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Thanks for your attention. On with your regularly scheduled Bullets …

  • Noted sabermetrician Clay Davenport has released his first team projections for 2014, and things look mighty rosy for the Cubs: 67-95, the worst record in baseball. Davenport walks folks through his methodology, which appears to the layman to be pretty thorough. Based on player projections, playing time expectations, etc., the 2014 Cubs project to be three games worse than the Houston Astros, four games worse than the Colorado Rockies, and five games worse than the Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies. The Brewers, by the way, show up as ten games better than the Cubs in the NL Central. In short, it’s a grim, grim picture, spat out from a statistical analysis tool with no passion or prejudice. Is it perfect or even, in the strictest sense, reliable? Of course not. But it’s among the best “on paper” reviews of the Cubs’ roster we’ll find, and it says the Cubs look baaaad. Did you really need a deep analysis around baseball to tell you as much? This roster lost 96 games last year (hey, Davenport’s system projects improvement!), and the front office has done very little to upgrade it this offseason (for reasons both explicable and understandable, mind you). And that roster had Garza/Feldman/Soriano for a half-year. Projecting anything better than “awful” in 2014 wouldn’t make much sense, would it?
  • Fortunately, baseball is a funny game, and things surprise us every year. Do I think this Cubs roster, as presently constructed, will be competitive? I really do not. The outfield is rough, the rotation is thin at the back-end, and offense as a whole is terrifying. Moreover, the Cardinals look great, the Pirates and Reds look very good, and the Brewers are still trying. But crazy shit happens, and at least the Cubs have a very young roster (and emerging prospect core) to dream on. When teams come out of nowhere and surprise, that tends to be what they look like. Even Davenport’s system gives the Cubs a 1.8% chance at the playoffs!  (And if that doesn’t float your boat, how about the number one pick in 2015!)
  • The Cardinals, by the way, are projected for 90 wins (behind only the Tigers at 91, and tied with the Rays).
  • Ryan Braun plans to come back from his PED suspension “better than [he's] ever been.” There’s a joke in there somewhere, I reckon.
  • Carrie Muskat has the list of Spring Training jersey numbers, and it’s nice to see that Kerry Wood – who’ll be there as an instructor – gets to keep his 34.
  • Looking at the Dodgers’ bullpen, FanGraphs notes that it will make more this year than the entire Astros roster. The bullpenApropos, Baseball Prospectus offers a lengthy piece on why “smart” organizations are starting to spend on high-leverage relievers (the Rays have spent a great deal in the bullpen this offseason, as have the A’s). A trend: “smart” organizations are starting to see inefficiencies in the way WAR describes relievers, and most of the market is buying/selling players based on WAR or WAR-like analyses. I’ve always been a “you don’t spend money in the bullpen because relievers are too volatile” kind of guy, but in the last three years I’ve appended that position with “except for late-inning, high-leverage relievers.” That position was based on little more than a belief that consistently dominant relievers were probably disproportionately valuable, given that their bullpen-mates were so unpredictable. You can argue that it doesn’t make sense for the Cubs to spend money on just about anybody right now, but I now feel a little justified in having pushed for certain signings over the past few years that went a bit against the grain.
  • CSN has a profile on Pierce Johnson, who made BP’s top 101 prospect list this morning (for those who missed it). Bonus tidbit from the piece? It was Johnson’s fault that Albert Almora broke his hamate bone last year! Get him!
  • Kudos to Sahadev for catching that the Cubs have added a couple more to the front office under the Research and Development department (headed by Chris Moore: Jeremy Greenhouse and Sean Ahmed. I have actually met Sean, and you will not find a more pleasant, affable guy. Hopefully he is as researchy and developmenty as he is cool.
  • The grand opening of the Cubs’ new park in Mesa was this weekend, and it featured, among other things, a 50-foot climbing pyramid, which looks simultaneously awesome and dangerous.
  • CubChymyst

    The Cubs are project to have the worst offense in the league according to those projections. They are the only team projected to score less than 600 runs.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Not hard to understand the rationale. The outfield mix stacks up as God-awful and we have a black hole at 3rd base and 2nd base until Baez, Alcantara, Bryant start washing up on shore.

  • TommyK

    Some things will have to break right for the Cubs to reach that projected win total. I honestly think avoiding 100 losses is a reasonable goal for this season.

  • TSB

    Check out this Clay Davenport’s predictions for the 2013 season. Cardinals and Dodgers third place teams, Phillies win the East, etc. While the Cubs will be a bad team, Mr. Davenport’s track record on predictions is not the end all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think most projection systems would suffer from the same hindsight problems. That’s why we don’t use them to say how a team will or will not perform; instead, to me, they’re a useful gauge on how good a team looks on paper as presently constructed.

  • Blackhawks1963

    2014 Marketing Campaign: “Avoiding 100 Losses”

    “Catch the fever as your 2014 Chicago Cubs try to prove the pundits wrong and work to avoid the worst record in baseball ! The glory, the passion, the crumbling dump of a ballpark, the asshole rooftop owners. Make sure you are on tap in 2014 to capture this historical sesaon in the making !!”

  • terencemann

    ZiPS is up and it’s not pretty either. Carson Cistulli comments that the rotation looks pretty ugly compared to the 20 other teams he’s posted so far (Cistulli just makes the post and the comments, it’s still Szymborski’s system).

    On the plus side, ZiPS sees Alcantara and Baez as ready for the majors now and sees Szczur and Watkins as useful players now. It also sees Castro as improving over last year

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  • Dascenzo

    The ardent defenders of “The Plan” must wake from their denial: the front office is throwing the 2014 season, in-exchange for a high draft pick. They did not prioritize fielding a competitive – much less a winning one. Nobody’s disputing this anymore, right?

    I wasn’t opposed to “The Plan”. I don’t think losing-out on Tanaka is a failure. I believe Theo is a strong baseball man, as is Hoyer. But the purposeful throwing of baseball seasons, is where I draw the line.

    The first-thing the apologists will retort with: (in a snotty, condescending tone) “So who did you want the Cubs to sign?” As if trades are illegal! As if there wasn’t a single-player on the market who could’ve helped this team.

    The apologists next retort: (in a snotty, condescending tone) “So you just want to spend your way out of this?” As if the only options were $100M players!

    The Cubs are going to be – very much pleasing themselves – awful in 2014. There’s no-way they’re going to improve THAT much in the 2015 offseason, in-order to become a .500 team.

    The timeline ever-continuously keeps getting pushed back!

    • DarthHater

      We’re all very grateful that you did not stoop to adopting a snotty, condescending tone.

      • Dascenzo

        I thought every one of your posts was accompanied by some corny-ass, Star Wars-related picture caption.

        We get it! Star Wars was a popular movie… We get it!

        You don’t see me making Indiana Jones puns, every 5 seconds.

        • TWC

          “You don’t see me making Indiana Jones puns, every 5 seconds.”

          Your comments would be more interesting to read if you did.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            No time for puns, Dr. Jones.

          • Dascenzo

            Shouldn’t you be out calling someone a racist?

            That’s kinda your thing.

            • TWC

              I’m 99% certain I’ve never called anyone a racist on this site. Feel free to spend your afternoon attempting to prove me wrong.

            • DarthHater

              Shouldn’t you be compiling a catalog of everything that’s wrong with everyone else who posts here?

              That’s kinda your thing.

            • miggy80

              I’m always late to the party. That’s my thing.

            • hansman

              I eat hamburgers. Not because that’s my thing but because I am terribly addicted and just sold my kidney to buy more.

              I’ll be dead in a weak from a hamburger overdose.

              The more you know.

              • hansman

                Damn it. Week not weak.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Instead of sounding like a douche, why don’t you give suggestions as to who the Cubs should have signed or traded for? All of these people who trash the plan are quick to rip on those who defend the plan, but I have not once seen any alternatives thrown out there. While I don’t like everything the front office has done, if you are going to trash it, provide an alternative instead of just blurting out blanket statements like a blubbering idiot.

      • Jon

        Don’t ask others to do more work than you are willing to do.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        If I were to criticize, I would gladly offer moves that I would have liked to see made, but have I criticized?? Nope, so go troll elsewhere

      • Dascenzo

        I’ll play along.

        Phil Hughes at 8M/per, is a steal.
        Chris Young would have been a fine outfield addition, on a 1-year deal.
        Franklin Gutierrez at 1M, for 1 season.
        Adam Eaton was acquired for mediocrity.
        Doug Fister was acquired for pennies on the dollar.

        I played ball. Now you answer my question: Is it your belief that there weren’t any moves worth making, that could have improved this team? Are you okay with the front office throwing a season?

        • Jon

          Nice list, I would also add “winning” on one of Davish, Puig, Ryu, Cespedes, Tanaka as a must as well.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          No there were moves I would have liked to see. Nate McClouth was one, Hughes was another I liked, I would also like to see them sign Jason Hammel. I really liked the Ruggiano trade and I would have like a guy like Balfour as well.

          Young and Gutierrez are no better than what they have now, but thanks for at least throwing out suggestions

          Trades are tough because you have no idea what discussions have gone on in the past between teams or how other teams value your talent. The White Sox traded a closer and a Major League mid-back end rotation starter for Eaton and Davidson, neither of which are strengths of the Cubs organization.

          Again, good on you for bringing up names, as I just get sick and tired of people who are quick to criticize, but seem devoid of coming up with any sort of alternative.

        • mjhurdle

          I appreciate actually putting a list of moves together.
          I’m not sure how viable any of them are though.
          This is obviously a matter of opinion, but here is how i see your list:
          - Hughes – maybe a steal, if he can rebound to his career highs. Most likely a 4-5. Not sure how much value he offers over what the Cubs already have. I wouldn’t have minded if they got him, but i wouldn’t say that he would have done much to change my opinion of the 2014 Cubs.
          - Young/Guitierez – The Cubs have 4th OFs out the wazoo right now. At their current playing level, neither of them offer much to be excited about. The Guiterez 1 yr deal would have been interesting, but im not sure who would have to have been let go/sent down to make room.
          Eaton – traded for MLB ready young pitching. As much as I would love to have him, im not sure how the Cubs magically make a young MLB pitcher appear so that they can trade for him.
          Fister – very strange trade. The Cubs are not the only ones that wished they had a shot to beat that trade offer. From all reports it was played very close by the Tigers, so if the Cubs weren’t even brought to the table, how are they supposed to beat the offer?
          Again, im not sure any of those moves would be bad, but (aside from trades the Cubs could not match) i don’t think they change the 2014 Cubs much, at all.

          • hansman

            But then the Cubs would have done something.

  • Kyle

    The Mooney report from earlier in the offseason appears spot-on: While they may change their mind if things look better as the season progresses, as of now they are targetting 2016 and not 2015 as their breakthrough year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Why do you say that? By which I mean, what is it that’s making you think that/say that now? Certainly Tanaka wouldn’t have been about 2016 (as opposed to 2015).

      • aaronb

        My guess would be because the of the evidence that ownership is the worst kind of cheap penny pinching misers.

        Even if Baez and Bryant are everything they are hyped to be. I’m convinced Ownership will keep them in the minors into June 2015 regardless of the MLB product in effort to avoid future contract obligation.

        We can also deduct that since they completely kicked the roster can down the road YET again this offseason. Faith cannot be very high that they decide to open the purse strings to splurge on filling the 10 major roster holes we are likely to have.

        2016 is most likely the earliest we see .500. And that is if almost everything breaks right (or we get new ownership).

  • Blackhawks1963

    Its revealing how many “experts” are really down on the Cub pitching situation. I guess I was a little more bullish on most about a rotation that includes Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, maybe Arrieta, maybe Grimm. I guess it all works or crumbles based on Arrieta and Grimm at some level.

    Arrieta: I like what I have seen from Arrieta, but maybe he is simply the enigmatic and frustrating mess he was in Baltimore? Maybe we are wishing too hard on this guy?

    Wood: Regression is probably likely based on his raw stuff and such.

    Samardzija: Who knows what to really expect. Does he pitch like a TOR or does he pitch like Jackson in 2014?

    Jackson: Can he “revert” back to his normative pitching line from 2007 thru 2012? Not bad for a 4th starter type.

    Grimm: Is he nothingness? I don’t know.

  • Steve

    Well, damn.
    I told someone the other day my Cubs excitement is anticipating the draft…in 2014 and 2015.
    I’ll still watch, I’ll still get mad, happy and nervous in close late games.

    I’ll follow this club till my grave, just someone, please tell me I’ll see them win it all before I pass-

    Im 45 BTW….

    • DarthHater

      Well, with advances in medical technology, you MIGHT have a chance at living to 150…

      • hansman

        And by then, we might be able to download our conscience into a computer and live until someone trips over the power cord during a save.

        • DarthHater

          I just hope my android replicant gets to see the Cubs win it all some day…

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Man I’m 62 and really having doubts.

  • Orval Overall

    Much sadness.

  • hutch95

    To win a bid on a SP like Tanaka, you must really try to win the bid! At least make a real attempt: instead of offering the same money as everyone else, you have to make a real offer like NYY did and make a statement or you wonder what it could have been. It just showed that the cubs front office were going through the motions for the fans and not serious about the process.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Yeah that’s obviously what happened… It was all a show.

    • Jason P

      So then everybody except for the Yankees made a “fake” offer, right? Or could it actually just be a case of a desperate team paying desperate money?

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        Nope it’s all fake to trick us that Ricketts cares… DUH

      • brainiac

        i agree that the cubs made a pretty good offer. but they still came up short when it counted. that’s the story of a loser. never quite getting it, never putting in the extra mile, and never doing what it takes when it’s needed. that’s the cubs these days.

        • Jason P

          In this case, going the extra mile would have meant significantly outbidding the Yankees — probably somewhere in the 8/200 range with the 4th year opt-out clause and full no trade clause. If Tanaka busted, and the Cubs suddenly lost $25 million of their payroll for the foreseeable future — they suddenly become a mid-market team in terms of available payroll.

          • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

            That 4 year out clause and a NTC is why they walked away. Its a major overpay for a unproven player.

            • blublud

              MG, you were the one who said this guy could get 30 plus million. So, since the Yankees got him for a “bargain price” compared to what you were willing to pay, isnt the NTC and opt out clause worth the “discount.”

              I agree it was an overpay. Personally anything more than 6yrs/120m, including the posting fee without a NTC and with an opt out was an over pay. I willing to be that Tanaka never lives up to this deal.

              • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                Oh reading for comprehension is important… I never said we should pay 30M only that ithe bidding could go crazy into the 30M range… And that was an intended hyperbole.

                Now as for the overpay: it’s the 4 year out/NTC that was the ultimate overpay. If the Cubs matched that the Yankeed would rebid and Theo didn’t want to go beyond what made sense. Now if the dodgers were involved Jeebes himself couldn’t stop the bleeding. I still believe the Yankees are about to face a horrible run of mediocrity and they can’t buy themselves into championship mode for many years to come.

                • blublud

                  MG, you are correct. Reading for comprehension is important. Now reread my post. I never said you said we should pay him that much. I said you said he would get that much.

                  I guess the “compared to what you were willing to pay” could confused you, but thats general speak as if you were the GM of any team, not that you thought the Cubs should pay it.

                  I don’t want the Cubs paying any player in baseball not named Kershaw or Trout that kind of money. Its not worth it.

          • Brocktoon

            They already are worse than a mid-market team when it comes to payroll. 26th in the bigs.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Actually, the Yankees offer was fake, too: they just wanted to tell their fans that they tried after the Dodgers signed Tanaka, and wound up getting stuck with Tanaka after the Dodgers had a spreadsheet error caused their (sole truly real) bid to be in $19M over 6 years instead of $190M.

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