Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC...

Now that the winter olympics are almost over (praise God for that), and the Illini appear to be on their way to a first or second round loss in the NCAA Tournament, I'm really getting fired up about the upcoming baseball season.

I have yet to watch one single second of the Olympics, and judging by the ratings they are recieving, I'm not alone in that. I guess it's safe to say I am not a big fan of curling, ice skating, or skiing for that matter. I have absolutely zero interest in any winter olympic sport. I don't like the summer olympics much more, although at least they have basketball, boxing, and some of the track and field events are pretty cool - but still they are almost as bad as the winter olympics.

The truth of the matter is I haven't watched much of the olympics in years. I think the year was 1988 (I could be mistaken on that), but I recall watching Roy Jones Jr. totally dominate this Korean boxer, and lose on a decision by biased judges. The Korean was a bloody mess, and Jones barely even broke a sweat and he still was hosed on the decision. Jones did everything but knock the dude out, which is pretty difficult to do with the head gear they wear in amateur boxing, but he still busted his face all up.

When Jones got screwed, I knew then and there that the olympics were a fraud and ruled by the political agendas of a few. Especially in those sports where there is no real objective score but the competitors rely on subjective judging - Americans always get screwed. Sometimes it even occurs in those sports where a score is kept, as many will recall from the hose job the Americans received in the 1972 Gold Medal Basketball game against Russia, where a so called olympic official not once but twice put time back on the clock to allow the Russians to score the winning basket. You got the impression that this judge would have just kept putting time on the clock until the Russians won the game.


The fact that the Olympic committee stopped playing baseball and softball has done nothing to encourage me to watch, in fact it has done the opposite. The United States dominates these sports, especially the Womens softball team, which hasn't lost a game in world competition in years.

The Olympics are a fraud, and a joke, and that's why I choose not to watch. Some are now suggesting that the advent of cable tv and the ability to watch the many other sports is the reason for the low ratings. Years ago the Olympics were a big deal, and they were, in fact, the only game in town. I suppose this has a little to do with the low ratings, but for the most part I think it is just due to the games being a fraud, they're no longer fair competitions. They're not even real competition, the games are like WWF Wrestling, it's a joke.


That's why I am pretty excited about the World Baseball Classic. I am actually looking forward to watching. Partially because I am baseball starved right now, but also because I'm looking forward to the Americans kicking some foreigner butt. I was disappointed that Albert Pujols chose to play for his native Dominican team, but I think the US roster is still strong.

We got Derrek Lee at first, Chase Utley at second, Jeter at short, A-rod at third, Varitek behind the plate. The rotation is anchored by Roger Clemens, Dontrelle Willis, Jake Peavy, and CC Sabathia. The US bullpen is absolutely sick with Lidge, Wagner, Cordero, and Huston Steet ready to close out games. I'd hate to be trailing after the 7th inning against that group. Johnny Damon, and Ken Griffey Jr. shore up the outfield. Not too mention Mark Texiera as the DH.

That's a pretty formidable team to say the least, should be very difficult for anyone to stop the US Team. So I say go USA. I guess for a few weeks I get to be a Derrek Lee fan, and root against Pujols.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

MY NEW JONES

The Jacque Jones signing has been much maligned and, considering Hendry's apparent lack of interest in a superior option just down the I-5 from me, rightfully so. My feeling was that Burnitz would probably put up similar numbers with more power. But beyond this, as others have mentioned, a team like the Cubs should not have so many questions mark running around the outfield, especially on the derriere that will be firmly implanted in front of the commuter friendly/freeloader hating knot hole.

The biggest problem with Jones is his decline from 02-03 to 04-05. Which will more accurately reflect his level of performance for the next three years? The 330 hits in 02 and 03 or the 271 hits of the last two years? Considering that he will be slotted to "protect" Lee and Ramirez (who will both have OBPs of between .350 and .400), this could really help the offense. Or hurt it equally.

Jones (31 on April 25)
Year avg/obp / slg
2002 300/341/511 (577 ABs)
2003 304/333/464 (517 ABs)
2004 254/315/427 (555 ABs)
2005 249/319/438 (523 ABs)

His BB/K rates were .29, .20, .34, and .43 while he hit 27, 16, 24 and 23 homers.

Interestingly, Jones and Burnitz had pretty similar years in 05. As a matter of fact, even including Burnitz's 04 season in Colorado, Jones has been better the past four years.

Burnitz (37 on April 15)
Year avg/obp / slg
2002 215 /311/365 (479 ABs)
2003 239 /299/487 (464 ABs)
2004 283 /356/559 (540 ABs)
2005 258 /322/435 (605 ABs)

His BB/K rates were .43, .31, .47, and .52 while he hit 19, 31, 37, and 24 homers.

If these trends continue, the Cubs have at least become younger in right without losing anything offensively. The hopes are, of course, that Jones will move back towards his 02-03 seasons. Burnitz doesn't possess a potential like this any longer. With the possibility of a platoon in right involving Jones and Grissom (please, anyone), right should be more productive.

Last year, Burnitz was .267/.345/.430 against right-handed pitching in 423 ABs (15 HR, 50 BB, 70 SO). Jones was .268/.348/.466 against right-handed pitching in 369 ABs (17 HR, 42 BB, 84 SO) while only .201/.247/.370 against left-handed pitching in 154 ABs (6 HR, 9 BB, 36 SO). Again, Jones should produce as much as Burnitz while possibly giving a decent improvement if a platoon is factored in or he moves back towards his 02-03 lines.

Another factor is defense. Jones has a reputation for his defense--notably his range. But his arm might be just as valuable. John Walsh, in a recent article on The Hardball Times site, Canons and Popguns -- Rating Outfield Arms, has attempted to rank outfield arms. According to his calculations, the best right fielders at throwing out runners (Kill Rate) are: Francoeur, Hawpe, Gibbons, Jenkins, and Ordonenz. But, the fifth best at holding runners from getting extra bases is none other than Jacque Jones (Hold Rate of 114, minimum of 75 opportunities). He is behind Lane (HldR 124), but only slightly behind Rios (HldR 117), Diaz (HldR 117), Vlad Guerrero (HldR 115). As far as runs saved by right-fielders, Jones again ranks fifth at 2.4 runs, behind Francoeur (5.5) Jenkins (3.6), Rios (2.6) and Lane (2.5). The improvement is seen especially in light of Burnitz's rate of -4.3 runs saved, second worst.

So what is Jones to the Cubs over Burintz? Younger. Slight offensive improvement (despite his BB/SO). Big defensive improvement. French name.

Another factor that had to be considered was the impending arrival of the much-heralded Pie. But this has more to do with a log jam in center with Pierre, than with right field.

The final consideration is money. Is Jones making too much? And, couldn't we have signed Giles for not that much more? No and yes, all things considered. Jones signed a 3 year $16M contract. Burnitz's 06 option was for $7M. So, the Cubs seem to be getting more for less. Giles re-signed with San Diego for 3 years/$30M, with a club option for 2009. Here are his numbers the last four years:

Giles (turned 35 on January 20th)
Year avg /obp /slg
2002 298/450/622 (497 ABs)
2003 299/427/514 (492 ABs)
2004 284/374/475 (609 ABs)
2005 301/423/483 (545 ABs)
His BB/K rate was 1.82, 1.81, 1.11, and 1.86 while he hit 38, 20, 23, and 15 homers.

Assuming the Cubs could have gotten Giles for $5-6M more per year over the next three years, would it have been worth it? I think so, but Giles' decreasing power (slugging of .622, .514, .475, .483) might indicate his age is catching up with him. Or, it might reflect his move to the spacious Petco Park. But, barring a return to the numbers of 02-03 for Jones, there is no reason to think that Giles won't put up better numbers during this time. And that's the problem. Why are the Cubs taking a chance on Jones instead of making a play for someone of Giles caliber?

The one possible saving factor here is derrek Lee. If Hendry is saving some money on Jones and signs Lee to a new contract before the season starts, as Lee himself has suggested, the signing makes some more sense. You have an upgrade in right and re-sign one of the marquee players in baseball. On the other hand, is there really any reason why the Cubs couldn't have spent a little more for one of the better right fielders in baseball too?

Do I love my new Jones? No, definitely not. Do I like my new Jones? Yeah, I think so. He's better than what was there with some potential to return to better days. But he'd be much more bearable with a four year contract--for Lee that is.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sammy "Say it ain't" Sosa...

Well it appears that Chris' boy and longtime Cub icon, Sammy Sosa, has rejected the Nationals one year offer, and according to his agent, "doesn't want to go through another season like he had last year."

Why, what happened to the Cub legend? What, just because he can't use the juice anymore and cork his bat he don't wanna play. Let's take a look at some of Sammy's career numbers pre-cork bat incident, and his numbers since then...

According to MLB.com Sammy has 8401 Ab's and hit a whopping 588 HR's for his career. Good for a HR every 14.3 AB's. Pretty impressive numbers I must say. However, let's look at his stats since the corked bat incident in 2004, he has hit a total of 30 HR's since in 658 Ab's, or 1 HR every 21.9 Ab's. Now I will admit that it has never been proven that a corked bat will help anyone to hit a ball longer, but they did outlaw it for a reason. You mix the cork bat he used his entire career, with the roids he was popping, makes for a pretty fraudulent career.

I get a kick out of Cub fans bashing McGwire and his apparent steroid habit. McGwire was always a tremendous power hitter, hitting a rookie record 49 HR's in 1987. Looking at Sammy's career you can see that the juice and the cork must have come along right about 1992 or 1993, interestingly enough right about the time he was traded to the Cubs (after all, I believe 4 of the 9 MLB players that have been busted for roids were former Cubs, atleast the last time I checked). Why do I say 1992/1993 time frame, well lets look at the numbers. His career high before 1992 was 15 HR in 532 Ab's, or 1 HR 35.4 Ab's. He hit 10 HR's once, and a few partial seasons with the White Sox, and Rangers, where his power numbers weren't pretty. In 1992, which was his first year with the Cubs, if I'm not mistaken, he hit 8 HR in 262 Ab's for a HR in 37.7 Ab ratio. Then all the sudden, out of no where, in 1993 he hits 33 HR in 598 Ab's, 1 in 18.1 Ab. This must be where the roids kicked in. I think the cork came along in 1998 when he had never hit more than 40 then all the sudden bangs out 66 HR's.

So Chris can argue all he wants about Big Mac and his steroids, but it is clear that Sammy was popping the juice as well. Not to mention Big Mac never got caught red handed, cheating like Sammy did with his corked bat. McGwire was always a great power hitter, even from his rookie year, Sammy was a skinny outfielder with little to no power before the juice.

The numbers don't lie, Sammay Sosa, the Cub icon was and always will be a fraud.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A non-cubs related post...

Since the Cubs off-season has been essentially a non-event, and since this team needed to make significant improvements in order to return to possible playoff contention, there's not much to talk about for the realistic Cubs fan.

Therefore, this page has recently been limited to discussion of Big Ten basketball (memo to Rich McBride - please try to at least make a token effort to box someone out, especially in the last 10 seconds at home when the game is on the line) and the Cardinals (although this is a Cubs blog, we have one contributor who is a Cardinals fan. However, if my suspicions about the upcoming year are correct, we may need to refer to this site as a Cardinals blog with 4 relatively silent Cubs contributors).

In any event, since this is my blog, I reserve the right to talk about whatever I want, just as the reader reserves the right to ignore this space (and if our statistics are any indication this latter right has been exercised far more often than the former).

So with that in mind, I came across the following commentary in the Washington Times. Here's an excerpt (you'll want to read the entire article):

President [of Iran] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Shi'ite creed has convinced him lesser mortals can not only influence but hasten the awaited return of the 12th Imam, known as the Mahdi. Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect holds this will be Muhammad ibn Hasan, the righteous descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the 9th century, at age 5. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war, bloodshed and pestilence. After this cataclysmic confrontation between the forces of good and evil, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

"The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one." He reckons the return of the Imam, AWOL for 11 centuries, is only two years away.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is close to the messianic Hojjatieh Society, which is governed by the conviction the 12th Imam's return will be hastened by "the creation of chaos on Earth." He has fired Iran's most experienced diplomats and scores of other officials, presumably those who don't share his belief in apocalyptic conflagration.


Does anyone think allowing this guy to obtain a nuclear weapon is a good idea?

Folks this guy is trouble with a capital T - to put it mildly and colloquially.

Sanctions aren't going to work, and a diplomatic solution may well prove impossible in light of Ahmadinejad's core apocalyptic beliefs. Nor can Israel or the West rely on a Mutually Assured Destruction deterrent - a worldwide conflagration is fully what Ahmadinejad and his colleagues appear to be prophetically looking forward to.

We'd better figure out pretty quick how to effectively deal with this substantial problem before the world quite literally finds itself on a one-way trip to hell in a hand basket.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

FROM THE RED STATES...

Ok, since my posts on the blog have been few and far between the last few weeks since I have started school once again, and since they have been preoccupied with the Bears run into the playoffs, and their going up in flames almost before it even started, and with the Illini's choke job last night, I felt it was time to talk a little baseball.

Spring training is just around the corner, and I am starting to get the jones' for one of those Albert Pujols moon shots and Chris Carpenter sinking fastballs. I love the Bears and the Illini, but I am in love with the Cardinals, as they were and always will be my first love, sportwise that is.

I must say I have mixed feelings about the off season this year. I was expecting a huge spending spree with the Cardinals new stadium and all, only to find that Walt Jocketty was doing everything short of seperating two ply toilet paper into two roles to save money. Especially after the ridiculous ammounts of money being thrown around at mediocre players such as A.J. Burnett and Kevin Millwood. I'm not sure what to make of the Cardinals moves this off season, in Walt I Trust and he seems to be a genius at managing a baseball budget and finding the bargains that are available. My two predictions for those bargains this year are second baseman Junior Spivey, and pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Junior Spivey has been an All-Star before and his career OBP is a respectable .354, which should increase if LaRussa does as I suspect he will, and place Spivey in the two hole right after Eckstein and right before Pujols. The advantage of batting in front of Pujols did wonders for players such as Vina and Womack, although they were lead off hitters I expect the same results for Spivey. My concerns are with his health which has been suspect at best the past few seasons, and his defense. I am most concern with his glove because the Cardinals are exclusively ground ball pitchers and are depending on a solid infield defense, and the ability of the infielders to turn double plays, which they did last season at a record setting pace.

I also suspect the Cards will find a bargain in Sidney Ponson. I'm not sure why, I guess I just have a soft spot in my heart for guys that have struggled with things such as alcohol. I have faith that Dave Duncan can turn around the career of Ponson much in the same way he did for guys like Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, and Todd Stottlemyre. Ponson has had some good years with a bad Orioles team until his struggles, and I suspect that if he can stay off the sauce, stay out of jail, and listen to the tutoring of Duncan he can have a big year, or atleast a decent year, and for what the Cardinals are paying him it won't take much to get their money's worth. It's a no lose situation as far as I'm concerned, if he wins great, if he shows up half in the tank and goes to jail 7 or 8 times while in St. Louis then we just get rid of him and were not out much.

As far as the other moves I like Encarnacion a little bit and suspect he will give us about what we got out of Sanders, so I call that a wash. The other outfield slot is up in the ait but as long as that outfielder plays solid defense I think we will score enough runs to win. A lot of people say the Cards will miss Larry Walker, which I suppose is true but we were winning just fine in 2004 before Larry came on board and won just fine when he was out with an injury last year.

The rotation is solid from 1-4 with Carpenter, Mulder, Suppan, Marquis and look for a good battle between rookie Anthony Reyes and Ponson for the 5th spot. The pen is decent with Interestinghause who has Cardinals fan buying up the Maalox in mass quantities but he usually gets the job done. I like that we got rid of Ray "Burger" King and Tavarez and think the additions of Rincon and Looper can fill those roles. Nelson adds depth and a veteran who has won before. I call the pen a wash compared to last season.

As far as the Cubs are concerned I like the addition of Pierre at the top of the order. I think the questions for the Cubs will be health (as usual) and will Derreck Lee have even half the season he had last season? If the pitchers get healthy and stay that way, and last year was not a fluke for Lee then I expect the Cubs to be serious contenders for the division.

So this leaves me with my predictions, so here goes and remember I suck at sports predictions but I will give it a shot anyway...

NL Division Winners: Cardinals, Dodgers, and Braves (I went to pick the Mets but the Braves always seem to find a way to win the East and who am I to pick against 14 years in a row).

NL Wild Card: Mets, I think the Cubs will contend and expect Lee to have a good year but I think Ramiraz will be hurt (as usual) and teams will pitch around Lee down the stretch and the Cubs offense will go in the tank and the Cubs will come up just a little short.

AL Division Winners: Yankees, White Sox, Angels

AL Wild Card: Cleveland Indians, I think the Red Sox have lost quite a bit and really have done nothing to replace them. Beckett gets hurt and they rely on Clement down the stretch and that spells doom.

World Series: Cardinals and Yankees, the two winningest franchises in baseball history will meet up in the fall classic and the Cardinals will win 4-2. Hey if Mike can predict MSU to win the Big 10, I can pick the Cards to win the World Series.


UPSET AT THE ASSEMBLY HALL...

Well I suppose our good friend Mike will be here shortly to rub it in, I must say I am surprised he has yet to post on the Illini choking away a 33 game home court winning streak to Penn St. I guess he has that right because this was an embarrassing loss to say the least.

What can you do but tip your hat to Penn St. and congratulate them? They rode out the storm of 3's and a 13-0 lead early on, played hard and won the game. Not to mention a gutsy call at the end, the correct call, but it still took guts to make that call.

Penn St. caught the Illini with their pants, or should I say their shorts, down. They were coming off a big win at Wisconsin and looking ahead to a tough road game next week at Ohio St. Tough loss, but there is a bright side maybe this loss will toughen up the boys and get their head out of the sky and re-focus on a tough schedule down the stretch, in the league, and post season.

Tip your hat and move on. Illinois played decent but Penn St. played great and deserved the win. No excuses or worries from this Illini fan.