Almora vs. Happ: The Eye Test vs. the Metrics

It was a surprise to many of us — myself included — to see that Ian Happ rated better as a center fielder than Albert Almora, Jr. in many ways last season. Removed from the statistics laid out on the computer screen, I don’t expect that anyone who watched the two play in the outfield during the 2017 season would have guessed, or even considered, that Happ would score better defensively.

But he did.

And in dropping that tidbit in my piece last week on the Cubs defense I didn’t expect that readers would react so strongly, but I should have. It’s unexpected, and even by pointing out that Happ has better defensive numbers I’m probably being a touch misleading. Nonetheless, there is still reason to feel very good about what the Cubs rookie did last season, and it does not have to take away from Almora’s defensive prowess.

Before I explore that thought any further, however, let’s look at something of a side-by-side of the two players:

DRS DEF UZR/150 ARM FSR
Almora -1 2.1 2.3 1.2 1 (2016)
Happ 3 0.7 17 2 N/A

The last column, FSR, stands for Fan Scouting Report, and as it is gathered by by Tom Tango, a score of 0 rates as average, so Almora being a 1 in 2016 puts him just slightly above. Briefly, here’s a fuller explanation:

The Fan Scouting Report is a yearly project conducted by Tom Tango that rates players on their defensive ability based on fan observations and voting. Fans are asked to rate players on a 0-100 scale (with 100 being the best and 0 being the worst) in a number of different categories: Instinct, Speed, Hands, Arm Strength and Accuracy, First Step, etc. These raw ratings are presented on the FanGraphs leaderboards and on player pages.

The numbers run a year behind, so we don’t know yet how fans perceived Happ, but we can safely assume that most of us would not have seen him as a better center fielder than Almora. But otherwise, the defensive metrics seem to be telling an opposite story. There are many defensive statistics to choose from, but using the few that Fangraphs has deemed the most steady, it becomes very hard to argue that Happ was not better in 2017.

But that might be the distinction. It is not necessarily that Happ is a better center fielder as a rule, but rather that he was for just one year. It’s fair to mention that Happ had 346.2 innings in center this year while Almora had almost twice as many, so in the fielding opportunities that Happ had, he was better, but stretched across a larger sample, that might not hold true anymore.

Along with this, the difference between the two, and the reason so many of us bristled at the notion that Happ was a better defender, might come from how Almora and Happ handled the more difficult plays.

In defensive chances deemed as unlikely (10-40 percent chance of converting into an out), Almora converted 22 percent of the time in 2017, and Happ did not convert at all. Granted, some of this is because Happ had lesser opportunity (9 chances for Almora to his 5), but viewers can be forgiven for assuming that Almora is more capable of making harder plays in center because it might just be accurate. We have seen him do it, and we have not when Happ is in center.

So the better takeaway here might not be that Happ is really better than Almora in center, but instead that he is not as far behind his counterpart as we might have assumed. And not only that, Happ might prove to be a stronger defender than he has been given credit for if the numbers he posted in 2017 hold true at all. Maybe not compared to Almora over a long stretch of years, but still better than what was expected from him. Happ’s best asset with his glove might be his flexibility right now anyway, so having him perform better than expected in a premium defensive position is just gravy for now.

Measuring defense objectively is extremely tricky. To do it accurately requires a lot of innings and willingness to accept the quirky fluctuations that come with it — Jason Heyward’s DRS dropped notably from 2015 to 2016, not because he was a lesser defender, but because he was playing in a ballpark with a more challenging right field — and above all of that, an understanding that no objective measure is perfect. It is still too hard to quantify things like first steps and routes to the ball — at least based on the data that is accessible to fans — and as I learned in talking to Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward in August, outfield defense also has a lot to do with communication and other intangibles, and there isn’t a measure for that to show us how Almora and Happ compare to each other.

In all, we don’t know that Happ really is better on defense than Almora, but it might not matter because he is probably stronger on defense than we realized, and that is a good thing in its own right.

Filed under: Outfielders

Tags: Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ

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  • It's certainly an interesting discussion. Part of it is that I don't think Almora looks quite as good out there as many of us expected, he's quick to routes but he really isn't fast, while most of what we heard about Happ is that he couldn't play the position. If those metrics tell us anything in confirms that the expectations for Almora probably weren't quite fair, he's a very good fielder but probably not one of the top CF in MLB, and on the other hand that Happ is a more versatile defender than we were led to believe. Not a bad outcome in either case, even if the metrics do a 180.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think Almora speed (or lack there of) really shows on any slow roller hit to the left side. When you initially think it might be an infield hit. Then as the play develops Almora's thrown out by like 5 steps. He is ridiculously smooth in the OF, but he has below avg speed. It is really tough to be a + OF with below avg speed. He probably is as close as you can get.

    Happ's defense in CF was a really nice surprise. I'm glad they're both with the Cubs. But if Heyward doesn't get his bat going, hopefully Happ will get some games in RF.

  • In reply to TC154:

    To me this is a great example of how people who do things with a flair are perceived to be better than someone who performs in a more routine manner. It shows up frequently in musicians and athletes, but really in all walks of life.

    Happ is probably faster than Almora and i daresay a better athlete, but Almora has the fancy, unconventional drop the glove low to make the catch style...I LOVE Almora but since he was drafted we've have heard elite glove--but to me he is above average maybe, but not elite. Hap stumble out there a bit--but his athleticism gets him through and I'm hard pressed to remember plays he flat out butchered in CF.

  • Happ's reputation as an average to below average defensive 2B may be swaying perceptions of his OF abilities, Unless he or AA are traded to fill a team need, I'm fine with letting them compete for another year. That said, I find little credibility in a metric based on fan perception. The popularity contest that is the All-Star selection process is evidence of that.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    The fan vote is, I think, an attempt at a nod to the "eye test." We all know what we see when we watch the games, and even when the defensive numbers don't reinforce our beliefs, there's still a great deal of value to the simple power of personal observation.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    The "eye" test is entirely dependent upon whose "eye" is doing the testing. There are a few that I trust a lot. I trust my own eyes a little less. The average fan's "eye?" Not so much.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Of course. There's a wide gap between the average fan who just watches a lot of games and a scout.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    Very much agree with you, Cliff. What worried me is thT an eye test can over value the smoothness. Style points. An experienced evaluator can take this into account but simple fan voting won't.

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    Great article, Jared. And I think you nailed it at the end. If Happ can be average or so at a premium OF position and capable of covering 2B and 3B in a pinch he becomes a very valuable player for the Cubs.

    I wonder if Almora will just always look "smoother" in the OF and pass "the eye test" better. But if Happ won't surprise us by being able to hold down CF when he is out there. If that is the case, "Where do I sign?"

  • While scouting both players in the minors, my initial reaction to Almora was that he had potential gold glove caliber defense. His first step and his instincts were top notch and covered somewhat for his middling speed. As the years went by however, I tempered my enthusiasm and altered my projection to him being an above average CF. His skills really didn't diminish, but the MLB landscape in which we had to project him did. Teams like the Royals (and the Cubs) began prioritizing OF defense, and a number of truly remarkable CFs entered the game. When Almora was drafted there were still teams playing corner guys in CF to try to get more offense, and the memory of the steroid era was still fresh. But now, guys like Buxton, Hamilton, Pillar, etc are rewriting expectations for what an amazing defensive CF should entail. And Almora simply does not stack up in comparison to those guys.

    As for Happ, we never really had much of a chance to gauge his ability out there. He only played 45 games in CF during his MiLB career, mostly in 2015 after he was drafted. Since that time he focused mostly on 2B, and his lack of quick twitch athleticism there ultimately masked (for me at least) just how fast (straight line) he actually is. Happ can run. Faster than Almora. Faster than Javy. Faster than Bryant. His recognition and routes may not be top notch yet, but he does have makeup speed.

    Also, defensive metrics for one season are generally not very useful, even less so when dealing with two partials seasons. Do not read too much into these numbers. Almora is the better defender right now. But with experience, I do think Happ could at least rival him there.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thank you for delving into some genuine baseball discussion besides the parlour game of trade for whom with what, and sign whom with this much monopoly money. This knowledge of mathematical evidence, subjective to a degree (defensive metrics) as to challenge pure subjective analysis of an eye test is profound and discovering an anomaly. Almora when using eye test subjective evidence, is biased from the start as he is and was billed as a potential gold glove caliber CF'er. This front end bias is real. Yes he made two outs from 9 drives that were all probable run producers, while Happ none. But once the bias is removed onto the page apparently Happ could be the next 'Fowler' with coaching and more professional development. My guess is that Almora and Happ will share CF in Maddon's game, playing them against projected match-ups. The real question to me next year in the OF is how Schwarber will be in LF with his new body. One or two quicker steps could keep him on the field the entire game. Anyway this probably told the Cubs that Jay was expendable for payroll purposes. In the end this is very good news; Cubs appear to be developing a solid 4th OF'er/platoon against tough LH'ers where they could field LH'd bats in throughout the OF. With Zobrist and Almora and Happ as a switch hitter they can turn this around and field RH'd bats against tough southpaws.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, what are you using to say Almora does not stack up - your eye test? Data? Both? The only thing he does not have is 6.3 - 6.5 60 yard speed. But I bet he is a 6.7 to 6.8 guy which is above average.

    IMO, CF is all about: 1) Jumps and 2) Route/Angle. Those are both “instincts” and not measurable. Make-up Speed is all fine and dandy, but I prefer the guy who has the baseball instinct in CF. Too many times you see the fast guy break back and come flying in to miss the ball or vice-versa. I like the guys who make the right read and jumps—and those a lot of times are not the “speed” guys. No need to turn the routine into all or nothing.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Almora is a good athlete with great instincts, and yes I do prefer that to a great athlete with good instincts, but the issue is there are a handful of guys in the league that are both great athletes and possess great instincts. Buxton is the prime example, but there are others that can track down balls and steal hits away that Almora simply can't get to.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    If Happ could be your cf and leadoff hitter in 2019 that would solve a ton of problems. Move Almora and Hayward and sign a rightfielder.

    Cf Happ
    3b Bryant
    1b Rizzo
    C Contreras
    Lf schwarber
    Ss Russell
    Rf ?
    2b Baez

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    The only thing that worries me about Happ as leadoff hitter - and given as a guy with only part of a season under his belt there's lots of potential for improvement - is that his OBP isn't too hot.

    0.253/0.328 isn't great, and at this point the guy still strikes out over 30% of the time. If he could get the K-rate down under 25%, and the OBP over 0.350, then maybe he's the right choice to leadoff. Given he got on base a bit more of the time in August than earlier in the year - so he might be trending the right direction.

    I might like to see them try Happ out at leadoff - but I would at best only pencil him in there at this point. Part of me would still like to see Schwarber get another run at the leadoff job. That really should have worked much better last year than it did.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The "eye test" tells me Almora is slow for a CF and data from Cubs Insider shows that Almora actually is slower than the average CF in Baseball. Now, none of that means he is not an above average CF, but my eye test tells me probably not Gold Glove CF either.
    I remember watching several games last year where they had data for outfielders and "jumps" and "routes" actually are measurable...they are measured as "reaction time" and the routes are measured with regard to "efficiency of route". I would also say experience has a lot to do with both "routes" and "jumps" which are not completely "instincts".
    Unfortunately, bad reads are not just limited to "fast guys"...see Cubs LF for example.

  • I have not heard of FSR before. I am not impressed so far. Almora was rated a 1 on a scale of 0-100 in 2016? That makes him a tick above the absolute worst defensive player. Am I not understanding this stat correctly?

  • In reply to John57:

    It means he’s a tick above average, not a tick above the worst.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    The spam blocker got me

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Me too

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Spam for breakfast....

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Bloody Vikings!

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Just rescued it. No rhyme or reason sometimes to why that happens.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    It was hungry this morning. That is the reason I go with. No one fed it over Christmas break.

  • As i read through another good piece, the most telling part is the “unlikely” plays. That is why Almora is superior. He makes the “unlikely” plays because of his baseball savvy and years playing CF. Happ is a novice. Some of the plays Javy makes you just don’t explain. The play Jeter made in the playoffs vs OAK you just don’t explain. Almora has that factor in his back pocket and Happ can only watch in amazement.

    I recall the game versus STL where he couldn’t come up with the ball over his head and cost us a game. I and many in here banged on Joe for not having Almora in for D. Despite the metrics i still believe Almora makes that play and the “unlikely” category is what makes a great defender in the OF. As Joel pointed out, Almora has a smoothness factor that Happ does not. I think the metrics get lost for OF in how easy a player can look making routine plays and not so routine plays look easy.

    I take Almora everyday and twice on Sunday to play CF. Now if we want to talk about Happ playing RF to get his bat in the lineup versus the all glove Heyward, i’m up for that. LOL.

    Nice work Jared

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I agree with you.

    I really don't think we appreciate the smoothness of Almora's play in CF. His instincts are superb. When a ball is hit to RF or CF when Hayward and Almora are playing you know that it is an out. When it is the 3rd out of any inning the pitcher heads for the dugout and so do the infielders. The next time you are at a game watch all the fielders reaction. It is a thing of beauty.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Almora has those great "unmetricable" intangibles that make him a great all around ballplayer. I love that kid. I want him in CF almost everyday.

  • Another solid article Jared.

    I do think (as do most others here) that you've hit the nail on the head here. Happ is better than we thought he might be - and is apparently a guy who (although there may be room for improvement) who makes the routine plays, but isn't going to regularly make the difficult plays in CF. Almora (again - at least at present) is going to be able to make more of the difficult plays and the routine ones.

    Either guy is going to be a valuable guy in CF, and Happ has the advantage that he's at least a passable infielder too.

    As apparently (at this stage of his development) Almora is considerably better against LHP than right - does it make sense to do some sort of semi-platoon with the two? Happ's batting average is slightly lower against RHP - but his slugging numbers are much higher too?

  • Given that Happ is relatively new to OF, when compared to Almora, I like his chances to stick out there and be above average.

    I love this kind of article that delves deeper into metrics vs the eye test.

  • Just imagine if Albert went to Don Beebe's speed camp.

  • Another thing to discuss in the metrics is how much of a “ball hog” a CF can be. If a CF continually cuts off balls to his LF and RF making his range greater when the LF/RF have a routine catch, how does that affect the numbers? A truly great CF is aware of his LF/RF at all times. I still think Dexter was to blame for blowing out Schwarber’s knee. He had no idea Schwarber was playing in LCF and had a shot at catching that ball. That’s why they collided. It is easier to peel behind a corner OF when you know their position versus taking every ball because the CF is the “captain of any ball in the air.” I tried to find anything on Fangraphs discussing this and there was nothing. It would definitely affect the metrics of all OFers.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    This is one of the factors that makes the new data and metrics being collected so problematic. Guys can defer or be interfered with by other players. Also, the most efficient route to a fly ball is not always the best in-game play. Sometimes you need to round a fly ball in order to set up a throw, or fake a runner out, or play the odds of a carom off the wall, or let a foul ball drop to prevent a runner from advancing, etc. All of these issues can wreak havoc with defensive metrics if they are not accounted for, especially when partial seasons are being used.

    I'm sure they are making improvements with defensive statistics, but I still see too much fluctuation from year to year and prefer to use a 3 year average in order for it to hold significant weight in my eye.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    What happened between Fowler and Sheathed was a freak accident. With extraordinary effort EITHER one might have made a highlight reel catch. But it was far from certain that EITHER one would be able to pull it off so neither wanted to call the other off. Both thought that they had a better chance than the other but, again, not confident enough to call the other off. If the ball is 18" either direction I think one calls the other off and it is a good defensive play. As it turned out the worst possible thing happened. To me neither player was at fault.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    DMn autocorrect. Fowler and Schwarber.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    why'd you call Schwarbs a Sheat hed ? LOL

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Sheathed—a new nickname perhaps. LOL. I do disagree on this one, Joel. Collisions occur because of a failure to communicate and adhere to fly ball rules or pop up priorities. This is something taught from about 9-10U baseball and up.

    If a CF is ever going to dive and make a go on a ball at full speed, he HAS to call it out loud for 1) to avoid a nasty collision and 2) to have the other OF/IF peel off behind to get the ball if missed.

    This was the worst outcome, no question. Every replay i watched i didn’t see any calling of the ball and I truly believe Schwarber shocked Dex is being in that spot. If Schwarber did not peel off assuming Dex called it, then it would be on him.

    The priorities and rules are in place to avoid exactly what happened. Great communicators are needed in CF which is a trait i believe Almora possesses.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think you have to consider that Fowler was a veteran CF working with a rookie LF that had been trained as a catcher. Dex has to take charge of that situation.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    You are probably right. I was always taught, though, that "You call for the ball when you think you can catch it and not before just in case the guy that peels off can catch it." But I was being taught by volunteers and we played in a pasture with a fence so it is likely you got better training than me.

    I do agree, though, that I didn't see any evidence of Dexter calling for the ball visually, verbally, etc. I also didn't see Schwarber calling for it. So my interpretation was that NEITHER one was confident they could get it so they didn't call for it. And, in the absence of someone else calling for it, continued to exert max effort to get there.

    I think an even better example of the lack of communication you describe was when Baez stepped in front of Rizzo to catch a routine fly ball in the 2016 playoffs. I think Rizzo took a couple steps over and was waiting for the ball and Baez drifted...drifted...drifted, and caught it practically standing on Rizzo's toes. That one wasn't as catastrophic (Rizzo looked irritated but that was about it) but, to me, that was an even better example of lack of communication.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'll agree with the poster who blamed Fowler for the collision. The ball was basically in left center field and Schwarber was closer to making the catch. Obviously Fowler didn't mean to cause the collision but as seasoned, centerfielder and captain of the OF he should have either called for the ball or got out of the way.

  • Any guesses on the outcome of today's meeting with Darvish?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Success. 5 years. Guess, only.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    What meeting?

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    A meeting between the two was announced last week. I believe I saw it on twitter

  • In reply to SFToby:

    actually, it was yesterday, supposedly. https://cubbiescrib.com/2017/12/19/chicago-cubs-set-meet-yu-darvish-tuesday/

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Darvish still has to meet with other teams

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    In reply to SFToby:

    A note on mlbtraderumors.com. 6 articles giving conflicting reports on ESPN.com (mostly behind a pay-wall). Sports talk radio given fodder for 2 weeks of uninformed speculation based on unconfirmed anonymous reports (AKA blind speculation).

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Is it blind speculation or legally blind speculation because there is quit a bit of in sight between the two?

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    We are talking full on blind-fold, at midnight, with no city lights. The accuracy of these reports pales in comparison to throwing a dart at a chart given possible outcomes.

  • A minor league instructor once told me “A good defender makes impossible plays. A great defender makes impossible plays look routine.”

    There in lies the problem with defensive metrics, they rely specifically on the subjectivity of the observer.

    The statement also points out that problem with the “eye test”. While flashy plays bring the crowd to their feet, did the defender actually need to be flashy to make the play?

    Please consider this in your discussions. What might be an “unlikely” play for one defender may not be for another.

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    In reply to Tom U:

    Overall, I agree with your point: defensive metrics can be misleading. But I think that the definition of "likely/unlikely" is a little more technical than what you are saying. I think they are keeping track of how far the player had to run, or how often a ball hit to that spot is caught, or some combination of the two. I don't think they have an evaluator(s) sitting in the stands trying to determine for every play, "Would that play be made 40-60% of the time or 20-40% of the time?" I think baseball is making a concerted effort to "quantify" defense and take it, as much as everything else, out of the realm of "guess-work." Afterall, if you want a subjective opinion, you can just go with "the eye test."

  • Almora or Happ
    Happ or Almora......

    We need BOTH of them on the field but we can’t....and we aren’t parking Javy on the bench....this is where the Heyward signing is really rearing it’s head and if he has a third year similiar to the first 2 Theo will eat a lot of that money and ship him off. Zobrist will be more part timer from now on but that 186 million has to play.

    Gawd, it’s almost impossible to sit 25 homers a year in the dugout......Jason really needs to step it up.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Interesting, with Happ's speed, there's a comparison with Heyward, too. If Jason doesn't hit, does Happ get some time in RF? Obviously, he doesn't have Heyward's arm...

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Or sit.

  • According defensive metrics Zo is a better 2nd baseman than Javy, but when he was asked how he felt about losing playing at second he was quoted "I have eyes".

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If it's true that those metrics say Zo is a better 2nd baseman than Javy, well, that's all one needs to know to conclude the metrics are horse bleep.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Well, Ben is a reliable second baseman and one of the finalists for a gold glove at that position this year. My eyes tell my that he is still not in Javy' s class.

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    In reply to TTP:

    That is the kind of open-mindedness that is required in modern baseball.

    Seriously, sometimes the eye is an UNRELIABLE evaluator. There are some whose eyes I trust but I always take them with a grain of salt. If the player is really that good then their defensive metrics should show it.

    Can defensive stats be just as misleading as "the eye test"? Of course they can. But to blithely dismiss them because they don't "confirm" what you already know is hubris.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Misleading? How about flat-out and obviously wrong?

    Do you think that Zobrist is a better than defender at 2nd than Javy? Does anyone? And it's not even close.

    So that stat or metric is in fact worthless. Because it is so obviously wrong. It's like a metric that told me it was warm in Chicago yesterday. To blithely defend or accept the stat despite its obvious fallaciousness is, I submit, a paradigm example of hubris.

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    In reply to TTP:

    I didn't say that Zobrist was a better defender than Baez. Or, for that matter, that Baez is a better defender than Zobrist. My point is that you are falling into the fallacy of "confirmation bias." You are only looking at information that supports what you already "know" to be true. In which case, "evidence" is meaningless because you already "know" the answer.

    My point is that data can, occasionally, reveal things that the eye doesn't catch. ESPECIALLY when the data refutes what you already "know." Can the reverse happen and the eye catch things that the data misses? Of course it can. But to simply say, "I know that Baez is a better fielder than Zobrist so any data that DOESN'T fit that is clearly false.

    Let me give you another example. Who was the better offensive player last year: Baez or Schwarber? It depends. The "eye test" might tell you one thing and the data, depending on what you look at, could tell you something else. For instance, Schwarber had a better wRC+ (102 to 98) and made far fewer OUTS than Baez due to a much higher BB%. Baez had better baserunning and a higher off fWAR. But if you simply looked at the players on the field many would remember Schwarbers early season struggles. Or might even let his defensive deficiencies color their view of him as an offensive player.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I understand that even the metric geeks generally acknowledge that the defensive metrics are quite suspect and Zo vs. Baez defensive metrics really prove the point -- at least for me.

    As for Schwarber vs. Baez, they both have room for serious improvement in various areas. As to both, however, my old school ways simply tell me they are both still very young and I expect both to continue to improve. They both long term stars and keepers in my book. And the metrics will prove me right down the road. :-)

  • In reply to TTP:

    And then I just stumbled across this timely article about metrics vs. eye test on the question of HOF ballots and Omar V.

    https://deadspin.com/please-stop-these-bad-hall-of-fame-arguments-1821617776

  • ‘Happ's best asset with his glove might be his flexibility right now anyway, so having him perform better than expected in a premium defensive position is just gravy for now.’
    Exactly this. I think the thing that surprised me most about ihap was his speed. It makes up for a lot in terms of playing new positions. And, evidently, the work ethic is there also.
    I will reference this article over at Cubs Insider in terms of how long it takes defensive metrics to stabilize:

    https://www.cubsinsider.com/2017/12/18/uzr-doesnt-suck-addison-russells-war-isnt-fluke/

    “For example, some statistics take an extraordinary amount of time to stabilize (i.e., to consider that an outcome can truly be attributed to the player’s talent). On the other hand, numbers like contact rate and plate discipline stabilize within a month. UZR and other commonly used defensive metrics, however, are not among those.
    Because of this, the knock on UZR is that it takes too long to be considered a reliable gauge of talent and/or performance. But there indeed comes a point at which we can say, “Yes, UZR accurately reflects a player’s defensive talent.” That point is roughly
    three baseball seasons.”

    AA passes the eye test and in the long run is an everyday above average defender in CF at Wrigley. As Michael said, the bar is higher now from when he was drafted. I happen to believe there is more in his bat to be unleashed. He is one of a handful of Cubs who could b helped by the juiced ball (I think Happ definitely was, to his credit. Russell being another who could).

    Happ, could probably start and play passable defense, right now, for more then a few teams, in CF, 2cnd and LF.

    They are opposites in terms of offense. If only we could mash them together.....But as someone pointed out, it gives the team a ton of flexability.

  • fb_avatar

    I agree. AA passes the eye test and gets to most of the balls hit to CF. Let him play and we'll see how good he is, and we saw that last year.
    On a different note, I just saw that the Cubs signed LH Kyle Ryan, a 26 yr old relief pitcher from the Tigers. Theo is signing as many as he can and hopes that a few can come through.
    Why wasn't Duensing signed for this year? Too much money or maybe he wanted a multi-year contract. That was signing last year like all of these--we didn't really think too much about it but he turned out to be very useful.

  • Strong, persistent rumor: Machado for Almora, Russell and Montgomery. Looks like a case of quantity vs quality.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    They're talking about it on MLB Network. Again. I just don't believe the Cubs would give up that much for one year of Machado. Either Baltimore is offering more, there's an extension being worked out, or it's nothing but speculation.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think it is smoke by Baltimore to get the deal they really want from a team with young pitching.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Could be, but their chances might be better at the trade deadline.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    They can blow smoke all they want, but there is no team out there that can give 2 MLB young starters. That team does not exist. If in fact he Cubs did offer Russell, Monty, and Almora, BAL should take that deal and run to ST. That would be a massive haul for Machado.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think you read a little more into my comments than intended.
    I believe Baltimore wants 1 MLB ready starter and 1 high minors starter or 2 near ready MLB starters for Machado, not 2 current young MLB starters.

    I think Russell alone with 4 years of cheap control is an over pay for 1 year of MM. Prior to the Britton injury, I thought it would be possible to consider a Machado/Britton sway for Russell. Still an overpay in terms of years, but closer to an even WAR swap.

  • For those looking for a little mid-winter excitement you can go to MLB.com and watch the 100 best plays of 2017. It's broken down into increments so you can watch some and then come back to continue the countdown. Good for the mid-winter blues.

  • I know this for a fact: Happ is a better second baseman than Almora. And at the end the of the year, Happ was practicing at third. Yes, he looked good in center. And with his speed and versatility and power, and Theo’s comment that he has the drive to be great, I think he may ultimately fall right behind Bryant in the rankings of Theo-drafted prospects. I see him as a player who could rival Zobrist in his prime.

  • There are half a dozen MLB center fielders that are better defensively than Almora. There are at least 20 that are worse. I have never understood the philosophy that, if someone is not the very best, he is therefore quite bad.

    Most center fielders can make the typical play, as Happ can. But the best center fielders are the ones that make the typical plays, AND make some of the difficult plays. That, as the scanty evidence shows, is the difference between Happ and Almora. One is "good". The other is "very good". The fact that there are a small handful that are even better than "very good" does not detract from Almora. I can't think of a Cub regular center fielder who was better than Almora is for quite a few decades.

    What it comes down to is, how much, and what kind of offense will each player contribute. It is quite possible that Happ will provide enough extra offense that he is more valuable in center field than Almora (assume that neither can play the corners). That is still to be determined.

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    Good follow up to your earlier column, Jared. There were fans who thought that Almora was under-utilized in the second half last year, including the post-season. Thoughts about that?

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    I was surprised by this. I like Happ better but because of his bat. Almora's defense has always been hyped and Happ had an early drop and both influence perception. I'll have to put fresh eyes on them next year. Now if there's a follow-up article about Schwarber's defensive numbers outdistancing both of theirs, i'm switching to cricket.

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