Saturday, February 28, 2009

Miles v. Theriot: Stick to BAM!

Another spring game, another hit each for Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot. Miles started the game at shortstop, a position he's expected to see some action at over the course of 2009.

Previously, we talked about how Miles' power compares to Fontenot's. In short (get it? they're both short dudes?), it's not even close. Fontenot can and will slug; Miles cannot, and will not. This disparity in power is one reason why we here at BAM! are arguing that Aaron is best suited to help the Cubs off the bench, rather than by starting at second base.

However, Miles' (non-existent) power is actually quite comparable to the other member of the Cubs' middle infield. As the starting shortstop, Ryan Theriot can do a lot of things--but he can't really hit home runs. Actually, the two hitters have nearly identical career slugging percentages: .369 for Theriot, and .364 for Miles. Furthermore, their career averages are even closer: .290 for Theriot, .289 for Miles.

Since they're about equal in power and average, you may ask: are there any other hitting categories in which one player has an advantage over the other? Might there actually be a reason for STARTING Aaron Miles?

You may have noticed we're two-thirds of the way towards posting slash lines for the two hitters. I'll give the complete lines to you now:

Ryan Theriot - .290/.362./.369
Aaron Miles - .289/.329/.364

Fortunately for this blog's title and URL, it turns out Ryan Theriot is the better hitter, and Miles should stay on the bench. The difference between the two occurs primarily in one category: patience.

Theriot is able to get on base by drawing the walk. In fact, over the course of his career, The Riot has managed to draw slightly more walks than strikeouts (140 to 128), posting a career BB/K ratio of 1.09. On the other side, Miles has 123 career walks, compared to 210 strikeouts, which comes out to a BB/K ratio of 0.59.

To summarize, Miles doesn't have power, and he doesn't have patience. Based on those facts, doesn't Lou have to bench Aaron Miles?

Friday, February 27, 2009

LBR Comes Through

Mike Fontenot hit a home run today.


In an earlier post, I discussed how Miles and Fontenot compare defensively. I made the claim that, based on conservative estimates, playing Fonty for 150 games instead of Miles would increase the Cubs' record by one win. I also argued that it would not at all be surprising for the actual effect to end up being two wins, based on the data that's out there.

With Mike having finally bashed his first HR (and, since I began composing this post, a triple?!? Yeah buddy!!!), I'd like to take the first step at getting into the offensive side of why Lou should bench Aaron Miles.

On most baseball websites, the standard statistical reference for a player's offensive production is known as his slash line. The slash line includes a line of three frequently used statistics (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage), separated by slashes--thus, the name.

Let's compare slash lines for Aaron and Mike:

A. Miles - .289/.329/.364
M. Fontenot - .290/.369/.457

The averages look about the same, and the difference in OBP is significant. But you really can't ingore the disparity between the two hitters in that third number there. Compared to He Who Should Be Benched, Mike Fontenot looks like a smaller version of a famous former slugger who held the all-time home run record for many years.

(In case you didn't already know, now's a good time for me to point out that "LBR" is an abbreviation of Ron Santo's nickname for Mike: Little Babe Ruth.)

There's a lot to talk about with regard to a hitter's ability to hit for power. In future posts, we'll a more in-depth look at Miles' and Fontenot's power numbers, along with the stats for some other notable names that will be discussed often on this here blog (like Ryan Theriot and The Great Mark DeRosa).

For now, though, I'd like to congratulate Mike on his first home run of the spring. I am certain there are many more on the way.

In which we learn the abilities - and limitations - of Aaron Miles, millionaire pro athlete

Okay, so maybe saying "Aaron Miles sucks" is harsh. After all, the 32-year-old switch hitter batted a career high .317 last year before he was snatched up by the Cubs. He must be doing something right.

But let's take a closer gander at those career numbers. It's really a tale of mediocrity, but he gets just enough singles and is perhaps just short enough to get away with it. Over the span of his career, Miles is a .289 hitter. Not bad. And yet, while he would be a no-brainer to bat lead-off for Dusty Baker, the reality of it is that Miles is very much so a one-dimensional player. He's never drawn more than 38 walks in a season. He's never slugged higher than a Neifi-tastic .398. If you took his career numbers and averaged them out to one season's work, you'd have a player who'd hit 20 doubles, 4 triples, 4 homers, 31 walks, and 6 steals in 10 tries. That's not exactly starting material - unless you play for the Royals or -- again -- Dusty Baker.

But Kurt, you protest. Surely he must be a defensive whiz. There has to be a redeeming fact that will make it okay if Lou names him the opening day starter! The regrettable answer is "nuh-uh." Miles is a passable second baseman, but his only real defensive strength lies in his versatility - he has experience playing everywhere on the diamond but first and catcher. Hell, the guy has even pitched before.

Really, the more we look into it, it becomes evident that the one thing he really seems to have going for him is his height. The Cubs seem to be infatuated with short and scrappy white ballplayers. From Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot to Miles himself, the Cubs are loaded with little'uns. In fact, the Cubs are just a Sam Fuld away from having the necessary components to load up their gear and journey to Mount Doom where they can destroy the One Ring of Power. That's great theater, but not great baseball.

So, let's review the facts. Aaron Miles hits a lot of singles and nothing else. He's a jack of many positions but a master of none. He's short and scrappy. In other words, we can conclude from this in-depth look that Aaron Miles must not start.

A bench player? Yes. A sometimes-starter? Absolutely. A pinch hitter impervious to pitching changes? Check. But not a starter. Never a starter. Mike Fontenot may not be taller than Miles, but in baseball Fontenot is in all other ways better than him. And so ends our lesson for today - the Chicago Cubs must bench Aaron Miles.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Open Forum: Fontenot v. Miles v. DeRosa

I'm anticipating a few extra reads today, thanks to Kurt's generous linkage over at GROTA. So even though Mighty Mike isn't swinging the bat yet today, I wanted to try to get a bit of a discussion going on the ol' blog here.

The main motivation behind creating this blog was fairly simple: Mike Fontenot should be the Cubs' starting second baseman in 2009, so Lou needs to bench Aaron Miles.

However, Mike's name has been prominently mentioned in comparisons to another major league second baseman named Mark DeRosa.

Cubs fans loved DeRo. And, he was an awesome player. Unfortunately, Jim Hendry wasn't willing to pay $5.5MM for a super-sub.

I wonder if anyone has an opinion on the events surrounding 2nd base for the Cubs. Did Hendry make a mistake in letting DeRosa go? Do you think Fontenot will come anywhere close to the offensive production DeRosa put up in 2008, or will put up in 2009? Should Lou bench Aaron Miles?

At the very least, that last one should be clear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feb. 25 - Slow Start

Well, nothing doing from Mike's bat today. He was also swinging pretty early in counts.

On the defensive side, however, he was able to initiate a double play. This is a good time to point out one of Mike's likely advantages over Aaron Miles: he projects as a plus-defender at second base.

In 400+ defensive games at 2B, Miles is just a hair below average numerically, according to Fangraphs' UZR statistic. For argument's sake, we'll say that he's an average 2B defensively.

In 88 games at second for Mike (albeit a much smaller sample size), Fontenot has put up a nice 14.1 on the UZR. If we underrate Mike's defensive ability according to this metric and call him 10 runs above average (the units UZR measures), he'd be expected to improve the Cubs' record by one win on defense alone as compared to Miles' defensive ability.

On the other hand, if we suppose Miles' defense is declining and Fontenot's is improving (based on their respective ages), that number could easily move up to a two-win difference. Again, this is on defense alone; if Fontenot shows any more pop than Miles has (which is essentially inevitable), the difference is even larger.

Fonty's competition should get the start tomorrow. We'll see how that goes.

Come On, LBR...

And so it begins.

The Shark's got the ball for Game 1 of Cubs Spring Training 2009.

Starting at 2nd base: Mike Fontenot.

It's early, so there's really no reason to react one way or another to how Mike does. But every little bit helps.

I'll be listening in on WGN Radio, and will report back on anything newsworthy regarding the 2B competition from today's game.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A New Hope!

Here's the latest from Carrie Muskrat's incredibly insightful "Electronic Mailbag":

Who has the best chance to start at second with Mark DeRosa gone? Aaron Miles or Mike Fontenot?
-- Ryan J., Mundelein, Ill.

When asked about his lineup, Lou Piniella listed Miles at second and inserted him into the No. 2 spot in the order. However, Piniella also has said he expects Miles and Fontenot to get about 400 at-bats each, and Miles will be getting some of those as a shortstop when Ryan Theriot gets a day off. The 400 number would be a good boost for Fontenot, who had 243 at-bats last season. If Fontenot has an impressive spring, he could get even more playing time.

Remember what happened with Theriot in 2007? He got Piniella's attention with his play and hustle in Spring Training, and eventually became the Cubs' regular shortstop. Let's see how it plays out at second base.

At least we stand a chance!

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's never too early to worry about the Cubs' lineup.

Spring Training games haven't even started, and fans in Chicago are already worried about a certain Cardinal ruining their season.

And so, "Bench Aaron Miles!" is born. Here's to hoping Mike Fontenot hits 30 home runs this spring and makes this website worthless.