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.
After salvaging just one game from their South Side rivals in the Crosstown Cup, the Cubs managed only one victory in their following six contests, despite scoring 30 runs. Unfortunately for the Cubs and their starting pitching staff, which eceives little-to-no run support, the offense scored the majority of those 30 runs in one game, beating the Cardinals 17-5 Monday night in St. Louis.
Through these struggles, there has at least been a bit of consistency from a few key guys. In the past month, no one has been more of a staple to this rag-tag offense than shortstop Starlin Castro.
Castro once again pieced together an All-Star caliber week, hitting for a .346 batting average, going deep once and collecting five runs batted in along the way. These impressive numbers moved his season batting average mark up to .291 and his on-base percentage to .333. Even more impressive are these numbers when you consider the overall slow start he got off to this season.
What can the more recent success be attributed to? Well, for starters, Castro’s season strikeout percentage of 13.1% is five percentage points better than last season’s mark. That’s not easy to accomplish. Aside from that, Castro’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) also crept 20 points higher than last season, but his career average (.322) suggests he could keep trending upward in this category.
Valbuena Making Most of Opportunities
Picking up the slack of Anthony Rizzo’s down week was third basemen Luis Valbuena. Valbuena, who has split time at third with Mike Olt, saw some serious action this week and made the most of his plate appearances, recording a hit on half of the balls he hit into play and driving in two runs to the tune of a .346 batting average.
Seeing as neither third basemen likely fits into the grand plans that Theo and Jed put together, its a nice problem to have when two guys that are battling for time are making the most of their opportunities to play. Valbuena, should he continue this pace, could also find some playing time away from third base, thanks to his versatility in the field.
Lake Not So Shallow
Even more intriguing than Valbuena’s numbers this past week is the recent rise of Junior Lake. Lake shined towards the end of the 2013 campaign, showing promise out of a small sample size of stats. After a bumpy start, Lake has shown some promise, putting together a week that included seven runs batted in, three runs scored and one long bomb (most of the work coming in the Cardinals blowout), bringing his season average to a somewhat respectable .255.
Unfortunately for Lake, we are sure to see some regression in his average, as a .390 BABIP isn’t sustainable in the long run. On the flip side, his ghastly 39% strikeout rate is alarming, but leaves so much room for improvement.
Shark Searching for Support
Surprise, surprise — Jeff Samardzija had himself another amazing week. You could even go as far as to say perhaps the former Notre Dame football and baseball standout has finally “arrived” as an ace. Samardzija has showed flashes of greatness before, but never at a consistency quite like we are seeing with him this season.
Ranking second in the entire majors in ERA with a 1.62 mark along with a 1.4 Wins Above Replacement mark, Samardzija can also unfortunately claim that the Cubs hold a 1-8 record in his starts. It isn’t too hard to imagine how great that W-L mark might be if he could ever receive any run support. Among all major league pitchers, only Braves starter Alex Wood has, on average, received less run support than Samardzija.
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