Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Current Work in Progress

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 27, 2010

Sure, “work in progress” could be a euphemistic descriptor for the 2010 Cubs season.  As long as it was combined with “and trainwreck,” it would be well-suited for the job.  But the title is primarily meant to describe a bit of stat-wrangling I’m doing with Ted Lilly’s 2010.

A Little Help, Please…

Lilly’s 2010 has been characterized by a complete and utter lack of run support.  In Lilly’s 18 starts (16 in NL parks), the Cubs have been outscored 84-49, or by an average score of 4.67 to 2.72.  The average score when Lilly departs the game, however, is a 2.99-1.67 deficit.  Lilly’s 3-8 record is comparable to the team’s overall 7-11 record in his starts.  However, the Cubs have only been trailing when Lilly left the game 8 times.  The team has yet to “pick him up,” or save him from a so-called ‘tough loss.’  By the same token, he has left in a tie game 5 times (twice scoreless), and the Cubs have managed to go 3-2 in such games.  That gives us a 6-10 team mark, leaving two starts unaccounted for.  In each of these, he left with a 2-1 lead.  Twice, the bullpen blew the lead, and once did the team come back to win.  There we have it: 7-11 team record in Lilly starts.

Helping Those Who Help Themselves…

Now, amassing those numbers has been quite simple.  The analysis is straightforward.  That’s in the can.  But what specifically interests me is Ted Lilly’s contribution as a National League pitcher.  In his two starts in AL ballparks (@TEX on 5/21 and @SEA on 6/24) the Cubs lost 2-1 and won 3-2.  He has made 16 starts, now, in National League stadiums.  That means that 16 times, Lou Piniella has had to pencil Lilly’s name into the 9th spot in the batting order.  He has 36 plate appearances, or 2.25 per start.  He’s 1-31 on the year with a HBP, 2 BB, and 2 sacrifices.  Even for a pitcher, that’s pretty sorry.  Not everyone can be Carlos Zambrano or Dan Haren, but asking for better than a .038 (or 10% of Giants rookie C/1B Buster Posey’s batting average) is not excessive.

A poor-hitting pitcher, however, can’t cause too much harm, right?  Well, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.  Lilly’s strikeout rate is 47% of plate appearances, while his OBA is .118.  Less than 1/8 of the time can Ted Lilly reach base.  So my line of inquiry has me looking at the particulars of each Ted Lilly plate appearance.  Through complete play-by-plays, I’m looking at how many times he’s potentially killed a rally, made a third out, or otherwise been negatively impactful.

Ryan Dempster is a career .099 hitter, but is known for his ability as a bunter.  He is 12 for 15 in sacrifice attempts this season and 70 for 94 in his career (in addition to 5 bunt hits), for a success rate a bit above league average.  Lilly, meanwhile, is just 2 for 2 in 2010 and possesses a slightly higher career batting average.

Is Ted Lilly, who looks absolutely lost at the plate, killing himself and the team?  Or is he the least of his own worries in regards to the complete and utter lack of run support?  It’s that question I’m currently working on, and hopefully I’ll have my results and analysis ready to post on Thursday some time.  Until then, hope for his sake that he gets traded to the American League.  Stop Ted Lilly before he kills another rally.


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