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In a recent FanGraphs piece about the Rangers losing Derek Holland for a considerable portion of the 2014 season, Jeff Sullivan wrote about marginal wins for teams like the Rangers – ones that are rather good, and project to be playoff contenders. His piece, as it relates to Holland and the Rangers is an interesting read, but I’d like to focus on two graphs he included, and discuss how they relate to the Cubs, both in the near and long-term.

In the first graph, Sullivan plots the odds that a given team will reach 90 wins (a reasonable playoff chance), given its “true talent level” – in other words, just because a team is truly an 85-win team, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually win 85 games. Sometimes teams get lucky, or unlucky. Here’s the graph (via FanGraphs):

Reading the graph, if you’ve constructed a roster with a true talent level of 90 wins, there’s actually a nearly 50% chance your team will fail to actually win 90+ games. There’s a small chance that you’ll win exactly 90 games, and then a nearly 50% chance your team will win more than 90 games. Makes sense, eh?

As it relates to the 2014 Chicago Cubs, whose “true talent level” is going to hew much more closely to the bottom end of that scale, we can see that there’s still a chance that the Cubs could win 90 games! Of course, that chance is something close to 5%, and if you believe the Cubs are only a 79/80-win team on paper heading into the season.

For the Cubs to have put themselves, in 2014, in a reasonable position for playoff contention, how high would they have had to climb? Is a 30% playoff chance worth what it would have taken to add 10 wins to the roster? That’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know what I think, given the complex relationship of near-term additions, long-term goals, and the financial restrictions the Cubs face. Assuming they would have actually signed with the Cubs, you’re looking at adding something like Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Jhonny Peralta (to play 3B) (four years, $53 million), and Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49 million) to get those 10 wins in 2014 … but you might be looking at some ugliness in the years thereafter, and a lot of tied up salary. And that’s just to get the Cubs a 30% chance of being a 90-win team in 2014, and that’s assuming you believe the current talent level is at least in the 76 win range (which is not a sure thing – with a similar roster (better in the first half), the Cubs win just 66 last year).

On the whole, that’s an incredibly steep hill to climb, and I’m once again reminded why discretion this offseason was the better part of valor.

The second graph Sullivan shares mostly underscores this point, while providing a different perspective (via FanGraphs):

The most valuable marginal wins take place when your team’s true talent level is already approaching 90 wins. If you’ve got a crappy team or a fantastic team, adding a win to true talent level barely increases the chances your team reaches 90 wins because you’re so far away or because you’re already a near lock to achieve 90 wins. This graph strongly supports the idea that, when your team finds itself below 80 wins of true talent level, spending significant money to add a few wins is not going to dramatically improve your odds of reaching playoff contention.

Sometimes, teams get lucky. I certainly hope the 2014 Cubs see positive regression from some key players, breakouts from others, and rapid prospect ascent. In that unlikely confluence of positives, maybe the Cubs fall into that 3/4/5% chance of reaching 90 wins. But do I think they should have spent considerable short-term resources to increase that chance to 20/30/40%? When it could, in the long run, diminish the odds in 2015/16/17, when the internally-developed true talent level is going to be much higher (and, thus, spending money on additional wins is much, much more valuable – as the graphs indicate)? I can’t say they should have.

  • Baseball_Writes

    Brett – When did you suddenly become so passive?

    “But do I think they should have spent considerable short-term resources to increase that chance to 20/30/40%? When it could, in the long run, diminish the odds in 2015/16/17, when the internally-developed true talent level is going to be much higher (and, thus, spending money on additional wins is much, much more valuable – as the graphs indicate)? I can’t say they should have.”

    Repace, “I can’t say they should have” with, “that would be quite silly”. Much better.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I want to hear if there’s a credible argument on the other side. I stated my position, but I remain open to the conversation. Some folks would argue that you always reach for that 20/30/40% chance, and would argue (unconvincingly, in my opinion) there are ways to prevent it from harming any long-term plans (I disagree).

      • Orval Overall

        For one thing, there’s this: How are you going to persuade [insert favorite of: Scherzer, Bailey, Shields] to sign with us following our 4th consecutive season of 90+ losses, when he will have offers from half the teams in the league? Perhaps the outcome is not 90 wins and playoffs right now; but if it meant a 10 win improvement, that would give the team a credible argument to make to free agents that it’s a team on the rise. The resulting ability to sign impact FAs and/or the savings from not having to offer a Jayson Werth-type contract, is a by-product of being better than a last place team.

        There’s also the matter of asking Anthony Rizzo to again shoulder the load in the lineup with no real protection, and what that does to his development offensively.

        And third, there’s the reality that when money is invested in the right players, they don’t have to be there for just one season, you’re adding them across multiple seasons. If the pitching market is depressed this season, as it appears to be for Jiminez and Santana, forget 2014 and ask yourself the question: how does their expected cost/value in 2015 – 17 compare to the cost of the SPs I named above, who are not sure things to even reach the market, and will command Greinke money or better when they’re there?

        • Voice of Reason

          Orval Overall:

          Under your argument you don’t think that Robinson Cano would have signed with the Cubs if we would have offered him what he wanted? He wanted $300 million over 10 years.

          You don’t think think Garza or Choo would have signed with us if we wouldn’t have given them exactly what they wanted?

          It’s a silly point to raise that free agents won’t come to Chicago! They will come… just show them the money! And, when we’re ready to compete, not only will we be able to show them the money, but we’ll also be able to show them a group of young talent that is ready to explode at the big league level. Those two points will be why the free agents will certainly come!

          • Orval Overall

            Don’t misunderstand. It’s always possible to just outbid the field in aav and total years and get a player that way. That’s why I included the Werth example – the Nats were as bad as we now are, and needed to make Werth the third highest paid OF in history (at the time) to get him to sign, even though he wasn’t a truly elite player.

            You can get the guy. But the extra $30 million or so it takes to turn the decision into a purely financial one (extra year, extra mill or two per year, etc.) is a direct measure of the cost of sucking. And that cost can easily swamp whatever savings we’re generating by leaving holes on the roster that have no apparent solution other than “well, if Vitters’ bat can justify a spot in LF …”; “well, if Arrieta at age 28 finally learns how to locate his pitches …” etc

            • Voice of Reason

              Orval Overall typed:

              “But the extra $30 million or so it takes to turn the decision into a purely financial one (extra year, extra mill or two per year, etc.) is a direct measure of the cost of sucking.”

              The Rangers added Choo this off season, Tanaka cost the Yanks a pretty penny, but those contracts weren’t the direct result of sucking, ditto Ellsbury? Those teams have done well in recent past.

              You’re going to pay and/or overpay for free agents anyhow. It doesn’t matter if you suck or have a history of sustained success.

              • terencemann

                It’s always purely a financial decision. That’s why the Mariners, Blue Jays, Nationals and Marlins had no trouble signing elite free agents or extending good players already on their team after poor years in the previous season.

          • Brocktoon

            But why show them the money when it only increases our playoff chances by 2%? And who knows how bad that contract can look down the road?

      • Hee Seop Chode

        The players you’ve proposed adding for 10 additional wins would have cost about $50MM this season, increasing payroll to something like $130MM. If that truely gets you a 20-40% chance of making the playoffs, it’s a bet the FO should make. It would (by definition) add 2-3 playoff appearances per decade, and may pay for itself in increased revenue.

        With payroll coming off of the books in 2015, you could easily spend another $50MM without raising payroll, and have an even higher chance to make the playoffs. 2016 should feature a wave of prospects, adding cost controlled wins. That’s 3 years in a row with a 20-40% chance of making the playoffs.

        That starts to sound like Sustained Success.

        • terencemann

          That means you’re maxing out the payroll to give the team a 30% chance of making the playoffs vs. teams that have not yet spent to their limit and have a much higher chance to make the playoffs. That doesn’t make any sense at all. You’d be using up all of the Cubs’ free agent money for the next four seasons on a team without very good odds of making the playoffs.

          • Jon

            if 130 MM is the max this organization will spend over the next four years, that is among many things, sad/depressing/etc….

          • Hee Seop Chode

            Devil’s advocate: isn’t 30% pretty good? Like going to the playoffs almost every 3 years?

            And as of today, the Cubs only have $40MM committed to payroll in 2015 (http://www.spotrac.com/mlb/chicago-cubs/team-payroll/2015/). Add in 2014’s proposed free agents ($50MM) and arbitrations (call it $15MM), and you’re still only at 105. That means you could add $25MM on FAs again.

            The team should then improve a 3rd year in a row by adding any or all of the big 4 (5) in 2016.

            So no, you wouldn’t be “be using up all of the Cubs’ free agent money for the next four seasons on a team without very good odds of making the playoffs.”

        • mjhurdle

          those players add 10 wins for 2014. But what about 2015? and 2016? do they still provide 10 wins in those years? I would argue that Peralta and Granderson are likely to decline.
          I was not a big fan of signing either of those two, but not because of the money now, but rather that I don’t see them being productive players in 3 years. If I thought that Granderson would still be a productive player in 2016, i would be all for signing him, because I agree that you need to add players when you can. But I don’t think you add guys on 3-4 year contracts that will help for 1-2 years. Just my opinion on it though. Granderson will probably prove me wrong and be a healthy 3+ WAR player for 10 more years now that I said that.

        • YourResidentJag

          So what about the teams that can’t afford a $130 mil payroll? What should they do? This is the part of MLB where I start to get disgusted. Yeah, sure just up the payroll and everything will turn up roses. It’s not that FAs won’t come here as @OverOverall incorrectly assumes. It’s that their ages, injury histories, and durability come into question when speaking of the cost of most of these FAs starting at around age 29.

          • terencemann

            Actually, only 7 teams spent over 130 MM last season and 4 of those teams missed the playoffs with 3 of those 4 finishing under .500. On the flip side, 3 teams who were in the bottom 5 for 2013 opening day payroll made the playoffs.

            • YourResidentJag

              But that’s just scraping the surface then. How many teams then over the past decade started with lesser payrolls made the playoffs on a consistent basis and went deep into the playoffs possibly finishing up with a World Series appearance?

              • Cheese Chad

                There is a Stark article on ESPN and on this blog that goes into that detail. It’s an interesting read.

            • brainiac

              i agree about this problem, but it’s a legal one between players and owners.

              the default outcome of setting internal artificial limits on salary is that the owners just make more money while the players, employees, and ballpark workers make less money. so if the revenues are there, it should be distributed in ways that improve the team as much as possible.

              • Diehardthefirst

                What are u smoking? Can we all try some?

                • brainiac

                  when diehard intimates that i’m smoking crack then i KNOW that i’m making a sound argument.

                • mjhurdle

                  best Diehard post….ever

      • Kyle

        This folk would not only argue those things, but that there’s benefits to reaching for the 30% and coming up a little short that can’t be ignored. Things like selling tickets, having credibility with free agents, and having players in place for the next season and the one after that.

  • brickhouse

    It is very hard to make huge progress in 1 off season. The argument has always been signing player X or signing player Y won’t make enough difference to win this year. This argument has been made for the 2012, 2013 and now the 2014 team. If they had been making as much progress at the major league level as they did at the minor league level then you would have a competitive team this year with your farm system ranking lower.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The problem with that – and, don’t get me wrong, I’m a “sign them when they’re available” guy – is if the Cubs had grabbed a solid 31-year-old FA back before 2012, that guy would be 33 in 2014, and then 34 when the Cubs might be competitive.

      You can’t punt every year, to be sure, but timing your big financial commitments is an important thing.

      • When The Musics Over

        There are endless examples of 33+ year old players, aka players “past their prime”, contributing in major ways to playoff teams. People need to stop pretending that this isn’t the case. Not every single guys needs to be in the square of his prime, or before it, to contribute in big ways to a team’s success.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Easy now. I pretended no such thing, and I’ll thank you not to use my comments as straw men for you to pummel.

          The point is that the typical 34-year-old player is less likely to be healthy and productive than the typical 31-year-old player. And since we have no crystal ball, roster construction is about playing the odds.

          • When The Musics Over

            I shouldn’t have directed it straight at you, I’m just sick and tired of the repetitive argument that signing every player at age 30 is a death trap contract. It’s not. Does slippage occur for the majority of players, yes statistics proves that to be true. But do lots of the high end players continue to provide huge amounts of value, yes, even it it’s not quite equal to what they’re being paid at that point. The Cubs don’t have to win every single contract they offer.

            As for roster construction, the Cubs are constructing their roster in such a way that they should be in considerably better position than almost every team in baseball to handle a few major “inefficient” contracts. Also, on top of that, since the Cubs plan on so very heavily relying on young players that will be essentially free through 2018 or so, they should be no issues signing a few major free agents to 5-6 year deals right now, as they’ll be expired/expiring right when they need to. I’m not saying they definitely should sign those contracts. I’m just sick of hearing the team will be crippled by them down the line. It’s just not true.

            • YourResidentJag

              Do you know what the further effects are in terms PEDs and career longevity? Apparently, Hoyer does and spoke on the topic at the Cubs convention. Forget about the article written by Wittenmeyer that accompanies the video. Maybe that’s why the FO is stressing youth.

              http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/25120109-573/cubs-failure-to-sign-tanaka-another-blow-to-theos-rebuilding-project.html

              • When The Musics Over

                I 100% agree in youth being important. I don’t agree that virtually every major free agent contract is a crippling death trap, especially if the roster has been constructed correctly.

                • YourResidentJag

                  I’m not so sure anymore. Regardless of the blind bid process, I’ve seen what I would consider to be a reasonably solid Darvish contract turn into an outrageous Tanaka deal with some obscene perks that few teams could match. That is to say, you’re right if the contract is about AAV but to these older players it’s much more about job security and that means length of contract plus AAV. That’s what Shark is waiting this contract extension thing out and biding his time.

            • DarthHater

              The fact that age 30+ players sometimes play well does not make them a good risk, when compared to younger players. If you went to a casino, would you be smarter (or, rather, less dumb) playing blackjack, where the house edge is about 0.28%, or playing the slots, where the house edge is 2% to 15%? You can sometimes win betting on a high-priced 30+ player, just as you can sometimes win at the slots, but that doesn’t make it a good gamble.

              • Jon

                Why can’t we count cards?

                • DarthHater

                  You can count on the Cards – to kick your butt every year. :-P

              • When The Musics Over

                Agreed. It still doesn’t mean its a risk you shouldn’t take. There are so many people where the uniform reaction to every single free agent player the Cubs don’t sign or miss signing is “good, he’ll suck in 3 years anyhow and drag the team down like all the players Hendry signed.”

                • brainiac

                  this does seem to be a trend. people who post here are very, very neurotic, and very, very protective of ownership’s riches. it’s a very, very unusual phenomenon to root more for administrative austerity measure savings than picking a few players to love and following their career. we don’t have anything like that anymore. cubs fans literally don’t love the cubs anymore. they love their bosses.

                  • Jon

                    #PoorTomRicketts

                    • brainiac

                      it’s like people have to wait for approval from middle management before they’re willing to like a player anymore.

                      remember doug dascenzo? people LOVED that guy, and besides a long errorless streak he totally sucked. but we went to the park, rooted for him to get in the game in the 9th, and cheered like hell for him. people these days wont even cheer for our stars unless a billionaire says they have permission.

                    • Jon

                      I actually miss Harry Carray pronouncing the name “Doug Dasenzo”

                  • When The Musics Over

                    Yeah, its nuts. So take it another step further and if you’re never supposed to sign a free agent player, that might have a good chunk of the contract in his early mid 30’s, I guess there’s little reason to ever extend any of your awesome players that end their arb years in their late 20’s.

                    Under this rule, send Shark away. Javier Baez, Kris Braynt, etc, if they turn out awesome, don’t agree to extensions post arb years, and want long extension, you either have to trade them 1-2 years prior to the end of their control years or trade them.

                    What team strategy does this emulate: Tampa Bay.

                    • brainiac

                      the cubs are no tampa, in multiple ways both negative and positive.

                      further, the difference is that cubs fans have really come to have rancor for their own team. tampa fans know that they’ll lose their guys in a few years because of class stratification in baseball. but the fans they do have (and they have attendance problems) don’t see their players as flippable assets, but guys on their way up.

                    • When The Musics Over

                      Mercy, that post was a mess. Switching back and forth between a work file and posting was a bad idea.

                      What I meant to say was that if your star player refuses to sign a short team friendly extension (buying out 2-3 years of free agency type of thing), and instead wants to go to a long term extension, I guess you have to operate like the Rays. I didn’t know it had come to that for the Cubs.

                  • Diehardthefirst

                    You are in very very very good company

                  • waittilthisyear

                    one can still love the cubs but be wary of unreasonable spending. they just have a big picture view. the chance of being successful by just signing guys this year is not good enough to justify the handcuffs the contracts would be in a more likely competitive window. you got to see the forest for the trees. i have no concerns about rickett’s or his pockets, i just want to be free to acquire someone when the time is right

              • Kyle

                Big fat false choice fallacy. We don’t have to choose between betting on young players or veterans. We can bet on both, fronting in a parallel manner.

          • Brocktoon

            Playing the odds does not = sign nobody because they might get worse in a couple years. We’re standing at the roulette table watching other teams spend their chips, talking about how we really like betting on black and even numbers, and then deciding eh we’d rather go play penny slots.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That’s not what I said.

            • Diehardthefirst

              Blackjack has better odds if you don’t draw on anything over 13 unless dealer has ace

              • BobTheAutomator

                are you saying you stay on 13 or 14 and up?

      • nate1m

        To play devil’s advocate (because I’m happy with the way things look for the future and wouldn’t have been happy with any of the contracts major FA’s got this year being on the Cubs) I went and looked at how the team could have looked going into this off season. If they had spent on say Prince Fielder and CJ Wilson they would have been inclined to spend on guys like Zach Grienke and Micheal Bourne in 2012 and Cano, Garza and Choo this year. They would not have the prospects (probably) but the team at Wrigley would be a lot better. (of course that would cost about 110mil of 7 players)

        You gotta spend sometime…right?

      • hansman

        The problem with signing 31-year olds is that it seems to be a bit of a crap-shoot as to who is actually going to provide value commensurate of their contract.

        Free agents are a terrible way to add wins to your team doubly so when your farm system is lacking impact talent as the Cubs were in the 2012 and 2013 offseasons.

        • Edwin

          Free Agents are an inefficient way to add wins, but I wouldn’t call them terrible.

          • bbmoney

            I agree with this in general. But I’d add that it entirely depends on the situation.

            Brett’s whole post, and this whole idea in general, means there are times when while inefficent adding wins via free agency is very un-terrible and very awesome. The Cubs just aren’t on that part of the curve……yet.

            • Brocktoon

              And unless our prospects hit at a higher rate than any reasonable person could expect, we’re never going to hit that part of the curve.

          • hansman

            Terrible was probably hyperbolistic but in terms of $/WAR, teams pay dearly (much more than the $5.5M that’s bandied about) to get those wins through free agency.

            With that said, I really wanted Choo and Abreu this offseason along with Tanaka. That would have put us at $115M payroll and in a great position to contend this offseason.

            But, there must have been some restrictions on payroll that meant the Cubs could have only gotten Tanaka or someone similarly priced and they must not have loved Abreu as much as I do.

            • Kyle

              Wins/$ efficiency < wins/season efficiency

          • Jon

            3 years ago, this very same FO let a 31 year old Adrian Beltre “walk”, which turned out to be a epically bad decision.

            • terencemann

              They “let” him walk because they had Youkillis at third and were working on acquiring Adrian Gonzalez to play first…

              • Jon

                And Youkillis is gone a year in a half later, and Middlebrooks chokes in the majors. Meanwhile, Beltre is still churning out 5+ Win seasons. Still a bad decision.

                • hansman

                  They also did a helluva job signing him the year before and turning him into a 5 WAR player.

                  • terencemann

                    I think “pitching counts” is the lesson Epstein probably took away from Boston. They had some years where they were one of the best offensive teams in baseball but couldn’t keep the other team from scoring well enough.

                  • Jon

                    Well, “developing” a player and then letting him walk to a league rival for nothing really isn’t that “good” of job now, is it?

                    • ari gold

                      Well the Red Sox just won the world series, so yeah it is

                    • Jason P

                      Yes. You got 5 WAR from a player you weren’t supposed to get 5 WAR from.

                      Signing Adrian Beltre and having his 5 WAR for 1 season>Not signing Adrian Beltre and having his 5 WAR for 0 seasons.

                    • hansman

                      Damn me for defending Epstein letting him walk. Wait…

                      Can’t find anything positive, can you?

        • When The Musics Over

          Since we’ve seen the aggregate aging charts, I would be interested to see some sort of drill down on player aging output by player talent. For example, do the players with barely marginal talent age worse than the very high end players, etc?

          It’s easy to know that the highest WAR (if you want to use that metric) players have the furthest to drop as they age both on a raw WAR standpoint and as a % decrease, however, does a high end player who averages 4-5 WAR from ages 25-30 typically maintain a 3-4 WAR from ages 31-34, a 2-3 WAR from ages 35-37 and then who cares after that? Or does that same player average 2-4 WAR from ages 31-34, 1-3 WAR from ages 35-37 and then who cares after that.

          Same question can be asked for players that generate 2-3 WAR from ages 25-30. How does their output change as they age?

          There are alot of different ways to look at this data. Would be pretty cool to see it (disclaimer, this data may already be out there, and I may be a dumbass).

  • On The Farm

    Well, this was actually a very enjoyable piece. You could look at it as being a depressing piece, or have use it as a positive and remind yourself splurging would have done little for this club and once the first wave of prospect talent arrives, that would be the proper time to invest in assets to start making your team a true talent level of 90 wins.

    I realize things often sort themselves out when a team has a position crunch, but I think sitting back and figuring out where they are going to play Baez and Bryant will be big pieces for them to try and find out what holes need to be filled with a FA.

    • Edwin

      What win level do you think the Cubs should get to in order to justify spending big in FA? 80?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s plenty for me, particularly if they’ve then got the funds to add multiple impact pieces at the same time.

        • Edwin

          I guess the follow up question then is how far away are the Cubs from being a true talent 80 win team?

          • On The Farm

            Honestly, a lot depends on the value Baez and Bryant can provide (and if they both can stay in the infield) and what do Rizzo and Castro bring to the table to compliment them.

            • Edwin

              True (to both you and Brett). And I fully understand (and agree) that it’s almost impossible to predict. But to me, that’s part of the problem of putting off adding FA, is that a team becomes more dependant on prospects, which are one of the riskiest talent pools in baseball. You wind up in a situation where fielding an 80 win team depends on hitting on 2 or more prospects, and having 1-2 other things all break your way.

              • On The Farm

                True, they are a risky business, but they are a necessary evil. I know you are no dummy, but the reason the Cubs are so willing to sit back and wait and have the two prospects “hit” is because most franchises have a couple top 100. The Cubs on the other hand have the 2nd or 3rd most top 100 prospects among all teams. By having a larger pool to draw from it will decrease the prospect riskiness you mentioned.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I can see so much variance in possible answers depending on what happens in 2014. A step forward from each of Castro and Rizzo, no terrible regression from Wood, and a repeat from Castillo could be enough (presuming the rest of the roster is reasonably solid). Throw in youngsters emerging in 2015, and it is easy to see an 80-win projection on paper before next offseason begins.

          • Brocktoon

            2015-2016 offseason, which is just so sad. Here’s hoping there are actual FAs that fit our needs then, otherwise punt punt punt.

        • Kyle

          “That’s plenty for me, particularly if they’ve then got the funds to add multiple impact pieces at the same time.”

          They have the funds for that now, if we assume they had the money for Tanaka’s first-year salary and 2/3rds of the posting fee.

          I’m less concerned about the money to add multiple pieces and more concerned with their desire to do so. I think they are *really* serious about not going big on 30+ guys in free agency, and that’s going to mean not signing anyone some years.

      • On The Farm

        80 would be ideal, but even if you are a touch below it, I would say go for it. If you are .500 team without the help of any FAs, that’s when you start pushing like crazy in your “window”.

        If we are talking 75, there probably needs to be a little more gamesmanship to who the club is adding.

      • Voice of Reason

        Edwin:

        I don’t think you need a win level. I think it’s more on overall evaluation of the young talent and the belief that it is ready to go to the next level with some free agents or trades to add veteran punch to the line up!

        • Drew7

          “I think it’s more [a]n overall evaluation of…”

          Which, in turn, would give you a projected win-level.

          • Voice of Reason

            Win-level doesn’t necessarily play a factor.

            Three of our kids could blossom towards the end of an 80loss season…. say in 2 years…. and we might want to pull the trigger on free agents or some trades to take that next step.

            Again, win total would be irrelevant.

            • Drew7

              We’re talking about a win-*projection*, not the previous year’s win total.

  • GoCubsGo

    Interesting article. I think the Cubs can get into the marginal win category fairly quickly if baez and Bryant are who we need them to be and Castro and Rizzo take a step.

    I can see a 2015 light which is fun. I can see theo and jed being run out of town as well, but that’s not what I’d prefer.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    How are they determining how many wins a team is bases on true talent level? Wouldn’t a lot of the variance really be based just on faulty projections and player grading?

    • Edwin

      Depends what you mean by faulty projections.

  • itzscott

    “Positive regression”…. either that’s an oxymoron or a fancy way of just saying “improvement”?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Regression, in statistics, is not inherently negative. Depending on what preceded it, we can project positive or negative regression.

    • Orval Overall

      That’s a very common reaction, but I think mostly because people hear “regression” (return to a prior level) and think of “degression” (descent to a lower level).

      “Positive degression” would be the oxymoron you’re thinking of.

      But I dislike the word too. When did it stop being fashionable to just say: “Bounce-back”?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I don’t like bounce-back in this context, because it connotes “all the way back, and only all the way back”, whereas positive regression merely means something like “moving back in the right direction” (and/or beyond that).

      • DocPeterWimsey

        The other thing is that probabilistic processes (e.g., everything in baseball) owes no debts. If you fall above expectations one year, then it is 50:50 that you will call above expectations the next year. Of course, if you fall far above expectations one year, then it is pretty probable that you will fall closer to expectation the next year even if you exceed. (Last years O’s did that as a team: they won many more games than they should have in 2012, but only 1-2 more than they should have in 2013.)

        But Brett’s main point is important: regression deals in absolute values, not positives or negatives. It you fall far below expectations in 2013, then if you do every thing exactly the same in 2014, then you probably will come much closer to expected outcome in 2014.

        • hansman

          “The other thing is that probabilistic processes (e.g., everything in baseball) owes no debts.”

          I wonder if, when it was setting it’s charter, they put that clause in there just for the Cubs.

          Otherwise, they’d be out of business by their interest payments alone.

  • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

    This will be as pointless as any comment I’ve made, but what do the cubs look like in 2015 if Bryant, Baez, Castro, Rizzo, and Olt all play exceedingly well (relative to their projections) in 2014. Of course it is unlikely, but if we really have 5 starters playing well how good are we?

    • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

      My point is, given best(or just a good) case scenario how good is a team with those 5 producing? Our bullpen is shoring up, and there’s a lot of young back end pitchers emerging, but how much more does that team need?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Awesome. Legitimately.

      (Which should underscore how unlikely that scenario is.)

  • El Paso Cubs Fan

    This article was good and worth the read. However, the problem I see is that when Theo & Co. arrived we were told it would take a couple of bad years before being competative. THEY SAID to look at 2014. Now we’re being told MAYBE in 2015 the Cubs will be competative. I am 50 yrs old have been a Cubs fan my entire life, so I doubt anything could make me change. I am just getting tired of being told we can’t spend now because it won’t add any “value” and we can’t win now because we don’t have the needed pieces. At the rate the organizaion is going (and based on the repeated things they tell the fans), we’ll be lucky if we are FINALLY picking outside the top 10 in the draft, by 2020. Remind me, what was that about “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…………”?

    • Jon

      “we were told it would take a couple of bad years before being competative”

      Actually….we were never told that….

    • brainiac

      i agree, i find this argument, when made by the FO, to be another PR initiative deferment. they can literally make it forever, and probably will until owners tell them its safe to get out from behind their rocks.

      i also agree that you don’t want a team littered with 37 year olds, which is roughly when even the most durable athletes break down, at least with productivity levels. somehow i don’t think a couple 6-7 year contracts with top players who are currently 30 will hurt the mlb team.

      Brett: a post needs to be written that details all of the claims made both explicitly and implicitly with “the plan”, followed by a reader de-coding of what it all means. i have my ideas, as many of you know. and i’ll point out that regardless of what rhetorical flourish i use, i’m nearly at 100% right prediction rate for what the FO will or wont do. it’s actually pretty easy, cause they always do the same thing, followed by the same spin.

  • Jon

    I’m waiting for the study on incremental improvements to a MLB roster and the effects on long term sustained success.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Improvement may be late 2014 now that Renteria is here … If Castro buys into his message, Barney learns to switch hit Rizzo hits his weight plus 30 HR and Bonaficio is signed and steals 40 the Cubs could be fun to watch

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      “Barney learns to switch hit” ????????????

      • Diehardthefirst

        New hitting coach learned to switch hit

  • Vic

    This is an excellent article. I find it encouraging based on the approach the FO is taking. It underscores that baseball is a probability business. Sustainable success depends on a robust farm system capable of producing a team that can approach 90 wins repeatedly. Then supplement with free agents. Unfortunately its a long process and does not guarantee a ring (just ask the Braves) but it does increase the probability of winning a World Series over time. Stay the course.

    • Jon

      That article didn’t really provide any correlation between the FO’s approach(“several seasons of tanking”) and probability of long term success. All it did was indicate how well you are likely to perform, when you are “there”.

    • Napercal

      Interesting you mention the Braves. They did sprinkle a few veterans into their team when they made their move in the early 90s. I am unaware of any team relying solely on the farm system to build a championship caliber team. It would be nice if Rizzo and Castro, and soon Baez and Bryant, didn’t bear the entire weight of the organization’s future on their shoulders. To the extent that any of them flame out, concern/criticism about the path chosen by Theo/Jed will increase. The players in the queue will certainly feel the pressure to perform in these circumstances. I really don’t see Schierholz and Valbuena as being the kind of guys to provide protection against this pattern. Someone like Granderson would have been a nice addition simply for this reason. The Cubs could easily carry his salary for the next four years without it causing a financial problem. The issue isn’t necessarily how many additional wins the Cubs have this season. It’s about building a team that can win consistently as the young guys move up. I know many think that’s b.s., but young players do need to learn how to prepare, how to deal with the media,etc. and most importantly how to win. The pressure on these young guys is going to be tremendous. It would be nice to have a veteran presence to help them deal with it.

  • The Dude

    Great article, Brett! It definitely reinforces the slow and steady approach the Cubs have taken. Hopefully, they’ll take the correct risks when the time is right because the pressure is definitely mounting.

  • ChrisCampo17

    So, what was the projection for the TB Rays entering the 2008 season? They obviously had some talent percolating up to the big club but were they expected to be any good? Looking at their roster in hindsight, they were stacked! Did anyone see them coming or did they just shock the world?

    • terencemann

      BaseballProspectus.com predicted them to be the best team in baseball in 2008 following being the worst team in baseball in 2007. The statistical projections for the ’08 Rays were quite good. The pundits never saw it coming.

  • Edwin

    Part of the risk of having a TTL too low is that without adding FA your team can be stuck in a perpetual state of never having enough TTL to justify spending in FA, and relying on a larger number of prospects hitting all at once to bring the team up to the 80 win level, or whatever level you want in order to start spending.

    I understand that the marginal value of wins 81-89 is much higher, but at some point you need to add wins 70-80 as well.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Kessinger learned to switch hit and so can Barney

    • Jon

      Kessinger was even worse than Barney, offensively.

      • Diehardthefirst

        I believe they are equal but switch hitting extended his career .. And Cubs could carry him due to SS defense which is what I have been advocating for Barney for 2 years

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          I personally like Barney. He has a great attitude and is a plus defender, but he belongs with a team that can afford his bat in the lineup. Probably an AL team. With the DH Barney would get better pitches to hit since there would be no picher hitting in the 9 spot. But seeing that he destined to be an 8 hole hitter an NL team is at a disadvantage having Barney and the pitcher giving up two outs most of the time. We already have a switch hitter in Alcantara who will be much cheaper than Barney for the foreseeable future. Best cas scenario is that Barney has a good first half and brings us a decent prospect. Seeing the depth and talent level we have with infielders there is no way Barney is our starter opening day 2015.

      • DarthHater

        [img]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5485/12295082343_654677516d.jpg[/img]

        • Hee Seop Chode

          I love when you drop charts.

  • Khross

    If only there was a way to factor in that magic called “team chemistry”. I my opinion, it has carried teams like the Cardinals through to post season that it makes me sick! BUT I believe that its there. Look at teams that try to “buy” their way to post seasons. It doesn’t always work. Of course, I guess thats where the graphs above come in.

    All that I feel we need are some good…not great…veteran presences on the team to help mold some of the younger players. These veterans could be hitting the back end of their careers but if they have the presence in the dugout/locker room/field and the “kids” see they as true role models it would greatly impact the team as a whole.

    I have no stats to back any of this up, just a long history of watching baseball.

    • Khross

      Ugh…my typing sucks!

      Should have said:

      In my opinion, it has carried teams like the Cardinals through to post season so often that it makes me sick!

    • Jon

      There is, it’s called “TWTW”

      • Khross

        TWTW?? Sorry don’t know that one

        • terencemann

          “The Will To Win”. It’s thrown around on sports talk a lot. On the internet, it’s usually used as a joke.

          • Voice of Reason

            The one that drives me crazy is…

            “team chemistry”

            • Khross

              Why would “team chemistry” drive you crazy? Just curious….not trolling or anything. It may not be quantifiable but it most certainly exists. Maybe it doesn’t usually have as much impact at the pro level, but I’ve seen it too many times to discount it.

              Eye of the Tiger baby!!

              • Voice of Reason

                Teams that win are said to have “good chemistry” while teams that suck don’t have good chemistry.

                Of course you will have bad chemistry if you suck because the team will be negative…. and, if you’re winning, you will have great chemistry cause you’re all positive and happy.

                Moral: build a good team.

              • hansman

                There have been so many teams that have done so many different things with so many different levels of “chemistry”.

                The best example being the 2004 Red Sox being “loose” and “un-affected by the curse” because they were drinking and partying in the clubhouse; yet the 2011 Red Sox were “uninspired” and “lacking in TWTW” because they were drinking and partying in the clubhouse.

                Chemistry is only applied after the fact. Hell, look at the Cubs the past two seasons, the clubhouse was a great environment, yet we stunk. Why? Because we didn’t have a greater level of talent then other teams.

    • Edwin

      Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers, Cubs in 2007/2008, Phillies. The Cards ain’t cheap either, they’ve spent their share.

  • cubs2003

    At this point, I think “The Plan” is far enough along that it’s pretty easy to see the FO is sticking to it. I’m a little surprised at the hardcore approach they’ve taken, but if it works then it works. I still wish they had a David DeJesus type signing or two this offseason. Proven, veteran, high character MLB players on short, but not just flippable contracts. I wouldn’t want to put all the pressure in the world on young players when they eventually come up.

    • Voice of Reason

      They still have your David Dejesus type players:

      Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan, Nate Schierholtz….

      they’re all the same average to below average baseball players.

      I don’t know why you want them? They’re fourth or fifth outfielders on good teams.

      • cubs2003

        I see those guys as borderline MLB’ers, with the exception of Schierholtz(when used properly). I wouldn’t put them in the same category as DeJesus. TB signed him to a pretty nice extension given his age, and that’s a pretty smart FO.

        • Voice of Reason

          ok… comparisons:

          Dejesus: .279/.353 with 28hr and 524rbi in 1,277 games
          Sweeney: . 278/.336 with 20hr and 205rbi in 602 games

          Dude, they’re both average and totally comparable. Sweeney puts up better numbers if he plays as many games as Dejesus. Sweeney is 28 and Dejesus is 34.

          I can’t bare to look at others comparable to Dejesus. I tear up in pain.

          • cubs2003

            I get what you’re saying. I’d still say .353 to .336 OBP shouldn’t be glossed over. I’m probably in the minority here, but I do think leadership skills provide some value. Especially for a young team.

          • Drew7

            1) Dejesus has 88 HR’s, not 28.

            2) DDJ = .770 OPS
            RS = .721 OPS

            • cubs2003

              Thanks. Can’t believe I missed that. A little slow on the uptake today. I’m fine with Sweeney on the roster, but him and DDJ aren’t all that similar IMO.

    • Khross

      Agreed. You need some guys who have (forgive me) been there done that.

  • BlameHendry

    No, signing Tanaka or another major-caliber FA wouldn’t have helped the Cubs chances of making the playoffs in 2014 very much, if at all. But it WOULD have made a pretty significant impact on their playoff chances in 2015 if they went out and added 1-2 more impact players the next offseason, adding pieces to the ones that could have been put in place this offseason. Combined, it makes a huge difference. And you just keep building from there. You have to start somewhere, otherwise every single season you’ll be sitting on your hands saying “signing these players wont improve our playoff chances, maybe we’ll do it next year” staring down the barrel of another 90+ loss season with even more fans walking away, and the vicious cycle continues.

    If Tanaka signed with the Cubs, yeah that’d be $23M wasted in 2014. But add another 1-2 impact FA’s next offseason and bring up a couple prospects, and we’d be extremely happy to have him on our team in 2016/2017, and it will be money relatively well spent. You gotta throw away a few dollars here and there to build a foundation.

    You can’t wait until these fabled prospects to start signing impact FAs. They’ll most likely crumble under the pressure. We got a strong farm system now and the wheels are in motion, but the FAs have to be here when they come up to ease their development. Supplement the FAs with prospects, not the other way around.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think just about everyone here wanted Tanaka – there’s no dispute with him.

    • Voice of Reason

      Tanaka was a great pass by the Cubs.

      The Cubs aren’t in position right now to spend $25 million dollars on a starter with no proven MLB track record. If they were a #2 starter away then I would probably say sign him. Again, you don’t have a proven history in the major leagues. Business owners don’t make that kind of investment unless absolutely necessary.

      • Jon

        It’s really sad this “loser mentality and culture” has been accepted by fans. I’m not asking for a Pujols or Fielder signing, but there have been FA”s under the age of 30 that could have helped this roster among then…

        Darvish, Ryu, Tanaka, Puig, Cespedes, Bourn

        Just winning on “1 or 2″ of these guys and I think we are in a much better position for 2014. Yes, asking the FO in the 3rd largest market to “try harder” is a stretch, but I think it’s reasonable

        But no, we close our eyes, accept the plan of tanking and “giving up” as gospel, and move on hoping that maybe we win in 3-4 years.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I wanted Tanaka, Choo, and Abreu.

          The difference you’re seeing is that many of us who wanted some of those other players do not now complain at every conceivable opportunity that the Cubs don’t have them. It isn’t that we didn’t want them or that we’re happy the Cubs missed signing them, it’s that we choose not to wallow in that miss and are not constantly harping on that one topic.

          There are plenty of other things to talk about with the Cubs, both good and bad, without having to beat the same drum over and over again.

          That doesn’t mean we’re giving up, blinding ourselves, or (to preempt an argument that has been made by others around here) are lacking in objectivity or are just bad fans.

          We just don’t complain as much. That’s all.

          • Jon

            It’s no more tired than the “Tananka would have been a huge mistake!!!!” VOR posts on a daily basis, hence why I replied to him.

            • DarthHater

              Do you really want to defend yourself by saying you’re no worse than VOR? ;-)

              • Voice of Reason

                I resemble that statement.

                • DarthHater

                  Sorry, man. Couldn’t resist. At least nobody’s comparing any of you to me. :-P

                  • Voice of Reason

                    Darth,

                    My problem is… not only am I smart, but I’m damn good looking, too.

                    It’s a curse and not a blessing.

                    • DarthHater

                      All that and such an excess of modesty, too. Must be rough.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              I’m attacking you, Jon. You just provided the vehicle to address a general point.

              I see the “Cubs fans just don’t care about winning” strawman come up frequently, particularly by people who don’t like how the offseason went.

              And, personally, I have yet to meet a Cubs fan who doesn’t want to win and has completely given up on that.

              • DarthHater

                *ahem*

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                Wow… add a “not” in that first sentence. Second word actually.

                Thanks, Darth.

                • hansman

                  It was better when you were attacking him.

            • hansman

              So someone posts a daily diatribe about how Tanaka was a great miss and suddenly hoards of Cubs fans have no will to win?

          • Diehardthefirst

            Yea but don’t think either Illinois senator would have the chutzpah to do what Schumer did thus leaving Tanaka at the dock for 6 mos to a year and eating 25 million

            • DarthHater

              How’s that investigation of Schumer going?

              • Diehardthefirst

                In due time.. There are so many ahead of his.. Need to take a number

                • DarthHater

                  Yes, I forgot that in the quantum dimension of infinite typing monkeys, there is also an infinite amount of time…

        • hansman

          “Bourn”

          Really?

          • Jon

            Bourn wouldn’t be bad at 13/year and with his contract up in two years after this would be a great bridge to Almora., I especially wouldn’t mind him over Lake/Sweeney in CF. And all major projections have him better in 2014

            • Voice of Reason

              Yes, because with Bourn we wouldn’t lose 104 games, we would lose 103!

              • Jon

                Someday, the Cubs will win that “Most efficient Team” trophy you so desperately crave.

  • Bilbo161

    Well I certainly do think the FO is doing this right. They seem to be going after the big names whose prime years fit into their expected timeline. They just are not winning the key guys over. Sanchez and Tanaka being the examples that come to mind first would have been real nice. I have no problem with the Cubs being picky. That being said I think the MLB team can be a .500 club this season but that doesn’t immediately make me think they should throw money at free agents that they don’t think fit their plans.

  • http://kempfintl.com pfk

    Everyone seems so down on the coming season. I’m not at all. In fact, I’m excited because this is the season where we start seeing things headed in a very positive direction at the MLB level. It won’t start until mid season but then we’ll start seeing the youth. I bet the Cubs are going to be very competitive come August and September. As one who has waited 60 years, these past couple of years have been well worth it because I know they are leading someplace incredibly good and exciting. I’m jazzed to watch it start to unfold this season. Actually, we will get a glimpse in Spring Training.

  • Jon

    By most projections, we are looking at 95+ losses, and 1 of the big four will probably come up this year(Baez). One.

    Let’s not get too excited. Poor Javier probably hasn’t played on a team this bad since TBall.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He played on a pretty rough Low A team.

      I’d not be surprised to see Bryant make it up late in the year. Soler is also a possibility. I’ll be monitoring reports on him in spring training closely. I suspect he’s a bit further along than many are suspecting.

      • Jon

        Didn’t the FO say they would like to see dominance for a full season at a level prior a big league promotion? Since this is both Soler’s and Bryants first attempt at AA I think a big league promotion would be a bit aggressive compared to those per-equistites.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          They could get in a full season of Double A (should they both start there) and still make it up in September.

      • Voice of Reason

        I’m almost certain Bryant will be up this year.

        He’s the most polished of the Big 4.

  • Kyle

    “Is a 30% playoff chance worth what it would have taken to add 10 wins to the roster? ”

    Probably.

    Especially when you consider that the revenue benefits of winning don’t require you to actually get to 90 wins, and that the talent persists to the next season (with adjustments for aging, of course) and makes it easier for you to get there the next year.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      But put in the Cubs’ context, I’m going to tentative say, no, not worth it for a couple reason:

      1) The Cubs are already looking up at 2-3 90+ win teams. This means that the odds of 90 wins meaning a playoff trip are smaller for them than the average team that attempted to hit a 30% chance of 90.

      2) A corollary of this is that they are playing against stronger opponents, which diminishes the liklihood of hitting that 90. The Cubs’ 2014 schedule takes them through 2013’s best division and 2013’s best AL division for interleague play. They get the White Sox at least, I guess.

      3) While those players are available again next year, you have to admit there have really only been a handful–if that–of Free Agents that a team looking to make a move salivates over. Next year, there’s a ton. While it would help revenue to look like a 80-some-odd win team on paper, it probably wouldn’t make a huge impact on the budget, and those dollars can’t be unspent next year when the FA crop looks much better for our needs.

      I could see the argument the other way, but I think I’d still pass.

      That being said, I could see us on paper being an 81 team next year depending on development of the youngins. Splurging on 10 wins or so next off season could be a LOT of fun.

      • Jon

        “A ton” is a bit overstating it.

        The position players are shit. There is a nice pitching class of Lester, Scherzer, Bailery Masterson and Shields..but we have to see who actually makes it to FA>

      • Brocktoon

        No 90 win team has ever finished outside the top 5 in the NL.

        And as Jon alluded to, every single FA class looks better a year before it actually happens. Then surprise, half the guys of any worth don’t make it to FA.

      • Kyle

        All reasonable, but I don’t think you’ll find that there are really all that many salivation-worthy FAs once it gets here. Extensions and the players getting a year older.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Dasenzo rhymes with Bonaficio

  • cubfanincardinalland

    The projections I have seen rate the cubs roster as a 30 war team. And that is with a 1 war right fielder, replacement level left fielder, and two 1 war starters. So lots of upside available. Can you not make the case that this just might be an 80 win team right now?

    • Edwin

      Which projection are you looking at?

      • cubfanincardinalland

        Zips on fangraphs for one.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      They might be able to reach 80 wins with this roster, but that’s not the issue – the true talent level projects to be much lower than that. And that’s the starting point for odds in either direction.

    • Brocktoon

      Just because you have a bunch of bad projections doesn’t mean the team has upside. It means the team is bad.

  • addks

    Has anyone ever played in a National League Fantasy League before?

    • Patrick W.

      Pretty sure lots of people have, or they wouldn’t exist. :)

  • Napercal

    Quite frankly, while I think statistical analysis/sabermetrics is extremely important in evaluating individual talent. It is far less reliable in analyzing an overall team performance. In considering a 25 man roster there are far too many variables for a meaningful conclusions. See 1985 Cubs when entire starting rotation ended-up on the disabled list.

    • Brocktoon

      What does the ’85 rotation have to do with evaluating a team? Only honks like Will Carroll think they can do anything with regards to predicting injuries.

  • Blackhawks1963

    I’ve got a MBA and an undergrad degree in Finance, so have never been intimidated by sabermagicians, etc. But this is all I know about the 2014 Chicago Cubs National League Baseball Club…it’s going to largely suck. Objectively speaking, I think we duke it out with the woeful Milwaukee Brewers for the cellar of the NL Central and probably end up in the 72-90 range on the optimistic side, or 62-100 on the pessimistic side (especially if Fliporama Part III happens)

    The rotation is problematic. The lineup is probably going to be even more run challenged that 2012 and 2013, at least to start the season. The outfield is a collection of one 4th outfielder and five 5th outfielders. Jeesh.

    • bbmoney

      I can totally see your lack of intimidation which is absolutely not the reason you resort to name calling.

  • Jon

    Lately, what’s been with the chest puffing about people’s educational background / careers? Is this a new “thing”?

    • brainiac

      it speaks to the new administrative logic of baseball evaluation. fans identify with and try to emulate middle management, not competition and athleticism. so how do we know that some blogger has the best plan for the team? they’re middle management and know how business works. though they clearly usually have no idea how baseball works as a sport.

  • Vic

    Building on that point we find ourselves here evaluating decisions when we do not have all the information regardless of our business or baseball acumen.

    Its fun but not very realistic.

    If we were sitting in the room with access to all the information the FO has many times we might find ourselves agreeing with decisions with which we otherwise disagree.

    • brainiac

      that’s probably true to a large extent, though i’d characterize the FO decisions of the past few offseasons as extremist on the side of parsimony. some people get off on saying no to everything or hording, but i don’t really see what that has to do with winning or having a classic ballpark.

  • Medicos

    Isn’t it amazing how the addition of one player can make such a huge difference in the fortunes of a team that hadn’t been near 90-wins since 1992. The Pirates had been below .500 every year since 1992. Francisco Liriano joined Pittsburgh and the team’s record improved to 94-68 and including a spot in the 2013 playoffs. Liriano went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and a WHIP of 1.22!!! Perhaps one of the Cubs pitching signees can achieve possible Cy Young status similar to what Liriano did last year.

    • Drew7

      Starling Marte, Russell Martin, Garrett Cole, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli had a lot to do with that too. It certainly was not a 1-player turnaround.

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