Put me in the free Marquez Smith camp, though I’m not sure how to feel on him. His MLEs and MiL track record are pretty good, but the Cubs didn’t protect him from Rule 5 draft, yet no one took him and he fell back with the Cubs. Is there something I am missing?
Good stuff Brad. You beat me to it on this one– I don’t know why people have disregarded the option of him just playing everyday.
I get that he’s right-handed, and DeWitt provides a little more balance, but the I actually don’t even buy the argument that his splits prevent Baker from being a starter.
Hat tip to Berselius (of the soon-to-launch Cubs blog Obstructed View) whose split regression tool I used to figure this out, but below are the projected L/R splits for Baker and DeWitt using Bill James’ projected wOBAs:
Baker v. RHP: .330 wOBA
Baker v. LHP: .362 wOBA
DeWitt v. RHP: .315 wOBA
DeWitt v. LHP: .298 wOBA
If nothing else, this tells us we shouldn’t read into DeWitt’s reverse split he’s shown in his career so far– probably a fluke he’s hit lefties better. But if Baker is really an average bat against righties, then he’s easily the better player in every regard.
Welcome, Bradley. Nice first piece. A little obscure (any piece referencing Alberto Alburquerque would have to be), but well written and supported. Looking forward to more.
Oh, and the dragon videos: mildly humorous and they tend oversimplify the concepts to a fault (there was a big boner in the BABIP one, Joe fan being able to crank doubles at MLB rates? Don’t think so…), but entertaining nonetheless.
Maybe. There’s a lot to like about him on paper, but I’ve never seen him play in person, although I do understand that he’s got kind of a thick lower body– he doesn’t exactly ‘look’ like a ballplayer (…not tryin’ to sell jeans here…)
Good find, Jack! I wanted to regress the hitter’s splits, but couldn’t remember where the regression tool was (also, I was out of space in the post). I even pulled out my copy of The Book, but decided the formulas would melt my mind.
Couple of errors, but overall I like your writing style; it kept my attention throughout. I’m on board with seeing if Baker can handle both sides of a platoon, but wouldn’t completely give up on DeWitt.
I also agree we shouldn’t give up on DeWitt. He’s very young, and could/should continue on in AAA if he’s not on the Cubs 25-man roster this year. If he sorts out his defense issues, or finds a little power in the minors, things could turn around quickly for him.
For what it’s worth, Bill James projection for Baker is the best projection available for him by quite a margin while it’s DeWitt’s second worse projection. The average projection system has DeWitt at a .318 wOBA and Baker at a .322 wOBA. They’re essentially the same on offense overall, but you have to platoon these two unless you’re willing to put a lot of value in Bill James’ projections.
Jeff Baker Bill James 395 .336 .448 .343
Jeff Baker CBS 264 .330 .451 .341
Jeff Baker Marcel 337 .327 .423 .329
Jeff Baker PECOTA 450 .326 .420 .327
Jeff Baker CAIRO 298 .326 .420 .327
Jeff Baker RotoChamp 204 .319 .410 .321
Jeff Baker Fans 366 .327 .385 .317
Jeff Baker Oliver 103 .314 .396 .312
Jeff Baker ZiPS 264 .307 .400 .310
Jeff Baker Guru 256 .298 .382 .298
Jeff Baker Average 294 .321 .414 .322
The only reason I think DeWitt deserves any sort of look is ’cause he’s a lefty, honestly. If the Cubs go with Baker they’d be looking at an everyday lineup consisting of just two lefties on most days. Not that that’s the biggest deal in the world though.
Ya I think even if you use a diff. projection for Baker you’d come up with better numbers than DeWitt, no? I did realize that Bill James is more optimistic on him, but DeWitt’s Marcel and Bill James are like almost identical.
Plus, I’m not sure James’ faith in Baker is misplaced.
@mb21: I’m assuming those are OBP/SLG/wOBA, right?
Also, good point on the projections systems. I do think Baker would improve a little against righties if given everyday starts (a marginal improvement, something like .005 wOBA vs RHP), but I feel like the best thing for Blake DeWitt right now might be to simply start in the minors to see if he can’t improve in some — nay, ANY — facet of his game.
Yeah, I included the avg/obp/slg because they’re in the file i have, which includes them because some people still like to see them.
I’m not as concerned as you about DeWitt. It’s only spring training and his awfulness (didn’t even know he had been to be honest) is no more revealing about his upcoming season than Marlon Byrd’s awsomeness. I think Baker would improve a bit just form playing every day, but the same improvement for him would also be there for DeWitt if he played every day. These are an almost perfect pair for the position, but it’s not going to be a position the Cubs get much value out of. If there’s a minor leaguer who can beat what these guys will do then by all means use one, but I don’t see it. We’re probably looking at somewhere between 1 and 1.5 WAR at 2nd base next season.
I just don’t see Baker as an everyday player when you consider how awful he has been against righties, how awful he’s projected to be against righties and then you add in that about 70% of his plate appearances will come against righties. I don’t want DeWitt starting every day, but I think you’d be better off starting him each day than Baker. At least DeWitt has the platoon advantage about 70% of the time.
If I had to rank my concerns with this team it starts with the offense. It’s not very good. Marlon Byrd will likely be the best outfielder and he’s a league average ballplayer. On the infield you don’t have much at 2nd base, a very young and promising player at SS and 2 reclamation projects at the corners. I think they’ll be below average in runs scored and it’s not like they have the Phillies rotation. Hard to imagine the 2011 Cubs scoring more runs than they allow.
FWIW– if we use Baker and DeWitt’s respective Marcel’s instead of their Bill James projections, it’s essentially a wash between the two against righties– .318 wOBA for DeWitt, .316 for Baker.
627 plate appearances really isn’t much, and that’s how many Baker has v. RHP. I think it’s too early to say he just can’t hit righties. Doesn’t mean DeWitt shouldn’t be given any sort of opportunity this year, but if even the pessimistic projections for Baker say he and DeWitt are no worse against RHP, you could argue the Cubs are better served playing the guy we know is the far better defender in Baker.
If DeWitt heads back to AAA, I think it would be best to move him back to his natural position at third base. If I recall correctly the Dodgers only moved him to second because he was “blocked” by Casey Blake, and it obviously just hasn’t worked out.
Good work, b. The question then it: Does the expected difference in wOBA nullify the difference in defense? It’s very possible, assuming DeWitt’s butchering of second base continues, that Baker is still the better option despite DeWitt’s expected platoon advantage.
Also, if we assume DeWitt faces all the righties and Bakers faces all the lefties, we get:
.322*.70 + .340*.30 = .327
If Baker is at full tilt, we get:
.309*.70 + .340*.30 = .318
Here, we see the expected difference is actually .009. How do we translate that into Runs Created? Does anyone know?
I certainly didn’t mean to put any weight into ST stats. I was just trying to point out how DeWitt’s hitting has put his roster spot in jeopardy (in conjunction with his bad fielding).
In fact, I don’t even think I mentioned how Baker has been raking this spring (IIRC) because frankly I don’t expect it to continue.
Also, DeWitt’s not bad — that’s true. Maybe he should move back to third as Jamie suggested above. But, with the Cubs so close to contention right now, it’d be nice to let him sort things out in the minors rather than struggle away at the majors.
The difference in defense between these two is negligible. The ADR for Baker is 1 and it’s -1 for DeWitt over their careers. At 2nd it’s -7 and 3 or something, but at 3rd DeWitt has a huge advantage and I don’t think there’s any reason to think DeWitt is more capable of playing 3rd. I just don’t think it’s a big deal either way and even if Baker does come out slightly ahead, Baker won’t have the platoon advantage 30% of the time because pitchers will match up with him. If you platoon the two you can maximize the platoon advantage.
One thing not mentioned here is that Jeff Baker isn’t a very good ballplayer. If the Cubs are going to do something other than planned at this point, I’d prefer they go with Marquez Smith and see what he has and if he can be a cheap option for them over the next several seasons, some of which they may contend. Just my 2 cents.
Despite everything I’ve said, it doesn’t make a difference if you use Baker or platoon them. Baker on his own is probably close to as good as the platoon would be expected to be and it’s not like this team needs to scratch and claw for every extra run they can find. The offense is below average either way.
Very true, mb. I think DeWitt is indeed a good third baseman, but he may need more training in become a good second baseman. Or perhaps he’ll simply never get it. That’s the kind of stuff he could work out in Iowa.
Which is partly why I feel the Cubs are better suited just letting Baker have his go. I too would prefer Smith out there, but the Cubs seem to have taken that option from the table.
One thing Cubs fans might do this year is start to appreciate Alfonso Soriano a bit more. Despite 2009, the guy can still play. There are quite a few better left-fielders out there, but that doesn’t mean he’s useless. He’s not even really that overpaid at the moment, if we go by fWAR (2.9 in 2010). Of course he most likely will be by (good god) 2014 (I always think that’s wrong, how could it not be wrong?!) but for the time being, we could lighten up about him.
There are bigger things to be depressed about at the moment, like Silva beating out Cashner for the rotation (you know it’s happening after Silva’s outing today) and Koyie Hill starting 50 games this year while Geovany Soto hits 7th in the rest.
You think about Koyie Hill for a while, then you start to give thanks for the likes of Alfonso Soriano (a little bit).
I’m not sure there’s reason to think that DeWitt can better handle 3rd defensively than 2nd. The two are equal on the spectrum and the only advantage I can think of for a 3rd baseman is arm strength.
The FSR’s, which I actually like a lot more than the defensive metrics at the seasonal level, has DeWitt as the better fielder at 2nd base. In just over 1000 innings, DeWitt is -4 while Baker is -3 in under 500 innings. The huge problem with metrics like UZR, TZL and DRS for these two is the lack of playing time. DeWitt is at 1200 innings while Baker is just under 1000. You need 3 full seasons before you can even begin to call these numbers reliable and DeWitt is at 1 and Baker is at less than 1.
So we need to regress those metrics a lot and we end up with a negligible difference between the two on defense. Considering the fans like DeWitt more, I’d lean that direction until they have a large enough sample to consider reliable.
Like I said though, it doesn’t matter. The difference between one of them playing everyday and the two platooning is small. Less than a win and wins aren’t a big deal for the 2011 Cubs unless you’re looking forward to the draft.
Not sure ‘negligible’ is the word I’d use to for the differences in defense between them. Neither of them have played a ton of innings at the position, but I believe Baker played 2B primarily during his minor league career, and also unlike DeWitt, his manager has never come out and called him “a work in progress.”
Little doubt in my mind Baker is the better defender. It isn’t clear if it’s by enough to give him the full-time edge at second, but I dunno… I’m buyin’ this article for sure. Baker could be a starter.
Keith Law, yeah that guy, pooped all over Marquez Smith 3-4 weeks ago. Said he couldn’t hit a high school curve ball – KaBlam! – in that way he can talk when he means all disrespect. And seeing how Smith indeed went undrafted and is already down, it could be true.
Then again, everyone said Casey McGhee couldn’t hit either in the same situation. Nice article and welcome aboard.
I don’t disagree that he could be a below average starter. I think he could be as well, but the reason for making that decision would be to add runs or wins over what you already have. If you have 1.2 WAR with two players while having the platoon advantage about 85% of the time or greater, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice that for 1.2 WAR and the platoon advantage 30% of the time. It wouldn’t be a bad decision, but it’s a decision just to make a decision. All that results in using more pinch hitters so you can get the platoon advantage or create a pitcher change late in a game. Platoon them and the pitching team then makes the decision first and the Cubs can then counter with a pinch hitter.
I agree he could, but the reasons not to outweigh the reasons to do it in my opinion.
Small world. When you mentioned Panama City, I suddenly recognized your name. I think we went to high school together at Arnold. Good on you, writing for fangraphs and a nice first article.
Also: Holy crap, that is a huuuuggggeee platoon split. Even at second, the Cubs certainly have someone that can hit righties better than that while still playing essentially average defense. Right? … … Right?
Would Luis Castillo’s corpse have been a better option? I know he recently signed with the Phils, but he was available to any and all. If his tank is not completely empty, he could have also filled our genuine need for a lead-off hitter. And all for the league minimum…
Excuse my lack of excitement for any of the options listed above. My solution would be to start the best defender, no matter what. If the Cubs are going to win the division, it’s not going to be because their second baseman hit 30 homers; it’s going to be because the corner guys (like Ramirez, Pena, and Soriano) and Soto carried the team’s offense. Why not put the best defender out there? If there is a negligible difference between Baker and Barney defensively, then let Baker play.
I have seen Marquez Smith play and the guy has amazingly smooth hands and takes hacks that could bring down a sycamore in one swing. Literally my wife was sitting next to me and asked how come that guy swings so hard? Seriously Jack Nugent doesn’t “look” like a ball player? WTF are you talking about? He looks like Terry Pendleton somehow impregnated Kirby Puckett. They need to give this guy a chance he is approaching his prime. I am rooting for Smith but either way I win because if they move him down to AAA I get to watch him for another season…..