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R737m for South Africa’s small firms

By on December 18, 2019

first_imgInvestigate the possibility of partnering with retail chain stores as well as government feeding schemes to expand its reach further into rural areas.Improve a pre-loan support programme in partnership with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and improve the uptake of its poorly performing credit guarantee scheme by July.Partner with more provincial development finance agencies to add to the current partnership with the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.Expand the pilot project it has with the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants in a programme which takes young graduates and trains them in how to assist small businesses, from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.Roll out a further nine branches or satellite offices per year, which would be co- located within Seda or IDC branch offices, to add to the 11 regional offices the agency already has. Makhuvha said the cost of Sefa lending finance to business owners is also expected to fall – from 44c for every rand disbursed in 2013/14 to 25c for every year lent out in 2017/18. Sefa will run awareness road shows with financial intermediaries – starting with Alexandra and Sandton in Johannesburg this month and running to February next year, with two road shows to be held in the North West. The IDC has committed over R987-million as a shareholder’s loan to the agency until the end of 2014/15, with an option of a further R400-million capital injection in two years time. IDC chief executive Geoffrey Qhena said the transaction had been structured as a loan and not a grant because there had to be a chance for the IDC to recoup the loan to ensure that Sefa funds sustainable businesses. Committee members questioned the use of retail finance intermediaries, pointing out that they were concerned that using intermediaries resulted in driving up the costs of lending for business owners. Committee chair Elsie Mmathulare Coleman said Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel had asked the committee to look more into the costs of lending through intermediaries. Source: SANews.gov.za 19 April 2013 South Africa’s Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) plans to disburse over R737- million to more than 15 000 small firms – most of these micro enterprises – by the end of the 2013/14 financial year, says Sefa chief executive Thakani Makhuvha. Briefing the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on economic development on its corporate plan for 2013/14 on Wednesday, Makhuvha – who was seconded from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in November last year to head the agency – said the targeted funding will help create over 18 000 jobs. In five years, the agency aims to have more than doubled lending and the number of business owners financed – with disbursements reaching almost R1.6-billion to over 34 000 small firms. Sefa lends between R500 and R5-million to small, micro and medium enterprises by way of three means – directly to business owners, via retail finance intermediaries and thirdly via banks through its using credit guarantee scheme. Sefa’s forerunner, the Khula guarantee scheme, ground to a virtual halt following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, when the number of defaults spiralled, leading banks to steer away from the scheme. Sefa also aims to complete the development of its direct lending product – currently still being piloted at a number of sites around the country – by the end of November this year. Among Sefa’s other plans, the agency aims to: last_img read more

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National FFA Convention photo highlights

By on December 17, 2019

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Ohio FFA members Gabe Nichols, Slate Kellis, and Jonathan Seymore check out Case IH display in the trade show, one of their favorite stops. This special John Deere B commemorates the 75-year relationship between FFA and John Deere, the longest running corporate sponsor of the FFA. Ridgemont FFA was a Strengthening Agriculture National Chapter Award finalist. St. Marys FFA was a finalist in the Building Communities National Chapter Award. Matt Reese stopped and talked with some Wilmington College students at the National FFA Expo. FFA members from Kenton and A. B. Graham say “hello” from National Convention. State officers Grant Lach, Koleson McCoy, Bailey Eberhart, and Emma Dearth stopped by for an interview in the media room at National Convention. Ridgemont FFA was a Growing Leaders National Chapter Award finalist. Miami East FFA was a Growing Leaders National Chapter Award finalist. Morgan Anderson from Amanda-Clearcreek FFA completed in the Creed Speaking Contest. Aaron Sharp (left), Emma Dearth, Paige Hinton, and Noah Smith from Amanda-Clearcreek FFA competed in the 2018 Ag Communications CDE, finishing 8th nationally. Joel gets an update from Jacob Wuebker, Versailles about his Swine Production-Placement proficiency. Wuebker was one of 24 national proficiency finalists from Ohio in 2018. Joel and Matt spent a fair amount of time strolling FFA Way in Indianapolis at National FFA Convention this year. Meredith Bischoff-Kenton-OHP played in the National FFA Band. Carson Eyre, from Western Brown, was a proficiency winner inTurf Grass Management. State officers Grant Lach, Koleson McCoy, Bailey Eberhart, and Emma Dearth stopped by the media room for an interview. Ohio FFA State Officers at 2018 National FFA Convention. Photo courtesy of Koleson McCoy. Koleson talks with Joel backstage.last_img read more

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The Unparalleled Hypocrisy Of Ghosting Your Dream Client

By on December 9, 2019

first_imgOf all the many things that bother salespeople, one that seems to dominate their attention (and emotions) is when their prospect goes dark after what they believed was an excellent first meeting. The Lost Art of Closing will surely help you string together the commitments you need to prevent your client from going dark and your need to chase them. It might also be worth taking a look look in the mirror to understand the unparalleled hypocrisy of ghosting your dream client.Before You Accuse Me Take a Look At YourselfIt’s hard to tell who ghosted who first. Did salespeople go dark on clients first, or was it the other way around? Either way, salespeople are as guilty of going dark as their prospective clients. Perhaps it makes sense to work on not ghosting your clients, something that is wholly in your control. Here are some of the ways you ghost the very prospects about whom you sometimes complain.When You Stop Pursuing Your Dream ClientYou have called your dream client for years. They have never agreed to a meeting, and your competitor has them locked down tight. Occasionally, however, they take your phone call, and you sense they aren’t one hundred percent satisfied (and it’s not just your natural salesperson’s optimism). As the conversation goes on, your dream client again refuses your request for a meeting, even though you can tell you were close. And then, “poof!” You disappear without a trace for months or years. If you don’t continue the communication and the pursuit with a patient, professional, persistence, you have gone dark.Every salesperson has the experience of calling on a prospect for a long time, giving up and going away for an equally long period, only to call and discover their dream client removed their partner and replaced them—without even considering the salesperson who gave up (i.e., went dark).When You Fail to Follow Up with a ClientYou had an excellent first client meeting. You took outstanding notes, capturing all of the questions your dream client asked you in that meeting, along with some notes about what you owe them. You get back to your office, open your inbox (a place where you spend too much time), and become distracted by this thing or that. The next day, you have deadlines and meetings, and you forget all about the promise you made, a promise your client remembers.Because you don’t have a disciplined process to manage your goals, projects, and tasks, it is two weeks before you provide your dream client with what you promised them. Or maybe you promised to call your dream client to follow up on a question or concern and become overwhelmed and forgot.Whatever the cause or circumstance, you went dark on your client. What’s worse is you gave them a preview of working with you, were they to ink a contract with you and your company.When You Win the Deal and DisappearYou energetically pursued your dream client, finally acquiring a meeting. You worked very hard to distinguish yourself, showering them with attention, and wooing them to win their business. You are an excellent salesperson, creating massive value for them, and all the stakeholders are excited to work with you and your company. Everyone is happy about signing the contract and moving forward.And then, the dream client you worked so hard to obtain doesn’t see or hear from you again until it is sixty days from the expiration date of your contract. It feels awkward to show up after going dark for so long. Your client has a different opinion, now believing you are self-oriented, and you are only there to get a deal, not to help them solve their intractable problems like you did when you were courting them.What does your dream client believe will happen after they renew the contract? The last time they signed a contract, you provided disappearing ink. As soon as they signed the contract, you disappeared.Hiding From Problems You CreatedIn The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, there is a chapter at the end of the first half of the book on accountability. Accountability is your willingness to deliver the outcomes you sold and promised. It is also one of the characteristics that distinguish true professionals from the poseurs.Shortly after winning your dream client’s business, they run into trouble executing, and they struggle to produce the outcome you promised. This failure is not your fault. It is your operations team who is dropping the ball. You take an angry call from one of your contacts, and you make a call to someone on your side, handing off the problem to people who own the resolution. Having given that problem to your team, you wash your hands of it, and you move on.Your client continues to struggle over the next three or four weeks without you being present or available to help them. One day, you are greeted by an email telling you that your dream client is canceling your contract.Instead of owning the outcome, following up, and making sure your team had direction and resources, you went dark on your client. Worse still, you went dark on the group that you want to have your back.When You Become Apathetic, Complacent or EntitledYears have passed since you won your dream client’s business. Everything is working, and there isn’t any real reason to have a meeting. If there were a problem, you’d have heard about it. As time drifts by, you and your dream client both become apathetic, complacent. Neither you or they are compelled to do something different.While you are sleeping, your aggressive competitor starts to make inroads. They found a couple of people lower in the organization who are compelled to change, and your competitor is arming them with the ideas and insights they need to make a change. You know you, competitor, well enough to know that there is nothing they can do that you can’t also do. However, the problem is that they are doing working to create new value, and you feel entitled to the business by the nature of your long relationship.The best retention strategy is the creation of new value, something you haven’t even tried to do for some number of years. Now your client has given a piece of your business to your competitor, and you are unhappy with the decision, a decision that was the result of your going dark.If you don’t like it when your dream client goes dark, don’t go dark on them. You may not be able to control when your prospect or dream client goes dark, but it is within your control not you ghost them.last_img read more

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Imports TNT X-factor

By on November 28, 2019

first_imgLATEST STORIES Jordan delivers on promise: 2 Cobra choppers now in PH Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chicken View comments Cargo movers try to stretch win streak WATCH: Firefighters rescue baby seal found in parking garage Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netTNT KaTropa is still undecided on which import to play in Game 1—at least—of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Wednesday.Joshua Smith, the Texters’ 330-pound banger, attended the title series press launch on Monday, giving the impression that he will play despite torn ligaments in his right toe that left him hobbling in the last two games of their Final Four series against Barangay Ginebra.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chickencenter_img World’s 50 Best Restaurants launches new drinking and dining guide But over at another table sat Mike Myers, an equally impressive specimen who is listed as standby by the coaching staff in case medical examinations to be done later in the day would keep Smith out of commission.So where does this leave pre-series favorite San Miguel Beer which must prepare for every single component of its title series foe?FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutAnd does TNT coach Nash Racela, in keeping his cards close to his chest, have an advantage in any way? Is he throwing San Miguel’s preparations off?Grand Slam-winning coach Tommy Manotoc feels that both teams have an advantage, albeit slight, with the element of surprise belonging to the Texters because they have two imports at their disposal. Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ And Abanilla feels that TNT will be playing with Smith, at least for the 7 p.m. game slated Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next What ‘missteps’? Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games “It will take San Miguel three quarters at most to adjust [to the new import of TNT], but that’s all,” Manotoc said over the phone. “But you have to keep in mind that even [the local players of] TNT would have to adjust [playing] with their new import in such a high stakes game.”“So it can work both ways—the positives and the negatives,” he said. “The advantage that TNT has is that it has two imports at its disposal and the advantage that San Miguel has is that it still has (June Mar) Fajardo and (Charles) Rhodes.”Manotoc feels that TNT must have its import—whether that be Smith or Myers—neutralize Fajardo, leaving Rhodes as Racela’s other defensive concern.“The question mark is if a local can guard Rhodes,” Manotoc said. “TNT’s locals would have to defend him, and he will be a handful.”San Miguel team manager Gee Abanilla has compiled materials of Myers’ past games in the US and Korea since seeing him behind the TNT bench on Saturday night.ADVERTISEMENT 1 dead in Cavite blast, firelast_img read more

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Braves Beat Mets in 11th, 5-3

By on November 18, 2019

first_imgTweetPinShare0 Shares NEW YORK — Cameron Maybin bobbled a ball in center field for an error that allowed the Mets to score the go-ahead run in the seventh, and he got thrown out at home trying to tag up an inning later.All good. He still had two at-bats to turn around his day. Oh, he did.Maybin had a two-run single in the 11th inning after driving in a run in the ninth June 13 and the Atlanta Braves’ beleaguered bullpen shut down the Mets over the final four-plus innings in a come-from-behind, 5-3 victory over New York.“It’s just fun to win, man,” Maybin said.Maybin came up with runners on second and third and one out in the 11th and sent a liner off Carlos Torres (2-3) into left-center for the two-run lead. He entered the day batting .448 (13 for 29) with runners in scoring position.Facing a Mets bullpen without closer Jeurys Familia, whose son was born while he was finishing off a June 13th win, the Braves rallied for two in the ninth to end a five-game skid against the NL East leaders.“Those guys went out and gave everything they had,” Torres said, “for me to give up those runs after they played hard core is terrible.”Andrelton Simmons tied a career high with four hits for the Braves, who won for just the fourth time in 11 games.With 37,794 enthusiastic fans standing and cheering, Freddie Freeman tied it 3-all with a liner past diving shortstop Wilmer Flores. Maybin singled in a run off Hansel Robles before Freeman stepped to the plate.Freeman gave Atlanta the early lead with a mammoth homer off Jacob deGrom in the first.The Braves had already blown five saves in June, but, this time, six relievers retired 14 of the final 16 batters. Jason Grilli (2-2) pitched one inning for the win.“We believe in these guys every time they come in,” Maybin said of the bullpen. “They continue to go out there and they continue to compete.”Williams Perez, who is the June 15 scheduled starter, gave up two singles to open the 11th before getting pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. to line into a double play to shortstop. Perez then finished for his first career save.“We had no other options,” Manager Fredi Gonzalez said.Gonzalez said he and his staff will have to go over Williams’ day — how many warmup pitches he threw and such before deciding if he will make his start against the Red Sox.The Mets used several defensive gems and took advantage of an error by center fielder Maybin in the seventh inning to open a 3-1 lead against Shelby Miller.New York had runners on base in every inning but the fourth against the Braves’ 24-year-old ace. Miller, though, worked out of every jam until the seventh, when Travis d’Arnaud blooped a single to center.Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares, who singled to start the rally and advanced to third on Curtis Granderson’s double, scored to make it 1-all.Granderson scored when Maybin bobbled the ball in center field for an error. Dana Eveland replaced Miller and Lucas Duda then doubled.In 6 1/3 innings, Miller allowed a season-high eight hits and three runs, which boosted his ERA from 1.84 to 2.02.DeGrom pitched seven dominant innings, striking out nine. He allowed five hits and one run.He also knocked down Maybin’s sharp comebacker in the third and threw home to nail Simmons trying to score, keeping it 1-0.Flores made a nifty stop, spin and throw to end the seventh with a runner on third. And Darrell Ceciliani, having just moved from center field to left, threw out Maybin at home trying to tag up on Freeman’s fly in the eighth.(HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Baseball Writer)last_img read more

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QUEENSLAND STATE CUP BLAZES ON THE SUNSHINE COAST

By on November 7, 2019

first_imgQueensland Touch State Cup Grand Final Times for all divisions are as follows:9.20am – Men’s 30s11.20am – Men’s 50s12.20pm – Women’s 20s, Women’s 30s 1.20pm – Men’s 20s2.20pm- Mixed 3.20pm – Men’s, Women’s Open  A full wrap up and results will be provided after the completion of today’s finals series. Day One of the Queensland Touch State Cup commenced Saturday 2 December 2006 with some high quality clashes on offer in the eight contested divisions at the Quad Park Corporation, Nicklan Way, and Kawana.Round games commenced at 9.00am and concluded at 8.00pm with over 1000 players, coaches, referees, and spectators converging on the Quad Park fields on a perfect Sunshine Coast day to enjoy the action and excitement of the 2006 State Cup.In the Premier Men’s Open Division short priced favorites Kawana had the hometown fans in raptures after producing commanding displays in their Pool 2 games today.The Kawana outfit, led by 2007 Australian World Cup representatives Ben Roberts, and brothers Chris and Ash Farrow recorded big wins over Gladstone (15-0) Red Hot Welding (12-2) and Noosa (9-2).The Kawana combination look on track to defend their State Cup crown after rocketing to the top of their pool and booking an automatic entry to the semi-final stage of the tournament tomorrow.Pool 1 was closely contested with Brisbane, Toowoomba, and Mackay dueling for top spot in the other side of the draw. Brisbane drew with Mackay 5-5, and had a narrow 7-6 victory over Toowoomba to wrap up a direct birth into the semi-finals.Toowoomba and Mackay produced a thrilling 7-7 draw and have advanced to the quarter- finals tomorrow.Gladstone will take on Toowoomba, and Mackay will confront Noosa in the quarter- final stage of the competition.The Brisbane side, brimming with big names, is building momentum and it would not surprise to see a high quality State Cup final featuring the Metropolitan side against the defending champions from Kawana.  In Women’s Open action, Pool 1 was dominated by Redcliffe Colts. The Colts girls produced a perfect day for three wins from three games to book a direct semi-final berth.In other Pool B results, Griffith Sharks lost a tough clash with Colts first up, but rebounded to play solidly for the rest of the day. One round game is to be played on Day 2, with Sharks advancing to the quarterfinals along with the Victorian Women’s Team who have produced some spirited efforts during the day.In Pool B Crushers and Country Club United (CCU) head the pool after three wins from three games today.Sunday’s ESUS “Match of the Round” first up at 8.30 am on Field One between the two sides will decide top spot in the Pool.Local Sunshine Coast affiliate Kawana is likely to secure the other quarterfinal position on offer in the Women’s Open division.In a highly entertaining Mixed Open division, Rebels have remained undefeated in Pool A and Figjam have a clean sheet as well in Pool B.Quarter final action will feature Rebels up against a willing Maleny combination, Uni taking on the visiting Thursday Island combination, The Australian Open Mixed Team playing Coomera, and Figjam will do battle with Redcliffe to secure semi-final berths.In Men’s 20s action, with three of five rounds completed, Chalkies have got off to a flyer, notching three wins from three starts.Toowoomba, Young Guns, Redcliffe, and Redlands are still in the hunt and will be looking to put their best foot forward on Day 2 to clinch semi-final spots.In the Women’s 20s section, four of six rounds have been completed.Colts are the stand out performers in this division with a perfect four from four record on Day 1.Noosa, Logan, and Crushers battled well throughout the day and will be looking to bridge the gap on Day 2 between themselves and the well credentialed Colts outfit who look in fine form coming into the business end of the tournament.The Senior Men’s and Women’s sections have been combined across relevant age divisions. The Men’s 30s final will feature Kawana and Red Hot Welding.In Men’s 40s Semi-final action Ipswich will play the Sunshine Coast, whilst Coomera will confront Maleny to wrap up a State Cup Grand final appearance.In the Men’s 50s final Toowoomba will take on Redcliffe.In the Senior Women’s competition, Kawana 30s, Golden Girls, and Brothers will clash battle it out for a finals spot today.The State Cup actions swings back into gear on Sunday 3 December 2006 at 8.30am with round games, quarterfinal, semi-final, and Grand Final action providing a feast for Touch Football fans.last_img read more

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10 months agoNapoli icon Diego Maradona due to be released from hospital

By on October 28, 2019

first_imgNapoli icon Diego Maradona due to be released from hospitalby Carlos Volcano10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveNapoli icon Diego Maradona was due to be released from hospital last night after a health scare.Ole reports Maradona was taken to Clinica Olivios hospital in Buenos Aires on Friday evening after a routine checkup showed his stomach was bleeding.Maradona has just taken charge of Dorados.And in a positive development, Ole has followed up that he was due to be sent home before the day was out. About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

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Photos: Under Armour Unveiled New HeatGear ArmourVent Uniforms For Maryland, USC, Temple, SIU, NW, Seton Hall, St. John’s

By on October 27, 2019

first_imgA closeup of a Maryland basketball player's sneakersCOLUMBUS, OH – MARCH 22: A general view of Under Armour shoes during a game between the Maryland Terrapins and the West Virginia Mountaineers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 22, 2015 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)Under Armour released new uniforms for seven of its men’s basketball programs Thursday afternoon. The brand unveiled HeatGear ArmourVent uniforms for Maryland, South Carolina, Temple, Seton Hall, Southern Illinois, Northwestern and St. John’s. Check them out: The all-new HeatGear ArmourVent uniforms. Engineered with the most innovative mesh ever made. http://t.co/ckZHvI3bM3 pic.twitter.com/hcCYqthfgs— Under Armour Hoops (@UAbasketball) January 22, 2015Thoughts on the uniforms, fans of the respective programs? Under Armour seems to be taking its basketball game up a notch.last_img read more

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Queen Rania Al Abdullah To Attend International Rescue Committee Rescue Dinner

By on October 16, 2019

first_imgThe International Rescue Committee will host its annual Rescue Dinner (formally Freedom Award Dinner) to support the organization’s lifesaving humanitarian aid work around the world on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.The event will honor Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Lesbos, Greece and The Mack Family.The Freedom Award is presented annually to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions in support of refugees, and who have championed the cause of liberty, individual freedom and dignity. This year’s Freedom Award will be presented to Mayor Spyros Galinos. During the past two years, more than 660,000 refugees have passed through the Greek island of Lesbos, the epicenter of the largest migration of people since World War II. The island’s population is only 86,000, but these generous people have invited 25,000 Syrians, Afghanis and others to settle among them. Mayor Galinos is being recognized for his efforts to assist hundreds of thousands of refugees as they face a harrowing journey, and for working to bring awareness to the tragic human costs of the current refugee crisis.Additionally, Christy and John Mack, along with their children Jenna, John and Stephen K. Mack, will receive the John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award. This award was created in recognition of Mr. Whitehead’s half-century of transformational leadership of the IRC and is presented annually to individuals who embody Mr. Whitehead’s spirit and passion for humanitarian causes and who have made significant contributions to saving and improving lives around the world. The Mack family is being recognized for their incredible support and engagement in Greece, with the IRC’s mobile health programs in Jordan, and their support of women and girls across the Middle East.“This year’s Rescue Dinner honorees embody the best of humanity. In a climate that can seem downright hostile at times, Mayor Galinos and the Mack family are living examples of the good that is desperately needed in the world right now. The choices they have made and the work that they do every day results in life-saving opportunities for thousands of refugees around the globe. We are humbled to honor them at this year’s gala,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.David Miliband will be joined on stage by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, a member of the IRC Board of Directors. The evening will also feature a special performance by Syrian violinist Mariela Shaker.The Co-Chairs for this year’s Freedom Award Dinner are Katherine Farley, Merryl H. Tisch, Maureen White and Tracy R. Wolstencroft.last_img read more

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Is It Really Finally The Cubs Year

By on September 30, 2019

The 2016 Major League Baseball season opened on Sunday, and FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about the year to come. In today’s edition, we focus on the National League Central with Craig Edwards, managing editor of the Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos, and FiveThirtyEight’s own baseball columnist, Rob Arthur. The transcript below has been edited.Chicago CubsSt. Louis CardinalsPittsburgh PiratesMilwaukee BrewersCincinnati Reds St. Louis Cardinals neil: If the Cubs do falter from their lofty projections, there are plenty of teams in this division waiting to pounce. Let’s start with the Cardinals, who won 100 games last year and looked unstoppable at times. Yet, they also suffered some offseason losses and outplayed their BaseRuns by more than any other team. Are the Cardinals still on the same level, or might they be due for a decline?rob: I think they are due for some decline. Even if they returned the exact same team as last year, the odds were against them outperforming their underlying stats to such an extraordinary degree again. So they probably won’t be quite as good, though they’d be falling from such lofty heights that it would still make for a decent team. FanGraphs has them at 85 wins, with PECOTA projecting 82.craigjedwards: Although a repeat of last season’s win total is unrealistic, the Cardinals also have a pretty high floor. They cannot repeat their success with runners on base this season, but the rotation is arguably more talented than it was a year ago. Nobody on the team is projected to have a great season, but that also means nobody is irreplaceable, and they have quite a few players with ceilings well above their projections.neil: That rotation could be impressive, with five starters carrying a FanGraphs projection of at least 2 WAR.craigjedwards: The rotation has its questions, though, most being injury-related. With health, they might approach their run prevention from last season, but no pitching staff stays healthy all year. For instance, I wonder about Michael Wacha as we head into the season — he tired at the end of last year, after being shut down in 2014 with a shoulder issue. Wacha has pitched at an ace-level for stretches, but if he can’t command his fastball he’s closer to an average pitcher.rob: I think a huge unknown on the team, and a big determinant of its fate, is Yadier Molina. He was injured last year and turned in an uncharacteristically mediocre pitch-framing performance behind the plate. Framing makes such a big difference because its effect, while small for any given pitch, are spread out across every pitch a staff throws. If Yadi returns to his normal level — which seems possible if his decline came from injury, and not aging — the staff will get a big boost. If not, those 2-WAR projections may be overly optimistic.craigjedwards: Right. Molina’s bat has also gotten significantly weaker over the past two seasons, and two offseason thumb surgeries make you wonder about his hitting ability. The projections might be overrating that, expecting a bounce-back that might not be possible. His leadership and game preparation are unquestioned, but Molina’s body is compromised at this stage of his career.neil: For all of those concerns, though, these are still the Cardinals. Have they earned the benefit of the doubt given the way the franchise has re-tooled on the fly in the past? Or is that more of a narrative that gets applied to them post-hoc because they’ve been so successful?rob: I don’t like to give any team the benefit of the doubt. Some teams do figure out major advantages before others, but we can usually follow along and figure out what those advantages are (or were). The Cardinals might have some kind of player-development talent that other teams are lacking, or they might just be exceptionally well-run and good at acquiring skilled players. But I’m not inclined to give them a “Magic Beans” bonus.On the other hand: They have produced historic RISP performances — both in terms of pitching and hitting — over the last five years. I don’t know what to make of that. Maybe they do have a secret we don’t know about.craigjedwards: I think the benefit of the doubt is almost a required narrative that has turned into a joke. The David Freese–Allen Craig–Matt Carpenter–Matt Adams pipeline of “unknown players rising to prominence” seems like it has run dry. But what the Cardinals have been good at over the past few years — in contrast with the Cubs, who have developed position players — is developing pitching. They’ve targeted athletes and guys who can throw the change-up, and those pitchers seem to have worked out. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Pittsburgh Pirates Ben Lindbergh joins the Hot Takedown podcast to preview the 2016 MLB season. Milwaukee Brewers Embed Code Cincinnati Reds rob: In any event, I suspect that, like last year, this division will be one of the most exciting in baseball. Even if the Cubs wrap it up early (and they probably won’t), the Cards and Pirates will go down to the wire competing for WC spots. It should be fun to watch.craigjedwards: The division is Chicago’s to lose, but both the Pirates and the Cardinals are contenders who could win under the right circumstances.neil: And at least we won’t have to hear those incessant “Back To The Future” references around the Cubs this season.craigjedwards: Don’t worry, the Cubs will come up with something at least as annoying this season. Between them and the Cardinals, the NL Central has morphed into the new AL East in terms of insufferableness. A FiveThirtyEight Chat neil: And now comes the time when we have to talk about the dregs of this division. Who should we discuss first, Brewers or Reds? Both were awful last season, though PECOTA actually sees Milwaukee vaguely edging in the direction of .500 this year.rob: The Brewers are kind of fun because they are obviously experimenting, and they’ve made some great moves this offseason in that direction.craigjedwards: They also aren’t tied down with as many long-term contracts as Cincinnati. It’s part of why Milwaukee seems to have the slightly brighter long-term future, if that counts for anything.neil: The Brewers even have the ninth-best farm system in MLB, per Baseball America.craigjedwards: The big question for them will be, “When will they trade Jonathan Lucroy, and how much will they get for him?”neil: And, “how much has Lucroy’s framing value gone down these past few years?”rob: A huge question with Lucroy is whether his framing went down or if everyone else’s went up. (This applies to Molina as well.) If the league as a whole improved at pitch framing, then guys like those two — who used to be leaps and bounds better than everyone else — will look like they’re declining. It even matters for Lucroy’s trade prospects, because if it’s a matter of him declining, then he could go back up. But if the league’s catchers all rose to his level, there’s not much prospect for improvement.craigjedwards: How much of an effect injuries might have had is another question that I don’t believe we can answer at this point. But even without the framing, he hits well for a catcher and is in a team-friendly contract over the next two seasons, so he should still be a good asset for the Brewers to flip and improve their farm system even more.rob: However, outside of Lucroy (and maybe Ryan Braun), the Brewers have a ho-hum, strikeout-prone lineup and an unimpressive rotation. They aren’t going to be very good this year.craigjedwards: Milwaukee looked like it was on the Oakland A’s track of trying to never rebuild, but after the team squandered a division lead in 2014, the bottom fell out last season and it was time for a major rebuild.neil: Rebuilding usually means promising youngsters. Anybody to keep an eye on this year?craigjedwards: Orlando Arcia. He’s their shortstop of the future with Segura gone.And to Rob’s earlier point about experimenting with players, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana are the type of guys you try out when you know you have no hope of contending. They could easily disappoint, but there are no bad long-term ramifications if they can’t hack it in the majors.rob: “Hack” being the operative word; Santana had a contact rate of 67 percent last year. But yeah, there’s nothing to lose on high-variability players — Rymer Liriano also comes to mind — and a lot to gain, so they’re correct to invest in them.craigjedwards: If they hit on a couple of these guys, it could really help the team’s long-term outlook.rob: Right, this is a year where they feel out some of those young guys and see who can contribute to the next competitive Brewers team. neil: The Pirates round out what was this division’s Big Three last year. But the statistical projections seem a little down on them — 83 wins at FanGraphs, 82 at Baseball Prospectus. Are you guys sensing a drop-off in Pittsburgh? Or do they extend a run that’s seen them average 93 wins the past three seasons?rob: I believe either the Pirates or Cardinals will get to 90 wins and probably snag a Wild Card spot. The Pirates are about as likely as the Cards, with a similar “benefit of the doubt” narrative surrounding them. As one of the most visibly sabermetric teams in the game (between ground balls, shifting, their health monitoring, etc.) it’s plausible to me that they’ll defy the projections slightly. If they do have a secret, I think it relates to their health, which has been notably better than other teams the last few years.craigjedwards: On the position-player side, they have a lot of talent, particularly in the outfield. Pitching-wise, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano make for a very good one-two punch, though the rest of the rotation is not great. But if there’s a new magic-beans narrative going around, it’s in Pittsburgh, with Ray Searage getting unforeseen performances out of his pitchers. Juan Nicasio might be the beneficiary of that this season.rob: And they may not even need those kinds of secret advantages. This is a solid roster featuring one of the best players in the game — Andrew McCutchen — and a true ace in Cole. It’s also remarkably even across the board: Not a single lineup spot is projected to be below replacement-level, according to Baseball Prospectus.craigjedwards: But like you said, Rob, health is the key. The Pirates face the same problem as many teams in a similar financial situation: a lack of depth. If injuries force them to rely on reinforcements, it’s difficult to see them repeating the success of the past few seasons.rob: I agree, they are hurting for depth. You could easily see this team collapsing with only a few DL trips.neil: And even if they turn out OK in that department and make the playoffs, I’m not sure that fanbase can take another defeat in the Wild Card game.rob: Unfortunately, there’s a decent chance that’s exactly what will happen.neil: Again?rob: The wild card is a cruel mistress.craigjedwards: Pittsburgh got a bit unlucky being forced to go against Jake Arrieta last season, but Cole is also a good guy to have for a one-game playoff. The NL Wild Card could see another great pitching duel when you look at the aces who could be featured: Cole, Arrieta, Matt Harvey, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright.rob: With the Cubs and Cardinals as competition, it’s hard to see the Pirates capturing the division (although it’s possible). It’s easier to see them putting up another solid 92-win season, landing the Wild Card, and facing one of those pitchers in a do-or-die game. At that point, it’s basically a coin flip, one the Pirates have lost a couple of times running now.craigjedwards: So they are probably due? That’s how coin flips work, right?rob: For the collective sanity of Pittsburgh’s residents, I hope so. neil: So Milwaukee sounds like they’re in a better place than Cincinnati.craigjedwards: The Brewers saw the opportunity to start rebuilding, and they took it. The Reds, on the other hand, had the opportunity to start a major rebuild, but their heart wasn’t really in it.rob: Yes, they haven’t gone as far or received as much of a return. They’re holding onto Joey Votto now (which is understandable), but they also kept Aroldis Chapman too long. And they haven’t been as experimental as the Brewers, taking fliers on high-variance players. That will hurt them down the road when some of the Brewers’ risks pan out.craigjedwards: If they’d dealt Chapman and Jay Bruce for a few extra prospects at last year’s trade deadline, we might look at the Reds differently. Instead they hung onto Bruce, who collapsed at the end of the season; then Chapman’s offseason domestic violence investigation hurt his trade value. And now it’s difficult to see Votto drawing a package good enough to justify trading a franchise player.(They also still owe Homer Bailey more than $80 million through 2019, and couldn’t figure out a way around Brandon Phillips‘ no-trade clause, so he’s owed another $27 million over the next two years.)rob: Having said all that, the nice thing about this iteration of the Reds is that, even though they won’t be too competitive in the Central, they have some fun players to watch. Votto is always great, and Billy Hamilton remains entertaining (even if he’s not living up to his promise).craigjedwards: They also have a number of interesting young pitchers, such as Raisel Iglesias (a big signing out of Cuba) and Robert Stephenson. If a few of those guys pan out, Cincinnati could rebuild quickly. But unfortunately for the Reds, the probability of success for that strategy is not incredibly high.The bottom line: Neither the Reds nor Brewers is likely to do well in the next two, maybe three seasons. And it doesn’t look like the Cubs, Pirates or Cardinals are going to go anywhere, either.rob: So, in a way, it makes sense to go for a longer-term rebuild. When the top of the division is strong and will be for a while, maybe it’s reasonable to wait until you can field a genuinely good team.craigjedwards: But then what do you with Votto? It seems like such a waste to have him on terrible teams.rob: I agree. (#freejoeyvotto!) Then again, he gives Reds fans a reason to watch, when they’re not complaining about his otherworldly OBP.craigjedwards: That’s what makes him hard to trade. He’s a truly great player, but his enormous contract depresses his long-term value and limits Cincinnati’s trading partners. We just saw the Rockies go through this with Troy Tulowitzki. They waited too long to trade their franchise player, and ended up with a return that wasn’t as good as it would have been a year earlier.It almost seems as though having a player like Joey Votto provided the illusion of a bright long-term future. The same thing might be happening with the Angels and Mike Trout, but in Los Angeles they have more opportunities to spend their way out of it than in a market like Cincinnati.rob: The margin for a mid-market or small-market team is so thin. The couple of months’ difference between trading a player at the peak of his value and just off of it can multiply into a year’s difference in the competitive window. Chicago Cubsneil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Last year’s NL Central was one of the strongest divisions in memory, particularly between the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates at the top. But Chicago had an unbelievable offseason, and most sources consider them the best team in baseball going into 2016. So, to get us started, what do we think about this stacked roster the Cubs have assembled? Do we buy the hype about this team’s potential to end the franchise’s 108-year championship drought?craigjedwards: I absolutely buy the hype. A lot of things had to go right last season for the Cubs to make their big leap earlier than expected: Kris Bryant instantly playing to his talent level, most of the team staying healthy (particularly in the rotation), Jake Arrieta’s incredible breakout year, etc. This season, the Cubs don’t need as much good fortune. By signing John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, and bringing back Dexter Fowler, they’ve built a bit of a buffer in case of bad luck.rob: I agree — the Cubs start the year with an excellent roster, loaded with depth. There’s a reason they’re favored so highly by PECOTA, Steamer and just about every other projection system. On top of its excellent starters, Chicago has prospects and the budget to add contracts mid-year, so if a major player suffers an injury or performance decline, they should be able to handle it.craigjedwards: But whether they can end the drought is a difficult question to answer. For most teams, just getting to the playoffs means the season was successful. But if the drought means a World Series title or bust, the team is setting itself up for disappointment. It’s really difficult to win three straight postseason series against other good teams.rob: Right. As much as I buy that this is a stacked roster, I have some bad news for Cubs fans: A good roster at the beginning of the year guarantees nothing. Between injuries, cluster luck and various other kinds of bad breaks, many a preseason powerhouse has exited the playoffs early — or worse yet, failed to reach the postseason at all. (As a Cubs fan, I have been trained to expect the worst.)neil: Baseball is quite different from, say, the NBA, where the Golden State Warriors’ stacked roster means they’re a coin-flip to win the NBA title. Being the best MLB team means you have, what, a 15 to 20 percent chance (at best) of winning?rob: Yes, the difference between MLB teams is much smaller. We’ve never seen (and will never see) a baseball team like the 2016 Warriors or 1996 Bulls. Win projections in the high 90s are about as good as it gets, and that’s where the Cubs are right now.craigjedwards: The best players in the NBA handle the ball constantly, whereas a hitter comes to the plate four or five times per game, and an ace might only pitch twice in a playoff series. Plus, only eight teams make the divisional series, so even the worst playoff team is not going to be far from the best in terms of talent. The Cubs went 3-5 in the playoffs last year, and they were a success story.rob: If only Arrieta could pitch every game.neil: Another (possibly underrated) thing working against the Cubs’ chances is how top-heavy the NL is. According to FanGraphs, Chicago ranks first in projected team wins above replacement, but Nos. 2 through 5 — and seven of the top 10 teams — are in the NL.rob: That’s true — this year’s decrease in parity has been driven mostly by NL teams, particularly the Dodgers, Cubs and Mets. That will make the NL playoffs more of a crapshoot than usual. Even within the Central, the Cubs will have to contend with two difficult challengers in the Pirates and Cardinals.neil: They’d have an easier path to the World Series in the AL, I’d think.rob: Also, they’d get to play Kyle Schwarber at DH, where he probably belongs.craigjedwards: If the Pirates or Cardinals win 93 games, and the Cubs win 92 — which, again, would be a very successful season — all of a sudden Chicago is in the Wild Card game, hoping for a coin flip just to get to the Division Series. And some very good NL teams, at least on paper right now, will not even get to the playoffs.The difference might not be how a team does against other contenders, but rather how badly they can beat up the NL’s worst teams, some of which are very poor.rob: We saw that in the NL East preview, with two teams racing to the bottom and two strong outfits up top; there’s a similar pattern going on in the Central. Across the league, teams seem to be committing more to a particular trajectory in the competitive cycle, either rebuilding or making a championship run.neil: If the Cubs do have 95- to 100-win talent, the upper bound on that is one of the best teams ever. (Which could very well happen.) But I have a feeling the bottom bound is also lower than we think. What could send this seemingly stacked Cubs team there? Just the obvious scenario, a rash of key injuries?rob: A good, approximate rule of thumb is that team-level projections are 90 percent certain to be within +/-10 wins. So the bottom bound is something like 80 to 85 wins, which is probably not making the playoffs in this division. That’s the reason I’m cautious about the Cubs.craigjedwards: I think the bottom likely comes if the pitching falls apart. The projections aren’t exactly conservative on Arrieta and Jon Lester. Losing one of them would be a major blow, and there are some concerns about Arrieta’s crazy workload last season. Plus, Lester is one year older and has apparently been pitching at the risk of injury for some time now.rob: I think there’s still some reason to suspect Arrieta could turn back into a pumpkin. Lester’s inability to throw to first has been well-documented, yet strangely not taken advantage of as much as it could be. He’s also a pitcher older than 30, and those can fall apart at any time (remember Cliff Lee?). If you combine the risk of a rotation and bullpen collapse, that’s the most likely way I see the Cubs’ season falling apart.craigjedwards: But as far as their lineup goes, they are pretty well-insulated.rob: Yep, they have too many good, young position players to have a bad offense. read more

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