Hoyer arrives in Cincy; quality-start primer
Word out of Cincinnati is that Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has joined the team, telling reporters that he wants to be there during tough times and that field manager Dale Sveum has the full support of Hoyer and president Theo Epstein. For the Tuesday paper, I wrote about the stylistic differences between Sveum and his bosses. In baseball terms, they do speak the same language.
The Cubs enter the game with a 5-13 record and riding a four-game losing streak. We’ll get to some of the numbers here and a look at a minor-leaguer who played his college ball at Northwestern and is off to a hot start at Class AA Tennessee.
Followers here know that I like to write about quality starts and how important they are to winning. Last year, in fact, a truly horrible Cubs team that finished the season 61-101 had a winning record (42-31) when their pitchers turned in a quality start. The Cubs were 19-70 when they didn’t get a quality start.
A quality start is when a pitcher goes at least 6 innings and gives up no more than 3 earned runs. Critics of the quality start say that 3 runs in 6 innings is a 4.50 ERA. That is all true, but most quality starts are far better than that. In quality-start games last year, Cubs starters sported an ERA of 1.83. When the Cubs didn’t get a quality start, the ERA was 7.62.
The best answer to the quality-start naysayers is that you can pitch poorly and get a win, and you can pitch poorly and get a save. But it’s hard to pitch poorly and get a quality start.
The Cubs are wasting some pretty good starting pitching this year because of poor bullpen work, a lack of hitting and poor defense. How bad is it? The Cubs have 10 quality starts so far, but the record is only 5-5 in those games, with the starters having an ERA of 1.61. When the Cubs don’t get a quality start, they are 0-8, and the starters have an ERA of 5.65.
Tonight, Carlos Villanueva goes against the Reds. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, and he is the first pitcher to begin his Cubs career with 3 quality starts since Carlos Silva had 4 in 2010. Travis Wood leads this year’s Cubs with 4 quality starts (including last night’s wasted effort). Jeff Samardzija has 2, and Edwin Jackson has 1.
So the bottom line is this: Don’t discount quality starts. When you get them, you usually win. When you don’t, you usually lose.
From the game notes: Anthony Rizzo has 6 home runs in April. That’s 1 short of the club record for a left-handed hitter in April. Billy Williams (1970) and Henry Rodriguez (2000) each had 7 April homers.
With runners in scoring position, the Cubs are 3-for-25 on the road trip and 19-for-129 (.147) for the season. That’s the lowest average in the major leagues; the White Sox are batting .162 with RISP, and the Dodgers are at .185. They are the only three teams in the majors below .200 with RISP.
We’ll start at Class AA Tennessee, where lefty Eric Jokisch of Northwestern helped the Smokies to an 8-3 victory over Montgomery. Jokisch worked 6.1 innings, giving up 8 hits and 3 runs, 1 earned. He walked two and struck out three. Jokisch is 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA and a WHIP of 0.99. Last year for Tennessee, he was 7-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.13. He began 2012 at Class A Daytona, where he was 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA. A native of downstate Virginia, Ill., Jokisch was an 11th-rounder in 2010 with scout Stan Zielinski getting credit.
I like him as a sleeper in the system. He's not on the 40-man roster, but could he get a call-up later this year, especially if the Cubs deal any of their starters at the July 31 deadling?
In Tennessee's game, Arismendy Alcantara hit his fourth homer of the year, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. Park Ridge’s Brian Schlitter worked 2.2 innings and has not allowed an earned run in 7 appearances.
Class AAA Iowa beat Memphis 5-2. Brooks Raley (2-2, 3.22) got the win, working 5.1 innings and giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. Rehabbing third baseman Ian Stewart (.100) was 1-for-3 with a double. The Cubs still don’t seem in any hurry to activate Stewart off the DL. Brian Bogusevic (.389) extended a hit streak to eight games by going 2-for-4. Ryan Sweened (.372) has a nine-gamer. First baseman Brad Nelson hit his third homer.
Class A Kane County got the second homer of the year from big Dan Vogelbach in a 9-6 loss to Peoria. Michael Heesch got a no-decision, working 6 innings and giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. Rock Shoulders had his six-game hitting streak snapped. Marco Hernandez was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles.
Class A Daytona beat Dunedin 7-4. Lefty Austin Kirk got the win, going 5 innings and giving up 4 hits and 4 runs while walking two and striking out eight. Kirk is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA. Javier Baez was 3-for-5 with a double. He’s at (.234). Dustin Geiger was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI. His 18 RBI lead the team.