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Monday, November 19, 2018

Cubs in need of major overhaul? Don’t be silly

The Cubs won 95 games in 2018. To put that number into context, in the last 73 seasons, they have won more games than that exactly four times. Only one National League team won more in 2018. That would be the Brewers, who went into Wrigley Field and won their 96th in a one-game playoff that decided the NL Central.

The Cubs won 95 times despite third baseman Kris Bryant playing just 32 games after the All-Star break. Despite right-hander Yu Darvish throwing his final pitch on May 20. Despite closer Brandon Morrow missing the entire second half.

Their pitching staff had the NL’s second-lowest ERA, and only the Astros in the American League had a lower bullpen ERA. Offensively, only the Dodgers, Rockies and Nationals scored more runs than the Cubs in the NL. That’s it. If this is what qualifies as a train wreck of a season, plenty of teams would sign up. But somehow, in the weeks since the Cubs lost the NL Wild Card Game to the Rockies, the narrative has become that they are broken, that significant change is needed. This is silly.

The rare article that asks and answers the question in the title

McCoy Posted: November 19, 2018 at 11:01 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, hot stove, offseason

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   1. McCoy Posted: November 19, 2018 at 11:01 AM (#5789153)
Voila
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 19, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5789159)
I agree that the Cubs aren’t fundamentally and seriously ‘broken,’ but an article that ignores or handwaves away the fact that they scored exactly one run in 83 percent of their games in the second half isn’t a serious treatment of the subject.
   3. Nasty Nate Posted: November 19, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5789169)
but an article that ignores or handwaves away the fact that they scored exactly one run in 83 percent of their games in the second half isn’t a serious treatment of the subject.
I think trivia like that should basically be ignored. Does it relay any useful information that wouldn't otherwise be produced by a normal assessment of the offense? Are they (or should they) make any offseason decisions or strategic changes based on a concern that they will score exactly one run in a lot of games next spring?
   4. Man o' Schwar Posted: November 19, 2018 at 12:17 PM (#5789178)
Unless they can figure out a reason why it happened, which I haven't been able to find. They weren't a feast or famine all HR, all K team. They weren't a team that refused to draw walks. They weren't a team that can't run, or can't make contact. They don't ground into a ton of DPs. Overall in the NL, 1st in BA, 2nd in OBP, 6th in SLG, 5th in OPS. They were better than league average in basically everything except HRs (and they still averaged about 1 HR a game).

Combined with decent pitching (which they got), they should have won 95 games (which they did). They're not losing anything major this offseason. No one on the team is in his late 30s and ready for a big decline (except maybe Zobrist). Most of the key players are in their early/mid 20s and could be expected to improve. Darvish may be back, and he's capable of adding 4-5 wins on his own. They get Hamels for a full season.

They should be fine.
   5. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 19, 2018 at 12:41 PM (#5789186)
We know why it happened.

Chili Davis happened.
   6. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: November 19, 2018 at 12:52 PM (#5789190)
Cubs scored 1 or fewer runs in 19 of 93 games pre-All-Star break. 20 of 70 after. 10 of those 20 games occurred while Bryant was out.
   7. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: November 19, 2018 at 01:29 PM (#5789205)
From afar the Cubs have an air of the 2017 Red Sox to them. Not that they were bad, but it just seems like everything was 5% worse than it should've been expected to be. I won't be surprised if they are considerably better next year without making any changes other than some fringe cosmetic type stuff.
   8. Red Voodooin Posted: November 19, 2018 at 01:51 PM (#5789222)
We know why it happened.

Chili Davis happened.


Right. And while we aren't sure Chili was the reason for the unusual flop, they remedied that "problem" immediately after the season ended. Beyond that, I'm with #3, any further moves solely intended to fix that fluky offensive nosedive are probably unnecessary.
   9. McCoy Posted: November 19, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5789228)
Wasn't Chili kind of the answer to combat the all or nothing type offense that they were finding themselves in?
   10. Sunday silence Posted: November 19, 2018 at 02:21 PM (#5789237)
whats the latest on Maddon and his job security. it seems to me that is the only major iceberg on the horizon that could stop the high sailing Cub ship.
   11. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 19, 2018 at 02:29 PM (#5789241)
Maddon is a lame duck manager in 2019. Cubs have officially said they won't be signing him to an extension this offseason/during next season. Things can always change, but the press appears to be interpreting that as he won't be back after next year unless the Cubs win the WS. I doubt that's really a set in stone thing, but I guess people like talking about the pending "uncertainty".
   12. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 19, 2018 at 02:51 PM (#5789249)
So far as I'm aware, virtually - if not everyone (maybe Darvish?) is a fan of Joe... so, if this adds some motivation for the fellas to win Joe another ring and keep him around, bully for that.
   13. Master of the Horse Posted: November 19, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5789268)
I fully support Cubs management panicking over a weird set of events unlikely to happen again that led to Chicago being one and one in the NL playoffs. All for it.
   14. TomH Posted: November 19, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5789269)
who can call up the Cubs BABIP pre- and post- allstar game? It seems like a couple of guys who stopped hitting for avg (Hap, Contreras) did not have an obvious reason, just from looking at stats.
   15. McCoy Posted: November 19, 2018 at 03:26 PM (#5789274)
who can call up the Cubs BABIP pre- and post- allstar game?

Everyone? It is on Bref's batting splits page. As a team it went from .319 to .303. Kyle went from .295 to .272
   16. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 19, 2018 at 03:28 PM (#5789276)
I fully support Cubs management panicking over a weird set of events unlikely to happen again that led to Chicago being one and one in the NL playoffs. All for it.

They haven't done anything yet that could be even misrepresented into panicking. The fans, sure. The team, though, no.
   17. Master of the Horse Posted: November 19, 2018 at 03:37 PM (#5789283)
16--joking.
   18. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: November 19, 2018 at 07:23 PM (#5789375)
Their bats were Chili!
   19. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: November 19, 2018 at 07:25 PM (#5789376)
who can call up the Cubs BABIP pre- and post- allstar game? It seems like a couple of guys who stopped hitting for avg (Hap, Contreras) did not have an obvious reason, just from looking at stats.

Did Happ strike out in nearly half of his at bats over the last two months of the season? From memory (beware!), I think he had a late season stretch of 60 Ks in 137 AB. I could be way off, but I'm too lazy to check.
   20. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 19, 2018 at 07:30 PM (#5789378)
Did Happ strike out in nearly half of his at bats over the last two months of the season? From memory (beware!), I think he had a late season stretch of 60 Ks in 137 AB. I could be way off, but I'm too lazy to check.

67/153, for 43.7%. (Which is basically exactly the same percentage as 60/137.)
   21. Greg Pope Posted: November 19, 2018 at 09:09 PM (#5789416)
but an article that ignores or handwaves away the fact that they scored exactly one run in 83 percent of their games in the second half isn’t a serious treatment of the subject.

I think trivia like that should basically be ignored. Does it relay any useful information that wouldn't otherwise be produced by a normal assessment of the offense? Are they (or should they) make any offseason decisions or strategic changes based on a concern that they will score exactly one run in a lot of games next spring?

My first thought is that it's flukish. I think Nate brings up some good questions, though. Is there anything that would seem to indicate it's an actual problem?
   22. Michael Paulionis Posted: November 19, 2018 at 11:59 PM (#5789465)
I agree that the Cubs aren’t fundamentally and seriously ‘broken,’ but an article that ignores or handwaves away the fact that they scored exactly one run in 83 percent of their games in the second half isn’t a serious treatment of the subject.


This needs to be called out as hyperbole. 20/70 is the true figure as pointed out by Don August:

Cubs scored 1 or fewer runs in 19 of 93 games pre-All-Star break. 20 of 70 after. 10 of those 20 games occurred while Bryant was out.


That's both 0 or 1 runs scored. 28.6% of the games from the AS break through Game 163.

Part of that can be lumped in with teams getting better as the season progressed: Both Milwaukee (Start: 57-45 (.559) vs. Finish: 39-22 (.639)) and St. Louis (Start: 51-51 (.500) vs. Finish: 37-23 (.617)) were both significantly better teams in the 2nd half.

There was something seriously wrong with Happ. As a Cubs fan, his season was the most frustrating out of any of the underachievers in 2018. I'm worried he might be another Soler. The fact that Happ, Soler, and Baez are extremely susceptible to the Strikeout should be something Theo clearly takes into consideration and corrects for in the future. As awesome as Baez was in 2018, I don't think this is sustainable.

The fact that Chili was trashing modern-day players for being the problem rather than any fault of his own means it is a good thing he is gone.

I'll also be honest: As a Cub fan in September, I was a lot less concerned about the quality of the Brewers, Dodgers, Braves, and Rockies, and much more concerned that the Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, and A's looked like they would each make quick work of whichever NL team made the World Series.
   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 20, 2018 at 03:56 AM (#5789481)
This needs to be called out as hyperbole.
Called out? Of course it’s hyperbole. I meant it to be hyperbole. The concern isn’t with the specific number of one- (or zero-) run games, it’s that the offense has demonstrated the potential to often be completely inept.
   24. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 20, 2018 at 09:30 AM (#5789522)
The fact that Happ, Soler, and Baez are extremely susceptible to the Strikeout should be something Theo clearly takes into consideration and corrects for in the future.


I'm not sure what you mean here. First, Theo's regime inherited Baez and he's not at all the kind of player that the Theo regime has been drafting (not saying that's good or bad, saying Javy was a toolsy high schooler and Theo's drafts have mostly focused on college hitters with plate discipline).

I think a lot of criticism of the Cubs' offense is really a criticism of modern major-league offenses in general and, in fact, the Cubs are LESS three-true-outcomes extreme than the norm - which may, in fact, have actually been their problem (to the extent they had a problem). Mike Emeigh told me that in researching offense, it's actually batting average heavy teams that tend to more volatile in their run-scoring distribution, which makes sense to me. To score via a home run just requires one guy doing his job. To score on nothing but singles requires three (or four) guys doing their job.

The Cubs led the NL in batting average and hits, but, as a team, the Cubs were below the NL average in strikeouts - not by a lot, but they were 7th in the NL in fewest strikeouts. But they had the fewest home runs and the 5th-lowest ISO (SLG - BA) in the NL.
   25. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 20, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5789557)
Edit to #24: The Cubs have the 5TH fewest home runs. Sorry, I wrote the sentence and meant to go back and fill in the number after I confirmed it and forgot. The Cubs weren't Marlins-bad at hitting home runs.
   26. Rough Carrigan Posted: November 20, 2018 at 10:58 AM (#5789582)
#4. I'd be a little worried about Rizzo. His OPS+ the last five years: 152, 146, 143, 131, 121. That's not collapse but it's a steady decline and he's one of the pillars of the offense.
   27. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 20, 2018 at 11:48 AM (#5789634)
#4. I'd be a little worried about Rizzo. His OPS+ the last five years: 152, 146, 143, 131, 121. That's not collapse but it's a steady decline and he's one of the pillars of the offense.

I disagree. Last year, he had one bad month - he hit .149/.259/.189 in April, which included a DL stint in the middle. From May to the end of the year, he hit .303/.393/.512.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 20, 2018 at 12:00 PM (#5789640)
I disagree. Last year, he had one bad month - he hit .149/.259/.189 in April, which included a DL stint in the middle. From May to the end of the year, he hit .303/.393/.512.

Counterpoint: injuries are one of the main factors impairing performance as players push 30. The talents not gone, they're just playing at 100% in a decreasing share of their game.
   29. Zonk Can't Hide his Disdain or Disgust Posted: November 20, 2018 at 12:05 PM (#5789644)
I disagree. Last year, he had one bad month - he hit .149/.259/.189 in April, which included a DL stint in the middle. From May to the end of the year, he hit .303/.393/.512.


Zonk OOTP 2018 dynasty restart report!

Rizzo had a jaw-dropping April for me - 403/501/917 with 14 HRs and 43 RBI.... and the team smashed the MLB record for consecutive wins to open the season at 26.
   30. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 20, 2018 at 01:08 PM (#5789690)
Counterpoint: injuries are one of the main factors impairing performance as players push 30. The talents not gone, they're just playing at 100% in a decreasing share of their game.

Sure, and I don't disagree. It was his back, too, which can always be scary. I just think it's wrong the use last year's total as a data point in saying he's declining, especially in the context of the overall Cubs' offensive struggles. IOW, his bad April wasn't a reason the Cubs offensive took a nose-dive in the 2nd half.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 20, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5789707)
Sure, and I don't disagree. It was his back, too, which can always be scary. I just think it's wrong the use last year's total as a data point in saying he's declining, especially in the context of the overall Cubs' offensive struggles. IOW, his bad April wasn't a reason the Cubs offensive took a nose-dive in the 2nd half.

Agree with your last point, but disagree that you can ignore April in projecting Rizzo for 2019.
   32. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: November 20, 2018 at 02:23 PM (#5789745)
I don't think I said that, even though there's I think April is very clearly an outlier. I mean, he's not Khris Davis, but he's pretty damn consistent and one injured, terrible month, isn't, or shouldn't change what we should expect from him going forward. Again, his 2018 excluding April is almost the exact same raw numbers from the previous 4 seasons*. Plus, he's still just 28.

*He basically had the exact same line in 2017 as 2015, but league/park is quite drastic. He actually cut down his Ks/increased his BB, but his BABIP was 20 points worse.

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