Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I love Brandon Morrow moving forward

The former fifth overall pick of the 2006 draft, Brandon Morrow has not exactly delivered on the promise of his 2010 season thus far. His underlying statistics, however, tell a different story.

Terrible Headline of the Day

It's not easy to criticize a headline, because as soon as one does then his or her own headlines are under scrutiny. For me this really does not matter. I don't worry too much about headlines because I assume no one actually reads this blog. So whenever I see a terrible headline, I'm going to share it.

Today's headline comes from

''Gonzalez: Tight races could portend close finishes''

Not only is this brain dead obvious, it's insulting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Samuel Babson: the one that got away

Only the Cubs can manage to look bad on a trade this early into the season, based on the performance of a throw-in fifth outfielder by the name of Samuel Babson Fuld. Luckily for fantasy owners, Fuld may provide some solid value.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is Albert Pujols really 35?

There have always been whispers that Albert Pujols real birth date may not actually be January 16, 1980, however there has never been any kind of proof that would turn those rumors into allegations. Some may say, “What’s the big deal? The guy is still clearly in the prime of his career and shows no signs of slowing down.” It’s obviously a big deal though, when considering potential ten year contracts. It even becomes a big deal for something as insignificant as fantasy baseball. While Pujols real age may not affect re-draft leagues, it has the potential to change one’s valuation of Pujols in a keeper league.

I think this graph makes a pointed argument for Pujols being older (I’m guessing four years older) than his birth certificate says he is. Graphed above are the wOBA’s of Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera, three of the greatest sluggers of our generation. You’ll see that the .450 wOBA mark is rarely reached, even for hitters such as these. However, you’ll also notice that Pujols put up the highest wOBA of his career (.462) in his age 23 season. Pujols next highest wOBA of .458 came in his age 28 season of 2008. If my conspiracy theory is correct, that would have put Pujols at age 32 in 2008, a year that many players will see one final power peak before settling into a decline stage. I just find it very hard to believe that the greatest hitter of our generation peaked as a 23-year-old. He hasn’t grown smarter or stronger since then? Or has he both matured as a hitter and added strength, only to have it offset by the cruel toll of the aging process on an athlete’s body.

Pujols next two seasons after 2008 have seen successive declines in wOBA. Is it just a coincidence that Pujols has been trending downward since his “age 28” season, or is he really 35 and seeing the first signs of breaking down? Honestly I think Pujols will continue to be a beast no matter how old he is, at least for the next five years. For the fans, five more years of Prince Albert filling the stat sheets is worth a huge contract for a declining player. But the team that’s on the hook for the second half of his contract is looking at 5 years $150 million for a player who may be a shell of his former self. Whichever team this is will also be severely handcuffed when trying to make the necessary moves to compete.

I do not expect Pujols to sign in Chicago if he does become a free agent, but if he did I would be absolutely thrilled, as any fan of the Cubs would be. No matter who signs Albert though, I think they’re going to end up with a 45-year-old earning $30 million in the final year his deal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WAR Graphs: All time two baggers

MLB Network has a series I enjoy called Prime 9 where they (drum roll please) countdown the nine best teams, position players or in this case, the greatest infields of all time. #1 on the list was the 1914 Philadelphia Athletics "$100,000 infield" led by Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, Frank Baker at third and Stuffy McInnis at first.

Hearing baseball historians singing the praises of Eddie Collins, I was curious to take a look at his Baseball-Reference page and was awed by consistently high averages, gaudy steals totals (81 in 1910) and a plate discipline that will forever be unmatched in professional baseball. At the tail end of his career in 1925 for the White Sox, 38-year-old Eddie Collins walked 87 times in 533 plate appearances, striking out on 8 separate occasions throughout the year. I don't know if the official scorekeeper was dozing off during Eddie's at bats, but if that total is accurate then Eddie Collins officially had the greatest plate discipline in baseball history.

As far as top second baseman in baseball history, the default answer has always been Joe Morgan. It's said as if it were a fact and not an opinion. This is where the graph comes in. Randomly taking a top 10 two baggers of all time list from Bleacher Report, here are the top three second baseman they ranked: 3. Ryne Sandberg, 2. Rogers Hornsby, 1. Joe Morgan and number 5. Eddie Collins:

Hornsby's value was tied to his incredible offensive output: three seasons over .400, two count-em TWO triple crown awards (amazingly did not win MVP after winning the triple crown in 1922) and also won the second of his two MVP awards in his first season as a Chicago Cub in 1929. That year Hornsby went .380/.459/.679/1.139 as a 33-year-old.

The other Cub on the list, Sandberg, really should not be considered in the top 3 second basemen of all time. Sandberg was a dominant player and one of the game's greatest offensive second basemen, but its clear he does not belong in this discussion.

What also seems clear is that Joe Morgan is not the #1 all time 2B. In fact, he's not even in the photo finish. Morgan is often given the title due to his blend of high octane offense and highlight reel defense. Morgan's .271 lifetime average is less than impressive, but his .398 on-base percentage more than makes up for it. While he was lightning on the bases, Morgan never had a single season total as high as Collins, and his total of 689 steals trails Collins at 741. Simply looking at OPS+, Collins finished his career at 142, Morgan at 132 (Hornsby at 175). While one would think Morgan's defense settles the question, all indications are that Collins was an excellent fielder.

Light hitting on-base machine Eddie Collins and the offensive juggernaut that was Rogers Hornsby were vastly different players but were equally lethal opponents. Baseball has seen 80 years worth of second basemen since these two legends, and not one of them has amassed a career on the same level.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taking a look at Southsider Edwin Jackson

I remember when little Edwin was just a 21-year-old top 100 prospect on my MVP Baseball 2005 (best baseball video game of all time). It seems maybe in 2011 he may finally live up to some of that potential I salivated over in my basement.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Carlos Marmol has ice running through his veins

I read this in an ESPNChicago article and thought it was just classic,

Marmol doesn't worry about pressure in his role.

"I don't think about anything much," Marmol said. "I go out there, get my three or four outs, help the team win, go into the clubhouse, put my headphones on and go home."

Well when you put it that way...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra came on Sirius XMU, by chance right as I was pulling into the neighborhood one afternoon. I’m not sure what it was but the sound really hit a chord in my brain and I could not stop singing the song on my way inside. The DJ had graciously provided a website for the band and I assumed if I took the time to type in the website I would be rewarded with a free download, so I hopped right on. Amazingly at the website you can listen to, but not download the songs. Not even pay for them. With my brain craving more, I pressed play next to the song on the radio, “How Can U Luv Me?” and fell immediately back in love with it.

For some reason I had to leave right away, so I quickly pre-ordered the EP and then forgot all about the band. Until today, because walking through my doorstep this afternoon I was surprised to see a small square parcel, courtesy of Her Majesty’s Royal Mail. Perplexed but intrigued I tried not to think of what it could be as I walked down into my garden, dungeon, floors-cracked from the extreme cold unit. I love surprises, and hearing “How Can U Luv Me?” be followed by equally indelible “Nerve Damage!” was one hell of a surprise. Listen to the full EP for free at the band’s website.

They have a throwback guitar style that some have made popular lately, but these songs are uniquely crafted and incredibly catchy. Can’t wait to hear what “Thought Ballune” and “Ffunny Ffrends” sound like.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yes, please and thank you

Yesterday not only did the Cubs lock up the one and only Carlos Marmol for his final two years of arbitration and his first year of free agency for a cool $20 million, but Radiohead also dropped a bomb on the world, announcing their eighth full-length album The King of Limbs would be released digitally this coming Saturday. Scott Plagenhoef at Pitchfork sums it up nicely:

So Radiohead have set aside the "pay what you want" patronage model that dominated the conversation surrounding the In Rainbows release, yet have retained that album's more important business aspects: Packaging their music as a high-end collectable and controlling and monetizing its leak, which has the effect of creating what these days is a rare, worldwide, collective listening experience. Once again, we all know exactly when we're first able to hear a new Radiohead record and therefore will largely all experience it together, something almost completely lost in today's pop music landscape.

Marmol submitted $5.65 for arbitration while the Cubs had countered with $4.1. For the sake of argument, the Cubs would have been on the hook for about $4.875M in 2011 if they settled before a hearing. In 2010, players saw an average arbitration increase of 107%, meaning Marmol would have seen a raise likely nearing $8 million in 2012, and his worth on the open market for 2013 would have been around $10 million.

Marmol received a $1 million signing bonus as a part of his $3.2 million salary for 2011. Marmol will receive $7 million in 2012 and $9.8 million in 2013. Add it all up and the Cubs saved a few million dollars by locking up their closer and buying out a year of free agency. While there is always a risk of injury for someone who throws as many sliders as Marmol, he has been essentially injury free as a pitcher and this looks to be a low risk deal.

Also seemingly low-risk is pre-ordering the new Radiohead album, which I did immediately upon hearing the news. Billed as a “Newspaper” album, I honestly do not have a clue what that means. The world will find out Saturday, February 19th.

Pre-order @

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Carlos Marmol and strike one

I was taking a look at Carlos Marmol’s player page at Fan Graphs last night and noticed an encouraging sign for the future and a partial explanation for Marmol’s historic 16 K/9 ratio in 2010. Here is Marmol’s First Pitch Strike % for the past four years:


First Pitch Strike %

Swinging Strike %


















It is not a stretch to say that when Marmol gets ahead in the count he is nearly unhittable. Pitching coaches always make a point of emphasizing the importance of getting ahead in the count and for some pitchers this is a natural advantage that is easily exploited. However, for a guy who can lower his walk rate by nearly two and still not bring it to 6 BB per 9, it’s a much more difficult task.

Hopefully Marmol can build on last year’s progression in this area and permanently change his approach on the mound, rather than regress as he did after the 2007 season. It should be painfully obvious to the Cubs and to Marmol the importance of him getting strike one in as many at bats as possible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Come hell or high water"

In the immortal words of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl video that we would always watch in Mike Gresher's basement, (and thanks to him for randomly sending this to me). I absolutely love this quote from an old school Bear:

"When you came to play the Bears at Wrigley Field...and you're up against guys like Doug Atkins, Ed Obradavich, Sam Morris, Richie Pettibone....When you have some of those gorrilaz lookin at ya. Come hell or high water, the Bears were gonna put a physical beating on you. I don't care if you won or gonna know you in the damndest game you ever been in your whole life..."

They were going to put a physical beating on you. That is exactly what this team needs to, and intends to do on Sunday. I love it....."you gonna know you in the damndest game you ever been in your whole life..." I sure hope the Packers know it on Monday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gorzo gone, good move for Cubs

With excess pitching depth after trading for Matt Garza, Jim Hendry was able to clean up some of the slop that will make up the back end of the 2011 rotation by trading Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for three prospects. While effective for the Cubs last year, Gorzelanny is the definition of diffidence on the mound, his 4.68 career ERA and 4.54 FIP reeking of "blah."

In return Hendry was actually able to grab a decent prospect in former 1st round pick Michael Burgess. An outfielder with a strong arm, Burgess is described by The Hardball Times as having "exciting power and does a solid job of taking walks. There is still concern he will hack his way to obscurity, but don't discount a 22-year old with downright dangerous power."

THT ranked Burgess as the National's 9th best prospect and while strikeouts have been an issue in the minors, he lowered his K-rate to 23.1% in A+ this year and tore up AA after 87 plate appearances to close the season.

Of the other two prospects, right-handed pitcher A.J. Morris looks interesting with a 3.02 career K/BB, 1.21 WHIP and 3.64 ERA in 128 innings.

As for the Cubs starting rotation, hopefully Andrew Cashner has developed his change-up enough to step up and take a rotation spot, leaving Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and lost cause Jeff Samardzija to battle it out for the final rotation slot.

Good move for the Cubs. I’m cautiously more optimistic for this upcoming season than most with the only real hole on the team appearing to be second base. If Carlos Pena is solid, Zambrano sane, and Garza improved by the league change, I think this team can compete in 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Derrek Lee vs. Paul Konerko: WAR Graphs

On the eve of our new year, Derrek Lee signed a one year $7.25 million deal with the Orioles. I'm still not sure exactly why he wasn't a good fit to return to the Cubs, who instead spent millions more on a weaker defensive first baseman and lesser all around hitter in Carlos Pena.

This fixation with a power lefty bat simply will not go away. I pray that Carlos Pena is the answer to the decade-long ailment the Cubs suffer from. It seemed to begin with Matt Stairs. Stairs lasted a year, his lefty stick replaced with a Coors-bloated Jeremy Burnitz, who morphed into Jacque "Strap" Jones, who was replaced with what all Cubs fans assumed was a blessed gift from the East in Kosuke Fukudome. Then there was the Milton Bradley soap opera that I have exorcised from my memory. The most recent casualty of the Lefty Power Bat Blues is Derrek Lee, who they have cast aside in favor of the almighty left-handed thumper.

I actually do like the Pena signing, but I would rather have Double Play Derrek manning first.

Long intro into my actual point, which was this comparison between former and current Chicago first basemen. I've just started playing with these WAR graphs that you can create over at FanGraphs and I thought this would be a pretty interesting comparison given that both players were free agents this year, and both will be 35 in 2011. WAR is Wins Above Replacement and estimates how many wins a player would be worth to his team over a replacement player, such as a Triple-A call-up, using a combination of offensive and defensive metrics.

This first graph shows each player's best season on the left, down to his worst on the right. Lee's incredible 2005 (1.080 OPS, .446 wOBA) gives him the highest plot on the graph, but as you can see their plots are incredibly intertwined, Derrek looking to have the slight advantage most likely due to superior defense.

What's interesting about these graphs is that by the contracts each player just signed, one would not think that Derrek Lee was the better player. The plots are eerily similar, but there is clearly a slight nod toward Lee. Derrek though had to settle for a one year deal despite being a year removed from .306/.393/.579 season, while Konerko cashes in on a three year deal at $4-5 million more per season. And all because of the last two plots on the last graph. The fact that Derrek had his mid-30's career year in 2009 and Konerko had his in 2010 means that Paul Konerko is a much richer man, despite being a slightly worse player.

(create graphs pitting up to four players against each other here)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hoping Dayan Viciedo wins the White Sox 3B job... that I can have myself some delicious moon shots at the CI position on my fantasy team next year: White Sox 3B Options