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opening day 2013Contrary to cliche, you don’t throw everything out on Opening Day. One of the best things about baseball is that we can extrapolate and project in meaningful ways based on the data we have before us.

… but not perfectly. At its based, statistical analysis allows us to say only that Thing X is “more likely” than Thing Y. You don’t ever completely rule out Thing Y. If I’m opting for a paraphrased cliche today, it would be something like: that’s why they play the games, and that’s why we watch them.

I’ll spare you the poisonous seeds of hope, though I can’t help but note that crazy things do happen in this game. Players get injured, narratives break apart, and teams surprise.

The 2014 Chicago Cubs are a favorite for the cellar in the NL Central this year, and with good reason. The building process is at a stage where losing is not only an ugly byproduct of The Plan, it is also something of an uncomfortable benefit in the long run.

But, to be sure, no one involved with, or cheering for, the Cubs actually wants to see them lose. We’ve had our fill and then some over the past five years – or 105, if you’re among the eldest of fans – and if anyone deserves to enjoy a fun, competitive baseball season, it’s Cubs fans. That day is coming, and then it’s going to stick around for a long time. I truly believe that.

For today, I can’t know what this season will hold, even if I trust the projections that say Thing X is more likely than Thing Y. But damn it, I love baseball, and I love the Cubs. So I’m going to watch, cheer, and see where the 2014 Cubs story goes. Crazy things happen.

Opening Day is here. Crack open a cold one and enjoy. Just make sure you save some of your beer for August and September.

  • Fishin Phil

    How do we feel? We’d feel a lot better if we didn’t have to work today.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      *sad trombone*

    • Patrick G

      And if it wasn’t snowing in the northeast. Does not feel like opening day one bit

      • Billy

        It will be in the mid 50’s and not a cloud in the sky here in Pittsburgh by opening pitch. If only I had taken the day off today….

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

      And if I weren’t moving from Vermont to Brooklyn today….

    • cub4life

      agreed Phil. but either way it is opening day and that is exciting. less then 4 hours til the best team in baseball starts another season.

    • Spoda17

      I took the day off to watch the game!!! HA… Go Cubs!

    • gcheezpuff

      My wife is a school teach and her spring break usually falls right around opening week for baseball. I also take a few days off that week, which my wife believes is to spend time with her and our kids, which to some part is true, but the real reason is baseball (insert evil laugh here).

    • DarthHater

      Better get over to the White House website and vote for that national holiday…

  • Steve

    Last night, interested… This am, EXCITED.

    Cubs jersey- Check
    Beer on ice- check
    Blood color still blue- check

    Ok, let’s go!!!

  • Jon

    97 losses

    • ari gold

      Better than 85 losses

      • Darth Ivy

        what about the development factor? Maybe it’s bad for young players’ development to be on such terrible teams. I don’t know this as a fact nor do I have any strong beliefs either way. Just a thought that makes me cautious about having that sentiment at this point in the rebuild. If it’s better for these guys’ development to be on a 75-80 win team than a 62-67 win team, then I’d rather the team wins more.

        • Darth Ivy

          I mean, the pick they get from this season’s outcome probably won’t see the majors until 2017 (if he gets there at all). And that’s if the guy moves up the minors quickly. I don’t think taking a chance at hurting the young players’ development is worth getting a higher pick for a guy who MIGHT get called up in 2017.

        • Jon

          It’s also possible that if we win more games it’s because some of our young players took steps forward

          • Darth Ivy

            yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. If they don’t do well, and the team loses a ton of games, it might not be worth moving up a handful of positions in the draft and the international pool. I’d rather have the young guys take steps foward and win ~75 games. That would seem to be better for the team long and short term than having a marginally better position in next year’s draft and international pool.

            But like I wrote above, I’m not certain about it. I’m not expert-enough to feel confident that that’s accurate. It’s just a feeling

        • DocPeterWimsey

          That is easy enough to test. Moreover, given the attention paid to the correlations between prospect ranking and success, it seems improbable that so obvious a correlation among the residuals would go unnoticed.

          • Darth Ivy

            Sorry, I’m having trouble following that. You don’t think there’s a correlation between players’ development and being on terrible teams?

            • Norm

              No.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              I think that it would have been spotted. We know the correlation between WAR and how highly a guy was ranked as a prospect, and it’s pretty strong. However, there also is a bit of scatter around the correlation curve. So, simply take the residuals and plot them against the team records for their first year (or first couple of years). If being on a bad team mattered, then we should see a correlation.

              My suspicion is that the people who initially found the correlations would have spotted that the overachievers were on good teams and/or that the underachievers were on bad teams. Those sort of “secondary axes” jump out to statisticians.

              • Darth Ivy

                That’s a good point. Maybe the idea I wrote about came to mind due to Castro and Rizzo last year (not that Rizzo was awful, but he indeed didn’t take a step foward). But one year doesn’t make a correlation and your point seems to be a good one.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  The correlation that I would like to see (for position players) is team OBP and observed-expected WAR. High team OBP contributes a lot towards winning, but if the pitching is bad, then a high OBP team still might lose a lot. However, players on that team will get a lot of PAs, and I could see extra PAs benefiting development.

                  That written, the difference between even the best and worst teams might not be enough. The Sox and Tigers averaged only 40 more PAs per batting slot than did the Marlins and the Phils last year, which is all of about 1 or 2 extra PAs per week. (Still, maybe that is important: and it also means that raw HR, hits, etc., will be higher even if averages remain the same.)

                  • Darth Ivy

                    maybe it’s just that players can react to situations in completely different ways. Some might feel more pressure on terrible teams, some might feel more pressure on good teams. Some might react positively to pressure, some might react negatively to pressure.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      The pressure part can be spun in lots of ways. I could see the pressure being greatest on players on average teams, not good or bad ones. On a good or bad team, it doesn’t matter as much what one player does: the team is going to win or lose. However, on an average team, you expect to be in a lot of close games because, well, your team usually is about as good as the other team. If your team is about average and you are having a bad year, then it might be that your bad WAR is the difference between being one of the “lucky” wild cards (i.e., a 0.500 team that wins enough extra games to get to the mid-upper 80’s in wins) and not being one of those teams. However, if you are on a 90+ win team, then you probably don’t drag them out of contention, and if you are on a 90+ loss team, then it doesn’t much matter what you do.

    • ari gold

      And for just today on opening day, can you please not spew your annoying hate for everything Cubs? At least give us today to enjoy talking about Cubs baseball.

      • Jon

        If I said I expected 90 wins would it make you feel better? I can do it if it means that much to you.

        • Patrick W.

          Great, now I have 100 problems.

    • Darth Ivy

      I’m guessing 99 losses. No Feldman, Garza, Soriano. The rookies this year might play like rookies.

    • Norm

      97 losses >>>>> 81 losses

      • Jon

        I bet the 2006 Cardinals are glad they didn’t have that mentality. Granted it was 78 losses, but still in the ballpark of 500 ish

        • Norm

          I wouldn’t have that mentality either if the rest of the division was filled with 75-80 win teams.
          But when we have 2, maybe 3 teams, capable of 90 wins in the division, your point is meaningless.

  • ari gold

    Best day of the year is here! For this season to be a success, I’m looking for the core to takes some steps forward.

  • Darth Ivy

    The game is during work. And just in case I manage to avoid enough work to watch/listen to it, I have to leave for a mole-check at 2:30.

    Don’t talk to me.

  • Spoda17

    I am excited about this year… A lot of situations to watch. I described my outlook on this year… I will never want the Cubs to lose, but I understand if/when they do lose.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Excited for the future? This season, not so much. I see around 68 wins on the horizon.

    I dread Opening Day for one reason…the meatball brigade shall take off the gloves and begin skewering Ricky Renteria now. It won’t matter that our pitching is marginal at best and the offense destined to struggle. Renteria is about to get Sveum’d and Quade’d.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      I just hope he gets at least one game before they are out in full force.

    • Jon

      You really have a ” thing” for Happy, don’t ya?

  • Illini Cubbie Fan

    Since making the playoffs is an extreme long shot this year, are most of us cheering for another poor season? I mean another top 5 draft pick sounds more enticing than a number 8-12 pick…… Obviously we are all hoping for more prospect development, but does it make me a bad fan if I wouldn’t mind another dismal year (record wise)?

    • Darth Ivy

      There is no such thing as a bad fan….maaaaybe people who claim that they won’t be fans if the team moves out of Wrigley. But hey, I’m at least happy they show up to the field and support the team financially.

  • another JP

    This has been a more productive off-season for the Cubs than many are giving them credit for and I think it will be proven starting today. The time for some of the young guys to perform to their potential is now.

    And I see Nick Struck has been released. From Pitcher of the Year to out of the organization… must be a tough day for him.

    • willis

      The pitching is getting deeper, and his flaws really showed last season. Too bad, but he never had much of what it would take to be an effective major leaguer. I had a feeling this may happen with how bad he was last year…and all the arms through trade and the draft that were added.

  • Illini Cubbie Fan

    With that said, skipping class today to have a few blue beers at 12:05 at one of the campus bars is an absolute must. Cheers

  • ame1908

    Did anyone else feel like Ryu just didn’t have TWTW last night?

    • C. Steadman

      Or he got on Brian Wilson’s bad side…

  • ssckelley

    What gives me optimism this year more than the past couple of years is I finally see players on this team that the team has acquired from the last couple of sell offs that could be a big part of the Cubs future. I am anxious to see if the management change with a consistent message is what will turn Castro around, anxious to see if Rizzo can take a big step forward at the plate, anxious to see if Olt can be that 3rd baseman everyone thought he would be 2 years ago, anxious to see if Kolish can be that dumpster dive miracle, Arrieta being that 5th starter, Vizcaino and Baez eventual callup, ect ect.

    I think for the first time in a couple of years the Cubs actually have pieces in place that could be a huge part of the Cubs future success.

    • another JP

      I’m with you ssc… instead of fielding a roster of declining 30-somethings the Cubs have a young group that have yet to hit their prime. And they’re decent guys that you want to root for to succeed- not jagbags like Milton Bradley or Z.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      The Cubs may have reached a point where they are adding MLB tallent faster than trading it. If this is the case, we should all be excited.

  • Gregor C.

    On paper they seem a fraction better than last year but we shall all find out soon. If they win 72 games in 2014, I would consider the season a success. 2015-2016 will be the years we will all have a better perspective on the Epstein / Hoyer / Ricketts Plan.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    When I look at the schedule for April and the first part of May it brings any optomism that I may feel down several notches. The Brewers are the weakest team we face and it seems that we can’t win a game in that ball park. We could end up in a hole real fast.

  • shammai

    Schierholtz is starting. I guess Ruggiano is still hurt?

  • DCF

    I confess that I just can’t get excited about Opening Day this year. The prospect of another season of bad baseball is really dragging me down.
    And while the Opening Day roster may technically be better than last year, the new guys are not much more than roster fillers, at least they would not be on a contending team.
    The most exciting thing to look out for this year seems to be if Rizzo and Castro can get it together and when Baez will be called up.

  • Fishin Phil

    It is almost 9:00, and no bullets yet. Where are my bullets? I need my bullets.

    In the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Gimme Back My Bullets.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      They’re coming. Opening Day throws off the normal schedule a bit.

      • Fishin Phil

        I know, I just wanted to drop a quote on you. ;)

        • miggy80

          One must quote “Gimme back my bullets” any chance they get. Kind of like if someone asks you if “this is the end of the line?” One must tell the Dice K joke “No, It’s the front we’re standing backwards.”

  • NorthSideIrish

    Vendors walking around selling 312…Green Line on tap at the concession stands. Yeah, that’s a big step up from Old Style.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/chi-goose-island-wrigley-field-beer-20140330,0,3472057.story

    • miggy80

      I usually drink Old Style on opening day, good price it gets you buzzed, but I think today I will be sipping on some 312 today to celebrate this announcement.

  • Henry Rowengartner

    How bad does the front office want this team to be? Sure, they don’t actually want to lose, but just bad enough to have a protected first round pick?

  • DarthHater

    I don’t usually like much of anything from ESPN.com, but this line was good:

    “We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll shout — and that’s just within one Starlin Castro at-bat.”

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