With the first meeting between the two Chicago baseball teams this weekend, it's a great time to look at both teams and
protest something pick which players have been the best at their respective positions in the city.
Bryan LaHair, Cubs
Not to take anything away from a decent start to the season from Paul Konerko on the south side of town, but LaHair edges him slightly. Both of Chicago's first basemen are putting up legitimate all-star caliber numbers so far. Konerko has an OPS of 1.013 with seven home runs, 20 RBI and 78 total bases for the Sox, while LaHair has an OPS of 1.119 with 10 home runs, 21 RBI and 77 total bases. Their numbers across the board are nearly identical, but the major difference is fans expect Paulie to be slugging .578 by this time of year. Most fans in the city still don't know who LaHair is, and wouldn't recognize him walking down the street.
Darwin Barney, Cubs
The evolution of the Cubs infield is taking shape this year with Barney and Starlin Castro continuing their maturation in front of the fans at Wrigley Field (see what I did there?). Barney isn't having an overwhelming season for the Cubs, but he hasn't taken the step back that has continued to frustrate Sox fans with Gordon Beckham. Barney has a superior OPS (.703) to Beckham (.599), and his 33 hits are actually tied for seventh among National League second basemen. Beckham has started to warm up lately (.764 OPS in May), and he's been very good defensively, but his inconsistent offense has been a major source of aggravation for Sox fans.
Starlin Castro, Cubs
There's really no question here. Alexei Ramirez might make more spectacular plays defensively (he's a Web Gem machine), and might make fewer mistakes on routine plays, but he's been a mess offensively this season. Ramirez's .487 OPS is just bad for any position. On the other side of town, Castro (not Ozzie Guillen's buddy) ranks third among all Major League shortstops with 49 hits, ranks second among all shortstops with 22 RBI, and is tied with Dee Gordon of the Dodgers for the top spot among all shortstops with 12 stolen bases already. A case can, and will, be made for Castro to start the 2012 All-Star Game at short for the National League.
The Cubs' primary third baseman, Ian Stewart, is batting .200 with a .627 OPS. The Sox's primary third baseman, Brent Morel, is batting .171 with a .396 OPS. Among the 18 regular third basemen in the majors to date, Moral's OPS is by far the lowest in the bigs; the second-lowest is .596, belonging to Arizona's Ryan Roberts (for the record, Stewart ranks 16th out of 18). Third base is supposedly a run-producing position, yet Morel has only five RBI and Stewart has just 13 to date. There's an enormous problem at third base in this city, so we're going to leave the position on the all-city team empty.
Adam Dunn, White Sox
Alejandro De Aza, White Sox
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
We're going to include Dunn as an outfielder because he'll play left at Wrigley to start the weekend. His season has been both a revelation and an incredible renaissance after last year left many fans and analysts wondering what was wrong with the Paul Bunyon-looking lefty. He's crushing the ball this year. If I told you in March that Dunn would have as many home runs (12) and as many RBI (28) as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers at this point in the season, most fans would have taken whatever odds they could get and bet their next mortgage payment. Kudos to Dunn for an incredible comeback so far.
De Aza has been a wonderful surprise for the Sox so far with seven stolen bases, a .798 OPS and 28 runs scored. He ranks fourth among American League outfielders in runs to date. For the Cubs, the outfield has been in transition this year and has had some... struggling moments. But consider this for a moment: only 23 full-time outfielders in the majors this year have 21 RBI through Wednesday night's action, and Soriano is one of them. He hasn't been hitting as many home runs as fans would like, and his seven runs leaves a lot to be desired, but he's driving in runs and that is what ultimately matters most.
AJ Pierzynski, White Sox
This is as close as shortstop (read: not very). AJ is tied with two other catchers, Minnesota's Ryan Doumit (who's as much a DH as he is a catcher) and Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies, for the position's Major League lead with 24 RBI. His .787 OPS ranks third among American League catchers, and he called a perfect game for Phil Humber earlier this season. Geovany Soto has barely more RBI (six) than Pierzynski has home runs (five).
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
What a pathetic start to the season for poor Ryan Dempster! He has an 0-1 record, proving that a pitcher's wins and losses are the most over rated statistics in the game. Dempster ranks ninth among all starters in the majors this year with a 0.97 WHIP to go with 41 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched so far. His Component ERA of 1.66 ranks sixth in baseball, ahead of both the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Angels' Jared Weaver. He has allowed only eight extra-base hits in six starts, and has the fourth-best opponents slugging percentage (.270) in baseball. To be simple, he's been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball so far this year and doesn't have a single win to show for it.
If third base is a mess in this town, the role of closing games is a biblical disaster. Chicago, as a whole, has as many blown saves (14) as they do completed saves. Sad.
Better First-Year Manager
Dale Sveum, Cubs
I'm going with the North Siders' manager here because he's done more with less. The Cubs are 15-22 while the Robin Ventura-led Sox are 17-21 to date, but Sveum been filling out lineups with as many as seven guys most Chicagoans have never heard of on a daily basis. His faith in LaHair has been rewarded, and his willingness to open the game up for the team to steal bases has been rewarded so far. They might finish near the bottom of the National League this year, but he's done a solid job with a bunch of kids.
The weather's supposed to be gorgeous all weekend, and Chicago's crosstown series is always fun for the fans. Even NATO can't screw this weekend up for Chicago baseball!