jeff samardzija beardThe Wife and I watched ‘Gravity’ last night. Pretty good. Amazing visuals. Ultimately a very small story, told in a grand setting.

  • Jeff Samardzija got knocked around by the Royals yesterday in an outing that was reminiscent of at least one Spring outing for him in each of the last two years, and the explanation sounded familiar (and it’s really a story as old as time when it comes to pitchers getting knocked around): he left the ball up in the zone. “I felt good, but the ball was up in the zone though,” Samardzija told “I was kind of battling with it the whole day. When you’re locating pitches but they’re putting good wood on it, usually it’s because it’s up in the zone. A couple of those jam-shot hits that fall in – they’re up in the zone. If you get those down, they turn into ground balls or strikeouts.” While Samardzija’s Spring ERA stands well over 6, you just can’t be worried about it. His velocity is fine and he’s healthy. You can worry about only so many things in the Spring. Speaking of which …
  • In articles that shouldn’t exist and you shouldn’t read for $100, here’s a slideshow from Bleacher Report on the “Most Disappointing Chicago Cubs Players in Spring Training So Far.” The slideshow accurately names some guys who’ve had crummy Springs so far, but when you’re writing about a 1-for-10 half of Spring Training being disappointing, you may need to re-think your expectations for what matters. Click-click-click-click-click. Also: Brett Jackson is featured on the list for his disappointing 1-for-9 Spring with five strikeouts. After yesterday’s 2-4 day with a homer, Jackson’s Spring line shot up to .231/.412/.462. So, up next … the Most Amazing Breakout Chicago Cubs Players in Spring Training So Far (Plus Explosions and Hot Girlfriends).
  • (Meta: As a rule, I no longer have a fundamental problem with Bleacher Report like I once did. They’ve done a decent job of serious-ing things up a bit in the last year, and the professional staff they’ve brought in is actually pretty good. Even at its roots, I’ve always liked the idea of having a platform for folks to write about sports, even if they have no background in writing or sports. But I think they’ve got to own the fact that slideshows like the one above are a legitimate pox on the brand. Given that the above slideshow has been read 5000 times and shared more than 30 times, however, I don’t think B/R is going to separate itself from that kind of thing any time soon.)
  • Jesse Rogers looks at some of the less-discussed storylines of the Spring, with nods to Jose Veras, Justin Ruggiano, and Eric Jokisch. I agree with the names, if not the emphasis on the Spring stats (there appears to be a theme here today). I’ll judge Veras on his April and May, and I think there are reasons to like Ruggiano for 2014 that have nothing to do with his scorching Spring. As for Jokisch, I’m eager to see how he handles AAA in the first half of the year, and whether he’s going to be the next guy like Chris Rusin or Brooks Raley as of a couple years ago: a young arm, back-end ceiling, given a shot to fill-in post-Trade Deadline to see how his stuff translates at the big league level.
  • To sum up: Spring stats are made up of small sample sizes against a wide range of players, some of whom are “working on stuff” that makes the results misleading.
  • Look for Javier Baez to finally make an appearance at second base on Monday or Tuesday. (Tribune) How many he plays over there remains to be seen, but I actually wouldn’t expect too many games.
  • Paul Sullivan reports that the Cubs have let go their team psychologist and are revamping their “mental skills” program.
  • Tony Andracki previews the Brewers and the Pirates. My guess? Those two teams wind up having a closer record in 2014 than people expect.
  • Diamondrock

    Remember last year when Bleacher Report did the slideshow of “Top Ten Cubs Players to Watch” and one of them was Brian LaHair? Months after he had left the team to go to Japan? Good times.

  • Abe Froman

    “(Plus Explosions and Hot Girlfriends)”, Brett can you link to the hot girlfriends post, that sounds really interesting? #15yearoldmalesunite

  • Lou Brown

    I saw Tyler Kolek threw a no-hitter Friday. I know a HS pitcher is about the lowest probability shot you can take in the draft, but a 6’5 240 pounder that can hit 102 mph. That is a helluva payoff if you can develop him well and keep him healthy. With Beede looking less and less likely to be there at 1.4, I wonder if the FO would go that way?

    • ssckelley

      I think it is a huge gamble to take a high school pitcher with all the risks of arm/shoulder injuries. If the Cubs are going to dive into the high school level for the #1 pick I would rather see them grab one of the top bats, Jackson or Gatewood and then keep taking chances using rounds 2-10 on pitchers.

      • Lou Brown

        No doubt there, HS pitcher is a huge gamble. But with this kids size and stuff, (touching 102 at 18 years old!), the ceiling is Hall of Fame. It’s a role of the dice that I wouldn’t mind them taking. I think they have built enough of a farm system now, they can take a chance on a long shot. Then again, I have a lot of faith in the scouting, so the FO has a much better picture of the true odds than I do. In the meantime I can dream…

        • cubbiekoolaid2015

          Imagine having Kolek come up with Jimenez, and Torres in 2018. That would be an impressive second wave of prospects(if they succeed in the minors) to come along after the first wave hits.

        • Luke

          The last 100 MPH plus high schooler I remember taken with fanfare near the top of the draft (Colt Griffin) went to Kansas City.

          After which professional hitters quickly discovered that his super fast fastball was dead straight with no movement at all, and proceeded to turn him into extended batting practice.

          Eventually he left the game after the Royals pushed him up to Double A, but he never posted a WHIP under 4.00 at any level, and never showed a K/BB ratio much over 1.00.

          That’s not to say the same will happen with Kolek, far from it (although I haven’t read anything about Kolek’s control or the movement on his fastball), but just that the ceiling on a Texan HS kid throwing 100+ MPH isn’t automatically Hall of Fame. If the pitch doesn’t move or he can’t control it finely enough to survive against the best hitters in the world, his ceiling is Double A flame-out. At best.

          • Lou Brown

            I read the big league futures scouting report on him, the fastball has late rise, and good horizontal leak that works well on hitters from both sides. His curve and slider were currently average, but projectable. He is developing his change up as well. So he is not just a pure bullet fastball. But has a “plus plus” ceiling. So yes I don’t think you risk a HS pitcher on pure fastball, but TK is a lot more. So do you make the pick based on that?

            • Diehardthefirst

              Wine Spectator analysis?

      • Drew7

        I’m pretty sure the only group with a higher flameout rate than HS pitchers are HS catchers.

        • ssckelley

          Sorry for the slow response, I agree catchers are a risk as well. Fortunately Jackson is more than just a catcher, he plays a decent outfield as well. He has the tools to stick at catcher but they say he will probably be moved to the outfield in order to progress his bat through the minor leagues.

          Besides if Kolek is as good as Lou makes him out to be he will not be available at #4 anyway. If the kid has HOF stuff then my mind can be changed fairly easily. I just see a better success rate with position players.

      • SenorGato

        Kolek might not even be the best HS pitcher in the draft, he’s more the huge kid with huge arm strength. I am not a fan of his mechanics, and just don’t buy him as a top 4 pick (really as an option for 4).

  • DarthHater

    “The mind is a strange thing, men. We must begin by asking it…’What is losing?’
    Losing is a disease…as contagious as polio.
    Losing is a disease…as contagious as syphilis.
    Losing is a disease…as contagious as bubonic plague.
    Attacking one…but infecting all. But curable.
    Now, I want you to imagine you are on a ship at sea on a vast ocean…gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.”

    • Diehardthefirst

      We know Robert Redford and you are no Redford

      • DarthHater

        Nah, I’m more of a Harriet Bird.

  • dsgn1

    Brett, saw Gravity as well, neat visuals but dissapointed there lacked a story line. Good overall tho’. Three weeks ago, had a chance to talk with Michael J Formann and I asked him his thoughts about Gravity. He gave an hours worth of space details, some of which… it takes 2-3 hours to put on space-walk gear and what the orbit looks like on-going for days.

  • CubChymyst

    I think Ruggiano will put up some good numbers this year. I think his home runs will increase getting out of the Marlins home park.

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    “Paul Sullivan reports that the Cubs have let go their team psychologist and are revamping their ‘mental skills’ program.”

    So… is that to suggest that the Cubs don’t believe sports psychology enters much into the picture of top tier athletes who’ve made careers of not being overly moved by small stuff while on the field?