A look at the Cubs rotation options: Part 1

A look at the Cubs rotation options: Part 1

Without question, the most interesting thing about this offseason will be how the Cubs complete their pitching staff.  There are 3 pitchers from their season-long rotation under contract in Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, and Edwin Jackson.  The Cubs perceived organizational weakness has been pitching, yet Kyle Hendricks has shown he has a chance to be a part of the rotation next season.   Dallas Beeler has also had some success in his brief audition while Eric Jokisch has impressed at Iowa.

The Cubs have also taken some interesting flyers.  LHP Tsuyoshi Wada was acquired last offseason.  He was originally signed as a free agent by the Orioles but injuries have kept him out of the majors until this season.  Since then, the Cubs have added RHPs Dan Straily and Jacob Turner as well as LHP Felix Doubront.  All have MLB starting experience and the latter two were once considered very good prospects.

In case you lost count, that makes 10 pitchers all vying for a spot or two in the 2015 Cubs rotation.   We'll cover them in two parts, as the Cubs sudden plethora of depth would make fitting them all in one piece a little unwieldy.

Returnees for next season: Jake Arrieta and Travis Wood

Jake Arrieta's season has not been a fluke.  The peripherals match the results.  The 25.6% K rate (9.22 per 9 IP) and 6.6% walk rate (2.37 per 9 IP) are excellent.  The FIP of 2.37 is even lower than his 2.77 ERA.  Arrieta has always had great stuff but a shift in approach seems to have made the difference.  A heavier reliance on his cutter, especially in fastball counts, has given him a pitch he can control, yet has been tough for hitters to square up.  It has given him a go-to pitch that has gotten him out of difficult situations much more efficiently.

Travis Wood was a fluke in some senses and his excellent results gave some fans some unrealistic expectations for this season.  That is not to say he isn't good or can't be a part of this rotation long term.  It just says that Wood outpitched his peripherals last season en route to a 9-12 season with a 3.11 ERA.  This year there has been a slight uptick in his FIP -- from 3.89 to 4.14 -- that is primarily due to an increase in his walk rate from 8% to 9.8%.  He has walked roughly 4 batters per 9 IP this year compared to 3 last season.  But what has compounded this uptick in walks is that for all the good luck Wood had last year, it has evened out with bad luck this year.  The BABIP is at .321 compared to .248 last year.  The strand rate has dropped from 77% to 66%.

If there has been a significant change in his stuff, it's that his cutter has been far less effective.  Hitters batted .221 with a .333 slugging pct against it last year.  This year they have batted .337 with a .434 slugging percentage.  He has given up a lot more hits, but hasn't necessarily been hit all that hard, the line drive rate is roughly the same and ISO is actually down.  He has also been getting less groundballs and less whiffs on his sinker this year.

Which is the real Travis Wood?  The answer is that it is somewhere in between.  I don't think there is anything that can't be tweaked here and he has swung too far the other way in terms of luck,.  He's not a 3 ERA pitcher but he's also not a 5 ERA pitcher.  He should settle in between the high 3s and the low 4s.  Realistically he's a 4th starter and it his low cost, that's solid value.

The question mark: Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson has not been good.  I can tell you his peripherals are better than his results (they are), but you know and I know that that story is getting old.  The distance between those peripherals and results seems to be increasing.  The walks and BABIP are up for the 2nd straight year and the strand rate remains low.  The velo is down slightly again for the 4th straight season.  Yet Jackson still has that FIP (4.14) and xFIP (3.98) at right around his career averages.

He has gone through three of the best pitching coaches in recent history in Dave Duncan, Don Cooper, and now Chris Bosio.  He is a good character guy so there is no easy explanation here.   The answers are elusive.

The Cubs will have to make a decision on Jackson this offseason.  They will not be able to recoup their investment in a trade and will certainly have to pay down his salary to move him.  Do they call this a sunk cost and move on...or does he get another chance?

There is little question the Cubs can get better results than what Jackson has provided over the past two years.  The question with Jackson may be this:  Do they feel reasonably confident they can replace the pitcher that Jackson should be?  In other words, do they think they can find another pitcher who can eat innings and give them something in that high 3/low 4 ERA range?

I think they can.

That is different than the previous season where that option just wasn't available.  That is why the Cubs signed Jackson to begin with.  There was nobody to fill that role.  Now there are several candidates, so his future with the Cubs is now in question.

The Midseason Reinforcements: Kyle Hendricks, Tsuyoshi Wada, Dallas Beeler

We can get all gaga over Kyle Hendricks great start and we should definitely be happy...so far.  He is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA.  But we have to be realistic here.  He is not going to keep getting those kind of results.  He doesn't miss enough bats (5.5 Ks per 9 IP). There are too many balls put in play and very view of them have found holes (.245 BABIP).  Even the great Greg Maddux achieved that number for an entire season just once in his entire illustrious career.  It's unrealistic to think we can expect this from Hendricks.  So either he is going to start missing more bats or his ERA is going to go up.  How much?

Well that depends.

If Hendricks allows a league average BABIP of around .300, we should expect that ERA to be in the low 4s.  If he can replicate the BABIPs he allowed at the minor league level (around the .275 range), then we can expect an ERA in the high 3s.

That is what Jackson was supposed to be and it is likely similar to what Hendricks will be.  Can I live with that?  Absolutely, especially at his cost and his potential to eat innings with his low effort, efficient style of pitching.

The other boost has come from Tsuyoshi Wada and I will be the first to admit I was wrong on him.  I did not think he would be this good.  But his fastball has improved (88-91 mph) and in fact, has been better than Wood's this season.  He has shown a solid change and the slider has not been great, but good enough to at least keep hitters honest.

In some ways, he duplicates Wood.  He is lefty, roughly the same size (5'11", 180), and has around the same velocity.  The repertoire is similar except that Wada does not throw a cutter and relies more on his 4-seamer than Wood.  He also throws a splitter that gets him some swings and misses.  Wada has some deception and he has enough command to effectively change eye levels, making his 4-seamer more effective than you would normally expect given his velocity.  Of course, he can get burned if he doesn't locate or the hitter just guesses right -- and HRs were one issue he had at AAA.

Wada has been almost as good as Hendricks, posting a 3.25 ERA and a slightly better FIP than Hendricks (3.35 vs. 3.46).  Both pitchers have been worth half a win in their short time here.

It seems possible either one can replace Edwin Jackson's production (who as been worth 0.9 of a win all season) at lower cost.

The encouraging performances of both pitchers gives the Cubs a few things: depth, flexibility, alternatives, options.  It will be interesting to see how that comes into play this offseason.

Dallas Beeler is also on that list of alternatives but doesn't project as well as the other two.  He generates a ton of groundball outs with his sinker but it is also a pitch that often gets put in play, making him vulnerable to the whims of BABIP.  He is dependent on his defense, getting less swings and misses than even Hendricks, who gets some whiffs from his change. Beeler also doesn't possess the same kind of command as Hendricks, so his ability to draw weak contact may not be as consistent .  Right now I see Beeler filling a Chris Rusin type role in that he can be sent up and down.  He has options and he can be a depth option that affords the Cubs flexibility and emergency insurance against injuries.  Its a role that gives him a niche for now and perhaps something he can build on if he can develop a second consistent pitch to keep hitters off his sinker.

The Cubs may not have top of the rotation pitchers in their system right now, and certainly not at the upper levels, but they do have low cost alternatives.  They could provide solid production at great value at the bottom of the rotation.  That in itself is an asset because it preserves payroll flexibility that can be used on free agent pitchers such as Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, or others.  Between all the pitchers mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Cubs have increased the odds that they can fill those roles in-house and at low cost.

Tomorrow I will look at the Cubs latest acquisitions: Dan Straily, Felix Doubront, and Jacob Turner and the possibility of acquiring more pitching via free agency.

Filed under: Analysis, Starting rotation

Comments

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  • Who are some of the non-top prospects who could be packaged
    in a deal for very young pitching prospects

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    All of them. Not all at once though ;)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Could that be the plan? You can get depth, but not impact from all these pitching prospects. The best pitchers in the game are all first round picks or IFA's.

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    In reply to bzalisko:

    You're right for the most part. But there are plenty of hidden gems in the middle to late rounds that have certainly made their mark in the game

    Mark Buherle - 38th rd
    Cliff Lee - 8th rd
    Mat Latos - 11th rd
    Lester (57th) and Lackey (68th) were both late second rounders

    just to name a few. I'm sure there's plenty more examples.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    ...including this year's HOF entries Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who both went in the 2nd round.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    i think guys like vogelbach, christian villanueva, amaya, candelario, marco hernandez are young secondary prospects that could be traded for pitching

  • Great article John and a nice carry-over from several conversations that you've been having in the comments of other posts.

    Quick question: when do you think Wood's arb-eligible salary starts to eclipse his value? Will he be the best trade candidate if the Cubs think they can keep Wada/Hendricks going and/or turn one of Doubront/Turner/Strailly into effective starters?

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Thanks. I think sometimes you guys just give me ideas and there is so much to say in a situation like this that I figured it might be better to write an article -- or in this case, two of them.

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    Very good writing, John. That is some of the best and most realistic analysis of the Cubs "in house" options at starting pitcher.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thank you, Joel.

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    Well that was quick John, LOL. Thanks for the article and I look forward to part 2

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Haha! it was actually already written. I just wanted to give Mauricio's podcast some time.

  • I'm a bit higher on Beeler than are you John - but it is absolutely true that his upside is more limited, and unless he can come up with something curvy or offspeed to complement his good sinking fastball - he's going to get banged around a lot the days he is even a bit off. He's kind of 'built' for Wrigley on days when the wind is blowing out as at least his risk is relatively low.

    I wonder if anybody has tried to teach him a Knuckle-Curve or a Split-Finger pitch?,...

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I really like the sinker and the slider shows flashes. If it was consistently good then he can be your classic sinker/slider innings eater. Command has to be consistent too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Superb writing and great reasoning as usual, John. Really enjoyed it.

    For all the good in Hendricks, it's worth remembering we've already seen the 'downside' of not being able to put people away with velo at times.

    Wada's been a fooler, John. He's pitched far better up here than you'd commented he had at Iowa.

    I'll be eagerly awaiting your thoughts on the rest. BTW, there's a fabulous article on Grantland today that really rips the Marlins for dumping Turner as well as COL for not being in on him. More good fortune for the Cubs!!

  • I like Jackson's stuff, but at this point he just seems to be in the way. I vote for sunk cost.

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    Is it possible Jackson could provide some value as an 8th inning guy? I am sure this has been discussed on here before, but I think before the argument against such a move was that he would lose all trade value. Is there any trade value either way? In 2015, if they are to become a winning team, isn't the bullpen the place where the Cubs can get the most out of Jackson?

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    He's terrible with base runners on. He can't pitch from the stretch! Not the guy I want to be on the bump in a tight game. Also, what good is a BP arm if he can't inherit base runners?

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    My take on Jackson: next season Pierce Johnson is coming and coming big. Let Jackson compete with the Beeler, Wada, Jokish, Doubront, Turner contingent for the fifth starter's slot. If he doesn't win it, he goes to the bullpen. If he does win it and remains ineffective, Pierce Johnson will be able to snatch the spot from him mid-to-late next year, anyway. If he wins it and is effective, there's an off chance you can move him and the season and a half remaining on his contract when Johnson is ready.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think a Jackson move to the bullpen is possible, but unless he can close.... man, that is one expensive middle reliever. I'd just as soon trade him while he has starter value and salvage something. The irony there, though is that you probably get a middle reliever back.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was kind of wondering the similar thing. Villanueva is up at the end of the year I believe and made something like $5 mil a year. Jackson can actually take that role to spot start and eat up some innings. Obviously not ideal, but if talking about sunk cost and eating salary especially since he was more paid upfront may not be real bad. The other part that I am unsure about is arb eligible years etc for some of these other guys as some of that plays into things as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And there is the matter of his early innings troubles. Not sometime you want to see coming ot of the bulpen.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Does anyone know his WHIP or ERA in just the first inning.

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    In reply to Moonlight:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=jacksed01&year=2014&t=p

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks for the link. The first inning is his nemesis. Not a good split for a potential reliever. Unless you have him throw his first inning in the 'pen. LOL

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    If they had a indoor batting cage, he could throw to Junior for an inning or two before he takes the mound:<)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks Mike. The 1st inning is pretty ugly.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He would take Villanueva's spot. The upside is that when people accuse Ricketts of being cheap we can respond, "How many teams play their mop up guy $11 million a season?"

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, that ought to end any arguments about the cubs efficient budgeting. LOL

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, you stole my thunder. I was going to say, the Cubs wont pay Villanueva for anything more than his currently value sits at. Which isn't much. So I think if we don't dump this salary, or get anything close to his value in return, that's exactly the role he should play. You and John do a fantastic job, along with everyone that writes under you two.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't like the idea of Jackson to the bullpen. I don't have stats in front of me to back this up, so I may be wrong, but it seems like he always gives up run(s) in his first inning or two. Not want you want from a reliever (especially a closer), who may only pitch an inning or two. I was going to metion Carlos Villaneuva, but I just noticed someone beat me to it below......

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Unless Jackson starts pitching better, I'm not sure you could even get a middle reliever back, unless the Cubs agreed to pick up all of Jackson's salary. If they have to eat all, or most, of the salary they might as well stick him in the Villanueva role.

    Hopefully he pitches well the final month and a half and the Cubs can trade him during the offseason. I don't even care if they get anything for him if some team is willing to pick up all his salary.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Regardless of trade value, I don't think that Jackson would work in the bullpen. As somebody pointed out to me, he is much worse out of the stretch, and looking at his stats he certainly wilts under pressure...

    Bases Empty: .262/.330/.432 = .762 OPS against
    Men on Base: .316/.401/.514 = .915 OPS against

    Low Leverage: .245/.310/.390 = .700 OPS against (90.8% LOB)
    Med Leverage: .310/.399/.534 = .933 OPS against (56.5% LOB)
    High Leverage: .407/.440/.520 = .960 OPS against (-36.4% LOB!!!)

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Just to play devil's advocate is there another way to interpret those stats?

    Could it be that when he has his "good stuff" there are not very many runners on base? When he is struggling there are more (even A LOT) of runners on base? If that is the case, couldn't we just as easily conclude that when he struggles he also struggles with men on base and when he is successful he keeps runners off base. I am just reversing the cause and effect.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    RE: "couldn't we just as easily conclude that when he struggles he also struggles with men on base and when he is successful he keeps runners off base."

    No, the numbers show that whether he is having a good game or a bad game, when their is runners on base he clearly is much worse, and leverage by definition means that their is a greater chance for the other team to score, during which times he fails miserably.

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    How do they control for if a player is having a good game or bad game. I can't find the exact formula for high/medium/low leverage situations but I am familiar with the formula for "bases empty" vs. "men on base" and it, in no way, controls for "good/bad game." The only information I can find for the different leverages is, as you describe, situations where there are runners on base (preferably in scoring position) with less than 2 outs and, therefore, more likely to score than bases empty with 2 outs.

    My proposal is that a plausible scenario that might result in the numbers you have posted would be this.

    Believe it or not there are games where Jackson does well. He has command over his pitches and/or is facing a weak line-up. In these games he will likely have many more situations with bases empty (he pitched well enough not to let people on base). In these situations he would also face relatively few "medium" or "high" leverage situations. Again, he pitched well enough that he didn't have many runners getting far on the basepaths, and, when he did it was probably with 2 outs.

    Conversely, there are games where, due to lack of command or a good opposing line-up, he is on the ropes all day. In these games he will likely pitch himself into lots of situations of "men on base" and Medium/High leverage situations. He pitched poorly to get himself into these jams and he is not someone particularly able to get himself out of jams so I would anticipate that he would struggle in these situations having nothing to do with whether he is "pitching out of the stretch."

    So, my question is, how are these scenarios accounted for (and neutralized) in these statistics? Again, I am more familiar with the "men on base" one and that one does not control for this at all. It simply takes the plate appearances of any and all batters against him without runners on base and calculates the result of that PA, and then takes any and all PAs with runners on base and calculates the result of that PA.

    Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that Edwin Jackson isn't all that bad (he is) but that I don't see how these stats necessarily illustrate that.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The stats are what they are. The anecdotal situations you describe are true for all pitchers and yet statistics are the only thing we have to measure production in certain situations. Also, if you actually take a look at Jackson's game logs you will see that the scenario you are describing is not true, i.e. even in games where Jackson doesn't give up many runs he still gives up base runners and not necessarily less than in his good games (the games where he gives up less runs).

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Edit: and not necessarily less than in his bad games (the games where he gives up more runs).

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    How many innings is Johnson going to be able to throw next season? The most he's thrown is 118 in 2013. I guess they could limit his innings early next season, but I'm not sure how many innings he would be able to give the Cubs mid-to-late next season (if he's pitching well enough to be in the conversation to pitch in Chi next season).

  • At this point given the minor league talent we have coming and the amount of time it will probably take to figure out Doubront, Turner, and Straily...I say just dump Jackson for a low level anything prospect just to clear a 25 and 40 man roster spot. Roster spots are going to start becoming very valuable very soon.

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    In reply to Hoosier Gus:

    I think we crossed that line when Baez jumped from non-roster to 25-man active roster. I agree with you, though, just trade him and offer to pay some of his contract (since we don't exactly have a bloated payroll) and see if we can get an A-ball "organizational talent" back.

  • With the very high cost of veteran pitchers we should try our very best
    to develop or acquire our own

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    They got Feldman and Hammell for 6 mil. a year. Travis Wood for a middle reliever. Arrietta for a rent a player. You can get veteran pitching, without breaking the bank. Pitchers are unreliable. Don't spend too much. Ask the Cardinals about all their great young guns this season.
    Theo and the boys are smart. They know they can find pitching. Position players is where to invest.

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    Position players tend to hold their value too (at least those not named Ryan Howard). Their rises and falls tend to be much more gradual. And rarely do you hear of a "career threatening/ending injury" for a position player.

  • Marshall was hardly "a middle reliever". He was probably the best (or close to it) left-handed set-up man in MLB.

    I do agree with you though that Theo has/can find good pitching without breaking the bank. I'd still like to see Theo/Jed spend big bucks to bring in a TOR pitcher, like Lester. They would still have a ton of payroll flexibility, so it's worth the risk because TOR pitchers are very hard to find.

  • I'm certainly not a guru of the art of pitching, but I feel like bringing Jackson out of the bullpen would be like pouring gasoline on a fire. I rather get rid of him and take the financial lose once we start becoming a competitive force.

  • The baseball gods really want Ejax in a Tigers or Dodgers uni. If he has .9 War then maybe that equates to like 1.2 over a full season. That's about a 7 mil. Pitcher leaving some potential upside for the acquiring team. Ejax and 10 mil for a bag of peanuts and a playoff ticket?

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    What is Edwin Jackson's trade value to another team? I would love an expert's take, but I just wonder what a realistic expectation is.

    He has some value because he is durable, has good stuff still, and a good track record. Many teams may figure they can work with him to get him back to the quality innings-eater he was previously. My guess is that he is worth $6 mil to $8 mil per year, which means we would have to eat some $$$$ or otherwise balance the deal to make up the $6 mil to $10 mil of negative value

    I could be wrong in my assessment, but wondering what value he has

  • In reply to Zonk:

    If I'm a GM, he is a replacement level, bottom of rotation pitcher, which I can probably pluck from my AAA squad at a cost of $500,000 per year. So that means he is worth approximately -10,500,000/year.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I am certainly no expert but your value on Jackson is in the middle of a range between his recent WAR value and what a team would reasonably give in salary relief. At 2.0 WAR he is worth approximately $13M (last year) and he only projects to about 1.2 WAR this year. His peripherals might be better than his ERA suggests but I do not see a team giving more than $4M/yr in salary back to Chicago for Jackson right now. With $24M to be paid after this season, I think the Cubs would take $10M to unload him and even $5-6M with a decent prospect thrown in. My guess is another team will take that deal.

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    I'm not ready to hand anything to Arietta just yet. He's had more failure than success the past couple years, and his start in Denver showed that he can lose the feel at any time. It's fine to go into next year cautiously optimistic about him, but in 2016 if we're still "hoping he can find the form of 2014 ", we're in big trouble.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    Yeah, and it is not like anyone else has had trouble pitching in Denver. That was 1 start. Outside of that he has been very good.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    All the data about Arrieta shows that this is for real, both when you look at his peripherals and his stuff. It can be directly traced to a change in his approach. It's likely just a matter of him staying healthy and he should continue to be effective. And I certainly wouldn't look at one start in Colorado as evidence to the contrary.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not saying this year is smoke and mirrors, I'm just saying let's see him keep up those peripherals a while before we assume he's a #2. What is his BABIP? ( or I could look it up)

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Peripherals tend to remain relatively constant, that's why we use them so much here. I have to admit I probably use the term peripherals far too generically, but generally what I am looking at are the things a pitcher can control (BBs, K, HRs) vs. the things he cannot (BABIP, LOB%). Unless Arrieta suddenly regresses, which we wouldn't expect at his age, then we can assume he will continue to pitch at or around the same level. Nothing is a guarantee, but I am just playing statistical probabilities on this.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've been curious lately on some stats such as babip and lob percent so hopefully you can clarify these for me. If a hitter has a low babip such as anthony rizzo of 2013 obviously that year could be contributed to bad luck but a huge part of his struggles can be attributed to the high frequency of soft ground balls to the right sight which are generally outs, where as a line drive hitter will have a higher babip mainly because line drives are more likely to be hits than soft ground balls. Rizzo of 2014 has been making consistently harder contact so his babip is much better than last year. So the underlying issue I have with babip is a player who makes weak contact regularly will therefore make easy outs and have the lower babip. Bad luck may not be the issue here then just a worse hitter. Same goes for lob. A better pitcher who leaves less pitches in the zone and initiates weak contact or misses bats will theoretically have a higher lob rate that cannot be attributed to something out of his control. I suppose these stats are best used in conjuction with other metrics but I do believe there is more too it than just luck.

    P.S: you guys do awesome work here and I always appreciate the daily cubs den read!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    And BABIP is .282 which is not especially low and considering he is difficult to square up, perfectly reasonable. The LOB% is league average.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I love the way Rent has developed the team this year but he hung Arrieta out to dry in that game.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Wasn't that the game following an extra inning game where RR burned most of the relief staff? Arrieta still had a low pitch count and the game was out of control midway through that inning. No one warming up to start the inning and by the time it went south it was too late for the game. If Arrieta can't handle a bad outing then maybe he isn't as good as his numbers show.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    If you expect a starter to never have a bad game, better grab a Snickers bar. Every starter is capable of "losing the feel at any time." Even the vaunted Jon Lester that everyone is clamoring to pay megabucks for on this blog gave up 7 earned runs on 10 hits in 6 innings against Toronto this year, similar numbers to Arrieta's infamous Denver game.

  • Great read, John.

  • Jackson and prospects for anybody good and fairly young

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Well that narrows that down.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Why would anyone give up somebody good for EJax right now?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sad but true John! IMO, a likely chance of moving EJax would be to take a bad contract in return. There was a rumor at the trade deadline that the Braves were close to moving BJ Upton in return for another bad contract. Given that the Cubs and Braves seem to have a good trading relationship, I couldn't help but think the unidentified team mentioned in the rumor might have been the Cubs. Not saying I would want anything to do with BJ Upton but Jackson really gives us very few options.

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    In reply to Pepitone8:

    BJ Upton is an interesting trade match, though he is one player that has less trade value than E-Jax....the Braves would have to pay us, AND take on E-Jax, given the $45 mil or so left on BJ's contract.

    Thing is though the Braves have lots of pitching options, their problem is lack of offense. E-Jax won't help them.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    It is sad, but I have to say the Cubs lose a lot of money in that deal. Upton has become terrible, every bit as bad as Jackson but a longer, more expensive deal. I'd rather have money and shorter deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Chris Bosio is working miracles the the pitching retreads, maybe he could turn his attention to hitting retreads such as Upton.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Ha! I've seen Bosio hit. I don't know if that's a good idea.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I had been half - expecting an Andre Either for Jackson deal once LA got hit with injuries and everyone passed through waivers. Not saying I would like it, but your trash for mine, see if you can fix him type deal.

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    Ethier may make more sense in that kind of deal, but even then the money is tricky. Not sure Cubs want to pay the $35M left after the difference and not sure LAD would want to pitch in money just to get EJax.

  • I don't see TOR pitching as a problem for the Cubs, this is what they've cleared the budget for over the last 3 years. A $140MM payroll declines to $40MM, that leaves a LOT of room to go sign the big boys to front the rotation. Then, you get to choose 3 out of 10 arms for the 3-4-5 spots, that should be easy with one of them already a given (Arrieta). Dare I say this offseason will be Team Theo's most important for making The Plan a reality?

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    It WILL be, for several reasons.

  • Any chance they shut down Arrieta early this year due to max innings issues and use his slot to give Turner, Dubront, etc. a look-see?

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    An interesting idea - would probably be a good idea IF there is any concern about his shoulder problem from Spring popping back up.

    I think that getting to assess some of the other guys more on the bubble than Arrieta would be a pleasant side effect as well. I am very interested to see how Strailey, Beeler and Turner (in particular) fare against competitive NL hitters.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Arrieta didn't pitch much in ST and most of April. He's been a starter most of his career, why do you think he needs to be shut down? If you want to skip a start to see if Turner/Strailly ,etc need audition time I think that's fine but I don't think he needs to go on innings limit.

  • How bout a six man rotation in Sept?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Would serve a couple of purposes,.... not generally a 'fan' of that kind of rotation as it usually means that the bottom 3-4 in that rotation just plain stink,.....

    But if it gives RR and Bosio a chance to get a good look at Doubront, Turner, and/or Strailey - it might be worth a try.

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    What do we think of Erik Jokisch? He probably is more of a depth guy a la Rusin, but feel like he'll factor in somehow. Cubs will have a decision coming up on whether to roster him, so I guess we'll find out what the organization thinks of him or not.

  • Obviously quality TOR pitching is our biggest need but it seems there may be good value in quantity reclamation projects again this year. I see Lester at 5/110. But I also see Masterson 3/30, McCarthy 2/17 and Brett Anderson 1/10 costing about half of that. Anderson especially is intriguing to me. He just had back surgery so the Rocks are unlikely to pick up his option. but his arm looked sound and he was pitching well when on the mound.

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    Of course this stuff has been talked about on here for a long time. But it's nice to see it elsewhere. http://grantland.com/the-triangle/chicago-cubs-rebuilding-theo-epstein-javier-baez-kris-bryant-jake-arrieta/
    The Cubs look to draft bats and look for pitchers who under pitch their peripherals. On a side note Millar getting cut by the Marlins blows my mind.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    "On a side note Millar getting cut by the Marlins" ?? That was about 11 years ago.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Ah, You meant Turner. All is clear now.

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    In reply to Oneear:

    Sorry I wasn't clear on that. I didn't realize how good of numbers Millar put up in 2002. A .300 average, I had always assumed he was underwhelming before going to Boston. Seems Theo has done well raiding Miami.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Volstad.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    LOL the bit about the Jacob Turner claim:

    "......possibly because the Rockies are so rich in pitching that they just don’t have the room for him, or possibly because they’re a completely clueless organization that doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing."

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    In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    The Rockies are not a well respected organization. Even with Turner's flaws, he has more present value than Matt Belisle, Yohan Flande, and Franklin Morales on their roster. Their front office is a shambles right now.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I have a cousin that lives in the Denver area and is a huge Cubs fan. He's always teasing his friends who are Rockies fans about their inept front office.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Thank you Sean for that article. Zany writes almost as well as our own John Arguello.

  • In reply to John57:

    Oops, his name is Rany not Zany. Sorry.

  • In reply to John57:

    Haha! Rany is definitely a great writer.

  • I think it will be interesting on the Lester front this off season. The B Sox owner has been on record as saying a long term contract for a 30 yr. old pitcher is the worse in baseball. I wonder if Theo shares this sentiment or thinks Lester is the exception. The track record for No. 1's going deep in the playoffs have been troubling. Cain, CC, Verlander and even Wainright looks like they have worn down and they are horses.

    An alternative may be the Royals and O.s staffs that try and shorten the game with the bullpen. A safer route may be a FA SP below Max and Lester and sign Andruw Miller. We can count on the FO to go into the off season with theit eye's open, which hasn't always been the case In the past.

  • Great article, I love these ones where you break down what we have all been talking about. It's like an interactive custom sports section (the future, lol?) I'm really looking forward to tomorrow when you will discuss the new guys, i.e. Turner, Doubront, and Straily (who has been really good in his last 2 starts). I wonder if you can track down what Straily's velocity was yesterday (Perhaps a tweet/message to Randy Wehofer tonight would do the trick coming from you?), as that is a big part of what his future might hold in my opinion. Also, I hope that you will add in the Northwestern kid, Erik Jokisch to tomorrows report, as he seems to really be coming on of late. I've never seen him pitch though so I don't know much about him (I assumed he was a Rusin type). Once again, thanks for the very informative articles.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Jokisch is in tomorrow's piece, not that I have it written yet, but he is one we will mention -- he is a long shot, though. Could be in that Beeler role as AAA depth

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Awesome, look forward to reading it.

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    With E Jax

    its going to be addition by subtraction

    the cubs will be a better team without him
    If the cubs have Arrieta, Wood, Hendricks, Wada, and a FA
    ( Lester, Scherzer, Hammels, Shields)
    with Beeler, Dubrount for depth - team could be in the wild card hunt.

  • Dumping Jackson for the sake of dumping goes against how this FO does things.

    As of right now, there is no one pushing him for a spot. Even if we sign a #1 for next year, EJaxx lines up as a 5.

    Let him fight it out in ST next year and if he doesn't win the job, he is the long man in the pen. Let the year run out and see if he can turn things around. The $11 million is a sunk cost and is not a burden on the team and isn't holding us back from acquiring anyone else.

    I also have a hunch he is a bit of a mentor for CJ.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    they have nothing o the books next year except rizzo, castro, and Jackson - they can easily move on.

    they ate 90% of $$ owed to Soriano so Id disagree with you on that.

    coming off the books are Soriano, Fujikawa, Villaneuva etc

    Cubs only have 30 Million committed next year

  • I really like what I've seen so far of Hendricks. Admittedly it is only been a brief time, and hitters will be better educated about him as he goes through the league a couple times, but he does look like he could be special.

    He reminds me of that hard to define running back type. There's the type that has great explosive speed. Then there is the type who is great due to being very powerful, and can bowl people over. Then there's the third type who doesn't have elite speed or elite power, but manages to just snake through tacklers through elusiveness.

    Hendricks seems to me to be like the third type of running back. Not great measurables, but still is snaky enough that he can consistently get hitters out.

  • Terrific analysis (as always) John. Cold hard sabermetrics mixed in with just a dose of optimism that gets me through lackluster games like last night against the Brewers. But let me try to simplify this analysis: Isn't it safe to say that the 2015 roster MUST include a SP making somewhere near 20 mill per annum? I realize that is a broad generalization, but I think a successful rebuild requires a proven "horse" at the front of the rotation. Simple as that.

  • In reply to JimmyLeeMcMath:

    Thank you. Yes, I think the Cubs are going to have to spend and will definitely talk about bringing in a Lester or a Scherzer or whomever they can-- and I think being able to fill out the 4/5 spots with low cost guys makes that a much easier pill to swallow.

  • John, any interest in giving Grimm a chance at the rotation? It seems like he has a broad enough repertoire to make it as a starter, and while I realize he was a flop in Texas, those were extremely difficult circumstances. Called up to be an emergency starter in April 2013, he was lights out for the first 17 innings before the Rangers started tinkering with his arsenal. The wheels fell off, but now that he's gained confidence getting major league hitters out as a Cub, it seems like he's earned a fresh opportunity to start.

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    In reply to Taft:

    Prefer Ramirez.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I think there is some interest but it has been lessened with all the acquisitions. I think it's on the backburner but if the Cubs don't like any of their options going into next season, that could change.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I think he would then just get put in the same catagory as Straily, Turner, and Dubrount and I am not sure that is better than what he has accomplished this year. I think there is potential in the 3 new guys.

  • Whatever happened to James McDonald?

  • In reply to SunnyD:

    Shoulder injury in spring training. He's been on the 60-day DL ever since.

  • Felix Doubront & the Iowa Cubs are going against Noah Syndergaard and the Vegas 51's. Soler out of the lineup tonight (part of his regimen)...although I'm hoping Soler gets a PH opportunity to take Thor deep (or at least a double).

  • Nice writeup John. I am much more looking forward to the followup piece as everyone here is a fairly well known commodity.

    Im really rooting for Turner to ne the plum of the crop< be interested to see if he turns out to be more Arieta or more Volstad.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    Thanks. Figured I would give a different quick slant on each guy and look at the numbers beyond the usual numbers. Second piece will be more scouting oriented.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, we know Turner is out of options, but how many more option years are left for Straily and Doubront?

    If they don't have any, spring training is going to be very interesting. If the Cubs sign a FA starter or two, and more than one of Turner, Straily and Doubront performs well, the Cubs will be in an interesting position having to trade one of them before the season starts.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Straily has options but not Doubront.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am guessing Jackson will come to camp next year but if he enough people have good showings he might be DFA'd and not even make the roster.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    DFA would meant they'd eat his salary. They'll probably try to trade him between offsason and spring.

  • if Hendricks gets a good slider lookout !!!

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I would be thrilled with an average one. Probably could get by with a slightly below average one. Right now it's well below.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i pitched in college and i felt a slider was one of the easiest pitches to throw accurately. (you have to be able to snap it off) mine was about 3-5 miles off my fastball. granted i am left handed but if hendricks get that i really feel like he is a definite MOR type of pitcher or better.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I couldn't throw a slider, but I wasn't a pitcher. Could throw 4 seam, 2 seam and a change.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i learned the change up against righties as a screwball (i pitched shortly after fernando 85-88) it was a great strikeout pitch but really messed up my elbow. a circle change is the most under appreciated pitch in baseball.

  • Sometimes, if the numbers don't seem to make sense, then you go by the eye test. Jackson has never passed the eye test for me. I'm not a psychologist (I just play one here), but his mound presence (or lack thereof) reminds me of Volstad's. It's like he doesn't trust his stuff enough when the going gets tough. Look at a guy like Hendricks; his stuff isn't great, but he has confidence in it, along with a plan. I don't really see either from Jackson. I just wish I knew what to do with him lol.

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    Thanks for all info. Depth can't be underestimated.

  • In reply to Darkmice:

    Thank you and agreed, especially the way pitchers go down,

  • I'm watching the Milwaukee TV broadcast of the game(I go to school in Milwaukee) and it is really nice to hear all the praise they are giving the Cubs young players and upcoming prospects. They have a very good and knowledgeable broadcast. One thing that stood out is that they were talking about how good Hendrix hides the ball in his delivery. This is another important factor to project his future. They even compared him, in that aspect, to Jared Weaver.

  • I would love the cubs and dodgers do a trade of Jackson for Ethier. The Cubs need an outfield bat for next year and the Dodgers need to move an outfielder.

  • In reply to Someday1684:

    The Dodgers usually go for the best most expensive pitchers. I don't think Jackson fits their profile for a pitcher.

  • Dear Ryan Dempster,
    Thank you for not accepting the trade to Atlanta and accepting the deal to Texas. This Hendricks kid just might be good.
    Sincerely, all Cubs fans

  • In reply to lets go cubs:

    It's crazy, isn't it? How many would trade Kyle Hendricks for Randall Delgado right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wasn't Delgado the guy that beaned someone recently?

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    Delgado is the one that drilled McCutchen in the back. Glad he's not in this organization. That was a no class move.

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    In reply to lets go cubs:

    (except this was the organization that had Ben Christianson, and marginalized the guy that spoke out against him.) As for Delgado, maybe if he were here he would've been trained differently, ie to not do that.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    What's Ben doing these days?

  • In reply to 44slug:
  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Interesting! Thanks!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Agree...that beaning was direct result of that culture in AZ with Towers and Gibson.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    Those were the darkest days of the old regime. I absolutely hated that pick when it happened but I don't think it's fair to paint the current Cubs organization with that brush.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I can remember Cubs fans were angry with Dempster when that deal fell through, myself included. Now we're all glad that things worked out the way they did. So far this front office is doing a great job trading rental type pitchers for quality prospects.

  • In reply to lets go cubs:

    Strop & Arrieta aren't prospects but you get my point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    not me !!!

  • In reply to lets go cubs:

    No kidding. Something tells me the Cubs will give Hendricks at least one more start -)

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Now that was funny!

  • I repeat myself, tongue in cheek, but for the next four days, Hendricks will continue to look like a No. 1!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    This is the deal... everyone knows Hendricks is the underdog with mediocre stuff and is loving how he overachieves with a smart game plan every outing. If he keeps this up Cub fans will make him a favorite for sure. No wonder Bosio was raving about KH in ST.

  • Wow. Another awesome performance from Kyle! Want to here a cool stat? Everybody loves their stats on this blog right? Hendricks is now tied with Arrieta for most shutouts pitched by a Cub starter this year at 2. Noone else has more than 1 (other than Hammel who is now with the A's).

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    In reply to HefCA:

    Wow, I didn't know you get credit for combined shut outs now.

    Sweet !!!

    Go Kyle go! He might be more important then the other " Kyle " right now

  • At the time the Cubs traded Dempster to Texas, I thought 3B C. Villanueva was the main talent in return. Look how wrong I was.... LOL

  • Jackson to the stopper role. His only hope, here or somewhere else.

  • "If Hendricks allows a league average BABIP of around .300, we should expect that ERA to be in the low 4s." This seems to state the obvious: If Hendricks pitches like an average pitcher, then we should expect him to achieve average results. But if the assumption that Hendricks is an average pitcher is not true, then the conclusion is wrong. After all, he has been an extremely well-above average pitcher his entire minor league career.

    Also, the league average BABIP of around .300 is composed of a vast majority of pitchers whose pitching style is to NOT pitch to contact. When they miss bats they're great; when they don't miss bats, many are awful. But Hendricks game is to get hitters to hit HIS pitch, not miss HIS pitch. So I'm not surprised by the lower BABIP. His out pitch is a weakly hit change-up (which counts against BABIP), while other pitchers' out pitch is max-thrown slider or two-seam fastball that results in a K (that doesn't factor into BABIP).And with Hendricks' much lower walk rate, homers surrendered and higher than normal DP induced rate, we should expect fewer runs scored off those successful hits than by other pitchers.

    That said, Hendricks' first 6 starts have been Cy Young caliber, and one shouldn't expect this extreme level of performance to be the norm over a full season -- especially after teams see him more than once. But his style in some ways is very well suited to counteract today's hitting styles. So many hitters today are max swingers who are geared up to hit mistakes from max throwers. Plus the typical non-max throwers so often just stay away, away, away with their pitches that they can't pitch effectively two or three times through a lineup. Hendricks, however, has totally surprised and impressed me with how often he challenges inside. As his minor league history predicted, he is not an average pitcher.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Hendricks has a BABIP that is about as low as Greg Maddux career best. Even the best pitch to contact BABIP benefactors are in the .275-.280 range. That's why pitchers who miss more bats tend to be better pitchers. We're just being objective here. We are using the most modern data available and not swooning over small sample sizes of trends that history says are unsustainable.

  • From Theo Epstein: another reason not to think Hendricks will not suddenly become some average pitcher with a 4 ERA... "We speculated [Hendricks] might take it to another level when he got to the big leagues because he uses all the tools available to him as well as anybody," Epstein said. "We have video in the minor leagues, but we don't have this much video. We have scouting reports in the minor leagues, but we don't have them this extensive. He just attacks the video, attacks the scouting reports. It's a huge weapon for him."

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    That's interesting. For a cerebral pitcher like Hendricks, having advanced scouting video on all his opponents (with 5 days to plan) is a big addition to his tool box.

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