Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ronnie Brewer for Defensive Player of the Year?

Yes, I meant to phrase the title of this (brief) post in the form of a question. This may surprise you but Ronnie Brewer is the best defender in the NBA. Defensive player of the year is sort of hard to quantify but this article does an amazing job ranking the best defenders in the NBA. The Bulls have five players in the top ten of defensive efficiency (Kyle Korver?!?!) and it would include six players (Omer Asik) if you lowered the minutes to 900.

Maybe we'll find out in June if defense really does win championships.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Andrew Cashner And The Cubs Starting Rotation

Here's my latest FanGraphs article, Enter Andrew Cashner, in which I discuss the Cubs latest addition to the rotation and what he must do to enter stardom. Here's a juicy sliver from it:
In the previous episode of the Carlos Silva Chronicles, our hero exited stage left, no doubt brooding over his dramatic return. Meanwhile, in the stead of our intrepid and silver-tongued protagonist, a young and handsome right-hander — a prospect highly touted, mysterious and oft-cloaked in shadows — has emerged. Enter Andrew Cashner.
You can read the rest here at FanGraphs.com.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Debating the Hot Shooter

Watch this video. Is Mike hot?

Brad and I have discussed clutchiness, hot streaks and the hot shooter to some degree. It's a strange feeling - when the game slows down and you can make every shot, catch every ball, or hit any pitch. We've all been there. During these rare instances, we feel -- superhuman. Recently, I had some friends over discussing the "hot hand" and I was trying to explain (though unconvincingly) that the hot hand doesn't exist and could hurt you/the team statistically.

The naysayers disagreed; pointing to the fact opinion that they "feel like they can make every shot". They argued that as each shot goes in their confidence level rises and the odds of making their next shot increases. To their defense came the point of muscle memory. But I have a problem with this because no two shots are alike (I do not shoot a 3-pointer the same way I shoot a free throw). For the muscle memory argument to have more "weight", in my opinion, every variable (elevation, release point, trajectory, hand/eye coordination, exertion, force of the shot, etc) would have to be the same and it just isn't the case. To my defense came random events. But randomness usually occurs when models fail (basically, when we can't prove something).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

UPDATED: Cashner Wins; Silva Loses

Hmm... Soto seems happy.
Just about everyone in the city is talking one thing: Carlos Silva has lost, Andrew Cashner will be the Cubs fifth starter.

Per Bruce Miles, out rotations should shake out like this:
Starters (all RH)
Ryan Dempster
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Garza
Randy Wells
Andrew Cashner

Bullpen
Closer RHP Carlos Marmol
RHP Kerry Wood
RHP Marcos Mateo
RHP Jeff Samardzija
LHP Sean Marshall
LHP John Grabow
LHP James Russell
I'll be honest: I'm glad Andrew Cashner got the nod, but I'm not happy as whole how the staff turned out. I honestly think Carlos Silva would have made a solid bullpen candidate. John Grabow is at best a LOOGY, and it appears James Russell may be too (I'd need to check his minor league numbers to be sure). Given the history of success, I'd take Grabow over Russell, but Silva over Russell also.

Also, Jeff Samardzija has been crushed at about every level in his career. At some point the Cubs need to pass him through waivers (I'm pretty sure he'd make it) or take their lumps and cut him. He's not ready for the MLB yet, unfortunately.

That's two relievers who I believe Silva could have out performed. Silva gets good ground balls and could have served as Sean Marshall's caddy, coming in to collect key double plays when the lanky lefty is tired.

Oh well, maybe someone would be willing to send something our way for this 32 year old failed starter with a reputation for being combative.

UPDATE: It's become official now; the Cubs released Carlos Silva.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bradley Woodrum On Fangraphs!

Hey e'rbody! My first Fangraphs piece is live now! Please do drop by, read it, and then bash me in the comments!

Here's a taste:
However, Marquez Smith (free him!) remains at third, Darwin Barney looks poised for a bench slot (though he may challenge DeWitt for some ABs), and Blake Baker/Jeff DeWitt should still at least start the season in their platooned roles. If worse comes to worst with DeWitt, though, and he finds himself in Iowa, the Cubs may indeed turn to [Jeff] Baker.
You can read the full article here.

The Cubs Farm System Rank Doubles! (In Terribleness)


Well, you've done it now, Cubs. After the Matt Garza/Fernando Perez trade (a trade in which the Cubs sent young prospects Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, and Chris Archer to the Rays; oh yeah, and Robinson Chirinos and Sam Fuld), the Cubs system plummeted down Baseball America's farm system rankings, dropping from #8 to #16.

Per MLB Trade Rumors:
Baseball America's annual farm system rankings are out, with a few changes from their 2011 Handbook due to the Matt Garza trade. The Rays' haul pushed them to #2 over the Braves, while the Cubs' losses knocked them from #8 to #16.
Look, I like Matt Garza. I'm also a Rays fan, so I'm all about swapping players I like for players I like, but this trade has really hurt the Cubs long term sustainability.

I realize prospects are a crapshoot. But, you cannot win many raffles with only a few tickets. When the tickets are super cheap, horde them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ascension of Derrick Rose


Since the 2008 NBA Draft, Derrick Rose has been better than advertised. Over the past three seasons, we have seen him grow like a rose from concrete. And now he is in the race for MVP.

The race for MVP will be congested with great players: Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant. They are all deserving candidates of the MVP.

But what is the M-V-P?

If we define the MVP as the best player in the league, then I don't think Derrick wins it. But if we define the MVP as the most valuable player to his team, I think Derrick wins this hands-down. Jesse Dorsey at Bleacher Report analyzed these two schools of thought and compared Lebron to DRose for MVP.

Let's take a look at how our rose has grown in the past three seasons...

Monday, March 21, 2011

THT on the Chicago White Sox

Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times took a look today at five questions pressing on the White Sox. I think he does an admirable job -- I cannot think of any questions more pressing than these (well, maybe one). Jaffe's questions were, essentially:
  1. Will the real Carlos Quentin please stand up? [That's more of an imposition than question.]
  2. What does the Adam Dunn signing mean for the team?
  3. What should be done with Chris Sale?
  4. Is Don Cooper the most underrated man in major league baseball?
  5. Can they win the division?
Honestly, I might swap question number 4 with: "Can the rotation hold up?"

Consider: Jake Peavy is yet again hurt. Edwin Jackson is coming off of a career year (can he sustain or improve on that?). Mark Buerle's FIP and xFIP nearly caught up to him.

All in all, this is a fairly sick starting rotation, complete with 5 above average, to possible great, pitchers (6 if you include Chris Sale). Jaffe's closing words cannot help but excite the reader about the South Side's prospects this year:
This year, if Peavy remains injured and Quentin plays about as well as he has the last two years, I still think the Sox win the division.

This looks like the team to beat in the AL Central this year. I don't know who served me the South Side Kool-Aid this spring, but it sure does taste good.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Baserunning: The Quicksand of the Chicago Cubs

I'm just going to come out and say it, the Chicago Cubs are BAD at baserunning. The worse thing about this statement is that there is very little hope of them getting better (at least in 2011).

According to the Bill James Handbook (2011 edition) the Cubs are the 7th worst team in baserunning. If we review the fundamentals of the game: pitching, hitting, fielding, baserunning - we see lonely baserunning at the end of the list. Most people don't even think about baserunning as a core function of a successful/competitive team or if they do, they think in terms of stolen bases. I disagree on both accounts.

This post will focus on four subcategories of baserunning:

  • 1st-to-3rd - this (successful moves/opportunities) provides the percentage of a player moving from first base to third base on a single

  • 2nd-to-home - this (successful moves/opportunities) provides the percentage of a player moving from second base to home on a single

  • 1st-to-home - this (successful moves/opportunities) provides the percentage of a player moving from first base to home on a double

  • Net Gain - Baserunning gain + Stolen base gain (zero is average)


Let's start by taking a look at the 2010 version of the Chicago Cubs...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cubs Spring Training Statistics, 2011

Here's the Cubs official stats as of 3-13-2011 (yesterday's game).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This is Not a Cubs Podcast, Episode 5

This is a brief update, coming direct from Arizona, where our intrepid report Will Smith has been watching some Cubs and White Sox players -- and chatting it up with UZR's favorite shortstop of 2010, Alexei Ramirez.

Listen Now:


Download Here (right click to save):
This is Not a Cubs Podcast - Ep 5

Also available on iTunes!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Darwin Barney: A Prospect?

According to Jonathon Mayo of MLB.com, The Cubs top ten prospects look something like this:
Rk Player           ETA
1. Brett Jackson    2012
2. Trey McNutt      2012
3. Chris Carpenter  2012
4. Hayden Simpson   2013
5. Josh Vitters     2013
6. Jay Jackson      2011
7. Rafael Dolis     2012
8. Matt Szczur      2013
9. Reggie Golden    2014
10. Darwin Barney   2011
There's one of two possibilities here: (1) The Rays took way more of our farm system than I expected, or (2) Jonathon Mayo has no idea what he's talking about.

Why? Darwin Barney is not a prospect. Yet he's listed number 10 in yonder scale.

Well, according to Kevin Goldstein, Baseball America, John Sickels, The Hardball Times, Fangraphs, Diamond Futures, Top Prospect Alert, and MILB Prospects, Darwin Barney is not a prospect. In 2010, Goldstein went to so far as to rank Barney #15 or so in the system, noting he had potential -- potential, mind you -- to be a utility player.

If that really is the tenth best hope for the future Cubs, then the future is severely bleak.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pitch: A Year and Change Later

It's been about year and a month since I wrote this article. Just recently, I found another baseball team to play for (as an alumni, I can't quite play for RU anymore), so I got to thinking about this article again. I think it's rather lasted the test of (albeit brief) time.

A few days ago, I gave my friends and family quite a scare: I tweeted a photo of myself, appearing to have received some minor stitching on my forehead. Well, I certainly received some sort of stitching. Well, this all started in early January when the accumulated snow was thickening to ice and the skies were daily gray...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cubs 2011 Roster Coming Into Focus

Ol' Trusy, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, took a gander recently at the Cubs 2011 roster as it approaches its first round of cuts. He rightly observes the best NRI (non-roster invitee) is probably Todd Wellemeyer:
If there’s a guy who could make the team off the nonroster list, it might be old friend Todd Wellemeyer. In his 2 outings this spring (1 start), Welly has worked 4 innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 run with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.
That being said, he should still not be even in consideration for Randy Wells's job, which should be the 4th starter.

Of more interest to me: Bruce's feelings on the 5th OF spot:
Speaking of the outfield, you might give the early edge to make it as a backup to Fernando Perez. The Cubs seem intrigued by his speed. Of course, that speed needs to get on base. Perez is 3-for-8 with a pair of walks. Reed Johnson, a nonroster man, is 3-for-16 with 2 walks.
I am an unabashed and long-term fan of Fernando Perez. I hope with every ounce of my willpower he makes the team. I hope, even more outlandishly, he someday becomes a starter -- and even a great player!

This is a good first step.

Image source: Eric Kilby.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Silva's Descent, and Helmets for Pitchers

Yeah, I realize that picture is ginormous. Majesty cannot be shrunk. (a hearty and thankful h/t to Tim Souers of Cubby-Blue)

For the second straight appearance, Carlos Silva hath exploded.

Granted, he rightly observed batters were not exactly padding their slugging percentage against him. Quoth Silva:
Most of [the hits] were singles that were hit through the hole.
Frankly, you cannot help it when the Luck Dragons frown on you, and your BABIP skyrockets unexpectedly.

HOWEVER: If Gameday is to be trusted (and this time of year, that's a big IF), then most of the those singles came on line drives, not weakly hit ground balls. Anyone should expect their BABIP to balloon like my Yuletide waistline if they surrender nothing be frozen ropes.

Meanwhile, Rob Neyer pointed to an article today concerning helmets -- for pitchers! Yeah, they may make you look like you just enlisted with the Starship Troopers, but it's better than looking like this.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Randy Wells and The Competition

Joe Pawlikowski had a rather good article on Fangraphs today about Randy Wells and the competition for the final two rotation spots. I definitely agree with his conclusion:
...the mere idea of placing Wells into a competition, real or manufactured, is absurd. He has been the team’s second best pitcher during the last two seasons, and there’s a good chance he’s in that same spot again in 2011.
A reader named JD went to the ol' Mainstream Media Bucket for his counterargument, stating:
I agree that Wells is talented, but last year he had some serious issues with preparation/being out a bit too late on a regular basis. He’s even alluded to his lifestyle causing problems...
Fortunately, friend of the site dat cubfan daver was there to set him straight:
There’s been so much hearsay regarding Wells’ alleged “lifestyle” problems that I tend not to put too much, if any, stock in them. As you say, Randy has alluded to something being a little off last season but, to my knowledge, he has NEVER admitted that his social life negatively affected his pitching performance. He’s said stuff like, “I lost focus” and “Got too big for my britches.” In fact, at one point, last season he vehemently denied a rumor that he’d been out partying the night before a bad start.

As pointed out in the very well-written article above, most of Wells’ 2010 struggles can be attributed to bad luck and normal regression for a second-year pitcher. I’m a little frustrated with the team’s apparent decision to put his rotation spot in jeopardy, but it may very well be just a facade, as Joe mentions. Randy has pitched well in spring training thus far and, to be honest, I’m getting less and less worried about this.
I really do hope the Cubs have created this rotation battle just to keep Randy Wells sharp -- much like NFL teams do with kickers. Frankly, I do not think a battle is necessary for Wells, but the mere thought of Braden Looper or Todd Wellemeyer knocking Wells down to the minors is absurd to me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This is Not a Cubs Podcast, Episode 4

In the fourth, yet regrettably delayed, episode of "This is Not a Cubs Podcast," Brad and Will examine:
  • The insanity that is the Chicago Bulls.
  • The odds of Dennis Rodman making the NBA Hall of Fame.
  • The possibility of Albert Pujols signing with the Cubs in 2012.
  • The sabermetric book season, and Bill James's latest abstract.
  • Some early Chicago Cubs action, and the impending Cubs Stats book, Looking for Mordecai.
Astute listeners will also notice: This podcast was recorded several days ago, and there is no mention, therefore, of the Carlos Silva blowup, or the Matt Garza liner-to-the-back story.

Listen Now:


Download Here (right click to save):
This is Not a Cubs Podcast - Ep 4

Also available on iTunes!

BABIP Video

I finished the next saber video this morning. Today's installment concerns BABIP, and you can find the original post (though very similar to this one) on DRaysBay:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Greg Maddux: Yeah, He Was That Good

Mike Axisa of MLBTR observed some intriguing God-like facts about Greg Maddux today:


Hold on! The majesty is not yet complete...


Man, I really wish we could have got this man the second ring he deserved.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Say "Yes!" to Proposition Defense

Will pointed this article out to me today, coming from ESPN Chicago:
The Cubs have made nine errors in the first three games of spring training, but that fact hasn't upset Cubs manager Mike Quade the way it would during the regular season.

~snip~

Tyler Colvin and Blake DeWitt each have committed two errors. While Jeff Baker, Starlin Castro, Carlos Pena, Bobby Scales and Andrew Cashner have one error each.
Frankly, there are ominous clouds looming -- defensively -- for the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano has slowed considerable since his hamstring issues (thus his range is down); Starlin Castro has a combined 7,041 errors over the last MLB, winter league, and minor league calender year; and Aramis Ramirez continues to field third base with a bat instead of a glove.

HOWEVER: This team will not be this bad moving forward. In fact, there's every reason to anticipate ol' Starlin Castro -- still a very young man -- will blossom into a top-tier defender.

So it's right for Cubs manager Mike Quade to let these defensive gaffs slide -- but then again, what would he do? Resign at them? It's not like Quade has a choice whether or not to start Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, or even Starlin Castro. These guys have not only earned their roles from past seasons (or prospect status), but they are vastly superior to anyone behind them (with the possible exception of Marquez Smith playing 3B, who would still be a step down from Ramirez in all likelihood).

In the meantime, though, we should prepare ourselves for a general butchering of a season from the Cubs defensively, as per usual.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 2011 White Sox Roster: A First Look

Spring Training is in full swing, so now is as good as any time to look at the White Sox roster, and project how it will appear in 2011:
C A.J. Pierzynski, LHB (.301/.391 as predicted by PECOTA)
1B Paul Konerko, RHB (.358/.491)
2B Gordon Beckham, RHB (.328/.419)
3B Brent Morel, RHB (.308/.417)
SS Alexei Ramirez, RHB (.317/.426)
LF Juan Pierre, LHB (.323/.343)
CF Alex Rios, RHB (.323/.436)
RF Carlos Quentin, RHB (.353/.483)
DH Adam Dunn, LHB (.371/.510)
...the bench...
C Ramon Castro, RHB (.309/.439)
INF Omar Vizquel, SH (.298/.303)
OF Mark Teahen, LHB (.326/.396)
UT Brent Lillibridge, RHB (.287/.324)
...And the pitchers:
SP John Danks, LHP (4.01 ERA per PECOTA)
SP Mark Buehrle, LHP (4.51)
SP Gavin Floyd, RHP (4.24)
SP Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.63)
SP Jake Peavy, RHP (3.24)

CL Matt Thornton, LHP (2.82 ERA per PECOTA)
SU Chris Sale, LHP (3.05)
P Jesse Crain, RHP (3.99)
P Will Ohman, LHP (4.43)
P Tony Pena, RHP (4.56)
P Sergio Santos, RHP (4.52)
P Lucas Harrell, RHP (5.44)