Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Posts Tagged ‘Chirinos’

As the end draws near…Numbers and Ponderings

Posted by dannmckeegan on September 28, 2010

Just a quick statistical summary for the optimistic among us. Big Z has been good since coming back from the restricted list and rejoining the rotation. As the team has inserted Coleman and Samardzija into a pair of slots, and as Randy Wells has begun to get his groove back, Carlos has become – for the first time in years – the reliable workhorse the team needs him to be. On average pitching into the seventh, El Toro is as hard to hit as ever.

CARLOS ZAMBRANO:

In 10 starts since returning from the restricted list:

  • 7-0
  • 64 innings
  • 41 hits
  • 11 runs
  • 9 earned runs
  • 1 home run
  • 37 walks
  • 55 strikeouts
  • 3 hit batsmen
  • 2 wild pitches
  • 1.27 ERA
  • 1.22 WHIP

In no start has he allowed more than 2 runs (not earned runs; just runs of any type). Projected out over a full season, he’d have a line like:

33 starts; 211 innings; 135 hits; 122 walks; 182 strikeouts; 3 home runs; 10 hit batsmen; 6 wild pitches; 36 runs

Obviously we’d expect the hits and runs to regress upward towards the mean, while the walk total would level off as the high-end outliers become less statistically significant. But if he has renewed his devotion to pitching as opposed to throwing, then the depressed home run total is somewhat sustainable (not 3 on a season, but closer to 7-10 than 20). He should have one more start. It’ll be fun to see how he finishes off his season.

Another home run-related note: between Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, only 4 balls have left the yard over 148 innings and more than 150 combined appearances. Add in their strikeout totals (134 for Marmol and 88 for Marshall) and Marshall’s low walk total (just 25, including intentional), and the Cubs have a recipe for success in the late innings that will cost them a pretty penny come arbitration. I would not be surprised, sadly, to see Marshall get packaged with Fukudome’s contract to a team in need of the two players’ skill sets. The Yankees could absorb the hit. Boston could, but Kosuke would be redundant with Drew around, while Drew would not be of use to the Cubs.

Positionally the Cubs seem largely set for 2011:

Soto C; DeWitt, Castro, Ramirez, Barney IF; Soriano, Byrd, Colvin, Fukudome OF; either Hill or Castillo as the backup backsto; gaping hole at 1B.  But how about this: get Soto some reps in Mesa in spring training at first base while also working Colvin in there. Treat the two of them as a platoon. Soto remains the primary catcher, but slides to first like Victor Martinez or Buster Posey on his days off. This would save wear and tear on his knees, core, and surgically refreshed shoulder. It also keeps him in the lineup 140-150 games per year instead of 125. That could be worth a few wins. Colvin, meanwhile, takes most of the starts at 1B while still spelling Soriano or Byrd or Fukudome/Roster RF as the team’s fourth OF. Basically, instead of having a true “4th OF” on the roster, they’d simply need a utility man who has 1st base in his arsenal, someone like Jeff Baker except good at baseball.  I’d personally like to see Castillo rather than Koyie simply because Koyie is the backup catcher for a contender now. The Cubs aren’t that. As such, develop Welly into the backup catcher for a contender tomorrow.  He’d be able to get 40-60 starts easily, and having both Clevenger and Chirinos (if the latter’s added to the 40-man before the Rule 5 Draft) at Iowa provides ample insurance.

Unless they can move Fukudome this off season, there won’t be a lot of change to the positional makeup of this Cubs team. 2011’s RF – Fukie or otherwise – is a placeholder for whoever’s ready first between organization player of the year Brandon Guyer, 09 first rounder Brett Jackson, and possibly Ty Wright. I omit Colvin as a full-time option largely because the team has no true 1B prospect in the high minors. AA Tennessee boasts both lefty Matt Spencer (acquired from Oakland with Jeff Gray in the Jake Fox deal) and righty Russ Canzler, each of whom did very well in the Southern League. But neither is seen as a big-time player. Likewise, Iowa 3B Marquez Smith, Colvin’s old Auburn teammate, is too short to slide across to first despite offensive numbers that are a bit enticing (17 HR and 26 2B in 91 games with the I-Cubs after a slower start down in Tennessee).

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37, 38 and Koyie Hill

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 22, 2010

37-38.  That’s the Cubs’ record in 2010 against every team not named “Astros” or “Pirates.”  Against those two sorry-ass teams, the Cubs are 6-15. I’d been talking with one of the employees at my gym today about the Cubs’ struggles with the Pirates this year, and how getting a few of those back would have completely changed the dynamic of their season.  But it was Bleed Cubbie Blue‘s write-up of today’s disappointing defeat that actually pointed out the first number explicitly.  At worst, against the entirety of MLB excepting the two worst teams in the National League, the Cubs are .500.  And let’s make this clear again: that .500 mediocrity was accomplished with either Zombie Aramis or FonteBaker or Tracy at third base.  Just worth considering.

Mountains out of Mole(Hill)s

So on to today’s game.  Something happened today that I’d prefer not to see happen anymore: Koyie Hill started behind the plate.  Now, I understand the reasoning behind using a backup catcher in a day game after a night game that moved as slowly as Tuesday’s 14-7 thriller.  But Koyie Hill is no longer a viable backup catcher.  In the four plate appearances he made Wednesday against Houston, he found himself some alternate headgear in the form of a Golden Sombrero, only slightly less embarrassing than the little pink snack backpack that the most junior Cubs reliever brings to the pen each day.  Geovany Soto entered late as a replacement, and to what effect? A 2-run homer in the bottom of the 12th that left the Cubs just short of a potentially meaningful victory.

Through the 2009 season, Koyie Hill’s career was the very definition of replacement-level player, according to FanGraphs.  That is, they calculate his career WAR to have been 0.0 in 179 games and 539 plate appearances.  Between 2003 and 2009, Koyie Hill amassed almost exactly a full year’s worth of playing time, and he put up a .215/.286/.304 line with 104 hits (24 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers).  He struck out 143 times (26.5%) while walking 48 (8.9%, 7 intentional = 7.6% uBB). BaseballReference.com isn’t even as kind as FanGraphs, as BR calculates Hill’s career WAR (including 2010) at -1.5.  Only in 2009 has Koyie Hill been considered “above replacement level” by the advanced metrics.

Koyie Hill sucks.

He sucks on the order of Matt Walbeck, Brian Dorsett (note the 31-year-old with a succession of partial seasons in the bigs parallel), Sandy Martinez, Josh Paul, Rob Bowen…you get the point if you remember these guys, or if you don’t.  These are bad part-time backup catchers employed by the Cubs since 1990.  Not one of the good ones, like Steve Lake, Damon Berryhill/Joe Girardi, That Hector Villanueva Season, Henry Blanco, Tyler Houston, or Paul Bako.  No, Koyie Hill closely resembles those forebears who likewise had no verifiable claim to their status as a major leaguer.

Of course, in the past, the blame for the presence of such players wasn’t that big a deal.  Other than the organization totally missing on the homegrown Jose Molina after a few at bats, there weren’t catchers in the system until Geovany Soto wrested the position from all other contenders in the Piniella era.  This is no longer the case with Koyie Hill. The Cubs farm system is rife with catchers who, at the very least, project as legitimate MLB backups:

  • Welington Castillo (age 23, Iowa): .253/.314/.495, 53 G, 182 AB, 46 H, 12 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 16 BB, 42 K.  He threw out 44% of attempted base-stealers at Tennessee in 2009, but hit in the .230’s with 1 BB in every 6 games; his developing hitting skill might bring him back up the prospect ledge he fell off in the 2009 season.
  • Steve Clevenger (age 24, Tennessee): .272/.322/.346, 57 G, 162 AB, 45 H, 11 2B, 10 BB, 16 K. The lefty-hitting kid has a huge platoon split in this, his third go at the Southern League.  He was the odd man out of the Triple A competition in spring between himself, non-prospect Chris Robinson and Castillo.  He plays a little first, has a 30% CS in his MiLB career, and probably has plenty of chances left to move forward.
  • Robinson Chirinos (age 26, Tennessee): .319/.407/.597, 63 G, 216 AB, 69 H, 21 2B, 13 2B, 53 RBI, 32 BB, 26 K. Southern League Offensive Player of the Week as per MiLB. com, following an RBI hit in the SL ASG and a 7-15 week with a trio of longballs and 10 RBI. Long a languishing low-level infielder, Chirinos made the conversion from shortstop to catcher after the 2008 season at the suggestion of Cubs personnel executive Oneri Fleita.  More than just thriving defensively in his new position, Chirinos credits the move with the drastic offensive improvements of his game: “I have more of an idea of what the pitcher is trying to do when I’m hitting.” Early this year, Chirinos explained to Nick Gates the elaborate decision-making process he undertook in opting to switch positions:

“He thought it was more of a possibility I could play in the big leagues,” Chirinos said. “He told me to think about it and let me know. The next day I told him I was going to do it.

“So far so great. Now my hitting came back.”

  • Michael Brenly (age 23, Daytona): .303/.349/.394, 64 G, 231 AB, 70 H, 9 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 14 BB, 35 K. A 36th round pick, Brenly wasn’t supposed to hit. His single on Wednesday against Charlotte extended his hitting streak, however, to 20 games.  He’s far from ready for the majors, but this 2008 addition to the organization looks on pace to surpass expectations.

So, in summary Koyie Hill sucks and, as much as I’d like to suggest that he not quit his day job, I can’t.  Because the last time he was working on his table saw, he cut off his freaking fingers.

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