Archive for December, 2007

A Sad Day to Be a Baseball Fan

Friday, December 14th, 2007

I am not big on steroid stories but since Seven Up; Seven Down focuses on the week in baseball, I almost have to touch on it. Yesterday was a bad day to be a baseball fan. So lets get to it.

By now most of you have read the report, or at least the main parts. I am not going to dissect it line by line.

In doing a quick search. Here are some ex-Cubs on the list. Benito Santiago, Jerry Hairston Jr., Glenallen Hill, Todd Hundley, Gary Matthews Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Todd Pratt, Rondell White, Matt Franco. Aww, why Glenallen Hill? Remember that homerun he hit to almost dead center that is probably still in the air? This obliviously doesn’t mean they used during there time in Chicago.

Anyway, this topic alone could start about a million debates but I wanted to touch on a few. First of all, is anyone really shocked by the players that were named? OK, maybe Pettite surprised me a bit. I was also shocked to see so many Brewers on the list. Shouldn’t they have won more games in the early part of the decade? Oh, and does anyone really think Sammy Sosa didn’t use steroids.

And what did this report really tell us? Athletes take drugs and enhancers to at least they hope,improve their game. Now that is a shocker! Think about it, what about Babe Ruth and his beer or amphetamines during the golden years of Mantle and Co., or stealing base signs, or corking bats. Cheating has been around and baseball knew and chose to do nothing about it. Now Selig can parade his dog and pony show around talking about how he will not back down from acting on any recommendations. Please Bud spare us the tough guy act.

We could also get in the argument about whose fault it is. Its the owners fault, the GM fault, the players fault, the guy who sells Budweiser on the third base side, even his fault, but what about us as baseball fans? Is any of this our fault? Is our tolerance for drug use/cheating, etc so high, they we had no problem turning a blind eye. The fans wanted to see Mark and Sammy belt out homerun after homerun engrossed in a head-to-head race. It was fun to watch. They want to see Roger Clemens strike out the side with an unhittable fastball. That is what fans want because that is what is exciting. To me it is just sad because I can still enjoy a 1-1 pitchers duel and be just as excited.

I also think that are players not on this list who for some reason escaped publication. Well, they should be ousted too. Yes, I am talking about you Sammy. I do feel however, the argument about these athletes being children’s heroes is now null and void. If anything this list will inspire kids to stay away from steroids because 80% of the players on this list are not very good.

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Proof that the Cubs DO NOT need another starting pitcher

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

With the Fukudome signing and the trade of Miguel Tejada to the Astros, suddenly people are clamoring not only for Brian Roberts, but for Eric Bedard as well. Not only would the Orioles never move both of their remaining valuable pieces in one deal, but the Cubs wouldn’t have the kind of package needed to get them. Something that people aren’t factoring into the equation is that when you’re a team like Baltimore, you have a small window to get it right. Seeing that they really only have a few somewhat valuable chips left, it’s important to maximize their return on said chips. That being said, Eric Bedard is more valuable and would be more expensive simply because of the team he would be coming to. Factor in the the fact that he throws left-handed and is under 30 and you have a guy that could possibly be valued as high as a Carlos Zambrano on the open market. We just don’t have the resources to get a guy like that, and as I’ve continued to maintain all off-season, we do not need another starting pitcher. I’ve got some numbers for you.

For the sake of argument, I took a look at the five starters that pitched the most innings for each Major League team last year and ranked them in order of their ERA+, or adjusted ERA as it’s sometimes referred to as. Basically ERA+ is as follows:

Adjusted ERA+, often simply abbreviated to ERA+, is a statistic in baseball. It adjusts a pitcher’s ERA according to the pitcher’s ballpark (does it favor batters or pitchers) and the ERA of the pitcher’s league. Average is set to be 100; a score above 100 indicates the pitcher performed better than average, below 100 indicates worse than average.For instance, if the average ERA in the league is 4.00, and the pitcher is pitching in a ballpark that favors hitters, and his ERA is 4.00, then his ERA+ will be over 100. However, if the average ERA in the league is 3.00, and the pitcher is pitching in a ballpark favoring pitchers, and the pitcher’s ERA is 3.50, then the pitcher’s ERA+ will be (significantly) below 100.

As a result, ERA+ is a good way of comparing pitchers’ performances across different run environments. In the above example, the first pitcher has performed better than the second pitcher, but his ERA is higher. ERA+ corrects this misleading impression. – (Source)

So we see that anything over 100 is considered league average and below is considered below average. Jeff Sackman of the Hardball Times did several research based posts in December of 2006 and found that ordinarily, most teams struggle with production from not only the 5th spot in the rotation, but from the 4th spot as well. In fact, here were his findings as to the average ERA for the five spots in the rotation.

Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
MLB     3.60    4.14    4.58    5.10    6.24
AL      3.70    4.24    4.58    5.09    6.22
NL      3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26

As you can see, teams tend to struggle greatly from the back end of the rotation, and my data shows the same. When we look at the ERA+ for each team by spot in the rotation, a number of things jumped out at me. I’ve highlighted the MLB leader for those spots in the rotation for easy viewing.

When I took at look at this data, it confirmed what I already knew and have been trying to convince people of all year. Our rotation is fine. It’s better than fine, it’s almost the best in baseball.

  • We were one of two teams that boasted all five starters with an ERA+ over 100, Toronto being the other.
  • When you averaged the ERA+ from the five spots, we ranked 3rd in baseball with an average of 116.
  • We are below the ML average from the # 1 spot, which most would not question, but it’s the only position we were below the ML average. Every other spot was at least 5 points over, and our 5th spot was 18 points over the average, good for 2nd in all of baseball.
  • Our # 1 starter, oddly enough, was not Carlos Zambrano, but rather Ted Lilly. Zambrano was 2nd right? Wrong, he actually came in 4th behind Rich Hill and Sean Marshall. That same Sean Marshall that everyone keeps mentioning in trade talks.I’m convinced that starting pitching is not a need for this club. With the five that are listed and guys like Kevin Hart and Sean Gallagher waiting in the wings, we’re in very good shape for next year.

    Additional Reading

  • How Good is Your #4 Starter? – Jeff Sackman (December 27, 2006)
  • More Fun With Rotation Numbers – Jeff Sackman (December 29, 2006)
  • Another Look at Starting Rotations – Jeff Sackman (January 17, 2007)
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    Were the Cubs Cost Effective in 2007?

    Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

    Over the next three days I’m going dork on you with some research-based, and I use that term loosely, posts regarding the 2007 Cubs roster as well as MLB as a whole. Today we look at the payroll with regard to the true value we got out of it. It’s no secret that the team plans to increase the payroll by as much as 25% this off-season, so maybe it’s time to investigate where the money was spent in 2007 and what we got as a result.

    For our model today, we’re going to be using two types of data that I pulled from outside sources. The first of these are win shares. Sabermetric guys are familiar with this stat and tend to put a good amount of stock into it. It’s a stat that was devised by the Saber god, Bill James, and has been tweaked a bit by the folks at The Hardball Times. On an unrelated note, the guys at THT have been gracious to request my insight for the forthcoming 2008 Season Preview book due out in the spring, so you’ll have to look for that. That being said, their simple definition of a win share is as follows:

    Win Shares. Invented by Bill James. Win Shares is a very complicated statistic that takes all the contributions a player makes toward his team’s wins and distills them into a single number that represents the number of wins contributed to the team, times three.

    To sum that up, the Cubs managed a staggering 85 wins last year, which means they had 255 win shares to distribute among the players based on their contributions to the team. For a more in depth explanation, be sure to check out the article on Wikipedia.

    Once we have how many of the wins can be attributed to each player, we can look at the salary they collected in 2007 and calculate what the Cubs paid for that player’s contribution in terms of wins in the standings. For example, a player being paid a very good deal of money (cough Alfonso cough Soriano) would be expected to put more wins on the board for the team. That’s how it should work, but did it? To calculate a players value, I simply divided their salary (in millions) by the wins they contributed and came up with the cost per win. The results might surprise you.

    When we look over this summary, I pull out a few interesting nuggets that I don’t know if I would have known otherwise.

    1. Rich Hill was really cost effective. Explain to me again why people want to trade him? Someone that young, making that little and producing that much is pretty valuable.
    2. Our most productive player was Derrek Lee and even he only produced 8 wins.
    3. Ouch, did Scott Eyre kill us!!!
    4. Hey Neal Cotts, thanks for nothin’
    5. Jacque Jones, everyone’s whipping boy all year, produced a total of 5 wins for this team and ranked as our 6 best contributor. It sure is a good thing we got rid of that worthless piece of garbage. We sure can’t have a guy like that on our team.
    6. Mark DeRosa was THE STEAL of the off-season in 2006. Jim Hendry gets a gold star for that signing, when a lot of people criticized it due to DeRosa never really playing full time.
    7. Jason Kendall was worth the flyer we took on him, but isn’t worth the money Milwaukee spent on him this off-season.
    8. Who would have thought that Felix Pie contributed as much as Matt Murton and Mike Fontenot last year?
    9. Daryle Ward was another nice bargain off the bench. Yet another gold star for Hendry on that one.

    So we notice some interesting things, but in the end you have to ask yourself “Was Alfonso Soriano worth $1.23 million we paid him per win produced?” Could we have gotten by with something a little cheaper and spent that money elsewhere? Did the ends justify the means on this 2007 team? What surprises you about this data? Is there any nuggets I missed? Let’s discuss.

    Tune in tomorrow when we take a look at how our starting rotation compared to the rest of the league using ERA+. It should be fun times, at least for dorks like me.

    All salary data collected from Cot’s Baseball Contracts

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    Fukudome is Coming

    Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

    I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, but the Cubs inked Fukudome to a 4 year, $48 million dollar deal. I’m excited about the deal, as the outfield was looking really scary after Hendry dumped Floyd, Jones and newly acquired Omar Infante.

    With Soriano and Fukudome maning the corner spots, and in some cases, it sounds like centerfield. I’d like to see Pie get a good shot at grabbing the full time centerfield position. In my dreams, I’d really like to see Sam Fuld “wow” the staff in Spring Training, and get it instead, but I think the higher ups, will give Pie his shot first. All in all, I really like the way this roster has shaped up now. Of course, nothing matters on paper.

    More to come on this, as I’m sure Joe is giddy with excitement, since this was the one signing he was jonesing for.

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    Fukudome signs with Cubs…reportedly

    Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

    It is being reported all over Chicago that the Cubs and Fukudome have agreed to a four year deal somewhere in the area of $50 million. They are still trying to hammer out the final details, but it appears- at least for right now- that the Cubs have gotten their Plan A of this off season.

    Update 1:
    The deal has reportedly been completed and according to the Cubs website it is 4 years $48 million.

    Update 2:
    As I predicted Jay Mariotti proposes a stupid, uncreative nickname for Fukudome in the first (THE FIRST) paragraph of his online column for the Sun Times.

    Update 3:
    With a new outfielder in the mix the Cubs can go stronger after Brian Roberts now due to an excess of outfielders. The Orioles seemingly have interest in Matt Murton as part of a deal.

    To me the Cubs still need another good arm. I know their pitching numbers last year were pretty good, but who trusts that rotation to be able to win a World Series? Today is the day that the Cubs need to make a final decision on offering Mark Prior a contract.

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    Fukudome Update

    Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

    I went to bed last night with visions of an Asian man playing the outfield for the Cubs this season. Everything I read said the decision would be coming late last night. I awoke with yet another story from ESPN saying the decision was coming soon. If ESPN can’t seem to get it right, why are they spouting information in the first place. From what I’ve gathered, the decision is expected sometime today as to if Fukudome is coming to America. From there, his agent has said he will take another day or so to decide on an offer from an MLB team, assuming he decides to come over.

    That being said, we probably won’t be the site that reports it first, but when something does happen, I’ll do my best to chime in with some commentary.

    Update: This article from Japan Today makes it seem clear he’s coming the MLB

    The Yomiuri Giants have abandoned their chase for Kosuke Fukudome, making it certain that the former Chunichi Dragons outfielder will now pursue a career in the major leagues.

    “We had looked vigorously at acquiring him but gave up on our efforts after taking into account all of the moves for him, including information from the major league winter meeting,” Yomiuri club representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake said. The Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals are believed to be among the major league clubs aiming for the services of Fukudome, who is expected to draw an offer exceeding 1 billion yen per year.

    (Source)

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    What to do with CF

    Monday, December 10th, 2007

    Assuming the Cubs get Fukudome via free agency to fill right field, that leaves us with a dilemma in CF. Here are your options:

    Option 1 – Felix Pie is your opening day starting CF

    Option 2 – Sam Fuld is your opening day starting CF

    Option 3 – Someone acquired via trade or free agency is your opening day CF

    If you choose option 3, who are you thinking of and why? Remember, the Cubs won’t have much left to spend, assuming they get Fukudome.

    Let’s fill up the comment section with our thoughts.

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    Sunday Morning Webtopia

    Sunday, December 9th, 2007

    We head closer to the deadline for the Cubs to decide Mark Prior’s fate and hopefully the day we learn the Cubs have signed Fukudome. Both could come today. My guess is that Prior will be traded for small amounts of talent and Fukudome will sign the same day. It would make losing a player once considered a phenom for pennies a lot easier to bare. We’ll just have to wait and see. Until them, enjoy the selections for this week. Remember, if you run across something, take a minute and send me a note. I’d appreciate it.

  • With the Rule 5 draft in the books, I found some information on the player we picked up from the Rays, Tim Lahey. Remember, just because we picked him up doesn’t mean he’s a lock to make the team. If Hendry and Lou feel he’s not ready, the process is as follows: Lahey would be placed on waivers, exposing him to every team in baseball. If no one bites, the Cubs must offer him back to the Twins for $25,000. If Minnesota declines, he is the Cubs property and they no longer are required to keep him on the active roster or even the 40 man roster. Here is some info on Lahey:

    Acquired from the Rays for 150K Lahey is an interesting arm from the Twins system, he’s only 25 and last year had a 3.65 ERA spending 78.1 of his 81.1 innings pitched in AA. He’s a reliever who may challenge for a Cubs’ bullpen spot, but honestly I can’t see him making it and I’d project him to be returned to the Twins. – (Source)

    √¨He√≠s anywhere from 90 to 95 with a pretty good slider, decent changeup, He√≠s only been pitching for two years. He√≠s supposed to have a pretty good sinker. He pitched pretty well in Double-A for a guy that was only in his second full year. He√≠s a good-sized guy (6-foot-5, 250 pounds).” ~ Cubs Scouting Director, Tim Wilken (Source)

    Lahey was a star catcher at Princeton, but he only lasted one year behind the plate before being moved to the mound, as his tremendous power was rendered valueless by a complete inability to make contact. On the mound, it√≠s been a different story. Lahey is absolutely massive at 6’5√Æ and 250 pounds, and he get a good downward plane on his splitter, which is his primary offering and gives him an excellent ground-ball ratio.

    Chances To Stick: It would have been better with the Rays, where nearly any carbon-based life form would have a chance to make the bullpen, but even with the Cubs he could mop up here and there and develop into a decent middle reliever, but little more. ~ Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (Source)

  • Mike Pagliarulo has a post about how teams should evaluate Japanese free agents. He lists Akinori Iwamura as a Japanese failure last year and So Taguchi as a success, which is ridiculous. I’m sure Scott from Rays of Light will break it down a little as to why. One of the ways Mike mentions for a team to be successful is to double and triple check their work. That applies to writers as well. Had Mike simply took two minutes to pull up the player’s stats, he would see that in Iwamura’s first full season, he posted an OPS+ of over 100, which is the benchmark and considered league average. Taguchi has been at 91, 78, and 88 in his three seasons which at least 300 at bats. What I found the most amusing were his tips to being successful, as if teams aren’t already doing these. I’ve got news for Mike, no team is going to invest in a player after hearing from just a scout or two. – (Source)
  • Derek Zumsteg, who you may remember for his Cheater’s Guide to Baseball book has a cheating blog as well. Recently he talked about how the excuse of a player taking a “tainted supplement” is slowly becoming more credible. – (Source)

    Every Sunday morning, we’ll highlight some good writing around the web and beyond. Feel free to send me submissions of things you run across, whether it be good YouTube videos, sports related blog posts, or good columns. Send all submissions to:
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    The Results Are In

    Saturday, December 8th, 2007

    We ran a poll on the site over the past week or so. It simply asked who the readers would like the fourth and fifth starters to be. Here are the results of your voting.

    Sean Marshall seems to be the starter the fans most want to see in that rotation, with the lowest average rating of all the choices. Angel Guzman seems to be a guy most want nothing to do with. Curious to me was the interest in Mark Prior. I know people understand the risk involved with him, but despite that, 23 people ranked him # 1 in their minds.

    Here’s a look at some of the comments left in the survey to explain the thought behind the vote:

  • Guzman – Electric stuff, but can he stay healthy? Marquis – What were they thinking when they signed him? 5th starter, at best… for a bad team. Hart – Like him, but he looked good out of the pen. I’d leave him in that role for that reason only because you need guys like that. Prior – I am afraid the Cubs will trade him for a mid-level prospect, and he’ll flourish elsewhere. Just the same, he is not mentally tough and seems to have burnt his bridges with the organization. Dempster – Cut bait! Makes Marquis look like an All Star. Gallagher – I like his makeup best of all from this group. He also does not walk hitters, something the rest of this bunch seems to do. Marshall – Inconsistent. He is projects, at best, as a 4th starter. In my opinion, the candidates are awful, and I hope (but doubt) they will acquire another arm. Some options to consider for #4: 1. Livan Hernandez – He’s older, but still an innings eater; 2. Tony Armas, Jr.- Still young enough, and has not yet realized his potential (closer?). Oft-injured; 3. Bartolo Colon – Perpetually injured and fat, but could be a good buy-low candidate. On an unrelated note, why has no one on your site brought up Joe Nathan’s name with regard to the Cubs. They need a closer (Wood will not be the answer), and he is available. He is an elite closer, and I would love to see the Cubs make that acquisition.
  • In a perfect world, we’d see a rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Kuroda, Hill, and one of Marshall/Marquis/Hart. OK, actually, in a perfect world, we’d see a rotation of Sabathia, Peavy, Santana, Webb, and Zambrano, but I’m trying to be at least somewhat realistic here.
  • If Prior is still on the team and is healthy enough to actually compete, I think he’s going to be good. I don’t know why, but it seems that Marshall is overlooked as a part of the Cubs long term future. Hasn’t he proved himself to be a legitimate starter? I like to see the younger guys compete. I’m still waiting on Guzman and I’m not sure about Hart or Gallagher. I like to see Marquis and Dempster traded. Marquis is good enough, but teams that expect to be World Champs don’t settle for good enough. We’ve experimented with Dempster in the rotation already, I’m not sure he’s going to put up better numbers than any of the other guys. I think Dempster is a good guy-I like him, but, we don’t need him as a starter. He’s moderately successful as a closer and teams need closers, so why don’t we trade him to a team who needs one? I wouldn’t trade them without something good in return, but I think we’d be able to get something good for either one.
  • I suppose I didn’t realize how much I was going to dislike the choices until they were all presented to me… eek!
  • They all suck.
  • Marquis got us double digit wins last year. You have give him the first shot. Hart was hot, but hopefully he can continue this. Marshall has the most experience considering Gallagher and Guzman. IF Prior is healthy, which I am not sold on would be my 4th. I don’t think Dempster is my choice to start any ballgames , either he should be a reliever or trade him.
  • I think Marquis would be a good 5th starter. Eats innings. Half the time is going to give a good start and maybe a win. Probably would be better then most teams 5th starter. One of the young guys has to step up and be better and more consistent and take the 4th spot.
  • I think Marquis will be traded, but given his ability to eat innings, I put him 3rd. Not sure Demp or Hart can handle the load, and Prior and Guzman are both out with injuries. I really like Marshall and wish he could stay healthy, and Gallagher seems closest to reaching his ceiling, which is about a low 4 or 5 in the rotation.
  • Sadly, Marquis and Dempster are shoo-ins.
  • Marquis = league avg innings eater 4 spot, Prior can hopefully pitch and get days off as the 5, or let kids battle it out.
  • Rooting for Prior to pitch a full year!
  • Marquis is a proven innings eater which is essential to any ballpark. I think Prior has the type of style that will be conducive to switching to finesse pitching from being a flame thrower. I definitely think that Dempster can be a solid four or five, though nothing spectacular.
  • Marquis was respectable in 07. Gallagher deserves a chance to be the number 5 guy. Guzman could also use another chance if he got some more control.
  • I’ll start from the bottom up… Guzman is supposed to miss most of ’08 according to the Tribune back in October. Dempster stinks as a starter. ‘Nuff said. Hart was a stud in the bullpen, let’s keep him there. Marquis…not much to say. Average at best, no upside. Prior I believe is out until the season starts, so he would have to earn it. Gallagher and Marshall are interchangeable. I think Gallagher has more upside, but Marshall has been there already. Marshall #4, Gallagher #5.
  • Marshall for sure, then Marquis unless we can trade him. Gallagher is the wild card in this mix. Prior and Guzman just can’t stay healthy.
  • Does “Assuming nothing in terms of health,” mean that we should assume that everyone is healthy (the way I took it,) or that we should assume that health concerns continue as they have in the past?
  • Let’s get rid of Marquis while he still has anything approaching value. It’s only a matter of time before he implodes!
  • I like Prior, and Marquis is still great before the ASB.

    Thanks to everyone who took the survey. The winner of the book is Thomas Checkosky. His survey number was randomly drawn using the random integer generator at random.org. Congrats Thomas. I’ll send you an e-mail to get your shipping information.
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