OPS+: 210! Each category led the majors except for his still eye-popping .464 OBP. And oh yeah, Mantle also won the MVP Award that season (1956).


The message Team Theo is trying to get across is that a player’s first couple of weeks in ‘The Show’ tend to be overwhelming—and not that they believe the next Mays or Mantle is in the Cubs on-deck circle.

While using the comparison of Jackson’s early struggles to that of two Hall of Famers who suffered equally is flattering for the kid, it’s hardly fair.

Instead, it’s just a reminder that figuring things out at first blush against the best pitchers in the world isn’t always easy, even for some of the game’s very best hitters.

No Cubs fan in their right mind is expecting Jackson to elevate his game to the level of Willie or The Mick. Not that it couldn’t happen.

But what I really learned from looking at the comparisons is Mays & Mantle both mastered the necessary adjustments at the major league level rather quickly–enough so that they were performing at MVP-caliber levels by the time they were Jackson’s age, and that’s what truly needs to be assessed in BJax’s case.

How quickly will this kid learn on the job? Can he make the right adjustments, or are his talents just another case of Cubs fans hyping expectations to unreasonable levels?

Time will tell, as it does with all players, if Jackson is major league material. It may not happen as quickly as we would like, Jackson could begin next season back in Iowa, but we’ll know soon enough.

Until then, let’s hold off on the comparison talk, unless of course, we’re discussing who Cubs fans hyped more: Jackson or Felix Pie? Other candidates are welcomed, too.


Cubs In A Scoring Funk

By bullpenbrian - August 8, 2012 - 3:30 am Leave a comment.

Last Monday the Cubs posted its most runs scored in a single game this season defeating the Pirates 14-4 at Wrigley Field.

It’s also the last time the Cubs won a game, and the lack of offense has largely been the deciding factor.

The Cubs have been outscored 38-16 during its seven-game losing streak. Twice they’ve been shutout, twice they’ve scored one single run, and had it not been for Adrian Cardenas, it’s highly likely AJ Burnett no-hits the Cubs last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the highly touted Brett Jackson has done nothing but reinforce the worry he strikes out too often (he did so 33% of the time in Iowa) by punching out 8 times in 11 at-bats since his callup Sunday. Josh Vitters hasn’t been much better: 1-for-6 with a double and 2 RBI.

Castro and LaHair, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, continue to struggle going a combined 0-for-7 with one walk and one strikeout last night in San Diego. And Anthony Rizzo posted another no-hit night (0-for-4) dropping his average below .300 (.292).

The west coast road trip can’t end soon enough. The Cubs are (8-13) vs. NL West opponents this year, and all eight wins have come at home.

However, it doesn’t get any easier after today’s series finale at San Diego–the red hot Cincinnati Reds come to town for a four-game set.

Maybe a little home cookin’ is just what the Cubs need to get back on track at the plate?


Cubs New Faces New Places

By bullpenbrian - August 7, 2012 - 1:05 am Leave a comment.


Campana An Everyday Player?

By bullpenbrian - April 25, 2012 - 6:35 pm 2 comments.

I know this post will be unpopular from the onset.

Tony Campana, with his blazing speed and boyish good looks, has won over throngs of Cubs fans, but that doesn’t make him an everyday player.

There’s no denying the kid’s been off to a hot start since joining the Cubs to replace Marlon Byrd.

He has five hits, four stolen bases and two sacrifices, enough for Dale Sveum to move him to the two-hole in favor of Darwin Barney. (Interesting because Barney is batting .304, 9 RS & 7 RBI from two-hole).

Campana, however, still appears overmatched at the plate. He’s struck out in nearly half his at-bats, often looking desperate to make contact.

Opposing pitchers have figured out his shtick, too. They pound the strike zone with hooks knowing the slap-hitter will flail wildly, which helps explain Campana’s lone walk and zero extra base hits.

Supporters of Campana point to the fact he’s only 25-years-old, a career .303 hitter in the minor leagues and plays a good center field. If Sveum would only give him a chance…

But I’ll remind you the same was said about Felix Pie four years ago, who had striking similarities to Campana’s game: singles hitter, fast, decent fielder and far too often overmatched offensively.


Byrd, Bowden & Jackson

By bullpenbrian - April 22, 2012 - 4:00 pm Leave a comment.

It feels like Theo Epstein extended an olive branch to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday trading Marlon Byrd for right-handed pitcher Michael Bowden.

Who would’ve guessed both parties would dance following the lengthy debate to settle the Epstein compensation package to the Cubs?

There’s no question Byrd could use a change of scenery given his dreadful start to the season offensively (.075 avg., 2 RBI). Whether or not his return to Fenway Park rekindles any lingering affects from being beaned in the eye there last May is yet to be seen.

The Red Sox, however, are starved for veteran outfield help. Jacoby Ellsbury is sidelined with a separated shoulder and Carl Crawford is still recovering from left wrist surgery. Whatever Byrd has left in the tank is worth Boston’s risk.



Cubs Non-Roster Invites | Hitters

By bullpenbrian - February 27, 2012 - 11:01 am 1 comment.

Here’s a handful of non-roster invites who could surprise in spring camp to make the Cubs Opening Day roster.

Jason Jaramillo: A solid spring would position the Racine, Wisc. native for the No.2 role behind Geovany Soto. Couple that with a poor spring from Soto, and the 29-year-old could open the season as the No.1 catcher. His left-handed bat, good defense and experience the past three seasons in Pittsburgh (119 games) makes him worth keeping an eye on.


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