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Prospectus rips Dusty a new one

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  • Prospectus rips Dusty a new one


    August 29, 2005

    Prospectus Today

    North Side Blues

    by Joe Sheehan

    Over the weekend, the Cubs acknowledged that they would not be making a charge into the wild-card chase by swapping Matt Lawton to the Yankees for an A-ball pitcher. The Cubs may make another deal or two before Wednesday's trade deadline, and will be making other moves, like shutting down Kerry Wood, shortly.
    This has been another disappointing season on the north side of Chicago. The Cubs, expected to contend for a division title and a World Series crown, will be fortunate to finish over .500. For the second straight year, both Wood and Mark Prior missed substantial parts of the season, the former with shoulder problems, the latter with a fluke broken arm. With the team's greatest strength sapped, the flawed roster--mediocre relief pitching, terrible corner outfielders, major OBP issues--sunk the Cubs' ship, even as Derrek Lee was putting together a career year and chasing a Triple Crown.

    A peek at the old format EqA Report shows that the Cubs are actually fourth in the NL in Equivalent Average, an indication that the offense hasn't been the problem. Peeking to the rightward columns, though, and you see one major problem: the Cubs have scored 40 runs fewer than Clay's formulae predict, the biggest shortfall in the NL. That's a reflection of the offensive dysfunction the Cubs have played with all year long, thanks to Dusty Baker's inability to assemble a lineup.

    Baker wasted strong seasons from Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Michael Barrett by stubbornly batting OBP sinks Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez in the top two lineup spot for much of the season. The Cubs have gotten a .306 OBP from their leadoff hitters this year, despite Jerry Hairston Jr. leading the team with more than 250 leadoff PAs and a .360 OBP. Patterson had a .268 OBP batting #1, and Perez a .253 mark. Most of their ABs came during May and June, when Lee was at his hottest, putting up huge rate stats and so-so RBI totals because he batted so often with the bases empty. Cubs' #2 hitters have a .310 OBP, with Todd Walker's good work (.340) being cancelled by Perez's typical work (.318) and Patterson's nightmare (.220)

    It's dangerous to oversimplify this, but so much of the Cubs' deficit in the wild-card race can be traced directly to their shortfall in runs, and that deficit to poor lineup construction, that it's hard not to just level a finger at Baker. Watching what he's done with his left fielders doesn't help his case. Here are the Cubs' left fielders in 2005, by overall OPS for the team:

    Matt Murton           880
    Jason Dubois          761
    Todd Hollandsworth    697
    Matt Lawton           597
    Jody Gerut            330
    That same group, by plate appearances for the Cubs:

    Todd Hollandsworth    287
    Jason Dubois          152
    Matt Lawton            83
    Matt Murton            66
    Jody Gerut             16
    Baker was given a good young option at the start of the season in Jason Dubois. He platooned him, then not even that, even as he was the most productive left fielder on the team. Given Matt Murton, he played the prospect sporadically, even as he hit .441/.524/.599 in July. Once Matt Lawton was acquired, Murton's playing time--then his roster spot--vanished. Baker gave his two best left fielders less time combined than he did his third-best, in part because Baker values Hollandsworth's defense. The decision was one of many that kept the Cubs' offense from being a force.

    Left field is where Jim Hendry has made his strangest contribution to the collapse. He dealt Dubois to Cleveland for Jody Gerut, who barely played before his surgically-repaired knee forced him to the disabled list. At the trade deadline, Hendry sent Gerut to the Pirates for Lawton, an older version of a comparable player, but one who could actually take the field. I defended both of these deals, especially the latter, because of the Cubs' desperate need for OBP atop the lineup. Lawton was a disaster, putting up a .244/.289/.308 month before being sent to the Yankees. While Hendry's intentions were good and his execution reasonably effective, had Baker simply used Murton, the rest of the sequence after acquiring Gerut might never have been necessary.

    Baker was also largely responsible for the mishandling of the pitching staff. He can't be blamed for Prior's broken arm, of course, but his inability to identify Glendon Rusch as one of the team's best starting pitchers cost them a number of games during the year. Rusch opened the season in the bullpen, watching as Ryan Dempster made six starts with a 5.35 ERA. Allowed to start in early May, Rusch made ten starts through June 23, posting a 3.22 ERA in that time. He was the Cubs' second-best starter in that period, but was jammed back into the bullpen so that Baker could mess around with Rich Hill (8.57 ERA) and John Koronka (7.47), while misusing Rusch in a role--lefty specialist--for which he's never been equipped.

    The gap between Cubdom and contention is wide, but so much of it is contained in three Baker mistakes: using Neifi Perez and Corey Patterson atop the lineup, refusing to play his better left fielders, not keeping Rusch in the rotation. He made other errors--continuing to misuse Mike Remlinger as a specialist, and subsequently discarding him; using the fragile Chad Fox on three straight days in April, essentially breaking him; burying Todd Walker in the #6 spot for a month--all of which pushed the Cubs a bit further and a bit further from success, until they were reduced to an afterthought by the end of August.

    In the wake of the 2003 NL Championship Series, in which Baker made a series of bad decisions that cost the Cubs, I wrote: "The Cubs will never get this close again with Baker as their manager." I see no reason to back away from that statement. Baker continues to show little understanding of how an offense works, of how to fit his players' skills to the proper roles. Worse, he shows little desire to learn these things, making the same mistakes repeatedly while taking little criticism for his decisions, and deflecting what criticism comes in a manner that has nothing to do with baseball. Whatever his leader-of-men qualities may be, it's increasingly clear that they're not enough to make up for his decisions.

    Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact Joe by clicking here or click here to see Joe's other articles.

  • #2
    That's hard core criticism there.

    Viva La Dustah!
    His mind is not for rent, to any god or government.
    Pointless debate is what we do here -- lvr


    • #3

      Fire him yesterday.
      Lounge sponsor of Gary Brackett, Reggie Wayne, Henrik Zetterberg (not lounge approved) and all country music.


      • #4
        RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
        You'll never be forgotten.


        • #5
          Is Dusty Caribbean?
          From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.

          For more than 20 years I have endeavored-indeed, I have struggled-along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural & substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor.

          I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed.

          The path the Court has chosen lessens us all. I dissent.


          • #6
            The good folks at NSBB weigh in.

            Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

            "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011


            • #7
              Originally posted by kah@Aug 30 2005, 02:21 PM
              The good folks at NSBB weigh in.

              They're still a bunch of chumps.
              RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
              You'll never be forgotten.


              • #8
                Complaining about LF and which one to use is like complaining about which pile of poop smells better. They were all mediocre choices and the difference between the best and worst amounts to a hill of beans.
                Non-Dusty, but in Founder Tim's signature:

                If you cannot support NSBB by joining Premium, please support NSBB by clicking on at least one ad each day that you find interesting.
                Talk about a chump.

                Back to Dusty...

                Let's not forget about the Chad Fox debacle.

                i was afraid we were going to see the kerry wood debacle after he was used in a pointless game two days before shoulder surgery. good stuff.
                Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

                "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011


                • #9
                  Originally posted by JWB+Aug 30 2005, 01:23 PM-->
                  QUOTE(JWB @ Aug 30 2005, 01:23 PM)

                • #10
                  Originally posted by bombay+Aug 30 2005, 02:29 PM-->
                  QUOTE(bombay @ Aug 30 2005, 02:29 PM)
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 01:23 PM

                • #11
                  Originally posted by JWB+Aug 30 2005, 01:31 PM-->
                  QUOTE(JWB @ Aug 30 2005, 01:31 PM)
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 02:29 PM
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 01:23 PM

                • #12
                  Originally posted by bombay+Aug 30 2005, 02:38 PM-->
                  QUOTE(bombay @ Aug 30 2005, 02:38 PM)
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 01:31 PM
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 02:29 PM
                  Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 01:23 PM

                • #13
                  Is Reggie mad? I didn't know that. Those are the scrub fans of any consequence I can think of.
                  Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law ~



                  • #14
                    Originally posted by bombay+Aug 30 2005, 02:29 PM-->
                    QUOTE(bombay @ Aug 30 2005, 02:29 PM)
                    Originally posted by [email protected] 30 2005, 01:23 PM