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kevin gregg cubsBaseball is a beautiful and cruel game. One of my favorite things about baseball, compared to other sports, is that, because of the long season, flukes and luck and bad bounces tend to even out over the course of the year. The “good” teams typically end up “good” in the standings, and underlying trends in a team’s or player’s stats tend to bear themselves out in the baseball card stats by the end of the season.

But not always. Sometimes, baseball is just cruel.

Today, the Chicago Cubs stand a season-low 10 games below .500, ostensibly living into the crumminess many of us projected back in Spring Training. But FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron digs into the numbers behind the numbers, and concludes not only that the Cubs are better than their record would suggest … they’re a whole lot better.

I can’t summarize the entirety of Cameron’s work within just a couple sentences, so you’re going to want to read the piece for yourself. The upshot, though, is that when you compare the Cubs’ player performances to the player performances of the teams the Cubs have played (using wOBA), the Cubs have actually (as of yesterday) outperformed their opponents. They are the only team with a losing record that can claim that, and, indeed, the worst team with the kind of positive wOBA differential that the Cubs have is a couple games over .500.

That model suggests – and I think we’d all anecdotally say – the Cubs’ primary “problem” this year has been the unlucky sequence of events that has befallen them. Giving up hits at the wrong time. Not getting hits at the right time. (Think bullpen blowing games late, and batters hitting so poorly with runners in scoring position, for example.)

Because sabermetrics holds that teams can’t control the sequence of events, the Cubs are simply victims of extraordinarily bad luck (the worst luck in baseball this year by many times over). Which, you know, sounds a bit right.

On the other hand, the flaws in the roster were apparent back when the Cubs broke Spring Training, and, at its core, the team has struggled where you would have expected them to struggle (offensive production, bullpen), and been solid where you would have expected them to be solid (starting pitching).

So, what I wonder: how much of the Cubs’ outperformance of their opponents at a granular wOBA level is actually due to good luck? Sure, we can say the Cubs should have a better record than they do based on how they’ve performed, but maybe they should have performed worse based on their true talent level. Is Scott Feldman performing at his true talent level? Travis Wood? Kevin Gregg? Cody Ransom? Luis Valbuena? Etc., etc.

So … maybe being 10 games under .500 isn’t all that cruel or unfair after all.

  • Ben

    Brett,

    May be early to ask this, but where does the manager’s performance fit with a team that is “outperforming” but not winning? It seems to me that it’s fair to begin evaluating whether things like lineup selection/sequence, bullpen use (see Camp, Shawn) and lack of winning attitude (I know, impossible to quantify) are contributing to the losing. I’m not a Ryno guy and I know all the caveats about talent, but when you look at what Francona is doing in Cleveland I start to wonder if Dale isn’t a placeholder waiting for a seasoned manager when it’s time to win.

    • mjhurdle

      I do not know if Dale is in the long-term plans or not, but you can’t knock him for some things (bullpen, lineups) without also crediting him for others (defensive shifts, etc).

      • hansman1982

        NONSENSE!!! GIVE NO CREDIT TO ANYONE, EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • I love marmol

          jim?

    • Rcleven

      Ben: Have you considered that Sveum has gotten more out players than there talent level? This is a pretty crappy team talent wise. Maybe just maybe Sveum has them playing over their skill levels.

      • Ben

        The Cubs’ best players don’t seem to be over-producing.

  • Cubfanbob

    It’s not the losing but how they are losing that is cruel. This team has to lead the league in 9th inning tease rallys, closer blown games, pass balls allowing runners to advance to 2nd which eventually score, and runner on second with no outs not scoring. It’s depressing…..

    • Cyranojoe

      Hard as it is to believe, I’m pretty sure we don’t lead the league in blown saves. Looks to me like we’ve got about 9, and Arizona has about 11, though this list doesn’t include pitchers with only one blown save…

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/sort/blownSaves

    • Spriggs

      It also seems to be pretty consistent with Cubs history in my lifetime. Nothing is changing on the field. No walks, hacking at everything, no hitting with RISP, a bullpen that walks too many, ninth inning rally teases, shitty players preforming just well enough to merit playing WAY too much, bad things happening at the worst times (balks – Camp, WPs, bad throws, bad calls by the umps), getting out managed at the end of games with player usage or lack of options, etc. (DeJesus pinch hitting late against a lefty the other day). They find ways to lose and it’s getting (no, it is) contagious. I don’t know if it’s bad luck or what, but it’s consistent year after year after year. Damnit.

      • Jeffrey Wilson

        I Couldn’t Agree More. I Don’t Care What The Numbers Say, They Just Completely Fail The “Eye Test.” You Can Pick Any Stat To Support A Viewpoint (Just Look At Economists), But From Afar The Cubs Look Like They Should Be >10 Under.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I can’t find a stat to support the idea that the Cubs have hit well this year with runners in scoring position.

          • J Wilson

            Haha, good point. Overall, I’m just saying that stats (the same stats), in general, can be manipulated to support different viewpoints, as in “the cubs are a decent team.” But, when you look at stats & the TV, at least in my opinion, they don’t look unlucky, just bad.

            • Kyle

              Stats can be manipulated, but that doesn’t mean these stats are being manipulated.

              Besides the fact that he’s using an established Sabermetric method for evaluating teams, why would a Mariners fan writing for a national audience manipulate a story in favor of the Cubs?

              • J Wilson

                I’m saying I don’t understand why the article was written. The author highlighted one stat and said “Gee, the Cubs are a better team than 10 games under.” I love sabremetrics, I really do, but opining on a team’s capability based on one stat is like saying “Fracking is bad because I watched Gasland.”

                Cameron said the Cubs team has pieces on their [current] roster to do well in the very near future. I disagree. Maybe Cameron just wanted to make Cubs fans feel good (before you attack, easy, that’s a joke, I doubt he wrote the article to make us feel good).

                • SirCub

                  wOBA is one stat, correct. It’s one stat that includes the weighted contributions from the individual stats for singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, hit by pitches, and outs.

                  Otherwise known as: baseball.

                • Kyle

                  That ‘one stat’ is a fairly important one that statheads have frequently used as a way to measure a team’s “true” performance.

                  It may not be a comprehensive look, but I’m not entirely sure where your disagreement is coming from other than “I don’t like the conclusion, and sometimes stats can be misused, so the stats must be being misued.”

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  It is also misleading to call it “one stat.” wOBA is a composite of numerous stat and summarizes their relationships with the two numbers that really count: runs scored and runs allowed.

                  Notably, you reach the same conclusion with OPS. The Cubs have a net OPS of 0.037. In the last 51 years, 94 teams have finished with a net OPS between 0.032 and 0.042. Only 6 of them finished below 0.500, with the worst have a 0.472 winning percentage (the 1967 O’s). Two more finished at 0.500, and the median record was 0.549 (89-73 in 162 games, or 25-21 in 46 games).

                  Lest this sound too ridiculous, there is a one in 44 chance that a 0.549 team will go 18-26. That’s not huge: but we expect 2 teams every 3 years to do this just by chance alone.

                  • DarthHater

                    Yea, yea. Anybody can use “reason” to manipulate “facts” and demonstrate “truth.” Thpppppppt. :-P

                    • hansman1982

                      Bah…It’s as if BetterMath were wrong or something…

                  • Kyle

                    Amazing work as always

                  • Kyle

                    This all comes down to sequencing.

                    In baseball, the same events can produce dramatically different results. Two walks, a single, a home run and three outs can net you one run or four, depending on the order, but the performance from your team is the same regardless.

                    The Cubs, to date, have had some of the worst sequencing imaginable. There are some very small things a team can do to control their sequencing (lineup order, bullpen usage), but in the larger scheme that’s trying to redirect a yacht with a small wooden paddle.

                  • Eternal Pessimist

                    But do the stats measure “CF” (choke factor), which is, of course, the likelihood of a given player choking in important situations. Does the .270 hitter for the Cubs become a .500 hitter when down by five and a .050 hitter when down by one in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. We seem to have very hight CF players this year. Not really sure how their CF this year compares with past years.

                    During the last two Cub playoffs the CF was immeasurably high, after a generally low CF throughout the year. This metric needs to be evaluated closely in the future!

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      It is easy to measure the probabilities of a player’s performances “in the clutch” and “not in the clutch” given his overall numbers. Basically, about one player in 20 deviates (one way or the other) at a level that one player in 20 should. The players that deviated in 2012 were not the players that deviated in 2011 and won’t be the players that deviate in 2013.

                      As for the Cubs playoffs, there was no “choke” factor. 75% of opening rounds go to the team that had the better September run differential. In both ’07 and ’08, the Cubs had worse run-differentials than their opponent. The ’08 Cubs stood out particularly: they had a negative run-differential in September, and teams with negative September run-differentials are (I think) 2-13 in post-season series over the last decade plus. The “choke” started in late August, not early October.

                • hansman1982

                  I ran a correlation between wOBA and OPS for all of the players in FanGraphs career leaders section (3700ish players) and it came out to .957, compared to SLG it was .869, OBP .938, adjusted OPS (OBP*1.8+SLG (as called out in the Fangraphs wOBA page as being more accurate in determining player value than straight OPS)) .973.

                  When we translate it to team stats (looking at 2010 here just because I picked a random year and I know…SSS) it correlates at .945.

                  This “one stat” that you are talking about, lines up pretty well with the more traditional stats in determining offensive value. Just because it doesn’t tell you what you think you know, doesn’t make it garbage.

                  Thanks to statistical analysis, my assumptions about pitcher height (in that it doesn’t really matter) were corrected.

                  • hansman1982

                    So…long story short…

                    wOBA tells you the same thing all of your favorite stats do, only better!

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      What if my favorite stat is wRC+?

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      Yeah, wOBA probably is a little better than OPS. My one “gripe” with wOBA is that it is a little circular: every year has its own marginally different wOBA formula based on the small fluxes in associations between the constituent stats and run-scoring. Given the association between run-differential and winning (which, unless your Eric Byrnes, is pretty big!), that means that wOBA is always moving to make itself better describe winning.

                      But however you slice it, no team performing like the Cubs has finished the season with a winning percentage anywhere near the Cubs in at least 52 years. Indeed, no team has underperformed by more than 20 wins in the last 51 years, and only 2 teams have underperformed by more than 15 wins. The Cubs are on pace to finish 26 wins under!

                      Given how many really bad managers there have been over the last 51 years (1338 individual teams!), this tells you that bad managing alone cannot do this.

                    • hansman1982

                      “Cubbie Blues
                      May 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
                      What if my favorite stat is wRC+?”

                      Then you’re a communist.

                • J Wilson

                  I understand what wOBA is, but my point still is valid. Nothing is unfair, the Cubs aren’t somehow not to blame for being 10 under. They’re 10 under because THEY have lost those games. Boo hoo, wOBA says the Cubs are in contention, but they aren’t. The reason can’t be explained in any stat. For instance, Castro came up with RISP and swung at the first 2 pitches. The first pitch was a good fastball at the knees on the outside corner that he tried to pull out into the seats. He was lucky he didn’t make better contact, otherwise it would have been a roll-over. He swung at the second pitch in the dirt, and made an easy out shortly thereafter.

                  There isn’t some mythical reason why the stats don’t align symbiotically with the record…it’s just that the Cubs aren’t any good.

                  • DarthHater

                    Yes, anecdotal evidence based on two pitches is far more meaningful than 50+ years of statistics.

                    • J Wilson

                      Jesus I swear forum frequenters are incapable of extrapolation or inference. I used that as an example. Darth, do you really believe the Cubs should be 1 game over/under .500? Are they better than half the teams in the league?

                    • Kyle

                      Yes. I completely believe it.

                      There’s statistical evidence to that end. You’ve not responded to that evidence with anything but vague indignation and two small anecdotes.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      I think that our point is that if just “it’s the team’s fault” could explain the Cubs, then we would see a lot more cases like the Cubs in recent history. The thing is that we don’t. So, unless we think that there is something uniquely bad about this team, we need another explanation.

                      Basically, Kyle has a great summary of it. The correspondences between summary stats (wOBA, OPS, etc.) and winning assume that the raw components are randomly distributed. The Cubs almost certainly *must* be getting among the worst sequences possible: both when batting and pitching. It’s the opposite of a team that’s getting the best sequences possible this far into the season: it cannot last!

                      The sad thing is that regression won’t save the Cubs: even if the Cubs regress to 0.549 ball and go 65-53 the rest of the way, then they win only 83 games. That won’t get the team to post-season. Moreover, it won’t get the 0.549 performance past July: the ensuing sell-off (because the record will not yet have eked back to 0.500) will leave the Cubs with a worse team.

                      (That is, of course, assuming that injuries don’t do that beforehand.)

  • cooter

    where does management fit into this equation. Sometimes the decisions are so off that I kind of wonder if the F.O. is pulling the strings with one thing in mind, draft picks.

  • cooter

    sorry ben, you beat me to it. hahaha

  • turn two

    Is it bad luck or bad late game players, aka the bullpen. Luck favors the prepared man, this won’t be popular on this site, but we need more “winners” who know how to pull games out.

    • JoeyCollins

      Hawk is that you?

  • DarthHater

    “So, what I wonder: how much of the Cubs’ outperformance of their opponents at a granular wOBA level is actually due to good luck?”

    Bingo.

  • Cubbie Blues

    You also have to figure in the platoon splits which have not done well from the right side. That combined with a poor bullpen explains a lot. We only barely have a little higher wOBA than our opponents. So, we would expect a lot of close games. What then happens when you have a close game and you hand the ball over to a bad pen? A loss. Also, we have had several of the late inning comebacks to fall 1-2 runs short in the 8th or 9th. That will also keep the wOBA at the even point. Once we factor in the poor performance from the platoons on the right side of the plate everything starts to make sense.

    I hope all of that made sense because it did in my head anyway.

    • SirCub

      I don’t think having a wOBA close to your average opponent’s wOBA necessarily means that you’ll be in a clot of close games. The only thing that causes a team to play in a lot of close games is if you are playing in a run-suppressing environment, which the Cubs have (Bad offense, good pitching).

      • Cubbie Blues

        I don’t know. If you score the same amount of runs as your opponents, one would expect there will be some blow-outs each way, but most of them to be close games. Maybe I’m looking at it wrong though. I’m not going by anything here, but my own logic which could easily be flawed.

        • SirCub

          Maybe, I’m sure Doc would give a us a good answer. But I was just thinking that the variance in how many runs you score from day to day would be large enough that you wouldn’t necessarily see more close games for teams who are about average in terms of run differential.

          It’s interesting, though, that what Cameron points out is that the Cubs’ record is under-performing their run differential, AND their run-differential is under-performing their production. Brett’s point, though, is probably valid that their production is out-performing their talent. Baseball is so crazy.

    • Kyle

      It makes sense, but it isn’t true. A bullpen has some effect on winning close games, but it isn’t huge and wouldn’t explain this difference.

      A bad bullpen can just as easily cause a 5-0 lead to become a 5-4 win or a 5-4 loss to turn into an 8-4 loss.

  • SirCub

    What’s most frustrating to me, is that going into this season, I’d told myself that they probably weren’t going to be good, unless they had a lot of things go right, and a lot of players step up/bounce back.

    They’ve had those players do what they needed to do, and they’re still not good. Very demoralizing.

  • mjhurdle

    The fact that the Cubs are actually in most of the games they play is nice to see, but also the reason this season is particularly frustrating. Last year, when the Cubs were so bad, the losing was so expected and out of reach that it didn’t hurt as bad.
    But this year, they seem to make a habit of convincing me that they might just win every game, then find new, painful ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    oh well, Go Cubs Go!

  • curt

    at the end of the day don’t the good teams make their own luck and bad teams fall to their bad breaks, good teams find a way and bad teams find a way to lose probably simplifying it to much but isn’t that what it is .

  • Fishin Phil

    “Cubbie Occurrences”

    • TWC

      “Now is not the time for bold changes.”

      • SirCub

        Ha. But that one’s kinda true, in this case.

        • TWC

          “We just need to get a little bit more left handed.”

          • Spriggs

            …The talent’s there. It’ll flow… OK, it doesn’t show because we’re 5 and 14…(censored Lee Elia rant portion)

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Bingo.

  • Joey Jo Jo Junior

    The problem is that the Cubs’ players don’t have The Will To Win.

  • No Longer JR

    I am starting to wonder if Sveum is like Dick Jauron – he looks the part but I’m not sure he’s actually good at his job. The things that bother me are the constant bunting – wasn’t he supposed to embrace advanced stats? – and using Russell to get one or two batters. Sending flailing relievers into Garza’s game also made me question his judgment. Was Villaneuva available? If he was that was a no-brainer to eat up 2-3 innings in a close game (I can’t remember if he pitched the night before). Keeping Soriano in the 5 spot despite his extended slump also baffles me. I realize we do not have great options behind him but the RBI production out of that slot is horrific. I have to think even putting Shierholtz in that slot and waiting for Soriano to heat up (I assume he will, at some point) would have given the Cubs more runs. But do something to try to jump start this anemic offense. I try not to get too worked up about this kind of stuff – the team does not have the talent to compete so the peripheries don’t make too much of a difference, if at all – but it’s starting to make me question what he brings to the table and whether they should keep him.

    One of his big assets, I thought, was respect in the dugout, him being a super-tough ex-major leaguer and all that. They were going to play sound fundamental baseball, work hard, have belly fire and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played and all that. If any of that actually matters – and I like to think it does if you have a certain minimal talent level, just like some super talented people in the business world are not self-motivated and can be lazy or not achieve their potential if not managed appropriately – Sveum has not brought that to the table. He himself is saying Jackson is not properly motivated and Castro is going backwards, something needs to be done about that (send him to the 8-hole where he might learn to take walks because he’ll see pitches even further out of the strike zone?). And maybe Sveum can’t do anything because it’s not possible to change guys at the major league level and maybe, well, likely, that stuff doesn’t matter anyway, it comes down to talent. In that case, maybe the Cubs should be at the vanguard of having a manager whose expertise is not in having played major league baseball but in effective management, who is willing to make decisions purely on the statistical probabilities – like not constantly bunting and attempting steals – and figuring out strategies to maximize the potential of the players we do have.

    • fromthemitten

      Yep, definitely a lack of belly fire and twtw

  • Rudy

    I actually see this as a really good thing! It means that there is overall progress being made. We were never going to be making the playoffs this year, especially in this division. The best we could hope for is progress from our young players and good performances from possible trade candidates to pump up their value. When that happens, that usually means the team’s record is going to be pretty good and a sell off could be hard to justify. In this case we are getting the best of both worlds as the players are performing quite well but we are not hurting our draft position and international pool $$.

  • @rooting4wrigley

    Sveum didn’t bother me last year, but this recent business with keeping Camp, putting Russel in (easily his best guy, assuming Gregg is closer) for just one batter and then pulling him for Camp, the attitude with Marmol, it warrants a lot of criticism and blame, thinking that games are the times to bench the winners and give the losers playtime. The shifting didn’t really work well until Barney came back (and Castro keeps screwing up), so that success is clearly more on the players and not a credit to Sveum.

  • mudge

    Psychology is a large part of baseball, as every other human endeavor. I see a game with many variables, not all of which are measurable by statistical analysis.

    • itzscott

      >> Psychology is a large part of baseball <<

      I agree.

      Since overall talent normally varies slightly among most players, the one variable is the where a player scores on the Pete Rose Scale.

      Historically the Cubs have been known to seek out lovable players who were not overly competitive and driven to win.

      • mudge

        I’m not arguing against advanced statistics – they’re a good measure against prejudice and sentimentality. They’re not a replacement for an understanding of the psychology of young men. Sveum’s mastered the hard part of managing. Now he has to master the easy part. I’m rootin’ for him.

  • Koyie Hill Sucks

    If a shitty Bullpen + terrible clutch hitting + Dale Sveum = Bad luck , then yes the cubs are just unlucky…

    • SirCub

      Yup, pretty much. All those things are a result of bad luck.

      Consider the performance of individual Cub relievers: Each of Fujikawa, Marmol, and even Russel has been out of the closer role, terrible in it.

      They’ve been unlucky, on top of being bad. Same’s true of the hitters.

      • SirCub

        *has been good out of the closers role

    • YourResidentJag

      But could the Cubs have had at least some decent hitting that they decided to pass on because they didn’t like the age factor involved with acquiring a guy like Bourn over the upside of SP Jackson for the future. Or acquiring a guy not known for his OBP, in Cespedes, but certainly a guy who’s hitting for power and would be a better alternative in the 5th spot in the batting order. Sometimes luck is the outcome of pre-determined choice.

  • itzscott

    I’d rather not look at the team as a whole, but drill down to individual players to try to identify who the true problems are and who isn’t. I’d kinda guess that the players who have been far from consistent are the ones causing the poor record…. look at Rizzo and Castro during the latest losing streak!

    I don’t buy the bad luck thing as all teams should be pretty much equal in that regard and in the end it usually evens out.

    • Spriggs

      If all things equal out, then we should be getting ready for a long string of World Series titles.

      • itzscott

        Luck and World Series titles are two different things entirely.

        • Spriggs

          And you can say that about nearly anything… “Luck and XXXXX are two different things…”

          But you usually need a little luck to win one. And the Cubs have come up short in that respect many, many times. You can start with the pennants in 1910 thru 1945 – what 7 of those? – and then go to the good teams of the late 60’s early 70’s, 1984, 1989, 20XX teams that were good enough, and say none of them had enough luck. Far worse teams than those have been winners.

          Things don’t always even out. Not for the Cubs anyway.

          • Eternal Pessimist

            Not being good in the clutch is not the same as being unlucky. We need a statistic for players who are bad in clutch situations. I think this explains a large part of the Cubs woes.

            • Kyle

              The subject has been studied to death. The so-called “clutch” performances do not appear to be any sort of intrinsic skill (with some microscopic exceptions) but rather simple expressions of variance.

  • Timmy

    The most unlucky sequence of all was the emergence of our new ownership.

  • jt

    The magic bullet stat does not exist
    Cubs are close to the top in SLG but close to the bottom in OBP. They are at the bottom in BB. They are not getting guys on firstbase. Yet they are in the middle of the pack in hitting in double plays. When the do get a runner on first, that guy often gets wiped out on a weak grounder.
    Simply put, they don’t keep the line moving. They don’t often make the pitcher work from the stretch. They don’t make the pitcher work such that they get into the opponents soft belly of the bullpen.
    *
    If you have one hand in the oven and the other in the freezer, your avg body temp may be fine but there is no equilibrium. The SP’ing has been great. But 2 SP’ers don’t work the same game. They are vulnerable in the late innings.
    *
    Soriano is fielding well but not doing the same offensively. I’m sorry, but they need a banger in LF.
    *
    Rizzo, Castro, Castillo, Valbuena and Barney are still learning. Schierholz is proving to be a decent role player but not a star.
    That leaves DeJesus as the only complete position player and he is in a platoon.
    *
    Long and short: The team is showing its potential. It has not realized its potential. Some players will have to improve and other players will have to be replaced

  • pete

    We can say all we want about luck and/or stats but, when push comes to shove, Bill Parcells put it best – You are what your record says you are. And the Cubs are 10 under because they should be 10 under.

    • SirCub

      Difference between saying you are what you are and you are what you should be.

      • jt

        But are you what you can be?
        Will Rizzo, Castro and Castillo improve?
        Will they improve the BP?
        Will they improve the play coming from LF?
        Seems a bit of a crap shoot but I like the odds.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Yes, you are what your record says you are.
      But what you’re GOING to be isn’t what you currently are.

      • pete

        I agree with that Norm. But it is still not completely clear what we are going to be.

    • Jp3

      I thought Bert Cooper said that… Oh wait, he said “The Japanese have a saying: a man is whatever room he is in, and right now Donald Draper is in this room”.

    • Edwin

      “You are what your record says you are”. That’s an oversimplification, and it misses the whole point. You can’t just pretend that luck/sequencing doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter.

  • jt

    In some ways Hairston is a good example of this luck thing.
    Scott’s career has seen 44% of his hits be xbhits and 31.5 of his hits ball in play have been xbhits.
    His effective fly balls are not little dinks over the 2B’s head. He slams the ball to the gap or into the bleachers. This is not a luck thing in the same way it is for Castro. Hairston has to square up on the ball to be successful. Maybe he has been unlucky in that he is just barely missing his pitch. Alverez “robbed” him of a couple of hard hit balls in the Buc’s series. Maybe he is “due” a couple of bloopers. Maybe it is just an indication that he is starting to come out of the slump. But his stats say that he has to drive the ball and drive the ball hard. I don’t see how that is luck dependent.

  • WI Jeff

    BN’s:
    Something to think about….Will history repeat in the next couple of years? Will Theo and Jed Hoyer seriously consider/try trading Castro for pitching like the Boston Club did with their SS Hanley Ramirez back in 07. Perhaps they feel they can get better pieces in return and plug in a player from the international draft or someone in the system like Baez, Tim Saunders, Arismendy Alcantara, Marco Hernadez or local HS player Elliot Soto. I am sure there is a lot (as a outsider) don’t know about character, make-up and baseball IQ that will decide in FO can with with or without Castro.

    Remember this trade?
    “Josh Beckett, then just 25, was coming off a 3.38 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 178 2/3 innings for Florida. He earned $2.4MM in 2005 and was due a significant raise in his second trip through arbitration, plus the team was unlikely to re-sign him long-term when he hit free agency after 2007.

    Beckett had significant trade value, so the Marlins took advantage by attaching then-31-year-old Mike Lowell to him in talks. If a team wanted Beckett, they had to take Lowell as well. The third baseman slipped to .236/.298/.360 with eight homers in 558 plate appearances that year, but more importantly he was scheduled to earn $18MM total from 2006-2007.

    Few teams could meet Florida’s demand for a young shortstop, but the Red Sox were one of them. The two sides worked out a seven-player trade that sent Beckett, Lowell, and Guillermo Mota to Boston in exchange for prospects Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado. The Marlins saved all $18MM owed to Lowell in addition to second- and third-year arbitration salaries for Beckett and a third-year arbitration salary for Mota. The trade worked out well for both teams as Beckett and Lowell helped the Red Sox to the 2007 World Championship while Ramirez developed into an MVP candidate and Sanchez became a rock solid innings-eater for the Marlins.” citing a site that takes content from other sites. LOL http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/josh_beckett/

    • jt

      I watched that RS team on NESN.
      Nobody expected Lowell to be as good as he was.
      I doubt that Mike Lowell has to pay for any drinks in any bar in Boston.

    • pete

      Actually, that was Jed’s trade. That trade was pulled off when Theo had left the Sox for a brief time in a huff.

  • curt

    Brett best guess is there progress being made this year or is this a lost year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Still too early for me to say. Need to see the prospects get more time, need to see what the Cubs do in the Draft and at the Deadline.

  • Rcleven

    The argument is being unlucky offensively. But defense is the other half of the game. Watching the Cubs they lack in the fundamentals. Throwing thru cutoff man. The cutoff man not being in position. Too many pass balls on the catcher. Not moving to square up just to block a pitch. Not backing up first. Pitcher out of position backing up home and third. Outfielders throwing to the wrong base.
    These are all little things but little things add up.

  • baseballet

    Last year on this date the Cubs were 15-29 for a .341 win percentage. This year the Cubs are 18-28 for a .391 win percentage. So they have made a slight improvement, which is about all one could have expected going into this season given the roster. Ricketts only allocated enough money for players of this caliber. Going into this season I think most of us expected a last place team. We expected them to lose and they’re losing.

    • Edwin

      Mission Accomplished!

  • curt

    You have to give theo/Jed a couple more years to clear hendry and company’s fingerprints off this team( soriano) etc. if they still suck like this in 3 years then it’s all on them for now it’s a partial pass.

  • Diamond Don

    Cubs may have some bad luck, but good teams overcome this. The Cubs are losing so many close games by a run or two because they don’t know how to hit with runners in scoring position. Where is the hitting coaching? Obviously, some of the blame has to go there. The starting pitchers have pitched great, but the bullpen has been terrible and needs to improve. What other teams in MLB are paying their clean up batter $18 million dollars per year for 4 HR’s and only 15 RBI’s on May 24th? You can’t blame the younger players like Rizzo and Castro as they are only 23 and still learning. But what is Soriano’s excuse? I think it is time to make the trade of Soriano for that six pack of beer!

  • Die hard

    They need to play the weather more- on bad weather like cold and rainy days play the younger team as old farts don’t do well in bad conditions–

  • Rebuilding

    This is a topic that really interests me as removing as much “luck” as possible could be a real competitive advantage if you determine some things considered luck just aren’t. Infield shifts are one good example. BABIP generally is considered luck, but if you can meaningfully reduce it by positioning you have removed some luck. In regards to positive/negative variance to Pythagorean record I have been working on a study that I hope to get published looking at outliers to Pythagorean record and OPS for and against as compared to actual record and what things the outliers have in common. With respect to divergences two things really stand out: the ability to take walks (really a team’s OBP with runner’s in scoring position) and the effectiveness of a team’s bullpen. It seems that teams that take and reduce walks in close game situations win/lose more games than they should given the usual models..it tires out a team’s pitcher often forcing pitching changes late, changes the leverage of the situation and changes the defense. Walks are a relatively constant when compared to hits due to BABIP fluctuation. With respect to the bullpen it’s my hypothesis that even though bullpens make a relatively low amount of total team innings they have a higher leverage factor so a bad bullpen will cause a team to substantially underperform its expected record. I’ll post the whole thing here when I’m done

    • Kyle

      The connection between bullpens and over/underperformance has been studied quite thoroughly. There’s a small effect, but it explains only a small fraction of the variance we are talking about.

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