I’m still thinking about the pancakes that Luke told me to think about

  • Last night’s rough start from Paul Maholm was probably at least a little bit thanks to the cold and wind, but Maholm doesn’t want to offer any excuses. “Obviously it’s cold and windy, but the first inning, it is what it is,” Maholm said. “To put it bluntly, I sucked. To put the team down 5-0, it’s not what you want to do.” Maholm added that some of the pitches that were hit the hardest were glorified batting practice fastballs, because the ball wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do.
  • Manager Dale Sveum offered some more specifics, which were obvious to folks watching the game. “He couldn’t put anybody away,” Sveum said. “I didn’t think he had a good feel for his curveball at all and keeping his changeup down. He couldn’t get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already.” And here’s the thing: Maholm isn’t a strikeout pitcher. So his inability to “put anybody away” is kind of a secondary issue. He should be keeping the ball down, and letting guys beat the ball into the ground, especially on a cold night with the wind blowing in.
  • From a rough first outing to a brilliant one, FanGraphs took a look at Jeff Samardzija’s first start this year. After the stats and Pitch F/x data from that start is taken together with scouting reports, improvement last year, and a solid Spring, FanGraphs is ready to declare that Samardzija really could be a good starting pitcher. No one is saying he’s a guy who’s going to throw 8+ innings and give up bupkis every start, but a quality middle of the rotation starter is very much within reach.
  • Dale Sveum fawns all over backup catcher Steve Clevenger.
  • AAA Iowa manager Dave Bialas says that third base prospect Josh Vitters has improved defensively at third base, and is really swinging the bat well right now. “He’s done a great job offensively, and he’s made improvements defensively,” Bialas said. “That’s what he’s got to work on — first-step quickness when he’s at third. He’s come a long ways.” A week in AAA doesn’t tell you much, but the Cubs are undoubtedly hoping that Vitters shows he’s ready for a shot in the big leagues. Having Ian Stewart at third base playing well, and then having Vitters ready to go, is a possible problem the Cubs would welcome.
  • The Cubs have handed out more than $1 million in grants to Chicago area non-profits this year. Good for them.
  • The Reds just gave soon-to-be 31-year-old Brandon Phillips a six-year, $72.5 million extension (discussed in today’s MLBullets at BCB). As I said there: On the heels of the 10 years and $225 million that Joey Votto received from the Reds – considered a middle or smaller market club – as well as some of the astonishingly large free agent contracts this Winter, it’s becoming clearer and clearer by the day that we are entering a “new normal” in terms of player salaries in MLB. The CBA limits money that teams can allocate to the amateur side of the game, and television contracts are growing. It was to be expected, then, that big league salaries would start to grow again, particularly after a period of relative stagnation. It’s time to start rethinking what a “typical” number two starter is worth, or a “typical” All-Star caliber second baseman.
  • Ozzie Guillen, who’s been suspended for five games by the Marlins after saying he “loves” and “respects” Fidel Castro, will return next week against the Cubs. Could be an interesting storyline.
  • Thanks to your votes, Bleacher Nation won Boys of Spring’s fan favorite award. Sweet. In case you forgot, Boys of Spring is Tim Sheridan’s excellent Cubs Spring Training blog, so I’m pretty pleased to get the hardware.
  • A reminder: I’ll be at tomorrow’s Cubs/Brewers game in the bleachers (probably in right field), so say hi if you see me. Also come say hi at The Sports Corner, across from Wrigley Field, where I’ll be hanging out before the game (I plan to be there by 11am, airplane and “L” willing). Cubs Den’s John Arguello will also be there, so it should be a good time. Or, it’ll just be me and John sitting in a corner talking about the vagaries of the blogging industry. How could you miss that?
  • LouCub

    Brett, I would love nothing more than to see Vitters, Jackson and Rizzo all in the starting lineup by midseason..Any chance of all 3?? I do love Stewart though and he does play secondbase..Just thinkin

    • hansman1982

      Vitters would have to do some amazing things…granted, there is a reason the boys in charge put him in AAA (outside of the obvious fact they don’t want the AA team competing) so who knows, maybe he looked better in spring training as well.

      • Cedlandrum

        I don’t know but I wonder if he was placed there specifically to work with Von Joshua. He is a great batting coach. Why the team in Chicago didn’t take to him I don’t know. He is very good.

        One thing that is interesting about Vitters so far this year is that they have batted him 8th in I think every game. I bet he has never batted that low. Anyway he is being forced to be more selective because he has the pitcher behind him.

        • hogie

          Von isn’t with the organization anymore, Dave Keller is the hitting coach at Iowa. Good point with Vitters batting 8th though.

          • djriz

            Actually a GREAT point on Vitters hitting 8th. I’m usually a fan of the top prospects hitting higher in the order to maximize PA’s, but putting players in situations that force them to change their approach is a good idea.

            I actually see Vitters as a good #2 in the majors.

            • DocPWimsey

              #2 should be the best “overall” hitter in the lineup, i.e., what everybody thought should be the #3 hitter. At any rate, I need to see a lot more PAs from Vitters before I’m going to accept that he really does have a batting eye.

          • Cedlandrum

            well crap how did I miss that?

      • LouCub

        the one thing that impresses me is his new found selectivity at the plate, 3 walks in less than a week,,he had like 9 last tear and still hit 280, any kind of patience he’s easily at 300, plus he’s a line drive gap hitter love those kind of hitters, especially at Wrigley when the wind blows in, you need guys who hit like that, homeruns just die when the winds blowing in 20 mph

        • DocPWimsey

          I, too, hope that Vitters is the freakish exception to the general rule. However, we have to bring back the small sample size issue AND the fact that the small samples so far are very non-random: he’s faced 2 pitching staffs. You see a lot of guys who rarely take walks come to Wrigley (or welcome the Cubs to town) and come away from the series with a few walks. Different organizations value control to different degrees, and while *most* organizations value it a lot more than the Cubs, there still are some holdouts. And, of course, different organizations possess it to different degrees even if they value it.

          Now, if Vitters is still pulling down a walk every other game come June, then I’ll be sold. (Well, actually, I’ll undoubtedly post when/if Vitter’s walk rate deviates significantly from his prior rate: I cannot help myself!)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Vitters is on the 40-man now, so it’s absolutely possible that he’ll get a look at some point this year. But, if I had to guess, it won’t come until the second half of the year (assuming he’s killing it), and it won’t come unless there’s an injury, probably to Stewart. In other words, I wouldn’t expect to see Vitters on the big league roster until September.

      • djriz

        How is Stewart’s defense at second? Wouldn’t it be cool if next year Vit can be a 15-20 HR guy at 3rd and Stew does the same at 2nd. That would help a team with a power shortage in the outfield.

  • SouthernCub

    6 years for a 31 year old is just plain ridiculous, I know it might be the new “norm” but its still just dumb.

    • BD

      The Angels just did 10 years for a 31 year old (32?). That’s what it’s going to take to get the best players, unless your farm system can produce a complete 25-man roster on it’s own.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    With regard to Wells and sample size. Or Dolis and sample size. Throw it out the window. Wells knows how to pitch well enough to be effective. He was used in relief type roles in ST and looked pretty good doing it. He knows how to pitch in Wrigley. Dolis can get hitters out. He makes hitters miss. We need to have the best pitchers available to us in the MLB BP. I think TheoJedSveum had blinders on when they looked at this BP configuration. Or maybe they want Iowa to have a better team than the Cubbies. Maybe they are counting on winning the AAA world series. Just being a wise ass. But right now if I was at the betting window I don’t know who I ‘d take. Why not have the best 25 players we have suiting up in Chicago. Put the best possible team on the field. That’s all any Cubs fan wants to see. It seems management makes some correct decisions. Clevinger has been great thus far. Mather played well. Johnson has played good enough. A better job at analyzing this BP and outfield should have been done in ST. Byrd and DeJesus suck…. Ricketts and TheoJed are simply stealing the cub fans money right now.

    • ETS

      Wells hasn’t thrown particularly well at Iowa.

    • Drew

      So, they did a bad job at putting the right guys on the ML roster, but you don’t know who they should have put there instead?

  • Cubbie Blues

    Brett, congrats on the Ryno award.

  • BD

    I was at last night’s game (and on the pre-game open, if you caught the nerdy family of 3), and Maholm never looked like he got settled in. As a former pitcher, the number one rule for cold games is to throw strikes, don’t walk anybody, and keep the game moving. He wasn’t even close to doing that last night. However, it was just one start so I would expect to see improvement next time out.

    And yes, those ski-mask/ninja outfits the Brewers were wearing are ridiculous. I didn’t realize they were wearing them at first, and then Mat Gamel came up to the plate and I thought “Oh, I thought he was a white guy?” He is, just apparently not when it’s 40 degrees out and he’s got everything covered but his eyes.

  • TWC

    RE: the Ryno Award, from Sheridan’s site: “We may tweak the voting process on this one next year”.

    Congratulations and all, but that seems pretty backhanded.  Hurt feelings from other nominees? Did they detect multiple votes?  How ’bout turning off the comments next time, Sheridan?  Anyway, seems a weird way to introduce an award.  Like, “and the Oscar goes to (sorry, we’ll fix this next year)… Rocky!”

    • Spencer

      didn’t catch that. Thats a really good point.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I tried not to read too much into it, but it does seem like Tim wasn’t thrilled with the voting process in one way or another. I’m not sure if some folks don’t realize that BN is kind of large, with insanely dedicated readers (and I mean that in the best possible way). The vote being strongly in BN’s favor was not a huge surprise to me (though it did make me smile a big smile).

      • ETS

        LOL Brett are you the Ron Paul of Cubs’ blogs?

  • Cubs style

    Bottom line, Maholm looked really bad. Not only was his velocity terrible, but no movement, no location, nothing crafty, nothing good to build on at all. Even though Wells isn’t great, I dont see anyway Maholm can be better than him this year.

  • Doctor_Blair

    Ozzie Guillen really meant that he loves and respects *Starlin Castro. He gets confused sometimes.

    • DocPWimsey

      And it’s because Ozzie hates Bautista, not Batista…..

  • JulioZuleta

    Is there going to be a large BN contingency tomorrow?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hope so. Seems like a fair number of folks have indicated they’re coming to the game. Can’t say whether they’ll be at the bar before the game, though.

      • JulioZuleta

        I’ll be there at some point. If I don’t catch you at the bar make sure you post in the comments where you’ll be sitting.