The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

In re: suck

Andy Dolan wrote this thing about why the Cubs suck this year. And, I mean, he’s not wrong: the team pretty much is an unwatchable mess. There are two main reasons for this: Derrek Lee is not hitting, and Aramis Ramirez is not hitting. That’s really it. The pitching’s been really, really good — Dempster, Lilly, and Gorzelanny have all been excellent, and I guess you’ve heard how good Carlos Silva is — but they don’t have a lot of almighty Ws because they get no run support. The team ERA+? 111. The team OPS+? 8fucking9. Do you see? And about that OPS+… well. Soriano, Soto, Fukudome, Byrd, and especially Tyler Colvin have all been really good this year. It’s just Lee and Ramirez pulling the team down, really (well, and the gnome patrol in the middle infield, but nobody thought they’d be any good in the first place).

But Andy doesn’t seem to have spotted that. Instead, he’s on the crazy train writing nonsense words about platoon splits and BA with runners in scoring position. Here’s my beef with Andy’s beef:

Ryan Theriot – Why does he suck? In 265 at bats he has SIX extra base hits. Six. His slugging average for the season is .302.

Yeah, the Riot’s pretty fucking bad. No argument here. He may be cajun, just like his teammates Mike Fontenot and Gambit, but .322 OBP ain’t gonna cut it with the complete lack of power.

Nobody thinks that he should be playing shortstop anymore, especially now that we’ve been reminded what a real shortstop looks like, but check out Theriot’s splits.

As a shortstop: .341 ba, .374 oba, .390 slg, .764 ops

As a second baseman: .221/.264/.229/.492

Watch your sample size, there, Andy. It’s like 150 PA, which isn’t enough to conclude that there’s something magical about second base that ruins Theriot’s hitting ability. Especially when you consider 2007:

As a shortstop: .253 / .312 / .325 / .637
As a second baseman: .272 / .325 / .360 / .685

Kind of makes the numbers he put up at short — which was all at the very beginning of the season in one consecutive chunk — look more like he was on a hot streak than it does like he’s just better at hitting that way, doesn’t it.

E-ramis Ramirez: Seriously. I mean, what the fuck? In six full seasons with the Cubs, E-ramis had only put up a sub .900 OPS once, two years ago, and even then it was .898. This year? It’s .517.

Yeah, no argument here. Dude’s been brutal. His OPS+ has never been below 126 with the Cubs — which is really fucking good — and this year it’s 34. Which is really fucking bad. Lack of a 3B is the main reason the Cubs are awful. Fangraphs’ weirdo free agent dollar value metric shows that Ramirez should be paying the Cubs $4.1 million this year, which is pretty funny.

Derrek Lee: In six full seasons with the Cubs, Lee’s OPS is .909. Not this year, it’s .729.

Yeah, he’s also been rough this year. Not getting on base or hitting for power. He may be trending upward, though; his June numbers are better than his April and May.

If he doesn’t start hitting, nobody’s going to want to trade for him at the deadline. But here’s the thing. He doesn’t want to go anywhere. The Cubs aren’t bringing him back next season. They have to get a lefty bat at first base. So wouldn’t he want to go someplace else? Is it because he already has a World Series ring, so he doesn’t care if he has a shot at another?

Here’s where I start having a problem with this article. It’s no secret that I have a giant gay man-crush on Derrek Lee, and this bit rubs me the wrong way. I also get really annoyed when people are stupid about baseball, so it loses points there, too.

First, let’s blow off the idiotic argument about Derrek Lee "not caring" if he wins or not. My first piece of evidence is: fuck you. Let’s just leave it as assumed that that’s my second and third pieces also. Now let’s think for a minute — with our brains, you understand — and see if we can come up with some reason why Derrek wouldn’t want to be traded other than "he doesn’t want to win," which, I guess, would also make Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, who play for a much worse team in the same division, and who both stated that they’d like to stay with their team even though it’s losing, complete shitshacks. Maybe Derrek really likes playing for the Cubs. Could that be it? Could it be that Derrek and Lance and Roy all like the organisations they work for, and their teammates, and their fans, and don’t really want to leave? Maybe they do want to win, but what they really want is to win as Cubs (or Astros where applicable). Come on, Andy. Use your thinks.

Now. About platoon splits. I’m not sure there’s any concept in modern baseball as overvalued and misunderstood as platoon splits. The Cubs "have to get a lefty bat at first base?" Why? You don’t get like extra bonus win credit at the end of the season if you have a perfectly even number of right- and left-handed hitters. Here, as near as I can tell, is Andy Dolan’s list of criteria to be used when selecting a first baseman:

1) Platoon split (hint: left-handed)
2) Desire to play for some other team (more is better)
3) Heart
4) Grit
5) Hustle
6) Better not make any fucking errors

Quick, Cubs! Dump this loser and give Darin Erstad a call! He’s a lefty, he’s world-renowned for his heart, grit, and hustle, he made zero errors in 2009, and he has so little desire to play for the Cubs that he retired last week instead. Sure, he hasn’t had an OPS+ even approaching 100 since 2004, but that shit don’t matter. Lefty. Sign him!

Come on. As I and everybody who knows anything about anything could tell you, having a first baseman who hits left-handed is way, way less important than having a first baseman who hits really well. Now, I know Derrek’s been shitty so far this year, but here’s his 2009 line:

.306 / .393 / .579 / .972, 145 OPS+

You really think the Cubs should dump that shit just because he’s right-handed? That’s stupid. That’s so stupid they’ll almost definitely do it.

Oh, and, incidentally. Last year D-Lee sucked until the end of May, and then got ridiculously hot for the rest of the year and ended up posting great stuff. His september/october split of .367 / .482 / .744 / .1226 is looney-tunes.

Kosuke Fukudome: I’m not even going to bore you with another example of how his numbers tank month to month every year.

Good, because you’d be wrong. People really want to believe that, and it’s just not true.

Kosuke Fukudome, July 2009: .307 / .392 / .534 / .926
Kosuke Fukudome, August 2009: .287 / .398 / .506 / .904

That’s pretty fucking good. Yeah, he sucked on ice in June last year, and he sucks again in June this year. But those July and August numbers are awesome any way you slice it.

Alfonso Soriano: June: 6-43 (.140), 13 K’s.

Alfonso Soriano: May: .308 / .376 / .626 (!) / 1.003

Also, since you wrote this article four days ago, Soriano’s monthly BA has come up to .232. Which should give you some idea of why batting average is an intensely stupid stat to use to analyse small samples of data.

Geovany Soto: He’s rebounded from a disastrous 2009, but how can guy with a solid batting average and good OPS only drive in 17 runs? Well, just go 4-32 (.125) with runners in scoring position. That’s how. He has seven homers, so in 187 plate appearances he’s driven in anybody but himself ten times.

What? Fuck right off with your idiotic "batting average with runners in scoring position" preschool stat. That’s awful. 32 PA? That’s it? That’s your whole sample size? That’s terrible use of statistics.

Here’s a better answer for people more interested in correctness than in cherry-picking: Geovany Soto has had 90% of his plate appearances batting either seventh or eighth in a lineup where nobody — least of all the dudes hitting immediately in front of him — ever gets the fuck on base. Andy, seriously; did you not notice when you were picking your cherries there that he’s only had 32 PA with RISP? 32. That’s it. The Chicago Cubs have a team OBP of only .326, and that’s including Soto’s own awesome .405. Without him it’s something a good deal lower, and that’s the kind of on-base ability you’re expecting him to be driving in.

Starlin Castro: Let’s get the provisos out of the way. He’s the youngest player in baseball. He plays hard and he’s got a lot of talent. But nine errors in 39 games? Holy shit. But hey’s he’s only third in the league at errors at short. He’s also the only one in the top five who spent the first five weeks of the season in the minors.

Everybody knows that I think pitching wins is the worst stat in baseball. Unless it’s saves. Well, let me just tell you: as soon as the science of fielding catches up with pitching and hitting, errors will dethrone wins and saves in a heartbeat. Errors is an incredibly stupid stat that effectively punishes people for being better at defense.

Let me explain this. Wins are complete bullshit, but there is a set of objective criteria. Saves are the same. But errors? Errors are fucking judged. The official scorer hands them out as he sees fit according to what his guts and intestines tell him about the game. He decides if you "should have" been able to make a play, assuming "ordinary effort." And he has to do this in near-real-time, with no access to meaningful data.

Nobody ever gets an error for not being able to get to a ball, which is why, when the gnome patrol was playing up the middle, you’d see sinkerballer Carlos Zambrano getting lit up even though he seemed to have good stuff; you’d get base hit after base hit right up the middle because neither of the cajun fried shrimp could get to them. But did they get errors for all of those missed balls? No they did not. Castro has a lot more range at short, and gets to a lot more balls, which is a good thing, but which increases the number of errors he’s liable to get.

Another stupid thing about errors. If Castro runs deep to his left and stabs at a hard bouncer and it tips off his glove over into shallow right and the runner gets in to first safely, it’s probably an error. If he doesn’t reach the ball at all and it rolls into center allowing the runner to get in to first safely, it’s a single.

In conclusion: errors are for criminals and nitwits. Fangraphs has Castro at 2.3 UZR so far this year, and, as you say, he spent the first five weeks in the minors. In those five weeks, Theriot was good for -3.4 UZR.

Tyler Colvin: There’s not a lot not to like about Colvin. He’s put up good numbers and done it long enough now that it doesn’t seem like a complete fluke. He’s even not as terrible against lefty pitching as we feared (.261 average, .726 ops), and he crushes righties (.315, 1.039). But one thing that has to change. In 112 at bats he’s struck out a whopping 35 times. That’s 31 percent of the time. Just wait until the Cubs sign Adam Dunn next season and these two bat back-to-back.

Here’s the thing about batter strikeouts:

Who cares.

Colvin’s OBP is .351. That’s plenty enough to prop up his comical .612 SLG. He is not making too many outs, and it really, really doesn’t matter how his outs get made. Strikeouts are only very slightly worse than fly outs, but they’re slightly better than ground outs, and, in all honesty, it pretty much evens out in the end.

You know who never strikes out? Juan Pierre. You want to do this? Colvin for Pierre, straight up?

Carlos Zambrano: His good start Sunday will help, but before that he was 2-4 as a starter with a 6.23 ERA. As a reliever he was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA. The move of sending him to the bullpen was asinine, but honestly, he’s sucked most of the year regardless of when they’ve used him.

His FIP is 3.96. The shitty defense in the middle infield has fucking killed him this year. His two-seamer and curve — the two pitches that result in all those groundballs — are way down. The rest of his pitches are just as good if not better than they’ve been. No, man, Z’s problem is mostly defense.

The rest of it’s some crap about the bullpen, mostly using ERA to evaluate dudes like Bob Howry who’ve thrown nine innings so far, which is useless (the short truth on Howry: walk rate is too high [to the tune of 3.9 BB/9], and K rate is way, way too low [2.9 K/9], but it’s been nine innings and that ain’t enough to get anything meaningful out of).

June 24th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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