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jose veras cubsThe kids really enjoyed “helping” us do yard work yesterday afternoon, and it occurs to me: when they’re old enough to help (as opposed to “help”), they almost certainly won’t enjoy it anymore. So I’ll take it.

  • Ricky Renteria is hopeful that Jose Veras can turn things around and become the closer again. In comments he made before yesterday’s implosion, RR told Cubs.com that the Cubs still want to give Veras a chance to close once he’s feeling comfortable again. After yesterday’s ugly outing, where too many pitches were once again out of the zone, and the ones that were in the zone were subsequently parked in the seats, it’s hard to say how long it could be before Veras is given a chance to close. How many clean outings would you need to see for it to happen? Three? Five? Ten? I’d probably need to see a stretch of five or so outings where it was clear that the command was back. I wouldn’t so much need to see a scoreless streak, but he’s gotta be able to locate the fastball and the changeup, and that devastating curveball still has to be a wipeout pitch. If I saw those things over a two-week period, I’d probably say, sure, let him try and close again (because of the potential value there).
  • Carlos Villanueva, who may soon head to the bullpen to make room for Jake Arrieta (his rehab start tonight at Daytona may be his last), and he says he’s going to just keep looking for ways to help the team. (Cubs.com)
  • Jesse Rogers wonders whether Carlos Villanueva should have been starting for the Cubs in the first place this year, since he’s a veteran with one year left on his deal, and there’s no need to see what he can offer in that role. Setting aside any interest in winning some games (in April, even on a crappy team, I’m OK with the manager trying to win games, regardless of development plans), there was always the possibility that Villanueva could have pitched very well, setting up some legitimate trade value over the next couple of months (especially when you consider that he’s making a mere $5 million this year – a successful starter is worth a heck of a lot more than a successful long reliever). That’s a part of the future, too. It’s easy to hindsight the thing now, but even if the Cubs had gone with Chris Rusin – 6.32 ERA at AAA right now – they would have had a bullpen crunch that could have cost them seeing someone like Justin Grimm or Hector Rondon at the big league level. That’s a part of the future, too. To me, Villanueva was the right choice for the rotation fill-in. Should a spot open up again later in the year, however, then I’d probably be more inclined to want to see someone with a chance to be a longer-term piece.
  • Len Kasper makes some fantastic suggestions to speed up the pace of baseball games, which have gotten a bit out of whack. The best part about his suggestions? They’re pretty much just about keep the game going the way it’s always supposed to go (enforcing the already-existing 12-second pitch clock with nobody on base (please do this, baseball), and forbidding players from exiting the batter’s box during an at bat to go fiddle around with their gloves or whatever).
  • Bruce Levine on Darwin Barney’s evolving approach at the plate, his added muscle, and his value to other teams in trade (Levine reiterates that the Cubs won’t simply give him away).
  • In case you missed it in the Minor League Daily this morning, Javier Baez returned to action yesterday, DH’ing for the Iowa Cubs. He struck out three times in four at bats (though Tommy Birch noted on Twitter that one of those at bats included a long foul ball that would have been a homer), and popped out in the other at bat. Birch has a write-up on the game here, and Baez says he was still finding himself at the plate. Consider it like a rehab game for any other guy coming off of injury – you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to blow up immediately. Baez is also still just trying to make adjustments at the plate that will improve his overall game long-term. (Meanwhile, have you seen the stupid numbers Kris Bryant is putting up so far at AA Tennessee? It’s early, but yeesh. Just stupid numbers.)
  • Despite what you may have heard to the contrary, the Cubs are doing right by a 100-year-old fan who missed out on participating in Opening Day ceremonies because of some unfortunate traffic (Tribune).
  • Completely random fun:

  • Nate

    There’s no reason to trade Villanueva in my mind. He has much higher value as a mentor to our young players than what he would bring back in a trade.

    • Chad

      I agree Nate. I hope he get resigned to the pen next year.

      • Spoda17

        ++

  • ari gold

    Is there any way to get contact rates on pitches in the strike zone for Baez? If he’s missing balls in the zone, is that worse than chasing pitches out of the zone? My guess though is most of the strike-outs are from being over aggressive.

    • Spoda17

      based on what I saw in ST… he doesn’t miss in the zone at all… he chases pitches…

  • Spoda17

    Brett. the most concerning thing I saw our of Veras yesterday; it seemed he was trying to throw the ball as hard as he could and it was only about 88-89… He looked like a middle-aged man at the ball park at one of those pitch speed booths… Rear back, throw as hard as you can… hit 75mph…

  • JM

    Concerning Baez, I sure hope we don’t keep seeing the O’fers with three stikouts… if he’s going to be the big time player everyone wants/expects him to be, the “on base” numbers need to improve.

    Concerning Veras, I’m done wirh him already. We’ve seen this routine before and it’s played out for me. Cut ties and move on. “Impending value” be damned.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The few players who whiffed at frequencies similar to Baez in miLB whiff at very high rates in MLB. That indicates that this is not something where we can expect to see big improvement. Our hope has to be that Javier will hit so many HR and doubles that the amount he out slugs the other teams’ 2Bmen or 3Bmen will outweigh how much more often the opposing 2Bmen or 3Bmen reach base.

      This is not impossible, and it might not even be improbable; but hoping for a drastic decrease in K’s might be the former and definitely is the latter.

      • JM

        Scary thought.

        Can you explain though why the comparisons are always with players at the same position? Why wouldn’t you compare him player to player? My top player vs your top player?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          An easy way to think of run-differential is to take all 9 or 10 guys in your players and then sum ([Runs Created from Position X - Average Runs Created from Position X] + [Runs Prevented from Position X - Average Runs Prevented from Position X]). In other words, the net gain to your offense plus net damage to their offense from each player creates your run-differential.

          So, let’s say that Javier hits 35 HR. If he’s playing 2nd: last year, that would have been 21 (35-14) more HR for the Cubs than we’d expect from a league-average 2Bman, and thus 21 more homers by our 2BMen than we expect their 2Bmen to have hit. (That’s probably 3-4 wins right there.)

          (On a side note: if Cubs pitchers give up fewer than 14 HR to the opposing 2Bmen, then that is awesome: but that is *their* run prevention and has nothing to do with Javier.)

          If we move Javier to 3rd, then his value drops a little: last year, his hypothetical 35 HR would be 17 more than we expect Cubs pitchers to give up to opposing 3Bmen. Move him to 1st and that is “only” 14 more HR that we expect opposing 1Bmen to hit. (Again, it’s great if the Cubs pitching can make that gap wider: but Javier has nothing to do with that.)

          Now, keep in mind that Javier probably will be a sub-0.300 OBP guy a lot due to a very high K rate and a very low walk rate. That means that he’ll be adding a lot fewer walks and singles to the Cubs than will the players on other teams: but the difference will be smallest (particularly for walks) if he is playing 2nd. The walks are particularly troubling: net walks is the second strongest correlate with winning after net HR, after all. However, if you can find an average-hitting 3Bmen and LFer (which, like pitching, are separate issues from Javier if he’s a 2Bman), then Javier might add 20 HR above expected totals for the Cubs.

          • JM

            Thank you for that explanation. I kinda-sorta-but not really understand it.

            Yet taken as a whole, wouldn’t you then sum up all players 1-9 to get a team value? Which would then be compared across the league?

  • Head and Heart

    Hand wringing over Baez’s K rate VERY early in a stint at a new level. Is it last year already?

  • bonger0493

    If Bryant continues these numbers in AA do you jump him straight to mlb or let him get a few underes PA in AAA?

  • jeff1969

    My thought is Baez will probably figure out how to hit AAA pitching & then ML pitching, but won’t change his strikeout tendencies all that much. He seems to struggle at the beginning of every level and we fans need to be patient with him as he develops. Players can improve their pitch recognition, but it seems to be an extremely difficult thing to do that many fail at. Baez might just be a player who strikes out 125 times, walks 50, slugs .500 and hovers around .280.

    • JM

      I get your point, but I envision closer to 150+ K’s, which will never lead to a .280 BA.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It’s more probable that Baez will K 180+ times: he could easily be a 30% whiffer. That means taht he’d need a 0.400 BA given contact to bat 0.280. Power will be a huge factor there: the more he homers, the less he will need to rely on BABiP. What he might be is a guy with lots of HR, doubles and K’s, and very few singles & BB.

  • CubsFaninMS

    I see Baez as a .260 BA, 3-4 WAR, 150-180 K, 50-60 BB (partly due to intentionally passes), 35 HR, 110 RBI player when you average up his prime season. Projections are just that, though. He’s certainly capable of doing quite a bit greater or worse than that. It’s highly unlikely he will have a season like Gary Sheffield’s 2003 season. That being said, Baez’s major adjustments he made last season when promoted to Tennessee is a very good sign.

  • E

    I’d like to see the Cubs change their name to the Federals. Much more intimidating.

    • DarthHater

      If they want to be truly intimidating, they could change their name to the Federal Tax Auditors. :-D

      • E

        Every team would dred playing the FTA’s!

        There could be some really great promotions at the ballpark around April 15th. ;)

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