Tagged: Carlos Silva

Ubaldo Jimenez & Carlos Silva

Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Silva have both been good this season.  Beyond that they have little in common on the hill.  All you have to do is watch them pitch one inning each to see that.

About Jimenez.  He’s a super stud.  He was my “sleeper who’ll make a splash” guy this season.  96 with sink.  Faster than that at times.  Every pitch moves, and I mean moves.  On top of it, his delivery adds deception to his already electric stuff.  You watch guys at the plate who simply haven’t got a chance a lot of the time. Well he was NL Pitcher of the Month for May, which means he’s won two of the two NL Pitcher of the Month awards that have been assigned for the 2010 season.  That award was assigned before he went out and was, for him so far this season, so-so while “edging” the D-Backs for his 11th victory this season.  I don’t quite know how one can say that 7 innings of work, 8 K’s, 6 hits allowed is so-so, but given the numbers from his other starts, that is positively mediocre for Ubaldo this season.
About Silva. He’s not studly the way Ubaldo is.  He may get some movement on his pitches, but one look at his peripherals compared to those of Jimenez will establish that right quick.  Nevertheless he is 8-0 for the Cubs.  So, what the hell is going on with this guy?  I’ve asked this question before and tried to answer it and I’m still as dumbfounded now as ever.  It makes me feel a little better that Craig Calcaterra doesn’t get it either.  “The Daily Pitch” also takes note of Silva’s ridiculous start to the season.  I am inclined to say–again–that Silva’s success provides yet more evidence that the NL is a bad league, basing that assertion on Silva’s peripheral numbers being more-or-less the same as they were in his last three notoriously unsuccessful years in the AL.  Rob Neyer kind of suggests the same thing, only he puts it much more nicely, talking about how the NL is “easier” than the AL, though he points out that Silva’s K rate is way, way up from the past.
At any rate, no matter what Silva does, I don’t think he will be challenging Jimenez or Halladay for the NL Cy Young.

What’s Up With Carlos Silva?

My friend Chris R. of the Mayo Clinic emailed me the following question: What the &^(# is up with Carlos Silva?  Is he good again or what?”

Well, I’ve been wondering the same things, because he’s been pretty much replacement level the past three seasons.  So, I’m not sure, though I have some suspicions.  I quickly glanced at this numbers before shooting Chris a reply, but I thought I should take a look here, as well.
Of the top, I would like to say that the most amusing conclusion, given the Cubs’ history of mismanagement, would be that he’s just been plain lucky, and the Cubs haven’t noticed that this is the case, taking his improved performance seriously, and that after a while he’ll revert to his form of the last three seasons while the whole darn thing crashes down around the organization’s head and causing Cubs’ fans to desert Wrigley field in droves.  Okay, so that scenario isn’t all that amusing, but it sure does irritate me that the Cubs’ front office has tons of revenue to play with and not a clue how to utilize it well.  
A look at Silva’s numbers fuels some interesting–and wholly provisional–conclusions.  
First, his traditional numbers look really solid, as though he’s turned a corner and is just mowing down his opposition.  (Heck, if he were a hitter and he displayed this sort of turnaround, murmurs of PED use would be floating around the Web.)  Look at that 7-0 record!  Look at that sparkling 3.12 ERA!  And, hey, even fantasy geeks must be ecstatic at the 1.10 WHIP.  In fact, on these bases one might be inclined, like, oh, Murray Chass (just scroll down to the section header that reads “For Greinke a Statistic of Zero”), to conclude that Silva is way better than Zach Greinke.  
Of course, then one would be silly.
A look at Silva’s peripherals reveals that, well, he’s been lucky.  First of all, and to his credit, Silva’s strikeouts and strikeout rate are both way up.  As a result his K/BB ratio is way better than it has been, and is in fact the second highest ration of his career (3.82).  His HR/9 ratio is down from where it was in Seattle, which is really confusing, since Safeco is a much better pitcher’s park than Wrigley, particularly as far as dingers go.  His WHIP is way down, and his FIP shows marked improvement, meaning that his ERA decline isn’t simply an illusion.  
A look the batted ball numbers show that he’s allowing fewer line drives (17.7% vs. a career rate of 20.1%), inducing right around his career rate of groundballs (47.8% vs. career rate of 48%), but, at the same time, a higher rate of flyballs (34.4% vs. career rate of 31.9%).  So, it would seem that some of the balls that used to be line drives are now flyballs.  At the same time, his HR/flyball rate is down as well, quite a bit from last year (10.9% vs, 13,2% in 2009), and just a hair under his career rate of 11.1%.  Which, as noted above, is puzzling given the wildly different profiles that Safeco and Wrigley have as pitcher’s and hitter’s parks, respectively.
What makes me think he’s been getting lucky is this: his BABIP against of .275 is .036 under his career BABIP against of .311.  Also note that the Cubs are not the Mariners; that is, the Cubs’ Defensive Efficiency Ratio is .687 in 2010, while the Mariners’ was .712 in 2009, so it’s not that his BABIP allowed is being suppressed by having a superior defense behind him this season.  Additionally his strand rate, the percentage of baserunners allowed that end up being left on base, is 77.7% in 2010, a career high, and significantly above his career rate of 70%. [By the same token, that measure–strand rate–indicates that Silva was very unlucky over the past two years in Seattle as his strand rates were 61.1% (2008) and 54.2% (2009).]  
So, Silva was unlucky in Seattle, but he is still getting lucky this season with the Cubs.  I figure that over the course of this summer balls that have been landing in Cubs’ fielders’ gloves will start falling in for hits. 
On the other hand, I could be completely wrong about the luck factor.  I’m a dilettante, after all.
At any rate, here are a couple of alternative explanations for Silva’s sudden surge:
(1) Maybe Seattle was just too gray and rainy and depressing for Carlos, and he was bummed out, and the clearer skies of the Friendly Confines have him inspired towards greatness.
(2) Maybe the National League is worse than the American League. The NL may have the hot young arms, but maybe hitter-for-hitter (aside from Jason Heyward) the AL is just better.  (And if this is true, then maybe Dontrelle Willis, just designated for assignment by the Tigers, really could use a return to the NL.) 
Me, though, I’ll take luck as the factor.  However, as must be obvious, I haven’t excluded other possible explanations at a sufficient level of precision to make a definitive statement.  (Necessary boilerplate.)

Have Cubs Fans Given Up?

Sports Illustrated‘s Tim Marchman asks the near-unthinkable question: have Cubs fans simply given up on their ballclub?  He rightfully says its a shame that Wrigley Field isn’t always packed to the rafters.

However, he points out a lot of strange stuff going on with the Cubbies, and he focuses on the Carlos Zambrano Experiment, which, just on a paycheck basis along, is…puzzling.  But he really hits the nail on the head when he wonders why Zambrano gets the hate and that lucksack Carlos Silva gets the love.  Are they really so sure that a starter’s won-loss record really is an accurate indicator of his actual worth?  If so, then they are, to put it as nicely as I can, pointlessly silly.
(Could it be that they are confused that both of these guys are named Carlos?)
Marchman’s conclusion pretty accurate, kind of alarming, and most damning of the Cubs’ (front office) management:

Pitchers get hurt, and
whichever starter is banished to relief will almost certainly end up back in
the rotation. More than that, the club is probably not going to enjoy continued
fabulous success from such dubious fellows as Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. A playoff run
likely not being in the offing, the exact identity of the No. 5 starter should
be of little consequence in the standings
, even if the choice is between
arguably the worst starter in the majors and one of two promising pitchers who
could well play a role on a championship Cubs team.

Where the choice does matter is
in the more abstract arena referenced above. With good reason, the Cubs have a
reputation as a rather muddleheaded organization, to which winning isn’t the
paramount concern.
Give them a decade of solid service as one of the better
pitchers in baseball, and they’ll toss you in the bullpen for no crime more
tangible than having chalked one bad start in your first four. Give them two
fluke good months following years of unparalleled ineptitude for other teams
and you’ll be treated gently. It’s the Cubs Way, simultaneously ruthless and
sentimental, and in the end almost senseless.
It’s the sort of thing that leads
to fans gently shrugging their shoulders and moving on to other sporting concerns.

Finally under new ownership
this year, the Cubs have a chance to show this way is changing. This is why
their choice matters: They’ve met an inflection point.
However bad an idea it
may be to make too much of one baseball decision, the fact is the Cubs are
facing options so stark, their decision could speak volumes about the near
future of the team. They’ll either make the hard call and demote a winning
pitcher whose odds of continuing to win are smaller than the Cubs’ odds of
winning a pennant, or they’ll slight a younger, better pitcher for no sound
reason at all

This is a team that’s already
sent its best and best-paid pitcher into relief. No one should have any
confidence that they’ll do the right thing. Nor is it clear that doing so would
secure them a solid place among Chicago’s top three sporting concerns
; their
inscrutable decisions have done too much damage. Still, one can watch, and hope
that rationality will win out. Chicago has supported vastly less attractive
teams than this one. Given the least reason, fans will give Marmol, Castro,
Zambrano, Wells, Gorzelanny and the rest the audience they deserve.