Lottery Value, Production Expectations, Suzuki's Zones, Higgins Outrighted, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Lottery Value, Production Expectations, Suzuki’s Zones, Higgins Outrighted, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Just lose today, Bears. I have never in my life been rooting harder for a team I love to lose – a loss guarantees the Bears a top two pick in the draft, and gives them a shot at number one. And with Justin Fields not even playing today, it’s not like I could look at a win and say, “Ah, well, crap, at least Justin played well and continues his development.” If I were GM Ryan Poles, I *ABSOLUTELY* would’ve had the uncomfortable – but FIRM – conversation with head coach Matt Eberflus about what he needed to do today.

All of which, by the way, makes me appreciate that MLB now has a draft lottery. Yes, in a lost year, you’ll still GENERALLY be more OK with losses down the stretch. But thanks to the lottery, I wasn’t twisting myself up in knots at the Cubs winning a bunch of “meaningless” games in August and September and October. Sure, the lottery wound up playing out quite poorly for the Cubs – a couple more losses and they might’ve been picking top six instead of thirteen – but I couldn’t know it for sure at the time of the games. So I got to just enjoy them no matter what: if the Cubs lost, it would help their lottery odds. If the Cubs won, it would help their ability to convince free agents they were improving (and watching wins is generally more fun than watching losses?). So the lottery, from a fanning perspective … works?

  • The 2023 Chicago Cubs Convention is just five days away. It’s really weird, because it’s been three years since the last one – just before the pandemic really set in. I’m so excited to be surrounded by fellow nerdy Cubs fans again, but I also don’t really know what to expect. If you see me wandering around the hotel, feel free to say hi or tell me I’m too optimistic or tell me I’m too pessimistic or tell me I talk about the Mets too much. And if you’re coming out on Friday night after the opening ceremonies, Lizzie McNeill’s – next to the Sheraton – is the place to be!
  • I was randomly look at Chris Taylor’s season, which I knew had been a very down year for the long-time successful super utility man (93 wRC+), but I didn’t realize just how bad some of the underlying metrics were. Among hitters with at least 450 plate appearances in 2022 (regulars and semi-regulars), Taylor’s expected wOBA was 10th worst in all of baseball.
  • OK, but this isn’t really about Taylor, who is the Dodgers’ problem. Instead, this is about the Cubs – because while I was looking at Taylor, and seeing how his xwOBA was 21 points lower than his actual wOBA (which means he was bad last year AND he might have been lucky to merely be bad), I saw a number of Cubs names showing up on the list of guys whose xwOBAs were a good bit lower than their actual wOBAs. All of Ian Happ (33 points), Nico Hoerner (19), Seiya Suzuki (7), and Patrick Wisdom (21), for example, had wOBAs that were a lot higher than their xwOBAs. (Dansby Swanson’s exactly matched, by the way, and Cody Bellinger’s was 6 points higher, for what it’s worth.)
  • There’s nothing really do DO with that information, because xwOBA isn’t perfect, and you can’t account for luck in any perfect way. I just found it interesting while perusing. You could argue that it gives you pause on presuming each of Happ, Hoerner, Suzuki, and Wisdom will be above-average bats in 2023 *IF* you were basing that presumption exclusively on their production in 2022. I’m not sure I’d make that argument, myself, since Happ, Hoerner, and Wisdom always seem to outproduce their xwOBA (Happ has done it literally every single season of his career, and Hoerner and Wisdom have done it each of the last two years). And then you’ve got Suzuki, whose wOBA and xwOBA nearly matched anyway, and we expect him to continue to improve in 2023 in any case.
  • Speaking of which. Seiya Suzuki is getting to work (sound on, if you want the full experience):
  • And speaking of Suzuki, a very interesting find by Bryan, which does suggest that Suzuki could stand to do a lot more damage when he gets meatballs (for one example):
  • Not saying Cubs would use these or not, but just something to have in your back pocket when considering roster construction out of Spring Training IF NECESSARY: each of Nick Madrigal, Christopher Morel, and Patrick Wisdom have minor league option years remaining. We know that guys like Nelson Velazquez and Miles Mastrobuoni also have options, and may not make the Opening Day roster. But with the other three, it feels like there is this assumption that they will definitely and obviously make the roster. They probably will! I’m just saying that, strictly speaking, they don’t have to.
  • If you missed it, catcher P.J. Higgins cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. BUT NOTE that he has the right to elect free agency now if he prefers. We’ll see if he accepts the outright over the next day or two. Accepting the assignment effectively becomes a new minor league deal, albeit at a pricier level than your typical minor league deal – Arizona Phil says a guy outrighted in this situation gets a contract where your minor league rate has to be at least half of what you earned in the big leagues the previous year. In other words, unless Higgins believes he can get a minor league deal elsewhere for more than $300,000 (very unlikely), or believes he can find an organization where his path to getting back to the big leagues is MUCH easier (also seems unlikely), he should accept this assignment.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.