Central Intelligence

Week 5: Cubs running away with the division early

It’s only May 9th, but the Cubs are already running away with the NL Central. The Cubs have won 7 straight games, and are already 7.5 games ahead of the second place Pirates. Speaking of the Pirates, they been playing great baseball against everyone other the Cubs. The Pirates are currently just 0.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

Chicago Cubs 24-6
Pittsburgh Pirates 17-14 7.5 GB
St. Louis Cardinals 16-16 9.0 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 13-17 11.5 GB
Cincinnati Reds 13-18 12.0 GB

Chicago Cubs

Cubs

The Cubs continue to dominate. They’ve won 7 straight games, and are 24-6 on the season. They have the best record in baseball. Their city-mates from the south side, the White Sox (22-10) are the only other team in the MLB with 20+ wins.

The Cubs began the week with an impressive sweep of the Pirates in Pittsburgh. They outscored them 20-5 in the three game series. Then the Cubs swept the Nationals in a 4-game series at Wrigley Field. Those games were much closer, but the Cubs showed their moxie by coming back from early deficits in each of the final 3 games of the series.

Ben Zobrist hit 4 home runs over the last week, and he wasn’t even the Cubs hottest hitter!

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Anthony Rizzo: .407/.515/.852, 2 HR, 1 SB, 248 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Jason Heyward: .071/.188/.143, 1 for 16, 4 K, -6 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (8:05), Tues (8:05), Wed (8:05) vs Padres
  • Fri (2:20), Sat (2:20), Sun (2:20) vs Pirates

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers had a pretty good week. They took 2 of 3 from the Angels in Milwaukee, and split a four game series with the Reds in Cincinnati. The Brewers offense has been very good of late, as they’ve scored 64 runs in their last 8 games (8.0 runs per game).

Chris Carter continues to be an absolute steal for the Brewers. They signed Carter to a one-year, $2.5 million deal this off-season, and all he has done is crush baseballs. He is hitting .288/.347/.673 with 10 HR, 156 wRC+, and 1.0 fWAR. The Brewers would probably be wise to look to deal Carter the first chance they get this summer.

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Chris Carter: .367/.367/.900, 5 HR, 229 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Chase Anderson: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 10.80 ERA, 7.88 FIP, -0.1 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (7:10), Tues (7:10), Wed (7:10) at Marlins
  • Thurs (8:10), Fri (8:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (2:10) vs Padres

Pittsburgh Pirates

pirates

The Pirates came into the week hot (winners in 6 of 7), but they were swept by the Cubs at home to begin the week. The Pirates were outscored 20-5 in the series. The Pirates did however take 2 of 3 from the Cardinals over the weekend. The Pirates currently sit 0.5 games out of the second wild-card spot, behind the Phillies.

If you thought Gerrit Cole was only a hot head on the baseball field, you should think again. He was seen heckling the Washington Capitals players during an NHL Playoff game with the local Pittsburgh Penguins. He even had to be asked by usher to calm down.

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Francisco Liriano: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 10 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.08 FIP, 0.4 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): John Jason: .174/.240/.304, 4 for 23, 4 K, 48 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR

This Week

  • Mon (7:10), Tues (7:10), Wed (7:10) at Reds
  • Fri (2:20), Sat (2:20), Sun (2:20) at Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

cardinals

The Cardinals went 4-3 over the last week. They took 3 of 4 from the hot Phillies in St. Louis, but lost 2 of 3 over the weekend in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals continue to sit at .500 at 16-16.

Carlos Martinez had to leave his start in the 4th inning on Saturday because of fatigue. He is currently listed as day to day. The Cardinals really need Martinez to be healthy, and in the rotation. He has a 2.61 ERA/3.81 FIP through 6 starts this season.

The Cardinals offense continues to be lead by two young players. Aledmys Diaz (.402/.439/.696, 5 HR, 198 wRC+) has been a huge boost for the Cardinals at SS, and Stephen Piscotty (.303/.366/.521, 5 HR, 137 wRC+) has cemented himself in RF.

The Cardinals will begin a tough six game road trip in LA on Thursday. They’ll play three games against the Angels before playing three games over the weekend against the Dodgers (including Sunday Night Baseball).

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Aledmys Diaz: .333/.391/.571, 1 HR, 148 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Matt Holliday: .217/.280/.261, 5 for 23, 4 K, 37 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR

This Week:

  • Tues (10:05), Wed (10:05), Thurs (10:05) at Angels
  • Fri (10:10), Sat (9:10), Sun (8:05) at Dodgers

 Nick’s Power Rankings

  1. Chicago Cubs

  2. Pittsburgh Pirates

  3. St. Louis Cardinals

  4. Cincinnati Reds

  5. Milwaukee Brewers

    (all teams stayed the same)


Players of the Week

Pitcher: Francisco Liriano, Pirates: 7.0 IP, 10 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.08 FIP, 0.4 fWAR

Batter: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: .407/.515/.852, 2 HR, 1 SB, 248 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR

 

All statistics only include games played through 5/7/16, and used courtesy of Fangraphs, ESPN Stats and Info, and Baseball-Reference (including Baseball-Reference Play Index).

21 thoughts on “Week 5: Cubs running away with the division early

  1. Question for the masses, does a team have to be as bad as the Cubs were for as long as they were to become as good as they seem to be now? If so, is it really worth it?

    • Yes, the Reds were horrible for the entire decade of the ’00’s. I fear we had our chance 2012-2014, and its now gone.

    • I think if the bad records are a result of significant organizational change, then yes they are worth it. If the bad teams are a result of a bad organization and there isn’t any change, you might get a couple good years but in the end you are right back where you started.

      The Cubs were pretty bad for a pretty long time, but from the looks of it will compete for WS titles for several years, if not longer. Very few teams that experience futility for so long come close to that. Or at least that is my sense.

    • You also have to get lucky, to some degree. Maybe the Cubs saw something in Arrieta that said he could be a big league starter, but if anyone predicted Arrieta as a Cy Young winner when he was acquired from Baltimore, they’re lying.

      Also, looking at Bryant’s draft year, if the Astros would have picked Bryant over Appel at #1, then the Cubs would have ended up with Appel at #2.

      Ultimately, my opinion is this: if your organization is doing the right things, the pieces will eventually fall into place. Now, the definition of “right things” is the hard part.

      • It also helps to have an almost unlimited supply of $$. Teams with a lot of incoming cash and big TV deals can afford to make mistakes with free agent signings and trades while smaller market teams HAVE to get it right or it sets them back significantly.

    • To speak to my own question, I think an issue that is being widely avoided is whether a ~.500 season this year for the Reds would have to be at the expense of greater success within this current rebuild cycle.

      No matter what the Reds do from here on, the #2 pick in June is probably the best pick they are going to have for some time. Even if they flip Bruce and Cozart, the presumptive replacements are looking like they will be better than the folks who Reds had on the field the second half of last season. Same with the pitching. Stephenson and Reed may actually be the best starters in the org right now.

      And another side of the coin, unless there is a Harper or Bryant looming which doesn’t seem to be the case, is the person the Reds take in the 2017 draft, the pick “earned” this season even going to be ready by 2019 or 2020 when if the Reds aren’t many will be labelling this cycle a bust and calling for another restart.

      So, I’m posing the question another way, why lose 90+ games if you don’t need to get to where you want to be in 3 years?

  2. Reds attendance is down 25% through 20 dates compared to the same number of games in 2015. That’s even with one more weekend game included this year.

    2015
    8 weekend games
    12 weekday games
    588,353 (29,418 average)

    2016
    9 weekend games
    11 weekday games
    443,352 (22,168 average)

    Revenue (and, perhaps, future spending ability) must be taking quite a hit.

    • BTW, I’m counting FRI games as weekend games, as FRI/SAT/SUN are normally the best attended.

      • Most of that attendance decrease can be attributed to the absence of the best closer in baseball replaced by the worst bullpen in baseball, and the continuing string of injuries.

        • The team being bad certainly has an impact on attendance, but last year’s numbers were inflated a bit because of the All-Star Game. There was a lot more season tickets sold last year so folks could get a ticket to the ASG.

        • Average attendance in 2015 was actually slightly lower than 2013-14:

          2013: 31,288
          2014: 30,576
          2015: 29,870

          Yes, packages were likely good sellers last year, but the poor performance likely depressed walk-up sales, particularly later in the year.

          Success will always be the ultimate driver of demand.

        • Also, if the weather was a lot worse this year than last year on home dates, that can suppress attendance.

          A lot of people don’t want to go to games in 35 degree weather.

        • The second worst crowd this year was 12,777 for a game against the Rockies — with a game-time temperature of 80 degrees with no rain.

    • Two layman questions, one very naïve, one more so:

      (1) Where are you getting your attendance stats? A (cursory) run through MLB.com gets me nowhere. What’s the regular go-to for this data?

      (2) The more serious question: Does anyone have a direction on where I can find a good reference source on the business economics of sports franchises, in particular major league ball?

      I noticed how far the attendance was down when we only drew 26-27K for the Giants game with Cueto pitching. I realize that spring weather is still playing a role plus school not out yet, but still, the gate to date looks down about 550K annualized. I bet that’s more than expected (ca. 1.8MM annualized?) and, even with proactive budgeting, that has to smart.

      One more (!) question: Do current cable/broadcast contracts have a ratings guarantee or payment scale? Important when considering prospective value of any new deal with FSO.

      Thanks in advance…..

      • Not really answering your questions but the announced attendance is tickets sold, not fannies in the seats so some of those games with 12,000 attendance had nowhere near 12,000 people there thanks to the weather.

      • One clarification: That should be read as 1.8MM projected annual attendance.

        For Jazzman – yeah, I know. The place looks -really- empty at times. But, for business analysis purposes, the primary figure of merit is tickets sold. -Actual- physical attendance still means something (and something important) – but that’s the add-on value from parking, concessions, Reds museum, etc.

      • My go-to source for attendance stuff is Baseball-Reference. The Reds are down 7,000+ per game this year, largest decline in MLB.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/current_attendance.shtml

        Can also click on their game-by-game record page and see attendance for each game, home and away.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/2016-schedule-scores.shtml

        I don’t know of one reference place for business economics of sports franchises. Wendy Thurm used to have that beat for FanGraphs, but she doesn’t write for them any more. As far as I know, you just have to look for individual articles.

        The RSN (regional sports network) contracts don’t have variability based on ratings as far as I know. Never seen it before. Each side would base their valuation on their own estimate of ratings. 2016 falls under the current contract, its last year. Reds would have to sell 2017 and beyond as having rebuilt team an interest. Surely that’s one of the driving rationales behind keeping the rebuild relatively short.

        • Thanks, Steve.

          Didn’t think there would be a positive answer to business economic sources — since most clubs are tightly held partnerships of one form or another, that information is held -very- close to the vest. It was worth a shot, though. Now if we had a mole in the Commissioner’s Office……..

          The ratings issue also not a surprise. Just anticipating how things might evolve in the future as the competition for/from all other cable and streaming services becomes more and more cutthroat. If competition continues to increase, one recourse for the cable/distributor to limit content cost pressure might be to try and force some form of risk-sharing onto the clubs. As a small-market franchise, the Reds would be more easily pressured. A tightrope that I don’t want to see the club have to walk…….

  3. Its depressing to be more than a casual fan with this team. I quit caring about my Indiana Pacers because its no fun to be the Washington Generals year after year. They have no chance to attract game changing free agents to Indianapolis. Baseball is a little better because many wildcards have went on to win the WS but the Reds are poorly run and seem to be snakebit at the same time. By the time they get their young arms up to speed then Votto will be 35 and they’ll be paying him to $24 mil or whatever to hit .275/18 Hrs/65 RBIs then you combine his production with Mesoraco’s 2018 production and you have 18 HRs/67 RBIs. Bailey will still be on the payroll too…as head cheerleader and offseason hunting coordinator. There’s very little offense in the Reds minor league system and way too much dead money. Now they didn’t pay much for Suarez and Duvall so if they can find another 3 guys like that and none of them miss but that seems unlikely?

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