Coach Geo Keeps the Staff in Line

Most people are familiar with Geo's hitting prowess (currently .275 with 17 HR's). But today, Geo's work behind the dish was a huge factor in the game. First, following the 31 pitch second inning, the cameras caught Soto talking to Lilly all the way into the dugout. Lilly would respond by throwing 3 and 1/3 scoreless after that discussion.

In the ninth, Marmol seemed to have everything wrapped up with two quick outs, but then gave up a walk. Luis Rivas got to a 1-2 count before Marmol started overthrowing his slider. Although Geo didn't go out to the mound, he motioned from behind the plate that Marmol's shoulder was flying open. A few pitches later, Marmol had the K and the Cubs had the W.
The Cubs have a great pitching staff, but Geo's ability to be a coach on the field is one of the most underrated aspects of the Cubs success this year.

A Trip Around the Minors...

With all the prospects still around as the deadline passes, news on Felix Pie's successful stretch at Iowa, Jose Ceda finally gives up some runs, and a former first rounder who may have found his way.

Iowa

Felix Pie-Pie had a good week, going 9 for 23 (a .391 average), striking out only 4 times. Overall, Pie had a very successful month of July, hitting .373 with a 1.001 OPS. The most remarkable part is that Pie has only K'd 34 times in 237 AB's at Iowa. Hopefully, this means Pie is understanding how to hit a little better; he is hitting .371 with runner's in scoring position. Conversely, when he is batting with no one on base, he knows he can swing for the fences; 5 of his 7 have come with the bases empty.

Kevin Hart-Hart's frequent flyer card continues to rack up the miles, but this trip back to Iowa has landed him in the bullpen. In three appearances since returning to Iowa, Hart has allowed 1 earned over 4 innings pitched, taking the loss in the game he gave up the run. Hart rebounded on Tuesday night, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced.

Bonus-Koyie Hill was named the P.C.L. Hitter of the Week for last week. Over the last 10 games, Hill is hitting .485 with 4 HR's and 14 RBI's. Hill also managed to go 1 for 2 in the stolen base department. Hill's batting average by the months: April .158, May .230, June .310, July .432.

Tennessee

Tyler Colvin-Colvin was cold entering last night's game. 3 for 22 cold. He managed to "save" his week with a 2 for 4 performance, giving him a statisically impressive 6 RBI's and 2 HR's for the week. So, he's been able to produce, despite a .192 batting average this week. Colvin has a managed only a .301 OBP and a .678 OPS on the year. His .237 batting average for July is unfortunately right on pace (he's hitting .236 on the year).

Welington Castillo-Castillo has 6 hits in 7 games, including a 5 game hitting streak, but only hit .240 for the week. He managed 3 runs and 2 RBI's for the week, and struck out 7 times. 11 of his 30 K's in AA have come in the last 8 games. His batting average since being promoted is still .311 and .292 for the year.

Donnie Veal-Veal started last Friday and got lit up. Over 2 and 2/3, he gave up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs. He entered the game with a 3.63 ERA on the year...he left with a 4.11. Surprisingly, he ended up with a no decision. He threw again on Wednesday night, going only 4 innings and giving up 2 earned runs. Control was a problem for him on Wednesday, he walked 4 batters.

Jose Ceda-Ceda gave up a run in each of his two performances for the week, and overall has given up a run in 3 of his last 4 outings. Ceda was responsible for the loss last Friday, after the Smokies clawed their way back from the hole Veal put them in to tie the game. Ceda's ERA remains a stellar 2.11 as the Smokies closer.

Bonus-Blake Lalli has made a smooth transition from Daytona to Tennessee. The 1 sack is hitting .292 with 3 HR's since joining the Smokies earlier this month. He is in the midst of a 6 game hitting streak. The only concerning part is his strike out numbers; he had only 28 in 65 games at Daytona but already has half as many in just 14 games with Tennessee.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Only 5 games this week for Tony Thomas, including a doubleheader on Wednesday night, thanks to the weather. Thomas hit a respectable .278 with 3 runs and 4 RBI's. He added two more doubles to his resume, giving him 25 on the year. Overall, Thomas is hitting .267 with 7 HR's and 18 stolen bases, but has struggled against lefties, hitting .198.

Bonus-3 sack Marquez Smith (8th round, 2007) hasn't converted his .295, 14 HR numbers from Peoria to Daytona, but his .258 average is improving thanks to a 5 game hitting streak. Included in that is his first HR for the D-Cubs, hit on Wednesday's night. It was a grand slam, giving him 12 RBI's in 18 games.

Peoria

No Top Ten Prospects

Bonus-Randy "Jay" Jackson, the Cubs 9th round pick this year, was promoted to Peoria after only three appearances at Boise (in which he had a 5.00 ERA). But since he moved to Peoria, he has shown why he deserved the 9th round selection, holding a 2.33 ERA. While technically starting only one game, he has thrown at least 3 innings in all 5 appearances, totalling 19 and a 1/3 innings, striking out 30 batters and only walking 4.

Boise

Josh Vitters-Vitters returned to the lineup for the first time in 12 days last night, going 1 for 7 with a double, an RBI, and a run. Vitters had been missing for the past week plus with an ankle injury. Despite the layoff, Vitters has an 8 game hitting streak and doubles in 5 of 6 games. Vitters has an OPS of .870 at Boise.

Bonus-Mark Pawelek (1st round, 2005) is hopefully starting to find his groove. In his last 4 appearances, he has thrown 6 and 2/3 scoreless innings. He has given up 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. This is in stark contrast to his first 6 appearances (including 2 starts) where he allowed at least one run to cross the plate in each outing. Pawelek's ERA is still at 4.82 for the year.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - Deadline Day

Couple new names to throw at you this morning on the Cubs rumor front. CBS's Scott Miller is reporting that the club has acquired about Kansas City's David DeJesus and San Diego's Brian Giles. Towel Drills previously took a closer look David DeJesus, but this Brian Giles rumor is a new one.

Giles is a lefty, but he's 37 years old and clearly on a steep decline. Giles is hitting .293/.389/.415 on the year with only 5 HR in 369 AB. Giles creates the same problem as Raul Ibanez in that he's a RFer that would require Kosuke Fukudome to move to CF full time. Giles is probably better than Jim Edmonds, but by how much?

DeJesus, conversely, is only 28, plays CF, and is under contract. He'll cost more, but provides both a short and great longer term solution at CF that Giles and Ibanez do not. Go get 'em Jimbo.

9:37 AM CST UPDATE: The Red Sox have shown some interest in Scott Erye, preferring him to Will Ohman.

10:42 AM CST UPDATE: With Ken Griffey Jr. reportedly approving a trade from the Reds to the South Side, presumably the Reds are a worse team. That helps the Cards and Brew-Crew, who each have 9 games left with Cincinnati, while the Cubs have only 6. Probably doesn't have a huge impact, but that could mean a game somewhere.

1:45 PM CST UPDATE: With just over an hour to go before the bell tolls, the Cubs don't appear to adding any depth. The only rumor still swirling is that the Cubs are looking to trade Scott Erye. While the Red Sox are interested, rumors have also surfaced that the Yankees may be looking at Erye. If the Cubs are content on trading him, a bidding war between the two could result, although Erye isn't likely commanding a top prospect return.

The Raul Ibanez rumors have fizzled and it now appears that the Blue Jays are the team most likely to land him, if he is moved, despite being 6 1/2 games out of the wild card race.

1:59 PM CST UPDATE: I guess the rumor mill hasn't quite yet been shut down. According to random reports, the Cubs have inquired about acquiring Milton Bradley (no, Sam Zell isn't looking to acquire the board game company). The Rangers, out of the divisional race but only 4 1/2 out of the wild card, have said they aren't interested in moving Bradley.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - Raul Ibanez, Scott Eyre

14 time All-Star Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Freaking Farnsworth? Five teams going after Will Ohman? What the hell is going on in this wacky MLB trade market right now? Word is the Cubs are on the hunt for a left-handed bat. Let's see what they're up to.

How's this for a name that gets your motor runnin': Raul Ibanez. Yawn. Big news on the Cubs trade rumor front is that the Cubs are looking into acquiring Seattle Mariners Raul Ibanez. Per trade rumor God Kenny Rosenthal, the M's are seeking 2 quality prospects in return for the 36 year old LFer. Micah Hoffpauir and Felix Pie are 2 of the names being thrown about.

To this I have to say...are the Mariners high? First they're being idiots asking for the moon to move Jared Washburn. Now they want the Cubs to give up on top prospect Felix Pie and a guy who has nothing but hit all year in Hoffpauir? C'mon. Are they trying to improve their team or simply get their names in the 'papes? They can't seriously think they're going to get a better haul for Ibanez than the Pirates got for Xavier Nady or the Tigers got for Pudge Rodriguez, can they?
Ibanez is a career .284/.345/.470 hitter who's hitting at a .279/.349/.464 clip in '08. You know what you're getting there, looks like. Ibanez is a lefty and has 15 HRs on the year. Though 36, he is showing the ability to maintain his numbers. Thus far, Ibanez seems to be outperforming his PECOTA VORP projection. And PECOTA has him remaining effective until at least the 2010 season. Dude stays healthy too. Ibanez has accumulated between 481 and 626 ABs between 2002-2007. Actually, Ibanez isn't starting to sound to bad now that I look at it. But, as always, there's the...

"Yeah, but...". Yeah, but, Ibanez's 2 yr/$11 million contract expires at the end of this season. I don't see any reason why Ibanez wouldn't want to sign with the Cubs, but not sure if locking in a 36 year old is the best move. Ibanez could possibly be a rental. And, yeah but, Ibanez is a LFer. We've already got the Glass Ego out in LF. The guy fought tooth and nail to move from 2B to the OF. Then bitched and moaned about the trial the Cubs gave him in CF. Would Soriano be willing to move to RF? Or would Ibanez play better out there? Either way-the club would take a ding defensively. And this would push Kosuke Fukudome to full time in CF (which apparently is no longer a concern now that his offensive numbers have been on the dip). Not to mention that keeping Jim Edmonds's rapidly declining ass on the roster would be pretty difficult...but somehow I'm totally OK with that (yes, that was sarcasm).

All this is great and all, and Ibanez would certainly provide an upgrade over the combo of ReJo and former Cardinal Jim Edmonds, but if it takes Hoffpauir and Pie to get this deal done, is it worth it? I don't think so. Hoffpauir is what he is. A big huge dude who can rake but is without position on this club. He's not good enough in the OF to be a viable option there and DLee has 1B locked down solid. It makes sense to move Hoffpauir before he begins to show that he's not really of prospect pedigree, is a bit old to be "breaking out" and can't, in fact, walk on water. But what about Pie?

We're all familiar with Pie's struggles at the beginning of the year. Pie is a young player who had a pile of pressure placed on his shoulders and wasn't given a fair (or long enough) crack at sticking in the bigs. So the Cubs ship him back to Iowa where he had done nothing but blast the baseball the year prior. Confidence destroyed, Pie goes into a funk. But don't look now-the kid may be back. In his 10 games since the All-Star Break at Iowa, Pie is hitting .429/.459/.657/ for a redonkulous OPS of 1.117. Compare this to the injured Jim Edmonds's .278/.316/.500 and fading fast since the ASB. Pie appears healthy, his confidence appears to be back, and he could be ready to go. And he's far and away the best defensive player of all those discussed here. Why waste Pie's future and talent, along with that of another prospect like a Micah Hoffpauir, for a potential rental? Kid deserves a shot. Trading Pie off now would be just another in the long line of Jim Hendry "sell lows" on Cubs prospects.

Ibanez would be an offensive upgrade, yes. But unless the price comes down, I think the Cubs need to take a pass here.

The other rumor currently out there involving the Cubs regards moving lefty RP Scott Eyre for, well, really the Cubs sound like they'll take anything at this point. With Jeff Samardzija going well, and the Cubs seemingly willing to place a lot of stock in his fast start, it's being widely speculated that the Cubs will try and trade Eyre to pick up some spare parts. Jayson Stark has reported that the club would like to move Eyre and his expiring contract to the AL. In the alternative, the club would likely have to release Jon Lieber or move Bob Howry. But, having God's greatest gift of being a left-handed not-totatlly-incompetent pitcher, Eyre has the most value. Will Carroll says the Cubs and Dodgers have discussed something for Eyre. And Ken Rosenthal lists Eyre among the available lefty RP's. But that's about it.

Towel Drills will stay on top of all the latest rumors as we lead up to tomorrow's non-waiver trade deadline. We'll be here breaking down any deals that are made and take a look at anything the Cubs's competition may do. Like voting in Chicago, check back early and often.

Cubs Fans: when did we become the southside?

Over the last 30 days two major stories have come out about Cubs fans beating up and assaulting opposing teams fans. The first one occurred earlier in the month (of July) when a party in Huntley cost a Sox Fan his eye. The Chicago Trib reports:

"The Associated Press reported the party started out as a Sesame Street-themed birthday party for a 2-year-old girl...Robert Steele, 32, the injured Sox fan, was pushed to the ground at the party and kicked several times, including once in the right eye...Boguslaw Czapla, 37, of Elmwood Park, Jaroslaw's brother [cubs fans], was charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and mob action...Jaroslaw Czapla, 31, the brother who hosted the party, was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony mob action, police said...A neighbor who said she has known Jaroslaw Czapla for about five years but who declined to give her name called him a good father and a hard worker. She also described him as an avid Cubs fan who once named a pet dog Wrigley."

Key words in this article: MOB ACTION, BATTERY, STEEL TOE BOOTS and a pet dog WRIGLEY. When did Cubs fans start beating up Sox fans? At what point in time did we start wearing steel toe boots to a 2-year olds birthday party...in the middle of the summer.

Second Cubs violent act occurred last night in Milwaukee. Again the CT reports:

"Three Chicago area men are accused of beating up a suburban Milwaukee man who police say threw a beer at their bus after the Milwaukee Brewers' loss to the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park...The men are 25, 26 and 34 years old...The Brewers fan was cited for disorderly conduct and...he suffered cuts to his face and had a tooth knocked out. The 34-year-old Chicago area man also received a municipal ticket for assault and battery after police say he punched his sister in the mouth as she tried to intervene in the fight."

Key words in this article: BREWERS' LOSS, TOOTH KNOCKED OUT, PUNCHED HIS SISTER and BUS. Okay so this story is a little bit better than the first because at least there was an instigating factor. If the BUS was really cool I too would be upset that this Brewers' fan just jacked up my sweet paint job...however what makes this very uncool and southside like is the punching of the sister...REALLY? I cant wait until the Christmas and these two have to hang out again.

Maybe Sox fans are leaving their team, breaking loyalty and become Cubs fans. Because these types of actions are unheard of. We at Towel Drills look down upon and do not endorse these types of actions, however we are proud to talk about them and to exploit them to the fullest.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors - Deadline Week

As I watch the Cubs beat their 2nd consecutive Brewers ace, extend their lead in the NL Central to 3 games, guarantee they exit this important July series against the Brewers with the division lead, and watch Jeff Samardzija close out another game, let's check out the latest on the very quiet Cubs trade rumor mill:
  • The current Cubs rumor news can be summed up in two words: Jeff Samardzija. Despite having only pitched a total of 5 innings in the major leagues and having a lengthy MLB career that stretches all the way back to last weekend, the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry seem very willing to hang the club's bullpen's success on the right arm of Jeff ND. Says Hendry:
    "What you obviously need is for Woody to come back healthy and everything will fit," Hendry said. "I think Samardzija will give us a lift. We'll see how that unfolds and see how guys are throwing, and evaluate that into the next series."
  • Earlier rumors of the Cubs making a move for George Sherrill of the O's or the A's Houston Street appear to have died on the vine in the hopes (expectations?) that Samardzija will be able to both keep the bullpen ship afloat until Kerry Wood returns from the DL and perform well in a middle relief role for the Cubs in the pennant race.
  • Samardzija was, of course, called up on Friday to take Kerry Wood's spot as Wood finally landed on the DL with his finger blister. Jon Lieber remains on the DL with a right foot strain. Scott Eyre has returned from the DL but hasn't pitched since. Carlos Marmol has struggled over the past several weeks. Bob Howry has been awful of late. Sean Marshall has a 7.36 ERA over the last week. Neil Cotts remains Neil Cotts. And Michael Wuertz and Kevin hart find themselves amongst the corn. (Hey-at least Chad Gaudin has been good). Point is, the Cubs bullpen is far from stable. As solid as Samardzija has looked over his 5 whole innings as a major league pitcher, is it really that great of an idea to put him and the team in a position where he simply has to be good? To commit to Samardzija by not making a trade to bring in a more experienced reliever and therefore require that he be effective? Mike Wuertz isn't going to be able to replace Samardzija if he is unable to perform as he has thus far. Neither is Lieber. Nor will Hart. They're simply not good enough and don't have the sort of feared power arm that Samardzija possesses and Lou Piniella loves. Belive me, I'm all for hanging on to our prospects and not making a deal if it's not necessary, but I do wonder about the faith we're heaping on Samardzija at this point. Let's hope he's good. Damn good. But is it smart to count on that?
  • C'mon here though. As much as I am starting to love Samardzija-he's been in the bigs for less than a week. Is it really time for stuff like this, from ESPN's Jayson Stark? KRod? Joba? Seriously?:
    Now that Jeff Samardzija looks as if he can be to the Cubs what K-Rod was to the 2002 Angels and what Joba Chamberlain was to the Yankees last year, the Cubs are no longer shopping for arms of any kind.
  • Samardzija's emergence has also put Jon Lieber and Scott Eyre's spots on the Cubs roster in jeopardy. Per Bruce Miles, look for Lieber or Eyre to be dealt or released by Thursday's deadline. Jayson Stark backs up Miles re: Eyre saying that the Cubs are looking to move the lefty reliever (a pretty valuable commodity for the right playoff-bound team) to an AL club like the Rays, Red Sox, or Tiggers.
  • One final thing...Dear Idiots: the Cubs aren't going to acquire Manny Ramirez. I'm not even going to link the site I read that lays out why having Manny Ramirez in the offense would be beneficial. But I'll give you a hint: the site also includes an analysis of why having Roy Hallday on the Cubs would also be good. God bless the Internet.

Minor League Movers

News on some football guy now playing baseball, a guy who may no longer be playing baseball, and two of the Cubs top three picks from the draft, all in this week's MLM

Iowa

Breaking news! I'm sure that no one has heard this, but reportedly the Cubs have called up Jeff ND to play for the Big Boys. Stay tuned for more late-breaking updates. In other news, the I-Cubs got Micah Hoffpauir back when Sori came off the D.L. and took Samardzija's place. He was joined by Kevin Hart, who lost his big league spot when Scott Erye came back. The I-Cubs sent relief pitcher Greg Reinhard back to Tennessee.

Tennessee

Darin Downs, a fifth round pick of the Cubs from 2003, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for a PTBNL. Downs, whose spot was taken by Reinhard, was 0-2 with a 6.56 ERA in 22 innings of relief with Tennessee this year. While 2003 hasn't panned out as a successful draft for the Cubs, Downs is the highest draft pick no longer with the organization. The Smokies also added Jose Made (20th round, 2007) from Daytona. Made is a defensive specialist, hitting a combined .064 between Daytona and Tennessee.

Daytona

As reported in last week's ATAtM, Jordan Latham was promoted from this week from Peoria. Latham, a 29th rounder from the 2006 draft, took the roster spot from Mike Phelps, who was released. Phelps was an 11th round pick from 2005 who struggled in relief, posting a 5.56 ERA.

Peoria

While Ryne Sandberg's team awaits news on suspensions resulting from last week's fight, they have made at least one move pending the results. The Cubs demoted Julio Castillo to rookie ball in Mesa. In case you were living in some type of internet-free cave, Castillo was the pitcher who, during a melee last week, threw a ball that ended up in stands and hit a fan. Castillo was arrested on felonious assault. In addition to the Castillo move, the Chiefs placed Gian Guzman (NDFA, 2006) on the D.L. Having some open roster spots, the Cubs added Josh Harrison, John Muller, and Casey Coleman. Harrison's (6th round, 2008) move was expected, as he was hitting .351 at Boise. Muller was also featured in last week's ATAtM. As for Coleman, I think they may have mistaken the 21 year old's picture on milb.com.

Boise

With the aforementioned promotions, the Hawks roster had 3 spots open. The organization filled one of those spots by promoting the Cubs first round pick Andrew Cashner. In addition, the Cubs second round pick, Aaron Shafer, got the call to Boise. Both had pitched in one official rookie ball game, neither giving up a run. Finally, Sean Hoorelbeke was added to the roster. Hoorelbeke, a 33rd rounder from this year, was hitting .388 for the rookie ball team with a .479 OBP. In all, only one of the Cubs first 10 picks is still in rookie ball.

By the Numbers...

With just over two months left to play in the season and exactly 28 home and 28 road games to go, I thought I would provide a few stats of interest:

Player Stats
  • If it seems like D-Lee is hitting into a lot of double plays, it's because he is. He already has 21 this year, good for tops in all of baseball. His previous high was back in 2001, when he hit 18. 10 of Lee's 21 DP's have come with a runner in scoring position, despite a .310 BA with RISP.

  • On the good side of things, Lee is third in the N.L. in hits, with 129. Then again, he's third in outs made (guess what, he's third in AB's too).

  • The Riot leads the N.L. in singles with 106 and is in second in MLB behind Ichiro's 108. Good thing he gets so many hits, as he is tied with Jose Reyes for most times caught stealing, with 10. Too bad Reyes has 34 successful SB's and The Riot has only 15.

  • Dempster leads the N.L. in allowing the fewest hits per 9 innings. There are only 5 other pitches in the league who are within a hit per 9 of him. In contrast, he is ninth in giving up walks. That still allows him a spot on the top ten in WHIP.

  • Ted Lilly leads the league in HR's allowed, which seems odd to me. Not that he's been that stellar, I just don't remember that many balls flying out the yard with him on the mound. Then again, I don't remember him striking that many out, yet he's 6th in K's per 9.

Team Stats

  • The Cubs lead the league in runs per game, averaging 5.24. Showing a Adam Dunn like trend, they are also fourth in the N.L. in strikeouts.

  • Despite not having a guy in the top ten in OBP, they have a league-best .355 team OBP. When is the last time you could say the Cubs lead the league in OBP? Actually, it was only last year, when they tied for first with a .354.

  • The pitching staff gives up the second fewest runs per game in the league, thanks in large part to Dempster and Z being in the top ten in ERA. They are third in K's.

Schedule

  • The Cubs magic number is 55 (56 games left)