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Andre Dawson: some sobering statistics

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

My brother’s favorite player growing up was the Hawk. As I was first really being able to watch and understand baseball, Andre Dawson had just become a Cub, and would end up (wrongly) winning the MVP. He was a joy to watch, and he was a very good baseball player. But is very good good enough to be in the Hall of Fame?

Here are some very sobering stats from Baseball Crank:

Dawson’s critical weakness is his poor on base percentage, uniquely among all comparable sluggers: his OBP rates 44th of 45 players w/400 HR (ahead of only Dave Kingman), 50th of 50 w/1500 RBI, and 75th of 76 w/4000 TB (ahead of only Brooks Robinson). Dawson was, simply, a uniquely easy out among sluggers.

Quite frankly, among sluggers, there was no one easier to get out than Andre Dawson.

Don’t get me wrong – Dawson was great defensively, and a good hitter. And I know this is probably sacrilegious as a Cubs fan to say this, but I am just not convinced that a guy who was so easy to get out should be in the Hall of Fame.

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The Cubs just got worse

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Milton Bradley to the Mariners
Carlos Silva the to the Cubs

Carlos Silva is terrible.

That is all I have to say.

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Hope?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
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Lately, especially around here, I have tended to be the voice of hope about the Cubs, trying to keep people from panicking about this current team.

But this is not because I have any “Cubs”-colored glasses. Instead it is because I still think that this is a good team based on players previous performances along with their performances this year, and I want to lay out why.

First I want to look at how players are performing in relation to both last season and their career numbers. I have left three players out of this analysis (Hoffpauir, Scales, K. Hill), as they don’t have any meaningful previous performances to compare to. I am looking at OPS+, as it is a good indicator of how a player performs in relation to the rest of the league in a given year:

Player Career 2008 2009
Soto 110 120 58
Lee 122 110 85
Fontenot 102 131 70
Theriot 89 93 100
Ramirez 114 128 155
Soriano 116 121 108
Fukudome 100 90 136
Bradley 163 116 76
Miles 75 99 32
Freel 89 82 18

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Now this is either good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. I see it is good news. Kind of.

With a huge sample size caveat when looking at these numbers, it is clear in the chart that the Cubs are, overall, significantly under performing in relation to both last year and the individuals’ career numbers. Now… this doesn’t mean that these players are guaranteed to perform better. Each player is different, and each player has his own issues – Lee has age and a back injury (and a previous wrist injury), Fontenot is playing full-time in the big leagues for the first time, Soto is in his second year and the league may be adjusting to him, as well as he has a shoulder injury, Miles just kinda’ sucks, Freel has had injuries, is older, and no longer has the speed he once had, etc. And then, of course, there is Milton Bradley, who is a headcase that can hit. And isn’t hitting.

On the other hand, Lee has appeared to be turning things around a bit, Soto and Freel can get healthy, Bradley could control his temper and remember that he is one of the better hitters in baseball, etc.

Overall I think that you can assume, or at least hope, that most/all of these struggling players will start to recover and move closer to their career numbers. Why can we assume this? It is simply: past performance is the best indicator of future performance. And when I say past performance, I do not mean 40 games this season, but instead larger samples of previous years

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But I am not just hopeful because of the above chart. There are other reasons to be hopeful, and one of them is some of these same players BABIP. For the uninitiated, BABIP is a player’s batting average on balls in play. What this does is take out home runs and strikeouts (i.e. balls not hit in play) and look at the “luck” factor. The league average for BABIP hovers right around .300 each year. You will occasionally see variation with certain players, but for the most part you look to see a BABIP around .300 – anything above is considered relatively “lucky,” while anything below is relatively “unlucky.” The Cubs currently have a team BABIP of .281, well below the league average of .300.

So how do the Cubs’ everyday players look:

Player 2009 Career Dif
Soto 0.267 0.328 -0.061
Lee 0.274 0.322 -0.048
Fontenot 0.220 0.314 -0.093
Theriot 0.296 0.315 -0.019
Ramirez 0.370 0.290 0.080
Soriano 0.271 0.308 -0.037
Fukudome 0.360 0.315 0.045
Bradley 0.205 0.320 -0.115

We now see the problem. The Cubs have been unlucky, and sometimes significantly so. And while this explains a good portion of the poor performances of these players, it also should give us hope, in that it is unlikely that so many Cub players will continue to be unlucky and see so few of their balls hit into play land for hits. We can also probably expect Ramirez and Fukudome to see a decrease in production, as they have been, so far, fairly lucky.

Now… some will say that baseball is about the unknown. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will rebound. We don’t know for sure that any of these players will see their BABIP increase. And that is correct. We don’t know for sure. And that is not what statistics try to do. Statistics don’t tell us what WILL happen. They tell us what is LIKELY to happen.

And the statistics tell us that it is likely that the Cubs will start to hit better. It just a matter of when. Maybe last night was the start of that.1999 mambo no sex download mp3

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Is Derrek Lee really declining?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Many people, especially here at VFTB, do not like Derrek Lee. They think that he is declining, they think that he isn’t as good as Micah Hoffpauir (or even Jake Fox), they think he should he traded, they think he should just be released, etc.

But the overall trend in the posts and comments here are that Derrek Lee is on a downward spiral, so I decided to take a look.

I looked at the following numbers, after taking out any season where he didn’t see 500 plate appearances, including this season.

Year wOBA EQA WARP RC/G OPS+
1998 0.323 0.292 2.3 4.4 96
2000 0.372 0.291 4.1 6.4 124
2001 0.351 0.284 4.7 5.6 112
2002 0.375 0.306 5 6.6 131
2003 0.381 0.308 6.54 7.1 131
2004 0.367 0.285 4.3 6.3 117
2005 0.446 0.344 7.4 10.7 174
2007 0.391 0.299 4.9 7.6 131
2008 0.360 0.279 5.2 5.6 110

And here is the above data in graph form so that we can easily look at what kind of trends exists in Lee’s performance:



Interesting… what I see is a huge outlier in 2005, and other than a pretty steady performance trend. So lets take out the 2005 season, and see what we get:



Now the picture becomes a little more clear. As we take out his injured years and partial seasons, and his obvious outlier year of 2005, we see a fairly consistent and obvious trend of similar performances each year.

Now I already know that people will complain that I left out his numbers this year. And Derrek Lee has obviously struggled this year, so much so that his numbers this year look like as much of an outlier as his numbers in 2005 did, but in the opposite direction. Derrek Lee currently has 103 plate appearances this season, so the first obvious caveat when looking at his 2009 numbers is that we are still looking at a small sample size. The second obvious caveat is that he is and has been battling a back injury. The back injury, to me, is much more concerning than any alleged “downward trend.” But if Derrek Lee can get and stay healthy, I expect him to continue to produce at a similar level as has in the rest of his career.

Of course, there is one more thing to look at concerning Lee’s 2009 season so far. He currently is sporting a .263 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). This is low, and is almost assuredly not sustainable when you look at the rest of his career. The average BABIP in baseball hovers around .300, but Lee’s career BABIP is .325. Basically this means that has been significantly less “lucky” than he has been over his career, and that you can expect this number to regress (or in this case… progress) to the mean. When it does, we can also expect Lee’s overall number to “progress” to the mean.

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The Big Plan

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Let me start by saying this.

The 2008 Chicago Cubs team was very, very good. This team was one of the best Cubs teams in recent history, with a very good balanced offense, a good balanced pitching staff, and a good defense. They finished with the following National League rankings:

  • BA: 2nd
  • OBP: 1st
  • SLUG: 1st
  • Runs: 1st
  • ERA: 3rd
  • WHIP: 2nd
  • K’s: 1st
  • Runs Allowed: 2nd

The Cubs clearly had the best offense in the National League, and arguably the second best pitching staff in the league.

But as we all now know, things did not work out quite as well in the three playoff games that the Cubs played. The Cubs, in the playoffs, looked bad. Their pitching staff was mediocre (and at times bad), their offense was bad, and their defense was bad.

So what does this mean? And where do the Cubs go from here?

I believe, pretty strongly, that we should not make judgments about this team based on three games. The Cubs played really poorly in those three games, but it is wrongheaded to assert that those three games are more indicative of the team’s ability than the 161 games played in the regular season. So it is important that we look at the greater picture what than the three-game let down of the NLDS.

As good as the Cubs were during the regular season, the team still has some holes, and here are what I see as the priorities to figure out. Now, I do believe that there other places that can be upgraded, both those upgrades need to be done in a way that still allow the above areas to be addressed.

  • Center Field. The Cubs were actually very productive in CF this year with the Jim Edmonds/Reed Johnson platoon. They were actually second in the National League in OPS, just .001 behind the Carlos Beltran and the Mets. But while the Edmonds/Johnson platoon worked like magic this year, it is not likely that they will be able to repeat that performance. Jim Edmonds is old and slow, both his leg and bat speed. Reed Johnson is what he is – a solid role player and can have a positive impact on the team.
  • Right Field Backdraft the movie . Right field is a mess right now. I do not think that any of us really know who the real Kosuke Fukudome is, but we know that he looked awful over the last two to three months of the season. Mark DeRosa has been able to step in and play RF, but his defense is clearly lacking in RF. And oh yea… Fukudome is only owed 36 million dollars over the next three years.
  • BullpenThe Cubs bullpen, down the stretch, started to fall apart. Eyre was gone, Howry forgot how to get people out, and no one else was reliable. Jeff Samardzija was able step up, but his inability to throw strikes limited his effectiveness.
  • Shortstop. This should be fun. I think that everyone knows my opinion on Ryan Theriot. He is one of the worse SS’s in the game – both offensively and defensively. You can read the link if you want to know why.
  • First base. Ah… Derrek Lee. I am a big fan of Derrek Lee. He defense is very good (though may have fallen off a bit), he is a smart baseball player, and a good hitter. But for some reason he lost his power. He hit 13 home runs through May, and his just seven after that. That is a problem for a first baseman.

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So that leaves LF, 3b, 2b, C, and the starting rotation as places that don’t need Witches’ Night buy upgrades. Can they be upgraded? Absolutely. Brian Roberts would be a (slight) upgrade over DeRosa. Sabathia would obviously upgrade the rotation. But none of those places need an upgrade, especially if Dempster is resigned.

I would also say that an argument could be made that SS and 1b are not positions that need to be upgraded, and should be a lower priority.

So this is what I do.

I would re-sign Dempster and Wood. I would have Fukudome start in the minor leagues, unless the Cubs have legitimate reason (other than the $36 million) to think that he has been able to fix things.

I would go after Rafael Furcal to play SS and leadoff. I would go after Raul Ibanez to play RF. I would resign Reed Johnson, and let him platoon with Felix Pie in CF.

I would attempt to trade Jason Marquis and let Marshall, Guzman, and Samardzija fight it out for the 5th slot in the rotation. I would also look into Derek Lowe and AJ Burnett, but it would be a lesser priority.

I would try to sign someone like a Jeremy Affeldt for the bullpen, but I would be veryhesitant to spend significant money/years on a middle relief pitcher.

And, unless the Cubs can sign Mark Teixeira, I would keep Derrek Lee at 1st.

I would also let Blanco go, and have Koyie Hill be the backup catcher, while also letting Ward walk away with Hoffpaiur filling the LH pinch hit role.

This would give the Cubs a lineup looking like this:
Furcal
Lee
ARam
Ibanez
Soto
Soriano
DeRosa
Johnson/Pie
Pitcher

And a rotation that looked like this:
Zambrano
Harden
Lilly
Dempster
Marshall/Guzman/Samardzija/Burnett/Lowe

A bench that looked like this:
Theriot
Johnson/Pie
Hoffpaiur
K. Hill
Fontenot

And a bullpen that looked like this:
Wood (closer)
Marmol
Affeldt
Guzman
Samardzija
Wuertz/Hart
Gaudin

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The Tale of Theriot

Friday, September 26th, 2008

A recent thread once again brought up the greatness of Ryan Theriot. I have been meaning to do something like this for awhile, so I guess it is time.

Below is a look at where Ryan Theriot stands offensively and defensively in comparison to other every day shortstops in the National League. The numbers below will pretty clearly show that Ryan Theriot, is, in fact, below average both offensively and defensively.

Now… this does not mean that I dislike Ryan Theriot, or that he does not have place on this Cubs team. I believe that he does, and has played a good role for the Cubs. I just believe that many, many people extremely overrate what he brings to this team, and I show why.

Defensively

Out of 11 qualifying NL SS’s, Theriot is:

  • 7th in Fielding %
  • 11th in Range Factor
  • 8th in Zone Rating
  • 10th in RZR (which has 12 qualifiers)
  • 12th in OOZ, which doesn’t have qualifiers

Baseball Prospectus gives Theriot a 98 in their Rate2 stat, where 100 is average.
Offensively

Theriot has an OPS+ of 93. That, by definition, is below average. For those of you who do now know, OPS+ is “OPS normalized for both the park and the league the player played in,: with 100 being the average. Out of 9 qualifying NL SS’s, Theriot is:

  • 8th in OPS
  • 9th in total bases
  • 7th in runs created
  • 8th in Gross Production Average
  • 10th (of 11) in Equivalent Average
  • 8th (of 11) in EQR
  • 10th (0f 11) in RAR
  • 10th (0f 11) in RAP
  • 8th (of 11) in RARP
  • 9th in VORP

Theriot is 7th in total Win Shares (batting & fielding combined), and 7th in batting and 9th in fielding. Of course, a player on a winning team will have more win shares. Now, one commentator thought that it would be good to compare Derek Jeter and Ryan Theriot. I am not going to touch their defenses, because they are both at the bottom defensively, but lets look offensively at their numbers this year. Of course, it is important to remember that Derek Jeter is having his worst year since 1997.

(“winners” in bold)

  • OPS:Theriot – 737, Jeter – 773
  • OPS+: Theriot – 93, Jeter – 106
  • Runs Created: Theriot – 75, Jeter – 88
  • Gross Production Average: Theriot – .253, Jeter – .269
  • Win Shares: Theriot -13 , Jeter – 16
  • EQA: Theriot – .260, Jeter – .275
  • EQR: Theriot – 71.8, Jeter – 85.2
  • RAR: Theriot – 19.1, Jeter – 30.6
  • RAP: Theriot – 4, Jeter – 14.6
  • RARP: Theriot – 22.8, Jeter – 34.1
  • Theriot – 25.2, Jeter – 38.9

Theriot, in his best year, is nowhere close to Jeter, who is having his worst year of his career. Jeter is pretty significantly better in each category.

Let me be very clear. I do not dislike Ryan Theriot. I just do not think that he is a great baseball player, or an All-Star, or the Cubs MVP, or anything like that. He is a role player, and an average one at best. And he simply does not compare to Derek Jeter.

Oh … and more fun one. People around here hate Derrek Lee, mostly for reasons not known to me. But one reason is because Derrek Lee’s propensity for double plays this year. Would you believe it if I told you that Ryan Theriot grounds into double plays at a higher rate (18.1%) in double play situations than Derrek Lee does (17.0%).

But go ahead and keep bashing Derrek Lee and praising Ryan Theriot. Maybe my next post will be comparing those two.

NOTE: If you would like explanations/definitions of these stats, go to:

  • B-R (OPS+)
  • THT (Win Shares, Runs Created, Gross Production Average)
  • Baseball Prospectus (EQA, EQR, RAR, RAP, RARP)
  • ESPN (Fielding %, Range factor, Zone rating)
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Brilliance

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

That was brilliant.

For the first time in 36 years, the Cubs have had a pitcher (Carlos Zambrano) throw a no-hitter (and, amazingly, Milt Pappa’s Wikipedia page

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has already been updated to reflect that).

The Cubs scored 5 runs early in the game, but that really does not matter.

Big Z was phenomenal, with very good velocity (in the upper 90′s), great movement, good control, and simply unhittable stuff.

If there was any doubt about Z’s health, that should be gone.

And don’t look now, but all the Chicken Littles should note that the Cubs have now won three in a row, and lowered the division magic number to just 7.

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Added by Rob:

I am grateful that Len and Bob broke the stupid don’t mention the no hitter until its’ over rule. Len said it at the end of the eighth and Z still got the not hitter. I thought this was impossible because of the jinx factor.

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LouPa bunts away the game

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Oh boy.

There is not much to be said about this game.

The Cubs got off to a great start, scoring two runs in the first on back-to-back doubles from Lee and Ramirez, and would add a run in the third on a Ramirez single. But that would be it, with the Cubs showing in inability to take advantage of their opportunities.

Ryan Dempster pitched well enough to get a win, but was not great. His only runs allowed came in the sixth on a Albert Pujols home run that followed a double and a walk.

The Cardinals would win in the bottom of the ninth, after a single, a balk, a walk, a sac bunt, and a VERY weak game winning fielders choice to second base against Carlos Marmol.

But here is what I want to talk about. In the top of the 8th inning Jim Edmonds drew a leadoff walk, bringing up one of the Cubs best, and hottest, hitters in Geovany Soto. Lets get some facts out of the way about Geovany Soto:

  • Soto is slow.
  • Soto does not bunt often.
  • Soto hits for average.
  • Soto hits for power.
  • Soto gets on base often.
  • Soto has ZERO sac bunts in his major league career.

Yet somehow Lou Piniella felt the need to have a slow, infrequent bunter who also happens to be one of your best hitters try to lay down a bunt to advance Jim Edmonds Felix Pie, who came in to pinch run, to second.

And it failed miserably.

Now, don’t get me wrong. One play did not lose this game. But Lou Piniella made it more difficult for this team to win the game because of his decision to bunt with a slow, infrequent bunter who also happens to be one of your best hitters.

What an awful decision.

Which helped lead to an awful conclusion to the game.

The Cubs have now low eight of their last nine games. But I still say relax.

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The Cubs are good!

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

The last ten days or so have been pretty ugly for Chicago Cubs baseball. The Cubs lost six in a row, rebounded for a big win, and then followed the win up with an ugly and painful ninth inning loss.

Some people are more than a little worried.

But lets step back and be honest with ourselves for a moment. This team is really good. And a bad eight game run is not more indicative of the ability of this team than the entirety of the 143 games that the Cubs have played up to this point of the season. The Cubs currently stand 29 games above .500, and they are 4.5 games up on Milwaukee in both the division, and for the best record in the NL. They also have the second best record in baseball, falling just one game back of the Angels.

Lets take a look at how good they really are among playoff contenders (via Baseball Analysts):

TEAM RS RA DIF OPS OPSa OPS+ Without Evidence full ERA+
NYM 701 618 83 .756 .720 107 104
PHI 696 599 97 .761 .741 101 115
CHC 769 593 176 .806 .715 112 117
MIL 676 608 68 .765 .726 104 113
STL 685 633 52 .781 .768 111 102
HOU 643 665 -22 .744 .775 101 97
LAD 603 581 22 .721 .694 92 118
ARI 645 637 8 .737 .721 93 111

In other words, among National League teams the Cubs have:

  • Scored the most runs
  • Allowed the fewest runs
  • Have the largest run differential
  • Have the highest OPS
  • Have the highest OPS allowed
  • Have the highest OPS+
  • Have the second highest ERA+

They also have the highest OPS+, second highest ERA+, and highest run differential in all of baseball.

The Cubs have struggled over the last ten days or so, but they are still far and away the best team in the National League. And it really is not even close.

The Cubs have also struggled over the last ten days in part because two of their top three starters have not pitched. Neither pitcher is thought to be having serious problems, and both should be ready and healthy from here on out.

So lets relax a bit, and and enjoy one of the best Cubs teams that we (or at least I) have seen in our lifetimes.

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