The Cubs suck at another thing! It's BABIP!
You know, BABIP? As in batting average on balls in play? Over the course of a season, about 30% of the balls put into play by a hitter will generally end up as hits. Trust me, a lot of smart people have researched this, and it tends to be true.
But the 30% mark is an average rate. Some teams are better at preventing batted balls from turning into hits. The Tampa Bay Rays, for example, are the best at this: just 26% of balls put into play against them turn into hits.
On the other end of the scale are, of course, the Chicago Cubs, as 31% of the balls put into play agains them turn into hits.
Certainly it's disconcerting enough to be worst in the league at something so important as defense, but what has this really meant over the course of three months?
Look at it this way: the Cubs have had 2,063 balls put into the field of play against them this year (TBF - (SO+BB+HR)). So every percentage point difference in their BABIP represents about 20 non-HR hits. In other words, if the Cubs' defense played as well as the Rays', they'd have allowed 103 fewer hits this season. That would bring their team WHIP down from 1.50 (!!!!!) to 1.36.
If you think that's bad, remember that BABIP — a batting average stat — is only talking about *hits*, not total base runners. So tack the Cubs' 34 fielding errors (2nd worst in the league, nearly twice as many as the Rays) onto that pile of misery for an even worse defensive picture.
So how does the team improve? At what positions does the defense need to get better? Well, UZR pretty much hates our outfield, and Kosuke's range in right field in particular. UZR also thinks Marlon Byrd is a much better defender in center field than Reed Johnson, and I'm inclined to believe that. While the system actually doesn't hate Soriano's defense in left, it does consider Aramis Ramirez to be a liability at third. And then there's Starlin Castro, still an error machine at this point in his young career.
Maybe the plan for 2012 should be to hold onto Byrd, let Kosuke walk, and start Brett Jackson off in right field? Still no clue what to do about third base though. Hooray!