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Joe Answers the Questions You Asked

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

So sorry it’s taken me a few days to get answers to your burning questions. The fact is, if your questions are burning, you may want to seek a doctor. I think there is a cream they can give you to help with that. Now, on to the answers. (Note: I didn’t choose ALL of the questions as due to my laziness there were too many. Also, I just thought some were boring.)

Jedi asks:

What’s the difference between a random thought and a question?

I tend to equate random thoughts to things that just pop into my mind. They don’t really require an answer and often times have little purpose to them at all. However a question is much more important. Then again, when you’re dealing with kids, and God knows we are, they seem one and the same and they seem to come in abundance.

Dork (Is it OK if I call you that?) asks:

What will the cubs record be in 2015?

I went on record when we were recording our podcast (before MLB advanced media decided to do what MLB advanced media does), that I felt the Cubs would finish .500 this season. Obviously that didn’t happen, partly due to a dreadful start to the season, but I still feel like it was a realistic goal for this team. For next season, I see know reason why .500 shouldn’t be the expectation with a goal being the playoffs. Call me crazy, but with a good amount of our prized prospects expected to be making an impact next year at the Major League level, why shouldn’t we expect .500. Everywhere you read, people say 2016 is the year the Cubs will contend for the playoffs and be a really good team. Why can’t it be 2015? I expect good things next year. So, to answer your question, I will say 82-80.

Dan Gilman asks:

What are the chances the Cubs trade Castro this off-season?

I don’t think they are high. If the Cubs deal a shortstop, I believe it makes sense to engage in talks with the Mets given the surplus of young, Major League ready arms they have in their system and the fact that they crave a building block shortstop. However, I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t really like Starlin Castro. I can understand. It’s hard to like a guy who has almost 1,000 hits and been a three time all star before the age of 25. I don’t see why people are so quick to dismiss him. Does he have his flaws? Of course, but what player doesn’t. Show me a player under 25 that doesn’t have one. They just don’t exist. He’s learning and this year he’s taken a major step forward. If I’m Theo and Jed, I value him the highest among the three top guys in this system right now.

Ben asks:

Who do you think will be called up next year to the majors besides Kris Bryant and the others who have already been called up  like Soler and Alcantara?

The biggest name to watch for next year is obviously Addison Russell, but I also have my eye on someone like C.J. Edwards or Dallas Beeler. I don’t think we saw enough of Beeler this year and I’d like to see more.

Doug S. asks:

Ginger, Maryann or Mrs. Howell?

Mary Anne.

Jswanson asks:

Rank the following Doritos, from tastiest to least tasty:
* Cool Ranch
* Nacho Cheese
* Tapatio
* Taco
* Spicier Nacho
* Salsa Verde
* Spicy Sweet Chili

Unfortunately, we do not keep snacks like that in the house (and yet I’m still fat). That said, I’ve only had two of those so I am going to rank based on what I would assume they would taste time.

1. Nacho Cheese

Tie for last – All the others. To be honest, I hate cool ranch flavor and the others sound like death. I’m not a Doritos guy.

Brian asks:

If the Cubs were to trade one of their significant offensive pieces (Rizzo, Castro, or any of the other guys whom I won’t mention because you already know who they are) for pitching, who do you want it to be and, if different, who do you think it will be?

I’ve gone on record that I believe it will be Baez. I used to think that Jorge Soler had the biggest bust potential. Now I believe it may be Baez. I shop him and see what his value can net. Thankfully, power hitting is a valuable and sparse currency these days.

CAPS asks:

What’s your favorite thing to batch cook and do you like to cook shirtless?

You really are a unique dude, you know that? Don’t cook, and especially not shirtless. They don’t make hair nets for my chest.

That will do it for this edition. Sorry again for the time it took. Thanks for being patient. Enjoy the last two series of the season. How about we finish it out with a six game win streak?

 

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Pitchers with the Best and Worst Run Support

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Thankfully, the baseball community has moved beyond judging pitchers solely by their won-lost record. Last season, Clayton Kershaw took home the NL Cy Young despite having three fewer wins than Adam Wainwright. More famously, Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young in 2010 with just a 13-12 record. However, those were extreme cases where pitchers had major advantages in other measures of pitching performance, notably ERA. Since Hernandez’s Cy Young, the AL wins leader has won the Cy Young three consecutive seasons. Wins clearly remain a factor in many people’s evaluations.

Of course, pitchers who perform well tend to earn more wins than those who do not, but there are still inputs to those wins that are out of the pitchers’ control. The primary factor is run support, which Baseball Info Solutions calculates as the number of runs an offense scores while a pitcher is in the game prorated over nine innings. In 2010, the Mariners scored just 3.10 runs per nine in Hernandez’s starts, which was the second lowest total among qualified starters. That’s 3.03 runs fewer than the Yankees scored for C.C. Sabathia (a 21-game winner) per nine that season!

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pitchers in 2014 who have seen the best and worst run support. First, here are the starters with the best run support this season:

Best Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
C.J. Wilson, Angels 6.55
Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies 6.31
Colby Lewis, Rangers 5.97
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles 5.96
Madison Bumgarner, Giants 5.87

C.J. Wilson leads the way with an average of 6.55 runs of support per start. The Angels actually lead baseball with 744 runs this season, so they were the best bet to have a pitcher at the top of the list. Teammate Jered Weaver just missed the top five with 5.80 runs of support per nine.

Like Wilson, Jorge de la Rosa benefits from an offense that scores a lot of runs. In his case, it’s the Rockies, who have the third most runs in baseball with 700. In contrast, Colby Lewis is a surprise. The Rangers are 20th in runs scored, so Lewis actually received much more run support than the average Rangers’ starter. But Lewis has been unable to take advantage of his good fortune. With a 5.12 ERA, which is not far below his 5.97 runs of support per nine, Lewis has compiled a 10-13 record.

Wei-Yin Chen and Madison Bumgarner don’t often need their exceptional run support. Chen has the 10th lowest walk rate among qualified starters this season (1.66 walks per nine), and Bumgarner has the 12th highest strikeout rate (9.17 strikeouts per nine). That has led them to a 3.58 and 2.91 ERA, respectively. Unsurprisingly, they are tied for sixth and tied for third in baseball in wins.

Here are the starters with the worst run support:

Worst Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins 2.89
Eric Stults, Padres 3.04
Francisco Liriano, Pirates 3.09
Alex Wood, Braves 3.16
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 3.29

Nathan Eovaldi of the Marlins sets the low bar with 2.89 runs of support per nine. That seems to be a bit of an outlier since the Marlins are middle of the pack with 613 runs scored. They do not hold a candle to the Padres in that respect, however. The Padres have scored just 489 runs this season. That is 255 runs fewer than the league-leading Angels and 61 runs fewer than the Braves, who are second to last. With such an anemic offense, Padres’ starters are prominent at or near the bottom of the list. Eric Stults has had the second lowest run support, and Ian Kennedy just missed the list with 3.36 runs per nine.

The Braves may be substantially better on offense than the Padres, but Alex Wood and Julio Teheran have not benefited from that. Wood has the fourth lowest run support with 3.16 runs per start, and Teheran is in the bottom 12, as well.

Francisco Liriano and Yovani Gallardo are the opposite of Colby Lewis. The Pirates have the 8th most runs and the Brewers have the 13th most runs in baseball this season, but both pitchers are in the bottom five in run support per nine. Charlie Morton (3.72 run support per nine) of the Pirates is the only other qualified Pirates or Brewers starter with less than 4.00 runs per nine of support.

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

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Ask Joe Anything

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

That’s right, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game, Ask Joe Anything. I’m also looking for a nomination from you on which writer we should use for the next edition. Remember the rules.

1. The CAPS rule – Do not blow up the comments with a zillion questions by one person.

2. The Seymour rule – Try to keep it semi-clean knowing that if it’s too far past the line it won’t get answered.

3. The Sherm Rule – Don’t post something and then disappear. Come back and see the answer.

Follow those rules and we’ll have a lot of fun. Just to give you an idea on quirky questions, see one of the editions of the Deadspin Funbag and you’ll know what I mean.

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What Is the Future of Mike Olt?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I’d like to get a discussion going this morning about a guy that was projected to be a big part of the future when the trade with Texas was made, but has turned into more of an afterthought this season.

Today let’s talk about Mike Olt and what his future looks like. It’s clear that Kris Bryant will be with the Major League team sooner rather than later. Some think he may even break camp with the team. Where does that leave Olt?

Let’s talk about that.

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Cubs Announce Tentative 2015 Schedule

Monday, September 8th, 2014

From the Cubs Media Relations Dept:

CHICAGO – Major League Baseball and the Chicago Cubs today announced the tentative 2015 regular season schedule.  The Cubs will open their 140th season at home on Monday, April 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals to kick off the 100th season of Cubs baseball at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will begin the 2015 campaign at home for the first time since 2012 and for just the fourth time in the last 14 seasons.  The Cubs play the Cardinals in their season opener for the first time since 1991, as the first homestand features three games against St. Louis before the club leaves for a three-game road trip in Denver.

The 2015 schedule features eight interleague series against the American League Central, including the annual home-and-home sets against the Chicago White Sox.  The Cubs and White Sox in 2015 will play a total of six games, with the first three games taking place at Wrigley Field leading up to the All Star Break from July 10-12 followed by three games at U.S. Cellular Field on August 14-16.

In addition to the White Sox series, the Cubs welcome three additional A.L. Central opponents: the Kansas City Royals (three games, May 29-31), the Cleveland Indians (two games, June 15-16) and the Detroit Tigers (two games, August 18-19).  The Cubs travel to play at Detroit (two games, June 9-10), Cleveland (two games, June 17-18) and Minnesota (three games, June 19-21). The Cubs visit Cleveland for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs 2015 tentative schedule features only two three-series homestands and two three-city road trips (after four three-city road trips in 2014 and five three-city road trips in 2013).

The Cubs are scheduled to host two holiday games in 2015: Memorial Day Monday, May 25 vs. Washington and the Fourth of July vs. Miami.  The Cubs will be on the road for three holidays this season: May 10 in Milwaukee for Mother’s Day, June 21 in Minnesota on Father’s Day and Labor Day Monday, September 7 in St. Louis.

The tentative 2015 Chicago Cubs regular season schedule is below:

View the Schedule

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Stat of the Week: Instant Replay

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Before 2014, instant replays in baseball were restricted to disputed home runs, fair vs. foul, fan interference, and wall border calls. This season, the scope of replay expanded greatly with the introduction of a challenge system similar to the one in the NFL. Now, it’s possible for managers to challenge practically everything short of ball-and-strike calls, and they have taken advantage.

Between 2008 and 2013, the six years of the original replay system, only 384 replays were used and only 129 plays were overturned according to data collected by Baseball Info Solutions. With still a month to go this season, 1,056 replays have been used and 495 plays overturned. We are on pace for about 600 corrected calls that would previously have been missed.

Overall, replays are overturning calls at a higher rate than the previous system, but not all types of challenges have been equally successful.

Replay Type Total Overturned Rate
Tag Play 431 180 42%
Force Play 430 237 55%
Boundary Call (Over Fence) 67 18 27%
Hit by Pitch 43 21 49%
Fair or Foul 42 14 33%
Trap or Catch 26 21 81%
Record Keeping 10 2 20%
Missed Base 6 2 33%
Passed Runner 1 0 0%
Total 1,056 495 47%

More than 80 percent all of replays have been on either disputed tags or force outs, and they have collectively been close to a 50/50 proposition. Replay has overturned 417 of those 861 calls (48 percent).

Other types of replays have been far less common, but, even with limited sample sizes, a pattern emerges. For example, 21 of the 26 replays on trap or catch plays have been overturned (81 percent). In contrast, only 18 of the 67 boundary call situations—which include potential home runs, potential ground-rule doubles and fan interference plays—were overturned, only 27 percent.

The Instant Replay section of the Bill James Handbook 2015 will be expanded from last year’s edition to capture the increase in scope of replays. The book is available for pre-order here.

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

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4 Reasons Why Teams Do Not Call Up Everyone On September 1st

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

On Monday, we saw the addition of Blake Parker to the Cubs roster, putting them at 26. As you know as of September 1st, teams are allowed to recall their full 40 man roster if they would like, but no one does. Why? Let’s talk about that.

Let me begin by saying that I think the expanded roster rule is stupid and should be done away with. Now that my feelings on that are out of the way, why don’t teams call up their full allotment of players? There are a few reasons why.

1. Injuries – If you look at the current Cubs 40 man roster, you’ll see that Edwin Jackson is on the DL (thank God), as is Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney. Because they were placed on the 15 day DL, they still have a spot on the 40 man roster, which means the Cubs would not be able to field a full 40 guys just yet. Any player with a big league contract must be on the 40 man roster unless he was designated for assignment and cleared irrevocable waivers for the purpose of being removed. At that point, he can be moved to the minors, assuming he doesn’t refuse the assignment.

2. Service Time – We hear this one a lot, especially when it comes to early season call ups. In fact, we’ll probably see it come into play at the beginning of the season in 2015 with Kris Bryant. The way the current salary structure works, players are under a team’s control for the first six years of their Major League career, with a service year considered to be 172 days. When a player is recalled, it starts that clock and given that teams are so concerned about paying out big deals before they have to, there are a lot of games that are played. To get a player up in September just for the sake of a few at bats is a waste of service time.

3. Playing Time – With that many guys on the roster, it’s near impossible to give everyone enough playing time, which is related to service time. If you’re going to call a guy up and have the meter running for service time, you want to be able to play him, especially if he’s part of your future. When you call up someone like Javier Baez or Jorge Soler, you want to make sure you have the ability to get them the playing time they need. The same goes for the middle of the season. If you call someone up to play, someone has to sit. You want to make sure guys have at bats or innings available to them or you’re just wasting time.

4. Per Diem Costs - This is a reason that often goes over looked. In baseball, players receive a per diem stipend in addition to their usual salary. This is designed for meals and things like that when the team is on the road. When you call a guy up, he gets that money. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s an added costs for a team in addition to the travel expenses that are pointless for a guy to get 5-10 plate appearances. They can simply cut that cost and use one of the other reasons as the explanation.

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Should the Cubs Pass on Signing an Ace this Off-Season?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Last week I asked you all to ask me anything. I think that post went really well, so I think we’ll make that a semi-regular feature here on the site. So as to not get stale, we’ll probably run it once a month or every other week. Something to that effect.

I was intrigued by one of the questions and I wanted to give it a little more depth than I did in the comment section. Bryan asked:

Would you rather the Cubs have a starting rotation of one #1, one #3, and 3 #5s, or five #3′s?

I went with my gut reaction when I answered the question and as I reflected on it that day, I was paranoid that it went against all that I had done in terms of research on the topic recently for ESPN.

You’ll remember that I did a study on what defined each slot in the rotation. Looking at the numbers, we found that the average WAR produced by each spot in the rotation was:

#1 – 6.0

# 2 – 3.9

# 3 – 2.8

# 4 – 1.8

# 5 – 0.2

So, the simple answer to Bryan’s question would be to map it out. If we add the WAR for his two proposed rotations, whichever one is higher from a combined total would be the better option.

Option 1 (Mixed Rotation) – Total WAR = 9.4

Option 2 (All # 3 starters) – Total WAR = 14

So, not only is it option two, but it’s really not even close. With that said, would the Cubs be better off trying a non-traditional route as they seek to build around the plethora of young bats that are on the verge of breaking into the Majors? Perhaps the strategy shouldn’t be to invest this offseason in an ace, but rather to stock up on a two or three second and third tier type guys to fill out the rotation around what we have already?

I ran a list of what a “number three” starter would have looked like over the last four seasons to get an idea what we’re talking about. Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I searched for pitchers who qualified for the ERA title and posted a WAR between 2.5 and 3.0 from 2010 – 2013. It yielded 34 results. What those results told me was that a pitcher in this category typically looks like the following:

12 – 10 record with an ERA of 3.58 over approximately 198 innings pitched. In 2013, the pitchers that fell in that category were Gio Gonzalez, Mike Leake, Jon Lester, Ervin Santana, Patrick Corbin, John Lackey, David Price, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Andy Pettitte. As you can see, there are some guys that may have had a down year, but other guys that aren’t really considered aces, like Corbin or Lackey.

So far this season, Jake Arrieta has posted a WAR of 3.9, so even if we pencil him in with a regression, we can expect at least a WAR of  3 from him. Kyle Hendricks has posted a WAR of 2.3 so far. Let’s assume he doesn’t get to three next year, but can be around 2.5, knowing that Arrieta can make up for him. That gives us two of the five we’ll need.

Looking at the internal candidates for the rotation next year, we’ve got Travis Wood, Dan Straily, Jacob Turner, and Edwin Jackson. I think it’s safe to say that we can rule out Jackson as being able to produce what we need, and I’d venture a guess that we can get 2.5 WAR out of one of Wood, Turner or Straily. That would mean we need two guys off the free agent or trade market to give us a rotation of at least five number three starters. That’s entirely doable. Chris Neitzel took a look recently at the market this 0ff-season. I think we can find our guys there and it doesn’t have to include someone like Lester (though I really want him), and given the nature of pitcher injuries these days, I think that may be the best route to go.

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Ask Joe Anything

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

We’re going to try something new here to see if it goes over well. If you are good, you can have nice things, but if not, we’ll take it away. The design here is an open forum for you to ask me anything. Maybe it’s questions to get to know me better. Maybe it’s questions regarding the Cubs or Major League baseball in general. Maybe it’s a sports question. Maybe it’s just a quirky random question. Whatever is on your mind, have fun with it. There are just a few rules.

1. The CAPS rule – Do not blow up the comments with a zillion questions by one person.

2. The Seymour rule – Try to keep it semi-clean knowing that if it’s too far past the line it won’t get answered.

3. The Sherm Rule – Don’t post something and then disappear. Come back and see the answer.

Follow those rules and we’ll have a lot of fun. Just to give you an idea on quirky questions, see one of the editions of the Deadspin Funbag and you’ll know what I mean.

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