The Nationals traded right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-hander Ian Dickson. After three years of hoping Rodriguez would develop into a dominant and consistent power arm in their bullpen, the Nationals have finally and completely parted ways with him.
We’ve been discussing Ian Stewart and his complaints about still being in the Cubs organization in this FanPost, but there’s new information Tuesday afternoon that I believed warranted a front-page post.
In the Tribune, Paul Sullivan summarizes the issue and quotes general manager Jed Hoyer:
Triple-A Iowa third baseman Ian Stewart faces a fine and possible suspension by the Chicago Cubs for his Twitter rant about his status in the organization.
But he will not be released, as Stewart suggested himself during a late night tweet to his followers.
The Cubs were upset about Stewart’s comments, but would not say what the punishment would be.
“We spent the entire morning dealing with an issue that doesn’t help us get better as an organization,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “That’s not how we want to spend our time. What he did was really unprofessional and there are going to be consequences. Beyond that, I’m not going to comment.”
Sullivan’s article brings you up to speed on Stewart’s tweets from Monday night, which essentially begged the Cubs to release him. Of course, in that case, Stewart would be free to pursue another job, while the Cubs still pay him the balance of the $2 million deal they signed him to—ill-advisedly, in my view—last offseason. You can imagine that’s not high on the list of things that Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein are going to be willing to do.
While we’re waiting, let’s do this today. Yesterday, GM Jed Hoyer talked a lot about the Cubs’ lack of walks and the importance of on-base percentage in the OPS equation. We couldn’t get to all of it in the paper, so let’s get to some of it here on the blog.
The Cubs still are last in the National League in walks drawn by their batters, with 116. The Brewers are above them, with 122. In their last four games, however, the Cubs have drawn 15 walks. They’re 12th in the NL in OBP (.300) and eighth in OPS (.708).
In walk percentage, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo of the Reds are 1-2. Votto is at 18.1 percent and Choo is at 15.8 percent. The Cubs bring up the rear. Alfonso Soriano and Welington Castillo are last among qualifiers at 3.2 percent. Starlin Castro is fifth worst (4.0).
“If you look at the Reds and you look at the Cubs, the hits, the power, aren’t any different,” Hoyer said. “The difference is the walks. They’re second in runs, I believe, and we’re near the bottom. It’s simply a lack of getting on base. It’s something we have to solve collectively. As an organization, Theo (team president Epstein) and I believe strongly you can’t be good team if you don’t get on base, grind out at-bats. If we’re not going to do that, we’re going to spend a lot of time figuring it out because we’re not going to be successful until we do.”
Hoyer was asked about drafting and developing hitters who are patient and with good approaches.
“That’s one of the things we always talk about: Is patience and working a good at-bat, is that something that’s taught? Is that something that’s innate? That’s something we’re certainly going to look for extensively in the draft and internationally, guys that manage an at-bat. But those guys aren’t going to help us right now. We need to figure out the solution on the field. We’re teaching the right things. We’re telling them the right things. I know guys are working hard at it. We need to see improvement there. That’s an area of the season that hasn’t gone the way we wanted to, and we’re going to need to solve that.”
Hey…at least it ain’t I Think We’re Alone In Last Place Now
So what lies ahead for Starlin Castro? It is decidely so? Outlook not so good? The easy out for the 8-ball would be “reply hazy – try again later.” But I’m going to go with “signs point to yes”. And the sign I’m pointing to is the great Alan Trammell.
Like Castro, Tram came to the big leagues at a very young age. He played 19 games for the Tigers at the age of 19 in ’77. The next season, as a twenty-year-old, he became the everyday shortstop in the Motor City. He hit .268 with 2 home runs and had an on-base % of .335 and a .357 slugging average. In Starlin’s age 20 season, his rookie year, he hit .300 with 3 HRs and had a .347 on base and a .408 slugging %. Castro has now played in 495 big league games and compiled these averages: .294/.333/.420. He’s hit 30 jacks and stolen 60 bases in 91 tries. He has done this in 1996 at bats.
Trammell through his age 23 season had played in 550 games and had 1903 at bats. His line? Good question: .275/.347/.356. Tram had hit 19 long balls by then and stolen 42 while being caught 30 times. So, the comparison has merit. Trammell ended up being a very good offensive shortstop with 185 career home runs. However, he didn’t have his first double digit dinger season until 1983, his 6th full campaign. It takes a while for power to develop for many young players. It goes hand in hand with plate discipline and waiting for a pitch you can drive as opposed to something you can just put in play. I suspect in the next couple of seasons we’ll see the power numbers start to climb for Castro to the point where he will become a perennial 20-25 home run threat. “Just hang on here” you cry, what about defense? A shortstop has to be a good defender doesn’t he? Well, of course he does. Let’s shake that magic 8-ball one more time….it’s spinning and spinning……………. “reply hazy – try again later”.
“Cueto should learn you don’t go after guys’ heads,” Garza said. “Don’t wake a sleeping dog and I think that’s kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He’s lucky that retaliation isn’t in our vocabulary here.
“That’s kind of BS on his part. Just totally immature. If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker and definitely I’ll find his.”
...“That’s totally uncalled for (when) you’re up 4-0,” Garza said. “I hope he hears this, because I really don’t care. If we want to retaliate, we could have and lost a bullpen guy. but we don’t need that. We play the game the right way and we’re going to take our lumps when we take ‘em and we’re going to hand ‘em out when we hand ‘em out.”
Cueto got suspended for kicking St. Louis Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue during a brawl in 2010. That concussion forced LaRue into retirement. Garza said he has no personal history with Cueto.
“I don’t know what the deal is between him and Zeus, but he needs to cut it out, because I’ll stop it,” Garza said. “If he wants to do it like that, then so be it. … This could be a warning, this could be nonsense, however he takes it, but (the way the game was played), I don’t like it like that.”
I’ve been wondering how much more of the putrid Cubs offense this front office could withstand watching. The Cubs President couldn’t hold back any longer. In Paul Sullivan’s latest, Theo Epstein publicly blasts his team for their lack of ability to get on base.
“There is certainly a snakebit quality to it with respect to our timing,” team President Theo Epstein said. “But to me the biggest factor is our inability to draw walks and to get on base overall. On-base skills translate to run-scoring much more than slugging skills”
Turns out his roster isn’t so down with OBP.
“To be blunt, we haven’t made much progress improving the on-base skills of some of the players here. If we can’t make improvements with the existing group, we will have to be even more aggressive acquiring players with on-base skills.” Says Epstein.
Theo’s comments about training players to have patience is likely half-hearted. He knows all too well that usually isn’t how it works. It’s on him and Jed to give this offense a face lift and soon.
“There’s been legitimate improvement in the overall talent level at the major league level despite the record,” Epstein said. “The underlying component performance points to a team that should be at least .500 thus far”.
Light at the end of the ridiculously low-ceilinged tunnel.
The Cubs have actually played pretty good baseball when sequencing is not considered. By wOBA differential, they’ve been a well above average team. Their record is almost entirely a reflection of the power of the timing of various events.
In our Win Probability section, we track a stat called “Clutch”, which basically looks at the wins a team has gained or lost due to the leverage of the game when their positive or negative events occurred. The Cubs are 28th in clutch hitting and 30th in clutch pitching. When you combine their clutch scores from both sides of the ball, you can see just how far removed they are from the rest of the teams in baseball in season-to-date “clutch” performance.
At -4.3 clutch wins, no one is even close to the Cubs in terms of underperformance by leverage. It’s not even just that they haven’t converted hits into runs, but that when they’ve scored those runs, they haven’t occurred at the right time to translate into wins.
So, as we approach Memorial Day, the Cubs stand at 18-27, and even if we just did a basic pythagorean adjustment to account for their run differential, we’d only upgrade that “expected” record to 22-23. But, when you look at the full accounting of all of their plays, the Cubs context neutral performance suggests something more like a 24-21 record. And that’s with Matt Garza spending basically the entire season on the DL.
The Cubs are in a ridiculously difficult division, and this isn’t their year to try and make a run for it, but the pieces that the team added over the off-season have made them a competitive team. Even if they end up selling off veterans for prospects at the trade deadline, don’t be surprised if the Cubs start winning more games over the next four months of the season. Based on their first 45 games, there are reasons to believe that this team is actually decent.
[A]s of May 16, Kevin Gregg has thrown ten innings without allowing an earned run. Over those 10 frames, he has faced 39 batters surrendering just five hits and four walks and striking out 12 batters. Because it’s just 10 innings, I’m probably making too big a deal out of his success, but remember this is the same pitcher that:
*Was released by the Dodgers during Spring Training. The Dodgers’ pen ranks 25th in the Majors in ERA.
*Registered a 4.62 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 4.83 xFIP over the last two seasons. He racked up -0.5 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR, and -0.5 WARP over the same time frame.
*Earned the nickname “Captain Chaos” for his propensity to turn save opportunities into breathtaking ordeals for his coaches and fans.
Could always ask…Rich Nye the Quantum Chronophysics Guy.
Indeed, scanning the 2013 roster, only an optimist of Ernie Banksian dimensions would find four future Hall-of-Famers. I only count two position players who have even made the All-Star team as Cubs: Starlin Castro (2011, 2012), Alfonso Soriano (2007, 2008). Castro is still a work in progress and The Fonz can only hope for lasting recognition if his outfield hop turns into a Gangnam style YouTube sensation.
Getting more granular, here’s what the 2013 Cubs, position by position, would need to hit if they were to equal their ’67 counterparts, who rallied so heartily.
1B: Anthony Rizzo, BA: 276; HR: 23; RBI: 95 (Banks’s record)
2B: Darwin Barney, .280; 5; 40 (Beckert)
SS: Starlin Castro, .231; 0; 42 (Kessinger)
3B: Luis Valbuena, .300; 31; 98 (Santo)
RF: Nate Schierholtz, .218; 5; 33 (Ted Savage, part time, replacing Browne)
CF: David DeJesus, .268; 17; 70 (Phillips)
LF: Alfonso Soriano, .278; 28; 84 (Williams)
C: Welington Castillo, .267; 14; 60 (Hundley)
If you could make your pact with the devil, would you take those numbers right now? I would (a shame about the demise of Castro, but Javier Baez is on deck). Do you believe the 2013 team will come close those results? If so, I’d like to talk to you about a great deal on a slightly pre-driven relief pitcher named Carlos Marmol.
The Cubs, from the moment they acquired first baseman Anthony Rizzo 16 months ago, viewed him as a significant part of their future.
Now, they can guarantee it long-term.
The Cubs have reached agreement with Rizzo on a seven-year, $41 million contract through 2019, according to major-league sources. The deal also includes two $14.5 million club options, sources said.
Thus, the total value over nine years could be $68 million; Rizzo would not receive a $2 million buyout if both options are exercised. Escalators could further increase the size of the package to $73 million, sources said.
Rizzo, who has just over a year of major-league service, is earning $498,000 this season. His new deal will include an immediate increase for 2013 while covering all four of his arbitration years — Rizzo was on track for Super Two status — and his first free-agent year.
For a second there, I thought he had his Wood’s confused and was going to call in Arthur Koehler.
Even Chicago Cubs pitcher Travis Wood was stunned when he heard what manager Dale Sveum said about him after Wood threw another gem in helping to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1, on Tuesday night.
“He’s the best starter in baseball pretty much,” Sveum said bluntly.
That might be overstating the case, but with a 2.33 ERA for the season and 6⅔ innings of one-run ball Tuesday, Sveum might not be too far off the mark. After all, opponents are hitting just .179 against him, good for fourth-lowest in the National League. Needless to say, Wood’s confidence is going in the right direction after picking up his third win of the season.
“It’s as high as it can be right now,” Wood said. “Got to stay humble though.”
...And what about that bold statement from Sveum? That Wood is perhaps the best pitcher in the game right now? When informed of those comments, Wood was at a loss for words.
“That would ... It’s a strong statement but you know…” he said.
Anyone who commits to the Cubs should be committed.
Stewart just finished a rehab assignment with the Iowa Cubs for a left quad injury that has plagued him since early in spring training. The maximum time a player can spend in the minors in that situation is 20 days, making last Friday his final day of rehabbing.
But because he was hitting .091 the Cubs decided to keep him there by officially sending him down after his rehab stint was complete. He didn’t need to clear waivers, so Stewart could have just kept playing for Iowa.
“He will be, but he has his time, his 72 hours,” general manager Jed Hoyer said on Monday.
Players who have been optioned to the minors have 72 hours to report, meaning Stewart had until Monday night. He didn’t play over the weekend, apparently taking his time off. Texts to him and a call to his agent went unreturned.
Why would a player trying to get back to the major leagues take three days off when he’s been “off” since the start of the season? It’s an apparent lack of commitment.
This after the Cubs committed a non-guaranteed contract to him at the end of spring training—which meant it was his for keeps—for $2 million.
“We had a lot of discussions with him about it, in the end that was the decision,” Hoyer said cryptically. “He has the right, it’s the given right the players have and that was the decision.”
My kind of stadium, Wrigley ain’t
My kind of freeloaders, too
Toothless ushers who smile at you
There is something ghastly about watching the St. Louis Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field akin to watching the prom queen dance with Quasimodo in a fetid alley.
Busch Stadium is a modern, clean facility with excellent views of the playing field, wide inner corridors, easy access to vendors, large restrooms, plentiful parking and compelling views of a vibrant downtown.
The Busch Stadium field announcer unashamedly welcomes fans to “Baseball Heaven.” Ushers smile, vendors have a full set of teeth, and the field is immaculate.
If Busch is baseball heaven, then Wrigley Field is that other place, a sort of baseball hell where fans can purchase a ticket only to find their seat obstructed by a support beam, or located so far under the upper deck that fly balls are not visible, like watching the game from a tunnel. So distant is the upper deck, the game is just a rumor.
...Perhaps the most curious aspect of Wrigley Field are the freeloaders who squat on various neighboring rooftops in seats only marginally less distant than Voyager II. They don’t just pilfer the game as they once did, years ago, when they put out a few lawn chairs and watched a couple of innings from across the street. Building owners have erected stadium seating – large metal bleachers onto which dozens of people sit, often paying large sums of money to sit across the street, at least 200 feet further than the farthest outfield seat. Literally hundreds of fans cram into these steep bleachers in full view of fire inspectors and building code enforcement, convinced that they are enjoying a unique experience.
The worst seat at Busch Stadium is a field box compared to these, yet they are more coveted that the handful of decent seats inside Wrigley itself.
They have another tradition, that of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning, led off-key by some minor celebrity dragged in to aver his undying allegiance to a team whose moniker is “The Lovable Losers.”
The owner of the Chicago Cubs threatened Wednesday to move the team out of Wrigley Field if his plans for a big, new video screen are blocked, saying he needs millions of dollars in ad revenue to help bankroll the renovation of the storied ballpark.
It was the first time during months of contentious negotiations over plans for a $500 million renovation of the 99-year-old stadium that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has threatened to move the team out of the lively North Side neighborhood of Wrigleyville.
‘‘The fact is that if we don’t have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we’ll have to take a look at moving - no question,’’ Ricketts told reporters after outlining renovation plans to Chicago business leaders.
He added that he remained committed to working out a deal.
By far the thorniest issue is the plan for a 6,000-square-foot video screen over left field, as seen in many major league ballparks. The difference is that Wrigley Field - the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park in Boston - is surrounded by privately owned clubs with rooftop bleachers whose owners object to any changes that could block their bird’s-eye views into the stadium.
In the minor leagues, Class A Daytona manager Dave Keller benched phenom Jorge Soler for Sunday’s game after Soler twice failed to run hard Saturday.
“(Soler) sat (Sunday) because within the philosophy and the work ethic that we are trying to create in this organization—and that we are trying to get our players to understand – work ethic, energy, determination, playing hard and running hard is part of the whole program,” Daytona manager Dave Keller told Sean Kernan of the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “When you don’t do that, then you don’t get to play. That’s something that has really been emphasized over the last two years.”
Soler is expected back in the lineup today.
“As a coaching staff we’re required to stay on top of it,” Keller told Kernan. “And we’re doing it because work habits create the player, period. When you work, you get better.”
It’s the second incident this year involving Soler, who was suspended five games for a bat-wielding incident. Soler signed a nine-year, $30 million contract last year.
The main problem is not the rooftop owners, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s great to have fans watching games from the rooftops across the street—a historic practice to which the Cubs have never objected—but outrageous that rooftop owners veto improvements to Wrigley on the basis of projected “lost revenues.” These “revenues” must be understood for what they are: a theft of the Cubs’ product, to not one dime of which are the rooftop owners entitled.
Nevertheless, it will be a blunder for the Cubs to block the views of the ballpark to or from the rooftops. Annex buildings and game-day street fairs may prove legitimate improvements to both Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville, but an outfield Jumbotron video board will not. Virtually every other MLB stadium has one, but Wrigley is unique in how the immediate cityscape is part of the ballpark experience. The Cubs will be making a mistake if, from their desire for increased revenues, and their squabbles with the fans outside Wrigley Field looking in, they sacrifice the pleasures of fans on the inside looking out.
When a stadium has a Jumbotron, the game becomes secondary and fans in the park start watching the screen rather than the game—which is why large video boards are a dependable source of advertising revenue. If the Cubs want to preserve Wrigley’s historic character in tandem with their construction efforts on Clark Street and their desire to extend their game-day domain to Waveland and Sheffield avenues, they might discreetly place multiple video boards outside Wrigley so fans in adjacent streets can watch the game. This could be a ballpark and neighborhood addition worthy of the baseball, entrepreneurial and larger ballpark culture–preserving ambitions of the Ricketts family and the Epstein regime, and would demonstrate that they understand the value of their assets.
Wave soldering combined with aqueous washing…can only mean victory!
Onetime boy-genius baseball executive Theo Epstein was brought here from the Red Sox to make the Cubs winners. So far Theo, which means ‘‘God’’ in Greek, has presided over Hades. The Cubs reek.
Fans have been instructed to wait. I’ve been waiting for 64
years. It gets old, you know. And then you die.
But now Ricketts has declared that Epstein will have everything he needs to win it all. This is more than a boast, people. This is a guarantee, and guarantees must come with accountability — like being run out of town.
Part of me feels that this purported deal never will be consummated and that Ricketts will be able to say, ‘‘It’s not my fault the Cubs are bad.’’ But who knows whether Ricketts will pump the extra cash — should it come — into the signings of star players and the development of minor-league prospects? Nobody.
It’s not certain this deal won’t get sued back to the Bricks-and-Ivy Age by that renegade band known as the rooftop owners, who have 11 years left on a contract with the Cubs that guarantees them an unobstructed view of their already-obstructed view of the field. That Kenney-brokered deal is so insane that I can’t even begin to address it. But it’s legal — and it might be explosive.
For now, though, we’ll believe the happy news and breathe a sigh of relief.
A redone stadium. A big replay screen. Two thousand new jobs. Millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Big smiles and handshakes all around.
We won’t even mention the 4-8 team. Or the biggest guarantee in Cubs history.
Then Sveum said, ‘Let us make the Cubs in my image, in my likeness’
But if you combined all the Cubs’ offensive stats from two weeks into the season to form a single player? Well, we’ve got almost enough stats to Frankenstein together our own utility player, even if all he is really good for is moaning “Fire bad!” and occasionally pinch hitting for Brent Lillibridge.
So far this season, the Cubs have amassed about 400 plate appearances, 11 homers, 35 runs, a 23.9% strikeout rate and a 5.5% walk rate (these numbers are offensive, of course, and, yes, I mean that in multiple ways). All that and more is good for a .635 OPS and a .275 wOBA. In case you’re wondering, no, the Cubs position players have not yet attained replacement-level production yet. With positional, fielding, and baserunning adjustments factored in, they’re worth 0.1 wins below a replacement level player. So that’s awesome.
So I used baseball-reference.com’s play index to find a player in recent history who had posted a season similar to what the Cubs have accomplished so far this year as a team, and the result was mildly interesting. The player who most closely resembles your 2013 Chicago Cubs to date:
Cubs president Theo Epstein is expected to address the media sometime this afternoon about the situation Wednesday night involving Cubs prospect Jorge Soler at Class A Daytona. We’ll pick things up here from our blog of this morning and add some reaction, which we’ll flesh out more in depth for the paper tomorrow and online later today. The Cubs and Giants are working out on the outfield grass as a cold rain continues to fall at Wrigley Field before the scheduled 1:20 p.m. game.
...Soler, a member of the Cubs’ 40-man roster and owner of a nine-year, $30 million contract, charged across the field last night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark wielding a bat. Daytona manager Dave Keller was quoted by the Daytona Beach News Journal as saying the incident was “kind of like a nightmare.”
The paper reported “Soler was caught by teammates near the Threshers’ dugout, and he never swung the bat. But the heralded prospect was ejected following the incident, and Keller said he did not know if there would be further punishment from the Cubs or the Florida State League.”
The incident apparently was touched off by a confrontation between Soler and Clearwater’s Carlos Alonso at second base after the final play of the seventh inning. From the News Journal: “Soler slid into the base on the play, and he and Alonso exchanged words. Teammates from each side came out to separate the two, and the groups headed back to their dugouts. But Soler came sprinting back out of the Cubs’ dugout — bat in hand — toward the Threshers dugout.”
“I think that he was frustrated by some things and there was some emotional things he was fighting with,” Keller told the paper. “Why he did that, I don’t know. I think he was frustrated by what happened. When he slid into second base, (Alonso) ended up laying on top of him. He was laying on him so (Soler) pushed with his arm to get him off him, and I think the second baseman interpreted that the wrong way like he wanted to fight or something.”
Keller said the two sides exchanged words and that Soler was upset about some of the things said to him.
“There were two separate incidents, and there was really no fight,” Keller told the paper. “But because nobody was around him when he was running across the field with a bat … that makes things a little bit crazy.”
A goat’s head was delivered to Wrigley Field this afternoon, addressed to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, and police are investigating the dropoff of the “intimidating package,” officials said.
A package with a goat’s head was dropped off at Wrigley, 1060 W. Addison St., addressed to Ricketts, Cubs team spokesman Julian Green said.
The package was dropped off at Gate K at the field, Green said. The delivery was reported to police, he said.
Police were called to the ballpark about 2:30 p.m. because of an “intimidating package,” and officers filed an appropriate report, said Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala. News Affairs did not have information on details of the incident, but police are investigating, Zala said.
The Cubs are in the middle of highly publicized negotiations with city officials regarding proposed changes at the stadium, including about whether the team should be able to increase the number of night games at the field from 30 to about 40.
B.J. Upton led off the ninth inning with a homer and his brother Justin followed one out later with another long ball that helped the Atlanta Braves rally past embattled Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol for a 6-5 victory Saturday night.
Marmol had been through a tough week. He was pulled from a save situation after facing four batters and not recording an out in Chicago’s win at Pittsburgh on opening day, but he earned a save on Thursday against the Pirates despite giving up two ninth-inning runs.
The Upton brothers, major offseason acquisitions for Atlanta, became the 25th tandem of brothers to homer in the same major league game and the first since Adam and Andy LaRoche accomplished the feat for Pittsburgh on June 17, 2009.
The agreement is expected to include $300 million in renovations at Wrigley, more night games, a parking lot and a $200 million hotel nearby, the people said. They said the team would pick up the entire tab to renovate Wrigley
The plan calls for a video scoreboard inside the park in left field and another sign in right field, said one person close to the negotiations. The size of the video scoreboard was among the details still being worked out. Some owners of the famed rooftops across the street where fans watch games have threatened to sue if the renovation does anything to obstruct their view.
Still, the signs—and advertising on them—and those additional night games are significant because team chairman Tom Ricketts has said he’d be willing to pay for the entire project if the city would agree to those two moves. The Cubs are also expected to build a 300-space parking garage on the site of a gravel lot at a nearby cemetery, according to the two people. Neighbors have long complained about the lack of parking on game days.