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Cubs Acquire Matt Brazis from Seattle for Justin Ruggiano

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitching prospect Matt Brazis from the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

Brazis, 25, is 8-6 with 14 saves and a 2.89 ERA (51 ER/158.2 IP) in 100 minor league relief appearances covering three seasons in the Mariners minor league system.  He split the 2014 campaign between Single-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, going 4-1 with six saves and a 2.36 ERA (19 ER/72.1 IP) in 40 appearances.  Brazis struck out 84 batters and walked only 18 in 72.1 innings pitched.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Brazis was originally selected by the Mariners in the 28th round of the 2012 Draft out of Boston College. 

Ruggiano, 32, batted .281 (63-for-224) with six home runs and 28 RBI in 81 games for the Cubs last year.  He was acquired by the Cubs from the Miami Marlins for outfielder Brian Bogusevic on December 12, 2013.

This move, to me, tells me that there is an outfielder close to being signed or traded for. We’ve heard lots of names and Noah broke down some yesterday in his post.

Keep an eye out as I think we’ll see a move before Christmas.

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What Jason Motte Means For The Cubs Bullpen

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

I was all set yesterday to put up my opening day roster projection when I read about the Cubs signing Jason Motte. So, I scrapped it. If you missed the news yesterday, the Cubs were announced on Twitter to have signed the bearded right hander to a $4.5 million deal over one year. I have not read if the deal includes a player or team option, but assuming it doesn’t, it’s a low risk, high reward signing. Motte’s career numbers look like this:

Year Age Tm ERA G GF SV IP HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2008 26 STL 0.82 12 4 1 11.0 0 3 16 1.04 0.727 4.1 0.0 2.5 13.1
2009 27 STL 4.76 69 14 0 56.2 10 23 54 4.81 1.412 9.1 1.6 3.7 8.6
2010 28 STL 2.24 56 13 2 52.1 5 18 54 3.29 1.127 7.1 0.9 3.1 9.3
2011 29 STL 2.25 78 27 9 68.0 2 16 63 2.48 0.956 6.5 0.3 2.1 8.3
2012 30 STL 2.75 67 58 42 72.0 9 17 86 3.12 0.917 6.1 1.1 2.1 10.8
2014 32 STL 4.68 29 10 0 25.0 7 9 17 6.49 1.520 10.4 2.5 3.2 6.1
6 Yrs 3.03 311 126 54 285.0 33 86 290 3.55 1.109 7.3 1.0 2.7 9.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/16/2014.

As you can see, he missed all of 2013, which was due to Tommy John. He returned last year to the Cardinals pen and was more hittable and far less effective than before the surgery. That’s usually the case the first year returning. The reports I’ve read see the return to normal, if that is going to be the case, in the second year. If that holds true, then Motte could be a huge piece to an already improving bullpen.

As of right now, I don’t think he’s even in the closer conversation or even the setup conversation. I think the Cubs would admit that they are happy with what Hector Rondon did last season in the 9th to give him that role this season. You can probably slot Pedrop Strop and Justin Grimm into the mix in the late innings as well, which fills four of the expected seven (sigh) slots. Neal Ramirez should grab another spot, giving us five. That should just leave a need for a guy that can be a longer man if needed and a lefty.

I don’t think we’ll sign a lefty this off-season, but rather would give guys like Zac Rosscup, Tsuyoshi Wada, or Joe Ortiz a shot to earn the spot.

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What Does Your Opening Day Roster Look Like?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

On this lazy Friday morning, with the winter meetings now complete, I want to pose a question to you. I’d like you to post your opening day roster as the team stands right now. On Monday, I’ll break down who I think will be there and why.

Have fun.

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Reactions to Tuesday’s Mass Cubs Hysteria at the Winter Meetings

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

As I was driving in to the office yesterday, I was thinking about the baseball off-season. I was a bit frustrated at how long the process is from start to finish when it comes to the big names being traded or signing new contracts. When it comes to the NFL or the NBA, there is a ton of buildup to the day the period opens and then a slew of moves within the first week or so. Then it’s about done. It’s not that way with the MLB off-season and that frustrates me. Instead, we’re stuck listening to rumor after rumor (which I hate) and watch people create spoof Twitter accounts to try to get their one minute of fame by tricking a certain four letter network. It’s all so petty. Yesterday, however, when it comes to the Cubs in particular was exciting. If you were like me, you went to bed refreshing Twitter for that last nugget of info that might suggest when and where Jon Lester might end up. This morning we got our answer so let’s talk about the things that went down yesterday.

Late last night it was reported that Lester had made his decision and had chosen the Cubs. The deal is reported to be six years and $155 million. Before you react, let me remind you of three things. 1) The Cubs current payroll is ridonkulously low. 2) To acquire an impact talent on the free agent market, you have to “overpay”, and 3) When all is said and done with this Wrigleyville expansion, the Cubs are going to be swimming in an even deeper pool of money than they already are.

I don’t even look at the cost of the deal. I look at the player and see how he fits into the plan and when I do that, I smile. Lester instantly slots in at the top of the rotation with Jake Arrieta right behind him. We talked a little about the rest of the rotation a week or so ago. At that time it was Arrieta and a bunch of depth, but no real locks. With the addition of Lester and Jason Hammel, we know three locks for sure. Most likely Travis Wood slots in there as well since the Cubs wouldn’t have picked up his contract for this year to convert him to the bullpen. Unless he is traded, Wood should be in the rotation. Beyond that, you have a ton of guys making their case for the last spot. It figures to be a fun spring training watching guys battle for the last spot. Yes, you read that correctly. I said I might even be looking forward to spring training.

Overall, this was a move that had to be made either this off-season or next. The impact bats are basically ready to go. If you’re going to be true to the rebuild then you have to be ready to bring in the arms when it’s time. If it wasn’t Lester, it would have been David Price or someone of that ilk. I’m good with it being Lester.

What excites me the most about the signing is that there was talk that the Cubs, if they landed Lester, would also look to bring in an impact bat to go with him. It’s hard to say exactly who that will be, but you’d have to figure it to be an outfielder given that you don’t want to block anyone at the other positions. I don’t see that guy left on the free agent market, so if it was going down this year, it would have to be via trade. Nick Markakis would have fit perfectly, but he signed with Atlanta.

With the acquisition of Miguel Montero behind the plate, I would also look for the Cubs to try to deal Welington Castillo this off-season and sign David Ross to back up Montero given Lester’s familiarity with him and the fact that he’s played in and won a World Series. That’s the kind of presence you bring in to show the young guys what it’s like when Kevin Costner isn’t available to bring in.

It was a wild ride yesterday. We’ll see what today holds.

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Happy Jon Lester Day?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

There are a lot of rumors right now for the Cubs. Since nothing is official, we’ll just wait till they are.

  • Jon Lester decision down to the Cubs and the Giants with a resolution expected today or Wednesday at the latest. I still say he chooses Chicago.
  • Cubs are rumored to be involved in a deal to bring in Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks
  • Supposedly Jason Hammel is coming back, though terms have yet to be officially announced.

Discuss

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The Flat Bat Awards

Friday, December 5th, 2014

While 2014 continued the overall decline in power of recent seasons, it was something of a renaissance for bunting. In particular, Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon took advantage of their first full seasons of major league playing time to attempt 43 and 40 bunt hits, respectively. With their speed, that approach makes a lot of sense, and their .349 and .500 batting averages on those attempts demonstrates its effectiveness. However, both players fell short of the top 10 bunters based on batting average.

We give the Flat Bat Award every season to recognize the best bunter taking into consideration his bunts for hits and sacrifice bunts. Here are the batting average leaders on bunt-for-hit attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Bunt Hit Leaders
Name Bunt Hit Results Batting Average
Carlos Gomez, MIL 8 out of 11 .727
Denard Span, WAS 8 out of 11 .727
Jarrod Dyson, KC 9 out of 13 .692
Jean Segura, MIL 8 out of 12 .667
Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE-WAS 8 out of 12 .667
Brandon Guyer, TB 7 out of 11 .636
Alejandro De Aza, CWS-BAL 7 out of 11 .636
Leonys Martin, TEX 17 out of 27 .630
Erick Aybar, LAA 10 out of 16 .625
Junior Lake, CHC 6 out of 10 .600

 

You can make a compelling case that Dee Gordon’s 20-for-40 was more valuable to the Dodgers than Carlos Gomez’s and Denard Span’s 8 of 11 on bunt-for-hit attempts, but there is one bunter who renders that debate unnecessary. That is 2013 Flat Bat Award winner Leonys Martin. Martin secured 17 bunt hits on 27 attempts, which is just three hits fewer than Gordon in 13 fewer attempts.

Next, here are the most successful sacrifice bunters with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders
Name Sacrifice Bunt Results Percentage
Jean Segura, MIL 10 out of 10 100%
Brett Gardner, NYY 13 out of 14 93%
Shelby Miller, STL 13 out of 14 93%
Zack Wheeler, NYM 12 out of 13 92%
Mike Aviles, CLE 11 out of 12 92%
Tanner Roark, WAS 11 out of 12 92%
Aaron Harang, ATL 9 out of 10 90%
Stephen Strasburg, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Doug Fister, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Jose Ramirez, CLE 13 out of 15 87%
Johnny Cueto, CIN 12 out of 14 86%

 

There is not much overlap with the two lists as most of the best sacrifice bunters from 2014 were pitchers. The one player who is on both lists, Jean Segura, happens to be the only player with 10 or more sacrifice attempts and a 100 percent success rate on those attempts.

As efficient as Segura was as both a sacrifice bunter and a bunt hitter, his eight bunt hits are fewer than half of Martin’s total. Meanwhile, Martin fell short of the sacrifice bunt leaderboard, but he did succeed on 7 of his 10 sacrifice attempts. His bunt-for-hit prowess is more than enough to bridge that gap, and that’s why Leonys Martin wins his second consecutive Flat Bat Award.

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

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What the Release of Wesley Wright Means for the 2015 Bullpen

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

 

We talked about the December 2nd date when we ran the post about key off-season dates. It’s important when it comes to roster construction because it’s the last day where clubs can release a player who is due arbitration and not be on the hook for paying him any further. It’s also important because at the conclusion of the winter meetings is the Rule 5 draft. In order to select a player in that draft, a spot must be available for him on the 40 man roster. That’s where the pruning aspect of December 2 is important.

The Cubs had 10 players who they had to make a decision on and the most intriguing name that was being debated was Travis Wood. I posted on Twitter that I felt Wood was worth tendering given the low cost and potential high reward. The Cubs did exactly that, tendering Wood and seven others a contract for 2015. The full list reads:

There were two players that were non-tendered late Tuesday night. Wesley Wright and John Baker were both informed that they were not returning, which instantly makes them free agents.

Someone expressed concern on Twitter about the release of Wright, saying that it leaves the Cubs without a lefty in the pen. Keep in mind that Zac Rosscup, Joe Ortiz, Doubront, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Eric Jokisch are all left handed and are all on the current 40 man roster, which now sits at 37. Wada and Doubront figure to at least get a look at one of the back end rotation spots, and I’m sure Jokisch will probably remain in Iowa in the rotation. That leaves Rosscup and Ortiz, who I think both have potential.

Rosscup got some time last season and didn’t post particularly good numbers with the big club, but reliever ERA’s can be decieving and his is due in part to a six run outing in August in which he failed to record an out. When you only 13 innings total and give up a six spot in one outing, you’re going to see an inflated ERA. He pitched much better in the month of September. While I don’t think he’s the automatic heir to the spot opened up in the pen, he should be considered one of the potential options.

Ortiz is another interesting name. He was selected off of waivers in October from the Rangers. He didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2014, but in his time in the minors, Ortiz has posted 31 saves and an ERA of 2.44 in 217 minor league appearances. He’s still under 25, so there is potential there as well.

Another name that has been mentioned is Andrew Miller, and I think that name becomes more of a possibility given the release of Wright. Granted Wright wasn’t all that effective against lefties, but it’s hard to just rid yourself of one of the only lefties with experience if you do not have another plan in mind. I think Miller may be that option that they are considering and may feel confident about.

All in all, I’m not worried about the lefty guy in the pen. It will sort itself out.

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Mark Buehrle – One of the Most Durable Pitchers of All Time

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Christy Mathewson. And Mark Buehrle. That’s an amazing list. How does Mark Buerhrle get on that list?

In recent years, baseball has moved more and more toward specialization. In the early 1900s, starters would routinely finish the games they started, often throwing every fourth day. Cy Young, the pitcher perhaps most famous for his rubber arm, topped 40 starts and 400 innings in multiple seasons. Now, the league leader in innings barely eclipses half of that total.

That’s what makes Mark Buehrle such an incredible pitcher. He has two no-hitters to his credit, but he is not known as a dominant pitcher. His 3.81 career ERA is definitely solid, but he has only received Cy Young votes in one of his 15 years in the majors. He just keeps his team in every game he pitches, game after game after game. Buehrle is a throwback to those early days of baseball. He never misses any time, which is why he has started at least 30 games for 14 consecutive seasons.

We know that Buehrle stands out among his contemporaries, but where does he stack up compared to pitchers like Cy Young through the entire history of baseball?

Most Consecutive Seasons with 30+ Starts
Pitcher Streak (Years) Time Frame
Cy Young 19 1891-1909
Warren Spahn 17 1947-1963
Gaylord Perry 15 1966-1980
Christy Mathewson 14 1901-1914
Mark Buehrle 14 2001-2014
Greg Maddux 13 1996-2008
Livan Hernandez 13 1998-2010
Steve Carlton 13 1968-1980
Phil Niekro 13 1968-1980
Tom Seaver 13 1967-1979
Mickey Lolich 13 1964-1976

 

It’s no surprise to see Young in the top spot with 19 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. However, it looks like the expansion era of the 1960s is even more popular than the turn of the previous century. Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, and Mickey Lolich—6 of the 11 starters with at least 13 consecutive 30-start seasons—all touched the 1960s during their streaks. Livan Hernandez and Greg Maddux are the only starters besides Buehrle from the current era who made the list, although Maddux’s teammate Tom Glavine was one of three starters who just missed with 12 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, but for the 1994 work stoppage that limited Maddux and Glavine to 25 starts each, they may well have ended up with incredible streaks of 21 seasons (1988-2008) and 18 seasons (1990-2007), respectively.

Buehrle is already tied for fourth place in MLB history with his 14 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Buehrle is still just 35 years old and is showing no decline in performance. He has half a decade to go to reach Young, but it’s not inconceivable that he could reach that total, especially since he does not rely on big velocity to be effective. If he does break the record, it will be in 2020 when Buehrle is 41 years old.

I had my idea for this topic because of a fascinating article Bill James recently wrote on Rotation Emperors, which you can read with a subscription to Bill James Online. Rather than look at pitchers on the season-level, Bill looks at consecutive-start streaks. On that list, Buehrle became the current Rotation Emperor when Justin Verlander missed a start in late August of this season. Buehrle currently has 228 consecutive starts, which dates back to September of 2007.

What’s interesting is that Buehrle did not miss a start then because of an injury. Instead, manager Ozzie Guillen skipped Buehrle to allow rookie John Danks to get a start off the DL; the White Sox were well out of the race, so he was simply looking at his young pitcher to help plan for the 2008 season. That snapped a 224-game streak Buehrle had entering that rotation turn, which dated back to his sophomore season in 2001, his first season as a full-time starter. Had Buehrle’s streak not been snapped in 2007, his active streak would be 452 consecutive games. That would have been the longest streak, by far, of any pitcher Bill studied, going back to 1955 where Bill started his list! The player with the longest streak Bill studied was Jim Bunning, who had a streak of 337 consecutive starts end in 1968. That’s almost 50 years ago.

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

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10 Bold Predictions for 2014 – How Did I Do?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

At the beginning of the season, I made some predictions for what I thought would potentially happen. Obviously when you’re making bold predictions, you don’t expect all of them to come true. I find it funny that most people just crank these things out and no one usually goes back to see how they did. Today we’re going to do just that. Off we go.

1. Mike Olt will lead the team in home runs - OK, we’re off to a no so good start here. I didn’t think Olt was going to be a monster at the plate, though I hoped he would, but I didn’t expect him to struggle as much as he did. He said his eyesight was better and that it was the cause the year before for his struggles. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and Olt finished 5th on the team in home runs with 12, behind Anthony Rizzo (32), Luis Valbuena (16), Starlin Castro (14), and Welington Castillo (13).

At this point, I’m not really sure what the future holds for Olt. He’s generally dropped out of the discussion as a future building block, so now the question is what his role might actually be. I fear he may go the route of someone like Josh Vitters and just sort of fade off into the Cubs sunset. The one thing he has going for him this year and probably this year only, is that Kris Bryant won’t be called up immediately. He has a very small window of shared time at third base with Valbuena where he could impress. It may be his last shot.

2. Javier Baez will have started at least 15 games at shortstop for the Cubs by September 1. – While he only make five starts at shortstop before Sept 1, he did play basically the entire month of August, which was the point of the exercise here. My point was that Baez was going to be up and starting sooner than September 1 and I just figured it would be at shortstop.

3. Anthony Rizzo will finish in the top 10 for the NL MVP race - Had Rizzo not gone down for a period with an injury, he would have finished higher in the ballot. Nonetheless, it was announced the other day that he just squeeked out a win for me on this one with a 10th place finish in the NL MVP vote. That makes 2-for-3 so far.

4. Kyle Hendricks will make at least 10 starts for the Cubs - I knocked this one out of the park. 10 starts was a really bold prediction given that a starter, if healthy, only makes about 33-35 starts, and the fact that the Cubs had five guys pretty much locked into the rotation to start the year. Hendricks looked far better than I would have predicted, but I think we’ll see a strong regression to the mean in 2015 for him and he’ll settle in as a back end of the rotation guy. It’s tough to be more than that as a finesse pitcher, but maybe he’ll prove us wrong.

5. Pedro Strop will finish the season with more saves than Jose Veras - I feel bad taking a win on this one, but it is what it is. Strop finished the season with two saves and Veras had just one. Veras looked better pitching for Houston, but I’m fine with us releasing him when we did.

6. The bullpen will finish in the top 5 in the NL for ERA - It’s not a win for me on this one, but my point in the prediction was that this bullpen was going to be much improved. For a bullpen that finished 13th in 2013, an improvement to 8th is what I was going for. I can’t find a site that will allow for a double split to sort as a bullpen and month by month, but I would venture to guess that the pen was top five or just outside of it each month after Veras was released and Carlos Villanueva stopped getting in games as consistently late.

7. More than one player will represent the Cubs in the All Star game. - Nope. [UPDATE] I was told to give myself credit for this one. Rizzo was added by vote later. I don’t tend to count that spot, but I’ll take it.

8. Castro will be traded by the July 31 deadline and Darwin Barney will not.Got this one completely backward. I thought someone would want to trade for Castro and that the front office would make that deal. I also thought Barney had no value whatsoever. Instead, it’s Barney leaving and the Cubs receiving Jonathan Martinez in return.

9. People will quickly see why Arodys Vizcaino was considered a top prospect when he announces his presence with authority after being recalled from Iowa and becomes one of the top arms in the pen. – Boy, I really thought he was going to be huge for this pen. In fact, all spring training I predicted he would make the opening day roster. Instead, he was traded back to the Braves last week.

10. The Cubs will win 81 games in 2014 - I must have meant 2015.

Final Total – 5 out of 10

 

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