Cubs First Half Recap: Grades

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July 16, 2013 by Ryan S

So tonight is the All-Star game, and I’ll be watching that and updating, particularly in the event that Travis Wood pitches.  But until then, let me grade the Cubs first half of play.

Hitting

The Cubs are 11th in the national league in batting average (.243), 13th in on-base percentage (.302) and fourth in slugging (.409).  Their 51 steals rank them sixth in the league, and their 74 percent on stolen bases is good for fourth.

They also have 30.8 AB/HR, which is second in the league behind the Braves, and are tops in the league with 304 extra base hits.

These numbers look mostly pretty good, right?

Well, the Cubs hit just .238 with runners in scoring position and have struck out in 21.75 percent of their at-bats in those situations, which is not good.

Overall, they’ve walked just 238 times this season, good for 13th in the league ahead of only the lowly Marlins and Brewers.  Pinch hitters are batting just .220, which is 10th in the league.

From the seventh inning on, the Cubs hit just .238, and they hit an extremely low .231 on the road.

So, a lot of the deeper numbers indicate some trouble.  Not to mention the problems that Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have had this season.  Nobody with more than 150 at bats this season for the Cubs has a batting average of .270 or higher.

Nate Schierholtz (.269) leads that pack of Cubs’ starters, and Castro (.243), Rizzo (.241), Darwin Barney (.222), Alfonso Soriano (.259), and Welington Castillo (.266) round out the averages of the Cubs’ most common starters this season.

Looking at the batting averages, you can tell that the Cubs have a pretty weak starting line up in 2013.  Since the pinch hitting has also been abysmal, this equals a very subpar offensive year for the Cubs, though the base running has been above average.

Hitting Grade: C

Pitching

The Cubs’ 1.27 WHIP and 7.45 K/9 rank sixth and seventh in the national league, respectively.  Let’s check out the specifics.

Starting Pitching

The Cubs starting pitching has actually been much better in 2013 than I had expected coming in.  They have 57 quality starts in 93 games played, which is good for third in the national league behind the Phillies and the Braves.

A quality start is considered when a starting pitcher allows no more than three earned runs in six or more innings of work.  The Cubs have done this in more than 60 percent of their starts, which is a great way to set up your team for some wins.

Leading this charge has been Wood, who has a ridiculous 17 quality starts in 19 starts overall.  He has been far and away the Cubs MVP so far this season, and has been rewarded with a trip to Citi Field for the All-Star game.

The starting rotation ERA at the break is 3.76, which ranks seventh in the league.  Their .238 batting average against is good for second behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, and their 1.21 WHIP is good for third.

The starting pitching has been much better than you would expect of a 42-51 squad, thanks in large part to Wood, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and Jeff Samardzija.  Feldman has been traded and Garza will be, so the quality of starting pitching in the second half will likely go down, but it’s been fun to watch.

Starting Pitching grade: B+

Relief Pitching

Oh, the bullpen.  Ranking 14th in the league with a 4.35 ERA and 13th in the league with 7.40 K/9.  They’re also 14th in WHIP (1.41) and K/BB ration (1.97).  The statistics show that the staring-relief relationship this year has been somewhat of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

But let’s go past the statistics.  The most frustrating part of the bullpen this season is that there has hardly been any consistency or reliability that Dale Sveum can rely on.  The Cubs have had 18 different players pitch in relief this season.  Five of them were acquired in trades this season– Kameron Loe, Matt Guerrier, Pedro Strop, Alex Burnett, and Henry Rodriguez.

Of those, only Guerrier and Strop are still on the Cubs roster.  That alone speaks volumes about this team.  The struggle to find consistency has been incredibly involved, and not extremely successful.

Just about the only consistent relievers that Sveum has had have been James Russell, Blake Parker and Kevin Gregg.  And even so, Russell and Gregg have each had very rough stretches of their own this season, including a very tough 10 game stretch that Gregg is currently on (8.10 ERA, 2 BS, 1.700 WHIP).

The Cubs have just 22 saves in 41 opportunities.  Carlos Marmol has been traded and Shawn Camp DFA’d, and they were two of the Cubs’ most reliable relievers in 2012 (well, at least after the All-Star break for Marmol).

The Cubs can not and will not improve until they can find some consistency once their starters pass it over to the bullpen.

Relief Pitching grade: D

Coaching

It’s easy to play armchair manager and talk about how poorly the coaching has been this season, but I’m not going to do that.  I was a big critic of Sveum’s earlier in the season, often because he left starting pitchers in past the point where they had begun to give up solid line drive contact.

However, as it became more evident that the bullpen could not close out a game to save their lives, it also became clear that Sveum just did not know what to do.  It’s frustrating as a player, coach and fan to have that lack of stability.

So, for that, I cannot judge.  I like pitching coach Chris Bosio’s work, and though I do not necessarily think hitting coach James Rowson has done a great job, it’s tough to judge coaches on a deck that doesn’t have the best cards in it.

For that reason, I’ll forgo the grading of the coaches.  To their credit though, I’ll say that a 42-51 record for the expectations this team had and the talent they’ve had is pretty damn acceptable.

That’s all for now, and go Cubs!

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