7/16 Cubs Inbox

Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com.

Q: With the Cubs showing they can win games and doing it well, what kind of record would the team have to put together over the second half to get a Wild Card? Not that I think by any means this will happen but I am curious. — Jeremy B., Denver, CO

A: You can dream. The Cubs are 36-52 as of today, and would have to go 45-29 just to get to .500 (81-81). They are on a good pace, with a 12-4 record since June 25. If the season ended today, the Braves and Pirates would be Wild Card winners. The Cubs are currently 13 games back.

Q: What are the team batting/OBP numbers/slugging percentage before and after Rudy Jaramillo was dismissed? — James B., Fredonia, NY

A: From April 5-June 10, the numbers were .247 batting average/.304 on-base percentage/.385 slugging percentage. From June 12-July 15, the numbers are almost the same, .249/.293/.388. What’s different are the pitching numbers. In the first 60 games, the Cubs were 20-40, the pitchers had a 4.39 ERA and converted seven of 18 save opportunities. In the last 28 games, the pitchers have a 3.93 ERA and have converted 10 of 11 save opportunities.

Q: Is Tony Campana in the Cubs’ plans after the All-Star break or is he on the trading block? In the 15 days prior to the break, he only got into 10 games, during which he came to the plate in five of them. — Pete V., Xenia, OH

A: In 21 games in June, Campana hit .237 (14-for-59) and had an on-base percentage of .250. That’s why he’s not getting more starts. He can’t steal bases if he can’t get on base. He’s the perfect 25th man, used as a pinch-runner, defensive sub.

Q: Can Bryan LaHair win Rookie of the Year? — Jeffrey B., Zion, IL

A: No. A player is considered a rookie unless during the previous season he has, No. 1, exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the big leagues, or, No. 2, accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League team during the 25-man limit in effect from Opening Day until Aug. 31. LaHair started this year with 195 Major League at-bats and 100 days service time.

Q: With Ian Stewart looking like he could miss the rest of the season, is there any chance that Theo and Co. will call up surging slugging, Josh Vitters? He hasn’t played 162 games in Triple-A but he has a lot of Minor League experience and with Javier Baez hot on his trail, this may be his only opportunity. — Dean S., Northbrook, IL

A: Baez is a shortstop, so he’s not a threat to Vitters. The Cubs are watching Vitters and Brett Jackson just as closely as they monitored Anthony Rizzo. On Saturday, GM Jed Hoyer said Vitters and Jackson need to show they deserve a promotion.

“Those guys need to force the issue, I would say,” Hoyer said. “Like we talked about with Rizzo, when they sort of prove to us that they’re ready and make it clear, then I think that’s something we’ll see.”

Through Sunday, Vitters was batting .301 with 13 home runs, 28 doubles and 51 RBIs, and had a great June, when he hit .324. His defense is a little suspect. Jackson was batting .256 through Sunday, and coming off a .282 June, but he struck out 50 times in 29 games that month. As for Stewart, he is done for the season.

Q: The extraordinary number of strikeouts by Brett Jackson makes me wonder the obvious. Have they tested his vision? — Eric H., Brandon, FL

A. Yes.

Q: When is Jorge Soler expected to join the Major League team? — Christopher T., Chicago

A: Soler is 20 years old, and has yet to play in a game in the Mesa Rookie League. Sorry, my crystal ball is a little fuzzy and won’t give me an exact date.

Q: Sitting here watching the final three innings of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game. This game is seldom mentioned as one of the all-time greatest games ever pitched. A 20-year-old ties a MLB record and the only hit was an infield single. A 1-0 game to boot. Any thoughts? — Jim R., Indio, CA

A: Wood’s 20 K game is my favorite of all time.

Q: Other than Wayne Terwilliger and Eddie Miksis, who else wore No. 21? — Sheldon D., Key West, FL

A: Jason Marquis, Tyler Colvin, Sammy Sosa, and now, Joe Mather.

Q: Please evaluate the Colvin and Marshall trades. The new front office shows they are not what they’re cracked up to be. They both stink. I’m holding my breath as we get down to the trading deadline. — Dwight A., Findlay, OH

A: The Cubs knew Stewart had a questionable wrist when they acquired him for Tyler Colvin (yes, Stewart did take a physical), but the team was ready to move on regarding Colvin. You have to admit his .150 average last season wasn’t very impressive. The Rockies did well in that deal as Stewart is done for the year. But I’d say the Reds and Cubs both got what they wanted in their deal which sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Roni Torreyes. James Russell has taken over the left-handed set-up role for the Cubs, Wood has won his last four starts, and Torreyes got off to a rough start but batted .330 in June and was hitting .304 in 12 games this month.

A perfect trade benefits both teams. How would you grade the deal for Rizzo? How about the pickup of Luis Valbuena? What about moving Marlon Byrd?

— Carrie Muskat 


Don’t forget George Altman who also wore 21.
Paul K., Scotch Plains, NJ

Ms. Muskat, I liked your article on Rizzo’s childhood and his path to the big leagues. Except for the the close–which was somewhat flat and uninspired–it was well written and thoughtful. But as the Cubs beat writer, we fans are counting on you for some inside info. Therefore I would like to request that you consider some of these questions more completely, if you have the time. Specifically the question about Vitters getting a chance to play in the majors: you answered matter-of-factly that, “Baez is a shortstop, so he’s not a threat to Vitters.” Have you thought about this? Just because he’s playing shortstop now doesn’t mean that’s the position he has the best chance at if he makes it to the big league level. We have a kid named Starlin Castro, and people seem to agree that his bat and glove are good enough to stay there. That presents a roadblock for Baez, and from what I’ve heard elsewhere, people envision Baez transitioning to third in the future, just as Dean S. asked about.
Is your assertion that Baez is a SS (period) based on something you’ve heard, or had you just not considered the big picture here?

As of today, there’s no way I can predict where Javier Baez will play. The Cubs talent evaluators/coaches I talk to like him at shortstop. If Baez is athletic enough to handle SS, he can move anywhere on the field. He’s also playing at Class A so it’s a little early to pencil him into the Cubs lineup. The Cubs have another talented SS in the Minors in Junior Lake, who is at Double-A Tennessee. You could say Castro is blocking Lake, but the Cubs have had him play third. The best insight I can give you on Minor Leaguers is no one knows when they’ll get to the big leagues, or where they’ll play. That may be too vague an answer for Cubs fans, but it’s true.

Baez is a shortstop that many are forecasting as a third baseman. While saying he is a “threat” to Vitters may be a little extreme, since the age difference and position change would likely make Baez two years away. I think your emphatic description of Beaz as “a shortstop” isn’t as concrete as you think.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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Thank you for the response. Talking about minor leaguers can be a fools errand, and we can look back at times we wasted our breath anticipating players who never made it. You are obviously correct that no one knows when a player (especially a player in A-ball) will get to the majors; there are so many factors that could affect one’s projection. As for saying no one knows where they’ll play? Really? I’d sure like to think that the FO and people in charge of player development have some plan in mind for these guys. Even if it’s as vague as, ‘Baez can be our SS if neither Castro nor Lake are playing SS, otherwise we’ll move him to third.’ Yes, it’s possible the cubs get a third baseman they like before that time comes, in which case they would have to rethink the projection of their promising SS/3B prospects again.

I talked to one of the Cubs front office people Tuesday night, and he agreed with me — as of today, nobody knows where Baez will play when he gets to the big leagues. Let’s hope he makes it tough on the Cubs to find a spot for him and Castro in the lineup (one of them could move to 2B, too).

You said the other day that Baez “is a shortstop” and will not challenge Vitters for a 3B spot, how does that make you in agreement with the FO who says they have no idea where he will play? Kinda a contradiction.

lol i can pretend to be Carrie too

Well I talked to the front office and they told ME that they were gonna move Dempster to third base. So there!

This will be an interesting situation for the next few years. Then if the Cubs get a top 3B spect for Garza/Demp it becomes even more interesting. I wouldn’t mind keeping Baez at SS if that meant Castro at 2B or even Baez at 2B and Castro at SS. I don’t think you will see Baez at 3B anymore because Vitters is playing well and then if you add Castellanos (tigers) or Olt (rangers) you got yourself a good 3B. Who knows though at least the future looks brighter than where we are now.

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