Evaluating Dale Sveum

Evaluating Dale Sveum

It's lucky Dale Sveum isn't being judged on wins and losses.  If he were, he'd be in big trouble.

While no manager likes to lose, Sveum was at least afforded the luxury to do that.  The new front office came in with no illusions about the Cubs ability to compete.  It's a long way from last year when Mike Quade was managing to save his job, in part because GM Jim Hendry was trying to win and save his own job.

Instead, Sveum will be evaluated by different criteria.   His job was to change the Cubs losing culture, making sure the team played hard regardless of the circumstances.  He understands Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's philosophy as well as anyone, so it fell on him to impart that on the players.  He was also there to help in the development process.  Little did he know there was so much work to be done -- even at the MLB level.

So how did he do?

Effort:

Although they've looked awful of late (bad pitching can do that to you), the Cubs have played hard all season.  We've seen them make late comebacks (often falling short) when it seemed the game was over.  That's a marked change from last year when Sveum noted from the opposing dugout in Milwaukee that the Cubs would lie down and quit once they were down.  Said Theo Epstein,

“He’s done a fantastic job, to be honest. For a team that’s where we are in the standings, this is one of the best clubhouses I’ve been around. They show up every day, they like each other and they prepare.

‘‘Except for a few rare exceptions, we played hard all season. Usually when you have a losing team on the field, it starts to seep into the clubhouse. I haven’t seen that this year.’’

That's high praise considering that Epstein presided over two championship teams in Boston.  The Cubs may still be losing, but they are taking steps toward eradicting the losing culture that often accompanies it.

Teaching the Cubs Way and Player Development

Effort and attitude in the clubhouse is only part of the battle.  There needed to be changes in the way the Cubs played the game.   They didn't grind out ABs, they didn't play good defense, they didn't throw strikes...the list goes on and on.  It's hard to do this at the major league level.  Players don't often want to change what got them there, but there were some success stories: from Starlin Castro's more selective approach late in the season to Alfonso Soriano's defense to Welington Castillo's improvement as a receiver.  The Cubs have seen some flashes from some of their young arm and they took a proactive approach to working with promoted prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.  They won't always accomplish their goals, but it seems Sveum and his staff will do whatever they can to give players every chance to succeed.

We've seen that if a Cubs player wasn't ready to perform with the approach the Cubs wanted to see, they simply didn't play.  There was a lot of frustration among Cubs fans that Luis Valbuena kept playing while some players such as Tony Campana, Josh Vitters, and Bryan LaHair did not.  But the fact was that Valbuena exemplified some of the things the Cubs wanted to see, namely good defense and a disciplined approach at the plate.  In a perfect world he wouldn't be a starter, neither would David DeJesus for that matter, but until the Cubs can find more all-around players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, then a good approach at the plate in the field and at the plate will trump superficial contributions that look better on the back of a baseball card.

In game strategy:

I don't know how much a first year manager should be judged from play to play.  I think it's a hard thing to judge because we tend to remember the blunders.  It's easy to say when a starter has been left in too long or taken out to early, for example, but it's harder to remember all the times it was done at the right time.  Once we believe the manager does something poorly, we tend to engage in what's called a confirmation bias.  We will selectively remember all the times it's gone wrong.  I've been guilty of this myself.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of Sveum was the all-righty lineup vs. lefties.  I was definitely not a fan.  But we should consider the hand that Sveum was dealt.  Players like Ian Stewart (.405 OPS), Bryan LaHair (.292 OPS), and David DeJesus  (.447 OPS) were very weak vs. LHP while Jeff Baker (.771 OPS) and Reed Johnson (.890 OPS) hit lefties well this season.

Was it really such a bad idea to platoon those players?  None of them were considered long term solutions, so there wasn't as much to worry about in terms of development.  Looking back at the numbers, I'm not sure Sveum didn't do the right thing here.

Final Grade:  I'll let all of decide...


poll by twiigs.com

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Dale Sveum

Comments

Leave a comment
  • For me, a B+. While it was considered a lock for a while that Mike Maddux would manage the Cubs and Sveum wind up in Boston, Sveum impressed Theo and Jed enough to beat out Mike Maddux, with them both knowing good and well it almost assuredly would cost them the services of Greg Maddux.

    Can't really think of a time he made any blatantly bad moves. The guy's on top of the game, and always seems to manage like it's a win-or-go-home scenario.

    I'm glad to see them go with a good mind over a bit of experience and questionable decision making. I found something on an old computer from back in 2006 (when I was in junior high), listing out the candidates I liked to manage the Cubs. At the top of my list was Joe Girardi. That worked out well for Florida and New York. Yeah, he wasn't experienced, but he knew the game.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I'd say that's a pretty fair grade. He did what he could with what he had, which wasn't much. I didn't always agree with everything -- and I'm still not sure I do, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would have liked to see more growth from Sveum as far as making out lineups as the season went on. But he was given a very weak roster from the start that turned into a mess after the trading deadline. How the team has performed this year isn't a knock on Sveum, nor should it be judged against him. I'd say he has at least another year to learn on the job, practice patience with the kids (while understanding that's his main reason for having the job), and hopefully learn on the job. Once the team has a chance to actually contend, perhaps in 3-4 years, then it would be time to re-evaluate if Sveum has improved and is the guy to continue. For now, this team will stink for the next 2 years for sure, so there's no reason to change managers. And if you were for some reason looking for a new manager, you're just be looking for someone with most of Sveum's abilities anyway.

  • Sveum's a very good manager. I can see why he was the choice of the front office. The players played hard and were generally always prepared for the game at hand. A lot of the players' approach to the game improved during the season. I think I was most impressed my Soriano's improvement, especially considering his age and his salary. I'd like to see him become our own Walter Alston, this club needs as much stability as possible.

  • That's a good point and one I should have included. He has a way of communicating with players -- even the high paid veterans, where they not only listen, but develop a greater respect for him.

  • fb_avatar

    I think he's done fine; it's hard to evaluate a manager when you clearly don't have the players to compete, which is where we are at this point.

    I think he did a good job handling Castro, when the young player made some mental mistakes this year

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He did a great job with Castro. And I think we're going to see it really pay off next year.

    It's a tough situation. I realize some will put stronger emphasis on bottom results than others (that is, wins and losses), but I think when you look outside that, he really did a pretty good job.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed.

  • fb_avatar

    I would give him a B.. I can't say I ever watched a game when they werent playing hard and I respect that.. Side note I was watching cubs 2003 nlcs videos on YouTube.. I can't wait untill wrigley is like that again... Absolute insanity!!

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Soon! I can't wait either. I miss playing meaningful games.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Colman Conneely:

    I hope one more year. The one thing that 2003 team had that this team is going to struggle with is the best pitching staff in my life as a Cubs fan. (Seriously: Wood-Prior-Sane Zambrano-Clement. I'd take any one of them in 2003 as a #1 starter over Garza today.)

    Hopefully we can start to fill that in. Paniagua doesn't have the quite the pedigree of Wood or Prior, but his pitches miss a lot of bats, so hopefully he and Vizcaino can be the anchors in the short term.

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Remember how packed the streets outside of Wrigley Field were the night of Game 6? There might have been a riot if the Cubs had won.

  • fb_avatar

    That was awesome.. I really can't wait.. Chicagos atmosphere was unreal..

  • Too much Neifi Perez... err... Joe Mather.
    Never got that.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Me neither. That one goes in the minus column.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to eaton53:

    I understand why we signed Joe Mather, and I can even see why he's on the roster. He just plays way too much, especially considering he isn't going to be here next year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to eaton53:

    And too little Cardenas.

  • fb_avatar

    I have a couple thoughts:

    First, it isn't unfair to evaluate even Dale Sveum on wins and losses, but you have to think about how many he won compared to how many you would expect to win given the players he had. Dale had an additional limitation in that BJax and Vitters were being both trained and evaluated the last two months, so he had to play them more than otherwise would have wanted. Given that, he's above average. This simply wasn't a major league lineup. The pitching staff had 1 quality starter in it, then none. The lineup had a great player (Soriano) a young and streaky player (Rizzo) and a potential hall of famer who struggled mightily for 3 months adjusting his stroke (Castro). Those 4 guys are the real difference between this team and the Astros (Altuve's and Barney's WARs virtually cancel one another out) and -- after the fire sale -- the Cubs played 15-20 games better than the Astros. For that, Sveum deserves some of the credit.

    Second, I think it's really telling when Sveum chose to get upset. He was usually pretty calm and took the losing in stride with a growing team. I think that alone is high praise for him. Piniella and Dusty Baker came apart under the pressure of Chicago media in a deep losing streak. Sveum just handled it. But, there were a couple games where Sveum was genuinely upset afterwards. And, invariably, it was after a terrible mental game. I have to imagine the team felt the anger as much as the media. And that is a nice change because, by choosing those games, Dale shows that he won't accept brain-dead plays.

    At the end of the day, I give him an A- for keeping this team together and teaching them about the game in the midst of a terrible year. I didn't even have the problem with his lineups that others did -- it was largely using the team he was given as best he could. The grade drops a bit -- for me -- because he struggled with bullpen management in his first year as a manager. That is absolutely something he needs to improve if the Cubs are going to be a serious contender.

  • I'd give him a solid B. While he obviously can't be judged too harshly on the win-loss record, it's also hard to give someone an "A" when we are about to have one of the worst records of all time.

    I already ranted a little about the all righty line-ups against lefties and to me it's not all about Baker or Johnson hitting better than Stewart or DeJesus... it's also about later in the game. You make it super easy for the other team's manager to bring in relief pitchers and then you have to start burning your bench rather early. You don't make the other manager think "hmmm... they've got a couple lefties coming up too... do I want to burn 2 relief pitchers here to get out of this inning." Also, I think it's easy for pitchers to get into a comfort zone when they don't have to face anyone from one side of the plate. So while individuals might have higher OPS', it impacts mid to late inning strategy. But Sveum knows more about baseball than I ever will so... just my opinion...

    Mather... ugh. Clevenger... ugh. John... I know you think more highly of Clevenger, but to me he's proven to be nothing more than a 3rd catcher. He can't hit, doesn't have a strong arm, calls a decent game but isn't awesome there, and while he'll take a walk, he can never seem to drive in that important run or start a rally with a double in the gap. I think we can do better. Sveum played both more than he should have IMHO.

    Outside of those quibbles, he's done a nice job with what he's been given. I can't wait until they get some real SPs in the offseason. This pitching rotation may be the worst one I've ever seen.... on any team. It's grisly.

  • fb_avatar

    I gave a grade of "B" for Dale's job. But I just created this same poll on my FB account. I think it will be interesting to see what the "uninformed" fans think of Dale's job. The reason being is that in the past many of the moves made by the front office were really dictated by popular opinion. Selling tickets was always more important than creating a quality product on the field.

    I just gotta see how this front office really reacts to what I think will be a loud cry from certain fans to just win baby. Will this long term plan remain in place or do we just spend willy nilly again? Gonna be an interesting off season for sure!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    I don't think there's one chance in a million we start spending willy nilly. This is Theo Epstein's reputation on the line -- he *desperately* wants to be the guy that breaks the two biggest curses in baseball -- and if he goes down, he's going down holding to his theory.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed that they won't spend willy-nilly, but they will definitely spend on a handful of players... short-term contracts for 2-3 SPs and maybe someone to man 3B and perhaps even an expendable OFer, esp. if Soriano is dealt in the offseason.

    If I'm Tampa, I'm trading for Sori in the offseason provided the Cubs eat a good portion of his salary. He'd be perfect for them... could be their DH and occasionally play LF for them to spell someone.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Pura Vida:

    I agree with this -- we'll definitely be in the market and will get some new folks. But with Boston, the Yankees, and the Dodgers all in the same market, there might be some disappointment over what we eventually walk away with.

  • Report Card Time......

    Honor Roll......None

    Grade A.........None.....not on a 100 loss team

    Grade B

    Dempster.....left the team with a bad taste.
    Russell......did better than Marshall would have.
    Marmol......one bad stretched raised his ERA
    Maholm.....better than his numbers say....playoff bound
    Samadzija.....future #2 starter
    Chapman......shows flash at tough times
    R. Johnson.....what to be expected by a reserve
    Sappelt..........good future bench player
    Rizzo.............Rising Star
    Castro..........improved his defense
    DeJesus.......steady player
    Barney..........Gold Glove player

    Grade C

    Garza..........need to rebound in 2013
    T. Wood......had a see-saw season
    W. Castillo.....starting catcher in 2013
    Campana.......expendable
    Bowden..........better since return from minors
    Camp............arm will fall off in 2013

    Grade D

    Beliveau.......need to step it up
    Maine...........on his last chance next spring training
    Corpas........will not return
    Cabrera.......need to work on his pitch selection
    LaHair.........The league worked on his weakness
    Valbuena.....Leaves too many men on base
    Mather.........Does not add to the team
    Clevenger....had a hot streak, and nothing since
    Cardenas....needs to hit

    Grade F

    Berken.......goodbye
    Wells..........goodbye
    Lopez.........goodbye
    Dolis...........Hello Iowa
    Volstad.......Needs to ask himself if he wants to win
    Germano.....goodbye
    Rusin...........Hello Iowa
    Coleman......goodbye
    L. Castillo.....Hello Daytona
    Raley.............goodbye
    Hinshaw........goodbye
    Stewart.........your team mates looked for you....goodbye
    Soto..............have fun in the playoffs
    K. HIll............Do Not Come Back
    B. Jackson.....#1 picks should play better
    DeWitt............Future Used Car Salesmen
    Lalli.................goodbye
    Vitters............See Jackson note
    Byrd...............Even on PED's, you still SUCKED

    Incomplete

    Asencio............get well
    Parker..............work hard to get back
    Socolovich.......minor league player

    Drop Outs

    K. Woods.........would have been better if Kerry retired than coming back.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Soriano?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I must have hit the delete button on his line by mistake.....

    Soriano gets a "B"

  • The thing I like about Sveum is that you'll usually only see players make the same mental mistake once. He'll grab them in the dugout and talk to them right away and next time that play comes up to that player, he makes the smart play. Really dig that. Also dig how hard everyone plays under him and that they buy in. That's one of those intangibles for a manager, and he's off the charts on it.

    What I don't like is how he handles the bullpen. A lot of times he seems to go with a "it's your inning" mentality, which is goofy and has cost us more than one run. A lot of times too, he'll bring in a lefty to face a lefty, despite that batter hitting much better against lefties than righties. Same thing with our batters too, he'll bring in a lefty to face a righty, despite the pitcher faring much better against lefties. He really needs to work on strategy in general imo, but hopefully that will come. The looking back baserunning needs to stop too, and that rundown situation the other day where Beef finally tagged their runner (Eaton maybe?) was foogly.

    But overall, I think his clubhouse presence is so good that he'll learn some of the other things, and I'd give him a B-.

  • As a manager, I give D+ to Sveum. As a teacher, I would give him C+. Too bad MLB is not the place to teach "basics of baseball."

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    dude he has done very well his first year in his manager position. Im sorry if you are one of those fans that say win now lets get more free agents but that wont work out. He has made huge strides since beginning of the year sure he has had to teach castro and others a few things but he as done extremely well this year for what he had to work with

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    KingPro98...

    I am a long term guy, but I expect a good or very good MLB Manager to make solid on-the-field decisions 100% of the time--always on the top of the game and the competition! I feel on that count, he was average--at best. Don't get me wrong--he is a nice guy, but that is not why he was hired to manage a MLB team.

    Regards

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to GoCubs:

    You should go back and read the press on Girardi's first year as a big league skipper. They were winning, but there was a lot of nitpicking on his use of the bullpen and his lineups. I think this is something a lot of first year managers go through. If he's still making basic mistakes next year or the year after, then he's not our guy, but given that next year certainly is about teaching more than anything, it's worth seeing if his in-game skills improve, because he's got a lot of other abilities that are important.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Kevin...

    WADR, I am not interested in Girardi's first year. I am only interested in the Chicago Cubs.

    There are many potential managers out there who have "a lot of other abilities" but are also sharp managers/leaders. A first class MLB organization, such as the Cubs, does not need to hire a manager who will "figure it out" in couple of years--minor leagues are there to "figure things out" for all the professionals.

    Regards

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to GoCubs:

    So, by your definition: the Yankees are not "a first class MLB organization?"

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike...

    That is not what I said. I said that Girardi/Yankees are not my concern. I am only interested in the Chicago Cubs. So, what I said should not lead anyone to reach your conclusion above...

    Regards

  • fb_avatar

    I give Sveum and A-. He can't be judged on wins and losses this year. This team was set up to make sure the Cubs had a high draft pick. What this team did do was play hard, and you could see improvement in some of the pieces you expect to still be around when this team is really ready to win. I think it's hard to judge him on in game decisions. If he had a better team, his decisions would be easier. Then you also have the fact that this is his first time piloting the ship. The question is: "Did he get better as the year went along?" I think so, but it certainly didn't get any easier for him after Dempster was traded and Garza went down to injury.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    This team was not set up to get a draft pick.

    The idea is that they'd consider long term before short term, but they did not ignore short term needs. They tried some things for the short term, signed a couple of veterans, took a couple of flyers, though most did not work. They also tried to improve internally. But teams don't plan specifically to get draft picks. Well, maybe the Astros, who didn't even try to improve this offseason.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Poor choice of words upon my part John, but it is the ultimate short term result, which isn't all bad because it may have good long term consequences, but you're right. This front office wasn't necessarily trying to get a high draft pick, but there was never any expectation of a playoff run either.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed. And I think once it appeared flyers like Stewart and Volstad weren't going to to work out and that a few of their veterans like Soto and Byrd were going to drop off the earth this year, they figured at that point to get what they could for vets and if a good draft pick is the end result...then so be it!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think what Houston is doing is a terribly risky strategy. I don't think you ever actually play for the draft pick in baseball, though that may be the end result of this new CBA. Baseball draft picks are not like basketball and football draft picks. The baseball draft pick that is an immediate impact is a rarer than rare kind of thing.

    Stewart and Volstad weren't bad moves for a team that was supposed to be bad and was looking to get by on the cheap short term. Even if they had panned out, this team would only be slightly better.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    As Luhnow showed last year, he isn't playing for the draft pick, he's playing for the money. (Correa was drafted first to save money -- which turned into Lance McCullers.) It's still very risky, but it's all about increasing the number of prospects in the lower levels of the system. He's playing a numbers game. (Theo is, too, but also prizes quality above quantity.)

    It makes a mockery of Bud's brilliant new drafting system, and I suspect Bud has a Jeff Luhnow doll that he sticks pins into every night before he goes to sleep.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I hope the Astros make this work (especially since they'll be in the AL if/when it does), only because this CBA is so terrible. I'd like to see its weaknesses exposed. Sort of like cheering for three undefeated teams in the BCS every year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    If we really want it to change, we can hope that at some point soon it screws over the White Sox, at which time Jerry and Bud will get lunch -- followed by a trip to the Admiral Theater -- and then Bud will suddenly decide this new system isn't quite right and needs to be scrapped.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    I don't think it will work for the Astros. They've created a losing culture in exchange for high risk gambles. Sometimes it works, as it has with Tampa, but my thought is that they will be in the group that includes the Royals and Pirates, perhaps even less since the other two teams have a better presence in Latin America.

    That said, if they keep tanking for a couple more years, as I think they will, perhaps it will send that statement out whether it works or not.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed, perhaps I should say playing for the money that goes with the pick, but it appears to be all Houston is playing for. They've hitched their ponies all to one wagon. The Cubs FO seems to be taking a more diversified approach in trying to bring in veterans whom they might be able to turn into prospects before July 31st and younger veterans in need of second chance hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.. Of course, the system the Cubs FO inherited, while not good, wasn't awful either. Houston may have decided this tract was their only choice, and they may yet decide to bring in a few veterans in the hope of spinning them off.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed here and I much prefer the Cubs approach. Any investor knows it's best to diversify your portfolio rather than invest everything on high risk gambles such as draft picks. It works when you're the Nats and you get two of the top players we've seen come out of the draft in the past decade or so. But even they've had a more diversified approach, as have the Rays.

    When I look at Houston, I can't help but see the Royals and the Pirates, two of the longer rebuilding eras we've ever seen.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Luhnow is treating this like an economist -- and that's probably why I like his way so much. The trick with acquiring other players via trade is you're getting players that other teams are willing to trade. Which means, in many though certainly not all cases, that the trading team's evaluators -- who know them best -- don't like them as much as others. (As much as we criticize Hendry, the Cubs made off like bandits in the Garza deal.) Now, sometimes that guy works out for you, but you are picking from a worse pool. Thus, it has less chance of working out than a guy you pick in the draft. Like I said: this is an incredibly complex numbers game Luhnow is playing. If it works -- well, baseball will be almost forced to entirely scrap the system or institute a lottery.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    When you're picking in the draft, the process of getting guys that other teams didn't like as much as the others starts with the 2nd pick and increases continually throughout the draft. By the 3rd round, you're trying to figure out the difference between who you think is the 100th best amateur in the draft or the 101st, both of whom may not even be ranked in another teams top 200, how is that less speculative or less risky than getting a guy who has already shown he can succeed at a higher level of play?

    Why, in the old system, did teams prefer to trade impending free agents for prospects rather than settle for comp picks? The comp picks are always a last resort unless you are talking about middling guys who somehow qualified under the old Type A,B system. When it came to quality FAs to be, teams always preferred to trade for prospects than get a couple of extra draft picks. There is no question what teams would rather have all things being equal.

    As for the Cubs, they badly wanted to keep Archer and Lee, and they'll still be big leaguers. Archer already is. The odds that any top prospect you get, especially AA or above is a lot greater then taking high school amateurs.

    This isn't the Astros being the smartest guys in the room. The Astros are partly doing it this way because, much like the Royals and the Pirates, they have no other avenues to build. The only asset they have to build with is their ability to be among the worst teams in baseball for the foreseeable future. I'll give them credit for tying to game the system, but when your whole rebuilding plan revolves around being the worst team in baseball for 3-4 years, it means you don't have any other options.

  • fb_avatar

    I give Sveum a C+ for 2012. It's difficult to grade thoroughly since we don't have access or info into the most important part of his job which is personal instruction and team-building.
    His on-field demeanor fit the task perfectly as he never showed frustration or his temper, and that's huge with a young team in the Chicago market. The media also gave him a break that he won't be offered when the team is expected to play well and doesn't. His management of the pitching staff was OK given what he had to work with, and he (and Bosio) get extra credit for getting Marmol straightened out just when it seemed everyone else gave up on him.
    Ditto for Sveum & McKay reinventing Soriano.
    I would have liked to see him be a little tougher with the players that showed lack of focus. With all the other problems facing young players, it's not too much to ask them to concentrate on the field at all times with regard to strikes, outs, baserunning, throws to the right bases. Way too many brain-farts on points taught in Little League!
    Sveum's review as a "manager":
    Organizational Value: B+
    Leadership Skills: B
    Team-building: C+
    Accountability: B+
    Results: F
    I've had similar reviews before and Dale is lucky to not be held accountable for results.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    I went with a C+. The team looked too lost on the road. That definitely needs to be an area of focus next year...

  • So, how many times have you given thanks that Theo hired Dale Sveum over Bobby Valentine?

  • I like Sveum and I want to give him a great grade on the season. I think he's a good manager, but he is a bit rough around the edges at this point.

    I give him and the coaching staff a ton of credit for what they did with Marmol and Soriano--two guys who looked finished back in early May and ended up having very good seasons. That was huge, and it was abundantly clear that the coaching staff was constructively engaged with them, and that their turnarounds were no mere coincidence.

    I also give Sveum and his staff great marks for setting the tone, communicating expectations to the players, and keeping the big picture in view.

    However, I don't think Sveum is a guy who is going to be great at getting the tactical edge day-to-day over the other manager.

    And my big complaint on the season is the disaster that was the bullpen. While there have been a few spells when there was some stability, there was little rhyme or reason to the way the pen was managed. For much of the season, there were not well defined roles, and some guys got overused while other guys got buried.

    Also, while they talked over and over again how they wanted to not rush their prospects (like Rizzo), they clearly did rush Dolis--who had zero AAA time coming into the year and wasn't even that great in AA in 2011. They also rushed Beliveau and Cabrera before they had showed enough at AAA. Those guys could be farther ahead, development wise, if they had just let them get their reps in AAA. Instead, it was kind of a lost season for Dolis. Hopefully, he can pull himself together and regroup.

    I would have much rather seen them--with the exception of Lendy--pick the 6-7 guys who were most ready to contribute now, even if it meant going with lesser talents like Gaub, Maine, Asencio, Bowden, De La Cruz, etc. And then stick them in clear roles and give everyone consistent work.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SVAZCUB:

    The pen got screwed up when Marmol couldn't do his job right out of the gate. This had a ripple effect on everybody who got pushed into less-than-ideal roles. Sveum could only count on Russell and Camp and this forced early call-ups for Dolis and others.
    It's encouraging that just in the last 2 weeks we've seen improvement in Dolis, Cabrera, Bowden & Chapman.
    Sveum was put in a tough spot when they basically decided to become an instructional org. & called up Jackson and Vitters among others while admitting that the staff felt working first-hand with those guys would benefit the player in the long run.
    Hopefully Vitters and Jackson will begin in Iowa, then come back up and perform much better like Rizzo did.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    The pen was screwed up from the get go. We left spring training with the FO looking for bullpen help. But I like where we ended up better than where we started, with guys like Chapman and Bowden stepping up.

  • I gave Dale a B. He and his staff did quite a few good things.

    Pitching:
    1. Helped Shark make the transition to a promising starter.
    2. Fix Marmol who was absolutely horrible in the beginning of the year. He has done a decent job since his minors stint.
    3. Bowden is much improved considering how he pitched initially after coming from Boston.
    4. Even Volstad and Wood have improved since the beginning of the year. Both need to improve a lot more.

    Defense:
    1. Soriano has improved drastically. Still not great but much better.
    2 Castro has cut down on his errors with better footwork.
    3.Turned Barney from average/slightly above average to the best defensive 2nd basemen in MLB. Positioning seems to help a lot.
    4. Castillo has improved calling a game and framing pitches.

    Offense:
    1. Getting Sori to use a lighter bat has him having his best offensive numbers in a while.
    2. Changing Castro's swing seems to increase his walk rate and his power numbers.

    Of course there were several other problems not fixed but for his first year I think he corrected a good number of the team's problems. Everyone played hard and the players seemed to enjoy playing for him. I don't remember once when a player said something negative about him. He had everyone on the team on the same page. He seems to be a good leader.

  • In reply to John57:

    Thanks for outlining all of that so I didn't have to.

    This is the first time for as long as I can remember that we actually saw players improve and even turn around completely in-season. In May I thought Marmol was unfixable and Soriano close behind. And I was starting to worry Castro had reached his ceiling (due to his own stubborness).

    The fact that I was proven wrong about these three things shows Sveum and his staff deserve a B.

  • In reply to John57:

    Great points. To the above list, I'd add that it seemed like Sveum/the coaches used defensive positioning really well, using more strategic shifts. It seems like that helped improve the defense this year.

  • I gave him a B, and I'm thinking more along the lines of a B-. It's extremely difficult to evaluate him, and we all know why. He's got 2-3 guys in his lineup that will be here in 2-3 years. There are some areas of improvement that I think we can attribute to a new coaching staff as a whole, and that is the defensive improvements, particularly demonstrated in LF and 2B. Castro seems to have improved overall, but still has some maddening tendencies at SS.

    I think he'll get better each year. You can also call tinkering with Castro's bat a tentative success. He seems to have made a recovery of late, and is more patient, but it's a very small sampling. If he'd batted .268 in September, would we be calling it a turnaround? It's still a work in progress.

    We can also look to the improvement that Carlos Marmol made after April ended. The fact that he was able to get his ERA down to around 3.50 is pretty amazing (even though ERA is losing ground as a meaningful stat). The staff saw a problem, corrected it (Marmol started throwing fastballs again), and we even saw Carlos touch 96-97 a few times this season. He's looked much improved since the start of the season, though I'm still not sure he's much of a commodity to be traded at this point.

    Baserunning still sucks. It's something he talked about in spring training as a goal, and it's clear that it still is a major problem. Maybe they work on it every day, and we just don't hear about it, I don't know. It looks like they probably should work on it a lot, though, and it starts with picking up the coaches. I think that we've got one of the best in the business in McKay at first. I like Listache as well. The teams needs to work on those baserunning fundamentals until it becomes second nature. I also question how much more the team is "grinding out at bats" this season compared to last. They added a couple of guys who do that by nature, but the team as a whole is still pretty impatient.

    Sveum can only work with what he can control. He had no control over the decision to go with one semi-legitimate starting pitcher the last month of the season, and with two from August 1 to Shark's last start in early September. I think that the coaching staff is better this year overall, and I'm tentative to give all the credit to just the manager. We will have to look at next year's club before we can truly evaluate him, but I think that we can all say that we are encouraged by some developments, but looking for improvement as we move on.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    RE: Sveum only being able to work with what he has:
    Preaching to the choir here, but people forget this team was 15-10 in July, with a pretty solid rotation. Had it been allowed to continue, we might be looking at close to a .500 team right now. That's why Sveum can't be evaluated on W/L.

  • Wow..some great comments here. Lots of good cases being made.

  • I'm waiting to see if Sveum's got something new to go along with his bunting tournament next spring. That was a nice team building exercise.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Bunting Tournament -- Too bad bunting was one of (many) the weaker areas for the Cubs this year... :)

  • You know there's only so much he could do in one year. I'm really impressed with the clubhouse atmospere. When you hear Garza saying that when they were .500 last year, he hated it. Even dreaded coming to work. Now, even though they're losing, he loves coming to work and he could be home with his family but chooses to remain with his teammates. That's huge! Part of that could be the removal of the "Z" cancer... but clearly Dale deserves a lot of credit here.

    Defensively, we look like a more fundamentally sound team. Still a lot of work to do. But pretty much everyone from last year has improved their level of play. Especially Barney, Sori & Marmol.

    I see amore patient & disciplined approach at the plate with Sori & Castro. Two of the most impatient, free-swinging hitters....

    Yes, the base-running still needs to improve. But really, I'd like to kick Brenly in the taint for fixating on this area. It's not any worse than other areas. Sappelts & Mathers recent brain farts excluded.... But really, Dale called them out in public, chastized and encouraged them in private.... what else could he do?

    I didn't have a problem with Dale being so disciplined with the righty/lefty match-ups (thats what he supposed to do - short of an everyday stud player) until September when it was all about "let the kids play". That and his continued man-crush with Mather was maddening.

    Mather must have pics of Dale with farm animals or something... that man-crush alone is enough to drop him a full grade, IMO.

    Situationly, I'd like to have seen more "small-ball". For a team struggling to score runs, this should have been a bigger part of our game. I can't even remember how many times we started with a lead-off double or triple and leave the runner right there..... so I dropped him a full grade for this too.

    Final grade: C+

    Kudos for the work McKay & Bosio have done. I'm looking for a similar impact by our new hitting coach (whomever they hire) for 2013.

  • Incomplete. The project Sveum was hired for is a multi season job, so I can't judge him on what is essentially a quarter of the work he needs to do. I will expect to see on the field improvement by next August. Sveum needs to help guys like Rizzo, Castro and (oof) Jackson continue to refine their approaches and improve their performance.

    Vitters is a lost cause IMO.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    This is actually the most fair way to look at it. He'll likely be judged over a 3-4 year period. I like the progress so far, but it's not time for a final grade.

  • I would love to see a thread separated from management analysis evaluating the trades. Some of been good, some not so good, like the Colorado deal.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Maybe you missed this article earlier, Quasimodo. I think the Rockies-Cubs trade was a loss for the Cubs, but it wasn't a devastating one.

    http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2012/08/early-progress-report-how-are-theo-and-jed-doing-part-one-in-5-part-series/

  • Yes I did! I was in Europe still and never saw it. Thanks!

Leave a comment