Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

There's no doubt that the Chicago Cubs are much more fun to watch now than they were early in the season. There's a palpable sense of excitement and hope that springs from seeing young players performing at a high level.

But there's also no doubt that this team still has plenty of flaws, as evidenced by Thursday's hiccup against the Milwaukee Brewers. Filling in for the injured Matt Garza, Mike Fiers burned the Cubs to the tune of 14 strikeouts, while allowing just 3 hits and no runs.

Will Smith got jiggy wit' it as well, mowing down 2 Northsiders to bring the K total to 16 on the afternoon. Not the worst performance a Cubs squad has ever had, but the futility and general malaise of the game set minds a-wandering as the innings dragged on.

Javier Baez was at the center of the fun, as he donned a Golden Sombrero, going down on strikes in all 4 of his plate appearances. Radio man Pat Hughes brought up a little baseball trivia at that point, recalling the 56-game hitting streak of the great Joe DiMaggio.

During the streak, which took place over over the course of 2 months and 1 day and encompassed 223 plate appearances, Joe D struck out only 5 times. Yes, that's correct. And what's more, over the entirety of that hallowed 1941 season, the Yankee Clipper whiffed only 13 times.

And while that is an amazingly low number, consider that DiMaggio's average K-total for a season was just over 28. Over the course of 13 seasons, he amassed only 369 strikeouts, just 8 more than his home run total of 361. At the pace Javy Baez is going, it'd take him 1,534 K's to reach that many homers.

I know, I know, that's neither fair nor accurate. But that's part of what makes it fun. And you know what else is fun? That 1941 season was not just about The Streak; it was also the last time anyone finished the season batting over .400, as Ted Williams hit .406.

As incredible as it sounds, Williams's accomplishments in that season were far overshadowed by DiMaggio's. Chalk it up to the different media markets and Teddy Ballgame's bristly relationship with the press, but when you look at his season with some of today's metrics, it's just unreal.

In 150 games (of a 154-game season; the current 162-game format wasn't adopted until 1962), Williams slashed .406/.553/.735 with an OPS 1.287. He hit 36 home runs, drove in 137, and walked 145 times. Those are like Kris Bryant numbers. But I suppose I will give the edge to the Splendid Splinter in the end, since he struck out only 27 times.

Of course, DiMaggio's year wasn't just about The Streak; he slashed .357/.440/.643 with a 1.083 OPS, 30 HR's, 125 RBI and 76 BB's. Two years later, both DiMaggio and Williams would step away from the game to serve in WWII, missing 3 seasons in the prime of their careers as a result.

I could go on and on about how the game has changed and how players, fans, and field dimensions and money have all conspired against the kinds of obscene stats that those legends once put up. But that's not the point. I don't want to compare the present to the past though.

Rather, I want to be able to appreciate each era for what it is. Steeped in tradition as they are, the Cubs have the opportunity to establish some new memories with the team they're putting together. Baez and Bryant are not going to be modern-day incarnations of DiMaggio and Williams, but that doesn't mean they can't be great.

Maybe one day we'll look back at the accomplishments of some of these Cubs players with awe and reverence, staring in wonder at Javy Baez's first Wrigley home run or marveling at the abilities of Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.

Cubs Nation has had its lonely eyes turned to the future for quite some time now, and, despite games the one on Thursday, it looks like the picture is finally starting to come into focus.

@DEvanAltman

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  • Most people don't know that the actual theme song of "The Graduate" was "The Sound of Silence" instead of "Mrs. Robinson."

    Also, I doubt that pitching was the art then it was today, with the current debate about why Edwin Jackson is not Greg Maddux or Kyle Hendrix. But the Cubs sure went after Lohse the day before, but now the Brew Crew says he was injured. Maybe it can be said that the team as constructed is too dependent on the HR.

  • The nice thing about major league baseball is that the most significant achievement a team can make is to win the World Series. So when the Cubs win their first of what I hope will be many, it won't make any difference how many strikeouts Javy Baez had or how many home runs Kris Bryant had. The only thing that counts is that the Cubs won the Big One in 2017, 2018, etc.

  • In reply to toboyle9:

    Love the ect.

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    You said "Maybe one day we'll look back at the accomplishments of some of the Cubs players with awe and reverence...? I completely agree, it's gonna be fun.
    That being said, I had a conversation with another Cubs fan last night talking Starlin Castro verse Addison Russell. He said trade Castro for pitching and bring up Russell, which I thought was ridiculous!
    Starlin is on pace for a 3000+ hits career, and we all know where you go when that occurs.
    So now I ask for your opinion on this.
    Should the Cubs trade a potential Hall of Famer for the chance of a similar career from Addison?

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    In reply to Nathan Jones:

    Absolutely not. I wrote something a while back on that, saying a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush league. To date, Castro leads all MLB SS with 136 hits and I think he's tops in doubles too. Since 2010, he has more hits than anyone in MLB I believe. The kid's got some holes, sure, but his hit tool is far better than people want to believe.

    Trouble is, he was always a little flighty, so 2013 gave people reason to jump all over him. Also, the crap at the MLB level got people so jazzed about prospects that they forgot that some of them fail. It's one thing to trade off a good pitcher who's got very little club control left, but quite another to jettison a guy who's under control and who can hit like Starlin. Pitchers are much more fickle too.

  • In reply to Nathan Jones:

    No!

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    In reply to Nathan Jones:

    If the Cubs had Castro on the block it would be nice to see what he could bring back in return. The Mets could be a shopper in that case. Let's see,hmmm? Lets start with Snydergaard,Kevin Plawecki and a couple of pichers Steven Matz and Blake Taylor who could be added to the prospects on the farm. Doubt the Mets would pull the trigger on that deal but if done it would make the Cubs system elevate too be beyond belief and Snydergaard would be an ace TOR pitcher.

  • Lake sent down to Iowa.......that is a month too late.

  • The 2007 and 2008 Cubs also featured far too many strikeouts in their lineups. (And far to many base on balls issued by the pitching staff.) The 2008 lineup featured five hitters with more than 100 Ks in the regular season, and of course were too easily shut down offensively in a playoff sweep by the Dodger, proving the adage that good pitching shuts down undisciplined hitters in the playoffs.

    It's too early to need to address the Cubs high strikeout prospects. Let them develop further, but just like the defensive challenges at shortstop, they will need to be addressed to achieve a championship. I believe Addison Russell will be that answer at SS. Ultimately, you also can't win with two 175 K hitters in your lineup in Bryant and Baez. It seems unlikely either will learn too much additional plate discipline to bring their Ks down near 100. So it will be interesting to watch and see how they develop and when one will be moved, and what they bring back in terms of key playoff pieces.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    While I agree that any reduction in Ks by the prospects on the way (and the ones already here) will be welcome, what's more important is that they learn how to increase (or, in Bryant's case, maintain) their walk totals. You can be a very successful hitter and strike out a lot provided you can draw the base on balls. Strikeouts do not signal a lack of discipline by themselves. Neither does the lack of strikeouts indicate that you are disciplined (quite the contrary in many cases actually).

    As to your assertions about the 2007 and 2008 Cubs, the facts don't coincide with what you're saying. The 2007 Cubs were below league average in striking out (17th overall) and the 2008 Cubs were 10th overall. Your mention of 5 starters in 2008 with over 100 Ks as a symptom of trouble doesn't jive either. The Phillies won the World Series that year with 4 starters with 100 plus strikeouts (and one of their most productive players, Ryan Howard, had a whopping 199). And the 2007 Red Sox won the World Series with 4 starters with 100+ strikeouts, and would have had one more if Manny Ramirez had played a full season's worth of games. Having a bunch of guys who strike out more than 100 times is hardly the death knell for any team. A lot more has to do with whether these teams draw walks (the 2008 Cubs certainly did; so did the '07 Red Sox), and what happens to the ball when they do make contact. The '08 Cubs were 2nd in MLB in walks, 5th in SLG, 5th in BA, and 3rd in OPS. That was a very good and disciplined offense. Three bad games in October doesn't change that.

    Don't forget: anybody can beat anybody in the postseason. There is no secret sauce to playoff success other than putting the best team you can together and hoping you pull it off once you get in. Sometimes the best teams in the regular season win, but most times they don't. The 2008 Cubs didn't. Doesn't mean they were secretly an awful offense or somehow undisciplined because they had guys who struck out over 100 times. The 2007 Angels had one hitter over 100 Ks and they were swept in the LDS; only 2 hitters over 100 Ks in 2008 and they still got bounced in the LDS 3-1. Again, it's not the strikeouts.

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