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chicago cubs logoThe Little Boy is army crawling right now, and this morning, he was making a beeline for my computer whenever I got up to attend to other various fatherly duties. I found myself hurling blockades in front of him – blankets, toys, books – anything that might slow or distract him from reaching my computer before I returned. I immediately flashed on every zombie movie I’ve ever seen.

  • Just a day after indications that his job was unsafe, Chicago Cubs hitting coach James Rowson is no longer the Chicago Cubs’ hitting coach. Per the Tribune, Rowson has left to rejoin the Yankees organization as its minor league hitting coordinator, a job he held before coming to the Cubs two years ago. Although it would be a mistake to pin the poor offensive performance of a weak offensive roster on the hitting coach, it is fair to say that there aren’t many success stories to which to point over the 1.5 years Rowson held the hitting coach position. The Cubs will now look to hire their third hitting coach in three seasons, and the fate of assistant hitting coach Rob Deer remains up in the air (the position, itself, is not certain to be back in 2014).
  • Some housekeeping: if you’re looking for some sports action, that is to say, a place that offers online betting, why not check out SportsBettingOnline.ag?
  • Rowson joins first base coach Dave McKay as gents who’ve departed after Dale Sveum was fired last month. There will be others.
  • Over in Mesa yesterday, Jorge Soler went 1-5 with a couple strikeouts, and Kris Bryant did the same thing (though with one fewer strikeout). Armando Rivero threw a scoreless frame, allowing one hit and striking out one.
  • The Tribune collects managerial first words upon coming to the Cubs. Dale Sveum’s might be the most depressing.
  • A nice profile on Rick Renteria.
  • A fascinating, and ultimately disappointing, study at FanGraphs on the location of pitches where pitchers allow balls in play, and the rates at which those balls do damage. Much to the chagrin of our collective gut, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between inducing contact outside of the strike zone (the kind you would think of as “weak” contact) and a lower batting average on balls in play, or even a lower slugging percentage. You would have thought that hitters wouldn’t be doing as much damage when they are “fooled” into swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, which is where their wheelhouse should fall. This was just one study, but it’s further evidence that pitchers can control extremely little of what goes on behind them, and the strongest indicator of effectiveness remains the good old-fashioned K/BB numbers.
  • Frank

    Glad to see Rowson gone. Next up Deer in the headlights.

    • auggie55

      LMAO at Deer remarks. Having Rowson gone is a dream come true.

      • The Logos

        Hmm … why is that?

    • J.F. Edwards

      Why do we still talk about the strike zone like it is stagnant? Pitchers learn umps. so do/should hitters. So should stat fans.

      It doesn’t matter where the pitch is thrown relative to any fan graphs strikezone, or the defined strikezone. The only thing that matters is the umpire’s zone, the hitter’s sense of that, and the pitcher’s ability to play off it. Write a stat that tells me that and we can talk. (If there is video for every game and a willing and impartial judge… this is actually possible…but even Google doesn’t know this one).

  • Oswego Chris

    Maybe hitting coach is a way for Sammy to get back with the organization…he can teach the hop…of course now that he is a vampire it would preclude him from day games

    • Cedlandrum

      I know you are joking, but it would be great to have him do some instruction at the Dominican Academy.

  • Oswego Chris

    Other awful suggestions…Todd Hundley, Dunston, Rey Sanchez, and Jose Hernandez

  • Soda Popinski

    Any clues on what hitting coaches are available / likely to be the next?

    • MichiganGoat

      Mariano Duncan seems to be the one getting the most chatter.

      • Rizzovoir Dog

        Can he bring his brother, Dave?

        • King Jeff

          Dave’s not here man.

  • Bones

    Which Pardres coach will be the new hitting coach?

    • Kevin

      Unfortunate true question

  • Curt

    The effectiveness if the k/bb how does a star like thts apply to contact pitchers like Greg maddux or Tom glavine going back myb Rick reuschel prob didn’t spell tht right , do wish someday Maddux comes back invaluable mind .

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Maddux had a career K:BB of 3.37 (which is huge, especially as a career mark), and was over 6.00(!) in his best seasons.

      • J-nasty

        Maddux never walked anyone, of course is K/BB ratio would be good.

        • caryatid62

          He also K’d a lot more hitters than people think.

          • Edwin

            Also, I’m sure in his prime his GB% was fantastic. Even after 2002, when his velocity slipped and he was just a very good pitcher instead of an elite pitcher, he was still putting up a GB% over 50%.

            I wonder if given Maddox’s velocity and GB% in 2002 and after, if there was some way to try and guess what type of velocity and GB% Maddux had in his prime.

      • Rich H

        By a certain point the mystique of Maddox and Glavin had as much to do with that as acual pitching accument.

      • caryatid62

        Btw-looking at Maddux’s 1994 season is just crazy. He had 16 wins, 10 (10!!!) of which were complete games. In his 3 no decisions, he went 8 innings in each.

        Man, this just makes me want to slap Larry Himes even more.

    • Edwin

      Greg Maddux had an excellent K/BB ratio for most of his career. And even though he was a “pitch to contact pitcher” when Maddux was in his prime he was an above average strikeout pitcher. He also generated a ton of groundballs.

    • caryatid62

      From 1989 to 2000, Tom Glavine was above the league average in K:BB for 10 of the 11 seasons. He was just below the league average in K/9 for most of the seasons.

      Maddux, however, was at or above than league average in K/9 every year from 1990 to 1999.

      • Edwin

        Glavine is a puzzler. He didn’t have elite control like Maddux, and most of the time he was below average at generating strikeouts. He never had a K/BB above 3, so it’s not like he was the most efficient pitcher. The only thing he really excelled at was preventing HR. From 1990-2000 he posted the 8th best HR/9 amongst all starting pitchers. Among pitcher’s with 2000 IP or more during that span, he was third behind only Greg Maddux and Kevin Brown.

    • caryatid62

      Rick Reuschel was above league average (way above) in K:BB for every season of his 19-year career except 3.

      • Jay

        And even better, Rick used to throw complete innings in the time it took Steve Trachsel to throw one pitch.

      • SenorGato

        There are probably whole starts by Mark Mulder during his Oakland days that took less time than Tracshel between pitches.

    • Andrew

      also just because location doesnt affect the way the ball is hit doesnt mean that movement doesnt. A sinker with great late movement is going to miss the barrel of the bat more likely than a straight pitch. That’s why I think Maddux was great at keeping his BABIP numbers low as well as his K:BB numbers

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Maddux did not have particularly low BABiP numbers: they typically were in the 0.280′s. In fact, it was because he had such high BABiP in the first half of 1999 that FIP was discovered. (The statistician, McCracken, doubted Maddux’s explanation that an unusual frequency of balls were getting past fielders: but that turned out to be the case.) Maddux’s great ERAs were due to ridiculously low walk numbers, very good K numbers (both in part courtesy of getting the opposite batters box as part of his strike zone!) as well as very low HR numbers for any era, never mind the 1990′s.

        Moreover, location and movement are strongly correlated because the former is partially created by the latter. The batter cues “swing” / “don’t swing” when the pitch is about 10′ from the pitcher’s hand. If the batter does not pick up that it is a sinker (and the sink does not increase “late” by the way), then the batter swings over it, or he has to roll over his wrists to adjust for the drop, and he frequently grounds out. (If the batter does pick up it is a sinker, and if he is good, then he executes a different swing that golfs the ball: that, for example, is how Sandberg homered twice off of Suter.)

        And, of course, there is the chance that the pitch’s movement will cause a ball that looks initially like a non-strike will locate in the strike zone: “freezing” the batter and getting a called strike.

        • jt

          The body part of a batters swing starts prior to the pitchers release. The pitch takes more than 0.3 seconds to get to home plate. The time of the swing/no-swing decision then depends upon the lapse between the signal sent to pull the trigger and the time it takes for the bat to arc to the ball.
          If the signal is sent from the medulla rather than the cortex it would greatly decrease the time needed for that part of the equation. If so, the batter could wait until a little bit more than the time needed to arc the bat because the body behind the bat is already in motion. At 25′ he would have more than 0.15 seconds.

          • Hookers or Cake

            Gentlemen?
            What does any of this have to do with bellyfire and TWTW (The WILL To WIN)?

  • Benjamin Roethig

    More than anything this is an admittance by Theo that his one size fits all approach to hitting doesn’t work. In trying to raise OBP they actually lowered it.

    • King Jeff

      Yes, more than anything, this is about Theo Epstein admitting that he was wrong.

      • Jay

        This OBP crap drives me nuts. Cubs are proof that “clogging the bases” with runners doesn’t mean squat if you can’t get hits when it counts to drive them in.

        • cub2014

          jay, did I miss something? the cubs
          had a lot of runners on base? the cubs
          did have a ton of HR’s and extra base
          hits but unfortunately there was no one
          on base, thus they scored very few runs.

        • caryatid62

          In all of MLB, the Cubs were 9th in HR, 6th in 2B. They were 28th in OBP. Seems like the problem was that they couldn’t “clog the bases” often enough. They had the fourth fewest ABs with RISP in baseball. Yes, they were terrible in those at bats. But, as a team, they were terrible in most of their at bats, regardless of who was on base.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The bigger issue is that the Cubs were among the worst in net OBP. The particularly glaring stat was net walks: at -101, only the Astros were worse. (They were a mind-boggling -150.) As net walks is second only to net HR in correlation with winning, that really, really hurt the Cubs.

            • TOOT

              What chu sayin? Walk your way to the WS?

              • DocPeterWimsey

                It’s net walks, so: 1) draw walks and 2) don’t allow walks. It is the combination that helps: so, if you have the Sox batters and a normal staff, or the Braves staff and normal batters, then you are going to do very well compared to an average team. Of course, combine Sox batters and Braves pitchers, and you will almost always have a great run differential.

                And, yes, this the second best thing that a team can do, after: 1) hit homers and 2) don’t allow homers. (Net Walks come in just ahead of net doubles & triples in terms of correlation with winning.)

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Oh, and this will get you to post-season. Remember, once you get there, then you usually will be playing teams that also are good at drawing walks and/or not allowing walks.

                  • TOOT

                    How you gonna draw a walk off a marquee pitcher?(Talking post-season)

                    • Kyle

                      I dunno, ask the Braves and Cardinals how they got seven off of Kershaw this year.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      In addition to Kyle’s comment, it works both ways. When batters with great eyes face pitchers with great command, then: 1) the batters take fewers walks than usual and 2) the pitchers give up more walks than usual. The team that bends the most probably winds up losing most often. (Sample sizes for post-season are so small that it’s really tough to pick up particular trends unless they are really, really strong.)

                • TOOT

                  “And, yes, this the second best thing that a team can do, after: 1) hit homers and 2) don’t allow homers. (Net Walks come in just ahead of net doubles & triples in terms of correlation with winning.)”

                  Hmmm. Wouldn’t that make walks the third best thing in your scenario, with hitting and pitching leading the way? Just asking.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    Net walks are half hitting and half pitching. The Cubs had -101 net walks this year: they drew only 439 while allowing 540.

                    This year, 9 of the 10 playoff teams were in the top half in net walks. All of the Top 4 and 6 of the Top 8 net walks teams made postseason. One of the 2 non-postseason teams was the Nats: but they were an “everything went wrong” team. The Twins actually were #5: but they were badly outslugged, which more than made up for that. (They also were very badly out singled, which suggests very bad fielding.)

                    So, this definitely is a commonality among winning teams.

                    • TOOT

                      Again. Not trying to bash your stats or your argument. But a batter walking is “surely” dependent on the opposing pitcher and not the batters tallent. This has been proven time and time again.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      That is simply false: it’s been shown repeatedly that things like walk rates remain remarkably consistent throughout batters’ professional careers. (When we do see change, then it is usually late in careers, when eyes go or batters have to start swinging earlier to adjust for lost bat speed.)

                      At any rate, the old myth that walks are purely down to pitchers has been thoroughly falsified.

                    • TOOT

                      And, lets look at what has happened to Pujols. Went to the AL and has plundered under the strike zone rules.

                    • hansman

                      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/basic-hitting-metric-correlation-1955-2012-2002-2012/

                      If bbs and ks afe on the pitcher, then why do they correlate very well with themselves year over year?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Wow, how long will this myth persist?

          • Noah_I

            Yeah, this one is a crazy one. The Cubs had all of two hitters with more than 300 plate appearances (and actually only two hitters with more than 182 PAs) with walk rates north of 10%: Valbuena and Rizzo. The Red Sox had 5.

        • hansman

          Didnt know that dusty eould have this much time on his hands after he was canned

  • miggy80

    D’oh, Tribune wants me to be a member to read the RR profile.

  • Eric

    Please Rob Deer next, please Rob Deer next, please Rob Deer next……..

  • auggie55

    I’m anxious to see who all the new coaches will be and in what capacity. We’ve heard Duncan and Blanco’s name throw around and both seem like good choices.

    After listening to Renteria’s interviews on WGN Radio and the MLB Network, I’ve really been impressed by him.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    I. Too am excited to see who the next coaches are, but I am more excited to hear the plans to go from being a top minor league program to a top major league program and would to hear the plan?

  • Jon

    Firing Jarmillo in favor or Rowsen was indeed a head scratcher

    • Professor Snarks

      I bet Castro wouldn’t mind Rowson back.

      • Professor Snarks

        Jeez…I meant Jarimillo. Castro wouldn’t mind Jarimillo back.

  • http://bleachernation ferris

    Spann an two good pitching prospects from nationals for shark…..then resign garza to a four yr 60-65m deal.

  • Kevin

    Maybe promote Bill Buckner?

    • Professor Snarks

      Has been mentioned.

    • TheRiot2

      Story has it Buckner wants to stay in his beloved Idaho.Mariano Duncan is the only one in the organization who fits.He already worked with Baez,Bryant and Soler @ Daytona.Why look any further?

      • Professor Snarks

        A question though. In the long run, is it better for the organization to keep Duncan in Daytona?

    • CubsFanSaxMan

      I wouldn’t be opposed to him.

  • ryanissamson

    I know I mentioned this the other day, but I’m having to mentally adjust to the reality that the management aspect of this rebuilding stage is getting another reset. I completely expected to see the player sell-off and to see us suck because we weren’t picking up seasoned A list players, but my understanding (and I think a lot of fans’ understanding) was that we had the coaching staff to bring us into that next era of winningness.

    Does anyone else feel a bit like we’re just putting bodies in those managerial spots while we wait for our talent to develop?

  • Bill

    Don’t remind me of those brutal Larry Himes years.

  • Good Captain

    So far the only departures from the Cub’s coaching staff have been “voluntary” ones w/ the coach pursuing another opportunity. I question whether Deer will find a similar opportunity and suspect he will be formally not invited back instead.

  • TheRiot2

    I never could understand why,that is beyond the Sveum influence,of why he was brought on the team as a hitting coach.Unless the Cubs wanted to lead the league in mediocre hitting coaches.Which they certainly did.

  • CubChymyst

    That fangraphs article, I think has a greater impact on Castro then any of the pitchers on the team currently. Wasn’t part of the idea of getting Castro to swing at more pitches in the zone was to improve the amount of damage he did on pitches. As mentioned it is one study, but it does suggest that Castro swinging at pitches out of the zone that he could hit was not as detrimental as originally though. However, it still be good if he walked more.

    • jt

      the Fangraphs article makes a lot of assumptions.
      Do all pitches at the same spot in the K zone from from all the pitchers studied present the same degree of difficulty to hit?
      Are all spots in the K zone of equal difficulty to hit?
      Do hitters swing more often against some pitchers because of variance of control twixt pitchers?
      Do pitchers who are more able to vary speed with the same motion have an advantage while pitching in the K zone?
      I’m sure there are many more variables he is maintaining as constant whereas in the real world… they are not.
      *
      Central to his argument was the BAbip argument but he really did not make much of a presentation of the facts concerning this stat.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        All of those could be reasons why some pitchers have much higher/lower BABiP (or isoP against) on batted non-strikes. However, what he found is that there simply is not much of a difference and that these basically would be explanations for something that is not happening. Indeed, the simplest explanation is that these things are not much different among different pitchers. (A more complex and dubious explanation is that being good at one part of making batters look bad with non-strikes is cancelled out by an equal gain in how well the batters do on some other aspect of non-strikes.)

        The one thing that I think needs to be investigated is swing and misses on non-strikes: some pitchers might be doing much better there than others. (And, of course, called strikes on non-strikes: could you imagine how Maddux and Glavine would have scored on this 15 years ago?) So, even if your batted non-strikes are just as damaging as they are for any other pitcher, if you get more swinging strikes then you will come out ahead.

        • jt

          Look at the pitchers 4 – 10 on the top of the list and then look at the 10 pitchers on the bottom of the list. There is a quality difference.
          Compare Weaver to Cliff Lee.

        • CubChymyst

          Reading through the fangraph article comments someone mentioned that a study of hitters showed a lower BABIP for pitches outside of the zone vs inside the zone. So there is some disconnect here.

          Pitchers pitch to cold zones for hitters, maybe the bigger take away is if the pitcher leaves a ball where a batter can hit it then BABIP will be about the same for in the zone or out of the zone.

          • jt

            1500 pitch min excluded most RP’ers.
            But, RP’ers should show less variation of performance. On a “not good” day they are limited to a few batters up a single IP. SP’ers have to work through many IP per start on a “not good” day and each IP is likely to have a higher pitch count than on day when they are pitching well.
            The guy mentions that it is a study that needs work. He just didn’t say it loud enough.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    A better breakdown of 4 FA OFs: Granderson, Davis, Young and Murphy.
    http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com/2013/11/fa-of-analysis-david-murphy-curtis.html

    All graphical. Short blurbs. But useful, I think.

    • jt

      I like the presentation and understand and agree with much of the analysis.
      The 2014 Cubs are likely looking for a RHH for an OF platoon.
      Your study concerns itself with hitting against both LH and RH pitchers when in fact their use would primarily be vs LHP
      Murphy bats from the LS.
      Murphy’s career OPS is 0.149 higher against RHP at a very good 0.816 (which means he was not that good vs LHP). He was pretty bad vs all pitching in 2013. He had 365 PA’s vs RHP and earned a 0.685 against them. So, you have to have faith that he will rebound in 2014 against those pitchers who he has traditionally hit but didn’t last year. Even if he does accomplish this rebound he is still in need of a RHH platoon partner. Seems a bit redundant at best.
      *
      Rajai Davis totally sucks vs RHP. But his career OPS vs LHP is 0.779 and that was improved upon in 2013 when he posted a 0.857 against them.
      Davis is not a complete ball player. But in a limited and defined role he could have value.

      • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

        I realized that. If you looked at Franklin Gutierrez, RH, he’s pretty much your RH platoon guy. Did that analysis too…
        http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com/2013/11/free-agent-analysis-cf-franklin.html

        If you got Gutierrez with Lake, Murphy and Schierhotlz plus Sweeney that’s 2 RHs and 3LH. You have plenty of RH minor league talent coming. Plus the guys you got now in Castro, Barney.

        • YourResidentJag

          The problem is Jason, while I also appreciate the analysis, how many platoons are you asking for Theo and Jed to create exactly?

          • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

            I don’t expect them to create any (for me.) The analysis is to say you have guys that fits a profile that would be cheaper than marquee names we hear daily. If you get players cheaply that can enhance your offense, would you not do it?

            They can platoon or not. Makes me no difference if the RUNS come.

        • jt

          The Den mentioned Gutierrez and I’ve been thinking he might be the guy they go after. Vitters is also a wild card but I see it pretty much as you describe.
          Of course, tomorrow we may read of a trade and have to go back to the drawing board.

  • The Dude

    My favorite first words are Don Baylor’s. Only in Chicago would they bring in a manager to discipline their best player for listening to music in the locker room after losses. Maybe they should’ve surrounded Sosa with better players as soon as he started busting around 60 homers a year.

  • Die hard

    Like to see former Cubs as hitting and other coaches to have some connection and respect for the past

  • http://www.draftday.com udbrky

    RE: sportsbetting site

    As someone who has previously been a full time poker player and currently works in the online gambling world, I have a lot of experience with online gambling sites.

    1) Read the fine print on their bonuses – there’s limits to cashing out/what you can play with some of the bonus $. As always, bonii are extra money that you have to clear – it is released at a set % given how much you gamble/rake. Some people think it’s just added to your account immediately.

    2. I played a little blackjack and made 1-2 sports bets on their site 4-5 years ago. I still get mail and voice mails from them a couple times a year. They’re pretty spammy.

  • Sandor Klegane

    Bill Buckner is the logical choice. Maybe he can fix Rizzo.

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