“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” – James Earl Jones as Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.
At long last, professional baseball players in America are playing baseball professionally in America. Happy New Year.
The Cubs squads had four games scheduled this week, but the two games Saturday were rained out. Two games isn’t a lot to talk about, but not a lot is still a lot more than not at all.
Here is the week that was.
(Obligatory: Yes, I know spring training performances mean little to nothing. This is just for fun right now.)
Cubs record: 0-2
Runs scored: 5
Runs allowed: 20
Cubs hitters: .180/.231/.361, 2 HR, 9 K, 4 BB, 0 SB, 1 CS
Cubs pitchers: 17 IP, 20 R, 20 ER, 25 H, 4 HR, 17 K, 12 BB, 10.59 ERA, 2.18 WHIP
Darwin Barney: 2-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Barney hit the first Cubs homer of 2014. Everybody predicted that, right?
Blake Parker: 1 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 ERA, 0 WHIP
Parker was the only Cub to retire every hitter he faced, so why not?
I expect Parker to win a lot of people over this year. He was quietly very good in 2013. I’d be just fine with him coming in with a lead in the 7th or 8th inning.
Matt Szczur made a nice diving catch on Thursday, but the play everyone was talking about was Kris Bryant crushing a pitch over the center field wall on Friday. Here’s to seeing more of those in the future.
Dan Vogelbach, Jr.
Dan Vogelgach, the big-bodied prospect attached with the “DH-only” label, spent this offseason shedding 30 pounds. Some choice quotes from Vogelbach: “I didn’t do it for compliments, I did it to help me with baseball.” “I want to play first base, I want to be on the field. That’s the type of player I am, I want to be on the field at all times.” You can definitely lump Vogelbach together with Kris Bryant and Albert Almora in the group of Cubs prospects who are always saying the right things.
There doesn’t seem to be any concern that this will cause him to lose any of the power that makes him a prospect. Both Vogelbach and Double-A Tennessee hitting coach Desi Wilson say that he has gained power at the plate, which would be whoa. I just hope this doesn’t cause him to lose any of his legendary bat flip ability.
The Way of the Future
MLB’s Advanced Media department announced at this weekend’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that select MLB parks will have cameras to track fielders and baserunners. All parks will have them for the start of the 2015 season. The long-awaited publicly available field f/x is nearly upon us. Here’s an example of how people might use this technology to analyze a defensive play.
I am very excited to see what happens with this. One of the biggest (fair) criticisms of advanced metrics is that the defensive side is harder to quantify. This could change that in a big way. I expect more write-ups on this come Monday. I’ll be reading all of them I can.
Prospects Really Will Break Your Heart
Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker has been experiencing shoulder discomfort and is expected to miss the start of the season. (So will his teammate Hisashi Iwakuma. Possible Cubs connection: This could increase the Mariners’ desire to trade for a starter, which could make them more interested in Jeff Samardzija.) It’s easy to panic when we hear that a pitcher is having shoulder issues, but as Jeff Sullivan notes, it’s not necessarily a disaster. Felix Hernandez faced similar issues when he was 19 and ended up all right. But then again, it could end up being a disaster.
Meanwhile, the short-term is more clear for Twins third base prospect Miguel Sano, who will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2014. Fortunately for Sano, elbow issues tend to be more treatable than shoulder issues, and TJS is considered a fairly safe treatment, albeit with a long recovery time.
Sharing Is Caring
The best links from the last week (that I saw!).
- New Cubs Den writer Adam Brown looks at Edwin Jackson’s five worst starts of 2013, if you can stomach it. Adam’s argument is that one of Jackson’s biggest issues is inconsistency on his slider.
- Tommy Cook, writer at the new blog Cubs Insider, on Dan Vogelbach’s first-class makeup. It’s hard to argue against when the product of his offseason regimen is so visible.
- I am a huge Cliff Lee fan. He and Chase Utley are probably my two favorite non-Cubs players. Here’s Jeffrey Long at Beyond the Box Score on Lee’s historic breakthrough that saw him go from a fringe major leaguer to one of baseball’s premier starters.
- Rob Neyer does not like all of these strikeouts and wants Major League Baseball to do something about it. I’m actually planning on doing a whole post about this, so I’m not going to say much right now. I will say that I’m not at all against the idea of MLB exploring rule changes to curb the rise in strikeouts, but I’m not sold that we’re yet at he point where I would want to see them implement a change.