A Trip Around the Minors...

This week's edition features a new addition, in that we are replacing Sean Gallagher with news on Rich Hill. Off we go...

Rich Hill-Hill pitched in his first I-Cubs game, throwing 5 innings of 2 run ball. The good news was he actually pitched 5 innings and that he only walked one. The 7 hits he gave up were a little concerning, but one start isn't going to decide anything.

Kevin Hart-Hart wasn't on the list until now, because he was on the Big Boy Club. Hart has been starting for Iowa, stretching out his arm. He has only thrown 6 and 2/3 innings in his two starts, giving up 2 runs. But his WHIP is 0.90 and he has 8/1 K to walk ratio.

Bonus-Hector Carassco made his I-Cubs debut (seem's to be a theme in this week's ATAtM). Inning, 1 run, 2 walks.

Tyler Colvin-Colvin's numbers are still down, hitting a mere .231 (down .005 from last week) and his K total is up to 36 in 34 games.

Jeff ND-Samardzija's ERA is down .33 from last week. Through 36+ innings, he's only yielded 1 HR.

Donnie Veal-Veal ERA's is up a quarter of a point, but still is a good 2.67. A little concerning is that he is lasting less than 5 innings a start. May be just the early season and getting the guys up to speed, but we'll see how that continues.

Bonus-Grant Johnson, a second round pick of the Cubs, was moved to AA after one appearance in Daytona (coming off the DL). He threw one inning, walking two. Seems to be a theme among AA pitchers.

Tony Thomas-Thomas had a rough week and his BA suffered. It dropped over 30 points and he had 15 K's.

Jose Ceda-Ceda's ERA is on the rise, up nearly half a run since last week. On the positive side, he is striking out more than a batter an inning.

Bonus-Grant Johnson pitched a perfect frame in his 2 days with Daytona.

Josh Donaldson-Donaldson continues to rebound form a slow start and his BA is finally over the Mendoza line, at .202. 3 RBI's this week. He also has 4 SB's in 5 tries.

Josh Vitters-Vitters was sent back to Extended Spring Training after only about 10 days in Peoria.

Bonus-Jovan Rosa, a 22nd round draft pick in 2006 as a draft and follow player, has 28 hits in 99 AB's, good for a solid .283 average. But in his 28 hits, half of them have been for extra bases, including 12 doubles.

The Glass Ego Loves Zito and his $126 Million Dollar Contract

A huge TD fan stopped by one of our many regional offices today and posed this question to me: Doesn't Soriano have to be loving Zito right now?

Wow. I hadn't thought about it, but he's dead on. Now, I'm not going to say if Zito wasn't around, people would be calling Sori's contract the "Worst Contract in Baseball History" as some of knee-jerkers are doing with Zito, but it would definitely be an issue. For that matter, it should be a issue. JH paid a boatload of money to bring Soriano to Chicago. Actually, he paid $10 million dollars more to bring The Glass Ego in than the Giants did to increase sales of "Don't Ask Me...Ask Barry" T-Shirts for one year. He is technically the 30th highest paid player, because of his backloaded deal. But if you averaged it out over the course of the contract, it would be top 10. He is a top 10 paid player in baseball hitting .188. I think .188 corresponds about to a 6.95 ERA as a starting pitcher, doesn't it?

Hardball Made Easy with Ron Stilanovich

This video is amazing and Fantastico!

"I dont know Ron...but I sure hope his check clears"

"100 Years of Hope": May 1908

Today's off day brought us the Muskrat's second installment of the "100 Years of Hope" series running on Cubs.com. The series is a monthly look at the Cubs team of 100 years ago. I think something important happened to the team in 1908, but I haven't heard anything about it.

Of note this time around...the Cubs apparently had a pitcher named, seriously, Orval Overall who threw a 2 hitter on May 2, 1908. Overall is apparently the only man ever to strike out 4, count 'em, 4 batters in a single inning in the World Series (I'm guessing a dropped 3rd strike allowed a strikeout victim to reach base and extend the inning?). Let's learn a bit more about Overall's pretty damn impressive career, courtesy of BaseballLibrary.com:
Though Overall's career lasted just seven years, it was brilliant, as his 2.24 lifetime ERA, eighth best in major league history, indicates. Traded to the Cubs in July 1906, after a year and a half in Cincinnati, Overall emerged as Chicago's top pitcher in 1907, going 23-8 (1.70) and tying Christy Mathewson for the league lead with eight shutouts. In World Series competition, he beat the Tigers once in 1907 and twice in 1908 - including a Series-clinching three-hit shutout in Game Five in which he struck out four men in an inning (the first inning), the only man to do so in WS history. Posting a 1.42 ERA in 1909, he went 20-11, and led the NL with nine shutouts and 205 strikeouts. He had a sore arm in 1910, and in his final WS start was knocked out after allowing the A's three runs in three innings. He retired for two years, then failed to crack the Cubs' excellent staff when he attempted a comeback in 1913. (ARA)

Breaking Transaction News

The Cubs have signed 37 year old Hector Carrasco. Don't panic, it's to a minor league deal. Carrasco, right-handed relief pitcher, was released by the Pirates at the close of Spring Training. I guess someone thought it was worth a shot, because this is at best a perplexing move. Do the Cubs need a 37 year old right-handed reliever in case of emergency? A guy who the Pirates released? If this guy is called up, the Cubs are in trouble.

Perspective...It's Not Always Our Friend

Gordon Wittenmeyer's article for the Sun-Times raises a few good points. Just a couple of weeks ago the Cubs were on a roll. First place in the NL Central. Tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for best record in the bigs.

Since then? We're 4-9 and have dropped FOUR straight series. FOUR! And that includes series against 3 division teams in the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds. The same reds who had lost 5 straight before taking the Cubs in 2 of 3.

We posted our article on Kosuke Fukudome's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated on April 30th. I'm just sayin'.

...And Thinking About Future Moves

I was all ready to write a different post on this topic. The post was going to be about the Cubs activating injured RP Scott Eyre when he's eligible to come off the DL this Saturday and subsequently sending down a position player, resulting in the Cubs carrying 13 pitchers (and how terrible of an idea that is). Lou had mentioned the possibility after yesterday's game and it seemed to be in the plans as late as this afternoon. But then after the "game" today, Jim Hendry seemed to shoot down the idea of carrying 13 pitchers. It seems as though Eyre, who's been on the DL since late March with a bone spur in his elbow, will in fact be activated on Saturday. So who, then, will be sent down?

Honestly, I was expecting Pie to get shipped out of town. Watching the games, he still just doesn't seem like he's comfortable swinging a bat a the major league level yet. I'm being more patient with him than most would be-he's proven he can murder minor league pitching and the only way to learn how to hit major league pitching is to get the opportunity to do so-but he just hasn't been getting it done of late. Further, word had come out that Ronny Cedeno had been taking balls in CF again (I thought they had given up on that?). I thought that was just preparation for being without a backup CF to Reed Johnson were Pie to get the ax.

Or so I thought. I read in this article today that "Pie seems to be making the changes at the plate that the Cubs have suggested. He was 4-for-11 on this road trip, and batting .321 in his last 11 games." Huh. Not bad. Looks like the kid will survive this round of cuts to hang around for a while longer. Good, I say, we need him up here getting as many ABs as he can.

But then the word came down that JH ain't cool with the 13 pitcher thang (thank God-it really is a stupid idea, especially given the defensive needs of this club). So that means a bullpen pitcher is on the block. Woody, Marmol, Howry, and Wuertz are all safe. So it's between Chad Fox and the Seans (Marshall and Gallagher).

Marshall has the most experience and has pitched decently, so he's probably safe. Fox and Gallagher both were just called up. I have no idea on earth why the Cubs recalled Fox, who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2005 before giving up the lead on Friday night, from Double A ball. I would guess that since Fox is 38 years, um, young, he doesn't have a lot to prove in the minors and that, therefore, the Cubs will keep him around a while to see what he has left in the tank (before DFAing his old ass before the end of the year-you heard it here first).

So Gallagher seems to be the guy to go back to Iowa. It's a little silly to yo-yo him like that when they could have just called up Chad Fox when the sent Rich Hill down and let Kevin Hart hang around until Eyre came back this weekend. But Gallagher won't be out of the Iowa rotation long and this way he can stay ready should he need to bump up to the rotation at some point soon.

Irregardless of what pitcher goes down, it seems like Lou is just itching to shake things up a bit. DeRosa has been struggling of late and was given both yesterday and today off ahead of tomorrow's off day for a bit of a mental break. All the articles in the Chicago papers are talking about "mixing it up" and the like. I'm guessing that just means that Ronny C, who has really been playing great thus far this year and has the 5th highest VORP on the team in only 60 ABs, is going to start seeing more regular PT at the expense of both DeRosa and TheRiot. But with the way things are going right now, who the eff knows.

UPDATE: May 8th. One further point from last night's post: The decision to skip Jason Marquis' turn in the rotation could end up hurting more than it helps. Today's off day is Marquis' scheduled day to pitch. But rather than bump everyone back a day due to the off day, Lou has chosen to skip Marquis' turn to line up our 3 best pitchers, Z, Lilly, and Dempster (?!) against the MLB's best Arizona Diamondbacks. In doing so, the need for a 5th starter comes up Tuesday against the Padres. After yesterday's debacle, who are we going to throw on Tuesday? I'm not convinced Lou knew who would throw Tuesday when he made this decision. But yesterday's game muddied that picture even further. You can go with Lieber, Marshall, or Gallagher. Word on the street, though, is that Marshall isn't stretched out enough to handle a start. And Gallagher seems the likely candidate to head back to Iowa with the activation of Scott Eyre. So Lou will either start Lieber on Tuesday, or we'll wait to recall Eyre until next Wednesday, letting Gallagher make a spot start, or send someone else down to recall Eyre and allow Gallagher to remain on the roster. It's amazing how one bad start (combined with Rich Hill's string of bad starts) can create so many problems.

Catching Up on Past Moves...

Yeah, so, that was fun. I figured I'd link to the Reds version of today's 9-0 drubbing of the Cubs. Their version a lot happier. Not much you can say about this one. Let's move on to other topics.

Last weekend's Towel Drills board meeting had us away from the parents' basement computer and a little behind the times on some important roster moves. Let's run a quick recap: On Friday, Chad "the" Fox got a call back to the bigs at the "expense" of Kevin Hart. (Quotes emphasizing the fact that Hart has been terrible and is really no big loss at this point. It's called sarcasm people, stay with me). Fox wasted little time getting his name in the papes, giving up a 2 run jack in the 11th to a dude named Skip to take the loss. For his efforts after what must have been an exhausting 0.2 IP on Friday, Rich Hill got sent to Iowa on Saturday. Then he cried about it and junk. Sean Gallagher was the corresponding move, getting called up from Iowa. Thank God Gallagher made it back-we were running out of pitchers to hand out home runs to the Reds today after new Cubs starter Jon Lieber, moved to the rotation to replace Hill, left the game having only given up 4 HRs in 2 innings.

Let's take a look at these moves. Look, Rich Hill is a good pitcher. The guy was a stud last year. In 2007, Hill's first full season as a big league SP, he threw 195 innings over 32 starts and picked up 11 wins while striking out 183 batters, walking only 63, and posting a 3.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19. Hill's 40.3 VORP was 3rd best on the Cubs and 34th best among all SPs (Ted Lilly 24; Z 29). Hill's major problem this year-dude's just walking too many people. Last year, Hill walked only about 2.9 batters per 9 IP. This year in 19.2 IP: 8.24 BB/9. Drastic uptick. As far as what's causing this, your guess is as good as mine, but my guess, if I had 2, would be either mechanics or a lurking injury. I wanted to say an injury could have been caused by a huge jump in his IPs, but between Iowa and Chicago last year, Hill tossed 199 innings. Maybe the league is just catching up with Hill, maybe he's tipping pitches, maybe he's just working through a lack of confidence that began with his slow start in spring. Who knows. But we need this guy back in Chicago and pitching well for the Cubs to go anywhere this year. The road back got off to a mediocre start the other night-Hill took the loss for the I-Cubs, giving up 7 hits over 5 innings and striking out 5. Best news? He only walked 1.

Replacing Hill in the rotation (well, at least that was the plan before today's HR parade) will be Jon Lieber. We all know of Lieb's history with the Cubs and his 20 dubs in 2001. But that was 7 years. Lieber is 38 years old now. His last year with double digit wins was 2005 when he pitched 218 innings for the Phillies. He only pitched 168 in '06, and 78 last year, working some out of the bullpen. As a bullpen guy in '08 for the Cubs, Lieber has proved effective. Though giving up just over a hit per all of his 19+ innings, Lieber has only walked 2 and given up only 4 Ernies while striking out 9. His ERA (though not a very good stat to measure RPs with) was at a stout 1.86 before today's blowup as a starter. As a 6th starter and a guy who can and is willing to pitch out of the bullpen, I think Lieber is very valuable. But Lieber's days as a long-term solution for a championship rotation are done-zo.

So if not Hill, and if not Lieber, then who? Sean Marshall or Sean Gallagher, apparently. Marshall would seem to be the first (well, after Hill and Lieber anyway) option as he started 19 games for the Cubs last year and 24 in '06. His numbers were just about league average as he posted a VORP of only 16 in his 100 IPs last year. Though only 25, kid's been 'round the block a bit. I think he's pretty much a known commodity at this point. And what we know is that he can take the ball and throw, but he's not going to do much else. I think these guys might disagree with that statement, but what do they know?

Sean Gallagher's abilities are more unknown. Gallagher is only 22 years old. In 29 IPs thus far for Iowa, Gallagher was sporting a 3.10 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and had walked 9 batters to 30 Ks. Pretty decent. But how he'll handle the jump to major league starter is anyone's guess. Gallagher did pitch 14 innings in '07 for the Cubs, but all of them came out of the pen. Baseball Prospectus profiles him as a pretty middle of the road starter in all the major skills. On the posotive side, though, Gallagher was much sought after in the off-season by potential Cubs trading partners.

If this club is going to make a run this year, Rich Hill absolutely has to be a part of the rotation. Lieber is a great stop-gap to have in our back pocket, but he's not the answer. Marshall can eat some innings as a starter, but that doesn't win you championships. And Gallagher will probably fill a slot in the Cubs rotation at some point (actually, he'll probably get traded before that ever happens), but he won't today. Out of the bullpen he might be useful down the stretch, but he's no Ubaldo Jimenez or Joba Chamberlain who's going to come from nowhere to lead a team deep into the postseason. So for now, the best alignment is an effective Hill with Lieber and the lefty/right duo de Sean.

Let's hope Hill gets his bidness together sooner rather than later and is back to give this rotation and ballclub a lift.

Minor League Short Hops

  • In this CBS Sportsline Article, Jeff ND says that he doesn't regret his decision to pick baseball over football. What else would he say? There are a few good nuggets in the article. It's unknown whether he will ultimately be a starter or groomed to be a closer. I would like to think that the comment that he won't be in the Big's for another two years is true, because that means the Cubs can let him develop and his arbitration clock doesn't start ticking.
  • Juan Mateo is no longer a Cub. Mateo started the year in AAA, got demoted to AA, and after clearing waivers to remove him from the 40 man roster, he was headed to High A ball (where he would've been a Daytona Cub), but refused assignment and was granted free agency. Not a huge loss for the Cubs, as Mateo has a 11.84 ERA in Iowa and a 24.00 ERA in Tennessee. Mateo had started 10 games for the Cubs in that dreadful 2006 season, when I think Arthur may even got a start or two. He spent most of '07 on the DL after having shoulder surgery. All in all, this seems to be a guy who isn't going to recover from surgery any time soon (if at all) and clears a roster spot if the Cubs need it.

Short Hop

  • Jacque Jones was DFA'd by the Tigers. Turns out, he couldn't hit. This means that essentially the Cubs got Omar Infante for free, while the Tigers are left holding the Jones salary. Even if the Tigers find someone to trade him to, they are likely still going to be forking over most of the salary. Of course, Infante was traded to the Braves and is now injured, the Cubs have a decent prospect in Jose Ascanio, and lil Mikey and Ronny C have shown enough to realize that the Cubs didn't really need Infante.

Gary Scott Joins the Squad

The best backup 3-sack of the 1990's, according to the fans, is overwhelmingly Gary Scott. Despite his great fan love in receiving over 80% of the votes this past week, he wasn't much for photos, so we had to throw this old baseball card up. Next up, the Shortstops!