Sunday, January 31, 2010

And Baserunning Continues to Elude Us

Strolling through some articles from the most recent Cubs Convention, I found this:

"Piniella said Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome would be Nos. 1-2 in the lineup, and possibly vice-versa on occasion. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will follow, with either Soriano or Marlon Byrd hitting fifth...Jeff Baker will bat seventh, unless Mike Fontenot is playing second, with Geovany Soto eighth. The Cubs could have eight right-handed hitters in the lineup"
(Chicago Tribune).

So our lineup (in general) is the following:

7)Baker (sometimes Fontenot)
b)Tracy(though I do not include him in my research)

The glaring missing piece is the lack of team speed and just flat-out good baserunning. Though this is NOT the same team from 2009, it is a team that lacks in baserunning skills:

Click here for the Google doc.
(For a summary of each runner, look at the far right column called "Net Gain". It combines BR Gain and SB Gain)
What we see from the Cubs is a difference of 128 Net Gain points v. the Phillies (the best in MLB in baserunning) and 59 Net Gain points v. the Cardinals (the best in baserunning in the NL Central).

What I expect from the Cubs in 2010 is well, much of the same. They may not be last in the league in baserunning statistics, but I think they will be included with the rest of the bottom feeders (Royals, Orioles, Astros, Braves, Pirates, White Sox [scratch that, at least they have Juan Pierre...d'oh!]).

Some other stuff:
1.)Jeremy Greenhouse of Baseball Analysts wrote an excellent article regarding baserunning which you can read here. It even includes animation!
2.)Our friends at Another Cubs Blog had this to say about why the Cubs well - suck at baserunning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

PECOTA's Projections, Picked Prospects, Sherlock's Sabermetrics, and a Pricey Perfect Game

The brain-trust at Baseball Prospectus has released and updated their PECOTA team projections, which sadly predict the Cubs finishing below .500 -- and below the Reds(!?). Maybe I'm severely underestimated the Cincy Red-Stockings, but I really think this is a fight between the recent contenders still (the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs). Thankfully, I'm not alone in my surprise -- Walkoff Walk presented similar complaints, though about the previous update. Maybe that's why BP puts the PECOTA standings under the "Fantasy" section?

Meanwhile, Keith Law of ESPN (Insider) continues his scouring of the minor leagues, this time, naming his Top 100 in prospects. The guys over at Another Cubs Blog do us the service of picking out the Cubs, and appropriately discussing them. It's a nice change to be a little excited about the minors again.

Additionally, Steve Slowinski at DRaysBay finds an interesting sabermetrician in the literary Sherlock Holmes. This is a great, logical read -- especially for some one just now breaking into the world of sabermetrics.

Lastly, the Big League Stew notes that 2K Sports is holding a contest with their next title, MLB 2K10, which features hunk-a-licious Evan Longoria on the cover. Apparently, the first player to pitch a perfect game get one million pictures of a green George Washington. Unfortunately, in order to be eligible for the prize, you have to play MLB 2K10, which -- like its predecessors -- will be replete with glitches, bad commentary, and -- most likely -- more glitches.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Did the Hall make the right Call?

In case you haven't heard by now, Andre Dawson will be going into the Hall of Fame wearing a Montreal Expos hat (eh?...they are now the Washington Nationals). Even though the Cubs were Dawson's preference, the Hall elected (no pun intended) to go a different direction by preserving the history of the game.

So Expo fans everywhere, REJOICE! Your team lives on!!!

In other news, if you haven't read Brad's post about the luck of the Cubs, please do so here. I am directing you to this because a)Brad really blew me away with his compilation of data and b)it leads me to think of this next question; are the Cubs the worst team in baseball history?

An Aside in Football

As a Chicago resident and a lifelong Chicago-sports fan, I am compelled to occasionally venture into the statistical realms of other local sports teams. I ask loyal Cubs Stats to excuse this foray in football, but I imagine other Chicagoites might find the following article I wrote on the Windy City Gridiron intriguing or at least outrageous:

The Coach Comparison Game

Essentially, I have slowly become -- over the last year or so -- some off-brand appologetic for all head coaches, owners, and GMs. Or maybe I've just started to hate fans? Maybe I should blame Chris Farley for making unrealistic expectations for how loyal or patient a fan should be.

Polish sausages.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cubs Get Nady, and Park is Good

Breaking earlier today, the Cubs have acquired outfielder Xavier Nady -- for $3.3M with $2M in incentives (all of which I hope he gets). Our good friends at Another Cubs Blog take some time to examine his potential impact. Their analysis? He will be worth his base salary and then some. I agree.

Additionally, the Cubs have expressed a lot of interest in both Kiko Calero and Chan Ho Park of late. I'm 100% behind signing these guys (for around $3M or so, maybe a touch more), but not everybody is. In fact, I just finished a long text-message conversation with a fellow sports enthusiast who believed Park is not "clutch." Well, Fangraphs suggests otherwise; moreover, Dave Cameron insists otherwise. I tend to Dave's opinion.

Also, Sky Andrecheck of Baseball Analysts has completed a fun study on the history of the stolen base. It has pretty pictures.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Two Articles Worth the Time

Inspired by commentor on Tom Tango's The Book blog, Dave Cameron has placed a call for all sabermetric milestones! It's really quite exciting, and I genuinely hope this leads to an independant Wikia of research (so to speak) -- partly because I can't help but think there are better ways to collate research than comments on a post...

Additionally, The Hardball Time's young gun, Derek Carty, reveals 12 new statistics -- all of them intuitively reasonable and potentionally potent. I'm hoping he'll let us in on his regression results (i.e. give us the formulas) so we can start have fun too!

Friday, January 22, 2010

How Unlucky are the Cubs?

Well, I take a look at that question in a guest post I did for Another Cubs Blog. Basically, using t-tests, I came to the conclusion that -- while the Cubs have definitely been unlucky -- they do not seem to be cursed -- in the sense that their bad luck defies statistical explanation.

The chief obstacle the a World Series win on the north side is the "coin flip" nature of the playoffs. If the Cubs want to break the curse, they just need to reach the playoffs more often. (That sounds like John Madden all of the sudden.)

Read the full study here:

The Great Chicago Curse: A T-Test Exploration!

The Gomes Inquiry: Should the Cubs Pursue Jonny Gomes?

The Cubs have been in the news recently for the back and forth flirtation between Jonny Gomes and the empty 4th outfielder roster spot. Those who know me (Brad) best, know I am also an ardent Rays fan (that's what born in Indiana, raised in Florida earns me) and have therefore more firsthand experience with ol' Gomes.

That being said, Gomes' numbers read like a Twilight novel: they are overly obvious and in need of little interpretation. For instance:

UZR/150 in OF = -22.3

2009 wOBA = .373
Career wOBA = .344
Avg 2010 Est. = .346

Over the course of his career, Gomes has hit lefties considerably better than righties, but still hits both well enough to be an excellent pinch hitter (for an NL team). His defense is borderline Adam Dunn-esque (hence the photo above). In other words, he should never have a glove in his hand.

Here is a brief, emoticon summary of Jonny Gomes batting:

2005 = :D
2006 = :(
2007 = :(
2008 = >:(
2009 = :)

In short, it's been inconsistent.

Gomes really belongs in the AL, where his malpractice-bad fielding can disappear in a DH role, but he's looking for somewhere to stop over for a year to pump his numbers so he can bank next year. What better place than a hitter-friendly NL park like Wrigley?

In the end, if the Cubs are looking for an extra bat -- just an extra bat, not a guy who can play the field with any modicum of success -- then Gomes can be their man. With the market down and his obvious desire to play for the north side, he could be a pretty cheap signing (he projects to be worth $2 to $3 million). If his bat is still on fire from last year (which it may well be), then he could easily slot into a starting-platoon (vs. lefties) role and add some nice value.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kiko, Sheets, Theriot, and Tigers

Harry Pavlidis at Cubs f/x took some time to look at potential Cub Kiko Calero. I'm pretty high on Calero. If he's healthy, he can really add some potency to the 'pen. If he re-injures himself, he just won't pitch. With what little budget room we have left, I would be happy if part went to Calero.

Jack Moore of Fangraphs takes a look at the market for free agent Ben Sheets. It would be cool to add a starter like Sheets, but not for the money he's currently asking for.

Tim Souers of my favorite art Cubs site -- Cubby-Blue -- examines the finer points of arbitration. Arbitration cases are never good. Both the team and player most take highly adversarial stances, which is never great within an organization. [If you don't already frequent Souers' site, then start. In many ways, Souers' is the pulse of the Every Fan, and his illustrations are double cool.]

For those not following the online sabermetrics community closely, here is your warning about publishing baseball research: "A saberist reviewing a paper of economists reviewing saberists." Basically, over the last several months, academic and economist JC Bradburry of Sabernomics has been going toe-to-toe with well-established sabermetricians Tom Tango (tangotiger), Michael Litchman (MGL), and company. Basically, the argument at current is about how Bradburry seems to either ignore or be unaware of a large precedent of research available online. The Bookers (Tango et al.) criticize Bradburry for discounting research because it has not been published in peer-reviewed journals. I've tried to avoid this debacle as much as possible because both parties can and do contribute to baseball knowledge (though I feel Tango and MGL's side has done a lot more for baseball).

Lastly, the Big League Stew gives us a good primer on Win Shares. It's a good read if you're just joining the world of baseball stats because Win Shares are -- in many ways -- a foundational stat for modern analysis (though we now use WAR or WARP in most cases).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Around the Nation and Around the Internet

First, business. The Cubs have expressed interest in Xavier Nady and Jermaine Dye. Nady might not be a bad idea -- he's coming off of Tommy Johns surgery and likely to sign cheap. If that's the case, he'd made a decent pinch hitter / fourth outfielder type. Dye? Well, he's a mess-terpiece in the field, but his bat can still bring 25+ HRs with consistent playing time (wOBA .345ish). Still, I think the price tag is going to be too high for a guy we wouldn't need to be starting.

The fun stuff: Apparently 17 at bats is enough to be famous now. Yeah, some guy impersonated Tyler Colvin and stole a truck. Don't feel bad if you don't know Colvin, he has thus far only had a cup of coffee in the Big Show. In fact, I was present at his sixth career start in the majors (at home against Arizona, October 3rd), and the guy sitting next to me chuckled over his beer, "Colvin? Who the hell is that?"

[I leaned over to my wife and briefly explained Colvin's life history to her, but I don't expect such rigorous knowledge from the common fan. Or Utah car dealership.]

Shawn Goldman at Another Cubs Blog has begun to carefully dissect WAR for those anxious to learn. In many ways, his article is a convenient cliff notes of The Book, which provides the foundation of a lot of modern baseball statistics.

Somehow, December-January became the awards season for sabermetric writing. Beyond the Box Score has been calling for submissions and rating and ranking for a few weeks now, and today, at The Hardball Times, Dan Novick offered his take on the best sabermetric articles out there. If you have the time, every one of the article featured on both site are very good.

Lastly, RJ Anderson puts down the spreadsheet for a moment and philosophizes with us: to attend or not to attend? I think it's an interesting inquiry, because even though the Cubs have a better chance of beating the Pirates, I would rather see them play the Cardinals or White Sox. Maybe I derive enjoyment from rivalries even if we don't win? I don't know.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Maddux sounds like a great name...

The Mad-Dog RETURNS!!!
(and now the prophecy is fulfilled)

If you haven't heard by now, the Cubs signed Greg Maddux - as a special assistant to Jim Hendry. What this exactly means, I'm not sure.

But what I do know is that I love me some Greg Maddux. An example of how much I love Greg Maddux; I hate onions, but if I saw Greg Maddux eat onions, I would eat them-raw even. That's how much I love Greg Maddux.

What impresses me most about Maddux was that he coupled his physical talents of control with his intelligence. Greg Maddux never had the most overpowering of stuff, but he had superb control of his pitches (one could even say his emotion as well) and used his brain:

"Maddux is dismissive of his reputation, saying, "People think I'm smart? You know what makes you smart? Locate your fastball down and away. That's what makes you smart. You talk to Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, or Tom Seaver. They'll all tell you the same thing. It's not your arm that makes you a great pitcher. It's that thing between both of your ears we call a brain."(Wikipedia)

THAT is Greg Maddux.

I can't think of anyone better than Maddux for the name of my son...

...come to think of it, maybe my daughter too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Name for the Foul Poles

With the recent election of Andre Dawson into the Hall of Fame (and the subsequent Cubs' offer to retire his number, if enshrined as a Cub), I began to think about a certain Cub -- my favorite Cub -- whom I feel deserves a flag next to Mr. Maddux's and Mr. Santo's:

Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who's right hand (the astute reader will note) graces the top of this blog, was severely injured as a youth, getting his hand caught in a feed chopper and then crushed shortly thereafter. The misshapen hand eventually resulted in Mordecai's uncanny ability to throw some serious twirlies.

Follow through the jump to find out why he deserves that flag.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wrigley Field: Park Factor

In the summer of '98, I attended a Cubs game with some friends and watched Sammy hit two balls deep to center field. As the ball went up in the air, you could see it drift into the stands but then the wind came keeping the ball in-play. It is my assumption that if the wind was blowing out that day, these balls would have been home runs. Who knows, maybe Sammy would have finished with 68 HRs...70...72...or better yet, he would know what questions are being asked of him in a congressional hearing (ok, that was low I know, but this is a blog).

So I started to think about Wrigley Field's dimensions and wind patterns and how they affect the game and how the Cubs win/loss record could be affected by whether the wind is blowing in/out that day. It is true that wind patterns do affect much so that ordinary fly balls can turn into home runs (hence, home run to fly ball ratio...which I will have to research in a later post).

The following is an attempt to explain the basics of Park Factor for Wrigley Field. Throughout this process, I have found that their needs to be additional research conducted such as: how often the wind blows in/out, home run to fly ball ratio, and total foul balls hit. All of which I will bring to you in the upcoming months (just send a little reminder).

But for now, enjoy the basics of park factor. I present to you, the wonderful Wrigley Field...and it's affects on our Cubs.

A couple more things worth mentioning before we dive in:
1.)From home plate to the (left field) foul pole is 355', the (right field) foul pole is 353'.
2.)The wall is approximately 11.5'
3.)Here is a link about the unusual wind patterns (from Wikipedia).
4.)Taking a look here, we see there is not a lot of overall foul territory at the Friendly Confines.

Around the Internet and Around the World

Greg Maddux has signed with the Cubs! He likely will slot nicely into the fifth starter spot the office next to Jim Hendry's, acting as the GM's "go-fer" -- scouting pitching prospect or potential signees, advising current players/prospects, and occasionally painting the corners with 87 MPH fastballs that leave the batters befuddled (I wish).

Nonetheless, I'm just happy to have Maddux back in Chi-Town. Maybe the self-proclaimed video game nerd will host some sort of video game tournament? I can dream, can't I?

The Reds (surprisingly) sign Aroldis Chapman, the hot prospect Cuban-defector. This could mean big things for the Reds they win 1 out of every 5 games in 2011.

Also, McQuire admits to using PEDs. The world knowingly nods.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thoughts Around the Web

Over at Another Cubs Blog, mb21 preempts my Geovony Soto post. He does a terrific job, so I can't complain. In summary: Soto will be good; do not worry.

MLBTradeRumors tells us that Tommy Everidge just got DFA'd by Oakland. You know, Lee is in his final year and Micah Hoffpauir might not work out (or, better yet, might get better at playing RF). If we can nab Everidge on the cheap, that would be, in short, nifty. In other words, expect the Rays to pick him up.

Over at Fangraphs, R.J. Anderson looks at pitcher contact rates for the year 2003. It's significant to us because 2 of the top 5 starters are Cubs -- oh, the year that got away. :(

Also, and I meant to link this a while ago, mb21 of Another Cubs Blog also examined Jim Hendry's trades since becoming GM. It's an excellent effort, quantifying with WAR how well Hendry has done. All-in-all, I must say I'm surprised by Hendry's success. Unfortunately, success in the MLB is relative, and I'm afraid a similar study of -- say -- the Cardinals would reveal significant disparity. Nonetheless, I would like to formally apologize to Hendry for my sometimes snappy attitude. Sorry, Jim.

Additionally, like Billy Beane says in Moneyball, the playoffs are a "crapshoot." Statistically speaking, 5 to 7 games is a really piss-poor way of determining a best team (yet it's terribly exciting, so I don't really want it to change). Therefore, I believe a successful season is one in which a GM/manager can bring their team to the playoffs (or, preferably, have the best record in the majors). On these grounds, I would almost posit that Hendry has been wildly successful. Almost.

Oh, and WaxPaperBeerCup uncovers the possibility of a Global World Series. To say I'm excited would be an injustice to my feelings. This could really become something double-awesome.

Albert Pujols, a Cub?

I'm beginning to think Al likes to torture me. Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue the other day, Al turned the dream machine up to 11 and pondered what it would be like if the Cubs signed Albert Pujols after his current contract expired.

According to Al:
I suspect that an eight-year deal approaching $200 million -- or about $25 million a year, perhaps frontloaded the way A-Rod's is -- would do it. How do you pay for this?...

[Derrek Lee] will be 35 in September and I think in order to get a better hitter who's five years younger, you say goodbye to Derrek, thank him for the wonderful service, and let him go to an AL team where he can DH part of the time. That frees up about half ($13 million) of the money you'd need. I think it might also be time to say farewell to Ted Lilly, who will also have given the Cubs four good years but will turn 35 himself in January 2011. Ted's making $12 million in 2010.

Voila! There's $25 million right there. Kosuke Fukudome's deal comes off the books after 2011 -- you can save $13 million with that, and the Cubs won't be paying Carlos Silva after 2011 either, another $11.5 million saved.
My begrudging retort after the jump.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A 25-Man Roster for 2010

Note, it is not the 25-Man Roster for 2010, it is merely Al's, from over at Bleed Cubbie Blue. I tend to pick on Al a lot, partly because we disagree an many things, but I'd like to think it's mostly because he's a prolific blogger and undeniable Cubs fan -- and I really appreciate that.

Anyway, Al foresees the field looking like this:
C Geovany Soto
1B Derrek Lee
2B Jeff Baker
SS Ryan Theriot
3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Marlon Byrd
RF Kosuke Fukudome
Starting Pitchers:
Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva (Lilly on DL)
Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, John Grabow, Jeff Gray, Sean Marshall, Justin Berg, Esmailin Caridad
Now, though I find much of this irrefutable, let's skip all that and nit-pick the elements I don't like:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chris Dutton's xBABIP Quick Calculator!

Back in July of 2009, Chris Dutton (via Derek Carty at Hardball Times) released an excellent xBABIP Tool that provided really fun insight into the luck behind the slash. Anyway, in the comments section, I noted others like myself who lacked the Microsoft Office Suite and in turn required some OpenOffice alternative. Well, though I would have preferred to reproduce the whole tool into OpenOffice (though it be a year dated now), I have finally completed an OpenOffice version of their xBABIP Quick Calculator!

I'm trying to make this nifty little tool (by no means a replacement for the originial file, if you have Microsoft Excel) as publicly available as possible, and have therefore made it into a Google Doc (click here) which anyone should be able to copy and edit (if not, please let me know).

For those OpenOffice users, I would be happy to email the original .ods document to you if you would kindly peruse my Blogger profile (see comments section) and email me a request for it.

To obtain OpenOffice (free!):
Google Doc xBABIP Quick Calculator: Google Docs link
The original release: at The Hardball Times

Also, in other news, Ken Rosenthal thinks the Cubs may well be pursuing Ben Sheets, a possibility Will examined here on Cubs Stats.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hello, Marlon Byrd

Well, the Cubs have obtained a center fielder. Marlon Byrd is, by definition, average. His career wOBA is .332, and most projections expect that to continue. His career UZR/150 in CF is 0.0, with good range (5.5) and a poor arm (-5.0). Dave "The Master" Cameron over a Fangraphs examines Byrd now, and David Golebiewski reviews Byrd's history and fantasy impact.

Considering our options (and budgetary constraints), Byrd was about the best option out there. He pushes Kosuke back to RF (which is good) and came pretty cheap at ~$5M per year (which is good). He is aging and should be certifiably "old" (in athletic terms) at the beginning of his final contract year, but he's not here to be our savior, so that's acceptable. What would be unacceptable would be a fan base expecting 20 to 25 home runs 10 to 15 stolen bases, and then booing when he doesn't produce that.

Ultimately, though, I applaud Jim Hendry for making this acquisition, though not the route through which it came (the Bradley-Silva swap).

Sadly, the Cubs, version 2010, enter the season with much less talent (and thereby potential) than the Cubs, version 2009.

Andre Dawson - Hall of Famer

Tim Kurkjian from ESPN had this to say about Andre Dawson being in the Hall of Fame.

Kurkjian had an interesting perspective on Dawson's career basically mentioning intangibles such as work ethic, class, and heart (playing on bad knees due to 10 years of playing on artificial turf in Olympic Stadium for the Montreal Expos).

The numbers that hinder Dawson's chances is his .482 career slugging percentage and his .323 career on-base average, which clearly are not a Hall of Fame numbers, especially for an outfielder. Here's a look at his individual awards:

Andre Dawson

1977 - Rookie of the Year (NL)
1980 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
1980 - Silver Slugger (NL) (OF)
1981 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
1981 - Silver Slugger (NL) (OF)
1982 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
1983 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
1983 - Silver Slugger (NL) (OF)
1984 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
1985 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
*1987 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
**1987 - MVP (NL)
*1987 - Silver Slugger (NL) (OF)
*1988 - Gold Glove (NL) (OF)
* = Played with Cubs, ** = Cubs were in last place
(that's 1 ROY, 1 MVP, 8 GGs, 4 SSs)

“No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more, or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last place team in 1987, and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.” - Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame Induction Speech, July 31, 2005

If I could create an All-Cubs team, Andre Dawson IS my starting right-fielder...jerry curl and all.

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will announce election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, January 6, at 2pm.

Good luck Hawk!

Additional links:
-A blog that summarizes Dawson's hall of fame worthy career
-A look at the 2010 ballot (personally I think it's Alomar and Dawson)