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hisanori takahashiOur house is buried under a modest pile of snow this morning, and we’re less than a week away from April. Rabble rabble.

  • An AL scout had some very complimentary things to say to Dave Kaplan about the Cubs’ rebuilding efforts. A notable selection: “They could build a monster. They have resources and prospects. Will they have the guts to stick to what the right move is and that is to keep stockpiling? Hard in that market. If they do it will work. What they are doing is what everyone in baseball feared: Develop and have big money in a winnable division.” The Central has become underrated, but it remains dominatable if the Cubs continue their organizational and financial progress.
  • Jesse Rogers talks to each of the three remaining bullpen competitors – Cory Wade, Zach Putnam, and Hisanori Takahashi – about their Spring and their chances of making the bullpen. They all pretty much said some variation of, “I’m trying my best, I can’t worry about the outcome, I hope I make the team.”
  • It still feels like Takahashi has the edge, by virtue of being a lefty who can also be a long-man. It’s interesting to think about which of the three could have the most flip trade value if he surprises with a dominant first half. None is going to net a huge return, even if he puts up zeros for the entire first half, but it’s a tough call. Takahashi has the established big league track record and is a lefty (always sought after), but he’s much older. Putnam is still close to being a “prospect” at just 25, and could have a bright bullpen future ahead of him (if he puts it together). And Wade, 29, has had the best two seasons of any of the bunch, a couple ridiculously awesome years in 2008 and 2011. Putnam feels like the guy you’d want to win the job, as he could have the most long-term value. But, as a small-value flip, it’s probably Takahashi or Wade. So, when you combine value to the team and potential small value in a trade, it’s probably going to be Takahashi getting the job. He was my pick to win the final bullpen job back when pitchers reported, so I might as well stick to it now. If that happens, hopefully Putnam and Wade stick in the organization at least through midseason.
  • John McCarron writes an opinion piece for the Tribune on the Wrigley renovation, and I’ve read it twice without fully grasping the point he’s trying to make. I think it’s something about staying at Wrigley, and encouraging the Ricketts Family to invest in the Wrigleyville area, which they’ve been doing for a couple years now. So, I guess … check? McCarron also mentions creative incentives to the Ricketts Family, including revenue sharing from the rooftops (already in place) and tax abatements by the city (not likely to be popular), all of which I’m sure have been explored.
  • A Starlin Castro Q&A with Jesse Rogers. He mentions that he’s happy about hitting second for the Cubs, among other reasons, because he gets to move runners over. No, Starlin. Don’t let anyone tell you that is your job. Your job is to hit. (And to take walks when they give ‘em to you.)
  • Darwin Barney by the numbers in 2012 – turns out, surprise, he was very good defensively.
  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    Not impressed with Kaplan finding a scout to carry water for the organization same as he does. :) A scout thinks that the plan that is focusing entirely on amateur scouting and development is a good one? Funny, I think newspapers are crucial to American society. People tend to be biased about their jobs.

    You could rank the Cubs’ system anywhere from 2nd to 4th in the division, but I think third is pretty fair. The Pirates’ have more near-ready guys and are ahead of us for now, and the Reds have similar top-end talent but not as much depth and thus are behind us. All three of those teams are run by smart management (I know, our guys are the smartest because we’re fans, but they aren’t dumb).

    I’m not saying we’ll be in last place forever. But I’m having a very hard time seeing us dominating the division anytime soon. It’s only going to happen if pretty much everything goes our way in player development, which is possible but not something I’m willing to bet on.

    • JulioZuleta

      We have the combination of minor league system, extra resources, and attractiveness to FAs that clearly separates us from Pittsburgh. Right now it’s all about development because it’s not the right time to make big moves in the FA market. Once some of these guys are ready to contribute, we can make a few big signings to really throw us into the mix.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        The Pirates have a better minor-league system and a head start in the majors. They don’t have the resources to stay ahead of us forever, but they could be annoying for a few years.

        • CubFan Paul

          Winning won’t be as easy as “fans of the Plan” are lead to believe.

          • JR

            It will be 2015 for the Cubs to make any noise, that seems obvious. I think they may sign some decent dudes this offseason, but there isn’t much available this winter. Their upper minors still really blows, and that’s the biggest problem..

          • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

            I’m pretty sure the “8 playoff years out of 10″ aren’t coming, even with the extra wild card. If I had to guess, I’d say 5 or 6 out of 10, starting with the first one.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Six playoff appearances in ten years, with presumably being non-god-awful in the other four years? I’ll take that smiling.

              • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

                I gave them an arbitrary endpoint, starting with the first one.

                If you need three years of run-up to get to that point, it’s 6 in 13. That’s not terrible, but it’s not crazy-impressive either.

                If it takes you four years and you only get 5-for-10, you are essentially on the Jim Hendry ratio.

                • hansman1982

                  FWIW: Hendry got 3 in 9 years.

                  5 in 10 would put you 1 behind the Cardinals and Red Sox, 3 ahead of the Giants and on par with Atlanta.

                  It also depends how the 5 in 10 is. Are we talking 5 years in 5 years just missing? Or is it 5 in, 3 completely out of it, 1 in contention and 1 borderline contention?

                  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

                    Again: That’s 5 in 10 starting from the first one. Not starting from when Epstein took over. So it might really be 5-in-13 or 5-in-14.

            • JR

              Well this year and most likely next the Cubs wo’nt make the playoffs. After that I could 7 or 8 playoffs over the next 10. Which I think was the plan all along. I am not saying it was a right or wrong plan, it is what it is at this point I guess..

          • roz

            Geeze, you are cynical aren’t you?

            • CubFan Paul

              So says my ex girlfriend

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          “a head start in the majors”

          I think that’s pretty debatable.

          • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

            They won 18 more games than us last year, and PECOTA projects them to win two more than us this year (and I think most of us are taking the under on the 78 wins PECOTA is giving us this year).

            They got 13.1 bWAR from their top 4 players 26 and under last season (11.5 for us).

            I mean, anything’s debatable and it’s enough of a not-landslide that you could make a credible case that the Cubs are even with them, but I think the evidence strongly leans toward the Pirates on this measure.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That first paragraph is completely and utterly meaningless in this discussion, so I’ll just throw it out.

              More than half of their 13.1 came from one player (McCutchen), who just barely managed your convenient 26-year-old cut-off (he turns 27 in October – Samardzija is excluded, of course, since his arm is so old …). That’s not to say that McCutchen isn’t huuuuugely valuable. He is. And we both know that elite players are worth more than two very good players. But I also know that I wouldn’t dream of taking McCutchen over Castro and Rizzo, for example. The other players that comprise each team’s 26-and-under group are mostly filler. Those are the key pieces. And I’ll easily take the Cubs’ duo.

              • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

                Typical Epstein apologist. Major League wins and losses are so unimportant as to be not even considered. :)

                • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

                  Seriously though, I’ve never been impressed with the “young arm” argument for Samardzija.

                  Athletes age whether they’ve been used or not.

                  • JR

                    Dude, you’re acting like the most pessimistic person ever. Come on now.. Have a bit of faith Kyle. Obviously there has been some mistakes in the short time of the new front office, but Samardzija has to be one of the bright spots and clearly continues to improve at an older age the most pitchers. And Brett, I happen to think Pedro Alvarez is going to be extremely valuable going forward, maybe more than Rizzo.

                    • BluBlud

                      Pedro Alvarez is valuable because he can slug, but he is not a better player then Rizzo now, and will not be going foward. This is a guy who has a lower BA the Campana and barely a higher OBP then Campana. Now he much more valuable then Campana, yes, because he could probably slug Campana out of the ballpark, but to say he is more valuable going foward then Rizzo is crazy. Even if Rizzo falls short of 30 HR, maybe he only hits 25, hit BA, OBP and much, much lower SO rate will make him considerably more valuable then Alvarez. Not to mention, Alvarez doesn’t show to much sign of making a huge inprovement in these areas. I would compare Alvarez to Carlos Pena with a much lower walk rate and Rizzo has a much higher Ceiling then that.

                    • BluBlud

                      Rizzo probably has a much higher floor then that also.

                    • JR

                      In a pick ‘em over their careers I would probably take Rizzo. I think it’s close though because of their positions. Pedro could easily be an annual 35 homer guy at 3rd base with potential for more.

                    • BluBlud

                      Correct, but he provides no value defensively at 3B and ,if anything, is a liability. His 92% fielding and his 27 errors proves that. He has a good arm, but has no range and even when he gets to the ball, doesn’t have a great glove. Unlike, say Castro, who also had 27 errors at SS, he doesn’t show defensive upside, IMO. The guy is probably only a 3B right now, because the 3B position is so watered down in MLB. I see him as a future 1B more then likely.

                    • hansman1982

                      Ewww…Alvarez K’s at a 30% K rate. My guess is he doesn’t make it to 30 as a starter (and I wouldn’t run screaming from a small bet on him being out of baseball by 30)

                    • BluBlud

                      Hansman, he can slug, so some GM will always give him a shot on a cheap deal until he loses that ability. But like Campana and the SB, he is a one trick pony. All he can do is hit Homeruns. His strikeout rate is….Yikes!!!!!!!. unlike Pena, he doesn’t add defensive value, so he has a much smaller chance of sticking around as long.

                    • hansman1982

                      Ya, I did say just a tiny bet about him being out by 30.

                      ” But like Campana and the SB, he is a one trick pony.”

                      Yes, however, 30 home runs in a season is as roughly valuable to 240 stolen bases.

      • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

        When was the last time the cubs signed a top tier free agent? In addition top free agents are even making it to the market any longer. You are also not aware that mlb revenue sharing puts every club in a position to retain their own young talent if they wish.

        • Cedlandrum

          Depends on what you mean by top tier free agent. Edwin Jackson was a pretty good signing. If you mean superstar well then yeah.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

          Jackson was, I think the 5th-highest FA of last offseason. How many are in a tier?

          • jt

            Replace Feldman with Verlander
            Replace Marmol with Chapman
            Replace DeJesus McCutchen
            *
            I know that ain’t gunn’a happin’
            *
            But how would the addition of just 3 elites effect the ’13 team?

  • DarthHater

    [img]http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/36623848.jpg[/img]

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Fortunately it was just in the front page tease, so many people don’t even know what you’re talking about …

      • DarthHater

        Many people never know what I’m talking about. ;-)

  • Bilbo161

    Castro will be a good number two hitter for now. I’m not sure why moving the runners over isn’t part of being a good hitter in the first place. It’s not to give yourself up, it’s to think and hit according to the situation. That means if we need the runner moved over he hits it toward the right side. It’s not a sacrifice.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      Maximizing your chance of not making an out is essentially always the best way to help the team (with very limited exceptions).

      • OCCubFan

        I agree One of the very limited exceptions is tie score, bottom of the ninth+. In that case, you do not want to maximize the expected the number of runs, you want to maximize the probability of scoring at least one run and thus winning the game. I believe in that case, you maximize the probability of scoring by moving the guy from second to third, even at the cost of an out.
        Of course, still better would be to advance the runner with a hit. Thus, you should try to hit the ball hard to the right side. Also, in this case, the pitcher may well pitch inside to a right-handed hitter. Then, the hitter’s best course of action may be to hit the ball hard to the left side.

    • BluBlud

      Correct. I think people, and their Saber Metrics, take things a little to far. The object of the game is to score more runs then the other team. I agree, bunting for a sacrifice might be overused, but it is valuable. It dejesus leads off the 9th with a double in a tied game, it Castro’s job to get him to 3rd, at least, by any means. If that means bunt, he needs to do. If it means slap a grounder to the right side, he needs to do it. Yeah, if he hit a 2 run homer, if give us extra cushion, but if Dejesus doesn’t score that run at all, we have 0 chance to win the game. By getting him to 3rd with 1 out, he giving Dejesus and huge chance to score. I like the way he’s thinking.

      • Patrick W.
        • TWC

          To elaborate on this (very important) chart:

          On average, you can expect to score more runs when you have the situation in which there is a runner on 2nd w/ no outs than you will with a runner on third w/ one out. This is a fact.

          You *lose* runs by “giving yourself up”. You *lose* runs by bunting/sacrificing a runner over.

          • hansman1982

            Yes, over a thousand PA you should expect to give up about 200 runs. That is 20 wins you are tossing out the window with that out.

          • BluBlud

            This chart tells us howmany runs score, but i want to know the percentage of the time a run scores from third with one out verses second with no outs. I would be willing to bet that the percentage is higher that the guy scores from third. You have to remember, if a guy is on second with no outs, there is serveral scenerio’s in which he might score. If the next batter singles to center, he probably scores. if the next batter grounds to first, the runner moves to third and then the next batter hits a sac fly, that also counts for a runner scoring from 2nd with no outs, while also counting as a runner scoring from third with 1 out. Percentages mean more. there is absolutely no way a guy on secong with no outs can score 1.189 runs, as he can only count for 1.

            • hansman1982

              The response to your question is that is means nothing more than know how many runs you expect to score in that situation.

              “Percentages mean more. there is absolutely no way a guy on secong with no outs can score 1.189 runs, as he can only count for 1.”

              Meh, The run expectancy tells you how many runs you expect to score the remainder of the inning in this situation. It doesn’t matter if that specific runner scores, just that in 1000 PA of that scenario, you will score 1,189 runs. Some innings you will score 7, some you will score 0.

              Not bunting with a positional player should be taken as a rule. Now, will there be unique 1 off situations where you may want to bunt (Tony Campana on 3rd and a good bunter at the plate), sure. Just like there may have been a few times where you wanted to pitch to Barry Bonds with 1st open.

              With a runner on 2nd, nobody out, the least likely way to score him is by sac bunting.

        • Bilbo161

          Thanks Patrick, I understand the probability in a large sample size favors the second base no outs. Don’t you think the situation the hitter is in at the moment is the important one? In that “small” sample size situation I wonder if those metrics should be held to so hard and fast. It’s more about execution really. There are so many more possible ways to score with a man on third and less than 2 out. Some of the ways to score that guy from second with no outs actually include the scenarios where the man is moved while making out number 1. Not sure that is accounted for in the strict stats scenario.

          • hansman1982

            Remember, these large “probability” scenarios are made up of tens of thousands of those: “…“small” sample size situation[s] I wonder if those metrics should be held to so hard and fast. It’s more about execution really.”

          • BluBlud

            Damn, you beat me to it. I feel the same exact way.

          • Patrick W.

            I just wanted to point out that if you look at several thousand scenario where we can track exactly what has actually happened, you’re better off statistically to not bunt. Especially if you have a hitter of Castro’s ability at the plate.

            That doesn’t mean that I think 100% of the time it’s a bad call to bunt. I can think of plausible situations where you might want to do it. Tied game, bottom of the ninth +, runner on 2nd nobody out and the pitcher is up with a specific runner on 2nd and a specific batter on deck, absolutely bunt the guy over (this is assuming for some bizarre reason you have nobody on the bench to pinch hit for the pitcher or no pitcher to replace a hit for pitcher).

            But with a runner on 2nd with 0 outs you have 3 shots of scoring him. Give yourself up to move him to 3rd (maybe) you have 2 shots of scoring him. If the next batter fails to score him, you have 1 shot, and that shot HAS to be a hit, which happens on average 27% of the time.

            • TWC

              It should be noted, too, that the data used to compile the Run Expectancy matrix specifically excludes all partial innings and home innings in the 9th or later, which are precisely the situations that we’re discussing here.

              But the gist is that for the average batter, you’re better off letting them hit. For really bad hitters (like pitchers and/or Chone Figgins), they should bunt. Starlin Castro, regardless of the base-out state, should never “give himself up” to advance a baserunner.

            • BluBlud

              Tell me how many times that runner on 2nd scores without stopping on third with 1 out. Then tell me how many times that runner is still standing on 2nd with 1 out. If the percentage of the time the player is still standing on 2nd with 1 out is higher then the percentage of the time the runner scores from second without stopping on third with 1 out, then you have a point. But I needs those numbers.

              • Tommy

                3 and 4 respectively.

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