Assessing The Cubs' Chances Using Black Jack's Formula

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics

Because most Cubs fans have never had the occasion to see one, this is what the World Series Trophy looks like

There have been a lot of good things about the move to ChicagoNow, mostly involving me now getting to bug the Trib’s Jimmy Greenfield with tech issues rather than gravedigger, who was prone to foul language and throwing things in my direction. Oh, and there’s the avatars! And getting to use all Trib Co’s photos without licensing issues!

And, of course, there’s Jack.

Though I’ve spent the majority of my life hating the White Sox and their fans, I never thought I’d develop a relationship with one of them that would allow me to harass him on a daily basis! Plus, I get to ask him all kinds of annoying questions like: “Did you use PEDs, Jack?” “Can you PROVE you didn’t use PEDs, Jack?” and “Jack, why are you so jealous of Ryan Dempster?”

I can’t even begin to describe the joy this brings me.

When he’s not busy trying to convince his readers that the Sox actually have a chance this season, making excuses for Ozzie, or whining about Ryan Dempster’s inherent glove-twisting superiority, Jack maintains a blog on the ChicagoNow network. You might remember this blog from such things as me losing a wager during the Cubs/Sox series. (Stupid Bradley. Stupid Cubs!)

Every once in a while, Jack says something interesting and useful. Yesterday, for example, while I was pointing out to him that Ryan Dempster no long has the weirdest delivery in baseball (that honor has to go to Mike Gonzalez of Atlanta), Jack suggested that I apply his time-tested and true McDowell Formula to the Cubs’ season thus far.

I’ll let Jack expain:

History shows that certain elements must not only be in place, but actually come to fruition for a team to reach championship calibre. Those certain elements are easily defined by the potential and the tally of year end awards.

Many formulas are discussed breaking down the process of building a champion. Here’s the reality:

Does your team have one (and more than likely two) pitchers who have a legitimate shot at a Cy Young Award?

Does your team have a potential league MVP in it’s lineup? If so, they will probably need to win the award if your team is to become a post-season threat. Oh, and did I mention you’ll need two or three more surrounding players who’ll need to get enough MVP votes to place in the top 15.

Lastly, you’ll need a rookie standout who’ll either win or place in the top three for Rookie Of The Year voting. (sometimes a young player with a monster breakthrough year can suffice.)

Oh boy, I can already tell this is not going to go well for us. Here we go:

Does your team have one (and more than likely two) pitchers who have a legitimate shot at a Cy Young Award?

Uh. . . Ted Lilly is an all-star, does that count? Lilly is currently 14th in the league in W-L at 8-6 (He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named s leading the pack at 11-5) and 15th in ERA at 3.32. He is, however, 5th in the league in WHIP at 1.14. And, as we all know, he’s 1st in the majors in all-around bad-assness.

Unfortuantely, after Ted, we have to go all the way down to Rich Harden (5-5) in 50th place and Ryan Dempster (5-5) in 52nd place. So I supposed Ted could really kick it in the 2nd half and have a shot at the Cy Young. Maybe. Kinda. It’s not UNPOSSIBLE, at any rate.

Short answer: No.

Does your team have a potential league MVP in it’s lineup? If so, they will probably need to win the award if your team is to become a post-season threat. Oh, and did I mention you’ll need two or three more surrounding players who’ll need to get enough MVP votes to place in the top 15.

Uh. . . that usually means hitting, right? Uh. . . see, the thing is, Jack. . .heh heh. . . “hitting,” per se, hasn’t really been our strong point this season.

Derrek Lee, after an absolutely putrid start, went .333/.417/.556/.973 in June. Those are definitely MVP numbers, but whether he can continue to stay this hot remains to be seen. So far in July, he’s hit .250/.273/.750/1.023. Well, at least his power is back!

Despite Lee’s late surge, Theriot is still leading the team in average (.291), and Soriano is leading in runs (47). I’d like to think that Bradley, Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano (all have MVP-level potential) will all get hot and hit the holy bajeezus out of the ball in the 2nd half, but that could be the Blue Kool Aid talking.

Short answer: Maybe.

Lastly, you’ll need a rookie standout who’ll either win or place in the top three for Rookie Of The Year voting. (sometimes a young player with a monster breakthrough year can suffice.)

Um. No one comes to mind. Fox? Hoffpauir? Fuld? Blanco? Probably not.

Short answer: No.

So there we have it. According to Jack’s “McDowell Formula,” the Cubs are a long-shot this season. Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself, feel free to disagree with me.

No seriously, disagree with me.


0 thoughts on “Assessing The Cubs' Chances Using Black Jack's Formula

  1. gravedigger says:

    Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to mention that since I saw it — WHAT THE FUCK, Jason Marquis?!

  2. gravedigger says:

    Don’t feel bad, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

  3. flyball says:

    I disagree with the rookie portion, because if you have a couple of good young players, who might not be rookies, then I think its a wash
    and I think to be in contention the Cubs just need to do those things in the second half, the top 3 in the Central are too close at this point, so if they can be Cy Young MVP second half caliber the team could do some damage

  4. thisyearcub says:

    Is that for reaching the postseason or winning the WS?

  5. JulieDiCaro says:

    i think “championship calibre” implies either a WS or pennant. any stupid-ass team in a bad division can make the playoffs.

  6. flyball says:

    as proven last season

  7. thisyearcub says:

    If so, there are so many things wrong with that I don’t know where to start. Maybe one, or perhaps two of those criteria, but there are not many WS champions who have all three that I can remember.
    Unless you want to be really loose about it, which I’m sure McDowell would want to in order to make his “formula” sound legit.

  8. JulieDiCaro says:

    well then, give us a better one.
    i’m not even saying i agree with it. jack just suggested trying it with the cubs and i’m trying to give us something to talk about on an off-day. at least he can point to different factors, as opposed to just saying we really hope this team can pick it up in the second half, which is what we usually wind up saying around here.

  9. flyball says:

    you gotta kinda agree with the pitching, if the old saying “pitching wins championships” is believed to be true then having your staff anchored by a Cy Young contention pitcher, and at least 1 other of similar quality, would make sense
    especially with the short first series when really the team needs 3 pitchers to have good to great games

  10. thisyearcub says:

    Wait, I thought you wanted someone to disagree with the whole thing? Right? Uh, that’s what I was doing.

  11. gravedigger says:

    i never say that. i say “this team sucks and is going to lose every game for the rest of the season. or for the rest of forever”

  12. JulieDiCaro says:

    oh no, i wanted someone to disagree with me that we DIDN’T have any MVPs, Cy Young winners, or rookies/young players with breakout seasons.
    but if you want to throw the whole thing out the window, that’s fine, too. ;)

  13. JulieDiCaro says:

    i think “OGDJM!!!!” still applies.

  14. millertime says:

    First, I’ll break down Jack’s formula into a slightly simpler idea.
    Does your team have great pitching?
    Does your team have great hitting?
    Is your team really good?
    1. Pitching. Yes. We have all kinds of good pitching. Some of the best in the league, in fact. This is basically the same pitching staff that helped win 97 games last year. This is basically the same pitching staff that helped win 97 games last year. This is basically the same pitching staff that helped win 97 games last year. Even the bullpen is starting to turn things around, or at the least, has nowheree to go but up.
    2. Hitting. I think we have good hitters. We have all of our major hitters from last year that helped us win 97 games. We have all of our major hitters from last year that helped us win 97 games. We have all of our major hitters from last year that helped us win 97 games. We also added Milton Bradley, who normally has a great bat, to replace the output lost from losing DeRosa. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say that this team starts hitting better than they’ve hit the past two games.
    3. This is a good team that hasn’t played good yet. They have more potential than the team that won 97 games last year. We won 97 games last year. We are a good team.

  15. secdelahc says:

    OGDJM!!! will forever apply to him. Except now it’s a different context. Before, it was more “OGDJM!! Why the hell are you giving up 17 runs this inning?” Now, it’s “OGDJM!!! Why the hell AREN’T you giving up 17 runs every inning?”

  16. secdelahc says:

    Oh, and when did we get the recent comments section? Me likey.

  17. millertime says:

    1. Cy Young = Ted Lilly
    2. MVP = Ted Lilly
    3. Rookie = F**k it, we got Ted Lilly.

  18. JulieDiCaro says:

    i love your take on jack’s formula. hee!

  19. JulieDiCaro says:

    slowly but surely we are getting our features. the big launch is supposed to be the beginning of august, so hopefully this site will be completely built by then.
    i know one thing they are frantically working on is nested comments that don’t take 15 seconds to post, so we’ve got that going for us. . . which is nice.

  20. millertime says:

    Also, holy cow has Dan Haren been unhittable this year. He has a WHIP of .83. Amazing. Dan Haren = Cy Young award this year. He’s an all-star, right?

  21. gravedigger says:

    i swear he’s out to ruin my life.

  22. gravedigger says:

    .83? jesus, is that possible?

  23. gravedigger says:

    ahhhh very nice, thanks for pointing out.

  24. thisyearcub says:

    Sorry, FB. Hart just got sent back to Iowa. The experiment hath ended.

  25. secdelahc says:

    Apparently, .83 is possible. unless it’s a conspiracy against Milton Bradley by the stats people to make Dan Haren unhittable so MB will look worse than he is this year.

  26. summerguy says:

    Don’t worry… by the All-Star game, all of the NL “great pitchers” and “great hitters” will lay a big fat egg. They always do.
    Thanks NL All-stars!

  27. summerguy says:

    who did they get to replace him??

  28. baturkey says:

    I think that it should be above the Twitter feed, because while the Twitter feed can be accessed from a variety of places, the comment feed cannot.

  29. summerguy says:

    PLEASEEEEE tell me they are getting someone in a trade… that isn’t of Ryan Freel quality or that fu*ker we got for him… completely worthless.

  30. JulieDiCaro says:

    i agree, i’ve mentioned that.

  31. thisyearcub says:

    No move has been made yet … but it’s expected to be Jeff Stevens, one of the guys that was acquired for Lord and Savior to all DeRosa.
    Also, no Soto this weekend. MRI confirmed oblique train and they are going to give him the eight days off and see if he’s OK after that.

  32. summerguy says:

    no kidding… this better be “the answer”… is he a lefty/righty? starter/reliever?

  33. thisyearcub says:

    Jeff Stevens. 2.18 ERA/1.09 WHIP at Iowa. 20 BB, 43 K, 25 hits in 41.1 IP.
    He’s a reliever … I don’t know what you mean by “the answer.”

  34. flyball says:

    I wish him well, and a return to the bigs
    too bad the timing since it means he probably won’t go to DC

  35. I had to reply to completely throwing out my history lesson. yes there is SOME looseness on this formula…but go look it up and show me where this is blatantly wrong on as you say “so many levels.” It truly seems to work out this way.

  36. gravedigger says:

    Those are really good numbers — is he a real prospect?

  37. thisyearcub says:

    Oh, now that you’re here you can clarify … I was wondering if you were referring to teams that got in the postseason or World Series champion. If it’s the former, I can see that. But the latter, there have been a number of teams that had maybe one or two of those but I don’t think all.
    Take 2006 Cards. They had one guy (Pujols) who was a MVP candidate. No one else was anywhere near the top 15 in the voting, heck no one else batted above .300. So that takes away the whole “two or three more surrounding players who’ll need to get enough MVP votes to place in the top 15.”
    Second, for pitching, they had Chris Carpenter. Finished 3rd in Cy Young. But there was no other pitcher who was in the voting. Jeff Suppan was good, but shined in the postseason more than the regular season.
    And they had no breakout rookies to speak of. So maybe one of your criteria is filled, but not three.
    I just think it’s about getting hot at the right time. But again, I’m not sure what your formula is for … again, for making the postseason, I could see that a little more.

  38. thisyearcub says:

    I think so … he was drafted in the sixth round by the Reds in 2005. Made his way up quickly. Has a good power arm.

  39. MillsChC says:

    I’ve never noticed that there is big-ass ring in the middle of the WS trophy, guess I’ve never seen an image of it from the side before. I just thought it was all the little flags and a plaque or something in the middle.

  40. flyball says:

    I know that Red Sox one from 04 didn’t have that

  41. millertime says:

    My point is, if you have several members of your pitching staff that are Cy Young Caliber, then you have a good pitching staff. If you have several MVP hitters, then you have good hitting. Breakout rookies = good players. So in general, you need good players on your team. I can take any team in any sport, and the thing they have in common is that winning teams have good players.
    Also, the way MVP and CY Young voting goes, guys that win those awards are usually playing for good teams anyways. If the team was doing bad, then the player would be less likely to be considered for an award.
    As long as at the end of the year your RS is high and RA is low, you’ll be fine. Sometimes 8 hitters evenly drive in runs, sometimes 3 or 4 hitters carry the team. It’s more popular for the 3 or 4 hitters to carry the team. Same thing with pitching. You don’t HAVE to have a Cy Young, MVP, and rookie standout, but it’s easier than having a team of all pretty good players.

  42. MLBfan says:

    I happen to agree with Jack’s formula. As far as the Cubs go, they don’t have a Cy Young candidate, they don’t have an MVP candidate, they could possibly have a ROY candidate in Randy Wells, but he is not enough to get the Cubs anywhere near the playoffs this year. The way the CUBS are swinging right now, they couldn’t hit a beach ball riding by on a turtle. Granted these are mega rich little boys we are talking about, but I think Lou should consider the following….Any position player who does not reach base during the game pays $1000…Any player who makes an error, mental, base running, fielding or throwing, pays $1000….Pitchers are fined $1000 for every walk and/or HBP they allow….Blow a save or hold, you play $1000. I figure, by the time the new owner take over, there will be enough money in the pot to put the trash by the curb and build a winning team.

  43. thisyearcub says:

    Well, Flyball I bring the bad and follow it with the good: Apparently the reason Hart is going down is b/c the Cubs are going 4-man for the next week and a half and then plan on calling Hart back up to start again. They want him to get some innings in.

  44. JulieDiCaro says:

    LMAO. “Rear Window” is still my favorite, though.

  45. TLFC has made the big time with a shout-out from Care-Bear Muskat:
    “A note to the Lilly Fan Club: You’re on your own on getting to the All-Star Game. Lilly does appreciate the support. “

  46. JulieDiCaro says:

    this is actully not a bad idea. . . .

  47. JulieDiCaro says:

    the first part of that news was good; the second part, not so much.

  48. flyball says:

    its both good news
    the only bad news is it won’t be in time to hear “Fear the Turtle” chanted at a Nats game

  49. millertime says:

    I don’t understand. I know the Cubs don’t have a “Cy Young” candidate, but their pitching has been some of the best in baseball. If their hitters were hitting like they normally do, like they hit last year when they WON 97 GAMES, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The Cubs would be well on their way, and this formula wouldn’t even come up. Who cares what player is doing the good pitching, as long as the pitching in general is good? This team was the best team in the national league last year, and the only component of the “formula” they had was Soto being the breakthrough rookie. Then they got cold, ran into a hot team, and lost in the playoffs.
    I guess I just don’t understand the formula.

  50. millertime says:

    I came up with a formula for winning NBA championships. Put Robert Horry on your team. Teams with Robert Horry almost always win championships. Therefore, if your team doesn’t have Robert Horry, you are not a championship contending team.

  51. Jack McDowell says:

    Not just postseason but world series teams. And what the hell, the Cards had runner up MVP Pujols, #3 Cy in Carpenter and Chris Duncan had 22 HR in 90 games played, so a pretty good rookie breakout season. They don’t slam my point home as much as the red Sox did that year, but to me that still fits without much of a stretch. Ironically, the 2005 White Sox are the team that really blows this theory!

  52. JulieDiCaro says:

    i think you could probably interchange having a Cy Young winner OR a bunch of guys who would probably be #2s if they were on any other team.

  53. JulieDiCaro says:

    the formula for merely GETTING to the postseason is just to put kenny lofton on your team.

  54. Jack McDowell says:

    History shows that without these items, Cy Young finisher, MVP guys and a rookie of the year candidate OR a breakout season by a young player, the Cubs will have to defy odds to contend.

  55. Jack McDowell says:

    Don’t alter my theory! It works and is historically accurate (statistically speaking)

  56. JulieDiCaro says:

    FINE! I was trying to help you out!

  57. JulieDiCaro says:

    Rumor has it Pedro has signed with the Phillies.
    Don’t tell Perkins–I don’t know what it will do to him.

  58. Jack McDowell says:

    Obviously you need good players to win…but you need good players having top notch years to win.

  59. JulieDiCaro says:

    I’m off to my 8-year old’s game–he’s pitching for the first time ever tonight! EEEEEK!

  60. millertime says:

    Tell him to establish his fastball early, don’t walk anyone, don’t let up home runs, and don’t be afraid to go to the change up.

  61. Carl Heartscubs Gierhan says:

    And don’t be afraid to bust the fastball inside. Don’t let those other creeps own the outside corner.

  62. canopygrl says:

    AWESOME! Love the chalk outline.

  63. millertime says:

    That’s right. Gotta own the inside, that’s his zone. Buzz a few towers early, that’ll let them know who’s boss.

  64. Umbra says:

    This gets cause and effect backwards. The MVP is given after the season, and winning the World Series boosts your chances of winning the MVP more than being in the running for MVP helps you win the WS.
    This doesn’t mean that you have to be on the WS winning team to win. For example, Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP last year playing for Boston, and Pujols won it playing for St. Louis. But Ryan Howard was in second place in MVP voting, which would make him ‘in the running’ by Jack’s formula. And that’s very deceptive.
    Player A: .251/.339/.543, 48 HR, 105 R, 146 RBI
    Player B: .289/.380/.518, 27 HR, 97 R, 111 RBI
    Player C: .312/.420/.567, 29 HR, 114 R, 106 RBI
    Now I don’t know who I’m fooling because Ryan Howard’s line jumps out at you. He’s player A. He had a pretty great year! But what about Player C? That’s Lance Berkman, who was only 5th in MVP voting. Player B is Aramis Ramirez, who was 10th in MVP voting.
    Put another way, if there is not a single player on your team that is “in the running” for MVP, your team probably sucks at offense. This is just due to how baseball teams are built: you score more runs having one or two great players, three pretty good ones, and three salary-controlled ones than you do with eight guys splitting the same salaries.
    Here are the teams in the order of MVP votes, along with their run totals:
    STL: 779 (4)
    *PHI: 799 (2)
    *MIL: 750 (7)
    *LAD: 700 (13)
    HOU: 712 (11)
    NYM: 799 (2)
    *CHC: 855 (1)
    FLA: 770 (5)
    ATL: 753 (6)
    ARI: 720 (10)
    SND: 637 (16)
    COL: 747 (8)
    SNF: 640 (15)
    PIT: 735 (9)
    No votes:
    CIN: 704 (12)
    WAS: 641 (14)
    The same logic applies for Cy Young contenders. Here are three players:
    Player A: 2.68 ERA, 11.7 K/9, 0.927 WHIP
    Player B: 3.26 ERA, 11.40 K/9, 1.09 WHIP
    Player C: 1.95 ERA, 11.94 K/9, 1.23 WHIP
    Player A is Carlos Marmol. Player B is Kerry Wood. Player C is Brad Lidge. If the Phillies were swept out of the playoffs in three and the Cubs won it last year, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts you’d have had Kerry Wood get a few votes instead of Lidge.
    Six teams had players get Cy Young votes last year. They were:
    I’ve starred the teams in both lists because they are playoff teams. You may notice that some teams are on both lists. This is not an accident. If you have a player (or a few) that get a lot of MVP votes, and a pitcher who can contend for the Cy Young, you get to go to the playoffs because you’re a good team. But if Milwaukee had won it all last year, the formula would have been complete with Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia. If Chicago had won, the formula would be complete with Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto. You can do this for everybody.
    So basically, good teams win the WS. Which is true, but not worth saying.

  65. Umbra says:

    MVP Candidate: DLee? Aramis?
    Cy Young: Randy Wells.
    Rookie of the Year: Randy Wells.
    Randy Wells: better than Yovani Gallardo. That is the mantra.

  66. JulieDiCaro says:

    i thought you were going to tell him to bring heat and announce his presence with authority.
    here’s his line: 2 IP, 0 R 0 ER 3 SO 2 BB 1 put out, got the save
    he also has a weird daisuke delivery where he pauses with his leg in mid-air before he continues, but i’m not complaining.
    i think that was a lot harder on max and me than it was on aidan!

  67. JulieDiCaro says:

    one of aidan’s best friends has a wicked fastball but little control, he beaned 3 kids in a row and made them all cry–i couldn’t stop laughing. it was like when kramer was in karate with a bunch of kids. i don’t know why it was funny, but when the third kid crumpled to the ground, i completely lost it.

  68. millertime says:

    Did Max get drunk and start a fight with the a dad from the other team?

  69. millertime says:

    Nice. If works on his control, he could go far.

  70. JulieDiCaro says:

    no, but we were going to clear the stands if they hit our pitcher (the one that hit three of their kids–heh).

  71. Umbra says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and frown disapprovingly at you for taking pleasure in the suffering of children.
    The culture war is very real. Keep it up and you’ll get Sarah Palin elected in 2012.

  72. JulieDiCaro says:

    i don’t know why i was laughing, but trust me, you would have laughed, too.
    besides, it was pretty obvious that none of them were hurt.
    an 8-year old with more pitch speed than control is hilarious.

  73. Last year Ramirez #10 and Soto #13 MVP, Dempster #6 Cy Young and Soto WON ROY!! So they GOT close but didn’t go to the series. And you’re saying IF they were hitting as good etc. IF , IF , IF! No S#%&, if they were hitting better, maybe they’d have an MVP guy and Lilly would be 11-3 instead of 8-6.

  74. Incorrect, the votes for postseason awards are cast before the season even ends! That’s a lot of work you did for an invalid argument!

  75. The reason those teams are in the playoffs is because the guys HAD THOSE TYPES OF YEARS!!!! That’s the whole gist of this formula and why it’s true!

  76. kiwibob says:

    So, based on your theory, who are you picking to win the lot this year?
    Or, perhaps….who do you see in the World Series this year?

  77. JulieDiCaro says:

    hee hee hee.
    i’m so amused by this argument.
    (grabs popcorn)

  78. kiwibob says:

    The sad thing is, this thread is more amusing than most of the game threads for this poxy season so far……
    Here’s to a blazing hot second half.
    (Although the Cardinals series looms large at the moment…. I might have to pull a couple of early morning starts to watch)

  79. berselius says:

    I’m surprised that there’s been no mention of Carlos Zambrano in the pitching discussion. It’s not like he threw a no-hitter last year or anything.

  80. Umbra says:

    I don’t think he had as good of a year as Dempster did last year, but you’re right. He deserves to be in the discussion.

  81. gravedigger says:

    I am in love with you.

  82. millertime says:

    The Formula is “true” because it states the obvious, although it mixes up cause and effect, and mistakes correlation and causaton. Correlation does not imply causation. If your players are having good seasons, chances are your team will win a lot of games and go to the postseason. Also, if your players are having good seasons, they will be in the running for awards. This in no way proves that awards = winning seasons. Both winning awards and winning games are the effect of players having good seasons. The team wins because the players are having a good season, the players don’t have good seasons because the team is winning. The same goes for MVP/Cy Young voting.

  83. JulieDiCaro says:

    i think you guys are really over-thinking this. he’s not saying that having MVPs/Cy Youngs/ROYs CAUSES you to win a championship. he’s simply pointing to indicators that seem to be present on a majority of championship teams.
    the bottom line is that, rather than having several guys have decent seasons, more teams that win championships have several very talented guys that have career years. you can say that’s stating the obvious if you want. jack’s point, i think, is that it’s a way of gaging where your team is in relation to teams that win championships.
    these are markers, not causes.

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