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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Monday, February 12, 2018

Finally

It’s probably safe to assume the Cubs were able to finalize their deal with Darvish because they waited out the market, though being patient while the Cubs sat there with a huge hole in the rotation wasn’t easy for us fans.  The Cubs guaranteed $200+million to pitchers this offseason, and yet it still was a pretty quiet one overall.  While it’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs plan on spending their money over the next few years having added another big deal - with us hoping for still another big FA signing next offseason, it’s worth remembering the Cubs still haven’t truly flexed their big market advantage to its fullest potential yet.  Instead of focusing on those long term implications - as well as the work that’s needed on the farm to develop the next round of prospects, I’m ready to start thinking about the 2018 Cubs; their strengths, weaknesses, and how they match up against the other contenders. 

The Opening Day roster is virtually set, depending on health.
Rotation (order to be determined, but here’s how I’d line it up for now): Hendricks, Quintana, Davish, Lester, Chatwood
Bullpen: Morrow, Cishek, Strop, Edwards, Wilson, Duensing, Montgomery
IF: Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, LaStella
OF: Schwarber, Almora, Heyward, Happ, Zobrist

There are 2 open spots right now, one is the backup catcher and the other is likely another bullpen arm.  It’s probably safe to assume Gimenez has the inside track as backup C, even on the minor league deal.  We’ve talked about Caratini to death round these parts, but I wouldn’t be opposed to him earning the job either.  Not that I have an actual guess or preference, but perhaps there’s even a FA out there who ends up taking a late cheap deal to fill the role.  Grimm doesn’t have any options, so he likely has the inside track for the last spot in the pen, though Maples is the obvious guy to watch out for; if he doesn’t make the team now, he surely will be up at some point this year. 

Another possibility would be a late signing that bumps LaStella from the roster.  Again, I don’t have a suggestion here, but if there were an OFer with a slightly better bat that happened to show up during ST, Tommy would appear to be the guy on the outside looking in.  I don’t think he has options either, so it’d have to be a clear upgrade on a guy that has more positional flexibility. 

Any news that comes out of ST, I’ll keep updating this thread.  I plan to post another one much closer to the start of the season for prediction type stuff.

Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 12, 2018 at 10:33 AM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 12, 2018 at 12:34 PM (#5623536)
Responding from the other thread:

In all, the starting rotation looks a bit better. Not dramatically so, but better. Health is always the wild card.

I'll agree with zonk that yeah it is dramatically better. The projections are better than what ended up happening last year. Quick and dirty...

2017 actuals
Lester 2.7
Hendricks 2.5
Quintana 1.3 (Cubs only, bb-ref WAR, rest are FG)
Arrieta 2.4
Lackey 0.5
Butler 0.6
Montgomery 1.3 (total, not just SP)
=11.3


2018 projections (ZIPS, STEAMER)
Lester 3.5, 3.5
Hendricks 3.2, 2.7
Quintana 4.9, 4.2
Darvish 3.9, 3.9
Chatwood 1.7, 1.9
Montgomery 1.5, 0.6
(Arrieta: 3.0, 2.8)
=17.2, 16.2 (doesn't include Monty in there)

6 wins or so better than last year's rotation? Darvish is probably 2.5 wins on his own over Monty (plus Monty moving someone worse out of the pen). Yeah, health is a key, and obviously injuries were a big reason why last year's rotation underachieved.
   2. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 12, 2018 at 12:38 PM (#5623541)
Dan Szymborski @DSzymborski Feb 11

ZiPS division/playoff/WS prob for Cubs before signing Yu Darvish: 58.4%/80.4%/9.0%. After: 71.9%/89.9%/12.1%


He also tweeeted ZIPS 6 year projection for Darvish.
   3. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM (#5623550)
Moses, you're forgetting the -0.8 bWAR that Anderson contributed last season.
   4. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 12, 2018 at 12:51 PM (#5623559)
Better you remember it than me. Ugh. So yeah, maybe 7 wins better?
   5. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 12, 2018 at 01:44 PM (#5623625)
I feel a lot better heading into 2018 than I did heading into 2017, frankly.

Injuries happen sure - and I wish there were another premium, trusted arm in the bullpen... but it's hard to see how the 2018 Cubs don't look to be in far better shape than the 2017 version.
   6. Quaker Posted: February 12, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5623659)
That's 12.1% to win or to reach the WS? I'm assuming the former.
   7. Voodoo Posted: February 12, 2018 at 03:07 PM (#5623712)
STEAMER and Zips both regard Quintana as not only the Cubs best pitcher, but significantly so. That's interesting.
   8. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 12, 2018 at 05:12 PM (#5623816)
STEAMER and Zips both regard Quintana as not only the Cubs best pitcher, but significantly so. That's interesting.


Hmmmm... I guess I could see how projection systems would end up there -

Hendricks doesn't have nearly so long a track record. Darvish missed nearly a season and half. Lester is 33 and coming off a poor year.

If you're a projection system just running the numbers, I imagine you'd prefer the guy with a near-perfect health record and a virtual model of consistency, too.

I think he's certainly the safest bet in the rotation.
   9. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 12, 2018 at 06:01 PM (#5623849)
I guess my role this year is the pessimist. I actually feel quite good about the status of the pitching, but I would like it to be better.

It's not like the starting pitching is weak or anything, far from it, but here is what those numbers are saying (Steamer):

Lester: +0.8 WAR improvement over 2017
Hendricks: +0.2
Darvish: +0.4
Chatwood: +0.8
Quintana: +0.3

Is everyone going to improve? I don't know about that. Lester and Hendricks both showed serious drops in velocity last season; without that making a comeback I am not counting on a lot of improvement on the horizon. Not that that won't happen, nor that they both didn't have good years last year despite the drops, but I think everyone being better is a pretty rosy picture.

The big picture I see is that the 2017 Cubs starting pitching had a lot of head-scratching inconsistency and dead arms, and yet they still were decent overall. It could be that that was an anomaly and those same pitchers are bound to do better this year, but it's probably more likely that some of the decline will continue.

Probably the biggest factor is going to be health, as was mentioned. For 2018, I feel better about the Cubs need to search under the sofa cushions for replacement starters. Last year, 48 starts went to guys who ended up with WAR <1.0: Butler, Lackey, Anderson, Tseng. 30 of those to Lackey. 48 is not that many. The Dodgers had 35. In 2016 the Cubs had TEN. Anyway, this more than anything else is why I think the Cubs are in better shape on paper going into 2018. Not in ~50% better shape, but better.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 12, 2018 at 06:03 PM (#5623850)
Not that that won't happen, nor that they both didn't have good years last year despite the drops

Eh, Lester didn't have a good year.
   11. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 12, 2018 at 07:12 PM (#5623885)
+2.5 WAR is good. I mean, they might be paying him for more than that, but it's a good year. A rotation full of +2.5 WAR starters is good. And that's kind of what the Cubs look like right now.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 12, 2018 at 07:38 PM (#5623897)
He had a 100 ERA+. That's exactly average. I wouldn't describe that as "good," even without the expectation context, but maybe that's just semantics.
   13. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 12, 2018 at 07:46 PM (#5623905)
If the rotation is all 2.5s, that's a disappointing result for 80% of them.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:07 AM (#5623994)
injuries were a big reason why last year's rotation underachieved.

I wouldn't exactly put it that way (and the injury to Anderson may have been a blessing :-). The Cubs got 116 starts out of their top 4 then added a healthy Quintana for 14 more. That's excellent health, well above-average. Given we didn't really have a stable #5 to start the season, the 32 starts out of Monty, Butler, Anderson and Tseng is the #5 starter. So we missed the equivalent of less than half a season out of top 4 which is below expectation -- and we got to replace that with Quintana. And then you figure Butler is credited with a 111 ERA+ and Monty wasn't much worse than that (maybe a 105 as a starter) and any underachievement was the fault of underachievement, if you know what I mean. Lester dropping from a 171 ERA+ in 2016 to a 100 ERA+ was the big blow and the 30 point drop from Lackey didn't help either.

(I suppose things were less grim by fWAR, Lester was credited for just 0.7 bWAR.

He also tweeeted ZIPS 6 year projection for Darvish.

I'll take it. I'm hoping for 900 healthy innings over the contract, this comes in around 850 but has him as still very good pitcher at 36. Comes out to 18 zWAR. (That said, it seems to me that I have often found zWAR rather optimistic for pitchers).

but it's hard to see how the 2018 Cubs don't look to be in far better shape than the 2017 version.

Do you mean overall or in terms of pitching? Overall I find it hard to say that, albeit maybe I was overly optimistic about 2017. While I have no complaints, not much actually went right for the 2017 position players -- Schwarber, Heyward, Zobrist were all pretty disapopointing; Russell and Baez kinda stagnated; Bryant had the weird RISP split; Contreras was certainly a huge positive and Happ was much more productive than expected. That said ... apparently we scored slightly more runs in 2017, as did the whole NL. Moving into 2018, the offense hasn't improved at all -- it could, probably a bit more upside hope than downside fear (Heyward and Zobrist can't get much worse and might lose their jobs if they did).

I'm not particularly more optimistic on the pitching side. Lester is older, Chatwood is a mystery to me, I'm not convinced that (in the short term) Darvish is much better than Arrieta. Again I might have been overly optimistic but I was expecting a bit more out of Lackey and a good bit more out of Lester last spring. Quintana of course is a huge addition. On the pen, I certainly had much more faith in Wade Davis than anybody out there now. If he wasn't hurt (and he doesn't seem to have been), I was expecting Rondon to at least bounce back to pretty good reliever level.

Or maybe you just meant the March 2018 Cubs look better than the Sept 2017 Cubs. I can't disagree there although most of it is that the 2018 pen can't be much worse than the one that was limping across the line last year.

Anyway, I was probably overly exuberant but I was really expecting last year's team to win about 95-97 unless there were major pitching injuries. This year I'm expecting something pretty close to the 2017 Cubs where 95-97 is more the upside.

On 2.5 pitcher WAR ... by bWAR last year, only 48 starters made it to 2.5 WAR, only 63 to 2 WAR. Using fWAR, there are a few more to hit those thresholds (52 and 70). The projected 16 WAR (if it was bWAR) would have been the 3rd best in the NL, well behind Was and Ari but a bit ahead of the Rox and about 3.5 wins better than the Dodgers (who averaged about 2.5 WAR per SP slot). If the Cubs end up with 4 SP in the top 50 and another in the top 70 in MLB, I think Theo has done his job.

Unfortunately, in a short series, I'd probably rather have Kershaw, a healthy Hill, Wood and Maeda ... or Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark ... but it's reasonably close.
   15. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:43 AM (#5624048)
If "dead arm" is an injury, then the Cubs starters had a fair number of injuries in 2017. All four of the Cubs main starters showed a drop in velocity last season.
   16. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:53 AM (#5624092)
Right, and maybe the Cubs are still fortunate compared to other teams. I also got the impression at the time that multiple guys were starting when they weren't completely healthy, even if they didn't go on the DL (Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta) as opposed to a team like the Dodgers that had superior depth and used the 10 day DL to their advantage to rest guys that likely were healthier. I guess it's just a matter of perspective whether you'd call that injuries or underperformance.

I'm not convinced that (in the short term) Darvish is much better than Arrieta.

As opposed to me, I'm absolutely convinced Darvish is clearly better in the short term, but I guess whether Arrieta will be better long term (the whole no TJS and miles on arms argument).
   17. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5624093)
but it's hard to see how the 2018 Cubs don't look to be in far better shape than the 2017 version.

Do you mean overall or in terms of pitching?


I mean overall - and comparing the February 2017 to February 2018 iterations... To some extent, you can say that swapping Darvish for Jake is a wash - but there's also Quintana over Lackey. Add to that - I DO love Chatwood and in any case, he's basically replacing Brett Anderson (and/or allowing Monty to firmly be the long man/6th starter/help with a bullpen that needs it).

We didn't know Happ would be as good as he was going in. On the flip side, I think we all probably expected Schwarbs to be better. Contreras was also still in a "prove it" kind of place.

I probably did have more confidence in the bullpen - or maybe confidence isn't the right word... upside expectations? Upside hopes?
   18. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:59 AM (#5624098)
I guess I'd rank recent iterations this way

post-2016 Cubs
pre-2018 Cubs
pre-2016 Cubs
post-2017 Cubs
pre-2017 Cubs

This is primarily because I think the rotation looks more promising than any other. Yes - some disappointments linger from the 2017 offense, but I think those disappointments are compensated by Happ having a ~2 WAR year playing 5 positions, Contreras becoming a star, and the fact that Schwarber had a rather underrated bounceback to usefulness after his Iowa exile.
   19. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:11 AM (#5624163)
I was willfully oblivious to the 2017 team's shortcomings this time last year; call it a hangover, call it delusional, whatever. I was extremely high on the 2016 team going into ST. A lot of things went right for the 2016 team, a lot of things went wrong in 2017.

So, I'm expecting them to be better than they were in 2017, but not necessarily as good as I thought the 2017 team would be last ST (or as good as the 2016 team). Honestly, I think they can be better than last year in pretty much every area, even though I know that's not how it'll end up happening.
   20. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:41 AM (#5624192)
I suppose that actually, I should flip the pre-2016 and pre-2018 Cubs... if for no other reason than we didn't know Heyward would completely forget how to hit.
   21. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5624247)
I've never felt as good about a Cubs team as I did going into 2016, and frankly, I will feel lucky if it ever again feels that way going into a season. And then they didn't meet those high expectations: they trampled over them.

My expectation for the 2018 Cubs at this point is similar to what I expected in 2017: the path to success will be mostly on the offensive side. Last year it didn't turn out that way at all: both the offense and defense posted a middling 4.5 runs/game in the first half, and then in the second half they were 2016 all over again (.662 win percentage, and actually underperforming their Pythagorean).

The main reason I think this is that they have so many young and extremely talented position players, and the potential for steps forward pitching-wise is not nearly as obvious, at least not to me. 4.5 R/G on the defensive side and 5.2 from the offense should net you 94 wins, which ought to be enough to win the NL Central.
   22. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:11 PM (#5624287)
Bob Nightengale @BNightengale 29m29 minutes ago

Yu Darvish $126 million contract: $25 million in 2018; $20M in 2019; $22 M in 2020; $22 M in 2021; $19 million in 2022 and $18 million in 2023 He also has full no trade clause in first four years of deal. #Cubs

Bob Nightengale @BNightengale 27m27 minutes ago

Yu Darvish has opt out after 2019 and Cy Young escalators that pay him $2 million for winning Cy Young and $1 million for finishing 2-5th. #Cubs
   23. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5624341)
Cots doesn't have that Darvish breakdown up yet, but looking ahead to next season, the Cubs payroll is at ~$131mil + arb awards for Bryant, Hendricks, Russell, Grimm, TLS, Baez, Monty, Schwarber, and Edwards (order of most expensive to least based on this year). It's probably foolish to try and guess how much all those guys will cost, but I'll try.

Bryant probably sets the record again for a 2nd year player, which might be Ryan Howard's $15mil (I can't tell for sure), so let's say $17.5mil. Hendricks should get a bump to let's say $8.5mil (again, I really have no idea here but am trying to aim high). Let's bump Russell up to $8.5mil too (he'll have a good year, right?). I'll preemtively DFA Grimm and TLS won't go past $3.5mil here. The rest are all in their first year, but I'm feeling generous so I'll just say for the group average it'll be $3mil. So that's a total of $50mil.

Cubs only FA right now is Wilson, and I assume he'll sign elsewhere. If Giminez is the backup C, I'll just predict he'll be gone too.

That puts the Cubs payroll at around $180mil before FA, with no obvious hole to fill. We all assume they'll go after Harper, but I could also see Machado if Russell doesn't take a pretty big step forward. As I've been saying for a while, I do expect them to go into the tax sooner rather than later, but that level jumps to $206mil next year. If they sign Harper, someone is going to be moved to make room (if Machado, that means either Russell or Baez is moved); Heyward is the obvious guy but unless he has a magical year and opts out, it might not be easy to convince some to take his 5/$106mil deal (while still a clear overpay, it's not *that* bad thanks to the front loading).

Speaking of front loading, you can see how the Cubs have been planning for the 2018 FA period (or at least the increased costs of their own players) with guys making less in 2019 than 2018: Heyward $8.1mil, Zobrist $4mil, now Darvish $5mil (Lester's deal drops $7.5mil in 2020).

####, I forgot to include Quintana's 2019 option ($10.5mil), but I don't know what the point of this post was in the first place, so I'll just randomly stop typin
   24. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5624352)
I'm listening to the Darvish introductory press conference, and Darvish has completely won me over with this question/response (there's an interpreter, so there's a delay).

Q: [something about whether or not having a catcher he's familiar with helped him sign here]
A: I like Contreras better
   25. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:34 PM (#5624365)
Cot's and BRef don't really handle deferred money and bonuses well as they tend to prorate them. Adding up each individual contract the Cubs come in at just below 170 million dollars in payroll for 19 players and Baez, Montgomery, Schwarber, Edwards, Contreras, Almoras, Butler, Caratini, and Happ still unknown. You figure for 6 roster spots or so the Cubs are going to be spending 4 to 5 million more dollars so the Cubs payroll to start the year looks like it is going to be about 175 million.
   26. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5624367)
I like that opt-out structure. If Darvish has the kind of years necessary for him to take what's behind door number three rather than $81 million, at age 34, then we are looking at someone from whom the Cubs got their money's worth.
   27. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:37 PM (#5624369)
Lester's deal doesn't actually drop in 2020. He's getting paid 25 million with bonus in 2018 and will be doing the same in 2019 and then will be getting paid 30 million in 2020. Heyward does take a 1.5 million dollar paycut in 2019 and Zobrist takes a 4 million dollar cut.
   28. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:41 PM (#5624374)
I like that opt-out structure. If Darvish has the kind of years necessary for him to take what's behind door number three rather than $81 million, at age 34, then we are looking at someone from whom the Cubs got their money's worth.

I would have rather it have been an opt out after three seasons but, yeah, if he's likely to opt out after 2019 we got our money's worth out of him.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:45 PM (#5624382)
Q: [something about whether or not having a catcher he's familiar with helped him sign here]
A: I like Contreras better

I suppose asking Darvish to go to bat for poor Caratini would be too much.
   30. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 02:46 PM (#5624386)
Thanks, like I said, I ran out of steam trying to get into too much of the details, but we ended up at the same spot. If they're going to sign Harper, even with dumping Heyward, the main goal probably shouldn't be the stay under the tax (though perhaps it's doable).
   31. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 03:54 PM (#5624490)
Maddon said leadoff hitter will probably be a rotation (you knew someone was going to ask that). Theo said they'd go through Spring Training with a 6 man rotation, meaning Monty is starting for now; he did clarify that it wasn't necessarily the plan to have a 6 man rotation in the season and both him and Joe reiterated they expect Monty to make plenty of starts this year (for some reason, Joe also said Monty looked like a skinny Rob Gronkowski). Theo said Darvish was always the Cubs top target, they talked all the way back at the Winter Meetings. Uh...I can't remember anything else notably interesting.

For some reason, they didn't have enough microphones, so Theo shared with Darvish during that press conference (the interpreter had his own; Jed was off to the side). During the next one, Joe and Theo shared while Jed had his own mic, even though he answered the fewest questions. Joe also already had one of his quirky t-shirts with the glasses logo with something in Japanese written on it (I missed what it said).
   32. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 13, 2018 at 04:38 PM (#5624530)
So.... random "fun" question.

You get one free "upside" - one player projection that hits/exceeds the 90th percentile... One guy who ends up having a far, far better 2018 than you would have reasonably hoped. It doesn't cost you anything elsewhere - it's free. A free "awesome!"

Who do you spend it on?

Do you take one of the SPs? Maybe Lester winning a CYA, thus quieting any concerns he might be seriously headed towards the downside? Chatwood?

Morrow staying healthy and being a lights out closer all year?

Heyward waking from a bad 2016-2017 offensive dream and mashing 30 HRs?

My head says that the bullpen is the most chancey thing heading into 2018, so I think my head leans towards just having Morrow pan out even better than expected.

My heart says Heyward - for all the usual reasons, but also because maybe he decides to exercise the opt-out (thus opening up both the position and salary space for Harper). Halfway between both says that one of the SPs ultimately heading into October as a legitimate 'stopper' cannot be understated.
   33. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 05:08 PM (#5624545)
Absolutely Heyward. First, because it's by far the least likely. Second, the reasons you listed.

I'm much more confident in one of the hitters really breaking out, one of the SPs have a good year, and at least one RP having a good year without me wasting any of my mythical powers on it.
   34. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 13, 2018 at 05:08 PM (#5624546)
Russell for the upside pick.
   35. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: February 13, 2018 at 07:23 PM (#5624612)
So.... random "fun" question.

You get one free "upside" - one player projection that hits/exceeds the 90th percentile... One guy who ends up having a far, far better 2018 than you would have reasonably hoped. It doesn't cost you anything elsewhere - it's free. A free "awesome!"

Who do you spend it on?


Who we think is the most likely to have it happen or who would help the most?

Hayward would help the most, because he's such an offensive sinkhole.

Russell would be the most likely in my mind. Last year he had a six-week death spiral where he hit .146/.254/.233 - for an OPS of 487.

The rest of the year: .277/.326/.494 for an OPS of 820. His actual full season OPS was 722, so that section really hurt his overall numbers.
   36. K-BAR, J-BAR (trhn) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 07:54 PM (#5624622)
Depends.

If you know that the gains will stick, you spend it on somebody in the minors with tools, so the Cubs can have him for the next 6 years. Like DJ Wilson or Jose Albertos.

For just one year, you spend it on whoever has the largest gap between the 50th percentile projection and the upside. Darvish has upside at 6 or 7 WAR vs. a 4 WAR projection. Russell may have 6 WAR 90th percentile (say a 2017 Saegerian 125 wRC+ with 11-12 dWAR) vs. a 3 WAR projection. Heyward has 6.5 or 7 WAR upside with 2.5 WAR projection. Baez has a top comp of Bret Boone, so 7-8 WAR upside vs. 1.7 WAR projection.


In terms of who I'd want to spend it on because I root for their success... Heyward or Baez. Heyward because he's hard to watch now. Baez because although he's already fun, he would be a blast at his 90th percentile.
   37. Voodoo Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:09 PM (#5624627)
I definitely would go Russell, too. Though I'm not sure why he would have a lower 90th percentile value than Baez or Heyward as #36 suggests (well maybe if the projection system can kinda still remember the old Heyward).

Though Schwarber having a monster year would sure be fun, too.

I certainly wouldn't waste this golden ticket on a reliever unless I had written guarantees that the 90th percentile #### works in the playoffs, too.
   38. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:29 PM (#5624634)
Yeah, these days, if you use your golden ticket on 90th percentile Heyward, that gets you what, maybe an 85 OPS+?
   39. K-BAR, J-BAR (trhn) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 08:41 PM (#5624637)
Oh, those numbers are totally made up. I was imagining the best versions of Heyward and Darvish as their 90th percentile projections.

Baez... who knows? Bret Boone was really really good. If it were like old school PECOTA where every non All Star regular had a 90th percentile projection of a .320 Eqa and a 10th of a .220 Eqa, what fun would that be?

   40. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5624642)
Yeah, these days, if you use your golden ticket on 90th percentile Heyward, that gets you what, maybe an 85 OPS+?

Heyward's actual OPS+ from last year? 85. So you might be off on your guess. (Yeah, I know the comment was done in jest - but pretty remarkable you got his actual OPS+ as an upper bound figure).

Heyward got 2.3 WAR last year. A few times he's been worth 6 WAR in his career. I still think his 90th percentile season would be the biggest improvement.
   41. Voodoo Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:04 PM (#5624673)
A 90th-ish % 10 WAR year from Bryant would be fun, too. Ah hell I'm okay with it coming from ANY of the regulars or starting staff! (but not a reliever).
   42. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5624791)
If you know that the gains will stick, you spend it on somebody in the minors with tools, so the Cubs can have him for the next 6 years. Like DJ Wilson or Jose Albertos.


An interesting thought that hadn't occurred to me... even if post-2018 fortunes were thrown to the developmental winds, I might actually take a prospect. I.e., would I take Jose Albertos pulling a (prospect-era) Juan Cruz; going from dark horse prospect to zooming to a top shelf A/A- prospect? I think the Cubs are starting him at SB, right? If he actually tears up the MWL, makes it to high A as a 19 yo and continues mowing down hitters?

I might take that even with the understanding he might ultimately end up being no more than Juan Cruz, fungible reliever.

One could make the argument that the big league club is fine without application of the fantasy powerup so maybe you do spend it on a minor leaguer. I'd definitely pick a pitcher.
   43. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 14, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5624841)
Some decent quotes from Darvish's agent in this Mooney piece ($):

“The Cubs — they know how to recruit a player,” Wolfe said. “It’s like the University of Alabama. They go the extra mile.”

“It was very much like a high school football player trying to choose and he’s going to have the signing day,” Wolfe said. “Here’s what we have to offer you and your family as a place to live. This is what our organization is like. Here’s what we’re going to do with you. We think you’re a great pitcher, but here’s how we’re going to make you better. Here’s what we’ve done with other guys. This is exactly how we’re going to do it. Incredible detail.

“It wasn’t just telling him what he wanted to hear. It was legitimate. He showed up, he asked a lot of questions. They asked him a lot of direct, blunt questions. He’s a very honest guy. When he starts speaking in English with you, you’ll see. He really felt it.”

“With all the offers getting very close together, we had to make a decision,” Wolfe said. “One thing that Theo said to him and to me right before was, ‘You’ve been traded. You understand what it’s like going to a new team. I want you to have the opportunity to come in here on Day 1. When you sign, there’s going to be all this talk about your contract, blah blah blah, but I want you to be able to — from Day 1 — just be a guy on the team.’

“That meant a lot to him because it could have easily just been negotiating posture. [But] it resonated with him because nobody had really said that to him. It was mostly about ‘Do our deal, because our deal’s the right deal.’ But Theo was very clear in why he wanted to do it now. He then extended himself to put his money where his mouth was.”
   44. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:37 AM (#5624872)
Carrie Muskat @CarrieMuskat 4m4 minutes ago

Who will lead off for #Cubs? Almora: "We were sitting right here and I was like, 'Hey, I may lead off this year. You have to teach me.' [Rizzo] goes, 'I am the best leadoff hitter in the world.' I said, 'All right, you do it then.'"
   45. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:45 AM (#5624883)
“The Cubs — they know how to recruit a player,” Wolfe said.


Reading stuff like this -- six years into the Epstein regime, and after three full seasons of .602 ball -- never gets old. The Cubs organization was so dysfunctional it had everyone wondering if it was impossible ever to come out of it. I think I'll never take competence, let alone excellence, for granted.
   46. McCoy Posted: February 14, 2018 at 11:55 AM (#5624896)
Well, I've yet to read an agent state after a mega signing say that the team that signed his client was incompetent and didn't know what they were doing. I'm sure Milton Bradley's agent was very complimentary of Jim Hendry when he stupidly gave his client a bunch of money. I'm betting Soriano's agent thought very fondly of them as well and Neifi's agent was darn near euphoric over the treatment his client received.
   47. Walt Davis Posted: February 14, 2018 at 05:40 PM (#5625175)
I was a bit muddled on the Darvish -- Arrieta comment. It's true I'm not particularly confident that Darvish is better than Jake at the moment but do prefer Yu. But I was trying to say it more in relation to the optimism question -- I'm not confident Darvish will be better than Jake 2016-17 which is the relevant bit for assessing whether I'm more confident now than a year ago.

On the 90% upside question, I agree with everybody! Technically you want it to be the player with the highest variance and given the variances for these components are (generally) all related to their means (higher the mean, higher the variance) that probably means Bryant. A guy nobody's mentioned I don't think is Quintana who does seem like he's a better pitcher than his results. Lefties seem to often peak late and he did have a 4.7 K/BB for the Cubs last year ... and a (hardly amazing) FIP that was a half-run lower than his ERA, so arguably he was pitching at 135 ERA+ level. A guy who could really use it, at least in terms of establishing a ML career, is Almora.

But without question the most fun would be 90% Javy -- imagine the tags!!

(I'd argue slightly against Heyward, especially if we set aside the argument that he might opt out which seems pretty unlikely to me anyway. We have back-up plans if Heyward flops. A 90% Heyward means less playing time for Happ, Zo, Baez, Almora, Schwarber. Now, a 110 OPS+ and continuing excellent defense Heyward for the next 3-4 years, that I'd sign onto ... but not that attractive for just one season.)

On payroll -- remember the lux tax "payroll" is AAV, not what's actually paid. Deferments can affect the total value and therefore the AAV although MLB/MLBPA use a very low rate of return so it's not often a very big difference. For example, Heyward's nominal contract is $184 but Cots says the NPV is calculated as $178-180 -- which barely matters but gives an extra .5 M wiggle room on lux tax. Of course the Cubs do care about the actual amount paid out in each year.

This is at least the 2nd time the Cubs have paid out a higher AAV before the opt-out than after. Deferral structure aside, the Cubs committed $78 to Heyward in the first 3 years (and $98 across 4). If he opted out after 2018, he'd be walking away from "just" 5/$106 which happens to be what Upton just extended for. Of course it's extremely unlikely he'd opt out after this year even if it was a pretty good year -- the market is stagnant, surely teams wouldn't trust he was back after just one solid year, who wants to be on the market waiting for Harper to sign before anything can happen? Give him two straight years and then he's looking at just 4/$86 as a re-established 4+-WAR player entering his age 30 season and that option he might decline.

Darvish is a bit less extreme at $45 before the opt-out and $81 after. 4/$81 is hardly a king's ransom for a decent pitcher and he doesn't need to win a CYA or anything to make walking away a reasonably attractive option.

I'm not sure what the Cubs' strategy is here but it's different than the other opt-out contracts that I can think of. Most opt-outs are either relatively flat salary structures or pay less upfront, presumably hoping the player will opt out. (Stanton an extreme example.) The Cubs seem willing to pay "fairly" in the pre-stage but fairly modestly in the post-option stage. That should make it more likely the player will opt out if they do well, give them a tough decision if they have a tough year along the way, and minimize damage if they tank or get hurt. Possibly they prefer having a smaller commitment when it comes to negotiations on an extension/raise to forego the option -- I'm not sure why that would matter but "psychologically" I suppose it may seem more attractive to the player to go from 4/$81 to 5/$101 than from 4/$86 to 5/$101.

The other front-loaded opt-out contract that springs to mind is Cespedes a couple of years ago. That was a pretty strange situation and everybody expected him to opt-out after his one big-salary year unless he got hurt.
   48. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 14, 2018 at 06:05 PM (#5625186)
Heyward's actual OPS+ from last year? 85. So you might be off on your guess.

No, trust me, as someone who watched an awful lot (literally) of Heyward last hear, his OPS+ was a maximum of 38. If bbref says differently, they are mistaken.

But without question the most fun would be 90% Javy -- imagine the tags!!

"Grounder to short, Baez up with it. Hamilton is hustling down the line, but Baez tags him out at first."
   49. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 15, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5625451)
Well, I've yet to read an agent state after a mega signing say that the team that signed his client was incompetent and didn't know what they were doing. I'm sure Milton Bradley's agent was very complimentary of Jim Hendry when he stupidly gave his client a bunch of money. I'm betting Soriano's agent thought very fondly of them as well and Neifi's agent was darn near euphoric over the treatment his client received.


IDK... maybe it's just on the margins, but I do think the margins exist and are real.

I mean, more often than not - sure... the biggest contract offer wins, even if the GM presents it in his bathrobe while picking his nose.

However, I think Heyward at least claims the Cubs offer was not the largest. I'm not so sure that the Darvish offer wouldn't have been matched by someone. The Cubs were the outlier making it to the final round of the Ohtani sweepstakes. I think there were other competitive/similar offers to Lester. There's Fowler's surprise return in 2016.

I think there's at least something to it... and if nothing else, we really haven't had any messy "breakups" or extension talks or whatnot with this regime. There have been no "Himes got pissy, so Maddux shrugged and went to Atlanta" or Sosa is on the block, no he's not, yes he is, now he's extended.

This sort of thing alone probably isn't the difference between a title contender and a .500 -- but every little bit of optimization and excellence helps in any organization trying to do anything in whatever field.
   50. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 15, 2018 at 12:35 PM (#5625518)

However, I think Heyward at least claims the Cubs offer was not the largest. I'm not so sure that the Darvish offer wouldn't have been matched by someone. The Cubs were the outlier making it to the final round of the Ohtani sweepstakes. I think there were other competitive/similar offers to Lester. There's Fowler's surprise return in 2016.


IIRC, the Cubs were not the high bid for Zobrist either.
   51. McCoy Posted: February 15, 2018 at 12:50 PM (#5625531)
In Heyward's case it might very well have been the opt out that was considered valuable over a straight high dollar contract. In Zobrist's case it might very well have been Maddon being the tiebreaker plus the other team in pursuit of him was the Mets and all they said was that their offer was comparable.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 15, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5625538)
In Heyward's case it might very well have been the opt out that was considered valuable over a straight high dollar contract. In Zobrist's case it might very well have been Maddon being the tiebreaker plus the other team in pursuit of him was the Mets and all they said was that their offer was comparable.

Between Heyward and Zobrist, here's hoping that Thed has learned never to be the #2 bidder for anyone again.
   53. Walt Davis Posted: February 15, 2018 at 09:53 PM (#5625857)
On pitcher health and any tendency to confuse "our guys weren't 110% for 32 starts each" with "problems due to injury"

In 2016, at least 25 starts, 35 or younger, 80 ERA+ or better ... 82 guys. Two of those were Jose Fernandez and Yorando Ventura so we'll remove them from the data, leaving us with 80.

So we're already in the pretty rare beastie category. You might think the 80 ERA+ is a bit low but the guys at the bottom end were Volquez, Smyly, Wisler, Gibson, Fister, Keuchel, Leake, Santiago, Fiers, Wainwright, Kazmir -- with the possible exception of Wisler, if those guys were healthy in 2017, they were getting rotation spots somewhere even if only because of long-term contracts.

Of the 80, 2 did not pitch in 2017 (Smyly and Kazmir) -- that's better than I expected.

46 satisfied those performance criteria again, plus two with sub-80 ERA+ (Fiers and Matt Moore)

The Cubs had Lester and Arrieta. Hendricks missed it by one start. Lackey was too old to qualify for the original list but made all his starts anyway.

We can arguably break the 80 down this way too ...

<50% made it a "full season" of 28+ starts
<20% made it 3/4 of a season 23-27 starts
20% made it 1/2 of a season 12-20 starts
>10% less than 1/3 of a season (including the 2 no-shows)
and Archie Bradley successfully transitioned to the pen

So if you're lucky enough to have 3 guys with 25+ starts, 80+ ERA in year 1, on average you'd expect one of those three to miss at least half a season in year 2 (or to suck enough you release him halfway through and nobody picks them up). The profile is presumably even worse for somebody like Lackey. To get 3.75 seasons out of 4 is excellent, no matter how dead their arms might have been at times.

Another way to look at the Cubs relatively good fortune (or design) is the 5th starter slot. Originally Anderson, then Butler and occasionally Monty plus I think a short time with both Butler and Monty in the rotation. Anyway, Anderson, Bulter, Monty and Tsend combined for 32 starts conveniently so they were our collective 5th starter. They combined for about 146 innings, 4.87 ERA, 90 ERA+ ... thanks to Tseng and Anderson combining for 25 innings and 25 ER. They obviously would have preferred a solid half-season out of Anderson/Butler and a half-season of Quintana as 5th starter but that's far from disastrous 5th starter performance.
   54. Andere Richtingen Posted: February 16, 2018 at 08:39 AM (#5625955)
...or, they can come back with a full season of 28+ starts, with an mph or two shaved off their fastballs.
   55. Meatwad Posted: February 18, 2018 at 02:21 AM (#5626538)
As much as we harp on trading prospects, odorizzi jist went for the tiwns 20 something best prospect. While I am happy with the rotation the cubs have, this could have been an easy steal for them.
   56. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 19, 2018 at 10:26 AM (#5626822)
Sure, I could have seen rather having Odorizzi than Chatwood, but who knows if the Rays would have moved him earlier this offseason or not. It almost seems like trading him and DFA'ing Dickerson only happened after the arb stuff came in and the Rays decided to cut salary. In fact, I'd bet the price was much higher during the early winter period when the Cubs were likely gauging trade targets (also including guys like Archer).
   57. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 21, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5628178)
I have a feeling who some Cubs fans are going to no longer be a fan of:

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule and I don’t really care what they have,” Contreras said. “If I have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will.”

Major League Baseball announced on Monday that teams shall be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits in the first nine innings of a game. For every inning after that, each team will get one additional mound visit. At Tuesday’s Cactus League media day, commissioner Rob Manfred initially suggested that a seventh trip by anyone would result in a pitching change.

However, Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, specified that only a seventh visit by a coach or manager would lead to a pitching change. If a player were to try and make an extra mound visit, the umpire would just stop them. This doesn't sound problematic at all.

“What if you have a tie game…and you have to go out there?” Contreras said. “They cannot say anything about it, it’s my team and we just care about wins. If you’re gonna fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
   58. Man o' Schwar Posted: February 21, 2018 at 02:24 PM (#5628183)
If a player were to try and make an extra mound visit, the umpire would just stop them.

This just has bad idea written all over it. What if the guy walking in to the mound isn't the catcher, but the shortstop? Will the 2nd base umpire be alert enough to intercept him before he gets there? Are we going to see an umpire tackle Baez to the ground and attempt to cover his mouth so that he can't communicate with the pitcher?

I think as the umpire you warn the player that the team is over the limit, and that if he goes to the mound the pitcher will have to come out of the game. If the player insists on doing it, then the pitcher comes out. End of story.

The only other option is telling the player that the team is over the limit, and if the player continues toward the mound then you eject him. No fines, no warnings. He's out of the game, period.

Either enforce the rule in a way that's going to make people comply with it, or don't bother.
   59. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 21, 2018 at 02:32 PM (#5628194)
I have a feeling who some Cubs fans are going to no longer be a fan of:

Yep. He can go to helll.
   60. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 22, 2018 at 11:15 AM (#5628648)
I appreciate Willson's role in pointing out that this "change" is toothless. I'm also ok if the actual rule change, when it inevitably happens, leading to ejections or whatever becomes known as Willson's rule.
   61. Zonk, Genius of the Stables Posted: February 22, 2018 at 02:01 PM (#5628870)
Vegas odds that Willson is the first person dinged on the rule are off the board...

...so... how strong a magnet do you think it would take to keep Willson stuck behind home plate?
   62. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 22, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5628876)
Willson's rule.

Or just "the rulle."
   63. Man o' Schwar Posted: February 22, 2018 at 02:07 PM (#5628877)
I think he'll stay back there after he gets tossed from a couple of games for ignoring the umpire's edict not to go to the mound. I do think the umpires will have no choice but to eject players who ignore them when told that their mound visit limit has been reached.

Are they using this rule during spring training? I'm kind of interested to see it in action (though I guess that's not the best sandbox, given that most of the regulars will only be playing 4-5 innings most days).
   64. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 22, 2018 at 03:24 PM (#5628979)
The rulle. Brilliant! One mound visit for you, good sir.
   65. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 23, 2018 at 01:29 PM (#5629640)
So, Cubs first ST game is today. Happ leading off in CF, Schwarber LF, TLS 3b, Caratini C, then scrubs. Tomorrow the game will be online, I believe, and Tuesday it'll be on WGN.

Maybe it's just the usual spring enthusiasm, maybe it's because of how terrible the rest of the Chicago teams are, but man am I feeling super optimistic about this team's ceiling right now. Like 100 wins excited. Whether that's likely or realistic or not, I sure as hell am enjoying feeling that way.
   66. Man o' Schwar Posted: February 23, 2018 at 01:34 PM (#5629649)
I'm with you. I'm less worried about the starting pitching this year than I was last year, and I think the World Series hangover should be out of everyone's system. The potential lineup (Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Almora, Heyward) could produce a ton of runs, and that's with useful players like Happ and Zobrist ready to fill in.

Plus - this team has made the NLCS or better 3 straight seasons now. I'm getting to the point where the NLCS is expected, and anything less than making the Series feels like a disappointment.

That's so much better than the years of "maybe we'll get to .500" or "there's some interesting guys in AA who might come up in September". Or "I wonder who the Cubs will take with their top 3 draft pick next year".
   67. McCoy Posted: February 23, 2018 at 02:01 PM (#5629690)
Just as long as we don't get destroyed in the NLCS like we normally do will I take that as an expectation. In terms of prediction I'm fairly confident that the NLDS is going to be a pretty tough matchup. On paper you've got three pretty darn good teams with the Cubs likely to be the second or third best team of that trio which means they are going to have a tough matchup in the NLDS.
   68. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 23, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5629724)
Again, could just be the optimism talking, but I'm not conceding the 1 seed to LA. I've beaten it to the ground, but I think they fell quite hardly on the fortunate side last year in so many areas that should regress this year - just like what happened to the Cubs last season*. Plus, if they're really going to treat the tax line as a hard cap this year, they're gonna find it harder to improve during the year even if they have more prospects to deal.

*Non-scientific or non-rational way to look at it, but who on their roster do you have being better than last year? That's not to say everryone will be worse, but overall... Maybe they can get more innings out of their SP, but those guys are always hurt. Virtually every one of their hitters looks to me like they'll regress from last year (maybe Pederson, possibly Seager are better). On the Cubs though, I see how so many guys underachieved last year and they don't need all of them to improve to still be better overall.

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