Theo Epstein Speaks: Draft Preparations, Carlos Marmol, Bryan LaHair, Cubs Performance

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, from whom we haven’t heard in quite a while (he’s been all over the country doing some scouting, and checking out Cubs’ minor league teams), recently spoke to reporters on a range of topics.

  • On the Cubs’ success over the last couple weeks: “There have been some really good things happening. But it’s baseball. You don’t get too high when things or going well or too low if they’re not. The effort has been there all year. We’ve been playing hard and trying to play the game the right way. It’s hard to see sometimes when you’re losing close games and breaks are going against you like they were early. But everyone can appreciate it when the results come with it, as they have been lately. It’s been really nice to see.”
  • On Carlos Marmol’s “good” outing earlier this week: “[Marmol] put it well. The way to work through it in this environment is to take the ‘feedback’ that he gets sometimes and turn it into a positive. Last night he said that the booing kind of motivated him, because he knew he had to get it right and that’s a mature approach. Ballplayers are mainly [driven internally], but you can’t help but notice when things like that are going on. So you might as well turn it into a positive …. Everyone has to recognize he wants to succeed as much as anyone else. No one wants to go out there and fail, especially in a role where you let your teammates down. But he’s paid a lot of money to do a job and he’s got a lot of support around him. So it’s up to him to put the work in to go out and fix himself. But I haven’t seen any signs of him backing down. So as long as he gives the effort and faces his challenges head-on, we’re going to support him and help him get where he needs to be.” Epstein knows he’s gotta keep talking Marmol up. No reason not to.
  • On the early season struggles of Ian Stewart and Geovany Soto: “I think Stewart and Soto both have been hitting into tough luck all year, and it’s starting to turn for both of them. They’ve really been having quality at-bats for weeks, and now balls are starting to fall for them or being driven out of the ballpark, which is a way to take care of your own luck sometimes.” As with Marmol, Epstein gains nothing by criticizing players, so it’s hard to take him at face value on these guys. That said, I actually do believe what Epstein’s saying here.
  • On Bryan LaHair’s LaDiculous start to the year: “The results are probably not going to always be this ‘Ruthian,’ so to speak. But I think the quality of at-bats will remain consistent, and it’s not a fluke. He’s doing things the right way. He’s recognizing pitches out of the pitcher’s hand really early. He’s letting the ball travel and get deep, and he’s really short and compact to the ball. … He’s going to go through slumps, but it’s really encouraging, not just what he’s doing, but how he’s accomplishing it. It’s nice to see. I’m really happy for him and for us.”
  • On how Dale Sveum has handled his duties so far: “That was a really rough first couple of weeks, and Dale handled everything with a real calmness and confidence that is genuine, and I think players pick up on that.”
  • On the Cubs’ Draft preparations: “It’s probably the most important thing that we’re doing now, to be honest, and it takes up a vast majority of our time. Draft day is the most important day of the year for every organization. It’s a yearlong process, and right now, we’re in the sweet spot, finishing up evaluations and going back and getting final looks, and we’ll get together and process all the information.”
  • More on the Draft, in light of the CBA changes: “Every team is setting aside some time to think through how the draft may play differently now. It affects how we approach signability and how we allocate our resources into who we will scout and how often. But it is the same for all 30 clubs. It is a level playing field. We will go and do our best.”

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

66 responses to “Theo Epstein Speaks: Draft Preparations, Carlos Marmol, Bryan LaHair, Cubs Performance”

  1. JOHN

    THEO IS AWESOME!!! ON A SIDE NOTE, IF WE MOVE LAHAIR TO LEFT AND CALL UP RIZZO AND JACKSON, WHERE DOES JACKSON FIT IN? I WOULD HATE TO TAKE CAMPANA OUT. WOULD THEY TAKE DEJESUS OUT OF THE LINEUP?

  2. RY34

    yeah no doubt you bounce campana from the lineup, he can pinch run or go back to iowa, no way you let him play over jackson!

    1. ETS

      I doubt Jackson gets the call up anytime really soon. One article I read argued it may not be until 2013.

  3. Njriv

    Remember when the Cubs picked up Josh Hamilton from the Rule 5? I remember going on Cubs.com and reading how he was traded to the Reds thinking he was just some scrub. I bet the Cubs were kicking themselves when he first broke-out as a superstar player.

    1. ETS

      Yes, I remember. I think he was traded for cash and I assume the Reds and Cubs had agreed to do this before the rule 5, but I’m not sure.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        It was pre-arranged, but the Cubs were not informed by the Reds of whom to draft until very shortly before they actually made the selection.

        1. Norm

          ha, I knew this would be coming up again today…

    2. Drew

      I have remembered that several times since it happened, but that was a prearranged trade; the Cubs didnt seem to have any interest in him, but the Reds wanted to make sure nobody else would swoop in.

    3. MichiganGoat

      Also that Hamilton was a raging drinker/junkie. Hard to expect him to stay with any team back then.

    4. hansman1982

      Here I go again…

      Hamilton was traded to the Reds because he had family within the organization and the people involved were more concerned about getting him sober and staying alive than turning him into a superstar, God, I don’t even have the energy to do this anymore…I need a drink.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        We need a Josh Hamilton F.A.Q. link here…..

      2. TWC

        “Hamilton was traded … [because folks were] concerned about getting him sober. … I need a drink.”

        Heh.

  4. rcleven

    “There have been some really good things happening. But it’s baseball. You don’t get too high when things or going well or too low if they’re not.”

    Maybe this should not be in the comments section. This has to be most understatement
    in baseball. People please realize Baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. I get quite upset when people are calling for players heads when things aren’t going well for a player. We are only 60 some day into a season we knew that was not going to be the most successful. Today’s goats just might be tomorrows heroes.

    1. Norm

      Amen!

    2. TWC

      “There have been some really good things happening. But it’s baseball. You don’t get too high when things or going well or too low if they’re not.”

      Obviously Theo doesn’t spend too much time reading our Game Threads…

  5. johnbres2

    I understand why Theo wants to lower expectations of LaHair, but what does he gain by suggesting LaHair “will go through slumps”?

    1. Norm

      He is just stating a fact…

      1. johnbres2

        I can’t see it doing LaHair any good to hear Theo say that. He might start thinking, “maybe I am going into a slump now.”

  6. EQ76

    Maybe trying to lower the media & fans’ expectations. That we all don’t go jump off a cliff and call for Rizzo if LaHair does slow down some.

  7. OlderStyle

    “quality at-bat”
    It would be interesting to see a qualified statistic for this.

  8. Richard Nose

    I first read that as saying ‘LaDelicious’. I’m gonna stick with that one.

    1. hansman1982

      you didn’t trademark it so its mine!!!

      LaDelicious ™

      1. Richard Nose

        My keyboard’s a piece of shit! You must have some type of wizardboard.

        1. hansman1982

          BTW, you may want to change your name now…

          Richard Nose ™

          just type left parenthasis tm right parenthasis

      2. hardtop

        Thats the name of the restaurant i’m having lunch at tomorrow…

  9. Richard Nose

    .

  10. Goatbuster

    Does anyone know who the cubs might be eyeing in the draft?

  11. Mike S

    So what are the negatives of putting LaHair in the Outfield once Rizzo is called up? Can’t really think of any so far

    1. Kyle

      I’m going to change sides and say go ahead and do it.

      I’m seeing a late-blooming Adam Dunn in LaHair.

  12. FromFenwayPahk

    That bit on LaHair was pretty cool. The part where Theo says LaHair is “letting the ball travel and get deep,” he means travel through the strike zone, right? LaHair connects with (some) pitches closer to the catcher’s side of home plate, “deep;” is that the way that term is used?

    1. CastrotoBarneytoLaHair

      Yes. It is theorized that the longer time the bat is on the ball, the further the ball will travel. Thus, if he connects with the ball “deeper” in the zone, or as you say, closer to the catcher’s side of home plate, the ball will be on the bat longer through the zone, and travel further…

      1. djriz

        and that is when the bat speed is at it’s highest point.

      2. Coal

        I think the reference to “letting the ball travel and get deep” relates to the concept of being able to wait longer, see the pitch better and drive hitters pitches. It is a function of LaHair’s compact swing/bat speed, also referenced by Theo. I don’t think the distance the ball travels relates at all to where you make contact in the zone – rather the bat speed at contact, which forces compression of bat and ball which ultimately determines distance.

        1. Drew

          I agree with that. It seems what Theo is saying here is that, with LaHair’s compact and quick swing, he able to add additional milli-seconds on to the time he has to recognize the pitch and decide to swing or not (as opposed to the depth of the pitch upon contact).

          1. Coal

            Yes. That, and when you are “seeing the ball well” (i.e., letting it get deep) you can lay off pitches more easily, work the count, etc. When hitters slump they get fooled more which may not (at the big league level) necessarily translate to K’s as much as just weak (or weaker) contact. Theoretically, bat speed starts at zero and ends at zero – you want to accelerate rapidly through the zone – and ideally make contact with the ball at the moment your bat is traveling fastest. That’s why changing speeds is so critical to pitching success – it can throw things off, even slightly, so that that “maximum bat speed at contact” doesn’t happen.

            1. CastrotoBarneytoLaHair

              You are both correct. I was simply answering FromFenwayPahk’s question about connection closer to the catcher’s side of home plate. You want to connect when your bat speed is at its highest rate which is early in your swing and thusly “deeper”…

              1. FromFenwayPahk

                Wow. I am in the right place. LaHair’s interesting numbers are worth your kinds of analyses. Thanks, all.

  13. Drew

    unless I’m misreading your post, I’d have to disagree. As discussed a couple of weeks ago, power is generated from the “torque” created by separation of the top and bottom halves of the body. You’d let the ball travel “deeper” with an outside pitch, but this sacrifices power since there is less separtion before contact.

    If what you (at least, my interpretation) are saying were true, you wouldnt see so many pitches on the inner half crushed; making contact deep in the zone in that case would almost certainly cause a hitter to be “jammed” or swing and miss alltogether.

    Hopefully Bails17 is reading, as he seems to be able to articulate it a bit better than I can!

  14. Jim

    I keep hearing about moving LaHair to the outfield. Is Rizzo more athletic? Perhaps he could try the outfield for some games down in Iowa. If he shows an aptitude we could have both of them in the lineup, and Rizzo would be right there to move to first if LaHair falters.

    1. Njriv

      Rizzo is a much better defender at first base than LaHair. LaHair at least has more experience in LF over Rizzo.

      1. hogie

        Rizzo has always had a lot of errors, though I suppose those could be attributed to youth. I don’t know much about range factor, so maybe it’s like some of Castro’s, he is just getting to balls that most others wouldn’t be able to. Either way I would agree that LaHair would be the guy to move.

        1. Cubbie Blues

          There isn’t even a question who would move. Rizzo is a future gold glover. Why put yourself behind the eight ball by being deficient at two positions instead of one in lieu of offense.

  15. Cheryl

    Just saw on another site that Buster Olney says that LaHair is no. 2 on OPS just behind Josh Hamilton when facing RH pitchers.