Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cubs Sign David DeJesus, And Other Notes

My wish is my command?
A New Right Fielder for Wrigley
News broke Tuesday morning that the Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with right fielder David DeJesus.

I — and I imagine most saberists — rather like the move. DeJesus will earn $10M over the next two years with a club option for a third season in 2014. He's making half what the Cubs paid Carlos Pena, and given DeJesus's strong fielding and righty-mashing ways, he should easily be as productive or more-so than Carlos Pena, who earned (or, rather, will earn because of the contracts particulars) twice as much for just one season.

DeJesus will also be playing in the NL for the first time, a move that could very easily help his offensive production. The major drawback, of course, is that he'll be 32 in 2012, so he may start declining during his tenure with the Cubs, but his skillset (non-power, strong fielding) is the kind that typically ages well.

Hooray! I like the signing.

Ari Kaplan and Scouting Front Offices
Here's a rather good article from the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan wherein he sheds a little insight on Tom Rickett and his process of hiring Theo Epstein. He also spills the beans on what the Cubs lone stats guy, Ari Kaplan, was doing this past year:

After Jim Hendry's firing, Ricketts had statistical analysis manager Ari Kaplan and a consultant analyze all 30 teams on cost per victory, number of players developed, average value of their systems and other factors. He said he made about 20 calls to owners, GMs, former GMs and agents "to ask them what they would do in my situation."

And they said Get Theo Epstein. Go figure. Ari could've saved the time and asked me. :)

Double Maddux in Texas
Do you know who really needs help with their pitching staff? The Texas Rangers.

Yeah, they just keep churning out pitching superstars like the Tampa Bay Rays of brisket, but apparently they need more help because they just hired away Greg Maddux.

Thanks a lot, jerks.

Shoeless Joe, a Career Too Short
Yesterday I waxed historical and bemoaned the loss of perhaps 10 extra years of the great Joe Jackson.

I'm an unabashed Shoeless Joe fan, so remember that as you read the article, which does not share many kind words for ol' Pete Rose:
Frankly, I don’t care too much about Ol’ Rosey. Yeah, he leads the world in hits, but he certainly doesn’t lead the game in wOBA or wRC+ — in fact, depending on the plate appearances requirement, you might find him thereabouts of page 14 on that particular dispay (one sorted by wRC+, that is). To me, that screams empty batting average.
Sorry Rose fans, but I miss Jackson more than Head First Slide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicago Cubs: Dream Team?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rough Game For Caleb Hanie In Chicago Bears Loss

First of all, let's celebrate. The Chicago Bears sent two — count'em, two — offensive linemen to the IR this week, but despite that, the o-line may have played one of their best games of the year. They allowed one sack, but most the game, QB Caleb Hanie had a whole heaping of time to choose whether he wanted to run or throw an interception.

I kid. Hanie, of course, did not have a great game. In fact, he cost the Bears the game. The Bears most definitely could have won on Sunday had Jay Cutler played in Hanie's place — Hanie, mind you, threw three interceptions in the first half. Plus, his game-ending intentional grounding penalty seemed very un-Cutler-like.

Nonetheless, the Bears actually played a solid game. Johnny Knox had a few key drops, but also a few amazing catches en route to a 145 receiving yards, 1 touchdown day. Matt Forte, Marion Barber, and Caleb Hanie all sliced up the Raiders rush defense, but sadly, most of that came in the second half when the Bears were playing catch up.

The defense had just one bad drive. Tragically, it came late in the fourth quarter as the Bears were trying to keep the game reasonable. Carson Palmer launched a 3rd and 4 pass to Louis Murphy deep down the sideline, leading to an easy Michael Bush touchdown run. This put the game at 13-25 with 3:47 left, just about sealing the Bears' fate.

For the remainder of the game, the Bears defense — constantly battling from bad field position — slowed and stifled Palmer's dangerous offense. They mustered four sacks (Julius Peppers has already matched his total from 2010) and 10 tackles for loss. Also, Corey Graham got another interception, but the credit ought to go Brandon Meriweather's way for jumping and deflecting the pass in the first place.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The NBA Is BACK!


Fitz and The Tantrums have been anointed as our "house band." Kind of like Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. Similar... but different.

After five months of "negotiation," the players union and NBA owners have reached a tentative agreement that will return our NBA on Christmas Day (with a great gift of Heat v. Mavericks in Dallas). They will play sixty-six games in 3.5 months.

The Bulls remain, for the most part, the same team as last year so the same questions remain:
  • Do the Bulls have enough offensive firepower to get past the Heat?
  • Will the Bulls trade for a legitimate shooting guard?
  • Will we be cursing Carlos Boozer every time he touches the ball?
  • Will Taj Gibson progress as a backup and will we be clamoring for him if Carlos Boozer struggles?
  • Will Derrick Rose's narrative lead him to repeat as NBA MVP or will players like Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki, or Dwight Howard win the MVP award?
  • Will I get to see fellow Marquette alum, Jimmy Butler, play some shut down defense on Lebron James?
  • Will the Bulls FINALLY retire Dennis Rodman's number (seriously, what more does a man have to do to get his number retired)?
These questions are a good thing. Regardless of what the advanced stats may say this season, it's good to have the NBA back.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford GVT And More Ben Smith

NOTE - I compiled the GVT data and wrote this post hours before the Hawks put the smack-down on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Last hockey season, I took a look at GVT (or Goals Versus Threshold) primarily for Corey Crawford and Marty Turco. And with 31 games remaining, I checked out their GVT again to see how Crawford was progressing. As the PuckStopsHere stated, GVT does some things really well and some things not so well:
All told, the goals versus threshold system ranks goaltenders versus other goaltenders quite well. The calibration with position players is problematic. The system ranks the offensive ability of players well, with minor considerations for defensive ability. It does a reasonable job of incorporating defensemen in the rankings if they score well but it struggles to capture defensive ability.
According to GVT, Corey Crawford was light years ahead of veteran, Marty Turco; a swing of 24.8 goals better to be exact: And Hockey Prospectus ranked Crawford's GVT, for the 2010-11 season, 13th in the top 15 goaltenders in the league.

Although relatively early in the season, Crawford's GVT is -1.5 (no need for a graph) which means he's allowed 1.5 more goals than replacement level. No time to panic... yet. But he is playing closer to replacement level (average) than the talent level he showed us last season. Based on last years GVT (15) and his young NHL career (he's only 26), he has the ability to be a top-ten (maybe top-five) goaltender in the league. But as the Hawks struggle on offense, an average goaltender is not a good mix.

"Get Smith Out There!"
That's what I shouted at Hawks Training Camp Fest... even when I was waiting in line for some nachos (extra peppers, please).

It looks like Ben Smith has recovered from that vicious hit Detroit Red Wing, Brendan Smith gave him during the preseason (let's put an end to Smith-on-Smith violence). Ben Smith has 7 points in 7 games for the Rockford Icehogs. Although he has played in less games than most of his teammates (11), his shooting percentage is 21.1% (4 goals/19 shots). Last season, through 63 games for the Icehogs, his shooting percentage was 17% (19/112). It's hard to see where his true talent level is because his sample size is small. In last season's playoffs, Smith played 7 games, scored 3 goals on 6 shots (50%) which included a game winner. But there is something to Ben Smith besides the small sample size -- his narrative:
Named the Most Outstanding Player in the Frozen Four Tournament with four points (3g-1a) ... Finished the 2007-08 season on a seven-game goal-scoring streak totaling 12 points (7g-6a)...Named to the All-Tournament team at the NCAA Frozen Four in 2007-08 after recording five points (2g-3a)...Earned the Bernie Burke Outstanding Freshman Award at Boston College...Captured Hockey East Rookie of the Month honors for April during the 2006-07 season...Was a member of the 2005 U.S. Under-18 Select Team that finished fourth at the Under-18 Junior World Cup...Played for the U.S. Under-17 Select Team that finished second at the 2004 Under-17
I think Ben Smith has skills that the Hawks could benefit. I'm not saying he can rescue this team from the funk they are in, but he may be able to contribute something.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Next Order Of Cubs Business: New Uniforms

The front office changes the past couple of weeks have revived the organization and a fan base -- this is true. But there's one piece of business left.

I have the home uniform and it's... meh. It's not as iconic like the Yankees uniform. The embroidered patch is annoying and I wish the Cubs went with a more classic, iconic look. These unis would compliment the majesty of Wrigley Field. Sure, the Cubs breakout the classics a couple of games a year, but I want more we deserve more.

For you detractors out there, what would be better than seeing the Cubs wearing classic uniforms at Wrigley Field ALL THE TIME? That's right, nothing. The uniforms won't help the Cubs win more games but it does shed an image that is associated with a regime that couldn't figure out how to build a competitive organization.

The hiring of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has already improved the brand but a successful brand strategy matches the business strategy. And it's no secret that Theo not only wants to change the way the organization thinks about business but also the meaning of being a Cubs fan. He has created a new value proposition for the Cubs and this message of value and differentiation will be passed through marketing and advertising channels. We'll see and hear catchy better slogans ("It's a way of life", smh). But let's not forget about the uniforms.
Yes. We. Can.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Cubs Want Swansons

If you haven't heard about the Cubs interview process by now, know that it involves statistics, behavior, and strategic management (I salivated writing this sentence).

The Cubs have taken the interview process and built it around their needs. Sure, we can easily say corporate America does the same thing... but it doesn't. A job position should be defined clearly and an interview process should capture a candidates skill sets holistically. For some of us that have been through the miserable gauntlet of job interviews, it is absolutely depressing. Too many firms are focused on vague experience.

In a country with 9% unemployment (I banish you, underemployment. I. Banish. You.), I believe the interview process has included more ambiguity. Whether you're applying for a Project Manager, Statistician, Underwater Basket-Weaver or Manager of the Chicago Cubs, the focus should be on defining this role across the organization and making it very clear to the candidate on what is being expected. I believe Theo and Co. have done that. Their message is clear like the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness:


So cheers to the Cubs on revolutionizing the interview process. And extra cheers if it includes bacon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Theo Epstein, CPA

During our weekly conversation, Brad and I were giddy about Theo Epstein; we talked about how his swagger has already changed the mindset of Cubs fans (see: Optimism Goggles) but one thing caught our attention. Theo was talking assets on the Waddle and Silvy show and said:
We’re looking for assets. We’re going to scratch and claw and do everything in our power- in the draft, internationally, small trades, waiver claims... We need to build assets because we don’t have enough of them. We’re not going to look past one that might be sitting right there in our organization.
Amaze.

Assets. They are a very good thing. They can increase the value of a firm, provide benefit to firm operations, and/or generate cash flow. And I believe Theo is talking more about fixed assets than current assets:
  • Fixed assets are expected to provide benefit for more than one year (think: strong player development, Dominican presence, and entering untapped markets (India, anyone? It's only a country of a billion people... I'm sure there's some baseball players, somewhere))
  • Whereas current assets are consumed within one year (think: one-year deals via waiver claims or free agency)
Everything that I've read about Theo and the Cubs points to allocating capital that will be beneficial for stakeholders (fans)... finally. When you invest and build assets internally, it alleviates risk of building/overpaying players via free agency. Internal growth of assets allow you to rely more on your internal valuations, process, and operations. Developing a system based on fundamentals, valuation, and analytical/traditional scouting seems to be Theo's priority.

For Epstein, CPA doesn't mean Certified Public Accountant. But rather, Cubs Promoter of Assets.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mike Quade Out, Ryne Sandberg Not A Candidate

The Cubs have fired Mike Quade and
don't seem interested in Ryne Sandberg.
Big news today in the world of the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has made the call. Mike Quade --> fired:
We are looking for someone with whom and around whom we can build a foundation for sustained success. The next manager must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.
I pointed out yesterday in my coverage of the Theo Epstein / Jed Hoyer press conference that the term sustainable success has become the franchise's new motto.

What does that mean? Well, the old motto was: "We think we've got a good team this year."

Now, the Cubs are de facto saying: "We will be good for many years, but maybe not this one."

This is exactly what Will and I have wanted to hear for — literally — years. Forget this year! Forget 2012! What matters is the long run. I wouldn't sell one season for two, and neither will Epstein and Co.

So with Mike Quade gone, the Chicago Cubs seem to be hemorrhaging managers:

ESPNstats
Who do they go with next? Well, as you, faithful reader of blockquotes, will notice, Theo clearly stated he wants someone with MLB managing experience.

That pretty much removes fan favorite Ryne Sandberg from contention.

Moreover, the buzz around our Twitter and Facebook pages have suggested that Theo has already reached out to the Philadelphia Phillies to inform Sandberg he is not a candidate for the manager's position.

This is damn classy after Jim Hendry gave Sandberg the proverbial middle finger:
“There was no other job offering [from the Cubs for 2011] other than, ‘We’d like you to come to spring training, hit a couple of fungoes and walk around’,” Sandberg said. “At that point, I knew it was time to move on.
Sandberg was essentially stonewalled by Hendry. It is nice to see Epstein repairing that bridge. Maybe someday he comes to manage the Cubs? Well, for now, it looks like he may have a better chance at managing against them:

Sandberg in St. Louis
Go under the jump to see some more Twitter updates on the manager search.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Notes From The Jed Hoyer, Jason McLoed Press Conference

I've been told in the past that I write for, like, a billiondy sites. It's true. I'm not sure how it happened, but such is that case.

Anyway, I was working the SB Nation newsdesk today during the Chicago Cubs press conference wherein they officially announced the hiring of GM Jed Hoyer and Development and Scouting VP Jason McLoed. My initial reactions and details from the conference can be found on SB Nation Chicago:
  • Epstein met with current manager Mike Quade and feels they are approaching a resolution on the manager situation. Epstein said he wanted a "resolution within a week." Epstein is largely expected to release Quade, who does not particularly fit well with the analytically progressive new front office.
  • In explaining the roles and responsibilities of the new executives, Epstein said Jed Hoyer will run day-to-day baseball operations, while Jason McLoed will be in charge of scouting and player development -- but that Epstein himself will still very much be a part of the Cubs operations.
  • The phrase of the day seemed to be sustainable success. None of the executives today were willing to stake a claim on the 2012 season, but instead focused on their intentions to build a team that can compete year-after-year.
  • Epstein admitted the position with the Cubs became much more attractive once he knew he could bring Hoyer and McLoed in as executives.
My recap is fairly robust, so I'll stop it there. Anyway, long story short:
  • The new direction is everything we could have ever hoped for in our wildest, most amazing dreams of dreams.
  • Our new front office is serious crazy attractive.