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welington castilloI’m ready. Laptop is charged. Beer is cold. Remote control finger is cocked. The only thing I haven’t yet decided is what I’m going to eat while I watch the game today. Obviously hot dogs or burgers or whatever would be standard ballpark fare, but that requires me to leave my house to go get. And it’s Opening Day. That’s a holiday. I don’t want to leave my house on a holiday.

  • If you wondered why the Cubs were reportedly going to great lengths early in Spring Training to focus on Welington Castillo’s pitch-framing – a burgeoning area of possible competitive advantage – look no further than BP’s projections on pitch-framing for 2014. According to the model, Castillo projects to be the worst framing catcher in all of baseball next year. In fact, he projects to be so bad that his framing will be worth nearly -19 runs. That’s almost two entire wins lost by bad framing! Is that extreme? Maybe. The modeling for pitch-framing is still somewhat in its infancy (though these things always tend to be more advanced than you might think), and it’s hard to conceive of the Cubs losing 19 runs this year because of poor pitch-framing in 120 games. In any case, here’s hoping that the work has paid off for Castillo – he was leaps and bounds better last year than the year before, so further improvement is reasonable to expect – because the Cubs can’t afford to lose any hidden runs this year.
  • Patrick Mooney speaks to Theo Epstein on the eve of the season, and although I wouldn’t describe Epstein as sounding “frustrated,” his comments do sound really pointed. Like he’s saying, “Seriously, folks, we think this organization is in great shape, and the team is going to be good soon and for a very long time. Seriously. Yes. Seriously, damn it.” Since I agree with his thesis, I can’t really fault him – frankly, I get tired of trying to shout down the haters, too. For Epstein’s part, he says he just ignores the noise at this point, because he knows how good things look from the inside. It’s a good read.
  • Former Cub – which always feels like an odd phrase when a guy hasn’t played in a big league game with the Cubs – George Kottaras has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Indians, where he’s expected to soon take over as the back-up catcher. He’ll probably do his power/discipline thing, and the numbers will probably forever obscure why the Cubs opted for John Baker over Kottaras (which is to say, offensively, they’re probably not going to be close). We’ll just have to assume Baker does all the other stuff much better.
  • Jesse Rogers looks at the Cubs’ story heading into 2014, and ultimately predicts a 71-91 record. That said, I’m inclined to agree with Rogers that at least the roster figures to be a little more intriguing this year to actually watch.
  • The FanGraphs predictions for the National League, and the Cubs are pretty much absent from everything (save for one Javier Baez Rookie of the Year vote).
  • Javier Baez was one of 10 prospects who turned heads in Spring Training this year, according to BP. I would think one session of Javy Baez batting practice would be enough not only to turn heads, but also to cause serious neck injuries.
  • The evolving beer selection at Wrigley Field this year.
  • You may have noticed a new banner over there to the right – the Old Scoreboard on a t-shirt, together with retired numbers. That comes from a sponsor who also happens to be a BN’er, Dennis, so give his shirt a look.
  • Q-Ball

    Opening day Cubs quiz! Let us know how you did. I consider myself a Cubs geek, and I scored a 164….it’s tough!:

    http://www.sporcle.com/games/lineupquizzes/ChicagoCubs

    It helps alot if you are over 30, because it will test your knowledge back to 1991

    My biggest miss: Corey Patterson…I think I’m trying to blot him from memory.

    • bigCEE

      I got 161! But I recognized everyone I missed – Jose Nieves I typed in but guess I didn’t get it…some were like…I should’ve missed that one…I remember Chris Stynes…but I didn’t remember him starting an opener…

      my biggest miss was either Fukudome or Ray Sanchez…both of those were facepalms…

      • JasonP

        Good Times, it’s funny the selective memory.

        Fukudome, Bradley, Garciaparra …. guess I blotted them out of memory

  • gratefulled

    1. Bonerface
    2. Lake
    3. Castro
    4. Rizzo
    5. Olt (YES!!!)
    6. Castillo
    7. Schierholtz
    8. Barney
    9. Shark

    I like.

    • blublud

      Bonerface?

      • gratefulled

        Term of endearment.

        Go Cubs!!!

    • cub4life

      agreed, tough (at least last year, and a few years ago) LHP today.

    • Jason P

      I don’t hate that lineup. I think it actually has a chance to be average.

  • Fishin Phil

    Glad Kottaras signed with Cleveland. If he’d have gone to St. Louis and pulled that crazy voodoo stuff on us, I might have gone postal.

  • Jim

    Go Chipotle. I know its not “park food” per se, but, c’mon. C’mon.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You know I love me some Chipotle – but that’s on the family calendar for dinner this week.

      (Holy crap I’m old.)

      • C. Steadman

        Order Jimmy Johns, don’t have to leave the house and it’ll be freaky fast so it won’t take much time :)

      • Jim

        What time should I be by?

  • MightyBear

    Here’s my thought on predictions. A lot of people predicted the Red Sox to finish dead last in their division last year. Dead last. Somebody remind me how the Red Sox did last year?

    • Orval Overall

      They finished first in wearing ski goggles after the last game of the season.

  • Funn Dave

    Isn’t pitch framing supposed to be a strength of Baker’s? Hopefully he can mentor Castillo a bit in that regard.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes, and yes.

    • itzscott

      Okay I give up….

      Unless each pitch is replayed in slow motion from a center field camera…. how does one know if a pitch is framed or not?

      • Spoda17

        I think framing can be visible… but I struggle to think that it is that critical. I mean, they make it sound like the umpires just sit there and look over the catchers shoulder and call this pitch after he catches it…

        I will have beer, Miller Lite, chips and salsa and a sloppy 75-25 cheese burger and fries..!

        Go Cubs!!!

        • itzscott

          >> but I struggle to think that it is that critical. <<

          I agree.

          A stat devised to see how well a catcher can trick an umpire into thinking a ball is strike? Isn't that basically a stat that indicates which catchers are the best cheaters?

          Seems to me to be the ball of yarn statheads play with when they're done analyzing everything else.

          • Norm

            Cheating?
            How many times do umpires make mistakes by calling a strike, a ball?

            You think a catcher is cheating if he’s able to maximize the amount of times the ump calls it correctly?

            • Funn Dave

              Well, it’s not about maximizing the amount of times the ump calls it correctly–it’s about maximizing the amount of times the ump calls it in your favor. But I agree, it isn’t cheating; it’s just being smart.

              • itzscott

                C’mon….

                The umpire is the ultimate authority. It’s pretty much conceded that calls even out over the course of the year whether an umpire is right or wrong.

                Framing is nothing more than trying to trick an umpire.

                From a purely probability standpoint the consequences have got to be arbitrary….. whether or not a pitch is framed, how can one conclude that the result of that frame created a specific outcome of that at bat?

                You can’t unless that at bat resulted in a strikeout…. which would just be considered a bad call that’ll even out during the course of a year and MIGHT NOT result in a strikeout but whose outcome would be unpredictable…. like a swing & miss, foul ball, foul out, flyout, grounder, hit, ball, walk, passed ball or wild pitch. What’d I miss there?

                Too many unknown variables to the outcome of a framed or non-framed pitch to draw any conclusions to it’s validity.

                • Norm

                  “Framing is nothing more than trying to trick an umpire.”
                  Or help the umpire get it right.

                • Edwin

                  If these calls evened out, then over a large enough sample most catchers would have a similar rate of “extra” strikes. That’s not what we have seen. We’ve seen certain catchers, year after year, be amongst the league leaders in “extra” strikes. That indicates that this might be a skill that certain catchers have in getting more borderline calls.

                  Again, it’s not hard to measure. You simply use pitch f/x data, find out which pitches outside the strike zone were called strikes, find out which pitches inside the strike zone were called balls, find out what a league average over years of data works out to, and compare an individual catcher to that data.

                  As far as measuring the impact on runs, that’s pretty easy to do. You can measure the average change amongs hitters between starting an at bat 0-1 or 1-0. You can also use run expectancy to measure the change.

                  If you want to disagree with it, fine. But you’re arguing about something that you haven’t even taken the time to try and understand.

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              Even then it’s not about the catcher fooling the umpire. Pitch framing isn’t about dragging the glove into the strike zone (like I was taught in HS) it’s about not looking like an idiot when you receive the pitch.

              A common theme in shoulda-been-a-strke calls is that the catcher looks awkward and crossed up or moves his head a lot.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            There is always more to analyze. Moreover, shouldn’t the anti-stats people like this? This is one of the few baseball “wisdom’s” that actually has empirical support.

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              Even if stat-heads were to come up with a real sCRAP+ stat, old-schoolers would go nuts about it being wrong and not capturing what their I PLAYED ABOVE HIGH SCHOOL eyes.

              • itzscott

                Oh come on!

                Just because something can be counted and a player can be ranked because of it doesn’t mean it has any meaning.

                Here’s one they haven’t done yet….

                Which player numbers are statistically likely to result in a better player? Which player numbers over the course of history tend to have the highest WARs?

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        They use pitch f/x data to determine how many strikes are called balls and how many balls are called strikes.

        The worst catchers occasionally get middle of the plate strikes called for balls.

      • Edwin

        My understanding is, it’s about using the defined strike zone and pitch f/x to find out what the average number of “extra” strikes a pitcher gets (pitches outside the strike zone called a strike), and then comparing an individua’sl performance to that average.

        There is plenty of free reaserach available online through BP and Fangraphs if you’re interested.

  • Orval Overall

    Speaking of rookie of the year predictions, I’ll make the bold one (ok, anonymous internet comments that will be forgotten shortly after they are made are never really “bold”) that Mike Olt will finish the year in the top 3 of NL ROY balloting.

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