Tom Verducci's View

July 16, 2006

THE DEEP ROOTS OFTHE CUBS' WOES

Chicago G.M. JimHendry has put manager Dusty Baker and his staff under review at the All-Starbreak, but the team's problems go beyond the dugout. The Cubs' inability todevelop or acquire hitters who work counts and get on base is systemic,epitomized by rookies Ronny Cedeno (.281 OBP at week's end) and Angel Pagan(.293 OBP, one walk) as well as off-season acquisition Juan Pierre (above)(.321 OBP). Any franchise that wastes at bats on Neifi Perez (.269 OBP) justdoesn't get it. Through Sunday the Cubs ranked last in the majors in walks andruns and were a lock to finish with an OBP below the big league average for the15th time in 17 years. Their 33--54 record will likely cost Baker his job, butunless the Cubs change their philosophy on hitting, his successor won't faremuch better.

REDS' PICKUP WON'TGIVE MUCH RELIEF

Lefty closer EddieGuardado, whom Cincinnati obtained from the Mariners for a prospect on July 6,figures to have little impact on the NL race. Guardado, 35, will find GreatAmerican Ball Park too cozy for his style; he surrendered eight homers in 23innings in Seattle this year. "He's got nothing left," says one ALscout. "What he will do is make Todd Coffey a better closer someday byteaching him the ropes."

THE RUNDOWN

•Yankees G.M.Brian Cashman has shown patience with his injury-depleted roster, but a fellowG.M. recently gave him this advice about chasing the defensively superb RedSox: "You'd better move quickly [on a deal], before it's too late to catchthem."

•Still doubtingthe Tigers, who were 30 games better than .500 after 86 games? Don't. Of the 44previous teams to start 58--28 or better, only three did not make thepostseason.

•The Cardinalsbrought in one reject pitcher (Jeff Weaver) for another (Sidney Ponson) in arotation with the league's second fewest strikeouts. Says one NL manager,"They better make every play behind [Weaver], because the minute you don't,he's ready to pack it in."

ExtraMustard
by Baseball Prospectus

WERE THE BESTPLAYERS CHOSEN FOR THE ALL-STAR TEAM? Based on the Value Over ReplacementPlayer (VORP) ranking--which compares the runs a player has created with what awaiver-wire caliber player at the same position would create--mediocreselections such as Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca (144th in VORP at week's end) andRed Sox infielder Mark Loretta (127th) diluted both starting lineups. However,the two 32-man rosters were mostly filled with deserving players--the highestranking 11 pitchers and 25 of the top 30 position players were named All-Stars.The biggest snub: Indians DH Travis Hafner, who led the majors at the breakwith a 55.5 VORP.

• More fromBaseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.

PHOTOJERRY LAI/U.S. PRESSWIRE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)