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Once again, I’ll be absent for a chunk of the morning because I’m taking the Litte Miss to the ear doctor. She’s still happy and otherwise healthy, but the constant ear infections persist, despite the insertion of tubes. We gotta get this thing figured out.

  • Matt Garza was undeterred by his second consecutive weak Spring outing yesterday, noting that he was, indeed, just trying to work on fastballs and changeups (I noted in the Game Thread that it looked like he wasn’t throwing any breaking pitches – I win at the Internet). “I’ve been trying to keep myself on a strict program with just fastballs and changeups,” Garza said. “It’s tough especially with hitters going up there ready to hack and looking for fastballs. I got myself in trouble more than anything. That’s what it was. It’s not anything I’m too concerned about. Just a bad day and I’ll get ready for the next one.” I’m glad there’s an explanation, but I’ve resisted getting too worked up. Garza’s Spring ERA last year was over 10 – the worst of any pitcher on the team with more than 20 innings of work. He turned out all right in 2011.
  • As previously mentioned by pitching coach Chris Bosio, Cubs pitchers plan on owning the inside of the plate this year. “It’s a vital part of pitching now especially against some of the great hitters,” Dale Sveum said. “You pitch good hitters in and bad hitters away. That’s just how the game has been for 100 years.”
  • GM Jed Hoyer isn’t particularly concerned with Spring Training results, but he likes the tone Sveum is setting. “I think Dale [Sveum] has a lot of energy in camp,” Hoyer said Sunday. “Guys have played really hard so far. As far as results go, I don’t think anyone is all that concerned about it. You want to stay healthy and you want guys to play hard. Later in the Spring as we get close, you want them dialing in their focus and start making pitches to get outs. Right now, the pitchers need to stretch themselves out, and the hitters need to get their timing …. One of the things [Sveum] focused on in the interview is that Spring Training is a tone setter. That’s how you build up the makeup of your team by having that attention to detail and creating some camaraderie, too. It’s not only about being a drill sergeant but you also want to make sure guys are enjoying themselves and get to know each other. That was a big focus of the interview process is that this is the time you establish those things.”
  • Nick Cafardo says the Red Sox are privately displeased with the return they got for Theo Epstein (i.e., Chris Carpenter). We still don’t yet know a piece of the deal, as the teams have yet to exchange PTBNLs, something they’ll do by the end of Spring Training.
  • The Cubs Bunt Tourney has reached its Final Four, with Welington Castillo taking on David DeJesus (who yesterday beat Starlin Castro), and Casey Coleman taking on Paul Maholm. The Final Four will take place on Friday, with the championship immediately thereafter. Sveum says he’s arranging seating and catering for all of the other players. I’m sure it will be a fun thing for them. I … kinda wish I could go.
  • Speaking of tourneys, I’m told there’s some kind of big one starting this week. If you want to do the bracket thing (for fun/no money) against some BN’ers, we’ve got one going here at the Message Board.
  • FanGraphs ranked the 30 farm systems across baseball, based on impact talent and overall depth. The Cubs come in all the way down at 22nd. Grumble. The FanGraph rankings came out before the Cubs had acquired Anthony Rizzo, Zach Cates, Ronald Torreyes, Dave Sappelt, and Gerardo Concepcion, among others. I’m assuming the system-wide rankings were updated to include those guys, but maybe not. The San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays take the top three spots, with the Chicago White Sox down at the bottom.
  • MLBullets over at BCB – Bryce Harper is probably ready for the bigs, but the Nats would be smart to keep him down (for all of the reasons you already know).
  • florida Al

    wow brett arent we up working early this morning!! have a great day.

  • daveyrosello

    Nick Cafardo is an annoying, whiny tool. WTF? Give it up already, d-bag.

    There’s no way the Cubs are the #22 system. If they sign Soler, the Cubs are a top-5 system in terms of position player talent. It’s the lack of quality pitching in the system that’s pulling their ranking down significantly. The only blue-chip pitching prospects for the Cubs right now would be Maples (hasn’t yet begun his professional career), McNutt (coming off a lousy season), and Concepcion (Cuban exile and a complete unknown).

    Let’s hope Team Theo draft some pitchers this June.

    • Cedlandrum

      Cubs will make a big push in the next year or two with pitching talent. They have a ton of really good arms in the lower minors that as they rise will push the rankings up a bit.

  • The Dude Abides

    Interesting article on the Cubs that is out today. Seems fairly obvious but hopefully enlightening to everyone who thinks we are close. http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/five-questions-chicago-cubs5/

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    Good luck with young miss ear problems… Hard to believe Red Sox still complaining about this dead issue, I have lost respect for that organization. I also don’t worry too much about our minor league rating now – I see our system improving, as well as our approach… I believe we will make great strides over the next few years.

  • hcs

    Good luck with the young lady, Brett. I’ve had eat problems since a very young age, tubes included. It’s no fun. Best wishes, man.

  • Allen

    Brett my son is going in for tubes and to get his adnoids (spelling?) taken out. He has had constant ear infections like your daughter. I hope this surgery for him takes care of his problems and I hope you find out a solution for your daughter. Good luck

  • Edwin

    I don’t have a problem with the #22 ranking. The Cubs don’t really have much impact talent. Their top two guys, Rizzo and Jackson, are probably going to be good, not great Major League players. If we’re lucky, they might even turn into very good players. But they’re probably not going to be stars. The other impact talent, Baez and Maples, are too young to project anything accurate. They could be good, or they could be like Josh Vitters. I think the farm system is on the way up, and could take a huge step forward over the next couple years, but right now there’s too few players who look like legitimate major league players.

  • Kyle

    I think 22 is a bit more bearish than I would be on them, but it’s defensible.

    It’s pretty much a bell curve anyway. From like 8 to 24 is probably pretty similar and it wouldn’t be hard to shoot up the middle tier of the rankings.

  • Curt

    How about doing the brackets fr a bn t-shirt just a thought

    • butlerdawgs

      make it a banana hammock

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    If an analyst buys into the Cubs army of talent in the low minors, the Cubs farm system will be ranked in the 10-14 range.  If the analyst is skeptical of the low level talent, the Cubs are ranked #20 or lower.

    2012 will be telling.  I expect some of that talent to break out this season, and I fully expect the Cubs to be consistently ranked in the top 10 this time next year.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I feel like the “If the talent in low minors takes a step forward, the system will improve dramatically” thought can be said of EVERY organization though.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Not quite.  If the talent in the White Sox system takes a step forward, they are still dead last.  That system is barren and bad beyond belief.  They need a great draft, a great international signing period, and some help if they are going to more up at all.

        Not every team has significant amounts of low level talent, and there are very few organizations that feature the volume of low level talent the Cubs have.  It may sound cliche to talk about the low minors being the key to the Cubs farm system’s progression, but I don’t think it is.  The Cubs really do have an unusual volume of potentially very good talent stashed in the low minors, and if that talent develops this farm system could feature 6-8 league Top 100 players a year from now.  I can’t say that about many other teams.

        • Dave

          “The Cubs really do have an unusual volume of potentially very good talent stashed in the low minors,”

          If this is true, then why are the Cubs ranked so low?
          They must have taken the lower levels into consideration because they ranked Baez as the #1 prospect.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Key word there is: potentially.

            The Cubs have a lot of guys with high ceilings, but also high amounts of risk.  Because they are so deep in the system, there is not a lot of data to go on, so analysts tend to be cautious when talking about the Cubs system.  Those analysts who tend to buy into those low level prospects will rank the Cubs more highly, and those who prefer to see results first will rank the Cubs lower.

            The lack of high level, high ceiling talent keeps the Cubs out of the upper echelons of the farm system rankings for now.  However, in terms of total amount of depth, the Cubs are right up at the top of the heap.  There are as many potential major league players in the Cubs system as in any other system I can think of.

            Baez is ranked highly across baseball in part because he has a very high ceiling, but also because he is seen as having a lower amount of risk.

          • Kyle

            Well, they aren’t ranked that low by everybody. 22 is the lowest I’ve seen. I think I’ve seen as high as 14.

            But anyway, the reason is that low-minors prospects aren’t as valuable as high-minors prospects, on average. Every time a prospect promotes a level, there’s a chance he won’t make the adjustment. So a guy with six levels to go before the majors is a much longer shot than a guy in AAA.

            The Cubs do have a lot more interesting, low-minors prospects than most teams. A ton more. But this year and next year will be big years, because it’s like having a huge pile of scratch-off lottery tickets. You don’t know what you have yet, but there’s the potential there to be something.

            • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

              I just asked Jim Callis about it and he seemed to agree with you guys…

              Jim Callis ‏ @jimcallisBA
              Truer in this case @nbothwell11: I hear #Cubs *low* level talent is promising, system could improve a lot. Cant same be said for every team?

            • DocWimsey

              “Every time a prospect promotes a level, there’s a chance he won’t make the adjustment.”

              I’m not sure that this is even the way to look at it. Instead, think of it as a series of increasingly fine meshes that sieve out guys with inadequate tool sets. You can get through the coarser meshes (low A, high A) with some serious flaws, but AA or AAA will catch them. Indeed, this could describe a lot of AAAA guys: AAA competition is not good enough to consistently exploit their inadequacies, but MLB competition is.

              • Kyle

                If that were the case, you could stick a highly-talented 18-year-old in AAA and expect him to do just fine.

                • DocWimsey

                  Not necessarily. We expect there to be progress simply because, up to a point, a player should improve upon his skills. That’s not “adjustment” per se, anymore than improving upon your guitar skills happens with repetition.

                  However, when a guy flops at AA or AAA, it’s often because the talent at that level is now able to exploit a fundamental lack-of-skill that A-level talent was not able to exploit consistently. The “hole in the swing” that was too small for A-level pitchers to consistently thread is big enough for AA-level pitchers to consistently thread. The batter isn’t failing to adjust any more than a fish gasping out of water is failing to adjust: the batter is now the fish out-of-water. Etc., etc.

                  Ultimately, it is the difference between developing the skills that you do have vs. developing a totally new skill.

  • Spencer

    I’m not sure it matters a ton because teams can just watch film and figure it out quickly but I don’t think I would straight out publicize. “we’re going to pitch inside I get ready for it.” Though If guys can’t hit inside then I doubt it matters if they know its coming or not.

  • Mike Foster

    Waiting for yesterdays game I re-watched the day before. Did anyone else question Castro swinging at the first pitch in his first AB….and then standing there to watch his pop-fly die in centerfield? Yeah the next at bat he took it deep….and again watched it go. Is he getting a head case?

    • Edwin

      Swinging at the first pitch isn’t really a problem. Plenty of good hitters swing at the first pitch. Part of being a good hitter is recognizing good pitches, so if a pitcher tries to sneak a first pitch over to get ahead in the count, a good hitter will punish them for it. Unless Castro is constantly swinging and missing the first pitch, it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Here’s an interesting article about swinging at the first pitch.

      http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2005/08/let_er_rip_1.php

      As far as watching his fly balls, while it’s a bad habit to develope, it probably isn’t a big deal, and certainly doesn’t indicate that Castro may be a head case.

      • Edwin

        I should add that this probably depends on situation the hitter is in, the type of hitter, and the type of pitcher. If the pitcher has just walked several batters, or is having command issues, it might tip the scales twords taking that first pitch. If the pitcher is known for throwing a lot of first pitch strikes, maybe the hitter should be more aggressive. Most importantly, if the hitter is good at recognizing first pitch strikes, by all means swing away. If pitch recognitioin isn’t a strong suit, then the hitter probably shouldn’t be trying to do something they’re not good at.

        Good hitters try do the things they’re good at, and try not to do things they aren’t good at.

        • DocWimsey

          This is a big philosophical difference between the old-school and the new. Under Theo, Hoyer & like-minded people, the Sox did not (and will continue to not) emphasize swinging at strikes, at least not until there are 2 strikes. They emphasize swinging at strikes you can drive. You lay off the rest. This is the same for any situation: batters are not to expand the strike zone to get a guy home from 3rd and they are not supposed to try to hit balls to the rights side if it’s the wrong pitch.

          This is a big reason why teams like the Sox, Yanks, etc., score so many runs: their middle of the order guys sport huge OBPs and score around 100 runs each year. (Papi outscored most leadoff batters in his prime.)

          So, getting Castro to become more selective about the strikes at which he swings will up both his OBP (he’ll draw more walks) and his slugging (isoP goes up with isoD). He might K a few more times: but that will be a small price to pay for the increased run production.

          • Edwin

            I don’t think it’s as much a philosophical thing as it is a talent thing. Good hitters (or hitters with good pitch recognition) swing at the first good pitch they see, which is sometimes the first pitch of the at bat. Swinging at the first pitch has very little to do with being a patient hitter.

            • DocWimsey

              If you watch teams like the Sox or Yankees, then you’ll see very different tactics. Part of what patient hitters do (especially the first time they face a guy in a game) is take a pitch or two to see what the guy is like. They aren’t just looking at that AB: they are looking towards the subsequent ones. (This is also partly why Sox and Yank games take so long: they drive the opposing pitch counts through the roof.)

              It also is an issue of what a good pitch is. It is not a called strike: it’s a pitch that you can drive. (Hence the seemingly oxymoronic phrase “selectively aggressive.”) I would go so far as to state that one of the most common traits of high OPS hitters is that they take lots and lots of pitches.

              • Edwin

                http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=c,50,37,38,39,104&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&players=0

                You can go to fangraphs and create a custom chart that shows OPS, as well as Swing%. Better yet, it can show wOBA. You can sort by whichever metric you want. I sorted by Swing%, to see if hitters who swing less produce a better OPS. They don’t. I don’t really see much of a strong correlation between OPS and Swing%.

                Again, it’s more about skill than actual approach. Good hitters don’t swing at bad pitches, are able to fight off tough pitches, and crush easy pitches. This results in walks and more pitches per at bat. That is why they seem to do a better job at working the count. The Yankees and Red Sox drive up pitch counts because they have good hitters, not because they have a different strategy.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  This has been a very interesting dialog to follow. Well done, boys.

      • Mike Foster

        That is a good read Edwin, thanks.

  • czechxican

    Brett- my 13 month old son has had a total of 13 ear infections. Including 2 after tubes in January. It’s a complete beating regarding medicinal solutions for infant ear infections, even more so for the self-employed who get raked over the coals in medical premiums for a “decent” plan because it’s pretty impossible to get great benefits in this country unless you work for a mega-corporation or an insurance company. “The man” wins in the end. Ok, I’m done now…
    Hope she feels better.

  • DocWimsey

    It’s tough to really comment on what the #22 ranking means. FanGraphs has some repeatable way of ranking the systems. So, the median system is ranked 15th or 16th, but we don’t know how tightly packed they are in the middle. It is quite possible that the 3rd quartile is so tightly bunched that the rankings might be essentialy interchangable.

    Really, I’d concern myself with this only if the Cubs were in the Top 5 or Bottom 5.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Thanks for the kind thoughts about the Little Miss. We’re still in the process of ruling things out, and eventually, she’s going to grow out of this. Obviously we just hope there aren’t any long-term issues that develop in the meantime.

    • JasonB

      Maybe you should get her a little whiskey – my parents did that with me and I turned out just fine :).

      JK – you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s getting medical attention.  With the mild winter we’re having, I’m sure it’s extra hard on little people’s immune systems.  Hope she gets better soon!

  • JasonB

    “Nick Carfado says the Red Sox are privately displeased with the return they got for Theo Epstein.”

    Let it go, dude. Let. It. Go.

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