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welington castilloVacation is coming to a close, and I should be back later today. You can expect normal posting/coverage to resume tonight/tomorrow morning. Vacation was certainly awesome and welcomed, but I’m ready to be back – I missed this place.

  • The Cubs have a chance to sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis today, the kind of clause you’d not expect to see in any year after 2008 – at least not until the Cubs are consistently good again (though, yes, the Cubs did it back in 2010, too). The Cubs came back last night to beat the Cardinals 5-4 thanks to timely hits from Darwin Barney and Dioner “Kirk Gibson” Navarro (who legged out a double on his surprisingly not-so-gimpy ankle).
  • The Cardinals had called up Michael Wacha to fill in for Adam Wainwright so that the latter could face the Pirates this week instead of the Cubs. I want to be able to say things like, “wrong decision, jerks!” But I can’t. Wacha allowed just two earned runs, though he lasted only five innings. If it’s Wainwright, maybe the Cardinals win, but it’s not like Wacha was absolutely blasted. Still, I enjoy the fact that the Cubs won a game the Cardinals were trying to steal.
  • Junior Lake had another good game with a couple hits and a walk, and Kevin Gregg notched his 25th save. Pedro Strop was great once again out of the pen, and has almost certainly solidified himself in the Cubs’ collective mind as a late-inning option for 2014. Hopefully he maintains the kind of command and control he’s shown with the Cubs. Blake Parker also threw a scoreless, two-strikeout frame. Absent a nosedive in the next month, he’ll enter 2014 with a bullpen job to lose, too.
  • The big star last night, however, was Welington Castillo, who had just one at bat. He homered in that at bat, and then walked twice, hit a sacrifice fly, and got hit by a pitch in his other four plate appearances. Dale Sveum was all about Castillo after the game, telling Patrick Mooney, “He’s proven to everyone that he’s a frontline defensive catcher. His mechanics allow him to be a good hitter and you’re starting to see that develop. We throw a lot at that kid and he’s come a long way calling games. There ain’t nobody better blocking the ball. We know he can throw. There’s no question he’s a frontline catcher.” After last night’s game, Castillo’s line is up to .278/.359/.381 with a .329 wOBA. You’d gladly take that from a solid defensive catcher (especially a cost-controlled one). The only concern I see is that .355 BABIP, which is probably not reflective of where Castillo will be long-term. If not, you’d like to see the walk rate tick up just a bit from its current 8% range, and you’d definitely want to see the Isolated Power (.103) come way up. Then you could see a .260/.350/.400 guy with sustainable peripherals – that’s a borderline All-Star line if it’s attached to a good defensive catcher.
  • Cubs color man Jim Deshaies (JD) wrote some random musings, including this gem: “Is Dioner Navarro the first player in history to be carted off the field and not go on the disabled list? #Mandelbaum.”
  • Pitching prospect CJ Edwards had a short outing yesterday, partly because he’d thrown 17 pitches just a couple days earlier (rain delay), and partly because he walked four in his 3.2 innings. That, and him giving up his first career homer, was the bad news. The good news is that he struck out eight in those 3.2 innings. Know how many outs you record in 3.2 innings? Eight. Edit: Er, ok, it’s 11. Hooray math! Still, impressive.
  • Apropos of yesterday’s discussion of the Arizona Fall League’s roster rules, Arizona Phil at TCR has a complete take on the rules. They conflict in many ways with the rules listed on the AFL’s own site, but when it comes to minor league stuff emanating out of Arizona, there’s no one I trust more than Arizona Phil – even over the league’s own page. So, the AFL rules have changed a bit in recent years, with teams sending seven players (not six), two of whom can be from High-A or lower (not one; and the date by which your level is determined for AFL purposes is August 15, not August 1). In fact, that latter rule actually looks like it’s two players from High-A *and* two players from below High-A. That would be a significant departure from what we’ve seen in the past, where the AFL was almost exclusively AAA and AA players. You can (and should) read Phil’s piece on your own to divine meaning, and to see his other thoughts on the AFL.
  • The Cubs sent JC Boscan back to Iowa yesterday, now that they know Dioner Navarro is OK. In Boscan’s place, the Cubs called up outfielder Darnell McDonald (not Dave Sappelt). McDonald is a 34-year-old journeyman, so he probably doesn’t have much of a future with the Cubs (which might tell us a lot about the plans for Sappelt). To open up a 40-man spot for McDonald, the Cubs moved Thomas Neal (we hardly knew ya) to the 60-day disabled list with his shoulder injury. Absent a minor league deal to return next year, that may have ended Neal’s brief time with the Cubs.
  • downstate cub fan

    everybody is on the list

    1.Nomar Garciaparra
    2.Manny Ramirez
    3.Johnny Damon
    4.Trot Nixon
    5.David Ortiz
    6.Shea Hillenbrand
    7.Derek Lowe
    8.Pedro Martinez
    9.Brian Roberts
    10.Jay Gibbons
    11.Melvin Mora
    12.Jerry Hairston
    13.Jason Giambi
    14.Alfonso Soriano
    15.Raul Mondesi
    16. Aaron Boone
    17.Andy Pettitte
    18.Jose Contreras
    19.Roger Clemens
    20.Carlos Delgado
    21.Vernon Wells
    22.Frank Catalanotto
    23.Kenny Rogers
    24.Magglio Ordonez
    25.Sandy Alomar
    26.Bartolo Colon
    27.Brent Abernathy
    28.Jose Lima
    29.Milton Bradley
    30.Casey Blake
    31.Danys Baez
    32.Craig Monroe
    33.Dmitri Young
    34.Alex Sanchez
    35.Eric Chavez
    36.Miguel Tejada
    37.Eric Byrnes
    38.Jose Guillen
    39.Keith Foulke
    40.Ricardo Rincon
    41.Bret Boone
    42.Mike Cameron
    43.Randy Winn
    44.Ryan Franklin
    45.Freddy Garcia
    46.Rafael Soriano
    47.Scott Spiezio
    48.Troy Glaus
    49.Francisco Rodriguez
    50.Ben Weber
    51.Alex Rodriguez
    52.Juan Gonzalez
    53.Rafael Palmeiro
    54.Carl Everett
    55.Javy Lopez
    56.Gary Sheffield
    57.Mike Hampton
    58.Ivan Rodriguez
    59.Derrek Lee
    60.Bobby Abreu
    61.Terry Adams
    62.Fernando Tatis
    63.Livan Hernandez
    64.Hector Almonte
    65.Tony Armas
    66.Dan Smith
    67.Roberto Alomar
    68.Cliff Floyd
    69.Roger Cedeno
    70.Jeromy Burnitz
    71.Moises Alou
    72.Sammy Sosa
    73.Corey Patterson
    74.Carlos Zambrano
    75.Mark Prior
    76.Kerry Wood
    77.Matt Clement
    78.Antonio Alfonseca
    79.Juan Cruz
    80.Aramis Ramirez
    81.Craig Wilson
    82.Kris Benson
    83.Richie Sexson
    84.Geoff Jenkins
    85.Valerio de los Santos
    86.Benito Santiago
    87.Rich Aurilia
    88.Barry Bonds
    89.Andres Galarraga
    90.Jason Schmidt
    91.Felix Rodriguez
    92.Jason Christiansen
    93.Matt Herges
    94.Paul Lo Duca
    95.Shawn Green
    96.Oliver Perez
    97.Adrian Beltre
    98.Eric Gagne
    99.Guillermo Mota
    100.Luis Gonzalez
    101.Todd Helton
    102.Ryan Klesko
    103.Gary Matthews

    • meyerd96

      Is this THE list?

    • Dave

      Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Not Brent Abernathy!

      • Josh

        Why is Soriano name on this ped list? Pujol is not on it as far as can see.

    • MichiganGoat

      Is this the Mitchell Report list?

      • fromthemitten

        [img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3566/4643979434_97a9e1ebdc.jpg[/img]

    • babe ruth

      is this really the list? how do u know?

    • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      Wood, Prior, Zambrano, and Clement? So the whole 03 staff was juicing and we still couldn’t make it to the WS? That would be horribly dissapointing… In more ways then one.

      • KyleR

        Not sure this is even relevant, but i work with a guy who was at one time in the yankees farm system along with Mark Prior. He said Prior would openly talk about peds and about how a big majority of that ’03 Cubs team was using. Again not sure how relevant that is or even how reliable of a source he is.

  • Jackalope

    We’ll cut you some slack since your on vacation, but while 8 Ks in 3.2 IP is quite impressive, 3 must have come by the non-K variety.

    • Ron Swanson

      So to what should we chalk it up to, Jackalope, when you discover Brett was correct all along?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      D’oh.

  • Bilbo161

    3.2 innings is 11 outs. :)

  • sven-erik312

    Good Morning Brett!
    Great game last night. Hope Jax can shut them out tonight!

  • Oswego Chris

    What is this list….I am assuming PED

    • Bric

      Nope, potential candidates for the next Dancing with the Stars. Any other guesses?

      • Doug

        Awesomely played!!

  • David

    We are 34-34 since May 26th.

  • Die hard

    Good to see Castro inching towards finishing .275 while playing above avg defense which should carry over to next year and better from there.. Still believe calling up Lake lit up Castro’s Bellyfire 🎆

    • Bilbo161

      That’s a real good point. They’ve been friends for years now but Lake catching up to him may have given him a perspective on himself that he hadn’t had before. But, Castro was already getting a grip on things before Lake came up. If there is a true motivator for him it’s Baez. Castro can see him coming in the rear view mirror like a wave of destruction knocking all the traffic out of the way in front of him.

    • Hansman1982

      Except for the fact that castro’s resurgence started LONg before Lakes callup.

      • Die hard

        Troll alert👻

        • fromthemitten

          Junion Flint getting struck to stoke the flames of belly fire

        • DarthHater

          Thanks, but in the future, it would be more helpful to everyone if you would issue the Troll Alert BEFORE you post your comment.

          • Die hard

            Shill alert 👻

        • Eternal Pessimist

          Is this what you would call a “selfy troll alert”?

      • DocWimsey

        tut, tut: let’s not screw up narratives the confirm pre-held beliefs with little things like facts!

        • DarthHater

          Doc, stop being such a shill for the reality-based community!

      • DarthHater

        Lake came up on July 19.

        From June 24, when Castro’s turn-around began, through July 18, Castro’s batting stat line was: .304/.353/.392

        From July 19 on, his stat line has been: .255/.283/.277

        So that pretty much conclusively proves the important point here: you’re full of it.

  • Josh

    Totally agree. Best buddies who came up together for rookie league. Castro seems more relaxed and smiling out there. Castro used to say around Fitch that Junior is better than me. So we will see.

    • Kevin

      The FO is probably feeling better about extending Castro now that he’s playing much better as of late. Agree he started turning things around before Lake was called up but appears more comfortable with his buddy on the team.

      • DocWimsey

        The thing is that Castro’s peripherals never altered that much. This FO is going to be paying attention to those more than anything else. The whole “psychological” angle that some fans love so much simply are not part of the equation.

        • Josh

          Doc: Do not dismiss the psychology so easily .

          • Kyle

            Psychology is a science. What we witnessed is the fine art of making stuff up.

            • DarthHater

              If that’s a fine art, I guess that makes Die hard the Van Gogh of Vacuous Verbiage.

              • frank

                The Rembrandt of Recreating Reality . . .

                • DarthHater

                  The Picasso of Pointless Prevarication.

  • Werner

    Those of us hoping for a 2014 turnaround can only be encouraged by 1) Junior Lake continuing to hit (though would love to see a power surge here sometime soon 2) Castillo hitting and taking walks 3) the Parker/Strop/Gregg bullpen holding its own. Maybe only Gregg doesn’t fit in the 2014 scenario. Or does he?

    • Patrick G

      Power surge soon? He’s got 4 in about 23 games

      • Werner

        Just seems most of his hits are singles (which I am not complaining about at all) but you are right.

    • ssckelley

      I have been wondering the same thing. When Gregg keeps his pitches down in the strikezone he is almost unhittable with the amount of movement he has. It was unfortunate that he lost that command during the trade deadline because I think he could have fetched the Cubs a prospect or 2. Honestly I would rather see Gregg pitching as a 7th or 8th inning guy than a closer. Hopefully Fujikawa will be healed and be able to take over the closer role.

      You look at where the bullpen started this year and where it is at now heading into next year it should be much improved. Instead of starting the season with pitchers like Kameron Loe (yeah, remember him?), Marmol, Bowden, Russell, Fujikawa, Rondon, and Camp the Cubs will be starting with Russell, Bowden (maybe), Gregg, Parker, Stropp, Fujikawa, Sanchez, plus whoever else they bring in. So on paper it looks like the bullpen could be in much better shape next season, perhaps go from a team weakness to a strength. Had the Cubs started the year with this bullpen they probably would be over .500 right now. It definitely gives us patient Cub fans some hope heading into next year.

      • Jason P

        Fujikawa won’t be ready for the start of next year. But 1 name I’d add to that list is Chang-Yon Lim. He’s been tearing through the minors, and we should see him with the Cubs soon. He signed a 2-year deal, so I could easily see him pitching his way into a spot.

    • nkniacc13

      Be interesting to see what they do with the Bullpen for next year as you have Stroop, Russell and Parker who deserve spots you will have Fujikawa on DL till June and Lim who could be up soon. then you have Cabrera who will have to be in bullpen if not a starter as hes out of options.

  • Rebuilding

    Castillo threw an absolute bullet to 2nd base last night to cut down a runner. Moreland said his release timed at 1.80 seconds which is impressive. He’s certainly come along way and we’ve seen in the past that the power is there. It also looks like Castro has turned a corner at the plate the last few weeks – sustaining his 292/339/442 in July – with the good defense he’s shown lately would make him a borderline All-Star again. The most exciting thing to me is the tandem of Parker and Strop. Strop is flat out nasty

  • Nick

    Not to nitpick, but wasn’t the final score of last night’s game 6-5?? Great job Brett love this site!!!

  • Spencer

    lol, Welington Castillo is a frontline defensive catcher? Okay.

    • ssckelley

      I see a lot of potential in Castillo behind the plate, others do as well. Evidently you don’t, care to explain?

    • Rudy

      BR has Castillo at 2.3 dWAR, 3.6 WAR overall! If he keeps that pace up he’ll end up at all star caliber for the year.

      • Dustin S

        If someone has spare time I’d like to know how Castillo’s DWAR is so high. He has the most errors of the qualified MLB catchers (9), he’s in the bottom 4 for runners caught stealing, his CS% is only .288, he’s #12 for CERA, he has the *lowest* FPCT of any qualified catcher, #12 in passed balls, etc. In fact he’s not in the top half for ANY defensive catching category, yet he has the #1 DWAR in the league. I mean it’s great for him, it just doesn’t make any sense to me how his DWAR could be 2.3 and #1 in MLB when statistically looking at every individual defensive stat he’s not even in the top 50% in any of them. There must be something I am missing that is skewing it way up. If you listen to away broadcasts when Castillo is catching they even make comments that he’s a weak defensive catcher and that you can run on him, but that the Cubs play him for his bat. I generally buy into SABR being accurate and a great tool, but sometimes I see an anomaly like this that makes me think it definitely still needs some tweaking. In no universe is Castillo a better defensive catcher than Martin, Molina, Mauer, etc. but according to DWAR he is. It makes it look very flawed as a system.

        • DarthHater

          Not sure, but I think part of the problem is that DWAR does not reward a catcher for the deterrent effect of a great arm. A guy with a mediocre arm may throw out a lot more runners at second than a guy whose arm is so great that nobody even tries to steal on him.

          • Josh

            Good comment. I covered the Rangers with Pudge and players had to be nuts to run on him all those years.

        • DocWimsey

          Many of the DWAR calculations are based on *particular* plays. For example, Mike Trout’s absurd DWAR last year was based on 3 or 4 “over the fence” HR-robbing catches. There obviously is a huge luck element there:not in Trout’s skill, but in the simple opportunity for such catches.

          Similarly, Darwin Barney and Aaron Hill had extremely similar core defensive numbers last year, but Barney had a DWAR 2 or 3 games higher. Why? More of Barney’s “great” plays came with men in scoring position and thus preventing a run than did Hill’s: but that reflected (in part) Barney playing for a pitching staff that put a lot more guys into scoring position.

          So, this suggests that Castillo has made more plays in particular situations where they prevented runs, and that his errors, passed-balls, etc., have happened in situations where they didn’t affect run-scoring. (I have read many people suggest that Castillo actually is not good at blocking pitches and that he’s generally “slow” around the plate: but if he did the right things at the right times, then DWAR might miss that.)

          (This is a big reason why I prefer the general range stats: yes, those vary from year-to-year, but nowhere near as much as circumstances do.)

          • Eternal Pessimist

            Thanks for the explanation. I will probably avoid looking at the DWAR stat in the future.

  • Mush

    When do you think we will see the last of Ransom? This guy should not be in league.

  • Mush

    I was looking at 40 man roster and counted 19 guys that may not be on it next year. I guess I have been tough on Sveum but he seems to be have them playing hard with mediocre talent.

    • nkniacc13

      im not sure of 19 unless you are counting the 60 day DL

      • Mush

        I was.

  • cubmig

    …….o.k. ……..two games down and one to go. Ohhhhh, for sweeping the deadbird puddle of turds into the Busch alleys. Nothing more would “Make my day” season. Here’s hoping…..

  • gutshot5820

    The dreaded vote of approval from Sveum. Has he been right about anything yet? Clevenger had a slump proof swing. Barney was scratching the surface of his potential. The list goes on… and now Castillo is a frontline catcher… I know you need to have your players back as a manager, but it would help if he was right at least some of the time.

    • Die hard

      Why letting air out of balloon 🎈 ? Sveum on upswing beating Cards and now thinks he’s LaRussa… Cubs have no other catchers unless include Lake which is why he needs to promote him in press

    • DarthHater

      “it would help if I was right at least some of the time.”

      FTFY

    • fromthemitten

      Fielding Bible (who I trust) rated Castillo as a top five defensive catcher

    • Blublud

      Defense is what Castillo does best. His offense is pretty good also. I mentioned him last night. Before the season, I suggested he would be our all-star, and I was wrong. But he is definitely headed in an all-star direction. I think considering bost offense and defense, he is easily a top 10 catcher.

  • Josh

    Jody Davis and Marty Peavy deserve much credit for bringing Castillo along with his defense. At one time some of us regulars in Mesa did not think he would get beyond Double A as blocking ability was terrible. His arm was strong but most throws went wild as heck.

  • another JP

    The most important point regarding Castillo is that he’s 26 and this is his first full season in the majors. With that in mind, he leads all our position players with 2.4 WAR, has a .740 OPS in spite of his low power #s, and has a defensive runs saved mark of 16– which is blowing away all other catchers in the majors. Some of his individual stats might not be overwhelming, but the comprehensive measures prove Sveum’s point that he’s a top-notch catcher. The overachievement of our starting pitching wouldn’t be possible if Welington were a total meatbag.

  • Jackalope

    Anyone know how Castillo ranks as a pitch framer? It seems that skill has more impact than others like pitch blocking, throwing, ect.

    • another JP

      Fangraphs just had an analysis on pitch framing that you can see here:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/all-star-break-pitch-framing-update/

      Although Castillo isn’t very adept at framing pitches compared to Lucroy or Molina, the difference is only one or two strikes per game according to the stats. There are far more important aspects to catching, e.g., controlling the running game, pitch selection, than pitch framing.

      • Jackalope

        Thanks for posting this, JP. I guess I’m not totally sure about the relative value of different aspects of catching, but my understanding that a good pitch framer like Molina or Lucroy could save a team 40+ runs per season, which is equivalent to about 4 wins. That’s a ton of value. I don’t think controlling the running game could compare with that, though I could see pitch selection having a similar impact.

  • willis

    Nice to see EJax getting lit up again. Fun to know, looking at a sweep, that he comes out with his usual stuff.

  • Jeff

    And we wonder why he has a 4.95 era. Still unlucky huh?

  • Josh

    History of being a .500 pitcher. Guess we would be happy with that this season.

  • BlameHendry

    Jackson really earning that $52 million contract again

  • Josh

    Carrie Mukrat interview with Seum and he says no pinch hitters for Barney. Stats with runners on in late innings are his reasons.

  • willis

    Man, waking up, looking forward to baseball and excited about the possibility of a sweep on the road in STL. Such a great feeling.

    Erased by EJax in by about 1:30. The unlucky stuff needs to stop. He has his moments, but overall just isn’t good. Was totally on board with his signing, now regretting it.

    • Jason P

      Eventually his ERA will have to start looking more like his FIP. Even if it’s not this year, then at some point during the contract. The velocity hasn’t declined (much), and the walk and strikeout rates are normal. He’s not even allowing more line drives than usual.

      Bottom line, he’s getting a lot more grounders this year, and those grounders are finding holes. I’m getting sick of the “unlucky” excuse as well, but how else do you explain it?

      • Eternal Pessimist

        Yep…and he does eat innings…happy to get 200 innings per year from a number 3 or 4 pitcher who can save our bullpen. He doesn’t have great stuff, but he has a contract that extends into his “peak years”. Hopefully he will continue to grow in the next 1-2 year and contribute to something big.

        On the other hand, we could have spent the 13 mil/year on an older, declining asset that is likely to have their best years in 2013 -14 before, likely becoming worse. I think that kind of contract doesn’t really align with the Cubs window of opportunity.

        Yes, we could just try to buy all the player, but the Cubs missed on Sanchez, and he might have been a little too expensive…or might not have been as interested in coming to Chicago.

  • Jason P

    Rizzo rolls over on way too many hittable fastballs and sends them weakly to the right side of the infield. I’d like to see him hit more line drives.

    • Mr. B. Patient

      Some would say that is just a matter of ‘luck’ also.

    • cubmig

      Jason P——-I think Rizzo would like to see that too. The guy I’m disappointed in is Castro. While he show more patience at the plate, he still can’t kick the habit of swinging at low, outside pitches. He looks more than bad when he lets that habit get the best of him.

  • cubmig

    Wow……and having said what I did about Castro, he rolls a slow, weak grounder for a single to right scoring Castillo. Go figure.

  • cubmig

    And Barney says: “Take THAT!” …..as he singles in the tying run. God I love that!!!!!!!!!!

  • Josh

    Forced to listen to Card announcers. Allgame long they have said good–real good things about Barney. Maybe Darwin a future redbird.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Anyone else think the Coaches/FO should limit the amount of innings James Russell pitches this year? So far he’s racked up 42 innings and not mention how many times he got up and down in the bullpen warming up more then any other cubs pitcher. I would protect his arm as much as possible, he either be a long term piece or valuable trade asset next season. Personally I don’t believe in relief pitchers being great long term assets because they flame out much to often to invest in them to heavily. I would protect his arm to make sure he isn’t over worked for next season when we hope to be more competitive (hopefully). I think we should limit him to 60-65innings.

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