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Addison Russell is Bad at Baseball

Hi. It's time for part 2 of our talk about Addison Russell. You might recall part 1, where we discussed the reasons you don't want the Cubs to DFA him and would rather have the team non-tender him instead. Tidy, remember? Then we read our IG comments and realized that maybe some of you might want to keep him on the team because you think he's still good at baseball, his admission of domestic abuse notwithstanding. So I realized we might need to talk some more.First, let's be clear--Addison Russell has never been an above average offensive player at the major league level. His career high wRC+ was a below average 95 in 2016. Yet, for some reason we all remember Russell having a great season. Why? Because he was, in fact, clutch. While he slashed a pretty uninspiring .238/.304/.418 that year, he also drove in 95 runs and had a 1.47 Clutch rating according to Fangraphs--their measure of how much better or worse a player performs in a high leverage situation as opposed to a context-neutral situation. So yes, that whole "Kid Clutch" thing was real... but only for one season. Since then, Russell has put up negative Clutch ratings every year. What about the rest of his stats, you might ask? Let's call on the folks at FanGraphs for the complete picture.

So, what these numbers tell us is that Russell doesn't get on base, he doesn't drive in runs, he doesn't score runs, he doesn't slug, and he doesn't really walk. He was worth about half a win in 2019, and that was probably, mostly due to whatever value his glove brought.


Oh HO, you might say... his glove is where the value is! Well... not really even that, so much, anymore. Russell's defense isn't really even that great these days. Let's take a look...

The UZR and UZR/150 stats are the important ones here. UZR="ultimate zone rating," and it tells you how much better or worse a fielder did than the average player on similarly hit balls. UZR/150 gives you that measure estimated over 150 games. As you can see, Russell's UZR and UZR/150 have been declining steadily since 2016, and were both negative in 2019. Even his glove isn't worth a whole lot these days. This is also a player who admitted to not knowing the team's signs during a pennant race--not exactly a guy you want anchoring your middle infield.


Ultimately, thinking Russell is worth gambling on in light of his near total lack of on field development and troubling off field behavior is not something we should be rooting for if we want a successful Cubs squad going forward. It's also not a wise gamble for the Cubs to tender him a contract thinking they can trade him when much more productive players can be had in free agency for less money and no other return. Let's hope that non-tender comes through and Thed find a more productive use for those dollars.

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