Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let's Go, Bears

Four days and counting

The Bears are all set to play a real football game in just four days. And it's not just real cuz it counts in the standings; we're talking Bears/Packers on Sunday Night Football. The blue and orange against the green and gold kicking off the 2009-2010 version of the black and blue division. Cutler vs. Rodgers, Forte vs. Grant, Urlacher and the 4-3 vs. A.J. Hawk and the Packers' new 3-4.

Will the Bears still get off the bus running despite having a gunslinger behind center? Will the secondary get their doors blown off? Will Urlacher rebound from a poor 2008 season and be the dominant force he once was? Do the Bears have anyone who can get open and subsequently catch the ball?

I don't know the answers to all these questions, but I absolutely cannot wait to fin
d out. Hank Williams, Jr., you don't even need to ask: I am indeed ready for some football.

***Don't forget that the football fun begins tomorrow night with a matchup of the Super Bowl Champion Steelers against the AFC South Champion Titans.

One of the best things about baseball ...

is that very time you turn on a game, you might just see something you've never seen before.

That was the case last night when the Cubs banged out eight consecutive hits to begin the game, tying the major league record. And the reason I had never seen it before is because the last time it happened was in 1973 ... when the Cubs did the same thing against the Pirates. That game was at Wrigley.

The first few hits were of the "hit 'em where they ain't" variety, but then the Cubs started hitting Zach Duke around pretty hard. The first out only came when Dempster gave them an out with a sacrifice bunt.

The need for speed

The Trib suggests that the Cubs may go after speedy Angels leadoff man Chone (pronounced Shawn) Figgins this offseason. The Cubs are last in the league with 45 stolen bases, while Figgins has 39 all by himself. He has averaged 49 stolen bases in his six-year career.

He has played six positions in his career (all but pitcher, catcher and first base), but is primarily a third baseman. He has played 244 career games in center field.

My question is: Where would he play? Barring a trade, the Cubs are committed to Soriano in left, Fukudome in center, and Bradley in right. Ramirez will obviously man the hot corner, leaving only second base as a legitimate option. While Figgins has started 86 games at second in his career, he's played there just twice in 2009 and I wonder if he would sign with the Cubs knowing that's where he'd spend the majority of his time.

Also starting at second base in 2010 ...

Jeff Baker? The Daily Herald's Inside Pitch blog did an interesting comparison between Jeff Baker in his time with the Cubs vs. Mark DeRosa in his time with the Cardinals. Since they have played 46 and 47 games, respectively, it makes for a pretty good comparison.

There has obviously been a great deal of hand-wringing over DeRosa's departure this past offseason, so it's interesting to see that Baker has hit .341 with 3 HR and 13 RBI while DeRosa has hit .244 with 8 HR and 19 RBI with the Cardinals. Baker's OBP is .399 compared to DeRosa's .313.

In fact, if you add the Wins Above Replacement (WAR, a statistic I partially understand and won't delve into too deeply at the moment) values of Fontenot and Baker, you end up with a higher value than that of DeRosa. Obviously DeRosa could have also filled in for an injured Aramis Ramirez and provided some other flexibility, but claiming that DeRosa would have saved this team is not accurate.

Baker, 28, will be arbitration-eligible this offseason, and may be back for another stint with the Cubs next year, perhaps as a platoon with Fontenot.


Jeff Samardzija was recalled yesterday, and will likely get a start before the season is through. Samardzija struggled in his final AAA start, going just 4.2 innings and allowing five runs.

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