Friday, February 25, 2011

Tyler Colvin is Not Great (Yet)

I present, for your viewing pleasure, two players -- one being Tyler Colvin:

Player (Age) Tm PA HR SB CS BA OBP SLG
Player 1 (23) CHC 347 13 16 5 .298 .329 .511
Player 2 (24)CHC3942061.254.316.500

Okay. Which player would you rather have? Player 1 or Player 2?

Player 1 is younger, faster (16 steals), and has a slightly higher OBP.

Player 2 hit more homers, but his SLG was still lower than Player 1.

Defensively, both players appear to be above average outfielders.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Park Indices: Wrigley Field, US Cellular

If you haven't picked up the 2011 Bill James Handbook, please do so. There's some great information in there regarding hitter and pitcher projections, plus/minus (defense), career data and park indices.

Here's the macro level view for park indices (home runs)...

A park index of exactly 100 is a neutral park -- it has no effect on this particular stat. An index above 100 favors the statistic that it is easier to hit home runs in said ballpark. The opposite is also true - if the index is below 100, it is more difficult to hit home runs in said ballpark.

In 2010, Wrigley Field had a park index of 110. Meaning it's 10% easier to hit HRs in Wrigley than in a neutral park. The Cubs hit 74 home runs in home games while their opponents hit 87. Miller Park had a park index of 123, Busch Stadium had an index of 77, and Great American Ballpark had an index of 114.

U.S. Cellular Field had a park index of 157. WOWZA! It was 57% easier to hit a HR in Comiskey Park The Cell than in a neutral park. The White Sox hit 111 home runs at home while their opponents hit 79. The index of 157 makes the Cell the easiest place to hit home runs in 2010. This was more than Coors Field (144) and Yankee Stadium (143). The park index for Target Field (where those pesky Twins play) was 65. Yup - 35% more difficult to hit a home run in Target Field than in any park in the majors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Albert Pujols and the Great Moderation

Pujols, Pujols, Pujols. We Cubs fans have talked little else recently.

For the readers who have just recently exited their protective Cubs 2010 Season bunkers, allow me to update you: Albert Pujols and the Cardinals have reached a contractual impasse.

Yes, the much-famed, well-respected, and rightly-honored Albert Pujols presently seems unlikely to finalize a long-term contract before his self-imposed deadline. This means Pujols will test the free agent market. This means Chicago newsmen will will wear through their p, u, j, o, l, and s keys -- and undoubtedly fashion new ones from their extra supply of z, a, m, b, and r keys.

Here's the deal: I don't like long contracts. Never have.

At Another Cubs Blog, mb21 has done an excellent job showing how the Alfonso Soriano signing was good at the time -- a discount even. The problem: Unexpected hamstring injuries leading to a rapid depreciation in value.

Injury risk is always there, though, and no sane general manager would ignore it. Colin Wyers recently manifest a great Baseball Prospectus article, examining aging expectations with Pujols -- in short, it looks like glimpses of Barry Bonds.

I'm not here to say: Pujols will get injured; Pujols will age quickly; Pujols will this or that. (In fact, I'm not even here. I wrote this hours -- if not days ago -- and have changed locations possibly dozens of times to keep you from find me.)

What I would like to do, however, is examine the economic conditions that affect baseball, and that we analysts rarely consider.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Changes Around Cubs Stats

Hey everyone! The last year has been especially kind to Cubs Stats, and Will and I are looking for to the Cubs 2011 season with great excitement -- well, at least when it comes to Cubs Stats! Here's a list of a couple of things going on right now:
  • We are presently working on a yet-named book about the Chicago Cubs. If you would like more details or think you have a brief article to contribute, drop by the new book page! We hope to finish the book and have it on Amazon by the All-Star Break.
  • We have officially purchased CubsStats.com!
  • Our Twitter handle has changed (from @CubsStats23) to @Cubs_Stats! If you followed us before the name change, then you will not need to update your account.
  • We also have been putting some time into improving our Facebook page, so if Twitter seems to hipster-yuppyish for you, then our Facebook page is the ideal way to get updates from Cubs Stats!
We're seriously overjoyed with how Cubs Stats has grown, blossomed, and developed beefy, manly arms over the last two years; and we hope you're excited too!

UPDATE: I totally forgot to mention the podcast, which has already had -- count'em! -- three episodes and will be featuring some live-ish updates from Spring Training as Will spends some vacation days in Arizona!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Harry Pavlidis Weigh In

Steve Sommer of Gashouse Graphs interviewed Cubs F/X mastermind Harry Pavlidis last week. Harry's a bright guy -- and the absolute best man to answer pitching questions. Here's a sample of the interview:
[Starlin Castro's] error total is a big concern. Sailing throws well over the or around the first baseman has become a habit. He’s also made some ill-advised throws to other bases. He can hit, the power will come. He can run well enough, not a big part of his game. He has excellent range at short, and his arm strength is fine. If he can get over this Steve Sax thing quickly he’ll be fine. Quickly, as he’s not in a very patient environment.
I hope he's right.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pessimism Cat: The Cubs 2011 Offseason, Holistically

George Sr., having never heard his charges listed consecutively in one sitting, panicked and ran with great intensity.

-Arrested Development, "Beef Consomme"
Today, MLBTR released their "Offseason in Review" for the Chicago Cubs. The opening lines of the summary rightly reflect the ADD approach the Cubs have used lately (much to the frustration of Will and myself):
The mandate for Cubs GM Jim Hendry this winter: turn a bloated fifth-place team into a contender for 2011 despite limited payroll flexibility. The Cubs were in sell mode last summer, but Hendry switched back to a win-now approach this offseason...
By our estimation, Hendry has done a great job of bringing a 5th place team into contention for 4th place. Getting Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, and Kerry Wood were dandy moves, but Garza and Pena are replacing decent players (Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee) and Wood has been an average reliever over the past two seasons.

The net result is not 1st place -- not even 2nd place.

The Cubs could very well get lucky and -- who knows -- Fernando Perez will steal 60 bases and force the Cubs to trade Marlon Byrd so Perez can get playing time, Carlos Zambrano will finish in contention for the Cy Young award, and no one will put the shift on Carlos Pena.

Now, I'm not against an Albert Pujols signing, but I also do not think the slugging first baseman would nearly solve our multifaceted mediocrity. If the Cubs are going to be contenders, it is going to necessitate a cohesive, long-term strategy, not a yearly shifting of gears.

But I don't see it happening.

Cubs, White Sox, UZR and the Konerko Cocktail

Chicks dig the long ball, but defense wins championships.

I like defense. It’s not as sexy as hitting but I appreciate a good defensive game.

In this post I am going to focus on Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). In future posts I may use a different statistic such as the John Dewan's +/- system and I will briefly talk about Fans Scouting Report (FSR).

So let’s compare the defense of the Cubs and White Sox for the 2010 season...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fernando Perez vs. Reed Johnson

I can't believe I even have to write this, but apparently ~63% of Cubs fans (at least those frequenting BCB) think Mr. Reed Johnson should be the Cubs fifth outfielder in 2011. This means recently-acquired Fernando Perez would have to use his last precious option in order to play in Iowa.

Let's compare Mr. Johnson and Mr. Perez.

Monday, February 14, 2011

So maybe the Cubs AREN'T Drafting Too Well

It seems every winter comes with its prospect attrition study. Well, the fine folks at Royal Review just finished one -- which makes sense, given the unearthly majesty that is their farm system. The findings of these (typically similar) studies never cease to amaze me.

Baseball is the single most difficult sport in which to succeed. Observe:
I think several conclusions are warranted, at least for the period of the study (which includes a great many current major league players).
  • About 70% of Baseball America top 100 prospects fail.
  • Position player prospects succeed much more often than pitching prospects.
  • About 60% of position players ranked in Baseball America’s top 20 succeed in the majors.
  • About 40% of pitchers ranked in the top 20 succeed in the majors.
  • About 30% of position players ranked 21-100 succeed in the majors (with the success rate declining over that ranking range from about 36% to about 25%)
  • About 20% of pitchers ranked 21-100 succeed in the majors (with the success rate declining over that ranking range from about 22% to about 15%)
It's interesting, depressing stuff.

In a chart near the post's end, Scott McKinney, the author, looks at the prospect success rate according to drafting team. Caveats abound:
...I think the data is worth little more than entertainment value. First, the sample sizes are all quite small. Most organizations have 20-40 prospects in this study’s population (for the purpose of this calculation, I counted players rather than rankings). Second, I don’t think the numbers tell us anything particularly meaningful. Some of the players were drafted by one organization and developed by another. Some were developed by one organization but played in the majors for another.
The Cubs have the 8th worst success rate. That's 8th worst among 30 teams.

Lately, it has felt like the Cubs had a pretty solid farm system -- what with Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Andrew Cashner, and whatnot. But, I guess it's equally true we had some clunkers earlier this decade -- namely Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, and, you guessed it, Mark Prior.

Still, I would wager it does not matter who they draft, but who they get. The worst drafting team? The World Series champs, the Giants. The third worst? The NL Central champs, the Reds.

Photo source: Originally posted to Herkie's Flickr.

This is Not a Cubs Podcast, Episode 3

In this thrilling third installment of the "This is Not a Cubs Podcast," Will and Brad:
  • Discuss, in timely fashion, the need for the Bulls to retire Dennis Rodman's #91.
  • Philosophize on the present beauty of Chicagoans.
  • Put to task Marcel's 2011 White Sox projections.
  • Opine briefly about the majesty that is John Danks.
  • Place a gentleman's wager on the whether the Sox can muster 90 wins or not.
  • Think briefly on Spring Training and future Cubs-White Sox games.
Careful listeners will also notice: A strange, occasional skipping; the invention of a new statistic, WPG; and Carlos Zambrano conspiracy theory.

Enjoy!

Listen Now:


Download Here (right click to save):
This is Not a Cubs Podcast - Ep 3

Also available on iTunes!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where's Dennis?


Brad and I have discussed numerous times that the Cubs should retire Mordecai Brown's number name at Wrigley Field.

(Side note: I have mentioned to Brad to coerce other bloggers and picket Wrigley Field this year with "Retire Mordecai" banners, tshirts, flair. There's strength in numbers, people. Strength. In. Numbers.)

But there is another Chicago sports hero who hasn't had his number retired - Dennis Rodman.

Dennis has been nominated for the HOF. I won't argue if Dennis should/should not be in the Hall of Fame (personally, I think he should be but I digress). What irks me is that the Bulls haven't retired his number. Every time I go to the UC, I look up at the rafters; I see banners for Jordan, Pippen, Sloan, Love, Phil Jackson and...Jerry Krause? Seriously? How does this man have a banner hanging and NOT Rodman?

Rodman's accomplishments with the Bulls
  • Led the league in rebounding all three years ('96-'98)
  • Led the league in rebounding rate all three years ('96-'98)
  • All-NBA Defensive First-Team ('96)
  • Helped the Bulls win three NBA championships
(you would think that would be enough to get your number retired)

Can you imagine this party if the Bulls do retire his number? MJ and Scottie (if they even show up) will be extremely uncomfortable, Rodman will swear, he'll thank the fans while having a fifth of Jack in his hand, he'll walk onto the court with several scantily clad women, he'll be wearing something ridiculous (or nothing at all).

Come to think of it, maybe that's what the Bulls are afraid of.

Analyses, News, and Links

Here's what's happening around the Cubs blogosphere:
  • MLBTR reports Buster Olney suspects the Cubs intend to pursue a potentially free agent Albert Pujols. I've said here and there I'm not a fan of signing Pujols -- it smells of the Alfonso Soriano signing -- but would not protest if we got him. The price tag is huge, but so is the player.
  • MGL on The Book Blog uncovers a story about a recently-cut, high school pitcher. He throws an 80-mph fastball and a "wicked curve." Oh, and he's a double amputee.
  • Dayn Perry uncovered the greatest baseball history film on Youtube (featured below).
  • Mark from CBGB ruminates about a possible Cubs run for, you guessed it, Albert Pujols. Marks comments are all quite valid, except I bristle at his suggestion: "Plus, El Hombre would instantly make the Cubs a contender." Pujols is good, but he'd add only like 5-6 marginal wins and absorb a large portion of the budget. That doesn't make the Cubs contenders automatically.
  • McGinnis of Aisle 424 absolutely wins the internet with his Abbott and Costello parody.
  • Julie DiCaro of A League of Her Own rightly observes today is the last baseball-less Friday of the winter (woo-hoo!) and then begins to wonder: Is this a White Sox town now? I live in Chinatown, so the answer here is unequivocally "yes."
Here's the 1986 World Series, replayed in glorious RBI Baseball fashion:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Y'Know What? Everything's Gonna Be Ooookaaay.

Look fellas, Aramis Ramirez was on fai-yuh at the end of the Cubs 2010 season. Starlin Castro has hit at every level, and our scouting department knows better than most organizations about developing young talent -- so the whole fielding shtuff is gonna come on around.

An' hey, ol' Carlos Pena is gonna introduce the NL to his baseball bat, shotgun wedding style. And you know what else? Tyler Colvin. That's what's else.

And that Alfonso Soriano guy, he's alright. I bet his knees are feeling prim an' proper about know -- he might even threaten a 20-20 season this year.

All-in-all, the Cubs offense should be improved from last year, and the league-crushing Reds could easily have a let down year. Because.

Also, having Randy Wells compete against two excessively inferior pitchers -- Braden Looper and LOOGY James Russell -- will only make him much better! Plus, Carlos Zambrano will be looking to prove himself, and the starting rotation will feed off of each other, turning in another collectively great year.

PLUS! Matt Garza is moving to an easy division (by comparison to the AL East)! He has Cy Young potential now that he's out of the cage!

NOTE: I'm trying not to be sarcastic, but just optimistic. I could swear I used to be an optimist until like 5 months ago.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Reversal of Fortunes in 2011?

In his recent article on Rooftop View, the ever spot-on Jack Nugent analyzed recent claims that the Cubs suffered some bad luck in 2010:
An unusually good or poor record in one-run games can mask how much better or worse a team really is than it’s overall record, and while I’m not saying I think the Cubs weren’t as bad last year as their awful record suggests they were, this is one area the team can expect to improve in with just a little better luck.
Nugent then continues, asserting the improved 2011 bullpen (we had the 2nd worst FIP in the NL) will help flip this one-run game record.

I also discovered this several months back, before Quade took over. At the time, the Cubs had a putrid one-run game record -- something like 8th worst all time. After Quade's arrival, the team went on a stretch of one-run game wins, helping to balance out their luck.

This leads to my suspicions of Mike Quade. As I mentioned in the comments on Rooftop View:
When Quade took over, the Cubs had one of the worst 1-run game records since 1885. During the final stretch of the season that luck balanced out and Quade was (likely wrongly) hailed as a hero.
Furthermore, I'm not convinced an improved bullpen would actually translate into a better one-run game record. The 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays had one of the worst bullpens in modern history, yet they finished above .500 (at .503) in 1-run games.

The mere presence of a one-run game is the sign of a mediocre team. The best teams win in blowouts, the worst lose in blowouts. The rest approach .500 via 1-run games.

Let's hope the Cubs don't have too many 1-run games to worry about in 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This is Not a Cubs Podcast, Episode 2

In the second installment of the ever-intrepid "This is Not a Cubs Podcast," Brad and Will try to put a final word on the Matt Garza trade and compare the Cubs rotation to the other NL Central teams. In it, listeners will hear:
  • A brief discussion of the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • Overdue praise for Richard Dent.
  • Lengthy diatribes and discussions of:
    • Matt Garza's Marcel projections.
    • The cost of giving up prospects.
    • Alternative perspectives on the Garza trade.
    • The hopes of the 2011 Cubs...
    • And the lack of an ace, as compared to the competitive NL Central teams.
The astute listener will also hear: Brad playing his guitar and harmonica, Brad and Will's complete failure to remember the Houston Astros ever existed, and -- as before -- the muffled thuds of us talking with our hands, shaking the mic's table.

Enjoy!

Listen Now:


Download Here:
This is Not a Cubs Podcast

Also available on iTunes!

A Tango Tiger Amendment

In this latest installment of the Saber Video Series, we explore the basic notions of regression -- as seen in the form of LOB%.

Enjoy!

Originally posted on DRaysBay.com.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl Sunday: I Miss the Bears Already

Oh well, despite the terrible tragedy that is the present Superbowl, let us do what we always do: Watch live sports on a chart.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Blackhawks - 31 Games to get Lucky

The Chicago Blackhawks have approximately 31 games left in the season to make the playoffs. Nineteen of these games are on the road. I think these are the keys to the Blackhawks making the playoffs:

Backup Corey Crawford
Before the All Star Break, Jesse Rogers thought Corey Crawford was slumping . Looking at the GGVT chart, I actually didn't think he was slumping. Rather on the wrong side of the win/loss column.

The Hawks had 11 blocked shots each game vs. Philadelphia (L) and Minnesota (L) compared to 17 blocked shots against Detroit (W). To ask Corey Crawford to remain this consistent (4.0 GGVT) and/or get better is somewhat unreasonable.

As the season gets longer and the pressure mounts, the Hawks will have to find a way to backup Crawford with solid defense especially if/when he has an "off" night. If Corey Crawford regresses to his average level of play, the Hawks season could be lost (which is all the more reason to get in front of the puck).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The 2011 Cubs Roster: A Medium Look

Geovany Soto figures to give Koyie Hill some
quality days off in 2011.
We last looked at the impending 25-man roster in December. Now, in the post-Garza world, let's reexamine it:
RF Kosuke Fukudome, LHB
SS Starlin Castro, RHB
1B Carlos Pena, LHB
3B Aramis Ramirez, RHB
CF Marlon Byrd, RHB
LF Alfonso Soriano, RHB
C Geovany Soto, RHB
2B Blake DeWitt, LHB
...the bench...
C Koyie Hill, (doesn't use a bat)
INF Jeff Baker, RHB
OF Tyler Colvin, LHB
UT Darwin Barney, RHB
...And the pitchers:
SP Carlos Zambrano, RHP
SP Ryan Dempster, RHP
SP Matt Garza, RHP
SP Randy Wells, RHP
SP Carlos Silva, RHP

CL Carlos Marmol, RHP
SU Sean Marshall, LHP
SU Kerry Wood, RHP
P John Grabow, LHP
P Jeff Samardzija, RHP
P Thomas Diamond, RHP
P James Russell, LHP
P Andrew Cashner, RHP
Nothing delights me more than seeing so many quality pitchers on a roster that features Koyie Hill. It's like garnishing a three-layer, red velvet cake with little chicken turds. You know, those little black pellets they drop everywhere that get pressed up into the ridges of your boots so your feet smell like excrement for days.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alfonso Soriano: Not Terrible Last Year, but in 2011? Maybe.

Sometimes I get an idea in my head -- such as: Alfonso Soriano is terrible -- that in fact is not nearly as founded or correct as it aught be. In fact, Soriano was worth nearly 3 wins laster year (according to Fangraphs WAR), which in no way makes him worth his contract, but makes him worth something.