Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2011

10. YuckYuck

Just solid, throwback indie rock.

9. The AntlersBurst Apart

There doesn’t seem to be a wasted track on this album. It is chill but engaging at the same time. The music stays in the forefront of your mind, never seeming to drift into the background.

8. RadioheadKing of Limbs

Abruptly dropped on the world with five days notice earlier this spring, it was hard to know what exactly to make of this eight-song mini-album. This is not vintage Radiohead, and doesn’t evoke the same level of emotions as In Rainbows. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a gem of an album, with a rightful place in the Radiohead discography.

7. Friendly FiresPala

The Friendlies strike again and they do not disappoint. Similarly to their debut, Pala rolls off one impressive song after another providing that highly sought after replay value. There’s no Jump in the Pool or Paris here, but more than a few songs come close.

6. Washed OutWithin and Without

Earnest Greene had a lot to live up to as he released the debut Washed Out full length, after releasing a plethora of strong songs in the form of an amazing EP, the impressive High Times cassette and a quality tour CDR. Despite the pressure to deliver, Within and Without is a cool, confident release. While it is somewhat toned down, Greene effortlessly nails the mood he sets out to achieve. I have the feeling the next Washed Out album will sound completely different.

5. Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes usually take a little growing on my ears before I really realize how good the music is, a worthy follow up to their debut.

4. Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra

Just something about these guys, it’s a refreshing sound to hear.

3. Panda BearTomboy

A pleasure to listen to, this album flows cohesively despite the unique nature of each song.

2. M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

This arguably had a stronger set of huge singles than Zonoscope, but doesn’t quite top Cut Copy as a whole in my book.

1. Cut CopyZonoscope

Simply the most replay-able album of the year, with multiple signature songs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Headline of the Day: "Cardinals Sign Koyie Hill"

I cannot wait for Cubs pitchers to face him for the first time. Three curves, three strikes, find some pine. Have fun Cardinals.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The hits keep coming: Cubs acquire Anthony Rizzo

It is one good trade after another so far for Theo and Jed as the Cubs trade for highly regarded 1B prospect Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates (who?) from the Padres for former first round pick Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na. 25-year-old Cashner is a flame thrower and will be missed--but only if he can manage to stay healthy. Shoulder surgery derailed his 2011 season and his rehab was littered with setbacks.

My first reaction to this trade is wow, how did the Cubs just acquire Anthony Rizzo for only Andrew Cashner?

Heading into the 2011 season Cashner and Rizzo were pretty equally regarded, Cashner having made his Major League debut in 2010 as Baseball America's #95 overall prospect. Rizzo entered the 2011 season as BA's #75 overall prospect and also made it to majors, but was demoted after a horrendous showing of .141/.281/.242 in 153 AB. While this is obviously terrible, it is a small sample size for a 21-year-old in his first big league exposure. Rizzo went on to tear up triple-A to the tune of .331/.404/.652 and his stock looked to be sky high heading into 2012.

While Andrew Cashner has star potential, clearly so does Rizzo who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston a year ago. With Cashner's injury and Rizzo's dominance at triple-A this looks like a small price to pay for Theo and Jed as they continue to rebuild the Cubs with one solid trade after another. The previous trades leading up to this all look to be wins for Chicago, but this trade is the huge steal in my opinion.

The pieces are falling into place, slowly but surely, as the Cubs inch closer to respectability.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So long Big Z, you were my boy, but the Cubs had no choice but to put you down like Old Yeller

According to reports, the Cubs have traded former star pitcher Carlos Zambrano, better known as the Big Z, to the Miami Marlins. The Cubs will absorb $15.5 million of the $18 million owed to Zambrano for the 2012 season. In return the Cubs receive 25-year-old Chris Volstad, a former first round pick who is arbitration eligible and under team control through 2014.

Yes, it would have been nice to receive a larger amount of salary relief in this deal. In fact, that seemed to be the whole point of trading Big Z. However, the Cubs made their current and future team better by receiving a major league quality starter in return who has his best years ahead of him.

Sadly, Z's best days are well in the rear view mirror. Volstad, on the other hand, has shown signs of improvement over the past three seasons despite what his bloated 4.59 career ERA may suggest. In addition to posting a career best xFIP of 3.64 in 2011, Volstad has steadily dropped his walks per nine innings after debuting with the Marlins in 2008:

  • 2008 - 3.84 BB/9
  • 2009 - 3.34 BB/9
  • 2010 - 3.09 BB/9
  • 2011 - 2.66 BB/9
Volstad's improved control is paired with a high rate of ground balls and a strikeout rate that has hovered around 6 K/9 but peaked at 6.36 k/9 in 2011. His ground ball profile fits quaint Wrigley Field nicely and Volstad's progressively improving K/BB ratio bodes well for his future.

Incredibly, Volstad is an even bigger dude than Zambrano, sporting a 6' 8" 233 lb frame. It seems a player with that kind of height may take a few years to perfect his delivery and improve his command. This is exactly what the Cubs witnessed with 6' 7" Sean Marshall who developed into the best left handed reliever in the league after struggling initially in the majors.

I loved the Big Z. I still do love Z and wish him well with Ozzie Guillen in Miami. From his incredible 2003 rookie season nearly powering the Cubs to their first World Series in decades, to the Gatorade cooler desolation and finally the epic moment when Zambrano threw the home plate umpire out of the game. There never was a dull moment with Carlos Zambrano and I will still proudly wear his jersey. However, this trade was necessary and improves the Cubs both in 2012 and moving forward.

Theo, you've done it again. I will sit back and enjoy the rest of your tenure with the Cubs. This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Favorite Songs of 2011

Yeah, it is a little late for this list, and I am very interested to hear what 2012 has to offer. There were some impressively catchy songs released this year, but the offering as a whole was a little lacking in depth compared to previous years. A songs list is also just so difficult to finalize because songs are constantly being shifted. Really, a list like this should probably never be made, as music is meant to fit certain moods with one song sounding amazing in a certain setting, and out of place in another. For some reason though, year end lists seem to be built into our DNA. They're also just fun to make. So without any more rambling, here are my favorite songs of 2011.

  1. RadioheadSeparator
  2. Cut CopyNeed You Now
  3. M83Steve McQueen
  4. Washed OutAmor Fati
  5. Unknown Mortal OrchestraHow Can You Luv Me?
  6. M83Midnight City
  7. Panda BearSlow Motion
  8. Cut CopyTake Me Over
  9. The War On DrugsCome to the City
  10. YuckOperation
  11. The AntlersNo Widows
  12. Hooray For EarthSails
  13. Panda BearAlsatian Darn
  14. PhantogramMake a Fist
  15. RadioheadCodex
  16. Gold PandaMarriage (Star Slinger Remix)
  17. 1, 2, 3 Riding Coach
  18. CultsYou Know What I Mean
  19. Blood DiamondsGrins
  20. Twin Sister Bad Street