Several of the traditional baseball stats can no longer tell the entire story about a player’s production … and that was the theme for Stats Sunday with Len Kasper, Jim Deshaies and Bob Vorwald. Len Kasper introduced Stats Sunday to the Cubs’ broadcasts last season and brought non-traditional statistics to Cubs’ broadcasts. Baseball is a numbers game, and always will be. In recent years more advanced statistics have been developed that are slowly replacing those stat lines found on the back of baseball cards.
The final session of the 28th Annual Cubs Convention took a look at the “new” statistics in the game and how they can be used to evaluate a player.
One quick note before delving into Stats Sunday … Jim Deshaies is extremely knowledgeable and entertaining. Deshaies has a transparent passion for the game and he was very interesting to listen to throughout the weekend. Len and JD appear to already be on the same page and the chemistry between the two was rather surprising. If last weekend was any indication, the Cubs broadcasts will not skip a beat and could actually take a step forward.
Stats Sunday is not a part of the Cubs or the Cubs Way but is about statistics that now exist in the game. Jim Deshaies pointed out that he never knows how deep to go with all of the numbers that are now in the game. As Len Kasper said, “Batting average, home runs and RBI tell very little about a player.”
Both JD and Len agreed Earl Weaver was way ahead of his time. Weaver is seen as the first sabermetric manager. He did not like giving away outs and cherished all 27 in a game. Deshaies said that is what the game is about, preserving outs and taking bases. Runs and RBI are factors of opportunity and many overvalue RBI according to Deshaies.
Len and JD both think that batting average could be removed from a player’s slash line but as it exists now, a slash line is considered to be BA/OBP/SLG. Many add OPS as the fourth stat in the series. OPS is a combination of on-base percentage and slugging percentage (OBP+SLG) … and that is one of Dale Sveum’s favorite stats to judge a hitter.
Len and JD said it is important to take a look at how much the game has changed. The league averages for batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage and ERA have changed quite a bit over the last 12 years. During the 2000 season, the league averages were: .270 (batting average), .437 (slugging percentage), .345 (on base percentage) and 4.76 (earned runs average). Last season the league averages were: .255, .405, .319 and 4.01 … and .724 was the league average for OPS.
As for the pitching side, WHIP is a good quick and dirty stat to see how a pitcher is performing. A pitchers with a 1.00 WHIP is an All-Star while a pitcher with a 1.75 WHIP is likely not in the big leagues for long. Len Kasper explained the importance of FIP (fielding independent pitching) and explained that the stat is formatted like ERA but it represents what a pitcher can control outside of his defense.
BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is used for both hitters and pitchers.
Len and JD stressed to take a look at all of the numbers that are now available (OPS+, ERA+ and UZR just to name a few) and just don’t rely on the traditional stats because that is what you know.
Jed Hoyer said earlier in the weekend that there are people doing interesting work on quantifying defense and Len Kasper thinks that fielding stats is the next frontier. But he feels in order to know exactly how good or bad a player is in the field, you have to combine what you see with the numbers … and just don’t rely on one or the other.
Dave McKay brought up during the Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff session on Saturday that he thought Alfonso Soriano should have won a Gold Glove award this past season because he was the best defensive left fielder in the National League … numbers wise. Kasper agreed and said that Soriano was off the charts defensively last year.
As for earned run average, Kasper thinks they should just drop the ‘E’ and make it ‘RA’ because pitching and defense is all about run prevention and the runs allowed should not matter whether or not an error was committed, for example, that led to a six-run inning. As Len pointed out, there is a lot of luck in baseball that cannot be quantified but there are people working to figure out ways to quantify as much as possible.
Len and JD were asked about what type of player they would rather have hitting leadoff … a speed guy, like Tony Campana, or an on base guy. Deshaies would rather have an OBP guy and Len is the same. Kasper pointed out he really like David DeJesus hitting at the top of the Cubs’ lineup because he gets on base.
Darwin Barney has a lot of value due to his defense. Kasper pointed out that while Barney needs to work on his offense, he brings a lot to the table defensively … and don’t think that the Cubs and other teams are not aware of it. Kasper said he looked at all of Barney’s defensive numbers very closely and he truly deserved to win the Gold Glove.
Kasper was unaware until recently that the Cub now have three of the top starting pitchers in terms of velocity in their rotation … Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson, plus Jackson has that “swing and miss slider.”
Len and JD are also hoping to bring run expectancy to the broadcasts this year.
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Baseball is the same game it as always been, there are just many more ways to evaluate a player’s performance now. But as Jim Deshaies said in order to be thorough, keep one eye on the player and one eye on his stats.