Early Morning Dabs: Dogma

The First Hundred

Dogma is a system or set of rigid beliefs or a movie by Kevin Smith I am not terribly interested in finding out how well it holds up today. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have certainly expressed a clear vision from the very beginning of how they saw the organization being run, and these beliefs at times caused the team to be a bit inflexible in its approach. The Cubs front office has shown a consistent ability to adapt and that is why the pejorative use of the word doesn't truly apply to them. Still there are a few of these stated beliefs worth examining.

To Promote or Not to Promote

That is the question looming over the break. Oh, the front office could surprise with another All-Star Break headline grabbing deal. However, it seems far more likely that the Cubs will once again be hoping from a jolt from a first round position player draft pick. The conversation was truly jump started by the front office. The script could not be more patently telegraphed. The pattern has been a prospect moving to a different (almost always easier) defensive position that is open at the Major League roster currently. And Hoerner has now played back to back games manning the keystone after playing a grand total of 2 in his first 54 professional starts.

Nico Hoerner represents something besides just another bat in the lineup, however. Hoerner provides that much vaunted top of the order bat that has been missing. That is a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Asking Nico to step in as the leadoff hitter on a team with championship is lofty aspirations. There has been precedent for this working within the recent past. Willson Contreras' arrival was described as being like oxygen by Joe Maddon, and Hoerner might provide a similar level of relief if he is the real deal.

Hoerner provides the bat to ball skills that have been lacking from the Cubs lineup since Ben Zobrist's metaphorical and then actual absence from the lineup. Baseball Prospectus also mentioned Ben Zobrist directly in the comp with this year's top 10 Cubs prospects. The full line is "another dude who gets comped to Ben Zobrist who is not as good as Ben Zobrist." And that is fair. The next Ben Zobrist has been a favorite pastime of amateur prognosticators for a decade now, but it is also true that Ben Zobrist might not be as good as Ben Zobrist anymore as well.

The counter argument of course is the long term development of Nico Hoerner. There have been concerns about the regression experienced by a number of these post-hype position players that have regressed since their impressive debuts. The long term cost is both unknowable and therefore inmensurable, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And the Cubs can only sacrifice long term assets for present success. Doubly so since the Ricketts family apparently aren't willing to open the spigot any further.

The risks are real but the Cubs are also in the final years before the roster will need a drastic shakeup. The stated window has three years left in it counting this one. And the odds are a lot higher that Nico Hoerner is what this lineup needs than Robel Garcia,  no matter how great the story is.

The Bullpen Flux

The Cubs only have two pitchers on the staff right now that weren't on the opening day roster. That number is lower than it has been recently, but the two missing arms loom large when one of them is Cole Hamels. The bullpen has the chance to be solidified if the big add in Craig Kimbrel can shake off the rust to emerge back into a dominant closer. The Cubs at least need a very good closer which even 75% peak Kimbrel probably checks in as.

However this really just describes the past fortnight or so of the bullpen. The Cubs front office has forced Joe Maddon to MacGyver his way through many a May and June ballgame due to the bullpen options. And the biggest cause of that has been the poor drafting dogma the front office had. They were stubborn in selecting polished, selective college hitters in the first round, but their central casting call for pitching talent couldn't be more off as the large number of middle and late round arms chosen failed to produce anything meaningful in the first few Theo drafts.

The Cubs bullpen situation looks vastly different if they don't strike completely out on the Tyler Skulina, Trey Masek, Scott Frazier, David Garner, Sam Wilson runs of picks in 2013. The Cubs have made a shift in drafting philosophy that Michael has noted a number of times. One of the more recent occurrences was in this recap of draft day 2 this year. This quote in particular jumped out at me.

These are the types of arms the Cubs have been reluctant to double up on in previous drafts. They did pick the Carson Sands-Justin Steele-Dylan Cease trio several years ago, but since then have settled for a lone prep pitcher, including last year, when 6th rounder Kohl Franklin was the only prominent prep arm they selected.

The 2014 draft stands out for producing some of the better pitching talent in the departed Dylan Cease and the intriguing relief option James Norwood. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have never truly been dogmatic in any of their beliefs, and over their nearly two decades running Major League teams have adjusted philosophies a number of times. However, this is one example in their Cubs regime where they were a little slow to evaluate their beliefs.

Cubs Common Denominator Lineup

Well there were no guesses for yesterday's puzzle which means I win by the sweetest two words in the English language. This one may have been slightly trickier than usual. The players all share a surname with a famous method actor (according to Wikipedia).

Player Name Position Method Actor
1 Larry Hoffman 3B Dustin Hoffman
2 Dewey Williams C
3 Bill Nicholson RF Jack Nicholson
4 Hee Seop Choi 1B Choi Min-sik
5 Vic Harris 2B Ed Harris
6 Tom Downey SS
7 Boots Day CF
8 Charlie Newman LF Paul Newman
9 Dizzy Dean Pitcher James Dean

Here is the next installment of the Cubs Common Denominator Lineup.

CCDL #6 Name Position AVG OBP SLG HR SB
1 Kiki Cuyler RF 0.325 0.391 0.485 79 161
2 Stan Hack 3B 0.301 0.394 0.397 57 165
3 Ernie Banks SS 0.274 0.330 0.500 512 50
4 Gabby Hartnett C 0.297 0.370 0.490 231 28
5 Hank Sauer LF 0.269 0.348 0.512 198 6
6 Billy Herman 2B 0.309 0.366 0.417 37 53
7 Augie Galan CF 0.277 0.363 0.409 59 90
8 Phil Cavarretta 1B 0.292 0.371 0.416 92 61
9 Claude Passeau Pitcher 2.96 ERA 754 K 474 BB 124 Wins 94 Losses

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  • I don't know the common denominator, but that's a pretty good lineup. All played prior to 1960 most before 1950. I'm not good at puzzles tho, so I'll let those who are tell me.

    Interesting points at the top as well. I figure a major shakeup is difficult, but not impossible. Idk, I look for fringe type trade help and 'in house' resolutions to make a run this season.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I was thinking along the offensive lines as well. Those OBP's are all pretty high, and I thought of guessing highest career at each position. But I would guess Billy Williams did better than that in LF. Another clue could be why is Cavarretta and his numbers batting 8th?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Looking again, all of those OBP's are well above the averages, from about . 070 to .100, and the pitchers K/SO ratio is not good. Something to do with walk rates?

  • I’d be all for calling up Nico. Give it a shot. Although I question whether he’s ready. The puzzle is too tough for me. My Cubs knowledge starts in 1997.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    Make that 1977.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    My guess on Nico is they see what Robel can do, see what they can swing at the deadline, and/or see when or if Zobrist is due back and what he can contribute. If all those options fail, call up Hoerner. If anything pans out, let Nico develop at a more normal rate. It's actually a puzzle that fits together pretty well in my mind.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    That sound right.

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    I've been harping on this since we signed Lester to that contract, we can't keep buying pitching without adding young arms in the draft to augment. Eventually with young position players you have to pay them,with your pitchers being on high contracts you end up having to choose which players you want to keep, this mostly comes down to keeping your best position players, who will make as much as your pitchers, only now your pitchers are old and have to be replaced and you have none in your system because you failed to see this earlier, and with the cost of bullpen arms , you now have to anty up for them,also.
    This is why unless you have a top ten draft pick I think you should draft top high school talent every year, develop them for 4years, and trust your minor league coaches to get you a finished product, this might mean you have to have better coaching, but you get what you pay for. This doesn't mean you don't draft a college player who may fall in your lap, but most likely the top college players are gone in the first 10 picks.

  • In reply to tater:

    Lester was the best signing EVER!

    just wanted to reinforce that first. I get what you are saying about young pitching. I also know the cardinals had a wealth of young pitching just a few short years ago, a good track record through the minor league and their best arms are hurt...again. Betting on any young pitching is hard. Betting on a proven winner like Lester and Hammels is much safer bet.

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    Not knocking the signing, but you have to be able to replenish with your own pitching, getting a stud to lead was great, how about developing some of our own.
    You also realize it costs more than money to get pitching, just look at what Quintana and Chapman cost us in talent.

  • You could argue that developing hitters let’s them acquire established pitchers through trades. You mention two examples. The Torres trade helped win a WS and the other helped get a guy who is pretty good.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    One argument against that approach is that I think there is a central flaw in the Cubs’ approach, and it’s the belief that older pitchers are better. I’ve found that they don’t always age well. Just look at Q’s ERA and how it has gone up while he ages.

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    In reply to Cubs09:

    Well apparently Torres and Jiminez were better prospects than our recent draft picks Schwarber and Happ and we gave them away, as far as the ws win, I believe if we didn't get Chapman we wouldn't have won in 16, but it would have set us up for 17 a lot better and I believe we could have come up with a reliever if we would have stayed the course,but hindsight can make everyone smarter, I, at the time said we shouldn't have traded for Chapman and I believe there were quite a few of the denizens weren't too happy,also...

  • In reply to tater:

    I think the jury is still out on Eloy/Schwarber. They were rated similar and they look like the same player to me. Time will tell; maybe Eloy develops into something amazing. But he seemed expendable to me.

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    In reply to Cubs09:

    I believe Jimenez will be a lot better hitter in the long run, his average I think will be .260-.280, I also think he will strike out less after this his rookie season. As far as Torres ,back up ss and 2nd basemen, lead off hitter, power,but this is just wishful thinking....

  • In reply to tater:

    Well, I don't see Schwarber improving at this point, so definitely possible Eloy is better. And I guess the real wildcard is Cease.

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    In reply to Cubs09:

    There is a lot of what iffing going on today, some people throwing trade proposals around using some of our prospects in the minors, I say be careful with some of the deals, you are starting to empty a system not too bountiful to start with. The team doesn't seem to be able to get over the hump and we're not sure they are good enough, maybe sit back and look at who we identify as keepers, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo,and Contrares, everything else has been disappointing, do we really want to start gutting our future after seeing what happened at the end of last year, someone has to start showing me we have anything capable of being just a wild card one and done.

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