Baseball Toaster Cub Town
2006-08-01 13:17
by Derek Smart

A new day is upon us, the first full day of the second post-Maddux era, and so it is time to take a good, hard look at the deal that sent him away and the gentleman that will be donning blue pinstripes in his stead.

My initial reaction to hearing of the deal - meaning that I'd heard Maddux went to the Dodgers without mention of other players involved - was actually excitement, for much as I might have enjoyed The Professor's return to Chicago, there's no doubt it was best for him and best for the organization that he spend the remainder of the season in the warm embrace of a potential playoff team, while the Cubs reaped in future talent the benefit of the prefix "Future Hall of Famer."

And that, of course, is where things started to go wrong.

What the Cubs acquired instead of talent that could theoretically help them next time they're good - which, for the record, I'll say is extremely unlikely to be next year, or even the year to follow - was a younger clone of a man already on their roster, another exclamation point to add to the pile. Yes, apparently, the looming shadow of Neifi!'s 2007 free agency threatened to leave the team devoid of defensive wizards with wiffle bats, so when presented with the opportunity to acquire some additional declarative punctuation, Jim Hendry jumped at the chance.

Or, perhaps I'm being unfair to this newest member of the fold. Perhaps this imposition of labels before a moment spent in uniform is a kneejerk reaction of the worst kind. Perhaps I should simply give the plan a chance to take shape. Or perhaps you should watch as I spin you tale of whiffs and woes. Let's compare the two men's first 2634 at bats or so (that being the number Izturis has in his career to date).


Neifi!'s numbers take him through nearly all of his age 27 baseball and occur entirely within the confines of Planet Coors, while Izturis will turn 27 in February, and has spent his entire career in Los Angeles' more difficult hitting environment. In other words, looking at this early work in each of their careers, it's not unreasonable to say that, at least offensively, they're the same guy, which also makes it reasonable to assume that, going forward, we can expect from Mr. Izturis something very similar to what Neifi! has done since that point in his career. Which is what exactly?


Oh, yeah.

This is what he's done since April 7, 2001 (many thanks for this information to the wonder that is the Baseball Musings Day By Day Database), which is mere months from his trade from Colorado to Kansas City. Bear in mind also that this includes the ridiculous stretches of production from Neifi!'s early days in Chicago. Compare it to Izturis' career line in the previous table, and you've got a similarity too eerie to ignore. Yet, still, I hear the cries:

"Defense!" shouteth the contrarians, "You say nothing of his defense!"

Fine. I'll say something about it now.

Career RATE2
Career Fielding %
Career Range Factor
Career Zone Rating
UZR Runs 2000-2003
Fans Scouting Report 2005

UZR 2000-2003 and Fans' Scouting Report 2005, both taken from Tangotiger's fabulous site, and RATE2 comes from Baseball Prospectus

Everything above is based on their work at shortstop (although, the Fans' Scouting Report is supposed to leave position out of the equation), and I even threw in the proverbial kitchen sink of defensive metrics - fielding percentage. I'd say the results are inconclusive, but in looking at everything, my gut is that Izturis is the superior defender, based more on the UZR and scouting report results than anything else. Still, there's no massive gap here, no cavernous crevasse to make me think that these two are anything other than twins from a performance perspective.

As I've said before, I have nothing personal against Neifi!, and similarly, I have nothing against Cesar!, particularly since he's only just arriving. And the truth is, I might enjoy the aesthetics of his glove work enough to excuse the lack thereof with the bat.

No, my issue is with the men who would value these players at levels so far beyond their actual worth. My issue is with the man who, when given the choice between a prospect or two and a proven mediocrity, will go with the mediocrity every time. In fact, would rather not make the deal for the prospects in the first place.

I wish Cesar! a ton of luck, and truly, I'll root for him to succeed and turn that exclamation point from derisive symbol to a well earned tribute. But if the man who brought him to town ever gets the axe, I won't cry a single tear.

2006-08-01 13:28:09
1.   Bob Timmermann
The X factor with Izturis is whether or not his elbow has recovered from Tommy John surgery well enough for him to make his jaw-dropping throws from deep in the hole.

At his best, he could make throws that you would think were impossible.

Izturis needs a good DP partner to help out. He and Alex Cora worked well together with the small exception that neither of them could hit well. Well, Cora could hit Matt Clement if he fouled off enough pitches.

2006-08-01 13:30:50
2.   Derek Smart
Yeah, it'll be interesting to see if Ronnie Cedeno can live up to that. He hasn't played second in the Majors yet, but he worked a lot in the offseason in anticipation of the Cubs acquiring some guy to play short. Can't remember who that was though....
2006-08-01 13:47:51
3.   Bob Timmermann
There was also surprisingly little gnashing and wailing from the LA press about Izturis's ouster from L.A. He was a media darling here.

Now from the people who played in the Dodgers last playoff game in 2004, the only ones still on the roster are Eric Gagne and Giovanni Carrara. And Gagne is out for the season and Carrara left and came back.

2006-08-01 14:19:22
4.   Bluebleeder87
you'll have fun watching him play D that's for sure, I'll probably lerk around here when the games come on WGN, best of luck with him (he was my fav. player Deffensivly for the Dodgers)
2006-08-01 14:50:10
5.   Left Field Bum
You forgot to mention one difference between the two. Cesar! can run. He had 25 steals in 2004. The most Neifi had in a season was 13 and that was back in '99 during his salad days in Colorado.

I'm just trying to stay in denial that he's that much like Neifi.

2006-08-01 15:15:43
6.   Marty
i'ts funny, but all I remember of Cesar!s running is it seemd he was always getting caught stealing.
2006-08-01 15:26:45
7.   operablogger
Yet another example of the Hendry penchant (Aramis being the exception) of trading for mediocrity. Nothing less than a wholesale housecleaning would suffice to give the Cubs a contender, and THAT ain't gonna happen. And with 40-thou in the seats every home game, where's the incentive?
2006-08-01 15:27:31
8.   operablogger
... I meant to say "midseason mediocrity" ...
2006-08-01 15:52:03
9.   k j
For some reason I feel inclined to make you like Cesar. So here goes. He become a decent hitter in 2004 and before he hurt his elbow and went into a horrible slump in June of 2005 he was really hitting great. Here is his line from opening day 2004 until June 1 2005.

Now that's not great, but batting 7 or 8 with stellar and I mean stellar defense, that's not too bad. If he gets back to that, I say you ended up with a good deal. Good Luck to you and Cesar.

2006-08-01 16:33:44
10.   Ali Nagib
7 - "And with 40-thou in the seats every home game, where's the incentive? "

I was talking to one of the guys in a Wrigleyville souvenir shop, and he said that the brokers and scalpers have been taking a bath this season. Even the Cubs are subject to some level of ticket pressure, at least in the longer run. My impression is that this recent success has brought expectations to the highest level they've been in a long time, and a prolonged period of true suckitude could lead to a big collapse in fan support.

Even before Sammy-mania and the 2003 run, they weren't nearly as awful as many would like you to believe, especially compared to their 40's and 50's counterparts. They won at least 70 games in every non-shortened year from '75 until '96, which bled right into the latest craze. If they completely crated, and joined the ".400" club for several years consecutively, it could get ugly in a hurry. But we'll just have to wait and see.

Stupid Izturis. I can't believe that Hendry would rather have him (quickly approaching free agency) than even average prospects, given that I wouldn't trade Izturis straight up for anything more than a B-/C+ guy at best. Maybe a true collapse, fan exodus, ownership change and management overhaul is just what is needed to turn things around.

2006-08-02 00:47:45
11.   Yu-Hsing Chen
The Cubs are surely looking to upgrade their catching by getting someone that can run and won't walk!!!!

My god, Barrett and Lee are the only two guys on the Cubs that acutally get on with some consistency.

I'm guessing the Cubs will trade good prospects to the Yankees for Bubba Crosby to play their CF next year.

2006-08-04 14:47:18
12.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
(Late to add this:)

One thing you get in Izturis is someone who is a pleasure to watch on defense. If there is any aesthetics involved in your appreciation of that game, you will soon come to see just how effortlessly Cesar picks up the ball and throws to first. He makes impossible plays look routine.

If any of that results in good numbers: I don't know. And while his hitting may be lax, one thing I will miss is watching him field.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.