A Q&A with Dayn Perry….Part II

Yesterday the CCO ran part one of our Q&A with Dayn Perry. If you didn’t get the chance to see it, go read yesterday’s article for Dayn’s thoughts on Lou Piniella, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis….just to name a few.

Now, it’s time for part two…. Chicago Cubs Online: Was Derrek Lee’s MVP caliber season of 2005 a fluke, or do you think the Cubs can expect similar numbers in 2007?

Dayn Perry: I think it certainly was a career year, and I doubt we’ll see that level of production from him again. That said, he is a guy who can slug better than .500, get on base, pick it at first, run the bases and tally 75 extra-base hits or so. I don’t think Lee will ever repeat those 2005 numbers, but he is a very good player.

CCO: In one of your recent articles you mentioned Michael Barrett as one of the free agents for 2007. What do you think of Barrett and should the Cubs resign him?

DP: I was a bit of Michael Barrett agnostic for some time, but he’s really had a nice three-year run with the Cubs. He’ll be 31 when he hits the market, and while catchers tend to age more quickly than those at other positions, 31 isn’t terribly old. Considering there’s nothing at the catcher position in the minors, re-signing Barrett looks like a no-brainer.

CCO: The Cubs had a top 5 rated farm system 5 years ago, was the farm system overrated or did the Cubs overrate themselves? The Cubs did not trade that many prospects away but their prospects have made little to no impact at the major league level. Can you explain why?

DP: There’s never really a satisfactory answer to this question. Projecting minor leaguers is a wildly inexact science, and we’re wrong almost as often as we’re right. In Corey Patterson’s case, the organization rushed him, showed little patience with him once he did arrive, and then cut bait on him too soon (Patterson’s a useful player, and I think he’ll get better). In Bobby Hill’s case, he was just overrated. Juan Cruz just couldn’t harness any consistency. These things happen.

CCO: In your book, you mention terms such VORP, DER, FRAA, ISO and SNLVAR, among others. For those who have not yet read the book, can you explain any or all or these acronyms?

DP: I’ll make things easier on all of us and point everyone to the Baseball Prospectus Glossary. I will, however, highlight two of my favorite non-traditional stats. DER is Defensive Efficiency Rating. It measures how often a team converts a ball in play into an out. While home parks can influence DER to some degree, it does provide an excellent thumbnail glance at how effective a team’s defense is. ISO is Isolated Slugging Percentage or Isolated Power. It’s simply batting average subtracted from slugging percentage. An ISO of more than, say, .220 means that a hitter is flashing lots of raw power. It’s one of my favorite stats to look at when evaluating a minor league hitter.

CCO: Traditional stats have been replaced by stats that tell more accurately the ability of the player. What stat do you feel is the most important, offensively, for a position player? How about for a pitcher?

DP: There’s not a magic bullet, and I don’t often rely on the newer metrics when doing routine analysis. For hitters, I think you can do pretty well by looking at plate appearances in tandem with the Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage line while making qualitative adjustments for home park, quality of opposition and the position he plays (i.e., first basemen have a much higher offensive bar than shortstops do).

For pitchers, runs-per-game is a good place to start (while again taking home park and defense into account). ERA is fairly nonsensical because it rewards pitchers for having errors made behind them while penalizing pitchers who have fielders with bad range playing behind them. Beyond runs, I like to look at strikeout-to-walk ratio, home-run rate, groundball-fly ball ratio and more detailed scouting info (such as how well he’s spotting his slider against the opposite side and that sort of thing).

CCO: Finally, how do you see the Cubs performing in the upcoming season? Any predictions for finishing order in the Central?

DP: The Central, once again, is going to be notably weak. The Cardinals have serious rotation issues and weren’t a great team to begin with. The Astros are going to be without Andy Pettitte and (most likely) Roger Clemens, and they’ll have one of the worst outfield defenses in recent memory. The Reds have no pitching, and the Pirates are the Pirates. Without peering too deeply, here’s my ridiculously early prediction for the Central:

1 – Cardinals, 2 – Brewers, 3 – Cubs, 4 – Astros, 5 – Reds, 6 – Pirates

The Cubs certainly have a puncher’s chance, mostly because the division is so weak. The annual refrain is that “if Prior can stay healthy enough to pitch x number of innings,” and that’s once again the case. The lineup is heavily right-handed, and they have OBP concerns; however, they will put runs on the board. They have three primary trouble spots: the rotation behind Zambrano, offensive production from the middle infield and team defense. Those are serious flaws, but, again, this is the NL Central. If nothing else, we should have a close raise with the division champ winning fewer than 85 games.

The CCO had fun with this one. Hopefully you liked reading it as much as we liked putting it together.

If you’re interested in a serious look at how baseball teams become the best, pick up Dayn’s book, Winners. It identifies and examines the elements of the game with a logical (and more importantly, understandable) approach.