The Cubs’ pitching staff gets a lot of attention for pitching very well under pitching coach Chris Bosio; however, it’s been highly overlooked that defensively this team has been very good. One reason for this is the Cubs have (or had) a number of good defensive players but another reason is Dale Sveum’s defensive alignments. This is Sveum’s greatest strength by a wide margin, yet it’s something hard to notice without someone pointing it out to you. Sveum’s defensive alignments have not only improved the overall defense, but the pitching staff is the main benefactor of these shifts with nearly every starting pitcher seeing some of the best numbers in their career (minus the hit machine Edwin Jackson).
Looking at the defensive metrics you can see just how good the Cubs have been. The table should be pretty self explanatory, green is good, red is bad, darker is more extreme one way or the other and finally blue is average.
UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating. Advanced Metric that uses play-by-play data to estimate each fielder’s defensive contribution. Zero is average. The higher you are, the better. (via Baseball Info Solutions, can be found on FanGraphs)
TZR– Total Zone Rating. The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made with zero being set as average. (via BaseballProjection.com, can be found on baseball-reference)
DRS – Defensive Runs Saved. The number of runs above or below average the player was worth on the number of plays made with zero being set as average. (also Baseball Info Solutions, can be found on baseball-reference)
As you can see there’s some discrepancy depending on which stat you choose but that’s why it’s best to look at all of the information before making a conclusion. The Cubs have had 4 players clearly above average in Castillo, Rizzo, Barney, & Valbuena making up the majority of a very good infield. They’ve had a solid outfield with DeJesus, Soriano and Schierholtz taking the majority of the playing time. Ransom’s advanced metrics are solid, but the traditional counting stats are bad. Lake has struggled with his shift to the outfield, but that was a given considering he only played a handful of games in the outfield prior to his call up. That leaves Starlin Castro, who has been horrible both offensively and defensively almost all year. The one bright spot in Castro’s defense has been the lower error numbers. Only 15 on the year, a discernible improvement over previous years. Obviously, mental mistakes like the sac fly recently that got him benched don’t result in errors so that number is skewed a bit for all players, not just him.
Overall though, the Cubs are pretty good defensively and they have obviously been great with starting pitching, except Edwin Jackson who did have an exceptional month of July. With strong starting pitching and good defense the Cubs have had many close games. With the terrible offense, spurred by Castro’s struggles, Rizzo not taking a step forward, and injuries, the team has the potential for a quick turnaround next year if they can get the bullpen in order and some offensive improvement. The Cubs are the Cubs but everything points to next year being the first year under this regime that we’re competitive.
- We saw the frustrating side of Jake Arrieta last night. Lacked command, gave up a lot of big hits, and was on the hook for the loss after surrendering 6 runs in only 4 IP with 4 BB, 5 hits and tallying 5 strikeouts.
- The Cubs had a huge 5 run rally in the bottom of the 5th inning aided by a 2-run homer by Rizzo (his second of the night) and 4 straight singles by Schierholtz, Murphy, Bogusevic, and Gillespie; finally capped off by a Castillo sac fly.
- Russell blew it in the 7th after giving up a near homer to Harper, an IBB, then Scott Hairston went deep. Shouldn’t of been in there vs all that RH hitting.
- Ichiro got his 4,000th hit of his professional baseball career.
- Jason Heyward got hit by a pitch in the face and had his jaw broken. He’s going to miss all of the regular season and potentially the playoffs. Not much you can do as a hitter in that situation, but doesn’t it seem injures always find Heyward? This puts the Dodgers in the driver’s seat for the NL.
- The MLB found no violation from Miguel Tejada in relations to their Biogenesis investigation, even though Tejada was linked to the company. Tejada was suspended 105 games last week because he tested positive for amphetamine use. According to Tejada and the players’ union, he had a therapeutic use exemption that expired and while seeking an extension, he tested positive.