Hope you caught our story online and for Thursday’s paper on new Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies. He appears to be a witty guy, and from talking to people in Houston and around baseball, he also appears to be a solid analyst that Cubs fans will come to like.
I had a whole bunch of “A” material from Wednesday’s news conference that didn’t make the paper. So we’ll get to some of it on the blog here as part of our “unfiltered” series. The blog gives us a chance to let our subjects go long, without the constraints of newspaper space.
Here we go. In talking with play-by-play man Len Kasper a few days ago, I found out that Deshaies is a fan of advanced metrics. I asked him about it during his introductory news conference.
“I believe in advanced metrics,” Jim said. “I think there are a number of ex-players that are hesitant to embrace some of the new thinking in the game. It’s kind of: ‘We played. We know, and these braniac guys don’t know.’ The reality is some of that stuff is very, very meaningful and very, very important. Our challenge is how do you put it in context and help explain the game to people. You look at some of these formulas, wins above replacement or fielding-independent pitching, that’s real esoteric stuff.”
Look for Len and Jim to talk about things such as WAR and FIP, even if they don’t get into the methodology.
No one can say that Deshaies doesn’t have a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. He talked about having an ERA just “south” of 7 at Wrigley Field. It was actually 6.98. Jim wasn’t shy of talking about that, or his last appearance in the big leagues.
“My career ended here,” he said. “It came to a crashing end. My last major-league start was here at Wrigley Field. In July of ’95, I was on life support with the Phillies and close to flat-lining. Jimmy Fregosi (the Phils’ manager) had the nerve to run me out there with the wind blowing out. I was an extreme flyball pitcher. We were staying at the Hyatt on Wacker, the two towers there. Walking across the towers, you could see the heat radiating up. There was a heat wave that summer. It was like 105. I said it was going to be really hot and blowing out. It was the most surreal feeling because ‘my career is going to end today.’ I said, ‘This is not going to go well. They’re going to release me.’ At least I was a good scout, because I nailed it.”
On that day, Deshaies lasted just 1.1 innings in an 8-0 Cubs victory. He gave up 5 hits and 6 runs, with 2 homers (Jose Hernandez and Todd Zeile).
Jim also talked about never having an extra-base hit in his big-league career, as he went 33-for-373 (.088), with all his basehits being singles.
As a Houston Astros broadcaster from 1997-2012, Jim got to see a lot of the Cubs. Among the games he covered were Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game against the Astros in 1998 and Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter over the Astros in Milwaukee in 2008.
“Kerry’s game was my second year in the booth,” he recalled. “I remember it was kind of gray and misty here. It had kind of a surreal feel. That was the most dominant performance, maybe ever, a 1-hitter could have been a no-hitter. That slider was breaking about three feet at about 90 miles per hour. It was so much fun to talk to the Astro hitters after that game. Still to this day, if you bump into Bagwell or Biggio and bring it up, they’re just…it’s an unbelievable performance.
“And then the Zambrano no-hitter was in Milwaukee after Hurricane Ike passed through (Houston). We scrambled to get up there. It was kind of nuts because all of the roads were closed. We could barely get to the airport. I actually had two different shoes on. Going to the airport in Houston, I looked down and I had two different shoes on. You get dressed in the dark. There’s not a whole lot of light when there’s a hurricane.”
Finally, I had a chance to ask Jim about a couple of players he watched for a long time: first baseman Jeff Bagwell and second baseman Craig Biggio of the Astros, both of whom have shots at the Hall of Fame.
“It would be awesome for Astro fans if they both went in at the same time,” Jim said. “Two of those guys who spent so much of their careers together on the right side of that infield, not unlike Molitor and Yount and some of those great tandems in the history of the game. I think they’ve probably been underserved a little bit because of playing in that market. I think they’re both deserving, and I think it would be wonderful if they both went in together.”