In a recent Paul Sullivan Tribune article, Cubs new GM Jed Hoyer was asked what are the greatest needs short term to fix the roster. Hoyer said, "It's no secret we need to get some depth in the rotation. Depth in pitching hurt the team last year." To complete the quote: "We have to find a way to improve the defense, and we probably need to find a little more athleticism on the bases." Improving the defense, of course, will help the pitching (which might be as simple as including more pfp/pitcher fielding practice for Matt Garza).
We all recall the 2011 season started with significant pitching injuries to the starting staff. After one week the Cubs lost their number 4 and 5 starters.
Where is this leading? Baseball Prospectus' Corey Dawkins just ranked the NL Central using their metric for team/player injuries called T.A.W.L (Total Adjusted WARP Lost). More after the jump...
Andrew Cashner was lost for most of the season due to a rotator cuff strain. On April 5th, Cashner was cruising into the 6th inning of his first start when his shoulder pulled up lame. He had given up only 2 hits including a solo HR and the Cubs were leading 4-1 when his season flashed before his eyes (the bullpen coughed up that lead although the Cubs eventually won 6-5). He rehabbed and
tried to return in about 6 weeks but reaggravated his shoulder in mid-May. Finally, manager Quade was allowed to use "Cash" in a few relief outing in September. Certainly, this makes everyone question whether Cashner would fit in better as a starter vs. near the end of the bullpen for 2012.
Randy Wells going on the DL was a surprise since he didn't seem injured during his first outing on April 4th. Wells went on the DL almost simultaneously with Cashner, due to a strained right forearm recognized sometime after his start. Apparently he felt a "twinge" in his last start in spring training but his first start, a 6 inning, one run 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks, did his arm in. He returned on May 28th, almost 8 weeks later. He was never the same, excluding his first start his season totaled 129 IP and an ERA over 5.
This unhealthy start probably sealed the 2011 Cubs fate. So when I read a recent Baseball Prospectus article on the Cubs being one of the healthiest teams in MLB baseball for 2011, I scratched my head (medically speaking, I hope it's not pruritis).
The loveable Cubbies may not have performed the best on the field, but they did awfully well in the athletic training room. Losing only 2.28 WARP due to injuries, they also did very well in the number of injuries and days lost, ranking first or second in both categories. This proves that they didn’t lose significant production from their injuries, and there weren’t many injuries to start with.
Say "ah" to medical sabermetrics:
Total Adjusted WARP Lost (TAWL): 2.28
Number of DL trips (Days): 11 (411)
Number of DL & DTD trips (Days): 28 (451)
I'm not quite sure I've got the TAWL drill down, so I'm hopeful our readers can help me understand how this works as well as the flaws in their methodology. For example, I'm not sure current sabermetrics takes into account when a player does poorly (Randy Wells) after coming back from an injury using WARP alone. Here is the raw data from BP's spreadsheet on Pitchers, with the Cubs Pitchers here:
PLAYER 2011 Team Games Missed Adjusted WARP Lost
Cashner 135 0.1191 (10% pitchers, 5.2% team)
Mateo 76 -0.0330
Wells 44 0.3843 (32.2% pitchers, 16.7% team)
Wood 32 0.1139 (9.5% pitchers, 5% team)
Garza 17 0.3045 (25.5% pitchers, 13.2% team)
Zambrano 12 0.1674 (14% pitchers, 7.2% team)
Dempster 9 0.1372 (11.5% pitchers, 6% team)
Cub pitchers, as the Wells and Cashner injuries would make one expect, had a lower overall league finish at 12th in TAWL. I'm unsure why Wells 6 week injury was 32% of the Team pitching TAWL and Cashner's entire season loss was only 10%. Additional contributors included Garza with a bruised elbow plus Dempster and Z missed some starts with some low back issues and Wood had his annual blister DL stint.
Again, I'm not sure what this critically means as games missed for a starting pitcher isn't as useful as starts missed and Adjusted WARP Lost seems confusing to me with Cashner missing the entire season gets 0.12, Wells 6 weeks gets 0.38. Relief pitchers opens up additional questions and certainly should be getting some adjustments compared to starters. A negative number for Mateo means his injury helped the team? Maybe. How low can it go? It would have taken an injury to "Dud" Davis to find out. Can these stats be useful regarding league comparisons and rankings? Not until some of the above questions are cleared up.
I was in Boston to see Marlon Byrd get hit by a pitch in the face. That was truly a scary moment and it did affect the team health stats as he missed 39 games which accounted for the biggest individual non-pitcher loss of TAWL (total adjusted WARP lost) for the Cubs at 20%. In comparison, next most for the Cub hitters was Geo Soto's groin strain which accounted for 8% of the TAWL. In sum, according to the BP author, the Cub hitters finished 4th in TAWL. Here's a link to BP's raw data for hitters.
PLAYER 2011 Team Games Missed Adjusted WARP Lost
Byrd 39 0.4802 (43.4% hitters, 20.9% team)
Soto 17 0.2014 (18.2% hitters, 8.7% team)
ARam 9 0.0927 (8.4% hitters, 4.0% team)
Reed Johnson 19 0.0782 (7.1% hitters, 3.4% team)
Soriano 15 0.0731 (6.6% hitters, 3.1% team)
Baker 18 0.0609 (5.5% hitters, 2.6% team)
Barney 15 0.0486 (4.4% hitters, 2.1% team)
Fukudome 4 0.0443 (4.0% hitters, 1.9% team)
Pena 2 0.0253 (2.3% hitters, 1.1% team)
Here are the overall Team stats for WARP Lost in 2011. The Cubs ranked 6th behind the leading Astros, next the Royals, Tigers and Diamondbacks. The bottom ranks from each league were the Mets at 29 and Twins at 30.
Sabermetrically speaking, it sure seems like this is a work in progress. It didn't need much numerical analysis to see that Cashner and Wells replacements (Doug Davis, Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz) added up to Jed Hoyer's quick analysis that a lack of pitching depth hurt the team in 2011.