The walks-are-important Cubs blog

The walks-are-important Cubs blog

Posted by Bruce on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 18:34

I was poring over some of the stats over yesterday and today and noticed some pretty interesting things, especially in the wake of the Cubs drawing a season-high 7 walks in last night’s 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers. Two of those walks were intentional walks ordered by Rangers manager Ron Washington to light-hitting Darwin Barney.

For fun and illumination, let’s take a look at the hitting lines of two teams: the Cubs and the Oakland Athletics.

Cubs: .241/.301/.412.

Oakland:.251/.343/.413.

As we can see, the Cubs and the Athletics have slugged pretty much the same. The Cubs have hit 39 home runs as a team while the A’s have hit 33.

But now, take a look at the runs scored. The Cubs have scored 122 while the A’s have scored 174. That’s a pretty big difference.

The reason? Walks. The Athletics lead the American League in walks by a large margin, having drawn 152. The next team, Boston, has drawn 121 walks.

The Cubs, on the other hand, have drawn 82 walks. That is 14th in the National League, 1 walk more than Milwaukee.

Once again, I don’t think you can belabor the point of how important walks are to scoring runs and winning baseball games. I always hearken back to the 2008 Cubs, who led the NL in walks, on-base percentage, runs scored … and wins.

Having said all that, there’s something else interesting about the Cubs and walks. Most of the on-base percentage is coming from the left side of the plate. Here are the walks by left-handed batters:

Luis Valbuena, 13
Anthony Rizzo, 13
David DeJesus, 11

Now let’s look at the right-handed batters:

Darwin Barney, 10 (he has 4 intentional walks, largely because he bats eighth)
Alfonso Soriano, 5
Starlin Castro, 5
Welington Castillo, 1

Castillo’s number are particularly stark. He has a grand total of 1 walk to go along with 28 strikeouts. His batting line is .301/.337/.398. Figuring into his on-base percentage is 4 hit-by-pitches.

“I don’t think it’s anything that anybody’s going to be," said manager Dale Sveum. "We always bring these curves up of everybody, but the bottom line is that guys that have had their 4,000 at-bats in the major leagues, and here goes the on-base percentage starts climbing, and the walks start climbing, all those kind of things that happen. Those are the things you hope to happen. Those are the things that have to get better, the pitch selection and slowing the game down at home plate to where you get those walks and see a lot more pitches.”

It’s gotten so that Sveum has talked of playing Valbuena against left-handed pitchers because he’s hitting and getting on base.

“That’s why I talk about having left-handed hitters in the lineup,” Sveum said. “They just make pitchers work that much harder to get you out, and pitch counts get up, and you’re just going to see a lot more pitches because it’s just a lot easier to hit right on left, left on right.”

There’s still a long ways to go for those who run this organization to get it to where they want it to be in terms of putting a prolific offense on the field.

As far as the upcoming series go, the Cardinals are here for two games. Even though they’ve had to make a lot of bullpen changes on the fly, they still lead the NL Central by 3 games. Sveum pointed out that the Cardinals are hitting .328 with runners in scoring position while the Cubs are hitting .193. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was asked what the secret is.

“It’s experience,” he said. “Some of it’s just timing, some of it is certain guys thrive on those situations and there’s other guys that don’t. We have got a group here that’s been able to, early this season to get the timely hit more so than anything else, more so than lots of them even at times. It’s something I believe we take a lot of pride in, putting together those tough, grinding at-bats, and I think that carries over into the grinding defense, grinding pitching."

MINOR-LEAGUE ROUNDUP

We gave you the news yesterday about Matt Garza’s rehab start at Class AAA Iowa Monday. The I-Cubs beat Oklahoma City 6-2. Josh Vitters (.353) clubbed his second home run in three games, going 1-for-2 with the homer and 2 RBI. Edwin Maysonet went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and a team-high 3 RBI. Brian Bogusevic (.419) reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with 2 runs, 2 walks, a triple and one RBI. He’s hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.

Class AA Tennessee had the day off. Daytona (A) lost 6-2 to St. Lucie. Zach Cates got the loss, working 4 innings and giving up 11 hits and 6 runs. Jorge Soler went 2-for-4 with a triple and his fourth homer. John Andreoli (.343) extended a hit streak to eight games, as he went 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base. He’s 13-for-33 in the streak.

The Kane County Cougars had their winning streak snapped at six with an 11-8 loss to Dayton. The Cougars tried to rally from an 11-1 deficit. Former big-league Cub Lendy Castillo started and went 4 innings, giving up 8 hits and 8 runs, 6 earned. He took the loss and fell to 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA. Bijan Rademacher (.353) recorded his fourth straight multihit game, going 3-for-5. He also made his second appearance on the mound, tossing a perfect ninth. We’ve blogged before about Rademacher’s college pitching exploits.

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