Are More Homers on the Way for Cubs Pitchers? And Other Bullets

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Are More Homers on the Way for Cubs Pitchers? And Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

wrigley field inside featureThe “Other Bullets” has been used around here every single day for almost four years now, but I still get grief from folks who think I’m being insensitive whenever there is violence in the news. They don’t like the “bullets” in there, and I’m sure I’ll hear it from a person or two given the recent Starlin Castro news.

But it’s bullet points. They are bullets.

  • On a much lighter note, WEEI has a fun, behind-the-scenes read on how David Ross wound up with the Cubs. It sounds like the Red Sox were always holding firm at one year, while the Cubs were willing to go to two years. The Padres may have been as aggressive as the Cubs, but Ross was ready to commit to the Cubs, pending a final chance for the Red Sox to up their offer. What’s most interesting is that, while many folks were thinking about the Cubs’ courting of Ross as a way to provide an extra enticement to Jon Lester, it didn’t quite play out that way. Instead, it sounds like the Cubs were interested in Ross all along, and once the Cubs got Lester, then they got extra aggressive in trying to get Ross (he doesn’t quite say as much, but that’s the implication). The possibility there is that the Cubs believe Ross is even more valuable when paired, specifically, with Lester (and vice versa) – something that the data certainly bore out over the last couple seasons. So, in other words, it may have been that getting Lester made Ross more attractive to the Cubs, not getting Ross that would have made the Cubs more attractive to Lester.
  • Of course, to be fair, the Cubs completed their trade for Miguel Montero almost commensurately with signing Lester, so it’s conceivable that they were about to get very aggressive on Ross either way. However it played it, it’s fun to think about the many layers of interplay.
  • The WEEI piece includes a great deal from Ross on why he ultimately chose the Cubs, by the way.
  • FanGraphs updated its library entry on HR/FB ratio, which I strongly encourage you to read, as it’s something I reference around here quite frequently when analyzing pitching performance (extraordinarily short version: while pitchers have some control over how many fly balls they give up, they don’t have a ton of control (some, but not a ton) over what percentage of those fly balls leave the ballpark. League average is about 10%, and most pitchers’ “true talent level” is right there in that range). That got me down a wormhole a bit wondering whether the Cubs’ pitchers are due for regression in that area in 2015 – I vaguely remembered that they didn’t give up a ton of homers – and sure enough, as a team, the Cubs had a HR/FB ratio of just 8.0%, the second lowest mark in the league. Several key performers – Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, and Hector Rondon – were under 5%. That’s highly unlikely to sustain, so, well, brace yourself for an uptick in homers given up by the Cubs this year, probably.*
  • *(In case you were wondering if it was a Wrigley Field thing (because HR/FB is not park-adjusted), I went back a few years to confirm that the Cubs were generally around the 10% league average mark over the past several seasons. In other words, last year’s dip was, in fact, a dip, not a reflection of how it always is for Cubs pitchers. You should have expected that, though, because we already knew that Wrigley Field is a slightly homer-friendly park, overall.)


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.