Archive for the ‘OOTP’ Category

Rebuilding the Cubs: Journey to a Championship – April 2014 Report

Friday, June 27th, 2014

If you missed the first edition of the series in which we discussed what exactly this series of posts is, you can find it here.

The month of April 2014 is now complete and things are not looking good so far. The Cubs currently sit 7.5 games out of first place in the NL Central with a 9-18 record, which featured a horrid 8 game losing streak. It’s hard to come out of a month positively when you put up a streak like that, but I’m not losing hope this early. I’m in this thing for the long haul.

The biggest issue with the team right now is the lack of offense. We currently rank 12th in the NL in runs scored and a lot of it has to do with the overall lack of power at the plate. Currently we rank last in all of baseball with just 17 home runs as a team, with Luis Valbuena leading the team with 4. Anthony Rizzo, who I’m counting on to provide offense for this team, is hitting just .204 / .269 / .276. That .276 number is not a lie. He’s just not providing offense. The other name that was being counted on in the middle of the order, Billy Butler, has been somewhat lackluster as well, hitting just .240 / .330 / .340. At least he’s getting on base, but it doesn’t matter when there is no one to drive him in.

At this point, I’m not really sure what to do offensively other than to ride it out. Josh Vitters was playing well in AAA, so I promoted him and demoted Ryan Kalish, but Rick Renteria and I are having somewhat of a disagreement as to how much playing time Vitters deserves. There isn’t really a way you can have a disagreement in the game with your manager, but I like to think that him and I are at odds right now and that the situation is somewhat similar to that of the confrontations between Billy Beane and Art Howe in Moneyball. I want Vitters in the lineup, at least on a platoon basis, but Ricky doesn’t seem to agree. He tends to favor veterans and that may not work out as we see a wave of young talent come up in the future. For now, I’m on the fence about my manager. Hal McRae is a guy I’ve got my eye on as a potential replacement.

On the pitching side, our bullpen has been stellar despite the loss of Pedro strop. Everyone else has been healthy and the pen ranks 3rd in the NL with a stellar 2.15 ERA. My fear is that they are getting overworked, as I’ve gone with the six man staff pen and the fact that the starters have been so bad so far to start the season. Given the fact that the DH is in play, I’m giving serious thought to recalling a 7th arm to help even out the workload a little and keep the arms healthy. Two names that stand out as potential call ups are Marcus Hatley (9.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9) or Alberto Cabrera (8.1 IP, 1.08 ERA). Cabrera’s WHIP of 1.56 scares me, so it will probably be Hatley that gets the call.

As I mentioned, the starting pitching has been bad. Jeff Samardzija has been the worst of the bunch and it has been largely due to walks (6.1 BB/9). That, coupled with seven home runs allowed in his six starts are a big reason why he ends the month with a 0-6 record and an ERA at 9.11. His contract demand is 3 years x $46 million and I’m not biting. Edwin Jackson, the other poor performer, pitched himself out of town. The New York Yankees called me and said they were looking for starting pitching to make sure they had the ability to compete in the AL East and were surprisingly willing to look at Jackson. We went back and forth on an offer and in the end, I really like what we came away with. The final deal involved the Cubs sending Jackson, Rob Zastryzny (SP), and Harrinson Bermudez in exchange for one of the top catcher prospects in the game, Gary Sanchez. Since the trade, Jackson has gone 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA for the Yankees. My thinking is that I move Jackson’s contract and add a bat at a very weak position for us in the system. If Sanchez can develop at catcher and be ready for 2016, we’re in good shape there.

This system is loaded right now with talent, particularly when it comes to hitters. The minor league system ranking report has the Cubs system head and shoulders above the 2nd place Minnesota Twins, with seven players in the top 50 in all of baseball and eight in the top 100. This month we focus on the hitters in the system and update what they’ve done this season.

Javier Baez started out slow, but has been playing better of late and is beginning to pull those numbers up to respectability. Outside of the top 20 list, Brett Jackson has had a nice April, but sprained his finger late in the month and had to go to the DL. Prior to the injury, Jackson was hitting .295 / .375 / .667 with 9 HR and 20 RBI in 22 starts. He’s due back Mid-May so hopefully we’ll see those numbers continue. That would add a much needed offensive bat in CF on the Major League team.

Since the series is mostly about our quest for a championship, I’ll mainly just give some interesting news and nuggets around the league in bullet form for the rest of the Majors.

  • Andrew Cashner was placed on the DL for 4 months with a torn back muscle and Bryce Harper broke a bone in his elbow while running the bases. Most likely he was sliding head first. The injury is a costly one as he’s going to be out for 7-8 months.
  • Raul Ibanez and Miguel Cabrera each reached the 2000 career hit mark.
  • Alex Wood pitched a no hitter against the Mets
  • Washington Nationals owner, Ted Lerner and San Diego Padres owner John Moores both passed away on the same day. Moores had been battling a terminal illness.
  • After dealing Butler to us before the season, the Royals made their move to get the player they felt will man their first base position into the future, getting Brandon Belt from the Giants in exchange for Justin Maxwell and Humberto Arteaga.

That will do it for this edition. Check back next week when we take a look at the month of May.

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Fake 2014 Cubs Season – Week 1 Recap

Friday, June 20th, 2014

So I mentioned this week that on Fridays, I was going to begin to discuss my version of the Cubs rebuild using one of the best baseball simulation games on the market today, Out of the Park Baseball. The newest version of their game is OOTP 15 and is actually on sale right now for $29.99 till June 28th. Grab a copy of it. You won’t be disappointed.

We begin our journey with a little intro into a couple changes I made to the rules. First, I have incorporated the DH rule in the NL just to royally annoy CAPS. Honestly, that’s the sole reason I did it. I also set all levels of minor league teams to begin play on April 1 and play a full 162 game season with no playoffs. The purpose of this is to really get a good feel for how guys performed over a full season. Other than that, the basics are in play so let’s begin.

Before the season even begins, I am actively looking to upgrade this offense. With the benefit of hindsight watching the real life Cubs, I know this team will hurt for offense so I immediately make a move to deal Carlos Villanueva to the Kansas City Royals for Billy Butler with the purpose of playing him at the new DH spot. I wasn’t in the mood to start the season and have to watch Villanueva so I used the shop a player tool and the Royals were offering Butler straight up. The deal ended up being Villanueva and Santiago Rodriguez for Butler and Elier Hernandez. I figure that Rodriguez probably never makes the majors and in return I get a young SS to develop in the minors. The Royals promptly placed Villanueva into their rotation in the 3rd spot. Ouch.

Other news before the season began was injury related. Mike Olt strained his quad just a week before opening day. The game didn’t tell me how he did it so I like to think it was in the gym getting ripped. He missed the first few games of the season, but has since healed and put up an 0-for-2 in his first game back. Also injury related was news that Jake Arrieta‘s injury would take a little longer to heal. He’s expected back in the rotation around the end of April if all goes well.

As far as the games themselves, the first week did not go well.

Series 1 – @ Pittsburgh

Game 1 – Jeff Samardzija got shelled, posting a 3.1 IP outing that included 7 H, 6 ER. Hector Rondon and Brian Schlitter finished the game out of the pen and the Cubs lose 7-1 despite the fact that Francisco Liriano left the game after recording just the first two outs of the ballgame before leaving the game with shoulder tendinitis.

Game 2 – Looking to rebound from opening day, it was instead a mirror image of the day before. This time Edwin Jackson was on the losing end, leaving after 4.2 IP and taking the loss. Gerrit Cole pitches 7 strong innings and gets the win.

Game 3 – Trying to salvage something from the opening series, Travis Wood takes the mound and saves the day. Great outing for him as he tosses eight strong innings before Pedro Strop comes on for the save with a blemish free 9th inning. Unfortunately, Strop would rupture a tendon in his pitching hand in his next outing and is on the shelf for the next four months. Blake Parker has been recalled to replace him in the pen, which puts Jose Veras as the closer. Offensively, the Cubs were led by Anthony Rizzo who went 2-for-5, including HR # 1 of the season. Cubs win 7-4

Series 2 – vs Philadelphia

The Cubs come home for their first series of the season and proceed to get swept by the Phillies. The offense continues to struggle early, putting up just one run in each of the three games and losing 1-2, 1-2, and 1-8 in the series. Samardzija’s second start, after a horrible opening day outing went even worse than the first outing, if that’s even possible. Final line in start # 2 for him: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K. His ERA after his first two outings, a stellar 29.46. Anyone interested in trading for him? Out of curiosity, I asked him what his price is for an extension. His response: a 3 year deal for $49 million. I’ll pass.

Other Notes

  • Seeing a need for ML ready pitching in the event of an injury, I made a minor league contract offer to Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. Both accepted and have been assigned to the rotation at AAA Iowa.
  • The White Sox made an early season trade with the Rays, dealing Adam Dunn to Tampa for Heath Bell and a minor league catcher.
  • Raul Ibanez and Miguel Cabrera both reached the 2000 career hit club.
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