TWTW: The Week(s) that Was (Were)

“It’s not ready yet. Down the road, 40 or 50 years, when you can put some of those categories, you get your O-B-Ps and all that, your V-O-R-Ps, when you put in T-W-T-W, and interface those numbers with T-W-T-W, that category, then you might have something cooking.” – Hawk Harrelson

(Update: For the sake of my sanity, TWTW will officially begin with the regular season.)

I’ve decided to try something new with my end-of-week posts. Rather than only sharing links, I’ll use this as a space to give my thoughts on the Cubs news of the last week. I have more ideas for weekly wrap-ups once the season starts, but that’s so far away that I’ll get sad if I start thinking about it. Since I’ve missed a couple weeks, this first post will cover more than just the last seven days. Also, I plan for these posts to be on Sundays from now on.

Here is the week that was, which of course has the same abbreviation as that all-important stat.

News

We’re doing it live!

Railroad It Is

Rick Renteria, who I fully intend on referring to as Railroad, has been officially named as the manager of the Cubs. It’s hard to have much of an opinion of a new manager when he doesn’t have any major league managerial experience, but so far he has said all the right things.

“I might be naive, and people think I might be nuts about me believing this club can go out and do certain things, but I feel that way, and I truly believe it, and we’re going to find out. In having some of the conversations I had with some of these kids yesterday, it might be a pretty fun season for us.”

Sign me up.

Much of what we’ve heard from him has been an emphasis on a winning attitude. It makes me wonder if Epstein, Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs brass have had a bit of a change of heart in regards to the importance of the short term. When Starlin Castro says he doesn’t expect the Cubs to be competitive for a couple more years, you have to wonder what incentive he and other players have to give full effort, and if that lack of effort can affect their development. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t remember hearing this kind of language in the last two offseasons.

On Castro, who will have an even bigger spotlight on him after his turd of a 2013 season (technical term):

“I know a lot has been made about some of the lapses he’s had and his play,” Renteria said of the shortstop. “This guy is a really good player, and he’s a special player.”

Renteria, 51, said if he has to be firm with a player, he will be. But he didn’t think that was necessary with Castro.

“It seems like he has a lot of energy,” Renteria said. “He was ready to do whatever it takes. … I think everybody moves more confidently with positive information and positive reinforcement than you do with a heavy hand. That being said, I can bark and bark and bark just like a dog. In the end, players just shut you out. I think you have to build a relationship with players and have them understand when you raise the tone, when things are serious, that it’s for real.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that using the media to threaten to demote a player isn’t part of what Railroad meant when he talked about building relationships.

There’s a Shark in the (Trade) Pool!

Unsurprisingly, Jeff Samardzija trade talks have surfaced again.

Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported this morning that the Nationals may also be interested in Samardzija. (h/t BleacherNation)

It’s hard to gauge the likelihood of a Samardzija deal without knowing what other teams would spend. The Diamondbacks got a taste of the Cubs’ high price for Samardzija last season. That they’re still talking to the Cubs makes me think that a huge return isn’t out of the question. Kilgore writes that Samardzija would be “far cheaper” than David Price or Max Scherzer. If the Nationals are looking for a real deal, I’m guessing their offers aren’t going to fall on interested ears.

This isn’t entirely dissimilar from the Matt Garza saga we lived through for over a year. The Cubs had reasons to trade Garza long before they did, but they held onto him when they didn’t have the deal they wanted. My gut says they do the same here and Samardzija will still be a Cub unless a team makes an offer that blows them away.

Tulowitzki to the Cardinals?

Three. That’s how many headlines it took for me to stop using any sort of creativity.

Late last night, Jeff Passan reported that the Cardinals and Rockies were going to discuss a trade involving Troy Tulowitzki at the upcoming GM meetings. He also reports that the Cardinals have spoken to the Rangers about the availability of Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. We had heard less than two weeks ago that the Cardinals had called the Cubs about Starlin Castro. The Cardinals really, really want a shortstop.

I don’t see much coming from this unless the Cardinals are willing to lose a ton of talent. I would have to think a deal starts with Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez with Oscar Taveras not off the table. Personally, I like the idea of the Cardinals losing those three for an injury-prone player owed over $100 million over the next 7 years, but we all know that he would never miss a game again and win 3 MVPs if he were traded to the Cardinals.

I see an important lesson in this. The Cardinals have received praise from everyone with a mouth for their home-grown talent, and rightfully so. And still, the Cardinals are going through great efforts to trade for a shortstop. Just goes to show how hard it is to come by a quality major league shortstop. That’s something people need to consider when they call for a trade of Starlin Castro (or Javier Baez).

Baseball America’s Top 10

Hot off the presses from earlier today, Baseball America posted its top 10 prospects for the Cubs.

  1. Javier Baez
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. C.J. Edwards
  4. Albert Almora
  5. Jorge Soler
  6. Pierce Johnson
  7. Arismendy Alcantara
  8. Jeimer Candelario
  9. Dan Vogelbach
  10. Arodys Vizcaino

We’ve heard for a long time now that there are mixed feelings about C.J. Edwards, and here’s proof. It appears BA’s John Manuel doesn’t have the same concerns about Edwards’s size and potential durability that Baseball Prospectus’s Jason Parks has voiced. He also appears to be a little little lower on Almora, who, as I mentioned before, Parks said might be the Cubs best prospect.

I also found interesting the list of the Cubs best players 25 and younger, particularly the top 6.

  1. Javier Baez
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. Starlin Castro
  4. Anthony Rizzo
  5. C.J. Edwards
  6. Albert Almora

This is a different take than we’ve gotten before, and it’s a reminder to not just focus on one scout’s opinions.

If I Were Important

I had initially intended on writing a full breakdown of my NL and AL MVP ballots (if I were important enough to have a ballot), but I’ve decided against it. It’s not laziness. I actually wrote nearly 2,000 words on the NL MVP, but I realized I wasn’t offering anything that people can’t find anywhere else. And if I’m not doing that, what’s the point?

So instead of full posts, here they are in list form.

NL MVP

  1. Andrew McCutchen
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Matt Carpenter
  4. Paul Goldschmidt
  5. Carlos Gomez
  6. Joey Votto
  7. Yadier Molina
  8. Freddie Freeman
  9. Shin-Soo Choo
  10. Andrelton Simmons

AL MVP

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Josh Donaldson
  4. Chris Davis
  5. Evan Longoria
  6. Manny Machado
  7. Robinson Cano
  8. Dustin Pedroia
  9. Adrian Beltre
  10. Jacoby Ellsbury

One note: I didn’t include pitchers unless I felt there was a legitimate argument for the guy winning the award. Kershaw is the only one who meets that criteria. I did this mainly to avoid trying to figure out where to rank the six or so pitchers in the AL who could have made the top 10.

If you’re interested, here are my full posts on the NL and AL Cy Young.

Sharing Is Caring

sharing

The best Cubs and other baseball links from the last week(s).

  • Peter Gammons takes a look at the franchises currently in rebuild. He has kind words for the Cubs and offers this:  “The more difficult task is building a system that can simultaneously build and maintain competitiveness. That is what the Cubs are trying to do, rather than invest 30-something per cent of their payroll into 30-something year old free agents and mercenaries.”
  • Here’s more from Sahadev Sharma, this time on ESPN Chicago with a great piece on Albert Almora. Two things are clear to me about Almora. He is confident and exceedingly quotable. I cannot recommend this read enough.
  • The Shadows of Wrigley guys making a case for Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. I’ve gone back and forth on both of these several times already. Now, I’m not sure either would be worth the deal they’d get. Choo would be a monster in a platoon role, but I have to think that would limit his playing time too much to warrant the contract he’ll get, even if he is a lefty.
  • Jeff Zimmerman at Rotographs on Castro’s patience backfiring on him. Rotographs is the part of Fangraphs centered on fantasy baseball, but many of their posts are applicable to reality. Zimmerman argues that Castro let the first pitch go by too often, and that put him in too many holes. That matches with what the eyes told us last year. I have one gripe, and it’s not something Zimmerman says directly but something that’s in the Phil Rogers piece he quotes. People often point to the second half of 2012 as the point where Castro started to regress. Here are his numbers in the second half of 2012: .275/.332/.440, 7.3% BB%, 11.9% K%, .166 ISO, .297 BABIP.  The only ones that are subpar for Castro are the batting average and BABIP. Bump up that BABIP to closer to Castro’s career average, and you’re looking at a great half. Even without that, it’s still pretty good, with all of the indicator stats right where you want them. This doesn’t make up for Castro’s 2013 at all, but I do not understand what the people who write off Castro’s last “year and a half” are seeing. Are they just looking up batting average? Are they looking up anything?
  • Eddie Vedder talks to Billboard’s Jessica Letkemann. “I’m going to go to a Cubs World Series game — and I’m taking care of my health in order to do so.” That sentence is such a weird combination of optimism and pessimism, which is to say, he’s a Cubs fan.

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