Archive for March, 2007

Sabermetrics for the Common Fan

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

If you’re like me, you have no clue about all of these new stats that have surfaced now that mathematicians like Bill James have taken such prominence in baseball. For awhile, I couldn’t understand why exactly Bill James has had such a big influence on the game of baseball. Then a couple of books arrived in the mail from Acta Sports, who is always so kind to me in sending me good reading material for my bathroom time. I’d like to take the time in this post to do two things that will hopefully point you in the right direction toward your journey of understanding some of the new baseball statistics.

I know you’re probably like me. You’re probably skeptical that this will turn you into a total stat geek that does nothing but analyze baseball with your calculator rather than your eyes, heart, and mind, but I assure you it won’t. Granted, if you want to go in that direction, I’m sure there is definitely a place for you in baseball. Who knows, you might even be able to make a career out of it. But, you can love statistics, especially some of the ratio stats that are common to SABR guys and still love the game of baseball for everything that it is, including what you hear, see, and smell.

1. The Idiot’s Guide to Sabermetrics
In my quest to find out a little more about some of the news stats available to us on Baseball Reference, I sought out someone far more knowledgeable about the subject than I am. I had a 25 minute conversation with Jeff Sackman, who writes for the Hardball Times, Beyond the Box Score, and Brew Crew Ball. He’s the creator of Minor League Splits as well. He’s very much a jack of all trades and really made the stats that I asked him about very easy for the common fan to use. He provided some explanation to what they measure as well as gave some benchmarks for evaluating using them. To me, that’s always a tough one. I can look at the stats, but I don’t know what they mean. Jeff helped me in that area. We discussed OPS, OPS+, ERA+, VORP, and even mentioned some ways to look at young pitchers beside the current Wins and ERA stats.

If you would like to listen to the show, here is the link to the post. You can play it right on the site.

2. Go get these two books
The first book that I recently read is How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball. It’s a short read, only 144 pages, and is perfect for readers who have a short attention span. The book is broken down into 3 or 4 page essays by some of baseball’s greatest writers and some influential people as well. The book seeks to justify why Bill James could have possibly been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. When I first saw that list, I was skeptical as to his appearance on it. However, reading the book, I realize a little more why people are so high on the man.

The book takes you through each person’s opinions on how he was influenced by the man. At first, it seemed like it was just one big Bill James lovefest, but then I got to some of the authors that said they hated Bill James until they met the man, and saw how genuine he was. They saw how honest he is about not knowing everything. He’s not afraid to come back and say that he was wrong. Reading that alone was worth the time it took to read the book. It helped me have a lot more respect for his research and his thoughts now that I know he’s constantly trying to improve them. If you’re looking for a good, easy read before the season starts, go pick this one up.

The other book that I read, I wasn’t as high on. It’s not that it was a bad book, because it certainly was not. The reason I didn’t enjoy it as much, was because I felt it was geared for the less stat oriented fan. The book is The New Ballgame: understanding baseball statistics for the common fan. The book addresses some of the following, and this comes directly from the Acta site.

  • Definitions for all the stats currently used in baseball
  • A historical breakdown of statistics in the game
  • Keeping score during a game
  • Reading a box score
  • Fantasy/simulation baseball games
  • The future of statistics in baseball
    If those are some things that you’re not sure if you understand fully, definitely pick this book up. It’s worth you time.

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  • Felix Pie on Minor League Ball

    Friday, March 16th, 2007

    John Sickels, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable people in baseball on Minor League prospects ran a piece yesterday called Prospect Smackdown. Basically, what he does is compare two prospects that are fairly similar and looks at them to see which one he feels is in better shape for success.

    This particular post compared our own Felix Pie to Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos)

    Here are the comments on Felix Pie


      Facing Double-A hitters, Mark Prior allowed one hit and struck out four in four scoreless innings on Friday.
    He did walk two and hit a batter, but it was a small step forward anyway. He hit 90 mph on the gun for maybe the first time this spring, though he was typically clocked at 85-88 mph with his fastball. Also, he got his curve over more often. “[My command] was better,” Prior said. “I threw a lot of [breaking pitches] for strikes. That was the goal, to locate it a little better.” The Cubs will wait to see how Prior feels tomorrow before scheduling his next outing. If he’s slated to work in another minor league game, it’d be a strong sign that the Cubs have no intention of carrying him on the active roster to begin the season.

    For more player news, visit


    Background & Intangibles
    Pie was signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. He made his full-season debut in the Midwest League in ’03, and has made steady progress up the ladder in the Chicago system. He was erratic in ’06 but strong in the second half for Triple-A Iowa. Cubs officials have good things to say about his work ethic and makeup, particularly his ability to stay positive when things don’t go well.

    Physicality, Health, and Tools
    Pie is a 6-2, 175 pound lefthanded hitter and thrower, born February 8, 1985. Pie is an outstanding overall athlete. Like Ellsbury, his speed is a major asset on defense, but his arm is stronger (suitable for right field). He has more raw power, and more present power, than Ellsbury, but is less refined as a hitter and fielder, and needs particular work on his strike zone judgment. He missed more than half of the ’05 season due to an ankle injury, but showed no ill effects last year.

    Performance & Polish
    Pie hit .283/.341/.451 last year in Triple-A, his career mark now standing at .294/.353/.459. His BB/K/AB ratio not very good: 46/126/559 last year, and 164/438/.1945 in his career. His MLE OPS last year was about .810 with about 17 steals.

    Some people are starting to compare Pie to Carlos Beltran. I don’t think he’ll be quite that good, but Pie (like Ellsbury) could develop into a .280-.300 hitter. He’ll have more home run power, but his OBP and strike zone judgment could be more erratic, and I think he’ll lose his speed more quickly. PECOTA upside VORP is 158.5.

    Minor League Ball ~ by John Sickels

    I always enjoy John’s writing. It has helped me to learn a lot more about the farm systems in baseball. If you’re not a big fan of following the farm, I would urge you to reconsider that one. A good fan should at least know about some of the team’s prospects. It deepens your understanding as to why Hendry does some of the things he does. Granted, sometimes I still have no clue what he’s thinking, but overall, I can begin to piece the puzzle together and see where he is going with his plan.

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    Prior history?

    Thursday, March 15th, 2007

    As most of you know, Mark Prior’s minor league start was pushed back from today to Friday, despite the fact that Prior claims to be healthy. Rotoworld reports that Mark will begin this season on the Iowa roster (he still has options) or on the DL for an “extended spring training.”


    The Marlins are considering making an offer for Angel Pagan, perhaps using shortstop prospect Robert Andino as bait,’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
    Such a deal wouldn’t solve the problems of either team. Pagan wasn’t quite as bad as expected for the Cubs last year, hitting .247/.306/.394 in 170 at-bats, but he doesn’t have the range in center to make up for his bat and he’d be fortunate just to have a long career as a fifth outfielder. As for Andino, well, he’s just 22, giving him plenty of time to improve. However, he’d be a downgrade from Tomas Perez in a utility role right now. He hit .255/.303/.363 in a great hitter’s park at Triple-A Albuquerque last year.

    For more player news, visit


    Mark’s velocity is way down and he is unable to spot his fastball. And his curveball is nonexistent, thusfar in 3 1/3 innings pitched Prior sports an 18.90 ERA, having given up eight hits and five walks.

    It’s embarrassing for a guy who supposedly worked all during the offseason that he came into camp not ready to pitch again. Except this time there is no Dusty Baker to make excuses and mommy-coddle a pitcher who’s time in the big ring known as Wrigley Field appears to be dwindling. In today’s Sun-Times Jay Marriotti calls for Prior to be traded, I’m not sure there would be much offered in return. I think it’s time for Prior to learn some humility – he’s pitching like a minor league pitcher, therefore he should start living the life of a minor league pitcher. No more excuses, onward and downward to Des Moines, Prior should earn his way back up.

    UPDATE: According to Sports Illustrated, Kerry Wood has just been shut down due to triceps soreness. It appears as though Wood will not be ready for Opening Day; my guess is that this makes a roster spot for Rocky Cherry almost guaranteed if he continues to throw well. Who knows, we might even see Samardzija for a cup o’ coffee but methinks Cherry is more likely.

    On another note, EFNET #cubs Yahoo fantasy baseball league is looking for six more teams to fill out an eighteen team roster. This is currently not a keeper roster, it’s head to head with scoring rules similar to real baseball. If you are interested contact Mark Strickler using the contact us form for more info. Live draft night is Tuesday March 27th.

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    Fifth starter position likely down to two

    Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

    Earlier plans were to use Marquis as the Cubs’ fifth starter – well that appears to have changed folks. Marquis has allowed a lot of baserunners but he’s thrown a whole lot better than I expected; he has thusfar won the #4 spot. And Lilly and Hill are locks for the second and third spots. So who’s competing for the five hole? Prior, Miller and Guzman.

    It appears as though that competition is down to two – Miller and Guzman. Miller has thrown respectably – despite velocity issues he has thrown the ball commendably with an 4.00 ERA. Nonetheless Miller has had seventeen baserunners in nine innings pitched – I would consider him lucky at this point.

    Angel Guzman has been a real pleasant surprise, throwing effectively with a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 IP. Guzman needs two more stong appearances and I think he’ll have #5 locked up. Then Miller will be traded for a utility infielder and Prior will be sent to “extended spring training,” which is a polite way of saying that performance-wise he isn’t ready for the 25 man roster.

    Another possibility is that Miller will throw adequately and Guzman will go to Iowa, where he and Prior will gun it out in case either Miller or Cotts fail. Cotts has been totally ineffective and might even end up being traded or in Iowa if he falters in April.

    Some rather amusing news from Rotoworld about former Cub Neifi Perez:

    Neifi Perez left Tuesday’s game in the third inning, saying he felt congested and ill.
    Tigers fans complained of the same symptoms after he was acquired last year. Perez is day-to-day.

    Here is a nice little picture that was given to us from the good people at Cubs Fun. It’s Neifi dancing an Irish jig. It makes me laugh everytime I see it.

    BTW if you signed up for VTFB NCAA brackets get your picks in!!! You might want to consider sixth-seeded Vanderbilt as a darkhorse – on any given day they can beat any team in the nation; conversely, on any given day they can lose to any team. I like Georgetown better as a darkhorse for the national title though…

    Update:Happy days here in Guitar Town! Vanderbilt just destroyed George Washington by 33 points. These guys have a history of going to the Sweet Sixteen, I just hope that this year will be yet another. Go Dores!

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    The First Cut Is The Deepest

    Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

    Well, here we are on March 13th, 2007 and the Cubs have made the first round of cuts to the Spring Training roster. Nothing too shocking for those who were cut, but a pleasant surprise to see that Felix Pie is forcing the Cubs to give him a little further consideration. My lone bold prediction that comes from all of this is that I think that Jeff Samardzija will make a fairly fast rise through the farm system. Uncle Lou gave the kid a nickname already and everyone, from the top down, seems to love him. Everything that I have heard this Spring has said that his being cut is a pure matter of baseball semantics. His stay in Daytona will be short. His time in Tennessee will probably be determined more by what the Cubs big league staff is doing in late Summer rather than whether or not he has the talent to be in Iowa by the end of the year.

    On a different note, this posting on is reporting that the Cubs are “looking to deal”. While I don’t find this web site to be incredibly reliable in it’s rumor mongering, it is good for a laugh every now and again. They have caught on to what most of the Cubbie nation already knows: The Cubs probably want to make one more impact move this season. Supposedly the Cubs scouted a game between Atlanta and Toronto. So now everyone is trying to predict what the Cubs are looking for from either of those two teams. They invited their readers to make their thoughts known in the comments section. Needless to say, it makes for some INTERESTING reading. Some are informed opinions, and some are really ‘out there’. I only posted it, because I’d love to hear what some of our regulars have to say about the multitude of possibilities put forth. Not to mention the fact that I have been dying to see what my caricature head looks like!

    ADD ON:
    If you really need a laugh read this posting. Posted yesterday on that same site. Not only does it not make any sense, but it’s downright dumb.

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