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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Miles: Theo unfiltered on Cubs’ on-base woes

Magnificent Miles walking tour.

During this past season, when the Cubs lost 101 games, they ranked 15th in walks, dead last in on-base percentage (.302) and 14th in runs scored.

Here is what Theo had to say about that: “That’s another thing we really need to continue to improve. If there was one thing that I was surprised by in a negative way it was how pervasive the lack of plate discipline was in the whole organization, at the major-league level, upper minors, lower minors, draft decision making and protocol. It’s just something that has not been a factor for a long time, and we’re paying the price for that.

“It’s embedded. It’s institutionalized, so we have to be really, really vigilant in turning that around. I believe 90 percent of the game revolves around controlling the strike zone, when you combine what it means to do so from an offensive standpoint and also from a pitching standpoint. It’s something we weren’t really good at. We didn’t walk enough. We didn’t get on base enough. Our pitchers walked too many hitters. We didn’t manage counts as well as we need to. Because it’s embedded, we need to dig deep and build a really strong foundation in that area because we’re suffering from that.”

For the record, Cubs pitchers walked the most batters in the National League (573). When Epstein said the problems are “embedded” and “institutionalized,” those are pretty strong words and the closest Theo has come to indicting the Hendry regime for its approach to the importance of hitters getting on base.

Repoz Posted: October 24, 2012 at 04:32 PM | 69 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, sabermetrics

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   1. madvillain Posted: October 24, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4281908)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Cubs pitching has lead the league in walks (or been close) for a number of years now. It's a cliche, but the most important pitch in baseball is strike one. Don Cooper, down on the South Side, has been quoted as telling his pitchers to "let 'er rip" with their best fastball more often than not for strike one. It usually works. Don't ask me what Liriano's problem is.
   2. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: October 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM (#4281946)
Well Theo, you best get started then.
   3. Dale Sams Posted: October 24, 2012 at 05:57 PM (#4281947)
“It’s embedded. It’s institutionalized, so we have to be really, really vigilant in turning that around


Did I not rant about this all season with the Red Sox??? How their lack of discipline stems from not having anyone watching over their shoulders, coupled with "Chicks dig the long ball" and just a general low baseball IQ?
   4. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: October 24, 2012 at 06:52 PM (#4281990)
If there was one thing that I was surprised by in a negative way it was how pervasive the lack of plate discipline was in the whole organization, at the major-league level, upper minors, lower minors, draft decision making and protocol. It’s just something that has not been a factor for a long time, and we’re paying the price for that.

If only Theo Epstein had the power to change all that...
   5. andrewberg Posted: October 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM (#4281993)
Don't ask me what Liriano's problem is.


Join the (enormous) club.
   6. BDC Posted: October 24, 2012 at 07:18 PM (#4282001)
Cubs who walked in more than 8% of their plate appearances (min. 2000 PAs as Cubs), since 1961:

Player            OBP   BB   PA
Mark Grace       .386  946 8234
Derrek Lee       .378  448 4021
Ron Santo        .368 1040 8597
Rick Monday      .366  383 2972
Billy Williams   .365  905 9418
Jose Cardenal    .363  306 3274
Leon Durham      .362  419 3659
Jim Hickman      .362  302 2333
Sammy Sosa       .358  798 7898
Ryan Theriot     .350  210 2520
Ryne Sandberg    .344  761 9276
Geovany Soto     .342  243 2097
Keith Moreland   .341  308 3623
Ron Cey          .337  225 2108
Ivan de Jesus    .330  295 3275
Jody Davis       .313  307 3688 


Hmmn. Not only were Theriot and Soto not exactly the Walking Men to begin with, but they're the only recent Cubs even on the list, and they've both been jettisoned recently.
   7. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 24, 2012 at 08:03 PM (#4282050)
Something wrong with Sandberg's numbers there.
   8. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 08:17 PM (#4282076)
Horseshit from top to bottom. OBP .005 and .004 below league average in 2010 and 2011, above league average in 2009, led the National League in 2008.

The Cubs were above league average in aggregate between 2008 and 2011. They fell off the cliff in 2012.

   9. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4282139)
The Cubs were above league average in aggregate between 2008 and 2011. They fell off the cliff in 2012.

League ranks in walks from 2008-12: 1, 6, 14, 15, 15. Yeah, 2012 was the year of the cliff dive.
   10. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4282147)
Who cares when the cliff dive was? It was 2012 in OBP, a couple years earlier in walks.

Epstein claimed poor plate discipline was "embedded" and "institutionalized." That's complete and utter horseshit, not even worthy of discussion. It got worse in 2012 on his watch.
   11. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:18 PM (#4282192)
It got worse in 2012 on his watch.

The team took more walks in 2012 than in 2011, despite losing a 101-walk player in free agency, and despite a decline in the league walk rate. The team OBP went to crap because the team batting average went to crap, which in turn was mostly due to a 15-point drop in BABIP. You can call that plate discipline if you want to, I guess.

Edit: Note that I'm not going to say it's luck; the Cubs had a bad team batting average because they had bad hitters. But I'm not at all sure they had a bad batting average because their plate discipline was any worse than last year's.
   12. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:32 PM (#4282229)
It doesn't matter whether it got worse on his watch; that's a tangential matter (even though it did; the team's OBP was far worse against the league than even in 2010 or 2011). What's important is that the idea that poor OBP was embedded and institutionalized -- Epstein's words -- is complete and utter horseshit. With bb-ref and other tools widely and easily available, it's hard to imagine why he would bother telling such a howler, unless he's trying to pass the buck or unless he's come to believe the fanboy narrative surrounding him.
   13. The District Attorney Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4282235)
I suppose it only makes sense that a GM without much immediate talent available to him would at least publicly claim that it's possible to drastically improve a player's skills simply by better instruction. And I'm sure Theo isn't going to sit back and rely on internal improvement; he's going to try to acquire players who either currently have, or currently project to have, good OBPs.

Still, to the extent that Theo actually buys what he's selling here, I am skeptical. Obviously, you do have to draft the guys with plate discipline in order to have them in your system, so no one would argue that part. And I don't discount that minor league instruction can, on occasion, completely turn around a player. But ultimately, regardless of how much you try to "institutionalize" plate discipline in your organization, I think you're going to get it if you draft/acquire the guys who have it, and you're not going to get it if you don't. It might seem like swinging at better pitches is a mental thing that can be instilled whenever you have a sufficiently talented teacher and dedicated student, but I think that impression is deceiving.
   14. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:39 PM (#4282247)
A good chunk of the Cubs good OBP major league players were not home grown players. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez propping up the teams's OBP doesn't really prove that the Cubs as an organization were good at producing players that knew the strike zone and could take a walk. Besides Mark Grace the Cubs have simply not developed goot hitters over the last 20 to 25 years and what few players that do manage to hang around for awhile are not good walkers or have high OBP.
   15. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4282278)
the team's OBP was far worse against the league than even in 2010 or 2011

OBP and plate discipline are not necessarily the same.

I'm not responding to the other parts of your posts because the question of whether the Cubs have previously had "institutional plate discipline" doesn't really interest me, FWLIW.
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:56 PM (#4282296)
I was just going by Epstein's words which were that the Cubs didn't walk or get on base enough. That's obviously true, since they were awful at it in 2012. It's just as obviously true that such a thing was not embedded or institutionalized in the organization he took over. I hate when people come in with a bunch of fanfare, put an awful team on the field, and blame the people that came before them -- particularly when they do so with horseshit nonsense.

Own the garbage you put on the field, Theo -- it's yours.
   17. Mess with the Meat, you get the Wad! Posted: October 24, 2012 at 10:09 PM (#4282360)
Sbb the cubs have been free swingers for over a decade. The numbers look better becaise of a new non cub developed players. Any cubs fan can tell you this team under hendry and mcphail were always free swingers. And dont forget that dusty as cubs manager hated the walk sayong it clogged the bases
   18. PreservedFish Posted: October 24, 2012 at 10:14 PM (#4282368)
It's just as obviously true that such a thing was not embedded or institutionalized in the organization he took over. I hate when people come in with a bunch of fanfare, put an awful team on the field, and blame the people that came before them -- particularly when they do so with horseshit nonsense.


I don't see how you can say that this is horseshit. You have no idea. Epstein actually talks to the scouts, the minor league managers, the FO people. He knows what they look for and care about.

And it's possible to have a good team BB rate and yet not have an organizational philosophy that emphasizes controlling the strike zone. A team that really cared probably wouldn't have crashed from first to worst so quickly.
   19. KT's Pot Arb Posted: October 24, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4282435)
It's just as obviously true that such a thing was not embedded or institutionalized in the organization he took over


It's obvious you have no idea whether this was true, as you yourself mischaracterized 2012 as the year of the cliff dive and confusing OBP and plate discipline. When you say it isn't even worth discussion it means you don't want to know the answer.

I understand you are justifiably butthurt that Theo decided to start his rebuild project with a complete tear down that inflicted a gawdawful season on you while the team had bank to spend, but the fact that the filler talent that remained after the teardown didn't take walks either supports Theo's contention.

Despite Henfry once putting teams on the field that had good OBPs (park aided, obviously) doesn't mean he ever rated taking walks very highly in his hitter evaluations. And Theo can't comment accurately on the state of the org 4 years ago, just what he inherited, and it sure looks like Hendry wasn't looking for guys to take walks in his last years,, regardless of what he looked for early in his tenure.
   20. MM1f Posted: October 24, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4282452)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Cubs pitching has lead the league in walks (or been close) for a number of years now. It's a cliche, but the most important pitch in baseball is strike one.


The Diamond Appraised said that the outcome of the 1-1 pitch (strike vs ball) was the most important count of the game. Basically, the difference in future outcomes in an at-bat between the count reaching 1-2 and 2-1 is greater than the difference between 0-1 and 1-0.
   21. KT's Pot Arb Posted: October 24, 2012 at 11:18 PM (#4282616)
Cubs Minor League Affiliates ranks in walks
AAA 
2012 13th
/16
2011 Last
/16
AA
2012 3rd 
/10
2011 Last
/10
A
+
2012 8th /12
2011 9th 
/12
A
2012 5th 
/16
2011 Last 
/16
A
-
2012 3rd /8
2011 2nd 
/


When you have to go all the way down to A- to find any data that even mildly contradicts Theo, I'd say Game, Set, Match to Mr. Epstein.

It's unbelievable their minor league teams were last in 3 of their 4 highest levels, including the two with the most teams (16!), before Theo took over. Their minor league plate discipline clearly shows substantial improvement already under the new regime, even if it's still below average.

   22. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: October 24, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4282631)
The team stinks, of course they won't have any OBP. To me, this read more as: don't draft players with bad approaches in the draft. Josh Vitters, Javier Baez, Brett Jackson, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin -- it sure seems institutionalized to me -- plate discipline is not a factor in drafting hitters (Jackson does walk a fair amount, and LeMahieu doesn't K, but none of those players both walk and maintain good K rates).
   23. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4282696)
Colvin drafted out of HS. Vitters drafted out of HS. DJ LeMahieu drafted out of HS. Javier Baez drafted out of HS. The only player you listed that went to college was Brett Jackson and he actually did take walks in college and didn't start to have crazy BB:K ratios until triple-A. I don't think you can blame HS kids for having a "bad approach". I think you have to blame the organization for failing to teach them a good approach to hitting.
   24. SouthSideRyan Posted: October 25, 2012 at 01:32 AM (#4282729)
Colvin and LeMahieu were drafted out of college.
   25. Walt Davis Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:21 AM (#4282748)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Cubs pitching has lead the league in walks (or been close) for a number of years now.

They also had a long run at the top of the league in Ks. They generally had good K/BB ratios which is probably what's important.

Not only were Theriot and Soto not exactly the Walking Men to begin with, but they're the only recent Cubs even on the list

And I'm not gonna look it up but I'd guess a good number of those were while hitting 8th.

   26. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:59 AM (#4282774)
That's obviously true, since they were awful at it in 2012. It's just as obviously true that such a thing was not embedded or institutionalized in the organization he took over. I hate when people come in with a bunch of fanfare, put an awful team on the field, and blame the people that came before them -- particularly when they do so with horseshit nonsense.

What Theo's saying about the Cubs organization's approach to plate to discipline was being echoed (well, not echoed--what's the sound before an echo?) by a lot of us in Cub fandom for years before anyone had any idea Theo'd be coming here. That they had a couple years where they did a better job getting on base was, as McCoy suggested, more a function of having a fortunate collection of high on-base guys for brief periods than anything else. And whether or not a poor "institutional approach" to plate discipline is the culprit, the fact remains that until Castro came up**, the best position player the Cubs had developed since Mark Grace was probably Geovany Soto. Failure to cultivate a sense of knowing where the strike zone's been a big part of that. If you don't use 2008 as your arbitrary endpoint, I suspect you'd see that manifested in the team's walk/OBP numbers over the course of the millennium (hell, over the course of the last 20 years), with '08 as the outlier.

Whether Theo's the guy to turn things around remains to be seen, and with a 5-year deal, he'll be responsible if it doesn't happen, but I don't think his comments as to the state of what he inherited are inaccurate in the least.

**And I think it's fair (actually, an understatement) to say that for all Castro's talent, mastering the strike zone's not something he's managed to do yet.
   27. jmurph Posted: October 25, 2012 at 08:56 AM (#4282803)
To each his (or her) own, obviously, but his posts here combined with his unhinged ranting in the Farrell/Cherington thread seem to cement the idea that SBB can't really talk coherently about Theo Epstein. Might not be worth the argument.
   28. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:15 AM (#4282812)
And it's possible to have a good team BB rate and yet not have an organizational philosophy that emphasizes controlling the strike zone. A team that really cared probably wouldn't have crashed from first to worst so quickly.

Pre-Epatein, they were never worst in OBP, or really even close. They dropped to (tied for) worst in 2012. In 2010, their OBP was .001 below the Giants and the Giants won the World Series. The Cubs were above league average in aggregate in the 2008-11 time period.

Epstein's claim remains unadultrated horseshit.
   29. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:17 AM (#4282815)
What Theo's saying about the Cubs organization's approach to plate to discipline was being echoed (well, not echoed--what's the sound before an echo?) by a lot of us in Cub fandom for years before anyone had any idea Theo'd be coming here.

After being traded to Tampa Sam Fuld went on record as saying the Cubs actively discouraged walking in the lower levels. I don't think there is much to debate the fact that the Cubs failed to value plate discipline. Virtually all of their position player prospects have had poor walk rates - and some like Brett Jackson, Castro and Colvin - have been downright atrocious. Furthermore, as noted by others here, those who have drawn walks have been artificially inflated in that area by hitting in front of the pitcher.

Whether plate discipline can be taught to relatively advanced prospects is an open question. The basic step of not discouraging the practice seems like a worthwhile starting point, though.
   30. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4282817)
After being traded to Tampa Sam Fuld went on record as saying the Cubs actively discouraged walking in the lower levels.

And yet, inexplicably, Sam Fuld walked 23 times in 155 PAs as a Cub -- a walk rate of 14.8% -- and has walked 40 times in 453 PAs as a Ray, a walk rate of 8.8%.

These numbers are easy to find, by the way.
   31. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:30 AM (#4282819)
After being traded to Tampa Sam Fuld went on record as saying the Cubs actively discouraged walking in the lower levels. I don't think there is much to debate the fact that the Cubs failed to value plate discipline. Virtually all of their position player prospects have had poor walk rates - and some like Brett Jackson, Castro and Colvin - have been downright atrocious. Furthermore, as noted by others here, those who have drawn walks have been artificially inflated in that area by hitting in front of the pitcher.


Hell, I've been a Cub fan for 40 years and I could have told you that 30 years ago. In my lifetime, he Cubs have had exactly 2 players who were superior in drawing walks and getting on base: Ron Santo and Mark Grace. Oh, they would occasionally get a Mathews or a Fukudome, but these guys would quickly fade or get run out of town. Sosa had 100 walks that one time. Derrek lee had 98 and 88 walks his last 2 years in Florida. He never topped that in Chicago. Who were the highest profile Cubs hitters from the last 30 years or so? Ramirez, Sosa, Lee, Sandberg, Grace, Dawson, Soriano, Buckner. Not a lot of walking men in that group.
   32. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:33 AM (#4282822)
And yet, inexplicably, Sam Fuld walked 23 times in 155 PAs as a Cub -- a walk rate of 14.8% -- and has walked 40 times in 453 PAs as a Ray, a walk rate of 8.8%.

These numbers are easy to find, by the way.

Yet their relevance to the discussion remains impenetrable and mysterious.
   33. Dan The Mediocre Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:36 AM (#4282826)

And yet, inexplicably, Sam Fuld walked 23 times in 155 PAs as a Cub -- a walk rate of 14.8% -- and has walked 40 times in 453 PAs as a Ray, a walk rate of 8.8%.

These numbers are easy to find, by the way.


Batting first and batting in front of the pitcher both tend to inflate walk totals(unless you are Corey Patterson). And it in no way makes what he said untrue.

EDIT: And Theo is saying what Cubs fans here have been saying for years. Walks were treated as basically worthless, so you had a bunch of batter in the system that hacked and a bunch of pitchers that had a lot of strikeouts but also a lot of walks. The system as a whole has failed to value a walk properly, and the system has seen a lot more failure than it should have as a result.

EDIT 2: Also, small sample size. A third of a season of data of a single player is nowhere near enough to say anything about that player.
   34. JJ1986 Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:37 AM (#4282827)
Fuld hit 8th a bunch for the Cubs.
   35. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:38 AM (#4282829)
Yet their relevance to the discussion remains impenetrable and mysterious.

They're entirely relevant, as they point out the distinction between "encouraging" walks and OBP, and actually achieving them.(*) In lieu of blabbing about encouraging OBP and plummeting to last in the league, I prefer achieving OBP, as in 2008, whether or not that achievement was sufficiently "encouraged" -- but, hey ... that's me.

(*) And thus, Sam Fuld was purportedly "discouraged" from drawing walks by the Cubs and encouraged by the Rays, but drew a lot more walks as a Cub than he did as a Ray.
   36. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:42 AM (#4282833)
In 2010 Sam Fuld had an OBP over .400 and played good defense. The Cubs valued it sooooo much they gave him 30 PAs in 2011 and then traded him away as a toss-in on the Garza deal. Not only did the Cubs fail to value his patience; they seem to have actively punished him for it.

EDIT: that should be 2009 and 2010, not 2010 and 2011.
   37. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:42 AM (#4282834)
Fuld hit 8th a bunch for the Cubs.

At least in 2009, he walked at a higher rate as a 1 and 2 hitter than he did as an 8 hitter. Also, 8 hitters, particularly non-everyday guys, don't always hit in front of the pitcher because of double switches.
   38. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4282837)
In 2010 Sam Fuld had an OBP over .400 and played good defense. The Cubs valued it sooooo much they gave him 30 PAs in 2011 and then traded him away as a toss-in on the Garza deal. Not only did the Cubs fail to value his patience; they seem to have actively punished him for it.

Or, the more logical explanation -- they used his decent walk rate as a selling point to flip him -- a utility-caliber player -- for a young, cheap frontline starter before his walk rate fell. If Theo or some other saber-approved GM had done this, it would be lauded as a masterstroke of genius.

   39. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:52 AM (#4282844)
Virtually all of their position player prospects have had poor walk rates - and some like Brett Jackson, Castro and Colvin - have been downright atrocious.

Brett Jackson's walk rate isn't atrocious (though his strikeout rate is ultra-atrocious). Perhaps you were thinking of Vitters?
   40. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:54 AM (#4282846)
Or, the more logical explanation -- they used his decent walk rate as a selling point to flip him -- a utility-caliber player -- for a frontline starter before his walk rate fell. If Theo or some other saber-approved GM had done this, it would be lauded as a masterstroke of genius.


This might be the most asinine thing SBB has ever said. More than any of the Jack Morris nonsense.

Fuld had little to nothing to do with the Cubs getting Garza. It was all Archer (BA #27 prospect), and Lee (#98 prospect). Saying the Cubs flipped Fuld for Garza is like saying the Reds flipped Jimmy Stewart for Joe Morgan.
   41. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4282849)
Or, the more logical explanation -- they used his decent walk rate as a selling point to flip him -- a utility-caliber player -- for a young, cheap frontline starter before his walk rate fell. If Theo or some other saber-approved GM had done this, it would be lauded as a masterstroke of genius.

Please. Fuld was one of five players the Cubs traded for Garza, and he was, at best, the third most-valued player they traded (Chris Archer was the Cubs' best pitching prospect, and Hak-Ju Lee was a highly-regarded shortstop prospect).

EDIT: Coke to Misirlou.
   42. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4282850)
Brett Jackson's walk rate isn't atrocious (though his strikeout rate is ultra-atrocious). Perhaps you were thinking of Vitters?

Yes. Thanks for the correction.
   43. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:57 AM (#4282853)

This might be the most asinine thing SBB has ever said. More than any of the Jack Morris nonsense.

Fuld had little to nothing to do with the Cubs getting Garza. It was all Archer (BA #27 prospect), and Lee (#98 prospect). Saying the Cubs flipped Fuld for Garza is like saying the Reds flipped Jimmy Stewart for Joe Morgan.


Do you think Hendry said to Friedman, "Why don't you guys take Fuld, we actively discourage walks and look how much he walked ... just think how much he'll walk for you guys?"



   44. JJ1986 Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4282856)
Please. Fuld was one of five players the Cubs traded for Garza, and he was, at best, the third most-valued player they traded (Chris Archer was the Cubs' best pitching prospect, and Hak-Ju Lee was a highly-regarded shortstop prospect).


I am totally blanking on his name - who was the older right-handed-hitting outfield prospect who had a few big hits in his debut?
   45. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4282858)
Brandon Guyer?
   46. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM (#4282861)
and Hak-Ju Lee was a highly-regarded shortstop prospect).

Another guy who had a better walk rate in the Cub organization than in the Rays'.
   47. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4282877)
Another guy who had a better walk rate in the Cub organization than in the Rays'.

False.

Lee, in the Cub system: 80 walks, 855 PAs = 9.357% walk rate
Lee, in the Ray system: 104 walks, 1102 PAs = 9.437% walk rate

IOW, the difference is virtually nil, but is in fact slightly higher with the Rays. You'd be taken more seriously (particularly among a group of posters who follow the Cubs pretty closely) if you didn't just make stuff up.
   48. Brian C Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4282890)
Horseshit from top to bottom. OBP .005 and .004 below league average in 2010 and 2011, above league average in 2009, led the National League in 2008.

The thing you're leaving out, though, is that the Cubs posted those below-average OBP numbers despite being above the league average in batting average:

In 2011, they were 3 points above the league average in BA but 5 points below in OBP.
In 2010, they were 2 points above the league average in BA but 4 points below in OBP.
In 2009, they had an outlier year, being 4 points below the league average in BA but 1 point above in OBP.
In 2008, they had a great offense. Another outlier year.
In 2007, they were 5 points above the league average in BA but 1 point below in OBP.
In 2006, they were 3 points above the league average in BA but 15(!) points below in OBP.
In 2005, they were 8 points above the league average in BA but 6 points below in OBP.
In 2004, they were 5 points above the league average in BA but 5 points below in OBP.
In 2003, they were 3 points below the league average in BA but 10 points below in OBP.
In 2002, they were 13 points below the league average in BA, but only 10 points below in OBP.

So, I think this basically backs up the story that Epstein is telling here and that Cubs fans have been saying for a long time - that the Cubs have not been valuing plate discipline in particular over other skills for a long time (if you want to go back further than 2002, be my guest, although the numbers between 1998-2001 are skewed a bit by Sammy Sosa's prime, not that they're overly favorable to the Cubs even with that caveat).

You're getting around this by using "plate discipline" and "OBP" interchangably, even though they're not really the same thing, and by using highly selective and maximally favorable endpoints for presenting your data. But even still - even going by your preferred measurement of team OBP vs. league average - the Cubs have been a chronically below average OBP team for (at least!) most of the last quarter century.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4282910)
And yet, inexplicably, Sam Fuld walked 23 times in 155 PAs as a Cub -- a walk rate of 14.8% -- and has walked 40 times in 453 PAs as a Ray, a walk rate of 8.8%.

These numbers are easy to find, by the way.


So, because Fuld's a bad hitter, that makes him a liar?
   50. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM (#4282912)
It might seem like swinging at better pitches is a mental thing that can be instilled whenever you have a sufficiently talented teacher and dedicated student, but I think that impression is deceiving.


I think the idea is that players develop in the areas that they work on. Major-league ability doesn't spring forth like Athena from the head of Zeus, but is incremental. If you take two identical players, play one at third base throughout his minor league career, play the other one at first base, you can't expect both to play third base at the same level in the big leagues.
   51. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4282944)
The thing you're leaving out, though, is that the Cubs posted those below-average OBP numbers despite being above the league average in batting average:

So having a good batting average is somehow bad?

Walks are important. They should't be fetishized.

So, because Fuld's a bad hitter, that makes him a liar?

It's just another data point for the proposition that "encouraging" something doesn't produce it. (And, conversely, "not encouraging" something doesn't necessarily inhibit it.)
   52. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4282952)
It's just another data point for the proposition that "encouraging" something doesn't produce it. (And, conversely, "not encouraging" something doesn't necessarily inhibit it.)

Even if that were true (and I think the truth is somewhere in the middle between plate discipline being teachable vs. "innate"), actively discouraging walks is still a sign of a horrible organization.
   53. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4282957)
Even if that were true (and I think the truth is somewhere in the middle between plate discipline being teachable vs. "innate"), actively discouraging walks is still a sign of a horrible organization.

And even if that's not what they were doing, there is, to state the obvious, a shite-ton of grey area between "fetishizing" walks and "actively discouraging" them.
   54. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4282959)
And even if that's not what they were doing, there is, to state the obvious, a shite-ton of grey area between "fetishizing" walks and "actively discouraging" them.


SBB doesn't recognize gray. Witness his response to the refutation of his claim that Fuld was the centerpiece of the Garza trade:

Do you think Hendry said to Friedman, "Why don't you guys take Fuld, we actively discourage walks and look how much he walked ... just think how much he'll walk for you guys?"


   55. Brian C Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM (#4282963)
So having a good batting average is somehow bad?

Well, no. It's pretty clear that wasn't the claim being made, if you had any interest in having a discussion in good faith. I was merely distinguishing between the concepts of "plate discipline", which was what Theo was actually talking about, versus "OBP", a different concept which you pretended that Theo was talking about in an effort to make him look stupid (which you failed at, because you were so blatantly cherry-picking your data).
   56. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4282985)
Another argument in which SBB has had his ass handed to him on a plate but can't resist digging the hole deeper. It's like a pathology.
   57. Spahn Insane Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4282994)
(which you failed at, because you were so blatantly cherry-picking your data).

When he wasn't making it up....
   58. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4282995)
Well, no. It's pretty clear that wasn't the claim being made, if you had any interest in having a discussion in good faith. I was merely distinguishing between the concepts of "plate discipline", which was what Theo was actually talking about, versus "OBP", a different concept which you pretended that Theo was talking about in an effort to make him look stupid (which you failed at, because you were so blatantly cherry-picking your data).

OBP was part of the way Epstein himself defined and explained "plate discipline." He also used walks. Walks are, of course, part of OBP, so I'm not sure how to interpret the construction, "We didn't walk enough. We didn't get on base enough." I do know that getting on base is more important than walking and that there are other ways to get on base than by walking.

What more is it you want? They're Epstein's words, so I tested them. If he'd used other words, I would have tested them. Did he define "plate discipline" in any other way but OBP and walks? (He also mentioned pitchers walking too many people.)



   59. Brian C Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4283020)
What more is it you want? They're Epstein's words, so I tested them.

No, you didn't - you went searching for data that would make him look wrong, and came up with a highly ridiculous* data set that could be very charitably described as an extremely superficial response to what Epstein actually said. And you didn't even prove what you thought you proved, as others pointed out, and as I pretty definitively demonstrated when I showed that the team had posted below-average OBP in each season but 2 over the 10 years preceding Epstein.

* - like in #8 when you averaged out the outlier 2008 season over the next few following seasons, to make it look like the team had been above average in OBP for an entire 4-year period, as if OBP carries over from year to year or something.
   60. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4283034)
No, you didn't - you went searching for data that would make him look wrong, and came up with a highly ridiculous* data set that could be very charitably described as an extremely superficial response to what Epstein actually said. And you didn't even prove what you thought you proved, as others pointed out, and as I pretty definitively demonstrated when I showed that the team had posted below-average OBP in each season but 2 over the 10 years preceding Epstein.

I did nothing like that. I worked back in OBP from 2012 to 2008, saw that the Cubs had been a tad shy of league average in 2010 and 2011, above average in 2009, and first in the league in 2008, realized Epstein's claims were preposterous on their face, and said so.

If Murray Chass had said what Epstein said, he'd be getting savaged. That's the rule around here -- all inferences are drawn against Murray Chass; to spare Theo Epstein from even minor criticism, people bend over backwards to make up things Theo Epstein said.

I prefer the no sacred cow approach.
   61. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: October 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4283056)
If Murray Chass had said what Epstein said, he'd be getting savaged. That's the rule around here -- all inferences are drawn against Murray Chass; to spare Theo Epstein from even minor criticism, people bend over backwards to make up things Theo Epstein said.

And here you are making up things Cubs fans have said.

   62. Brian C Posted: October 25, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4283126)
I worked back in OBP from 2012 to 2008, saw that the Cubs had been a tad shy of league average in 2010 and 2011, above average in 2009, and first in the league in 2008, realized Epstein's claims were preposterous on their face, and said so.

Right, that's called "selective endpoints". And it confirms what I said - that you looked at the question just long enough to find some data insinuating that Epstein was wrong, and then stopped. That's from your own description.

If you had worked a little further back, you'd have seen that the 2008 season was plainly an outlier. They've been an above-average OBP team exactly 5 times since 1986, when I started following the team (2009, 2008, 2001, 1998, 1989). That's over a quarter century. Only you could say that it's "preposterous" for the team president to talk about their "institutionalized" OBP problems under those circumstances (which again, isn't really what Epstein was saying, but my point is that even if we frame the discussion on your terms you're still plainly up a creek).

That's the rule around here -- all inferences are drawn against Murray Chass; to spare Theo Epstein from even minor criticism, people bend over backwards to make up things Theo Epstein said.

This might be a more forceful complaint if Cubs fans hadn't been saying the same thing as Epstein since way before Epstein ever arrived on the scene. For example, Dusty's infamous "walks clog the bases" line happened before Epstein won his first title in Boston. It's hardly as if the Cubs fans in this thread have pivoted their opinions of the organization to match what the almighty Theo has said.

But then again, this way of putting words in your opponents' mouths in the course of an argument - blatant, undisguised strawman building - is pretty much the hallmark of bad faith ... which is utterly typical of you, regardless of the topic.
   63. KT's Pot Arb Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4283342)
The top 4 levels of the Cubs minor league teams imprived from the bottom 7% in walks to nearly average in one year. Thats pretty amazing.

When Theo produces a World Series team SBB will become his biggest fan, even though SBB won't understand how Theo did it.
   64. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4283412)
I count at least 14 posts in this thread that are variations on the theme "the level of emphasis an entire organization places on plate discipline can't be measured solely by looking at the OBP of the major league team." Is SBB going for the BTF record for the number of times ignoring the same extremely simple point? Because he's still got a lot of ground to make up from, say, a few Ichiro threads.
   65. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4283665)
He'll never catch Ray, but dishonesty and blindness are pretty standard argumentative tactics for him.
   66. VoodooR Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:41 PM (#4283676)
Ugh. This thread is a trainwreck. Why feed the troll?
   67. Mess with the Meat, you get the Wad! Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM (#4283713)
Please just ignore sbb. He doesnt know what he is talking about. Its bad when a the cubs fans are unified as one but that means that its a pretty solid truth if we band together like this.
   68. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM (#4283733)
This might be the most asinine thing SBB has ever said. More than any of the Jack Morris nonsense.
I still think the Jack Morris stuff was more asinine.
   69. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: October 26, 2012 at 03:09 AM (#4283971)
10. SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4282147)
...
It got worse in 2012 on his watch.


12. SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:32 PM (#4282229)
It doesn't matter whether it got worse on his watch


You just simply CANNOT make this stuff up (sorry if I owe Cokes; yes I did stop reading the thread at that point).

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