Our contributor Mike Moody brought up my least favorite GM in Cubs history -- Jim Frey. All the good will of winning as a manager in '84 was erased when he traded Lee Smith for Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper, then found himself needing a closer and trading Rafael Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer and a top pitching prospect in a deal to get one overrated year of Mitch Williams.
(Starts twitching uncontrollably, blood pressure rises, vein bulges from head)
I bring this up now because it is an example of not understanding proper value, in part because of a cartoonishly old school approach adopted by the Cubs GM at the time. Frey managed to dismantle the promising foundation Dallas Green had built despite the fact that that foundation is what got him into the playoffs in '89.n
Thank goodness those days are over.
(Breathes easy again)
With that, let's talk about some of the interesting pieces around the web lately...
Best Tools in MLB Draft
Chris Crawford and Keith Law came out with a different perspective for their latest collaboration on the MLB Draft. They rated players by their tools. I will break them down by top 6 prospects:
- Tyler Kolek: Best Fastball (HS)
- Carlos Rodon: Best Breaking Ball (College)
- Brady Aiken: Best Change-up (HS); Honorable mention for Breaking ball
- Aaron Nola: Best Change-up (College)
- Alex Jackson: Best Hit Tool (HS); Honorable Mention: Power
- Nick Gordon: Honorable Mention for Hit Tool, Best Arm *curiously, there is no honorable mentions for best glove, but I have to think Gordon would be on that (Milton Ramos was listed as best glove).
Additional Notes and thoughts
- I was surprised that Gordon was among the top prep hitters in the draft and there is some pop there, two scouts I asked rated Gordon with above average power down the road (55 grade). One scout, however, said Gordon's bat will require a bit of patience, may not happen anyway.
- Jackson is clearly the best hitter and is among the top power hitters as well in this year's class. The question is his position. One scout said if he knew he could catch, he'd make him a top 5 pick. The Cubs have two excellent tutors in Mark Johnson (Kane County) and Mike Borzello at the MLB level. It's Jackson's receiving, not throwing or pop times, that is the question and he told Law he'd love to try catching, which is contrary to some reports we've heard. If he wants to catch, then he becomes a lot more interesting in that top 5. He may go as high as #2 overall.
- Aiken is clearly the best all-around pitcher in draft and there seems zero chance he will reach the Cubs,
- Rodon (slider) and Kolek (fastball) individually have two of the best pitches in the draft -- probably the two best of all the healthy players. There is a chance that one drops to the Cubs if Jackson or even Gordon goes in the top 3.
- Nola has the best present change-up in the draft but after watching film on him, I struggled to come up with a similar arm slot for a successful big league starter. Madison Bumgarner? Maybe, but Nola's looks even lower. Maybe Dennis Eckersley or how about way back to Dizzy Dean? One thing even if those comparisons hold -- all had better stuff than Nola does. This isn't to say Nola can't make it as a starter, but the track record isn't there. Perhaps Nola breaks the mold and becomes a unique starter in his own right.
- Law has Rodon falling to the Cubs, meaning he will slip past the White Sox, who would seem to want an MLB ready arm if possible. That in itself brings up an interesting point. Many believe the engine behind the CBA changes was Jerry Reinsdorf, who has had well-documented struggles with Scott Boras (and a cozy relationship with the commissioner) over the past two decades. He helped institute a slotting system to prevent agents like Boras for making outrageous demands and manipulating the draft so that they can fall to a desired team and then sign overslot. This year's draft is a litmus test for Reinsdorf's anti-Boras CBA -- does he pick a Boras client such as Rodon (or Jackson)? Or does he pass as he has done for every first round since 1996, the year he drafted but did not sign Boras client Bobby Seay? I think this will be an interesting subplot that will continue should the Sox go with Rodon or Jackson. The negotiations could get interesting.
Another explanation of why we love advanced metrics
As I have mentioned, I'm not a statistical genius like Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. I'm more of a right-brained type who has a great appreciation for the additional knowledge statistics adds to my understanding of the game.
I wrote an article on the statistics we use and why we use them a while back and today, Cameron writes an excellent rebuttal to a Bob Ryan article that I think articulates much of what I feel.
In reality, I think casual fans value batting average, RBIs, and ERA because that’s what 100 years of baseball journalists have told them to value. These numbers are not the product of “the eye test”, as they were both created and placed on a pedestal in the age that preceded television. These statistics came to prominence at a time when the only way people could apply “the eye test” was to actually attend a game in person, and few did so more than a handful of times per year. The average fan being able to watch hundreds of baseball games and create their own evaluation based on what they themselves have seen is an extremely recent phenomenon.
In essence, Cameron writes that using new metrics doesn't take away from anyone's enjoyment of the game and they really are no more complex than other stats we use, but that advanced metrics search for a greater truth behind performance. Metrics like the "Holy Trinity" of average, HR, RBI, can often mislead and create fictional story lines.
Just as we do here, the story comes first, as Cameron notes...
The point of our community isn’t to promote the numbers; it’s to promote the story those numbers tell.
The problem with the “Holy Trinity” of statistics is that, far too often, they tell the wrong story. Putting value on things like pitcher wins or RBIs isn’t a choice about aesthetics or enjoyment; it’s about continually propagating myths at the expense of the truth. I think telling an accurate story is more important than telling a comfortable one, and the reality is that the numbers that are commonly used generate stories that are factually incorrect.
Like Cameron says, we're just trying to tell the right story here. Maybe it's not the story we want to hear. Maybe it seems counterintuitive to what you see on the field or how you've analyzed players in the past, but we're not here to be popular or write click-bait stories, we're here to dig a bit deeper and write what we feel is the best and most accurate story possible.
And we are thankful to be fortunate enough to have the kind of reader community who understands and embraces that.
Jeff Samardzija trade chatter
Samardzija has been the victim of poor run support and as such, provides a nice transition here because he has zero wins despite being among the best pitchers in baseball this year,
“The wins thing to me is frustrating, because in general I think it’s a stat we’ve all moved away from,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. “Unfortunately, I think it’s a big story because he’s now breaking records with his winless streak. But the way he’s pitched — he’s been as good as anybody in the National League. People recognize it.”
Olney wrote recently that front office people understand that Samardzija's value is extremely high and that they understand he will be very expensive to obtain.
Jim Bowden wrote that Samardzija will be among the most sought after pitchers as well, but then takes an odd turn. He suggests the Blue Jays should "strike quickly" and acquire Samardzija for the Cubs.
Sure, ok. That makes sense.
The problem is that Bowden says the Cubs should do that without trading top pitching prospects Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.
My problem is that those two statements are directly at odds with one another. If you want to acquire a player quickly the idea isn't to lowball them with an offer. You have to make them an offer that is so good that it eliminates any reason for that team to continue fielding offers.
Bowden's suggestion for such a trade is Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, and Mitch Nay.
Norris and Osuna are high ceiling pitchers currently pitching at the A ball level. Norris is a good pitcher have an outstanding season, but Jason Parks sees a #3 starter with a more realistic outcome as a #4 or #5. Given he's at A ball and had command issues in the past, he's still a significant risk. Osuna meanwhile, has questions about his health, makeup, and work ethic -- and doesn't even make Parks' top 10. Nay, a 3B now, is a solid hitter who has defensive questions, so many think he ends up at 1B.
This is the package that gets the Cubs running to the table shouting, "hold all my calls!!"???
If the Jays want to strike quickly than there is a price for quickly eliminating the competition to get a deal done quickly, and that price starts with Stroman and/or Sanchez.
Otherwise, the Cubs can wait.