Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Forgot Fox?

Either the Sun-Times forgot to mention him, or Chad Fox is out of the running for the bullpen.

In a Twitter update today, the Sun-Times (@cst_cubs) says the last 'pen spots will be given to two of four Cub pitchers: Jeff Samardzija, Angel Guzman, Chad Gaudin, and David Patton.

It seems almost certain that Jeff will go to Triple A, and the Cubs are basically left with one decision: which of Guzman, Gaudin, and Patton do the Cubs want to give up?

I'm thinking Guzman is gone. Wonder if Hendry can get anything for him.

Perhaps the Rockies would accept Guzman for the rights to Patton, so he could be stashed in the minors in the case that he's not quite ready for the majors.

Should the Cubs take that trade, Guzman for Patton?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gaudin May Not Fit In Cubs Pen

It appears the Cubs have a problem.

As the team decides on its 25-man roster for Opening Day 2009, several pitchers are making things tough on Chicago's management. Some of those pitchers, like the young David Patton and veteran Chad Fox, have been thoroughly impressive throughout the month of March.

Others have been flat out disappointing.

Angel Guzman, a talented pitcher that has battled injuries throughout his professional career, can't quite seem to get it together. Jeff Samardzija, a fan favorite from 2008, has appeared hittable, and may benefit from more time in the minors.

And then there's Chad Gaudin.

Gaudin is currently sporting a 10.54 ERA this spring, with only nine strikeouts, and an equal number of walks, collected over 13.2 innings. His 20 hits allowed give him a WHIP well above 2.00.

Also noteworthy: the fact that Gaudin ended the 2008 season with 17 earned runs allowed over 15.2 innings.

Simply put, Chad's been bad.

Fortunately for the Cubs, it hasn't always been this way. Fans may recall Gaudin's July performance from this past year. During that time, Chad allowed only three earned runs over 14 innings, while posting a 1.00 WHIP and getting a strikeout per inning.

It's this previous success that will likely earn Gaudin a spot on the Cubs' Opening Day roster this year. There's also the added pressure from the fact that Gaudin is out of options, meaning he will immediately be made available to all major league teams if not kept on the Cubs major league roster throughout this season.

If Gaudin is in fact listed on the 25-man roster, the Cubs will instead say goodbye to Guzman, who is also out of options. On the other hand, the Cubs may want to avoid the risk of Gaudin's underperforming in meaningful games, and attempt to package him with Guzman for prospects that could be stashed in the farm system.

If Gaudin fails to make the team, watch for Patton and Fox, who have earned a second look for 2009, to make some April appearances to try to prove their worth to the team. Behind those pitchers are Samardzija and Iowa prospect Kevin Hart, both high-potential strikeout machines that could contribute to the big league club in 2009.

The roster: all but final

I've updated the feature on the right side of the blog to list the entire 25-man roster, instead of guessing at a few key spots.

I'm pretty sure David Patton and Chad Gaudin will get the last two spots on the pitching roster, and Jeff Samardzija will be sent to Iowa. I'm also pretty sure Gaudin will be the first to go if he doesn't shape up soon. Kevin Hart and Samardzija will be ready soon.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Chicago Cubs. Thoughts?

Hill wins job; non-pitching roster set

Koyie Hill has won the backup catching job.

Guess I shouldn't have switched horses midstream. Apparently Lou likes the upside on Hill's bat; he did hit 17 Triple-A home runs last season (right?).

Does anyone know where to find spring training data on throwing runners out?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Post-cut update

More cuts today.

With Blanco and German gone, the position player side of the 25-man roster is all but final. The cubs will carry six infielders (Lee, Hoffpauir, Fontenot, Miles, Theriot, Ramirez), five outfielders (Bradley, Fukudome, Soriano, Johnson, Gathright), and two catchers.

One of those catchers will be Geo Soto. The other is still TBD.

Koyie Hill has had an outstanding spring, but Paul Bako is the veteran, and has turned it on near the end. Hill's advantage in spring offensive statistics is now only slight.

Because of their convergence in terms of spring offense, I'm going to promote Bako to "Last Hitter In." Because neither candidate for backup catcher will be contributing much offensively, I've got to assume Lou will go with the guy that has caught far more major league games, that can probably offer some advice to the young Geo Soto during the regular season.

The pitching side of this discussion is a bit more complex. I'll address it in a separate post/article.

Gregg named closer

Kevin Gregg will be the closer to begin the 2009 season for the Cubs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gaud-in, Gaud-out?

Chad's getting hit up again.

I realize the guy's out of options, and would go on waivers if he's not on the major league roster. But really, what has he done this spring to earn his spot? He keeps giving up hits and walks! Gah!

Also, what's with the Rockies running all over him? Of the four base-runners Gaudin allowed today, three of them managed to steal second. Soto's got a good arm; what's Chad doing out there?

While it'd be a shame to see the Cubs spend $5 million on relievers they don't even use (Gaudin along with Luis Vizcaino), there's a good chance that Kevin Hart, Jeff Samardzija, or David Patton will take one or two of those guys' spots before we're through this season.

Waddell, Scales cut

Looks like Lou won't be needing that second lefty.

Jason Waddell has been cut from camp, along with Bobby Scales, a long-time minor leaguer looking to break into the majors this season.

They aren't leaving me much to work with in the In N' Out section, so I've adjusted accordingly.

With Waddell out, and considering the options picture, I'm thinking the last three bullpen spots will almost certainly be going to Luis Vizcaino, Chad Gaudin, and David Patton. Gaudin will be designated the long man, and shouldn't be used in any close game in April. Vizcaino will not face lefties, and Patton will probably have a pretty short leash.

Jeff Samardzija may yet beat out David Patton for the 12th pitching spot, but the organization will probably stick Jeff in AAA to stretch him out as a starter.

As far as I'm concerned, today's cut of Waddell is indicative of where Lou wants to go with the entire 25-man roster. For all intents and purposes, the Cubs are all set.

Vizcaino: in or out?

Yesterday, Carrie Muskat of cubs.com seemed to suggest Luis Vizcaino was a lock for the 'pen (see below). However, in a subsequent article on the same day, Carrie writes:

Who pitches ahead of Gregg or Marmol is still to be determined. Aaron Heilman and Neal Cotts are set. That means there are three openings, and Piniella said Monday there's no consensus on his staff.

So, we're back to three openings, I guess. I'm going to leave Vizcaino as in, because I really think he is.

Just throwing that out there.

Fox, Fuld cut

Jake Fox and Sam Fuld are gone. Both were long shots to make the 25th spot on the roster, but will certainly be kept in mind over the course of the season, and could very likely see playing time in the majors before the end of the regular season.

Based on the Cubs' needs, as well as players actually remaining in camp, I've upgraded Nate Spears and Esteban German on the In N' Out feature. I still think Hill, Gath, and Hoff are the last three additions to the 25-man roster, but based on today's cuts, it looks like Scales, Spears and German have the best chances at beating out one of those guys.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Options" and the 2009 Cubs

The question of options is certainly a complicating one. Since it will undoubtedly have a strong effect on the Cubs' personnel decisions this month, let's take a quick look at what that effect might be.

In baseball, the options system prevents teams from stockpiling talent in their minor league systems. Each player has a limited number of "option" years; when those run out, that player must either be permanently included on the major league roster, or he's made available to the rest of the league.

Three Cubs pitchers vying for the two remaining bullpen spots are out of options: Angel Guzman, Chad Gaudin, and Jason Waddell. If Lou doesn't carry these guys on the 25-man roster, they'll be fair game for every other team in MLB.

Options aside, I think Hart and Waddell are the best choices for the 11th and 12th spots on the pitching staff. However, I could very easily see a scenario where the Cubs decide to keep Gaudin on staff while Hart hones his craft in the minors during another option year, and avoiding the options problem.

As a final note, the options issue essentially makes Samardzija-to-Triple A a no-brainer, since Jeff does have options remaining at this point.

Update from Muskat: Vizcaino in

Via her newest Inbox, Cubs writer Carrie Muskat is reporting that Luis Vizcaino is indeed a lock for the bullpen; I've updated the "In N' Out" feature with Luis' name in bold. Writes Muskat:

The relievers who are set include Gregg, Marmol, Neal Cotts, Heilman, Vizcaino and most likely Gaudin. I'm guessing Patton and Jeff Samardzija are competing for that final spot.

So Carrie has my "first three out" as her "last two in." She does give Jason Waddell some press as well, however:

Waddell does not have options left and would give the Cubs another lefty.

For the sake of cohesion, I'm going to post the options discussion separately. In the meantime, let's stick to the facts: Luis Vizcaino appears a lock for the 2009 Cubs bullpen.

Quick update: "last six in"

Things have been slow at the blog, but it should pick up this week.

At the very least, I expect announcements on 1) the backup catching spot and 2) Lou's preferred closer very soon.

However, as March winds down, we've still got six spots to fill on the 25-man roster.

I wrote an article for the Bleacher Report that was much more in-depth than this blog post, so if you need a little more convincing on why things are how they are, take a look.

For the sake of freshness, though, I've added a short list to the right side of the blog that mirrors the way college basketball analysts handle the "bubble" as the tournament field is decided upon.

I've got a "last three in" and "first three out," for both hitters and pitchers. If you agree and/or disagree with my assessment, please feel free to say so.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who's the fifth?

"Here's what we now know: the Cubs will carry 12 pitchers, and that includes starters Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden and Marshall. Piniella said five other pitchers have secured spots in the bullpen." - Carrie Muskat, cubs.com

Carrie goes on to list Gregg, Marmol, Heilman and Cotts as four of the five.

I think I know who the fifth lock is.

On March 8th, Kevin Hart allowed two walks and two hits, including a home run, in one inning against the Texas Rangers.

Since then, Kevin's pitched four and a third innings. Here's his line in that time:

4.1 IP, 0 walks, 0 hits, 8 strikeouts.

That's called "getting the job done," and that's called "winning a spot on the Opening Day roster," depending on how literal you like to be.

Let's throw this out there as my fourth evaluation of the position battles in Mesa: Kevin Hart appears to have pitched his way on to the major league roster to begin 2009.

2-for-2: Heilman to pen indeed

It's official.

With Lou pulling today's starting pitcher, Aaron Heilman, in the middle of the fourth inning, every Cub fan out there had to be thinking that Lou had finally made up his mind on who would be the fifth starter going into 2009.

Indeed he had. Heilman will pitch from the 'pen, and Sean Marshall will be your fifth starter.

Does this impact Jason Waddell's chances of making the Opening Day roster, now that Neal Cotts is currently slated to be the only lefty option out of the pen?

For today's "bullpen picks du jour," I'm going with Waddell, Kevin Hart, and Luis Vizcaino behind Gregg, Marmol, Heilman, and Cotts in the 'pen.

I'll be looking to maintain my 1.000 batting average with Lou's next official roster-related announcement (ORRA?), which I expect to be made regarding Koyie Hill's spot as the backup catcher.

In-game update: Heilman to pen

Aaron Heilman got the start again today down in AZ. He faced a pretty lackluster lineup from Seattle, who are playing split-squad games today.

On the one hand, Heilman's outs have continued to be good ones: 3 strikeouts and 6 ground outs, against only 2 fly outs. Remember, us Cub fans should love Ks and GOs because of the way the wind at Wrigley can carry out fly balls like Domino's pizza in a college town at midnight (too far on that one?).

However, Heilman appears to have gotten into a bit of trouble in the fourth inning, being yanked for Randy Wells in the middle of the inning. That doesn't sound like something Lou would do if Heilman were still being considered for the fifth starting spot.

You may call it minor, and you may think this was already clear, but I'll just go ahead and re-state the potentially obvious: Heilman is in the 'pen, and Marshall is starting.

In other news, I can't believe it's taken me this long to notice that "Heilman's" looks like a brand of mayonaisse.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SCGTTA, Part 2

Another awful outing from Chad Gaudin.

Chad managed to give up 2 runs in just one inning of work today. This guy is making every effort at getting himself off the major league roster before Opening Day.

In other news, Kevin Hart threw a perfect inning that included 2 strikeouts. At this point, I would say Hart is ahead of Gaudin on the depth chart for the bullpen.

From this point on, let's call 9 spots on the pitching staff locks: the four definite starters, Marshall and Heilman, Marmol and Gregg, and Neal Cotts.

After today, my "last three in" would be: Kevin Hart, David Patton, and Luis Vizcaino.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SPBH! Hill is hitting

Send Paul Bako Home! (Still not as catchy as BAM!, I guess.)

Anyways, Koyie Hill is now 3-for-3 on the day, with a home run. The 17 home runs he hit at AAA last season seem to suggest this power is, at least to a small extent, for real.

On the other hand, Paul Bako's offense has been mostly non-existent this spring, coming up with just three singles in 18 at-bats.

With 2B and the fifth starter locked up, I'm gonna go ahead and call this position battle a done deal as well: Koyie Hill will be the backup catcher for the Cubs in 2009.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A quick reminder

Following up on the most recent post here at BAM!, which celebrated the achievement of our #1 goal, I'd like to remind readers that the show will go on here at the ol' blog.

Previously, I had a list of about 15 different position battles we might write about at some point during the regular season. Now, I'd like to highlight one particular discussion that I think will attract strong debate and readership to the site.

I think Mike Fontenot's 2009 season will be better than Mark DeRosa's.

Having written that, thanks to everyone who voted in the poll. Shame on you, Miles supporters! We've got another poll up now, so keep clicking as Opening Day approaches.

Go Cubs.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

BAM! Lou agrees.

Mike Fontenot will start at 2nd. Awesome.

That is all.

And I quote--

"We are going to take the best pitchers north, so if Samardzija does not get the fifth spot, he will get all the consideration in the world in the bullpen... But let's see how the organization feels. The organization has a say in that also." - Lou Piniella (credit to the Tribune for the quotes)

I have a good feeling the "organization" is going to want Samardzija starting in Iowa to begin the year. So where does that leave the bullpen?

That's really the next big question for the Cubs, as it appears Sean Marshall has basically locked up the fifth starting spot.

If Marshall does in fact win the 5-spot, it's tough luck for Aaron Heilman. Of course, it's a near certainty that the Cubs will need a sixth starting pitcher at some point in the season. But I can't imagine it's easy, much less fun, to switch from reliever to starter, and back again to reliever, within a season. If both Heilman and Samardzija succeed in their respective roles to begin 2009, it may be wise to keep Heilman in the pen and call up Samardzija for spot starts.

If Heilman is in fact kept in the bullpen throughout the year, that will have locked up three of seven available spots. That leaves four more slots for Chad Gaudin, Luis Vizcaino, Kevin Hart, Angel Guzman, Neal Cotts, and Jason Waddell. Furthermore, I guess Jose Ascanio, Ken Kadokura, David Patton and Mike Stanton continue to see innings at this point.

Anyone have any idea on who gets the last four spots? I'd guess Gaudin, Guzman, Cotts, and Waddell. At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised to see three of those four guys miss the boat.

I guess we'll have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, Lou should bench Aaron Miles.

Friday, March 13, 2009

SCGTTA! Not as catchy, but...

Send Chad Gaudin To Triple A!

After today's awful performance, it's looking more and more like Chad Gaudin will not have a place on the major league roster come April.

Many Cub fans, myself included, viewed Gaudin as a useful backup starter when he was acquired in the Harden trade. Gaudin does have a decent career ERA as a starter, and has relieved in the majors as well.

But ever since his "accident" (something about alcohol, a dumpster, and falling on his ass?), Gaudin's been pretty useless. Furthermore, I would contend that Gaudin's struggles were fairly apparent even before that incident.

In 2007, Gaudin had a 4.50 BB/9 rate. In other words, he walked a batter every two innings. To me, the only time a walk rate like that is acceptable is when the pitcher has a hard fastball, and just guns it up to the mound at 100mph without really locating. In Gaudin's case, however, there isn't a powerful fastball to match the high walk rate.

In fact, Gaudin doesn't really get many strikeouts at all. Worst of all, in 2006, Gaudin had more walks than strikeouts. In the big leagues, that's just not gonna work.

Both Gaudin and recently acquired Luis Vizcaino are giving youngsters (yeah, I just said youngsters) like Kevin Hart, Angel Guzman, and everyone's favorite, Jeff Samardzija, to start 2009 with the big league club. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Checking back in with Heilman

In a previous post regarding the battle for the fifth rotation spot, I mentioned that I'd be keeping an eye on Aaron Heilman. I wanted him to continue to get strikeouts, and keep the ball down.

Yesterday, Heilman pitched three innings, got five strikeouts, and four ground outs.

The closeness of this race reminds me of last year, when Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Jon Lieber were gunning for two rotation spots. Even though Lieber arguably had a much better spring than Marquis, his willingness to pitch from the bullpen appeared to be one of the final determinants in how the pitching staff was set up for Opening Day.

I have a sneaking suspicion Marshall will end up in the bullpen, and Heilman will be the fifth starter. Of course, it's only March 11th, but I figured I'd put my prediction out there early so you people could disagree with me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do we already know the line-up?

With word today at Cubs.com saying Kosuke Fukudome will hit 2nd in the Cubs lineup for 2009, I'm starting to get the feeling that Lou has a 1-8 in mind already.

Lou seems pretty intent on making the most of the balance this new Cub team has. Based on everything Lou's said about the line-up so far, I'm pretty sure we'll see something like this on Opening Day against Roy Oswalt (2008 slash lines in parenths):

1. Soriano (.280/.344/.542)
2. Fukudome (.257/.359/.379)
3. Lee (.291/.361/.462)
4. Bradley (.321/.436/.563)
5. Ramirez (.289/.380/.518)
6. Fontenot (.305/.395/.514)
7. Soto (.285/.364/.504)
8. Theriot (.307/.387/.359)
9. Zambrano (.337/.337/.554)

I mean, really, I'm fine with that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

BAM! Mike Fontenot doesn't suck

Fontenot today: 2-3, 2R, 2RBI, a double and a homer.

If my math is right, his slugging percentage is now .800 after today's crushes.

Miles' slugging is less than .200 as of right now.

I cannot conceive of a world in which Mike Fontenot doesn't start at 2B on Opening Day 2009.

BAM! Aaron Miles sucks

Just a brief update from me today ...

As of this morning, Mr. Aaron Miles is batting .208 (5 for 24) with no extra bases on the Cubs Spring Training squad.

Lil' Mike Fontenot, who has seen 3 more at bats than Miles, is batting .333 with 2 doubles, 2 triples, and a homer.

Miles just might be an ideal choice to be the top bench guy due to his versatility in the field and at the plate, but if anybody actually believes that he should start over Mike Fontenot, then they've been smoking from the crack rock of deception. I also have to suspect at this point that it's not even a competition - Fontenot will get the gig. If somehow opening day rolls around and Mike Fontenot is in the dugout watching Miles field grounders at second, then a great attrocity has occurred.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A New BAM! Topic: The 5th Starter

Today marks BAM!'s first attempt at analyzing a position battle for the 2009 Cubs that doesn't involve Aaron Miles.

After his performance on Sunday, it appears Sean Marshall is going to be difficult to overtake in the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. Just like in 2008, Sean has done everything asked of him, and more.

Of course, the Cubs will likely need to decide on at least a sixth starter, and perhaps a seventh.

I'll be keeping an eye on Aaron Heilman's next few spring starts. I really enjoyed his last start, for a number of reasons.

First, if I'm not mistaken, I thought I saw three good pitches from him: the fastball, the change-up, and the slider. The break on the slider was outstanding, and the change-up was really working.

Perhaps more importantly, however, I was impressed with Heilman's location. He was absolutely keeping the ball down, which is crucial for pitching in Wrigley.

In his next few appearances, I'm going to continue to watch for Heilman's ability to keep the ball down, and get strikeouts. I'm almost certain he'll have an opportunity to start a few games this year; I hope he does well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Benefit of Benching Aaron Miles

According to cubs.com, Lou wants another infielder. But do we really need one?

From my understanding, it seems that Lou is fretting about depth at third base. If Aramis Ramirez doesn't start there, who does?

Let's look at what the Cubs have done with 3B over the past two years, data courtesy of Fangraphs.

In 2007, Ramirez started only 126 games at 3B. DeRosa got 31 starts at third in '07; Ryan Theriot had 4 starts; and Ronny Cedeno had 1.

In 2008, A-Ram started 147 games at third. Aside from him, Mark DeRosa saw 10 starts there, and Casey McGehee (now a Brewer) got the other 4. Remember, the Cubs played only 161 games last year.

From these numbers, it looks like the Cubs are going to need someone to replace A-Ram at third for somewhere between 15 and 30 games for 2009.

Sounds like a job for Aaron Miles to me. He isn't a phenomenal defensive third baseman, but he's at least able. More importantly, however, it isn't going to matter much over the course of 20 games.

This is a big reason why Hendry's move to free up salary by downgrading at the utility position from Mark DeRosa to Miles was a prudent one. DeRosa was not a stellar defensive 2nd baseman; in fact, he wasn't spectacular at any one position. His value lied in his versatility.

That's what Miles should be for the 2009 Cubs - an able-bodied veteran that can fill in at a number of positions. 3rd base is almost certainly one of those positions. Assuming Lou doesn't tire him out with too many starts at 2nd, he should be perfect for the job.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Secondary BAM! Mission Statement

Hopefully, we're getting an extra bump in traffic thanks to BAM!'s "sponsorship" of the new format over at GROTA (which, IMHO, looks awesome).

Hopefully, our new readers are enjoying the existing content regarding Aaron Miles' appropriate role with the Cubs (that is, as an occaisional starter/bench player).

To everyone that's been keeping an eye on the site over the past several days, allow me to say thank you. Your readership is much appreciated. To the newbies, I urge you to keep an eye on what's going on over here at BAM!.

In asking for your continued readership, there's something I should point out in terms of "keeping it interesting" over the course of the season. Of course, there's a very high probability that Aaron Miles is, in fact, benched before the 2009 regular season begins.

You may ask: what will BAM! do if their goal is achieved so quickly? To keep the new content flowing, I expect this site to expand its general focus within one specific topic.

For 2009 and beyond, BAM! will aim to be one of the premiere blogs for the analysis of, and discussion about, position battles for your Chicago Cubs. Potential topics for 2009 include:
  • The battle for backup catcher.
  • The organization's final choices on the back-end of the rotation, and their impact on Jeff Samardzija.
  • A continued watch on playing time in the middle infield.
  • Keeping an eye on Mike Fontenot's production compared to that of 2008 Cub fan favorite, Mark DeRosa.
  • Evaluating Lou's decision on an eventual backup at 3B.
  • Looking at how much playing time Micah Hoffpauir is getting at first.
  • Considering all of Lou's options in the outfield.

Really, there's a ton to talk about beyond Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot. And I promise you, we'll talk about it.

In the meantime, I encourage readers to leave comments on this post to dictate the course of our continuing discussion. Got a strong opinion about the fifth starter? Do you see any reason to keep Paul Bako on board? When will Micah Hoffpauir finally get a chance to start regularly?

Thanks again to everyone for stopping by. I hope you continue to enjoy Bench Aaron Miles!

Monday, March 2, 2009

An admittedly small sample size, but...

Through the Cubs' first five games of Spring Training, the results are pretty alright for fans of the BAM! method.

Given the small number of at bats each player has had, as well as the varied quality of pitching faced at this stage, we shouldn't read too much into the numbers. However, I give you the following slashes:

Mike Fontenot - .417/.462/1.000 (that's right - Mike's got a base for every at-bat)
Aaron Miles - .222/.300/.222

Mike's got two doubles, a triple (!), and a home run.

Aaron's got two singles. Cute.

If the everyday starting spot at 2nd base is indeed a job to be won, then at this point, Mike's gotta be WAY out in front.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Miles On Miles

Busy weekend; sorry, readers. Fortunately, Aaron Miles & Co. have gotten some press while I've been occupied. I direct you to a column about Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles, written by Bruce Miles of the Chicago Daily Herald.

Coming up this week: a look at Mike Fontenot's first five games this spring. So far, so good.