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Chris Coghlin: The Road Back to Relevancy

Monday, December 21st, 2015

by Adam Serink

The outfield for the Chicago Cubs of 2016 looks outstanding. Names like Heyward, Schwarber, Soler, and even Zobrist likely will highlight the lineup card for years to come. But there is another name that Cubs fans should get used to hearing, if they aren’t already – Chris Coghlan.

On January 15, 2014, the Chicago Cubs signed Chris Coghlan to a minor league deal including an invite to Spring Training. Coghlan had been drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Florida Marlins, and he continued to dazzle throughout his minor league career. He earned his first major league call up in May of 2009, and it seemed like Coghlan would not see the minors ever again. That year, Coghlan hit nine home runs, and drove in forty-seven runs, with an impressive slash line of .321/.390/.460. With that impressive display, Chris beat out such names as JA Happ, Andrew McCutchen, and Dexter Fowler for the 2009 Rookie of the Year honour. It seemed like the Marlins had something special, and without a doubt, they believed Coghlan would be their next star.

Late 2013 – After the impressive debut season, the major leagues caught up with Chris. He managed to slash .242/.307/.352 with the Marlins for the remainder of his tenure with the major league team. Injuries caught up with Coghlan, and over those four seasons following his outstanding debut season, he managed to play in only 265 major league games. The Coghlan of 2009 was gone, and the Marlins’ organization, and fan base had realized that. He had been optioned to the minor leagues numerous times, and his lingering injury problems turned off most everybody. Within four years, Coghlan had went from being a potential star with the Marlins, to a minor league castaway. And in late 2013, the Marlins called it quits. They pulled the plug on the ”Chris Coghlan Experiment”. He was not tendered a contract for the following year, therefore, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. Could this have possibly been the end of a career that once had so much promise? Possibly so. But it never did come to that.

When the Chicago Cubs signed Coghlan. he was expected to challenge names such as Schierholtz, Lake, Sweeney, and Ruggiano for a spot in the outfield. And when the time came to pick who stayed, and who went, Coghlan, with his .224 average throughout the spring, did not appeal to Theo and Jed, leading to their decision of sending him down to AAA Iowa. In his twenty four games played in Iowa, Coghlan hit for only a .243 average, but put together a stellar on-base percentage at .379, while jumping around the field at all three outfield positions, and multiple innings logged at first base. He showed strong versatility and was it possible that Coghlan had yet again found himself? It sure seemed that way.

On May 3, 2014, Ryan Sweeney strained his right hamstring, as he almost regularly managed to do. The corresponding move was made, and Chris Coghlan was added to the roster. May 4th was Coghlan’s debut in Cubbie blue, and there was nothing note-worthy about it, to say the least. Actually, from his Cubs’ debut until July 6, Coghlan looked like he was lost. He was overmatched, out of place, and it seemed like it was soon to be the end for Cogs and his tenure with the team. Through his first fifty games played as a Cub, Coghlan started twenty seven games, with a slash line of .229/.303/.356. Many had lost hope in Chris, but Rick Renteria was not one of those people. Coghlan’s playing time increased, he received more at bats, starts, and eventually, Ricky’s experiment worked – Coghlan was looking good out there.

On July 7, Chris Coghlan had himself a game. He went four-for-five, with two doubles, a stolen base, and two runs scored. With one game, his batting average shot up twenty three points, and it sparked a resurgence in his career, where he initially was at the point many believed it was over for him. With that one game, Coghlan began to play with great frequency, and his numbers began to go up as well. After one game, Coghlan had become a feared hitter yet again in Major League Baseball, marking a major comeback in a career that just months prior had looked so bleak. From July 8th, onward, Coghlan looked like a new man at the plate. Whether it was Renteria’s persistence, or Coghlan’s mentality, something had changed with Chris. He was blazing hot. He hit .307, with thirty four extra base hits from July 8th, until the end of the season, Coghlan had been one of the best bats the Cubs could’ve asked for. They had found a type of player they needed in the worst way – a lefty bat, who could play everywhere in the field, steal bases, take great at bats, and get on base more than most. It was no shocker to see that Chris had been named the Opening Night starter for the 2015 season, this time by the new manager, Joe Maddon. The Cubs showed a lot of confidence in their new left fielder that they salvaged from the trash heap, and turned into something special.

A player such as Coghlan likely appeals greatly to a manager like Joe Maddon. His hard-nosed, tough playing style, while not flashy, or as appealing to the typical fan is beneficial to the team. The newly found power stroke and defensive versatility, while maintaining strong on-base skills, could open up a new door for Coghlan, who could potentially become a player similar to new teammate, Ben Zobrist, and Maddon would be the manager help him accomplish that. Do not expect to see Coghlan’s name in the lineup every day, but expect him to be a quietly productive member of the 2016 Chicago Cubs, and a player who could earn a nice contract after the season.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on August 26th

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

by Nate Head

1. Game Notes

Cubs 8 @ Giants 5 – The Chicago Cubs won their sixth game in a row last night by a score of 8-5 against the San Francisco Giants. The bats erupted for ten hits (8 against starter Matt Cain) and Cubs hitters found the seats three times with Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Montero, and Starlin Castro each slugging home runs. Jake Arrieta tallied his league-leading 16th win and his ERA dropped to 2.22 with his six inning performance in which he did not allow an earned run and conceded just four hits and one walk.  Starlin Castro hit the ball on the screws four times, going 3-4 with a single and double and his night was highlighted by a 399 foot dinger to left field. The Cubs extended their lead over San Francisco in the Wild Card race to 7.5 games, and improved to a 5-0 record against the defending champs this season. The bullpen made the game slightly more intense, but the Cubs lead was never in serious danger.

My Player of the Game: Jake Arrieta (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 8 K’s)

2. Arrieta the Ace

Jake Arrieta continued his blistering streak Wednesday night, which at this point, surprised no one. Last night, Arrieta broke Hall-of-Famer (and former Cub) Greg Maddux’s team record with his 13th consecutive quality start. The lone run scored in Jake’s presence was unearned, as a throwing error by the right-hander himself allowed Kelby Tomlinson to cross the plate in the sixth inning. Arrieta’s dominance this month (5-0, 0.54 ERA in August) has given his Cy Young aspirations a boost, but Zack Greinke of the Dodgers is currently the undisputed leading candidate. However, a couple shaky starts from Greinke could open the door for Arrieta—who is not showing any signs of slowing his roll.

3. Cubs add Bonifacio

Emilio Bonifacio has agreed to join the Cubs on a minor league deal, according to reports. Bonifacio (who turned 30 in April) is expected to report to Iowa immediately and is a strong contender to join the big league team in September. Bonifacio was designated for assignment and eventually released by the Chicago White Sox after hitting a nightmarish .167/.198/.192 in 47 games this season. On a team that already has a surplus of middle-infielders, Emilio’s appeal likely comes from his speed. The 30-year-old has stolen bases at an impressive 77.5 percent success rate throughout his nine year career, swiping 165 bags while only being thrown out 48 times. Bonifacio played 69 games for the Cubs last year, hitting .279/.318/.373.

4. Down on the Farm

Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez extended his hit streak to six games for Class A Eugene last night, hitting two home runs and collecting three RBI’s in game one of a doubleheader against Spokane. Matt Szczur hit a home run during a 3-2 win for the Iowa Cubs last night.

Unfortunate news surfaced in Tennessee last night, where the Smokies announced that Cubs No. 3 prospect Billy McKinney will be out for the season with a hairline fracture. McKinney suffered the injury last week by fouling a ball of his leg. The 20-year-old was hitting /285/.346/.420 for the team this season.

5. What’s on Tap?

The Cubs look to win their seventh game in a row, and their sixth straight against the Giants. Let’s take a look at the probable pitchers:


1966 - After seeing a caricature of himself on the scoreboard, an angry Leo Duroucher calls the Astrodome’s press box to have it removed. When nothing is done, the enraged Cubs manager rips the phone out of the dugout wall and tosses it onto the infield.

1972 - Ron Santo‘s three run home run off Ron Bryant proves to be the difference in the Cubs’ 10-9 victory over San Francisco at Wrigley Field. The third inning round-tripper, the first of a pair he hits in the game, is the third baseman’s 2‚000th career hit‚ and drives in his 1‚200th run.

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5 Things Cub Fans Need To Know on August 24th

Monday, August 24th, 2015

By Jerry Burns

Wrigley Playing Large

Braves 3 @ Cubs 9 — After playing like a pitcher’s park for most of the season, the Cubs are enjoying Wrigley Field’s return to occasional hitter’s haven status. Chicago belted five home runs Sunday, with Dexter Fowler starting the party to lead off the game. Kris Bryant’s two-homer game and Miguel Montero’s three-run blast were the real killers. Kyle Schwarber broke an 0-for-11 start to the series with a solo shot. While I’m naturally wary of a team’s offense being sustained by home runs, it’s hard to argue with the Cubs’ recent run. In their last 10 games they have five games of three home runs or more, three of those at Wrigley, and now have back-to-back big home run outings after hitting four Saturday. They’ll eventually have to generate runs without the long-ball (see: night games at AT&T Park), but let’s enjoy the ride.

Player of the game: Kris Bryant (3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R)

20 Games Over .500

The last time the Cubs were 20 games over .500 was 1945. Put those pennants away, folks, there’s a long way to go for the Cubs to return to the World Series. The most important part of this figure is the Cubs’ four-game sweep of the Braves, which means they controlled their own destiny as the Pirates and Giants played out a four-game set in the Wild Card race. Chicago exits Sunday up six games on the Giants, while training Pittsburgh by three.

Back on Track

After a few rough starts, Jason Hammel returned to first-half form Sunday. The scary thing with Hammel as the Cubs make a playoff push is how bad his second half was in Oakland in 2014. The good news, his year-to-date numbers are very close to his full season numbers last year. From a Saber standpoint, Hammel is slightly better — so far — with a 3.64 FIP and 3.40 xFIP (compared to 3.92/3.57 in 2014). He is also striking out more and walking less. Beyond that, his peripherals: BABIP, ground ball, home run and left-on-base rates are within 4 percent or less of last year, spelling mostly good news. Hammel’s first half of 2014 was the anomaly, and this year he’s been more level throughout. Expect much of the same: Some good, some bad, but a good option for a No. 3 starter if the Cubs find themselves deeper than the Wild Card game.

Down on the Farm

At the big club, Addison Russell left Sunday’s game with groin tightness, begging the question: If he has to be out for an extended time, does Javier Baez get the call? If so, he’ll split time with Starlin Castro at shortstop and Chris Coghlan at second. This has been a trying year for Baez with his sister’s death delaying his season and an injury derailing a hot start. But in 55 games at Triple-A he’s lowered his strikeout rate to 25.2 percent and maintained the same walk rate. Along with that, Baez has hit .304 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a wRC+ of 137. Very impressive. I don’t trust him to be the top prospect that Bryant, Schwarber and Russell are panning out to be, but his hot bat would be welcome with this homer-happy squad. And, it might not be a bad idea to make him playoff eligible.

What’s On Tap?

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on August 22nd

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

by Nate Head

A New Streak Is Born

BRAVES 3 @ CUBS 5 – The Cubs won their second straight game against the Braves yesterday by a score of 5-3. Kyle Hendricks started for Chicago and continued his dreary slump on the mound, giving up three earned runs and seven hits in just five innings. The absence of pregame batting practice hasn’t hindered the Cubs’ offense, as they continued to hit, and as good teams do, took advantage of sloppy fielding from the Braves and benefited from two earned runs off Atlanta starter Shelby Miller. Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero thumped back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth, and Chris Coghlan belted his 15th home run of the season in the opening frame. Four Chicago relievers (Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon) combined for four scoreless innings, as Motte notched the W and Rondon the save.

My Player of the Game: Miguel Montero (2-4, 2B, RBI, R)

Hendricks Humbled

For a while there, 25-year-old Hendricks was one of the best fifth man of the rotation pitchers in the league. Lately, Hendricks’ production has begun to spiral downward, as he has given up at least three earned runs in five of his last six starts. Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that Hendricks has been determined to alleviate his recent woes and amend his apparent mechanics problems by analyzing game film of himself in slow motion. I don’t mean to harp on Hendricks too hard because despite his struggles lately, he has exceeded expectations this year and is certainly an asset at the end of the rotation. On the bright side, the team has won the last five games Hendricks has started in—can’t complain about that.

Playoff Tickets

Chicago’s magical season has officially become surreal. Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs’ front office mailed playoff ticket invoices to season ticket holders, who have first dibs on these potentially priceless tickets. Joe Maddon’s team still has 42 games left on the campaign, but there’s no denying it anymore—the Cubbies have a genuine shot at slithering into the playoffs via the recently expanded Wild Card format. Fans immediately raised a brow at the news, and superstitious folks can’t believe Chicago’s brass jumped the gun; because, you know, “the curse.”

Coghlan is Crushing Baseballs

Chris Coghlan has been raking lately. So far in August, Coghlan is hitting a respectable .289/.333/.578, highlighted by a pair of sharply hit triples and three timely dingers. The truth is that Coghlan has been underappreciated all season, likely due to his abysmal .251 batting average. But, if you dig deeper than that, Coghlan’s true impact is brought to light. His versatility on the diamond has enabled Maddon to put out the best possible lineup every game, and his .778 OPS is the second highest of his seven year career, while his .336 SLG is third. Also, who would have thought that Coghlan (who hasn’t surpassed double-digit bombs in a season prior to this year) would be third on the team in home runs in late August?

What’s On Tap?


1933 – Bill Veeck suggests the idea of a mid-summer series of inter league games and proposes a split-season schedule format. Although the Cub president’s concept of games between two circuits receives some support, Senator owner Clark Griffith opposes the proposal, calling the American League a major league not in need of grandiose schemes he deemed as “Hippodrome stuff”.

1982 – The Cubs pay tribute to Ernie Banks when the team retires the outfielder’s uniform number (14) that he wore for 19 seasons. The Hall of Famer, who retired in 1971, is the first player in the 106-year history of the franchise to be honored in this manner.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on Aug 7

Friday, August 7th, 2015

by Nate Head

Ace Up

Cubs LHP Jon Lester is taking the mound on only four days rest today. On Monday night in Pittsburgh, Lester pitched 1 1/3 innings before the game was delayed and eventually postponed. The Chicago southpaw only tossed 31 pitches while yielding one run to the division foe Pirates. Lester excelled in the month of July, where he posted a 1.66 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. Lester has assured manager Joe Maddon—as well as the media—that he is ready to take the ball again and the Cubs hope he can continue to build on his recent momentum, beginning with this start in game two of a pivotal series against the Giants.

Missing Montero

It feels like Cubs catcher Miguel Montero has been absent from the team for an eternity. Montero suffered a thumb injury in mid-July that put him on the 15-day DL. Recently, “Miggy” began a rehab stint with the AA affiliate Tennessee Smokies, and he clubbed a grand slam last night. According to Carrie Muskat of, the 32-year-old catcher could rejoin the team as early as Saturday. Montero’s eventual return has drawn plenty of attention, as many wonder how Maddon can squeeze him into the lineup without taking at-bats from Kyle Schwarber, who has absolutely thrived in Montero’s place. A solution that is gaining popularity is the thought of moving Schwarber to left field and using Chris Coghlan as a utility player. Coghlan can play all three outfield spots, third base, second base, and even first. Coghlan’s versatility enables Maddon to give rest to his young lineup down the stretch while keeping Schwarber’s scalding hot bat in the lineup.

Bring up Baez?

Javier Baez’s surge at AAA Iowa mixed with Starlin Castro’s abysmal hitting has begun to crank up the rumor mill, suggesting the promotion of the Chicago’s 2011 first-round draftee may be on the horizon. Prior to last night’s contest, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer addressed the matter by denying that Baez is coming to Chicago soon. “We would love to get him going and not just for a week to 10 day hot stretch,” Hoyer said in a report by Jesse Rogers of Baez is hitting .306 with 11 home runs, but the playing time rotation is tight. Where would he fit? It’s easy to look at Castro’s plunging stats, scoff, and angrily send a tweet begging for Baez. But, at this point, Starlin’s experience itself is more valuable to the Cubs right now, who already boast four rookies in the lineup in the midst of an aggressive wild card push.

Heated Hammel

Cubs RHP Jason Hammel was visibly frustrated by Maddon’s decision to remove him from the game after just four innings in last night’s 5-4 win. Hammel started the game with three scoreless innings before Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run in the fourth. Hammel’s command was shaky in the fifth, and his night ended abruptly when Maddon replaced him with reliever Justin Grimm after two consecutive walks to begin the frame. Maddon showed that he wasn’t taking any chances and called on his bullpen earlier than anticipated. Five different relievers combined for 5 innings, and Cub newbie Tommy Hunter was the only to give up runs, allowing two in the sixth. “I understand the magnitude of the situation…I just wanted to be out there to clean up my own mess,” a stern-faced Hammel said after the game.

What’s On Tap?

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs To Know for July 24

Friday, July 24th, 2015

by Nate Head

Fresh from a day-off

Coming off four games in three days in Cincinnati, it’s safe to say the Cubs needed a day off. They got one yesterday, hopefully recharging the depleted bullpen, as virtually every reliever on the 25-man was used at some point in the series. Signs of fatigue are popping up at the plate, too. Cubs’ hitters are expanding the zone, taking good pitches, over swinging—the whole nine.

Cubs’ players aren’t the only ones who needed a break. Nail-biting fans of the north siders likely have nothing left on their fingers after riding the turbulent waves throughout this series that produced three games decided by one run. Chicago salvaged a split with the Reds, highlighted by dramatic comeback wins on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

More Schwarber, Please

I’m satisfied with what catcher Miguel Montero has done this year, but rookie Kyle Schwarber is exactly what the Cubs need right now. While Montero has been on the disabled list (thumb) this past week, Schwarber has been one of the few consistent hitters in the lineup. In 13 games this year, the 22-year-old slugger’s stat line is impressive: .409/.447/.705. Schwarber’s defense behind the plate draws plenty of skepticism, and while he’s performed modestly behind the dish so far,the doubt isn’t necessarily unwarranted. A play in the early game on Wednesday comes to mind, where Schwarber took absolutely the worst route possible to an infield fly, which forced Anthony Rizzo to sprint in 90 feet from his position to make the catch. But, like many things in baseball, I assume it will come with experience—or at least hope. Manager Joe Maddon has shown that he is a firm believer in experimenting with lineups and using his whole team, and I expect him to find a way to effectively utilize Schwarber.

Bullpen, keep it up

A dark horse candidate for team MVP right now, the Cubs’ bullpen has been stellar. Believe it or not, Chicago’s relievers rank 4th in the NL in ERA with their collective mark of 3.20 (8th overall), and 2nd in opponent’s batting average (7th). Yes, that includes Edwin Jackson and Pedro Strop’s efforts this season. The bullpen put on a clinic in game two on Wednesday, as the combination of Wood-Strop-Soriano-Rondon-Motte went 7 innings behind starting pitcher Dallas Beeler’s disastrous start, striking out 11 Reds hitters and not allowing a single run. Jason Motte looks like Maddon’s most popular choice to close out games right now, and he has done well in those situations. A new addition to the crew, league veteran Rafael Soriano, is showing he could be a quality addition, pitching a scoreless inning in each of his two appearances with the team.

Castro needs to claw out of slump

Shortstop Starlin Castro’s hitting drought has been hard to watch for me, personally. Castro’s body language after making an out is nearly depressing at this point, as it looks like he wants to split his bat over his knee every time he makes an out. Maddon has stuck by his slumping shortstop, spewing encouraging words to the media when the topic is mentioned. When he’s at his best, Castro is a relaxed free-swinger at the plate. Right now, it looks like he is over-analyzing every pitch and is actually trying too hard to return from his hitting hiatus. Whether it is to attract more teams (maybe just the Phillies) at the deadline or to simply help out the lineup, Castro needs to start hitting. In his career, Starlin has faced just one of Philadelphia’s probables for this weekend’s series, Cole Hamels, and has fared well, going 3 for 6 against the left-hander, and possible future Cub.

Series pitching probables

On the surface, this three game set against the Phillies at Wrigley may not seem very important. However, Chicago is literally clinging to their second spot in the NL wild card race with a mere .5 lead over San Francisco. Philadelphia has the worst overall record in the league at 34-63 and should help bolster the Cubs’ win column. Naturally, the Cubs encounter them on their hottest stretch of the season as they have won five of six games after the All-Star break. Let’s take a look at the expected pitching matchups:

Friday: Jon Lester vs. Jerome Williams

Saturday: Jake Arrieta vs. Cole Hamels

Sunday: Jason Hammel vs. Aaron Nola

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Who Will Be The 2015 Statistical Leaders?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

by John Dewan

In addition to our projected Defensive Runs Saved leaders, which we highlighted in a Stat of the Week a few weeks ago and will be expounded upon in The Fielding Bible—Volume IV to be released on March 1, we provide a spring update to the Bill James Projections each year to account for players who have changed teams and gained or lost apparent playing time as teams have put together their rosters. That update will also be released on March 1, so let’s look at which hitters and pitchers are projected to lead baseball in various categories.

First, here are the projected hitting leaders:

Projected Hitting Stat Leaders, 2015
Stat Player Projected Total
AVG Miguel Cabrera .321
Yasiel Puig .316
Jose Altuve .316
HR Giancarlo Stanton 40
Jose Abreu 38
George Springer 38
RBI Miguel Cabrera 123
Jose Abreu 121
Paul Goldschmidt 115
Runs Mike Trout 131
Mookie Betts 112
Paul Goldschmidt 107

A few of the usual suspects like Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt make their way back on to the projected leaderboards, but the 2015 leaders also have some new blood. Jose Abreu was a star in his first season in MLB, smashing 36 home runs and knocking in 107 runners despite a DL stint that held him to 145 games. This year, we like Abreu to exceed those numbers in a full, healthy season.

George Springer hit 20 home runs in his first major league action in 2014 in only 345 plate appearances. We think he’ll come close to doubling his playing time and home run total in 2015. And while Mike Trout has a healthy lead in projected runs scored, we expect Mookie Betts to play well and benefit from hitting atop the powerful Red Sox lineup in route to scoring 112 runs.

Projected Pitching Stat Leaders, 2015
Stat Player Projected Total
Wins Clayton Kershaw 21
Adam Wainwright 17
Felix Hernandez 16
Stephen Strasburg 16
Saves Trevor Rosenthal 49
Craig Kimbrel 47
Fernando Rodney 47
Aroldis Chapman 47
ERA Clayton Kershaw 2.37
Michael Pineda 2.74
Matt Harvey 2.84
K Yu Darvish 248
Clayton Kershaw 245
Stephen Strasburg 237

Clayton Kershaw will lead both leagues in wins and ERA but fall three strikeouts short of the MLB triple crown for pitchers based on our projections. He’s amazing. He’s joined by other elite starters including Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg at the heads of those lists.

The ERA leaders are particularly interesting. Behind Kershaw, both Michael Pineda and Matt Harvey are coming back from injuries. Pineda was outstanding in 76.1 innings last season, maintaining a 1.89 ERA and a miniscule 0.8 walks per nine innings. He’s been great whenever he’s been healthy in his career, but unfortunately, the healthy stints have been few and far between. Harvey is coming back from Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2014 season.

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

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Are Defensive Runs Saved Predictive?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015


by John Dewan

Defensive analytics have grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade. At Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), we eat, sleep and breathe defense, but there is always more to learn. A recent research project uncovered some remarkable new information.

One of the public perceptions has been that a player needs three full seasons before his defensive metrics provide a true indication of his defensive abilities. That has been my own personal rule of thumb, though I’ve known there is some reliability to sample sizes smaller than three years.

Based on the new research, BIS has found that Defensive Runs Saved based on as small a sample size as 350 innings in the field (about a quarter of the season) produces reliable results. This is a very significant finding.

The research produced another significant finding. Defensive Runs Saved is a better predictor than many other statistical measures in baseball even over limited samples. Most notably, DRS is a better predictor of future performance than batting average and OPS with partial season data.

We’ll have more on this in the upcoming book, The Fielding Bible—Volume IV, but here is a table that summarizes the results. We use the statistic called the correlation coefficient to show how predictive each statistic is—it produces a number between -1 and 1, with numbers near zero meaning no predictability and numbers near -1 and 1 meaning high predictability.

Correlation Coefficients of AVG, OPS, and DRS
Statistic 350 Innings 700 Innings
Batting Average 0.46 0.47
OPS 0.52 0.51
DRS 0.55 0.59


As you can see from the table, DRS is more predictive than batting average and OPS after just 350 innings. The same is true if you increase the samples to 700 innings.

In the study, we ran correlations of three years of defensive data versus the subsequent year’s DRS totals for position players. The first used 350 innings for DRS and 175 at-bats for batting average and OPS—both about one fourth of an MLB season—over both samples. The second used 700 innings and 350 at-bats. The full explanation of the study of the predictive power of Defensive Runs Saved as well as the rest of our latest defensive research can be found in the upcoming Fielding Bible—Volume IV, which will be released in early spring of 2015.

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How Do Shifts Affect League-Wide BABIP?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

by John Dewan

I was recently asked the following question [by Rob Neyer]: If infield shifts work so well, why aren’t league-wide BABIPs (Batting Average on Balls in Play) dropping? It’s a great question. Shifts are designed to to take hits away from certain pull-heavy hitters, and with the huge increase that we have seen in the number of shifts used across baseball over the last few years, intuitively we would think that this would affect the league’s batting average. And it does! However, the effect is almost imperceptible because the number of batted balls against a shift is still a small percentage of all batted balls put in play.

First, for reference let’s look at what the league-wide BABIP has been over the last 10 years, as well as the shifts data that we have been collecting at Baseball Info Solutions since 2010:


































*Projected by year end

Based on research that we have done at BIS, we know that the shift lowers the batting average on grounders and short liners (the ball in play types most affected by the shift) by about 30 points. So far this season, the batting average on grounders and short liners on shifted plays has been .230, and on non-shifted plays it has been .265. That’s a significant difference. However, despite the shift being employed far more often this season than any previous season, it has still only been used about 10% of the time. Therefore, the overall batting average on all grounders and short liners in baseball has been .262, only a 3 point difference from the .265 average on non-shifted plays.

And that’s just grounders and short liners. If you factor in ALL balls in play, that 3 points gets diluted even further, because the infield shift has no effect on balls hit to the outfield. The league-wide BABIP this season is .299, but it would be .300 without the shifting. So, in general the shift is only going to lower the overall BABIP by about 1 or 2 points, and that gets lost in the noise when looking at year-to-year BABIPs.

However, just because it might be difficult to see the impact that shifting has had when looking at year-to-year numbers doesn’t mean that shifting hasn’t had a meaningful effect. So far this season teams have saved 127 runs throughout baseball by shifting. If we assume all those runs would have been earned, that means the league’s overall ERA of 3.80 would actually be 3.85 if teams weren’t shifting. So, the shift does make a difference.

On Tuesday, Tom Verducci published an article for Sports Illustrated supporting the idea that MLB should at least consider making the defensive shift illegal. The thought is that scoring in baseball has declined too much in recent years, so let’s regulate the options available to the defense to keep things more exciting for fans. However, as the data above shows, the shift is just a small part of run prevention. A difference of 1 or 2 points in league-wide batting average is nothing compared to, for example, when the pitcher’s mound was lowered after the 1968 season. While shifting definitely makes a difference, regulating it isn’t going to reverse recent run-scoring trends. In fact, by taking away the shift and limiting the strategies that teams can use to gain an edge, MLB would actually be making the game less exciting.

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

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