5 inexpensive ways the Cubs can really improve in 2014

5 inexpensive ways the Cubs can really improve in 2014

We can make much about where and how the Cubs are going to improve through free agency.   We've also talked about the farm system and it's potential impact.  More than likely neither of those things will happen on a grand scale in 2014, but I think we could see some improvement in some key areas that doesn't necessarily involve the signing of major free agents or bold, risky trades.

We noted on several occasions that the Cubs may not have been as bad as their record indicated.  This wasn't a team that was getting blown out in game after game.  They weren't the Astros, the Twins, or even the Phillies.  They were in a lot of games last season. The run differential numbers at the deadline were that of a .500 team and their Pythagorean record last year was 71-91 at years end, 5 games better than their actual record (and the previous year's Phythagorean record) despite the big sell off at the deadline.   So there was some improvement, even if you have to squint to find it sometimes.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean record was developed by Bill James and is an estimate of a team's winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed.

That's all well and good but there is one fundamental component missing in James' formula: the sequencing of those events.  That is, it matters when those runs are scored and when those runs are allowed.  Thus, there is an element of luck involved.  That's the part the Cubs can't control.  You could also chalk some of that up to game management, which is something the Cubs can improve to some degree.  They can change how they  play the game, but they also need to improve  in a few areas to make better game management possible and to find ways to create their own luck.

They don't even have to go crazy and spend a ton of money.  This is how I would attempt to improve the Cubs without necessarily making a major signing or trade...

Situational hitting

Yeah, I know RBIs aren't predictive and are largely based on things a player can't control.  And yes, clutch hitting is largely a myth.   But that doesn't mean you can't control the situations you are in a little better.  The Cubs sometimes fall victim to what I call the Corey Patterson syndrome.  It doesn't matter what the situation is -- swing away and swing hard.  You mean there is a man on third, one out, and the team is down by one late in the game?  Why by all means, take your biggest hacks early and often!  Don't wait for a pitch you can lift into the air for a possible sac fly.  And heaven forbid you take a walk if you don't get that pitch to hit and let the next guy take his shot.

If you don't think those two little things are important, then take a look at sacrifice flies and teams around the league.  Of the 11 teams that ranked at the top in sac flies, 8 of them made the playoffs and one, the Orioles, won 85 games and were in the hunt.  Six of the top 7 teams with the most walks with men on base were in the playoffs.  That is something I honestly would not have guessed, though as pointed out by mjvz, both are intertwined with getting on base in the first place.

I don't mean to say specifically that the answer is the Cubs should focus on sac flies and walks.  It is meant more symbolically.  You don't have to be a hero every time you step up to the plate.

This is where both the front office and managing/coaching come into play.  Rick Renteria and his instructional abilities will be put to the test, as will that of the new hitting coach, whomever that ends up being.   It's the front office's job to get those disciplined hitters with intelligent approaches.  It is the coaching staff's job to work to each hitter's strengths to try and do the right things in any given situation.  Not every player is going to handle the same situation the same way.  I'm going to take two long shot roster candidates to illustrate what I mean. If Brett Jackson is up to bat, I'm making sure he only swings at good pitches while I may have a bit more leeway with a player who can make consistent contact and put the ball in play, such as Josh Vitters.

The Cubs ranked last in hitting and OBP with runners on base.  They slugged fairly well but finished 25th in slugging with runners on last year even though they were right in the middle of the pack at 17 with runners empty.  Part of that is bad luck, part of it is the need to get better and/or more experienced players, and part of is just bad situational hitting.  The Cubs just help the pitchers out all to often and get themselves out with the game on the line.

I'm not saying they need to develop some sort of magical, mythical clutch hitting ability.  I'm only saying to be better prepared in those situations and go up to the plate with a better approach in given situations.  You can't control what will happen, but you can at least give yourself a better chance to succeed.

Perhaps the best way to put it is this:  One way or the other the Cubs need hitters with good approaches .  They need guys who swing at good pitches in all situations and hitters who can take the ball where it's pitched when necessary.  The Cubs are teaching that in the minors now, but perhaps they can find affordable players with some of those abilities on the open market.

That's all I ask.  Easier said than done, right?

OBP

As we alluded to above, the Cubs actually hit for some power last year, finishing 2nd in the NL in HRs, 3rd in doubles, first in extra base hits, and first in ISO.  I'm not that worried about that part of the Cubs lineup, though I do think they need to replace Alfonso Soriano's power somehow.  What's more important, however, is that the Cubs actually get people on base to drive home.  They ranked 2nd to last in the NL and 28th in all of baseball in OBP.

As we noted above, the Cubs need to hit better situationally but to put it simply, if they can also combine it with getting more people on base to begin with, then they will have even more favorable situations in which to hit.  That alone will be an improvement because you will score more runs simply by giving yourself more opportunities -- but if you can do both, that is, increase the number of those opportunities AND take better advantage of them , then you will score a lot more runs.

It's not rocket science.

The problem is getting OBP, as it is not the market inefficiency it once was.  The Cubs will have to improve internally and take some flyers on players who have shown good plate discipline in the past and hope they can hit enough to make it matter.  The Cubs recently took a flyer on former A's prospect Aaron Cunningham and maybe there is still hope for internal candidates such as Brett Jackson, Mike Olt, and Logan Watkins, all of whom have shown solid approaches but need to improve their bat to ball skills.  Here are some more of those possibly available players:

  • Logan Morrison
  • Nate McLouth
  • Scott Sizemore
  • Drew Stubbs
  • David Murphy
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Travis Snider

Team Speed

The Cubs are slow. There is just no way around that.  Their base stealing rate was just 66%, which is counterproductive and actually costs them runs.  They also ranked 22nd in Fangraphs' UBR (ultimate base running) metric.  I'm not saying the Cubs have to be the 1982 Cardinals, but smaller market playoff teams like the Rays, Athletics, Pirates, and Cardinals all ranked in the top 10 in the UBR category.   It's a market inefficiency that they can exploit until the day (year) they find the right player(s) and situation in which to spend big.

Speed can be yet an additional boost to the the offense by complementing the previous two areas of OBP and situational hitting by taking that much needed extra base which could sometimes mean the difference between a run and yet another runner left on base.

Here are some good baserunners who could be available:

  • Daniel Murphy
  • Drew Stubbs
  • Nate McLouth
  • Denard Span

Team Defense

Part of the runs allowed factor depends on the defense behind the pitching staff. The Cubs have done a remarkable job improving this area and actually ranked 6th in all of baseball in UZR/150, an advanced metric that encompasses all aspects of defense.  But one place they can improve is the OF, where they ranked 17th.  Specifically, I'd like to see the Cubs add some range in CF to take the pressure off of Nate Schierholtz and move Ryan Sweeney to a corner, where he can be a well above average defender, though he showed he can play a solid CF as well if the Cubs instead pick up a corner OF'er.

Possible OF value additions:

  • Denard Span
  • Drew Stubbs
  • David Murphy
  • Franklin Gutierrez
  • Chris Young
  • Nate McLouth (LF)

The Bullpen

Nothing symbolizes bad sequencing in terms of when you allow runs than those allowed by the bullpen.  The Cubs bullpen imploded in the first half last year and may have destroyed any chance of the Cubs going into the trade deadline at .500.

The Cubs bullpen ranked 25th in ERA, had the 4th most blown saves, and the 6th most walks in all of baseball.

While you never want to spend big on the bullpen, there are plenty of bargains to be found on the market while the Cubs continue to develop potential impact bullpen arms in their farm system.

I think the Cubs can add a veteran or two to the mix but the Cubs showed some promise late in the year as young power arms like Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon started to come into their own.  The  Cubs also have up and coming arms such as Arodys Vizcaino, Armando Rivero, Zach Rosscup, and perhaps starters such as Dallas Beeler who can make that conversion.  Here is a link to some more internal bullpen candidates we talked about in a previous article from August.

Here are some potential value arms I've mentioned in the past they should consider adding:

  • Andrew Bailey
  • Tommy Hunter
  • Kevin Jepsen
  • Jim Johnson...according to Buster Olney, some in the industry say he could be the Orioles "most painless cut" given their budget constraints.

Summary 

I'm sure there are names I've missed and perhaps you can add some.  There are obviously big ticket players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo who can fill in a lot of these missing boxes but that's not what this article is about.

Guys like Nate McLouth, Denard Span, Drew Stubbs, Chris Young  fill in some of the boxes much more cheaply and may not impede the long term plan quite as much.  The Cubs may have to mix and match, possibly sacrificing in one area so they can add in another, such as Logan Morrison, Daniel Murphy, or Franklin Gutierrez.

I'm serious when I say the Cubs can make some important incremental improvements at the margins and lessen the need to spend on multiple free agents or make costly trades.  That's not to say the Cubs can't mix in those kinds of additions.  If opportunities present themselves where they can pick up surplus long term value through trades or free agency, then they should definitely do that.  But even if that happens, the Cubs need to keep making these behind the scenes value signings like ones they've made in the past to complement the core and improve the team while it transitions.  And who knows?Perhaps you find a long term piece or two in the process.  It certainly won't cost much to find out.

 

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  • Biggest possible improvement from the Cubs is Castro and Rizzo going back to hitting how they did 2 years ago in Rizzo's case and 3 years ago in Castro's case. If they flop again this year, things get messy with the rebuild.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    True, I certainly agree. In this article, I'm talking about moves/improvements the Cubs can make as a team but a Castro/Rizzo improvement/bounce back would be huge.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    When I look at your list of OFs, I prefer Guititerez and Young. Guitierrez is a superb defensive OF whose bat is shaky, but he did have a solid offensive year 3 years ago i beleive. Young is another solid defender, has good power numbers who needs to cut back on his Ks. We need RH hitting OFs in 2014. The lefties we need after the kiddie corps arrives.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Why does it seem like everyone is counting Junior Lake out?? It looked like he had some pretty solid ABs in my eyes.

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    I'm not counting him out. He's in the mix but I wouldn't say it's a slam dunk he starts the season with the team. He's never had a full season in AAA. I think if they can add talent at the margins, they should. Lake isn't at the point yet where you can count on him without any worries -- so I don't think they should give him a job, but i do think he should get a chance to earn one.

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    On the year, Junior had 254 plate appearances with a line of .284/.332/.428

    His last 65 plate appearances give a line of .250/.398/.433

    His last 29 plate appearances give a line of .120/.241/.160

    His last 10 plate appearances give a line of .000/.200/.000

    I think pitchers came up with a plan.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Based on a sample size of 29 and 10 ABs?

    Either pitchers figured him out or he had a bad week. Or somewhere in between. Maybe Kake becomes a MLB ball player, maybe not. But nobody should be evaluated based on 29 ABs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John....you have the patience of a saint!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John I don't have the data in front of me, but my memory is that if you summed up Castro/Rizzo/Barney WAR from 2012 and compared it to 2013 the differential is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5. I'd be happy to claw back 3 of that in 2014, hit a bit smarter situationally under Renteria's leadership, settle the bullpen out, and maybe add a value piece to the OF. Those moves + a bit of luck and I don't think it is out of the frame that the Cubs could flirt with .500 next season while sticking to the longer plan and enjoying some payroll flexibility.

    Or am I just guzzling the Theo Kool-Aid?

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    I don't like kool-aid :)

    In all seriousness, it is a lot and I think what I am mainly saying is that sometimes things come together in baseball and they often do when you least expect it. Timelines are artificial. We don't know when things will come together for this team. I'm an optimist, though, so I'm hoping it's sooner rather than later.

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    Reading between the lines a bit, spending early picks on Bryant and Almora tells you exactly how important OBP is to them. Almora at his ceiling is a .330 hitter with an OBP north of .400 and Bryant will probably never be the .330 hitter, but will absolutely take walks to boost the OBP.

    Alcantara also showed sights last year. You plug the three of them in to the 2015 lineup, and things could get very interesting very quickly.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Definitely. Almora's OBP will largely come from his average but I can easily envision him having an average walk rate in time.

    Alcantara is a potential boost for the 2015 season but I think the Cubs need a stopgap until then, whether it's Barney or someone else.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree on a stopgap for at least half of 2014. I'd like to see Logan Watkins get a chance. My guess is Alcantara gets the September call-up and locks down 2B for the 2015 season. Assuming -- big assumption -- Baez hasn't already laid claim to it. If he has, Alcantara could get some time in CF in July and August.

    I intentionally gave a somewhat optimistic ceiling for Almora because he's only 19 but has plus plus makeup, so I'm hopeful that he will fully develop his skills.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'd like to see Watkins get a shot as well. He has some of the qualities they like. Like their other OBP guys, it's all about the bat with him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    So what looks better for us LT

    A). Baez SS & Castro 2B
    B). Castro SS & Baez 2B
    C). Baez SS & Alcantara 2B
    D). Castro SS & Alcantara 2B

    Unless Olt/Bryant/Villanueva all bust at 3B (very unlikely) one of those three is traded by 2015...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Long-term and excluding the trade value you could get in return for the leftovers.

    Give me A

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    You're trying to get me in trouble, aren't you? ;-)

    Couple of qualifications here, I think it's possible (likely?) that one of Baez or Alcantara flames out in AAA. But, assuming reasonable progression for both of the minor leaguers and average -- not ceiling -- production, I think I'd go with C since I believe Baez will be a better defensive shortstop than Castro and the slugging percentage he gives you out of a shortstop is incredible. Alcantara gives something unique at the moment, in that he's a switch hitter who shows flashes of an excellent approach and the speed to be a weapon at the top of the order.

    Add in to that Bryant at 3B hitting third, Almora in CF hitting second or eighth (depending on development), and then either Soler and FA or two FAs in the corners.

    Short term, though, if Castro is on the team, I think moving Baez to second while you decide exactly what to do makes sense.

    What's your thinking?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Here's where I think this can go terribly wrong: Alcantara is not a more talented player than Castro. It's really not even that close. Gotta be careful when trying to make puzzle pieces fit at the cost of downgrading your talent on the field.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It's a tough call, because you were saying earlier that the Cubs have to improve their OBP and speed. I think Alcantara would be an improvement over Castro in both of those areas, even if you're sacrificing hits (which I'm honestly not denigrating) and power.

    Maybe the solution is to put Alcantara in left and figure you make up for the lost production with Castro and Baez -- but if your infield is Bryant-Castro-Baez-Rizzo, you're really limiting your choices in the outfield. But, I could see that being the best team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm not sure Alcantara is a big upgrade -- if any upgrade at all, in terms of OBP only because he may hit 40-50 points lower than Castro in a normal year for both. He's a downgrade at this point on defense even though the raw ability is there. The speed and the LH bat help, but now you are looking at things that make smaller impacts overall if Castro reaches his potential.

    The Cubs have time to decide on this. They can see how Alcantara does in AAA and see if Castro can rebound. Things can always change 6-7 months from now, but as of now, I'm not counting on making that switch.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Where is Trea Turner going to play?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I suspect that's sarcastic, but *if* we draft him and *if* he develops as expected, shortstop and everything moves around again. And drafting him pretty much guarantees that one of Castro-Baez-Turner should rent, not buy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't know what Alcantara's arm is like, but would Bryant in either RF or LF be more optimal here with Baez and Castro on the left side and Alcantara at 2B? Why did Alcantara get moved off of SS? Was it arm or range?

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Neither. He has plenty of arm and range to play SS. He's not shown that he is able to slow the game down, which is something of an art. Not all players are able to do it. what he winds up doing is rushing his footwork and his throws, leading to a lot of errors. Playing 2B gives you a bit more time to make plays.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would go with B. People are way too down on Castro. He is still a very talented player and I believe this upcoming season people will see again how great he is.

  • In reply to jswick23:

    Your 100% correct. Sometimes it seems that some posters consider him below average. I love Baez but I don't think he'll be the defensive SS Castro is. To me Castro can still be a all-star SS. Castro and Rizzo need to be the players we hope they are and 2014 will be exciting.
    I'm going to miss Dionnar bat. Excellent clutch hitter.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think it will be one of Baez or Castro. Either can bring back a TOR starter. First Arismendy will have to tighten up his defense.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    My thinking is this:

    Search the archives, you'll see I've always said I think Baez is the better defender at SS than Castro. 2013 aside, Javier doesn't make as many errors, throwing errors and especially the mental errors. Some will say Castro has better range, but I think Baez makes up for that with his instincts. He's not especially fast, but steals bases and makes some jaw dropping plays in the hole. Offensively there's no comparison.

    I like Alcantara for the reasons Mike stated. I think a move to 2B will ultimately help his (or Castro's) defensive metrics. What he lacks in BA vs. the "good" Castro, he makes up for most of that with his OBP & SB's and the fact that he's a true lead-off hitter with speed. I can see Renteria falling in love with this kid.

    I still like Castro though. I seem to remember someone wrote that he could be a gold glove caliber defensive 2B with an avg hit tool for the position. IDK about that, but I still think he has a few AS games in his future.

    I suppose if you held a gun to my head, I'd choose A... but I'm also really glad the guys who are making this decision are pretty good at this sort of stuff and it will probably come down to what other teams come calling with an offer we can't refuse for Baez/Castro.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Well stated. I'd also add that Baez has a quicker release than Castro which, when combined with his arm, should lead to more outs on close plays. I'm not sure how significant that will be over the course of a season, though.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Castro is and will remain the better shortstop of the two. Baez is already two inches taller and 20 lbs heavier than Castro and is not done filling out his frame.

    Castro, on the other hand, has already led the league in assists, put outs and total chances in both 2011 & 2012. he's currently light years ahead of Baez defensively.

    Whether it's to third base or second base, barring a trade, Baez is the one who will get moved. As it should be.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I love Castro, and this FO has publicly stated that Baez will be the one to move.... so all of this may turn out to be a moot point....

    There's nothing saying Baez wouldn't have made a similar number of put outs and assists given the same chances.... I stated that Baez has better instincts, which he does. I stated that he doesn't take the mental vacations that Castro is notorious for and that 2013 aside (which he admits to pressing) he didn't make the throwing errors like Castro has done throughout his career... We can agree to disagree as to who is better. But your attempt to back it statistically fails IMO because it;'s based on "chances" We'll never know if Baez can lead the league in assists & put-outs until he leads in chances too...

    So far as Baez filling out, this is based on what? I've known this kid since he was a Freshman in HS. I've been on the field and called his games. I have in fact watched him grow up. While I can admit to not being an expert in human growth projections, I can assure you that when I saw him in August, he was not any taller than the last time I saw him earlier in the year. He's pretty much done growing. Will he add a few more pounds of muscle, perhaps if he wants to. But unless you've run some very specific tests on his diet/exercise habits and charted his DNA, you're guessing here and I'd say you're guessing with less information or knowledge that I have from "watching him grow"....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's probably how it starts but, if Baez establishes himself as a solid major league hitter and better defender and Castro keeps taking the mental vacations, I'm not sure if they can maintain that long term.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's good stuff about Baez, Hoosier. I'm assuming you're an umpire. Me too. Great view, huh?

    I think it's very likely, probably certain in the FO's eyes based on their saying Baez will move, that Castro will end up as the best defender of the three.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    He may end up being the best defender out of the 3. I just don't think he's better right now. Nor do I say that Baez is better "right now". But ultimately, Castro has had ample time to fix his issues, so I'm thinking Baez will be better LT. The FO is probably banking on Castro fixing the mental snafu's, which he has not yet mastered. Even still, they know he holds max trade value at SS so they're not going to do anything to jeopardize that if they decide to move him.

    All that being said, I think Alcantara is most likely the one of three that gets traded away.

    Yes, I am an Umpire. Mostly HS & JuCo, though I've called everything from T-ball to Div1A. Funny story about Baez, I called one game during a HS tournament and he played catcher that game. The previous game, my partner had taken a couple of balls off his toes (he was wearing field trainers vs plate shoes - dummy). Nothing serious and no one thought much of it or noticed. Anyways, Javier told me (in broken English) that he would clean my shoes. I only understood fragments. When I put clean and shoes together, I asked him why does he want to shine my shoes? He laughed and then said something to his dugout in Spanish and they all erupted in laughter.... His coach told me that he said he would keep me clean from passed balls....

    I will say this, you will have a new-found respect and admiration for Javier's bat speed when you feel the whiff from his swing behind the catcher. It's impressive.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Done growing in height, yes, but Baez has a big enough frame that it is perfectly conceivable that he may add another 20 lbs or so as he matures. It happens to lots of men naturally, athletes or otherwise.
    I agree that Baez may be a fine MLB SS, my point is that they already have one. The only place Castro can learn 2B is in the majors, while Javy has the opportunity to learn it in the minors, taking as much time as needed. If for no other reason, I think that is why he'll be the one to move.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I understand where you're coming from conceptually. My point was he has been 6'1" for a couple of years now. He's been done growing vertically. But he's already added 20lbs of muscle since graduating. He may be able to add some more. But he doesn't strike me as a kid that's going to fill out at a lean 220lbs... He's not Matt Forte...

    For now, the FO is on record as saying that Baez will be the one to move. That could be for a number of reasons. We'll see what actually happens. "IF" they are both still in the organization in 2015 and Castro is still making a half dozen mental errors. how do you justify that to his teammates at one of the most critical defensive positions?

    The reality is the pressure from Baez may be the best thing for Castro.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Baez does have kind of a Hanley Ramirez -type build for a SS. In the long run he might be better served at 3b, with Castro at ss and AA at 2b, with Bryant to RF and Soler in LF , providing they all pan out. Castro also has the arm to play RF in necessary.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    How tall is Baez right now?

  • In reply to John57:

    6'1" and has been for over a year now.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'll go with option B on that list.

    Option A for me would be: Baez 3b, Alcantara 2b, Castro ss, Bryant Rf

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    So did Baez. AAs plate discipline shot up last year. Hes your leadoff hitter if his numbers can carry over to the bigs.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I think if the Cubs end up with two A+ SSs and Alcantara tightens up his defense and continues to 2nd deck HR's, that one of those shortstops gets traded for pitching or a lefty slugger or for both. Olt, Bryant, Villanueva, or Candelario will handle third as they already be one.

  • John excellent read. I like the breakdown of Bill James' Pythagorean record expectation. I would like a little deeper thoughts/analysis into the timing attributes & valuations. I know you're a non-believer in "clutch" performances, but are those high stress AB's actually recorded & documented for separate analysis? I'm curious just how far into detail this stat/data hungry FO goes and don't they have Mr James on a F/T retainer? Curious what type of "special projects" they have him working on.

    I agree with the "value" high OBP outfield & utility players being targeted. But we need to replace more than just Sori's power numbers. We got much better than average SLG out of our 3-man platoon at 3B and then Navarro.... So unless we add some real Power bats, we will likely drop into middle of the road stats at best, even with some improvement from Rizzo.

    BP wise, we are deep with internal candidates. The one exception being a real need for a LH reliever to save everyday Jimmy. Not sure Rosscup will be that guy. He has a chance, maybe he was just off when I saw him, though statistically he had a good outing. But he wasn't fooling any RHH that day. Lots of really loud outs and long strikes if you know what I mean....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks. They are recorded but there doesn't seem to be a meaningful or significant correlation anywhere. Clutch hitting is variable and still considered largely a factor of luck, which is why I instead focused on situational hitting, which still involves some luck but at least there is some element of control there. It'd be an incremental improvement but it's one that good teams do well, as noted above.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I also think OBP is the key. The Cubs could certainly drop in terms of power numbers, but I don't think it will be a weakness for them. They really need to concentrate on getting guys who can get on base one way or the other.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, even if we drop to middle of the pack or bottom 3rd in SLG, if we increase our OBP to middle of the pack we'll score/win more.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Talk to me about the BP big guy... I think Rusin have nothing left to prove to us at this point. At his best, he is a long reliever, his floor is a Loogy. Rusin, IMO has pitched well enough to be our 5th/6th starter (keeping Villanueva in his long relief role), but his floor is a long reliever... Rosscup is James Russell part deux (maybe).

    We need another LH reliever. We got a haul for Sean Marshall. maybe we got lucky with Wood, maybe it was timing, IDK... they say the LH reliever FA market is good this year. IDk, is trading Russell still a possibility? Do we need live with one of Rusin/Raley/Rosscup to compliment Russell or do we dip into the FA value signings?...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Im betting Rosscup gets a big opportunity coming out of ST to stick with the big club. Russell cant be everyday James much longer.

  • John, how much of a problem is the 40-man roster going to
    be in signing some of these players. No room for a Rule V
    pick?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    The Rule 5 pick is a fun process for baseball junkies like us, but the reality is with the rule changes several years back you very rarely get impact players that way anyway. My guess is the Cubs will leave at least one spot open and search for role players.

  • This is my first post on here and would like to say that I love the site. Secondly, I would love a Denard Span pickup I think he adds alot to the cubs.

  • In reply to mvander524:

    Thank you. I appreciate that. Span is a nice fit to me if he doesn't cost the Cubs much. Nats are said to be making him available, but as to the cost, I'm not sure. At a cheap price I think he can boost the team in several areas but at the same time, I wouldn't give up a lot for him. You don't want to sacrifice your long term goals to get him for the next two years.

  • They should give Logan Watkins more of a chance at 2b next year. Maybe a platoon with Barney.

    He has a higher OBP in the minors and has the LH bat they need in the lineup.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    I think he's certainly an option they need to find out more about.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    They have plenty of LH bats in the line up. The outfield is full of them.

    What they need is LH POWER bats, and Watkins doesn't give them that.

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    In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Watkins is the sleeper no one is talking about. Watkn will make the team out of spring training. He will start off in a platoon with Barney before over taking the position completely come June. Renteria is the fresh new start Watkins needs. I truly feel the FO are disappointed with Sveum's decision with Watkins playing time and played a role in his firing.
    And forgive me for saying this, but I got a terrible feeling in the pits of my stomach that Castro is going to have a season ending injury early in the season and Baez will be called up to play SS. Baez, holding his own 260.-285 with upper teen HRs will do surprisingly well defensively (with Rizzo's help) and Castro will be trade bait or Wally Pipp.

  • Another outstanding article.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks KS!

  • John
    Any love for Rajai Davis in a platoon with Sweeney or Schierholtz? Puts up really good numbers vs lefties & has speed.

    Havent heard his name mentioned. There could be a reason.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    I think he can be OK as long as you know what you are getting, which is really a 5th OFer/niche player. In some ways he's a bit like Campana. Great speed, not such a great hitter, and doesn't field as well as you would think based on his ability to flat out fly. I'd like him better if he were a top notch CF defender.

  • Developing our own bullpen and bench is a huge advantage. Not necessarily this year, but hopefully by the time our core is ready we can fill in with our own guys

  • Agreed. Always nice to get long term cost-controlled guys on the bench. Saves you money for bigger needs.

  • Good article. You don't have to have all stars at every position, you just need guys that can get the job done.

    Look at all the 1 run games the last few years? What if a guy took a walk, or maybe had a better plan at the plate, and could have extended the inning?

    We see 2 out home runs all around the league every night. The defense was pretty good in 2013, and I hope that remains, but we just need some guys to get on base and do the little things good.

    Rick Renteria might be a better fit than we could have imagined on that front.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Thank you and that's very much what I'm trying to get at. The A's and Rays have figured this out for years now and I think the Cubs are trying to win this way until their stars come up. The difference is they'll be able to keep all their good players the way Boston and other big market teams do.

    To me, building an organization should be the same for any market, large or small. The difference is in sustaining success. Big markets can keep their players or add a key piece or two. Small market teams have to let guys go, re-load, and continually look for bargains to sustain success. It puts them at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to sustaining, but not building.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm beginning to wonder if Oak and TB win repeatedly because they don't have the resources to lock up their key pieces long term. They continually recycle that talent into multiple key pieces and don't get burned by expensive long term deals. Big markets like Bos. and NYY can win despite those bad deals but look at a team like Philly now or the Mets a few years ago who got hamstrung by those deals. It may be better to just not do them at all.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    They win continuously but I think they lose the edge of keeping a few guys, which is why to me, in the end, they lose out to teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, and other big markets.

    The Yankees, we forget, built up quite a cache of homegrown talent and it was much easier to keep them then let them go and try to find replacements.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's why I agree with you that signings like Ryan Sweeney are probably a winner as we continue to build. He is not going to hurt you out there.

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    In reply to givejonadollar:

    I agree as well and can assure you that the Cubs won't regret Sweeney's 2 years at $3.5 mil. On the other hand, I'd bet dollars to donuts that the Phillies will indeed regret signing 53 year old convicted juicer marlon Byrd for 2 years and $17 mil.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Thats funny. What surprised me the most about the Byrd signing was that it was done so early into FA; i.e., they Targeted him.....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I was surprised about that as well.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    The Sweeney deal could end up being one of the best deals in the game.

    Marlon Byrd's a good player. I doubt they'll regret that one. Even if he doesn't hit a ton he'll still play good baseball and be a leader and fan favorite. That's EASILY worth 8.5M in today's game when other guys his age are making 2.5 times that much. Having 9 years of service time ALONE is going to add a couple million dollars to your contract regardless of who you are.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    You don't find it odd that a guy who has been a 4th OF/marginal starter his whole career suddenly has his career year at age 35? I think the Phillies will regret it when HGH testing starts next year and he either gets clean and his performance falters or he gets caught again and suspended for 100 games.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Not a single bit for a few reasons.

    1) He had a nice year with us in 2010 and a nice year for the Rangers in 2009.
    2) He took a banned supplement to rehab an injury.
    3) Most Important reason right here...he had already tested positive and been suspended prior to his career year. That means he was probably getting tested once a week and was absolutely clean for the entire 2013 season and the months prior.

    He still is basically a glorified 4th OF who has a good chance to play like a #2 OF. Steroids don't affect hustle and instincts anyway. If he were a superstar he would be making way more than 8M. This is the most he's ever been paid and he's earned it. A guy like Marlon who has payed his dues in the Majors and been a good player for 9 plus years deserves to have a season or two at that salary. That's the way the union has set it up.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I agree with you Ben. While I don't think the Phillies FO is to be celebrated, I also don't think the Byrd signing is that bad. The Cubs didn't get what they hoped for from Byrd, but a 2 yr deal for 17 million at FA prices for Byrd isn't a huge commitment for the potential.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds right.

  • Wait...

    How many more Murphy's can we hire?

    We need righty balance for the outfield as an immediate need. Stubbs fits.

    As a long-term need, we should be looking for a lefty-hitting leadoff man - the only GAPING hole in the lineup from 2015-2020.

    I don't know if McLouth is that guy... I've mentioned switch-hitting Fowler in trade - I like him better.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Fowler is interesting but I didn't mention him because the Rockies always ask the moon for him. He's not worth the moon.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    We have him, his name is Arsimendy Alcantara

  • I personally don't think we need any more relievers. With all the projected relief pitchers in the minors we need to focus on a starter, back up catcher and a stopgap outfielder with a little power.

  • If you don't think those two little things are important, then take a look at sacrifice flies and teams around the league. Of the 11 teams that ranked at the top in sac flies, 8 of them made the playoffs and one, the Orioles, won 85 games and were in the hunt. Six of the top 7 teams with the most walks with men on base were in the playoffs. That is something I honestly would not have guessed.

    --You could have swayed me more by using rate stats instead of counting stats to make this argument. The teams with good offenses that have men on base are off course going to have the chance to get more walks and more sac flies. That is all a function of obp. Were those playoff teams actually converting those opportunities more frequently though?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    That's a good point. I don't have the info or time right now to go back and calculate rates I may look into it later. If someone wants to do that on their own, they are more than welcome.

  • Having a serviceable bullpen would be HUGE. I would also offer that the players have things they need to work on to get better. Darwin Barney can't keep rolling his right wrist over, turning his right forearm up and hitting the ball in the air. Anthony Rizzo has to work on plate coverage and adjusting to pitchers throwing him down and in. Starlin Castro has to eliminate the movement so he can hit the FB, etc., etc. These are things that will also contribute to the team improvements needed in OBP and situational hitting. Speed can't be taught, but better base running can be. Team defense is largely the work put in as well. When George Brett moved to first base later in his career, he had the infield coach hit golf balls at him on the astro turf, in order to improve going to his right. Our young players need to have that same work ethic to get the most out of their skills.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cleme:

    Cleme, I agree with a lot of what you said, especially about Castro eliminating the movement. I've been shouting that at my TV for as long as I can remember. But with regards to barney, rolling the wrist over would create top spin and decrease the probability of a fly ball. You will often see a player who does that hook or pull a lot of balls.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    As far as Castro eliminating the movement, he doesn't need all these coaches whispering in his ear. Needs Metamucil.

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    John, great article as always. It's easy to look at the W-L record and think the Cubs are bad, but they really held their own last year. Eliminate the blown saves or add one run to each game and the record would have been quite different. Do you think the Cubs would show any interest in Rajai Davis? He isn't young anymore at 33 years old, but he is a right handed batter capable of playing center field. And despite getting older, he continually puts up big stolen base numbers which would help with that speed aspect missing from the Cubs. He wouldn't be a long term piece, but on a 1 or 2 year deal what do you think?

  • In reply to Bill Newton:

    Thanks Bill. I can see where you are getting at and I would like Rajai if he could play better defense and get on base more. He can play a role, but I don't see him as a starter or a key player.

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    I really like the idea of signing franklin gutierrez. He is guy that when healthy, brings, obp, sb, a little pop, and great defense. Of course he hasnt been healthy in a couple of years and I think getting him out of safeco may help as well.. If his medicals check out I like him better than mcclouth, span, murphy, stubbs, and young. If we a bargain shopping, I prefer to go for the upside and he is the best everyday player option of that group in my opinion.

    If im ranking them in order of preference it goes gutierrez, murphy, mcclouth, stubs, span, young

  • In reply to marcf:

    I like this idea too.

  • In reply to marcf:

    I think he's a potential good fit for the team. He can play CF and he hits LHP very well.

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    "It doesn't matter what the situation is -- swing away and swing hard. You mean there is a man on third, one out, and the team is down by one late in the game? Why by all means, take your biggest hacks early and often!"

    Agreed. Which is why it drives me nuts when many in the Sabrmetric community say "strike outs don't matter" or "rather a guy strike out than hit into a double play".

    If you don't get a pitch to hit by all means take your walk but for the love of Pete put the bat on the ball!

    I honestly think that strike outs, from an offensive stand point, are the next "market inefficiency".

    How much better could guys like Pedro Alavrez, Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter & Drew Stubbs be if they'd just cut 20% of their K's out and apply their career BABIP to those at bats. They'd increase their AVG & OBP by 20-30 points and they'd STILL be striking out 150 times

  • Speaking of adding OBP, situational hitting, defense, and speed; How about Szczur or Ha?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Ha is mostly just a defensive player. I don't know if he can contribute in any of the other categories. Szczur's bat is still a question, which also affects everything on that list except for speed and defense. I don't see either as a starter at this point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm as big of a fan of Jae-Hoon Ha as anybody but I've said since I first saw him in 2011 that it's all a question of can he hit. That's stlll an open question in my mind.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Not just those two. Less to the point it will be interesting to see who of the fringy outfielders will get chances or turn into something in the next year or two: Lake, Vitters, Jacksons last hurrah, Andreoli too.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I think Lake has earned another year (barring a multi-player trade, of course). I'd like to see Andreoli for another year as well. Vitters and Jackson I gave up on long ago. I know there's the "they have tools argument" but as Dandy Don Meredith once said, "Potential is one of life's greatest burdens". Sooner or later, you have to produce and the window of opportunity is nearly shut on those two. They've just never shown me that there's much chance they ever turn the corner.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Reggie Golden... Think Junior Lake hitting LH.

  • fb_avatar

    John, you mentioned David Murphy a couple times. I'd love to see the Cubs sign him. Do you know if they're interested in him?

  • In reply to Mike Ogulnick:

    I don't, but he was originally a Red Sox farmhand while the current FO was there. He fits in some ways and I'm sure the Cubs know him pretty well.

  • In reply to Mike Ogulnick:

    Here is an pretty good in depth analysis of Murphy, might be a good pick up.

    http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com/2013/11/fa-of-analysis-david-murphy-curtis.html

  • "For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean record was developed by Bill James and is an estimate of a team's winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed."

    Hey, I thought measurements of a pitcher's runs allowed (ERA) and hitters runs scored or driven in was totally old school and over-rated? Uh-oh, is someone practicing situational statistics?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    ERA and runs scored are measures of an individual and the Sabermetric revolutions suggests that they are more accurately described as team statistics. Therefore, using runs for/against to estimate how the team of 25 guys will do, as James is, is entirely appropriate. Using them to measure how well or poorly one member of those 25 did is inappropriate.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I love advanced statistics, but why in the world does one need to estimate a team's win-loss record when you have the actual 162-game record? And if 162 games doesn't provide a large enough sample size (LOL), overlaying equations on top of statistics produced from those 162 games surely has at least the same limitations.

    P.S. -- ERA is one expression of runs surrendered. Of course, not the only one, but to dismiss individual runs surrendered is to call into question even advanced sabermetrics such as WAR, which does use runs surrendered as part of its computations. ERA of course has its limitations -- such as for comparing between AL and NL, but it remains an excellent way of comparing pitchers with similar roles in the same league: SP to SP, middle reliever to middle reliever, and closer to closer. For instance, Wood and Shark both pitched with the same defense behind them and with the same bullpen saving/failing them. So it is no fluke that Wood with a 3.11 ERA had an All-Star season, and Feldman (3.46) and Garza (3.17) returned significant players in return... while Shark continues to be a pitcher with a 4.34 ERA that we hope eventually lives up to his potential, and Jackson was easily the worst regular starter with a 4.98 ERA. One does not even need to run a regression analysis to see how ERA ranked these pitchers' relative performance with great exactness.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I don't think you love advanced statistics. Everything you say afterwards in this post basically screams that you completely disregard them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Too funny. So explain again how an estimate of how many wins the Cubs should have had last year based on the Pythagorean calculation is more accurate than the actual number of wins and losses the Cubs recorded? It was a silly use of advanced statistics to find a silver lining to the Cubs 5th consecutive 5th place finish. Yes, they were better than the 2012 Cubs. By my "old school" estimates, the major league team was exactly 5 wins better (plus/minus 0).

    You also can say I hate sabermetrics all you want, but it's typical of extremists to consider even moderate dissenters of their position to be extremists. In fact, it's a defining attribute of the breed. It's like you are the Tea Party of Sabermetrics.

    My points in chiding advanced statistics only come in outlier situations when they are used to make an extreme point that belies reality. But even professional sabermetricians recognize the existence of outliers beyond the typical two standard deviations. This means the models are fairly reliable 95%-97% of the time, but not 100%. So I don't think Shark is a Top 20 starting pitcher, as one recent post tried to suggest. I also don't think Castillo was better than Molina or Russell last year. But it's typical of extremists to blister anyone who doesn't believe 100% of their argument to be 100% against everything they stand for.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    What John says. Plus fWAR uses FIP to calculate WAR:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/library/war/calculating-war-pitchers/

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, and FIP uses earned runs as part of its calculation. What's the discrepancy here? Most ERA estimators basically take ERA and refine it further by trying to neutralize for differences in team defense, pitching against a DH, etc. But they merely refine the measurement. They don't toss the baby (earned runs) out with the bath water. They do matter and are the core basis of FIP. Ever since the rise of bullpen specialists and creation of the DH, ERA began losing its value for comparing pitchers between leagues or in different staff roles. But when comparing like role to like role within the same league, they are generally just about as reliable as the ERA estimators. But the advanced stats do provide extra info for breaking "ties" among very similar pitchers, or for figuring out which pitcher is the better risk to gamble millions on to get outs in a Fenway, Wrigley or Chavez Ravine.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    It does not use earned runs in the calculation. Here is the description of FIP:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/fip/

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I respect everything you guys add here. But I got to tell you, watching you guys argue over FIP is like watching the nerds in HS fight.

    Got my popcorn ready... :D

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    This really isn't a fight so much as a question of fact. One of us is factually incorrect, the other isn't.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Correct, FIP doesn't use traditional earned runs, but it does use HRs, walks and HBP as indicators of runs allowed, as these are the earned run creators more in a pitcher's control. Is it more accurate for comparing two starting pitchers on the same staff? No. Is it more helpful than ERA for comparing Travis Wood to Mariano Rivera? Definitely. But the basis of all ERA estimators is to measure runs allowed/earned runs/runs permitted... whatever you want to call it. So you're arguing semantics. My point has never been FIP is a ridiculous stat on whole, just that ERA isn't a ridiculous stat either... when used to compare like role pitchers in the same league. But sabermetrics do become useless when obvious outliers beyond two standard deviations are ignored. For example, when the xFIP stat is used to suggest Shark was one of the 20 best starters in all of baseball, my point is nicely made. He wasn't even a top 3 starter for a last place 66-win Cubs team in 2013. (Garza, Feldman and Wood all had better seasons while in a Cubs uniform based on most other base stats other than Ks.) The ERA stat has its limits too, as I've amply outlined. Only a zealot would suggest any stat is perfect and does not have its outlying exceptions.

  • Nice piece, Man! Like you said in there, it's not rocket science. You also alluded to the luck factor and that alone should provide a 4 or 5 game swing in 2014. We were in a lot of games that broke the other way. The Bullpen is where it's at for me as I say ad nauseam on here. That could provide a much bigger swing and I think it will. I like where the pen's headed and love that they're going to add to it.

    The absence of a true lead off man is killer. Even though I know this article isn't about the big ticket guys, that would be my number one reason if I were to make a case for bringing in Ellsbury or Choo. McLouth is the guy in this article that could probably lead off. To tell you the truth though, I'm all for depth but I'd just as soon see Bogusevic or Sweeney bat lead off and play almost every day as opposed to a guy like McLouth. Sweeney especially has a really nice approach and would serve the Cubs very well in the 2 hole, in my opinion.

    Guys just need to clutch up more regularly next year than they did this year. Bottom line. I don't know what it was. Maybe our helmets were too tight. Maybe the logo wasn't perfectly centered on our jerseys. Who knows? Just bad AB after bad AB with men on base. The clutch being a myth stuff is weak in my opinion. The SABR guru's haven't figured out how to quantify human emotions yet so in their minds, clutch doesn't exist. Horseshit. It doesn't exist in their offices. It exists on a baseball field. I'd love to see Dave Cameron come to the dish in the Fangraph's company softball game with his side chasing one in the last inning, two outs (or even nobody out!), and men on 1st and 2nd. I'd love to ask him if that at bat felt the same as the one he had in the second inning when there was no score and not everyone was even paying attention.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks Ben. I think mostly they need to get on base better but I do think they need to do better with men on base. Luck is a factor in that, but I think the Cubs do have to recognize hitting situations better.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Yup.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I agree, but probably a bigger difference between the ability to handle the emotions if one is a professional as opposed to recreational.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Very solid point. Different emotions altogether also.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks, John. I gotta tell you how much I appreciate you and the work you do. This is the first site I check every morning.

  • John, I'm intrigued with the statement that "clutch hitting is largely a myth." Can you explain why/how that is so or perhaps post a link to an article on that?

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    In reply to Nondorf:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2656

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    They are everywhere. You can google "clutch hitting myth" and find a number of articles. Mike linked one of the better ones from Baseball Prospectus.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In the given article he states, "In trying to get across the notion that no players possess a special ability to perform in particular situations, the usual line we use is that clutch performances exist, not clutch players. That's wrong. The correct idea is that clutch performances exist, and clutch players exist: every last one of them."
    The main reason I disagree with this statement and this idea as a whole is every team has its Darwin Barney. And further on there is Mr. Rizzo who was HORRABLE with runners on base this past year. BP states that given a large enough sample, players will hit in given situations pretty much as they do overall. I hope his sample so far changes pretty fast.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    The STL Cardinals batted something like .340 with RISP during the season, something unheard of.

    In the playoffs they were under .220 if i recall.

    It is totally arbitrary and the articles that you will find will basically say as much.

  • I had read a few weeks back that Cubs planning to increase payroll significantly in 2014. Do Hoyer's comments on sticking to the plan change that or you still expect a payroll north of $120M next year? Was that report on increased payroll likely just a plant to calm the nerves of anxious Cubs S/T holders and other fans?

  • In reply to SummersDay:

    The payroll is increasing by "20-25MM" from right now, not on top of last years. That would leave it at a similar number as last season.

  • In reply to SummersDay:

    They'll increase the payroll, but it won't be a huge increase. At least not one where you should expect the Cubs to get multiple impact players via free agency. I think the Cubs will spend as long as they can get the right player but they won't spend for guys who are primarily short term fixes.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John - here was the post I was referring to. You titled article as "25-35M increase over last year" - but I see you refer to the increase being over current obligations which indeed would be not a major change from last year. Thanks

    http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/11/source-cubs-will-increase-payroll-by-25-35m-over-last-year/#

  • In reply to SummersDay:

    Thanks. It does indicate some increase but you are right nothing to get excited over. Maybe it helps bring in a Tanaka, but definitely not enough for a large influx of free agents -- not expensive ones anyway.

  • In reply to SummersDay:

    Oh boy, here we go again.

    :)

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Thanks Irwin - that was a nice a@@@hole comment - what warranted it?

  • In reply to SummersDay:

    I don't think it was meant personally. When the article came out there were a lot of people who thought the same as you, and it turned into a huge mess with everyone arguing over it.

  • John, great article. Simply,how about a hitter who hits to right field with a runner on second and less than 2 outs? A quick, simple situational focus in the on deck circle instead of pulling a grounder to short. How is this focus so difficult?

  • In reply to edubbs:

    Thanks. I think some of it is the hitter and some credit goes to the pitcher. If I'm on the mound (and could actually pitch) and Darwin Barney is up (a hitter who likes to go the other way) and there is a man on second, for example, I would bust him inside and make it difficult for him to go to RF, but in general, I do think the Cubs have to get better at understanding the situation.

  • Tampa Bay just bumped Jeff Niemann off their 40-man roster and he has elected free agency.

    Sounds like the perfect candidate for the FO to go after and offer him an incentive laden deal. Certainly pitched well before injuries and is still only 30.

    Will attract a lot of offers, but we will see.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Could be an interesting guy to look into. I think hes a buy low guy but upside is somewhat limited -- but i can see him having a Feldman or Maholm type impact, which would be a big plus at the right cost.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    We may offer a better chance for him to get into a starting rotation than other teams as well. He's been solid his whole career. I think I would only want one of Niemann or Baker, though. I'm not crazy about putting two rehab projects on the 40 if it crunches someone like Beeler off.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Does Beeler really belong on the 40-man? He might pass through waivers for starters and secondly there are a ton of pitchers with comparable stuff and make up. I think a guy like Niemann would be far more valuable, even if the idea is to simply flip him if he is pitching well going into July. To me the risk of adding Niemann far outweighs the risk of losing Beeler.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Beeler would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Any team can get a look for 50K for the spring and keep him as long as they keep him on the 25 man roster.

    Niemann had shoulder surgery, probably not a very good risk at this point since he may not be healthy heading into the season. His stuff was never great to begin with. I'd rather have Beeler than a 30 year old pitcher with average stuff coming off of shoulder surgery. He's missed time throughout his career for the shoulder.

    My guess is Niemann gets a minor league deal at this point, so roster spot not even an issue with him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I wasn't aware of Niemann's surgery, but still, I don't see Beeler ever being much of a contributor at the major league level. It's a great story, but he just doesn't seem that impressive to me. You're talking about a guy who strikes out 3-5 batters per nine innings at AA. I'm sure he would go undrafted and if someone grabbed him and put him on a big league roster good for him.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Me neither. EMartinez reminded me.

    I'd still rather have Beeler than Niemann, though. He has a shot at being a cost-controlled reliever and possibly a back end starter for 6 years. Can always try and tweak his secondaries and see if you can't get a bit more movement and give him a second go-to pitch other than his FB. If not, he can probably be a solid situational RP.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Beeler has long reliever/mop up written all over him. And teams need those guys. I think there were two instances last year where a team left a SP in after giving up 10+ runs because they didn't have someone like Beeler available to be the martyr. In that essence, Beeler would be a cheaper and more cost-controlled option than Niemann.

    But for me, Beeler has as much value right now as he will ever have unless his secondaries improve. He has a great downward plane on his fastball and I heard the MLB guys repeatedly go to the Roy Halladay comparisons with regards to approach and deception, but he will need to change speeds better or command the strike zone with surgical precision to get a shot as a back end starter.

    If you don't miss bats in AA, you won't miss them in the majors. I hope he makes it, but I just think he is an organizational arm at best.

  • 1-Situational hitting, or the lack of same, is a game wide problem but the Cubs seem to worse at it than most.
    2-See comment 1, basically the same answer.
    3-Granted the Cubs are slow but using speed is about a lot more than stealing bases or having speed burners. It's about taking the extra base, going 1st to 3rd and always looking to go to the next base. In my 50 plus years of watching baseball, the only 2 organizations who have consistently understood this are the Cardinals and the Dodgers.
    4-I do think the defense has improved the last couple of years but it still has a ways to go, in my opinion. I do hope they continue the shifts as I think that played a large part in making Darwin Barney a Gold Glover.
    5-Admittedly I'm a baseball dinosaur but I believe the best way to improve any bullpen is to use it less. People tell me the game has changed and I agree that it has; I see more games blown in the 7th, 8th, and 9th in week now, than I used to see in a month, If a starter can't get into the 7th or 8th, I'd be looking for somebody who could.

  • In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Agree with your comments GAHillWilliam. There are going to be games when hits/walks are scarce. In those instances you for sure need to play small ball, i.e. steal a base. Right now we don't have that ingredient and we will lose those type games.

  • Any thoughts on signing someone along the lines of Micheal Morse for LF? Wouldn't be a long term contract and he would not really be blocking anyone, plus (when healthy) he's a proven power hitter.

  • In reply to VaCubFan:

    Terrible defensively. Worse than Soriano before McKay. Hes a DH , or at best, a marginal 1B. Seattle would have had him as the starter at 1b except he was so bad they tried to hide him in LF, and he couldnt stay healthy. Id pass.

  • http://www.baseballprospectus.com/standings/

    One formula has the Cubs 10 games worse than expected.

    Better years from Rizzo and Castro will go a long way, but so will a better babip. The Cubs were dead last at .275. A potential increase of .25 to a teams batting avg.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    Good stuff. Thanks for the link. If you think about it, what if the Cubs play up to that 10 game increase next year -- and then add a few more wins through trade/free agency? Things can turn around in a hurry.

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    Excellent article . Lets people understand the game from the inside out. Takes it to whole other level.

    I think situational hitting is something Renteria is going to preach.

    For a flawed young team w less then avg confidence, nothing can crush you more then a pen that continue to blow leads. I really hope they make this pen the strongest it possibly can be.

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