Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
10 runs here, 2 runs there
by alex ciepley
Nate Silver, a young, cool, whip of a man, had a great column over at Baseball Prospectus last week concerning offenses that produce inconsistent run totals throughout a season. The impetus behind the column, apparently, was the 2004 Cubs. Silver, a Cubs fan (or follower, at least), has been struck by how the Cubbies seem to score a good deal of runs in one game, then a pittance in the next, over and over again, game after game. I'd say this is something we've probably all noticed. Nate was more curious, however, with whether or not the Cubs' homer-or-bust offensive construction was to blame for these inconsistencies. Would a team that builds its offense around OBP, or speed for that matter, be more consistent?
What isn't clear is that the inconsistency of the Cubs offense, purported or real, has much of anything to do with its power-heavy composition. Contact offenses, power offenses, plate discipline offenses, speed-and-sacrifice offenses--all of these offenses are subject to about the same degree of inconsistency in their run scoring output.
Nate went on to find that, perhaps surprisingly, there is no correlation between the type of offense and its consistency. It's pretty much just, well, random. There's little reason to think that the Cubs offense will continue to be so maddeningly inconsistent (as we've seen in the two games since Nate's column, with the Cubs scoring 2 runs Friday, 10 yesterday), but then again, there's no reason why they can't continue to be bizarrely split-personalitied.
One other thing I found interesting in the column, though, is that the Cubs' offense is currently on pace to score about 760 runs over the course of the season. That's not bad! At least, that's not bad considering that Sosa's been out for a bit and that prognosticators predicted that the offense would score a good deal fewer runs. The Alou Resurrection has been the greatest contributor to the overall offensive bump, and any eventual decline (it'll happen any day now... um... right?) that can be expected from him will hopefully be offset by adding Sosa back in.
I don't want to give the impression that all's okay with the Cubs offense, however. It isn't. 760 runs is an okay total given the Cubs pitching, but it's still not great, and the Cubs would do well to search out some more offense. Centerfield and shortstop look like the obvious holes in this year's lineup, so I'll take a look at some possible options a bit later this week.