In order to compete in the NL Central, the Cubs will have to improve on their poor fundamentals and atrocious defense from last season.
The 2010 Chicago Cubs had arguably the worst defense in the Major Leagues. The Cubs tied with the Atlanta Braves for the third most errors in the league (126) … only one more error than the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs led the majors last season in the one category that no team wants to lead the league in, unearned runs. The Cubs allowed 99 unearned runs last year, by far the worst in the majors. And to make matters worse, the Cubs were fourth from the bottom in opponent’s stolen base percentage. Teams stole a staggering 114 bases while the Cubs catching corps threw out only 31 runners attempting to swipe a bag. How many times have we heard the phrase pitching and defense wins championships? Well that was the case for the San Francisco Giants. The Giants were fourth in the league in errors and had the best ERA in the big leagues. To further drive home the point about the importance of pitching and defense, the Giants scored only 12 more runs than the inconsistent Cubs offense did a year ago (the Giants ranked 16th in the league in runs scored, the Cubs were 17th).
The Chicago Cubs ranked 18th in UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating) with -0.5. Guess who was first? Yep, you guessed it right … the San Francisco Giants with 8.5.
The definition of UZR is the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined. For additional details on UZR, click here.
The Cubs biggest culprits in terms of errors last year were Starlin Castro (27), Aramis Ramirez (16), Alfonso Soriano (7), Blake DeWitt (7), Jeff Baker (7), Tyler Colvin (6) and Randy Wells led the pitching staff with five credited miscues.
During the Cubs Convention, Mike Quade made a point to say that fundamentals would be stressed during Spring Training and throughout the season. I hope that does the trick and the players respond with a better brand of baseball … just doing “the little things”, like players setting their feet before making a throw could help cut down on the 56 throwing errors that the Cubs committed last year.
The two positions that need the most improvement this season … shortstop and third base. The left side of the Cubs infield accounted for 60 of the Cubs 126 errors. And to add to the poor defensive numbers on the left side, four other players accounted for 14 errors at third base … with Jeff Baker (7) leading the way.
Quade also stressed accountability, which would be great. But I’ll believe it when I see it. If Quade sits Aramis Ramirez for not hustling on the bases or a poor effort in the field, I would back him 100%. In my opinion, that is the message this team needs from their new manager.
I have to say there was one Cub that I was pleasantly surprised by last season. And while you may not agree with me, he did show improvement in the field.
Alfonso Soriano struggled mightily once again in the field at the beginning of the 2010 season. Soriano made his usual comedy of errors … botching routine fly balls, incredibly bad routes and playing singles into extra base hits. After Lou Piniella benched him for a couple of games and he eliminated that ridiculous hop, Soriano appeared to get better in the field … and reportedly he kept working on his defense throughout he season. While I would definitely agree with anyone that says Soriano is a poor defender, I am happy he got the message and showed improvement as the season progressed.
As for the left side of the infield, Starlin Castro has the range and the arm to be an excellent defender. I hope he can make big strides this year. For as inconsistent as Castro was last season, his defensive problems were not from a lack of effort.
Aramis Ramirez may show improvement from last season but Aramis has never been known for his glove. The Cubs need a better effort and a little more consistency from Ramirez in the field.
Now I’m not delusional. I don’t think the Cubs will lead the majors in defense. But if they could improve to, say, a middle of the pack defensive team, I would be pleasantly surprised and the results should be seen in the win column.
When I started putting together the best possible defensive lineup Mike Quade could run out, I had to stop because I realized that Darwin Barney can play only one position at a time. With that said and with Barney penciled in at second base, here it goes: Carlos Pena (1B), Darwin Barney (2B), Starlin Castro (SS), Blake DeWitt (3B), Kosuke Fukudome (RF), Marlon Byrd (CF), Fernando Perez (LF) and Koyie Hill (C). For those questioning the decision to put DeWitt in at third, check out his page on Baseball-Reference. As for Tyler Colvin, defensively he is the fourth best outfielder right now on the Cubs’ roster.
Is a player’s defense and the fundamentals of the game too often overlooked? What are your thoughts?
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