May 23, 2019


When the going gets tough, the tough get going . . . to Japan.

Carter Stewart, a 19-year old pitcher was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. Due to an alleged injury, the Braves cut his signing bonus offer in half, to $2 million. Stewart refused the offer. He is now expected to be drafted lower, in the second round.

But he won't be drafted at all. It has been reported that Stewart will by-pass the MLB and sign directly with a Japanese pro team for a six-year deal worth over $7 million.

This is a clever runaround of the draft and stash MLB procedure for young talent. You sign with a team, get a bonus, then toil in the minors from four to six years at a bare minimum salary. He is getting more than his projected $2 million bonus by $5 million. Currently, minor league players are paid from $1100 to $1800 per month depending on what level they are at in the system. At best, he would make $60,000 to $80,000 for six years of minor league service. Japan is giving him $5 million for the same training.

Though he is now committed to playing in Japan through age 25, Stewart will, essentially, enter free agency once he’s finished and be able to sign for whatever the market commands when the time comes. Stewart would be considered a standard international free agent should he play in Japan for the next six years, according to writer Jeff Passan.

In addition, he will have six seasons of higher than MLB minor league experience which could drive up his market value (see, Yu Darvish).

This could be the future for highly prized prospects who do not want to wait years in the minors to get their shot at the Big Show. And this is also a way to avoid being drafted by sink hole franchises like the Marlins.

May 11, 2019


Yu Darvish had another Yu is Darbage outing. Four innings pitched, 97 pitches, 6 walks, one run . . .  his control was awful enough to get seven strikeouts.

Montgomery came back from his injury rehab to throw five innings of winning relief.

Which leads to a problem and a solution.

Darvish cannot command his stuff. Montgomery wants to be a starter. Darvish has such a fragile mental state that Maddon has to take baby steps with him. Monty has been the good soldier since he became a Cub.

At some levels in minor league baseball, teams have a "tandem" system for starting pitchers. In a game, one starter is delegated to throw 3 or 4 innings and then another starter comes in to throw 3 or 4 innings. In theory, this is less strain on a young arm by limiting innings per start. But at the same time, it helps to build up arm strength.

There was always a question on why Montgomery's minor league rehab was to stretch him out like a starting pitcher. The Cubs have their long reliever with Chatwood. But perhaps the Cubs inability to get a real closer is making the front office think about moving Chatwood to a late inning role.

But in the Marlins game, it was shown that the combination of Darvish and Montgomery can work in a "tandem" situation. I would not be surprised that Montgomery will not be used until Darvish's next scheduled start.

May 9, 2019


Yesterday, there was more non-baseball news than the actual Cubs-Marlins game.

Russell Addison returned from his 40 game suspension for domestic abuse to a chorus of boos and a light smattering of applause. Theo Epstein stressed before the game that the Cubs, as an organization, gave Russell the opportunity for a second chance for which he had fulfilled his conditions of his return. The Cubs also acknowledged that there would be many fans who would voice their displeasure at the return of a spouse abuser. Epstein said that the fans had their right to their own opinions on this issue.

The Cubs also announced it banned a fan for an alleged racist gesture that was caught on a live, mid-inning broadcast with Doug Glanville. The alleged offensive gesture was an upside down "OK" sign. There is a debate whether this symbol, which is part of a kid's "circle game," was intended to be a racist slur towards Glanville. But others have said that white supremacists have recently adopted this kid's sign as a racist slur. Most people watching the telecast were unaware of the gesture or its meaning. The Cubs stated that it had "zero tolerance" for any racist actions in Wrigley Field. Whether the Cubs did an investigation or interviewed the fan about his intent is unknown.

But the Cubs and ownership have created an even bigger problem. It has been well reported through the release of Joe Ricketts emails of his intolerant behavior toward minorities. Joe Ricketts, through a Cubs press release, apologized for his involvement in racist jokes and intolerant conversations he made in his emails. In the end, there was no further ramifications from that scandal. "Zero tolerance" apparently does not apply to ownership privilege.

The same is true with the inconsistent application of fan speech. The Cubs said it was okay for fans to boo the return of a spouse abuser, but it not okay to make an alleged racist hand sign. There are many more people offended about Russell's alleged criminal conduct than what fans say or do during a game.

If the Cubs have zero tolerance toward a fan's alleged action, why does the Cubs organization have great tolerance for spousal abuse behavior and its patriarch's racist remarks?

May 7, 2019


What is a real "quality start?"

MLB defines a quality start as:

A starting pitcher records a quality start when he pitches at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer. A starting pitcher has two jobs: to prevent runs and get outs. The quality start statistic helps to quantify which pitchers did a "quality" job in those two departments.

This definition of a "quality" yields an absurd result: a pitcher who allows three earned runs over six innings would have an ERA of 4.50 -- not good -- and yet he still receives a quality start. 

Bill James addressed this in his 1987 Baseball Abstract, saying the hypothetical example (a pitcher going exactly 6 innings and allowing exactly 3 runs) was extremely rare among starts recorded as quality starts, and that he doubted any pitchers had an ERA over 3.20 in their quality starts. This was later confirmed through computer analysis of all quality starts recorded from 1984 to 1991, which found that the average ERA in quality starts during that time period was 1.91.

Former pitcher Carl Erskine said "in my day, a quality start was a complete game ... you gave everybody a day's rest." This view was also echoed by Fergie Jenkins who often said that it was his job every time he took the job was to have a complete game win. If he was going against an opponent like Bob Gibson, he knew that he could only give up one or two runs tops in order to win the game.

Growing up, it was the consensus gold standard for a pitcher to have an ERA under 3.00.

To get to that level, a pitcher would have to have these types of starts in order to get the win:

5 IP 1 ER = 1.80 ERA
6 IP 2 ER = 3.00 ERA
9 IP 3 ER = 3.00 ERA

2.57 ERA for 7 IP with 2 ER, but 3.86 ERA with 3 ER.
2.25 ERA for 8 IP with 2 ER, but 3.36 ERA with 3 ER.

Therefore, a quality start should be a scaled event for starting pitchers at points of 1, 2 and 3 earned runs allowed to get under 3.00 ERA.

The oddity in this analysis plays into the rise in the bullpen managed game. A starter with 1 ER in 5 IP can be pulled for a shut down bullpen of under 2.00 ERA to get under a 3.00 ERA for the entire game. Stat men claim that starter's batting average against climbs dramatically when facing a hitter the third time in a game. Managers are not only managing the pitch count but also the number of times through the batting order.

Conclusion: a quality start should be any start that yields a 3.00 ERA or under.