One thing that hasn’t been discussed much is how the Cubs went from a similarly unwatchable team in 2006 to the playoffs in 2007. Just like the 2011 Cubs, the 2006 Cubs had some major black holes on their roster, trotted out numerous awful pitchers in the 5th starter spot, and were completely unwatchable and awful.
Somehow they managed to go from that trainwreck into a playoff team the next year. I was curious how they did it, and curious if that success could be duplicated.
Free Agent Improvements
Of course the lazy answer here is that they spent their way into the playoffs, and that is partly true. Here’s a table of who they brought on, who that person replaced, and what the marginal gain was in WAR:
|Player added||Position||WAR||Replaced||WAR||Net gain|
|Derosa||2b||3||Neifi / Walker||0.5||2.5|
|Marquis||SP||1.7||Marmol / Mateo / Guzman||0||1.7|
The Ward / Mabry improvement is a little exaggerated here, mainly because Mabry accumulated that negative WAR largely by playing first. He’d probably have been a 0 WAR player if Lee hadn’t forced him into increased playing time, so that should probably be closer to just Ward’s 1.1. Still – that’s a 10 WAR improvement through free agency alone.
Like the 2011 Cubs, the narrative for the 2006 Cubs is that they were a bad team made worse by injuries and underperformance. In particular, the Lee injury cost them dearly.
Really though – the injury card is a little overplayed for both teams. When I dug into the numbers, I just didn’t see as much of a bounceback year over year from players as I was expecting – here’s what there was:
|Comeback player||Position||WAR||Problem||Previous WAR||Net gain|
|Player||2007 WAR||2006 WAR||Net Loss|
The 2007 Cubs got a lot of major improvement from a handful of young players who developed into contributors at the same time. A lot of them had been on the 2006 team but were better used in 2007 (Marmol went from an awful starter to the best reliever in baseball; Theriot actually had a worse WAR in 2007 but was moved to SS to replace Cedeno and his -1.6 WAR).
|Player||Pos||2007 WAR||Replaced||Net Gain|
|Black holes – 2011||Best candidate||Proj 2011 WAR|
|RF: -.4 WAR||Beltran||6|
|1B: 1 WAR||Fielder||6.8|
|SP: .7 WAR||Wilson||6|
|SP: -.2 WAR|
- Sign Prince Fielder and CJ Wilson
- Sign Carlos Beltran
- Trade Marlon Byrd to clear his salary; replace him with Jackson
- Get bounceback years from Geovany Soto and, to a lesser extent, Soriano
- Get Randy Wells to stop sucking