jeff beliveau cubs[The following is a guest post from BN’er Josh, who had a strong reaction to the Cubs losing Jeff Beliveau to the Rangers just before Christmas … but not the strong reaction you might expect. The piece was written before the Cubs snagged Hisanori Takahashi on a minor league deal, but the points all remain. Thought-provoking stuff, whether you agree or disagree.]

In light of the Cubs DFA’ing Jeff Beliveau and subsequently losing him on waivers to the Rangers, and a slew of comments following with upset posters now looking to J.P. Howell or others to provide a lefty arm out of the pen, I decided to look at the splits of the guys already in contention for spots in the Cubs’ pen.

First, looking at just lefties in comparison to what Beliveau brings to the table versus lefties, alone, his stat line sits at an uninspiring ERA of 5.06 (ALERT: small sample size) in 5.1 innings of work against lefties in 2012. However, in that same 5.1 inning framework, Beliveau also gave up 3 HR and walked 4 batters while hitting one with a pitch. That rather uninspiring line gives him a WHIP of 2.44 against lefties – not exactly a desirable lefty/lefty matchup guy out of the pen. Pair that against Chris Rusin’s 2012 campaign against lefties and you see a similar type of guy in the stats. Rusin has a worse ERA at 6.00, but a superior WHIP at 1.11, while keeping the home runs and walks to a minimum.

Enter Brooks Raley. Here is a guy who might just better the previous two as a lefty/lefty candidate for the Cubs pen. He has a 4.91 ERA against lefties, which doesn’t scream “awesome,” but betters the previous two fellas by a sizable margin. He also has 1.36 WHIP which would leave him in the range of mediocrity, not as good as Rusin but far better than Beliveau. Again, sample size is an issue, but you’re getting the picture.

We all know what James Russell brings to the table for the Cubs: a very serviceable arm out of the pen to both lefties and righties. However, lets break down his lefty/lefty splits to get a grip on how good this guy could be in that role. In 2012 he threw to lefties to the tune of an ERA of just 2.67 and a WHIP of 1.22. Both of those shout “good if not great” as a lefty/lefty guy.

And the final piece of our left-handed hurlers who could be considered for the pen in light of the rotation pieces that have been added this offseason let us take a look at what Travis Wood could contribute to the bullpen. In 2012 against lefties, Travis put up fantastic numbers by posting a 3.00 ERA while holding a stellar WHIP of 0.91 against left handed hitters. Put that together with a less than desirable stat line against righties, and maybe this FO sees a potential shutdown lefty out of the pen in Travis Wood? Or at the least maybe a very good matchup guy, with the ability out of the pen to go some innings in an injury or bad start situation?

All those things considered, we have some reasonable left-handed pieces that more than fill the shoes of a soon-to-be-26-year-old thrower who is yet to really learn to pitch.

But the conversation gets more interesting when you consider the stat line some of the righties in the Cubs’ pen posted last year facing left-handed batters. Shawn Camp posted a 2.83 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP, placing him near the top of our list of candidates to face a left handed bat late in a game. Similarly, Michael Bowden sported a 2.40 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP against lefties, which would place him amongst the top of our candidates to face lefties. And maybe the most surpassingly effective bullpen arm versus lefties is the one attached to the body of Rafael Dolis. Against righties Dolis looks just plain bad with a 11.29 ERA with a 2.40 WHIP, but dig deeper and you see peak effectiveness out of Dolis. That effectiveness comes against lefties as Dolis posted a 1.83 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP against them.

Breaking it all down, then a piecing it together, maybe the front office has the lefty matchup guys in place in the way of Camp, Dolis, and Bowden together with the possibility of Wood joining Russell in the bullpen. There is a common thought that a lefty/lefty matchup brings the advantage to the guy on the mound. But in the case of some of these guys we have briefly looked at, we can see there are a number of times when you can eschew the common thought, and look more at the numbers. Because as we know, numbers don’t lie.

So the Cubs may very well look to add a man like J.P. Howell yet this offseason, but, if they don’t, it isn’t necessarily because they couldn’t. It could simply be a statement to the production they can get out of the guys who throw from the right side against lefties. And, all things considered, maybe the FO ought to look more into a bullpen arm that can effectively shut down right-handed hitters instead?

So, while the Beliveau departure is an easy one to get frustrated in at the onset, if you look at the numbers, his didn’t play well against the rest of the arms on the team. Also, factor in this front office’s extreme demand and desire to get control guys who can pitch and not just throw, and it is easy to see why Jeff Beliveau had become so expendable for this team. While Jeff was a promising arm, he was nearing the stage of not being young anymore, and a 26-year-old bullpen prospect screams oxymoron to me. At 26, if a guy is only a bullpen arm and he still can’t solidify himself in that role, maybe the upside and prospect status have run their course. The Cubs lost a guy in Beliveau that could someday figure it out and be a lights out type pitcher, but someday starts to mean less and less once a prospect from the bullpen crosses the age line of 25. Those are the types of guys you expect to have figured it out at that point. The Cubs have much more effective options already in the bullpen in a group of righties that are uncharacteristically dominant against lefties, and they are paired with a lefty who is darn good in his own right in James Russell. Does it sting? Yeh. Wish we could have kept the kid? Yeah. Would he have made the bullpen anyway or be a key guy in a good bullpen going forward? Probably not. It is a fickle business this sport, but this loss is one that will most likely not see the Cubs grimace once at the waiver claim by the Rangers.

Best of luck to Jeff and the Rangers, but ladies and gents, this was not a hit to the bullpen or to the future plans in anyway.

  • Norm

    How do you come up with “ERA vs. Lefties”?
    If Shawn Camp is on the mound and gives up a leadoff triple to a lefty, then he faces a righty and gives up a sac fly, isn’t that run charged to the righty?

    Using ERA for relief pitchers is the wrong way to look at relief pitchers, IMO. Then by trying to further break it down into the ‘vs. LH’ split, you make the sample even more unreliable. If we want to attempt to forecast what they’ll do in 2013, give me the FIP components over ERA and WHIP.

    As for Beliveau…I’ve always liked him. But I’m not concerned with losing him at all, and it seems like most of MLB agrees as he had to pass by every NL team and then every AL team with a worse record than Texas….meaning 27 teams (including the Cubs) didn’t find him worthy of a roster spot.

    • chirogerg

      You can’t have an ERA vs. lefties or righties unless every single plate appearance in every appearance was either all righties or all lefties.

  • preacherman86

    In that case looking at FIP versus lefties:
    Beliveau – 7.74
    Rusin – 7.89
    Raley – 4.06
    Russell – 0.55
    Camp – 0.66
    Dolis – 1.09
    Bowden – 1.8
    Wood – 0.33

    These numbers show a similar story if you look at FIP against lefties. Looks eerily similar to the above stat with the only change being Rusin looks as bad as Beliveau

    • Brett

      And that would be Josh, by the way.

    • Norm

      Those don’t look accurate unless I’m completely still drunk from NYE.

      Beliveau – 7.74 (11.34 FIP, according to Fangraphs)
      Rusin – 7.89 (2.65)
      Raley – 4.06 (6.64)
      Russell – 0.55 (3.76)
      Camp – 0.66 (3.76)
      Dolis – 1.09 (4.16)
      Bowden – 1.8 (5.22)
      Wood – 0.33 (3.70)

      • preacherman86

        They are lefty only splits as that is presumably the role believeau would have been asked to fill

        • Norm

          Right, but Russell’s FIP vs. LH hitters was 3.76, not 0.55….right? Or am I looking at the wrong thing?

      • preacherman86

        You are correct Norm on these stats, all of my FIP would need to add 3.2 as I forgot to finish the formula. It is ((13*HR)+(3*BB)-(2*K))/IP plus a constant usually around 3.2 to balance it. So what you would find with the numbers I have would hold true but with a higher number across the borad to account for my lapse of math in adding 3.2. Many apologies sir.

  • Cedlandrum

    I’m not overly worked up about losing Beliveau but I will say that he has a bit of a funky delivery and so I imagine he would be a better pitcher given steady work. This is evidenced in the fact that he walked so many in such a small sample.

  • Internet Random

    Nice post, Josh.

  • Morken

    I guess adding in the phrase “small sample size” to an opinion dramatically based in a small sample size, exonerates one from logic.

  • FFP

    Thanks for a new lens to view this through, Josh.

    • baldtaxguy

      X 2. Never considered this.

  • Andrew

    I don’t know too much about the waiver claim process but from what i know, teams with lower records get higher priority. To me I think its worth noting that we lost him to the Rangers and not a team like the Astros. That means that quite a few teams passed on putting him on their forty man despite knowing how valuable good lefty relievers are. That says to me that we shouldn’t be too disappointed on losing him.

  • Edwin

    I agree that losing Beliveau isn’t huge, but I don’t understand what you’re saying when you reference ERA and WHIP in < 30 IP sample sizes. Why use only 2012 numbers, and not career numbers? Of the three RH you mentioned, only Dolis is "better" against LH, but he still sucks.

  • King Jeff

    Nice post Josh, I have been looking at Woods’ splits as well, and I think that he above all the others, is going to end up as the other bullpen lefty. How great would it be if he turns out to be a younger, less-expensive version of Sean Marshall? (I know, Cubs glasses, kool-aid, and what-not…)

  • Fastball

    don’t think we will miss Beliveau. He was just another of the pitchers that kept moving up the organization because they had nowhere else to put him. Glad we aren’t in the (We gotta keep him cuz we don’t have any of his types mode). The no ceiling basement floor types need to continue being jettisoned from the system. It’s baseball. If every kid who played got to stick around we would need a 1000 minor league teams.

  • Dougy D

    Nice article Josh.

  • Casey Stengel

    Intriguing piece and excellent research. I agree with almost all of it. I do want to call attention to one small thing. The constant use of “we.” Unless josh is member of the Cubs FO or other employee of the Cubs it is not a “we” situation. Or a Ricketts family member or former player.

    Using “we” as part of being fan is something I did my whole life. Espeically with this team. One day, someone called me out me and reminded me as a season ticket holder–or rather even as one–I wasn’t part of the actual organization. Now, for all my favorite teams I avoid it. It actually helps me deal with losses better. Doesn’t feel so personal. Also, sadly, makes me feel better when I argue with those Bears fans who are happy at 2-14 as long as they beat the packers twice. Maybe I’m nit picking.

    However, don’t lose the wisdom of your work. The research and writing is really strong. No way I could something so good if I tried. Enlightening. Bravo.

  • ncsujuri

    I definitely think you are nit-picking Casey, there are many fans (myself included) that feel enough a part of the organization that they root for their entire lives that in my opinion the use of ‘we’ is appropriate. Perhaps it’s your coping mechanism but don’t force it on others. 😉

    • blublud

      As a Cubs fan, a Timberwolves fan, a Buccaneers fan and a N.C. State Wolfpack fan, I have never been a fan of a team that was expected to win a championship. The closest I’ve been is the Bucs of the late 90’s and early decade. We did win the Super Bowl in 2003. I have been through the ups and mostly downs of being a sports fan. I have suffered with my teams enough and yet still remained a fan, so much so that I think using the “WE” is the only appropriate way to state my feelings. A FO job couldn’t make me any more or less emotionally tied to the Cubs then I already am. So when talking about the Cubs, it will always be WE.

      • ncsujuri

        Exactly, blu…I actually think its the long suffering fans that use ‘we’ moreso than say Yankee fans for example.

        • Casey Stengel

          Alright point withdrawn. Well argued. I stand corrected. Here is what I will say about Chicago fans. The Cubs family of fans is by the far the nicest, most honest, and smart. Maybe I’ve just had my fill of Grabowskis this week. Use “we” and be proud. And to the NC state, Cub, and Bucs fan–here’s wishing you some wins.

          • Casey Stengel

            Alright point withdrawn. Well argued. I stand corrected. Here is what I will say about Chicago fans. The Cubs family of fans is by the far the nicest, most honest, and smart. Maybe I’ve just had my fill of Grabowskis this week. Use “we” and be proud. And to the NC state, Cub, and Bucs fan–here’s wishing you some wins. And if Kevin Love needs a new home–the Bulls will take him.

  • Edwin

    It’s a nicely writen article, but I wouldn’t call it well researched. The data doesn’t really back up the conclusion. For his career, Shawn Camp has a FIP against lefties of 4.40. Can he really be considered a lefty matchup option?

    Almost all of the of the ERA and WHIP stats that Josh is citing are coming from sample sizes of < 30 IP, most < 10 IP. They're too unreliable.

  • preacherman86

    That is fair Edwin, maybe Camp was a poor example, but even 4.40 is far better than Beliveau was. And using career numbers across the board isn’t a fair process either considering that each of Rusin, Raley, Beliveau, Bowden, and Dolis are primarily minor leaguer’s career numbers at this stage. That just isn’t a fair comparison, so I paired it down to just 2012 as an even sample size across the board. If it would be sufficient to include the minor league stats on those pitchers in comparing them to the major league careers of Camp, Russell and even Wood, then Brian LaHair would be a better statistical hitter than Ryan Howard (sarcasm), and Roosevelt Brown would be a Cubs’ legend with his number on the flag pole. Sometimes small sample size is dictated by a lack of effectiveness, a la Jeff Beliveau, and sometimes guys learn how to pitch as they age. For example, the average ERA for Sandy Koufax through the first 6 years of his career was 4.04, and his average ERA over the last six years was 2.24. I don’t think anyone would argue Koufax was anything less than a hall of fame pitcher, despite being average at best for the first half of his career.

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