Sunday, June 27, 2010

White Sox Win BP Crosstown Cup

Omar Vizquel and BP CEO Tony Hayward display their trophy at the team's championship parade just outside U.S. Cellular Field Sunday afternoon.

CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago White Sox won the first annual BP Crosstown Cup this weekend, defeating the Chicago Cubs twice and winning the season series 4-2. The Cup, sponsored by British Petroleum, was awarded to the Sox after their clinching victory Saturday night. Afterwards, White Sox players were eager to pledge their support for BP.

"We really wanted to win this one for Tony (Hayward)," said White Sox designated hitter Omar Vizquel. "He said he wants his life back. Hopefully this will get him a little bit closer."

"I really hope British Petroleum paid a lot of money for this sponsorship," White Sox GM Kenny Williams added. "Like, a LOT of money. Better here than that little spill people keep talking about. I don't see what paying claims to some guy who used to catch shrimp has to do with baseball."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added, "F$#@! s&;^*, and ^$$@!, you know? %**^!"

After looking horrible the first two games at U.S. Cellular Field, the Cubs pulled off an impressive 8-6 victory on Sunday to save face. Fans of the team were relieved to hear from the team's manager that their incompetence over the weekend wasn't so much bad baseball as it was a political protest.

"Look, we wanted no part of that Cup, and I think we demonstrated that with our play on the field," said Cubs' skipper Lou Piniella. "We didn't actually try to win a game until we knew the White Sox had clinched it. Sure, we won at Wrigley when Lilly almost threw a no-hitter, but we didn't even get a damn hit until the seventh inning ourselves. Then Marmol tried like hell to blow it in the ninth. We pretty much won that game by accident."

Also of note, President Barack Obama made a phone call to the White Sox clubhouse Sunday morning before their finale with the Cubs to express how proud he is of his hometown team for winning The Cup. He also admitted the exciting crosstown series in his home town has made him reconsider his handling of BP's oil spill.

"Look, if there's one thing I've shown consistently throughout my presidency, it's that I like sports. They're like, ahh, super important to me. I mean, three days after I gave that speech from the Oval Office about how I wouldn't rest until the spill had been resolved, I was sitting in a sky box watching my White Sox. They never come to Washington, I just figured it would be okay.

"After I phoned the team, I talked to Tony Hayward and let him know he doesn't have to set aside any money in that silly escrow account we talked about. I know he's good for it. If he's got the White Sox' back, that's all I need."

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said after the game that he was so thrilled clutching a piece of hardware endorsed by British Petroleum that he hopes to expand sponsored rivalry trophies to other opponents.

"We're in talks right now with the Minnesota Twins and Phillip Morris to get a nice gold platter to give to whichever team wins more games that season. Kinda like what they do at Wimbledon, except it'll look more like an ashtray.

"We're also working on a Nike-sponsored 'Child Labor Night' at the ballpark where all the ushers and vendors are the kids of season ticket holders, and they'll work for no pay with no bathroom breaks. But we may have to wait another year for that one."

Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts was also asked what he thought of adding more sponsored rivalry trophies to his team's schedule.

"Who is this again? Sorry, I'm kind of a fucking moron," he said.

You Know What, Let's Just Have Fun Out There

Per Paul Sullivan, after yesterday's loss dropped the team to ten games under .500:

The Cubs lost the BP Cup and Saturday's game, but the mood in the clubhouse was upbeat without Carlos Zambrano around.
Well as long as they're having fun, who cares? I mean, that's all you can really ask from a professional baseball organization.
After a great losing effort, Lou Piniella announces to the team 
they're all going out for ice cream.*

*Not pictured: the latin faction, now leaderless

Damn You, Physics!!

Cashner was pumping HEAT last night...

...but when you make solid contact with a 100 mph fastball, it's going to go a long ways.

Still, Cub fans have to be pleased that Cashner is only getting 2-3 innings a week out of the bullpen on a team that never has a lead.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Request to Mr. Selig

The White Sox have won nine games in a row against the National League, and are 13-2 in interleague play. They're three games over .500 for the first time this season, and trail the Twins by 2.5 games.

At 37-34, they'd be just three games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.

The Cubs are 31-40, nine games out of first and only six ahead of last. They're 6-8 against the American League this year.

Eventually the White Sox will have to stop playing AAAA teams and face the harsh reality that they are members of a superior baseball league. While they certainly hit like an NL Central team (.322 team wOBA, 22nd in baseball and 10th in the American League), their pitching has been elite. Their 3.86 FIP is the best in the American League as is their 4.12 xFIP, and their 7.53 K/9 is tops in the AL by a full strikeout.

This is a team that might actually matter if they switched leagues. They're essentially the San Francisco Giants of the AL, putting up similar numbers but doing so against superior competition.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are hopeless. The only way to make the 2010 season watchable at this point is a full fledged FIRE SALE, followed by a 60-65 win season that nets the team the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Cubs would be in position to select an impact player, like Rice 3B Anthony Rendon or TCU pitcher Matt Purke or UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole to name a few. They'd have their choice.

Or they could draft a fourth round talent with the first pick and it would be hilarious. But either way, it'd be something.

By playing their remaining 91 games in the puny National League, the Cubs run the risk of getting "hot" and finishing around .500 by season's end. We can't take that chance.

Mr. Selig, hockey season is over in Chicago and the Hawks are already facing difficult decisions regarding fan favorites from the Stanley Cup champions. The Bulls are certainly in the LeBron sweepstakes but they are by no means a lock to land King James in free agency, and the last time the Bulls went fishing for a hot trio of free agents they caught Ron Mercer. The Bears are still months away and quite frankly, they'll probably suck again.

Swap these two teams, Mr. Selig. Make Chicago baseball interesting again. We don't ask for much.

"Look, what do you want me to do?"

June 23: Mariners 8, Cubs 1

Cubs' MVP: Marlon Byrd Tyler Colvin, .080 WPA
Byrd technically accumulated more WPA, singling twice out of the leadoff spot. But most of that came on a fielder's choice/error in the sixth inning, which I'm not too comfortable crediting him with. So I'll give the MVP to Colvin, who crushed a Cliff Lee fastball into the seats for the only Cubs offense of the day series.

Mariner's MVP: Cliff Lee, .172 WPA
Lee went the distance, his only blemish the aforementioned home run to Colvin. He struck out nine and walked none, bringing his K/BB ratio this season the 76:4. Despite missing the entire month of April, Cliff Lee leads all pitchers in WAR (3.7) this season.

What makes Cliff Lee so hard to hit?

1) He throws nothing but strikes, like last night:
115 pitches, 90 strikes. Lee also throws a first pitch strike 72% of the time, the best in baseball. Second? Carlos Silva, at 70.2.

2) Not only does he throw nothing but strikes, he throws five different pitches for nothing but strikes, ranging anywhere from 76-92 mph:

Lee has had an astounding season thus far for the Mariners. If they deal him mid-season to a contender who is willing to sign him to a long term deal, Seattle is going to cash in bigtime.

Cubs' LVP: Randy Wells, -.327 WPA
Wells at least survived the first inning untouched for a change, but still gave up six runs and ten hits over six innings. He struck out just three while walking two, one of which was an inexcusable walk to The Great Michael Saunders with the bases loaded. You have to be careful with Michael Saunders when wimpy Ichiro is on deck. He served up an 88 mph meatball to Ichiro that Aaron Miles could have driven into center field, which effectively ended the game for the Cubs.

Although, really, it was over when Cliff Lee safely arrived at the stadium yesterday.

Mariners' LVP: Rob Johnson, -.119 WPA
Johnson struck out twice, including once with the bases loaded and only one out.

Biggest Hit of the Game: 
With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Ichiro singles in two runs to extend the Mariners lead to three. (.158 WPA)

Biggest Out(s) of the Game:
With runners on the corners and one out in the first inning, Xavier Nady grounds into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. (-.116 WPA)

Play That Paul Sullivan Genuinely Didn't Know How to Feel About:
In the bottom of the fourth inning, a lazy hustling Alfonso Soriano made a diving shoestring catch robbing mercurial Milton Bradley of a hit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

6/22: Mariners 2, Cubs 0

Cubs' MVP: Alfonso Soriano, .139 WPA
Soriano was the only Cub who brought any offense to the table last night, collecting three hits. He led off the fifth with a bloop double, although he was promptly doubled off on some questionable baserunning. Soriao also had two singles late in the game setting up two-out RBI opportunities for Jesus Colvin, but the rookie couldn't get it done both times.

Yesterday's game brought his wOBA to a modest .341 in the past week, which is a big improvement from his overall .288 wOBA in June. Hopefully Soriano is breaking out of his little mini slump. Not because it means anything for the 2010 Cubs, but hopefully it will keep the boo birds of Soriano's back when Wrigley turns real ugly this summer.

Mariners' MVP: Jason Vargas, .376 WPA
Vargas threw seven innings of four hit baseball against the Cubs impotent offense. He walked only one and struck out seven. With Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez next in this series, I think it's safe to say the Cubs chances of scoring a single run in Seattle are close to zero.

Vargas has had a surprisingly strong 2010 for Seattle. His ERA has now dropped to 2.66 in fourteen starts. He made fourteen starts all of last year for Seattle and 4.91 ERA. What's been the difference this year?

Is he striking out more batters? Nope. 5.91 K/9 this year, 5.3 last year.

Is he walking less batters? Nope. 2.36 BB/9 last year, 2.27 this year.

Are more of his fly balls staying in the cavernous park he calls home this year, where he's made 9 of 14 starts? You betcha! 12.7 HR/FB in 2009, a miniscule 4.9 in 2010. Is this a sustainable number? Probably not, especially considering 50%  of the balls in play against Vargas have been fly balls this year (47.8 career). To be fair, his LD% is way down in 2010. He's not getting hit as hard as he used to. Giving up a lot of weak fly balls in Safeco is a recipe for success, but he's certainly a regression candidate to keep your eyes on.

Cubs' LVP: Tyler Colvin, -.272 WPA
Colvin ended both the seventh and ninth innings with a man on third base. His lineout in the fourth inning also resulted in a damaging double play. It was the third worst WPA performance by a Cubs' hitter this season.

I had starting writing a post on Tyler Colvin and what to expect from him the rest of the season. Then I stopped for a while. Then Foul Pole to Foul Pole pretty much wrote exactly what I had been working on. It's good. You should read it.

Mariners' LVP: Josh Wilson, -.082 WPA
Wilson went 1-4 with a strikeout and GIDP. Whatever.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
Franklin Gutierrez hits a two run home run in the second inning, the only scoring the game would see. (.175 WPA)

Biggest Out(s) of the Game:
In the top of the eighth inning with runners on first and second and nobody out, Marlon Byrd grounds into a 4-6-3 double play.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You're Doing It Wrong

Jim Hendry, on Andrew Cashner's role for 2010, in Dave van Dyck's report yesterday:
"It's way too early to tell," GM Jim Hendry said. "We don't have to decide now. We're trying to win games. He's in the role he needs to be in.

"At some point, we'll have his input involved, too, but it won't be in the middle of the season. We'll address it this offseason."
So Andrew Cashner, the Cubs' #1 pitching prospect, will most likely spend the remainder of 2010, a season where the Cubs have a 5% chance of making the playoffs, in the bullpen because the Cubs are "trying to win games."

In 2009 Cashner pitched 100.1 innings between Daytona and Tennessee, and 19.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League. He needs to reach at least 150-160 innings in 2010 to continue the path to starting pitcher.

He pitched 57 innings in the minors before his call-up the last day of May. In his 23 days with the big league club, he's pitched 8.1 innings.

He's on pace to pitch about 100 innings this season.

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 17: Cubs 3, Athletics 2

Thousands gathered on Michigan Avenue late last night to celebrate the Cubs' two-game winning streak.

Cubs' MVP: Carlos Marmol, .310 WPA 
Because it's a cumulative stat, you know that if a pitcher only gets two outs but leads the game in WPA, they were a pretty freaking big two outs.

Marmol entered the game in the top of the ninth inning, with one out and the go ahead man on third. The A's win probability at the time was 68.3%

He walked the first batter, because he's Carlos Marmol. But he retired the next two batters on three pitches to end the inning, dropping the A's win expectancy to 36%.

Marmol did fail to retire a batter via strikeout, however, and his K/9 has now "plummeted" to 16.43.

Athletics' MVP: Dallas Braden, .173 WPA, (.227 pitching)
Braden pitched six innings of one run ball, his only blemish a solo home run in the first inning by Jeff Baker. He struck out four and walked one.

Everyone knows Dallas Braden this season from his perfect game, his vendetta against Alex Rodriguez, and his free-spirited grandmother. It's been quite a season already for the the 27 year old pitcher, but ever since his perfecto he's been human.

In the last month before today's start, Braden's FIP is at 4.52, his WHIP is over 1.5, and teams are hitting over .300 against him. He hasn't been missing bats lately as teams are making contact 88.9% of the time against Braden the last month, good for sixth worst in the AL. His slider has been particularly bad, and Braden only threw it once today. His changeup is his best pitch and it was on today, getting eleven swinging strikes with it. A's fans should be encouraged by his start today.

Cubs' LVP: Alfonso Soriano, -.241 WPA
Soriano struck out with the bases loaded in the first, flew out twice, then struck out again in the eighth with a man on third and two outs with the game tied. Soriano's been in a funk the last two weeks, hitting .161/.291/.355 in that span, while striking out 29% of the time.

Athletics' LVP: Jerry Blevins, -.360 WPA 
Blevins came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth after Bob Geren forgot that in the National League his closer Andrew Bailey would have to bat if he wanted to stay in the game. Blevins walked the bases loaded (one intentional) and the only out he could manage was Starlin Castro's sacrifice bunt. Kosuke would win the game with an RBI single.

A lot of people questioned the intentional walk to Koyie Hill, and I have to say I agree. Blevins completely owns lefties this season; his FIP against lefties is 0.51, and his K/9 is over 13. So they walk Koyie Hill and his .245 wOBA to face the right handed Theriot, then pull the infield in against the left handed Fukudome with speedster Geovany Soto at third. Brilliant!

Biggest Hit of the Game:
Mark Ellis' solo home run in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie late in the ballgame. (.192 WPA)

Biggest Out of the Game:
With runners on first and third and only one out in the top of the ninth, Gabe Gross fouls out to Starlin Castro. (-.184 WPA)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 16: Cubs 6, Athletics 2

Cubs' MVP: Ryan Dempster, .120 WPA (.183 pitching)
Demp threw 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits. He struck out seven while walking just two. Pitch counts be damned, this was the fourth time this year Ryan Dempster has thrown at least 120 pitches.

Ryan Dempster's slider is good. A year ago it was called the best in baseball by Chris Harris at ESPN. Here is a visualization from Brooks Baseball of an overhead view of his average pitch from last night. His slider is the blue one, his fastball green.
Look how similar it is to his four seam fastball until the last ten feet or so. His slider looks like a weak fastball to hitters. It's understandable why it's so effective when he mixes them well. He got nine swinging strikes on his slider in yesterday's game alone.

And last night wasn't even his best display, as it was only deviating an inch or two. Check out the same chart from his May 25 start against the Dodgers, his best of the season.

Same pitch until the last fifteen feet, but about a six inch differential in where they ended up.

The pitch itself isn't overpowering, it simply catches hitters by surprise. Compare it to an overhead visualization of Zack Greinke's slider, which he doesn't throw as often as Dempster but has earned a reputation of being nasty:

Looks a lot different from Demp's slider.

How does their horizontal and vertical movement compare?

My limited understanding of pitch f/x is that the further from the 0,0 point on this plot, the nastier your pitch is. Dempster and Greinke's sliders resist gravity at similar rates but Greinke gets a lot more side to side movement. It's a harder pitch to hit.

If anything, Dempster's slider hovers around the 0,0 point a little too much. If he threw it repeatedly by itself, it'd probably get mashed. But by coupling it with his fastball, he's been missing bats effectively in 2010, compiling the  best K/9 ratio (8.37) as a starting pitcher of his career thus far.

Athletics' MVP: Conor Jackson, .084 WPA
Oakland's newly acquired toy had two hits, a walk and a run scored in his second game with the team. Jackson was struggling with the Diamondbacks this season before the trade, after putting up two solid but not spectacular years from 2006-2008. Then he got "valley fever"  and hasn't been the same since. It's hard to predict how a healthy Jackson will bounce back in a superior league and a cavernous stadium, but when one of the Brothers Patterson is getting plenty of time in your outfield, it's time to reevaluate things.

Cubs' LVP: Ryan Theriot, -.062 WPA
Theriot went 0-4 in the leadoff spot last night and saw a whopping total of nine pitches. I've heard some talk of Ryan Theriot's "resurgence" since his abysmal May (.236/.257/.245, .238 wOBA) because he's pieced together a few multi-hit games. So far in June he's hitting .275/.315/.294, good for a .283 wOBA. Improvement!

The only Cubs' regulars who have worse wOBAs in June than Theriot in June are Kosuke Fukudome (.258) and Starlin Castro (.191). At least those two have the excuses of calendar month and age, respectively.

Athletics' LVP: Gio Gonzalez, -.340 WPA (-.277 pitching)
Gonzalez gave up six runs on eight hits in five innings of work last night. He walked three and struck out three. Gonzalez has been a decent pitcher this year, earning a 4.02 FIP thus far. He gets a lot of weak infield flies and throws a pretty decent curveball, although he still walks plenty of batters.

Last night he spent more time in the middle of the strike zone than he probably would have liked, particularly his curveball, and the Cubs were able to make solid contact.
Internet Lord Harry Pavlidis wrote a small piece on some of his pitching tendencies as well.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
In the second inning, Derrek Lee homers off Gio Gonzalez to tie the game at 1-1. (.109 WPA)

Biggest Out(s) of the Game:
With men on first and second in the first inning and a run already on the board, Kurt Suzuki grounds into a double play to end the threat. (-.077 WPA)

It Was Over When:
Daric Barton grounded out with men on second and third and only one out in the seventh. A run scored, but the Cubs' probability of victory rose to 95.4% and stayed above 95% the rest of the game.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 15: Athletics 9, Cubs 5

Short Recap:

Painful, extensive WPA Recap:
Cubs' MVP: Chad Tracy, .105 WPA
Tracy walked to lead off the fifth inning, in which the Cubs scored two runs. He also doubled in a run in the sixth.

How exciting. I think I'll wet my pants.

A's MVP: Kevin Kouzmanoff, .312 WPA
Kouzmanoff compiled a whole lot of WPA without doing that much. He did reach base four times, but his two biggest contributions included an error by Tyler Colvin and a wild pitch by Jeff Stevens, both in the seventh inning.

For some reason I thought Kouzmanoff was having a great year, but his wOBA is only .324 and his OPS is an average .741. Defensively at third, he's been a vacuum though. In 63 games (small sample, yes) his UZR rating has him at 5.1 runs above average, trailing only Adrian Beltre for tops in the AL. So while his bat has been lackluster, he leads all Oakland position players with 1.6 WAR thus far, ahead of first baseman Daric Barton (1.5 WAR) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (1.2). Ugh.

The "emergence" of these three apparently has given the A's enough reason to DFA former 28 year old young prospect Jake Fox. The predictable cries from the short bus of Cubs nation have already emerged to bring the beloved Fox back. Fox has been almost three runs below average on fastballs this season in Oakland, which have traditionally been his bread and butter as a hitter. I will admit, if he were to come back, his .264 wOBA and .327 slugging would fit right in with the Cubs' corner infielders.

Cubs' LVP: Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee
Big Z technically did compile the worst WPA (-.240) last night, but Zambrano was penalized for Derrek Lee's bases loaded blunders (yes, plural) in the fourth inning. Hardly his fault.

So last coupled with his 0-4 at the plate, I'm just going to hand last night's LVP to D-Lee. Because I can.

Athletics' LVP: Ryan Sweeney, -.118 WPA
The former White Sox prospect and pride of Cedar Rapids, IA went 0-5 on the night. He was also robbed by Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded in the fourth.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
With two outs in the sixth, Koyie Hill's RBI single makes it a one run game. Hill also advanced to second on the throw. (.136 WPA)

Biggest Out of the Game:
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, Mark Ellis grounds into a 5-2-3 double play, and no runs score. (-.152 WPA) To keep things interesting though, Jeff Stevens wild pitched a run home the next batter, followed by Cliff Pennington's RBI triple on which he also scored on Tyler Colvin's throwing error. It's a way of life.

Biggest Out of the Game by the Cubs:
After Starlin Castro's RBI single cut the A's lead to two in the fourth, Ryan Theriot gets caught stealing third. (-.093)

For every day from here on out that Ryan Theriot is in the starting lineup, I will personally kick one puppy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Crosstown Series Mega Recap

June 11: White Sox 10, Cubs 5
White Sox MVP: A.J. Pierzynski, .259 WPA
I don't know what it is about Wrigley Field that turns A.J. Pierzynski into Johnny Bench, but the White Sox should find out what it is and bottle it. Pierzynski had a monster game, going 4-5 with three run scoring hits, including a late home run. Not too shabby for the catcher with a .649 OPS and .283 wOBA, both career lows.

Cubs' MVP: Alfonso Soriano, .114 WPA
Soriano tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning with his 300th career homer, and also "drove in" two more in the eighth inning on Jayson Nix's error. He finished the game 1-4.

White Sox LVP: Jayson Nix, -.080 WPA
Nix went 0-4 with four flyouts, and also reached base on an intentional walk in the fifth. Apparently a guy with no bat was on deck, because it's really the only excusable reason to want to not pitch to Jayson Nix, who is sporting a robust .219 wOBA in 53 plate appearances for the White Sox this season. He also committed the aforementioned error that allowed two (meaningless) Cubs runs to score late in the game.

Cubs' LVP: Randy Wells, -.326 WPA (-.301 pitching)
Wells yet again had major first inning issues, allowing four straight two out hits to open the game. He pitched five innings, giving up five runs and ten hits, walking three, and striking out six. Wells' ERA now sits at 5.15, but his FIP is a mere 3.47. He's striking out batters more frequently than his impressive rookie campaign, walking about the same amount of batters, and giving up home runs at nearly an identical rate. So what gives?

Wells' BABIP is a hefty .359. Some might call that an unlucky figure that will regress, but then you have to look at his 25.9 LD% as the culprit. Batters are making very solid contact against Wells' this season, and it's something that the Cubs might want to look into.

One last note about Wells: there are rumors swirling around the interwebs that Randy was out partying with the Blackhawks all night before his start. As far as I know there is no actual evidence to this beyond anecdotal, but as we all know hearsay and conjecture are acceptable forms of evidence in the Cubs' blogosphere.

So Randy Wells was DEFINITELY out partying all night, and on top of that my sources tell me he took home an uggo. I wish it weren't true, but I am afraid it appears to be so.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
With no outs in the fifth inning, Paul Konerko hits a two-run double to give the Sox the lead for good. (.182 WPA)

Biggest Out(s) of the Game:
Already trailing by two runs early, Ryan Theriot grounds into a double play in the first inning after Kosuke Fukudome had reached base. (-.077 WPA)

June 12: White Sox 2, Cubs 1

White Sox MVP: Mark Buehrle, .308 WPA (.395 pitching)
Buehrle was solid, although hittable, in the second game of the series. He pitched 6.2 shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none. The Cubs were able to get eight hits, but couldn't get a run on the board.

Buehrle is having another solid season by his standards, but there are a few things to take note of. His ERA is just shy of 5.00, although FIP has him at a respectable 4.07. His strikeouts are down this year (4.34 K/9, down from his 5.16 career rate), and his WHIP has jumped to 1.46, the highest of his career. Teams are manufacturing more runs against Buehrle this season even though his batted ball numbers are pretty much the same. He might be due for some regression.

Cubs' MVP: Marlon Byrd, .119 WPA
The ByrdMan went 3-4 with two singles and a double. Kudos also to Ryan Theriot (.082 WPA) for driving in the only Cubs' run, and to Carlos Silva (.117 WPA pitching) for throwing a solid game despite getting stuck with the loss.

White Sox LVP: Carlos Quentin, -.113 WPA
It's been a miserable season for Carlos Quentin thus far, and Saturday was no different. Quentin went 0-5 with two strikeouts. His OBP for the season has now dipped under .300.

Cubs' LVP: Alfonso Soriano, -.191 WPA
Soriano went 0-4, striking out twice. He also ended the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position.

Biggest Hit of the Game: 
With two outs in the seventh inning, Paul Konerko "singled" to right field to drive in the eventual winning run. Xavier Nady briefly uprooted himself to make an attempt to catch the ball, one that Kosuke would have pitched a tent and camped under, with enough time to start a fire with his bare hands and make s'mores for the whole team. (.121 WPA)

Biggest Out of the Game:
In the ninth inning and the White Sox holding a 2-1 lead, Bobby Jenks strikes out Chad Tracy to end the game. (-.100 WPA)

June 13: Cubs 1, White Sox 0
Now that's what I'm talking about!

Cubs' MVP: Ted Lilly, .385 WPA (.456 pitching)
This one's a no-brainer. Lilly pitched eight no hit innings before giving up a leadoff single to Juan Fucking Pierre to start the ninth. He was his usual fly ball self, inducing fourteen of them throughout the night. Lilly only struck out three but his control was excellent all night, and the White Sox just could not manage any solid contact whatsoever.

Lilly's fastball and sinker averaged 88 and 87 MPH, respectively, and Lilly was close to 90 with his fastball throughout the game:
As far as I'm concerned, Lilly's velocity issues are a thing of the past.

In case you're counting at home, the Cubs have now supplied Ted Lilly with an unimaginable sixteen runs of support in his ten starts.

Honorable mentions also go out to Carlos Marmol (.281 WPA) who managed to get out of a massive ninth inning jam of his own creation, and to Chad Tracy (.154 WPA) who finally did something useful since his callup from Iowa.

White Sox MVP: Gavin Floyd, .230 WPA (.236 pitching)
Floyd threw a helluva game himself, going eight strong innings allowing just three hits, and striking out nine. Coincidentally, David Golebiewski wrote a piece a few weeks ago on Rotographs about why Gavin Floyd was a solid candidate to show improvement as the season progressed.

Cubs' LVP: Starlin Castro, -.100 WPA
Castro went 1-3 with an inning-ending double play in the fifth, and was also caught stealing in the eighth.

White Sox LVP: Carlos Quentin, -.301 WPA
Quentin had his second straight 0-fer, with three flyouts and a strikeout. He could have played the hero in the ninth with two out and the bases loaded, but Carlos Marmol got him to pop up to shallow center to end the series.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
With two outs in the seventh inning, Chad Tracy singled in the only run of the game. (.201 WPA)

Biggest Out of the Game: 
Carlos Quentin ends the game on a flyout with the bases loaded.

Most Bizarre Play of the Game:
Seeing as how this is a Chicago baseball blog, I suppose there will be more content posted from this series, perhaps a few tidbits about what we learned over the course of the weekend from both sides.

Number of Wins for the White Sox to Clinch The Beloved Crosstown Cup: 2

How President Obama Feels About the Ideo of his Favorite Team Hoisting a Trophy With a BP Logo:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fail Will Be Made

Friday, June 11, 2010

Corporatism at its finest

Two of the most shamed corporations in the world make their Wrigley Field debut today.

Don't miss "Bring Your Child to the Ballpark" day next week, sponsored by the Catholic church.

Koyie Hill: Cancer? Leader?

Yesterday a prominent Cubs blogger posted a rumor that the Chicago clubhouse was a mess, divided amongst racial lines. I'm not going to post a link because I don't want to give him one more page hit than he deserves, but the rumor he's postulating as fact is summed here:
First of all, asshat, it's "Latino." With a capital L.

The blogger in question goes on to say that, despite not naming any sources or giving any evidence whatsoever, he has "absolutely no doubt" that this information is "100% correct."

You know what though, maybe we can trust this guy. He's the same anonymous blogger who first noticed the Cubs' bleacher crowd had gotten completely out of control, before anyone else did. He's incredibly perceptive.

Despite the fact that Bruce Miles himself posted multiple contradictions to this rumor on the blog in question, this Cubs blogger isn't backing down. He knows in his heart that it's true, and you can't argue with the heart.

So even though there is literally zero evidence, Cubs' fans must assume that the "latins" in the clubhouse have made things miserable for their more honorable teammates.

Which brings us to Koyie Hill, who was quoted as saying this after yesterday's abortion of a baseball game:

"It was a perfect situation for the Brewers," Hill said. "They had a guy up there at the plate [in Counsell] who takes a lot of pride in what he does and he practices those situations, so when it does come up, he gets the bunt down to the right side of the field. They have the perfect guy on first base [in Gomez], who is one of the fastest guys in the league, and they had one of the worst fundamental teams on the field, so it was a perfect situation for them."
Wow, pretty harsh words from Koyie there. He's pretty much throwing the entire team under the bus. Is Koyie Hill a clubhouse cancer, or a clubhouse leader?

"Koyie" sounds kind of ethnic, but I'm really not sure. He could be one of those sneaky latins. Let's check his Wikipedia page for clues:
Koyie Dolan Hill (pronounced 'Koy') (born March 9, 1979 in Tulsa, Oklahoma)...
What a leader.

"Mr. Hutz, do you have any evidence at all?"
"Well, we have plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 8: Brewers 3, Cubs 2

I have yet to post any thoughts on the Cubs' draft because, well, I don't really have all that much to say. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I know anything about these prospects beyond what is readily available online. At the very least, maybe later in the week I'll post a list of the Cubs' draftees with links to what people smarter than me think about them. I also have a few thoughts on the Cubs' controversial selection of Hayden Simpson in the first round and how deeply we should be looking into it in terms of the Cubs' financial future.

That being said, onward to last night's recap:

Cubs' MVP: Tyler Colvin, .233 WPA
Colvin was a late addition, replacing Soriano in the lineup in left field. He went 2-4 with two singles in an offensively challenged game, one of which drove in the first run of the game with two outs in the eighth inning.

It's no secret that Cub fans everywhere want their team to buy out Kosukue Fukudome so he can honorably return to Japan or DFA the lazy Alfonso Soriano to make room for Tyler Colvin. Quite frankly, and especially of late, he's earned the right to have his name penciled in the starting lineup a few more times per week. Not because it will help the Cubs' chances in 2010 (it certainly won't), but because the Cubs need to figure out if they have a versatile fourth outfielder in Colvin or a potential power hitting corner outfielder on their hands. This lost 2010 season is the perfect opportunity to do so. In the very near future I plan to take a closer look at Tyler Colvin and what we should expect from him as the season progresses.

Oh, also an honorable mention to Ted Lilly (.221 total WPA, .264 pitching) who threw his best game of the season. Lilly threw eight innings and only allowed four baserunners. He also struck out eight Brewers. His only blemish was a game-tying home run to Corey Hart in the bottom of the eighth. Lilly also displayed an encouraging increase in velocity, averaging nearly 88 mph with his fastball, much more in tune with his career average. Maybe Theodore is finally out of spring training mode, especially considering his off-season shoulder surgery:

Interesting side note: Lilly only threw his curveball once last night, continuing his year long trend. Lilly has only thrown his curve 7.3% of the time in 2010, noticeably down from 11.3% the last two years and his career rate of 15.2%. Statistically his curveball has been one of his least valuable pitches over the course of his career. I wonder if he's shelving it for good.

Brewers' MVP: Casey McGehee. .694 WPA 
The former Cubs' prospect hit the game-winning two run RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Carlos Marmol to give the Brewers a walk off win. McGehee now has 45 RBI on the season, which ties him with Troy Glaus for the NL lead.

Cubs' LVP: Carlos Marmol, -.792 WPA
Marmol had a disastrous ninth inning facing the meat of the Brewers' lineup, despite the fact the Brewers only hit one ball out of the infield. Marmol plunked Rickie Weeks to lead off the inning, and after a stolen base, intentionally walked Prince Fielder (the winning run) to face Ryan Braun. Braun grounded out, advancing the runners, and McGehee won it with a single up the middle. Notable was the fact that this was Marmol's second consecutive outing without a strikeout, the first time he's done that on back to back occasions all season (only four times overall). As a result, Marmol's K/9 rate has plummeted to an even 17.

The -.792 WPA is the worst single game performance of the season for the Cubs, allowing Esmalin Caridad to breathe a sigh of relief.

Brewers' LVP: John Axford, -.292 WPA
Axford pitched the ninth and momentarily surrendered the lead. After two consecutive singles by Koyie Hill and The Reason, Alfonso Soriano hit an RBI groundout.

I didn't know anything about John Axford until I saw a Cardinals-Brewers game last weekend. Last night aside, he's been pretty solid out of the pen this year for the Brewers, sporting a 1.80/2.74 FIP/xFIP. He's striking out over 11 batters per nine innings and has yet to allow a home run. His fastball also hits the mid-to-upper 90s.

The Brewers certainly have had issues with their bullpen the last few years. It's been pretty bad this year, accumulating a 6.12 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, ten blown saves, a BAA over .300, and 23 home runs allowed. They've already used fourteen different relievers this year, but it looks like Axford just may stick.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
Casey McGehee's game winning RBI single in the ninth (duh); .753 WPA

Biggest Out of the Game:
Carlos Gomez pops out to Marmol, failing to get down a sac bunt in the ninth; -.127 WPA

Biggest Out of the Game by the Cubs:
Ryan Theriot grounds out with the bases loaded to end the fifth; -.096 WPA

On the first pitch.

After Yovani Gallardo walked Ted Lilly on five pitches the previous at bat.

Yes, Ryan Theriot is so bad at baseball that opposing pitchers are now walking career .117 hitters who swing like an eleven year old girl so they can face him instead.

Let that one soak in for a while.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy Draft Day!

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is underway and we're currently just about to wrap up the first round. The Sox had one pick today, #13 overall, and by all accounts hit a home run when they selected Chris Sale out of Florida Gulf Coast University. A couple of teams ahead of the Sox definitely reached, probably due to some signability concerns, and Sale, #5 in Baseball America's Pre-Draft prospect board, lands with the Sox. has some video of him from last year's Cape Cod League. Sale is a tall lefty, 6'6'', 183 pounds, and 21 years old. He throws three pitches for strikes, and has solid control, striking out 135 against 12 walks in 96 innings of work, although, that should be tempered by the fact that the Eagles are in the Atlantic Sun Conference, so he was going head-to-head with such baseball powerhouses as Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, and Mercer University (exactly).

Still, the selection is being lauded both locally and nationally. So, I guess for now, we're in the good.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the guy who is likely the new #1 prospect in our farm system.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

5 Sox Players Most Likely to be Traded this Season

Hey, I'm back! After a week in North Carolina followed by a week trying to ignore the Sox as much as possible, it's time to start venting my frustrations again. There will be more discussion of Mitch Talbot's absolute domination of the Sox later, believe me, but for now I'll keep things a bit more "big picture."

Before this pathetically pathetic series with the Indians, Ozzie didn't mince words concerning the future fate of some current Pale Hose, essentially saying, "we suck, blow this thing up." So for those of you not as keen on the current state of the Sox, here are the 5 players most likely to be seen at O'Hare Airport with a one-way ticket in hand (and probably, a huge smile on their face).


Why He'll Be Traded: Good teams always need quality, left-handed arms out of the bullpen, and Thornton has been one of the few overachievers on the roster thus far. Through 22 appearances and 23.1 innings this season, his WHIP is down to a ridiculous 0.676 and his strikeouts are up to a career-best 12.9 K/9 IP. Add that his contract is very reasonable, $2.25 M this season and a $3 M club option in 2011 ($250K buyout) and you have a prime candidate to be dealt.

Why He Might Not: I can see a scenario unfolding where Thornton is so valuable to the Sox, they simply don't feel they're being offered fair value for him. Williams and the front office have been committed to the idea of "rebuilding while competing," and if they continue to stick to that mantra, they may simply not get the kind of quality return they're expecting for Thornton. Though he will be 34 years old by season's end, he's only been a regular in the Majors since his late-20s and has only put 363 innings of mileage on his arm. Plus, though he has been an excellent, and consistent, setup man the past several years, he has very limited closing experience; in the past teams have not bent over backwards to deal upper echelon talent for a bullpen arm who doesn't close.


Why He'll Be Traded: If I would have sat down and made this list at the beginning of the year, I probably would have put Konerko on it, but not this high. Then the Sox tanked. Then Konerko got off to one of the most productive starts of his career. And then Angels (the constant destination for Konerko trade rumors for the past several years) 1B Kendry Morales hurt himself, possibly for the remainder of the season, celebrating a home run. It's the Perfect Storm to move Konerko, whose contract expires at the end of this season and has publicly stated he would waive his no-trade clause for a deal that suits him and helps the Sox.

Why He Might Not: For one, the Sox are loyal, sometimes to a fault, and the thought of them trading the guy who handed the World Series ball to Jerry Reinsdorf at the Parade in 2005 just does not compute. Additionally, he'd be the ultimate rent-a-player, playing out his contract to the end of this season, because I can't see anyone offering him salary arbitration and risk having to pay the guy $9.6 M next season. I know, I know, he's having a great year right now (currently 6th in the AL with a .592 Slugging Percentage), but otherwise, he's been remarkably consistent at being a below average bat at an offensively important position. Finally, it looks like it's going to be a buyer's market for 1B this trade season, as Konerko may be joined by such other names like Lance Berkman, Russell Branyan, Adam LaRoche, and maybe even Prince Fielder.


Why He'll Be Traded: As the senior-most member of the White Sox pitching staff and the only one not under contract in 2011, Garcia was automatically the most logical choice to be jettisoned. He's basically the only thing keeping top pitching prospect Dan Hudson in Charlotte right now. However, he's also been arguably the Sox most consistent pitcher this year, as well. Though his cumulative stats don't look great, a quick glance at his game logs for 2010 shows that in 7 of his 10 starts this season, he's allowed 2 ER or fewer and has basically been everything you'd want from a 5th starter. Add in his reputation around the league as a "bulldog" and "big game starter;" how many teams are so deep with starting pitching they might not take a chance on him? If Jose Contreras can wind up in the middle of a play-off run last year, Freddy can, too.

Why He Might Not: Garcia makes the most sense to be dealt, but if the Sox really shake things up and go for a bigger return by dealing Gavin Floyd or Mark Buehrle, they may wind up keeping Freddy for another go-around at the Cell. The relationship between the Sox coaching and Garcia has been mutually beneficial for most of its existence, and again, if there's one thing this organization prides itself on, it is loyalty.


Why He'll Be Traded: I would have pegged A.J. the most likely to be traded this year if the Sox tanked; 33 years old, expiring contract, and blocking Tyler Flowers, the Sox's #1 Prospect. It seemed to make almost no sense to keep him. That's not a knock on AJ, who has had an incredibly solid, consistent run in Chicago, suiting up for 130-140 games every season, being an almost lock for a .280/.320/.420 year at the plate, and despite some concerns about his defense, anchoring a pitching staff that has generally been one of the American League's best during his tenure.

Why He Might Not: A complete double-whammy; A.J.'s looking like he's 33 going on 43 at the plate and the wheels have completely fallen off the Tyler Flowers bandwagon. He is currently hitting .209/.315/.418 for the Knights (who play in a bandbox, by the way) and absolutely does not look ready for the Majors... He's struck out 63 times in 178 plate appearances, for god's sake! As for A.J., the big dilemma concerning his future with the Sox is, coupled with his poor start, his 10/5 rights kick in next Monday, giving him full no-trade protection under the current CBA. Do the Sox sell low and early this week, or do they hold back and hope they can find a suitor later this season that offers a fair package in return and would be an attractive destination for Pierzynski?


Why He'll Be Traded: To be honest, I'm even having problems filling out this last slot. I'll give Quentin the nod (for reasons I'll explain in just a sec), but this could also very easily be Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, or even Alex Rios. Quentin, however, takes the cake because he appeals to everyone, not just teams in contention, as long as they are willing to take on his neurosis for the potential pay-off of a 27-year-old with legitimate MVP-quality production. Since busting out in 2008, Quentin has been terrible for the Sox; 146 games and an OPS+ under 100... in a power hitter's ballpark!

A lot of Carlos' struggles have been attributed to the fact that he's too intense and apparently, uncoachable. It wouldn't stun me if the Sox, tired of his antics, simply cut him loose and try to start over in the outfield.

Why He Might Not: First and foremost, there's really nobody to take his spot. The Sox's best two outfield prospects are Jared Mitchell, not nearly ready to play in the Majors everyday and out for the season with an ankle injury, and Jordan Danks, also having himself a strikeout-filled, poor season in Charlotte. Bailing on Quentin probably means a healthy dose of Alejandro de Aza, at least in the short-term. More than that, though, the Sox would absolutely be selling low on Quentin. The guy hit .288/.394/.571 two seasons ago! There's no way any team is going to offer anybody with greater potential than him. He's still young and not eligible to become a free agent until 2013. I can see him being dealt, but my gut says he stays.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 4: Cubs @ Astros (Game 54)

Cubs' MVP: Marlon Byrd, .174 WPA
The Byrdman finished 2-4 with two doubles, one of which knocked in the Cubs' only run in the fifth inning. Byrd's been in a big-time slump lately; he has a .539 OPS and .260 wOBA the last two weeks, and those two doubles he hit were the first extra-base hits for Byrd since May 16. He also has three walks since May 4. Naturally, Lou batted him leadoff last night. It's a way of life.

Astros' MVP: Felipe Paulino, .281 WPA (.333 pitching)
Paulino got his first win of the season last night after starting the year 0-7. In fact, in eleven starts this season Paulino has received a whopping sixteen runs of support, which for the Cubs is a solid offensive month. Paulino's peripherals, even traditional ones, indicate that he's been an OK pitcher: ERA of just 4.01, K/9 over 8, a FIP of 3.41 (but an xFIP of 4.46 due to his 2.8% HR/FB ratio, well below his career rate of 12.7%). Paulino had to get a win sometime, he might as well do it against the Cubs.

Cubs' LVP: Ryan Theriot, -.188 WPA
I don't know if words can describe how much I want Ryan Theriot off this team. I mentioned how Marlon Byrd has been slumping as of late. He looks like Honus Fucking Wagner compared to Theriot. Theriot's last thirty days: .213 OBP (zero walks, none since May 1), .196 SLG (zero extra base hits, none since May 4), and a .198 wOBA (Ryan Dempster's in that same time period is .217).

Theriot continued his ways of fail last night with an 0-4 night, which included his failure to drive in any runs in the third inning with men on second and third and just one out.

Astros' LVP: Pedro Feliz, -.096 WPA
Feliz went 1-4 in the game but ended two innings with the bases loaded.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
Jeff Keppinger hits and RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to give Houston the 2-1 lead. (.125 WPA)

Biggest Out of the Game:
Ryan Theriot pops out with runners on second and third and one out in the third inning. (-.092 WPA)

It was over when...
Kosuke Fukudome led off the ninth inning with a groundout.

Bush League Play of the Year (so far)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is Houston Mentally Prepared for Z?

When Hurricane Ike rolled through the Houston area in September of 2008, their series with the Cubs was moved to Milwaukee to avoid the natural disaster. In the first game of the series, Z tossed a no-hitter. It was an incredible performance that punctuated the unforgettable 2008 regular season for Cubs fans.

The Astros handled it gracefully, humbly recognizing that the hardships of traveling one extra series over a 162 game season was peanuts compared to the hardships of Houston residents who had no Miller Park to flee to.

One might think that a feat as significant as a no-hitter would be void from scrutiny. But the lack of mental preparedness from the Astros has placed an asterisk on Z's achievement. Even the Chicago sports media (impartial friend of Carlos Zambrano) agreed:
As if to underscore that fact, Zambrano threw a no-hitter upon returning from an 11-day layoff caused by a mysterious shoulder problem last September. Never mind that he shut down an exhausted Houston Astros team that was escaping Hurricane Ike and playing a supposed home game in Cubs-friendly Miller Park.
That was from Sun-Times columnist Carol Slezak, almost a year after the performance in question.

Flash forward a year and a half, and the Cubs and Astros are playing once again amidst catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and once again facing Carlos Zambrano, this time in his highly anticipated return to the starting rotation.

Sure, the slick of 39 million gallons of oil (and counting) isn't anywhere near the Houston shoreline, but it is close enough where if Carlos Zambrano pitches well tomorrow night, we can safely assume it's on the Astros' minds.

We won't know exactly how much the oil spill is bothering them until we see how Zambrano does. So to save columnists everywhere some time, I've compiled a list of headlines for Saturday morning's sports pages, depending on his performance.

W, 9 IP/0 ER/0 H/8 K/3 BB:
Zambrano tosses second questionable no-no against distraught club
Failure of 'top kill' leaves Astros mentally unprepared

W, 8 IP/2 ER/4 H/5 K/3 BB:
Z feasts on easy target
Carlos thinks of himself while Houston thinks of the marshlands 
W, 7.2 IP./1 ER/4 H/10 K/2 BB:
Heavy minds equal heavy bats 
Zambrano K's ten troubled 'Stros

L, 7.2 IP./1 ER/3 H/10 K/2 BB:
Back to the pen?
Zambrano fails in return against Houston

ND, 5 IP/3 ER/6 H/6 K/4 BB
BP can't stop oil, Big Z can't stop losing streak
Cubs non-ace tosses a junk shot of a game

L, 3.2 IP/7 ER/8 H/2 K/2 BB
Houston, we still have a problem
Same old Zambrano can't even beat woeful Astros

"I know it's easy for your mind to wander..."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 1: Cubs @ Pirates (Game 53)

Cubs' MVP: Xavier Nady, .237 WPA
I wrote yesterday that Xavier Nady's batted ball numbers indicated that he was the unluckiest hitter on the team thus far. Nady had been hitting line drives 28% of the time with a minimal number of pop-ups, but was only batting at a .222 clip.

Well, that changed yesterday, as Nady had his finest offensive game as a Cub: four hits, including a double and a deep two-run home run to open up the scoring.

Pirates' MVP: Neil Walker, .449 WPA 
The Great Neil Walker delivered the deciding blow of the game, hitting a two-run homer off Ted Lilly in the bottom of the eighth, his first career home run. Walker is a former first round draft pick back in 2004, and his journey through the minor league ranks was recently charted in a Rotographs article by David Golebiewski. He's dropped off in the last few years, but playing the Cubs tends to bring out the best in people. He looks to be a super-utility player, as he's spent a decent amount of time at nearly every position in the minor leagues. The Pirates hope they have a future Ben Zobrist type player on their hands, or perhaps (OMG) Mark DeRosa.

Cubs' LVP: Ted Lilly, -.231 WPA (-.182 pitching)
Lilly was cruising along in this one until the eighth inning, when he walked Andrew McCutcheon with one out. The next batter was the aforementioned Neil Walker, who homered to one of the deepest areas of the park. Just for fun, Lilly stayed in the game for the next two batters, walking one of them, before Carlos Marmol came in and did what he does best: strike MFers out. Lilly ended up pitching 7.2 innings, striking out six, walking four, and surrendering two home runs (the other to Garrett Jones, who has officially achieved Cub Killer status).

I said I'd keep an eye on Ted Lilly's velocity because it's been down for a good portion of this year. Brooks has his fastball and sinker averaging around 85 mph, which is right about where he's been all season. However, Lilly's velocity was peaking last night towards the end of the game, which is an encouraging sign. Just take a look at pitch speed charts from his last two starts:

5/27 against LA:

6/1 against PIT:

So there was still some gas left in the tank towards the end of the game this time around, though he wasn't throwing those pitches for strikes. Something to keep an eye on.

Pirates' LVP: Ronny Cedeno, -.158 WPA
Cedeno went 0-3 with a strikeout and grounded into a double play to end the seventh inning.

Biggest Hit of the Game:
Walker's home run. (.548 WPA)

Biggest Out(s) of the Game:
Cedeno's double play in the seventh. (-.113 WPA)

It was over when*:
Marlon Byrd struck out leading off the ninth inning. (Pirate's Win Probability: 96.4%)

*Play in which the result allowed the eventual winning team's victory probability to surpass 95%, and stay above that mark for the remainder of the game

Today's Reason to be Excited About Starlin Castro:


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Toying with BABIP

People always cite BABIP as a means of easily telling how lucky or unlucky a hitter has been. .300 is generally accepted as the average to which most (if not all) hitters regress with their BABIP. If you're over .300, you're lucky. If you're under .300 you're unlucky. Clear as day.

Quite frankly, it's an easy way to sound smart when talking about baseball. You're acknowledging that luck can play a large part in skewing a player's stats one way or another.

But not all BABIPs are created equal. For example, this season, Dan Uggla has a BABIP of .302. Pretty average. But he's only hitting line drives at rate of 10.1%, well below the league average of around 18-19%. So his average BABIP is in fact, pretty lucky. Contrast that with a guy like Derrek Lee, who has a below average BABIP of .275 but is hitting line drives at 23%.

I've always said you can't look at BABIP and draw accurate conclusions unless you couple it with line drive percentages. The same goes for judging the luck of pitchers.

There was discussion on the 126th best Cubs blog today about what Aramis Ramirez's woeful batting lines would look like if you regressed his BABIP and batted ball percentages to the average. Harry Pavlidis, Lord of the Internets, was quick to point out that regressing hitter's power numbers to the mean may not be the best idea because unlike pitchers, that's an individual skill.

I would tend to agree. But there's no reason to think that something as simple as batting average couldn't be normalized by taking a deeper look at BABIP and LD%.

The standard I've always heard to calculate expected BABIP (xBABIP) is LD% + .120. I've never completely comprehended the thinking behind that, but I'm sure someone much smarter than me came up with it. So we'll use that.

I also came across what I think is a better system on the Twins' blog Twinkie Town this afternoon. Essentially, you multiply the batted ball type (line drive, ground ball, flyout, pop fly) by the percentage that those batted balls typically fall for hits. The calculation for this expected BABIP, which we'll call eBABIP to avoid confusion is then as follows: (LD% * 0.720 + GB% * 0.231 + FB% * .171 + PF% * 0.019)

Using both of these methods, we'll take the average and find a new BABIP (nBABIP) that might be more representative because they're based on what types of batted balls the players are hitting.

With a new BABIP, we can calculate the new number of hits that player should have, based on the number of balls they put in play (not counting strikeouts, walks, or home runs, but adding in sacrifice flys). By adding home runs and strikeouts back into the equation, we can get a new batting average (nAVG), a number that we can use to easily compare how lucky or unlucky a batter has been in terms of not getting out when they hit the ball.

I've also included dBABIP and dAVG to represent the difference between the current numbers and my adjusted numbers.

Using these numbers, you can see that Xavier Nady has been the unluckiest hitter on the team. He's batting .222 on the season but in a normalized situation he should be batting .313, 91 points higher.

It should be noted that Nady only has 72 at bats on the season, so these numbers aren't as reliable as other regulars on the team. The more at bats a player gets, the more representative his batted ball percentages will be, and the more accurate these adjusted numbers become. Take note of the aforementioned Derrek Lee, who by these calculations should be batting near .280.

The luckiest hitter so far for the Cubs has been Marlon Byrd, who's .299 average drops to .268 when we normalize his batted balls. Kosuke and Starlin Castro appear to have been lucky in the early going this season as well.

I'm not going to bother trying to normalize these player's power numbers, or try to adjust using UZR or park or anything like that. This exercise is purely looking at batting average, admittedly a flawed stat. This is something I'm going to try and update throughout the season. We'll see how these numbers change as the season goes on.