The Bears lost to the Packers last night in exceptionally ugly, exceptionally public fashion. I feel for the Bears fans among you, and I hope that the positive progress of the Cubs is at least some small measure of comfort. Joe Maddon! Money to spend! Prospects! Batflips!
- I don’t know that Luis Valbuena has received enough post-season praise for his excellent 2014 season. Valbuena was getting a ton of love mid-season when he was performing like a top three third baseman in baseball, but, after an understandable slump thereafter, you didn’t hear much about Valbuena, even though he was consistently good all year long. The Cubs’ third baseman finished the year with a .249/.341/.435 .342 wOBA and 116 wRC+. Valbuena, then, when all was said and done, was 16% better offensively than the average player. For a guy with two more years of control left, who made just $1.7 million, and whom the Cubs plucked from waivers a couple years ago, that’s damn good. Actually, strike that. For any player, that’s damn good. And it wasn’t smoke and mirrors, either: although Valbuena’s BABIP was higher than his career average, it was still under .300 (.294), and his minor league BABIP in the upper levels was consistently in the .340(!) range. Valbuena’s power took a small step forward, his walk rate remained well above average, and the combined effect was what we saw. Also: Valbuena’s 4.17 pitches per plate appearance was 11th best in all of baseball.
- So what happens to Valbuena next year? Well, he will play the 2015 season at age 29, and the Cubs don’t need to trade him regardless of what happens with Kris Bryant. Perhaps Bryant needs more minor league seasoning than we think, and Valbuena holds down the third base job for a while. Or maybe Bryant moves to the outfield in the big leagues. Or maybe Bryant plays third and Valbuena becomes an elite bench guy. And if Bryant breaks out immediately and Javier Baez is holding down second base well, then maybe the Cubs have a great chip to shop at the deadline as perhaps they look to upgrade elsewhere. Whatever the case, it’s good to have Valbuena, and he deserved a little love today.
- Also, important:
- You know, we haven’t heard anything about Maddon/Cubs/Rays tampering situation in a few days. Maybe that’s that. Or maybe I just jinxed it.
- BP looks at the longest homers of the year, and how they happened.
- David Laurila puts together these notes at FanGraphs on Sundays with interviews, mechanical stuff, prospect stuff, etc., and it’s always a great read if you’re looking to understand the game a little bit more. This week’s edition is no exception, and it concludes with this gem:
In 2005, the Red Sox minor league system was ranked 21st among the 30 teams. Their top six prospects that year were: 1. Hanley Ramirez, 2. Brandon Moss, 3. Jonathan Papelbon, 4. Jon Lester, 5. Anibal Sanchez, 6. Dustin Pedroia. They’ve since gone on to accumulate 164.4 WAR. The Chicago Cubs were ranked 11 spots ahead of the Red Sox, at No. 10. Their top prospects were; 1. Brian Dopirak, 2. Felix Pie, 3. Ryan Harvey, 4. Angel Guzman, 5. Billy Petrick, 6. Renyel Pinto. They ended up being worth minus 1.1 WAR.
- That is something, man. Before you freak out about the Cubs side of that equation and start comparing it to today’s crop, keep in mind: (1) rankings are much better these days; (2) the Cubs have the top farm system, not the 10th best; and (3) Dopirak peaked at number 21 that year, whereas the Cubs’ current crop of elite prospects are peaking in the top five. Big, big difference.
- Dayn Perry writes about the job the other GM in Chicago is doing. That’d be Rick Hahn, who admittedly is doing some very good things with the White Sox. I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t point out the fact that, while also rebuilding, the Cubs have won three more games over the past two seasons than the White Sox. Just sayin’.