Stats: Telling the Story, or Hiding It?

A few interesting stats I’ve heard over the last few days, re: the Cubs …

Stat: Catcher’s ERA. Jason Kendall’s is around 5, actually a little higher, while that of backup Koyie Hill is almost exactly two runs lower (no link, heard this on Mike North’s show yesterday). Yet Kendall plays every day, because he is a better hitter.

Comment: Well, I used to be a math major, but even if I wasn’t, it seems to me that unless Kendall is driving in two runs a game more than Hill, then Hill might be the better choice. And let us not forget that during the Cubs’ hottest streak, in late June and most of July, they were using two catchers who provided almost no offense at all, but were both very good defensively: Hill and Robb Bowen (acquired from San Diego in the Michael Barrett trade in mid-June). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: offense from catchers is a bonus, and playing one catcher over another based on offense alone is only a good idea when their defense is equivalent. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Stat: Run support. Pitchers Rich Hill and Ted Lilly (again, no link, read this a few days ago) both have decent ERAs (~3.75), and similar numbers for IP, hits allowed, strikeouts, etc., yet Hill gets less than 4 runs per game, while Lilly gets more than 6, which is highest in the NL. Lilly gets a more-than-two-runs-per-game advantage; his record, unsurprisingly then, is 13-5, while Hill’s is 6-7.

Comment: Obviously, there is much more to a pitcher’s record than how he does on the mound. There is the catcher, and the game he calls. The defense he gets behind him. And the runs scored for him.

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