The Postseason Bullpen: It's a Crapshoot

This past postseason was fun, wasn’t it? Besides the Cubs not being involved in the World Series, I had a blast watching two offensive juggernauts battle it out. Neither team seems to ever be “out of it.” And that’s pretty neat from my seat as a fan.

But one thing that seemed to be a very glaring contrast between the Dodgers and Astros was their bullpen. How can two teams with two very different bullpen constructions go toe-to-toe like the Astros and Dodgers did? What happened to the mantra that the team with the best bullpen wins? Is that still a thing? Or was ever that simple? Could it be simply how you use your staff? Will I ever stop asking questions?

In Game 2 of this year’s World Series, Dave Roberts was criticized for relying too much on the analytical side of the game after pulling Rich Hill after just four innings. The reason? Sabermetrics had been telling him (all year, not just the playoffs) that the more times a batting line-up cycles, the chances for a big offensive inning increases. The solution is to stack your bullpen, not just by playing matchups, but by playing your best guy in the most crucial times. Game 2, however, didn’t follow the script that Roberts had relied on throughout most of the postseason, as the Dodgers fell in extras. The talk after the game? Rich Hill was pulled too early after only going 4.0 IP and striking out seven.

Let’s even look before the World Series at our own beloved Joe Maddon. In Game 2 of the NLCS, Maddon opted to forgo using closer Wade Davis in in the bottom half of the 9th inning of a tie ballgame. Instead he called for John Lackey out of the pen in order to, in his words, “preserve Davis for the save in the next inning.” After walking his first batter, Lackey gave up the walk-off homerun to Justin Turner which put the Cubs down 0-2 in the eventual NLCS loss to the Dodgers. The “traditional” approach didn’t pay-off here.

When you tinker, sometimes you lose. When you don’t tinker, sometimes you lose. But the flip side is that if you do both of things, sometimes you also win. So what does all that mean? Is there a way to predict effectively?

I don’t know. But I do know that the bullpen is one of the most fickle thing in professional sports (i.e. it's a freaking crapshoot sometimes). Sure, teams have data on different situations, players, stadiums, etc. But shouldn't, at the very least, we be able to say whoever has the best bullpen in the regular season go on to be successful in the postseason? 

And with that, I share this chart:

screen-shot-2017-11-09-at-9-55-56-am

First, let me preface this by saying that (according to my baseball friends that are much smarter than me), FIP isn't perfect--not even close. But I still find it better than ERA (it's also little easier to understand than some other pitching stats available).

Okay, now onto what I found. I came into this exercise expecting to see that the team who lead the league in FIP would go onto at least be in the mix for the Championship Series, if not the World Series, most of the time. And the playoffs would be an almost certainty. But that wasn't the case.

Instead, in the past 20 years, we can see that the team that has the best regular season FIP for relievers:

  • Made the playoffs 55% of the time
  • Made the championship series 20% of the time
  • Made the World Series twice
  • Won the World Series never

Whoa. Did not see that coming. Does this mean that bullpens don't matter? Nah, nothing is ever that white and black. But it's super interesting. The data for teams that did win the World Series is equally as surprising.

Over the past 20 years, teams that won the World Series:

  • Were top 10 in regular season reliever FIP 9 times
  • Were top 5 in regular season reliever FIP 3 times

I just can't seem to wrap my head around this. Sure, this is a very VERY broad scope that I'm looking at here. But it's still surprising as heck, isn't it? Maybe it isn't just about the bullpen. Maybe, just maybe, it's about your team as whole (Captain Obvious alert).

I guess we can just ask the 2017 Indians about that.

 

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: bullpen, captain obvious, FIP

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  • fb_avatar

    Thank you for writing this and compiling some data. Yes, FIP isn't the end all/be all of pitching stats but if the bullpen is good then, more often than not, their FIP will be good.

    To me bullpens are like offense, bench, defense, starting pitching, baserunning, etc. It is hard to succeed if you are truly "bad" at any of them. We can slice-and-dice baseball as much as we'd like.

    I think that teams like the Indians were dominant in last year's playoffs, even more so than the Cubs, and people looked at that and said, "WOW! That bullpen was unreal. The bullpen must be critical to post-season success."

    Baseball is played by basically the same rules now as it has been for a long time. To me the whole "3rd time through the order" thing has as much to do with how the game is played now as it does with anything inherently important about it. I don't mean that there is nothing there. I mean that for 100+ years it didn't make enough of a difference to be taken advantage of. But now teams have not only "closers" but "8th inning guys" and "7th inning guys," and even "6th inning guys." That is a spot that wasn't even on the roster 10-15 years ago. Now it has an aura all its own.

    To me the best teams in the post-season are the teams with the best roster, and able to use them the best, AND have a measure of luck.

    Finally, yes, bullpens are fickle. In 2015 (and, I would argue, into 2016) Hector Rondon was a solid closer. In the WS Maddon didn't trust him to hold a 5-run lead in the 8th inning, or a 7 run lead in the 9th inning Game 6.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The Cubs rode Chapman & Davis hard in the playoffs. This offseason the plan seems to be get multiple options to close a game and not rely too much on 1 player.

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    But that is always the goal. This year Wilson was seen as a guy who would lighten the load on Davis in the post-season (fangraphs article about the trade was titled: Cubs Win Justin Wilson Bidding War https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/cubs-win-justin-wilson-bidding-war/). In 2016 many expected the Cubs to have a juggernaut in Strop, Rondon and Chapman.

    I am sure this off-season will see the Cubs acquiring multiple relief pitchers as well as "scrap heap guys." We may already be seeing it with Rosario. But acquiring multiple options and not rely too much on 1 player is hardly a novel concept for the Cubs or anyone else for that matter.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I don't think the scrap heap guys are going to be used in high leverage situations. I don't think you can even count on scrap heap guys even making the roster.

    They just need to achieve their goal in acquiring more arms to use in high leverage situations.

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    First of all, I didn't say "scrap heap guys" would be used in high leverage situations. But that doesn't mean they won't be on the roster (Leonys Martin, or if you prefer pitchers, I put forward Brian Duensing). Remember, not all situations, even in the post-season, are "high leverage." But they are still situations that must be pitched.

    Yes, they need more high leverage able arms and I agree that is likely one of their goals. But there are 29 other teams that would all like more high-leverage arms so it quickly turns into "How much are you willing to pay (cash and/or players) for those high-leverage arms?"

    Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that the FO can't/won't do it. But I think they have a very clear idea in their head how much they think each guy would be worth and will not go above that, even to get a "high-leverage relief arm."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    You are putting Duensing in the scrap heap category are you?

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I think he was signed off the scrap heap and turned into a solid contributor. We might have different definitions of "scrap heap."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I dislike the way bullpens are currently used, and especially I hate the concept of one inning pitchers, and even more, one out lefties. However, although the rules are basically the same, it is not accurate that the game is the same as it was 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, when I watched it as a young man. Bob Feller was the first pitcher to be clocked by radar at near 100 MPH, and although there was a few, such as Herb Score and Ryne Duran that reached those heights, they were considered unusual. I remember an article in the Tribune that discussed the Cubs starting pitching staff (it must have been about 1987 or 88, because of the pitchers mentioned, Sutcliffe, Moyer and Maddux. The thrust of the article was that velocity was becoming a more dominant factor in pitching with more and more pitchers able to break the 90 MPH mark. But he reviewed the Cubs staff, which was a fairly good one at that time, and said that velocity was not the only factor in pitching. That the Cubs staff that time had only two pitchers that could reach the 90s, Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux, both of which topped out at about 91. Even Rich Sutcliffe, the ace of the staff (in the opinion of the writer) could only reach 88 89 on a good day.

    Currently, just about every staff has starters that can coast at 95 - 96 and reach the high 90s more than occasionally. This has to take a lot more out of a pitcher than throwing in the mid to high 80s, and it probably is not surprising that they tend to lose effectiveness later in innings.

    Regardless, it a great source of frustration for me when Hendricks pitches 6 innings of 1 run ball and is taken out of the game when he has just retired the last 6 in a row. It is a source of even greater frustration when the manager plays the game of "let's find who sucks today" and keeps replacing a reliever that has been effective for an inning with someone (or several sequential someones) until one of them loses the game for them.

    I think that Maddon's handling of the pitching staff is very poor for the above reasons. However, he is paid 5 million dollars per year more than I am. Perhaps there is a reason for that.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Having grown up in an era where complete games were nearly expected of Fergie Jenkins, my feelings mirror yours. Of course, Leo Durocher never had the stats that said Ted Abernathy excelled against left-handers on alternate Tuesdays when the sky was cloudy and only on real grass. Still, paying a guy a couple of million a year to average a batter per game just seems silly - unless it works.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    But everyone knew Ted Abernathy was deadly in those situations. His kryptonite was, obviously, if the humidity on those days settled between 71.7 and 68.3...or was it the other way around?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DaveP:

    "Invention is the mother of necessity." As I said, the rules are basically the same, but the game is played differently now. There is some speculation that for a long time starting pitchers were expected to go 7+ (or a complete game was almost assumed). This tended to work against guys "airing-it-out" as they had to "pace themselves." Being put in the bullpen was seen as an insult and something to be endured ONLY to keep you in the league and not demoted or sent out of baseball. History has had its share of good relievers but they really came in vogue in the 1980's and 1990's and since.

    Because that was how the game was played we all got used to it. Though I suspect I am somewhat less experienced at life and watching baseball than you I remember when EVERY team's weak under-belly was their relief pitching. That is no longer the case. "5-and-dive" used to be seen with scorn among starting pitchers. Now it is not something aspired to but is seen as a valid strategy. To me the reason for this is the emergence--and proliferation--of relief specialists.

    Remember, baseball is Darwinian in some ways. Players have vast resources at their disposal that simply weren't available to their predecessors. Those predecessors might have been able to record their memories of how the pitcher pitched to them but that was about it. Now every pitch is endlessly dissected. The batters go up there with enormous knowledge of what the pitcher might throw in each situation and what they want to do. Many bemoan Javy Baez's "lack of a plan" when he goes to bat. But I would guess he has more of a plan than someone like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, etc. The batters are constantly gathering information. Their teams are constantly gathering information. By the 3rd time through the order they have a really good idea what the pitcher will do. To counter that teams have drifted toward having someone available to come in and "relieve" that starter to deprive the other team's offense of that advantage.

    It will be interesting to see how baseball proceeds. I wonder if someone will start to "zig" while everyone else "zags." I remember reading an article a couple years ago how an A's relief pitcher succeeded where he would have failed spectacularly just a generation or two ago because his fastballs tended to go HIGH in the strike zone rather than "cheese-at-the-knees." For a long time pitchers have been taught to keep the ball down to minimize HR. So batters have been "selected" for their ability to hit low fastballs. That skill is honed to a razor edge. Then they are suddenly put into an "environment" where rather than 92-95 at the knees they see pitches 92-95 at the top of the zone and it is hard for them to adjust.

    What I always say is the team needs to use its roster the best it can. I think some of the focus on bullpens has come from the Royals of 2014-2015, the Indians in 2016 and teams like that. They had post-season success with strong bullpens. But one does not inerringly lead to the other. You can have a lights out bullpen but without sufficient offense, defense and starting pitching it can be irrelevant. That was one of the strengths of those teams so they used it. It drives me nuts when people look at a couple of years of post-season data and say, "This is the magic bullet for success," or its sister statement, "You have to have this to be successful." To me the trick is to not be BAD at anything in particular rather than needing to be REALLY GOOD at anything in the playoffs.

  • There is an old saying that goes

    “Probablility knows no history”

    Just because something indicates a trend does mean it will always trend that way.

    And in statistical analysis, just because your statistic doesn’t support a conclusion, it does not mean the conclusion does not matter. Perhaps the measurement device rather than what is being measured is at fault. Bullpen efficacy should be measured by all available statistics, even the ones you don’t like,to make sure nothing else can be a possible predictor before a conclusion is reached.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Sorry. That should read:

    Just because something indicates a trend does not mean it will always trend that way.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tom U:

    Do you have a contrary thesis to what Myles said? If so I would be interested to read it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    In this analysis, these stellar pitchers face a wide range of hitters with decreased frequency. In the post season the pitchers are facing a concentration of the best hitters over a compressed time frame. There is greater familiarity that would seem to cut in favor of the hitters.

  • In reply to All W Days:

    Make that: "In this analysis, during the regular season, these stellar pitchers face a wide range of hitters with decreased frequency.

  • In reply to All W Days:

    This is an extremely good point.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Smplied- baseball is non linear, especially in the post season.

  • That is mind blowing. Just tweeted out.

    It is interesting how guys like Chapman, Jansen and Davis - so good during regular season can not be as effective and unknowns (Monty, Charlie Morton) can come up big.

    I'm wondering if there's something about the durability of arms or the ability to pitch out of a routine that has something to do with it.... that's just crazy what you found though.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    To me most, if not all, anomalies in the post-season are explained by SSS. Also, keep in mind that during the regular season the elite relief pitchers are used against a variety of opponents (good and bad) in such a short span. In the post season they are ONLY facing good players and, often, the same players, over and over. Remember in Game 7 the Cubs got to Andrew Miller and Cory Kluber. While in Kluber's case some of it may have been fatigue I believe as much or more was to do with the fact that all the Cubs had seen both pitchers a lot recently. So some of the advantage that relievers enjoy in the regular season left them.

  • I think it's better to get a pitcher a batter too soon than a batter too late, but if the starter is getting hitters out, what is the point of pulling him before he gets in trouble in the fourth inning. That's a good strategy to tire a strong pen, which is to say turn it into a weak one. In the post season most relievers have already been misused and one never knows when diminishing returns will set in.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 44slug:

    Yes, but how do you know when it has been a "batter too soon." That is best diagnosed in hind-sight.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I see your point, but a manager should have an pretty good idea with the game circumstance, batter due up, pitches stuff at that point etc. If one is thinking that it might be time to make the move, it probably is. Seems to me lately that starters are often pulled before anything happens even when the pitch count is still low. I don't think that it's just numbers either. Some managers just have a better feel.

  • Personally I don't like the trend in bullpen usage in the postseason over the past couple years. Sure analytics may say a big inning COULD happen but couldn't the same analytics say the if "Hitter A" faces "Bullpen Arm A" every game in a 7 game series that "Hitter A" chances of get a "big" hit increases?

    Also, in this WS particularly, relying heavily on the bullpen caused many of the arms to become fatigued making them less effective has the series went on. It also forced starters to come in out of the bullpen, a situation they are most likely not familiar with. If your starter has allowed 1 run over the 1st 4 innings, like Hill did in Game 2, you keep him in. In my opinion Roberts totally over thought that situation.

    I think pitch count, balls hit hard, stressful innings and gameflow should count just the same or perhaps more than solely relying on analytics.

  • Game 3 of the World Series: I watch part of it on TV and listened to part on the radio.

    On tv, Smoltz was saying that Houston was smart to keep Peacock in there for so many innings. Essentially ignoring the advanced stats and letting his performance dictate the right course.

    On the radio, the analyst kept calling for him to be removed. Said it was too risky. Houston was ignoring lefty vs. lefty opportunities, etc.

    In this case, the old-school approach proved right.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I think metrics tell you the story more often than not. The storyline that was written after the series goes that Hinch went with his gut and Roberts went with the metrics. The problem with that theory is that Hinch went with his gut because he had no bullpen to speak of, and Roberts went with the metrics because his bullpen had been lights out. In reality there aren't many managers more versed in sabermetric thinking than A.J Hinch but he's a smart guy and managed to the situation. Roberts on the other hand, while also a student of the stats, is certainly capable of going with his gut and that told him his guys would hold. It's funny to me that the arguments always used to be that managers left pitchers in too long and now it's made a 180° shift. The bottom line to me is that if it works very few people will dissect the move, if it fails it will be never be forgotten and that hasn't changed despite the shift of tactics.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    ^This. It is easy to get caught up in the narrative of the game. To follow the storyline. We extol the manager with the "guts" to "stick with his guy" when that guy does well. But immediately question the manager who makes a move and it backfires. We still debate the usage of Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 (and Game 7) as well as the pulling of Hendricks in Game 7. If Lester comes in and silences the rally with Ross making an accurate throw to 1B for an out and blocking the ball in the dirt we might go into counter-factuals about "what would have happened had he left Hendricks in there. Or what would have happened if Maddon, in Game 6, had simply gone straight to Wood, Strop, et al.

    But following the narrative is really just the text version of judging from results. One of my favorite things about Cubs Den is that most here tend to focus on process. And it is hard, harder than one would expect. It means having to live with the process failing occasionally.

    A graphic example of this is how the shift has come into favor. Every year there are players that "beat the shift." But, when it comes down to it, they much more often hit right into it. It would be easy to have the times where they beat the shift. But teams have decided to go with the process and deal with the off-chance hits.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The shift is a great example. Stats provide probabilities, they do not predict inevitabilities. I work in sales for a small company. For years my boss was a "spray to all fields" type of guy. I tried to focus he tried to get me to spread out to a wider prospect base. Eventually we came to a meeting of the minds and he started narrowing our focus and our sales improved. I started creating my own spreadsheets and metrics on what worked and what didn't and my sales skyrocketed. Now we're implementing technology to make that process even more metrically focus. None of that means I abandon gut feelings when I deal with customers, it just helps allocate my time and resources. Baseball is the same. It helps you determine what works more often than not and occasionally switching that up on a gut call will take another team unawares, but say that gut call move is statistically proven to work 20% of the time whereas another move works 60% of the time, well in that case you're going with the higher probability more often that not. I think that's what people who hate metrics tend to overlook, they provide a roadmap but that doesn't mean you don't take a detour now and again.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    And there are exceptions that can be predicted and strategies adjusted. For instance, the most efficient way to score runs is with HR for the obvious reason that no multiple base-runners/hits are required to get at least 1 run. But when the wind is howling in off the lake and it is a drizzly day and 40 degrees it might be wiser to focus on "just make contact." But those are a specific set of circumstances and DO NOT mean that hitting HR is over-rated.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Good post, but Hinch out managed Roberts.

  • I don't think regular season stats prove much of anything in the playoffs, which results in your "won the World Series never"not being that surprising. First, with elimination looming, it's all hands on deck, which is why you got stuff like Lester in Game 7 last year and Lackey as you cited. Second, playoff teams are playing a higher caliber team than most of the teams in the NL Central or NL West. Third, the WS featured Verlander and Darvish, who weren't even on the team rosters until the deadline. And, of course, when Darvish blew up twice in the second inning, there's not anything the bullpen can do the last 7-2/3rds.

    I think that the only measure of comparison is that Roberts kept calling the bullpen, while Hinch kept Peacock and Morton in there, and both of them did the job.

  • In reply to jack:

    Morton got pulled while throwing a one hitter in Game 4. Then their bullpen imploded.

    I posted my displeasure with the move on this board before the Astros BP disaster. I do not like the idea of pulling a SP when he's dealing.

    The upside came in Game 7. Morton mowed down the Dodgers, but there sure as heck wasn't any way of knowing he was even gonna get a chance. They just got lucky.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I guess what this proves is that victory in Game 7 makes at least me forget Game 4.

  • fb_avatar

    I think if you have a very good starting pitcher who is cruising (like Rich Hill), you leave him in as long as you can. But pulling him after 2 times through the order was the MO through the playoffs, so what do I know?

  • fb_avatar

    I also think the more relievers you have to run out there to get through the last few innings (or 5, in the Rich Hill case), the greater the chance of having one of them have an off night.

    that's another reason I think if the starter has his A game going, and is cruising, let him pitch. You never know what will happen if you are relying on too many relievers on any given night.

  • So some are saying that Rich Hill should never be able to pitch a shutout. That's ludicrous. At least let him go until he gives up a base runner. Who knows he might retire 15 in a row. He struck out 7 out of 12 out for gosh sakes. Let the guy have a little slack. Too many managers get to the Series and it becomes all about them. Big mistake in Cleveland, Chicago, Houston and LA.

  • A relief position that has seemingly gone by the wayside is the "stopper," they go-to guy to put out the fire when the starter got in trouble. There are a lot of RPs today that pitch well when starting a "clean" inning but fall apart with runners on. The guy who pitched well from the stretch and had the ability to shut down an offense was a valuable commodity on a team.

  • fb_avatar

    Ham Fighters! The name provokes an image!

  • In reply to Ray:

    The season just got a whole lot sillier.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    For those who haven't heard the news, Shohei Otani has been posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yes, it's going to be an interesting off-season.

  • In reply to Ray:

    The nickname of the the team is the "Fighters". They are owned by Nippon Ham.

    In a side note, if my son passes his interview today, I could be taking in one of their games soon. A Japanese major, my son is interviewing for an overseas program out of Sapporo, Japan. Sappora is where the Fighters are based.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    What a great experience THAT would be - and sharing it with your son!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tom U:

    I know that, it just sounds better as the Ham Fighters.

  • In reply to Ray:

    I know Tom's written words are factually correct, but I like your mental images better.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thank you, that's what I intended, and I should have written evoke instead of provoke.

  • In reply to Ray:

    It does paint quite the mental image.

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    In reply to Tom U:

    Thank you, Tom. Keep up the great work!

  • In reply to Tom U:

    Sounds like a great opportunity for your son. Hopefully it goes well. I have to smile visualizing some thing or someone fighting a large ham.

  • In the post season managers tell themselves 'if I'm going to l lose, I'm doing it with my best on the mound'. The problem is, that if your best is fatigued, he might not be your best option.

  • Does anybody know if it's within the rules for the Cubs to trade for another team's international bonus pool money to up their offer to Otani?

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    In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    I think trading for additional draft pool money has to do with increasing the TOTAL POOL that the Cubs can draw from. But no individual contract can exceed $300K. For instance, let's say that the Cubs have a "pool" of $900K, they can sign 3 players for $300K each (or 2 for $300K and 3 for $100K etc.). They can trade for additional pool money and increase that pool to a limited extent (like an additional 50-75% I think). Let's say it is 75%. So the Cubs can make trades to give them about another $600-700K. This can be used to sign MORE PLAYERS in the time period allotted, but it CANNOT be used to sign a player for MORE DOLLARS.

    You can substituted different numbers into this to accomodate actual rules--sorry, not real familiar with the--but the $300K is a MAX per contract (and, no, you can't sign him to 12 concurrent contracts or something like that). Does that make sense?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes. That sounds right. I had forgotten about the $300K max per player. Still, if he is willing to forego $200M to wait a couple years, what's a couple million? Go to work, Theo.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    Yes, we can trade for additional cap money, but no, not to up our offer to Otani. Under the new CBA, teams are capped at $4.75M, $5.25M, or $5.75M in the IFA market, based on revenues, market size, payroll, etc. Teams are allowed to trade for extra pool money, up to 75% extra of their original allotment. The Cubs are still restricted to a maximum bonus of $300K for any individual player, however, due to going over the limit during the 2015-2016 signing period. So no matter how much space we have available, the maximum bonus we could offer Otani would be $300K.

    Fear not, though. Under the new agreement, the signing bonus he receives will be a fraction of his total earning power, and I don't think will play a key role on his decision on where to sign. In fact, only the Rangers, Yankees, and Twins are even able to offer slightly over $3M. For a player who could wait two years and get a potential $200M deal, and has chosen not to wait, I think the signing bonus pales in his desire to play here. His big money will come in the inevitable monster extension in a year or two. I really think the ability to DH in the American league is a much bigger issue and is the biggest hurdle the Cubs face in signing him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Your last sentence is key for the Cubs. He's better fitted for an AL team.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Otani is also quite a hitter from what Ive heard. He wants to DH also, which seems to preclude an NL team.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think you're right. The bonus money probably won't be a factor. Endorsements in a large market could offset some of that. The DH could be a problem, but at least NL pitchers get to hit, and if anyone can shuffle him in and out of a lineup, it's probably Joe Maddon.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    For the record, Otani's posting isn't officially official just yet. The MLBPA has a hang-up over (surprise!) the transfer of money. Under the old CBA and posting system, the Nippon-Ham Fighters would post him, receive the maximum $20M fee, and Otani would negotiate a massive FA contract with the winning team. With the new CBA restrictions, Otani can only receive the bonus money, and his posting team would only receive 20% of that amount. The old posting system expired a few days ago, but MLB and NPB (Japan's pro league) agreed to extend the old system for one more year (for Otani, though no one will say that publicly). So his team will get the old, full amount of $20M, but Otani will have to play by the new CBA rules and only get a small bonus as opposed to the potential $200M+ contract he could have commanded under the old CBA, and the MLBPA has an issue with that, even though he will technically be signing a minor-league deal initially and is not yet a member. It just sets a bad precedent.

    Otani has gone through the motions. He has recently hired an American agency (Creative Artists Agency) and the posting fee has been settled. Something will work out, it's only a matter of time, and of course, money.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    So the two teams involved get to wallow in an enormous amount of money ($20M) while the "worker" has to play by a completely different set of rules that would severely limit his earning potential. I can't IMAGINE why the union would have trouble with that. LOL

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Everyone gets paid except the actual talent drawing the money. I'm a construction contractor, and have often explained to casual baseball fans complaining about player's excessive salaries that if I could sell 40,000 tickets at $60 a pop and negotiate TV deals to watch me build a deck or add a master bathroom, I'd be worth a few million a year.

    The more I think about this, and the longer it drags on, the more I think there may be some exceptions made, the infamous "Otani exception". Rules are being bent and limits tested. I wonder what may ultimately happen, and how it may influence the Cubs' chances.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    They do, it's called cable TV

  • Alex Cobb basically said if the Cubs make him an offer he's coming here. He said maddon and hickey are 2 important people that have helped him and he 'd be honored to come here

  • In reply to bolla:

    Cobbs's agent said he will go where he gets the best offer

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    best doesn't have to mean most money.

  • Obviously would love to get otani but I read he's different and would prefer a team that's not the top dog he chose a smaller less successful high school over the popular one to play baseball.my guess is mariners or rangers over Yankees, dodgers Cubs etc

  • In reply to bolla:

    I've read many of these stories as well, and think they are pure propaganda. Otani sounds like money, or at least immediate money, is not his driving factor, but many other interests are involved. I've read the stories about him taking cabs when limos were available, sleeping in the coaches office instead. of the penthouse, and don't believe one of them. Otani may be that type of person, but I feel this is an effort to shape his image prior to his arrival into the big ol' ATM that is the USA and MLB, and I can't fault his agency one bit. He is a unique athlete under unique circumstances.

  • In reply to bolla:

    You seem to have a lot of inside information on Cobb and Otani. Care to share more. I have not seen any of this anywhere but from you. If it's facts thanks for sharing.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    It's not inside information. Cobb said it on MLB radio.

    Either way, I think it's inevitable we see a reunion. Just makes too much sense.

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    In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Inevitable is a 10 letter word.

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    In reply to Ray:

    I keep coming back to Cubs Den to get insightful analysis like this that you just can't get anywhere else.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I read an article about otani a few months ago.I think it was on yahoo I'll try to link it but I'm on my phone and it's harder to do it on the phone

    Cobb was asked earlier on MLB radio, it's the same with Cobb as it was with Lester the familiarity factor gives the Cubs an advantage

    Also Jeff Sullivan thinks the Cubs will trade for archer,he said the Cubs have been interested for years.thats just his opinion but he thinks archer will be moved this winter

  • In reply to bolla:

    That would be great. I would love to see the Cubs get both Cobb and Archer. Thanks.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Just to try to think this through: What if the Cubs traded Schwarber and maybe a minor leaguer or two (someone along the lines of Mark Zagunis). Would that be enough to bring in Archer?

    If so and if the Cubs could acquire Cobb as a FA that would make for a rotation of (in no particular order), Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Archer, Cobb with Archer and Quintana being two of the most team freindly pitching contracts in baseball (though well behind Chris Sale).

    It would also clear some of the log jam in the OF for the Cubs and likely improve their defense as Happ would take many of those innings away from Schwarber. If the Cubs wanted they could go into next year with 2 "true" OF (Almora and Heyward) with 3 back-ups in Bryant, Zobrist and Happ with all three of them capable of playing infield. Having their starting 2B be a REALLY good back-up SS also opens another spot on the roster. Suddenly there is room on the roster for a LH hitting back-up catcher and a specialist like Tommy La Stella.

    I don't know that that would be enough to bring Archer from the Rays, but if it is the Cubs would be scary good with Montgomery, Butler, Mills, Tseng competing for the 6th starter/shuttle guy.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Nah unfortunately I think archer is gonna cost the Cubs Baez + caratini ,de la Cruz and happ or at least Baez and 2 of these guys. The rays have wanted Baez for a couple years now.the Cubs will have to pay a premium because of archers contract

    I personally really really don't want to see Baez traded

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    In reply to bolla:

    To me the main value of Baez isn't so much his abilities on offense, defense, baserunning etc. but the fact that he is a very good "back-up" SS. Not having to carry a guy strictly as a back up SS is a huge luxury the Cubs have. If he couldn't do that he would be a nice player to have but imminently replaceable.

    And I suspect you are right that we won't get Archer for Schwarber + some minor league talent.

  • In reply to bolla:

    U lost me at Jeff Sullivan.....

  • Site note:

    Is that offseason prediction(s) game going to be set up like in years past?

    That was fun.

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    I know the Cubs can only pay $300K for an international player next year but can they pay the $20M posting fee?

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yes, any ML team can pay the posting fee, and many will. After that, teams are limited to their available pool money to offer the signing bonus.

    Most observers believe the bonus amount will not be much of a factor. Otani is expected to sign a multi-year, $100M+ extension in a year or two prior to hitting arbitration. Realistically, only about 10 teams are able to honestly offer that, so that alone culls the field considerably. His agent knows which teams are able to do so, and teams without those resources really have no chance of being selected.

    The Cubs, even with their limit of $300K, have as good a shot of landing him as anyone, IMO. Otani will simply choose from approximately 6 or 7 legitimate destinations, depending on factors such as geography, organization, and whether or not he wants to focus on pitching, hitting, or both. The DH in the American League could be a huge factor. But most baseball minds agree that if he's coming now instead of two years from now when he'd be a true FA, the amount of the signing bonus will not be a major factor.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    IIRC the teams he does not sign with receive a refund of their posting fee so the Fighters will only get $20M, rather than keeping all the money from all the posting fees. Is that correct?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, they only get the fee from one team. That team has exclusive negotiating rights. Otani's camp surely has already had negotiations with several teams over a future extension (Shhh!), and will choose which team he will negotiate with.

    Something I'm not sure of is what happens if that team and Otani's representatives can't come to an agreement. I'm not sure if the fee is withdrawn and re-opened, or what happens. I'll have to dig into that.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think that happened and the money is returned and everything starts over. More than likely after a year. Wouldn't want the player to have too much leverage.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    By the way, Joel, I saw your "Scrabble" comment if we brought back Samardzija and promoted Dascenzo, which got my mind wandering, which is never a good thing...

    With all of this Otani talk, I'm reminded of two-way players. Otani is called the "Japanese Babe Ruth", but I'm not ready to go there. Rick Ankiel is a more current example, but I'm thinking of a Cubs connection. No, not John Baker or Leonys Martin. I'm thinking Brooks Kieschnick. What I remember most about him, in all honesty, is Harry's drunk ass trying to say his name backwards, or even forwards for that matter.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I had a "nightmare" infield for Harry once. Or at least DP combo (all we had to do was acquire an aging Andres Galarraga):
    These are the strangest of possible words
    Garciaparra to Grudzielanek to Galarraga
    A trio of bearcubs fleeter than birds
    Garciaparra to Grudzielanek to Galarraga
    Ruthlessly poking old Harry's bubble
    A single scotch? No, make it a double.
    Words that are weighty with NOTHING but trouble
    Garciaparra to Grudzielanek to Galarraga

    But yes, Kieschnick--haven't heard of him for a while--could easily be added.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Is this original? If so, well done. If not, thanks for sharing. You know I don't have much use for lyrics, but I can let this one slide.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    In years of reading your stuff we have all noted your open disdain for music lyrics, particularly of the "rock-n-roll" variety and it has been well documented.

    As for the poem the meter and some of the rhyme is famous but I came up with the variant and the players myself.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I came up with the "poem" yes with obvious references and some stolen lines. I prefer to think of it as a "tribute" poem.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Lol, it would be nice to have pitcher who can hit a little and play left field occasionally, but mostly we need one who can get hitters out.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    As someone said, if ANY NL manager could work Otani into the line-up as a hitter it would be Joe Maddon. I posted a while ago how amazing it would be for roster construction if our 4/5 outfielder could be a starting pitcher as well. Add onto that the amazing versatility of much of the rest of the roster (our starting 2B is an above average SS, our 3B, and 2 back up infielders are both capable of playing decent OF, 2 of our back ups are switch-hitters, if Caratini makes the roster then we have 2 catchers capable of playing other positions). It would be unfair to give someone like Maddon who has shown a willingness to take advantage of such things.

    But I know there are serious questions about whether Otani will be able to be a 2-way player in the majors. The hesitancy I have read has been largely, "There is just too much to do to be ready on each side, no one can consistently do both. Going to the OF for a couple outs is one thing, playing offense on your 'off day' is something else entirely," or, "We can't risk him getting hurt on a freak play in the field, plate or basepahts that may not be necessary." My thought is, though, let the guy play. If he is the best option then he is the best option.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Actually, I shouldn't throw stones. My area is full of Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, etc names. There aren't enough "Z's" in the scrabble box for some of them. While I don't know any Zastryzny's the name would fit in well up here.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I know you are a big Otani fan, so re-reading your question I get the sense what you really want to know is "do we really have a shot at this?". Yes, we do.

    The Rangers can offer the biggest bonus at $3M and change. Otani will make that ten-fold in endorsements alone. The bonus should not matter. The real money will come in the inevitable (there's that ten-letter word again) pre-arb extension. By rule, no team can have a pre-arranged agreement to circumvent the IFA bonus rules, but everyone with a heartbeat knows it's going to be there. Not specific years and dollars, most likely. No team is sure of how well he will perform at this level and of course future health is never a given. But the parameters of an extension are pretty easy to figure. Happ has less than a year of MLB service and the Cubs could sign him to a 10 year/ $200M extension today if they wanted to. It's what will happen with Otani.

    Because it can't be initially in writing, it will come down to financial ability and trust in management, of which the Cubs have in spades. I truly believe there are only about 6-8 realistic landing spots, and we are one of them. It will most likely be very similar circumstances financially in his future among these choices, so it will come down to where he chooses to play. Our FO is known to create quite the presentation and sales pitch, so in more ways than one...

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    As I understand it as of july 2018 the Cubs will not be restricted to 300K signings.

  • In reply to John57:

    This is correct. Our two-year penalty will be gone for the next IFA signing period beginning next summer. Our farm system has been depleted, and trades took their toll, but the inability to sign top international free agents was also a big factor. Hopefully, with all our young core position players locked up through at least 2021, we'll have time to sign and develop a few replacements.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    So what happens after July '18. Will the Cubs have the same limit as every other team and how much is that?
    Could the Cubs sign Otani for $300K with the understand that in 2019 he would sign an extension worth a bundle? Also, there might be teams that tell players that although they can't sign them for very much they have lined up companies to sign them to endorsement deals in the millions.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That's possible and I know that MLB--and possibly the MLBPA--is watching Otani's first couple of years carefully in terms of contracts. While there is technically no rule against signing someone to a lower contract and then giving them a raise a couple years later. But that will immediately raise suspicion, whether it is justified or not. But it is not impossible since some player such as Rizzo, Castro, Sale, Archer, etc.

    I am just going to float an idea here. It is possible that he figures to make plenty of money in his career to keep him and his descendants comfortable for their entire life. So maybe he is a young man who wants to pit himself against the best baseball players in the world and is willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to do it now rather than wait. Maybe he isn't looking for a max contract, or even a huge contract in the first couple years. But wants to play in a place he likes to play.

    Sometimes I think we get jaded into thinking that everything is about money for players. I admit this is certainly not guaranteed to be true but it is possible. He might sign a contract with a team for a couple million $$ signing bonus. Put in his 6 years and then sign a lucrative contract, possibly with the same team, possibly not.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think the reason we get jaded into thinking that everything is about money for players is because that is what it is. There is nothing wrong with that. That is human nature. I myself am surprise Otani is coming now and not 2 years from now. This takes the risk out for who ever signs him now.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I agree that for many players it is all about money--and I agree there is nothing wrong with that--but I don't know that this is the case for everyone. If it were there would be fewer "team friendly deals." Some such as Archer, Longoria, Rizzo were signed very early in the player's career where the player simply wanted to assure himself of plenty of money. However, in the 2015-2016 off-season both Heyward and Zobrist received larger offers (or at least it was reported that they did) but chose to play with the Cubs. Yes, someone wanted to pay Heyward more than the Cubs did.

    I agree that most players are just looking for maximum "financial security." But I believe there are some that prioritize other things such as "family stability," or they like the town they are living in. And then there is the famous case of Andre Dawson who, the story goes, gave the Cubs a signed blank contract going into 1987 because he liked the thought of playing on natural turf and having day games.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, I agree with all you said. Like you said some players want the financial security early in their careers others are willing to risk injury and wait out the arbitration process. Some players will give up a "little" money for a place they want to stay at or a team they want to play for. I think the Cubs are now a team players want to play for and that is a good thing.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Also, Alex Cobb sounds like another who may be willing to take less to join the Cubs. I was just reading an article from NBCSPORTS and sounded like Cobb would not mind working with Maddon and Hickey again.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I know you love Otani, so I wrote a lengthy comment answering all these questions earlier just for you that was eaten. Maybe some help?

    Quickly, yes, the Cubs are one of 6-8 teams in my estimation to sign him. We are good at sales pitches, but it is up to Otani where he wants to sign.

  • Would absolutely love to get otani,but cobb & chatwood would be just nice 4-5 starters imo.

    Then the cubs can trade happ or schwarber to fill other needs like the bullpen or a table setter.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I meant nice 4-5 starters.

  • Remember... Happy Veterans Day. I am always humbled when I can discuss trivial matters such as baseball while my fellow citizens are out sacrificing their lives to protect my ability to do so. Thank you.

    On a personal note, I am breaking a tradition I have upheld for 30 years. Long story short, my grandfather was held in a German camp, Stalag 5A, and ate nothing but turnips for 18 months. I'm a gardener, and he didn't like the fact that I grew turnips. He asked me to eat a turnip today for his 100th birthday (he's long since gone).

    Please remember those who make possible our enjoyment of baseball.

  • More filter. :(

    Happy Veterans Day. I am always humbled and grateful to the fine folks who sacrifice their lives so that we can contemplate something as silly as baseball. Thank you all.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I would like to add thanks to all the families to those who have served and are serving now. They are important and sometimes don't get recognized for their sacrifice.

  • I am sure glad that the MLB NEWS video is back scrolling down the screen. I missed being annoyed for the few days it was gone. LOL

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I haven't been forced to do without. It has been there consistently annoying me for a while now. Lucky me.

  • My two cents on Ohtani, a lot of journalists I respect, have the Cubs as one of his most likely destinations. All the west coast teams (namely because it is closest to Japan), the Cubs and the Yankees. Plenty have the Cubs as the most likely. I have read everything I can on Ohtani, for over a year, and would put it Dodgers then Cubs and Seattle in a close second, LAA (he may want to play for a few years with the best player of this generation, who knows) then Padres. LA reportedly had an agreement out of H.S. until he was drafted by the 'Ham Fighters', Ohtano may feel some sense of obligation towards LA. And he seems like the type who would give that some weight. I just do not see him going to the Yankees; So probably Yankees....

    Keep in mind, an AL team is spending a lot of resources to cover the DH position. Sitting a well payed vet, on a playoff caliber team, a couple times a week is not as simple as it sounds.
    In the NL Ohtani is guaranteed to hit every 5th day. Throw in late game switch's and a few innings in the field late in games. A start every week or two. And the potential to play the field, ala Travis Wood, and move back to the mound. There is just way more flexibility in the NL game for a player like that. And if Ohtani does not know that now, I trust that Theo and Co. will bring it home to him.

  • We have had this debate before. Otani has not played a position on the field other then pitcher in 3 years. He played the outfield in 8 games in 2014. To say he is better suited in the NL then the AL in my opinion is not correct. He can bat in the AL when he pitches, he can also play the field as you suggested in the AL just as easy as in the NL. Although, i see him at DH in the AL more then on the field. I believe he is better suited for the AL. There is just way more flexibility in the AL game for a player like that.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Jane, you ignorant slut.... ;-)
    Fair points. I agree there is some crossover in opportunities in the AL and the NL for playing time.
    It's also debatable, that with the DH also being in the NPB what it means to NL vs. an AL roster construction wise and getting him AB's. First and foremost being the caliber of talent on an AL roster dedicates to DH (and the money spent for them) vs. the caliber of talent he is taking AB's from in the NPB.
    I think a reasonable number of AB's a team would likely try to get from Ohtani is around 250-300. Madison Bumgarner had 97 AB's in 2016. So bump that up to say around 120 from 30 starts. So right off the bat an AL team has to deal with taking them 120 AB's away from an offensive first player but still pay him as if he took them to sign that talent. Plus the one or two days a week he starts when he is not pitching.
    I'm pretty sure if a team starts a game without a DH, they lose it. So that leads to 30 NL type games that's taking that many more AB's away from a player and a roster, not constructed that way.
    It's fun exercise and good points can be made for both Leagues. Meeting Ohtani's needs, and his needs are going to be what it comes down to when he decides. He does not seem be the type who will demand AB's, but he is definitely going to want the opportunity if he earns it by his play on the field.
    It's a fun exercise, if anything.

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    Would any team be willing to take the chance of Otani injuring himself were he to play the field and/or bat when they value him more as a pitcher?

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