- Steve Schlickman, head of the Urban Transportation Center at UIC, regarding an estimated $320-million project to build a Brown Line bypass in Lakeview.

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- Former Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano to Randy Wells when asked if he had change for $100 (per @CSNMooney).

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Jackie Robinson at Wrigley Field in 1947.

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- Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat. Tonight’s game in New York has been postponed due to rain. The Cubs will play a doubleheader against the Yankees tomorrow.

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The worst seat at Wrigley Field.
Photo credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune. Full gallery here.
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The worst seat at Wrigley Field.

Photo credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune. Full gallery here.

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- Rangers GM Jon Daniels on trading for Cubs starter Matt Garza last season. The Cubs received C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez in return.

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Cubs announce new remote parking lot

As promised, the Cubs officially announced plans for a free remote parking lot at 3900 N Rockwell St. (located south of Irving Park between California and Western) on Monday.

The lot has enough room for about 1,000 cars and it will be secured by Cubs personnel. There’s also a shuttle to and from Wrigley Field that runs for 2.5 hours before the game and an hour after.

As always, I strongly recommend taking public transportation if possible, but this seems like a nice alternative if you must drive, especially with the recent increase in parking tickets around the ballpark.

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Watch the mitt

When Cubs prospect Javier Baez is at the plate, it’s easy to be mesmerized by the beauty and violence of his swing.

In his second at-bat on Wednesday night, Baez hit an awe-inspiring no-doubter to the back of the left-field berm off of Mariners lefty Randy Wolf. It was transcendental.

And while most fans will watch the replay and marvel at the power Baez is able to generate with his elite bat speed, understanding why Baez got such a good pitch to hit is just as important. How do we do that? We watch the catcher’s mitt.

Notice where the catcher sets up before the pitch and where his mitt is located when the ball reaches the plate in the images below:

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As you can see, the catcher wants the ball down in the zone, but Wolf leaves it up and over the plate. That’ll do. You can swoon over the final result here.

I’m certainly no talent evaluator or scout, but I’ve been watching baseball this way for a few years and I’ve learned that pitchers miss their spots fairly often. Sometimes they get away with it, but not against good hitters.

Javier Baez is a good hitter.

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Effectively Wild Episode 383: Chicago Cubs season preview

Here’s a comprehensive—though somewhat underwhelming—look ahead at the 2014 Chicago Cubs from BP’s Effectively Wild podcast.

As with most national coverage of a non-contender, there tends to be some generalizations and blasé analysis. For example, I disagree with the notion that Anthony Rizzo needs a bounce-back season. Last year, Rizzo was fifth in the NL in doubles and extra-base hits and sixth in walks. He also played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. Sure, you’d like to see a higher batting average and more home runs, but he was fairly effective in 2013, and his perceived shortcomings could be due to bad luck (.258 BABIP (.172 (!) on ground balls)). 

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PECOTA hates Jeff Samardzija

You don’t need an advanced forecasting system to tell you the Cubs are bad, but it’s a bit disheartening to have one of the team’s top talents singled out.

Last week, FanGraphs released their ZiPS projections, which were unkind to the Cubs, though there were signs of hope on an individual level. Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections, however, are somewhat more bearish, especially in regards to Jeff Samardzija.

You need a BP subscription to access PECOTA, so I won’t divulge too much information in this post, but here’s a few notable points:

✶ PECOTA thinks Samardzija is going to be the worst pitcher in the starting rotation with a 4.49 ERA and 0.1 WARP. For comparison, ZiPS projected Samardzija to lead the rotation in ERA (3.56) and wins above replacement (3.2), so this is quite a discrepancy. Samardzija’s true performance will probably fall somewhere in between, but the range of these projections is disconcerting.

✶ The Cubs are expected to finish 71-91. The anticipated results don’t include the recent addition of Jason Hammel, and if Samardzija outperforms his projections, the Cubs could be four or five wins better. Either way, it looks like the Cubs are destined for last in the NL Central again. Only the Astros (66 wins) and the Marlins (69) are projected to finish worse overall. 

✶ PECOTA’s projections for Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are nearly identical to ZiPS, so it’s nice to see these forecasts are in agreement that both players could have a strong season.

✶ Ryan Sweeney is expected to have a very David DeJesus-like slash line of .273/.332/.398, which is exactly what the Cubs want.

✶ Like Samardzija, PECOTA isn’t a fan of James Russell (4.45 ERA, -0.1 WARP), but neither is ZiPS (3.92, 0.2 WAR).

✶ In regards to prospects we might see in the majors this year, PECOTA only allots 60+ plate appearances for Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, so there’s nothing significant worth reporting on that front.

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