Posts Tagged ‘fans’

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

I love the very beginning of baseball season for a multitude of reasons. Small sample sizes make for fun numbers, like guys with OBP’s lower than their AVG’s, players with more home runs than entire teams, guys who haven’t walked or struck out all year, the dudes that are on pace for 300 RBI’s, it’s great for nonsensical stuff like that. It’s also fun for identifying who actually watches baseball vs. who is a football fan and is just killing time complaining about things that don’t matter. To be clear for all you football fans, the MLB season is a 6  month (7 if your team is good) long odyssey that begins as nature wakes up from it’s slumber, thrives as the world around it gets greener and warmer, and finishes when the outside world dies. It’s cyclical, natural, and takes a long fucking time to complete. They play 162 games in a season. Some teams are gunning to win this year, some teams are caught in the middle of rebuilding and competing, and others are instituting a plan that revolves around youth and smart spending.

I’m talking to my fellow Cub fans. Yes, yes, Theo was hired this year, but as some ignorant White Sox fans are quick to remind me, he doesn’t play a position (BTW, White Sox fans, I’m aware of this. He doesn’t swing a bat nor throw a ball for the Chicago Cubs. I don’t need to be reminded of this). The team this year is awful. They told you they were going to be awful all off-season. They made no major moves, they acquired no impact talent, they did not change anything from last years squad that was also awful, really. So why are you so surprised about their struggles? Is it hard to watch? Yeah, nobody likes blown leads or bad fielding or an anemic offense.

“DEN WHAT DA FUCK AM I GONNA WATCH FOR TREE FUCKING MONTS UNTIL DA FOOTBALL COMES BACK AND DA MIDWAY MONSTERS OF HALAS HALL COME CRASHING BACK WIT DA VENGEANCE OF A TOUSAND MINI DITKAS?!?!?!?!?!”

I have no idea. I can’t help you.

“Good sir, if I may inquire, what shall I remain vigilant for this season on the North Side?”

Soccer, go back to Europe. Try again.

“Dude, they suck, is there anything that I can look for as a reasonable Cubs fan with realistic expectations for this year and the next three years?”

On the Major League roster there are a few players you should be watching for a myriad of reasons. I’ll be doing my best to update you guys on them as the season drags on, but for now, here’s my list.

  1. Starlin Castro – Nobody makes me say “That’s a great play,” and “That’s a dumbass play,” in the same game quite like Starlin.
  2. Marlon Byrd – If he manages to get his average up he will be a valuable piece to a team that’s in contention. Players with solid contact skills and good defense don’t fall out of trees these days. Could bring back an ok haul of prospects if a team decides to buy high at the deadline.
  3. Matt Garza – The goal is to either extend him because of the thin crop of FA starters in the coming years, or to bring back a better haul than you gave up to acquire him. I still think he ends up a Tiger.
  4. Darwin Barney – It’s debatable, but I think he might be on the Cubs the next time they are ready to compete. TheoCo (thanks Short-E) values defense a lot, and I think his bat might stick as a 2-hitter.
  5. Bryan LaHair – If his bat is legit, he can play in left and then you can have a 3-4 of Rizzo and LaHair. That’s awesome to think about.

Which brings us to who I think is the most intriguing Cub, Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs did the right thing and stuck Shark (Jeff’s rather unfortunate nickname) in the rotation. He had some interesting gains last year as a reliever, but if he was going to be worth anything to the organization, it was going to be in the rotation. As I stated before, I love small sample sizes, they’re fun, and when we talk about Shark’s numbers it’s in the tiniest of sample sizes, but dating back to last year he’s gained something valuable; the ability to miss bats.

See, dating back to his minor league days, Shark was always a bit of a mystery. He had good-great stuff, and a 98 MPH heater, but he never consistently posted legit prospect K/9 numbers.

His fastball was described as fast and straight, which is an issue. Major League hitters will time up fast if it’s straight, just ask Armando Benitez. Since 2011 however, his K rate jumped to 8+ and it looks like it’ll stay there. Begs the question, what’s different?

Well, this year he’s walking less people. His BB/9 rate is dramatically slashed so far this year, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The difference is that his stuff is just, better. Let’s look at his PitchF/X data for a second.

PitchFx tracks the movement and speed of pitches thrown. In this case it’s illustrating Shark’s improved movement on all of his pitches. SL=Slider, CH=Changeup, and FT=Two Seamer, something that is a relatively new classification and can be misleading. Before ’11, Shark’s slider wasn’t moving across the plate much, it was simply spinning and dropping with gravity. In 2011 however, that pitch improved, and it’s clear when you watch him. I don’t know for a fact if he improved his grip on the slider or if he just has a better feel for it, but it’s a real pitch now. It’s become a wipeout pitch. The Changeup has also greatly improved, even if he limited his use of it in 2011. This year it has legitimate drop  to it and it looks like it comes out of the same slot, with similar arm action, as his fastball. The Two-Seamer is a bit of a mystery, PitchFx did mis-classify this pitch as a regular fastball until around 2010, but it has live action and is a few ticks slower than his 4 seamer. All of his pitches have good movement on them, with his two fastballs being his best pitches. The slider is now a legit weapon and the changeup is coming along. That alone explains the uptick in strikeouts, but there’s also one more trend that appeared during spring training and has some people (myself included) optimistic about his future as a starter.

He’s walking less people.

Let’s go back to his Baseball Reference card

During Spring Training Shark walked 1 batter and struck out 16 in 20 innings of work. Spring Training stats are misleading sometimes, but I don’t think they were with Samardzija this year. His command has dramatically improved this year in limited innings. To properly illustrate that:

That’s shark in a nutshell. Drop in ERA, rise in K/9, cliff dive in BB/9 and a rocket trip in K/BB ratio.

Conclusion

He’ll probably have some missteps over the course of a long season, but the improved control and the improvement on the movement of his pitches are all reasons to be optimistic. Shark’s change in approach will raise his ceiling, the questions for the remainder of the year revolve around the durability of his arm, I think. Can he throw 150+ innings? Can he retain the gains he’s made in control? Can he be a dependable starter? I don’t know for sure, but I’m finally optimistic about Samardzija.

Since the purpose of this website is to educate as well as entertain, allow me to impart some of my vast hockey knowledge to the masses who may have some questions about how to properly act as a Blackhawks fan. The following Do’s and Dont’s have been compiled from my experiences as a Hawks fan. They apply to all situations….at games, in bars, in county lock-up…..

DON’T: When you’re at a game, don’t get up out of your seat while the puck is in play. Wait until the whistle stops play to get up and go take a leak, get beer or food, or try to hook up with one of the Ice Girls. Be courteous to others and act like you’ve been to a game before. I can’t stress this enough.

DO: Yell at the clowns who ignore the above point. You don’t need to be profane, of course, but some incisive and biting sarcasm is always in good taste. Try being creative and topical. People appreciate humor.

DON’T: Stand up every time the puck comes into the offensive zone. We know it’s there. We’re watching the same thing you are. You’re not going to get a better view of it by standing up. When the puck goes in the net, we’re ALL going to stand and yell and be loud. Until then, keep it in your pants, Ace.

DON’T: Yell “SHOOOOT!” when the team is cycling the puck, looking for the shot. They know when to shoot and see angles and shooting lanes you don’t from your seat. They’ll let ‘er rip when they’re damned good and ready. All you’re doing is alerting the rest of us who the noob in the crowd is. In the 300 level, you may not be allowed back to future games at all.

DO: Refer to the player’s uniforms as a “sweater”, not a “jersey”. Baseball players wear jerseys. Basketball players wear jerseys. Football players wear jerseys. Hockey players wear sweaters. Back in the day, when it was an outdoor game, the uniform was actually a woolen sweater for obvious reasons. They’re polysomething or another these days, but doesn’t it sound cool to call it a sweater?

DON’T:
Buy a shitty Chinese knockoff sweater to express your new-found fandom. These are easy to spot….if the C with the crossed tomahawks on the shoulder looks like a Boy Scout troop badge for being a cheap shithead, then it’s a knockoff. If the Chief’s face looks like he has a bad case of cellulitis, it’s a knockoff. Don’t look like a noob.

DO: Spend the extra $50 or so to get something that looks great. It’s worth it and I won’t be forced to make fun of you.

DON’T: Get a personalized sweater with something stupid on it. Example…I saw a sweater at a TV game that had number 69 on it and the name said “P. Whipped”. If you think that’s worth spending the $300 it costs to customize a sweater in that fashion, I’d like you to try this bleach and grain alcohol cocktail I’m mixing over here. Unless you’re Clark Griswold, just get a Toews or Kane or Hossa sweater. Otherwise, you’re just a cock-knocker.

DO: Buy the max amount of beers when you make a run downstairs. I’m not explaining this one further.

DON’T:
Feel like you’re disrespecting America when you cheer the Anthem at the United Center. It’s part of the Chicago hockey experience and it’s accepted as a great tradition. I was there on May 9, 1985 when the tradition truly took hold and became what it is today. You go right ahead and yell and holler and clap and scream. You can be quiet at a baseball game or in church or when you’re dead.

DON’T:
Jump on the ice to try and kick the ass of a player you don’t like. You’ll lose. But you will get points if the player you go after is Todd Bertuzzi. You’d still get your ass kicked, but seriously mad props for taking that felon on.

DO:
Put one in the net if you are lucky enough to do the Shoot the Puck promo between the 2nd and 3rd period. I did it when I was about 15, missed all 3 and got booed, deservedly so. Hell, I would have booed me, too. Do yourself a favor and pot one.

DON’T:
Go on message boards and scream for the return of players we had to move in the summer of 2010. It’s simply not good hockey talk and opens you up for the kind of ridicule reserved for the assclowns who stand up during play.

DO:
Learn the rich history of the team. The Hawks have had some of the game’s greatest players and the Chicago Stadium (one of the sporting world’s finest arenas of all-time) was their home for decades. Study up on players like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Take a look at how the team was formed and got their name. Learn who the retired numbers belong to and what those players accomplished. It makes for a better fan experience when you’re in touch with the past, and the Hawks certainly have an illustrious….and sometimes shit-awful….past.

DON’T: Be the butthole who didn’t know who my sweater #35 was earlier this season. It happened in a UC bathroom, post-game. As he asked the question and ENTIRE bathroom turned to look at this idiot in the shitty Chinese knockoff (SEE? TOLD YOU!!), my head swam with confusion and my insult generator locked. I was literally rendered speechless by this guy’s lack of what should be obvious. I mean, he was sitting in an arena with the retired number 35 on a banner hanging above him for 3 hours. Christ…….

DO:
Learn the rules of the game, which is obvious for any sport you watch. Start with the basics like icing and offsides and just pay attention. The rest pretty much falls into place. Penalties are mostly self-explanatory, but there are cool things like match penalties and major game misconducts. If nothing else, hockey has the coolest sounding penalties.

DON’T: Lose faith in these guys. Many teams would have given up on the season on the heels of that 9 game skid, especially after losing an elite player and captain like Jonathan Toews. Kane and Hossa have picked up the slack and we’re solidly in playoff position with 14 games to go. Toews skated by himself before practice and felt good, which is a damned good sign. If he comes back strong by playoff time, it’s a whole different Hawks team to deal with.

I have no idea how we did it, but we’ve crossed the 1,000 view threshold. I know that it’s because of you, what I’m saying is that I had no idea we would be crossing into these waters scarcely 3 months into this experiment. You have to understand, we’re a motley crew. I’m a photographer, Raul is an audio engineer, and Andy is a school teacher. We came together on sort of a whim, a half baked idea born because I had two friends that both said I should have a podcast (many thanks to you, Melissa Gati and Ed Pickart).

Raul of course steered me towards sports, and the natural partner I thought of was Andy, and well, here we are. It’s not overtly important in the grand scheme of things. Money will not be rolling in, we haven’t achieved any fame really. It does feel great to have 125 fans (and rising) and 1,000 views. It means that we have an audience. It means that what we say, as trivial or stupid as it seems most of the time, is being read and heard. It means a lot to us.

We appreciate you, the fan. That’s as sentimental as we’ll get, we promise, but we felt that you should know, we’ve noticed. We are very lucky to have the group of friends that we do. We will continue to work hard to make this a better blog/podcast/sports experience. We have grand plans, and trust me, it’s because of you.

Thank you

-Cad T. Wasp.

I’ll always remember Carlos Zambrano as the guy who didn’t. He didn’t win 20 games. He didn’t win a Cy Young award, he didn’t help the Cubs win a championship, he didn’t deliver on the promise his career flashed early. He didn’t care about staying in shape, he didn’t become better, overall, Carlos Zambrano didn’t, and in this case it’s an extreme negative.

And now he is ex-Cub Carlos Zambrano.

While a certain part of me was always entertained by his antics, I’m not lamenting his loss. For those that question why the Cubs would eat so much money and only get Chris Volstad in return, you should probably understand that there were no offers for Z. Miami was the logical choice for him, he is finally united with his compatriot, his brother in arms as it were, Ozzie Guillen.

Carlos is a headcase. I’m not sure there are many other ways to put it. He was absolutely crazy and he was an asshole teammate. He had that competitive fire, he was intense, he fielded his position well, he was a good baseball player for awhile, but overall he could never strike the delicate balance between his talent and his passion.

I’ll never know for sure, but I believe that if Carlos is restrained more in his early, developmental years he ends up being a better pitcher. There was always something combustible with Z. He always seemed on the edge of a huge cliff, waiting for the slightest breeze to push him over. It was evident on the mound, with all of the histrionics.

He was enabled by the previous regime to be sure, but ultimately it was up to Zambrano to figure himself out and become a better pitcher. There were flashes like the bittersweet 2003 season where he managed to allow only 9 HR’s in 214 innings, no small feat at Wrigley. He was borderline brilliant through 2007 when the wheels slowly started falling off.

Zambrano has always out-pitched his peripheral stats. He had control issues on the mound, he walked too many batters, if his 2-seamer was off he didn’t have the guile to pitch over it and he was prone to the big inning. He placed too much pressure on himself to become the staff ace. He wanted to hit too many home runs.

At times it seemed like Zambrano cared more about his hitting stats than honing his craft as a pitcher. At times Zambrano lashed out at teammates, like Michael Barrett, Alfonso Soriano and, rather inexplicably, Derrek Lee.

The final straw came against the Atlanta Braves, as a frustrated Zambrano threw behind Chipper Jones for no reason. It was a confusing moment, so much so that I was hardly shocked when he did it again. In the same at bat. On the next pitch.

Most telling was the number of Cubs that took the field to defend Z. Absolutely not one of his teammates came to his defense as the Braves stormed the field after the second pitch to kick Z’s ass.

Zambrano will struggle in the NL East, or he might be brilliant, I have no idea honestly. All I know is that he is no longer the headache of the Chicago Cubs. He’s Ozzie’s problem now.