Archive for January, 2013

Morning News: Another Fat Lady!!

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Oh Wait, Was She A Great Big Fat Person?
I’m eschewing decency and leading with the punchline. The Brits are awesome, this woman lives presumably within minutes/hours of me, but the story comes to us from across the pond. Stop what you’re doing, watch the video at the bottom. Enjoy your Monday.

*I cannot promise any fat people in the news next week; I’ve not sought this out, it’s just fallen to me. Three weeks and counting…

A Tough Act To Follow, But…
If the fat person doesn’t entertain you, perhaps this will. Short story, a Bulgarian politician was nearly assassinated on Saturday. When the gun jammed, the would-be assassin was nearly beaten to a pulp (even an old guy with an umbrella/cane got into the fray). Of course this is Eastern Europe which means there is fantastic video of the event (bottom of the page from the above link).

Enough Frivolity, HarBowl Time
Having two brothers myself, as well as being father to two sons, the Super Bowl sounds like a miserable family event this year. One brother will have the most euphoric day his profession can provide, padding his credentials and building a legacy…all at his brother’s expense. Two parents will be exultant with the winner and crushed for his brother who came so close and was denied. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the 49ers came back to beat the Falcons in Atlanta and advance to the Super Bowl; meanwhile the Ravens thwarted the heavy home favorites in New England. San Francisco is coached by JIM Harbaugh, Baltimore is coached by JOHN Harbaugh. They’ll likely spend the next two weeks trying to distance themselves from that particular aspect of the matchup, but the Harbaughs cannot deny that after the game one of them will have been elevated at the cost of his brother. Still, I imagine they probably both prefer this outcome to last year when each team lost in the league championship game and neither one of them made the Super Bowl.

The Cubs convention took place this past weekend. As with basically everything else related to the Cubs these days, a lot was said and none of it was terribly important. Ricketts gave parenting tips to a dad from San Francisco, Theo promised a contract to a kid upon his 18th birthday (presumptuous). Oh, and they settled all their arbitration cases. So what, big deal.

Back Where We Started
Maybe it’s the Excedrin talking, but you REALLY need to watch the video from the fat lady article.

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Go: The Stage is Yours

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Cubs Convention is in full swing this weekend. Take the stage as someone in the know and tell the audience about the biggest change you would make to the team this season!

Do you have a question you’d like us to feature in the Go! column? Send it to and she’ll see what she can do!

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Matt Garza agrees to terms

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Yesterday it was announced that the Cubs and Matt Garza have agreed to terms on a one year deal, which avoids arbitration. The deal is valued at $10.25 mil and allows the Cubs to continue to market him to outside teams for a trade. It’s a modest raise, which is what I predicted would happen and leaves the appeal in the trade market due to the low cost and small committment in terms of length. I like the move a lot going forward as I think Garza is healthy and will be dealt for a nice package of pieces to improve this team’s future.

The deal leaves just Jeff Samardzija and James Russell as the only two left to work out deals with before going to arbitration. The rumors out there were that Samardzija and the Cubs were working on a multi-year deal, but are now said to just be looking at terms of a one year contract. My guess is that should a one year deal get done, and Samardzija show again that he can be a productive member of the rotation, the multi-year deal will come next off-season.

On a side note…Mark Prior was in town to counsel and teach the prospects in the system. No word on if a lesson on the towel drill was given.

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Northside Archives: Playoffs, We’re Talking About Playoffs.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Baltimore lost 93 games in 2011 and made the playoffs in 2012.
Arizona lost 97 games in 2010 and made the playoffs in 2011.
Tampa Bay lost 96 games in 2007 and made the playoffs in 2008.
And our Cubs lost 96 games in 2006 but made the playoffs in 2007.

The recent history proves it; a really bad team can turn it around in a single season. The 2012 Cubs were a REALLY bad team.

Big Turnarounds Often Start With Pitching…
Let’s just start with those 2007 Cubs. The division was garbage, only 85 wins put the Cubs in the playoffs. The Cubs’ best hitters all had very good years (Lee, Ramirez, Soriano); their best pitchers had very solid, consistent years-Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Marquis all threw 190+ innings. It’s easy to see the 2007 Cubs as an average team. But the 2008 Rays were far from average. A year after losing 96, they won 97. What was their big change? Pitching! In 2007, they scored 782 runs, in 2008 they totaled 774 runs scored. But they surrendered 944 in 2007, while holding opponents to a scant 671 runs in 2008. Similar to the Cubs, their improvement was due to consistency. The 2007 Rays had two consistently good starters (Shield, Kazmir); in 2008 they had five starters who each made at least 27 starts and four of them pitched at least 180 innings. The result? Team ERA went from 5.53 to 3.82, easily the best turnaround in the league that year. Arizona realized similar improvement from their pitching staff from 2010 to 2011; from two reliable starters to four, from giving up 836 runs to only 662. And guess what happened for Baltimore from 2011 to 2012? It’s boring ready the same thing over and over again, right? Baltimore significantly improved their pitching last year, but it wasn’t all consistency. They spent much of the year cobbling together a rotation. But what binds these four teams together is the lack of offensive improvement; none of them put up significantly more runs the year after they lost 90+ games.

Still Though The Cubs Had A Terrible Offense In 2012, Right?
Well, yes. That’s a decent point, 613 runs is not enough to compete. Since 2005 (when two teams made the playoff without scoring 700 runs) only two teams have managed to score so few runs and stay competitive. The 2010 Giants scored 697 runs but had an incredible pitching staff; and the 2012 Reds managed only 669 runs but also had an incredible group of pitchers. In fact, you have to go back to 1988 to find an MLB team that scored fewer runs than this Cincinnati did this year while still making the playoffs. The World Series champion Dodgers did it in ’88. And not since the 1973 Mets has a team scored fewer runs than the 2012 Cubs did, while still making the playoffs. So yes, there needs to be significant improvement offensively before the Cubs can reasonably expect to compete.

The Offense Won’t Come Overnight!
The Angels added the best hitter of the generation and the best rookie of all-time, they saw a bump of 100 runs in offense from 2011 to 2012. The White Sox almost saw a similar increase when (in part) Adam Dunn reminded himself that putting the bat on the ball was a good thing. But Detroit added Prince Fielder and actually scored over 60 fewer runs; while Milwaukee scored over 50 more runs after they lost Fielder. So after watching the 2012 Cubs, can we expect them to score more? Probably, enough to be respectable? That’s stretching it…we’ll get a full year from Rizzo, hopefully avoid the guaranteed out that Soriano was for the season’s first six weeks, and potentially get a bit more offense out of third base (we can’t get any less, right? no please, someone agree with me – it really can’t get any worse there, can it?). But the changes the Cubs have made don’t add up to anywhere near 100 more runs.

So No Playoffs, Right?
I hate to spoil the surprise, but the you can’t JUST look at the records. Not all 90+ loss teams are created equal. The Cubs were historically bad both on the mound and at the plate. Could we have a significantly better pitching staff? Definitely. If Garza & Samardzija pitch 180+ innings, Edwin Jackson too; then if just one more of the rotation filler pieces can pan out, that’s four reliable starters which would go a long way towards keeping the team ERA at a competitive level. It’s the offensive part that’s going to be difficult. Even if the pitching staff comes together in the best possible way, it’s unlikely that the Cubs will magically score 700+ runs this year. For that to happen, nearly every regular would need to have a better year than even the most optimistic fan could hope for right now. Remember, we’re likely to have Nate Schierholtz in RF everyday; he probably won’t approach a .750 OPS. Neither will whatever is trotted out to third base. Barney is below average offensively; Castillo is a wild card. Basically, we need a handful of new players before the offense can reasonably be expected to improve. But if by some miracle the Cubs start out scoring 4-5 runs/game…nope, it’s not going to happen.

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What to Do With Our Arbitration Eligibles

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Image Credit: Tim Souers

Yesterday the names of the players who have filed for salary arbitration were released and three from the Cubs made the list. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and James Russell all filed to have their cases heard before the start of the season. If you’re unfamiliar with how the concept works, here is the quick and dirty version. When a player is called up the the Majors, he begins to accrue days of service with 172 days being considered one full year. For the first three years, a player can only receive the league minimum salary unless his team works out a contract for higher than that. It is auto-renewed each year. After three years of service, a player is then eligible for salary arbitration for years four, five and six. If a team is interested in retaining that player’s services for another year, they have a couple options.

1. They can work out a one year deal for an agreed contract amount with the player

2. They can work out a multi-year deal

3. They can choose to go to arbitration

The goal for most teams is to take care of the issue with option 1 or 2 to prevent hard feelings that go along with the process, but there are times when players do end up going all the way to the table before an arbiter. In those cases, both the player (really his agent) and the team submit a number for a one year salary based on what they feel the player is worth. When their case is heard, they present their reasoning and evidence and the case is given a verdict either in favor of the player or in favor of the team. There is no middle ground. This prevents a team from submitting a lowball offer and a player from submitting an A-Rod offer. You have to be able to defend your case. At any time before the hearing, clubs may work out a deal with the player to avoid going to the table. That’s where we stand now with our three, so let’s look at them.

Matt Garza – This is the final year of arbitration eligibility for Garza, which makes him a free agent at the end of the season if no multi-year deal is reached. He’s coming off an injury, so that is a case against a hefty raise for him. Given that the case would be heard before spring training, he won’t have a chance to prove his health before then. There is no question that he has value on the trade market if he’s healthy. Because we don’t know if that’s the case, I would rule out option # 2 for him. My prediction would be that the Cubs and Garza come to terms on a one year deal with a modest raise from the $9.5 million he made last year and then look at their options toward the end of spring, if he’s healthy and their is trade interest, or closer to the July deadline. I don’t see him being a part of the long term plan of this team.

Jeff Samardzija – This is the first year of eligibility for Samardzija and he peaked at just the right time. He made $2.64 million last season and should be in line for a nice raise should he go to arbitration, but I see the plan for him being a long term deal. He was mentioned by Theo recently as being a building block looking toward the future. At times, a deal for a starter can be as tricky as a bet on march madness games, but I can see a four year deal that would buy out the last two years of arbitration and first year of free agency at a price around $10 million per year.

James Russell – This is also the first year of eligibility for Russell and how he’s viewed has a lot to do with the role you see for him with this team. As a lefty specialist out of the pen, he has no multi-year value if you’re a smart GM. A smart GM doesn’t give long term deals on relievers. Two years max is what I’d give. For Russell, I see a series of one year deals each arbitration time, but never a time when we go to the table. He made $512,500 last year. A raise to around $750 – $800k is fair and what I expect to happen.

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