Quantcast

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein addressed the media yesterday as we approach the offseason, and offered thoughts on a variety of important subjects (quotes available, for example, here, here, and here).

His words, my thoughts, etc.:

  • On where things stand: “That’s the goal, to get there in a way that allows us to do it year in and year out. You can’t help but look at what the Cardinals are doing, and the Giants now, and teams that are able to be factors in October year in and year out …. There is urgency [to win], but that urgency will be paid back through hard work to get us there to stay. It won’t necessarily translate into a panic to get us there, or a shot at getting us there quicker, if it means a less healthy organization …. I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here. I also wake up every day and recognize that we lost 101 games and understand how painful that was for everybody, including me, and that provides further motivation to get out of this position that we’re in.” The message remains the same: there are no shortcuts, there won’t be a spending binge, and this might take a while.
  • On the upside of the 2012 season: “I think there were a lot of positives. That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen, and if we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization” Hmm … half dozen, eh? Castro, Samardzija, Rizzo … Soler, Almora, Baez? How about Garza? Jackson and Vitters? Castillo? I think you can probably take some guesses.
  • On his plans for/hopes for competitiveness in 2013: “As soon as you get to Spring Training, and Opening Day starts – you’re in it to win it until you’re not. Nothing would make me happier than to be in solid contention in June and July and adding pieces for next year. With the second wild card, it’s never a total fantasy. It’s just not. With a solid start, if we find ourselves in that position we’ll be thrilled and we’ll go for it …. If we’re not in that position, we’ll make the hard call we made this year and do it in the best interest of the Cubs and look to move shorter-term assets for longer-term assets, move veteran players for younger players.” Looking at the A’s, the O’s and the White Sox of 2012, it is indeed fair to say that it isn’t a “fantasy” to think it’s conceivable the Cubs could be in adding mode come midseason, but that will depend in large part upon what is done this offseason to the roster. Right now, it looks like a fantasy.
  • On observing Cubs prospects in the Instructional League this Fall: “That was a really nice feeling to be down there and see a lot of dedicated Cubs baseball [operations] personnel, some new, some old, all buying into the collective ‘Cubs way’ of doing things that they helped define, impacting a really talented group of young players.”
  • It all comes down to balls and strikes: “I believe 90 percent of the game revolves around controlling the strike zone when you combine what it means to do so from an offensive standpoint and also from a pitching standpoint. It’s something we weren’t really good at. We didn’t walk enough, our pitchers walked too many hitters, we didn’t manage counts as well as we should’ve.” This has been a known problem in the system for years, and wasn’t going to be solved in one season.
  • Epstein hopes that Arodys Vizcaino will be able to join the rotation at some point in 2013 (after a mid-season sell-off, for example?), but noted that Vizcaino would be on an innings limit of some sort.
  • Epstein said the Cubs are going to convert Alberto Cabrera back into a starter next year, which is surprising, given his perceived upside as a reliever (the thinking was that he had back-end of the bullpen stuff when he could let it all go – to wit, he was converted to the bullpen in 2012, and his K-rate, and K/BB ratio went through the roof in the minors). We’ll see how that plays out, as the staff has obviously identified something about him that could work as a starter.
  • As for 2013 needs, Epstein essentially said the Cubs need two starting pitchers, an outfielder (though he wouldn’t say whether that would be in center field or right field), and a third baseman. He said that the Cubs would consider Ian Stewart if he’s fully recovered from his wrist surgery, and noted that the market for third basemen is exceptionally thin.
  • A pat on the head for Tony Campana: “I think the bat will dictate his future role in the big leagues. He’s a good defender and an outstanding base runner, but, so far, there hasn’t been much impact coming off his bat as far as on-base skills. We’re all rooting for him.”
  • Big Daddy

    We really need some impact arms in the system. We just don’t have any. Look at the Giants and Tigers. I know the Tigers bang it, but both teams have great pitching.

    • die hard

      Hows that looking now, Mr. Ricketts, passing on Tidrow for GM?..even though the Giants should have been barred from post season play due to Cabrera steroid powered games leading to half of their victories.How about that Commish? Good of the game? Cubs-Still time to offer Tidrow position in organization after WS

      • Drew7

        YES!

  • AB

    who would be the cubs system equivalents of who Detroit gave up to get Fister??

  • gblan014

    Call me pessimistic, but at this point how many “short term assets that can be turned into long term assets” do we have left? It starting to look like the “plan” (by accident or by design) is just to suck really bad for a number of years in order to be able to out-draft everybody else. Needless to say that could take a long while and/or never work at all. I was on board with this for a while but now I’m starting to drift over to Kyle’s point of view: why exactly can’t they try to build on parallel fronts?

    • Tim

      This could be those Paul Maholm signings.

      • gblan014

        I’m just not convinced that a strategy of signing the Paul Maholm’s of this world to try to turn them into long term assets is always (or often) going to work.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          If “always going to work” is your standard, you’ll be disappointed.
          Even if “often going to work” is your standard, you’ll probably still be disappointed.

          “SOME” need to work. And the more of those types you sign, the better your chances of getting an Arodys Vizcaino into your system.

          • EQ76

            I look at the rebuild this way.. there are steps to take along the way with one constant factor – draft well.

            Step 1 seemed to be clean house, step 2 was build the farm system up and develop a core of players to build around..(Castro, Rizzo, Shark…) that seems to be where we are now. after the next draft we should be loaded in the minors.

            The question I have is, what is step 3? Signing FA’s? Trading for impact players? both? Some on here think that we’ll flip players every year for prospects, I don’t. I think we did what we did last year because our farm system was so weak and we sucked.

            So this year, who knows what happens, but I don’t think it’s fair for us all to base the future behavior of the FO off of the first year. I for one, believe that this team will spend big again, just this time it’ll be wiser spending.

    • willis

      Yeah I’m leaning this way as well. The problem is, as many have hit on here, players looking at Cubs FA offers and not giving them serious thought knowing that without a trade clause in there, they are just stop gaps that have a home for about 3 months. Who wants that?

      With the money this organization has, building on both fronts is possible. Granted the crop this year isn’t that great. But there are a couple pieces that could be had out there. I understand building from the bottom up, but for a top 5 market team to suck for three straight years and looking like it will suck for three more years, eh, that’s not good. And should never be the case.

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        More than that. As much as we hate to admit it, the Cubs do have a budget. (I think it’s a lot more than they’re spending, but it’s there.) Why spend it on question marks and has-beens this off season, when guys like Verlander and Hernandez may be on the market soon commanding top dollar? I’d rather sign both of them — and only the two of them — than 10 so-so guys this off-season.

        • Cyranojoe

          I was about to say something remarkably similar to this. Yeah, if this year’s FA market had Verlander and MULTIPLE top arms and/or hitters, then I’d say let’s flex some Chicago muscle and buy up a team — with good, controlled contracts please. But the market sucks ass. I mean, Youkilis is the best you can do at third? Really?

          (By the way, can we persuade all the sports writers to stop suggesting Youkilis-to-the-Cubs? Dude hates this team. It’s not going to happen, not so long as his talents are remotely in demand, after which, he’s gonna retire and we won’t want him anyway. Not happening.)

          Anyway, 2013 just isn’t gonna be our year, barring a miracle May and June. And July through October, too, but the first two have to happen before we pick up any truly valuable extras. So, if you want to win in 2013, you better start praying that Tony C. learns to get on base at a .380 clip or better…. ;-)

    • Ogyu

      I mostly agree with you, gblan. But at this point, I think we really have too small a sample size of management’s decisions to conclude that they are not trying to build on parallel fronts. After all, if the grapevine can be believed, they did make serious (if unsuccessful) efforts to get Cespedes and Darvish, and also apparently looked into the possibility of signing Fielder to a shorter-term, higher-annual-value deal. Perhaps management can be faulted for not succeeding at getting any of those guys, but this short track record does not appear to support the inference that their strategy is to just suck really bad for a long time and build through the draft alone.

    • terencemann

      The point is that this team can’t just buy their way to 82 wins and that the minor league talent is so concentrated in the lower levels that there aren’t a lot of pieces in the upper levels that can be traded toward major leauge talent that would help the team get ahead in the short run. If there are sellers this off-season that would be willing to part with modest major league talent for players like Lake, Ha, Vitters, Jackson, etc, then maybe there are deals that can be made. The Cubs just don’t have enough surplus at different positions waiting in the wings. The type of star players people want to acquire would take multiple top-end prospects and would leave the minor league system hurting without adding enough players at the major league level to make the Cubs competitive.

      The only “holes” where the Cubs lack players right now are center and third but they also need upgrades in the corners and at second. Barney isn’t going to have historically good seasons defensively every year and he’s a liability as a hitter. They need someone who can be productive offensively at second without completely sacrificing defense. They need to revamp almost the entire bullpen and they need at least two pitchers but Wood is really a #4-#5 so they could use an upgrade there.

      What I’d like to see is the Cubs make some trades like Oakland made for Chris Young. Part of what let them make that trade was having an extra utility infielder who could hit and field well enough to justify giving him a spot on the field, though.

      • Kyle

        “The point is that this team can’t just buy their way to 82 wins”

        Sure they could. It wouldn’t even be that hard. if our front office truly believes they can’t turn $65 million into a decent team in one offseason, especially with the start they now have, they are completely inept and should resign in disgrace.

        • terencemann

          2012 runs scored: 613
          2012 runs allowed: 759

          They could sign Hamilton, Youk, Haren and Sanchez and it wouldn’t make up that difference.

          • Kyle

            Net difference: -146

            Haren’s an awful example. I’ll take Villanueva instead, who should be much cheaper and I don’t want to be accused of cherrypicking an expensive pitcher.

            B-R runs above replacement for the four players mentioned in 2012:
            Hamilton (34), Youkilis (12), Villanueva (16), Sanchez (15): total: +77

            B-R runs above (or in this case, usually below) replacement for our 3b, CF and 55 starts worth of our worst starters:

            -1, 4, -49, total: -46

            Net difference: +123. So we didn’t get there, but we got darn close. Fix catcher and the bullpen, too and you’re a borderline playoff team.

            • terencemann

              First, you can’t just add RAR to runs scored and call it a day. It doesn’t work like that. Runs above replacement is “above replacement”, not just raw runs.

              Second, RAA and runs allowed don’t always have a perfect relationship. The Rangers gave up 707 regular season runs, more than any other “playoff” team yet their staff was worth 268 RAR.

              But let’s do the math anyway.

              The Cubs were worth 121 RAR as an offense in 2012. IF you replace all of the centerfielders with Hamilton, and it doesn’t really work that way but I’m willing to fudge it for now, You get a net difference of 35. If you replace all of the only third basemen who played in 2012 with Youk, you get a net 18 (-11 for Vitters, +4 for Stewart/Valbuena). That leaves them with 174 offensive RAR. That means they’re right around the Braves who scored 700 runs last season as one of the lower scoring playoff teams.

              When it comes to pitching RAR, the team finished the season with 43 net RAR. They go into the off-season without Dempster and Maholm now so the starting team, assuming everything is the same, is worth -8 RAR.

              So your math doesn’t add up there at all.

              • Kyle

                “First, you can’t just add RAR to runs scored and call it a day. It doesn’t work like that. Runs above replacement is “above replacement”, not just raw runs.”

                I didn’t. I added *net change* in RAR to runs scored.

                Besides being wrong about that, you also don’t seem to realize that if you were making a point there, it’d be in my favor. RAR is *smaller* than raw runs. So if we converted RAR to raw runs and added it, it’d be bigger. But we’re not doing either, so that’s irrelevant.

                “Second, RAA and runs allowed don’t always have a perfect relationship. The Rangers gave up 707 regular season runs, more than any other “playoff” team yet their staff was worth 268 RAR.”

                The difference is park factor. The Rangers had a team net +99 RAA and a home park factor of 112.

                The league average was 713 runs allowed, which means a league average team would have been expected to allow 798 runs in their ballpark. Texas, as you noted, allowed 707. A net difference of +92. Pretty close.

                It doesn’t have to be perfect to show that the improvements that *you* suggested get us in the ballpark, which you were implying they clearly didn’t.

                “…So your math doesn’t add up there at all.”

                Because you cheated on the pitching. You assumed our two new pitchers would make just 37 starts combined for us, and that Garza would again get hurt, Wood again be sent down and Samardzija again be shut down for usage concerns, leaving us with 55 starts of awful from sub-replacement players.

                • terencemann

                  I didn’t give Dempster and Maholm credit for a full season with the Cubs, either.

                  The point is that the math you’re doing is so incredibly fuzzy in the first place it would make statisticians scream.

                  • Kyle

                    It’s meant to be quick and ugly, because that’s better than your apparent method of simply saying “Well, that doesn’t seem like much of a difference” and calling it a day.

                    • terencemann

                      Quick and ugly doesn’t make you right it just means you can contort numbers to make your point especially if you just do whatever you want.

                      The fact is, where the Cubs stand as of day one of free agency is one of the worst teams in baseball. When you look at their record last season, it is buoyed by an incredible start by LaHair, and some of the best half or 3/4 of a season some of these players have ever had. You can’t make up the runs scored they need by adding one star player and one above average player. You can’t make up the run prevention they need by adding two pitchers approximately equal to what they traded at the deadline of last season when they were a 43-59 team. You can revamp the bullpen but relievers are very volatile and costly investments for the return and you still need a lead to hold to get there.

                      You can cherry pick a few teams that make huge turn-arounds in the last decade but those usually involve star players rebounding from off-years plus a couple young guys who finally emerge as stars. They Cubs have Castro and Rizzo but they could be several years from their prime and Rizzo isn’t even projected to be a star caliber player.

                      You’re making irrational and unreasonable demands based on “quck and ugly” math.

      • NCBrad

        Oakland had minor-league assets to trade for those Major Leaguers who made an impact.Remember, Billy Beane has been doing this for years and he finally had the stud player he needed to go for it (Cespesdes). The Cubs cannot do that because they have neglected the minor leagues for so long. Old aging teams with big payrolls are a thing of the past (i.e. Boston, LA Angels, Florida, and even the Yankees). It worked out for the Tigers, but they were so close to missing the playoffs.

        It’s unfortunate, but this is going to take a long-time. Until those kids who were at Boise this year get to Iowa, things are going to be grim. The only excitement coming from the Major League is whether or not Ricketts can secure funding for the Wrigley rennovations. Otherwise, start figuring out ways to follow the prospects in the minor leagues.

    • D.G.Lang

      The only problem is that the better the record this year (2013), the worse the draft pick as well as the international signings and trades in (2014). The better position in 2013 may also prevent us from trading good but not outstanding players in HOPES of competing the following year (2014)

      It would be great if the Cubs could finish at least second in the division and they can compete AT LEAST at that level from here on out, but that would incur a poorer draft position each following year as well.

      I agree with Theo that if at the split we look competitive and it looks sustainable we should go for a playoff position, but if finishing high this next season (2013) would cost us the better draft picks and leave us worse off the next year (2013), then we should sell off the short term players and go for the better draft picks and trade options which would inprove us even more the following YEARS.

      If doing fairly well and making the playoffs this year (2013) would deprive us of the better draft picks and trades next year (2014) , we are much better off in the long term by not over extending ourselves this year

      • Kyle

        “The only problem is that the better the record this year (2013), the worse the draft pick as well as the international signings and trades in (2014). ”

        That’s only a problem if one’s organizational priorities are completely ack-bassward.

        • terencemann

          I know, a rebuilding team doesn’t care where it drafts or how much money it has to spend.

          • Kyle

            We’re still going to be a rebuilding team in 2014? My god, some people literally never want to stop fapping over prospects and start winning games.

            • terencemann

              Given that there’s no GM in baseball that could get this team to 85 wins in 2013… yes, the 2014 money pool and draft position could still be a factor. The thing is, from 2014 onward, this really could be a great team.

              • Kyle

                Don’t sell GMs, and yourself, short.

                Your own example of Youk, Hamilton and two decent SPs almost got us there, and that was without addressing C or the bullpen.

                So not only could most GMs do it, you’ve even shown that you could do it.

                • Cyranojoe

                  Could we PLEASE stop yakking about Youk? He is NOT coming to the Cubs! He hates this team, he hates this ballpark. Unless the entire league suddenly has no need for a third baseman, the Cubs have zero chance of signing him, and I believe he’d rather retire. So pick another third baseman! Oh, what? There isn’t another 3rd base FA who’s worth remotely his WAR?

                  Shocking!

            • Eric

              I’d like to “fap” for one more year. I think you are unfairly representing people like me. You are creating a strawman that NEVER wants to compete and wants to draft high every single year. That simply isn’t the majority infact I’d say it’s a complete non existant strawman. I feel the same way as the poster above. If we look to be competitive then be in buy mode. If not do the same thing as this year, sell off add few top 10 guys and be ready for a much stronger team in 2014 and beyond.

              • terencemann

                I think this is the vantage point for most Cubs fans. They’re willing to let this ownership group and front office carry out their vision for the team which includes revamping the entire organization from coaches, to scouts, to players. There’s a lot going on in terms of personnel changes, not just player talent.

                I think most fans seem comfortable with the idea that this has not been a great team for most of our lives and, if this leadership group does what they promise, this could be a premier franchise in all of baseball which it has rarely ever been.

                I think most fans are comfortable letting this team do their work and work on their plan which includes a couple down years. I think most fans aren’t going to scream any harder about a team that wins 67 games next season than a team that wins 72 games. If the team isn’t showing signs of progress by the end of 2014, then it’s time to panic. It’s not time to panic after this front office has had one off-season to make moves.

    • cubs1967

      theo and jed don’t know how to make it work on a parallel level of competing and improving the farm; they have never done this before; which is the problem. so theo dreams of doing it this way; just have to see if 4 of 5 yrs or 80% of his contract is worth losing 90-100 games each year.
      i dont’ like that dempster brougth nothing back to help in 2013 when demp was having a great season; forget the mess with atlanta; the P is a fringe prospect and the 3b Villaneuva is diminituve and more of a 2b where we already have Barney-Torreyes-Bruno.(and Baez or Castro is the future 3b so really should of been 2 pitchers)
      And Baseball of America states the Cubs draft was not in top 5 this year; whatever that is worth, but I would think if the plan is go young that the team theo tandem should have the Cubs in top 5 every year.
      no major market team has gone young and considering the cubs draw 3M (less not due to Ricketts’ poor ownerhship to date) would not go the method of the royals-pirates-orioles and lose on purpose. except for this year with dan duquette(the guy that gave theo a 90 win team), the o’s and bucs and royals have about 50 plus years combined of losing doing it the “right way”.
      in the end, it’s still 104 yrs and counting; soon will be 105.

      • terencemann

        Every significant prospect ranking in baseball disagrees with you about Vizcaino being a fringe prospect and most writers think the Cubs scored huge on that trade.

  • Carne Harris

    We didn’t walk enough, our pitchers walked too many hitters, we didn’t manage counts as well as we should’ve.”

    I’m always reading into what Theo says, he’s like Moses coming down from the mountain to me. But that quote makes me wonder if Bosio might be gone if things don’t improve along those lines this year.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The Cubs atrocious -126 “net” walks was truly a team effort: yes, the pitchers gave up the most walks, but the batters drew the second fewest. You need huge improvement in both pitchers and batters to get this team up to break-even. (There is a good correlation between net walks and winning percentage, so that’s not a bad idea.)

      The Cubs had the second worst net OPS (-0.079) this year, and huge (negative) net walks went a long way towards that.

      The question is, how much does a pitching coach really affect this? MLB coaches are piano-tuners, not piano-builders, and you cannot tune a crappy piano very well.

      • Cyranojoe

        Good metaphor.

      • Carne Harris

        Yeah, I know what you mean. That’s why I wonder if it would be after this year if things don’t improve, since we’re supposed to be hitting the FA market pretty hard for SPs. Still not even sure who’s responsible for hiring/firing coaches. Sveum seems pretty close with Bosio so if the FO wants to make a change at pitching coach next year, is it their call, or would they just highly recommend it to Sveum who gets to decide? No idea the chain of command there.

  • Big Daddy

    The scouts must have really whiffed on pitchers for the last several years. How could this organization have gotten this devoid of talent? I agree gblan014.

    • AB

      Its easy to see why this happened. Smaller draft budgets mean you have to draft a number of low-rish, low-ceiling type players and gamble on players who may not have durability to be a starter long-term but were once highly-regarded as amateur prospects (Cashner, Chris Carpenter, Aaron Schafer). You pick the wrong player as a throw-in to the trade (Archer over McNutt), you spend a first round pick on Hayden Simpson, and guys that show alot of promise flame out at higher levels like Jay Jackson and Rhee. Top this with a front office that doesn’t recognize they should have started rebuilding after 2010, holding onto guys like Soto, Marmol, and Marshall instead of trading them, and here we are.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Cabrera has the potential to be a pretty good starter if he keep throwing strikes and if he has refined his secondary stuff enough that hitters cannot just wait on his fastball.

    I still think he’s an 8th inning guy, but I like the idea of trying to stretch him out again. If nothing else, it will give him more innings in which to work on his location and secondary pitches.

  • GDB

    Brett would you agree that the Cubs are unlikely to go for any free agents that get the qualifying offer from their current team? I can’t see us giving-up draft picks (and the associated slot amount) for next year’s draft.

    Also, do we have a clear idea of who will/won’t get a qualifying offer?

    At present i’m expecting us to wait until after the offer deadline (5-days after the world series), and then going after the best of what remains.

    • Eric

      One of the things about a high draft pick is you are picking again so high in the 2nd round it’s likely to get TWO really good first round type talents. You have to give up your 2nd round pick to do what you are talking about. The Cubs are not going to forfeit a pick in the 40′s (or low 50′s depending on how may sandwich picks) to sign a middling player. There are very good players to be had still at that point. In 2009 the Reds picked Billy Hamilton at pick #57, who is now their #1 rated prospect just 3 years later. High draft picks truly are extremely important. That’s something Hendry’s team didn’t understand. They constantly missed opportunities to get sandwich picks by offering arb, and not selling off at the deadline when we were 10+ games back in some lame hope everything went right. Instead of making the hard decision to actually make us better in the long run.

      • Kyle

        “One of the things about a high draft pick is you are picking again so high in the 2nd round it’s likely to get TWO really good first round type talents.”

        Meh. That’s not really that big of a deal. Yes, your 2nd rounder is “like” a late first-rounder, but that isn’t saying much. Late first-rounders have more in common with fourth-rounders than they do early first-rounders.

        • Eric

          I like fourth rounders too. There have been a few great talents to come out of those rounds. And the truly great scouting departments are the ones to find them. I’m not giving those type of picks up UNTIL we are going to the post season every year. Our farm system still sucks in my mind and I don’t really care if the team sucks for 1 more year because they are gonna suck anyway until we have a farm system spewing talent.

          • Kyle

            “I like fourth rounders too. There have been a few great talents to come out of those rounds.”

            There’ve been a lot more great talents to come out of already useful MLB players.

        • terencemann

          I’m glad that we have a front office that has experience picking later round draft picks who turn into great players in the past, then.

          Lester
          Pedrioa
          Youk
          Bucholz
          Lowrie
          MIddlebrooks
          Rizzo

          All drafted outside of the first round.

          • Kyle

            “I’m glad that we have a front office that has experience picking later round draft picks who turn into great players in the past, then.”

            Agreed. Which is precisely why we shouldn’t worry about giving up compensation picks. Our front office is good enough to draft well while giving up an early pick.

  • Rizzo 44

    Please sign BJ Upton 5 years 60M and trade for Justin Upton extend him 3 more years at 15M per. Sign Francisco Liriano and Anibal Sanchez. Soriano 28M, Lake, Vogelbach and LaHair to the Rays for David Price. Trade for Chase Headley some how some way. Sign a couple BP guys and then you’ve got more of a shot.

    • Joker

      ^^^^ And here is a guy that clearly…is Jim Hendry.

      • Kyle

        It’s “imaginary Jim Hendry” time again, I see.

      • Rizzo 44

        No I’m more in line with Theo. I want the players in their prime. All the players I named are in their prime. Yes you have to trade young unproven players to get those players, but 101 loss season isn’t something I like to see. Theo is saying all the right things, but when he was in Boston he had a much better starting point than he had with the Cubs. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m not saying you have to trade for all three. I would take any of those three. Depth is important and I believe Theo is trying to build depth, but you have to have MLB talent to win and those three guys have just that. CY Young SP, All Star RF, and maybe the best 3B right now in the NL.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          And I’m sure TB is anxious to give away David Price for Lake, Vogelbach, and LaHair….

          • Rizzo 44

            Don’t forget Soriano lol Baez may have to be in there.

          • Cyranojoe

            Oooh, ooh, and give him away for TWO unproven first basemen, one who’s widely seen as a AAAA player! Fabulous acumen!

    • Big Daddy

      I would love to get Price, but I don’t think we have enough to give the Rays without giving up Baez or Almora in a package.

      • Kevin

        So you are saying the PRICE is too high?

        • Big Daddy

          I like it. LOL

    • Dr. Percival Cox

      The Rays would never that Price trade. Not once chance in a million. Then Chase Headly: you’re talking about a guy who increased his career home run mark almost 200% at age 28 and Baez will almost certainly be the price. That really seems like a wise trade, when Baez could be the centerpiece in a deal for a true #1 starter?

      • Rizzo 44

        I would trade Baez in a second to get Price a true #1 and a lefty at 27. Come on guys don’t say you wouldn’t do that.

        • TonyP

          Yep

        • Dr. Percival Cox

          I would. The Rays wouldn’t. Price is going absolutely nowhere. The Rays aren’t idiots. They have a cost controlled Cy Young type in their possession. Do you really think their first instinct is: “Let’s get rid of THAT guy.”

          I was saying Baez would be required for Headley. That is WAY too much.

          If you’re going to trade Baez for a #1 starter, it will be a CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay type nearing the end of his career. Or possibly for a guy like Hernandez about to hit free agency and too expensive for his home team to resign. But you would only make that one if you can negotiate a contract extension.

        • Eric

          We can’t even aquire him because most of our top talent was signed recently. To get price get ready to say goodbye to Baez, Smardzija, and Vizciano.

  • Kyle

    We’re going the wrong direction here with pitching. We have money. A lot of it. We don’t have to continue to cannibalize our internal bullpen resources, which are scant enough, to take longshots at converting guys to starting pitching.

    • willis

      Totally agree.

    • Chris

      Cabrera was a starting pitcher initially. Why not stretch him out again and see if the old regime got it wrong. Samardzija moving to the rotation was clearly the right decision. They toyed with him too long back and forth. I’m not saying Cabrera is the same kind of talent, but I remember when Hendry moved Zambrano to the pen in the minors for part of a season, just before he had several successful seasons as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. I feel like Hendry and his FO didn’t know how to manage/evaluate the org’s pitching depth real well, so why not let this FO take a different look at things? It’s much easier to move a guy back to the pen then try to make him a starting pitcher, so if it doesn’t work, no harm no foul.

      • Kyle

        Two replies in one post:

        “Cabrera was a starting pitcher initially. Why not stretch him out again and see if the old regime got it wrong.”

        Because he wasn’t doing very well as a starting pitcher and he shined spectacularly when moved to the bullpen. He last starting season featured a 6.61 ERA and 6.6 K/9. He was moved for a reason: he couldn’t hack it as a starter.

        ” Samardzija moving to the rotation was clearly the right decision. They toyed with him too long back and forth.”

        Eh. I can’t deny that the Samardzija move to the rotation worked out well, but I do think there was very good chance that leaving him in the bullpen may have worked out just as well. 70 innings of shutdown relief, which he was looking capable of providing, can with the right usage be just as valuable as 160 innings of starts.

        “I’m not saying Cabrera is the same kind of talent, but I remember when Hendry moved Zambrano to the pen in the minors for part of a season, just before he had several successful seasons as a starting pitcher in the big leagues.”

        Zambrano had also been a wildly successful starter in the minors before and after the move. Cabrera has only had any success as a reliever.

        “I feel like Hendry and his FO didn’t know how to manage/evaluate the org’s pitching depth real well, so why not let this FO take a different look at things?”

        I don’t think “Well, they are new and this is different” works for me as a philosophy.

        “It’s much easier to move a guy back to the pen then try to make him a starting pitcher, so if it doesn’t work, no harm no foul.”

        Unless he gets hurt trying to handle the increased workload. It’s true that you can always move him back to the pen if it doesn’t work, but that’s not really a justification.

        “totally disagree. Starters are ALWAYS more valuable than relievers, especially to a team not expected to contend.”

        The Cubs should expect to contend every season, especially in October before the offseason has even started.

        But regardless, no, starters are not always more valuable than relievers. Given the importance of high-leverage innings and the improvement in performance most pitchers see in the pen, there’s usually room for 1-2 relievers on a team that are just as important as any of the starters.

        “With minor league talent, you start them until you are convinced that they cannot start.”

        Cabrera’s last five seasons as a starter: 5.40, 5.71, 4.48, 4.24, 6.16. If that doesn’t convince you that he can’t start, what would?

        “Bullpens are always filled with failed starters for a reason. If the Cubs think there is a remote chance Cabrera can start, then that is what he should be doing, until he proves he can’t.”

        That’s just begging the question. The Cubs *shouldn’t* think that Cabrera can start, because he’s shown that he can’t. It’s just desperation.

        • Kyle

          “I feel like Hendry and his FO didn’t know how to manage/evaluate the org’s pitching depth real well, so why not let this FO take a different look at things?”

          I do want to point out separately that Jim Hendry wran as the Cubs’ minor league systems in late 1990s and early 2000s when the Cubs had one of the best runs of pitcher development that baseball has seen in the last 20 years. I know he was the horrible Anti-Theo who did everything wrong and left a smoking crater where sweet life used to be, but the man *may* have known a little about pitching.

          • terencemann

            It helped a lot that the Cubs were able to draft Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. And they only got Mark Prior because the Twins punted.

            • Kyle

              The Twins didn’t punt. They genuinely liked Mauer more. And considering their respective careers, they weren’t wrong.

              But regardless, yes. They drafted well with their high picks. They also developed well. Kerry Wood wasn’t Mark Prior, ready to go. He was a raw teenager that the Cubs developed into 5th best pitcher ever to go No. 4 overall (by bWAR). They also developed Zambrano.

              • terencemann

                Wood was the first pitcher taken in his draft, the #16 prospect in all of baseball in 1996 and was pitching with the team in April of 1998. It’s not like Hendry was following him around giving him pitching tips.

            • terencemann

              Also, these two guys spent less than 4 seasons combined in the minors….

          • Chris

            Here you go again changing what I’m trying to say. I’m not a Hendry hater. But he made several internal evaluation mistakes when it came to pitchers, and even some hitters, in the Cubs system. I’m not saying he didn’t acquire talent. He has been the best Cubs GM in my lifetime, including Dallas Green. Cabrera had shown some success as a starting pitcher in the organization, and was moved up quickly and was very young for each level he started in. There are comparables to Zambrano if you align their stats in the minors, but Zambrano does win out, I’ll give you that. Yet that didn’t stop Hendry from moving Zambrano into a bullpen role in Iowa, during a 65 win season. If they were in the pennant race and needed a bullpen arm, fine, move a top prospect to the pen so you have a chance to win. But in 2000, there was no ML need for Zambrano to be suddenly moved to the pen. Juan Cruz, another outstanding prospect with numbers in the minors that were better than even Zambrano’s is another example of Hendry not handling prospect pitchers well. Plus, he traded him for a lefty that couldn’t throw strikes, or even to a catcher’s mitt, and eventually washed out of baseball within a year. While Cruz hasn’t lived up to the starting pitcher I thought he would be, he’s had a very successful career as a relief pitcher. I’m getting off topic though… Despite your point by point arguments telling me I’m wrong, I’m not convinced trying Cabrera as a starting pitcher through spring training is a bad idea, especially if there are openings in the rotation when spring hits. What stats are you using that say Cabrera was wildly successfull in the bullpen in 2012? He had some solid stats in AA, but beyond that level, he wasn’t that good. Now watching him pitch, I’ll agree that at times he looked real impressive. But he’s certainly replaceable in the bullpen, given his 2012 performance. And I completely disagree with you on Samardzija. A starting pitcher, even for 160 innings, is still more valuable than a 70 inning relief pitcher. And he won’t be a 160 inning starting pitcher his entire career. Had Hendry left him as a SP in the first place, he’d probably have had multiple seasons in the 200 inning range by now. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, I don’t really care about. But clearly somebody that’s part of this FO saw something in Cabrera to consider trying him as a starter. And going into spring last year, doing the same thing with Samardzija was a resounding success. Looking past the numbers on Samardzija you have to consider the experience he gained as a starter over the entire season will only add to his future success. I can’t quantify that for you using stats, but as the season went along and you could see him applying the lessons learned, I can only believe the lost 2012 season did help lay the groundwork for his future succes, in particular. It’s worth a try, if someone sees something they believe they can work with on Cabrera. And given they aren’t doing something similar with Dolis, I don’t feel like this is just someone blindly trying something different, just for the sake of trying. I can’t tell you what they’re seeing, and I have doubts it will be successful, but there is no valid reason you can lay out for me that would convince me it’s not worth trying to see if Cabrera could be a successful starting pitcher.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          “70 innings of shutdown relief, which he was looking capable of providing, can with the right usage be just as valuable as 160 innings of starts.”
          -
          I don’t think the goal is for Samadzija is to be a 160 inning starter and 70 innings is more like a ‘best case’ situation than the norm.
          It’s VERY rare that a 70 inning reliever will be as valuable as a SP.

          • Kyle

            46 relief pitchers finished ahead of Samardzija in net WPA this season.

            The preeminence of WAR has had the interesting side effect that people have begun to criminally underrate leverage.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              But the problem is that leverage is not repeatable, and relief pitchers have as much control over the number of such situations into which they might be called as batters have over how many guys are on base when they hit. Relievers on very good and very bad teams can expect to be in far fewer high leverage situations than will relievers on average teams. The tactic that should maximize winning is to minimize high leverage situations by maximizing strong starts and improving offense.

              So, the WPA part will tell you how well a guy did in a year, but the WAR will tell you how expect him to do next year: and we are worrying about next year now.

              • Kyle

                “But the problem is that leverage is not repeatable, and relief pitchers have as much control over the number of such situations into which they might be called as batters have over how many guys are on base when they hit.”

                You are quite wrong.

                Well, there is a semantic way you could argue that you are technically right, but in a way that still invalidates your point.

                Relief pitcher leverage is extremely repeatable. It is a function of manager choice.

                How many baserunners a batter has on base when he comes up is up to the vagaries chance with a slight influence from the batting order. The situation a reliever comes into is entirely up to the team.

                Mariano River has a career leverage index of 1.87. His average inning pitched has been 87% more likely to influence the outcome of a game than an ordinary inning. He has had a LI of at least 1.75 in 16 of his last 17 seasons.

                “Relievers on very good and very bad teams can expect to be in far fewer high leverage situations than will relievers on average teams. ”

                This is false. If you’d care to research it, you’d find that it was false. By quite a bit. I’m honestly quite surprised that you think this. The fact that all teams have roughly the same number of close games is one of the fundamental discoveries of sabermetrics, like the discovery of the important of OBP in run creation.

                Great teams have lots of blowout wins and bad teams have lots of blowout losses, but everyone has roughly the same number of close games.

                “So, the WPA part will tell you how well a guy did in a year, but the WAR will tell you how expect him to do next year: and we are worrying about next year now.”

                This is false, for the reasons I outlined.

                Rivera, for example, has a career net +55 WPA (which is scaled to average, not replacement) vs. only +39 WAR. I don’t have replacement level for bullpen pitchers offhand, so I can’t recalculate his WAR to WAA (wins above average. Same number, just with a different 0) to make them perfectly comparable, but it’d be roughly very close to what you’d expect when dividing his WPA by his leverage index.

                • Kyle N

                  You use Mariano Rivera, arguably the biggest positive relief pitching *outlier* in MLB history, who played on a consistently successful playoff-caliber team every year. It stands to reason that his leverage rate will remain similar because of A) his freakish consistency and B) his job as a “closer.”

                  It isn’t always so clear for the legions of other pitchers.

                  You’re right, leverage is important but you’ll need more data than “history’s greatest closer” to prove any point.

            • terencemann

              Yes, but those 46 relief pitchers probably wouldn’t all be as good as Samardzija if they started games. Someone has to pitch your team into position to be in a high leverage situation. It takes 6-7 innings to get there. It’s harder to find the guy who can take you there than it is to find guys who have 2 good pitches to try to get you the rest of the way.

            • hansman1982

              Just to clarify…WPA is Win Probability Added?

              If so, and I am using everything correctly, when accounting for leverage, Jim Johnson was the most valuable pitcher in the major leagues. His 68.2 innings was more valuable than Verlander’s 238 or King Felix’s 233 IP.

              Something about that doesn’t sit right.

              • Kyle

                Yes.

                Fangraphs essentially uses MLB history to create a table that shows either team’s odds of winning based on relative score, outs and baserunners. So, for example, down by 1 in the bottom of the ninth with no outs and none on, the average team might win 40% of the time.

                WPA credits or debits a pitcher with the difference between his teams expected win percentage. So if the closer comes in for the road team in the above example, his team has an expected value of 0.60 wins (60% chance to win). If he strikes out the side, he is credited with 0.40 wins (1.00 chance to win when he left minus 0.60 chance to win when he entered). If he gives up a walk-off home run, he’ll be debited (0 chance to win – 0.60= -.60).

                Net WPA isn’t a perfect stat, but it’s important for showing how WAR, which is leverage neutral, severely underestimates the impact of pitchers who are used primarily in high-leverage situations.

                • SirCub

                  The problem with comparing WPA between relief pitchers and starters is that win probabilities sky rocket at the end of the game, as the game’s outcome become more certain. So the relievers will, by default, gain more credit than starters, who do the bulk of the work.

                  • Kyle

                    “The problem with comparing WPA between relief pitchers and starters is that win probabilities sky rocket at the end of the game, as the game’s outcome become more certain. So the relievers will, by default, gain more credit than starters, who do the bulk of the work.”

                    That’s not a bug, it’s an exploitable feature. It’s the entire point.

                    In some late-game situations, the WPs skyrocket because the game is almost certainly decided. In others, they stay very close to neutral until the end.

                    You can pick which relievers you use in which situations.

                    • SirCub

                      Right, they stay close to neutral until the end… when they skyrocket. Point is, WPA for relievers and WAR for starters are apples and oranges. I totally buy what you’re selling about the value of leveraging shutdown relievers, but I don’t think Samardzija is a good example for a couple reasons.

                      1. He doesn’t have big platoon splits for his career, and I think with the continued development of his splitter, he’ll have an effective out pitch against lefties.

                      2. For whatever reason, he doesn’t show the typical spike in velocity that you see in pitchers coming out of the pen. His avg fastball velo actually increased this year.

                      3. He is a tremendous athlete, and has the capacity to be a workhorse, who can put up 200+ innings a year.

                      4. He’s developed a armory of pitches that he can mix up throughout the game, and increase his effectiveness as he moves multiple times through the order, which he has excelled at.

                      That combination lends itself easily to a starting pitcher as opposed to a reliever.

            • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

              I don’t think WPA is supposed to be used as an indicator of how valuable a pitcher is.

              Samardzija can have two identical lines: 9 innings, 10 k’s, 0 bb’s 0 ER, complete game shutouts.
              The Cubs scored 1 run for him in Game 1, but 11 runs in the first in game two.

              How’s Samardzija’s WPA going to look in that 11 run, first inning game?

              Miniscule, even though he pitched EXACTLY the same.

              • SirCub

                Right, but the point of WPA is to show that in that instance, he made a huge contribution to the win. In a game that’s a blowout before the pitcher even takes the mound, a dominant start isn’t as beneficial.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  That sort of highlights the difference between WPA and WAR. WAR tells you how good a guy is. WPA tells you how relevant his contributions were. As such, it is heavily influenced by your team. If you play on a really great or a truly awful team, then your WPA is going to drop: because your teammates are so good (bad), your contributions will not help as much: your team probably would or lose win anyway. Even then, chance is a huge factor: you cannot hit a dramatic bottom of the 9th home run (a big WPA!) if you do not bat in the 9th in the right home games.

                  • Kyle

                    “WAR tells you how good a guy is. WPA tells you how relevant his contributions were. ”

                    Yes and no.

                    WAR tells you how valuable a player would be in a neutral context. That’s a good way to look at it, because for most players a neutral context is going to be the long-term mean.

                    Relief pitchers are a blind spot of WAR, because they are the only players whose context is not schedule-based or lineup-based, but game-context based.

                • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                  Right, so you shouldn’t use WPA to compare pitchers against each other.
                  The fact that there were 40 some RP’s with more WPA than Samardzija is meaningless when deciding on what is more valuable, a 160+ inning SP or a 70 Inning RP.

                  • Kyle

                    It is not meaningless. It proves very much that, in the context of team-building, you cannot meaningfully compare relief innings and starting innings without adjusting for leverage.

              • Kyle

                Incorrect. His WPA would be precisely 0.50 in both situations.

                • SirCub

                  Not if the team scored their 11 runs in the top of the first.

                  • Kyle

                    Oh, derp.

                    That’s valid. WPA is *not* meant to be a universal value stat because it doesn’t work for most players precisely for the reason you just outlined.

                    But all stats have flaws, and WPA’s strengths just happen to dovetail nicely with WAR’s flaws.

                    • SirCub

                      Right, they should both be used in context. Saying “46 relief pitchers finished ahead of Samardzija in net WPA this season.” is not really putting WPA into a proper context.

              • Kyle

                But what you are missing here is that WPA *is* showing how valuable the pitcher was for that game.

                A shutout performance in an 11-0 win had little to do with the team’s victory, especially if all the runs scored in the top of the first (as someone posited).

                We don’t measure starting pitchers (or position players) that way because there is no correlation between the pitcher and the run environment they pitch in (outside of if they hit well themselves, and then the effect is minor), and because it evens out in the long run.

                Matt Garza has a career leverage index of 0.99. Travis Wood is 0.95.
                Justin Verlander is 0.98. All starting pitchers will tend to hover just a bit below 1.00 in the long run.

                But relief pitchers *do* have such a correlation. Their ability directly impacts the manager’s decisions on when to use them. As mentioned before, Mariano Rivera has a career leverage index of over 1.8 and has only been under 1.75 once since Bill Clinton was fighting for reelection.

                This is not random chance, it is a fundamental attribute of having Mariano Rivera. And thus comparing his innings to a starter’s innings, without properly understanding the adjustment, is incorrect.

                • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                  “Their ability directly impacts the manager’s decisions on when to use them.”

                  Really? The manager uses RP’s in the same order in every game. Closer in the 9th, set up man in the 8th, and maybe 7th if you have another good one.

                  “This is not random chance, it is a fundamental attribute of having Mariano Rivera.”
                  I disagree. It’s a fundamental attribute of pitching in the final inning of a game with a lead of 3 runs or less.

                  • Kyle

                    1) Pitching him in the ninth inning *is* a manager’s choice. While that isn’t perfectly optimal, it’s not as bad as people think. Drop the 3-run saves, add in some tie games, and you’re pretty close to optimal.

                    2) 34% of Rivera’s career batters faced have come in non-save situations. He has 1 IP in the 7th or 8th for every 5 in the ninth. That’s dominantly ninth, but certainly not exclusively.

        • BT

          “Given the importance of high-leverage innings and the improvement in performance most pitchers see in the pen, there’s usually room for 1-2 relievers on a team that are just as important as any of the starters.”

          You got me Kyle. If Cabrera is one of the two best relievers on a contenting Cubs team, then you are right, he shouldn’t be moved to the rotation.

          And I’m going out on a limb and assuming the dozens of scouts and cross checkers the Cubs employ have a better idea as to the possibility of his potential as a starter by actually scouting him for years than you do by looking at his stats on baseballreference.com for 14 seconds, but I’ve been wrong before.

          • Kyle

            “You got me Kyle. If Cabrera is one of the two best relievers on a contenting Cubs team, then you are right, he shouldn’t be moved to the rotation.”

            Don’t move the goalposts. You made a specific statement explicitly about *all* starting pitchers, I disagreed with it.

            “Starters are ALWAYS more valuable than relievers”

            You are trying to change the subject of your statement now to Cabrera.

            “And I’m going out on a limb and assuming the dozens of scouts and cross checkers the Cubs employ have a better idea as to the possibility of his potential as a starter by actually scouting him for years than you do by looking at his stats on baseballreference.com for 14 seconds, but I’ve been wrong before.”

            OK, I’ll mark you down for “Professional baseball men are always right” and assume you won’t feel the need to comment ever again on baseball moves.

            • terencemann

              I would agree that professional baseball scouts and executives know a lot more about what they’re doing in terms of player development than people who’s baseball knowledge amounts to what they read on the internet.

              In addition, is it easier to find a pitcher who can throw three pitches well enough over the course of 6-7 innings to keep their team in the game at the ML level or a pitcher who is good for 1 or part of one inning? Which of these are there more of?

              • terencemann

                whose, not who’s.

              • Kyle

                If I see Mr. Hendry, I’ll pass along your deep regard for his decision-making and organizational direction.

                “In addition, is it easier to find a pitcher who can throw three pitches well enough over the course of 6-7 innings to keep their team in the game at the ML level or a pitcher who is good for 1 or part of one inning? Which of these are there more of?”

                Good for an inning consistently? I’d say they are roughly equally hard to find. There are more starters.

          • Kyle

            Although, actually, given Cabrera’s stuff and minor-league performance as a reliever, I do think there’s a chance he could become one of the top 2 relievers on a contending Cubs team. As good a chance as anyone in our system.

    • BT

      totally disagree. Starters are ALWAYS more valuable than relievers, especially to a team not expected to contend. With minor league talent, you start them until you are convinced that they cannot start. Bullpens are always filled with failed starters for a reason. If the Cubs think there is a remote chance Cabrera can start, then that is what he should be doing, until he proves he can’t.

      • Ogyu

        exactly.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        I think that people over-emphasize bullpens because of the “ESPN illusion”: ESPH highlights imply that games are decided on one or two key plays, and thus having good guys for “high leverage” situations will win ball games. However, if you have a good starting rotation, then you will have a lot fewer high leverage situations than you will if you have an average starting rotation. (Well, assuming that you have an average or better offense: if your offense sucks, then you’ll have more because your starters hold the other team down to your offense’s ineptitude!)

        In particular, when you see a reliever come into a 5-4 or 6-5 game and cough up a lead, people say: “a good reliever and we win!” Well, if the starter had been better, then it would have been a 5-2 or 6-2 game: and the reliever could have done his best George Frasier imitation and you could still get away with it. (Or your starter goes another inning and you don’t need a souvenir baseball pitcher.)

        • Kyle

          “I think that people over-emphasize bullpens because of the “ESPN illusion”: ESPH highlights imply that games are decided on one or two key plays, and thus having good guys for “high leverage” situations will win ball games.”

          Games *are* usually frequently on one or two key plays. Or at least, a few.

          “However, if you have a good starting rotation, then you will have a lot fewer high leverage situations than you will if you have an average starting rotation.”

          Yeah. You’re going to have to prove that, because you pretty much just made it up. Come on, you’re a scientist. Would you really accept thought experiments over actual data? This sort of “well, it just makes sense to me” is the same level of thinking that givse us “batting average is the most important stat” and clutch hitting.

          According to Fangraphs, the top 3 bullpens in terms of average leverage index (i.e. saw the most work in important situations) were the Reds, Nationals and Phillies. The bottom three were Rangers, Angles, Cubs.

          The teams that had high-leverage bullpens ranked 10th, 2nd and 5th in rotation WAR.

          The teams that had low-leverage bullpens ranked 3rd, 23rd and 21st.

          I guess we could do a deeper, larger sample to test your hypothesis, but I really doubt it holds up.

          “In particular, when you see a reliever come into a 5-4 or 6-5 game and cough up a lead, people say: “a good reliever and we win!” Well, if the starter had been better, then it would have been a 5-2 or 6-2 game: and the reliever could have done his best George Frasier imitation and you could still get away with it. (Or your starter goes another inning and you don’t need a souvenir baseball pitcher.)”

          The simple fact of the matter is that every team will have a significant number of 5-4 and 6-5 games, and they will have a number of 6-2 and 5-2 games. But unlike starting pitchers or batters, you can match the pitcher to the situation. How much more valuable would Justin Verlander be if his team knew in advance whether they would score 3 runs or 10 and could use him accordingly? How much more valuable would an elite hitter be if you didn’t have to use a batting order and instead could pick any 5 spots for him to bat during a game?

          With relievers, you have that luxury. The result is that a small number of relievers are incredibly valuable, and a small number are virtually meaningless. A team should maximize this by employing a couple of shut-down relievers for high-leverage situations and a couple of mop-up guys whose arms you care nothing about to soak up the low-leverage innings.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Games *are* usually frequently on one or two key plays. Or at least, a few.

            That simply cannot be the case. Look at it this way: in a 6-5 game, the run that won the game was all 6 of them, not the one that ESPN shows. The run that lost the game was all of them, not the one that ESPN shows. That is true if the game started off 6-0 and the other team crawled back into it, or if it was a see-saw battle with the winning run scoring in the bottom of the 9th. In the first case, a good start means a 5-2 or 5-3 victory instead of a 5-6 loss. In the latter case, a good start means a 4-2 or 5-2 victory instead of a 6-5 victory (even if the latter was more exciting).

            • Kyle

              “That simply cannot be the case. Look at it this way: in a 6-5 game, the run that won the game was all 6 of them, not the one that ESPN shows. The run that lost the game was all of them, not the one that ESPN shows. That is true if the game started off 6-0 and the other team crawled back into it, or if it was a see-saw battle with the winning run scoring in the bottom of the 9th. In the first case, a good start means a 5-2 or 5-3 victory instead of a 5-6 loss. In the latter case, a good start means a 4-2 or 5-2 victory instead of a 6-5 victory (even if the latter was more exciting).”

              A simple experiment:

              Allow me the Godlike power to, after the fact,o change the outcome of any two plays that I want. I get to pick which two. I can change the outcome from anywhere from a home run to a double-play. The non-effected innings stay the same.

              What percentage of MLB games do you think I could change the outcome of with this power?

              • DocPeterWimsey

                uh uh, wrong experiment. You have to do it during the fact. Moreover, you do not get to change the outcome: you get to change the situation: a different reliever or a different pinch-hitter, or whatever, but something that is probabilistic, not deterministic. That is how relievers and pinch-hitters can be used.

                This is similar to the argument that teams like the Yanks or Sox, who routinely finish with poor records (percentage wise) in 1-run games should learn to play small-ball and “win” those 1-run games. However, 1) you have to do it during the fact, which means that playing small ball will turn several 2, 3, etc., run victories into defeats, and, 2) the small-ball might increase the chance of scoring that one run that would tie the game, but it only increases it.

                So, do this experiment with games in which you don’t know the eventual outcome and for which there is some probability that your move won’t work, and I’ll buy it.

                • Kyle

                  “uh uh, wrong experiment. You have to do it during the fact. Moreover, you do not get to change the outcome: you get to change the situation: a different reliever or a different pinch-hitter, or whatever, but something that is probabilistic, not deterministic. That is how relievers and pinch-hitters can be used.”

                  OK, I get four situations (roughly the average number of PAs per half inning, similar to a relief pitcher’s usage) a game in which I get to eschew batting order and pitching substitution rules and use whoever I want.

                  “This is similar to the argument that teams like the Yanks or Sox, who routinely finish with poor records (percentage wise) in 1-run games should learn to play small-ball and “win” those 1-run games. However, 1) you have to do it during the fact, which means that playing small ball will turn several 2, 3, etc., run victories into defeats, and, 2) the small-ball might increase the chance of scoring that one run that would tie the game, but it only increases it.”

                  It it not similar at all. Small-ball is bad because it is inefficient regardless of the situation. It doesn’t even really increase your odds of scoring a single run.

                  “So, do this experiment with games in which you don’t know the eventual outcome and for which there is some probability that your move won’t work, and I’ll buy it.”

                  Deal!

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Come on, you’re a scientist. Would you really accept thought experiments over actual data?

            That is based on data. For example, what is the relationship between number of close games and overall record? Take 1-run games as a useful proxy. The relationship is a horseshoe: really bad teams and really good teams play very few close games (we have three post-season teams with sub-0.500 records in 1-run games; obviously, they were not playing in many!) The relationship gets stronger if you look at Pythagorean expectations.

            Now, I am assuming a process to explain it: average teams play the most games against teams that are either as good as them (the host of other average teams), teams that can keep them close with a good effort (bad teams) and teams that will can be kept close with a good effort (good teams). However, that seems like a safe enough assumption!

            • Kyle

              “That is based on data. For example, what is the relationship between number of close games and overall record? The relationship is a horseshoe: really bad teams and really good teams play very few close games (we have three post-season teams with sub-0.500 records in 1-run games; obviously, they were not playing in many!) The relationship gets stronger if you look at Pythagorean expectations.”

              That is not obvious at all. What is obvious is that they did really, really well in non 1-run games. *That’s* the lesson pythagorean wins teaches us.

              The average NL team played 47 1-run games.
              The top 6 teams in the NL played an average of 49 1-run games this season.
              The next 5 teams played 51
              The bottom 5 teams in the NL played an average of 44.

              Over in the AL, the average team played in 48 1-run games.
              The top 5 teams averaged 44 1-run games.
              The next 4 teams averaged 44 1-run games
              The bottom 5 teams averaged 47 1-run games.

              There’s a very slight u-shape in the NL stats, but either too small to show an effect or at least showing that you are severely overstating it. There’s no u-shape at all in the AL stats.

              • Kyle

                “(we have three post-season teams with sub-0.500 records in 1-run games; obviously, they were not playing in many!)”

                As noted, the league averages were 48 and 47.

                Your three sub .500 1-run playoff teams played in 47, 48 and 47 respectively.

                :)

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  YOu could add this year’s data to the pile: I don’t think that I’ve rerun the correlations in a few years. (I got interested in the claim that teams good at 1-run games should be good in post-season: it turns out that the opposite is the case.) However, I’d be really surprised if the correlation from several years is overturned by a single season.

                  • Kyle

                    Citation needed, then, I’m afraid.

                    You are right in the generalities of one-run games’ importance, but you are overshooting what the data (yours, and the many other sabermetric studies on one-run games and such) is telling us.

                    Teams’ performance in one-run games doesn’t tell us much not because high-leverage relievers aren’t important, but because their importance isn’t large enough to overcome the noise in one-run games. Sure, a great reliever can hold down a 1-run lead. But he can also hold down a two-run lead. Or keep you down by 1 in the top of the ninth, where a bad reliever may have caused you to lose by more. Similarly, a bad reliever can turn a 4-1 win into a 4-3 win, boosting your 1-run results.

                    Whether or not a close game turns into a one-run game is pretty randomized. But that doesn’t negate the importance of being able to call on a shut-down relief pitcher in a close and late situation.

                    • stillmisskennyhubbs

                      I watch where I step when Kyle is spouting horseshoes [sic] and piles.

                    • farmerjon

                      Intelligent conversation, no name calling, no low-brow hits on each others families…just some good old fashion debate about what the numbers do (or don’t) tell us. Kudos boys, kudos.

    • cubchymyst

      I think the talk about Cabrera returning to a SP is indicative of the front office plans this off season. A strong bullpen does no good when there are no leads to hold on to. Unless the cubs spend a lot of money on FA pitchers this winter next year will likely be another losing year. So why not take a shot at a guy who could become a strong SP. A strong starting rotation can help keep the bullpen fresh for the length of the season.

  • willis

    Interesting enough, for some reason, a local sports station here in Memphis spent almost an entire segment talking about the Cubs and Epstein. Their question was who the Cubs have, right now, who is untouchable and a building block, and how much time should we as fans give Epstein to turn this tide, how patient should we be with losing etc. So it got me thinking, who is untouchable, and then to this article’s point…who are the half a dozen he is referencing?

    Castro, Rizzo, Shark……..then I’m drawing blanks. I’d love to throw Garza in that mix as well, but I’m a realist. Castillo maybe? So it interests me about who Theo was referencing.

    • Cyranojoe

      I believe he would include Garza, Barney, and Wood. We might not agree with his six, but that’s what I’d bet he was thinking of, if indeed he had six in mind.

  • Ryne

    We really need to focus on our pitching. We have 2 decent starters in Samardzija and Garza, and absolutely no relievers or closers.

  • Dr. Percival Cox

    Funny, when I saw him talk about half a dozen players, I assumed he meant Rizzo, Castro, Shark, Barney, Castillo, and Vizcaino — since the other 3 are so low in the system. And I wanted to throw something at my screen. I’ll assume you’re right because it makes me less likely to break my screen.

  • http://Bleachernation Oliver dehart

    Unless Epstein changes his thought process
    , forget 2013. Short term stop gap…wow
    Not to impressive. Have been a Cub fan for
    60 years, am very disappointed.
    Could easily be competitive with a few smart moves?

    • terencemann

      I don’t see how you turn a 61 loss team into an 85 win team on paper over the off-season unless that 61 loss team was loaded with stars who are still developing, was burdened by star players who were injured, or without a few star prospects waiting in the wings.

      • Kyle

        Well, first, familiarize yourself with the plexiglass principle. 61-win teams don’t stay 61-win teams. They will tend to move back to the middle even without attempted improvement.

        Most of the time, and the 2012 Cubs were no exception, a 61-win team is a 70-win team that experienced negative variance. Few teams have sub-70 wins as their underlying talent level.

        • terencemann

          Most of the Cubs that started and finished 2012 with the team had either their best season ever or around their career averages. Rizzo, Castro, Castillo, and Samardzija could take steps forward but I wouldn’t expect a lot more out of the other returning players. It’s not like they had an MVP or CY Young caliber player on the team last season who just had a down year.

          • terencemann

            Not to mention part of the way the team got to 61 wins was from half a season of Dempster, Maholm, and Johnson having great seasons and two insane months from Bryan LaHair.

            • Kyle

              “Not to mention part of the way the team got to 61 wins was from half a season of Dempster, Maholm, and Johnson having great seasons and two insane months from Bryan LaHair.”

              That’s more than counteracted by their amazing feat of having their best 1b, 3b and C all in AAA to start the season.

              • terencemann

                LaHair was hitting .308 with 10 HR at the end of May so I don’t know if Rizzo could have done a lot better. I’d argue there was no “best 3B” on the Cubs this season, and Soto is exactly the type of player you allow to play to see if he can rebound.

      • willis

        I don’t think it goes from 61 to 85…but adding two 3-4 type arms REALLY helps add a lot of wins to this current squad. That last month or so the team was throwing 5 awful starters out there. A healthy Garza, Shark, two decent arms and Wood (until Vizcaino is ready) is a competitive rotation. It ain’t playoff worthy or anything, but at least it’s something decent to watch. And you build from there.

        Regardless, that has to be the focus.

    • Cyranojoe

      Look at the market of free agents and likely-to-be-traded players. Who do you get and how do you do it? Be realistic. If the market were deep or loaded, I’d say it could be worth going for. But it’s mostly crap out there this off-season.

  • mudge

    Yup I think Barney is one of the six. Hoping for Angel Pagan added to this outfield. DeJesus was coming off an injury was he not? Because if you double his power numbers from the second half, you have twenty homers out of right field, not an unreasonable expectation.

    • Cyranojoe

      That’d be nice.

  • Big Daddy

    Luke, I know it is early, but do we know any potential pitching targets at the top of the draft? What do you think of Appel?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Too early. Odds are good that by May we will talking about potential draft targets that are not even on our radar right now.

      • nkniacc13

        I hope they don’t take Appel. Be very interesting thou to see if they follow the Astros think last year in taking sub max signing at the top to get more talent in throu the top 10 rds

        • Drew7

          1) I agree. Not sure Appel is the type of talent that justifies the risk of taking a pitcher at #2.

          2) I really hope not. The draft is usually *way* too top-heavy to take a less-talented player just to save money.

          • nkniacc13

            Excuse me im not saying take a low ceiling player to save money at the top im saying if you have 3 guys that are ranked about the same take the one that is willing to sign the cheapest to save a bit for the later rds

            • Drew7

              Well…yeah – if you have 2 guys ranked *exactly* the same, of course you take the cheaper option. I’m just saying if you have player1 ranked even remotely higher than Player2, you take Player 1, regardless of $.

  • Njriv

    Levine talks about Josh Johnson being a possible Cubs target this off-season. Thoughts?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Article coming. I find the concept interesting, but I don’t really see that as a fit.

    • Kyle

      Yes, yes, yes, please yes.

  • Kyle

    “I watch where I step when Kyle is spouting horseshoes [sic] and piles.”

    Odd. My experiments with your mom indicated a high correlation between membership in your family and enjoyment of things that come out of my body. May have to see if the result is repeatable…

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Kyle, old a**hole, my mom just died. With your deplorable comment just now, you exceed even your own abysmal standards. Feel good now?

      • Kyle

        Do I feel good that I caused your mom so much excitement that she literally died from it?

        Well, what does a mixture of pride and guilt count as “feel good?” Especially if it’s more pride than guilt?

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        Sorry to hear that. My condolences and I hope the insensitive comments above didn’t rip the band-aid off too badly. I was also shocked it went there.

        • Kyle

          What you have to understand here is that everything we do, even people’s moms, is a stall.

          (reference to your name!)

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Sorry for your loss, SMKH.

    • TWC

      Mom jokes, Kyle? Really?

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        Starting to wonder if that’s someone else trying to give Kyle a black eye. Brett can sort it out — probably one of the fun parts of the job.

        • MichiganGoat

          it does seem rather unlike him

          • Cyranojoe

            Agreed.

        • Eric

          Kyle’s a bit of a sarcastic dick. But if he truly said that mom stuff I lost all respect for him. Won’t believe it’s him until we get this sorted out. Super Brett, we need u!

          • Kyle

            It was totally me. Brett can confirm.

            If people want to talk baseball, I’ll talk baseball.

            If people want to mix up baseball and snide insults, I’ll mix up baseball and snide insults.

            If they want to drop into a conversation and simply say rude things without any attempt at conversation, I’ll say rude things back.

            And I’ll be good at all three :)

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I think the principle is fair, but your execution was sorely lacking. You can do better.

              • stillmisskennyhubbs

                Bye Brett, ‘bye real Cub fans (like my mom was–she tore her appendectomy stitches out watching Gabby Hartnett’s “Homer in the Gloamin’ ” win the pennant in ’38).
                This Kyle crap takes the cake. I am not made to , nor I hope expected to, accept this kind of over-the-top, uncalled for, personal-level, scurrilous b.s. from some disputatious, specious, diarrhetic punk.

                Try to be well, especially those of you who are very sick–e.g. Kyle.

                • Cyranojoe

                  Best to you, SMKH. Hope to see you around, and I hope we manage the troll better in the future.

            • Dr. Percival Cox

              It would appear several of us gave you too much credit. A mistake I, at least, won’t repeat.

              • Kyle

                It appears to me that several of you are giving too much credit to a troll whom I’ve never seen post anything other than the occasional potshot at me.

                • Cyranojoe

                  LOL. Somebody doesn’t know the meaning of the word “troll”…

                  • Kyle

                    Your mo-…grandmother is a troll.

            • DarthHater

              The Dark Side is growing stronger at this site. The Emperor will be pleased.

  • Kyle

    Put the kids to bed. I work blue.

  • Kyle

    My penis is tiny. (see how easy this is?)

  • Stevie B

    If my hair was not so damn hot and sexy, I would pull it out over some of these ^^^^^^ comments.
    This team was the 2nd worst in all of baseball last year, and the farm system was juuuust about at the bottom of the rankings with no super bright spots other than Rizzo and Baez. The free agent market this next year is horrific….. Combine that with the new CBA, and you have a great big shit sandwich.
    It’s time to sit back, lose another 100 in 2013, and pick 1-3 again. At that point Rizzo, Castro, Samardzjia and Baez will be our building blocks and you can start adding free agents as they become available. Also, Theo made some great trades and bolstered the farm a little in his 1st year.
    Sure, lets get some decent arms so we don’t look completely inept, but adding just to get to 80 wins makes no sense to me.
    You people aren’t stupid (90-95 aren’t) Theo is telling you almost exactly what I have just spelled out above. Why belly ache about it???

  • jim

    Theo says we need an of and 3b. How bout tyler and dj theo ??!!
    ..,,

    • Big Daddy

      Would that be Tyler Moore?

      • terencemann

        DJ Jazzy Jeff? Definitely, yes.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Kyle,

    Here is a simple illustration of why I am so skeptical that games come down to one or two plays. Just take a really simple expression of relative success: total bases plus walks. This is the association between that net, (TB+BB collected) – (TB+BB Allowed):
    [img]http://imageshack.us/a/img87/6766/bruteforcewinning.jpg[/img]
    As you can see, it comes down mostly to brute force: give up fewer TB and BB than you garner, and you will generally win. If it really came down to one or two key plays, then this relationship (which you see every year) should be much weaker: after all, it would be the TB+BB from particular situations that would affect winning.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      That’s for all 30 MLB teams in 2012, btw. The Cubs are pretty easy to spot….

      • SirCub

        What’s that, about -370?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Those be our boys. Hey, at least the Astros look a lot worse than the Cubs! [Homer voice]Let’s hope that they never leave the National League….[/end Homer]

          • terencemann

            Maybe the Pirates will make some incredibly bad moves this off-season?

    • Kyle

      ” As you can see, it comes down mostly to brute force: give up fewer TB and BB than you garner, and you will generally win. If it really came down to one or two key plays, then this relationship (which you see every year) should be much weaker: after all, it would be the TB+BB from particular situations that would affect winning.”

      Yes and no (I seem to be saying that a lot).

      The only way the correlation would be significantly weaker is if teams had reasons to perform significantly in those key plays than otherwise.

      The vast majority of the time, those key plays will feature identical circumstances to normal, non-key plays. Each batter is as likely to come up in those key plays as he is in non-key plays. The defense will be mostly the same. The pitching will mostly be the same, with the only exception being when they come late in the game and the manager has had a chance to optimize his bullpen use.

      That exception is not large enough to profoundly change your graph, but it is large enough to be meaningful to an individual player’s value when talking about relief pitchers.

      What would be interesting is to predict teams’ performance from their TB+BB, then compare the differences between expected and actual performance with the performance of their top 2 relief pitchers.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        What would be interesting is to predict teams’ performance from their TB+BB, then compare the differences between expected and actual performance with the performance of their top 2 relief pitchers.

        I have not tried that one. I have tried:
        1) BAwRiSP
        2) Net stolen bases
        3) Sacrifice bunts

        None of these correlate with too many/too few wins. Overall, the deviations are basically normally distributed around the expectations for TB+BB. I haven’t checked in a couple of years, but there also was no particular rhyme or reason as to which teams exceeded/underexceeded expectations. However, the sample size (you need whole seasons and I think that I had about 6 of them) wasn’t big enough to easily show that.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          That would also lead to a question: what should be the metric of performance from a reliever? xFIP?

          • Kyle

            xFIP would be fine.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              That adds another wrinkle. Obviously, you choose the closer. However, who is the other guy? The one with the most holds?

              • Kyle

                Leverage index either multiplied by relief innings or with a minimum relief innings.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Who gives leverage index? Fangraphs mentions it but it does not seem to have it.

                  • Kyle

                    Fangraphs has it under “Win Probability.”

                    Baseball Reference has it under “More stats” after the pitching tab, then under the “Win Probability” as aLI. (Each site has several versions. The one that simply averages across all appearances is probably simplest to use).

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    scratch that, found it. But, ugh, that will be a lot of downloading. Also, given that over 2/3rds of the teams won within 4 games of expected, there won’t be much to correlate.

                    As a point of historical trivia, 3 of the 20 biggest “excess” seasons of the last decade occurred this year. The Orioles won 10 more than predicted (there insane HR tallies in extra innings was a huge factor), but also Cinci and SF. There’s no relationship with bullpens per se here: a couple of teams with top bullpens won fewer games than expected. (That said, the probabilities of the deviations match simple probabilistic expectations quite well: with 30 teams, you expect a few to accidentally do well/badly by chance.)

                    • Kyle

                      Don’t worry about it unless you really enjoy yourself doing it :)

                      As I mentioned above, at *most* the difference should be about 4 wins per year above average, and that’s for a hypothetical team with two elite high-leverage relievers. The practical differences are going to be pretty tiny. If correlations that small aren’t going to show up, the results will be inconclusive at best.

                      A simple one I mentioned above would be Baserunning runs.

                      Baseball-Reference has it for every team/year under the “Player value” tab in team batting:

                      http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2012-value-batting.shtml

                      It is called RBaser. All but a couple of teams should be grouped within about 1 win of average most years, so it wouldn’t be much, but there should be a small correlation there. Or rather, TB+BB+RBaser should give you a slightly better correlation to winning.

        • Kyle

          “I have not tried that one. I have tried:
          1) BAwRiSP
          2) Net stolen bases
          3) Sacrifice bunts

          None of these correlate with too many/too few wins.”

          None of those particularly bother me. BAwRISP is just a subset of your overall ability to produce TB and BB. Stolen bases have all kinds of nasty confounding correlations that would make significance hard to find (they correlate with baserunners, caught stealings, being ahead in the game). Sac bunts are more or less a perfectly neutral event, neither positive nor negative to run expectancy.

          The chances to apply your raw TB+BB more efficiently than your opponents are slim at best. Pitcher usage is the one I’m positing. I keep coming back to Rivera as the ideal measuring stick for high-leverage relief pitchers. For his 16 health, relieving seasons, he’s averaged 2.4 WAR/season. Since I’m positing that his usage in high leverage situations (average of 1.87) would cause him to have a bigger impact on wins and losses than his ability to prevent TB+BB, then I’d say that the difference should only be 2.4x.87=2 wins a year. There’s usually only enough high leverage innings for maybe two relievers to get a full season’s worth, and so even a team with two Riveras would only find themselves with 4 “extra” wins a year. And most teams don’t have two Riveras.

          Pinch hitting would work on the same principle of being able to pick your spots, but on a scale several orders of magnitude farther down (for several reasons) and would almost certainly be meaningless.

          Lineup optimization might be meaningful if some teams were really stupid and did things like bat their pitcher first, lowest OBP regular 2nd and best hitter 3rd, but even then the difference wouldn’t be great.

          Baserunning as a whole?

          Fangraphs’ Baserunning Runs posits a spread of 35 runs, or about 3.5 wins, between the best team (Angels) and worst team (Nationals). The spread was 4.5 wins in 2011. So if your test was sensitive enough to detect differences on that scale, it should in theory show up. TB+BB+Baserunning Runs should give you a slightly better fit to wins than just TB+BB.

  • Kyle

    “Right, they should both be used in context. Saying “46 relief pitchers finished ahead of Samardzija in net WPA this season.” is not really putting WPA into a proper context.”

    It is the perfect context for the discussion.

    If the point is “46 relief pitchers were better than Jeff Samardzija,” then it’s not.

    If the point is “High-leverage relief pitchers can be just as valuable as starters,” it is.

  • Kyle

    “, but I don’t think Samardzija is a good example for a couple reasons.”

    I don’t agree, but I’m totally respectful of that post. It laid out a very good case.

  • Curt

    my question is as a big market team why can’t the cubs build up the farm system and be competitive at the same time?

    • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

      Looking at this roster at the beginning of last year you really only had an argument for 2 real gaping holes that were fixable: 1B and 3B. RP is such a crapshoot outside of a small handful of guys that are reasonably consistent. The fix for those positions basically was Pujols/Fielder and Aramis Ramirez (outside of trading for guys which is a crap shoot and the Cubs did trade for a 1B).

      This year the Cubs were done in for the early part of the season by Byrd, Soto, Soriano, Wood, Marmol and middle relief. Out of that group Byrd, Soto and one of Wood, Marmol and MR came out of nowhere. Had we kept Marshall it may have been a 1 game difference through May. 1B ended up not being a problem and 3B was a bit of an offensive black hole all year.

      The interesting thing is you could pose that same exact question to the 2011 Cubs who had a worse record through the trade deadline than this year’s club but spent more money to do it and didn’t provide us with some long term assets like this year did (Rizzo, Samardizjia, Castillo, prospects acquired (which you hope that you hit on 1 or 2 of) at the deadline)).

      Your sanity may be best protected by just accepting that we won’t see massive FA acquisition winters for some time with this new regime. What you will see is them continuing to add pieces each winter for a few years hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. If they don’t then they will do what they can at the deadline to add longer term pieces from guys who have fluke years, comeback years, etc… In that process you will see more and more pieces added to the team until it’s a steady contender.

      I believe that even when we become a contending team you will see Theo operating under a very similar method. Add undervalued or bounce-back types in a few areas to fill in around Castro, Rizzo, 1 of the OF prospects that we have and maybe a big-time FA sprinkled in.

      Also, we aren’t talking about just a rebuild of the players but of the organization as a whole. The Hendry Cubs very much operated as an old school club and you had a lot of “old school” talent in the organization. I think had Theo not sold off the rotation mid-season (and gave up 1 year of Maholm) and been able to eek out an extra 10 wins to finish in the ballpark of the 2011 Cubs there would not be near as much discord among Cubs fans.

      • Bill

        A gaping hole this year was the 5th SP position. Volstad was horrible and Wells just as bad.

        I’m not convinced Theo will bring a winner to this team, as he’s using a much different method than he did in Bos, and the new CBA rules make it tougher to build the team through the draft (Theo was a master at acquiring comp picks in Bos).

        What I don’t like about Theo’s plan is it seems set up to accept failure, at least in the short term. He takes a team and pretty much dismantles it. Did changes need to be made? Yes, but I’m not sure he had to gut the team. He basically does very little in improving the major league team during the offseason. So, he trots out a team that was set up to fail. He then sells off as many ‘assets’ as he can at the deadline. The only player who I believe has any chance of making any future impact for the Cubs is Vizcaino, the rest are types of players the Cubs have in abundance in the system.

        What’s most disheartening, is Theo’s most recent comments make it sound like he’s content to replay this horror show in 2013. Meaning, he won’t acquire enough to make a real run at a playoff spot, but he’ll try to get a couple players who he can flip at the deadline. Then everyone gives him a pass because he acquired “prospects” to build up the farm system. It doesn’t matter that these prospects will most likely never step foot on a major league diamond. Theo will be happy because the team will have lost between 90-100 games and he assured himself another high draft pick. Big deal.

        How long are we going to have to watch Theo do this? When will he actually make a real run at winning a wildcard spot? I’m sorry, but I’m one of those guys who thinks a team with as much money as the Cubs have (in the market size they play) should never be set up to lose before the season even begins. People say it’s next to impossible to go from 62 wins to 90 in a season. Ok, so how acquiring pieces so we can win 80+ this year, keep those assets and then go for it all in 2014?

        • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

          When Theo was in Boston, the basics were ingrained into the system. Players knew how to throw strikes, take balls, throw to the proper base. Here, they don’t. Theo and his troupe thik they are better off drafting and developing util such point as they are competitive. He has said this from the start.

          You disagree.

          Theo and TR agree. 2-1 decision goes to them. So sorry.

          It’s more similar than ds-similar to the Bear bringing in Cutty. The fans had to ‘get used to’ a QB throwing the ball. Cubs fans will have to ‘get used to’ prospects coming up able to do their job.

          Another year of roster-purging will bring another year of solid draft picks and International signings. The ‘hole in the system’ (as you accurately pointed out from his Saws tenure, regarding grabbing Compensation Picks, and overslotted signings as well) is gone. The new hole in the system is the “double bonus” to crappy teams for Draft Spending and International Spending. Both caches will be ridiculously helpful in 2013. If we are as bad as you (and I) expect, the 2014 period will be very impressive as well.

          The silver lining is that I heard the Cubs system has jumped to #9 in the MLB. Without much pitching. The boatload of pitchers Theo drafted will begin to progress in 2013. They will be supplemented by quality from this continent and others next June/July/August.

          Yeah, it will take a while. But so have the last 8 decades of dismantling the system. I feel your pain, but Theo’s doing this his way, with ownership’s blessing. (Which hasn’t happened in a while.)

        • hansman1982

          Frankly, we will probably always see this kind of “horror show”. Acquire guys that you can either mold into a long term asset or trade away for long term guys.

          Are there going to be some mistakes along the way? Sure, for every Rizzo he will acquire a Stewart…the same can be said of acquiring free agents. For every FA that pans out there is a Carl Crawford waiting in the wings.

          The team that Theo built last year was not a 100 loss team…

      • Andrew

        Just don’t forget that before we traded Dempster and Maholm while losing Garza at the same time, we had a team that was at least mildly competitive and wasn’t all that far from being decent, then we lost all our pitching and filled it in with crap and lost nearly 80% of our games the rest of the way out. People always forget that. I’ll bet theo plans to get 2 good starters either through FA or trade and we will actually have a near 500 team next year at which point he might gut it one more time at the deadline. By 2014 we will be competitive enough and have guys like Baez getting called up and we should be competitive. Then we can spend in FA. I’ll bet if King Felix or Verlander hits the market, the cubs are gonna pay big bucks for them.

        • Kyle

          There are still a few teams with more resources than the Cubs, so I doubt we’d be able to blow out the market for even a pitcher of that quality.

        • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

          Why would Felix orVerlandr hit the FA market? Either team culd deal their ace for a Soler + Baez + package. If we want to trade for them, we hae to develop our own talent. Yeah, I know. Foreign concept. But it’s what smart teams do.

          • Andrew

            I agree completely and I am totally in support of the new front office, But I also feel like the FO is willing to go out and spend some money when the time comes. Felix is a free agent after next season and will likely be dealt as a rental at the trade deadline but he will most definitely want to try the market. Why wouldn’t we sign him? We have loads of money saved up from a couple very inexpensive years (for the Cubs anyways), Soriano’s contract will be ending, He is young and could be the backbone of our rotation for years, and he’s certainly not blocking anyone in the system. If we try to build a pitching rotation from within with where we stand now we won’t be any good for at least 5 more years, at which point everyone in the front office will have been fired. They aren’t willing to trade baez or any of our other stud minor leaguers but they will bring in some support when the time is right for winning.

  • Pingback: Theo Epstein (Essentially) Rips Jim Hendry and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+