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Day Three of “Feeling Crappy” continues, unabated. Actually, I guess I do feel modestly better.

  • Today is the reporting date for all position players at Chicago Cubs camp, and the first full squad workout is tomorrow. The only players not yet in camp, however, are Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Blake DeWitt and Jae-Hoon Ha.
  • The big event of the day will be the “first annual” bunt tournament, complete with 64 seeded competitors (including Dale Sveum, who gets Kerry Wood in the first round – Wood calls the matchup “a layup”). Bruce Miles snapped a picture of the full bracket so you can see who is facing whom, if you’re so inclined.
  • Some fluff on the man expected to be the Cubs’ first baseman for at least the first part of 2012, Bryan LaHair. A particularly nice quote from LaHair: “It’s a good feeling [to get a chance to start]. I plan on working harder than I did before to keep it. I don’t want this to be a one-year thing, I want it to be more than one. I want to be part of something and build toward something. This is probably, right now, the best franchise in all of sports as far as wanting to win. This is the place to do it if you’re going to do it, so it’s definitely a great opportunity.”
  • And then some fluff on the man hoping to take the Cubs’ first baseman job from LaHair, Anthony Rizzo. A quote from Rizzo: “[It's] ‘when’ not ‘if’ [we win a championship]. If you’re saying ‘if,’ who knows if it’s going to happen. You’re going to have to have that mindset that we’re going to do it and we’re going to win. Wherever I am I want to win every day and make the playoffs with that team and be an All-Star and go to the playoffs. That’s got to be the mindset from Game 1 to Game 162. No, I’m sorry, Game 173, or however many it takes.”
  • Sveum is a fan of his veterans, calling Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Matt Garza, and Geovany Soto “special human beings,” who have bought into turning things around.
  • Brett Jackson used to work out with Jeremy Lin, apparently. Or, at least, in the same gym. Any excuse to talk about Lin, eh?
  • John Gaub, a lefty hoping to make the Cubs’ pen out of Spring Training, is expected to resume workouts today, after missing some time with back spasms.
  • The expectation remains that the addition of two more Wild Cards will happen this season.
  • Finally, someone in Boston blows a gasket about getting “only” Chris Carpenter as compensation for Theo Epstein (one year of Epstein, a guy the writer admits needed to go). It’s good for a smile.
  • A reminder about comments: we have a great commenting community, and I’m glad that we’re able to self-police without the heavy-handed implementation of a bunch of rules (though they do exist, as you can see in the Terms of Service at the bottom of the page). That said, there are a number of things that will never fly, and will get you bounced. All should be obvious to you – racism, sexism, homophobia, threats, excessive vulgarity (a little is fine), obvious trolling, etc.
  • Fishin Phil

    “Brett Jackson used to work out with Jeremy Lin, apparently. Or, at least, in the same gym. Any excuse to talk about Lin, eh?”

    Et tu, Brettus?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Most definitely not. Did I need to include the sarcasm tag?

      • a_mazz_ing

        No, anyone that didn’t pick up on that is Lin-sane…

        Ok, I had to use it once. It’s like Tebowing… I can’t stand it, yet I do it.

      • Fishin Phil

        I know, but I was dying to bust out a little “Julius Caesar”.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I guess it also could have been confusing because we can’t be sure if you were talking to me or B-Jax.

  • Smitty

    Do other teams do a bunt tournament? I have never heard of one before, but think it is hilarious and will get some good natured ribbing/comradarie going in the clubhouse. Great way to start the camp.

  • Josh

    Do we know how the bunt tournament will be scored? Just curious if it’s more points for down the line, past the mound, etc. Also wonder how many bunt atempts they get. I’d like a chance to watch some of the guys

    • scottie

      i read an article with the scoring yesterday.. tried to find it today for ya.. but it is dif points for dif areas obvi.. just dont remember what was weighted more.. there was a 100 point bullseye.. but the article didnt mention where it was.. just that it had to be “called” first..

    • ty

      Rookie ball has frequent bunt tournaments at Mesa and hitting contests though usually home run contests are in-frequent. Believe me bunting is a daily skill and is not treated lightly especially during instructional league and of course rookie ball. Hitting contests are usually hitting behind the runners with guys running the bases. Franklin Font is one of our better instructors with bunting and has just joined the parent club–primarily to work with Castro and Junior Lake–yes-Junior Lake is getting very close–almost twins with natural ability but both like to freelance too much. They came to Rookie ball together and shared positions for one year and Coach Font was the manager and he is tough. Watch for Lake to show out in spring training as he ripped through the very tough Fall Ball League.

  • die hard

    It is encouraging that bunts will be taken seriously this year. Always hated when Quade played for 3 run homer early which was a strategy started and made famous by Earl Weaver. Bunt a runner over and scoring him several times during early innings will pay dividends later in game as their pitcher will be pressing to avoid giving up another run or two. That is when the floodgates will open. Bunting early sets the stage for bigger innings later. Its like a boxing match. Pound the body first few rounds to soften up opponent for knockout later.

    • dob2812

      Bunts are a waste of time, almost all of the time.

      But then you’ve clearly already rejected the facts on this so why am I bothering?

      • Smitty

        Bunting and giving up an out could be considered a waste of time…but being able to bunt for a hit is absolutely not a waste of time.

        And while I don’t agree with what diehard says 99% of the time, he isn’t out of his mind with this comment.

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Bunting is a skill that need to be utilized. To say its a waste is to say baseball is a waste, because it is a part of baseball. If you can bunt a runner from 2nd to 3rd after a leadoff double, it almost a guaranteed run.

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        A bunt is a waste of time? So when Matt Garza steps to the plate with runners at 1st and 2nd you would much rather see him swinging for the fences with that majestic swing of his than bunt the runners over?

        What if we are facing a pitcher that has lights out stuff? No reason you would ever want to do whatever it took to get a guy on or move them over? What if the 3B is playing extra deep and we have someone with speed at the plate? What if there is an extreme shift on?

        • dob2812

          Matt Garza is a pitcher and being a pitcher he is unable to hit major league pitching so I do not want to see him up there at all, I want to see a DH. But that aside, the pitcher bunting with a man on and less than two outs is something I can tolerate. And I know it feels like it goes towards creating runs but it really doesn’t. It really, really doesn’t. It can be a good idea in certain, fairly rare instances, but on the whole it’s best avoided.

          If Tony Campana is at the plate and the third baseman is playing way back, then fine, fire away, but realistically, this is the major leagues, who is going to be that stupid and, more importantly, how often? I never want to see anyone that’s actually good at hitting trying to bunt. I’d rather see them trying to hit.

          And bunting for a hit? What’s that? If anyone was able to do that consistently, don’t you think they’d have made a career out of it by now?

          Swing away boys, swing away.

        • die hard

          Also, its another weapon in team’s arsenal which keeps opposition guessing. In football you win with the run and the pass. One dimensional teams do not win consistently. Now, to be intellectually honest, small ball alone will not win championships. A team needs a big bopper or two to pound the other team once in a while. Unless a team has superb pitching, small ball will only go so far. But its great that the Cubs are adding this dimension to the team. If Soriano, LaHair and Soto combine for 60 HR and small ball is working, this team could be fun to watch.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      On average, a team will score more runs in an inning when the situation is (man on 1st, nobody out) than if the situation is (man on 2nd, 1 out).
      Would score more runs with (man on 2nd and no out) than (man on third and 1 out).
      Would score more runs with (men on 1st and 2nd, no outs) than with (men on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out).
      -
      If you want to score JUST one run, maybe the bunt is a good idea.
      If you want to score multiple runs in a single inning, stay away from bunting.

      • dob2812

        Norm just said it a lot better than I did. Listen to Norm.

      • JulioZuleta

        I agree with you. Most teams “over bunt”. In my opinion no one besides the pitcher should ever bunt (aside from bunting for a hit) before the seventh or eighth. The numbers prove bunting is inefficient, but there is a time and place for it.

        Side note: my phone doesn’t recognize the word “bunt”, weird.

  • Brian

    Soraino a 15 seed, priceless.

  • dob2812

    Rizzo and LaHair facing off in the bunting competition, that’s a bit mean isn’t it?

    • Spriggs

      Yeah, that match-up kind of jumped out at me too. Very interesting!

  • Dane

    I thought I read something about how Theo doesn’t like giving up outs to sacrifice runners over..Has he changed his mind or is this tournament not indicative of their in-game philosophy? I just think it’s weird that they are spending time finding the best bunter if they have no intention of using it throughout the season.

  • K Rock

    I find it odd Sveum didnt mention Byrd when discussing his veterans……He’s more of a vet than Soto

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m sure he was just speaking quickly, off the cuff. I doubt it means anything.

  • bob

    Theo not liking the bunt could be a product of the A.L. DH game where bunting isn’t used until extra innings. I agree that a “fun” activity like this is great for building team rapport. With a team with low expectations like this year’s, building that “team” feeling can only help through the long season.

  • Edwin

    There is nothing wrong with being able to bunt well. In certain situations, like when it’s late in the game and a team is only playing for 1 run, bunting can increase the likelihood of scoring that one run. Bunting can also catch the opposing team off guard, which can lead to errors. Pitchers especially benefit from bunting since they typically can’t hit for spit. Being able to bunt well should not interfere with being able to do other baseball things well. It’s just one more tool in the toolbox.

  • http://justinjabs.com/blog Justin Jabs

    I absolutely love the bunting tournament idea!

  • NL_Cubs

    Bunting is a big part of the game which promotes defensive confusion. Being aggressive on the base paths, stealing bases, stretching out singles to doubles, forcing the defense to make plays creates confusion and provides an advantage. By creating confusion and doing it well during strategic points in the game will only benefit the club that can execute. I assume this will be part of the new “Cubs Way”.

    • die hard

      Thats the path to the World Series. Billy Ball was a phrase coined before Billy Beane came on the scene. Billy Martin pushed the fundamentals when he was a player and carried these over as manager. Keeps defense unsettled when doing so for base hits as well as sacrifice bunts. Add in some hit and runs and steals with taking the extra base and by the 7th inning the other team will be worn out. Thats when you put down the hammer.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Game Six, 2011 World Series. Anyone confused as to the potential value of bunting (and the necessity for a team to be able to defend the bunt) just needs to re-watch Game 6. St. Louis could do both; Texas could do neither.

      The vast majority of the time, a player is better off swinging away and not bunting. But then, baseball is a game that is often won and lost on the margins.

      • Frank

        Not to mention that it was the big play when the Indians won in “Major League.”

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        The vast majority of the time a base-runner is better served not attempting to steal a base. The vast majority of the time an NFL team is better served throwing the ball. Unfortunately, if you are one-dimensional, a team will only have to shut that part of your game down.

        I completely disagree with the notion that you should do nothing to purposely get an out or that bunting early is a waste. The goal of each game should be to score at least 5 runs (that should win you a majority of your games), does it really matter if you bunt for a hit in the 2nd to put yourself into a position to score or wait until the 8th to do that? Clearly, I don’t want Barry Bonds bunting with the bases loaded and down by 3 runs but there are appropriate situations for it.

  • cubsklm

    What is the status of Concepcion?

    Have the Cubs announced his signing, is he reporting to camp?
    Can he report without his signing being announced?

  • gritsngravy

    Bunting is one of the most beautiful things in this great game when done correctly. If you have a legitimate bunt threat it draws the infielders in leaving more room for a slap hit. There is nothing wrong with moving the guy over on a sacrafice if the situation calls for it meaning if your 8 hitter hits a single with less than 2 outs that’s an obvious bunt situation for your pitcher although I dont see using a sac bunt in a situation where one of you better hitters is coming up and giving up an out. The situations is what makes this game great.

  • Noah

    I’m generally against bunting, but I’m fine with this little competition for a couple reasons:

    1) There are times when a bunt truly is helpful aside from when the pitcher is up with less than two outs: close and late. If you’re down one, tied, or even just up one in the eighth or ninth innings, it could often be worth it to take the higher odds of pushing across one run in exchange for the lower odds of pushing across multiple runs.

    2) Everyone on a Major League baseball team should be able to lay down a bunt, so I’m fine taking one day early in camp to make sure that’s taken care of.

    But bunting early to push across one run? That’s a bad move.

  • rocky8263

    I watched Contagion last night and if you had the disease in the movie you would be dead by day 3. Being a Cubs fan I’m always looking for the bright spot. My wife and seven year old leave to Spain Saturday morning for two weeks and I’m headed to Mesa. The last time I went was 2003. Got to see Alfonseca’s sixth finger close up. Nice man but the finger was kinda creepy.

    • Katie

      I remember a game where he got the save and Chip Caray said “Hey Al, gimme six” on the air when he high fived Barrett. Classic.

  • rbreeze

    This tournament is a great way of getting the guys focused on bunting. Its a team building exercise. It will be fun during spring training for the guys but it will also lead to some competitive ribbing during the season if someone lays down a nice bunt or totally misses on a bunt attempt.  I think we’ll see some jawing going on during the seaon between players when its time to move a runner over.  When the manager decides to use it during the season is another strategy that I’ll want to see how Dale handles as the seaon goes on.

  • Deer

    Sveum falling in love with his veterans? Oh no..this is what happened to Quade. Hope he doesn’t also fall for Sori and Byrd.

  • Katie

    I love bunting in the proper situation. To me, it’s a lost art along with base stealing. And since we don’t have the DH, a pitcher needs to be able to lay down a bunt to move over runners. You’re a major league player getting paid millions of dollars. Lay down a friggin bunt every now and then. It also helps SP stay deeper into games. The skipper might not be as quick to pull him if he can hit, or at least sac bunt.

    • Mick

      Greg Maddux was always fun to watch bunt, he looked like a pro doing it. Do you know what else is fun to watch? A DH. It’s not that I hate bunting, it’s that I hate watching pitchers do it. Add the DH to the NL and leave the bunting to Brett Butler, Kenny Lofton, and Ichiro.

      • Edwin

        I agree with adding the DH to the NL. Pitchers suck at hitting. It’s not fun to watch.

      • DocWimsey

        George Will wrote a very amusing piece many years ago about the dilemma of being a conservative and a baseball fan with regards to pitchers batting.  Basically, it is the contradiction of two fundamental conservative creeds: 1) “original” is always better; 2) eliminate toxic assets.  He basically knew he was being a hypocrite by taking either stance!  ;-)

  • Dave H

    Bunting is fine art that can be used through out the line up. One exception would be murder’s row, of course. Top of the line up uses for an opportunity for a hit. Bottom of the line up sets the table for the top of the line up. Pitchers must have this as it is their top contribution to the offense. If you remember Joe Morgan’s only useful color commentary would be the 9 ways to score from third.

    1. a hit
    2. a sacrifice hit (bunt or “squeeze” play)
    3. a sacrifice fly
    4. an error (examples: an error on a batted ball, an error in attempting
    to pick the runner off base, the catcher’s wild throw attempting to catch another runner stealing)
    5. a fielder’s choice (examples: an ordinary groundout, a batter being put out
    at first on a dropped 3rd strike, the other runner caught stealing as part
    of a double steal, “the defensive team’s indifference”)
    6. a balk by the pitcher
    7. a wild pitch
    8. a passed ball by the catcher
    9. a stolen base (i.e., steal of home base)

    Now granted if you want to get crooked numbers, let them hit. Even a hit has to make contact and be in the field of play for the defense to react. Bunt does the same thing. Add confusion with runners moving etc will force the defense to hurry and you may get a big inning that way. Let the big boppers do what they do best. Bunting is just another option that has been a part of baseball and will continue. I remember watching Chris Speiers running off of third and scoring on a perfect suicide squeeze. You would have thought Shawon Dunston put it on Waveland.

    • DocWimsey

      You do NOT want to bunt throughout the lineup.  There is a negative correlation between runs scored and SF bunts by non-pitchers.  Moreover, if you look at the difference between expected runs scored and OPS (or wOBA), then there is a weak correlation between bunting and under-achieving.

      This correlation goes away for pitchers.  Here, however, the correlation is between the OBPs of the #7 & #8 hitter and the number of bunts.  PItchers with lots of bunts come up in lots of bunting situations.  And teams with #7 and #8 hitters getting on base a lot tend to be scoring lots of runs.  So, what increases scoring also increases number of SF bunts.

      Again, outs are bad.  A SF bunt out by a pitcher is bad: it would be much, much better for your team if he got a hit or drew a walk.  It’s just that the SF bunt not as awful as other outs and you have only about 2/3rds the probability of getting a good outcome when a pitcher is batting.

      • Dave H

        Yes Doc I understand outs are bad and stats may show bad correlations. But I am from the idea that you make the defense get you out. Set the table so the big boys can eat. The stats only show a one dimensional aspect. It may make a manager think about what to do but they don’t have a laptop sitting next to them. They got a guy like Don Zimmer who probably has never touched one. Those guys know and feel baseball on a completely different level than us. All the stats sheets in the world won’t always give the answers you need.

        • DocWimsey

          How would you then explain Earl Weaver?  He was much more successful a manager than, say, Don Zimmer.  And he probably was the manager from the 1970′s that exerted the most influence on how winning managers & front offices today conduct their business and devise their tactics.

          I think that the flaw in using this list as an offensive guideline stems from this.  Weaver said: “play for one run, score one run; play for 3 runs, win the game.”  Now, look at that list and ask: which of these maximizes the probability of an additional run scoring?  That is how the game should be played: worry about getting the current batter to score.  (They call it “Moneyball” now, but Casey Stengel managed this way, too!)

          • Dave H

            Yes that is true. Whitey Herzog, Tony Larussa, Tom Kelley(sp?) could also be the flip side of that coin also. Earl Weaver always said why bunt a guy when he could hit a 3 run homer. He also had multiple 20 game winner pitching staff that could afford him some of those luxuries. It just comes down to one thing. Taking those stats you so love and cherish and applying them in the best sense you feel you need to in order to win a game. It helps you create the team you want. It helps you play a certain way so you can hopefully get to the post season. But you also need to remember the little things once post season starts because these teams can find weaknesses pretty quickly. There are countless times where Divisional championship or even world series have been won or lost by not executing the finer points of the game.

    • Beer Baron

      Some times stats can be taken too literally, and not appreciated for being the averages they actually are. Yes, over the course of a full season, the team that swings away and never bunts will score more than the team that bunts in all bunting situations. But the average difference – particularly in situations where you only need one run – is relatively minor enough that it should not cause a manager to remove the bunt from his arsenal. It should be used wisely and sparingly, but there is definitely still a place for bunting. It really depends on the situation – most importantly the score and inning of the game – but there are many other factors that come in to play that change things and can alter the percentages – such as who specifically is batting, who is on deck, who is pitching, who is on base, who is left on your bench, who is ready in the bullpen, and even what is the weather like. Plus deeper things that simply cannot be quantified such what kind of stuff does the pitcher have, is the guy on deck on a hot streak, or is the guy at bat in a horrific (Soriano-esque) slump and likely to strike out if he swings away. These are all things a good manager will take into account before calling for a bunt — ie relying on his gut. The percentages are simply the average results of many similar situations over time, but each situation is somewhat unique based on the myriad of factors affecting the game at that given moment and therefore you cannot pre-determine a decision without taking all factors into account. That is where a good manager comes into play (Don Zimmer in ’89 for example).

      All that being said, I think most agree that you should never bunt unless you want just one run, which for the most part means you are either tied or down one and it’s the 8th, 9th or extra innings. So while the bunting contest is a bit silly, the bunt is and should always remain a tool that a good manager can use and therefore is something they should be practicing in Arizona.

  • hardtop

    bunting is baseball: if you take away bunting, you get the AL, and thats not baseball.  matt garza needs to learn how to bunt, badly.

    • Dave H

      AMEN

    • bob

      Garza knows how to bunt badly…he needs to learn to bunt well! :)

  • NL_Cubs

    I’ve got my money on Dempster to win the bunting championship.

  • TWC

    I love the “massive boobs” Soriano pic above.  I’ve missed it since last season.  Almost as good as the “gazelle dropping the fly ball” Soriano pic that you also use a bunch.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    Re Bunting; I don’t think anyone ever said it should NEVER be used. Of course there is a time for it.
    But it’s rare.

    Does anyone agree with the usage of AZ’s #2 hitter in this play by play of the World Series?
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200110310.shtml#play_by_play::none

    • DocWimsey

      If the batter’s run is irrelevant, then bunting is a good thing.  However, that really means that the game-ending run has to be on the base in front of you (as in the 2001 WS).

      heh, I was in Boston at that time. The whole city lit up!

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        I was just looking at innings 1, 3, and 5. I would get pretty upset if a Cubs manager did this; and this is reason enough for me to never want Brenley managing the Cubs.

  • jim

    Prediction: someone is injured during the bunt contest ;-)

  • http://bleachernation Cub- Fan-Missouri

    dave you left one out, a balk by the catcher.

    • Dave H

      I actually pulled it from wiki. Sorry.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      For anyone who doesn’t know what a catcher’s balk is (I didn’t) check out this video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LnbL-WGWBE

      Damn punk kid with the lip at the end.

      • TWC

        Fascinating.  I never knew.

  • Josh Z

    So how does the bunting tournament go? Whoever lays down the best bunt advances?

    • Spencer

      they marked the field with points, and whoever gets the most points in a round advances. I’d guess that bunts that go like straight back to the pitcher or way too far down the line get fewer points. it should be televised, or at least recorded and put online.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I would definitely watch. I bet that, assuming Sveum isn’t fired, it will be televised next year.

        • Josh Z

          Sounds like an awesome idea. Should be fun for the players and this is an aspect the Cubs need to improve on. Cool to see Sveum in the bracket. Let’s just hope he doesn’t win haha.

      • King Jeff

        There are lots of pics being posted on twitter. I’m sure with all those cameras around, someone is filming.

  • farmerjon

    Great posts today

  • Dave H

    @hans – Honestly I didn’t understand it either. I thought it was interference or obstruction from the catcher. You learn something new everyday.

  • http://bleachernation Cub- Fan-Missouri

    Dave

    Many people do not know that a catcher can even be called for a balk.

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