Monday, August 6, 2007

Glavine wins 300th; Soriano hurt

Tom Glavine is now the 23rd pitcher in ML history to win 300 games.

Glavine tossed 6 1/3 strong innings, allowing just two runs on six hits as the New York Mets took the series finale by an 8-3 score. The Brewers lost earlier today, so the margin in the division is still one game, but the Cubs have fallen victim to another career milestone.

Many believe that Tom Glavine might be the game's last pitcher to 300 and while I'm not sure if I believe that, I'm pretty confident that if someone else is to get to 300, he's already pitching right now.

The emphasis of middle relief is growing in today's game, which was clearly proven by the fact that two set-up men were listed on the Final Man Voting for the AL all-star roster. As time continues to progress, the outings for starting pitchers will continue to get shorter and shorter, which takes decisions away from the starter. The contracts of the players will continue to grow, also meaning more caution will be exercised when handling these high-priced pitchers.

Unless baseball returns to a four-man rotation, I think it's safe to say that we have already heard the name of the game's final 300 game winner.

Coming into the season, Bill James estimated Glavine's chances of getting to 300 wins to be 74%. He also estimated Johnson's chances of getting there to be 70%, but he expected 14 wins out of the Big Unit this year. After Glavine and Johnson, no one else is higher than 20%, but Mussina, Santana, Martinez, Smoltz, Schilling, Pettitte, Hernandez, Rogers, and Oswalt are all at 8% or better, meaning that is likely that at least one from that group gets there.

Fallen star? Besides losing the series on Sunday, the Cubs also lost all-star outfielder Alfonso Soriano for 2-4 weeks to an injury. After Theriot singled up the middle in the third inning, Soriano aggressively rounded second base before pulling up lame with a strain in his quadricep and being thrown out at third. Alfonso Soriano briefly missed time in April, due to a hamstring strain, and the Cubs went 2-3 without him.

I'm not too worried about Soriano going down, though. I mean, I would love for him to be in the lineup, but the fact of the matter is that we've been winning without his production. Despite his .265/.276/.425 numbers in July, the Cubs went 17-9 in the month.

Granted, I'm not saying that the Cubs are a better team without Soriano; I'm not saying that by any stretch of the imagination. We saw what he was capable of doing in June, and we know that it's possible for him to get that hot again. But, I don't anticipate the loss of Soriano would slow down the Cubs. Surely, his replacement in the lineup can at least match his .276 July on-base percentage and he might even be able to match the .701 OPS.

It's inconvenient, as this forces Fontenot and Jones to play a little more often, especially against lefties. It also means that Cliff Floyd might have to play a little more often than usual, but I don't think the loss of Alfonso Soriano is as demoralizing it may first seem on the surface.

Down on the farm: With Soriano headed for the DL, the corresponding roster move is an interesting thing to consider. The obvious candidate is Felix Pie, but it's no secret that he has struggled offensively at the Major League level. This is where Josh Kroeger enters the equation. In all fairness, I should point out that I have not seen any Kroeger and don't know much about him other than what his numbers say, but those numbers sure are impressive.

Kroeger, 24, is a left-handed outfielder that has split time this year between Tennessee (AA) and Iowa (AAA). Starting the year with Tennessee, Kroeger hit a whopping .382 in 225 AB, with 14 doubles, 11 homers and 50 RBI before being promoted to Iowa. The Pacific Coast League hasn't been able to figure out Kroeger either, as he's continued to hit the ball well. In 114 at-bats with the I-Cubs, he has hit for a .289 clip with 9 homers and 25 RBI.

All together, Kroeger stacks up at an impressive .351 average, with 20 homeruns, 75 RBI and a willingness to draw walks (43 of them) that has his on-base percentage at .424!

The Cubs haven't been shy about calling up the hot hand on the farm. They did it with Soto, Moore, and Fox and so if they stay true to that trend, Kroeger could be next: in 48 at-bats since the All-Star Break, the lefty has 14 hits (.292) -- 5 of which were homers -- and an OPS of 1.007!

I should point out that Pie, who is on the roster (Kroeger is not), has been hot too. In 91 at-bats since his most recent demotion, he is hitting .330 with 6 homers and 16 RBI.

No comments: