Posts Tagged ‘fastballs’

by Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Email:
 mr@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: @MRubio52 

Part one, which focuses on the infield, can be found here.

Part two, which focuses on the outfield, can be found here.

Pitchers

1. Matt Garza – It’s unfortunate that Garza is a legitimate ace because the Cubs aren’t ready to reward his talent. He’ll be 28 this year and he’s an absolute stud. There’s been a lot of talk that the cubs need to trade Garza and get a good haul of prospects back for him. I’m moving into the camp that thinks it’s not absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t be mad if it did happen, but I think that Garza will still be effective into his mid 30’s when the Cubs should be ready to compete. He won’t ever be considered an elite pitcher due to his penchant to give up the home run, but you can certainly make the argument that he should be. He’s actually maintained velocity on his fastball, but he works his offspeed stuff well enough that a slight dip won’t matter.

Matt Garza's velocity

2. Carlos Marmol – Marmol will always played a dangerous game with the base on balls, but it’s crawling into scary territory now. His historic 2010 season was probably him at his peak, and I believe the Cubs would have done well to trade him then. Marmol’s top comp has always been Rob Dibble. That’s kind of an issue because Dibble’s production fell off the table at age 28 and was done with baseball at age 31. Marmol’s production did taper off in 2011, his age 28 season, as he didn’t induce more batters to swing at his White Castle Slider (it’ll make you shit your pants). That’s the issue with slider dominant relievers that rely on the strikeout, the careers are short as batters just lay off the garbage. He’s losing velocity on his fastball as well and the window to trade him may have closed already.

Marmol's velocity

3. Ryan Dempster – I don’t like the guy’s personality and I think too many fans give him a free pass because he’s “funny.” He caught very little grief for being a no-show to the 2008 playoffs and that really turned me off to the dude. All that being said he’s a decent middle of the rotation option for contending teams, but on the Cubs he starts opening day. Don’t look at the ERA from last year too much, bad defense was to blame for being over 4, but if the Cubs are looking to get any value from him they need to move him now. He’s a crafty righty who mixes pitches well enough to be solid, but his average stuff keeps him from being elite.

4. Jeff Samardzija – Just when you think you can ridicule a product from Notre Dame and write him off completely, he comes around and does that for an entire season. I remember this being the one draft pick and subsequent signing that made me start hating Hendry. He’s confounding, he never was a strikeout artist in the minors, but he almost struck out a batter per inning in the majors. He’s always had a good fastball, but he learned a cutter last season and relied less on the heat with good results.

So of course it makes sense that he’s competing for a rotation slot and has a decent chance of winning the job. I don’t know what to make of him anymore, he wasn’t worth the money that Hendry dished out to him, but his second career as a starter, which was what he was drafted as to begin with, might actually be successful.

5. Paul Maholm – He doesn’t strike anyone out and he gives up a lot of hits. That’s a bad combo for any pitcher, but it’ll be especially bad for Maholm in a Cubs uni. The Cubs defense is still trying to improve and it won’t do any favors for a Livan Hernandez like pitcher. Maholm isn’t quite the workhorse that Livan was, and he can’t handle the bat like him either. Maholm shouldn’t last long with the Cubs, he’s effectively holding the spot for someone else.

6. Travis Wood – He was much better in 2010 than he was in 2011 when he became much more hittable and saw his K-rate get slashed. LoMo vouches for Wood’s stuff, but as we all know, baseball is one big nasty game of adjustments. The league clearly adjusted to Wood and the tape is out on him, it’s up to Travis to adjust back. He’ll need to if he wants to find significant big league success. He’ll be 25 this year.

7. Chris Volstad – He’s slowly been lowering his walk rate and he posted the highest strikeout rate of his young major league career last year, but he was more hittable than ever in 2011 and he saw an uptick in his HR/9 ratio. That’s a bad combo for the Cubs. Volstad filled out physically last year, but his stuff didn’t. He’s likely to make the rotation, but the 25 year old will need to work hard to avoid the “Rotation Filler” tag that he seems destined to acquire.

8. Randy Wells – Remember him? There were the whispers that he was enjoying the North Side night life a little too much in 2010 and the allegations carried into 2011. He’s not fooling anyone with his stuff and his walk rate has been climbing since 2009. He was blasted for 23 HR’s in 135 ip last year, that’s awful. He’s a curious case and he’s going to have to find some answers in 2012 if he wants to stick around with the big club.

9. Marcos Mateo – There’s a lot of ifs with Mateo. If he’s healthy and if he can cut his contact rate, he can close if Marmol implodes. He has a good strikeout rate for a late inning reliever, but he doesn’t avoid many bats yet. He has the stuff, and he has moderate command, if he takes a step forward he can be a sleeper candidate for the closer’s role moving forward in a post-Marmol time. At the time of this writing an MRI showed no damage to his elbow but he is getting shut down for 10 days.

10. Trey McNutt – I was a fan of the McNutt experience since he was drafted, but as we all should know, AA ball is nut cutting time for prospects, and McNutt looks lost there. He needs a third pitch (and eventually a fourth) to deliever on his SP promise, but the first item on the docket is to find his mechanics again. McNutt still has age on his side, but as Chili Davis once said, “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” Time to grow up, McNutt.

11. Jay Jackson – Jackson has been sliding backwards since his promotion to AA in 2009. If he ever figures “it” out, he can be a useful back of the rotation option, but for now he looks like a reliever. Jackson has average stuff and a plus fastball, but he has a good combo of pitches that would be more useful in the rotation than in the pen.

12. Kerry Wood – This speaks more to the lack of organizational depth than Kerry Wood’s importance to the 2012 Cubs. I like Wood, I always have. He was a warrior and he wanted to be out there, but his body consistently failed him as he threw with an unhealthy delivery that cut his career down. He’ll be solid in 2012, but he’s likely to be done after that. I don’t know why the Cubs resigned Wood, I won’t complain too much about it since he’s a cheapish option for the ‘pen, but he won’t be on the next Cubs contender.

Synopsis

This organization is pretty bare. It’s not on the level of the White Sox (that’s not a shot kids, the Sox system is universally panned as the worst in baseball), but there isn’t a lot of help down on the farm that can compete for starting jobs. Jay Jackson is a significant prospect in the system, and that’s an issue. As for the big league club, they will struggle to win 72 games this year. The future of this team lies in the amateur drafts that take place in June. The Cubs need pitching help the most as the system is noticeably bare of impact SP talent. Effective relievers can be found through various means, but finding a solid #1 or #2 starter is difficult. The makeup of this team should be drastically different by September as Cub fans should be introduced to young talent that can make a difference at the Major League level. Anthony Rizzo is the best prospect on the team in my opinion, and his call up date should be around May-June, depending on what Bryan LaHair is up to. Brett Jackson should be a star, but not necessarily a superstar. I would be happy with his development if he ended up being Curtis Granderson before the HR explosion, or Mike Cameron.  Trey McNutt is the best pitching prospect with the departure of Cashner and Carpenter, and that’s worrisome. Dillon Maples is a name to pay attention to, but he is yet to make his pro debut.

There’s a lot of work to do, but I do trust in TheoCo. to get it done.

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I’ve been there before, down that path, feeling that same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s the feeling you get deep within your being when you have so completely failed to live up to the expectations of people that support you. The sensation is truly nauseating. You begin to realize that people put their faith in your ability to perform a task, or to get a job, or to be special.

Yes, I’ve failed miserably before, odds are that I will again.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam Dunn. He is the type of slugger that I appreciate nowadays. Low average, walks a lot, hits monster home runs, strikes out quite a bit as well. I’ve drafted him to every fantasy team I’ve owned since 2006. There are three true outcomes when it comes to Adam Dunn, and I can appreciate that.

Last year was painful for me as well.

When you fail, when you fall down, it’s usually not in front of 20,000 people. To watch Adam Dunn last year was to watch the slow death of a confused animal. One who is not completely sure why it is dying, but one that is certain of it’s fate. Dunn knew he was going to fail towards the second half of last season. He looked lost in a mire of his own personal doubts and the pressures to perform a duty that used to come so easy to him before.

Perhaps that is the issue, it was easy before. There were little to no expectations for Dunn in his previous stops. Cincy was never in contention with him, Arizona had a brief stint as a contender when he was traded there, and the Nationals weren’t ready to contend when he landed there. His destiny as Sox DH was predestined, it’s a home run happy park, one where Dunn could exercise his prowess and become something more. He was traded to a team that was supposed to contend.

And then 2011 happened.

Historically, there has never been a full season collapse like this in baseball history. Think about that, baseball records have been reliably kept since 1885. Since then, no one has fallen on their face harder than Adam Dunn.

Dunn’s bat looked slower, and statistical evidence seems to back that claim up. From 2007 through 2010 Dun averaged 536 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 87 times pers season. In 2011, Dunn had 411 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 100 times. Pitchers threw fastballs to Dunn 62% of the time from 2007-2011, but in 2011 Dunn saw fastballs 69% of the time.

Pitchers aren’t afraid of Dunn, and that’s an issue. Adam Dunn needs to figure out if he truly loves baseball, because he didn’t just fail to live up to expectations, he set a record for failing.

There is one silver lining in his numbers.

Despite being historically bad, Dunn saw an uptick in his BB ratio. You can take this as a sign that his patience could help in 2012, or that he is too afraid to swing at anything and he lucked into a few walks. Either way, it’s something positive that he did.

Dunn wasn’t alone in failure on the south side. Rios and Beckham were supposed to be two very good hitters for the Sox. Rios was claimed off waivers by Kenny Williams in 2009 and had a respectable 2010 year. Beckham was a first round pick with a hitting pedigree from Georgia. He was a College World Series hero and many argued that he should have been the rookie of the year in 2009.

Both players were expected to have good years for a contending team in 2011, and both failed to meet expectations. Here is a graph of the trio’s wOBA

Or if you want more traditional stats:

Those three players had 1623 combined PA’s and severely under performed last year.

Rios looks like a gifted athlete. He patrols centerfield with grace and speed, he makes it all look so easy. His tools are apparent and that’s what makes his struggles so infuriating. He can be a good baseball player, but there is this odd mental block with him that is impossible to describe. He should be a 30 home run guy, but he isn’t. He should hit .300, but he doesn’t. He should be a gold glove centerfielder, but he never will be. Perhaps it is lapses in concentration that leads to his poor play, but he needs to play better.

Beckham looks like a lost cause. He was a stellar fielder at second base in the first half, but his fielding dipped as his bat never really got on track. He has regressed every year he’s been in the league, and that’s a terrible sign for a rookie phenom. Beckham collapsed in the second half last year, but the dip wasn’t as visible because he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the first half. He struggled to hit .213 after the All-Star break as his K-rate shot through the roof.

Beckham will never be an OBP machine, he doesn’t walk enough and his swing looks lost, but he can be somewhat valuable since his glove could theoretically justify his bat. He needs to be around .270-.280 for that to happen.

The White Sox have an outside chance at competing in 2012. The Tigers IF defense will be awful and there is a slight chance the the Sox will pitch enough to stay in the race. The mitigating factor will be the bats. 3 of the 4 times the Sox have made the playoffs in New Comiskey the team has belted 200+ home runs. That’s the magic number, if the Sox can hit, the pitching might hold up enough to stay relevant into September. For that to happen, these three players will have to play well.

Dunn is the wild card, if he can return to form, the Sox will do well. The question with him will always be about his love for the game. Picking up a bat this offseason was a healthy start, but he’s going to have to mash for the Sox to compete.