Year in Review –Infield
With another year in the books, the Chicago Cubs end with another losing season. Though this is most optimistic last place season you may ever find. Here is a look back on the 73-89 season, beginning with the infield.
Catcher – Cubs catchers did well behind the plate, but not with the bat. As a group they hit .221, which was the lowest average among Cub position players. Welington Castillo took a step back as he hit .237 with a .297 OBP and John Baker’s biggest on field contribution came on the mound.
Castillo did make progress with the pitching staff which was constantly changing. He called better games and gained trust from the young staff. John Baker was not expected to do much as a backup, (he had no home runs while hitting .192), but be a mentor and a veteran presence in the clubhouse, which according to his teammates he did well.
Overall, it was a mediocre year at the catcher position, which does not come to a surprise why Kyle Schwarber is strictly working as a catcher this offseason.
First Basemen – Anthony Rizzo had a bounce back year in 2014 where he hit a career high 32 home runs. The numbers that stuck out was his slash, which went from .233/.323/.419 in 2013 to .286/.386/.527.
He also improved his average against left-handed pitching where he hit a solid .300, an upgrade from .189 a season ago. His offseason workouts with Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman, Joey Votto, proved to work wonders as he became a more patient hitter. Rizzo is becoming the player that Cub fans and management vision he would be.
Second Basemen – Out with the old and in with the new. That was the case for the Cubs as Darwin Barney was traded to the Dodgers to make room for Javier Baez. It didn’t come to a surprise for Cub fans as Barney could not handle the bat as well as his glove. Since batting .276 in 2011, Barney’s averages were .254, .208, and .230 before the trade.
Baez showed his display of power hitting nine home runs, but also struck out 96 times in 213 at bats. Cubs’ management expected these struggles from Baez, but it is hard not to be concerned with his approach. Baez will need to redefine his swing and figure out a better approach or he will be a bust.
Shortstop – Starlin Castro, like Rizzo, had a much needed rebound year. Being selected to his third All Star in four seasons was a good sign for both he and the Cubs. He hit .286 with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) and a .328 average with runners on. For the first time in his young career, Castro finished a season with fewer than 20 errors.
His defense has improved since coming to league which is critical with Baez on the team and Addison Russell not far behind. He is in a similar position as Castillo, where is he does not perform, he could be traded, and while General Manager, Jed Hoyer, said that Castro is the future, fans know that someone is going to move if Russell and Kris Bryant are on the roster.
Third basemen– Come this time next year, it will not be a platoon position, but it is for now. Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt took most of the reps at third in 2013 and hit a combined 25 home runs and 74 RBIs.
That is about as good as it gets, because as a group, Cubs third basemen hit .227. Olt had a chance to win the job, but only batted .160 and struck out 100 times in 225 at bats.
ESPN Chicago Jesse Rogers wrote here that Olt will be taking reps in the outfield, which gives indication that the Cubs have not given up on him. For about the third year in a row, Valbuena has been the primary guy at third.
He set career highs in pretty much every offensive category and though he is not the future, the Cubs love his approach at the plate and his ability to play multiple infield positions.
Next we will cover the Cubs outfield.