No Rizzo, No Vitters and Other Bullets

I should start planting the seeds now: The Wife and I are going to be coming to Friday’s Cubs/Red Sox game, and we’ll probably be hanging at a Wrigleyville bar before (and after?) the game. So, if you’re going to be around that afternoon/evening, be on the lookout for details of where we’ll be.

  • Alfonso Soriano presently has a 116 OPS+. Just sayin’. But his dominance doesn’t please him if the Cubs aren’t winning. “I’m not happy just because I hit a homer,” Soriano said. “That’s not enough for me. I felt happier in April when we played good and got some wins ….Now I hit a homer and we didn’t get a win. I just don’t think about me. We have 25 players here, and I just think about my team. We’re not having a good time right now. We’re losing a lot of games. But we just have to keep pushing it.” Soriano says his knee feels better thanks to certain exercises the training staff has been working on with him over the last month, but it’s also fair to reiterate that Soriano’s absurd hot streak coincides pretty closely to when he decided to ditch the “big ‘ole log” of a bat in favor of a more reasonably sized piece of lumber.
  • Jeff Samardzija says he plans on challenging hitters today, what with Target Field being large in dimensions. Jeff’s earned the right to approach a game however he wants, but last night’s homer display showed that it’s not like you can’t get the ball out.
  • The Cubs haven’t yet officially announced any Draft signings (making them one of the few teams yet to do so, it seems like), but we know of several that have or are happening. Lance Rymel, a catcher taken in the 28th round out of Rogers State, has signed. Seventeenth round pitcher out of SIU Nathan Dorris has signed. Intriguing 14th round pitcher out of a Florida Juco Corbin Hoffner has signed. Isaac Garcez, a 30th round outfield masher has signed. And there is strong buzz that fifth round high school pitcher Daniel Prieto is going to sign soon. Ditto third rounder Ryan McNeil, and 11th rounder Rashad Crawford. When some of the formalities are in place, I’ll starting having official signing posts.
  • Welington Castillo’s first rehab game with AA Tennessee went all right last night. He hit a homer and a single, which probably makes you wonder why I say it went “all right.” Well, he certainly hit well, and that’s good. But he also played first base, and not catcher. That tells me the knee is still not all that close to allowing him to return.
  • Ian Stewart continues to deal with wrist soreness (related to his wrist injury in 2011). It isn’t getting “worse,” but unfortunately it is “spreading.” It’s just a reminder of how long wrist injuries can linger.
  • You’ve undoubtedly noted that Anthony Rizzo was not called up for interleague play, something Dale Sveum had mentioned as a possibility a couple weeks ago, but which didn’t really seem like a great idea for Rizzo’s development (he would have been sent right back down after interleague play ended). He won’t be coming up later in the week, either, and Sveum has now suggested that it was only briefly talked about, though it was more of a “when’s the best time for him” kind of discussion. Sveum added that there are no plans to bring up Josh Vitters any time soon, either. Vitters is hitting .268/.316/.464 at AAA Iowa (kind of meh for the PCL), and he was blisteringly hot in May. But Sveum says Vitters’ defense needs to improve. We haven’t talked about the issue of control with respect to Vitters, but, for what it’s worth, his story is the same as Brett Jackson’s: if he comes up this year, the Cubs have already secured an “extra” year of control (they need to wait another two weeks on Rizzo for that to be true in his case), and they’ll probably avoid Super Two if they wait until late June. But, for both Vitters and Jackson, I doubt that’s an issue: I don’t see either coming up until after the trade deadline at the earliest (unless there’s an injury).
  • The Red Sox are going to DFA Marlon Byrd this weekend. That actually makes me sad. It’s a reminder that, when guys get into their mid-30s, their careers stand on the edge of a knife. Hopefully Byrd catches on somewhere.
  • I mentioned it in the EBS last night, but this morning’s articles confirm it: the Cubs’ one-run loss yesterday set a franchise record for consecutive losses in one-run games. The Cubs have lost an unbelievable 12 of them in a row.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

35 responses to “No Rizzo, No Vitters and Other Bullets”

  1. Chris Margetis

    Did the Cubs not lose 8-0 Wednesday night?

    1. Leroy K.

      no i think he means in games that we have played where 1 run seperated the teams, we have lost 12 in a row.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        The weird thing is that the Cubs record is basically what it should be given their run differential and other peripherals.  Ordinarily, you’d expect a team that somehow lost 12 straight 1-run games to be basically a 0.500 team (and thus prone to playing a lot of close games) that is about 6 games below 0.500 and with a run-differential just under 0.

        That is most certainly not this Cubs team, which is (according to run differential and other peripherals) a sub-0.400. That suggests that the Cubs really are not quite this good, and that they’ve been playing a little over their heads to turn 2-3 run loses into 1-run loses.

        1. Kyle

          I’d like to see the math on that one.

          The Cubs’ pythagorean record is 23-35, four games better than their actual.

          Their offense has a freakishly bad split between batting with the bases empty and batting with runners on.

          Both suggest the team is better than their actual record. What peripherals are you seeing that show you otherwise?

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            I’m sorry, I must not have been clear.  The math is similar to what you show: given the Cubs run differential, they should be just under 0.400 as you show.  If you look at net total bases + walks, then that suggests that they are a 0.370 team (i.e., 21-22 wins instead of 23).

            Given a sub-0.400 team, it is improbable that they should have played in so many 1-run games in such a short period of time, win or lose.  1-run games are the hallmark of mediocrity: the “superlative” teams (for good or ill) do not play in as many 1-run games as 0.500 teams do.  What we really expect is that the Cubs should have split those 12 games with only a slight increase in their peripherals: and that would make their record better than the peripherals predict.

            1. cubfanincardinalland

              Doc, you kill me, in my business they call it “paralysis by over analysis”. I don’t need calculus to tell me the Cubs bullpen stinks.

  2. Leroy K.

    What’s the major league record for most one loss games in a row?

  3. Blitzenjohn

    Marlon Byrd is a class act, and I also hope he catches on somewhere. This just proves, yet again, what a fickle mistress Baseball can be…

    1. Toby

      Seems like Byrd hasn’t been the same player since he was hit in the head.

      1. Leroy K.

        It sadly reminds me of Kirby Puckett, as soon as PUckett was hit in the head his health diminished, and he wasn’t the same player afterwards. Real shame…

  4. Chris Margetis

    Ok, I was thinking that would have received a bit more press were that the case. For the record however, until that 8-0 loss, it felt like they did have about 7 straight that were by one run. Which as I’m sure most will agree is one of the most frustrating parts of this season.

  5. farmerjon

    Hey Brett, I got a new phone and am able to login with it, but am unable to participate on the message board. I can only read topics, can’t comment or start new ones…any suggestions?

    1. BluBlud

      I had the same problem. When you go on the message board, if you reply to a topic, there is a box in the top left corner, if you click on it, the keyboard on your phone will then pop up, if you have a touch screen that is. You will then be able to type. Try it out and tell me if it works.

  6. mark

    OK, let me say it, since I spent far too much time yesterday (go ahead, take a shot at that) comparing Lake with Jackson and Vitters.

    The part of Sveum’s comments re Vitters that interested me was this:

    “Same guy — not great command of the strike zone, puts the ball in play though, and doesn’t strike out a lot for that kind of hitter.”

    Which is what I was saying. He hasn’t changed or developed over his career–just got a bit better at what he’s always done. Compare that to Lake who, so far and cross our fingers, seems to have developed a far greater degree of patience/selectivity at the plate since just last year. Obviously the Cubs saw something going on when they sent him to AFL and then held him back this Spring before sending him back to AA.

    But re Vitters’ defensive shortcomings. Defense is great, ya gotta have it, yadda yadda yadda. But defense won’t win you games if you don’t score runs. It’ll win you close games, but not if you don’t score runs.

    Look at Castro and all his errors. His great arm and range make up for a lot of those errors, but so does his offense. You can see how he forced the issue while still at AA: it wasn’t his defensive polish, it was his offense and the notion that they could deal with the defensive problems, just get that offense to Wrigley. His last year at AA his offense simply took off. At a certain point, IMO, adequate defense, even sub par defense as long as it isn’t downright terrible, will be trumped by offense. Vitters’ problem is that his offense isn’t great yet, either. If it were, if he had really developed his approach, he’d be making the Cubs’ decision much harder. But you all read what Sveum said.

    Rizzo’s problem is totally different. That’s largely about who’s in front of him. Yes, there’s the control issue, but if Rizzo were part of a package of young guys who were ready instead of just being the one guy, again, the Cubs might be forced to make the move earlier than they thought they would.

    1. cubfanincardinalland

      Castro has one error in the last 25 games.

      1. Alex K

        Cuz he’s awesome.

  7. True(ly) Blue

    I’m going to start a fund to buy a razor for Sevem (Sp?) so he can shave his face as close as his head. That’s the reason that the Cubs are losing, eh?

  8. jim

    Absolutely “heartbreaking” Losses for the CUBS!
    Whether or not, you like the CUBS, you have to
    admit that this is very depressing! As a “CHICAGO”
    NATIVE & “proud of it”!, I pray that someday, their
    moment of glory arrives & we can ALL rejoice!
    GO CUBS!

  9. BluBlud

    This is why I wouldn’t dump Soriano. You don’t pay a guy 45 out of 48 million to leave. Definitely not when he playing like he is. Can you replace his production for the 1 million a year saved. If the answer is no, then you don’t make that deal. I’m not saying don’t trade him to make room for a younger guy. I’m just saying don’t dump him.

    1. djriz

      We may be the only two people in Chicago that are thinking this way. He really isn’t preventing a great prospect from being called up (sorry folks, LaHair isn’t the answer in left) and we just wouldn’t be able to replace his production.
      Now, that doesn’t mean if some team offered a top pitching prospect, the Cubs shouldn’t do it, but there is no need to give him away (plus pay his salary) for a bag of balls.

      1. Alex K

        Exactly, don’t hate on soriano, he’s finally got some real rhythm up there, thank god for the new bat. His contract sucks and it’s hendry’s fault, thanks jimbo. I think they keep him, at least until a trade has enough upside in prospects. Resign him now so he has to be a coach for ten years on his current deal….lol

  10. Joe

    I just wonder how many of these one-run losses can be attributed to the manager.

    1. Lou

      I just wonder how Prince Fielder would have stopped all those one-run losses.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Probably not any.  Managers’ records in 1-run games are randomly distributed around 0.500 from one year to the next, and even one half-season to the next.  Many years ago, someone tried to use career records in 1-run games to measure the great managers of history.  Turns out that none of them were particularly good, and many under 0.500.  Of course, great managers generally managed great teams for much of their careers: and great teams don’t play that many 1-run games.

      A couple of years ago, the Sciocas’ record in 1-run game with the Angels over the last several years almost got extreme enough warrant further investigation.  However, their performance the last couple of years (under 0.500 both years) dragged them back in line with everyone else.

  11. Serious Cubs Fan

    Would it be so bad to just not bring up Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters this year? This is a really bad cubs team and it won’t be the type of winning environment we want those young guys in. They both have played better of late but neither is really making a strong case to be up in the bigs. Why not just let them stay down in the minors for the rest of this year and bring them up this time next year so we get another additional year of control on their contracts when they are in their primes. I know I’m going to get bashed for suggesting that but really what have they done this year to prove they deserve to be in the big leagues. Vitters had a hot may but he still doesn’t walk enough, and that average and OBP aren’t impressive. Then Brett Jackson is the same story. He really has not put up good numbers this year. They are playing in a hitters friendly league, and they still can’t put it together down there, so why should they be promoted against tougher competition. If hear the excuse to development you are wrong. If they call them up now and struggle that could ruin a guys confidence and career

  12. nkniacc

    I think they need to bring them up after the trade deadline in part to keep fan interest but also they need to try and figure out what they have in both of them in part so that when the winter hits they have an idea if they have to go out in the trade/FA market and go after 3rd or CF for improvment

    1. Serious Cubs Fan

      I agree they prob will just for a financial reason to give people a reason to come to the ball park but you aren’t going to get a truly big enough sample. Vitters needs to learn to play better Defense and also be more patient. In the case Brett Jackson he still needs to develop his bat as well. There is a lot of growth for these players to go. Vitters might never be what we think but he’s still learning and need develop his offensive abilities. It’s the wrong reason to bring them up just for financial reason to have people come to the park. They would need to play every day. I’d see it be better to wait and gain the extra year of control.

  13. ferrets_bueller

    I think a lot of the reason why Vitters and Jackson haven’t been brought up is because the Cubs are trying to build as much trade value in their current, expendable roster as they can.

    I think this is also a large part of why LaHair’s playing time isn’t as much as some fans think it should be- part because he needs to be healthy to be trade-able, and because the more he plays….the greater the chance he gets exposed as a AAAA player, which he definitely still might be.