I’m as impressed by his performance as anyone, but I’ve probably now heard my lifetime quotient of “Kung Fu Panda” and terrible “Pandamonium” puns. Also, how about Barry Zito?

  • Bruce Miles, who consistently “gets it,” once again goes to the trouble of printing Theo Epstein’s full comments on a variety of underreported subjects from his press visit on Tuesday. I gave you the gist yesterday, but it’s good to see his thoughts on Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and plate discipline problems in their entirety.
  • On the latter, his comments were borderline excoriating of the prior regime. Why would you not want to print this: “If there was one thing that I was surprised by in a negative way it was how pervasive the lack of plate discipline was in the whole organization, at the major-league level, upper minors, lower minors, draft decision making and protocol. It’s just something that has not been a factor for a long time, and we’re paying the price for that. It’s embedded. It’s institutionalized, so we have to be really, really vigilant in turning that around.” Whew. I mean, Theo just blasted the prior regime for essentially ignoring plate discipline (something we, as fans, have seen and griped about for 10 years). I want to make sure everyone sees that.
  • Part of the reason it’s surprising to hear Theo state this so plainly is that he and Jim Hendry are considered friends (the MLB front office universe is a small town). I’m sure Theo didn’t mean his comments to be a direct rip on Hendry, but let’s be perfectly plain: they were.
  • It sounds like MLB Network’s Dan Plesac is indeed interested in the Cubs’ open color gig. The issue there, though, is that he just signed a new deal with MLBN, and it’s unclear how willing WGN would be to try and buy him out (or how interested Plesac would be in contributing to that buy-out fund). This remains the issue with Rick Sutcliffe, as well, who is under contract with ESPN.
  • Doug Padilla’s review of the 2012 Cubs concludes with the front office, and it goes about as you’d expect: good moves, bad results, long process, and we’ll see what the future looks like.
  • Paul Sullivan does a Q&A, and, to his credit, accepts and prints a question that is designed to do little more than (unfairly) rip him (for not saying enough positive things about Ian Stewart, which, um … ). And then he answered the question without taking a shot back at the reader.
  • If you didn’t have a chance to check out the site’s first podcast (me, together with Sahadev Sharma), here’s your reminder.
  • JB88

    I listened to the first 40 minutes of the podcast. It was a good job and I look forward to listening to the rest. One piece of feedback I’d offer, though, is that the audio is really low. I’m not sure if that is something that is equipment oriented (which I’m not suggesting you buy new equipment) or the settings you used to record the segment. Might want to check those the next time before recording the whole thing.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      When you say “low,” do you mean volume, or quality? We each have pretty good mics, so it might be just a matter of us better understanding how to use them (though if we go too high on the quality, the file size becomes gargantuan (too big for our meager means to handle)).

      • JB88

        Volume. The quality was very good, the volume was just very low. I had to crank up the sound to hear it.

        • CubFan Paul

          The volume was A+ for me, it was ‘surround sound’ even -on my tablet & headphones (listened to the 2nd half on bluetooth)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Thanks, JB. We’ll have to keep an eye on that.

  • beerhelps

    I took a “shot” at Sullivan on twitter once. He blocked me immediately. No big loss. Now if that BleacherNation fellow blocked me, I don’t know what I would do.

    • Richard Nose


    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think I’ve blocked only one person (other than spammers) in my history on Twitter. Got mad at me for something, and @’d me for two hours straight with really vile stuff. Had to pull the trigger …

      • TWC

        Man, how many times do you want me to apologize for that? Jeez…

        • hansman1982

          The mom/racial/handicapped jokes he was fine with but ya make 1 stinking comment about The Cat and he drops the banhammer…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The scummy messages, I can forgive. But the bag of dog poop? I mean … I don’t even know how you found my house.

          • hansman1982

            Google maps has a pic of your house when you were outside…the glare of your pasty skin gave it away…

            • wilbur

              Ouch …

    • Randy

      I asked Paul Sullivan once what it was like to live in the Keebler Elves tree. Paul suffers from small man’s disease and I was just waiting for Zambrano, who he constantly criticized, to break him over his knee, like he did his bats.

      • TWC

        I asked Paul Sullivan once what it was like to live in the Keebler Elves tree.


      • wilbur

        So does he like it or is too crowded? Don’t leave us hanging …

  • Troy

    I really enjoyed the pod cast. I listened to the whole thing and am very impressed. Although he did for a minute sound like a cardinals fan I think after he asked for what he was I came away with the concept he is this huge baseball fan with no loyalty to a particular team.

  • terencemann

    One thing that bothers me that comes up in Miles’ article and seems to be common is that I keep seeing people lumping Jackson in with Vitters in terms of their hitting “problems”. It seems that Jackson is the a-typical prospect from the Hendry regime since he is actually a very patient hitter with good command of the strike zone but his problems stem from contact issues due to his swing. Even at the major league level, Jackson walked 15.5% of the time.

    It doesn’t enrage me, or anything, but it just irks me that some writers aren’t taking the time to understand or explain the difference. I’m sure a lot of people who post here get it, I’m just not sure if fans who don’t look these things up on their own would.

    • Chris

      Seems like semantics to me. Either way, he strikes out a ton too, far worse than many less patient hitters on the team and in the organization. The walks certainly help his cause, but they just don’t add up to the results Theo is looking for at the ML level. Sure, he takes more pitches than most Cubs prospects of recent years, but he still swings at bad pitchers, which is a practice we’re accustomed to seeing from young Cubs. Given the results, I think it’s fair to lump him in with the other guys. Just comparing him to Vitters in AAA, he had 17 more walks while more than doubling the number of K’s with 158 versus 77. All with roughly the same number of plate appearances. The difference is not enough for me to exclude him from the plate discipline category. He just watches more pitches go by, both balls and strikes.

      • Kyle

        Jackson swung at 24% of pitches out of the zone, compared with about 31% as the league average. He made contact with 49% of them, compared with 67% as the league average.

        He swung at 65% of pitches in the zone, even with the 65% that is the league average. He made contact with 74% of them, compared to 87% as the league average.

        His non-zone contact percentage was 11th worst among players with at least 100 PAs. His zone contact percentage was dead last among players with at least 100 PAs.

        His problem is not that he swings at the wrong pitches. It’s that he can’t hit. He’s exceptional at picking which pitches to swing at and which ones not to, but that can only go so far in saving him. Once he got up to a level where pitchers can locate inside the strike zone without consistently giving him hangers to mash, he got dominated.

        • Kyle

          Side note: Sam Fuld made contact with 98.1% of pitches that he swung at in the zone. That’s a non-optimal strategy because you basically have to give up all hope of hitting the ball hard. But I’m surprised that’s even possible. Even if he were just try to bunt, you’d think MLB pitchers could get one out of 50 by him.

        • Kyle N


          “The O-Swing/Z-Contact thing is an artifact of changes in how the computer tracking software has defined such things. Those numbers have changed a ton for every player.”

          *You* said that back when someone was mentioning BJ Upton’s rising percentage of swings out of the zone and decreasing percentage of contacts in the zone over the course of four straight years.

          Funny how you’re all of a sudden putting way more stock into those numbers with Brett Jackson (in a small-sample-size Sept. callup) after pretty much brushing them aside when someone else pointed them out in regards to Upton.

          • Kyle

            That’s not contradictory.

            They changed the way the software that tracks these stats defined which pitches went into which category. Suddenly, every player in baseball saw his O-zone swing% shoot up quite a bit, which wasn’t really the case. The players didn’t change, the definition did.

            So comparing them from year to year (i.e. the change) is not valid. It’d be like if MLB suddenly decided that you only needed three balls to get a walk, and then saying, “Look, Darwin Barney’s plate discipline got way better, look at how many walks he drew!”

            Comparing them across players in the *same* year is valid, because they are measuring the same thing. Every player had the software defining O-zone and Zone the same way this season.

            • Kyle N

              I’d really like to see you cite a source that points out statistically that “everyone’s O-Swing % suddenly went up” as the software was updated. (Or any other “trend” for that matter.) Did anyone write in detail about this? You would think there would be extensive importance in determining a player’s swing habits and results from year-to-year as accurately as possible. If they can retroactively update WAR at B-R, Fangraphs, etc. shouldn’t they be able to do the same for swing data? Just because you don’t buy the numbers on a guy like Upton doesn’t mean there isn’t value in those facts. He really *could* be getting progressively worse in those areas despite the inaccuracies from year-to-year.

              I am still skeptical, primarily because the sample-size is so low. Jackson is what he is, a patient hitter with a good eye, power, and subpar contact skills (hence the K’s). I just think you have to either A) risk seeing him for a full-season to truly believe he is as abysmal as you seem to believe, or B) decide to go with another CFer.

              • terencemann

                It’s funny your bring up Upton because I see similarities in Upton and Jackson. Upton is more of a power hitter and a better runner than Jackson will probably be but at one point Upton was a high strike-out/high walk guy.

              • Kyle

                I don’t buy or disbuy the numbers on Upton. I’m simply stating the fact that changes in O-swing and Z-swing percentage can’t be meaningfully compared. He might be getting worse in those abilities, but we can’t know just by going off of Fangraphs’ numbers. Especially O-swing percentage.

                In order to “retroactively” change the data, they’d have to back and reclassify every pitch, some of which is done by hand. It’d be a massive undertaking.

                Fangraphs’ library talks about this a little here:


                “Understanding that the system is also adapted each year is vital. PITCHf/x is still a relatively young analytical tool, and changes are made each and every year. ”

                You can find the league-wide data here:


                The numbers come from Baseball Info Solutions.

                Before 2007, BIS did the categorization entirely by hand. Essentially, they had one person per ballpark who would sit there and categorize each pitch (among other data they required). There was a lot of volatility to the statistic, because it was individualized and subjective. You could hire a new person to do a ballpark the next season and get a different standard.

                Beginning with 2007 (technically, the 2006 playoffs), pitch F/X was introduced and could standardize most of this using computer sorting. Predictably, the O-swing% suddenly stabilized at around 25%.

                In 2010, the numbers shot up again, and have since been stabilized at around 30%.

                Pitch F/X tweaks their software every year, but it’s generally accepted in sabermetric circles that the 2010 tweak did a particularly good job of reclassifying some borderline pitches that had previously been in the zone as out of the zone, causing the second spike.

                • Kyle N

                  “In 2010, the numbers shot up again, and have since been stabilized at around 30%.

                  Pitch F/X tweaks their software every year, but it’s generally accepted in sabermetric circles that the 2010 tweak did a particularly good job of reclassifying some borderline pitches that had previously been in the zone as out of the zone, causing the second spike.”

                  Obviously, pre Pitch F/X tracking information (aside from the obvious Swing%, Swinging Strike% types of easily trackable stats not influenced by volatility) isn’t going to be valuable, nor worth the effort of reclassifying.

                  But with the 2010 changes being considered substantial by the sabermetric community, the data from that time period going forward should be much easier to reclassify and utilize.

                  Worst case scenario: Even if statisticians decide to not reclassify, they may go in this direction. Since each year has set Pitch F/X parameters, it would be easy to assign yearly Z-values for a particular player that could be charted over multiple years. Three years worth of Z-value data on a player Upton could provide information to further analyze his tendencies (when also compared to his peers) and determine if trends are emerging or if could be statistical noise.

    • Drew7

      I agree – It just seems a bit lazy to me, given that Jackson and Vitters are very, very different hitters.

      • Chris

        But the results are the same, minus double the strikeouts for Jackson. He watches more pitches. If anybody watched him while he was up with the big club, you should have seen that what is being argued as patience was really indecision. He would swing at bad pitches and take good pitches. I just don’t think that makes him measurably better than Vitters, and certainly qualifies him to be mentioned in the same discussion around plate discipline. Watching pitches, good and bad, go by is not good plate discipline if the results are negative most of the time.

        • terencemann

          Actually, Jackson swung at less pitches outside of the strike zone than Pujols in his small sample size at the ML level. Not all pitches in the strike zone are good pitches to hit, but it certainly means he has good control of the strike zone which is what Theo wants to see.

          • Chris

            We can both find statistics to counter each others arguments contiuously, if need be. I don’t disagree that Jackson will probably be a better hitter than Viters. But I honestly believe that Jackson will be traded, along with Vitters and potentiall Junior Lake, within the next season or so, simply because they are not what the FO is looking for in core players. I think we’ll have to wait and see which of us is correct on this a bit, but I’m of the opinion that they’ve seen what they needed to see from both “prospects” and unless significant improvements are made going into 2013, they will be packaged to get a pitcher or other players that might fit the mold better. Jackson has a better chance of making improvements, given the type of hitter he is, but his results were similar or worse than Vitters across the board most of the AAA season, despite the number of pitches he took. Results are what this FO is looking for. Wiffing is part of the plate discipline argument. At some point, the numbers are not an abberation, they’re the results a given player produces.

            • Kyle

              “We can both find statistics to counter each others arguments contiuously, if need be.”

              Feel free to do so. Your assertion that Jackson had a problem with swinging at bad pitches is not held up by the evidence.

              • Chris

                Wasn’t responding to your post Kyle. But watching Jackson was enough for me to see he did swing at bad pitches. He was certainly more selective than Vitters, who looked lost in the big leagues, but the results were similar in both cases. Not swinging at the right good pitches is also part of the plate discipline argument. Jackson did plenty of that too. Like you pointed out in your post, making contact on a high percentage of “strikes” is a misleading statistic.

            • hansman1982

              “potentiall Junior Lake”

              Junior Lake is gone as soon as they can include him in a package deal. He is presently sporting a 6% BB rate against a 23.7% K rate and only a 1.9% HR rate. Basically, all of those are just barely acceptable for a prospect by themselves, together, (and I haven’t scouted 1 lick of him) I sincerely doubt he will ever be a MLBer.

              • Chris

                With Lake, the buzz on him has always been about tools. Same with Szczur. It’s much harder to turn toolsy guys into baseball players than it is to improve a baseball player’s hitting approach. Theo mentioning Lake in his comments about the future of 3B was telling, only in that he also mentioned Vitters, who will also be traded as soon as they can get something of value for him. It’s completely the right tactic to build up the stock of guys you aren’t planning on keeping for the future. The Yankees have done this well for many years. They should keep the hype machine going, as much as possible. I think the previous regime simply believed the hype, like with Patterson and Pie, and didn’t recognize quickly enough that it’s better to trade a guy who doesn’t get it while his stock is higher than let him crash and burn and then release him or dump him for nothing.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Szczur is much more polished than Lake. After watching the two I strongly suspect Szczur will reach the majors. He may be a Reed Johnson type rather than a regular starter… that jury is still out… but I think he’ll get there.

                  Lake has unbelievable tools. He also has a ton of other issues.

                  • Chris

                    Can’t dispute that. I hope he’s a Reed Johson type with better speed and more pop. But he’s certainly not what he was sold as when drafted. And he’s been old for every league he’s produced in thus far, whereas Lake was on the young side when he first arrived in AA in 2011. It’s disappointing Lake didn’t develop on a similar path to Castro. Early on, those two were often compared as similar players. Clearly, Castro turned out to be a much better hitter, despite his lack of plate discipline.

                  • jt

                    Szczur’s 2012 season was totally different than that of 2011.
                    His HR total dropped from 10 to 4 but AB/Xbasehit also dropped from 12.8 to 11.5.
                    2011 PA/BB = 18.5; 2012 PA/BB = 8.3
                    2011 PA/K = 10; 2012 PA/BB = 10
                    In 2011 he put the ball in play 85% of his PA’s
                    In 2012 he put the ball in play 73% of his PA’s
                    The PA’s he didn’t put the ball in play in 2012 resulted in him reaching base 43.6% of the time.
                    I’d say the young man is in a learning mode and so far seems to be doing quite well.
                    I don’t think any of this screams Maj Lg’s. But I do believe he is worth a look.

                    • Chris

                      Getting back to my main point, I’m hopeful the Cubs can move guys like this before their value drops to something less than B prospect, if it hasn’t already. Lake is a little younger, probably has more tools upside, so theoretically he could have more value. But at some point that will fall away, and he’ll be a 4-A player or worse. Gotta move him before that happens.

              • terencemann

                Trading Szczur could be tricky because he is already burning options. If the Cubs wanted to trade for a modest MLB talent, they could try to trade quantity over quality by throwing Lake and Szczur in a trade. Lake seems to be making solid progress toward being a utility guy and pinch hitter. He definitely doesn’t look like a future starter at this point.

                Keith Law has been saying for a while that Szczur swings the bat like a slap hitter with little power coming from his lower body and the numbers seem to agree.

                • Chris

                  I wouldn’t expect they could get much for either, but I think these guys could certainly be considered other prospects in a package. Not headliners, but nice enough prospects to help get something bigger done. They’re probably not going to be starters. But they’re probably worth more as throw-in prospects than bench guys in the future. You can always get 4th outfielders. I hope I’m wrong. I’d love to see Lake take the 2B job from Barney and steal a bunch of bases and hit a bunch of homers. Baez at 3rd then and Castro at SS would be a nice daydream to consider, assuming they all make it. Szczur manning CF next to Jackson and somebody else, while they keep the corners warm for Soler and Almora would be cool too. That’s just not realistic though.

  • terencemann

    Plesac could be a fun analyst to have. Given the Cubs pitching woes, it would be interesting to hear him explain what he sees them doing wrong or doing right. I think he does a pretty good job explaining mechanics on the MLB Network.

  • CubFan Paul

    “Epstein also said that second baseman Darwin Barney was close to becoming one of the team’s “core” players, especially if he can get on base more…”

    whew!! That’s not going to happen.

    • hansman1982

      He only needs to get on base 2.5% more of the time…seems easy, right?

    • terencemann

      I don’t know if Barney will ever be an average hitter for the position. It was nice to see him hit a few more home runs this year but he’s never shown signs of being a patient hitter and it’s pretty rare to see hitters develop those skills at the ML level.

      • terencemann

        Actually, just to revise that, I don’t believe that every single hitter who plays baseball has to walk 10% of the time to be good at hitting, but Barney seems like kind of a slap hitter without the great hit tools or blazing speed that allow slap hitters to be successful. That’s why I worry about his future as a hitter.

  • luke

    I think Jim Hendry will understand (not that he’d like it or agree)… It would have been one thing for Theo to criticize Hendry from afar, but it’s entirely another for Theo to comment on something he is now dealing with and has all the information at hand.

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    Dan Plesac? Yes, I’ll take it!

    • Frank

      Heard on WSCR this morning that Stone, Sutcliffe and Grace are likely out, that Glanville and Hollandsworth are at least still in whatever group they are considering, and that Plesac is likely out due to the MLB contract (and his interest in the position is unknown).

      • Chris

        So we’re talking Glanville or Hollandsworth? I have to choose Holly then. This whole topic just depresses me. Brenly was outsanding, and whoever it is I’m not going to feel like they are as good. Not even Stone, and I really liked his broadcasts once upon a time.

        • Frank

          Well, they didn’t mention whether or not there were other candidates being considered. A few days ago, they interviewed someone involved in the process, who said that they have just begun the process, they don’t have a list together yet, and that they’ll take as long as they have to to get the right person.

  • jt

    From MiLB bio for Szczur:
    “Selected by the Chicago Cubs out of Villanova University in the fifth round of the June 2010 First-Year Player Draft. … Szczur enjoyed a stellar two-sport career at Villanova University in football and baseball. … In 2010, he was VU’s first .400 hitter since 1997, batting .443 while earning First Team All-Big East honors. … The .443 mark is the fourth highest single-season batting average in school history, and his .392 career average is fifth-best for the Wildcats. … ”
    To me that says “baseball player”?

    • Chris

      His performance hasn’t been indicative of calling him a baseball player, as far as his professional career has gone. He had decent stats in Daytona in 2012, before not so good numbers in limited action in Tennessee. But he was kind of old for High A. I hope I’m wrong on him, but there are plenty of scouting reports that say he’s more of a tools guy than a great hitter. At least he rates decently defensively.

      • jt

        I guess I’m getting used to this as I posted to Luke above.
        I’m thinking they are teaching him do hit the ball on the ground or drive the ball into the gap with liners while avoiding the fly. He is also taking a lot more pitches as indicated by a huge increase in BB and a somewhat large increase in K’s.
        He seems to be a work in progress but from my POV it seems to be going well.
        But then again, I don’t see as well as I used to.

    • Kyle

      Villanova is not exactly a big baseball school.

      I mean, it’s nice for him that he’s one of the best players in Villanova history, but that’s more or less the first train to A-ball station most of the time.

      • jt

        I paraphrase: Szczur is a toolsie non-baseball player.
        Szczur has experience at a high level and he has had success at that level.
        2011 he hit 10 dingers at Peoria/Daytona. I think that is one every 48 PA.
        He can hit with a bit of pop but that is not his game. It was not his game in college and it was not his game last yr. It was not the game Pete Rose played either. No, he is not Pete Rose. But a player can have success using that style.

        • Kyle

          The problem is that to have success with that style, you need contact skills that Szczur has neither displayed in the mid-minors nor does his swing give me much hope that he can display as he moves into higher levels.

          He’s walking a ton, which is good, but he needs to prove he can make consistent contact against advanced pitching, or those walks will dry up. He’s a nice minor leaguer, but his skill set just doesn’t appear to lend itself well to advancing to the majors, imo.

          • Chris

            I guess I agree with Kyle… Maybe I need to reconsider everything :) I’d love for Szczur to pull it all together and be the leadoff hitter they are sorely missing. I’m not counting on it. And it doesn’t appear the FO is either. Szczur had success in Daytona where, at his age, he probably should have been dominant. Maybe he’s a late bloomer, given the football commitments and all. That would be awesome. But I’ll wait to get too excited.

          • jt

            Kyle, as to your post concerning Szczur’s K rate.
            2011 it was 15.4%; about 100 K’s for a 650 PA season. Not great, not bad if he continues to get walks. But his BB rate in 2011 was only 5.4 %.
            He was making contact but my guess is that it was early in the count. If so, he is still working on hitting with 2 strikes. His ability to progress will depend, as you say, on improvement on making contact late in the count. If that happens then he can force the pitcher to throw strikes.
            Again, he can make contact. He has to prove that he can make contact late in the count.
            I’d say you put a handle on it.

  • Stu

    I have to agree with Theo that walks have never been a high priority with the Cubs. The past has been about the crowd pleasing HR’s from the Dawson’s, Sosa’s, etc. It is what has put the crowds into Wrigley.

    It will take him a few years to have the fans realize that having a higher OBP than your opponents is the direction to go in for long term success. Baseball really is simple when it comes down that fact. If you put more baserunners on than your opponent over an entire season, you will probably win more games than you lose.

    Does anyone disagree with this?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The past has been about the crowd pleasing HR’s from the Dawson’s, Sosa’s, etc. It is what has put the crowds into Wrigley.

      Hawk was an exception, but in general there is a correlation between slugging and drawing walks. That’s part of the “selectively aggressive” approach that many recent good offenses (Sox, Yanks, Cards) use so well.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    This should also connect back to the article about Dominican players not walking yesterday: clearly a culture does still exist in baseball that just does not recognize batting eye as a key tool.

  • Mick

    Great podcast, the opening could use some work though. As a fact-finding follow-up, you were spot on with the 3000 frames per second on the HD “X-Mo” cameras Fox uses. In fact, they’ve got cameras that even range to 5000 fps. Here’s the linky http://broadcastengineering.com/cameras-amp-lenses/fox-captures-world-series-ultra-slow-motion

    I’m not even going to go into the “what-if” scenario you guys played out if the Cubs would had traded for Headley and signed Cespedes and what our season would have looked like instead. The only thing I will say is, just think of the trade value of Headley today as opposed to this time last year, wow! Maybe you could start a post putting our heads together on who this year’s Chase Headley will be?

    Finally, for being a big fan of Halloween, your costume choice is seems a bit lazy. Unless of course your costume is of a certain blogger…….that may be…..more creative…. but would your friends get that reference…..?

  • Eric

    Dan Plesac is definitely a guy I like. When he was on comcast (was it?) post game show you could definitely tell the guy loved the cubs and spoke with a passion about the cubs. And always seemed very energetic and optimistic about the future. I think his optimism and passion would be something I wouldn’t mind listening to along side with Len. I also like Rick Sutcliffe and Todd Holandsworth as alternatives to Dan.

    • Njriv

      Yup, Dan did the post game show, and was also the conductor of the big blue train!

  • florida Al

    sutcliffe would be fun , hollandsworth gotta say it but no….and please for the love of god NO TO PLESAC,,, id rather hear dave otto….