What’s on your bucket list? Don’t have one? Now’s a great time to start thinking about it. And sharing with us.
What’s on your bucket list? Don’t have one? Now’s a great time to start thinking about it. And sharing with us.
I find myself in the midst of an impromptu series about fixing various problems with Major League Baseball. Two weeks ago I wrote about expanding the Designated Hitter “position” into the NL to take away the AL’s competitive edge. Last week we looked at how FOX is killing Saturday baseball, and how some simple changes might draw new fans to the game instead of driving away current ones.
But rather than drag this accidental series out through Spring Training, let’s look at a few more issues the MLB needs to address, and some possible solutions to those problems.
Instant Replay The MLB’s steadfast refusal to make thorough use of instant replay is past the point where you could reasonably call it “quaint” or “traditional.” It’s simply illogical that it’s not more important to the league to make the right call on every play–especially when the technology to do so is so readily available.
Everyone remembers Jim Joyce’s bad call at first base that cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game back in 2010. At the time, I thought the tidal wave of support for Galarraga would lead the MLB to expand its use of instant replay. It didn’t, perhaps in part because the Tigers still went on to win the game, and all that was impacted was the back of Galarraga’s baseball card. But what if they hadn’t won the game? Would the league be more motivated to address the issue? Sadly, we won’t know until that situation comes up–until the course of a game or even a season is swung on a clearly missed call, I doubt we see any movement on the issue from the MLB.
Which is a real shame, because it would be so easy to put a simple instant replay system in place, even before the upcoming season. With every game televised these days, there’s plenty of cameras already in place to piggyback off of for league use–meaning the additional cost to put a review system in place would be minimal. And with the variety of ways instant replay is used in other major league sports, it wouldn’t be hard to develop a pattern that doesn’t further slow down the games (another major complaint from the anti-instant replay crowd).
The review systems at work today in the NHL or college football seem like they’d be the most useful for baseball. Both sports use game officials who review all the scoring and any other contested plays at the request of the in-game officials. Those reviews happen rapidly, saving the time it would take for an umpiring crew to waddle down to the clubhouse and fire up the DVR. It would be simple and seamless to add an extra video umpire up in the press box, and getting the call right would be as quick and simple as a phone call.
And you wouldn’t leave it entirely in the hands of the umpires to police themselves. What was so remarkable about the Joyce/Galarrage fiasco was how quick Joyce was to admit his mistake (and how understanding Galarraga was about it). Umpires never think they’re wrong–they’re not built like that, and for good reason. They need to be decisive and confident. But they do make mistakes, so you’d need to have a system of checks in place to catch those mistakes. Give each manager one review per game to limit the breaks in the action. And like the NFL, set up clear parameters for what is and isn’t reviewable–outs, hits, and scoring plays are reviewable; balls and strikes are still off limits. Some simple designations along those lines would keep managers from using their review too whimsically, but still help guard against a game hinging on a missed call.
Really, the only question in my mind is what kind of object would managers throw out of the dugout to signal they wanted a play to be reviewed? Flags don’t really exist anywhere else in baseball, so it would be a little strange to adopt the NFL model here. The manager’s hat could work, but it might result in a barrage of hats coming out of the stands on close calls. My favorite option so far is to co-opt another piece of baseball equipment for this secondary purpose and give each manager brightly colored batting doughnut to toss up into foul territory to signal he wants a review. With any luck, “heaving the doughnut” could become the vernacular equivalent of “throwing the flag.”
Playoff Expansion With all due respect (that is, none) to Baseball commissioner-for-life
Montgomery Burns Bud Selig, the only kind of playoff expansion baseball fans want to see is the expansion of the League Division Series to seven games. The idea the first round of the playoffs is better because “anything can happen in a five-game series” is ridiculous. No doubt my own dissatisfaction with the current best-of-five format stems at least in part from the Cubs’ back-to-back seasons of being swept out of the playoffs–but it doesn’t make it less valid. The playoffs should not hinge on the breaks of game one, as the LDS so often does.
In fact, almost half the League Division Series ever played end up in sweeps, and very few of them ever make it to a decisive game five. Put simply, the five-game series has no place in the playoffs, or in baseball. It doesn’t reflect the rhythm of the regular season, and it doesn’t set teams up for the LCS or World Series. It’s a garbage anomaly that needs to go.
Selig’s solution? Let’s add another meaningless tier to the playoffs system, further drawing out the faux tension of the season and delaying the legitimate playoff action even further into the fall.
I think Jedi mentioned recently what a joke it is that pitchers and catchers are about to report without a clear decision on what the playoffs will look like. It’s that kind of slipshod leadership that has marked Selig’s tenure. His introduction of the Wild Card was a positive addition. But his inability to leave the playoff format alone is pathetic, and by including another Wild Card team, he’s tarnishing what should be the highpoint of his baseball legacy.
All Star Game The poorly-conceived playoff expansion isn’t Selig’s first or most-glaring over-correction. The idea that he could imbue some kind of meaning to the All Star Game by bestowing home field advantage in the World Series on the winning league was laughable when it was first instituted. Now it’s become a significant black eye for the league, especially when so many superstars are comfortable skipping the exhibition altogether. If the league wants the best players all on the same field, playing their hardest against the other All Stars, the way to achieve that isn’t to make the prize something that only a handful of the players will even enjoy. Do you think Starlin Castro cared at all who had the home field advantage in this season’s World Series when he was taking his cuts late in the All Star Game?
Instead of stealing home field advantage from the deserving team, give the All Stars something to play for that they all already care about: money. Find a sponsor (or sponsors) who is willing to back up the Brinks truck for the winning team and you’ll have more players interested in being an All Star and actually playing to win than ever before. If you want to give meaning to the Mid-Summer Classic, you need to make it mean something to the guys on the field.
Team Mascots Actually, the less said about this, the better.
Pitchers & Catchers, TOMORROW! The sooner we start the season, the sooner we can move on to 2013! By the end of the weekend, only a handful of teams will be waiting for the early arrivals; and a week from today the entire Cubs squad will be in Mesa (assuming no one decides to continue the self-involved legacy of Carlos Zambrano – and Sammy Sosa before him – by showing up to camp at his leisure).
MLB Future Power Rankings Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I do apologize to those who aren’t ESPN Insiders (but you get Insider access as a perk if you subscribe to ESPN the Magazine, so the Insider club isn’t THAT exclusive). This is a series of Insider articles that ESPN has posted this week. Before you get your knickers in a twist over the final list, be sure to read how and by whom the process was scored. The goal is project the success of each franchise over the next five years. It’s fascinating – 4 of the Top 6 teams in their ranking are from the AL East, the 5th team in that division is ranked as the worst (30th) overall. The Cubs check in at No. 13 mostly on the strength of a deep pocketbook and good leadership. Essentially we’re a crappy team currently and a middling franchise for the next few years. Hard to argue with that.
The Kid Is Dead HOFer Gary Carter died on Thursday. My enduring memory of Carter is a preposterous commercial he did in the 80s, the thrust of which was that he was “peaked” – phonetically that’s pē-kid as in “pale and drawn in appearance so as to suggest illness or stress; wan and sickly.” He became known as the “pee-kid” guy in our house. I searched high and low for the commercial, unfortunately I was unable to recall the product he was pimping so I haven’t a link. Whatever the product was, it reportedly helped his “pee-kid” problem.
Jeremy Lin Put aside the horrible puns – which aren’t his fault – if you haven’t seen Lin live (on TV or in person), you haven’t seen Lin yet. Highlight reels don’t do him justice. The comparisons are rampant, and I have yet to hear an appropriate one. Some liken him to Tebow, except Lin appears to be more than a unique combination of smoke, mirrors, and hype (plus Lin wasn’t homeschooled to my knowledge!). Others have likened him to Rudy Ruettiger, except Lin appears to be worthy of far more than a token appearance in a one-sided affair. If his sport was baseball, there would be a heavy chorus of “it’s just a few games” – if it was football, we’d hear “wait until there’s enough game tape” or “wait until he sees a good opponent.” But Jeremy Lin started for the Knicks on February 4th and he’s been among the best players in the NBA for nearly 2 weeks. It’s much harder to suddenly dominate in the NBA, because NBA supremacy relies so heavily on talent – it’s much harder to make up a talent disparity with gimmicks, luck, or even coaching in the NBA. Lin has taken the league by storm and the league has been forced to shoe-horn him into the All-Star weekend festivities. The Knicks have gone from borderline playoff team to perhaps the 3rd best team in the East simply because of a guy who had bounced from team to team, seemingly destined to wave a towel 82 nights a year.
It’s nice to be back! I know you all missed me (lest you never find yourself on my Lizzie list again!) but for those who may have been out of touch, I was away for my usual every-other-Thursday GirlieView slot. I’d like to send a special shout out of thanks to Jedi for filling in for me, with a thorough and interesting new coach introduction!
Last time you may remember we made our Super Bowl predictions, as follows:
As you can see, no one had a prayer after BLPCB‘s spot on first guess! Thanks for playing!
I’ll be doing two Thursdays in a row to get us back on schedule. In order to even out the time frame some (and because I needed to write this extra-early this week), these Lizzies cover 01/24/2012 through 02/12/2012. Next week’s column will pick up from there.
(Practical, appropriate and correct usage of the Pythagorean theorem!)
2012 Overall Standings (1 point for each Lizzie, 3 points for the Lizard)
Congrats to the following folks who got their first 2012 Lizzie this week!
The GirlieView household had this discussion recently and I’d like to hear from others. If you had to get rid of one or the other: your television(s) or your internet access, which would you prefer to do without? (For the purposes of this discussion, pretend you can’t watch movies/TV shows over the internet and you can’t access the internet through your TV.) What say you?
The Soler News is a Changin’: On Monday, a good amount of chatter reported that the Cubs had a wink and a nod deal with Jorge Soler for 4 years and around $27 million. These reports were from reputable sources: the Chicago Tribune’s Dave van Dyck, CSN’s Dave Kaplan and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein all published this news.
New reports over the past few days, however, indicate that a deal for Soler might not be so complete. Rumors from Buster Olney and others have mentioned that the Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays and Orioles are looking into the young Cuban phenom. It is hard to tell what this all means, though.
Moreover, Ben Badler noted today that even engaging in negotiations with Soler could both violate MLB rules and federal law, although the lawyer in me has to ask how “negotiations” would be defined. Taking that into account, the Cubs clearly want it to look like there is not a deal even if there is one. But we’re completely in wait and see mode.
Also, while I might be wrong on this, I sincerely doubt the Phillies are in on Soler. Their payroll is completely maxed out and they have two key players, Cole Hamels and Hunter Pence, who will be free agents after this season. However, I would not be surprised to see either the Blue Jays or Yankees make a good run.
For a point of reference, Soler would be considered somewhere between the best and fourth best prospect in the Cubs’ system, depending on who you asked. He would likely be number one for Kevin Goldstein, number two for Keith Law (behind Anthony Rizzo) and number three or four for Jim Callis.
Even Jim Hendry Didn’t Do Something This Dumb: On January 30, the Orioles signed 17-year old Korean pitcher Seong-Min Kim to a minor league deal for a $550,000 bonus. Unfortunately for them, they did not follow proper protocol. To sign a Korean prospect, a team must first contact MLB, who then contacts the Korean Baseball Organization commissioner to get permission for the team to negotiate. The Orioles did not do any of those things. And they made the KBO mad.
In response, Orioles scouts are banned from attending Korean baseball games. On top of that, MLB reportedly voided the Orioles’ contract with Kim. So the Orioles essentially have South Korea closed off to them for the near future for failing to meet basic protocol and also do not get to keep the guy they broke the rules to get. Nice job Dan Duquette!
A New Cubs Fan: Some of you may have noticed that I have not been posting much lately. In fact, I don’t think I have had a post since the beginning of January. That is because my wife and I welcomed our first child, Bennett, to the world on January 12. He’s doing great and I’m looking forward to indoctrinating him to the perennial disappointment that is Chicago Cubs fandom (which will hopefully stop being a perennially disappointing experience in his lifetime.)
Joe on ESPN Radio: Joe was a guest on the Mouth of the Midwest show on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Iowa yesterday afternoon to talk about the Cubs. You can listen to the 10 minute interview to hear his thoughts on things pertaining to the team heading into camp.
I typically detest anything relating to White Sox baseball. I can’t watch it, talk about it, or even look at that terrible logo. Yet, however difficult it may be, today I will write about it. Well, not exactly, I mean, I am not going to break down stats or anything or give projections for 2012 on the south side. I guess I just noticed a few things that raised my brow.
First of all, Kosuke found a new home to the tune of $500,000 (There is an option for year two at around 3.5 million.) This is a better monetary representation of his ability in my book. I say that being a Fukudome fan. The only thing I hated about him was his windmill recoil out of the batters box on a low and away pitch. I still feel that his fundamentals are some of the best we have seen in cubbie blue over the past few years…..yes, I know this is akin to being the tallest midget.
Second of all, I love the fact that Sox fans have collectively acted like 2012 won’t be happening. I was recently at a bar talking Sox baseball with a few of my friends that “go that way” and they were acting like they did not even know who their favorite team was, or who they would be rooting for in 2012. A look back at history shows me that Sox fans, by large, do not stick by their team when the going gets tough. They tend to choose baseball abstinance. In this case, it probably doesn’t help that they are rated as one of the worst farm systems in baseball by many outlets and the cupboard is essentially bare for the future….and yes, this is coming from a Cubs fan.
Last but not least, let’s just suppose that the rumors are true regarding the Cubs playing at the Cell next year. I kind of hope this happens for two reasons and two reasons only. The first one, what if the Cubs sell out the cell regularly or at least crush the Sox attendance numbers? Two, what if, with the scheduling of more night games and playing in a more modern park, the Cubs were to get to the World Series? What type of ramifications might this have on the baseball landscape in Chicago?
Rumors from the Southside: Rumor has it that the Cubbies may be moving to the Southside for the 2013 season. Why, you ask? Wrigley Field is very old. Nearly 100 years old, to be exact. And sometimes, nearly 100 year old establishments need renovations. It seems to be that 2013 will be the year of renovations for Wrigley. However, Cub personnel is denying the rumors, while businesses on the Southside are being warned to prepare for a doubly-busy 2013. Would you go to the Cell to watch the Cubs? It would feel so wrong on so many levels…
Double-Dippin’: About a year and a half ago, Tony Gwynn had a cancerous tumor removed from the inside of his right cheek; on Tuesday, he had another tumor removed from the same spot. Last time he had a tumor removed, the doctors revealed it was wrapped around a nerve that controlled the right side of his face, so they left part of it. This time, the whole thing is being removed and he will need a nerve graft. Ew. Tony says that chewing tobacco caused his tumors, which brings up another issue: should lawmakers try to ban chew from the Majors?
Maddon: Joe Maddon is arguably one of the best managers in baseball. And he’s only 58 (those glasses age him). He agreed to a 3-year extension with Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and at the time of this post, the price was not posted yet. Maddon has gone 495-477 with the Rays and made it to the World Series once in six seasons.
Goodell: Roger Goodell will be paid $20 million per year by the end of his contract. Roddy White was not too pleased about this news: “How in the hell can u pay a man this much money that cant run tackle or catch.” He makes a good point; Goodell will make more money than the President of the United States, but he doesn’t have to run, tackle, or catch either.
by Josh Cornwall
Having a “sports stat dominated mind”, people often ask for my opinion about who will win or play well before the season starts. Over the years I have tried to get farther away from making such bold predictions because half of the time they wind up miserably wrong.
Projections and predictions are a part of what we like to do as sports fans now-a-days. And lucky for us the people at Baseball Prospectus, led by the quiet Bill James, give us their calculated opinion so that I don’t have to bore you with mine.
Since the PECOTA projections debuted in the 2003 Baseball Prospectus Handbook, they have become a staple for baseball analysts and avid couch statistician during the month of sports purgatory in February. For those who don’t know, PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimized Test Algorithm, developed by Nate Silver before he sold it to Bill James before the ’03 publishing of Baseball Prospectus. (Side note: I wish I was intelligent enough to create statistics algorithms to sell to others for mildly practical purposes. Unfortunately this isn’t the case.)
PECOTA takes into account a variety of stats and factors including but not limited to: age, batting average, WARP, VORP and career length. There are a whole bunch of other factors calculated into a player’s projected statistics using PECOTA, but for the sake of potentially losing readers before the meat of the article, I’ll refrain from listing all of them.
Without much adieu, let’s take a look at which Cubbies are hot and who is not going into Spring Training, according to the 2012 projections.
Marlon Byrd is one of the players expected to produce on a consistent basis for this Cubs team. Although this isn’t exactly a shocking development considering he has been efficient both at the plate and in the field during his two year stint on the North Side. His 2012 projections list him to slightly improve his batting average and OPS to .280/.332 respectively, while hitting twelve dingers and knocking in 65 RBI. Byrd also has the best WARP (Wins Above Replacement) out of any Cubs outfielder and third of any Cubs batter at 1.9. To be fair to Byrd, he probably would have put up these numbers last season had he not been destroyed by an Alfredo Aceves pitch to the face.
Geovany Soto is another player that has favorable projections for 2012. While we may not see 2008 and 2010 numbers from Soto, it’s not likely we’ll see the 2009 or 2011 forgettable numbers either. Soto has had off and on career at the plate and 2012 looks to be more on the “on” side. His projected .260/.345 aren’t close to his All-Star season in ’08, but are much improved to his sub Mendoza line stats in the odd years. Soto also projects the be the only regular aside from Ian Stewart to be a 20+ HR candidate, although Anthony Rizzo or Bryan LaHair could potentially reach that plateau with consistent playing time. Home runs are obviously not the end all be all for determining great players, but the Cubs will need some power from guys like Soto to have some offensive success in 2012.
Ryan Dempster is hoping to rebound from a tough season in 2011 and according to PECOTA should be able to achieve that feat. Dempster posted a 4.80 ERA last season, his worst since he became a full time starter for the Cubs in 2007. While he’s not projected to get back to his sub-four ERA at 4.18, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. His wins aren’t projected to improve (10.9) which is to be expected considering this will be an audition type season for many of the young Cubs. Dempster’s projected WARP is the second highest amongst pitchers, with only Matt Garza being higher. Bottom line is the Cubs will struggle to reach last year’s win total (71) if Dempster gets off to a similarly slow pace to start this season.
I’d be lying if I was to say that it was easy to pick a few for this grouping, because as a whole the Cubs are projected to struggle to create runs once again.
Alfonso Soriano is an obvious candidate for this list. His projected collapse and attrition rates continue to rise as his play on the field continues to decline. There is not much to like about Soriano these days, although it has been awhile since there has really been anything positive to say about him. According to PECOTA we’ll see the usual .250/.300 line we’ve seen for three years, combined with a drop in isolated power, which leads to less home runs and RBI. If it explains anything, the player that Soriano best compares to this season is David Dellucci and that might be an insult to poor Mr. Dellucci. We know what we’re going to get out of a deteriorating Soriano: fewer games played, less power and more errors.
Chris Volstad is a guy that could be on the outside looking in at the starting rotation come April and for good reason. Volstad has been simply putrid in two of his three full time MLB seasons for the Marlins, so Theo must be hoping for more of 2010 for the 25-year-old. Volstad could realistically hit his projected value of 24 starts in 2012, whether that comes by earning a spot in the rotation or due to injury (a likely situation). With a project ERA hovering above five (5.19) and the lowest WARP out of any realistic starter at .2 (no Casey Coleman and Rodrigo Lopez don’t count, at least for my sake I hope not). Here’s hoping that Volstad can kick start his career with a change of scenery, but the odds are not in his favor to do so.
In summary, there is no real way to project how the Cubs will be in 2012 from both an individual player and team aspect. Every year players around the league defy the odds of the low expectations placed upon them due to prior performance. However, even with a player or two breaking out in 2012 the Cubs chances of making the playoffs aren’t particularly high.
By the way, if you were wondering, the two most likely players to breakout in 2012 are Brett and Jay Jackson.
¡Viva la (Free Agent) Revolución! Prospective Cuban wunderkind Yoenis Cespedes signed a surprise deal Monday to play for the Oakland A’s. That’s right–the A’s. The Moneyball, work smarter not harder, stat-centric A’s broke out the checkbook for a player surrounded by big, looming questions. Highly enticing questions, to be sure, but questions nonetheless. Some of the highlights: how old is he really (?), how will he do against big league pitching (??), can his raw talent be refined (???), and seriously, how old is he???? But take a closer look at his four-year, $36M deal (back-loaded, no arbitration) and it looks like the A’s are betting he’ll perform, and that he can be the centerpiece of their collection of young talent that will put them back into the AL West competition within a couple years. Here’s Jonah Keri’s reaction to Billy Beane’s uncharacteristic gamble.
¡La Revolución, Part Dos! While the Cubs had an early interest in Cespedes, their focus seems to have shifted after the Marlins looked to be the early favorite to sign him–shifted onto fellow Cuban defector, Jorge Soler. Now it looks like they might be the frontrunners to sign the young outfielder. While he’s not being compared to Bo Jackson like Cespedes has been, Soler might be a real catch for the Cubs. At least let’s hope he is, if the early reports of a $27M-something contract are true. And as Dave van Dyck points out, if the Cubs do wind up signing Soler, they will have picked up two-thirds of the top talent coming out of Cuba this offseason (the other being pitcher Gerardo Concepcion).
Time to Pay Up After months of glacially-paced negotiations, re-negotiations, and a couple stand-offs, the Cubs and Red Sox have submitted briefs stating their cases for compensation in the Theo Epstein transaction, and a decision is expected from commissioner
Montgomery Burns Bud Selig soon, possibly even this week. I keep hearing it might be Josh Vitters, but that might just be wishful thinking from Cubs fans who have grown tired of waiting for him to fulfill his potential.
Cold Stove In even less-exciting news, the Cubs might be interested in another go-round with Ramon Ortiz. Don’t get too worked up yet–it sounds like it will only be a minor league contract for the thirty-eight year-old pitcher. Still, Theo and Jed appear to be addressing the lack of quality pitching available by going for quantity instead.
Retirement, Schmetirement Speaking of old guys getting another shot, Randy Moss wants back into the NFL. With the strong NFC
Central North representation in our comments section, I don’t imagine he has a lot of fans around here. But I’ll ask anyway: would you, under any circumstances, want him on your team next season?
One Man’s Garbage… While it might not yet qualify as news, I suppose it’s not too early to weigh-in on the proposed deal to send Yankees
flamethrower flameout A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. While the prospects going back to New York have yet to be determined, the deal calls for the Yankees to pick up the vast majority of the remaining $33M owed to Burnett. I know Burnett doesn’t have many fans left, but I’m glad the Pirates are at least trying to do something. I can’t remember the last time Pittsburgh brought in a notable name–and no, Bobby Hill doesn’t count.