Notes from the First Third of the Baseball Season

I know, I know.  We’re now actually at the two-thirds point into the season.  But you may still find interesting these notes from the first two months.  I’ll have some middle-third notes before too long.

2015 could be The Year of the DL.  A record number of players, 112, were on the Disabled List at the start of the season.  It hasn’t slowed down a whole lot since then.

In 2014 pitchers were dominating the game.  It looks like they are again.  Last year there were 13 shutouts in the first 101 major league games.  This year there were 14 shutouts in the first 46 games.  This trend makes good hitting a valuable commodity.

Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs rookie 3Ber, is quickly becoming one of my favorite players.  He seems very even-keeled and quite personable.  He’s having fun playing the game.  And he’s very quickly very good.

Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant watches his RBI single during the fifth inning of an MLB baseball game against the San Diego Padres Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Chicago. Bryant's single was his first major league hit. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Kris Bryant has fun playing the game of baseball. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

In 2013, as a junior at the University of San Diego, Bryant hit 31 HRs.  That was the most home runs hit by a college player since the NCAA switched to a BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution, a standard for measuring the “trampoline effect” of the barrel of a baseball bat on a ball) composite bat (utilizing a reinforced carbon fiber polymer) in 2011, and more than 223 of 296 Division I teams that year.  Bryant won the 2013 Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy, both awarded to the top collegiate player, was a Louisville Slugger First Team All-American and was also named the Baseball America College Player of the Year.  In 2014 he was the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year.

Kris Bryant was called up to the Cubs on April 17.

At the April 21 game with the Cincinnati Reds at the Milwaukee Brewers, the teams combined for seven homers, including five by the Reds.  It was the fourth time in major league history that two teams combined for three grand slams, and the first time since the NY Yankees hit three grand slams against the Oakland As on Aug. 25, 2011.

On May 30 the Los Angeles Dodgers optioned outfielder Chris Heisey to Triple-A Oklahoma City.  Heisey had to that point gotten one hit in nine at-bats with five walks in three stints with the Dodgers. That created a very unusual .111/.429/.111 line (Batting Ave./On-Base Percentage/Slugging Pct.).

Some notes from April and May of the 2015 baseball season.  More to follow.

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Get rid of annual reviews

I’m not in HR but I have always been intrigued by performance reviews, about their communication aspects — how they’re written (often, poorly), what they aim to evaluate, how even in attempts to make them more objective they remain largely subjective and therefore revert to impressions, recollections and biases, and what they say about the organization and its communication processes.

And there is so little value in an evaluation that tries to cover a whole year.  “Oh, here are some things you could have done differently on that project 10 months ago….”  Not timely, not helpful.  Ineffective and unsatisfactory for everyone involved.  A much better system would provide employees with timely feedback on an ongoing basis throughout the year, following each particular assignment.  This won’t save time and effort, but will provide a much better value on that investment.

Here’s an article reporting on Accenture and other major companies that have dropped annual employee reviews.  These businesses feel they have to change from trying to measure things after the fact to instead regularly support and position employees to perform better in the future.

I like this closing quote from Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme.  “The art of leadership is not to spend your time measuring, evaluating,” Nanterme said. “It’s all about selecting the person. And if you believe you selected the right person, then you give that person the freedom, the authority, the delegation to innovate and to lead with some very simple measure.”

Accenture will get rid of annual performance reviews

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Cubs Signings & Trades, Pre-2014

This was originally the last section of the previous post but it’s going to get too long.  So here it is separately.  In addition to free agents signings, this now includes trades.

Cubs Trades  (after the 2013 season concluded)

C George Kottaras from KC for cash

CF Justin Ruggiano from Mia for LF Brian Bogusevic

Cubs Free Agent Signings  (after the 2013 season concluded)

LHP  Jeffry Antigua  (minor league contract)

RHP  Paolo Espino  (minor league contract)

RHP  Liam Hendriks  (waiver claim, then lost via waivers to Bal)

LHP  Tommy Hottovy  (minor league contract)

RHP  Chang-Yong Lim  (re-sign, minor league contract)

RHP  Carlos Pimentel  (minor league contract)

LHP  Jonathan Sanchez  (minor league contract)

RHP  Jose Veras  (1/$4 million)

LHP  Tsuyoshi Wada  (minor league contract)

RHP Brett Marshall  (waiver claim)

LHP  Wesley Wright  (1/$1.425 million)

C  John Baker  (minor league contract)

C  Daniel Canela  (minor league contract)

C  Eli Whiteside  (minor league contract)

1B  Lars Anderson  (minor league contract)

SS  Walter Ibarra  (minor league contract)

2B  Ryan Roberts  (minor league contract)

2B  Chris Valaika  (minor league contract)

2B  Jeudy Valdez  (minor league contract)

2B/OF  Chris Coghlan  (minor league contract)

CF  Ryan Kalish  (minor league contract)

OF  Mitch Maier  (minor league contract)

LF  Casper Wells  (minor league contract)

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Players the Cubs Should Consider Signing

What an active, interesting off-season it’s already been for player activity — free agents, contract non-tenderings and a bunch of trades.  And we haven’t yet even hit the Winter Meetings (Dec. 8-12, with the Rule 5 draft on the final day).

Here’s a list of some players I think the Cubs should consider signing.  I’m trying to think as I think the Cubs are, looking for (a) reasonable contracts with bounce-back players who can either be signed to extensions or used as mid-season trade chips and (b) players in or nearing their prime who can be an important part of the team in two-three years when the top system prospects should be coming into their own.

The players below are free agents and non-tenders; the list does not include trade targets.  I will update the list as those listed sign contracts, noting them in Years/Millions.  Players listed as DL will spend at least the start of the season (and some of them half the season or longer) on the Disabled List.

Scott Baker pitched 15 innings in three starts for the Cubs in 2013, after missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 following elbow surgery.

Scott Baker pitched 15 innings in three starts for the Cubs in 2013, after missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 following elbow surgery.

Starting Pitchers

Scott Baker  [re-sign]  (Sea minor lg contract)

Dan Haren  (LAD 1/$10)

Daniel Hudson [DL, elbow]  (Ari re-sign, minor lg contract)

Josh Johnson  (SD 1/$8)

Brett Marshall  (CUBS waiver claim)

Kyle McPherson [DL, elbow]  (Pit re-sign, minor lg contract)

Jeff Niemann

Felipe Paulino  (CWS 1/$1.75)

Mark Rogers  (Sea minor lg contract)

Eric Surkamp  (CWS waiver claim)

Masahiro Tanaka  (NYY 7/$155)

Relief Pitchers

Jairo Asencio  (KIA Tigers, Korea)

John Axford  (Cle 1/$4.5)

Andrew Bailey [DL, shoulder]

Daniel Bard  [reclamation re-sign]  (Tex minor lg contract)

Jose Flores  (Oak minor lg contract)

Cristhian Martinez  [DL, shoulder]

Ryan Madson

Yunesky Maya  (Atl minor lg contract)

Edward Mujica  (Bos 2/$9.5)

Eric O’Flaherty  [DL, elbow]  (Oak 2/$7)

Tomo Ohka  [now a knuckleballer!]  (Tor minor lg contract)

Juan Carlos Oviedo  (TB 1/$1.5)

Sandy Rosario  [he was a Cub for 9 days in December a year ago, getting claimed on waivers by the As from the Red Sox, then back by the Red Sox, then by the Cubs and then by the Giants, all between Nov. 28 and Dec. 21, 2012]  (SF re-sign, minor lg contract)

Jesus Sanchez  (Mia minor lg contract)

Joe Smith  (LAA 3/$15.75)

Wesley Wright  (CUBS 1/$1.425)

Position Players

Kurt Suzuki  (Min 1/$2.75)

Scott Sizemore  (NYY minor lg contract)

Shin-Soo Choo (Tex 7/$130)/Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY 7/$153)/Curtis Granderson (NYM 4/$60)  [one of them would be nice but only at reasonable Yrs/$$]

Grady Sizemore  (Bos 1/$750,000)

Chris Young  (NYM 1/$7.25)

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Has Ollie got his groove back?

Oliver Perez.  He’s been a great love/hate pitcher over most of his career. He has enticed and entertained with great strike out potential and scared and scarred with awful walk rates.  His career began in San Diego in 2002 and took him to Pittsburgh then the Mets and most recently to Seattle.  In 2004, with the Pirates, he had his best season:  12 wins, a 2.99 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  And 239 strikeouts in 196 innings (11 K/9); the 81 walks were tolerable (3.7 per 9 IP).  2007, with the Mets, was also pretty good: 15 wins, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 174 Ks and 79 BBs in 177 innings (8.8 K/9, 4.0 BB/9).

But oh those other years…. He followed up the excellent 2004 year by giving up 6.1 BB/9 in 2005 and 5.4 in ’06.  After the decent 2007 season came 4.9 BB/9 in ’08, 7.9 in ’09 and then 8.2 BB/9 in 2010!  His WHIP in both 2009 and ’10 was right around a horrific 2.00.

Last year in the Mariners bullpen (no starts for the first time in his pro career) things settled down.  His K rate remained decent (7.3) and the walk rate was pretty acceptable (3.0) through 29.7 innings.  Perhaps the bullpen is the place to be for OP.

So far in 2013 Oliver Perez has thrown 16.7 innings, giving up 9 hits, 9 walks and 2 runs while striking out 23.  That’s good for a 1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 12.4 K/9, but also a 4.9 BB/9.

With a “small sample size” warning, over his last four appearances (4.3 IP) he has given up 1 run, 2 hits and 2 walks.  That’s a pretty nice 2.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  The crazy thing is the Ks.  Of those 13 outs he’s most recently pitched, 11 have been by strikeout!  That’s the equivalent of striking out 23 batters in a 9 inning game (22.9 K/9 rate).  Walks, of course, remain a concern (8 in his last 10 IP), but keep an eye on Ollie.  For now, he’s in a groove.

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The Grass is Greener…

The grass is always greener through tinted glass.

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Ecology from Mars

Earlier today I read on a bag of Peanut M&Ms that “Mars is turning used candy wrappers into eco-friendly products.”  

Why can’t we do that here on Earth?

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