Pre-Gamin’: Astros v. Cubs (7:05 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, etc.

The final series has arrived, and it brings with it the worst team in baseball. The Astros, I mean.

The Cubs are hoping that they roll out the don’t-lose-100 red carpet.

(While simultaneously hoping that the Rockies win just one more game.)

Game Info

Houston Astros (53-106) at Chicago Cubs (60-99), 7:10 CT on WGN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview for this series lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Lucas Harrell (10-11, 3.88 ERA, 3.84 FIP)

versus

Jason Berken (0-2, 6.00 ERA, 6.77 FIP)

Houston Astros Lineup

1. Jose Altuve, 2B

2. Scott Moore, RF

3. Jed Lowrie, SS

4. Fernando Martinez, LF

5. Brett Wallace, 1B

6. Matt Dominguez, 3B

7. Jason Castro, C

8. Brandon Barnes, CF

9. Lucas Harrell, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. David DeJesus, CF

2. David Sappelt, RF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Starlin Castro, SS

6. Luis Valbuena, 3B

7. Welington Castillo, C

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Jason Berken, P

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

73 responses to “Pre-Gamin’: Astros v. Cubs (7:05 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, etc.”

  1. Bret Epic

    Hey Brett…is there any plans to post a projected 2013 roster or a post with thoughts of who to keep, who they’ll go after and who might not be on the team next year? I think in a down year Cubs fans could really appreciate a post like that. I value your opinion greatly and I love the Cubs, no matter what their record ends up each year and I would love to hear your views of what the 2013 Cubs could potentially look like.

  2. cRAZYHORSE

    uNLESS THE cUBS sign people that want to be traded like horsemeat > the Cubs will not sign a single establish player. Most establish pitchers would be a fool to sign with the Cubs.no run support / poor defence / poor manager with a Bozo for a pitching Coach. It is what it is – I will let you guys discuss about Unicorns, fairy dust -. and a boy name Stewart- that most teammates dont want back ( He Is Lazy) cant wait to see Front office report card . …this season was a joke and Little Theo well ……. needs a gorrilla suit

    1. TWC

      You start drinking a bit early today, kid?

      1. cas-castro

        Another one that doesn’t get the FO plan. Do we really need to really visit this topic again? I think some one needs a hug. Or they can just be a sox fan and be miserable like the rest of them. They need all the support they can get right now.

    2. Carew

      Man, that was hard to read

    3. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      I think it would be best if we copy a link to the FO plan on every thread so we don’t have to relive stupidity with every thread. But, what is Cub fandom without watching the train wreck that is our fans?

      1. Kyle

        Agreed. It’s a trainwreck watching fans cheer wildly for a team actively dismantling its major-league team and using a very unproven method of team-building with the vague promise of future payoff.

        1. TakingWrigleyToSaoPaulo

          Kyle,

          Not sure you can call something dismantling when it was never working in the first place. Aramis was a free agent, Dempster was the end of a contract and P.M. was on a short term bounce back deal. The F.O. Did what any front office would do with assets that are worth more to someone else than to their team; trade.

          What about this does not make sense?

          1. Kyle

            The part where a major-market team with ~$50 million in payroll flexibility and a fair number of major-league assets decides going into an offseason that their position is hopeless and those assets are now worth far more than other teams.

    4. EQ76

      poor defence?? What the hell is defence?

  3. bob

    Brett, you posted on the Alfonso article last and stated we did not have anyone to fill in after we (trade him if possible). Seeing how things are going, Lahair still has a better batting average then B Jackson I believe every month. Seeing how Jackson will probably be in center or right I think it would be a good idea to stick Lahair in left (only if we get rid of sori). He has shown big league hitting (allstars) and a lot of players go in big slumps. Look at rami and lee. They just never had the bat taken out of their hands. PLUS HE’S CHEAP.

    1. Carew

      I second this

  4. TWC

    Well.

    100.

    Laaaaaaaame.

  5. mudge

    ouch.

  6. Jeff

    The ultimate trump card, you take away the reply button if you don’t want someone to disagree with you, nice. Very Republican of you :)

    The bullpen was very weak and has gotten weaker as the year has gone on.

    I love the Cubs, but like a good Lawyer, I stay objective and am not emotionally swayed by my prejudices.

    This teams pitching sucks and there’s not much chance it will get any better very soon.

    1. Luke

      The reply button automatically vanishes after so many nested replies. It is a site feature that helps keep comments neat and readable and has nothing to do with whatever obscure political conspiracy crap you’re peddling.

      If you want to debate a topic with the luxury of near eternal nested goodness, head for the Message Boards. You’ll need a separate account, but you can easily make one by clicking in the upper right hand corner.

  7. Kyle

    “See, thats just not possible though. No combination of two players and a good bullpen wouldve made up the deficit between this team and contention. Even if they had kept an Aramis, signed Prince, and somehow fielded a bullpen full of Mo Riveras, that team still isn’t anywhere near a contention. Maybe they wouldve been the 10th worst team instead, but they still wouldve been bad, and doing so wouldve done nothing to improve their long term WS prospects”

    It’s not only possible, but I’ve proven repeatedly that it is possible with WAR analysis.

    People are underestimating the effect of terrible players on the 2012 Cubs. This isn’t a team with no good players. It’s a team with quite a few good players and even more absolutely, unacceptably awful ones.

    1. TC

      Ah, well, as long as you talked about WAR first…

      The Cubs are only going to win 62-65 games this year. Lets say, for argument, that they needed to win 88 to make the playoffs. If they had signed Prince, they would have gotten 4.7 fWAR. If memory serves, LaHair was worth roughly 2.5 fWAR when Rizzo took over, and Rizzo has been worth 1.8 fWAR. Prince would have been an upgrade of roughly .5 wins. Cubs 3B have been worth -.5 fWAR this year. Aramis was worth 6.4 fWAR. These two players combined now make the Cubs a 69-70 win team.

      The entirety of the Cubs bullpen was worth -1.5 fWAR this year. If you installed two great relievers (I can’t think of any names who were available last year anyway that fit this criteria), then maybe you get 4-5 wins out of those guys, and maybe 2 more out of some slightly better relievers in the 6th/7th innings. These, all together, would have been an upgrade of 8.5 wins (and I’m being *SUPER* generous with these WAR totals, most bullpens as a whole only rack up 5-7 fWAR in any given year). Realistically, if they had improved the bullpen to above average, it would have only been worth 4 fWAR from the bullpen. This net gain of 5.5 fWAR brings the Cubs to a 75-77 win team, still 10 games out of contention.

      Now, please, tell me, where would the Cubs have added 10 WAR in other parts of the team last year?

      1. Kyle

        Good start!

        First, I’ll claim a couple of wins because WAR underrates the impact of quality relievers in high-leverage situations, which the Cubs don’t have. That’s worth at least two wins.

        I’ll take … two more? For not trading Dempster and Maholm at the deadline and replacing them with organizational filler. Probably closer to three, but it’s late and I don’t feel like proving out the math.

        I’d like to know where you got your 2.5 number for LaHair. Rizzo was called up in late June. Through June, Fangraphs has LaHair at 11.8 wRAA, With neutral fielding (a generous assumption on my part) and a positional adjustment for 1b, that puts him at about 0.8 fWAR when Rizzo was called up. Splitting his defense for the year in half and it’d be 0.5 fWAR. So I’ll add another two war from your total unless you show me what I’m missing. I’m up to 6.

        Now I’ll give Steve Clevenger’s 214 PA to Castillo. It was clear as day going into the season that Clevenger was the inferior player, but they wanted to keep everyone useful in Iowa that they could to avoid accruing service time. Prorate Castillo’s numbers to another 214 PA and I get 1.8, instead of Clevenger’s -0.7.

        So I got to 8.5 additional wins fairly easily. The last 1.5 is trickier. The best place to get it would be recognizing the problems in CF early and finding a viable replacement on the fly.

        1. Kyle

          To further illustrate my point about the Cubs bullpen (since that one always draws protests), I’ll use net Win Percentage Added. It’s not a great predictive stat for individual players, but it’s the right tool for evaluating the bullpen’s impact on the team’s results this season, because of how it properly accounts for leverage.

          The Cubs bullpen was worth -6.4 wins against an average bullpen by that stat. Their five highest-leverage pitchers (1.5 or higher) were uniformly terrible: Justin Germano, Randy Wells, Jaye Chapman, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood. Well, maybe Chapman wasn’t quite completely terrible.

          The impact of having your high-leverage innings taken over by terrible pitchers is much higher than WAR would indicate.

        2. TC

          First, you most certainly will not claim that fWAR underrates high leverage relievers by almost a full Aroldis Chapman. Not happening. If you want to use WAR, you gotta stay at least somewhat close to what it says. More importantly, if you want to claim the Cubs bullpen could have been so good to outpace the best pen in baseball by almost two full wins, you’re gonna have to name anyone they couldve thrown in there that wouldve done the trick, because I can’t think of any relievers that were available that couldve totaled anything like that.

          Two more from Dempster & Maholm is right on the money. LaHair was me going off memory and not seeing that fangraphs subdivided runs by month. Theres 3 extra wins for you.

          Can’t just say Castillo would’ve been worth that much prorated to a certain amount of PA’s. doesn’t work like that, and its been shown time and again that players who performed at a certain level of PA’s cannot be expected to keep up that production over a significantly larger sample of PA’s.

          Also, to improve CF…who would you have signed? In lieu of a realistic CF signing (there wasn’t one out there), or any realistic group RPs who couldve magically been worth 8 fWAR that couldve been signed in FA, you’re still way below that win threshold.

          And, more importantly, what would be the point of having an 80 win team? What does that accomplish in the longterm? Signing a bunch of stopgaps at 1st, 3rd, CF and in the bullpen doesnt mean the team will be better next year or down the road. Any advances from Castro and Castillo would be more than offset by the declining value of an aging Prince, Soriano, Aramis, and the whole bullpen. You just set the team up for a perpetual cycle of mediocrity, like the white sox since 2007 or so

          1. Kyle

            “First, you most certainly will not claim that fWAR underrates high leverage relievers by almost a full Aroldis Chapman. Not happening. If you want to use WAR, you gotta stay at least somewhat close to what it says. More importantly, if you want to claim the Cubs bullpen could have been so good to outpace the best pen in baseball by almost two full wins, you’re gonna have to name anyone they couldve thrown in there that wouldve done the trick, because I can’t think of any relievers that were available that couldve totaled anything like that.”

            Do you want to be accurate or not? Leverage exists. It has an extreme impact on the value of relievers. The ability to accurately judge the impact in relievers is a known flaw in WAR. I’m not going to simply ignore it because it might or might not suit my case, that would be intellectually dishonest.

            Since you brought up Chapman, I’ll use it to show the point. fWAR shows Chapman at 3.3 wins this season, using the same formula it uses for all pitchers.

            But Chapman has a leverage index of 1.79 this season. His innings have been roughly 79% more important to deciding wins and losses than an ordinary pitcher’s this season. As such, his net WPA is actually 4.7, showing a 50% larger impact than his WAR would indicate.

            The same thing happened in reverse for Cubs pitchers. They had terrible pitchers throwing high-leverage innings, and you can’t ignore that just because WAR does.

            1. TC

              Yeah, I know about WPA, but it’s just so difficult to figure out how many high leverage innings the cubs wouldve had this year, especially if they had a vastly different lineup that it makes it really clumsy when using hypotheticals. Its just really tough to say that adding so and so would’ve increased the Cubs’ WPA by x amount. Doing so, surrounded by so many hypotheticals, makes the error bars in WPA just as large, if not larger, than WAR for relievers. its a really inexact science there

              1. Kyle

                But ignoring it and just using WAR doesn’t get you there either.

                I’ve pretty clearly showed that this team could have been competitive if they had wanted to try. Would it have certainly gotten them into the playoffs? That’s counterfactual, there’s no way to know for sure, just like there’s no way to know for sure today if Christian Villanueva or Pierce Johnson will ever be worth anything in the major leagues.

                If you want to argue “It was worth giving up a potentially competitive season for the farm system gains they’ve made,” I’ll still disagree with you, but in a different way than if the argument is “There is no way this team could have been competitive beginning with the 2011-12 offseason.”

                1. hansman1982

                  There is a flaw in your argument. You appear to be assuming that the minor leagues are solely there to become productive players for the Cubs.

                  Surely, Theo and Jed and Jason know that Johnson has a 3% chance of being successful; however, if he can string 1-2 good seasons together in the minors he instantly becomes a credible trade chip.

                  1. Kyle

                    I don’t recall saying 10-15 wins.

                  2. Kyle

                    That is a fair point, but it remains that they didn’t need to tank the team to get trading chips. They proved in Boston that they could get plenty of trading chips while winning baseball games simultaneously.

                    But we’ve now gone a long way from “It was impossible to build a winner going into the 2012 offseason.”

                    1. hansman1982

                      I still think that, outside of signing 1-2 of Pujols, Fielder, Wilson, Burhle, it was damn near impossible to build a team that was going to actually contend.

                      Had we done that we would be short 5 prospects in our farm system right now and been just as likely to be playing playoff ball as we are right now.

                      To me there is no difference between a .500 season and a .300 season unless you are supposed to be fielding the future of the franchise at a large number of positions. in 2014 I will be far more upset about a 100 loss team than I am this year. It is all about perspective.

                      I am still of the mindset that Theo and Jed’s overall plan for 2012 was the right one. Taking your plan needed a lot of things to go just right this year as their’s did.

                    2. hansman1982

                      Plus, the only true tanking came at the deadline. At which point the Cubs were out of contention so what’s the point of shooting for an extra few wins.

                2. TC

                  Fine, then please show me available relievers who couldve turned this bullpen into something worth 10-15 wins. You can’t just say, “well, if they had wanted to try, they couldve gone out and found a whole bunch of super talented relievers who would’ve been insanely valuable”, there have to be actual available players in FA to rebuild a farm system and compete at the same time.

                  1. Kyle

                    I didn’t say 10-15 wins. But okay, I’ll play. Of course, you’ll undoubtedly come up with more questions and more rather than admit there were a lot of ways to improve the team that you weren’t thinking about, and on the whole this Cubs team could have been significantly improved if that’s the direction they had wanted to go (at the opportunity cost of some long-term assets)/

                    Actual Cubs bullpen, -6.5 WPA.

                    I’ll sign Joe Nathan, Octavio Dotel, Jonathan Broxton, that way we can still make the Marshall trade. Nathan would have required a 2-year investment. The other two FAs were cheap and I was big fans of both of them last offseason. Although to be fair, the other pitcher I would have loved at the price he went for was Madsen, and that did not turn out as well.

                    Joe Nathan, 64 IP, 1.64 LI, +2.12 WPA
                    Octavio Dotel, 57 IP, 1.05 LI, +1.08 WPA
                    Jonathan Broxton, 57 IP, +1.50
                    Net total: 178 IP, about a 1.3 LI, +4.7 WPA

                    To match those 174 IP, I’ll take out or demote to lower roles:
                    Dolis, 38 IP, 1.14 LI, -1.26 WPA
                    Marmol, 54 IP, 1.34 LI, -0.98 WPA
                    Kerry Wood, 8.2 IP, 2.29 LI, -0.49 WPA
                    Shawn Camp, 75 IP, 1.02 LI, -0.14 WPA

                    That’s pretty close to an even substitution for the whole group, and I’ve netted 7.57 wins. I’ve also created a domino effect where I can start sliding the bad relievers down and punt out even more of the truly awful ones in the lower-leverage innings.

                    Camp’s 75 IP can displace Lendy Castillo (-.50), Alberto Cabrera (-.76) and Corpas (-0.57) in an approximate inning-for-inning match, so now I’ve gained another 1.69.

                    I guess I didn’t quite get to 10, only 9.29. So let’s add a 9.29 win improvement from the bullpen and go back and do our other WAR calculations. from that.

                    1. Sircub

                      Meh, I don’t think you can just transfer WPA from one team to another like that. Its too dependent on deployment/opportunities and what not.

                3. KyleNovak

                  Kyle,

                  You are making your case using tons and tons of hindsight. You very thoroughly went through and named a bunch of possibilities (either position moves, call-ups, and FA signings) that all ended up working out and being worth serious positive WAR for their respective teams. But your options were ALL hits, every one of them, and that just doesn’t happen.

                  And here is the other problem. . . Back on April 2nd, you suggested the following:

                  You advocated re-signing Carlos Pena. Let’s just ignore the fact that the Cubs would have needed to shell out more money than the 1/$7.25MM he ended up getting from TB, as he declined arbitration hoping for a multi-year deal. Even at $7.25MM Pena hit .199/.333/.358 in 595 PA and was worth anywhere from replacement level to one win. In short, he sucked. He ended up losing his job to Jeff Keppinger. Even with Rizzo out of the question, LaHair and Jeff Baker would have been worth that (and probably more) over a full season at a fraction of the price with the added bonus of truly figuring out what you have in LaHair. Pena may have been have been worth an additional win in the NLC instead of the ALE (or maybe not), but in 2012 he has sported a career high K-rate, lower than avg BB-rate (still high FWIW), and has one of the lowest ISOs of his career. And this is a guy who has always had a low BABIP each year.

                  You can make an argument, after Longoria’s injury, that Pena (and their other high-priced FA Luke Scott) could end up costing TB a spot in the playoffs. But with Rodney’s Eck-like year out of nowhere, Keppinger hitting .330, and a healthy pitching staff all year, it balances as you have to take the good with the bad.

                  You wanted an outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Brett Jackson (!) and Yoenis Cespedes, with Dave Sappelt as your 4th OF. You mentioned that Reed Johnson was a terrible player, had an inflated BABIP and was going to regress. Not “most-likely going to regress,” but “mark it down in the books, put your life-svings on it in Vegas” going to regress. Statistically, while this was a good possibility, you didn’t even begrudgingly accept that in a part-time role platooning against matchups, that he could be serviceable, of not solid. All he did was do the exact same thing for the Cubs as last year (aside from a few less 2B), complete with that same high BABIP. Sappelt meanwhile, was in AAA doing absolutely nothing to warrant a call-up until the rosters expanded in September. Are you saying Sappelt would have been *considerably* more valuable than Reed Johnson as a 4th OF. I say no.

                  Cespedes would have been a great signing, so you get your wins there, assuming he takes to Wrigley without any issues. Ditto Ramirez. A lot of people wanted to re-sign him, but how much more would we have needed to pay him to stay? Would he have wanted to anyways?

                  You wanted to trade Byrd for salary relief, which would have looked awesome, given his “pants-pooping, Boston banjo-hitting, positive PED masking agent” nightmare of a season. But Jackson!? You clearly think Brett Jackson is overmatched *now* and are really low on his chances for future MLB success, but in your scenario you were making him your starting CF and omitting DeJesus from the picture. How would that have gone?

                  Literally everything else you preferred happened as it did.(Marshall trade, Zambrano for Volstad trade, Samardzija and T. Wood in the rotation, Cashner for Rizzo trade)

                  You get your WAR bonuses from Ramirez and Cespedes. Break even (best-case scenario a smidge bonus) with Sappelt and Pena. You break even (at best) or possibly lose a bit with Jackson over DeJesus. Everyone else would be the same.

                  I’ll even give you the Castillo over Clevenger bonus, but even you weren’t planning for a Soto injury-parade/stinkfest and had him penciled into your starting lineup.

                  Lastly, you mentioned posting and signing Darvish (although not in your smaller budget examples of late). In hindsight and so far, it looks like a good signing, but everyone was skeptical of a nine-figure posting plus contract plus to a NPB pitcher with a large number of innings logged on his arm. A team like the Rangers (tapping their reserves, a loaded team, two WS appearances, and counter-punching the Angels FA spree) are the perfect fit for Darvish, even if he were to get hurt and miss time. THAT is why Texas was able to blow everyone away confidently with their bid. It was just too much of a risk for everyone else, given the recent history of guys like Dice-K and other NPB pitchers.

                  You’re a very smart guy, incredibly thorough, and have a keen insight into the game. I would say that everyone agrees with me, and if they don’t, they are being short-sighted, stubborn, or are in denial. You were asked to find a number of upgrades that would have been better for the Cubs and you laid it out, but let’s face it. . . they were hindsight-type, cherry-picked scenarios that only worked to favor your argument. To be fair, that is what you were ASKED to do, but it really does contradict your “plan” from the start of the year. And after it all shakes out, I just don’t see twenty-five wins coming from that, even if you were to assemble a better bullpen.

                  (*If you had Darvish in the fold, it *could* have worked, you would basically need Ramirez, Cespedes, and Darvish to give you 5-6 WAR EACH, and look for the bullpen to somehow give you the other 4-5. That would be a very, very, very, long shot.)

                  1. KyleNovak

                    Also, after a lengthy bit of searching, find I no mention of you pointing out the bullpen as a major problem spot at the beginning of the year. Your mention of signing Broxton, Nathan, and Dotel sure sounds good after we saw them pitch, but again. . . hindsight. Nobody was clamping for these guys over last offesason that I could see.

                    You also wanted a Garza/Dempster/Samardzija/Volstad/Maholm rotation with Wood and Wells as “rotational depth”. Tell me again how this doesn’t contradict your “Volstad in the rotation, Wood in AAA = tanking” argument again?

                    1. DocPeterWimsey

                      find I no mention of you pointing out the bullpen as a major problem spot at the beginning of the year. Your mention of signing Broxton, Nathan, and Dotel sure sounds good after we saw them pitch, but again. . . hindsight. Nobody was clamping for these guys over last offesason that I could see.

                      Nor should they have been! Relievers vary so much from one year to the next that it’s almost impossible to guess which ones will put up good numbers in 2013 right now. (This is why Rivera was such a freak.)

                      That said, teams routinely make post-season with below-average bullpens, and teams with good bullpens frequently miss post-season. Bullpens do not by themselves cost games: if you are constantly relying on your bullpen, then this shows a failing of starters and/or offense leading to too many close games. That is what happened to the Pirates this year: their bullpen was great for about 4 months, and then their arms fell off. With better hitting (and, to a lesser degree, better starting) the bullpen would have been both less prominent and less important.

                      We might look back and count all of the games that the Cubs bullpen blew. However, suppose that there had been a couple of good setup men shutting down rallies early. They rapidly would have been burned out because of the Cubs poor offense and below-average starting pitching.

                    2. Kyle

                      “Also, after a lengthy bit of searching, find I no mention of you pointing out the bullpen as a major problem spot at the beginning of the year. Your mention of signing Broxton, Nathan, and Dotel sure sounds good after we saw them pitch, but again. . . hindsight. Nobody was clamping for these guys over last offesason that I could see.”

                      It’s supposed to be hindsight. I was asking a direct question: Could I find a set of available relievers to make a 10-15 win improvement?

                      “You also wanted a Garza/Dempster/Samardzija/Volstad/Maholm rotation with Wood and Wells as “rotational depth”. Tell me again how this doesn’t contradict your “Volstad in the rotation, Wood in AAA = tanking” argument again?”

                      Okay, now I know you either weren’t looking very hard or got me confused with the other Kyle or something . If there’s one thing I was beating the drum for all spring, it was Wood in the rotation from the beginning, even if it meant keeping Samardzija or Volstad out. I believe I even said that I wouldn’t mind releasing Dempster if it made the difference in getting Wood into the rotation. I was super-high on Wood.

                    3. KyleNovak

                      Kyle,

                      Here is your quote from April 4th:

                      http://www.bleachernation.com/2012/04/04/theo-epstein-speaks-talent-level-winning-timetable-media-attention/comment-page-1/#comment-88962

                      I sure didn’t get you confused with the other Kyle, because I am the other Kyle.

                      If you just wanted to go as far as finding wins from other relievers AFTER seeing them play a full season, then that’s fine. But none of those bullpen names were being championed last offseason by anyone (even guys like Jonah Keri on Grantland, who specifically said teams like the 2012 Cubs should avoid many FA bullpen guys) as potential FA signings. So, it really doesn’t say much else other than, “There were guys out there, these are the ones that hit with their respective teams in terms of WAR and WPA, and if we signed ALL of them, it would have given us our wins.”

        3. hansman1982

          Ok, the depth of the sukitude occured on May 27. At this point, the Cubs were 15-32.

          CF, C, 3B and BP were black holes. Aramis Ramirez (the best 3B option last offseason) was sitting at .238/.310/.402. Stewart was at .193/.285/.329 We will be super generous through 45 games and give him 3 WAR above Stewart. 18-29.

          CF – Byrd was not a bad option going into last offseason but for some reason fell off the face of the earth. Getting quality from CF is not easy but let’s say as an insurance plan you signed Coco Crisp in the offseason (which you have previously suggested over DeJesus or as a 4th OF) he was batting .165/.216/.176 on this date. 0 WAR

          C – at this point we were on catcher #4 – impossible to protect from. At this point Clevenger had stolen all of 23 PA from Castillo. 0 WAR

          That brings us to the bullpen. Now assuming we get the same June 25 – July 31 and go 19-10. To bring us to needing to be at 22-26. That means through 45 games the bullpen needed to provide 4 WAR. At this point in the season, Camp had a 2.84 ERA, Russell had a 1.74 ERA, Sean Marshall had a 4.24 ERA and Cashner had a 3.38 ERA. Octavio Dotel had a 2.87 ERA vs. Marmol’s 6.35. Marmol had blow 3 games at this point so I guess you could hope to get all three of those back through Dotel.

          Out of Marshall, Cashner and Dotel, could you have hoped to get 4 WAR through the end of May…probably. However, that would leave us without Rizzo, without Wood/Sappelt. It’s just as likely that Marmol would have become a complete train wreck and untradeable ($14M pissed down our legs), Marshall would have walked for nothing (16 years combined of team control gone), Dotel would have given us 1 season, but cost nothing more than $.

          So that leaves us 1 game below .500 on May 29. For the season that means we would still have had to gain another 8 wins to be in contention. 8 wins from the deadline to now.

      2. Bill

        TC,

        A big reason the Cubs lost 100 games is because after the trade deadline they were awful. For good reasons or not, Theo gutted this team of much of it’s talent. Dempster and Maholm were very good starters, and Garza getting hurt was a big loss. They also shut down Shark.

        If the Cubs would have started the season with a legit bullpen, 1B and 3B, the starting pitching was good enough to win us a lot of games. The Cubs would have maybe been in the position to be buyers, not sellers at the trade deadline. The team looked very good after Rizzo was called up and before the trade deadline. Too big a hill to overcome and then Theo traded off all the assets he could to re-stock the farm system.

        To me it’s not inconceivable this team could have competed for a WC spot with a few changes. Theo threw up the white flag before the season even began. His goal from day one was for this team to lose 100 games and hopefully get the number 1 pick in next year’s draft.

        1. TC

          Well, first off, the Cubs did start the year with a legit 1B in Brian LaHair, who was on pace to be worth about 3 fWAR over a full season (though projection totally doesnt work like that, I know). If they signed a “legit” 1B, Rizzo wouldve never played anyway.

          Baseball is a weird game, and teams often go on runs where they play much better ball than expected, or than they really are. Yea, the Cubs looked alright for a few weeks, but that’s all it was: a few weeks.

          To me, its totally inconcievable that this team couldve competed for a wild card spot. There were like 12 guys that would’ve had to have been upgraded at the beginning of the season, and finding that many good players lying around just doesnt happen

          1. Bill

            Lahair had one very good month, a ok May, and has been brutal since. They needed a 1B to start the season. 3B was a joke all season, which could have been solved by just re-signing Ramirez. The starting pitching was good early and the Cubs blew several games in Apr because Theo gave this team a bullpen of rookies (not ready) or has been. This could have been cheap to fix but Theo ignored the problem.

            The rotation was good but it lacked depth. Again, not expensive to fix Theo was more content rolling worthless Volstad or Wells out to the mound every 5 days. They didn’t need to sign a Greinke type pitcher, but they could have found someone Maholmesque to round out the rotation.

            Do you really think these were monumental problems that couldn’t have been resolved by Theo, without breaking the bank? If so, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            I wasn’t and still am not a big fan of the Marshall trade. I’ve never thought Wood will be anything more than a number 5 starter (soft tosser who needs pinpoint control to win), Theo was so impressed with Sappelt he kept in Iowa until Sep (even though CF has been a black hole for us), and the kid in Single A didn’t start hitting this year until the 2nd half. He’s small and limited to play 2B and I think the Cubs have several better prospects. I’d rather have Marshall and signed him to a contract extension, then trade him at the all star break or maybe try him in the rotation (I’ll admit his best role is setup man). I guess I’d rather have a lockdown setup reliever who can pitch 2-3 innings, over a starting pitcher who a few runs every game and avg just under 6 innings per start.

            I guess my point is they should have at least been to get a Travis Wood type pitcher at the trade deadline. I would much rather Theo told Cincy, keep Torreyes, keep Sappelt, and give us a hard throwing starting pitching prospect with a high ceiling. I don’t care if this was a Single A player. Theo said during the offseason the Cubs lacked power arms in the system and the focus in any deals would be to get power arms. Then he goes out and signs Wood, who is not a power arm.

  8. Kyle

    “Can’t just say Castillo would’ve been worth that much prorated to a certain amount of PA’s. doesn’t work like that, and its been shown time and again that players who performed at a certain level of PA’s cannot be expected to keep up that production over a significantly larger sample of PA’s.”

    Okay, how do you want to value the difference between the clearly sub-replacement Clevenger and the clearly competent Castillo?

    [quote]Also, to improve CF…who would you have signed? In lieu of a realistic CF signing (there wasn’t one out there), or any realistic group RPs who couldve magically been worth 8 fWAR that couldve been signed in FA, you’re still way below that win threshold.[/quote]

    Nope, I’m pretty darn close. Though, as I admitted, CF is problematic because it would have taken a brilliant GM to know that Byrd and Jackson would both become worthless.

    [quote]And, more importantly, what would be the point of having an 80 win team? What does that accomplish in the longterm? Signing a bunch of stopgaps at 1st, 3rd, CF and in the bullpen doesnt mean the team will be better next year or down the road.[/quote]

    Sometimes 80-win teams turn into 85 win teams by variance, and they pick up some more at the deadline, and next thing you know you have the 2006 Cardinals.

    Winning baseball games *is* the point, no matter how much Cubs fans (and management) wants to lose sight of that.

    And in this scenario, you could still sign Soler, still trade for Rizzo, still make the No. 3 pick this season. Our farm system would still be improving. As I mentioned in that other thread, the idea that it was terrible is revisionist history. It was already on the upswing with a ton of interesting low-minors talent.

    [quote] Any advances from Castro and Castillo would be more than offset by the declining value of an aging Prince, Soriano, Aramis, and the whole bullpen. You just set the team up for a perpetual cycle of mediocrity, like the white sox since 2007 or so[/quote]

    Only if Theo Epstein isn’t better at drafting and development than Kenny Williams. Epstein proved he could draft and develop well in without needing high draft picks to do it. There’s no reason not to have let him try to do the same with the Cubs.

  9. cubsin

    Here’s a hypothetical way for the 2012 Cubs to have reached the playoffs:

    Keep ARam. Move Barney to SS and trade Castro for expensive veterans on the downhill side of their careers. Sign Cespedes and Darvish, regardless of cost. Sign a couple more free agent pitchers. Keep Sean Marshall, even though he could walk at the end of the season. Trade Jackson, Baez,Vitters and anybody else in the minors with any real value to shore up weaknesses. Win 88 games and squeak into the playoffs. Expect the next rebuilding plan to take 10 years instead of the current three.

    By the way,Team Hypothetical loses the one-game playoff to the Braves…

  10. Kyle

    “I still think that, outside of signing 1-2 of Pujols, Fielder, Wilson, Burhle, it was damn near impossible to build a team that was going to actually contend.”

    I think I’ve shown pretty consistently that’s not true. And even if you build an 81-win team, you’ve left yourself with fewer holes to fill than you did this way for 2013.

    “Had we done that we would be short 5 prospects in our farm system right now and been just as likely to be playing playoff ball as we are right now.”

    Those five prospects? Not that special. It’d be … Johnson, Vizcaino, Chapman, Villanueva, and who else? It’s late. Vizcaino is the only one I’d really be upset about losing, the rest are pretty interchangable with every other decent prospect in the minors.

    “To me there is no difference between a .500 season and a .300 season unless you are supposed to be fielding the future of the franchise at a large number of positions. in 2014 I will be far more upset about a 100 loss team than I am this year. It is all about perspective.”

    Every season is a chance to win, and every chance to win is sacred.

    “I am still of the mindset that Theo and Jed’s overall plan for 2012 was the right one. Taking your plan needed a lot of things to go just right this year as their’s did.”

    That’s fine, but I disagere.

    “Plus, the only true tanking came at the deadline. At which point the Cubs were out of contention so what’s the point of shooting for an extra few wins.”

    Filling the bullpen with terrible castoffs = tanking
    Putting Castillo in Iowa with Clevenger coming up = tanking
    Handing starting jobs to Ian Stewart and Bryan LaHair = tanking
    Putting Volstad in the rotation and Wood in Iowa = tanking.

  11. Kyle

    “Nor should they have been! Relievers vary so much from one year to the next that it’s almost impossible to guess which ones will put up good numbers in 2013 right now. (This is why Rivera was such a freak.)”

    This is one of those situations where people take a good idea and stretch it way, way too far.

    Yes, relievers are volatile. All players are volatile, but relief pitchers are prone to a decent amount more volatility because of their small body of work.

    But there is still a significant level of skill to their job, and you most definitely can do more than just guess which ones will put up good numbers in a specific year.

    “That said, teams routinely make post-season with below-average bullpens, and teams with good bullpens frequently miss post-season.”

    Okay, so? Three below-average offensive teams are on track to make the postseason right now. All phases of the game have a measurable impact on the game.

    The Cubs are a special case this year because they have had such a truly awful bullpen. It’s been below-replacement as a whole, which is *really* hard to do.

    “Bullpens do not by themselves cost games: if you are constantly relying on your bullpen, then this shows a failing of starters and/or offense leading to too many close games. That is what happened to the Pirates this year: their bullpen was great for about 4 months, and then their arms fell off. With better hitting (and, to a lesser degree, better starting) the bullpen would have been both less prominent and less important.”

    I think that’s a gross oversimplification of what happens with bullpens.There’s no reason why a good team should have more or fewer high-leverage innings than a mediocre team. If your bullpen is wearing out, that’s just bad leverage management.

    “We might look back and count all of the games that the Cubs bullpen blew. However, suppose that there had been a couple of good setup men shutting down rallies early. They rapidly would have been burned out because of the Cubs poor offense and below-average starting pitching.”

    Again: All these moves have to work together. The Cubs needed to combine an adequate bullpen with other improvements. Their rotation would have been pretty close to average if they’d used their best starting pitchers all season. Their rotation has given up 44 runs more than a league-average rotation at this point, and the Germano/Rusin/Raley/etc. brigade is responsible for that margin and then some.

    The Cubs’ offense has scored 69 runs below league average at this point. Using Baseball-Reference’s Batting Runs Above Average, the Cubs have employed Clevenger (-15), Mather (-13), Vitters (-11), Stewart (-8), Campana (-8), which is -55 runs worth of players who had no place on a roster that was seriously trying to win.

    You of all people I would expect to understand of sitting down and doing the math on why the Cubs are bad rather than just saying “They are terrible and that’s that.” The Cubs are terrible for a specific reason, and it’s *not* because they were hopelessly devoid of talent. It’s because they surrounded the talent they did have with shockingly bad players. The Cubs have employed 30 players below replacement level this year, the theoretical level at which a team should always be able to find a player for no marginal cost. That’s simply a shocking number, and when you combine it with the amount of resources they left simply sitting on the table this season, it’s not hard to make a case that they could have been significantly better with a real effort at building a roster.

    Of course, that’s the best case scenario: That our front office didn’t care about this season and thus didn’t care that they were fielding so many sub-replacement players, often in key positions. The other possibility is that they actually *were* trying and this is what they came up with. Given their history, I don’t think that’s likely.

  12. Kyle

    There actually is a third Kyle who occasionally posts under “Kyle.” I’ve seen a decent number of posts that aren’t me under the name “Kyle.” Maybe 5% of the total Kyle posts.

    “Here is your quote from April 4th:”

    That one, however, is me.

    One of the thing I try to do when constantly asked these “put together your plan” questions is work as much within the confines of what the Cubs actually did as I possibly can, which at that point included insisting on Samardzija and Volstad in the rotation. It’s a vain attempt to keep the conversation as narrow as possible. There’s no need to derail the conversation with my love for Travis Wood or whatever when the point is to show how much the Cubs could have improved their corner positions with minimal investment.

    If you were actually going through all my quotes from the spring, you’d have seen a persistent Travis Wood over just about everyone love.

    “If you just wanted to go as far as finding wins from other relievers AFTER seeing them play a full season, then that’s fine.”

    Again, I was asked a direct question.

    Generic poster: “Even if the Cubs had a $180 million payroll they would have been hopeless.”
    Kyle: “Well, that’s not true.”
    Generic poster: “Oh yeah? Show us how the Cubs could have won with a $180 milllion to spend this offseason?”
    Kyle: “Posts a $180-million plan”
    Generic poster No. 2: “Kyle, why do you think the Cubs could spend $180 million?!?!?! That’s ridiculous!”

    The point isn’t that the Cubs should have signed those specific relievers. It’s that they should have done more than just throw Manny Corpas and Shawn Camp at the position. They’ve managed to put together a historically bad bulllpen, and that can’t be ignored in the “What could they have done differently to improve” discussion.

    1. Kyle

      If we want to do a “What we knew then” plan, that could be fun too.

      I may not get to hindsight the bullpen as hard, but I get +5 wins for pythagorean variance (we didn’t know the team would be 5 games below its run differential, of course), I get a useful Marlon Byrd in CF instead of the smoking crater the position has become, I don’t have to worry about Garza getting hurt. There’s some downsides too, but it becomes an interesting discussion.

    2. KyleNovak

      Kyle,
      Yes, you were the highest on Travis Wood throughout the Spring. Absolutely no denying that. And I, along with you, thought he was a great pickup for the Cubs in the Marshall trade.

      So why not mention putting him in the rotation in that situation? I’m just a bit confused as to why you would keep the conversation “as narrow as possible” when, in your mind, Travis Wood was supposedly a key part to the Cuvs winning as many games as possible in 2012. You aren’t shy about about literally everything else you believe in, so why avoid that in that situation?

      I know that you were ASKED these hypotheticals about constructing a competent Cubs team with unlimited money or X budget and were choosing best-case scenarios to prove that, I just think it ends up sounding far-fetched and egotistical, as if this slew of ideal hand-picked choices could have ALL been reality. At best, the data provided gives you an idea of potential player archetypes to consider in *future* FA signings, not what-could-have been scenarios.

      Ultimately it comes down to this: Byrd’s utter cliff-diving suckitude and eventual departure left a gaping hole in CF and was not anticipated by ANYONE. The Cubs were fored to play Campana (didn’t work) Reed Johnson (worked), and Joe Mather (ugh. . . who got additional undeserved playing time due to Ian Stewart being ineffective/hurt). Jackson was K’ing a ton in AAA and wasn’t an option. Sappelt was underperforming. Vitters was borderline (at the very best) and Valbuena was brought up only because he was a outperforming Vitters and didn’t have the same prospect-y/service time label on him. Even though he was an improvement over Stewart, it has been marginal at best.

      You (and others) wanted Ramirez. Theo and Jed gambled with Stewart. They also could have gambled with someone like Betemit (another disappointment) or Chavez (pleasant surprise).
      You (and others) wanted someone like Pena. Theo and Jed went with LaHair and they ultimately got Rizzo.

      The organizational cupboard was bare at 3B and in the OF. Shuffling chairs on the Titanic comes to mind.

      I clearly outlined all of those things in my post above when talking about the your beginning of the year plan.

      Again, this is no knock on you, because you were asked by a lot of people to do this example, but this hindsight “I’m going to browse B-R for the “best of all possible worlds” type situations with a beverage in hand just to show it COULD be done.” type of analysis is redundant and unrealistic. It just shows that some teams hit on certain FA signings, others didn’t, and nobody hits on 100%. Do you think a team like the Dodgers could have used a Shawn Camp-type bullpen arm on the cheap? Yeah, but how were they supposed to predict his relative success this year? Players like Coco Crisp, Eric Chavez and Joe Nathan get brought up as guys the Cubs *could* have signed to improve the team, even though they all had very cool/ lukewarm buzz or at best registered a tepid “feh.” back in the offseason. Those early season picks that were insisted upon well before the season began (like Ramirez) hold weight, whereas a guy like Coco Crisp. Not so much.

      The bullpen could have been better. I definitely agree with you. How much better? Since we can’t go back in time and don’t know who REALLY would have signed with Chicago, given the opportunity (at least I don’t anyway), I don’t know.

      I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m ready to move away from this talk about what woulda-shoulda-coulda been done after-the-fact in 2012 and move into what *needs* to be done in 2013. And I’m sure you feel similar. :)

      1. Chris

        I look forward to debating which free agents to sign with Kyle. That’s clearly the next progression of this debate. We’ve looked back enough at the 2012 season. Rule 5 draft and free agency should be the focus now. Once players file for free agency and we know which teams offered which players qualifying offers, I think we can really kick up this conversation a bit more. Speaking of Rule 5, does anybody know of a good place to view the eligible players from each team? I don’t recall if Baseball America does that or not.