Why the Cubs are Garbage

Xoomwaffle of Another Cubs Blog recently took a hardy look into Why the Cubs Aren't Contenders. I felt like he compiled some excellent research and discussed it very well. However, I wanted to expand on the demonstration and offer visuals to help present the chasms between the ever-pitching heavy Cubs and the playoffers.

If nothing else, this further typifies the insanity that is the Cubs off-season: Tread water at the positions, add pitching.

Our one strength is pitching!!! The Cubs have officially become That Guy who always and only works out his biceps. The arms are great, but the beer bellies and twig legs will be an eyesore as they slowly slosh around the bags.

Why add Matt Garza just to trade away Tom Gorzelanny? Of course, the Cubs and Hendry may have inside knowledge about Gorzo -- perhaps an injury concern or something -- but the 2011 Cubs appear to have suffered a net loss from the trade. Even if we extrapolate to 2012 and 2013, Gorza is cheaper than Garza, and likely offers a similar quality of play.


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  1. The frustrating thing is that Gorzelanny was making what, $1.5 million or so and Garza is making $6. It's not like the Cubs could have gone after a great hitter with that money, but I'd rather they spend it on offense than pitching. They didn't need pitching. Yet two of their offseason priorities was pitching (starter and right handed set up man)

  2. "It's not like the Cubs could have gone after a great hitter with that money, but I'd rather they spend it on offense than pitching."

    Andrew Friedman chuckles as he puts on a Manny Ramirez t-shirt.

    I'm really, really hoping Hendry and company saw some secret in Garza that will make him into Roy Halladay, but I'm afraid he's just going to be the catalyst for Hendry's booting.

  3. Good point about Manny, but would he want to play 1st? Would Soriano?

    I agree about Garza. I think the Cubs are overestimating what his potential is. Sometimes a player's potential is actually what he's already done. People kept saying Zambrano would be a Cy Young winner if he kept his emotions in check and reached his potential. It never occurred to them that he had actually reached his potential. It never occurred that he was one of the few who do reach their potential. In all likelihood the same is true with Garza.

  4. I fear you are presciently correct.

  5. This article is a piece of garbage, actually. Wow, the Cubs were and fifth place team with mediocre offensive production in 2010. What a revelation. Let's take that and compare it to this year's team and assume by looking at the team's WAR in 2010 and Bill James WAR projections that we've pegged the team. Right. Because Aramis is going to have another injury ridden year, and his backups will be the same mediocre crew as 2010. Pena will produce something similar to Lee...since that what the 2010 WAR says, and Castro can't possibly have a breakout season and produce something higher than, um, well, Bill James doesn't offer a projection on him.
    And of course Gorzelanny will post something close to 2.6 WAR, because that's what Bill James said. There's no way he'll contribute anything close to -0.3 WAR he came up with in 2009/2009 combined. After all, this is the Cubs we're talking about and we can only wallow in their mediocrity, since we've come to expect that as Cubs fans. And lets ignore that Garza was throwing FBs up in the zone because he was told to because he was pitching in the most pitcher friendly park in baseball, and we'll assume he's going to post something just like he did last year + what Bill James is projecting him on Fangraphs. Let's not watch Garza actually pitch on MLB.com and see that his slider and changeup are top tier starter quality. Nah, he's just the same pitcher as Gorzelanny. Jim Hendry is such an idiot for trading away four top prospects. After all, Baseball America said they were four top prospects. They must be so, because whatever they say is always 100% accurate.
    I have an idea. Why don't people that bother to write this garbage go back and watch some Cubs games from 2010 and try to come up with some real answers instead of the same recycled piss from Fangraphs.

  6. I agree the trade made no sense. But given the contracts the Cubs are still stuck with, not much was going to be done anyway. This trade probably owes more to boredom than anything else.

    The Cubs will break the routine in 2015.

  7. didn''t the Giants just win the WS based on nothing other than an average/solid lineup paired with great pitching?

  8. Kyle, relying on pure stupid dumb luck firing on all cylinders at the right time is totally not the right way to build a baseball team.

    That said, it's be fun if it happened to the 2011 Cubs, but I'd still want this team blown up and for them to start over again. There's a difference between sustained success (i.e. the big dogs in the AL East or the Phillies of now and the Braves of the 90s) and a shot in the dark.

  9. @AJ: Greetings AJ, thanks for stopping by! First of all, I apologize for my hyperbole. I strongly debated using a different title, but I wanted to paradoy Xoomwaffle's title "Why the Cubs Aren't Contenders."

    Secondly, I'm really not a fan of Bill James's projections. I think he's overly optimistic on everyone, and the results bare that out (see MGL's recent article).

    Also, it's true that Jim Hickey makes his pitchers attack the strike zone. It works well -- especially given the nature of their home stadium. I honestly do expect Garza will do well in Chicago, and I hope he will dominate.

    That does not change the fact, however, that the Cubs pitching staff is already playoff caliber. That is the point of my post, I guess. Why add marginally better pitchers when the real need is elsewhere?

    Soriano is now below average, DeWitt is extra average, Byrd and Fukudome are above average, Pena and Ramirez are good, Soto is great, and Castro should be great (soon). The starters include 3 hitters, 1 fielder, and Marlon Byrd on the downslopes of their careers. Soto is at or near his physical peak, and Castro and DeWitt are (hopefully) on the upslope.

    Compare that to the Rays, where only the recently acquired and ridiculously cheap Manny and Damon are on the downslope. Everyone else -- from hitters to pitchers -- are at their peaks or upslopes.

    The Rays have a lot to look forward to in 2011. If the Cubs regress and outperform 2010 (which they should), then they will be a little above average. They'll be butchers on the field, decent hitters, and good pitchers.

    @Kyle: The Giants formula was not pitching alone -- they also had great defense that bolstered their already good pitching. That's very similar to the 2008 Rays or 2004 Red Sox.

    But yes, average offenses can be easily overcome by dominating 2 of the other 3 spheres (although good base running doesn't hurt). That being said, the Giants were really lucky. They are probably the worst team to win the World Series since the 2006 Cardinals -- expect the Giants to fall off the same inglorious cliff the Cards did.

    @Rich: I literally laughed out loud. I could totally see Jim Hendry leaning on his hand, tapping on his computer with one finger as Tom Ricketts sleeps on the chair across from him.

    @Kin: Consistent success is what I'm all about. That's why I dislike the Garza trade, I think, because the timing is off. The road to consistent success is paved with cheap prospects. Not all prospects work out, but the ones that make it to the show save an organization tons of money.

    The Cubs are saddled with bad contracts and aging players. They need to turn those into prospects -- or at least free payroll -- in order to build a pipeline of success.

  10. all I'm saying is improving your pitching is still improvement for the team. forget about the powers of the al east, this is the inferior national league, i think its a lot easier for teams to go far in the playoffs, much like the nfc in the nfl.

  11. The question to ask is, "Is improving our pitching by the addition of Garza enough to get the Cubs into contention?"

    That's part of what this blog entry seemed to be about, and as noted, the only offensive move the team made was to get Carlos Pena. Is Pena enough to turn the Cubs into a legitimate contender? That really depends on how much faith you have in the rest of the lineup.

  12. AJ, who said anything about the Bill James projections? Those numbers posted are the Cubs numbers from last year compared to other team's numbers from last year. Yes, it would be better to take a projection of all the teams and do this, but it's also quite time consuming. I think what was done works rather well and emphasizes the point that the Cubs were not anywhere close to a playoff team last year and what exactly have they done to improve?

    Furthermore, you act as if the 2010 offense was an outlier. They were average in 2010. They were excellent in 2008. Average in 2007. Since 2006 the Cubs team's wRC+ is 92 (8% below average). Only 8 teams have been worse in that span. The Cubs have been a bad offensive team for several years now. Why would you expect they'd be better in 2011 when the only player they added was Carlos Lee (who replaced an otherwise good hitter in Derrek Lee)?

    Since 2003 they've had a team wRC+ of just 92. The Cubs offensive woes aren't new. They've been this way for many years now.

    Only 7 teams in MLB have been worse on offense over the last decade than the Cubs. The Cubs are a bad offensive team and there's no reason whatsoever to think they're going to be good in 2011.

    Kyle, you're right. An improvement is an improvement. However, you have to start wondering about diminishing returns. a team with a terrible rotation might be wiser to pick up pitching because the return on that improved staff might actually be more than anyone would anticipate. On the other hand, a team that already has a lot of pitching (Garza replaced a similar Tom Gorzelanny!) is probably better off investing in areas they are deficient in. Garza and Gorzelanny have very similar projections going forward. Garza is undoubtedly more reliable and can be counted on to pitch more innings than Gorzelanny, but in terms of production, the Cubs didn't improve by much at all.

    A team in the Cubs position would be better off investing in a position that needs improving and hoping that Gorzelanny can give them 180 to 200 innings. If he doesn't, who cares? The team wasn't likely to contend anyway, but at least you still have your prospects. If everything breaks right for the 2010 Cubs they'll find themselves in contention, but guess what. That's also true if they kept those prospects and used Gorzelanny instead of Garza. The team improved only slightly and in doing so, they lost a bunch of prospects and are paying Garza MORE money than they'd have had to pay Gorzelanny.

  13. Brad-- love the biceps analogy. This is precisely what my main beef is with this offseason. I just think the front office completely miscalculated what its needs actually were/are.

    The Garza/Gorz trade off is terribly frustrating to me. I think a lot of Nationals fans are about to learn they got a pretty good pitcher. If the Cubs don't go out and win a lot of games, and Garza's numbers look just like Gorzo's at the end of 2011, I could see it becoming a black eye of sorts for Hendry.

  14. ok the difference between Garza and Gorzo is large. Garza will be the Cubs #1 starter by the time his contract is over. I'm not going to bash the team for adding a young pitcher who will arguably be the team's best starter in a couple of years. This makes the Cubs a better team for the next three years minimum, that's not a bad move. I'll take a more enjoyable 2011 while I'm at it, thank you.

  15. i love all of this Gorzelanny love. take a look at the dudes k/bb ratio for a second. then take a gander at his whip. valuable back end starter at minimum cost? yes. are we going to miss the guy? hell no.

  16. @Kyle: I agree. We won't miss Gorzo. And yes, Garza could be our best pitcher around the time we're paying him over $10M annually. But that may likely be more of a function of the other pitchers leaving via free agency rather than Garza improving so dramatically.

    Which is precisely my point: We won't miss Gorzo because we have such a wealth of pitching talent at present. Gorzo may be a 4th starter, but Garza is (at least presently) a 3rd starter. Gorzo is also young and has upside, so both pitchers look to improve moving forward -- yet Gorzo is wildly cheaper.

    My problem is that we just sent half the farm away in a move that literally improves an 80-win team by 0.5 to 1.0 wins. And, by the time Garza is the best pitcher on the team, we won't have the young prospects to fill in around him.

  17. If Matt Garza is the best pitcher the Cubs have next year, the year after or the year after that they are going to suck.

  18. why the hate for Garza mb21? I agree he's no #1 badass starter, but like it or not, of the pitchers we have if he's our best in 2013 then at least we made this trade.

    to Brad, I just don't see the upside in Gorzo. He is what he is, which is a decent back end pitcher.

  19. as far as the prospects we gave up. hate giving up hak ju, but if the Cubs are sure that Starlin sticks at short, I can understand it. Archer seems overrated (don't love any guy with spotty control) and the other guys won't be forgotten.

  20. @Kyle: You know, my expectations for Gorzo may be really far off -- which would explain the Cubs willingness to trade him. Still, I would rather have traded Gorzo in an effort to give Andrew Cashner more playing time -- Cashner who aught to be our best starter in 2013 (and far cheaper than Garza).

    I also really like Hak-Ju Lee. I honestly think Lee and Castro could've shared the infield (the lesser defender, maybe Castro, moving to second). It's not like we have a second base prospect -- if such a thing exists -- pushing for playing time in the near future.

  21. I'm actually not much of an HJ Lee fan, but my opinion compared to the scouts is next to worthless. Scouts love the guy and that's why trading him along with the others is messed up. Say what you want about Archer's control, but he's another guy the scouts love. We can have opinions about these prospects that aren't similar to the scouts, but when it comes time to evaluate things, our opinions are next to worthless compared to those who have spent time watching and analyzing the players. Not to mention they have an eye for that thing and I've never seen them play and nor do I have the eye that those scouts have.

    The Cubs traded two top 50 prospects. They also traded Brandon Guyer. Is he going to be a super star? Of course not, but you don't have to be a star to have value. Guyer has value.

    Garza is a good pitcher, but that's about it. I'd much rather paying Gorzelanny $5-7 million over the next 2 years than paying Garza upwards of $30 million. The Cubs aren't going to contend without a ton of luck and they're as likely to get lucky with Gorzelanny in the rotation as they would be with Garza.