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11

June 2014

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COMMENTS

By Stats both Old and New: The Cubs Offense is bad.

Written by , Posted in General

I began paying attention to the Cubs and Major League Baseball in the 1970’s.  Consequently I guess you could call me an “old-school” baseball fan.  I grew up playing Strat-O-Matic baseball, a game ahead of its time in valuing righty/lefty match-ups and Sabermetrics. Like most kids of the 70’s, I paid attention to batting average, homeruns, wins/losses and ERA.  Even though Strat-o-Matic valued guys who could walk…I gave little thought to On-Base-Percentage.  I gave even less thought to Slugging Percentage.  These two percentages never enter my vocabulary when discussing my favorite team.

The 1977 Cubs’ would be the first team I followed on a daily basis. The late Bobby Murcer was my favorite player…for two primary reasons; he wore number 7, Rick Monday’s old number (I was only 8 at the time) and Murcer clubbed 27 homers during the 1977 season. I had no idea that Murcer was second on the team with a respectable .810 OPS. (How could I, there was no such stat!)  I did realize that Bobby’s (I can call him Bobby, I was bat boy for a whole day) batting average was a pedestrian .265, yet I didn’t appreciate that Bobby’s On-Base Percentage was .355.  So using old stats or new, Bobby was a good choice to be favorite player.

Sabermetrics are now a widely accepted form of baseball analysis in all of the Major Leagues…outside of the Chicago White Sox TV booth.  As a former high school coach, I can honesty state I embraced OPS and other new metrics, yet I still think “old stats” can be useful and even fun! Example:

Mike Olt currently has a batting average of .153.  If Olt were to get 20 hits in his next 20 at bats (not bloody likely, in fact there is probably a greater chance of Elvis returning to Earth in a ship full of Aliens who know who really killed JFK) Olt’s average would rise to .261! .261 after going 20-20! (Once again…never happen) That is both extremely funny to me, and a bit sad about the prospects of Olt becoming a Major League hitter.

Therefore old stats can still be useful…or at least fun…but any serious baseball fan knows Sabermetrics are where it’s at.  Cubs’ fans following the 2014 season don’t need sabermetrics to quantify the fact that the team’s offense is bad…but sabermetrics can clarify the picture, and even provide a few rays of hope.  I will now examine the Cubs position by position OPS rankings in the National League. ***Warning…pregnant women or those with serious heart conditions should not read ALL of these rankings.

CATCHER-    CUBS .575    13of 15           NL AVG .712           1ST-BREWERS .908

Hmmm…I would wager if they had to do it over again the Cubs might re-think keeping John Baker over George Kattarras coming out of Spring Training. Prior to his injury, Wellington Castillo was at .672…close to the league average…but Bakers’ .396 and Whiteside’s .000 have sent Cubs backstops plummeting to the bottom.

1st BASE-       CUBS .876    2of 15             NL AVG .789         1ST-DIAMONDBACKS .913

Did you watch Anthony Rizzo’s at-bats during the last home stand? Rizzo appears confident, aggressive yet patient…and he looks like an absolute beast at the plate.  Imagine if/when we get some other actual Major League hitters around him? Acquiring Rizzo for the oft-injured Andrew Cashner… well done, Theo and Jed…well done.

2nd BASE-      CUBS .651 11of 15             NL AVG .679             1ST-PHILLIES .854

Take out Luis Valbuena’s (.808) in 12 games at this position and the numbers would be more dreadful.  Darwin Barney is a wonderful defensive player, but his .557 OPS is over 100 points below the league average and almost 300 below the leader. Translated…he cannot hit in the Major Leagues.  If I had my druthers, Arismendy Alcantara would be manning this position right now and batting 1st or 2nd.

SHORTSTOP-           CUBS .775 4 of 15         NL AVG .708                 1ST-ROCKIES 1.069

Starlin Castro has had a nice bounce back season…and when the “Where does Javy Baez play?” question finally has to be answered…Starlin’s OPS plays even better in the non-PED world of second-basemen.  Assuming Baez can cut it, the Cubs’ should be good OPS wise at both positions (no matter who plays where)…and don’t forget about Alcantara.

3rd BASE-      CUBS .720  9 of 15        NL AVG .718                 1ST-REDS .818

Luis Valbuena is one of the rare Cubs other than Rizzo and Castro who the more I watch…I actually kind of like.  I would like him best as a back-up/spot starter/pinch hitter…not as an everyday player.  Mike Olt’s .609 OPS, even with his .153 average, is a testament to his power and walk rates.  We can only speculate/drool whether Kris Bryants’ AA numbers will be replicated at the MLB level someday.

LEFTFIELD-               CUBS .796  3 of 15        NL AVG .723                 1ST-BRAVES .895

Upon first glance, you might say… “Wow, I didn’t realize Junior Lake was having such a good year”.  Actually, this is a bit of a statistical anomaly as Lake sits at .709.  The only explanation is that players with bad overall OPS numbers (Ryan Kalish and Chris Coghlan) performed much better in left than in center or right.  That being said, I still think Lake gets dismissed as a non-prospect too quickly…he is only 24 and you can’t teach his size and raw ability.

CENTERFIELD-         CUBS .605 14of 15            NL AVG .740           1ST-ROCKIES .919

Ugh.  Maybe this is why the afore mentioned Alcantara has been playing some center down in Iowa. (Yes…I like Arismendy as a prospect)  This is putrid production from a Major League outfielder, and should only be accepted on a team with a Gold Glove defender and 7 other really good hitters…neither of which the Cubs’ have.

RIGHTFIELD-            CUBS .593 15 of 15           NL AVG .766           1ST-DODGERS .999

If I used “ugh” for center, then this warrants “I just threw up in my mouth a little.” At the slugging position of right field the Cubs have a cumulative OPS of a weak hitting middle-infielder.

DESIGNATED HITTER- CUBS .610 7 of 15       NL AVG .606      1ST-DODGERS 1.115

With the incredibly silly (in my opinion) way that the inter-league schedule works today, NL teams technically have DH’s.  In a small sample size the Cubs’ are barely above the league average…yawn.

PINCH- HITTER-      CUBS .440 15 of 15           NL AVG .597            1ST-ROCKIES .800

Yikes! What’s more impressive/revolting…the Rockies’ .800 or the Cubs’ .440? Remember this example of Cubs’ ineptness the next time Ricky Renteria makes a late inning move.

PITCHER-      CUBS .416  1 of 15                        NL AVG .314                                   1ST-CUBS .416

Thank you Travis Wood! (Who should be one of the Cubs’ first pinch-hitting options late in games) Seriously, how Cubs-like is it that the only position they lead is Pitcher OPS…not exactly what great teams are built on.

So what does this position by position comparison tell us? Some things we already knew, and some we can now quantify:

  1. Anthony Rizzo is developing into one of the game’s best.
  2. Starlin Castro is closer to the player he was in 2010-2012, than the 2013 version.
  3. Darwin Barney flat-out s#cks as a Major League hitter.
  4. The Cubs outfielders hit like back-up infielders.
  5. Travis Wood is one of the Cubs’ better hitters.

These numbers paint a deeply disturbing portrait of what is supposed to be a major league offense.  Obviously the plan is that Bryant, Baez and (don’t foget!) Alcantara will soon arrive and fill these gaping line-up holes.

If not Theo, Jed and company will have to turn to Plan B…if there is one.

  • Doug S.

    Great night for Rizzo. And he didn’t make a baserunning gaffe!

  • Doug S.

    Great night for Rizzo. And he didn’t make a baserunning gaffe!

  • Noah_I

    The one thing I’d say regarding the right fielders is that Schierholtz has been much better since his disastrous first 27 games of the season. Through May 6 (27 games), Schierholtz was batting only .188/.220/.228. In the 28 games he has played since that point, he’s batting .255/.330/.426. Not All Star numbers, but that would be just below average in the NL.

    • Chuck

      Yay! A player has gone from abominable to bad!

  • Noah_I

    The one thing I’d say regarding the right fielders is that Schierholtz has been much better since his disastrous first 27 games of the season. Through May 6 (27 games), Schierholtz was batting only .188/.220/.228. In the 28 games he has played since that point, he’s batting .255/.330/.426. Not All Star numbers, but that would be just below average in the NL.

    • Chuck

      Yay! A player has gone from abominable to bad!

  • Noah_I

    Chris, quick question just regarding your methodology: did you use mean or median for the average?

    • BBCG: 105 Reasons

      Baseball reference…which uses mean I believe

  • Noah_I

    Chris, quick question just regarding your methodology: did you use mean or median for the average?

    • BBCG: 105 Reasons

      Baseball reference…which uses mean I believe

  • Doc Raker

    Rizzo is becoming a great hitter, it is obvious in observation don’t even need to look at the numbers.

    • Eddie Von White

      – Something I can quantify from high school English: 1. The first and last paragraphs of an article are the most important. The numbers prove what we see. It’s not funny anymore.

      – I also grew up playing Strat-O-Matic baseball.

      • Doc Raker

        I wasn’t trying to be funny. Numbers are worthwhile if you don’t watch players play and scouts can’t watch everyone at the same time. But when you watch ballplayers day in and day out you may not know their exact numbers but you certainly understand the ballplayers value or lack of value.

      • Eddie Von White

        Exactly – that’s where sabermetrics are valuable. I wasn’t accusing you of trying to be funny, its being a Cubs fan that’s not fun(ny) anymore. I can’t believe I’m saying that.

      • Doc Raker

        It’s fun poking fun at the likes of CAPS, Seymour and Jswan though.

  • Doc Raker

    Rizzo is becoming a great hitter, it is obvious in observation don’t even need to look at the numbers.

    • Eddie Von White

      – Something I can quantify from high school English: 1. The first and last paragraphs of an article are the most important. The numbers prove what we see. It’s not funny anymore.

      – I also grew up playing Strat-O-Matic baseball.

      • Doc Raker

        I wasn’t trying to be funny. Numbers are worthwhile if you don’t watch players play and scouts can’t watch everyone at the same time. But when you watch ballplayers day in and day out you may not know their exact numbers but you certainly understand the ballplayers value or lack of value.

      • Eddie Von White

        Exactly – that’s where sabermetrics are valuable. I wasn’t accusing you of trying to be funny, its being a Cubs fan that’s not fun(ny) anymore. I can’t believe I’m saying that.

      • Doc Raker

        It’s fun poking fun at the likes of CAPS, Seymour and Jswan though.

  • Dork

    Nice work, I did not realize Rizzo would rank that high, 1st base being a power postion Nicely done Anthony. After last nights game I was going to post that I thought that Valbuena is an under rated player. You beat me to it.

    One thought though, Barney is starting to contribute and his number over the last 30 days are much better than season stats.

    The bad part of this is that all of the help coming are all infielders.

    The last thought on this is, it is so bizarre that this team is not worse. Most teams that are this bad cannot pitch, that is not the case with the cubs. I think it almost makes it more frustrating.

    • Noah_I

      The Cubs under performed in the first month and a half of the season due to the unsettled bullpen over the first few weeks and players like Schierholtz being so bad over that span. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs notch up to say, 5 games below .500 by the time they start trading players (although I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them get back to 13 or 14 below). Overall, I’m going to stick with my prediction that this ends up a 72 win team (.444 winning percentage). The Cubs were 13-27 over the first 40 games of the season (.325 winning percentage). In the 22 games since then, the Cubs are 13-9 (.591 winning percentage).

      I’d actually predict the Cubs to end up more like a 76-77 win team, but considering the unlikelihood of the Cubs getting back in the race (if the Cubs had a .591 winning percentage over the remainder of the season, which is better than everyone in baseball to this point but the Giants (.600) and Blue Jays (.591) they’d still only finish with 85 wins, likely keeping them out of the playoffs) and the fact that none of the top prospects are really forcing the issue, I don’t expect to see any huge talents coming up to Wrigley this season and losing the service time. If Samardzija and Hammel are traded you’re likely seeing them replaced by some combination of Rusin, Hendricks and Wada. If Schierholtz is traded you’re probably looking at someone who can’t replicate his .755 OPS over the past 35 days or so.

      But Rizzo’s turn into a truly elite hitter, Castro’s return to form plus a bit, and solidifying the bullpen with more good bullpen arms available to the Cubs (Fujikawa should be returning within a month or so, Arodys Vizcaino, etc.) provide more optimistic projections for this team than existed at the beginning of the season.

    • PLCB3

      I was surprised to see how good the Cubs pitching has been. That is a good sign going forward. As we saw in Joe’s post last week, the years this team has done good we had 4 pitchers qualify for the ERA title. But of course in those years, we had hitting to go with it. I was also surprised to see in Chris’ book the correlation between winning teams and a good CF. I wasn’t happy when Kenny Lofton was not brought back in 2004. He would have been a very good backup/4th OF and he could have been a mentor to Corey Patterson. Plus the Cubs were taking a gamble with him being recovered from a torn ACL.

      • I was upset when Denver Grigsby didn’t get an offer in 1926. I felt he and Jigger Statz would have been perfect in a platoon with Riggs Stephenson. But they let him walk and Mandy Brooks got too many at bats that season (in my opinion.)

      • PLCB3

        Okay but given what was at stake in 2004, and the fact that the 2004 Cubs were a loaded team, do you think Kenny Lofton could have been the final piece to get them into October?

      • I think that would have been pretty similar to the ’45 Cubs bringing in Peanuts Lowrey, and we all know how much that helped out…

      • Seymour Butts

        Lofton had a WAR of 1.4 with the Yankees in 2004. Corey Patterson, the Cubs CF that year had a WAR of 3.0
        The Cubs finished 16 games behind the Cardinals in the division. With Lofton they would have finished 18 back.
        Did I do that right Sabre dudes?

      • Chuck

        Bravo sir. Bravo.

      • PLCB3

        How about when Sosa was out because of his injury? The Cardinals ran away with the division that year but we had a firm grip on the wild card.

      • Dusty_Baylor

        Please don’t say Neifi, Macias, and Ramon Martinez in the same sentence…. (making the sign of the cross)

      • PLCB3

        Along with Paul Bako, Todd Hollandsworth, and Todd Walker that was our bench in 2004. (Neifi was a late-season addition.) I think tom Goodwin was also on that team.

      • Dusty_Baylor

        Ugh…I remember Hollandworth getting a LOT of at bats in 2005, after being a valuable sub in 2004.
        Dougle Ugh

      • PLCB3

        I believe he was brought back as the starter for 2005 because the Tribune decided they didn’t want to pay Piss Hands anymore. And we had Matt Murton and Jason Dubois rooting on the bench because Dusty needed to maintain the integrity of the playoff races. What playoff race was going on between the Cubs and Pirates that year?

      • PLCB3

        2004 makes me so mad. Because of all the Cubs teams that have disappointed in recent years, the 2004 team was the best one IMO.

      • BBCG: 105 Reasons

        I agree with your 2004 evaluations and it merits a chapter in my book…if they had gotten in…..starters were healthy….and had a better offense…

      • PLCB3

        Yup. We discussed that when we met at the convention. I am at reason 75. I was surprised you didn’t have 2001 as a near miss as well. 3 out of 4 seasons we won 88 games or more from 2001-2004.

      • PLCB3

        My favorite memories of Hollandsworth were the first weekend of the season when he hit a moon shot off Smoltz to tie the game and his face plant into the wall in Anaheim. Both games ended up being extra inning marathons that the Cubs won. The Atlanta game I remember there were 2 outs in the 9th, I was walking towards my tv to turn it off and go to bed when he went yard.

  • Dork

    Nice work, I did not realize Rizzo would rank that high, 1st base being a power postion Nicely done Anthony. After last nights game I was going to post that I thought that Valbuena is an under rated player. You beat me to it.

    One thought though, Barney is starting to contribute and his number over the last 30 days are much better than season stats.

    The bad part of this is that all of the help coming are all infielders.

    The last thought on this is, it is so bizarre that this team is not worse. Most teams that are this bad cannot pitch, that is not the case with the cubs. I think it almost makes it more frustrating.

    • Noah_I

      The Cubs under performed in the first month and a half of the season due to the unsettled bullpen over the first few weeks and players like Schierholtz being so bad over that span. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs notch up to say, 5 games below .500 by the time they start trading players (although I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them get back to 13 or 14 below). Overall, I’m going to stick with my prediction that this ends up a 72 win team (.444 winning percentage). The Cubs were 13-27 over the first 40 games of the season (.325 winning percentage). In the 22 games since then, the Cubs are 13-9 (.591 winning percentage).

      I’d actually predict the Cubs to end up more like a 76-77 win team, but considering the unlikelihood of the Cubs getting back in the race (if the Cubs had a .591 winning percentage over the remainder of the season, which is better than everyone in baseball to this point but the Giants (.600) and Blue Jays (.591) they’d still only finish with 85 wins, likely keeping them out of the playoffs) and the fact that none of the top prospects are really forcing the issue, I don’t expect to see any huge talents coming up to Wrigley this season and losing the service time. If Samardzija and Hammel are traded you’re likely seeing them replaced by some combination of Rusin, Hendricks and Wada. If Schierholtz is traded you’re probably looking at someone who can’t replicate his .755 OPS over the past 35 days or so.

      But Rizzo’s turn into a truly elite hitter, Castro’s return to form plus a bit, and solidifying the bullpen with more good bullpen arms available to the Cubs (Fujikawa should be returning within a month or so, Arodys Vizcaino, etc.) provide more optimistic projections for this team than existed at the beginning of the season.

    • AC0000000

      I was surprised to see how good the Cubs pitching has been. That is a good sign going forward. As we saw in Joe’s post last week, the years this team has done good we had 4 pitchers qualify for the ERA title. But of course in those years, we had hitting to go with it. I was also surprised to see in Chris’ book the correlation between winning teams and a good CF. I wasn’t happy when Kenny Lofton was not brought back in 2004. He would have been a very good backup/4th OF and he could have been a mentor to Corey Patterson. Plus the Cubs were taking a gamble with him being recovered from a torn ACL.

      • I was upset when Denver Grigsby didn’t get an offer in 1926. I felt he and Jigger Statz would have been perfect in a platoon with Riggs Stephenson. But they let him walk and Mandy Brooks got too many at bats that season (in my opinion.)

      • AC0000000

        Okay but given what was at stake in 2004, and the fact that the 2004 Cubs were a loaded team, do you think Kenny Lofton could have been the final piece to get them into October?

      • Seymour Butts

        Lofton had a WAR of 1.4 with the Yankees in 2004. Corey Patterson, the Cubs CF that year had a WAR of 3.0
        The Cubs finished 16 games behind the Cardinals in the division. With Lofton they would have finished 18 back.
        Did I do that right Sabre dudes?

      • AC0000000

        How about when Sosa was out because of his injury? The Cardinals ran away with the division that year but we had a firm grip on the wild card. I am suggesting we have both Lofton and Patterson on the roster. Instead of Macias, Ramon Martinez, and Neifi on the bench.

      • Dusty_Baylor

        Please don’t say Neifi, Macias, and Ramon Martinez in the same sentence…. (making the sign of the cross)

      • AC0000000

        Along with Paul Bako, Todd Hollandsworth, and Todd Walker that was our bench in 2004. (Neifi was a late-season addition.) I think tom Goodwin was also on that team.

      • Dusty_Baylor

        Ugh…I remember Hollandworth getting a LOT of at bats in 2005, after being a valuable sub in 2004.
        Dougle Ugh

      • AC0000000

        I believe he was brought back as the starter for 2005 because the Tribune decided they didn’t want to pay Piss Hands anymore. And we had Matt Murton and Jason Dubois rotting on the bench because Dusty needed to maintain the integrity of the playoff races. What playoff race was going on between the Cubs and Pirates that year?

      • AC0000000

        2004 makes me so mad. Because of all the Cubs teams that have disappointed in recent years, the 2004 team was the best one IMO.

      • BBCG: 105 Reasons

        I agree with your 2004 evaluations and it merits a chapter in my book…if they had gotten in…..starters were healthy….and had a better offense…

      • AC0000000

        Yup. We discussed that when we met at the convention. I am at reason 75. I was surprised you didn’t have 2001 as a near miss as well. 3 out of 4 seasons we won 88 games or more from 2001-2004.

      • AC0000000

        My favorite memories of Hollandsworth were the first weekend of the season when he hit a moon shot off Smoltz to tie the game and his face plant into the wall in Anaheim. Both games ended up being extra inning marathons that the Cubs won. The Atlanta game I remember there were 2 outs in the 9th, I was walking towards my tv to turn it off and go to bed when he went yard.

  • PLCB3

    Do you think the Cubs should still be considering trading Samardzidja? He has another year before FA, and I think he can be part of the team going forward when we are competitive.

    • Chuck

      Due to his age and the condition of the current MLB team, yes they should look to trade him if they can get some good swag back. He will be well on the wrong side of 30 when this team is good, which is about 3 to 4 years away at the earliest.

      • PLCB3

        But his arm has less mileage than most pitchers his age.

      • Eddie Von White

        He hasn’t proven himself yet either. One good half a year or so does not a pitcher make.

      • Did you know he played football at Notre Dame?

      • Seymour Butts

        I did not! What position did he play.

      • PLCB3

        No I didn’t.

  • AC0000000

    Do you think the Cubs should still be considering trading Samardzidja? He has another year before FA, and I think he can be part of the team going forward when we are competitive.

    • Chuck

      Due to his age and the condition of the current MLB team, yes they should look to trade him if they can get some good swag back. He will be well on the wrong side of 30 when this team is good, which is about 3 to 4 years away at the earliest.

      • AC0000000

        But his arm has less mileage than most pitchers his age.

      • Eddie Von White

        He hasn’t proven himself yet either. One good half a year or so does not a pitcher make.

      • Did you know he played football at Notre Dame?

      • Seymour Butts

        I did not! What position did he play.

      • AC0000000

        No I didn’t.

  • Chuck

    Isn’t this just a rehash of a comment I made a week or so ago? Can I get a contributor shout out here?

    • Seymour Butts

      Him…Him…

  • Chuck

    Isn’t this just a rehash of a comment I made a week or so ago? Can I get a contributor shout out here?

    • Seymour Butts

      Him…Him…

  • Kyle G

    Question. If Kris Bryant were on the major league team right now, would he be the second best hitter behind Rizzo? Third best hitter behind Rizzo and Castro?

  • Kyle G

    Question. If Kris Bryant were on the major league team right now, would he be the second best hitter behind Rizzo? Third best hitter behind Rizzo and Castro?

  • Doc Raker

    What I see and observe is the Cubs have a few young pieces of a contending team right now and need to keep adding, which is exactly what they are doing. Contrary to what Capn Obvious thinks Thed is on the right course. Steady as she goes Capn.

    • Seymour Butts

      Man I hate to agree with Raker, but he’s right.

  • Doc Raker

    What I see and observe is the Cubs have a few young pieces of a contending team right now and need to keep adding, which is exactly what they are doing. Contrary to what Capn Obvious thinks Thed is on the right course. Steady as she goes Capn.

    • Seymour Butts

      Man I hate to agree with Raker, but he’s right.