Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Today the Chicago Cubs introduced outfielder David DeJesus to the media, and the new Cub was both enthusiastic and complimentary.

“[The Cubs are] one of the most storied franchises in the game,” DeJesus said, adding that coming to the Cubs is “an opportunity you can’t beat.”

DeJesus thinks of himself as a reliable hard-worker, and hopes Cubs fans come to appreciate that. He knows fan and teammate support is not something to take for granted, and believes it’s up to him to play hard and earn that support.

“[I think of myself as] a guy that’s reliable. When my name is on the lineup sheet … [I’m] a guy that’s gonna come and play his best out there and give it 100%.”

DeJesus, who believes last year was not a reflection of his true ability, spoke of his approach when leading off, and how he views it as an opportunity to help the team in a number of ways.

“Leading off the game you want to see pitches for the guys behind you,” he said. “You want to see what the pitcher has that day …. My job is to set the tone of the game. Get on base anyhow, walks, hit by pitches, base hits preferably. Hustle and give life to the team.”

DeJesus addmitted that he didn’t know much about his new manager, Dale Sveum, so he turned to Wikipedia. I’m sure he was thinking Bleacher Nation, too, but didn’t want to destroy our servers with a mention. Wikipedia can handle the load.

All in all, DeJesus sounds like the kind of player who could challenge Mark DeRosa in terms of sheer (rational or irrational) likability – especially if he bounces back to his pre-2011 performance.

Speaking of which, over the past day, there have been a number of interesting takes on the DeJesus signing.

Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer is, obviously, a fan.

“We feel David’s a player that does a lot of things real well,” Hoyer said. “He hits right-handed pitching very well; he’s a strong defender in right field who runs the bases well. He doesn’t strike out. All those are areas we’re looking to improve on the club.”

Hoyer sees DeJesus as a bounce back candidate, and not a strict platoon player, despite his extreme platoon splits.

“We don’t see him as a platoon player. Does that mean he won’t get days off against tough lefties? I’m sure we’ll try to provide that support and flexibility for Dale [Sveum] but we’re not signing [DeJesus] as a platoon player …. One thing you try to do whenever you acquire players is have a broader lens than just the previous year. With David, he was one of the most sought after players in the trade market in 2010 before he hurt his thumb. We feel very good that he’ll come into Chicago and bounce back.”

The Hardball Times offers a saber-stacked take on DeJesus, concluding that, on the conservative side, he’ll be “worth” as much as $20 to $25 million over the next two years. That’s a lot for a guy the Cubs just got for $10 million. A sampling of their take on DeJesus’s “bad” 2011 season:

Let’s begin by looking at DeJesus and his contract. First off, he is coming off his second-worst year in the majors since his rookie season. He only batted .240/.323/.376 (.309 wOBA), which is what enabled the Cubs to sign him so cheap in the first place.

However, even with such a poor batting line, DeJesus was still worth +2.2 WAR last season. Thanks to strong outfield defense (career +6 UZR/150 defender in the corners) and above-average base running (as measured by UBR) abilities (this despite being a career 51-for-97 base stealer), DeJesus is still an above-average major league player when his bat disappoints and he only plays 130 of his team’s 162 games.

Accord to the world according to xBABIP, DeJesus was pretty unlucky with his balls in play in 2011. His .274 BABIP last year was a career low (by .015 points), and despite an uptick in strikeouts (17.0 percent compared to a career rate of 13.4 percent), DeJesus continued to drive the ball with authority (20.2 percent line drive rate). The result was an expected BABIP of .309, which was a full .035 points ahead of his actual results.

If we adjust DeJesus’ batting line to reflect his xBABIP-based “true talent” line, then we should have expected him to hit .268/.347/.388 (.735 OPS) last season. Using his career BABIP rate (.316) in lieu of xBABIP, we could have expected a marginally better batting line of .273/.352/.393 (.745 OPS).

On the flip side, ESPN’s Kristina Kahrl offers a more pessimistic take:

First, DeJesus had an awful 2011. You can blame that on the BABIP fairy if such is your inclination: He put up a career-low .274 average on balls in play, against his career average of .316. You can try to blame the always-tough Coliseum a little bit, although he had an equally miserable season on the road, with a .701 OPS away from Oakland against his .695 OPS at home. Whatever Oakland’s rep, he also wasn’t fouling out at a more prodigious rate.

What’s really troubling is that DeJesus was striking out at a career-worst 17 percent clip in 2011, more than three points worse than his next-worst campaign in the last six seasons. Dig into the data, and he was proving increasingly susceptible to off-speed stuff from right-handers when he wasn’t simply being owned by lefties. Maybe the Cubs see something they can fix, instead of just banking that $10-15 million on mere regression.

Second, DeJesus doesn’t actually walk that much. He’s patient, and he will be patient — for a Cub. He’ll be the walk-iest Cub this side of Geovany Soto, but his career walk rate of 8.3 percent is just a hair below the MLB average (8.5).

On the balance, I find the “bounce back” argument fairly compelling, and see value in DeJesus, defensively and on the base paths (not steals, mind you, but base running), that makes the signing a worthwhile go, even if you’re troubled by the down 2011 and the increased K rate.

And, to complete the Lebowski circle:

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