Can the Cubs contend this season?
If you ask Marty Brennaman, then the
answer is no. From Arizona, Cincinnati Reds announcer offered this
"The Cubs have a chance to be improved. I don't think they're good
enough to win the division. I think their defense is very suspect. They have a
kid (Carlos Pena) at first base who is an all-or-nothing guy. He either
hits the ball out of the ballpark or he makes an out. So to say that the Cubs
are a 'contender' ... that's a stretch."
If you're thinking what I'm thinking, the first thought that pops into your
head is, "What does this guy know and why should we care?"
Marty Brennaman has long disliked
the Cubs, saying the following back in 2008 during one of his broadcasts,
"See, this is
the kind of thing, quite honestly right now, that makes you want to see this
Chicago Cubs team lose. ... You simply root against them. I've said all winter -- they talk about
this team winning the division -- and my comment is, they won't win it because,
at the end of the day, they still are the Chicago Cubs, and they will figure
out a way to screw this whole thing up."
Well the Cubs did win the division
in 2008 while the Reds finished 23 ½ games behind.
It's clear that when
anyone has a pre-conceived bias toward a team it clouds their
objectivity. They make up their minds first and then conjure up reasons
afterward. Brennaman's rationale for the Cubs not being able to contend this season is nearly as ill-conceived as his rationale that they would not win the division in 2008. With that in mind, let's take a look at
Brennaman's most recent "analysis".
"I think their defense is very
To be fair, there are some questions about the
Cubs defense this season, specifically the left side of the infield where
Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro are prone to occasional lapses. Brennaman
is likely basing this assessment on his observations this spring - but that's
an incredibly small, unreliable sample size. So let's take a deeper
look: At first glance we see that the Cubs were tied for last in the
majors in team fielding percentage at .979. However, fielding percentage
is a rather crude measurement of defense, so we'll UZR/150 instead. With
basically the same team last year, the Cubs ranked 18th overall in
UZR/150 at (-0.5). Very slightly below average, but unless there is a
drastic fall-off from last season, it's not "very suspect". There
is no doubt the Cubs need to get better on defense to contend, though, so we'll
give Brennaman partial credit here, but we're knocking off some points for
"They have a kid (Carlos Pena) at
first base who is an all-or-nothing guy. He either hits the ball out of the
ballpark or he makes an out.
So to say that the Cubs are a 'contender' ... that's a stretch. "
Speaking of stretches! It's ludicrous that he would conclude the
Cubs aren't a contender because of his opinion on one player. What makes
it worse is that his opinion is wrong. Pena, even in his worst season in
the majors last season, Pena would have ranked 6th in OBP amongst
Cubs with over 300 at-bats. Baseball Analyst Bill James projects
Pena for a .362 OBP this season, which would be actually higher than what
Derrek Lee provided last season.
And Pena is not a "kid". He'll
be 33 in May. So if you're anywhere near Marty Brennaman's house, kids,
you'd be wise to stay off his lawn. He may just call your parents --even
if you're in your mid-30s.
Brennaman could actually wind up
being correct in that the Cubs will not contend this season, but his propensity
for biased analysis and pre-determined conclusions means we can't take his
forecasting ability all that seriously. In the end, Brennaman is little
more than an announcer from a rival team downplaying his most disliked rival's
competition's chances - and then using poor analysis afterward to support his
In the words of turn of the century
Scottish poet Andrew Lang, "An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as
a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination."
Perhaps Brennaman is still intoxicated
from his 2008 rant in which he predicted the Cubs would "find a way to screw
things up" and not win the division. Here's to hoping he is as comically
wrong now as he was then.