Dexter Fowler’s Improving Defense, Ben Zobrist Award Miss, and Other Bullets
I am not super into basketball, but I am at least vaguely aware that the NBA Finals just kicked off (*checks score*) and the Warriors won the first game.
I am far more aware, however, that Warriors coach Steve Kerr is a powerful dude, because this GIF of him shattering a white board mid-game was all over my Twitter feed for an hour straight last night.
- I loved this read on a subject we’ve tread more than a few times around here, but it still managed to offer up quite a number of new angles, no pun intended – Doug Glanville wrote about Dexter Fowler’s defensive improvement this year. Specifically, he dug into whether it’s true that the “improvement” we’ve seen in the numbers can be wholly explained by defensive positioning. We know that the Cubs made a concerted effort to push Fowler to a deeper starting point this year, and it seems to be working very well. Of course, he’s the same outfielder he’s always been, so it calls into question just how much defensive positioning can skew our perception of how “good” or “bad” an outfielder is defensively, when it might not be at all within his own control. Glanville uses the Fowler example as a springboard to talk about the interplay between scouting and analytics, and reminds us that everything has to be done with a nod toward the actual human being at the center of the discussion: “One of the biggest challenges in analytics and its relationship with the human element is belief. As a player, I have to trust the data, or I might unknowingly work against it. Data might pinpoint where I should play, but I have to add my empirical evidence. Nothing works in a vacuum. Everything must be dynamic and allowed to breathe in real-time.”
- Ben Zobrist did not win NL Player of the Month honors, which was quite a surprise to me. I knew Marcell Ozuna had had a great month, as well as Daniel Murphy, but Ozuna’s overall performance was probably slightly less valuable than the second basemen, and when I took a look at Zobrist v. Murphy, the winner looked clear to me:
Murphy in May: 1.096 OPS, .461 wOBA, 193 wRC+, 1.30 WPA.
Zobrist in May: 1.137 OPS, .477 wOBA, 204 wRC+, 2.11 WPA.
Big miss, MLB.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) June 2, 2016
- Murphy had a better batting average and one more home run. As near as I can tell, that was the tipping point for whomever decides these awards. Which is quite a bummer when you see the huge OPS lead there for Zobrist, and recognize that it’s not like OPS is *that* advanced of a stat, so this should have been an easy call. Awards like this don’t really matter, but I’m a little bummed. Zobrist deserved it.
- For the second straight start, Kyle Hendricks worked through the opposing order a third entire time, and did so quite well. We’ll need some more performances like that before we can truly analyze the how and why he’s been able to do it (recall, for most of the rest of his career, that third time through the order has been serious trouble), but if he’s figured something out … ooh baby. It turns him into a completely different caliber of pitcher (and he was already very good).
- And a fun Q&A with Hendricks over at ESPN.
- We didn’t have to find out, since the Cubs had a five-run lead, but Hector Rondon (back stiffness) was not available yesterday (Cubs.com). It sounds like he’s feeling better, but Joe Maddon still wanted to give him another day. Hopefully the Cubs blow out the Diamondbacks today and he gets another day of rest.
- The Pirates lost last night, pushing the Cubs’ lead in the Central back to a beefy 8.5 games. More notably from that game against the Marlins, three Pirates batters – Francisco Cervelli, David Freese, and Jordy Mercer – were hit by pitches, and eventually left the game. I don’t need to tell you that the Pirates are not going to take that lightly, being that they are already predisposed to pitching inside aggressively, and seem to be fans of retribution. Hopefully Giancarlo Stanton buys and even bigger face mask before these teams meet again.
- Also on the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen had to leave the game after a thumb injury he’s been trying to play through was aggravated. He’s going to continue to try and play through it.
- More on Kris Bryant’s lack of ego and extremely impressive versatility.
- Anthony Rizzo’s fourth annual Cook-Off for Cancer raised a ton of money for a great cause.
- This is just ridiculous and fun:
Starlin Castro *STARTS* blowing the bubble as he's turning a crazy double play. https://t.co/IPhvUdLlJq
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) June 3, 2016
- I saw a report this morning that Snapchat has officially passed Twitter in popularity (150 million daily active users for Snapchat, 140 million for Twitter), which is a little sad for me because I love Twitter, but also a reminder of why I’m increasingly doing stuff on Snapchat. It’s where people are. If you haven’t added me there, please do – and if you’ve never checked out Snapchat, give it a look.
Spring Training Miscellany: Velazquez Walks It Off for the Cubs with a No-Doubter! (And Some Other Less Happy Stuff)