Geovany Soto: Not a Swinger

I swear, this almost never happens.

Geovany Soto has been eating less; that was the real addition by subtraction we heard about all spring. He shed a few pounds (and a few eyebrow hairs) and gained a bit of his old agility and go-get-’em motivation. He added some mobility behind the plate by subtracting the munchies. Hooray for that, but burning through Cheetos isn’t the only thing Geo stopped doing.

If it seems like Soto has had his bat on his shoulder an awful lot this season, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. He’s always been a pretty patient hitter, but so far this season, Geovany Soto is swinging even less than normal.

In fact, he’s swinging less than anyone.

Of all Major League Baseball players with at least 30 plate appearances, Geo’s 27.5% swing percentage is the lowest. He sees 4.2 pitches per plate appearance, so I guess that means he swings about once every trip to the plate. I’m sure Vince Vaughn would want to give Geo a grand speech about using his great big bear claws to rip apart helpless bunny-rabbit fastballs, but I’m just fine with Soto’s wait-and-see approach.

His OBP is .527 thanks in no small part to his 14 walks. But when Geo does swing, he does some pretty serious damage, to the tune of a .537 slugging percentage. A 1.064 OPS isn’t too shabby. So why aren’t more people raving about Geo’s ridiculously good, too-hot-to-maintain start?

Well, maybe because he’s buried at the bottom of the order. Maybe because the Soto-take-a-pitch drinking game has effectively erased Cubs fans’ memories of all Geovany’s at-bats. Maybe because Lou pinch hits for him when he wants to give away outs late in the game. I don’t know. I guess I don’t care. I just want more of this getting on base/crushing the ball when he does decide to swing business.

And the winning. The winning is nice.

Wherefore art thou, Geo?

Big, gigantic, tremendous thanks to Tim Sheridan over at Boys of Spring for posting pictures from the Cubs’ preliminary workouts in Mesa on Wednesday. (You may have heard Tim’s work as the Cubs’ spring training PA announcer or when he’s been interviewed on Cubscast.) Again, huge thanks for the great photos, including this one.

But what in the name of Keira Knightley happened to Geo?

I’m glad he lost some weight, but did an alien jump out of his abdomen? Were his munchies really that bad? He looks bulimic. He looks like he’s doing a killer Tyler Colvin impression. He looks like Chandler in season 3.

I guess this is good news. Unless Geo decides to hit his weight again this season.

h/t to ACB

A Few Small Repairs

Warning WreckI’ve made a couple changes to the site. Not wholesale changes or even dramatic ones, just a few minor adjustments. And that’s not because the site doesn’t need work, it’s just . . . well, what am I gonna do? I’m not exactly chiseling rough edges off the Michelangelo. Oh, and I’m not raising payroll, either. But you know, I think these relatively small additions to life at And Counting might just help out.
The situation here isn’t all that different from where the Cubs are right now. Look, last offseason Jim Hendry made some moves that didn’t work out. You could call them great moves that went bad, or foolish risks that were doomed from the start. Actually, it’s really easy now to say that they were all ridiculously misinformed—but so is this blog, so who am I to judge?

This offseason, Hendry has subtracted just about all of last offseason’s moves (the Mark DeRosa toothpaste can’t be squeezed back into the tube). Bradley’s gone. Gregg is gone. The Aarons both Heilman and Miles. We bid farewell to Rich Harden and Jake Fox, and we’ll miss a little bit of Ted Lilly at the outset of the season. But when you look at the 2009 contributions of the dearly departed Cubs, is the absence of any of that really going to sting?

So I look at the additions, the small changes, the slightly altered logos and DISQUS comments of this 2010 Chicago Cubs team. Marlon Byrd. Xavier Nady. Clubhouse gallbladder infection, Carlos Silva. And let’s not forget new guy, other new guy, and the dude we got for Jake Fox. None of these guys are going to reconfigure the Cubbie universe. They won’t win Nobel Prizes. But the the Cubs don’t need wholesale changes. They just need to tread water.

If you want to see the statistical projections, you can check them out at ACB. The Cubs aren’t bad. They’re not as good as the Cardinals (who suck, by the way). They’re not as good on paper as last year’s paper team. They might not even be as good on paper as last year’s team was on the field.

But I like this team. I expect Soto to have better luck (let’s hope his eyebrows weren’t the source of his power). I expect Soriano to be healthier and better. I expect Zambrano to be worse and luckier. Marlon Byrd will be good. Someone I’ve never heard of will be good. The pitching staff will be the least of the Cubs’ problems. I expect the sportswriters to fade into the dingy background of the press box. I expect to be wrong about oh so much. But in the end, or at least on the way to the end, I expect to enjoy the 2010 season.

Jon Heyman thinks the Cubs struck out. I think the Cubs took two steps forward and one and a half steps back. If they can just stay afloat until June, Jim Hendry might make a real move, and this team just might kick a little ass.

Trade This: Z Shouldn’t Swap Teams. Catchers Maybe

For one night at least, Carlos Zambrano looked like a guy who deserved every penny of his $91.5 million contract, let alone the right to stay on this Cubs team. He might not be that guy, but he sure looked the part as he outpitched de facto Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum on Friday night. Carlos matched the Giants’ two hits and drove in two more runs than they did during his complete-game shutout. And it left Len, Bob, and the depressed Cub faithful wondering why he couldn’t look like that more often.

As Koyie Hill congratulated him on the too-late gem, I wondered how much difference Koyie Hill makes for Zambrano and if he should become Z’s personal catcher. Baseball-Reference had some fun answers for me.

Geo has caught Z 14 times to Koyie’s 13 proving at the very least that Z does NOT have a personal catcher. The rest of the stats suggest he should. (Note: I don’t know the number of innings pitched or ERA, but what’s there is pretty telling.)

With Geo catching: 2.09 SO/BB; .273 BA; .351 OBP; .414 SLG; .765 OPS
With Koyie: 1.88 SO/BB; .215 BA; .315 OBP; .278 SLG; .593 OPS

The only number that’s more favorable with Geo behind the dish is the strikeout-to-walk ratio. Everything else points dramatically to Koyie being the ideal Big Z handler.

I just hope Lou (or whoever the manager will be) glances at these numbers at some point in the offseason.

Ten Things Cub Fans Can Still Look Forward to in 2009

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. You can take that truthism as a blessing or a curse, depending on your state of perpetual hope or interminable anguish. On the positive side, here are 10 things we still have to look forward to in a season most of us wish would just die already:

10. The return of Bobby Scales. It’s hard to remember the adrenaline shot the substitute teacher gave the Cubbies in his last fill-in stint in the majors, but I seem to recall feeling happy for a few days. I’d welcome another dose right now.

9. The unconditional release of Aaron Miles. I hope life treats him kind, and I hope he has all he dreams of. I wish him joy and happiness, but above all this, I wish . . . he was gone. And I-yee-I-ee-I will always *deep breath* loathe you-whooooo, and I will always . . . sing it, Whitney.

8. The sale of the team. It’s still not over. It won’t guarantee success. It won’t become final final until after the season is done. But I can’t wait to put the biggest distraction of the season (yes, even bigger than Milton Bradley) behind us.

7. One more game against the White Sox. Losing will be fuel on the depressing fire. Winning will do little to lift my spirits. But when the game goes down on Thursday . . . aw heck, never mind. I’m not looking forward to this at all. I hate it when we play the Sox pre-October.

6. The Wild Card. Will the Cubs win the wild card? Probably not. But the wild card race should be fun to watch. The National League is really just not very good this year, which makes that last playoff spot all the easier to grab. I’m not so much of a purist that I don’t enjoy a whole scrum of teams battling over a playoff spot they don’t deserve.

5. The eruption of Mt. Lou. You. Know. It’s. Going. To. Happen. I’ll bring the popcorn.

4. Randy Wells. I’m genuinely excited to see how Randy Wells finishes out this year. He may have seen his Rookie of the Year chances sail into the left-field bleachers, but he still has a chance to reach the teens in wins.

3. Aaron Milesless baseball. Even if he doesn’t get released, the expanded September roster now gives Lou no excuse whatsoever to ever put Aaron Miles on the playing field. If I see him so much as lift the Hello Kitty backpack, I’m launching an investigation into Lou’s sanity.

2. Da Bearsssss. Bearss. Ditka. Cutler. Bearss.

1. That guy. Somebody always has a good September. A lot of times it’s Soriano. Soto had some good moments in last year’s last month. In case you forgot, many people were ready to write off Zambrano’s 2008 until his no-no on September 14. It might not save the Cubs. It might not add to the wild card drama. But there will be somebody who makes September memorable.

It’s reason enough for me to keep watching.

Cubs’ Injured as Numerous as All Stars in the Sky

With injuries sidelining Ted Lilly and Alfonso Soriano for at least a few days, the Cubs are close to fielding a team of All Stars who have missed time this year due to injury. Check out this list of Cubs All-Stars (mostly of past years, obviously) who have been bitten by the ravenous injury bug at some point this year:
Milton Bradley
Ryan Dempster
Derrek Lee
Ted Lilly
Carlos Marmol
Aramis Ramirez
Alfonso Soriano
Geovany Soto
Carlos Zambrano
Am I missing anyone? Again, this isn’t the list of Cubs who have been injured. This is the list of Cubs All Stars who have been injured. Cub All Stars have been injured nine times. Nine times! Granted, when they’ve been healthy, they haven’t played like All Stars this year, but the Cubs can ill-afford to lose anymore players of this calibre for any length of time.
Hopefully Ted Theodore Lilly (esquire) can plow through this injury like so many Molina brothers. But for now, the Cubs really should be thanking their unlucky All Stars they’re still in this pennant race.

Step Back, Folks, This Is Baseball

Okay, the Cubs lost. They looked bad. The offense. Soriano’s mad. Lou’s fed up. Dempster’s toe. Geo may have proven Rod Beck wrong and actually pulled fat. And it’s getting old saying, Hey, we’re only 3 games out of first.

But enough with the angst, people. This is baseball. When it goes well, let’s enjoy. When it doesn’t, enjoy something else.
I realize I picked the wrong year to start blogging about the Cubs. And that’s okay. Maybe it’s just teaching me to accept the fact that this is just a game. An infuriating game, at times, yes. But getting angry or jaded or drunk or vindictive does not make me a better fan. Booing doesn’t make you a better fan. Booing only draws attention to the fact that your hopes are pinned to someone who, while stinking up the place, is still infinitely better than you ever were or could ever hope to be at your dream. Don’t bring yourself to that realization, people. Leave that pile of pathetic just a shade beyond your sphere of awareness.

Let the Cubs be your stuffed tiger. One day, that championship team we all envision in our heads will spring to life for real so everyone else can see it. But for now, just enjoy the delusion. Chill. Enjoy. Move on.

I Can’t Stop Making Geo Jokes

Not that there’s a good time to be caught smoking pot, Geovany Soto picked the best news day in the history of mass media to break the news about his positive drug test. The only downside of the timing in the news cycle is that it’s really too soon to be making Michael Jackson jokes; so people (i.e. me) are bludgeoning Geo with their funny bones.

So, to continue that trend, here are some Cub-related lyrics to a drug-related song (by the end of it, you might be wondering if this whole season is up in smoke):

I went and hit a three run jack, because I got high.
Lou and Milton Bradley talked a little smack, because they got high.
We almost let the Sox come back, and I know why, yeah,
Because we got high, because we got high, because we got high.
We made Kevin Gregg our closer because we got high.
Then they leaked the news about Sammy Sosa because he got high.
Jim Hendry traded Mark DeRosa, and I know why, yeah,
Because he got high, because he got high, because he got high.
For the most part Lou’s been mellow because he gets high.
Milton is a ten-million-dollar fellow ‘cuz Hendry got high.
And Moises’ hands looked yellow*, and I know why, yeah,
Because he got high, because he got high, because he got high.
Carlos Marmol just walked someone else, because he got high.
We’ll be lucky if this team ever sells, (the economy ain’t high).
We just blew another W for Wells, and I know why, yeah,
The bullpen got high, the bullpen got high, the bullpen got high.
Soriano dropped a routine fly, because he got high.
He offered at a ball that was a foot outside, yep, he’s still high.
He’ll be hitting leadoff ’til the day I die, and I know why, yeah,
Because Lou got high, because Lou got high, because Lou got high.
We got runners at first and third, but then we got high.
If we don’t score, that would be absurd, unless we get high.
Hey, I could really go for dessert, and I know why, yeah,
Because we got high, because we got high, because we got high.
This team used to always choke, but then they got high.
In the playoffs they were a joke, but then they got high.
They’re tryin’ to be the champions of smoke, and I know why, yeah-hey,
So they can get high, so they can get high, so they can get high.
Okay, I think I just killed hordes of brain cells just composing that song. I apologize to any of yours I’ve done in.
*Yeah, I know, Moises Alou hasn’t been on the team for 5 years. Sue me.