Can Fowler improve defensive CF numbers with the Cubs? He wouldn't be the first to do so.

At first glance, Dexter Fowler’s defensive numbers aren’t very pretty.  A -20.6 UZR/150 is hard to dress up.  But I also think it is possible it is misleading.  Fowler’s poor defense reminded me of the talk that David DeJesus’ defense was also poor, that he was strictly a corner outfielder by the time when he came to the Cubs.

Indeed, the statistics did bear that out.  DeJesus averaged a -20.7 UZR/150 in the 4 years leading up to his signing with the Cubs.  That was compiled over a total of just under 750 innings.  It looks very similar to that number Dexter Fowler put up in just over 950 innings last year in Houston.

There is another thing the two outfielders have in common.  They tend to play very shallow.  See this article by Fangraphs by Mike Petriello.  It included this quote from a separate study…

A study last year by fielding analytics guru John Dewan ranked Colby Rasmus fifth among centre-fielder’s in terms of playing shallow in the field.

Measuring the number of times a player needed to break back on balls as opposed to breaking in, his going back rate of 40 per cent tied Michael Saunders and Adam Jones, trailing only Denard Span and Ben Revere at 42 percent, and Dexter Fowler and David DeJesus at 41 percent.

In other words no outfielders had to run back on the ball more than Fowler and DeJesus.  Most people who have played the outfield will tell you it is much more difficult to go back on the ball than it is to come in on it.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the CF’ers in the study generally graded out pretty poorly in CF.

In the case of Dexter Fowler, it is likely he plays shallow to take away shallow singles thinking he had the speed to compensate.  But playing in such a cavernous CF in Houston (not to mention the hill and the odd contour of the park), he may have made things a lot more difficult than it had to be.  Not only did he already have to cover more ground, but he had to do so going back on the ball.  Sure he may have had compensated by catching more shallow flies, but it is questionable that he was able to make up the amount of balls he missed deep by playing shallow, especially since he likely had to share some of those catches with his middle infielders.

Wrigley Field, by comparison, is much easier to play.  It is not as deep and the park is symmetrical in CF.  Sure there is the brick wall, but I don’t think that is as difficult to deal with than the extra space, the hill, and the assymetrical contour of Minute Maid Park.

Do I think Fowler can be a Gold Glove player at Wrigley?  Well, no.  But I do think he can be better, maybe much better.  Remember that -20.7 UZR/150 David DeJesus had in 750 innings over 4 years in CF prior to coming to Wrigley?  Well, it was 0.6, roughly league average, in 2 years over 950 innings after joining the Cubs.  We certainly don’t expect players to improve in their 32 and 33 age seasons, yet DeJesus did once he played CF at Wrigley.

Could Dexter Fowler make a similar improvement?

The degree of difficulty at Wrigley is certainly easier and perhaps the Cubs can position Dexter Fowler to play a little deeper.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Cubs figure to employ very athletic middle infielders who are adept at going back on the ball in Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara.

There are some saying that Fowler is no longer a CF.  Maybe, but we heard that same thing about DeJesus.  Or how about Emilio Bonifacio?  He had a very good 13.9 UZR/150 in one season with the Cubs.  His average in the three previous years? A -16.0 UZR/150.  How many were calling Bonifacio a plus CF’er before he came to the Cubs?  Probably not many. We also heard Ryan Sweeney was a corner OFer, yet he played a very good CF here when healthy.  We can also go back to Reed Johnson, who put up acceptable numbers at CF after being moved off of the position in Toronto following declining defensive performances over the 3 previous seasons.

I am not saying Fowler will make a similar improvement, but I think we should at least consider the possibility rather than writing him off after an atrocious showing last season.  He wouldn’t be the first player to see his defensive metrics improve playing CF at Wrigley.

 

 

 

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  • You're on fire today John.
    I know this most likely means the opposite but I wonder if Zobrist isn't an even better fit now.
    Castillo, La Stella, Sweeney, and Edwards get it done? Maybe Cubs get back a rostered player or two with upside?

  • In reply to Kodak11:

    Thanks. I think Alcantara is our Zobrist. That is what Maddon seems to be thinking. Guess he has a big smile whenever they talk about him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have a slightly off topic question. Do the Cubs have any pitching prospects with "Ace" Potential? I know that the label matters little but it intrigues me. Like is there a prospect who's absolute ceiling is an Ace?

  • In reply to JustAnotherGuy:

    Duane Underwood, Trevor Clifton, Carson Sands and Dylan Cease are the most likely candidates, but they're all very far from probably aces.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    K sounds good. Just wonder if they need a 3B that can hit from the left side. I've been thinking about Gillespie from the white sox too.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree and Almora should be ready for Wrigley Fieldby September oh don't forget Russel in July now I hope Fowler hangs on to that lead off spot.More helps coming

  • In reply to Fred Barefield:

    Both Almora and Russel coming up this year seems a little optimistic.

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    In reply to John57:

    I would replace "a little" with "very."

  • Great article on this topic, John. I really think this addition is going to give us some additional outfield flexibility and solidifies our lineup.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Thanks. I have this thing about challenging orthodoxy ;) I don't like easy answers.

    But I do think that whatever the case, Fowler's ability to play anywhere in the OF, like Denorfia and probably Alcantara, will give the Cubs a lot of flexibility out there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I completely agree-have stated a few times I feel the discussion geared towards a completely inept cf play out of fowler was overstated by certain reports- I love the advanced metrics used today- but defensively feel like it can be a misrepresentation at times due to different dimensions of different ballparks--similar to how certain players power statistics can be overinflated based on ballparks and give a misrepresentation of potential future statistics-
    I think Fowler will play an adequate cf for the Cubbies--hoping defensive shifts and advanced scouting will help his numbers as well. We can't place a cannon on his arm- but we can help put him in a position where his arm is most likely not going to be relied on w any overall frequency(think fielding shift=cutting a ball off before it gets to the gap rather than trying to throw a runner out at 3rd w a weak arm from the warning track)--
    Always love your analysis when moves are made by the team- small to large you seem to have a great analysis of any player and any potential impact or trickle effect it may have-
    As always thanks for the hard work.

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    I like Zobrist a lot but that's a lot to give up for a guy who is going to be 34 in May, especially now that we have the hole in center field filled.

  • In reply to Buster 5000:

    Did I miss something? I thought Zobrist went to the A's.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    The A's could flip him for players and/or prospects. They probably won't re-sign him, and probably can't afford to risk a Qualifying Offer.

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    In reply to cubsin:

    It's entirely possible. Billy Beane flips players like I traded baseball cards with friends when I was little.

  • Corner outfield spots much harder to play at Wrigley than CF. I have confidence he can play an adequate CF at home. Assuming the best, if Addison Russel plays well in AAA, they could bring him up in July and put him at 3rd, which would move Bryant to Left, which would move Mendy to a full time spot at 2b (assuming he's hitting well). I know I'm leaving Baez out here, but you could be looking at an August lineup of:

    Fowler CF
    Castro SS
    Rizzo 1b
    Soler RF
    Bryant LF
    Alcantara 2b
    Montero C
    Russel 3b

  • In reply to corleone:

    I think if Baez does not win the 2b job LaStella will win the job.

    Alcantara Value is going to be his ability to play all outfield positions, 2b,ss,and 3b. I think he get over 400 ab off the bench.

    Russel will not be called up till two weeks into next season. He is on the Bryant track - can't play well enough to get up earlier.

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    In reply to toddm:

    Russell doesn't even have a full season of AA under his belt yet. Some think it's a stretch for him to start the year at Iowa. There is simply no concievable way he makes his way north before the expanded rosters in Sept, and even then, it might be a stretch, as he doesn't need to be added to the 40 man for rule V protection next winter

  • In reply to corleone:

    Russell will not be up in 2015 other than perhaps for a September cup of coffee. And he will not start 2016 with the big league club. The most optimistic scenario is June/July, 2016.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    DaveP, I can think of several scenarios in which Russell comes up before your predicted date range. Injury to Castro while Baez is struggling, etc.

    What's your reasoning behind the June/July 2016 timeframe? Super 2 status?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    This doesn't mesh with most of the facts at hand. If Russell is playing well at AAA and the Cubs have a need, he could very well be up this year. It's not likely but it is possible. People forget that this will be his second promotion to AAA. He didn't do well the first time prompting a return to AA in 2014 followed by the injury, but given what he did in AA after he healed and was dealt to the Cubs it's not at all improbable that he could look very, very good at Iowa and force the FO's hand.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I find it very hard to credit the notion he will play better than Bryant did in 2014. Bryant wasn't promoted due to "years of control" issues. Wouldn't the same reasoning be used to keep Russell in AAA. He is polished and a very good athlete, but he still has things to learn and that learning would best take place in AAA. Of course it is possible that the stars could align and he could be brought up, but I find it to be a very remote possibility.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Agree. Plus, as the Cubs MLB lineup improves, it will be harder to crack by oncoming prospects. Unless there's a glaring need, Russell will need to perform very well to get an early shot.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Again you may be right but I'm of the belief that Bryant was treated differently than other prospects will be because he's a client of Scott Boras. The other thing, and I mentioned this above, is that this is Russell's second go round at AAA. Granted it's with a different organization but I think that matters. The other thing is this could be a contending team in July and if the Cubs need a player and Russell appears ready it would awfully tempting to bring him up. Even with Boras as his agent I think Bryant might have been up last year if the club was in contention. All that being said though if you apply the same rules to Russell that were applied to Bryant I agree a 2015 call up is unlikely. I guess my gut tells me that with contention looming and Scott Boras not being a factor that rules could be entirely different.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I think Boras is Russell's agent, though I may be wrong on that. Personally, I think that Russell getting called up will be more likely a response to a catastrophic failure by the rest of the team than him simply banging down the door. I believe this year's roster is much more stable than previous years and will be, therefore, less easily "broken into."

    And if Boras is Russell's agent then the same logic would apply. Again, I really can't imagine Russell playing better than Bryant did. While an argument could be made that there was no point in pulling up Bryant last year this year it could be different it will be different because the team is already playing better thereby mitigating the need to pull Russell up.

    As for "second time around" in AAA I don't think that makes much difference. His performance last year surely doesn't warrant any "bonus points" and I doubt he got that familiar with the league in his 3 games.

    The one scenario where I could see Russell pulled up is if Castro got hurt and Baez was struggling mightily and Alcantara was deemed too necessary somewhere else (unlikely with the kind of depth the Cubs have at multiple positions) and Russell was playing at a very high level in AAA. That is 4 scenarios that would need to be filled and if any of them is unfilled then he is not pulled up.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    You're right on Boras being Russell's agent. He is, or at least he was when he signed. So yeah, I think that does make a difference and I was most likely wrong there. Here's the thing though I think that if the Cubs are in convention at the deadline someone will be traded, could be Baez, Castro or maybe even Russell. I think might change things.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    A deadline deal as "buyers" is possible depending on how things go. We will see what happens with that and a lot of things can change between now and then.

  • John, I have been pondering this question for a week or so. I don't believe defense metrics take into account where you play but Houston and Colorado are two of if not the two hardest CF's to play because of their huge amount of space.

    The other thing that provides me hope is that he was dreadful last year, but previously, in those tougher parks he was just slightly below avg. I think it is reasonable to expect him to improve enough to not be a huge liability.

    If he can be decent in CF, his OBP will make this a worth while trade even with us giving up excess value.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    I think the combo of the space and the fact that he plays so shallow makes it difficult for Fowler in those places. He is not Willie Mays out there, but I think he can be much better than he showed last year.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    I expect to see Alcantara in CF quite often in the larger ballparks.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    That's possible.

  • Nice article. Good research.

    1. Did they have any home/away splits for the defensive metrics? Seems like that'd be interesting and helpful to understand the parks.

    2. Is there a reason players can't build up their arm strength? I'm always surprised by the "weak arm" concerns. Is it a mechanics thing?

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Thanks. I do not have those splits, actually. Not sure where they can be found.

    Arm strength is at least partially genetic and some is developed as kids develop athleticism early on. Really hard to teach it late.

  • Not to mention Maddon and Martinez's shifts, that will no doubt help. Too lazy to look it up now, but would be interested in seeing Fowler's rating before going to Houston/his defensive ratings when away/other teams' defenders defensive ratings at home compared to their limited sample size at wrigley

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Yes, I could definitely see some better shifts as well.

  • John, what's your take on the Fowler acquisition vis-à-vis helping the Cubs score first?

    Maddon places a huge importance on scoring first and my take is they acquired Fowler specifically to help with this more than anything else. The other day Maddon said how much he values scoring first and cited a statistic that about 70% of the time the team that scores first wins.

    Fowler leading off with his off the charts OBP and good speed makes scoring first a much more likely scenario for the Cubs. And even though Fowler didn't steal a lot of bases he was among the league leaders in terms of taking the extra base. I think that's what this is about more than anything else and I love the acquisition.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I think that is a great take and it makes you wonder if the Cubs will want to put Coghlan or La Stella next to increase their chances of getting a guy on base in front of Castro, Rizzo, Soler and eventually Bryant.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks. Yeah I agree it seems the #2 hitter will either be Coghlan/Deno or La Stella (if he wins the 2B job). Whoever's best at getting on base, making contact, and handling the bat.

    Theo/Jed are painting a portrait and even though some of the acquisitions this offseason may have seemed puzzling in isolation (e.g. why acquire LaStella when you have tons of middle infielders?), taken together a clear pattern emerges. La Stella good OBP. Deno good OBP. Montero good OBP. Fowler great OBP.

    Get those guys on base and then score early and often. This is Chicago after all...

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Totally agree. Improving OBP has been key. And La Stella or Coghlan/Denforia makes sense to bat 2nd. Although Soler batting second could be an interesting option too.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I'm starting to convert people :)
    Soler hitting 2nd!!!

    Fowler-Soler-Rizzo-Bryant-Coghlan-Castro-La Stella-Montero

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'd settle for:
    Fowler-Castro-Bryant-Rizzo-Soler-Coghlan-La Stella-Montero

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I've been on that bandwagon with you for a while. I read an interesting article in the SF Chronicle saying that the latest sybermetrics trend is to bat your best hitter second. And Trout is the most obvious example. I suspect, however, that Maddon will use a lot of different lineups.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    They identified a top of the order hitter early and it was likely for that reason.

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    I wonder if we can agree on at least a temporary moratorium on Zobrist trade proposals.....

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SKMD:

    I agree--moratorium granted until 2 weeks prior to trade deadline. :)

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Cubs have some players they're most likely gonna move. Wood, Castillo, Sweeney (also possibly Jackson or any of the other pitchers without options). Maybe they'll get young prospects back, but maybe not.
    I'm concerned about handing the 3B job to Olt early. I hope it works out but wouldn't mind seeing a left-handed hitting alternative there. Don't want to see this team get off to a slow start and have to dig out. Maybe La Stella or Alcantara can play there but there's no proof at this point.
    So I'm trying to think about who could fill that role. I've come up with Zobrist and Gillespie. Interested if there are any other ideas out there?

  • In reply to Kodak11:

    On the list of shortcomings the Cubs need to work on, a LH 3B has to be pretty close to the bottom. Olt, Alcantara and possibly La Stella are three options, covering both sides of the plate, until Bryant comes up and when he needs a rest.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    We'll see.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    Why must a 3B be LH (I assume hitter, a LH thrower would be a disaster).

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'm in if you agree to extend it to all players and make it permanent. I mean, not that it ever gets old reading; Hey I know, let's trade EJax, Beef, Wood and a top prospect (invariably Vogelbach) for the other team's version of Mike Trout.

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I take issue with this. The top prospect can just as easily be: Johnson, Edwards, McKinney OR Vogelbach OR any combination of them ;). As another poster pointed out it is best to put yourself in the other team's shoes and say, "What would you demand?" instead of "What are you willing to give up?"

  • I think that Baez will be the starting 2B and have every opportunity to remain so. Then he can be the back-up SS too. Mendy can play CF and back up 2B and Fowler can play LF.

    If Baez is in Iowa, who's the back-up SS? I think asking that of Mendy is too much until he gets more established.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    I think it helps if Baez makes the team,, but they can't just give it to him because he is also the best backup SS. If he has trouble making contact and/or applying the adjustments then he should be in AAA.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    Do the Cubs really need a back-up SS on the 25-man roster?

    Castro rarely takes a day off. He played 162 games in 2012 and 161 in 2013. The games he missed last season were due to a late season ankle injury. In cases of injury, a back-up could be called up from AAA. Castro isn't taken out for defensive purposes late in games. They would only need someone in an emergency situation, and I think Alcantara could fill in for the remainder of a game before someone (Baez or Russell) could be called up from AAA.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I don't think Maddon wants Castro to play that many games. But with a number of off days early, he is probably fine until mid-May or later.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    Alcantara was a full-time SS until Baez was promoted to AA in the middle of the 2013 season. I'm more concerned about his ability to play LF defensively (zero experience), not to mention RF (zero experience, sun field, weakish arm).

  • John, I've really enjoyed reading today's articles and learning more about the implications of the Fowler trade. Something to consider regarding his fielding: back in 2010, when Fowler was playing center field for the Rockies, he made a sensational catch to preserve a no-hitter by Ubaldo Jimenez. It was hailed by Baseball Prospectus as perhaps the best no-hit saving play of the last few years. Whatever UZR tells us, the man can cover ground in a hurry. The video is at Baseball Prospectus at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16635 (you'll have to scroll down a way).

  • In reply to October:

    Thanks. No doubt he has the tools to play a good CF. Hopefully he puts them to better use.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    check out an image of Wrigley's outfield wall dimensions laid against the Juice Box (I wish I could include images here) - center field confines will be immensely friendlier to Fowler at Wrigley.

  • In reply to October:

    The 2010 catch by Dexter Fowler may have been fabulous but the catch by DeWayne Wise to save Mark Buehrle's perfect game was the best--not perhaps the best--catch to preserve a no-hitter. Ever. Without a doubt. View it yourself at: http://m.mlb.com/video/v5699065/tbcws-wises-homerrobbing-grab-preserves-perfecto

  • Good point -- Wise's catch was really amazing.

  • Souza's catch for Zimmerman this year was pretty amazing as well.

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    can the Cubs get past the Nats in a playoff series? Looking highly unlikely.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    First things first,.....

    Let's see the Cubs get TO a playoff series,... we'll worry about getting past the Nats as the time comes.

    :D

    However - this falls into one of those 'Good Problems To Have' issues again IMO.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I agree with you, but I only brought it up because it seems the FO is making moves to go for it this year - especially like today, giving up guys with years of control for Fowler with only 1 year. Hate to be doing that just for a one and done series.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    This sets up the Cubs for only one shot? Come on. That is a little dramatic.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Valbuena had only like one year of control left - and was about to be replaced somewhat permanently by some combination of Russell, Bryant, and Baez.

    Castillo is still vaulable - but with Zagunis and Schwarber moving up the ranks - he was going to be expendable this year or next anyway.

    Fowler may only be 'controlled' through this year - but he's got CF guys breathing down his neck in the term of Alcantara, Almora, and potentially McKinney and Hanneman.

    If anything - what impresses me so far with the moves made this offseason is that the Cubs have managed to improve (at least on paper) their squad for this season while NOT having to dip into the coming wave of prospects heavily (as in not at all essentially) to do so.

    The short-term improvements might be enough to get the Cubs into the playoffs this season (although I view this is a longshot at the moment) - while NOT selling the future to do it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SKMD:

    We did give up years of control, but at positions of depth: infielder and #5 AAAA pitcher.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Kind of seems the opposite of that to me. Their have been a lot of outfield choices to be had this offseason but the Cubs have been careful to not position block CF & LF long term. Picking up Fowler continues that trend while the evaluate what they have now, what they have coming and also factors in what might be available in trade. Valbuena had some control years but he was going to be a back up 17 games into 2015. Pretty much everything they've done screams compete in 2015, contend in 2016. Kind of silly to suggest otherwise.

  • The 2010 catch by Dexter Fowler may have been fabulous but the catch by DeWayne Wise to save Mark Buehrle's perfect game was the best--not perhaps the best--catch to preserve a no-hitter. Ever. Without a doubt. View it yourself at: http://m.mlb.com/video/v5699065/tbcws-wises-homerrobbing-grab-preserves-perfecto

  • Predicted line up last year at this time

    Castro ss
    Lake lf
    Schierholtz rf
    Rizzo 1b
    Donnie Murphy 3b
    Ruggiano cf
    Castro c
    Barney 2b

  • In reply to toddm:

    Predicted lineup grade D

    I do see why i was not very excited about the Cubs last year at this time.

  • In reply to toddm:

    what a difference a year makes.

  • In reply to toddm:

    I think I'm going to vomit.

  • In reply to toddm:

    Great point. Consider that 6/8 (3/4) of this lineup are not going to be there. Pretty much anything else will be an improvement. A key aspect for the pitching staff will be both mental and physical. Now it will seem that there's a chance in every game. You may even see a vast difference with both Wood and Jackson.

  • The acquisition of switch-hitting center fielder Dexter Fowler tentatively completes a massive offseason for the Cubs..

    “If we can improve our team for now and the future, we’ll look to do it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday after acquiring Fowler from the Astros for infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily. “But given where we are in the offseason and the way our team looks, we’re probably going to look similar when we all get together.”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/chi-cubs-acquire-dexter-fowler-20150119-story.html

    The quote above makes it sound like the only other move might be to move Castillo before opening day ?

    There have been quotes from the Cubs as to only carrying 12 pitchers this season. We know the following 9 players are locks (Lester, Arrieta, Hammels, Hendricks, Ramirez, Strop, Rondon, Grimm & Motte)

    This leaves Wada, Wood, Turner, Doubrount and EJackson fighting for 3 spots with no left handlers in the pen and all the players out of minor league options.

    Who's in and Who's cut ? and will contracts/money dictate final roster spots (EJax, Wada & Wood) ???

    Thoughts ???

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    As regards the 'thoughts',.... I suspect when all is said and done the Cubs keep Wada and EJax (mostly because EJax will be hard to move at present), and that Wood is traded to 'somebody' for prospects (likely high ceiling, but low MiLB level).

    Wada will be hard to move because of his relatively advanced age, and fairly expensive (~$5 MM) contract and can fill in the role that Villanueva filled the last couple of years. EJax will be hard to move at present (until or unless he demonstrates improvement) for the same reasons (although in his case the contract will be the bigger anchor).

    I think Wood is the odd man out if money is the issue. Although I would rather see the Cubs keep him over Doubront. Wood at least is good with a bat, and can substitute in as a PR in a pinch on his non-pitching days.

    Ideally - Turner evolves into #3/#4 Starting Pitcher, Wada is the Swing Man, and EJax fills in either as a much improved bottom of the rotation innings' eater, or takes the kind of role that Schlitter filled last year as depth RP in leverage situations.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    I always thought that Strop was quietly available plus Doubront and Castillo

  • i think turner is a lock as is 2 of wada,wood or jackson. dont be surprised if they start with 13 pitchers until bryant comes up.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    There are four off days in the first couple weeks. I think Maddon would appreciate the extra bench player.

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    In reply to Greggie Jackson:

    I think limited off days at the beginning of the year when starting pitchers often only go 5-6 innings takes a greater toll on the bullpen than on the bench.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes but days off gives those bullpen arms rest. Maddon will play small ball in the cooler weather. A longer bench will help. The thirteen man bullpen started last year to protect young arms during a dense part of the schedule. The emergence of Grimm and addition of Motte will supplement the back end trio.

  • If the idea is that Wrigley CF is easier to play, then the opposing CF will get just as much of an advantage, and "league-average" UZR isn't really relevant. If the Rockies stopped using the humidor, it wouldn't make much sense for the Rockies to expect the team to improve because the offense will improve. They will, but so will the visitors.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    John never claimed that the Cubs will have an advantage with Fowler in CF. He was just pointing out that Fowler's defensive shortcomings may have had more to do with the park he regularly played in and his positioning than with his abilities, and giving some very good examples to support his view.

  • Okay John, great series of thought, I was just happy to see the Cubs land a LH (SW) hitting CF'er top of the order player for what was excess assets. There are many levels here as they also maintained a silent covenant where the FO allowed both players oppty for playing time when it was becoming obvious there wasn't much of a role now. This is important still going forward esp with future contributing FA or trade players, like FOWLER.

    My guess is that they actually liked the oppty to see if they could negotiate another year with a club option that they could still flip. The best is that it is a wash WAR either way, but now it gives Maddon more pieces to use in situations.

    You didn't talk about having Alcantara or Fowler, Coghlan or Denorfia, or Sweeney or La Strella on the bench at the end of the game, and then if Bryant and/or Baez is on the club then, one or more too.

  • Thanks for the excellent analysis, John! I was a little worried that Fowler's defense might hurt the team up the middle, but if he can follow DDJ's precedent, there's no problem.
    Two things came to mind as I read:
    1) Will Soler's ability to move L-R help reduce the range Fowler will need to his left by a step or two?
    2) Do splits show Fowler's defensive performance was better when on the road? He may still have played too shallow, but it would have made more difference in some parks...

  • John, as you may remember, I'm a fan of the Red Sox as well of the Cubs. I've been trying to put my finger on the familiarity of Fowler and it clicked this morning. Dave Roberts, CF on the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. Now, Fowler doesn't have the SB totals that Roberts had, but they may match up in other ways, including defensively. You are the expert with the treasure chest of statistical tools at your disposal. What do you think? Bottom line ... here's hoping Fowler helps lead the Cubs to a title like Roberts did in Boston.

  • I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Mr. Olt has finally figured it out and if he has, then he is gonna make things very interesting indeed. A monster year could be in store if so..

  • I read an interesting article [http://www.livescience.com/3445-baseball-players-catch-fly-balls.html] about how as an outfielder, you don't want to just run to where you think the ball is going to land and just stand still to catch it. said that the best way to determine the speed and trajectory is to be on the move; catching balls while still moving leads to the most success. And that fielders naturally take a couple steps in once the ball is hit. when i read this, I was immediately thinking to the Fowler piece. Not saying necessarily that him playing shallow and having to run most of the time the ball is in the air was an intentional thing on his part, but it could help him see the ball better. And yet at the same time, if one's natural inclination is to take a couple steps in once the ball is hit, if he's already playing shallow, that might have made it even harder on him in some of his fielding chances.

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