Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Friday, February 27, 2004

The Posting Gods Have Smiled Upon Thee

I know our complaints are getting old, but, really, it's difficult to find adequately interesting subject material for posts sometimes. I normally surf through tens of baseball websites looking for articles that spark my interest. The problem is, there's a distinct lack of originality associated with a commentary on someone else's article or idea. Some of you are missing a commentary or analysis of steroid abuse by Talking Baseball. I won't be the one to talk about it - I agree with Dusty Baker, these specious accusations ("Jason Giambi is thinner! He must be on it!"...He had knee surgery. You're supposed to lose weight) resemble McCarthyism more than an "investigation." As soon as there is some good evidence against players, not BALCO, not trainers affiliated with players, not players' doctors, then I might care. Truthfully, even if the players used some steroids, many forms weren't prohibited. McGwire used androstenedione, and everyone celebrated his march to seventy home runs. Unfortunately, Bonds (amongst others) is now receiving a lot of heat for only possibly using steroids during his season of 73 HRs - more heat than McGwire ever received, I would argue. I don't know whether these accusations are racially motivated (it's certainly possible), but I do know this: they're certainly not accusations founded upon anything tangibly wrong.

Now for what's right in baseball. As I alluded to above, sometimes it's difficult getting a topic. Today, however, as I was nearing discouragement looking around all the blogs (I'll update the list of blogs on the left, it doesn't include even 1/3 of the blogs I check out), the news crept in: Kerry Wood has inked a three-year deal. Quickly, before I analyze the signing, I want to discuss something that's always puzzled me: What is the Associated Press? I mean, do you the reader ever take pause to wonder? Where do these articles come from? Well, I did a bit of poking around and they actually have an FAQ page. They're not bashful in telling you that "more than a billion people every day read, hear or see AP news." It seems anyone can submit a story, and if the story "moves" (the AP's lingo, not mine) then it could reach its 1550 US newspaper members or its 8500 international subscribers. I still have no idea who "broke" the story about Kerry Wood, however. And it doesn't matter now. Feel free to e-mail if any of you have insight into the workings of the AP.

In case you weren't aware, Kerry Wood is awesome. I feel like the limelight evades Kerry Wood for a few reasons. First, due to playing second fiddle to the sensation that is Mark Prior, a lot of people have the misconception that he's just another #2 starter. Another issue is Wood's less than incredible control. His BB/9 seem to have finally settled at about 4.2 BB/9. To give you some idea of how bad that is, Wood was the sixth-worst of all qualifiers in BB/9 last year. Not sixth-best, sixth-worst.

A quick aside, why does MLB describe the groundball-flyball ratio (generally denoted by G/F) with GO/AO? Every time I see it, I'm initially bewildered by it - maybe it's because they're the only ones that use that abbreviation. In addition, I can't help but poke fun at it by dreaming of the chant, "Goh-ow! Goh-ow!" It's like out of a bad 60s movie with stereotyped "Indians" hopping around a fire - except they're hopelessly obsessed with bizarrely annotated statistics. I can hear them now: "Peh - coh - tah! Peh - coh - tah!

Well, Kerry must be doing something right then - he is, after all, making about 10 million/year. Well, as is the case with many walking machines (those that make it to the majors, that is), Kerry is also a strikeout machine. Unsurprisingly, Kerry bests everyone on the K/9 list, even Mr. Prior. He's not just better, he's a whole free out better. That's pretty significant when you consider that pitchers generally only record 18-21 outs these days.

So, where's the controversy? All this stuff you already knew. Kerry Wood is a strikeout machine in the mold of an early Randy Johnson - so what? I can't complain about the contract, the money's right. I have no qualms with signing someone who's shown the ability to consistently strike people out to an expensive multi-year deal. I just have qualms with the Cubs doing it. Juan Cruz has shown more than just a little bit of potential, with 9.59 K/9 last year, his upside is still quite high. In addition to Cruz, however, they have tons of arms waiting in the wings in the minors as well. Regarding that dearth of talent in the minors, Jim Callis of Baseball America recently said this in a chat on ESPN.com:

"The Cubs have the best young pitching in the majors, and the same is true in the minors. There will be some attrition, but Angel Guzman, Justin Jones, Andy Sisco, Bobby Brownlie, Chadd Blasko, Jae-Kuk Ryu and Luke Hagerty all have the potential to pitch in the front half of a rotation (at least one not as loaded as Chicago's). Also keep an eye on relievers Todd Wellemeyer and Francis Beltran, and lower-level guys like Billy Petrick and Jason Wylie. And Ricky Nolasco, who gets overlooked. I could go on and on and on . . ." (Should you want to check out any of those hurlers, Baseball Cube offers their stats)

Jim Callis certainly seems to think that the Cubs have tons of pitchers available to eventually pitch in the majors at some point, but I don't want to say that I think the Kerry Wood signing was bad; it simply wasn't. It's quite probable that all of these guys won't hold a candle to Kerry Wood, whose strikeout numbers could net him multiple Cys if that control ever improves. Kerry Wood makes the Cubs a formidable team, especially in the playoffs. No, I'm not unhappy about the Kerry Wood signing so much as with the Greg Maddux signing. Admittedly, Maddux is still good. Also admittedly, those pitchers in the minors are probably a year or two away, at least. The Cubs, like all teams, want to win whenever possible. And they felt that the addition of a solid arm to the rotation would help solidify their club in contending for a World Series run (Ben thinks it's quite possible that they reach and win the series this year, I don't think it's far-fetched either).

I don't feel that way though - the Cubs need hitting, and this fact is only highlighted by their abundance of quality pitching prospects. Right now, their lineup projects as follows: Patterson, Grudzielanek, Sosa, Lee, Ramirez (that's Aramis, not Hanley or Manny), Alou, Gonzalez, Barrett (Miller? I'm confused after that trading frenzy with Oakland). Unfortunately for the Cubs, they're stuck with Alou's illegitimate contract. And while Derrek Lee is a fantastic acquisition, another slugger would put them into contention for the World Series legitimately. An addition of another slugger would still afford them a staff comparable to the Red Sox (or Yankees, take your pick (NOT the Astros)) and a lineup that would perhaps be one of the five best in the MLB. Who's that slugger? Well, everyone can be had for a price, but Eric Chavez and Carlos Beltran are likely on the block soon. Both would give them the offensive improvement they'll come to desire. And it's not like they lack trade bait either - they do have all those arms.

They'll have to pay any slugger they take on, though. If they acquire Beltran, they'll still be paying for him. The money wouldn't have been a problem if they weren't so quick to behave emotionally with respect to Maddux. Many Cubs fans feel that they'll exercise their demons by acquiring Maddux - that it'll give them the magic necessary to make a World Series push. That may be so, but the minor improvement Maddux provides for 7.5 million a year (6 mill. this year, 9 mill. the next, 9 million for the third if he pitches 200 IP/year for the first two years) could be a major improvement if they spent that 7.5 on a hitter. I mean, they purchased Lee for 6.9 million, imagine what another Derrek Lee would do for the Cubs - or at least a player comparable to him at a different position (I'm not saying similar raw numbers, I'm saying numbers above the average at that position). I wish all the best to Kerry Wood though - I once considered buying his jersey I liked him so much.

A preview of things to come: We've received a lot of e-mail regarding Ben's post about the Yankee injuries - specifically, whether Giambi's numbers as a DH were influenced by the fact that he was injured, and not DHing. He has done some research, and he's found some extremely interesting findings regarding some of the game's DH/position players. Stay tuned.

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