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cubaIn the pantheon of recent Cuban baseball stars, there is one name you should really know, regardless of any connection to Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs: Jose Abreu.

The 26-year-old first baseman has been putting up in Cuba the kinds of numbers Barry Bonds was putting up when he could no longer fit in a regular sized hat. So prolific has been Abreu’s performance that Jonah Keri, writing last year at Grantland, wondered if Abreu might be the best hitter in the world. The numbers are stupid, even for Cuba: .453/.597/.986 in 2010-11, .394/.542/.837 in 2011-12, and .382/.535/.735 in 2012-13 (ooh, but I see a downward trend!). If Yoennis Cespedes’ defection and free agency were a hype train, Abreu’s would probably be a hype aircraft carrier – especially since it come come on the heels of Cespedes and Yasiel Puig raising the bar for Cuban performances in MLB. Expectations would be enormous, and thus the hype redoubled.

And we might be getting ready to land some fighter jets. According to reports out of Latin America, Abreu recently escaped Cuba, and Baseball America reports this morning that Abreu is indeed intending to defect so that he can sign with an MLB team.

The time line on Abreu’s actual arrival in MLB is difficult to predict, given the necessary steps of establishing residency (after successfully fleeing, that is), achieving free agent status from MLB, and being unblocked by the U.S. Government. Depending on how things play out, we’ve seen this process take as long as six months, or as little as a month or two. Presumably, Abreu would like to be available for teams to sign this offseason – and preferably early in the free agent period so that the maximum number of bidders are available – so we’ll see if things move relatively quickly over the next couple of months.

Other than the long process involved, there’s another big reason for you, dear reader, to pump the brakes on your personal excitement: Abreu is a first baseman. Although he’s got a huge bat that the Cubs could use, and he represents an external market piece that a team like the Cubs should theoretically be into signing, the Cubs are not going to sign a huge money first baseman right now, with Anthony Rizzo developing and under long-term, team-friendly control. Abreu is a big dude, and I’m not going to pretend to know whether he could passably play a corner outfield spot in the big leagues (Ben Badler says he’s a first base/DH-only type of guy). If he could, I’d argue that investing big money in a top corner outfield bat is a pretty good idea for the Cubs in the near-term, but that’s a different discussion for a different day. Regardless, I’m not sure Abreu is that guy.

How much Abreu gets will be very interesting to follow, as he will impact the free agent market regardless of whether the Cubs pursue him. Organizations will have to determine whether they believe his bat can play in the big leagues – and at what level – and where he fits into their long-term needs. Even at $50 to $70 million (which would be the largest contract given to a Cuban defector, topping the seven years and $42 million Yasiel Puig got from the Dodgers), there’s a huge amount of risk involved with a guy who has never played in MLB. That Cespedes and Puig have had success doesn’t hurt, but every player is different.

At bottom, I don’t expect the Cubs to be major players on Abreu, if and when he reaches free agency, but he will be a huge story this offseason, and could easily impact the market for other players (which would, in turn, affect the Cubs). I will be following his story closely.

UPDATE: Dionisio Soldevila reports that Abreu is now in Haiti.

  • FastBall

    I would go after him if I was Theo. You can’t say that Rizzo is they guy forever. When a better option presents itself you need to be aggressive. We could easily package Rizzo to quite a few teams in MLB and get a nice haul back for him. No player on this roster is a total lock down won’t ever be traded kind of player. Not like Rizzo is putting up Superstar numbers this year. I understand how much everyone loves the guy. But you never say never.

  • another JP

    Rizzo will be a productive 1B for many years to come with the Cubs. His #s are little down from last season overall but he’s had very little protection in the line-up and still has less than 1000 ABs in the majors. When Rizzo has guys like Baez, Bryant, and Soler with him in another two years watch what happens to his production.

    • Mr. B. Patient

      This is the perfect analysis. He hasn’t been what we had hoped for, but he’s still very young, so there is no need to worry.

    • Jon

      “Protection” is a myth.

      • Mr. B. Patient

        Are you sure?

      • ETS

        Even if protection is a myth, a team that sees more pitches is going to have a positive impact on an individual player’s numbers.

        And, I’m not convinced that it’s totally a myth (though it’s effects are probably overstated).

        • Cubbie Blues

          Excerpt from “The Book” on player protection.
          http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/pitching-around-batters

          • Scotti

            First, the author never defines good hitter / bad hitter in this article. The original “there is no such thing as protection” “study” did define good / bad hitter and he included “reputation” even though some hitters had clearly seen their best years. That isn’t protectection. There was also a very small line between what was considered good and bad. That isn’t protection, either. But at least he put it out there. This guy needed to put that information out there.

            Second, the author is including every PA where “there are one or two outs, the game is tied or the pitching team is trailing, first base is open, and there is a man on second or third.” Based on what the author has written, that includes the early innings. That’s nuts. Very few pitchers are going to even consider pitching around the typical “good hitter” in the first, second or third innings (the pitcher sucks if he does).

            Third, the author is including blowouts. He makes no distinction for how wide the lead is. Protection, if it exists, doesn’t exist in blowouts. You’re down by 7 runs and you’re worried about 1 run? Get the damn outs and don’t put men on base. That’s simply how the game is played.

            Fourth, the author not only includes runners on first OR third, but also, first AND third (he makes this clear later in the piece). The only time a pitcher will pitch around a guy with runners at first AND third is late and close. AND that hitter had better be a star hitter (and even then it is done sparingly).

            So, who are the good hitters and who are the bad hitters? WHAT is being used as a benchmark? Ballplayers (pitchers) and managers generally don’t follow wOBA so it would be stupid to use wOBA as the benchmark. What is the DIFFERENCE between the good and bad hitters? 5% 10%? 20%? Why not show the work?

            And whittle that thing down to an appropriate sample. Including situations where there is obviously no chance for protection just creates statistical background noise. The more noise you have the greater the relevance in any difference is–IF you have a large enough sample. The author boasted 800k to begin with but HIS selection whittled that down to “a few thousand PA.” No wonder he was tempted to include PA that he clearly should not have included.

            Then there is this: “…there is no evidence that he gets more hittable pitches, since the pitcher always avoids pitching to a good hitter when the situation would call for an intentional walk.”

            The author confuses himself here. If an actual good hitter is batting ahead of an actual good hitter, the situation does NOT call for an intentional walk. If you have a man on, and a good hitter following a good hitter, then the pitcher bears down. If you have a good hitter followed by a crappy hitter, THEN the pitcher can consider an intentional or unintentional walk (many intentional walks begin with UNintentional walks where the good hitter shows he isn’t biting). Simply put, no pitcher walks Babe Ruth TO get to Lou Gehrig. He may pee his cup facing either but he doesn’t “pitch around” Ruth to get TO Gehrig. Ask pitchers what they do. They bear down. (Again, remember that he is including ALL innings and ALL deficits)…

            Finally, the author doesn’t cover the fact that many teams don’t have a good hitter to hit behind their other would-be good hitter. This year the Cubs have struggled to find someone decent to place behind Rizzo. If protection exists, Rizzo’s numbers this year would be depressed to begin with. Would he qualify as a good hitter, or has a lack of protection naturally selected him out of a study of which his season bears testimony?

            • ETS

              I hope that author knows his stuff (the cubs hired him)

              • Scotti

                Doesn’t matter if the Cubs hired him and he wrote the Bible as a side job. That article was poorly written and the study includes far too much noise, and poor assumptions, to be worthwhile.

                • TWC

                  … says Scotti the statistician.

                  • Jon

                    I KNOW MORE THAN TOM TANGO!

                    • Scotti

                      That was TOM TANGO circa 2006. When Theo started he didn’t believe in closers. Ooops, he does now. Used to be Bill James didn’t believe in clutch. Then he started working for a MLB team (Theo’s MLB team) and his view modified somewhat. Intelligent people LEARN. I hope TOM TANGO has learned since 2006.

                  • Scotti

                    The faults are clear and elucidated. You’ve provided… Ah, nothing. Thanks for playing.

                    • Mr. B. Patient

                      Scotti, I love your style! Keep it up.

                    • Scotti

                      Mr B, the Oh you’re so smart and I CAN USE CAPS crowd doesn’t really bother me, but thanks for the encouragement.

                    • DarthHater

                      Scotti, I love your arrogant douchenozzleness! Keep it up.

                    • Scotti

                      Wow, Darth, that means alot coming from you… And thanks for adding something constructive to the deba… Nevermind.

                    • DarthHater

                      Come on, Scotti. Surely you could have made the same point in 12 or more lengthy paragraphs. You’re losing your touch.

                    • Scotti

                      Again, you add so much. I get tingles running along my dendrites every time I read your well thought out posts… Oh, wait…

                    • gutshot5820

                      Scotti… don’t mind Darth, all he does is hang out all day on BN to troll anyone that has a different opinion than him.

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      Definitely well done Scotti…unless someone comes along with a new contradictory version. I really have no desire to read the book at all. If your statements are accurate, it looks like an extremely weak “study”.

                • ETS

                  I thought your critiques were worthy of consideration. I just thought I’d point out that Tom Tango (at least usually) knows his stuff.

                  • Scotti

                    Thanks, like I said, I’m pretty confident that he has learned since 2006. I’m also pretty confident that he won’t be revealing much of what he’s learned since Theo doesn’t like spilling the beans. The closer thing was something Theo had to be public with (he had closers). Most of the rest he keeps under his hat.

                  • Oswego Chris

                    Does anyone know where that list of like 104 players from the early 2000s is on here…and was it ever stated where it came from?

            • mjhurdle

              “This guy needed to put that information out there.”
              You do realize that you were reading simply an excerpt from a much larger book, right?

              And, though not espousing The Book as being perfect, i will give slightly more credit to a team of three people compiling 386 pages of statistical analysis with real numbers and methodology behind it than an internet post full of assumptions, no matter how long and wordy it is.

              All your post consists of is an effort to discredit the theories provided in the book without one shred of data on your side to backup your claims.

              • Scotti

                The author provided the data. I’m not using differing data. He also provided ASSUMPTIONS (for instance, intentional walk situations commonly exist in the first inning). Clearly, some of his assumptions were off.

                • John

                  Scotti, you do impress us with analysis but it will do you or us anygood when you have a massive CVA, with applesauce drooling down your chin.

                  • Scotti

                    No CVA’s here. Fit as a fiddle (wonder where that idiom comes from…).

                • Cubbie Blues

                  That was also the beginning of the section and he went on to further narrow down the results. For example the excerpt used all hitters being the same, he then went on to using 400 wOBA batters backed by 367 and the 400 behind a 465. The conclusion was that it only mattered very slightly when there were 2 outs and it still comes down to their wOBA and which bases are occupied.

                  • Scotti

                    It’s nice that he narrowed down the results. He never should have started with results (and/or bothered to show data) that used the first several innings, etc. Pointless (from a study perspective) and not about to sell me a book (from an article perspective). Seriously, that he even considered starting there is bizarre.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      It was to show concept. I’m not going to post more of the book. If you would like to see more of his stuff, you will have to buy the book. It is fairly cheap and packed with goodness.

                    • TWC

                      A third party (Hardball Times) publishes a three- or four-page excerpt of a 300-page book on their website and it’s the fault of the book’s authors that the information wasn’t presented in a context that works for you?

                      And now that it’s been pointed out to you that the chapter starts with a broad look at lineup protection, generally, and narrows down to the more specific analysis that you criticized the first pages for lacking, you’re still crabby?

                      Amazing.

                    • Scotti

                      “And now that it’s been pointed out to you that the chapter starts with a broad look at lineup protection”

                      GIGO. Here’s a way to fix that. Don’t start with garbage. And, yes, it is amazing that you would defend anything about finding statistical significance in pitchers commonly pitching around batters in the first (or second or third) inning. Why did he use it? Probably because it represents 1/3 of the data points even if those data points aren’t possibly worthwhile.

                      “A third party (Hardball Times) publishes a three- or four-page excerpt of a 300-page book on their website and it’s the fault of the book’s authors…”

                      “Tom has graciously given us permission to publish the following excerpt.”

                      Tom should have graciously selected another segment. If you know anything about the publishing world, Tom selected what he thought certain websites would be interested in and he pitched it to them. They didn’t read the book and go to him and say, Hey, Tom, we like these pages. Can we use them please… And even if Tom were on the level of a Big Time Author, said author/publisher would need to make sure that what is getting out there on said websites for publicity purposes isn’t drivel (thus making the author look silly). That article on Hardball doesn’t make him look good. Just like the pitcher is responsible for the pitches he throws, you can’t blame Hardball for that. It’s his pitch.

              • mjhurdle

                so in the end Scotti, you agree that you have absolutely no data to back your own points up, you are just here to try to drag down the people that actually put real work into their opinions?
                good to know

                • MichiganGoat

                  Yup that’s about right

            • Cubbie Blues

              That was only an excerpt from “The Book”. The next paragraph starts with

              “In our above calculations, we assumed that all eight of the batters teammates were league average. Naturally this is not true.”
              He goes on douse a .400 wOBA hitter protected by a .367 hitter. The conclusion was only with 2 outs is there a benefit mad it is only slight.

              • Scotti

                It is clear that it is an excerpt. What should also be clear in an excerpt is the standard used (and, again, using wOBA is a poor standard to decipher what pitchers were doing in a given situation since few, if any, pitchers were using wOBA in their calculations in 2006). To make the excerpt clear, make your standard clear. Otherwise, it is pointless. To make your study useful, use the standards that are used in real life. Otherwise, it is pointless.

            • hansman1982

              “Ballplayers (pitchers) and managers generally don’t follow wOBA so it would be stupid to use wOBA as the benchmark.”

              Well then, I’m not sure you understand what goes into wOBA and how well it correlates to OPS and runs scored.

              • Scotti

                Sigh… Yes, I understand wOBA. How well something correlates to another thing means it isn’t that other thing. The issue isn’t how well I understand wOBA (or how magnificent it is). The issue is whether pitchers, 2000-2004, USED wOBA in determining “protection.” The answer? Likely, none. As in zero.

                So, if pitchers looked at homers and RBI, then use that. Go ask the pitchers (novel idea, I know). If pitchers used how “grizzled” a player looked, or maybe if he had better “face,” THAT is what should be used. If pitchers feared hitters with long socks, then use that. If pitchers were, as a whole, racist then the good statistician should use THAT as their standard. Using something that 99% of pitchers never heard of is not going to get you true results when the true results are what the PITCHER is determining based on HIS belief. He’s the guy with the ball. Go talk to him.

                • TWC

                  You’re assuming that pitchers call their own games. That’s just not true. Not all pitchers call their own games. So should we separate all those games in which the pitchers call their own games from those in which we know the manager called the games? What about those in which the pitching coach called the game? And what if the pitching coach was grumpy that afternoon, should there be a new standard for those games? Parse, parse, parse… pretty soon you’re only talking about a single pitch during a single plate appearance.

                  This is precisely the advantage of the enormous sample from which Tango et. al made their analysis. It smooths out all the “pitcher had a hangover” outlying data bumps and provides a general, historical look at trends.

                  The data shows that, generally, lineup protection is a myth. It doesn’t claim that all lineup protection all the time is a myth.

                  • Scotti

                    As a catcher, I KNOW that pitchers call their own games. Catchers who are good at “calling games” are catchers who are in sync with the pitcher. Pitchers just shake off the catcher when they don’t want the pitch “called for.” The only reason catchers “call games,” rather than the pitcher, is that the batter would see the signs coming from the pitcher. The only reason signs exist in the first place is that crossing up a catcher–even the best catcher–equals a passed ball more times than not (and screws with other aspects of the game as well). The catcher and pitcher are merely trying to stay on the game plan. The pitcher is the guy who owns the results. He calls his game.

                    That said, none of that has anything to do with using the correct standard. If pitchers do pitch around guys, it has nothing to do with wOBA. Again, talk to actual pitchers. They aren’t using wOBA (and, for that matter, neither would a 2000-2004 catcher or manager or pitching coach).

                    And if large, unrelated, data samples “smooth out the bumps” then why does Tango go on to un-smooth those bumps by taking out some of what never should have been there in the first place? Large, unrelated samples are worthless. It’s the bumps (spikes) in the data that you are looking for. If you have a legitimate large data sample then that is great. But there is nothing legitimate about suggesting that “good” hitters commonly get pitched around in the early innings–adding that gives you a larger sample but that won’t show you if protection exists. It just smooths out the bumps and those bumps are actual data.

                    “…generally, lineup protection is a myth. It doesn’t claim that all lineup protection all the time is a myth.”

                    And therein lies the rub. The article was used for that purpose by a poster. “It don’t exist.” And all over the Net anyone who calls that into question (i.e. would like a more intelligent conversation) is called a slack-jawed yokel what don’t even know wOBA from a hole in dat dar ground.

                    • TWC

                      “As a catcher, I KNOW that pitchers call their own games.”

                      That’s not true, Scott. Many pitchers, especially rookies, and guys new to a league, are told what to pitch and when to pitch it. I’m sorry it doesn’t comport with what you KNOW, but what you KNOW is wrong.

                      A recent Cubs example: last year it was made public by Bosio that Marmol wasn’t allowed to shake off a sign? Who was calling those pitches?

                    • Rebuilding

                      And the trend over the last decade or so is that neither the catcher nor the pitcher calls the game – it’s called by the pitching coach using heat maps and tendencies

                    • TWC

                      Exactly. Until a pitcher takes an iPad with all that info out to the mound, he’s not the guy calling the game.

                    • Scotti

                      A ) Rebuilding, heat maps existed where in 2000-2004? That’s when this “study” was done. Specific mention to location of pitches not being available (much less heat maps) was made.

                      B ) TWC, even rookies shake off what the catcher calls. The job of the catcher is to work with the pitcher and pitching coach before the game to go over the hitters and what the game plan is. The catcher is then, in game, supposed to call what the pitcher is looking to do. Very early in a pitcher’s career a catcher may be insistent, but pitchers learn that they own their stats early on.

                      C ) Bosio. What Bosio said re. Marmol was SO out of the norm that it made news. That makes it not significant statistically by definition.

      • Wrigleyville west

        This is so true. I have a 13 year old daughter to offer as empirical proof of this statement!

    • farmerjon

      I would guess Rizzo could play a serviceable LF if the Cubs thought Abreu was a worthwhile investment at 1B

    • Falselife

      Rizzo, or Fizzy as my Ipad likes to correct him to, may be a quality bat down the road. But to anoint him as the full time starter for the next 5 years is silly. If a better bat comes along that we can obtain I see no reason not to improve the position. Fizzy would have great market trade value. It’s possible that Rizzo develops into a. .280/.380/35 homer guy, it’s also possible he never gets there. I think if you can improve any position, and its economically viable, you have to heavily consider it.

      Signing a 300 hitter with 40 hr potential and having a Rizzo to shop around is an enviable position.

      • gocatsgo2003

        … almost as silly as anoiting a Cuban player who has MAYBE 200 PAs outside of Cuba (based on a cursory Internet search) as the starter…

        • Falselife

          Well, of course. This would all be contingent on the Cubs thinking he would perform reasonably well at the MLB level. My point is that no one on this team should be considered safe if there is a potential upgrade. He’ll, someone in the system could beat out Rizzo in the next few seasons, you just never know.

    • ssckelley

      How do you know for sure? I have a hard time finding all star caliber 1st basemen who regressed as much offensively as Rizzo has in his 2nd season. Fielder, Votto, Pujols, Teixeira, Gonzalez, none of those regressed offensively. We can use all the excuses we want but let’s be honest here the struggles Rizzo has had this year is a concern. Perhaps he will bounce back next season, I sure hope so, but if the Cubs have an opportunity to sign the “worlds best hitter” having a guy like Rizzo at first is not going to stop me.

      • jh03

        How has he regressed? What has regressed?

        • ssckelley

          Rizzo has been regressing at the plate since last year after he came up and got off to that hot start. I seriously have to convince you of this?

          • jh03

            Yes. Go ahead, show me the numbers.

            • ssckelley

              Nah, do your own homework and watch the games.

              • jh03

                lol, what a great response. And with that, I shall bow out of this argument. Have a good day.

                • ssckelley

                  Our super star first baseman finished last season with a .805 OPS and it was heading down after he had gotten off to a fast start. This year it has regressed to .767 and if you watch the games you can see the struggles.

                  • On The Farm

                    He has been struggling so much that he has almost increased his BB% 4%, but hey, I watched the game the other night and he was 0-5 so I think we need to trade him and try and find someone who will be entering their peak years around 2015 when we should start competing for a title. A 24 average 1B, who is showing improvement in XBH, BB, and Defense just isn’t cutting it for us!

                    • ssckelley

                      Time out, this has gotten way out of control. I forgot I am on a Cub fanatic board and I should never knock the star player. I will go back to drinking kool aid with the rest of you.

                      Let’s step back to my original point, if the Cubs have a chance at signing the “world best hitter” and the only place he can play is 1st base, having Rizzo at first is not going to stop me. I am presenting an argument as to why I feel that way.

                      Fortunately for you I do not work for the FO so we will all probably get to watch Puig II playing for the Dodger, Red Sox, Yankees, or whatever team decides they are willing to pay for that kind of hitter playing first base. Obviously the Cubs are to damn talented and have no room for that kind of hitter on this team.

                    • TWC

                      “I forgot I am on a Cub fanatic board and I should never knock the star player.”

                      Criminy, you’ve really got the “obstreperously defensive” part of internet commenting down pat, don’cha?

                    • On The Farm

                      Okay I am willing to take a time out, you see over the last few posts you have made zero mention of if Abreu is an offensive stud, we should sign him. I agreed with you earlier today when we made this argument against someone. I am all for aquiring guys when their available, because well, that’s the only time you can get them.

                      I don’t have this un-realistic idea of who Anthony Rizzo is, in fact that is why I am trying to present facts/stats for you to look at to disprove your theory that “you watched him on TV and can tell he is regressing” and that “if he needs someone to hit behind him he must not be that good”. Rizzo has been performing at 1B average at the young age of 24, well before he enter’s his prime season.

                      I won’t argue you that if Abreu is available and is as good as advertised he is worth signing. I won’t argue that if we sign him and he can only play 1B we should trade Rizzo. I am arguing that Rizzo is much worse than he was last season and people (not you in particular on this last point) are ready to give up on him already. Maybe Cubs fans have been burned by too many prospects, but to give up on a 24 year old 1B who is performing at or above league averages, seems a bit pre-mature. But, hey I don’t work for the FO either so what do I know.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      The problem isn’t “drinking the cool-aide”. That is the stance I see people make way too often. It’s not drinking the cool-aide at all. It’s about not taking it too far and saying just hold up a second and let’s look at the whole picture. When you do that it isn’t nearly as bad as oh my gosh Rizzo is the worst ever and should be drawn and quartered for being the worstest ever! When you step back and look at his whole picture it appears that his BABIP is low this year and will regress to his mean. He will probably have a lower than normal BABIP, but one that is servicable. If you would have come at it with a little less Hubris, most of this argument could have been avoidable.

                  • Cubbiecop

                    I would have to agree that if Abreu is as talented as everyone says he is then we should make a run fro him even if it just drives the price up for the competitor and we do not get him in the long run. I do believe that Rizzo is a talented player but his offensive this year is not all that great. Some of it can be a product of bad luck but if we can convert him to right/left field then his numbers play better there anyway. I don’t believe that he will ever be a 300 average hitter and if Abreu is superior to Rizzo then go for broke.

                    We do not have a “superstar” player at all in the line up and if he can give us that then lets do it.

              • Cubbie Blues

                You were the one that offered to convince us.

              • SenorCub

                I have done homework. In three years in the Bigs,Rizzo is averaging .241 (2013 currently .236), so what exactly do the supporters find so great about that line? There isn’t one person on this team that should not be considered a package for someone better, yes, even the Great Samardzija ( who isn’t even the top starters of the bunch and is also 28 yrs old). But I am being patient however 2014 I will be less patient as I am sure most of you will. Not one on this current team has shown any consistency. Junior Lake has a month’s worth of big league exp, so let’s not get too excited, Rizzo showed a couple months of great last year much like Jeff and Starlin. We need consistency and if that means moving parts, I am all for continuing to move whatever parts necessary to get better players.

                • ssckelley

                  OMG, I fear for you…you have managed to knock superstar Lake and Rizzo in the same comment. DAMN YOU!!!!

          • Cubbie Blues

            Yes. Yes, you do.

            • jh03

              Guys, we’re supposed to blame random claims without numbers to back them up… because the numbers we show don’t count. DUHHH. He doesn’t have RBI’s and his batting average is turible.

              • jh03

                believe* not blame

          • FullCountTommy

            I sure need convincing

          • DarthHater

            Rizzo’s wOBA this year is .334, 7th best among starting NL first basemen.

            His wOBA last year was .349, which is not a huge amount better and would currently be 6th best among starting NL first basemen.

            Rizzo has not hit his quite as well this year as last, but he also has not had some sort of dramatic drop-off, especially when one takes into account that his BABIP will likely “regress” upwards over time.

            • DarthHater

              *has not hit quite as well

            • FullCountTommy

              Exactly, he has slightly ticked downward, but his approach has also gotten better with an 11% walk rate and a below league average strike out rate

              • ssckelley

                So much so that the Cubs should pass on Abreu right? We see a Pujols or Cabrera type hitter in Rizzo, right?

                Damn, I must drink koolaid faster.

                • FullCountTommy

                  Who says Abreu is a Pujols/Cabrera type hitter?? Cuba is compared to high A ball. This guy has never consitently faced big league pitching. Might he be really damn good? Sure. Might he flame out? Absolutely. I’m all for accumulating talent, but if this guy is gonna command 60-70 million, should the Cubs really be in on him?? Probably not

                  • FullCountTommy

                    And yes, I enjoy answering my own questions

                • TWC

                  “… the Cubs should pass on Abreu right?”

                  Who said that? Who? Right. No one.

                  Just because no one likes your (weak) arguments about how Rizzo’s performance this year is some sort of catastrophic regression, that doesn’t mean that everyone believes the opposite is true, no matter how much you wail.

                  • ssckelley

                    There were plenty of comments earlier that said we do not need Abreu.

                    So our #3 hitter hitting .767 OPS is not a concern at all? We are hoping he bounces back next year right?

                • DarthHater

                  Congratulations, you win the prestigious Douche of the Day Award, sponsored by Kool-Aid!

                  The Douche of the Day Award is given each day to the first douche who makes a kool-aid remark.

                  [img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8277/8749182714_42b401be27_o.jpg[/img]

                  • ssckelley

                    YES! I have been wanting one of those.

            • On The Farm

              Also 8th in the MLB in ISO; 17th in OBP, ahead of Morneau, Trumbo, and Moreland, and one spot behind the all mighty Pujols;15th in SLG so literally right in the middle of all 1B, and 12th in WAR. He is producing average 1B play, and no one is denying he has the potential to do better. I really don’t see the problem.

              • ssckelley

                I realize he is “average” statistically for a first baseman, but honestly weren’t we hoping Rizzo would hit a little bit more this year?

                • Baseball24/7

                  I feel like this year has been a failure this year for Rizzo. Expectations were set much higher to the point he would take the next step of becoming an Allstar caliber 1st baseman. Every year he doesn’t play at an allstar level it will be a failure for him.

                  He has play sufficient at 1st but hasn’t been anything that wowed you.

                  • ssckelley

                    Perhaps the expectations were set to high to begin with. When he tore up AAA and then came up and got off to an awesome start we all had envisions of an all star caliber player in Rizzo. But perhaps this is what he is, a good glove 1st baseman that is going to get you .750 to .800 OPS.

                    • Baseball24/7

                      I this is what Rizzo is then I see no problem getting Abreu. The Cubs only committed $40mil to Riz over an extended period of time. If Rizzo could ever hit .275/+25homers/.800-.850OPS. that is the type production Rizzo needs to be considered having a good year in many fans eyes. I would take that production in a heart beat from Rizzo.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  With a regressed BABIP, his AVG would be higher as well as his other numbers.

            • jt

              “Rizzo’s wOBA this year is .334, 7th best among starting NL first basemen.
              His wOBA last year was .349, which is not a huge amount better and would currently be 6th best among starting NL first basemen.”
              –DarthHater
              *
              wOBA is a good stat. wOBA is an important stat. But is wOBA the be-all and end-all?
              It weights the effect of reaching base as to run scoring probability in the near term. But it does not weight the effect of making outs and the effect that the accumulation of outs have on the game in general. Simply put, which is more important to the game: moving the line along with OBP or getting a guy in position to score with SLG. wOBA seems to be an improved measure of the probability of a particular batter to create a run. It does not, however, factor in the measure of other batters down the line to create runs by getting increased PA’s. For example, Rizzo, even with his increased BB rate is making outs at an increased rate this year (lower OBP). His wOBA doesn’t measure the lost opportunities of other batters denied their chances of applying their wOBA.
              It is a good stat. It is an important stat. It is not the be-all and end-all.
              *
              Rizzo is walking more this year. Often an increased BB rate translates into the batter seeing and swinging at better quality hitters pitches. It thus often translates into increased OBP and an increase in SLG. Indeed, that is a very important aspect for wanting a slugger to increase his BB rate. This year Rizzo’s increased BB rate has not translated into the above.
              Rizzo has changed his approach to PA’s this year. Crimminy, Rizzo changed his swing. The guy is on a learning curve. His stats are nowhere near as good as they were last year. He is getting BB instead of singles and doubles instead of HR’s and is getting on base at a lower rate. But he is not supposed to be having as good a year as he had last year. He is supposed to be on a learning curve where in the future his OBP and SLG and BB rate will all improve from what it was last year. In that regard, I believe he is having a great year.

      • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

        Also look at the surrounding players that have hit around those players mentioned. That matters a lot, when you have somebody behind Rizzo that nobody is scared to face ad trust me nobody was scared to face Soriano that really limits the pitch type Rizzo will see at his at bat.

        • Cubbie Blues

          No, it doesn’t matter a lot. Here is an excerpt from “The Book”
          http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/pitching-around-batters

          • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

            I’m not letting a article persuade me into thinking that it does not matter. Fact is when you have a hitter behind you that pitchers are afraid to face you tend to see much better pitches. Case in point Miguel Caberra, if you have time look at the numbers from the season before Prince Fielder now look at the last two years.

            • Cubbie Blues

              Yeah, don’t let the actual numbers get in the way of old theories. I’m sure Tom Tango doesn’t know anything about the numbers.

              • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                And I’m sure you didn’t look at the numbers I asked either. Go do a little digging on your own maybe you will see it does actually matter. If everything in a article was true don’t you believe that everybody would be millionaires just by reading a Tony Robbins article

                • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                  Not saying his numbers are off but have you ever considered other variables to his thinking. Anybody can claim something and might be right but other evidence might also prove that theres more too it then just what was written.

                • bbmoney

                  i’m not sure you did either. Cabrera was probably better offensively in 2010 and 2011 than he was in 2012….mythical triple crown not withstanding. He got on base way more and slugged nearly as well…had a higher OPS, wOBA, etc.

                  But don’t bother to let facts get in the way. Not to mention the fact that pulling 1 example out of a century of baseball does nothing to make your point.

                  • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                    I did the one must recent to my memory. I’m sure I can go back and make many other examples as well.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      Once again, why try to pick 1-2 examples when the article I linked to has over 800,000 Pa?

                • Cubbie Blues

                  Thanks, but, I will take over 800,000 PA over 1183 PA sample size any day.

                • TWC

                  Can you be specific? Cabrera’s stats from 2010-2011 are very, very similar to those from 2012-2013. The biggest outliers appear to be his HRs last year and a big drop in his BB%, but there’s little difference across the board.

                  • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                    Increase in HR’s and lower BB sounds like more pitches in the zone to me. Sure 2011 he had some better stats but they seem to suggest he was getting less pitches to hit squarely and the increase in BB certainly helps those incresed stats and suggest that with nobody behind him pitchers threw outside the zone a lot more then actually pitching to him and with how good he is he can still make contact and put more balls into play but losses the HR power.

                    • bbmoney

                      That’s an awful lot of suggestions and supposes and assumptions for you to present your case for lineup protection as a fact when using one example. After you’ve been presented with a statistical analysis of 800k PAs.

                      What’s the saying? Weak sauce?

                    • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                      It’s a suggestion Im not saying Im right. Just saying what I believe. Could care less what you or others think honestly. Some of you guys are hilarious though and get your panties in a bunch so quickly. Too Funny

                    • bbmoney

                      And i’m just saying your 1 example was wrong. If you choose to ignore that information, I could not care less. But if you’re going to keep using the example, I’ll keep telling you it’s wrong.

                      FYI, I go commando, so I have no panties to get in a bunch.

                • DarthHater

                  By this logic, I shouldn’t believe what I read in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity because Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Truly a stunning display of idiocy.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    Hey, you can observe a lot just by watching.

                  • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

                    Yeah cause that’s whas being said.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      Actually, it was. “and if you watch the games you can see the struggles.”

                    • DarthHater

                      You said that because Tony Robbins writes stupid articles, one should not be persuaded by something written in an article. That is valid only if one is too stupid to distinguish between an intelligent article and an unintelligent one, which was my point.

                      So yea, that’s what was being said.

        • ssckelley

          I have watched the games and the only time I have seen pitchers pitch around Rizzo was when he got hot a few weeks back, which happens to every hitter when they get hot. If Rizzo needs an all star bat hitting behind him in the order for him to see better pitches and be more productive then he is not that good to begin with.

          • On The Farm

            So you are basing your theory off of the “eye test”?

            • TWC

              Hey, eyewitness accounts are *never* wrong!

              • DocPeterWimsey

                I saw one that was once. (Gödel on ya, mate!)

            • ssckelley

              A good hitter does not need an stud bat hitting behind them to be productive. We have all seen games where the other team has a guy you don’t let beat you and they tend to get a lot of walks, but Rizzo has not gotten to that point. If the game is on the line and Rizzo is up to bat all the other team has to do is call the bull pen and bring in their lefty.

              • Cubbie Blues
              • On The Farm

                So Rizzo increasing the number of walks he has taken from the previous year by 3.7% is proof that he isn’t the guy on our team that teams tend to get beat by and tend to get a lot of walks? He is in the top 10 in 1B in the entire MLB for BB%. Top 10 in walks taken for his position. But I suppose you watched a game last night in which he didn’t take a walk, so we haven’t been doing our homework.

          • http://Jplgxk AlwaysNextYear

            Your arguments are hilarious.

  • willis

    I also think that because of his splash and production in 2/3 a season last year, people tend to forget that he is only 24 and this is is first full season, start to finish as an every day 1B at this level.

  • arta

    be honest, he hasn’t been the guy the Cubs hoped he’d be. yes he’s still young, what does that prove? could he be good, yes. super, IMO no.

    • On The Farm

      Be honest, you aren’t doing your homework. What specifically has he been terrible at this year?

      • Falselife

        He is hitting .201 against lefties and .185 with RISP.

        Both are terrible.

        • bbmoney

          You start looking at single season splits like that and you run into sample size issues.

          He probably doesn’t hit lefties as well as he hits righties….no big surprise. But you’re basing your RISP statement on 120 ABs and a .211 BABIP on only 89 balls in play. Luck can be a big factor in 89 balls put into play.

          • Falselife

            Absolutely, but it is all the data that is available to me. Going over his career, the numbers do rise to .222, which is an improvement. I was just answering the question and statistically speaking, Rizzo has done poorly in those areas. Not saying he can’t improve, but those are bad numbers, especially from a guy in what is a traditional productive spot in the order.

            • FullCountTommy

              He also has a walk % that is above league average, a strikeout % that is below league average, and a 50% XBH percentage. Those are the types of numbers I want in the middle of my lineup

              • falselife

                And that is fine. It is also resulting in a losing record and abysmal production with men in scoring position. His numbers on the whole are decent, but on any contending team he is nowhere near this spot in the order, and could quite possibly sit against lefties.

      • ssckelley

        How do you know he isn’t, perhaps you are the one not doing your homework. I am looking all over baseball reference trying to find all star 1st basemen that regressed as much as Rizzo has his 2nd season. So far I’ve found David Ortiz, who was never much of a 1st baseman but he struggled offensively his 2nd full season back when he was with the Twins. At 24 years old Big Frank finished 8th in the MVP voting with George Bell as his protection. Adrian Gonzalez at 24 had a .862 OPS for the Padres with a 37 year old Mike Piazza protecting him.

        • FullCountTommy

          Once again, I’d like to point out that I don’t think Rizzo has struggled as much as you all think. Has he been a superstar? No. Has he been a good power hitting first baseman who plays above average defense? Absolutely

          • ssckelley

            I give you the defense, Rizzo has save a number of errors at first base. But you can’t tell me his struggles at the plate are not at least concerning. I hope he comes out gangbusters next year and is competing for the MVP.

            Us Cub fans (myself included) have had bad habit of falling in love with our stars and prospects. Maybe it is because I am older and have burned to many times but I have gotten off the koolaid and realize our stud 1st baseman has a OPS of .767. We are not going to a World Series with that kind of production at the 3 spot in our lineup. If the Cubs have a shot at signing someone that can give them Pujols/Cabrera type numbers and he can only play first base….uh Rizzo who?

            • FullCountTommy

              You can’t compare a guy with no MLB at bats to Pujols and Cabrera. Also, Rizzo has a 50 % XBH percentage, which is the exact type of thing I want in the middle of my lineup. His walk rate is over 11% and although his strikeout rate could be lower, it is still below league average. His ISO is also top 30 in the league

            • On The Farm

              You realize his OBP is 1.5 % less and his SLG is 2.3% less than his previous season? And I guess we can forget he is taking more walks, near the top of the league in doubles, clearly this is a guy that will never be a run producer for a championship team. Because Adrian Gonzalez and The Big Hurt are who he being compared to. Apparently if you don’t put up the numbers that they did at a similar age, he isn’t destined for greatness.

        • On The Farm

          I won’t say he hasn’t regressed some, but where are the red flags you are seeing in his regression? I would love to see what stats you have other than batting average that has everyone on threat level midnight.

          • ssckelley

            I did not say there are red flags, but I think we have good reasons to be concerned. If the Cubs decide Rizzo is their guy and they pass on Abreu then put me back on the Rizzo band wagon.

            • Cubbie Blues

              “I did not say there are red flags, but I think we have good reasons to be concerned.” Huh? Red flags are cautionary signals, or, “reasons to be concerned”.

              • ssckelley

                His numbers are down from last year, and last year he was on a downward trend as well. Perhaps he turns it around next year, I hope he does. But to me that does not mean I will not consider other options, like Abreu, if the opportunity comes up.

                • hansman1982

                  What numbers?

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    His AVG, BABIP and K%

                    • hansman1982

                      Ahhh, damn poor hitting sack of dog meat.

  • another JP

    In 2015– Lake LF, Almora CF, Soler RF, Bryant 3B, Baez SS, Castro 2B, Rizzo 1B, Castillo C. Wood, Zastrysny, Edwards, Johnson, Hendricks, Arrieta SP. Vizcaino, Cabrera, Strop, Rosscup, Pineyro, Zych RP. Alcantara, Andreoli, Sweeney, Bruno + FA catcher from the bench. I think the Cubs can win with a team like that.

    • CubsFaninMS

      *****typical response about not all prospects panning out*******

      • another JP

        Yeah, that’s why there’s about 40 which I didn’t include on that list. Which ones do you think are busts if you are to make a typical response?

        • CubsFaninMS

          I’m not in favor of predicting these things. Talent evaluators are frequently wrong on prospects, which makes my evaluation of who might flame out a very risky “guess” for the most part. But if you want me to go off the names you have listed, I would predict: Soler, Arrieta, Pineyro, Zych/Rosscup. As any Cubs fan, I hope they all pan out. But we all know that would be an unprecedented talent “score” for our front office. Someone could respond to my “guesses” here of a very logical argument for why each one may NOT flame out. That makes sense because, if there were no tools they had to get excited about, they would not be considered prospects.

          • another JP

            Fair enough. Obviously the 2015 line-up won’t look anything like what I tossed on here, but it’s nice to see what a potential team would look like IF many of our main prospects worked out. In the past I’d seen similar projections made by folks that typically had names like BJax, Vitters, or Maples on the list… it’s something how much a season can change the make-up of our future teams.

            • CubsFaninMS

              We all have a tendency to *hope* they all make it and it’s easy to have somewhat of a favorable connection to the prospects in our system. I know where you’re coming from. We can only cheer them on and hope they all reach their potential. It is quite frustrating and somewhat a depressing task of having to guess who our next Brooks Kieschnick or Hayden Simpson will be.

              • gutshot5820

                Brook Kieshnick, Montanez, Hill, Choi.. that was our future all-star infield not so many years ago. Anyone who is penciling our entire outfield and rotation with minor leaguers has to be on crack.

                • another JP

                  Ouch. I would think someone with the name gutshot can come up with a better personal attack than to say I’m on crack. Work harder on your condescending comments you insufferable bad-ass.
                  Anyway, not all the guys I listed would be prospects in two years… here’s the estimated ETA for each- Lake 7/13, Almora 9/15, Soler 7/15, Bryant 7/15, Baez 7/14, Castro N/A, Rizzo N/A, Castillo N/A, Wood N/A, Zas 9/15, Edwards 7/15, Johnson 7/15, Hendricks 7/14, Arrieta 8/13, Vizcaino 4/14, Cabrera 4/15, Strop N/A, Rosscup 9/14, Pineyro 9/15, Zych 4/14, AA 4/15, Andreoli 4/15, Sweeney N/A, Bruno 9/15. And if you think I’m being unrealistic in having that many milb players on those rosters, consider that 12 of the Cubs current 25 man roster had significant time in the minors last year. Lake, Watkins, and Rondon had no MLB experience and Parker a grand total of 6 innings prior to 2013.

                  • gutshot5820

                    Castro probably had more talent than most of the players you listed combined and is struggling in his third year so…. If you think we are going to be a championship caliber team with your projections then I have a bridge…

                    • another JP

                      Learn how to read posts before responding. Exactly where did I state that was a “championship caliber team”? And stating Castro had more talent than most of the players I listed combined is laughable… Baez alone has him beat. Who’s the one on crack here?

    • Jon

      I see only about 72 wins. That rotation is horrible. I’m assuming Shark is traded at that point, but I would hope you get a another frontline starter from that.

      • another JP

        Well if you don’t like that rotation I’ll give you another take worth bashing… given a healthy Soler and Almora, I bet that 2015 starting line-up of position players I listed would out-produce our current line-up right now. Flame away dudes.

  • gutshot5820

    Hate to say it, but that looks like a terrible pitching staff, even of most of them do pan out.

    • another JP

      And so does this years Cubs SP staff– until you start looking at the real #s. The Royals pitching doesn’t look too hot this year at first glance and they’ve fared quite well this year. Which pitchers are/will be terrible in your mind?

      • Jon

        First and foremost, Travis Wood as a #1 starter is pretty awful. Then it’s a pretty big leap of faith to assume that Zastrysny, Edwards, Johnson, & Hendricks are ALL going to project as MLB caliber starters, and by 2015 to boot. Also, you’ve subtracted Shark, but for what? If he is to be traded this off season, I hope it’s for a solid ass pitching prospect in AA or above that is rotation ready by 2015.

        • another JP

          Anyone assuming Shark will be a Cub by 2015 is kidding themselves. If he’s traded we’d probably have a prospect worth putting in the rotation, but I’ve only dealt with players under our control that I can assume would be with the organization by then.

        • another JP

          And I never said Wood is a #1 under that scenario… you just made that assumption. But do understand he’s on pace to be a 4 WAR pitcher this season when his total production is accounted for. If that’s your definition of awful then it doesn’t jive with 99% of the general population.

  • Falselife

    Wow. Dude hit 33 home runs in 66 games. Him and Cespedes each hit 33 that season, but Abreu did it in considerably less games. He will command ridiculous money.

  • Doug

    Anyone but the Dodgers please.

  • KidCubbie

    This is silly. Rizzo is having one of the best offensive seasons for a first full year at 1B ever in Cubs history. Yeah his average is down but he’s got a legit chance to hit 20-25 HR with 85-95 RBI this year. Regression? Nah just the league making adjustments and Rizzo adjusting back.

  • jeff1969

    When Abreu hit a homer, the public address person plays an elephant noise as he runs around the bases. If you watch some of the youtube video on this guy, he is strictly 1B/DH, I mean, there no way he plays LF. He is so slow it looks like he hurt himself & is just trying to make it back to the dugout. That being said, watch the White Sox on this guy. They recently have freed up some money to spend & need someone now. They don’t rebuild, they re-tool. The Yankees too.

  • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

    For those of you who argue that there is no such thing as “protection” and that who hits behind (or in front of) a batter has no effect on how pitchers attack them, what do you make of the intentional walk? Sure seems like the pitcher is saying “I’d rather pitch to player B than player A”.
    Likewise, why do you think that the #8 hole is the hardest spot in the lineup for a batter? Pitchers know that (in the N.L.) there’s a pitcher batting behind #8 and they *generally* give the batter less hittable pitches.

  • Thomas

    I love how this turned into a sabermetrics argument but let’s be honest, dude is suppose to be 27 at time of next season could very well be 32 who really knows. We are extremely heavy on right handed power hitters coming up, however we are extremely short on lefties. Seems odd as we have the complete opposite going on right now. So A) we will need Rizzo’s left handed bat B) Rizzo is younger which fits our timeline better C) this is the wildest one yet Rizzo is going to end up being cheaper and playing through more of his prime years. What I am getting at is there are much better ways in which the cubs can spend that money. I know we are all about acquiring assets but I just kind find a way in which this provides us with anything but another huge contract which in all honesty has a very very high flop rate. If we are so desperate for a diffrent first baseman use Bryant or Voglebomb and pay them next to nothing don’t go sign an unknown thats older and gonna be expensive.

    • TWC

      “I love how this turned into a sabermetrics argument but let’s be honest, dude is suppose to be 27 at time of next season could very well be 32 who really knows. ”

      I love how this turned into a sabermetrics argument but let’s be honest, it’s really racist assumptions about how brown people from Latin America lie about their age.

    • Kyle

      Cuban age issues are fairly rare, especially for someone as high profile as this guy.

  • Rebuilding

    Interesting discussion about line-up protection in this thread as its one of those things that make sense, but the numbers don’t really bear it out. However, pitch selection, pitcher psychology, hitter psychology, etc… due to it are probably impossible to model. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone found a way to prove it exists at some point.

    Probably best to comment on that because I assume there is <1% chance we are in heavily on Abreu.

    Also, Rizzo has performed very well for 23-24 yo first baseman (340 wOBA over 2 years), I just think people have become frustrated he hasn't "broken out" to superstar level, yet. There is is still time as he begins his prime years next year, but his struggles against lefties seem to preclude him reaching true superstar numbers

    • Cubbie Blues

      I would argue that he is still 2-3 years from the beginning of his prime years.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Its kind of a bummer we have Rizzo at 1st blocking the pursuit of Abreu. I mean its a nice problem to have. Can’t really complain about having Rizzo

  • Kyle

    Put me as a vote in dissent of letting Rizzo block a pursuit like this.

    If the FO believes he can be an impact bat, then those don’t come around available too often at 27 for just money. We have to be in on that. Rizzo in LF wouldn’t be ideal, but I believe he could be adequate. If there was a 27-year-old awesome LF free agent out there to avoid the issue, go for it, but there’s not.

    • ssckelley

      Pretty much what I have been trying to say all day, except I managed to piss everyone off by voicing “concerns” about Rizzo. If this guy truly is one of the “worlds best hitters” then the Cubs would be stupid to not pursue him.

      • Cubbie Blues

        For the record, you never pissed me off. I am quite capable of having a disagreement while not being upset.

        • ssckelley

          Agreed, if we all agreed with everything all the time then these blogs/forums would be boring.

  • Baseball24/7

    Cubs 2015 Lineup (with Abreu):

    1st: Abreu (When the cubs play in NL he plays at 1st. When they are in AL parks he DH’s)

    2nd: Alcantara

    SS: Baez

    3rd: Bryant

    LF: Rizzo (NL parks: LF, AL: Parks 1st)

    CF: Almora

    RF: Soler

    Trade: Castro and Olt for pitching

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