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Theo Epstein losing patience with Cubs lack of OBP

Theo Epstein losing patience with Cubs lack of OBP

What took you so long Theo?

I’ve been wondering how much more of the putrid Cubs offense this front office could withstand watching. The Cubs President couldn’t hold back any longer. In Paul Sullivan’s latest, Theo Epstein publicly blasts his team for their lack of ability to get on base.

"There is certainly a snakebit quality to it with respect to our timing," team President Theo Epstein said. "But to me the biggest factor is our inability to draw walks and to get on base overall. On-base skills translate to run-scoring much more than slugging skills".

Turns out his roster isn't so down with OBP.

Yes the Cubs can slug with the best of them at this point, (1st in National League in home runs and second in doubles while being only 11th in runs) but so far it hasn’t translated to production where it counts. The frustrating part for this team is the starting pitching has been so good and consistent. It should mean more wins for this club.

We have talked about how improved pitching and defense are the fastest way a team can become competitive. Starting pitching alone can carry you there in a lot of cases. It just hasn’t worked out that way for this bunch. This current staff is likely to get a boost from an impact arm very soon (upcoming draft). If you couple that with talk Matt Garza could stick around (as I told you recently maybe the case) you see something coming together quickly on one end.

A staff of Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Appel/Jonathan Gray, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson could make the Cubs formidable in a hurry.

That is if they had an offense that could support it. This Cubs team has only 11 victories in their 28 quality starts. Unfortunately, all of the impact bats this front office is counting on are years away. What can Theo and Jed Hoyer do to help bridge that gap? That’s what I will be watching for.

Theo and Jed have told us they will always be looking for pitching, waves of it. They also need to address this offensive approach soon too, even if it’s just for the sake of philosophy.

In many cases in other sports you see a front office try to plug in players that fit the scheme. So far, outside of David DeJesus, that really hasn’t been the case here. The Cubs are trying to establish an offensive identity throughout the entire organization. It just kind of odd they haven’t really addressed the parent club yet.

Ironically, DeJesus is talked about as one of the players that will be moved soon. Maybe the Cubs can’t afford to move one of their only positive patient influences until they get more of it around this club? We also have to keep in mind there are some positions where they have players who provide other value like SS, C, 2B where some OBP may have to be sacrificed.

"To be blunt, we haven't made much progress improving the on-base skills of some of the players here. If we can't make improvements with the existing group, we will have to be even more aggressive acquiring players with on-base skills." Says Epstein.

Theo’s comments about training players to have patience is likely half-hearted. He knows all too well that usually isn’t how it works. It’s on him and Jed to give this offense a face lift and soon.

"There's been legitimate improvement in the overall talent level at the major league level despite the record," Epstein said. "The underlying component performance points to a team that should be at least .500 thus far".

Agreed, time to get to work on that Theo.

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  • I guess the Rob Deer experiment isn't looking particularly promising right now although 3 months w/ established players isn't exactly a full test.

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    The part about improving the OBP of players here sounds like a not particularly veiled shot at Castro. (As well as Castillo.) Ouch.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Could be though I'm not sure that ever works.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Yeah, I'm not sure. Reading the article, Sullivan seems to be writing a less aggressive Wittenmyer article. Getting Theo to criticize his own players helps his thesis that this is much bigger job than Theo envisioned.

    As we discussed a few weeks ago, though, the Cubs don't seem content with the player Castro is and are trying to change him. You and I agreed that it might be time to give up on that process and let him play his game. But the quote above seems to say that Theo doesn't want to do that -- and wants to find someone who will play the game his way. I'm not sure.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    IMO he wasn't singling out any one player. And if he was it surely wasn't Castro otherwise why sign him to an extension not even a year ago?

    I think it was a jab at the entire team as a whole and part of it has to do with the team we are playing. The Reds lead the league in OBP and we lead the league in slugging, which team is better? Hence his comparison. Reds are 12-6 in 1-run games, we are 6-13.

    That's how I saw it.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Assuming Sullivan is accurate, the quote is: "we haven't made much progress improving the on-base skills of some of the players here." One possible interpretation of that is that they thought Castro was making progress, they liked his coachability, and so took advantage of his slump to lock him up long term. As things have played out, he hasn't made progress over the last year and they're starting to doubt he will.

    Certainly not even close to the only interpretation of that but, given how few people on the team are holdovers from Theo taking over, "some of the players here" is suggestive.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree, let castro be who he is. It just seems like he is on the defensive as soon as he is in the box, you can't hit like that. One example is ian desmond, the nationals came to the conclusion desmond is who he is and he won't walk much but let him be who he is and bat him fifth in the order not in obp spots in the lineup.

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    In reply to seankl:

    Ian is a perfect example of a guy who they learned to stop trying to change and just let him go out and play. Some feel they stunted his development which led to him finally putting it all together at age 26. It took lots of patience from Washington and fans. Castro doesn't have that kind of luxury here. Fans will run him out of town before then unfortunately.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Yeah, I really hope the Cubs look at that and let Castro be Castro. Given what was said above, however, I'm not optimistic. And by stunting his growth, we've effectively lowered his trade value. I wonder if Theo in the darkest corner of his mind is kicking himself for not jumping at Castro for Upton.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Eh. IMO I still wouldn't trade Castro for anybody. Despite our lofty expectations he is still as of today one of the top SS in the league, very young, and on a great contract. You just don't trade that for a RF'er. Then we'd be looking for a SS for the next 5 years if Baez bust(which is still a high possibility with his risk-factor). Then were wishing we had Castro back.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I can actually see an argument for dealing Castro for someone like Stanton at the end of the year (if they think Stanton isn't going to have long term injury issues). You move Barney to SS where his defense will be at least average and his bat will play better. You play Valbuena at either 2B or 3B depending on who of Vitters and Watkins can win an MLB job. And you deal Sori for whatever you can get.

    Soler, when ready, eventually replaces Schierholtz, and you have Stanton, Rizzo and Soler in the middle of the order in their primes, plus you're still solid up the middle.

    That's pretty enticing to me, but the issue is Stanton's knees--he may be too much of an injury risk to deal Castro for him.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Please make a declarative sentence, e.g. "Starlin 'Ole' Castro is a wimp."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I was told today Cubs need to stop fucking with Castro. He was a 200 H guy before they got here.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    You know I completely agree with this. Its seriously lowering my opinion of Epstein, to be honest. Trade him or let him be, but no one benefits from this.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I blame some of it on the manager because before he managed one game for the cubs he was talking about changing him.

  • I think it's the wrong team, wrong players.

    Watch the Yankees when they are down by 1 or 2 in the 9th at home. Then, watch the facial reactions of the Cubs. They act like they are beat.

    Long looks on their faces.

    The only thing that is going to improve this team is breaking it up.

    Back to the drawing board.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    For sure some players are wrong one big one goes away next year.

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    "What can Theo and Jed Hoyer do to help bridge that gap?"

    Absolutely nothing. The only FA who is even close to the kind of player Theo wants is Choo. And that's not even a slam dunk because he'll be 31 and because of his big year will probably be paid more than he should be. Creating another black hole contract with a guy who's going to be 35-36 making 18mil by the time it's over. There is no Joey Votto lying around somewhere.

    The best thing this team can hope for is improvement from it's current players. Castro, Rizzo, and Castillo are going through growing pains and Barney is what he is, they'll be fine. Everybody else most likely won't be here when it matters so who cares.

    Just my two cents. I know this thread is going to turn into a "trade for this player!" "sign that player!" without even considering if it's realistic or even makes sense for us.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    They really have to draft for OBP, and I think they did some of that last year, but when you start drafting non-pitchers in round seven (excepting Almora), it's going to seriously limit your choices. They can also trade for it -- and again they did that with Villanueva -- but you're limited in what you can get back via trade. Garza is pretty much the only guy that can bring back a true blue chip prospect, and they would seem to want a blue chip pitcher for him.

    Essentially, as Sullivan implies in the article (God I hate agreeing with him), the rebuilt is a much more extensive process than any of us, and perhaps even Epstein, envisioned.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree. What makes this rebuild hard is that were doing it during multiple changes in the overall landscape of the game. These changes were probably were not accounted for.

    -No longer can you over-slot players in the later rounds of the draft penalty free.

    -Teams can't just dominate in the international market anymore. The worst team has the most money to spend -> most likely get the best INT player.

    -Young, impact players are getting locked up earlier and earlier so FA is no longer a place where you can dramatically improve your team without incurring tremendous risk.

    -Teams are more stingy about trading prospects than ever

    A lot has changed in the game. It's not as easy to stockpile talent. That's not just a Cubs problem. That's an everywhere problem.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    That's the reason I'm glad the Cubs are underperforming their 2nd order win projection. It's critical that the Front Office continue to have more cash to play with in the amateur player market.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Kind of disagree. I think you can sprinkle in a few more players with better approaches through trades too. Not sure how many players will improve that way. Theo did say they would have to change personnel himself, I didn't write that.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Yeah, I definitely think Javy Baez for a young impact player with a good approach is being discussed in the Cubs FO right now.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Not shock me at all.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    definitely, I understand that Tom. My point was more that I just don't see many players around the league that are available and fit this profile. That's all.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Cool I just can't take watching it anymore.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I am a firm believer that you can never win with Alfonso Soriano in LF. Is there any chance that we go after Choo this offseason? We have several million coming off the books next year, and with the money we are paying Scott Baker, Ian Stewart and Carlos Marmol this year is it possible to redirect that money towards Choo for next season? Is he too old to be a core guy? I do not think we are that far away and adding a high OBP gives us a huge advantage. Hopefully in 2015 it can be Choo, Soler and Almora with Brett Jackson as the 4th outfielder. (Just kidding about Jackson obviously)

  • Cubs are near 15 games back now, I have seen enough of this edition, I know its early to sell off but its time to sell off. Lock up Shark and Garza and cull the rest. Get that comp balance pick from KC and try to get the type talent in trades like Theo wants.

  • I think the idea that everyone in the batting order has to be high obp guys is not good. You look at the good lineups every person does not walk or have high obp. Theo says he's frustrated but you go out and get guys who are not high opb hitters. And putting guys in the right spot in the lineup could help as well. I see the main problem with the team is not hitting with men in scoring position, I don't care how many people walk but when there is bases loaded with no outs and you get nothing then you have a bigger problem. The real problem is just overall talent and and putting the players in the right spot in the order.

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    In reply to seankl:

    Look at the guys Theo has gotten: Schierholtz has been a disappointment in that department. His walk rate has dropped from his past performance. But DDJ has been excellent. Valbuena might have the best approach on the team. Rizzo also has a good batting eye when he isn't struggling as badly as he is now. Soler has an incredible approach for a power hitter. He's pretty much gone out and gotten high OBP hitters.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes but this team as a whole needs more. They maybe need to find a way just to dump Sori if they have to. Too many other positions like 2B, SS, and C we have to forgive a bit for other value they provide.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    No, I definitely agree with that, I was just responding to: "Theo says he's frustrated but you go out and get guys who are not high opb hitters." For the most part, Theo has done exactly that. As you say, there is a lot more work to do.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree, i was talking about schierholtz,hairston pretty much. But DDJ and valbuena should be 1and 2 in the lineup and have rizzo,soriano,and castro to follow. I understand lefty righty lefy righty but I would give my high on base guys more at bats to get the pitch count up on the starter.

  • The Cubs are 30th in plate appearances with 1778
    Oakland is # 1 with 1965.
    Oakland has played two more games than the Cubs, but that is still
    a difference of 178 pa.

    The Cubs are 19th in hits. Oakland has 20 more hits than the Cubs.

    The Cubs are 30th in walks with 108.
    Oakland is 1st with 204.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Yuck.

  • What about the cubs drafting Kris Bryant? He has power, but also shows pretty solid plate discipline. I know the almost consensus is Appel/Gray, but there seems to be much more depth, pitching-wise, in this draft.

    Don't lynch me, just opening up the idea again regarding offense.

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    In reply to SymposiumX13:

    Yeah. This article actually makes the argument for Bryant a little easier. As you say, it's hard to see how he doesn't improve plate discipline. However, I think the full package of Appel makes him the clear pick ahead of Bryant. And, if the Astros go Bryant, all of this is academic.

  • In reply to SymposiumX13:

    No lynching but Cubs apparently love Grey.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I can't wait to see what happens -- especially if the Astros take Moran.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I honestly hope the 'Stros take Gray.....so that when the Cubs draft Appel we won't have to hear the "What if they took Gray!?" BS whenever Appel has a bad start lol

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Despite what was said above about their development of Castro, I have full faith in this team when it comes to evaluating talent. I want them to have their choice of the top 3.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. I believe in them as well but realistic we won't have our choice of all 3 unless Houston underslots and takes Moran(or maybe even Kohl Stewart, whose stock has been skyrocketing).

    My gut tells me they will go Gray though.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Given John's report this morning, I think it's Moran.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Gotta love draft season. It's been pretty exciting for me the last two years.

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    Speaking of good approaches

    Castro beautifully lines a single to right-center field

    Rizzo works an 8 pitch AB laying off some tough pitches until he shoots an RBI double down the line.

    Soriano comes up and launches a two-run homer for a tie game.

    Ondrusek needed 30 pitches to get 2 outs. Why can't we see more of this?

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Love seeing that from Rizzo., especially That's the guy I see him as. If he can do that consistently and then you match him with Soler, the Cubs have a middle of the order to can make pitchers work and still hurt you.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Sigh. Maybe Theo motivated them ;)

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Ha! Hope that leads to a nice run. Castillo with ANOTHER WALK. I think he's quadrupled his BB rate in the last week.

  • This exact front office sentiment is the reason why if he's still on the board at #2, Bryant (or even Moran) has just as good of a chance to be picked then Appel/Gray. In other words, if you can acquire a near MLB ready (assuming Bryant/Moran can start 2014 at A+ or perhaps even AA) high end offensive talent with a very good approach, its very hard to pass up. All that said, I'm not sure who they will take, and confident they'll ultimately nab the right guy, however, I don't think it's slam dunk to be Appel/Gray.

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    In spring training, I heard one of the Royals' pitching coaches in an interview saying the team's approach would be "aggressive" at the plate, and I thought, uh oh, Kansas City is in trouble. And indeed they are No. 27 in the majors in walks. So much for shoring up that pitching staff.

    Beginning in the late 1990s, I became convinced that the Cubs would never be a consistent winner unless they were selective at the plate, which naturally leads to walks. And when a manager or hitting coach talks about a team being "aggressive," even if he adds "wait for a good pitch to hit," he's giving his team the OK to hack away. That's been the case with Dusty Baker, Lou and now Sveum, who wasn't exactly a patient hitter himself (I watched him playing many games at County Stadium in the early days).

    I've said for the last two years that Starlin Castro's bid to be a cornerstone for the Cubs was in trouble because he isn't selective. People are constantly jumping on me and saying "he's young." Others say you can't teach patience by the time a player reaches 23 or 24. But those same people are defensive when I say the Cubs need to go to work on Baez now and at least get him to not get himself out trying to hit pitcher's pitches.

    I have no serious issues with Rizzo's plate discipline and Valbuena is very good in this regard. It really starts with Castro. Beyond that, it's a matter of having one or two true power guys who get on base at a .400-plus clip.

  • Has anyone seen in print Theo's directive of "The Cubs Way" preaching fundamental defense, OBP/grinding out at bats, pitching inside/ throwing strikes, ect. easy to judge the team and individuals by this if he Theo created this protocol. Except for the starting pitching can Dale or Theo be happy with any other part of this team.

  • Why did dale not have sweeney bunt barney over ?

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    Talk about exemplifying the importance of walks.

  • OBP is what I really liked about Hak Ju Lee over Castro. Well that speed and Defensive, I was very upset that Hak Ju Lee was traded really the only player I wasn't happy about being traded.

  • Hey don't look now... but we draw a base on balls and he ends up scoring the winning run!....

  • Like someone once said "What you see if what you get" They
    should draft hitters who fit the type of player they want and hope
    they can develop them. I hope they sign the 2 international players
    they are after. Castro and Rizzo should be the only 2 untouchables
    trade anybody else who can give us the type of prospects we need

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    Cubs win #19 today in game #49 of the years. It took the Cubs 55 games last year to get their 19th win.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/2012.shtml

    We all know that Theo and Jed are stats guys. And I'm sure the performance of the bullpen has been giving the front office fits. But that's old news. Theo may be trying to take a bit of focus off the pitching for a little while by telling the media how frustrated he is with the OBP of the club as a whole.

    And you leak this info to who? Sullivan...... A reporter who just isn't thrilled that he has to cover the Cubs........ Theo is a smart guy and doesn't do anything without a purpose. Most of the time you can't get a peep out of the front office and now all of a sudden we here about how we need players that have a better idea about getting on base?

    Hmmmmmmm..... what's up? The draft is less than 2 weeks away. What does Theo have up his sleeve?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Lets hope he can buy at least 1 extra draft pick. If it was not for
    their great need for pitching who knows who they would draft
    (Bryant?)

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I was just thinking that. Is Theo setting us up to draft Bryant over Appel? Telling Sully that we really need a solid hitter over pitching right now....... Just seems to be telegraphed to me.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I hope your right, a pitcher is to risky for the 2nd pick. But?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Even if a pitcher picked 2nd has a chance to be another Verlander?

  • Anyone going to Kane County tonight?

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    I'm chiming in late. It's been a good day but a busy day, and I missed the game to boot. Anyways, just a couple of thoughts. First, all the more reason to make a serious push for Choo. Second, Castro is what he is, and if he were surrounded by high OBP types, his lack there of wouldn't be nearly as noticeable. They need to stop messing with him and let him be himself, but if they can't do that, then they should think about moving him before they kill his value completely. My guess is also that, if he were surrounded by high OBP types, some of that would just naturally rub off on him.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    The Cubs aren't messing with Castro. They're trying to get him to adjust after the league adjusted to him. When he was putting up all those hits (which I should mention was in part a result of his not walking because he was able to accumulate all those at bats) there was no book on him. Now that the league knows that you don't have to give Castro anything to hit, he has been on a downward slide and will continue to slide until he adjusts.

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    In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Greg, I completely understand what you're getting at about adjustments, and I didn't mean to sound like I completely blame the Cubs here, but I think it's a little bit of both. Things might be different had he come up with "The Cubs Way," but now he is being asked to do something that is completely foreign to him, and he looks lost trying to do it.

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    In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    There may be something to this, but I think its more nuanced than that. The downward slide started roughly the moment Sveum was named manager. Meaning it took almost two seasons for the league to adjust to him. That seems unlikely.

    Castro's plate coverage is the stuff of legends. The aggressiveness works for him where it wouldn't work for others because he can just instinctively barrel up a pitch that most hitters couldn't touch.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    "Castro's plate coverage is the stuff of legends."
    I can't agree more. I had not discovered Cubs Den when this kid came up. This kid that could square up any pitch. I have not got the stats, but it seemed like he went weeks without striking out and was a hit machine. Why would you change that! And i agree I do not think it's the league making adjustments; it's the organization pushing Starlin to make them. My question is, and again I am not a stats guy, but maybe if you look at Oakland, the OBP guys are the platoons (and I may add that they probably were homegrown). The point is, you let the core be who they are and fill in around them to take advantage of their skill-set.
    .

  • This was a great win today. The Homer announcer for cincy was saying that even with Rizzo at the plate, Castro at 1st, and sori in the box, there was no threat of the cubs overcoming the 4 to 1 deficit.

    Made my day when he ate is words...

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    In reply to socalcub:

    I cannot stand homer announcers and i'm glad ours are nowhere close to that.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I listened to part of the CIN broadcast the other day on mlb.tv. They were talking about Brandon Phillips being the better defender than Barney and should have won the GG last year. I was somewhat nauseated because their argument was solely "just watch them and you can tell it's not even close". While I will concede that he is head & shoulders above Darwin on the offensive side and may have a little more "flash" to his game... style points mean nothing. Barney was the best defensive 2B last year, period.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's exactly why the gold glove has become a joke in the eyes of baseball people. It's an award for the best offensive player who happens to play good defense, or whoever makes the flashiest plays. Barney is the better second basemen defensively and for once the voters got it right.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Yeah it is a joke. Not taking anything away from BP. He is a stud defensively. I'd trade DB for him in a second.... but the GG is not supposed to be a popularity contest amongst the better defenders. It's supposed to go to the best that year. It did last year. I'm sure BP gave DB his due. I'd expect such buffoonery from the CIN fans, but not from the announcers. They're supposed to be better educated on the game and have a certain sophistication or flair with their words.

  • I had always considered BP a fun baseball guy, but when he made disparaging remarks about Barney's errorless streak last season I lost some respect. Just no need to disrespect another guy like that.

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    Castro's literally regressing in every phase of his game. Not only is he not slugging as well or getting as many hits, but he isn't even drawing more walks.

  • At what point does some of this fall on boy wonder Theo? Look at our roster up and down and tell me exactly where the production is supposed to be coming from? The only legitimate (non-platoon) everyday threats are Rizzo, Castro, and DeJesus. Theo can saber rattle all he wants, but until we get some more horses in here I just don't see things changing that much.

    Sorry, stepping off my soap box now

  • Tom - Couple days late on this one but I'm surprised no one has complimented you wit' your Naughty by Nature reference... Nice!

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