Chicago Cubs

Pitcher Stock Watch -- 2013 preview

Pitcher Stock Watch -- 2013 preview

By David FerrisCSNChicago.com
In our last Pitcher Stock Watch of the season, we'll focus on player values for the 2013 fantasy year. Consider these thoughts along with your keeper-league decisions, or keep them tucked in your mind for draft season next spring. 
Buy
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs: We always knew he could miss bats, so the 180 strikeouts were no great surprise. But a walk rate under three came as a shocker, given that Samardzija could't find the plate consistently as a reliever. Don't be fooled by the 9-13 record - Samardzija received the worst run support in the National League. No matter what you think of the current Cubs roster, that has to be seen as a fluke. And the peripherally-suggested numbers also indicate that Samardzija's 3.81 ERA was unlucky, perhaps by half of a run. The breakout was real, and there's a good chance for another leap in 2013. 
Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: His KBB rate was solid from the word go, and Wainwright also picked up steam in July and August before a September slump pushed his ERA back over four. All in all, it wasn't a bad season for someone fresh off Tommy John surgery. The secondary numbers suggest Wainwright pitched a lot better than the surface stats tell us: his FIP checks in at 3.15 and his SIERA graded out at 3.32. Throw in the favorable life in the NL Central (and Yadier Molina behind the plate) and we might be looking at a Cy Young sleeper for 2013. 
Sell
Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays: With all due respect to Rodney's dominant season (0.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 44 saves in 46 chances), it's important to remain unemotional about the numbers. The Rays don't get attached to any closer, as a foundational strategy: they've had a different save leader in each of the past eight seasons. Rodney's best season in the 2007-2011 pocket was a 4.26 ERA and 1.32 WHIP; let's not forget what a carnival ride he was in Detroit and Anaheim. And we certainly worry about where he might be next spring when the muscle memory of this dream year is out the window. Let's someone else chase this mirage into 2013. 
Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers: You hate to dismiss a young pitcher with a pedigree - Porcello doesn't turn 24 until the end of the year and he was a first-round pick back in 2007 - but the career arc has been a flat one through four seasons. A cushy 53.8 ground-ball rate sounds like a great place to start, though Detroit's infield defense took some of the shine off that number. Porcello also doesn't know how to put away batters: his 5.43 K9 rate makes him a difficult commodity to own in any start-capped or inning-capped league. The Tigers didn't let Porcello throw a lot of sliders as a rookie, but maybe it's time to junk the offering altogether; it's been his worst pitch by far in 2012. At the end of the day, we want to chase someone with more strikeout upside, someone who can miss more bats. Porcello isn't that type of pitcher. 
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians: His mechanics seemed to fluctuate from start to start, inning to inning and batter to batter - no two deliveries were completely alike. And without the dominant mid-90s heater from the Colorado days, Jimenez is no longer a pitcher who can succeed without everything in place. Perhaps there's a pitching wizard in the majors who can take on the Jimenez Project and fix everything, but nothing the Indians tried in 2012 worked. Let go of the brand name. 
Hold 
Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants: His strikeout rate never really fell off, even during the darkest days, and Lincecum finally started recording key outs with runners on base during the stretch run. Perhaps it was a mechanical fix the Giants made with Lincecum from the stretch position, or perhaps it was merely a case of some batted-ball luck evening out. A 3.06 ERA over the second half is worth rostering in any format (even with a 1.32 WHIP), and AT&T Park still hides a fair amount of his mistakes (3.67 ERA at home). If you can land Lincecum as your third starter in a mixer next year, you've done well. 
Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox: His diminished fastball (both in speed and location) didn't play in the AL East any longer, but Beckett made a mild comeback during his first five LA turns (3.45 ERA, nine walks, 26 Ks). Beckett's combative, no-apology personality never seemed to fit in the fishbowl of Boston, but he'll appreciate the laid back nature of Los Angeles - not to mention the different media approach. We're not going to pencil Beckett into the All-Star rotation or anything like that for 2013, but a significant bounce back is likely, especially with those NL parks (and flailing hitters) around to break his fall.

The Godfather, Anthony Rizzo, lays down new law in Cubs clubhouse

The Godfather, Anthony Rizzo, lays down new law in Cubs clubhouse

MILWAUKEE – Javier Baez broke the code of silence when he mentioned to reporters the latest thing for a Cubs team that designed a Party Room for their state-of-the-art clubhouse at Wrigley Field, turned Jason Heyward’s Rain Delay Speech into World Series mythology and interviews each other in the dugout for pretend TV segments after hitting home runs.

“He doesn’t know how the Italian way works,” Anthony Rizzo said. “There are supposed to be team things that stay with the team.”

Baez let it slip before Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, replaying the dramatic 10-inning comeback victory from the night before at Miller Park. If you see the Cubs instantly disappear from the dugout, or a TV camera shows a shot of an empty dugout…    

“We got this new thing,” Baez said. “I don’t want to be the one saying it. I’ll just let him say it. But it’s really fun. When somebody’s mad, everybody walks in and we do some fun things that get us hyper. You guys ask Rizzo.”

The Godfather gave a cryptic response. Omerta is expected to be part of The Cubs Way.

“It’s a team retreat,” Rizzo said. “It’s not just me. It’s anyone who needs to let out some steam this late in the season. It’s a team thing. It’s a long season and you go through ups and downs. And there’s times where you get to that boiling point where you just want to kill anything in your way.”

Rizzo needed to vent and called his teammates into the visiting clubhouse on Thursday night after striking out with two runners on in the eighth inning of a tie game that could swing the National League Central race.

“Throughout the year, you go back in the tunnel probably 25 times,” Rizzo said. “You got to take it out somewhere. You can only stay sane so long. It’s September. It’s a team (thing) now.

“It’s worked. We’re 3-for-3 on it. But it’s not me gathering. It’s just whoever feels like it’s time – you’ll see the team rushing off the bench and going for a nice little retreat.”

In many ways, Rizzo sets the clubhouse tone with his laid-back vibe off the field and intense competitive streak on the field. Tom Verducci’s book, “The Cubs Way,” detailed a scene before last year’s World Series Game 7 where Rizzo got naked, played “Rocky” music, quoted movie lines and shadowboxed until reliever Hector Rondon joined “in on the hijinks, picked up an aerosol can of shoe cleaner and sprayed it in the direction of Rizzo’s groin.”

“This is strictly in-game,” Rizzo said. “You can’t do it, though, and be selfish and go on a nice little retreat when we’re winning. It’s got to be the right timing. It helps, too, because it’s been fun the last couple weeks since we started doing it.”

One obvious benefit: There are no annoying TV cameras. Like in late July when frustrated pitcher John Lackey bumped into Rizzo in the Wrigley Field dugout and exchanged words with the face-of-the-franchise first baseman.

“We’ve come together now,” Rizzo said. “It’s not about anyone. It’s about us. When things go wrong for a certain individual, we rally around him. And that’s what we got to keep doing from here on out.”

Javier Baez stars for Cubs while his mind drifts to Hurricane Maria and family in Puerto Rico

Javier Baez stars for Cubs while his mind drifts to Hurricane Maria and family in Puerto Rico

MILWAUKEE – Javier Baez tries to use baseball as an escape, but his thoughts inevitably drift toward Puerto Rico and the damage and destruction Hurricane Maria has inflicted on his beloved island.  

“I’ve been doing my best to stay in the game,” Baez said. “But, really, my mind has been over there, trying to find out about family, how they’re doing.”

Baez could compartmentalize enough in the ninth inning to deliver the two-out, two-strike, game-tying RBI single on Thursday night at Miller Park, setting the stage for a dramatic 5-3 comeback victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that created a huge shift in momentum for the Cubs in the National League Central race.  

But several Cubs have been distracted during this nightmare hurricane season, seeing the haunting images on TV and thinking about more than magic numbers. Baez finally made contact with his brother, Gadiel, before Friday’s game in Milwaukee.

“He finally found a spot that has service. Everybody’s disconnected,” Baez said. “It’s been really, really crazy over there. They say there’s no trees in Puerto Rico right now.

“It’s really bad. (But) there are still people smiling and trying to get through it. We got no (other) option. Our whole family is over there. I think if we work together, the process is going to be faster and the help is going to be (stronger). Hopefully, everybody stays together and just tries to help.”

Baez has been using his social-media platforms, asking for prayers and helping raise funds through the GoFundMe page started by catcher Rene Rivera’s family and supported by teammate Victor Caratini.

Known for his flash and highlight-reel moments, Baez is actually more of a low-key personality off the field, close to his family and developing into one of the most important and dependable players for the defending World Series champs.       

“Sometimes, when you are going through difficult moments,” manager Joe Maddon said, “getting out there kind of is that little island that you need just to park your brain for a couple hours.

“You keep reading about it. You’re talking four-to-six months without power. When you read those lines, you know it’s devastating. But live it.

“Again, as an athlete, when you’re going through difficulties outside of your occupation, sometimes it’s the best place to be for those couple hours. And then you go back to reality afterwards.

“Javy has been on the stage. He’s had the bright lights shining on him for a long period of time for a young guy. He’s learned how to handle this pretty well.”

Baez starred for the team that made it to the World Baseball Classic championship game in March. He could feel the pride and energy and what that meant to Puerto Rico during an economic crisis.

“Our whole island, they were there for us,” Baez said. “If we really work together, we can get through it faster, and everything’s going to be OK over there.”