Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Season Half Empty

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 1, 2010

Seventy-nine games down, eighty-three to go.  The Cubs’ season is just about at the halfway point, and they are now eleven games below .500.  It’s safe to say that not only is the team officially done, but also that it is officially bad.  They were mediocre and underachieving for the longest time.  They were struggling, inconsistent and frustrating to watch.  But half of a season is enough to let even the most optimistic fan know that this team is bad.

Let’s hand out some midterm grades to the 2010 Cubs, broken down by positional group.

Catcher – B

Geovany Soto – B+

Koyie Hill – C-

Geovany Soto has definitely returned to offensive form following his disappointing sophomore campaign in 2009.  While he does strike out 24% of the time, he has raised his walk rate to above 18%, allowing him to boost his overall numbers with an on-base percentage that still is above .400.  Going along with a .270 average (.315 on balls in play), Soto’s 8 HR and 9 doubles have lifted his slugging percentage to .460.  His CS% is down to a very disappointing 20% (11 for 55) after better averages in his first two seasons, which leads to his B average despite an OPS over .850.  Soto only has 19 RBI despite his offensive success, which just goes to show what a poor team offense and willingness to walk in front of the pitcher will do for you.

As far as backup catchers with zombie hands go, Koyie Hill is just about what a team can ask for.  However, he’s still a backup catcher.  He switch-hits, but can’t really hit.  His two-double performance against Pittsburgh a few nights back will account for much of his isolated power (ISO, slg-avg) for the year.  Hill strikes out at the same rate as Soto, but walks less then a quarter of Soto’s rate, has almost no power, and has only caught 4 of 21 prospective base-stealers.  In short, this adds up to a defensive specialist whose defensive ability is found in the semi-tangibles: game-calling, reputation-based run-game effects, etc.  Koyie Hill hasn’t earned his keep in 2010.

The overall catching grade reflects the fact that Soto has been one of the few positives on the Cubs offense in 2010.  Hill, meanwhile, has been no better or worse than a generic backup catcher.  Low caught-stealing rates by both Cubs catchers also reflects the pitching staffs with which they are working.  Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster are especially easy to run on.  Relievers Carlos Marmol and John Grabow – late inning game-enders, whether close game or not – have allowed 13 without a CS between them, and attempting base-stealers are 24 out of 25 against the Cubs’ bullpen as a whole.  Carlos Zambrano’s limited use has minimized his top-flight pickoff move.  Both Silva and Wells are highly effective at shutting down the running game.  Essentially, the Cubs’ defensive run game problem is with the pitchers, not so much the catchers themselves.

I’ll return to this grading over the long weekend, hopefully toughing on a position or group per day as the season drifts into the dog days of early summer.  Somebody buy Lou a drink with a paper parasol.


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