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Lately, especially around here, I have tended to be the voice of hope about the Cubs, trying to keep people from panicking about this current team.

But this is not because I have any “Cubs”-colored glasses. Instead it is because I still think that this is a good team based on players previous performances along with their performances this year, and I want to lay out why.

First I want to look at how players are performing in relation to both last season and their career numbers. I have left three players out of this analysis (Hoffpauir, Scales, K. Hill), as they don’t have any meaningful previous performances to compare to. I am looking at OPS+, as it is a good indicator of how a player performs in relation to the rest of the league in a given year:

Player Career 2008 2009
Soto 110 120 58
Lee 122 110 85
Fontenot 102 131 70
Theriot 89 93 100
Ramirez 114 128 155
Soriano 116 121 108
Fukudome 100 90 136
Bradley 163 116 76
Miles 75 99 32
Freel 89 82 18

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Now this is either good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. I see it is good news. Kind of.

With a huge sample size caveat when looking at these numbers, it is clear in the chart that the Cubs are, overall, significantly under performing in relation to both last year and the individuals’ career numbers. Now… this doesn’t mean that these players are guaranteed to perform better. Each player is different, and each player has his own issues – Lee has age and a back injury (and a previous wrist injury), Fontenot is playing full-time in the big leagues for the first time, Soto is in his second year and the league may be adjusting to him, as well as he has a shoulder injury, Miles just kinda’ sucks, Freel has had injuries, is older, and no longer has the speed he once had, etc. And then, of course, there is Milton Bradley, who is a headcase that can hit. And isn’t hitting.

On the other hand, Lee has appeared to be turning things around a bit, Soto and Freel can get healthy, Bradley could control his temper and remember that he is one of the better hitters in baseball, etc.

Overall I think that you can assume, or at least hope, that most/all of these struggling players will start to recover and move closer to their career numbers. Why can we assume this? It is simply: past performance is the best indicator of future performance. And when I say past performance, I do not mean 40 games this season, but instead larger samples of previous years

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But I am not just hopeful because of the above chart. There are other reasons to be hopeful, and one of them is some of these same players BABIP. For the uninitiated, BABIP is a player’s batting average on balls in play. What this does is take out home runs and strikeouts (i.e. balls not hit in play) and look at the “luck” factor. The league average for BABIP hovers right around .300 each year. You will occasionally see variation with certain players, but for the most part you look to see a BABIP around .300 – anything above is considered relatively “lucky,” while anything below is relatively “unlucky.” The Cubs currently have a team BABIP of .281, well below the league average of .300.

So how do the Cubs’ everyday players look:

Player 2009 Career Dif
Soto 0.267 0.328 -0.061
Lee 0.274 0.322 -0.048
Fontenot 0.220 0.314 -0.093
Theriot 0.296 0.315 -0.019
Ramirez 0.370 0.290 0.080
Soriano 0.271 0.308 -0.037
Fukudome 0.360 0.315 0.045
Bradley 0.205 0.320 -0.115
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We now see the problem. The Cubs have been unlucky, and sometimes significantly so. And while this explains a good portion of the poor performances of these players, it also should give us hope, in that it is unlikely that so many Cub players will continue to be unlucky and see so few of their balls hit into play land for hits. We can also probably expect Ramirez and Fukudome to see a decrease in production, as they have been, so far, fairly lucky.

Now… some will say that baseball is about the unknown. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will rebound. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will see their BABIP increase. And that is correct. We don’t know for sure. And that is not what statistics try to do. Statistics don’t tell us what WILL happen. They tell us what is LIKELY to happen.

And the statistics tell us that it is likely that the Cubs will start to hit better. It just a matter of when. Maybe last night was the start of that.1999 mambo no sex download mp3

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