Saturday August 20th, 20052:53pm
Preliminary BlogPoll Rankings
It's finally that time. After several BlogPoll Roundtable discussions our ballots are due tomorrow night for the 1st weekly Top 25 Rankings. I thought I'd share my preliminary Top 25 with you to get some feedback before I submit the real thing.1. Southern Cal 2. texas 3. Tennessee 4. Louisiana State 5. Michigan 6. Virginia Tech 7. Iowa 8. Miami (Florida) 9. Ohio State 10. Louisville 11. Florida 12. Florida State 13. Oklahoma 14. Auburn 15. Texas A&M 16. Boise State 17. Georgia 18. Alabama 19. Purdue 20. Cal 21. Virginia 22. texas tech 23. Arizona State 24. Colorado 25. Boston College
It's a heckuva lot harder to put together than I thought. I'm in the process of putting together my reasoning for who I have where....I'll add those tomorrow or Monday to help explain my decisions.
What I'd like you all to do is give me reasons why I need to change what I have. Did I miss any key stats or a missing key player, etc.? I know that a lot of people will disagree with a placement but I need a reason to change them, not just because.
Let's see whatcha got. Just click below to add your thoughts.....
Cubs Quietly Picking Up Some W's
A win last night against Colorado in Coors Field gave the Cubs their 6th win in their last 8 games as they climb to 5 games back in the Wild Card standings. It'll be interesting to see how much the NL East teams beat up on each other down the stretch and how the Cubs do against the Astros head-to-head as the season comes to its final 30 games.
Mark Prior was dominating yesterday:IP H R ER SO/BB HR GSc 6.0 5 2 2 10/2 1 62
Unfortunately his pitch count got a bit too out of control to keep him in the game (117). There are two things that are clearly different in Prior's game from his 2003 season and his '04 & '05 campaigns. The first is how deep he is going into games....but his #P/GS has dropped off tremendously as well, thankfully.IP/GS #P/GS 2002 6.19 107.1 2003 7.04 113.4 2004 5.70 98.1 2005 6.27 97.4
The second is the number of long balls he is giving up.HR HR/9 2002 14 1.07 2003 15 0.64 2004 14 1.05 2005 21 1.51
What is amazing about this year is that outside of the long ball, Prior is just about lights out. If those 21 HRs were only solo shots then HRs would account for 41% of the ERs against him this year. Unfortunately only 17 of those were solo shots....two were 3-run shots and two more were grand slams. That means that 31 of his 51 ERs were scored on HRs (60.8%). If he could somehow cut back the HRs to last season's 1.05/9IP then it would significantly lower his ERA. Just doing the quick simple math....[#HR x 9]/125.33333 = 1.05 #HR = 14.62 14.62 = ER x .608 ER = 24.04 [24.04 x 9]/125.333333 = ERA ERA = 1.73
Obviously that would mean that those 21 HRs were all converted to outs and that none of the runners on base in those 4 multi-run HRs wouldn't score. Even with those big flaws I think that this at least helps show what an impact the HR has had on Prior's season.
Kerry Wood continues to shine in the bullpen. He threw another hitless, shutout inning last night. Check out my "My Boys" section to see his game-logs (yeah, yeah....I need to update most of it....I'll catch up soon). He has given up only one hit in his 7 relief appearances....it was a single to Albert Pujols. I still don't think that Kerry is the answer to close games for us. He has always had a tendency to give up the long ball and while he hasn't had that problem out of the pen, his FB/GB ratio is still pretty lopsided (7-to-1) meaning that 23 of his 24 outs recorded have come by way of the strikeout or the fly ball.
Finally, I am extremely disappointed to announce that my boy, Matt Murton, was optioned to AAA Iowa to make room for Jerry Hairston. We're sending down a guy who has clearly outperformed the guy he's being replaced with.
If we have to have Hairston back so badly it's Matt Lawton that needs to get moved.G AB R H RBI SO/BB BA OBP SLG ============================================== Murton... 25 56 6 19 4 11/8 .339 .415 .464 Lawton... 13 57 5 14 4 7/1 .246 .259 .333 Hairston. 88 283 38 74 19 35/25 .261 .341 .382 *Lawton's stats with Cubs
This makes ZERO sense. It seems to be a no-brainer to me. I have a feeling that Dusty Baker and his digressive veteran favoritism had something to do with this.
Tonight's game is on WGN at 7pm with Glendon Rusch squaring off against Aaron Cook.
Thursday August 18th, 2005
Is Willy Taveras Legit?
Willy Taveras has seemingly had an incredible start to his career as he is certainly a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.
I mentioned yesterday that Willy had a generous scoring decision in Monday night's game with an infield hit that should have been an error and then last night I noticed that Willy's home v. road splits were incredibly lopsided.
AB H BA OBP SLG Home 230 84 .365 .406 .443 Road 222 53 .239 .265 .284
I'm curious if scoring calls like the one on Monday have influenced that at all? He leads all major leaguers with 60 infield hits and while I'm not able to find a home/road split on those it is something interesting to think about. I mean those 60 infield hits account for 44% of his season total and it would be logical to think that getting an infield hit in Houston wouldn't be that much easier than getting one anywhere else....not 125 batting average points easier. I'd really like to get my hands on those home/road infield hit splits.
As I was flipping through Willy's splits I also noticed that his lefty/righty splits are almost as drastic
AB H BA OBP SLG vLeft 132 33 .250 .286 .341 vRight 320 104 .325 .360 .375
I'd hate to see how Willy does on the road against lefties.
The thing that has to scare Astros fans is that if Willy ever hurts or even tweaks a leg, foot, toe or ankle then he is going to be straight up terrible. Let's factor out those infield hits and the ABs that went along with them....
AB H BA 396 77 .194
Factor in the fact that he has only 18 walks in his 487 plate appearances and you'll see how fragile this situation can get.
I hope that Willy can stay healthy because he is exciting to watch.
Oh yeah, the Cubs beat Houston tonight behind a superb start by Carlos Zambrano to take the series. Back-to-back series wins against the Cardinals and the Astros....it is certainly promising. Unfortunately, Nomar (who homered in the game) left the game after his back started to tightened up. He tweaked it before he homered when making a play in the field.
Wednesday August 17th, 200512:55pm
Cubs v. Astros Games 1 & 2
I just got home from my second Astros/Cubs game in the last 30 hours....meaning I've had a good two day stretch. Just thought I'd run down some notes/highlights from the first two games.
Monday: Astros 12 v. Cubs 4
There is a reason that Todd Wellemeyer wasn't listed on my scorecard roster that I printed from ESPN.com.....'cause he probably won't be here too long.
It was a 5-4 game going into the 5th inning but Wellemeyer pretty much imploded allowing 3 hits (2 were HRs), 3 walks, & 6 runs (all earned).
Astros 5th inning: HR BB HR (it was at this point I mumbled that Dusty needed to get him out of there) BB (I started yelling that Dusty needed to get him out of there) 1B (If you didn't hear me yelling "GO GET HIM DUSTY!" then you're clinically deaf) BB ----- Wellemeyer was relieved by Michael Weurtz (I yell "Thank goodness!") ----- BB 1B SF (the first out of the inning) K BB 6-3 (I was silently crying)
I honestly think that I could call a better game than Dusty and I'd do it for a fraction of the cost. I'm sure that Scoop Jackson would disagree though.
The AmRam/DLee theory continued to show its truth as the two were a combined 1-for-4 with 2 walks and a run. Both were replaced in the EIGHTH inning. It was that bad.
The Cub's starter, Glendon Rusch, didn't make it out of the 4th but it was a strange appearance. He was getting hit all over the yard but they were all singles until Chris Burke hit an excuse me HR into the Crawford Boxes. In the first inning he threw 22 pitches but 15 were strikes (he gave up 5 singles though) and overall he threw 92 pitches and 66 of them were strikes.
Willy Taveras is really fast. I mean really fast. I will say though he got the most generous infield single I've ever seen. He hit a one-hopper back to the pitcher that took a medium sized bounce and he was called safe when the throw pulled Lee off the bag and into the air towards 2nd base to prevent the wild toss from getting by him. Willy is fast but there is no way he would have beaten out that throw if it was accurate.
I did get enjoyment out of seeing Matt Murton in the leadoff spot where he was 2-for-5 with his first career HR (it was off the RF foul pole). My other favorite Cub, Nomah, was 1-for-3 with a walk and was robbed of second base hit by Adam Everett in the 5th.
The highlight of the game was Nomah related, literally.
I had purchased the cheapest seat I could because I was planning on standing on the main concourse and watch the game from there cause I could get much better pictures. I picked out my spot and settled in when just before the game started a Houston police officer set up shop to my right and two Astros security guys came up on my left....I thought I was in some trouble for something. Then I saw them point and heard one say "She's down there, 5 seats in." I couldn't figure out what they who they were pointing at but I was a bit surprised that they were going to apprehend a fan before the game even started.
Jump to the middle of the 3rd inning.
There were a few people coming up the steps when I realized that I recognized one of them....it was Mia Hamm, one of the world's greatest female athletes who doubles as Mrs. Garciaparra. All the pieces of the puzzle came together and I realized that the extra security was there for her.
She didn't look like I expected her to. I mean, she did, but I always thought she'd look like a hawse when in fact she's pretty tiny. I'd say she wears a small or a medium shirt. Her legs weren't nearly as thick as I thought they'd be but if you were really paying attention you'd probably notice that she did walk a bit like an athlete.
More surprising than actually seeing Mia Hamm at a baseball game was that she just sat in the stands with everyone else and not in some special box or suite. She even got up and went to the concession stand right across from me a couple of times and only one person other than me recognized her. I was kind of saddened by that, but it probably makes her life a little more normal and enjoyable.
I probably got the back of her head in one or two of my pictures because she was just about 5 rows in front of me between me and the field (I'll put all my pictures in once I get'em developed and scanned then I'll drop a link back to this post for ya).
Tuesday: Cubs 4 v. Astros 1
Utilizing the $1 ticket I had purchased Monday night I set off for the ballpark early to watch BP (I did the same on Monday but I only got to see the last 2 hitting groups). Down the LF line Derek Lee, Todd Walker, & Jose Macias all signed for virtually every single fan that wanted an autograph. It was certainly nice to see.
I got some good pictures of my boy, Matt Murton, and a couple good ones of Nomah.
It's so funny the way Nomah is, I mean the guy's schedule is like clockwork. At 6:40 he comes back out of the locker room and warms up. He stretches his back, takes some swings with his bat behind his back, takes some real swings, stretches his legs, does a few different warm-up drills, takes a few more cuts, & then prays. This takes about 10 minutes and when he is done he always signs autographs for about 5 minutes just beyond the end of his team's dugout. Like I said, the guy's schedule is like clockwork. I always enjoy watching all of this and trying to see how the different fans work their way down to that area without getting caught by an usher (because you're supposed to go to your seat at 6:30 when BP is over).
I went back to the same spot I had the night before to watch the game. Mia had the same seats again. My back started to hurt from standing sometime around the 4th inning so I decided to go sit in one of the many empty seats down by the LF foul pole. I like that view and I wish I had my digital camera with me because it can take some sweet panoramic pictures and that was a perfect spot to do that.
Much better game this time. Greg Maddux was in his classic form going 7 innings, giving up only 1 run on 3 hits. His 65 GSc was his 3rd lowest of the season.
Kerry Wood came in for the 8th inning and was perfect in his three outs. He has now thrown 7 shutout innings coming in from the bullpen and has allowed only 1 hit in his 6 appearances with a 12/4 SO/BB ratio.
Since the Cubs won that means Aramis Ramirez & Derek Lee were big....and they were. 4-for-8 with 3 runs & 2 RBIs.....AmRam was really big going 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and a HR.
Murton was bumped out of the 1-hole so Matt Lawton could go 0-for-5 with 3 K's. Matt did get to start and was 1-for-3 (he struck out twice though). He now has a respectable number of ABs (53) and is still hitting .340 with a .419 OBP & .472 SLG.
Nomar was 1-for-3 again with a walk and a run scored. He is still hitting .342 since his return from the DL on the fifth.
I just realized that if Corey Patterson's brother Eric somehow makes the roster next spring that there will be 3 big time Georgia Tech alum on the roster (along with Nomah & Murton....Corey was drafted out of HS). That's kinda cool.
Two things that upset me....seeing Corey Patterson strike out with runners on 1st & 3rd and 1 out on a pitch at his eyes....and seeing Neifi in a 3-1 count swing a pitch on the outside corner at his chest and he popped it up weakly to RF.
Regardless, a big win for the Cubs who go for the series win tomorrow night at 6pm featuring Roy Oswalt v. Carlos Zambrano. Iím going to catch this on on ESPNÖ.It'll be a good one.
Monday August 15th, 2005
How Important Are Lee & Ramirez?
I was pondering that question the other day on my ride home from work. The Cubs have been horrible in the second half of the season and as a team built for the big inning I have a feeling that the Cub's second half 14-17 W-L record is pretty closely related to our two biggest bats in the order. Let's take a look:In Wins G AB R H RBI HR XBH BA ======================================= Lee....... 14 55 16 19 13 6 12 .345 Ramirez... 14 50 13 25 22 7 12 .500 ======================================= Combined.. 14 105 29 44 35 13 24 .419 In Losses G AB R H RBI HR XBH BA ======================================= Lee....... 17 69 4 14 4 2 6 .203 Ramirez... 17 66 7 12 7 3 4 .182 ======================================= Combined.. 17 135 11 26 11 5 10 .193
That is pretty remarkable. It is a pretty strong indicator that we need to have a more balanced lineup for the rest of this season and certainly in 2006.
The Cubs flew into Houston late last night (I imagine) for a 3-game series against the Astros starting tonight. Here are the pitching match-ups:
Monday Glendon Rusch v. Wandy Rodriguez 7:05 on FSN Tuesday (Aggie Night) Greg Maddux v. Andy Pettitte 7:05 on FSN or WGN Wednesday Carlos Zambrano v. Roy Oswalt 6:05 on ESPN
It appears that the Cubs are coming to Houston at the perfect time, coming in hot after taking a 4-game series against the first place Cardinals....not only that they will they miss Roger Clemens. The Astros are coming off a losing series against the Pirates who held them to a total of 6 runs, all of which came in Friday's win. Dave Williams & Kip Wells (Wells had a little bullpen help) kept the Astros off the scoreboard allowing only 11 hits in the team's 61 ABs (.180 BA) in the Saturday & Sunday games.
I'm more excited than normal for a Cubs series because these will be the first time in several attempts that I can see Nomah play live in a Cubs uniform and he's hitting .344 since his return from the DL.
Regardless of Nomah, the Astros know what they need to do to beat the Cubs....get Aramis and DLee out.
Sunday August 14th, 200512:05am
So it happened yesterday....I met Ryne Sandberg. It was a pretty cool feeling to shake hands with the guy who was hanging all over the walls of my bedroom growing up (in the form of 5 or 6 posters) and is pictured in the 350+ different baseball cards I have sitting in a binder on my shelf.
Overall the show was kind of disappointing from a card collector's standpoint. Basically over the last 5-10 years the trend in baseball cards has gone away from buying packs and trying to put together sets or searching for your favorite players. It went from a hobby to a business and with that went the fun. I would say that 75% of the booths had only high end insert cards (autographed, with "game-used" pieces of jersey, etc.). There were very few kids wandering around simply because kids can't afford that stuff....I can't even afford that stuff.
The next 15% of the booths featured vintage cards exclusively which, while incredibly cool to look at, were mostly expensive.
At one point during high school I set out to own a baseball card of every Cub player I could find in a Cubs jersey. The 90s were easy for me as were the late 80s because that was when I was a card collector as a kid but everything else was just kind of expensive.....$2-$4 doesn't seem like much until you realize there are 10-15 of those $4 cards from each year....and over a 20 year span that adds up BIG time. Basically, I have cards of a good portion of the famous Cubs from the past (Banks, Santo, Williams, Brock, Hundley, etc.) but not all the "common" cards. Maybe when I get older I'll get back into the game but by then those 1950s & 60s cards will be $15-$20 a piece.
The final 10% of the booths were exclusively memorabilia (pennants, jerseys, mini-helmets, framed photographs, boxes of cards, etc.). This is the coolest stuff but is all WAAAAAY out of my budget.
I was looking for a Terrence Murphy rookie card but not one person in that whole place had one....instead I stumbled upon 3 completely obscure cards that I didn't even know existed
2001 Upper Deck Pros & Prospects #126
2002 Upper Deck Rookie Update USA Future Watch Swatches #SF
2002 SPx #138
Just about everyone knows who Ja'Mar Toombs is but if you don't then go ahead and click here.
Sam Fuld is one of the guys that I have enjoyed following over the last three or four years. He was a multiple year All-American at Stanford and holds a couple CWS records. He was drafted by the Cubs in the 2004 draft and is currently at A-level Peoria.
Lee Mays might be throwing you for a loop. I was flipping through a stack of cards when I saw his name and stopped in my tracks. Lee is a fellow Westfield High School alum and was a couple of years older than me....I didn't even know that he went on to play football at the college level (at UTEP) let alone in the NFL (he's still on the Steelers roster 4 years later). It turns out that I even saw him play at Kyle Field in the 2000 game when we throttled the Miners. I was happy to run across the card but I still feel really silly.
photo by: Sean
Obviously the best part of the show was meeting Ryno. He arrived really late but it wasn't too big of a deal for me. There were apparently 6 people who had tickets to get a photo with Ryno and once he arrived it took about 6 minutes for everyone to go through that line.
My brother, Sean, who I used to go to all these types of shows with back in the day came along with me and took pictures when he could. I had a good time with him, as normal, and I'm glad he came along.
After the photo session Ryno went over to the signing table and they started calling out ticket numbers off in groups of 10-15 people to go get his autograph. My ticket number was #111 so it was a bit of a wait but I got to see Andre "Hawk" Dawson from a distance so I snapped a picture.
I do have a quasi-funny story about my #111. I ordered my tickets for the show Thursday night online and I picked them up from the will-call booth when we arrived at the show. About an hour before Ryno was to show up I realized that I needed to check to make sure that I had received the correct tickets. Good call Ryan. Instead of meeting Ryne Sandberg Tri-Star had me slated to meet Steve Young. I have nothing against Young and I know he was an incredible quarterback but in my initial fury I said to Sean, "I don't even want Steve Young." It instantly became the day's running joke between the two of us. I took my ticket and my receipt to the ticket desk and the lady happily exchanged the Young ticket for the correct Sandberg ticket.
After waiting in line for about 40 minutes I finally got up to the front with Ryno.
I'm not sure who the little guy was but I got the impression that he was a grandson or at least someone related to him.
In all it was a lot of fun and a day that will be remembered every time I look up at the picture hanging on my wall.