I figured I'd borrow one of their concepts
since I'm about to plug their book.
For those unfamiliar with The Hardball Times
, well where have you been? Great baseball writing, informative well-researched topics and it's free. This though was my first foray into picking up their annual and it was well worth the twenty-ish bucks I put down.
Our pitching really sucked
That's not earth-shattering in of itself, but usually when you give up a lot of runs like we did last year, some of that can be attributed to a shoddy defense. That just wasn't the case for the Cubs last year and THT aren't the first to pick up on it. John Dewan has an essay on Team Defense
using the metrics he helped created in The Fielding Bible.
A real basic summary is that his researchers watch every single inning of every single game and record detailed information and then compare each player to his peers at the position basically rating everyone on a plus/minus system. A "+43" for a player means they made 43 more plays than the average player at that position. Pretty cool stuff and I keep meaning to pick up the actual book. You can find the 2006 season numbers for individual players in the Bill James Handbook 2007.
As for our overall defense, it's broken down quite wonderfully into middle infield, corner infield and outfield along with information on turning double plays, handling bunts and outfield throwing. I know, you're dying for the results. Well, our outfield was exceptional, +44 for the unit, good for fifth best among outfielders with the Braves leading the pack at +63. The overall rank for the defense was a +49, also good for fifth best in the league, the middle infielders received a +8 and the corner infielders (surely missing Derrek Lee although he didn't rate so great individually if I recall in previous years) received a -3. We sucked at turning groundball double plays (28th), middle of the road at fielding the bunt (16th) and very surprisingly turned up above average at outfield throwing (11th), which takes into account opportunities, how many extra bases are taken and kills (runners thrown out).
I'll venture a solid guess that unless Soriano is a trainwreck in the outfield, we'll even be better as a unit next year. My only criticism/question is where do catchers and pitchers fall? If I read the explanation right, they don't seem to be accounted anywhere. I'm sure it's explained in The Fielding Bible
but if anyone knows, let me know in the comments.