Kevin Millar, chemistry and the Cubs

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Kevin Millar.jpgKevin Millar makes the case for his value to the Cubs:

“Everybody is looking at stats … I get it. But my point is when you’re making a team
and trying to bring in a bunch of different personalities I think
everybody’s got a certain amount of intangibles that they bring.

“Obviously, I’ll bring some leadership qualities. I’ve won a World
Series. Having a chance to play with guys like Ryan Dempster and Derrek
Lee, we came up together in Florida. It’s trying to make a family
atmosphere and trying to get everybody to pull on the same rope and
trying to get everybody to believe that we can do this.”

There’s a saying among lawyers: when the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the law is on your side, argue the law.  In Millar’s case you can substitute with “skills” and “chemistry.”  The skills, unfortunately, are no longer there:  Millar is a first base/DH type who can’t hit enough to carry that job, and there’s little reason to think that he’ll add anything positive from a baseball prospective to the Cubs’ 2010 season.  It appears based on his comments that even he knows that, and to that extent it’s actually refreshing to hear that he is not deluded about his abilities the way so many other close-to-the-end ballplayers have been before him.

But what about the chemistry? Does it matter? Is it worth giving Millar a spot on the roster?

I won’t go so far as some of my sabermetic colleagues and suggest that chemistry is totally  meaningless. After all, we’ve all worked with jerks before, and while a jerk can’t necessarily make you any less good at your job, in the aggregate, one can bring down the group’s performance.  By all accounts, Kevin Millar is a great guy to have in the clubhouse, and as long as you’re not giving him too many plate appearances, it’s nice to have a fun guy around, especially after a summer with Milton Bradley on the team.

But really, chemistry is almost always a retrospective application that, in the context of baseball, approaches meaningless.  Teams that win are later said to have good chemistry (except when they don’t have good chemistry).  I’ve yet to hear anyone refer to a team that went 76-86 as having good chemistry. And of course, unlike basketball and football, where the whole concept of chemistry was probably invented, baseball has comparatively few true “teamwork” moments. You basically have the double play and relay throws and a whole bunch of individual as opposed to team moments.

At the end of the day, you have to ask: would anyone be talking about Kevin Millar and all of the intangibles he brings to the table if Dave Roberts had been tagged out at second in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS?

Andrew Cashner might not see another start in 2018

Andrew Cashner
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Time is running out for Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner to make a comeback this fall, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports that he may not make it back to the mound before the regular season comes to a close next weekend. Cashner is still dealing with a lingering bout of bursitis in his left knee and was forced to miss his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Monday. As no timetable has been given for his return to the rotation, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll be kept on the shelf until spring.

It’s been an up-and-down year for the 32-year-old righty, who has also missed some playing time after sustaining a neck strain and low back pain. After inking a two-year, $16 million deal with the Orioles back in February, he pitched to a 4-15 record in 28 starts with a career-worst 5.29 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, and 5.8 SO/9 through 153 innings. By the time he was sidelined with swelling and chronic pain in his knee, he’d already taken five straight losses, the last of which was an eight-run, one-strikeout affair against the Athletics that lasted only two innings.

The silver lining: It doesn’t look like Cashner’s knee problems will require any intensive treatment — he’s already received a cortisone injection to treat the problem areas — though there’s no reason for the Orioles to push him to make a quick recovery with the way their season is going. Following their 10-8 loss to the Yankees on Friday, the team will enter Saturday’s game with a 44-109 record, the worst in the majors.