Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cubs Sign Dioner Navarro; Nary A Cause For Celebration

News broke this afternoon that the Chicago Cubs had signed catcher Dioner Navarro. My buddies at Cubs Den said:
...Navarro would be the veteran the Cubs have been looking to back up Welington Castillo.

Navarro is an excellent defensive catcher with a good arm and solid contact skills at the plate.
And our friends at World Series Dreaming said:
Based on what we know of Navarro he's probably as good as or better than Clevenger would be anyway. Most likely inexpensive. Details to come but wouldn't be surprised if it was a minor league/spring training invite type of thing.
But as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays since Dioner Navarro's MLB debut, I can say with conviction that Navarro is neither a good hitter nor a good defender -- and if the reports of a $1.75 million MLB deal are true, then the Cubs unfortunately overpaid for him.

All The Scott Baker Analysis You'll Ever Need

Dave Cameron is on it:
But, just like with Paul Maholm last winter, this is exactly the kind of guy that the Cubs should be filling out their rotation with. Decent, young-ish starter with upside and no long term commitment who can provide solid results and potentially serve as a nice trade chip at the deadline. Or, if things go really well, they get a leg up on re-signing him before he hits the market again next winter.

For a rebuilding team, this is how Major League payroll should be used. Use available jobs and cash to sign guys who can offer some upside without locking yourself into any long term risk, and position the roster to offer the fans a decent product without giving up any of the long term assets that the team is building around. The cost isn’t so low that it would have made sense for every team to do this deal, but for a club like the Cubs, this is exactly the kind of move that makes sense.
Scott Baker will wow nary a scout or fan in 2013. That is almost a certainty. But he will be a good gamble, even if he Chris Volstad's his way out the door.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Will 42 Be The Best Baseball Movie Ever?

Hellifiknow how good this movie will be, but I do know Will and I are quite eager to see this film -- not just because it has Harrison Ford and baseball and Jackie Robinson -- but also because it has one of the forefathers of sabermetrics, Mr. Branch Rickey, who used OBP about 60 years before it was cool, who invented the minor league system, and who also happened to be the GM who broke (technically re-broke) the color barrier by signing the Mr. Robinson.

If 42 does not look at least promising so far, I am not sure what to say. Brian Helgeland wrote and directed the piece, and though he certainly has a few stinkers on his resume, an L.A. Confidential credit rings well, so does having executive producers from Cabin in the Woods and The Hangover franchise.

Here's hoping this one hits a -- wait for it -- home run. Or at least steals of home.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Bears On The Cusp Of Greatness

So the Chicago Bears won, like, big on Sunday. And so it is very much time to start thinking about the bigger aspirations for this team. Playoff-type aspirations.

Which means comparing the Bears to the the other top teams around the league. One of the easiest ways to take an advanced look at the Bears versus other elite teams is considering the EPA (expected points added) and WPA (winning probability added) offered on the NFL Advanced Stats visualization page.

Here's the executive summary:

The advanced stats agree with the talking heads: The Bears have a great defense, hampered by a poor offense. It's not that Jay Cutler is making terrible decisions, or that Brandon Marshall isn't a legit receiver, or that Matt Forte isn't one of the league's better all-around backs. It falls all directly on the o-line's inability to pass block.

The Bears offensive line is not actually a bad run-blocking unit (ranked No. 13 entering Week 9, according to Football Outsiders), but they are horrid at stopping a pass rush (No. 31, says FO). Considering the league is moving towards an even more pass-heavy system (what with additional protections offered to wide receivers and quarterbacks every year, this makes sense), the Bears really need to prioritize pass defense above run blocking.

They have the skill players for a successful passing system -- Marshall and Earl Bennett have great hands and after-the-catch skills, Devin Hester could become a screening demon, Forte does everything, and Cutler has the arm of a demigod. The missing component is pass blocking, but unfortunately, that is something they may not be able to correct until 2013.