Cubs of 2014 not much different than 2013
After a long road trip, the Cubs are finally home.
As far as the season, goes, they're exactly one-third of the way home, having played 54 games. Their record of 20-34 puts them on pace to finish 60-102, which would be the worst record of the three teams trotted out by team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer as they rebuild the organization.
One news item over the past few days caught my attention, and it's a good jumping-off point for today's take. The Kansas City Royals last week shuffled their coaching staff, moving former Cubs manager Dale Sveum from third-base coach to hitting coach.
Sveum is a highly regarded batting coach, and that's part of the reason Epstein hired him to manage the Cubs beginning with the 2012 season. But Epstein fired Sveum the day after the 2013 season ended, ostensibly because Sveum did not communicate well with young "core" players Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
Under new manager Rick Renteria, Castro and Rizzo seem more relaxed as they go about their work, but their stats are marginally better. Castro is at .272/.316/.438 with 7 homers and 26 RBI. Through 54 games last year, Castro was batting .261 with 3 homers and 21 RBI.
Rizzo is at .267/.398/.465 with 10 homers and 28 RBI. He got off to a hot power start in April 2013, and by Game 54, he was batting .258 with 10 homers and 36 RBI.
Most interesting, though, are the team offense comparisons between 2013 and 2014. The numbers are down this year from last at one-third of the way through the season. There are a couple of notable differences between the two clubs.
Last year's team had a patient leadoff man in David DeJesus during the first half of the season.
In addition to that, right fielder Nate Schierholtz was off to a good start on the way to a career-best 21 home runs for the season.
This year, the Cubs have used speedy Emilio Bonifacio as their leadoff man. He got off to an unsustainably hot start, but he's cooled to .269/.315/.346. Schierholtz has crashed to a line of .212/.270/.300 with 2 home runs, the first of which came May 26.
Here is the overall comparison:
• Through 54 games last year, the Cubs had a hitting line of .247/.301/.418 for an OPS of .719. They hit 61 home runs and averaged 4.2 runs per game.
• At the same point this year, the Cubs have a hitting line of .231/.297/.362 for an OPS of .659. They have hit 46 home runs and averaged 3.83 runs per game.
The Cubs were 23-31 through 54 games last year, and although each of these two teams has about the same on-base percentage, this year's club hasn't been able to slug its way out of problems.
Maybe that will change when the weather heats up for good and the wind blows out consistently at Wrigley Field. Of course, that could have an adverse effect on the team pitching, which has been pretty good overall. None of this is to say that Sveum did a better job than Renteria is doing now. Renteria has a roster full of fourth and fifth outfielders, and the Cubs have been hard pressed to get consistent offense from several spots around the diamond.
The Cubs don't seem inclined to bring up third baseman Kris Bryant from Class AA Tennessee. During May, Bryant played 29 games and went .407/.492/.806 with 7 doubles, 12 home runs and 34 RBI.
We'll see if the second third of the season turns out any better than the first. Until Bryant and prospect Javier Baez are up and show they're here to stay, Cubs fans will have to endure.
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. New York Mets at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday and Thursday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1) vs. Zack Wheeler (2-5) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (3-5) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0) Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.; Travis Wood (5-5) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-2) Thursday at 6:05 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs' make a brief six-game stop at home before heading out on the road again next week. The nondescript Mets come in 28-29 after beating the Phillies on Monday. Before that game, David Wright had a line of .293/.340/.397 with 4 homers, while Lucas Duda led the Mets with 8 homers. The Cubs were 3-3 against the Mets last year, 1-2 at Wrigley Field. Both teams are in the bottom half of the National League in the key offensive categories. The Cubs were next to last in on-base percentage Monday, while the Mets were in the same position in home runs. After a poor start over the weekend in Milwaukee, Wood has seen his ERA balloon to 5.15. The Cubs are dead last in the NL in saves with 8.
Next: Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles