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And The Last Straw

It’s generally how it always works. There’s a leak of one last contract offer, one last leak of a rejection of that offer by the player, all meant to soften the blow of his trade a few weeks later with a “What more can we do?” gesture.

So it was yesterday, as reports leaked that Jeff Samardzija had turned down a five-year offer worth somewhere between $85-$90 million. While this Cubs administration, at least on the baseball side, generally hasn’t give one flying fuck what the press and fans think as they execute their plan, this one seemed a bit calculated. And it did because the math on Shark has changed a bit this year.

Before this season, the general thought was that on a good team, a contending team, that he really didn’t cap out as anything more than a #2 starter. And you thought, “Well, if we could flip him for something that will be a #1 downy he road, that’s a trade up.” And the Samardzija came out and led the league in ERA for six weeks. He’s 4th in the NL in WAR among pitchers. 7th in FIP. He may not be a league-leading ace (you saw one of those last night in L.A. striking out 15 and giving up no hits), but Shark has looked like he could lead a staff.

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This Week’s Drip Is Now Out

Come and get it: http://thecommittedindian.com/get-issues-of-the-committed-indian/

Been Too Long, Let’s Clear The Tubes

Now that my hockey responsibilities are over, I’d better get back to this. Should have done a better job of balancing the two. One day I’ll learn I suppose. Anyway, figure it’s best to get back in the baseball writing swing of things by just clearing out all the things floating around the either between my ears.

-While the prospect of actually sitting down to watch the Mets v. Cubs probably confirms that my life is not all that it should be, it was an excellent and fascinating contrast between two pitchers with excellent stuff. Sure, there’s a large difference in age, but eliminating that you see both Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta have popping fastballs with breaking pitches to match.

And yet the contrast between how they use it couldn’t have been more stark, and probably a great illustration as to why Wheeler is very likely to go on to be a very solid #2 behind Matt Harvey at the very least, and Arrieta will probably always pitch just well enough to break your heart.

Wheeler was more than happy to just pour fastballs over the plate repeatedly. While he got plenty of strikeouts, he wasn’t chasing them. If they came, they came. He only used to breaking pitches when he had to, and I’m not sure he threw on until the third inning or so.

Meanwhile, Arrieta once again channeled his inner Javier Vasquez and wanted to throw every pitch he has in every at-bat. But while he wants to show it off, he certainly doesn’t want anyone hitting it. Arrieta nibbles and tries to deke batters instead of going right at them, which is why he’s usually drowning in pitches and baserunners by the 4th inning. He doesn’t chase strikeouts so much as avoid contact violently, and he’s never going to be anything until this changes. And as he’s 28, it probably won’t.

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About last night

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The Cubs are taking on the Padres right now (the Padres are wearing their most-excellent Taco unis tonight, by the way), but I’m still stewing a little over last night’s debacle. A few thoughts:

1. I’m sure pitchers like to see W’s pile up next to their names because that’s what all kind of grew up looking at. Even those of us fans who embrace advanced stats like seeing their favorite pitchers rack them up. But I’m also pretty sure Jeff Samardzija is a smart guy who knows that he’s not actually being evaluated based on wins by any front office that matters, and wouldn’t want to play for an organization stupid enough to value that stat [pointed side-eye in the direction of Ruben Amaro]. If he keeps up this kind of performance, he’s going to get paid handsomely by the Cubs or by someone else, wins or no wins (more on that later). If anything, the freak winless streak is drawing attention to the Shark’s otherwise extraordinary performance this year, and leading people to speculate about him as an early favorite to start the All-Star Game or even take home the Cy Young award. So let’s all stop acting like he’s getting “boned” by the Cubs offense/defense/relief corps. Jeff Samardzija is going to be just fine, thank you.
 
2. I’m on record as a firm believer in the Theo & Jed plan, but I do have a few quibbles on the edges. Two instances might not make a pattern yet, but there seems to be a tendency toward sticking with ineffective expensive relievers. I’m obviously talking about 2013 Marmol and 2014 Jose Veras. I understand the desire to generate some kind of return on investment, but Veras seems as unable to find the strike zone as Marmol did last year, and each outing is at least as likely to lower any potential trade value as it to boost it. In the meantime, he’s costing the Cubs actual games and more importantly clogging up a roster spot. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and not let sunk costs dictate actions.
3. This is a minor point – but worth making – about the double-switch Rick Renteria made heading into the ninth. Since Mike Olt had made the last out in the eighth, Ricky inserted the pitcher (Hector Rondon) into Olt’s lineup spot, and “defensive replacement” (more on that in a sec) Darwin Barney was inserted in the pitcher’s spot, with Luis Valbuena sliding over to third base. It was kind of an automatic move, and I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it ended up costing the Cubs in ways both unpredictable (Barney’s error allowing the Yankees to tie the game) and totally predictable (taking Olt’s power threat out of a potential extra inning game).
The issue I have with the switch is that it was entirely unnecessary for two reasons First, while Barney is a great defender and nobody would’ve reasonably expected him to make that error, neither Olt nor Valbuena are defensive liabilities who need to be lifted for a “defensive replacement” in a tight spot, making Barney’s insertion relatively pointless at best. Second, the only reason to insert the pitcher into Olt’s spot in the lineup is to allow him to work more than one inning. However no matter what happened in the ninth, Rondon was going to work only the ninth, so he might as well have been slotted in the 9-hole, due to lead off the bottom of the inning.
These are minor points, but hopefully we see slightly smarter lineup and bullpen management and less hand-wringing over the Shark. Anyway, now it’s time to enjoy what has turned into a 5-1 Cubs lead in San Diego (and hopefully stays that way).

18

I suppose it will be another day I look back on when the plan works out and laugh. Or yet another one on the pile that we laugh about in the bar when we try and figure out why it is we still bother. But yep, I sat through 18 innings of scoreless Cubs baseball yesterday. At least I wasn’t there, freezing my ass off along with Yankees fans mocking the Cubs mercilessly. What would have been my defense?

18 innings. You joke about it happening before the double header, but you never think it will actually happen. You joke about it after the first game, more to ease your now real fear that it could actually happen. And then you get to about the 4th inning of the second game, and you know there isn’t any other conclusion coming. They’re not going to score today. Today, which they played two games. They’re just not.

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Our 2014 Season Preview Issue Is Out. And You Can Have It For Free

You can have it all. My empire of dirt. Just hit the link below, and if you like what you see you can sign up for a season subscription at http://thecommittedindian.com/get-issues-of-the-committed-indian/.

Here’s the link to the issue:

2014 Ivy Drip Season Preview

Once More Unto The Breach – The Ivy Drip’s Season Preview: The Bullpen

Trying to preview the bullpen of a bad team is basically folly. By definition on any baseball team the bullpen is the most volatile unit because it’s comprised of what are the worst players on the team. From year-to-year it can be just about anything. Guys pop up with good years one season and then the next can’t get anyone out and then the next are effective again (sound like Pedro Strop?). This was a pen that was stabilized by Kevin Fucking Gregg last year, so you know what we’re dealing with.

The pen is what turned April and most of May into such a horror show last year, when the starting rotation was actually exemplary. Carlos Marmol had trouble keeping his pitches between the baselines, much less the strikezone. Kyuji Fujikawa quickly realized his stuff might not be good enough, and then blew out his elbow trying to overthrow it. James Russell was used every day and warmed up every day. So we’ll try, but really it could be anything.

 

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