Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

By: Matthew Kohl
Email: virtualsportsman@gmail.com
Twitter: @virtuallymatt

The baseball off-season can be fraught with peril for some. Especially if you don’t care for many,
or any, of the winter sports. Baseball fans who aren’t content to follow the free agent game or the trade rumors have a few options to scratch the baseball itch. For example, I like to take a trip through my childhood baseball card collection. My card binder is one of very few things I have left from my youth and it’s the oldest thing I own that I purchased with my own money. It’s interesting to see who I thought was worth putting in the book versus who got clipped into the bike spokes since I only collected cards from players and teams I liked. I didn’t care if they were stars, though many were, and I didn’t care if they played for a rival team. Sometimes a card would get promoted from the box to the binder and sometimes they would get demoted, a practice which accounts for entire pages with only a single card on them in some instances. I don’t change it these days even though the order of cards and grouping of players is ramshackle at best and absolutely maddening when I’m looking for something specific.

Whenever I go through the book, I’m reminded of cards I had that would be worth having today or in the future had I kept them. I didn’t care enough about the players at the time to do so. Allusions of monetary gain be damned as I firmly stand by those edicts that decided what or whom was worth keeping, mysterious as they were. Mariano Rivera’s 1992 Bowman rookie card may disagree with me tossing it aside, but what kid keeps a baseball card featuring some twit standing in khakis and a polo shirt in his collection? Besides, he played for the evil empire. Sometimes though, I get confused as to why I kept something in the book.

WHO THE HELL?

“Who in the hell is Mariano Duncan?” That’s usually the first question I ask myself whenever I peruse the book. He’s on the first page. He was a 2B/SS and career .267 hitter who is currently the hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs AA affiliate Tennessee Smokies by the way. I learned that from Wikipedia just today! Even though his career may have been a bit underwhelming, I don’t dare take the card out. For one reason or another an eight year old me thought it belonged in the book and I don’t doubt that reason was a good one. Its placement on the bottom right corner leads me to believe it’s one of the first nine cards I ever put in there. It’s possible it could even be from my very first pack of cards.

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I probably kept him because he had good fundamentals.

Another player who I have several cards from that also has a Cubs connection is Pat Listach, though I know why I kept his cards. He was second place to only Kenny Lofton in stolen bases and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. All but one of the cards I have from him are from that season. Coincidentally, he didn’t do much else the rest of his playing career. He’s currently the Cubs third base coach and was voted Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2008 for leading the Iowa Cubs to the postseason. So he has that.

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These are great looking cards though.

THE WEIRDNESS

There are also some strange phenomena that permeate my card binder. One of which I call the “Doc Strawberry Page.” It’s weird that two players who got famous in two different decades that both practically ruined their respective careers through drug use ended up grouped together. I knew about the drug problems they had even as a kid. Maybe I thought if I kept them together, but segregated from the other cards, the other players couldn’t do drugs with them. I really loved Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. I was disappointed to see their careers go downhill for such stupid reasons when they both had such great natural talent. I never really gave up on either of them though. That’s probably why I’m so unforgiving of players today.

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Another bit of weirdness is what I like to call the Eric Karros Quartet. I’ve grown to dislike him even more as an adult due to his lackluster commentary but I absolutely hated Karros as a kid. Why I kept any of his crap let alone four of the same card is completely unexplainable. In hindsight though, he looks a lot like my cousin Gary. Maybe I thought he was just moonlighting as a police officer.

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Fuck you Eric!

I don’t have a name for this one but probably the strangest thing that appears in my collection is the random presence of a Damon Berryhill card every other page or so. It begins on the tenth page mysteriously adjacent to Mike Scioscia. Then he appears again on the very next sheet next to Gary Gaeti, another player whose inclusion I have no explanation for. This continues on for another 15 pages until the second to last one where a wall dedicated to Ryne Sandberg ends the curse. I don’t really think I liked him as a player and I can’t imagine I would have liked anything about him other than the fact that he was a catcher, but even that’s a sketchy theory. I didn’t even really care for the Cubs too much until later in 1998 or 1999 so it’s weird that I would have so many of his cards let alone put them in my binder. I can’t figure out why they’re so scattered either. Unless somebody else can come up with a reason, I’ll just have to leave this mystery to future generations.

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A selection of Berryhills. Maybe I liked his name?

THE HEROES

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One of the heroes of my youth.

Still, there are some cards that really do deserve to be in my collection. In fact, one of my favorite pages in the book is the Bo Jackson page. I loved everything about Bo Jackson when I was young. I loved him so much I even picked up a Raiders hat when I had no connection whatsoever with football. In fact, Bo Jackson was the reason I began watching football. If it wasn’t for Bo, I would have entirely missed the final years of Joe Montana’s amazing career (another player I idolized as a child) and the best days of Steve Young’s. I was excited as all hell when he came to the White Sox, and now that I really think about it, he was the reason I started paying any attention at all to my local sports teams. Well, he and Mark Grace, who I was never lucky enough to get a card of…

…but whatever.

One of the stranger memories of Bo Jackson was the cartoon with him, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. It was called Pro Stars and it was ridiculous.

Of the stranger memories regarding Bo Jackson was the cartoon with him, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. It was called Pro Stars and it was ridiculous.

[youtube http://youtu.be/L5KG9h8S13Y]

Cubs sign Nate Schierholtz to a one year deal – He’s guaranteed 2.25mm with 500k in performance bonuses. Last year Schierholtz posted a .728 OPS with a triple slash line of .257/.321/.407. He lacks plate discipline and he has minimal pop, but the main reason the Cubs went after him was his defense. The Cubs have average pitching right now, one way to cover up average pitching is to surround it with above average defense. The Cubs won’t miss many bats, but if they combine their defensive shifting philosophy with good defenders the Cubs can pump some decent value out of so-so starters. In the end that’s what really matters, getting a good return via the trade.

Schierholtz is a league average player, and he’s likely to either be dealt at the deadline or gone after this year. Don’t look for him to provide pop or be a great offensive player. He’s here to help the pitching staff.

Center Field Options – David DeJesus is likely to be pushed to center as a result of this move which sets up an interesting possible rotation in the OF. The Cubs have said that Brett Jackson will start the year at AAA, which is the right move. There are rumors swirling that Jackson has changed his swing which he hopes will cut into his K rate. If the Cubs are unable to move Soriano prior to Opening Day it is possible that both Dave Sappelt and Tony Campana see burn at CF with Soriano, DeJesus, and Schierholtz all rotating off days and positions. Soriano is a player that will need rest as he transitions into the final stages of his career.

Needless to say, this is the best opportunity Brett Jackson is going to have at becoming a Major League regular.

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The Cubs selected Hector Rondon from Cleveland in the Rule 5 draft – Rondon threw 7 professional innings in 2012 as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before he went down he featured a good fastball and good command. The breaking stuff had yet to develop and had 3 starter ceiling pending his recovery. This is another move to acquire pitching talent for the Cubs, something that has been noticeably lacking in the past.

The White Sox selected Angel Sanchez in the Rule 5 – Angel has seen some playing time at the MLB level, he has 628 career MLB Plate Appearances. It appears that the White Sox are going for high contact guys this offseason. Sanchez is a bit of a utility guy, he has logged innings at 2B, SS, and 3B. It’s looking more and more likely that Gordon Beckham is on his way out of town. Rule 5’s have to be on the MLB roster or else they are returned to their previous team.

Cubs are pursuing Jason Grilli – Grilli has put together two solid years in Pittsburgh with acceptable WHIP #’s and high K/9. Grilli was always a guy who could miss bats but would inexplicably get hit. He slashed his BABIP numbers which could be luck or it could be that he’s not getting hit as hard. Regardless, Grilli is a serviceable reliever. – via Peter Gammons

 

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White Sox signed Keppinger to a 3 year, 12mm deal – Keppinger’s deal opens up some new possibilities for the White Sox. He has some positional flexibility, although it is assumed that he will play third, and he is a contact hitter that can hit second in the lineup. Diversifying the batting order is something the White Sox have struggled with in the past. The 2012 White Sox struggled in September and seemed to be overly reliant on the HR ball. Keppinger is an upgrade over whatever position he takes, he’s better than both Morel and Beckham (UZR, a defensive metric, also likes his defense over Youk’s at third. UZR is still in it’s infancy, however, so take that with a grain of salt).

The move also indicates that they have perhaps moved beyond Youkilis which might free them up to add other pieces. Merkin thinks they go for another INF or a Catcher, assuming AJ is gone. There have been some rumblings that they can be dark horse candidates for a big name starter, like Greinke, but I think the dollars are too high for that to be a real possibility. Greinke is likely to get over 160mm.

My hunch is that AJ is gone, the Sox trade for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and add a smaller name free agent pitcher like Anibal Sanchez or even Brandon McCarthy. Either way, the White Sox rumor mill is heating up and we will keep you guys posted.

Demp might be back after all – Rumors are swirling that Dempster might be back on the north side in 2013. Dempster turned down a contract from the Royals and the Brewers are playing a bit of hardball with him. The Cubs are looking for starters and if they are left out on the names they’ve been chasing, McCarthy et al, there is a real possibility that Dempster returns.

The Cubs are also looking at free agent 3B like Mark Reynolds. He’s a high risk, high reward play but he is an upgrade over Ian Stewart. The Cubs won’t be adding big names until they feel ready for contention, so guys like Reynolds are going to be the norm for a while.

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One of prized possessions.

By: Matthew Kohl
Email: virtualsportsman@gmail.com
Twitter: @virtuallymatt

Baseball will sorely miss Chipper Jones. In one player you had one of the ten best third basemen in history, arguably one of the top three switch hitters in history, an MVP, a World Series Champion, an eight time all-star, a batting title winner, a surefire Hall of Famer, and one of the few players who had no problem taking a lower paying contract to stay and help his team. The Braves really had a top tier guy with Jones and they were lucky to have him and keep him for 19 seasons. Just ask Todd Van Poppel.

The MLB was lucky to have him as well. With all the performance enhancing what-have-yous and ugly ugly UGLY things going on in baseball and professional sports in general in the last 20 years, players of Chipper’s ilk are a heavenly shining light of hope for a game slowly losing public interest to other less classy endeavors. Jones’ retirement makes professional baseball a little less comfortable and a lot less polished. I’m not saying that baseball needs spotless players who keep a Clark Kent lifestyle and share his sense of truth, justice, and yada yada yada, but I cannot stress enough that it’s becoming harder to find those types in the sea of douchebaggery that seems to have invaded professional sports. When a juiced up ass like Alex Rodriguez is paid more than a consistently productive stand up player like Chipper Jones, it means that there are many misplaced priorities in the sport.

I had said in a previous article that my first baseball team love was the Atlanta Braves. I literally began following baseball in a serious way in 1990. It may be just a coincidence that Chipper Jones was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, but baseball is a superstitious beast. Who am I to say it wasn’t fate that the beginning of my interest in baseball wasn’t destined to parallel the start of such an auspicious career? I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m coming off like a Chipper Jones super fan, but to an extent I am. Jones started playing for the Braves organization at the time when my baseball senses were at their highest. This, like many, was when I was a child with  rookie cards and all and it didn’t hurt that TBS broadcasted every single Braves game into my living room. How else does a kid from Illinois get to name Tom Glavine as his favorite pitcher of all time? It sure as hell wasn’t from watching him play with the Mets. I’m a huge fan of what I can see and I saw more of the Atlanta Braves between 1990 and 1999 than any other team in baseball. I felt the sting of loss in 1992 and the immense joy of victory 1995. I still consider myself lucky to have been able to see a decent amount of Chipper’s MVP season in 1999. After that cable got a bit too expensive.

After that I was forced to watch the Cubs.

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I continued to follow as best as I could, but to be perfectly honest I lost track of the man for a while. I was surprised to find him still there when I heard he won the NL batting title in 2008. Then when I came back to baseball for good a few years ago I found he was still waiting for me. He was still in the same uniform and he was still great. It’s hard to imagine another player doing the same thing in this era of big dollar free agents and inflated egos. I assumed a solid consistent player like ol’ Chipper would seep through the cracks and decline as his career went on but he hadn’t.

Chipper Jones IS a Hall of Fame player. In the truest sense of it. When his name hits the ballot in five years, there won’t be any doubt about his chances. There won’t be any questions about his character. No one will be saying “he’s just getting in because there’s nobody worth voting for this time.” They won’t wait until he dies to say yes.

There will be no asterisk mentioned.

I’m hoping he won’t be the last player we can say those things about. Let’s face it. If there’s a question about a player, then the Hall of Fame shouldn’t be the answer. I hope sports writers will think of Chipper Jones just a little bit when they vote for the 2013 inductees. It’s a high bar to set, but it’s worth raising our standards if it means we get to keep the integrity of the game of baseball intact.

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We can call this new standard “The Chipper Line.”

Foreword by Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr.

HEY YOU! YEAH YOU! WANT TO KNOW HOW TO COOK LIKE THE EXPRESS? WELL CHOO CHOO MOTHERFUCKER YOU BETTER BUCKLE UP BECAUSE THE RAPE TRAIN AIN’T GOT NO BRAKES AND IT’S COMING FOR YOUR MOUTH NOW! LEARN HOW TO COOK LIKE A MAN WITH ME, LYNN NOLAN RYAN JR.!

Scott Feldman

Feldman’s inability to strand runners and keep them from scoring ultimately got him booted from the Rangers rotation. Before that, he was showing some pretty decent skills, with career bests in both strikeout and walk rates. Unfortunately, he was either leaving too many meatballs over the plate or just suffering from some poor fortune, as his line drive rate was a whopping 26%. He might even consider himself lucky for only allowing a .318 BABIP, but to be fair, he also induced pop-ups at a strong 15.2%. Feldman has been in and out of the Rangers rotation and has typically fared poorly, and at this point of his career, there’s little reason to expect much differently going forward.”

Fangraphs.com

 

“Feldman, 29, posted a 5.09 ERA in 123 2/3 innings (21 starts, eight relief appearances) for Texas this season. He recorded a sharp 3.0 K/BB, but a poor 10.1 hits allowed per nine innings kept runners circling the bases. He is largely a control-and-finesse pitcher, striking out just 96 batters and allowing a high 82.5 percent contact rate. The danger of giving up contact so often — particularly with a fastball averaging just 90.5 mph — is plenty of chances for hits to fall in, and that did in Feldman this season.”

CBS Sports

“Now in his eighth season with the Rangers, Feldman has amassed a 4.84 ERA, 5.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 across seven-hundred nineteen career innings. The way Feldman’s contract was structured may lead one to believe the Rangers were hoping to see growth from the right-hander that just has not occurred. There are several reasons I am not a general manager, but $9.25 million seems like a lot to give to a long reliever and sometime spot-starter putting up replacement level numbers.”

SB Nation

“In the closing of the post, I noted that Feldman “might be one of the best buys on the market.” Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s headed to the north side of Chicago — the Cubs are making themselves the destination for undervalued starting pitchers.”

Fangraphs.com

“Though Feldman had a 5.08 ERA last season, his 3.81 FIP gives reason for optimism. His strikeout rate jumped to a career-high 17.9 percent, and his walk rate plummeted to just four percent, both good indicators of an improving player. One of the reasons for such a large difference between Feldman’s ERA and his FIP can be found in Feldman’s ability to hold runners on base. Last season, Feldman only stranded 61 percent of all runners on base. That’s far off his career-average, which sits at 67.1 percent. A difference that large is likely to bounce back, and should contribute to Feldman being more effective next year.”

CBS Sports

“In 2012, he was healthy, but not that great: 29 appearances, 21 starts, with a 5.06 ERA and 1.383 WHIP. The Cubs are hoping the transition to the National League will help those numbers improve;”

SB Nation

 

It’s odd how a player’s outlook can improve by simply signing with another team. Jed Hoyer said this of Feldman: “If you look inside his [2012] numbers, they weren’t what he hoped but he also was one of the least lucky pitchers. It wasn’t as bad as the ERA on paper.” I’m not quite convinced that Feldman will have enough success to bring back value in a trade or last 180 ip. I do think the Cubs will have to tinker with his stuff for him to be successful. A move from Arlington to Wrigley isn’t as kind as people make it out to be.

Here are his home road splits over his career. Take from that what you will…

Personally, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the signing. I am allowing room for myself to become a fan of the move, but as it stands it smells like the halfway competing bullshit that Williams used to pull: acquire some high risk high reward talent and hope for the best. Twitter seemed to like the deal though:

And Keith Law is a lot smarter than I am about these things.

David Haugh can have his…weird moments but my main issue with “addressing other needs” is that I don’t think SP was their main need. I do think it was that massive black hole at 3rd and what could be a developing albatross behind the plate.

If anything twitter will let you know who is a good follow and a bad follow for baseball news/analysis. Holmes is great at football but he does have his fair share of unfortunate moments with baseball.

 

 

 

Rongey has the toughest job in America, dealing with White Sox postgame callers for an extended period of time. He likes the deal which maybe means it’s a good deal, or he’s blindly hoping that it is to mitigate the stupid.

And then there’s Jayson Stark…who does things.

White Sox fans, the twitterverse thinks you got a deal, and I might have to agree with it. I’m just not sure it makes any sense for this squad.

 

 

 

 

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

It is said that what is called the Spirit of an Age is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.

-Hagakure

When things end I become introspective and I begin to asses what I really learned from any experience I have that comes to an end. In relationships I find that at the end of them I learn more about myself than I would have expected. When a job/internship has ended for me in the past the things I take away from them always carry over to the next job.

It is this way for me in all things. And so, now that the baseball season has ended, I wonder in the aftermath of an ugly World Series sweep what did I learn about baseball this year? Are there things that we can collectively take away as Chicago baseball fans that we can carry into 2013 and beyond?

Ohhh fuck yeah there are.

As a Chicago Cubs fan I’m used to baseball failure. There have been times where I’ve hated this game, times where I’ve given up hope in ever seeing another serious title threat on Chicago’s north side.

The lesson I learned in 2012 that I feel was most important, and what I’ll carry over into 2013, is a genuine love for the game again. When Theo Epstein went up to that podium and announced a long term rebuilding that would include the complete gutting of the current team a switch was flipped in my head.

Suddenly the immediate empty wins and losses of the present didn’t matter. Sean Marshall being dealt to the Reds didn’t matter. Trading Maholm and Dempster and a host of other players didn’t matter. Instead what mattered to me as a Chicago Cubs fan was the long term health of the organization as it invests in young ball players to become contenders once again.

We aren’t talking about a short term spending spree that inhibits a long run of success. We are talking about becoming the Braves, the Yankees, the Texas Rangers even.

We are talking about a plan that is attempting to secure the long term future of the Chicago Cubs. That’s fucking awesome.

And so I let go of W’s and L’s, and I embraced the fluidity of Starlin Castro’s fielding mechanics, Anthony Rizzo’s short compact swing that projects to have genuine pop, Jeff Samardzija’s new found command and pitching mechanics.

You know what else I embraced? Paul Konerko’s approach to At Bats. Chris Sale’s wind up and how it creates positive momentum to the plate, creating odd angles and fusing it with great stuff. I embraced Bryce Harper’s violent swing, Mike Trout’s tantalizing skill set, Miggy’s bat which combines control and power in a beautiful fusion of arms and hips and legs. I embraced the Orioles improbable, stat defying run, the Oakland A’s getting white hot at the end, the Nationals rise to prominence, Mike Morse and his Hulk-like swing.

I embraced all of it, and through that I found a new way to love this game.

For Cubs fans I urge you to understand that they will not be relevant for some time. I urge my fellow Cubs fans to drop the old habits and begin to understand that they aren’t chasing short term wins, they are chasing long term trophies. We fans need to understand that we aren’t out of the rebuild yet, and it’s time to stop pining for band aids like Josh Hamilton and the like. You’re making us all look stupid and we don’t like it.

For the White Sox fans I hope you never squander another season like 2012 again. Baseball is quite an enjoyable sport in person, made even more so when you have a Cy Young candidate and a genuinely fun team to watch on the field. What they did as a collective was nothing short of impressive, and even though they did not close it out and make the playoffs they gave you 3-4 months of baseball bliss and struggled to sell out weekend home games.

And so, baseball ends. Kind of. You see, I’ll still be watching baseball in one form or another over the next few months. Caribbean ball, the WBC, all that good stuff? It’s still coming up. Over the next few months, starting in Nov. I’ll be ranking my personal Top 100 for 2013, the MLB players that I think will have the most impact in the coming year. For me, baseball will continue in a manner, but it is taking a much needed break.

The end is important in all things.

Werth It.

Posted: October 12, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Baseball, MLB, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

13 pitch AB.

When he made contact and the ball was hanging in the air right  before it went  out, there was a moment of anticipation that I’ve never been privy to before. It’s that moment when you hang all of your hopes onto one thing working out, and 45K were all hoping for the same thing.  That moment, where it all comes together and works out for you,  right as the ball  leaves the yard is the coolest moment I’ve ever  witnessed.

Outstanding.