The Cubs and Stats Sunday

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.

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  • John_CC

    Good stuff, Neil. Thanks.

    Look at the J-Up deal! Braves are stacked, it’s what you can do when you load up your system AND develop your pitchers. Man, that’s a huge deal.

    • gary3411

      Braves got a good deal no doubt didn’t lose one can’t-miss prospect in it, but in all honesty if you look at the stats talked about above in this article, Martin Prado has been just as valuable as Upton (obviously Upton has a much higher ceiling) in recent years while being so much more versatile defensively. I don’t expect this to really give the Braves any great step toward the Reds or Dodgers in the NL in 2013.

      • John_CC

        Having an OF with both under 25 year olds Heyward and Upton is pretty sweet. I like Prado, but he really doesn’t compare to Upton’s impact potential.

  • gary3411

    What numbers is Dave Mckay looking at on Soriano?

    defensive WAR of -1.2 and a below average range factor

    He must be looking at fielding percentage only, which is pretty irrelevent for a left fielder.

    Soriano improved a good deal don’t get me wrong, but if McKay honestly believes Soriano should have won a gold glove then go ahead and give one to Dayan Viciedo and Delmon Young as well. He had to just be talking positive; no way he actually believes that. The range is still sooo poor.

  • daverj

    DBacks placed Lars Anderson on waivers after the Upton deal. Cubs have very high waiver priority and I’d like to see them pick him up to play 1B at AAA. He still has a chance to be a decent big leaguer. I’d prefer him to Campana, Rusin and Clevenger on the 40 man.

  • Aaron

    obviously this is just speculation, but given Sappelt’s recent Twitter comments in the bar, I believe he’s the one that is being DFA’d….just pure speculation though

    • DWalker

      that or part of a trade. Odds are its something though.

    • Tony_Hall

      Not so sure about that. Jed said that he was monitoring every tweet made by all players in the system. That is what Sappelt meant by his text.

      • Aaron

        If you look at it again, you’ll see he has the hashtag “changes”…..I am not sure he would post something like that if it’s just getting rid of his Twitter…just saying

        • brent carmona

          Good point Aaron, that is pretty telling…would be surprised they dfa him, since they traded for him. But maybe its a good thing, theo and crew are willing to make calls like that instead of hanging on to them to save face

        • Tony_Hall

          If you are going by hashtags then look at them all.

          RT @SappySappelt6: like going to court you dont want to incarcerate yourself

          #ikeepit100 – ? 100% effort

          #gottalaylow – sounds like he was told to back off on twitter

          #changes – changes to the twitter policy


          #grindmodeabout – I would assume this means he is working hard for the season.

          #TwitterOff – turning twitter off

          #BEBACKAPRIL – sounds like he will be back

          So, I don’t read all of the info and think he is gone at all. But Changes could mean that…

    • daverj

      I think Sappelt is staying put with the Cubs. Now, Campana on the other hand …

  • paulcatanese

    Listening to Len and Bob last year on “stats sunday’s” had to be the most boring description of baseball I have ever heard. Now more of it this year? Not my cup of tea.
    Prefer the “eye test” when my favorite ballplayer strikes
    out with the bases loaded to end the game, instead of knowing that it will happen before he steps into the box.
    Bad enough the bum strikes out, I have to listen to how and why.
    By the way, will “Global warming” keep destroying the grass at Wrigley? Or has anyone plugged it into their computer to tell them it’s all the extra events that does the damage?

    • Scott McMeekan

      Gentlemen! I have been woefully inadequate in following the Cubs moves via the CCO. Neil, love the new look of the site, great job.
      Paul, I had to chuckle at your comments. I appreciate your perspective, as I believe that there i still a ‘gut feel’ that is part of the toolbox that is ‘sabremetrics’. However, the old adage that ‘numbers don’t lie’ has gained serious traction in this day and age, and I have to agree that statistical analysis of the new acronyms is critically important. In listening to Len and Jim’s analysis it’s clear that the entire Cubs organization has been turned upside down. Think about it: what used to be Harry swilling beer with an offhand comment by Stoney (that usually had great merit, but was overshadowed) has now been replaced by critical analysis. That can’t be a bad thing.

  • Tom U

    Luis Valbuena was 1-4, HR, as Lara beats Magallanes 3-0 in VWL, tying the championship series at 1-1.

    The home run for Valbuena is his third of the Post- Season, and his ninth overall this winter.

    • Tony_Hall

      Just think, if he wasn’t already on our roster, we would have people asking about this guy named Valbuena that could fill our 3B hole…..