Cubs by the Numbers: wOBA Highlights Gleaming Strengths, Glaring Weaknesses
Weighted On-base Average (wOBA) measures a hitter’s overall value based on each individual event. Whereas OBP treats all the ways a hitter reaches base as equal, wOBA gives an specific value to each way a hitter reaches base, providing a much more specific picture of how valuable a hitter was over a season.
The values for 2014 for each offensive event are as follows:
The accumulation of these events is then divided by the sum of ABs, BBs, Sac flies/bunts, HBP, (-IBB). That will give you a number for a hitter’s wOBA. With that understanding, here is FanGraphs’ general rule of thumb for what an excellent wOBA is:
Now let’s take a look at the 2014 Cubs and their wOBA. I will be sure to mention what league average is for each position as I go through to give a more complete idea of how well or how poorly a hitter did.
Anthony Rizzo was, unsurprisingly, the cream of the crop in 2014 with a wOBA of .397,which is just below excellent by the above measuring stick. The average MLB first baseman had a wOBA of .333. An argument could be made that Rizzo, who is just 25 years old, could be primed for even bigger and better things in 2015, particularly with improved talent around him in the lineup.
In a very small sample size, Jorge Soler was next up with a .386 wOBA. Take Soler’s number with a grain of salt because it was amassed in just a handful of games, but the average wOBA for RF was .325 in 204.
Chris Coghlan, who put in a majority of his work in LF, was next up for the regulars with a .353 wOBA. During his Rookie of the Year campaign of 2009, Coghlan had a .374 wOBA. Average for a LF in 2014 was .321, so, yet again, another performance that was above average in 2014.
Luis Valbuena was next in line with a wOBA of .342 as the mostly everyday third baseman in 2014. As a rule of thumb, his performance was above average and he was also better than the .319 average wOBA for third basemen.
Starlin Castro put up a .341 wOBA in 134 games at short, where the league-average performance was .304. Castro is easily an above average offensive shortstop that has shown improved focus and improved results on defense. I think his name gets thrown around a lot in trade rumors by the media, but losing him for anything less than a stud top-of-the-rotation starter would be a mistake.
Arismendy Alcantara’s wOBA of .275 was below that of an average CF, which was .321 for the 2014 season. Alcantara’s best wOBA in the minors was last season, when he had a .382 wOBA in 89 games at Triple-A Iowa. I do think of all the young kids that debuted last year, his ceiling is probably the lowest by far. His positional flexibility is a benefit though, as is his above average speed.
Javier Baez had a very disappointing wOBA of .248 in 2014; way below the average for second basemen, whose average wOBA in 2014 was .306. A glimmer of hope is that even with his painfully slow start in Triple-A last year, he still had a wOBA of .354. I think Baez’s track record of adjusting and dominating still gives a great deal of hope for 2015.
Baez is a trade candidate that some would not mind seeing moved in a deal for pitching, but he also has the potential to be the one that got away and could haunt the team for a decade.
How about new addition Tommy La Stella? He put up a wOBA of .292 in 93 games as the Braves’ second baseman. Still below average for the position, but a little better than Baez. I’m still kind of at a loss as to why the Cubs acquired La Stella; to me it has to mean that one of the middle infielders or Alcantara will be on the move this winter.
Welington Castillo, who had a wOBA of .306, was just slightly below the .310 that average backstops compiled. By the general rule of thumb though, he is below average offensively. Castillo has had some success in this metric recently; in 2013 he had a wOBA of .331, which would be a strong number for a catcher.
One would have to think that if he put those kinds of numbers up again in 2014, it is possible that the Cubs would not have been looking at Russell Martin in the first place. I know that Martin had other intangibles the Cubs liked, but it wasn’t as though Beef’s production was going to stop them from at least trying on Martin.
The Cubs offense had some great performances in 2014, but I for one will be disappointed if they go into 2014 with the same starting outfield. Coghlan is no sure thing to recreate his 2014 success, which was very good, so it’s still an area to look at improving. I also would be somewhat surprised in Alcantara was the everyday guy in CF next year. He is very young, probably too young to be labeled as a super sub; I just think that may be where his future lies.
Kris Bryant will also make his debut sometime in 2015 and he could provide a boost offensively. I’m sure there will be some growing pains with him, but not the extent that we have seen with Baez.
With two weeks to go until the Winter Meetings, you just get the feeling that it is going to get really busy with Cubs news very soon.