17 November 2011

On the Cubs hiring of Dale Sveum

First of all, yes, it did take me a little bit to pronounce it right (SWAIM, not SVEE-um). My first thought was, as it will be going forward, In Theo We Trust. Sveum isn't a name that's in vogue. It's not a Valentine or a Francona. Hiring (and paying a premium) for a hot name hasn't exactly paid off nearly as much as was paid for it.

Even though it's a different sport, take a quick look at Dan Snyder's tenure as Washington Redskins owner. In 1999 he bought the team as what was then the highest price for a team in history for ALL sports. The list of big names brought in includes: Steve Spurrier, (the return of) Joe Gibbs, Brandon Lloyd, Adam Archuleta, Albert Hayneworth, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb.

The bit that resounded with me during Theo's intro presser was that in free agency, they would be paying for future and not past results. Nearly every name in the above list fits in the former category. In Snyder's 13 years as an owner, the Redskins have all of 2 ten win seasons and 3 playoff appearances (2 wins). Not exactly a fine track record for success.

One last tidbit: Was Joe Maddon a "name" when Tampa's version of the Superfriends (Friedman, Silverman, Sternberg) hired him in 2006? Nope, but he sure as hell is now, winning Manager of the Year in 2008 and 2011. Am I saying I'm expecting Sveum to win 2 MotY's in 6 years? No, but again, it all goes back to what I said, In Theo We Trust.

Recruitment for Blackhawks fandom

A Twitter friend of mine recently posted that with the NBA lockout, she was open to suggestions to whether or not she should a) start following the NHL, and b) to where she should direct her allegiance. I then took it upon myself to write an email making a case for the Chicago Blackhawks. The following is the result:

Subject: My case for you becoming a fan of the Blackhawks

History. The Blackhawks were one of the Original Six of the NHL, and outside of the other 5 teams, they outdated the rest of the NHL by 41 years (the first expansion of the NHL didn't occur until 1967) During this time they won 3 Stanley Cups, and haven't forgotten about them, as 4 of the members of the 1961 Cup-winning team are Blackhawks Ambassadors.

Talent. Chicago has locked up a solid core of players on both offense (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa) and defense (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson) all under contract for at least the next 3 years, and with the exception of Hossa, all of those named are under age 30. They won the Stanley Cup as recently as 2010, and after a salary cap-induced gutting of the team in 10-11, are currently sitting at the top of the Western Conference.

Player Development. A large amount of the roster are players that were originally drafted by the Blackhawks. After winning the Stanley Cup with a rookie goalie (Antti Niemi) and watching him leave, Chicago was able to replace him with a near-elite netminder in Corey Crawford, who although is only 22nd in GAA, is counted on a more consistent basis, making 15 starts in 19 games (most teams are just a little above 50-50).

Local support. Chicago leads the NHL in home attendance, frequently packing the United Center for Standing Room Only capacity, and have sold out every game since the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Blackhawks fans also travel well, as chants of "Let's Go Hawks!" are frequently heard around the league.

Other tidbits:

Chicago is close enough to Iowa to make a road trip to catch a game, something you've shown you're willing to do because you came for a White Sox-Twins game.

The Blackhawks logo/uniform was named best in the NHL

Eye candy. Ahem, I give you Patrick Sharp, who was named on of the 50 most beautiful Chicagoans earlier this year, Jonathan Toews, and Brent Seabrook.

There's not a more recognizable National Anthem performance than that of Jim Cornelison, whom you might remember from theNFC Championship game last year (Lee DeWyze was originally scheduled to sing it, but Cornelison replaced him after an outcry of support.)

Let me know what you think and if there's anything more I can do to help you become a Blackhawks Fan.

12 November 2011

Hmm, what other outdated stats is Philly interested in trading for?

That's the question I asked myself when I heard that the Phillies signed former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to a 4-year, $50 million contract. I tweeted this thought after initially heard the news, because it seemed to me that Philadelphia overvalues saves and it creates a market inefficiency.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that Papelbon isn't a good pitcher. But as a reliever, he's definitely not $50M good. No one really is. The Yankees might be the only other team that would be willing to pay that much for a closer, and it would have to be for a Mariano Rivera-type in his absolute prime. As it is, based on average salary per year, Papelbon is the 3rd highest paid pitcher on the Phillies, behind Cliff Lee ($24M) and Roy Halladay ($20M).

To borrow a term from MLB Network's new show Clubhouse Confidential (a great watch, BTW), Philadelphia signed Papelbon on "the wrong side of 30," after Papelbon's age 31 season. Another thing I noticed was that the Phils are paying essentially for one year of inflated stats (shades of the Cubs signing Soriano for his one-year peak and a 40/40 season). In 2011, Papelbon posted his career best in FIP (1.53) and 2nd highest K/9 (12.17). However, his BABIP has been trending up for the past three years, and while in '11 is was still an unusually low .307, it tells me he might be regressing more towards the league average BABIP and continue to trend higher through his 30s.

Again, am I saying Philadelphia didn't sign an elite closer? No. My point is that no pitcher is worth $12.5 million per year whose primary duty will be to pitch in one inning. Only 3 times in 63 appearances in 2011 did Papelbon enter the game before the 9th inning.

08 November 2011

Today JoePa, Penn State lost whatever respect they had

You've probably heard the story already, but today put it over the top for me. In the wake of the news about Jerry Sandusky it was requested that questions this week in Joe Paterno's weekly press conference only be football related (Penn State plays Nebraska in Happy Valley on Saturday). Said presser was cancelled by PSU President Graham Spanier. After more than 150 reporters showed up for questioning.

I'm still shaking my head as it is. First of all, if you've read the story, JoePa is either just as guilty as Penn State AD Tim Curley and Sr. VP Gary Schultz, or none of the 3 are. There's no middle here. Curley and Schultz have already been indicted on charges of perjury and that they failed to alert police about abuse complaints. So yeah, Paterno did the bare minimum legally by telling Curley about what he heard. But to sit on it for as long as he did, morally puts him in the same vein as Sandusky.

Rapists in my opinion are some of the most vile scum on the planet. Child rapists are even worse. You can't change the past. And because of JoePa's lack of action, I've lost all respect for him.

As I'm writing this, the New York Times is reporting that PSU is already planning Paterno's exit. @RappUp is tweeting that it looks like it's going to be a firing rather than resignation, as the PSU Board of Trustees voted to ask Paterno to resign and he refused.

02 September 2011

Quick post: The Lance Briggs Situation

Inspired by AITA on Aerys Sports, here's my quick take on the Lance Briggs contract situation.

Three years ago, he tested the open market as an unrestricted free agent. There should be no argument against the fact that the Bears paid him fair market value. In my opinion, this wouldn't even be an issue if Briggs' agent wasn't that scumbag Drew Rosenhaus. Also, I don't really think Briggs has out-performed the contract. If he came back in two years with two more Pro Bowls under his belt and only ONE year left, then I could see it. But this is simply ridiculous.

28 July 2011

Chicago blunders....but I guess that's nothing new

Two Chicago sports franchises have made a couple facepalm moves today.

The Cubs traded OF Kosuke Fukudome to Cleveland for 2 prospects, a pitcher and an outfielder. While the Cubs can say they got rid of the Fukudome's hefty contract, they really can't, because they are still paying a big load of that contract. Of the estimated $4.5 million he's owed the rest of the year, the Cubs still have to pay all but $775,000 of it.

And what exactly are the Cubs getting in return? As I aluded to with this tweet and Keith Law confirms (sorry non-ESPN Insiders), not a whole lot of anything. Abner Abreu, a 21-year-old outfielder, is doing a whole lot of striking out this year in high-A, with 102 K's in 92 games this year. Also not helping is his low walk rate, with 22 BB in 363 PA. There's really not a whole lot of good I can say about him. He's batting .244/.294/.431, with 12 HR, and as Law mentions,
He's just 21 and is already repeating high Class A, so he's been moved aggressively, but has also shown very little development in his ability to recognize balls from strikes -- and the Cubs have not had success in teaching impatient hitters how to work the count.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And also a distressing critque of the Cubs organization, as working counts and getting on base is one of the foundations of sabermetrics. Ultimately, this move demonstrates that Manager of Statisical Anaysis Ari Kaplan is either a) not doing a very good job, or b) doesn't have nearly enough say in deals made, and I'm guessing the latter.

The other prospect the Cubs received in the Kosuke deal was pitcher Carlton Smith, who has played all of 2011 in AAA Columbus. Smith, 25, doesn't look like he can hack it in anything above AA, posting a 1.606 WHIP in 94 AAA innings since his promotion last year. I've generally looked for high strikeout rates in the minors as a general indicator of "stuff," and Smith hasn't posted anything higher than 7 K/9IP in any full minor league season. It also seems that he struggles against lefties, allowing them to hit .292/.395/.508 this season, indicating that even if he does make the majors, he won't be any more than a specialist reliever.

And now allow me to air my beef on the Bears moves (and lack thereof) today. This evening the Bears traded away TE Greg Olsen, a fan favorite and one of the bright spots of the Bears offense. At 6'5", he was a big target for Jay Cutler in 2010, catching 41 balls for 404 yards and 5 TDs, tied with Johnny Knox for most on the team.

What really astounded me about the trade was that they traded him to Carolina....for someone not named Steve Smith. The Bears have been a complete nonthreat at wide receiver, and everyone and their mother knows that. Except Jerry Angelo. There's no reason he should be trading away Cutler's biggest target without getting a big or bigger target in return. I did see there was a draft pick involved, but with Angelo's draft history, it amounts to just about bubkis.

Hat tip to @Kimberly_Lucio for how I will close this post: Greg Olsen gone, NBA lockout, Bulls lose to Heat in playoffs, and the Cubs. Chicago sports fans need a big group hug right about now.

20 July 2011

MLB Projections

I've tweeted a little bit about this earlier this week, so here's the fruits of my labor. I've developed a little bit of Excel programming skills over the past couple years, and wanted to find a way to see how bad the Cubs can b....I mean see where the MLB season might end up at the end of the regular season. The two main components I would need are a measure of teams true ability to win games, and a predictive formula for teams given their remaining schedule.

Enter the Pythangorian Win Expectation and Log5 formulas.

For those who are currently thinking of jokes of my dorkdom, Pythagorian Win Expectation (PWE) takes a team's runs scored and runs against, and spits out an expected win percentage. It gets its name from looking somewhat like that old Pythagorian Theorem we all learned in trigonometry (a^2 + b^2 = c^2):

PWE = (R^2) / (R^2 + RA^2),

where R is runs for and RA is runs against. Further research on the subject showed that a more accurate exponent is 1.81 instead of 2. A different exponent can also be used for college basketball (somewhere between 8 and 9) and the NBA (somewhere between 14.5 and 16).

The Log5 formula comes from the Godfather of Sabermetrics, Bill James. Based on the Bayes Theorem, this formula is used to find win probability of two teams when they meet. If Team A and Team B played each other, the probability of Team A is given by

P(A) = (A - A * B) / (A + B - 2*A*B),

where A is Team A's win percentage, and B is Team B's win percentage.

So now we have an decent estimation of a team's ability to win games, and a way to estimate the probability of who will win a game between two teams. All there is left to do is throw the remainder of the MLB schedule into the hopper and see what we come up with (h/t to Daily Baseball Data for putting the entire MLB schedule in Excel format).

American League







NY Yankees



Tampa Bay
















Chicago Sox






Kansas City







LA Angels









National League








NY Mets













St. Louis









Chicago Cubs







San Francisco









San Diego



LA Dodgers



I do give my apologies, because this table was made in the middle of a day of games. I don't have time to wait until midnight for all the games to be over, nor the time in the morning to get it done before the early afternoon games start. This also skews the run totals a bit, but not a whole lot for our analysis.

In a showing of how the futile the Cubs are this year, the first thing I noticed was that they are, on average, not headed for a 100-loss season. Around the league, here now are the storylines I will be looking for the rest of the season:
  • The reigning pennant winners, the Rangers and the Giants, will run away with their respective divisions.
  • The AL East will once again take two playoff spots, leaving Detroit and Cleveland fighting for one spot while Boston, New York and Tampa fight for two spots
  • With the East Coast Bias of the media, the watch will be on to see if the Phillies will win 100 games for the first time since 1977
  • The exciting 4-team race for the NL Central, which includes the Pirates quest for their first winning season since Barry Bonds was skinny (1992).

05 June 2011


It started as a Zambrano quote, turned into an avid Twitter discussion (and a trending topic that probably won't happen), and now I'll make it a blog post. I support Carlos Zambrano and his calling out of Carlos Marmol and the Cubs organization. I respect the decision because he seems to be the only on the the team with the cajones to take such action, as well as be one of the few who might get away with it.

Lately I've been lucky enough to have the Mets and their follies exist and for once, East Coast Bias worked in my favor as the Mets have taken at least some of the attention off the severely underachieving Cubs.

Big Z takes a highlight to one of the Cubs many problems. I've said blindly a couple times that the Cubs are one of the few teams that haven't embraced the sabermetric revolution of the past decade. This past weekend I took the time and I actually looked it up and found that when the Rickettses bought the team they hired a "Manager of Statistical Analysis," Ari Kaplan. Later that day I happened to be googling the book I'm currently reading, The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and found in a forum for the book that Kaplan is one of the most critically panned sabermetricians out there, staying true to typical Cubs fashion. Now, the guy is obviously intelligent (graduate of CalTech in 1992), but I'll bet that either a) he doesn't have enough say to make a difference, or b) he's a hire the Cubs made for the sake of hiring someone to the position....or both.

Flat out, Jim Hendry needs to go. Period, end of story. There have been far too many ill-fated moves and throwing money around that at this point it's beyond ridiculous. A buddy of mine pointed out that as long as Jeff Samardzija stays in the bigs it's another problem altogether. I replied that I agreed, Samardzija is dead money, but he's an easy target simply because he went to Notre Dame. He's quite correct. The Cubs have been shelling out money for names instead of empirical results for years. I want to see the organization throw some money at something other than past-their-prime, over-priced free agents.

The Cubs need to decide whether they are trying to win now (which is obviously not working) or rebuilding and developing to win later. A team can't do both. Ownership put the Rays in that position of trying to do both and it did nothing but make them average nearly 100 losses a season. They should take a clue from from small market teams like the Rays (as well as the A's of the early 2000s and soon to be Royals of the mid 2010s) and stick some dough into old fashioned R&D. I remember, but not exactly when, that Tom Ricketts came out and said that he wanted to cut payroll. The teams mentioned have done nothing but prove that you dont need a $140 million payroll to put out a winner. I'm saying it can be done, but only with a big demolition of the current front office staff.

27 May 2011

42 Club Watch/Leaders

In a way of classifying NBA players inspired by Bill Simmons, I've decided to take a stab at keeping track of who's in and who's out. The concept of the 42 Club is eerily simple. You keep track of the typical triple-double stats: points, rebounds, and assists, on a per game basis. Add 'em up, and if the number is 42 or more, you're looking at a someone who should be in the conversation as a transcendent playoff performance.

A further explanation is in this column from 2006 and in his book, The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy.

Through the conference finals. The list only includes only includes players who won two rounds (sorry Zach Randolph, 35.5). Bold Italics mean still active:

ON THE CUSP: 40-42







LeBron James







Kevin Durant






Derrick Rose






Dirk Nowitzki






Russell Westbrook






Dwyane Wade







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