Oh it's about to get straight up dorky in this piece!
Today, the Cubs released a statement to announce a partnership with Bloomberg Sports to develop their own system to evaluate players. If they released the details of such a thing, first of all they'd probably have to kill you and secondly you'd probably pass out from the details.
This is not revolutionary in baseball, though it is for the Cubs. All teams are trying to find the new measuring system, the new graph, the new camera field to measure every aspect of baseball. The Cubs have just been so far behind in this that it sounds new and exciting to us.
There was an interview with Theo Epstein done a couple years ago at Red Sox spring training with WEEI in Boston. In it they asked him about WORP and VORP, which are wins and value over a replacement player (essentially just your average guy). Epstein said the Red Sox had their own system or number, but it was like WORP. Every team is seeking to improve on these metrics in their own way, to tweak it to fit their particular needs or wants.
For Cubs fans, while it's not going to change what is certain to be a long 2012 season, it's just heartening to see the organization join the current century. Under Jim Hendry, the powers that be actively ignored these kinds of measurement and stats. We all remember Dusty Baker's argument against walks because they "clogged the bases", which caused several thousand foreheads to hit their desk simultaneously. It didn't get much better after, as Hendry continually sought players in an out-dated way of playing the game. Hitters who didn't walk, fielders who couldn't field, pitchers who didn't throw strikes.
Now, the Cubs are trying to be ahead of everyone. Maybe this is it, maybe it's something else. The Cubs have so much ground to make up, at least you now know they're trying everything.
Just a guess, but I bet whatever system they're trying to measure or come up with a new way of seeing has to do with defense. Offense has been mined pretty heavily and is so easy to digest. Pitch speed, location, count, where it's hit. That's kind of it.
But for defense, there are so many variables. Where was a player paying a hitter? How hard was that ball hit? How much ground did he cover or not cover to get there? Where were the other fielders? Should the other guy have caught that throw? Throw in wind and ballpark differences, and there's a lot of theories on how to decode defense.
There's been a system in place for a while to map this out, but this sounds like the Cubs trying to beat everyone to the punch. The Cubs have been a terrible defensive team since I was in diapers. This would be a revolutionary step, to have a team that can actually catch the ball.
They may not be here, or even close, but good days are coming.