Thursday, September 28, 2006

revenge of the predictions roundtable: part one

back at the end of march, this page marshalled its meager metaphysical resources to produce something called the predictions roundtable. such crystal-ball-seeing as inevitably is a part of such prognostications is always a wonderful source of surefire humility for all involved within six months -- and often within six weeks -- except on that rare occasion when one of the participants breaks the rules of entry by actually being something of a seer. this page of course does everything in its power to prevent anyone with actual foresight from being involved, but this year it almost looks like in one instance perhaps it tried and failed.

QUESTION: How many games will the Cubs win this year?

  • Newman - 77
  • John Dooley - 67
  • Mikey P - 78
  • Marino - 84
  • MCav - 79
  • Vehere - 77
  • CCD - 80
  • gaius marius - 78

ANSWER: 65 with three to play

dooley's pessimism outstripped all others', and because these are the chicago cubs the result was the greatest accuracy -- indeed, accuracy of a remarkable degree.

QUESTION: Will they make the playoffs?

  • Newman - NO
  • John Dooley - See Above
  • Mikey P - No
  • Marino Hell - No
  • MCav - Absolutely Not
  • Vehere - No, I just don't see it
  • CCD - Nope
  • gaius marius - no

ANSWER: muffled laughter

this was the no-brainer of no-brainers around these parts -- no points for a correct answer here.

QUESTION: Will any Cub player or management member win an end of season award? If so, who and what?

  • Newman - no
  • John Dooley- No. (I have Wade Miller as a longshot for Comeback Player of the Year, no joking.)
  • Mikey P - No
  • Marino - Yes, Lee and Maddux NL Gold Gloves (did the rest of us forget these awards?)
  • MCav - No
  • Vehere - No, Only Award - Tribune Co. Baseball Exec of the Year - 3rd Generation Baseball Czar
  • CCD - Nope
  • gaius marius - no

ANSWER: tbd, but no

announcement dates for awards like the silver slugger and gold glove will come at the end of october, and the cubs could reasonably hope for aramis ramirez to win the silver at third, but the chances are much better that miguel cabrera or garrett atkins will take home that hardware. michael barrett will lose his defense to brian mccann, and derrek lee of course was unable to stage a defense at all. no other cub is in any danger of any minor award -- though ex-cub greg maddux is likely to beat out bronson arroyo for the nl gold glove for pitchers, both being errorless despite ranking in the top five in chances.

as to the major awards, some think zambrano in line for a chance at the cy young -- and he will get votes, as he remains tied for the nl lead in wins with 16 and rankng fifth in qualified era at 3.43 and fourth in strikeouts with 201. but against that, zambrano also leads the league in walks by a huge margin, hasn't thrown a single complete game all year, and his competition -- chris carpenter, derek lowe, roy oswalt, brandon webb and the ageless john smoltz -- are considerably better in many peripherals.

the hard truth is that this was zambrano's least effective year in the last four -- the problem of walks has gotten out of control, pushing his era to the highest of any of his four complete years in the majors. this isn't the year for zambrano's first cy young, though this page continues to hope that he can defy the odds that are defined by his usage pattern over the last three seasons to find that award soon. he has been one of the game's great pitchers since 2003.

QUESTION: What are you watching for in 2006?

  • Newman - Matt Murton proving he can consistently hit Major League pitching.
  • John Dooley -THREE THINGS I WILL BE WATCHING IN 2006: 1) Dusty's use of veterans and how that will inhibit the younger players 2) Jacque Jones. Can he return to form? 3) Will Derek Lee and Ryan Dempster match last years' outputs? I think no. But, we'll see.
    THREE THINGS I HAVE FAITH IN, IN 2006 (added) 1) Matt Murton 2) Juan Pierre 3) Jerry Hairston (don't know why, I just have this weird feeling)
  • Mikey P - The day Baker gets fired!
  • Marino - Will Pierre kickstart the offense?
  • MCav - Shit can Baker
  • Vehere - D. Lee, A Ram, and Murton
  • CCD - Several things:I think Matty Murton will have a solid season. Ronny Cedeno will struggle. How long will Dusty tolerate Cedeno. Can Lee perform at or close to the level he did in 2005? Can Ramirez stay healthy? Who are going to be the 3-4-5 guys in the rotation? Can Ryan Dempster continue to close games on his high wire act. I expect Juan Pierre to lift the offense and create some excitement on the bases.
  • gaius marius - murton to hit, zambrano to experience significant arm probems

ANSWER: complex

some anticipated events in the list of concerns clearly never came to pass in 2006 -- zambrano, for example, never broke down, and jerry hairston never did a thing. and of course the question of lee's ability to follow up on 2005 was deferred for a year by rafael furcal. but two points of opinion were settled.

  • several of the panelists expressed optimism about matt murton, and murton did indeed hold down the left field job for most of the year, taking 72% of the at-bats there. despite struggling at times, murton is now second on the club with a .300 batting average and .366 on-base percentage, outpaced only by barrett's .307 and .368 among players with more than 200 ab. indeed, in the second half murton has starred along with aramis ramirez in driving the cub offense. this is more than anyone could have rightfully expected from murton -- whatever questions remain (and there are some) his performance has been one of the few bright spots on this dismal club.

  • several also expressed enthusiasm about juan pierre, but this seems in the end to have been misguided. the offense was a complete disaster for the first half of the year and will finish 15th in runs scored despite a second-half resurgence. some of that can be traced to pierre, who joined others in completely vanishing before july. now, slumps happen even to good players and there's little to be done about that -- but pierre, despite improving in the second half, really hasn't been a force for the club in that timeframe either. his .340 obp after the break is simply insufficent for a player that has no power to speak of at all; he's stolen bases at a merely sufficient 75% success rate, wiping himself out too often to really justify the advantages of the extra bases; and his 42 runs scored in 71 games is simply not that good for the leadoff hitter in what has been the fourth-best offense in the nl in that time. it seems here that pierre has been a clear disappointment.

QUESTION: Will Dusty Baker survive the season as Cub manager?

  • Newman - Yes
  • Mikey P - No
  • Marino - Yes
  • MCav - See Above (NO)
  • Vehere - Not a chance. Bring on Crazy Lou Pinella
  • CCD - He will survive the season. But he will not come back for 2007.
  • gaius marius - maybe the year but not the offseason


to the amazement of many, baker survived one of the worst halves of baseball in the history of the franchise in this year before the midsummer break. it wouldn't have seemed possible, except that jim hendry and andy macfail are running this franchise -- he surely would've been canned by almost any other team in the sport for the manifold failures of a $95mm ballclub. but all the panelists knew this was the chicago cubs when the predictions were made, after all, and a certain slowness to acknowledge accountability for failure is part and parcel to a team that hasn't won the pennant since 1945.

speculative opinion is all but certain that baker won't be back in 2007 -- to which this page can only say good riddance -- but stranger things have happened.

QUESTION: Will Jim Hendry survive as GM?

  • Newman - yes
  • Mikey P - yes
  • Marino - yes, till just after the season
  • MCav - No
  • Vehere - He shouldn't survive to Opening Day, but he will
  • CCD - He will survive. He will find himself on a short leash after Dusty's departure following the season.
  • gaius marius - shamefully, yes


of course, hendry is probably the prime mover behind the extent of this year's debacle -- macfail and tribco may be responsible for the broader failure of competitiveness in the last decade, and baker has his share of losses to be hung with, but the general dearth of talent on this club despite a $95mm payroll is at least mostly his albatross to carry alone. the contracts of ryan dempster and jacque jones are ghastly things to behold; rumor is that a similar disaster lies in wait with pierre; and his previous dealings with aramis ramirez appear ever more likely to blow up in his face this offseason. a more responsible club would not abide another year of his management -- but then, a more responsible club would never have signed him to an extension through 2008 coming off a dismal 2005 in the first place, and so he has stayed.

there's quite a lot more to cover from the roundtable, which will take subsequent installments, but -- as far as the first and most important question goes -- the clear winner in the panel is john dooley, who perceived the depth of the disaster much earlier than the rest of us. kudos, jd -- your pessimism has been sadly rewarded.

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