Jam-packed Friday blog: 'clutch,' Theo, awards, minors

Jam-packed Friday blog: 'clutch,' Theo, awards, minors

Posted by Bruce on Fri, 08/02/2013 - 14:07

We’ll have so much good stuff on the blog today, online later and in the paper tomorrow that it should be termed illegal. I’m not sure what that even means, but we’ll have some fun with stats, commentary, some stuff from Cubs president Theo Epstein and game coverage in all of our forums. I keep things going all day, too, at Twitter, @BruceMiles2112. Be sure to follow.

We’ll flesh out Theo’s comments for our “take” in tomorrow’s paper (online later today). Theo termed July a “productive” month with the players the Cubs received in trades, their draft signings and their international signings. We also have news below on a couple of minor-league awards.

Hope you saw our “take” in today’s paper about clutch hitting. We had some discussion with that whole concept, and we’ll talk about it a little more today. I came across this article yesterday, written by my friend John Perrotto, the fine baseball writer out of Pittsburgh:

http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/55439640/

John talks about the debate between the old-schoolers who say “clutch” hitters do exist and the new-schoolers who say that batting average with runners in scoring position is a random stat. My own take is that good hitters are good hitters who hit in any situation.

If you believe there are born “clutch” hitters, you have to believe that somehow you can “guide” the ball after you hit it. For example, say a guy comes up with runners on second and third and smashes a line drive. But the shortstop leaps and catches it. Is that hitter not “clutch” or is he simply unlucky. Say the next inning, a hitter comes up in the same situation and gets jammed. The ball bloops into right field for a 2-run double. Is that guy more of a “clutch” hitter than the guy who lined out?

In the stat packs they hand out to the media before games, they list the top hitters in many categories. Lo and behold, you can find overlap between the top hitters in batting average and the top hitters with runners in scoring position.

Here are the top 10 batting averages in the NL:

Johnson, Atlanta: .346
Molina, St. Louis: 330
Cuddyer, Colorado: 329
Craig, St. Louis: .318
Votto, Cincinnati: 317
Segura, Milwaukee: 317
Scutaro, San Francisco: 314
Posey, San Francisco: 311
Freeman, Atlanta: .311
Carpenter, St. Louis: 309

Now, here are the top guys in batting average with RISP:

Craig, St. Louis: .466
Freeman, Atlanta: 442
Carpenter, St. Louis: .395
Molina, St. Louis: 383
Phillips, Cincinnati: .383
Goldschmidt, Arizona: 379
Sandoval, San Francisco: 376
Beltran, St. Louis: 375
Holliday, St. Louis: 355
Revere, Philadelphia: .352

Four players appear in both lists. Good hitters seem to hit, period.

In our story today, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he believes “clutch” hitters do exist.

“Yeah, there’s no question,” he said. “I’ve been in the game long enough to see what guys do when nobody’s on base and see what they do when people are in scoring position. It’ll be a whole different at-bat. There’s definitely a difference. You can just see it from time to time. A guy might be hitting .240, and you look, and he’s 40-for-90 with men in scoring position. So his whole year is in clutch situations.”

As far as Theo goes, I asked him if what the Cubs were doing is really a three-pronged attack, with the aforementioned areas of trades, the draft and international signings.

“Absolutely,” he said. “All three of those streams of talent acquisition all unite on player development. That’s really the next step. Once we get the guys here, we have to fully develop these guys, not just as big-leaguers, but as Cubs so they can come up here and play on this field and be important parts of a winning team. We had a really good year in player development, too. Everyone’s on the same page. There’s a lot of great teaching going on. We see a lot of players getting better.”

Epstein cited shortstop Arismendy Alcantara, who is at Class AA Tennessee. Theo said Alcantara was a “free-swinger” earlier in his career, but he’s been able to seize on plate discipline and become a more well-rounded player.

Alcantara has a line of .270/.346/.450 with 13 homers, 57 RBI, 46 walks and 102 strikeouts. Last year at Daytona (A), Alcantara had a line of .302/.339/.447 with 7 homers, 51 RBI, 19 walks and 61 strikeouts.

The minor-league roundup begins below. The Cubs today named the Kane County Cougars’ Dan Vogelbach the organization’s minor-league player of the month for July. Matt Loosen, who spent time with Class AA Tennessee and Class A Daytona, is the Cubs’ minor-league pitcher of the month for July.

Vogelbach, 20, batted .330 (31-for-94) with 4 doubles, 4 home runs, 19 RBI, a .417 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging mark – good for a .917 OPS – in 27 July contests. The left-handed hitter drew 17 walks compared with 12 strikeouts and scored 15 runs.

Loosen, 24, combined to go 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA (4 ER/37.1 IP) in 6 July starts between Daytona and Tennessee, holding opponents to a .162 batting average (21-for-130) while striking out 33 compared to 14 walks. On July 8 at Dunedin, he pitched Daytona’s first 9-inning no hitter in 17 years, walking two and striking out nine and earned Florida State League Pitcher of the Week honors.

MINOR-LEAGUE ROUNDUP

Let’s start today with Tennessee, which beat Birmingham 2-1. Kyle Hendricks, who came over last year from Texas in the Ryan Dempster trade, got no decision as he worked 6 innings and giving up 7 hits and 1 run. He walked one and struck out four. Justin Bour hit his 15th homer, going 1-for-2 with 2 walks.

Class AAA Iowa lost 9-3 to Salt Lake. Barret Loux got knocked around for 11 hits and 7 runs in 5.1 innings. Donnie Murphy was 3-for-5, and Edgar Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with a homer.

Class A Daytona was rained out. The Kane County Cougars (A) beat Wisconsin 6-2. Albert Almora was 2-for-4. Rock Shoulders was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, and Oliver Zapata hit his fifth homer. Tayler Scott started and pitched 5 innings, giving up 7 hits and 2 runs. He got no decision.

Boise (A) fell 5-1 to Everett. James Pugliese took the loss, working 5 innings and giving up 9 hits and 4 runs, 3 earned. Kris Bryant was 1-for-3. Jacob Rogers hit his sixth homer.

Mesa (Rookie) fell 3-2 to the A’s. Ryan Searle started and pitched 2 innings, giving up 3 hits and no runs. Rashad Crawford, Francisco Sanchez and Mark Malave each had 2 hits.

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