If you’re a baseball fan, you have certainly read something written by Dayn Perry. Dayn is a regular writer for FoxSports.com and Chicago Sports Review. He has also written for Baseball Prospectus and is currently working on a biography of Reggie Jackson. In his book Winners, Dayn offers a detailed and entertaining view of analyzing the game of baseball. Dayn illustrates how to look past traditional stats and examine how a baseball team actually wins games. And as the title reads, It’s Not the Way You Think.
The CCO is thrilled that Dayn recently took some time to answer a few questions regarding the Cubs. Here is what he had to say…. Chicago Cubs Online: Last off-season you were one of the experts that did not like the moves, or lack of moves, the Cubs made and when the season approached you gave them a very low grade and correctly predicted a bad year. How do you feel they have done this off-season?
Dayn Perry: I think it’s a mixed bag. I’ll go into further depth on the major moves in a moment, but I’ll summarize them all by saying the Cubs will be better. However, the moves they made won’t return value on the dollar.
CCO: Was Lou Piniella the right move, or would the Cubs have been better off going with a manager like Joe Girardi and a youth movement?
DP: I think Piniella is a competent major league manager. I don’t think he’s a great tactician, but he stresses accountability, and that’s important for the Cubs. After all, Dusty Baker, post-2003, was more about shared victimhood than anything else. I think Larry Dierker is the best-unemployed manager out there, but Piniella is a credible, defensible choice to manage the Cubs.
CCO: Why do you think the Cubs finally opened up the pocketbook this year, and not in previous years, when there were better free agents to be had, such as a Carlos Beltran or a Rafael Furcal?
DP: I’d say there are probably three reasons, two of them legitimate. One, in the process of wooing Piniella, there was a promise made that the Cubs would expand payroll. It’s not codified in his contract or anything like that, but there was a tacit understanding that they’d be active on the market. Two, Jim Hendry’s worried about his job, and these sorts of conspicuous moves at least give the illusion of progress. Three – and I don’t entirely buy this one, but it’s out there – is that the Trib is attempting to make the team a more lucrative commodity in advance of a sale. The real reasons, however, are the first two.
CCO: You are a proponent of the Blue Jays extending the contract of Vernon Wells. What are your thoughts and predictions for Alfonso Soriano?
DP: When the Soriano contract first came down the pike, I thought it was pretty bad. However, when other, worse deals were forged this winter (Gary Matthews Jr., Gil Meche, Juan Pierre, Barry Zito, Jason Marquis, etc.), the Soriano contract looked tolerable by comparison.
Eight years is obviously going to extend beyond the point of his usefulness, but Soriano does help the Cubs in the near term. In the outfield, I actually think his glove is a bit better than advertised. He has speed, and his tracking skills improved significantly as the season wore on last year. By no means is he an optimal center fielder, but he’ll get by behind the strikeout-heavy pitching staff that the Cubs have.
Offensively, of course, he’s excellent. If healthy, Soriano, Lee and Ramirez should combine for more than 100 homers in 2007. The worry for Cubs fans is whether Piniella will revive the idiotic practice of batting Soriano in the leadoff spot. The one thing Soriano doesn’t do well is get on base, which is precisely what a leadoff hitter needs to do.
CCO: What do you think of the Mark DeRosa, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis signings? And on the same note, why in the world did Gil Meche take just a little more money to play in, of all places, Kansas City, over becoming a millionaire with the Cubs and reuniting with Lou Piniella?
DP: DeRosa is fine as a reserve but stretched as a regular. He had nifty numbers in 2006, but those numbers stand in contrast to the rest of his career. He’s 33, so it’s not likely he’s established a new level of ability. Expect him to come back to earth in 2007.
The Lilly signing is fine, but Wrigley isn’t the right environment for him. Lilly’s primary shortcoming is that the opposite side puts up good power numbers against him. Wrigley, of course, is a haven for right-handed power hitters, so Lilly figures to struggle at home. Overall, he should be a bit better than league average, but in the right park he could really thrive. Unfortunately, Wrigley isn’t that park.
I’m aware Marquis is a change-of-scenery guy, but three years and $20 million to a guy with home-run issues and the worst ERA of any NL qualifier in 2006? Wow. Suffice it to say, he’ll likely be all kinds of awful. Perhaps a move to the bullpen would help him out. Hitters sat on his fastball all season in 2006, so something needs to change.
As for Meche, it’s a fool’s errand to guess why a player chooses one destination over another. Maybe it was money, maybe it was comfort level, maybe the clubhouse guy reminded him of his uncle. There’s no accounting for tastes, as the saying goes.
CCO: What is the national perception of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood? Do non-Cubs fans have a grasp of what injuries they have actually had, or is the perception that they will not pitch through pain?
DP: If there’s a national perception, I think it’s that the Cubs either have a lousy training staff or horrid luck. Wood’s troubles, given his inconsistent, high-stress delivery and imprudent workloads as an amateur, aren’t all that surprising. But Prior? Wasn’t he supposed to have the “pitching mechanics of the gods”? There’s concern that Prior’s congenital shoulder malady may be more serious than initially believed, and that, of course, makes one wonder whether Mark Prior will ever be Mark Prior again. I hope so; he’s a joy to watch on the mound when he’s on.
CCO: Who is the most overrated Cub? Most underrated? What do you see being the Cubs’ strengths and weaknesses going into the season?
DP: If Neifi Perez were still on the roster, this would be an easy one. For overrated, I’ll go with Ryan Dempster. A pitcher with his control issues has no business working as the high-leverage reliever on the staff. For underrated, I’ll take Jacque Jones. Good defense in right and a 2006 batting line of .303 AVG/.358 OBP/.528 SLG against right-handed pitching. He needs to be platooned religiously, but that’s the manager’s fault.
To be continued….
Part two of the Q&A with Dayn Perry will run on Tuesday with the topics ranging from Derrek Lee to the farm system to VORP to his very early prediction for the Central in 2007.