You do a Sox blog and a Cubs discussion breaks out. Who knew? Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ll do a little spraying to all fields here, and you can have at it. Let’s start:
--I suspect by this time next week we’ll know who the Cubs’ new pitching coach is. It looks like minor-league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins is still the favorite. The Cubs are staying internal with their search, which means bullpen coach Lester Strode, Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason and Tennessee pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn all will get consideration.
--As I mentioned in our still-going Larry Rothschild blog, a fresh voice might not be a bad thing as far as a pitching coach goes. I’m thinking of one pitcher in particular: Jeff Samardzija. I don’t know if the Cubs can salvage anything from Samardzija, who is out of minor-league options. Maybe he clicked better with Riggins and Mason this year than he did with Larry. While at Iowa, Samardzija had his mechanics altered significantly, and he put together a decent season at Triple-A. If he continues with that program in Mesa this winter and into the spring, maybe it will work.
--Riggins turns 54 years old in January. He spent three years as the Cubs’ minor-league pitching coordinator after doing the same job with in the St. Louis organization for 12 seasons. In all, he spent 29 years in the Cardinals organization; he was the big-league pitching coach in 1995 under Joe Torre and Mike Jorgensen. There are plenty in the game who’ve felt Riggins has deserved another shot at the big leagues.
--What will the new pitching coach recommend about Sean Marshall? Marshall, who’s in line for a nice raise in his second arb year, would love nothing better than to compete again for a starting job. The Cubs probably would prefer to leave him as their eighth-inning setup man, especially not knowing how John Grabow will come back. As a starting pitcher in his career, Marshall is 16-26 with a 4.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.434. The K/BB is 1.79. As a reliever, he is 10-8 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.228 WHIP. The K/BB is 2.66. In the past, the Cubs had worried about Marshall’s stamina, durability and ability to remain injury free as a starter. Sean has put on some good weight since coming up as a starter in 2006. He thrived while carrying a heavy workload as a setup man this year.
--Somebody mentioned on the last blog or two that our old pal Ken Rosenthal wrote the Cubs are interested in Lance Berkman to fill the void at first base. Sure, they are. They always have been, but only at the right price. Berkman made $14.5 million last season. Somebody else mentioned Berkman’s poor career numbers at Wrigley Field. In 75 games, they are:
.220/.355/384 for an OPS of .739. Berkman has 11 homers at Wrigley. As far as other NL Central parks go, he has 21 homers at Cincy’s Great American Ball Park, 15 at Miller Park and 13 at PNC in Pittsburgh. He’s a switch hitter, but right field at Wrigley can be tough place for left-handers to hit for power. Berkman’s line-drive percentage of 16 this past year was the lowest of his career.
Bill James, whose projections have a reputation for being generous, projects Berkman in 2011 at .275/.393/.486 with 22 homers and 79 RBI.
The other name I’ve been keeping an eye on is Carlos Pena, the free agent out of Tampa Bay. He had a line of .196/.325/.407 with 28 homers and 84 RBI. His BABIP was only .222, which suggests a correction might be in order. Pena’s groundball percentage went from 29 in 2009 to 44.9 in 2010. The flyball percentage went from 54.1 to 40.6. If those continue, the BABIP might not rise as much as we might otherwise suspect.
James projects Pena at .228/.354/.473 with 30 homers and 86 RBI. As is the case with Berkman, whatever ballpark Pena ends up at will affect the numbers.
Pena might be a better fit for Wrigley Field than Berkman. Other names are in play, as well, but I don’t expect anything to happen for a while yet.
Have a great Thanksgiving.