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Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Live Updates, Commentary, and Analysis



SCORE UPDATE:  2-1 Cubs Win!!

                           Two-run blast by Nate Schierholtz – 4th inning

                           Solo shot by Allen Craig – 2nd inning


That’s a wrap, folks.  Thanks for joining me in my first foray into B\R live blogging.  Hope I get to do this again sometime soon.

Go, Cubs, Go!

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Chicago Cubs: After 3 Weeks Cubs’ Weaknesses Are Glaring



Yes, it may be early in the 2013 season, but Cubs fans can already see where it appears to be headed:  down the drain.

It is no surprise, really, that the Cubs are as bad as they are.  This was expected.

There have been some surprises, though, such as Travis Wood, Nate Schierholtz and Welington Castillo.

But the club didn’t have to be as bad as they are.  And their record could be—rather, should be—better if they would have simply played complete games.  Instead, their numerous ineptitudes caused wins to become losses.

The Cubs’ starters combine for a 3.11 ERA—good enough for fourth-best in the MLB—and have the league’s best opponent batting average—.208.

Their bullpen, however, is not as competent.  The relievers combine for a 4.86 ERA—No. 26 in MLB—and a .266 opponent’s batting average—No. 25 in the MLB.

In 2012 the bullpen was a veritable revolving door, and 2013 looks to follow suit.  They called up Rafael Dolis only to send him back down to Triple-A a few days later.  Carlos Marmol was replaced in the closer role by Kyuji Fujikawa, who after two appearances was then placed on the DL.  After designating Hisanori Takahashi for assignment, the club brought in Kevin Gregg and Kameron Loe.

The team’s starters have on multiple occasions done enough for the club to win games only to be let down by all or a combination of poor run support, porous fielding and/or the bullpen.

The number of free-agent relievers this past offseason was bountiful, and the Cubs could have done a much better job in improving the bullpen.

Another weakness that has become very conspicuous is the club’s aforementioned fielding—or lack thereof.  The N.L. Central-leading Cincinnati Reds are the sixth-best defensive team in the MLB, whereas the Cubs are second-to-last.

And the fact that the fielding deficiency is spread all around the field doesn’t help matters either.  Pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders all contribute to a woeful defense.

At times it does not appear the Cubs know how to play baseball.  That’s why I stated earlier the Cubs cannot seem to play a complete game.

But the Cubs’ biggest weakness has to be the lack of scoring.

If the Cubs could score more runs, then the bullpen giving up a run or two or the defensive futility could be somewhat masked and not have as much impact on the result of the game as it currently does.

And it’s not as if everybody is batting below the Mendoza-line.

If you look at the lineup regulars, statistically speaking, they aren’t that bad—they were better before Monday night’s game against the Reds, though.  Before Monday night’s game in Cincinnati, Castillo had a BA of .375 and .900 OPS, Soriano had a .284 BA and Rizzo had a .210 BA and .842 OPS.

Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz are all hitting above .280, and the latter two have OPS percentages above .900. 

Consider this:  The Reds have the same number of regular starters batting above .280—four—and the same number—two—with an OPS-percentage above .900 as the Cubs have.

But here’s the kicker:  The Reds have four players with 10-plus RBI, while Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub with double-digit RBI (14). 

And the Cubs have the worst team RISP average at .147.  So if they do happen to get runners on-base, they can’t drive them in.

There have been threats made about players, notably Rizzo and Castro, that if they do not perform they will be sent down, but would that really solve anything?  Whom would Sveum replace those players with?

Brian Bogusevic (.389/.476/.463) has continued his red-hot spring training with Iowa.  He’s an option to replace Rizzo if Sveum wants to make good on his threat.

Would he really, though?  Rizzo may not be able to hit a beach ball on a regular basis, but when he gets a hold of one he’s the only player who can drive in any runs—and he’s usually one of those runs.

So, what realistic options are there to improve the team’s ability to drive in runs?

The waiver wire?

Taking the bullpen moves the club has already made in to account, the Cubs have also picked up Julio Borbon and Cody Ransom off waivers after designating Brent Lillibridge and Alberto Gonzalez for assignment—both are now with the Iowa Cubs.

It’s too early to find an impactful trade, so it looks like the Cubs are going to have to make do with what they have in house or other team’s castoffs.

Sorry folks, but it looks like it’s going to be another long and disappointing season.




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Chicago Cubs: Final Projection for the Cubs’ Opening Day 25-Man Roster

They say “hindsight is 20/20.”  But what about foresight?  Does that score somewhere around 20/1200 on the Snellen chart?

The evidence—an article of mine published last September—would suggest to the affirmative.  Granted, some of my predictions are correct, or will turn out to be correct, and deserved of a self-congratulatory pat on the back.

But, boy, some are outright swings and misses.

The September version of the predicted 25-man roster was riddled with terrible selections:  Bryan LaHair, Joe Mather, Ryan Dempster, Chris Rusin, and Josh Vitters along with then-predicted free agent acquisitions Humberto Quintero and Geoff Blum, to name a few.

And while foresight is of questionable clarity, now that we’re mere days away from the official start of spring training, the upcoming predicted roster is bestowed with the assistance of a proverbial pair of eyeglasses.

First, we must begin by eliminating the obvious inclusions to the 25-man roster.  The infielders are Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, and Luis Valbuena; with Welington Castillo as the starting catcher.

Returning from the 2012 squad are David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, and they will be joined by free-agents Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz, to make up four-fifths of the outfield component,

Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Scott Feldman will comprise the starting rotation—although hopeful, Scott Baker will not be ready by Opening Day due to Tommy John surgery last year. 

Bullpen sure-ins include Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp, and Carlos Villanueva.

That leaves five holes in the Opening Day roster.

Filling the first of these five spots is fairly easy.  There needs to be a backup catcher.

Given the options available are Dioner Navarro and Steve Clevenger, all signs point to Dioner Navarro being named to the 25-man roster over the abysmal Steve Clevenger.

Using the same roster structure the Cubs used last spring that leaves four spots available for two infielders, an outfielder, and one additional reliever.

The Cubs could kill two birds with one stone if Brent Lillibridge makes the roster.  He can play some outfield and short, but most importantly he could serve as Anthony Rizzo’s primary backup at first base in the event Rizzo needs a day off.

The Cubs do have an option, if the unforeseen happens and Rizzo is out for a lengthy period of time, in minor-leaguer Brad Nelson.

Nelson’s career has been similar to Bryan LaHair, and looks to begin the season in Triple-A.  However, if for some reason Anthony Rizzo were to be out of action for a few weeks, Nelson would serve as the first baseman in the interim.

But for him to break camp on the 25-man roster does not seem likely.

As for the other backup infielder, the Cubs have only two legitimate options going into camp:  Alberto Gonzalez and Edwin Maysonet.  But let’s put it this way:  If they were books, you wouldn’t consider them page turners.

It is for that reason the Cubs will break camp with six infielders in 2013, as opposed to the seven they did in 2012.  That extra spot will go to the bullpen; the area in which the Cubs need to see the greatest improvement.

The Cubs, with Lillibridge included, will then have three infielders who can play multiple positions in emergency situations which can allow them to add an extra arm to the much maligned bullpen and, hopefully, avoid the kind of start to the season the 2012 version experienced.

The team could use the extra spot, so both prospects, Dave Sappelt and Brett Jackson, could break camp with the big league club.  However, the outfield is already crowded as it is by having four veterans expecting to be on the roster. 

That will leave just one spot for Dave Sappelt or Brett Jackson to claim.

Offensively, in 2012, Brett Jackson was…well…offensive.  He did showcase his outstanding fielding instincts while in the MLB, but if he wants to begin the 2013 season on the 25-man roster, he will need to prove that his overhauled swing can translate from the batting cage to the diamond.

Brett Jackson is a strikeout machine, which would be good if he was a pitcher, but horrible since he’s a position player.  He will need to seriously limit his strikeouts in the Cactus League if he wants to break camp as a member of the 25-man roster.

Even so, it is more likely Dave Sappelt will begin the season in Chicago, while Brett Jackson continues to improve his plate discipline and work on his new swing in Triple-A.

That leaves two remaining spots for the bullpen:  The greatest concern that needed addressing this offseason.

The Cubs’ bullpen in 2012 was one of the worst in the league.  Last season, the club’s bullpen ranked in the bottom of the MLB in just about every team category, leaving much room for improvement.

Rule 5 draftee, Hector Rondon looks to be an obvious choice once you read the rules of the Rule 5 draft.

A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player.

Once a player is selected, he is automatically assigned to his new organization’s 40-man roster. 

Now, with only one spot remaining on the 25-man roster, the competition among camp relievers is sure to be intense.

One of the bright spots from last year’s bullpen was Michael Bowden.

In 32 appearances he pitched 36.2 innings for the club earning a bullpen best 2.95 ERA and held opponents to a .225 average.  He was also ranked second in the bullpen in WHIP (1.25) and fourth in strikeouts (29).

Bowden pitched very well for the Cubs last season and, unless he flames out completely in Mesa or another candidate lights up the Cactus League, Michael Bowden will break camp as part of the Cubs’ Opening Day 25-man roster.


Infielders\Catchers:  Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, Luis Valbuena, Brent Lillibridge, Welington Castillo, Dioner Navarro

Outfielders:  Alfonso Soriano, David De Jesus, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt

Starting Pitchers:  Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman

Relievers:  Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol, Carlos Villanueva, Hector Rondon, Michael Bowden

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Chicago Cubs: Where the Cubs’ Top Prospects Should Finish 2013

The Cubs are still in the process of retooling their farm system.  The organization has some decent prospects at the higher levels of minor league baseball, but most of their best prospects are plying their trade at the lower levels.

There are a handful of Cubs minor leaguers that you will see in Mesa, but in all likelihood the more notable prospects—Junior Lake, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva, Javier Baez, Arodys Vizcaino—will not make the Opening Day roster.

That is, however, not to say that once Spring Training concludes they will return to the teams with which they finished the 2012 season.  Nor should it be expected the teams they begin the 2013 season will be the same when the year wraps up.

The following is where you should expect to see the top five of the Cubs’ Top 10 Prospects list finish the 2013 season.

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Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs’ All-Time Team

When composing this lineup, there were some selections that caused some second-guessing and hesitation before the final decisions were made—not just whom to include, but where to place them in the field for those who played multiple positions.

There was some internal debate on where to play Ernie Banks on the Chicago Cubs’ All-Time Team.  He played parts of nine seasons at shortstop and 11 at first base, with some time at third base and in the outfield sprinkled in.

The team is ordered as the positions are numbered on the field, except for the outfield positions, with a single starting pitcher to round out the squad.

You may agree or disagree with some, all or none of the selected players, but please enjoy the slideshow and engage in civil debate.

Now, without further ado…

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Chicago Cubs: Who Should Fill the Void at Third Base?

After Mark Reynolds was non-tendered yesterday by Baltimore, a few teams were mentioned as a possible landing destination for the former Oriole’s third/first baseman.

One of the possible teams mentioned was the Cubs.  But why?

After last season’s performances by their third basemen, the Cubs cannot go into the 2013 season with Luis Valbuena or Josh Vitters as the starter.  The club’s only option is to bring in a player from outside the organization to man the hot corner for the next four seasons—give or take a season—until Javier Baez makes it to the majors.

Which brings me back to my original question:  Why Mark Reynolds?

He has decent power, granted, and his career average OPS is not bad either.  But a batting average of .221 in 2011 and 2012 to go along with a .198 BA in 2010 compounds his lack of plate discipline with 204, 223, 211, and 196 strikeouts in the seasons of 2008 to 2011, respectively.

Is this really the guy the Cubs should be looking at to “upgrade” their current predicament at third base? 

He would be an upgrade in the power department, but not so much in standard hitting statistics.  The Cubs need a player that has more to offer the club than home runs if they want to cure the team’s batting woes.

Overall the Cubs have the 25th ranked batting average in the MLB at .240, but their BA against lefties is even worse.  Against south-paw pitchers, the Cubs hit a mere .230—good enough for 28th—in 2012, with a .292 OBP and .346 SLG both second-to-last in the MLB.

A better available option to fill the role as starting third baseman is Jeff Keppinger.  Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Jeff Keppinger had an overall line of .325/.367/.469.

But against lefties he had a line of .376/.402/.521 in 2012, and has a career line of .333/.376/.487 against south-paw pitchers.

And while he may be lacking in traditional power categories, his value to the team in overall batting statistics and against left-handers along with his ability to play multiple positions much like Mark DeRosa did in his two seasons with the Cubs, should propel the Cubs to zero-in on him as their bridge between the present and the future at third base.

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Chicago Cubs: Cubs’ Top 5 Draft Targets in the 2013 MLB Draft

The key position the Cubs lack true depth in their farm system is pitching.  Most of their pitching talent, prospect-wise, lies in the lower levels of minor league baseball, within the arms of babes.

They do have Arodys Vizcaino—whom they received in the August trade with Atlanta and should be considered their best pitching prospect—but he had Tommy John surgery in March, leaving the club’s hopes of stocking their pitching staff with players from within the organization still a few years away.

The Cubs will need to focus on college pitching prospects so they can have talent to develop at Iowa in 2014, rather than rushing the development of their current young pitching prospects.

Luckily—or unluckily, depending on how you would like to view it—the Cubs have the second pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, due to having the second-worst record in the league.  They should come away with at least one pitching prospect that they could immediately assign to Iowa.

The Cubs will essentially have the second pick in every round with the exception of the Compensatory round.  The proceeding list will cover three options the Cubs should consider with their first-round pick—which turned out to be the same top three 2013 draft prospects named by Baseball America in August, which I didn’t realize until researching Sean Manea—as well as two players to look at with their second-round selection, which will be projected to be around the No. 57 to No. 64 pick.

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Chicago Cubs: Who Has Been the MVP for the Chicago Cubs This Season?

As insufferable as the 2012 season has been, one could argue that this past season has not been a total washout.

In a season where the organization was transitioning not only in front office management, but also strategy, team philosophy and playing style, the Cubs have done as well as expected.

The new front office was able to get a full view of where the organization stands in regards to the immediate and long-term futures of the club, and those players pertinent to those futures received some much needed MLB playing time. 

If the “P” in MVP stood for “person” rather than “player”, then I would have to consider one from the four personnel featured in my previous article.  But it does not, and I would not.

There have been players who have performed well throughout the year. However, lacking superstar talent and utilizing a mishmash of players throughout 2012, the results were as expected.

So, who should be considered the Cubs’ 2012 MVP?  The resurgent Alfonso Soriano?  David DeJesus? Darwin Barney?  Jeff Samardzija?  Or Ryan Dempster?

A case could be made for any and all of these players, even Ryan Dempster – and he isn’t even with the team.  In 2012 with the Cubs, Dempster went 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA.

However, he fell victim to five no-decisions and one loss before his ERA eclipsed the 2.00 mark.   He also had five straight outings from June 5 to July 14 where he did not surrender a single run—earned or unearned—lowering his ERA from 2.59 down to 1.86.

If Dempster would have remained with the Cubs through this season, or agreed to the Atlanta trade that would have netted the Cubs top pitching prospect Randall Delgado in return, he could very well have been named MVP for both his on field contributions and what he brought in trade.  But he didn’t, so he’s 0-for-2 and no dice.

One could argue that Jeff Samardzija has been the Cubs’ MVP of 2012, being the best of the Cubs’ current starting pitchers this season and a light in the murky Cubs’ pitching staff.  But he has not done enough to be considered the team’s MVP.

Alfonso Soriano is another candidate.  He would most definitely win the Cubs’ Comeback Player of the Year award, but MVP?  He is a close third.

So, who is the runner-up, and who is the MVP?

This is microscopically close.  So close, the Cubs might have two co-MVPs in 2012.

Darwin Barney has done one heck of a job this season.  While his BA and OPS are nothing spectacular, he has one error in 700 chances at second and a dWAR of 3.3.  His oWAR is 1.6, for an overall WAR of 4.7.

Barney’s performance this season has been the most consistent in every facet of the game.  Among position players who have played in 100+ games for the Cubs this season, he has the fewest strikeouts with 51. 

Joe Mather has played in 99 games this season for the Cubs and has only 44 strikeouts.  But he has played in 49 fewer games than Barney, and has 325 fewer plate appearances than the standout second baseman.

David DeJesus has performed admirably throughout the season as well.  His OPS is .757, and he is ranked eighth in the league in pitches seen per plate appearance, seeing 4.08.  He has also drawn a total of 58 walks this season as well—the most of any member of the team.

He has only two errors in 266 chances, an oWAR of 1.6 and an overall WAR of 1.4, but he has a dWAR of -0.6—which is more noteworthy than important.

You could look at the WAR related numbers and decide it’s a no-brainer and declare Darwin Barney the MVP.

Or, you could look at their OPS numbers and plate discipline and decide the vote should easily be cast for David DeJesus.

Their hits and runs totals are too close to be deciding factors.

So, who is the Cubs’ 2012 MVP?

It’s a coin toss, really.  And in this case, a Two-Face style coin is used.

Deciding which of these two is the Cubs’ MVP is a difficult task.

DeJesus wins it for his plate discipline, and being on a team that cannot seem to grasp the concept his skill is invaluable.

Barney wins it for his defensive ability, along with plate discipline and importance to the team.

So, those are my MVPs.  Who are yours?

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