The importance of logic, objective measurements and playing the odds in Cubs decision making process

I know most of you on this site are on board with the Cubs strategy when it comes to things like the draft, signing free agents, and promoting prospects.  But if you have the temerity to delve into social media and sample a wider swath of Cubs fans, you’ll quickly find that the feeling isn’t universal.

You’ll find fans that want to promote Kris Bryant and Javier Baez to the majors now.  You’ll find fans who feel the Cubs erred by not drafting and/or trading for pitching when that is considered the team’s biggest long term question.  You will find a whole lot of people who now think the Cubs dropped the ball when they signed Edwin Jackson.

Well, all of us can agree in hindsight that the signing didn’t work out the way the Cubs hoped.   But it’s hard to argue with the process that led them to that decision.  And that in a nutshell is what this article is about.  It’s about using objective measurements to give you the best odds for success.  You may lose some of the time, but if you consistently play the odds, you will win more than you lose.

Odds are a tricky thing. So is logic.  People misunderstand them all the time.  Things like confirmation bias mess with our perception.  Sometimes we add extraneous information.  Sometimes things simply aren’t intuitive as intuitive as they seem.

Just for some nerdy fun, here are a couple of non-baseball examples of what I mean,

Example #1

I read this question a few months ago in an article on a study that intended to show how the general population is biased against atheists,

“The study asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be an a) teacher,b)  an atheist teacher, or c) a rapist teacher?”

The article remarked at how people were as likely to answer b as they were c.  But that isn’t what caught my attention.  What caught my attention was the obvious logical flaw in the question.

Can you see it?

Example #2

Remember the old “Lets Make a Deal” game show?  Well, if you understand how odds work, you could give yourself a better chance to win should you ever find yourself in such a situation.

For those who don’t know the set-up, the contestant was given a choice to pick one of 3 doors, one of which had a prize of value behind it and the other 2 with little or no value at all.  Let’s say the prizes were a car and the other two contained non-prizes or prizes of minimal value. To keep it uncomplicated,  let’s say the other 2 doors contained a goat.

You would make your guess, say door #3.  Then the host, Monty Hall, would reveal that one of the other two doors contained one of the goats, let’s say door #1.  You now have a choice of sticking with your original choice of door #3 or switching to door #2.

What do you do?

I am not trying to torment you with logic and probability problems here that I know you hoped you were done with when you finished school.  I am just trying to make a point here that our intuition, while often useful, can also betray us.  Sometimes what seems logical, really isn’t.  And we should always pay attention to facts and statistical odds if we want to get things correct more often than not.

Below are the answers. People of all intelligence and educational levels were fooled by these questions, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t get them right.

In example #1, the answer is simple.  It is A because all the choices are teachers.  B and C are subsets of A and they cannot be more likely as possibilities.  An atheist teacher is still a teacher, a rapist teacher is still a teacher.  Even if it turns out that only atheist teachers would steal the wallet, then at minimum that puts them in a tie with teachers as a whole.  Odds are that you’ll get at least one from more than one category who would steal the wallet, so you are far more likely to be right if you just answer A because that, by definition, includes every teacher who would steal the wallet.

Example #2 is a bit more complex.  Once you pick door #3, you have a 1/3 chance of being correct and a 2/3 chance of being wrong.  People assume that once door #1 is eliminated the odds change to 50/50 between the two doors, so you might as well stick with your original choice.  But that is incorrect.  The odds do not change.  When you picked door #3 you had a 1/3 chance of being right, meaning that there was a 2/3 chance that the correct answer was door #1 or door #2.  Even after you eliminate door #1, it doesn’t suddenly increase the odds that your original choice was right.  There is still a 2/3 chance it was one of the other two. By eliminating one of those doors, Monty did you a tremendous favor because now there is a 2/3 chance the car is behind door #2 and still a 1/3 chance that your original answer was correct.  You have to switch your answer because it doubles your chances of winning the car.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Now these kind of scenarios don’t pop up in baseball, at least not  in a literal way. It’s just a fun exercise to show you how intuition can sometimes fail you and why you have to develop a decision making process that relies on logic, probability, and objectivity.   You may not be right every time, but it increases your odds of being right.

On Promoting Players

Eliminating answers such as the need to be entertained or to have cookies in a season where fans are starving for something fun to watch, I will focus on those answers that at least try to look at things from a baseball standpoint.  So what are some of the intuitive arguments for promoting players?

The intuitive argument

  • Players can benefit from experience in the majors.
  • You cannot worry about 6 years from now, put your best team on the field now.
  • The Cubs have a lot of money and can always sign players to team friendly deals like they did with Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.

The problem is that we don’t know any of this.  Some players benefit and some don’t, but there is no objective way of knowing beforehand.  Castro and Jeff Samardzija were able to adapt on the fly, but Anthony Rizzo had to be sent back, as did Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and quite possibly, Mike Olt and Junior Lake.  It worked out for Rizzo but the future of the other 4 players are very uncertain right now.

We also  know that Castro and Rizzo were willing to sign team friendly extensions, but Matt Garza and Samardzija were not.

These answers are at best subjective and speculative.  There is no objective process to measure it’s value, so it isn’t something you can rely on with any kind of consistency.

So we focus on what we do know or at least on what is likely to happen:

The objective argument

  • Moving players to the roster now means you will have to remove a current player from the current roster now and it will mean one less eligible player you can protect from the Rule 5 draft later.  For every non-roster player you promote now, you stand the possibility of losing 2 players for that privilege.  Regardless of what you think of those players, that is objectively a loss.  The Cubs lost assets and did not gain any in that process.  There are times when losing assets become unavoidable, but the Cubs are not yet at that point.  So why lose them now if you don’t have to?
  • Promoting a player now will cause them to become a free agent earlier as opposed to waiting until May of next year.  You are trading 3 months now for an entire year later.  That in itself is an objective loss.  What’s more, given that, historically, players tend to be better players by that 6th year than they are in their first 3 months.  You are not only objectively losing time with that player, you are probably losing time with a better version of that player.
  • While the Cubs can afford to pay their players when they are free agents, it is objectively better to pay them their 6th year at the cost-controlled rate than it will to pay them open market value.  The same player for less money is better value than the same player for more money.  Payroll budgets are finite, and any money you can save on one player gives you additional money you can spend to acquire or sign another.

On drafting (or trading for) position players instead of pitchers

The intuitive argument

  • Teams win with good pitching.
  • The Cubs don’t have top of the rotation pitching prospects in their system.

The objective argument

  • The rate of success for college hitters drafted is much higher than that of either college pitchers or high school pitchers.  You are far more likely to obtain value by drafting a college hitters.
  • That value becomes a commodity.  It is an asset that can be exchanged for assets of equal perceived value.  You draft the best available player.  If you think a college hitter can be a grade 7 player while the best pitcher can be a grade 6.  You grab the grade 7 player, not just because he has more value, but because he can be exchanged for an equal value if needed down the road.  Also, by drafting the player that is more likely to succeed, you can wait a couple of years and eliminate some of the risk involved when trading for pitchers, who are demonstrably less likely to succeed.  You will have bought yourself two more years of information on a pitcher and thereby eliminate all those arms who turned out to be unhealthy or ineffective.  By the time you want to trade your position player asset for a hitter, you have shrunk the pool of potentially successful pitching draft picks and thus eliminated much of the speculation.  That is objectively a better position to be in than taking on that initial risk yourself.

On Free Agency

Intuitive argument

  • Sign the most well-known and historically productive players on the market, regardless of cost.  Results are paramount.  You win with the best proven talent.

Objective argument

  • Sign the players who are more likely to have success in the future.
  • Sign players based on metrics that focus on things that a player can control individually.  He cannot take environmental factors with him, so traditional statistics like RBI, ERA, Wins, are at least partly influenced by the team around him.  Advanced metrics like BABIP, walk rates, K rates are much more dependent on the individual and can be carried over to a new environment.  If the advanced metrics are good and/or trending upward while the traditional statistics lag behind, the chances are you have an undervalued player.
  • Players that are below 30 have a higher probability of sustaining or even improving performance than players that are over 30.

Players like Edwin Jackson fit the objective argument very well, so that is why you make that investment.  Does it guarantee success?  Of course it  doesn’t.   Neither does drafting college hitters or waiting to promote players.

But those decisions are based on higher probabilities,  known quantities and objective measurements.  In a game where nothing is certain, you have to at least reduce some of the uncertainty.  You cannot stick with door #3 based on your intuition when door #2 is far more likely to yield success.  You may get the goat anyway, as the Cubs have from time to time, but by following good process you at least  decrease your odds of doing so while simultaneously increasing the odds that you get the car.

Until the Cubs find a way to peek behind the doors, that is all you can ask.


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  • You misunderstand, John. All the fans want is a guaranteed, 100% certain world championship. And if this front office can't give us the assurances that we, Cubs Nation™ are entitled to, well then....

  • In reply to Darth Stout:


  • John, your argument on the "Let's Make A Deal" problem is flawed. Monty Hall never once revealed the new car; it was always the goat. So he obviously always knew where the car was. The original odds for Door A was 1/3, but the conditional probability of Door A is 1/2 after Door B is revealed to be a goat, and the conditional probability of Door C is also 1/2.

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    In reply to cubsin:

    It's probably easier to see with Deal or No Deal. 20 briefcases, one of them has $1 million. You pick a briefcase. Then, instead of picking the rest yourself, Howie eliminates 18 of the remaining cases and assures you the 18 he eliminated do not have the million in them. In that case, can you see how your odds are significantly better by switching briefcases? If yes, the same logic applies to the Monty Hall problem.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks Mike. I was intuitively going to disagree with John. But the briefcase illustration helps me to see it. The logic is based on that fact that Monty Hall knows which is the car or the briefcase with money and will never reveal it. Thus increasing your odds. Very clever.

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    In reply to Gerald:

    Exactly right.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It is also a game show on television. The money (car) has to come from somewhere and the intent is to make money, not hand it out.
    So it is logical to think that they would bate you away from your already correct answer, in hopes that you would listen to John here.

    1 is out. There are 2 doors left. By picking door 3 you do not eliminate it. The probability between door 2 & 3 is 50/50. Let's not over think this.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I did say he revealed the goat.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I have taken some advanced level probability courses and this problem is very difficult even for graduate level students to grasp sometimes.

    By considering the problem as a choice between Door A and Door C, you would be correct in that you have a 50/50 chance. However, that is not the problem. By considering the problem as a choice of A or C, you are failing to grasp the full information of the problem.

    When you initially select a door, you have a 1/3 chance of guessing correctly. This means that there is a 2/3 chance that the car is in one of the other two doors.

    You always know that at least one of those other two doors do not contain the car. Therefore, finding out that one of those two doors does not contain the goat actually does not present you with any new probability information. There is still only a 1/3 chance that the initial door is the one with the car. There is still a 2/3 chance that the car was contained in one of the other two doors. The difference now is that IF the car is contained in one of the other two doors, you now know which one contains it.

    Don't feel bad if this still doesn't make any sense to you, it took me a while to finally see it.

  • In reply to nukee:

    Took me a while too. It just doesn't make sense on an intuitive level, which makes it really frustrating at first.

    That is an explanation that is more clear than mine, thanks for the comment.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I had to write a program to prove it to myself. Wikipedia has a pretty nice entry explaining the Monty Hall Problem. PS John, you missed the Minor League recap for Boise last night.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Ha! I know. It was one game so I decided to take the night off and get a good night's sleep.

    As for Monty, that's pretty cool. I calculated by hand after first reading about it and was amazed to see it worked, but wish I had the programming skills. Haven't taken a class since Freshman year of college -- and it was BASIC back then. Not sure that is much use anymore :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you John. The Monty Hall problem really challenged me. While I understand the logic, my logical tendencies would recompute the odds to 50/50. More importantly, I would consider the character of the person running the contest. If it was a real game show, I would probably switch doors with this new found logic. However, if I'm dealing with a shady character... I would probably stick with my original choice.

  • In reply to nukee:

    i agree, this made the whole thing make sense. i have heard this theory mentioned before, and i have a very vague if non-existent knowledge of the problem. but this helped immensely. thank you.

  • I agree with everything you wrote and continue to write in this site about the way the rebuild should be and is being done.

    The hard part is the losing. Baseball is supposed to be fun and the fun is in the winning. Of course, being a Cubs fan, I should be used to losing :)

    What will be hard to stomach is, if we fans go through all this losing and we don't get a winner out of it.

  • In reply to Bama Ben:

    I understand the losing part too. Nobody likes that part. We endure it in hopes that it will pay off someday.

    But the Cubs as set up were destined to lose anyway, but at least they are losing with a vision for the long term.

    They could have signed free agents -- and most would have been a disaster had signed them and slightly improved their chances, but they would only be putting an expensive band-aid on a big, festering wound.

    Better getting it cleaned up and get it fixed the right way and get the org healthy again before you start spending. When the Cubs do spend, it will be to add to the team, not a short term attempt to save it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! That's exactly the point, and I couldn't have said it better. Having been a fan since 1969, I've seen some good Cubs teams, but a lot more mediocre or really bad teams. Most of the time management would sign some middling or aging free agent to try to make things better, but it never worked. By 1999 or so, I was fed up with this approach. The years since then, when the Cubs have been bad, I wanted to see them just tear the whole thing down and start over and build it back up the right way. Under previous regimes, they would never do that, and it made me want to tear my hair out. After Ricketts hired Epstein, they finally had someone with the guts to actually do it.

    So, of course, I'm on board with this rebuild. I wish it could go faster, but to do it right, they can't shortcut the process. We've got to be patient. I truly believe that this time, once they start to contend, the team will be good for an extended period instead of only one or two years at most.

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    In reply to Bama Ben:

    For me, I look at it as increasing odds of good to great teams in the future. The closer the young players in the minors get while still looking good, the more likely the future is to be bright. I've been a Cubs fan for about 25 years, and in all that time, the team has had ONE (2008) great regular season, and even that ended in playoff misery. They've had a handful of other good regular seasons, and one great playoff run where they played in the NLCS, but most of that was built off a season where they cobbled together a team and all the pieces fit just right for a year or two. I look at the possibility now of long term sucess, where the Cubs can be one of the best teams in the league for a LONG time, year after year, and I'm willing to be patient.

  • the Monty Hall Paradox!!! lol - have had so many heated over arguments over that.. lol.. always pick the other door!!!

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Yep! Always a fun question.

  • If I had a nickel for every time one of the "mainstream" reporting outlets wrote an article as informative and entertaining as this, I'd have like 10 cents. Well done.

    I have to agree with cubsin on the Monty Hall problem, it is essentially the same as having three balls in a bucket, two red and one blue, and picking them at random. On the first try your chance of picking a red ball is 2/3 and the blue 1/3, but once you pull a red one and that choice is removed, your new odds are 50/50 no matter what they were beforehand.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Thanks MMU.

    As for the Monty Hall/Buckets situation, it doesn't work that way, I assure you. It's counterintuitive, but mathematics will prove that the odds do not change. You are better off switching.

    Here is a longer, more detailed explanation..

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks for the link, makes more sense now.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    It was hard for me to condense it and explain it as well as I should have. I think Nukee's comment above probably does it better than I did.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I still disagree with von Savant, even if she is smarter than I am. She seems to be assuming that Monty Hall's choice between the two remaining doors is random, which it clearly was not, because he never revealed the car. There is always at least one goat that can be revealed, and he did it far too often to believe his choice between the remaining two doors was random.

    I'll concede that von Savant was right if and when they discover all of the unaired shows where he did reveal the car, because she's correct if (and only if) Monty's choice was in fact random.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    You're not fully understanding the first selection. In the case of the balls in the bucket, the first try would be like Monty looking in the bucket and taking out a red ball 100% of the time (he isn't randomly picking a ball, instead he is looking in the bucket and taking a red one out).

  • You've presented a series of false choices, as if there were only two options for each of these scenarios: the intuitive (the wrong choice) and the objective (the choice the Cubs made). There are literally thousands of arguments in between, including a number of objective arguments that oppose each of the decisions the Cubs have made/are making. I may or may not agree with any of the counterarguments, but the implication that the only objective decision is one that the Cubs made is simply untrue.

    It's difficult to understand those so eager to defend the decisions made by the Cubs organization as objective and any that oppose as intuitive, as if those who oppose any/all the decisions of the Cubs as simply needing to be educated because they just don't "get it." As someone who supports about 90% of all the decisions the front office has made over the last five years, it's still important to not characterize those who make opposing arguments as somehow just not smart enough. There are plenty of dumb arguments, both for an against the Cubs' ownership and FO, to go around.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    They are decisions based on objective numbers and statistical trends. Nothing is 100% objective, but the intuitive arguments have no statistical or logical basis to them. Maybe objective arguments title should be changed to a different title, but it doesn't change the fact that one choice is based on known quantities and statistical probabilities while the other is not.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So are you saying that there were no objective oppositions to, say, the Edwin Jackson signing? That just isn't true.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    No, but I am saying statistical probability favored the signing. I think most of the arguments against were more subjective (he has moved from place to place, he has never pitched up to his talent level) or based on results-oriented statistics that don't transfer as well from team to team as some of the more advanced metrics.

    I think the more objective, controllable metrics based arguments favored the signing, but like I said, it doesn't mean it can't be wrong.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    And never did I say people weren't smart enough. People of all intelligence and educational levels make decisions based on intuition, sometimes with success, sometimes not, but either way there is no real process that can be duplicated. I am only saying that when you are dealing with a sport that is anything but certain, it's prudent to eliminate as much uncertainty as you can.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but you led with the statement "I know most of you on this site are on board with the Cubs strategy when it comes to things like the draft, signing free agents, and promoting prospects. But if you have the temerity to delve into social media..." Clearly that is both an appeal to tribalism (we here "get it") and a pejorative assessment of those outside of "the know" (unless you felt like you need temerity to interact with people who are otherwise intelligent and objective).

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    I think a certain amount of temerity is needed to deal with people who are cocksure of their opinion without any need to back it up with facts or even mathematical probability. We present things in terms of process oriented thinking, which means it can always be wrong -- and we openly admit that, but we also acknowledge that there is a greater chance of being right if you follow principals of statistical probability. People who refuse to acknowledge that they may in any way be wrong without anything to back it up (except perhaps a cherry picked anecdote or two) require the patience of a saint or a buddhist monk. I am neither. The comment is a nod to the wonderful readers of this blog, who understand the process and are willing to look at things in a different way, even if it doesn't always make sense on the surface and even if they don't ultimately agree.

    The article is about using known quantities and mathematical probability as a base for making prudent decisions. That is not to say it contains the right answer every time, just that increases the odds of being right. There is a big difference between that and people trying to tell you their way is the right way with no objective evidence to support it. Everyone can is free to have an opinion but we are also free to prefer those opinions which are supported by something more tangible.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have to agree with Cary on this argument. In many cases, there is truth to both sides of a particular argument. It isn't always "well this side has used more analytical tools in making their decision, therefore, anybody who disagrees with them must use an equal or greater amount of the same kind of tools to make his/her argument valid". That sounds a lot like becoming an apologist for team Theo. We know they are very smart, make a lot of good decisions, so how dare anybody criticize any of their bad ones without providing a rigorous statistical explanation.

    It's OK to debate and disagree on Cubbish things, especially with team Theo. They are big boys and get paid a lot of money. They can handle the criticism. There shouldn't be the knee-jerk response to anybody who criticises their decisions. There are a lot that are worthy of criticism and a lot that are truly forward-thinking.

    What's wrong is walking that thin line of insulting a person who disagrees with a point that you don't think is correct or valid.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    So what you are saying is "It is OK for some to have knee-jerk responses critical of team Theo but it is not OK to criticize those critical knee-jerk responses".

  • In reply to John57:

    Maybe my use of the work knee-jerk was too strong. People can argue a particular point using logic without the requirement that a significant amount of statistics backing them up (whatever that is). Or you can't just say to someone criticizing a particular decision, "well this person/team uses a whole lot of statistical analysis in making that decision, therefore, you must use the same kind of analysis when criticising them". If you make this type of argument, then the only group of people debating things in this blog will be the statistical analysis geeks. There is a thing called common sense. That's known to work, too, at times.

    This blog is the best Cubs website out there, but there is a danger sometimes of people adhering to groupspeak. There is this unofficial handbook that people must adhere to, and one of those rules is "If you are going to criticize any decision team Theo makes, then you better use a lot of statistical analysis to back that up." I don't agree. A person can argue a certain point, and if someone else wants to get all statisticky about it that's fine.

    There are people who can use statistics to explain anything they want. Statistics are only a tool, they are not the end-all to explain players, how the game is played, evaluation, etc.. They can, and are, manipulated quite often. People who rely solely on statistics are "competitionally stunted" individuals. Go read a bio or two about Lombardi, Rockne, La Russa (there should be one, if there isn't) if you don't know what that means.

  • So if I understand this logic... Fans demanding a cookie now vs a meal later are atheist goat raping teachers?

    But seriously, this FO is going to be conservative and prudent with everything. They place a high value on having more information, intelligence, scouting, etc. and finding "market deficiencies" to exploit. I think fans tend to forget what a massive organizational rebuild this has been. All we know is we haven't won a WS in our lifetime and we've been patient enough! but Epstoyer, etc hasn't even celebrated their 3rd anniversary with the team yet and look at where the organization (not the MLB team) is at compared to where they were. How can we, as fans, not be thrilled about this progress?

    One of the things I love about this FO is their disciplined approach and adhering to a process they 100% believe in. I really think they have more foresight than other MLB brain thrusts. They've been out in front and setting trends like the IFA mass over-spend, signing & flipping rebound candidates for meaningful prospects, etc to exploit the holes in a brand new CBA landscape. Our elite talent is bubbling to the top of the upper minors. we have payroll flexibility for the first time in forever... Relax, we're almost there...

    Get your popcorn ready, the show is about to start.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ha! I debated using the examples because I didn't want to detract from the baseball argument, but my intention was to remove people from a familiar situation and get them to think in a different way. I have no idea if it will actually work or if it connects well with the main theme, but I gave it a shot!

    Bottom line is that you have to play the odds and trust logic more than you do intuition. That is not to say you cannot take chances from time to time, but you have to base your process on things you can objectively measure.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm a high school math teacher and I applaud your use of the Monty Hall example. I thought you explained it well, but it is pretty difficult to grasp the first time around no matter who you are. Some other comments have done a nice job of providing further explanation of the example.

    Overall, the Monty Hall problem was a great choice for writing this piece. Way to take a chance and step out on the ledge, John!

    Keep up the great work!

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    HD, your first paragraph contains a logical impossibility. Any goat raping a teacher cannot be atheist for the same reason that it cannot be "theist." Or was it a teacher rap...OK, now I'm confused. LOL

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    No, no no. The atheist goat rapers are the White Sox fans. No such Tom Foolery amongst the North side fanbase.

  • What are the chances a blogger can use logic and objective measurement to convince people of anything?

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Probably not good, which makes this article somewhat ironic. I think people who already understand it will like it while those who want to cling to non-objective arguments won't.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You can preach to your choir while simultaneously banging your head against a wall?

    A man of many talents.

  • In reply to mjvz:


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    You can carry these probabilities to the game itself.

    I don't have the numbers, but my guess is that you should almost if not always send the runner rounding third home in a 50/50 situation with two outs. In other words, even if the fielder has a great arm. But my guess is that the runner is usually held if the third base coach isn't pretty sure the runner will score because if the runner is thrown out his mistake is magnified whereas if he holds the runner and the next batter strikes out there is rarely any accountability for that third base coach not sending the runner.

    You can use these probabilities in a myriad of situations in which Cubs teams over the years seem to not play the percentages (although lately this seems to be changing). For example, on a ball in the dirt that eludes the catcher initially, most runners should go as soon as they the ball get away even a little bit. Everything has to go right for the catcher to record an out. Obviously, there are exceptions, such as the bases being loaded, etc., where the runners should make sure the ball gets away far enough.

    The point is, you can take the guessing out of this by establishing what you're going to do in these type of situations and sticking with it.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    That would make for another good article.

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    In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    It sounds like the scenario in football where there is a lot of data showing that if you "go for it" on 4th down you are likely to win more games. Will it backfire sometimes? Sure it will. But if you make it you are NOT giving the ball to the other team. They will have fewer minutes of possession.

    In many ways the sacrifice bunt is like football's punt. By playing the traditional way you are probably costing yourself points/runs while potentially giving the other team more opportunities to score. On a bunt we are forfeiting an out (almost guaranteed) and there is ample data to say that a runner at 1st with 0 (or 1 out) is more likely to result in more runs than a runner at 2nd with 1 (or 2) out. Intuition says it shouldn't be that way because a runner at 2nd is in "scoring position" and can score on most base hits as well as staying out of the double play and, "statistically," the batter is likely to get out anyway, we might as well make sure that we get SOME benefit out of it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Joel - totally agree. All the objective, factual data tells you that in all except very rare cases (like 4th and 10+ yards inside your own 20), you should go for it on 4th down. Similarly, the math says you should almost never bunt. Outs are precious and shouldn't be given up. The math on these two points is very clear, but football coaches and baseball managers cling to tradition and also try to avoid taking blame... So we continue to see punting and bunting.

  • In reply to ErnieB:

    I think we need to get PtownTom involved in this issue.

    Hitting away with a Runner on 1B:
    - not giving up an out; having 3 outs to score. A 3 out inning has
    more potential to result in a big inning. But what if you are playing
    for 1 run?
    - in the case of a left-handed batter, or off-field hitter, it keeps the
    right side open.
    - hitting away with a runner on 1st can result in a double-play.
    - it generally takes twice as much offense to score from 1B. If your
    team batting average is .250, what are your chances of stringing
    at least 2 hits together before the 3rd out?

    Bunting with a Runner on 1B:
    - requires generally half as much offense to score a runner from 2B
    - a runner on 2B can take a bigger lead.
    - what are the odds of getting 1 hit before the 2nd and 3rd outs, as
    opposed to stringing 2 hits together?

    Are there any major leaguers who can still bunt? A guy like Ichiro puts a lot of pressure on a defense in this situation. I am sure I forgot some points.

  • fb_avatar

    The only issue I had with Edwin's deal was the length. A two year deal would be fine. He had the numbers that met the FO's guidelines. I just thought he was too inconsistent performance wise for a 4 year deal. But I admit it was partly intuitive. It's hard to be totally logical.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    2 years probably wouldn't have signed him with a rebuilding team. He was looking for stability. The Cubs figured he had 4 years left in the prime range. Made sense, just didn't work, but that process will work more often than not.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Actually, I think 4yrs is about right. Don't get me wrong, his inconsistency is maddening!

    But really, we still need 2 SP's to go with E-Jax, Arrieta, and Wood. Their is a premium on a guys that eat up 170-200+ innings for us. His presence here (his inconsistency aside) has afforded us the luxury of being able to trade to Garza & Feldman last year and then Shark & Hammel this year w/o having to endure more of Casey Coleman, Brooks Raily or Justin Germano...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than watching Justin Germano pitch.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    That's pure comic genius...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    hat tip to roger ebert.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    What? They would have traded everyone w or w/o Jackson. They wanted prospects, and a high draft pick. They might be pissed they signed Edwin Jackson because we might have got the #1 pick this yr vs what we got. If the Aiken arm probs are correct, Ty Mr.Jackson, you are for real. I am not saying its easy or every front office can do it, but when all you have to worry about is rebuilding the minors, the task is not overwhelming. Imagine having to put a winning product on the field while re-building a broken farm.

    Personally I liked the Edwin Jackson signing, as we needed someone. Did they over-pay and perhaps too many years, yes probabaly.

    If I was running the team, I would have over paid for Sanchez or Ryu as they seemed to be the more "known quantity " ( ESP after Darvish season, yes they are diff pitchers but the success is what I am referring to). When your a bad bad team, you have to over pay to get something of value, but I completely understand they were skiddish after the Dice-K fiasco in Boston.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I never implied that they wouldn't have traded them anyways. I said w/o him we would have been stuck watching the likes of Germano or Raley...

    Whats made the EJax signing so bad (even for those of us like u and I that supported it) is that he only compares favorably to the likes of Germano vs a #3 or #4 like we thought we were getting...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Well, I apologize as I misunderstood the phrase " his prescence here as afforded us the luxury of trading Feldman and Garza last year instead of shark and Hammel ect....."

    I understood it the other way that if they didn't have him, they wouldn't have traded them because they would have to trot out the Coleman's, rusins, and Germanos when in actuality they don't care who they trotted out the last two years in the 2nd half as the more u lose the better draft picks equals more money, better players, ect

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Sean Holland:

    Another thing to consider is that he was paid more in the first year ($13M) and LESS in the last 3 years ($11M/year). They knew they were not going to be spending as much on free agents that first year so they built at least some financial flexibility into the contract.

    If you know what the full amount will be and you can afford to take the hit now you are better off doing that. If we do trade him $11M is a lot easier to trade than $13M. If we have to fork over some of his salary we are better off doing it on an $11M start than a $13M start.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    This is incorrect, but your point stands.

    Jackson signed a 4-year contract that would pay him $11 million per year with an $8 million signing bonus. Where the number 13 comes into this is that when you prorate that bonus over 4 years it comes out to $2 million per year raising the average annual value (AAV) of the contract to $13 million per year.

    But AAV is just a description of a contract not it's reality. In reality, Edwin got paid $19 million his first year and then $11 million after that. It is correct to say that if a team traded for him this off-season, they would only owe him $22 million over the next 2 seasons. And if the Cubs were to eat some of that salary, say down to $7 million per year, they'd only have to eat $8 million over 2 years instead of $12 million.

  • A bird in hand beats two maybe birds in the bush? That's always how I thought of LMD. Just a matter of what the bird in had was and whether it was too good to give away on 50/50 chances of something maybe better or a bust. I rather think that logic works with the Cubs draft strategy. The bird in hand would be the college hitter you know more about and have a firmer evaluation of his prospects going forward. Beats the HS bat behind curtain No. 2 and the pitcher behind door 1. Although, I do want a cookie! Jr. Lake was the cookie last year. I wanna cookie! They can afford to give me Alcantara. Ok, ok, they can do what they want and I'll still be a Cubs fan. I still want a cookie.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Haha! I think this sums up the contradictions we all have in our heads in a humorous way.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I try to look at it like this.. the cookie is Daz Cameron or M Matuella if we can get that #1 overall. :D

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Yea I have to admit I like those cookies more at the moment.

  • You are a wonderful writer and a deep thinker. But I have noticed that you are too humble when being complimented. So, I would like you to respond to my "wonderful writer and deep thinker" compliment with the following words: "You know what, I really am as awesome as you say I am. I'd thank you, but I'm too busy being as awesome as you say I am. I'm glad you enjoy reading my insights. I'd enjoy reading them too if I were you, but I'm me, so I just enjoy being me." Really, the humble has to go, John. You're the best.

  • In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    So you want him to become a full of himself politician? :)

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I'd be a disaster as a politician :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You would be like an honest poker player in a table run by the Mafia.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    There is no such thing as the mafia. It's all a Hollywood fabrication. As a matter of fact....

    Sorry, I'll have to finish that thought later. My Uncle Tony says we have to get back to work. We're in the, um, sanitation business.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And you'd fit right in with most of the rest of them.

  • In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    Haha! Thanks I appreciate that.

    My parents, especially my dad, always taught me to be humble. Speak softly and carry a big stick (or a big pen, as it were).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're dad was Teddy Roosevelt?!? ;-)

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    With a partial nod to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the author who coined the phrase, "The pen is mightier than the sword".

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My siblings and I were raised to never say anything good about ourselves. I've screwed up a few job interviews because of that.

  • The correct answer is you let Theo choose the door.

  • In reply to ucandoit:


  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Especially since he is scouting/watching the people who put the prizes behind the doors.

  • John, now I can't get that stupid Match Game tune out of my head! do do di da do dodo do

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Sorry :)

  • While we're discussing logic - anyone see any in the MLB / FOX love fest for Jeter with nary a mention of Tony Gwynn? I'd bet that if Gwynn had played for the Yankees they would have fallen all over themselves to honor him.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah, that was an oversight on their part.

    But when you have Jack Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Kevin Millar running the show, we shouldn't expect much, especially with stations like Fox Sports (and ESPN) being pretty notorious for stoking the hype machine.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not trying to defend Buck, Reynolds, Millar, et al, but they are probably not solely to blame for the Tony Gwynn oversight. There are producers and directors who are probably as guilty or more for the oversight. Hard to imagine that with the production meetings they have prior to big broadcasts like the All-Star Game, that no one thought it would be a good idea to pre-produce and air a video segment with some of Gwynn's better All-Star moments. As much as they've honored living HOF-ers at All-Star games in the past, this should be pretty embarrassing for MLB and Fox. Not that it would be wise to hold your breath for a mea culpa from either party.

    And I know you meant Joe Buck, John, and not his father. I'd like to think those errors happen when the fingers can't keep up with the brain. But in my case, it's usually the other way around!

  • In reply to RadioSteve:

    Agreed on all counts. Thank for clarifying that for me.

  • In reply to RadioSteve:

    Late thought but I would still prefer Jack to Joe.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    and no mention of, or interview with, anthony rizzo - considering the "Stand Up to Cancer" angle.

  • ok. i get the decision process of signing Ejax. and i agree with the reasoning, but once you establish that you picked the goat, do you stick with your decision? i know options are limited, but do the cubs think about something here? or ar ethey just running jackson out to the mound every 5 days, to routinely give up 5-6 runs in less than 5-6 innings. it is detrimental to the whole team as well as the fan base - and those are more difficult t omeasure statistically.

    i am no baseball genius, but i look at this from an econoic standpoint:
    - i invested in a machinery that does not produce effectively as expected (Ejax) and is actually creating air and noise pollution and neighbors and workers are complaining (team spirit and fan base fustration - i know silly, but stick with the analog).
    - now i have some home fabricated machinery, that i could use which might marginally exceed the expensive machine's production (Beeler, Wada etal - i know hasnt been big enough sample size, but realistically, they cant be worse) and are expected to produce less air and noise pollution overtime (fans are more fogiving with youngsters)
    - do i still run my old, expenisve equipment just because i paid a lot of money for it, or do i acknowledge that previous investments have no bearings on how to efficiently manage my machine shop (this concept is called the sunk cost), and go with the most efficient set up, by limiting said expensive equipment to partial task where it is still of use (bullpen)

    i have the impression that cubs are sticking to Ejax because he is expensive (or in the hope he might right the ship and they find some suitors for him), would it be Rusin putting up similar performance he would long be in the bullpen or Iowa. it is very similar to what they did with Marmol and it forced the Cubs to punt the whole last season.
    of course if you are rooting for the highest draft pick year over year, then Ejax is perfect - and that would make the Cubs no different than the Astros, just a little bit more subtle. but that is different from the narrative of the FO, who never said they would tank intentionally.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    I agree. I think what the Cubs are doing is giving Jackson some time to rebuild value while they can still afford to lose games. If he starts to show some promise, maybe they can trade him. Granted that is a very small chance, but if they stick him in the bullpen or DFA him, then you guarantee yourself of losing your investment with nothing to show for it.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    What if the manufacturer of the poorly performing expensive equipment offered a limited money-back guarantee if a certain number of units of production were met? Would you not use this expensive equipment in lieu the self-fabricated machinery if the increase in production is marginal and you were able to reclaim some value on the expensive equipment? This is the incentive of the new CBA to reward the teams for achieving the worst record possible.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    Well-played response to a thoughtful comment.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    well basically after you accepted that the machine investment is a sunk cost, you have the freedom to do anything you want. you may want to continue generating noise and airpollution in the hopes of the liited money-back guarrentee or you may try to bring some happniess to already overexploited workers and highly fustrated neighbors...

    i would choose the second option, since my long term aim is to have a good machine park with productive workers and happy neighbors, but again, i dont run the cubs machine shop

  • In reply to Csanad:

    The only "over exploited" Cubs players that really matter in the grand scheme of things are Castro and Rizzo. I would contend that they are on board with the scope and execution of the rebuild since they both agreed to long-term extensions. I personally do not think any of the other players on the current major league roster will have a significant impact on the next Cubs team that is a true contender for a World Series championship. The only possible exception would be Arrieta.

    The "highly frustrated" neighbors here would presumably be the fans. When decisions are being made to please the fans to the detriment of the of the best long-term interests of the Cubs, it puts the whole rebuild in jeopardy. Fortunately, this front office is capable and committed to seeing this rebuild through to completion. The fans will be there when the team is a perineal contender.

  • I agree with the others that the Monty Hall example is flawed. Removing one of the doors changes the odds to a denominator of two; it does not keep the odds a denominator of three.

    As for Edwin Jackson, I am not one of those hindsight guys. I vehemently objected to the signing at the time it occurred b/c it was an obscene amount of money ($11mm per, for four years) given to a guy with mediocre stats and metrics despite being already in his prime at the time of the deal.

  • In reply to Moody:

    It isn't a matter of opinion, Jonathan. It is a matter of fact and can be proven mathematically. You might as well disagree with the concept of a heliocentric solar system. It would make about as much sense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The example is extremely counter-intuitive - and it took me a really long time to properly wrap my head around the idea when I first had it explained to me - but the math works out.

    I'm probably still; stubborn enough though that I would keep my original door and work with my initial gut feeling- but that's just me and I ain't building up the Cubs.


  • In reply to Moody:

    You have to look at it as option A: get doors 1 & 2: 2/3 chance of winning, option B: door 3 1/3 chance at winning. Since thete is zero chance he will remove the winner there is a 100% chance that he will not open the winner if it is in 1 or 2, which means that there is a 2/3 chance switching to the remaining door of 1 or 2 nets you a winner. The odds only change if Monty doesn't know the door and then there is a 1/3 chance he would remove the winner instead of a zero percent chance.

  • In reply to Cash Considerations:

    We are assuming an imperfect knowledge situation, just as it exists in baseball. No need to overthink this. For the purpose of the article, it's a simple pure probability question. We aren't going to delve into whether Monty knew or not. It only makes sense in relation to baseball if he doesn't.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Moody:

    It's not a huge amount of money. Check around the league at what pitchers are getting. This league/game is basically printing money for their owners.

    Yes, be upset that you were right and knew Jackson would be terrible, but don't believe that the "Jackson's contract" around the league is breaking the billionaire owners pockets. Yes, if you have 15+ of the "Jackson contract" w that performance, then your in real trouble.

    Just like the naive fan wanted to believe all these years that the Soriano contract hampered this team from contending. "Now next year, he's off the books and we can compete again." Just cracks me up.

  • i'm on board with the front office. i support their decisions, and know that, even when they made a mistake, it was a calculated risk. the same calculated risks that led to feldman, hammel, etc. so, yeah, occasionally they will get a goat, but logic has led to many more prizes (and one potential G.O.A.T.) than goats.

    that being said, the only area of this article that i have trouble getting behind 100% is "On Promoting Players".

    first of all, there is a big difference in castro/rizzo and samardzija/garza - namely age and previous and potential future earnings. the cap-friendly deals of castro and rizzo still set them up for their big payday contracts around 29 or 30, while samardzija and garza were at that age and were fully expecting to sign their big contracts. also, kris bryant, javier baez aren't making, and haven't made, millions and millions of dollars yet. i think these types of players would be so much more receptive of signing a seven year contract at under market value early on in their careers in order to get paid something and have some securtiy, and still have that carrot dangling in the future of their big payday at 29-30.

    secondly, no doubt, it's a crapshoot. call somebody up too soon and they flounder, and we may never get them back. they may be gone for good. however, i can't believe that it will be good for these players to remain in aaa longer than they need to. it has to be demoralizing. to know that the team is willingly restricting their growth just to save some money for one of the biggest fan bases in baseball.

    third point: i am not really concerned about keeping the barney, bonifacio, and sweeney's of the world. they are replaceable. if stars are being kept in the closet to secure the likes of them, then that is a pretty feeble argument.

    i hope that the front office sees it this way. if kris bryant is crushing he should get called up. not today (give him a decent sampling of at bats), but certainly when rosters expand and iowa is done with the playoffs. soler and baez, too. i hope that they deviate from their plans only when the players make it necessary. and well, it seems that there are about four prospects that are making that case (alcantara, baez, bryant, soler). if they keep it up, i will be disappointed to see the front office stick to the plan and hold them back just to save them some money six years down the road.

    oh, one more point, who says that there is a switch to flip and voila the cubs are winning? you can't take this stuff for granted. i think it's time. sign lester in the off-season, make a push for 85-90 wins, call up the kids (again, provided they have earned it/continue to earn it) early, and reap the rewards. no looking back come 2016.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    One thing I can agree with, double A should not be going down to triple A because of Darwin Barney. Barney was a hot as he will ever be right before AA came up, so if they cannot get anything for him now, then the never will.

    I would like him to succeed, so that's one less question mark going into next year. It was also help the front office address their weaknesses if they know they can pencil him at CF/2B.

    The other guys simply need more seasoning, and they are def not going to be ready this year, so why rush them ESP since the are not on the 40 man roster. Also, we are all dreaming if Bryant comes up and starts mashing that Boras is going to let him sign a team friendly deal.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    fair point in regards to boras and bryant. and i am not talking about team friendly as much as mutually beneficial - young player gets money, team gets a beneficial deal for the future. otherwise, won't bryant be looking at years of arbitration? seems like he would leave money on the table. but, i'm sure you are right.

    as for the other guys needing more seasoning, that's up to the front office to determine. i am no scout. i didn't argue for a bryant call-up now, but if he improves over the next couple of months, that k rate drops, and he does what the front office is expecting from him, i would hope he gets called up whenever he's ready - regardless of future control. that is the gist of what i am arguing. i want the guys brought up when they are ready, and not held back due to service time.

  • In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    It may be a crapshoot as to when to call them up, but the cost of doing so is a well-established negative. The one known quantity speaks against early promotion, so you go with known over unknown unless circumstances dictate otherwise (i.e. an injury or a need boost during a pennant race). There seems little to gain other than subjective guesses as to whether it helps them later in the career, but the costs are objectively real.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Even if it were not a crap shoot and you KNEW that Bryant would do well if he were brought up now, why bring him up at a time when he would not help the organization to achieve any meaningful goal.

    If he performs at an all star level for the last 2 and one half months of 2014, it will mean nothing. And you have sacrificed 6 months of performance in 2021 when it could possibly mean a lot.

    I can think of no rational justification for bring up Bryant or Baez now or before their free agency is extended by a year.

  • mind....blown...

  • In reply to Pappy:

    Ha! Thanks!

  • Great article, GM's should never make a player move with the fans,
    media or their gut feels. Always use tested measures to make
    your selections. Never bring up a top prospect to soon if will
    cost you an extra year of contract control.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks E!

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    "moneyball" is called MONEYball for a reason

  • I had some of my favorite atheist blogs open while reading this article, and for a few moments, forgot which one I was reading. Great job, John.

  • Congratulations on a flashback-inducing column. Statistics-barely passed.

    Despite that, the argument that Barz, Bryant, et al, shouldn't be promoted because they hit the market one year earlier is flawed. Development issue should be the sole rationale. If all of them hit the numbers we hope they will, extensions to their contracts will be concluded, or they will be traded No one wants to have a discontented player in their clubhouse to eke out an additional year.of control.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Haha! Thanks, but you are assuming the time when minor league development is "finished" is a known quantity. It is not. On the other hand, the value lost by promoting a player earlier than needed is a tangible, measurable quality. Whenever there is doubt go with the known over the unknown, especially when there is little or nothing to gain with the unknown.

  • 1. Re: Monty Hall. The car is behind door #1. If you pick door 1, Monty will open 2 OR 3, and if you switch you lose. But if you pick 2 OR 3, Monty will open only 2 or 3. If you switch, you win the car. So by switching, you win 2/3 of the time. The only way you lose is if you guessed correctly. John's point, I think, is that only someone who believes they have magical powers would stick with their choice. And even if you guess the car, switch choices, and lose out, in the long run you're going to win more cars by always switching than by thinking you might just be lucky. If you stand on 16 when playing blackjack, maybe you shouldn't be a GM.

    2. Speaking of goats, does everyone realize that the Curse of the Billy Goat is because the Cubs made Sam Sianis take his goat outside? Who brings a goat to a baseball game? And who gets upset about being told, "Sir, could you please take your goat outside?" Stupidest curse ever.

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    In reply to Robt:

    There are times to stand on 16, like when the dealer is showing a 3,4,5,6 ......a 2 is debatable

    Overall, great points though

  • In reply to Robt:

    Thanks for your explanation Robt. I finally understand this puzzle, and why it's better odds to switch...

  • In reply to Robt:

    Sports franchises often make concessions to increase ticket sales, even to the point of allowing smelly livestock. For example, people wearing Cardinals or Sox caps are still allowed into Wrigley.

  • I have heard about example B since I took probability in college 50 years ago. I didn't agree with it then, and do not agree with it now.

    If Monty didn't know where the car was, the logic would be correct. But Monty DID know where the car was. Let's say that the car was behind door 3. You picked door one. Monty opened door three and revealed the goat.

    You are now given a NEW choice, for which the chances are 50 - 50. Your odds of your first choice being right was one in three. But now the odds of your NOW choice are one in two. There is no advantage in keeping your original or changing your choice. The odds are the same.

    It is entirely different if Monty does NOT know where the car is. If he then opens a door and reveals the goat, then the odds are 66 percent that it is in the door you did not pick.

    In the example of deal or no deal, you choose all the suitcases at random. With each choice that reveals a losing suitcase, the chances of your original choice being right are increased. Therefore, you should NEVER switch choices when it comes down to the last two, one of them being your original.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    We are acting as if he didn't know for the sake of the article. We are talking about pure probability where nobody knows the actual outcome for certain, which is a more accurate analogy for baseball.

  • fb_avatar

    The whole premise here is flawed. First, the comic is a guy picking a 1 in 2 chance or picking a one in a billion chance. The guy is just an idiot.

    Next, when you have a choice between 3 doors, each door is valued at 33%. Because he always shows you a loser door, you will now have a 1 in 2 chance to be correct. The value of the door he open, gets split between the remaining doors. The old factor was one in three, the new factor is one in two.

    All the rest is flawed because there is one thing a computer cant factor. That is the human element. A computer cant tell if someone will end up in jail, break a leg, come down with cancer or even be bad.

    A computer cant tell me these players will be here 6 years from now. So maybe the extra cost of bringing them up now is worth it for the Cubs and who knows, it may be a Yankee problemn six years from now. Therefore, BRING THE KIDS UP NOW! Besides, the team has taken enough of our money over the last 3-4 years with subpar product. They have plenty to pay these kids in their prime.

    Just another way to skin the same cat. I am not 100% right and neither are you...or anyone for that matter.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    The article is about statistical probability and other measurables. The "human element" isn't a consideration for the purpose of this article because it is not measurable. Your response is 100% subjective. That is fine, but that is not how responsible organizations make decisions. They make decisions based on known quantities and greater statistical probability. They eliminate as much uncertainty as possible.

    You combat known quantities and greater odds with "what ifs" and "who knows what can happen" type statements so we might as well bring them up now, but where is the logic there? Where is the elimination of uncertainty? Those moves have real costs rather than random, imagined possibilities if they don't do them. You should always err on the side of the known, not the unknown. Sorry, but your response does not disprove anything at all.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe you should USUALLY err on the side of the known, but I disagree that you should ALWAYS err on the side known -- especially when, if I understand the point of of the article, the known is simply a probability, not a certainty.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I can go with that. I think there are times to take risks, but they should still be calculated ones. Sometimes you need to go outside the box, as the old regime did with Jeff Samardzija and allowing him to try starting, but even that has to be based on solid info, even though it may be more on the subjective side. From a purely objective standpoint, there is no way you would try Samardzija as a starter, so I do agree. The article is emphasizing the importance of following knowns and greater probability -- and they should lean heavily in that direction because it yields the best results over time, but I did not mean to imply they should never go outside the box.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    It's not up for debate! You might as wel be arguing that 2+2 = 5.

    Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

    Vos Savant's response was that the contestant should switch to the other door. (vos Savant 1990a) Under the standard assumptions, contestants who switch have a 2/3 chance of winning the car, while contestants who stick to their choice have only a 1/3 chance.

    Many readers of vos Savant's column refused to believe switching is beneficial despite her explanation. After the problem appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers, including nearly 1,000 with PhDs, wrote to the magazine, most of them claiming vos Savant was wrong (Tierney 1991). Even when given explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still do not accept that switching is the best strategy (vos Savant 1991a). Paul Erdős, one of the most prolific mathematicians in history, remained unconvinced until he was shown a computer simulation confirming the predicted result (Vazsonyi 1999).

    The problem is a paradox of the veridical type, because the correct result (you should switch doors) is so counterintuitive it can seem absurd, but is nevertheless demonstrably true.

    Monty Hall problem

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    From my admitedly flawed perspective, not being clairvoyant, I think its the difference between short and long term views and what is important from those two perspectives. Bringing the kids up now as you say is risking the long term for the sake of near term objectives that ultimately can only accomplish getting a worse draft pick next year.

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    In reply to Randy Michelson:

    Your wrong about the factor. You aren't picking between two doors if you stay with your initial pick. You are continuing to bet on what you picked when you had a 1/3 chance. The odds of the door you have picked initially never change, even after it's reduced to two. If the initial problem was 2 doors pick one then yes 50% is correct.

  • John, isn't it very likely that Rizzo's early call-up with San Diego was actually very important and beneficial to his development? He got a taste, saw what MLB pitching was like, recognized what he needed to work on, figured out how to adjust, etc. I have to think that even though he struggled, it was very good for him. I think he and others (maybe even you at some point) have said as much.

    That's why I am a proponent of getting him up here in September, when wins and losses don't matter, because I hope they do matter next season. Give him that taste, let him see what he'll be facing, etc. I also get the 40 man roster thing. So we'll have to lose one or two players off the roster in late August instead of in May next year when he'd otherwise get his call-up. Either way, that decision/move will have to be made, it just a matter of when. Therefore, the question is weighing the benefits of a September call up vs. the cost of removing some one from the 40 man in August vs. May.

    And for me, its not even May. I hope -- regardless of September -- Bryant is in the Opening Day line up. There is the high cost of not fielding our best team for the first six weeks or so of next season. Its a high cost because I want the Cubs to win in 2015. Sure, it depends on what pitching we acquire over the winter, but I firmly believe we can be a force in our division as early as next season. And I absolutely do not want next season to be another throw away season for the rebuild.

    So, for much of the analysis, it depends on what the goals are. If the goal is to build a winner no matter how long it takes, no matter how many seasons it takes by being super cautious and conservative, then you can safely, cautiously apply all those careful odds and probabilities. Are you more concerned with 2022 or 2015? Can you do you best to take them both in account. But I'd rather the goal be to try to win next year and then apply all the objective criteria with that goal in mind.

    Finally, baseball is played for the fans. The fans cannot be totally eliminated from the equation. There are an important constituency that to some extent should be factored into determining the goals and in how to achieve them.

    I'd simply like to see this FO be a little more aggressive with the timeline.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I think Hoyer and McLeoed have admitted they already knew his flaws and ignored their better judgement, not to mention cost control concerns, as they got swept up in some of the same mistakes everyone else does. I know if they had to do it over again, they would not have called him up. But it wound up working out well for the Cubs, because it lowered his value just enough for the Padres to acquire Alonso and make Rizzo available.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So you see no value in a top prospect getting MLB experience in September as a primer for their debut the following year? Not arguing this point, just sincerely interested in your view on this.

  • In reply to TTP:

    One could argue it didn't help Olt, B Jax, or Vitters, etc... But even when they have success, i.e. Jr Lake, there's no guarantee that it will translate to the next season when the league adjusts to them.

    But it does speed up their clock. That's why Rizzo didn't come up until June vs May.

    Anyways, IDK if there's any factual data out there that say yes or no a Sept cup of coffee aids in the players development. But taking the long term viewpoint, it just makes more sense to be conservative with those prospects and maintain the extra year of control. IDK know of any players that was regressed because they were kept in AAA an extra month or two... So we have much to gain and nothing to lose.

    As fans it's frustrating because we want to win every game. I want to see Bryant & Baez mashing in Wrigley as much as you do. Even more so with Baez since I've known him and watched him play since he 14. But I think I am more accepting of the justification to wait until May to experience that.

  • In reply to TTP:

    It is a bad idea to say that it absolutely does or absolutely does not help every single player or not a single player.

    But my personal opinion is that a September call up has very little effect either way for most prospects. And the rest might be helped or hurt by it, and there is no way to tell in advance which would be helped and which will be hurt.

  • In reply to TTP:

    TTP, your argument that bringing up Bryant in August or next May only will cost one prospect is wrong. You are forgetting about the consequences of the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. An important point is that Bryant does not need to be on the 40-man roster this winter to be projected from the Rule 5 draft. Here are the two scenerios.

    A: Bryant is promoted August 1, 2015. He replaces Brett Jackson (as an example). However, since Bryant is now on the 40-man roster, there is now no room for CJ Edwards (an example) on the 40-man, and Edwards is lost in the Rule 5 draft. Impact of promoting Bryant now: loss of two prospects (Jackson and Edwards).

    B: CJ Edwards replaces Brett Jackson on the 40-man roster November 1. After the Winter Meetings, trades have made a hole on the 40-man that is filled by Bryant when he is promoted May 1, 2015. Impact of waiting: loss of one prospect (Jackson).

    This is why Bryant most probably will not be promoted this year.

    In addition to Edwards, there are a number of other prospects that have to be placed on the 40-man prior to the Winter Meetings, in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. A few names: Jokisch, Amaya, Willson Contreras, Rafael Lopez, Marco Hernandez, and a few relievers at AA. The entire list can be found on Arizona Phil's site

    I fully expect Bryant to be promoted in late April 2015, as soon as he will not be able to accrue a full year's service time. As a recent example, think of Longoria. I expect Bryant to adjust as quickly to ML pitching as Longoria did.

    Now, Baez, I am not so sure. I do not think we will see him at Wrigley until June/July 2015.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    In your A paragraph I think you meant Aug 1, 2014 not 2015.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yes, I did. Thanks for catching that.

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    Dogma is a dangerous thing. "The rate of success for college hitters drafted is much higher than that of either college pitchers or high school pitchers. You are far more likely to obtain value by drafting a college hitters." So why then, did the Cubs in the very first draft under Theo select high school hitter? And they are also on record saying if they had their choice, they would have draft Aiken in this year's draft. And saying that the guy they did pick was #2 on their list. So clearly they are not dogmatic, but perhaps just pick the best player? The San Francisco Giants won two World Series by drafting a starting pitcher almost every draft (except for Posey, who they pick, I suspect, because he was the best available player).

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Nothing is cut and dry. We are talking about degrees here. All things being equal you take the college hitter. It's not that you take a college hitter no matter what. The Cubs would have taken Aiken had he fallen to #4.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    College hitters are a better bet to succeed than high school pitchers, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL.

    But no sane person would maintain that it is better to pick the worst college hitter rather than the best high school pitcher.

    As John has indicated in the past, and hints at above, is that you would only take a high school pitcher over a college hitter if that high school pitcher is far and away better than the college hitter. If they are rated close, take the hitter.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    20 position players have carrer WAR over 100. 9 pitchers have a career WAR over 100. If it's a coin toss between the position player and the pitcher, you are better served picking the position player. That doesn't mean you take any old position player over a pitcher.

  • Another way to look at the Monty Hall problem is this:

    Their are 3 doors - one of which has a million dollars behind it.

    You are asked to choose one of the doors. You pick door #1

    Now they say, before we go any further, we will give you the choice of sticking with door #1 or you can have BOTH door #2 AND door #3.

    With a million bucks on the line almost everyone will pick doors 2&3 as doing it this way, it's much more obvious that you're chances are 2/3 vs 1/3 if you stick with just door #1.

    The only difference it the two scenarios is in the game show, they showed you a goat before you make your choice...the odds stay the same.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    GD I just can't figure out the logic of 2 in 3 chances despite going back and re reading your previous post where you talk about vos Savante? I look at it like this:

    Its two separate odds. First is 1 in 3.

    The totally separate Second choice. Since Monte was so kind as to eliminate one of the three you now have a 1 in 2 choice. You don't get to add them together right? My head hurts! :)

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    The thing that you're not taking into consideration is that there will Always be a goat behind one of the two doors and they know which one. So you can disregard the fact that they reveal one to you having a goat.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Exactly. Them showing you a goat doesn't change the odds.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    My explanation is pretty simple. You are faced with a choice of 2 doors or 1 door. Them showing you a goat doesn't change anything.

    RE: Its two separate odds.

    No, it's not. That would only be true, if after opening the door with the goat, they randomly moved the prize to one of the remaining two doors. This is not the case. The prize (and the goats) are still where they were when you started the exercise.

  • I'm of the crowd that has no problem with letting the "young guns" stay down through the end of this year. My concern is that the team will hold off on bringing them up NEXT year until it's "too late" to further save on service time. I feel as though they have a legitimate shot at putting together a solid competitive team on the field next year. Too many things can happen with player injuries, players being busts, etc. waiting isn't always the best plan. Just my 2 cents

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I know that they would have to be brought up sometime in June to avoid them going "super 2", but as far as I know, this would only affect what year they are eligible for arbitration, not what year they are eligible for free agency.

    ArizonaPhil spelled it out some time ago. I forget the exact details but within a couple of days"

    The season lasts 183 days. A year of service time is defined as being on the 25 man roster for 170 days. Therefore, if the season starts on April 1, and the player is put on and stays on the 25 man roster on or before April 13, he is credited for 1 year of service time. If he is placed on the 25 man roster and stays there on or after April 14, he is NOT credited with a year of service time.

    A player is eligible for free agency after completing 6 years of service time.

    I may be off a day one direction or the other, but the Cubs can add a year of control if the player is brought up for the first time about two weeks after the season starts. I highly doubt that this would be the difference between a successful season and a failing season.

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    Alot has been written about our Shortstop "logjam", but this article is a really good one:

    Cliff Notes: There is no such thing as a logjam until we see how all these guys work out (meaning Bryant, Baez, Russell, etc), because odds are at least 1 and maybe more will fail.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yeah, but Monty, what door is that failure behind?

  • "The weapons researches use to combat the lack of precise determinism is the ability to calculate the odds of a particular outcome. Short of being capable of actually predicting a result, computing the likelihood of different consequences is the next best thing. The tools that have been fashioned to improve on mere guesses and speculations - statistics and probability theory - provide the underpinning of nut just much of modern science, but also a wide range of social activities, from economics to sports."

    --Mario Livio

  • In reply to JerryMartin28:

    Or, after re-reading and seeing my typos, Mario Livio after a few glasses of vino.

  • In reply to JerryMartin28:

    That's a perfect quote for this piece.

  • Great site, John. I don't know of any site I visit on a regular basis (on any subject) that gives more quality daily updates than this one.

    After initially rejecting the Monty Hall premise, then reading the Wikipedia page on it and accepting it, I have been racking my brain on how to explain it in the simplest terms. I think I have it.

    Forget about him showing the goat. It is completely irrelevant.

    Just say that you get a choice of 3 doors. After choosing that one door, Monty says ok - you can stay with the one door you chose or you can have both the other doors.

    It's as simple as that. The car is either in the one you picked initially or not. There is a 1 in 3 chance that it is. There is a 2 in 3 chance that it is not. Opening one of the two doors not chosen to reveal the goat does not change that fact.

    People can argue all they like, but if the question is re-framed "Would you rather choose one door or two doors?" it is not debatable.

  • In reply to RachOp18:

    I framed it in exactly this same context above.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    You sure did. Apparently I didn't rack my brain fast enough!

  • In reply to RachOp18:

    Interesting way to put it! I like it. And thanks for the kind words!

  • In reply to RachOp18:

    I agree, and withdraw my previous contention.

  • Really interesting piece, John. But do we have to keep bringing up the damn goat?

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Because of the curse.

  • In reply to wastrel:


  • Minor notes: to make room for Schwarber at Daytona, the Cubs released OF Zeke DeVoss.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Thanks. Is anyone moving up to Kane County to take Schwarber's spot?

  • In reply to John57:

    Looks like Dillon Maples.

  • In reply to John57:

    Heard it was Guiseppe Pappacio now. who is a reserve infielder. So no impact move.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    One interpretation is they're moving Zagunis slowly because they want him to stick and catcher and he needs to work on it.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    That makes me sad. I like Zeke. Good guy. Understandable, though.

  • John- New guy here. Love the site and look forward to reading it every morning. Any insight to Santiago Rodriguez? He is putting up gaudy stats so far this year. Thanks and keep up the great work.

  • In reply to bernfrye:

    Thanks! I don't know him other than he was an older signing out of the DR. He already turned 20 even though he was drafted out of last year's class. Usually guys are 16 or 17. He's not particularly big and I wonder if he is putting up good numbers more because he is a more polished guy. I don't know what he has in terms of stuff.

  • all this probability stuff has me thinking about poker also.. so many times in poker, with deductive reasoning and using probability to figure out how your hand does against certain hand ranges, compare that to how much is in the pot and how much will be in the pot you can come out with a positive exptected value on your desired play or a negative expected value.. as in poker, like baseball, you want to make every decision to be a positive expected value decision.. but each decision there is a variable of risk involved

  • Anyone want to take on the grueling task of watching the re-runs of all the Let's Make a Deal episodes and give us some real hard stats on the Monty Hall Paradox?

  • John it was my understanding there would be no math. P.S. My head hurts...

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Sorry about that!

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    Hi everyone! I'm a long time reader but this is the first time I've felt qualified to contribute, although I'm down low enough that probably no one will read it anyway! Oh well.

    I've spent a long time thinking about and explaining the Monty Hall problem over the years and I have developed a pretty consistent strategy.

    The most important thing to remember is that Monty Hall doesn't always have a free reign to choose a door. If you pick door number 1 and that's the car door (which happens 1/3 of the time), then Monty can choose either other door and you'll be screwed by switching. However, if it's behind either door 2 OR door 3 (which happens 2/3 of the time), Monty doesn't have a choice! He has to reveal the other one or you'll see the car!

    This means that 2/3 of the time, Monty is locked into a door choice, and thus reveals to you that the car is behind the remaining door. In a sense, you're betting on whether the door Monty revealed was a forced move. And since 2/3 of the time the car is behind door 2 or 3, it's going to be a forced move 2 out of 3 times!

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    In reply to Nathan King:

    In other words, read exactly what nukee said above.

  • Daytona Cubs @daytonacubs
    Streaks extended: Bijan Rademacher has now reached base in 27 straight and Billy McKinney has reached in all 10 games w/ the Cubs

    ChicagoCubsOnline @TheCCO
    Kyle Hendricks pitched 2 scoreless innings for PCL in Triple-A All-Star Game. Hendricks: 0R, 0H, 2BB, 2K, 2IP (39 pitches, 20 strikes)

    Andrew Green @andruwgreen · 20m
    Jorge Soler with a pinch hit RBI single cuts the Smokies' deficit to 2. 3rd straight game with an RBI for Soler

    I'm convinced that Soler could be laying in a deep coma for 6 months, wake up, roll out of bed, grab a bat, and hit a line drive somewhere. #Natural

  • Be something of Billy McKinney turned out to be the bigger prize in this trade.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    If he is, I hope it is because McKinney turns out to be really, really good, rather than Russell turning out to be really, really bad.

    But seriously, Mckinney is a good prospect in his own right. Hammel for McKinney straight up would have been a decent deal, in my opinion.

  • The problem with your arguments on Edwin Jackson is it ignores the state of the Cubs at the time of his signing. The Cubs were never going to compete until 2015 at the earliest. That means you were signing a 29 year old #3/4 to a 4 year deal, 2 of which were completely wasted on bad teams and 2 of which MIGHT be salvaged on decent teams (with the first of those years in question). But those 2 that might be salvaged were also when you could expect a decline.

    Edwin Jackson never made sense because of the Cubs' projected competitive timeline, which Theo and Jed have all but admitted when they said they may have jumped the gun.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    There! I knew there was a reason for hating that signing. Thanks Tulane.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Theo signed EJax because he panicked after getting shafted by Sanchez.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    You're assuming they're tanking seasons intentionally. I think they're trying to put a decent team together on a budget, and when the bullpens (& this year none of the veteran outfielders hit until the middle of June) have blown up the seasons out of the gate, they go to plan B and tank the season.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    No, I'm assuming they were realistic about where they were at on the win curve and thus shouldn't have invested in a pitcher who was unlikely to contribute to a contending team until his production was deteriorating.

  • A great article in Fangraphs on why the Cubs don't have a logjam of prospects at similar positions.

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    Great article as always! When I first read it I wanted to rant and rave about the monte hall principle but after reading 175,000 (or so) responses on it so far I feel like I understand why you used the principle John. I (feel like) know why you wrote the article but I just have one problem with it and many of the responses so far. I am not in the know with baseball and most of my insights are stolen from the website lol but your whole premise is based on intuition. You are just using numbers to justify the FO's intuition. I agree that the numbers make it much more likely for success which I feel like this article was trying to point out. But I read these comments about "gut instincts" being bad that simply can't be the case. Why would teams scout, interview players, their friend, their families if "Numbers" were all they were going to use to project success? We NEED Theo and Co. to use their "gut instincts!" They are in charge of a team because they see things that most trained eyes (or computers) don't. If not almost anyone could be a GM. I know numbers are a good tool to project success but they are not the only tool and anyone who only uses one of the tools available to them is never going to be as successful as possible. I firmly believe in this front office and I firmly believe their gut instincts play a huge part in who they do and don't sign. If it doesn't we will be on this site in 5 years having this same discussion about the next FO.

    I know this discussion probably ended about 10 hours ago but I haven't been home all day so I had to get my 2c in late!

  • "Why would teams scout, interview players, their friend, their families if "Numbers" were all they were going to use to project success? We NEED Theo and Co. to use their "gut instincts!" They are in charge of a team because they see things that most trained eyes (or computers) don't. If not almost anyone could be a GM."

    Because that scouting, interviewing, et al., IS playing the odds to their favor. As John has said, erring to the known always beats erring to the unknown. Player A has X qualities on paper, player B has the same X qualities on paper, but you can only draft one of them. So, you do the seeking of the known with those interviews, etc. I'm sure gut instinct does indeed come into play at times with these guys, but they don't rely on it.

  • Thought exercise:

    True or false -- if we are drafting a player, and we have a college hitter and a pitcher at the top with the exact same rated ceilings, we should take the college hitter 100% of the time.

    What do you think?

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