The Cubs return to the field Tuesday night and open a six-game homestand with the first of three against the Brewers at Wrigley. Monday was anything but a day-off as far as the news goes. Jake Arrieta, Ian Happ, Chesny Young and Paul Blackburn all received awards for their performances from the past week.
FanGraphs posted a report Monday in which August Fagerstrom stated the Cubs are the best base-running team, too. The report details just how good the Cubs have been on the bases so far this season.
According to Fagerstrom, the Cubs “lead baseball with five additional runs above average coming by way of their base-running.” The Cubs are an average team on stolen bases (11-for-16) and they’ve “avoided double plays better than most.” Where the Cubs excel is “taking extra bases and avoiding extra outs, and it’s also the area where the Cubs have been the best in baseball.”
The Cubs were the second best base-running team last season, according to FanGraphs, this year “they’ve done a better job on advancing on tag-ups and taking advantage of balls that get past the catcher.” The Cubs have made “fewer outs on the bases, while being more aggressive.” Fagerstrom explained, the Cubs have gone “first-to-third, first-to-home and second-to-home all at a better-than-average rate.”
The addition of Jason Heyward made the Cubs an even better base-running team. But a big factor in the Cubs base-running so far this season is the ability of the team to make contact. Joe Maddon’s team has gone from having the league’s worst strikeout rate last season to this year where “only six teams have struck out less than the Cubs, who have cut down their team strikeout rate by nearly five percentage points.”
The front office set out to address the Cubs lack of contact and situational hitting in the off-season. The additions of Heyward and Ben Zobrist, plus improvements by Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler have led to fewer swings and misses and more balls in play.
The Cubs have a plus-68 run differential after 19 games, so the little things, like base-running, are paying big dividends.
Cubs Catching Depth
Jed Hoyer addressed the catching depth in the organization during a recent interview with Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield on Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score). Here’s what Hoyer said about the team’s plans for Willson Contreras and the first catcher that would likely be called up if either Miguel Montero or David Ross had to be placed on the DL.
“We do have two very good veteran catchers. Both guys call a good game. They frame really well. I think they certainly battle all their at bats. Miguel has a chance to have a good year offensively. Obviously everyone knows what David means to our clubhouse. As far as in Triple-A, we kinda always looked at Kyle [Schwarber] as our third floating catcher. He was probably going to catch Jason Hammel this year and that was how we were going to move forward developing him.”
“Tim Federowicz, is a guy who had a good Spring Training for us, he’s in Triple-A at Iowa. He’s probably the next guy up. Willson Contreras is an excellent prospect. He’s a guy that needs reps. Needs to keep developing. He’s not ready yet but hopefully, maybe by the end of this season he’s a guy that’s ready to come up here and learn from Miguel and David.”
Monday’s Cubs Headlines
It was an incredibly busy Monday. It was an off-day for the Cubs but not for the news.
Here are the headlines from Monday’s off-day to get you caught up before play resumes tonight at Wrigley Field:
- Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 04/25/16
- The Daily CCO: Time to Vote Cubs and Other News and Notes
- Albert Almora Jr. Off to a Good Start with Iowa Cubs (Includes Video)
- A Good Series for the Bryzzo Souvenir Company (Includes Video)
- INF Chesny Young and RHP Paul Blackburn Named Southern League Player and Pitcher of the Week
- Don’t Look Now, David Ross Has Been Really Good Offensively (Includes Video)
- Jake Arrieta Named National League Player of the Week
Ryan Kalish signed with the Cubs late in the spring, a minor league contract that did not include an invite to big league camp. Kalish was on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster just two years ago and finished the 2014 season in the Cubs’ outfield. Kalish missed last season and was set to play in Independent Ball. Kalish told the Des Moines Register the Cubs called and he changed his plans.
Kalish is healthy after undergoing nine surgeries and he’s hitting Triple-A pitching.
In 15 games this season, Kalish is batting .390/.500/.512 with three doubles, a triple and eight walks for a 1.012 OPS.
Ryan Kalish being able to play again is one of the feel good stories of the first month of the season.
Reports indicated it’s a “moderate strain of the left hamstring.” A strain is a strain, no matter how it is worded.
The Indians are keeping their heads above water and it was unlikely Carrasco would have been traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. But if they fall too far behind the White Sox and Royals by mid-July and Carrasco shows he’s healthy, look for the Cubs to be in the mix for the right-hander.
News and Notes
• David Schoenfield posted his random thoughts on the unstoppable Chicago Cubs.
• According to the Tribune, an eventful offseason is paying off for Cubs’ Dexter Fowler.
• Patrick Mooney explained why the Cleveland Browns studied the Cubs way before hiring Paul DePodesta.
• Anthony Rizzo hit two home runs in Sunday’s finale in Cincinnati, the 10th multi-homer game of his career. Rizzo has the third most multi-homer games by a Cubs’ first baseman since 1913. Ernie Banks (18) and Derrek Lee (16) are the only two first basemen with more multi-homer games than Anthony Rizzo.
• And speaking of the Cubs’ All-Star first baseman, FOX Sports reported the only thing hotter than Anthony Rizzo right now is his cereal, RizzO’s.
• Mark Simon reported the Cubs have the fourth highest (17.4%) hard-hit rate in baseball behind the Rays (18.5%), Pirates (18.3%) and Diamondbacks (17.6%).
• ESPN Chicago – Three-week rewind: Cubs playing relaxed, together
• FanGraphs estimated TV revenues for all 30 MLB teams.
• According to Joel Sherman, the best shortstop crop since Jeter’s and A-Rod’s is only growing.
• Former Cubs’ reliever LHP Phil Coke is back in the Yankees organization. Brian Cashman purchased Coke’s contract from the Atlantic League. Coke is set to report to Triple-A Scranton.
• According to Jonah Keri, Gregory Polanco’s huge start to the season gives the Pirates the best outfield in baseball.
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Cubs signed free agent Daniel Schlereth
2003 – Cubs released Rob Stanifer
1997 – In a 7-6 win over the Pirates at Wrigley Field, Ryne Sandberg hit the 267th home run of his career and passed Joe Morgan for the most longballs hit by a second baseman in the history of the game. Jeff Kent passed Sandberg for most homer by a second baseman in 2004 when he hit home run No. 268 of his career.
1977 – Kosuke Fukudome, born
1962 – Cubs released Paul Casanova
1962 – Cubs traded Sammy Taylor to the Mets for Bobby Smith
1961 – Curt Wilkerson, born
1941 – The Cubs became the first Major League team to install an organ at their ballpark.
1927 – Bob Zick, born
1920 – Ron Northey, born
1905 – Jack McCarthy became the only outfielder in Major League history to throw out three runners at home plate, each of which were the second out of a double play, as the Cubs beat the Pirates 2-1 in Pittsburgh.
1900 – Hack Wilson, born
1882 – Ira Higginbotham, born
1869 – Fritz Clausen, born