A League of Her Own

Friday Morning Do-It-Yourself Headlines

Astros-Cubs

 

Here's a headline to get you started:

If there's one thing we should know about Cubs GM Jim Hendry after all these years, it's that he tends to focus "like a laser beam," to use an old presidential campaign phrase, on what he wants every off-season.

The Hendry Laser Light Show legacy includes Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Milton Bradley, LaTroy Hawkins, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Remlinger and Kosuke Fukudome, to name a few. Hendry focused on getting those managers or players since taking over as GM in 2002. Some of them have been good, some not so good.

So it'll be interesting to see how hard Hendry goes after hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who left the Texas Rangers yesterday after 15 mostly good seasons.

My gut says Hendry will pull out the lasers again and land Jaramillo or die trying. Even though first baseman Derrek Lee expressed his feelings on the last day of the season that hitting coaches are overrated, Hendry doesn't believe that at all. Lee is talented enough to know his own swing, and Cubs hitting coaches have pretty much left him alone. But others such, as Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot and even high-priced guys like Soriano, fall into patterns that a coach can get them out of in a few days.

Please add your own headlines as applicable.

 

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63 Comments

Doc said:

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I can't wait for Hendry to give Jarerqawarfdsmlllo a 4 year $50 million deal to be our hitting coach so our hitters can strike out more. I guess the question will be, does he give Jareamreaaidefllo a full no-trade clause?

Aisle424 said:

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Actually under Jaramillo, the K rate will go down because the hitters won't be in the batters box long enough to see 3 strikes. "See fastball, hit fastball" will be the new motto. Also, "Don't forget to take your steroids."

millertime said:

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Doc, you seem to be very concerned with strike-outs. What is so bad with striking out? Mark Reynolds, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Jason Bay, Jayson Werth. These guys were all in the top 10 for strike outs, and all had very productive years. Just go to a stats website, and sort by Strike Outs. You'll see a list that has a lot of good hitters, and a lot of bad hitters. Strike outs by themselves don't tell us a whole lot about how productive a hitter is. For example, guys like Theriot or Juan Pierre don't strike out much. But they don't walk enough, and they hit for no power. Where as a guy like Prince Fielder struck out a bunch, but because he walked a lot and hit a lot of Home Runs/Doubles, he was still a very productive hitter.

Doc said:

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My problem with it is that our team actually did hit quite a few home runs this year. That wasn't the problem. This year this team's problem was poor situational hitting and inability to work counts...and these are two things Jiadmfasdfamaillo doesn't really preach. He's just going to be feeding off the tendencies that this team had during the recently ended season, and as a result, we are likely to see more of the same crap that we saw last year. I'm over emphasizing the strikeout aspect of his philosophy...but this team is going to be swinging a lot more (and swinging for the fences a lot more), and I really don't like that.

Umbra said:

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What is situational hitting, and how is it different from regular hitting? Myself, I would like to see the Cubs get more hits: higher batting averages, higher slugging percentages, higher on-base percentages.

If the Cubs could hit home runs every time they come up to bat (with the exception of the pitcher), that would be nice.

I just don't see your alleged trade-off between home-runs and situational hits. Does hitting home runs somehow come at the expense of situational hits (whatever those are)?

AndCounting said:

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Situational hitting is adjusting your approach at the plate according to the situation. With a runner on 3rd and less than two outs, you cut down your swing (especially with two strikes) and try to hit a fly ball. With a runner on 2nd, 2 outs, and the pitcher coming up behind you, you get a little more aggressive, look to hit the inevitable low and off-the-plate outside pitch down the line the other way. And with runners in scoring position regardless of the number of outs, striking out is unacceptable. You adjust your approach to hitting according to the situation. And there's also just the general 2009 Cubbie trend of getting too nervous, trying too hard in run-scoring situations.

The Cubs in general took a lot of bad approaches. to the situations in which they found themselves this year. Baseball-Reference offers a great stat here on the Cubs team batting splits page. The stats to look for are the tOPS+ and the sOPS+ which compare the Cubs' stat in each situation to their normal stats and to the league's situational stats, respectively. The numbers below 100 (and there are plenty) indicate the situations where they did the poorest. They were better than league average only with a runner on 3rd (w/ no other baserunners) and with the bases loaded.

And yes, the Cubs hit 101 homers with the bases empty and only 60 with runners on. That's a 40% dip in HRs only 15% fewer plate appearances.

That's situational hitting.

Umbra said:

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I don't understand how you infer that the Cubs took a lot of bad approaches based on the team batting splits page. The Cubs did worse than league average in many situations. This could be due to the fact that they take bad approaches, or it could be because the Cubs were just bad all around. The evidence shown there supports both ideas.

I have some time today and would like to look into this. I wonder if the Cubs struck out more, walked less, or hit fewer line drives than can normally be expected depending on base situations. It might be a little tricky to find because you have to adjust your expectations: a pitcher pitching from the stretch will be less likely to walk a batter, and more likely to give up a hit (according to my intuition). I don't know how this is going to shake out.

AndCounting said:

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That's why you need to look at the stats relative to their own performance in other situations as well (tOPS+). Consider them both together and you're shown where they stink compared to normal for them and where they stink compared to the rest of the league. You can also compare that with no one on they're right at the league average and that with runners on they're far below. If they were uniformly bad all around, the numbers wouldn't be as different as they are.

And outside of the stats, I witnessed plenty of crappy approaches just from watching them. I don't need a number to tell me when a hitter does something stupid. And when personal experience agrees with the stats, I usually rest easy in my conclusions.

Umbra said:

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But those stats say that with men on base, the Cubs' OPS was exactly the same as it was with no one on base!

The difference between when there was no one on base and when there were RISP: 100 vs 95. I think that that difference is so small as to be pretty much insignificant. I certainly don't think it's enough to attribute the difference to situational hitting or 'pressing'.

AndCounting said:

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But the sOPS+ suggests that the NL on the whole hit significantly better with runners on than without. And the difference between the Cubs and the rest of the league dips even further with RISP. You're ignoring the context of where those stats should be according to the league average.

And a 5% dip in production isn't insignificant at all, again, especially considering it represents an 11% dip compared to the rest of the league.

Seeing as though the stats specifically address how the Cubs hit in certain situations compared to normal and compared to the rest of the league (and observing the pronounced deviations therein) I don't know what else you're looking for.

AndCounting said:

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All that said, I know what you mean. The Cubs need to do more than just improve their hitting in certain situations. The NL is pretty bad, and they should be higher than average overall and in most categories if they are to maintain reasonable hopes of playing far into October.

But I will say, I think they pressed quite a bit in 2-out situations this year and last. Look at their numbers from 2008 according to the number of outs.

It just seems like there's a mental block there as a team (they really just crumbled in the postseason the past two years, in every facet of the game). Not sure a hitting coach will fix that.

Umbra said:

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I'm looking for evidence of a change in approach. I agree with you that the Cubs played worse with RISP than they do in normal situations. I also agree that the Cubs played worse than the rest of the league with RISP. But we're talking about causes, not results.

For example, what if I posit that the Cubs play worse with RISP because a man tried to bring a goat to Wrigley Field in 1945? Evidence that the Cubs do in fact play worse with RISP doesn't support that thesis.

AndCounting said:

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Pretty irrelevant example, unless he only brought the goat in with RISP. The thing is, you can isolate the variables. If pitchers in general perform better or worse in certain situations, that would show up in the league comparisons.

The Cubs general hitting skill is a constant. They don't become less talented based on the situation. If you don't think the approach of the hitters changed, than you have to come up with a reasonable alternative to explain the differing results. It's not the opposing pitchers. It's not comparative advantage based on the situation. If it isn't the approach, what else could it be? If the Cubs expect to do better with runners in scoring position, their hitters need to do something differently at the plate.

This discussion has crossed the obvious line, and I'm done contributing. Sorry.

Umbra said:

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I don't think you crossed a line of polite Internet discourse if that's what you mean. I just think that your conclusion doesn't follow from your evidence.

Normally on the Internet, people don't have valid evidence at all; you're a cut above the rest.

If it isn't the approach, what else could it be?

Hyptheses non fingo.

AndCounting said:

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Ha! Well thanks for that. That quote from Darwin in the link must be the fanciest "I dunno" in history. Weird. The cause of gravity is one of my favorite subjects for speculation. I don't know why that is, either. ;)

berselius said:

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From what I remember, gravity is just a consequence of general relativity. It's a bending in spacetime.

Umbra said:

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Clears that right up. Thanks, b. I wonder what we should do now that we've cured racism and established a Grand Unified Theory.

AndCounting said:

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The columns are no longer wide enough to tell you how I feel about that theory.

Doc said:

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And to get back to your point...

What is so bad about striking out?

This is what is bad about it...

It hurts the team.

Putting the ball in play and taking more pitches gives opportunity to:

1) Move runners over, or score them.
2) Force the other team to make plays, increasing the chance for an error.
3) Raise pitch counts.
4) See more pitches.
5) Gives me a better chance to catch a foul ball in the stands.
6)Protects Nolan Ryan's strikeout record.

So, that is what is so bad about striking out.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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But haven't we harped in the past about how strikeout pitchers have higher pitch counts? How is the inverse true?

Doc said:

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Not if you don't believe in logic.

Umbra said:

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FWIW, pitches per plate appearance and K% are slightly positively correlated. That is, a team that sees more pitches per plate appearance is more likely to have more strike outs.

berselius said:

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Putting the ball in play also gives more opportunities for
1) Hitting into double plays
2) Not getting walks

I agree with you about seeing more pitches though

berselius said:

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Also, putting balls in play gives more opportunites for Cubs baserunners to pad their TOOTBLAN totdals

Doc said:

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I feel like I'm talking to Dusty Baker.

flyball said:

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Um, the Phillies won but thats all I got

berselius said:

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It's a big win for the Phils, since they beat the Dodgers best pitcher AND did it in LA.

flyball said:

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at what point do Philadelphia fans lose the right to complain about their teams' histories?

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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When they've won a championship.

gravedigger said:

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I thought they did that last year?

gravedigger said:

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Ohhhhh I get it. That totally went over my head.

AndCounting said:

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Here's a note about Jaramillo's last decade of work with Texas:

2009 was the first time since 2000 that the Rangers finished outside of the top 5 AL teams in runs/game. But in that 10-year span, the Rangers have finished in the top 5 of team OPS+ (adjusted for the very hitter-friendly ballpark at Arlington) only 4 times--they finished below the league average in the other 6. Last year they finished 1st in both categories, dropping to 7th in both this year after the crushing loss of OPS leader and all-around good guy, Milton Bradley.

I'd factor steroids out of the equation. The stadium appears to be responsible for the apparent success of the Rangers (Chuck Norris, excluded). Unless Jaramillo can make the wind blow out at Wrigley during the bottom half of every inning, I wouldn't call him a miracle worker.

Aisle424 said:

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I posted this same thing at Kap's blog, but it fits here too. I looked up the Rangers rankings in the AL during Jaramillo's tenure.

Top 5 rankings in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
1995-2002: 22 (6 BA, 4 OBP, 6 SLG, 6 OPS)
2003-2009: 11 (1 BA, 1 OBP, 5 SLG, 4 OPS)

The top 5 finish in BA and OBP came in 2008 when Josh Hamilton was out of his head. With Hamilton returning to earth in 2009, the offense sagged back to an offense that didn't do anything but hit homeruns.

I find the clear disparity in performance between the steroid era years and the testing years to be highly coincidental, and I find nothing to support that Jaramillo is the "best in the business."

AndCounting said:

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I don't know. Using Derrek Lee's philosophy, he's probably in a 30-way tie for best in the business.

Aisle424 said:

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That's very true. I had never thought of it that way. Hendry should give him multiple years and multiple millions of dollars for sure.

Doc said:

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Actually, I think there is one hitting coach in baseball that I can think of right now that is slightly above the norm...and that is Don Baylor of the Rockies. I've always been impressed by what he does with players. Just don't let me be a manager. If I had a squad of young players, I'd want Don Baylor to be their hitting coach.

flyball said:

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thats kind of how I feel about managers and coaches in general, its not a "this guy is the best period" its "this guy is good for what we have now" you have young players maybe you need someone thats really hands on, you have veterans maybe they need someone who will let them be, you have a bunch of high profile players with lots of egos maybe they need someone who knows how to deal with all of that

and yes for the above I am not talking about how a manager actually manages a game, that is definitely different

berselius said:

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The park factors in that stadium make things pretty tough. The best way might be to look at how guys improve shortly after they join the team (trade, promotion, FA signing) and try to factor out the park factor stuff

millertime said:

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Finding evidence for whether a hitting coach or pitching coach is good or bad is almost pointless anyways. So many things can affect the data. A hitting coach might look good depending on what players he has. Is the Yankees hitting coach responsible for the Yankees great run support this season, or is it the fact that they signed all the good hitters? Maybe the ballpark contributes to better runs scored. Maybe the individual players just got good on their own. I don't think there is solid evidence either way.

Hitting and Pitching coaches don't matter. Jaramillo will not destroy Aramis Ramirez or Derrek Lee. He will not fix Soriano and Bradley. Ryan Theriot will not suddenly start OPSing .849.

I don't care if we sign him or not. He seems well respected, and the teams he's coached haven't been terrible at hitting. So lets sign him. Or don't. The only reason I want him is so that maybe people will believe that he'll save Milton Bradley, and then the Cubs won't do something stupid like Trade/Release Bradley.

Doc said:

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I have no evidence of this, but my feeling is that hitting coaches have the ability to do harm...and little ability to significant good for a team. A hitting coach can help individual players, but tends not to help whole teams.

My best example of a harmful hitting coach was Jeff Pentland who I credit for helping Sammy Sosa, but in the end hurt more players with his "Just open up your stance a bit" philosophy. After ruining a number of Cub players, he went to Seattle and ruin many of their hitters as well.

Always be careful with hitting coaches...if they find something that works on one player, they tend to try to make that work for every player.

millertime said:

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So, by your logic, we should not have hitting coaches?

Doc said:

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no...by my logic, every player should have their own hitting coach.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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Remember when Carrie Muskat used to be a huge joke? She's becoming more and more reasonable every day, especially compared to our friends from the Trib and Sun-Times. Carrie as the voice of reason:

"DeRosa fans should remember he'll be 35 in February, he'll be coming off a wrist injury and he batted .193 in September."

Doc said:

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I think the problem really is that all the rest of the Cubs beat reporters have become much worse...

But I would have to agree with you there, the rodent seems to not be as corporate as she once was. Maybe it's the fact the John McDonough is gone...maybe she doesn't have the oversite she once did due to the pending ownership change...I'm not sure.

AndCounting said:

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But had DeRosa stayed with the Cubs, he never would have been injured, he would have hit .888 in October, and he'd only be 32.

gravedigger said:

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She's still a big joke. She's now just the tallest midget.

Doc said:

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midget is not P.C...

the correct term is either little people or munchkin.

gravedigger said:

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Oh, and Dude, "Chinaman" is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian American, please.

Dmband said:

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FrankS
And now for the follow-up:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I suggest that you avail yourself of baseball-reference.com and take a gander at Sosa's walk totals after Pentland became his hitting coach. Play close attention to the years of 1998 through 2002. Note that his walk totals and On Base Percentage skyrocketed in comparison to his seasons before Pentland.

Did he still strike out a lot? Hell yeah, so do lots of sluggers. That's because he swung and missed a lot. But he was taking the pitches that were out of the zone and taking his walks. That's plate discipline.

Sir-

With all due respect, Sosa didnt just "strike out a lot" he struck out nearly 170 times per season in the stretch you are referencing. And his walk and OBP skyrocketed because people were either walking him intentionally or pitching around him. I would love to credit our pitching coach, but the reality is steroids helped him hit 60+ hr's three years in a row. Im sorry 170+ strikeouts doesnt equate to plate discipline.

gravedigger said:

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I don't think this is true. I remember seeing a distinct difference in Sammy; in particular, from 1998-2003, he stopped swinging at those low-and-away sliders that always used to get him before (and quite a bit after). He was being pitched around a lot, for sure, but he also did get quite a bit better about swinging at balls only in the zone. He missed a lot of them, hence the strikeouts, but he got on base a lot more via walk. So, yeah, his plate discipline was pretty good during that period.

Doc said:

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Sammy's big change (outside of his physique) was his rhythm at the plate...including the toe tap which really helped him time his swing up with the pitch. Sosa also closed off his stance a bit (which is opposite of the general Jeff Pentland philosophy) allowing him to really step into a pitch (something got away from late in his career when he was "flying open") and he lowered his hands to more quickly get to the pitch...I think he also held his bat more upright where before he would wrap it more around his head before the pitch....

The added confidence in his ability to hit the ball for power without exerting as much effort allowed him to take more pitches and thus get more walks.

Dmband said:

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To clarify-

My original comment was the you typically dont associate plate discipline with Sammy Sosa.

He is also second ALL TIME career strike out leader. Im not saying he wasnt a good hitter, but my point still stands people dont typically associate Sosa with plate discipline.

FrankS said:

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But during his peak seasons, Sosa had good plate discipline. You don't take a 100 walks without having good plate discipline. And despite the fact that Ryan Howard will probably break the 200 strike out barrier, also has good plate discipline. He just swings and misses at a lot of pitches that are in the strike zone.

To a lot of people, good plate discipline means not striking out much, but to a growing number of people it means that a guy is willing to take bad pitches and swings mostly at pitches in the strike zone.

Doc said:

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are we in first place yet?

millertime said:

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We're getting closer every day.

flyball said:

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I know nobody else really cares, but college basketball season officially starts at midnight

yay!

Doc said:

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Go Duke!

flyball said:

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I forgot I don't like you for the next few months, thanks for reminding me

Dmband said:

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Speaking of college basketball, my alma mater (sp?) is currently the laughing stock of the big east. Here's an article to summarize

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/12362498

FrankS said:

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Did Joey Meyer have any kids who come in and coach the program? That program hasn't been crap since Coach Ray retired.

Man, Latin must really be a dead language when a graduate of a Catholic university is unsure of the spelling of alma mater. But you did spell it correctly.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Are we watching this game?

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