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travis wood cubsToday’s game against the Cardinals is a “Pink Out,” so make sure you wear pink to the game.

  • After his seventh consecutive quality start to begin the 2013 season, Dale Sveum is ready to say that Travis Wood is “the best starter in baseball, pretty much.” I’m not sure I’d say he’s even the best starter on the Cubs at this point, but Wood’s ridiculous start to the year can’t be ignored. And, as I pointed out previously in the Bullets, it isn’t just the start of this season: Wood has been outstanding since he began his tenure with the Cubs. Even if he lays two consecutive eggs now before Matt Garza returns, he absolutely can’t be the guy removed from the rotation, can he? And if it can’t be Wood, and it can’t be Scott Feldman (he’s been just as dominant lately, and he’s got trade value to build), we’re left with Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. Each might be pitching for his spot in the rotation over the next two weeks. (But it’s important to note that, if Jackson loses his spot in the rotation, it would be a temporary thing – he’s with the Cubs to be a starter, long-term. But since he’s got no trade value to build, it might make some sense for him to be the guy given a temporary breather. Still, it’s early. Plenty of time for this to sort itself out … )
  • In fairness, any conversation of how good Travis Wood has been this year needs to include a conversation of what the advanced stats say. In short, they say he’s been far more lucky than good. A .198 BABIP against and an 80.7% LOB make him the polar opposite of Edwin Jackson, which is to say fortune may be smiling on Wood (his xFIP is just 4.19, even though his ERA is 2.33). In total, I believe Wood remains a very nice 3/4/5 type, and probably more of a 4/5 on a good team. Best starter in baseball? Nah. But that’s not an insult.
  • Forget what Dale Sveum will or won’t say: Kevin Gregg is the Cubs’ closer now. It would have sounded crazy just two weeks ago, but the guy has earned it by virtue of his ability to throw strikes, good-looking stuff, and a five-for-five in save opportunities to start the season. That’s that.
  • Ian Stewart was apparently back, formally, with the Iowa Cubs last night … but he did not play. Josh Vitters started at third (against Tyler Chatwood, a righty), and Stewart was not given one of the two pinch-hitting/subbing in opportunities in the game, either (Donnie Murphy and Edwin Maysonet got those). Feels like this is one of those situations where none of this is a coincidence. Gordon Wittenmyer suggests that, indeed, the organization is “ticked off.”
  • Stewart’s replacement at third base on the big team is Luis Valbuena, and he’s been getting love from all corners. As he should: his .368 wOBA, per FanGraphs, has him the sixth best offensive third baseman in baseball. FanGraphs loves his defense at third, too, so we could be looking at a very legitimate starting third baseman here.
  • Speaking of Iowa, the Cubs released reliever Cory Wade, one of the many relievers non-roster invitees who didn’t work out.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t get a chance to make his rehab appearance at Tennessee yesterday thanks to some nasty weather. He’ll try again today.
  • How long are the Cubs going to carry 6 outfielders on the 25-man roster? Short of a trade, though, there isn’t an obvious guy to boot.
  • Ryan Probasco interviewed me for a feature in the Daily Iowan. It makes me look good, so here’s the link. (In all seriousness, thanks to Ryan for reaching out. It was fun, and I appreciated the opportunity to chat.) The article actually made for a very nice thing to send to family members who still might wonder what exactly it is that I do.
  • Andrewmoore4isu

    When randy wells came up with the cubs he also had a great deal of success. He would put men on first and second constantly and then somehow get out of it. He would pitch into the 7th and somehow lose only giving up like 2 runs. Anyone else remember this? And now randy is out of the game

    • Chet Masterson

      A few quibbles

      1) Randy Wells’ strand rate by year (I am ignoring the 100% strand rate in 2008 because he threw only 5.1 MLB innings)
      2009 age 26: 76.0% – league average 71.5%
      2010 age 27: 72.0% – league average 72.2%
      2011 age 28: 72.1% – league average 72.5%

      I wouldn’t say Randy wells was a strand machine at any point. That 2009 figure was good for 27th best in MLB, but he wasn’t blowing away the 71.5% average.

      2) I know people always look at strand rate for luck, but I’m not sure that’s always the case. Look at the strand rate leaders. Doesn’t it seem like the strand rate leaders have a strong correlation to the FIP leaders? (Edwin Jackson kind of killing my argument here).

      3) Randy Wells turns 31 this year. When he became a regular in 2009 He was 26 already. Travis wood has over 100 MLB IP every season since he was 23. I wouldn’t say Travis Wood is just breaking into the big leagues (sorry if that’s not what you’re inferring).

      Is Travis Wood lucky? Maybe. It’s hard to ignore a .198 BABIP (Cubs have #5, 6 & 7 in MLB BABIP!!!), but his K/9 is consistent, he’s managed to cut his walks while increasing his GB%. The HR/9 is consistent with all years but last year, making last year the potential anomaly. Maybe with a few more GBs, Travis Wood really is just better than people thought.

      • Cyranojoe

        “Cubs have #5, 6 & 7 in MLB BABIP!!!” That sure seems to speak to my theory that our defensive shifts are contributing to the team’s pitching success. Any chance EJax’s spray charts this year don’t jive with his previous career charts?

  • @cubsfantroy

    I just got done reading about Sveum saying Wood was the best pitcher in baseball and decided to head over here to see what you had to say about it. Thankfully he has been as good as we hoped. Looks like the Marshall trade is paying off now…

    • davidalanu

      And I can’t wait to see how Roni Torreyes progresses. He’s off to a great start at Tennessee, and he still won’t be 21 until September.

    • On the Farm

      In my opinion Wood wouldn’t even have to be this good to make that trade a win. We really didn’t need another set up man last year

  • Voice of Reason

    I guess if this website can make the argument that Edwin Jackson is pitching well then Sveum can certainly argue that Wood is the best starter in baseball!

  • Matt

    Advanced metrics seek out the ability to rub out using subjective, non-scientific thought processes like “lucky,” and “unlucky,” in baseball. I guess what it can’t do is rub out human nature’s tendency to resort to the supernatural to guide what the eyes see.

    Bottom line is Wood has been exceptional and Jackson has been horrible, and it’s starting to get irksome to read otherwise. If the point is that the chances are that both will not likely sustain the rate at which they are performing, fine- but it’s going too far to say “Jackson has actually been good!” He has not. Nor has Wood actually just been “super-lucky.”

    • CubFan Paul

      “Advanced metrics seek out the ability to rub out using subjective, non-scientific thought processes like “lucky,” and “unlucky,” in baseball”

      It pains me to see people use luck when talking BABIP.

      • hansman1982

        So what does a flukey BABIP indicate?

        • Spriggs

          Flukiness?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Correct me, then, Paul.

        • jt

          BABIP is a tool that can shout that something is different. That something is not and can not be defined by BABIP.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I don’t understand your point.

            It is generally understood and accepted that depressing BABIP is not a “skill” or something you can “control.” Thus, a low BABIP – which makes all other numbers look good – is more reflective of good fortune than of good performance.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Defined? No. Diagnosed? Yes. In particular, BABiP reflects singles rates: and singles rates *for the most part* reflect poorly hit balls getting past infielders. That is why, from a pitcher’s perspective, breaking down outcomes into K’s, BB’s, GB, FB & LD makes the most sense: if that distribution remains unchanged, then changes in a pitcher’s fortunes (for good or ill) are just probabilistic fluxes: i.e., “luck.” The GB, FB & LD in particular represent a double roll: you get the (weighted) 5-sided die coming up on one of these, and then it’s a second roll to see the outcome.

            • jt

              You are diagnosing luck?
              Rizzo has 21 non-BIP hits 9 of which are doubles. Early in the season I heard JD referring to the dreaded roll over weak ground ball off his bat. Not so much recently.
              Castro is a BA dependent hitter. He hits a lot of ground balls with authority past infielders an blops to RF on low outside pitches. How much of his recent depressed BABIP is the result of defender positioning? Simply put, he isn’t hitting it over anybodies head so OF’ers are moving in.
              Sporadic spikes, both high and low are to be expected. Over time? not so much. Acknowledged that luck plays a part. To attribute everything to luck is a bit voodoo dependent.

              • waittilthisyear

                ive had a somewhat similar thought re: BABIP. i feel as thought for some people it may be a greater indicator of good/bad luck than others. Pitchers who pitch to contact, i assume (and hopefully the stats back me up because i am sure there are stats that either prove/disprove my theory), that have a low BABIP against are simply pitching well and inducing weak contact.
                similarly, a guy like darwin barney, who makes a ton of contact but not with much authority, is not unlucky because of a bad BABIP, that is just the way it will go. I guess, using the dreaded eye test, i could definitely see how Rizzo’s poor average a couple weeks ago could be contributed to bad luck as i recall several hard lineouts and deep flyouts.
                i guess, to sum it up, i think BABIP varies from player to player when indicating luck

                • Cubbie Blues

                  Short answer? Yes.

                • Cyranojoe

                  It’s actually not about the high or lowness of the BABIP, from what I understand — it’s the relative position to a player’s career numbers. Most end up in the .300s, I gather, but some have a consistently higher or lower BABIP. It’s when those numbers are abnormal that we look at it and say either the player’s doing something fairly different with their approach, and/or there’s a factor of randomness (e.g., luck) at play.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    Yes.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Dude, look up Occam’s Razor….

        • Willrust

          Maybe need to break down the BABIP a little further and differentiate flyball BABIP versus groundball BABIP. That or create a statistic of solid contact versus weak contact by watching the games and listening to the sound of the ball off the bat. Perhaps this is the missing ingredient to blending old school scouting with new school statistics, at least in regards to being able to identify a pitcher’s luck quotient.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I like “luck quotient.” That would be an awesome – massively debated – stat.

          • Kyle

            If you dig around a bit, you can find xBABIP, which extrapolates what a pitcher or hitter’s BABIP “should” be based on percentages of line drives, ground balls and fly balls.

            • hansman1982

              Fangraphs has an xBABIP calculator on the BABIP glossary page.

      • OCCubFan

        Many things in baseball are subject to random fluctuations about a mean. When a team or a player has a run of highly favorable deviations from the mean, we call this “luck.” It has nothing to do with the supernatural. It is a way to describe an unusual string of fluctuations. It has been found that stripping out the luck portion of results is much more predictive of future performance than looking at the traditional raw numbers.

    • King Jeff

      Both of their TWTW is off the charts, so you have nothing to worry about here.

      • Chet Masterson

        Bravo. I enjoyed this immensely.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s all just semantics. We’re saying the same thing.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      I should add, as a scientist, that there is nothing “unscientific” about luck. Luck = improbable, and we expect improbable events at certain frequencies. The reason why so many of us use statistics is to prevent over-explaining of patterns that we should just dismiss as probabilistic noise. Occam’s Razor and all of that!

      • jt

        when those frequencies start deforming the bell it is time to take a closer look.

        • hansman1982

          Ya, and with LaHair’s deformation of the bell last year, pretty soon it won’t even be a bell, just a lump of goo!

        • DocPeterWimsey

          It’s not the frequencies, but the numbers of outcomes that deform the “bell curves” (really, binomial or multinomial curves; also, you would model rates with something other than a bell-curve, anyway!) One tests hypotheses of constant rates based on numbers of outcomes given numbers of chances & hypothesized rates. The null model (courtesy of Occam’s Razor) is that one model will fit all.

          At any rate, none of the cases that we are discussing deviate from any null models for individual players.

  • Werner

    I do love this site and read it more than is healthy. But goodness can’t you let me enjoy my delusion that Travis Wood just might be the best pitcher in all of baseball and not employ an arsenal of statistics that he’s not some poor lucky sap who is waiting for the baseball gods to crush him like a bug when they decide they’ve toyed with the emotions of Cubs fans enough?

  • King Jeff

    Svuem is starting to become known for making generalized statements of grandeur like this. Wasn’t our defense the “best in spring training” as well, and the Valbuena/Ransom combo the best third base combo in the league?

    • hansman1982

      As long as it makes the players feel better and want to trust him more, I’m all for it.

      • Snakdad

        Valbuena is a career .239 hitter for a reason. I’m glad he’s doing well enough to keep 3B from being the complete sinkhole it was last year, but calling him a legit starter is like calling me Marisa Miller. That said, Stewart better put that 2mil in the bank because it’s the last MLB paycheck he’s going to see. 3B is a shallow position all over the majors and you can bet other teams are paying attention to his “antics”.

        • King Jeff

          “calling him a legit starter is like calling me Marisa Miller.”

          Would you like to be called Marisa, or Ms. Miller? Preconceived notions are falling left and right, Valbuena is an above average defender at third, and his production places him in the top half of third baseman in baseball, what’s not legit about that?

          • Koyie Hill Sucks

            Bryan LaHair…

            Having said that, I do think Valbuena has a better chance to be close to the numbers he is putting up now, which would be great!

        • jt

          It was not that long ago that 27 y/o rookie middle infielders were common.

      • Cyranojoe

        This. Of course, if he’s always hyperbolic, surely the players will start to distrust him…

  • MSG T

    Nice mention, Brett. Made all the better by it being the DI (ducks everything thrown by Illinois fans).

  • http://deleted bubbleshargrave

    brett, do you have any explanation as to why sveum keeps flirting with disaster by using marmol in close games? and still keeping him in after he walks a guy?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I do not, other than a directive from the top (which would be surprising and futile) or a belief by Sveum that the rest of his bullpen is no good.

    • hansman1982

      Part of it is the Cubs are in close games nearly every game.

      They have played 6 games so far this season that were decided by more than 3 runs. According to Baseball-Reference, Sveum has turned to Russell most often in high-leverage situations.

    • TWC

      Jeez, you can’t let this go, can you, bubbles?

  • ssckelley

    What harm is there for a manager to say positive things to the media about his players? I am sure it would be better for him to say that Wood is just getting lucky.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Who said it was harmful or bad?

  • PKJ

    It’s a bit of a stretch to say that about someone who has had his luck… When his flyball percentage and BABIP both regress to the norm, he’s going to give up a few more runs. His GB% increase is encouraging, though, and probably suggests that his improved xFIP is legit.

  • Polar Bear

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=9094236

    I was surprised to not hear more about this. Cicero might be a viable option if the neighborhood doesn’t want to get on board with the renovations.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That post is coming in about 10 minutes. You haven’t heard more because it’s just more headline grabbing.

  • Ron

    I think control is THE key to BABIP and % left on base. I just started a thread on the board that talks about this. I am an observer in the sense that I have absolutely no data to back up what I “feel to be true” and therefor have more questions than answers. But, Wood is hitting his spots and is playing into hitters tendacies thus making dramatic shifts more effective. A pitcher that misses his spots is obviously less perdictable and harder to play defense behind. As a casual observer, i would say that is the difference in particularly BABIP between Jackson and Wood.

    • hansman1982

      To a degree, yes, BABIP is controlled by the player but each player has career norms and these career norms generally fall somewhere around .300-ish.

      Right now, Wood is performing WELL below his career norm on BABIP just like Luis Valbuena is performing above his career BABIP (although in Valbuena’s case, the BABIP is theorectically sustainable). History has shown that players who are performing beyond they normal, will revert to their normal BABIP regardless of what they do.

      • jt

        Career, Wood has been very very good in 75% of his starts and very hit-able in the other 25%. That suggests that his command, velocity and movement is worthy of being a big lg starter a substantial amount of the time. Is it not conceivable that with experience he could raise the good rate and thus lower the bad?

      • Rcleven

        Isn’t it possible Wood has just gotten better? Last year he was in a class where he would hang one of his pitches high in the strike zone three or four times a game. Now it seem that hung pitch has been reduced to maybe twice a outing.
        I’ll define better by making better pitches by making less mistakes.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Absolutely. And he probably has gotten better. But the results we’re seeing – the Cy Young caliber results – are not solely the product of his ability. Some of it is good fortune.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Yes, that is definitely better, but not .200 BABIP better. I would expect him to raise his BABIP to about 240-50 by the end of the year. Last year he ended with .244 which was the best of his career including MiLB save one year in AA. He has pitched great, but some of these weakly hit balls will end up finding some holes.

          The shift also helps him out as well.

          • bbmoney

            The fact that he gave up so many home runs last year may have actually ‘helped’ keep his BABIP down. More fly balls and line drives that were well hit and hence were more likely to fall for hits if they stayed in the park…instead left the park and aren’t factored into BABIP.

            At some point his LD% will probably get back normalize as well.

            But heck, here’s hoping he’s the 1 guy in a couple hundred that can really consistently keep his BABIP at .250 or less.

            • Cubbie Blues

              I didn’t even think about his elevated HR/FB from last year. Although his other % didn’t change from career norms, only HR/FB. I’m not sure how to classify that, but it would contribute to his lower than normal (for him) BABIP. He still has a lower than average babip though.

      • Ron

        Hasnt Wood had a below average BABIP since coming to the Cubs? My point is the overshifting that Sveum does is because of this stat. Therefore, Wood, because he has better conrol will have a lower BABIP. Basically, I am asking have the parameters for this stat changed because the defense has changed? Will a control focused pitcher benifit more from shifts because of perdictability thus deviating from career norms?

        I get that Wood will likely regress due to averages but have the parameters changed enough to relook at his career stats?

        • Cubbie Blues

          I could attribute his lower BABIP last year to the shift for sure, but that was only 20 points lower than his career average. If it were the shift BABIP that we are looking at now, why didn’t we see it last year. It can only be explained that he is getting a bit lucky this year. Has he been pitching well? Yes. But, not that much better.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Worth noting that, as a flyball pitcher, the shifts should help Wood less than other pitchers. HOWEVA, Wood’s groundball rate is higher this year than any other year in his career. (Still low, though.)

          • Cubbie Blues

            His LD% is up 5 points and IFFB is up 10 points. All of those points do show weaker contact, but still not to the level where he is at now.

          • Cyranojoe

            Super useful point. I was about to ask if the Cubs’ pitchers’ BABIP might be depressed because Sveum has been so good at defensive positioning, and that therefore the decrease might be sustainable…. Even if it’s not relevant to Wood as a flyball pitcher, how about the other guys?

            • hansman1982

              Villanueva, Feldman and Wood are all .214 and below.

              Samardzija is at career norm. Jackson is above it.

              • Cyranojoe

                Cool.

                How do you guys look this stuff up so fast? I’m a web guy, but I find it annoyingly clumsy to find stuff on baseball-reference, etc. What’m I missing?

                • Cubbie Blues

                  fangraphs.com com for me. Here is Travis’ page.
                  http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9884&position=P

                  • Cyranojoe

                    Gracias. :)

                • hansman1982

                  For team-wide stats I go to:

                  http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/2013.shtml

                  for rate stats, BABIP, FIP, I use Fangraphs.com and have a profile there I set up with the stats I use most often.

                  It really helps I had a Cubs blog over a year ago and got good at knowing where the stuff is.

                  • hansman1982

                    also, for some more obscure contact rates, K and BB rates I use statcorner.com.

                    It doesn’t have the depth that the other two have but it’s good with current players (and they have a ballpark adjusted wOBA)

                    • Cyranojoe

                      Cool, hadn’t heard of that one.

            • Cubbie Blues

              I would assume the shift does lower BABIP. That is why it is used. It takes the spray chart and moves the IF where the batter usually hits his GBs. I have not seen a any stats on it though.

      • Drew7

        Eh, I’m pretty certain recent studies have shown that Opponents BABIP for pitchers has a very low year-to-year correlation, so using the pitcher’s career numbers isn’t really an effective method.

        • hansman1982

          I want to run that test, but dang, that is A LOT of data entry and verification.

          If only I knew SQL.

        • hansman1982

          http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=BABIP

          “BABIP is mostly a function of a pitcher’s defense and luck, rather than persistent skill.”

          but then there is this:
          (there is a chart at the link below that outlines the top-50 BABIP guys and the bottom-50 BABIP guys, of the 176 pitchers who have thrown at least 1000 IP since 1995.)

          “As you can see, there’s arguably only one (marginal) Hall of Famer (Andy Pettitte) among the bottom 50, and one current star (Zack Greinke). Among the top 50 are the following: Mariano Rivera, Matt Cain, Johan Santana, Jered Weaver, Tim Hudson, Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Justin Verlander, Kevin Brown, Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy. ”

          http://rotosynthesis.rotowire.com/Is-Pitcher-BABIP-Luck-BBD3653.htm

    • BluBlud

      Also, pitching out of the stretch may have something to do with it. I recall some years back, there was a pitcher who struggled, but had tremendous success out of the stretch. The pitcher started pitching out of the stretch permenantly, and was able to sustain that success. I don’t recall the pitchers name, or when it happen, but for some reason, I remember it happening. Maybe Wood is better at pitching out the stretch. So maybe he is decent when he pitches regular, but once a guy gets on, he goes to the stretch and he becomes a better pitcher. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is definitely possible. Would there be a statistical way of looking at this?

  • Jim

    In all fairness I was a Valbuena nay-sayer last year and starting this year, but I have come around to the fact that he is actually good and maybe even very good. It seems like he is getting in 3 -2 counts every time up and taking walks, hitting bombs, or finding ways to get on. Glove looks very good too.

    Regarding Travis Wood, I have not been a nay-sayer, in fact I count my selection of Wood in my fantasy draft to be one of my best so far. I thought he looked very impressive in spring training, and he has continued that into this season.

  • Blublud

    I must say that the 2 players I didn’t want on this team have actual been 2 of our best players. Hell, without Schierholtz and Valbuena, we might only have 6 or 7 wins right now. I can think of 4 or 5 situation off the top of my head where their at-bats have pretty much single handedly won us a game, including last night. I guess that’s why I’m just a fan and not GM. Keep it going guys.

  • wkranz54

    “In short, they (advanced stats) say he’s been far more lucky than good.” That is really unfair to say. The fact is, Wood has a WHIP of .93. Guys are batting .179, in all situations, against him so why would it be “lucky” that he is stranding 80.7% of the runners. To me it just seems like teams can’t string hits together against him. And the BABIP thing drives me crazy. I’m all for advanced stats, but the fact is some guys don’t make solid contact and will always have a low BABIP, they aren’t unlucky they just don’t hit the ball hard. Same is true of pitchers. Some guys are just tough to make solid contact against. I don’t feel like guys have been hitting liner right at the outfield or there have been a ton of diving stops and great defense behind Wood, he has just been tough to hit, thus a low BABIP. I don’t think he is the bester pitcher, but a solid 3 that could push for a 2 if he continues anything close to what he is doing now.

    • Cubbie Blues

      That’s why you look at a players BABIP vs their own norm and not against league average or Miggy’s.

    • hansman1982

      From Fangraphs:

      “The average BABIP for hitters is around .290 to .310. If you see any player that deviates from this average to an extreme, they’re likely due for regression.

      However, hitters can influence their BABIPs to some extent. For example, speedy hitters typically have high career BABIP rates (like Ichiro and his .357 career BABIP), so don’t expect all players to regress to league average — instead, look at a player’s career BABIP rate. And if you want something more exact, try The Hardball Times’ xBABIP (expected BABIP) calculator, available at the top of the page.”

      http://www.fangraphs.com/library/offense/babip/

      • wkranz54

        I do know what BABIP is, I am just saying that stat seems to say “speedy guys can have a higher BABIP” while it doesn’t account for the fact that some guys put the ball in play much harder than others thus their BABIP will be higher than some guy who would be lucky to hit the ball to the warning track. Some pitchers it is near impossible just to get the ball in play none the less hit the ball hard, thus their BABIP will be lower and I don’t expect it to come back up to the .290s.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Some pitchers do have a slightly lower BABIP than league average over their careers (Maddux, for example). But below .200 is not sustainable. 100 years of baseball tell us it isn’t.

          • wkranz54

            Of course not, wow I am sorry I made this post. I am not this crazy/stupid/fanatic, just saying I think sometimes a bad BABIP goes straight to bad luck for the hitter or great defense and that is not entirely true.

            • hansman1982

              No, it’s a good discussion.

              What you are saying about luck is partially true. Some guys, naturally, have good/bad BABIP. Wood typically has a good BABIP. Now, the deviation from his career norm is what falls in the “luck” category.

              Now, it is possible that he has permanently increased his GB% and decreased his LD%, but when a player has a short stretch of AMAZING results in a couple of areas (while not altering his BB or K %), that means that batters are still able to hit the ball, just not as well. The “not as well” will go away as it did for Bryan LaHair (just opposite) last year.

              I’d be more comfortable attributing it to something he did if he BB or K rates changed significantly, but they haven’t.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Actually the power issue is exactly why I mentioned Miggy. He has a career .347 BABIP.

        • hansman1982

          1. That was an example. BABIP certainly is impacted by guys who hit the ball well. Hence the caveat: “…instead, look at a player’s career BABIP rate.”

          Since 1930, no pitcher has had a BABIP-against lower than .222 and only 32 pitchers (out of 2200) have been below .250. Wood’s career BABIP is .265 (which puts him in the top-10% of pitchers).

          Now, his current deviation from .265 to .198 is explaned how? More balls are finding fielders’ gloves than we should expect.

          • wkranz54

            Has anything I said suggested that I think he is going to finish the season sub .200 BABIP? All I am pointing out is Wood is tough to hit hard (thus the .265 BABIP as you said top 10%). Thus when he is hot and hitters are cold (as they tend to be at the beginning of the season) this ridiculous .198 BABIP is not AS ridiculous. He is a good pitcher and I am sure his BABIP will come up, I just don’t think you can attribute so much of his success to luck and when the article reads “he has been more lucky than good” I don’t agree. That is all I am saying.

            • Ron

              I agree with you. I detest the word luck because it suggests results independent from skill. It is arbritrary and gets under my skin like the word fair. It is not that i dont get the averages it is just that I think more in terms of winning or loosing individual battles. Pitchers make their own “luck” by being able to consistantly locate pitches.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                How would you describe a broken bat blooper on a beautiful pitch that falls in between the second baseman and the right fielder? Skill?

                (Not baiting – trying to understand your hate for the word “luck.” To me, that’s a perfect example of “luck” for the hitter, and “bad luck” for the pitcher. It’s a fluke that is not reflective of ability.)

                • Ron

                  Icky.

                  Or more appropriate, uncommon. I would think that a stat like BABIAP is closely correlated to innings pitched/pitch count. Ex. The first innng pitched and the last inning pitched where a pitcher gets beat more consistantly

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    OK, so I guess Wood has been less icky this year than last. I could go for that. :P

                    • Ron

                      Ha, my point is a broken bat blooper happens maybe once or twice a game which statistically speaking is not irrelevant but wont deviate the mean signifacantly. I think BABIAP is more greatly influenced by fatigue,poor defensive positioning and lack of execution as opposed to mere luck.

                    • Kyle

                      I prefer “variance” to “luck” for the reasons you are sort of describing.

                      Wood’s performance to date is positive variance. If he keeps pitching the way he has, with a certain amount of strikeouts, a certain amount of walks, a certain amount of BIPs of certain varieties, he’s probably going to give up a decent amount of runs more than he has so far.

                      Whether he’s been lucky or awesome or some mix of both to date doesn’t matter much to me, because what matters is what we can expect from him in the near future.

                  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                    “Ha, my point is a broken bat blooper happens maybe once or twice a game which statistically speaking is not irrelevant but wont deviate the mean signifacantly.”

                    But what if it were to happen 5 or 6 times?

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    No such correlation exists. PItchers might give up more walks or HR then, or K fewer guys. However, the probability of a batted ball in play going for a hit (especially a grounder or a flare going for a single) does not change. Remember, most of BABiP is driven by balls getting through for singles: even if the frequency of hard-hit balls increases, that’s pennies on the pound.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m not criticizing Wood. I’m simply saying that he doesn’t have some heretofore undiscovered ability to hold hitters to a BABIP below .200. Balls will start finding grass at a more increased rate, because that’s what they do. It’s not a knock on Wood – it’s an acknowledgement that some of the great results he’s seen have been the product of SOME good luck.

      No one said he hasn’t been pitching well. In fact, I made sure to use the very first Bullet in this post (and in a previous post, too) to emphasize that he HAS been good.

      • wkranz54

        I know, you did say that the advanced stats said he has been more lucky than good. More of a gripe I have with certain stats than what you wrote…

        BTW his BABIP will absolutely not stay below .200, but don’t it will creep up to the .290 AVG either. This is all assuming he continues to hit his spot and guys don’t figure something out on him.

        • wkranz54

          but not sure it will creep up**

        • Cubbie Blues

          Wood’s career BABIP is .265 so he has always had a better than average weakly hit balls.

          • Kyle

            Most of that probably comes from being a heavy fly ball pitcher. Fly balls in general have a lower BABIP than ground balls, but do more damage overall.

      • jt

        The air will get thinner. There will be less movement on pitched balls. The wind will blow out. The pitcher will tire as the season progresses. Batters will see tendencies.
        A BABIP over 6 months and 162 games of less than 0.200 by pitchers not named Koufax or Gibson is probably unlikely.

  • Diggs

    I think when (if) Garza makes it back to the rotation, we’ll see Villanueva moved to the bullpen. He has pitched well, but Feldman probably has more upside in the rotation. And I think they’ll give Jackson some more time as a starter to try and straighten things out.

  • mak

    I think one point that hasn’t been mentioned here (but I definitely read a tweet from a national baseball writer) is that putting E-Jax to the bullpen after 7 bad starts could be a deterrent for other free agents to sign here in the future. The Cubs invested a lot in him and should be a bit more patient (even if the BP role was temp). I think, at this point, given his experience, Villanueva is the obvious choice.

    • Cyranojoe

      Good point about free agents. Although I think this is an unusual circumstance — in a year or two, the Cubs will be playoff contenders, and not so likely to stick guys in the BP because we want to build other guys’ trade value.

      • Feeney

        I’m not sure how much of an impact it would have on free agents.

        “Hey Mr Highly Prized Free Agent it’s the Cubs. We’ve got 100 million dollars here for you if you sign for us.”

        “Didn’t you send Edwin Jackson to the bullpen for a couple weeks once? I’ll pass.”

        Not going to happen.

        Plus, on the other side of the coin you could look at what the Cubs have seemingly helped rejuvenate guys like Malholm and maybe Feldman and Nate S. if they keep up what they are currently doing. There are always going to be pros and cons to signing with the Cubbies and free agents will weigh all of those aspects. But if we are about to spend a boat load of money on a guy who is worried that he might be punished for not playing well enough then I don’t think he is worth it.

        • mak

          Point taken, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Sure, if E-Jax is only in the bullpen for a month, they can gloss over it. But the FO’s constant focus on doing everything it can to increase a player’s trade value (not value to the club) could be alarming for a free agent. As fans, we wouldn’t mind, of course.

    • hansman1982

      “…is that putting E-Jax to the bullpen after 7 bad starts could be a deterrent for other free agents to sign here in the future”

      Good, keep the ones that sign 3-5 year contracts away from us.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Are you done with your study yet?

        • hansman1982

          It’s been on the back burner lately. What I really want to tease out of it would require a lot more time than I can devote. Maybe later in the summer…

          Or, I just need to get in good with my Alma Mater and get some computer students to create some programs to mine the data I want.

      • mak

        The ones that you have to give 3-5 year contracts are the difference makers.

  • Dustin S

    Folks are quick to bash on the FO for the guys that don’t pan out, but looking at Wood, Feldman, Villanueva, Valbuena, Schierholtz, etc. they’ve done a lot better than some other front offices. Thinking about the south side cough cough…

    Also, Stewart’s timing for apparently taking a mini-vacation wasn’t real great just from a Chicago sports perspective. Not when you have guys like Joakim Noah fighting through injuries to beat Miami and LBJ, Duncan Keith’s wife has a child and he flies to Minneapolis to play that night, but then you have at the other end of the spectrum Derrick Rose and Ian Stewart.

    • mak

      Stewart and Rose (and Rose to Noah, Keith) are apples to oranges. But point taken, Stewart’s timing is terrible.

  • SBuck

    I have been thinking about how the Cubs have have so much pitching with trade value. They have Garza who proves if hes healthy he can be amazing and Feldman and Villanueva who can be huge trade chips if they prove themselves for the next few months. Would it be totally ridiculous to see the Cubs making a trade for Mark Trumbo for the Angels? I am from Souther California and go to Angels games and can tell they desperately need pitching and their offense can throw up 5+ runs a game easily. Is this to far from the picture?

  • JulioZuleta

    Ssiixx Mmaann Rroottaattiioonn. Easiest fix.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I saw you discussing that the other day. I just don’t think the team is going to be willing to throw off the regular schedule for all six pitchers. I know it’s probably only a few weeks before a trade or injury occur, but I still think they’d resist it.

      • mak

        I’d be OK with it. I don’t see how 1-2 days rest throws off a pitcher’s rhythm, but then again, I’m not a pitcher. Just seems to me, when a pitcher is given an extra day off or two, they always come back stronger (see Scott Feldman earlier this year).

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          It’s certainly a rare situation where you could even passably suggest a six-man, and I’ll grant that this is that rare situation.

          • JulioZuleta

            I know it’s by no means perfect, I just think it’s a better option to slightly changes things than to completely throw off one guy and either A. impede development or B. ruin trade value.

            • TWC

              The issue with a 6 man rotation is that pitchers generally perform better on 4 days’ rest, not 5.

              • JulioZuleta

                I just don’t see a better option. It’s not that easy to transition a guy back to the rotation, which they will have to do once one is traded. Hopefully they can just make the trade ASAP and not worry about it.

                • TWC

                  If they don’t make a trade, is it better to screw w/ one starter by sending him to the bullpen? Or is it better to screw with them all by making them all work on 5 (or occasionally 6) days’ rest?

                  • JulioZuleta

                    Is it better to screw with all a tiny, tiny, tiny bit, or completely change the role of one? Plus, it just makes for a way easier transition back into the five man. You never know when that trade (or an injury) is going to come. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to shift a guy in and out on the fly like that. Also I think it just sends a weird message. “Starters, come to the Cubs and we’ll let you start, unless we need to preserve a rental’s trade value, then you go to the pen.” Not one of these guys has done anything to warrant the demotion.

                    • Kyle

                      I don’t think the 6-man rotation would be that tiny of a change, so I’m saying screw with one.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      By this logic we should probably skip someone every time there’s an off day to not mess up the other four. Anyways, gotta go, Civ Pro final begins in 10 minutes.

                    • Kyle

                      That doesn’t follow the logic.

                      The pitchers have trained for and become used to a situation in which they have 4 or 5 days between starts, depending on off days.

                      I see no need to switch that to 5 or 6 just because we can’t bear to let Travis Wood or Christian Villanueva or Scott Feldman go to the pen for a bit.

  • Kenster

    I understand the crazy advanced metric stats and how they can say someones been lucky but that’s A lot of luck for 7 straight QS especially A dominant one against the Cardinals. It’s tough to get lucky for about 7 straight innings against A team like that.. Idk just my opinion

  • Bleed Cubbie Blue

    What it the downside to using a six man rotation until inevitably Garza, Feldman or Villanueva is traded. Not only would it maintain all of the pitchers value as starters but it also decreases the amount of pitches guys like Samardzija, Wood and Jackson throw in a season that the team record means next to nothing. Usually I am against using a 6 man rotation, but when is the last time the Cubs had a problem with having too many good starting pitchers?

    • Dynastyin2017

      The biggest downside of a 6 man rotation is the fact that your best pitcher(s) would go to the mound less. Your top of the rotation guys would get 4-6 less starts.
      That may not matter for this year’s Cubs team, but at some point you have to get Shark and Wood to 200 innings.

    • cubchymyst

      Notice no one is bringing up the fact that with a 6 man rotation your also likely removing an arm from the bullpen (unless you shorten the bench further), leading to more appearances by the players left in the pen. I think the bullpen would suffer in the long run from being over worked plus as mentioned above your taking starts away from your best pitcher. That is why the Rockies are playing around with a 4 man rotation and not 6.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Just to be a contrarian, wouldn’t the pitchers theoretically be able to go deeper into the game with more rest therefor saving the pen from that extra work?

        • cubchymyst

          So your talking about letting pitchers throw 120 pitches a start since they get extra rest. This means your not going to pull a pitcher if he gets into trouble during the 6th because they are only at 100 pitches. Or if a pitcher is having a bad game your not going to pull them in the 5th. In the NL your not going to pinch hit for your starter in the 6th for a chance to score. The bullpen usage would probably change some because if the pitcher is having a good game they can pitch longer, but not that much. With a 6th starter your either shorting your pen by an arm or shorting your bench by a bat, which in the NL has a bigger impact because of pinch hitting for the pitcher.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Hey, I said I was going to be contrarion, not be able to defend it.

            • cubchymyst

              I know, I was just elaborating on my point about why I think a 6 man starting rotation is a bad idea in the NL.

              • Bleed Cubbie Blue

                I agree its difficult to swing but the cubs already carry an extra arm in the bullpen with Rondon. Also, dont we have a lot of bullpen arms that we can overuse without risking any real value? Not that any injuries should be risked but why shouldnt we use Marmol, gregg, and others a good amount. This all being said with the realization that one or more of the starters could be traded at any time once they’re all healthy.

  • mtcubfan

    Brett,
    I enjoyed reading the piece by Ryan Probasco about you. As a die-hard cub fan that lives and has grown up in Montana, I crave information about the Cubs and enjoy your analysis of the information. As a lawyer, I also enjoy your sometimes legal commentaries that from my perspective are usually spot on. I read your blog daily.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for that, mt. Much obliged.

  • http://thenewenthusiast.com dw8

    Something beside the early suppressed BABIP from Wood.

    1. .7% increase in strikeout rate
    2. .5% decrease in walk rate
    3. 6% increase in GB rate (Something that looks to be a real skill improvement)
    4. The combination of increased GB rate and lower HR/FB is helpful.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Advanced stats have a purpose, but sometimes you need to look at what is going on out on the field. Wood has become a much better pitcher. Why? He has developed the ability to consistently come inside with a good fastball and cutter, even against righties. He carved up Freese and Molina this way last night. A pitcher that can do this will limit teams to a lower batting average.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      eh, I’ll bet you by end of year his batting average against will be pretty close to his career numbers.

    • hansman1982

      Stats do tell you what is going on out in the field. Right now the stats say that Wood has been amazing so far this year.

      They also tell you if you can expect that to continue and they are saying that we shouldn’t expect Wood to be THIS amazing all year.

  • jt

    From the Wikipedia:
    “principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in logic and problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”
    “In science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic (general guiding rule or an observation) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published model”
    Basically, it provides a step by step guide to apply the scientific method to apply toward appropriate hypothesis. It does not exempt from the scientific method.
    There has to be reproducible proof, Dude. Dude, you just have to make too many exemptions.

    • hansman1982

      You are new here, aren’t you…

      (I am assuming this is directed at Doc)

      • jt

        Doc knows who it is directed to.
        Concerning Wood:
        2012 he had 26 starts. In 20 of them he pitched 125.3 innings with a 2.51 ERA.
        In the other 6 he tossed 30.6 IP with an ERA of 11.47
        He was real real good 77% of the time. He sucked 23% of his starts.
        The ERA he has earned in his first 2013 starts is in keeping of the starts when he was good last year.
        It has been proven how good he can be when he is on his game. The unproven question is whether he will be more consistent in 2013 than he was in 2012.

        • hansman1982

          Ya, I was just advising against discussing the scientific method/actual science things with Doc. If you are wrong he will school you every single time and will be right far more than you will be.

          Re: splits like that, I could do that for a vast majority of the starting pitchers in baseball. Hell, I could probably find a 7 game stretch in most pitchers careers that have done what Wood has done so far this year. Just since it is at the beginning of the year, it gets magnified a 100 times. If this were 7 starts from June 1 to July 8, it would have been “Travis Wood has been quietly good lately”.

          • Drew7

            “Hell, I could probably find a 7 game stretch in most pitchers careers that have done what Wood has done so far this year.”

            This.

          • jt

            Doc…meh!
            Lower end starters have a higher % of sucky starts than top of the rotation guys. A high % of sucky starts gets a ticket to the BP.
            Wood, like Jackson, tends to be very very good when he is on and very very bad when he is not. To my way of thinking, that makes them very good back of the rotation guys. Now if Wood gets his % of good to stay over 80% then his esteem should also change. But that is a hard roe to hoe.
            So, your post is pretty much what I wanted to say only I didn’t say it as well.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Yup, that’s how we use it. 1-Rate is simpler that 2-rates, but you can increase the probability of observations with 2-rates. However, with these sorts of data, you never increase it enough to justify the 2-rate models.

      One of the people who really hammered home this principle in my field once wrote a book about Extinction subtitled: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? His conclusion? Mostly bad luck!

      • pete

        Just ask the dodo.

      • jt

        Doc
        My guess is that you are saying that the 1-rate model that is limited by a single factor is sufficient to view predictions of the future events.
        That is to say BAbip norm for a player will predict whether current data will continue in the future; it it a hot streak or will he soon regress.
        Mark Grace 1995 BAbip = 0.330
        Mark Grace career BAbip = 0.309
        Starlin Castro career BAbip = 0.333
        Starlin Castro 2012 BAbip = 0.315
        Starlin Castro 2013 BAbip through May 7 = 0.313
        Grace had 51 2B’s and 3 3B’s in ’95
        Castro was new to the league in 2010 and 2011.
        Seems BAbip is not monolithic. It is in itself the result of many factors.
        So when you allow it to vary while holding the rest of the universe constant, you are in fact allowing many factors to vary.
        Now you could build systems of first order linearly independent equations and apply various transforms etc
        or
        you could just empirically look to see just what has changed.
        Since this is baseball and not rocket science there really is not a need to integrate the partial derivatives of a couple of variables while holding the rest of the baseball universe constant.
        Just freakin’ look!

        • DocPeterWimsey

          You keep toss off frequencies without every asking the probabilities of the outcomes. Castro’s career BABiP is 0.329. That’s the null hypothesis. The probability of his four seasonal outcomes so far (136 in 389, 197 in 568, 169 in 532 and 36 in 115) under this 1-rate model is 2×10^-6. Now, the BABiP in 2010 & 2011 combined was 0.348 whereas it dropped to 0.317 in 2012 & 2013. The probability of getting 136 in 389 & 197 in 568 with Rate 1 = 0.348 and 169 in 532
          & 36 in 115 with Rate 2 = 0.317 is 4×10^-6. I.e., only 2.3 times as probable. We expect this sort of difference *just by chance alone* under a constant process in one of every 5 ball players. (At Castro’s “in play” ABs, we’d need a difference of nearly 7 times before we expect fewer than one player in 20 to show such differences.)

          So, my advice is: calculate the probabilities next time!

          • jt

            “under a constant process”
            A molecule moves through Newtonian/Euclidean space. It vibrates, rotates, crashes into other molecules which are similar or not as speeds faster or slower or relatively stationary (walls). As long as the system is at equilibrium (forward change = reverse change) the system is at “constant process”. Put the universe in an oven heated above the ambient temperature and that equilibrium changes. Put a similar universe in an active microwave and the equilibrium again changes but in a different way.
            Your assumption is that you are measuring the same thing when Grace changes from 0.330 to 0.309 as when Castro changes from 0.348 to 0.315. But just as an electron elevating to a higher orbital is not the same as increasing its molecules kinetic energy, Graces losing xbase power is not the same a Castro being pitched differently with a different defensive alignment. They each could have attempted to stave off the decline. But the solution for each would have been different. Grace could have attempted to stay in better shape. Castro could have learned better plate discipline. A chef has a better chance of satisfied customers when knowing the system; oven vs microwave. A manager/GM set also has a better chance of success when knowing the system.
            So, my advice is: gain a deeper understanding of the system on which you are applying your probability calculations.
            *
            After the meteor hit, there was not much of need to trim trees nor eliminate inefficient life forms. Starvation was just the manifestation of that lack of need. The model that worked so nicely for Dino prior to the big one hitting was no longer was valid after. The “constant process” had changed as did the equilibrium as did the potential for potential for survival.
            *
            I’ve been recently watching documentaries such as the telescopes history, an attempt to build a mechanical pterodactyl and the formation of the earth via collision with another planet.
            The earth swallowing a smaller planet to form the inner core was chance. But that a planet would swallow a smaller planet was inevitable. That it happened here was an accident. That it happened was not an accident. Sometimes order is created from entropy. But that that order will itself degenerate is also inevitable. So the 3rd law stipulates. The system you measure today may not be the same system tomorrow.

      • jt

        I like the explanation that extinction is guided by the evolution within a nitch or the destruction of the nitch itself.
        Big beasts that lived above ground were not needed after the meteor hit so bye bye Dino. Fly by the seat of your pants managers are not really needed post sabermetrics so bye bye Zim.
        I whole heartily believe the baby of Bill James is a great innovation. Just, a discipline gutsta know its limitation.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          There actually is considerable evidence that replacement by close relatives drives a bit of extinction. (Ah, I just gave a seminar at U. Chicago on this topic!) It’s called the Red Queen: changing just to keep up with the rest of the world. (Another U. Chicago paleontologist coined that one about 40 years ago.)

          However, most extinction is not so much niche destruction as whole-sale habitat destruction. Non-avian dinosaurs didn’t go extinct because they were not needed: they basically got starved. Trilobites were wonderfully adapted: for environments that no longer exist. Hence, Raup (the first U. Chicago paleontologist in question) concluded: bad luck.

  • SBuck

    I have been thinking about how the Cubs have have so much pitching with trade value. They have Garza who proves if hes healthy he can be amazing and Feldman and Villanueva who can be huge trade chips if they prove themselves for the next few months. Would it be totally ridiculous to see the Cubs making a trade for Mark Trumbo for the Angels? I am from Souther California and go to Angels games and can tell they desperately need pitching and their offense can throw up 5+ runs a game easily. Good idea?

  • Feeney

    “I get all the ‘new’ ‘fancy’ ‘stats’ but what I SEE is…….”

    I try to never read past that sentence in any post.

    • TWC

      Heh

  • tsb

    “Luck” is like a “second wind.” Medical researchers say it doesn’t exist, but they admit that they have felt it.

  • http://www.obstructedview.net Myles

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