Theometer: Round 3Posted: May 14, 2012
Wow, it’s been a long time since we’ve made a post. TCARS has been on the DL for graduations, “flu-like symptoms”, and car problems. It’s been so long, that I forgot my password, WordPress locked me out, and I had to reset the login…whoops. (Kevin also apologizes for the poor posting as of late and can point to travel and new work duties). Sorry for the delay, but I think it’s time for some Theometer updates.
Since we last moved the needle on the Theometer, the Cubs have gone 7-6, with a pretty pattern of win, lose, win , lose, win. This team has looked a lot better overall than their 3-11 start, and they are playing like the team TCARS more or less expected. They are certainly not the worst team in the National League, but they have been floating right around .500 over two weeks, the type of record we expected to see for most of the season. On the plus side, the Cubs have won their past two series until dropping 2 in a row against Milwaukee, (taking 2 of 3 at home from both the Braves and the Dodgers) and they split two before that (1-1 against the Reds and 2-2 against the Phillies on the road).
What Could Cause the Meter to Increase
Bryan LaHair. This man is on a tear. If LaHair keeps up, he just might be the starting first baseman in the All-Star game. He’s hit 8 HRs, driven in 18 runs, hit .359, and has an OPS of 1.172. LaHair has provided some consistent power and run production at the middle of the Cubs lineup (although it’d be nice to have more runners on base for him to drive in). Although LaHair is 29 years old, his solid season thus far leaves the Cubs with plenty of options. Theo and Jed can use LaHair for deadline trade bait, because when isn’t there a premium on run-production? Or, the Cubs can hang onto LaHair and move him to the OF once Anthony Rizzo arrives. After all, LaHair isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015, so he might be cheap to hold onto. Check out this post on Fangraphs on why the advanced stats say LaHair’s success may be relatively sustainable.
The Starting Rotation. With the exception of Chris Volstad and Randy Wells’ spot starts, The Cubs’ starting rotation is the largest reason the Cubs don’t have the worst record in baseball right now. Despite the offensive struggles and lack of a bullpen, the Cubs’ starting pitching has kept them in just about every game this season. Most importantly, two pitchers that the Cubs will look to in the future, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija, have been especially impressive. Over his last 3 starts, Samardzija has given up only 2 earned runs, and he’s struck out 23 while walking only 6. On the season, he’s 4-1 (which means he’s won 25% of the Cubs’ games) with a 3.03 ERA. Despite missing a start because of the flu and lasting only 5 innings in his last start, Matt Garza has a 1.42 ERA over 19 innings with 18 Ks in his last three starts. And, even though Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster are older and might not be part of future Cubs teams, their performance could make them very good trade bait at the deadline. Dempster actually leads all starting pitchers with a 1.02 ERA, but has received almost no run support, which explains his 0-1 record. Still, that 1.02 ERA could be very attractive to a team in need of starting pitching. (Red Sox, perhaps?)
What Could Cause the Meter to Decrease
Carlos Marmol’s Woes. While Carlos Marmol is no longer the Cubs’ closer of the future like we once thought back in 2008, he still can provide the team with some value. If it were not for his recent performance (or lack thereof) and his injury, Marmol might’ve been a very tradable item at the deadline. However, Marmol’s 16 walks (in just 11.1 innings), 6.35 ERA, and 2.21 WHIP are not going to yield anything of value, even if relievers are at a premium at the deadline. Oh, and his recent injury (suspiciously timely injury at that) doesn’t help. He has always been effectively wild, but his control is so all over the place that no batter respects his once devastating slider.
Chris Volstad’s Start. At the start of the year, Volstad was my pick to click for the Cubs this season. What do I think 6 weeks into the season? That the Dobbins pick is akin to the Sports Illustrated cover curse. Case in point: in his first 7 starts, Volstad is 0-5, with a 6.92 ERA and a WHIP approaching 1.50. While many of us were hoping that a younger guy with some talent might pan out as a future #2 or #3 starter, it appears that Volstad will just be lost by the wayside. Winless in his last 18 starts (18!!!!), I don’t really expect Volstad to be pitching at the big league level for much longer this season. Volstad’s issue is giving up the big inning, which is basically like a time bomb-you know it’s going to go off, but no one is quite sure when. His most recent start against the Brew Crew saw him give up 5 of his 6 ER’s in the sixth inning. Some suggest swapping him with Travis Wood in AAA, though Volstad would have to clear waivers for that to happen. Another option is the bullpen, but the time bomb aspect of his game makes that a scary proposition, especially with the Cubs’ pen struggles.
So, why did we bump the Theometer up to 25 over the past few weeks? Because LaHair, Garza, and Samardzija just are too promising as things stand right now. While Marmol and Volstad are disappointments, the Cubs are still moving in the right direction. The majority of production has come from the young guns on the Cubs, as well as Theo’s sabermetrics guys, like David DeJesus. Plus, it’s kinda nice that the Cubs are playing .500 baseball right now. While it’s nothing spectacular, it’s not as embarrassing as that 3-11 start. Though this .500 stretch didn’t really have an effect on the needle movement, the reasons behind the good record did (plus, it gives us a warm fuzzy feeling we’ve been missing since the season started) . Overall, the Cubs are continuing to move in the right direction, even if that isn’t evident in the on-the-field play.
Do you disagree with the Theometer this time around? Leave your comments or suggestions on how you think the Theometer needle should be moved.