Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reed Johnson: Average Is Cool Again

My latest FanGraphs piece looks at Reed Johnson, whom I despised last off-season for stealing Fernando Perez's roster spot (Perez went on to lose his job with the Cubs entirely, so maybe Johnson isn't entirely to blame here).

Anyway, my most recent assessment of Johnson has him looking, hey, pretty average — which is alright in my book:
He’s not a stellar base runner (11 steal, 10 caught stealing, and 0.4 BsR in the last four season). He’s not an amazing fielder (0.3 UZR over his last four seasons). He’s not a great hitter (.330 wOBA and 98 wRC+ since 2008).

He’s just Johnson. Average.

But, since he has displayed no particular weaknesses since getting relegated to part-time duty (where he can focus on mashing lefties, which is his specialty), Johnson has become a relatively valuable asset. Which is nice, especially since he is pretty cheap these days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good News For The Astros Is Bad News For The Cubs

It looks like the Houston Astros have in Jeff Luhnow a proper brilliant GM:

Jeff Luhnow, the new Astros GM, is a great, smart guy who is all about using all available resources to build and maintain a successful franchise. As well, he is very fan friendly, as you can see from this chat.

Astros fans should be very excited.

When asked in the chat about web sites he frequents, this blog was mentioned along with BP and THT, so we know that he has great taste in baseball blogs!
The Astros under Gerry Hunsicker were crazy good. Why they ever let that man go to Tampa Bay is beyond me.

Well, it looks like Houston may have their Hunsicker 2.0 now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ray Emery: The Blackhawks #1 Goalie Until Further Notice

In December, Ray Emery has been in net for the Blackhawks for 8 games... Helping the Hawks gain points in 7 of them. But how good has Emery been in this surge? Let's take a look at GVT (Goals Versus Threshold):
Surprisingly, Emery's GVT is -1 -- he's allowed one more goal than the average goaltender. This does not mean he has played average during the recent Hawks surge. In fact, his GVT on November 26th was -6. This is a +5 GVT improvement. Emery's save percentage is on par with his career (90.8% ... current NHL save percentage is 91.2%) and his current 2.50 GAA (goals against average) is less than his career average (2.66) and on par with the league (2.58).

But what if Emery hovers around the average (0)? Do the Hawks have enough offensive firepower to survive average goaltending? Right now, that answer seems to be "yes." The Hawks have four players in the top-ten of GVT. But the struggles of Corey Crawford could be a concern if Emery slumps. Crawford has the talent. His save percentage last season was 91.7%, his GAA was 2.30, and his GVT was top-fifteen in the league. But right now, with the superb goaltending in the Western Conference, you go with the experience and play of Emery. He'll keep the Hawks in the game, giving them a chance to win...

... And that's all the Hawks need their goaltender to do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rip Hamilton Takes His Talents, And His Mask, To Chicago

The Bulls finally addressed their issue of finding a two-guard by signing Richard "Rip" Hamilton (and his mask). Although this will improve the Bulls offense, I find the move a little perplexing. Rip will fit nicely with what the Bulls are trying to accomplish on offense, but his DRating (points allowed per 100 possessions) is absolutely atrocious (115):

I would expect 14ppg from Hamilton as well as an increase in his assists (playing alongside Rose, Boozer, and Deng is better than anything Detroit has) but I do not know how Thibs plans on improving Rip's defensive acumen at this point in his career -- he's never been known as a great defender. Maybe Thibs defensive scheme really is that good.

Overall, I like the move. This solidifies the two-guard for a couple of seasons with a veteran, offensive player while Jimmy Butler progresses (I have my Optimism Goggles engaged on Butler). I just hope Rip's defense doesn't become a liability on the other end of the floor.

The Extra Point: Apparently Rip's mask isn't just for protection. It serves as a Nasal Oxygen Provider, which is like an extra pair of lungs ... but on your face:

Carlos Zambrano: Venezuelan Winter League Stats

Hey, so Carlos Zambrano is pitching in the Venezuela Winter Leagues, a place Quad-A guys and comeback hopers go to keep fresh and prepare to impress in Spring Training. Zambrano is, in truth, neither of those — Qaud-A or a comeback candidate.

Well, he's kind of, but not really a comeback candidate. Comeback guys are like Dmitri Young, who is out of baseball, without a contract, and hoping to catch on with some team. Zambrano is under contract. He will be with some team during the 2012 Spring Training unless he elects to retire.

Anyway, Big Z has tossed three games for the Caribes de Anzoategui and has thus far culled some impressive stats:

Pitcher   GS    IP   ERA   FIP
Zambrano   3  13.2  3.29  2.63

Note: I've calculated his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) myself, but the MLB does not have IBB data, so if there is an error there, it would only mean Z has pitched better than I have calculated.

So Zambrano's Winter League stats are good, close to great so far. Which is only right. He's facing vastly inferior competition. Also, according to MLB Trade Rumors, he's apparently working out like crazy:
"I'm preparing like when I was a rookie, climbing mountains, running on the beach, and exercising hard so that I can arrive at Spring Training in optimal shape," he said, as relayed by Joiner Martinez at LĂ­der en Deportes. "I want to stay in Chicago for the two seasons I still have with the team. I'm not a coward who would take the back door out of the majors."
Tack onto that, the Cubs may very well be in legit contention for the second NL Wild Card in 2012. The latest Oliver projections have the Cubs within reach of an 85-win season. I have been saying for a while that the Cubs need at least two years to rebuild into a winning team, but honestly, a few prudent acquisitions and they may be in the playoffs in 2012.

And that, frankly, is stunning. Maybe they acquire Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder? That would be another huge bump and frankly not a bad long term move either, because both are relatively young (Darvish moreso than Fielder). A bit more pitching depth, a big year for Zambrano (think: 3.50 FIP; great, but not amazing) and suddenly the Cubs look legitimate.

Get ready Cubs fans. The Big Zanta Clause is coming back to town, and he may be bringing presents.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Narrative Ninja: Carlos Boozer

What do the Bulls Need?
There's two camps when it comes to this topic: one side doesn't believe the Bulls need a two-guard but rather Carlos Boozer playing up to his career average numbers in the Playoffs. The other side of the argument is that the Bulls needed a two guard, like, yesterday.

In regards to Boozer, there was a decline but was it substantial enough to warrant scapegoat status?

I believe we suffer from Narrative Ninja when it comes to Boozer -- we remember more bad than good. It's true, he did not have the best playoff performance, but neither did Derrick Rose -- yes, I went there. Hey, we love scapegoats in Chicago so hellwithit... Boozer is our scapegoat.

Personally, I'll take a guy that can score 17 points, grab 11 boards, and have a true shooting percentage of 52% against the Heat any day:

In Game 1, vs. the Heat Boozer played decently (a tad below his average) and in Games 3 & 4, Booze actually played very well (the Bulls lost both of those games):

Our Narrative Ninjas remember Game 5 from Boozer and we shiver. Yes, it was bad. But the problem isn't that Carlos Boozer is a bad player as I have heard on these windy streets... nay. There's something underneath the surface that didn't improve last season. Nick Friedell points out:
People can talk about how the Bulls' biggest weakness is the need for a scoring two guard who can take some pressure off of Rose. While that is certainly the team's biggest issue heading into the new season, the other big one, which has gotten lost in the hoopla for another perimeter scorer, is the fact that two of the Bulls' best players didn't complement each other very well on the floor last season. If the Bulls want to take the next step in their progression next year, Thibodeau must find a way for Noah and Boozer to coexist on the floor together on both offense and defense. If they don't the Bulls still won't be able to win a title ... no matter who the two-guard is.
Couldn't agree more. The Bulls need to establish synergy between Boozer and Noah then add a complimentary piece at the two-guard. Until that happens, Boozer will continue to be the scapegoat for no apparent reason.

This is Chicago, after all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Pujols Signs With The Los Angeles Angels

Albert Pujols signed with the L.A. Angels this morning.

Let's have some Nazi kids with Chinese subtitles sing my emotions:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ron Santo Elected To Hall Of Fame, One Year Late

Today, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that former Chicago Cubs third baseman and radio commentator Ron Santo is a Hall of Famer. Santo died December 3, 2010 — a year and two days ago — from complication of the diabetes that made him play beneath his talents for 15 years, made him keep candy bars in his locker, made him end his career at the age of 34 (while most other Hall of Fame third baseman played into their 40s), and eventually made him begin life anew in a wheel chair.

I'm sick. Sick. That Santo could not have been elected during his life.

I don't care about the Hall of Fame. It's a stupid little club created by writers. It's full of cheaters and racists and New York Yankees who had whatever careers but just happened to be on the right team. Half it's members stood out only because segregation artificially kept the talent pool at a minimum; the other half benefited from cocaine, greenies, the clear, and HGH.

The only reason the Hall means anything to me is because it meant something to Ronnie. Santo spent his summers at my house, bumbling his way through a Cubs game, collapsing and moaning with each error and caught stealing, rising and flying with each Cubs homer and run.

Santo was part of Chicago; he was part of the family; he was what made the game good. A solid, hard-working man. A man who daily overcame unfair physical obstacles to play at an elite level. A company man who never gave up on his team.

Shame on the Hall of Fame voters. Shame on the Veteran's Committee. He's in there now. It was an inevitability; he was going to make it someday. Once the BBWAA is run by sabermetricians (a matter of time), Santo was going to be a stand-up triple, an easy run. He was in.

Shame on them for not giving Santo the pleasure of his one last hope.

Congratulations to Ronnie. Congrats to his family, who today probably feel somewhat stung like me. And congrats to the Golden Era Committee, who finally redressed the Hall's great error.

This heel-click goes out to you, Ronnie.