Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A working hypothesis about individual W/L stats

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Baseball cards have had stats on the back of them since the 1920s, and Topps made it a regular fixture with their first full set of baseball cards in 1952. For about as long, many baseball fans have paid far too much attention to the wrong kinds of stats. The problem is that it leads to faulty, misguided, and sometimes just wrong assumptions about a player or a team.

While there are several stats for both pitchers and hitters that deserve mention in this category, I’d like to focus on what I consider to be one of the worst offenders, the application  of individual W/L records to pitchers. How this stat has been attributed individually to pitchers for so long is hard to understand. Maybe I’m being a touch dramatic about it, but it seems strange that a statistic that is so clearly the product of factors beyond the pitcher’s control is still not only attached to that pitcher individually, but also still generally used to gauge the pitcher’s effectiveness. Many of us still talk about pitchers in terms of their W/L record, and consider 15-20 wins to be the standard for the game’s best. That needs to change.

While the pitcher plays a very large role in the game’s outcome, there are a multitude of smaller factors that add up to a much larger role in the game’s outcome. For instance, even in the NL, the pitcher has extraordinarily little, or none at all, to do with the offensive production of his team. Additionally, when a pitcher leaves a game, he relinquishes it to his bullpen. So, even in a time when he might have pitched extremely well, a pitcher can see a W transformed into a ND without being able to do a thing about it. Those two are the biggest elements, without even mentioning the quality of a team’s defense. Errors aside, a team’s defensive performance can make the difference in the number of runs allowed, and again, that often has very little to do with a pitcher. For instance, a player’s range in the field and/or arm strength can make the difference between a single and a double, a runner advancing, etc.

Instead of W/L, a pitcher is better measured by things like QS (Quality Starts), WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched), and FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)

I’d like to spend time on the more effective stats a bit later, but first let’s take a look at what I consider to be a fairly decent example of this. It highlights one of my favorite former Cubs pitchers (and hopefully future Cub pitcher in the 2015/2016 offseason), Jeff Samardzija.

If you take a look at Samardzija’s 2014 season, there are some interesting things to note. Generally, his individual performance during his time with the Cubs last season was very similar to his individual performance during his time with the Athletics.

While with the Cubs, he made 17 starts and pitched 108 innings. In that span, he gave up 99 hits and 34 earned runs. He struck out 103 batters and posted an ERA of 2.83. After being traded to Oakland on July 5, he made 16 starts, and pitched 111.2 innings. In that span, he gave up 92 hits, 39 earned runs, struck out 99 batters and had an ERA of 3.14. If you were to take a look at the rest of his numbers between the two teams during last year’s season, you would find that his performance stayed pretty consistent. Not only that, but if you examine his overall numbers during his years of playing with the Cubs (though some of this includes time spent shuttling between the bullpen and the rotation, as well as Iowa and Chicago), you will find that he has performed pretty consistently since his debut in 2008. 2009 and 2010 were rough years, for sure, but again, this involves fluctuations to his duties on the mound that were outside of his control.

With all of this considered, I think it is worthy to note that his W/L records are quite different between Chicago and Oakland, although the sample size is admittedly small. I will be curiously following his performance with the White Sox this season, to see if this bears out further. As a Cub in 2014, he was assigned a 2-7 win/loss record, and while in Oakland, a 5-6 record. Generally speaking, a 2-7 record communicates a very different message than a 5-6, not to mention that he moved to the American League, where it is usually considered more challenging for pitchers (i.e., while in Oakland, he gave up more runs, struck out fewer batters in more innings, and had a higher ERA.).

One of the more interesting differences during Samardzija’s 2014 season had nothing to do with his pitching. In his 17 starts with the Cubs, his offense scored 41 runs behind him, and they were shut out by the opposing pitcher on 5 of his starts. In his 16 starts in Oakland, his offense scored 76 runs and they were shut out just once when Samardzija was the pitcher. That alone is probably the largest reason for the difference in his win/loss percentage, and he has virtually nothing to do with it. I say “virtually” here because, yes, while in Chicago he was batting, but even there, he’s not expected to be a contribution to the offense.

In all, a pitcher putting forth roughly the same performance should yield roughly the same W/L, if W/L is a worthy stat for an individual pitcher. The problem is that it’s not. So here’s a brief look at three stats that I think give a much better sense for the job that a pitcher is doing:

Quality Starts (QS): This actually isn’t listed on Baseball Reference, but I think it should be, and possibly in place of the W/L totals. A quality start could be measured fairly easily, and still manage to encompass the spirit of the idea that W/L tries to capture. As a whole, it’s a measure of whether or not a starting pitcher has put his team in the best position possible to win the game. So, in order for a starting pitcher to have what I’d consider a “quality start,” they should pitch at least 6 innings. This means that they are allowing the role playing bullpen pitchers to do their jobs as they are intended. The 7th inning can be handled by one or two specialists, the 8th goes to the setup reliever, and then the 9th to the closer. Along with that the starting pitcher should allow no more than 3 earned runs during those 6 innings, and that includes possible runners left on base for a reliever to take care of after the starter leaves the game. Assuming that the relievers will do what they are expected to do, I think it’s reasonable to expect that even an average offense can manage 3 or 4 runs in a game. For example, Samardzija would have had 6 QS while in Chicago in 2014, and 6 more while in Oakland.

Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP): This is actually one of my favorite stats to watch for when looking at a pitcher. It plays off of the idea expressed in the QS stat, but it’s a closer look at how a pitcher does at keeping men off of base. If the offense has the job of getting on base by whatever means possible, then it should be the job of the best pitchers to keep that from happening. So a pitcher that can average fewer than 2 men on base in an inning (as Samardzija has done with relative ease nearly throughout his career, he has a 1.273 average in this stat), he is doing his job in this respect.

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP): This measures the ability of a pitcher to minimize the worst offenders like HR, HBP, and BB and to cause strikeouts, all measured as independently as possible of the defense that surrounds him. It’s perhaps the best measure out there that shows just how well a pitcher does at doing just his job. In 2014, Samardzija had his best season in this regard, excluding his 2008 performance, because it doesn’t encompass a full season in the majors.

Ultimately, in a time when advanced statistics are increasingly altering the way that we watch games and determine a player’s value, it’s surprising to see that some stats remain a part of the equation at all. Samardzija is just one example, but it’s likely that GMs across the league already know better than to gauge a pitcher based on W/L. If they did, I doubt that a pitcher who goes 2-7 in the first half of 2014 is a part of a trade that involves Addison Russell going to the other team.

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Five Random Predictions for the 2015 Chicago Cubs

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

As you can see from the myriad of posts around the blogosphere it is prediction season where Major League Baseball is concerned. Writers are cobbling together their thoughts on the upcoming season and the topics span just about everything under the sun.

Admittedly, over the past 4 years or so I could have cared less as to who would be the team MVP, most improved player, comeback player, or for that matter LVP (Least Valuable Player). The season was usually assumed to be over by May and predictions for a potential losing team are voiced to pass the time.

However, we seem to have the potential to not only compete this year, but some outlets have us contending (I think the contending talk is still crazy, but I guess a guy can hope!) This makes predictions a little weightier and more fun to write.

Anyhow, for the new and improved 2015 Chicago Cubs, I give you my predictions…..


Rizzo will get the Cubs WAR title, once again……

There are a few people who could win this title.  I have a real good feeling about Jorge Soler this season.  I am probably higher on him than any other player on this team.  The table is set for Jorge to explode on to the scene.  That being said, I don’t think he will overtake Rizzo.  Rizzo got the title last year with a 5.6 WAR and I think he needs to get up to 6.0 in 2015, which he will do, to grab this title again.In 2014 the closest to Rizzo was Jake Arietta with a 4.9 WAR.  The next closest position player was Castro with 2.9 WAR and then it goes down hill.

Along these lines, if I had to make a sub-prediction, I would say we have at least three more guys with a WAR above 3 for the position players.  Counting pitchers it could be four or even five, considering Lester is pretty much automatic for anything above a 3.5 WAR.

2015′s lineup is sure to be even better and that should help Mr. Rizzo.  All things considered, and barring injury, we should expect big things from Anthony this year, as he will have a full season with the likes of Baez and Soler hitting on either side of him….or possibly Mr Bryant????

Which brings us to……


Kris Bryant probably won’t get NL Rookie of the Year………

Okay, before we start rioting on my front steps, understand something, this years rookie class could be incredible.  If all goes as planned with Kris Bryant, and if Jorge Soler stays healthy, the Cubs could have two rookies in the top 5 this year for the NL and that will be really good.   I still think Bryant strikes out too much and I highly doubt that area of his game will just improve moving up a level, usually it goes the other way and weaknesses get exploited.

Plus the fact, this is my breakout year for Jorge Soler.  As a matter of fact, I think Soler gets ROY in the end, as he strikes out a bit less than Kris Bryant, and has a few weeks in the majors under his belt already. Bryant finishes about third on the list.  Not shabby at all!!

I am looking at guys like Joc Pederson, Archie Bradley, and possibly Yasmany Tomas out west as major contenders if no Cubs grab it.  Then again, it could be a pitcher like Noah Syndergaard, Jonathan Gray, or Andrew Heaney.  Everybody I mentioned here could be there at seasons end.


Jon Lester will be worth every penny……… 

If I had to choose among the free agent pitchers this past off-season, Lester and his contract get my vote.  The real comparison comes between Lester and Scherzer in reality, and considering Wrigley field and it’s dimensions, I will take the ground ball pitcher every time.  Scherzer, with the past benefit of pitching in a cavernous Tiger Stadium, is a bit more of a fly ball guy (Scherzer’s ground ball percentage = 38.8% vs. 46.8% for Lester) The difference between a few more ground balls and a few in the air at Wrigley could be the difference between saying, “Worth every penny!” and “Maybe we paid too much?”

Can you imagine how tough Lester will be in the cold with the wind blowing in? He could start off 6-0! Okay maybe 5-1.  Plus, the transition from A.L. to N.L. is usually a good thing for a pitcher.  Worth every penny, I say!!!!


The Cubs/Ricketts family will eventually own every rooftop surrounding Wrigley (eventually, maybe not all of them this year)…..

…and the Cubbieville neighborhood the Ricketts are trying to build and develop will be complete.  I have this vision that Wrigley, and quite possibly a square block around Wrigley, will become something close to an amusement park and in all honesty, I could care less.  What was once a quaint little neighborhood with a ballpark nestled in the middle turned into a gong show when businesses started monetizing the rooftop viewing perches that you now see. I remember the good old days when you knew a guy, that knew a guy, that lived in one of the Wrigleyville brownstones surrounding the ballpark.  The acquaintance got you on the roof and $15 bought you into a few kegs. Some dude was cooking hot dogs on a Smokey Joe in the corner and the buns might have had mold on them, don’t know and don’t care.  It was pure in so many ways and has since been bastardized.  The romance is gone!

I liken the current rooftop situation to eating at hooters, you do it once to say you did it, after that you realize there are better options.  The last two times I experienced a rooftop (both corporate affairs) I actually watched maybe 20 minutes of the game. I then sat inside in a loungey, swanky atmosphere (nothing says baseball like teak, dirty martini’s, and white leather) and watched the game on a flat screen TV with the other hundred or so people crammed into the third floor bar. I think maybe five people sat on the actual rooftop.

They should keep one rooftop open as an attraction in the new Cubbieville theme park, but they should rip out all the splashy stuff, throw a dude in a tank top and a bad tan up there and tap a keg.  The experience allows one to sit on a tar roof with a cold hotdog and a red solo cup of Old Style. The view is over the edge of the parapet, and I hope you are in the front row if you want to see the game!


Joe Maddon will do something entertaining……

The Cubs have ruined many a manager.  Similar to my Detroit Lions, the Cubs are the kind of place where managers careers go to die.  The only guy I can think of in the last 30 or so years, that managed a team for an extended amount of time past his tenure with the Cubs, is Dusty Baker.  Find me an ex-Lions head coach who was a head coach after the Lions?  None! Nada! Cubs are the same running joke.

I sort of feel like Maddon is just crazy enough to do it.  Some will say a manager has little influence over the outcome of a game, those who believe this are also people who never followed a team that had a good manager.  It is quite possible that the manager can only effect a small bit of minutia within the game, but they can have a deep effect on the season as a whole.

Joey Madds has been known to do some wiley stuff, he will do something to give the writers something to write about, mark my words!  His season opening comments thus far have been warmup.  I can just see it now, Joe Maddon walking a goat into the stadium on opening day, or maybe he is caught stroking a black cat in the dugout?


Okay, so that’s it for ridiculous predictions from me, what do you have? Sound off in the comments and maybe we can keep a running total of crazy predictions throughout the season and see who wins.






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The Most Overrated Teams in Baseball

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

At the start of spring training every year, two big questions cycle through baseball media: First, who won the offseason? Second, what teams are contenders in the coming season? These lists tend to have a significant overlap. Inevitably, certain teams look quite overrated by mid-season. These are the three teams that I think are the most overrated heading into spring training.

San Diego Padres

Overrated By: Traditional baseball media.

Reason the Padres Are Overrated: The sum of their new pieces is less than their parts.

The Padres were probably the most active team in baseball this off season, making numerous trades before concluding the winter by signing starting pitcher James Shields to a 4 year deal. Individually, I liked some of these trades. I thought both the Wil Myers and Justin Upton trades were good ones. To me, though, the Matt Kemp trade is going to cause the Padres a lot of trouble, and I don’t think the Padres will get the value out of Shields that a team that doesn’t play half its games in Petco would.

Kemp can still hit, as he showed in the back half of last season, but should be left field only these days, if he should be playing the outfield at all. Considering Kemp’s negative defensive value, I thought the Padres vastly overpaid for Kemp. At their current contracts, including the amount of Kemp’s contract that Dodgers are covering, I would not have traded Yasmani Grandal, a young catcher with excellent receiving and on base skills, straight up for Kemp. Despite my belief the Padres overpaid for Kemp, had they JUST traded for him and Myers, they could have hid Kemp in left field and it would have been an overall offensive upgrade.

Then, however, the Padres signed Justin Upton, another left field only player. Reports indicate that the Padres intend on playing Upton in left, Myers in center, and Kemp in right. That is going to be an epically terrible defensive outfield playing in one of the most spacious outfields in baseball. It will also put two players who have been injury prone, Myers and Kemp, in situations where they will be more likely to get injured because they will be playing more demanding positions. The Padres could fix this by convincing Kemp to play first base and using a combination of Cameron Maybin and Wil Venable in center, but they don’t seem inclined to do this.

On Shields, my one question is if the Padres, who are able to turn a host of mediocre pitchers into guys with results that make them look like solid number 2 starters because of their home park, should spend money on free agent pitching. I have no issue with the length or dollars in the Shields contract, but just don’t know how much better his numbers will be in Petco. Clearly, if he ends up with an ERA in the low 2s with the move to the NL West and Petco, it will be a great move independent of any advantage Petco delivers.

I just have a feeling that outfield defense is just going to hurt the Padres too much, and they’ll hover around .500, which would be a huge disappointment considering the hype around the Padres seems to have them hanging with the Dodgers at the top of NL West.

Chicago White Sox

Overrated by: Traditional baseball media.

Reason the White Sox Are Overrated: Lack of depth.

I’ll admit it: I have loved what the White Sox have done since Rick Hahn became their GM following the 2012 season. In two short seasons, he’s improved the MLB product while getting rid of dead money on overpriced players and improving the farm system. And I really liked the White Sox’s moves this off season. It made the South Siders more competitive this year while not giving up any prospects who project as above average regulars. I even kind of liked the David Robertson signing, despite the fact that I pretty much never like giving big multi-year deals to relievers. The White Sox desperately needed a bullpen upgrade, and Robertson was the best reliever available with a significant track record of success.

But I just think the team is too shallow to really hang with the Royals, Tigers, and Indians for a full season. They could get essentially no value from at least second and third base, and I’m not an Avisail Garcia believer in right field either, although Garcia is definitely young enough to surprise me with some good health.

They just need so much good health, though. They don’t have good enough replacements if Adam Eaton or Melky Cabrera go down. While the front 3 pitchers in their rotation, Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana, are among the best front 3 starting groups in baseball, it’s not clear they have decent 4/5 starters, much less anyone who could fill in if one of those top 3 guys miss significant time on the DL, if Carlos Rodon isn’t ready for a starting pitcher’s workload.

The White Sox are definitely moving in the right direction, but in a tough division I see them winning just shy of 80 games, and not truly contending in 2015.

Chicago Cubs

Overrated by: Segments of the fandom.

Reason the Cubs are Overrated: Expecting too much from young players.

And here we are. Cubs fans are rightly excited for the 2015 season. Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta were two of the best players in the NL in 2014. Starlin Castro returned to his career norms as a very good offensive shortstop, and perhaps a bit beyond them in the power department. Jorge Soler had a solid debut in September. The bullpen looks as well setup as anyone to be awesome. The Cubs signed Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to shore up the rotation, and vastly improved the receiving skills of their catchers. They traded for Dexter Fowler, who should put up the best numbers for a Cubs leadoff hitter since Kenny Lofton’s half season with the Cubs in 2003. The waves of young position players coming to Wrigley has begun, with uber hitting prospect Kris Bryant likely to debut at the Friendly Confines in 2015.

I expect the Cubs to be significantly improved in 2015, with a prediction of an 82 win season. But I have seen a lot of Cubs fans (significantly less so at this site than others) with playoff dreams in their comments. And I by no means want to discourage that sort of excitement, but for the Cubs to be a playoff team in 2015 a lot has to go right with a high percentage of Bryant, Soler, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Arismendy Alcantara. That just can’t be predicted at this juncture.

However, I do feel my prediction on the Cubs are subject to the widest error bars of these three teams without a surprisingly high number of injuries or a big time mid-season trade occurring. That’s a good news/bad news scenario because it means I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs won 90 games this season and made the playoffs, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs lost 90.

Unsurprisingly, if you peek around at the “who won the off season” lists, you’ll see these three teams at the top. Which is a solid reminder that, to win the off season, odds are you had a lot of holes to fill and might not be that good despite spending a boatload of money or trading a lot of prospects.

One side note: Within a few days of my late piece on my view on baseball’s demographics issue posting here, Andrew McCutchen, arguably both the best current African American player and player who grew up poor in America, on a very similar issue, which can be found here and I feel is worth a read:

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Early Predictions on the Cubs 1st Round Draft Pick

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Two weekends into the 2015 college baseball season, the stars of the collegiate realm are already separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson is living up to the billing as the projected top pick on June 8th, while Virginia’s Nathan Kirby and Michael Matuella have shown the polished arms that have scouts clamoring. Swanson, Matuella and Brady Aiken will likely be long gone by the time the Cubs’ pick, though the season is still in its infancy. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been difficult to predict thus far, and any guess as to what the brain trust will do next is just that: a guess. It is never too early to explore the options that they may be considering, though. With the ninth pick in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Chicago Cubs select…

The Draft Board Riser:
By this point in the Epstein-Hoyer tenure, fans should have figured out the organization’s affinity for shortstops. Shortstops by nature are the most athletic players on the field, and are capable of moving around if the need presents itself. Florida’s Richie Martin has undoubtedly caught the eye of Cubs’ scouts. Two weeks into the college baseball season, Martin has been dynamic. Smooth defense and quick reactions have been a stabilizing force for the Gators’ young infield, and he has displayed the ability to hit in the top third of the lineup against stiff competition. Martin is projected to be a mid-to-late first rounder, but as offense continues to improve with the new ball being used in the college ranks, pitching stock may fall slightly.

The Under Slot Option: Some love for Cincinnati’s Ian Happ seems long overdue. The junior outfielder has been the heart of the Bearcats’ lineup almost since day one. Cincinnati does not play in the toughest conference, so it could be argued that Happ has spent the last several seasons beating up weak competition. The issue there is that Happ flat out destroyed pitchers in the two seasons he spent on the Cape, being named to the All-Star game each season. Happ has the ability to hit from both sides of the plate, though he looks to have a future from the left side. Happ has shown the ability to swipe bases at a high level, and his bat has projectable pop. Kyle Schwarber’s stock in the 2014 Draft sat in the mid-to-late first round range, largely because of uncertainty as to where he fit in defensively. Happ recently transitioned to the outfield, and the verdict is still out on how that experiment will pan out. Happ could be the 2015 version of Schwarber if a team is willing to look past the defensive question marks.

The High Risk, High Reward: As is often the case, the player with arguably the most potential is the one with the lowest floor. 2015 UCLA commit Justin Hooper could end up nearly anywhere in the first few rounds, from the top 3 range to a competitive balance selection. He has the fastball of 2014 Marlins’ selection Tyler Kolek, with the control of the 2014 Diamondbacks’ pick, Touki Touissant. In other words, Hooper’s heater is a blur, but at times he can’t throw a rock into the ocean. At the Perfect Game Showcase at Wrigley this past summer, Hooper’s secondary pitches looked flat and hittable, while his fastball sat between 94-96. Scouts think his fastball can increase in velocity, as he grows into his huge 6’7” frame. His size allows him to throw with a considerable downward plane. If Hooper can improve his breaking stuff, and develop average secondary pitches, his fastball will carry him. The Cubs do not have a farm hand similar to Hooper, though a Nate Eovaldi comparison down the road might not be a stretch.

The Signability Risk: To preface, there is little, if any, talk among scouts that Kolby Allard will not sign with a club in the 2015 Draft. If he decides to attend UCLA, though, where he is currently committed, he has the potential to be the first name off the board following his junior season. His fastball has been clocked at 96, and unlike some of the other high school arms, his breaking pitches look deceptive and polished. Russell was named a 2014 Perfect Game Underclassmen Honorable Mention in 2014, following an Honorable Mention in 2013. If he can be lured away from the Bruins, he would be quite a coupe for the Cubs. The opportunity to play on a deep PAC 12 team with Omaha aspirations, followed by a possible top selection, could force a team in the Cubs’ position to go over slot. He is a much safer bet than any other high school pitcher in the class, it will be interesting to see how much his relatively small size (6’2”, 175 according Perfect Game) will play in going forward.

The Prediction: 2015 is shaping up to be a tremendous year for pitching, with a seemingly endless list of possible future mid-rotation starters. What the class does not have is superstar arms, outside of the top 5 picks. Kirby and Kyle Funkhouser are very safe bets to have long Major League careers, but with so many solid draftable pitchers, taking a risk might be the smarter route. James Kaprielian or Justin Garza carry second or third round price tags and could allow the Cubs to take a risk with the ninth overall pick. With the ninth overall pick, the Cubs take Daz Cameron, or Albert Almora 2.0. Cameron’s ceiling is not clear, but there is little question that he is a five-tool player. He flashed some of everything in his Perfect Game Showing at Wrigley, when he made a spectacular diving catch, had a hard single and a stolen base, and displayed a strong throwing arm. Cameron comes from athletic bloodlines, as his father Mike had a career spanning three decades. The Cubs have shown their love for athleticism, and if past drafts are any indication, they will stick with the methodology that has worked well to this point.

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GirlieView (02/19/2015)

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2014-2015 Offseason = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.


  • Joe can we start looking at the best seasons? This is getting depressing. Better days are soon to come.
  • I’m looking forward to the Top 10 Worse Carlos Seasons as a Cub.
  • How about top 10 worst ways to pass the time until there is real baseball to talk about?
  • I know that this list is supposed to cover all offensive categories…but Kessinger managing only 14 doubles and 32 RBI in 707 PA’s has to be one of the worst things I’ve seen since ever.
  • Probably why he decided to become Secretary of State.
  • So how does a guy like the beloved Don Kessinger keep his job into 1969 after turning in 3 of the worst short stop seasons in Cubdom history? In 65, 67 and 68 Kessinger stunk it up yet he was a Cubs star. Seymour, what does Don order at the Subway?
  • Cold cut combo.
  • I’ll tell you how. Because back then nobody kept spreadsheets on these stats so nobody knew how badly he stunk. Guys like Dork were too busy playing Strato-Matic baseball in the basement to notice. Guys like your dad listened to the game on the radio; read the box score in the paper the next day, and forgot about it and started over at 1:20 that afternoon.
  • I believe that back then all they allowed the spreadsheet guys was paper and pencils, anything more and who knows what would have happened.
  • There was a time when SS was considered a defensive position. I have a feeling if stats such as dWAR (am I using that right Noah?) were kept then, you would see Don as an asset.
  • Good call. Slap a mullet on the guy and run him out there with Theriot or Fontenot.
  • My cousin, whose last name was Kissinger started a Don Kessinger fan club in our back shed. She and my older brother were the only two in the club.
  • Seymour hit .087 at camp and he hasn’t been the same since, toasted salami combo and all.
  • That is worse than Kissinger… was it unluckily low BABIP or did they crank the Jugs machine to 70?
  • I would expect Seymour to bounce back in 2016. His BABIP took a dip suggesting cans of corn hit right at the 72 year old accountant in Left Center. Camp rule is a 4 man outfield but since no one has their original hips there isn’t a whole lot of range in the outfield. But if you hit a can of corn right at someone you can figure it will be caught…………most of the time.
  • I have to say it is a pretty nice community. Lots of characters, but pretty nice.
  • It’s almost like a family.
  • If we all had a reunion we could have fist fights and be exactly like a family.
  • I’ll be the guy getting after the box of wine.
  • To go with your happy meal out of a box.
  • On a personal note my son, Jr Raker, won the state championship with his Bantam (14U) AAA Jr Ducks hockey team. The team has earned the right to compete at the regional championships in early March. If we win at regionals we go to nationals which would be a big deal.
  • There’s a reasonable chance that Shields turned down more money from the Cardinals to go to the Padres, which in its own right would be an awesome story.
  • Ugh. We should get back to platoons.
  • I thought Swanson made TV dinners, not soap boxes….
  • Uh, nope. Never made soap nor TV dinners. I’m the assistant manager at Orange Julius, which is basically like general manager, but with better hours.
  • probably better than Sunglass Hut owner [or] cardiologist franchise sandwich shop groupie
  • Orange Julius…cool. My future plans involve managing a Cinnabon in Omaha. Small world.
  • In a minor stunner, I agree with Raker.
  • Twice in one week! What is happening?


  • Those of us who actually need [cell phones], don’t want one.

Shout Outs

  • No one had their very first 2014/2015 off-season Lizzie this time so let’s have a shout out for everyone! Thanks for being here!


  • Congratulations to Seymour Butts, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go Seymour!

Top 10 of the 2014-2015 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie Von White
2. jswanson
3. Doc Raker
4. Seymour Butts
5. Doug S.
6. Dork
6. Noah Eisner
8. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Jedi
10. cap’n realist
10. Joe Aiello
10. SBardo

Chit Chat

We probably won’t be going to Wrigley this year but I’m very excited to see the Class A South Bend Cubs, hopefully multiple times. I love minor league baseball! Do you plan to attend any Cubs games live and in person this year?

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Why I Want the Cubs to Keep Travis Wood

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

It’s been awhile since I got up on my soap box, but since spring training is about here, it’s time. Pitchers and catchers report to camp this Friday. All throughout the off-season, we’ve heard rumors that both Travis Wood and Welington Castillo could be on their way out via trade prior to the start of spring or, at the latest, prior to opening day. That idea, assuming the return is marginal given the reason for the deal, does not excite me. I’d rather see the Cubs keep both and I’ll tell you why over two posts, starting with Wood.

I must preface this by letting you know that Wood is my favorite player. Maybe I just have a thing for good Wood, as Kerry Wood was one of my favorites as well. Nonetheless, I have not been able to wrap my hand around the fact that people are just writing him off. Some even suggested that he was a candidate to be outright released rather than negotiate a one year deal or go to arbitration. That’s crazy to me. When you look at his 2014 numbers, I’ll admit, they aren’t impressive. However, maybe there is more than meets the eye.

2010 23 CIN 3.51 17 17 102.2 9 3.42 1.081 7.5 0.8 2.3 7.5 3.31
2011 24 CIN 4.84 22 18 106.0 10 4.06 1.491 10.0 0.8 3.4 6.5 1.90
2012 25 CHC 4.27 26 26 156.0 25 4.85 1.199 7.7 1.4 3.1 6.9 2.20
2013 ★ 26 CHC 3.11 32 32 200.0 18 3.89 1.145 7.3 0.8 3.0 6.5 2.18
2014 27 CHC 5.03 31 31 173.2 20 4.38 1.532 9.8 1.0 3.9 7.6 1.92

What I notice when I look at those numbers is a guy who had a wonderful year in 2013 as part of a continuing development and then probably got out a little over his skis and regressed a little in 2014. Do I think he’s the pitcher he was in 2013? No, I don’t, but I also don’t think he’s the pitcher from 2014. I think a more proper comp would be something a little better than 2012 and I’m happy with with.

I wanted to look to see if there were things he was doing differently that may explain the change. By now means am I a pitching expert, but I can make simple observations like this one:

What you can see there, if you compare the performance trend in his stats table with the pitch usage trend in that table, is a downward trend of the fastball usage and then a sharp spike again in 2014. Slider usage was also increasing only to see a sharp decline in 2014.

That got me wondering why he suddenly abandoned the plan of attack and reverted back to the usage on the fastball. What I found was interesting.

In 2014, hitters posted a slash line of .240 / .343 / .392 when he used his fastball. There wasn’t much of an increase on the batting average compared to 2013, but the OBP increased from .297 in 2013. He may not have been locating his fastball as effectively in 2014, but overall it didn’t show a horrible regression when it comes to effectiveness.

The slider, on the other hand, was a completely different story all together. Take a look at the comparison between 2012, 2013 and 2014 in slash line for the slider.

2012 – .159 / .172 / .286

2013 – .162 / .203 / .324

2014 – .306 / .323 / .629

Something happened in 2014 to that slider that caused hitters to not only recognize it, but to tee off on it compared to years past. I don’t know what it is, but if I’m Chris Bosio, I’m going through mountains of film to see if something was altered that caused the pitch to be tipped. If fixing Wood is as easy as identifying a flaw in the delivery that is causing his most effective pitch to leave him, then to give up on him would be ludicrous. 28 year old lefties with good stuff don’t grow on trees. He needs to be part of this rotation.

I believe Wood can be fixed and I believe it comes with figuring out that slider. I’ll be back on Friday with why I want Castillo to be a part of this team as well.

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Contest: Predict the Cubs Opening Day Roster

Monday, February 16th, 2015

In case you were not aware of it, the start of spring training is just a few days away. Because of that, I decided we should run a contest. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to predict the Cubs opening day roster as accurately as possible. To give you some frame of reference, I’ve included the current 40 man roster as well as the non-roster invitees below. Remember that in order to make it as a non-roster invitee, you’re going to need to take someone’s place on the 40 man roster.

The winner of the contest will receive a shiny new copy of Out of the Park Baseball 16, which comes fully licensed by MLB for the first time ever. It’s a wonderful game and really cool prize.

To enter the contest, send your 25 names along with a tiebreaker answer to the question “How many games will the Cubs win in Spring Training” to Entries left in the comment section will not be counted.

Good Luck

Chicago Cubs Active Roster
# Pitchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
49 Jake Arrieta R-R 6’4″ 225 Mar 6, 1986
32 Dallas Beeler R-R 6’5″ 210 Jun 12, 1989
66 Drake Britton L-L 6’2″ 215 May 22, 1989
22 Felix Doubront L-L 6’2″ 225 Oct 23, 1987
79 C.J. Edwards R-R 6’2″ 155 Sep 3, 1991
52 Justin Grimm R-R 6’3″ 210 Aug 16, 1988
39 Jason Hammel R-R 6’6″ 225 Sep 2, 1982
28 Kyle Hendricks R-R 6’3″ 190 Dec 7, 1989
36 Edwin Jackson R-R 6’3″ 210 Sep 9, 1983
43 Eric Jokisch R-L 6’2″ 185 Jul 29, 1989
34 Jon Lester L-L 6’4″ 240 Jan 7, 1984
30 Jason Motte R-R 6’0″ 205 Jun 22, 1982
60 Joseph Ortiz L-L 5’7″ 175 Aug 13, 1990
50 Blake Parker R-R 6’3″ 225 Jun 19, 1985
54 Neil Ramirez R-R 6’4″ 190 May 25, 1989
56 Hector Rondon R-R 6’3″ 180 Feb 26, 1988
59 Zac Rosscup R-L 6’2″ 205 Jun 9, 1988
63 Brian Schlitter R-R 6’5″ 235 Dec 21, 1985
46 Pedro Strop R-R 6’1″ 220 Jun 13, 1985
38 Jacob Turner R-R 6’5″ 215 May 21, 1991
18 Tsuyoshi Wada L-L 5’11″ 180 Feb 21, 1981
37 Travis Wood R-L 5’11″ 175 Feb 6, 1987
# Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
5 Welington Castillo R-R 5’10″ 210 Apr 24, 1987
51 Rafael Lopez L-R 5’9″ 190 Oct 2, 1987
47 Miguel Montero L-R 5’11″ 210 Jul 9, 1983
3 David Ross R-R 6’2″ 230 Mar 19, 1977
# Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
7 Arismendy Alcantara S-R 5’10″ 170 Oct 29, 1991
9 Javier Baez R-R 6’0″ 190 Dec 1, 1992
13 Starlin Castro R-R 6’0″ 190 Mar 24, 1990
11 Tommy La Stella L-R 5’11″ 185 Jan 31, 1989
20 Mike Olt R-R 6’2″ 210 Aug 27, 1988
44 Anthony Rizzo L-L 6’3″ 240 Aug 8, 1989
61 Christian Villanueva R-R 5’11″ 210 Jun 19, 1991
# Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
8 Chris Coghlan L-R 6’0″ 195 Jun 18, 1985
15 Chris Denorfia R-R 6’0″ 195 Jul 15, 1980
24 Dexter Fowler S-R 6’4″ 190 Mar 22, 1986
21 Junior Lake R-R 6’3″ 215 Mar 27, 1990
68 Jorge Soler R-R 6’4″ 215 Feb 25, 1992
6 Ryan Sweeney L-L 6’4″ 225 Feb 20, 1985
41 Matt Szczur R-R 6’1″ 195 Jul 20, 1989


Chicago Cubs Non-Roster Invitees
# Pitchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
55 Daniel Bard R-R 6’4″ 215 Jun 25, 1985
82 Corey Black R-R 5’11″ 175 Aug 4, 1991
48 Francisley Bueno L-L 5’11″ 205 Mar 5, 1981
73 Anthony Carter L-R 6’4″ 215 Apr 4, 1986
71 Hunter Cervenka L-L 6’1″ 215 Jan 3, 1990
72 Jorge De Leon R-R 6’0″ 185 Aug 15, 1987
Gonzalez Germen R-R 6’1″ 200 Sep 23, 1987
80 Pierce Johnson R-R 6’3″ 170 May 10, 1991
81 Armando Rivero R-R 6’4″ 190 Feb 1, 1988
62 Donn Roach R-R 6’0″ 195 Dec 14, 1989
# Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
74 Kyle Schwarber L-R 6’0″ 235 Mar 5, 1993
12 Taylor Teagarden R-R 6’0″ 210 Dec 21, 1983
# Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
76 Kris Bryant R-R 6’5″ 215 Jan 4, 1992
19 Jonathan Herrera S-R 5’9″ 180 Nov 3, 1984
75 Addison Russell R-R 6’0″ 195 Jan 23, 1994
16 Chris Valaika R-R 5’11″ 205 Aug 14, 1985
45 Logan Watkins L-R 5’11″ 195 Aug 29, 1989
# Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
78 Albert Almora R-R 6’2″ 180 Apr 16, 1994
33 Mike Baxter L-R 6’0″ 205 Dec 7, 1984
40 Adron Chambers L-L 5’10″ 200 Oct 8, 1986
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Why Javier Baez Needs to Start 2015 in AAA

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

If you’ve followed the 2014/2015 Cubs off-season even a little bit, then you know that there is great reason to be rather excited about what the 2015 season has to offer. At least as in comparison to nearly every season since 2008. One of the most exciting reasons to look forward to April 5 is the vast infusion of young talent that our roster is going to contain. We saw a snapshot of that in the last month or so of 2014, and no serious Cubs fan would deny that it didn’t make the early fall a lot more interesting than it has been in a long time. Easily one of the more engaging stories of the end of last season and heading into this season is the growth of Javier Baez. While we saw a disturbingly high K rate, there were also great flashes of excitement and the potential for immense middle infield power like you don’t see very often. So, as much as we might not want it, I think we should prepare ourselves for a Baez-less April, and maybe even May. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t see him back in the show until around Mother’s Day. Here’s why:

1. The strikeouts

This is the obvious and easy reason, of course, but the lineup that the Cubs are likely to use for 2015 is already going to strike out a lot as a whole. There are at least five guys who struck out over 20% of the time in 2014 (Arismendy Alcantara, Baez, Welington Castillo, Junior Lake, and Mike Olt). Granted, Olt is not likely to start much after Kris Bryant takes over at 3B at around the same time that Baez makes his return to Chicago (Heck, bring them both up at the same time. When the bleachers are done.), but Bryant still strikes out over 20% of the time. In nearly 600 PAs between Tennessee and Iowa last year, he had a 27% K rate. No one, other than Olt, comes very close to Baez and his 41% K Rate during his time in Chicago in 2014, however. Taking into account his time in Iowa last season, Baez was still at about 30% there, and 34% for the season overall. So, if we pretend that he can reduce his strikeouts by about 5% (from his 2014 average at both levels of 34%), that’s somewhere around 25-30 fewer strikeouts in a season, and could also keep him just below the 200 strikeout threshold. I love his power, but I just don’t want my second baseman to be Adam Dunn.

2. Impatience

In his 229 plate appearances with the Cubs in 2014, he walked just 15 times, but more importantly, saw more than six pitches in just 14 of those plate appearances. By comparison, he saw 3 or fewer pitches in 86 of those plate appearances. And, if you want to see something truly unsettling, look at the number of plate appearances in which he saw just one pitch. I don’t have to tell you that his OBP is paltry, and that his OPS seems like a bad joke. The point is, he’s epitomizing the “strike out or hit a home run” guy, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. At his 2014 rate, he could flirt with 300 strikeouts. Obviously, in a full major league season, he’s not likely to strike out 41% of the time, but even with a slight reduction, he’s still looking at around 250 strikeouts in a full season. He projects to be a 25-30 HR per season hitter (or even more than that), which is pretty exciting in a middle infielder, but his offensive output otherwise potentially negates that power that he brings to the table.

So, with all of that said, it might seem like I’m ready to write Baez off. After all, his general contribution offensively isn’t that pretty. However, I’d like to offer two pretty simple reasons why he’s ultimately the future at 2B for the Cubs:

1. He plays Second Base

Well, duh, right? But think about it: that spot has been a rotating door/black hole since what, Ryne Sandberg? (Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you, Mark DeRosa, but your time here was just too short. *sniff*) How many more Mike Fontenot / Darwin Barney types do you want to see? Baez does have the bonus of being pretty equally proficient at both middle infield positions (he actually spent 45 more innings in 2014 at SS than he did at 2B, and with roughly the same defensive performance), but it’s no secret that the depth chart at SS organizationally for the Cubs is something to be envied across the league. If Baez can turn his K/BB rate in the right direction, the infield that the Cubs will have for many years to come (Anthony Rizzo, Baez, Starlin Castro / Addison Russell, Bryant) is enough to set your heart aflutter.

2. He’s really, really young

Baez was barely drinking age when he made his debut last August. Since his debut in the minors, he has been at least two years younger than the average age of the players around him. Typically, we wouldn’t be seeing a player like Baez in the majors so quickly. More often than not, a player of his age would still be working his way through high A or AA, not the majors. He’s not likely to peak as a player for another 5 or 6 years, given that the average player has his best years at age 26 or 27. (In that vein, we may not see the best of Castro for another 2-3 years. Think about that.) With this in mind, he has time to spare in terms of his days in the majors. Six weeks or so in AAA at the beginning of this season would serve him well, and sending a player back to the minors after a struggle-filled late season debut is not without precedent (see: Mickey Mantle).

Ultimately, we are at just the beginning stages of what Baez has to offer, and the possibilities leave room for a great deal of patience on our part, and a willingness to let him work on some of his struggles in Iowa, and not in Chicago. However, the time is not even close to begin to write him off, or prepare to move on. Number 9 is the future at second base for this team, and I expect to see a few World Series rings on his fingers before he retires, but that’s another subject.

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Baseball’s Misunderstood Demographics Problem

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

My car has an odd feature on it where WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, gets a lot of static when my rear defroster is on. As such, on cold winter mornings I spend my brief drive to the train station flipping between ESPN Radio and the Score, typically deciding whether I can tolerate Mike & Mike talk about football generally or Mully and Hanley complain about the Bears particularly more. This morning, however, the Score featured a conversation about baseball, meaning Mully and Hanley won. Unfortunately, their topic of choice was how baseball fans are too old, so the game needs to be sped up to attract the young ‘uns.

There are legitimate reasons to institute things like a pitch clock. I’m not necessarily in favor of a pitch clock, but there are arguments to be made for it. However, I’m not writing about that today. Today, my focus turns to the misunderstood demographic problem in baseball.

Baseball has a demographic problem, although it’s not the one that everyone thinks it is: that the fans are too old. Nor, even if that was the real problem, is there any legitimate solution for 8 year olds not watching baseball games.

I, along with many of my peers, did not have cable in 1989. I turned 8 late that summer, and that was the first year I fell in love with the Cubs. I would get home from school or camp and catch the last few innings of the game, thankfully being unaware that a closer who walked nearly 6 batters per 9 innings was a bad thing. Of course, I essentially had no options of anything else to watch. I had 4 or 5 channels: it was baseball or bust. Sure, I had an NES, but I had either beaten all my games, or their status as Nintendo hard got me to give up on them.

Kids these days have more entertainment options than I could have imagined. Look, they’re just not going to choose turning on a live sporting event of any type over their iPad, or their Xbox, or Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.

And teams, including the Cubs, know this. The Cubs have been moving as many day games to night games as possible for nearly three decades because weekday day games just don’t draw the ratings they used to, or the ratings of night games.

Yet baseball is financially as healthy as ever. Team revenues and team values are skyrocketing. Teams that go on sale are being bought by very successful businessmen at these high values. These teams are not being bought with the idea that they will lose value 10 or 20 years down the line as the old guard of fans die out.

My inclination is that this misunderstanding comes from comparing baseball to football when, really, no sport should be compared to football. Football gets a massive boost from two things: First, each team plays only once a week, with the vast majority of them all playing on one day. This helped turn football Sundays into a social event, where friends and families will get together to just watch the game. No one is getting together on a Tuesday night to watch every baseball game on television.

Second, and even more importantly, fantasy football is by far the easiest fantasy sport to play. Whereas fantasy baseball and basketball remain relative niche endeavors that require daily attention, nearly everyone I know is in at least one fantasy football league involving a meaningful monetary award. Whereas baseball fandom remains regional, this has turned football fandom national. The Bears may have been terrible last season, but if I needed 18 points from DeMarco Murray on Monday night to win my fantasy matchup, you could bet that I’d be watching the Dallas Cowboys once my kids went to bed despite the fact that I don’t care about the Cowboys. Or really much anything from Dallas.

Baseball should be compared to basketball and hockey, and, on a fan basis, it’s doing just fine. Like basketball teams, good baseball teams generally draw strong attendance while poor teams don’t, with a few franchises buoyed by history and a few hampered by poor arenas.

Baseball’s actual demographic problem comes not from the fandom, though, but from the demographics of its best young players. Baseball is a very expensive sport, especially compared to basketball. A baseball field requires several times the space of a basketball court, and requires exponentially more maintenance.

Also, of all the major sports in the US, baseball is the one where pure athletic talent, size, strength and speed, isn’t enough to succeed. Sure, many of the greatest players, the Mike Trouts and Andrew McCutchens, are phenomenal athletes. But there are plenty of guys who are as big, strong, and fast as Trout and McCutchen that just can’t tell a slider in the dirt from a fastball on the outer third. This need to not just be a gifted athlete but to have advanced baseball skills to draw scouts’ attention has led many with MLB aspirations for their kids to obtain private lessons, or send their children to private schools with superior baseball programs.

Most often this has been cast as an issue of a the diminishing numbers of African American baseball players, but I think it’s a larger issue than that. For American kids and teenagers with legitimate aspirations to play either a college or professional sport, baseball has become a game for rich kids. While poor, athletically talented Dominican and Venezuelan kids are being brought to baseball academies at age 14 to catch up to their American peers, American kids are stuck with their random parental assignment through high school. If you take two kids with the exact same athletic ability, drive, and desire, but one has upper middle class parents and the others are just scraping above the poverty line, the prior would have had access to training and coaching the latter could only have dreamed of.

And this is what MLB should work on: getting these resources, in some manner, to our poorer urban and rural areas. The MLB shouldn’t focus on the fact that these kids aren’t watching baseball. That’s not going to change unless we go back to four channels and a radio. What they should really worry about is that a lot of kids aren’t playing the game, and especially that a lot of talented athletes aren’t playing the game into their high school years.

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