Quade will give in to the 'Moneyball' hype

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Quade will give in to the 'Moneyball' hype

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011Posted: 10:29 p.m. Updated: 11:08 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney Cubs 5, Cardinals 1: Box score Photo gallery
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WATCH: Kap goes one-on-one with Jonah HillST. LOUIS -- Mike Quade has a business degree from the University of New Orleans.The television in his office almost always seems to be turned to thecable news channels. He follows the stock market and spends asignificant part of his day looking at numbers.

With that kind of background, the Cubs manager should be fascinated byan analytical movie that received four stars from Roger Ebert andshould generate serious Oscar buzz.

But as someone who worked seven years in the Oakland organization, Quade has already lived through Moneyball.

Im a rental guy wait until the DVD comes out, Quade said Friday asthe movie opened in theaters across the country. That way I dont haveto walk out of the theater if I dont care for it. I can just turn itoff and move on. But I am a little curious, just to see how itsdepicted, as far as what liberties were taken.

Quade did his job while best-selling author Michael Lewis shadowedBilly Beane during the 2002 season. The As found market inefficienciesand won 103 games, but Quade didnt return the next year as first-basecoach, in part because of a personality conflict and Beanes insistenceon putting Bob Geren on the staff.

While the behind-the-scenes book immediately became a hit upon itsrelease in 2003, Quade wound up managing in Des Moines. There MichaelGartner, an owner of the Cubs Triple-A Iowa affiliate, came into hisoffice.

From the minute the book came out, he plopped it on my desk, Quaderecalled. (He goes): I want you to read this and tell me whats trueand whats not true.

Quades counter-offer: You read the book and ask me. There will be allsorts (of) stuff that youll wonder about. Just come ask me and Illgive you my story.

Moneyball clearly hit a nerve among baseball fans and inside businessschools. Quade has only read excerpts of the book, which had a hugeimpact on the way the industry and journalists looked at and understoodthe game. The managers seen the trailers for the movie, and knows hewont be able to escape this time.

Curiosity will get the best of me, Quade said.

Shut down Ramirez?

Aramis Ramirez continues to receive treatment on his right quad, andthe hope is that hell be available to pinch-hit at some point thisweekend in St. Louis. The third baseman is already looking forward tohis next contract, but the Cubs arent ready to say his seasons overyet.

He hasnt indicated to me that hes interested in shutting it down,Quade said. Its a different thing in the middle of the season whenyour rosters locked in at 25 (and) you got to do something with thisspot. (Well) keep working on him and hope he gets better quickly.Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

MIAMI – Theo Epstein scoffed at the possibility of sending a World Series hero down to the minors on May 16, writing the headline with this money quote: “If anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we’re buying.”

If the Cubs aren’t dumping their Schwarber stock, they’re definitely reassessing their investment strategy, trying to figure out how such a dangerous postseason hitter had become one of the least productive players in the majors.

The overall portfolio hasn’t changed that much since the team president’s vote of confidence, Schwarber batting .179 for the defending champs then and .171 when the Cubs finally made the decision to demote him to Triple-A Iowa. That 18-19 team is now 36-35 and still waiting for that hot streak. 

What took so long?

“The honest answer is we believe in him so much,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “He’s never struggled like this. We kept thinking that he was going to come out of it. We got to a point where we felt like mentally he probably needed a break before he could come out of this. 

“The honest answer is patience. We’ve got a guy who’s never really struggled. He was the best hitter in college baseball. He blew through the minor leagues. Last year in the World Series, he performed. We just felt like he was going to turn himself around.

“It just got to a place where we felt like the right way for this to come together was to allow him to get away from the team, to take a deep breath and be able to work on some things in a lower-pressure environment.”   

The Cubs plan to give Schwarber a few days off before he reports to Iowa, an idea that would have seemed unthinkable after watching his shocking recovery from knee surgery and legendary performance (.971 OPS) against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series.

But preparing for one opponent and running on adrenaline through 20 plate appearances is completely different from handling the great expectations and newfound level of fame and doing it for an entire 162-game season.   

This might actually be the most normal part of Schwarber’s career after his meteoric rise from No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft to breakout star in the 2015 playoffs to injured and untouchable during last year’s trade talks with the New York Yankees. 

“There’s been a long and illustrious list of guys that have gone through this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When a guy’s good, he’s good. Sometimes – especially when they’re this young – you just got to hit that reset button. It’s hard for a young player who’s never really struggled before to struggle on this stage and work his way through it.

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“There’s no scarlet letter attached to this. It’s just the way it happens sometimes. You have to do what you think is best. We think this is best for him right now. We know he’s going to be back.” 

When? The Cubs say they don’t have a certain number of Pacific Coast League at-bats in mind for a guy who’s played only 17 career games at the Triple-A level.

Maddon pointed out how Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee needed minor-league sabbaticals/refresher courses before becoming Cy Young Award winners and two of the best pitchers of their generation.

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto – another college hitter the Cubs closely scouted before taking Schwarber in the 2014 draft – has gone from the 2015 World Series to Triple-A Las Vegas for parts of last season to potential All-Star this year.

The Cubs fully expect their Schwarber stock to rebound – whether or not the turnaround happens in time to impact the 2017 bottom line.    

“I’m still sticking by him,” Maddon said. “But at some point, you have to be pragmatic. You have to do what’s best for everybody. We thought at this point that we weren’t going to necessarily get him back to where we need him to be just by continuing this same path.

“It’s not a matter of us not sticking with him anymore. We just thought this was the best way to go to really get him well, so that we could utilize the best side of Kyle moving forward.”