Archive for June, 2013

Game80: Bullpen and Coaching Trying for Top 5 Pick

Sunday, June 30th, 2013


Player of the Game- Kevin Gregg (.148 WPA)

The Cubs put up some runs today as a team.  The game was played well and a fairly well pitched game from Edwin Jackson. Except for a home run he gave up to Raul Ibanez, Jackson pitched an efficient and strong game today.  Now that is where the Head Coach Dale Sveum and Shawn Camp took things over.

Sveum wanted to stay away from James Russel and Blake Parker today as was addressed half way through the game.  The big deal is that he turned to one of the worst relievers in our pen, save Carlos Marmol who we unceremoniously bounced like a bad check last week.  Here came Camp who pitched a rather efficient seventh inning.  Yet, you know something bad was going to happen and Sveum still let him stay in.

I’m no manager and I know the decisions come fast and hard in the heat of a game.  Yet, when sitting on my couch I get the quezy in my stomach at the beginning of the eighth, you know the million dollar manager should have too.

Its hard watching games like that, even though this one had a good outcome. Why is it a constant battle with this team?  The days that we hit good are the days the bullpen implodes.  It seems that there is a lot of games where things should have worked out and they didn’t.

The Cubs have had 50 quality starts this season.  They are 35-45.  They have missed out on cashing in on 15 QS starts from the starters.  Chance it enough they have blown 16 saves.  Where could this team be if a couple more strong arms were signed for the bullpen?

Oh to muse.


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Game 78: Predictably Depressing

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Sometimes I’m convinced that the team looks at our recap schedule and decides to put on their weekly tease game for the ones I have to write up. Last week Travis Wood had a pretty solid lead and the team blew it over the second half of the game. The game with the Brewers on Tuesday also contained a three-run lead, before getting smashed in the second half of the game.

So what happens on Friday night? Much of the same. The Cubs held a fairly commanding 4-1 lead through 6.5 innings with Wood giving up only a handful of hits and looking sharp. But then the baseball plague of doubt started to creep into my brain like Stephen King’s The Mist. The feeling is equally as awful as the book/movie too.

Extra base hits started to pile up for the Mariners as Wood exited the game and top-reliever James Russell entered. Russell was hit hard from the moment he stepped on the mound and was ultimately responsible for the game being tied at four in the eight inning. Raul Ibanez’s “triple”–although Bogey severely misplayed that ball in left field–was the capstone to the comeback for the Mariners.

About this time my cable thankfully cut out due to some nasty thunderstorms coming over from Texas. It was okay that I was going to bed before the game was over because I already knew the end result.

At about 4’o’clock this morning I woke up by a message on my phone and fatefully saw the “Seattle defeats Chicago in 10” text from Bleacher Report. I sighed, rolled over and fell back asleep.

Interesting Note

According to a graphic on last night’s telecast, 42 percent of Cubs runs come from the home run. That seems awfully high for a team that doesn’t seem to hit a ton of balls out of the yard. However, that preconceived notion is actually not true at all. The Cubs with two dingers last night have 84 on the season and that total is the best in the NL Central.

The Cubs kind of scored all of their runs off of round-trippers. Soriano and Navarro hit long bombs in the seventh to give the Cubs a three-run lead they could blow. Ryan Sweeney continued with his hot bat and smacked a triple into the triangle corner down in right field. Endy Chavez misplayed the ball and then rushed the throw toward third, allowing Sweeney to score. It was scored a triple and advance home on the error. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a play like that.

Sizing up Wood

THIS is the guy I thought we were getting when the team traded with the Reds. Wood was the faster riser to the bigs of his draft class and had a sound rookie season, but a couple of underwhelming seasons later he was expendable. It’s amazing that Wood was not even guaranteed a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training, but the team would probably have another 5-6 losses on the board if he didn’t earn the spot. He has easily been the most consistent pitcher in the rotation and if the Cubs somehow decide to move forward with Shark, Garza and Wood, they could be a winning team assuming the lineup comes together. That likely won’t happen, but Wood has still been one of my favorite players to watch in 2013.

If you could choose one of the three pitchers to build around right now and trade the other two, who would you pick to stay?  Discuss

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Cubs’ Trade Value 2013 Edition

Friday, June 28th, 2013

I really enjoyed writing this last year and the discourse that followed so I want to tackle the potential value of the roster this year with the trade deadline looming on the horizon.

Disclaimer: I am blatantly ripping off Bill Simmons’ NBA Trade Value Column he does every year so if you’ve ever read that you’ll be familiar with this. I’ll examine the team’s assets and approximate the value and likelihood each player will be traded in descending order. I take into consideration current performance, future potential, cost, and the need of other teams for players at that position. In addition to rankings, I place an estimated return if these guys were traded.

Value Explanations:

Lottery ticket: A player with a high ceiling but far more likely to be a bust than anything significant
C prospect: Good chance to be a future bench player or bullpen arm
B prospect: Good chance to be a future everyday player or starter
A prospect: Good chance to be above average to all-star level player or starter

Note: This was written prior to releasing of Stewart and designating Marmol for assignment, I decided to leave them in to see what I said prior to those moves.

Wish You Were Healthy

28. Scott Baker
27. Kyuji Fujikawa

Will Trade for Anything

26. Ian Stewart – Stewart has been nothing but a headache this season. After having wrist surgery last summer, he started the year at AAA, struggled mightily, and then was outrighted off the 40man.  Not surprisingly, he went unclaimed and after taking a weekend – within his rights due to the CBA – to accept his designation to AAA he begrudgingly has went through the motions to earn his 2M paycheck this year. Money seems to be his only motivating factor right now and he has not put any effort to return to the bigs. Right now he’s serving a 10-game suspension for a twitter rant that claimed “Dale doesn’t like me and he’s running the show… there [sic] going to let me rott [sic] in AAA all season and then non tender me after.”  I think it’s more to do with the .201/.319/.417 triple slash line that he’s sporting in AAA than Sveum, but I digress.

As for Stewart’s trade value, I actually thought he began to turn around his season the week he got suspended.  Too bad he had to mouth off, because 3B is still a need for many teams and Stewart does bring a few valuable skills with his defense, ability to work the count, and power potential. However, there’s not a single team in the majors that’s going to trade for him barring some miraculous hot streak that lasts until August.

Trading for Stewart is probably the 2nd worst move the front office has made in the short time here, but at the time it was defensible. I don’t think Colvin is anything more than a platoon player and DJ LeMahieu, despite his good numbers in limited PAs, is just a bench player and the Cubs needed a major league 3B badly.  I also didn’t mind taking a 1 year – 2 million dollar flyer on the guy again this year, but that’s worked out about as bad as it possibly could.

Value:  A bottle of generic aspirin

25. Carlos Marmol – I was on the fence when we signed Marmol to a 3-year deal, buying out a year of free agency and his last 2 arbitration years but looking back, what a terrible move that was.  At best we saved a couple million and kept him away from leaving a year early after signing a monster deal in free agency, at worst, well we’re seeing the worst case scenario right now. Marmol was just too risky given his command issues which have now come to plague him. We should have went year by year in arbitration and then traded or let him walk in his free agent year.

Then I was on the fence with the Marmol trade proposed this offseason because I didn’t think Dan Haren had anything left – which results thus far look right about Haren but still looks pretty terrible given what Marmol is doing and that Haren is healthy and could still turn it around.

I did want to say one thing about Marmol, robot umps would significantly help him. There’s a lot of times, he’s wild but has pitches cross the plate that are called balls. Every outing, an at-bat is swung into the hitters favor because an ump blows a call. There was an at bat earlier this year where he threw 4 strikes according to pitch trax and it was called a 4 ball walk. Not saying Marmol hasn’t been bad this year, but he wouldn’t be this bad if we used the technology available to get the calls right.

Value:  Robots

At Least They’re Still Young

24. Julio Borbon
23. Hector Rondon
22. Michael Bowden – Bowden went unclaimed when we recently DFA’d him, so no team was interested in getting him for free, so no team is going to be giving anything up for him and the Cubs weren’t worried about losing him for nothing either. But Bowden has actually pitched very well since becoming a Cub and I think the front office knew he’d clear waivers and thought this was the way to keep all their players.

Value:  Lottery ticket prospect

Living off Last Year’s Value

21. Scott Camp
20. Scott Hairston – He’s been pretty horrible without every day reps but any glimpse of Hairston returning to form and he’d be a little more valuable for a team in need of a power bat off the bench.

Value:  Lottery ticket prospect

19. Darwin Barney – Barney was always seen as a defensive first, utility player on his way to the bigs and he fought off that label pretty well his first 2 seasons but this year he’s really struggled at the plate.  It doesn’t make sense for the Cubs to trade him at his lowest value, so he won’t be dealt but I don’t think any team sees him as a starter right now. Hypothetically,  if a team was looking for a great defensive back up, Barney should be near the top of their list.

Value:  C Prospect

More Valuable Than He Should Be Given The Results

18. Edwin Jackson – Not a great spot for our big free agent splash only 3 months into the season and what I believe is the worst move the front office has made.

Jackson is extremely divisive among baseball fans. I think the advanced statistic community – which I would say I am a part of – loves Jackson. However, I don’t. I really hated the signing of Jackson and thought it was an overreaction to losing out on Sanchez (who just hit the DL with a shoulder strain btw, so we may have dodged a bullet). I’ve always thought Jackson just a back end starter – overrated & now overpaid.

If you look at Fangraphs, you’ll see Jackson has a sparkling 3.77 FIP and has accumulated 1.0 fWAR thus far. I think that’s a crock of… crap. The reason Jackson’s FIP is that low and his fWAR is that high is because FIP removes balls put in play (hits or not) to neutralize defense and remove it from the equation. That means FIP & fWAR don’t take into account Jackson’s biggest weakness – he gives up a ton of hits – 9.5 H/9 throughout his career, which means he averages nearly one and a half baserunners per inning after including walks.

It’s been hammered into our head over the past decade that getting on base is one of the most important abilities because it leads to more runs, so isn’t it counterintuitive to say that Jackson is a good pitcher considering he lets a lot of people reach base?

If you look at baseball-reference,  he’s accumulated -0.7 bWAR this season and much less bWAR than fWAR over his career because bWAR uses ERA as a factor instead of FIP. That sounds much more accurate to me in this case.  There’s just no way I’m buying he’s been worth positive value given his results thus far this season – I’ve watched him pitch, he’s gotten shelled most of his outings and there’s no luck or defensive miscues about getting hit the way he has. Luckily for the Cubs, he’s starting to turn it around but I can’t see any team parting with anything significant to take on his contract given his terrible start.

Value:  C Prospect & a Lottery Ticket Prospect but we’re footing a big chunk of the bill
Anyone Could Have Had These Guys

17. Dioner Navarro – Couldn’t ask for more from Navarro. He’s been killing the ball in limited playing time and has established himself as a legitimate threat in pitch hitting opportunities.  A nice luxury for a contending team but he’s probably more valuable to the Cubs until the deadline to keep Garza’s value high.

Value:  C Prospect

16. Cody Ransom
15. Ryan Sweeney – Small sample size warning, but Sweeney has been crushing it for the Cubs this year at AAA and in the majors and is showing that those top 100 prospect rankings, albeit 5 years ago, might have been warranted.  He’s always been a decent OBP guy, but he’s developed some pop at the plate which makes him – the guy – I want us to hold on to and see if he was just a late bloomer.

Value: C+ Prospect

Sneaky Value

14. Carlos Villanueva – Villanueva wasn’t brought here to be flipped this season.  He was injury insurance and will get back into the rotation after Garza’s dealt to establish value for a trade next year.

Value: C+ Prospect

13. Kevin Gregg –  The Cubs are looking to quickly cash in on Gregg’s resurgence before he remembers he’s Kevin Gregg.

Value: C Prospect

12. Alfonso Soriano – Soriano hasn’t hit much this year after a great bounce back season last year. Despite, that he moves up 3 spots on this list because he’s 20M cheaper.  The front office has realized he still has a little left in the tank and is a leader of a very young team which makes him somewhat valuable to the Cubs.  Not 19M a year valuable, but not worth paying his entire contract to get nothing in return.

Value:  B Prospect if we pay the majority of his salary

Don’t Expect These Guys To Go Anywhere

11. James Russell – Our most consistent relief pitcher, still cheap and pitching extremely well… hard to see us parting with Russell this year unless some team bowls us over with an offer.   The only thing limiting Russell’s value is the fact he’s only a relief pitcher who isn’t a closer. Russell probably gets a shot at the closer role to start next year, and the Cubs will be around .500 team next year, so they’ll actually need a good closer.

Value: B Prospect

10. Welington Castillo – This might be a little high for Castillo given he has been up and down at the plate, but he’s young, great defensively, and a track record in the minors of some power with the bat, which should come around given more time at the majors, it’s hard to believe a team wouldn’t give up a couple good prospects for him.

Value: 1 B & 1 C Prospect

Should Definitely Be On The Move

9. David DeJesus – I reserve the right to drop DeJesus if his shoulder limits his ability after returning from the injury, but up until now, DeJesus has been our best outfielder by far.

Value: 1 B & 1 C Prospect
8.  Scott Feldman – Hardest player to place. It’s difficult to guess if AL teams will be interested in Feldman given his results with the Rangers but it’s hard to ignore a guy pitching as well as he has and some teams might see it as a bonus that he has experience in the AL.  Looking over his stats the only thing that isn’t sustainable is a .250 BABIP, but even if you normalize that to his career average of .292, he has still been legitimately good.

Value: 1 B & 1 C Prospect

The Enigmas

7. Luis Valbuena – For the first time in his major league career, he’s been given the chance to play and he’s rewarded the Cubs for the opportunity. Valbuena has always been a great defender and patient at the plate which brings a lot of value to teams. I thought we should have sold high on Barney coming off a gold glove during the offseason and penciled in Valbuena as the starting second baseman.  Now that Barney is struggling, it doesn’t make sense until the offseason but I think Valbuena should be a future piece of this team at 2B while he is cheap.

Value: 1 B & 1 C Prospect

6. Nate Schierholtz – Schierholtz has been on fire almost all year. He’s on a 1 year deal, so there’s no point in keeping him around to finish the season. A number of teams should be interested in a left-handed power bat but his value is a little limited since he should be platoon.  I originally had Schierholtz behind DeJesus at #9, but given DeJesus’ injury and the way Nate just keeps hitting, I had to vault him higher for the final version.

Value:  1 B & 1 C Prospect

Arms Race

5. Matt Garza – I wanted to put Garza a spot higher, but given Garza’s injury risk, and the new CBA rules limiting a new team from getting compensation from him, I don’t see how I can rank Garza any higher.

However, he has pitched excellent over his last 3 starts and raised his value as high as it can be for a half year rental under these new CBA rules. Rumors have a lot of teams interested with the Rangers wanting him the most.

Value: 2 B Prospects

4. Travis Wood – You can pretty much make the same argument for Wood that you made for Feldman. Everything looks sustainable except his .214 BABIP; yet he has a career BABIP of .262 so he’s always been a guy that gets hitters to make weak contact to get them out consistently. Plus he’s still young, cheap, under team control for a few more years, and is left-handed.

I don’t Wood is going to be traded and I know Garza will be.

Value: 1 A & 1 B Prospect

In a Class of His Own

3. Starlin Castro – Impossible to accurately grade Starlin right now. There’s no way he’s being traded, but his results this year don’t warrant a ranking this high. Castro has a weakness against fastballs, especially ones off the plate away, and/or up in the zone and the league has taken advantage of that thus far this year. He needs to make an adjustment, and I know he will.

Value: 2 A Prospects with at least 1 top 20 overall prospect & a B prospect


2. Anthony Rizzo – In the midst of a solid second year, he’s been locked down long term and at a friendly contract for the Cubs. I expect Rizzo to have a Derrek Lee-esque career. A good all-around first baseman, with a few great years where Cubs fans argue he’s the best first baseman in the league.

Value: 3 A Prospects, with at least 1 top 10 overall prospect

1. Jeff Samardzija – Well so much for Samardzija’s 2012 season being a fluke. He’s followed up last year’s break out season with improved numbers almost entirely across the board. The only area where he’s dipped a little bit, is the amount of walks he’s surrendering, but with a K/9 that’s jumped over 10, it’s understandable that he’s giving up 1 more walk every 3 games than last year.

Value: What’s an established ace a few years away from free agency worth? I have no idea, they never get traded.

As always you can leave a comment below if you think I got something wrong and you also follow me on twitter at michael2jimenez.

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Game 77: Garza’s Gem

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Matt Garza – .198 (WPA)

Maybe Theo & Jed need to threaten to trade all of our pitchers.

Matt Garza
The soon-to-be former Cub was dominant today. The phone is likely ringing off the hook since Garza has now strung together 3 dominant starts in a row. Hopefully no one looks too much into the detail of those starts (his opponents were the Mets, Astros, and Brewers) – because Garza has only one impressive start against a potential playoff team. The good news is that game was against Arizona; right now the Dodgers and Padres are both rumored to be interested in acquiring the Cubs’ righty. There is not a lot of talk that the Cubs and Garza are seriously considering an extension. He is very clearly on the market and extremely likely to be traded. We’re coming up on that time of year when Casey Coleman doesn’t screen his calls.

Starlin Castro
A quick word about Castro – after two days off (and one game off), he now has back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time since May 26 & 27. He had done that 4 different times through the first 41 games. Even after these last two 2-for-5 games, Starlin would need to hit roughly .370 for the rest of the season to get up near his accustomed .300…that’s not going to happen. And of course his paltry batting average has depressed the rest of his batting statistics too – no matter what he does (good or bad) between now and the end of this year, his stats are going to look pathetic. All of them. The slump was (is) too prolonged; he might very well finish with fewer than 150 hits, a sub-.300 OBP, AND a sub-.400 SLG%. That’s not to say the season is a step back for him (far too early to pass judgment on that); but if you want to see improvement, you’ll need to tune in, because it’s going to be hard to see in his final stats.

Time To Deal
During Spring Training, there were (and maybe still are) more than a handful who expected the Cubs to be significantly worse this year. Through 77 games last year, the Cubs were 28-49. Now they sit at 33-44; five wins better (which I’m told equates to 50 runs). But this team will get demonstrably worse in the coming days – just like last year.

Soler Out; Bryant Not In
Cubs’ prospect Jorge Soler has fractured his tibia. It might signal the end of his season. He’s out at least 4-6 weeks, but it could wind up being substantially longer.

And Kris Bryant Scott Boras is playing hardball with the Cubs. It’s Boras, so of course this wasn’t going to get done early; and I could easily believe this story is a Boras plant. But with barely two weeks to go, the tone of the conversation needs to change or the Cubs risk missing out on Bryant.

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Game 76 – Gregg Almost Blows It

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Cubs 5, Brewers 4

Box Score / Highlights

You ever get so busy you literally forget what day it is? That’s the kind of day I had yesterday, which is how I managed to go to bed oblivious to the fact that I still had a recap to write. Apologies for the delay, and for the hasty manner in which I’m throwing this together. I didn’t see the game, but here’s what I’ve managed to glean:

  • Scott Feldman threw six solid-ish innings.
  • One of the runs he surrendered was a solo homer to Aramis Ramirez in the second inning, which was also the former Cub’s 2000th career hit. Another former Cub, Tom Gorzelanny, caught the ball with his cap in the Brewers’ bullpen.
  • Brian Bogusevic is accomplishing something with the roster spot Carlos Marmol used to occupy–he had two hits Wednesday, along with Luis Valbuena and a rested and refreshed Starlin Castro.
  • Kevin Gregg tried to give the game away in the ninth. He might have succeeded if not for this play at the plate to throw out a charging Rickie Weeks.

What did I miss?

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