Posts Tagged ‘Theo!’

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

“Another symptom of progress toward the Singularity: ideas themselves should spread ever faster, and even the most radical will quickly become commonplace.”

-Vernon Vinge

I recently lent out my copy of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, the book that started an interesting statistical revolution in the game of baseball. In re-reading it over the years and gaining a different context on what the book was really about, I’ve come to rest my baseball mind in an interesting little place that exists firmly in between the objective and the subjective. Scout eyes and numbers, which in my limited case is Baseball Reference and Youtube.

Which is how it should be really. I can’t say that I always had that approach, I was on both sides of the fence at one point or another. I’ve slanted more SABR in the advent of Moneyball, and at points I went all numbers in an obsessive quest to find that one number that would define a player.

That one number, that I can use to prove or disprove a player’s worth.

That’s where the problems really start. I think too many think like I did, that there is one all-encompassing number out there that can take into account Power, bat control, batting eye, fielding, and speed. It’s kind of video game mentality I think, where we want to believe that a player’s worth can be summed up by one number, like a 99 rating on Madden.

It’s bullshit.

That’s not to say that numbers suck, because they certainly don’t. Numbers are very important to the fabric of baseball. People know numbers, fans identify with certain numbers. There’s been some tremendous work in the SABR field that has really educated people on what’s important in the game. Some of it seems like it should have been intuitive. Making outs, wherever they are, is very bad. Productive outs are predominantly dumb. Pitchers that strike a lot of people out generally fare better than those that don’t.

I think it distorted a lot of people’s view on baseball. I’ve heard the “You can play baseball on a spreadsheet” joke one too many times for my liking. The game is played by people who have tendencies. That’s it. The numbers show you those tendencies, their play on the field still dictates wins and losses.

wOBA is the new, en vogue number. It’s intriguing and it simplifies certain aspects of offensive value, but it still doesn’t tell the whole picture. That’s fine. Bill James once said you can get an idea of what a player looked like by his statistical line. I still think player worth should be determined by the total package, and not a process that grinds the numbers into 1. Different components mean different things to different players playing different positions. Worth cannot be defined by a single statistic because that oversimplifies the issue. You lose perspective dismissing SB’s because they’re risky. You still have to watch to fully appreciate a player’s worth, and combine that with the stats.

The Cubs Draft

Here’s a nifty mini video on Albert Almora, the Cubs #1 overall pick. It was said at the beginning of the Theo regime that this would take years and the Cubs showed you just how far away they think they are via the draft. Theo stressed the importance of drafting and developing players through the farm system and raising them up from there. 4 of their first 5 picks were high school kids that always need more grooming. 7 of their first 8 were pitchers that also typically take more time to develop. There’s going to be a long gap before any of the talent that Theo selected in the draft can contribute. That was the plan all along, they told you that was the plan all along, and still people are freaking out, pushing the Rizzo panic button, hoping for a savior.

There are no saviors. This isn’t like the NFL/NBA draft, where physical build and talent can carry you while you learn the game. Baseball prospects are a notoriously flaky bunch. MiLB is a war of attrition, 1238 players were selected in this year’s draft, and that happens every single year around this time. Think about that, 1200 players are ingested by 30 organizations every year. That’s a damn high turnover ratio. It doesn’t even mean guys drafted in the latter rounds are throw-away picks either. Albert Pujols lasted 12 rounds, Mike Piazza was drafted as a favor, Jim Thome lasted 13 rounds in the draft. Baseball is so extremely hard to project on young kids, it’s without a doubt the hardest sport to identify talent for at the amateur levels. It’s getting better, but it’s still largely a mystery.

So, what do we know of the Cubs draft? They put a premium on young talent with high ceilings. Albert Almora was they guy they were targeting all along, and he’s currently playing the leverage game. Almora doesn’t project to be a five tool guy, if he did he’d probably be gone by pick 1/1. He has good makeup and a high baseball IQ, which is important to find in high schoolers. You can kinda tell which guys went to baseball academies. Almora and Correa look like they’ve been taught the game at a high level for a long time. Almora was selected to Team USA at 14, so he’s pretty well refined.

From MLB.com:

Almora has played for USA Baseball as much as any player in history. He’s played in big situations and shown natural leadership abilities over the years.He’s also got many tools to get excited about. He should be an above-avearge hitter at the next level, with an ability to drive the ball to all fields. He’ll have above-average power as well and shows it in games now, especially to the pull side. He’s a solid average runner and knows what to do on the basepaths. Defensively, he’s a plus center fielder with excellent arm strength and range.All of his tools play up because of his plus makeup and work ethic. That combination should have plenty of teams in the first round taking a long look at him.

That’s a pretty rosy picture of him. I think he has the best shot out of any of the draftees to play regularly at Wrigley, but he’s got a lot of work to do. He has to sign first and foremost. His tools are all projection, meaning that he doesn’t have power, but his frame looks like it’ll add good weight, translating to power. His hit tool is pretty good for a HS kid, but Vitters had a good one too and he’s just figuring it out. His biggest asset is an ability to read the ball off the bat and take good angles to the ball. Scouts love his fielding, so he, not Brett Jackson, is probably who Theo have in mind for their CF of the future.

Sox draft recap tomorrow.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

The purpose of this article is to inform you, the Chicago baseball fan, about the draft as much as I can. If you want some hardcore draft analysis, check out Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. I’ll reference that and other sites a lot, so it’s probably a good idea to get yourself acquainted with their work.

The MLB draft is gaining a lot of attention locally with Theo Epstein coming to town to run the baseball ops of the Chicago Cubs. I think this is the most attention the draft has ever received locally. What the draft means to White Sox fans should also be important for a few reasons. The Chicago White Sox have been in a weird “Win Now” mode since 2000. I can’t think of many developmental years since Kenny Williams became the GM. He’s earned a reputation as a gambler, someone who views prospects as suspects, and most importantly, a GM that isn’t afraid to empty the system to go after talent.

That’s why the White Sox farm system is panned so often. We can look it over and talk about the contributions that former farm hands are giving to the Sox, most impressively Chris Sale. However, it’s no big secret that Kenny’s impact guys usually come via trade or Latin American/Free Agent signing. Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, and Tyler Flowers are the only position players that were drafted by the Sox and up with the big club. All three are failing to produce and all three are likely candidates to be replaced next year. The pitching side has done much better, pumping out Chris Sale, Addison Reed, and Nate Jones in an extremely small sample size.

It’s not fair to say that the White Sox don’t draft well, they clearly do as they are able to flip prospects for good talent with some regularity. They landed Peavy for Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and Adam Russell. All talent from their farm system, all turned into a solid contributor so far this year. They flipped Gio Gonzalez for twice. He was traded to the Phillies for Thome, sent back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia (the White Sox also landed Gavin Floyd in this trade), sent to Oakland for Nick Swisher and then he finally ended up in Washington where he is currently enjoying some success.

What does that say about the White Sox and the draft in general? It says to me that the White Sox don’t trust the draft much. You can’t really blame them for that either, the MLB draft is one of the biggest enigmas in all of sports. The talent is so raw yet so far away from the Major League level. The chasm between AAA ball and MLB ball is wide, and it’s illustrated by the MLB failures that proceed to tear up AAA ball for years. Bobby Scales currently has a .945 OPS at AAA Buffalo and he isn’t close to being a Major League player.

With all that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when watching the draft:

  • Nobody drafts for need. Best Available player is always selected in the first 12-15 rounds. Sometimes teams will end up drafting 4-5 shortstops in the first 10 rounds because those are the best players on the board. You don’t know who will actually end up sticking at their positions either, especially shortstop.
  • High school players are still a bad bet. If you find the right guy, he could turn into Rickey Henderson, but more often than not they just end up being Billy Beane.
  • Speaking of Beane…It’s no coincidence that the best player that Beane took in the Moneyball draft was a guy that both the numbers guys and scouting guys loved, Nick Swisher. Keep that in mind. Both of these things must work in harmony. Numbers tell only one side of the story, ditto with a pretty swing.
  • This draft blows. Consensus is that there is no franchise changer in this draft. It’s also really thin and some are calling it the worst draft in 20+ years.
  • Don’t expect the kids to come up anytime soon. Or at all. The most important thing to watch during a draft, I think, is to look for a plan. What are they drafting? Are they going all athletes? Are they going after pitchers with raw arms? Are they targeting more groomed College pitchers? Are they taking risks on broken wings? What’s their plan is more important than who they draft in a lot of ways.

Let’s get to the names that are being projected for the White Sox. Like I said, check Prospectus for their big board, it should be coming out pretty soon and it’s a really great board.

There isn’t a consensus #1 in this draft, which makes the unenviable task of projecting picks even more difficult and impossible. A few different outlets have the Sox taking either an SP or a 3B, but let’s look at 5 guys I think they should take with the pick if they’re there.

Joey Gallo – 1B/3B Bishop Gorman HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/oXVr2gKr1Po]

He pitches too, but he projects much better as a corner infield prospect. Here are some of his scout videos. From what I gather about his defense, it’ll be a shocker if he sticks at third. He’s committed to LSU, but if he gets drafted and offered the money, I can’t see how he would turn it down.

What I like

The swing is nice and easy, it’s fluid, repeatable and generates power. It’s not a batting practice swing either, he shows it in the game. He hit .506 last year with 20 HR’s in high school. He’s got a big frame that projects to fill out nicely. Strong arm.

What I don’t like

He’s not quick on his feet, I can’t see him sticking at third at all. He’s a high school kid, so the risk factor is high with him there. Also, his speed is meh already and he won’t get any quicker. His bat would play better at third.

Synopsis

Good bat, has a lot of potential. If I was Kenny I would draft him if he were available.

Richie Shaffer – 3B/1B Clemson

[youtube http://youtu.be/899EWcexyGU]

Another 3b/1b guy, this isn’t to replace either Konerko or Morel, but I think these guys project to be the types of guys that can rake at the Cell.

What I like

Good swing, consistent approach from the cages to the game. Improved his OBP and SLG every year at Clemson. Athletic body, closer to being a finished product.

What I don’t like

Looks like he didn’t handle the transition to third too well, sporting a .935 FLDG%. Swing plane is a little flat. He strikes out too much. 48K’s in 218 AB’s at the collegiate level.

Synopsis

Interesting guy, better feet than Gallo, can learn to be adequate at third, but he’ll never be a good 3B. Decent enough arm.

Deven Marrero – SS Arizona State

[youtube http://youtu.be/TLQyIC9iWsI]

The Pirates are high on him, but he could slip.

What I like

The glove and the arm are nice. Feet are quick too. Bat has some life to it.

What I don’t like

His stance is weird and will probably be corrected in the minors. His hitting collapsed this year, even though the tools are still evident. He didn’t put together a solid year with the glove even though the word on him is that his glove is close to MLB ready. Plus arm, reads the ball well off the bat, and he can pick it. The high error rate is perplexing.

Synopsis

The bat will be a project. He does flash power, but that stance/weight transfer is just ugly. He has the tools to stick at short, but he’ll have to cut the mental errors.

Lucas Giolito – SP Harvard-Westlake School

[youtube http://youtu.be/WeqhrGzMjjM]

Ahh, the prototypical problem HS arm.

What I like

God that arm.

What I don’t like

God that arm is hurt.

Synopsis

He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, and if he stayed healthy, he could have creeped into the top 10. He was a fireballer with intriguing breaking stuff before the injury, now teams will be interested to see how he bounces back into form. I would risk it.

Andrew Heaney – SP Oklahoma State

[youtube http://youtu.be/JytqYmEbt9w]

Could go in the single digits, but he might be there for the Sox

What I like

He misses a lot of bats. 120 K’s in 102 IP. Good command too, only 19 BB’s. Decent fastball, sits around 93, drops to 88 late in games. Off-speed stuff is interesting.

What I don’t like

He throws a bit like Walter Johnson, which worked for The Big Train, but not so much this guy. The delivery is easy and repeatable, but I’m not a fan of it. His body is slight, and won’t get bigger in a good way. Fastball is what it is.

Synopsis

Potential to be a 3/4 starter, flashes good stuff, can obviously miss bats at the college level which is key.

 

Yeah I know, there’s a lot of HS talent there. That’s what’s up there in terms of talent in this draft though. College players didn’t wow this year. Those are the five I would target as the Sox. There isn’t much in this draft. The good intriguing talent should be gone by then. Cubs tomorrow.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

For me, Opening Day is about two things, baseball and faith. Our most polarizing teams, the Cubs and Sox, will be going into a season of transition. Both teams are at the bottom in terms of expectations. Nobody can honestly believe that next year is this year, or that the Sox will have a miraculous rebound and compete with the Tigers for the division. Faith is running low around town, and that’s perfectly understandable.

Indeed, these two teams will struggle all year to win a combined 150 games. This is not breaking news. Sports illustrated didn’t exactly endorse either side of town as a real threat to do anything of import this season, but I think it’s important to keep perspective on what really matters this year. The White Sox are on the back end of an arc that must always complete itself before a normal team can be competitive again. Cubs fans are familiar with this arc, it occurred during the 2009-2011 campaigns. It was in those years that the front office panicked as they saw the talent on the field get older and less effective. The window was closing too quickly for an organization that was ill-equipped to deal with a reload. The Cubs fabulously fell flat on their faces as the bad GM moves by Jim Hendry caught up and overshadowed the good ones. The decade of being a sometimes contender was officially over on July 22, 2011 when Hendry was finally fired, but in truth the Cub window had shut at the end of the 2008 NLDS.

The arc had completed itself and the Cubs lucked into Theo Epstein, and a new arc begins on the north side. The White Sox championship arc hinges on what the overall team mission is moving forward. Kenny Williams loves to avoid the rebuilding tag, but perhaps the Sox best shot at competing once again lies in a complete tear down. The ghosts of 2005 have given Kenny a second life as GM, something that is rare in the current baseball climate. The bad money is catching up with this team as the contracts of Alex Rios and Adam Dunn have hamstrung an organization that begs its fans to come out and buy tickets in early April so they can acquire talent in June and July. This arc is about to complete and the question that faces Kenny Williams, assuming he survives another bad season, is how to restock an organization that is completely devoid of impact talent without having to face the realities of a rebuild?

Indeed, it’s a question that both front offices have to face. The Cubs farm system is ranked higher than the Sox system by almost everyone, but their impact talent is all in the batting order. The Cubs pitching depth is lacking, and it’s something that Epstoyer will need to address moving forward.

If we were looking at a graph both of these teams would be around the same point, but the arcs are perceived to be moving in different directions. Whether they are or aren’t is immaterial for this season, and for tomorrow. Yeah, I know the Cubs are targeting 2014 as their Championship window and the Sox have yet to lay out a plan for beyond this season, but for me this year I can just enjoy baseball.

I haven’t been able to do that as a Cubs fan. There was always a desire to win this year. “Oh man, we can’t let this get to 100 years, we gotta win now,” type deal was going on before 2008. I mean, we can dial this sucker back to when the Cubs unexpectedly won 88 games in 2001 and set the bar sky high in 2002 only to fall soooo flat on their face that the hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase were pinned to the arm of a 21 year old California kid with something called a slurve. Then 2003 happened and the Cubs were set to compete again in 2004. Then Nomar got hurt and then the White Sox won the damn thing, and then they signed Alfonso Soriano to a crazy contract and then Lou came and then they caught fire in 2007 and then they were the best team in baseball in 2008 and then the let go of DeRo and then Milton Bradley was an asshole and then and then and then…

It was fucking stressful.

Yeah, I don’t want to be that fan that doesn’t care if they win or lose even though it sounds like I’ll be that dude this year. What I’m saying is that I’m looking at different things this year while understanding the result isn’t the end all be all this year. I don’t know who on the roster besides Castro will be on the next Cubs contender. So this year I’ll get to pay attention to the simple things that made me fall in love with the game to begin with. I’ll care about Castro’s approach at the plate, I’ll enjoy the simple elegance of a well turned double play. I’ll be paying attention to outfield positioning and fundamental yet aggressive baserunning. I’ll get to sit back and just watch the damn game without having to stress out about the Cardinals/Brewers/Reds for a change.

It’s gonna be nice around here for a year. For me at least. Some of you will still care about this years record, a lot more of you aren’t going to watch baseball after June. That’s fine, trust me. When I get that dollar ticket and end up down in the front row with the rest of the 15%, I’ll be thanking you for not caring this year.

I actually don’t begrudge you for being skeptical, but here are somethings that I don’t want Cubs fans to say this year:

HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO DEAL WIT DIS THEO EPSTINE GUY! I’M PAYING TOP DOLLAR FOR SEASON TICKETS AND HE’S BEING CHEAP AND DOESN’T WANNA SPEND DA MONEYS!

No, you’re just wrong. There’s a plan in place. I don’t know when you bought your season tickets, but I’m pretty sure that in a few years when I believe the Cubs will be contending you won’t be complaining about how much you paid to watch a playoff worthy product on the field ever day. Season tickets are a risk man, I’d love to have your problem.

DA CUBS SHOULDA GONE AFTER DAT POOHOLES GUY, OR AFTER DAT PRINCE GUY!

No. The Cubs have a target date for when they want to spend money, and would prefer it not be tied into a guy like that for 10+ years.

DA CUBS ARE CHEAP DEY KEEP CUTTING DA PAYROLL!

Look at the money they are committing to scouting and development and then get back to me.

DEY SHOULD KEPT DAT KARCHNER GUY HE WAS A GOOD PROSPECT! AND DEY GAVE UP TOO MUCH FOR DIS EPSTINE GUY!

Cashner has a ceiling and it’s likely as a reliever. Those guys are a dime a dozen. Carpenter is hurt again and also had a ceiling as an RP. Epstein is worth more (although I do kinda wish the Cubs got the other Boargerts, but that’s neither here nor there).

SOX SUCK!

Please kindly shut the fuck up and never speak again. It really doesn’t matter and I think the Cubs might suck worse this year. You’re giving me a bad name.

IMA GO BE A SOX FAN NOW SCREW DIS REBUILDING CRAP!

Cool, more cheap seats for me.

WHO’S GONNA PLAY (X POSITION) DIS YEAR?

Someone from Iowa, I don’t care, it doesn’t matter in 2012.

DUDE, BRAH, LET’S GO TO THE (INSERT DOUCHEBAG NORTHSIDE BAR HERE) BRAH!

Die in a fire.

RYAN SANDBERG

Ryne douche

WE’RE NOT DAT FAR AWAY WE NEED TO GET SOMEONE AT DA DEADLINE (8 GB in June)!

I would take a look if it were to happen, but it won’t so shut the fuck up.

SHHHHH!

I will shove your white sunglasses so far up your ass if you ever shush me at a baseball game.

DEY LOST TO DA PIRATES IN AUGUST? TRADE EVERYONE ON DA TEAM DEY ALL NEED TO GO!

Yeah that’ll happen at some point, but it won’t be because they lost to the Pirates in August.

DIS (RANDOM 30 YEAR OLD IOWA CUB CALLUP) GUY IS PRETTY GUD HE’S GONNA BE A STAR!

He’s 30 and his name is Micah Jake Scales III. He’s not a young prospect, he’s about done growing up.

GO CUBS GO, GO CUBS GO, HEY CHICAGO WHADYA SAY DA CUBS ARE GONNA WIN THIS DAY!

Mercifully, their record should limit the number of times I hear this.

Conclusion

I’m just going to enjoy the ride this year. Sox trash talk won’t bother me, douche Cubs fans won’t bother me to an extent. I’m going to go watch more games this year because my faith in what the organization has been renewed. I could give you a bullshit line about how anything could happen and the Cubs could find themselves in contention this year, but I don’t believe that. It’s fine really. I’m just here to enjoy baseball.