Team defense: Why Heyward is better than you think he is.

beckdawg

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So the title is kinda click bait-y but I think this is an important discussion. Defense in baseball is very undersold. People want to harp on the cubs inability to develop pitching and all that yada yada.... What if I told you that since 2016 the cubs are 3rd in ERA- which is essentially a way of normalizing ERA based on where you play and making "average" 100 where 99 is 1% better than league average...etc. #1 on that list is cleveland who's largely viewed as one of if not the best organizations at developing pitching. #2 on that list is the dodgers who are also in that conversation. Cleveland is a 81 ERA- or 19% better than league average over that span. LA is 85. The cubs are an 88.

I bring this up because the talent level in pitching those two organizations have had and the talent the cubs have had aren't even in the same area code. That obviously begs the question....HOW?! The most obvious answer is team defense. Over that same time span, the cubs ERA - FIP is -0.36. In other words, FIP thinks the cubs defense has saved them over1/3 of a run vs what they should have put up. To put some context on all of this, the cubs 3.73 team ERA is effectively like Lance Lynn(3.67 2019 ERA) vs their FIP of 4.09 which is effectively Wade Miley(3.98 2019 ERA). Lynn made $9.333 mil in 2019. Miley made $4.5 mil. Keep in mind this isn't just 1 player though. This is over 12 or 13 pitchers.

Now like I said, the title is kind of click bait-y but I mentioned Heyward for a specific reason. The thing with defense is you need to be good all around. One or two real bad spots can really drag you down. That actually brings up another interesting discussion with regard to Joc vs Schwarber this year but I'll save that one for another day.

Heyward is viewed as an albatross contract by fans. If I remember correctly, he signed for 8/$186 which is $23.25 mil a year AAV. Quantifying exactly how much he matters in the overall team defense is hard. But it's worth considering how the cubs have managed to piece together bullpens off the scrap heap year after year. ConsiderJeremy Jefferies last year. The cubs signed him for $850k. He posted a 1.54 ERA vs his 4.09 FIP. San Diego last year paid Drew Pomeranz $8 mil to put up a 1.45 ERA. I think he's likely a bigger impact than this but if you say Heyward is worth 1/8th that value difference that is rough $1 mil and that value is likely applied 12-13 times for all of the pitchers.

In other words, that $23.25 mil AAV when you factor in what the team defense is saving quickly becomes less. And the other thing with top pitching... you can't always just go out and buy that. So being able to get effective years out of middling starters is a big fucking deal. People always used to talk about the Cardinal magic where they'd take some shit starter and he'd have a career year. What if I told you from 2000-2010 the cardinals rated #1 in ERA - FIP with -0.31? This is literally the same playbook the cubs have had the past several years. Those cardinal teams were really strong defensively with Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and Molina.

Where does this leave us going forward? Well first off yes the cubs do need to develop better. But I think you have to keep in mind when they grab someone like Davies that this impact of team defense is a big deal because he's going to play up with a good defense behind him. Additionally, I think the cubs have been really smart with this approach because yeah Heyward's contract can be a bit of an eye sore but I'd rather have 1 bad contract like his and have his defense playing a big impact than to be paying terrible reliever contracts. Obviously, Ideally you'd get heyward hitting like you hoped when he signed but my point is more the way they invested money is smarter than going after relievers. I also hope to see them continue to focus on strong defenders even if it comes at a cost to their bats.
 

CSF77

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So the title is kinda click bait-y but I think this is an important discussion. Defense in baseball is very undersold. People want to harp on the cubs inability to develop pitching and all that yada yada.... What if I told you that since 2016 the cubs are 3rd in ERA- which is essentially a way of normalizing ERA based on where you play and making "average" 100 where 99 is 1% better than league average...etc. #1 on that list is cleveland who's largely viewed as one of if not the best organizations at developing pitching. #2 on that list is the dodgers who are also in that conversation. Cleveland is a 81 ERA- or 19% better than league average over that span. LA is 85. The cubs are an 88.

I bring this up because the talent level in pitching those two organizations have had and the talent the cubs have had aren't even in the same area code. That obviously begs the question....HOW?! The most obvious answer is team defense. Over that same time span, the cubs ERA - FIP is -0.36. In other words, FIP thinks the cubs defense has saved them over1/3 of a run vs what they should have put up. To put some context on all of this, the cubs 3.73 team ERA is effectively like Lance Lynn(3.67 2019 ERA) vs their FIP of 4.09 which is effectively Wade Miley(3.98 2019 ERA). Lynn made $9.333 mil in 2019. Miley made $4.5 mil. Keep in mind this isn't just 1 player though. This is over 12 or 13 pitchers.

Now like I said, the title is kind of click bait-y but I mentioned Heyward for a specific reason. The thing with defense is you need to be good all around. One or two real bad spots can really drag you down. That actually brings up another interesting discussion with regard to Joc vs Schwarber this year but I'll save that one for another day.

Heyward is viewed as an albatross contract by fans. If I remember correctly, he signed for 8/$186 which is $23.25 mil a year AAV. Quantifying exactly how much he matters in the overall team defense is hard. But it's worth considering how the cubs have managed to piece together bullpens off the scrap heap year after year. ConsiderJeremy Jefferies last year. The cubs signed him for $850k. He posted a 1.54 ERA vs his 4.09 FIP. San Diego last year paid Drew Pomeranz $8 mil to put up a 1.45 ERA. I think he's likely a bigger impact than this but if you say Heyward is worth 1/8th that value difference that is rough $1 mil and that value is likely applied 12-13 times for all of the pitchers.

In other words, that $23.25 mil AAV when you factor in what the team defense is saving quickly becomes less. And the other thing with top pitching... you can't always just go out and buy that. So being able to get effective years out of middling starters is a big fucking deal. People always used to talk about the Cardinal magic where they'd take some shit starter and he'd have a career year. What if I told you from 2000-2010 the cardinals rated #1 in ERA - FIP with -0.31? This is literally the same playbook the cubs have had the past several years. Those cardinal teams were really strong defensively with Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and Molina.

Where does this leave us going forward? Well first off yes the cubs do need to develop better. But I think you have to keep in mind when they grab someone like Davies that this impact of team defense is a big deal because he's going to play up with a good defense behind him. Additionally, I think the cubs have been really smart with this approach because yeah Heyward's contract can be a bit of an eye sore but I'd rather have 1 bad contract like his and have his defense playing a big impact than to be paying terrible reliever contracts. Obviously, Ideally you'd get heyward hitting like you hoped when he signed but my point is more the way they invested money is smarter than going after relievers. I also hope to see them continue to focus on strong defenders even if it comes at a cost to their bats.

You can't lay that all on 1 guy's shoulders. He makes RF solid. There is plenty of acreage going on outside of that corner.

What I will post is Contreras' growth as a catcher has helped the Cubs the most. They were a better staff with Ross and Montero running the game. When Theo chose O > D at catcher the staff suffered. Last year that corrected itself with Ross returning and teaching Contreras and Caratini how to frame.

But in general D will make a pitching staff better. If I wanted to lay it on one guy it would be the catcher because he is involved in every pitch and his game calling effects the game far more than any other position player.
 

beckdawg

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You can't lay that all on 1 guy's shoulders.
I didn't. I literally said in this that team defense is the entire collection of players. The point is Heyward is a part of that and given the OF the cubs have run with fowler who was meh and Schwarber who was below average on the high side, having another guy in the outfield like heyward makes a big difference. I mean sure a C may have the biggest individual impact given he can steal strikes. But having outfielders who can get to the games really impact runs because infielders missing balls tends to end with singles. Outfielders not getting to gaps is doubles/triples.
 

Bust

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World Series Game 7, extra innings. It was none other than Heyward who called the players meeting after the rain delay. Had a chance to talk the talk and walk the walk. To become a legend among boys in the likes of a Babe Ruth called it shot. Mark Messier scoring a hat trick after his win guarantee. Kirk Gibson's homerun. Sid Luckman's heroics!

Bases loaded, 1 out, extra innings. The chance to choke out the Indians morale. To become the man the myth the legend of Chicago ... only to strike out @4:34:50 like Casey at the bat = Ooops!

 
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SilenceS

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World Series Game 7, extra innings. It was none other than Heyward who called the players meeting after the rain delay. Had a chance to talk the talk and walk the walk. To become a legend among boys in the likes of a Babe Ruth called it shot. Mark Messier scoring a hat trick after his win guarantee. Kirk Gibson's homerun. Sid Luckman's heroics!

Bases loaded, 1 out, extra innings. The chance to choke out the Indians morale. To become the man the myth the legend of Chicago ... only to strike out @4:34:50 like Casey at the bat = Ooops!

You are weird
 

CSF77

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I didn't. I literally said in this that team defense is the entire collection of players. The point is Heyward is a part of that and given the OF the cubs have run with fowler who was meh and Schwarber who was below average on the high side, having another guy in the outfield like heyward makes a big difference. I mean sure a C may have the biggest individual impact given he can steal strikes. But having outfielders who can get to the games really impact runs because infielders missing balls tends to end with singles. Outfielders not getting to gaps is doubles/triples.

It is more than framing.

This staff has to pitch to contact. D alignment will be a major player. The biggest part of any AB is between the pitcher and the hitter. The catcher calls the sequence and locations. The pitcher has to execute the called pitch.

Trevor Boyer's you tube goes over creating tunnels and playing pitches off each other. It gets a little deeper than just D and stealing a strike. It is more like chess at the plate where the hitter is trying to figure out what the pitcher and catcher are trying to do to him this sequence.
 

Bust

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JayHey on the year...
Batting average .152
inept on Base Percentage .200
a woeful slugging pct. of .273

Heyward is trash. In an ideal setting he is a 7th inning defensive replacement but his paygrade guarantees that never happens.

Still 2 moar years of this scrub!

 
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beckdawg

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Glad I wrote this only to have people completely miss the point by either not reading it or not understanding fairly simple concepts. Bringing up his triple slash on the huge sample size of 35 plate appearances has nothing to do with what I'm talking about here which is team defense. The point I was making is that you can have a 4A hitter with great defense and that will impact the team pitching enough to save you millions in relief/starter arms.
 

jooo83

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My favorite teams
  1. Chicago Cubs
  1. Chicago Bulls
  1. Chicago Bears
  1. DePaul Blue Demons
I don't understand why it's so important for some to defend Jason Heyward's contract. The contract is a complete albatross. Arguably, one of the worst ever. You do not pay that kind of money for an elite defensive RF. None of which is a reflection on Jason's intergrity. By all accounts, he's a good guy (which is probably why many defend him). But let's call a spade a spade. It's a bad contract and no amount of spin or cherry picking of statistics will change that.
 

Bust

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I don't understand why it's so important for some to defend Jason Heyward's contract. The contract is a complete albatross. Arguably, one of the worst ever. You do not pay that kind of money for an elite defensive RF. None of which is a reflection on Jason's intergrity. By all accounts, he's a good guy (which is probably why many defend him). But let's call a spade a spade. It's a bad contract and no amount of spin or cherry picking of statistics will change that.

winner winner chicken dinner!

This is a 2019 espn take but nothing has changed....



6. Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward (5 years, $118.5 million)

I know Cubs fans would put this No. 1. It's not. Heyward isn't as useless as some of the players listed here, but the length of the deal and the remaining dollars certainly are an issue. He eats up a large chunk of the payroll, and that could have ramifications down the road -- say in 2022 when Kris Bryant and Javier Baez become free agents. Heyward's defensive metrics, while still positive, dropped along with his offensive production last year, and that's where a lot of his value comes from. Look, don't feel bad for the Ricketts family or even Cubs fans. They've benefited from the cheap labor of Bryant and Baez, and Heyward and the fans will always have 2016 -- no matter what happens the next five years.
 

JP Hochbaum

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Glad I wrote this only to have people completely miss the point by either not reading it or not understanding fairly simple concepts. Bringing up his triple slash on the huge sample size of 35 plate appearances has nothing to do with what I'm talking about here which is team defense. The point I was making is that you can have a 4A hitter with great defense and that will impact the team pitching enough to save you millions in relief/starter arms.
As we can see with Trumpism and the rise in conspiracy theories, our society is heavily addicted to simple answers so they can better make sense of their lives. You always have great threads and put in great thought. Don't let simpletons effect it :)
 

Bust

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The point I was making is that you can have a 4A hitter with great defense and that will impact the team pitching enough to save you millions in relief/starter arms.

Are you saying all 27 outs are hit to the right fielder?
 

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