The Suddenly Speedy Chicago Cubs and Other Bullets

anthony rizzo on base smile helmetDon’t forget about tonight’s FREE fantasy baseball contest from DraftKings. You sign up here, you pick your team, and you maybe win some prize money. That’s it. Easy and fun.

  • As noted in last night’s EBS, the Cubs briefly lead baseball in stolen bases, with 25 through 19 games (the Astros leapt them later in the night, now with 26 – but through 20 games). Given the composition of the Cubs’ roster, it’s a pretty shocking thing. Sure, there’s some speed, but there are no Billy Hamilton’s here. Instead, it’s a youthful team, wisely picking its spots, and they’ve clearly been well-coached. The Cubs stole just 65 bases all of last year, so this is a pretty stark change. And the Cubs aren’t just compiling numbers here – at an 80.65% success rate, the Cubs are the 6th best base-stealing team in baseball. I’m pretty sure Starlin Castro was safe last night on his final attempt, too, which would have increased the rate even more. With six steals apiece, Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo are 7th in baseball. The Rizzo number, in particular, is fun – when you pick your spots well and you’re on base all the time, you can steal a lot of bases.
  • The Cubs have just 16 homers as a team, 19th in baseball. Kris Bryant has two steals and no homers. Anthony Rizzo has three times as many steals as homers. You would not have predicted these things. Moreover, you would not have predicted that, if these things were true, you’d still be very happy about the Cubs’ offense. The power will come – for now, this is a damn good offense even without the homers.
  • BP just unveiled a new comprehensive measure of pitcher effectiveness, DRA (Deserved Run Average (as compared to the flawed “earned” run average)). The work done behind the scenes on this one is pretty impressive, and I have a feeling that the stat is the best “ERA”-like stat a third party has developed so far. Adoption on these kinds of new stats takes a very long time, however, especially when the inputs are so complex and opaque to the layperson (which is why I’ve tended to gravitate toward, for example, FIP and xFIP because the inputs are fairly easy to wrap my head around). That said, I think DRA is probably as good as it gets (so far) in the world of statistical pitching analysis. It attempts – by incorporating a large number of inputs, and controlling for another large number of things – to solve the long-standing problem with ERA (i.e., it doesn’t really tell us how many runs the pitcher actually deserved to give up based on his performance). According to BP’s analysis, DRA does a better job at predicting the runs a pitcher allows in a season than FIP, which is something of a benchmark in predictive measurement.
  • So, read about DRA here. The extreme nitty-gritty of the components and math is here.
  • Chris Denorfia’s hamstring isn’t 100%, which is why Junior Lake got the start last night against lefty Jeff Locke (Cubs.com).
  • Hector Rondon is apparently dealing with a sore foot that hasn’t yet kept him out of action (ESPN).
  • Matt Trueblood takes a deep look at the impact of the Adam Wainwright injury vis a vis the Cubs, specifically. There’s a bunch in there, including thoughts on how each team could proceed if it were so inclined. What I find most interesting, though, is that the decrease in playoff chances felt by the Cardinals after the injury almost entirely shifted over to the Cubs in the form of an increase.
  • Rian Watt on the Cubs’ improved approach with two strikes this year … er, well, in theory it should be improved.
  • As someone who frequently does ridiculous things in full view of many people, I wholeheartedly endorse the “dance like nobody’s watching” life philosophy. You just have to remember that, you know, sometimes people are watching. Lots of people:
  • Anthony Rizzo took a Buzzfeed quiz on which ‘Grease’ character he is, and, well, you know. Also, Rizzo continues to be a good dude:
  • If you hadn’t noticed it the last couple nights, the left field LED board has been moved down for this homestand into its new place:
  • It’ll be interesting to get a better sense of how the board incorporates once there are people sitting behind it.
  • Luke wrote about the latest in the Cubs’ minor leagues earlier this morning.
  • I loved receiving this tweet:
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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