Can the Cubs be a team for all seasons?

One of the challenges of playing half of your games at Wrigley Field is that not only does it play so differently from any other ballpark, it also can be a very different ballpark itself whether it is warm or cold or depending on how the wind is blowing.  It is hard enough to build a team that can adapt to Wrigley from month to month, much less a team that can compete consistently in the different parks around the league.

But I think instead of looking that as a disadvantage, it can present a challenge with the result being a chameleon team that can change according to the setting.

The team has gotten off to a poor start in all 3 seasons since the Epstein administration has taken over.  We can blame much of that on unsettled bullpens, something that figures to change this season.  But we can also blame it on fielding teams that were unable to adapt to difficult hitting conditions.

Wrigley tends to play like a big ballpark early in the season.  With their power somewhat neutralized, they found themselves with few alternatives.  They didn’t get on base enough and, outside of Emilio Bonifacio, couldn’t do much once they did get on base.  They didn’t have speed nor did they have enough contact hitters to safely put runners in motion.

The Cubs have a manager in Joe Maddon who would like to utilize that,

“I can see speed – including using it creatively – becoming a more important part of the game. I think the trend might be going back to the way the game had been before the unrealistic home run numbers arrived and walks became prominent. I really don’t know.”

But as Red Sox manager Ben Cherington notes in the same article,

“Offense has changed. Power, at least in terms of home runs, is down. Even on-base percentage is down. There are all sorts of reasons for that. We know we need to build a better offense, but we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. If we can see pitches and get on base, and still hit for power and hit with runners in scoring position, I still think that’s a formula to score runs.”

So maybe a combination of the two?  That seems to be the best fit for their ballpark and it looks like the direction the Cubs are heading…

Make no mistake, though, the Cubs have drafted power and have done much to acquire better OBP skills both at the major and minor league level, so that will always be the biggest part of their game.  And the simple fact of the matter is that OBP correlates to winning, simply because base runners translate to runs which, in turn, translate to victories.  Power is a way to get those runs in bunches, since it is unlikely any team is going to be able to keep the line moving one at a time with walks and singles.  Eventually, you have to get those bases and those runs in chunks.  It helps you get the most out of your base runners.  Power creates efficiency in that respect.

But what happens on days and in parks where that power is a little harder to come by?  As Maddon also notes, power is already down across the board after the PED era and as new information seems to benefit pitchers and defense.  What else can you do?

Obviously you still have to get on base, but I think you also have to be more creative about moving them — hopefully without creating too many outs in the process with sac bunts and getting caught on the bases.

I believe the Cubs have begun to shape their roster to be flexible depending on the environment.  On days when the wind blows in maybe you’re better off with guys who put the ball in play, get on base, and can create on the bases.  Maybe that is a day Tommy La Stella gets a start and Baez gets a breather.  Maybe on days when you need more speed, you work Alcantara and Fowler into the lineup, and maybe you utilize Castro and Soler on the bases more.

But when the wind is blowing out and a breaking ball dependent LHP is on the mound?  Well, by all means you stack the lineup with RH power like Baez, Soler, Castro, Alcantara, Olt, and eventually Bryant and neutralize their strength by making them go to their fastball and change-up more often.  Conversely, when a tough righty is on the mound, you can insert some combination of Fowler, Coghlan, La Stella, Coghlan and Montero to combat that pitcher’s strengths and tendencies.

And what about a team with a bad bullpen. why not stack the lineup with guys who can grind out ABs, get the pitch count up, and get the starting pitcher out of the game early?

The Cubs have the kind of data to go beyond all of this as well and focus on what type of pitchers against which young Cubs hitters match-up better in terms of their strengths/weaknesses as hitters vs. the pitchers strengths/weaknesses.  That is, in addition to adapting to their environment they can put players as individuals in situations where they can succeed.

I believe that, in addition to the kinds of general upgrades we have spoken of in the past, this is what Maddon and the front office are thinking.  The point I am trying to make is the Cubs are on their way toward building a roster that can adapt to different environments as well as match-up based on who the opponent is and what their strengths are.  When they spoke about lengthening the lineup, it is as much about avoiding the one size fits all team they’ve been forced to be based on not having enough talent to mix and match.   It seems especially important early in the season when the Cubs haven’t been creative or flexible enough to overcome the quirks of early season baseball at Wrigley.  It is important for the Cubs to get off to a good start this season if they expect to contend and perhaps  even be buyers at the trade deadline.  And to do that they have to have the kind of roster that gives them the best chance to win on any given day.

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  • Bonifacio did plenty when he got on base... like get picked off every other day. Of course when you on first base like 50 times the first two weeks, you are bound to get picked off every once in a while

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    This team has the makings of a group that can potentially win in different ways and not just "try to get a 3-run homer" every day.

    I do have a question about the Maddon quote. I have seen it many times and am curious what would be an example of using speed "creatively"? I am curious because I have heard stories of Maddon's creativity (such as getting a utility player 500-600 PAs per year...something most managers couldn't/wouldn't do) and am wondering how to creatively use speed.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I am not sure he has a specific plan on that until he knows what he has here. I think he has to adapt to his personnel. He even bunted more last year (gulp) because of the limitations of his roster. I hope it doesn't come to that. I don't think he is going to re-create the 85 Cardinals, but I think we'll see movement, particularly when they have guys like La Stella and Castro at the plate.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, you used the term "a team for all seasons"(ala Alan Alda). The 79 Pirates had another name "lumber and lightning".

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Ha! I was actually thinking about Robert Shaw and Paul Scofield ;) That Pirates team was really tough, one of my favorites as a kid.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    In most ball parks, the basepath from first to second and the basepath from third to home mostly run north and south.

    If you look at a map on the wall, you will see that south to north runs uphill, and north to south runs downhill.

    Therefore, a manager using speed creatively will never have his team steal second, running uphill all the way, but rather have them steal home, which runs downhill, much to the runner's advantage.

    Or, the manager could make more use of pinch runners on certain days, especially if he has starting pitchers who can also run fast, such as Wood.

    But I like the first idea better.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    You guys are taking this to interesting levels ;)

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    In reply to DaveP:

    That is an uncanny insight. I hadn't considered which way is uphill and which way is downhill on a baseball field. That is definitely using speed in a "creative" way...or at least a "creative writing" assignment! ;)

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Double steals. Bunt for hits. Taking extra bases on base hits..maybe sac/safety hunts with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out or less at the bottom of the lineup. A lot of different situations.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    When I read that quote, the first thing that came to mind (after your own question) was that Maddon is probably going to manipulate other teams' defensive shifts/allow their shifts to influence decisions on the base paths/use runners to limit other teams' abilities to employ extreme shifts?

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    maybe it starts with teaching better base running [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-morgan/the-fastest-path-around-the-bases_b_1884953.html]

    "So what is the optimal path? Using a very simple model, my colleagues and I obtained this path (picture included in article):

    You start out heading about 25 degrees right of the base line and run with acceleration of constant maximum magnitude. You slow down a bit coming into first, hit a local maximum speed as you cross second, start the final acceleration home a bit before crossing third base, and reach maximum velocity as you sprint across home plate. The total time around the bases is about 16.7 seconds assuming maximum acceleration 10 feet per second per second, about 25 percent faster than following the baseline for 22.2 seconds (coming to a full stop at first, second, and third base), and about 6 percent faster than following a circular path for 17.8 seconds."

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    could even be in sliding [http://www.livescience.com/2924-baseball-head-slides.html] (hint: while more dangerous, head first slides are actually quicker than feet first slides).

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    maybe it also entails having more lefties in the lineup on those "wind blowing in" days to get a competitive speed advantage in ways we don't think about:

    "After a right-hander connects with a ball, his momentum spins him toward the third-base side. He must regroup to take even his first step toward first base. A left-hander's momentum carries him directly toward first. "The left-handed batter has a 5-foot advantage over the right-handed batter," Peters calculates. "And that means the lefty travels the 90 feet to first roughly one-sixth of a second faster than the righty. That translates to more base hits for the left-hander, whether singles or extra base hits because lefties are getting to the bases more quickly."

    [link: http://www.livescience.com/2665-baseball-rigged-lefties.html]

    like stealing strikes and getting strikes actually called strikes in baseball, if you use enough of these small, seemingly insignificant means for gaining slight advantages, they just might add up to a win or two...

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    I understand the advantages of a LH vs. RH coming out of the batter's box, however I think it also assumes roughly equal ability and roughly equal speed. I would still rather have a good hitting RH batter than a bad hitting LH batter, even if it means he has to run 5 feet further to get to 1B. I would rather have Billy Hamilton from the right side than Mike LaValliere from the left side.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Fowler, AA, La Stella, Montero, Rizzo....which one is not a good hitter? AA is probably the only one who isn't a great OBP guy. Besides the OBP, that's a small advantage that adds up. As for Hamilton, the Reds turned him into a switch hitter for the exact advantage. He was strictly a RHH when drafted.

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    Yes, my point was that ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL the LH has an advantage. There are those that might actually want to bat a lesser hitter just to get the "advantage" of a lefty's shorter/faster trip to 1B.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I had some additional thoughts/links that had appeared to have gotten posted. maybe they got caught up in the spam filter. not sure.

    Was just going to come back and add in addition to them that from everything I've read from sabermeticians, you have to steal about 75% of the time to be providing a positive gain that way. So if Maddon is in any way referencing stolen bases when he talks about speed, I'll assume that they'll be looking at all the situational variables and seeing which ones will normally equate to a 75% chance of success or better, and will selectively steal in those situations. I'd have to think that that'd be about the only way a stats-friendly management team would be pro-base stealing.

    In case the other comments and links are lost for good,
    one talked about the most efficient path for running the bases. I suggested that perhaps they'll try to work on some stat-friendly base path running. Another discussed the advantage of LHH in the time it takes them to run to first base (a slight advantage that still adds a small amount to a team's win totals over the course of a season, even if a very small fraction), and how on days where the wind blows in, a lefty dominated lineup might provide useful. Another stating that head first slides are quicker/more efficient in success than feet first slides.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    weird. immediately after posting, I can now see them all again.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I just released some stuff from the spam filter. The links may have caused it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i thought that might be the issue, but they were there originally. hadn't experienced that before.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I saw them too and thought you had other posts stuck in the filter.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I think there are many facets to baserunning, but the most important, to me, is the ability to read the defense and make good decisions about when to attempt the extra base, when to delay/decoy to give another baserunner a chance to move up, when to get back to the base safely. Those are things that are coachable and I think Maddon will address them.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I would think that every team coaches those things. Nothing new there IMO.

  • Using speed is a nice supplementary piece for an offense, but returning to the games of the 80s is not feasible. The ballparks are smaller and there is no AstroTurf anymore. Even without the PEDs it is just a different game now. It worked a little bit for the Royals last year but they were still bad offensively even wirh a ton of speed and they have the biggest OF in the majors so speed is more important for them then probably any other team.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    No, I don't think Maddon was saying that and neither am I, but I think there are days when you'll have to adapt. The Cubs will still be built around OBP and power, but it is nice to have alternatives when they need it.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The Royals speed paid dividends in their OF defense for certain. Your are also correct that they were a bad offensive team. Absolutely unbelievable to me that Mustakus could not beat the shift with a bunt to the left side.

  • Mixing and matching is the best way to go. As John stated having a versatile team that can play to the conditions early in the season is the best way to go. Once summer rolls around the boppers will play the biggest role, but then the versatility will have an increased roll as the weather chills in the fall.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Agreed, and many of your likely bench guys like Olt, LaStella will have had some early reps to get their timing, so that when they come off the bench later, they won't be completely cold.

  • I agree with your premise and that there has been a conscious focus on improving the OBP, but the core is still built on power arms and power bats. I don't see Rizzo bunting. The problem is that most of the power bats get their winter work done in warm weather cities and then head to Mesa. Barnstorming is a thing of the past, so suddenly they are trying to hit in 35 degree weather and the bats don't warm up until the ivy leafs in. Maybe Maddon will have the creativity to have intra-squad games in Flagstaff at night or somehow get these guys acclimated before Opening Night. Gonna need a lot of 1-0, 2-1 wins unless they can hit in cold weather. Still have to make contact even if not aiming for the fences.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    They are still absolutely built around power and OBP as well as power arms (but increasingly ones that throw strikes too). I think you just want to limit those days where your big bats are silenced and you are suddenly helpless. I seem to remember a White Sox team like this in the recent past. They had a lot of power bats and could score runs in bunches, but they seemed to have way too many days when they were shut out too. The key is always to get on base, because that works no matter what the conditions. I think it always starts there, but they may just have to adapt better on those days when that 3-run HR isn't there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    To get a 3-run HR you have to have 2 guys on base! Getting on base is still critical.

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    In reply to charactercounts:

    Rizzo doesn't need to bunt. Last season, he had a .386 OBP, which was actually better than Fowler's OBP. And although players like Soler and Bryant are projected to have high SLG (just like Rizzo) they will also likely have high OBP. So obviously what makes them elite is that they both get on base and hit for power. My suspicion (and I could be wrong) is that this management team will slightly favor players who get on base over players who hit for power. So in others words, if you don't hit for power, but do get on base, you'll get playing time. But if don't have a decent OBP but do hit for power, then playing time will be hard to come by.

  • One thing is for sure, it's gonna be a lot of fun to watch Maddon work with all of the options he has.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I think it might be as much fun as we've had since all of Don Zimmer's crazy concoctions in '89. Not saying they'll be as successful, but that was one of the most fun teams to watch since I've been a Cubs fan.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ah yes, maybe mine too. The Boys of Zimmer with the Wild Thing slamming the door shut in the 9th. Good times...

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Well, with the "Wild Thing" nearly giving me a heart attack before slamming the door. 9th innings were an adventure for sure!

  • In reply to Jeff Sullivan:

    Yep, all part of the experience...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Went to my first game at Wrigley in 89'. Cubs sweep expos. Sutcliffe vs. Dennis Martinez. Ryno had a solo shot and the hawk and dunston scored. If you walked out of the stadium and were not a converted Cubs fan, you were dead inside.
    Other notes from the game; wild thing got the save, there was a Luis Salazar citing, a lot of brooms were out, and there seemed to be way to much neon worn by all.

  • In my opinion, there is too much emphasis on the long ball in baseball today. Creation of the annual "Home Run Derby" was one of the dumbest things MLB ever did. It's no wonder the average fan doesn't even understand the game any more. Don't get me wrong - Home Runs are nice, but so are bases-clearing doubles, well-executed hit and run plays, and many other things a team does to score. I'd much rather see those things in a close game than watch 10 solo HRs.

  • I think who the Cubs are throwing out on the mound could determine the line up too. Lester = smaller OBP, defensive, minded. # 5 starter= quick score potential, then hand it to the pen.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    True, maybe a better IF defense with a ground ball pitcher, etc.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Many ways to win, but as you point out 1 big key is getting on base. Which is why I think Mallee might be the most under rated of all the pick ups this year. What he did with the young hitters in Houston last year was awesome. If we can get our young guys to buy in to what he is selling early on, it could be a fun run to October.

  • If the Cubs really want to make playoffs for 2015, why not make this trade with Washington:

    Cubs get: Zimmerman and Desmond
    Nats get: Castro, Rondon, Jackson

    That way Nats get long term help in their shortstop of the future and bullpen help they need. Jackson just evens out the finances more. Cubs get TOR starter and shortstop to replace Castro. If Russell is ready in July, then trade Desmond at trade deadline to recoup some talent. That should put the Cubs up closer to the 90 win goal for making it into the playoffs.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    I love the idea of getting zimmerman but rondon and Jackson don't = zimmerman on any planet. They have prospect for future ss and back up plan with escabor. They are world series or bust in my opinion. Hopefully bust.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    Ted Lerner, the Nats owner is 89 yrs old., Definitely wants to win in his lifetime, and this might be his best chance. JZimm and Desmond likely arent going anywhere.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Strasburg is almost certain to go though and Desmond will go if they get a SS in return (think Xander Bogaerts from Boston as Trae Turner won't be ready for a couple of years). I've been hearing the relationship there is "irreparable". With two years left on his deal though they're going to ask more than the Cubs would or should give up without knowing what they have yet.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Why should the Nats pick up the money, when it is usually considered that Jackson is DFA material?

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Absolutely not. Not even with the salary dump. You save $22 million and give up 5 years of Castro for ONE YEAR of Zimmerman? Wow. No.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    They are not playing just for 2015, though.

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    In reply to NilesNorth:

    Sure and maybe I can trade my Huffy for a Harley. smh

  • Someone indicated that this has to be recalculated once the Cubs put in two big wind blockers in left-center field and the right field line, otherwise known as video boards.

  • In reply to jack:

    That may end up being a factor. I am not sure how you measure that right now, to be honest. But even without the wind, Wrigley can be tough in April with the cold, heavy air. It will definitely be something to compare once the season is over.

  • John, I've heard no one talk about how the new electronic boards in the outfield will affect the wind at Wrigley. Sure the park plays big on days with the wind blowing in. But I think a lot of line drives that would have been knocked down will now carry better. The jumbo tron will be a factor. What do you think?

  • In reply to rico777:

    I've heard that mentioned but I am not sure how much it will affect things. Maybe I can ask a friend of mine who is a physicist.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't think any of them are big enough to totally block the wind, but might channel it into more of a "swirling" effect. Could be interesting...

  • Multiple articles per day! This site is awesome.

  • Madison's comment about OBP and speed is interesting. Having suffered through the Herzog Cardinals of the 80s, I can see some team exploring that tactic. Now, the game is different in the parks are smaller and most surfaces are grass. But with all of the hard throwing pitchers that rely on leverage and longer times to the play, will a team try to exploit the trend towards power arms and bats? Most things come back in style.

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    Nice deal for astros as they just sign Colby Rasmus for 1 year and 4 million. M

    If he sucks, only invested one year. If he's good, they can flip him at deadline for a premier prospect or at worst supplemental pick next yr.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Just to clarify JO...Rasmus has a guarantee of $8M for one year (according to MLB TR). As far as a supplemental pick, they only get one if they offer him a QO (which could be $16M), and I highly doubt they would do that...and if they did, I highly doubt that Rasmus would turn it down.

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    In reply to JollyCharlieGrimm:

    It depends on what kind of season he has which was my caveat

    Thanks for clarifying the cash As the lady on MLB said 4 million as as soon as it was announced which def sounded low to me.

    Shows what is market was he wanted to sign w the O's for 7 million but they said no mas, too much

  • It has always been tough building a team for Wrigley. Cold, wind and hot day games. Everyday players and pitchers wear down in September

  • Kind of reminds me of a segment Moody did last year on OBP vs. SLG. Which is more important to scoring runs. I think the answer he came up with is they both do, but OBP has a slight edge. But a team needs both and the Cubs are shaping up exactly that way. Hopefully.

  • In reply to couch:

    Yes, I think if I had to rank it I would rank it as OBP, power, and then things like speed, contact ability, etc. The more you can have of each category the better, but you obviously you take care of the the OBP and power first. I think the Cubs have done a good jobs of building a more flexible team that is still centered around (hopefully) OBP and power, but may have alternatives when needed.

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    Great article. So many good examples of ways that Maddon can take advantage of a flexible lineup. Lefty, righty, power, on base, speed, working counts, defense, etc

    While I'm optimistic, I am still worried about a slow start in April because:

    1. We still have a lot of young hitters
    2. We always seem to struggle in the cold
    3. No Kris Bryant for a few weeks

    Hopefully we now have some options to address this.

  • In reply to OregonCubs1:

    Thanks!

  • If we make the playoffs this year is bartman gonna be at the game just thinking outloud

  • In reply to jimmy89:

    I hope so. The guy is apparently a huge fan, he should get to enjoy it... For everyone's sake though it should.probably be from the upper deck.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    HA HA HA... LOVED THIS ONE

  • In reply to jimmy89:

    Actually, I hope so. The Cubs should give a seat in one of the luxury boxes to pay him back for some of the grief he has suffered. . .

    . . . and where he can't reach any baseballs, of course...

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm fine with him catching a baseball. I would be fine with him 5 rows back...just don't be where he can reach the field!

  • In reply to jimmy89:

    Some kind of symbolic reparations should be made to that poor guy. Let him throw out a first pitch or something. It was shameful to be a Cubs fan after the way he was run out of town.

  • Theo should give him a free pass I felt bad for him

  • That made me laugh cliff1969

  • Bartman did what 90 percent of fans at the game would have done. He tried to catch a ball that was within reach. I guarantee that when a ball is coming down within their reach, most fans are not going to look around to see where Alou is on the field.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Would have tried to do the same thing,....

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    In reply to DaveP:

    While Alou originally insisted he would have caught the ball years later after watching the replay he realized he very likely wouldn't have reached it.

    The one that I am still stung by is the usually sure handed Alex Gonzalez (I think...SS) muffing a taylor made double play ball that would have made Bartman a footnote.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, that play was much more critical to the series than the foul fly that Bartman was involved in. Even with that loss, the Cubs had another game the next day to win the pennant, and lost again.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Dave, you are right about 99% of foul balls, but not in the 8th inning of a world series berth clinching game…sorry but even as a fan, you have to be aware of the situation. If Florida were in the field, by all means. But not with the Cubs in the field.

    That said, I don’t blame Bartman for the loss. It was one of a number of plays as has been rehashed ad nauseum.

  • "And the simple fact of the matter is that OBP correlates to winning, simply because base runners translate to wins which, in turn, translate to victories." I think you meant "base runners translate to runs which, in turn, translate to victories." :)

  • In reply to Cubbies412:

    Yes, but wins translate to victories too, don't they?

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yes, I did a couple of studies and found there is a correlation between wins and victories. A pretty strong correlation in fact. My methodology was impeccable:

    Me: Hey, [anonymous sabermetric friend], I am doing a rigorous baseball study. Would you rather have a "win" or a "victory"?

    Anonymous sabermetric friend: What?!

    Me: I'll tabulate that as a "Yes."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    If Sabermetrics is involved, I'm convinced!

  • In reply to Cubbies412:

    I did, thank you.

  • I really like the versatility of the roster and Maddons ability to use the whole roster. Not only for the reasons you stated John but it should result in a much rested team in August and September. It would be wonderful if nobody but maybe Rizzo and Castro play more than 150 games.

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    In reply to kansascub:

    One thing we need to keep in mind is, yes, Maddon is an outstanding manager. However, he has a MUCH better roster than Sveum or Renteria had.

  • Good piece. My translation is.........the manager's need to get back to managing. No divas here in Chicago, so you can move guys around, take a guy out, etc, with our young and versatile team.

  • I am interested to see what Maddon will bring to the team in situational hitting. For some reason, I feel that will be one of the biggest improvements for the Cubs in 2015 (partially because they were pretty bad in 2014). They have some great additions to the coaching staff and the roster looks better suited for an improvement in that area.

    I feel like Cubs fans are going to get a lot smarter watching a Maddon coached Cubs team.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I think we have a lot better hitters. Better hitters will usually hit better in "situations."

  • So you use a tired, old cliché like "the train has left the station" to make a point about overusing a phrase huh? Interesting choice. I guess If the saying was more like "A troll for all message boards" you'd be all over it...

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Fantastic.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    He is a troll who has used hundreds of different screen names. He thinks we actually care.

  • Playing to the opponents weakness is key. Nearly always better than playing to ones own strengths, as it is more surgical. There is more payoff using this strategy. This roster can help isolate and stress those weaknesses. Should be fun!

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    In reply to Godwinslaw:

    I disagree. I want to be proactive. Make them account for our strengths and limit the exposure of our weaknesses. I remember reading in Sandberg's autobiography he said part of what did them in during the 1989 series was they got so consumed with exploiting the Giant's "weaknesses" (including Will Clark's "weakness" for reading lips of pitcher's confirming what the catcher is telling them) that they lost the series. I think a team will win more games by playing to maximize their strength than exploiting the oppositions weaknesses. Great teams have enough strengths that the other team's weakness will BECOME our team's strength that day.

  • Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reports that the Rangers are emerging as the "clear favorite" to acquire Carlos Corporan.

    It's no surprise, as the Rangers were connected to Corporan last week. Corporan was designated for assignment by the Astros Tuesday, and they likely knew they had a deal with Texas that they expected to finalize. The 31-year-old has batted .230/.294/.368 with 13 homers over the last two seasons for Houston. He'd be used as Robinson Chirinos' backup with the Rangers.

    Running out of spots for Castillo...... who's left looking for a possible starting catcher ???

    Dbacks who are posturing saying they won't acquire a catcher and maybe the A's ?

  • All this talk about OBP % is great and all. But you still need RISP to get them in.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    OBP is more sustainable. And the higher the OBP, the more men on base, so if you only hit .250 w/RISP but are getting 100 men on base, it is better than hitting .300 but only getting 80 men on base. Slugging pct also matters because you don't need men in scoring position if you hit more doubles, triples, and HRs. All you need is someone on first (or none at all in the case of a HR).

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    bunting can be a very useful hit plan against the extreme shifts. I saw Rizzo use it very successfully. It helps keeping the opposing D honest and off balance.
    . .

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    In reply to John Rose:

    I'm just waiting for a team to attempt to "hide" their shift playing straight up to combat bunting away from the shift (as you point out) and then sprinting to their "shift" positions. Most likely chaos and hilarity would ensue, though I would think it would be distracting to the batter!

  • In reply to John Rose:

    That makes an excellent point about bunting overall. Statistics may show that, in total, bunting is non-productive, but when used in unexpected situations or when the impact is greater, it can be very effective. I don't care for the automatic bunt with one out and a runner on 1st, but who doesn't like a squeeze play to score a run?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yes, bunting in atypical situations, including bunting for a hit from time to time, is okay with me. I just don't like it when the world knows you are bunting and they bring the infielders way in -- and even when it works it is non-productive on the greater scale.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If "bunting for a hit" there isn't much of a disadvantage, except it is unlikely that a runner will get 1st-to-3rd on such a hit. Though that isn't guaranteed on a traditional hit as well.

    As for Rizzo doing it part of me says that takes his power away, however, if he can get a hit that is better than the 61-62% of the times he gets "out" in the best of circumstances and a hit, even a single, is better than an "out". And as we get more power hitters involved in the offense then losing some of his HR will be offset by having him on base more. Further, if he does it enough times teams might start to move their fielders back into place or at least keep the 3rd baseman in place to defend against the bunt and make the other fielders cover more ground or open some other holes for him.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I read that there is a slight statistical advantage in about three situations: when most pitchers are batting, And I want to say with runner on second/first and second? and no outs and only one run is needed. Something like that.

    Not sure about extreme shift bunting. Especially with a Rizzo. You essentially ended up with a non-IBB IBB. You play right into the defense's hand. They'd love to get Rizzo or Baez or Bryant or Soler to bunt instead of swing. I like it much better when the hitter has a low OBP or perhaps when the stats suggest a hitter has a proclivity to hit into double plays.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Last part was to JR

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I'm OK with bunting to beat the shift. It's easy to think we got cheated out of a Rizzo XBH, but I'll take the base runner every time. Other managers will learn that it's not smart to give Rizzo 1st base with power coming up next. That's something that will be different this year.

  • I can only assume that the last three springs, the Cubs simply didn't have the speed to adjust to big-ballpark conditions. I'd like to think that the FO and field management have at least noticed these same data-driven trends prior to this. I mean, I don't even have a baseball-specific decision support system at my house and I came to the same conclusion John has in this article.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    IMO - you are at least partially right there Rob - and the tools may be there to help compensate for that problem this year.

    :D

    The other factor in at least the last two Spring's W-L record fiascos
    can be more directly tied to numerous Bullpen and (more specifically) Closer meltdowns. Between Marmol & Fujikawa & Camp in 2013, and Veras almost singlehandedly in 2014 - they blew a lot of close games in the final innings.

    Bullpens are always kind of volatile & unpredictable - but I'm thinking that among Strop, Ramirez, Rondon and Motte - a big bullpen implosion in April/May shouldn't be a big concern this season.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I look at bullpens similar to "putting" in golf. The strokes spent as a bad putter more than offset a really great drive/approach. Similarly, a struggling 'pen can offset outstanding pitching earlier in the game. Also, similarly, a solid 'pen can rack up some wins in games that otherwise would be lost by a weaker 'pen. It is tempting to use the bullpen for "cheap spare parts" but having a good group there can be a real asset to a team. I am fine with spending money on the pen. I just don't like a huge chunk of it going to 1 guy because, as you said, 'pens can be volatile. The more decent guys you have down there the better your chances of having a decent 'pen.

  • I keep thinking one more decent starter and the Cubs could be very formidable. Doesn't seem FO shares that. What does everybody think? Am I trying to push the envelope?

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    The two points that I've seen often repeated here are:

    1) The Cubs are restricted in spending by MLB debt / spending rules.

    2) The FO feels that picking up a SP will be cheaper next year when the FA field will be large AND the Cubs will have a better idea of how the prospects made the transition to MLB.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I guess the second point is what I have heard most. At 66 I guess I am getting a bit overly zealous. Thanks Cliff. Have great day!

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think the second point is a really big factor, though I may be underestimating the first point. I don't want them to acquire another high priced starting pitcher ($13-25M depending on how "decent") and potentially hamstring themselves in case we guess wrong on which of our young guys is going to be great.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Who are you thinking about? Cole hamels, Shields, ..? What counts as a decent starter in your opinion? Is there room in the budget?

    Then you have to consider what we already have may take a big jump, Turner(with Bosio magic), Jackson(with Montero in his face), Wood(back to his 2013 form), ???

    And who knows about Jockish, Johnson or Edwards in the minors improving.

  • In reply to John57:

    Had no specific person in mind. I am very hopeful about Turner. Hamels cost seems ridiculous. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    If you were pushing the envelope then it would probably have been loaded up with around 220 million and our No. 1 and No. 2 would be Lester and Scherzer...lol.

  • I don't think Fowler will need to be "worked in" the lineup, regardless if on that day Maddon needs more speed. Fowler will likely BE the almost everyday CF, it's not as if his speed would ever be a hindrance or if there is a better alternative with power in CF. Fowler is now one of the solid answers to an every day lineup finally eliminating yet another "platoon" situation for lack of talent.

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    In reply to Antijasper:

    If we want some power we could go with Alcantara in CF.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Certainly, no argument Alcantara shows signs of being more powerful than Fowler but I have the feeling Fowler was brought in as THE regular CF, an overall upgrade over Alcantara especially his OBP.

  • Couldn't agree more. Wrigley is a curse and blessing. I believe it to be the most disadvantageous park to its home team in baseball while being the most wonderful park to watch the game. Wow. One dimensional teams will never play well in Wrigley, because Wrigley has so many personalities. Your assessment of the team they are building only causes me more heightened anticipation for the coming years.

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