So there has been a lot of talk, some offhand comments, some full rants, about the managerial competence and questionable deservedness of Lou Piniella continuing to be the skipper for our beloved Cubs. A few of these people have suggested replacements, but it doesn't seem that this part of the equation has really been fully developed. While this is in no way a post saying "Lou Should Go"... it is suggesting that whether it be on his own terms or someone else's, he will no longer be here between now and November.
So, who's next?
Let me first start off by saying I like Lou. He's led the Cubs to back to back playoffs (albeit with 0 wins) and 3 consecutive winning seasons. He's shown fire when he needs to, and it seems he's been paitient and calm when he needs to. He's given hilarious interviews and given new meaning to starting a sentence with the word "Look". But his heart just isn't in it anymore. Really, none of the guys from the deflating 97-win, 0-playoff win 2008 juggernaut seem to have their hearts in it anymore. So besides the roster being overhauled (it needs to be) how can you remake the mindset and passion of this team? Well, before we answer that, let's look at a few things that are wrong with them. (These will be mostly mental things as a manager has more control on his ballclub's outlook than he does on their skills)
- The Cubs are 10-16 in one-run games, 0-37 in games when they enter the 9th trailing and have blown 17 leads this year. Those 3 things together suggest that this team is not mentally tough enough to stay in close ball games or pick up their balls and win when they're down.
- The Cubs have scored 195 runs in their 31 wins (6.29 runs/game) and have scored only 100 runs in the 40 games they've lost (2.5 runs/game!). This again suggests that this team clearly has the talent and ability to score, but only when things are going well. A motivating, positive leader is needed.
- The Cubs have 58 errors this season, good for 3rd worst in baseball. This is clearly slightly more slanted towards the actual skill of a team, but still, mentally tough, fundamentally managed teams do not lead leagues in errors
So, when Lou is gone, who can change these things for us? I'd like to throw out a few suggestions and pros/cons, but this post is really about everyone giving their input. I mean... who the hell knew who Tom Thibodeau was 2 months ago?
Ryne Sandberg - Apparently the "fan favorite". But why? Cause he's one of the few truly likeable, succesful Cubs of the last 2 decades? I guess he's been fairly successful as a minor league skip, but his fast track to the big seat scares me. Highly touted prospects and "saviors" do not fare well in this city (see: Patterson, Corey)
Joe Girardi - The "other guy" from the 2006-2007 off season. His dream job was managing the Yankees. And they won a championship last year. I've heard his name kicked around recently, but why would he leave New York until they force him out?
Mike Scioscia - Talk about a guy getting the most out of his players. Year in and year out some dark horse AL West team is discussed as taking down the Angels finally, but it never happens. Him leaving is very much a longshot also as they're currently in second, and playing good baseball. (Not to mention he's under contract through 2018??) But stranger things have happened
Ron Gardenhire - Another quality guy who gets the most out of seemingly less talented players. Minnesota has done very little in the playoffs under his tenure, so with another early exit, or if they miss the playoffs altogether, he could be available.
Joe Torre - Not much needs to be said here. Great with young kids, great with juggling egos, great track record of success and has already managed in the two markets bigger than Chicago. His contract is up at the end of this year.
Bobby Valentine - Seriously, he hasn't managed in the MLB since 2002? Between 1997 and 2001 he worked a record of 449-362 (.553) and took the Mets to The Series. I admittedly don't know what his coaching style is like, but he has managed succesfully in New York with some pretty big egos and pressure.
So that's what I have for now. Again, by no means definitive, but it's a start. If we're all mostly in agreement that this season is lost and Lou is even loster, who's next? Let's get some discussion going. Thoughts on these "options"? Who are your ideal candidates?
In light of a few numbers that were thrown around in the shoutbox recently, I decided to further investigate some statistics that may or may not be trends. Most of these things are probably unrelated, but some of them are very interesting to know. So without further adieu… Fun With Statistics!
We’ll start out with a couple of team-centric warm-ups
The Cubs are:
- 8-12 in One-Run games
- 9-7 in blowouts (5+ runs)
- 3-24 when they score 3 runs or less (!)
- 23-7 when they score 4 runs or more
- 11-0 when they score 7 runs or more
- 12-2 when they allow 2 runs or less
- 14-29 when they allow 3 runs or more
- 7-14 when they allow 3 or 4 runs (What!?)
Ok… So from that we can accurately say if we score 4 runs or more, we’ll probably win and if we allow 2 runs or less, we’ll probably win. Jeez, not too much margin for error there.
Alright, next let’s look at some situational statistics for the team
The Cubs are:
- 26-1 when they start the 9th inning with the lead or tied (damn, alright, that’s actually pretty great)
- 0-30 when they start the 9th inning behind (Holy. Shit.)
The Cubs have:
- 8 comeback wins with the largest deficit overcome being 3 runs (sigh, remember that Rockies game in magical 2008?)
- 14 blown leads (for comparison, we had only 22 in all of 2009.)
- 2 walk-off wins
- 0 walk-off losses (Hey! An improvement! We had 13 in 2009)
Wow. Alright. Those are some pretty polarizing numbers. Let’s move on.
Time to pick on some individual contributors (or, probably more than likely, “lack of” contributors)
The Cubs are:
- 10-1 in games started by King Carlos Silva (this is my personal favorite and the one that spawned this post)
- 16-30 in games started by anyone else
- 11-12 in games where John Grabow pitches (I assumed worse)
- 20-6 in games where Carlos Marmol pitches (Only 12 being Saves)
- 7-3 in games where Aramis Ramirez does not play
- 9-16 in games where Aramis Ramirez does play AND has a hit
- 5-14 in games Derrek Lee goes hitless
- 19-17 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 Hit
- 12-5 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 RBI
Ya know, I could probably go on and on, but let’s sum up what we’ve learned here.
- The Cubs do not do well in close games
- They will, however, win most every game they score 4 or more runs
- Unfortunately, if they give up more than 2 runs, they will probably lose
- If we have the lead in the 9th, you can chalk that baby up in the W column.
- If we’re losing in the 9th, you might as well turn the game off.
- Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol have saved this team.
- John Grabow and Aramis Ramirez have killed this team.
- Derrek Lee may or may not be expendable.
My initial reaction upon hearing this:
"If the real world was more like wrestling, at the press conference to announce this trade, Jim Hendry would rip off his suit and tie to reveal a Cardinals shirt and then proceed to give Stone Cold Stunners to the entire Ricketts family and then down a case of Busch Lights with Albert Pujols."
Every deal he has made for the last 4 years, not involving someone named Theodore Roosevelt, has made us worse*
(*not actual statistic, just gut reaction while typing with blind rage)
Then I did some more sleuthing through Silva's stats and I figured it out. LOU HAD TO BE BEHIND THIS. As we all know, Sweet Uncle Lou is... to put this kindly, not very fond of Walks. The ONLY stat in all of Carlos Silva's numbers that points to anything remotely positive is his BB/9. He has the lowest walks per 9 innings of anyone in baseball.
And that, my friends, is apparently worth the career era of 4.72...
UPDATE: Sullivan says the Mariners are throwing in $9MM which essentially makes us owe Silva 2.5 this year and 11.5 next year. So.. We're basically saving 7 million. I no longer know how I feel. My blind rage has turned to confusion.
In light of recent above average play, I thought I'd rehash What It Would Take to make the playoffs in 2009. I don't have much time because I've already used 2 hours of work time to think about and create this, but basically, even if we play .650 ball and the rest of the teams we are chasing play .500 for the rest of the season, we'd still fall short. In fact, looking at the Cubs remaining schedule, it's entirely possible that they could go 14-5 to finish the season and even that would still leave them at 89-73, one game behind Colorado's .500 remaining ball... Ouch. Go Cubs.
I have to preface this comment by saying it is not positive. After last night’s win, it probably should be, but it is anything but.
I hate Alfonso Soriano.
In a city that idolizes the everyman and "grinders" and guys who just play the game, any game, the right way, Soriano is the antithesis. He cares not about his team or this city or sometimes, I don’t even think he cares about his own stats.
I went to the game last night, stayed all the way to the end and when he came up with the bases loaded, no outs, and an 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts in his box score, I was almost upset. Not that he would screw it up. No, I was upset because I knew he was going to win it. I was upset because the guy who looked terrible for 4 at-bats and then just plain childish on one (the no run grounder), was going to be vindicated by being the de facto hero of the game. Anyone (with the obvious exception of little leaguer Mike Fontenot) could have won that game in that situation, yet it had to be the guy who mentally needed it the least.
You could make the argument that he did need it and it was helpful for him mentally, but I just don’t see that happening. I see him taking away 1 thing away from this game: Soriano can do whatever he wants. He can be god awful for 12 innings, but if he does just one thing right, he’s doing his job. It’s like dealing with a toddler. If you don’t explain the consequences of right and wrong, they’re just going to continue to do the same thing over and over. (And if you don’t think the analogy of Soriano being a toddler is accurate, then you haven’t seen this embarrassing video of his cluelessness.)
I hope I’m wrong, I’ve been positive about most things that have occurred this season, but when that ball landed way out in center and he did that stupid face swipe motion to everyone (including stiffing Quade on his high five request around third. Seriously, just pitiful) I couldn’t have been more annoyed that I stayed there for three hours to see him get mobbed at the plate by his more deserving teammates.
Alright, ranting finished. I’m not even sure this made sense; I didn’t have time to proofread it at work. Let’s stay in first. Go Cubs.
I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for about two weeks, and to be honest it would have probably been slightly more appropriate before the recent stretch of divine intervention, but I digress…
The 2008 Cubs were the best Cubs team I’ve ever seen. (Considering the amount of bickering that has been going on recently I’m sure this will be debated, but statistically speaking and seemingly intangibly speaking, they were one of the best.) They could beat any team and no matter the defecit, they were in every game. Almost straight through from April to September, the 2008 Cubs ran in to few glaring issues that ever threatened their chances of winning the division and they ended up clinching a week before the end of the season. That’s when the fun ended.
From one of the greatest offenses in club history to one of the biggest eggs laid in playoff history, that team took a nose dive. But that didn’t even seem to be the worst part. Nor was the worst part that they were so dominant all year and were being discussed as the easy National League representative in the World Series. The worst part wasn’t that pretty much the entire team, with a few notable exceptions, was expected to come back in 2009. The worst part wasn’t even the fact that I had accepted that we sh*t our pants in the playoffs, not even that mattered.
No, the worst part was that I was convinced that no matter how good the 2009 Cubs were, the entire season would just be one giant pressure cooker set to implode in October. I was sure that from April through September it wouldn’t matter how big our lead was, or how dominant our run differential was. The only thing that would matter would be 3 games in October.
Think about it this way: on June 22, 2008 the Cubs were 20 games over .500, had a 4.5 game lead and a +112 run differential! That team was unstoppable. I truly felt in my heart that last year was going to be the year. As we all know, it wasn’t.
Exactly 1 year later we are 3 games over .500 and only 2.5 out of first place. Oh, and our run differential? +12. Exactly 100 runs less than where we were last year at this time. That’s not going to last. This team is virtually the same lineup. They will hit. And the playoffs? No one’s talking about the playoffs; no one is saying this is a lost season unless we get out of the first round. All of the pressure right now is on having a successful season and making the first round. You could even almost make the argument that stumbling and sputtering through the first 2/5ths of the season could be the best thing to happen to this year's team. Now the pressure isn't about “Yeah, you’re winning, but what about in October? What you’re doing now doesn’t matter until you win a game in October.” The pressure is about now. It’s about a division race in the middle of the summer. Something the 0-for-October team from last year didn’t have to deal with.
I'm not being naive, either. This team is by no means perfect and currently has plenty of holes. They’ve frustrated and infuriated me all season, but this division is still there for the taking. They are the best team in the division, and I don’t think many would disagree that even in third place it is still theirs to lose. The two teams ahead of us whom we beat by 7.5 and 11 games last year? They got worse.
Look, (imagine Uncle Lou here) the point is there’s nothing wrong with a little adversity as long as you learn something from it. At this exact point last year The World Champion Phillies were coming off a 5 game losing streak (in the midst of a 1-7 stretch), only 7 games over .500 and a 1 game lead in the division. I bet anything they’d say the adversity and challenges they fought through the entire season are what propelled them to be the last team standing at the finish line. Let’s keep this in perspective. It couldn’t hurt. Go Cubs.