108 Years, It was a sign

Last night the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. Little did I know, and likely little did you know, that had we done the research we would have known it had to happen this year. Why? Because of the significance of 108 to the Cubs franchise.

A.G. Spalding was the first manager of the Cubs. Who was Spalding, the designer of the baseball which has 108 stitches.

Both corners of the outfield wall at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, are exactly 108 meters from home plate.

In 1990 there was film made by J.J Abrams called “Taking Care of Business”, in this film the Cubs win the World Series. That film is 108 minutes long.

Finally, for this article at least, the owner of the Cubs is the Ricketts family who also own TD Ameritrade. TD Ameritrade’s home office is located on 108th Street in Omaha, Nebraska.

If only I knew all this when I was in Vegas before the season started, I could have been a wealthy man.

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Theo or Tito, who gets it done?

Yesterday I wrote about Theo Epstein and the fact that if he ends the Chicago Cubs World Series Championship drought that we would have to call him a baseball genius. Then today I realized there is a good chance the 2016 World Series could be played by the Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Why is that of importance, two reasons.

First, if you were not aware the Cubs and Indians are the MBL clubs with the first and second longest period of time without a World Series Championship. Both have a realistic shot of ending their streak this year.

Second, Terry Francona and Theo Epstein were the dynamic duo that ended the Boston Red Sox historic World Series Championship streak. Both of them could now be the saviour of a new city.

It’s still to be determined if either of these teams will make it to the final series, but what if they both do? Would we have to call both of these men baseball geniuses or just the one who wins? And if one beats the other does that diminish the reputation of the loser? I know, it is a lot to think about, but it is a great thing to spend time thinking about while we wait for the Dodgers and Nationals game to start.

Is Theo Epstein a Genius?

Rays vs Red Sox 9/8/10
By Scott Slingsby from Rochester, NH (Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
With the Chicago Cubs winning yesterday in game four of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants the possibility of the Cubs World Series drought ending is becoming more and more realistic. If that happens Theo Epstein will be responsible for ending the two most celebrated championship cold streaks in baseball history.

On November 25th, 2002 Epstein became the general manager of the Boston Red Sox. At the time he was the youngest GM in MLB history. Just two years later he was in charge when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years and again when they won it again in 2007. He was the hero of Fenway and never had to buy another meal in Boston.

In 2011 Epstein became President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, the current record holder for longest time without a World Series title. In just five years he has taken the Cubs from lovable losers, to the top team in baseball and given the city of Chicago real hope of winning their first Championship since 1908.

If Theo is able to complete this championship run and give the Cubs a World Series banner we would have no choice but to name him the greatest baseball operations guy ever. Ok, the title needs a little work, but you get my point. He single handedly would be responsible for ending the two most prolific curses in all of sports. The only man to be part of both historic events.

A Deeper Look at Deciding the MVP

 

Every season there is much debate about who should win the MVP award in the American and National Leagues. There are many out there who think that the award should go to a player on a contending team, while others say that is not the case. We decided to look a little deeper and share our opinion on the subject.

The official rules for voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the MVP award look like this: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team. As you can clearly read in no way does the strength of the player’s team come in to the rules of voting. There is no mention of games won, a team being in playoff contention or anything else regarding the team a player plays for. So, why is it that so many people in the media and around the water cooler feel that the MVP needs to be on a contending team?

Does a player on a contending team play harder than one who is not? Or do opposing teams not give their best against players on non-contending teams? Of course not, so why care what the team’s performance has been for an individual award.

With all that being said there really is no argument in my mind as to how the MVP should be chosen. It is simple, use Wins Above Replacement or WAR. By definition WAR is a measure of how many wins, or how much value, an individual player brings to a team over a replacement level player. Higher the WAR, the more valuable that player is to their team. It’s a measure that takes team record and performance out of the equation and is strictly based on the individual.

Now that we have established how he MVP awards should be decided it’s easy to see that the National League MVP is Kris Bryant with a WAR of 7.3 and the American League MVP is Mike Trout with an MLB leading WAR of 10.0. Neither of these players isn’t already in the discussion for MVP, which just adds more credibility to the argument that WAR is the measure of who should be MVP.

On a side note, if you don’t realize it Mike Trout’s WAR of 10.0 is somewhat historic.

If you need more proof, then just look at the runner-ups in the AL and NL; Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. Both of them are also in the MVP discussion. Or maybe we should look at last year’s MVPs and where they fell in WAR. Bryce Harper lead MLB in WAR and Josh Donaldson was 5th. Not convinced yet? Ok, 2014’s MVPs Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout were number one and two in MLB WAR.

Yes, there will be plenty who say I am oversimplifying the MVP award by using one stat as the deciding factor, but those people are just behind the times and don’t realize stats rule baseball.

What’s Wrong with Jake Arrieta?

Last night in Chicago Jake Arrieta had one of his worst games of the season going 6.1 innings and giving up 6 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. It was, to most, somewhat of a surprise as he was coming off one of his best starts on August 23rd where he pitched 8 scoreless innings of 2 hit ball at San Diego. If you look at his overall line for the year you probably would not be too concerned as he has a 2.84 ERA, 1.048 WHIP with 16 wins on the season. I would argue though that there should be some concern.

It would be unfair to just say Arrieta is struggling because his season hasn’t been what it was in 2015, since that was an amazing season for him and he was the Cy Young winner in the National League. My concerns are more rooted in numbers that not everyone likely pays attention to.

Over Arrieta’s best two seasons of his career, so far, 2014 and 2015 he had a 2.08 ERA and a 0.915 WHP. He obviously isn’t living up to that, but ok we can’t expect that necessarily. In that same span of time he had a 2.31 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9, this is where my concern falls. In 2016 his FIP is 1.16 higher at 3.47, his HR/9 has nearly doubled to 0.7, BB/9 is up to 3.5 and he is not striking batter out at the same clip with an 8.6 K/9. His struggles are very prominent in his last 11 starts where he has a 4.20 ERA, 34 walks and only 60 strikeouts in 75 innings. To make matters worse he has a record of 6-6 in those games.

So what is wrong with Jake Arrieta? According to BrooksBaseball.net it wouldn’t appear that he is injured as his velocity is right in line with his 2015 numbers. His pitch mix does appear to have changed. As you can see from the chart below he has begun to rely more heavily on his hard stuff versus his breaking pitches, throwing his fastballs 14% more of the time then he did in 2014 and 2015. As the 2016 season has progressed that has become an even bigger trend as he has thrown hard pitches 73.21% of the time in the month of August.

Arrieta 2014 thru 2016 pitch selection

My theory, however, is more than that. Last season Arrieta threw a career high 229.0 innings, 55.7 more innings than his previous high of 173.3 set in 2010. Since 2010 he has thrown 119.3 in 2011, 170.7 in 2012, 154.7 in 2013 and 176 innings in 2014. It is not that a jump to 229 innings is a death sentence for a pitcher, but that is a fairly large workload and many of those innings were in higher pressure situations than ever before. It is very likely with Arrieta already at 168.0 innings in 2016 that he is just wearing down from last year’s innings and because of that his stuff just isn’t as crisp.

Though we don’t know for sure what is wrong with Arrieta, what we do know is the Cubs have to find a way to get him back to his high end form soon as they are likely in the playoffs for 2016 and have a good shot of making it to the World Series if they can get him right.