As Much as I Hate to Admit It, Gordon Wittenmyer is Right…Sort Of

I really wanted to jump all over Gordon Wittenmyer in response to his recent post, even had an acerbic little witticism typed up to use as a lede here. But then I did something crazy: I read what he had written. And I mean I actually read it and didn’t just stop after the first few lines forced me to choke back a bit of rising bile.

Do I feel that the man has been less than balanced in his coverage of the Cubs, based on either personal pride or editorial direction? Absolutely. But I also think his overzealous pursuit of a hackneyed narrative has turned him into the Boy Who Cried Wolf when it comes to some of his accurate observations of the team.

In his article Thursday entitled Starting block: Cubs rotation falling short, @GDubCub lamented the starters’ general inability to pitch deep into ballgames. He specifically referenced Jake Arrieta, who was only able to go 5 1/3 innings in the series finale after lasting only 5 frames in a loss to the Brewers last Saturday.

I wrote basically the exact same thing two days prior when I presented some information about the Cubs’ exceedingly poor performance in the 6th inning this year. Prior to the Brewers allowing 4 runs to the Dodgers in the 6th last night, the Cubs had given up a league-worst 23 tallies (Brewers 25) in the 6th.

While the bullpen is largely to blame in terms of actually giving up those runs, the fact that the Cubs have been forced to utilize a patchwork group of hippies, hobos, and various other manner of itinerant castoffs earlier than they’d like has caused problems. I point to the 2nd inning, in which the Cubs’ 21 runs allowed ranks 2nd-worst in baseball.

The issue with Wittenmyer’s presentation, however, came in the second line of the piece when he wrote, “The difference between the October-tested, first-place Cardinals and these wannabe-champ Cubs is a huge gap in starting pitching.”

It was this hyperbolic and amorphous claim that got the Chicago Sun-Times beat writer in trouble, as well it should. Had he perhaps softened that statement in favor of a more accurate — but far less rage-inducing — portrayal, I can guarantee I’d not be writing this right now.

Even the inclusion of some basic statistics would have presented an internal counter to show that what Joe Maddon means when he says “I just think our guys are going to continue to get better. They’re healthy, and I think they’re going to hit their stride.” It wouldn’t have been that difficult. Watch:

Based on early-season DRA and PWARP figures, the Cardinals’ rotation (including Adam Wainwright) has been worth 2.04 more wins than a group of nobodies fresh off the farm. The Cubs quintet, on the other hand, has been worth 1.20; so there is a gap, but it’s not huge. The Cubs do, however, have issues when it comes to transitioning to the later innings of games.

Gordon Wittenmyer was right in what he said about the Cubs starters, he was just wrong in the way he set it up. But this isn’t a high school math class and no one’s giving out credit for showing your work. Then again, the work he’s shown in the past has created a prejudicial callous among most of the folks who come across it.

I’d say it’s high time he got around to presenting things through a more accurate frame of reference, but I really don’t want to have to defend him again. I already feel like I need a shower as it is.


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