Cubs good? Cubs lucky? Book it

Cubs good? Cubs lucky? Book it

Posted by Bruce on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 12:49
Those of you who stop by regularly know I'm a big fan of Baseball Prospectus and their staff of writers. Stopped by the office yesterday, and awaiting me there was another book, this one called Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster. Along with that was the Minor League Baseball Analyst, both put out by Triumph Books. More on the minor-league book in a minute. The former gives you stats for players over the last five years plus projections for this year. There also is a little comment on each guy. These are done mainly for fantasy leaguers. (I'm not much of a fantasy-league guy; I have enough trouble with real baseball.) For example, on Derrek Lee, it says: "He's obviously not the '05 Lee...Projection shows his new, non-2005 level." The book projects Lee to have an OBP of .374 and a slugging percentage of .483 for an OPS of .858 (rounded upward). In '05, Lee had an OBP of .418 and a SLG of .662 for an OPS of 1.080. That's monster type stuff. The troublesome trend with Lee, according to the book, is that his flyball rate has dropped, from 40 percent in 2004 to 34 percent last year. Meanwhile, his rate of hitting groundballs went from 41 percent in '04 to 45 percent last year, when he was among the league leaders in grounded into double plays. Let's put this into perspective by looking at some of the Cubs' other power and non-power hitters and their groundball, line drive and flyball rates. We'll list it by groundball/line drive/flyball as Baseball Forecaster gives it to us: Lee: 45/21/34 Ramirez: 31/20/48 Soriano: 29/23/48 Soto: 38/21/41 Fontenot: 38/24/38 Theriot: 57/23/20 Fukudome: 51/19/30 Notice the flyball rates for Ramirez and Soriano compared with Lee? Nobody expects D-Lee to hit the 46 homers he hit in '05, but will he ever get out of the 20s again? Here's another little gem I came across, and it's a measure of how "lucky" a hitter might be. The stat is called BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. The formula is (Hits minus home runs) divided by (AB-K-HR+SF). Tooling around the Hardball Times today, it listed six Cubs as among the luckiest hitters last year, based on their BABIP as opposed to their expected BABIP: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/batters-and-babip/ No. 1 was Joey Gathright among the luckiest, based on his BABIP in relation to his expected BABIP. Theriot checked in at No. 4. Milton Bradley was sixth. Aaron Miles was seventh. Geovany Soto was 10th, and Reed Johnson was 12th. Does this mean that things will average out this year and some of those balls that fell in last year will be caught? Maybe. As far as the minor-leaguers go, the book said this about Cubs camper Darwin Barney, who caught the organization's eye in the Florida State League: "High-energy infielder with plus instincts that allows average tools to play-up." A Cubs guy told me, "He's Theriot." Some of you will like that, others not. On pitcher Mitch Atkins, also in camp, the book says: "Durable/no-nonsense hurler who mixes four average to above average pitches with a repeatable, high 3/4 delivery to keep hitters off-balance. Lacks efficiency and is prone to the long ball, which could present problems, so needs to keep the ball down and work off corners." Atkins is likely to pitch in a Cactus League game this week. It'll be interesting, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him at Wrigley this year. I didn't see outfielder and top pick from '03 Ryan Harvey in the book, which means he's probably gone from prospect to suspect. Oh, well. Anyway, the stats are fun. I'm always reminded of the saying that "(Insert name) uses statistics the way a drunk uses a light pole: for support rather than illumination." Let there be light.
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