Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I could watch the Thursday Night Football game, or I could watch any number of sitcoms. I could have watched some basketball. Thanks to the idiot NHL there’s no hockey (not that I could watch it regularly anyway since they moved hockey to channels I don’t have) and the saddest thing of all is that tonight, after I successfully defended my thesis, there’s no baseball to watch. Talk about some bad timing, right? At least if I had been able to defend during the summer I could have watched any number of baseball games or even gone to one as a reward, but those are the breaks.
Now I can talk about how the Cubs want to re-sign Shawn Camp, or their bid for Ryu Hyun-Jin, the wishy-washy situation with Ian Stewart, or the constant trade rumors involving one Justin Upton. But that’s been done to death across the internet and sadly I had my own crap to deal with so couldn’t bring you my thoughts real-time. Sadly it sounds like the Diamondbacks want an arm and a leg in exchange for Upton, and since the Cubs are a bit short on assets I doubt there will be any major happenings this offseason. Maybe they’ll sign Brandon McCarthy so he’ll do some Cubs-centric Tweeting. That dude is a trip and I’m glad the line drive to the brain case didn’t screw up his sense of humor.
One issue that was brought up in passing on our messageboards was the idea of lineup protection. Consider the case of Ryan Braun, the reigning National League MVP and alleged user of performance enhancing drugs. Oh who are we kidding, he probably did it. But if you look at his statistics last year versus this year, you see the following lines:
2011 (ZOMFG ROIDZ): .332/.397/.597, 166 OPS+
2012 (de-roided): .319/.391/.595, 159 OPS+
So there are two things that most people thought would cause Ryan Braun’s numbers to fall (and we’re talking about Braun because we’ve already talked positive about whatever Cubs we can, and there aren’t that many, sorry folks)…
1. No more roids = no more Popeye strength = less home runs and production
2. No Prince Fielder = no protection
I think, even if you believe that the lingering steroids are still giving Braun trace spinach strength, the second point has been quashed pretty soundly, albeit with just one season removed from Fielder’s protective gravity well. Here’s the relevant part from the article…
Braun this year, with Aramis Ramirez — another right-handed hitter, a good hitter but no Fielder — entered Friday’s play hitting .309/.385/.585. This is basically what he’s done throughout his career (.311/.372/.565), which had been spent entirely as Fielder’s teammate until this season.
Milwaukee isn’t as good a team without Fielder. But his departure has not made Braun a less productive hitter.
This phenomenon isn’t exactly new either. If you think about it, a pitcher under pressure will make a few mistakes here or there, and the better hitters will be able to punish those mistakes more often than the average hitters. The “unprotected” hitter may get a few extra intentional walks here or there, and they may have less RBI and homers, but the “slash-line” numbers will generally remain consistent with the hitter’s true talent level. Good hitters will hit well. Bad hitters will continue to be bad. Every now and then a good hitter will have a bad year and a bad hitter will have a great year. That’s just baseball.
So what Anthony Rizzo needs to become a great hitter isn’t protection around him per se. He just needs to keep on doing whatever he’s doing that will make him successful. His teammates need to get on the ball (literally) to get themselves on base so they can become RBI for Rizzo, and the guys behind Rizzo need to cash in when he gets on base. That’s the way baseball should work, without too much emphasis on protection. That’s what the Cubs are working on. It’s never going to be perfect (baseball never is, that’s why nobody bats 1.000 over an entire season of plate appearances) but this is one thing that will be exciting to follow as the Cubs rebuild.
At least it will be something to follow while there’s nothing on TV, anyway.