Archive for October, 2011

A Love Note From Theo on the Rotation?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Let’s take a minute on this Monday morning to discuss the rotation as we anxiously wait Buddy’s post on possible rotation addition, Jeff Francis.

The question, as always, is short and to the point.

If you woke up tomorrow and there was a statement from Theo that read as follows, would you be able to trust?

Cub Fans,

My staff and I, after careful evaluation, have decided that our rotation for opening day will be:

1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Randy Wells
4. Andrew Cashner
5. Jeff Samardzija

Trust us, we know what we’re doing.

Love Always,

Theo & Jed

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GirlieView

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

It’s been an exhausting week on my end, and seeing Cardinals’ fans coming out of hiding to support their team in the Series hasn’t made anything better. Here’s to a Rangers’ comeback.

Anyway, I hope Sunday brings sunshine and smiles to all! Let’s get on with the show.

The Wizzies

The “Occupy” protests saw a rash of arrests over the weekend in various cities. I feel like we should take a role call here on VFTB to make sure we didn’t lose anyone. Or maybe buddy-up like the mall scene from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

The World Series starts on Wednesday in St. Louis with the Cardinals taking on the Rangers. If you plan on rooting for the Cardinals I suggest you keep that to yourself.

 Katie, Katie, Katie… Article I, Section 1, Subpart A of the Sports Fan Constitution cleraly states “… being a fan of a team is not subject to win-loss records or quality of play on the field, court, rink or other facility where the team plays…

Campana shouldn’t start for even the worst team in baseball.

We could offer them fried chicken and beer in the locker room in exchange for Theo.

Theo can show up to the office in shorts and a T-shirt and gut fish a la Office Space, offer crazy trades via twitter, quadruple park in the owners parking spots, etc… until they are forced to fire him if he wanted to.

Really? no way! I thought fiberglass and and nicotine were good for you… huh. If you outlaw chew, you better outlaw the crotch-scratch, too.

I long for the day where I can look at a Sox fan and say, “That ring in 2005 was nice wasn’t it? Look at all of our rings now.”

“Your mom goes to college” – Kip Dynomite

If they really asked for Castro, that was an ill-advised proposition. That’s like asking a kid to trade his new Optimus Prime toy for an old Hotwheels car. Unjustifiable.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-36

Doc Raker-35

Jswanson-31

BLPCB-23

Seymour Butts-21

Doug S.-20

Aaron-17

Jedi-13

Chet-11

Eddie Von White-9

Question of the Week

Excuse the randomness, but what is one thing you are looking forward to accomplishing during the offseason?

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Theo Update

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The Red Sox aimed high in asking for compensation for Epstein. A baseball source told ESPNBoston.com that they initially asked for the Cubs young star shortstop Starlin Castro. Whey they were rebuffed, the Red Sox asked for arguably the Cubs best starting pitcher in Matt Garza.

A major league source told ESPNChicago.com that at one point Boston proposed that the Cubs take pitcher John Lackey‘s contract. Lackey has three seasons remaining on a five-year, $82.5 million contract. He was 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts for the Red Sox in 2011.

But the expected agreement will include Cubs minor leaguers, although not top prospects Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt or Matt Szczur, the source said. Cash will not be part of the compensation. – (Source)

Let’s discuss. There is a lot there.

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Rotation Rebounds?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

The Cubs starting rotation finished dead last in ERA in 2011 thanks to a revolving door at the #5 spot and poor seasons by both Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells. Matt Garza figures to top the rotation heading into 2012, unless new President, GM, Emperor, or whatever other title Theo Epstein gets, decides to go into full rebuild mode and trade the Cubs most valuable pitcher. Both Dempster and Wells will likely join Garza leaving a couple question marks at the back end, but it’s the two veterans that need to rebound to give the Cubs a solid trio of pitchers. So, what are the chances Dempster and Wells get back to pre-2011 performance?

Ryan Dempster was converted from closer to starter four seasons ago and he’s pitched 200 innings in each of those seasons. That alone is a pretty telling number. A bad pitcher won’t be pitching 200 innings a season. Well, at least he shouldn’t be. I don’t think anyone could have seen how successful he would become as he was coming off two poor seasons in the bullpen where he combined for a 3-16 record, 4.76 ERA, and 12 blown saves.

But succeed he did by having the best season of his career. He would go 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA (with a 5.2 fWAR) and finished 6th in Cy Young voting. He wouldn’t have the same results in 2009 and 2010, but still put up over 200 innings in each with solid ERA’s and a combined 7.1 fWAR. If you believe in Fangraphs version of WAR, he was the 14th best pitcher in baseball from 2008-2010.

So what happened in 2011? At first glance, I was ready to chalk it up to bad defense and bad luck. Since Joe has an ESPN affiliated Cubs blog, we contributors have access to a great tool. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, I see that in 2011, left handed hitters crushed Dempster to the tune of 303/382/480 (.371 wOBA). In 2010, those numbers were 234/332/373 (.313 wOBA). I was ready to blame that entirely on the .391 BABIP, but a deeper look, and an excuse to use ESPN Stats & Information’s ‘Heat Map’, we can see a pretty clear picture of a cause to that high BABIP, and that is the location of the splitter:

2010, Splitter location

2011, Splitter location

Dempster simply caught too much of the plate, resulting in 14 more hits, including five that went for doubles. He had a similar problem with his fastball against left handers, leaving the ball belt high resulting in 12 more hits compared to his 2010 numbers. Altogether he gave up 24 more hits (2 fewer hits on his slider) in 346 at bats. If you knock his hits down to 2010 levels, his .303 AVG against drops to .234!

There are other numbers, however, that give me hope. His performance against right handed hitters and his overall strikeout percentage, walk percentage, home run percentage, and velocity are right in line with his 2008-2010 numbers. This information provides me with some optimism that he can bounce back and put up another 3.0 fWAR season with a sub-4.00 ERA in 200-plus innings. I feel it will come down to locating that splitter and fastball against left handers.

Randy Wells, I think, is a much easier case. Wells wasn’t much of a prospect coming up through the system and he wasn’t anything special in the minor leagues. But in 2009, he threw 165 innings with a 3.05 ERA, good for a 3.0 fWAR, surprising everyone. His 2010 wasn’t as good, adding well over a run to his ERA, but there were some good signs such as an increase in his strikeout rate while maintaining an above average walk rate and a healthy number of ground balls while putting up another fWAR over 3.0.

I was bullish on Wells going into 2011, thinking he could put up a third consecutive 3.0 fWAR season, but a forearm strain right out of the gate took him out of the rotation for nearly two months. It would be easy to blame that for his poor 2011, as his ERA rose to nearly 5.00, his strikeout rate dropped, walk rate increased, and his home run rate nearly doubled. But I’m not sure I can blame the forearm. I’m going to blame his loss of velocity that you can see on this chart, courtesy of Fangraphs:

Fastball Velocity, 2009-2011

Now, maybe his forearm was the cause of that loss of velocity, but note that first game in 2011; the velocity was low before the forearm injury. Maybe it was affecting him in that first game, but I don’t know that for sure. It does appear that the velocity was on a slow, but steady, incline, but I’ll stick to the problem being the loss of velocity (nearly 2 mph according to ESPN Stats & Information) for now and wait and see what 2012 brings. If the forearm is the cause of that velocity drop, the offseason of rest will hopefully be enough time to recover. But if he’s healthy and the velocity doesn’t come back to pre-2011 levels? I fear Wells’ best days may already be behind him.

What do you think? Do these pitchers rebound? Do you see something else that leads you to feel one way or the other?

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Whaddya Think?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Yesterday, Joe asked who was “off-limits” if the Red Sox organization asked for players as compensation for Epstein. Most, if not all, of you decided Castro was the most untouchable player on our team. Matt Garza came in a close second.

So, along the same lines as Joe, the question is:

If you could pick one player, and one player only, to add to the Cubs’ organization, who would it be? Why would you choose him (Assume that money was not an option for the addition of this player)?

Another thought: Jerry Jones is under fire for these comments: “This game was decided right down there at the end, and I am so proud of these players, the way they competed tonight.” Apparently, the underlying message is an insult to Jason Garrett. Garrett is in his first year as head coach of the Cowboys. His play calling may have erred on the safe side, but he was trying to preserve a lead. Yes, the Cowboys were playing the Patriots, and they were only ahead by three points. It was kind of inevitable that the Pats would pull out a win with that slim of a score difference, anyway. In any situation, do you think an owner support the coach he hired, or is it fine to passive-aggressively insult him in public? Jones did hire him, after all. Is he out of line with his comments?

One last thought: Last night in one of my classes, we read an article that said college kids these days barely know more than high schoolers did fifty years ago. I am currently a college student and we look at test samples from days gone by, and I will admit, some of those questions are difficult. Old(er) people, what do you think? Is school too easy for your kids? Young(er) people, do you think college is/was too hard, too easy, or just right?

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