WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
It can be hard sometimes to find some bright spots on a team that’s won just one third of their games, but it isn’t any fun nitpicking at failures either with just 12 percent of the season in the books.
In typical Cubs fashion, they soiled what should have been the most celebratory day of this season. Their bullpen allowed the Arizona Diamondbacks to score five runs in the 9th inning Wednesday afternoon, blowing a three-run lead and spoiling the 100th year anniversary party at Wrigley Field that day.
It was only one game, but it felt like a bit more of a letdown than usual with the events of the day taking place (including an all-time Cub great reunion including Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and others — but no Sammy) and the Cubs holding a 5-2 advantage entering the inning. Only one game, except it wasn’t, because the Cubs were stymied again 5-2 by Arizona the next day, their sixth loss in the last nine games.
No Beef With Wellington’s Bat
I certainly didn’t expect Welington Castillo to be a source of power in his second full season in the majors — and he may very well fade a little after his semi-hot start — but his pop thus far deserves recognition. Playing in 15 games this season, Castillo leads the team with three home runs and is second on the team with a .441 slugging percentage.
One alarming Castillo statistic that does standout is his strikeout percentage, which is just a fraction under 30% on the season. However, his career average of nearly 25% coupled with a roughly .270 average suggests he can still be relatively successful without putting a ton of balls in play.
Bonifacio Continuing Great Start
What can I say about Emilio Bonifacio that I haven’t already mentioned about him this season? The veteran does a little bit of everything offensively, while playing defensively wherever he’s asked to start or fill in.
In the short season thus far, Bonifacio has already amassed nine stolen bases for a team that collected all of 63 in the 2013 season, a stat which is of particular value for a team that has trouble scoring runs. In addition to that, he’s maintained productivity after his incredibly hot start at the plate, evidenced by an on-base percentage over .400 points.
Projections aren’t everything, but they do provide a nice benchmark for us to compare to when the predictions from analysts and scouts come home to roost at the end of each season. Seeing as Bonifacio has already collected more than 20% percent of his projected totals in a few major offensive categories — runs and stolen bases among them — it seems safe to say he has found his way into the Cubs lineup permanently.
Samardzija Getting Little Support
Poor Jeff Samardzija. The former Notre Dame football standout has spun together a 1.53 ERA over his first five starts and all he has to show for it is an 0-2 record. With marked improvement in a few major categories, he has performed like a true front end starter this season.
One reason for Samardzija‘s success thus far is he’s inducing more ground balls — 51% — than he ever has before, and he’s also keeping the ball in the yard when hitters get under his pitches. His strikeout rate is down a bit, but its not much of a concern when you aren’t allowing any big innings.
Outside of Samardzija, pitching performances have been less than stellar for the club, with an team ERA that sits right at 4.00. One sliver of a bright spot for the bullpen has been the performance of Hector Rondon.
The 26 year old right-hander, in his second full season in the majors, has an ERA under 1.0 and has stranded over 80% of the runners that have reached base. Not a bad start, though it is just through 11.1 innings of work.
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