Archive for October, 2009

Projected Opening Day Roster

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Alright folks, it’s time. Time for the off-season posts to start. Today we begin with a look at where this team stands right now, so we can begin to decide what we want / need to do to make sure 2009 doesn’t happen again in 2010. This roster is how I typically set a roster when I’m playing OOTP. Obviously, sometimes you have to adjust based on what you’ve got in house. We’ll update this throughout the year, but this is what I’d do based on what we’ve got in house right now.

Roster Notes

  • I think it’s clear that Milton Bradley is out, regardless of how it needs to happen, so I didn’t even consider him for RF in 2010
  • Jeff Baker is arbitration eligible, but I saw enough from him that I’d bring him back for 2010 to compete with Miles and Fontenot for the 2B spot. I only mention Miles because he’s signed for almost $3 mil. next year.
  • I put Sean Marshall in my rotation over Gorzelanny and Samardzija for no other reason than I’m a Marshall guy and I don’t think Harden will be back with this team next year.

How do we look? Obviously I know this will change, but it’s designed to be an updated work in progress throughout the off-season. Let’s talk about it. Where did I miss the boat and where was I right on?

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A Statistical Treatise (Part 2)

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Before we were so rudely interrupted, I was considering the question: “When Does a Pitcher Earn an Earned Run?”.

– What determines the fate of a batted ball? “The most powerful determinant is blind luck, followed by the pitcher; and then by defense and the tendencies of the ballpark.”

– “Stolen bases may get the glory in the box score, but sneaking in a few extra bases when the ball is in play is where the real money is.”

– “…the first rule of baserunning is ‘don’t get caught’.”

– “Once teams have fallen behind by 2 or more runs, they must play for the big inning. But when trailing by 1, tied, or leading by any number of runs, it’s beneficial to play for 1 run.”

– “Suboptimal Decision Making. There are plenty of examples of teams keeping a highly paid player, even if his performance stinks, when they should cut bait. Teams should be able to acknowledge sunk costs and move on, but they often can’t.”

– “…one of the central themes of this book is that baseball teams have a long history of behaving inefficiently.”

– “…’irrational exuberance,’ and his employers will be paying the price of that exuberance for years to come.”

– “…who had been weaned on Billy Beane’s cold-eyed, frugal approach in Oakland…”

– “Professional sports teams generally have no significant impact on a metropolitan economy (and do) not appear to create a flow of public funds generated by new economic growth. Far from generating new revenues out of which other public projects can be funded, sports ‘investments’ appear to be an economically unsound use of a community’s scarce financial resources.”

– “If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest in a new ballpark.”

– “Of the new ballparks that have mushroomed across America in recent years, not one was built because it was a good business proposition. They were built because team owners saw them as a good way to obtain public cash.”

– “The forms of the subsidies may change, but new stadiums are still mostly about one thing: boosting team profits by separating taxpayers from their money.”

– “…the map is not the territory…Similarly, we can say here that the statistics are not the player.”

– “Signing a twenty-nine-year-old to a three-year contract based on his performance in his past couple of seasons could lead to his being overvalued; most likely his peak had already come and gone.”

– “Skipper Mike Scioscia eschewed the usual mindless, veteran-obsessed managerial protocol in favor of a true meritocracy, handing jobs to unknowns like minor league lifer Brendan Donnelly and reaping great results…”

– “The team shunned risky multiyear contracts in favor of higher-salaried, shorter-term deals…”

– “…with a last-place ball club you don’t have to raise anybody’s salary. With a first-place ball club everybody wants a raise, so I can make more money finishing last than I can first.”

– “…beer and tacos. Stats and scouts.”

– “..only a fool would deny the native and vital acuities of good scouts, just as only a fool would pooh-pooh the value of sound statistical analysis. So, you know, don’t be a fool.”

There is a glossary included: twenty pages of acronyms and engineering formulas, which is very useful.

If you are looking for a good baseball book to spend the offseason reading, this might be the one for you.

There are 27 chapters in the book, each asking (and answering) a specific question about baseball. And there are roughly 27 weeks to the Cubs offseason. So you could dedicate each week of the offseason to concentrating on one chapter/question from the book. You would learn a lot.

I recommend “Baseball Between The Numbers” very highly. The early sections of the book contain so many statistical calculations that my eyes glazed over. But after those initial salvos, the book becomes comprehensible to humans like you or me.

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A Statistical Treatise

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

I was riding on the “L” with my big sister beside me. She looked over, saw all the charts and graphs, and exclaimed: “What are you READING??” So I showed her the cover. “It’s just a baseball book” I said. She sighed, mightily, and shook her head from side to side.

The official title of this book is “Baseball Between The Numbers – Why Everything You Know About The Game Is Wrong”, by “The Experts At Baseball Prospectus”. Edited by Jonah Keri. It was published in 2006. There’s a lot of information included herein.

Rob Neyer is quoted on the inside back jacket cover: “For years, people have been asking me if there’s one book that will give them a solid grounding in modern baseball analysis. And for years, I’ve been forced to admit that no, there wasn’t any such book. Until now. “Baseball Between the Numbers” will soon be required reading in every front office with serious aspirations for the World Series.”

Here’s what you’ll find:

One of the first things we are presented with is a comparison of the “ex-jock” factor vs. statistical analysis in baseball discussions.
– “…the authors pose twenty-nine provocative questions, meant to stir up those debates we love so much.”

– “Reading “Baseball Between the Numbers” will make you a smarter fan of the game,…”

This book contains an extensive glossary which: “covers not only some of the funky-lettered acronyms you’ll see in this book but also broader concepts such as “regression to the mean” and “Mendoza Line”.”

– “…we only put the word ‘Numbers’ in the title because we wanted to limit our audience to a crowd of intrepid, enlightened risk-takers….”

– “I risk sounding like one of those old L. Ron Hubbard commercials, but you’ll find the answers to all of these pressing questions within the book.”

– “By comparing how much a player contributes versus a journeyman who can be had for the league-minimum salary, teams can apply more meaningful analysis and less guesswork to what have become multimillion-dollar decisions.”

– “Studies have shown that a player who strikes out a lot isn’t hurting his team by any significant margin versus a player who strikes out far less, assuming their other statistics are the same.”

– “Sabermatricians have conducted dozens, if not hundreds, of studies on clutch hitting…All of them have come to the same conclusion: Clutch-hitting ability either doesn’t exist at all or is so rare that it is hardly worth worrying about.”

– “Others are subtler – what we might call “hidden-clutch” situations.”

Here are four bullets regarding “clutch-hitting” situations:
– With the bases empty, a walk is every bit as good as a single. This is not the case with runners on base.
– In a tie game in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on third base, a single is every bit as good as a home run.
– If the home team is batting in the bottom of the ninth down by two runs with nobody on, a walk is virtually as good as a home run.
– With a runner on first base and less than two outs, a strikeout is preferable to a groundout.

– “…baseball is a game that is won by exploiting small advantages over the long haul.”

– “Bill James wrote that the key to scoring in any individual inning is getting the first batter on base.”

– “…minor changes to the lineup for brief periods of time have virtually no discernible effect on run scoring.”

– “…a team’s best hitters should bat sequentially.”

– “…OBP is the most important variable…”

– “Protection is overrated. There’s no evidence that having a superior batter behind another batter provides the initial batter with better pitches to hit….”

– “…who is in the lineup is much more important than where they bat.”

– “Throwing is not dangerous to a pitcher’s arm. Throwing while tired is dangerous to a pitcher’s arm.”

– “eidetic” memory = photographic memory or unusually vivid

– “If he’s a starting pitcher, all a win signifies is that he pitched at least 5 innings and left with a lead that the team preserved. It takes no notice of whether he gave up zero runs or 15.”

– “Won-lost records have more to do with run support, bullpen support, quality of opposition, and blind luck than with pitching excellence.”

To Be Continued….

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Which players have performed the best in the postseason?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Performing well during the regular season is one thing, but producing in October wins championships. As we await the Twins-Tigers playoff and the Division Series, let’s take a look at the best playoff performers among active players.

Most Productive Hitters by On-Base Plus Slugging
(minimum 50 Plate Appearances)
Player Games Plate
Home Runs Avg
Carlos Beltran 22 101 11 .366 1.302
Troy Glaus 19 82 9 .347 1.246
Jason Bay 11 51 3 .341 1.105
Kevin Youkilis 26 113 6 .333 1.023
Albert Pujols 53 226 13 .323 1.022
Lance Berkman 29 129 6 .321 .992
B.J. Upton 16 72 7 .288 .985
Jayson Werth 20 83 4 .292 .983
Carlos Guillen 19 69 2 .344 .978
Nomar Garciaparra 32 127 7 .321 .975

Astros fans will remember Carlos Beltran’s torrid 2004, and Rays fans won’t forget B.J. Upton’s 2008. Albert Pujols is right in line with his regular season production as the best hitter in the game. Alex Gonzalez and Adam Everett have fared the worst in the postseason, each posting an On-base Plus Slugging below .500. For those interested, Alex Rodriguez ranks 28th of 104 qualifying players, Derek Jeter places 31st, and David Ortiz comes in 12th.

Because Earned Run Average is volatile, particularly in small samples, we rank pitchers based on Component Earned Run Average, which uses pitchers’ hits, walks, and home runs allowed to measure their effectiveness:

Most Productive Pitchers by Component Earned Run Average
(minimum 15 Innings Pitched)
Player Games Innings
Strikeouts ERA
Jonathan Papelbon 16 25.0 22 0.00 0.64
Mariano Rivera 76 117.3 93 0.77 1.13
Hideki Okajima 16 21.0 16 2.14 1.55
Alan Embree 31 21.7 13 1.66 1.64
Cole Hamels 6 41.7 37 2.16 1.65
Jon Garland 2 16.0 11 2.25 2.00
Brad Lidge 26 34.3 51 2.10 2.05
Chad Bradford 24 23.3 13 0.39 2.05
Jason Isringhausen 23 26.7 23 2.36 2.10
Carl Pavano 8 19.3 15 1.40 2.13

The top two names on this list should surprise no one, but Hideki Okajima has been nearly as successful. Alan Embree, owner of a career 4.59 regular-season Earned Run Average, has been stellar across seven postseasons (and five different teams). A broken leg will keep him on the Rockies’ bench this October.

Full postseason stats are available in the 2010 Bill James Handbook, available November 1

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,”

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Cubs demote Von Joshua

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Yesterday it was announced that the Cubs relieved Von Joshua of his duties as the Cubs’ MLB hitting instructor; they offered him his job back as minor league hitting instructor which I hope he will accept. Von is a good organizational guy, we should make a place in our organization for this fine man.

By the same token this opens up a major league coaching slot – we all know that Piniella is finished after 2010, do I hear rumors that this slot is open for Ryne Sandberg? Let’s slot Ryno for the 2010 Cubs bench, he could learn a lot from retiring manager Piniella and Trammel. Alex would be custom-made for Sandberg’s bench coach, what do y’all think? IMO the Cubs are already making little moves now, let’s see what the major moves will be insofar as the outfield.

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Total Baseball

Monday, October 5th, 2009

This is, by far, the biggest baseball book I have ever read. It contains over 2,500 pages. It weighs five pounds! It is “The Official Encyclopedia Of Major League Baseball”. It’s title is “Total Baseball – Seventh Edition”, by John Thorn, Pete Palmer, and Michael Gershman. This edition was published in 2001. Bill James is quoted on the back cover: “This book will take its place among the great ones about the game, and every baseball library that lacks one will be suddenly obsolete.”

I enjoyed going through this book, although it is a reference book and not necessarily meant to be read from cover to cover.

Some of the chapters I particularly enjoyed include:
– Team Histories
– The Changing Game
– The Top 100 Players
– Tiebreakers: One-Game and Three-Game Playoffs
– Black Ball
– The Minor Leagues
– Baseball and the Civil War
– How To Score A Game
– Sabermetrics
– The History of Major League Baseball Statistics

There is a ten page glossary of statistical terms and also a compilation of baseball quotations. Here are a few of my favorite baseball quotes:

– “Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you’re in a slump. If you lose at the end, you’re choking.” – Gene Mauch

– “If you don’t win, you’re going to be fired. If you do win, you’ve only put off the day you’re going to be fired.” – Leo Durocher

– Managing the 1973 Texas Rangers: “We need just two players to be a contender. Just Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax.” – Whitey Herzog

– To teammate Joe Pepitone: “I wish I could buy you for what you’re really worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth.” – Mickey Mantle

“Total Baseball” is a very thorough reference work. Those of you searching for something to occupy your off season baseball reading hours might consider this one. There’s plenty to chew on, while you get ready for next season’s discussions.

You can also use it for curls and bench presses.

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It’s over

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

And not a moment too soon. I’m not going to dwell of the failures of the 2009 Cubs management and team, things didn’t work out well in all respects. The only good things I can gleam from this season are the fact that the team was above .500, we got some good results out of Lee, Fuld, Baker, Dempster, Guzman, Wells and Lilly and some other guys showed us decent results as well. But the ultimate result is a championship team and this team didn’t have what it took.

Jim Hendry did his mea culpa in today’s Tribune and I thought he was right on the mark – the moves he made were not effective, particularly with respect to the outfield. We are deficient in all positions out there with position players at best, particularly if you ignore salaries. Where will we be next year? Who knows, the good news is the Bears are 3-1 and they have a QB and a potential superstar in Johnny Knox. The Hawks are good and will get better when Hossa joins the team, look for the Blackhawks to contend for a Stanley Cup this year. Next year I hope to see the Cubs play in Houston, my father is only a few hours away in Austin and I hope we’ll combine a vacation in his home with a short trip to Houston.

2009 is over and not a moment too soon, most of us would probably agree that this was not a fun season to be a Cubs fan.

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Cubs Forever

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

The full title is “Cubs Forever – Memories from the Men Who Lived Them”. It is written by Bob Vorwald (Executive Producer of WGN Sports) with Stephen Green (the award winning official team photographer of the Chicago Cubs since 1982).

It celebrates the 60 year collaboration between the Chicago Cubs, WGN TV, and the fans. A DVD is included containing interviews with Cubs players and broadcasters.

The photographs are superb. The writing is superb. The DVD is superb. Cub fans from over the past 60 years will enjoy and appreciate this labor of love.

The book, like the DVD, is divided into seven chapters (which do not correspond, exactly). I’ll list each, with notes and observations.

1. The Lady aka “Everybody Loves Wrigley Field.”
– Lee Smith recalls: “I had an agreement with the grounds crew because I knew they got time and a half after 4:30, so that’s where my slow walk started. It was for my buddies. I would fuss on the mound and make them come out to fix it. They would say, ‘Lee, there’s nothing wrong with the mound. Nobody strides where you do’ I’d tell them, ‘Just fix it, guys. I have to make sure you get your time and a half.’ Of course, I made them buy the beer!”

– Bob Brenly watches Lee every day and sees a player in the mold of another Cubs leader from 20 years back. “Derrek is very serious about his business; he’s serious about how players on his own team and players on the other team view his actions on the field,” Brenly said. “In a way he reminds me a lot of Andre Dawson, who played the game with a lot of class, never wanted to show up a teammate or an opponent, respected the game, respected the fans for spending their hard-earned money to come out here and watch him perform….”

– Fergie Jenkins is quoted on the subject of day baseball: “I enjoyed that part of pitching in day baseball. I just think that if you love and enjoy where you play, you produce. If you don’t like where you’re at, it’s time to move on.”

2. The Heroes “includes Ernie, Billy, Ron, et al.”
– Ron Santo on the subject of the love affair with Cubs fans: “I was told very young by my mother, ‘Always treat people the way you want to be treated.’ I’ve always done that.”

– Ryne Sandberg is quoted from his Hall Of Fame induction speech: “The fourth major league game I ever saw in person, I was in uniform. Yes, I was in awe. I was in awe every time I walked on to the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. Make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third-base coach and get ready to run the bases; hit a home run, put your head down, drop the bat, run around the bases, because the name on the front is a lot more important than the name on the back. That’s respect.”

3. The Voices “150 games a year – every game was broadcast nationwide…”
– Harry Caray speaking about the fans: “Baseball fans are the unsung heroes. Absolutely. The fan is the guy that the owners should cater to. The players should cater to them. The players ought to look ‘em up and encourage the fan to ask for an autograph. These people make it all possible. I don’t care what the contract is, I don’t care how much they hit, I don’t care how much money they’re paid. If that fan isn’t sitting in that seat, the game won’t be around very long.”

4. The Moments “The Ryne Sandberg game – The first night game at Wrigley Field – Ernie’s 500th home run – and more…”

5. The Faithful “The Cubs, the Cubs fans, and WGN – it’s all family….”
– Eric Karros is quoted, about other major league players: “Everybody should be a Chicago Cub for one year.”

– “Most statisticians love numbers, and baseball has more numbers than any other sport. I’m also a soccer fan, but if last night’s score was two goals to one, well, you’re done, your stats are finished.”

6. The Stories “You’re Mr. Cub”, Rick Sutcliffe/Mark Grace, more

7. The Stretch Mike Ditka, Bonnie Hunt, Jimmy Buffett, Bill Murray, others

8. The Games No-hitters, 20 Strikeouts, The ‘84 Clincher, The Wild-Card Game, more

9. The Hope I believe everybody who appears elsewhere in the book gives their opinion about when it’s going to happen, and what it’s going to be like.
– Ron Santo, for instance: “I know I’m optimistic every year. I don’t know what I would do. I really don’t know. I sure hope it happens before I leave this earth, that’s for sure.”

“Cubs Forever – Memories from the Men Who Lived Them” celebrates 60 years of WGN-TV and the Chicago Cubs. It’s by Bob Vorwald with Official Cubs Photographer Stephen Green.

If you have ever watched the Cubs on WGN-TV, or, for that matter, if you’ve ever listened to them on WGN Radio, you will really enjoy this book.

Did I mention that the photographs are superb?

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GirlieView (10/02/2009)

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Well let’s see, what’s news this week. Chicago was the first city eliminated from 2016 host city Olympic competition … very disappointing to me but I’ll get over it. Kind of like the Cubs this season.

Assignment of the Week: Please leave your feedback on Joe’s site announcement about potential off-season topics here on VFTB. Particularly since I’m about to post over him. (Sorry Joe!!)

Question of the Week: If the Cubs could pursue one player and one player only in the off season, who should it be? Or, if you don’t have a specific player you’d like, what position should the Cubs aim to fill if they’re only able to get one player.

Lizzies: I still can’t come up with something that I like for the weekly winner so if you have any further suggestions on that let me know. Lollipop is too phallic and Cadillac is not my kind of vehicle. No offense to any Cadillac owners in the group, nor to fans of lollipops. Keep thinking! Meantime, here we go!

  • Making the GirlieView list just once is at the top of my wish list.
  • The only time I want to see Soriano near second base is after a double or a stolen base.
  • classic
  • I hate when the off season starts before October.
  • I think I can convince the wife, if I include some time in Napa.
  • I said “A triple? Have you seen me run?” He says, “Apparently not yet.”
  • Best of the Week (honestly laughed out loud): Sherm, Where do you stand on Terrelle and Mike’s discusion between Bradley and Adam Dunn? Adam Dunn played for the Red’s for a few years and now plays for the Washington Nationals, just in case you are not familar with him.

Have a great weekend everyone! :-)

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