It was fun to be at The Game yesterday, despite the unfortunate outcome. I definitely underestimated the volume of … razzing … I’d receive while wearing my Michigan garb. I suppose that the fact that we parked by, and walked through, a huge chunk of off-campus student housing at OSU probably played a part in that. But I survived, and it will make for an interesting story.

  • As I surmised a couple weeks ago, Michael Bowden is being stretched out in the DWL with an eye toward potentially starting next year. You have to figure the Cubs are going to add enough “certain” starting pitchers this offseason – another one or two – to have a “full” rotation in Spring Training, but obviously you can’t have too many starting pitchers. The question, though, will be what happens if the first five are healthy, and Bowden is pitching well as a starter in Spring? Does he bump somebody, head to the bullpen, or head to Iowa to keep starting? Probably the latter, but it’s rarely a great idea to take one of your better relief arms and send him out (especially if Alberto Cabrera is also being stretched out). Then again, when do things work out as planned? If the Cubs think Bowden has the potential to be a successful starter in the bigs – and nothing in his time with the Red Sox said he couldn’t be – stretch him out, and deal with the consequences when you actually have to.
  • There was a Twitter rumor floating around yesterday that Randy Wells had signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, but that apparently isn’t the case. He’s a free agent, though, so it could happen eventually.
  • It’s a creatively designed formula, which is to say we can only lend its results as much credence as we lend the formula, but The Hardball Times devised a way to evaluate and quantify managerial bullpen decisions (i.e., did the manager bring in the right arm at the right time). The Cubs, under Dale Sveum, came in third, behind two that you’d expect to see at the top in the Orioles and the A’s. Sveum’s moves, according to the formula (which is debated in the comments, and which you can see at that link), added 4.51 wins to the Cubs’ total in 2012. It’s nice to have a data point that suggests Sveum is good at one of the more important aspects of his in-game managerial role. Then again, it’s kind of disconcerting to be told that the Cubs were 4.5 wins better than they might otherwise have been … which was already pretty awful.
  • You may have missed it with the Thanksgiving holiday, but we had a new podcast episode on Wednesday, so check it out. And if you want to get the new weekly episodes automatically, you can subscribe via iTunes, or if you use some other kind of podcast-catching thingy, here’s the feed you would use.
  • Jackson Scofield

    Isn’t Bowden out of options?

    • dabynsky

      90% sure he is.

    • justinjabs

      That was my thought too.

    • Brett

      Think so, but he could be sent to Iowa to start the year if he clears revocable waivers (which most players like Bowden (and Randy Wells and Chris Volstad early last year) do, because teams know the Cubs would just pull him back if he was claimed – and teams don’t like to dick each other over for no reason for fear that teams will do it to them).

      • Toby

        Speaking of stretching out a reliever, Brett Myers said he wants to go back to starting. I think the Cubs should sign the guy and see if he can actually make the change.

    • George Altman

      Bowden is out of options and would have to clear waivers to be outrighted to Iowa.

  • Fastball

    We had Wolverine on the grill last night. Tasty

    Sorry you had trouble getting through the crowd. I have a huge tail gate behind the Varsity Club every game. Come by sometime we don’t give our opponents a hard time. It’s just a fun time.

  • WGNstatic

    So you are saying that Sveum cost the Cubs the #1 pick?!?!

    FIRE SVEUM!!!!

  • hansman1982

    College team #1 sucks (Iowa)
    College team #2 awesome (ND)

    Life is good as a fair weather fan.

    • ssckelley

      I sure was hoping Iowa would beat Nebraska. It would have made for a nice ending to a miserable season.

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    Okay stat nerds, it’s time to vacate your parents basements for a little while. Go for a walk, kiss a girl…something. Managerial bullpen decision stat? Come on! WAR, BaBip, ERA+, all great usable stats, but it’s time to stop. Sometimes I wonder if these people actually watch baseball games!

    And I don’t care what Mike Trout’s WAR was, the dude basically disappeared in September, while Cabrera led his team past the White Sux and on to the World Series. And penalizing Cabrera because he plays a “less valuable” position is ridiculous!

    Okay, I feel better…and sorry if I’ve offended any stat nerds 😉

    • FFP

      Because I understand so few of the newer stats, I really find them useful. I peer at them like a great Rorschach inkblot until they take on (my) meaning. Like that manager stat, it buries Bobby Valentine; so I love it.
      But, seriously Canadian Cub, didn’t you always know that Batting Average was missing something?

    • ssckelley

      A lot of these new stats I flat out do not understand. Call me old fashion but I still love the good ole batting average, home runs, and RBI for hitters although I do enjoy the OPS stat. For pitchers good ole fashion wins/loses, ERA, and strikeouts work for me. I kinda consider myself a stat geek, in the early stages of the season I am the one figuring out how the number project out over an entire season. LaHair was fun doing that last spring, but we all know how that turned out.

      • OCCubFan

        Had BABIP-regression been incorporated into projections for LaHair (at the time he was hitting close to .400), the projection would have been for a BA near .260.

        • ssckelley

          I have no clue what you just told me.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        I am the one figuring out how the number project out over an entire season.

        OCCubFan‘s point can be extended. You do not want to project most stats based on sheer outcome the way that the press does: (say) HR x games played / 162. What you can project is that he’ll hit a certain FB:GB rate when he doesn’t K (so 1-K% x FB/(FB+GB)), and that X% of his FB will be HR. It won’t be 100% or 75% of whatever Bell did that day: it will be his career percent, perhaps weighted by the last couple of seasons if there has been a trend.

        And that is fundamentally where sabremetrics differs. Traditional stats are outcomes (HR, RBI, Wins). Sabremetric stats are proximal (and even ultimate) causes: ground balls, flyballs, line drives, range factors, etc.

        So, when you plug in LaHair”s early stats, with a ridiculous and unsustainable “success” outcomes given the proximal causes (he was K’ing like mad, in particular), then he actually projected out closer to the season that he actually had. In other words, he never really was on pace for (say) a 45 HR season, even if he did have 14 or so after 2 months.

        • OCCubFan

          I find interesting that there are two narratives for LaHair’s season.
          (1) He was incredibly lucky for the first month or so and then came back to earth, as explained by Doc Whimsey.
          (2) The league figured out how to pitch to LaHair and therefore his performance dropped precipitously.
          (A third narrative, that his performance dropped when he stopped getting regular at-bats, is refuted by the evidence.)
          It seems to me that each of the two narratives fully explains LaHair’s season. It also seems to me that both narratives are accurate. If, however, the league began pitching to LaHair’s weakness and he also stopped being unusually lucky, then LaHair’s performance should have dropped even more than it did.

          • dabynsky

            He had a .202/.269/.303 slash line in the second half. How much more could his numbers drop?

          • DocPeterWimsey

            And yet the 3rd narrative is pretty widely accepted, at least if comments posted to Carrie Muskat’s postings mean much! (Bruce Levine wrote that LaHair needed to go somewhere where he would face LHP every day; he obviously miswrote, because no league is going to give you 4-5 PAs against quality lefties every day!)

            There is some contradiction to #1 and #2. LaHair was K’ing at a very high rate while at the same time hitting lots of HR and having a lot of balls fall into play. Now, he’s always been a high K guy: he really was a classic “three true outcome” guy in that he homered, walked and K’ed a lot. However, his early rate was high for him but subsequently dropped. If pitchers had “figured him out,” then why did his K rate drop?

            The BABiP shift is also evidence against LaHair being “figured out.” Over half again as many of the balls that he put into play were falling in for hits as expected. That’s consistent with pitchers throwing him the right pitches, but not being rewarded after grounders snuck through or flares dropped just out of reach. (And LaHair certainly got a lot of that early!) Moreover, I don’t think that he was hitting fewer flyballs after May, which would have been another sign that pitchers had “figured him out.”

            One thing to remember is that if a guy is perfectly consistent through a baseball season, then we still expect to see considerable fluctuation in his performance simply by chance. BABiP is a huge culprit, but even things like HR:FB ratios (affected by ballparks and weather conditions) yo-yo quite a bit around the mean. And that’s what you expect: “consistency” is a distribution of results within the same bell-curve, not the same results. LaHair’s season might seem too extreme for that, but with hundreds of baseball players, some of them are going to show this. (It’s the same principle that provides us with lottery winners.)

            • OCCubFan

              A well-reasoned argument against Narrative #2.

            • jt

              When the OPS column in the game logs is viewed as a moving avg it becomes clear that LaHair’s stone drop gradient began May 16, 2012 and not at the start of the 2nd half on July 13, 2012.
              LaHair’s OPS through May 15 = 1.175
              ….. May 15 through July 8 = 0.597
              ……July 13 rest of year..= 0.523
              So, May 16 is the date of change.
              Prior to May 16
              128PA, 108AB, 39H, 9/2B, 10HR 19BB, 36K, 1SF
              361/453/722/1.175 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
              rate of K’s per number of PA’s = 28%
              rate of BB’s per number of PA’s = 15%
              rate of xbh per number of AB’s = 17.6%
              May 16 and later
              252PA, 232AB, 49H, 8/2B, 6HR, 20BB, 88K, 0SF
              rate of K’s per number of PA’s = 35%
              rate of BB’s per number of PA’s = 15%
              rate of xbh per number of AB’s = 6.0%
              After May 15 he didn’t control the K zone as well
              After May 15 he didn’t hit the ball with as much authority
              His BAbip dropped from 0.460 prior to May 16 to 0.312 after May 15.
              You say it it because of luck?
              I say he lost control of the K zone which resulted in him hitting the ball with less authority and with less ability to control direction.
              Luck is probability personalized. When the environment is changed to increase “the chance” then luck for that outcome increases.
              There is random sponteneous change. There is mutation. However, the Mutant Turtles aren’t really real… are they?

    • Byron Browne

      While most fans want fantasy baseball to more like the real thing, some of the nerds wish that the real thing was more like fantasy baseball.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        heh, in the fantasy league I run, our point scheme (when applied to real teams) does a really good job of predicting actual W-L records!

        Indeed, one thing I have always wanted is for there to be general fielding points based on how well a guy plays a position. The stats usually available do not take position into account: so, if you have a guy who plays both 1B & LF, and his real manager plays him at first while you play him in LF, then he gets putouts like he’s covering the whole OF singlehandedly.

        Of course, the bonus/penalty would be pretty weak: for example, Derek Jeter costs you a little bit every time you start him at SS rather than DH (= utility in most fantasy leagues), but obviously he’s not costing the Yanks that much despite being so bad.

        • Byron Browne

          I like to watch baseball; reducing it to a review of statistical data sounds too much like accounting or sociological research.

          • Kyle

            No one’s forcing you to pay attention to the statistical analysis.

            But don’t assume that the people who do the analysis don’t watch games, too. Many probably watch much more than you.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              And here’s a difference between how the two groups see the same game that they both are watching. A grounder sneaks just out of the SS’s reach. One group says that the batter “muscled” it past the infield. The other says that it was just out of the SS’s range, and then note whether this is because the SS is Jeteresque (would have been an out for others) or if we don’t see that often because this guys range is Hardyesque.

              That will separate the viewers who pay attention to the statistical data from those that do not!

            • Byron Browne

              ah yes Kyle,the man of no opinions, using the “no one’s forcing you to (whatever)” arguement, that’s suppose to end all discussion. So I guess anytime you voice an opinion, someone can just say “well no one is forcing you to watch the Cubs,” and that settles it!

  • Dougy D

    Go Hawks! (yes they sucked some serious ass).

    Brett, good to hear that you weren’t accosted in the shithole that is Columbus. The one time that I was there (hopefully the only time) the streets were littered with trash including a car burning in the middle of the road with no emergency response in sight. It looked like it had been burning for a while.

  • King Jeff

    I don’t know if it’s just a certain type of guys, but it seems there has been a recent wave of movement of guys from middling (in most cases) relievers to starters. CJ Wilson, Samardzija, RA Dickey, Chris Sale, and Lance Lynn all moved with success, plus there are several failed/semi-failed attempts like Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard.

  • Rice Cube

    I guess the Cubs were really unlucky last year despite Sveum’s heroics. As I recall, they underperformed relative to their Pythag.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    heh, it’s funny: I graduated from Bo Schembechler U., sorry, Michigan, back in the mid-1980’s. However, I always refer to myself as being from U. Chicago! Um, how are the boys doing this year? Or do I have to withhold alumni donations for the 26th year running?

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Hey Brett,

    Looking at the “manager” stat, I’d argue that what they have is the stuff not explained by the late inning stats. So, it includes “manager” but it also includes “luck.”

    Still, what stands out is that only 4 teams had negative numbers, and only one (The Nats) had -1 wins due to bullpen calls. What that suggests to me is that the stat basically is comparing managers choice to random choice: that is, what would happen if the manager just randomly grabbed an arm from the bullpen. So, nobody comes close to doing as poorly as possible because not even guys like Johnson (who was always the “pieces” tactician rather than the “on the fly” tactician) do not do as badly as commonly thought.

    • cheryl

      Doc I think this is the first time I’ve seen you use the word “luck.” Don’t get carried away by the world outside statistics now.

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Haha, you really did that Brett? At OSU? With your Michigan gear? How many beers did you get dumped on you? Man you got balls! That is great. I thought you were messing with us yesterday when you said you might do it. I guess the walk to the game was an experience in itself.

  • Frank

    I have no problem taking a look at Bowden as a starter, but I certainly wouldn’t want to count on him.

  • Spencer

    I have a tough time deciding between which team has the bigger asshole fans: Michigan or tO$U.

  • MichCubFan

    Theo correctly stated last year that you want to have good depth in your rotation…8 or 9 deep. Bowden would be a good swing man, which would adds to our possible major league starters. If he really steps it up and earns a starting job then great, but otherwise he is adding to his own value by being able to spot start if needed.

    • ssckelley

      Yes, I think it is a great move they are stretching out Bowden. They can add him to the mix in spring training to compete for a 5th starting spot and if he does not make it then he is a long reliever that can give you spot starts. Unless Bowden was to completely bomb in spring training I do not see any reason why the Cubs would try to waive him to send him to Iowa.

  • Kyle

    On the one hand, I hate the way they are taking every failed starter who shows a hint of success in the bullpen and putting him back in the rotation. On the other, I was fighting this fight against Samardzija’s conversion last year at this time, so I will keep my dissent to a low murmur.

    Bowden’s stuff plays much, much better with the extra MPH or two you get coming out of the bullpen.

    • ssckelley

      I really do not think they are trying to put him back in the rotation, it appears to me they are looking for him to be that long relief guy who can give you a spot start once in a while.

  • Kyle

    Now that I think about it, the bullpen rating has something to do with how awful our bullpen was toward the end.

    If you’ve got Camp, Hinshaw, Coleman and Castillo to choose from in your pen, and you choose Camp, you are going to get a big credit for the difference between him and the other three.

  • Tyron

    How bout we spend some damn money Jed u cheap a::!

  • NCMoss

    And now use that formula on Quade.