Cubs News and Notes: Stats, scouting, salaries, Almora, Soriano, Marmol, and the 7th ining

Cubs News and Notes: Stats, scouting, salaries, Almora, Soriano, Marmol, and the 7th ining

There's a little something for everyone today in our news and notes section...

  • Keith Law explains which stats are essential to him when predicting future performance (insider only).  They are very similar to the ones I use.  On offense: wOBA, OBP,  and Slugging pct.  For pitchers: strikeout and walk pct. (although I use rate because it puts the same basic info in context), groundball pct, and BABIP.  I'd like to give you his reasoning and explanations but it's an insider piece so I'll just leave it here.  It's a good read for those who want to get introduced to statistics.
  • Mark Smith of Fangraphs translates the scouting 20-80 scale as to what it would mean statistically relative to the performance of the best players in baseball today.  For example, we noted that Albert Almora was projected as a 75 defender in CF by BA -- that's an elite level that would put him with the best fielders in the game.  Smith uses UZR/150 and Fld/3 as measuring sticks.  Adrian Beltre is an example of a 70 fielder using UZR/150 and Fld/3 gives us a couple of more relevant comparisons, outfielders Brett Gardner (80) and Michael Bourn (70).
  • One of our readers, Andrew, has come with a great visual representation of team salary info.  Using the info from Cot's Baseball Contracts, Andrew sorts out the salaries into easy to read colorful bar graphs.  It's a simple format, just choose the team you want to view from the drop-down list at the upper leftt hand corner.  If you choose the Cubs for example, then you'll see how the team's salary is broken down, player-by-player, from 2013 to 2018.  You can see a snap shot of it above, but go check out the site for a better view and to see how other team's compare.
  • Speaking of Albert Almora, check out this article in case you missed it.  I did (h/t Michael Caldwell).  It's a story on how scout Jon Koronka and his glowing reports on Almora led Theo Epstein and the new front office to select him with their first ever first round pick as Cubs.
  • Jay Jaffe of SI writes about the available Alfonso Soriano and the teams that could use the slugging OF'er.  Jaffe picks the Orioles, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Mets...and one curious choice, the Giants.  Jaffe is aware that Soriano has no interest in going there but thinks he can be sold because they have won 2 World Series in 3 years -- a goal that Soriano has stated he wants to reach in his career before he retires. On a side note, kudos to Jaffe for referencing a Tim Dierkes story that only states that Soriano wouldn't go to San Francisco, not that he actually vetoed it as has been widely (and incorrectly) reported.  It's  good analysis and an interesting read all-around, though we shouldn't expect Soriano to be traded until closer to the deadline.
  • Dale Sveum says that Carlos Marmol is throwing much better than he did at this time last spring and part of that has to do with his new approach.  He's throwing strikes with his fastball to set up his wipeout slider.  If Marmol can throw strikes the way he did in the 2nd half last season, he's going to be a big asset for the team as he enters his last contract year.  Of course, that likely means he gets moved at some point between now and the trade deadline.
  • The Cubs are going to tweak their 7th inning stretch tradition.  No major changes except that they want to use more local celebrities who actually know something about the Cubs.  As for my opinion, I think it's a positive change but it makes little difference in the grand scheme of things. It's usually my time to go get one last beer.
  • If you're a hockey fan, the best blog out there is the Committed Indian.  Felz's brother, Sam, is one of the writers there and you may occasionally see some work from our guy as well.

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  • The team salary info site is cool, kudos to Andrew. I note that it includes two players who won't be on the 25 man (Conception and Soler) and is missing a handful of players who are pre-arb (Barney, Rizzo, and a chunk of the bullpen). But the two basically would cancel each other out (roughly 3.0 attributed to Soler & Conception is wiped out by the approximately $500K each of the pre-arb players will make). It's also nice to see that tres Carlos' salaries are finally gone (Zambrano, Pena, and Silva)

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Agreed. It's a nice tool and I know that Andrew is still working on it, so I expect it to keep improving. Definitely something we can use from time to time.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Love the salary data! Love where the Cubs are at -- especially against, say, the Yankees, where they have close to $70M tied up for several years in Texeira, Sabathia and (will he even play again) A-Rod. Congrats to Andrew!

  • In reply to Bill Tucker:

    Thanks for the positive comments, guys! I'm glad that people are enjoying the chart. Cubswin4harry: I was wondering if there was a good way to show that a player was under arbitration for a particular year. I don't want to add any money for an arbitration year, since that would just be a guess. But it would be interesting to see which players are still under the team's control. Not sure how to do it, though. If anybody has any suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

  • In reply to Andy Cupp:

    There isn't an easy way to collect the data automatically that I know of. But a player isn't arb-eligible until he has 3 years of service. (I'll leave out the Super 2 explanation to keep it simple). So current players who aren't YET arb-aligible:

    Darwin Barney: arb-eligible in 2014
    Anthony Rizzo: arb-eligible in 2015
    Welington Castillo: arb-eligible in 2016 at earliest
    Dave Sappelt: arb-eligible in 2016 at earliest
    Most of the younger bullpen: arb-eligible in 2016 at earliest

    So these guys make around $500,000 per year, assuming they are on the roster all year. And there is no financial committment for next year. That's the tricky part, especially for the bullpen guys who move up and down all the time. It's tough to account for these salaries. And you are correct, no sense in trying to estimate the arb years, we don't know if they'll even be around, or what their arbitration outcomes or annual agreements would be...

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    .....and the team has control for 3 additional years of Barney is a FA in 2017.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Two follow-ups/corrections:

    1) Castillo could see arb in 2015.
    2) As you probably know, in addition to the 3 years of "rookie contract", the team has control for ab additional 3 arbitration-eligible years. So Barney is under team control until 2017, Rizzo/Castillo until at least 2018.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Thank you for the feedback. I have a hard time getting my head around arbitration (and 40-man roster rules, for that matter). However, if you get the chance, take a look at one of the spreadsheets that the chart is based on. Here's the Cubs one: As you can see, the sheet does identify arbitration years. What I'm wondering is if the chart should identify players under arbitration, and it if should, how could it do that without getting too messy?

    Thanks again!

  • In reply to Andy Cupp:

    Yep, that's a good spreadsheet. It's directly identifying future Arb-Eligible years (arb 1, arb 2, etc). And thereby indirectly identifying years that are "pre-arb" (I call these rookie contracts). It also shows all players on the 40 man. Of course, not all will make the 25-man either this year, or in the future.

    Generally speaking, people count team salary as only those on the 25-man. As mentioned, this gets tricky as players are sent up and down. A player on the 40 man, but who plays at Iowa, Tenn, Daytona, etc, only makes a minor league salary (call it $30,000 to make it simple, anyways, it's insignificant in the grand scheme of things).

    Once that player makes the 25 man, he gets the pro-rated equivalent of the league minimum (rookie contract). This is also not strictly true, but fair enough for this exercise. So Barney, Rizzo, Castillo will make about $500,000 this year, assuming they stay up all year, which is a fair assumption. You can also assume that (whoever they are), about 2 or 3 bullpen arms will be "rookie contract" guys.

    In other words, we know Marmol, Villanueva, Camp, Fujikawa and Russell have MLB contracts and we know these monetary values. The other spots will be filled by guys making approximately $500,000.

    Regarding the arb years - again, it's a futile exercise to try and estimate these. There are 4 possible scenarios for these players, which apply to every arb-eligible year:

    1) They may get bought out (likely for Rizzo and maybe Castillo if he does well this year and next).
    2) They may be gone.
    3) They may reach a 1 year agreement with the team.
    4) They may go to arbitration, which means their salary is based on their production in the prior year.

    Sorry for the long reply....I hate those.

  • In reply to Andy Cupp:

    Andy, you can link future years of your spreadsheet to the salary table for each player on Baseball Reference. It may not be as good as Cot's, but I don't see where Cot's has any type of linking available or any CSV.

  • In reply to Bizzie094:

    Yeah, that would be really cool to go from a player on the chart to additional info about that player. If I can find a way to generate those links programmaticly, I'll definitely give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • I'm liking the fact that the Cubs are moving away from the generic celebrity for the 7th inning stretch. IMO , it should be done away with all together and just play a recording of Harry Caray singing take me out to the ball game.

  • They need a hologram of Harry singing...ala Tupac.

  • In reply to stork:

    I like it. That will really modernize Wrigley :)

  • I never pay too much attention to it unless its someone I like and who can add a little bit with their Cubs experiences/opinions -- so I'm happy with the change but more often than not, I miss the stretch. I'm too much of a baseball nerd. The game itself along with enjoying the company of people I go with as well as the people I see/meet, is enough for me and my ballpark experience.

  • Oh boy. No more Jeff Gordons doing the 7th inning stretch. Great race car driver, knows next to nothing about the local team that NASCAR sent him out to promote there upcoming race.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Yep...that was the part that was the most annoying, people just making live commercials for themselves and whatever it is they're doing at the moment. I realize that will always play a role but it has to be more than that, more connected with the Cubs.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Wrigley Stadium was a classic, though.

  • I know many who go to Wrigley that know little about baseball and care less, but go to sing the stretch with celebrities and dance to 'Go Cubs Go'. I don't have that mentality, but it helps pay the bills. A big part of Wrigley is Americana and tons of real baseball fans join in. Mess with that too much and we may Morph into the White Sox.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's true. I can only speak for myself on that. The Cubs have to market to a large, diverse audience. And they do make a lot of money on creating an experience at the ballpark. They need to create revenue in order to compete -- which is what all of us want. I can only say that for me, I go to the park to watch baseball, share my experience with friends, family, etc. and enjoy some encased meats and a beer or two. But if the Cubs had to only cater to people like me, they'd probably go broke!

  • Where do you think Almora projects in the batting lineup?

    He doesn't have elite speed that I want in a leadoff hitter but
    he does have a bat that could drive in a lot of runs.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    IMO - it's tough to project right now because that would be 2015, and we don't know enough about his walk rate or what that lineup would look like.

    He didn't walk last year, but that's probably because he could hit most everything pretty hard at AZ & Boise. We should know more after he gets through Daytona.

    But if you project that Soler, Baez, Rizzo, and Castro are all on that 2015 team, those guys are most likely all 3-5 types (high BA with above average SLG). Without a much higher walk-rate, Almora could be a 2 or 6???

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    BA calls him a #3 hitter because they expect he'll hit for a high average/OBP (assuming he walks more as he develops). I think the #2 spot works too when you consider a more modern way to arrange a lineup

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    The encouraging thing about Almora is that if he can be an elite defender at a premium position like CF it puts much less pressure on his bat to make him productive. If he puts up the numbers his skillset projects him to were talking about a top 10 CF'er but even if he doesn't reach that potential then he's at least a solid regular. Of our top 3 he's my safest bet to have a long ML career.

  • Is that Jon Koronka, former pitcher?

  • In reply to Eddie:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Glad to see he was able to get a gig working in baseball after his playing career ended. I remember him as a left handed Casey Coleman. Gave you all he had to give on the mound, but his stuff was subpar and it wasn't enough.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I remember seeing his debut in Los Angeles. Solid outing, as I recall.

  • John, maybe I'm just being totally dense, but I've never noticed the "Create Subscription" button and announcement before. What's it for?

  • In reply to mosconml:

    It's an optional feature where you'll get an mail everytime I write a new article if you enter your email and click on subscribe. It's free, no spam!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm glad you clarified that. I thought it was for the Blackhawks blog.

    Lots of room for improvement with the 7th-inning stretch gig. But I'm like you, John: I like to stand and stretch and look around and talk with my neighbors. Couldn't care less about the singer (unless it's Ernie Banks or another Cub legend).

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Good point...I didn't realize that it was right under the bullet on the Hawks. First time I used it so I'll get better :)

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    So Heyman is suggesting that the Yankees would take on Soriano as long as the Cubs pay $13 million per year and settle for a not "even good" prospect? I'm sure the Cubs will jump at the chance. Hey Heyman, do you think the Yankees will let Joba Chamberlin go if the Cubs send them Rizzo and Castro?

    Said no one ever....

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Yankees seem pretty shy about giving up prospects lately, which is strange considering they are contenders and need help at MLB level. Because of that, I very much doubt they'll get Soriano.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I just don't like how they pretty much want Soriano for free at a bargain 2yr 10mil.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Look at my boy Marcel go.....

    Last week he puts Phil Rogers in a vacant. Now he's going national and taking on Jon Heyman. Man is on a big time roll.

    John, Tom, let's make sure we don't write anything that pisses the big M off.....

    We are all Marcel.

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    In reply to felzz:

    LMAO! Felzz. I feel like a Marauder going around thrashing empires whenever you make comments like this.

  • Did anyone else see Len "shoot the puck" at the Hawks game last night? Made his first shot, not bad.

    I think this is the perfect formula for in game entertainment. You get a kid, a hot girl, and local celebrity. The Cubs need to figure out a way to something similar for the 7th inning stretch. Call McDonough, he's probably got some ideas floating around.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I saw him warming up but didn't see the actual shot.

    Yeah, that McDonough guy is a pretty good marketer...wonder why the Cubs don't employ him...oh wait. Still, can't say I like that he was heavily involved with Kenney on the Soriano signing, or so the rumor goes.

  • Did Marmol lose weight? He got lousy when he got fat. He's off balance.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    I think he got lousy because he fell in love with his slider and everyone knew it was they stopped swinging-- at least until he fell behind and had to come in with a fat pitch.

  • I wonder how much the Front Office tells Sveum what to say? It seems like every player that they want to trade (Marmol), Sveum goes out of his way to talk up. I know Theo and Jed love to talk up trade bait, but I wonder much they have Sveum participating...

  • In reply to Justin:

    I've noticed that myself. Garza, Marmol, and Soriano have been getting a lot of love lately. Then again, that's better than trashing them right before they want to trade, like the old days.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, that never made any sense, bashing your own players. Seems with this FO that when they really show the love for a player thru the media, his days with the Cubs are likely numbered.....ask Sean Marshall.

  • As for the 7th inning stretch, I'd rather just hear the fans singing along to old clips of Harry Caray.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    That'd be fine with me. Steve also said the same thing earlier.

  • Love that salary chart, will probably start referencing it a lot. Man it makes me hate the dodgers. They have more money already committed for 2017 than the cubs do for 2013, but i guess it's better than the marlins, that chart is disgusting

  • In reply to Andrew:

    It is pretty cool, isn't it?

    (BTW everyone, this is not the same "Andrew" who sent me the chart!)

  • Heads up to Andrew, but Edwin Jackson is actually earning an $8M signing bonus this year, with $11M salaries over the next 4 years. So his payroll hit is more like $19M this year.

    Also, is that graph done in Tableau?

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Hmm... I'm not totally sure, but I think that the Cot's Contracts spreadsheets prorate the bonus over the life of the contract. I don't see that anywhere yet in writing, but that seems to be true. Maybe I should add an explanatory note to the chart once I'm sure.

    Actually, I'm using the Highcharts javascript library for the chart. I haven't had an opportunity to use Tableau yet. There's more notes about the implementation on my blog post, which is linked to at the bottom of the chart.

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