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chicago cubs logoMy fantasy football teams split this week, with the loss coming primarily thanks to Victor Cruz’s three touchdowns. Jerk.

  • With last night’s win, the 2013 Chicago Cubs have tied the win total of the 2012 squad. While we might expect that the Cubs will lose most of their remaining 19 games, it is highly unlikely that they’ll lose them all. They will have, then, improved their record over last year’s 61-101 nightmare. Indeed, matching the 71-91 2011 team is not impossible. Is this … enough? It’s progress, in the most limited sense of the word (unless it’s just better luck), and it came with a further reduced payroll. If the Cubs do wind up in the 71-91 range – a 10-game improvement over last year – and then improve another 10 games in 2014, they’ll be at .500!
  • Perspective: this week, as the Cubs play the Reds in Cincinnati, the home team is loading up on deals so that it can sell as many tickets as possible. Why? The Reds are trying to break the Great American Ballpark attendance record of 2,355,259, which they set 10 years ago when the ballpark opened. Last year was the first time the Cubs had gone under 3 million in those same 10 years.
  • Dale Sveum says that, after last night’s win, Travis Wood is clearly the team’s number one starter. In terms of performance, you simply can’t argue it at this point. In terms of anticipated future performance, I’ll still give the nod to Jeff Samardzija.
  • More on the Cubs’ minor league success this year, as well as more on Starlin Castro’s recent success from ESPNChicago.
  • On Castro, it sounds like Sveum is wondering whether he hits better in the leadoff spot for reasons unknown to anyone but Castro (and maybe even unknown to him, too). Before we go too nuts, it should be noted that Castro is hitting just 242/.300/.374 in 100 plate appearances from the leadoff spot this year.
  • Everyone agrees, including Dale Sveum: the Cubs’ pitching talent in the minor leagues is far better than it was at this point last year.
  • Dave Kaplan had a long, long chat with Mark Prior. Definitely worth a read. A particularly interesting quote from Prior on building organizations: “I’m a big believer that you have to have a philosophy and stick to it, and you can’t deviate from it. I’ve never run an organization, but you have to develop players. You have to have a core set of guys which I think they’re starting to do. If something happens, you can’t try to change your philosophy midstream trying to right the ship. You have to come up with a game plan and stick to it. It’s not always easy, but I just felt for me like we changed. We went from being the lovable losers. I felt that 2003 really changed the culture of accountability. We were demanding a team. And, I just wonder if we got a little sidetracked in trying to go New York Yankees-style and ‘let’s go buy a championship.’ It doesn’t work. People forget, the Yankees had four or five, six guys that were core guys.” I agree with all of this.
  • Spoda17

    I want us to play well, and then ultimately lose. Beating last year’s record is not an indication we are a better team, we’ve just won more. 90% of this squad will not be here in 2015. So winning any more games at this point is not an indication of anything, much less an improved major league team. And I am fine with the losing btw.

    • MichiganGoat

      90% I think your over reacting just a bit there.

      • willis

        Yes, if 90% of this team will not be around in 2015 that means that 2.5 humans from this team will be around in 2015. I’m guessing there will be more than that. I’ll take the over.

        • MichiganGoat

          On the current 25 man roster:

          Locks:Castillo, Rizzo, Castro, Schierholtz, Lake (the only one that i’d call debatable), Shark, TWood, EJax, Strop, Russell, Villanueva that’s 40%

          Likely: Barney (nearly a lock), Valbuena/Muphy, Arrieta, Grimm/Rusin, Parker, Sweeny/Bogusevic that’s 60%

          And thats not counting players on the 40 man that could make the team. When its all said and done I doubt we add 5+ players via free agency.

          Now trades could change everything but I still beleave we will see 60%+ of the players we saw this year.

    • EQ76

      we were a better team prior to trading Garza, Feldman, Sori, etc. but i agree, it’s pointless to try to be much better than last year when most of this roster is not a part of the future. I’m more interested in the development and regression of Castro, Rizzo, Shark than our record.

      • jt

        Rusin, Arrieta, Baker, Strop, Villanueva(as a starter) and Raley have combined for
        172.3 IP and have allowed 66 ER’s.
        for The 2013 Cubs Feldman and Garza tossed
        162 IP and gave up 60 ER’s
        That seems pretty much of a wash.
        Including McD and Gillespie (the bad) with Bogusevic, Sweeney, Murphy and Lake it looks like the combo OPS is as good as or better than the 0.754/0.732 put up by Sori/DeJ.
        That seems a wash or slight advantage post trades

  • Curt

    This years team might end up with more wins but does it matter and I say this because its been done mostly with. Players that won’t be here when it does get turned around I know you have to field s team it just happens to be this year that the rent a players and other teams castoff s and injury projects worked a little better than last year , when the core if players that will be who the cubs are going to be start arriving then well know if it’s working .

    • MichiganGoat

      every single team in baseball has players that come and go year to year. Championships teams have players that leave the next year, I’d even argue that is those “rentals” and scrap heap players that put a great core over the edge to win the World Series. Look at San Fran they have won two championships with a handful of meh players that combined with great pitching and some All Stars bats. Each year teams turnover players.

      • Spoda17

        My comment was not a knock on the organization, I am a huge fan of how things are going and I support the plan. My comment is that winning more games this year than last is not an indication of progress as an organization; the farm system is where the progress is… Theo and Jed have made some amazing decisions, and have done a great job in putting a somewhat respectable major league team on the field. I don’t expect the MLB team to “progress” at this point. I will in 2015 though…

        • jt

          Lake is getting experience. If he plays 14 more games instead of 20.. meh!
          Sweeney (if they resign him), Bogusevic and Murphy will/could be useful players at least for the first half of 2014. If they establish value then one or each could be used as trade fodder at the deadline if and only if Bryant or Baez or Lake is/are deemed ready to play full time in The Show.
          I like what they are doing.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      I disagree. I think the progression, if not merely deviations from expected performance, is a nod to organizational improvement. Exactly because specific players are immaterial, this season looks great compared to prior years. As Brett points out, the 2013 Cubs may well meet the 2011 teams win total while decreasing payroll from $125M to something like $90M and reducing the average age of the team by a considerable margin.

      Of course they’re still in last place (again)….

  • Jono

    “In terms of anticipated future performance, I’ll still give the nod to Jeff Samardzija.”

    I respectfully disagree with that. My opinion is objectively true, after all.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I smile at the Travis Wood naysayers. This guy is a gamer. His stuff is not dominating but he clearly keeps the hitters off-balanced. He can do this long-term, although if he regresses a little no one will be completely shocked. The season’s 90% over and Wood is still the best starter on our team. He’s exactly the opposite of what Samardzija is. He won’t light up the radar gun but he WILL pinpoint his pitches and do it situationally. Samardzija will never be better than Wood unless he learns to master the strike zone and learn situational pitching. If he masters that, his ceiling is obviously higher due to his high-velocity fastball. Our starting rotation is looking good for next year! Hope Edwin Encarjacksion picks it up next year.

      • Jono

        My Encarjacksion jersey is in the mail (had to custom make it, for some reason)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Heh.

  • MichiganGoat

    I’m sure many will still nash the teeth and shake the fist at another losing season but when you step back and realize how improving by 10 games a year seems quite easy and yet so hard it just reinforces my belief of how baseball is the greatest sport. Score one more run here and there and those 10 wins become easier, avoid a trade deadline sell off and its even closer, add a few players and .500 baseball becomes quite achievable… its really that simple yet so difficult.

    Yeah baseball! And maybe its time to bring Prior back in some capacity. That was a really nice piece to read and he should stick around as a Cub.

    And there will always be this
    [img]http://chicagosidesports.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/prior_wood_SI_cover.jpg[/img]

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Agreed. Its crazy how much promise Michelle Wie had yet never fulfilled her true potential.

      • MichiganGoat

        I know right!

    • Hee Seop Chode

      I wonder if Prior would have the interest or ability to work in a junior front office position? He always seemed like a bright guy to me and did attend USC – not a bad institution.

      • willis

        Jesus that cover from back then proves all one needs to know about the SI curse. Look at the three faces on there, remember the amount of potential and pure stardom written all over their talents…

    • MightyBear

      I almost cry everytime I see that SI cover.

    • Napercal

      Little did we know that the fire as their arms burning out.

  • Nate

    With fantasy you gotta remember its all about consistency. Cruz isn’t getting a lot of 3 TD games. If your in a 12 person league and average say 90 a game your gonna win more than you lose.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, but the problem is, Cruz got those three touchdowns against me. Bad luck.

      • On The Farm

        Could have been worse, could have went against Peyton Manning. Now that is just stupid.

      • King Jeff

        I too was felled by the Cruz tds this week.

        • Nick

          I had both Cruz and Manning (and AJ Green). You all should have drafted well like me!! I’m assuming week 1 repeats 15 times of course.

  • dob2812

    “Dale Sveum says that, after last night’s win, Travis Wood is clearly the team’s number one starter.”

    They’re trying to annoy Samardzija. It’s an argument against giving him all the money he wants.

    That’s fine. I get it. I think Dale gets it too. He isn’t that silly. He’s doing his job.

    I’m not sure I could sit there and say it though. It’s just so wrong.

    • CubsFaninMS

      Results-wise, it is blatantly obvious that Travis Wood has been our number one starter this year. I think the statement is accurate that Sveum made, while challenging Samardzija to improve himself. Sveum is definintely no wordsmith and, in fact, I disagree with his approach to addressing team issues with the media frequently, I believe he got this one right.

    • TWC

      “They’re trying to annoy Samardzija. … He’s doing his job.”

      Some of you people would see a devious front office conspiracy if Sveum said the sky was blue. It’s totally bizarre.

    • mjhurdle

      The stats tend to agree with Sveum that Wood has clearly been the best starter for the Cubs this year. It really isn’t even that close.

  • Clark Addison

    Nice story on Prior. He’s a smart guy and seems motivated to find a place in baseball in the near future.

    He came back too soon after two serious injuries, yet fans got on him for lack of cojones. I don’t blame him for having been bitter and withdrawn, but he seems to have come to terms with it.

  • Brains

    This needs to be qualified, though. We _were_ better before we traded our ace, slugger, and outfielder. It’s not clear at all how this team is currently better, or how we’ll improve next year, until we sign new players or are able to find a few contracts to remove from other teams.

    • Jay

      The team on the field is no better. The team headed our way in the next couple years most certainly will be. Signing difference makers to contracts which hamstring the team is exactly what we’re trying to avoid—growing them from within is the strategy.

    • Chef Brian

      The organization is certainly better with the infusion of young, cost controlled talent, more pitching was brother in to a pitching starved system, and in doing this we have almost certainly improved our draft position.
      People are making too big of a deal about whether the current results are being achieved with the players that will be here in the future. IMO Good teams are built year to year with an eye on the future. The farm system is full of prospects that fill the roster as either currency in trades or future players. It can’t be rushed and we won’t know what we have til the kids get here and thats no sure thing. No One has a crystal ball and stat wizardry will only take you so far, eventually the game has to be played and potential realized, in it’s own time. Til then we fill the roster with stop gap players until some core pieces come along. When you live off the land and you plant crops, until they grow, you can’t feed your family with them. So you go to grocery store until you know what your harvest will yield. The FO is doing this, and building an organization from the ground up takes time.

      • cub2014

        I agree, I think this team is 2 all-star bats and #1 pitcher
        away from being a solid contender. Are these 2 all-star
        bats already in the organization maybe but probably not.
        Is that “ace” in the organization, I would say no. So at what
        cost do we go out and get these 3? That is the question.
        2 years ago we didnt have the prospects to get them. At
        least now we do.

        • cub2014

          On offense Cubs need a #1 and #4 hitter.
          They can sign the #1 in Choo but who will
          be the #4? Bryant or Baez or some FA or
          trade?

      • Brains

        “When you live off the land and you plant crops, until they grow, you can’t feed your family with them. So you go to grocery store until you know what your harvest will yield.”

        I like this framing actually. I’d also like for the team to use revenues toward the team on the field like every other team in the history of baseball, instead of this new MegaCubsCorp approach. Maybe they’ll hire some big bats and then start issuing furloughs to higher paid players next year?

    • jt

      “We _were_ better before we traded our ace, slugger, and outfielder.”
      –Brains
      *
      No! the Cubs were not better before they traded those guys!

    • Napercal

      If Rizzo and Castro don’t improve next season, no signing will make that much of a difference.

      • cub2014

        True Rizzo and Castro have to come back
        to 2012 numbers. Castro I think will, but I
        wonder if Rizzo will ever hit above .250 again.
        Which you would have to move him down in
        the order.

      • Justin

        Yep, I think that is very true. By far the 2 most important aspects of the Cubs future is Castro and Rizzo (to a lesser extent) playing much, much, much better.

        • cub2014

          For all the Lake bashers if he qualified:
          He would be top ten in avg, top 20 in
          OPS and OBP in NL. Hard to argue with
          early success. If you look at the eligible
          list some of these guys have come out of
          nowhere as well

          • Blublud

            ^THIS^ plus his sampla size isn’t so small anymore.

          • Brains

            yeah there are some bored people. Lake has been great so far this year and the best is yet to come. if he trails off he’d be in good company in terms of the history of prospects. what were you guys doing at age 21? had half of you even been on your first date?

            • Jon

              Junior Lake is 23.

              • TWC

                Brains was just too bored to bother getting his information correct before posting.

                • Brains

                  It was a rhetorical point, of course missed by the guy who lurks in the darkness before pouncing on minor aberrations.

                  • TWC

                    Oh, well then it’s totally okay that you were wrong.

                    • DarthHater

                      At least Brains acknowledges that he is a minor aberration.

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Well rhetorically wrong to be precise

                    • Brains

                      weak.

                • CubsFaninMS

                  Epic name fail? lol

            • jaslhill

              Looking at the stats, I do see Lake with a 1.1 WAR in only 201 PAs. By my count, there are only 5 other players to provide at least a 1.1 WAR in 201 PAs or less (according to Baseball Reference). I think that’s pretty good, comparatively, eh?

              http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2013-value-batting.shtml

  • 1060Ivy

    One issue with another 10 game possible improvement is that the Cubs are without 3 players that provided a decent portion of the improvement from 2012 to 2013 – Feldman, Garza and Soriano who are no longer with the club.

    Not certain to what extent their production will be replaced in 2014 by either prospects that they were traded for or other players in the Cubs organization.

    Front office will make additions in the offseason – maybe without a big name free agent but hopefully will find some diamonds in the rough – which makes predictions even more difficult.

    • Terencemann

      Soriano has actually been worse than he was last year- at least for the Cubs. It’s not hard to find an around average player with the 5mm the Cubs saved. Same for DeJesus and the 6mm they won’t be paying him next year. Feldman represents the kind of pitcher who is probably replaceable. Garza will be tough to replace.

    • Chef Brian

      The Cubs have been excellent have finding affordable replacement players. This year Feldman was a gem, the year before it was Maholm. Don’t fret the FO will find players to replace them that will match their production.

  • Gutshot5820

    Only Cub fans would talk about a 10 game improvement before we ACTUALLY win ten more games. Where is this ten game win you all are talking about? We still have 19 games left and that would mean we are going to win more games than lose? Fuggetaboutit. We are just as likely to win only 3-4 more games as we are likely to win ten. So there’s that. Then only Cub fans would get excited about a highly UNLIKELY ten game improvement with a bunch of scrub players that are probably not going to be with the team. More importantly, the core has regressed or not improved outside of Travis Wood.

    • Nate Dawg

      I don’t think it really matters how many more games we win this year. We can judge this season’s success on the success of the young pieces we got back in trades (Arrieta, Strop, Black, Edwards etc.). Our power has been drained a bit after the Soriano trade but I think the hope is we make it up with a (relatively inexpensive) free agent signing, continued production from guys like Lake and Sweeney, and eventually some more power coming up through the system. But the outlook for our pitching next year is good; I expect to see a vast improvement from the bullpen.[img]http://www.harrycarays.com/images/about_harry_pic1.jpg[/img]

      • Nate Dawg

        Lol, how do I make this picture the one next to my name?

        • On The Farm

          Go to Gravatar, use the same email you use for this site.

          • Nate Dawg

            Thanks!

    • Chef Brian

      Luckily, Cubs Fans have you to teach us about baseball. You with your keen intelligence at pointing out the “obvious”, deflating the hopes of others, walking around with an itchy diaper that leaks. You, the “new breed” Cub fan that’s going to bitch it’s way to a World Championship. Thankfully, you have arrived.

    • Gutshot5820

      Okay, I recant my earlier statement. Only Cub fans could get excited about an IMAGINARY ten game improvement and THEN another IMAGINARY ten game improvement the following year to reach .500. Are we seriously even talking about this?

      • MichiganGoat

        Yes we are and of course you are here obviously bitching about it as expected, so we have given you exactly what you need to survive- something to complain about and I’ll wait for the other “contribution” you give the community… in five, four, three, two, one…

      • DarthHater

        “Are we seriously even talking about this?”

        Well, apparently you are and one presumes you are serious, given the amount of attention you are devoting to it.

        • TWC

          Somehow this nitwit believes Ace’s use of the words “not impossible” and ‘”If” — while discounting the weighty caveat of “progress, in the most limited sense of the word (unless it’s just better luck)” — consist of raving enthusiasm and excitement.

          Because comprehension.

          • Chef Brian

            Why try to comprehend the actual intent of the article when you can misquote, take things out of context and basically take a position against something that wasn’t said in the first place? :-) It’s hard to be pot stirring contrarian if you practice 2nd grade level reading skills.

            • TWC

              “It’s easy to be pot stirring contrarian if you practice 2nd grade level reading skills.”

              FTFY.

              • Chef Brian

                Thanks TWC!

      • Brains

        A better term than “imaginary” is “fantasy” for those posters. They’re playing fantasy baseball in the real world, but it’s a huge disconnect between maximizing a minor league system and saving money in a video game and the cold business logic of profiteering that defines the current era of the Cubs. The two are conflated right now.

        But if we win the world series in 5 years I’ll praise the Ricketts as much as the next guy! I just don’t see how they’re building anything but profits for the short term.

  • OlderStyle

    Travis Wood’s initials are TW. Hawk scores the intangible stat: TWTW. Say no more.

  • Jim

    I believe that the Cubs should send Baez to Fall or Winter leagues to play 2B. He should be playing in Wrigley when 2014 starts. Maybe his glove is not up to par with Barney, but I think his bat will win more ball games for the Cubs then Barney’s glove does. Baez will probably have some growing pains, but I think a full year up should get him and the Cubs ready to start moving for the prize in 2015. I am fine with Murphy and Valbuena playing 3B until Bryant or Olt is ready to go.

    • willis

      Never going to happen. Money and service time won’t allow for it. This FO isn’t about rushing anyone, especially when it would cost them control time.

      • Justin

        Yep, best case for Baez to be called up is around July next yr, regardless of how ready he is. He won’t be up before the super 2 cutoff date, guaranteed.. With that said I think unless he goes Castro style and regresses big time, I think it’s safe to say he’s up midseason next yr. So they can finally try and win in 2015..

  • http://BN marlowe sackmann

    i didn’t have time to read all the comment’s but didn’t I read a short while ago about us blowing 27 saves and over 35 some games in which we had the lead and lost. Holy, improving that by 50%,..well that would indicate at least a 15 game improvement. I don’t think that is wishful thinking. Then again..

  • Justin

    The amazing thing about the Cubs improvement is just how train wreck bad Castro has been this yr. He has been so much worse of hitter this yr than I thought was ever possible, and the Cubs still improved. I am glad the Cubs improved, but hate what Castro did this yr. Sorry, I just can’t get over how bad he was, it boggles my mind..

    • http://BN Sacko

      He will play better when we are better.

  • baseballet

    It’s like flunking a class all semester but ending up with a ‘D’ because you guessed well on some multiple choice questions on the final exam. Success!

    • DarthHater

      Actually, it’s more like getting a C-minus for most of the term, then flunking a couple tests because you traded away a bunch of your brain cells at mid-term, but finally managing to pull out a D after having received a D-minus the previous term. But, hey, great analogy! ;-)

      • Kyle

        I wouldn’t say they were getting a C- for most of the term.

  • parser

    has the 2014 schedule been released yet? Looking for tickets to one those 81 wins we’ll have next year.

    • DarthHater

      Don’t pick any Brewers games. We never beat those guys.

  • North Side Irish

    Chicago Cubs
    ‏@Cubs
    Our 2014 schedule has been released! Mark your calendars now: http://atmlb.com/1azNrn5

  • Die hard

    If Wood is #1 next yr then count on 90 + losses

    • TWC

      Struck will stick!

  • Tim

    Is it 2015 yet?

  • Losing makes u better 62-100 > 75-87

    I literally would sadly be happy if we lost all 19 games. I hate when we lose but the a loss is better then a win at this point. As long as we lose every game with out injury and if we could pull together some positives from those losses I’d be pretty happy. It sounds messed up but I’d rather lose all 19 games the win a single game. Sounds bad but I stick by my guns that it will lead to a better draft pick or at least ensure us a top 3 pick

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