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posted: 7/6/2014 8:00 AM

Too much bad to go around for Cubs, White Sox

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  • Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson has excellent stuff, but, like always, his inconsistency can be maddening.

      Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson has excellent stuff, but, like always, his inconsistency can be maddening.
    Associated Press

 
 

As the Cubs and the White Sox barrel toward 90 games (and 50 losses), I refuse to wait for the all-star break to dissect what we've seen.

Last week we looked at the impressive performances in our town's first half. That was nice. It was full of goodness and optimism. Today, well, today is not.

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This is what we get?

Junior Lake is a classic toolsy tease. I bet Kenny Williams thinks the world of him. Lake has skills and potential, but he just can't stop swinging. He strikes out more than once every three at-bats and has only reached a 3-ball count 24 times all season.

For reference, Anthony Rizzo has seen a 3-ball count 96 times.

Tyler Flowers started the year looking like something had clicked, with an OBP above .400 into May. Then the bottom fell out. From May 26 through July 3, he was 9-fot-88 with 42 strikeouts, his slugging percentage and OBP both below .200. An expected team weakness has shown itself.

Mike Olt has tremendous power. The vision problems are gone, and even with the time Luis Valbuena has justifiably taken from him, Olt is getting a fair chance. But the power is all there is. That swing is just too long to make consistent contact. A 7/1 strikeout/walk ratio and a .229 OBP does not bode well.

Edwin Jackson continues to be Edwin Jackson. One good start, one horrific, 5 good innings with a disaster mixed in. His stuff remains excellent; this pattern has been seen his entire career. Jackson's peripherals always will be better than his ERA, and his next team always will think it can get more out of him than others have. They will not.

Every at bat from Dayan Viciedo can be tough to watch. It's made more difficult when you think about how they would have been going to the injured potential cornerstone, Avisail Garcia. Even if Garcia was struggling, his playing time would have felt useful for the team, and for viewers.

Nate Schierholtz is slugging just .328, more than 140 points down from his quietly solid 2013. He's not even tradable at this point.

The White Sox have a life-size chimp named Phil in their clubhouse. John Danks bought it for Adam Dunn from SkyMall, and now Adam Eaton blames/credits it for everything. It's one of my favorite things of this season.

The Sox' No. 4 and No. 5 starters are not. Eric Johnson has been even worse at Charlotte since his early, deserved demotion. Felipe Paulino was bad, then hurt. Scott Carroll was a great story for a couple of weeks. Andre Rienzo has been banished to the bullpen.

Of the 40 games started by men other than the top three lefties, the Sox have gotten just 11 quality starts, and 5 of those are from the lone "bright spot," reclamation project Hector Noesi.

Darwin Barney is a terrific defensive player. And that's it. The Cubs keep playing him, trying to salvage any potential trade value, but it gets tedious waiting for Arismendy Alcantara to come from Iowa to claim second base.

The White Sox' bullpen is 29th of 30 teams in opponents' on-base percentage. The relievers are 22nd in save percentage and ERA.

Matt Lindstrom was bad, then hurt. Ronald Belissario was great in the eighth, then awful in the ninth. Scott Downs is mercifully gone. I like Zach Putnam best, but all the righties look pretty similar in terms of both stuff and success rate.

The chaos has forced Robin Ventura into creativity, away from classic push-button roles. As I've written before, that could be a good thing. Don't give bad guys jobs in big spots, just because that's the way everyone else does it.

Can the chimp pitch?

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.

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