Some thoughts on opening day starter and Brett Jackson

Dale Sveum decided to go with Ryan Dempster on opening day. There's little doubt that Matt Garza is the superior pitcher, but Dempster is still pretty good himself and it's not like Garza is awesome unless we look only at last season. Even if we do that, he only looks awesome when we look at his defense independent pitching stats. His fWAR (based on FIP) is 5.0, but his rWAR is 2.9. It was 2.0 the year before than prior ot that it was 3.8 and 3.0. Dempster's non DIPS WAR is pretty bad so there's no doubt that Garza had the better season.

However, this is a decision I just can't care too much about. Being the opening day starter is only meaningful to the one player per team who is chosen to start opening day. It doesn't mean anything to anyone else. It's an honor for those guys selected and in the end, Dempster and Garza are going to make the same number of starts if they both stay healthy. Plus, I wasn't the least bit upset that Carlos Zambrano was chosen over Dempster in 2009 and 2010. It just doesn't matter.

If you take away April last year for Dempster what he did the rest of the way is right in line with what we projected him to do. I know using selective endpoints is silly, but it's The Cubs Way these days. Dempster was also better in both May and June (using ERA). Both pitchers threw poorly the first month so by the end of June we could have selectively decided that Dempster had been the better pitcher. That's ridiculous, but It's a whole new world in interpreting stats so I'm just learning.

I also think the true talent level of these two pitchers isn't all that different. Garza's is surely better, but it's not like he's a run per 9 better. Probably not even half a run. Wouldn't even surprise me if it's more like a quarter run per 9. This decision is nothing compared to other troubling decisions Dale Sveum has made. This doesn't even touch on the absurdly high number of outs on the bases this team has gotten into so far this spring.

I'm kind of glad I started this post in the morning and didn't get back to until the evening because Suburban Kid had a really good comment in the last thread that I'm going to include here.

I was hoping Dempster got the opening day start. I think it should go to veteran if possible as an honorary mark of respect type deal, especially if he’s a leader type.

I think the protocol should be that if the longest standing member of the team in the rotation should get opening day if he is the first or second best SP on the team. If he’s the third best and the first two aren’t very good anyway, then I’d even give it to him then. Another situation could call for a league veteran getting the ball even if he is new to the team – if the other members of the rotation aren’t any great shakes.

If there’s a young SP who is miles ahead of the others (like a Strasburg), then fine, give him the ball.

Garza may be the best, but he’s not a million miles better than Dempster. He’s only been on the team a year (and what an unmemorable Cub year), while this is the funnyman’s ninth season as a Cub. I’ve also never felt like Garza was going to be a Cub for very long, and I still feel that way, so why make a fuss over him.

I’m actually sick of Dempster as a personality and as a Cub, but I give him his due here. He deserves the honor.

I guess I tend to feel the same way, which is why I was so pleased to see Zambrano get the ball on Opening Day in 2009 and 2010 even though he wasn't the best starting pitcher on the team.

I don't think there was ever any doubt that the Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson would be sent to Iowa to begin the year. That assignment was confirmed a few days ago. I understand why they're doing it. If they wait to call him up until May they get the additional year of service time. If they wait until sometime in mid June they'll avoid having Jackson qualify for 4 years of arbitration. I get it, but I also hate it. I hated it when the Rays did it and I hate it even more that a large market team like the Cubs is doing it.

If Jackson was only arguably one of the 3 best outfielders, no big deal, but it's not arguable. He's easily one of the best 3 and almost certainly the best outfielder in the Cubs organization. Not only that, he's quite possibly the best player in the Cubs organization right now.

Other than Jackson, the only player in the minor leagues who also might provide some immediate value to the Cubs is Anthony Rizzo, but at least with Rizzo you can at least argue that he might not be the best player at his position. On fangraphs, the fans have projected LaHair to have a .344 wOBA to Rizzo's .335. Over the next 5 years there's no contest in terms of potential, but right now LaHair is probably the better player.

This argument can't be made for Jackson. Alfonso Soriano isn't even close to as good as Jackson. Neither are David DeJesus and Marlon Byrd.

The decision was made for a reason and although I'm not sure I agree with it, there's at least a valid explanation. I'd prefer the Cubs not act like a small market team. If the player is ready and deserving then give him the job.

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