Monday, January 31, 2011

Jay Cutler and the Changing Narrative

A Novel Idea: Use facts instead of facial
expressions to write your articles.
It has come to my attention (h/t Windy City Gridiron) the narrative around Jay Cutler has rapidly begun to change. From Gene Wojciechowski saying, "Cutler has been humanized" to this recent Sean Jensen Sun Times article, "What Jay Cutler Should Have Done," the major media outlets have begun to sing a different tune -- nay, they've composed a different album -- about the Chicago Bear's quarterback.

Jensen's piece is particularly illuminating. In it, he suggests Cutler should have feigned greater pain, danced in agony along the sideline, and stretched his face in theatric anguish. That's what Twitter wanted. That's what the fans wanted.

Instead, Cutler downplayed his injury in an effort to not distract his teammates. Yet the reaction among the fans proved vitriol. Said Jensen:
[Hines] Ward, considered one of the league’s toughest players, suffered the same injury in the 2009 AFC title game as Cutler did Sunday — a torn medial collateral ligament.

Yet Cutler faced a barrage of immediate attacks on his toughness by fans and players alike.
And, Jensen notes, fans would be wise to immediately cease discussions about the TMZ video. Per a real doctor with real knowledge of injuries: You can't play, but you can walk. Boom, blockquote:
And for anyone questioning why he didn’t return, ElAttrache said a Grade II MCL tear would be difficult for a right-handed quarterback such as Cutler to play through. Cutler’s left knee is the one he uses to plant.

‘‘I don’t care if it’s golf or pitchers when it’s your front leg,” ElAttrache said. ‘‘You can’t perform at that level.’’

So next time you see footage of Cutler walking, educate yourself about a Grade II MCL tear.

‘‘It’s very common to be able to walk and climb stairs, often able to jog straight ahead,’’ said ElAttrache, who performed Brady’s reconstructive knee surgery in 2008. ‘‘The public reaction to his activity is understandable but misinformed. In reality, it’s not appropriate.’’
Props to these two writers for daring to change the story.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This is Not a Cubs Podcast, Episode 1

In an effort to quell the public outcry, the writers and creators of Cubs Stats -- Brad and Will -- have relented and composed the first ever episode of, "This is Not a Cubs Podcast." Listeners will be privy to cutting edge and largely unrehearsed analysis, including discussions pertaining to:

  • The Blackhawks, the Stanley Cup Hangover, and the discouraging lack of knuckle-pucks.
  • The Bulls, Joakim Noah's "falling goose" kung fu style, and the value of depth.
  • The Cubs, their convention, and their cloudy long term goals.
  • The Bears, their 2010 season, and the obligatory Jay Cutler injury discussion.
  • The White Sox, the Dunn deal, and their 2011 hopes.

The astute listener will also hear: Discussions of eating certain Wisconsin buildings, a musical intro featuring the Cubs management strategy, and plenty of accidental noises as we bumped the table upon which the mic sat.

Listen Now:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

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.

Ugh.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jay Cutler: Eats Nails for Breakfast

I -- unlike Will -- had nary of doubt of Jay Cutler last Sunday against the Packers. I've never bought into the media's half-cocked -- nay, cockless -- narrative of Jay Cutler the Wimp and Complainer. And, as a self-anointed defender of Jay Cutler (as I was of Kyle Orton), I rarely assume the negative when it comes to Cutler. When Tod Collins trotted onto the field, I didn't say, "What?!", I say, "Oh my god!"

Considering that bias, I feel the following video presents the most valid, evenly-presented analysis of not only Cutler's injury, but his play throughout most of the game.

Watch this video, and then watch the last two clips again. I will say this not once:

JAY CUTLER IS A TOUGH SON OF BITCH.



(A tip of the helmet to ever-spammish ChiSportsForum Twitter.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Apology to Jay Cutler

I am embarrassed to call myself a Bears fan. Not because of the outcome of the NFC Championship game but due to my own actions and actions of some other Bears fans.

I am apologetic.

I got caught up in the hype of Jay’s injury not to have enough clarity with my own eyes. I threw Jay Cutler under the bus when I tweeted about the knee injury. Sure, I could go into a speculative rant about how the injury happened and the oddity of the situation but where does that get me? At the end of the day, I am accountable for my actions and my behavior as a fan.

I have had some clarity since then but I wish I could say the same for other Bears fans…

“He quit on us” I heard in the line of a Dunkin' Donuts this morning.

“What do you think of Jay Cutler now?! said sarcastically by a Bears “fan” at work.

“I hate Jay Cutler. Can’t stand him” a disgruntled season ticket holder told me.

In Chicago, we pride ourselves on our work effort and I believe Jay Cutler is no different from the rest of us. In Cutler’s 5 seasons in the NFL he has missed 2.5 games (including playoffs). He has had to learn 4 offensive schemes on 2 different teams. This below average offensive line has allowed Cutler to be sacked a total of 89 times in two seasons. Throughout the 2010 season, Cutler was sacked the most out of any other QB in the league (57). As the pocket collapsed around him, he had only average receivers to throw to. Despite all of this, he refused to throw his teammates under the bus and continued to play hard every Sunday (with type 1 diabetes mind you).

Quitter? No.

Tough S.O.B.? Yes.

This was a good season. The Bears finished with an 12-6 record, earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, decisively won a playoff game against the Seahawks (a team that beat them earlier in the season) and played in the NFC Championship game. Under the circumstances, this was an improved team from last year. It goes without saying that Cutler also made strides statistically. But this improvement doesn’t seem good enough for some Bears fans.

I think it’s important not to spread systemic hatred for Jay Cutler and subsequently run him out of town (ask Denver about this). Jay is our quarterback (said in Lovie Smith voice). Now that we have heard the severity of his injury (torn MCL), I would hope some of us would be apologetic about our behavior. To go so far as to call him a quitter, light him up with ignorant tweets, have unbelievable hatred for this man and burn his jersey is inappropriate and classless.

I guess the old saying is true; "It's easier to apologize than it is to ask permission."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Secrets of the Chicago Cubs Curse Unveiled!

That's right, I have found the undeniable source of the Cubs World Series drought! Today, I stumbled upon a Baseball Prospectus article that finally connected all the dots:
David Laurila: How would you describe the [Baseball Writers Association of America]?

Jack O’Connell: It’s a non-profit and basically an organization of reporters who cover Major League Baseball on a regular basis. We’re over 100 years old; the organization was formed in 1908, during the World Series that year. It was Chicago versus Detroit and the [press] facilities were abysmal... so [writers] had meetings with the two league presidents and said, “Hey, we’re covering baseball, we’re promoting the game, give us a place to work.” That was the beginning of the press box.
Don't see the connection? Well let me make it obvious for you (idiot):

Cubs Championships before Pressboxes and the BBBWAA:
8

Cubs Championships after Pressboxes and the BBBWAA:
0

Clearly the necromancing BBWAA and their twisted, magic-amplifying, sacred-crystal-manufacturing press booths have deliberately and insidiously toyed with the Chicago Cubs fate. I have presented the facts and stats, now it is up to year, dear readership, to conduct the revolt.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hard Questions for the Ricketts

1.)Why did you deem it appropriate to circumvent the Governor of a near bankrupt state to keep the tax revenue generated off of your ticket sales? It is my understanding that this revenue would be used to "enhance the Wrigley experience" which included fixing up Wrigley Field and adding some additional structures.

1.1)(a continuation from above) It is my concern that your valuation metrics of the Chicago Cubs are incorrect. Why else would you circumvent the Governor and ask for more money? Are you aware of what the enterprise value, debt, equity, cash is of the Chicago Cubs and what are these numbers?

1.2)Since you were unable to receive approval from the Gov. Pat Quinn, where will you receive funding for these projects? Will ticket prices rise to fund these projects?

1.3)You bought the Cubs, why can't you fund these projects?

2.)You have stated that growing and improving the Cubs via the farm system was/is a priority for ownership. Why, then did you trade three of our top prospects for Matt Garza? Will Matt Garza make the Cubs World Series contenders?

3.)When will we be able to compete for a world series? Open ended question I know, but we should be competing for a world series every year.

UPDATE: Here's one of Brad's questions he'd like answered.

A) I have read quotes in which you, Tom Ricketts, have said you want to model the Cubs organization after the Red Sox. But one of the calling cards of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays is the breadth and depth of their statistical analysis. They have whole teams working on proprietary statistical models, while the Cubs have only Chuck Wasserstrom and Ari Kaplan. Is that something you plan on expanding?

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 Cubs Convention: Looking for Scraps of Hope at the Hilton

Today, Will and I will be heading out to the Cubs Convention downtown. He and I are both pretty depressed about the prospects of the 2011 season, but at least I get to see the Ron Santo memorial, my favorite ex-Ray -- Carlos Pena -- and maybe a ton of other awesome bloggers.

Keep an eye on our Twitter during the convention. I will be posting updates and DOUBLE-AWESOME photos.

Here's the schedule of events and my tentative plans of action:
Friday, January 14
5:00 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies (take some pictures)
6:00 p.m.: Autograph Hunt (have Carlos Pena sign a taco, eat the taco)
7:00 p.m.: Cubs Bingo (avoid at all costs)
7:00 p.m.: WGN Sports Night (wander the hotel aimlessly)

Saturday, January 15
Continental Ballroom
10:00 a.m.: Meet Cubs Baseball Management, hosted by Dave Kaplan (cry quietly to myself in the corner)
11:30 a.m.: For Kids Only Press Conference, hosted by Peter Chase (go to Chutney Joe's)
1:00 p.m.: On the Road with #10, hosted by Pat Hughes (cry profusely)
2:30 p.m.: Off the Field and Off the Cuff, hosted by John Williams & Nick Digilio (pick nose)
4:00 p.m.: WGN Radio's Sports Central, hosted by Dave Kaplan & Jim Memolo (return to Chutney Joe's)

Grand Ballroom
9:00 a.m.: The Ricketts' Family Forum, hosted by Len Kasper (cry quietly to myself in the corner)
10:30 a.m.: Pitching Evolution, hosted by Dave Otto (scratch chin thoughtfully)
12:00 p.m.: The 'Q' Factor, hosted by Bob Brenly (make outrageous statements of the Cubs lacking grit and want-to, all in protest to Brenly)
1:30 p.m.: Meet Cubs Business Management, hosted by Dave Kaplan (ask for a consulting job)
3:00 p.m.: Remembering Ronnie, hosted by Wayne Messmer (cry profusely)

Boulevard Room
11:00 a.m.: The Future of the Cubs' Facilities, hosted by Crane Kenney (shake head slowly)
12:30 p.m.: Battery Talk, hosted by Dave Otto (bring dead TV remotes and begin looking for batteries)
2:00 p.m.: TV Baseball 101, hosted by Bob Vorwald (ask how ESPN, WGN, and FOX all passed TV Baseball 101)
3:30 p.m.: The Dominican Way of Life, hosted by Oneri Fleita (mutter to myself in Chinese)

Sunday, January 16
Continental Ballroom
9:15 a.m.: The 25 Club, hosted by Wayne Messmer (go to church)
10:45 a.m.: Down on the Farm, hosted by Mike Huang (begin praying for a Bears victory)
Clever observers will note I'm accomplishing several things simultaneously, and yes, I have cloned myself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

WAR Graphs Affirm Reality: Santo Should Be Busted

Yesterday, Fangraphs released their new WAR Grids technology to the salivating masses. It helps us visually perceive the value of players over time. Only a scant 8 places down from the top third basemen, we find our old friend, now playing catch with Walter Payton and Saint Paul, Mr. Ron Santo.


This is the top 25 3rd basemen of all time. Number 8 had diabetes and -- as a result -- retired after age 33. Mike Schmidt played to 39. Wade Boggs played to 41. Brooks Robinson played to 40. Santo played with blood sugar problems.

His bronze bust should have been among the greats long ago. Shame on every writer who never voted for him. Shame on them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

FIP: A New ERA

Here's a video I recently did for DRaysBay explaining FIP. Please enjoy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Like Matt Garza

It has recently become apparent many readers of my last post saw the title and immediately inferred my opinion from it. In truth, my title was hyperbole and the content really aimed to mirror what 'Duk argued recently on Big League Stew:
My issue is this: Heading into 2011, the Cubs don't seem to be in a good position to compete for the NL Central title. They're a weird mix of overpaid veterans and promising youngsters and the consensus is that they'll likely finish behind the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals and maybe even the Houston Astros...

That outlook would seem to suggest the Cubs punting the next year or two while those contracts expire (or come mercifully closer to expiration in the case of Alfonso Soriano) and the farm system — the one the Ricketts family keeps citing as a reason to keep GM Jim Hendry around — starts bearing quality fruit at the corner of Clark and Addison.

This trade, though, makes the frightful suggestion that the Ricketts are looking at their upcoming Cubs Convention not selling out and interpreting that as a harbinger of a half-empty Wrigley Field this summer...
I like the trade for Matt Garza. We all knew Garza would not be cheap. The problem is timing.

History -- or perhaps the legacy of 2007 and 2008 -- has already dealt the Cubs a losing hand in 2011 (as it did in 2010). Adding a Jack of Hearts like Matt Garza does not make us a playoff team; it instead undermines the much-needed rebuilding process.

Those in favor of the trade wrongly assume low value among the prospects. Many of us fans remember the pain of watching Corey Patterson or Felix Pie flounder at the major league level and wrongly apply their struggles to all prospects. In truth, many prospects do fail, but so do many veterans. Baseball is a volatile sport.

And just because a prospect is in A or AA, it does not mean they're years and years away. Everyone matures at different paces, and everyone goes through the low levels at some point.

Most fans may not recognize the names Hak-Ju Lee, Christopher Archer, Robinson Chirinos, or Brandon Guyer, but each of them were among the top 20 prospects in the Cubs system. In truth, only one of them needs to succeed to make this trade worth the Rays time.

It comes down to this: The price for Garza was reasonable, the timing was not.

UPDATE: My boy Tommy Rancel is reporting the final player in the deal is minor league pitcher Zach Rosscup. Here's my rundown on ol' Zachary:
I'll be honest, I don't know too much about Zach Rosscup. He's not even in the discussion of the Rays top 20 prospects, but he's got good peripheries (low BBs, high Ks).

I imagine he projects to be a good-to-great reliever, but that's probably optimistic. He's still a long ways off, so you never know.
That means the Cubs netted Matt Garza, Fernando Perez (accomplished poet, but limited outfielder), and Zach Rosscup. This is pretty much what I expected, and therefore it does not alter my perspective on the trade.

It's just the wrong time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Matt Garza Comes to Chicago and Everybody Loses

Today the Cubs traded Christopher Archer (ranked our 3rd best prospect by Baseball-Prospectus), Hak-Ju Lee (5th), Robinson Chirinos (12th, yet he's been putting up gaudy stats for a catcher), and Sam Fuld for Matt Garza (an above average starter), Fernando Perez (a more successful poet than outfielder), and a later-named minor league pitcher. This final component could drastically change the trade, but -- at present -- it looks like a steal for the Rays, and a head-scratcher for the Cubs.

You can read my full reaction here at DRaysBay. In summation, my Cubs side groans, and my Rays side celebrates:
Here's the trooff: As a Cubs fan, I'm pained to see them trade away prospects for a pitcher of whom they already had several -- especially since he's going to a flyball-unfriendly park with an average-at-best defense behind him. As a Rays fan, I'm actually fine with seeing Garza go -- he was never one of my favorites.

But still: There is no such thing as a lose-lose trade. Most MLB trades tend to be win-win, just with varying degrees of win. Both teams were trading according to their situation: I think the Cubs suspect they will need starters in 2012 and 2013 (Garza will be around through 2013), and the Rays would prefer to put Garza's cash towards a DH (I've heard rumors of Vladimir Guerrero, uh, yes please).

Still, we are entitled to believe in what we want. Some may choose to believe in Santa Clause until their dying day. But I never believed in Santa, and I rather liked this trade (for the Rays).

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Chicago Bears and Sacks


Image courtesy of the venerable Cubby-Blue blog.

So the Chicago Bears didn't beat the Packers, but at least they lost without sustaining any injuries and also got a better look at Rashied Davis and Greg Olsen.

At the same time, the Bears offense pushed their season sack total to 56 -- with 52 of those landing on Jay Cutler. On the extraordinary blog Cubby-Blue, Tim's above-featured painting got me thinking: How bad is 52 sacks?

Well, here's how Cutler's 2010 stats fit into the history of the NFL and AFL:


These are the top 100 most-sacked quarterbacks of all time. Jay Cutler's 2010 season ranks 27th worst of all time. Mind you, he himself did not perform particularly poorly. In fact, his ~86 passer rating puts him ahead of a number of peers (Cutler is the red dot):


All the blue dots to the left and below of Cutler performed worse than him, despite being sacked fewer times. That includes quarterbacks such as Warren Moon, Drew Beldsoe, Ron Jaworski, and Trent Dilfer.

Even though 2010 featured a lot of mud on Jay Cutler's jersey, I think we can safely assume it does not signify a lackluster quarterback. Consider, if you will, some of Cutler's esteemed neighbors: Phil Simms, Ben Roethlisberger, the aforementioned Drew Bledsoe, and -- yes -- even Aaron Rodgers.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

We're #4! We're #4!

In perhaps an eerie forecast of our 2011 standings, the Cubs rank the 4th worst in net gain via trade (according to the Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement statistic) over the last five years. Today, Beyond the Boxscore had a nifty info-graphic, depicting the Cub's shame:



Here's a note on the methodology and why the gains do not equal the losses from the author, Chris Spurlock:
What I looked at was potential WAR lost by being traded. If Team X had kept Player Y, what WAR would they have received via that player’s performance? So the “WAR sent” ended up being the total WAR a particular player achieved after he left the trading team. For example, Mark Teixeira has accrued 19.7 WAR since leaving Texas, so I assigned 19.7 WAR sent to Texas as a result of that trade, because they lost out on those stats as a result of losing Teixeira. The “WAR received” category, on the other hand, is strictly the WAR that player put up while with the receiving team. So, because Teixeira totaled 6.3 WAR while with Atlanta, that’s the value the Braves get in WAR received. So it makes sense then that WAR sent would be much higher.
This post is not meant as a naked bashing of Jim Hendry, mind you. Mr. mb21 of Another Cubs Blog has done an excellent job over the last year of carefully dissecting Hendry's work, and the verdict is more nebulous than this graphic may appear.

Still, we've not had trades go our way lately.

UPDATE: Mr. AK in the comments makes some very knowing complaints about the info-graphic. Please do read them. They summarize as such:
These calculations have a critical flaw. I hope he works to correct it, because he's done a lot of work, but right now, it's a pretty picture, yet a pretty distorted one.