Tagged: Chicago Cubs

Cubs May Be The Favorites To Land Japanese Ace

Masahiro-Tanaka

Once it became apparent that Masahiro Tanaka was going to be posted it seemed that merely by default everyone on Earth assumed that the deep-pocketed teams like the New York Yankees & Los Angeles Dodgers would far and away be the most likely landing spots for the Japanese hurler.

But over the last few days it has become more & more clear that the Chicago Cubs were going to be serious players in this thing.

First we had Ken Rosenthal telling us that the Cubbies were “pushing hard” for his services:

I know, I know. It’s just one guys “vibe”.

But it is Ken Rosenthal, one of the game’s more respected (and often correct) prognosticators so you have to, at the very least, give it due consideration.

Then came news from Jayson Stark at ESPN that not only was this Rosenthal’s vibe, but that many a GM had told him they felt the same way too:

Obviously, the question then becomes “what the heck is a ‘monster deal?'”

Is it $100M? How about $150M?

I personally think that this kid will be a very solid pitcher in MLB, perhaps even a top-of-the-rotation guy.

Fangraphs, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with its assessment of the guy late last year with this scouting report:

Some people, surely, are being racist when they draw comparisons between Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda. Some other people, surely, are being not racist, but lazy, failing to look much beyond country of origin. But it is neither automatically racist nor automatically lazy to compare the two starters, because it turns out the comparison is a pretty good one. Masahiro Tanaka has a lot in common with Hiroki Kuroda, and Kuroda has been quite good from the get-go…

The comparison between Tanaka and Kuroda goes beyond just the Japanese thing. Both are right-handed starters. Both have fastballs around the low 90s. Both throw a lot of sliders, both are known for their command, and most importantly, both feature a frequent splitter. There just haven’t been that many splitters among big-league starting pitchers lately, which is one reason why the Kuroda comparison isn’t as lazy as it can seem.

Since 2002, just seven starters have thrown at least 20% splitters. Just 11 more have thrown at least 10% splitters. Included are names like Kuroda,Hideo NomoKenshin Kawakami, and Hisashi Iwakuma. The splitter is a popular pitch in Japan, so Japanese pitchers frequently make for easy comparisons for Japanese pitchers.

Ben Badler has referred to Tanaka’s splitter as being one of the best splitters in all of baseball, everywhere, and there are indications that even by just throwing a splitter pretty frequently, Tanaka could have an advantage in the majors.

I couldn’t agree more with that (or the entire piece for that matter), but in the end, you just don’t know.

Yeah he’s 25, so if he ends up being a beast you have him locked up for his prime years, but he also could end up being the next Dice-K and $125-150M is a ton of money to have tied up in a guy who ends up falling somewhere between being “wildly inconsistant” and “a flat out bust”.

Specifically thinking about the team from the Northside of Chicago the move makes total sense from an “on the field” perspective.

The organization is flush with high-end prospects who are, if all goes as planned, likely to start coming up to the big league club over the next two years or so. Most of these guys are position prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Alberto Almora, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara, but they are very, very thin on standout arms.

They could take a “build from within” approach on the offensive side of things and bring in arms to support Jeff Samardzija via trade or free agency.

So the big question becomes this: Do they think they are on the cusp of being able to compete on a daily basis in a division that is already loaded with quality teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates?

Well, it appears that the team asked itself that very question last night and came up with its answer, because today started off with this bit of news from Twitter:

If the Cubs fearless leader, former wunderkind Theo Epstein is wrong, this will obviously be a huge setback to his rebuilding plans as he is set to tie up that many resources in this guy.

But if he’s right, he could bring a long-sought-after World Series title to yet another  cursed fan base and punch his ticket for Cooperstown in the process.

Cubs Manager On Starlin Castro’s Boneheaded Play: “This Is The Last Straw”

Starlin Castro, starting shortstop for the Chicago Scrubs Cubs, has a metric ton of talent.

But he also has a penchant for playing games with his head shoved up his a**.

Yesterday was no different.

Castro’s latest faux pas occurred in the fifth inning when he forgot how many outs they were after taking a throw at second base from Darwin Barney. It was the start of a potential double play.

Inexplicably, Castro jogged off the field, and never threw to first to double-up Brandon Crawford. The Giants tied the game, and the Cubs were done.

After the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum had this to say:

“It’s the last straw,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after Monday’s 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants. “If he wants to play, he better start getting his head in the game. Period.”

Agreed Mr. Sveum.

Dude isn’t a rook anymore and we are talking about the most important defensive position in the infield, arguably the entire game (though I feel catcher is just as important & more grueling, obviously).

Sure, he is young.

He is talented.

But this kind of s*** keeps happening.

As Bob Nightengale of USA Today was quick to point out:

This is the same guy who stopped running on a steal attempt Friday, believing play was stopped. He had his back turned to the infield during a pitch last August (see video below) against the Mets. And, please, don’t bring up his lack of patience at the plate, drawing six walks in 228 plate appearances.

This affliction I like to call HUAS, Head Up Ass Syndrome, has got to end & end right now, otherwise the Cubs won’t have to worry about making the tough cal to trade their young star because nobody will be wiling to part with anything worth a damn for him.

http://mlb.mlb.com//shared/flash/video/share/ObjectEmbedFrame.swf?width=400&height=254&content_id=18299867&property=mlb

Theo Epstein: no one on Cubs is untouchable

From @ Hardball Talk we get this:

Is it just me, or do people in Chicago not feel as bad about the recently-ended losing streak and what seems to be the inevitable dreadful remaining season as they might normally be?

At least among the Cubs fans I know, people are just being cool, knowing that the roster was a mess and knowing that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are playing the long game.

And as Patrick Mooney notes in his report at CSNChicago.com, that’s the game being played. Epstein:

“We’ll have to take a realistic look of where we are. And if there are ways to get better, every option has to be on the table … I’ve always operated under that philosophy,” Epstein said. “I never understood why there would ever be an untouchable. All you’re doing is limiting your opportunity.”

I guess Starlin Castro would be called untouchable if you put a gun to Theo’s head. But heck, maybe even he goes if some team is dumb enough to back up the prospects truck.

Just a very different mindset from an organization which often talked about rebuilding, but never really went into it whole-hog.

I have a few friends who are Scrubs Cubs fans and I too have noticed that the typical “oh here we go again” vibe isn’t really haning over them like a dark cloud this season.

As a Yankees fan I hate the socio-pathic, moronic “live in the moment & trade every good piece we have away for an aging slugger” mentality that plagued the team for most of the 80’s (and then again the early 2000’s).

I want my GM to be watching the road several years ahead.

In that market, with the resources they have…Epstein & Hoyer are going to lay a great foundation down.

I am not saying they’ll reverse the curse in just a few short years, but they will return the franchise to a competitive level, year & year out.

Cubs hypocritical patriarch Joe Ricketts is in need of “a literate” black man

by @ Hardball Talk

Remember Joe Ricketts? He’s the patriarch of the Ricketts family which owns the Chicago Cubs. His son Tom runs the team, but old Joe’s fortune — made founding Ameritrade — is what built the family’s nest egg.

As we’ve noted before, Joe Ricketts is quite the political activist.

He is the founder and leader of an anti-government spending group called “Ending Spending.”

Never mind that his family business asked for and received millions for a new spring training facility in Arizona and continues to ask for tax dollars to renovate Wrigley Field. He’s really, really against spending. At least spending that benefits people other than himself and his family.

But now he’s branched out and is bankrolling efforts aimed directly at unseating President Obama.  Which is fine as far as it goes, but as the New York Times notes today, the kind of rhetoric he’s bankrolling is … interesting:

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.

Theory: if you specify that you need a “literate” black person — like you need to specify that you don’t want one of those many illiterate ones — you probably do need to “respond to charges of race-baiting,” because you probably are engaging in a bunch of racist baloney.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article.

And a reminder that the patriarch of the Chicago Cubs is going to spend millions of his money to make people believe that Obama is an extreme radical black man out to undermine the American Way. If that’s something you believe, great. If not, perhaps a literate black man will change your mind.

Oh, and Joe: have you paid for Shawon Dunston’s college education yet? You don’t want him to be illiterate, do you?

Matt Garza: One-Dimensional Ace

by By Jeff Sullivan – Editor @ Baseball Nation (the dude is the GIF master, seriously folks)

That Matt Garza sure is a good pitcher. Yep, he’s one good pitcher, indeed. He is very good at pitching. And not really anything else.

Matt Garza is a really, really good starting pitcher. You knew that, but I’m reminding you. He has a career 3.83 ERA, which is low. Last year, he had a 3.32 ERA, which is lower.

Also last year, he finished with a better strikeout rate than CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Mat Latos, and tons of other guys. Literally, tons of other guys. He finished with a better FIP than Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, and similar tons of other guys. There’s a reason Matt Garza wasn’t going to get traded this past offseason unless someone offered a whale of a package.

Garza’s talent was on full display Thursday, against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Pitching for the Chicago Cubs, Garza nearly managed a complete-game shutout. He registered nine strikeouts while allowing but a sextet of base-runners. However, what prevented Garza from sealing the shutout wasn’t a run. What happened was that, with two outs in the top of the ninth, Garza induced a tapper in front of the plate, and then Garza did this:

Garzathrow4

At that point, Garza had thrown 119 pitches. An on-target throw to first base would’ve wrapped everything up all nice-like. Dale Sveum didn’t allow Garza to throw a 120th pitch. Shawn Camp came in to record the final out. (Shawn Camp pitches for the Cubs.)

On its own, it’s a hilarious error. It’s not painful for Cubs fans, because they were up 8-0. Nobody got hurt. The play mattered only to Garza, and his performance outside of this was outstanding. It’s such a simple play, and then instead of throwing the ball to Bryan LaHair, Garza threw the ball to a men’s room.

It’s not just a bad throw. Garza didn’t make LaHair dive, or spike it. It’s a spectacularly bad throw. Garza threw the ball as if he were escaping pressure out of the pocket.

And this is a throw that reminds us that Matt Garza is one-dimensional. Pretty much all pitchers are one-dimensional, in that they’re only really good at pitching. But Matt Garza is exceptionally one-dimensional. We’ve established that he can pitch the living snot out of the ball. But he doesn’t play good defense. He doesn’t swing a good bat, even for a pitcher. We can’t speak to his base-running, because he’s just about never been on base.

About that defense – as much as you’d like to believe the clip above is of an isolated event, Garza’s done that sort of thing before. A couple clips from 2011:

Garzathrowbraves

Garzathrowrockies

Garza led all pitchers with seven errors last season, which was two more than anybody else. Five of them were of the throwing variety.

If you care to pay attention to a statistic called Defensive Runs Saved, Garza’s at 14 runs below average for his career, and that doesn’t include his play Thursday afternoon. Pitchers don’t get a lot of fielding opportunities. When Garza does, he’s no stranger to screwing them up.

And then there’s Matt Garza’s offense. For the sake of a baseline, we know that pitchers don’t contribute much in the way of offense.

In 2011, pitchers batted .141, with a .357 OPS. They struck out in a third of their plate appearances. National League pitchers were better than American League pitchers, but only in the way that six babies screaming in the movie theater is better than seven babies screaming in the movie theater.

Including Thursday, Matt Garza has batted 92 times. He’s recorded six hits and two walks. Along with those two walks, he’s accumulated a staggering 57 strikeouts. Thursday, he went 0-for-4 with four whiffs. His OPS is .181.

Matt Garza’s career OPS is well below Mario Mendoza’s career batting average. According to his plate-discipline statistics, he’s swung at balls almost as often as he’s swung at strikes. His swings have made contact – any contact – less than half the time.

It’s not that Matt Garza doesn’t have an okay-looking swing in a vacuum, for a pitcher.

Garzaswing

It’s that the swing doesn’t do anything. And then there’s the bunting. If Matt Garza can’t swing, the least he can do is bunt, right? Right! In theory. Not so much in reality. A three-pitch sequence from Thursday:

Garzabunt0

Garzabunt1

Garzabunt2

Foul bunt, failed bunt at strike, failed bunt at strike. Bunting-specific statistics are hard to track down, but rest assured that Matt Garza is not good at it. Matt Garza is to offense what gristle is to a steak taco. You hope it’s not there, but if it is, you spit it out quickly and hope you don’t vomit.

Obviously we don’t know much about Matt Garza’s base-running since he’s almost never been on base. FanGraphs says he’s been a hair below-average. Here’s a clip of Matt Garza running his heart out:

Garzarunning

I think we can probably assume that Matt Garza occupies the opposite end of the base-running spectrum from Dee Gordon. Garza’s plan is to never let people know for sure.

It’s not a huge problem for a pitcher to be one-dimensional. Pitching is by far the biggest part of the job, and the other stuff doesn’t add up to much, positive or negative. There weren’t a lot of people complaining about Randy Johnson’s terrible offense.

But make no mistake: Matt Garza is one-dimensional. Matt Garza is a line. Matt Garza is one hell of a line, but he can only dream of being a plane.