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.