April 23, 2014

LOSING

Well, duh.

“Nothing related to losing ever gets easier,” Theo Epstein said to CSNChicago.  “Losing sucks. When losing stops sucking, you should probably find another career.”

“We’re trying to build a really healthy organization,” Epstein said. “There’s myriad challenges that present themselves daily until you throw yourselves into those challenges and try to get better.”

“There’s 50 things a day that can come up that provide an opportunity to get a little bit better as an organization,” Epstein said. “That’s just one person. We have a hundred people working on this thing. So (it’s not like): ‘Oh…the losing. It doesn’t get any easier.’ It’s not like we spend a ton of time sitting around stewing about that.

“You just try to throw yourself into all the opportunities that present themselves to make us better, so that we can win as quickly as possible and for as long as possible.”

Epstein described a typical day: Visit Class-A Kane County. Watch draft video. Watch minor-league video. Read scouting reports and player plans. Talk to scouts and minor-league instructors. 

But what Epstein has not said is how all the front office and staff work is changing the losing culture of the organization. If you have one hundred people working on winning, why aren't the Cubs winning? There continues to be no time table for the turnaround, i.e. winning, at the major league level. People are not quite sure the Cubs have not hit rock bottom yet. Constant losing creates rabid pessimists.

FED UP


FIRE SALE

Observers have said it was only a matter of time. The unorthodox throwing motion was going to get him.  Scouts have long been considered him an injury risk, with some mechanics experts pointing to the “inverted-W” formed by his elbows in the middle of his delivery as an additional red flag.

But it may not have been the motion, but the number of pitches that did Chris Sale in.

The White Sox placed their ace on the disabled list on Monday with a flexor muscle strain in his left elbow. It is the first time in the 25-year-old’s career that he has hit the DL and the first time he has had any issues with his elbow. However, early in his career he was shortly demoted to the bullpen due to arm concerns by management. Sale was upset with the move, and later regained his starting position.

A flexor mass strain is not a major injury. Sale will miss at least two starts. The season is still early but there fast start has had warning signs.  The White Sox boast the major league’s hottest offense in the early going, leading the majors with 5.45 runs scored per game, but Sale had, unsurprisingly, been by far their best pitcher, going 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA and his usual strong peripherals through his first four starts. But the bullpen has been a mess, and season ending dive for a fly ball has cost right fielder Avisail Garcia his season.


It was because the bullpen had been so bad recently (Robin Ventura used four pitchers to get out of one inning), Sale took it upon himself to duel with Boston's Jon Lester. Sale threw a career high 127 pitches in the loss. It was after that outing that he had more soreness than normal. An MRI revealed no ligament damage, but the team shut him down anyway.

The White Sox are in need of another starting pitcher before the Sale injury. Felipe Paulino has been horrible. But the White Sox, who have depth in middle infield spots, will not trade away valuable position players this early in the season. The front office is hoping that pitching guru Don Cooper will get some quality magic out of Charlie Leesman and any other AAA call-up during Sale's injury time.

PROVERB FIT FOR FANS

Do not anxiously hope for what is not yet to come; do not vainly regret what is already past.

— Chinese Proverb

April 22, 2014

THE REBUILD


THE ONES WHO GET AWAY

Yahoo Sports recently wrote about a Cub prospect doing quite well in the majors.

Despite averaging 94.5 mph with his fastball while posting a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Andrew Cashner recorded just 128 strikeouts over 175.0 innings last season after finally becoming a full-time starter. The K rate improved after the All-Star break, when he produced a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with a 61:19 K:BB ratio over 75.2 innings. In  Cashner’s first three starts of the season, he allowed just three runs over 21.0 innings, fanning 22 batters over that span. Cashner’s outing against the Tigers was especially dominant, as he tossed a shutout against Detroit, striking out 11 and yielding one lone hit (a single). 

Cashner's strike out percentage (27.5) is a career high. As any pitcher with a 1.29 ERA, Cashner has experienced some good fortune in the early going, as his .196 BABIP is especially good considering he also has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. But all those ground balls should lead to few home runs allowed, and he also hasn’t given up many line drives (16.0%). PETCO Park has increased strikeouts by nine percent over the past three years, which is the most in baseball, so Cashner has that going for him as well. 

Yahoo Sports concluded that part of the reason the Cubs traded him was because they didn’t think Cashner could ever be a 200-inning workhorse, but assuming he can stay healthy, he has all the makings of being a top-15 starter.

Those are the kinds of stories you don't want to hear when the Cubs are having a drought finding quality, young starting pitchers from their system.

April 21, 2014

17 GAMES IN

It is a small sample size, but it has big ramifications:

The Cubs have struck out as a team an appalling 27% of their at-bats.

The Cubs hitters have a combined NEGATIVE 0.5 WAR. The Cubs best hitter, Emelio Bonifacio has a 0.6 WAR to date.

The Cubs pitching staff has a combined 2.4 WAR.  Jeff Samardzija is the best player on the team, with a 1.4 WAR to date.

The Cubs are on pace to lose 114 games. The team record for losses in a season is 103 (1962 and 1966). The current team WAR confirms that trend as a team of replacement level players would win approximately 45 games, the Cubs are projected at 46-116.