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Sports Illustrated Preview, Cubs (67-95), 5th NL Central

By bullpenbrian - March 30, 2013 - 12:05 pm Leave a comment.

Wrigley Field

Sports Illustrated’s MLB preview says the Cubs will finish (67-95), fifth in the NL Central. Writer Albert Chen does a nice job with the Cubs preview, which you can read here.

Not certain if Chen decided the Cubs final record or if that was a staff pick. But it’s in the neighborhood of where I have the Cubs finishing the season (72-90), fifth in the division.

My only true disagreement with the piece is Bryan LaHair being tabbed as Chicago’s biggest loss from last season. While he did finish the campaign second on the team in HRs (16), LaHair was a disappointment in the season’s second half, transitioning from All-Star to bench warmer.

I suspected some of LaHair’s struggles were due in part to the arrival of Anthony Rizzo in late June, which forced LaHair from first base to the outfield.

Nonetheless, Rizzo was clearly the better player offensively hitting one fewer HR (15) than LaHair and driving in eight more runs (48) in 12 fewer plate appearances and 43 fewer games. Darwin Barney, who posted an on-base percentage under .300 (.299) managed to drive in four more runs (44) than LaHair (40) as well.

Even without Rizzo the Cubs would likely be better off without LaHair in 2013. And we can fairly assume the young Rizzo will perform just as well, if not better, than he did last season.

For my money the biggest loss was Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25), who managed a quality start in 69-percent of his outings, had an ERA+174 and a 3.5 WAR. Jeff Samardzija could push for similar numbers this season, but the Cubs will be hard pressed to get Dempster-esque production from their other starters aside from Shark.

“The Cubs are headed in the right direction, with a vastly improved farm system and a promising young core in place, but nobody’s putting the champagne on ice just yet. Next year will be a different story if prospects like Soler and Baez begin making an impact earlier than expected.” –Chen SI.com

Simply put, I see two factors determining the Cubs’ season. 1.) How well they start the season in the win/loss column. 2.) What happens at the trade deadline?

If the Cubs play well in the first three months we could see fewer moves at the trade deadline, which could mean a respectable second half, and an overall record that avoids 100-losses. If not, however, we can expect another yard sale similar to last season’s July moves and the team fighting to avoid triple digit losses during the final two months.

Either way, let’s just be excited Cubs baseball back–for better or worse.

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Jeff Samardzija Files For Arbitration, Bryan LaHair’s New Teammate & Ryan Theriot Picks Next World Series Winner

By bullpenbrian - January 17, 2013 - 7:00 am Leave a comment.

Bullpen Brian I usually consider the weeks following the Super Bowl to March Madness as the doldrums of television viewing. But evening programming is lacking with the absence of Blackhawks hockey (season begins Sat.).

College basketball barely registers on my radar and the NBA doesn’t do it for me either. So I ended up watching Antiques Road Show on PBS last night. I’ve never been more motivated to clean out my storage closet with the hope of finding some treasure valued at auction for $100,000. Perhaps this baseball tapestry is my ticket to financial freedom in 2013? Or, let’s just say the start of the NHL season can’t come soon enough…

 

  • Bryan LaHair’s newest teammate on the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks is 35 year old Vicente Padilla. He’s agreed to a 1-year, $3.25M deal after spending last season as a reliever with Boston (4-1, 4.50),
    56-games, 50.0 IP, ERA+97.
  • Why are teams are so enthralled with Kyle Farnsworth? His six seasons with the Cubs (1999-04) were five too many for my liking. However, the soon to be 37 year old is in the mix to join the Rays, where he’s spent the past two seasons. Farnsworth’s lifetime record is (40-62, 4.24) with a career 55-percent save percentage (52/94). You tell me…
  • One of our favorite former Cubs to root against, Ryan Theriot, is rumored to be headed to either Philadelphia or San Francisco according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. So is it safe to assume whichever team he signs with will go on to win the World Series while Theriot toes the Mendoza line as a scrub bench player. Ugh.
  • Jeff Samardzija filed for salary arbitration this week and seemingly has come to a mutual agreement with the Cubs to work on a 1-year deal for 2013. Although he’s under team control through 2015, it appears both sides are committed to inking a long-term contract next offseason. MLBTR.com suggest Shark will earn $2.9M for the coming season. Granted the 28 year old is coming off a breakout campaign (9-13, 3.81), 28 starts, 174.2 IP, I like the move from the Cubs’ perspective. It gives Samardzija another year to prove he’s a top of the rotation starter and a pitcher the Cubs should invest in long-term.
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The Shark, The Fuk & One HOF Vote For Aaron Sele(?)

By bullpenbrian - January 10, 2013 - 2:00 am Leave a comment.

Jeff Samardzija visited the set of SportsNation (ESPN) to defend his Fighting Irish following Notre Dame’s humiliating 42-14 loss to Alabama in the
BCS National Championship Game.

At the end of this clip Samardzija appears just as exasperated by Alabama’s thumping as the rest of us (or those not rooting for the Crimson Tide, or without any rooting interest like myself).

The Cubs were never mentioned specifically during the show.

Samardzija at Notre Dame (2003-06)
Baseball – Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine
Football – School record of 8 straight games with receiving TD
Football – Career: 179 receptions, 2,593 yards, 27 touchdowns
Football – All time leader in receiving yards (2,593)
Football – Numerous All American Teams
Baseball – Selected by Cubs in 5th Rd (149th overall) of 2006 Draft

Kosuke Fukudome is heading back to Japan
He’s agreed to a 3-year, $5.5 million deal with the Hanshin Tigers.
In 2008 he signed a 4-year, $48 million deal with the Cubs.

Cubs transactions January 10th:

  • 2012: signed free agent Paul Maholm
  • 2006: Signed free agent Jacque Jones

HOF Voting
The Bad: No player was voted in when a few deserving ones
should have been elected.
The Silver Lining: This will spark further conversation about the voting system and what reform, if any, should be taken to improve the voting system.
Craig Biggio is a no brainer.
Aaron Sele gets one vote? Why? Ridiculous.

Aaron Sele
15 Seasons – Overall (148-112, 4.61) 352 starts
Only 5 double digit wins seasons (19, 18, 17, 15, 13)
Two time All Star
Never won 20-games
Never was a league leader in major pitching category
Playoff record: (0-6, 4.46) 7 starts
Hall of Famer? Are you kidding me?

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Cubs Best Starter 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 12:45 am Leave a comment.

-Jeff Samardzija: (9-13, 3.81). Pitching far better than his record indicates, Shark led the team in starts (28), innings pitched (174.2) and strikeouts (180).

Had it not been for the club’s decision to cut Samardzija’s season short in September it’s likely he would’ve finished the 2012 campaign with 30-starts, close to 200.0 innings pitched and double-digit wins.

In his first full season starting, however, the soon-to-be 28-year-old proved he can be a reliable top-of-the-rotation arm entering his sixth season with Chicago.

Honorable mentions: Matt Garza (5-7, 3.91) and the departed…Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25) in 16-starts, Paul Maholm (9-6, 3.74) in 20-starts.

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Projecting Cubs 2015 Rotation

By bullpenbrian - September 15, 2012 - 1:50 pm Leave a comment.

JP

This is a guest post by devoted Cubs fan JP Hochbaum. Read his last post “Projecting Cubs 2015 Lineup” by clicking here.

The current crop of pitchers at the major league and minor league levels make it hard to predict who could be here come 2015 because there isn’t much talent there, at least that could be called up anytime soon. 

With the current starting staff of Samardzija, Garza, Wood, and the bunch that keeps getting rotated from Triple-A and the major league team, I see only Samardzija as the only likely starter still around in 2015, so I am going to slate him as the ace of our 2015 team.

Sorting out the rest from our minor league system is tough, and there isn’t a starter that cracks most top 100 prospects, assuming that Arodys Viscaino becomes a late inning guy.  But because the team is really thin in starting the Cubs may try to turn him into a starter, and so for the sake of making this projection look better I am going to put Viscaino as the No.2 starter, which is what many scouts consider as his ceiling.

Of the remaining prospects in their system there’s a list of possible starters and relievers to sort out from: Pierce Johnson, this year’s 1st round sandwich pick, Dillon Maples, possible top of the rotation guy, Duane Underwood, this year’s 2nd round pick, Trey McNutt, whose stock is falling, Robert Whitenack, probably a reliever, Ben Wells, projected as a No.3,  Juan Carlos Paniagua, amazing fastball and little known about him (could be a sketchy character), Nick Struck, could be called up next year, Erik Jokisch, pitching great for Tennessee Smokies,  Austin Kirk, doesn’t strike out enough people.

What makes this crop weak is that few of them have pitched long enough in the minors to know enough about them. The guys in the top levels of the minors Mcnutt, Struck and Jokisch make the safest bets to be here when it comes to the 2015 team, simply because the other top of the rotation guys like Wells, Paniagua, Maples, Underwood, and Johnson just have too small of a sample size to judge them.

What makes the Cubs strong is that they are collecting up-side depth in pitching, meaning they are collecting guys with high ceilings who could move through the system fast.  And by fast I mean no sooner than 2014 is likely.

That being said, all this guessing makes projecting very difficult, and so I am going to just sort out the guys of where they are projected to pitch in the rotation.

  • Potential No.1 starters:  Samardzija, Pierce Johnson, Juan Carlos Paniagua
  • Potential No.2 starters: Duane Underwood, Viscaino, Dillon Maples
  • Potential No.3 starters: Ben Wells, Nick Struck, Paul Blackburn
  • Potential No.4 starters: Erik Jokisch
  • Potential No.5 starters: Austin Kirk,

Relievers:

  • Robert Whiteneck,
  • Tony Zich,
  • Alberto Cabrera,
  • Viscaino (if the high level guys make the team in 2015)

As you can see they are deep at the top, but these guys won’t be here until much later and 2015 could be a stretch for seeing them, but I am assuming that the Cubs move them through the system fast to do so.  The hope is that most of these top of the level rotation guys pan out and could fill in the 4th, and 5th starter spots.

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What’s Next For Jeff Samardzija?

By bullpenbrian - September 9, 2012 - 11:05 am Leave a comment.

Shutting Jeff Samardzija down for the remainder of the season is a no-brainer.

His 174.2 innings pitched doubles his innings total from a season ago and accounts for slightly more innings pitched than he accumulated during his first four seasons with the Cubs (169.2).

It’s been a heavy work-load for the 27-year-old, and with the final month of the Cubs’ regular season being spent as nothing more than an evaluation period determining what players should return in 2013, there’s no reason risking injury to a player the Cubs desperately need in its rotation next spring.

Samardzija’s first season as a starter has largely been a success. He leads the team in starts (28), innings pitched (174.2) and strikeouts (180). He’s also accomplished 17 quality starts, including his last four, posted and ERA of less than 3.00 since the All Star break and tossed his first career complete game against Pittsburgh Saturday night–only allowing a further glimpse of how high his potential ceiling could reach as a top-of-the-rotation arm.

The Shark finishes his season with a respectable 3.81 ERA, but a losing (9-13) record, which can hardly be held against him given the Cubs’ anemic offense. And he easily pitched well enough for at least two, if not three more victories, and arguably more. So it is nice knowing Samardzija is capable of winning 15-games or more over a full season.

What’s really of interest, however, is Samardzija’s expiring 1-yr, $2.64M contract, keeping in mind, the Cubs declined Jeff’s major league option last year to resign him to a more team friendly deal.

But oh, how things have changed.

Samardzija is no longer a pitcher trying to prove himself as a starter, and the Cubs have basically zero rotation depth behind him, aside from an unhealthy Matt Garza and an inconsistent Travis Wood.

So how much and how long? That’s the next question Jed Hoyer needs to address in Samardzija’s career. And here we thought ending the Shark’s season early was the hard part.

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Shark Night At Wrigley Field

By bullpenbrian - August 13, 2012 - 6:35 pm Leave a comment.

I’ve always enjoyed Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. But for many years, the marathon was a sorrowing reminder grade school was right around the corner.

School days are thankfully out of my way, leaving me even more captivated by Shark Week and its closer-than-ever, ground-breaking HD shots of Great White sharks.

Tonight, however, I’ll be back at Wrigley Field watching Shark Samardzija and the Cubs take on the lowly Houston Astros—weather permitting.

I’ll be tweeting as usual from the park. And in honor of National Left-Handers day, I’m working on a post for tomorrow talking about Cubs southpaws James Russell and Brooks Raley (who was optioned earlier this morning back to Triple-A Iowa).

Now I’m off to swim with the bottom-feeding Cubs & Stros. I’m hoping for a Great Samardzija attack at the very least.

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Cubs Taming Of The Shark

By bullpenbrian - August 9, 2012 - 4:19 pm Leave a comment.

I’ve mentioned before one of my chief concerns with Jeff Samardzija is the football mentality he shows at times on the baseball diamond.

It was on full display at San Diego Wednesday night when Shark unsuccessfully tried to bare hand a hit back up the middle and later broke his bat over his knee following a three pitch strikeout.

Neither example took away from a terrific outing, but chances are this type of behavior will come back to bite him in the worst possible way–injury.

WHY BASEBALL ISN’T FOOTBALL

Baseball, as I understand it, isn’t a grunt sport. The emotional element that’s so necessary on the gridiron does little for one’s success on the ball diamond–often the greater the effort, the more production suffers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean baseball players should be absent of passion and focus on the playing field, Samardzija undoubtedly has both, but learning how to channel his emotions from wild beast to quiet assassin is what’s of importance.

It’s where the right kind of effort meets the desired results. It’s about maturity, self control and the understanding that the game of baseball pays little attention to how macho you are.

HATER IN THE HOUSE? 

This post isn’t about throwing mud on Samardzija. He’s come a long way in his first season as a starter. 

And perhaps, had it not been for his no-quit, football-like approach, he may not have transitioned so well from reliever to starter after the Cubs unwisely bussed him to and from Iowa at the beginning of his career.

The truth is, I’m all for Shark’s emotion. The Cubs, unquestionably, are in desperate need of his energy, his drive, and his desire to dominate opposing hitters. He badly wants to be the staff ace and I love him for it.

Samardzija has all the talent to reach those expectations, but now it’s just a matter of him learning how to wrangle his raw emotions into productivity on the baseball field.

Otherwise, he’s no better off than Carlos Zambrano, who for years self destructed under his own lack of self control.

Now, I’m not saying Samardzija is on El Toro’s level, thank god, but his recent behavior isn’t far from it, either.

I think I just want to see Samardzija succeed as much as he shows us he wants to, and the only thing I see standing in his way is himself.

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Who Is My Favorite Cub?

By bullpenbrian - August 8, 2012 - 2:15 am 2 comments.

It recently struck me many of my long-time favorite Cubs are no longer Cubs.

Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster: all gone. Reed Johnson: gone. Carlos Pena, albeit his short stay: gone. Heck, even Sweet Lou: gone.

I’ve grown to like Alfonso Soriano a little more each season, but he’s never been one of my favorites. And there’s not much else to choose from as far as tenure is concerned.

SO WHO IS MY FAVORITE CUBS PLAYER?

David DeJesus is a strong candidate. He’s always been a player who caught my eye, even before joining Chicago this offseason. I appreciate his game, his hustle, his professionalism, but chances are he’s gone by next July’s trade deadline or following the season.

The same can be said for Matt Garza.

Starlin Castro has been a lightning rod among Cubs fans–some want him traded, others want to him stay. I tend to side with the ‘keepers’ and think the Cubs should build around him.

Sure, I like Castro enough, think he’s a legit ballplayer, but not sure he’s a favorite just yet. He at least needs to clean up the mental errors for a start. (Who doesn’t hate mental errors?)

Bryan LaHair was a suitor until, well, he stopped hitting. Carlos Marmol? Dude just drives me insane.

WHO’S LEFT?

It seems I’ll need to spend the latter half of the season determining who’s my next favorite Cubs player.

Who’s going to be the guy I can count on, the guy who sticks around long enough to see the rebuild through, and help lead our beloved Cubs back to glory?

Of course Anthony Rizzo is a clear favorite. Maybe Travis Wood, too. I’ve always had a soft spot for crafty lefties (I miss you Ted Lilly). Or is it time I switch to a power-throwing right-arm the likes of Jeff Samardzija?

What about Dale Sveum?

Maybe it’s a Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters who catches my eye? Perhaps Jorge Solar steals my heart? I have no idea.

I guess, only time will tell.

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Cubs Love Walking Opposing Pitchers

By bullpenbrian - June 29, 2012 - 2:00 am Leave a comment.

Casey Coleman

Post updated June 30 to include Paul Maholm’s walk issued against opposing pitcher Bud Norris yesterday afternoon. Ahh!

I’ve had it watching the Cubs staff walk the opposing pitchers.

It happened three times during the Mets series: once by Randy Wells on Tuesday and twice by Jeff Samardzija on Wednesday. Paul Maholm joined the party Friday afternoon against Houston walking opposing pitcher Bud Norris.

The Cubs have walked an opposing pitcher nine times this season. NINE TIMES!

That’s the second worst mark in the majors only behind the Braves, who’ve issued 10 free passes to opposing pitchers.

Atlanta, however, actually has a run-scoring offense and a record 5-games above .500. In theory, they can overcome such a bone-headed mistake.

But when you’re the Cubs, where run support appears a foreign language to the lineup, walking an opposing pitcher is intolerable.

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