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How Will Andrew Cashner Fare as a Starter?

As of right now, the only certainties are that Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza are guaranteed their place in the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation, with Dempster being the Opening Day starter (one of the most overrated things in baseball).

With two starting spots being up for grabs, spring training will bring a lot of excitement for how things will shake out come April.

Of the competitors, veterans Carlos Silva and Randy Wells have a supposed leg-up, while youngsters Casey Coleman, James Russell, Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija, along with prospect Chris Carpenter, all have a bid in those two spots. 

Also, the Cubs will keep their eyes open on dark horse candidates that emerge from solid spring training play, similar to how Sean Marshall and Randy Wells earned their spots in the rotation.

That said, Cubs fans should be especially paying attention to the pitching of Andrew Cashner, who pitched exclusively out of relief in 2010. As Bleed Cubbie Blue noted, Jim Hendry said that Cashner will start in 2011, be it for the Cubs or Triple-A Iowa.

Cashner, drafted out of Texas Christian University, was TCU’s primary closer before being drafted by the Cubs with their first-round draft choice in 2008. Cashner successfully made the transition to the rotation in the Cubs’ farm system, scaling every level of the minors to the parent club in three years.

Cashner demonstrated front-line starter stuff, although his control gives question to whether or not he profiles as a big-league closer, instead. His physical attributes (6’6″, 210 pounds) scream starting pitcher, although it will ultimately be his development of a third pitch, a changeup, that will determine his role.

Cashner’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he works it low in the zone, typically. He locates his fastball low and away to righties, occasionally running it inside, while primarily keeping his fastball away from lefties. 

Cashner also features a wipeout slider/curve that is used as a strikeout pitch against right-handed batters.  

Ultimately, Cashner’s fate will lie in that changeup, which he tried to employ against lefties with some success in terms of location.

Personally, I would like to see Cashner go back to Triple-A for a bit more seasoning, and develop his changeup into a Major League-average pitch that he can mix in with his other two plus pitches. Looking at the Cubs’ bullpen, it doesn’t make much sense to continue working Cashner into the mix, as Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol headline the back end.

Cashner’s long-term value ultimately depends on whether or not he can contribute as a Major League starter. If he cannot, he will be destined for a closer or setup role, depending on the long term success of Carlos Marmol. Either way, Cashner will be a Major League contributor for many years to come.


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Chicago Cubs: Finding a First Base Option Looks To Be Troublesome

Seven seasons ago, the Cubs traded Hee-Seop Choi and Mike Nannini for Derek Lee to fill the glaring hole left at first base since the departure of fan favorite Mark Grace in 2000.

The two players that Lee was acquired for hardly made a splash in the Major Leagues, while Lee has been a two-time All Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, and placed third in MVP voting in those seven seasons. Needless to say, the Cubs were the big winners in the trade.

This past August however, the Cubs themselves traded Lee for a few minor leaguers (Jeffrey Lorick, Robinson Lopez, and Tyrelle Harris), though Lee (34) is past his prime this time around.

Now the Cubs find themselves in a similar position to how they were in post Mark Grace.

There simply is no long term option at first base for the Cubs, outside of trading for someone who could fill the hole at the position. Sure, Cubs fans may get excited about the prospect of signing Adam Dunn, but he will be 31 years old. Dunn is expected to receive a three year deal for about $11 million per year, so he’s hardly a bargain.

In essence, the Cubs would be signing the slugger (in theory) as a stop gap option until a long-term option comes out of the farm system, or through a trade.

Given the current state the franchise is in, it’s safe to say the Cubs won’t make a championship push in the next three years, and while Dunn is a good (not great) player, 31-year-old, poor fielding, poor contact first basemen are certainly not the players you want to build your team around. Dunn is simply a good role player, a stop-gap.

The Cubs could also sign one of the lesser free agents such as Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, Nick Johnson, or even Victor Martinez, but the previous concerns remain.

Looking internally, perennial disappointment Micah Hoffpauir has proved he cannot produce at the Major League level. Hoffpauir has poor batting skills, despite his good raw power. That power has yet to translate to anything outside of torching Triple-A competition. Hoffpauir hasn’t shown the organization that he is anything more than a good starter on a Triple-A level team.

A year removed from his second Tommy John surgery, Xavier Nady proved to the Cubs that he can be a viable backup option coming off the bench. However, when given additional playing time after the departure of Lee, Nady struggled in the final two months. Nady is reluctant to walk (5.7 percent walk rate), and strikes out often (26.8 percent). On top of that, he is a sub-par fielder. 

Like Dunn, Nady is 31, and as his career is marred by injuries, he is unlikely to improve his skills greatly enough to produce as an even average Major League first baseman.

What other possible options could there be?

Former Cleveland Indain First Round pick Brad Snyder could step in and be part of the rebuilding process as he has torched Triple-A, but he’s not exactly a prospect anymore at age 28, and appeared over-matched during a small stint in the Majors, striking out 44 percent of the time, making contact 62 percent of the time (88 percent league average), and produced 18.5 percent swinging strikes (8.5 percent league average). 

Let’s be serious, those numbers are for an incredibly small sample size (28 plate appearances), but the numbers are jaw dropping.

Aside from that, there’s outfield prospect Brandon Guyer, who will probably make his debut in 2011 or 2012, but in a perfect world, could use a bit more minor league seasoning.

Trading for a big-name first baseman such as Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez would include trading a combination of top prospects, most likely including pitchers Chris Archer, Trey McNutt, Chris Carpenter, Guyer, and (definitely) shortstop Starlin Castro. That said, I legitimately doubt that a trade will occur.

Another possible outcome, but one that looks more unlikely with each passing week, is to move Aramis Ramirez across the diamond from third base to first, as he is growing older and less capable of handling the hot corner.

Overall, the Cubs’ options seem to be incredibly limited, and it seems that a free agent signing such as Adam Dunn is inevitable. 

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Chicago Cubs: Team’s Catchers Look To Build on 2010

There’s Always Next Year: Intro

With catcher arguably the most important position on the diamond, the Cubs seem to have found a solid foundation for the future—hopefully.

Geovany Soto proved that he certainly had the talent to repeat and even build upon his rookie campaign after that came into question in the 2009 season.

There is no doubt Soto can hit. The question for the upcoming season—and seasons beyond—is whether or not Soto can stay healthy. Catcher is no doubt the most physically taxing position to field, and the ability to stay healthy is always a crapshoot.

That said, Soto has run into injury problems of his own. He hurt his knee in August, and while he spent a short four days off the field, his ability to hit took a noticeable slide. Considering the pressure on the knees it takes from the catcher’s crouch, this could be a recurring problem. He also had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, but this should not be a problem in the future.

Besides the injuries that were dealt to the starting Cub catcher, Soto had a remarkable season at the plate. He hit for a .282 average on the year and improved his patience stats along the way, walking 16 percent of the time. He also showed his 2008 power wasn’t a fluke, as he hit for 17 home runs—five less than 2008, but with 176 less plate appearances, a result of Lou Piniella’s fascination with Koyie Hill.

Given increased playing time from new Cubs manager Mike Quade, look for Soto to continue improving his game with more and more major league experience (only two full years of ML service time).

Hill filled in quite a bit in Soto’s stead, as Piniella tried to incorporate him into the Cubs lineup, seeing him as a better receiver than Soto. The fact is that Hill was a huge detriment to the Cubs offense when he played. Hill hit for a terrible .214 batting average, and his .298 slugging percentage was a figure that reminded Cubs fans of Juan Pierre.

Striking out almost 30 percent of the time, Hill was just downright terrible at the plate. He only walked 15 times in 231 plate appearances, and three of those were intentional. The idea that Hill was just a Jason Kendall-type slap hitter is irrational. Hill hit for a below-average contact rate, and pitchers were not afraid to attack him, throwing an above-average number of first strikes.

Hill was essentially a replacement player, meaning you could find equal value out of the position from a typical Triple-A catcher.

Hill’s arbitration clock has hit three years, meaning that the Cubs may just decide to non-tender him and not give him a pay raise, meaning that they will simply cut ties with him without any penalty to the franchise.

Wellington Castillo would provide an ample backup if the Cubs were to non-tender Hill, as he showed he can essentially provide the same production at a cheaper cost.

Castillo has showed flashes of power in his minor league career and even at the major league level this past summer, smashing five extra base hits in 20 at-bats. His main fault at the plate is a glaring lack of patience, as he walked only 7.7 percent of the time this past summer between Triple-A Iowa and a short showing with the Major League club.

I think Castillo can provide a more than serviceable backup to Geovany Soto and a viable replacement option for Koyie Hill.


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Finding the Answers at First for the Cubs

There has been a lot of traffic over the question of what exactly the Cubs are going to do at the first base position since Derrek Lee left the team.  There has been a lot of fanfare regarding Tyler Colvin’s move to first, but Mike Quade seems to have squelched that idea. So what are the Cubs to do? Well there are many options, some more possible than others.

Sign a Free Agent

This appears to be, by far, the laziest of any possible solutions. I mean it’s easy, right? Let’s just throw some money at the problem, and bring in a proven bat that would be sure to duplicate his typical numbers.

Well, first off, the Cubs have been weighed down by several albatross contracts as it is, and adding another would seem to be counterproductive. The only upside of going after a proven commodity would be that they would not have to surrender a first-round draft pick in exchange for signing a Type-A free agent.

But who would they pursue?

Adam Dunn (30 years old) has been a popular name tossed around. His left-handed power presence would add some punch to a soft-hitting Cubs line-up. Forget about the strike-outs, Dunn can rake. He hasn’t hit below 25 home runs since 2001, and he makes up his far below-average contact percent with a consistently patient approach.

While Dunn is far above-average with the stick, he is flat out dreadful with the glove. There is no position you can put Dunn where he can be league-average. Nowhere. While Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has been kind to him this year at first, he is a career -15.7 fielder there. 

Simply put, he is a DH bat, relegated to the American League, and the Cubs should not be tempted by his bat. Think about the effects that his poor glove would be on the rest of the infield. Starlin Castro, who already has throwing issues, would surely suffer. Aramis Ramirez had a erratic throwing arm, until he came to the Cubs with Derrek Lee on first; do you think that just went away?

Similar issues exist with the other free-agent first basemen. Paul Konerko is a good enough overall player, but why sign a 34 year-old first baseman when your team is three years away from competing?  Carlos Pena offers a power left-handed bat with a good glove, but again, he will be 33 next season.

All options require a lot of money, and probably a minimum of a three year contract.

Trade For an Established Player

Trading for a very good option at first would require sending a lot of prospects to land a piece you can truly build around.

Any trade involving a name such as Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, or Joey Votto would begin with Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson, and probably include Andrew Cashner or Josh Vitters. Other options to go alongside Castro in a trade would be Randy Wells, Jay Jackson, or Tyler Colvin, among others.

Those three are superstars within their own right, and would certainly provide a high amount of value to the position, but in a time where the Cubs have more holes than just first base, one of the easier positions to fill on a team, it doesn’t make any sense to drain a farm system to add one player in the current state of the franchise.

Look For the Solution From Within The Organization

As mentioned above, many fans are fond of the idea of Colvin playing first, and why not? Well, contrary to popular opinion, he may not have the bat for the job. Sure, he has hit for power this year, but it remains to be seen if he is just a flash in the pan, as he never had the minor league track record that reflected his major league production.

Why not move Aramis Ramirez across the diamond? While he has lost his quick step over the years, but he definitely has the quickness and glove to be at least an above-average defender at first. He also has a proven bat, and will be in a contract season next year.

If Ramirez moves over, 3B prospect Marquez Smith has shown he can be a decent enough major leaguer. Smith has been a monster in 240 at-bats in Peoria, hitting for a .417 wOBA. Peoria is not the best place to gauge major-league talent though; just ask Micah Hoffpauir.

If Smith figures to fill in at third for the year, that will give Josh Vitters a chance to have a full season of Double-A ball under his belt, clearing the way for a 2012 debut if he performs well.

2012 is (coincidentally) the same season that Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder (along with Aramis Ramirez) become free agents, if they do not get traded and/or sign extensions with their teams. 

With Ramirez’s money coming off the books, they could sign one of those two. This is very speculative, and probably not going to happen, but it happened with Soriano that way, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. In this scenario, however, you wouldn’t have to drop the truckload of prospects you would have to in a trade.

It’s Now, Or Never For Jim Henry

This will be the definitive offseason for Cubs GM Jim Hendry, as this stands as the biggest immediate concern for the Cubs. The first base situation isn’t like the second base one, where you can simply wait for something to happen. Hendry needs a plan for what he is going to do immediately at both corner infield positions, as Ramirez is clearly on his way out.

Cubs fans, and the new ownership will not put up with the solution of just pumping money into the position, as we have learned from our trials and tribulations of Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and even Kosuke Fukudome.

Hendry needs a well-developed solution to the future of first base, or it could set the Cubs back even further.

It seems that the hole Derrek Lee left is bigger than we initially realized.


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Why Is Marcos Mateo in the Big Leagues Right Now?

In light of my recent obsession with Cubs rookie pitchers, I’ve taken notice to yet another intriguing young arm. Marcos Mateo made his big league debut Aug. 8, and has enjoyed little to no success since then.

Mateo joined the Cubs’ system as a player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Buck Coats (remember him?) to Cincinnati in 2007. While the Cubs tried their hand at making Mateo a starter, it is clear his control issues limit him to a relief role.

The 26-year-old right-hander has shared time in the Cubs’ Rookie, Double-A, and Triple-A leagues this season before joining the Cubs’ major league team.

Mateo spent only 13.2 innings pitched at Triple-A this season. While Mateo was successful in that small sample, that is certainly a jump in competition.

To make the concern of proper development even worse, Mateo has spent a total of 49 days on the disabled list this season in the minors, fueling the debate that he may not be ready for big league competition.

As for Mateo’s performance in the majors, he leaves much to be desired. He is striking out batters at a very good clip (12.79 K/9), but he is walking batters at a rate that would make Carlos Marmol blush (7.11 BB/9).

He’s also tossing up homers like it’s going out of fashion (2.84 HR/9; 0.97 avg).

Mateo does, however, possess quite some potential out of the bullpen. Hitters are struggling to make contact with both his mid-90’s heater with run and sink, and his Marmol-like mid-80-mph diving slider.

The issue is that he just isn’t capable of commanding either pitch worthy enough for a big league spot. The thought here is that maybe he’ll just ‘figure it out’ at the majors, in a lost season for the Cubs.

While Mateo doesn’t have time on his side with his age, he should go back to Triple-A for the rest of the season to develop. He should use this season as a time to refine his pitches, not for a trial of fire at the big league level.

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Bullpen Excitement? Justin Berg Goes Down For Scott Maine

Yesterday’s transaction line for the Cubs showed a bit of an eye-opening move.

Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry exchanged one youthful left-handed specialist reliever for a righty with so-so stuff in a move that sent Justin Berg down to Triple-A Iowa for Scott Maine.

Berg has been a very big disappointment in his first try in the majors, sporting a 5.77 ERA to go along with his 2.88 strikeout per nine innings ratio.

To make matters worse than that terrible K/9 figure, he is walking a ton of batters, leading to a unthinkable 0.61 K/BB rate (2.15 average). 

It looks as though even though Berg is still young, 26, it looks as if his he doesn’t possess what it takes to be a major leaguer.

Berg wields a 90 mph-sinker with a below average slider. While he throws the sinker with good enough movement, it’s nowhere near good enough, or fast enough to throw it 83.6 percent of the time.

He isn’t making hitters swing and miss, and he doesn’t possess command good enough to cancel out his shortcomings with the strikeout.

The lefty who Hendry brought up in exchange for Berg, Scott Maine, looks like a solid bullpen arm.

Berg isn’t really a true left-handed specialist, in that he faced right-handed batters twice as often as lefties, but he is definitely more effective against southpaw batters.

Maine is good at making hitters pound the ball into the dirt with his fastball, and he puts away lefties with a nice slurve.

His arm slot (seen above) is also more effective against lefties, and he may struggle against big league right-handed batters because of that. 

Acquired in the deal that sent Aaron Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Maine has been an excellent bullpen arm for the Cubs’ minor league teams, even picking up a handful of saves here and there.

Maine has shown that he can be a solid strike-out threat to both lefties and righties, while limiting the walk and home run.

Walks can be a problem for him, but what power lefty doesn’t have problems with the walk? As he conditions himself to Major League competition, look for him to lower his walk rate. 

This was a move long coming, as Berg has not produced as a Chicago Cub. He is producing below replacement value (-0.3 WAR), and even worse, for being a rookie, he has shown he has limited potential.

Maine, on the other hand, may bring some value to the left-handed specialist spot that has been missing out of the Cubs’ bullpen for years.


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Casey Coleman’s Case for the Chicago Cubs’ 2011 Rotation

Cubs rookie pitcher Casey Coleman has enjoyed varying game-to-game success, inducing a plethora of ground balls and keeping the ball out of the air in general.

The 15th-round draft pick in 2008 doesn’t have blue-chip prospect “stuff,” but he can certainly provide some value out of the Cubs’ fifth spot in the rotation.

Coleman works with a solid two-seam fastball that hovers around 90 m.p.h., as does his four-seam fastball. His two-seamer has good run, which is where he gets his majority of ground balls, while his four-seamer has a bit more of a cutting action.

Cubs fans, if you are expecting the next coming of Randy Wells, you will be sorely mistaken. Coleman will never be a strikeout man, as his career K/9 in the minors was 5.00. Look for a poor man’s Derek Lowe or Tim Hudson as his career standard. Coleman is making hitters swing and miss only 5.2 percent of the time, compared to the league average 8.4 percent.

What Coleman can deliver is a lot of ground balls, while hopefully minimizing the home run. With a capable defense behind Coleman, he can become successful. If his infield defense fails him by not getting to ground balls, he will falter.

What Coleman needs to do is simply pitch to contact. That has been a struggle in and of itself thus far, as he is posting a below average Zone percentage (42.2 percent; 46.8 percent average). This leads to Coleman posting a Carlos Marmol-like walk per nine innings pitched (4.74).

To make matters worse, there is evidence of Coleman struggling with runners on base. His walk rate skyrockets and he is allowing more hits with runners on than with the bases empty. This hints at the idea of Coleman struggling to find comfort with a slide-step, or that he loses effectiveness and/or command with it. If that’s the case, he should just abandon the slide-step, a la Greg Maddux, and just focus on the batter and let his pitches induce a double play.

Coleman has much to learn in terms of pitch location and selection, but he looks like he has the tools to become a viable back-end starter. Time will tell if he adjusts to Major League hitting and avoids the walk. If he doesn’t, his career will be short in the show, and he will be a Triple-A career starter.

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Cubs Catcher Geovany Soto’s Quiet Season

Geovany Soto made a solid statement his 2008 rookie season, slugging his way to a .371 wOBA, third among Major League catchers (Brian McCann and Joe Mauer).

He also tied for the Major League lead among catchers with 23 home runs.

Soto followed his impressive rookie campaign with a pretty severe sophomore slump, much to the chagrin of Cubs fans and potential fantasy owners predicting him to repeat or build upon his first season. 

Soto hit for a mere .310 wOBA in his second season in the bigs and was hit with the recoil of working 141 games behind the plate his rookie year; he was hurt for a total of 37 days, including 31 days for an oblique strain.

The two seasons represented polar opposites of what you could expect from Soto. In 2008 his .219 Isolated Power Index (.150 average) was expected to be an absurd number from a catcher who spent hardly any time as a top prospect, and his .332 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was seen as another number that was due for regression.

Meanwhile, in 2009 his .246 BABIP was seen as a fluke compared to his minor league numbers, while increasing his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout rate.

This sentiment was shared by FanGraphs’ R.J. Anderson: “part of this is obviously regression and the other part is that he’s likely not a .371 wOBA hitter. The good news is, the answer is somewhere in between.”

Well, as it turns out, the answer wasn’t somewhere in between. This season, Soto continued to elevate his walk rate and make the most of his at-bats, specifically in working his way to hitter’s counts.

In 2010, Soto has been hitting for a .398 wOBA, tops among Major League catchers with 300 plate appearances. Fueling that number has been his improved power (.231 ISO) and an obscene .401 on-base percentage (.327 average).

So what’s the difference been between the three seasons where Soto has enjoyed polarizing performances?

The main support to Soto’s successes is very clear: It’s been his ability to hit the fastball.

In 2008, Soto hit fastballs for 16.9 runs above average (RAA). His second season, in which he had his sophomore slump, he hit fastballs again for an above average number—3.9—although this drop in production against the heater led to an increased vulnerability to sliders (-3.5 to -11.2 RAA) and curveballs (3.4 to -2.1 RAA).

This season, Soto has rediscovered his ability to hit the fastball, hammering them to a 20.7 RAA mark, best among Major League catchers; his off-speed production thus improved accordingly.

What is to blame for the dip in production following his Rookie of the Year campaign? It would be easy to say that his oblique issues were the cause of this, although Soto has been injured this season as well.

It remains to be seen if Soto will maintain the successes he enjoyed in 2008 and 2010 or regress to somewhere “in between” that production or the numbers he put up in 2008.

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Carlos Marmol Is Disgusting: Analyzing the Cubs Closer’s Incredible Year

To commemorate Carlos Marmol’s 100th strikeout this season, I’ve decided to highlight one of the few bright spots amid an awful season for the franchise.

Marmol, in his first full season as the team’s closer, has certainly showed why he should be among the game’s elite relievers.

Carlos Marmol’s 2010 campaign will be highlighted as a massive step forward in his career, as he eclipsed both the aforementioned 100 strikeout mark as well as the two WAR mark for the first time in his young career.

By far, the most frustrating aspect about Marmol’s game has been his inability to limit free passes. His BB/9 stood at 7.91 last season, the worst mark for a Major League reliever, and the primary reason his WHIP stood at an obnoxious 1.46. This season, he is limiting his walk rate to 5.82 BB/9—still among the worst in the majors, but obviously a vast improvement.

Marmol has always been the unhittable type, with a .182 career batting average against (BAA), and last season he had a .171 BAA. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season (.262) suggested that would regress to the norm a bit, so a slight rise in hits would be expected in the 2010 campaign.

Well, it has risen: .003 points, although his BABIP hasn’t stabilized—it skyrocketed to .360, suggesting hitters are getting lucky with a .174 BAA.

This year, Marmol is leading all Major League relievers with contact percentage, or rather non-contact percentage. His 60.6 percent contact rate is far below the 80.9 percent league average. To counter Marmol’s talents for missing bats, hitters are simply not swinging at his offerings, hoping to simply draw a walk.

That is how nastily Marmol is pitching this year; hitters are coming up to the plate with the intention of just watching him pitch, because they have no hope of getting a hit off him, or making any contact off him for that matter.

Carlos Marmol is dealing this year.

So what’s the change this year? For one, Marmol is getting ahead of batters. His career first strike percentage sits at a below average 53.5 percent, but this year he is throwing strike one 62.1 percent of the time, slightly above average. This has allowed Marmol to keep hitters off balance even more with his slider, which he throws 58.4 percent of the time. All of this leads up to a career-high 16.17 K/9 rate, the best in the majors by far.

Marmol has found a new secret to success, although it’s not really a secret to the rest of us: Miss bats, limit walks, and keep the ball on the ground, which he’s doing a bit better (career-high 38.5 ground ball percentage).

Carlos Marmol has established himself as a premier closer, which the Cubs have been searching dearly for for years now. Marmol looks to have gotten on the right track with some of his issues, particularly with walks. However, it remains to be seen if he can improve on this or if he’ll simply regress to his career norm.

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Breaking Down Alfonso Soriano’s 300 Home Runs

Lost in translation of the Cubs’ 10-5 loss to the White Sox was that Alfonso Soriano slugged his 300th home run in the second inning to tie the game, shooting the Cubs’ win probability up from 38.2 percent to 55.2 percent.

Randy Wells proceeded to give the game away in the fifth inning, leaving the Cubs’ win probability at 19.2% when he left the game, and soon after a parade of average to below average relief pitchers (with the exception of Tom Gorzelanny) followed to make matters worse. Before the Cubs recorded an out in the eighth, their win probability was a hopeless 0.2 percent.

While the Cubs’ loss reflects their recent bullpen problems, Soriano’s career home run achievement should not be forfeited to the liner notes.

In his 12 year career, Alfonso Soriano has managed five 4.0+ WAR seasons (including a 6.9 WAR season with Washington), and has been rightly considered a superstar due to his considerable talents as a power/speed threat. He posted four 30/30 seasons, and one 40/40 season. His power/speed score, according to Baseball Reference, stands as the fifth best of active players, and 32nd best all-time.

Since starring for the Yankees in 2001, Soriano has posted above average home run marks, especially during his time as a second baseman. He hit a homer every 20 at bats during this time, besting Ryne Sandberg (28) and Jeff Kent at the position.

Over the course of his career, Soriano has hit 107 home runs in the first inning, including 54 lead-off homers. He prefers the first two pitches of the at-bat, accumulating 144 homers before strike two or ball two is called.

Of all the pitchers Soriano has hit a home run off, CC Sabathia stands alone as his most susceptible home run victim, with the Baltimore Orioles being the team he most prefers to hit long balls against.

Although his bat appears to be on the decline, Soriano has established himself as an above-average major leaguer over the course of his career, and should continue to contribute at least a couple more seasons of  a 2+ WAR.

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