Cubs looking to make better contact in 2015 -- while increasing walks and continuing to hit for power

Updated 1:10 PM
Buster Olney wrote an article (insider only) about how the Astros are testing the theory that “an out is just an out”.  In other words, what difference does it make if the player strikes out or makes an out in any other way?

The Astros apparently believe there is no difference at all.  They finished with the 2nd highest K rate in baseball last year, behind only the Cubs.  But the two teams approaches to the issue are completely different.  The Astros have ignored strikeouts and even added some more big K rates, as Olney researched below.  Rankings are based on players who had over 300 PAs and I put the new additions in bold.

2B Jose Altuve, 7.5 percent (262nd highest among 273 hitters)
3B Luis Valbuena, 20.7 percent (93rd)
SS Jed Lowrie, 14.0 percent (219th)
DH Chris Carter, 31.8 percent (14th)
RF George Springer, 33.0 percent (7th)
CF Colby Rasmus, 33.0 percent (9th)
LF Evan Gattis, 23.2 percent (53rd)
1B Jon Singleton, 37.0 percent (1st )
C Jason Castro, 29.5 percent (19th)

To that, I will add one more player who had 237 PAs and figures to platoon with Rasmus in CF.  That player is Jake Marisnick and his K rate was 28.3%.  We should also mention OF Robbie Grossman, another OFer who saw a lot of playing time last year and figures to retain a significant role, had a K rate of 24.9%, good for 45th worst in baseball.

The Astros added 3 players who ranked in the top 100 in strikeouts to a team that had already had 4 players in the top 20, and one more semi-regular, Marisnick, who would have ranked 23rd if he had qualified.  Overall that is 9 of 11 regular players who rank or would have ranked in the top 100 — and 8 in the top 53.  They also have 4 in the top 20 and 3 in the top 10.

Obviously they don’t fear the strikeout.

It inspired me to compare/contrast with the Cubs approach and perhaps delve a bit deeper.

The Cubs sought to reduce the number of strikeouts in their lineup.  Here’s a look at one possible lineup.  I used 2015 projections (and would be rankings in 2014) for Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant, since neither qualified under the 300 PA guideline.  I also added Tommy La Stella in the lineup to illustrate Cubs additions, though it is possible that he starts the season on the bench or at 3B depending on what happens with Mike Olt and Javier Baez.

  1. Dexter Fowler 21.4% (84)
  2. Chris Coghlan 18.8% (129)
  3. Starlin Castro 17.6% (153)
  4. Anthony Rizzo 18.8% (127)
  5. Jorge Soler 20.8% (92)
  6. Kris Bryant 28.3% (23rd)
  7. Miguel Montero 17.3% (159)
  8. Tommy La Stella 11.1%  (246)

Only one of the Cubs additions, Fowler, ranked in the top 100, but he was only 84th and even then he was exchanged for Valbuena, who was similarly ranked.  With this lineup, the Cubs have just 3 in the top 100 and none in the top 20.

Okay, there is the question of Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez, both of whom should become regulars before the season is out.  Alcantara did qualify and ranked 16th with a 31% rate.  Javier Baez’s projected rate of 30.1% would have ranked 18th.  The Cubs also added Chris Denorfia who ranked 110th with a 19.6% rate.  He is outside that top 100 even though that was an unusually high K rate for him.  His career rate is 16.3%,  a lower career rate than anyone on the roster except for Castro and La Stella.

I think it is also interesting to see that two players with high K rates: Junior Lake, 33.7% rate (4th worst in baseball) and Welington Castillo 24.5% (48th) will likely either be traded or, in the case of Lake, sent to the minors.

So, if we count Denorfia, Baez, and Alcantara as players who should also see regular playing time, then we have 5 in the top 100 (including 3 in the top 50).  They would have two in the top 20 and none in the top 10.  Even if the Steamer projections on Baez are generous and we assume he will be much higher than that 30.1% rate, that would still be just one in the top 10.

Now, to be fair, strikeouts aren’t the end-all.  MVP Mike Trout finished 37th with a 26.1% rate. Not all contact is created equal. You want guys like Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler who are willing to wait for their pitch and make hard contact. Moreover, they are two players who have shown a tendency to take walks, so that supplements their OBP. In other words, you also want balance with each player and throughout the team.

In other words, if you are going to have a player that strikes out a lot, you’ll also want them to either walk at a high rate or hit for power — and preferably both.   Both the Cubs and Astros seem to understand that.  The Astros have 4 players in the top 50 in walks — Singleton (11), Grossman (20), Valbuena (32) and Springer (42).  The Cubs have 2 — Fowler (16), Rizzo (33), but they also have 3 more in the top 100 in Montero (62), La Stella (63), and Coghlan (81) while the Astros also have a total of 5 with one more in the top 100 (Chris Carter, 66).  Remember too, that the Cubs will add Kris Bryant, whose 9.8% projected walk rate would have ranked tied at 66 with Carter.  In case you’re wondering, Jorge Soler’s projected walk rate of 7.7% would have ranked 125th in 2014.

Both teams, of course, are loaded with power hitters.

The bottom line is that both teams are willing to take on some strikeouts in exchange for power and walks.  The Astros, ignored the strikeout issue and picked up more power in Gattis and Rasmus, but they did at the expense of good walk rates.   The Cubs, perhaps because they will add strikeouts and power internally with Kris Bryant to go with Baez, Soler, and Alcantara, focused on reducing their K rate and raising their walk rate with their offseason acquisitions.

It has been interesting to watch these two teams rebuild from the ground up from a similar starting point and it is equally interesting to see how they are going about building around their young talent.  The Cubs seemed to seek better balance between walks, Ks, and slugging this year while the Astros forged ahead with increasing power without worrying as much about adding walks (and to be fair they already had better walk rates to begin with) or reducing strikeouts.

The two teams give us a bit of a litmus test when it comes to re-shaping their team.  In addition to adding walks and reducing strikeouts, we should also note the Cubs sought to add strong clubhouse presence and other intangibles while the Astros seemed to focus only on on-the-field performance, specifically power, but that is a different article for (perhaps) another time.

Despite the different approaches this offseason, both teams should be much improved and it will be fun comparing their progress in 2015.

 

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  • The more I think about the line-up, I think we may actually see the pitcher in the 8 spot and with the potential 2 through 6 hitters we have it might make sense. Some combination of Coughlan, Alcantara, or LaStella in the 9 spot would give us that second leadoff hitter. Montero hitting 7th would also seem to be the type of veteran who could handle hitting in front of the pitcher.

  • In reply to cubsfan:

    There are a lot of possibilities here. I'm really interested to see how it plays out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My interest is when it is best used. Is it more beneficial with the 5th starter where the 8th spot becomes a hitter in the 5-6th inning. Or more beneficial when Lester is hit for in the 7-9th.

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    That is interesting, pitchers that go a bit long longer likely pick up extra ABs along the way. I don't know if it is enough to make a difference, or offset how good a hitter the pitcher is -- for example, if Wood is the 5th starter vs. Lester, who is a notoriously bad hitter.

  • In reply to cubsfan:

    This thought is growing on me as well. Any of those players would be solid options between either the 2 or 9 spots. I specifically like AA with his power there. It would be a pain to give up a homer to the 9 hitter then turn around and face the top of the lineup. I specifically like your thoughts with Montero in the 7 spot (Ross would be good there as well even if he isn't as good of a hitter). It would give us a guy who can drive in runs and work a count before the pitcher. It may also lead to the most intentional walks for a 7 hitter in history.

  • In reply to cubsfan:

    president of Sabr Vince Gennaro has said hitting the pitcher 8th gives a lineup a few extra runs a year, but he also said the increase over a full season is minimal. this is just an fyi. he said there is no pros or cons to doing it really.

  • Good stuff as always John. And I certainly see why the Cubs are embracing this philosophy as the Giants are another team that emphasizes guys who can make contact.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Giants mostly win because of pitching. And power doesn't play as well in their park so they have greater need for emphasis in other areas.

    For the 10-20 games a season when the winds blow in, relying on power can get the Cubs in trouble, so those guys need to be supplemented by other options that can offer other traits. But the vast majority of Cubs games are played in small, weather neutral (or favorable) ballparks. Power/OBP is and should be the Cubs main focus, and then surrounding those guys with speed and/or contact secondary pieces.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I did a quick study a while back and it does seem that teams who make better contact tend to have better success, with exceptions being teams like the Red Sox who drew gobs of walks and hit for a ton of power. But there is doubt whether you can build that kind of offensive juggernaut these days, so recreating that Red Sox lineups seems unlikely. So you compensate in other areas.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Tough to build that type of lineup but that is exactly the type of lineup the Cubs project to have built around Rizzo, Bryant, Soler and Schwarber.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    John, great article. Mjvz great point about the red sox line up. Question? Is there a way to look up a players OBP after 2 strikes. I think some how that correlates to how Boston had such great success in the past. The higher OBP number would suggest a hitter working in deeper counts and making contact in clutch situations. If your team has a higher OBP in a two strike count, it puts more pressure on the opposing pitchers to where you can exploit their pitch count.

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    In reply to cub since 89′:

    on baseballreference.com just click on the "Splits" link above their top line of their offensive stats and then scroll down to the "Count/Balls-Strikes" box and toward the bottom is "Two Strikes" (4th line from the bottom of the box). I think this is what you would like.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Wow. First time I ever ran a query on baseballrefernce.com. To steal a line from Chris Farley in tommy boy, "that was awesome."
    most everyone in the top 50 is either a prodigious hitter or on a playoff contending team. Dexter Fowler tops the list for the Cubs at #49 with a. 289obp and next is Chris denorfia at #81 with a .278obp.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    I'd also like to see a breakdown of swinging vs. called third strikes. My hypothesis is that hitters who are willing to take a called third strike will in general, be better walk/OBP guys and have greater offensive value overall, while those who refuse to take a called third strike will have lesser value.

    I talked recently with a former 6 WAR player about this very issue, and he confirmed that there exists a strong bias among hitters against taking a called third. However, those who refuse to ever take a called third are in effect reducing their ABs to only 2 strikes, a massive advantage for the pitcher.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    And I don't think anybody is saying more contact at the expense of OBP and power. In fact, the very title of the article says the opposite.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This part of my comment is more geared towards the espn article then yours, because the Astros are not testing the theory of an out being an out, what they are doing is collecting a bunch of guys that make a lot of outs (mostly through Ks).

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Nobody said anything about Power/OBP being more important than contact. And the winds tend to blow in at Wrigley in April and May so it's closer to like 30 games per year (not 10-20). So I'd argue that the Cubs having guys who can make contact isn't insignificant and the WS Champion Giants seem to agree. And if by the Giants win mostly because of pitching you mean they win mostly because of Bumgarner, well yeah obviously. But other than him, that's a not great pitching team by any stretch. Far from it.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Does it scare anyone else that we talk about April and May bring tougher months to hit at Wrigley (but needing to get off to a good start) versus what the weather is like in late October when the most important games are played?

    poundsignretractableroofforwrigley

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Thanks. I think better contact is going to become more important than it was in the PED era. Maybe the Giants are showing that while teams who seem to strike out a lot, the Braves, the A's, and the Nationals, for example, seem to keep coming up short.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah I absolutely agree with you about contact being more critical in the post PED era and I've heard Maddon say things consistent with that. And good call about the Braves, A's, and Nationals. Those are teams with great pitching yet they can't win it all, unlike the Giants.

  • Great article, John. I also love the approach the Cubs are taking. The hidden X factor, if you will is that strikeouts, while they are just outs, are often demoralizing. They make it seem like a pitcher is dominating your line up. You have to give the other guys a chance to make errors once in a while. In contrast, it can really pick a team up and spark a rally when a guy boots an easy double play ball or loses a fly ball in the sun.

    I also have a question for you. Is there some intel that you have regarding Bryant hitting 6th and Castro hitting third versus the other way around? During the course of a season that could cost Bryant (who may end up being our most dangerous hitter) 40 or 50 plate appearances. There could be 5 or 6 bombs and 15 RBI in there.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    He probably put Bryant at six as an initial landing spot after his call up. I'm pretty sure John hasn't etched this in stone and only included the lineup to illustrate his point(s).

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    Yes, I am not very finicky about the lineup. I suspect if I were a manager I would probably change it around a lot. At least until the players revolted.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I don't think that the number of times a team will commit an error will really be significantly affected. In fact, one could argue that the double plays avoided by strike outs (and the demoralizing affect those DP would have) could offset.

    The biggest disadvantage of a K is almost nothing good can happen. Getting to 1B off of a K is pretty rare to the point where often the batter doesn't even make a pretense of trying and are tagged out by a catcher merely rising out of his stance.

    There are 3 common outcomes to an PA outside of K. A BB, a HR and a Ball-in-play (BIP). Two of those things are almost always good, and depending on BABIP the third one can be good as well. But when a player strikes out that is an out without even putting the ball in play.

    I used to be a die-hard "A K is the same as any other 'out'" but I am starting to change my mind for most batters. As the article points out if the player is good enough at HR, BB and/or BABIP then a high K total can be overcome, however, if the power, BB and BABIP isn't very good then we want the guy to put as many BIP as possible.

    One interesting guy to watch this year will be La Stella. Unlike the other Cubs "prospects" he doesn't have much HR power. Probably rarely, if ever, reaching double digits. However he has a history of lots of walks and very few K's. These are the guys the Cubs never seem to have and seem to infuriate me on other teams. I can't believe that a player with relatively small "tools" (not particularly powerful, not a great defender, not very fast) seem to be so hard to get out. Even a relatively low BABIP, if he puts the ball in play enough, can offset a higher BABIP with high K total and relativley few HR and BB.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I do agree with you that there is a mental effect to a strike out, but I would argue that it has a greater effect on the pitcher doing the striking out than the team striking out.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Re: "demoralizing"...I contend that a called third strike is far more demoralizing to MLB hitters than a swinging third. But that's a problem--the key is to fix in hitters' minds that a swinging third OUGHT to be more demoralizing, since it in effects reduces an AB to only 2 strikes, rather than 3. That is, if a pitcher knows (and with today's advance scouting, EVERY MLB pitcher will know) that you won't take a called third, a hitter will never see a hittable pitch after they have 2 strikes. MAJOR advantage for the pitcher.

  • I don't freak out about Ks. I tend toward the belief that an out is an out, though if given a choice between two players all else being equal I would tend toward the contact guy. What I don't like about using the Astros as a test case is they seem to be ignoring OBP. High power/K guys are fine as long as most of them also get on base. Most of the Stros guys don't have that skill.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    The think about striking out more is it means less balls in play, less balls in play, assuming a league average BABIP, means lower average, lower average means lower OBP.

    Now, teams can make up for the lower average with more walks, of course, but as you say, the Astros did not add that. You can also compensate with power, so that those fewer hits go for more bases, and the Astros have at least done that part of the equation.

    But I like the Cubs overall balance better right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I definitely prefer the more balanced approach of the Cubs and the high contact guy, but the devil's advocate in me is guessing the Astros are not hitting into very many double plays.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the balanced approach the team is taking as well. I don't like what the Astros are doing.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I was a bit bewildered about it and that Olney piece caught my eye because it immediately struck me as very different from what the Cubs are doing in terms of subtracting Ks and adding BBs. The Astros did walk more than the Cubs in 2014, but after this offseason, I am not sure that isn't going to flip around. And I like that the Cubs have a chance to spread out the walks throughout their lineup whereas the Astros seem to have it focused on a few players.

    The K rates for 9 of the Astros top 11 position players, though, are astonishing. I suspect they will have days when they mash and others where they give the opponents' defense and bullpen a huge rest. They're going to be interesting, that's for sure.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, the Astros also got worse defensively. Other then Fowler for Rasmus/Marisnick they appear to have gotten worse at every other change they made.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wasn't that a big issue for the Braves the past couple years? High strikeouts yielded feast or famine (also kind of boring to watch in my opinion).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    To reinforce what John said about striking out - there is zero chance of getting on base with a strikeout except for a dropped third strike. Not very good odds. Strikeouts are non productive and you can't spin it otherwise.

  • In reply to dumbass:

    Royals were a "put the ball in play" team.. and had one of the worst offenses in the league.. granted they got hot in the playoffs and made the world series.. it should show just putting the ball in play doesnt do much either,, it seems.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Yes but that was one of the worst managed ball clubs I have ever seen. Hard to use them as an example for anything. They seemed to always make the wrong decisions. I know you can't put that all on the manager but he made some awfully bad ones of his own. My point is they should have scored a lot more than they did. Lack of power? Sure, but lack of timely hitting as well, and I'm a guy who usually doesn't believe in such things. It was just noticeable there. Had I been the GM I would have fired Yost 2 or 3 weeks before the playoffs but hey they got to a World Series so what do i know?

  • In reply to TC154:

    i think their philosophy was to overlook power to put the ball in play.. but I think that changed a bit when their hitting coach was let go in the middle of the year, then Svuem kinda took over at the end of the year and their power numbers improved a bit. so I dunno.. alot to interpert

  • In reply to dumbass:

    Making contact will lead to additional opportunities, bit it can also lead to additional outs via DPs and some teams that make lots of early contact don't run up pitch counts and don't give themselves a chance to potentially make harder contact on later pitches.

    The great thing about baseball is there are multiple sides to everything and no right or single answer. It's probably best to just be as well rounded in as many areas as possible and not focus too much on any one aspect.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    i agree with this.. I think being the most balanced team is the most dangerous.. love when I hear theo say "we are looking for balance"

  • In reply to mjvz:

    This is true and this probably the part I haven't articulated well enough. Quality of contact matters too, which means waiting for your pitch matters, which means that strikeouts will happen. But what you need to get in exchange is better contact and more walks. The key is balance. I think Rizzo shows the best of all worlds and Soler could get there as well. But Bryant is the guy who you can say, forget the Ks, he is going to walk and when he does hit it, he is generally going to hit it very hard somewhere.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Sometimes I like to dream of Bryant with a 12% K-rate. But then some of the other stuff he does would probably get lots. He racks up a lot of pitches seen, I think. Then, on top of that, he waits for his pitch. Wait for a pitch you can drive rather than just one you can put in play.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Bryant is going to K a lot and I wouldn't want him to change to make more contact. As long as he draws walks and makes hard contact, I can live with the strikeouts. The same goes for Soler, who doesn't figure to strike out as much, and Baez, although he doesn't figure to walk as much. But getting a whole team that gets a lot of walks and HRs to go with their Ks is rare, we're talking some of those great Red Sox teams, so most teams need to balance it out better.

  • In reply to dumbass:

    I wish we had more stats on quality at bats. You can strike out and have a quality at bat and you can ground out and not have a quality at bat. Minor league managers quantify all at bats using the clubs definition of a quality at bat.

  • In reply to SOB (sweet old Bob):

    Agree completely about the need to define quality AB. However, most of the definitions I have seen depend on the outcome of the AB, independent of what the hitter did (e.g., did runners advance, score runs, etc.--more like looking at RBIs as a prime definition of a hitter's skill). I'd much prefer definitions that would focus on number of pitches seen and was hard contact made. If both of these things are positive, good things will happen. Also, the definition of a quality AB needs to be individualized, the same precise definition would not apply to both Bryant and LaStella, although there would be certain elements in common for all players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Problem with power-only low OBP lineups is simple. A lot of 9-8 wins and a lot of 2-1, 3-2 losses, usually more losses. I certainly remember the Gorman Thomas?Yount?Cecil Cooper Brew crew tyeams that made the series in 82, but lost or were at .500 many years because they had the Thomases and Rob Deerrs whod strike out 30% of the time. Thats the current Astros.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So what is the Astros team BABIP? I wonder if a higher strikeout rate (swinging for harder contact rather than just contact) could produce a higher BABIP.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I think it does for good players like Trout, Stanton, and hopefully Kris Bryant. But the Astros didn't have many of those, so they finished in the middle of the pack. Not bad, but if you are going to K, you better make a lot of hard contact to make up for it. But even a high BABIP with high Ks doesn't necessarily mean more success. The Twins, White Sox, and Marlins all had above average BABIPs to go with high Ks. Teams like the Tigers and Giants who had high BABIPs but struck out less, did better. The problem is that few teams outside of some of those recent Red Sox and Yankees teams have guys up and down their lineup who make hard contact to go with their Ks consistently.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I would bet that the teams with a higher called (rather than swinging) third strike rate would also have a higher BABIP, since they will be seeing better pitches after 2 strikes.

  • Another good article John - thank you! I definitely prefer the Cubs approach vs the Astros when it come to strikeouts. IMO, an out via a K is not the same as an out from a ball being put in play. In close games and especially during the play-offs, a ball in play puts added pressure on the opposing team's defense which can lead to a costly error. We all remember this too well from a certain play-off game in 2003.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    That's why OBP should include bases reached on errors. If you had OBP as the de facto OBP, you could get a better idea about strike outs vs. BIP.

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    In reply to Oneear:

    I don't like the sound of including reaching base on errors because the error is, by definition, a misplayed ball by the defense. No credit should go to the batter for misplays on defense. And errors are RARE! It happens at a rate around 1/game. In 2430 games there were 2914 errors in mlb last year. That is about 1.2/game. Fielding Percentage (which would be percentage of the time that the ball was handled "errorlessly") was 98.4. If we remove the K's from the PO and "chances" then the fielding percentage goes down to 98.0. For what it is worth the DP rate (which would likely go up if more balls were put into play) was 1.75/game, or almost 50 points higher than errors. I believe double plays are worse for an offense than strikeouts. Further, a double play, because of the extra step of adding a "stop" for the ball is more pressureful than a normal ball in play.

    There are benefits to not striking out but the benefit of greater chances of an error are unlikely to be significant.

  • The more I learn about this FO, the better I like what they're doing. It's pretty much a given that you're gonna get strikeouts along with power, but it's nice to know the Cubs are looking blend high-OBP guys with the power hitters. With a focus on OBP, even high-strikeout guys are useful. I can't wait to see what Maddon does with this lineup this year!

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    I understand that Rasmus is not the clubhouse leader one would like to acquire, but Valbuena, Lowrie and Gattis are very much the types of veterans one would like to surround their young players with. Probably not fair to say that Houston only looked at on field performance.

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    What are you basing this on? Valbuena is a good guy, but kind of quiet, not really a plus or a minus. Gattis is not a bad guy either but he has had some serious struggles. I wouldn't call him a makeup guy though he has battled his way back.

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    I base it on the fact that none of those three have ever had their work ethic or character called to question. They are a between presence in the young clubhouse. Are they known as cheerleaders? No, but they also pack their lunch box and come to work everyday. In the instances of Gattis and Valbuena they have handled position changes without creating conflict. I am not connected to scouts and coaches, so I bring no insider knowledge, but unless there is some that is not in this article, it just seems like a tough point to buy. I like your work John and I tell every cubs fan I know to check out this Blog so please don't take any of this the wrong way. I just think the Astros didn't have the option of free agents like David Ross or Jon Lester because they, 1 - have distinction in the front office, 2- aren't good, and 3- are a small market in a crummy city.

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    The point is that the Cubs brought in guys who are assets in the clubhouse. I don't think Gattis or Valbuena are negatives, but I also wouldn't go so far as to say they either is a plus. It is more of a non-factor with them. And if anything, they lost a guy who was a plus in Fowler, so they may have even taken a step back, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they held serve. So to my point, it really wasn't something they were looking to upgrade. Which is fine, that is a different philosophy.

    Houston is a big city, 4th largest in the U.S., they're not a small market and the Cubs weren't good either. But I do agree the Cubs front office has a higher degree of respect right now, they certainly have the track record, which I agree does help. And while they were not good, the sense is that they were building toward being good while the same didn't seem to apply to the Astros, so I can buy that as well. The Astros were widely perceived to be playing for the #1 pick the past few years while the Cubs at least added good solid pieces along the way.

    So while they don't have as many options as the Cubs, some of that is because of their own doing -- but I also think a large part of is that they don't really take those intangibles much into consideration. Certainly not to the degree that the Cubs do, who went out of their way to add those types of players via free agency and trade. Every single veteran they brought in is thought to be a leader and even the young player they picked up, La Stella, is considered to have plus makeup. I'm not saying that is going to make a huge difference, but I think their different opinions on whether that helps is pretty clear.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Astros also don't split their market with another team, so they are definitely not a small market team.

  • Another timely and significant article John. This morning Sullivan had the following article on Fangraphs:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/colby-rasmus-the-astros-and-strikeouts/

    It is striking that last years WS participants rank as the least likely projected to K in 2015. Once again, there are other factors involved for a team to succeed, but Maddon mentioned that the game is becoming more contact oriented and I have to think the Cubs roster makeup is reflecting that trend. And if someone like Bryant or Mendy does strike out a bit, it's imperative they have the power or discipline to take a walk to go with it.

  • An out is an out is an out; unless you have a man on third with less than two outs. Then not all outs are created equally. The difference in out type can be the difference between a win or not. Strikeouts are a trade off for increased slugging percentage and that is all good. Higher slugging results in more runs since a string of 4 singles is inefficient. Smart hitters know know how to change their approach. The Front Office is starting to gather those type of hitters. In the end you have 27 outs. Not to go all Monty about all 'outs' being precious. But they are valuable. A pure generalization that strikeouts are the same as any out at any time is dangerous for Houston, in my opinion.

  • I think you are spot on that an out is just an out unless there is a man on third with less than two outs. That's when situational hitting is key and you can't strike out, you have to make contact and get that runner in. I suppose the same could be true with a runner on 2nd with no outs. Gotta make contact and get him to 3rd to put yourself in the good position of man on 3rd with less than 2 outs. Outside of these 2 situations I mostly agree, an out is an out.

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    I couldn't disagree more. Look at it from the pitcher's point of view. If I can have an inning with 7-8 pitches thrown (the average is 14-15), that means I can go later in the game, save wear and tear on the bullpen, etc. If I have to strike everybody out, that means a minimum of 9 pitches, plus I probably waste a few now and then, get careless and make a mistake, etc. No doubt pitchers love strikeouts, but give me somebody who sets hitters up to hit MY pitch, not a grooved fastball because I'm behind in the count. That's why I love Hendricks--a pitcher who seems to rely on thinking as well as skill.

  • Outs better than a strikeout: Sac fly, sac bunt, hitting behind a runner/hit and run, anything involving an error.
    Strikeouts better than an out: Avoiding double/triple plays, force at 2nd putting slower runner at 1st, outs decreasing runners in scoring position (0 out, runners on 2nd and 3rd, out made at home leaving 1st and 3rd with 1 out), etc...

    So someone tally all those situations up over a nice sample size and get back to me... I need to freshen my coffee, haha

  • In reply to Mike Leaman:

    Strikeouts that take 10 or more pitches better than 1st pitch outs that don't advance runners.

  • In reply to SOB (sweet old Bob):

    Add it to the pile, Bob! I can't stop considering situations for both sides now... a list will be formed.

  • In reply to Mike Leaman:

    All good points.

  • In reply to SOB (sweet old Bob):

    Amen, brother!!

  • In reply to Mike Leaman:

    I'd also include multi-pitch strikeout compared to first pitch out (excluding sacs (are these counted as outs?) moving a runner forward).

    I don't think it is clear the balance of K versus regular outs but, as you say, needs to be looked at broadly but also for each particular hitter. Does Bryant/Russell/Baez's hitting balance out their Ks? Maybe, maybe not and it may depend on who else is in the lineup.

    That is why John's comparison with the Astros is important here -- the Astros rebuilt like the Cubs (albeit with less options pursued) and are now taking a different view on adding veterans and it appears they are not including any balance to their lineup. Will be interesting to see how it turns out for them generally and relative to the Cubs.

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    I agree with you to some extent. I disagree that an out is an out as a K takes a ball out of play and almost nothing good can happen. However, if a players OBP and/or SLG are above a given threshhold DESPITE K's I will take that. At the same time, I don't want a guy with an OBP of .260 or a SLG of .280 or something like that even if he NEVER strikes out. He gets his outs in other ways...and at least a K eats up 3 pitches.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I would be very surprised if there are many MLB hitters who "never" strike out (OK, less than 5%), who have an OBP of .260. I'd like to see such a list. A hitter that "never" strikes out forces the pitcher to throw more hittable pitches. This leads to all sorts of good things--better contact, more pitching mistakes, and more wear and tear on the pitcher.

  • Personally, I believe there is a lot of value in productive outs. Sac Fly's, hitting the ball to the right side to move the runner to third, ect..But as they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. It'll be cool to watch how their season plays out.

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    People who advocate trading Baez are sometimes accused of giving up too early on him. For me, it's not that at all. It's about balance. The Cubs have enough prospective power hitters. They don't need more strikeouts just to get more home runs. They also need OBP, which they are doing a great job of accumulating, but Baez doesn't bring that to the table.

    The only argument against trading Baez at this point, in my opinion, is that his value isn't very high. Personally, I would package both Baez and Alcantrara (I know, I know, the whole supersub thing) along with Edwards and try to get Wheeler from the Mets. I'm worried about depth in the Cubs' rotation and not having a true No. 3 (and who knows if Arietta is really a No. 2?). Trade for Wheeler and then go for the jugular next offseason by signing another top arm.

  • In reply to DamnYankees:

    I disagree because the argument that the Cubs will need OBP help in the future may well be a fallacy. Rizzo, Castro, Soler, Bryant, Schwarber, Russell and most likely Alcantara all project to be above the league average in OBP. They can afford to have one lower OBP guy if he can bring great power and defense. I also don't. Think it is out of the question Baez puts up league average OBP numbers down the road if he gets his mechanics straightened out. He is worth the risk to keep. If the Cubs want to acquire pitching via trade they have all kinds of options without including Baez. Finding pitchers is easy in this day and age then finding guys like Baez.

  • In reply to DamnYankees:

    I think that Baez could easily develop the kind of power that would make you forget about the strikeouts, specifically for a 2nd baseman with solid defense.

    Only time I advocated around a Baez trade was for Hamels. Even then I would say that he would be a centerpiece without another top five prospect included (and at one point someone though we could throw in Jackson). I don't think that would be close to getting it done with the Phillies (especially the one with Jackson in there). I guess that means I wasn't really an advocate, but more of a greedy, willing participant.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    For what it is worth, I emailed Jesse Rogers at ESPN if he thought Baez said no. Rogers responded, "So far they (Phillies) wanted high end only. Baez below Russell for sure right now...that might change as we go here but they wanted #1 type guys." So Philadelphia is basically asking for a team's top prospect, which is likely why the deal hasn't gotten done. It will be interesting to see if they ever lower that asking price.

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    In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Meant if he thought Baez could get Hamels. He doesn't know for a fact, but he doesn't seem to think so.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    When we brought Baez up he was around the 5 to 7 highest prospect in all of baseball. He was our #1 prospect at the time. That seems like a team's #1 prospect to me. Not that I would trade him for Hamels. The Phillies can keep Hamels.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    The Phillies will have a long wait. Hamels will be with them until the trade deadline unless they move off their request. That runs the risk of injury, subpar performance, and other arm being available at a discounted rate. The Phillies and their fan base have too much invested in the Core of '08. Reminds me of Cubs fans waiting for Wood and Prior to finally get healthy and back to '03 form.

  • In reply to DamnYankees:

    The question is what are you giving up. Let's say that Baez walks 4% of the time, strikeouts 25% of the time, but becomes Mike Trout numbers-wise. Should we have focused on OBP? Of course not.

    As a 20 year old at AA, Baez had a .346 OBP (and a .638 SLG). As a 21 year old at AAA, he had a .323 OBP. LaStella, viewed here as the OBP choice over Baez, had a .328 OBP (and .317 SLG) in the majors at the age of 25. If Baez had never come to the majors last year and played the full AAA season, we wouldn't be having this discussion (particularly as he was improving over the season at AAA).

    Looking in ISO terms, at the major league level, Baez had an ISO of .155., which was 8th in the majors for 2B with 200+ AB (Alcantara was 6th).

    So you have a 21 year old with contact issues still showing some of the best power by position in baseball who has a history of decent, though not great, OBP and is working on improving his approach with our new hitting coach.

    While there is no guarantee Baez ever overcomes strikeouts, there really is no guarantee any prospect ever reaches their potential (as Cubs fans know well....I had the World Series lined up in my mind with Patterson in center and Juan Cruz as the #3 behind Wood and Prior). But the ceiling with Baez is so high (best 2B in baseball, good defense, good speed, 30+ HRs) that I can't see giving up on him at such a young age; you can't argue that Baez will not overcome his issues while still having believed Rizzo and Castro came back from struggles at the age of 23 (or that LaStella will do anything going into his 26 year old season).

    I also agree with MJVZ below -- if we like Bryant, Rizzo, Soler, Schwarber (not as sure on Russell or Castro) and potentially AA's OBP, why do we need better OBP from Baez?

  • This is just another fascinating comparison between two organization/teams that have been rebuilding on roughly the same timeline but have done it in very different ways. The difference, in my opinion, is that the Cubs seem to be making all the right decisions and the Astros make me scratch my head.

  • I find it odd that no one mentions Giancarlo Stanton... who struck 170 times last year (26.6 %) and 28.1% lifetime.

  • In reply to TL Lyon:

    i think its because he was strictly comparing the Astros and cubs.

  • In reply to TL Lyon:

    Well, we were talking about the Astros and the Cubs, but I did mention that walks and power can offset high K rates. I also mentioned Mike Trout as an example that Ks aren't bad across the board. However, they are exceptionally talented players we should use that to make the claim that they don't matter at all. For most players, they do matter and I think the affect is even larger when you spread that many Ks across your lineup, especially considering teams don't generally have multiple Trouts or Stantons to make up for it.

  • I think guys with higher contact rates will become more valuable. And I don't mean slap hitters.

    A guy like Almora is a perfect example. If he can get a bit more selective, say hold a 7-8% walk rate, he is a very valuable piece because of his contact ability.

    Another point, I really hate strike outs but they really are not the worst outcomes. Nothing worst than a rally killing double play. If I'm gonna take a high strikeout guy I want him to be also a extreme fly ball hitter, in theory it would reduce rally killing double plays.

  • In reply to Ricky Maravilla:

    Yes, and you bring up a good point. Not all contact rates are created equal. Nobody wants slap hitters just to lower their K rate. Guys who K a lot but make frequent flyball contact are better than those who make groundball contact. Or in some cases, hitters who are adept at waiting for their pitch and making more hard contact in general.

    We saw Cubs like Jorge Soler make very hard contact when he did hit the ball. Kris Bryant was the same way at Iowa and Tennessee.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    When Baez makes contact it often reaches the OF at otherworldly speed. Any line drive not hit right at an outfielder has a very good chance of being a gapper.

  • looking at how this cubs team is building up. my question is. what if baez and Russell turn out to be stars. this year and Russell 2016 unless he has an ungodly season and gets called up this year. what do we do with Castro? do you see them trading him? or Russell or Baez. Castro is a proven player. say those 2 guys have break out years. do you sell high and either of them and keep castro? or sell high on castro and keep the other 2. (im not implying trade both the kids in a same deal, more so an either or thing.).....off topic but fun.. im a big dreamer and an avid player of MLB the show. I understand its a video game but my 2017 lineup consisted of this...

    Castro SS
    Russell 3rd
    Rizzo 1st
    Bryant Rf
    Soler Lf
    Baez 2nd
    Schwarber C
    Pitcher
    Alcantara cf

    Lester
    Arrieta
    Hendricks
    Edwards
    Johnson

    I understand its a video game but their stats reflect what cubs are doing. high ks. high obp. power. i simulated the whole season and they won the division with 106 wins. and won the world series against the mariners. makes you wonder and have hope haha.

  • In reply to Calabio32:

    I guess we cross that (golden) bridge when we come to it. And man do I hope we come to it.

  • In reply to Calabio32:

    Out of curiosity, how did you get the prospects like Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Edwards, & Johnson?

  • In reply to Calabio32:

    seems the popular view is Bryant moves to LF and Russell takes over third. Baez stays @ 2nd. Alcantara is super sub

  • I disagree with the idea that all outs are the same. A SO is a dead-end out. As a couple of people above have posted, there can be productive outs when there is a BIP. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've yelled at a Cub hitter on TV, "forget the home run - just hit behind the runner on first." Only a bad thing can happen with a SO. The odds improve with a BIP. That will always be the smart game to me - put the BIP. I think the Cubs philosophy of controlling the strike zone - on O and D - is the way to go.

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    It seems to me that the Cubs are risking Baez upsetting the balance of the lineup this year. If you subtract him from the lineup, and Alcantrara can improve his walk percentage and cut down his strikeouts, things look promising.

  • In reply to DamnYankees:

    Baez needs MLB AB's to get better though..

  • John interesting article . You might want to go back to the 2nd para and change 300k's to 300 AB's. I don't believe 300k's has ever happened in MLB but if Baez doesn't improve or get sent to AAA he could be the first.

  • In reply to stix:

    LOL! Thanks.

  • What is John Mallee's philosophy on this after coaching both teams? Was he not concerned about K's?

  • In reply to edubbs:

    I was wondering that myself and was about the enter that comment when I saw yours. Did Mallee have anything to do with the Astros philosophy?

  • In reply to JayPea:

    He was certainly about the part where he wants hitters to wait for their pitch and if a walk comes, a walk comes -- and if you get a pitch to mash, even better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    also. shorten up with 2 strikes and just find a way to get the bat on the ball with 2 strikes.. saw some article with him talking about 2 strike approach

  • A bit off topic but John (or anyone else) do you think that if Arrieta/Hendriks aren't having as strong a season as the Cubs hoped, or the 5th starter spot turns out to be a dark hole, that the Cubs would be interested trading for a 1 year (or half year at that point) rental just to make a playoff push? Such as a Zimmerman or Price (etc)? You would have to figure the asking prices would be much less than they are now and wouldn't include anyone of depth? Just thinking out loud

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    I think if the Cubs are serious contenders with that happening I will be surprised and if they are not having strong seasons and the Cubs aren't serious contenders, then they will not make a deal for a rental. My question then is why would we want them to do anything less than have a great season just to get a rental?

    They will still cost a lot and the only teams that will be bidding on them will be serious contenders. I don't know if the Cubs get there in 2015 and even if they do, it is questionable whether they will suddenly want to sell out the future for 2015. I think they will make deals that will help, but as we saw last summer, winning the trade deadline with huge trades doesn't guarantee a thing. The last 4 teams in the hunt didn't make any big deals down the stretch, and that includes the Royals, who like the Cubs are young and coming off of a rebuild.

  • John, I know this wasn't the topic of this article, but since other readers have brought up the batting order I wondered if you have ever taken a look into or thought about a completely different look at lineups as a yearly thought instead of game set up. What I mean is if over a year you want you best players to get the most AB's then what would happen if we lead off with rizzo. People are already suggesting the study of moving the pitcher to eighth but what about giving our most feared "best" hitters the most AB's over the coarse of the year. I know game strategy comes into play and intentional walking him then if pitcher bats ninth and bunts runners over, but could a whole study into lineup construction based on who we want at the plate the most be justified?? Do we really want fowler and lastella to get more at bats then Bryant and rizzo??? Would it be worth the thought to bat one or both in the 8 and 9 slots for the second and third time through the lineup for rizzo, bryant, and Soler? How often too have we seen the one and two holes come up in the 9th inning and failed to reach the 3,4,5 holes? Just a thought and wondered what you other die hard fans thought?

  • In reply to TheCrown:

    Yes, we looked into that with a series 2-3 years ago based on The Book by Tango Tiger, but the reality is that it has been shown to have about an 11 run difference at best, which translates to one more win in a 162 game season in the abstract. It may be even less than that if you get something close to the ideal lineup construction, which the Cubs will probably do. The thought is that there is some merit to lineup construction but that it's effect is relatively small. So the question becomes is it worth it? Do other factors come into play that compensate for a less than ideal lineup construction? Maybe in terms of comfort level or strategy. For example, Fowler getting on base and having the speed to take extra bases on hits would seem to help in front of Rizzo, Soler, and Bryant. In the end, I think it is a bit overplayed. Putting players in the best position to succeed as a group may be just as valuable, but even if it doesn't the change is so small that we haven't spent so much time on that since.

  • After living in Houston for the past 20 years, I've watched a lot of good and bad Astros baseball. If Mallee can help Baez like he helped the Astros Carter shorten his swing during the 2nd half of the year, then there will be power and walks all through the lineup. There are some differences in the organizations. Due to trades and what was thought of as good drafting, the Astros had an almost 2 year "prospect" lead when the current Cubs FO took charge. The Astros have been painfully slow in moving prospects up unless they signed a major league contract (Jon Singleton). While tearing up Triple-A, Springer turned down a 7-year, $23MM contract in August/September 2013 (as a 24 year old). He was then not called up in 2013 and did not start 2014 with the big league club. The Astros FO, led by Jeff Luhnow, seem to be pretty arrogant. They take all of the "metrics" credit for the development of Colin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, but none of the "metrics" blame for a poor season. Lastly, I'm not concerned about the Cubs pitching. The issue, in my opinion, the last few years has been too few runners and too few hits.

  • This is really off topic, but is there any update on a possible extension for Theo? Seems like the Cubs have had a great off-season filling key needs, but wasn't an extension also on the wish list at some point?

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    Completely off topic...I listened to an interview with Bobby Evans, asst. GM for the Giants, on the radio yesterday. He was asked if the Giants would be serious players for Moncado, and he seemed to imply no. He was concerned about the cost, and that fact that it will be a minor league contract, not ML. He also said that the contract will likely expire when Moncado is 25, and heading toward his best years. I don't know all the ins and outs, but interesting.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I don't understand the math from that article. Moncada is 19, but turns 20 in May. If it were seven years then wouldn't that take him through seven seasons? Which would mean it would be through is age 27 season, right?

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I don't understand it either. He threw out a lot of figures, and minor league vs. major league contracts, and things that went over my head. He did, however, say that Moncada is "cut" and looks like he will be an incredible player. I wasn't sure whether the Giants were being smart or cheap or what.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Yeah, I read the article that accompanied the interview and it was saying that the max deal would be seven years, but it sounded like they were discussing it as a potential 4, 5 or 6 year deal.

    I guess I would hope that if the Cubs signed him it would be for the max seven years. I wondering if he may look to sign for a lower amount and lower years in order to hit free agency at 23 or 24. His next contract (assuming he's as good as advertised) would be insane.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    The length of the deal is the time it takes for Moncada to reach free agency. With his abiliy, he will move through arb years and into FA before his prime years. He can only be signed to a minor league with the bonus. Evans mentioned the risk as the bonus being paid up front in the first year and not spread out through the contract. In addition that bonus comes with a 100% penalty.

  • ok guys this is a fun question. first. did anyone catch the nasty boys special last night on mlb network? a lot of u probably remember that cause you were alive. I was born that year so it was a history lesson for me. so question being. what trio of relief pitchers in CUBS history would you guys think are the cubs nasty boys. you can combine any 3 In all of history.....im sure all comps will include Farnsworth. but im curious what some of you old timers think that knew of some under the radar guys that were lights out. my 3 would be

    Farnsworth
    sutter
    smith

  • In reply to Calabio32:

    I was at the game farnsworth power drove Paul Wilson into the ground. That was nasty, but don't leave out Mitch Williams. I get a kick out of him every time he is on MLB tonight.

  • In reply to Calabio32:

    I know it won't be popular, but I think it would be hard to leave Marmol off. At his peak he was as difficult to hit as any pitcher in the league. I think he even set a K/9 record at one point. He was certainly better than Farnsworth.

  • An out isn't just an out but a strike-out almost always is just an out. Fly-outs and ground-outs are fairly often accomplishing something ancillary that is useful to the offense. Even a pop-up out can drive in a run. I really doubt the Astros are thinking that way, but considering their strike-out guy don't walk much it may seem that way.

    Then again, those Crawford boxes are awfully close!

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    In reply to Bilbo161:

    Strikeouts are also almost never double plays. Not to mention you can get on-base on a dropped third strike, but not a groundout.

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    You're entering right in my wheelhouse John! Turns out that striking out has virtually no correlation with runs scored in todays MLB, per the Jeff Sullivan article referenced above by Paulson. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/colby-rasmus-the-astros-and-strikeouts/

    The Astros have made some pretty serious missteps in their rebuild, and it seems pretty obvious that the Cubs have so far done basically everything right, but I'm not yet convinced that having strikeouts is a problem in today's MLB, and I'm actually inclined to agree with the Astro's approach, i.e. that if a team is going to sacrifice any one skill, it should probably be contact.

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    I will be interested to see how the Astros experiment works out. FWIW, I have a theory on the high K issue. It goes back to the 2008 Cubs who had exceptional OBPs but also very high strikeout rates. I tend to think the downfall is when they meet elite pitchers -- i.e., the playoffs -- against whom just making contact is very difficult. That's just an educated guess, though. It appears the Astros want to take this to a laboratory.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yea that 2008 playoff experience really sucked. But that team didn't have the power that we project to have over the next few years. If we can get this team in the upper decile for OBP we will have something.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Interesting. That may be why high strikeout teams tend to struggle in the playoffs.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think you're right about that 2008 team. That's one of the things I like about Castro. To me, he's one of those few super talented hitters who can hit the best pitchers in the playoffs, kind of like Panda. The anti-Soriano. But that's just my theory.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Do strikeout rates actually increase in the playoffs? Or more specifically do teams in the upper perecentile of strikeouts in the regular season increase during the playoffs? The power pitchers are more successful in the playoffs belief has been around forever so this is kind of the mirror of that. Love to see if there is data to answer it one way or the other. I smell a future econoball article.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    It's an excellent question and unfortunately I don't have the time to really dig into it right now. Anecdotally, both the Cubs and the Dodgers had similar strikeout rates (roughly 25%) in that series but the Dodgers took a lot more walks (roughly 16% to 6%).

    That is the very definition of small sample size, though.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No time? What are you, prioritizing your education or something?

    ;)

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    In reply to mjvz:

    Hah, exactly. I have eight weeks to finish a paper and complete my dissertation proposal.

    No pressure. :)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Good luck.

    Eight weeks... so Econoball returns right around Opening Day. Nice.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    Tentatively targeting mid-to-late May to get more involved again.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You bring up a critical point. I don't want to win 100 games and get knocked out of the playoffs. In my view we always need to keep playoff parameters in mind, especially that we will only be seeing quality pitchers using superb scouting, pitchers well qualified to exploit any weaknesses of opposing hitters. In particular, playoffs may be just where high quality hitting contact would be most important.

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    That is a really interesting point that I have long believed, though never actually seen borne out by research. It's the same sort of idea that makes people say pitching and defense wins championships; it's not so much that people forget how to hit in the postseason, but that the best teams have the best pitchers usually, and you never get to feast on a weak #4 or #5 starter.

  • OT: Jason Marquis is still in baseball? And only 36 years old? I thought he was about 50.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    He was still pretty young when the Cubs signed him. I am not surprised by his age. I'm surprised he is still pitching though. Been awhile since he has been useful.

  • Rizzo and Castro's strike out numbers were both down in the second half and their on base percentage went up. They either had a better idea of the strike zone OR they were hitting in a better line up. I tend to think it was a little of both, but I would like to think that Soler was the biggest reason. Now we have Soler, Bryant, and better OBP people in the line up with selective strike zones, I would go out on a limb and say that Rizzo and Castro's numbers stay where they were at in the second half (which was very good) or get even better. Either way that put out Cubbies in great position for the second half this year.

    On a seperate note, I think the FO should put together a package of Turner (I know that might sting) and Castillo for Scott Kazmir.

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    In reply to cub since 89′:

    Castro and Soler have yet to appear in the same game.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    They played a few games together. Castro hurt his ankle sliding into home after a Soler single.

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    But I don't think the trio played together as Rizzo was out when Castro went down.

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    Good point about Soler being absent from the equation, but in a way you made an even stronger case for the fact that Rizzo and Castro did have a better idea of the strike zone. This would suggest, with a stronger line up of other guys that control the strike zone, we should expect equal or better numbers from the dynamic duo.

    Any thoughts on Kazmir?

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    I don't think the A's are looking to move Kazmir. Turner hasn't built up trade value yet. Beane may be happy with Phegley as his righthy hitting catcher.

  • In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    I suggest Turner because he has years of control left and his stuff plays better in a bigger yard, such as Oakland. No matter what you think Beane has up his sleeves, the moves they have made this year make it seem they are building for another year or so from now. I think deep down Beane knows this is not their year and he should look to extend his economic roster. Maybe instead of Castillo we throw in a AA prospect from a position of depth. Kazmir is a #3 and puts Hamel and Hendricks in their correct rotational spot IMO. I think if we make a play like that now we may get off cheaper than what we would if we tried something similar in June when we racked them last year.
    I asked John yesterday what our record would have to be in June to make a move for a TOR starter. He basically said they would have to look like an 85 win team and the Rookies would have to have looked settled into their roles. Last I looked, someone posted that fangraph estimated us winning a conservative 84 games.
    With payroll jumping up to 100 million, and the amount of other short term talent added in the offseason so far, why the heck are we not getting even more aggressive when we are so close. Last I looked, 84 wins did not make the playoffs last year.
    You can win a playoff spot in August and September, but you can also fall short because what you did in April and May.
    It's still plan A with the Lester addition. What better way to groom your top prospects. Get them Playoff experience. GO FOR IT!

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    Still not sure they would deal for one with those parameters. Would have to be right arm at right price. I don't think they'd sell the farm for anyone or give up top prospects for rentals. And I think it is more likely they go for a #3, or an innings eater or bullpen help that won't cost as much. Honestly I find a TOR unlikely. Deadline deals are overrated anyway. They are exciting but they rarely make a big difference in that postseason. I think if the cubs are buyers they'll get someone they can control for at least an extra couple of years.

    We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, the Cubs FO have said repeatedly they're not going to sell out for 2015. For the most part they're pretty much done and see what they can do from here.

    As for Castillo, he doesn't have much trade value and Turner only netted Jose Arias and a Class A reliever.

  • I will not be able to explain this well enough but I will give it a shot.

    A strikeout is the same as a flyout. Or a ground out. Or a pop out. An out is an out. Does it matter how the out is determined? No, because it counts as a single out.

    The difference is how you get there. If a player hits a ground ball to the left side, there is a chance that the ball goes through for a base hit. there is a very small chance that it is hit to a fielder who boots it and it goes for an error.

    Same thing with a fly ball. Hitter hits the ball in the air and there is a chance that it finds a gap, or drops in front of the OF, or the OF misplays it for a hit or loses it in the sun or simply boots it for an error.

    The point is, during the AB, you don't KNOW the result of contact. It could be a hit or a misplay or an error or an out. After the out is recorded it is simply and out and the same as a K.

    It is the same thing as the ridiculous comment Hawk Harrelson always makes. He says that a team is going to lose 60 games and win 60 games just because. It is those 40 games in between that you have to win to make the playoffs.

    Well when the players show up to the ballpark that day, they have no idea if this is one of those days they are going to win or going to lose or if this is one of those days they have to win in order to make the playoffs.

    Back to the AB, the player has no idea what the result of contact is going to be. But at the end of the day, a ball in play has more potential to lead to a positive result than a swing and a miss.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    ...but not necessarily, in the long run, more positive than a take and a strike. A take and a strike means that you forced the pitcher to throw a potentially hittable pitch. Then he learns over time that it will take throwing hittable pitches to get you out.

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