Archive for November, 2011

Two Random Stats Worth Noting From 2011

Monday, November 28th, 2011

As I was racking my brain on what to write about today I decided to play around with a few of my favorite websites and look for things that stood out to me. I make not conclusions from them, but rather wanted to make them known.

1. Ryan Dempster’s BAbip Was Unusually High

If you’re not familiar with the stat, it stands for Batting Average for Balls in Play. It’s a measurement of how guys do when things like strikeouts are factored out of the equation. In 2011, the league average for pitchers BAbip was .298. Prior to last season, Dempster came in with a career BAbip of .306. In 2011, he posted a .331, his highest total since his pre-Tommy John days with Cincinnati. Norm did a cool look at part of the cause for the rise, citing the location of his splitter in 2011 compared to 2010:



What I also notice is a drop in fastball velocity. In 2010, Dempster’s average fastball clocked in at 91 mph. In 2011, it was down to 90.3 mph, the lowest of his career, yet his usage was up to 56.8%, the highest since his first year with the Cubs in 2004 when he was coming out of the pen and could afford to crank it up and rely more on the fastball.

2. Matt Garza’s WAR Was Head & Shoulders Above Everyone Else

And yet, there has been a lot of talk that he could be dealt this off-season in a rebuilding effort. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It’s designed to measure how many more wins a player provides when compared with the average AAA call up that would not normally have a job if not for injury to someone on the Major League team. A team made up of replacement level talent could expect to win somewhere in the range of 45 to 48 games over the course of a season. Garza’s 5.0 WAR means, you guessed it, that he’d get us up to 53 wins. Compare him with the second best starter on the team, Ryan Dempster, who posted a 2.8 WAR.

What I found very odd, and it was the subject of much critizism in 2011, was the drastic decline in the usage of his fastball. A look at the graph below shows a massive replacement of the usage of the fastball with usage of the slider.

I’m not sure what the cause is, but is a massive change in game plan.

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Morning News: Holiday wish lists, Basketball returns, Winning with Tebow

Monday, November 28th, 2011

There are just 28 shopping days left until Christmas and, in an effort to be somewhat helpful to my loved ones who have a difficult time shopping for me, I spent a portion of the weekend perusing various online retailers and updating my wish list. One thing that caught my eye while checking out the wares on was the recently released “Ron Santo: Cubs Legend”, a CD produced by Pat Hughes featuring some of Ronnie’s “Greatest Hits” from his Cubs broadcasting career. Looks like a fun novelty stocking stuffer for any serious Cubs fan, but I can’t help but think that they missed the boat by not donating a portion of the proceeds to Ron’s beloved JDRF.

Speaking of Holiday Shopping:  The MLB Free Agent signing period is just starting to heat up and the Cubs have yet to make any big moves, which means rampant speculation and wishful thinking is still in order. With the front office and managerial openings filled, the focus has turned squarely to the players that will be on the field next season. What is the name at the top of the wish list that you’ll be sending off to Theo Claus this holiday season? Prince? Yu? C.J.? No one?

NBA Lockout Ends: In other sports news, this Thanksgiving weekend was joyous for us fans of the NBA as players and owners have come to a tentative agreement that will save a large portion of the season. As it currently stands, the season will start with a triple-header on Christmas Day. As excited as I am for basketball to return, I’m even happier for friends I have that work for NBA teams won’t have to spend the holiday season wondering about their futures.

The Zooker Goes Out with Class: As a lifelong Iowa football fan, you won’t see me shed too many any tears over the Illinois Fighting Illini historic collapse in Big 10 play this season (for those who don’t follow college football, Illinois was the first team ever to start 6-0 and finish the season 6-6). I have to commend former head coach Ron Zook though, who showed an amazing amount of dignity in getting fired yesterday. Trust me, if I walk in tomorrow and get told to pack up my things, I wouldn’t have such nice things to say. I don’t take away all the bad things I’ve said about Zook, but I feel a little bit worse about them now.

Yes, I’m Talking Tebow…: After three great NFL games on Thanksgiving, this weekend’s action seemed like an after thought. There were three QB-related story lines I was following today though:

  • Caleb Hanie – the almost hero of last year’s NFC Championship game looked like a guy that had only thrown 14 regular season passes entering the game. Though he had a couple nice throws late in the game to keep the Bears in it, his three interceptions killed him. And then there was that fake spike, fake pass, spike debacle on the final play…
  • Matt Leinert – for some reason, I found myself rooting for the former golden boy to put it together and make the most of his opportunity to replace the injured Matt Schaub in the middle of a playoff race. The lefty’s road to redemption came to an abrupt end in the second quarter with what is being described as a likely broken collarbone.
  • Tim Tebow – whether you like him or not (and I don’t), and whether you think he deserves the credit or not (and I don’t), the guy is 5-1 as a starter this season after taking over for a 1-4 team.
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Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Happy Sunday, all. Hopefully everyone has recovered from their food coma after a fruitful Thanksgiving feast. Despite eating way too much, I have thoroughly enjoyed a couple days off from my hectic life relaxing with my family for more than 24 hours. But all things must come to an end, and that is why I bring you another compilation of witty comments, in an attempt to ease the pain of what is looming ahead.

The Wizzies

  • Positive: He’s not Mike Quade. Negative: I still can’t pronounce his last name.
  • Anyone else catch the story about Z getting nailed in the grill by a ball in winter league? Stitches in his lip. One can only hope that Michael Barrett was the batter…revenge is best served cold.
  • MLS? Is that a disease?
  • Uh…comparing missing DLee….to missing Hee Seop I Can’t Hit an Inside Fastball? Really?
  • That’s the genius of the humor Dusty Baylor, tongue and cheek, foot in mouth, finger up nose. VFTB commandment 11- don’t take everything seriously.
  • Little known fact: Reagan’s home run call was “TEAR…DOWN…THIS…WALL! Its a rouuuuuuund tripper!”
  • I’m thankful that one of the first things Theo did was toast Quade.
  • I over ate these past couple of days Buddy, don’t make my food come back up with that Pena talk of yours.

Top Wizzie Contributors


Doc Raker-44



Seymour Butts-23

Doug S.-22




Eddie Von White-11

Dusty Baylor-11

Poll of the Week

What is the best offseason distraction?

a) Other sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc.)

b) Work

c) The holidays

d) Keeping up with baseball news

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Stats To Be Thankful For

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

by John Dewan

I’d like to wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!

In keeping with the theme of thankfulness, here are some numbers in the baseball world to which this sentiment applies.

21 – That is the number of consecutive years of labor peace that baseball is guaranteed with MLB and the MLBPA having agreed on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.  As contentious as baseball’s labor history has been, the general state of harmony that has existed since the last players’ strike ended in early 1995 represents the longest such stretch since the MLBPA was formed in 1953.  In that time the NHL has lost a full season, the NBA lost part of the 1998-1999 season and has already canceled games for this season, and the NFL went through an extended lockout this year before coming to an agreement just before the season started.  Life is good for baseball fans right now.

2,728 – That is the number of career wins for future Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa.  Tony goes out on top, having led the St. Louis Cardinals to an astonishing World Series victory after prevailing in an equally thrilling National League Wild Card race on the last day of the regular season.  That gives him three World Series titles to go along with six pennants.

160,000,000 – That is the total dollar value of Matt Kemp’s new contract extension to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It is great to see that one of the league’s premier franchises is beginning to move past the prolonged financial troubles and legal battles that have been hanging over the club.  Kemp and 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw are two of the bright young stars of the game, and this signing shows that the Dodgers may yet have a bright future ahead of them.

24 – That is the number of different teams, out of 30 total MLB franchises, that have reached the playoffs in the last 10 years dating back to 2002.  Furthermore, there have been eight different World Series champions in those 10 years.  While there may be some degree of luck involved in getting through the playoffs and winning the World Series, it is an impressive accomplishment to sustain success over the 162-game regular season to make the playoffs.  That level of parity is a reason that every fan should feel hopeful that their team could very easily become the next great contender.  Even Cubs fans have reason to hope!

Infinity – That’s the number of thank yous I’d like to give my staff for all their help in bringing you Stat of the Week.  My name is on this feature, but they do more than their share of the heavy lifting.  Thank you to Rob Burckhard, Charles Fiore, Ben Jedlovec, Amanda Modelski and Joe Rosales.  You guys do great work!

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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The New CBA: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Meh

Friday, November 25th, 2011

For many people, baseball falls off the map once the World Series ends.  Many sports fans turn their attention to the end of the professional and college football seasons,  and (usually) the beginning of basketball and hockey.  Considering most of you have actively decided to continue checking this site out into late November, odds are you know that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement this week.  But, considering how close the NFL came to having a work stoppage just this past summer and how the NBA likely is not going to have a season because they cannot come to a collective bargaining agreement, you cannot be blamed if the relative peace of baseball’s collective bargaining talks came and went without notice.

Despite that,the new CBA will have major impacts on nearly every phase of baseball.  I’ll review the good, the bad, the ugly and what I’m calling the “meh.”

The Good

There are some very good items in the new CBA aside from just preventing a work stoppage.  To start, the draft signing deadline is going to move up a month fromContract signing August15 to July 12-18 (the date within that range will vary every year dependent on the All Star Game.)  This allows teams to get their young draftees into their systems a month earlier, giving these players significant professional playing time the year they were drafted.  For example, Cubs’ 2011 top pick Javier Baez only had 18 plate appearances last season.  Under the new system, he would have likely had at least 100 more professional plate appearances last season.

Baseball also made significant strides on draft pick compensation for departing free agents, completely abandoning Type A and B status after this off-season.  Instead, the former club will receive a compensatory pick if they offered the player a contract that matches or exceeds the average salary of the top 125 players from the prior season.  My understanding is that amount is around $12.4 million right now.  This means that, unlike the prior system, teams will almost never receive free agent compensation for letting middle relievers leave.  It should focus the compensation on true star or near star quality players, which was the intent of the free agency compensation system in the first place.

Additionally, baseball is expanding instant replay to include fair/foul and trap calls.  To me, the further baseball goes to ensuring they might the right call, the better.  I care much more about getting things right than the “human element.”

The Bad

When I initially heard about what baseball is going to do with the amateur draft, I initially thought I might skip a “bad” category and go straight to “ugly.”  While the new CBA does not institute “hard slotting” (mandating the amount each player gets based upon draft slot), the tax system imposed by the draft is so draconian that it essentially amounts to hard slotting.

It works like this: the commissioner’s office will grant a team a certain amount of recommended slot money for all of its picks based upon on its draft position and the number of picks it has.  Any amount a team goes over that recommendation results in a 75% tax on that amount.  If a team goes over 5% of the total recommendation, and they start losing draft picks.  From 5-10% they lose their first round draft pick the next season, from 10-15% they lose a first and second round pick, and from 15-20% they lost their next two first round picks.

This makes the strategy of small market teams like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Kansas City illegal.  Those teams, who cannot afford to pay big name free agents, have instead decided to put money into the draft by picking players who are more difficult to sign in the lower rounds and paying them well over slot to skip or leave college.

Bonuses for players drafted after the 10th round are exempt from the total allocated by the commissioner’s office if they are under $100,000.  In last year’s draft, the Cubs picked outfielder Shawon Dunston, Jr., in the 11th round and right handed pitcher Dillon Maples in the 14th round, signing them for $1.275 million and $2.5 million respectively.  Under the current agreement, signing players like Dunston and Maples will be near impossible.

This likely will not do much to impact, say, top 10 talent.  Even with what is effectively a hard bonus slot in place, it is still fairly likely Bubba Starling would sign with the Royals for a few million dollars after being picked fifth in the draft due to increased slot values which I’ll describe more in the next paragraph.  But guys who are lower first and second round caliber picks who have the option of playing football or basketball in college will end up going to college over taking significantly lower bonuses than they currently can obtain.  Some of those individuals will never see a professional baseball field because they will choose to play football or basketball professionally instead.

But the only reason this ends up in the bad category instead of the ugly category is because the higher round slot recommendations are supposed to be significantly higher than they have been in recent seasons.  Without this, even many of the top high school talents may have gone to college and played other sports.  The increased slots should at least keep the top of the first round talents in the draft.  But it is likely a step back for baseball that will keep some very good athletes from professional baseball.

Also, while I generally like the changes to draft pick compensation for departing free agents as described above, one thing I do not like is that compensation is now limited to players who spent the entire previous season with one team.  I do not see how this particularly helps anyone.  Typically, players who are traded in the last year of their contract or last year of team control are moving from bad teams to teams with playoff aspirations.  I see the new CBA making trades for star quality players more difficult.  On the one hand, the new team probably will not want to offer as much in terms of prospects if they cannot receive draft pick compensation for the player they are trading for.  On the other hand, the original team will still demand a package of more value than the draft picks they can get for the player in free agent compensation.  I am curious to see if it is going to be more difficult for star players to move across teams mid-season in the future.

The Ugly

While baseball just messed up the amateur draft, they figuratively dropped their international amateur system off a skyscraper.  Previously, there were no limits on the amounts teams could spend on international amateurs.  In 2012, teams will be limited to $2.9 million in international spending.  In 2013 and 2014, teams will be limited to between $1.8 million and $5 million in international spending depending on their record the previous year.  The better you were, the worse you get.

Recall the problem I discussed with the draft just above, where some young American ballplayers will end up playing other sports instead of baseball?  This could be even more severe with great young international athletes who will find it very difficult to get multi-million dollar bonuses, and instead could turn to soccer.

It also is extremely disappointing that this is a handout to the teams who were too lazy to make an investment in international amateur systems.  Moreover, the way MLB is apportioning the amount teams can spend on international players does not make much sense to me.  For the most part, these international players are sixteen year old kids when they are signed and are not going to play in the big leagues for five or more years.  So, for example, if the Rays stay good for the next few seasons, they will have stringent international spending limits that will effect them in 2017 and beyond, when they will still likely be a lower budget team.  At that point they will have been punished for their success by having less access to the international amateur market, and still will not be able to afford big time Major League free agents.

The “Meh”

“Meh” is my word for things I really just don’t care about.  Things I could give or take.  Asparagus, for example.  I can eat it, but never think, “you know what I’d really like right now?  Asparagus!”  Baseball testing for HGH and their limited ban on tobacco products on the field are both “meh” for me.  Regarding HGH, there is limited information regarding the effectiveness of HGH as it compares to on the field performance, and the accuracy of HGH tests have been questioned.  Regarding tobacco, players can no longer carry tobacco cans on the field with them, but can still chew tobacco of the field.  They’re both PR moves that should have very little effect on the game itself, so I’m just left saying “meh” to them.

Overall, in my opinion this CBA is not as good as the one it is replacing.  But a less perfect system for baseball is, at the least, better than no baseball.  Just ask any basketball fan about that.

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