Archive for December, 2007

From Right Field – It Was Supposed To Be Better Than Cats

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Way back in elementary school, the musical “Cats” was all the rage. Our music teacher, the way hip Mr. Vaanenen, got us all excited about this incredible musical performance that Broadway had never seen the likes of. Naturally, my sister and I were all wound up about it, and my parents decided to take us when the show came west to Chicago. To this day, and I’m not a huge fan of musicals or plays, but I remember being mezmorized by that show. The lights, the scenes, the make-up, and of course, the music.

OK, before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, and I’m talking Broadway musicals on a baseball blog, allow me to segue. I’m trying to tie this into good old boy, Mark Prior. How you had me all excited and full of visions of you carrying the Cubs to the promised land. You had me mezmorized. In some cases, I think you may of had me delusional. A rotation of Prior, Wood, and Zambrano had me drooling so hard, I’d need a feed bag to contain it. This was it, the pitching that would take the Cubs to the long awaited World Series and end a drought that even Boston, and the White Hose have been able to vanquish.

When the Cubs selected Mark in the draft, I could hardly contain my excitement. The Cubs had selected a pitcher that would not only be good, but be ready for the Major League in a hurry. With Wood being healthy, and this young stud joining the ranks, we had nowhere to go but up. Then it happened.

What seems to be a reoccurring dream, or nightmare depending on how you look at it, the injury bug hit, and Mark couldn’t get his poop together. Arm and shoulder injuries, and freak accidents. Flipping over Marcus Giles between 1st and 2nd base? A line drive off the elbow? How does this stuff keep happening? Somewhere in there, I lost my faith in number 22. He seemed pampered and couldn’t get his mind over matter. Baseball is a grueling sports that spans over six months a year. Bumps, bruises, muscle strains, pinching, you name it, occurs on a daily basis. It takes mental strength to get through some of it. Mr. Prior, I do not believe you had an ounce of that.

They keep showing clips of Mark’s Cub career on Comcast Sports Net, and a majority of them are him calling to the dugout for the trainer. It irks me a little bit. What should of been an anchor for our rotation for years to come, was over in five years. In actuality, he was really only useful two of those years. What a waste.

Of course, now he’ll go onto some west coast team, which is where his heart really wanted to be anyway, and probably come back to have a semi-successful career. It is what it is. Another blip on one of the many touted pitchers that have come through Wrigley Field with high expectations, only to flame out quicker than you can make an overkilled Bartman reference too. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even that upset by Prior being released. I just don’t think he’d work well with the current roster. I’m not sure he would fit into Piniella’s hard nosed system, where “sallies” aren’t appreciated, and you better come ready to play.

I can sum up Mark’s career quite simply. I laughed, I cried, but it most certainly wasn’t better than Cats.

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Projecting Fukudome

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

I found a couple of projections for Fukudome for this upcoming season. Obviously, any projection on a player who has never played in the Major Leagues has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s still interesting to see how various people project him. It has be excited, at least.

Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus has him projected via his PECOTA system.

PA   R   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB  CS  BA    OBP   SLG
465  80  30  4   15  58   70  94  9   3  .289  .401  .504

Keep in mind that those are a little low in part because of the injury he had last year.

Baseball Think Factory weighed in with their ZIPS projections as well:

2008 ZiPS Projection - Kosuke Fukudome
              AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI  BB  SO  SB    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS+
Projection   457  66  134  33  2  13  67  64 100   1  .293  .382  .460   114
2009?        444  66  129  33  1  14  66  59  93   2  .291  .376  .464   113 
2010?        386  57  108  26  1  10  57  55  85   2  .280  .372  .430   104 
2011?        327  45   90  20  0   8  50  43  72   1  .275  .362  .410    97
Opt. (15%)   537  91  170  42  3  19  87  87  95   4  .317  .415  .512   135
Pes. (15%)   376  46   98  25  0   8  45  44  86   0  .262  .341  .391    87
Top Comps:  Jay Johnstone, Dixie Walker
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Cubs Trading for Joe Nathan

Friday, December 14th, 2007

There is a rumor floating that the Cubs are talking to the Twins about a deal for their closer Joe Nathan. Nathan has been a premiere closer for a number of years. WSCR in Chicago is reporting that in order for the deal to happen the Cubs would need to include Carlos Marmol in a multi-player deal. Last season Nathan had 37 saves and an ERA of 1.88. He is under team option for the coming year. Last season he made 5.25 million.

Like most rumors this one probably will not happen, but it is some interesting hot stove talk.

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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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