COMMENTARY | Unfortunately, the Chicago Cubs' win total isn't among the positive stats for this season.
But with just 1 more win, they'll at least manage to avoid the specter of consecutive 100-loss seasons, which still isn't anything to be proud of. Well, unless you're the Houston Astros, who are 50-96 as of this writing and headed for their 3rd straight season of 105+ losses.
But this will be the Cubs' 4th losing season in a row and the natives are getting restless. This team doesn't do many things well and, as I wrote in an earlier piece, its statistical shortcomings are quite evident.
But let's put on the rose-colored glasses (cracked and smudged though they may be) and take a look at some areas where the Cubs have performed surprisingly well:
Despite languishing at the bottom of baseball in batting (.239 average and only 1,184 hits, 29th in MLB in both), the Cubs have hit for power. With 160 round trippers, they rank 6th in the majors and 2nd in the National League, with only the Atlanta Braves looking down on them.
One of the main reasons for this unlikely power surge has been the three-headed monster at third base. The trio of Luis Valbuena (11), Donnie Murphy (10), and Cody Ransom (7) has combined for 28 homers so far, good for the 4th-best total in MLB at 3rd base.
Revelatory performances from Nate Schierholtz (20) and Dioner Navarro (12) have padded the long ball total as well. Navarro's 3-HR performance against the Chicago White Sox earlier in the season gave Cubs fans reason to celebrate and helped lead the team to a sweep of their rivals from the South Side.
The Cubs boast 6 players with more than 20 two-base hits on the season, with Anthony Rizzo (35) setting the pace. Though he ranks only 8th on the team (14), Junior Lake has the highest double rate, hitting one every 13.9 at-bats.
While getting runners home has been a sore spot this season, putting them in scoring position has not been. With 270 doubles so far, the Cubs rank 4th in MLB and 2nd in the NL behind only the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, the Cards lead the bigs in hitting with RISP (.329) while the lowly Cubs sit more than 100 points behind (.222). Even Doug Dascenzo is disappointed in this number, but at least he has his pitching career to fall back on.
BATTING AVERAGE AGAINST
Speaking of pitching, the Cubs haven't had to dispatch any diminutive outfielders to the mound this year -- yet. They sit at the upper end of the lower half of MLB in ERA (3.96) and rank slightly better in WHIP (1.29).
And while Cubs pitchers haven't missed too many bats (1,152 Ks, 23rd in MLB), they have managed to avoid the strike zone (483 BB, 26th in MLB). Despite these deficiencies, the Cubs rank 6th in baseball in hits allowed (1204) and 7th in BAA (only 4 points behind 3rd-place Tampa Bay).
Travis Wood's rediscovery of the cutter has allowed him to mow down opposing hitters, who carry a paltry .219 average against him. Pedro Strop (.163) and Jake Arrieta (.178) also boast excellent BAA numbers since coming to the Cubs in the Scott Feldman trade.
But when it's all said and done, the old colloquialism holds true: You can polish a turd all you want, but it's still a turd. And as it stands right now, the Cubs closely resemble something their namesake does in the woods. Perhaps the Cubs' front office can make like the Mythbusters, but fans would surely much rather see something other than dung sparkling on the diamond next season.
Evan spent his formative years on a farm and a sleepy town in Northwest Indiana in the days before Wrigley Field was illuminated. As a result, every summer afternoon was spent watching or listening to the Cubs on WGN, a practice that ingrained the team into his DNA. His kids are named after the team and years of frustration have made him a self-loathing, yet still unapologetic, Cubs apologist. And, yes, he knows that that is contradictory.
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