Friday, November 27, 2009

Derrek Lee...

R.J. Anderson from Fangraphs had this to say about Derrek Lee's 2009 season. Derrek Lee posted some great numbers which makes his 2008 season (where he hit into 27 double-plays) seem like an anomaly.

DLee becomes a free agent at the end of 2010. He'll also be 35. So should the Cubs move him while he's worth something?

Personally, I would like the Cubs to move him. And now might be the best time because his value might not ever be as high as it is right now. I'll miss him. But players come and go...

...and that's why I never buy jerseys with their names on them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Player A or Player B?

Over at DRaysBay, RJ Anderson (my top man-crush not named Mark Wahlberg or Dave Cameron) illustrates, in beautiful words and numbers, my exact frustrations with the Milton Bradley debacle:

A Not-So Theoritical Theoritical

Also, the bloggers (Al from BCB and myself included) mix it up in the comments section. It's well worth a read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Juking the stats...The John Grabow Edition

My favorite TV show (The Wire) had this saying that appeared in a couple seasons called "Juking the stats". Basically what this saying entailed [on the show] is that higher brass in the police department were classifying certain crimes as others or less severe so a)the overall crime rate went down as well as b)the murder rate went down. This was usually done out of response by pressure from the Mayor's office but, in season 4, we learn that the educational system is not immune to certain statistical deficiencies.

The following video is an interaction between two (2) teachers and how they're being told from, I assume, the Principal that they will only teach questions from the states standardized tests (which the state uses to measure the performance of the school).

(hence, "juking the stats")

The Cubs have done exactly this by relying on ERA as a significant measuring tool to resign Grabow.

What we see here is the same Cubs moves that continues to be made by personnel who cannot effectively evaluate talent. Dave Cameron from Fangraphs had this to say about the Cubs re-signing Grabow.

In my opinion Hendry continues to commit two crimes. The first being that he continues to use inferior stats to measure performance and does not adjust to the newer/more superior statistical measures (which is available to the public). This leads to his second crime, overpaying players based on these inferior stats. In my opinion, he needs to go. ASAP! But unfortunately I'm not the Ricketts family.

New owner or not, the Cubs go as Jim Hendry goes...

...and wherever you go, there you are.

Update: On his blog, JC Bradburry also gives the Grabow signing a frowny face.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Epic Fail: Part 1 - Juan Pierre

Epic fail is a series discussing and analyzing questionable decisions of management ranging from letting a player go after an above average producing year and/or failing to develop talent.

This is Part 1 - Juan Pierre

I remember a couple things about Juan Pierre. First, being in the 2003 postseason against the Cubs and how he was a scrappy player who could bunt - BUNT - for a hit by using his speed and then steal second base anytime he wanted. It seemed like he was always in scoring position. If the Marlins didn't have Juan Pierre, they don't win that series against the Cubs.

I always thought to myself "Where's OUR Juan Pierre"?

Fast forward to the 2005 off season, the Cubs traded three pitchers for Juan Pierre and I thought, "Awesome, just the guy we need. Great leadoff hitter, and great speed". And then I started to dream of post season success (that was my mistake).

But alas, it was not meant to be. Derek Lee suffered an injury and was out for most of the season and the Cubs tanked. They could not replace DLee's MVP caliber numbers from 2005.

And after 2006, Juan Pierre was gone along with our leadoff hitter (which has yet to be effectively filled in the lineup).

Monday, November 16, 2009

2010 CHONE Notables

Well, the 2010 offseason is now in full swing. In addition to being the "Hot Stove" time of year, the offseason is also the "Projections" time of year. I will try to keep track of the most unique and debate-worthy elements of these various projection teams (CHONE, ZiPS, Bill James, etc.). Recently (yesterday?), released the CHONE predictions. The Cubs predictions present a few elements worthy of examination:

Player Age G   AB   R Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO  PA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Lee     34 132 509 78 144 29  1 24  82  3   2  61 106 573 0.283 0.363 0.485

Clearly, CHONE (nor any sensible baseball fan) does not foresee Derrek Lee repeating his monstrous 2009 year (.306/.393/.579). This adds fodder for my tragic, self-loathing trade Lee proposal (as a Cub's fan, I'm disgusted with myself, but as a sabermatrician, I'm inclined to propose it).

Player Age  G   AB  R  Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO PA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Fox     27 128 384 57 107 23  1  20 67   2   2  28 85 420 0.279 0.340 0.500

On a similar note, Jake Fox. Big man. Big bat. Could he take the reigns from Lee? CHONE makes it look possible.

Player   Age G    AB  R  Hits 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO PA   AVG   OBP   SLG
Bradley  32 114 386 62 106 19  1  17 56   4   3  61 92 454 0.275 0.383 0.461

Lastly, my nearly-namesake, Milton Bradley. His numbers were down in 2009, but his slash (.257/.378/.397) really hid the potential. I still think his contract is nuts and that the Cubs will try to trade him like mad; but if he can produce a (.275/.383/.461) slash, is he really worth selling so soon? I don't know.

In his blog, Sabernomics, JC Bradbury states that GMs don't buy low or sell high, but rather players tend to be accurately valued according to potential, not recent performance. I think this may be true, considering most trade proposals I've seen coming the Cubs way tend to be mutually beneficial, but still, given his off-field conflicts, I think Bradley's "stock" is still low and that he could provide better production than, say, Pat Burrell.

What am I saying? Keep Bradley.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Micah May be Useful Yet

Prowling around the blogosphere, as I tend to do, I've seen a lot of Cub's fans ready to give up on Micah Hoffpauir. However, taking a quick gander at his Fangraph's stats, any sabermatrician can see the potential. Micah's 2009 slash (.239/.300/.427) isn't very pretty. He basically was a replacement level player, seeing only about 250 PA over 100 games -- i.e. a pinch hitter, spot starter.
Most patrons of Cubs message boards and blogs must be looking at Micah's batting average (.239) and OBP (.300), because those are the metrics playing hardest against him. However, Micah's BABIP -- which reached colossal lows in 2009 -- indicates he's got plenty of room to improve.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WAR, a Cautionary Tale

Jeremy Greenhouse, over at The Hardball Times, just wrote an excellent caveat for the usage of Fangraph's WAR (wins above replacement), a statistical metric we are very fond of here at Cubs Stats. Check it out!

Also, Milton Bradley trade rumors are swirling around today. The high hubbub frequency is mostly due to the GM Meetings, which are taking place in Chicago right now. Today I've heard rumors (from non-Cub fan sources) of Bradley being wanted in Texas, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and San Diego or a possible component of a three way trade between Toronto and the Mets (this was later debunked). Nonetheless, it seems the league is certainly ready to find a new home for MB.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Elements of Cubs Fielding, Part 2

Today I want to look at several interesting elements of the Cubs fielding. This is a continuation of a discussion Will and I had a week or so earlier.

Will noted: Kosuke [Fukudome]. I was actually suprised at the vast discrepancy between his RF/CF UZR. RF is stellar, CF, absolutely horrendous. I actually looked at Jermaine Dye's UZR as well, just to get a better understanding of where Kosuke is, and Dye is horrific!

--I think Kosuke's sample size is too small for both positions. He's really only got one season in each position, and as far as UZR goes, that's just not long enough. I genuinely think he's: 1) a great RF and 2) a potentially serviceable CF (i.e. I don't think he's god-awful like the numbers suggest). But still, I'd like to see him shift to right, where it's a safer bet.

Will: Derrek Lee. Everyone talks about how great DLee is on defense, but personally the UZR says he's slightly better than average. I was surprised about this one.
--Historically, Lee suffers from the same thing Jeter does: beautiful skills, little range. However, 1B is really a position that's hard to gauge range, in my opinion, and I think that's reflected in the recent fluctuation in his range. However, he'll never hurt you on defense -- which is gravy considering he can carry you on offense!
Will: Aramis Ramirez. Defensively, slightly below average but he doesn't have a "Holy crap! what happened that year?!" performance (or lack thereof). Can't go too hard on him.
--Ramirez is in there for his bat. He could never field another ball, for all I care. He's just got to keep swinging away. He walks, he crushes it. And boy can he do both. That's all I ask for.
Will: Chone Figgins. I debated between a couple 3B's in the league (ok, him and ARod) and Chone's UZR JUMPED off the chart (at least for last season). See for yourself.
--What's important to remember about Chone (2008-2009 UZR at 3B = ~16 runs above average) is that he's a converted outfielder who could throw, but couldn't run. The slowest outfielder in the world (cough, Jake Fox*, cough-cough) can look like a bolt of lightning at 3B. Third basemen are just required to move faster over less ground; reflexes, not necessarily leg strength. If you want to see some serious fielding, check out Evan Longoria of the Rays. He's saved 33 runs in just two years of MLB service. His, as they say, Evan LonGlorious.
*Don't misunderstand. I loves me some Jake Fox. He don't need to be fast to do the homerun trot.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

As a Cubs fan, I want what the Yankees have

Congrats to the 2009 New York Yankees. They were the best team throughout the season and the best team in the playoffs.

As a Cubs fan I feel envious towards the Yankees. They have everything. The hardware, the rings, and the girls (minus Kate Hudson). They are the Ferris Bueller to my Cameron Frye. My envy is so great, that I am willing to let the Yankees drive my Dad's 1961 Ferrari 250GT California (less than a hundred were made) around the streets of Chicago and risk being murdered by my father just so I can be a third wheel and hang out with my friend (the Yankees) and their girlfriends (again, minus Kate Hudson).

That's how envious I am.

A lot of people blame the Yankees by saying they buy their championships by paying the highest dollar to the best free agents. But, they have operated within the rules of baseball and pay a significant luxury tax ($26.9 million dollars to be exact). The money derived from this tax is then divided among the smaller market teams to allow them to have more revenue to sign more attractive free agents.

If I was a free agent (a good one at that...not a bum like Nick Swisher) I would want to play for the Yankees because a)they'll show me the money and b)I have a better than average chance of winning a championship. As a fan, I want the GM to sign the best players available on the market to make my team better and improve my teams chances of winning a championship. We all want this. Regardless of the sport. So what exactly have they done wrong?

So before we start stoning the Yankees (again) for going out and spending all of this money, let's analyze something that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

A closer examination reveals four (4) players from Wednesdays Game 6 that were drafted by the Yankees. And all of which (except one) spent their entire career in the Bronx:

-Derek Jeter — Drafted: 1992: 1st Rd. (6th) by New York Yankees

-Jorge Posada - Drafted: 1990: 24th Rd. by New York Yankees

-Mariano Rivera — Drafted: 1990: Amateur Free Agent by New York Yankees

-Andy Pettitte - Drafted: 1990: 22nd Rd. by New York Yankees

Two of these players (Jeter, Rivera) are first-ballot Hall of Famers. An argument can be made for or against Pettitte, Posada (though the five rings each will probably get them in).

What the Yankees have proven to me is that they have had competent personnel in place to develop talent throughout their organization. Each organization needs to have a nucleus of players to build off of that have been developed through proper scouting, drafting and coaching. If you look at past championship teams (e.g. Bulls championship teams of the 90's, Spurs championship teams, '85 Bears (who should've won a couple more Super Bowls but that is neither here nor there), and, well, the 2009 New York Yankees) you can see the result of this type of player development.

The point is, there is added value by developing talent from within. And when you create a solid nucleus of players from within your organization that have bought into the system and are committed to winning, it is easier to attract the higher tier free agents.

For the Cubs to become World Series champions, they must make a commitment to improving their personnel within their farm system. This means hiring the right individuals that can successfully evaluate and develop talent. Proper mentoring, effective coaching, and successful development of these young players should be the priority of the farm system.

We know we can attract the free agents because a)the Ricketts have money and b)we have Wrigley Field and c)the players LOVE to play here (except you, Milton Bradley). So it is possible to bring in more attractive free agents based on those variables (which look similar to the Yankees). But as we look at our high priced outfield, our two corner infielders (all of which were either acquired via trade or through free agency), I ask; can the Cubs build a championship team around a nucleus of Theriot, Soto, Zambrano, Wells, Samardzija and Marmol so that one day we can have a parade down Clark and Addison and be the envy of the league?

I hope so.

Because I don't want to be like Cameron Frye forever.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How About Aaron Rowand?

Al, over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, did his second annual roster forecast, and it includes some really interesting proposals (as well as great a great breakdown of the money situation). I want to examine his proposal to trade Aaron Miles and Milton Bradley to the Giants for Aaron Rowand. Why any team would be willing to take in Bradley and his contract right now is beyond me, but we're assuming -- I guess -- they're news stations only covered stories about fires and cyborg governors out on the west coast, so they have no idea what kind of trouble they're bringing to town.

Okay, assumptions aside, is this a good deal? More after the jump...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't fall in love with Carl Crawford, Cubs fans.

So now that the World Series is over, the hot stove can finally begin! We already have some movement via Kenny Williams and the White Sox/Royals but taking a look at some of the more attractive free agents out there (and there's quite a few) Cubs fans can salivate over what could be next year.

It is no secret that the Cubs need more outfield power and speed. No longer can the Cubs rely on a healthy Soriano because, well, he hasn't been healthy since being in a Cubs uniform. And to get the most out of their current outfield, Soriano will have to stay in left and Kosuke must be moved back to his "normal" position (RF). That leaves CF open. Reed Johnson is a free agent now but I expect the Cubs to resign him because he's a solid defender and can platoon with another person (Sam Fuld perhaps?). But that still doesn't address the issue of power and speed. You would essentially have the same team next year as the 2009 team.

I took a peak at some of the outfielders available and I immediately fell in L-O-V-E with Carl Crawford. His speed, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage are as attractive to me as Kim Kardashian in a Jasmine Halloween costume--it can be love at first sight. But what lurks underneath the costume and makeup?

The GOOD: In 2009, Carl Crawford had: -UZR 17.6, -60 stolen bases with a success ration of 79%, -on base percentage of .364, -slugging percentage of .452, -BABIP of .346, -wOBA .367, -WAR 5.5, -Dollars 24.6 mill -Salary 8.3 mill

Defensively, Crawford has been a S-T-U-D in left for Tampa Bay since 2002 (with some great UZR numbers in '03,'04,'05,'08,'09). His average UZR equates to 13.2.

The BAD: He plays LEFT FIELD (a position known by most in baseball where you stick your worst outfielder). If the Cubs were to legitamitely pursue him, they would have to move him to center. The reason why Crawford is in left is because of his arm, sure he could cover a lot of ground with his speed but what's the point if he can't throw to the cutoff man? AND he would be playing in the cold for a good month and a half. I don't care if the field in Wrigley has been redone, cold earth is cold earth and when you dive, it will hurt. Another thing to ask is how will he fair when he reaches that warning track? The warning track is the great equalizer at Wrigley because it separates the men from the boys. The men know they will be colliding with an immovable brick wall but they go after the ball anyway, the boys do not. They hesitate and allow the ball to pass their glove. Another thing to consider is his leadership quality. The center fielder is the captain of the outfield. Could he take on this added responsibility?

More BAD: One major problem is his age. He's 28 now. His best years could have been 2008, 2009. Plus, whenever a team signs a free agent, there's always an adjustment period (that includes, getting use to the city, fans, ball park, coaching staff, pitchers, etc, etc) and sometimes these players take the majority of the season (or a whole season) to adjust. So expecting the same level of production is too high of expectations. PLUS-his agent will more likely find a team that signs him to a 5 or 6 year contract basically handcuffing this team when Crawford is well past his prime (but hey, it's all in the best interest of his client).

My colleague Brad had to take off my beer goggles about Crawford's stats and told me the following:

"Carl Crawford is a beast, no doubt. However, his knees are getting old and beat up on Tropicana Field's turf. His arm is definitely not super high quality (i.e. he'll likely never play RF) but he's got more than enough wheels to play left or center. Also, he's a free swinger that rarely lets off the first pitch. Guys like that can be really frustrating: he's got the legs to steal two bases in one wind-up, but never draws a walk. I wouldn't want him at CF just because his arm. A lot of players would advance to third or home of the course of the year. Also, his best years may be behind him and his pricey years are definitely ahead of him.

Someone recently asked me, "So you wouldn't take Carl Crawford right now over any of your prospects in CF?" My answer is a solid "No". Too many question marks as I mentioned above plus it will not be cheap. We're looking at a similar contract (in terms of dollars and length) as Soriano's. I would be surprised if Crawford is signed for less than 12 mill per year. If the Cubs weren't handcuffed with Soriano's contract, paying Kosuke 10 mill a year, and eating at least half of Milton Bradley's, I would definitely be on the Carl Crawford bandwagon here. But as of now, I think the risk outweighs the reward.

In summary, Cubs fans, don't fall in love with the numbers. Sure they may look good on paper; all the stolen bases, OBP, SLG, UZR, etc, etc...

...but so did Soriano's.

The Southside Starts Suddenly!

We are now about 14 hours into the off-season (of course, it began for most teams about a month ago), and the White Sox have already made two moves: Re-signing Mark Kotsay and trading Chris Getz and Josh Fields for Mark Teahan (from the KCR; J.C. Bradburry covers this trade pretty well). It makes me wonder what kind of small-ish transactions are available to the Cubs right now. The Cubs world right now seems to be focused on Milton Bradley and blockbuster deals to move him, but what about something more simple? Other than re-signing Grabow, what kind of small moves could the Cubs make to streamline the roster?

As I investigate this line of questioning, let's post possibilities and suggestions in the comments section below.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Elements of Cubs Fielding, Part 1

Will and I have lately been examing the very same things that made me love advanced baseball statistics: player evaluations! Or, better yet, player re-valuations. Will was looking through the UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) statistics for several current Cubs defensive starters, and we came across these nifty observations that non-sabermetrics statistics miss (I'm looking at you, Joe Morgan): 

Will observed: "I remember when callers would call in to WGN and whine about Soriano and protest that Lou move him to 2B, but after looking at [his] 2B [UZR], he's absolutely HORRENDOUS! In LF he's much better. Not only that but he's only had one bad year (2009) in LF where his defensive numbers make me want to vomit."

Alfonso Soriano absolutely flies like a gazelle and throws a frozen rope (his ARM runs above average are at 22 with only four years in LF); however, he's slightly below average (and below average in the MLB can mean you're on the bench) with his error rate. In other words, he's does everything better than most can do, except he has boneheaded plays too often (the same problem he had with 2B, which is a more pivotal position with a higher quantity of error possibilities). But guess which stat the average broadcaster/fan/MLB manager looks at? His error rate, thereby ignoring the fact that he's actually been overall productive in left. 

Will went on to say: "Derek Jeter. You know I used to think Jeter was an all-around stud defensively but the UZR numbers proved me wrong. Going back to 2002, he's below average (with some horrendous years in 05/07)."

Yuck. He's absolutely got no range whatsoever. Every ball he can reach, it's almost a guaranteed out, but he can reach about as many as I can when I try to put my hands through my TV set. BUT: He makes very few errors and looks fundamentally sound when he fields. THEREFORE: Announcers and managers drool over this guy, who's cost his team something like 33 runs during his career -- that's big for one man (of course, his bat adds a metric ton too). My first act as his manager? Move him to second. 

Will: "The reason I bring [Jeter] up is because of Ryan Theriot.  Looking at the UZR numbers, he's actually not that bad...maybe even slightly better than average.  Good year defensively last year.  He actually had a better year than Jimmy Rollins (check his stats too).  I would say Theriot is our second best defensive player behind Fukudome (at least Kosuke in RF)."

Theriot's an above average fielder (not the greatest), but oddly enough he's the best on our team. Throw in his steady bat, patient eye, and speed on the basepaths: hey! you've an excellent player on your hands. Can you believe he has a reputation among fans and announcers for being a bad fielder? The funny thing is: Jeter, who has no range, doesn't have nearly as many opportunities to catch an error as somebody like Theriot, who can reach a LOT more balls in play because of his range. 

Up Next: Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee!

Soriano: More Bullets for the Dead Horse

David Golebiewski over at Fangraphs wrote an excellent examination of Alfonso Soriano the other day. He does an excellent job breaking down sabermetric warning signs with regards to the aging left fielder. It's worth the reading:

In most cases, we wouldn't look at a couple years of UZR ratings and connect the dots like it was some quadratic equation. It's wiser to try to establish a trend line over several years because fielding is such an amorphous statistical pursuit. However, Golebiewski's observations (i.e. Soriano's downward slope in UZR over the last years) coincides to well with his (1) age, (2) injuries, and (3) steals.

On a similar note, Will and I were talking about MLB markets for talent. Over at SBNation's DRaysBay, they were just discussing the same thing. It's about the Rays, but there's a lot of universal stuff in there:

Basically, it says: as much as we may love one element of baseball (power hitting, steals, defense, starting pitching), the market will determine which one is being sold at a premium. In that same spirit, I looked up some old articles from the 2006-'07 free agency period and found this great one at Baseball Analysts:

It basically shows that in the same year that we re-signed Aramis Ramirez for $15M a year, we signed an
equally good batter who was older and of a lesser important position in Soriano -- for $18M per year! Granted, he was coming off a season in which our best sabermetrics indicated he was worth $22M (his BABIP was not out of norm, his defense in LF was solid, his sample size was full, etc.), but to say it was a freak season (i.e. completely out of line with his career) is the beginning of an understatement. In other words, we let the market screw us.