Three Bullpen Competitors Remain – Which Offers What Value? And Other Bullets

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.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

49 responses to “Three Bullpen Competitors Remain – Which Offers What Value? And Other Bullets”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. CubFan Paul

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

          1. 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..

          2. 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.

            1. 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..

          3. roz

            Geeze, you are cynical aren’t you?

            1. CubFan Paul

              So says my ex girlfriend

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. Kyle

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

          1. 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?

  2. DarthHater


  3. 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.

    1. Kyle

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

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. Patrick W.
        1. 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.

          1. 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.

          2. 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.

            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.

        2. 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.

          1. 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.”

          2. BluBlud

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

          3. 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.

            1. 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.

            2. 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.

              1. Tommy

                3 and 4 respectively.