Monday, January 26, 2009

Why the Cubs Need Jake Peavy

Why the Cubs Need Jake Peavy.

January 26, 2009

The Padres and the Cubs have been kicking around the idea of a Peavy to the Cubs trade since the Winter Meetings.

There have been discussions set forth that argue pros and cons of Peavy being traded and from both sides of the issue Cubs and Padres).

I am going to set down here why I think the Cubs NEED Peavy broken down into 3 issues or areas.
1) The Cubs team shortcomings in 2008.
2) The Cubs team shortcomings in 2009.
3) How those weaknesses were exposed in the 2008 playoffs.

Then I am going to tell you the one critical skill Jake Peavy brings to the table that will help the Cubs finally win a World Series regardless of their other weaknesses as a team.

1) Cubs shortcoming in 2008

While the Cubs had a nice regular season in 2008, they proved that they did not have the dominating pitching necessary to shut down a good offensive team and their mediocre defense was exposed under pressure.

The 1st problem was pitchers unable to go late into games.

Throughout 2008, Dempster consistently collapsed when forced to pitch with a high pitch count. For the season, after 90 pitches his era increased to 4.50 and over 100 pitches it increased to over 6.00. Career its even worse with an ERA of 4.90 after pitch 90.

Lilly was even worse in 2008, with an ERA of 10.18 after the 90th pitch.

In game One of the playoffs, Dempster completely collapsed when he got close to 100 pitches and gave up 4 earned runs and got only 2 outs in the 5th inning.

In game Three, Harden could only go 4.1 innings and the bullpen had to pick up the slack.

With Harden injured and likely to only make half his starts in 2009, this problem figures to be worse.

The 2nd problem was head to head.

Dempster and the other Cubs pitchers not named Zambrano were not able to step up their game and be better than the other teams best, the other teams Ace. Overall Cubs pitchers other than Zambrano had a .372 winning percentage against the other teams #1. Not good.

In the playoffs you are facing the other teams best.

In games One and Three of the 2008 playoffs a good pitcher was unable to step up and be a stopper. That was the whole problem. Good pitchers, not great pitchers, were not able to step it up a notch against the superior competition you find in the playoffs.

The defense gave up a 3rd game.

That brings us to the 3rd weakness of the Cubs in 2008,

A mediocre defense up the middle. Under playoff pressure mediocre can easily fall apart and become real bad.

Exhibit #1. In game Two of the playoffs DeRosa and Lee committed errors at critical times in the 2nd inning and Theriot threw one away in the 9th and gave away 5 unearned runs. The defense was not able to step up, and the Zambrano was not able to recover from 4 unearned runs in the 2nd inning.

2) Cubs Shortcomings in 2009


You are probably saying, how can he say that? Easy.

After the 2008 season Rich Harden had a choice to make. Have surgery or rehab his shoulder. He chose rehab. He will

be lucky to get half a season in with 15-18 starts being an educated guess (from Peter Gammons and CHONE projections) as to how many starts he might get in 2009. So who picks up the other 15-18 starts?

Marquis and his 30+ starts are gone.

Sean Gallagher is gone.

That is 55 starts gone.

Who picks up those starts? Marshall? Hill? Olson? They may throw the starts, but more than likely not as effectively as Harden and Marquis.

Dempster in his 11th major league season had a career year. His ERA was nearly 2 points lower than his career average of about 4.7 going into the season and he pitched 140 more innings. Chances are he doesn't repeat 2008, but falls back closer to his career average for ERA in 130-140 innings and struggles to win 10 games.

I can count on one hand the number of guys who came back out of the pen and had two consecutive sub 3.00 era seasons. Do you really think that Dempster is going to be one of them? Not likely.

Normally what happens when a pitcher has that huge of an increase in innings is that he gets hurt the following year and sees an increase in his ERA of at least a full point. That is far more likely an outcome for Dempster in 2009 than to throw 200+ innings with a 2.96 ERA again.

Weak Defense all around.

Uber Utility Man Mark DeRosa, and his -4.2 UZR at 2b and +0.1 UZR at SS and +4.5 in the OF, is gone. In his 7 seasons, DeRosa had a career UZR at 2B of -4.9, -1.4 at SS and +13.9 in the OF.

Now Aaron Miles will be patrolling the middle infield and subbing in the outfield. Last season Miles had a 1.1 UZR at 2B, 1.0 at ss, -0.9 at 3B and 0.0 in the OF. Over the 6 years of his career he has a -9.7 UZR at 2B and a -10.9 UZR at SS, the 2 positions he will be asked to play most in 2009.

For UZR, league average is 0.0 Numbers above zero are better and below zero are worse.

Overall I can't say that they have gotten better defensively at the Uber Utility Man position, only held steady in age.

Aramis Ramirez reverted to his normal defensive form in 2008 with a -3.3 UZR and a .945 Fp and 18 errors. This is more typical of how he plays the field than 2007. Expect him to stay close to those numbers in 2009.

Theriot was the Cubs main SS in 2008 and defensively he recorded a below average -0.4 at the position.

Bradley the oft injured now mans RF. He has played more than 100 games in the field only once in a 7 year career. Last season he recorded one of the lowest fielding percentage in the game for any position in the 20 games he played in RF. Granted he was returning from anterior cruciate ligament surgery in the off season, but it didn't get better late in the season, it got worse.

The best fielding starting outfielder on the Cubs team, Kusuke Fukodome, will be patrolling the bench as often as not in 2009 while playing in a CF platoon with Reed Johnson. And Pie is gone. No young guy to come in and be a defensive replacement late in games.

The OF as a whole will be below league average defensively.

The biggest reason the Cubs must have Peavy.

Peavy is not only a true Ace, Peavy is a stopper. The guy you can hand the ball to and expect that he will step up and be better than the other guys best. In his career Peavy has consistently stepped it up when its the other teams ace on the mound recording a .702 winning percentage for his career in those situations, better than his overall win percentage of .581.

THAT is the ultimate thing you look for in a playoff pitcher, the ability to step it up and consistently be better than the other teams best pitcher.

Late in games Peavy has been good too. Career he he has a 3.86 ERA after pitch 90 & 4.58 after pitch 105. In 2008 he was even better with a 3.24 era after the 90th pitch.

Peavy has averaged 30.33 starts since 2003 when first he started the season in the ML. In 2008 the Padres held him out only because the team was already so far back in in the standings in late May. According to news reports in the San Diego Union Tribune at the time, Peavy didn't feel he needed to go on the DL, but the team erred on the side of caution because the team was playing so poorly.

You can count on him taking the ball. He has a warrior mentality and he does better when the competition is better.

Those are the reasons the Cubs NEED Jake Peavy if they are going to make a run at winning a World Series in 2009.