Bears

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Friday, October 9th
CSNChicago.com

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Alex Rios, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, and his picks for ALNL CY Young Awards.

Question from Sacramento, Chicago, IL: Hello Steve, what do u think Greg Walker will try to do with Alex Rios this off season? I've heard his stance is really horrible for a guy his size. I really feel bad for the guy, it seems like he is really trying out there. What can be done to fix his swing this off season?

Steve Stone: I dont think Greg Walker is going to do anything with Rios this off season. I think he will go back home to Puerto Rico. I think whatever work there is to be done will be done in spring training. The swing itself seems to be okay, but perhaps a little tweaking of the stance or the hand position as he moves down into his swing is something that Greg might want to deal with this spring. I think he will bounce back in 2010 but when he has had success with a batting style, it's hard to ask to change it. I believe in some minor tweaking instead a major overhaul will probably work the best.

Question from Bruce, Walkerton, Indiana: Hi Steve, to become more athletic and faster for next year, would someone like Nate McLouth be an answer to a Quentin, McLouth, Rios outfield? Then re-sign Podsednik as DH?

Steve Stone: Nate would certainly be a nice addition to the team but I dont think Atlanta will give him up after trading for him with the Pirates. When the White Sox inquired about him, Pittsburgh didnt want anything to do with him, which knowing the talent in the White Sox system makes me wonder about the wisdom of Neil Huntington, their new GM. As far as signing Podsednik for the DH, possibly but Ozzie said he will rotate DH's for next year. I dont think a one year contract for Podsednik would be a bad idea especially if it is incentive laden to guard against the injuries that he has suffered in the past. I think from a hitting standpoint, he had a remarkable three quarters of the season for the White Sox. When you factor in base running and defense, the total picture isnt quite as good but as a designated hitter as part of his job description, especially with a lack of a leadoff hitter that the Sox currently have, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Question from Charlie, Scottsdale, AZ: Geovany Soto had a tough year, but seemed to turn it around late. Do you see him as the Cubs starting catcher next season?

Steve Stone: Charlie from Scottsdale, Geovany Soto did have a rough year; as far as turning it around late, when you are hitting in the two teens, it's hard to say you turned it around. Yes I do see him as a starting catcher next year, however the Cubs have a decision to make. Either get Soto in terrific shape this offseason so he comes back and enjoys a kind of year like he did his rookie year, or let him gain as much as he wants to, suggest he hit his weight and then hope for a remarkable season. I prefer the former to the latter. The Cubs have said however that Soto didnt gain a lot of weight coming into this year which surprises me because everybody seems to believe that he looked a little more rotund after his stay at the World Baseball Classic. Im not saying that marijuana and brownies go hand in hand but I heard that sometimes, thats what happens.
Question from Lee, Chicago, IL: Derrek Lee has to be the Cubs team MVP right?

Steve Stone: Lee from Chicago, when the team doesnt go to the playoffs, there really is no reason to have a team MVP. Could they have not made it to the playoffs without Derrek Lee? I think so. Just like you could take anybody off the team and they still would not have made it to the playoffs. I believe he had a wonderful year especially when you factor in that much of the time he didnt have a lot of offensive support around him. But understand, dont assume he will have the same kind of year. Take Derrek back to his average year and you will realize like the Cubs do, you have to add one more solid run producing bat. Where have I heard that before? Oh, thats right, I heard that last year and so they added Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles for a combined total of 35 million dollars. That 35 million dollar obligation netted them for one full season; 45 runs batted in. So I suggest this year when they go out on the market to find a run producer, they actually find one who has averaged more than 50.7 runs batted in his entire career. I know this will surprise you, but Milton Bradley coming into last year averaged 50.7 runs batted in per season. He drove in 40 this year. What in the world made Jim Hendry believe that he was going to be a run producer seeing as the previous nine years he had never been one before. The irony is that when they signed Milton Bradley, less than one year ago, and I said that exact same thing, everybody said I was anti-Cub. I was a bitter former employee; that I was evaluating them for all the wrong reasons. I think it has born out over the course of the year that that particular assessment turned out to be fairly accurate. I hope Milton has a lot of luck with whatever team has the courage to take him on along with his 21 million dollars remaining in the two years he has left on his contract.
Question from Allen, Chicago, IL: Who do you think will win the ALNL Cy Young Award? Im going with Zack Greinke.

Steve Stone: Allen in Chicago I am thinking Chris Carpenter and Zach Greinke. The question is who do you have for MVP? I am thinking a tight race between Joe Mauer, Mark Teixiera and Derek Jeter. My vote would go to Derek Jeter however Joe Mauer will probably win it. In the National League, its Albert Puljos and nobodys in second place. Manager of the year, National League, Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies. American League, Joe Girardi, New York Yankees although Ron Gardiner will probably win it. I also believe that Mike Scioscia should be in line for kudos and might sneak in there because what he had to deal with, all the injuries, the death of Adenheart and all the challenges. But in a four team division, when the other teams arent that good, it's not that difficult to win. I just think that Mike is one of the best around. Executive of the year, National League Mozeliak. St. Louis Cardinals, looking eye to eye with the Chicago Cubs, Mozeliak added Matt Halladay, Mark DeRosa, and Julio Lugo. Jim Hendry added John Grebo, Jeff Baker and Tom Gorzelanny. Enough said. American league Executive of the year its easy when you have an open checkbook and you can spend 429 million dollars but you still have to respect Bryan Cashman for the addition of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera. It is one thing to talk about it, as so many other teams did, its another thing to get them. Couple that with the trade for Nick Swisher, turning out to be a very good one and Brian Cashman becomes the American League executive of the year. Rookie of the year in the National League I would say Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves although I am probably leaving out many good candidates but I am partial to pitchers and though I would love to say Gordon Beckham, I would say Rick Porcello of the Tigers will probably win rookie of the year. At 20 years old, what he did was absolutely remarkable.

Click here to visit SteveStone.com

Follow Steve on Twitter at www.twitter.combaseballstone

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

burton-1014.jpg
USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

wendell.png
AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.