Big League Success in 2013 and Other Bullets

dale sveum starlin castroToday’s the real meat of The Taylor Family move (i.e., the moving truck comes), and the Series Preview for the Brewers series is going to be the primary casualty. Although there will be other content today to keep you awash in Cubs coverage, I just haven’t been able to get to the Series Preview, and won’t be able to pull it off today. Suffice it to say that it’s a series between two teams battling at the bottom of the standings. I know you can’t root against the Cubs, but losing a couple to the Brewers wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

  • When Dale Sveum evaluates the 2013 season, he knows it’s about more than just the wins and losses. He sees players developing, buying in, and succeeding when they stick to the game plan. In terms of on-field success, the 2013 big league Cubs were a failure – everyone would agree. But in terms of The Plan, where do the Cubs – again, the big league Cubs – fall on the success/failure spectrum? I suspect there would be a great deal of debate, focused particularly on the performance regression of Starlin Castro, and apparent regression of Anthony Rizzo.
  • The second best minor league pitcher – in all of baseball – by kwERA? That’d be top pitching prospect, C.J. Edwards.
  • Cubs hitting coach James Rowson on Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
  • An interesting quote from Travis Wood in the game recap yesterday. “We’ve definitely made strides,” Wood said, complimenting Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer for getting players who want to be on the team. “I’m excited to finish out the season and see how we battle back next year being together for a full year.” The reason I find the quote interesting is that most of the players Epstein and Hoyer have snagged over the last two years have been fungible types that could be sold at the deadline as easily as they’re brought back the next year. And, heck, this year, there was as much turnover as ever. None of this is to say I have any beef with Wood’s comment or the front office’s approach – I like them both, actually. I just found the comment about being together for a full year kind of funny.
  • The Cubs offer compliments to the Pirates who just beat them.


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

88 responses to “Big League Success in 2013 and Other Bullets”

  1. Die hard

    Wouldn’t be shocked if Sveum “voluntarily” accepts another job in organization after season

    1. macpete22

      Hopefully the Cubs would pursue Girardi then or even Mike Scioscia

      1. ETS

        Joe Maddon is under contract thru 2015. I wish that was thru 2014…

        1. hansman1982

          I would LOVE to see the comments here when Maddon throws out some of his off-the-wall lineups.

          1. Edwin

            Or when the team doesn’t win instantly in his first or second year as manager.

      2. bbmoney

        As respected as Sciosia is, he doesn’t really fit in with the FO’s MO.

        1. macpete22

          I’m just really hoping for Girardi

          1. Jono

            me, too

  2. Luke

    I have issues with applying kwERA in a blanket fashion across all the minors like that. It is interesting, but I’m not sure useful it is.

    That said, I haven’t worked with kwERA too much lately and off the top of my head I don’t remember how well it correlates to other pitching metrics.

  3. Kevin F.

    I’m one who feels Sveum is not gonna be the guy who guides them to contention when that time comes, but I wonder how many “transitional” managers, managers who have led rebuilding teams, have been successful after the turnaround is apparent. Anyone have any examples? Gardenhire maybe?

    1. Frank

      I don’t think Sveum knows how to handle developing players (or any player) and neither does his coaching staff.Hopefully he’ll have fake family problems or something and the Cubs will give him the remaining money for his contract and he’ll leave.

      1. Edwin

        Why do you think that Frank?

        1. Frank

          One is the screwing around with Castro. I remember reading last year that they wanted to get Castro to develop his power more. That didn’t work. Like the old saying…if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
          Not everyone has to hit home runs every time they come up to bat. Ichiro has made a career out of slapping singles, doubles and triples, with an occasional home run.

          Come to spring training and do what comes naturally. If that’s singles and doubles, fine. He will have an occasion where someone throws him a ball that’s meant for Waveland ave.

          1. Polar Bear

            I agree. Just take a look into the past when you want to see a good example. The Cubs tried so hard to make Lou Brock a power hitter and gave up on him when they almost ruined him. How did that work out??? Let Castro go back to doing the things that made him skyrocket through the minors. Everyone doesn’t need to hit 30 homers to be successful.

        2. CubsFaninMS

          I think it’s clear at this point that they DID attempt to “improve” Castro’s swing and that it was unsuccessful, but I believe comparing Castro to Ichiro is a difficult comparison to make. Ichiro’s swing, body type, and plate approach are that of your prototypical singles/slap hitter. Castro’s is not. Hindsight is always 20/20 and, knowing what they know now, I’m confident the hitting coaches would’ve kept Castro the way he was. I believe some hitters respond well when they are coached on how to improve their swing and “take it to the next level”, but apparently it was a failed experiment with Castro. The coaching staff has won some and lost some in developing players over the last couple of years. Castro has clearly regressed due to a change in his swing recommended by the hitting coaches, but I don’t fault them for trying. He has the body type for a 15-25 HR hitter.

          1. Frank

            I wasn’t comparing Castro to Ichiro. What I was saying, was that some players are not natural home run/power hitters. I said “Ichiro has made a career out of slapping singles, doubles and triples, with an occasional home run”.

    2. Jono

      I’ve always thought that he was a bridge until a better manager becomes available. Maybe he’s even a guy who the front office could control. During this kind of rebuild, the front office might want more control over the team to get better value for trades or whatever. And Sveum, being passed over for the Brewers job, might have wanted any chance for the manager title. That was just kind of my immediate take on getting a guy like Sveum than a more experienced, bigger name, manager

      1. Edwin

        I don’t think Cubs fans have the patience anyways to have a manager be around for the “rebuild” and beyond.

      2. willis

        Right, he was a body with no managing experience other than a few games who was desperate for another chance to manage…I can totally see that. And the FO was attracted to that because they could do their thing-cutting payroll, flipping experienced decent players for prospects etc., without the manager causing a stink. That actually makes a lot of sense. I just wish he had one clue. And hopefully sooner than later there is another manager with winning experience in the dugout.

  4. Frank

    I hate the thought of the Cubs racing for the bottom, but this season was long ago lost, so why not try to get the best draft pick possible. If I have to say that again next, I’m going to become a psycho mass killer. (if you lived where I live, you might want to do it anyway)

    1. RoughRiider

      Get some help.

  5. cubsfanforever

    Bye Bye Sveum … This isn’t working with this guy calling the shots. Oh McDonald had a farm continues to play with Barney… Crap Crap

    1. Frank

      Cow…C O W EE-I-EE-I-O. Dag nabit.

      1. X The Cubs Fan


  6. Jono

    This ooks like an Onion headline

    1. Jono

      This looks….

  7. Oliver

    Certainly , the Cubs have made strides, however
    The strides were with players that are not permenant,
    But only temporary to make us fans feel like they are
    Making progress.
    I’m not certain that could make more than an average team
    With average to below average players.
    We need a hitting coach, a qualified second and 3rd baseman .
    Without a few bats , Rizzo will be pitched around and not
    Get a decent pitch selection, until they add some help either
    From the minor or free agency, however they have 3 or 4 players
    In their system that could be tried temporarily at the major league
    Level to see how close they are.

  8. jon

    I’d like to know what young piece has “developed” this year outside of Wellington and Castillo(I think it’s too early to make a judgment on Lake)

    Rizzo – He sure hasn’t improved on last year
    Barney – No improvements on offense(though he’s not likely 2 be part of long term plan)
    Castro – Major Regression
    Samardzija – He certainly hasn’t taken a step forward, and it’s been a disappointing year

    So yeah, Dale, 1 major regression and 2 other players that really haven’t develolped this year. What are you drinking buddy?

    1. jon

      *Sorry Wellington Castillo, not Wellington and Castillo, lol

    2. Edwin

      Travis Wood has done nicely.

      1. jon

        I actually really like Bosio. Like you mentioned Woods success and also has got some good luck out of reclamation projects. Shark’s been disappointing, but that’s not sure how much I can put on him for that.

        The position players, though, that’s nothing to be proud of this year.

        1. Edwin

          Why do you blame Svuem for Shark, but then give credit to Bosio for Wood? That seems unfair. Either they both share credit, Svuem gets credit for both, or Bosio gets credit for both.

          Rizzo hasn’t been great, but he’s hitting for more power, and taking more walks. That’s something to be proud of. He’s only 23 or so, and could easily get better.

          Schierholtz has had a very successful year, and Valbuena has had his best year ever as well.

          Either way, I don’t think Svuem (or any manager, really) has that much influence on how players develope. If I was going to criticize a manager, I’d look to see how he handled giving players off days, how he manages his pitching staff, how he puts his lineups together (although even lineup optimization might not matter quite so much), and how he manages the locker room (as in, keeping players focused. I don’t care how he assigns lockers or towel distributions.).

    3. C. Steadman

      Lake has made improvements this year though…not saying he’s going to keep this up(hard to sustain a .388 BABIP) but last year he was in AA…this year he had a late start, but then produced at Iowa and continued that into Chicago…i say thats some improvement

      1. C. Steadman

        next year is gonna be a telling season for alot of players…(see if Lake can keep his early success going, also to see if Wood can be as solid as he was this year…if Castro,Shark and Rizzo continue to regress or if they rebound, and other players..but those will be the most watched players(other than Big Four) going into 2014

        1. C. Steadman

          probably shouldnt have included Rizzo in there…he’s only a few more key hits with RISP from being really good…its been a solid season for him

  9. #23

    Sveum isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Baez, Bryant, and Alcantara will get most of next season to gain more experience in the minors. Olt will probably be the starting 3rd baseman out of spring training. It may not be a bad idea to bring Gregg back. Even without Gregg, the bullpen will be a strength (Strop, Parker, Lim, Vizcaino, Russell, Rosscup, Villanueva, etc.). Tanaka or Jiminez may be targeted for the rotation with Baker, Villanueva, Grimm, Ramirez, Cabrera, and Rusin as depth options. Adding a second baseman and outfielder on short term deals seems like a reasonable possibility. Overall, I wouldn’t expect a lot of new faces to begin 2014. Later in the season, the rookies will start trickling onto the scene. By 2015, things should start to look real interesting. I am looking forward to seeing what Lake, Arrieta, and Olt can do over a full season next year.

    1. Blublud

      The problem is I don’t want Sveum to touch Baez, Bryant and Alcantara.

      1. willis

        Yeah, I don’t want any of he, Deer or Rowson anywhere near the prospects.

      2. Cubbie Blues

        Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

      3. Cizzle

        Sveum’s no Sandusky.

        1. ETS


          Srsly… dumb.

          1. Cizzle

            Srsly it was a joke.

            1. ETS

              A dumb one.

              1. Cubbie Blues

                Yes, mine was much more classier.

    2. CubsFaninMS

      My prediction is that Grimm will be a bullpen piece and, if he shows potential as Samardzija did three years ago, they can offer him an opportunity to start.

  10. Melrosepad

    So, had to laugh at an ex-Cub factor article I found:

    Author references the Garza trade while talking about Tampa Bay’s ex-Cubs, but doesn’t even mention him in the Ranger’s section, only talks about Soto and Baker.

  11. Blublud

    Wood is the only player that has progressed under Sveum this year.

    Castillo does not apply, as this is who I believed he always was. In fact, I’m a little disappointed by his offensive production as I believe he can be better.

    Rizzo, Castro, Barney have all seen major regression.

    Shark, enuff said.

    For him to say he sees development is a bald face lie.

    1. mjhurdle

      Let me offer my counter-argument using your same logic:

      Everyone has progressed and developed under Sveum.

      Everyone who didn’t get better doesn’t apply, because i don’t think any of them were that good to begin with..

      nuff said.

      1. Coop

        Well played, sir.

    2. jh03

      Can I please get an explanation on how Rizzo has seen a major regression?

      1. willis

        I don’t think it’s as much as a major regression as it is he set the expectation bar so high after last season that many have been disappointed in this season.

        1. jh03


          1. willis

            How did he set the expectations so high or how has he been seen as a little disappointing this year? He came up and crushed it last year and was put on a little too high of a pedestal by many of us, including me. I know average is poo-pooed around here but it’s still a popular stat for many fans and when they see their slugging power hitting 1B and cornerstone of this rebuild, hitting under .230, it automatically brings in the negative talk of his season. Right or wrong. I’m not saying that’s my opinion or that it tells all, but I think that it brings out some negative feelings and has people talking regression. His OBP is ok and his slugging is ok, but I think both will get better as he grows as a player.

            1. jh03

              What were his expecatations and how did he not reach them?

              1. willis

                I just kind of pointed it out. I’m telling you it’s all about average when it comes to people talking about regression with him. There’s surely more to it than that but I’m just making the general point I think that is the major contributor to those who think he has regressed/disappointed.

                Personally I expected a little more than what I’ve seen, but I have to keep telling myself he’s 24 and this is his first full major league season. I was hoping for 30/100ish type numbers with a little higher average. His BABIP has been rough this year and I think going forward he’s going to be a .250/.340/.430 type of player.

                1. willis

                  Also, his OPS has dropped 60 points from year one to two, so it has frustrated many. I think talk of regression is a bit much, but he needs to be better.

                  1. jh03

                    Needs to be better going forward? Yes. Was it really that bad for his first full season, considering everything? No.

                2. jh03

                  Right, you told me how he disappointed, but I was curious to what his expectations were supposed to be.

                  In my opinion, if someone expected more than 11.6% BB rate, with a 18.2% K rate, to go with being extremely unlucky and still hitting 36 doubles and 22 homers, you expected too much from a kid in his first full season.

                  If anything, people have some sort of a case in saying he was awful with runners in scoring position. But, that should bounce back to average next year and not even be an issue.

                  1. willis

                    Yeah I agree, the expectations were too high after his splash last year. I think plenty of cubs fans are guilty of that. And my point is that with those expectations, it causes many to gloss over this season and say he has regressed.

                    1. Jono

                      Im one of those fans. It was a mistake, but I did expect this year to look similiar to his 2012 1/2 season averaged out over a full year. I realize that was a mistake, ill avoid doing it again. But none-the-less, that’s an example of why some fans feel disappointed with rizzo this year.

                    2. Jono

                      And I think a lot more people had those kinds of expectations for rizzo but aren’t admitting it.

                  2. MichiganGoat

                    The Rizzo frustration story line from fans is all about his BA. If it was higher in the .270+ range very few would be upset with this year. It is the primary line most fans attach to success or disappointment and Rizzo’s BA is below that success line for most people to overlook.

    3. hansman1982

      “Castillo does not apply, as this is who I believed he always was. In fact, I’m a little disappointed by his offensive production as I believe he can be better.”


      1. Blublud

        I felt Castillo could contend for an all-star spot coming into the season. This season reflects how he finished last season. I actually think he was hotter to finish the year last year. He is a guy who I feel should be hitting close to .300 with at least 20 HR. Maybe I’m wrong on my projection, but if that’s what I expected, then I would consider his season as regression instead of progression. Defensively, he has actually improved a lot.

        1. Edwin

          Last season, he finsihed with a wRC+ of 101. This season, he has a wRC+ of 103. Castillo has been just as good this season as last season. He has never hit over .300 at any extended point in his minor league career. Why would you expect him to hit .300 in the majors when he’s never done it in the minors?

          1. Blublud

            Close to .300. Meaning at least .280. But I guess average is not important.

  12. willis

    Positives-Castillo, Navarro, Lake, Sweeney, Wood, redeveloped bullpen, surprising success for Rusin

    Negatives-Castro, Barney, Valbuena and Murphy although solid, are flashes in the pan, Shark, EJax, first two months of the bullpen

    Mixed bag-Rizzo…some stats decent, some stats regressing. He’ll be ok though I believe long term.

    So I can see why there are some things to talk about positively regarding the right strides/direction…even as much as I hate Sveum. I think he’s definitely (unfortunately) at the helm again next season, but hopefully they get him one more good arm and a couple more positional players with some pop. We’ll see what he can do then.

    1. C. Steadman

      fire Rob Deer

      1. terenceman

        Fire the assistant hitting coach? I guess they should fire the bullpen coach while they’re at it because these guys are clearly to blame for having lots of bad players.

    2. willis

      I forgot a big negative, Russell. Dude blows games all the time. I hope they go in another direction for LH bullpen arms next season (as in, give the jobs to Rosscup and Raley please).

      1. C. Steadman

        I dont mind Russell against lefties, but he is strickly a left-handed specialist, I would like the cubs to keep him but add another lefty to the bullpen(teams only have one lefty RP to scout) and/or cut down on the amount of righties Russell faces

    3. mjhurdle

      “So I can see why there are some things to talk about positively regarding the right strides/direction…even as much as I hate Sveum. I think he’s definitely (unfortunately) at the helm again next season, but hopefully they get him one more good arm and a couple more positional players with some pop. We’ll see what he can do then.”

      This is a very fair approach Willis.
      I am not as much a believer that Sveum is a good/great manager as I am a believer that Sveum has really not been given anything of value to work worth.
      Would love to see what he does with a real bullpen and decent lineup. He might be bad, or maybe he does well, but either way that is a better way to judge him than how he does with a ton a AAAA players.

      1. willis

        I don’t like the way he pulls strings from the dugout and handles his pitching staff, but then again a lot of that was the fact that the bullpen the first couple months was affective as you or I would be. He still made plenty of head scratching decisions. I’d love to see a full roster of good players with not a ton of movement with bodies in and out.

  13. Cubman

    I could go on and on about why Sveum should be canned. I think the FO thought he would be similar to Francona, but he clearly is not as smart as Francona for starters. I will only focus on two issues regarding Sveum, in this, a lost season as far as Ws and Ls, why is he still playing Barney (and batting him second) and why isn’t Lake playing everyday instead of only against lefties? Sorry, I’ll also through in keeping to pitch Russell instead of shutting him down.

    1. ClevelandCubsFan

      I think he’s playing Barney because he’s quite possibly the best glove at 2B in the bigs. At least the argument can be made. The entire pitching staff looks better with Barney back there. These are things that are hard to quantify, but they can be. Everyone else we have would be a HUGE downgrade defensively. Clearly he’s been bad at the plate, but statistically it’s been fluky (look at the perverse .227 BABIP), and they want him to continue to get better as a hitter. He’s the only realistic option right this minute to open next season. (Also, if they are trying to restore his value to trade him or something, that could be coming from the FO, not Sveum.)

      Lake isn’t playing everyday for a lot of reasons. Rosters expanded, and they want to take a look at a lot of guys. They probably also want to put a young guy in situations to succeed and help him avoid difficult situations. Give the guy some confidence and let him progress slowly. This is likely a FO decision (or heavily influenced by the FO).

      Russell maybe I’ll give you :) He’s been out there a lot…

  14. mjhurdle

    The most surprising thing about the 2013 season to me is the amazing swing in perception regarding Russell.

    Back in April and May, Sveum was getting murdered day in and day out for not using Russell every game because the rest of the bullpen sucked. Russell was the greatest reliever ever and Sveum was an idiot for not using him in any and every pressure situation in the game.
    Now, Russell is garbage, and Sveum is an idiot for over-using him and Russell should never see the field.

    The switch in attitude seems almost to Marmol level.

    for the record, i personally think that Russell was over-used early out of necessity, and is paying for it now. But i don’t really see anyway they could have avoided it and still won some of the games they did before the BP stabilized.

    1. cub2014

      i dont think anyone was saying pitch
      russell more, only to make him the
      closer since marmol was so bad.
      it svuem’s decision and FO fault for
      over pitching him the last 2 years.

    2. cub2014

      mj that is the most surprising thing?

      1. mjhurdle

        to me? yep.

      2. cub2014

        the most surprising things for 2013
        really are:
        1. Junior Lake
        2. travis wood
        3. Castro-Rizzo-Barney
        4. Kevin Gregg
        5. Samardizja
        6. 3B by committee

        1. terenceman

          I’m honestly not surprised at Castro or Barney’s seasons. Barney’s just not a good hitter and Castro was probably due for one bad year so I hope he’s getting it out of his season.

          1. Wood
          2. Lake
          3. Gregg
          4. 3B kind of working
          5. Scott Baker getting paid 5MM for 2-3 starts
          6. Mike Olt can’t figure out AAA pitching

          I kind of figured Lake was the kind of player who could get on a hot streak if things broke his way. He’s athletic enough to make solid contact and run well but I didn’t think it would last for over a month. Wood with a 3.05 ERA at this point in the year is stunning considering his peripheral numbers and almost makes me wish he would have set the bar a little lower for the upcoming seasons.

        2. baseballet

          That’s a pretty good list.

  15. miggy80

    Due to the Taylor’s move I went ahead and posted a series She View for the Brewers series on the message board. Check it out it has a reverse standings flavor.

    1. Sacko

      To take the field and say it’s not a bad idea to lose is crazy. Any starting pitcher is gonna say “sure that’s fine by me” bullshit. Staring pitching goes out there for a W. We just plain suck contributes to the young Shark to be very frustrated, Jackson on the other hand just has to bounce back. I’m just going to write off Castro’s year as only one bad year up to this time. His head is so f… up showing in the field, base running, everything. Again a young player on a very bad team. Rizzo needs someone to hit behind him. Im guessing his stats were better w/ Sori behind him. As for DALE he just can’t possibly be calling the shots,
      sitting Lake and playing others to look at,in addition to Mcdonald,DALE didn’t pick him up. And that nobody/anybody could have been brought up in Sept. is nuts. Barney/Watkins? please trade Barney. So since we are just f…in around anyway, give Schierholtz some AB’s against lefties, 2nd in RBI/HRs, play him.

  16. terenceman

    I have absolutely no problem with Rizzo’s season. The rarity of hitters with that kind of BABIP/HR/BB/K rate combination leads me to believe that he’ll be a good player when some hits fall his way next year.

  17. cubzforlife

    What about Rusin? And all the guys we traded at the deadline the last two years. Sveum gets no credit for making these guys tradeable? I believe if the guy had a average team they would over perform. It’s the tattoo’s and constant grubby look for me. That said Girardi in a new york second. With Joe at the helm in 07 and 08 I believe we would of had a different result. Can’t wait to see if season tickets go up down or stay the same.

  18. terenceman

    Just to point out how much better 3B has been this season:

    2012 third baseman OPS+
    Valbuena 303 PA: 77
    Stewart 202 PA: 70
    Vitters 109 PA: 8

    2013 3B OPS+:
    Valbuena 365 PA: 95
    Ransom 182 PA: 102
    Murphy 132 PA: 136

    And all 3 3B this year are on the positive side of drs per BBREF. I’m not trying to suggest the Cubs have found a great third baseman for the future, but it’s been fun to watch this group this season.

  19. Sean

    I’m really excited about CJ Edwards, I’m not going to consider him a top pitching prospect until i see him pitch with success in AA and also see him pitch deeper into games. (I won’t consider him a top pitching prospect in the minors. He’s definitely a top pitching prospect in our farm system)

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