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   1. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 21, 2006 at 05:41 PM (#1979411)
Today’s news about Derrek Lee is a serious setback, but not so much that the sky is falling: The Cubs still should contend for post-season play of one kind or another for most if not all of this season.

I don't care how much weaker the Cardinals and Astros are compared to last year; without Wood and Prior for 2 months and without Lee for 3, if you still think the Cubs are going to contend, you've been drinking way too much of the Cubbie Kool-Aid.

This team went from being maybe an 85-87 win team to an 82-83 win team, overnight. Besides, both the Reds and Brewers are better than last year anyway.
   2. The First Pitch Express Posted: April 21, 2006 at 06:11 PM (#1979472)
This team went from being maybe an 85-87 win team to an 82-83 win team, overnight. (emphasis mine)

Well said. Key word in that sentence: maybe. This team was never that much better than last year's 79-win team to begin with, and was only an 85-87 win team in a best-case scenario, maybe reaching that 90-win mark if Prior and Wood make 25-30 starts each.
   3. Mike Isaacs Posted: April 21, 2006 at 10:35 PM (#1980060)
I've never been accused of dipping into the Cubbie Kool-Aid before, but I can understand that perspective. Yours is certainly the pervailing thought today, and it's understandable. If you're right, I'll be the first to admit it.

Where I think though we have a major difference is in your point about not caring about the talent level of the Cardinals and Astros. How can't that matter when trying to assess the Cubs' chances this year without key personnel available right now? It's of crucial importance. In fact, any evaluation without taking that into account is suspect, IMHO.

To me, the makeup of this team without Lee for at least a couple of months and Wood and Prior for some time to come must be evaluated in the context of a NL Central and a full National League that has seldom been weaker. If the right trade is available, I agree that the Cubs should make it. But I wouldn't panic by giving away solid prospects for a mediocre first base upgrade.

Check out the Astros, last year's National League pennant winner, and how they played in the months of April and May in 2005. Not very well. It's a long season with a heck of a lot of parity. This Cubs season is not likely to be over by the time Lee returns. The question isn't whether the Cubs are likely to struggle and win fewer games; they will and they will. It's whether the season ended yesterday in terms of having a chance to contend for October play.

By the time Lee returns, I suspect the starting rotation will be stronger although I'm keenly aware that counting on Prior and Wood is dangerous. If either of them stay relatively healthy, the rotation is automatically better.The bullpen will also play a crucial role in keeping this team treading water, IMHO.

You pick this team now to win 82 games. The key question for me is what takes place over the next month -- when Lee and Prior and Wood are all MIA. And Wood may be back before then.

In that month following the Stl. series, the Cubs play Fla. 6 times; Milwaukee 3 times; Pittsburgh 2 times; Arizona 2 times; San Diego 7 times; San Fran 3 times; Washington 3 times; Atlanta 3 times; Cincy 3 times and the Sox 3 times.

There are many mediocre or very bad teams in that bunch. The next month is tougher, but I suspect the starting pitching in June will look better. This team has a chance to play .500 ball during Lee's absence, which would put them 4 games over by the time the Cubs' superstar returns.

Entering July and being 4 games over .500 in this year's National League will mean being in contention for both the WC and the division. It doesn't mean they'll win it...just that they'll be viewed as having a shot.
   4. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 02:05 AM (#1980743)
Where I think though we have a major difference is in your point about not caring about the talent level of the Cardinals and Astros. How can't that matter when trying to assess the Cubs' chances this year without key personnel available right now? It's of crucial importance. In fact, any evaluation without taking that into account is suspect, IMHO.

Why don't I care? Because the Cubs don't have a team worthy of winning more than 82 games or so. Yes, the Cardinals and Astros have their problems, but the Brewers are resurgent too and between the three of them, one of those teams will find a way to win more than that, and 82 wins won't get the wildcard either.

Maybe I was a little harsh with my comment, but there is no chance that this team will put together 85 wins or so, even if that put them in the running.


In that month following the Stl. series, the Cubs play Fla. 6 times; Milwaukee 3 times; Pittsburgh 2 times; Arizona 2 times; San Diego 7 times; San Fran 3 times; Washington 3 times; Atlanta 3 times; Cincy 3 times and the Sox 3 times.

There are many mediocre or very bad teams in that bunch.


Yes, but the Cubs are mediocre as well. As they stand now, I'd say that they are clearly better than Florida and probably Pittsburgh, clearly worse than the White Sox and perhaps Milwaukee, San Diego, and Atlanta, and about as good as the rest. They aren't going to be fattening up in the next month.
   5. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 02:07 AM (#1980755)
BTW, aside from that bullet point, I generally agree with your other points, which were well stated.
   6. Darren Posted: April 22, 2006 at 03:33 AM (#1981191)
The Cubs should deal for Dusty Baker favorite JT Snow to replace Lee. You can even have AGonz, just send us back, I dunno, Cedeno or something.
   7. Mike Isaacs Posted: April 22, 2006 at 02:23 PM (#1981655)
Yes, but the Cubs are mediocre as well. As they stand now, I'd say that they are clearly better than Florida and probably Pittsburgh, clearly worse than the White Sox and perhaps Milwaukee, San Diego, and Atlanta, and about as good as the rest. They aren't going to be fattening up in the next month.


I'm not making the case that the Cubs will fatten up on these teams -- only that most of these teams are seriously flawed and are beatable. At this point, I think it's a good month not to face the Mets or the Cardinals (after this series) or the Astros. I see the White Sox as the toughest team they'll face during that period, and they generally seem to turn it up a notch against their crosstown rivals.

I agree that teams like the Reds and Brewers are tougher teams than they have been in the past, and teams like the Astros and the Cardinals are weaker teams. In other words, there is less of a gap in this division -- more mediocrity. What that means to me is that some of the favorites in the NL Central are less likely to beat up on teams they previously had their way with; opening a large gap in this division will not be as easy. I see parity as being the best thing the Cubs have going for them. To me, it's possible that the Cubs hover around .500 for the next month. We'll see.

The Astros won the wild card with 89 wins last year. I think it's very possible that the wild card winner wins fewer games this year for reasons already stated. A team hovering around .500 in July -- when presumably the Cubs will be at full strength again -- will certainly not be viewed as out of the two races for a post-season berth.

To be clear: I do not predict the Cubs to make the post-season. I didn't at the start of the year and I still don't. I only believe that it's possible that the Cubs will join a fairly large group of other mediocre teams as having a shot well into this season -- even with the Lee injury taken into account.

Maybe I was a little harsh with my comment

Not harsh at all. I've been called a lot worse. :-) Been a good discussion.
   8. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 05:18 PM (#1981866)
I'm not making the case that the Cubs will fatten up on these teams -- only that most of these teams are seriously flawed and are beatable.

Sure. Any team is "beatable," including the White Sox, but most specifically the Cubs.

Coming into the season, I don't think the Cubs were notably better than last year's 79 win team, but they did have a few things going for them --

(a) Regression by the rest of the league. The only teams I think would be markedly better than last year are the Mets and possibly the D-Backs, though teams like the Brewers would improve just by virtue of their youngsters being a year older. Meanwhile, almost everyone else, most notably the Cardinals and especially the Astros would be worse.

Still, while parity will help the Cubs, it won't help them if they continue to win only 79 games or so.

(b) A better bullpen -- yes, the Cubs only won 79 games last year, but that was dramatically below their Pythag. One reason for this was a bullpen that found it's way to blow late leads. This year's pen stands up to be better and has played that well so far.

(c) Management (possibly) -- let's face it, even if you discount the impact of batting orders (and I do), another reason for the 79 wins was the fact that Dusty ran out a lineup with Perez and Patterson at the top of the order so often. One would think that even Dusty couldn't shoot himself in the foot so badly again.

Then again, why not? Yes, Patterson is gone, but I don't have any reason to believe that Dusty has gotten smarter or won't make other decisions like this in the future, especially if Pierre tanks. With Lee out of the lineup, there is even more opportunity to see Neifi on a semi-regular basis, which alone is recipe for disaster.

(d) Luck (hopefully).

In the end, what we were really hoping was that the Cubs would profit by having other teams regress, plus a little better management/luck that would enable them to play around the levels they truly were in 2005 (ignoring the fact that, even if healthy, Lee was/is unlikely to duplicate last year).

Now, with Lee out for an extended period, it may be true that the Cardinals are worse and so are the Astros, but I don't see how one can say that the Cubs are good enough to take advantage of this.

I also disagree with the idea that the wildcard will have less than 89 wins -- yes, that's what it took last year, but that was the lowest number of wins for an NL wild card since '95 (when the season was only 144 games). Even in a weaker league, teams will find ways to win enough games to require 89-90 wins for the wildcard -- we just don't know which teams those are yet.

I think we can say, though, that they aren't the Cubs.
   9. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 06:51 PM (#1982129)
Looking at some things dJF's said in this thread. . . .

Let's start with some nitpicking . . .

In that month following the Stl. series, the Cubs play Fla. 6 times; Milwaukee 3 times; Pittsburgh 2 times; Arizona 2 times; San Diego 7 times; San Fran 3 times; Washington 3 times; Atlanta 3 times; Cincy 3 times and the Sox 3 times.

There are many mediocre or very bad teams in that bunch.

Yes, but the Cubs are mediocre as well. As they stand now, I'd say that they are clearly better than Florida and probably Pittsburgh, clearly worse than the White Sox and perhaps Milwaukee, San Diego, and Atlanta, and about as good as the rest.


Perhaps worse the San Diego? Sure SD had a better record last year . . . . barely, while playing half of their games in a historically horrific division. About as good as Arizona? Arizona had a losing record in that same division, and finished 9 games over their pythag. You say later that they've gotten better, but adjusting for strength of schedule, and perhaps pythag, those game must've gotten a whole heckuva lot better to pull near the Cubs. . . Of course, to be fair in my nitpicking, I think you're not giving Atlanta nearly enough credit. I don't care what they look like on paper, a team that wins 14 straight division titles has earned the right to be considered clearly better than the Cubs.

Coming into the season, I don't think the Cubs were notably better than last year's 79 win team, but they did have a few things going for them --

Well, skimming over your post, you didn't mention the OF. I'm wildly unimpressed with the Jones signing, but I can't even imagine a scenario where their OF is as putrid as Holly-Patterson-Burnitz was last year.

yes, the Cubs only won 79 games last year, but that was dramatically below their Pythag.

Semi-random note - one very surprising finding I had when preping my (now officially accepted) presentation for SABR36 - "Evaluating Managers" - was that managers apparently do have an impact on pythag records (if you use pythagenport, which I'm really sure Sean Forman does at b-ref). Over the last 40 years, Baker's actually been one of the best managers at winning more than pythag says his teams should. Might be a fluke, and it's not a guarantee that the Cubs will do better than their pythag, but they ain't necessarily a bad bet to exceed their pythag by a game or two, especially with an improved 'pen. (Note: I stand behind what I said about Arizona earlier this post because 9 games higher is absurdly good).

let's face it, even if you discount the impact of batting orders (and I do), another reason for the 79 wins was the fact that Dusty ran out a lineup with Perez and Patterson at the top of the order so often. One would think that even Dusty couldn't shoot himself in the foot so badly again.

Then again, why not? Yes, Patterson is gone, but I don't have any reason to believe that Dusty has gotten smarter or won't make other decisions like this in the future, especially if Pierre tanks.


Then again why not, you ask? Well, the guy has about 15 years under his belt as a manager, and by all accounts last year was his worst year in filling out the lineup card. He didn't do that bad his first two years here. And despite numerous Giants longtime Giants fans on this board (Treder, TraderSomething, Rifkin), some of whom are critical of Baker (Rifkin wrote an article on why the Giants should let Baker go for the SF Chronicle back in October '02) I've never heard the horror stories like Operation Pisspoor.

And the circumstances aren't likely to repeat themselves. The Cubs had a guy who looked like a leadoff hitter (re: had speed) in Patterson so they constantly put him up at the top. Now they have Pierre. Does anyone really think that Pierre will post a 56 OPS+ like Patterson did? Besides, part of the line-up order problem last year was that the team's Baseball Freakin' DemiGod kept coming up with two outs and no one on. With Lee now the Baseball Freakin' DL-dGod, that's less likely to be an issue. Um, yeay?

In other words, it isn't a matter of Dusty getting smarter, it's a matter of will the guy who looks the most like Corey Patterson play like C-Patterson did?

I also disagree with the idea that the wildcard will have less than 89 wins -- yes, that's what it took last year, but that was the lowest number of wins for an NL wild card since '95

Really? (checks)

2005 - 89
2004 - 92
2003 - 91
2002 - 95
2001 - 93
2000 - 94
1999 - 97
1998 - 90
1997 - 92
1996 - 90
1995 - 77 (on pace for 87).

Huh. That's more games than I would've guessed. Averages out to 92 wins.

Still, there is this. Craig Burley wrote an article at THT arguing that the talent gap between the two leagues is greater now than at any time in the past. Part of the reason it only took 89 games last year was because the NL finsihed 20 games under .500.

Personally, I don't see the wild card coming out of the Central. It's an Eastrn Wild Card this year. The Mets got better, the Phillies still look really good, and one should never count out the Braves. Added bonus: the Marlins just got far far worse, giving all those teams a few extra wins. And unless I'm missing something, the Nationals also got worse. Figuring that the NLW will be a bit better this year (just because, my God how could they be that bad again?), any overall decline in the NL will come from the Central and the bottom of the East.

So the Cubs need to go for the divsision. Ain't gonna happen. They're 21 freakin' games behind the Cards.

. . . . I'm not really sure what my point is in all this, or even if I had a points. Ah well, at least I got to plug my SABR presentation. . .
   10. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 07:19 PM (#1982200)
About as good as Arizona? Arizona had a losing record in that same division, and finished 9 games over their pythag. You say later that they've gotten better, but adjusting for strength of schedule, and perhaps pythag, those game must've gotten a whole heckuva lot better to pull near the Cubs. . .

I also admit that while I think Arizona has improved, they have a long way to go to reach contention. OTOH, as long as we're talking about teams having a chance simply because of parity/weak competition, why not Arizona?

I guess my greater point is that, without Lee, I simply can't see the Cubs being in position to fatten up on anyone, notwithstanding the schedule they have ahead.


Well, the guy has about 15 years under his belt as a manager, and by all accounts last year was his worst year in filling out the lineup card. He didn't do that bad his first two years here. And despite numerous Giants longtime Giants fans on this board (Treder, TraderSomething, Rifkin), some of whom are critical of Baker (Rifkin wrote an article on why the Giants should let Baker go for the SF Chronicle back in October '02) I've never heard the horror stories like Operation Pisspoor.

Do you think Dusty is smarter than last year? I sure don't see any reason for this.

When you observe that Dusty didn't do all that badly filling out the lineup cards in 2003-04, I could quibble and say that he played the likes of Perez, Macias, etc. far too much, but I think the real difference is something else -- Dusty can be/is pretty rigid about his plans, and if they don't work out, he'll stick with them anyway.

IOW, the reason we didn't see Dusty's lineup difficulties emerge in 2003-04 is because the top of the order generally hit ok. OTOH, last year (not to mention things like "the Lenny Harris experiment") tell us that if something isn't working -- especially where relatively seasoned players are involved -- Dusty's not inclined to change it; he'll ride the failing situation into the ground.

Back to my point -- yes, the change (any change) at the top of the order alone should make the team better. OTOH, if a disaster arises -- such as Pierre keeping his .277 OBP -- there is almost no reason to think that Dusty will do anything about this. Indeed, we could quite possibly be seeing some Pierre/Perez combinations at the top of the order, which as it stands now is not far from last year.
   11. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 22, 2006 at 07:36 PM (#1982236)
This year's Cubs really present a dilemma for the two sides of my brain. The subjective side of me sees that the Cubs had a losing record last year, had what looked to me like a terrible offseason -- overpaying for guys that didn't solve their biggest problems -- and now have lost their best player for two months and sees a team that'll be lucky to win 70 games.

But the objective side of me sees that, for example, according to Dan Fox's article in the 2006 Hardball Times Annual, the Cubs were the 6th-unluckiest team in the majors last year with an "expected" record of 85-77. (I should say, calling all differences from predicted "luck" is a pet peeve of mine). Also, while I was terribly unimpressed with their offseason, it's hard to argue that they didn't get a LOT better in some areas. I didn't like the Juan Pierre trade - I'm not crazy about him, we overpaid for him, and I think we gave up on Corey Patterson too quickly -- but there's really no doubt that Pierre in 2006 is going to be FAR more valuable than Corey was in 2005. Likewise, Murton v. 2006 almost has to be WORLDS better than Cubs LF v. 2005. So, you put all of this together and you can really make an objective case that this was a 90-win team entering this season.

And for all the talk about how devastating the losses of Prior and Wood are this season, they only made 37 combined starts last year. If they both really do come back around June 1, they could beat that by 7-8 starts fairly easily, which probably adds another 2-3 wins and puts the Cubs in the 92-93 win range.

Even with the Lee loss, as others have pointed out elsewhere, the loss of Lee, objectively, really only is expected to cost you about 2 wins. So, again, if you thought this was a 90-win team, you could still see an objective case that this is an 88-win team with the upside for more than that.

And yet I can't convince myself that this is more than a 75-80 win team.
   12. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:11 PM (#1982300)
Do you think Dusty is smarter than last year? I sure don't see any reason for this.

It's not a question of what his intelligence level is so much as it is a question of will his decisions be as bad. I think that in 2005, like 2004, Baker will try to put a speedy guy who has the potential to get lots of singles at the top of the order. I think Pierre should easily outpace Patterson's production. It isn't a matter of smarts, it's a matter of how well the roster fits with his personal predilections. I think he'd start Omar Moreno for the same reason. Or Rickey Henderson. Doesn't mean his smarter this year, but his line-up construction ought to be less harmful than it was last year.

When you observe that Dusty didn't do all that badly filling out the lineup cards in 2003-04

I think we're talking past each other here, and confusing terms with each other. My point isn't that Dusty didn't do that bad a job in '02-'03. My point was that he didn't do as bad a job in '02-'03 as he did in '04.

Back to my point -- yes, the change (any change) at the top of the order alone should make the team better. OTOH, if a disaster arises -- such as Pierre keeping his .277 OBP -- there is almost no reason to think that Dusty will do anything about this.

(shrugs). I guess the reason I don't find this too worrisome is that I don't think there's any real chance that Pierre will maintain a .277 OBP. As is, I find it considerably more plausible than projecting Zambrano going the year without a win, or Maddux going 30-0, but that's about it.

Pierre does have a track record after 5 1/3 years in the bigs. A .277 OBP is not part of that track record. Arguing about what would happen if Pierre went the entire year hitting like that isn't something I have a lot of interest in. Looking at retrosheet, he does have a track record of hitting 30 points better from July-onward. I know his average was down last year, and (as I mentioned yesterday in the Lee injury thread) that would concern me if it looked like his speed was slipping, but everything except his AVG was there last year.

Indeed, we could quite possibly be seeing some Pierre/Perez combinations at the top of the order, which as it stands now is not far from last year.

Jesus deJesus, do you always make season-long assumptions about how a player will hit based on a two weeks sample size? OK, he's at .277. Chase Utley's at .309, and he's got a far less established MLB track record that Pierre. Would it be wise for Phillies' phans to consider what their team will be like if he keeps hitting like that? Aramis Rameriz is at .286, and Pierre has slighly more MLB PA that Rameriz, and has been more consistent. Should we consider what the season will be like for the Cubs if he can't get on more.

Fun fact: a .277 OBP is still 30 points higher than what Patterson did while in the #1 and 2 wholes last year.

There is a factoid that I am ignoring in all this. There is one lurking variable which is a cause for concern with Pierre. He (like Jacque Jones) is an extreme groundball hitter and they're coming to Wrigley. I don't see the North Side infield shaving 80 points off his normal OBP though. I still think projecting Pierre to continue to post a .277 OBP for the entire year is premature and overblown pessimism. I also think saying that his .277 OBP is "not far from last year's" .247 OBP Patterson hit when hitting before Lee diminishes just how horrid Patterson was last year. 30 OBP points always matters.
   13. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:20 PM (#1982329)
But the objective side of me sees that, for example, according to Dan Fox's article in the 2006 Hardball Times Annual, the Cubs were the 6th-unluckiest team in the majors last year with an "expected" record of 85-77. (I should say, calling all differences from predicted "luck" is a pet peeve of mine). Also, while I was terribly unimpressed with their offseason, it's hard to argue that they didn't get a LOT better in some areas. I didn't like the Juan Pierre trade - I'm not crazy about him, we overpaid for him, and I think we gave up on Corey Patterson too quickly -- but there's really no doubt that Pierre in 2006 is going to be FAR more valuable than Corey was in 2005. Likewise, Murton v. 2006 almost has to be WORLDS better than Cubs LF v. 2005. So, you put all of this together and you can really make an objective case that this was a 90-win team entering this season.

OTOH, Lee wouldn't repeat last year, even if he was healthy (and of course he isn't), there is no chance that Prior will play as much as he did last year, and we're also seeing Zambrano regress as well (though who knows if it will continue).

Also, while much of last year could be called luck, there are other reasons (such as questionable managing) that hasn't changed, and who's to say they can't/won't be just as "unlucky" this season.

All of this is really a long way of saying that I don't see how this is truly a 90-win team. Yes, they may have won that much, but it would've taken a lot of "ifs" for that to be the case.
   14. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:27 PM (#1982340)
a terrible offseason -- overpaying for guys that didn't solve their biggest problems --

Depends what you mean by "solve." They overpaid guys to play the outfield and pitch in relief. Well, weren't those the two of the biggest problems they had last year? I'm less than enthralled with some of the guys they signed to fill those slots (espeically Jacque Jones, and to a lesser - despite my recent defenses of him here and elsehwere - Juan Pierre) but they do represent upgrades. They're much better in CF, LF, and in their two main middle relievers with Howry & Eyre.

And for all the talk about how devastating the losses of Prior and Wood are this season, they only made 37 combined starts last year.

And while they were good, they really weren't as good as one would expect from players with such marque names as PRIOR & WOOD. They combined for an ERA+ of around 110 in 233 IP. They can manage that again. And Maddux - well, I just castigated deJesus (sorry if that went too far there) for making too much of 2 weeks sample size - but dangit, it's sure hard not to get excited about him out there. He looks like [24 font]Greg Maddux[/24 font].

And yet I can't convince myself that this is more than a 75-80 win team.

Check the back of the rotation. Last year Rusch & Williams combined for 251.3 IP at an ERA of 4.26. They could easily get up to par with last year's holes only to open up new ones. Really, last year they got fantastic production from the back end of their staff. And they still didn't get to .500.
   15. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:30 PM (#1982342)
As my last sentence indicated, I basically agree with you dJF.
   16. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:39 PM (#1982355)
It's not a question of what his intelligence level is so much as it is a question of will his decisions be as bad. . . . It isn't a matter of smarts, it's a matter of how well the roster fits with his personal predilections. I think he'd start Omar Moreno for the same reason. Or Rickey Henderson. Doesn't mean his smarter this year, but his line-up construction ought to be less harmful than it was last year.

. . . My point isn't that Dusty didn't do that bad a job in '02-'03. My point was that he didn't do as bad a job in '02-'03 as he did in '04.


I think you're missing my point. The reason Dusty did such a bad job last year is because he stubbornly insisted on putting a square peg into a round hole -- namely, leading off with his speedy CF and his trusty 2B. The reason why "he didn't do that bad a job" in earlier years (a point which I don't necessarily agree with, btw) is that in past years, the team played well enough so that Dusty's stubbornness didn't come back to bite him in the butt.

Last year, OTOH, neither Patterson nor Perez were up to snuff -- which alone wouldn't make Dusty a lousy manager if he had the ability to recognize this and change. He didn't, and when Dusty insisted on keeping them at the top of the order, *that* was what made his managing so lousy.

I don't see any reason to think his managing style will be any different this year. Yes, Pierre won't be as bad as Patterson was last season (though he hasn't set the world on fire yet), but even if Pierre continues to post a sub-.300 OBP, Dusty will still stick him at the top of the order anyway, costing the team runs.

In other words, I'm talking about Dusty, not Pierre -- my point being that part of the reason for last season's below-Pythag performance was Dusty, and in and of himself, he hasn't shown me any reason to think that he'll be a better manager than last year, even if he has better talent.
   17. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:51 PM (#1982375)
Depends what you mean by "solve." They overpaid guys to play the outfield and pitch in relief. Well, weren't those the two of the biggest problems they had last year? I'm less than enthralled with some of the guys they signed to fill those slots (espeically Jacque Jones, and to a lesser - despite my recent defenses of him here and elsehwere - Juan Pierre) but they do represent upgrades. They're much better in CF, LF, and in their two main middle relievers with Howry & Eyre.

Yes, they're clearly better in the bullpen and in center field than last year, but I think they would have been clearly better in the bullpen and in center field than last year if they'd simply put Corey back in CF -- while simultaneously batting him 7th or 8th and talking up his gold glove caliber defense in the press -- and if they'd just let some of their young stud pitchers work in the bullpen - a bullpen of Dempster, Williamson, Ohman, Wood when healthy, and several from among Wuertz, Novoa, Hill, Nolasco, Pinto, et al. could have been just fine.

Then, take that $30 million or whatever and make a BIG splash in right field. Going back to the offseason, their OBVIOUS hole was right field and they apparently made ZERO effort to sign Brian Giles. That was just plain stupid.

Or, given your fragile starting pitchers, how about instead of spending $15 million or whatever on two guys that'll give you maybe 150 innings combined, spending that on another premier starter -- try to trade for Barry Zito or take a chance on an A.J. Burnett or, if you insist on tossing prospects to the Marlins, try to get Josh Beckett instead of Juan Pierre.

Their offseason was just uninspiring, even if, as you say, objectively, they did manage to improve their team relative to last year.
   18. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 08:53 PM (#1982381)
I think you're missing my point.

It is my strong point.

The reason Dusty did such a bad job last year is because he stubbornly insisted on putting a square peg into a round hole -- namely, leading off with his speedy CF and his trusty 2B. The reason why "he didn't do that bad a job" in earlier years (a point which I don't necessarily agree with, btw) is that in past years, the team played well enough so that Dusty's stubbornness didn't come back to bite him in the butt.

I don't miss this at all. I agree with it entirely.

In other words, I'm talking about Dusty, not Pierre -- my point being that part of the reason for last season's below-Pythag performance was Dusty, and in and of himself, he hasn't shown me any reason to think that he'll be a better manager than last year, even if he has better talent.

I'd agree with your criticism of Baker. The difference: whereas, like you said, he insisted on putting a square peg in a round hole all year long, this year he's been given a round peg (Pierre) to put into the hole. That's why I'm harping on Pierre in my previous post. If he's a round peg, then the roster construction lessens the impact of Baker's horrific tactical manuevers and means this team shouldn't underperform as badly as last year's squad.

Also, the below-pythag performance isn't necessarily the same thing as the run scoring problem. The line-up construction caused them to score fewer runs than expected, but it didn't therefore cost them to underachieve their pythag. Those are two different phenomonon (pretend I can spell that word). Whether you look at Phil Birnbaum's presentation and subsequent BRJ article on team "luck" or Dan Fox's article in the '06 THT on "luck" (like an earlier poster, I can't stand it when team over/underachievement is classified as luck). Teams can both score far fewer runs than they ought to and exceed their pythag. From memory, the D-backs were the only team in baseball last year who underscored worse the the Cubs did, and already mentioned they exceeded their pythag by 9 games.

I'm not even sure what the hell we're debating at this point. We both think Baker did a dreadful job handling the line-up last year. We agree that it cost them victories. We agree he's still got the same basic managerial mindset. . . . . Seriously, unless Juan Pierre continues to post a .277 OBP I don't see what we're disagreeing on here.
   19. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 09:06 PM (#1982397)
I'd agree with your criticism of Baker. The difference: whereas, like you said, he insisted on putting a square peg in a round hole all year long, this year he's been given a round peg (Pierre) to put into the hole. That's why I'm harping on Pierre in my previous post. If he's a round peg, then the roster construction lessens the impact of Baker's horrific tactical manuevers and means this team shouldn't underperform as badly as last year's squad.

We're not really disagreeing. I was looking at last year's team, recognizing that they may have been an 85 win team, and seeing what's changed.

Replacing Patterson with Pierre will help -- I agree and already figured that. If they got as much production out of Prior/Wood as last year and if Lee stayed healthy, the Pierre change and the changes to the bullpen might, in fact, make them closer to a 90 win team.

Still, they aren't there for a few reasons -- primarily the injuries.

Also, and here was my other point, just because they underplayed their Pythag last year doesn't mean that they won't do so this year. Part of the reason they underplayed their Pythag was the bullpen (which did improve), but part of it was luck and bad managing (which I agree isn't the same as run scoring, even if my Pierre example is bad) -- and I don't see anything that lead me to believe that either will or are getting better.

IOW, it's entirely possible (maybe probable) that "on paper" this team is an 88-90 win team, that injuries will make them more like an 83-win team, and that they may actually win 77.

BTW, you did spell "phenomenon" correctly. Congratulations.
   20. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 09:14 PM (#1982409)
they underplayed their Pythag last year doesn't mean that they won't do so this year. Part of the reason they underplayed their Pythag was the bullpen (which did improve), but part of it was luck and bad managing

Now his the $64,000 question: how does managing effecting pythag records? I got some math I've done which says managers have an impact, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what or why or how. But it seems to exist. Do you have any idea why that would be the case? 'cause that would sure help a few minutes of my Seattle presentation if I could give a reason.

Fun fact: when comparing pythag records to actual records, one of the best managers of the last 40 years is Don Zimmer. Uh . . . Ohhh-kaaaay . . .
   21. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 22, 2006 at 09:19 PM (#1982413)
Now his the $64,000 question: how does managing effecting pythag records? I got some math I've done which says managers have an impact, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what or why or how. But it seems to exist. Do you have any idea why that would be the case? 'cause that would sure help a few minutes of my Seattle presentation if I could give a reason.

My guess would be decisions on lineup, tactics, defense positioning, etc., that would not only cause a team to score or give up more/less runs, but, more importantly, would also cause them to win/lose more one-run games than expected.
   22. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: April 22, 2006 at 09:38 PM (#1982436)
My guess would be decisions on lineup, tactics, defense positioning, etc., that would not only cause a team to score or give up more/less runs, but, more importantly, would also cause them to win/lose more one-run games than expected.

Oddly enough, in the time period I've got (1960-2001), Baker's one of the top ten best, IIRC. Weird.
   23. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: April 23, 2006 at 03:56 PM (#1983543)
The Sox preview mae me realize who the Cubs should get to play first...Bucky Jacobsen. He's playing with the Independent Leagues and he has a nice Zips projection: 260/349/494.
   24. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 23, 2006 at 11:20 PM (#1984401)
I see the White Sox as the toughest team they'll face during that period, and they generally seem to turn it up a notch against their crosstown rivals.

I was just curious so I looked up the numbers. I don't see any conclusions from it but I bothered to count it up so I'll post it for the edification of all:

The Cubs are 23-25 against the White Sox since the in/advent of interleague play.

Cubs record over that span: 701 - 758

White Sox record over that span: 762 - 694
   25. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 25, 2006 at 01:49 PM (#1987478)
May I observe that we've only had 4 Gonfalon Cubs topics in the last 32 days?

I realize that people are busy, but in the same time period (March 25-present) we've had 40 Cubs stories posted in the Primer Newsblog (see the newly formed "Chicago Cubs Newsbeat").

Was/is this part of the design?
   26. Spahn Insane Posted: April 25, 2006 at 02:14 PM (#1987509)
BTW, you did spell "phenomenon" correctly. Congratulations.

Yes, but he didn't pluralize it. Three demerits.
   27. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 25, 2006 at 02:40 PM (#1987540)
If at the end of last season, you were told that through the first 18 games of 2006, the Cubs would not have a single win from Wood, Prior or Zambrano, and that Lee would be injured, what record would you have predicted? 5-13? 4-14?

Instead, they're 11-7. They are better in so many areas from last year. They make fewer stupid mistakes in the field and on the basepaths. They can come back from a deficit in the late innings. There is more consistency in the offense. Add back in Lee, Prior, Wood, Miller (or even two or three of the above) and I think this is a contending team. Of course, the season is a long one. But if you can't be optimistic now, I'm not sure what you're waiting for.
   28. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 25, 2006 at 03:51 PM (#1987687)
I just received Rob Neyer's new book -- the "Bog Book of Baseball Blunders," in which he details approximately 50 blunders that have taken place in baseball history. Loosely speaking (since I haven't read it in detail yet, Neyer is considering a "blunder" to be something premeditated, when at the time the person might have made a reasonable case for doing something else.

There are several Cubs blunders in the book, either in detail (such as the College of Coaches debacle), in "interludes" (such as the Brock trade), or in sidebar (such as Charlie Grimm's managing in the '35 series).

One of those described in detail (i.e., given a small three-page "chapter") is dated November 15, 2002 -- "Cubs Hire Dusty Baker." It's brutal on Dusty, mainly complaining about his penchant for veterans, and is prefaced by the following quote:

I remember my old general manager Al Campanis telling me that a player doesn't reach his peak until he's somewhere between thirty-two and thirty-six and beyond, and it depends on how his legs are and his desire and if he keeps his weight down and his waistline down. -- Dusty Baker (2005)


I don't recall seeing that quote, or we obviously would've made great hay with it. (Has anyone seen it before?)
   29. Spahn Insane Posted: April 25, 2006 at 03:54 PM (#1987695)
the "Bog Book of Baseball Blunders,"

Wading into the swamp of Neyer's prose, are we?
   30. Spahn Insane Posted: April 25, 2006 at 03:55 PM (#1987698)
I'm no fan of Dusty's, but I find it hard to believe his hiring is one of the 50 dumbest things any team's ever done.
   31. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 25, 2006 at 04:06 PM (#1987722)
The chapter concludes:

So Baker doesn't like young players (always making their "young player mistakes"), he holds weird grudges against guys named "Jerry," and he disdains players who draw walks (Barry Bonds notwithstanding). Does he have any virtues as a manager?

Perhaps. But these are serious weaknesses to overcome. Pity the poor G.M. who hires Dusty as his manager. His odd penchant for Proven Veterans<sup>TM</sup> adds a complicating element to the job. Instead of simply hiring or promoting players who might help your team, Dusty's general managers must also wonder . . . Will Dusty play Jason Dubois or Mark Bellhorn or Ronny Cedeño? Or will he bench them in favor of older, lesser players like Todd Hollandsworth or Neifi Pérez, whom Dusty viewed in 2005 as some sort of savior: "I hear a lot of people say, 'Hey, put Cedeño in.' What am I supposed to do, push Neifi out now. This guy has saved us."

But who will save Cub fans from Dusty?
   32. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 25, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#1987734)
I'm no fan of Dusty's, but I find it hard to believe his hiring is one of the 50 dumbest things any team's ever done.

That's not an accurate characterization of the book. It isn't listed as "the top 50"; rather, it presents chapters in chronological order with frequent side topics (i.e., other blunders) and interludes. I'm guessing there are about 40-50 given "chapters," but I don't know if these are intended by Neyer or his co-authors to be the most egregious. He doesn't appear to be ranking them at any point.
   33. Spahn Insane Posted: April 25, 2006 at 04:15 PM (#1987739)
Well, I'm not even sure I'd consider it an historically significant blunder. Questionable, sure, with a lot of predictably bad consequences, but...eh.
   34. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 25, 2006 at 04:41 PM (#1987801)
I was surprised to see it there myself, and was particularly surprised with the venom that Neyer (with the assistance of Jason Brannon) directed toward Dusty.

Here are some of the other chapters (most/all containing separate sidebars of other gaffes) --

* the '17 White Sox decision to replace Jack Fournier with Chick Gandil

* the '19 sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees

* the decision by Ruth to steal in the '26 Series

* the Tigers letting go of Carl Hubbell in '28

* the Braves decision in '35 to sign Babe Ruth

* the Red Sox decision in '39 to sell Pee Wee Reese

* the Browns decision in '45 to sign Pete Gray

* the A's decision in '59 to trade Roger Maris

* the '60 move by the Giants into Candlestick Park

* the Reds trade of Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas in '65

* the hiring of Spike Eckert as commissioner in '65

* the Indians ten-cent beer night in '74

* the owners' decision in '76 to reject Charlie Finley's idea to make everyone eligible for free agency

* the Mariners hinring of Maury Wills as manager in '80

* the White Sox decision to make Hawk Harrelson the GM in '85

* the owners' collusion in the late '80s

* the Red Sox trade of Jeff Bagwell in '90

* the Rockies signings of Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton in '00
   35. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: April 25, 2006 at 05:58 PM (#1987957)
I'm putting Neyer on my christmas card list.
   36. Weeks T. Olive Posted: April 26, 2006 at 04:05 AM (#1989657)
I don't recall seeing that quote, or we obviously would've made great hay with it. (Has anyone seen it before?)

I vaguely remember this. I think it was tangentially related to Lee's great season. IIRC, it was toward the end of the season (late August or early September), which would explain why no one here really cared as most of us had lost interest at that point.
   37. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: April 26, 2006 at 05:07 AM (#1989844)
The Baker quote is accurate -- he was talking about DLee and why he'll remain productive. See this article.

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