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Theo Epstein is unhappy with the Cubs’ OBP

May 26, 2013, 7:50 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein speaks at a news conference at Wrigley Field in Chicago Reuters

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has a number of reasons to be unhappy with his 19-30 club, but the one that really sticks out to him is the club’s lagging on-base percentage, which was under .300 prior to this afternoon’s game against the Reds. At .299, their mark was ahead of only the Marlins, Nationals, and Mets. As a result, they have scored the fifth-fewest runs in the league, averaging 3.85 per game.

Epstein explained the difficulties, via Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:

“There is certainly a snakebit quality to it with respect to our timing,” team President Theo Epstein said. “But to me the biggest factor is our inability to draw walks and to get on base overall. On-base skills translate to run-scoring much more than slugging skills.

“To be blunt, we haven’t made much progress improving the on-base skills of some of the players here. If we can’t make improvements with the existing group, we will have to be even more aggressive acquiring players with on-base skills.”

The Cubs’ 6.1 percent walk rate ranks dead last in baseball despite averaging nearly four pitches per plate appearance. The main culprits are Nate Schierholtz, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, and Welington Castillo, who all have walk rates under five percent while having taken at least 140 trips to the plate.

  1. tfbuckfutter - May 26, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    Maybe it would help if the Cubs had better players.

    I wonder whose job that is.

    • rbj1 - May 26, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      The third base coach’s?

    • raysfan1 - May 26, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      Of course of the 4 “main culprits” listed above, 3 predate Epstein with the Cubs–he can only be blamed for Schierholtz (or credited for him, seeing as his OPS+ is 119 despite the low walk count).

      The Cubs are a big enough mess that its going to take time to rebuild and to rid themselves of albatross contracts. This is only his second season in Chicago, far too soon to really blame him for much of anything there.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 26, 2013 at 10:52 PM

        How many times in his career has Theo acquired/called up Darnell McDonald?

        Who acquired Brent Lillibridge?

        Look….Theo Epstein’s ENTIRE CAREER is based on the unexpected dominance of David Ortiz and a few early gambles that paid off big (Mueller, Beckett/Lowell (and let’s not forget Lowell was a salary dump who turned his career around) and the addition-by-subtraction of Nomar)

        And….no one even seems to remember that JEREMY GIAMBI was signed and supposed to start OVER David Ortiz in 2003. So it’s not like he prognosticated that David would turn into what he did.

        He took over a 93 win club and turned it into a 95 win club and a team that eventually won the series. I don’t like the shape he left the franchise and farm system in, and I don’t like hating on the guy who built (part of) the team that won 2 championships…..but it was a NINETY-THREE WIN CLUB when he took it over, and he hit on a couple of gems and then starting making butt-fuckingly-awful decisions. Frankly, after the Lowell/Beckett trade, I can’t remember a legitimately great signing or trade. Coco Crisp? Julio Lugo? JD Drew (had his moments but not worth anywhere near his contract as a part-time employee which was long established)? $100,000,000 for 1 good season of Dice-K?

        The Cubs will never turn things around under Theo. He has no experience turning a terrible team into a great team. He has experience turning a great team into a better team when he gets lucky and then wastes tons of money on terrible players.

        If you think Alfonso is bad wait until his contract is off the books and Theo has money at his disposal to spend on free agents.

      • raysfan1 - May 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM

        I wasn’t discussing blame vs credit with the Red Sox, just that it is still too soon to assess blame or credit with the Cubs. You may be right, but I’ll reassess in a couple more years.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 27, 2013 at 12:31 AM

        Sorry if that sounded like I was jumping on you. It’s just a topic that rarely comes up, and a discussion that doesn’t seem to ever be had.

        And you’re right. A couple years may show me to be wrong, and Theo may be a genius at rebuilding as opposed to improving (through mostly sheer luck).

        But when he makes moves like clogging up the AAA club with the likes of Ryan Sweeney (who apparently has been decent for the big club so far but he’s still Ryan Sweeney) and Darnell McDonald I see him doing the same crap he did in Boston. Wasting roster space on guys who have proven they can’t hack it in the majors and trading away guys like Reddick and Murphy after brief stints in the bigs….only to have them show they are at least capable as major leaguers, meanwhile we’re stuck with turds and retreads like the Mark Kotsays of the world.

      • raysfan1 - May 27, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        No offense taken, and no apology required. There were some stories evaluating Epstein’s tenure when he left the Red Sox. I think Dan Duquette’s unpopularity likely helped Epstein perhaps receive more credit than he deserved, in addition to being the sitting GM when the Sox won the WS in ’04.

      • dan1111 - May 27, 2013 at 4:04 AM

        Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Dustin Pedroia, and Jed Lowrie were all draft picks made during Epstein’s tenure. He deserves more credit than you give him for assembling a great core of young players.

        Also, it can’t be ignored that the team was competitive every year and made the playoffs six times while he was in charge, despite playing in a tough division. Inheriting a good team only takes one so far. It takes skill to maintain success.

        Perhaps an argument can be made that Epstein is over-rated. A large part of his reputation is due to the 2004 World Series win, and that always involves a bit of luck. Also, with a high-payroll team, he had more resources to work with and more margin for error than most. And he certainly made some bad moves.

        Still, I think an honest assessment of his overall record suggests he was a good GM.

      • tfbuckfutter - May 27, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        I should have touched on the solid couple of drafts the team had under him. He does deserve credit for that.

        But he didn’t leave the team with much in the tank to continue to compete. Again, all their success was put together early in his tenure and he inherited an already competitive team.

        Pretty much every high dollar move he made would have completely crippled all but 3 or 4 major league franchises for years.

    • hjb4971 - May 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Any Cub fan could have told you Jed and his buddy Theo have done almost nothing to add offense to this team. Numerous capable free agents were ignored who could have helped this club….now he’s upset because they are not hitting?

      Theo and Jed’s poor knock-off of Billy Ball and with its austerity program that includes the idea of trading away every producing player then waiting 5 years for some minor leaguers who may neverpay-off has not worked in Chicago or previously in San Diego; and a similar plan has not worked in Houston where another bunch of Billy-Ball copycats has traded away every valuable asset that team had to teams like the Phillies, Yankees, and Cardinals who used them to win their leagues.

      If the Cubs had hired a real baseball guy like Dallas Green, the Cubs would not be in last place.
      We’ve stopped going to Wrigley because there are better teams in Triple A that you can go watch for $15. I wish every Cub fan would do the same and send a message to the Rickets family.

      This team sucks and Theo and Jed are the cause.

      • jeffbbf - May 27, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        Ugh – team sucks because of Theo and Jed? Why? because they didn’t go out and sign a major free agent to play CF, LF, 3b, 2b, and a few more to start, close and set-up? They were given a bag of shit when they got here, along with one of the worst farm systems in the bigs. They have been building from the bottom and *not* spending like the drunken sailors that own the Marlins and Angels. When they took the podium 2 years ago, everyone paying attention heard that this was going to be a process that would take 3-5 years, but after that time, they would expect a consistent contender. At least there is a plan that they appear to be following. Give them their 3-5 years. If you don’t want to go to a game, fine…better seats for me. And finally, Theo isn’t *complaining* about his team’s OBP, he’s letting everyone know that it better improve, or changes will be made – probably starting with Castro…but that’s a whole different conversation.

  2. thebadguyswon - May 26, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Yeah, the old shitty players leads to poor OBP conundrum. Its a real sonofabitch.

    • psousa1 - May 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      tbuck is correct in his overall argument. He had some good drafts with Boston, no doubt about it. He struck it big with Millar and Ortiz. I think the goal was to sign Millar, Ortiz and Jeremy Giambi and hope one of them worked out. John Henry’s $ is not to be discounted in his success

  3. paperlions - May 26, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    The Cubs and Brewers each have horrible records, but the Cubs are only 1 game under .500 against non-division opponents and the Brewers are only 2 games under .500 outside the division. In other words, they are having their asses handed to them by the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals….but do okay against everyone else.

    The NL Central has 3 of the top 4 records in all of MLB right now.

  4. sickcub - May 26, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    I thought the 2013 Cubs would be a team with limited talent, but were fundamentally sound. That has certainly not been the case, as they never advance runners, miss cutoff men, and swing at everything low and away. Very disappointing.

    • dan1111 - May 27, 2013 at 4:12 AM

      It is very hard for a bad team to look fundamentally sound, because mistakes that would be forgotten in a win stand out during a loss and are remembered as the “reason” for the loss.

  5. mophatici - May 27, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    being a cubs fan I don’t know much about the intricacies of Theo’s tenure over there. but this is not a Theo story. this goes back to a hitting coach(who’s name is on the tip of my tongue) who was hired by Hendry during the Pinellas years. his method was a little too aggressive, and the cubs were all brought through the system to try to jump at the first pitch. this won’t be easy for Theo and his staff to fix, and I wonder if they even can with the hitting coaches they have now. it drives me nuts seeing the cubs let starters coast along deep into ballgames because nobody wants to take a strike or two.

  6. mophatici - May 27, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    Rudy Jaramillo was his name. his approach works better in the al. but it ruined our collective approach in Wrigley

  7. mlblogsbutlerblogs - May 27, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    So to all the people who say Theo has done nothing so far to improve the team, tell me what he should have done the last 1 1/2 years? What big free agents did he miss on that we needed to be competitive? Pujols? Hamilton? Yeah no thanks. You buy those kinda guys after the rest of your roster is already set.

    He’s unloaded some terrible contracts. Even got the stupid Marlins to take Zambrano off his hands. The last big contract he’s got left is Soriano which we all know he’s been trying to get rid of.

    Oh and btw, he’s locked his two franchise pieces up for long term (potentially) team friendly deals in Starlin and Rizzo. He’s improved the farm system and its only been one draft! People just look at the finish product and then slap a grade/opinion on to it. But being president/GM is so much more of a deeper process. If the Cubs fail to be competitive in 4 years, get back to me and we can have the Theo haters discussion.

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