Closing Out the Season: 100 Losses, Draft Pick Position, Opponents

Today is September 11, 2012, and the Chicago Cubs are 55-86. They are fifth in the NL Central, ahead of only the Astros, who are 44-97. More importantly, the Cubs are currently the second-worst team in baseball, ahead of only those same Astros.

While “catching” the Astros in the reverse standings is no longer a reasonable possibility, holding onto the second worst record certainly is. We could debate the merits of finishing second to worst versus winning a few more games in September of a losing season, but I’ve previously laid out my thoughts in an extensive post (The Upside of Awful - which was sadly relevant all the way back in May). The short version is this: I hate seeing the Cubs lose on a day-by-day basis, but if the Cubs aren’t going to make the playoffs anyway (and, indeed, are going to have one of the worst records in baseball), I’d rather they end up with a terrible record, rather than a merely bad one. For the purposes of this post, I’m taking no position – “just the facts, ma’am.”

The Cubs are currently 2.5 games worse than the Rockies, and 4 games worse than the Indians and Twins. The next teams down the list – the Marlins, Red Sox (tank much?), and Royals are all 7.5/8 games better than the Cubs, which would be a very difficult “deficit” to make up in just 21 games. Thus, it seems likely that the lowest the Cubs could fall in the 2013 Draft at this point is fifth.

The “problem,” as it were, for the Cubs, however, is that they face the woeful Astros five more times in those 21 games, the Rockies three times, and the no-longer-in-contention Diamondbacks three times. Their other nine games come against the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals. The Rockies’ schedule is slightly more difficult than the Cubs’, though they do face the Cubs (how big is that series?), and the Diamondbacks twice. Similarly, the Indians have a tough schedule (facing only the Twins and Royals as non-contenders). Finally, the Twins have a schedule similar to the Cubs’, with the Indians, Royals and Blue Jays on tap.

On the balance, the schedules are sufficiently similar that the Cubs have a good shot of holding onto that number two pick, assuming they don’t sweep the Rockies next week. Even if the Cubs take four of five from the Astros, and split their remaining 16 games, they’d finish with 95 losses. The Rockies would still have to lose 13 of their last 22 to pass the Cubs. The Indians and/or Twins would have to lose 14 of 21. Certainly possible, but not a cinch – and it’s hard to see the Cubs winning that many anyway.

As for the dreaded 100 losses, the Cubs will have to win eight of their last 21 to avoid the ignominious mark. The Cubs have topped 100 losses just twice before, in 1962 and 1966. The Cubs lost 103 games each of those seasons, so, yes, the franchise mark for losing is theoretically reachable. If the Cubs lose 17 of their last 21, they’ll tie the record. Obviously 18 losses would break it. That sweep of the Pirates was huge.

At their current winning percentage – .390 – the Cubs are expected to win a hair over eight games the rest of the way, making their expected final record 63-99.

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

92 responses to “Closing Out the Season: 100 Losses, Draft Pick Position, Opponents”

  1. Stevie B

    This next draft looks once again a tad top heavy. Having that 2nd-3rd pick is paramount.

  2. Kevin

    Winning any games this time of year will only hurt our chances of getting the best available prospect in next year’s MLB draft. It’s hard for the Cubs to stick to a script.

    1. Stevie B

      I hear ya Kev… Lose when we want you to win, win when we want you to lose.

      What a world…What a world.

    2. Flashfire

      The real killer is Soriano. He is not going to be part of the next great team, and his outstanding play is boosting the Cubs pretty significantly. Ability to trade their key pieces is a big reason why the Astros are winning the rebuild wars by a mile.

      1. donnie kessinger

        I was just starting to like Sori… now I got a new reason to be hatin” on him.

      2. Chris

        The Astros had a few more pieces to start with. And I have NO idea what the Marlins were thinking when they traded for Carlos Lee. There is just no way that should have worked out so well for them. Hopefully, Soriano can be moved in the offseason, and they can buy low on a rebound free agent to fill the OF void. And whatever the return is on Garza, hopefully, will bring the necessary talent infusion needed to the pitching depth of the minor league system. While the Astros have done a better job of rebuilding so far, I have to believe the revenue each team can potentially tap will assure the Cubs of surpassing the Astros, at some point. For now, here’s hoping they keep the 2nd draft position.

      3. Noah

        On the other side of that, though, if Soriano keeps hitting like he has since mid-May of this season through June of next season, he could become a more appealing trade candidate to more teams. If he continues to suceed like this, that would only leave 1.5 years left on the contract, much of which the Cubs would be willing to pick up for better prospects. He could look like an elite bat who could be picked up for little money for teams that find it easier to part with prospects than cash.

      4. Brad B

        I wouldn’t say the Astros are winning the rebuild wars. Yes they have made a ton of trades and cut payroll while doing it, but what did they get in return? Guys that were burnouts in their former organizations, guys taht have at least one major flaw (and don’t grade out to fix the flaw) and guys that no one has ever heard of. It’d be really hard to argue, but you could almost say that from this season alone, the Cubs have done as well or better at adding quality talent, through the Cubs’ draft, signing Soler and Concepcion and the return from Dempster. The Astros have added few quality prospects this season. They are winning the tear-down wars.

  3. JulioZuleta

    I realllly hope we don’t go on another useless hot streak and end up with the 5th pick or something like that. It always happens to us. Especially now, with the slotting, the higher pick is enormously important.

  4. Patrick G

    Been reading a lot about future draft prospects and Austin Meadows is a name that pops up a lot and gets some comparisson to Josh Hamilton. I know it’s early to judge, but if available would they take the best prosect available or go with a pitcher no matter what since their system is so thin in pitching?

    1. Mush

      I take the best position player only because of injury risk. I would rather have Trout over Strasberg because Trout would never get shut down in season.

      1. Patrick G

        I Agree with you on that, but also the point that why reach for a pitcher if you can get more of a polished outfielder. You never know how some of our other prospects will turn out and you can also trade high upside prospects like Vogelbach, Lake, etc for proven starters or prospects

      2. JR

        If possible and the players are close in rating, I say the Cubs do whatever they can do avoid Boras..

        1. cubchymyst

          Anyone hear any opinion from Boras on these team friendly extensions. I get the feeling he would want his players to hit free agency to get the extra money. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Harper hit Free Agency at 25.

  5. JulioZuleta

    Brett, what do you think the market value will be for one of the tradeable comp picks? I’m sure the Cubs will try to get one or two. Solid reliever? 4th OF? It’s a hard thing to gauge seeing as how they’ve never really been tradeable until this year, and the ones that have been traded were part of large deals.

  6. TonyP

    :-/

  7. baseballet

    Time to start Vitters at third and LaHair against left handed pitching. Let the wacky experiments begin.

  8. Kevin

    I’m in favor of the Cubs organization making all necessary changes to help them achieve their overall goal of building a great farm system that will eventually feed the major league team. Maybe it’s time to hire the best scouts available. Based on some of the Cubs picks going back just a couple years, it’s probably best to start with a clean slate. We need new blood that’s aggressive and hungry to win in the worst way. Yes, we have a new Director of Scouting, but do we really have the best scouts available?

  9. donnie kessinger

    This situation calls for a Koyie Hill signing!

  10. Kevin

    Sign 9 Koyie Hills for the rest of the year.

    1. Richard Nose

      9 Koyie Hills = 45 in tact fingers. Delicous.

      1. JulioZuleta

        Ever wonder why pitchers only threw him the fastball?

        1. Richard Nose

          I wonder if he uses table saws any more? jkjk I love Koyie, bad dude for a couple reasons: bad ass for coming back from that, and bad at baseball too.

          1. JulioZuleta

            Yeah, I actually am a big Koyie fan. Made the most out of his ability, and really took the time to get to know the pitching staff to get any mental advantage he could. Also was tough as nails. I know he became somewhat of a punch line, but he did some good things.

  11. donnie kessinger

    Maybe put Joe Mather in the rotation…

  12. Spencer

    The Rockies are getting Tulo back this week. Might give them a boost for the rest of the year.

  13. Kevin

    along with Larry Biittner

  14. EQ76

    I’m really excited about this upcoming draft.. if we do get a top 3 pick, we could get a top pitching prospect we seriously need..maybe a future #1 or 2? but also, after this draft, we could start seeing deals that bring us some great young pitchers, even if it means trading some of our other young prospect to get it done..

    a couple great moves and we could have better days right around the corner.

  15. cubchymyst

    As much as I’d like to see the cubs avoid 100 losses, I’d rather see the #2 pick with extra international budget. Lets go Tyler Colvin.

  16. Josh

    If we get the #2 pick who y’all think we get?

  17. Kevin

    The Cubs really need to stink the next 3 weeks……..sit some of the regulars a few games ….. to go through a 140 games and in good position for the 2nd overall pick, now is not the time to peak.

  18. bbrave307

    Let’s just get 63 wins and see what happens with the draft.

    1. TonyP

      Agreed

  19. cubs1967

    the million dollar question next year will be mark appel. next year’s draft as of now is considered worse than this year so appel figures to again be a high pick with the astros probably passing on him again as they don’t want to waste time with boras. do the cubs?
    they need pitching………long ways to go till next year so hard to say………

  20. Rcleven

    Draft pitching, pitching, and if possible more pitching.
    Arms blow out. Pitching is the weakest point in this origination and you can never have too much.

    1. Chris

      I think they will draft pitching heavily. I just don’t think it will be with the 1st pick.

  21. Richard Nose

    Anybody think for or against a moderate Garza extension? If they know he’s healthy it may be a decent time to use a little leverage (other teams uncertain eval of him). But of course if the Cubs know he’s healthy, Garza himself knows he’s healthy. But If he could make a month’s worth of starts next year and prove he’s alright and is under contract for a few more years at a fair rate his value is right back up there where it was a couple years ago (minus age of course). Ship him out for young projectable starters (see Toronto farm system). It makes me sick to think about them not getting anything done with him over the next 11 months.

    1. Richard Nose

      don’t panic, I didnt’ mean right now. Of course theyd need to be certain of his health, but I dont think the extension should be that far from the front office’s minds.

    2. Chris

      While I fully expect the Cubs to move him in order to gather more pitching prospects, I don’t think you have to choose between an extension and trading him. If Garza was willing to do an extension to secure his financial future, at a discount and without a no-trade clause, I think a team-friendly extension only adds to his value in trade. That’s not likely to happen. When it comes time for free agency, unless his arm falls off in 2013, he’s going to get paid. If this injury has scared him and he wants to get the money now, great. But at this point I think he’s probably better off waiting for the free agency payday. Either way, I believe they will move him to acquire more impact pitching prospects.

      1. Frank

        I also believe they’ll trade him, but I’ve said it before–I wouldn’t be upset if they kept him. He’s still young enough to be effective for a fairly long time and Garza and Samardzija wouldn’t be a bad start to a rotation. Prospects are question marks at best–even high end ones.

  22. DocPeterWimsey

    At their current winning percentage – .390 – the Cubs are expected to win a hair over eight games the rest of the way, making their expected final record 63-99.

    If you weight that by the competition, then we probably expect them to win even more than 8 games: with 5 games against the Astros, 3 games against the Rox and 4 games against the wrecked Pirates, over half of the schedule is against bad teams. The Cubs did not play 70+ of their prior 140 games against similar calibre teams!

  23. SoCal Cubs Fan

    Next years draft will probably be a repeat of this year or the Cubs. Take the best player available and then follow with a s_ _ _ load of pitchers!

    1. tim

      Or, use the Astros method. Line up all the ‘nearly equivalent’ Top Pick Candidates, and sign the one that will sign for a discount, leaving more ‘slot money’ for later.

      1. Flashfire

        That was truly brilliant.

      2. Kyle

        That was an awful plan, and I hope the Astros are dumb enough to do it again next year.

        People radically misunderstand the MLB draft. They sort of imagine it like the NFL draft, where there’s a lot of slowly declining value as you move down through the rounds. Trading down makes a lot of sense.

        The MLB draft, historically, is extremely top-heavy, and the difference between even a single slot at the top of the draft makes a significant difference in terms of average outcome. After that, you get into a vast sea of mediocrity that stretches from the middle of the first round all the way out to the middle rounds. There’s a huge difference between the No. 1 and No. 3 picks historically. There’s almost no difference between the late first-round and the 2nd round.

        If you can’t find a reason to like one of the elite prospects better than all the others, then you aren’t doing your job as a front office. And if you can find a reason to like one better, then you’d be very foolish to pass on him because you think you can get minor upgrades on the mediocre talents in the late first round and beyond.

        1. JR

          I hear what you’re saying, but maybe they liked Correa a ton. Personally, I love what the Pirates did in the draft. They are painful to watch, but are doing things right.

          1. tim

            Whiffing on Appel?

        2. tim

          Or…..

          In Correa, they probably got the guy they wanted anyway. Then, with the excess cash, they grabbed another high quality prospects in McCullers with the money the saved, getting the guy they wanted and a guy who fell on signability.

          If Theo really wants Appel or Stanek, or Sean Moran (or whoever), then get him. By using Houston’s “Good GM Bad GM method”, you could get a Second Rounder with Top 20 potential as well. Not really seeing a downside.

          1. JR

            Yeah, I think thats the point. If the Cubs love a guy as the clear pick then obviously take him and hope you don’t get taken to the wood shed by boras. But if there are several guys they like ranked very close together, why not pick the dude who will save you lots of dough.. Seems like a no brainer.

          2. Kyle

            The difference between a McCullers and an ordinary 2nd round pick is almost nothing. People are vastly overrating the value of these “overslots.”

            If they really wanted Correa more than any other player on the board, good for them. But if they liked anyone else even a tiny bit more, then they screwed up by settling.

  24. North Side Irish

    However the season turns out, I now fully support the idea of signing Brandon McCarthy.

    Brandon McCarthy ‏@BMcCarthy32
    WELL IF BEING DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL ISNT THE BEST TIME TO ASK ABOUT A THREESOME THEN IM FRESH OUT OF IDEAS

    1. Richard Nose

      hahahaah I’ve followed McCarthy pretty closely this year because of fantasy ball and because he’s an FA that might be in the Cubs wheelhouse. I’ll have to check him on Twitter, awesome.

  25. CUBSIN

    Since their options were going over-slot for Appel or taking Correa and McCullers plus enough surplus budget to chase after a few additional over-slot candidates, I think the Astros made the right choice. The Astros needed to add depth more than they neede Appel.

    1. Kyle

      For one thing, those weren’t their only two options. Personally, I think Buxton was the best player on the board and they would have been smart to take him.

      Second, the whole point is that overslotting in the new CBA does not significantly improve your depth. There’s no evidence that getting the 30th best player instead of the 45th best is really all that much of an improvement. In fact, the evidence seems to be the opposite: Once you get outside the top half of the first round, there’s usually a large mass of undifferentiated prospects that are all worth about the same. That lasts several rounds.

  26. Sam

    We picked Josh Vitters with the overall #3 pick in 2007 after a dismal 2006, so nothing is guaranteed. You just never know. Let’s hope we get lucky a bit as well.

    1. Flashfire

      That’s a little deceptive. The best player in the draft was Matt Wieters, but his agent was Scott Boras. He wound up going fifth, for a $6 million signing bonus. #1 got $5.4 million. Vitters got $3.2 million. Those types of things won’t happen any more.

  27. 1060Ivy

    Regarding winning too often for the remainder of the season:

    Fans, I give you the Chicago Cubs Starting Rotation:

    T. Wood
    C. Volstad
    J. Germano
    C. Rusin
    J. Berken

    Is anyone seriously worried about winning too often?

    Wood and Volstad have pitched well but look at what else the Cubs throw out there to start games.

    1. Flashfire

      Look at the starting rotations of the Astros, Rockies, Indians, and Twins and get back to me.

      1. 1060Ivy

        And how many of their starters where picked off the waiver wire in the last month?

  28. ssckelley

    I keep hearing the Cubs need to draft this and need to draft that. In order to build a successful farm system they need to draft the best, most MLB ready, player available no matter what the position is. The Cubs need pitching, but who’s to say that the Cubs would not trade someone like Almora or Soler to get that top pitcher? If you have a strong farm system you will be able to fill your needs either with the system or by trading for what you need. With every pick in next years draft I hope they get players that will keep building that farm system

    1. Flashfire

      Real answer: because when you have a guy like Trevor Bauer or Dylan Bundy in your system, Almora and Soler together might not be enough to pry him away. The only way to get them is by drafting and developing them.

      1. ssckelley

        If there is a Bauer or Bundy available to be drafted with the 2nd pick, or whatever position the Cubs are drafting in, then take him. My point is it does not matter the position or if it is a pitcher, they need to take the best player available with that pick. You may not get a Bauer or Bundy for Soler or Almora but you might get a Greinke. If you are a contending team with a strong farm system you can go out and get pretty much any piece you need.

      2. gutshot5820

        Ok, I contend that a Mike Trout or a Bryce Harper is worth more than the players you mentioned. If you get a chance at a generational player, you go for the position player first. All you have to do is look at salaries to find out what type of players ballclubs value more.

        1. King Jeff

          Trout was picked in the 25th and got less of a bonus than the three guys picked after him. So how does that value thing go again?

          1. King Jeff

            *with the 25th pick*

        2. King Jeff

          Sorry, misunderstood what you were saying, going back to bed now.

  29. Kyle

    Top-100 pitching prospects flame out at nearly twice the rate that top-100 hitting prospects do. I really see no point in almost ever taking a pitcher with a top-5 pick, the attrition rate is just too high.

    I’d rather see them continue the approach they took this year: High-value position player with the top pick, then a volume of arms in the later rounds.

  30. B_Scwared

    TINSTAAPP