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jeff samardzija sharknadoI was told I “passed” Mother’s Day. Woo hoo. Only 364 days until the next test.

  • Welington Castillo suggests that, in his last outing, Jeff Samardzija’s cutter was going particularly well (Tribune), and it got me thinking about Samardzija’s pitch mix this year. If he’s throwing the cutter effectively, watch out. As Castillo notes, you pair a 91/92 mph that darts hard to the left with a 93/94 mph two-seamer that moves hard to the right? That’s a big part of how Greg Maddux worked batters on both sides of the plate (and effective against both lefties and righties), except several MPH faster. Interestingly, Samardzija’s wipeout pitch – his splitter – isn’t something he’s using nearly as much this year as he has in the past. I noticed he had some trouble throwing it for a strike (or close enough to entice hitters to swing) early in the year, and it’s possible he’s disfavoring it right now. But, like, think about that: Samardzija is performing as well as he ever has in his career without relying quite as heavily on his splitter. The more you can keep a pitch like that in your back pocket (assuming he can still throw it effectively (and the data say he still can)), the more you can use it in the most important situations.
  • On the Cubs’ continued struggles with runners in scoring position, Ricky Renteria tells Cubs.com: “We’ve got to do a better job understanding the situation and not getting ourselves where we’re too excited. Kind of take the emotion out of it a little bit. [Hitting coach Bill Mueller] and [assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley] actually talk to the players a lot about trying to take the emotion out of it, slow the game down, but it’s still a process and I think obviously we haven’t gotten where we need to be.” Although RISP is not a repeatable skill on the upper end (just look at the Cardinals this year – there is no such thing as “clutch,” in terms of consistently performing far better with runners in scoring position than you otherwise perform), there is something to the argument that some players may clam up a bit and perform slightly worse with RISP than you would expect. That’s why the best you can hope for is to simply perform as well as you always do (or maybe slightly better, because of a rattled pitcher and reduced defensive shifting ability). Just stay calm, stay within yourself, and focus on hitting the ball hard if it’s in your wheelhouse. Trying to do things “differently” because there’s a runner on base is almost always a mistake.
  • Some of you know, in addition to being a Cubs fan, I am a Michigan football fan. And, if you follow college football, you probably know that it’s been a really rough decade for UM, with a couple coaching transitions and an AD transition. You wouldn’t think it, given the extreme differences in college football and professional baseball, but the parallels in the rebuilding processes (with the bumps along the way) and the fan reactions are really striking. Check out this thread at MGoBlog about fans receiving solicitations to pick up a deal on season tickets – something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Change a word here and there, and the whole thing could have been taken from the comments section on a post around here at any point in the last few months. (You mostly just have to imagine that AD Dave Brandon is playing the part of Tom Ricketts, and head coach Brady Hoke (and Rich Rodriguez before him) is playing the part of Theo Epstein.)
  • For those of you who care about the Message Board (but don’t frequent it enough to have noticed the two recent posts about its imminent demise), this is a heads up that, in conjunction with the previously-discussed site infrastructure changes, the Message Board will be going away this Friday, May 16. You can read about the reasons here and here, but, for anyone who still wants to be a part of a laid-back, intimate-ish Cubs message board, I would recommend Sons of Ivy.
  • chifords2000

    Also unthinkable just a few years ago would have been the Cubs giving away seat fillers.

  • Edwin

    Michigan football team needs to threaten to move. It’s the only way they’ll get that new stadium they want.

    • Jon

      Speaking of Michigan football, Taylor Lewan’s mom…wow!

      • ssckelley

        I did like that dress she was wearing on draft day.

  • Javier Bryant

    I know this is off topic but, I saw some Cardinal fan type twitter account saying they heard a rumor the Marlins were considering trading Giancarlo Stanton to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and maybe Shelby Miller…I had a good laugh

  • Edwin

    More on Jeff:

    According to Brooks Baseball, his sinker usage has gone from 28% in 2013 to 38% so far in 2014. Splitter has gone from 15% to 10%. His Cutter and Fourseam are both down a slight tick, and his slider usage is about the same.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The trick there is that his two-seamer is his sinker (but, for him, it’s more of a lateral movement than a downward movement). Just a classification thing.

      But, yeah, he’s really using the two seamer a lot, and having great success. That’s a really good thing.

      • Edwin

        Yeah.

        I’m not the biggest fan of the drop in K%, but if that’s on a concious effort to try and go for more GB and and fewer BB, then so far it’s working, and I’m fine with it. His first pitch strike % is at a career high of 68.9%, which is great, and his zone% is 52.4%, which is an improvement over the past couple seasons. The stupid thing is that if he had some run support and had some more wins, the baseball writers would be all over him talking about how “he’s more a pitcher and less a thrower now”.

        What’s also interesting, at least to me, is that for the most part the only difference result wise between Jeff this season and Jeff last season so far has been a change in HR/FB% and a change in LB%. He’s basically the same pitcher we’ve seen over the past couple seasons, it’s just this season he’s using a slightly different process and getting much more favorable results.

  • Don Eaddy

    Also a Michigan fan and an MGoBlog reader and your comparison is pretty spot on. Hoke just needs a couple more years to get it going.

    Sidenote: Is it bad as a Michigan/Cubs fan that I enjoy calling our new manager RichRent?

  • VittersStartingLF

    If one of the Dodgers starters gets injured, maybe we could get Joc Pederson and Zack Lee for Shark. I think Pederson would fit real well in Cub’s Way: very high OBP, 11 homers already, some speed plus he hits LH. On top of that Dodgers have no room in their OF for him.

    • Jon

      We can’t block Almora.

  • Adam

    Go HAWKEYES

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      ILL

      • roz

        INI

      • Jon

        WINT

    • ssckelley

      Need a BN poll on who everyone’s favorite college is. I would think us Hawkeyes fans represent very well on here. I actually learned of this site through a Hawkeye message board.

      • Chad

        Your welcome.

  • Jon

    Full, disclosure, I’ve been a huge Samardzija fan for nearly a decade following his school career, Notre Dame football and baseball career. Jeff has been a hard worker and a “winner” his entire life. I really don’t think he has any respect for this front office and their philosophy of throwing away seasons. Midwest Blue collar type/vs East Coast elitists. I don’t think these two sides could be more apart of a social perspective. There just won’t be an extension, which is unfortunate.

    • JCubs79

      Same here. I’ve been following him since he was at Valpo. I had family living there while he was in high school. He has no reason to have any respect for this FO.

  • Unlucky 13

    If Michigan hadn’t stolen Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, both teams may be much better off than they are today. One guy can work wonders at school A and be a total flop at school B. WVU has gone from a top 15 team to one at the bottom of the conference, but at least I can take solace in the fact that Michigan got screwed by karma on the other end. Go Mountaineers! :)

  • Spriggs

    That blows about the MB… just became aware it was going away.

    • Fishin Phil

      I just learned today as well Spriggs. I am going through a brief mourning period, I am flying my pants at half-mast.

      • Jon

        I though the MB would be waaaay more popular considering I don’t post there.

        • Fishin Phil

          That was one of it’s charms. ;)

          • DarthHater

            It’s nice to just sit there and listen to the sound of non-whining.

            • Jon

              I hear there is even a circle jerk on Thursday nights.

              • Darth Ivy
              • Cizzle

                Jon, I’m sure you’ve eaten more than a few ‘salted crackers’.

              • DarthHater

                Nobody could possibly keep up with your daily circle-jerks on the public board, Jon.

                • waittilthisyear

                  more like jerk circles, amiright?

                  ill excuse myself…

  • Darth Ivy

    If the FO messes up this Samardzija thing….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g9q_VTOr7k

  • Medicos

    Scoring less than 3-runs in 20 out of 36 games After scoring only 4-runs in Atlanta, Cubs starters with only 6 total wins and a 2.06 ERA in 2014 might be thinking about going on strike. Sad thing is that a team has never won a 0-0 game. This Cub team is slowly becoming an unwatchable product.

    Considering the NL Central standings it’s too bad the Cubs run production hasn’t been just a little bit better there’s no way they’d be in last place:

    Brewers 24-14
    Cards 19-19
    Reds 17-19
    Pirates 16-21
    Cubs 12-24

    Good thing the Astros (12-26) were moved to the AL West

  • Critterbeard

    “there is something to the argument that some players may clam up a bit and perform slightly worse with RISP than you would expect.”

    I’m open to this idea because it seems logical, but how could this exist in a world where you would expect everyone to perform the same in clutch-type situations. Doesn’t the existence of anti-clutch behavior require that some without the anti-clutch behavior have to perform better than the those that are anti-clutch? Or are you making the argument that only hitters can be anti-clutch? I’m open to the argument that some players may clam up, but this isn’t adding up.

    • Sandberg

      The argument as I understand it is that players cannot play better than usual depending on the situation (clutch), but they can play worse than usual depending on the situation (choking).

      • Critterbeard

        crap…forgot to reply in the right spot

        Ok, I’ll agree with that. However, these players don’t play in a vacuum. Wouldn’t this cause players who play as usual in the clutch appear to actually be clutch players as some of their opponents are choking?

        • OCCubFan

          On average, hitters should perform better in many clutch situations for a variety of reasons: Pitcher working in stretch, infield pulled in, infield playing to hold runner close, infield playing for double play, unable to use extreme shifts, if pitcher just put men on base perhaps it’s not his best day, etc. (not all apply in all situations). Therefore, if a hitter ignores everything else–especially those who stress situational hitting—he is likely to perform better than he does on average, though not by a huge amount. Yet, evidently, no one has been able to measure this effect.

  • Jon

    http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2014/05/crane-kenney-talks-wrigley-field-cubs-finances-media-rights-forbes.php#.U3DjEVeGpBB

    In other news Crane Kenny is full of shit

    “We could sign three players this off-season, and we’ll win 84 games. It will feel better on a day-to-day basis, but it’s not going to help us to get to the promise land which is a World Series.”

    Really Crane? Name those 3 players.

    • Critterbeard

      Trout, Kershaw, & Stanton (assuming they were free agents and we could sign them) and we might win 84 games

      • Jon

        Exactly. Obviously he probably meant to say, “We could sign three players this offseason and win 72 games”. But truly, in a make believe scenario were the Cubs could sign 3 guys(within the budget) and make them 20 games better, hell yeah they would. That would mean that as early as next year with Bryant and others arriving, you are winning 90 games!

        Kenny pretty much talks out of his ass 24/7

    • Medicos

      MOE, LARRY , and CURLY. SHEMP just had TJ surgery.

      • Karl Groucho

        Those guys.

  • Critterbeard

    Ok, I’ll agree with that. However, these players don’t play in a vacuum. Wouldn’t this cause players who play as usual in the clutch appear to actually be clutch players as some of their opponents are choking?

    • Bilbo161

      The problem with the “no such thing as clutch” argument is that those that believe that change the definition of clutch. Clutch hitters are simply the ones most proficient at gettin the risp to the plate. That is not hard to look up.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Yes, but the hitters who are most proficient at getting the RISP to the plate are 99 times out of 100 the hitters who are most proficient at hitting without any RISP. That is why the idea of clutch hitting is widely considered a myth.

      • Norm

        While a hitter may be proficient one year, there is no special ‘skill’ involved where you can say he’ll repeat that proficiency in subsequent seasons.

        • Bilbo161

          I don’t think clutch necessarily carries over year to year it’s just however is best at it each year. Clutch is just being redefined to fit a statisticians experimental design. I do like using all the newer stats just don’t think this one is looked at properly.

          • Norm

            Everyone knows “clutch” exists, as in “situations”.
            When someone says “there is no such thing as clutch”, they are referring to clutch as in a “skill”.

            Sounds like you agree.

            • Bilbo161

              I suppose thinking of it that way makes it not so different an opinion. I just get irritated with the blanket statement that there is no such thing as clutch. Too many just use it as an excuse to get in your face about a simple opinion. :( Guess I’ll survive though. :)

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Where “clutch” gets irritating is in it’s tautological usage. Pat Hughes is a big offender: every hit with a man in scoring position is a “clutch” hit. Just say “scored following a single by X” instead of “scored following a clutch single by X”: after all, if “clutch single” = “RBI single,” then it’s redundant to use the word.

                That written, Pat Hughes clearly does not buy into what baseball data demonstrate: Hughes frequently asserts that it’s the team that most the most of it’s situations that wins, despite the fact that the data overwhelmingly show that it’s the teams that make the most opportunities that.

                • TWC

                  That’s my only beef with Pat Hughes. His baseball insight is decidedly old school.

                  • YourResidentJag

                    That’s actually not true. He reads Sheehan extensively. Ron Coomer is the guy you should have more concern over.

                    • TWC

                      I haven’t made up my mind on Coomer yet. I think I’m still in the “at least it’s not that dope Moreland” glow.

                      I listen to ~ 100 games a year, and I’m pretty confident I hear crap like “situational hitting” and “clutch hitting” on a daily basis, and lots of focus on BA (at the expense of OBP and/or SLG). If you can point me to any evidence to the contrary, I’ll gladly look at it — I love Pat’s game calling — but I just don’t hear a modern insight when I listen.

                      (In his defense, I’m not sure the typical radio-listening market necessarily wants a more modern analysis. I suspect they’re a mostly old-school skewing group. Even Len Kasper has taken years to weave modern stats into his broadcasts.)

                    • YourResidentJag

                      Probably true about the audience. I think it’s a process of him “turning the corner” in terms of modern stats. So, it’s probably not something in large that I could find in past evidence, but something that you’re going to see in pieces. He quoted directly on Saturday from Sheehan’s article in SI regarding SOs, OBP, and how the game is changed by the increase in SOs. Sheehan’s argument, not mine, of course.

                    • TWC

                      Well in that’s the case, I applaud Pat for doing so, and I regret missing hearing that. I’ll certainly be on the lookout to hear more from him.

                      Thanks.

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

                      Pat and Ron are VERY much old school. The fact that they are just now talking about K rates and OBP solidifies that fact.

                      It does make sense, though, it is rather difficult to discuss wOBA and FIP over the radio to an audience that probably features more folks who were alive when the Cubs last made the World Series than folks who know the world without the internet.

                    • TWC

                      Pat, seconds ago: “… but [Holiday is] a clutch hitter, with 28 RBIs.”

                      Come onnnnnn…

                • Karl Groucho

                  The toughest problem is explaining it to people who’ve seen it. E.g. a certain player has performed at a higher variance in clutch situations, and the stats back it up. The performance may be within an expected deviation over a sample of this size, but they have seen a player perform better and they’re right that he did. Convincing them that it was just chance, then, is not so easy, even armed with stats that show little in the way of significance over all a large sample.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    I think that what most people remember is a particular play that they saw. Ryne Sandberg was forever “clutch” to lot of Cubs fans after the Sandberg Game. However, to another segment of Cubs fans, he was forever “choke” after end the 1989 playoffs with the tying run in scoring position.

                    (Sandberg’s relatively low BAwRiSP also came up a lot: but, of course, Ryno played at the height of “deliberately ground out to 2nd to advance the baserunner,” which obviously was going to hurt that “clutch” stat a lot.)

              • Brocktoon

                The discussion of its nonexistence is regarding predictive value. Obviously ABs have different levels of importance looking backwards. The issue comes with using those past clutch stats to project going forward.

      • Spriggs

        If you believed what the golf commentators said during a golf match on TV, especially a major tournament, you would think that clutch was about the only thing that mattered.

        • Bilbo161

          Yeah, talk about hyperbole. Those golf guys have it. That’s a sport I can do without myself. Talk about high ticket prices!

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Golf and baseball hitting have almost nothing to do with each other, however. Golf is active: you get to sit back and think about what you need to do, steel yourself, and then attempt to execute precise mechanics. Baseball hitting is reactive: you respond to what you see with trained reflex.

          Now, golf probably is a great comparison for pitching in baseball: but the better analogies for hitting would be in things like fencing or other martial arts, where so much of it is well-trained reaction to what your opponent is doing.

  • OCCubFan

    Brett, you wrote ” I “passed” Mother’s Day. Woo hoo. Only 364 days until the next test.”

    I strongly urge you not to forget Wife’s birthday, anniversary, Christmas, or Valentine Day.

    • Spriggs

      …and the kids’ birthdays, anniversary of the first date, and the anniversary of the first everything else.

    • Bilbo161

      But was he talking about his mother? Wives are not mothers to their husbands are they? Well, I can see that argument coming back at me. :)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Crap.

  • The Nefi Perez Plan

    “There is no such thing as clutch”? This has been disproven by several different studies at this point. The problem is that the amount of at bats that happen over a season or even a few seasons create an insufficient sample size. Look up Tom Tango, Adam Silver, etc. I will attach the below link because it has a fairly thorough explanation. http://www.dolphinsim.com/ratings/notes/clutch.html

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll do some reading, but I think that goes a bit far. I’ll buy, as I said above, that “clutch” exists in the sense that some guys are better than others at not pissing down their leg in high-leverage situations (because obviously), but performing better than they do otherwise? (When controlling for the fact that all hitters tend to hit better with runners on base for the reasons mentioned above?) I haven’t heard that before from the sabermetric community, but maybe the fault is my own.

      • The Nefi Perez Plan
        • CubChymyst

          That article is interesting, but it does say at most it is worth 1 win a year for the “Most clutch” players in the past few decades. At the end Silver related it to base running ability in that it is only a small part compared to pitch the ball, catch the ball, and hit the ball.

          Here is quote saying it is fools gold to look for clutch hitters from that article.
          “That said, apart from the bonus effects of plate discipline, it’s probably folly for a club to go looking for clutch hitters — the ability just isn’t important enough in the bigger scheme of things.”

          • The Nefi Perez Plan

            Right, I am not trying to rail for the long over valued cluch hitting as a game changing skill as much as I am just trying to state that it does exist. Having a minimal value is much different than not existing.

            • CubChymyst

              I guess my thing is when does the point of minimal value become insignificant. If clutch hitting counts for 1 out of 100, is it really worth getting into. For me clutch hitting falls into the non significant part, and your better off talking about a hitters true ability.

              Though I would like to see that table that showed the top 25 be expanded to show the bottom 25 just for curiosity sake.

              • The Nefi Perez Plan

                The thing is most teams are playing on the margins. Unless you are the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers you can’t sign the best players every time and when picking among similar useful players, small margin items that still provide some value can help move the needle versus a similar guy in making your team better.

                • CubChymyst

                  Most teams do play on the margin and look for those marginal wins. With clutch hitting though how many plate appearances do you need before you can say a guy has that marginal clutch value? Maybe you get 1 extra win a year by having a clutch hitter, but it might take 7-10 years for that player to establish themselves as a clutch hitter. After those 7-10 years the player is likely not the same hitter he was before.

                  • The Nefi Perez Plan

                    What you said is true. However if he was a clutch .300 hitter and is then a clutch .275 hitter after 10 years. His clutch value still adds to his value as a .275 hitter.

                    I think the interesting thing to see would be if minor league clutch at bats are also predictive because the players would be getting to free agency right about the time this has established value.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The one flaw in all of those studies taht I have seen is the failure to correct for multiple independent tests. If you take 20 batters, then we expect that, just due to chance alone, one guy will deviate from expectations at P≤0.05. And there is the rub: the distribution of significances of deviations is indistinguisable from uniform: that is, one in 20 is over/under-achieving at a level that 5% should, one in 100 is over/under-achieving at a level that 1% should, etc.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Obviously, the market for good starting pitching goes up near the July 31st deadline among the playoff contenders. But if I’m the Cubs then I am very aggressively working to trade Jeff Samardzija right now. He’s a the zenith of his trade value. You’re a playoff contender in a league where there is a big shortage of quality healthy pitching? Then I’m on the phone with TheoJed right now. Give me 4 plus months of Samardzija this season, plus team control next year?

    Make the trade now TheoJed. Seriously. We are a 105 loss team with our without Samardzija and it is very, very clear he is going to be an ex-Cub at some point anyway.

    • Voice of Reason

      I’m with you on trading Shark today, BUT ONLY if he doesn’t agree to a contract extension. 5 years and $75 million bucks. That’s a solid offer. There are other starters at the same or better caliber than Shark who signed for less this past off season. Throw in reachable incentives that could take the yearly salary over $20 million bucks.

      I want to stop spinning everyone for minor leaguers. I agree that we need to keep adding to the numbers in the minors, but Shark is proving to be a #2 and perhaps a #1???? He could also regress as the season goes along so the offer is very fair. He will get another shot at free agency and more money.

      We’re not going to get another #2 in return for Shark. We’ll get one or two top prospects who might pan out and then probably another couple of throw in guys. I’d rather keep Shark and keep moving forward.

    • YourResidentJag

      I would probably be beneficial to the other team involved in the trade as well.

  • Funn Dave

    I did not know you were a Michigan fan. Go, Blue!

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