Cubs Not Big on Statistical Analysis
Miles, Bruce, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Bruce Miles Daily Herald Sports Writer
MESA, Ariz. -Here's one revolution Cubs manager Dusty Baker is sitting out: the statistical revolution.
Ever since Bill James started publishing his "Baseball Abstract" a couple of decades ago, numbers-crunchers have forced people to look at the game in new ways.
No longer were batting average, home runs and RBI the sole measuring sticks of offensive performance. Ballpark factors and on- base percentage soon became the new buzzwords.
James now works for the Boston Red Sox. The Oakland Athletics have had a book, "Moneyball," written about their success as a low- revenue club making player decisions based on statistics, most notably on-base percentage.
Walks and a batter's ability to draw walks are key components of increasing on-base percentage. The subject came up Wednesday in Baker's session with the media when it was pointed out that the Cubs had drawn few walks this spring.
"I think walks are overrated unless you can run," Baker said. "If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps. But the guy who walks and can't run, most of the time they're clogging up the bases for somebody who can run."
That kind of talk is nothing short of heresy for those in the OBP-is-king camp. Baker, an old-school sort, doesn't seem to mind.
"Who's been the champions the last seven, eight years?" he asked "Have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks? Walks help. But you ain't going to walk across the plate. You're going to hit across the plate. That's the school I come from.
"It's called hitting, and it ain't called walking. Do you ever see the top 10 walking? You see top 10 batting average. A lot of those top 10 do walk. But the name of the game is to hit."
For the record, the Yankees were second to the Red Sox in team OBP in the American League last year. The world-champion Florida Marlins were middle of the pack in the NL with a .333 OBP, and the Cubs made it to within five outs of the World Series with a .323 team OBP, fourth from the bottom in the NL.
All of this is not to say that the Cubs don't pay attention to statistics. But don't expect management to stay up late at night reading the 2004 "Baseball Prospectus," perhaps the leading statistical-analysis book on the market today. …