Over the off-season, Jason Heyward signed an 8 year/184 million dollar contract with the Chicago Cubs. At the time of the signing, a lot of reporters liked the deal because adding a player like Heyward to the already loaded Cubs made them look like a World Series favorite. The Cubs are still one of the favorites to win the World Series but I wonder if some would go back on the deal if they could now.
Heyward’s contract was without a question the result of baseball’s growing use of sabermetrics in the sport. Over the past two seasons, Heyward has been a top 10 player in the game when looking at WAR (11.3). Over the same period, he has saved 15 more runs than any other outfielder in baseball (48). Heyward had a solid season last year hitting .293 and had a .359 OBP but the contract is a representation of Heyward as a defensive player as much as it is him as a hitter. Baseball is beginning to not just value what players do at the plate but what they do on the base paths and as fielders. This is not the first time we have seen a player’s contract be reflected by advanced sabermetrics because the Los Angeles Angels’ Andrelton Simmons comes to mind when thinking about a guy who was paid more for his defense than his offense. I am not saying that baseball should not value defense and base-running but I do not believe players should get paid superstar money just because their WAR is off the charts.
If I were to give a player a contract like Heyward, I would expect big time returns. My main focus would not be how many defensive runs saved the player has or his WAR. What I would want is a guy to hit 25+ home runs and drive in 100+ RBI. Now I know RBI are a team statistic and depends where a guy hits in the order but superstar players are expected to put up big time numbers. After Sunday, Heyward is hitting .228/.318/.315 with 4 home runs and 28 RBI. I wanted to throw in the RBI because the Cubs offense is a top offense in baseball and there are plenty of RBI opportunities in that lineup.
Now I will not call the Heyward contract a bust because it has only been 3 and a half months. If I was Theo Epstein and the Cubs, I would be very concerned. Heyward hasn’t really shown signs of coming out of his season long slump. I think the advanced sabermetrics are valuable in today’s game but I do not think they should be used to determine a player’s dollar value.
One of the big highlights of baseball from yesterday was the collapse of the Detroit Bullpen. It is well documented that the Detroit bullpen has been a weakness over the past 5 seasons, since Jose Valverde saved 49 games 2011. Yesterday, in the midst of a 5 game losing streak, Justin Verlander delivered an ace-like performance. He shut out one of the best offenses in all of baseball going 7 innings and striking out nine. He looked like the Justin Verlander of old as he left with a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for Detroit, they had to use their bullpen. They needed 3 pitchers just to get through the 8th inning. It looked something like this:
Justin Wilson: 0 outs recorded, 2 hits, 2 ER
Mark Lowe: 2 outs recorded: 3 hits, 1 BB, HB, 5 ER
Kyle Ryan: 1 out recorded, 1 hit
This is not a winning formula for any team and what made matters worse is their closer, Francisco Rodriguez was brought in for mop-up duty and gave up 3 hits and 1 run to raise his ERA to 5.06. This is a game that Detroit desperately needed to win and failed miserably.
For a team that has been very competitive for the past 5 or 6 years, it is unbelievable that they refuse to fix a problem that has held them back from being an elite team. They spent millions of dollars on their starting rotation this past off-season signing Jordan Zimmerman. They spent millions of dollars on their offense this past off-season signing Justin Upton. They tried to sign an old closer just like they did with Joe Nathan and the results have not been pretty. What they continue to forget is that the last 6 outs are extremely important and they refuse to change their method.
- Jake Arrieta showed that he is indeed human as he only lasted 5 innings and gave up 2 runs. If that is Arrieta on a bad day, that is still pretty good. Arrieta has not taken a loss since last July.
- The Cubs were able to complete the sweep of the Washington Nationals in 13 innings as Javier Baez hit the game winner. The Cubs became the 10th team in MLB history to win 24 of their first 30 games and the first team since the 84’ Tigers. The Cubs will be fun to watch this season.
- David Ortiz continued his dominance against the Yankees last night as he hit his 51st and 52nd career home run against the Yankees.
- Bryce Harper played thirteen innings on Sunday and did not record 1 official AB. It was evident that Joe Maddon was not going to let Harper beat the Cubs. Sunday he walked 6 times and was hit by a pitch. For the entire series, Harper walked 13 times. Maddon may have revealed a secret to beating the Nationals.