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Len and JD’s Cubs Baseball Blog

Cub announcers Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies bring you behind-the-scenes insight and commentary on WGN’s Len and JD’s blog. Also check out video of player interviews, photo galleries, and unique Cubs statistics from STATS, Inc

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Let’s Play Ball!

Greetings from Cubs Park in Mesa. We’re excited to show off this new facility on our first telecast of the year today. Tom Ricketts, Rick Renteria, and Theo Epstein will join us and we want to thank WGN’s Dan Roan for volunteering to run around the park to see all the great attractions they have here. For everyone who is stuck in this never-ending winter, we hope a few hours of Cubs baseball in the Arizona sunshine will cure any winter blues.DSC01767It’s a thrill to start the 67th season of Cubs baseball on WGN-TV. The Cubs young talent will be on full display throughout the spring and we’re looking forward to helping you get to know them.

Let’s play ball and have a great year.

Len and JD


Cubs Unveil New Spring Training Facility

Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Mesa tomorrow for the start of spring training.  Today, the Cubs unveiled the new complex where the team will train, Dan Roan has the story from Arizona.

Last week Len took a look at some of the all time great Cub hitters and how they stack up using some of the more advanced stats in use today. This week we focus on the pitchers. I got playing around on Baseball Reference, Fangraphs and StatsLLC and found some interesting (at least to a baseball geek) stuff. Some of the leader boards are tilted to the modern era since data going way back is incomplete. One of the ways we look at hitters is by combining their on base and slugging percentages so I thought it might be fun to find the best single seasons for a Cub pitcher in OPS against. Look at the chart above: Left-hander Dick Ellsworth was an All-Star in 1964 but 1963 was his best year. His .543 OPS against is the best by a Cub pitcher since at least 1955. He also led the league with an ERA+ of 167. That number reflects the players ERA compared to the league and adjusts for the ballpark.
WAR or Wins above Replacement is another way of determining value. 4 of the 5 best single seasons in Cub history in terms of pitcher’s war were turned in during the 19th century. Pete Alexander in 1920 had the third best season in franchise history according to this metric. Post 1920, the best performances were logged by Fergie Jenkins with 10.3 in 1971 and Ellsworth”s 10.2 in 1963. Big Daddy Rick Reuschel shows up 8th on the list 9.4 and Greg Maddux accumulated 9.2 wins above replacement in 1992- good for 9th best. Jenkins in ’71 was 24-13, logged 325 (not a typo) innings and fashioned a 2.77 ERA. In terms of career WAR Fergie leads the way followed by Big Daddy who is maybe a little underappreciated? Then you go into the way back machine with Three Fingers Brown et al before you see Carlos Zambrano at # 9 with 37.9. In case you’re wondering Mad Dog is number 11 in career WAR earned with the Cubs and Kerry Wood comes in at 19. Speaking of Kerry Wood, how about the kings of K? All-Time K’s per 9 innings pitched in a single season for the Cubs:
 1) Kerry Wood 12.58  1998
2) Kerry Wood 11.3    2003
3) Mark Prior    11.3    2002
4)Kerry Wood   11.2    2001
5)Rich Harden 10.9    2009
With strikeouts so prevalent in the modern game, just about all the K rate leaders are from the last twenty years. Sutter (’77, ’79) Sutcliffe (’84)  Assenmacher (’91) and Dick Selma in 1969 are the only guys to make the top 25 prior to Wood’s ’98 season. In terms of career k’s/9, the top 5 are:
Marmol 11.66
Prior      10.37
Wood    10.34
Clement 8.8
and Jeff Samardzija at 8.67

WAR for Pitchers (?)

Rank Player WAR for Pitchers IP
1. Fergie Jenkins 53.2 2673.2
2. Rick Reuschel 48.3 2290.0
3. Mordecai Brown 45.3 2328.0
4. Clark Griffith 44.4 2188.2
5. Pete Alexander 41.8 1880.2
6. Bill Hutchinson 40.8 3022.1
7. Hippo Vaughn 40.7 2215.0
8. Charlie Root 38.4 3138.0
9. Carlos Zambrano 37.9 1826.2
10. John Clarkson 36.7 1730.2
Really just a glimpse into all the stats that are available to the ardent fan. I lean heavily on the three sights mentioned above.

Thank You

photo-2Well today is the final home game of my first year here in Chicago and I just want to give a big virtual high five to Cub fans and all the good people here at Wrigley who have made me feel so welcome. Win or lose, when the sun is shining and the Ivy is in, there is no better sporting venue in the land. I’m looking forward to an off-season of exploration here in the Windy City to take in all that this great town has to offer. Thanks to Len for all his help in helping me get acclimated to this new gig.
See you in the spring!
Keep the faith,





It is our final home game of the season.  Kinda hard to believe.  Usually, bad years for a baseball team are called “long” seasons, but I felt like this one went pretty fast.  Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older and EVERYTHING is going by too quickly.

Special thanks to our home TV crew on both WGN and CSN.  We are fortunate to have such a hard-working group at Wrigley that collectively wants to put on the best baseball broadcast in the league every single day.

Having Wrigley Field as our backdrop certainly doesn’t hurt 81 days a year.

Also, what a first year for my new partner.  JD stepped right into some pretty big shoes and instantly became a part of the family.  I love that he and his family have made Chicago their year-round home and I sensed throughout the year that Cubs fans quickly grew accustomed to his style and sense of humor.  We are lucky to have him.


stats_logo_400x225* Although the Cubs are 6-10 versus Pittsburgh in 2013, they’ve split six games at Wrigley Field (3-3). However, the Pirates have not lost a season series at Wrigley since 2009 (3-5). They’re 18-13 in Chicago since 2010.

* After dropping two of three games to the Reds this weekend, the Pirates are tied with Cincinnati for second place in the NL Central, 2.0 games behind St. Louis. But Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are each 5.0 games ahead of Washington in the race for the two wild-card spots in the National League.

* The Cubs lost two of three games to Atlanta to fall to 3-9 over their past 12 games. At 65-91, the Cubs are assured of finishing at least 20 games below .50 for the third consecutive season, the first time they’ve done that since 1960-62.

* Going back to July 12, Charlie Morton is 0-2 with a 7.90 ERA over three starts versus St. Louis, but 6-0 with a 2.42 ERA in 10 starts against everyone else.

* Neil Walker has slugged 1.133 while connecting for three homers over his last four games. With a season total of 13 home runs, he joins Bill Mazeroski as the only Pirates second basemen to reach a dozen in four different years.

* Jeff Samardzija struck out eight in his most recent start at Milwaukee last Tuesday, raising his season total to 203. With a record of 8-12, he’ll be the first Cub to finish with a losing record despite fanning at least 200 since Long Tom Hughes in 1901 (10-23, 225 strikeouts).


Stats Sunday – Cub Leaders

Ernie Banks

We are going to go Cubs-centric for Stats Sunday the final two weeks and take a look at some career leader boards in some of the advanced stats we have featured this season.


This Sunday we focus on position players.  Next Sunday, it’s pitching.


Thanks to the fine folks at for their great team leaderboard pages.


We start with a key link so you can explore on your own.  For Cubs all-time batting leaders (top 10 lists), go to this page:


We found a lot of fun stuff here.


Keep in mind this disclaimer from “1500 plate appearances required for career rate batting statistics.”


In 1929, Rogers Hornsby put up the greatest overall season in Cubs history among position players according to Wins Above Replacement with a 10.4 WAR.


Cap Anson compiled the most WAR among Cubs position players in his career with the team with 84.5 (Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams round out the top 5).


The best defensive player in Cubs history in terms of accumulating Defensive WAR?  Joe Tinker, whose 29.7 dWAR nearly doubles Billy Jurges’ 15.1.

J Tinker

P.S., While Tinker had the highest single-season dWAR in Cubs history with 4.3 in 1908, Darwin Barney put up the 2nd-most last year at 3.6 (tied with Tinker’s 1905 and 1906 seasons).


Your Cubs’ career leader in OBP?  Ray Grimes at .418.  Bill Madlock checks in at .397, good for 5th while Mark Grace just cracks the top 10 at .386.


Cubs’ career slugging percentage is particularly interesting in that several players of recent vintage are among the leaders.  Hack Wilson (not of recent vintage) is the leader at .590.  But then it’s Sammy Sosa (2nd at .569), Aramis Ramirez (3rd at .531), Derrek Lee (4th at .524), Andre Dawson (6th at .507), Billy Williams (7th at .503), Ernie Banks (8th at .500) and Alfonso Soriano (9th at .495).

Hack Wilson swing

In terms of OPS, one Cub all-time reached 1.000.  That’s Hack Wilson at 1.002.  Sammy Sosa is 2nd at .928.


Did you know only one Cub has ever had 100 extra-base hits in a season?  Sammy Sosa amassed 103 in 2001.  Derrek Lee came oh so close with 99 in his great season of 2005.


The only Cub with over 1,000 career extra-base hits is Ernie Banks with 1,009.


In Offensive Win %, which looks at the winning percentage of a team with 9 of that particular player batting against average pitching and defense, Hack Wilson again leads at .752.  Bill Madlock is 6th at .703 with Billy Williams 7th at .701.


We have talked about stolen base percentage being a key number — it’s not so much about number of steals, but how successful you are at it.  Eric Young is the Cubs’ all-time leader at 80.19%.


It’s a lot of fun to peruse Cubs’ history in the context of these “modern” stats.  The one thing I take out of it is how great Bill Madlock was as a Cub.  He was only here for 3 years (his 23 through 25-year-old seasons from 1974-76), but he won 2 batting titles and put up this slash line in 400 games: .336/.397/.475 for an OPS+ of 139.  He finished his 15-year career at .305/.365/.442 with an OPS+ of 123, so his Cubs’ numbers were all better than what he put up everywhere else in a terrific career.


Next week to wrap up the season, we find out just where Fergie and Big Z and Three Finger Brown and Mad Dog stack up on the all-time Cubs’ pitching lists.






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