Buy Low, Sell High
Anyone who has played fantasy baseball is familiar with the concept of trying to acquire players when they're slumping and trading players when they're on a hot streak. Let's take a look at the Cubs roster and see if we can spot any trends for the second half of the season. There are of course the traditional statistics such as ERA, wins and losses, WHIP, etc, but for the most part I'll be looking at some of the peripherals that are good indicators of what to truly expect from these guys. I'll begin with the starting rotation.
Carlos Zambrano - 8-3, 3.13 ERA, 5.76 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 1.89 K:BB, 0.59 HR/9, .297 BABIP
There are three areas of concern with Big Z. The 5.68 ERA he put up in June, the alarming decline in his strikeout rate and of course, the shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list. Yeah, he'll be back by Friday, but anytime a pitcher goes down you have to worry about re-injuring himself. You can try and chalk up June to just having a bad month and maybe his shoulder was acting up on him before he actually told anyone, but what you really have to be worried about his is the 5.76 K/9 rate he's sporting this year.
It seems to have been a conscious decision on his part to go less for the strikeout and gain some more control on his pitches. His walk rate has dramatically improved to go along with the decrease in his strikeout rate (3.05 BB/9 this year compared to 4.20 and 4.84 the last two seasons). And you can't argue with the success he's had for the most part this year, but there's not a lot of pitchers that can put up ERA's in the low three's with that low a strikeout rate...I mean, we're talking almost Jason Marquis territory here. His groundball to flyball ratio has improved as well with his new approach and I think he can still dial it up whenever he needs to, but I' d sure feel a lot more comfortable if he got that K/9 rate above six at least.
Ryan Dempster - 9-3, 3.26 ERA, 7.37 K/9, 3.51 BB/9, 2.10 K:BB, 0.86 HR/9, .258 BABIP
Dempster was as lucky as they get early on in the season, sporting a BABIP in the low .200's which he had no chance in hell of sustaining. The lowest BABIP in the last five years for any pitcher with at least 150 innings was Chris Young in 2006 with a .237 BABIP and that was quite abnormal and he also pitches in a park where flyballs go to die. If you look at the leaderboards over the last few years, you'll see a few pitchers in the .250 range every season but most pitchers hover around the .300 mark.
The correction has already started and despite his last outing, Dempster is still well ahead of the bell curve and will possibly get a a well-deserved All-Star spot. Sure his career numbers suggest that he's still due for some more correction, but I think anyone who's watched him this year realizes that this is a different Dempster from past years...at least as a starter. His walk rates are still quite high, but he's fooling batters, keeping the ball in the park and seems to be able to induce a double play whenever he needs one.
That all being said, he's a prime candidate for one of those multi-year contracts Hendry likes to give out to players he finds off the scrap-heap that have career years with the Cubs (see Rusch, Glendon). And hopefully Hendry realizes that trying to catch lightning in a bottle makes for a hazardous work place.
Ted Lilly - 9-5, 4.56 ERA, 8.44 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 2.63 K:BB, 1.52 HR/9, .292 BABIP
I covered Ted Lilly in yesterday's game thread, so I'll just recap. He finished June with a 3.21 ERA after a 6.46 in April and 4.72 in May. His biggest problem has been his home run rate which has skyrocketed to 1.52 HR/9 this year (it was 1.64 heading into yesterday's game). Also prior to yesterday's game, he was giving up a home run on 13% of the flyballs hit off him, which is an astoundingly high number. Most pitchers are in the 10-11% range and with yesterday's performance, it's already down to 12.6%.
So expect Lilly to continue to improve, the control isn't quite as good as last year, but he's still missing bats and expect a few less balls to fly over the fence.
Jason Marquis - 6-4, 4.96 ERA, 4.64 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 1.53 K:BB, 1.21 HR/9, .289 BABIP
The same Jason Marquis that should be expected. He's not going to strike out a lot, he's going to put people on base, much to the chagrin of Cubs fans and Lou Piniella. He makes up for those walks by keeping the ball in the park and on the ground and at the end of the day, he's useful maybe 50% of the time (if that much). I took a look at his quality starts over the years (defined as at least six innings pitched and an ERA of 4.50 or below for that game).
A bit of slippage this year, but some of that can be attributed to Lou's quick trigger with Marquis and not being able to reach six innings. If you look at his game logs this year, I'd say nine of his 15 starts have been useful. He's gone at least five or more innings and given up three or less runs. There is value in what he does, mostly that he stays healthy and you can reasonably expect him to keep the team in the game on the days he starts. Can the Cubs do better? Sure there's more talented pitchers out there, but don't underestimate the value of staying healthy.
Of course, we'll all be doing a little happy dance the day he leaves the Cubs.
Sean Gallagher - 3-3, 4.36 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 2.35 K:BB, 1.01 HR/9, .315 BABIP
A rather pleasant surprise after a forgetful spring, the 22-year old has shown signs of brilliance. Sporting a four-seamer that hits the mid 90's, a two-seamer that dives away from lefties and solid control of his breaking stuff (a slider and a curve), I think better days are ahead for Gallagher. He still has quite a bit to learn about the art of pitching, but that probably could be said for most 22-year old pitchers. A look at his game logs show that six of his nine starts have been what you have to consider at least useful.
His numbers right now are promising and the looks of that BABIP suggest that they should get a little better. They also suggest that he'd pretty much have to be included in any deal that would get C.C. Sabathia to the Cubs.
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.