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Monday, May 12, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Chris Stynes

Name: Christopher Desmond Stynes
Ht:5'9'' Wt:170
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2002

Chris Stynes appears bemused by your suggestion that he get a hit.

I'll say one good thing about Chris Stynes. The sonofabitch didn't strike out a lot. The guy struck out more than 56 times just Once in his major league career, and in his 195 Cub at-bats he K'd just 29 times. Outside of that, Chris Stynes was a miserable baseball player. The man was an absolute butcher in the field, had pathetic power for a corner infielder, and really is a perfectly viable example of why the 2002 Cubs were so bad. When you're fielding Hundley at catcher, McStiff at first, Bobby Hill at 2nd, Alex Gonalez at short, Stynes at third, Rosie Brown in left, and Korey in center it's not much of a stretch to figure out how they won just 67 games.
After a 2001 season in which he became a beloved "scrappy" hitter for the Boston Red Sox, earning one of their beloved "Dirt Dog" labels, Stynes was signed by the Cubs in January of 2002 to back-up starter Bill Mueller. Now, as I've mentioned before, signing a back-up for Bill Mueller basically implies that the guys gonna start for at least one month during the season. Sure enough, Mueller wasn't ready for the start of the season and Stynes started 16 games at 3rd during the opening month, as well as 46 total for the year. In all Stynes appeared in 95 games with 40 of those appearances at 3rd base. Stynes had a downright idiotically wide open batting stance that earned him a paltry .241/5hr/26 RBI/.314 OBP/.374 slug. line that season, and made me pine for Ron Coomer. In the field Stynes was even more of a disaster, as he made 5 errors in his 40 games at third and had a .919 fielding percentage, leading then-Pirate Aramis Ramirez to comment on how Stynes "really is a liability at the hot corner". Stynes' range in the field pretty much consisted of his left shoulder to his right, as his range factor of 1.43 was well below the league average of 2.25.

After Mueller returned from the DL and Mark Bellhorn proved he could hit lefties, Stynes fell to third on the depth chart at both third and second base and saw his playing time rapidly decrease. Cub fans were thrilled by the development, as hopes soared that a Bellhorn-Gonzalez-Mueller left side infield would be the key to a 70 win season. As always, those hopes proved fruitless.

Stynes was released by the Cubs in December of '02, spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons with the Rockies and Pirates, respectively, and retired in 2005 after shattering his fibia on a foul ball during a spring training stint with the Orioles. Don't worry Chris, you were better off Not making the team, broken leg and all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Congratulations Greg Maddux!

After his 350th career win Start Kyle Orton would like to extend our most sincere congratulations to the best pitcher of this era and a true class act. You're far too humble to ever admit it, Greg, but we'll say it: you were too good for us.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day (Yes, I Still Do This): Leo Gomez

Name: Leonardo Velez Gomez
Ht:6'0'' Wt: 208
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1996

This picture is as low quality as Gomez himself.

Leonardo Gomez is an enigma. On the one hand, you'd look at his numbers and think he was a terrible baseball player. On the other hand, those that watched Gomez play remember a terrible baseball player. What's an enigma again?

After the Todd Zeile trade failed miserably during the 1995 season, the Cubs went searching for an answer at the position for 1996. Gomez, once considered the Orioles third baseman of the future, had underperformed greatly for most of his 6 season tenure, and lost his starting job in '95 to Jeff Mantos after a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness limited him to just 53 games. I don't know who Jeff Mantos is, and neither do you, but its a safe bet that if he ever takes your job, you should just give up. Gomez did the closest thing to giving up, and signed with the Cubs.

The 1996 Cubs were coming off a season in which they had surprised the world by finishing a whopping 2 games over .500. While expectations were high, they f*&king Soared when the news broke that Leo Gomez was in the fold. At the time I was but a mere 8 years old, but even I could see the writing on the wall that with Leo Gomez on the roster a pennant was Nigh.

But alas, it was not to be. The 1996 Cubs, were, much like the 1995 Cubs, utterly mediocre. Well, actually slightly less than. The team scored 772 runs and allowed 771. Their Pythagorean W-L was 81-81, the definition of mediocrity. They finished just below that at 76-86. In this entirely unremarkable season Leo Gomez was, entirely unremarkable. A respectable first half (.261/13 hr/36 RBIs/.363 OBP/.491 Slug.) gave way to a miserable second half (.199/4/20/.315/.331) for an overall .236/17/56/.344/.431 line in 136 games. In the field Gomez played above-average defense on the balls he could get to (.972 fielding %, just 7 errors) but had well below average range at his position, as he apparently agreed that just letting the ball roll through the outfield grass to the powerful arm of Luis Gonzalez was a better idea than trying to, you know, Field it.

After the 1996 season the Cubs released Gomez, leading to the debut of rookie Kevin Orie. Thanks for that one, Gomer. Gomez went on to play baseball in Japan and according to his Wikipedia page he's a churchgoer. How nice.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Roster of Broken Dreams- The Pitchers

Several days ago we covered the position players on this journey through years of busts, today we get to the hurlers. Nobody gets a team's fan base more fired up than the Can't Miss Ace. We all want the next Roger Clemens (sans the steroids and asshole personality) or Jake Peavy to come up through our ranks. The Cubs have been fortunate enough to turn out a few successes in the pitching category in Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, the relative success that is Kerry Wood, and the brief superstar that Mark Prior was, as well as several others of varying success that they've turned out over the last decade or more. Despite the greater level of success in producing pitchers than in producing position players, the Cubs have still turned out some atrocious disasters on the mound. The most notable 12 (5 starters, 7 relief) are presented here.

Note: The pitcher's statistics are a bit tricky. For the starters, I took each pitcher's career numbers as a starter and averaged those numbers out to a full starter's season, IE, 30-35 starts, while I took each reliever's career numbers as a reliever and averaged those out to a 60 game season, thus giving the reader an idea of what they could expect out of a full season from each pitcher. Granted, win-loss records will not add up to 162 games, and they are not intended to. This is merely to give an idea of what a full season from each individual would be according to their career averages. At the end I will add up the runs they would surrender and use the runs the offense would score to compile a very flawed and inaccurate Pythagorean Win-Loss record that is by no means scientific but gives a rough estimate of this team's "capabilities".

SP- Angel Guzman 0-16, 7.75 ERA, 135 earned runs

What is there to say about Angel Guzman? After signing with the Cubs as an 18 year old free agent in 1999, Guzman made his professional debut with the low-A Boise Hawks in 2001 and blew away the competition with by going 9-1 with a 2.22 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 63 K's in 77 innings, and turned heads with his mid 90s fastball and hard breaking curve. Guzman followed that up with an 11-4, 2.19 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 123 K's in 153 innings in 24 games for low A Lansing and high A Daytona. In 2003, the quick rising Guzman started the season with AA West Tennessee and was 3-3, 2.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 87 K's in 90 innings and 15 starts and made the Futures team. Guzman did not pitch in that game, however, as he suffered a shoulder injury and was shut down for the season. In 2004, the rehabbing Guzman was just 3-4, 4.69 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 53 K's in 48 innings in just 11 starts for Daytona and West Tennessee. In 2005 Guzman Continued to rehab his shoulder and made just 6 starts, going 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 24 K's in 18.1 innings. In 2006 Guzman finally made it to AAA, three seasons after making it to AA. In 15 games at Iowa in '06, Guzman was 4-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 77 K's in 75.2 innings. Guzman also made his major league debut with the Cubs in 2006, and a whopper that was. In 15 games (10 starts) with the Cubs, Guzman was 0-6 with a 7.39 ERA. Wulf. In 2007 Guzman began the season in the bullpen with the Cubs, and made 4 appearances in April with a 2.45 ERA. Guzman may well have stayed in the 'pen had Wade Miller not been horrendously bad resulting in Angel being sent down, stretched out, and brought back up to start. Guzman came back up and made three starts in May, and pitched decently (0-0, 3.52 ERA), but was seemingly incapable of going past 5 innings due to a variety of cramps and pulls. Guzman went back to the bullpen for five more games after his three starts, but had to be shut down due to elbow pain. Following Tommy John surgery, Guzman is out until at least the middle of this season. To recap: in 8 professional seasons, Guzman has been healthy enough to finish 3 of them. In his major league career he is 0-7 with a 6.05 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. The Cubs have already stated that he will be a full-time relief pitcher when he returns. The one-time future ace is now a shriveled, injury racked shadow of his former self (why does that sound familiar?).

SP-Juan Cruz 9-16, 4.17 ERA, 84 earned runs

There was a time back in the late 1990s when Cubs fans eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Cubs two top prospects: Corey Patterson and Juan Cruz. Patterson has already been covered, and may just be the most damning failure in Cubs development history. But fear not, Cruz managed to join his fellow blue-chipper in the sea of disappointment. With his slight frame and hard fastball, Cruz drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez and only added to the hype by going 3-1, 3.22 in 8 starts during his rookie debut in 2001. In 2002 Cruz started the season in the rotation and went 1-7 in 9 starts. Many have defended Cruz's turn in the rotation in 2002 by arguing that he lacked runs support and had a respectable 3.74 ERA as a starter. However, Cruz walked 31 batters in his 45.2 innings as a starter and had a high 1.65 WHIP. For comparison, Rich Hill has a 1.58 WHIP this year. That ought to give you an idea of the control problems Cruz had. After finishing the season 3-11, 3.98 ERA in 45 games, Cruz went 2-7 with a 6.05 ERA in 25 games (6 starts) for the Cubs in 2003 and was traded to Atlanta before the 2004 season, where he's since become a bullpen ace/swing man for the Braves, A's, and Diamondbacks.

SP-Ruben Quevedo 7-16, 6.15 ERA, 122 earned runs

Someone once told me that Ruben Quevedo wasn't a highly enough considered prospect to make this team, but the man was so utterly incompetent that I'd say his amount of failure hurt more than most of our first round busts. After being acquired from the Braves along with Micah Bowie (its a two for one of suck!) in 1999, Quevedo made his big league debut with the Cubs in 2000 and was a fine contributor to a 65-97 team. In his 21 games (15 starts) the portly right hander went 3-10 with a 7.47 ERA and 21 homers surrendered in 88 innings. The major league record for home runs surrendered by a pitcher in one season is 50, by Bert Blyleven in 1986. Bert pitched 271.7 innings that year. If Quevedo had pitched that many innings and gave up homers at his 2000 pace, he'd have given up 65 homers. Quevedo was turfed to the Brewers after the 2000 season and was out of the majors after 2003.

SP-G(J)eremi Gonzalez 11-14, 4.78 ERA, 112 earned runs

How unassertive do you have to be that you don't even inform the teams you play for of the proper spelling of your name until you've been in professional baseball for 15 years? Geremi Gonzalez, who signed with the Cubs in 1991 as Jeremi Gonzalez, made his major league debut in 1997 and along with Kevin Orie was one of the few bright spots of that nightmarish season. Yes, I just said that. The 22 year old Gonzalez went 11-9, 4.25 ERA in 23 starts for the Cubs that year and finished 9th in Rookie of the Year voting. Heading into the 1998 season, Cubs fans assumed that fireballer Kerry Wood would pair with Gonzalez to give the Cubs a solid 1-5 rotation behind veterans Kevin Tapani, Steve Trachsel, and Mark Clark. Gonzalez, however, struggled in 20 starts in 98, going 7-7 with a 5.32 ERA before blowing out his elbow. Gonzalez would never appear with the Cubs again, and was released in 2001. He reappeared in 2003 with the Devil Rays, and has also played with the Red Sox, the Mets, and the Brewers. When he arrived in Milwaukee in 2006, Gonzalez informed the team of the proper spelling of his name, correcting the mistake.While Jeremi Gonzalez has flamed out of the majors, Geremi Gonzalez is now playing in Japan.

SP- Sergio Mitre 7-13, 5.19 ERA, 109 earned runs

Sinkerballer Sergio Mitre was supposed to have great success with the lush infield grass of Wrigley Field, but frequently struggled to throw strikes and not get hammered by the opposition. Mitre was given repeated chances with the big league club thanks to continued injuries to Mark Prior in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Mitre responded by going 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA in 2003, 2-4 with a 6.62 ERA in 2004, and 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 2005. Mitre was then sent to the Marlins in the Juan Pierre deal before the 2006 season and I for one was happy to be rid of his disturbing child-molester like visage.

LRP-Jon Leicester 5-4, 5.13 ERA, 30 earned runs

A decent rookie campaign in 2004 (5-1, 3.89 ERA) had some Cubs fans discussing "Ice Man" Jon Leicester as a possible closer candidate. Leicester's 2005 (0-2, 9.00 ERA) put a rest to that talk as Leicester was designated for assignment by the Cubs in November of 2005 and now finds himself in the Orioles minor leagues, the wastebasket of failed Cubs.

MRP-Shawn Boskie 9-5, 3.65 ERA, 42 earned runs

A 1st round pick by the Cubs in 1986, Boskie followed up a promising first year (5-6, 3.69 ERA in 15 starts) by going 4-9 and 5-11 in his next two years as a starter and wound up in the bullpen. After a solid season in middle relief in 1993 (5-3, 3.43 ERA), Boskie pitched just two games for the Cubs in 1994 before being traded to the Phillies.

MRP-Will Ohman 2-2, 4.19 ERA, 22 earned runs

The bullpen's token lefty, the injury prone and sandwich loving Ohman went made his debut with the Cubs in 2000, going 1-0 with an 8.10 ERA, followed that up by going 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in 2001 and then spent the 2002, 2003, and 2004 campaigns sidelined by injuries. Ohman made his return to the majors and had his best season in 2005 going 2-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 60 games. After a rocky 1-1, 4.13 ERA 2006, Ohman struggled early for the 2007 Cubs, found himself on Lou's shit list, was sent down to Iowa, and finished the season with a 2-4, 4.95 ERA in 56 games, mostly in mop-up duty. Ohman also had a tendency to run his mouth, and after wearing out Lou's patience was traded to the Atlanta Braves.

MRP-Todd Wellemeyer 4-4, 4.82 ERA, 63 earned runs

Yet another failed "Closer of the Future", highly touted hard-thrower Wellemeyer had three disastrous seasons with the Cubs from 2003-2005 and went just 5-3 with a 6.19 ERA in 57 games with the Cubs before being released. After failing with the Marlins and the Royals in 2006 and 2007, Wellemeyer found himself with the Cardinals and has since been an effective spot starter and bullpen pitcher for St. Louis, earning him even more of my wrath.

SU-Francis Beltran 3-2, 5.86 ERA, 47 earned runs

With a high 90s fastball, devastating splitter, and solid sideburns Francis Beltran was supposed to be the 2002-2004 Cubs what Carlos Marmol has been to the 2007 and 2008 Cubs. He wasn't, as he was 0-0, 7.50 ERA in 2002 and 2-2, 4.63 ERA in 2004, with 38 walks in 47 innings as a Cub before being traded to the Expos in the Nomar deal. After spending the 2005-2007 seasons in the minors, Beltran was called up to the Tigers this year and posted a 5.73 ERA in 5 games before being sent back down.

SU-Terry Adams 4-5, 4.03 ERA, 31 earned runs

Terry Adams was like a horrifying nightmare you keep having night after night after night. Adams, a 4th round pick in 1991, was with the Cubs for five seasons from 1995-1999 despite having just one good year (1996, when he pitched an absurd 101 innings, all in relief). Twice during that stretch the Cubs were forced to make him their closer, in 1997 after Mel Rojas proved to be the worst God damn thing to ever walk from the pen to the mound, and in 1999 after Rod Beck's arm fell off. In 1997 Adams was just 18 of 33 (yes I know some of those blown saves were as a set-up man, either way it sucks) in save situations, and in 1999 he was just 13-21. It was in middle relief and set-up situations that the Cubs used Adams the most, however, and that is the role he plays on this team. In his 5 Cubs seasons Adams posted thoroughly mediocre ERAs of 6.50, 2.94, 4.62, 4.33, and 4.02 to go along with records of 1-1, 3-6, 2-9, 7-7, and 6-3 (overall 18-26), before leaving for the Dodgers in 2000.

CP-Kyle Farnsworth 2-4, 4.12 ERA, 27 earned runs

Kyle F*&king Farnsworth. No Cub in my lifetime has, for whatever reason, infuriated me more than Farnsworth. For six seasons Farnsworth trotted his dumb ass out to the mound and more often than not crapped on it. The spoiled frat boy with the million dollar arm and thirty cent brain wasted every ounce of talent that he was blessed with. Despite his 100 MPH fastball, Farnsworth never came close to becoming the Cubs closer. Rumors swirled around Farnsworth's party boy activities and every single member of the Cub organization and every fan who wasn't a God damn chick obsessed with his looks questioned his desire to even play baseball. The idiot wound up on the disabled list for breaking his toe by trying to punt a baseball and for kicking a metal fan in the clubhouse. After moving back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation in 1999 and 2000, Farnsworth moved to the bullpen permanently in 2001. The move seemed to work as the Farns posted a 2.74 ERA 76 games that year. But in 2002 Kyle's wild inconsistency returned and he finished with a 7.33 ERA in 45 games. A rebound year in 2003 that saw Kyle post a 3.30 ERA in 77 games was followed by a 4.73 ERA in 2004 that ended when Kyle returned from the DL after his fan kicking incident in time to post a 6.84 second half ERA as the Cubs choked away a playoff spot. In his Cub career Farnsworth was 22-37 and is just 26-54 in save opportunities in his career. After the 2004 season Kyle was traded to Detroit, who traded him to Atlanta in time for Kyle to blow a 6-1 Braves lead in a game during the Division Series against Houston. Kyle signed with the Yankees before the 2006 seasons and is now in his third year of hilariously preventing save opportunities from finding their way to Mariano Rivera.

So there you have the entire 25 man Roster of Broken Dreams. Any suggestions on players I've missed or you would have as reserves on the 40 man roster are welcome. With some very imprecise calculations, the Pythagorean Win-Loss record of this team comes out to a very dire 58-104. Before finding yourself overcome with despair over the state of the Cubs farm system, quickly look at this link and remind yourself that a turnaround is near and that this current Cubs team is coming off of a playoff appearance and has played great baseball for most of this season. As finals week is approaching this has taken far longer to get up than I expected and future posts may be sporadic for a while. Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoyed this little segment.