Early Morning Dabs: Perspective

The First Hundred

Everything truly is a matter of perspective. The proverbial glass being half full or half empty that is the Cubs 2019 first half is a perfect object lesson. The Cubs limped into the break with a 10-16 record since June 9 but still somehow in first place. The president of the team promising massive changes if things don't improve highlights how misleading the standings feel at the moment. There is some bad luck, bad sequencing, or bad whatever we presently can't measure but explains why baseball does what it does going on with the Cubs seasons. The Cubs runs, runs allowed, and other indicators suggest a team with wasted potential. And it seems like most perspectives you take leave you with that conclusion about the Cubs first half.

Stars and Scrubs Another Look

As stated at the outset, perspective matters a lot, and the vast amount of information at our disposal within instants means that one can wield a mount of information and facts to support a perspective. That is not to say that there is no such thing as truth, but developing an epistemology of truth is a bit beyond the scope of this post. Rather that by using a single statistic, I can develop a pretty effective case for the Cubs being an example of a stars and scrubs lineup.

The measure that I am going to use is wOBA. To put it simply it is a on base percentage that is weighted for how a player reaches base. As we instinctively know a double is worth more than a single, it has a calculated value in wOBA that is higher than a mere base knock. This is a simple but effective single measure for offense. It is not perfect, but it is a nice all encompassing offensive stat to use for easy analysis.

If we look at the Cubs ranking by position using this measure we can see the stars and scrubs lineup appear quite easily.

Position wOBA MLB Rank
Catchers 0.380 1
3B 0.371 3
SS 0.361 4
1B 0.379 6
Pitchers 0.143 12
CF 0.318 12
2B 0.300 18
LF 0.321 18
RF 0.316 23

The chart paints a vastly different picture than the one in yesterday's post. The Cubs are in the bottom half of baseball in offensive production by position for as many spots as they are getting top 5 production. Two of the positions that rank in the top half also are actually producing very little comparatively. Both Pitchers and Centerfielders rank 12th in baseball but their offensive production is last and fourth to last as well. So those higher marks are more based on being less terrible at the dish than the average at bat from that position.

Return of Federalist #30

In the comments a couple of days ago Jon Jay was brought up as a possible trade target, and as a low cost target he does make a lot of sense. Jay is a good clubhouse presence and would certainly fit in with the team he was a part of just a couple of years ago. And his skill set as a top of the order table-setter with above average bat to ball skills is something the lineup needs.

Jon Jay has only managed to play in ten games for the White Sox this year. He has spent most of the year on the injured list, but his slash line while healthy is certainly intriguing at .286/.350/.343. The White Sox wouldn't seem to have much need for the free agent to be Jay at this point. The odds of a playoff push are very slim on the Southside, and there are a number of options pushing for playing time more interesting long term for the White Sox than Jay.

The biggest question would be the cost. The White Sox would certainly be capable of keeping Jay through the remainder of the year. He is unlikely to net the team anything but his veteran presence around a young team is not nothing for the White Sox. That said the cost for rental bats recently on the trade market has been pathetically low for the selling teams. Impact bats have been dealt without any serious prospects being moved recently and Jay is certainly not an impact bat.

If you could get Jay for cheap, the question is how to make him fit into the roster puzzle. The Cubs have had issues with production throughout the outfield, but who do you sit if you acquire Jay? The obvious place would be at the expense of at bats for Schwarber, but there is no guarantee that Jay's offensive production will be higher. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that it will be significantly lower, and instead the only benefit would be changing the "type" of production.

Jay is an interesting piece, and one of those pesky hitters that seem important to have, come playoff time. I have no sources to suggest this is anything the Cubs are even considering, but in terms of fits it makes a lot of sense. And only 30% of this want is based on my ability to make more 18th century political history references.

Cubs Common Denominator Lineup

I got my winning streak by managing to sneak three by the denizens. The lineup yesterday was a bit morbid of a selection. The nine players name all share a link with a serial killer.

Name Position Serial Killer
1 Turner Barber RF Gilbert Paul Jordan known as the "Boozing Barber"
2 Tuffy Rhodes CF Robert Ben Rhoades
3 Jose Hernandez SS Juan Carlos Hernández
4 Luis Gonzalez LF Delfina and María de Jesús González
5 Ripper Collins 1B Atlanta Ripper among many, many other Rippers
6 Willie Greene 3B Gary Ridgway known as the "Green River Killer"
7 Herb Hunter 2B The Skin Hunters
8 Dave Rader C Dennis Rader
9 Rodrigo Lopez Pitcher Pedro López

Here is your next puzzle.

CCDL #8 Name Position AVG OBP SLG HR SB
1 Ben Zobrist 2B 0.269 0.362 0.412 39 11
2 Kris Bryant 3B 0.286 0.388 0.52 124 31
3 Sammy Sosa RF 0.284 0.358 0.569 545 181
4 Anthony Rizzo 1B 274 0.373 0.495 209 53
5 Willson Contreras C 0.269 0.355 0.47 61 12
6 Javier Baez SS 0.271 0.311 0.484 103 54
7 Dave Kingman LF 0.278 0.338 0.569 94 9
8 Kosuke Fukudome CF 0.262 0.369 0.403 37 27
9 Claude Passeau Pitcher 2.96 ERA 754 K 474 BB 124 Wins 94 Losses

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  • I like that you addressed different types of production. It seems that sabermetrics has been overused in evaluating everything baseball. There is still value in speed and defense. Making contact and situational hitting still matter.
    Baseball is more than numbers, even though most of us enjoy that side of the game very much.
    I am starting to enjoy the puzzles, although it makes me think that you are a little off, in a good way of course.

  • In reply to d0a0v0e:

    Accused of being a little off is the polite way of putting it....

    The one thing I would caution is lumping all objective analytics as being the same. There has been a phase where the majority within the community supported completely decontextualizing baseball events (the theory being that more data is always better than less data, splits can be unreliable due to sample size). There has been a lot of rightful pushback against the extremes of that position. Lineup differentiation is something John talked about following the NLCS sweep to the Mets for example. Ken Arneson's 10 Things I believe about baseball was my first introduction to the thought and an excellent (even if dated example) of that shift in sabr orthodoxy.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    We're baseball fans, though I have to admit I do have a morbid fascination with serial killers. I should have got that one.

    The rest of that gobbledygook could just be summed up as saying the eye test and basic baseball knowledge still holds true. The problems I've had with the growing use of numbers in baseball aren't the numbers, but the way fans use them. They'll spit out a players hard hit % and BABIP, for one example, but don't know why the two are related. That has always been my favorite question throughout my life, on any topic. Why?

    The advancement of numbers in baseball is a good thing. But I feel the analytics are best used as a predictive measure. Of course they tell you what has happened. I want to know what will happen. Why? The only way to get a somewhat accurate answer on that is to have a balance of understanding of the numbers and an eye for talent. A computer screen can tell you a lot, but it won't show me how a dude plays the game of baseball. There is no substitute for the eye test, if you know what to look for.

    I didn't mean for this to be a rant, but it's starting to feel that way. Baseball people will know baseball, and modern fans feel they are baseball people by reading their computer screens, and parroting what they want to believe. Baseball, more than any other major sport, is a combination of physical and mental tools. And my question is always "Why?".

    For the umteenth time, the only numbers that truly matter in baseball are the ones under the "R" column at the end of the game, and there are many ways to get there.


  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    These are great points. When you have a stat like expected strikeout rate, sabermetrics has gone too far.
    There was an article on the ringer about the Astros using the next gen stats to develop players vs evaluation. That’s the kinda stuff I hope the Cubs front office is doing. Find what a guy does well and emphasize it. Find out why a guy does something poorly and make adjustments.
    Sometimes with the advanced stats people use them to show a guy is better than the conventional numbers show, but it seems to stop there. The Astros have a plan to coach and develop players to help improve actual performance based on a players talent.
    The talent and potential are discovered by advanced metrics but as Theo said “performance over potential.” Hopefully the Cubs player development improves to rival what the Astros are doing.

  • More excellent work with the Stars and Scrubs stats. Theo has work to do.

  • As far as I know I'm the only one who mentioned Jay. I'm surprised that there are numbers to back up my thinking. I believe that it's more than bat on ball stuff as well. He a veteran similar to Zobrist in that he adapts to game situations at the plate. They patient or aggressive accordingly. Descalso was suppose to be in that mode, but lost his mojo changing his swing last year and it has not carried over. Many of our current guys watch fastballs down the middle on a hitters count with runners in scoring position. Often the game on the line. Ben and Jon won't do that. Of course, they will not always be successful, but they will not get themselves out watching the best pitch that they will see in that at bat.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The main thing with Jay is that he can help with leadoff. The Cubs don't have a hitter that fits there, that isn't needed or fits better elsewhere. We have some who stand in for short periods, but with Jon ready to help the lineup can come much closer to filling that hole. He can play all three outfield positions. So all can get there at bats according to match ups.

  • I'm stunned to see that our RF wOBA is only .316. Is that right? Heyward's wOBA is .342. Who has dragged that down? Not KB? Or is KB's production that bad when he's in RF?

  • The wOBA chart is great. That is a really smart use of a saber stat to show a simple point. It's not convoluted or complicated, nor some esoteric breakdown of micro stats. Thank you.

    It's amazing to see how stacked our infield is and, conversely, just how bad the OF is. I always argued that 2016 allowed for such weak performance from RF because the infield ranked so high offensively (with Zobrist/Javy at 2B).

    Did Cargo's short stints in RF drag the number so much?

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    It dragged down something, that's for sure.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    From my memory I thought Zobrist played some in RF and I would guess his wOBA was not good.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    It is a simple analysis and that is why this it is only one piece of evidence to be weighed. There are lots of way you can slice the data and can make compelling cases for a variety of narratives.

    There is a time and place for complex analysis but this is a chance for me to sketch thoughts out without the deep dive. These numbers aren't fully contextualized and wOBA is a very old sabr stat that has its flaws. I just thought they were interesting numbers to look at and discuss.

    I'm not sure why the production is so low given the generally okay production of Heyward and the number of Bryant OF starts. Might be a bit of flukiness of what spot guys are playing during good games.

  • Keith Law came out with his new list of top 50 prospects. It’s password protected, and I’m wondering if any Cub cracked this list.

  • In reply to Cubs09:


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cubs09:

    in BA's latest prospect list (July 2019) Nico is # 43.

  • fb_avatar

    Are these ASG starters?

  • In reply to John Winter:

    I'd guess the most recent all-star starters by position.

  • On an unrelated subject, the robo ump independent league experiment didn't produce glowing results. The home plate ump had to correct a strike call one and one half of a foot outside and another strike call that bounced. It kind of defeats the purpose.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    As people say: 'it's early days', better to work the kinks out in the independent leagues; seems like the umpire with an earpiece, like I hypothesized a few weeks earlier, will be a way to keep umps around............

  • I have no idea about the pitcher but Is the list the most recent all star game starters, by position?

  • In reply to reillyt:

    That sounds like a very good answer......

  • In reply to reillyt:

    Very good guess, but Javy started at 2nd last year, so Zobrist at 2nd wouldn’t fit for that. But I’m lost at the moment at what else it could be

  • When doing minors recap? I me want see since major league team not playing today

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