Monday, October 31, 2011

L.O.V. - Theo Epstein

Another Fitz and The Tantrums song that seems to be fitting courtesy of KEXP in Seattle.

What's NOT to love about the Cubs right now? After yet another depressing season, the Cubs did the unthinkable: they added value to the organization by hiring the talented and lovely Theo Epstein. This has been the best news on the Northside since the off season of 2006. In a matter of two weeks, the Cubs managed to uptick focusing on the long-term plan while the White Sox managed to downtick faster than Lehman Brothers (questionable management and naked short selling, anyone?).

But as Jason Roberts points out:
Cubs fans should realize that their roster is more akin to a tear down than a remodeling project.

As for the future, the Cubs farm system has more depth than the one Epstein inherited in Boston, but few if any of these players can be counted on to contribute immediately. This year’s crop of free agents is deep at first base, but lacking in high impact guys at most other positions. It is too early to assess what Epstein’s short term strategy will be for the Cubs, but if Cubs fans are expecting immediate success, they are in for continued disappointment.
It's pretty much agreed here at Cubs Stats that the Cubs will struggle to be competitive next year. Sure, Theo could pull some magic out of his fedora but, as he mentioned on the Waddle and Silvy show, he seems focused on improving their business model at every level to be competitive for the long-term:
The work of building a foundation is going to take some time. We have to enter every winter no matter what is on the roster or what happened the year before saying what can we do to put ourselves in the best possible position to win. Opportunities to win are sacred. I think what [Cubs fans] really want is to be competitive every year. You don’t want that one year where things go well and you happen to win ninety two games and a couple series and then you disappear for the next five years. I think what this is all about is building a foundation to have a core that can get us in deep, deep into September and October every single year.
Kool-aid never tasted so good.

Should The Cubs Bring Carlos Back In 2012?

John Arguello of Cubs Den does an excellent job here weighing the pros and cons of a bringing Carlos Pena back to the Cubs in 2012:
Pena's return is very much in question but my guess is that the Cubs would welcome him back on a 2 year deal at around $16M or so, about the average worth Pena has had over the past two years.   They will not get in a bidding war if that's what Boras eventually wants to do.  In that scenario, the Cubs would simply give the 1B job to LaHair and use the money to upgrade elsewhere.
As many know, I am a big fan of the Boot 2012 campaign, wherein the Chicago Cubs essentially pay no one more than $5M and just cull a bunch of great draft picks. That being said, I love Carlos Pena and love that I have been able to root for him for the last four years.

I think 2 years at $16M (maybe $7M in 2012, $9M in 2013) would be great — possibly a steal — but I doubt Borris gets so little for Pena.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

VIDEO: Theo Epstein Announced As Cubs President

Here's the abridged video of Tom Ricketts announcing Theo Epstein as the new President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs:

If you're a Cubs fan and not excited about these Chicago Cubs, then you must be crazy.

Look, I fully expect 2012 to be a pretty miserable year for the on-field product, but the Cubs organization is pointing more upward than the John Hancock Tower.

Theo Epstein Bids Farwell To Boston

Cubs fans, count yourselves lucky. You have just received a brilliant, calculative, and above all professional executive:
Football legend Bill Walsh used to say that coaches and executives should seek change after 10 years with the same team. The theory is that both the individual and the organization benefit from a change after so much time together. The executive gets rebirth and the energy that comes with a new challenge; the organization gets a fresh perspective, and the chance for true change that comes with new leadership. This idea resonated with me. Although I tried my best to fight it, I couldn’t escape the conclusion that both the Red Sox and I would benefit from a change sometime soon.
If Boston Red Sox fans have anything less than appreciation for the man who just left their organization, then they deserve all the suffering that was September. Theo's farewell to Boston is both honest and intelligent — a good read for both Cubs and Red Sox fans.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cubs Prospect Daniel Vogelbach: A Good, Surprising Start

Happy Theo Day, everyone! It appears the Theo deal is all but announced, meaning the Cubs are ready to move forward with life and such.

Meanwhile, I took some time to peruse some minor league stats today, and whatayaknow I found something positive! Down in the rookie league, my man Daniel Vogelbach — the Chicago Cubs 2nd round draft pick this year, and my personal favorite Cubs pick of the draft — played in only 6 games this year (not uncommon for recent draft picks to squeeze a few games in before the season's end).

He put up an impressive .292/.370/.542 slash to go with his 1 homer, but what is most shocking is that this monster of a man:

Stole a freakin' base.

Go figure.
Year   Age   Tm   Lg Lev Aff G PA HR SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS HBP
2011    18 Cubs ARIZ  Rk CHC 6 27 1   1  0  2  2 .292 .370 .542 .912 1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/22/2011.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cubs Signing Pujols And La Russa? The Most Terrible Idea Of Terrible Ideas... Ever

Essssspiin columnist, Johnette Howard had this brilliant idea:
Epstein has to figure out how to get Pujols and La Russa to the Cubs.
There's not a better package deal or way for Epstein to jump-start the franchise than bringing La Russa and Pujols to Wrigley Field.
I am not a big supporter of signing Pujols. Not because I don't think he's a great player, he most definitely is. But because of the rationality involved:

Wins Above Replacement
Carlos Pena was worth 2.6 wins (according wins above replacement or WAR) in 2011. Albert Pujols on the other hand had a 5.1 WAR. This would only net the Cubs 2.5 WAR, which would still leave the Cubs at "bad team" status. This would only bring them to 74 wins — still not good enough to win the division.

The Cubs could possibly be paying Pujols $30m per year. That's $5.8m per win. BUT because the Cubs only net 2.5 wins signing him, this number balloons to: $12m per win. In my opinion, this is a bad move financially for the Cubs. Mostly because they are not even close to being contenders.

For them to win the NL Central next year, a combination of things would have to happen:
  • Pujols would have to be singed by the Cubs
  • Fielder would have to leave the NL Central
  • Cincinnati would have to have a bad year (hey, we saw what happened to the White Sox this year)
  • Third base would need to be figured out (no Aramis, please)
  • A commitment to defense and baserunning? Yes, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • An extreme amount of luck

The Cubs Are Still Bad
And they're bad at almost every level of the organization. Signing Pujols (and La Russa, which is just crazy talk that I won't address) is a familiar step in the wrong direction. The Cubs should use their monies, effort, and brainpower to strengthen their farm system, scouting (analytical and traditional), process, and technology.

An idea should not be what the Cubs sell but rather its process, execution, and output. Fans are investors and, at some point, we will want a return on our investment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tomorrow Is A Big Day For Cubs Fans

Will got me hooked on these guys, Fitz and the Tantrums, so let's allow their upbeat rhythms and throwback garb sing us into a new era as the Cubs break the chains of their historical love of mediocrity.

It's not yet official, but it's done. Theo Epstein is coming to Chicago! Moreover, he's bringing Jed Hoyer with him!

For those who don't know, the real Chicago Cubs curse is not the Curse of the Billy Goat — it has long been the curse of bad management. The last time the Chicago Cubs had a managerial advantage was when first baseman and part-time manager / general manager Frank Chance had enough people skills to swing a trade for Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown.

The Cubs were one of the last teams to invest in farm teams. They were one of the last teams to cross the color barrier. They were one of the last teams to invest heavily overseas.

But now they are not one of the last teams. They are perhaps the 6th or maybe 7th team to dive into the sabermetric pool, and with both Epstein and Hoyer, they are diving into the deep end, head first.

Tomorrow, the announcement should go official and the Era of the Lovable Losers will begin its end.

Update: Twitter user @EricFlaris pointed out to the @Cubs_Stats Twitter account that the Theo deal is not yet finalized — rather, the Hoyer deal is. So, though Jed Hoyer is pretty much a sure thing at this point, Theo's Eve will apparently be some other night. :(

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FanGraphs: What Is Trey McNutt Worth?

Well, it's pretty hard to put a value on a guy, specifically Trey McNutt still in the minors — especially when he's only been a prospect for about a year. Still, he's one of the best pitchers in the Chicago Cubs minor league system.

Anyway, the Red Sox have expressed interest in a McNut-for-Theo Epstein swap — after laughably asking for Matt Garza. Should the Cubs consider it? Well, my answer on FanGraphs was, "Eh, maybe":
Maybe if they feel the Red Sox are willing to go a season with two GMs on the payroll, maybe if the Cubs aren’t willing to wait potentially deep into the off-season, maybe if they feel like McNutt will never develop a changeup and capable third pitch, maybe if they see Epstein as a significant upgrade over any other target (he couldn’t have been any lower than their second choice), maybe if they are just tired of waiting, they will push McNutt across the table — maybe.
Honestly, though, given the hugely conflicting reports out of Boston — first they wanted cash, then Garza, now McNutt — I'd just wait a few more days until they want Starlin Castro and then nothing at all.

Monday, October 17, 2011

NFL Week 6: Bears-Vikings Postgame Thoughts

Last night — gloriously featured on national television — the Chicago Bears (3-3) whupped the Minnesota Vikings (1-5), winning 39-10. The game was fantastic in many ways. If you have the means to, watch the game (assuming you're a Bears fan).

Yes, the Bears were supposed to win this game. The Vikings are straight terrible right now. Still, a blowout is comforting.

And this game was delightful.

Bullet-tastic, recap-ishtic thoughts from the game:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brett Jackson Is Fair Compensation For Theo Epstein?

Apparently, Keith Law of ESPN suggested that outfielder Brett Jackson is a "non-star prospect" and would make fair compensation for the Cubs acquisition of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.

Okay, that leaves us two items to ponder: (1) Is Brett Jackson being overrated by us Cubs fans? And (2) what is fair compensation for Epstein?

Brett Jackson's Value
Let's take a look at Jackson's numbers so far:

2009 20 3 Teams A-A--Rk 53 249 8 13 2 .318 .418 .488 .906
2010 21 2 Teams A+-AA 128 580 12 30 11 .297 .395 .493 .888
2011 22 2 Teams AA-AAA 115 512 20 21 7 .274 .379 .490 .869
3 Seasons 296 1341 40 64 20 .292 .393 .491 .884
AA (2 seasons) AA 128 565 16 33 10 .266 .370 .454 .823
A (1 season) A 26 128 7 11 1 .295 .383 .545 .927
Rk (1 season) Rk 3 15 0 0 0 .455 .533 .636 1.170
A- (1 season) A- 24 106 1 2 1 .330 .443 .398 .841
AAA (1 season) AAA 48 215 10 6 1 .297 .388 .551 .939
A+ (1 season) A+ 67 312 6 12 7 .316 .420 .517 .937
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2011.

So, at age 22, he reached Triple-A, whereupon he hit .297/.388/.551. That's impressive to me, but I don't get to see him play defense, so it's kind of hard to get a full picture here. On top of that, he had only about 250 plate appearances &#151 nowhere near a full season.

He has spent most of his time in Double-A and not really done too much there. Yeah, 21-years-old and hitting 266/.370/.454 in a league much older than you is indeed impressive, but not really Superstar impressive. Moreover, I am inclined to err on the side of Keith Law who, though abrasive on Twitter, certainly knows prospects.

So maybe Jackson is not a star in the making. Is he worth Epstein?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Theo Epstein To-Do List

A final tip of the hat from Byrd?
Over at Fangraphs, I took the liberty of postulating Epstein's first moves as the presumptive de facto GM of the Chicago Cubs. In short, I think he needs to (a) fill the front office with elite, brilliant talent, (b) trade a bunch of guys, and (c) no re-sign some others. In long:
Given the Cubs $130M budget range, they could conceivably be in contention in 2013 or 2014, but with their present dearth of pitching depth and elite players (the Cubs haven’t had a 7 bWAR player since Sammy Sosa, and only 1 time in 19 years; the Cardinals have had at least one for 11 of the last 14 years), they would need quite a few Jose Bautista-type surprises to win anything meaningful in 2012.

If and when Theo Epstein becomes the next Cubs GM, the Northside faithful need to fully anticipate lots of personnel changes and — more importantly — a very rough and young 2012.
Here's to hoping I'm wrong and the Cubs win it all in 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why The Chicago Cubs Fail

Disclaimer: This is not a post on why the Cubs didn't make the playoffs this year. Nor a post crunching numbers (UZR, WAR, BABIP, etc). Nor is it a post questioning the leadership of Tom Ricketts. Nay. This is a post about looking at the Chicago Cubs organization failures in aggregate -- as a business. What I present to you in this post is unsubstantiated but I think there is some truth reading between the lines.

The list of failures of the Chicago Cubs organization are endless: fail to consistently develop talent from within, create and nurture innnovative thinking, using advanced analytics to gain a competitive advantage, player over-valuation, lack of effective scouting, organizational leadership, transparency, galvanizing goals. The Cubs have failed at all of these things. This is true. The Cubs ARE terrible and they are bad at everything. But the on-the-field-product (or lack thereof) is a result of something bigger -- something that has been ignored.

When I think of the Cubs organization (and previous ownership), I am reminded of one of my favorite clips from Mad Men. The older business owner thinking in terms of quantity (basically a finite view of his business); while Don Draper (personal hero) explains that the business owner needs to focus on passing value (ownership) onto the customer:

(I luvz me some kinetic typography)