Category Archives: Uncategorized

Zack Greinke: Worth it for the Brewers?

The Milwaukee Brewers got bold and more or less went all in prior to 2011 by dealing a good chunk of their farm system for starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. In the process they lost a number of prospects, including Alcides Escobar (Royals) and Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays) who are having good 2012 seasons.

The Brewers went for broke, and it nearly worked. Image courtesy bleacherreport.com.

Now, just a season and a half later, Greinke is an Angel. So was it worth for the Brewers?

In getting Greinke the Brewers gave up a major league ready shortstop in Escobar, who had shown a great glove but uncertain bat in his lone full season in Milwaukee (.235/.288/.326 in 2010). Escobar now has paired that still excellent glove with a solid bat, and is turning in a fringe All-Star type season in 2012 (.301/.341/.414, 4 HR, 23 2B). Would he be an upgrade over Alex GonzalezCody Ransom and Cesar Izturis? Absolutely.

But that doesn’t mean the Brewers made the wrong choice, even if Jake Odorizzi and Lorenzo Cain (the other players in that trade that remain with the Royals) turn into productive big leaguers.

Doug Melvin and the Brewers front office knew they had a rare opportunity with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun both on the roster. After locking up Braun the writing was on the wall that despite Milwakuee’s best efforts, Fielder would almost certainly leave after the 2011 season. Knowing they’d have at least one season with two MVP-caliber bats in the lineup, the Brewers went for broke in dealing for starting pitching to round out the team.

In the end it worked out for Milwaukee, even if they didn’t end up with a World Series title in 2011. They were able to win the Central Division behind an excellent season from Greinke in which he pitched 170 innings and  posted a 2.98 FIP and ridiculous 10.54 K/9 rate. This got them into the crapshoot that is the MLB playoffs, and they even won the NLDS (even if he himself didn’t have a good postseason).

The Brewers had a rare shot to field a complete team that was actually capable of winning the World Series, and they took a shot. You can’t fault them for that, even if they lost a few potential starters for a season and a half of Greinke. The haul they got for Greinke is considered solid but not spectacular, and they still can recoup some of their losses if one or more of those players becomes a contributor.

 

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How we’ve gotten here: Infield edition

The tumbleweeds have been rolling through the barren wasteland that’s been Redline Roundup the past few months. And although Cubs baseball has continued to go on, it too has been a barren wasteland.

But as the unofficial second half of the season gets underway, Redline Roundup is back. As we look to repopulate the site and turn it into a bustling Internet metropolis of Cubs content, let’s look at what has gone on with the infield so far this season.

You can’t know where you are going unless you know where you’ve been, even if it’s the bottom of the NL, right?


First base
Starts: Bryan LaHair (50), Jeff Baker (20), Anthony Rizzo (16), Steve Clevenger (3)

Comment: Even though a 2012 NL All-Star first baseman is among that foursome, his isn’t the name that certainly caused sheer excitement to pump through your veins a moment ago upon seeing it. Yes, Jeff Baker Anthony Rizzo has been the biggest story this year, even before he put in two solid weeks of play.

If you’ve read this far into this post you’ve read, heard and thought about Rizzo enough already and we won’t go into him again here. Suffice it to say that whether he continues to play well or not, he is the Cubs first baseman the rest of the way. LaHair was a good placeholder (in April), and a more than adequate one the rest of the first half. Baker has shown life against lefties lately, so he’ll likely find his way into the lineup, but not at first.

Second base
Starts: Darwin Barney (80), Adrian Cardenas (4), Blake DeWitt (4), Baker (1)

Comment: Second base has been cut-and-dry, Barney is the man there and it appears he will be the rest of the way. He has good range and a 76-game errorless streak going right now. His OBP and SLG are below league average and his AVG is barely above it. But he may be trending in the right direction as he’s cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walk rate this year. Ideally, Barney probably backs up the middle infield on a contender. But for now he is far from the problem for the Cubs.

If the future unfolds the way we all want it to, Cardenas will have a significant distinction: it was his roster spot that Rizzo took when he came up at the end of June. DeWitt finds himself in Iowa and likely won’t be heard from again.

Shortstop
Starts: Starlin Castro (88), Barney (1)

Comment: Here’s another position where there this nothing to say, and shouldn’t be for many years. Castro was an All-Star for the second year in a row and is a foundation piece for the team. But there are concerns.

The next step in his offensive development is and has been patience, but Castro’s walked rate has actually decreased the past two seasons. He’s also experiencing a bit of a power outage. Last season he hit 36 doubles, but more than halfway through this season he’s got only 10. So everything is not peachy with the man who was Anthony Rizzo before Anthony Rizzo.

Still, Castro is in the top 10 in hits in the NL (103) and with a hot couple of months could again top 200. And he’s 22, let’s not forget that.

Third base
Starts: Ian Stewart (49), Luis Valbuena (26), Joe Mather (13), Cardenas (1)

Comment: Through 89 games the Cubs are no closer to finding a permanent third baseman than they were when Aramis Ramirez left. Whereas the “change in scenery” trade has actually worked for Tyler Colvin (.294/.329/.527, 13 HR’s), it has not for Stewart (.201/.292/.335, 5 HR’s). A few of his home runs (his calling card) did go a long way, but they were few and far between. He’s apparently done for the season with a wrist injury that plagued him last season as well. We’ll see if the Cubs give him another chance next season. He does play solid defense.

Valbuena has been an upgrade over Stewart offensively, but that isn’t saying much. He is probably more suited as a backup second baseman and pinch hitter, as he does have fairly good pop for a middle infield-type.

Brewers 2, Cubs 1 – Instant Analysis

This team sucks.

 

4/11 Quick Hitters – A couple of losses and John Grisham live at Wrigley

Just a couple of thoughts from the last two games against the Brewers:

1. If it’s possible to beat a dead horse 5 games into the season, that dead horse is the Cubs’ anemic offense.  Right now the Cubs are averaging a miniscule 3.60 runs per game.  Sticking with the theme of looking for isolated glimmers of hope amongst an abyss of mediocrity: after zero home runs in the first series the Cubs have hit three over the last two games. That’s not too shabby, and the fact that all three homers have been solo shots is a bit unlucky.  Continuing to hit a few homers, and hitting them with a runner or two on base, should help boost the runs per game number.

2. After a terrible first inning, Paul Maholm settled down and was basically effective for a few more innings.  Sadly for the Cubs, 5 runs is a big, deep hole for this team (see above) and it proved to be too much in the end  Early April games are notorious for pitching lines like Maholm produced (4IP, 6H, 6ER, 2HR, 2BB) so I will refrain from a rush to judgment for the time being.

Ryan Dempster will take the mound this afternoon against Yovani Gallardo.  Also John Grisham will be throwing out the first pitch and doing the 7th inning stretch.  Surely this is a promotional stunt related to his new book Calico Joe, which was released yesterday.  A brief glance at the product description informs that the book is about a hot-shot prospect for the Chicago Cubs who makes a big splash…until something bad happens.  I had to double-check and make sure this was in fact a fiction book, as the memories of Bobby Hill and Felix Pie, among many many others, led me to believe this might just be a “based on a true story book.”  Grisham is a devoted fan of the Cardinals, but without the chance to read the book yet, it’s unclear whether this will be a noticeable part of the plot.  Let’s hope not.

Cubs 4, Nats 3 – Instant Analysis

So, the Cubs aren’t going to go 0-162.  It’s an Easter Miracle!

Seriously though, what an outing by Jeff Samardzija.  So glad Marmol held on for the victory.  While the first series was definitely disappointing, considering we very well should be 3-0, and instead are 1-2, a couple of successful series against the Brewers and the Cardinals would definitely go a long way in making up for the underwhelming start to the season.

So go ahead and tune in for the Monday Night game on ESPN tomorrow night and let’s hope for the start to a win streak!!

“Losing is a Disease” – Instant Analysis: Nats 7, Cubs 4

As Roy Hobbs learned, losing is a disease.
Credit: http://nbcprohockeytalk.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/losing.jpg

From The Natural:

“We must begin by asking it…”What is losing?”  Losing is a disease…as contagious as polio.  Losing is a disease…as contagious as syphilis. Losing is a disease…as contagious as bubonic plague... attacking one…but infecting all.  But curable.”

Well, it may have been a different day, but it was certainly the same story.  The Cubs batters clearly read our Piecemeal Preview for today’s game  and went about chasing Gio Gonzalez in the 4th inning.  A string of two-out hits in the 4th, highlighted by Reed Johnson’s two RBI triple, put the Cubs in the driver’s seat.

But alas, once the game was turned over to the bullpen, things went south in hasty fashion.  It must be said that Rafael Dolis did a nice job in the 7th, and Kerry Wood actually was looking very sharp before surrendering the two-out bomb to David Espinosa that served as the catalyst for a 5-run 8th inning.  After hesitating the other day, perhaps it is time to castigate Carlos Marmol.  Marmol was his typically wild self, giving up a couple of hits, a couple of walks, and a couple of earned runs without recording an out.  Shawn Camp did well finishing things off once the game was already lost.  I know there will be calls to give Camp an elevated role (which he very well might deserve), but for me at least, his performance today offers little in the way of predictive value for future performance since he came in after the game had been blown wide open.

And so, returning to opening quote from The Natural.  Theo, Jed, this is what you’ve gotten yourselves into.  The last sentence of the quote is very short, stating in two simple words (“But curable”) that losing is not an ailment without a panacea.  Simple words yes, but many Cubs’ fans would probably choose to punctuate that sentence with a question mark instead of a period.  Here we stand, two games in and one hundred-sixty to go and the one constant remains:  the Cubs’ unflagging ability to lose, their indefatigable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.    Two very nice starting pitching performances, yet Dempster and Garza have both been let down by the bullpen in characteristically frustrating style.  So,  Theo and Jed, your job isn’t just about making all the right personnel moves, it’s about inspiring hope in a fan base and showing us that the final sentence in that quote is indeed a statement and not a question.

Piecemeal Preview – Weekend Series: In Search of Offense (and wins)

Our Piecemeal Preview Series offers a haphazard glance at an upcoming game or series.  Not a comprehensive preview; instead only a handful of relevant (or irrelevant) topics will be touched upon.

The Cubs complete the first series of the season with a couple of afternoon games against the Washington Nationals.

On Saturday (12:05) Matt Garza will take the mound, looking to help the Cubs get back to .500 and also get his second season with the team off to a good start.  Garza was easily the Cubs’ best starting pitcher last season with a solid ERA (3.32) and superior K/BB ratio (8.95).  But due to a lack in run support and several leads blown by the bullpen, he finished the season with a pedestrian 10-10 record.  Garza will faceoff against Gio Gonzalez, who is making his Nationals’ debut after joining the team in an offseason trade with the Oakland Athletics.  Last year he produced solid numbers, winning 16 games while posting a 3.12 ERA.  While not exactly an elite pitcher, most of the Cubs will have little or no experience facing Gonzalez, which is usually a recipe that favors the pitcher.  It will be important for the Cubs to get to him early and put some runs on the board in the first couple of innings.

Jeff Samardzija gets the start on Easter Sunday (1:20).  Working out of the bullpen, 2011 was probably Samardzija’s best season with the club.  Samardzija impressed enough during spring training to earn a spot in the Cubs’ rotation (and also benefitted from the unmitigated disaster that was Travis Wood).  After finally getting his shot to start, Samardzija can ill-afford to get off to a bad start if he hopes to curry favor with the new coaches.  Starting for Washington will be Jordan Zimmermann, who like Garza, posted respectable numbers (ERA 3.18, WHIP 1.15) for a mediocre team (ending up with an 8-11 record).

A couple other items to look for:

-It is still unclear whether Bryan LaHair will be ready to make his season debut after being sidelined with a back injury.  Look for him to possibly be ready to go for Sunday’s game.

-Carrying only 11 pitchers right now, it is important the Cubs don’t string together a couple of games where the starting pitcher gets chased early.  Even though Ryan Dempster’s strong outing on Opening Day meant the middle and long relief pitchers went unused, the Cubs are playing 9 games in 9 days and will not want to head into the Milwaukee and St. Louis series with a depleted bullpen.

-After a rather chilly day on the opener, the weather forecast for the weekend is great.  Highs in the mid-60s should make for a couple of  great days at the ballpark.

*Stats are from baseball-reference.com.