Dennis Eckersley

Today is Sunday July 1, 1984 and the Cubs finish off a 4 game series with Dodgers in LA. Normally we just handicap the first game of each series but since Dennis Eckersley starts today it will be interesting to focus on him.

Cubs acquired both Eckersley and Sutcliff mid season when both pitchers had very bad starts. Right now Eckersley is at his lowest point of the season and today he starts his climb out of negative territory. Let’s look at handicapping for the game today.

  WAA Vegas TC Sim EV L S R
CHN 8 X 0.518 X 4.00 -3.60 -0.87  
LAN 2 X 0.482 X -0.99 1.69 -1.23  

Tier Combo simulation have Cubs slightly favored today at around 52%.  They’re fielding a maxed out Tier 4.00 lineup which is over 2 complete standard deviations above league average for lineups as of today.  The Tier -3.60 Starter the Cubs have pitching today is Dennis Eckersely.


Rank WAA IP Name TeamId Rest Tier
-004- -3.59 106.3 Dennis_Eckersley CHN 5 -3.60
+083+ 1.76 127.3 Fernando_Valenzuela LAN 4 1.69

Dodgers are using their top pitchers on 4 day rest which, since we’re from the future, will wear them out because they don’t make the playoffs this year.  Eckersley is considered right now the fourth least valuable player in MLB this season.  Let’s see what happens.

Update: After looking up Alejandro Pena and Fernando’s 1984 record it appears I was wrong.   Both have a much better 2nd half than first so short rest was not a problem and may have helped.  Also, it is total coincidence that WAA=~Tier number.  These two variables are far from equal.

Line Scores

TeamID Linescore R TB H E
CHN 010200010 4 14 11 1
LAN 000010002 3 9 8 1

Eckersley gives up 1 run in 8 innings pitched which is considered “pitching a gem.”  Cubs’ sub average relief staff let’s up 2 in the ninth causing some nail biting for Cubs fans.

This is a pivotal game for Dennis Eckersley.  Let’s look at his progression through 1984.

Dennis_Eckersley PITCH

DateID Rank WAA
19840426 -004- -2.06
19840510 -011- -1.91
19840524 -017- -2.08
19840607 -061- -1.36
19840621 -006- -2.77
19840705 -006- -3.04
19840722 -023- -2.71
19840805 -070- -1.93
19840819 -149- -1.28
19840902 XXXXX -0.17
19840916 XXXXX 0.50
19840930 XXXXX 1.22

At the start of today’s game Eckersley was at his season low of -3.59 WAA.  By the end of this season he climbs to +1.22 WAA which is a +4.8 WAA difference.  July 1 is around the mid point of a baseball season.  

To put this in perspective, had Eckersley pitched the first half as well as the second he would be +9.6 WAA placing him #1 in MLB according to this data model.  Here are the top ten players in 1984.

End of 1984 Player Standings

Rank WAA Name TeamID Pos
+001+ 8.92 Tony_Armas BOS CF-DH
+002+ 7.83 Dave_Winfield NYA RF-CF
+003+ 7.22 Jim_Rice BOS LF
+004+ 7.08 Dwight_Evans BOS RF
+005+ 6.8 Mike_Schmidt PHI 3B
+006+ 6.61 Leon_Durham CHN 1B
+007+ 6.51 Don_Mattingly NYA 1B-LF
+008+ 6.51 Bruce_Sutter SLN PITCH
+009+ 6.4 Mike_Boddicker BAL PITCH
+010+ 6.26 Dwight_Gooden NYN PITCH

1984 was very unusual with the top 7 being hitters, the top pitcher being a reliever, and top WAA less than 9 ( it’s usually around 10 or above ).  This could be due to a bug but probably not.  Will update if it is.

Had Eckersley pitched even steven, completely average for the first half of the season he would have been ranked aournd #30 by the end of 1984 which is still very good. Bottom line: The WAA value generated by this model shows why Eckersley became an important part of Cubs’ 1984 season as we view it from our vantage point in the future.

New series with Padres in San Diego starting tomorrow as the Cubs continue their west coast trip.  Until then ….