Lead-off Man: 8-30-13
This story has 10 updates
* Only one rookie in franchise history has hit more home runs in a single month than Darin Ruf’s nine home runs in August – Ryan Howard with 10 in 2005.
* Chicago has depended on the long ball for 43.6 percent of its runs this season, one of the highest marks in team history, second only to 45.6% in 2004.
* Roy Halladay is 32-19 in the month of August since 2001, tied for the fourth-most wins by any pitcher since 2001. (Sabathia 46, Hudson 37, Oswalt 34)
Saturday – August 31 Gary Matthews
Sunday – September 1 Chicago Sky players Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles & Courtney Vandersloot
Monday – September 2 Chicago Blackhawks TBD
Tuesday – September 3 Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Howard Griffith
Wednesday – September 4 – Andre Dawson
The Cubs lost to Zack Greinke last night and tonight they get the pleasure of facing the best pitcher in the big leagues, Clayton Kershaw. The good news is, the Cubs’ best start this year, Travis Wood, goes for the North Siders. Looks like a night for the pitchers in Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers are sizzling hot, having won 47 of 59 to go from last to first in the NL West. In two months’ time, their bloated payroll has gone from looking like a an albatross to a well-thought-out go-for-it plan.
The Dodgers are actually behaving more like the Yankees than the Yankees are these days. The new ownership group has tackled this thing like George Steinbrenner used to — by throwing as much money as possible at the product.
Clearly, there are high stakes involved as a result. Don Mattingly’s job was in serious jeopardy in early June before the Dodgers started this run. When you spend this kind of money on the big league team, you better be good or else.
And along those lines, don’t think management is satisfied with mere regular season success. Yes, the Dodgers arose from the dead in late June, but once they get to October, you can bet the people who write the paychecks expect this team to make a very deep run. I think Mattingly’s job is safe regardless of what happens in the playoffs, but he will be expected to keep them at or near the top of their division every year moving forward.
“The Cubs were already deep at third base before trading for Texas prospect Mike Olt but are now deeper at the hot corner than any team in baseball. The group is led by Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in this year’s Rule 4 draft, now hitting well in high-A Daytona after tearing apart Boise (where he was old for the level). Jeimer Candelario is a work in progress on defense, but has a patient approach and a simple swing that has many evaluators, myself included, believing he’ll hit for average when he’s a little older. Christian Villanueva, acquired from Texas last year in the Ryan Dempster trade, could end up a second-division starter. And shortstop Javier Baez may end up at third base, just adding to the team’s stockpile at third — which could prove useful for a future trade for pitching.”
*Anthony Rizzo is hitting only .195 against lefty pitchers in 2013, but he has gone deep seven times off southpaws.
*Travis Wood’s run support continues to be minimal. His 2.84 run support per 9 innings is the lowest among MLB qualifying pitchers this year.
* The Cubs have lost five of their last six games and own a record of just 3-11 since August 11 – the worst record in the majors in that span.
* The Dodgers have lost each of their last two games after losing just two of their previous 16 contests. The Dodgers will be looking to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since June 8-10.
* Jake Arrieta, who will make his fourth start since joining the Cubs in a trade with the Orioles in early July, is 1-0 with a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings so far with Chicago.
* Zack Greinke has won each of his last four starts, while posting a 0.96 ERA in that span. Greinke is 3-2 with a 4.45 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs
* Yasiel Puig is hitting .600 (6-for-10) with one double, one homer and four runs against the Cubs this season. His .600 batting average against them is his highest against any opponent.
By Don Zminda/Vice-President & Director of Research
In a long season for the Chicago Cubs, one of the many areas where the club has been lacking is one of the most basic: team speed. Just to set the stage, here is how the Cubs rank in various speed-related categories thus far in 2013:
2013 Cubs – Speed-Related Categories (with MLB Ranks)
Triples 18 (t-16th in MLB)
Stolen Bases 56 (22nd in MLB)
Stolen-Base Pct 66.7% (t-25th in MLB)
Bunt Hits 11 (t-21st in MLB)
Infield Hits 89 (26th in MLB)
Pretty dismal rankings overall – and that 66.7 percent stolen-base success rate is right around what studies show is the break-even point for balancing bases gained on steals versus outs lost on caught stealings. With that sort of payoff, the Cubs would be about as well off not attempting any steals at all!
Another speed-related number worth looking at is the number of times the team has gone from first to third on a single. This is a stat where both speed and aggressiveness are important, and it’s another one where the Cubs fare very badly. Only the New York Yankees, who might be too distracted these days to pay much attention to running the bases, have gone from first to third on a single fewer times in 2013 than the North Siders:
Fewest Times Going from 1st to 3rd on a Single – 2013
New York Yankees 46
Chicago Cubs 49
Pittsburgh Pirates 49
Washington Nationals 51
Chicago White Sox 51
By contrast the fundamentally-sound St. Louis Cardinals have gone from first to third on singles an MLB-high 87 times in 2013, nearly twice as often as the Cubs. The MLB individual leaders in this category, Mike Trout of the Angels and Dexter Fowler of the Rockies, have gone from first to third on singles 19 and 18 times, respectively, thus far in 2013 (yet another example of Mike Trout’s all-around brilliance). The Cub co-leaders in going from first to third? First, that well-known speed demon Wellington Castillo, who has taken third on singles seven times. Castillo has been matched by Junior Lake, who debuted on July 19 and has played just 35 games. Meanwhile the Cardinals have six players who have gone from first to third on singles more than seven times (Matt Carpenter 14, Allen Craig 14, Jon Jay 11, David Freese 10, Matt Holliday 9, Yadier Molina 8).
Those advancements from first to third pay off in runs. Our Run Expectancy chart for 2013 shows how the chance of scoring increases with runners on first and third, versus having runners on first and second, for both the Cubs and MLB as a whole, based on the number of outs:
Run Expectancy w/ Runners on 1st & 3rd vs. 1st & 2nd – 2013
Situation # Outs Cubs MLB
|Runners on 1st & 3rd||0 Outs||
|Runners on 1st & 2nd||0 Outs||
|Runners on 1st & 3rd||1 Outs||
|Runners on 1st & 2nd||1 Outs||
|Runners on 1st & 3rd||2 Outs||
|Runners on 1st & 2nd||2 Outs||
Those are some pretty significant differences.
For the Cubs, the low number of advancements from first to third on singles isn’t just due to a lack of speed or aggressiveness: it’s also a matter of lack of opportunities:
- the Cubs rank 28th in the majors in on-base percentage (.302), meaning that they’re not getting many runners on first to begin with
- the Cubs are dead last in the majors in batting average with runners on base (.231)
What happens when you have a team that struggles to get on base, and then has problems getting around the bases when they do? You get a team very dependent on the home run. The Cubs do hit homers – they rank seventh in MLB in four-baggers with 142 – but 44.2 percent of their runs this year have scored on home runs, the third-highest percentage in the majors. And in games in which they fail to homer this season, the Cubs are 11-32 (.256) – the worst record in homerless games among National League teams, and the fourth-worst record in MLB.
Given the Cubs’ other offensive limitations, waiting for a home run is a tough way to try to win (even tougher now that Alfonso Soriano is no longer with the club). Developing a faster team with a more balanced attack is something that the Cubs’ brass will undoubtedly be addressing this offseason.
* The Cubs and Padres have split four meetings so far this season, with all four games having been played in Chicago. San Diego has won its last four home games against the Cubs, shutting them out in two of those contests.
* The Cubs rallied from a 4-0 deficit in Thursday’s game against the Nationals, scoring four runs over the eighth and ninth innings, only to lose in 13, 5-4. It was the 12th extra-inning game of the season for Chicago.
* San Diego has gotten five quality starts in its last six home games against NL Central clubs, with the Padre starting pitchers posting a collective 2.06 (9/39.1) ERA in these outings.
* Edwin Jackson is looking for his first win of the season against a NL West opponent, having gone 0-3 with a 6.75 (22/29.1) ERA in five starts.
* Among players with at least 200 plate appearances as a first baseman this season, Yonder Alonso’s six home runs are tied (with Todd Helton) for the second fewest in the majors. Alonso has not had a home run since May 19, stretch of 45 games and 179 plate appearances.
* After going 3-6 with a 5.79 ERA in his first 10 home starts of the season, Edinson Volquez is 1-1 with a 3.12 (6/17.1) ERA in his last three starts at PETCO Park.