# How Much Are the RISP Woes Dragging the Cubs Down? and Other Bullets

Today’s another travel day for me, but you hopefully won’t notice, as there should be relatively normal posting today.

• Here’s a thought experiment about the Cubs’ woes with runners in scoring position. I haven’t run the numbers in any formal sense, so I’m open to – and interested in – any mathematical corrections/thoughts/applications/etc. in the comments. I’m just thinking through this very simplistically. The Cubs have just 44 hits in 243 collective at bats with runners in scoring position, netting a .181 batting average, by far the worst in baseball. I wondered: if that number was, instead, the same as their overall team batting average – .238 (which is dragged down by the former number, but whatever) – how many more runs would they have scored this year? And how many more games might they have won? Well, a .238 average in those 243 at bats is about 58 hits. The Cubs have scored 63 runs on their 44 hits with RISP, or about 1.43 runs per hit with RISP. Translating that to 58 hits yields about 83 runs, an increase of 20 runs. 10 runs is generally considered an additional win, though given the extreme number of close losses the Cubs have suffered, I can help but suspect – again, I’m not doing a whole lot of math here – that those 20 additional runs could easily have turned three of four losses into wins. Suddenly, the 11-20 Cubs are 15-16. And that’s at a mere .238 average with RISP. It’s fair to ask: are the Cubs really as bad as we think they are? Or just unlucky?
• Edwin Jackson feels like he threw a better game yesterday than the previous time out, in which he was blasted by the Padres. ”I had a different mind frame today,” Jackson said, per Cubs.com. “I felt I could go out and throw strikes and challenge the hitters, and we did that for the most part. They came out in the fourth inning and strung together a few timely hits where there were balls down the line or finding holes in the infield, and they were able to get people on base and score.” In a piece forthcoming later this morning, I dig into Jackson’s season, and I think his comments here are pretty prescient.
• Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio on Carlos Marmol’s problems, per Carrie Muskat: “He thinks that guys are going to swing at every pitch out of his hand, and he tries to make every pitch a two-strike pitch and that’s part of the problem. He tries to bury the pitch and overthrow the pitch. He needs to back off. A lot of times, doing too much can be a deterrent. You’re not relaxed, you’re not getting the spin on the ball, you’re not working over the top of the ball, you’re working under the ball. Get him to relax and get him to where he was the second half of last year. That’s where we all want him to be and that’s where he wants to be.” It would simultaneously be encouraging and discouraging to know that the root of Marmol’s issues are in his mental approach.
• Tony Andracki at CSN notes how demoralizing the Cubs’ series of losses has been, and how down Dale Sveum seems to feel at this point.
• As Luke mentioned in the Minor League Daily this morning, Kyuji Fujikawa pitched a successful inning with Iowa last night, and it’s fair to wonder, because of the roster implications, if the Cubs will activate him sooner rather than later. That is to say, if the Cubs activate Fujikawa today and release/outright Kameron Loe, for example, then they would not have to waive/outright Dave Sappelt to make room on the 40-man roster for Ryan Sweeney. Sappelt could merely be optioned, and there would be no risk of losing him in the waiver process (assuming there’s any risk there anyway).
• Speaking of rehabbing pitchers at Iowa, Matt Garza’s second rehab assignment is scheduled for this afternoon’s game at Iowa.

#### 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.

### 81 responses to “How Much Are the RISP Woes Dragging the Cubs Down? and Other Bullets”

1. I think thats part of the reason why the cubs lose so many games.They dont hit with people on base.

2. It’s the Cubs. Everyone clears waivers.

1. Dang you beat me to it.

2. Robert Whitenack didn’t, and is currently stashed in the Indians organization

1. Yeah and Whitenack’s era is *.**. Do you know what that means?😃👎. It means his era is undetermined because the one game he has gotten into he didn’t record an out. He went 0.0 innings, gave up 3 hits, a walk, to the tune of 4 earned runs. Sounds like the wahoos should’ve let him clear waivers too.

2. Actually, the Indians DFA’d Whitenack 6 days after they claimed him, and he cleared waivers for them, so it still fits.

3. I hope Bosio is stressing to Marmol that for weeks now, and probably for weeks to come, nobody is swinging at any of his pitches, ever.

4. theres gotta be better option than camp and loe out of the pen. rusin? mcnutt? anybody!

5. Marmol’s a converted catcher, “taught” to pitch by a Cub system that didn’t even teach its pitching prospects how to pitch. I think what’ he’s accomplished at the big league level is pretty remarkable considering that. I mean, minus this year……

1. Its really more than just this year, the first half of last year was similar. He really just had that one amazing season when he’d strike out everyone he faced, then teams realized – JUST DON’T SWING. His slider is nasty and when he was new batters were fooled by its late “off the table and into the next room” break, now everybody knows he can only throw the fastball for strikes (and even that is questionable) so if you’re a batter and you see any spin on the ball you don’t swing and look dead red for a fastball. Any MLB batter will be successful if all they are looking for is a fastball and all other pitches are clearly a ball.

6. If I were the Cubs GM, I would push to trade Dejesus right now. He is having a very solid year, and it may be his best all-around season of his career. Not going to a better prospect then if you pull the trigger right now.

Then, your out field of Sori, Sweeny and Schierholtz, with Hairston and Borbon on the bench. On the infield, I would

On the infield, I would also trade Vabuena. His value will never be this high again. Ransom is doind a decent job right now, but we all know that will fade. For now, if we trade Valbuena, we can promote Stewart, and see how he performs. If Ransom and Stewart doesn’t perform, then we can waive Ransom and demote Stewart to the bench..

Our IF would be Vitters, Castro, Barney and Rizzo, with Watkins and Stewart coming off the Bench.

This is what I see.

1. What do you think we could get in return for Valbuena? I don’t think it would be much. I just don’t think he has value outside of the cubs organization. I think he’s a good player, but I don’t see him of overly great trade value. Why not just drop Ransom and bring up Stewart or just let both of them go IMO. Obviously Stewart is nowhere even close so why mess with it. I don’t see Valbuena bringing in a prospect with better talent than he currently provides the organization.

1. Agreed I’d rather ride Valbuena & Ransom until they loses all their value, we have absolutely nothing behind them on 3B right now and won’t get anything but minor league depth for either of them. The best hope would be for them to continue to surge into the June/July and possibly for the rest of the year that would increase their trade value which will still be nothing of significance. They could be part of a package but alone they have as much value as Barney.

2. As much as I have been down on Valbuena, trading him at this point would be counter productive. Vitters isn’t ready, and he may not be ready til next year, if ever. He may just be a utility player. Ransom, well, we all know he will fade quickly, but it is nice that he is having a decent run of it since the Cubs picked him up.

I do agree with the trading of Dejesus. As much as I would hate to see him go, he is good trade bait in a crowded outfield.

As big of a supporter as I have been of Ian Stewart since the Cubs traded for him, I’ve lost all confidence and wouldn’t care if he stayed at Iowa for the rest of the year.

7. I mentioned to my wife a few games ago that Marmol seems to try to throw strike 3 on every pitch, and that works against him. He’s never going to be a guy who pitches to contact, and at this point, I don’t see how you can change his approach. I have the sinking feeling he’s going to be released, the Cardinals will pick him up as a stopgap in Motte’s absence, and he’s going to save Game 7 of the World Series. And I wouldn’t really be all that upset by it, because at this point I think his Cubs career is un-salvagable. It’s time to get off the roller coaster, remember the fun parts, and the scary parts, and move on.

1. Yup Marmol would be the World Series MVP with the Cardinals and I’ve come to terms with that.

1. thats the voodoo magic.

1. Or they just run a much better organization than the cubs and actually have good coaches at all levels…

8. RISP is only part of the problem. Sure the Cubs have been in close games, but one of the reasons they have been in that position is the horrible performance of their middle and late relief pitching.

1. If they can score more runs the bullpen becomes less of an issue. Yes they are not good, but the offense can overcome some of that. I’m not saying all of it, but a few of these close games would have easily gone the other way with one clutch hit.

2. Can’t win games if you don’t score any runs.
You won’t win many games when you plate only four or less runs a game.
Team ERA right now is .395.

9. Right now, the Cubs have a negative run differential of 23. If we add your estimate of 20 additional runs from a more-normal BA with RISP, then the Cubs have a negative run differential of just 3. The Pythagorean prediction is then extremely close to .500.

10. Enjoy the math, folks. Not hitting with RISP mean pressing to me, not bad luck. You can’t dismiss “superstition” and establish a category for “luck.”

1. Maybe some of it’s luck, maybe some of it’s the Cubs pressing, and maybe some of it’s just the pitcher and catcher saying, “OK, no more fucking around. These guys suck and we know how to get every one them out. It’s time.”

1. The binomial probability of getting 44 or fewer hits in 243 chances if the underlying probability of a hit is .238 is 0.02. That is, the a team would be so unlucky only once in 50 tries.

So the Cubs have either been extremely unlucky or they are pressing–as several others have noted.

1. Or when ML pitchers bear down on atrocious hitters, of which the Cubs have many, the results may favor the ML pitchers a little more than normal. That is another possibility to explain some of it.

2. OK, that ain’t rocket science but it is looking with eyes wide open.
Real good post.

2. The BABIP in play is very luck driven over the course of a season it tends to level out to a league average. Right now the Cubs are dramatically below what the average BABIP should be at some point the Cubs cannot continue to hit that many balls into a players glove. It just doesn’t happen. However if we could increase the sCRAP+ and BFAR (belly fire above replacement) values every would be fine.

1. Bosio is saying that Marmol has too much BFAR. I tend to agree.
“Work smarter not harder”. I’m sure someone smart said that?
Point in fact, the regress toward the medium may be the result of adjustment as it is an evening out of “luck”.

11. “It’s fair to ask: are the Cubs really as bad as we think they are? Or just unlucky?”

Not being the math major but it seems a lot of both. Every hitter seems to be swinging for the fences. The approach at the plate has just been rotten. Rizzo is the only hitter I have seen adjust to the count and just go with the pitch.
Luck has been a factor too. There have been a few hard hit ball that just are not falling.
This team seems destined to live and die by the long ball instead taking a team first hitting approach. Hitting .238 as a team I would have to say it’s tilted more to being just bad.

1. It is quickly changing from, well, shit these guys are unlucky to well, shit, these guys aren’t performing.

With that said, I don’t think this team is 104 losses bad.

1. Pretty hard to have two one hundred loss seasons in a row.
The point I was trying to make was there is no team approach on the offensive side.
The long ball approach has it’s place but not every hitter every time.
.238 average bears that out.

1. as the season progress many of those deep fly balls will find the bleachers but I do agree it defies logic for a team to be this unlucky but it is exactly part of the problem

1. Sorry, but a little good old fashion Cubs fan pessimism for you here…

And if and when balls start finding the bleachers for hitters like Barney, DeJesus, Little Davie Sappelt, Castillo, Valbuena, Borbon, etc… that will likely mean the other team will be htting twice as many. The reason they are losing is not really because they are so unlucky. I seem to recall that bad luck was Ian’s Stewart’s problem last year too.

Even when their averages elevate towards a more normalized one with RISP, that will just mean Marmol will have to walk a few more, Camp will have to balk a couple more times, someone will have to get thrown out at home a couple times to negate the hits, etc… but something will negate it and they’ll still break your heart.

1. It’s not bad luck, they just can’t get it done when it counts.

12. The bullpen’s WHIP is second-to-last in the NL. It’s a team weakness and the Cubs need to score plenty of runs to cover up for it.

Poor at-bats contribute greatly to their failures with RISP. This is a swing first and ask questions later kind of team, which is a philosophy that got the last hitting coach fired by Theo. The Cubs are last in the NL in walks, and Castro and Sori–two of their main run producers–have low OBPs.

1. That is a big issue and I have never been a big fan of Castro’s approach. One reason why I would not consider trading him eventually to be that unfathomable

2. You hit it right on the head. The hitting approach most of the lineup takes in clutch situations is completely flawed. Good players know the pressure is on the pitcher, and they work the at bat and wait for pitches they can drive. That are in the hitting zone they know they have success. Dale should make the team watch every at bat Votto took over the weekend. Most of the Cubs players are over anxious, way to aggressive, and get themselves out hitting the pitchers pitch. It’s like taking a walk is a negative thing. The good ball clubs take their free passes when the pitcher won’t give them a pitch to drive, and keep the line moving. Valbuena is really the only one who even tries at this approach.
One of the most upsetting things to me has been the regression of Castro. His pitch recognition has become poor.

1. With the exception of Castro, Rizzo, Castillo and perhaps Barney NOBODY else in the every day lineup will be with the team next year.

You talk about approach and good players knowing the pressure is on the pitcher… forget about it… this team is riddled with players who are not good! Look around… they all suck with the exception of a couple kids.

And, the starting pitching is bad and the bullpen is the worst ever.

It all adds up to the 2013 Chicago Cubs being the worst team in franchise history.

Don’t focus on the team on the field today, focus on the players in the minors who are part of the future of this club.

The organization is working on building a championship team. It’s going to take time.

1. I think you’ve lost the “reason” from you name their. The starting pitching has actually been pretty good and is the best part of this entire team. Also it depends what you consider the regular every day lineup because the 4 you mentioned are pretty much the only 4 that play every day. Everyone else is on a bit of a platoon, so yeah it makes sense. Granted I don’t know if Barney is with the cubs or not next year. depends if he can find a bit of a bat between now and then.

2. If what you’re saying is true then the Cubs haven’t made any progress this year as far as filling the position player holes in the outfield and third base. If the players currently playing those positions are all going to be replaced next season, then who is going to be playing them next season that will be considered progress over what we have now? I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just wondering where the improvement is going to come from next season in the outfield and third base.

3. Mr. Reason — We all get that and hope the badness of 2012 and 2013 leaves us as soon as is possible. What gets to us fans more than anything else is terrible, stubborn and underachieving performance.

We would hope that pure hustle and effort might add a player of two to the list of those still with us next season. I know you were speaking of non-pitchers and I now expand to include pitchers. For example, could Villaneuva continue to be good and stay with the team or how about Travis Wood ?

Some that should not be here based on performance (or lack of performance) are Stewart and Marmol and Camp and Cleavenger and Sappelt and Hairston and Feldman and Baker and Borbon and Bowden and Rondon.

I simply can’t stand pure underachieving and performance like we get from Marmol and Stewart. These guys should be gone now !

2. DeJesus has also been having great at-bats. And Valbuena has been a nice surprise for the Cubs. So has Russell. And the starting pitching. It hasn’t all gone wrong for the Cubs, it just seems like it has.

1. You are right, Dejesus is a quality hitter. Great focus. He is the guy that teams will want as the season goes on. Which sucks, he is one of the guys that is fun to watch play every night.

2. baseballet typed: “It hasn’t all gone wrong for the Cubs, it just seems like it has.”

Now, let’s put this season into perspective and compare it with last year’s team:

Record on May 6, 2013
11-20 for a 35% winning percentage

Record on May 6, 2012
12-17 for a 41% winning percentage

This team will finish as the worst team in Cubs history!
Again, I’m a Cub fan and I stand by them, but you have to be realistic!!
The owners are working on rebuilding and I believe that they are doing the right things, but the product on the field is a joke right now!

3. The problem with Castro is he just seem uncomfortable at the plate right now, he is pressing to hard to “be patient” and ends up taking good pitches to hit and getting down in the count early.
He will never have a good walk rate, you just either have that or don’t, what he can do is hit. Imo, he should be swinging early in the count. He gets thrown alot of strikes early in counts and he is not swinging at them because he is trying to be patient…

1. As soon as Castro starts swinging early in the count teams will start throwing stuff out of the zone and he will continue to swing. Castro’s problem is lack of focus and, I am afraid, he is uncoachable. I think everyone can improve their pitch selection. Look at Sosa, Steriods maybe helped his power, but he also learned to stop swinging at so many pitches out of the zone and, thereby, forced pitchers to throw strikes. Although he still struck out quite often his walk rate and OBP increased significantly during his best years from 1998 to 2002. It boggles the mind how many hitters seemingly do not understand that if you constantly swing at pitches way out of the zone, that is all you are going to see.

1. This is based on very incorrect assumptions about how batting operates. Batters swing at pitches outside the zone because they do not recognize that it is not a ball they can hit when it is 10′ from the pitcher’s hands. It is not a cognitive process: it’s a reflex. Guys can hone it to some extent, but nobody has learned to teach it, and thus we do not know that it can be learned.

Thus, good pitchers will treat Castro like they treat every other batter: they will aim for his blue zones. Focus by Castro will no more help him get a more exact idea of where pitches are going to wind up 10′ from their hand than focus is going to help a color blind person see red. Ditto that for coaching.

As for Sosa, he’s a useless comparison. His amazing transformation into a guy with a great batting eye was almost unique in recent memory: Bill James showed that Sammy had the single biggest sudden (and sustained) increase in walk rates over the last few decades. Moreover, he is simply the furthest member of a distribution: we expect about one of him over the last 30+ years, and lo! we had about one of him.

2. Even with the poor start to the year, he is still 13th SS in wRC+ 83 ( career 101). With a better line-up he would be hitting 6th or 7th. He just makes too much weak contact which is year his double plays come in. He has great plate coverage (sometimes too good (see double plays)). That just goes to show how bad our lineup is right now that a 6 or 7 hole hitter is stuck hitting 2nd. As far as his BB% & K% go, they are within the standard deviation one would expect year to year.

What is surprising to me is his SLG being down this year. I haven’t paid as much attention to the laid off fastballs that rok pointed out. That could be a big problem with it. Does anyone know how he has historically done with 2 strikes? With a patient approach he could be getting into more than he has ever seen before.

13. What’s the argument for keeping Sappelt? He’s not very good and has not really shown the prospect of being good in the future. He’s not young. His numbers in AAA in 2012 are discouraging. With the glut of OFers in the system it may be wiser to just waive him to allow some playing time for others.

1. He’s just depth at this point. He had a nice month after being called up last season but I think you’re right that there are players like Ha who could be considered for promotion.

2. The argument is that he is right handed, and we all know how important that LHP lineup is!

14. I’m not really worried if Sappelt were to fade away considering they have 5 outfielders on the ML roster and Bogusevic and McDonald in AAA. It’d be nice to have the depth, I guess.

15. Yeah GoatHater is me I forgot that I had made that change in response to post last week and it stayed on this computer till now.

16. I think it would also make sense to look at the Cubs’ strikeout rate and BABIP while runners are in scoring position, just to kind of see what’s going on. If the K rate is high, then it might be the case that Cubs hitters just aren’t performing well in high-pressure situations.

Conversely, if their BABIP is lower than it should be, then we might assume that the Cubs are getting unlucky. Even in that case, though, I do think there are lots of factors other than luck that go into BABIP, so I don’t really know. Just my two cents.

1. Cubs BABIP is .269 and league average is .294 we are in the bottom five in the league. That’s a major dip below the average.

1. Yeah, but, one could argue that we are also in the bottom 5% in making hard contact. That would cause us to have a lower than normal BABIP. (Didn’t look at the numbers. Only going from what I think to be true.)

2. Excellent idea. Stand by.

3. BABIP is a combination of luck and skill. A guy like Rizzo is probably going to have a higher BABIP then a guy like Barney, simply because more times then not, he is going to hit the ball harder then Barney. That’s the skill part of it. So you cannot compare how lucky or unlucky a person is by comparing there BABIP to the league average. You have to compare a players BABIP to their own BABIP history to determine if they are having luck, whether good or bad. Same with comparing a teams BABIP to the league average and determining if they are having luck or not. If my team is full of Barneys and another team is full of Miguel Cabreras, their BABIP is expected to be higher then my teams. So the question now becomes if the Cubs are having luck issues or if we are just a light hitting squad. I don’t know the answer, but the way to figure it out would be to take the average of the teams players BABIP from the last 3 years, even if that player wasn’t playing for the Cubs at that time, and compare them.

This is also why it is important to have guys that don’t strikeout a lot and take a decent amount of walks. A team that walks a lot and doesn’t strikeout a lot can have a much lower BABIP and still have success.

1. Or, what I said with fewer words two posts up.

2. Agreed there is more to look at but a few other “quick” stats tells me that this team is very unlucky right now:

Cubs SLG .410 – lg avg .403
Cubs OBP .296 – lg avg .319
Cubs OPS .706 – lg avg .722

The Cubs are near the average in these categories but at the bottom with BABIP. When compared to the other teams at the bottom (look at MIA example) teams with low BABIP are also near the bottom of these other stats. With an increased BABIP the Cubs will find these stats increase further. This is an quick lunch time view but BABIP seems to be way below what the other numbers suggest and give me hope that a lot of this is bad luck with BABIP. I’ll be interested to see what things look like in June/July compared to April/May before the sell off occurs. But yes there are many variables to consider but the Cubs should have a better BABIP in the next few months.

1. OBP is significantly lower than lg avg. It is also skewed by 5 players (including Rizzo at 0.331). When viewed with the platoons, the position by position advantage by 4 of those 5 players goes away. It is entirely plausible that the OBP of those 4 platooned bats would decline if they had to face LHP.
In short, at its best there are 4 of 9 rally killers in any possible line-up. At its worse there are 8 of 9 rally killers in the RH line-up.

17. No mention of it being the 15th anniversary of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece?

1. Actually, that just makes me sad to know what might have been other than what was. FU Dusty, FU.

2. Kerry Wood was probably just really lucky that day.

1. Lulz…

The movement on his pitches that day was amazing, but we should have all seen the troubles ahead, that was an ugly delivery.

18. They are not unlucky, they suck in clutch at batds led by Soriano who will start hitting when the cubs are 20 games under .500.

19. I remember seeing a Peter Gammons segment when Kerry was in the minors and he said everyone was drooling over him. He said he was the next Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemons… So sad, FU Dusty from me too. Cubs fans are probably the only fan base that is ok with how the Nationals are with Strasburg. Ps. Don’t do the towel drill either.

1. It’s funny how Cubs fans hate Baker, yet he won with the Giants before coming to Chicago and he is winning after leaving Chicago with the Reds.

It’s more than the manager on the field. It’s the culture of the team.

The new owners are working on changing that. It’s going to take time! All of these problems did not happen over night. It’s taken years to get where we are today!

1. I don’t think my hate for Dusty is funny at all. My hate for him is true, unwavering & vigilant. I always tell Reds fans that I’m friends with that I feel sorry for their pitchers and they ought to feel lucky that Chapman was left as a closer and not a starter. He wouldn’t have completed the year as a SP.

2. The sun will come out (three years after) tomorrow! Bet your bottom dollar!

20. Actually Riggleman can help Dusty shoulder the blame for Kerry’s overuse seeing he was there ’98 and ’99. So F him too

21. I love Barney’s glove, but how many men has he left on base this year already? Seems like he comes up to bat with a couple on every time and then makes the last out of the inning. I agree that Sappelt should go, I have not seen him do anything productive with this team. I realize he is right handed among a lot of lefties, but it doesn’t matter what hand you are if you are always making outs. I am not sure if anyone is calling about DeJesus yet, but if you can get something worthwhile for him, you definitely have to entertain that. Speaking of those that have to go … Loe, Rondon, Marmol, and Camp could all go at any point.

22. I thought the Cubs were a .475 win percentage team going into the season, and the fact that they’ve played four games below that to this point hasn’t swayed me much. There’s plenty of underlying statistics that say they are still about that team.

The problem is that they needed to have a few games of positive luck to be worthwhile, so a few games of negative luck is enough to completely sink the season. If they play to their “true” .475 ability from here on out, they are still going to hit the 100 game mark at 44-56, and then comes the dismantling at the trade deadline.

1. They needed to replace Lillybridge (don’t mind admitting you were right). They need to replace Seppelt. They have to fix the BP.
These are not earth shattering moves but, then again, we are just considering what is needed to get to be an avg team.

2. Ironically, I think that the Cubs have had both good and bad luck. The Cubs net OPS is about 0.025. Over the last 50 years, there have been 99 teams with a net OPS between 0.021 and 0.03. The average winning percentage was 0.543 and only 9 of them finnished below 0.500. (We expect 11 of 99 0.543 teams to win 80 or fewer games.) The worst finished at 0.457.

That said, the Cubs are *not* a +0.025 OPS team. I projected them to be closer to between -0.03 to -0.04 (i.e., about 0.450). The poor luck with RiSP (although that might be poor tactics with the dreaded “swing for singles” approach) has killed in particular. The bullpen has looked bad: but the Cubs would be 11-17 (with 3 ties) if games ended after 6 innings. Given how good the Cubs starting pitching has been, that is a very tough feat: and it is down to hitting.

23. On a positive note, through 3 innings Garza has 0 ER, 3 H, 3 K…50 pitches.

24. The early data do suggest that the Cubs *might* be doing something different when men are in scoring position. Now, here is the first big caveat: at least one team should be doing as relatively poorly as the Cubs with RiSP as the Cubs are simply by chance alone. After all, the Cubs have a grand total of 17 fewer hits with RiSP than expected if they hit like they did otherwise.

However, usually this is just BABiP, and that means a lower than expected frequency of grounders sneaking past infielders or bloops landing just out of reach. The Cubs problem has been extra base hits. Here are the frequencies:

Sit_ _BB% _K_% _1B% XBH%
All_ 0.063 0.197 0.180 0.125
RiSP 0.089 0.221 0.158 0.088
nRS 0.056 0.189 0.186 0.135

Now, *none* of these numbers are significant: what counts is the actual XBH or singles per opportunity. However, only one in 5 times should be doing this poorly here: the Cubs are in the one in 3 range for K’s and one in 1.5 range for singles. (They actually are doing better for walks: and I excluded IBB from both walks and plate appearances!)

It could be that the Cubs OBP guys are their SLG guys, and thus that the Cubs getting on base are doing so in front of the guys who don’t slug. However, that doesn’t explain the elevated walks well.

My tentative suggestion is that Cubs players are committing the worst of batting sins with runners in scoring position: “swinging for singles.” If so, then they need to stop immediately: “swinging for singles” increases batted balls that go for singles (grounders, flairs, etc.) without increasing the proportion of such balls that actually are singles, while at the same time killing slugging. After all, most singles are just poorly hit balls that are not hit at anybody. Doubles, triples and HR usually are hit very hard. It does little to reduce K-rates: “just making contact” will improve a guys chances of hitting bad pitches, but the alteration to his swing will decrease his chances of hitting good ones.

25. I didn’t read all the post re: the risp dilemma, but here’s what bothers me. How is it that the stats don’t play out in our favor when signing a player when the stats—presumably show an upside in that regard? (I am of course assuming there is a stat that “tell” scouts and others what a player’s past at bats in risp situations has been. Not being one who places too much faith in stats and their predictability of future performance, but knowing at the same time, how much stats are currently relied on in recruiting, how is it the Cubs suck in that category?

Anyone?

1. Performance with runners in scoring position fluctuate from month-to-month and year-to-year around the mean performance of a player. The only way to “suck” when evaluating prospects on this score is to consider it relevant.

That said, the Cubs did consider it relevant under Jim Hendry!

26. The Cubs, scoring 113 runs and allowing 136 through 31 games have an expected win-loss of 13-18. Adding in the 20 runs to the theorem puts the Cubs at 15-16 theoretically. The Cubs also have an awful 8 blown saves in 16 opportunities. If they successfully close out 3 of those games, combined with that slight increase in batting average with runners in scoring position, the Cubs are 18-13. By the way, that would put them in second place in the division.

I think that this is not a great team, not a playoff team. However, they’ve also been unlucky. I think that as the season progresses, should the Cubs be able to sort out their bullpen mess, it’s only a matter of time before the batting average with RISP goes up. This isn’t a team that is going to win 81 games, but they probably also won’t lose 96 like they’re currently projected. I expect somewhere between 70-75 wins this season for the north siders.