Thursday, May 24, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #46 Jose Nieves

46. Jose Nieves
I remember Nieves as a player, but I'd be lying if I said I remembered his contributions to that 1998 team. With just two plate appearances and two innings at shortstop, his contributions on the field were about as minimal as you can find. He did have a sacrifice hit in one of those two times up at the plate, so I definitely appreciate his hard work.

But even though he ranks last on this list, he had a nice career that only started in 1998. He played a couple more years for the Cubs before playing two more with the Angels. He also had minor league stints for the Yankees, Cardinals, and Padres.

Really, I'm not sure if Nieves ever had more fun playing baseball than when he washed out of the major league system and went down to Mexico. In 2005, he tore up the Mexican League with a slash line of .358/.408/.579. Had he done that in 1998, he would have ranked 13th in the MLB, ahead of such Nieves wannabes as Jeff Bagwell, Manny Ramirez, and Ken Griffey Jr.

He then went on to become a minor league manager for the Dayton Dragons. The fans were so excited by the hire that they sold out every game. This is incredibly rare in minor league baseball and just shows the star power that Nieves carried by being a member of the 1998 Chicago Cubs.

In case you missed it:
#47 - Matt Karchner

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - #47 Matt Karchner

47. Matt Karchner
Matt Karchner is one of those guys that is unfairly hated by Cubs fans. He is a man that had good years in two out of his first three seasons, mostly based off smoke and mirrors rather than discernible skills, but hey, results are results, and he had fairly good results. This was enough for him to start getting save opportunities in his third year. And that made him good enough to be named the White Sox closer in 1998.

The Cubs were a team that was absolutely desperate for relief help. So the Cubs ignored the flaws. They ignored that in the middle of June, Karchner had an ERA of 2.84, but in less than six weeks, that ERA had ballooned to 5.15, because those stats are for losers, especially when a player has saves, and Karchner had 11 of them. So on July 29th, just before the trade deadline, the Cubs made their move and traded a minor league pitcher for Matt Karchner.

And that minor league pitcher is why Karchner is so hated by Cubs fans. Because that minor league pitcher ended up pitching in the major leagues, making an All-Star game and even finishing sixth in Cy Young voting in 2005. But outside of that, Jon Garland really wasn't anything special. Still, Cubs fans blamed Matt Karchner for every success that the White Sox found with Garland.

And that brings us to the second reason Cubs fans unfairly hated Karchner. He wasn't good at pitching. Now, nobody should have been surprised by this. I was 13-years-old when the Cubs acquired Karchner, and even I remember thinking that he sucked, so it was a bit surprising that the Cubs didn't notice the same thing. Karchner continued to pitch just about as well as he did for the White Sox. In fact, he even improved a little. For the White Sox, he had a sky high 5.15 ERA, but for the Cubs, he had a miniscule 5.14 ERA. PROGRESS!

It wasn't all bad, for a ten-day stretch in August, he pitched seven straight scoreless innings. After each appearance, Orel Hersheiser was sweating more and more as Karchner bared down on his record, but it was not to be as he gave up a home run to Delino DeShields in a game the Cubs would end up losing in extra innings.

Although he did not pitch in the playoffs, Karchner did manage to pitch 1/3 of an inning in game 163 to make the playoffs and did not allow a run.

After that, he managed another smoke and mirrors season where he had a 2.50 ERA with a 6.13 FIP in limited action for the Cubs. But the smoke and mirrors ended in 2000 when he put up a 6.14 ERA. He would be done pitching professionally at any level after that season.

As I stated, Matt Karchner is unfairly hated by Cubs fans. The fact that he was good enough to not only pitch in the major leagues, but succeed at times, is incredible. It's not fair to judge him on the magic not always being there, because he was never great by major league standards to begin with. In the intro, I compared these Cubs players to dogs in the sense that all dogs are the best dogs. Karchner is the foster dog that chews up shoes, barks at everything, and kind of smells. He can't help it; it's who he is. What I'm trying to say is it's unfair to hate Karchner for things beyond his control. I hope this article helps dissipate the hate...

...but yeah, I still kind of hate Matt Karchner.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The 47 Best Players from the 1998 Chicago Cubs - Introduction

The 1998 Chicago Cubs are my favorite baseball team ever. In fact, they may be my favorite team ever in any sport. With this being the 20th anniversary of that team, I am going to do the biggest and best salute that I can and rank all 47 players that played for that team from worst to best.

Now, best does not mean most valuable, as then I could just give you a WARP list and call it a day. Instead, think of best as someone calling their dog the best. All dogs are the best dogs, and all of these guys are the best too, from #1 all the way to #47. So think of this best list as based more on the joy they provide rather than discernible value.

I'm going to warn you in advance. Glenallen Hill is going to be way higher than any reasonable person could expect (like, so high that you will scream obscenities at your computer screen when you see it). Also, relievers are going to be ranked fairly low, but to be fair, the Cubs relievers weren't the most exciting group outside of a hard-living closer.

But this is just a preview article. I can't give away all the good stuff quite yet. Just know that this team was special. Nobody expected anything out of them, and this was before it was cool to go to Cubs games, so the stadium was usually only half full. The team lost the most beloved announcer in history less than two months before the start of the season. Oh, and they had an outfielder go from good to the man who helped save baseball with home runs and an injectious, wait, did I say injectious? I meant infectious personality.

But yeah, this team was awesome. The list starts tomorrow with a reliever the Cubs acquired right before the deadline. As a hint, I doubt that reliever had to get new housing after the trade.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Chicago Bears Took Their 7th Round Pick (Jav)on a Wims

The Chicago Bears concluded their 2018 NFL Draft by adding size at the wide receiver position with Georgia pass catcher, Javon Wims. Now, it's the seventh round, so it's tough to get super excited about guys at this point. Below is how he tested at the combine.

Well, he certainly did test, but unless you get your rocks off seeing 81st percentile in weight, it's tough to get too amped up about this. Also, his arm length is shockingly short for a man that tall. T-Rex is not the animal I want my receiver to be built like, but again, it's the seventh round so you get what you get.

By searching YouTube, I found out that he has two nicknames in "Juice" and "Jump Ball," but he clearly prefers Juice as that is what he refers to himself as on Twitter.

Did I find anything else interesting about Wims? His tenth best comp according to his testing numbers was Mo Brown, a really tremendous Iowa Wide Receiver. How did his pro career go? Well, let's not worry about that.

Javon Wims is a football player.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Kylie Fitts Is the Chicago Bears Lottery Ticket

In the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears took a high-risk, high-reward prospect in Utah edge rusher, Kylie Fitts. Considering it was the sixth round, it was a great time to take a chance on a guy, because it certainly won't be the end of the world if the guy even makes the roster. The reason he is risky is that he has some serious durability issues. Due to this, he never was really able to find his groove on a football field. He's raw, but the dude is an athlete, and I would 100% classify this guy as a physical freak.

Do you like speed? Do you like strength? Do you like ridiculous quickness on top of that? Yeah, Kylie Fitts has got it all going physically. Still, because of injuries, his best year was in 2015 when he had 41 tackles with seven sacks. That is a really good year for a sophomore, but because of injuries, he never improved on it. So I went to the 2017 tape and checked out his game against West Virginia to see if he had the ability to turn his athleticism into actual football skills.

You can definitely see his strength on tape as he is able to move linemen that get in his way, but he didn't really show the moves to take advantage of a guy back-pedaling on him.

As for highlights? Well, there really wasn't anything of note. You could see the athleticism as he moved well and showed explosiveness on certain occasions, but it never turned into anything in regards to production.

Kylie Fitts has the greatest chance of any Bears draft pick to never see the field in Chicago. That being said, with his athletic traits, his potential is through the roof. There are already reports that he was tearing it up at minicamp, and this doesn't surprise me at all. If he can just stay healthy, he's probably athletic enough to at least become a situational pass rusher. If he can take advantage of health and refine his technique, he could be one of the great steals of this draft. In the sixth round, you really couldn't ask for any more than that.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Can Bilal Nichols Equal a Dime for the Chicago Bears?

The Chicago Bears were a team last year that was bad on offense and not very good on defense, but they weren't very bad either. The team invested heavily in the offense during free agency and continued that with two of their first three picks. After that, the focus was clearly defense. They had already added two linebackers in the first four rounds, so in round five, they added some beef by drafting Delaware Defensive Tackle, Bilal Nichols.

Since there isn't a whole lot of tape of Delaware, I went to the tale of the tape to see how Bilal Nichols performed at the combine. When I looked up the numbers, one thing was clear: Nichols tore it up.

Maybe the most important thing is that Broad Jump number as that shows the explosiveness that he possesses as an athlete. Nichols is not a big player for defensive tackle, but with that explosion, he could be very valuable rushing the passer from the interior.

Luckily, and incredibly surprising, Bilal Nichols has game tape on YouTube. Not only that, it's against a legitimate opponent with his performance against Virginia Tech.

Although Nichols is a good athlete, he doesn't really have any pass rushing moves. It was mostly just push and hope for the best. Occasionally, he would just fall back and spy the quarterback. Part of this may have been that he was playing out of position as a nose tackle the majority of the time which is not a role I see him fulfilling at the next level.

Although he wasn't lighting it up with highlight reel plays, the positive was that he seemed to show good hustle throughout the game and seems to have a good motor on him. On this play, that motor paid off.

It's not exactly some great highlight as the center does enough on 99% of plays, but good on Nichols for continuing to work and finding his way to the quarterback.

Nichols is a good athlete with a good motor and not much for moves. Since he went to a smaller school, it may be likely that he didn't get the best coaching so maybe the Bears can tap into that potential. Also, the Bears will almost definitely shy away from lining him up as a nose guard which should give him more of an opportunity to be a playmaker. Right now, I don't see him as anything more than defensive line depth, but he could carve out a larger role down the line.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Joel Iyiegbuniwe - Chicago Bears Select a Linebacker More Into Telling Than Spelling

The Bears first three picks were all fairly well known players and made scouting them rather easy. After that, the Bears went slightly more obscure in their choices. I'm not a snobby guy who thinks that brand names are always better, so that is why I am excited to tackle the second half of the Bears draft, starting with Western Kentucky Linebacker, Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Unfortunately, I'll be tackling it without video, so let's get weird with this one.

Athletically, Iyiegbuniwe is fairly average.
He had a very good 40-yard dash, but outside of that, he was middle of the pack in just about every category that was measured at the combine, unless you're one of those people who really loves linebacker hand size, in which case, there are two categories that he shined in at the combine.

Iyiegbuniwe was a tackling machine during his Junior season as he racked up 117 tackles, and although he only had two sacks, he did put up 11.5 tackles for loss. He was a Conference USA first-team defensive selection at linebacker.

The Bears did put up a one minute highlight video of Iyiegbuniwe, and their video department either left some to be desired or this guy really doesn't have many impressive plays. I'm going to bet on the former as NFL Network did name him the Bears sneaky good draft pick.

So what to make of Joel Iyiegbuniwe? He's a good but not great athlete who made a lot of tackles for Western Kentucky last year. He was able to make some plays in the backfield but does not have any bonafides as a pass rusher. After drafting Roquan Smith, the Bears need more help on the outside than they do at inside linebacker, although Iyiegbuniwe is likely to start off as a backup at either position. If he's a special teams contributor and plays competent at linebacker in limited time, it will be considered a success. If he can bloom into an average starter down the line, then that would be fantastic. I know it isn't sexy, but getting competent depth is a huge upgrade for a Bears defense that has been the shits for years. Most importantly, I can now spell Iyiegbuniwe without looking it up. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Anthony Miller - Bringin' Down Home Memphis Cookin' to The Windy City

After selecting James Daniels in the second round, it appeared the Bears were done for day two as they did not have a third round pick. But the Bears saw a guy falling that they liked, and they made a move to go get him. Trading their first of two fourth-round picks as well as a 2019 second-round pic, they were able to help give Mitch Trubisky another dangerous weapon by taking Anthony Miller, wide receiver out of Memphis with the 51st pick in the draft. My initial thought when I heard they took Anthony Miller was a slight bit of disappointment, but that was based more off of a huge crush I had on Oklahoma State wide receiver, James Washington, who reminded me of Steve Smith. But to be totally honest, I didn't know shit about Anthony Miller. So let's find out about him together by taking a look at his game against UCLA.

Before even showing any plays, the thing that really stood out to me is how much Memphis must have loved Anthony Miller, because they lined him up all over the field to find ways to get the ball in his hand. He'd be out wide, in the slot, in motion for a jet sweep, even lined up as a fullback, it was clear that Memphis valued getting him the ball.
The next thing to talk about is the dude can catch which is probably the most essential feature in becoming a successful wide receiver. Still, he made some very impressive catches in this game.

Here, he goes full extension to make the diving catch. He does a great job of tracking the football, as he originally breaks in on his route, but has to fade to the outside to give him a chance at the football. He takes the only angle that gives him a chance to make a play.

on top of having great hands, he also knows how to create separation.

Here, he does a quick stutter move to the inside before breaking his route outside the corner, which gives him enough separation to track the ball and catch it for an easy touchdown.

Memphis clearly loved Miller. In the fourth quarter when they needed a first down to avoid giving it back to a Josh Rosen-led team that had already put up 45 points, there was only one guy that they would consider going to.

This is a great example of Memphis putting Miller in different positions in order to utilize his abilities. His versatility will be one of his most valuable assets. Another valuable asset is the way he adjusts to a ball thrown behind him with a defender coming to clean his clock. He manages to make the catch and avoid the big hit; it was a win-win for Miller.

He's also good after the catch.

This is something that you would expect to see on somebody's high school highlight tape. He bobbles the ball, slips, nearly falls down, but then bounces out of two tackles, turns the corner on a defender and speeds right by him before happily high-stepping out of bounds. This is a great play, and yes, UCLA's defense was super awful.

Finally, let's see him combine a great catch with a great run after the catch.

Catching that ball behind him is very impressive, and again, he is able to keep his balance and allow himself to create after the catch. He breaks a tackle, jukes another guy, and then uses his speed to turn the corner down the sideline. He is very good at football stuff.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned my disappointment with the Bears not taking James Washington. After watching the tape on Miller, a lot of what I loved about James Washington I can see in Anthony Miller. He tracks the ball well and can make plays after the catch. I also think he complements Allen Robinson very well in the passing attack. With Matt Nagy being very creative with how he gets players the ball, Miller could be used in a variety of formations and cause a lot of damage. I am starting to get very excited about the Bears 2018 season, and that terrifies me. I'm not going to jinx it yet, there's still quite a few draft picks to look at.