April 29, 2009

Series Preview: Marlins (13-8) v Cubs (10-10), 4/30- 5/3

As crappy as the team has played, it's good to remember that the Cubs are 10-10, and not, say 5-15 like the Washington Natinals. Speaking of the Natinals, the Marlins are certainly going to miss playing them.

OpponentRecordRuns ScoredRuns AllowedRuns Scored/GameRuns Allowed/Game
vs WAS6-045257.54.1
vs everyone else7-849753.35

Just about any team will feast on the (lack of) pitching that the Nationals have, and the Marlins are no exception. Their best player, Hanley Ramirez, is also a little banged up after being hit on the wrist by a pitch earlier this week.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are coming off a stretch three straight series losses and a clownboatload of injuries. There were signs of life in the offense in Tuesday's game, and Milton Bradley seems to be seeing the ball a bit better. However, they stunk up the joint on Monday and Wednesday, and it looks like the team's second best hitter, Aramis Ramirez, might be headed to the DL. This can only mean more Aaron Miles, which is not a recipe for good. Furthermore, Soto and Lee have looked quite terrible at the plate. Maybe Florida's pitching can wake some of these guys up? Maybe they'll have to take a trip to KFC instead.

Note: I'm going to add each pitcher's current and roughly projected FIP to these

Probable Pitchers
Thursday: Volstad (4.64, 4.4) v Marshall(3.77, 4.6) (7:05 pm)
Volstad's a decent pitcher. He put up a great ERA last year in his rookie season and his peripherals backed it up, to some extent. He's struggled with his control in his last few starts but has been able to limit the damage. Marshall has been spectacularly mediocre, doing just what you expect from your 5th starter (lasting 5-6 innings, giving up 3 runs or so). I'm still not the biggest Marshall supporter, as you may have surmised, though I think he is our fifth best starting pitcher and is certainly better than Jason Marquis. I still haven't gotten over his scouting report from 2006 that said he's the type of guy that will be hit hard after his second or third time through the lineup (and second or third time around the league). He's shown some promise since then, but he needs to prove me wrong to make a believer out of me. He certainly did have a wicked curveball working in his last start, which I love to see.

Friday: Taylor(7.82, 5.43) v Harden(4.52, 3.1) (1:20 pm)
I don't know if we'll see a bigger pitching mismatch the entire season. Taylor just made the jump from AA into the Marlins rotation, and was hit hard by the Phillies in his only start. His minor league numbers show him to be a command guy, with K/9 hovering in the ~6 range but with very few walks. That kind of stuff typically doesn't translate into the majors unless you have truly special stuff, and it does not look like Taylor has it. Not much I can say about Harden here. He is good at throwing baseballs.

Saturday: Anibal Sanchez(4.1, 4.35) v Ted Lilly(5.34, 4.3) (1:20 pm)
Sanchez was hit pretty hard in his last start vs. the Mets. He definitely has problems with the base on balls, so I hope the Cubs can capitalize. As far as Lilly goes, we'll see which Ted shows up. It shouldn't be too warm at Wrigley on Saturday, so that will help him out some. He certainly has to show more command than he did in his last start. This one feels like a tossup to me.

Sunday: Ricky Nolasco(3.65,4.05) v Carlos Zambrano(4.13, 4.15) (1:20pm)
Nolasco has a terrible ERA thus far, but I was surprised to see that his peripherals look good. The Cubs hit lefthanders very well last year (despite Doug freaking Davis and Wandy freaking Rodriguez having their number), so it will be interesting to see how things go vs. Nolasco. Z had a great outing in his last start, though wierdly enough he only notched 3 strikeouts against the hack-tastic Diamondbacks. I saw him pitch in person and I can see why people have been cringing at his mechanics for quite some time. It seems to be working though (albeit not as well as he pitched pre 2007), and Z is still Z. You gotta love having that bat in the lineup too. That HR he hit was absolutely crushed. Seeing the replays still floors me, it didn't look like he even got a good swing on it. Zambrano is crazy strong.

Series is split, though I do think the Cubs have a slight advantage. The first two games are fairly easy picks, but I would not be surprised to see the Cubs win both weekend games and finally build some momentum.

April 27, 2009

Series Preview: Cubs (9-8) vs Arizona (7-11), 4/27-4/29

The Cubs bats finally woke up vs St. Louis yesterday, despite the fact that their two best remaining hitters (Lee and Soriano) both had injury scares yesterday. Lee left the game in the first with neck spasms and is day-to-day, while Soriano was hit in the head by a Wellemeyer pitch and remained in the game. Still, scary moments for a team with such a a short bench. Arizona is coming off a series loss to the Giants and has injury problems of its own. They just found out that Brandon Webb is going to miss at another 6 weeks or so with shoulder issues, which is a huge blow to their chances to contend in the west. Stephen Drew is also injured, and will miss this series. This is an interesting matchup for the Cubs, as the Diamondbacks have a rep for being a hack-tastic team, most notably Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. Justin Upton had a poor start to the season, but seems to be emerging from his slump (or at least KLaw certainly seems to think so). I hope so too, since I bought low on him in both of my fantasy leagues. The Cubs have a strikeout staff, so they should see an uptick in their numbers this series. It's too bad Harden isn't pitching against them, that would be fun to watch. Even without Webb, Arizona's strength is its starting pitching, and we're not seeing any slouches here in this series. Here are the matchups:

Probable Pitchers
Monday: Lilly v Haren (8:40 pm)

Haren would be the ace of pretty much any other team, and with Webb out he's the leader of this staff. He's one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball - he had a quietly huge season last year (3.01 FIP and 208 K's in 216 IP), and hasn't slowed down this season. Lilly's been his usual up-and-down self this season, pitching one dud start along with two sparkling outings. This should be another frustrating, low-scoring game with little offense from the Cubs like we've been seeing this week; I wouldn't be surprised to see another 7-1 type game where it's close until the 7th or 8th inning, where the Cubs bullpen gets lit up, and the offense looks clueless again. Dan Haren is not the prescription for a slumping team to break out, and these things happen when half your lineup is injured and the other half is slumping.

Tuesday: Zambrano v Petit (8:40 pm)

Z hasn't looked great in his last few starts, but at least he's managed to go relatively deep in them. He looked okay in his last start against the Reds (7 K's), but was left in one inning too long, not to mention the poor defense behind him in that game (he made one mistake himself). Petit is a decent guy to have around as a swingman. I remember him pitching pretty well against the Cubs in a spot start last year. He's pitched okay in his starts so far this year, despite a 6.00 ERA teams haven't really teed off on him and he hasn't been walking people willy-nilly. The Cubs should get through against him, I think.

Wednesday: Dempster v Davis (2:40 pm)

Just like my last preview of Demp, he just needs to avoid the One Big Inning problem I think this is a good matchup for him though. Davis has always pitched well against the Cubs, but also tends to walk a lot of guys (which the Cubs are good at). His control seems fine so far this season - he's only had one start where he's walked more than one batter. This one is probably a toss-up

Series Prediction
Both of these teams are slumping a little bit, but I think the Diamondbacks have a slight edge in this series, and win 2-1

April 24, 2009

Two-game recap and series Preview: Cubs v Cardinals (4/24 - 4/26)

It was just my luck that the two games that I went to were some pretty lousy results for the Cubs. I'm not too upset about the offense in those games though - Cueto and Harang brought their A games, and sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other pitcher. Lilly and Z both pitched great games, and if it weren't for some shoddy defense by Hoffpauir the second game could have gone in another direction.

I had field level seats for a decent price for Z's start (yay for Bronze ticket pricing dates!) and it was pretty cool. I think I still like the upper deck boxes better though. I was hoping to be able to see more movement on Z's pitches being closer but I could not. I have much more respect for major league hitters now. I got a few pictures but my camera batteries ran out in the second inning (I forgot to replace them before I left, d'oh). I'll put up a few once I get around to dumping them off the camera. It's too bad we didn't get a lead, because I really wanted to see Marmol pitch. Samardzija's inning was a trainwreck, and I bitched good-naturedly with several fans around me about the questionable bullpen decisions over the past day or two. Samardzija was all over the place, and when he was in the strike zone he was being hit. Leaving him in the minors until he found some control was the Cubs plan all along - I just don't understand their bullpen management decisions.

For the upcoming series, it's going to be pretty similar to the last one, except we're seeing Boggs instead of Walters in Carpenter's spot. The Cards are still hot, and MB is still injured. I feel good about the matchups though

Pitching Probables
Friday: Dempster v Wainwright (7:05 pm)

Dempster's been remarkably consistent over his first three starts. He's gone six innings, struck out ~5 batters, walked ~3 players, and has given up ~4 runs. Dempster's main problem is his propensity for hte big inning; it seems like in most of his starts he's had one inning with 6-8 batters and kept people off the basepaths in the rest. My report for Wainwright is about the same as last time. He's a good pitcher, but he's had some control problems thus far in the season, and had a bad spring IIRC. Pitching-wise this seems like a pretty even matchup, so you have to think that the advantage goes to the Cards in this game, as hot as their offense has been and as cold as the Cubs has been

Saturday: Marshall v Boggs (3:10 pm, on FOX)

Marshall had a decent though unspectacular outing against the Cardinals the last time out. He went 5 innings and gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. I've never been a big Marshall supporter, even though he's a much better pitcher than he was in 2006, I keep expecting him to fail for some reason, even though I know he shouldn't. We don't have much to go on with Boggs, except that he was hit pretty hard last year as a mid-season callup, though a lot of that is skewed by a 10 run outing that seems like a take-one-for-the-team type situtation. He didn't go past 6 innings in any of his starts last year. He had decent numbers in the minors, but not the kind of K/BB rates that you expect from a really good prospect (only ~2:1). I think the Cubs squeak this one out.

Sunday: (EDIT:) Harden v Wellemeyer (1:15 pm)
Wellemeyer was hit pretty hard by the Mets in his last start (though no HRs yet this season), and seems to be having problems striking people out. Harden had a good outing last time against the Reds; though his velocity was down, he still managed 8 strikeouts. With the warm weather, we might see some balls flying out of the park, but I like this matchup for the Cubs.

Series Prediction:
2-1 Cardinals. Cards win Friday and one of the two weekend games (probably Saturday)

April 22, 2009

Playing time projections, revisited (part 1)

This is a short post, since I have to give a talk in an hour or so, but this was on my mind as I drove into Chicago.

We're 12 games into the season, and some playing time trends have emerged. So far, it seems that Lou is using Micah Hoffpauir as Bradley's primary backup in RF, which goes against the assumptions that most of us were using that Johnson would absorb a large number of OF starts. Additionally, Lou has entered Johnson into the game at CF as a defensive substitution when he feels like substituting, rather than Joey Gathright. By my count, we then effectively have 6 OF, and Gathright has barely been used at all.

Most of Gathright's value lies in his defense, and if Lou is not going to use him, why not just release him and call up Jake Fox? I've been pretty frustrated seeing Miles and Gathright coming up as pinch hitters, since they are not good at hitting. Fox destroyed the ball in spring training and hasn't stopped hitting since being sent to the minors. He's not as good as these numbers, but he's obviously a better hitter than those two banjo-hitting utility guys.

I'm going to post some revised projections with new playing time projections for the positional players, based on Lou's usage of Hoffpauir in the next day or two. Until then - two Cubs games for me! I'm excited for tomorrow's game especially - I have field level seats behind the plate for Zambrano's start.

April 20, 2009

Series Preview: Cubs vs Reds (4/21-4/23) (and bonus Reds preview)

Dusty Baker returns to Wrigley field this week for a 3-game set against the Cubs. A lot of people picked the Reds to be frisky this year based on their pitching staff, but I'm not sure what to make of them. Dusty Baker's management of pitchers aside (poor Aaron Harang), the Reds' ballpark has to somewhat mitigate any positives that their starting pitching gives them. Another major problem is their lineup. Dusty Baker continues his crusade to put impatient but fast players at the top of his lineup, and Willy Taveras (of the career .333 OBP) is just Juan Pierre 2.0. Losing Adam Dunn fron last season is going to be a big problem for them too - he was by far the best hitter on their team.

The offense is now centered around a core of Votto, Bruce, Encarnacion, and Phillips. Phillips is a great asset for the team, but everyone seems to remember his career year in 2007 instead of the rest of his work (including the 2 years bracketing it). He's a good player, but he's not a guy you can center your offense around. His projected wOBA is just about average. Votto is going to be quite good (and one of the most underrated players in the NL), Bruce projects well but is still young, and Encarnacion has been the Javier Vazquez of hitters, always underperforming his peripherals. Those 4 are solid players, and any of the young guys could have truly breakout seasons this year. However, the rest of their lineup is quite putrid.

Most of the buzz surrounding the Reds is their pitching staff, which is a little overrated. Harang might be breaking down under Dusty's usage (that 4 inning relief appearance on two day's rest last year was criminal). He's a good-to-great pitcher when he's healthy. Cueto is overrated due to his fast start last year, and is projected to be a league average pitcher. Volquez is probably a little better than Harang, but his peripherals aren't as good as that sparkling ERA that he put up last year. Arroyo is slightly better than league average, and Owings is pretty mediocre. That bandbox of a ballpark that they play in certainly isn't helping them either. They have a lot of strikeout pitchers, but Volquez is the only one with any groundball tendencies, which is trouble in that park.

Even with one or two breakout seasons, they're probably still behind the Cubs and Cardinals. They have a decent hitting core, but I don't think that the rest of their lineup is good enough to make up for the handicap that the ballpark gives to their pitching.

Who's hot
Derrek Lee
Aramis Ramirez
Aaron Harang

Who's not
Brandon Phillips
Edinson Volquez
Geovany Soto

Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: Micah Owings v Rich Harden (7:05 pm)
Owings has barely pitched this season, and was roughed up by the Brewers in his first outing. Harden had quite a but of trouble in his last start as well, but is a much much better pitcher than Owings. It sure seems like he was tipping his changeup in his last start, but Harden said that he just screwed started throwing instead of pitching because his shoulder felt so good. It's going to be a cool night and the Reds remain base-clogging averse, so I'm betting he has whatever was going on his last start figured out and we get a nice start from Harden.

Wednesday: Johnny Cueto v Ted Lilly (7:05 pm)
Cueto's going to be a good pitcher someday, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen yet. He had lots of problems finding the plate in his last start (6 BB in 4.2 IP), so hopefully the patient Cubs feast on him. Uncle Ted threw an incredible game in his last start, and should continue to do well in the cool weather on Wed night. I'll be at this game (yay) with bleacher tickets, following my afternoon seminar talk at UIC.

Thursday: Carlos Zambrano v Aaron Harang (1:20 pm)
Harang had a tough luck loss in his last start - he gave up 5 runs and 10 hits but most of them were balls that found their way through the infield. He threw a complete game shutout in his previous start, so it looks like he's got good stuff at this point in the season. I think Harang pitches a good game the Reds end up winning this game. I *might* (edit: I will) end up sticking around Chicago for this game as well, depending on whether I get enough work done this week to get me over the grad school Guilt Hump.

Random Predictions
Last week:
Last week's predictions went okay - I was correct in that the Cubs won the series and that Sunday's game would be rained out. Was quite wrong about the HRs hit in this series (thank goodness we kept Pujols silent).

This week:
Cubs win the series 2-1 (lose on Thursday)
Milton Bradley goes on a tear
Soto continues to slump

April 19, 2009

Yankee Stadium = Coors field east?

Buster Olney's Sunday blog entry addressed what is quickly becoming a concern for the Yankees management: New Yankee Stadium appears to be a launching pad, ala Coors Field in the 1990s. After only 5 games (if you include the exhibition games vs the Cubs), 25 home runs have been hit in Yankee Stadium. This is a pretty small sample size, and could be explained by the fact that the Yankees have a good offense and the Indians (who also have a good offense) teed off on a probably still-injured Wang and the rookie sent out there to take one for the team. Still though, the buzz from scouts and others have seemed to agree with the perception that the new park is playing very differently from the old one.

The Yankees management must be shitting bricks at this news. The Rockies have tried several different things to try to win at Coors and have succeeded only once in recent years, trying to build around a groundball pitching staff, and still only made the playoffs through their miraculous late-season winning streak. Pitchers have already shown an aversion to playing at Coors due to the hitter-friendly conditions - it will be interesting to see the premium the Yankees have to pay to get top free agents to their park. The Yankees have money, and they're generally pretty well run. But if this ends up being true, it drops a huge grenade on their current plans. Good luck to them in figuring out how to win with the high variance that a bandbox of a home ballpark can shackle them with.

Neal Cotts, take two

After today's game, I almost went back and deleted yesterday's post. Almost. For those of you keeping score, Cotts entered the game in the top of the 7th with a 1-run lead and promptly walked the first two batters he faced on 8 straight balls before being removed for Marmol, who worked his way out of the jam. You'd think that Cotts was squarely in Lou's doghouse already, but he surprisingly hadn't pitched his way into it yet, seeing how he was still the first guy Lou tapped for a somewhat leveraged pitching appearance today when he could have just taken the easy way out by going Heilman/Marmol/Gregg to end the game. So I guess we'll have to take the famous wait and see approach to see what happens to Cotts. I think he still sticks with the team for a little while longer.

If Cotts is released, I think he gets replaced by Waddell, who Lou has liked. Sadly I've also heard some buzz that he might be replaced by Chad Fox (ugh) and his duct-taped arm. Moving these guys around is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (or the Hindenberg, if you prefer. These Cubs are soaring!). Waddell *might* be worth something, since the buzz is that he's more of a classic LOOGY, but young pitchers can break your heart in creative ways. Let's look at the numbers we have.

Here is the chart similar to the one that I used in my bullpen projections, which further makes me wish we got one of those other LOOGYs on the cheap. The entries here are the pitchers' FIP, and I added Waddell's minor league FIP, adjusted to the major leagues using minorleaguesplits's MLE tool. The FIP numbers for the three ML guys aren't precice: b-ref only gives PAs instead of IP so I estimated their IP for each split based on their fraction of total PAs. Surprisingly, even though Cotts's OPS against was worse for LHH than RHH (see my earlier bullpen prediction post), his FIP splits look more like they should.

PlayerFIP vs RHHFIP vs LHH2009 Salary

I'm kind of surprised - the numbers say that bringing up Waddell IS a much better idea than I thought. I hope that we keep Cotts for a little while to see what kind of trade value we can get for him, but maybe the Cotts haters are right: he should be shown the door. I just hope we don't see Chad Fox up here anytime before September this year

April 16, 2009

Small sample size alert!

The buzz of the Cubs blogosphere is that Cotts isn't long for this team, and think that he should be released tomorrow. That's a pretty ridiculous proposition - Cotts has only pitched 2 2/3 innings this season. He hasn't looked great out there, but I would be far more worried with a reliever if he was coughing up HR. In his 2 2/3 innings, he has walked 2 batters and given up four singles. He has given up 2 line drives and 7 groundballs, and only walked 2 batters. Cotts is no great shakes and I wish we had gone after Ohman or Beimel, but that ship has sailed. Cotts is an average reliever, and it should not be surprising that he has given up some runs. If these kinds of numbers continue to play out for his next 10 appearances or so, then I'll be worried.

April 15, 2009

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Cardinals (4/16-4/19)

The first 'big' series of the year is coming up for the Cubs. So far it seems that the Cardinals are the only credible competition for the Cubs this year within the division, though the Cubs should finish well ahead of them. I was feeling much more bullish about the Cardinals until Carpenter was injured yesterday, which is really too bad for them. I caught an inning or two of the game before his injury and it reminded me of why I like watching Carpenter pitch. He should still be a factor for the rest of the season, but those oblique injuries can be pretty strange.

The Cubs are suddenly looking banged up too, though it's not too surprising considering the cold weather they've been playing in. The Cubs will be without Bradley until the weekend, due to his groin injury. I don't think we see him until next week, seeing how wet the weather this weekend is supposed to be (I wouldn't be surprised if the Sunday game is rained out). Ramirez has been day-to-day with a stiff back and Soto just returned from a minor shoulder/biceps problem as well. He went 0-4 today and I would not be surprised if it takes him a few games to get into a groove at the plate.

Who's hot
Lee (has been hitting the ball hard)


Who's not


The matchups
Thursday: Wainwright v Marshall (1:20 start)
Wainwright is a good pitcher, but I feel good about the team's chances against him at this point in the season. He struggled to find the strike zone and thus ran up some early pitch counts in his first two starts (8 BB in 10.1 IP). Given how patient the Cubs have been lately, we might expect to see more of the same in this start. This will be Marshall's first start this year, and I'm interested in seeing how he'll do. As always, the Cardinals have an offense that's better than it appears, and I think they rough up Marshall this time around. I expect this to be a high-scoring game.

Friday: Lohse v Zambrano (1:20 start)
This should be a good game. Zambrano always brings his A game against the Cardinals, and Lohse has pitched very well thus far this season (albeit against the poor-hitting Pirates and Astros). Lohse has shown better control so far this year, and I have the feeling that this one will be a real pitchers' duel.

Saturday: Wellemeyer v Dempster (2:40 start)
Wellemeyer is yet another Larussa/Duncan reclamation project that I keep expecting to blow up in their faces, and yet he keeps producing. I hated him when he was with the Cubs, but he's been better than decent since joining the Cardinals. Dempster was quite shaky in his last outing, so it will be interesting to see if he bounces back. I hope he made good on his promise to Reed Johnson to buy him some Culver's for hauling back Fielder's grand slam.

Sunday: Lilly v TBA (7:05 start)
It's another night game, and should be cool due to the rain that's moving through this weekend (which might cancel the game). This should help Ted - he pitched well in the cold conditions in the home opener on Monday. Lilly's one of those guys who gives you a better-than-quality start when he has his stuff/the conditions are good, but gets shelled if he's off. I'm thinking Lilly puts up another good performance and the Cubs crush whomever the Cards throw out there to replace Carpenter.

Random Predictions
Cubs win series 3-1 (win on Sunday and the other three games are close)
Pujols hits 3 HR in the series
Derrek Lee heats up, hits 2 HR

April 12, 2009

Project-a-tron Roundup

Summary of the projections

Win Talent96.8

Given the Cubs's weak schedule, I think a final projection of 99 wins is more than reasonable. This is a great baseball team.

Further bonus predictions:
Most likely batter to outperfom his projection: Bradley
Most likely batter to underperfom his projection: Fukudome (though he's certainly looking good right now)
Most likely pitcher to outperform his projection: Harden (purely based on possible pitching time)
Most likely pitcher to underperform his projection: Lilly

April 11, 2009

Project-a-tron: The bullpen

I was waiting until the season started to do my bullpen projections (since I had no idea who would make the team), but I've been pretty busy for the past week. Here's who made the team (and their roles)

Closer: Gregg
Fireman/Setup: Marmol
Setup: Heilman
LOOGY: Cotts
ROOGY: Vizcaino
Out of options: Guzman
Rule 5: Patton
Released: Chad Gaudin

Waiting in the wings:

Working backwards up the bullpen ladder:

From a purely statistical perspective, releasing Chad Gaudin seems to be a bad idea. Based on his past numbers, his talent level is that of a 3rd or 4th best reliever, with additional value in his ability to be a spot starter. Working on the logic of his release, there are a few explanations:

  1. Gaudin never recovered from his drunken dumpster injury from last season, and is still pitching ineffectively because of it. If this is the case, then maybe releasing him was a good idea (since it essentially results in a change in his true talent level).

  2. Gaudin was still in Lou's doghouse, and had a crappy spring, and was released because of it (whether or not he was injured). If this is the case, this was a foolish move by Hendry/Lou. Lou's doghouse is pretty hard to escape though, so maybe Gaudin was doomed from the start

  3. Gaudin was extraneous, since the Cubs have many other 6th/7th starter alternatives. If this was the reason, this was also a foolish move by the Cubs, because even if Gaudin is not expected to long relieve or spot start, he's still likely one of the 7 best relievers on this team.
  4. The Cubs wanted to keep Guzman and Patton because they had them under team control for more years. I don't like this reasoning either, because if one of them tanks, the Cubs can't hang on to them. Of course, I don't think Gaudin has options either, so this doesn't hold a lot of water either.
I'm guessing what happened was #2 (with a touch of #1), and I think it's a bad move.

Guzman and Patton are on thin ice, since Guzman is out of options and Patton is a rule 5 guy. They're probably going to leave the organization if the Cubs try to replace them on the roster. Patton has shown good stuff in his single outing so far this year, with a really good breaking ball. I'm worried that he's going to get hit hard once other teams get some scouting on him - he has never pitched above A ball before this year, which is worrisome. Guzman was hit hard early in the spring, but seemed to pitch better after making some adjustments with Rothschild. He had absolutely filthy stuff in his first two appearances this year, including throwing a probable cutter in the low 90s, which is insane. I hope he sticks, but I'm not going to keep my hopes up on a oft-injured reliever.

Vizcaino is around because of his contract and the fact that he can get right-handers out. He's not going to earn that money on his contract, but he's *probably* one of the top 7 guys on the team. So far it seems that Lou recognizes that he is not one of our top relievers, and has used him as such. If he continues to be used in less leveraged situations, we'll get some value out of it at least.

Cotts is ostensibly the LOOGY on this team. I really hoped that the Cubs picked up someone like Ohman or Beimel instead to be their primary left-hander. Cotts is a better all around reliever which is nice, but if you want to have someone to *specifically* get lefties out, I'd rather have someone with a more extreme split. In fact, wierdly enough, Cotts actually has a lower OPS against for right handers over lefthanders by 3 points. Looking at these numbers make me really wish we signed Ohman, especially considering what little he signed for (a minor league contract? Seriously? I hope someone is investigating collusion this year). He has been a frequent resident of Lou's doghouse as well.

PlayerOPS vs RHHOPS vs LHH2009 Salary

Heilman is a pretty good pitcher, and gave Marshall a decent run for his money for the 5th starter role. Marshall pretty much had the job going into spring training though - if Marshall stunk up the joint he probably would have won the job but all he really needed to do was just be adequate to win the job. It seems like Heilman isn't the '6th' starter either - most of the chatter I've heard has Atkins (or maybe Samardzija) as the 6th starter, not Heilman. He'll do a decent job in the 7th/8th inning (depending on where Marmol comes in), and hopefully will help keep Marmol's innings down.

Marmol is our best reliever, and I was secretly pleased that he was not named the closer. He's penciled in as our 8th inning guy, but so far it seems that Lou is continuing to use Marmol as he did last year (to get any of the other relievers out of jams before the 9th inning). He'll be used in the 8th if he's not needed before then, which is about as optimally you can use a reliever withing the current managing framework in the majors these days. As foolish as it is, once you attach the 'closer' label to someone, not throwing him in the 9th inning is going perceived as a sign of a lack of confidence (unless they're pitching multiple innings). Hopefully Heilman saps away some of those innings that Marmol picked up last season, when he was overused due to the fact that he was the only reliever Lou trusted for large stretches last year.

Gregg should be okay in the closer's role, though he hasn't exactly gotten himself off to a great start. There's been lots of grumbling for him replacing Wood, and while his peripherals aren't quite as good, the fact that he's cheaper and more durable makes him a decent option. At least we have Marmol to step in if he falters (and after he leaves). Clearly (see below) Wood is much better than Gregg, but I'd much rather have Milton Bradley than Kerry Wood. They're being paid the same, but Bradley is going to have a much bigger impact on this club.

PlayerProjected FIPSalary
Wood3.212yr/$20.5MM + $11MM option

It will be interesting to see what the Cubs will do with their bullpen next year, after Gregg and Heilman leave. I wouldn't be surprised to see Heilman come back if he has a decent season (he lives in Chicago).

Finally, the projections:
Replacement Level304.550.40

The Patton projection is based of his CHONE ERA projection (not FIP). He's looked pretty good so far, but I don't think he will stick, given that he hasn't pitched above A ball.

April 10, 2009

The Good Old Days Are Now: Review of Time and Again

Jennie recently reread Time and Again, which we both read as a part of our high school history class to get a sense of the Victorian Era (I think), and she suggested that I reread it as well (I barely remembered anything that happened in the book). Here's the basic gist of what happens (note: spoiler alert):

Si Morley is a graphic artist living in NY in 1970, and he joins with a government/academic/military joint venture that seeks to do time travel through some phlebotenum-y explanation of the structure of space-time and self-hypnosis. Si signs up for the program and decides to shoot for Victorian-era New York to solve a the mystery of a puzzling letter in the posession of his girlfriend. He has some initial successes and eventually goes on to fall in love, has an exciting and death-defying adventure in the process of solving his mystery, and returns to the present time as a success story for the program. Up to this point I enjoyed the book, but the ending really ruined it for me. The powers that be in the present time want to use time travel to alter the past, and the leader of the project (understandably) freaks out at the possible moral reprucussions it may have. Si is sent on a mission to alter the past (and essentially eliminate the possibility of Castro coming into power - I've never understood the 60s/70s obsession with Cuba). Instead, with the tacit agreement of the project leader, he ensures that the project leader's parents never meet, ensuring that the program he was in never gets started. He then travels back to the 1880s to live out his life with his 'new' love.

All this I would be happy with, except for the justification for returning to the 1880s. Si very clearly is not looking to rock the boat as far as changing the past goes, and if he had hinged his decision to return on his love for Julia, I would be happy with this ending. Instead, the book slathers on the 'the past was a simpler time' and 'people were happier' whitewash of the Good Old Days, which just drives me crazy. As far as I'm concerned, the Good Old Days are Now. Instead of being happy for Si, I spitefully want him to die horribly of cholera or something 6 weeks after the book ends.