The Cincinnati Reds will arrive in Chicago today with a magic number of five in the NL Central, meaning that, if they sweep the Cubs and the Cardinals lose a couple, they could clinch at Wrigley Field. I highly doubt they want their celebration to take place in the Wrigley visitor’s clubhouse …

  • Alfonso Soriano with a hilarious recounting of his experience last night, when only a handful of fans were still on hand by the end of last night’s rain delayed game (which did not conclude until after 1 am CT): “I could hear [fans] talking on their phones and whatever they said during the game. It was a funny night tonight …. They joked with me but that’s what they do all the time. A couple were drunk guys. I knew they were drunk because they waited for three hours. I was having fun with them. They had to do something to enjoy it because they waited so long. Drunk. They didn’t know what they were doing.” Had I been there, I’m confident I would have been Drunk Guy Number 3. And I would have been asking Soriano repeatedly for his glove.
  • It was a healthy discussion in the comments last week, and now Dale Sveum is saying the same thing, per ESPNChicago: “[Dave Sappelt] should be able to fill [the ReedJohnson role next year]. He has some speed, he has power, drives the ball gives you good at-bats, is a good fastball hitter. All those things come into play when you make those decisions. But he has the ability and bat speed and the ability to play in the big leagues.” Like I said last week, it would be great if that’s true, but it seems a bit overly confident on Sveum’s part. Sappelt’s had a great couple weeks, but that came on the heels of a really disappointing AAA season. I’m not saying Sappelt can’t/won’t be that guy next year, but I think it’s going to be more of a trial by fire rather than a lock (that’s assuming he’s on the roster come April).
  • Sveum speaks an unspoken truth about Bryan LaHair’s future with the Cubs, per the Tribune: “I think for his sake he needs to go play winter ball again and get those at-bats he’s missed out on and be ready for spring training. Just like he was this year …. It kind of goes unsaid, if Rizzo is healthy, playing time is going to be tough to find.” LaHair being on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster would be a shocking turn at this point.
  • Starlin Castro says Darwin Barney’s impressive defense at second makes him want to be even better at shortstop. Good.
  • Dale Sveum really, really likes OPS as a stat. Good. (Well, good relative to liking things like “batting average” or “W/L record.”)
  • Welington Castillo’s journey to the big leagues is worth checking out.
  • Your periodic reminder: with last night’s loss, the Cubs stand a half game worse than the Rockies (loss column), two games worse than the Twins, and three games worse than the Indians. The Cubs and Rockies play a three-game set next week.
  • Starting today, Spreadshirt (which is the home for BN apparel) is running a deal where you can get $10 off of orders of $50 or more, today through September 27. So now is clearly the time to stock up on those BN shirts you’ve been lusting after for lo those many years. Just go to the BN store here, and when you check out, use the coupon code “TENYEARS.” Boom. Money saved, shirts bought, me diving into piles of gold a la Scrooge McDuck expected.
  • Stevie B

    Should be a thrilling series. Two teams needing to get swept battling it out.

    • tim

      The teams don’t see it that way. Only us knuckleheads with keyboards.

  • tim

    Regarding Reed Johnson v. Sappelt. I hope Team Theo negotiates with Reed over the off-season. A few reasons. He should be ‘reasonably priced’. The team will want a lefty-masher outfielder with DDJ and Brett Jackson around. If Johnson hits, he would be eminently tradable. If he whiffs, no huge loss.

    Finally, I think Reed might be the type of guy Theo might want as a coach. Keep the conversation open. He seems like good people.


    OPS? Better than RBI? heh. I agree with Dale.

    • terencem

      Understanding OPS is a useful stat is one thing. Understanding that not all OPS numbers are created equal is another. If he so much as bats Mather has this kind of line this season and Sveum bats him lead-off even one time, I will be ok with people calling for Sveum to be fired.

      • terencem

        Let me try this again:

        If Mather has this kind of line next season and Sveum bats him lead-off even once, I will be ok with people calling for Sveum to be fired. There’s just no reason for Mather to be in that spot unless they are trying to get him to work on certain things and need him to just get as many plate appearances as possible.

        • tim

          Mather should be released by October 5th. He’s not young. He’s not trade bait. Valbuena would be a better fit next year, and that’s just in-house options.

      • tim

        You’re absolutely right. Rickey Henderson (circa 1985) should have led off every day for the Cubs. Joe DiMaggio should have hit fourth. Christy Mathewson should have pitched every fourth day, and closed when needed.

    • KyleNovak

      A number of us had a debate last year when Johnson was re-signed and Sappelt came to the Cubs in the Marshall trade.

      Some people thought Johnson was due for a huge regression due to a sky-high BABIP last year. Factor in the advancing age and the penchant for nagging injuries, it was a strong possibility that he was in for a noticeably worse (even the “fall off a cliff” type) season that would make him a waste of a roster spot.

      I argued that since becoming a part-time player, Johnson’s BABIP has fluctuated pretty wildly due to only getting his 200-250 PA. He had solid success in 2008 and 2011 in Chicago. Let’s face it, Wrigley has a much better environment to hit than does LA, the spot of his last poor season. He was signed on the cheap for just over a million dollars, had the defensive versatility to cover a number of outfield positions adequately, and for what it was worth, provided a familiar face to the fans. Sure, people weren’t lining up at the gates in their Reed Johnson jerseys, but you have to believe that there was at least *some* people who wanted to see him versus a minor-league middle-prospect type like Sappelt. I know a lot of advanced-stat types don’t put much stock (and rightfully so from a strictly performance-based analysis) into clubhouse mentality, but on a team that was obviously rebuilding, a positive veteran presence with the media and younger players make things a bit easier to deal with in many ways. You have to look at all of the factors for players bringing in revenue and helping drum up interest when signing players. Worse-case scenario, if Sappelt convincingly showed his success in AAA and Johnson flamed-out, you simply release him, promote from within and move on. You have to think that was Theo and Jed’s mentality when they re-signed him.

      I think going to the 2012 season, either stance had a chance to be right. A roll of the dice, if you will.

      So what happened? Johnson regressed. . . All the way to a .390 BABIP with the Cubs.
      Aside from hitting less doubles, he put up nearly an identical line this year in Chicago as he did last year. His walk-rate has doubled this year (which for Johnson, is a whopping 6 BB to date compared to last year). Proof that BABIP regression doesn’t just *happen* when you factor in small sample-sizes and platoon splits being used properly. Most importantly, he has stayed healthy this year and was flipped to Atlanta, providing some trade value.

      As for Sappelt, he did nothing (.266/.314/.376 in the hitter-friendly PCL, .110 ISO ranking as one of his lowest in his pro career) to warrant a callup at any point in the season prior to September.

      As for re-signing him for next year? I say no. First off, he’ll be another year older and the risk of everything above happening (the BABIP luck disappearing, the injuries, etc.) gets much higher. Second, he’ll probably be looking at more money, pointing to his second consecutive solid season as a bench player as the reason. At this point, it’s a safer bet to see what the Cubs already have as a 4th OF, saving money on a younger and healthier option.

      I really like Reed, but he isn’t the type of player that you really need on a team like this.

  • terencem

    If I had any hope for Sappelt, it was ruined on Saturday when he swung at just about everything they threw to him. It just seems like he wasn’t recognizing pitches at all.

    • Cedlandrum

      could have been because he wasn’t familiar with the pitchers. Could have been just not seeing the ball well. Who knows.

    • tim

      Wow. One bad day ruins a guys for you forever? Harsh.

      Your call, though.

  • cubchymyst

    Got a bleacher nation shirt last week as a gift from the wife. They are good quality shirts.

    On a different note. If Soriano is traded how much does that improve LaHair chances of being on the team next year. I think it has to improve LaHair’s chances of being a Cub next year. I don’t see anyone else currently on the roster who can replace of Soriano bat in the line up. LaHair might have to be platooned with someone else in the end; unless the Cubs sign a free agent to replace Soriano.

    • ssckelley

      That scenario is probably one of the few that exist for LaHair to have any chance of being on the team next year. The Cubs would have to find a taker for Soriano and not sign anyone in the off season. Slim chance of either of those happening.

    • TWC
      • hansman1982

        good god, you are a hippy.

        • Drew7

          Yeah, I’m not sure that’s even up for debate anymore.

          • TWC

            Was it ever?

            • Drew7

              Now that I think about it…no.

              • hansman1982

                eh…I just like to point it out, in case anyone here was doubting it at any point. Silly people.

                • Bric

                  Easy now, you’re messing with a man who controls the weather. Poking a little fun with him is worth a tornado watch in your area, taunting him will get you at least a flash flood, and downright calling him out is definitely volcano or earthquake level- so tread carefully.

                  Seriously though, after last night’s banter with the fans I think we can finally put to rest the incredulous questions regarding Soriano’s grasp of the English language (remember a couple of weeks ago when he supposedly mis-spoke the age of his signing with the Cubs as 32 instead of 30 and many posters came to his defense claiming he didn’t understand the question).

                  It’s pretty clear now as is was then that Sori speaks English just fine and that the language barrier argument only works with a bunch of public servants who know nothing about steroids, probably could care less, and whose only concern is not offending their own constituents.

                  • TWC

                    Where the frack do you live again? I’m sending some hail.

                    • Bric

                      Florida. Hail would be awesome! Esprcially in September.

                  • Drew7

                    It wasn’t that we claimed he didn’t understand the question. His quote went something like, “I signed my big contract when I was Thirty-two”, which could easily be a misinterpretation of “…when I was 30, too” for someone who uses English as a second language.

      • Brett

        Love that guy.

      • Carew

        awesome picture

  • baseballet

    Since Dale likes OPS, I checked to see where next year’s probable lineup rank versus other NL players at their position. It’s not pretty.

    Where Cubs rank in OPS vs. other NL players AT THEIR POSITION:

    Position Player NL Rank

    1st Base Rizzo 7
    2nd Base Barney 20
    Shortstop Castro 13
    3rd Base Valbuena 24
    Catcher Castillo 16
    Right Field DeJesus 18
    Center Field Jackson 17
    Center Field Sappelt 10
    Left Field Soriano 11
    Starting Pitcher ERA (minimum 140 innings pitched) Samardzija 27

    • cubchymyst

      Where did you get your numbers from? If I go to fangraphs, look at OPS for the 2012 season for SS with a minimum of 200 at bats I see Castro ranked 9th in the NL.

    • AB

      I don’t think those are right.

      Castro is #5 amongst NL shortstops that qualify with enough at-bats.

    • Melrosepad

      Way to use the chart to your advantage. I see a lot of people on the list I wouldn’t consider an issue. Hell, for catcher Recker is listed above Castillo since his OPS over his 10 AB is higher. Number 1 for catchers is a guy with 5 ABs.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Those numbers must be including guys who have very few PAs at the positions. For example, if you limit these to guys with enough PAs to qualify for the batting title, there are only 7 NL SS.

      Even if you go down to 300 PA (less than half a season), Castro ranks 6th of 15 NL SS. Tulo is the only major SS to miss that list due to injury.

      • baseballet

        You’re right Doc, I forgot to check for players who didn’t have very many games played, so some guys made the list with only a few games under their belts. Sorry for confusion. If I have time today I’ll look again for each position and repost.

        • baseballet

          I guess one way to do this would be:

          1. For full season players: use a qualified number of innings played.
          2. For partial season players (like Castillo or Sappelt, for instance): use however many innings each respective player has played so far as the minimum.

  • Melrosepad

    His numbers come from the Stats page on as I confirmed the placement there.

  • Stu

    I love the drunk comment by Soriano. Next year at this time that will be the ONLY reason to be at Wrigley. An excuse to get loaded. Time to raise those beer prices to sign a few more “can’t miss” prospects.

  • Curt

    Got 2 bleacher nation shirts I like them seems to be a quality shirt.

  • Drew7

    We’ll see if this works. I may need TWC’s computer savvy-ness to give me some tips…

    Over on the message board of few months ago, I figured up the position-adjusted OPS+ and wOBA+ of a handful of Cubs’ players. Here is an updated table:

    Player OBP LgOBP Slg Lg Slg wOBA lgwOBA P.A.OPS+ PosAdjwOBA+
    Castillo 0.335 0.318 0.435 0.4 0.335 0.312 114.1 107.4
    Rizzo 0.349 0.336 0.486 0.442 0.358 0.329 113.8 108.8
    Barney 0.313 0.318 0.371 0.384 0.301 0.303 95.0 99.3
    Castro 0.318 0.308 0.427 0.38 0.318 0.298 115.6 106.7
    Valbuena 0.31 0.326 0.348 0.426 0.288 0.318 76.8 90.6
    Soriano 0.318 0.326 0.499 0.431 0.346 0.325 113.3 106.5
    Jackson 0.299 0.332 0.38 0.417 0.292 0.326 81.2 89.6
    Dejesus 0.335 0.328 0.399 0.435 0.327 0.327 93.9 100.0

    The last two columns on the right are the players’ Positional OPS+ and wOBA+, respectively. In other words, the numbers represent how each player’s OPS and wOBA stack up to the average numbers of their positional-counterparts.

  • Chris

    Kyle’s debate isn’t completely wrong. I do believe a large market team should spend their money to have a competitive team more times than not. And I don’t feel like every prospect in the minor league system is a guarantee to make it to the majors as a star. I do feel the “anything can happen” vibe every opening day, otherwise why be a Cubs fan. So I know putting a team on the field that can compete is not a bad course of action. But here’s the thing. Two years of rebuilding seems to be a fair price to pay for a new regime. Other teams that tried to rebuild with youth have done so for monetary reasons as much as having an aging bad team. I don’t feel like the Cubs fit that mold. To me, this is about a new FO taking over and hitting the reset button a bit. Let’s be honest. The free agency crop in 2013 is bad. There are a couple guys I’d consider as good players, but otherwise it stinks. Even a $130mil payroll doesn’t get the Cubs team to a legitimate World Series contender. And while Greinke wouldn’t cost a draft pick, I don’t think it’s a smart decision to sign players that would cost a 2nd round pick, especially one that will be in the very early second round. Spending money for 2013 is probably not a bad thing. But it has to be spent wisely. One year deals, with an option for 2 are good places to start. I’m fine with them giving Youklis $10mil for 2013, understanding that he has a team option for 2014 at $12mil, but that’s it. It will fill the hole at 3rd and allow Vitters/Lake?Baez another 1-2 years to develop. And if they don’t, he’ll be a stop gap for the next free agent to fill that position. But this team must keep the financial flexibility for a season where there are less holes and better free agents available to spend long-term money on. Overpay for one season at a time if you have to, like they did with Carlos Pena 2 years ago. They have the money. If there isn’t a draft pick cost, or it doesn’t slow the development of other players by blocking a spot too long, I think those are fair options. And who knows. But the FO has to keep the bigger picture in mind. A strong farm system will allow the Cubs to make trades at the deadline to acquire big league talent rather than trading veterans away. And with the short term deals, if they aren’t contending at the deadline in 2013, it allows for the possibility of turning a Youklis into a longer term asset, ala Paul Maholm. If they can improve the team a little next season, they should do it. But the long term goal of rebuilding the farm system has to be the #1 priority at this stage. Kyle, you’ve made great points and they are worth considering. I’d be fine with the Cubs spending more money in 2013. But they have to do it without taking away flexibility for 2014 and beyond, and they’d have to avoid negatively impacting the farm system. With the mediocre crop of free agents, I think they might actually have a chance to sign some guys to short term deals. But I think signing Greinke would be a mistake for several reasons.

  • Big Joe

    LaHair has had a tough time fiding atbats? I really doubt he’s been “looking” for them. They were taken from him. On what other team, can an All-Star 1st baseman, all of a sudden, find himself on the bench, without much opportunity, and have any coversation about him tip-toed around in such an unproffesional manner? This one. The guy went into a funk, because his playing time was reduced to almost nothing. I understand the quality of Rizzo’s play, and his potential. But, to see an ALL-STAR benched, just because a rookie comes up? I really feel for Bryan. He has handled it as well as anyone else possibly could. They couldn’t deal him at the deadline? No. Why? Because he was’t producing anymore. Why? Because he wasn’t getting atbats, which made it impossible to develope a rythmn at the plate. This is entirely the Cubs’ doing. I understand that Thoe/Jed have had a high opinion of Rizzo since drafting/trading for him. But, to hurt the career of another player, just so you can bring back the “one who got away”? I haven’t heard much criticism of the front office for their handling of this situation. Let it begin with me.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      They couldn’t deal him at the deadline? No. Why? Because he was’t producing anymore

      Modern GMs are much smarter than that. LaHair is very much a known quantity: a guy with very good power who is basically impotent against LHP and who is a below average fielder. Here’s the rub: the only 3 positions he can play tend to be occupied by the hairiest chested sluggers in the game, most of whom have much better splits than LaHair does. In particular, all of the teams in competition all had (or thought that they had) better solutions for those positions than LaHair.

      • Brett

        I don’t disagree with you THAT much, but I think it’s more fair to say that *now* LaHair is “very much a known quantity.” In June/July, there were still a few questions (which, in the case of a typical 29-year-old AAA lifer would not be true – but LaHair really was something of an anomaly). I was torn on trying to deal LaHair, but I definitely said more than once that, if they were ever offered a top 100 prospect for him (back end) in May or June, they should take it. His decline was, sadly, mostly projectable.

        Now, full circle, where we agree: I don’t think that offer was ever made, even with those “questions” I mentioned still being in place.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          We know LaHair much better now, but my thought is that the GMs (or, more perhaps more exactly, their scouting departments) should have known LaHair pretty well by June 2012. After all, he’d had several very strong years in AAA that should have attracted notice. Moreover, his miLB splits against lefties were there to be seen. At different points over the last 2-3 years, teams needing a left-handed power bat must have taken a look at him.

          And, of course, we were all getting hoots and giggles out of LaHair’s ridiculous (“Ladiculous” in the vernacular of those halcyonic days!) BABiP. Again, I think that modern GMs (or their underlings) are savvy to such things. They are not like that guy in your fantasy league who has no idea who anybody is and just grabs anybody who has good early numbers.

          In a way, this is just a variant of the “we need to see what LaHair can do against lefties” arguments from 2-3 months ago. Just because we fans have not gotten to watch it in person, it does not follow that the FO (and other FOs) have not been watching it in AAA for some years. Teams pay people to do that: and the teams that do the best job of keeping track of minor leaguers are the ones most apt to be in competition, I would think!

  • Drew7

    “On what other team, can an All-Star 1st baseman, all of a sudden, find himself on the bench…”

    One that has a much younger, much more talented 1st baseman ready to play.

    “The guy went into a funk, because his playing time was reduced to almost nothing”

    No. He went into a “funk” because he finally came back down to earth. Everything the guy put in play was a HR or a hit. It was fun while it lasted, but very unsustainable.

    “But, to hurt the career of another player, just so you can bring back the “one who got away”?”

    LaHair has hurt his own career by looking like he’s swinging a darn gardenhose against LHP. Power guys who can mash RHP will find a job in this league, but what sense does it make to play him in favor of Rizzo? None.

  • Big Joe

    And after the splash that Rizzo made, he, too, came back down to earth? How much playing time did LaHair get then? No more than he was previously.

    • Drew7

      “And after the splash that Rizzo made, he, too, came back down to earth? How much playing time did LaHair get then? No more than he was previously.”

      OPS by month:

      BL – 1.251
      BL – .792
      BL – .686
      AR – .913
      BL – .517
      AR – .942
      BL – .680
      AR – .642
      BL – .600
      AR – 1.003

      You tell me: At what point exactly would you have benched the top prospect in favor of the minor-league platoon player?

      By your response, you make it sound like they are both the same player – age, defensive ability, experience, etc – and we know all we need to know about both players. That simply isn’t true.

      LaHair was a feel-good story in season full of misery, but once Rizzo got here he just didn’t fit.

  • Dan

    Cubs better hold onto Barney. He has a great influence on everyone in the locker room.

  • Chad

    Brett –

    If you had some good looking flex fit BN hats the money would be flying out of my pocket. I have bought a couple of shirts…..but a hat would be pretty nice. Consider it. Thanks.

    • Brett

      Hats, eh? Something to consider …

      • Ben (BG2383)

        I would definitely purchase a hat!