Friday, April 30, 2010

Good, but Not Yet


Is Tyler Colvin the real deal? Image source Cubs.com.

The Shiny New Toy Syndrome is as prevalent in baseball as anywhere else. Whenever a youg player comes up, we think: "Oh boy! This guy is the next [insert famous guy]!" In fact, we fans are so eager for the next great player, we often will let the very first homerun or double inform our opinions for the following three weeks. In fact, when the young Jason Heyward made his major league debut, he launched the first pitch he saw into Antlanta's blue sky. Almost all month, whenever Heyward was mentioned, the name Albert Pujols would follow.

Currently, Jason Heyward has a .378 wOBA. In Prince Albert's first season, he hit .421. Ha ha. Not close. For reference, in Alfonso Soriano's best year, 2002, he hit .378, so Heyward is nothing to sniff at. However, a peak Soriano and any Albert Pujols are not the same thing.

It is with that in mind, I bring about the topic at hand: Tyler Colvin. After his first start of the 2010 season, when he crushed a ball into the bleachers in the second inning, Twitter exploded with comments calling for Soriano's benching and Colvin anointing. For comparison's sake, let's look at their OBP/SLG/wOBA lines since then (excluding today's performance):

Colvin: .404/.659/.451
Sori:   .338/.478/.357

Wow! Maybe our first impressions were right! Maybe now is the time to anoint Colvin as our new left fielder?

Not so. And here's why: Colvin is not an OBP kind of guy. All through the minors, Colving struggled to reach just an average OBP (which would be around .320). Instead, he spent a lot of time around .310, meaning he's more likely to be around .300 in the majors (which is where guys like Yuniesky Betancourt live).

"But wait! He lost weight! He had a great Spring Training! He's a new guy!"

Is he? Let's look at his career (which is mostly 2010) plate discipline numbers, courtesy of Fangraphs:

Outside Zone Swing%
Colvin:      35.5%
League Av.: ~25.0%

Outside Zone Contact%
Colvin:      53.7%
League Av.: ~60.0%

Total Contact%
Colvin:      73.2%
League Av.: ~80.0%

Swinging Strike%
Colvin:      13.4%
League Av.:  ~8.0%

What do all these numbers tell us? In short, Colvin has been swinging like a .300 OBP guy, not a .400 OBP. His power is legit -- not .600 SLG legit, but legit enough -- but he is not the player we may think he is. In fact, the updated ZiPS projections system still thinks Colvin will be a .300 wOBA guy (which is well below average) from here, which is about what every other projection system saw in Colvin before the year.

Honestly, I think and hope this guy will be better than that, but I seriously doubt he will be -- oh, let's say -- the next Albert Pujols.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cubs Score 7 Times in 3 Games

...Yet the fans still fret over our bullpen.

Let's do some napkin math:

The average amount of runs a team scores per game (in the NL) is around 4.50 -- with better teams (i.e. the Philadelphia Phillies) scoring more, ~5.00-ish, and bad teams (i.e. the Pittsburgh Pirates) scoring less ~3.80-ish.

So, over the course of a season, if we score 3 to 4 runs per game, we will lose. In this series against the above-.500-now-but-not-for-long Washington Nationals, we scored an average of (7 divided by 3) 2.33 runs. Unsurprisingly, we lost the series.

Oh! But how did the bullpen do!?

IP ERA FIP
3 0.00 2.53
2 0.00 2.70
1 0.00 3.20
6* 0.00 2.70

Note: This bottom line contains the totals. FIP in this final line was calcuated using the inning sums, not through averaging.

So the bullpen -- especially in this series -- was great. Oh, and Carlos Zambrano only pitched in one of those games (puthimback) and Carlos Marmol only added 1 inning. In other words, the "awful" part of our "awful" bullpen did 2/3 this great work (I'm not saying our bullpen is great, though, because three games is not enough to really judge a group of pitchers -- I'm just trying to identify the distinct elements of our lack of success).

So the Cubs offense has scored, to date, about 4.30 runs per game (or below average). However, if we pretend that the 12-run outburst against the Brewers did not happen, this figure drop to exactly 4.00 runs per game. Hey! That's near what the Pirates did in 2009! It would be kind of neat, if it were not so sad.

So where is our lineup asploding? I don't know. Let's plan on looking at that next.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Bullpen "Problem"

So, we moved Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen because Ted Lilly was returning and our bullpen was struggling, or at least that's what Lou, Jim, the media, and the fans said. They said the bullpen was struggling.

I contend, however, that the bullpen is fine, it is just mismanaged. I have proclaimed before and I shall proclaim again that John Grabow should only pitch to left handed batters. He is in every way a LOOGY, a left-handed one out only guy. However, Lou, with a mischievous sparkle in his eye, has time and again brought Grabow in to face lip-licking, salivating at the chance to pad their stats against Grabow right handers. Almost without fail, Grabow surrenders hits and walks to right handers.

So let's look at this bullpen's "problems." Let's examine what effect Grabow's misuse has had, and let's again examine if moving our ace was the right choice:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PUT IT BACK!!! PUT IT BACK!!!

Before I begin, let's discuss a fundamental element of pitching statistics. As we discussed previously, there are some statistics that normalize slow, but consistently, and therefore tell us about luck. Batting average of balls in play (or BABIP) is one of those, so is home runs per flyball (HR/FB). Basically, one out of every ten fly balls lands in a fan's greasy palms. There tends to be very, very few exceptions to this rule. And since I have a degree in English, I loathe using the word very, so note how I used said word twice in the last sentence. It means I'm incredibly serious. Few people ever escape HR/FB normalization.

So basically, with this knowledge (that every pitcher has around a 10% HR/FB), we use the expected fielding independent statistic (xFIP) which looks at how a pitcher would perform given a normal (10.6%) HR/FB ratio.

Yesterday, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry -- and even Tom Ricketts okay'd this -- moved our pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, to the bullpen. To be a setup man. To pitch at most 70 innings for the rest of the season (assuming the move sticks). As a setup man.

Meanwhile, other "bloggers" have rejoiced in the suddenly resurgent or former mercurial pitcher Carlos Silva, even going so far as to propose (hopefully in jest) that Silva's name should ring among halls of Lincecum, Greinke, Sabathia, and Young. Before I begin to bleed from my eyes, let's examine the statistics behind this move to the bullpen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Starting to Catch On

A short while ago, I looked at Geovany Soto's batting thus far in the 2010 season. Basically, I came away smiling. In the comments section, we began to discuss Soto's value to the team, and I'd like to explore that further here.

From everything I've heard from scouting and statistical reports* alike, Soto has above average (and possibly superior) defensive abilities. For fun, I want to hypothetically compare Soto to our last decade of catching, Michael Barrett and the ever undeservedly popular Joe Girardi. Assuming their defensive abilities were equal (which they weren't, especially in the case of noodle-armed Michael Barrett), let's compare their offensive performances thus far:


In other words, last year -- when Soto had an "off" year -- he was still better than Girardi ever was and still ahead of his brick-handed colleague Michael Barrett.**

Add to this Geovany's super-sweet contract (because he's a young guy and yet to go through arbitration), and we're pretty much looking at the most valuable catcher in the league (on account of Joe Mauer's mega, wallet-clearing contract). Allow me to stress this point:

GEO IS HOLY-COW AWESOME.

*Hey! Fangraphs just added some catcher defense stats! How great is that?! I'll tell you. It's very great.

**I don't dislike Michael Barrett. His defense was just terrible.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Wise Wait

It's very easy -- especially for those who love statistics and have short tempers, such as myself -- to say "Play A is garbage this year!" or "Player B (Vernon Wells, cough cough) is having a turnaround season!"

The truth is, this marathon is only about 15 minutes deep. A lot has yet to happen. For instance, the Baltimore Orioles are 1-10, but 9 of those 11 games came against the dominant New York Yankees and ever-formidable Tampa Bay Rays. Do we think their batters and pitchers have reliable statistics after playing 2 of the top 3 teams in world nonstop for over a week? Nah. Not likely.

Steve Slownski of DRaysBay gives us this handy reminder on what statistics are truly informative right now, which ones prove useless until later:
Offense Statistics:
  • 50 PA: Swing%
  • 100 PA: Contact Rate
  • 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
  • 200 PA: Walk Rate, Ground Ball Rate, GB/FB
  • 250 PA: Fly Ball Rate
  • 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
  • 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
  • 550 PA: ISO
Pitching Statistics:
  • 150 BF - K/PA, grounder rate, line drive rate
  • 200 BF - flyball rate, GB/FB
  • 500 BF - K/BB, pop up rate
  • 550 BF - BB/PA
Don't thank me; I'm just the messenger. These numbers were derived by the saberist Pizza Cutter and although his blog is now defunct, you can find them on the Saber Library website anytime you need them. Or if you'd prefer, read his original article here.
Now go forth and criticize wisely!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Second Tier of xBABIP

On Wednesday, we took a gander at the middle of our lineup, using Christ Dutton's xBABIP Quick Calculator. As mentioned before, BABIP (or batting average of balls in play) is the best metric for measuring a player's luck. Here's a quick summary from Steve Slowinski's Sabermetrics Library:
The average BABIP for pitchers and hitters is around .290 to .300. If you see any player that deviates from this average to an extreme, start thinking that there might be some luck going on. However, hitters can influence their BABIPs to an extent. Certain hitters can out-perform league average through speed (like Ichiro and his .357 career BABIP), but pitchers have much less control over their BABIP against.
As noted before, xBABIP can help us predict where their BABIP should be, according to various factors that all pretty much ask, "Did he hit the ball hard?"

So let's take a look at the second tier of the Cubs lineup, the guys from whom we want solid production, but don't expect the world:

Player    OBP   SLG  BABIP xBABIP  BABIP-xBABIP
Theriot  .317  .297  .323   .332     -.009
Kosuke   .355  .517  .375   .338      .037
Fontenot .381  .400  .368   .327      .041
Soto     .423  .368  .231   .321     -.090

This is very interesting to me. First of all: Geovany Soto, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot, and Ryan Theriot have been simply hitting the leather off the ball. Each and every one of them have been hitting more than 20% line drives. Soto is hitting 35% line drives! In other words, they are all seeing the ball and putting a bat on it.

The analysis above helps us understand if these players have been properly rewarded for their hot hitting of late. Theriot is super close to his xBABIP, so we can safely say that he's been neither lucky or unlucky. Do we expect him to continue hitting the ball this hard? It's very unlikely. Still, he's close to where we expect him to be.

Both Fontenot and Kosuke have had pretty good starts, given their expectations. Their somewhat high xBABIPs lead us to believe they will normalize pretty soon, but still be decent options (especially given their high value on defense). I'm happy Fontenot has started well because I really think he can be a viable second baseman in this league (though maybe not for this team after Starlin Castro arrives).

Soto's BABIP is well below his xBABIP, yet he's still got an OBP of .423. This coincides with my expectations that Geovany Soto will in fact be good, if not great, this year. Once his BABIP normalizes (which it hasn't done in a full calender year), people will hopefully start to realize what an amazing commodity we have on our hands.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time to Hit the xBABIP Calculator

Back in January, I finally finished my project to convert Chris Dutton's xBABIP Calculator (or the xBABIP Quick Calculator, to be precise) into a Google Doc and OpenOffice document. In simple terms, BABIP (batting average of balls in play) tells us whether or not a player was lucky or unlucky. In turn, xBABIP (or expected BABIP) looks at other elements of a hitter's stats (such as fly balls, line drives, and at bats) and guesses how off their actual BABIP is. Today, I finally get to use that winter invention for new numbers!

Let's take a look at the heart of the Cubs lineup, the guys who we really need to hit the ball hard:

Player    OBP   SLG  BABIP xBABIP  BABIP-xBABIP
Byrd*    .240  .500  .158   .286     -.128
Lee      .517  .500  .467   .294      .173
Ramirez  .226  .370  .133   .278     -.145
Soriano  .200  .326  .235   .319     -.084

*I'm including Byrd, but I don't think he's really someone who we expect to be hitting really well. He's league average with a bat in his hands.

The numbers in red indicate the player has been unlucky to some degree. The only player who has thus far been lucky, according to Dutton's xBABIP Calculator, is Derrek "Refuse to Age" Lee, which is fine with me because no one expects him to have a .448 wOBA for the rest of the season. If he regresses a little, he'll still be very awesome.

Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez have been pretty unlucky so far. Byrd, who's quickly becoming a fan favorite for his DeRosa-esque averageness, has been able to slug way above his head despite his poor luck. Ramirez, on the other hand, has just been old-fashioned unlucky.

I was honestly surprised to see Alfonso Soriano on the unlucky side of the spectrum. He's hit 8 fly balls (which is good) but also 8 ground balls (which is not so good), and -- frankly -- he's just been looking silly at the plate lately (sans today's double). Soriano is still swinging wildly at breaking pitches and crushing everything else right into the clay at his feet. Additionally, he hasn't drawn a walk yet. That blows my mind. Derrek Lee has 6 already.

Google Doc xBABIP Quick Calculator: Google Docs link
The original release: at The Hardball Times

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Sabermetrics

As many readers of Cubs Stats may know, I recently joined the club baseball team at my school of postgraduate study. This proved to be the consummation of many years of yearning to play baseball, having played little more than sandlot ball for the last decade.

To my delight, the opportunity has allowed me several great experiences: I have been able to encounter first-hand the difficulties of a typical ball player (catching up with an inside fastball, playing on after committing an error, battling the sun for a fly ball, etc.); I have seen the disastrous effects of disparities in talent (suffice it to say we are 0-2); and I have had lively dugout discussions concerning statistics.

It is this last topic I want to examine and explore because many of my brethren can become quite heated when I propose something such as, "Walks can mean more than hits," or, "Sacrifice bunts tend to do more harm than good." It's granted that such statements already carry satchels of caveats across their broad shoulders, but our difference of opinion is vast nonetheless.

The treatise continues after the jump.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dear Lou: Concerning Platoon Splits

A couple of days ago, I took some of my precious time to warn our friend, Lou Piniella, about left-handed reliever John Grabow. I present this nifty set of statistics:
GRABOW
Career xFIP vs. righties: 4.66 worse than average
Career xFIP vs. lefties: 3.32 way better than average

Career K/BB vs. righties: 3.32 way better than average
Career K/BB vs. lefties: 1.45 worse than average
...And kindly asked Lou to use Grabow according to his skills: a Lefty One Out Guy (or LOOGY). Simply put, Grabow does not pitch well against right handed batters.

The following game, Lou took my advice (oh, and of course Sweet Lou reads this blog -- don't even act otherwise!), bringing Grabow in to face one lefty and then hit the showers.

Unfortunately, he spurned my wisdom, perhaps in a fit of frustration caused by our piss-poor middle of the lineup, and brought Grabow in to face this:

Cabrera: Righty
Votto: Lefty
Phillips: Righty
Rolen: Righty

The results?

R, Cab.: single
L, Vot.: strikeout
R, Phi.: single
R, Rol.: walk

...In other words, it was a text book demonstration of Grabow's struggles. I will end this examination with the same exhortation with which I ended my last:
In summation: NO MAOR GRABOW FOR TO PITCH AGAINST WRITIES, PLSKTHXBAI!

Being a Cub Fan is a Way of Life

The Cubs have created a new marketing campaign-'It's a Way of Life'

Our reasons for being Cubs fans are many and varied: some deep and personal, others emotional and a few material.

To support this campaign, we at Cubs Stats have decided to share some stories, from our readers, about why we are Cub Fans. These stories are collected from friends, colleagues and strangers in a variety of professions. These stories will be spread out throughout the course of the season (instead of as a finite list).

Maybe you will relate to them, laugh or cry.

This is your story...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joey Votto Will Fall


Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

"Joey Votto is a Cub killer."

This phrase is oft said and oft seems true. In 2008, the young Canadian hit 8 HRs in only 15 games against the Cubs. In 2009, he hit another 3 HRs and 4 doubles in only 12 games. To express the significance of these power numbers, let's consider what would happen if extrapolated that data over the remainder of Votto's seasons. This is what Votto would have looked like if he (a) faced the Cubs for all the games he played that year and (b) continued to play that well against the Cubs:

2008: 150 games, 80 HRs
2009: 130 games, 32 HRs

In reality, Votto hit:

2008: 151 games, 24 HRs
2009: 131 games, 25 HRs

However, we must be wiser than this; we must not blindly assume that Votto is a Cub killer based on the performances of two years. The Book tells us that hitter-pitcher match-ups rarely prove to be predictive for the following year. Moreover, because MLB rosters turnover pretty significantly from year to year, meaning Votto would not even be facing the same pitchers in 2008 and 2009. Also, Votto's domination of the Cubs in 2008 did not recur to the same degree in 2009. He looked much more like standard Joey Votto in 2009. Let's compare his rate stats:

Votto's 2008
vs. all: OBP = .368, SLG = .506
vs. CHC: OBP = .410, SLG = .852

Votto's 2009
vs. all: OBP = .414, SLG = .567
vs. CHC: OBP = .365, SLG = .578

In 2009, Votto was much closer to what we typically expect from him. In 2010, we should again expect the same. Votto's 2008 year against the Cub was an anomaly, and his reputation as a Cub killer undeserved (that title and many others belong to Pujols).

***

ALSO: Today Carlos Zambrano snatched his first win of the season. During the offseason, foolish Cubs fans consistently gawked like awful alarm clocks about how Zambrano needed to rebound, how he needed to "act like an ace," or prove he was worth his contract.

I refuse to discuss the "act like an ace" issue. Such words are the spawn of poor journalists and ill-informed or lazy fans.

According to Fangraphs and Cot's Baseball Contracts, Zambrano has -- for about the last two years -- been earning ~$16 million, but worth ~$14 million. I contest that -- since we are a big market team -- the lost $2 million is the premium we are willing and happy to pay for his otherwise stellar production.

Moreover, Big Z's 2009 season was his best in years. Please do not suggest otherwise. Please do not point to his win totals or his ERA. These actions will result in the instant bursting of a blood vessel in my neck. Observe:

Zambrano's xFIP by Year:
2007: 4.62
2008: 4.45
2009: 4.27

Zambrano's tERA by Year:
2007: 4.53
2008: 4.44
2009: 3.81

Zambrano has been steadily improving. Our offense, however, has not. What troubles me most, however, is that Z is likely to start collecting some of the wins he deserved in 2009, and fans will begin to applaud his "rebound," his determination to improve, and so on with such dribble.

When Zambrano wins a game, please don't say, "Finally!" as though he has started to play better. Say, "Finally" because we have begun to score again.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Day of Firsts: Cubs get First Win, Colvin Homers at First Major League AB, Soriano gets Nervous, Piniella Confused

The Cubs won their first game of the season, 2-1 against Atlanta Thursday Night.

Tyler Colvin homered at his first major league at-bat leaving many (including myself) to question trotting Soriano to start in LF; not because of the home run from Colvin but also because he had a great spring (.468 OBP, .753 SLG...ok, he had some strikeouts).

Although Soriano praised Colvin and his work ethic, he had this to say about Piniella's decision to rest him:

"I hope he can tell everybody the night before, because this game is tough mentally," he said. "If you can get a mental rest for one day, it's good for you. But he's the manager, and he doesn't make the lineup the day before, he makes it the same day we play."

Meanwhile...Lou is confused on what to do with his outfield.


Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where is Sean Marshall and What Have You Done With Him?!

The lanky, handsome lefty the Cubs have summoned from the bullpen these past two evenings is NOT Sean Marshall, the swing man we've come to know and, you know, like a lot. Throughout his career, Marshall has always sported a pretty pedestrian strikeout rate (6.5ish K/9, which is below league average). This year, in the first two games, Marshall has gone K-crazy, earning an ungodly 17ish K/9. This fun, small-sample-size-induced oddity has resulted in a most amazing FIP:

Marshall 2010 FIP = -1.07

Tee hee.

It's hard to know why Marshall has been so hot lately (I'm counting his strong Spring Training) or whether any of it will last, but it seems like his fastball has been a bit more steamy of late:


Source Frangraphs.

Which brings me to my next topic and the next inning, in fact: John Grabow. Many of us barfed balked here at Cubs Stats when the Cubs re-signed Grabow to an above-market contract. Frankly, Grabow has been an excellent lefty specialist throughout his career, but Piniella seems determined to make him fit as a high-leveridge, go-to pitcher. I think that position is Esmailin Caridad's until he proves otherwise. Unlike Caridad, Grabow has never done well against righties:

GRABOW
Career xFIP vs. righties: 4.66 or worse than average
Career xFIP vs. lefties: 3.32 or way better than average

Career K/BB vs. righties: 3.32 way better than average
Career K/BB vs. lefties: 1.45 worse than average

In summation: NO MAOR GRABOW FOR TO PITCH AGAINST WRITIES, PLSKTHXBAI!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Boston Globe Looks at UZR

Beautiful. Just Beautiful.

Seeing major media starting to examine advanced statistics makes me giddy like a tween meeting Justin Bieber.



(H/t Tom Tango)

Looking on the Bright Side

Today we have an off day from Cubs baseball -- which tragically becomes an extra day to ruminate and contemplate about yesterday's shellacking. Fortunately, I was in class for most of the game, so I did not see the score until I could safely assume all was lost -- which, according to the chart below, was around the end of the first inning. But instead of focusing on the dour and depressing today, let's examine some of the good things from this lopsided result:


Courtesy of Fangraphs.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Shellacking and Missing the Pain

16-5.

Most people look at that and think a football score.

Nope.

That was Atlanta giving the Cubs a shellacking.

I don't know about you but what I saw was the same Cubs team from last year; overconfident yet under performing pitching (this means you Z), bad base running (yes, you, Chad Tracy), bad fielding (*ahem* Theriot) and an overpriced left-fielder going 0-4 with TWO strikeouts (SORIANO!!!).

Alas, the pain of being a Cubs fan has returned and no later then on the first game of the season!

For those of you that know me, my favorite movie of ALL TIME is Swingers (so much so that I named a blog after the catch phrase...but that's neither here nor there) but there's this scene where Rob is consoling Mikey about his breakup;

Mikey: "How did you get over it? How long did it take?"
Rob:"You wake up every day and it hurts a little bit less and you wake up one day and it doesn't hurt at all. The funny thing is, and this is kinda weird, but you almost miss that pain."
Mikey: "You miss the pain?"
Rob: "Yeah for the same reason you miss her, because you lived with it for so long."

I think Rob was a Cubs fan.

Friday, April 2, 2010

MGL Reconsiders Character

In what I thought had to be an April Fool's joke, MGL of The Book fame, boldly stated that character can affect a team:
If we accept that difference at face value, a good or bad clubhouse guy can influence his entire team to the tune of 15 points in wOBA, which is the equivalent of 8 wins a year!
I'm a little suspicious -- as were others in the comments section -- of his sample selection:
Using a Google news search, I created two groups of players - those with good character and/or were a “good clubhouse presence” and those who were considered the opposite. Both groups combined represented about 6% of all players.
Typically, I would expect that newspapers wouldn't give a hoot about a rough character on a winning team. As statzombie noted in the comments:
...Further, players with bad clubhouse chemistry are often scapegoats (I would assume anyway). Thus news reports are probably a bad source.
This would result in a sample selection bias -- i.e. teams with "bad clubhouse guys" would only be those already suffering from a losing spate.

However, I do want to digress further on this subject so near and dear to Cubs fans since the Milton Bradley exodus. For many years, industrial psychologists have harked on the necessity of a good "clubhouse." The volumes of research in this area have resoundingly indicated that the most important thing for efficient and effective work places is chemistry -- not environment, not pay, not benefits, etc. If I work with people who: work hard, get along, and love their job, then I will be the same way (the studies have indicated).

So why does this not seem to carry over to the MLB workplace, so to speak? The common belief among sabermetricians is that jerks have no affect on the fellow teammates. Guys who hate their jobs, hate their managers, and hate their city seem to have no impact on the other guys in the lineup. Why not?

Well, there's a couple, fairly plausible reasons for this:

A) The effect is too small. That is what some people in the comments of MGL's post were suggesting, and that is a pretty safe guess, albeit without much statistical evidence.

B) The nature of baseball doesn't allow for pouting ("There's no crying in baseball!" - Tom Hanks). This is what I've begun to consider more closely. The game of baseball is very one-on-one. One batter versus one pitcher. One fielder versus one fly ball. One baserunner versus one catcher (sort of). The TV cameras rarely show more than three players at a time, and is usually focused on two (the pitcher and batter, the fielder or runner, etc.). The players are acting as individuals, not so much as members of a team.

Do we really expect that, when Reed Johnson stepped up to the plate last year, he was thinking in his head: "Man, that Milton is a mean guy."

No. Seriously, that's absurd.

Moreover, do we expect Ryan Dempster to begin his wind up and ponder: "I wonder if Milton is going to say something mean about me if I miss this pitch?"

Hell. No.

So maybe, instead of worrying about who's a mean guy (and I challenge anyone to find proof that Milton Bradley is in fact mean, evil, or stupid), the media should just -- oh, I don't know -- report the facts (like: the Cubs lost the division because the Cardinals were better).

C) There is a definitive effect, we just have no idea who's a real bad clubhouse guy and who isn't. Seriously, who's going to rat on a teammate: "Man I hate [some guy]. He makes my days living agony."

First of all, only the Rays' manager Joe Maddon would say something so poetic. Secondly, the only kind of guy who would actually entrance the press enough to spill such beans is probably a bad clubhouse guy, so how would he know who the true bad clubhouse guy is?

Ultimately, I think we should just table the clubhouse talk. It's harder to quantify than catchers' defense and way less impacting, from what we can tell.