Friday, December 23, 2011

Cubs take big haul for Marshall

Of course, we all love Sean Marshall, mostly due to his greatness, but the Cubs are having a rebuilding year and he only had one year left with the contract. It's not impossible for the Cubs to get him back for 2013 at this point; we'll just have to wait and see.

In return the Cubs have Travis Wood. He is a backend starter who will cost negligable money for several years. He's not good in the traditional sense, but he has value. He won't be used as a playoff starter most likely, but he doesn't suck and will give us a chance to win. He doesn't suck and is favorable to most 5th starters. Travis Wood by himself for 4 years will exceed the value of Marshall in one year.

I finally got the names of the minor leaguers. The best way to describe them is a Starlin Castro type at the plate, but better defensively. They have somewhere around 10 HR potential, but they are high average and obp types. They are also good defensively. They will wear pitchers down with a lot of long at bats, and keep our pitchers fresh with good defense. Ronald Torreyes is a second baseman, and Dave Sappelt can play center. Sappelt could conceivably start 2012 at the big league level, while Torreyes is farther away.

Some of you might be thinking, you can't win championships with these low power guys. That may be true if the entire team was of this manor. However, they are just part of the dream. Get 6 of them for cheap, then load up on two legitimate bats, and you have a winner.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The latest synopsis (Dec 2011)

Collection of rumors and surmizations: Soriano gone, Zambrano stay, Pena replaced by Anthony Rizzo, Garza likely to be traded. Soto is a maybe, but I think not after his down year. Samardzija to become a starter. Sean Marshall might get traded. Byrd gone. These people rumored to get traded might not happen until mid season.

In the bank: Ian Stewart replacing Aramis Ramirez. David Dejesus in to play RF.

At this point, the best guess at the outfield picture is Tony Campana in center, DeJesus and Byrd in right and left. That would be a tremendous defensive outfield, and an OK hitting one. Tony Campana saved 10 runs in about 30 games worth of fielding according to UZR.

With Ian Steward replacing Ramirez and Castro improving the infield defense will also be a strength. Rizzo is also an excellent defender, as is Darwin Barney. This is once again a just ok group of hitters. Platooning Baker in against lefties will help. Dewitt might periodically spell Barney vs righties also.

I think this would be one of the best fielding teams around if they decide to stick with Campana. Defense goes farther than people realize. It has a trickle down effect of helping pitchers play better than they really are.

In the bullpen Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol are quite effective. Marcus Mateo also has promise. James Russel and Marshall (if he stays) are great from the left side. There are a few other names in contention that might be surprise contributors. Grabow is gone!!!!

Starters (highly up in the air right now) looking like Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells. It looks like a list of losers honestly, but I really have high hopes for all these people to varying degrees, with the biggest breakout surprise going to Samardzija. Dempster and even Zambrano are solid bounce back candidates. I could see this staff having an ERA below 3.90 with a shot to be much better.

The Cubs GM has suggested he doesn't want to take away the chance of a surprise contention. For this reason I think most of the trade pieces will go mid season instead of this off season. The most likely exception is Garza, as I believe the Blue Jays really want him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ramirez and Pena

Ramirez, Pena, and Lahair all want to play for the Cubs next year. How much of this will happen? It's very unclear with the GM job up in the air. Ramirez wants a 2-3 year deal, I'm not sure about Pena.

I don't have any problem with keeping these people. They've both been pretty good. I don't see a better way to replace them. If both are kept LaHair might go to Japan. I'd be a little sad to see him go but you can't have 2 first basemen. It's possible LaHair could have a pinch hit, sporadic start in the outfield also, which might be preferable to going to Japan for him. I suspect his defense in LF is pretty bad for a career first baseman though, so I wouldn't want him to play many games there.

Jeff Samardzija

"The Cubs have held internal discussions about Jeff Samardzija as a candidate for the starting rotation, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The Cubs have less rotation depth than they did earlier this year, as Wittenmyer explains. The right-hander has started five MLB games, but all 69 of his 2011 appearances have been in relief."

according to mlbtradrumors.com.

I called it first. I hope this is real, Samarzija lost some velocity for a while and suffered. Those two events may not be related, but probably are. Samardzija has a very hard fastball right now, hitting 98 at times. He is one of the hardest fastballers in the game. Additionally he's throwing a cutter, slider, and change. He may be throwing some 2 seam fastballs also.

He can get plenty of strikeouts. His only issue right now is the walks. He's walking over 5/9 innings which is very high, but has been improving month to month since April, and has been under 4/9 IP since June.

He's fine against righties but walking 18.8% of lefties. Most good hitters in this division will be right handed, especially with Fielder likely being traded.

Instead of his L/R splits I'd rather focus on the month to month splits, which have been looking pretty good lately. I think this has the potential to pay off huge for the Cubs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Punishing Castro - a non-traditional take.

Castro didn't realize warm up pitches were done, and he missed an actual game pitch. That is obviously wrong, but even if it happens once every year it isn't going to matter.

So, as if we were still in high school, Quade benched Castro for an entire game as punishment and lets a lesser player play. So we are missing an entire game of Castro now. Which is worse?

Some things that are worse than not paying attention to one pitch:
Making an error
Getting out
Hitting into a double play
Striking out
Being slow

None of those things would require punishment. The difference is that these are all a lack of skill while Castro had a lack of concentration. All are flaws, and of these Castros was the least harmful.

Quade didn't punish Castro, he punished the team and the fans. What if the ticket you bought was for the game Castro sat? Then the Cubs go onto lose a game where they stranded runners almost every inning. 1 or 2 hits could have been the difference.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tony Campana might be better than Soriano right now

Obviously Campana is ahead defensively, an above average defensive center fielder vs an above average left fielder.

Campana also leads in average an on base percentage, but is behind in homers and slugging. wRC+ which is supposed to be something like an absolute value of runs created by offense (including steals) puts both hitters at 95, which is 5% worse than average.

The biggest difference between this year and last year (when he was decent) is that he walked 8.2% of plate appearances last year and only 4.9% this year, dropping his OBP from 322 to 285. Based on his later career there is still a chance of a semi-rebound and he still might be better than Campana. Because of the fielding difference, Soriano would have to outhit Campana by quite a bit to provide equal value.

My dream is that the Cubs will trade him to Floriday+ all the remaining salary to get Logan Morrison, who has angered his team.

In reality he will probably be a Cub next year. We'll just have to hope for a decent season.

Rotation candidates: Marshall and Samardzija

Two very different pitchers.

Marshall, a soft tosser from the left side with a lot of breaking stuff.
Samardzija, a hard thrower from the right side.

The Cubs have excess bullpen pitchers right now and will continue to for next year if all goes according to plan. Zambrano might be on the way out but even if not him and Dempster will both be gone after next year unless extended, and the Cubs might need a replacement.

Marshall is the better pitcher over the last many years, but Samardzija has come on strong lately. Normally the best pitchers are starters but it doesn't always work that way.

Looking at the numbers, it's obvious who deserves the rotation spot.

Jeff Samardzija, though he is not without his weaknesses. He has a huge split, he's pretty bad vs lefties, walking one per inning. I don't think he can possibly stay that bad, and if he can have it at 4-5 over a full season as a start it would be tolerable as long as he was better against righties.

Marshall throws way too many slides and curveballs to make a transition to the rotation, where he would have to depend heavily on his fastball. That is a weakness for him, and a strength for Samardzija.

Samardzija's other weakness is the walk rate. Overall at 5.37 walks/9 innings. This his improved considerably since the beginning of the year and might be below 4 going forward.

His repetoir consists of a blazing fastball, hard slider, and split finger. Against lefties he might need to lean away from the slider a bit, but he's still got 2 other pitches. Adding another, like a cutter would help considerably if he could pull it off. He doesn't appear to have ace potential but can still get the job done.

All I am saying is give Samardzija a chance. And give peace a chance too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What a Pena/Baker platoon would have done in 2011

(as of August 15)

Pena is hitting 221/341/452 on the year. Vs lefties, he's hitting 133/255/322 (attrocious). Jeff Baker (concidentally the same number of at bats) is hitting 356/372/500 against lefties.

If we replace Carlos Pena's vs-lefty at bats with Jeff Baker's, you get 274/357/495. That equals a very good hitter from two ok players patched together. Quade certainly didn't make the most of this opportunity.

Disclosures: the obp was estimated but within 1 or 2 points of the actual, the average and slugging were not estimated but directly calculated.

You can't match them up perfectly every time, sometimes Pena will have to face a lefty. However, Quade didn't even try, because he didn't know it was better. This isn't exactly cutting edge technology here either. Instead Baker faced lefties while Barney sat. Barney has no problem with lefties.

While I'm at it I might as well complain that he didn't play Reed Johnson ever at the beginning of the year when he should have been platooning with Fukudome. These things cost wins that might have ended up mattering (We now know that wasn't the case)

Next year

This year was certainly a disaster for the Cubs. The first things I look at when I say that are the terrible record and the equally terrible run differential. The Cubs record is about what the run differential suggests.

Darwin Barney had garnered some interest but the Cubs thought he was too valuable to trade. I don't agree at all, Barney is about 15% worse than an average hitter (wRC+ of 85.) That's not terrible for a second baseman though. Overall he is roughly an average player.

That's in the past now though, so what should the Cubs do for next year?

Stand pat up the middle infield. Barney and Castro will be pretty good, especially if they improve slightly (i.e. learn how to take a walk). If they reduced their swing percentages they would both be very good players instead of a bit above average.

Excercise Aramis' Ramirez's option. A no brainer. No other 3B will be anywhere close to as good, and if things go wrong next year maybe he will accept a trade then and the Cubs will get some stuff in return.

The bullpen is set. Russel has been great as a reliever, Wood, Marmol, Marshall, and even Samardzija has come around. There might even be excess talent here and we could probably trade some for help elsewhere or convert one to a starter. Also Marcos Mateo is good, and Guzzman might be if he ever played. So long John Grabow.

Four starters are set with Dempster, Garza, Wells, and Cashner. It remains to be seen if Zambrano will be back. If not I'd let Samardzija and Marshall both compete for the spot. They both have improved greatly to tbe point where they might be very good starters. They are both effective against righties and lefties. Wood might be an option but only if he wants to. Previously he had trouble going past 60 pitches. There is also a chance Zack Greinke will be available.

I would get rid of Soriano even if you had to pay 75% of the remaining salary. He's still ok but next year and the year after? Matt Murton will be better right now and he should be coming back from Japan next year. Byrd moves to right and promote Brett Jackson from Triple-A to center field. (He is currently mashing)

For catcher, just keep Soto. He's having a down year but he's as good as anybody else. He alternates so next year will be a good year.

That leaves 1B. With Logan Morrison's problems with the management, if the Cubs got him it would be tremendous. If not, Pena is good but terrible against lefties and needs to start platooning. Baker/Pena would be good. Pena is a free agent so he'd have to agree to another 1 year deal. Pujols and Fielder will be available but don't fall for that trap. They will get way more money than they're worth.

So the net change is Brett Jackson called up, Murton in left, and Logan Morrison at first base. This team will be better than the 2011 version, which would have been ok if not for so many injuries. There's no reason 2012 can't be another chance for the Cubs to bring it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cubs lose late (for the millionth time)

Have to blame Quade on this one. Marshall had a lot of trouble with the Phillies last series and it continued in his 1 inning of work yesterday. Then he pitched another inning and it only got worse.

I'm pretty sure Quade doesn't know that James Russel has actually been his best reliever, and he's particularly tough against lefties. Even counting his starts, he has only walked 2 lefties, and struck out 19. Lefties clearly aren't doing a good job against him. They have a .234 batting average against vs a .254 for Marshall.

Not that Russell is obviously better vs lefties, but it probably would have been smart to use some other guys when Marshall ran into trouble twice.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why the Cubs have allowed the most runs - Bullpen

I just dealt with the fielding and other factors, and now I'm going to focus on the individual pitching, going from best to worst. I will ignore people that didn't pitch enough to matter.

Name/ERA/IP/R/ER
Bullpen:
James Russel 1.36/33/8/5
Sean Marshall 2.70/43.1/13/12
Jeff Samardsija 3.40/53/25/20
Kerry Wood 3.56/30.1/16/12
Carlos Marmol 3.80/42.2/18/18
Marcos Mateo 4.30/23/11/11
John Grabow 5.40/40/27/24

Of note
1. Many ERA's end in 0, freaky.
2. James Russel has been awesome out of the pen. His badness came in 5 starts. I guess Quade picked the wrong spot starter.
3. John Grabow is terrible.
4. The worst reliever is used more than the best reliever.

Marmol's ERA is higher because Quade never takes him out when he's in trouble (because he's the closer.) Because of that, his ERA isn't quite apples to apples to the other guys. Take away 2 bad outings totalling 11 ER and he's been awesome. Or, if he was on the visiting team, those would have been about 5-6 ER instead of 11 because the games would have been over.

So the Cubs have 3 great relievers in Marshall, Russel, and Marmol, and 2 more decent ones in Wood and Samardzija.

Going forward the pen is not a problem, however it has contributed some to the high ER total the Cubs have allowed. It's looking like most of the damage is coming from the starters.

Cubs allowed more runs than any other team

This included American league teams which have to face a DH. The Cubs have a run favoring park and play in a division that supports some very good offensive teams. They might not be the worst pitching/defense team but they are close to it. I'm going to take a look at the biggest offenders.

First I'm going to focus on defense. The Cubs rate poorly on defense. The worst offenders are Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome. I don't really believe these are bad defenders, either they are poorly positioned or the wind is messing with the system that rates them (UZR). Castro rates poorly too, but it was always questionable if he was going to stick at shortstop or not. He still has time to improve. The rest of the defense is about average, but not good enough to pick up the slack from the aforementioned.

I'm going to do pitching in a seperate entry.

Pythagorean wins

Pythagorean wins is a formula that uses runs scored and runs allowed to see how many games you deserved to win. It's not an exact science, but if there is a large difference between this win percentage and your actual win percentage, you might have a lot of luck involvement.

This is not the case with the Cubs, who are a medium run scoring team and a terrible run prevention team. This formula says the Cubs deserved to win about 39% of their games, which is the actual number.

That doesn't mean the Cubs haven't been lucky or unlucky. I'd say they are unlucky, mostly due to injuries being worse than most teams. However, it's wrong to think the Cubs haven't played like a 20-games-under-.500 team.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cubs lose in Cubsian fashion

A quick look at the guys the cubs got beat by at the bottom of the Marlins order along with OBP (which is the stat that killed the Cubs last night)

Mike Stanton .329 - average
Mike Cameron ~.220- horrendous
John Buck .299 - terrible
Greg Dobbs (since he hit the double I will go OPS (729) - marginal
Emilo Bonasomething - .360 - good
Omar Infante .299 - terrible

Then Gaby Sanchez, a good hitter, got a sac fly and that got the Marlins to 4 runs.

So, a pretty bad group in summary. I always thought if teams just didn't swing against Marmol they would have a pretty good chance to get to him. Odds are you won't hit it even if you swing, so why swing?

Now the Cubs have to win 8 of 9 or I was wrong on my prediction of 8 of the first 10.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cub's Second Half: To Be Or Not To Be

Not to be, anything short of awesome. With the hitting getting hot and the pitching coming back from the DL, the Cubs will be firing on all cylinders. Expect at least 8 of the first 10 games to be Cubs wins.

Also Andrew Cashner will be back soon. The Cubs won't have anyone worse than a typical third starer. Marmol, Wood, and Marshall can close out almost all games, and the Offense is hot-hot-hot.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Aramis Ram passes

"I'd rather take the three days off," said Aramis Ramirez. Now we have Scott Rolen :P

It's a major dissapointment but I can understand the desire for 3 days off. He already told his family he was coming home and didn't want to cancel out on them last minute.

It seems like it would have been good for his next contract to be coming off an All Star year. In the end you have to do what you want.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chipper to the DL, Ramirez to the All Star game?

The first part of that is confirmed, the second part isn't. I can't imagine who else would go. The next best choice is probably Ty Wigginton, aka Wiggy Pig or maybe Ryan Zimmerman. Scott Rolen perhaps. If it's not Ramirez though, I'll flip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

More avenues for Ramirez

Chipper Jones might need surgery "at any time" which would mean Aramis Ramirez has yet another shot at the All Star squad.

To recap all the avenues he could have to get to the game.
Placido Palanco is having serious back pain.
Chipper Jones is having serious knee problems.
Reyes and Tulowitzki are both having some problems.

If either Palanco or Jones can't make it Ramirez would be a show in. It's less clear if a shortstop can't make it, but since there are 2 other shortstops Ramirez could get the nod.

I have to assume Andrew McCutcheon would be taken first if position were not an object though. Ramirez has been one of the best hitters of late, but McCutcheon is second in the NL of all hitters in fangraphs WAR.

However, if a shortstop was out, and McCutcheon replaced him, then if an outfielder couldn't make it Ramirez could still fill in.

By the way, if you can't tell, I'm a huge all star fan and I want to see more Cubs there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bullpen Management Blows It

It's not the first time and not the last.

Bringing Kerry Wood in for Sean Marshall was a very bad idea. Here are the general ideas to consider.

Anytime you bring a new pitcher into a game, you run the risk of getting someone on a bad day. No pitcher is good everytime they go out there, and yesterday Kerry Wood wasn't on his game. He found it later but the tying run already scored.

Sean Marshall is very good against righties and lefties. Kerry Wood is also about he same vs lefties and righties.

Relievers are better if they start an inning on a clean slate and some time to find it before pitching with runners in scoring position. Pitchers are probably better against the 3rd or 4th batter they face than the first one.

I'm a huge fan of Kerry Wood but I have to admit Sean Marshall has been a bit better for two years now, and Wood JUST came off the DL a few days ago.

To sum up:
Quade runs the risk of bringing in a new reliever when he already has the best one out there for no advantage. He should have expected Ryan Zimmerman to actually do better against Kerry Wood than Sean Marshall.

Aramis Ramirez All Star Snub

Aramis Ramirez probably is not the best player to be snubbed but the 3B going to the all star game instead are Placido Palanco and Chipper Jones. Chipper isn't even as good defensively anymore as A Ram. Palanco is understandable because of the fan vote, A Ram hit 10 HR in June/July so most votes were already cast.

Players picked Chipper probably because he's more likable.

If Reyes doesn't go, they already have Tulo and Castro, so they might go with A Ram as a replacement I guess instead of an SS. It's probably not likely, but at least there's a chance.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Zambrano on the DL or Cubs lose 2

With Zambrano on the DL it means the Cubs will have to use one of their dreaded replacement starters. He will miss at least 2 starts, and probably not more than that. Since replacement starters have lost about 15 games in a row for the Cubs, this is not good.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sacrifices are often dumb

It was particularly dumb in this game in the 10th inning with someone who could steal second.

So far this year Campana is 8/9 in steals, 88% succesful. What is the probability of success of a sacrifice? 85%? 90%? What are the odds of at least one out with a sac? 95%? Take your pick

88% chance of runner on second no outs OR
90% chance of runner on second with 1 out.

I can do this math very easily by figuring 3 remaining outs is 50% more than 2 remaining outs, and that's really all that matters as the runner on second base is about the same likelihood with either scenerio.

Lets just play the game of what would happen if everything else was the same.
Campana safe at second, no outs
Koyie Hill does whatever, Campana probably gets to third
Reed Johnson infield single run scores.

After Campana steals he could consider stealing again, or maybe sacrifice at that point.

I'm afraid Mike Quade is unimaginative. Runner on base, I should call for a scarifice.

For the most part, only a pitcher should sacrifice a runner to second. Koyie Hill could be the exception to that, as he is a real terrible hitter. In this case, where a runner can steal just as successfully as bunting, it's a no-brainer not to sac.

Cubs opening day roster update

Early I highlighted how the Cubs had a winning record with the original 5 starters. that is still in tact, as the Cubs are 29-27 with that group. This is despite injuries to hitters like Byrd, Soto, and Barney, and an injury to key bullpen guy Kerry Wood. It would obviously be considerably better with these guys all year.

The Cubs have not won a game since then with a replacement starter, as they still only have 4 wins. Now there are 21 losses to go with that.

It's a shame! We had a good team going and would be solidly in contention right now. By next week we will have both Wood and Byrd back, and will only be waiting on Cashner.

The James Russel's Hats

James Russel has worn many hats this year. The hat of a starter, the hat of a reliever, probably some other hats.

He has started 5 games, all of which were Cubs losses, all of which he got the decision for. Overall in these 5 starts 18.1 IP, 19 ER, 5W and 10K. That's over a 9 ERA.

Take that away though, and Russel has 24.1 IP and only 5 ER out of the bullpen. 5W and 18K to go along with it. That's an ERA of 1.8!!! He has a 1-0 record during that time.

It's not surprising that he has large splits. He's very good against lefties with a 1.08 whip but terrible against righties with a 1.62 whip. (ERA is not available for L/R splits because a run is a combination of several hitters. In the bullpen he can be used selectively against more lefties.

Going forward, let's not use Russel as a starter. Not only is it an instant loss, but he takes him away as a bullpen option.

Cubs lose Doug Davis

Doug Davis dropped. Let's be honest, he couldn't do anything.

A brief recap of his season:
A pretty good debut spoiled by some undearned runs followed by excrement. He looked good one other time, June 1 when the Cubs lost a low scoring affair against the Astros (who are terrible hitters). That was his only walk-free performance, and he got 5Ks. Outside of those 2 good starts, his walks were equal to his Ks on the year.

His start vs the yankees will probably be remembered as his best, but 3 walks and 4K? Not dominant by any means. Every once in a while a pitcher gets lucky, and that's what happened that day.

Overall he had a 1-7 record, which is probably about what he deserved. He was a big part of the Cubs fall this season. If the Cubs were 4-5 in those games instead of 1-8, they'd be in better shape.

I think of all the Cubs options, I would roll with Samardzija as the 5th starter until Cashner gets back. He has great K numbers, and starting might help him improve his control.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Free agents for first base and outfield

I recently pointed out the Cubs are most likely to pursue someone for right field and first base.

First basemen
Lance Berkman (36)
Russell Branyan (36)
Jorge Cantu (30)
Michael Cuddyer (33)
Prince Fielder (28)
Ross Gload (36)
Brad Hawpe (33)
Eric Hinske (34) - $1.5MM club option with a $100K buyout
Nick Johnson (33)
Casey Kotchman (29)
Mark Kotsay (36)
Derrek Lee (36)
Xavier Nady (33)
Lyle Overbay (35)
Carlos Pena (34)
Albert Pujols (32)

I boldened the guys I like Most. Pujols and Fielder are good but Fielder is a terrible fielder and will probably be a DH in the American league. Pujols is just too pricey. My favorite option would probably just be to bring Pena back, but I'd also be happy with Berkman if he's cheap or Derrek Lee if he shows something in the second half of this season.

I thought about an upgrade at second base but I don't see any upgrade over Baker/Dewitt/Barney that's worth it.

Here's an abbreviated outfield list, I'm leaving off most names that I think are irrelevant.

Johnny Damon (37)
Conor Jackson (30)
Reed Johnson (35)
Josh Willingham (33)
Carlos Beltran (35)
Coco Crisp (32)
Cody Ross (31)
Grady Sizemore (29) - $8.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
David DeJesus (32)
J.D. Drew (36)
Jeff Francoeur (28)
Kosuke Fukudome (35)
WCody Ross (31)

I don't approave of everyone on this list but I included all justifiable names.

A return of the platoon of Fukudome or Reed Johnson would be fine, or Francoeur can also mash lefties. My favorite would be Coco Crisp, and move Byrd to right. Beltran only if it's a short deal, 3 years max. I also love David Dejesus. Sizemore is also intriguing if he's actually available.

Wait till next year

As much as I maintain that the Cubs were a good team going into the season, it's very unlikely for any team to pick up 12 games in a half season. It happens from time to time, but not many.

So lets look at the the lineup for next year. Of the positions that will be the same
3B - Ramirez (I think the Cubs have an option they will pick up)
SS - Castro, C - Soto, LF - Soriano, CF - Byrd, 2B - Barney

The starting pitching staff will probably feature the same 5 guys it had going into this year. The most likely one to be gone is Zambrano.

The openings are in RF and 1B. Internally, the Cubs best OF is probably Brett Jackson, but he's currently in Double-A and probably won't be ready. Not much at first at all. The Cubs might keep Reed Johnson around but I don't like that as an everyday option.

The Ideal platoon situation

The biggest issue with the Cubs injuries is that it takes them out of their ideal platoon situations. When used effectively, the Cubs don't really have any weaknesses.

The biggest weakness hitting is at Catcher, where Soto is hitting .225/.319/.412. Not terrible for a catcher, above average for the position. Soto is better than that but that's what he's done so far.

Byrd, Soriano, and Ramirez shouldn't be platooned. They aren't ripping the cover off the ball but here are their triple slashes before today:
Byrd .308/.346/.419
Soriano .269/.310/.509
Ramirez .283/.331/.417
All solid but not spectacular. Ramirez especially is better later in seasons typically.

At second, Dewitt has been bad so far this year vs righties but I think he'll pull out of it. Barney has been fair, but has hit lefties especially good at .321/333/.396. I suppose I would stick with Barney most of the time and his .294/.314/.343 overall line. Fair enough stats for a very good defensive second basement. Dewitt might get it turned around in the future.

There is no platoon at first base, but their should be as Pena is hitting .265/.386/.512 vs righties and complete suck vs lefties, while Baker is hitting .433/.443/.617 vs lefties and complete suck vs righties. This platoon would be equivalent to the best hitting first basement in the game.

Right field is the other optimal platoon situation. Fukudome is doing good overall, and so is Reed Johnson, but vs their opposite throwing pitchers, Fukudome is hitting .283/.399/.390 and reed Johnson is hitting .375/.405/.550. That's a near-star level of production.

This would have resulted in 2 great hitting positions at 1B and RF, and going forward I think 3B will join that group. 4 average or above hitters at positions of SS, 2B, LF, and CF. Catcher lags behind but could be in the average or even the great group going forward.

Despite all the injuries, the Cubs have scored a fair amount of runs per game. Without the injuries I think they'd be on of the top scoring teams. Additionally, hitting is contageous, when some of the team hits better, it helps the rest of the team.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cubs hitting coach

In light of my recent entry about the Cubs being dead last in walk rate, I have decided to blame Rudy Jaramillo. Since nobody reads this blog, I'm not going to check that spelling.

It's the hitters job to bring the skill, which I believe they do to a reasonable extent. The hitting coach should bring the strategy and approach. That is where the cubs are lacking.

The only people taking walks are the ones who've always done it, Pena, Soto, and Fukudome. I don't think Rudy deserves any credit for this people. It's the younger guys and part timers that he should be spending the most time with, and these are the ones that are borderline terrible.

The Cubs have a middling team OBP of .314 despite being 2nd in the NL in batting average at .264. I was expecting OBP to be a real strength for them, somewhere in the .330 range.

Overall the Cubs are still an ok run scoring team and an ok pitching team. They've deserved more wins than they've got but haven't deserved to be at the top of the division.

The pitching will pick up now that less pitchers are on the DL. I don't see that kind of hope for the hitting. At the very least, it should go up some when Byrd comes back. Reed Johnson will face less righties and Fukudome will face less lefties. I'm pretty happy with the Dewitt/Baker platoon situation. It would be better if it was a Dewitt/Barney platoon, and first base was a Pena/Baker platoon. I like Pena but he sucks bad against lefties.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cubs take a commanding last place lead in walks

The Cubs as a team are walking in 6.5% of plate appearances, the next lowest is 7.2%, shared by two teams. If I would have known this to be the case before the season started, I never would have thought the Cubs had a real chance. Maybe things will improve as the season unfolds.

This is despite Fukudome, Soto, and Pena, three prodigious walkers, all over 10% of plate apperances.

The biggest offenders are Byrd, Johnson, Dewitt, Baker, who all under 3%. Darwin Barney and Soriano are also terrible, Castro is pretty bad, Ramirez is ok.

It's not just about the free passes, its about getting better looks at pitches, swinging at better pitches to hit, and getting the starter out earlier so you face worse members of the bullpen. Take the Yankees in that game they got an insurance run off of John Grabow, and then hung on to win by only that run. Had Grabow never been needed, the Cubs would have had a much better chance to win.

Some of the players I'd give a pass to, because they are also very low strikout guys. High contact guys will walk less. Namely this is Castro, and Ramirez. Castro is improving as he gets more experience.

Before I close I should mention Koyie Hill and Tyler Colvin, who are trying to play the game correctly.

Monday, June 6, 2011

It has become very unlikely that this is the year

Thanks to back to bak sweeps, the Cubs are now 11 games out. It is certainly possible for the Cubs to win, but it is equivalent to saying at the beginning of the season, we have to win the division by 11 games. I think the Cubs are a good team, but so many people have missed a large percentage of the first two months, that they have piled up too many losses before getting their players back. It wouldn't hurt to ride it out the rest of June or so to see if the Cubs go on a big win streak.

But if not, what names should go on the trading block?

Here are some criteria for being a good trade candidate
Final year of a deal
not having a no trade clause or be willing to waive it
being at a position some one could use
being productive

Players with long term deals that are unmovable:
Soriano is in a long term deal and is owed a bit more money than he's worth.

Players with no trade clauses (ntc):
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster - have full no trade clauses and would probably use them. You never know for sure though, someone might want to play for a contender like Derrek Lee last year.

Aramis Ramirez - I'm not sure if he has a ntc. I'm sure there will be contenders in need of a third baseman, and he'd probably waive it. However the Cubs might want to excercise the option to keep him next year.

Players with trade value the Cubs might want to keep:
Marlon Byrd - He's got another year left, but has a very low price tag.

Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol - Any team would love them for sure and would probably pay big.

Kerry Wood - signed cheap to play in Chicago. It would be low to trade him. He'd be a valuable piece though.

Blake DeWitt - cheap enough to hang on to, and value isn't that high. Is a good platoon partner at 2B with Barney.

Matt Garza - Cubs paid a lot for him but will have to keep paying to keep him. I think he's the Cub's best starter at this point and they might want to hang onto him.

Maximally tradeable people:
Jeff Baker - backup infielder who can mash lefties. Someone would take him and the Cubs don't really need him anymore now that they have Barney.

Reed Johnson - isn't going to make mouths water, but he fits the mould of Francoer who got dealt last year, a good defender who can handle lefties.

Kusuke Fukudome - off to another great start. Many teams could use a good defender and disciplined hitter.

Bullpen, especially John Grabow - Bullpen guys often move at the trading deadline, and almost all teams want another lefty especially.

Carlos Pena - signed a one year deal. I'm sure someone could use him at 1B/DH.


Any names left off have essentially no chance of being traded.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cubs Original 5 starters

To elaborate on the damage of the DL stints to Cubs starters:

When the original 5 start the Cubs are 19-14.
When the replacements start the Cubs are 3-12.

I think it's probable to say the Cubs would be sitting better than .500 right now if they hadn't lost their pitchers.

Even losing only one pitcher and using Silva would have probably been enough to keep the Cubs over .500. Jay Jackson might have also been able to make contributions but he has battled his own share of injuries this year. These are the breaks.

Also on the Horizon, Kenneth Trey McNutt, could be a contributor by the end of this season. I use all three names because I'm not sure what name he goes by. He's probably better than Casey Coleman right now but still in Double-A, performing solidly but not spectacularly.

Season to date

The Cubs haven't gotten off to a great start but may be showing signs of life. They haven't had any major injuries other than Cashner who will end up missing probably three months or more, but these minor injuries have been costly.

The Cubs are a much better team when one of their original five starters pitches, and much worse when Russel, Coleman, or Davis starts. And obviously Soto is considerably better than Koyie Hill, who is one of the worst hitting catchers around.

The Cubs sit 6.5 games behind the Cardinals, 4 games behind the Brewers, and only 2.5 games behind the Reds. Many people peg the Reds as the front runners, so it's highly possible that the Cardinals and Brewers take care of themselves, and the Cubs are only 2.5 games behind the future first place team.

The immdediate future looks bright, as Wells and Soto are both coming back, I think Saturday, and Garza won't be far behind. The Cubs have 6 home games vs the Pirates and Astros, let's see what happens.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cubs 4-5 starter replacements give away another

In all replacement starts for the DL stints of Wells, Cashner, and now Garza, the starter has kept the Cubs in 3 games. 2 by Coleman, and one by Davis. Since there has been about 15 of these games total, the Cubs have piled up a hefty list of no-contests.

If the Cubs could have just gone .500 in these games, they'd be in or around first place. It's too bad about Silva, he probably would have done a little better. Maybe with an ERA in the 4s instead of the 7s.

I thought the Cubs were very underrated to start the year, and many of their opponents were overrated. I was robbed of a chance of being right by these injuries.

At least Wells is almost back, and Garza will only be out for a very short time. Soto, also almost back, will surely do better than teh .234/.308/.383 line that Koyie Hill is producing. Soto was off to a slow start this year but is surely the best hitting catcher in the division.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Randy Wells is starting his rehab.

But why? Are we worried his ERA will be above 7 like the guys who are pitching in his place? I guess this is standard practice, but it seems like a good time to throw out the convetional wisdom.

Fill in starters have combined for a grand total of 1 good start, and that was on a drizzly cold day with the wind blowing in. And it wasn't that good of a start. 6 innings, 2 runs.

Tyler Colvin

Tyler Colvin is doing terrible and the Cubs don't need him. For some reason this is a tough decision for Mike Quade, but to me it seems obvious.

Send him down to triple-A. What's the point in stashing him on the bench so he can't get better? You're too worried to play him anyway because of his struggles. Honestly at this point he never should have been called up in the first place. He did pretty good last year for a rookie but didn't help the Cubs accomplish anything.

It's also running up his arbitration clock, which will make him cost the Cubs more money to keep. Sending him to the minors will post-pone that clock. After this year Fukudome will be gone, and Colvin can play then. If Colvin starts doing awesome in the minors, you can trade Fukudome and bring Colvin up.

What is hard about this?

The other thing the Cubs are worst at

Turning double plays. It seems like every 2 out of 3 double play chances are accompanied by "And the throw to first... not in time." It has be be difficult to keep saying over and over again and not get sarcastic about it.

I have no insight as to why. Barney and Castro are both good defenders. Possible things that can go wrong:

The throw to the second base bag is off target so the fielder gets off balance catching it.

The throw to first might be in the dirt and not handled cleanly

The balls are hit too tricky to get two off of, maybe they are slower, or the fielder has to range away from the bag to field it.

The fielder is slow at transitioning to throw the ball.

I really don't know what the answer is. I just wish it wasn't true. It could be luck on hits or it could be something fundamental.

Quick note on fangraphs UZR fielding scores,
Darwin Barney is a well-above-average fielder, but has a negative double play score.
Castro has good range but has made lots of errors, and has a slight negative double play score.

That doesn't really explain anything, but reaffirms that they are indeed bad at double plays. Let's just hope it's bad luck on screwier than usual hits and it will change the rest of the season.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What the Cubs need now, is patience, sweet patience

It's the only thing that they are just dead last in. Ok, they actually passed the Giants last night, now at 31.7% of pitches outside the zone swung at. The Giants are at 32%. Patience doesn't guarantee you'll score more runs, but the top 3 teams in least balls chased:

The best teams in this category
Yankees 24.1% (1st in division)
Indians 24.9% (also 1st)
Rockies 25.3% (1st)

It seems to me that taking more pitches will have the following effects:
Positive effects
more walks
more stress to opposing pitchers
more often facing a pitcher from stretch instead of the windup
more people on the bases

negative
more strikouts as less balls are put in play early. If they take more pitches in general they will probably also take more called strikes, but hopefully at a lower rate.


Think about it from the pitching point of view. It's bad when your pitcher is racking up a lot of deep counts, and especially bad when you walk people. Ipso Facto, as a hitter, it must be good when you cause that to happen. The Cubs need an alteration on their hitting approach.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ugly 8th for the Cubs

Before I get to the 8th inning festivities, Pujols getting to third on some Cubs confusion made the cubs defense look a bit amateurish.

Anyway, it started with an infield single, followed up by a walk. Then a fly ball to right, with Molina on deck. Somehow someway Holliday got to second on that fly. This very likely was the straw that broke the 8th innings back. There is no better double play candidate than Yadier, which would end the inning. Even if a hit found a hole then only 1 would score.

But with second and third the Cubs walked Molina. I disagree but I can see the reasoning. Wood had to then face 2 lefties, he got one to line out but then next one found some green and two runs scored.

If you want a take home message from that 8th, don't mindlessly throw the ball where there is no play when other baserunners can get an extra base.

Side note - A good throw had Holliday easy at the plate, would have saved a run.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Platoon Pena?

This seems to be an idea the Cubs are considering. I guess I'm in favor. Baker is demolishing lefties, but the better comparison is Darwin Barney. Barney, who has previously sat vs lefties will enter the lineup at second while Baker shifts to first. The comparison is only vs lefties, since Pena will still play vs righties.

Defensively this has to be an improvement. Pena's defense isn't bad, but Baker is good at second, should be better at first (it's easier) and Barney is probably better than Baker at second.

Barney would likely do better against lefties than he would against righties, and he's doing pretty good against righties. It's hard to say what he'll do exactly as he continues to play, but as long as he's doing good he's doing good.

It's just 13 at bats vs lefties for Pena, but he has been attrocious. I'm going to go into wOBA (which is a combination of all different types of hits). Average wOBA is around .320 to .330, Pena over the last 3 years has been .305, .352, and .300. A below average hitter 2 of 3 years.

So not only should Pena be platooned, he should have been platooned in 2010 and 2008. So I'll go on record saying I support this.

I fully expect Pena to rebound going forward, but more against righties than lefties. As long as Barney is hitting, he should be in.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lineup optimization

Scientific analysis has been done on this subject, and it's somewhat at odds with the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is the fast guy bats first, the best hitter bats 3rd, and the second best slugger bats 4th.

Actually the most important spots are 1,2, and 4. 4 is much more important than 3, because they often will either lead off an inning or bat with someone on base. 3 often bats with 2 outs and nobody on base, a largely useless situation.

The leadoff hitter actually doesn't need to steal that much, because the big hitters are coming up after. Stealing is for the bottom of the order when you are trying to manufacture. It doesn't really matter since the cubs don't steal.

1: Fukudome high obp guys when used correctly.
2: Should be Soto, but because he's catcher, which takes a lot of work, I'm moving him lower. So I'll put Starlin Castro here.
3: Carlos Pena, Homers are still useful in the 3 hole, and he's high OBP so I'll keep him up here.
4: Aramis Ramirez, best overall hitter with power
5: Soto
6: Soriano, his homers should be productive after Soto's high OBPs
7: Marlon Byrd, batting after Soriano should cut down on double plays.
8: Darwin Barney/Dewitt, Barney's showing good promise but I still have to put him last.

I'm leaving Baker off this list because he should really be traded if the Cubs want to go with Barney. Dewitt should see action against certain righties that use a lot of sinkers and sliders or if Barney cools off. I'm not sure on 5-7 spots. They are all pretty good hitters and a bit hard to predict.

This optimized lineup strategy is published in quite a few places throughout the internet. I've seen it multiple times on fangraphs.com. The main takaway message is the best hitters go at 1,2,4 then 5th then 3rd.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is Darwin Barney?

On the surface he is hitting .309/.350/.400. Is he for real? At the beginning of the season I pegged him as a .280 hitter based mostly on his minor league numbers. Now we have some major league data to look at.

Looking deep at the data, his high batting average seems to be for real. Looking at his plate discipline data and contact rates, he is extremely good. He swings at just 25% of balls outside the zone, which is above average, and 48.6% of strikes. Overall he is swinging less than average hitters. This is a perfect fit for his skills, as he is a very high contact hitter, and can go deep into counts without likely striking out.

He has made contact on 93% of all pitches he's swung at, so to me, his tiny strikout rate of 9.1% of at bats is for real. He seldom chases pitches, but so often hits the pitches he does hack at, so he doesn't walk too often, 6.6% of plate appearances.

He doesn't have power so I'd like to see him cut back on that 25% rate of chasing balls outside the zone. He's just a rookie though so you can't expect him to be perfect.

Unfortunately all this is only 55 at bats and isn't overly meaningful. We have to wait and watch to see if he maintains these low strikeout rates.

ADD ON: Forgot to mention one thing, Barney has been mostly benched vs lefties, which he would likely do better against. So he might actually be better than his numbers. If the Cubs want to play Barney, Baker should be traded.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cubs officially tied for first

Cubs improve to 9-8 with another dramatic extra inning game. Reed Johnson! I've been saying he should play more, although I meant against lefties.

Looking Good:
I probably have to say Reed Johnson here
Fukudome, I think he was 2/2 on the day. He has an OBP around 500 on the season
Jeff Samardzija, wasn't flawless by any means but it could have looked a lot better with tight defense.

Looking Bad:
Marmol, he's not getting the Ks like he did last year but still getting the walks.
Soto on throwing to second
Grabow still. Yeah the Cubs need to use everybody today, but those were key siutations for your last resort guy.

Cubs Minor Leaguers

Lots of good news from the Double-A affiliate Tennesee Smokies. Brett Jackson is hitting .385 through the first 10 games. He's also featuring more walks than strikeouts. Josh Vitters is hitting .333 and has only struck out 3 times. He's also walked 3 teams, bringing the total number of 3's to 5.

Trey McNutt pitched only 2 2/3 innings on the tenth but hasn't pitched since. It appears he must be injured. Chris Carpenter (not the Cardinal) is doing pretty good for the Iowa Cubs.

These are some of the Cubs top prospects. The Iowa Cubs are hitting very good but it appears to be more Jake Fox types than legit prospects. For those who don't know Jake Fox demolished in triple-A the likes of which we've never seen. 17 homers in about a month and a half. He's not a quality everyday player though.

Cubs Climb without playing -- they're that good

Yesterday saw a cold day for the Reds, who continue to slide, and an even colder day for the Cubs who didn't want to play.

The Reds have fallen to an earthly 9-8. The Cubs are just a half game back. They got their new big ticket starter in game one against an 0-3 SD starter, Mosley. His ERA is quite good, but he has more walks than strikeouts. His ERA appears to be a fluke. More walks than strikeouts = bad. Garza has been pretty good, limiting the balls put in play.

I'm not sure who is pitching game 2, possibly Casey Coleman. Wells and Cashner are still a couple weeks away from returning.

It's a beautiful day for a bus ride, lets take 2. - Ernie Banks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Lefty/Righty matchups

The plethora of run scoring hits by lefties in this bottom of the eighth reminded me of something I've been wanting to explain for a while.

It is conventional wisdom that it heavily favors the pitcher to be of the same hand as the batter. One minor reason, that I will get out of the way early, is that the head has to move more for the hitter to follow the pitch. If a pitcher is better vs one type of batter vs the other, they call this a "split."

Not all pitchers have problems against the opposite handed batters. Think about it more of a pitch split than a pitcher split. 2-seam fastballs (sinkers) and sliders have the biggest splits. Changeups, Cutters, 4-seam fastballs, and curveballs do not have major splits. A few sliders are still effective against the opposite hand, such as Marmol's.

Mateo is primarily a fastball slider guy. So you can't throw a slider against a lefty (Fowler, Harrera, Cargo) then you are basically a one pitch pitcher, and you are going to have a bad inning if you are facing lefties. It was basically suicide to leave Mateo in. He was great against Wigginton and Morales just isn't very good, but the top of the order was a disaster waiting to happen.

A Montage of bad 8th inning management was the undoing of the Cubs this game. I guess I won't blame Quade for the Fukudome sac bunt, as many managers use the sac bunts when they shouldn't, but it was painfully obvious Mateo shouldn't face the top three hitters.

why a sac bunt?

On a 2-0 count in a 5-5 tie game in a very offensive environment, it just isn't worth the out. Fukudome is a very patient hitter, and is probably around a 50% chance of walking anyway, especially when considering the batter before walked.

So the Cubs gave up a chance at first and second nobody out to get a runner on second with one out. I don't think I need to tell you that it's easier to get that run in if you have 3 outs left instead of 2.

Plus all chances of a big inning just went out the window. There's a good chance that one run isn't going to seal the deal. But even if it would, I don't think that improved the odds of scoring the one run even. Not at Coors against a pitcher that isn't throwing strikes.

Fangraphs agrees with me, http://www.fangraphs.com/liveplays.aspx?date=2011-04-17&team=Rockies&dh=0&season=2011, saying that the bunt cost the Cubs a 3% chance to win that game, from 56.7% to 53.7%. That doesn't even take into account the favorable 2-0 count that was wasted.

Edit: That was written before the inning unfolded. If we take the benefit of hindsight, in addition to the fact that it obviously didn't work, a walk pushing Sori to second, then the fly gets him to third with 1 out, then scores on the Colvin fly with 2 outs. It's ridiculous to say that's what would have happened, but it's an example of what could have been but didn't get a chance.

Maybe Castro, who would have been up next, and was smoking the ball today, would have given the Cubs a second run that inning.

The Rockies came up in an identical situation in the bottom half of the inning and did not bunt, and it paid off big. If they did bunt the runner would have never moved from second. The Cubs sac bunted their way to a loss. They haven't officially lost yet (I'm writing this as the Rockies are unloading.) Maybe they will win despite the bad decision.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cubs hangin in there

Sitting at .500 early in the season, while not a good thing, is definitely not a bad thing either. It road going forward is easier the more wins you have by this point, but that's all it's good for. Current records are not useful for gauging the strength of a team. We know this because the Red Sox have only 2 wins (the least,) and are certainly not the worst team in baseball.

The main thing to look at is games back. The Cubs are a skinny 2 games behind the Reds right now and only a half game back in the wild card. Really, we can't even look at anybody's stats and say much about who's going to have a good year. Right now the Cubs are playing ok. It could go either way as the season progresses.

If you do want to make some claims right now, realize that the Cubs are tied with the Giants, defending world champs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Standings so far

The Cubs are doing a great job hitting after these eight games, but I don't think they've really faced any good pitchers. Seems like the Cubs have always been better against better pitchers anyway. My point is that we can't say too much about how the offense is doing.

If the Cubs stay at 500 they will probably be in wild card contention for a long time this year. A 500 season and a good september is probably enough to make it in.
The Reds finally started to lose some games so the Cubs are just two back.

The pirates are still in second place. I don't think the team sucks but I still don't see them hanging around long. Brewers are 1 half game behind the Cubs but will be without Greinke for all of April.

It's nice to see the Cardinals keep losing. They are 2-6 by virtue of an averagy offense, bad everything else.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting Carried Away with 6 games of Data

I got curious how the Cubs were stacking up to other teams. I know the record is even, so middle of the pack. What what about the sabremetrics? The stats behind the stats that are a better indicator of how the team has done and where it's going in the future.

Some stats have more luck involvement than others, like the record. First, I will focus on the stats with the least luck involvement.

Strikeout rate - 16.7% Cubs are tied 3rd in the National league. That's certainly a good sigh. Especially when paired with the 9.8% walk rate, 5th in the league.

They have a low line drive percentage, the best kind of hit, 13th in the league, but they have hit the fewest grounders of any team, making them first overall in fly balls hit. Fly balls are good in general. This is where homers come from. Only 6.5% of these fly balls have become homers though, making them 11% in that category.

So there are two possible conclusions for the first week. The Cubs lack power, or the Cubs jusst haven't been hitting the home runs that are coming to them. With the likes of Soto, Soriano, Pena, Ramriez, I think it's the latter. The Cubs might see more home runs as the season progresses.

For pitching, the best metric for predictive success is xFIP. The Cubs are 3rd best in that in the league. So that is a very good sign. tERA is another one used. The Cubs are 6th, but first in the division. The pitching has been pretty good.

The significance of all this is low unfortunately, since the Cubs have played 6 games against teams that don't figure to be part of the playoff hunt. But if you are hard up for Cubs reading material then here you go.

Soriano jacks his third tater

I think tater is a stupid name for a home run, so I mostly use it in jest.

Might we be seeing a return to 07-08 Soriano? I can't say it's impossible, but the older he gets the less likely that is. He's now 35 yaers old coming off two years that were considerably below that level.

We can write off 2009, he was not at 100% the entire year due to a problem with his knees. He dropped off in virtually every category. Going into 2010 I was hopeful for a sizeable reboud. We did get a rebound but it was not very sizeable. He hit more homers and had a higher batting average.

So far this year he's got a homer every other game, which would be a pace of 81 per year, and he's hitting .273, which is a jump up from last year. Soriano has always been a very streaky hitter. Maybe last year he just had one less hot streak? In 2007 his year as a whole wasn't that good, until he nearly doubled his home run total in September. In 08 he had a wretched April but was better the rest of the way.

Maybe in 2010 he just missed out on one extended hot streak?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

cubs fall back to even

The two game winning streak is over. The absence of Pena hurts a bit. I think his patient approach makes the whole team better. That was especially evident today, the Cubs did not work the count much.

I was pretty confident going into this game, thinking that the Cubs would get to face a crummy bullpen and have a chance to comeback if they were behind late. The lack of patience and working the pitch count helped Gallaraga go 7 innings, so they only had to face 2 relievers. Putz is a good one, the 8th inning guy wasn't but he got out of it. It would have been nice to have a 7th inning against a reliever even worse than that.

Dempster is off to a bad start. Hopefully that ends sooner rather than later. Overall he didn't look as bad as his results; he did not walk a man. I'm not too worried about him going forward.

Double Whammy: Cashner and Wells to the DL

Too bad we don't have Carlos Silva anymore. I don't blame the Cubs for releasing him in light of his temper tantrum. Silva should have been taking what he could get. His stint in the minors would have been very brief.

I expect we'll see Thomas Diamond make the next start needed by a 4th starter. We might see a reliever for a few days until that start is needed though. A couple years ago this would have been Sean Marshall making a spot start, but now that he's dominant in the bullpen he'll probably stay.

The other guys on the radar will be Casey Coleman and Jay Jackson. I guess I'd pick Jay Jackson. William Trey Mcnutt is another possibility. I'd avoid this and let him continue his developement though.

It seems a bit hasty to put Wells on the 15 day dl, I expect he could have came back sooner. Cashner being a starter for the first time would probably have his innings limited anyway so it doesn't matter if that's now or later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cubs go above 500 for the first time since 09

Cashner looked pretty good, getting lots of ground balls and only 2 hits. He was hitting 96 on the radar gun. He didn't get very many K's, but he might have just been focusing on some more basic principles like getting the fastball to go where you want in your first start.

I'm a big fan of Quade big picture but I don't like the way he is during game time. The bullpen management is very questionable. He must have really wanted to get Marshall the save, which, to me is much less important than using him in the most high leverage situation when runners started to get on base in the 7th. Teh 9th inning is rarely the hardest inning, especially when it's the lower part of the order.

For me the most encouraging thing in this game was Colvin's strikeout. He saw 9 pitches before finally punching out. I like to see high pitch counts on the other guy. Colvin got a good look at everything Barry Engright had to offer. Next at bat he laid off two balls and then jacked a 2 run homer. Seeing pitches helps you get better as a hitter.

There were two pinch hit spots that I think should have been made. 1- Colvin facing a sidearm lefty. Side armers are particularly tough on same-handed batters, and particularly ineffective against opposite handed hitters. Could have had Reed Johnson or Darwin Barney here. Colvin walked on 4 straight so it didn't matter. We didn't know that in advance though.

Later in the inning, Russel batting? He just blew a lead, do we really need him to pitch the 9th that badly? Dewitt could have taken the at bat, played second and had baker shift to first. With the bases loaded, this could have easily been a much bigger inning.

I'm not sure who I would pick for player of the game. This was really a team effort. See you tomorrow for another day game.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cubs get it done

Once again the offense avoided the strike out, which I like to see. They got 4 runs for their efforts. It would be nice to score before the 8th inning though. Soriano is looking good all of a sudden. This is what I mean when I say the cubs have the best 5-8 hitters in the division in Soto, Pena, Soriano, and the rotating 8th man.

I cringed when Grabow came in but it was without incident. Didn't like starting Fukudome over Reed Johnson. What is Reed Johnson on the team for if not for this? Certainly not to pinch hit vs Joel Hanrahan with the game on the line.

I started paying attention to the nastiness factor on mlb.com gameday. Kerry Wood hit 86 with a slider, which was the highest score I saw. I haven't seen very much though; this probably isn't the high score on the year.

Just how unlucky was Matt Garza?

The Cubs pitchers on the day got 13 strikouts and 2 double plays, leaving 12 of the 27 outs recorded for balls in play. With 16 hits, this means that there were 28 balls put into play. On those balls, the pirates had a batting average of .571! That is extremely rare, average hitters get hits on about 30% of balls put in play. There is a limit to how much you can place a hit, so you can't claim that you are actually that good.

The Pirates weren't tearing the cover off the ball, all of their ridiculous hit total was singles that just found a hole.

Meanwhile the Cubs had 8 hits (the home run doesn't count because it wasn't "in play") for a .286 batting average on balls put in play. The Cubs put a lot of balls in play but didn't get the results the pirates did. These games can happen once in a while, but if the Cubs keep this up they will win most of these games in the future.

Garza did a great job in his Cubs debut.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alfonso Soriano a little more in depth

I said that Soriano has been looking bad at the plate but I don't want to give the impression I don't like him as a player. It's true he is overpaid, but that doesn't mean he's bad.

Last year he only hit 24 homers in 147 games, but a lot of these games were pinch hitting. He had 548 plate appearances compared to 617 in his first year with the cubs. At the same pace of his 24 HR season, he would have had 27 over 617 plate appearances, and that still isn't even a complete season as he played in just 135 games that year.

If you look a bit harder at the numbers, there was a big spike in doubles last year. He hit 41 doubles and three triples, for a total of 67 extra base hits, a very respectable total. There is some luck involved with this, often times a double is off the wall, so it could have very easily been a homer. What was missing were just the singles.

He only got 19% of his grounders going for hits, while on average, 23.8% of grounders are hits. So this hurt his average. This cost him 5 hits, which would have brought his average up to .268 which makes him look better. I don't think his decline a big deal. He can still hit 270 with 30+ homers.

He's also a good defender despite his reputation. Ultimate Zone Rating, a tool to measure defenders, says he saved 5 runs more than an average left fielder would have.

Cubs lose a heart breaker

This kind of stuff happens early in the year, you just have to live with it.

I don't know why we saw Reed Johnson in the game to face Hanrahan. Hanrahan is much tougher on righties and Johnson is really bad vs righties. It was a waste of an at bat which could have been the tieing run. I maintain that Blake Dewitt should be the starter vs right-handed starters.

Lots of lucky hits by the pirates. You can expect the hits to fall that often when you are striking out as much as they did today.

Extra special "JEEZ" to Marlon Byrd, who can't even limit himself to one out per at bat in the 9th. The most painful thing though, was the 2nd and 3rd nobody out chance that was wasted by the Cubs earlier.

Nice job Soriano connecting for the Cubs first home run of the season. Maybe that will start somekind of groove.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Perhaps the end of the beginning

The Cubs played pretty good, tallying a bunch of hits. Couldn't get much across the plate without a lot of help from defense. They came within a few feet of tying the game at one point. Defense was tight, but if you can't throw out Alvarez trying to steal, who can you through out? I think the weather was a big factor in Dempster's control issues, can't do much about that. They avoided strike outs all day. Some bad luck on location of batted balls when people were on base plagued them all day.

The Bad:
Soriano looked pretty bad. He got off to a 2-0 count and decided he better start hacking at pitches outside the zone to avoid walking. He's always been streaky so he'll look bad at times. Samardzija was awful, I hope it was just opening day jitters.

I've like what I've heard from Quade since he got the job but didn't like everything today. 3-0 green light to Pena, it's defensible, but if you look back, this very seldom works out, and you blow your chance at a free base.

Dempster ran up 114 pitches. Easily the most of any opening day start, and the only one to cross 100. Why? He wasn't even doing good. That was a Pinella move. I don't like getting as much as possible out of a guy when he doesn't have his best stuff going. Why do all Cubs managers always leave the starter, especially Dempster, in too long?

The good news is that good seasons always start off with a loss. Also, if you own Correia on your fantasy team, now is the time to sell high, this is probably the last start his ERA will be below 4.

The team looked good to me though, and nothing happened to make me worried about the season.

Kevin Correia

As far as bad opening day starters go, this is one of the worst. I'm not even sure if he stacks up to Livan Hernandez. He has a career 4.57 ERA and 1.49 Whip pitching in San Diego and San Francisco. Moving to Pittsburg will make that even worse. This guy is a borderline 5th starter. It's not just the park switch, he's going from being surrounded by a good defense to a very bad one. If the Cubs can't win this game it's going to be a long season.

Darwin Barney starting 2B

The Cubs have 3 players in contention for second, Blake Dewitt, Darwin Barney, and Jeff Baker. I'm assuming Barney is the best defender of the group, being primarily a shortstop. I know Baker isn't bad, and Dewitt kinda is bad, or at best average.

I think the defense is the logic behind this move. I don't mind it at this stage, because you really don't know who is going to hit on opening day, erroring on the side of defense. I don't like the fact that Spring numbers are the justification. They can be fun to look at but they are really meaningless. Even one month of regular season hitting stats is pretty useless.

I hope over the course of the year Dewitt is given a lot of opportunities to face right handed pitching. I have to assume he will be the best in the role with the limited data we have.

My biggest issue with Barney is that he might be a hacker. Hitters that go up swinging at everything get on my nerves. Know that the opposing pitcher wants you to swing, especially early in the count. He also has very low power.

Dewitt is more patient, will take more walks. He also has a bit more power. He hit 5 homers last year but with a full season in Wrigley I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit 10 or more. I think he has the best approach and is the best pure hitter of the group, at least vs Righties.

I will say that I think the decision to go with Barney over Baker is probably the right one. Baker wasn't that great even in Colorado, so moving out of Colorado can only hurt. I know he was good in his initial part season with the Cubs, but everybody has hot stretches, except Koyie Hill. Sorry Hill.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brewers Reds opening game

My strongest reaction to this game, is that the Brewers are sending out a lineup which inclueds Carlos Gomez (.293 career OBP) in the 2 hole, and Kotsay, Betancourt, and Nieves 6-8. These for people are a complete pile of waste, every one of which is worse than the Cubs worst hitter, probably Blake Dewitt/Jeff Baker platoon. This is supposed to be the only team that can hang with the Reds?

Even when Corey Hart plays I don't think this lineup is salvageable. Hart hasn't had a very good career outside of last year. You also have to figure Weeks will probably be injured by then, so the lineup will actually be worse.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Central Division Hype

We know that the Central division will be a two team race between the Brewers and the Reds, with the Cardinals 3rd and the Cubs fighting to a 4th place finish. That much is a given, the experts have called it. Ok, I am totally joking. Baseball experts love to buy into hype, and that never changes.

The Brewers are exciting because they made big improvements from last year's team. The Reds are exciting because they surprised a lot of experts last year, although it was obvious to me they'd be pretty good. The Cardinals have a reputation of being good. These are were the rankings come from. I see all 4 teams as being good this year.

I think the Cardinals fell back with the loss of Wainwright, and it will take some serious luck for them to maintain contention. They have some dead weight hitters in Schumaker and probably Theriot, and their defense is worse than any of recent years. I expect this to serious impact Garcia and Carpenter the most as groundball pitchers.

The Brewers defense was very bad last year, and got even worse this year with Yuniesky Betancourt, who is also dead weight at the plate. They are solid hitting 3-4-5 with Braun, Fielder, McGehee, but have real questions after that. If you look at Hart and Weeks last year, they were awesome, but if you look at them any other year they are not. Odds are they won't help out much. The pitching added two really good starters, but they are still a complete waste at 4-5. I think McClouth was a good addition for them though, and I am forced to give them serious contention status.

The Reds this year are basically the same team as last year. Last year they won the division, having a lot of things go right. Seemed like it was more of an example of the other teams losing than the Reds winning though. They are serious contenders but can easily be had.

The Cubs are in it to win it this year and they should be able to hang with the other teams. There is a lot of undeserved negative hype keeping them down in the eyes of experts. Pena hit below 200 last year, but he fought injuries and still maintained an ok OBP with 28 homers. He'll rebound for sure. There is nothing wrong with Aramis Ramirez after a rough 2010. Then there are hitters like Castro, Soto, Soriano, Fukudome, and Colvin who are better than the corresponding lineup positions on the other teams. The Cubs lack a Greinke-type ace but the pitching is still very solid, best overall in the division, and the bullpen looks to be air tight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Andrew Cashner wins Cubs 5th starter

I'm so happy!

Quade has hinted that he wants Cashner in the rotation, but that hasn't stopped me from worrying. Silva might be able to handle the role, maybe. But he likely doesn't have a future with the Cubs and Cashner does. It was the only sensible solution.

Let's not forget that Cashner has great stuff. His control isn't great yet, but hang in there. This move will pay huge dividends in the future. Cashner might even have ace potential.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney make the Cut

I'm not too familiar with Darwin Barney. He seems to be good enough defensively to fill in wherever needed. Offensively he's high-contact low-power guy. His average was only .249 last year with an OBP on the wrong side of .300. Going forward, I see him hitting for a much higher average [.270?] because of his contact abilities, but .300 doesn't seem likely. He will probably bat 7th or 8th when he plays.

I'm a big fan of Reed Johnson. He's not good enough to be an everyday player (sorry) but he is a lefty masher and a solid defender. He should have usefullness, manning right field vs lefties. Masher may be a bit of an overstatement, he will not hit many homers against lefties but has been historically high average, high OBP vs southpaws. He could maybe even be a better lead-off man than Jeff Baker.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Cubs preview: The starting pitching

The first pitcher the Cubs will use this year is Ryan Dempster. I'll agree that he's earned it, however because of tradition I would like to see Zambrano in that role again. Hard to expect much other than more of the same from Dempster. A quality pitcher but doesn't stack up to a lot of #1s so his record might not be as good as his stats indicate.

In game 2, Carlos Zambrano will take the hill. I said I'd prefer him in game 1, but pitching game 2 instead will probably help him. Historically, he's had a lot of bad opening day starts. Talent-wise he's probably about a tie with Dempster, but his bat gives the Cubs an extra weapon.

Game 3 goes to the newly acquired Matt Garza. I like it when a pitcher switches leagues. They get what I call an "unfamiliarity bonus." If a hitter hasn't seen much of a pitcher, the advantage goes to the pitcher. What's worrisome is the fly ball tendancies moving to a pitchers park to a hitters park.

Randy Wells is another solid starter, and well above average for a #4. The best way to predict him is to average his first two years, and probably give him a little improvement on that with experience. He's looked very good this Spring.

The #5 starter is still up in the air as outlined in an earlier post. I would love to see Cashner in this role. He's got great breakout potential with his stuff so he's worth trotting out there every 5th game to see if he can put it all together. Worst case, I expect him to be at least ok.

In summary, the pitching is a lot like the hitting, lacking dominance at the top, but very good throughout. That's just fine for the regular season, but it could be a problem in the post season. I guess we'll cross that bridge later.

2011 Cubs Preview:Defense

The defense of the Cubs was pretty bad last year, most of the problems coming on the infield. Seems as thought the defense isn't doing so good this Spring either. Here is the lineup again:

Kosuke Fukudome, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Marlon Byrd, CF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Geovanny Soto, C
Blake Dewitt, 2B

The defense was good in the outfield. Soriano looks foolish sometimes, but he has good range to make up for it. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), a measure of defensive value, has Soriano as having saved 5 runs over an average defender. Byrd has been an average center fielder career, but shined as a Cub last year, 9 runs saved by UZR. It had Fukudome as a below average defender, but he's been above his other three years. The best bet is he's around average right now.

The infield will largely stay the same, with the exception of Castro being better with more experience. Pena should probably be about what Derrek Lee was last year, and Dewitt a little worse than Ryan Theriot was. Aramis Ramirez is the worst defender, missing enough to be 7 runs below average.

Overall the defense is fairly unchanged, but we can hope the same batch of guys does a better job. They are all happy with Mike Quade as their manager, and as long as they stay in contention I think there will be some improvement, however I still expect the defense to be the weakness. I'm hoping for an average performance.

2011 Cubs Preview: Offense

Based on the spring lineups we have seen, The Cubs will go with something like this:

Kosuke Fukudome, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Marlon Byrd, CF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Carlos Pena, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Geovanny Soto, C
Blake Dewitt, 2B

When a lefty is on the mound Jeff Baker will lead of f and play second base. I suspect Reed Johnson will be in left field.

I very much like this lineup, and you should too. It’s good. There are a lot of bad reputations here that are undeserved. Fukudome is a well above average OBP guy vs righties. I hope Castro stays out of a sophomore slump. Byrd is actually a bit overrated but still productive. He probably shouldn’t be in the #3 hole but that’s ok. Career numbers indicate that the first part of 2010 was a fluke for Aramis Ramirez, and he will be quite good this year.

Pena is a wild card. Battling Plantar Faciitis he put up a .196 average last year. Quite terrible, but his OBP was a bit better. The average probably won’t be stellar but the 35-40 HR should come back and the OBP should get back above .360. Wrigley is a much easier place to hit homers than Tampa.

Soriano is thought of as a bad hitter. It’s true he’s lost a lot and is overpaid but he’s still a good hitter. Soto is one of the game’s best hitting catchers. I’d like to see him in the 2 hole actually, but catching is already a big workload so I don’t mind him at the bottom. Last year he was underused in favor of more games for Koyie Hill. Let’s hope that’s over. Dewitt is decent, better than most 8 hitters. Wrigley will help his numbers a bit to.

While this team lacks a 3-4 punch like the Cardinals or Brewers, it’s better 5-9 and maybe 1-2 than any other team in the division. OBP appears to be a big strength, which I like. More guys on base means a lot of good things, and it’s accepted that hitters perform better. There’s a lot of home run pop here too, so many of those base runners will be cashed in.

Cubs 5th Starter: Cashner vs Silva

The biggest decision left in spring is who will be the Cubs 5th starter? The contenders are Carlos Silva and Andrew Cashner. Reportedly, Well’s rotation spot was also in jeopardy. It would have been ridiculous if he was not starting, so I’m glad he has nailed that down. Maybe it was just something that was said that wasn’t really true. I believe Braden Looper is officially in contention, but let’s just ignore that and hope it goes away.

Carlos Silva has a history of being pretty bad, until early last year, when he was dominant for a while. The wheels fell off later in the season as he battled injuries. His struggles have continued this spring. Despite this, the Nationals and the Yankees reportedly have interest. He’s had most of his problems vs lefties, which he can be protected from in the bullpen.

Andrew Cashner didn’t have a great rookie season but he was just a rookie. It looks like he has great stuff including a fastball that can touch 100 mph. Side note, negating back to back 6 ER outings, his ERA was 2.88. He looked very good in triple-A last year. He has good strikeout stuff as evidenced by his 8.28K/9 innings.

It’s easily possible Silva would put together a better season as a starter, but I’m not sure how likely. It wouldn’t be by much, while Cashner has real break out potential. Silva is gone after this year, if not sooner, while Cashner could be around for a while. It’s much wiser to put Cashner into the role and use Silva where he’s needed. I believe Mike Quade is planning on going with Cashner. I hope he sticks to that plan. Trading Silva would be ideal if the Cubs can make that happen.

Welcome to the Loan Wolf Mike Quade

About this blog:
I'm not going to promise no-nonsense analysis. There will be plenty of nonsense here. This blog should last at least two years, the duration of Quade's contract. However, if the Cubs fall out of contention at some point in 2012, they might trade him to a contender.

Who am I? I am a big Cubs fan who has been frustrated by years of bad management, but so far I like Mike Quade a lot. Hopefully there is a lot more praise than critism.

No free passes will be issued for wins despite bad managing, just as a loss will not automatically be bad. I fully appreciate that anything can happen in one game. Bad decisions can save a game, good decisions can blow a game. The immediate results have to be ignored, going with what makes since before you know what happens.

The title draws from a Chuck Norris movie, not meant to be indicitive of whether or not Mike Quade is actually a lone wolf.