Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Posts Tagged ‘NL’

Wastin’ away a one-run lead again…

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 30, 2010

…searching for my absent run support
some people claim that it’s Piniella to blame
but I know it’s nobody’s fault

May 10th: Florida Marlins 4, Chicago Cubs 2 Ted Lilly: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 1 K
Plate Appearance 1 1st and 3rd 2 out groundout
Plate Appearance 2 bases loaded 2 out FC 2-unassisted
Plate Appearance 3 1st and 2nd 2 out strikeout swinging

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37, 38 and Koyie Hill

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 22, 2010

37-38.  That’s the Cubs’ record in 2010 against every team not named “Astros” or “Pirates.”  Against those two sorry-ass teams, the Cubs are 6-15. I’d been talking with one of the employees at my gym today about the Cubs’ struggles with the Pirates this year, and how getting a few of those back would have completely changed the dynamic of their season.  But it was Bleed Cubbie Blue‘s write-up of today’s disappointing defeat that actually pointed out the first number explicitly.  At worst, against the entirety of MLB excepting the two worst teams in the National League, the Cubs are .500.  And let’s make this clear again: that .500 mediocrity was accomplished with either Zombie Aramis or FonteBaker or Tracy at third base.  Just worth considering.

Mountains out of Mole(Hill)s

So on to today’s game.  Something happened today that I’d prefer not to see happen anymore: Koyie Hill started behind the plate.  Now, I understand the reasoning behind using a backup catcher in a day game after a night game that moved as slowly as Tuesday’s 14-7 thriller.  But Koyie Hill is no longer a viable backup catcher.  In the four plate appearances he made Wednesday against Houston, he found himself some alternate headgear in the form of a Golden Sombrero, only slightly less embarrassing than the little pink snack backpack that the most junior Cubs reliever brings to the pen each day.  Geovany Soto entered late as a replacement, and to what effect? A 2-run homer in the bottom of the 12th that left the Cubs just short of a potentially meaningful victory.

Through the 2009 season, Koyie Hill’s career was the very definition of replacement-level player, according to FanGraphs.  That is, they calculate his career WAR to have been 0.0 in 179 games and 539 plate appearances.  Between 2003 and 2009, Koyie Hill amassed almost exactly a full year’s worth of playing time, and he put up a .215/.286/.304 line with 104 hits (24 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers).  He struck out 143 times (26.5%) while walking 48 (8.9%, 7 intentional = 7.6% uBB). BaseballReference.com isn’t even as kind as FanGraphs, as BR calculates Hill’s career WAR (including 2010) at -1.5.  Only in 2009 has Koyie Hill been considered “above replacement level” by the advanced metrics.

Koyie Hill sucks.

He sucks on the order of Matt Walbeck, Brian Dorsett (note the 31-year-old with a succession of partial seasons in the bigs parallel), Sandy Martinez, Josh Paul, Rob Bowen…you get the point if you remember these guys, or if you don’t.  These are bad part-time backup catchers employed by the Cubs since 1990.  Not one of the good ones, like Steve Lake, Damon Berryhill/Joe Girardi, That Hector Villanueva Season, Henry Blanco, Tyler Houston, or Paul Bako.  No, Koyie Hill closely resembles those forebears who likewise had no verifiable claim to their status as a major leaguer.

Of course, in the past, the blame for the presence of such players wasn’t that big a deal.  Other than the organization totally missing on the homegrown Jose Molina after a few at bats, there weren’t catchers in the system until Geovany Soto wrested the position from all other contenders in the Piniella era.  This is no longer the case with Koyie Hill. The Cubs farm system is rife with catchers who, at the very least, project as legitimate MLB backups:

  • Welington Castillo (age 23, Iowa): .253/.314/.495, 53 G, 182 AB, 46 H, 12 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 16 BB, 42 K.  He threw out 44% of attempted base-stealers at Tennessee in 2009, but hit in the .230’s with 1 BB in every 6 games; his developing hitting skill might bring him back up the prospect ledge he fell off in the 2009 season.
  • Steve Clevenger (age 24, Tennessee): .272/.322/.346, 57 G, 162 AB, 45 H, 11 2B, 10 BB, 16 K. The lefty-hitting kid has a huge platoon split in this, his third go at the Southern League.  He was the odd man out of the Triple A competition in spring between himself, non-prospect Chris Robinson and Castillo.  He plays a little first, has a 30% CS in his MiLB career, and probably has plenty of chances left to move forward.
  • Robinson Chirinos (age 26, Tennessee): .319/.407/.597, 63 G, 216 AB, 69 H, 21 2B, 13 2B, 53 RBI, 32 BB, 26 K. Southern League Offensive Player of the Week as per MiLB. com, following an RBI hit in the SL ASG and a 7-15 week with a trio of longballs and 10 RBI. Long a languishing low-level infielder, Chirinos made the conversion from shortstop to catcher after the 2008 season at the suggestion of Cubs personnel executive Oneri Fleita.  More than just thriving defensively in his new position, Chirinos credits the move with the drastic offensive improvements of his game: “I have more of an idea of what the pitcher is trying to do when I’m hitting.” Early this year, Chirinos explained to Nick Gates the elaborate decision-making process he undertook in opting to switch positions:

“He thought it was more of a possibility I could play in the big leagues,” Chirinos said. “He told me to think about it and let me know. The next day I told him I was going to do it.

“So far so great. Now my hitting came back.”

  • Michael Brenly (age 23, Daytona): .303/.349/.394, 64 G, 231 AB, 70 H, 9 2B, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 14 BB, 35 K. A 36th round pick, Brenly wasn’t supposed to hit. His single on Wednesday against Charlotte extended his hitting streak, however, to 20 games.  He’s far from ready for the majors, but this 2008 addition to the organization looks on pace to surpass expectations.

So, in summary Koyie Hill sucks and, as much as I’d like to suggest that he not quit his day job, I can’t.  Because the last time he was working on his table saw, he cut off his freaking fingers.

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NL Central Injury Report

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 27, 2010

A few injuries and ailments are currently becoming big issues in the National League Central.  St. Louis has two starting pitchers out; Chicago has a trio of impaired third basemen and a pitcher with a mystery ailment; Cincinnati is becoming beleaguered across the field; Milwaukee says, “I’ll show you beleaguered;”  the Pirates have their fair share; and the last-place Astros thankfully are sneaking by with decent health. Read the rest of this entry »

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Punctuated Home Run Equilibrium: Part III

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 27, 2010

From Coming Home Through Expansion: Waves #2 and #3

This is the third in a multi-part series examining the history of home run rates in Major League Baseball. Inspired by my disagreement with J.C. Bradbury’s opinion on the importance of steroids in the rise in home runs over the last 15 years, this research attempts to look beyond statistical expectations.  Rather than providing explanations for changes in home run rate, this series hopes to provide the reader with causal relationships not drawn from correlation, but rather from actual events.  Part One introduced Mr. Bradbury‘s argument, as well as my initial concerns with the position.  Part Two explores the Roaring Twenties and the decade’s end, where we see that a small piece of large puzzle can explain what appears to be widespread instability.

Following a plummeting rate of home runs per game (HR/G) during World War II, the return of the stars and the subsequent evolution of the American way of life led to what appears as a dramatic spike in power at the big league level.  Today’s entry examines what history has to say not from a purely numerical level, but also from a historical examination.

To be perfectly clear, I am not attempting to weave a narrative in retrospect.  Rather, my argument is that the peaks and troughs throughout history are largely evolutionary and incidental, byproducts of other socio-historical factors endemic to the game or experienced by the players.  The ups and downs that appear as data points are functionally independent of one another.  Extremes either high or low have historically tended to correct, if not overcorrect, themselves from year to year.  We will see this a number of times in today’s article. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ex-Cub Watch #3: Of Milton and Miles

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 6, 2010

Miles

This picture actually captures the farthest that Aaron Miles has ever hit a ball from home plate on a fly since. He reached base on the swinging bunt.

I’m actually not going to write about Milton Bradley’s most recent struggles here.  I can respect a guy reaching out for help, even if it seems to be too late from the outside looking in.  Back in April, I went through Milton’s past experience and the ways in which things have generally turned sour.  ESPN has covered the story, so I’ll just provide a link and simply say that where the last part of the story could fall into afterschool special territory, we ought to think it’s pretty cool that a guy at the breaking point himself could do this:

Bradley stood before students and teachers at Lakeridge Elementary school in south Seattle and openly discussed what motivates him.

Now he and the M’s can hopefully get him healthy, for the first time not worrying about the calf strains and tight quads.

That being taken care of, let’s move on to the most interesting thing Aaron Miles has ever been involved with (even if it’s about 90% fiction): Read the rest of this entry »

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Looking at LOOGYs

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 5, 2010

James Russell - MiLB

Cubs rookie, loogy James Russell. I'd provide a better picture, but none exist. While there is no reason not to record a LOOGY for posterity, even in a digital age, photographers would hate to waste the film. At least that's what they tell the poor kids.

Today we’ll be taking a look at the LOOGY, one of the most specialized positions in MLB.

The LOOGY, for those who don’t know, is the Left-Handed One-Out Guy. He’s a relief pitcher who averages less than an inning per appearance and is expected to come in for a specific hitter or two in the late innings. Used correctly, he’ll have something like twice as many appearances as innings pitches. The only situations he’ll usually see are the crucial short-relief situations and the occasional mop-up duty where ERAs get blown up and any stat imaginable gets blown to hell. Which certainly makes any sort of analysis of a pitcher you can miss by blinking all the more fun a month in.

Let’s see who falls where.


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