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I had the honor of speaking to the Wrigley Field Guest Services group before today’s game. What a great group of energetic and friendly people who work their tail off each day to make sure your game experience is as positive as it can be.
Congratulations to this year’s award winners:
Guest Services Ambassador of the Year – Ray McDow
Parking and Transportation Ambassador of the Year – Kelli Raybon
Security Services Ambassador of the Year – Corey Robinson
Rookie of the Year – Lindsey Wuenker
Supervisor of the Year – Deb Buchweitz
Thanks again to that group for all they do.
Friday: Dennis Miller
Sunday: Wayne Messmer
Monday: Tom Dreesen
Tuesday: Fergie Jenkins
Wednesday: Grounds Crew
* The Braves picked up their 90th victory of the season against the Nationals on Wednesday, giving them an MLB-high 16 90-win seasons since 1991. At the same time, with a loss today, the Cubs will have their 90th loss of the season for an NL-high 23rd time since 1948.
* The Braves have now played 15 consecutive games without punching out more than 10 hits – the longest active streak in the majors.
* Travis Wood has allowed multiple home runs in back-to-back home starts, after allowing fewer than two home runs in each of his previous 22 home starts.
* Since he made his MLB debut on July 19, Junior Lake has picked up more hits (66) than any other rookie in the majors.
* Justin Upton, who hit his 26th home run of the season Wednesday, has hit five home runs with nine RBI over his last six games against the Cubs.
Wrapping up the Cubs’ longest road trip since 2004 today. It’s been a grind. The Cubs limp into today’s series finale having lost 5 in a row and 7 of 10 on the journey.
This is the last game against a non-contender. The final 3 sets are against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, whose magic number is 2 in that division, Pittsburgh and then St. Louis. The Pirates and Cardinals will both be in the post-season. It’s just a matter of whether the Bucs can catch the Cardinals in the division race.
At 5.5 games behind the Brewers, the Cubs are virtually assured of finishing in last place and grabbing a top 5 pick. The draft slot aside, it’s hard to look at the record and be in any way excited about it. The Cubs will improve on last year’s 101-loss record, but unless they turn it around in a hurry, their 2013 record will only be a handful of games better.
Yes, there has been tangible progress. More organization-wide than on the big league roster of course. But there is definitely more talent in the chain than there was a year ago (a lot in fact). And that’s what you have to hang your hat on going into the off-season if you’re a Cubs fan — the big picture.
The Cubs’ long trip continues in Milwaukee tonight. They had a 3-4 week against two playoff contenders last week and after this 4-game series they play Atlanta, Pittsburgh and St. Louis to finish the season.
As I think about this season, it clearly has represented a step forward. The record has improved, the Cubs have been in most of their games and the emergence of Travis Wood and Welington Castillo in particular have been encouraging to see.
Of course, finishing way under .500 and watching Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo struggle hasn’t been easy, but it’s all part of this arduous process.
I was chatting with someone about how this season has felt compared to last year and while it was agreed that this team is clearly better, there have times of maybe more frustration than last year.
The reasons? I think two-fold. 1) Last season I think everybody knew going in it was going to be a year of major transition. 2) Because this season is the Cubs’ 4th consecutive losing season, it feels worse in that we haven’t seen a winning season in so long.
That’s the balance. Understanding a process that doesn’t happen quickly while dealing with the anxiety that comes with not having been a winning club in so long.
Nobody said this is easy and what will make the ultimate success even more fulfilling is remembering all the tough losing seasons that have preceded it.
* The Brewers trailed, 5-1, in the seventh inning Sunday before coming back to beat the Reds, 6-5. It was Milwaukee’s first win when trailing by four or more runs in the seventh inning or later since July 2, 2011 at Minnesota.
* The Cubs have 26 saves on the road this season, their most since 2005 (28), and tied for the most in the majors this year (Braves, Pirates, Rangers).
* Sean Halton became the second Brewers rookie to hit a walkoff home run this season (Caleb Gindl, July 21). It is the first time in franchise history two different rookies hit walkoff homers in the same season.
* Since August 20, Brian Bogusevic is sixth in the NL with a .591 slugging percentage (minimum 75 PA).
* Wily Peralta is the first player to have 12+ starts with no run support since the Pirates’ Kip Wells in 2005 (13).
* Edwin Jackson is 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA (8/38.2) in his last six starts against the NL Central.
By Bob Vorwald – @bobvorwald
This week on Stats Sunday, we turn our attention to the National League MVP and Cy Young Awards as the topic of our open-book final exam on our year-long stats discussion (and the kind of thing you do in September when the Cubs are 20+ games below .500).
Here are the leading candidates and some key numbers from baseball-reference.com. (To get a little defense, Rtot is the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.
This number combines the Rtz, Rdp, Rof, Rcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution. Also, these numbers are as of Friday afternoon. It takes at least 36 hours for Len and JD to process and approve each submission.)
Among the candidates, Andrew McCutchen is listed first for a reason if you want to guess where I’m going with this.
Player BA/On-Base/SLG OPS+ WAR HR/RBI Walks Runs SB Rtot
Andrew McCutchen .326./.406/.520 162 7.0 19/70 68 89 27 13
Paul Goldschmidt .296/.398/.533 154 5.8 31/109 92 91 13 8
Jayson Werth .324/.398/.542 157 4.5 23/71 74 48 8 -1
Joey Votto .306/.436/.496 153 6.0 22/66 117 92 6 0
(Shhhh! Don’t tell Dusty Baker I put Joey on the list. He walks too much and doesn’t drive in enough runs. The fact that he scores a zillion runs, is in the lineup every day -leading the league with 147 games played – and is always on base shouldn’t be considered.)
What? No Yadier Molina? Cardinal-hater! Maybe, but I admire Yadi to the max. He just hasn’t played enough games to get there this year. He’s appeared in 120, hitting .318/.358/.479 with a 4.8 WAR and usual great defense. It’s hard to pile up on stats like caught stealing when no one runs on you.
While it’s great all these guys are at least nominally in the post-season hunt, I don’t care if the MVP candidate is on a winning team or not. To quote Len, if Miguel Cabera and Mike Trout switched uniforms, is Miggy still the MVP? In case you haven’t noticed, Trout’s WAR is now 8.4 to Cabrera’s 6.7 but that was last week’s rant…
McCutchen should be the first Pirate MVP since Barry Bonds in 1990 and the most popular since Willie Stargell’s what-the-hell-were-they-thinking 1979 MVP where his 126 game 2.5 WAR got him a tie for the award with Keith Hernandez. (Lots of bad ties back in those days. That one ranks right up there with the POW Allies 4-4 deadlock with the Germans in Paris from “Victory”, where after a clear goal was disallowed, the ever-believable as a POW Pele knotted things with a bicycle kick and Stallone/Hatch preserved the tie by stopping a penalty kick at game end.)
The only drama is the National League Cy Young race is whether some moron will make Clayton Kershaw a unanimous winner. Kershaw leads all baseball in ERA (1.92 – that’s 1 point freaking 92 for a 185 ERA+!), WHIP (0.92), innings pitched (216), WAR (7.2), and left-handed hitters bitching that they are in the line-up that day against him (hundreds). Yes, he’s only 10th in wins, but let’s not rile Brian Kenny any more than necessary this week. Kershaw leads the NL in strikeouts (208), starts (tied for 1st at 30), and may soon say to Magic Johnson “howdy partner” and mean it.
A special tip of the cap to 21-tear-old Jose Fernandez who just finished his rookie with a 2.19 ERA over 172⅔ innings pitched with a 6.7 WAR, 0.98 WHIP, and generally ungodly stuff. Throw in a season-ending screaming match with the Braves and a strutting home run to follow and you’ve got the making of some serious Kershaw competition for years. to come. But in the meantime. Clayton, he of the curveball that Vin Scully anointed Lord Charles several years ago because Uncle Charlie wasn’t nearly enough to describe it. wins the Cy.
The question is should he win the MVP? But that’s an argument for another Sunday….
* The Cubs have posted 62 wins on the season, surpassing their win total in the entire 2012 campaign by one. Chicago has homered 160 times so far this season – the second-most homers among all NL teams.
* Chris Rusin has allowed three or fewer runs in nine of his 10 starts this season. Each of Rusin’s two wins this season has come on the road.
* Jeff Locke is 0-3 with a 6.57 ERA in his last eight starts and will be seeking his first win since July 21. Locke has walked the second-most batters in the majors this season (78).
* Pedro Alvarez, who leads the NL in homers with 32, has failed to homer in 14 consecutive games. Alvarez is hitting .095 (2-for-21) with no homers in six home games against the Cubs this season.
* Andrew McCutchen is hitting .469 (15-for-32) with two doubles, one triple, two homers and seven runs during his current nine-game hitting streak. McCutchen has 56 multi-hit games this season – the second-most in the majors (57, Matt Carpenter).
The big focus this season has been on the two young players with the long-term contracts — Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. But we probably haven’t talked enough about a couple of other emerging core guys.
Travis Wood has gone from battling for the 5th spot in the rotation in spring training to becoming, in the words of his manager, the Cubs #1 starter. Beating Clayton Kershaw on the last trip and dominating the Reds Monday are just two of the latest examples of his breakthrough season.
The other guy is Welington Castillo, who has had an elite defensive season behind the plate. His ability to block pitches in the dirt and handle the running game have been Gold Glove-like. And we are now seeing some really good at-bats as well. Last night he had the best offensive game of his career, cranking a couple of home runs in the blowout win.
So while many fans tend to focus on the ups and downs of the “big” two, the development of Wood and Castillo have to be two of the biggest bright spots of this season.