# The Front Office is Seriously Smart and Other Bullets

In case you missed the late-arriving fresh podcast episode yesterday afternoon, here is your opportunity to un-miss it. We had PITCHf/x guru, and generally fun guy, Harry Pavlidis on the show with us, so it’s one you’ll want to take in.

• Jon Greenberg, after some laudable effort, remotely interviewed the Cubs’ new statistical and sabermetric genius Tom Tango, who has agreed to consult exclusively with the Cubs. You’re going to want to give that one a read, but here’s a sample answer from Tango, when asked why fans should be interested in advanced metrics: “What these metrics try to do is focus in on something specific, a subset of a player’s performance, and present that as a number …. So, with FIP, the focus is on those things a pitcher does that doesn’t involve his fielders (outside of an occasional Mike Trout-stealing HR). Therefore, we want to focus on walks, hit batters, strikeouts, and HR. It’s nice to see that Felix walks 7 percent of his batters and strikes out 23 percent and he doesn’t give up many home runs. But, we’d like to express all those different aspects as a single number, much like OBP and SLG are single numbers. The question therefore becomes how to combine, how to weight, walks and strikeouts and HR. It’s not as obvious as OBP and SLG. So, the FIP metric is suggesting that we need to weight the HR the most (13), the walk and hit batter next (3) and the strikeout the least (and in negative, at -2). If we just weight it like that, we’ll get a single number that properly encapsulates his non-fielder performance. But we still have a problem with the scale, since the number returned will be meaningless. We therefore turn it into an ERA-scaled number …. wOBA does the same thing in terms of trying to combine OBP and SLG into a single number, without the clumsiness and bad math of OPS.” Dude is smart. And the front office is smart for soliciting his input.
• FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron, via a chat yesterday, has generally had complimentary things to say about the Cubs’ moves at each turn this offseason, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that he thinks, among the “lower echelon teams,” the Cubs had the best offseason in baseball, behind only the Blue Jays. Of course, that doesn’t mean he thinks the Cubs will be competitive in 2013 (he also doesn’t think they’ll be terrible). He sees the Cubs being competitive in 2014, and says the Cubs have one of the best front offices in baseball (natch).
• Baseball Prospectus recently put together a piece about the “elite” tools (80 on the 20-80 scouting scale), and how extremely rare they must necessarily be. This year, only one Cubs prospect came up with an elite tool. Dan Vogelbach’s power? Nope. Roni Torreyes’ hit tool? No, no. It was Junior Lake’s arm, which is an almost unanimous 80. (In case you’re wondering, only one prospect name was mentioned as *possibly* having 80 power, and that was Miguel Sano.)
• Dave Kaplan previews the 2013 Draft and the possible Cubs picks (seems an odd January endeavor for the Kapman, but, hey, it’s something to read), and you’ll find the usual names profiled.
• Tim Baffoe says anyone who would keep Sammy Sosa out of the Cubs’ fold – the team, the fans – is being a hypocrite, given the nasty things for which people readily forgive other athletes.
• Pierce Johnson gets the Vine Line profile treatment, and I continue to think he’s an underrated prospect in the Cubs’ system. Sure, the forearm/elbow thing from early 2012 makes you a little nervous, but if it was truly a mere blip, this is a guy who could emerge as a legitimate top five prospect in the Cubs’ system by midseason.

#### Brett

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

### 47 responses to “The Front Office is Seriously Smart and Other Bullets”

1. Hey Bret any chance you’ll be going to (and covering) the SABRE analytics conference?
http://sabr.org/analytics

There’s a pretty spectacular line up of speakers (including Hoyer).

1. How awesome is Hoyer’s pose in that picture?

1. Haha, I noticed he’s the only one that isn’t just smiling at the camera.

2. Our front office’s single-minded brilliance in accomplishing whatever they set their mind to is simultaneously exciting and maddening. It’s great that they’ve put together or are well on their way to putting together the best front office, best farm system and best field in baseball. I wonder when they’ll get around to putting together the best team.

3. Baffoe is repetitious and full of himself, barfing stream of consciousness onto his keyboard.

But I agree with him about Sosa.

Bring Sammy back.

1. no way. he heavily abused steroids and he wanted to hit a HR every at-bat, no matter the in-game situation . He juiced man!

1. Yes, he did. So what. They all did. We enjoyed that they did. It was entertaining. They are entertainers, which is why they get paid like movie stars. You paid for unscripted athletic entertainment. You received it. Quit yer’ bitchin’.

Hey, here’s a secret. A lot of actresses in movies you’ve seen have fake boobs. Fine by me.

4. I’m saying it now. Cubs select Austin Wilson.

5. Can I just say that I consistently love hearing stats like wOBA and FIP explained well by intelligent, articulate people. But when it’s coming from a Cubs representative, I love hearing it.

6. I have long been more in line with the old school baseball stats such as Average, HR , RBI, Steals and such.

As an Idustrial Engineer, Metric are my life. There is nothing that I do at work without metrics, or some kind of mathmatical equation telling me to do it. I measure everything from time, manpower, processes to industrial tooling by way of managing Kaizen events and High power and thought provoking teams to make my company as lean as possible so we can get the most bang for our buck during operation. This sounds like exactly what the Cubs are doing. So from here on out, I am making an exerting effort to study and understand metrics from every point possible. Maybe I have just been lazy, or maybe I have just wanted to enjoy the game from a bird eye fans view. Being a fan of this team however, with the way they do business, the only way you can really keep up and understand is to study these team and try to get an understanding of them.

1. these “things” and try to get an understanding of them

2. The biggest thing for me about completely abandoning the .avg/rbi/hr is that I won’t be able to talk baseball with any of my friends anymore.

3. Actually, I think that it’s less “lazy” and more that you are an engineer. Engineers typically deal with straight up cause and effect: it’s very Newtonian, and the proximal causes often are the ultimate causes, too. Baseball is like biology: it is much sloppier, with both having a ton of proximal and distal causes to the patterns we see, and we are constantly working to tease those out. A run in baseball or a tremendous jaw strength both are the product of many things, and the question becomes: which things contribute most when we look at different examples?

Another example is the classic “five tools.” They are very much like that: all of them are amalgams of more specific athletic tools, with different proximal and distal causal tools underlying things like “good arm” or “good power” or (particularly) “good average.”

And, of course, “luck” probably is much more obvious to biologists than to engineers. One of the central tenants of biology is natural selection, which could be rephrased as “the most fit organisms need less luck to prosper.” But it’s always a crapshoot: just as the most wicked line drive can be caught with a stupendous lunging, leaping, diving effort, the most “fit” animals don’t do much when asteroids strike!

1. Correct Hansman. Cause and Effect is exactly that, Cause and Effect. The consequences of an action is simple to figure out when you take several observation of that action and you keep getting the same outcome.

In baseball, someone can have the same exact “stat’ when you look at the metrics, such as FIP, but then when you look ERA or WHIP or other stats, you get two totally different pitchers. One pitcher may have all-star caliber numbers and one pitcher may have “get DFA’d numbers.” That may be a little extreme, but you get the point. In other words, you can take several observation, and you will get several outcomes. So I have a hard time equating the two. Thats why I say maybe it’s laziness, because I have refused to look at the other numbers, I just take the typical numbers as it is what it is, and move on.

But to compare baseball metric with IE “metrics”, in both cases, there is always a deeper story under the surface then what appears to the naked eye. I am just now becoming interested in investigatin what under the surface of baseball stats. I would assume BleacherNation has a whole lot to do with that.

1. did you just confuse Doc with Hansman? So the question is which one have you insulted and which one have you praised

1. I’ll take the knowledge of stats, the job and brain power and be insulted by everything else.

2. I meant Doc. I think somebody stuck something inside of that Marlboro 72 I just smoked. Doc, Hansman, MichiganGoat, all yall names are starting to look alike.

2. Ha, I wish I was as smart as Doc. Thanks for the confusion though!

I would strongly recommend reading the Fangraphs.com Glossary. They give an excellent summary of many advanced stats.

1. agreed on Fangraphs glossary that is where I cut my teeth on the whole Sabermetric thang, the local college offered a class on baseball sabermetrics last year but the class was full before non-students could register hopefully I can take it this summer.

2. pah! My blushes! Hey, part of what I like about this group is that there are lots of bright people here. To stand what yield51 wrote on its head, it’s great that we can so casually toss about the “advanced” terms, and that people even stop to ask: wait a minute, what the heck is ∆ZxFIP* anyway?

(That’s new now, but it will be all the rage in 2015….)

1. TriangleZxFIP is just FIP with 30 pieces of flare.

It is nice that people don’t immediately start flaming when someone says, “I have no clue what XYZ is” but rather we just explain and point them to the source.

Kudos to Brett for creating that culture.

4. BluBud watch out if you study the advanced Sabermetrics you might just change you opinion of Tony Campana.

1. well, when you look at his wOBAs (wOBA with steals) he is valuable in that he is in the top 150 (i.e. 5 OF for each team) but it’s pretty dang low.

Interesting aside, Brett Jackson’s wOBA last year put him at 150 in the rankings of players with >100 PA.

1. I’ve never confused Campana as a star, just a guy who deserves a shot. But hey, at least I didn’t compare him to Lou Brock.

1. Yeah I’ll give you credit there Blu, the whole Lou Brock comparison was beyond ridiculous. But as Hansman points out there is no saber stat that supports Campana as getting any more of a chance than he has already been given.

7. Jim Callis posted an article today on BA where he created an All-Star team of NL prospects who did not make their team’s Top 10 lists, which includes Matt Szczur. Callis refers to this team as “players who have bright futures despite being left off our latest batch of NL Top 10s”.

Callis has always been higher on Szczur than most and the write up doesn’t provide anything we didn’t already know. But it’s also a good sign of the farm system’s depth when a player like this no longer makes the Top 10 list.

8. I think the Astros Draft Meadows # 1 and I think Stanek and Appel are both a little overrated. There are both maybe closer to MLB ready, but not stars IMO. So the Cubs should draft Austin Wilson, Clint Frazier or Kris Bryant, which ever the feel is better, then rack on on pitcher again in the next several rounds like they did last year. Pitchers at the top of the draft are shaky.

1. That’s pretty much how I see the draft going too, I prefer Frazier at this point.

9. Reading the interview w/ Tango, somehow I missed his description of the “eyeball” test…

10. Ugh. Can the season just start already? I freakin hate the month of February.

11. “Tim Baffoe says anyone who would keep Sammy Sosa out of the Cubs’ fold – the team, the fans – is being a hypocrite, given the nasty things for which people readily forgive other athletes.”

*cough* Ray Lewis *cough*

12. I agree with Brett. Don’t want to get overly excited as the kid hasn’t even pitched a full season of professional baseball but I think Pierce Johnson is going to be a star. I hope he rockets up the Cubs system.

13. Bruce Levine ‏@ESPNBruceLevine

Cub Vice president or Sales and Marketing Wally Hayward resigns to form new firm with the Ricketts family.

Whats Rickett’s family got up their sleeve?

14. I know this is off topic, but does anyone know what the ESPN Insider article “Red Sox and Cubs position to trade” is about? Is it about the possible Carpenter situation?

15. Thanks for highlighting the Tango interview. Really fascinating dude.

I continue to amazing that ESPNChicago.com employs the troika of Greenberg, Levine (old), and Rogers (hockey guy). You’d think a huge name like ESPN would want to put really good writers (see CSN, Mooney, the local beat guys Sully and Wittenmeyer, Carrie Muskat) out there. Instead, they employ men with are either snarky, elderly, or inexperienced. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering it is ESPN (as Mike North used to say the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network, I think I just undercut myself by quoting Mike North).

Anyway, Greenberg is part of the ESPN DB culture that seems to grow worse. From the Stephen A. Smith/Skip Bayless/Jay Mariotti guys to younger writers. It is hip to act stupid (his questions to Tango were embarrassing at times–like it is cool to not want to learn about the game). I think Cub fans are generally a very sharp bunch and don’t need Greenberg’s pseudo-stupidity or genuine stupidity speaking for us. His frat guy style is faded.

As CNN has now bought Bleacher Report with no real reason to believe that they will improve quality (except Rachel Nichols) where inexperienced writing is the norm, we are left with two things: Blogs and MSM.

THe mainstream media is still alive and kicking. But, they still aren;t timely.

So, I think, blogs are the future for most. Cubs fans have several good ones, but in reality you begin and stay here. There is a lot of other strong work (I won’t mention names here nor will I be a troll and slam the really bad ones–they exist) out there. Enjoy it.

Jon Greenberg wants to be Steve Rosenbloom. Not happening bro. Apologies for invoking Rosenbloom on Brett’s site.

1. I don’t read Muskat, Wittenmeyer, Sullivan or Rogers; I don’t think the local guys are really good. I get all of my Cubs info here, no need to go anywhere else.

1. Jim,

You are not wrong. Rogers often seems to simply speculate–not analyze. The Sun-Times sports section is not what it once was. Each has their strengths. Read Mooney at CSN. He’s the best.

And, yes, BRett is someone I read each day.

2. I wouldn’t confuse Rogers as a hockey guy; he was pretty awful at covering the Blackhawks as well. I agree, though. I find Greenberg to be so tiring and annoying. But, as you said, ESPN quality writing seems to be an oxymoron for the most part. Almost all of my Cubs news comes from reading BN anymore anyway.

16. So excited for opening day!

1. I think we all know which side of the rooftop argument you stand on since you think free advertisement should be had by all. If you really want to comment then add content.

17. Wow! Sabermetrics!

18. The overcompensation is drowning.

19. Sabermetrics are fun to dissect, but the real art is in “predicting” future performance. It is sometimes like looking at stock charts and trying to figure out where a stock price is going to go.