Archive for August, 2013

Defensively Speaking: Let’s Talk Defense

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

The Cubs’ pitching staff gets a lot of attention for pitching very well under pitching coach Chris Bosio; however, it’s been highly overlooked that defensively this team has been very good. One reason for this is the Cubs have (or had) a number of good defensive players but another reason is Dale Sveum’s defensive alignments. This is Sveum’s greatest strength by a wide margin, yet it’s something hard to notice without someone pointing it out to you. Sveum’s defensive alignments have not only improved the overall defense, but the pitching staff is the main benefactor of these shifts with nearly every starting pitcher seeing some of the best numbers in their career (minus the hit machine Edwin Jackson).

Looking at the defensive metrics you can see just how good the Cubs have been. The table should be pretty self explanatory, green is good, red is bad, darker is more extreme one way or the other and finally blue is average.

Quick Glossary:

UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating. Advanced Metric that uses play-by-play data to estimate each fielder’s defensive contribution. Zero is average. The higher you are, the better. (via Baseball Info Solutions, can be found on FanGraphs)

TZR– Total Zone Rating. The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made with zero being set as average. (via, can be found on baseball-reference)

DRS – Defensive Runs Saved. The number of runs above or below average the player was worth on the number of plays made with zero being set as average. (also Baseball Info Solutions, can be found on baseball-reference)

As you can see there’s some discrepancy depending on which stat you choose but that’s why it’s best to look at all of the information before making a conclusion. The Cubs have had 4 players clearly above average in Castillo, Rizzo, Barney, & Valbuena making up the majority of a very good infield. They’ve had a solid outfield with DeJesus, Soriano and Schierholtz taking the majority of the playing time. Ransom’s advanced metrics are solid, but the traditional counting stats are bad. Lake has struggled with his shift to the outfield, but that was a given considering he only played a handful of games in the outfield prior to his call up. That leaves Starlin Castro, who has been horrible both offensively and defensively almost all year. The one bright spot in Castro’s defense has been the lower error numbers. Only 15 on the year, a discernible improvement over previous years. Obviously, mental mistakes like the sac fly recently that got him benched don’t result in errors so that number is skewed a bit for all players, not just him.

Overall though, the Cubs are pretty good defensively and they have obviously been great with starting pitching, except Edwin Jackson who did have an exceptional month of July. With strong starting pitching and good defense the Cubs have had many close games. With the terrible offense, spurred by Castro’s struggles, Rizzo not taking a step forward, and injuries, the team has the potential for a quick turnaround next year if they can get the bullpen in order and some offensive improvement. The Cubs are the Cubs but everything points to next year being the first year under this regime that we’re competitive.

  • We saw the frustrating side of Jake Arrieta last night. Lacked command, gave up a lot of big hits, and was on the hook for the loss after surrendering 6 runs in only 4 IP with 4 BB, 5 hits and tallying 5 strikeouts.
  • The Cubs had a huge 5 run rally in the bottom of the 5th inning aided by a 2-run homer by Rizzo (his second of the night) and 4 straight singles by Schierholtz, Murphy, Bogusevic, and Gillespie; finally capped off by a Castillo sac fly.
  • Russell blew it in the 7th after giving up a near homer to Harper, an IBB, then Scott Hairston went deep. Shouldn’t of been in there vs all that RH hitting.

  • Ichiro got his 4,000th hit of his professional baseball career.
  • Jason Heyward got hit by a pitch in the face and had his jaw broken.  He’s going to miss all of the regular season and potentially the playoffs. Not much you can do as a hitter in that situation, but doesn’t it seem injures always find Heyward? This puts the Dodgers in the driver’s seat for the NL.
  • The MLB found no violation from Miguel Tejada in relations to their Biogenesis investigation, even though Tejada was linked to the company.  Tejada was suspended 105 games last week because he tested positive for amphetamine use. According to Tejada and the players’ union, he had a therapeutic use exemption that expired and while seeking an extension, he tested positive.
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Does Team “Chemistry” Really Matter?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

I’ve been thinking about this issue quite a bit lately. “Chemistry” is a word that one usually hears thrown around by fans of struggling teams. It seems, to me, like a convenient factor to point to when looking for reasons to blame for failures. What do we really know about “chemistry” as it relates to professional baseball?

Here’s a quote from Joe Torre, as quoted by Jim Caple “Winning creates chemistry more than the other way around. I’ve seen clubs that don’t necessarily like each other, but they respected each other once they got on the field, and that’s more important than being happy to go out to dinner with each other.” (Source) Ozzie Guillen (I know, I’m referencing Ozzie) said that chemistry follows winning, and clubhouse strife follows losing, not the other way around.

Caple, in the same article, references the 2002 National League Champion Giants – the team of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent (who were never accused of being great team guys). Caple quotes Jason Schmidt, who played for the Giants that season, and he provided a few gems:

“I’ve been on teams where there was one guy — and it wasn’t Barry — who made everyone miserable. But you’re not thinking about that when you’re on the field. Not at all. It’s a nonissue. I don’t really see how it affects the team’s play. Will you throw 95 instead of 90 because you’re happier in the clubhouse? Will you throw strikes?”

Since I’m writing this article, I guess I’ll give you my personal opinion. Most of us are not professional athletes, but most of us are a professionals of some sort that work as part of a “team” (however you want to define it), and we all know, anecdotally, that one’s work environment can affect your job performance and morale. So, I think there is probably something to “chemistry,” even if it can’t be quantified – but the question is, how much does it actually affect the bottom line of wins and losses? Moreover, is there any evidence, beyond our own personal anecdotes (which can’t be generalized to other situations, especially situations as unique as a pro baseball clubhouse), that “chemistry” makes any real difference in the end?

It seems that whatever bad “mojo” Bonds and Kent brought to the 2002 Giants was far outweighed by their production on the field (Schmidt’s quote indicates that he agrees). So, as much as we romanticize the idea of “chemistry” – and as much as it makes intuitive sense to us – I don’t think the evidence is there for us to focus upon it as the main reason for any team’s struggles or success. If a team were better on the field, they’d probably have better chemistry, and that’s probably the most important interaction between the two concepts.

I think a better approach would be to be more precise in our language. In my day job, I do quantitative and qualitative research, so I’m not just a numbers geek – numbers can tell us what is happening, but not always why. Since we’re dealing with human beings, there really are factors at play that help determine why we’re seeing a particular quantitative result, and it can differ greatly from person to person (morale, motivation, comfort-level, etc.. are all legitimate concerns). Guessing blindly about the interpersonal factors that are affecting a player without evidence seems counterproductive, though.

One of the most important things for digging beneath the surface of numbers to examine qualitative factors is to define terms clearly and precisely. The term “chemistry” is just ill-defined. What does it mean? It’s impossible to determine the effect of something when we don’t have a precise definition of it in the first place. For me, “chemistry” is right up there with TWTW (Hawk Harrelson’s “The Will to Win”), “bellyfire” and “grit.” It’s the old-school “gut feeling” approach to analysis that doesn’t really get us anywhere, but it can make us sound like we vaguely know what we’re talking about. I think we’d be better served to be more precise: what is actually happening, and what are the exact factors that may be contributing to a team’s (or an individual’s) performance? Even if we are just guessing, I think we’ll advance the conversation – and gain more insight – if we stick to precise, knowable concepts. I could go on – and I’ll probably return to this topic in the future – but you don’t want to spend an hour reading this post (thank you if you’ve stuck with me this far).

Aside: Speaking of research, here’s a terrible example. I came across a Psychology Today article attempting to determine the effect of “chemistry” on team performance. One of the factors they examined was how much a good manager could mitigate bad team chemistry. As a measure of manager effectiveness, they defined good managers as those that had won or had been named a finalist for the Manager of the Year award. Well, you can probably see the problem here: MOY winners and finalists are always from good teams! Of course bad chemistry wasn’t hurting those teams. Ugh, bad research, it makes me angry. Anyway, they used the Uptons as a test case (it was written before this season). Following their premise (that the Uptons are bad chemistry guys), chemistry doesn’t matter at all, since the Braves are crushing.

Do we really want to relive this game? The Cubs offense returned to their usual form, with the only runs coming off solo shots from Brian Bogusevic and Donnie “Babe Ruth” Murphy. The game was actually close until the ninth, when the Nationals put up two runs to make the game all but out of reach. Chris Rusin was banged around a lot, although he only gave up two runs in 5.2 innings. On the other side, almost-Cub Dan Haren pitched really well for D.C.. I think we’re going to see a ton of games like this one from here on out. Bring on the race for a better draft pick.

Follow Sean Powell on Twitter @powell_sean

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Interview With Jim Callis of Baseball America

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Jim Callis is the Executive Editor at Baseball America and you can follow him on twitter @JimCallisBA. In my opinion, he’s one of the most knowledgeable and more approachable guys in the industry and I am grateful he keeps giving me the opportunity to question him on all things related to the Cubs.

Q: Who are the top 5 Cubs prospects and in what order do you rank them? Which Cubs prospects are in the mix for next year’s top 100?

Callis: The top four prospects are pretty clear to me, though the order is debatable. I’d line them up like this: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler. At the time of the Matt Garza trade, I was willing to give Mike Olt a mulligan and put him at No. 5, but he has slumped even worse since the deal. Other candidates would be Dan Vogelbach, Arismendy Alcantara, Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards. I’ll go with Johnson.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the Cubs potentially being a top 3 system going into next year. I believe you had the Cubs ranked 12th going into the season, where would you have the system ranked now after their recent acquisitions?

Callis: Hard to say exactly, because we don’t rank all the systems until we break them all down for the Prospect Handbook. The Cubs are definitely on the upswing for a variety of reasons: a number of players have stepped forward; they’ve acquired more prospects via trades without graduating anyone significant to the majors; they’ve had a strong summer on the draft and international fronts. I think they definitely rank in the upper quartile of systems and could see them in the top three.

Q: The front office decided they loved the international talent in this year’s market and didn’t let the new CBA rules stop them from signing everyone they wanted. They exceeded their pool to the amount that they will receive the maximum punishment of a 100% tax and no signings over 250K in next year’s International free agent market. What do you think of that strategy and the talent they acquired? These guys are so far off, do they even sniff BA’s preseason top 31 Cubs prospects?

Callis: I just wrote a column on this for the latest edition of our magazine. The strategy makes sense to me because the Cubs liked this year’s pool better than next year’s and essentially got two years’ worth of talent up front this year. The penalties aren’t as tough as they would be for draft overspending–the Cubs can’t sign anyone for more than $250,000 next year but they’ll still have their entire draft pool and can trade their slots they can’t really use, which will have value. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez and shortstop Gleyber Torres were our top two prospects in our July 2 ratings, so I bet they both make the Top 30 in the Handbook.

Q: For good and bad, which Cubs prospects have surprised you the most this year?

Callis: We had Arismendy Alcantara ranked pretty high (No. 10) on our preseason list, so I won’t say that his year has been much of a surprise. Christian Villanueva has taken a step forward with his power, which is a positive development. Rock Shoulders has had a nice little breakout, Shawon Dunston Jr. has taken some positive steps. Kyle Hendricks and Erik Jokisch continue to prove themselves at every level they go to. On the downside, I thought Brett Jackson might turn things around this year and he hasn’t. Tim Saunders’ strong 2012 debut looks more like a mirage now. And Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t been able to get back on the mound yet.

Q: I think most fans have unrealistic expectations for prospects. I completed a study last year on the success rates of first round picks from 1990-2007 and there’s other studies out there using similar methods with Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings in previous years and the results are not good. What kind of percentage do you think the Cubs top prospects have at being at least an everyday player, and also, what percentage would you put on them reaching their ceiling? (specifically the ones you feel will be in the top 100)

Callis: I do think there’s a lot of truth in that first statement–prospects miss a lot more than fans realize. I think the good news, though, with the Cubs’ top guys (Bryant, Baez, Almora, Soler) is that they are rated so highly (upper third of the Top 100, at least) and were drafted so highly (the three draftees all were top-nine picks) that their success rate should be a lot higher than everyone in an entire Top 100 or an entire first round. I don’t see anything right now that makes me think they all won’t be good everyday players. But to inject a little realism, one of them probably will fall by the wayside.

Q: There’s 2 names I feel obliged to ask about, Matt Szczur and Junior Lake. Szczur’s putting up another solid season this year at AA, and Lake hit the ground running with the big league team after posting the best numbers of his minor league career at Iowa. You tempered your Szczur expectations a bit last year and Lake you believed was the perennial tease who was not going to be an everyday regular- has your opinion changed on them any this season? What kind of future should fans expect from these guys?

Callis: I haven’t changed my opinion much on those guys. I still like Szczur more than most but I still think he’s more of a second-division regular or, on a contender, a fourth outfielder. Especially on the Cubs, I don’t see how he cracks a projected outfield of Almora in center and Bryant and Soler on the corners. Lake is off to a nice start in the majors but he’s also hitting .400 on balls in play and has a 28-5 K-BB ratio. I see him as more of a tools than skills guy, and there’s also no place for him in Chicago’s future outfield. His best position might be third base, but the Cubs are loaded there. I think the best case for the Cubs is that Lake plays well enough to where they could deal him for a pitcher.

Q: I recently wrote an in-depth scouting report on Baez; his contact problems and plate approach are very worrisome for me and I have him ranked 4th behind Soler, Bryant, and Almora because of that. I think he’s either going to figure it out and be a superstar or be a huge bust with no chance of anything in the middle. However, he’s turned it around rather quickly at AA, as he did at Daytona earlier this season. How do you feel about him? Can he succeed at the majors with his ultra aggressive approach that has worked thus far or will something have to give if he is going to become a major leaguer?

Callis: The lack of plate discipline is a concern, but I’d look at him as more unique than worrisome. Yes, he swings at everything and strikes out, but he’s also 20 and has hit 31 homers this year and done just fine in Double-A. His walk rate is actually improving as he moves up. He has yet to get to a level where pitchers have stopped challenging him, and he makes such hard contact when he connects that I think he can have a higher BAPIP than most. Right now, he looks to me like a .270 hitter with 30-plus homers in the majors who might be able to play shortstop. I’d have a hard time ranking him behind anyone besides Bryant in the system.

Q: Which prospect has the highest power potential out of Baez, Bryant, Soler, Olt, & Vogelbach and which is most likely to reach it?

Callis: I like Olt’s power but I don’t think he belongs in the same group as the others. The other four all have elite power potential. All of those guys have 40-homer upside. I think Baez and Bryant are the most likely to get to that point.

Q: The Cubs are still pretty weak in the pitching department but there are some interesting names and potential rotation pieces in the farm. What order would you put these pitchers in – Pierce Johnson, CJ Edwards, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Kyle Hendricks, Arodys Vizcaino, & Barret Loux – and what kind of potential do they have? Are there any other pitchers in the system that you’re high on?

Callis: Johnson, Edwards, Vizcaino (if he’s healthy, a huge if), Paniagua, Hendricks, Loux. Pitching is the Cubs’ biggest need right now, and they need a lot more in their system. I do like some of the guys they’ve drafted the last couple of years, such as Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Trey Masek and Tyler Skulina.

Q: The organization is very strong on the left side of the infield. What position do you think the following players will end up at and what kind of defensive ability will they have there?


* Starlin Castro – I think he’s far from their best option at shortstop, but he’s already established there and I don’t see him moving. To me, he’s a 45 defender on the 20-80 scouting scale.

* Javier Baez – Think he could be a 50 defender at shortstop but will wind up as a 55-60 defender at third base.

* Arismendy Alcantara – Erratic at shortstop so he’s probably a 45 in the long run there, see him as a 50-55 at second base.

* Kris Bryant – Think he could be a 50 defender at third base but if Baez goes there, Bryant becomes a 50-55 corner outfielder.

* Mike Olt – Can be a 60 defender at third base but hard to see where he fits in Chicago’s lineup of the future right now.

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Embarrassing: Umpires, Manager, Shortstop

Monday, August 19th, 2013

If you missed the Cubs this weekend, you certainly missed controversy.

This actually happened.

Joe Torre (in charge of Major League Operations, On-Field Operations, On-Field Discipline and Umpiring) needs to act. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi doesn’t need to be making that call; and if he does and the entire Cubs bench looks surprised and angry, would it really kill him to ask for help? It’s this behavior from officials that EVERY other major professional sport has successfully gotten under control. In basketball, football, and hockey you see officials huddle together when one of them has clearly butchered a call. But baseball is more like tennis – some crotchety old guy tyrannically interpreting the rules through his own faulty vision, insistent that he couldn’t possibly need help. If Cuzzi had bothered to consult Chris Guccione at first base, I’m still not sure they’d have gotten it right – that’s how bad umpires are these days, protecting one another until the bitter end. Not until the league starts making examples out of these guys (and I mean firing the worst of them – Angel Hernandez!) will any of them bother to change their ways. Just look at this list – you should only know a couple of those guys by name…instead I know at least a dozen of those guys simply because of an ignominious decision they’ve made at a crucial time. And many of them – like Cuzzi’s ridiculous call on Sunday – could’ve been avoided if umpires were just a little less ‘it’s us against the world’ all the time.

Because of Cuzzi’s absurd punchout, both Dale Sveum and James Russell were ejected on Sunday. I really wish more of the team had forced an ejection – Baseball Tonight will give a few minutes to the bad call, but the Cubs could’ve really put some momentum behind the umpire-hating if they’d gotten ejected en masse. Dale looked intent to get tossed though; but he was probably still sour from Saturday…

When this happened.

If you haven’t yet heard the commentary that accompanies the video that I linked to, you need to watch that. I think it’s the best explanation of exactly what happened on that play – again, terrible umpiring (in my opinion anyway, admittedly this is debatable). You don’t call the infield fly rule as the ball is falling into Castro’s glove in LF. As the announcer says in that piece, the ENTIRE Cubs team relaxed when Castro caught the ball because generally you don’t have to worry about advancing players on an infield fly. Embarrassing play, no excuse to let the guy score but can we please stop pretending as if this dramatically altered the course of the game? The Cubs didn’t score in this game. AT ALL.

You know what will affect winning? Regularly embarrassing your young talent at every chance. No idea what Dale thought he was accomplishing by yanking Castro from the game at the end of that half inning. It solves nothing, it teaches nothing. All it does it put the conversation right back on Castro’s shortcomings (perceived or otherwise); not usually a great tactic for inspiring and encouraging one of your best assets. This was not an Andruw Jones refusal to run hard to a catchable fly ball. And Castro’s response (as it has been EVERY single time something like this happens) was perfect; he takes full responsible, never says anything that sounds like a partial excuse. I thought pulling him from the game was a cowardly move. Exactly when has Dale stood up for Castro? He seems quite happy to throw him to the wolves whenever possible.

I’m of the opinion that a fair amount of Cubs fans just need a team pariah. And in the absence of someone who blossoms into the role like Sammy Sosa, someone who earns it right out of the gate like Milton Bradley, or someone who did a bit of both like Carlos Zambrano, Castro has ‘earned’ the role because basically he rubs people the wrong way. He swings at bad pitches, he has bad posture, he makes a mess of the routine. And for all of this, the 23-year-old is called lazy, disinterested, and a whole lot worse with regularity. Never mind that he has yet to make any excuse for one of these shortcomings, in fact he owns up to it so quickly, I think the media enjoys heaping it on him as quickly as possible (much like they did to Zambrano at times). I’d be curious to know how it’s all perceived by Soler, Almora, Baez, Bryant and the rest of the Cubs’ prospects…because personally, I don’t think there’s a place in baseball where the fans are setup for more unrealistic expectations of the future. I’d love to see Cub fans stop eating their young.

Ryan Dempster beaned A-Rod…who then propelled the Yankees to a come-from-behind win against the Red Sox.

Miguel Tejada says he was banned because MLB won’t give him a medical waiver for a doctor prescribed pill that he needs to take. (This is where Bud Selig tries to explain how Ryan Braun gets to negotiate the terms of his suspension, but Tejada can’t take something that a doctor says he needs…of course this would all shake out the same way if Selig had never owned the Brewers)

I’d be thrilled if I thought this kid would do any hard time…but he won’t.

State of the System


by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Tony Zych

Bio: Zych attended St Rita High school in Chicago Illinois, he then attended the University of Louisville to continue on his baseball career. Finally the Cubs drafted Zych in the 4th round of the 2011 draft after trying to draft him in 2008 in the 46th round. Zych was finally coming home to Chicago to start his professional career with his hometown Cubbies. He measures at 6 foot 3 and 190 pounds according to In his first year in the Cubs organization, he split time with the Rookie League and the Boise Hawks. Zych’s numbers ended up being a 2.25 earned run average in four games pitched (three games finished) over his span with both clubs. He also registered an eight strikeout to three walk ratio in his first season in the Cubs organization.

2012-2013 Season: After showing success in the rookie league as well as Boise in the short season league the Cubs decided to move Zych to the High A Affiliate Daytona Cubs. Zych pitched in 27 games (24 Games Finished) over his Daytona tenure where he had an earned run average of 3.19 with 36 strikeouts in 36 and 2/3 innings. After registering similar success in the Florida St. League, Zych got the call-up to the Double A Affiliate the Tennessee Smokies. Zych’s number’s at the Double A level were not as encouraging as Daytona as he struggled to a 4.38 earned run average in 20 games. He did however register 28 strikeouts in 24 innings which was good for a better than one strikeout per innings. The 2013 season is where Zych finally broke out, Zych has pitched in 41 games (14 games finished) where his earned run average is below three (2.52 to be exact). He has pitched 50 innings which shows he has been a durable reliever for Double A Tennessee. Most likely Zych will finish out the year with the Smokies and hopefully get some playoff appearance with them and start next season with Triple A Iowa.

Sleeper Prospect- Trey Masek

Masek attended Texas Tech University where he started to make a name for himself with continuance of dominance against Big 12 opponents. This past June Masek was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the 2013 amateur draft. Masek measures at 6 foot 1 and 185 pounds which is pretty close to the prototypical pitcher in today’s game. So far Masek has pitched in two different leagues for the Cubs this summer. He first went to Arizona to shake off some of the rest which the draft period attributes to. Masek’s stats with the Boise Hawks consist of 1.20 earned run average in 9 games where he struck out 18 in 15 innings pitched.

Masek was drafted as a starting pitcher but most likely will end up as a relief pitcher in the near future. With his work ethic and high baseball IQ i see no reason for failure at the big league level. Over time I can see Masek and Zych becoming the closers of the future for the Chicago Cubs. Masek will start next season at either Kane County (Low A) or Daytona Cubs (High A) depending on member involvement. In my mind Masek, has the potential to be very dominant in the pen, maybe not so much Miguel Cabrera but a decent OPS and slugging percentage never hurt a player.

by Joe Aiello

I decided to add this section to the morning posts because it’s important to give you, the reader, as much time away from work as possible during the day and the way to accomplish that is to not only make the posts longer, but to get them more interactive by starting a discussion. So with that, let’s get right to it with a topic that is sure to apply to both stat guys and scout guys.

When evaluating players, there are many things that people favor. Some like stats and believe you can make the majority of the decisions based on the numbers, whereas others say stats are helpful, but that it’s your eyes that need to be the guide. If we cater to both groups, I want to know what would be the most important thing you’re looking for.

For stat guys, if you were given one stat and one stat only that you could see on a player, which stat would you choose to use to evaluate pitchers and which would you use to evaluate hitters? Remember, you can’t see the player play and you can see no other numbers other than that one stat. Also, why do you choose the stat you do?

For the scout guys, what one tool do to most value when you see a batter hit and a pitcher pitch? If you’re scouting and somehow can only see one tool for the hitter, what would you most value? Why?

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Opponent OPS and Why It Should Be Used For Pitcher Evaluation

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

by John Dewan

Over the last several years, it’s been clear that pitching in Major League Baseball has become more dominant. In fact, it has been over 20 years since the league ERA has been as low as it has been so far this year. This year’s MLB ERA is 3.88, the lowest since the 3.75 mark in 1992.

Some of the high points in ERA in that time were 4.71 in 2000, 4.77 in 2001 and 4.53 in 2006. Since 2006 ERA has been trending downward as seen in this chart of MLB ERAs:



Opponent OPS

























ERA is a useful summary statistic, but my favorite stat for pitchers is Opponent OPS. For MLB, overall, Opponent OPS is pretty consistent with ERA, but for an individual pitcher, it is much more indicative of his true pitching performance than ERA. ERA has many biases that Opponent OPS does not have. For example, ERA rewards pitchers who allow most of their home runs with no runners on base or are able to strand runners at the end of innings, even though those events are generally believed to be random and out of the pitcher’s control. Another example is the effect a relief pitcher has on his predecessor’s ERA when it comes to stranded runners.

Here are the MLB leaders in Opponent OPS in 2013:

Best Opponent OPS (qualified starters)


Opponent OPS

Clayton Kershaw


Matt Harvey


Jose Fernandez


Max Scherzer


Madison Bumgarner


And here are the MLB leaders in ERA this season:

Best ERA (qualified starters)



Clayton Kershaw


Matt Harvey


Felix Hernandez


Hiroki Kuroda


Jeff Locke


As you can see, the OPS leaders are bit different. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey have been tremendous by any measure. However, that is where the similarities end. Opponent OPS prefers the rookie phenom Jose Fernandez, major-league win-leader Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner while ERA prefers Felix Hernandez, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jeff Locke.

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

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