Archive for April, 2013

Game 17: Live and Die by the Feldman

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Ryan Braun (.289 WPA)

I have been recapping Sunday games for the better part of the last year or so, and it never ceases to amaze me the ways that this team can lose a game on the first day of the week. Then I remembered that no day is safe from the bad baseball that is the Chicago Cubs.

Errors once again ruled the day with Scott Feldman throwing an errant ball to first that would have ended the fifth inning without any damage. The next at-bat Ryan Braun hit a three-run jack to make it 4-2 and the rest is history.

How many games has this team lost this year that they should have won? I know “should have” is a subjective term depending on who you ask, but take away a few errors and a bad relief appearance and this team is hovering or above the .500 mark. Baseball is a cruel and unusual game.

Now I know taking away plays to prove reversed fortunes of the Cubs is not the most logical of defenses, but in a round-a-bout way I am getting to the point that the Cubs have been in more games than I thought they would be, this early in the season. Without looking at the schedule, I cannot remember a single game where the Cubs were getting the snot beaten out of them.

Starting pitching has been good if not great. Relief has had good days and bad days, but they could be a lot worse in terms of production. Timely hitting has not been there, but that was to be expected.

Overall, while the ever-growing loss total is frustrating from an interest stand-point, I am not so sure that there is not some part deep inside of me that is somewhat pleased with the way things are headed.

Pinch me now if I am being a hopeless optimist.

Still, it does not help the frustration that the Cubs once again lost a lead that they should not have. The Brewers only posted three hits and one earned run, on a ground-out by Alex Gonzalez in the fourth. No team should ever lose a game 4-2 while only surrendering three hits.

Until the Cubs eliminate their egregious mistakes in the field, these are the unfortunate results that we are stuck with.

One Huzzah

Feldman pitched effectively enough for victory.

Two Huzzahs

I could only watch the game on the MLB condensed feature.

Three Huzzahs

Anthony Rizzo remains hot. He makes me smile every time I look down on my phone and see A. Rizzo HR/S. Castro scores from ESPN. I drafted both players in fantasy knowing the Cubs have to score SOME runs. So far the strategy has worked.

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Game 16: Bevy of Errors Buries Cubs

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Hiram Burgos – .179 (WPA)

Soriano’s error. Alfonso was running almost straight in to corral a fly ball that he awkwardly lunged for as it glanced off his glove. Plays like this happen a few times each year when you employ a fielder of Soriano’s caliber.

Castro’s error. I’m probably the only one, but I am actually pleased with the type of errors that Castro has been committing this year. He hasn’t been out of position, absent-minded, or even mechanically lazy. But his errors this year are consistently coming at the worst times. Saturday’s was no different, after Soriano’s blunder, a walk and two groundouts (the second of which gave the Brewers the lead) – Castro fielded a slow groundball but couldn’t transfer it out of his glove. He never made a throw, another run scored.

Beyond Hideous
Jackson’s error. Chris Bosio visited the mound along with the entire infield after Ryan Braun’s leadoff single in the 6th. With a runner on first, the pitcher checks with his middle infielders to see who will be covering the bag on a comebacker. No replay showed Jackson making that clear with Barney and/or Castro; so it might’ve happened during this meeting on the mound. After striking out Rickie Weeks, Jackson got that comebacker – he turned toward second ready to start the inning-ending double play…double pumped, and chucked it into CF well over Barney’s head. By a lot.

Not Good Enough For This
Yesterday it was a 3-run bomb in the first, today it was 4 free and needless runs GIFTED to the Brewers. This team isn’t nearly as bad as they’ve looked – but they also aren’t good enough to keep overcoming big, early deficits, extra outs, or unearned runs. Any one of those errors wouldn’t have been so bad – but combined, it gave the Brewers a huge lead they didn’t earn. I’d say that our starting pitchers deserve better, but I just watched Jackson chuck the ball to DeJesus again.

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Stat of the Week: Shifting Into High Gear

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

by John Dewan

Baseball Info Solutions has been tracking shifts comprehensively since 2010, and teams have shifted more and more over the last few seasons. From 2010-11, teams averaged less than one shift on a ball in play per game. In 2012, that number jumped to 1.9 shifts per team per game, and so far this season, it has increased again to 2.4 shifts per team per game.

In particular, there are a handful of teams that have shown a marked increase in team shifts on balls in play this season. Keep in mind that the 2012 column includes data for a full season while the 2013 column includes between 13 and 15 games. If these teams continue at their pace, they will fly way past their total shifts from last season. See 2013 Pace column.

Team Shifts by Season




2013 Pace

















Red Sox




The Astros, Cubs, and Red Sox have compelling narrative regarding their new shift-heavy tendencies. Both the Astros and Cubs feature newly installed front offices that are heavily emphasizing analytics. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have replaced manager Bobby Valentine with John Farrell, who shifted more often in 2012 with the Blue Jays than any team except the Rays. The reason for the increase for the Pirates and Reds are less obvious, but it may be as simple as the fact that shifts have proven to be effective. Here at Baseball Info Solutions we have been suggesting to our major league team clients that they shift more frequently since 2005, and we publicly went on record with this recommendation in The Fielding Bible—Volume II in 2008.

It is still too early to draw definitive conclusions about Shifts Runs Saved based on 2013 shift data. However, analytics from Baseball Info Solutions show that teams combined to save 75 runs last season by shifting.

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

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Game 15 – I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Jim Henderson (.176 WPA)

The title of the post comes from the 1988 World Series call by Jack Buck as Kirk Gibson comes off the bench in a pinch hitting role late in the game hobbled and barely able to walk and hits a game winning home run to give the Dodgers game one of the series. What Buck witnessed that night was a historic baseball moment. It was a feel good moment, the type that gets put in the archives to be used on a host of greatest baseball moment reels. What we saw on Friday night, however, is just a little different. We’ll get to that in a little bit, but first, let’s talk about the game as a whole.

I said in yesterday’s series preview that I felt we’d win this series, but that both wins would come in games two and three. After the first inning, it was looking pretty clear that at least the loss in game one was all but locked up. I tweeted out “Not even done with the 1st inning and I already want to turn the #Cubs game off.” That was how I felt, but for some reason I decided to stay. Something told me that maybe the Cubs could chip away, and that’s what they did.

Jeff Samardzija’s outing is a hard. It was essentially a middle of the road game in the box score, but I came away feeling better about it than the 50 game score shows. When you look back at the first inning, which is where most of the damage was done by the Brewers, what you find is that a part from the Ryan Braun home run on a fat pitch up in the zone, Samardzija really didn’t get beat by hard hit balls. Anthony Rizzo made an error on the first play he saw to put Norichika Aoki, on base and Jean Segura, who if you didn’t know his name before the game you know it know, came up right after with a bloop hit that was possibly catchable on the run by Darwin Barney. Both hits were weak and potential outs. Instead of two outs and no one on base. Samardzija had to fave Braun with no outs and runners on first and third. That’s a big difference in run expectancy between the two scenarios. If the Cubs get those two outs, or even if they get one of the two, the outcome of this game may have been different. At the end of the day, the runs will go against Samardzija, but if you missed the game, his inning wasn’t as bad as it looks. From that inning on, he was really good, only allowing one run in the last six innings.

Offensively, the encouraging thing of the night was the fact that, down four runs early, the team battled back, and did it almost immediately. Home runs by Luis Valbuena and David DeJesus in the early innings brought the score to 4-3 and it felt like the momentum has changed to the Cubs. The graph above doesn’t reflect a change enough to give the Cubs the probability to win, but you can see things starting in the right direction shortly after the Braun home run. Rizzo would add a bomb shot to right field late in the game, but in the end, home runs were the only things this offense could muster, which was just a little frustrating when you factor in that in seven of the nine innings, the Cubs saw their leadoff man reach base. To come away with runs only on the home run in that situation is unacceptable.

This year it also seems like we can’t have a recap without some note on the bullpen, and Friday’s game was no exception. The game marked the return of Kevin Gregg to the pen. To be honest, I had forgotten how little faith I had in him to get someone out. When I saw we had signed him, I was surprised not because I didn’t trust him, but because I thought he was too old. One look at him on the mound and it all came back. Flashbacks of blown saves flashed before my eyes. Gregg would walk a batter and give up a hit before being removed by Svuem in favor of Shawn Camp, who would come in and get three outs on five pitches without having a ball be put in play. Take a minute and re-read that sentence and soak it in. Now I’ll explain the title of the post.

For those who didn’t see the play, let me set the scenario up for you. With no outs, Segura would reach first on an infield single and promptly steal second. Braun walked and we got a pitching change. Here is where the craziness happens. Jesse Rodgers describes the scene perfectly “As Camp got ready to pitch to Rickie Weeks, Segura got caught off second base. Camp threw to third baseman Valbuena who ran Segura back to second where Braun had advanced during the run down. Both players were standing on second base.

Valbuena tagged them both and Segura assumed he was out and started running towards the Brewers dugout which is behind first base. But second base umpire Phil Cuzzi correctly called the “following runner” out in Braun. As the “preceding runner” Segura was not out unless tagged off the bag. Cubs second baseman Barney grabbed the ball and started chasing Segura who quickly realized he was still “alive” and just went back to first base.”

Weeks would then strike out and to end the inning, in perhaps the most fitting scenario, Segura would then attempt to steal second for the second time in the inning and would be thrown out by Wellington Castillo, who has a cannon for an arm. It was an odd play, but apparantly an even more odd play happened early 20th century.

Here is what I found

This one’s going to take some ‘splainin. Until 1920, Major League Baseball had a rule that made it legal to steal bases in reverse order. If you were on second and wanted to go back to first, you could steal it. Which can, in some convoluted ways, make strategic sense.

During the September 4th, 1908, game between the Tigers and Cleveland Indians, Schaefer was on first and a teammate was on third. The Tigers wanted to do a double steal — Schaefer would break for second, and, when the Indians tried to throw him out, his teammate would steal home. But when Schaefer broke for second, the Indians’ catcher didn’t make the throw, so Schaefer stole the base without the run scoring.

That wasn’t the plan so, on the next pitch, he broke back for first… and successfully stole it without a throw. Then, on the next pitch, he broke for second AGAIN, to try to make the double steal work… but again, the Indians didn’t throw.

That makes him the only player in MLB history to steal the same base twice in one inning. (And one of only two players to ever steal first base from second.)

Random Notes

  • Aoki, the Brewers leadoff man, is quickly turning into one of my least liked players. Every time I look up, that guy is reaching base in some way. Tonight was no exception.
  • Marco Estrada has a really odd motion when pitching out of the windup. It’s like he’s doing squats and looks rather uncomfortable. Squats are my least favorite exercise at the gym and this guy is willingly doing them before each pitch.
  • Sveum’s ejection was horse &%?$&. It was way to quick and the home plate umpire had no business taking his mask off to confront Samardzija on a borderline pitch. Let the guy show some frustration before you, as an umpire, make yourself the story.
  • The Cubs made a roster move before the game, claiming Julio Borbon off waivers from the Rangers. Borbon made it to the game and promptly was caught stealing to end the game after being inserted as a pinch runner in the 9th. The curious part about the move is how unbalanced it makes the roster. Alberto Gonzalez was designated for assignment before the game to make room for Borbon on the 40 man roster. The move means the Cubs are now carrying six outfielders, none of which play the infield, and just one backup infielder. Its irresponsible in my opinion and needs to be corrected. Dave Sappelt must be optioned to AAA to give him a chance to fix his case of suck, and be replaced by Logan Watkins, unless the Cubs feel like Ian Stewart is very close to a return and will wait it out till then.
  • I made a quick appearance before the game on ESPN radio. You can listen to it here. As always, I’d love feedback.

Grading the Umpire

I started this a few games ago on games I recap. We take a look at the correct call rate of the home plate umpire on pitches that were not swung at by the batter. It’s a look at the calls the umpire actually has to judge, to see how effective he was at doing his job and what kind of zone he established. Tonight’s subject is Chris Guccioni

Guccione’s History

A CC% of 86.7% since 2009 places Guccione at the bottom of the upper half of umpires and just a hair above league average.

Tonight’s Game

Overall, he had a really night night, with an 89% correct call rate on pitches that were takes. Looking at the two graphs below, we see two things. 1) The low and outside pitch to lefties was a tough one for the hitter, with Guccione calling some of those strikes.

2) His correct call rate was OK, but he had a semi-hard time with the corners

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Brewers Series Preview

Friday, April 19th, 2013

I was almost right on the money last series with my predictions and might have been completely right had the rain not wiped Wednesday’s game out. Let’s take a look at the pitching matchups for this series with the alcoholics from the north.

Friday – 8:10pm EDT – Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75 ERA) vs Marco Estrada (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

Samardzija is looking for his first win since Opening Day. He ranks among the NL leaders in strikeouts with 27. He wasn’t sharp in his last start against the Giants, who collected seven hits over six innings. Estrada turned in his second successive quality start in Sunday’s 4-3, 10-inning win at St. Louis. He allowed seven hits and three runs over six innings. He has 21 strikeouts and two walks in three starts so far this season.

Saturday – 7:10pm EDT – Edwin Jackson (0-2, 6.06 ERA) vs Hiram Burgos (0-0, -.– ERA)

Jackson is looking for his first win with the Cubs after three starts. In his last outing against the Giants, he gave up five runs over 5 1/3 innings. Jackson has yet to post a quality start. So far, left-handers are batting .333 against him. The Brewers need a fifth starter for the first time since April 6 and their choice was Burgos, the team’s reigning Minor League Pitcher of the year. He will make his Major League debut.

Sunday – 2:10pm EDT – Scott Feldman (0-2, 6.00 ERA) vs Wily Peralta (0-1, 6.19 ERA)

The Cubs took advantage of Monday’s off-day to give Feldman an extra day. He’s had some tightness in his back. His pitch count knocked him out of his last game, as he threw 92 pitches over 4 1/3 innings vs. the Giants. The Brewers gave Peralta a 9-3 lead in the third inning Tuesday, and he wasn’t able to pitch through the fifth. His ratio of eight walks to 10 strikeouts is an issue the team will try to iron out.

Joe’s Fearless Predictions

I’m struggling with where to go with this one. On one hand, I’m encouraged with how we looked in the Rangers series. I feel like had game two not been rained out, that we could have taken that series. At the same time, I worry because teams I cheer for always seem to fall into the category of being that team that plays down to competition. We’ve seen it with the Bulls this year and it’s frustrating. I don’t consider the Brewers to be in the same league as the Rangers, so on the surface this series should be winnable. Estrada was really good in his outing against us, so that’s a hard one. Beyond that, we have a guy making his first start and another who has struggled. Why can’t we win this series? I’m going on record and predicting a 2-1 series win, with wins coming in games two and three, but I don’t feel good about it.

News & Notes

  • By the end of this trip, the Cubs, barring rainouts in Cincinnati, will have started their season with 14 of their first 26 games on the road.
  • After starting the season by taking two-of-three in Pittsburgh, April 1-4, Chicago is 3-8 in its last 11 games … the Cubs have held a lead in four of their nine setbacks this season.
  • The Cubs and their opponents have battled the elements through Chicago’s first 14 games of the season … four games have begun with temperatures in the 30s and nine of the 14 games have started with a temperature of 45 degrees or below.
  • Cubs starting pitchers have recorded a 3.15 ERA (30 ER/85.2 IP) in the club’s first 14 games, the fourth-lowest ERA in the National League … through the team’s first 14 games last season
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