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Today the Chicago Cubs made a move to (theoretically) shore up their bullpen/rotation, acquiring swingman Rodrigo Lopez from the Braves for minor league pitcher Ryan Buchter according to various reports.

Lopez, 35, started 33 games for the Diamondbacks last year, compiling a humble 5.00 ERA in the process. He’s been pitching in AAA this year, and has a 2.59 ERA in 59 innings over nine starts. He had a moderately good season back in 2007, but hasn’t really done anything of note since. He’s like a slightly better, younger Ramon Ortiz.

Lopez will join the Cubs tomorrow, and the Cubs will option Justin Berg to AAA Iowa to free up a spot. The Cubs will have to bump another pitcher on Saturday (probably Casey Coleman or Scott Maine) when Randy Wells returns.

Lopez might become a long-man in the pen, or he might step into the rotation, taking Casey Coleman’s next turn in the rotation.

Buchter, 24, is about the kind of pitcher you’d expect to give up in one of these deals. He joined the Cubs organization before the 2009 season after a swap of pitchers with the Nationals, who drafted Buchter in the 33rd round back in 2005. He’s put up decent numbers as a reliever in the Cubs’ system, but has always been a touch old for his level (and, particularly as a kid drafted out of high school, that’s not a good thing). He does strike out a ton of batters, so I would imagine that’s what interested the Braves.

  • Spencer

    Maybe he’ll take Z’s spot in the rotation because apparently he is dealing with a stiff neck which is “very insignificant” which clearly means he’ll be put on the 60 day DL Sunday.

  • Joey

    lol, this write up is a bit of a fluff piece. I expect so much more from you Ace :D

    Okay, to fill in some of the gaps with a more appropriate analysis for this place…

    What we got:
    Lopez was about average in ’07, a season sandwiched between two pairs of pretty piss-poor performances that make up a combined 628 IP of 5.27 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He’s a guy who doesn’t walk many (which might be a bit of a shocker to Cubs fans – definitely not what we are used to) but also has an inability to miss bats and surrenders a *ton* of hits.

    Yep, that means a guy with pretty consistent poor results who pitches to straight contact to play in front of our oh-so-fabulous defense – sounds like a winner, doesn’t it!

    What it cost us:
    Butcher is, as implied by Ace, meh. He is a K machine, but that’s likely do to the fact that he seems absolutely unable to get a pitch in the zone. Think I am exaggerating? Try this on for size
    (in 212 minor league innings)
    5.98 Walks per 9IP
    1.15 HBP per 9IP
    1.40 WP per 9IP
    Yeah, that’s slightly more then 7 free passes and nearly 1.5 Wild Pitches per complete game. So obviously, this part of the trade isn’t much of a loss.

    That said, our sanity is priceless – and I am fearful it will be the ultimate cost. See, the guy Lopez is initially replacing (Berg) is just better then Lopez already, with much more of a future ahead of him and was already on the 25 man roster. I mean, he isn’t fantastic by any means – but why not give him the experience? Berg can also be used as a middle relief guy since that is what we were using him in the minors for up until last season. Besides, isn’t that what we kept Russell around to do anyway? And with the move coming on the heals of Wells coming back, we will actually have an abundance of starters (plus, the similar-to-better options in the minors we apparently just refuse to take notice of)

    So in summary, we picked up a guy we didn’t need who has a pitching style which specifically plays to our weakness to provide worse production then what we already have anyway. Thanks Jim, brilliant idea!

    • Ace

      Appreciate the analysis; slightly less appreciate the derision. Timeliness sometimes trumps exhaustiveness – particularly when it’s a 35-year-old swingman being traded for a non-prospect. Besides, that’s why you’re here. :)

      And, for the record, you will find that my “fluff piece” contains quite a bit more on the players than any of the mainstream write-ups did yesterday.

      As for the conclusion, I’m not sure I agree that Berg is better for this team than Lopez. Berg has never been impressive, despite his occasionally mediocre numbers. He’s also liable to be a headcase for a while after that last performance.

      • Joey

        I wasn’t mocking you in the least – I was jokingly pointing out that you were much kinder in this article then one would expect for the site.

        And as far as your Berg statement – although Berg is really besides the point, what does Lopez do better then him? Shoot, what does Lopez even do well?

        Lopez has consistent high to extreme HR/9 ratios (1.3 career average where 0.9-1.0 is generally the ML average) where Berg is consistently well, well below on his HR/9 rates (averaged 0.6 in ML and 0.5 in minors)

        Lopez is high with his LD% but otherwise evenly spread contact on his overall extreme contact rates leading to an average BAbip guy. Berg is also high-side LD% but otherwise big-time GB-heavy pitcher who consistently keeps below average BAbip rates

        So we have two guys

        one has high hit ratios from average BAbip on his high contact style with extreme HR rates
        one has average hit ratios from low BAbip on his high contact style with almost non-existent HR rates

        Which one would you rather have? Or even more importantly, which one do you want playing in front of a Defense which consistently ranks in the bottom 5 in the NL? (ranking dead last in many categories among multiple calculation sites)

        But then again, as I said, Berg is really besides the point because where is Lopez even needed? We have plenty of starters who are better then him (not saying much, but its still true…), and long relievers growing out of our ears (including on the ML roster with Russell, Shark, mid-length Maine and the aforementioned Berg.) But then again, Lopez has never been a setup guy (and who would want him to be with the huge hit and HR ratios?) so he wont be doing that either.

        So, is he just Jim pitifully showing his “activity” and nothing more? He serves no real purpose to the club and his skill-set is actually a detriment. It seriously looks like nothing more then a “look, I’m trying here. I’m actively making moves; I’m doing my job the best I can” feather for Hendry to try and pawn off on the fans…

        • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

          I think this is where today’s XKCD comic fits in well. I wish I could just post the image, but alas: http://xkcd.com/904/

          • Joey

            so youre saying we should all just ignore:

            1) he’s an extreme HR pitcher (while we play in a HR friendly park)
            2) he’s an extreme contact/high-Hit pitcher (while we have one of the worst D’s you can find)
            3) we have tons of other (similar to better) questionable 5th starter options
            4) we have tons of other long-relief guys
            5) Jim currently doesn’t have a set plan on his role, but we just really, really needed him

            and instead go with something like what, this:

            1) Hendry knows what he is doing

            Ignore the facts and stats – lets instead just go with our gut and whatever Hendry tells us? (granted, that is exactly what Jim does, and why we are stuck paying guys like Grabow now…)

            • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

              No hyperventilating necessary, Joey-baby! I was just having fun with your (*ahem*) thorough statistical analysis of two crappy pitchers. I’ll focus my energies on going to the store and getting some charcoal for this weekend’s BBQ.

              For what it’s worth, I currently have a 2.1 BBR (beer-to-burger ratio), which is above the block average of 1.95.

              • Ol’CharlieBrown

                “For what it’s worth, I currently have a 2.1 BBR (beer-to-burger ratio), which is above the block average of 1.95.”

                lmao, beer-to-burger ratio… Classic!

              • Ace

                You won’t believe me, but I was going to post the same picture! Do you by chance read MGoBlog?

                In any event, I don’t disagree with Joey’s points – or even the extent of the analysis. There’s meat there. I’m just not sure I buy any statistical analysis of Berg’s numbers, for two primary reasons: (1) they don’t capture the fact that he just walked three dudes on 12 pitches and was made a national laughing stock about it – it ain’t easy to come back from that; and (2) he’s got a lot of garbage success. Despite his sub-4.00 ERA this year with the Cubs, I don’t know anyone who’s actually watched him who would argue he’s *looked* like a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher. He’s also not a swingman, which I know is a semantical label, but his skill set is different from Russell’s. We now know definitively that Russell *can* *not* *start.* Ditto Davis. I’m willing to give Lopez a start or two to prove he can’t either.

                If this kind of move is still taking place in a month, I’m with you. For now, I think it’s completely fine to try – nobody’s giving the Cubs a *good* swingman for a random minor league pitcher.

                • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                  MGoBlog? Fo realz?! I’m a U of I grad, baby! Get bent.

                  But seriously, I’ve has xkcd on my rss feed for a few years. No idea where I first stumbled across it.

                • Joey

                  2006-2010 saw 130 pitchers with 450 IP: (Lopez had 498 IP)

                  5.29 ERA – 5th highest (in front of Kyle Davis, Josh Fogg, Carlos Silva and Daniel Cabrera)

                  67% Left-On-Base ratio – 7th lowest

                  1.50 HR/9 – dead last (second highest was 1.42 from Armando Galarraga)

                  12.8% HR/FB – 2nd highest (Brett Myers was 13.8%)

                  .307 BAbip – within 25 highest

                  1.47 WHIP – within 25 highest

                  .288 BA against – 7th highest

                  In fact, if you drop it all the way down to only 200 IP you find 376 pitchers met that mark. Of them, Lopez was 35th highest ERA, 15th highest HR/9, 36th lowest Left-On-Base% and 30th highest BA-Against

                  Lopez is just one of the worst pitchers in the game, possibly the worst active with any real amount of experience and definitely doesn’t fit our Park or D at all – but Jim was “scouring” for someone like him.

                  Like I said, Berg is really besides the point – almost anyone in the game is better then Lopez because he is literally one of the worst pitchers in the game. But in typical Hendry fashion, “He’s had a really good year in Triple-A” has him ignore all statistical evidence in his reactionary move. You know, just like “he behaved last year” about Bradley, “he was fantastic last year with the Cards” about Miles, “he was pivotal in the playoffs against us” about Pierre, “he was a key part of our bullpen at the end of the year” about Grabow, and countless other questionable deals he quantified using only the most superficial of excuses. (paraphrasing the old quotes, but you’ll remember there was something similar on them all)

                  Its typical Hendry, he has done it time and time and time again. And because we don’t really have a true immediate need for Lopez at this time, I can only conclude it is done as a “look, I’m really doing my job, I’m trying here” move to try and deflect blame from himself…

                  • Ace

                    What do you think James Russell’s ERA would have been if he’d thrown 450 innings as a starter over that stretch? Casey Coleman?

                    I think you’re missing the point: Lopez isn’t a good pitcher. He’s possibly a *better* option than those the Cubs have available to try right now (apparently).

                    • Joey

                      Are you asking me if they can produce an ERA under 5.30 – or really, even higher considering the Wrigley & Cubs-D problems Lopez will face here? Well, Russell has a career 80 innings of 5.31 ERA and Coleman sits with 93 innings of 5.34 ERA so…

                      See, thats kind of the problem

                      Lopez – 498 IP, 5.29 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 1.5 HR/9 (06-10)
                      Russell – 79.2 IP, 5.31 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2.0 HR/9 (car)
                      Coleman – 92.2 IP, 5.34 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 0.7 HR/9 (car)

                      Way to upgrade Hendry!

                      And that’s the point you seem to be adamantly missing – you dont upgrade absolutely horrible with absolutely horrible; it just doesn’t work that way. I mean, who takes off the pants the sh!t in today to put on the ones they sh!t in yesterday?

                      And it especially doesn’t work that way when you decide to choose between three piles of almost identical sh!t while you have someone like Ramon Ortiz (who we signed specifically for such a situation as this) pitching extremely well in AAA despite a fluke huge .370+ BAbip (and he is just one among multiple other options – but instead we bring in an absolute mirror image to Russell and call it an upgrade???)

                    • Ace

                      Lopez is a far better option on paper than Ortiz, and if you need me to pick through the minutia to prove it, I will. I shouldn’t have to, because it’s obvious with even a cursory look at their numbers.

                      The fact is, and despite your sarcasm, you’ve agreed, Lopez *IS* a better option than Russell or Coleman at this point. Once again, you point to career numbers for the latter two, which is a bit of a joke considering we’ve *SEEN* Russell start five times this year (he obviously CAN’T do it, but he CAN relieve, which improves his numbers – what are his numbers as a starter, dude?), and Coleman’s numbers are dramatically inflated by meaningless September games last year (what are his numbers as a starter this year, dude?).

                      No one – noooooo onnnnnnne – is saying Lopez is a good option. No one is excited that the Cubs got him. But he’s worth a shot when compared to Russell and Coleman. If you don’t agree with that, I don’t know what else to say. The Cubs aren’t going to land a stud starter this time of year (nor should they be paying the price for one given the state of the team). But taking a flyer on a guy like Lopez when it costs virtually nothing? Who gives a shit? Fine with me.

                      Now, most importantly: stop making me defend Jim Hendry!

                    • Joey

                      no, Lopez isn’t a far superior choice to specificly search out and trade for in order to have him make one start. Ortiz is just as crappy as Lopez, and is pitching similarly (just with the weird BAbip over what is ultimately a pretty short season still)

                      And you’re out of your mind if you really feel I think Lopez is a better choice then just sucking it up with Coleman or Russell another week. We traded Buchter and released Coello so we can add someone to our roster who is equally crappy as (to possibly worse then) those two. Granted, neither Butcher or Coello is much of a loss, but Lopez is just pointless beyond compare.

                      And no, I am almost flabbergasted that you feel someone just as crappy (to possibly even worse) as Coleman and Russell is the best player we could land in a trade. Shit, claiming Jay Buente from the Marlins and letting him start would have been a better option – at least he has a talent level much higher then Lopez with a skill set that isn’t specifically designed to implode in our current situation.

                      Besides, you keep blindly acting like the recent play of Coleman and Russell and now Davis are the reason we should search out someone with just as poor of numbers – but you are blatantly ignoring the fact that their numbers are artificially inflated by their already having played in front of our pitiful defense. Lopez hasnt done that yet, and he has yet to bring his extreme HR game to Wrigley (although, for his career, Lopez has given up 3 dingers in just 10.2 IP in Chicago)

                    • Ace

                      You started out making reasonable points supported by numbers. Now you’re just flinging poo, unsupported by anything. Until you can concede that giving Lopez a start now makes vastly more sense than having Russell go out there again (Coleman is debatable), then there’s nothing else for me here.

              • Joey

                act like an ass all you want, but I’m hardly hyperventilating over your dismissive sarcasm. Nor could I really care less about Breg, and I’m ultimately hardly comparing anyone – I’m saying we just don’t need what amounts to one of the statistically single worst pitchers in the entire game with the single-worst skill-set for our specific club just because our GM valiantly “scour(ed)” the league looking for him.

                Look, maybe you take whatever Jim crams up your rear with a smile; I have no idea, you might really like it. But I don’t, I can recognize sh!t when I see it and I wont blindly open wide when Jim tries to feed it too us as if its somehow the medicine we really needed to cure the illness we don’t really even have to begin with…

                • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                  Dude, I don’t disagree with you at all about Lopez vs. Berg/Coleman/Russell — really. I’m just busting on your exhaustive sabermetric blah blah blah about two shitty pitchers. If one smells a *teensy* bit better then the other, well, they’re still both shit, right? So far as I can tell, Jim Hendry’s proclivity for my rear really has nothing to do with that.

                  And I can assure you, J-bomb, I WILL act like an ass all I want.

  • wax_eagle

    Low cost slightly below league average starter traded for a nobody in the Cubs’ farm system. Could potentially be better than Coleman or Davis. I am on-board.

  • Roughriider

    I’m hoping, that with the trade, Hendry caught lightening in a bottle but it’s more likely AAA battery in a bottle.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Not to weigh in on the Joey/Ace debate, but Berg? Seriously?

    No. He needs to “take the short bus to the minors” (thanks, Ace) ASAP. This isn’t Pee-Wee’s funhouse where pitchers who might eventually be decent get to just throw major league innings until they come around.

    No, that’s called “AAA.”

  • http://Bleachernation Ramy16

    Rodrigo Lopez was decent with the D-Backs ..and does eat up innings..the question is can we get him run support? We definately got the better end of this deal

  • hardtop

    Im a little surprised Russell is the first to go down. Who walked 3 batters on 12 PITCHES the other day? who was yanked after 1 1/3 innings? who has a 9ish ERA? dont get me wrong, russell wouldnt be pitching in the bigs on many teams (because there arent many teams with a gm as inept as hendry) but I think he’s looked better than coleman, maine, or berg.

    • Ace

      Russell? Berg went down.

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