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matt garza cubsJune has arrived. With it comes the Draft, the real start of the trade rumor season, and the lead-up to the international signing period (which opens July 2). And, of course, lots of baseball. The Cubs are making things interesting lately, winning five in a row, and looking impressive in doing so. Some of the winning is simple positive regression – as we’ve discussed at length, the Cubs are probably a good deal better than their record reflects – and doesn’t necessarily mean that the Cubs have turned a corner. The real question – one that I hope we get to talk about for several more days – is how many games must the Cubs win in June for us to start thinking that the sell-off plan isn’t the right move this year. Well, and how many losses from the likes of the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates, who are currently dominating baseball.

  • Matt Garza threw 82% fastballs yesterday, per Cubs.com, which is impressive given the excellent results. “He kept it simple, fastballs to both sides of the plate, up and down, mixed in his breaking stuff and kept the balls off the barrel,” D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said, per Cubs.com, which comports with Garza relying heavily on the fastball (i.e., the keep it simple part). I assume that was game plan thing, which Garza executed quite well, it appears. Through three starts, Garza’s numbers look great: 3.38 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9. The only piece that you’d like to see improve a bit is the 3.9 BB/9. Note: Garza walked no one yesterday.
  • Bruce Miles on Dale Sveum, Pythagoras, and run differential. Doesn’t that tease make you want to read it? You should. Sveum offers his thoughts on the Cubs’ record so far, and how he knows that the Cubs are better than their record reflects.
  • Bob Brenly, who is back at Wrigley announcing for the Diamondbacks this weekend, sounds a little wistful when he talks with ESPN about his time in Chicago. He does admit that it was tough to call the games the last couple of years when the team was performing so badly.
  • Another sabermetric analysis of Jeff Samardzija’s emergence – this from Beyond the Boxscore – concludes that it’s legit, and can last. He may very well be a true ace.
  • ESPN’s Jim Caple on the need to renovate Wrigley Field. The timing of his piece is odd, but, hey, yeah: renovate Wrigley Field.
  • Vine Line spent a few days with Tom Ricketts to see what it was like to own the Cubs. If you think Ricketts doesn’t feel pressure to build a winner for the fans, you’re wrong.
  • A great profile on outfield prospect Albert Almora from CSN. I’m usually not one for the practical impact of ethereal concepts like “drive” and “chemistry,” but you really do get the sense that Almora will always outperform his ability (which is considerable to begin with) because of his enthusiasm/drive/energy/intelligence/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.
  • Kane County pitching prospect Pierce Johnson and third base prospect Jeimer Candelario land on Baseball America’s latest Hot Sheet – the former for being hot, the latter not-so-much.
  • At yesterday’s game, a young fan got a little too excited about his new baseball, and dad had to save the day (from MLB’s Tumblr):

  • Kyle

    Brett, what is up with Scott Baker?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Throwing in Arizona, but not pitching competitively yet. No one expects him back before mid-to-late July at the earliest. It sucks.

      • JOE

        It does suck, yes, but there may be a silver lining to the timing of his return. If the Cubs do indeed move one or more of Garza/Feldman/Villenueva then we will be in obvious need of starting pitching the second half of the year. Obviously we don’t know how Baker will perform when he gets back, but I, for one, will feel better about our second half chances if we can replace some of our midseason “sell-off players” with proven MLB ready starting pitchers, like Baker.

  • MikeW

    That’s an awesome gif

    • cubchymyst

      completely agree

  • Deacon

    One other mysterious Cubbie prospect disappearance……what the heck happened to Marcelo Carreno, the allegedly good prospect the Cubs got from the Tigers as the Jeff Baker PTBNL. Why hasn’t he pitched anywhere this year?!?

    • Kyle

      He was under “limited activity only” in spring training last I remember, so I’m guessing some sort of injury.

    • #1lahairfan

      I have been wondering where he is as well. He was a top 30 prospect at the start of the year at only 22 years old so he’s got plenty of time. Maybe the Tigers knew he was injured and were willing to trade him and then the Cubs jumped on the buy low.

  • Kyle

    Daily “Cubs are so much better than their record” stat-dump:

    +11 run differential, 28-24 pythagorean record (.528 win percentage)
    BP 3rd Order Win Percentage: .559, fourth in the NL
    Offense is 6th in NL in runs per game
    Net OPS: +.054

    There are 52 games between now and the trade deadline.

    In order to get to .500 by then, the Cubs need to go 30-22 (would actually put us one game over).

    If they are a true .528 team, then we have a 29% chance of reaching at least that.
    If they are a true .559 team, then we have a 45% chance of reaching at least that.

    There are 109 games left in the regular season. If we were a true .528 team and let it play out without a trade deadline dump, then we’d have:

    A 50% chance of being .500 or better at the end of the year
    A 3% chance of winning at least 88 games

    If we were a true .559 team and let it play out, we’d have:

    A 75% chance of being .500 or better at the end of the year
    A 10% chance of winning at least 88 games

    • Kyle

      Oops, those 88-win odds are actually 91 win odds. Math is hard.

    • http://cubsdailyrecaps.blogspot.com Jason P

      Good stuff, though in the end, I think we’re only marginally better than our record indicates. The “team peripherals” so to speak only account for how good the team should be based on individual performances and runs produced vs. runs allowed, at least as far as I know.

      It doesn’t account for potential regression from individual players, like Gregg and Russell in the bullpen, Feldman and Wood in the rotation, and maybe slight regression from Dejesus, Valbuena, or Schierholtz in the lineup.

      Granted, we do have some candidates for positive regression like Soriano, Hairston, and Jackson. But overall, I think the numbers everyone keeps bringing up overstate at least somewhat how unlucky we’ve been.

      • http://cubsdailyrecaps.blogspot.com Jason P

        And another thing to consider, how much was our Pythagorean record, etc. helped by our garbage time 9th inning rallies?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Almost none at all. The Cubs typically go into the late innings trailing by only by a run or two. It typically stays that way.

  • CubFan Paul

    The sell off plan this year is the right move night matter what. The team was built with flippable pieces, not to make a run but to rejuvenate the farm while the payroll is being suppressed

    I’ll save the pipe dreams for next year when the new advertising pumps up the payroll a little bit.

    • Kyle

      I wonder at what point would people have to acknowledge that their “This team was built to flip” assumption about every free agent signing was incorrect.

      It wasn’t built to flip. It was built to try to win, with flipping as a plan B.

      • CubFan Paul

        “It wasn’t built to flip. It was built to try to win, with flipping as a plan B”

        Scott Baker, Schierholtz, Hairston, minor league contracts signed for the bullpen, Fuji, Feldman, Villanueva, and Shawn Camp say Hi.

        • Kyle

          Hi guys. Thanks for a lot of you being useful baseball players who help the Cubs win baseball games.

          • Timothy Scarbrough

            It seems odd that you are the one defending the front office, Kyle.

            • Kyle

              There’s always been a sort of weird dynamic to the arguments.

              One side said the Cubs were terrible and the front office was awesome, and the other said that the Cubs weren’t that bad and that the front office should be judged more harshly because of that.

              My criticisms of them centered around two main complaints

              1) They’d done a really poor job in 2012 of maximizing the roster with successful cheap and mid-level pickups.
              2) They seemed to have left a ton of money no the table.

              Both of those complaints have been answered, imo. It turns out they didn’t have the money to begin with (thanks to a complicated set of Ricketts/Tribune dealings and happenings), and they’ve done a fantastic job of finding successful cheap and mid-level pickups this season.

              • Timothy Scarbrough

                I agree with your assessments, but it seemed like if they convinced you, they would have convinced everyone else. Apparently not.

              • another JP

                And after what you’ve been saying the past several weeks I’ll be the first to say that you’re a stand up dude for admitting the Cub reno plan has been a positive development. I laid into you pretty good a couple times as you were criticizing the FO but you’re obviously astute enough to see real improvement and talent even if it isn’t immediately apparent in a W/L record. I can tell you’re enjoying this improvement in the Cubs as much as I am.

                • http://thenewenthusiast.com dw8

                  I think it’s difficult for some to see the improvement of this team, especially since the record hasn’t corresponded to the RS v. RA.

                  The Cubs have definitely been doing it around the edges.
                  Useful platoons, Defensive improvements (errors don’t really matter), Increased GB rates of pitchers.

                  A couple of considerations.
                  Offensive improvements (2012 season v. 2013):
                  42 Point Jump in SLG%

                  The 2012 Cubs were 15th in MLB in Defensive Efficiency in 2012. Today they are 2nd to only Pittsburgh:

                  2012 DER:.709
                  2013 DER:.732

                  I know there has been a discussion here about some SP carrying artificially low BABIP’s. It seems as though some of it may be able to be attributed to defense.

                  • Kyle

                    A poster over on NSBB pointed out (and apparently Obstructed View had an article earlier) that every single Cubs starting pitcher has seen a noticeable increase in his ground ball percentage working under Bosio.

                    Simultaneous to that, we have one of the best infield defenses in baseball.

                    It is not remotely a coincidence.

              • Rebuilding

                Right on, Kyle. I agree completely

  • X the Cubs Fan

    Dream deadline trade: Cubs trade Garza (+extension), Alfonso Soriano (+cash) and Josh Vitters Orioles trade: Kevin Gausman, Jon Schoop, and Steve Johnson

    • David

      You’re right that it’s a dream, because that would never happen. I think Garza goes to Boston. They’ve got plenty to offer out of Cecchini/Owens/Ranaudo/Webster/Swihart.

      • #1lahairfan

        I think he goes to the Red Sox as well.

    • Bric

      Not sure anybody has any interest in Vitters, even if it is just a flip with Schoop. I’d rather trade Garza by himself anyway for straight up prospects. Put Villanueva and Sori in there fur just Gausman and Johnson and it looks like a good trade.

      • David

        They aren’t trading Gausman for a rental and an old, hobbled OF. You’re living in fantasy land if you think we’re getting a top 5 pick from lasts year’s draft for a couple months of Matt Garza. If Gausman is traded, it’ll be for an all star player with multiple years of team control.

        • Bric

          I don’t think Gausman will get trade to anybody either, especially for the reasons you just said. But both Villanueva and Sori could have a lot of value to them right now and it’s something to at least start thinking about.

        • X the Cubs Fan

          I guess you didn’t see the part with the extension and Soriano would be a quality DH. I also didn’t say it would happen I said dream trade…

          • David

            Doesn’t change anything, still not a realistic return.

    • Rebuilding

      My dream is Garza to the Red Sox for Garin Cecchini. There’s your 3b of the future. Not sure the Sox would move him for anything however

      • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

        I actually think that would be a great trade for both sides. Cecchini looks to be a future all-star third baseman, and Garza could be the type of pitcher to put the Sox rotation over the top… My dream trade would be Garza and Soriano for Archie Bradley. Then we take Appel or Gray, and have a possible future rotation of Samardzija, Bradley, Appel/Gray, Wood, and maybe a top FA pitcher.

  • fromthemitten

    BELLY FIRE

  • Voice of Reason

    I love it when people say they are playing better than their record. That’s what teams that suck say.

    Your record is what it is. Its not better or worse than it should be.

    • Cerambam

      Ya, your right it isn’t better or worse than it should be. What everyone here is saying is that it is worse than it is statistically expected to be based on detailed numbers and formulas that are and have been used in combination to predict the outcome and record of MLB teams with a solid degree of accuracy for several years.

      • Pat

        Small nitpick. It is not worse than it would be expected to be based on other stats. It is worse than it would most likely be based on those stats.

    • AB

      The 2007 Cubs were 22-29 at one point after a 66-96 2006 season. I guess they were closer in quality to the 2006 team, right???

    • JB88

      We get it. You are in fact a broken record player. I’ll pony up for you to upgrade to an MP3 player if you’ll promise to stop singing the same tune over and over and over again.

    • another JP

      C’mon VOR… you’re really a closet Sox or Cards fan aren’t you? Go ahead, you can admit it. I guess it’s hard to be taken seriously though when you consistently present unsubstantiated takes and adopt a name that only a troll would use.

  • PKJ

    Haha… My 6 year old kid caught a foul ball at an Iowa Cubs game… He stood up and chucked it on to the field and almost hit the third base coach. The crowd got a pretty good laugh out of it.

  • Tommy K

    I have mixed feelings about a sell off. I don’t think the Cubs can afford another 95 loss season after this. Most Cubs fans don’t pay close enough attention to understand that there is a long term plan. The Cubs are starting to lose those fans. If they don’t show real progress on the Major League squad that the average fan can see in the win loss record, attendance is going to drop quickly. If the team takes a step backwards next year, it will be panic time. If you can make a trade that doesn’t hurt the 2014 squad, you gotta do it. But if you can sign Garza to an extension rather than trade him, you’ve got to consider it strongly. How are you going to replace Garza next year? I understand why Theo thinks its better to lose 100 games than 85 games, but the majority of fans don’t. The Cubs can’t afford to keep losing those fans. I understand the long range plan more than most, and I’m not sure I could survive a 100 loss season in 2014.

    • Timothy Scarbrough

      If the plan works, the average fan will come back. The only question is how patient are the Ricketts, and to a lesser extent Theo, willing to be.

      • nkniacc13

        I think that may depend on how quickly some of the prospects force there way up the system.

        • willis

          Speaking of losing fans, tickets for tonight are insanely inexpensive. You can get in the door for as low as $13 if you know where to look, and craigslist has good seats for as low as $22 a pop. That’s just wild. A Saturday night in Wrigley against a good team with Shark pitching, and that’s the cost. Tomorrow is even lower. People just looking to dump for what they can get.

    • mudge

      You can move a pitcher or two and a couple outfielders and still have a respectable team, with Scott Baker returning to action. This year’s flip doesn’t gut the team like last year’s because there’s more depth to deal from. People keep saying Camp sucked last year. He was an effective pitcher last year, and this year the sole reason for his ineffectiveness was a toe injury. Hopefully his toe-sucking situation won’t become chronic, because the Cubs are still footing the bill for his contract.

      • davidalanu

        True, that toe has left the pen in a bit of a jam.

  • nkniacc13

    the cubs built this team to try and win and also to be able to flip players if they fell out but they also built it including AAA so that they wouldn’t be forced to rush or bring up players who weren’t ready because of injuries and trade movement

  • 70’scub

    The FO has to put the Cub organization in a competitive stance relative to the Cardinal operation period. It may be a process of building from the bottom up in 3-5 years these assets will join the Rizzo’s/Castro’s and form a solid core. I can only speak for myself as a long time Cub fan. Why not have a top notch player development system. The old system had the Cubs between a 75-85 win range the Cardinal/Brave range seems to be 85 is a down year in fact most years these teams are trying to get over 92 wins. They have consistent player development that every now again produces impact star talent. The pitching the Cubs trade this year may not match the organization’s time line in terms of these players peak producing years. 18 drafted players signed, 5-6 international signings, 8-10 traded for prospects and plenty of waiver type picks do this two more years and the Cub base talent level is on par as a top notch organization. Management must provide extremely tuff competive basic baseball training at all times at all levels. These managers need to get reviewed on a regular basis. Get on with it building any business is at times a very painful process.

  • curt

    I am confused as to hope the cubs keep winning so they can make the playoffs (doubtful) or win just enough so the players that are trade material bring back max value , I don’t think this team is good enough to win so aren’t they really hurting themselves in the long run by winning now, guess my question is what should we be hoping for?

    • willis

      You hope to win. Every day. Three years in a row with very high picks now, I think we should be pretty sick of that.

  • Patrick W.

    It seems to me the Cubs are in their best possible position the closer they are to the second Wild Card. A few games back and they can hold in to their assets as late as possible giving the illusion they think they catch up by standing pat or adding on. That’s a long way off buy it is plausible. Leak talks of a Garza extension, attach yourself to a blockbuster trade that says your going for it… put up a 4-6 game winning streak and you have lots of options. They have three games against the Pirates July5-7. Get to .500 by then and sweep, you’re in a great position.

  • Dynastyin2017

    If anyone needs another reason to like Jeff Samardjiza. On last nights Sox broadcast, the Hawk blamed Shark for the White Sox hitting woes. He said he screwed up their timing……

    • another JP

      If we’re lucky maybe Brenly can complain about Shark doing the same to AZ after tonight :-)

      • Dynastyin2017

        I’m good with that.

    • Rich H

      Isn’t that what good pitchers are suppose to do? Screw up the timing and pace of the game. Hawk is just a dinosaur with a catch phrase. I do not see how Steve Stone has kept his cool with this guy for so long.

      • Dynastyin2017

        Hawk also spent an inning praising the Blackhawks for their ‘TWTW’ and their ‘RTL’ mentality. RTL = refuse to lose. So ya, it is like watching baseball in a time warp.

  • Rebuilding

    Alcantara has really caught fire at Tennessee. For anyone that’s seen him – how’s his defense at SS?

    • Dynastyin2017

      Haven’t seen him, but he has cut his errors at SS in half (compared to same time last year), and has not made an error at 2B yet.

      • Cedlandrum

        Don’t know where you are getting your numbers, but they are off. He has 2 errors at second and has made 16 errors in 40 games at short this year compared to 30 in 71 games last year. So he is on pace for less errors, buy not half- only a little bit better.

    • Rich H

      I love this kid. He is going to be a top 5 prospect for the Cubs by the end of the year. Maybe even a top 100 guy. I am hoping that he stays at short because his value will be through the roof if others begin to think he can.

      • Cedlandrum

        He is fun and I like him, but I don’t think he will be top 5. Not with Almora, Baez, Soler, Johnson, #1 pick this year. Top ten sure and he may even come in at 6 but I don’t know. To early to tell.

  • another JP

    Dolis to DL with forearm strain, Blake Parker called up. I’m liking that move-

    • Cedlandrum

      Dumb luck for Dolis who has pitched pretty good with the ML club.

      • willis

        Forearm strain, not good.

  • Try Hard

    First post, but I have been lurking for a while.

    FYI: I am in the camp that believes building a team to “sell off” and to compete are not mutually exclusive. See the EBS post & argument between Kyle and Jay.

    After the E Jax signing, there was some discussion as to whether he was a flip candidate. Most people, to their credit, pointed out that the front office would likely lose a lot of credibility if they signed someone for four years and then immediately sold him. While not measurable, credibility is important for a Front Office, as it is in any employer/employee relationship. So here is my question, at what record for the 2013 season does the Front Office lose credibility by selling off?

    When you invite free agents to your club and extend young players, you are entering into a relationship that is focused on winning a World Series. If the team is at .500 or even slightly better, you cannot sell off. Theo has told the media repeatedly that every playoff run is precious, you have to think he has said the same thing to the players. These are all competitive men. If they have good peripherals and are .500, it would undermine an important, unspoken contract to sell off the team. Not only might this negatively affect the ethic of the players we plan on keeping in the future, but at some point we will want big free agents. Those free agents need to see an opportunity to win with the Cubs, not a team that sells due to early struggles.

    Just think about the money we were willing to give to A. Sanchez, would he have come to the Cubs if 2012 was 2013? Would he have wanted less money? I think the credibility of the FO in regards to winning can have a lot of hidden consequences.

    • Try Hard

      IE selling off was a backup plan to competing. The FO wanted to compete in 2013. Selling off isn’t mutually exclusive because to get value, you need your short term guys to perform well.

  • LouBrown

    At this point, I don’t think they have much of shot this year, but they have enough pieces to be a competitive club (playoff contender anyhow) next year. I would like to see them keep Garza and try to extend him. Worst case you QO him. Also extend Samardjia, you have four spots in the rotation settled. With the young core, and Soriano (and his contract) reaching its end, next year could be promising.

  • Die hard

    Such strains indicative of protecting elbow pain by throwing differently

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