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.
I know it might be hard to believe, but even after shipping out the majority of their starting rotation, the Cubs have played close to .500 baseball since the start of June. Although they’re still in the National League Central basement, they’ve made a decent stab at respectability while giving their young future stars a crack at facing major league level pitching. Thus far, it’s panned out pretty well.
I like the decisions team president Theo Epstein and Co. have made since the trades to give their future guys some at-bats, but then again, what did they have to lose at this point? Leaving the at-bats to guys like the recently departed Nate Schierholtz or Ryan Sweeney — essentially guys that don’t play into their future blueprint – would just be a waste at this point in the season.
And the off-season risks general manager Jed Hoyer and Theo took to sign guys like Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta have turned out to be more beneficial than any analyst could have imagined with traded pitchers Jason Hammel (and Jeff Samardzija) turning into Addison Russell and Arrieta turning in one gem after the next, with his most recent coming last night against the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. In notching his seventh victory Friday, Arrieta allowed just four hits, one run (a solo shot) and struck out five batters while facing one of MLB’s most powerful lineups from top to bottom. You could easily say Arrieta was baseball’s best $544,000 bargain.
Another key piece for the back-and-forth Cubs has been leadoff man Chris Coghlan. The former first round pick of the Florida Marlins has cooled off a bit in August, but he had a scorching July where he batted .376 with 10 doubles, three home runs, 18 runs scored and stole two bases. He has been instrumental in setting the tone at the top of the order, taking a few pitches and driving the ball into gaps — essentially just taking what pitchers will give to him. Coghlan, like Arrieta, has been quite the bargain too, as he’s under contract this season for just $800k.
It has been an ugly few weeks in what I called a make-or-break stretch for the South Siders, as they’ve gone 3-7 in their last 10 contests and now claim losing records both at home (31-32) and on the road (28-37). For a team that averages the 10th most runs per game at 4.23, they’ve been plagued by bullpen issues and a real inability to hold onto leads once they’ve grabbed a hold of one.
Jose Abreu remains hot — and in the middle of the home run title chase — but aside from perhaps Connor Gillaspie, most of the lineup has cooled off and the Sox have found themselves on the wrong side of low scoring contests. It’s not quite like his monstrous July, but for the month of August, Abreu is hitting .304 with two home runs, 11 runs scored and 10 runs driven in. A really solid month by all accounts, but it hasnt been enough to get the losers of four straight into the win column enough to stay in this year’s Wild Card race.
Aside from Chris Sale being his normal, magnificent self, Jose Quintana has been quietly (on the national stage) putting together a noteworthy season. Quintana’s ERA is now just 3.25 on the season and he’s compiled nearly as much WAR as Sale, at 4.5 and 4.3 each. If he can even improve a little in retiring batters with runners on, he should see that number drop considerably, as he only strands 68.7 percent of runners currently. Alas, he has been a victim of a slightly above average opponent BABIP, which is currently above .300 at .306 for the year.
On top of that, he’s done a solid job eating innings (160+) and could reach 200 for the season, which is a really solid benchmark. The White Sox may have their No. 2 or 3 starter in the 25-year-old left-hander.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; follow Kevin on Twitter @kpLUCH