Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Stump for Cruz

In the comments section yesterday, Goat Reader Sman invited us to Meet Juan Cruz:

Sman wrote: "For his career, that means 352.2 IP, 1.392 WHIP, 188 Runs and 53 IRS
(average 6.2 Rc/9) with 11 Blown Saves in 14 opportunities. (And that's
with 194 of his 310 appearances coming when his team was trailing, so
mainly low leverage)

It is hardly small sample size with Cruz - its par for the course..."

Actually, Sman, when you put it that way, I am all that much more excited and hopeful that the Cubs will pursue Cruz.  I appreciate the time you took to collect the statistics, although I'm going to argue that the '02 and '03 numbers are pretty irrelevant to Cruz's ability, partly because he was still a jobber rookie, and partly because he kept flipping between starting and relieving.  But looking at the past six seasons, we can identify the following stats pertaining to Inherited Runners:

2009 - IS% 37%; league average 34% (22 inherited, 8 scored)
2008 - IS% 44%; league average 36% (27 inherited, 12 scored)
2007 - IS% 26%; league average 31% (27 inherited, 7 scored)
2006 - IS% 0%; league average 32% (4 inherited, 0 scored)
2005 - IS% 25%; league average 30% (16 inherited, 4 scored)
2004 - IS% 31%; league average 33% (13 inherited, 4 scored)

As Sman noted, Cruz allowed roughly 32% of his inherited runners to score.  The non-precise league average over that time is close to 33%, which means that Cruz is average or slightly above average.  Sman also posted Cruz's earned runs numbers -- Juan's career ERA as a reliever is 4.14, and his WHIP is 1.39.  I'm glad Sman pointed that out because the non-scientifically calculated league average for reliever ERA over the past 6 seasons is 4.73 -- Cruz is nearly 0.70 points better.  Also, the league average for WHIP tends to fluctuate around 1.40 - again, putting Cruz dead in the center of what you'd expect from a better-than-bad relief pitcher.

I also appreciate Sman noting Cruz's blown save issue.  If I had seen that on its own, I would have panicked a bit -- nobody wants a setup guy who blows saves!  But, in a round-about (probably unintentional) way, Sman makes a valid point: middle relievers blow lots, and lots, and even more saves.  It's the nature of the beast.

Just last year, the 10 pitchers with the most holds had 32 saves and 45 blown.  That's a 42% save ratio, while we expect our closers to save minimally 80% of their chances.  Even worse, that ratio dramatically drops if you remove 11 of Marmol's saves from that list -- he had 4 saved and 4 blown when he was given the gig to close.  That 42% save ratio quickly becomes 32%.  Therefore, Sman's observation that Cruz also has a crappy save success ratio just basically lumps him in the middle of the pack.  He's not one of the elite hold-getters in the league, they're 32% successful at saving games; he's more in the middle of the pack with the 20 percenters. 

Therefore, Sman has clearly demonstrated that Cruz is a middle of the pack reliever.  Some fans might worry and think Cruz is above-par and below-average, but the numbers as presented by Sman demonstrate that he's actually probably the guy we'd want pitching in the 7th inning of a good team, or the 8th inning of an insanely desperate team like the Cubs. 

Sman has shown us that Cruz's Inherited Allowed percentage is not mediocre, but instead is average, his WHIP is typical, not abnormal, and his blown save ratio is nothing to lose sleep over.

In this case, the numbers don't lie.  Cruz won't put out your barn if it catches on fire, but he'll usually keep it from sparking up.  On a team whose only reliable setup man is a converted, under-30 starting pitcher earning nearly 18 million in 2010, taking a low-risk chance on an available pitcher like Cruz makes way, way more sense.  He's not elite, but he's not mediocre.  That's good enough for me, for now, and hopefully the Cubs will pick up Cruz, use him to buy time so they can get a more reliable 8th inning pitcher, and move Zambrano back to the rotation.

Thanks then, to Sman, for setting us all straight.  I now fully endorse the pursuit of Juan Cruz.


Last 5 seasons

John Grabow
275.2 IP, 1.397 WHIP, 20% IRS (154 IR), 121 R + 43 IS = 5.35 Crossing/9
Game Situations Entered – 118 Ahead, 45 Tied, 130 Behind with 1.072 aLI

He's our only really established reliever, so I guess we go with some old buddies
Bobby Howry
297.1 IP, 1.231 WHIP, 26% IRS (116 IR), 136 R + 30 IS = 5.02 Crossing/9
Game Situations Entered – 162 Ahead, 58 Tied, 84 Behind with 1.232 aLI

Kevin Gregg
307.1 IP, 1.285 WHIP, 22% IRS (74 IR), 144 R + 16 IS = 4.69 Crossing/9
Game Situations Entered – 171 Ahead, 34 Tie, 49 Behind with 1.453 aLI

Aaron Heilman
328.1 IP, 1.304 WHIP, 40% IRS (119 IR), 161 R + 48 IS = 5.73 Crossing/9
Game Situation Entered – 163 Ahead, 58 Tied, 90 Behind with 1.338 aLI

Kyle Farnsworth
229.1 IP, 1.469 WHIP, 41% IRS (59 IR), 126 R + 24 IS = 5.89 Crossing/9
Game Situations Entered – 131 Ahead, 44 Tie, 70 Behind with 1.191 aLI

Finally, the man of the moment
Juan Cruz
263.0 IP, 1.357 WHIP, 38% IRS (86 IR), 126 R + 33 IS = 5.44 Crossing/9
Game Situations Entered – 49 Ahead, 18 Tie, 110 Behind with 0.892 aLI

So, Juan Cruz is a bit better then Farnsworth, about on par with Heilman and maybe a bit worse then Grabow. Of course, all those pitchers have provided those stats in at least above, to even well above, average pressure situations instead of the well-below average mop-up duty Cruz has been used in by all of his teams. Okay, I take that back, KC and Arizona briefly tried in him pressure situations after they first got him, but quickly yanked him from the set-up roll and instead made him their mop-up guy.

Yay! Just what the team needs! A new mop-up guy that might produce as well as Aaron Hielman!

PS – you stated this above
“He's not one of the elite hold-getters in the league, they're 32% successful at saving games; he's more in the middle of the pack with the 20 percenters.”

Except it ignores that he has only had 25 Holds over his 9 seasons in the bigs; he isn’t a “hold getter” at all. This is specifically how it breaks down
340 Games in relief
39 Save Situations (includes opportunities for holds)
25 Holds
3 Saves
meaning he blew 11 of those 39 situations; 28%.

Comparisons once more
John Grabow, 20% Blown
Aaron Heilman, 23% Blown
Kevin Gregg, 19% Blown
Bobby Howry, 15% Blown
Kyle Farnsworth, 17% Blown

2009 ML Average blown = 18%
2008 ML Average blown = 19%
2007 ML Average blown = 18%
You get the idea.

So he isn’t middle of the pact there, he is well below the average and easily the worst of the above. Probably the reason no one ever uses him in pressure situations and he was recently released by a team as horrible as the Royals, don’t you think?

But that’s the key here, when even Dayton Moore realizes you are a crappy reliever… well, apparently some Cubs fans start wanting you

The numbers do not lie.

The numbers do not lie. Baseball teams do not want average pitchers in the 8th inning; they want them in the 6th or 7th inning which is exactly how Cruz should be used. I'm glad, then, that you agree with me yet again -- bringing in Cruz to pitch the 8th inning for a full season would be a mistake, but using him as a stop-gap until a trade can be made, and then delegating him to the 6th or 7th inning as he has been used throughout his career, makes sense.

Thanks for the valuable insight, Sman!

"Baseball teams do not want

"Baseball teams do not want average pitchers in the 8th inning; they want them in the 6th or 7th inning which is exactly how Cruz should be used."

Apparently you don't realize this, but you get a hold situation starting in the 6th inning for protecting a 3 run lead.

In 315 Relief Games, Cruz has 39 such games where he blew a well above average 28% of them.

So unless you're saying what this team really needs a guy for the 6th and 7th innings in the games we are losing...

Although he hasn't often been

Although he hasn't often been given hold situations, he has been trusted to pitch with runners on base often -- and as you showed us, he has performed slightly above average in those situations since 2004.

Let's face it -- your own highly toted statistics validate Cruz as being a worthy candidate for consideration on this, an insanely depleted Cubs bullpen. So what's the real reason you don't seem to like him?

“Although he hasn't often

“Although he hasn't often been given hold situations, he has been trusted to pitch with runners on base often”

No he hasn’t; not even close... Average was 1.5 IR/G last season, 1.49 the year prior. Cruz is at 0.4 IR/G for his career. No one trusts Cruz with runners on, which is why he has almost never been used in pressure situations.

“Let's face it -- your own highly toted statistics validate Cruz as being a worthy candidate for consideration on this, an insanely depleted Cubs bullpen”

No they don’t, they prove he is worse then other guys we have recently run out of town, and give the reasons no one has ever relied on him to pitch well in important situations in the past.

And you want to know why I don’t want him? Well other then the fact he doesn’t fit what we need at all and has already been run out of town once? Stuff like this - here are just a few of the guys currently on the free agent market

Chad Bradford
219.2 IP, 1.347 WHIP, 35% IS (210 IR), 17% Blown

Yhency Brazoban
115.0 IP, 1.426 WHIP, 33% IS (33 IR), 20% Blown

Kiko Calero
219.0 IP, 1.260 WHIP, 28% IS (147 IR), 21% Blown

Elmer Dessens
213.1 IP, 1.383 WHIP, 34% IS (68 IR), 22% Blown

Mark DiFelice
70.2 IP, 1.203 WHIP, 36% IS (46 IR), 17% Blown

Chad Fox (remember him?)
65.2 IP, 1.660 WHIP, 38% IS (42 IR), 21% Blown

Eddie Guardado
145.1 IP, 1.376 WHIP, 44% IS (43 IR), 21% Blown

Tyler Johnson
77.0 IP, 1.416 WHIP, 34% IS (86 IR), 25% Blown

Wouldn’t most all of them fit our actual needs better then Cruz? So why then is Cruz the one you think we should sign? Solely because he has put up almost respectable and semi-average numbers in 9 years of mop-up duty? Solely because we have run him our of town once before? Solely because he is the name of the day? Solely because I say we shouldn’t?

We need Bullpen help, we don’t need mop-up guys with arguably average low-pressure results but horrible track records in pressure situations. Might as well take our chances on what we got if its between them and Cruz; at least we know they have upside…

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