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

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.