The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field have become decidedly unfriendly to their inhabitants, the Chicago Cubs.
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Friday; FOX Saturday; WGN Sunday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jake Arrieta (0-0) vs. Jake Westbrook (7-7) Friday at 3:05 p.m.; Travis Wood (7-9) vs. Joe Kelly (3-3) Saturday at 3:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (7-12) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-7) Sunday at 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs are 5-7 against the Cardinals, 2-3 at Wrigley Field. The Cards are monsters hitting with runners in scoring position. They led the NL with a .333 average with RISP entering Thursday; the Rockies were second, at .264. The Cubs entered Thursday last in the NL in RISP batting, at .223. Catcher Yadier Molina (knee) came off the DL Thursday; he entered the day St. Louis' leading batter (. 330). Carlos Beltran led in homers (20). Allen Craig led in RBI (88), and Matt Carpenter led the team in on-base percentage (. 380) and hits (143). St. Louis topped the NL in runs, OBP and OPS and was fifth in team ERA (3.49). The Cubs were 10th in runs, 14th in OBP, 10th in OPS and 11th in team ERA (4.00).
Next: Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field, Monday-Thursday
-- Bruce Miles
Heading into this weekend's home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs have a home record of 23-36. Projected over 81 home games, the Cubs would finish 32-49, tying their franchise worst.
No Cubs team has ever lost 50 games at Wrigley, not even last year's squad, which finished the entire season 61-101. That crew kept it somewhat respectable at home, finishing 38-43.
If this year's Cubs team manages to go 32-49 at home, it would join the 1974, 1966 and 1962 editions with the most home losses. The '62 team was part of the infamous "College of Coaches" era, and the '66 club was manager Leo Durocher's first club. When he took over the club during the previous off-season, Durocher said the Cubs weren't an eighth-place team. He was right. They finished 10th in the 10-team National League, with a 59-103 record.
The current Cubs team is on pace for a 70-92 full-season record.
It would have been interesting had there been no players strike in 1994. The Cubs team that year was 20-39 at home and on pace to finish 27-54.
As it is, the Cubs have dropped 11 of their last 12 at home and have been shut out in four of their last five at Wrigley Field.
What's the diff(erential)?
The Cubs have been shut out 10 times this season and five since they traded slugging outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees on July 26. Soriano, by the way, entered Thursday with a hitting line of .258/.290/.606 in 17 games for the Yankees with 7 home runs and 21 RBI (13 over Tuesday and Wednesday). For the season, he had 24 homers and 72 RBI, meaning he should come close to those "media-guide" totals Cubs manager Dale Sveum always likes to cite.
The spate of shutouts has sent the Cubs' run differential spiraling down to a negative-47. Run differential figures into a team's Pythagorean, or "expected," won-loss record, and the Cubs' Pythag is 54-66, meaning they're about where they're supposed to be.
Entering the May 31 contest against Arizona, the Cubs were 22-30, but their run differential was a plus-6, putting their Pythag then at 27-25.
You can find most of the Cubs' problems in the NL Central, where they are 18-35 after being swept by the Cincinnati Reds this week.
Core not looking solid:
Early this season, Sveum talked of no one being immune to being sent to the minor leagues. Extrapolating reporters took that to mean "core" players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
A little later in the season, the Cubs bristled at the suggestion that Castro had "regressed" as a baseball player.
I'm not sure how you'd term what Rizzo and Castro have been doing, but if they haven't "regressed," certainly their careers have taken detours.
Since the all-star break, Castro has a batting line of .250/.277/.324 for an OPS of .601. He has 1 home run, 3 RBI, 4 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Rizzo, since the break, has a line of .204/.305/.398 for an OPS of .703. He has 5 homers, 11 RBI, 15 walks and 24 strikeouts in that time.
Castro's on-base percentage has dropped from .347 in his rookie season of 2010 to .341 in 2011 to .323 last year all the way down to .281 this season. Sveum has said Castro is having trouble with the fastball and needs to start using his hands more to hit.
"You have to understand hitting and understand the two things connected to the bat are your hands, and you've got to use your hands to hit," Sveum said. "Good fastball hitters use their hands."
Who will get the call?
Don't look now, but it's almost time for September call-ups. The Cubs probably won't overcrowd the dugout with players from the minor leagues.
Much of what they do will be health-related, and 40-man roster considerations will play a part, too.
Luis Valbuena and Brian Bogusevic are on the 15-day disabled list, and they figure to be back before Sept. 1. Ryan Sweeney and Scott Baker are on the 60-day DL, and 40-man spots will have to be cleared for them when and if they're ready.
Teams like to have another catcher in September, so figure on the Cubs recalling J.C. Boscan from Class AAA Iowa. He was on the active roster recently but did not play. Reliever Alberto Cabrera is another possibility.
We'll see if the Cubs bring either Mike Olt or Josh Vitters (if he's healthy) up for a look at third base. Pitchers Justin Grimm and Brooks Raley are on the 40-man. Down at Class AA Tennessee, outfielder Matt Szczur also is on the 40-man, but it's questionable that the Cubs would bring him.
• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.