Cubs way off base in their offensive approach
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Cubs leadoff man David DeJesus certainly is doing his part (and he's one of the very few) to work deep into the count.
We interrupt this Cubs game to bring you an at-bat by David DeJesus.
Yeah, when DeJesus steps to the plate, it's like a different ballgame breaks out. That's not saying anything good about the Cubs.
Cubs scouting report
Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday and Thursday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Matt Garza (0-0) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2) Tuesday at 6:05 p.m.; Jeff Samardzija (2-5) vs. Francisco Liriano (2-0) Wednesday at 6:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (1-6) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0) Thursday at 11:35 a.m.
At a glance: This is the Cubs' second foray into Pittsburgh this year. They won two of three at PNC to open the season, with Rodriguez scoring the lone victory for the Pirates. Pittsburgh (26-18) is squarely in the hunt in the NL Central. Starling Marte, not Andrew McCutchen, is the leading the offensive attack with a line of .305/.372/.413; he also leads the Pirates with 54 hits. The Pirates entered Monday second in the NL in team ERA (3.33), while the Cubs were seventh (3.67). Garza comes off the DL to pitch the series opener. He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 3 starts against the Bucs, walking three and striking out 25. This begins an eight-game trip for the Cubs, who finish it next week at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox.
Next: Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, Friday-Sunday
— Bruce Miles
As those halcyon days of 2008 — when the Cubs actually walked and scored runs — fade farther and farther into the rearview mirror, we're back to watching bad plate appearance after bad plate appearance on the North Side.
We're talking about not seeing pitches. We're talking about not taking walks. And we're talking about not swinging at good pitches and not spitting on the bad ones.
All of those things together help affect the bottom line of winning and losing.
I've harped on the 2008 division winners because that team led the National League in walks, on-base percentage, runs scored and … victories.
Let's take a look at a few offensive categories and show just how deficient the Cubs are.
DeJesus ranks ninth in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance, at 4.15. It seems that each time he comes to the plate, the count is 2-2 or 3-2. DeJesus leads Cubs regulars in on-base percentage, at .364, while the surprising Luis Valbuena is second, at .363.
You have to go all the way to 28th for the next Cub in pitches per plate appearance, Anthony Rizzo (3.93). Starlin Castro, who has become the subject of some discussion recently, is 39th, at 3.83 pitches per plate appearance while Alfonso Soriano is 59th, at 3.65.
Bases on balls:
The Cubs are just awful in this area, on so many levels.
They rank dead last in the National League in walks, with 98, making them the only team in the league not to have reached triple digits.
The individual pictures give you an even better idea how bad the Cubs are in refusing to take free passes.
Cincinnati's Joey Votto leads the NL in walk percentage, at 17.9. DeJesus checks in 28th (9.3 percent), while Rizzo is 42nd (7.6 percent).
If you go to your favorite stats site, such as FanGraphs, start from the bottom on walk percentage.
Cubs catcher Welington Castillo does not have enough plate appearances to qualify, but his walk rate is an astonishingly bad 0.8 percent. He has 1 walk for the season and 35 strikeouts. That's pretty difficult to "accomplish."
Also from the bottoms-up angle, Castro ranks 74th in walk percentage, at 3.7, while Soriano is 76th, at 3.1.
Soriano is who he is, and so are Castro and Castillo, at least to this point. Manager Dale Sveum, who has sounded frustrated with Castro in recent days, likes to talk of players' OBP improving after a certain number of professional plate appearances.
Castro's OBP has gone from .347 in 2010 to .341 in 2011, .323 last year to its current level of .304.
Coaching can help (and the Cubs do coach), but the most dependable way for the Cubs to improve the OBP is to draft and develop good, selective, disciplined hitters or acquire them through trades and free agency, as they did with DeJesus and Rizzo.
Putting it all together:
Entering Tuesday night's series opener at Pittsburgh, the Cubs have some interesting and illustrative numbers. In addition to being last in walks, they are:
•Eleventh in the NL in runs scored.
•Eleventh in on-base percentage (.303).
•Second in slugging percentage (.420).
•Third in home runs (48).
•First in doubles (101).
If you add up the on-base and slugging percentages, you get the OPS figure of .723, which places the Cubs sixth.
Going back to the bottom line, the Cubs' won-loss total is 18-25, good for fourth place in the NL Central. Only the Marlins, Brewers, Mets and Dodgers have won fewer games, and the Mets just took two of three at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs also are batting a woeful .219 with runners in scoring position (78-for-356).
So which component of the OPS is most important? I'll take the on-base part. The home runs are important. The doubles are nice, and the slugging percentage is good.
But the Cubs are not doing nearly enough to get on base and see pitches, and that means they are not making opposing pitchers work hard enough to get into the weak parts of the other teams' bullpens.
And they're not winning games they could be winning.
This will take awhile to get better.
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