Sabermetric look at Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio trade
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media June 16, 2014 9:00PM
UNDATED: Lou Brock #20 of the St. Louis Cardinals slides into home plate during a game circa 1964 to 1979. Lou Brock played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1964-1979. (Photo by Louis Requena/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Lou Brock
Updated: July 18, 2014 6:16AM
As Steve Greenberg detailed Sunday in the Sun-Times, it has been 50 years since the Cubs sent outfielder Lou Brock to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio. The trade has endured as a symbol of Cubs futility, with Brock going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals and the sore-elbowed Broglio winning only seven games with the Cubs before calling it quits in 1966.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Brock was
41.7 wins above replacement with the Cardinals through 1979 and Broglio was minus-1.6 with the Cubs.
The other pieces of the deal — pitchers Paul Toth and Jack Spring to the Cardinals, outfielder Doug Clemens and pitcher Bobby Shantz to the Cubs — were spare parts with minimal impact.
The question is, would this deal have happened if the teams of 50 years ago had access to modern analytical tools?
Broglio was 28 and coming off an 18-8 season with a 2.99 ERA in 1963. He had gone 21-9 with a 2.74 ERA in 1960, faltered to 9-12, 4.19 in 1961 but came back to
12-9, 3.00 in 1962.
The Cubs, who had gone 82-80 in 1963 to break .500 for the first time since 1946, thought they needed to add pitching to move into contention. It didn’t work. They went 76-86 and wouldn’t see .500 again until 1967.
Was there any statistical reason to suspect Broglio wasn’t quite what his surface numbers suggested? Yes.
By modern metrics, Broglio wasn’t as good in 1963 as he was in 1962. The strike zone was expanded by rule in 1963, and the National League ERA dropped from 3.94 to 3.29 — a much steeper dip than Broglio’s. NL hitters batted .254 on balls in play against Broglio in 1962 but only .229 in 1963, suggesting a little good fortune.
By WAR, Broglio dipped from 6.2 in 1962 to 3.4 in 1963. Then, with his ERA up to 3.50 in his 11 starts with the Cardinals in 1964, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) rose from 3.70 to 4.05 and he had only a 0.4 WAR to that point.
What about Brock? His batting average had declined from .263 in his first full major-league season in 1962 to .258 in 1963. His walk percentage had dropped from 7.3 percent to 5.7 percent and his extra-base-hit percentage from 8.4 to 6.6.
But when compared to league average, Brock’s OPS-plus dropped only from 92 to 91. His WAR increased from 0.9 to 2.6, mainly because he responded to a move from center field to right with a 0.4 defensive WAR, one of his two defensive seasons on the plus side of replacement level.
Modern metrics would have seen the 25-year-old Brock as iffy in June 1964, though he comes off better than in traditional stats. On the other hand, the metrics see a performance drop from Broglio in 1963, which traditional stats see as a big season. There’s no way of knowing 50 years later if that would have scrubbed the deal, but at least the red flags would have been raised.