The Other Fifteen

Eighty-five percent of the f---in' world is working. The other fifteen come out here.

A sea change

There is a blog post waiting to be written, flaming the Cubs and Piniella for refusing to consider the youngsters for the rotation:

"We're going to pitch them here in spring training, but this is not a year for this," Piniella said when asked specifically about right-hander Sean Gallagher and, by extension, other young starters in camp. "I hate to say that, but we've got veteran pitchers here to consider; they're going to get every chance, first and foremost.

"We like Gallagher. I like (Jeff) Samardzija. Good young starters with good young arms, but truthfully not coming out of camp. I'd be lying if I said that something like that would happen.

"We've got seven veteran starters. They're all healthy. They're all throwing the ball well, and they're all going to compete. Unless we have a streak of bad luck where we have some injuries, this is not the spring for (young pitchers)."

This won't be that post. Maybe in the morning, but not tonight.

I just want to note - the Cubs used to be a franchise that was focused on developing young pitching. And for a while we were very good at it. We still seem to be developing some nice, young starting pitching.

So it's very unnerving, for me at least, to see the Cubs so thoroughly abandoning that approach. Maybe it's for the better, but I don't have to like it.

The other interesting bit to that narrative:

Piniella has bumped right-hander Ryan Dempster up to the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Carlos Zambrano and left-hander Ted Lilly.

The Sun-Times puts it a bit less strongly:

For now, right-hander Carlos Zambrano and left-hander Ted Lilly are locked into the 1-2 spots, with lefty Rich Hill taking No. 4 and Piniella looking for a righty among Marquis, Lieber and Ryan Dempster for the No. 3 spot.

If Dempster, who looks like the early favorite for the third spot, instead becomes the odd veteran out, he could return to the bullpen.

And the Trib is also a little more tentative:

Converted closer Ryan Dempster is the early front-runner to grab the No. 3 spot behind Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, while Rich Hill has already sealed the No. 4 spot. The main battle is expected to be between Jon Lieber and Jason Marquis for the fifth spot, with Sean Marshall as the dark-horse candidate.

But where there's smoke, there's probably fire.

Now, the Cubs employ a great many scouts that are much better at these things than I am, and are actually in Mesa. So if they say that Dempster looks impressive, well... then he probably looks impressive, at least. There's an information asymmetry here, so for now I guess I have to take their word for it.

And PECOTA, for one, sees a lot of upside to Dempster, as well as a lot of downside. And, well, I love upside risk. Absolutely love the hell out of upside risk. So I'm willing to ride this out for a while and see where it goes. Just so long as everyone understands that this could end very badly.

And this is all very premature - remember who won the fifth starter competition last season between Mark Prior, Neal Cotts and Wade Miller?

But let's presume that Dempster is our number three starter to start the season and run with it. That leaves Marquis and Lieber "fighting" for the fifth starter's job. Now, let's put on our intuitive thinking caps and figure this out:

  1. The Cubs knew that Dempster was getting a shot at the rotation.
  2. They signed Jon Lieber anyway.
  3. Lieber signed with the Cubs despite other offers from teams without so much starting pitching depth.

So... who here thinks that Jason Marquis is the odd man out?

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3 Responses to “A sea change”

  1. # Blogger Harry Pavlidis

    Keep in mind, Dempster's upside assumes he's pitching out of the 'pen and the rotation, in PECOTA's case. That includes Lieber, Marshall, too, so it is apples to apples in that regard. Still, a little optimism is built into those when used purely to evaluate a starter.  

  2. # Blogger SL__72


    This is unrelated to this post, but I have made a couple of minor updates to the WAR Calculator you created while preparing a Twins WAR preview post for my own blog. If you'd like the updated version I'd be happy to send it to you, just send me your email address.

    I added a service time feature and fixed the calculation for reliever WAR.  

  3. # Blogger Colin Wyers

    SL -

    I'd absolutely love a copy. E-mail Oh, and let me know when you do post that Twins preview. Thanks!  

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