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- The Giants won 107 games last year, the most in baseball, and the most in their franchise’s history. Much of that was predicated on huge performances from veteran players (who are a year older now, plus Buster Posey is gone), perfect match-up deployments (which will sometimes not work out in the results), great pitching (so much of which walked), and a whole lot of good luck. It was not hard to see them taking a big step back in results this year without significant upgrades, and I actually don’t even think it is a shock to have seen them fall this far back. They are now just a game over .500, and 12.0 games out in the West, 2.0 games out of the Wild Card.
- I mention that stuff here because the Giants had become this model for what the Cubs hoped to do – at least in terms of the pitching, the unlocking of veteran hitters, and the optimizing platoons/match-ups. The Giants’ relative struggles this year doesn’t mean you say “ope, they were wrong all along,” it’s just a reminder that you also do still need a ton of talent if you’re going to win consistently (and if your core is 32-34 years old, you’re going to be especially prone to a quick dip). All the best coaching and strategizing in the world can get you only so far. Sometimes the bounces won’t go your way, and that’s when an 85-win true talent team goes from fluking into 92 wins to fluking into 78 wins. Incidentally, the Giants “should” be seven games over .500 by Base Runs, which translates underlying performance to an expected record – so they have indeed likely been unlucky this year, to the tune of roughly three losses that should’ve been wins.
- Since I was looking at Base Runs, you’re probably curious like I was: the Cubs’ actual record is five games worse than their expected record by Base Runs, tied with the Angels for the “most unlucky” team in baseball this year. That tracks with what we’ve said/seen anecdotally this season: the Cubs have been bad, and have ALSO been unlucky.
- Here’s something EXTREMELY crazy to think about: if the Cubs had been as “lucky” this year as they’ve been “unlucky” – i.e., a five-game swing in the positive direction – they would be 44-42 right now. As in, more or less the same true underlying performance, but the breaks all go their way, their scoring aligns more perfectly with their opponents’ on a given day, etc. Wrap your head around that for a moment, and what you would think about this team if they were currently two games OVER .500. Just bizarre. And a reminder that sometimes, a team’s record really doesn’t tell you everything about their talent (pro or con). There’s a whole lot of variance in there.
- Obligatory reminders, though: (1) the only thing that actually matters at the end of the season is the real record – everything else is just evaluation; and (2) things stabilize a little bit more by the time you get to 162 games.
- Just for fun, the four best hitting catchers in baseball by wRC+ (minimum 80 PAs): William Contreras (154), Alejandro Kirk (148), Willson Contreras (145), P.J. Higgins (141).
- Since I’m looking at that list, holy smokes there are some “name” catchers who have been brutttttal this year by wRC+ and WAR: Jacob Stallings (43, -1.1), Tucker Barnhart (54, -0.4), Yasmani Grandal (59, -0.3), Salvador Perez (87, -0.3), Austin Nola (78, -0.1), Martin Maldonado (59, 0.0), and Yadier Molina (46, 0.0).
- Also in there, Yan Gomes (43, -0.2), which, well, that’s not good when he’s potentially going to be the 1A guy next year. Gomes, 34, hasn’t had an offensive season even close to this bad since 2016, though the defense still rates out well, at least. There’s also the fact that pitchers really seem to like working with him, and we know that a catcher’s ability to read and react and adjust and work with a pitcher during the course of a start has tremendous value (that we still have a difficult time quantifying). I get the sense from a lot of what we’ve seen this year, and read from pitchers, that Gomes is one of those guys. A reminder, I suppose, that the offense and WAR for a lot of these catchers does not tell the whole story about their importance or value to a team.
- One more bit of curiosity: the league average catcher this year is hitting .222/.293/.364/86 wRC+.
- Concessions workers at Dodger Stadium have authorized a strike for the upcoming All-Star festivities, and the players union expresses solidarity:
- I assume, though, that the players would not go so far as to boycott the events if these issues are not resolved before Sunday. Hopefully for the workers’ sake, this does get resolved soon and they are better taken care of.
- Keith Law beefed yesterday, like I did, about the lack of fully-tradable draft picks in MLB, and also dropped some knowledge on why they still aren’t tradable:
- Your cynical explanation is that there are some smaller market teams – only need eight owners to say no – that don’t want to see any disruption to the draft system, which could further commoditize draft picks in ways that make them slightly more expensive (as bigger market clubs push to acquire more picks and willingly pay over slot). That’s the best explanation I can come up with, and it sucks. Makes me angry.
In conclusion, let’s look 13 billion years into the past:
When viewed against the backdrop of the cosmos, how important is the Cubs’ rebuild anyway?
Very. The answer is very.