Where is the Cubs Offense Going?

UPDATE: I added two new charts at the bottom in the appropriate bar format as requested.

The Cubs are about a month into the season, let's take a look at some of their offensive peripheral numbers to see who's likely to regress or progress.

The first chart is their strikeout percentage per plate appearance. Once you start getting over 25%, there's some worry, although you want to compare it to that players' career numbers as well. For Tyler Colvin, I use his career minor league numbers for all the charts.. The Derrek Lee numbers overlap, but it's 23.0% for his career and 23.2% for 2010.

Fontenot has really cutdown his strikeouts so far and it can't all just be contributed to almost exclusively seeing righties. For his career, he has a 16.7% K rate against righties, so the improvement is real...well at least for a month. Byrd, Fukudome and Baker have also showed measured improvement to this point with Aramis Ramirez just a complete mess.

I usually like guys in the 10% or over range and the Cubs just have 3 guys at the moment with Soto, Colvin and Fukudome with Soriano just missing at a surprising 9%. Fontenot, Theriot and Byrd have dropped off the most, but all enjoyed a good month, although Fontenot's power numbers are off. A look at the next chart will show that Theriot and Byrd are probably going to fall and fall hard if they don't find some patience.

Players usually hover in that .290-.330 range as the career line shows, although random spikes will happen within a season. They're not random enough though to hope that Theriot has any hope of sustaining his .350/.390/.400 line though, unless he starts taking some more walks. A .370 BABIP over a season can happen, although it's pretty rare and I would guess even more rare for someone with such a small walk percentage like Byrd has had so far this year. The good news is that Lee just looked like he had a bad month and Ramirez much the same, although Ramirez's elevated K totals are definitely worrisome.

To sum up, what I would expect for the rest of the year based off these numbers. The more arrows, the more I would expect for there to be improvement or regression.



Fontenot or






Fukudome ↔ or (just because he always hits well in April)



By my new sophisticated up/down/sideways arrow computation (UDSA for short), you can add up the up and down arrows and expect the Cubs offense to produce about the same the rest of the year. It's the new UZR in advanced metrics.

Update: I added HR/FB% and iso slugging charts. The average for HR/FB% is around the 10-12% range, but power hitters bring that average up and the Ryan Theriot's of the world bring it down.

Those are 0% for Fontenot and Theriot. I'm not sure how relevant Marlon Byrd's career numbers are in this case and I can't guarantee the accuracy of Tyler Colvin's minor leage rate(Minor League Splits says he had a 42.1% FB rate in the minors which I multiplied by his AB's and then divided that number by his total home runs in the minors) .  Fukudome and Soto should expect a drop unless the wind blows out all summer.

CORRECTION: I believe I should have subtracted K's from Colvin's AB's which makes it 9.6%.

Not so bad for Soto when you look at iso slugging, maybe some of those balls that don't end up home runs go as doubles instead. Fukudome, Byrd, Soriano and Colvin playing a bit over their heads, but Ramirez and Lee should pick up a lot of that slack...hopefully.



Great post. Thanks Rob.

fwiw, Cubs are third in OPS in NL and 4th in total runs scored at this point.

Hopefully your guess that Fonzie will maintain will come to pass ... staying in the top-5 in runs scored should also follow. Good stuff to read on the off-day and thanks.

my guess is that he starts flailing away again at some point, but based off those three numbers in the post, he's not been particularly lucky and has been laying off bad pitches the last few weeks.

I was holding out hope that Soriano's injuries caused his poor season last year. Not sure how that would explain his inability to hit breaking pitches, but maybe the physical injury messed up his mental judgment. At any rate, it is great to see him mashing.

You and everyone else. One plausible explanation I came up with when wondering the same thing the other day was that he simply was trying to hit HR's every at bat so he didn't have to run.

he's had hot streaks before, including last year, so we'll see. He did credit Jamarillo recently saying he has a extra half second to see the ball with some of the adjustments.

He's been laying off the outside slider recently and punishing the hanging breaking balls, so I'm hopeful he's figured something out.

4-game set starts today

Wainwright vs. Hamels tomorrow, Halladay goes Thursday, Phils miss Carpenter

"By my new sophisticated up/down/sideways arrow computation (UDSA for short)..."


BP did some articles on players who maintain high (or sustain low) BABIP's, and came to the conclusion that line drives was a good thing - which we all pretty much knew already. They also went on for a while about quality of contact... which turned out to be bunk. Besides a high line drive rate, what you want are guys who are fast and who spray the ball around, which makes them hard to defend. Ground balls are also good, in particular if you're fast and you don't turn fly balls into HR's.

Theriot has a 26% LD rate, which is really good, and unlikely to be maintained. He's also been spraying the ball around pretty well, as usual, though he is skewing towards the right side a bit. With his K rate and his lack of HR's, he's not going to hit .350, but I could see somewhere in the .315 range if he continues to eschew swinging for the fences, but tries to be conscious of the way he's being defended. Continue to hit him leadoff, please, Lou, so his 50% groundball rate doesn't kill us with double plays.

he's gonna have to hit a few home runs to be in the .315 range or strike out less, otherwise that's about a .380 BABIP.

let's say I'm skeptical...

He's already got the head start, so his BABIP would only need to be around .373 the rest of the way to finish at .380, but I should have also said his K rate would need to drop to his 2007-2008 level.

Nice work ROB G!

Real Neal, please mention as "Baseball Prospectus" as opposed to the oil disaster folks.

Has any of their mess ended up on your side yet? I would guess that the Houston oil-ranchers are under some scrutiny these days after this fucked disaster.

I never thought of Will Carroll as slick...oily maybe.


I haven't really followed up too much on the oil leakage thing - was it BP? British Engineering at it's best (probably Americans really). I don't have any friends or family that will be directly affected by it - other than my brother's in-laws will probably have to find alternative 4th of July plans.

It's one of those things that as suprising as it is, it's really more surprising it hasn't happened more often.

Drill here, drill now!

...or, (to quote Sarah Palin) Drill, baby, drill!

fwiw, I probably should have done a 4th chart of iso slugging and could have definitely broken down BABIP by batted ball type, but I only had an hour at lunch today.

I don't think it's necessary to break down BABIP, really. If a guy has a unreasonably high one, the expectation is that he's going to come down closer to his career level regardless of how he got the high one. Theriot, for example, is probably going to hit fewer line drives and be less lucky. You don't need his current LD% to know that he's not going to have a BABIP of .415.

fwiw, I probably should have done a 4th chart of iso slugging

If you do, could you make it as a bar graph? Much easier to read, and much more appropriate. Fever graphs are for a single variable that varies over time, e.g., Soto's BABIP over a 10-year period.

Yeah, I'm a bit of a geek.

I'm not, at least not about graphs. How would a bar graph work with 2 variables though? The stacked bars really didn't work I thought.


I used that site cause it's insanely easy. I liked the line graph as I can easily see the discrepancy between 2010 and career.

The problem in your graph is you've got, for example an lilne that connects Theriot's BABIP to Ramirez's - and there's no connection there - at least nothing that you're trying to illustrate.

The bar graph with two variables would have one bar colored blue for the career and another one red for 2010 for each player - easy to do in Excel, not sure about the webthingies.

I just checked out that website. Neat.

Anyway, to do what you want to do with a regular bar graph (not stacked) on that website, you just have to change the number of "Groups" from 1 to 2. That way, each player will have 2 vertical bars side-by-side as TRN mentioned.

That is a pretty neat website.

thanks and noted.

at the bottom in the bar chart format as requested

You should have taken K's out of the denominator on your calculation of Colvin's HR/FB ratio, I believe.

It would be really neat if Fukudome kept up that ISO, wouldn't it?

math is hard.

9.6% then for Colvin I believe


says he's missing the fastball at an alarming rate

He K'd on that curveball perfectly well.

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  • Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.

    VirginiaPhil 3 hours 18 min ago view
  • video of Maddon.


    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 18 hours 29 min ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 18 hours 34 min ago view
  • http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561339391889382475-4

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 18 hours 39 min ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 18 hours 51 min ago view
  • If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?

    Craig A. 19 hours 2 min ago view
  • #Cubs plummet to 19-5 in August.

    Fun with FIP

    • J. Hammel   3.07 ERA/4.27 FIP (3.68 FIP last year)
    • J. Arrieta     2.62 ERA/3.05 FIP (2.35 FIP last year)
    • J. Lester     2.81 ERA/3.67 FIP (2.92 FIP last year)
    • K. Hendricks  2.19 ERA/3.37 FIP (3.36 FIP last year)
    • J. Lackey     3.41 ERA/3.72 FIP (3.57 FIP last year with Cards)
    Rob G. 19 hours 27 min ago view
  • zastyryzryzryzny put in 3.2ip 1h 0bb 3k

    he's great when his control is "on"...problem is it's rarely "on" consistently. he could vault up the cubs prospect list if he ever gets better with that aspect of his game.

    crunch 20 hours 8 min ago view
  • JD's take was just trying to get in a lefty to better deal with mostly lefty Dodgers lineup.

    My second thought was what you came up with. My first thought was he was trying to light a fire under Hammel.

    Jackstraw 21 hours 20 min ago view
  • Maybe he was trying to spare him another brutal road start? NY, Colorado...

    billybucks 21 hours 37 min ago view
  • joe got a pitcher up for hammel at nearly the 1st sign of trouble in the 3rd...pulled after 2.1

    not injured and though it wasn't his day so far he wasn't looking like a pure disaster.

    really short leash on him. zastryznzryzryny in.

    crunch 21 hours 41 min ago view
  • Russell and Soler can attest that Urias has a pretty good curve/slider - two big strikeouts looking to get out of that jam in the first.

    Eric S 22 hours 26 min ago view
  • Classic Scully - great stuff.

    Thank God we'll still have Hawk next season. (cricket cricket cricket)

    Eric S 1 day 3 hours ago view
  • Here's Scully's call on Bryant's 10th-inning homer:

    "And it's a long fly ball, a mean fly ball, and a gone fly ball."

    VirginiaPhil 1 day 4 hours ago view
  • When the Cubs were the old, hundred-year Cubs, one bad hop did not undo their opponents.

    VirginiaPhil 1 day 4 hours ago view
  • If only he was clutcher. More clutcher.

    Jackstraw 1 day 5 hours ago view