Baseball may be the most beautifully complex sport on the planet other than curling… that shit is whacky as all hell. But I digress.
Winning a baseball game doesn’t require a magic potion or intense superstition. It comes down to 9 players coordinating their efforts and skills on the playing field and working towards the one principle goal of scoring runs. How they go about that is another story, but the Cubs have been effective in this department as of late.
It really is that simple when you boil it down. The funny thing is, it’s the subtle things they’re doing differently that are having the biggest effect.
The Cubs have been enjoying solid starting pitching while winning 4 of their last 5 games, except for one lousy start from Carlos Villanueva, but that’s bound to happen sometimes. Statistically, they’re still one of the better starting rotations in baseball with a 3.76 team ERA and only 35 total HR scored against them. Not a sparkling clean record but certainly good enough to win ballgames.
Solid pitching is nice but runs win games, and the Cubs have been going to work with the bats.
Support from the middle of the order has been outstanding. For example, Darwin Barney has put up a .333 AVG/1.058 OPS in the last 7 games which includes 5 runs and 2 RBI. Same story for Luis Valbuena, who’s .286 AVG/.714 OPS aren’t quite as impressive as Barney’s numbers, but has found success hitting in clutch situations for the team.
David DeJesus has been tearing it up as of late as well, boasting a meaty .389/.486/.611 triple slash line. For a player who is not known for any sort of power hitting, that SLG line looks delicious. The value of having your leadoff man sporting a hot bat can’t be emphasized enough as it allows you to strike early and (hopefully) often.
Even the pitchers are doing their part, with Jeff Samardzija hitting a HR in yesterdays game and both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood posting up an RBI or two. Shark even executed a SAC bunt! Not too shabby. I’d attribute this to luck more than anything, but hey, a rotation that can hit every once in a while is welcome in any NL lineup.
This goes without any mention of Kevin Gregg, who has blown pretty much everyone’s socks off in the closer role. He looks confident and is executing extremely well.
Hitting with RISP has also come to fruition for the team, who’s woes with men in scoring position earlier this season were dire. This is largely flukey and shouldn’t be given a ton of weight, as any team’s OPS with or without RISP during a season usually works itself out evenly. Chance and luck have a lot to do with it and the Cubs seem to be on the right side of the inch for now. Good contact and a little bit of power at the plate certainly don’t hurt your odds though…
The small fundamentals are what’s helping this team get back to winning, and it’s nice to see the Cubs doing the little things correctly. Smart pitch selection, quality baserunning (aka no TOOTBLANs), good defense and a little more emphasis on hitting for OBP have got the Cubs back on the right track.
At least for now.