Randy Wells and The Competition

Joe Pawlikowski had a rather good article on Fangraphs today about Randy Wells and the competition for the final two rotation spots. I definitely agree with his conclusion:

...the mere idea of placing Wells into a competition, real or manufactured, is absurd. He has been the team’s second best pitcher during the last two seasons, and there’s a good chance he’s in that same spot again in 2011.
A reader named JD went to the ol' Mainstream Media Bucket for his counterargument, stating:
I agree that Wells is talented, but last year he had some serious issues with preparation/being out a bit too late on a regular basis. He’s even alluded to his lifestyle causing problems...
Fortunately, friend of the site dat cubfan daver was there to set him straight:
There’s been so much hearsay regarding Wells’ alleged “lifestyle” problems that I tend not to put too much, if any, stock in them. As you say, Randy has alluded to something being a little off last season but, to my knowledge, he has NEVER admitted that his social life negatively affected his pitching performance. He’s said stuff like, “I lost focus” and “Got too big for my britches.” In fact, at one point, last season he vehemently denied a rumor that he’d been out partying the night before a bad start.

As pointed out in the very well-written article above, most of Wells’ 2010 struggles can be attributed to bad luck and normal regression for a second-year pitcher. I’m a little frustrated with the team’s apparent decision to put his rotation spot in jeopardy, but it may very well be just a facade, as Joe mentions. Randy has pitched well in spring training thus far and, to be honest, I’m getting less and less worried about this.
I really do hope the Cubs have created this rotation battle just to keep Randy Wells sharp -- much like NFL teams do with kickers. Frankly, I do not think a battle is necessary for Wells, but the mere thought of Braden Looper or Todd Wellemeyer knocking Wells down to the minors is absurd to me.

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  1. Brad,

    I have a question about the projection systems and BABIP. I'll use Felipe Paulino as my example, as I first noticed this with him. Bill James and Marcel have Paulino projected to allow hits on balls in play at a rate of .339 and .337, respectively. If BABIP against is overwhelmingly the product of luck, shouldn't any BABIP projection hover around the .300 'break even' point? I'm confused. Thanks for the help.

  2. Great question Eddie.

    First of all, .300 is very much a rule of thumb. Great pitchers -- guys like Greg Maddux and Cy Young, both in the .280s -- can have lower BABIPs. Pitcher who give up more line drives (i.e. not great pitchers) will have higher BABIPs (maybe as high as the .330 range).

    With the case of Felipe Paulino, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a .300 BABIP in 2011. The Astros are a below-average fielding team, so that negatively affects his BABIP. Also, his minor league numbers seem to indicate .330 may be kind of high for him. If his BABIP stays near .330, he may not be MLB quality.

    Each system is different, but I'd bet the projection systems are taking into account that Paulino's career BABIP is ~.330. However, he's only got about 200 IP in the majors -- a full season for a starter. Over a single starter's season BABIP can fluctuate pretty wildly, so it would not be surprising if his true talent level is much lower.

  3. Thanks Brad. I had another thought. Paulino was traded to the Rockies this offseason. I know that Coors Field inflates offense vs. the average, but I vaguely remember reading that it isn't just because Coors is homer friendly. The Rockies have an enormous outfield (a pre-humidor attempt at limiting home runs). It's 390 feet to left center, 415 to straightaway center field, and 375 to right center. That's a lot of real estate for the outfielders to cover. That would lead to more flyballs falling in for hits, wouldn't it?

  4. Exactly, Eddie. Spacious parks are also predisposed to inflating BABIP. However, if their foul grounds are spacious -- as in Petco Park -- then BABIP will deflate.

  5. Brad, any way you think Cashner sneaks into the rotation over Silva if they "win" the same number of spring training games?

  6. Hope so, Kin. Silva had another hellish outing today.

  7. I hope Cashner kicks ass in his next start and Silva gives up 20 runs. The Cubs are all about small samples and this would tip the scales in Cashner's favor.

  8. Honestly, who know what the Cubs use to determine things?! I honestly think it will be a roll of the dice -- literally, Hendry will roll some dice.

    In all seriousness, though, I think Cashner, with a few more solid outings, could push Silva into relief -- and the world would be at peace.

  9. FWIW it's not like Cashner has been particularly dominating. Comparing anyone to what Silva's done is going to look good (laughing). It's still early in Spring Training so it doesn't mean much. If Silva continues to shit the bed I actually think it's more likely Casey Coleman gets the 5th spot.

  10. I guess we'll just have to take a wait-and-see approach. It was kind of goofball how they gave Coleman starts over Cashner last season but since he has more "experience" I am inclined to agree with berselius. Coleman didn't have a particularly good performance last time out either.

  11. Coleman had a minor league FIP above 4.00 the past two seasons. Cashner's has been below 3.50.

    It comes down to this: I'd much rather watch Cashner lose games than Coleman.