Wokingham Stakes betting preview

This race is perhaps the biggest handicap sprint at the festival and is run over a distance of six furlongs. The Wokingham Stakes is a class two race that is for three year olds and over. This another one of those races at Royal Ascot that has been incredibly hard to predict over the years due to its competitive nature.

Despite this the betting markets are always very active and punters have been rewarded in the last few years with two fancied horses winning in the last four meetings. However last year’s winner Dandy Boy reminded punters about the difficulty of selecting a winner for this race as he started out as a 33/1 long shot.

Royal Ascot Wokingham Stakes odds, tips and free bets

No trainer has managed to win this race twice since 1996 so there any trends that can really be followed when it comes to trainers. With so many different winning trainers it wouldn’t be recommended to bet on a horse for purely this reason. This is one of the most open races during the whole week which benefits the smaller stables as they get the opportunity to win a prestigious event.read more about Gaza deal at http://www.rooftop-view.com/why-the-garza-deal-is-no-good/

One trend you should consider is that lightly weighted horses don’t fare well in this event at all so it is best to avoid them.

Previous Six Winners:

2012- Dandy Boy  33/1  David Marnane

2011- Deacon Blues  15/2  James Fanshawe

2010- Laddies Poker Two  9/2  Jeremy Noseda

2009- High Standing  6/1  William Haggas

2008- Big Timer  20/1  Linda Perratt

2007- Dark Missile  22/1  Andrew Balding

Top Three Trends:

  • Only four favorites have won since 1988
  • Four or five year olds have won ten times in the last twelve years
  • Horses carrying more than nine stone have excellent records in this  race

Why the Garza deal is no good

I wanted to wait until the third player coming to Chicago was named, but I’m gonna go ahead and break down the big trade that landed the Cubs Matt Garza yesterday.  I’m just gonna work under the assumption that the unnamed player won’t be of great consequence to the verdict of this deal.  All I’ve read anywhere so far is that the guy is a minor-league pitcher.  We’ll see, but I’m not getting worked up over who it might be.

UPDATE: The minor league pitcher is Zachary Rosscup, a 22-year old lefty who’s about as far away from the major leagues as possible.  I honestly don’t know very much about this guy, but I’m assuming it’s still up in the air whether he’s seen as a starter or reliever long term.  He figures to spend most of 2011 in A-ball.

Why the Garza deal is no good

Also, the two teams swapped 5th outfielders in Sam Fuld and Fernando Perez.  I don’t think anyone’s really concerned with this part of the deal, but Perez is a 27-year old, switch-hitting center fielder who has racked up big time stolen base numbers in his 7 years in the minors.  He hasn’t hit very much at all the past couple of years though, so he’s nothing more than possibly the 25th guy on the roster this year.

Why the Garza deal is no good

I said the exact same thing in the weeks leading up to this trade, and my thoughts haven’t really changed at all– I just don’t think this acquisition will have much of an impact at all on the Cubs’ long playoff odds, and I think everyone agrees that had to be the case to justify the price they paid yesterday. This is a simple matter of thinking on the margin– to understand the real impact Garza will have on this team, you have to consider who he is replacing in the rotation.  So who’s the odd man out?  Tom Gorzelany?  Sure, but I actually just wrote like 1,000 words all about how underrated he is, and how he’s probably every bit of a 3-win pitcher right now (he was roughly a two-win pitcher in just 23 starts last year).  Randy Wells?  The ugly W-L record aside, he was just as good last year as he was his rookie year when he was worth three wins.  Carlos Silva? On a per-inning basis, he might have been the team’s most effective starter last year.  That said, the addition of Garza appears to spell the exit for one of these guys.

I’ve been like a broken record this offseason going on and on about how the Cubs’ rotation makes up for its lack of a true #1 with quality up and down the rotation.  Go look at these guys’ numbers– in the NL Central, there’s every reason to believe all of them can be solid, three-win pitchers, which isn’t something a lot of teams in baseball have one through five.  So unless you think Garza is something like a 5 or 6-win pitcher (he isn’t) then really, this might be as little as a one or two-win addition to a team that’ll need a truckload of good fortune for those wins to matter at all.  It’s really that simple– for the Cubs, the marginal impact of this sort of deal just isn’t very big at all, which is exactly why so much of the blogosphere has been, by and large, against the pursuit another starter. What happened yesterday was just about the worst case scenario playing out; like so many feared would happen, the Cubs appear to have badly miscalculated both Garza’s current talent level, and how his addition affects their playoff odds.

Now, I’m not sitting here trying to convince anyone that Garza isn’t any good, or that he won’t have any success in Chicago, because the truth is, evaluating pitchers using WAR can be tricky business, and he stands to benefit immensely by escaping the AL East– everyone knows how that worked for Ted Lilly.


Garza is a talented guy, and is almost certainly better than every incumbent starter other than perhaps Ryan Dempster, but the fact is he’s gonna have to reach a new level of performance in order to justify the Cubs’ investment.  Up to this point, he owns a relatively modest 7.10 K/9 rate, and there’s no getting around the fact that number will have to go up.  I don’t think there’s any question his transition to the NL will lead to more strikeouts, but he’s really gonna need every last one of them considering the trade off he’s making in the defense he’ll take the field with.  Since 2008, Garza’s first year in Tampa, the Rays defense has been roughly 120 runs above average according to John Dewan’s defensive metric DRS (defensive runs saved).  Over that same span, the Cubs’ defense has been 3 runs above average.  So there’s been almost a 120 run difference between the Cubs’ and Rays’ defense the past three years, and in 2010 the Cubs were about 20 runs below average according to DRS.  Garza has really benefitted from playing for such good defensive clubs, and there’s reason to doubt that’s something we’ll be saying about the Cubs in 2011.read more about US mater betting review by clicking here

The other key issue here is that Garza is leaving one of the most pitcher-friendly environments in the major leagues for a home park that can be challenging for fly ball pitchers.  He likes to work up in the zone, challenging hitters with his big fastball, but it appears to have cost him somewhat, as he’s allowed quite a few home runs the past two years despite pitching his home games in some friendly digs.  Garza’s career numbers at home? 3.69 ERA/3.89 FIP.  On the road?  4.26 ERA/4.64 FIP.

A lot is being made about the benefit of acquiring a pitcher with three years remaining before he hits free agency, which is nice, but Garza is good enough of a pitcher that he figures to be compensated quite fairly in arbitration the next few years, so he’s going to cost a nice chunk of change on top of all those prospects the club parted with.  Sure, he might be an important part of a playoff rotation at some point in the next three years, but you could argue that in two years Chris Archer will be every bit as valuable as Garza.  So to me it doesn’t mean that much that he’s still a few year away from free agency– if he doesn’t make the Cubs a playoff team this year, then I’m not sure I see this as a win for them at all.

I had a chance to see a lot of Chris Archer this past summer while I was interning with the Daytona Cubs, and I can tell you that he generated buzz with just about anyone who saw him.  Not just the scouts he came to the park, but also the people I was working with.  By all accounts, Chris is a really intelligent kid with great makeup, and there’s no denying the upside he possesses.  There’s speculation that he may be best suited as a closer, but I just can’t be sold on the idea that’s where his long term future is.  He’s still so young, and there are just too many things to like about him– he’s got size, a nice delivery, and really nasty stuff.  If he does end up in the bullpen that’ll soften the blow of this trade considerably, but I have a feeling Archer will be the Rays’ number two starter in a couple years.  If I were Hendry, I probably wouldn’t have made this trade without having to include him in the deal, so to me, losing him may be the worst part of all this.  He definitely represents the greatest risk the Cubs took in making this trade.

On the other hand, as much as I like Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, and Brandon Guyer, you can see what the Cubs were thinking making these guys available.  Parting with Lee certainly seems to be a vote of confidence in Starlin Castro’s ability to remain a shortstop long-term, so it makes sense they’d be willing to include a blocked prospect who’s probably three years away from the majors.  I think Chirinos is a hell of a sleeper, and the Rays may well have found their next everyday catcher, but he wasn’t gonna challenge Geovany Soto as the starter in Chicago.  Meanwhile, the Cubs are committed to Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin, and they’re stuck with Alfonso Soriano for the foreseeable future, so I’m not surprised at all that they didn’t mind including Brandon Guyer.  From their perspective, you can see how the Cubs thought they were dealing from positions of organizational strength.  The disappointing thing is, I’m pretty confident that every one of these guys will turn into pretty good players.  However, giving these guys up isn’t the problem for me– it’s that they’re being given up for something less than a bona fide star.

When you compare what Zack Greinke cost the Brewers, to the price the Cubs paid for Garza, there’s a strong argument that the package on its way to Tampa is much more valuable than what the Royals accepted for Greinke.  This isn’t an apples-apples comparison since the Cubs didn’t really have the payroll flexibility to take on his $12MM salary this year, but the thought that the same group of prospects ought to have been valuable enough to land Greinke is a little frustrating.  He’s the sort of pitcher that would have been worth this price, for the simple fact that he would’ve been a lock to be the best pitcher on the team right away.  I’m not the biggest fan of labeling guys like this, but it’s really this simple– Zack Greinke is a #1 starter, Matt Garza is not.

The Cubs are basically gambling that Garza still has a lot of room for improvement.  For this deal to work out for the Cubs, he’s gonna have to discover a new level of ability, and ideally a year from now he’ll be open to a contract extension that might buy out a year or two of his free agency at a discounted rate.  But my verdict here is that Hendry seriously overpaid for Garza, so if he doesn’t really take to the NL, and if two years from now the four prospects he gave up are contributors on the next championship-caliber Rays team, it may end up that this move costs Jim Hendry his job.  I’m not saying I think that’s how things will play out since there’s a good chance Garza will have enough success to make this look like a solid trade, at least for the next couple of years, but there is the distinct possibility that this move just blows up in Hendry’s face, and that it eventually serves as the nail in his proverbial coffin.

Is a multiyear deal for Marmol a good idea?

Fresh off a historic 2010 season in which he posted an astounding 15.99 K/9 rate in 77 relief appearances, Carlos Marmol passed on the opportunity to settle for a one-year deal like the rest of his arb-eligible teammates, ostensibly to allow time for a multiyear contract agreement to come together.  The interest in such a deal appears to be mutual, as it’s been speculated all offseason that the Cubs have prioritized locking up Marmol for the next few years, and now that he’s officially filed for arbitration, those rumors are starting to heat up.

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of long term deals for relief pitchers; I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who is these days.  It’s just become glaringly obvious over the years, even to a lot of casual baseball fans, that multiyear deals for relievers rarely work out for the club–they’re simply too volatile of assets to commit to over a number of years.  The reality is, over the course of 70-90 innings, a lot of wacky things can happen on a baseball field, which is why in any given year relievers are liable to do just about anything, Carlos Marmol being no exception.  You could argue that, relatively speaking, he’s been pretty consistent since breaking into the league, but consider his astronomical walk rate from 2009– his previously demonstrated propensity to issue walks notwithstanding, do you think anyone could have honestly guessed that Marmol would suddenly start walking nearly 8 batters per nine innings?

Now, Carlos managed to get his walk rate somewhat under control last year (6.03 BB/9) but still, this is the primary concern in making a long term commitment to him.  We’ve seen him lose the strike zone before, and if he does it again, the Cubs run the risk of being stuck with a really expensive setup man.  Even factoring in his improvement from last year, he has very little margin for error here.  If he takes even a small step back with his control, he could become a liability.

Is a multiyear deal for Marmol a good idea?

Up to this point though, Marmol has mostly avoided the dire consequences most pitchers with his erratic control are usually met with, and it’s pretty much understood why that’s been the case.  First, it’s no secret he’s one of the true strikeout artists in today’s game. Owner of a career 11.68 K/9 rate, Carlos misses bats with the absolute best of them (he set a career high in SwStr% last year at 14.4%)**, and when he does give up contact, its usually of the weak variety.  According to Fangraphs’ batted ball data, among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 200 innings since 2007, Marmol has allowed the second lowest LD% (also 14.4%), and, by a considerable margin, the lowest opponents’ batting average (.159).

** Since 2007, among pitchers with 200 innings, Michael Wuertz has the highest SwStr% at 16.1%.  I couldn’t give you one good reason why the Cubs ever got rid of him.

However, Carlos’ success in recent years has also been somewhat contingent on him excelling in areas that are, in sabermetric circles, believed to be mostly a function of luck, subject to a lot of variation from year-to-year.  Since settling in as a reliever in 2007, again using 200 innings as a parameter, he’s allowed the fourth lowest ball-in-play average (.257), and the sixth lowest HR/FB rate (5%) in all of baseball.  Some have argued that those numbers are due to regress in a big way eventually, but especially when you consider the company he keeps at the top of these lists– names like Rivera, Nathan, Rafael Soriano, Heath Bell, Hong-Chih Kuo, and a few other pretty good relievers–I don’t think we can just rule out the possibility that Marmol is capable of beating regression to the mean, at least to a certain extent.

That said, I’m still not sure it makes a lot of sense for the Cubs to go long term with Marmol right now.  I suppose he’s as deserving as about any reliever who really deserved their own multiyear deal, but I just don’t think this is a risk the Cubs have to take. Perhaps the Cubs, out of necessity, are trying to limit Marmol’s 2011 salary, and see a new multiyear deal as the only means to that end, but especially considering the amazing numbers he’d bring to the bargaining table, why should the Cubs be so intent on getting this done now?  If they wait a year, and count on his numbers regressing somewhat, couldn’t they possibly increase their leverage?  And assuming he puts together another good season, wouldn’t they like the extra year of data to help them make the best decision? read more about Gaza deal at http://www.rooftop-view.com/why-the-garza-deal-is-no-good/

Maybe the Cubs see an extension as an inevitability, so they’d rather get it done sooner rather than later.  Again– I think Carlos may just be the rare reliever who actually deserves a multiyear deal.  But unless this is as much an effort to make this year’s budget as it is keeping Marmol around for the next three years, I’m just not sure why the Cubs would feel pressure to get a deal done right now.

Matt Garza: The Even Bigger Race-Changer

Matt GarzaOn Tuesday over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron shared with us with his latest insights into the developing trade market, arguing that Anibal Sanchez is potentially the biggest-impact acquisition to be made this summer.  Cameron points to his proximity to free agency, as well as the Marlins’ remote playoff odds as the two biggest reasons why they should be entertaining offers for their 27-year old right hander as the deadline approaches.  The above linked article also shines a light on just how good Sanchez has been over the past calendar year (5.1 WAR, 5th best in the NL during that span), while identifying a gradual increase in his velocity as the key to his newfound success. read more about Gazza deal at http://www.rooftop-view.com/why-the-garza-deal-is-no-good/

As per usual, the chief blogger at FanGraphs makes some good points in support of his argument.  Sanchez has quietly become one of the better starters in his league, and the fact he’s also under club control for 2012 makes him that much more desirable, since he wouldn’t be just a rental for the acquiring team.  However, according to the same criteria that led Cameron to glow about Anibal Sanchez, the Cubs’ own Matt Garza actually appears to be an even more valuable commodity.  In all likelihood, Cameron just assumes that Garza isn’t among the players who will hit the market this summer– and he may be right to do so– but if he were to be made available, I don’t think people would be shocked to learn Garza could be an even bigger race-changer than Sanchez.

Ignoring for a moment the logistics of a potential Matt Garza trade, let’s compare these two just in terms of what they’re capable of on the mound.  A quick look at their respective numbers suggests that they’re actually pretty comparable pitchers–Sanchez owns a career 3.57 ERA on the strength of a 4.24 xFIP, compared to 3.98/4.19 for Garza. While both of them have good-not-great career strikeout rates, they’ve always had respectable command of overall quality repertoires.  However, focusing on their career numbers might actually be a little misleading.  For one, Garza spent the past three years in the AL East, while Sanchez has spent his entire career in the NL, pitching his home games in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark.  More importantly though, it just looks like neither of these guys are the same pitcher today that they were a year or two ago.

In making his case for Anibal Sanchez, Cameron suggests that he’s elevated his game to the point where he’s not the same pitcher that he’s been in the past, but Sanchez isn’t alone in that regard.  If you’ve followed the Cubs at all this year, there’s a chance you’ve read or heard all about the “new” Matt Garza, and how he’s a markedly different pitcher today than he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Indeed, Garza has taken nicely to the National League, experiencing a huge spike in his strikeout rate this season (9.43 K/9 in 2011, against a career 7.43), while avoiding the struggles keeping the ball in the park that some predicted.  While we can’t point to a spike in his velocity as the reason behind his new level of ability, there’s no doubt that he’s also going about his business quite differently than he has in the past.  In the past, Garza has basically tried to blow a four-seam fastball by every batter he faces, throwing it well over 60% of the time before this year.  These days he’s throwing his four-seamer just 35% of the time while increasing the usage of the rest of his formidable arsenal.  The inferiority of National League lineups undoubtedly has a lot to do with the numbers he’s managed to put up this season, but Garza’s new approach has almost certainly played a hand in his transformation.

Garza and Sanchez appear to have benefitted immensely from the recent changes in their game.  Both of them are posting by-a-mile career best strikeout rates, while maintaining outstanding numbers across the board (both have xFIPs south of 3.00).  Sanchez has a slightly better walk rate, but Garza has the edge in strikeout rate, and while his 4.07 ERA isn’t as pretty as Sanchez’s 2.82, we can chalk the difference up to the Cubs’ little league defense (they currently have the lowest Team Defensive Efficiency, meaning they convert the fewest percentage of balls in play into outs), as well as the fact Garza has managed to strand just 65% of his baserunners (a figure that tends to regress toward ~75%).  The differences in their performance up to this point are practically negligible, but I’d be willing to bet Garza is seen as the superior pitcher within the industry.  For one, whereas Sanchez has only recently begun throwing in the low to mid 90′s, Garza has averaged 93 mph on the fastball for his career, while showing the ability to dial it up to 95+ when he has to. Furthermore, Garza’s history of success pitching in the toughest division in baseball is probably the tiebreaker between these two if you think they need one.  I suppose there might be some Marlins fans who would argue otherwise, but I’m pretty confident in saying that given the choice between the two, a team that targets Garza would be targeting the better pitcher.

But now for some of those logistics I mentioned earlier.  Despite the fact he’s only about three months older, Garza already has more than 800 big league innings under his belt, to Sanchez’s 582, the biggest reason being one of them has a much cleaner bill of the health than the other.  This is a major consideration, since both of these guys are under contract past this season, and the respective likelihoods of these two staying healthy is as big a factor as it would be with any other commitment to a starting pitcher.  His recent stint on the DL not withstanding, Garza is undoubtedly the better bet to stay healthy going forward; Sanchez has had substantial arm issues in the past, while Garza will probably surpass 180 innings for the fourth consecutive season in 2011.  So not only is youth an equally valid point in Garza’s favor, he would be the considerably safer investment of the two.

I’ve already mentioned that both of these guys are under club control past this season, but while Sanchez will be a free agent at the end of 2012, Garza offers two years of club control beyond this one, which may be the biggest reason why he’s the superior asset. It’s true that between now and the end of their respective deals, both of these guys could be in line for contract extensions that would completely change the outlook of their future value, but for now, the additional year of club control for Garza can only be seen as a point in his favor.  Not only could he make an impact on this year’s playoff chase, but he could be a long-term part of the solution for a team that feels like it’s one good starter away from joining the class of its league.

Of course, the extra year also means that Garza would come at a greater cost than Anibal Sanchez, both in terms of the talent needed to acquire him, and the dollar amount necessary to keep him for a few years.  That said, Garza is only marginally more expensive than Sanchez in 2011– by my admittedly rough calculation, he’d only cost another $1MM or so more than Sanchez for the remainder of the year, so his salary would be about as easy to accomodate midseason.  Also, if at the end of this year Sanchez still has a impressive ERA and win-loss record– two things Garza does not have– then it’s quite likely he’ll be the more expensive pitcher in 2012; not only does baseball’s arbitration process award pitchers based on superficial numbers like ERA, but it’ll also be Sanchez’s last trip through arbitration, which means he’s in line for a substantial raise next season.

No matter which angle I look at this from, it just seems like Matt Garza is the more interesting proposition in every regard.  He’s equally young and affordable as Anibal Sanchez, but even more talented and valuable.  And the Cubs are just as far out of playoff contention as the Marlins are, so while putting Garza on the trading block wouldn’t necessarily be the best course of action for them, doing so would be justifiable given their place in the standings.  If I had to bet on it, I’d say Garza isn’t going anywhere–Hendry paid out the ears to pry him away from the Rays, and it appears as though he and the rest of the Cubs’ front office has job security through at least the rest of this season. After that, Garza’s fate could be totally dependent on whether the Ricketts family is serious about keeping Hendry & Co. around past this year.  Regardless of who’s calling the shots for the Cubs in the future, what to do with Garza will be a key question to answer, because at this point he presents a great deal of value to any number of contenders that are in need of pitching, but at the same time could be seen as part of the long term solution to turning this team’s fortunes around.

Don’t count on Matt Garza being dealt this summer.  As long as Jim Hendry is charge, there’s probably just no way that happens.  But the reality is if the Cubs make him available in July, they might be dangling an incredibly valuable trade chip, as well as the single biggest “race-changer” in the game.

The trade that has to be made

Player A:  .289/.391/.513  15 HR  .392 wOBA

Player B:  .296/.337/.515  19 HR  .367 wOBA

These are 2011 numbers for two National League players.  Player A was just recently traded.  Player B should be traded, but unfortunately, it ain’t that simple.

That isn’t a ton of evidence to go off of, but you may have guessed that Player A is Carlos Beltran, who earlier this week approved a deal that sent him to San Francisco.  Player B is Aramis Ramirez, who, on the other hand, has been in a lot of headlines recently for refusing to waive his no trade protection.  By all accounts, Ramirez would be available, except his reluctance to uproot his family in the middle of the season is preventing a deal from being put together.

The trade that has to be made

People with an understanding of the situation say Ramirez’s family will return to their home in the Dominican Republic some time in August, so it may be that the Cubs have no choice but to try and make a trade after the July 31st deadline, which is totally possible, if slightly more complicated.  Waiting, or being forced to wait until then wouldn’t be ideal though, since rental players like Ramirez are less valuable the later they’re finally dealt, but even if it takes until August, the Cubs must do everything in their power to convince him to approve a trade.  Aramis is one of the very few marketable players on this team’s roster, and given his insistence that any acquiring team subsequently void his 2012 option, there’s no longer that enormous obstacle to surpass.  Also, there are a number of reasons why it’s probably just best that the Cubs make different plans at third base going forward.

Aramis just turned 33 years old in June, so he isn’t exactly ancient in baseball terms, but he’s obviously not on the upswing of his career, and given the rebuilding effort this team is overdue for, it makes sense that it should capitalize on the opportunity to swap Ramirez for a player or two who might provide value for years to come.  And all things considered, Ramirez isn’t really a great deal at $16MM, which is what his club option for 2012 would pay him.  Of course, if the Cubs were inclined to keep Aramis, they could just pay the $2MM to void the option for 2012, and then try and resign him at different terms. That probably wouldn’t be the ideal scenario either though, since Ramirez might still command a sizable contract on the open market, and the reality is, it may be possible to get similar production out of third base without committing significant years or dollars to another 30-something year old.  Ramirez can obviously still hit, but at this point he’s simply more valuable to a contender than he is a team without a clear shot at reaching the playoffs in the near future.

Above all else though, it would just be a disaster if the front office couldn’t capitalize on an opportunity to bring a legitimately good prospect into the fold.  The reason I drew the comparison between Ramirez and Carlos Beltran was to try and get an idea of what the Cubs might be able to get for their third baseman.  See, the Mets were actually in a pretty similar situation to the Cubs before sending Beltran to San Francisco; at 34 years old, he just wasn’t a part of their long term plans, so Sandy Alderson did the sensible thing and got the best prospect he could for a player he didn’t need or want anymore.  Beltran is and always has been a better player than Aramis, which is one reason why the Giants were willing to part with one of the game’s best pitching prospects in Zack Wheeler, but Ramirez’s numbers aren’t a far cry from Beltran’s, and especially considering what a down year it’s been for third baseman across baseball, there’s plenty of reason to believe Ramirez could also fetch a quality prospect.

Given what a disaster this year has been for this team– and that’s about the only word I think you can use to describe the the Cubs’ 2011– they just can’t afford to screw things up with Ramirez.  They’re obviously in a bit of a tough spot, given how reluctant he sounds to OK a deal, but the Cubs have every incentive imaginable to make him waive it, and waive it as soon as possible.  Unless he just goes nuts in the next week or so, his trade value is about as high as it’s going to be, so the sooner they make a deal, the better. Furthermore, Jim Hendry really ought to convince ownership that eating the majority, if not the entirety of Aramis’ remaining salary will be worth getting a better prospect in exchange.  The good thing is there isn’t really any evidence ownership would be resistant to that idea, considering Hendry had the green light to eat most of Kosuke Fukudome‘s salary in the trade with Cleveland.

Unlike that trade though, the Cubs won’t have to settle for the likes of Abner Abreu and and Carlton Smith if they get to move Ramirez.  They won’t get a prospect quite as good as Zack Wheeler, but there’s every reason to believe they could add a player with a chance to be a major contributor on the next playoff caliber Cubs team.  Supposedly the Angels are more interested in Ramirez than anyone else, and if they’re willing to part with one of their better pitching prospects, say, perhaps, Garrett Richards, then the hope has to be that a deal can be reached.  Any prospect of similar value would be a suitable return, and missing out on the chance to make that sort of deal would be nothing less than a complete waste.  Aramis is one of the best hitters to every play for this franchise, so his departure would definitely be bittersweet on some level.  But failing to flip him for something valuable would be just bitter, and 2011 has already been enough of that so far.

What is Carlos Zambrano?

About a week and a half ago, the Atlanta Braves decided that rather than pay Derek Lowe $15MM to take the ball every fifth day for them, they’d pay him $10MM to do so for the Cleveland Indians.  Having just suffered one of the worst seasons of his career, and with pitching depth to spare, the Braves apparently valued $5MM in savings more than the guaranteed 30+ starts Lowe provides every year.  They didn’t get any significant talent in return, netting just a marginal pitching prospect in the exchange, but of course, that’s the way salary dumps work.

Whether Lowe’s salary was actually one worth dumping is something I’d say is more debatable than others might.  At first glance, his ERA looks pretty ugly, and it’s well documented how many promising young arms are waiting in the wings for the Braves at the moment.  But it’s equally well documented how fleeting rotation depth can be (just ask Jim Hendry), and when you dig a little deeper, it isn’t clear that Lowe should bear the entire blame for his big ERAs in Atlanta.You can also learn more about Matt Gaza at http://www.rooftop-view.com/matt-garza-the-even-bigger-race-changer/

In his three years with the Braves, Lowe’s ERA (4.57) was roughly 17.5% higher than his FIP (3.89), and more than 20% higher than his xFIP (3.78).  Now, it isn’t all that tough to figure out the cause of this discrepancy– in 2009 and 2011, when his ERAs were at their worst, Lowe really struggled to strand runners once he put them on base.  This year, when he ran a 5.05 ERA in in 34 starts, Lowe stranded just 66% of his baserunners, which was the fourth lowest figure among qualified starting pitchers.  In his 101 starts as a Brave, he stranded 69.5% of his baserunners, while, according to the predictive formula provided by The Hardball Times’ Dave Studemund, Lowe’s LOB% should have been closer to 73.5% during that span.  This is obviously just an estimate, but we shouldn’t dismiss the gap between the actual and expected rate of his stranded baserunners, which is actually pretty substantial.  The average strand rate for pitchers this season was 71.6%, and as far as we know, deviations from this number mostly result from some combination of bad luck and bad defense.

All of this is a long way of saying I think Derek Lowe is a better pitcher than some Brave fans may realize.  At this point though, I’ve written too much about a pitcher that only has a little bit to do with the point I’m trying to make.  But it should be fairly obvious that the reason I’m mentioning Lowe is the parallel between him and Carlos Zambrano.  While Big Z is presumably as available as Lowe was, anyone familiar with the Cubs knows the circumstances surrounding Zambrano’s availability are a little different than Lowe’s were.  The Braves were willing to part with an expensive starter because of their pitching surplus, as well as a need for increased payroll flexibility.  On the other hand, Cub fans are clamoring for Zambrano to be shipped out of town mostly for reasons pertaining to the inexact science of clubhouse chemistry.  However, at the risk of putting myself firmly in the minority on this issue, I’m gonna use this space to argue that considering the Cubs’ dearth of options for the rotation, as well as the general unpredictability of pitchers, it might be foolish for them to assume they simply have to find a taker for Carlos Zambrano this offseason.

First, the obvious consideration: the Cubs are not the Atlanta Braves, and do not have more pitching than they know what to do with.  In fact, the exact opposite is true of them; at this point, we don’t know who the hell is gonna pitch for this team next year.  Other than Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, the Cubs have nothing but giant question marks in the rotation.  A year ago, Randy Wells looked like a nice, #4/5 starter who could probably be counted on to give the team at least ~180 innings of average-ish production. 135 innings, and 23 home runs later, it’s anybody’s guess what should be expected from him (again, pitching depth = often fleeting).  Furthermore, if 2012 is to be anything better than a disaster, the new braintrust in Chicago is gonna have to do whatever it takes to make sure the Ramon Ortizes and Doug Davises of the world don’t sniff this team’s rotation.

To put it differently, this team is hurting for pitchers.  And especially since Andrew Cashner is most likely gonna spend the majority of 2012 working out of the bullpen, they’re not in any position to just give away a starter who could easily provide 180 innings of work.  There are undoubtedly some people who feel like the Cubs’ long odds at contending next year are sufficient to say that Zambrano is an expendable piece of the puzzle.  But unless they’re interested in seeing this team lose another 90 games next season, they should really reconsider that line of reasoning.

The other thing that I’m afraid most Cubs fans aren’t allowing themselves to consider, is the possibility that Carlos Zambrano is still a decent pitcher.  I understand that he hasn’t done much to endear himself to anyone lately, but were you aware that 2011 was the first time in his entire career Zambrano posted an ERA over 4.00?  Now, his 4.82 cleared that number by a wide margin, and his diminished strikeout rate is certainly a cause for concern, but lost amidst the drama that ensued (in Atlanta, of all places) is the fact that Zambrano only threw 145 innings this year, which isn’t the kind of sample size we should make any sweeping conclusions based on.  And when you have a look at it, his strikeout rates have been all over the place in recent years, so we shouldn’t try and make this out to be some sort of trend.

Something that does appear to be a trend is Zambrano’s diminishing ground ball rate, which has plunged in each of the past three seasons.  Again, there are sample size issues here, but it looks like Zambrano’s days as a ground ball pitcher are behind him, which may partly explain his inflated home run rate from this year.  And when you check the numbers, the home run rate pretty much tells you exactly why things went so wrong for him in 2011.  Zambrano’s career HR/9 is a stellar 0.75, but this year that number ballooned to 1.17, the first time in his career Big Z allowed more than one homer per nine innings.  The thing is, though, even if we can definitively say he isn’t a ground ball pitcher anymore, that doesn’t mean we should just expect him to keep allowing home runs at the kind of rate he did this season.  In fact, given what an outlier it was, it’s probably safe to say we’ll witness substantial regression to the mean here in 2012.  If that happens, Zambrano could easily return to being the pitcher that’s run a 3.60 ERA for his career. And if you think the Cubs are in a postion to pass on that kind of production for the sake of appeasing a pissed off fan base, well… then your just sorta nuts.

Equally nuts would be if anyone thinks a trade would provide the team anything of real value, unless you think there’s such thing as “addition by subtraction.”  Everyone in baseball knows the Cubs are expected to shop Zambrano this offseason, and thus, they have no leverage whatsoever in any potential deal.  At best, the Cubs could hope to save something like $4-5MM, because there isn’t a single team out there that’ll be willing to pay more than a fraction of the $18MM he’s due in 2012, and there’s absolutely no way a trade would land them a player of any long-term value.  The fact is, this team has more money to burn this offseason than I think they’re actually prepared to spend, and saving a few million bucks just is not worth depriving itself of the much needed innings Zambrano could provide.

To answer the titular question of this post: among other things, Carlos Zambrano is a large, temperamental, overpaid starting pitcher from Venezuela.  What he may not be, though, is imminently expendable or replaceable.  So to Theo Epstein and Co., I have this to say: before succumbing to the demands of crazed fans and media, whose anger ranges from exaggerated to disingenuous, please consider the aforementioned points.  His actions in Atlanta last year were selfish, and short-sighted, and his teammates had every right to be seriously irritated with him.  But with new leadership at the top, and soon to be new leadership in the dugout (Mike Maddux?), I encourage everyone, including those reading this post who disagree with me, to forgive and forget.  It may not seem obvious, but doing so could be to the benefit of the Cubs’ chances at winning, and that should matter more than anything else.

Paypal betting

Paypal betting guide – Our top rated bookies

When it comes to Paypal betting, there are more and more online bookmakers ensuring they offer this payment solution to their customers. Until recently, there were only a handful of bookmakers accepting Paypal, but in recent years the majority of UK bookies now offer this. Get a £25 free bet from William Hill when you bet with PayPal.

Depositing with Paypal at an online betting site makes it extremely easy to start betting. Paypal is a fast and convenient way to fund your account, and you can also withdraw your winnings the same way. By using Paypal, you don’t miss out on any offers such as free bets when you sign-up a new account.


Best betting sites accepting Paypal

Below you’ll find a list of sites that we believe to be the best for Paypal betting. Needless to say, they all accept Paypal for deposits and withdrawals, but we’ve evaluated them in detail to ensure they are a reputable bookmaker. By signing up you’ll also receive a free bet – and it’s always better to bet with the bookies’ money rather than your own!

As you will see from the table above, Bet 365 are our top rated bookmaker for using Paypal. They are simply the best bookmaker around thanks to their generous odds, easy to navigate website, and one of the biggest free bets around for new customers – £100!

If you are looking for an alternative to Bet365, the Ladbrokes are a good choice, as they are a very reputable name, and offer good odds on every type of betting event you could possibly imagine.