The Cubs are in the midst of a brutal season this year. There’s no way to sugar coat it, there aren’t a whole lot of silver linings to be found this season. The North Side Nine haven’t found a way to execute all facets of their game for any consistent stretch at all this season. When the offense has produced the pitching has been bad. When the starters have gone deep into games the offense has been absent or, worse yet, the bullpen has blown leads late.
When Pedro Strop lost the control and blew the Cubs’ lead on the day Wrigley turned 100 it drove home the point that this team isn’t about present roster construction. The fashion in which the Cubs have been non competitive has made it very easy to focus in on seemingly roster-wide player regression. Their particular style of losing baseball has obfuscated two bounce back years from the two most important players on the current roster.
Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are playing well.
There will be ebbs and flows in their stat lines as they adjust to the adjustments that the league has made to their early season starts but they’ve certainly improved over last year’s disastrous campaign.
It’s early to profile LD rate as those numbers stabilize after 600 Balls In Play but both players have upped their line drive rates by ~5% and in Castro’s case he’s cut his GB% (a stat that has stabilized) by 4%. They’re passing the eye test too as each player has put together improved at bats over last year.
For Rizzo this season was about finding the missing singles and adjusting to lefties. I doubt Rizzo hits .300 so I do expect his average to fall throughout the season but in a small sample he has hit left handed pitching and at the very least he has not looked lost against southpaws. The extra base hits will be there for Rizzo and one of the more encouraging signs for him is the 0.87 BB/K ratio he’s posted thus far in 2014. He’s walking more and striking out less, that’s a tremendous sign.
In Castro's case, the power isn’t there quite yet but he’s making hard, solid contact and isn’t swinging through fastballs in the zone as often as he was during 2013. His at bats have looked natural and he’s been reacting in a simpler manner this year.
Yeah, this has been a tough year to watch the Cubs. It’s unfortunate that we’re in a holding pattern for some young talent to come through the system and produce. There’s not a whole lot of glimmer on this product, but for me this year was about Rizzo and Castro only. Everything else on the Major League roster was gravy.