Spring Training Notes

Before getting into this unexpectedly long post, I would like to promote the Baseball Player Search extension for Google Chrome. I actually used it to write this post and find it incredibly useful. (Glove slap to Tom Tango)


Well, Carlos Silva continued his pleasant destruction of my expectations. His updated stats, by start:

one  2  7  6  0  2  2  2  1
two  3  4  0  1  0  0  5  3

thr. 4  2  0  0  3  0  4  3

Seriously, Silva? Now you're just messing with me. Oh, yeah, he's also turning into a feel-good story. I'm really starting to think there's a legitimate chance that Silva is going to: a) pitch well (maybe not great, but enough ground balls to be useful) and b) shake the bad-tempered image. If these two possibilities come to fruition, then I think Jim Hendry wins executive of the year by default.

Silva's production is a pretty sensitive subject for me because I genuinely believe Milton Bradley got the short end of the stick: he came in with a high BABIP and was therefore unlikely to repeat his previous success, he is/has always been targeted by the media since his antics as a younger man, he was a target (as many other former Cubs members) of racism during games, and was sufficiently outspoken to be quoted out of context and to say a few dumb things.

That being said, I don't think the Cubs should have ever signed Milton to that absurd, Soriano-esque contract. I compare it to Soriano because, like our intrepid left fielder, Bradley had just undergone an unrepeatable season and received an age-prohibitive contract. To put it in economic terms, slugging is a function of skill and age, with a negative correlation with respect to age, or:

             +     -
SLG = f(skill, age)
So when we sign these hitters, known for slugging and speed, to contracts through their 32+ years of age, we in turn must expect huge amounts of depreciation at the end. (There are, of course, always exceptions -- e.g. Barry Bonds)

That being said, now that I look at his contract in general, I don't think Hendry and Co. are to blame nearly as much as the media, the fans, and, in part, Bradley's bat. In fact, in the three seasons preceding his arrival in Chicago, Bradley's WAR value in dollars well earned his contract with us:

2006: $10.2M
2007: $10.1M
2008: $20.7M

So we signed him to this:

2009:   $5M
2010:   $9M
2011: $12M

And he was actually worth this:

2009: $5M
2010: $9M and Carlos Silva
2011: N/A

I wonder where Milton would be today if Lou Piniella had instead blown up at Carlos Zambrano when he destroyed the water cooler instead of Bradley. Perhaps if instead of following him into the tunnel and yelling profanities at Bradley, Lou had just played it cool; or if Bradley had started the season with a high BABIP and a cluster of home runs instead of the opposite; or if someone -- anyone -- in the media had taken Milton's side instead of throwing him under the bus; or if he had let his agent and a staff of lawyers do the talking instead of himself, or at least thought out his comments more; or if -- above all -- the fools that call themselves fanatics of the Cubs had treated their right fielder with the same patience and steadfastness as they showed to many other slow starters (Derrek Lee in 2004, Alfonso Soriano in '07 and '08, and countless others), then we might be talking about how Milton is looking to rebound this year, and how the Cubs are primed to compete with one of the more potent NL lineups, instead of how Silva might actually be useful for two weeks as a starter and maybe 40 innings as a reliever.

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