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.
Winners of three of their last four games, the Chicago Cubs are playing host to the Miami Marlins this weekend, the Marlins sit atop the National League Wild Card standings and are just a half-game back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves in the East division.
Normally, that would be a pretty standard lede sentence to a baseball story, but because of the subjects of the sentence, there is some shock value. The Cubs winning three of four games? The Marlins, plagued by years of terrible ownership and front office mismanagement, are at the top of the Wild Card standings and a half-game back from the NL East lead? I can’t believe it either, but here we are.
Now that we’ve amassed a decent sample size of numbers, let’s take a look at the Cubs team numbers as a whole, and where they stack up against the rest of the league.
Some Boom in Offense, but Mostly Bust
As runs are concerned, the Cubs have scored only 214, good for 27th in Major League Baseball, only NL counterparts the Reds, Braves, and Padres have scored fewer runs this season. Of those four teams, three have losing records, the only exception being the Braves and their 31-27 mark.
In spite of their record and low scoring output, the Cubs have just a -16 run differential. In other words, they’ve only scored 16 runs less than the opponents they’ve matched up against this season. That’s far from impressive, but it tells us the Cubs have been competitive in games and have had plenty of chances to seal the deal in the late innings, but come up short more often than not.
As for power numbers, the Cubs rank 21st in home runs with 47 in total, and 27th in slugging, with a mark of just .361. Ouch. This Cubs team isn’t built for power, but when you play in a sandbox like Wrigley Field, you just have to get more pop from your lineup than what they’re currently getting. Ranking almost dead-last in hits (440) and on-base percentage (.299), doesn’t help matters either.
How about plate discipline? Not overly terrible, but only seven teams have struck out more at the plate than the Cubs (494), and they haven’t done a good job drawing walks, either, with just 173. For a little comparison, the Tigers have struck out only 373 times, and the Oakland Athletics have drawn 258 walks. I know, I know, those are two GREAT teams, but the Royals have struck out only 343 times and the Red Sox and Mets, each with sub-.500 records, sit second and third respectively with 228 and 223 drawn walks each. Changing this doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher win total, but these are changes and minor adjustments the Cubs can afford to fix in house, as they require no roster adjustments.
Player Showcase: Starlin Castro
On an individual level, Starlin Castro has been swinging a semi-hot and consistent bat over the last two series. In that time, he’s produced a .316 batting average that includes two doubles and four runs driven in.
For the season, Castro has been fairly even in favoring pitcher’s handedness, hitting lefties to the tune of .298, and righties at .270. He does, however, strongly favor hitting at the Friendly Confines, posting a .304 batting average at home, compared to just a .252 mark on the road so far in 2014.
Surprisingly, though, most of Castro’s power production has come on the road, hitting half of his doubles and five of his seven home runs on the road. And as for field position and favoring, Castro is hitting an incredible .667 on line drives and prefers pulling the ball, as shown by his .354 pull batting average.
Jackson Making Progress
Don’t look now — or get your hopes up — but Edwin Jackson has been effective in his last two outings. He’s lasted just 10.1 innings combined over the two starts, but Jackson also allowed only three earned runs and has struck out 13 batters. The highlight for Jackson was fanning nine batters in a May 28th outing against the MLB’s best team, the San Francisco Giants. It’s a small sample size, but something to build off of nonetheless. The Cubs don’t need Jackson to be brilliant, they just need him to be effective and keep the team in striking distance during his outings.
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