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justin grimmTwo more days. Today won’t be as hard as tomorrow, since there’s a baseball game. But tomorrow, while we wait for Opening Day, is going to be torture.

  • As noted last night when Carlos Villanueva was named the fifth starter, and again this morning in the post-D-Backs game writeup, the bullpen isn’t quite set yet. There are only enough relievers left in camp to fill out the bullpen, but the Cubs are leaving open the possibility that someone already bounced from big league camp could be brought back to break with the big team. It’s a fairly strong statement about at least one of the Alberto Cabrera/Justin Grimm/Hector Rondon trio that the Cubs are even considering sending one of them out at this point. Blake Parker, who was fantastic with the Cubs last year, would seem to be an option to come back, as would Marco Mateo, whom the Cubs didn’t have for most of the Spring (he was the D-Backs’ Rule 5 pick). Lefty Zac Rosscup got two innings last night, so that’s noteworthy. And then you’ve got Brian Schlitter, who’s always had good stuff when healthy, and he was one of the last cuts. If you were going solely for the guy who looked best in the Spring, it might be Neil Ramirez (who is also already on the 40-man roster), but I can’t help but wonder if the Cubs don’t want to give him one more shot at starting, which he could do at AAA Iowa. Of course, if Ramirez displaces someone like Grimm, then maybe Grimm could go to AAA Iowa and resume starting (like Ramirez, Grimm has some really intriguing upside as a starter).
  • In the end, the safe bet still has the three expected guys (Cabrera, Grimm, and Rondon) making the bullpen, but if one is sent out, it’s probably Cabrera or Grimm. Of those two, Cabrera is out of options, so if he doesn’t make the team, he could be lost on waivers when the Cubs try to send him to Iowa. As for who would take that spot, I think it’s really too hard to say. Even someone like Armando Rivero has an outside shot. Parker seems the most logical, given his stint last year, though.
  • Praise for Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija, whom I think is going to have a fine year. He knows what’s on the line. But will he have an ace year? Or, perhaps more importantly, an ace first three months?
  • A little Rick Renteria profile/preparation for the season. The fish bowl starts on Monday.
  • By all accounts, Starlin Castro is fully healthy, and he’ll play this afternoon against the D-Backs. The question, though, is whether his timing and readiness to face big league pitching will be where it needs to be. If Castro takes a couple weeks, we’ll have to be a little patient.
  • The Cubs travel the fewest miles during the 2014 season. Competitive advantage!
  • The nice thing about having spent so many hours putting together a really comprehensive take on the Cubs’ financial situation and how it syncs with the baseball plan, is that when commenters spew mindless bile, or when people write silly, predictable things like this, I can just post a link to the financial piece, and then throw up something like this:

  • http://www.twitter.com/justinjabs @justinjabs

    That Mooney piece kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I dunno, something about a member of the Chicago media writing a story about how large, badgering, and persistent the Chicago media is going to be to Renteria didn’t sit right.

    • FFP

      I liked the Dale retrospective stuff.

      One slam on advanced metrics being used to run a club is that it doesn’t take into account that the game is played by human beings with variables beyond measure. Field managers fill that void for me (See Francona yesterday giving Blake Wood some good news.); and maybe for some of our players, too.

      Getting inside the heads of the last guy to sit in R.R.’s seat and his players helps me to imagine some of the stuff media won’t know (or won’t report on).

      • https://twitter.com/dwoytek dw8

        The Cubs FO, or any other, aren’t solely using advanced metrics to guide decision making. It’s simply not the case. There are many qualitative considerations that front offices are responsible for. Progressive front offices are triangulating and evaluating all data they acquire to guide decision making. Tacos and Beer, not Tacos or Beer.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Variables “beyond measure” turn up in even the simple of statistical analyses in the form of residuals around expectations. Here is the important point that so many do not grasp: the proportion of the total variance in outcome that is unexplained by “advanced stats” is tiny.

        Moreover, qualitative traits are just as subject to statistical analyses as are measurable traits. There are whole fields of sciences (particularly behavioral ones) in which this is done.

        • FFP

          It is perhaps these behavioral sciences that I feel are lacking. Not that most of what they measure doesn’t yield useful models, but that there is much they either haven’t thought to measure, can’t measure, or mis-measure . That’s why I think a smart manager with experience and people talent can get another win or more for a team.

          An extreme (and over simplified) illustration is from boxing. With Mike Tyson’s physical skills and Cus D’amato’s experience, intellect and executive function; a boxer was on his way to becoming on of the best his sport had ever seen. When Cus died, Tyson still had physical potential, but he became at best a clown, at worst a dangerous sociopath.

          What doesn’t (yet?) get measured is getting each young athelete on the field ready to compete at his highest level. I think that takes someone who gets the metrics, but also reads complex social situations in real time and makes decisions on the spot, hundreds or thousands of them a day. He influences those around him and can change Win/Loss outcomes and entire careers.

          (Or maybe I just am entertained more by managers since they are closer to my age.)

        • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

          As a professional in the field of a behavioral science (Clinical Psychology), I can’t tell you how many pointless and uninformative statistical analyses are done in the name of scientific research. Qualitative traits may, in some ways, be subject to statistical analysis, but are often deceiving. They are basically two dimensional snapshots of three dimensional beings. I know it can seem logical to point to statistical outcomes and fly the “proportion of total variance” flag, but in any given situation, any game, any at bat, these statistics are meaningless.

          If you want to “play the percentages”, sure, over a century of thousands of games played you might be able to predict, with relative accuracy, the likely outcome of a hypothetical situation, but the fact remains, as FFP points out, these are human beings, and I can argue with certainty that a human being’s performance is not subject to any statistical model. It’s the other way round.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Then either you aren’t doing it correctly or you are missing what they are doing. Animal behavioral scientists use statistical analyses quite elegantly. Despite our hubris, we are not that much different.

            As for the “any give game” issue, that is a meaningless concern. Teams that win (or lose) lots of games win (or lose) lots of games for the same general reasons. You can account for huge chunks of variation of winning percentage from a few basic differential performances. The idea never is to predict the outcome of individual events; the idea is to predict which outcomes will happen most frequently. *That* is how you make post-season.

            Here is an apt comparison. In trench warfare, you can worry about whether one bullet hits an enemy soldier or you can worry about what maximizes the probability of taking down the enemy soldier. The former is logically equivalent to worrying about one game; the latter is logically equivalent to worrying about a season.

            • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

              Well I do appreciate your thoughtfulness, Doc.

              You just remind me of my research friends, who will argue endlessly with my clinical friends. I know you’re speaking about maximizing potentials based on “facts”, and I can appreciate that. I just don’t see baseball (or the world) that way. It’s true that under the umbrella of “animals” fall human beings, but that doesn’t mean we’re the same as other animals. We are able to transcend ourselves (perceive irony, for example) in ways other species are simply not capable. I don’t think that makes me hubristic, but I think animal behavioral studies are a poor way to understand humans. Yes, they can indicate certain things relative to human beings, but we operate on “higher” cognitive levels that aren’t very analogous to much of animal behavior.

              That being said, I do believe my dog, Stella, has a soul and is going to heaven even though I don’t believe in heaven.

              Also, I find it funny how engineer-brains (you) and touchy/feely brains (myself) are so eternally dichotomous. I love how we simply can’t see eye to eye.

              Cheers, Doc!

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Engineer brain?!?! I have a scientist brain, thank you very much. These are very different mindsets!

                • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                  Maybe to you guys!

          • Medicos

            IAN: I couldn’t agree with u more concerning the numerous “pointless and uninformative” stats that r available these days. I coached baseball in the CPS for nearly 20-years and won three city championships. What i wanted from my players was that they successfully; HIT the ball, FIELD the ball, and PITCH the ball. Hopefully in the next 5-years some of these so called Cubs prospects will be able to do some of those things successfully. I’ve been a fan since 1952 and have only seen 17 winning seasons. It’s time for more than 3-4 year periods of success. Cub fans want to see teams playing at the Friendly Confines that are competive year after year.

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Those pointless and uninformative stats as you call them allow baseball front offices and managers to evaluate and ultimately decide which players pitch, hit, and field the ball with the most success.

              • Voice of Reason

                Stats are cool to an extent.

                World series and divisions are not won on paper. They are won on the field.

                Last year the numbers on paper said the Yankees were just an average team. That’s one of many stats that you can drool and look over, but ultimately it comes down to what happens between the white lines.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Actually, the data said that that the Yankees were a below average team. Most teams with the Yankees core numbers finish several games under 0.500, after all. Moreover, Brian Cashman recognized and explicitly stated that the Yankees were more lucky than good last year: that’s why he went in so heavily on the FA market.

                  What Cashman recognizes is that the Yankees *probably* won’t win 14 more games than their core performance numbers predict they would again: and it’s much more probable that they will lose 5 or 6 more than their peripherals (or only 5 or 6 more) in 2014. (The 2012 O’s won about 12 more than their peripherals; an improved 2013 O’s won only about 5 more and wound up with a worse record than they did the year before) Thus, the Yankees needed to actively improve their roster if they want to compete.

                  • Voice of Reason

                    Yes, but those same stats told you the Yankees were below average last year yet they finished above .500.

                  • blublud

                    Correct. And if the stats had dictated the finish, the Yanks would have been as successful as they were. Some srats are useful, but the bottom line is that the games are not decided by past or future stats. The are decided by a real time human element. This real time, human element, has won or loss more games than advanced metric could even dream to play.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Stats are all about information. Teams are all about getting the most information possible about players, both their own, other teams and prospective free agents. Sure, the players decide the games, but if you don’t think that teams use stats to put their players in the best possible position to win games, then you are beyond naive. Games might not be decided by stats, but stats heavily influence the outcome of games

                    • bbmoney

                      Yeah, stats aren’t an end to themselves. They’re a tool to be used to give yourself the best probability for success.

                      Obviously W/L’s are all that matter in the end. No one is saying otherwise.

                    • Voice of Reason

                      Full count tommy:

                      Stats don’t influence the outcome.

                      All stats do is give probability.

                    • bbmoney

                      Stats can help you put players in better positions to succeed (or figure out what players will help your team more in terms of talent acquisition). That influences outcome.

                      Ultimate performance is up to the player. But stats can help teams put players in the right position to succeed.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Exactly bb, right on the “money”

                      haha, get it, money (like your name)

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  The Yankees were 85-77 and missed the playoffs, that’s pretty damn close to average. Yes the game is played between the lines, but stats allow managers to put the players in the best position to succeed. Platoons allow teams to give hitters an advantage based on the numbers, shifts allow teams to put players in the best position to make a defensive play. Those are just a couple of very basic examples of how using stats increases win expectancy.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              A big reason why the Cubs have had so few winning seasons is that they ignored meaningful stats and concentrated on meaningless ones. Even if Earl Weaver hadn’t uncorked the bottle, then someone else would have: and the reason why the Quantitative Genie is never going back into the bottle is because the teams that won’t use it won’t win.

  • Jason P

    I’d much rather listen to people complain about the baseball side of the plan than the business side. The “Ricketts is cheap” crowd is becoming progressively more obnoxious.

  • CubFan Paul

    Parker was only so-so last year. We have enough 6th & 7th inning arms in the pen already

    • Jason P

      Only so-so? He was our best reliever last year.

      • CubFan Paul

        That’s not saying much

        • Jason P

          It means that he should make the bullpen.

          • CubFan Paul

            Cry that to Hoyer.

            • Jason P

              Ok?

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Argue all you want about Parker’s stuff but you can’t argue that he was anything other than very good to fantastic last year

      • CubFan Paul

        I just did and have been.

        • willis

          Parker is effective. Not lights out, probably can’t repeat what he did last year, but he’s a decent option as a last arm to the pen. I was all about Cabrera…but I’m starting to waver some because he has been lit up this last week. Grimm has struggled all spring. I’d hate to risk losing Cabrera though, so I think I’d start with Veras, Strop, Russell, Wright, Cabrera, Rondon and Parker.

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    A 2.6 era with a 28% k rate and 7% walk rate are elite reliever numbers

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      That was in reply to Paul. I’m not arguing that Parker has good stuff or that he has a good future, but facts are facts, Parker was an excellent reliever in 2013

    • CubFan Paul

      Too bad those stats don’t make Parker elite. If so, he wouldn’t be ticketed for Iowa

      • Jason P

        A 2.72 ERA is elite. And even if he can’t sustain that, since when is being elite a requirement to make the Chicago Cubs bullpen?

        • CubFan Paul

          “since when is being elite a requirement to make the Chicago Cubs bullpen?”

          Never said it was. I said, Parker is redundant

          • Jason P

            Parker is pretty clearly better than Cabrera, and likely better than Rondon, Wright, Russell and Grimm.

            • CubFan Paul

              Pretty clear *to you*, not me or Theo&Co

              • Jason P

                I would love to hear anyone try to make the case that Alberto Cabrera is better than Blake Parker.

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  He has no options and they don’t want to lose him

                  • Jason P

                    I understand that. I was just responding to CubfanPaul’s point that it is unclear who is better purely from a production standpoint.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      My point was what?

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Believe me I’ve even arguing with Paul about Parker for weeks. He likes to ignore that Parker was a great reliever last year

                    • Jason P

                      I said “Parker is pretty clearly better than Cabrera…”. You said “Pretty clear *to you*, not me or Theo&Co”. Hence, your point was “that it is unclear who is better purely from a production standpoint”.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Hence, your point was “that it is unclear who is better purely from a production standpoint””

                      No, that was not my point. You’re assuming and putting words in my mouth.

                      I know who’s better. Pretty clear *to you* as in, Only you (Brett & Tommy) believe that.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Paul, who you believe is better is completely irrelevant

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Paul, who you believe is better is completely irrelevant”

                      Not if we’re staying on topic

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      So why don’t you stay on topic, you’re original argument was Parker last year was so-so

                      I pointed out using these fancy things called stats that you were wrong and you refuse to acknowledge that

                    • Jason P

                      I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say. If you want to have a baseball argument, fine, but I’m not going to argue with you over what you did or didn’t say or intend to say.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      That’s all he does Jason, spews his opinions without facts, just on his observations and then why you prove him wrong he just tells you to stay on topic

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “these fancy things called stats”

                      There’s more to baseball than Fangraphs, which I why I acknowledged your 2.6 era with a 28% k rate and 7% walk rate with basically “who cares”

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      With a fip that matched his era, which shows his stats were legitimate. Unless you’re secretly a scout you have no background evaluating talent so I carry no stock in what you see

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “so I carry no stock in what you see”

                      I haven’t mentioned anything to that effect, except that he’s redundant compared to who’s already in the pen

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Id argue that Rondon/Grimm would be redundant considering they have a number of hard throwers with spotty command but no control/command guys from the right side like Parker

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Rondon & Grimm have upside as hard throwers. That’s the difference versus Parker.

                      Rondon/Grimm are ML ready and the best guy to polish their fastballs & secondaries is Bosio on a day tot day basis.

                  • Jason P

                    “Who cares about these fancy things called stats when we have CubfanPaul’s observations?”

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Who cares about these fancy things called stats when we have CubfanPaul’s observations.”

                      That’s right. Live by it ;)

            • ssckelley

              Evidently people that get paid for a living to make these decisions do not agree with you.

              But I do enjoy your lovefest over Parker. It is kinda sad when you spend good money on those jerseys and then that player gets sent down to AAA.

              • Jason P

                So now anyone who disagrees over anything the front office does is automatically wrong because they get paid to make the decisions? Are we wrong to criticize the Fister trade because Dommbrowski is “paid to make those decisions”. It’s a pretty weak argument.

                I have never and will never spend good money on a jersey for a reliever unless we somehow manage to stumble onto a Mariano Rivera/Craig Kimbrel type.

                • ssckelley

                  In your case, yes, because you are basing your decisions on 46 innings he had last season while people making these decisions are actually watching him pitch. I am not going to deny that at times he looked really good last year but if the last spot comes down to Cabrera and Parker then Cabrera probably gets the spot since they are out of options on him. Besides, even if he does start the year in Iowa I doubt he stays down there for very long.

                  I cannot believe how big of a stink you are making over the last player to make the Cubs roster. You made these same damn points earlier in the week and all you are doing is repeating yourself.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “You made these same damn points earlier in the week”

                    Wish I would of known that

      • Rich H

        You are having two major problems with your argument. One is that there is a huge difference between stuff and results.

        The Second is that the reason Parker was optioned to the minor league camp was the same reason that we are having this conversation. The Cubs are becoming a results organization as far as the spots on the roster are concerned. He was not being effective in ST so he was optioned to minor league camp to get a better look at some of the guys that were producing and he had options left to do it.

        If had made that your point instead of attacking the results because of a personal opinion then the conversation would have been much different. Instead it looks like you just have an axe to grind with nothing to back it up.

        • CubFan Paul

          “looks like you just have an axe to grind with nothing to back it up”

          Wow

  • MoneyBoy

    Morrissey and Telander are reasons to never buy or read anything from the Scum Times.

    • notcubbiewubbie

      moriisey and telander SEND IN THE CLOWNS!!

      • ssckelley

        Hey be nice to the Clowns, they lost last night. At least wait until tomorrow.

  • jeff1969

    It’s amazing how an obvious non-thinker like Morrissey has a job writing about sports. He must be the guy willing to work for peanuts, bottom of the barrel, pretend sports authority. What he wrote about both teams just shows you how little thinking he does, how little research he does, how little knowledge he has. What a joke.

    • FFP

      It’s helpful for me to remember how the Cubs FO processes articles like that (and probably positive articles, too, esp. if they also lack baseball content): filtered out as mere “noise”.

  • candyland07

    LOL The mindless bile -so sensitive . Great seat can be had at both openers! Its good to see sensible folks staying away from an inferior product the Cubs put on the field . I am sure when the front office baby cubs finally take the field the fans will come to the park until then ,calling the Cubs cheap is a reality. Being in last place and having a team void of any all star free agents so the Cubs can play cheap baseball in a Great City as Chicago is an embarrassment.

    By the way caught the tail end of the conversation on the radio last sunday /. good for you getting the exposure . you did fine work and you deserve the recognition. .I do hope more people find this blog.

    • Voice of Reason

      An embarrassment is not winning a world series in over 100 years.

      Wake up candy land. The cubs are doing it the right way this time. I’d rather support the kids and the rebuild than watch a bunch of overpaid bums go thru the motions everyday.

      Cubs owners could have stuck with the formula of having a couple of big names and filling the seats every day but they turned their back on that cash cow to develop a sustainable, winning organization.

      I’ll support them and the rebuild. Its exciting to watch this development take place.

      You say you’re embarrassed by not signing free agents and being cheap? I guess you liked then old formula. The same formula that played a part in our 100 year drought.

      • candyland07

        Well good for you! I do not have to support or suger coat the failures of the last 4 years under Rickets nor do i have to be a humble submissive follower of this front office.

        I can recognize when an organization is spinning it wheels to develop a farm system and the worst the Organization is on the field the better the draft choices that organization should receive.

        When fans are forced to cheer the crumbs this front office has placed on the field to represent the Cubs is total slap to Cub fans.

        Now if your the type to wet your pants every time . Team Epstein shakes hand in a photo op then smile away. This team has been losing going on a half of a decade – so you will get no high fives or empty gesture of good job. The Cubs have been an embarrassment the last 4 years and in being so they have been able to draft so nice gems . but it has been 4 years of total embarrassment so go ahead wet your undergarments with pure joy.

  • Johnny Chess

    Remember that Theo set aside the Tanaka money looking for the right opportunity.
    Chances are they take on a contract for a Top end guy like Price (but not Price) or Masterson.

  • Johnny Chess

    Here’s hoping the Draft provides a Stud. There will be a lot of overpays from this group.
    Max Scherzer, Homer Bailey, James Shields, Justin Masterson, Johnny Cueto—RHPs and Bret Anderson, Jon Lester—LHP

    • CubFan Paul

      Cueto has an affordable, no-brainer Club option

  • joejoe234

    I think that I would rather see Grimm go to AAA and be in the rotation. I’d much rather see him try to be developed into a starter at this point than just have him as a decent reliever. I posted a message on the message board about tickets. I have season tickets but due to some issues I will be in Indianapolis most of the year and unfortunately not be able to go to a lot of games. I want to offer my tickets to bleacher nation fans first before stubhub, since they raise the prices by 20%. I have two tickets with a press box view. I’m selling most games for $12 first come first serve. If you are interested you can find the post in the message board. I attached a picture of the view as well.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Giants may need SP in addition to IF with Lincecum hurt- an unhappy Shark plus Emilio for ?

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I always liked terry francona. Did you see what he did last night? Went to make a pitching change with on the bubble rookie Blake Wood, and told him, by the way kid, you just made the major leagues. Congrats.

  • Darth Ivy

    I hope they bring parker back up. That dude is a good pitcher.

  • willis

    Well, we got our answer. Cabrera DFA’d, Schlitter makes team.

    • Jason P

      Wah!? On the plus side, with Schlitter, Russell and Shark, our pitching staff now has the best hair in the majors :)

      • willis

        Yeah no kidding. I don’t get this play really, but they gave Cabrera every chance to win the job this Spring and although he threw well early, he stumbled late.

        I like Schlitter’s stuff, but more than the risk of losing Cabrera? Very interesting.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Theo/Jed really surprised me with the Kotaras cut, I can’t guess on the last BP spot.

    • Jason P

      You don’t have to. Schlitter.

      • CubFan Paul

        …but Parker is elite!

        • Jason P

          I’m glad I’ve finally convinced you.

  • http://BN Sacko

    I see that now and also a surprise and not saying I disagree..
    I can’t believe it 2 more days!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharingaspare mysterious4th

    A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me that via text messaging and since then I have been sending it to everybody through text messaging, email, facebook, tumblr, twitter, and pintrest. (Brett I think you should get tumbler added to your social media collection). This would have been a great picture to have when I was in college and taking this logic class.

  • Voice of Reason

    A bullpen is only as good as the starting rotation.

    You could have the best bullpen ever , but if the starting rotation sucks that great bullpen will suffer from over use.

    I fear overuse by our bullpen this year so it will be hard to gage just how good it is.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I am more optomistic than I was a week ago that we will get better starting pitching. Jackson looked good yesterday and Hammel looked good today. This first month will be a real challenge considering we have the toughest schedule in MLB in April. To play .500 ball would be a real accomplishment.

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