Midseason Evaluation of Cubs Hitters

It’s been a rough year for a majority of Cubs hitters so far. And that’s an understatement.

Is it really only July? Can this horrible nightmare of a season just end so that Cubs fans don’t have to experience this pain anymore? Basketball and football season can’t come any sooner. It’s been a loooong season to say the least, but given how well the Cubs have played as of late, I’ve been feeling pretty good. Prettyy, prettyy, prettyy, prettyy good. Since the call-up of Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have gone a solid 8-4 including two series wins against the Mets, a four-game split with the Braves and a sweep of the currently last-place Astros. With Rizzo now holding down the three-spot in the Cubs lineup, and producing while he’s at it, I have actually been able to turn on WGN or Comcast on a (nearly) nightly basis with at least some excitement. Even so, this season has been a lost cause since before it even started, so there’s only so much we can look forward to as the second half takes off on Friday. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t assess and evaluate the value that each hitter has brought to the Cubs lineup thus far. If anything, it will help us figure out what kind of future some of these guys have on the North Side.

**For all of you who happened to read my post from Tuesday evaluating White Sox hitters, the next few paragraphs will sound identical in order to explain the math behind everything once again, so feel free to skip to the chart.**

If you can recall from a couple of months back, I wrote a post titled “By the Numbers: Evaluating the Impact of Cubs and Sox Hitters,” in which I used Bill James’ Runs Created Formula in an attempt to compute the number of runs “created” by a hitter throughout the course of a season (refer to the book Mathletics). Simply put, if a team consisted of nine of the same player, such as nine Starlin Castros, approximately how many runs would they have scored thus far this season and, more importantly, how many runs would they score for their team per game? Instead of using sabermetric measurements that most casual fans don’t understand, such as wins above replacement (WAR), the runs created formula gives us the ability to evaluate the true value that each hitter has brought to his respective lineup thus far this season. Like last time, I gathered each player’s statistics and computed the runs created and game outs used for each hitter using:

Runs created = ((hits + BB + HBP) X (Total Bases))  ÷   (AB + BB + HBP)

Game outs used = .982(AB) – hits + GIDP + SF + SAC + CS

Remember, according to Mathletics, “approximately 1.8% of all at bats result in errors. Hitters also create ‘extra’ outs through sacrifice flies (SF), sacrifice bunts (SAC), caught stealing (CS), and grounding into double plays (GIDP).” Hence why we must take .982 of every at-bat instead of 1. Game outs used must then be divided by 26.72 (the total number of game outs available in a game, taking into account the .018 approximate number of errors per 27 outs in a MLB game) in order to determine the number of games’ worth of outs used by each hitter. That, ultimately, leaves the most important equation as the final step:

Runs created per game =  runs created  ÷  games’ worth of outs

Obviously, runs created per game tells you more about a hitter’s value than total runs created because the latter does not differentiate between bad hitters with a lot of plate appearances and great hitters with less plate appearances. That being said, take a look at the numbers below:

The incredible impact that Anthony Rizzo has had on this Cubs team just 12 games in doesn’t need to be explained again. Obviously that 10.40 number will go down soon enough, but to have four doubles, four homers and a .688 slugging percentage so far is very impressive. Instead of continuing to bore you with my Rizzo ass-kissing, though, let’s focus on some other hitters.

Who knew that Reed Johnson was this valuable to the Cubs lineup? Given he’s had limited opportunities to get on base as he continues to platoon in the outfield, it’s still pretty great to see him leading the team (not counting Rizzo) with a .302 batting average. WIth free agency approaching after this season for Johnson, don’t be surprised to see the Cubs shop him around, or even trade him, before the July 31 deadline. He could give contenders some solid depth in the outfield and even provide good value as a pinch hitter, as he has batted .478 (11/23 ) this season in pinch-hitting situations.

As for Alfonso Soriano, I’m pleasantly surprised at how good he has been this season. When I evaluated the Cubs hitters back in early May, Soriano was creating a whopping 2.98 runs per game. That number is now up to 5.36, as he scorched through May and June to the tune of 55 hits, 15 home runs, 27 runs, 35 RBIs and .288/.361/.577 splits. That’s easily better than any two month span he’s had since his first two seasons in Chicago, proving that maybe, just maybe, he has una poco gasolina still left in that Dominican tank of his. Although I don’t admit it often, I actually am very proud of how well Soriano has played this season, but if any American League GM feels that The ‘Fons can bring some necessary hitting to his lineup as a DH and is willing to acquire him via trade (Epstein and Hoyer are more than willing to eat a substantial portion of his contract), I’d be all for it.

Easily the most shocking runs created/game number on this list is that of Starlin Castro. God knows how much he’s been killing my fantasy lineup lately (batted .264 in June, batting .207 in July), but 4.73 runs created per game? Is that a joke? The problem continues to be his ridiculous inability to walk. I know I’ve been over this before, but it’s as if Castro is legitimately allergic to patience. Amongst every day players on the team, Castro ranks last in walks with 12 and owns a .314 on-base percentage. We all know how awful those numbers are, but when you know that Castro is second on the team in average at .291 but last in OBP, it makes everything that much worse. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the kid play and think he’s one of the most natural hitters in the game today, but if he doesn’t learn to mature at the plate and start getting on base more, I’m going to punch another hole in my basement wall – next to the other five holes from losing Madden and NBA Live games to the computer way back when.

A few more takeaways before calling it a night: David DeJesus isn’t as good as this list makes him out to be – the Cubs lineup is obviously just really, really bad. He walks a fair amount, provides solid defense in right field and has a hot wife, but that’s pretty much it.

I’d like to thank my lord and savior (Tebow style), whomever that may be, for not forcing me to watch Ian Stewart in a Cubs uniform ever again. He’s out for the rest of the season after having wrist surgery, and he admitted on Twitter the other day that he probably won’t be back after his one-year deal expires this offseason. Needless to say, I’m really happy about that Tyler Colvin for Stewart swap. Colvin’s only batting .305 on the season with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in his last 26 games. No big deal. And oh, by the way, Luis Valubena isn’t the answer at third base either. Josh Vitters, your time to shine is approaching faster than anyone would think.

Lastly, Geovany Soto. He sucks. A lot. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time raving about how gawful (God + awful) this man is at the plate and behind it, because the numbers (.177 batting average and 12 RBIs) should speak for themselves. Given the way he’s played this season, he doesn’t belong in the Major Leagues anymore. It’s sad. But it’s true. Steve Clevenger’s a nice catcher to have, but he can only play against righties, as he’s hitting an embarrassing .105 against lefties this year. Hopefully Wellington Castillo will start to improve soon.

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About Adam Levy

Adam Levy is a diehard sports fan and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. After graduating with a Master's Degree from Indiana University, he began working at a consulting firm in the loop. In his spare time, he watches sports, re-watches Seinfeld episodes for the 23rd time, plays pickup basketball, competes in sports leagues during the summer, and overvalues all of the players on his fantasy teams. He is extremely passionate about his teams and will likely be found curled up in the fetal position on his bed, crying and cursing after significant losses. If you like his insight, feel free to comment, follow him on Twitter @ChiCityBS, or email him at aplevy1@gmail.com.

Posted on July 12, 2012, in Cubs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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