Archive for February, 2011

The Soriano Experiment

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

November 20, 2006, is a day I remember well.  The Cubs announced the signing of free agent Alfonso Soriano, who had just completed a 46-homer season with the Washington Nationals. Soriano was already 30-years-old, so I was very curious how many years were on his deal. Four? Five? Not even close.

The Cubs stunned the baseball universe by inking Soriano to an eight-year, $136-million deal. The contract included a no-trade clause. I was in my car when I heard the terms, and I almost drove off the road. I clearly recall my first thoughts that day: “He’ll be 38 when this contract expires. This could be the worst signing in the history of Major League Baseball.”

To be fair, the Cubs were desperate for offense, and LF was certainly a weak spot. To be objective, Soriano hasn’t been the massive bust that so many fans believe. In fact, he’s been pretty productive at the plate when healthy. Let’s quickly review his first four seasons in Chicago:

  • 2007—135 games, .299/.377/.560, 33 home runs in 579 at bats
  • 2008—109 games, .280/.344/.532, 29 home runs in 453 at bats
  • 2009—117 games, .241/.303/.423, 20 home runs in 477 at bats
  • 2010—147 games, .258/.322/.496, 24 home runs in 496 at bats

He hasn’t been Albert Pujols, but you could do much worse in LF than Soriano (just ask the Chicago White Sox). Now, here are a few common rebuttals to that approach:

  • “He’s not being paid to be good or respectable. The Cubs signed Soriano to a super-star contract.” Clearly, he hasn’t delivered on that promise.
  • “Soriano’s poor defense negates his offensive contributions.” Without starting a debate over measuring defense, I don’t agree with this statement. Yes, Soriano can be a liability in LF, but how many plays in a game does he actually affect? In 2010, Soriano had 217 chances in 147 games, which is roughly 1.5 per game. If there’s a position where you can hide a potent bat, LF is a fine choice. Having said that, the “hop” is simply intolerable.
  • “Soriano doesn’t get on base enough.” Even the world’s biggest Soriano fan can’t argue with this one. Unfortunately, the Cubs were well aware of this deficiency when they signed him. Thinking his approach would somehow magically change doesn’t make any sense.
  • “Soriano can’t run the bases anymore.” Yes, his stolen-base attempts are down, but I don’t see any issues with him scoring from second on a single or taking the extra base. That of course assumes his legs are healthy, which has been a problem. A quick side note…Personally, I don’t mind an often-injured player cutting down on his steal attempts.
  • “Soriano doesn’t hustle.” Comments about a player’s willingness to “hustle” are always intriguing. When I hear someone make a comment like this, my reaction tends to be along these lines: “How do you really know? Do you watch every game? If so, do you always focus on how this player runs the bases or plays his defensive position? How do you know he isn’t playing through an injury?” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Soriano dog it on more than one occasion. But does that make him so different from almost every single player in baseball? The season is six months plus. Is it so vital that a hitter sprints to first on an easy groundout to 2B? Food for thought anyway.

Enough about the past. What does 2011 hold for Soriano? “The Bill James Handbook” made the following prediction:

  • 2011—134 games, .257/.317/.474, 24 home runs in 483 at bats

That’s certainly a realistic expectation, but I’m putting my money on a slightly better campaign. While I’m sure Soriano will miss 30+ games, I see a bounce back in batting average, something in the neighborhood of .275-.280. I also think he’s still capable of better power than a home run every 20 at bats.

The good news for Cubs fans is Mike Quade has OF depth this season. If Soriano is nursing a sore hamstring, he sits. If the Cubs are facing a tough righty, maybe he gets the day off in favor of Colvin or Fukudome. If Quade is smart, and I think he is, he’ll rotate his outfielders in a way that maximizes their strengths and limits their weaknesses.

Will Cubs fans look back one day and celebrate the signing of Alfonso Soriano? I seriously doubt it. I know that I won’t. However, he has shown flashes of greatness and may still have a big season left in him. After all, he’s not 38 just yet.

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Chet’s Corner: For Pitching, The WAR is On!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Pitchers and Catchers report………say it again with feeling……. PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!!!!……..oh, that felt good.

Well, they already reported actually, on Sunday, but it’s really a week long celebration.  Spring training will eventually drag.  Somewhere, late in the third week of March, we will yearn for a game that means something.  However, like  a starving animal trolling a Chicago alley for some kibble, we accept spring training with open arms.

Today, I offer you a side dish to accompany your kibble.  A little look into a stat called WAR or Wins Above Replacement and how it relates to the Cubs starting pitching staff.  Now, I know what you are thinking, I have poo-pooed these new age stats in the past but WAR is somewhat different.  WAR attempts to quantify, with a number, a players whole value to a team.

A quick  definition from Alex Rimington(Yahoo Sports, Big League Stew Blog),

Simply put, Wins Above Replacement means: how many wins did that player contribute to his team’s win total above and beyond what they would have gotten from a “replacement value” player, someone they could have picked up off the scrap heap for next to nothing?

You need a PHD to figure this stat out, no joke, something in Nuclear Physics would help.  If you have interest click the link above to Alex Rimington’s site and you can learn anything and everything you ever wanted to know about the WAR stat.  He does a much better job then I of breaking it down.

Baseball-Reference.com has a little scorecard for WAR:

8+ = MVP

5+ = All-Star

2+ = Starter

0-2 = Substitute

< 0 = Replacement

So lets use this scorecard to evaluate a few past Cubs by season……

  

Neifi Perez – 2005 season

In 2005, Neifi Perez played his only real full season with the Cubs.  He had 609 plate appearances and a 0.6 WAR.  Basically Neifi was worth half of one win in the 2005 season for the Cubs.  Basically this is saying he was a measily half game better then something off the scrap heap……awesome to have witnessed you in Cubbie Blue Neifi, I still wake up in cold sweats thinking of your poetic efforts on the diamond. 

Now, for a position player, that WAR is a combo of his dWAR (Defensive WAR) and his oWAR (Offensive WAR).  Neifi actually had a dWAR of 1.1, which is still nothing to write home about.  His oWAR as you may have guessed was -0.5……yes you can have a negative war.  In other words he cost us a half game at the plate but won us a game in the field….sweet.

Carlos Zambrano – 2004 season

In 2004, Carlos Zambrano had, what would seem to be,  his best season as a Cub.  At least, that is according to the WAR stat.  He had a pitching WAR of 5.5 and a hitting WAR of 0.6 (yes, for pitchers you have two seperate WAR ratings) This would give him a total WAR of 6.1…..not too shaby. 

Below I have compiled a list of last years Cubs starters WAR.  I then compared them to the top rotations in baseball.  I am using only their Pitching WAR.

2010 Cubs     

Carlos Zambrano = 2.7

Ryan Dempster = 2.7

Carlos Silva = 1.8

Randy Wells = 2.9

Tom Gorzelanny = 1.8

2010 San Francisco Giants

Matt Cain = 3.9

Tim Lincecum = 3.5

Barry Zito = 1.3

Jonathan Sanchez = 3.4

Madison Bumgarner = 2.2

Todd Wellemeyer = -0.5 (kept the seat warm until Bumgarner showed up for second half of season)

 

2010 Philadelphia Phillies

Roy Halladay = 6.9

Cole Hamels = 4.7

Kyle Kendrick = -0.3 (11-10 record)

Joe Blanton = -0.7 (9-6 record)

Jamie Moyer = -0.2 (9-9 record in 19 starts)

Roy Oswalt = 2.8 (7-1 record)

 

So, as you can see with the above examples, the Cubs lag quite a ways behind the elite pitching staffs in the league.  Many people rave and rant about the lack of offense in the 2010 Cubs season but the pitching was not exactly great. 

I listed the win loss records for a few of the Phillies pitchers.  You will notice I picked out the guys with a negative WAR.  The reason I found this interesting was seeing a guy with a negative WAR and yet a winning record.  This would usually be a tribute to the Phillies offense.  There were probably a few more high scoring Phillies victories when Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer were pitching.  When you have a stud like Roy Halladay at the top of your rotation and Cole Hamels backing him up, the rest of the guys need just be average to keep the team at the top of the standings. 

Coming back to the Cubs……we talked about Zambrano’s highest WAR but what about the rest of the potential 2011 starters?  Well, Ryan Dempster is only three seasons removed from a 5.3 WAR in 2008.  Randy Wells strutted a 3.2 WAR in his sensational rookie year of 2009.  Carlos Silva’s highest WAR was a 3.4 in 2004.  Matt Garza sported a 3.8 WAR in 2009 (last year was a 2.0 however).

The point I am trying to make is we have some potential with this pitching staff statistically speaking.  We don’t need a 5.3 from Dempster but something over 3.0 would be nice.  Zambrano doesn’t need to be in the 5′s again, but if this season is a reflection of the last half of 2010, we could see something around a 4.  Wells and Garza are the wildcards.  Being so young we are not sure what their ceiling would be.  

To make the post season it takes more then one pitcher being at the top of his game.  If the old addage, “pitching wins championships” stays true to form then this is where it starts for the Cubs in 2011.

Now if we could only get the offense to come around.

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Cubs Trade Tony Thomas to Boston for Robert Coello

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher Robert Coello from the Boston Red Sox for minor league infielder Tony Thomas.

Evan Brunell of Firebrand chimes in with these thoughts on Coello:

The trade of Robert Coello does not come as good news to this writer, as I was rooting for the club to waive Daniel Nava instead of Coello. While Nava is a feel-good story, he is limited to left field while Coello is valuable as a major-league ready pitcher with years of league-minimum salary ahead of him. The former independent-ball pitcher rocketed through the minors for Boston and excelled at striking out batters and limiting his walks. Coello is unlikely to ever emerge as anything more than a middle reliever, but in that role he can do very well. He got knocked around at the beginning of his major-league career in 2010 but by the end had settled down and showed that he could handle being part of a big-league bullpen. Coello can also be counted upon to start in a pinch, but his pitches play better in relief.

He also provided a scouting report from last year on Coello from SoxProspects.com

Big righty with a powerful frame. Smooth, deceptive delivery. Heavy fastball sits between 91-93 mph and tops out at 94 mph. Also uses a nice low-80s forkball, a mediocre curveball, and an developing changeup. Attacks the zone and throws strikes. Gets a ton of strikeouts but can be hittable when he works too much down the middle of the zone. Projects as a middle reliever at the major league level, one that might be able to be utilized in high-leverage situations. Still learning how to pitch. Coello was well-regarded as a catcher when he was drafted byCincinnati in 2004. However, he missed the 2005 season with a rib injury and the Reds released him in the spring of 2006. He converted to pitching after signing a one-year minor league deal with the Angels in September 2006. The right-hander dominated much younger competition in the rookie-level Arizona League in 2007, but the Angels opted not to re-sign him to a long-term deal. He impressed with Edmonton of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2008, and Boston acquired his rights from Edmonton in November 2008.

What are your thoughts on the deal? I’m not much of a Tony Thomas guy. He’s been a bit of a bust since being drafted fairly high. Better to get something for him and see what Coello can add in a potential bullpen role in 2011.

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Video Book Review: Electric Barracuda

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011


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GirlieView (02/14/2011)

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Pickins are slim this week, so thank goodness Spring Training starts TO-DAY! I’m so excited about it I almost forgot it’s also a very important holiday: Happy Valentine’s Day (included as a favor to the guys around here who may have forgotten their sweeties … thank me later!)

Don’t miss our Monday discussion question just after the very brief week in review!

Lizzies

  • Fuku does not stink in April, he stinks in July, August and September and in May and June is on a slippery slope of stinky but serviceable.
  • HSA (Hyper Statistical Analysis….yeah, I made it up).
  • What is worse; a player who staggers to the plate hungover or even drunk, a player who uses PED’s (these include greenies, HGH, Steroids) to enhance his ability, or a player who uses foreign substances to doctor a baseball or bat thus giving him an advantage?
  • I’m not sure letting everyone in is the answer, but I’m damn sure letting the writers decide is not the answer.
  • It’s similar to letting a personal injury lawyer replace your heart valve, not a wise choice.

Lizard

  • The ‘stache will help because it makes him look like he has a sense of humor.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

Many Cubbies have been training for months already! Seymour has given us a pretty good run down of those he spotted at camp while he was there last month, and that paired with some off-season moves gives me hope that I didn’t expect to have this year. How about you? Are you feeling:

a.) hopeful
b.) indifferent
c.) discouraged

Or some combination? And why?


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GO: Pitching Trade

Friday, February 11th, 2011

For the same exact return, would you rather trade Carlos Zambrano or Carlos Silva, and why?

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Light Weight “Power” Hitters

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I thought it might be fun to continue our look at some obscure lists. Today we take a look at hitters who weighed 150 pounds or less that hit for any kind of power at all. As you might guess, the list is small.

Player HR Wt From To PA BA OBP SLG OPS
Jose Cardenal 138 150 1963 1980 7696 .275 .333 .395 .728
Leo Cardenas 118 150 1960 1975 7402 .257 .311 .367 .679
Zoilo Versalles 95 146 1959 1971 5578 .242 .290 .367 .657
Dave Martinez 91 150 1986 2001 6480 .276 .341 .389 .730
Juan Beniquez 79 150 1971 1988 5150 .274 .327 .379 .705
Tony Bernazard 75 150 1979 1991 4243 .262 .339 .387 .726
Glenn Hubbard 70 150 1978 1989 5122 .244 .328 .349 .677
Billy Cox 66 150 1941 1955 4081 .262 .318 .380 .698
Jack Tobin 64 142 1914 1927 6872 .309 .364 .420 .784
Manny Trillo 61 150 1973 1989 6573 .263 .316 .345 .660
Jose Offerman 57 150 1990 2005 6582 .273 .360 .373 .732
Tommy Leach 57 150 1901 1918 8401 .270 .341 .372 .712

I thought it might be fun to continue our look at some obscure lists. Today we take a look at hitters who weighed 150 pounds or less that hit for any kind of power at all. As you might guess, the list is small.

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Chet’s Corner: PED’s, KY Jelly, and Greenies

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

In celebration of the coming 2011 season, I decided to add a few things to my to-do list for the month of February:

1) Read Ball Four by Jim Bouton

2) Watch all 10 innings of Baseball by Ken Burns

A few years back I watched Baseball, or at least the first five innings.  Not sure what happened but I never got around to the next four innings (up until this past year there were only nine total innings.)

Ball Four is a book that I seemed to ignore for as long as I can remember.  For a while my excuse for abstaining was its relevance to the present game.  I mean, how can a book exposing the “truth” of baseball during the 1969 season captivate a present day fan?

Well, if the first 100 pages are any indication, I will not only love the book, but quite possibly get an education into Baseball’s past and present.  It seems many of the problems plaguing the game then, still exist in one form or another now.

Anyhow, I will leave the book reviews to Cubbiedude and get to the real point of  today’s Chet’s Corner.

One can’t wander far in the baseball world without stumbling on a debate regarding PED’s or the comparison of players via HSA (Hyper Statistical Analysis….yah, I made it up).  God forbid we throw the Hall of Fame into the discussion as all hell will break loose.

As I read through the pages of Ball Four and absorb Bouton’s tales of woe at the Major League level,  I keep asking myself the same question:

What is worse; a player who staggers to the plate hungover or even drunk, a player who uses PED’s (these include greenies, HGH, Steroids) to enhance his ability, or a player who uses foreign substances to doctor a baseball or bat thus giving him an advantage?

The Hall is home to all of the above except the HGH/Steroid users, which it may actually have, we just have yet to get a current Hall of Fame player to admit it.

I wonder if some of the past inductees would get voted in by today’s writers armed with the knowledge that we now have. I wonder if Gaylord Perry and his famous spitball, which he admittedly lubed up with everything from lard to KY Jelly, would have been voted in by the same group of writer’s that appears to refuse Mark McGwire for steroid use?  If all “cheating” is equal then Perry is no Hall of Famer.

I wonder if the current writer’s would see Whitey Ford, who was nicknamed “Black and Decker” because he used an arsenal of tools on the mound to doctor the ball (including his wedding ring),   in the same light as say Rafael Palmiero and his steroid use?  If all “cheating”  is equal then Whitey is no Hall of Famer.

I wonder if players using amphetamines, or greenies as they were called back in Bouton’s days, would get the same black eye as the HGH users do in today’s game?  They should, right?  Both are drugs used to enhance your performance on the field!  Yet, the hall houses plaques with those who popped a little green pill in order to get that edge,  just ask Mike Schmidt (better yet, read his biography “Clearing the Bases”.)

How can any writer, without bias, vote in Schmidt, Ford, or Perry (or any of the other guilty subjects) without also giving a vote to today’s admitted HGH/Steroid users?

Better yet, how do you feel about players being massively hungover or just plain drunk and taking the field?  For my money, this is almost worse then steroids.  Yah, I have plopped myself down at my desk hungover on many occasion.  I have probably been a little too beat up to do my best work.  The difference……thousands of people aren’t forking over hundreds of dollars to watch me do my job.  I guess that’s the burden of playing a game for a living and getting paid well in the process.

That brings another question,  Are you more likely to cheer for a player who pops a pill that helps him perform, or would you cheer for the guy who lacks respect for the game and shows up hungover to his day of work at the ballpark in turn downgrading his level of play?

Maybe we should start over in regards to history.  Can you imagine pulling all of the plaques and re-voting back to the first Hall class with today’s crop of writers?  Oh, and by the way, don’t tell me today’s writer’s can’t possibly fathom the greatness of Babe Ruth or Robin Roberts.  They don’ need to actually see them play anymore.  We have a much more sophisticated way of analyzing players these days.  You don’t have to witness a player on the diamond to judge his level of play anymore, we can just calculate his WAR, or VORP, or is it WARP?!

*the above sentence or two is laced with a massive mound of sarcasm

After the HSA (remember, its Hyper Statistical Analysis) is completed we will dig up all the dirt on each player.  We will dig up anything dating back to when they played the game, from the locker room to the bedroom,  and take that into consideration before considering what they actually did on the diamond.  Let’s be real,  a players entry  into today’s hall is effected by his behavior off the field as well as on.

After all the information is compiled, and the votes of today’s writers are counted, I would be curious to see what we are left with in the temple of baseball.

I have a feeling it would be an empty boring place.


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Best Power Hitters Under Six Feet Tall

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

You know we’re bored and ready for baseball when the Tuesday post looks at the best power hitters under six feet tall. Yep, that’s what it’s come to. Surprisingly, Mike Fontenot didn’t make the list. Opening Day, please come soon.

Player HR Ht 2B 3B RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Willie Mays 660 70 523 140 1903 .302 .384 .557 .941
Mickey Mantle 536 71 344 72 1509 .298 .421 .557 .977
Mel Ott 511 69 488 72 1860 .304 .414 .533 .947
Gary Sheffield 509 71 467 27 1676 .292 .393 .514 .907
Carl Yastrzemski 452 71 646 59 1844 .285 .379 .462 .841
Yogi Berra 358 67 321 49 1430 .285 .348 .482 .830
Dick Allen 351 71 320 79 1119 .292 .378 .534 .912
Willie Horton 325 71 284 40 1163 .273 .332 .457 .789
Ron Cey 316 70 328 21 1139 .261 .354 .445 .799
Ivan Rodriguez 309 69 565 51 1313 .298 .334 .466 .800
Al Simmons 307 71 539 149 1827 .334 .380 .535 .915
Rogers Hornsby 301 71 541 169 1584 .358 .434 .577 1.010
Miguel Tejada 300 69 447 23 1256 .287 .339 .462 .801
Generated 2/7/2011.
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