Archive for January, 2014

Super Bowl Predictor System

Friday, January 31st, 2014

by John Dewan

After correctly predicting the Super Bowl winner 90 percent of the time over a 20-year period, the Super Bowl Predictor System is ready for mothballs.

Why is that?

Just like many of you, I am a fan of a specific team. I haven’t missed a Chicago Bears game since the start of Walter Payton’s career. In January of 2007 the Bears were going to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl Predictor System said the Bears were an overwhelming favorite. The Chicago media was all over this.

Except, Peyton Manning had something to say about it. Despite an opening kickoff return for a touchdown by the Bears’ Devin Hester, Manning led the Colts to an upset victory.

I should have quit while I was ahead. That Bears Super Bowl launched a performance slump where the Predictor System has missed five of the last seven Super Bowls. The overall record of the system is down to a 64 percent success rate. Not horrible, but with its recent record, here’s what I have to say: Sayonara.

For those of you who still want to know what the system says, it says that Manning is going to lose again. But I ain’t gonna bet against him a second time. The Seahawks won 7 of the 12 predictors, with two going to the Broncos, and three ties. The details:

Category

Win%

Team with Advantage

Points Scored

.553

Broncos

Points Allowed

.617

Seahawks

Point Differential

.617

Broncos

Fewer Net Passing Yards

.596

Seahawks

Rushing Yards

.532

Seahawks

Rushing Yards/Carry

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Net Passing Yards

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Rushing Yards

.596

Tie

Opponent Rushing Yards/Carry

.574

Tie

Opponent Total Yards/Game

.638

Seahawks

Turnover Differential

.574

Seahawks

Regular Season Record

.532

Tie

For old times sake, here’s how the system is designed to work. Each of the 12 predictors predicts the Super Bowl winner correctly 53 percent to 64 percent of the time. When taken together they have a greater success rate. However, now for the first time since we started the system, there is one stat that is just as successful as the 12 indicators put together. It’s Fewer Opponent Total Yards, which has predicted the winner 30 out of 47 times (64 percent). This too suggests that the Seahawks, the better defensive team, are going to win.

I’m picking the Broncos.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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For The Love Of The… Game?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Baseball is a wonderful sport and I know that everyone who reads this blog agrees on that (well, maybe it’s questionable whether a few of you like anything, but I digress). This offseason has been long and unforgiving, and depending on your involvement in the happenings (or non-happenings) of the Theo and Jed regime, you have probably experienced a lot of angst as well.

The idea of feeling angst about baseball in the offseason is something that is relatively new to me. You see, before sabermetrics were the trend, before prospects were analyzed to death, and before the rooftops had seats on them, before Twitter was a thing, baseball was just… baseball. It was an escape from the real world – a place where a person could go to get wrapped up in chalk lines, the popping sounds of bats hitting balls, and the snap of the catcher’s mitt when it received 95 MPH fastball.

If a minor-leaguer made his debut people got excited, but poring over his stats in AA against lefties on Sundays versus his AAA stats against a 12-6 curve on Wednesdays was left to the scouts and player development people. Sure, some regular fans my have had a vested interest in prospects, but what mattered to most was the experience of the game. Baseball was heaven on a plot of grass or sand.

The pure, unadulterated love of baseball ran through the veins of fans. They heckled the players they disliked, they lauded the players they loved. People didn’t pick favorites based on WAR, wRC+, UZR, etc, etc. They picked their favorites based on players which helped the team win; because, you know, baseball was a team sport. It took all 9 guys working together to win a game.

But somewhere between then and now the pure love for baseball has been lost in the controversy of the Steroid Era, the recent surfacing of sabermetrics as the “end-all be-all” for a player, the enormous contracts and no-trade clauses, and the growing impatience of the Cubs’ fan base. Arguing with strangers on the internet about frivolous details strips joy out of the sport and makes enemies of people who would normally have been friends (Thanks, Twitter. You jerk!). Civil discussions about have turned into personal attacks.

When baseball season rolls around, everyone needs to attend a local Little League game, and I’m not talking Little League World Series craziness. I’m talking about local kids playing a game. Watch the passion on the boys’ (and sometimes girls’! You go, girls!) faces. Observe the effort they put into every play they make, how they encourage and cheer for each other, how they hustle on and off the field in anticipation of how they can contribute to their team in the next half-inning.

Those kids don’t get paid. They don’t know what WAR or UZR mean. They just play baseball.

That is what baseball should be – pure desire to play a game they love.

What’s so bad about loving baseball without all the extra stuff?

 

 

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It’s A Long 162 Games…..

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Did you know the Cubs are on the precipous of a monumental occasion?

Five straight losing seasons will be quite a feat, even for the Cubs.  Take a guess how long it has been…..your probably thinking, “Oh it just happened yesterday, right? Didn’t we lose for an entire decade once?”  Yah, we did, it was called the 50’s (it was actually the ten years between 1953 and 1963.)  The losing in the 50’s and early 60’s got so bad it brought about the idea of the “College of Coaches“, which ranks itself near the top as one of the worst ideas in the history of the sport.  Since then, no Cub team has registered a losing record for longer than four straight seasons*.

*Note- I left out the streak from 1979 -1983 as 1981 was strike shortened.

Since that glorious time, Cub fans got a repreave from the typical loveable losing ways, at least once every five years.  Now, here we sit.  I am pretty sure anybody with a baseball marble in their head will consider the upcoming 2014 Cubs season a wash.  Just like 2013, the prospects are not ready and the retreads will run the show until the golden geese are good and set to take the stage.  If the Cub conventions of the last two years are any indication, we as fans are supposed to hold our allegiance out for the future generation of players, and the remake of the landmark known as Wrigley Field.

That’s 810 games of losing.  No, they don’t lose them all, but when you don’t even sniff competing for five years, that’s what it feels like.  How many times over the last four seasons have you watched the Cubs win and felt a genuine sense that the team was good? Even when they win during this fine stretch of futility, I feel like they are losing.

Herein lies my biggest gripe with baseball.  It’s such a long damn commitment when your team is no good.  Each game, after a certain point of losing in a season, becomes meaningless.  Sometime in August I begin to wonder how professional broadcasters can stand sitting in the booth and calling the games.  Then I remember, that’s right, they get paid to do this.

If you can’t tell, I am having trouble getting excited for the 2014 season.  Rebuilding in baseball is a brutal task and I have never seen a front office do it with such malice towards fans.  It’s as if every day they’re looking at the fanbase and saying, “Just enjoy the beautiful history of Wrigley Field and the quasi-professional product we are rolling out there at a blue light special price tag, oh and don’t forget to sample a beer for $6”. I have also been wondering who I should back for the series with bwin.

What they are really saying is take your medicine, because this is the only way out.  I believe in what they are doing, but I don’t have to enjoy it.  Being a fan of a major market team should have its perks, and one of those is not having to eat a main course consisting of potatoes and bread when there is enough money in your wallet for a steak and then some.

The sad thing is, I don’t see us competing in 2015, like many at one time felt would be a realistic goal.  2016 anyone?

 

 

 

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The Fallen: Former Highly Ranked Prospects, Arodys Vizcaino Edition

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Over the past two seasons, the Cubs acquired two former top fifty prospects in a trade for a veteran starting pitcher. One is third baseman Mike Olt, who we discussed last week, and the Cubs received in the Matt Garza trade. The other is right handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, who the Cubs received in return for Paul Maholm in mid-2012.

The Heights: As a 20 year old in 2011, Vizcaino pitched across three levels of the minors, High A through Triple A, and had a cup of coffee in the Majors. At every level but High A, he was very young compared to his competition. He excelled in the minors, pitching for a 3.06 ERA over 97 minor league innings in 26 appearances, 17 of which were starts. He also made 17 relief appearances in the Majors, and at least did not embarrass himself with a 4.67 ERA. Prior to the 2012 season, he was Baseball America’s number 40 prospect in baseball. The highest ranking he achieved was the 14th best prospect in baseball, which came from Keith Law. With three solid or better offerings, headlined by a 92-96 mph fastball and including a solid curveball and change up, Vizcaino has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter.

The Depths: Vizcaino’s depths are a bit different than the other Cubs’ fallen prospects because he has not played since 2011, and his issues solely relate to injuries. Many in baseball were always concerned about Vizcaino’s durability, even at the height of his minor league success, and Vizcaino injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training in 2012. Rehab setbacks kept him from pitching in 2013, although he participated in the instructional league over the fall, and reportedly is healthy and looks good. It is worth noting, though, that barring a significant injury that kept Vizcaino off the mound, it is unlikely that the team would say anything else.

Best Case Scenario: Vizcaino goes to Iowa to start the season and pitches well, likely out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season, but potentially getting some opportunities to start with some strict pitch counts later in the season. Either way, he pitches well, stays healthy, and moves up to the Majors at the end of the season, pitching well out of the bullpen. At that point, the Cubs must decide whether to try to stretch Vizcaino back out into a starter, or if they’ll try him in a late innings bullpen role.

Worst Case Scenario: Vizcaino hurts himself again and barely pitches, or doesn’t pitch at all. The next worst case scenario is that Vizcaino’s control suffers as he returns from elbow problems.

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Tanaka Tears, Prospect Love, Garza, Rooftop Battle

Friday, January 24th, 2014

I have to admit, I’m disappointed we didn’t sign Tanaka. I knew we only had an outside shot, but it’s not often that you get a chance to sign a 25-year-old, TOR-potential pitcher—with nothing to lose but money. I do appreciate that the FO put in a good offer (I do believe that there was a real, honest effort to land Tanaka, not just a show for fans), and I’m encouraged that they had the financial resources to do so. There have been various reports as to what the offer actually was (some have said that the Cubs would have been willing to go up to the 7-year, $150 million range if that would have been required to land him), but it really seems like Tanaka was going to go to the Yankees no matter what. Really, I can’t blame him. If I were moving to Japan to play baseball, I’d probably want to go to the team with the longest winning tradition, in the biggest media market, with a chance to win now (well, maybe not me, since I’m an underdog kind of guy, but most people would probably choose that path). Anyway, we’re left to watch Tanaka from afar. Of course, Tanaka may wind up being more Igawa than Darvish, but there’s risk with any player.

In happier news, the Cubs’ farm system is rocking the charts these days. Baseball Prospectus just put out their list of the Cubs top ten prospects, and it goes as such:

1. Javier Baez
2. Kris Bryant
3. Albert Almora
4. Jorge Soler
5. C.J. Edwards
6. Arismendy Alcantara
7. Pierce Johnson
8. Dan Vogelbach
9. Christian Villanueva
10. Jeimer Candelario

If you have a subscription, you can read the scouting summaries of each prospect. I don’t want to give too much away, but here’s a teaser: the words “Miguel” and “Cabrera” are included in the Javier Baez write-up.

Speaking of Baez-induced drool, BP’s Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) said this in a chat the other day in reference to Baez:

“One front office source told me that thinks Baez has hall of fame potential. No don’t go crazy with one projection, but if you really believe in the bat–meaning you think he will reach his offensive projections–35+ home runs is possible, all from a left-side of the diamond home. This is an extreme opinion, but not all that crazy when it comes to potential. Javier Baez could have a very special bat; the hand/eye, the bat speed, the raw strength are elite. If he puts it all together, he could be one of the best players in the game. If he stays healthy and consistent once he achieves that level, the hyperbole and hype of the present won’t seem so crazy.”

In other news, the Brewers have apparently signed Matt Garza to a four-year, $52 million deal, although, as of Thursday night, the Brewers weirdly denied that a deal was completed. My guess is that they are waiting on the medicals (which, for Garza, wouldn’t just be perfunctory—he’s had well-documented elbow troubles in the past). If the Brewers do sign him, I have some advice to Renteria: bunt!

Brett Taylor (a former lawyer) over at Bleacher Nation has a nice write-up on the lawsuit the rooftops are bringing against Marc Ganis, a sports consultant who worked for the Cubs, for what amounts to defamation. If you can stomach it, give it a read. It may be the first in a long line of litigation.

On that note, have a nice weekend!

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