It's only fitting that the Cubs are getting set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field on the upcoming homestand.
The way they've played lately hearkens back to the dead-ball era.
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field
TV: WGN Friday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday; WCIU Sunday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (0-1) vs. Alfredo Simon (1-1) Friday; Edwin Jackson (0-1) vs. Tony Cingrani (1-1) Saturday; Carlos Villanueva (1-3) vs. Mike Leake (1-1) Sunday. All games 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: New manager Bryan Price has the Reds off to a 6-9. start. Joey Votto has a line of .327/.446/.615 with 4 homers and 9 RBI. He has homered in three of his last four games. Brandon Phillips is at .306/.328/.387. Former Cubs reliever Sean Marshall is on the disabled list and rehabbing from a shoulder injury. Closer Aroldis Chapman was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday as he recovers from surgery from a facial fracture. Samardzija has been a hard-luck pitcher for the Cubs, as he has a 1.29 ERA.
Next: Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, Monday-Thursday
-- Bruce Miles
The Cubs have been shut out four times in their first 14 games, including twice Wednesday in New York. That hadn't happened since 1962, when a Cubs team that finished 59-103 fell twice in one day to the Giants in April and to the Cardinals in June.
With the Cincinnati Reds coming to town this weekend, it's a good time to talk about both offenses. Regular readers know we talk often here about the importance of on-base percentage.
The Cubs have suffered from OBP dysfunction since they led the league in that department in 2008, when they also led in walks and runs scored. The Cubs won the National League Central that year with a record of 97-64.
It has been all downhill after that, and entering Thursday, the Cubs were 14th in the NL in runs scored (47, or 3.36 per game), 14th in OBP (.293) and 12th in walks (39).
Some Cubs teams have been able to slug their way out of OBP problems, but entering Thursday this Cubs outfit ranked last in the NL in slugging (.339) and 14 in homers (10).
Emilio Bonificacio, who has led off 13 of the 14 games, has a nice hitting line of .339/.381/.390, but we're dealing with a small sample size, and Bonifacio went 1-for-17 on the just-concluded road trip. His lifetime OBP is .322, so caution is the watchword.
The Reds have been having problems of their own at the leadoff spot. Researcher Bill Chuck pointed out at midweek that Reds leadoff hitters were the worst in baseball with a slash line of .140/.210/.193.
Even though Cincinnati pitchers ranked sixth in the NL on Thursday in ERA (3.50), no doubt the offense's lack of on-base ability has contributed to the Reds getting off to a lackluster 6-9 start.
In the off-season, the Reds allowed center fielder Shin-Soo Choo to get away, as he signed a big deal with Texas. Choo was the Reds' primary leadoff hitter last year, and he put up a line of .285/.423/.462. He's off to a typical start this year with the Rangers, going .283/.418/.358 entering Thursday's game against the Seattle Mariners.
Moral of the story: getting on base is the key to winning, and the Cubs have a long way to go in both departments.
Down on the farm:
The Cubs may soon be getting a reinforcement for their starting rotation. Jake Arrieta, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury, got the victory Wednesday for Class AA Tennessee in a rehab start.
Arrieta ran his record to 1-1 with an ERA of 0.73. He came to spring training with discomfort in the shoulder and worked all spring to strengthen it. He should be ready soon, and that would allow the Cubs to move Carlos Villanueva from the rotation and back into the bullpen.
At Class AAA Iowa, top prospect Javier Baez has been on the disabled list since the weekend with an ankle injury. The shortstop injured himself fielding groundballs during batting practice at Memphis.
Initially, he thought the injury was much worse.
"I thought it was broken," he told the Des Moines Register. "I jumped a little bit to throw the ball and when I landed, it was kind of like a hole or something (there). I thought I was done."
Baez is off to a start of .154/.214/.423 with 2 home runs, 3 RBI, 2 walks and 11 strikeouts. No doubt the Cubs will give him plenty of time to get his feet back on the ground, so to speak, before they think about calling him up.
Celebrating Wrigley Field:
Birthdays are always fun, and the Cubs will be celebrating No. 100 for Wrigley Field on Wednesday. The park opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago entry in the short-lived Federal League.
The Cubs will wear replica Chi-Feds uniforms for Wednesday's game, with the Arizona Diamondbacks wearing Kansas City Federal League uniforms. The first 30,000 fans in the house will receive a replica 1914 Chi-Feds jersey.
Chicago Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers will be honored during pregame ceremonies for their exploits at Wrigley Field during days when the Bears called the park home.
Many former Cubs players will return to their positions in a pregame ceremony: Ernie Banks (shortstop), Glenn Beckert (second base), Andre Dawson (right field), Ryan Dempster (pitcher), Bobby Dernier (center field), Randy Hundley (catcher), Fergie Jenkins (pitcher), Gary Matthews (left field), Milt Pappas (pitcher), Lee Smith (pitcher), Billy Williams (left field) and Kerry Wood (pitcher).
Sam and Spencer Brown, grandchildren of the late Ron Santo, will man third base for the ceremony.