The Daily CCO: Cubs Keep Chasing and Other News and Notes

The Cubs’ strikeout totals keep making headlines and the swings and misses figures to increase before it gets better. The Cubs added two inexperienced hitters getting their first look at big league pitching to a roster that did more than its fair share of striking out prior to Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez becoming part of the everyday lineup.

The Cubs have struck out 53 times in the last four games with only two walks.

Rick Renteria said after Monday’s game that his players are “chasing balls out of the zone a little bit” but they are “facing guys with good stuff.”

With the teams remaining on the Cubs schedule, it will not get any easier for the offense. Over the course of the next six-plus weeks, the offense will have to deal with the Mets, Giants, Orioles, Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Blue Jays and Dodgers pitching staffs.

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta put together another quality start Monday night and completed at least seven innings for the sixth time in his last 10 games. Arrieta has pitching into the eighth inning of three of his last eight outings while posting 11 quality starts in his last 12 games.

Since June 1 when the Cubs removed his pitch count limit, Arrieta has average 6.5 innings per start with 18 walks and 87 strikeouts.

PrintArrieta was asked about being the number one pitcher on the Cubs’ staff, a role he once had with the Orioles. Arrieta told the beat writers, “It’s a position I’ve kind of been in the past. I relish the opportunity. It’s important for our ballclub and every ballclub.”

Arrieta admitted he has to continue to “work hard and do everything possible to make strides.”

Jake Arrieta has shown a lot of improvement and consistency this season, minus the one start at Coors Field. Arrieta has been a different pitcher since he landed in the Cubs’ organization and started working with Chris Bosio at the big league level.

Right now Arrieta is the number one on the Cubs’ staff that would look very good slotted behind a starter like Jon Lester moving forward.

Cubs Schedule

Rick Renteria spoke with the beat writers prior to Monday’s game against the Brewers about the Cubs remaining schedule. As was pointed out in the game preview, all but four of the games left on the schedule are against teams either leading their division or above .500.

The schedule will help the young players currently on the roster as well as the players that will be called up when rosters expand. Games in September between teams playing out the string have a tendency to look like Spring Training exhibitions and it is hard to evaluate performances.

That will not be the case this year even with the rosters expanding on Sept. 1.

The Cubs have three games left with the Brewers this week then after the four-game wrap around series in New York against the Mets, the Giants (3), Orioles (3), Reds (3) and Cardinals (3) take the Cubs up to Sept. 1. The Brewers (3), Pirates (3), Blue Jays (3), Pirates (3), Reds (3), Dodgers (4), Cardinals (3) and Brewers (3) are on the Cubs schedule in September.

Regardless of the record the Cubs post over the last six-plus weeks, the experience the players will receive at the big league level should be a plus moving forward and into the off-season.

Chris Valaika

Chris Valaika is learning how to be a backstop. Valaika likes what he sees the Cubs are building and would like to be a part of the big league team beyond this season. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, the veteran utility infielder who started playing outfield with Iowa this year, was asked if he had ever caught a game when he was called up.

Valaika told the Cubs he hadn’t but was willing to learn. Valaika started working on learning how to catch with Mike Borzello in the bullpen prior to Monday’s game. And Valaika was able to add his catcher’s gear to the wagon that Travis Wood gave him to carry around all of his gloves.

News and Notes

Brian Schlitter will report to Mesa to begin his rehab according to a report from Carrie Muskat. The Cubs placed Schlitter on the 15-day DL prior to Sunday’s game to make room on the active roster for either Neil Ramirez or Jacob Turner. Schlitter was placed on the shelf with right shoulder inflammation on the same day LHP Chris Rusin was optioned to Iowa.

The Cubs see Kyle Hendricks taking his game to the next level according to a report from Comcast SportsNet. Preparation has been the key to Hendricks’ success so far and he’s using the extra information at his disposal to his advantage.

Entering play Monday, Javier Baez was averaging 4.24 pitches per plate appearance … more than Luis Valbuena (4.17) and less than NL leader Matt Carpenter (4.36).

Arismendy Alcantara’s education continues with the Cubs according to a report from Tony Andracki. Rick Renteria feels Arismendy Alcantara has the skillset to adjust to big league pitching. Alcantara and Baez are expected to be in the lineup every day in order to continue their development.

The Dodgers recalled Darwin Barney from Triple-A prior to Sunday’s game when Hanley Ramirez was placed on the DL. After the Cubs designated Barney for assignment, he and his family moved back to Oregon and he was very happy when he found out he had been traded to a first place team on the West Coast. Barney said he has no ill will towards the Cubs front office. The Dodgers plan on using Barney as a back-up at second base, shortstop and third base.

According to a report from Ed Sherman, the Cubs ratings dive has put WGN-9 in a tough spot.

This Day In Cubstory

1994 – Major League Baseball players went on strike and for the first time in 90 years there would not be a World Series.

1974 – Matt Clement, born

1934 – The Cubs swept the Deans in St. Louis. The Cubs beat Paul in game one of a doubleheader 7-2 and Dizzy in game two, 6-4.

1876 – Cal McVey pitched and caught Al Spalding in Chicago’s 5-0 victory over Cincinnati

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again." – Bob Feller

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  • paulcatanese

    Take Alcantara and Baez out of the lineup, and there are still a ton of strikeouts. How does that explain the mounting number of strikeouts from regulars?

    • Theboardrider

      Think everyone is just pressing. The hype around Baez and Alcantara has had an impact elsewhere I imagine. I think they all are trying to press and finish strong. Probably need to have a big team meeting with Renteria and maybe even bring Theo down to talk and calm them all down. I think that could help, especially if Theo makes an appearance. Reassure guys and remind them to go play the game they love that is still the same game they’ve played since little league.

      • paulcatanese

        No question, they are pressing.

    • Larry Schwimmer

      There’s no simple answer. But here are my observations about why CUB players strike out so often. Most of the CUB hitters (1) take the 1st pitch – which statistically is a strike over 60% of the time. They should be ready to hit that pitch instead of taking it. (2) Many of the CUB hitters will take 2 strikes before they are ready to swing. That puts them in the hole with a smart pitcher who then throws them some very hard to hit breaking pitches or high heat. (3) CUB hitters are notorious for having 2 strikes and then taking a pitch that is “close” to being a strike and that is often considered a strike. In Little League they teach you to “protect the plate” when you have 2 strikes. CUBS hitters do not do this. (4) Lastly, I’ve never seen so many players make poor contact with hitter pitches that they miss and foul off.

      I think that CUBS players have some mis-guided notion that they should be “seeing a lot of pitches,” instead of looking for good pitch to hit. That strategy has resulted in most CUB players having the count go to 2 strikes pretty quickly. That makes them vulnerable to becoming anxious and striking out.

      Other than the 1st — two years of Castro, when is the last time you remember the CUBS having a .300+ hitter on the team who could really hit like a Grace or Williams?

      • calicub

        Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez circa 2007-2009

      • cubtex

        100% agree. Getting behind in the count puts the pitcher at a huge advantage. Look what most of the Cub hitters average is down 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 etc. So much of this “new” baseball with many teams stressing “all” hitters to work the count is the result of low scoring games and long boring baseball games imo. baseball has become way too technical with stat overload.

        • cubtex

          Let’s take Luis Valbuena for example. He is not a good hitter. I still think I will win that bet Rider :) He is now at .237. He is a guess hitter. Once he gets behind the count he is done. If he doesn’t walk he will not get on base most of the time.

          Luis Valbuena 0-1 is hitting .372
          1-0 .524
          3-1 .385

          Hitters can guess pitches on counts like these and sit on a pitch. Now what happens when he gets 2 strikes? Not good. Walk or bust

          0-2 .091 average
          1-2 .143
          2-2 .156

          • Tony_H

            1-0 .400 AVG
            2-0 .400 AVG
            2-1 .625 AVG

            0-2 .136 AVG
            1-2 .171 AVG
            2-2 .236 AVG

            The best player in the game Mike Trout

            All players are are worse when behind in the count. Obviously Trout is a better hitter and does slightly better when behind.

          • cubtex

            of course but it shouldn’t be that bad.

            Tony Gwynn career(of course he is one of best hitters of all time)
            2-2 .313
            1-2 .290
            0-2 .252

            Then we can go with Mark Grace
            2-2 .226
            1-2 .247
            0-2 .243

            Pitcher has a huge advantage getting ahead of the count. Trout takes a huge advantage of getting ahead of the hiiter. Much much greater than most.

          • Tony_H

            I agree, Trout’s shouldn’t be so bad, but he is the best player in the game and you are now comparing two players who played in a different ERA and chocked up with 2 strikes.

          • cubtex

            When did choking up and shortening your swing with 2 strikes become obsolete? I saw Rizzo doing this early in year

          • Tony_H

            LOL! You know it is very rare for players to do that.

          • cubtex

            When did choking up and shortening your swing with 2 strikes become obsolete? I saw Rizzo doing this early in year

        • paulcatanese

          Or, they may be swinging from the heels to make Baez feel comfortable:)

      • Chris K.

        I am so tired of this argument. It’s ridiculous. Sure the FO enjoys hitters with a good OBP, but it doesn’t mean they are forcing these guys to approach an at bat a certain way. Every hitter is different. My theory is that the majority of their hitters aren’t very good and just can’t hit. If they could, other teams would have been beating down the door for much of their OFs at the deadline.

        • Larry Schwimmer

          Chris, I’m not sure what argument you’re tired of? But I do agree with you that the “majority of CUB hitters arent’ very good and just can’t hit.”

          • Chris K.

            That the FO wanting hitters to have a good OBP leads to them taking pitches they should be hitting. It’s absurd.

  • Vivid_Reality
    • calicub

      You sneak!

      I was just about to post this but I wanted to check to see if Neil had already done so.

    • calicub

      I thought the comparison of the Marlins cutting Millar to them cutting Turner was pretty interesting. Hopefully there isn’t an underlying issue and Turner comes full circle with the Cubs as well.

      • Vivid_Reality

        Even if there is we gave up almost nothing to acquire him. Think about it this way, to acquire Barney the Dodgers gave up a 20 year old starter who had been producing encouraging results at A ball. We got Turner for two relievers older than him also pitching at A ball.

        It boggles my mind how little we gave up for Turner. Even the differences in pre waiver trade deadline and post don’t make up for the differences in value from the Barney and Turner deals. Even at the floor of Turners value, I would bet he turns out to be a better reliever than Arias or Bremer ever will. Andrew Miller is the obvious comp here but I’m not sure if he’ll ever be that good.

        • calicub

          I’m surprised as well at how little we gave up added to the fact that each was older than Turner himself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These guys are WIZARDS at trades!

          As far as the Millar/Turner comp, I as just echoing the authors point of how the Marlins have a history of cutting ties with players with real potential remaining.

    • triple

      Interesting…. so the Cubs aren’t doing the same rebuild as all the other rebulding teams afterall.

      • Tony_H

        I don’t think many people actually believed that. Every time the CBA changes, it takes really smart people to find the ways to gain an advantage. This FO is really good at doing that.

        • triple

          I’ve never believed for a second that we were doing any kind of rebuild that any other team has done before. What will be really great is when teams start modeling their rebuild after the Cubs and acquiring bats, it will make it easier for our FO to collect the pitchers that are being disregarded and some of them will be helpful in winning some championships.

    • Chris K.

      I totally said this a couple of weeks ago. The FO came up with a new way to do a rebuild.

      • Tony_H

        No cookies for fans and no cookie-cutter rebuild!!

  • Eugene Debs

    Matt Clement. That ridiculous facial hair. LOL.