Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Most Valuable Cubs (by RAR)

It's Monday morning, and I felt like clicking around Fangraphs for a minute. So I did, because I'm my own man.

I'm looking at the RAR leaderboard, where RAR stands for runs above replacement. If work is slow for you this morning and you haven't ever looked at RAR before, it might be worth your while to Google it; for those of us familiar with the stat, and for those trusting enough to look at a "leaderboard" without thinking too hard about it, follow along as I go through the list of who Fangraphs thinks has been the most valuable Cub so far this season at every position around the diamond.

C - Geovany Soto (11.9 RAR, #3 overall)

Were you expecting Three-Fingers Hill? Soto's got a low batting average, but his 30 walks have boosted his OBP to .426. A lot of
those walks are likely a result of hitting in front of the pitcher, so
if Lou continues to insist on starting Theriot (a bigger if than you might think), maybe we should put someone without power down in that spot and move
Soto, with his four doubles and four homers, up to 7th.

1B - Derrek Lee (0.4 RAR, #11 overall)

The hitting has not been there, but of course you knew that. He's actually hitting more line drives this year than he did in 2009, but apparently the ball keeps finding a glove, as his batting average on balls in play is at .250 right now (his career rate is .320). I know he's older, but the numbers really do bode well for a D-Lee turnaround later this season.

2B - Mike Fontenot (4.8 RAR, #6 overall)

Here's the first biggish surprise of the session: Mike's been more valuable to the team than Theriot thus far. He's got the Riot's on-base skills (.309 average, .352 OBP) -- plus an ounce of power, with six doubles and a homer this year. Perhaps Fontenot should be starting at second more often; I definitely buy it.

3B - Jeff Baker (3.5 RAR, #8 overall)

Baker hasn't really been that great. But, of course, Aramis has been worse. To Jeff's credit, Fangraphs likes his defenseive performance at 3B so far this year. And he does have some power (two doubles, a triple, and two homers). He'll give you an average performance -- which quite frankly is a whole lot better than what Aramis has given so far this year.

In fact, Aramis Ramirez has been worth 11.7 runs below replacement. That's what you get with 40 strikeouts in 156 at-bats, too many fly balls and not enough line drives, and an inability to hit fastballs. Where D-Lee's numbers look primed for a comeback, Aramis' do not.

SS - Starlin Castro (4.5 RAR, #7 overall)

In just the short time he's been up, Darlin' Starlin has already made himself more valuable to the team than the man he replaced at shortstop. Even with the bunches of errors at the start of his big league career, Fangraphs thinks Castro has been the better defensive player. And once again, Theriot's lack of power hurts him in comparisons to other infielders. Castro has four extra base hits in 66 plate appearances, with two homers; Theriot has five XBHs in 192 plate apperances, with zero long balls.

LF - Alfonso Soriano (19.1 RAR, #2 overall)

Byrd's shown great power this season, but Soriano has been even
better. He has 15 doubles, nine homers, and a triple this season -- all
while hitting .326. Nice.

His defense has actually been about average, too. What Soriano lacks in
glove, he makes up for in range and arm strength. But it's the bat
that's made him so valuable to this team.

CF - Marlon Byrd (19.5 RAR, #1 overall)

Of Byrd's 53 hits this year, 23 have gone for extra bases (16 2B, 7 HR). He's even got three steals. Fangraphs also likes his contribution defensively, suggesting he's saved five runs more than a league average center fielder.

But write this number down: 52.2%. That's the percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone by Byrd, and I think it'll go down as the season goes on. Why, you ask? He's been hacking: he's struck out 24 times this year, and walked just six times (Byrd swings at 32.7% of pitches thrown out of the zone; league average is 27.6%).

RF - Tyler Colvin (9.2 RAR, #4 overall)

Putting Xavier Nady (-1.6 batting RAR) in the starting line-up over Colvin (5.0 batting RAR) is crazy enough. Turns out, the numbers so far suggest the Tylermaniac might be on his way to beating out Kosuke as the every day right fielder.

Unfortunately, I've never read a single scouting report that suggested Colvin has the same kind of star-powered ceiling as does a guy like, say, Darlin' Starlin. But with the plus speed, good glove, and decent power, he might still be better than Kosuke, who is once again fading quickly now that April is over (.344/.443/.641 last month, .259/.348/.414 in May).

So that's that. Speaking of which, how's this look for a line-up against righties:

Castro
Fontenot (3B)
Lee
Soriano
Byrd
Colvin
Soto
Theriot
Pitcher

Crazy, sure -- but how crazy?

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