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Monday, September 17, 2012

Holmes: Five biggest disappointments of the 2012 baseball season

Theo’s Mess in Chicago

Last October when Theo Epstein signed a $18.5 million deal to be President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, he left one storied franchise for another, intent on resurrecting a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. That’s 104 years, and since Theo the Wonderkid helped erase 1 86-year championship drought in Boston, he seems to be the guy for Chicago. But while expectations for his first season were modest (no one expected a pennant in 2012), the year could have gone much better. The Cubs have the second-worst record in baseball – only the Triple-A like Astros are worse in 2012. Epstein has swept away many of the players who were on the roster when he took over, reshaping the club, but some of those old players (Sean Marshall) have helped division rivals, while new ones (David DeJesus, Chris Volstad) have proved to be duds. To be fair, Theo needs some more time, and his best prospect (Anthony Rizzo) is playing well while several young blue chips are close to being ready for Cubs uniforms. In July, though, instead of watching a revived team, Cubs fans watched as Epstein shipped most of the veterans on the team to contenders at the trade deadline. This week, Theo told reporters that ”There might be some tough things we have to tell (fans) along the way, and there might be another trading deadline in our future where we trade away 40 percent of a really good rotation.” That doesn’t bode well for 2012 either, Cubbie fans.

Phat Albert’s production

It would be easy to look at Albert Pujols’ stats through September 15 and say he’s the same old Albert: 42 doubles, 30 homers, 96 RBI. But the fact is that Pujols – like most players in their 30s who aren’t using steroids – is showing signs of slowing down. It started last season in St. Louis when his slugging percentage dropped 50 points from his 2010 level and more than 100 points from 2009. This year he’s slugging 20 points lower again, and his on-base percentage is more than 70 points below his career average. This doesn’t look like a few off-years, it looks like a typical decline for a power hitter. Possibly even a rapid decline. For now, Pujols is hitting home runs at a decent rate for a corner infielder, but the 30 he has so far in ’12 is a dozen fewer than his season average, and remember in April when he didn’t hit a home run at all? And his RBI totals are not much to get excited about, since Albert hits in the middle of a good lineup and should get 100 RBI. Obviously, considering the huge investment the Angels have made in Pujols (10 years for $254 million), the deteriorating production must be a concern. Coupled with the fact that the Halos find themselves in third place, well behind the Texas Rangers, this season has to be a disappointment.

Thanks to Ed.

Repoz Posted: September 17, 2012 at 06:29 AM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. McCoy Posted: September 18, 2012 at 07:23 AM (#4238818)
I hate this argument, sorry (nothing personal). It's "fail" all the way around.

EVERY team has a similar argument. It's ok if you want to talk about ONE thing, but a list of multiple (4 in this case!) things? C'mon! How many teams could say they would be in it just if they had a pitching staff?


You missed the point. The 4 things I described would have been the 4 things the Cubs wouldn't have been lacking if they had splurged like the Marlins.

I'm not convinced a hypothetical going-for-it Cubs team has a better pitching staff than this year's Marlins. Neither Wilson nor Buehrle has had a great season. Zambrano has not pitched well.


BPJ, Maholm, Dempster, Garza, and CJ Wilson is a better pitching staff.
   102. Lassus Posted: September 18, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4238864)
Funny enough it was the Marlins who figured it out and went for it.

Cokes around, but yikes. You're citing something that didn't work, at all.
   103. Tippecanoe Posted: September 18, 2012 at 09:41 AM (#4238891)
you have to get to 83 wins before you can get to 98


Do you? The 2008 Rays and the 1991 Braves are famous counter-examples, and I'm sure a search would reveal some others. Sure it's atypical to do it in a single year, but bad teams can turn it around quickly, epecially when they have some money, like, say, the Nationals.
   104. McCoy Posted: September 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4239292)
Cokes around, but yikes. You're citing something that didn't work, at all.

This is silly. Getting FA is not the thing that didn't work. The point was that the Marlins knew they had money to spend because of all the extra revenue coming in so they spent it. Should they have spent it? Probably not, depends on how good you are at seeing the future.

Do you? The 2008 Rays and the 1991 Braves are famous counter-examples,

It's possible but I think the examples of teams adding 5 to 10 wins a year for a few years is a lot more common than going from 67 wins to 98 wins in a single offseason.
   105. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 18, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4239448)
BPJ, Maholm, Dempster, Garza, and CJ Wilson is a better pitching staff.

A starting rotation is not the same as a pitching staff. And the Cubs have had 80% of that rotation for most of this year, and still have a team ERA+ that's quite a bit worse than Miami's. The difference between CJ Wilson and Travis Wood isn't zero, but it hasn't been huge this year.
   106. McCoy Posted: September 18, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4239675)
And Wood isn't the issue. The Cubs have given 37 starts to pitchers that have put up a combined -4.3 WAR. CJ, Ryan, and Paul have made 47 starts for teams other than the Cubs this season. What would have happened is that Travis Wood would have filled in for Garza this year when he went down and then filled in for Jeff when he went down and overall there would be probably 5 or so starts by the dreck of the staff and they certainly. Probably Volstad.
   107. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 18, 2012 at 10:03 PM (#4239697)
What would have happened is that Travis Wood would have filled in for Garza this year when he went down and then filled in for Jeff when he went down

Dempster also went down for about a month. More importantly, the going-for-it Cubs probably don't have Travis Wood, because I expect they keep Marshall instead. (Or if they do have Wood, their bullpen is still cripplingly awful.)
   108. McCoy Posted: September 18, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4239713)
Dempster also went down for about a month. More importantly, the going-for-it Cubs probably don't have Travis Wood, because I expect they keep Marshall instead. (Or if they do have Wood, their bullpen is still cripplingly awful.)

A going for it Cubs would have also likely have tried to pick up some bullpen help. The thing is is that if they had kept Marshall the difference between him and virtually any Cub reliever that he would supplanted would be be very large. Probably at least 2 wins or more.


Jeff being a starter was an experiment and it is likely they would have tried to get a backup in case the experiment failed. Would it have been Volstad? I don't know I kind of doubt it. But I also don't see why the cubs couldn't have gotten Wood from the Reds either. Wood posted an 82 ERA+ last year and was thought of so highly that he was packaged with two other players to get a reliever that was in his last year of service before FA.
   109. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: September 18, 2012 at 10:51 PM (#4239735)
But I also don't see why the cubs couldn't have gotten Wood from the Reds either. Wood posted an 82 ERA+ last year and was thought of so highly that he was packaged with two other players to get a reliever that was in his last year of service before FA.

And why would the going-for-it Cubs have sought to acquire such a marginal player, rather than signing, say, Roy Oswalt? You're crediting the hypothetical Cubs with perfect player acquisition instincts, and you're still barely getting them to .500 and a ghost of a chance at the second wild card.
   110. McCoy Posted: September 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM (#4239759)
and you're still barely getting them to .500 and a ghost of a chance at the second wild card.

So what? The point was that the Cubs could sign FA and compete this year while not giving up on the future. They could have done that but did not.

The Cubs did in fact trade for numerous marginal players this year. They must have seen something in them they liked besides simply being cheap. The Cubs also could have signed Adam Wainwright or Kuroda or Jackson.


Tearing down the Cubs and having them start over is also crediting the Cubs with perfect player acquisition instincts.
   111. MM1f Posted: September 19, 2012 at 01:25 AM (#4239803)
Corrected sentence: Other than Kevin Frandsen, Dom Brown, and John Mayberry Jr., every one of their regulars is over 30, and they all pretty much look like it, except Carlos Ruiz, and Erik Kratz. Well, Erik Kratz looks pretty old, because he's bald, but don't laugh because he's our nominee for Rookie of the Year.


Frandsen and Brown are hardly "regulars," they both have less than 200 PAs. Right now Mayberry is a regular, but it is worth noting that Baseball-Reference doesn't consider him a starter for the Phillies this year either.
   112. shoewizard Posted: September 19, 2012 at 08:27 AM (#4239873)
The foolishness of still wishing your team outbid the Angels or Tigers for one of these guys is mindboggling. If Rizzo is merely a good first baseman that frees up $20m+ a year at the cost of at most a couple wins to spend elsewhere to get more wins with far less long term risk.


There is what should be an obvious weakness in this approach: There is absolutely no guarantee that you will make up those couple of wins by using the 20 million elsewhere. The lesser "bargain" players are less of a sure thing to produce. You may spend that extra money, and not get the wins anyway. (Kevin Towers says hello) The volatility of their production is far greater.

THIS is why wealthy teams "over spend" for superstars. Because barring injury, which is always a risk of course, you are reasonably assured of a certain level of performance. The value of that additional certainty, or rather greater odds of reaching the projected production level, is what is hard to quantify. But for poorer teams, they just don't have the cajones to put that many eggs in one basket. Sometimes I think they should try it more often though.
   113. Comic Strip Person Posted: September 19, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4240119)
Tearing down the Cubs and having them start over is also crediting the Cubs with perfect player acquisition instincts.


I don't think so. The last off-season made it apparent that teams are getting smarter about signing high-end talent instead of letting it get to free agency. The coming cash infusion (which has happened during the year, but which I suspect most teams knew was a promising prospect) increases the likelihood that even mid- and low-income teams can keep one or two top players through their peak. The free agent market appears to be thinning out. This is a good reason to prioritize developing your own talent (or getting nearly ML-ready talent, like Rizzo). Tearing down the Cubs has been about picking up that sort of talent from other teams who are feeling urgency. That doesn't mean they've made the right call each time, but they do seem to have added a meaningful amount of promising talent to the farm system (and even the ML club) in one year.

Now, they have to actually finish developing it, which has been a historic Cub weakness.
   114. Poster Nutbag Posted: September 19, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4240167)
McCoy:

I got your point, but you are REALLY reaching here.

Your theories are very far-fetched, to put it nicely. You speak as if every FA would play for the Cubs blindly. All it would've taken is throwing enough money around? I don't think so. Some guys just may not want to play for the Cubs. Happens to Oakland all the time (Beltre, Furcal, etc) Some guys actually have a preference of where they would like to play, some simply do not prefer Chicago. I'll play Devil's Advocate for you:

Say they were going to buy a shot at the playoffs....but the first 1 or 2 FA players that they called said to them flatly "I'd rather not play for Chicago"....what then? What if CJ Wilson said "No, I prefer warm weather/west coast"? Really, what happens then? If one or two of your targeted FA aren't "on board"?

I think you missed my point. EVERYONE can play the "If my team did W, X, Y and Z they'd be in it!!!111!!!". It simply is not realistic by any means. That is exactly what you are doing. Guys might have wanted to go to Florida that simply did not want anything to do with Chicago. Face it, the Cubbies were going to lose this year no matter what man, sorry.
   115. McCoy Posted: September 20, 2012 at 01:00 AM (#4240779)
I don't think so. The last off-season made it apparent that teams are getting smarter about signing high-end talent instead of letting it get to free agency. The coming cash infusion (which has happened during the year, but which I suspect most teams knew was a promising prospect) increases the likelihood that even mid- and low-income teams can keep one or two top players through their peak. The free agent market appears to be thinning out. This is a good reason to prioritize developing your own talent (or getting nearly ML-ready talent, like Rizzo). Tearing down the Cubs has been about picking up that sort of talent from other teams who are feeling urgency. That doesn't mean they've made the right call each time, but they do seem to have added a meaningful amount of promising talent to the farm system (and even the ML club) in one year.

Now, they have to actually finish developing it, which has been a historic Cub weakness.


Outside of Rizzo who are these promising players?
   116. McCoy Posted: September 20, 2012 at 01:05 AM (#4240783)
I got your point, but you are REALLY reaching here.

Your theories are very far-fetched, to put it nicely


Someone probably said the same thing about the Marlins and then they went out and got Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.

If CJ Wilson doesn't want to come there was Mark Buehrle. IF ALbert doesn't want to come there was Fielder. That was the thing about this FA class. It was one the biggest cream of the crop FA classes of all time and the Cubs passed on it. Cubs were the only large market team that had the payroll and space to sign a bunch of them and they didn't even try.
   117. McCoy Posted: September 27, 2012 at 07:52 PM (#4247642)
Cubs have to go 4-2 to avoid a 100 loss season.
   118. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: September 27, 2012 at 08:45 PM (#4247671)
Um, yes. A Marlins team with a pitching staff, no Ozzie Guillen as a manager, a better first baseman, and a better third baseman would be in the hunt for a playoff spot this year. What I just described would have been the Cubs this year.

I hate this argument, sorry (nothing personal). It's "fail" all the way around.


This was the classic Peter Gammons' springtime Diamond Note. Dan Duquette thinks Brian Rose can be a 18-game winner. If he's right, and John Valentin can hit 35 HR and Jose Offerman can hit .340, and Nomar Garciaparra wins the Triple Crown, the Red Sox could win 139 games.
   119. McCoy Posted: September 27, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4247696)
Well, signing Pujols and Aramis and not being stupid enough to hire Ozzie Guillen to get to 85 wins is helluva lot different than predicting 139 wins for the Red Sox if the Red Sox do things they've never done.
   120. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2012 at 10:57 AM (#4250917)
100 loss season for the Cubs.
   121. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4251786)
Kind of sad that the Cubs might just end up 4 games ahead of Houston when it is all said and done.
   122. flournoy Posted: October 02, 2012 at 09:32 PM (#4251804)
Right now Mayberry is a regular, but it is worth noting that Baseball-Reference doesn't consider him a starter for the Phillies this year either.


No it isn't. He's only listed that way on B-R because he's split time across several positions, and thus doesn't have the greatest number of appearances at any one of them. But he's second on the team in PA. He's a starter.
   123. Dan Evensen Posted: October 02, 2012 at 10:15 PM (#4251869)
EVERYONE can play the "If my team did W, X, Y and Z they'd be in it!!!111!!!". It simply is not realistic by any means.

This is the sad swan song of a franchise heading in the wrong direction, one that lost 100 games this year. Should they be more active in the FA market? Should they just tear the whole thing down and start over with young talent? Either way, they've got to do something. To be honest with you, it seems obvious to me that the Cubs are more than just 4 acquisitions away from being competitive again.

I think you missed my point.

He missed your point again in #116.

It's got to be real frustrating to be a Cubs fan now.
   124. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4251878)
He missed your point again in #116.

If I missed it it is because it is wrong. How about that?

The Cubs going into the offseason were not destined to lose 100+ games and they were in all probability 4 acquisitions away from being competitive in 2012.
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