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By the numbers: Analyzing Cubs through first part of 2015

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By the numbers: Analyzing Cubs through first part of 2015

With the Cubs' 6-1 victory over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, it marked the 32nd game of the season, which means roughly 20 percent of the 2015 campaign is completed.

One-fifth of the way through the season, the Cubs are on pace for 85 wins. Last season, the fewest number of wins by a team that made the playoffs was 88 (Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A's). In 2013, the fewest number of wins by a playoff team was 90 (Cincinnati Reds).

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The Cubs' -3 run differential ranks eighth in the National League and 18th in Major League Baseball.

At .531, the Cubs have the ninth-highest winning percentage in all of baseball.

National League Ranks:

2nd - BBs taken (114)
2nd - SB (30)
5th - HRs (31)
5th - OBP (.325)
6th - Total Bases (435)
6th - SLG (.397)
6th - OPS (.722)
8th - Runs (137)
10th - AVG (.249)

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2nd - K/9 (8.46)
5th - Strikeouts (270)
7th - Batting AVG Against (.249)
7th - HR allowed (28)
8th - ERA (4.10)
9th - Quality Starts (16)
13th - Blown Saves (6)

Pace (hitters)

Kris Bryant - .276/.417/.460 (.876 OPS), 76 R, 25 2B, 15 HR, 96 RBI, 101 BB, 172 K

Because he was in the minors for the first two weeks of the MLB season, Bryant is also only on pace for 122 games and 440 at-bats, making those pace numbers above all the more impressive. He's walking at a ridiculous rate right now, which is helping to make up for all the strikeouts and helped ease the surprising loss of power his first three weeks in The Show. But he has three homers in the last four games and it's not crazy at all to think he could finish with 25-30 dingers.

Starlin Castro - .280/.301/.371 (.673 OPS), 66 R, 15 2B, 15 HR, 101 RBI, 20 BB, 137 K, 10 SB

Much like other names on this list, Castro is striking out too much and he's also not drawing many walks. The 20 free passes would represent a career low (he walked 29 times in 125 games his rookie season in 2010). Castro also hasn't hit for a ton of power yet, but those 101 RBI looks nice hitting in the middle of that lineup. The projections have him at 187 hits on the season, which means he'd notch his 1,000 career basehit somewhere around early September if he stays healthy.

Alfonso Soriano was the last Cub to reach 100 RBI (2012).

Dexter Fowler - .262/.348/.402 (.749 OPS), 101 R, 35 2B, 10 3B, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 71 BB, 147 K, 41 SB

Fowler is on pace to play in 157 games and notch more than 600 at-bats, which may be a little unrealistic. The veteran outfielder has never earned even 500 at-bats in a season and he hasn't recorded 20+ steals in a season since his rookie year of 2009.

The Cubs haven't had a player score 100 runs in a season since Mark DeRosa accomplished the feat with 103 runs in 2008.

Anthony Rizzo - .330/.455/.600 (1.055 OPS), 122 R, 41 2B, 35 HR, 96 RBI, 96 BB, 86 K, 35 SB

There's almost no way Rizzo winds up with 30 steals, but the crazy pace he's on was unpredictable from the start, so who knows? That BB:K ratio is elite stuff and the numbers across the board look like an MVP candidate.

Addison Russell - .250/.280/.431 (.711 OPS), 46 R, 35 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 15 BB, 157 K

Keep in mind that Russell is only just now starting his fourth week of MLB action and that 35-double pace is only in 365 at-bats (96 games).

Jorge Soler - .280/.338/.424 (.762 OPS), 76 R, 35 2B, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 56 BB, 238 K

The first thing that stands out, obviously, is the strikeouts and lack of power. Soler hit 28 homers in 163 games in the minor leagues and had five in 24 games last year. His strikeout total is especially alarming, as he leads the NL in that category and 238 whiffs makes Mark Reynolds look like an extreme contact hitter.

Pace (pitchers)

—Jon Lester is on track for 15 wins and 203 strikeouts. He recorded 220 whiffs last season, his first year over 200 since 2010.

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—Jake Arrieta is on pace for 20 wins as well as 243 strikeouts in 228 innings.

—Jason Hammel (who starts Wednesday night) on pace for 15 wins and 177 strikeouts, which would both be career highs.

—Hector Rondon is on track for 35 saves. Kevin Gregg (33) was the last Cubs reliever to notch 30 saves in a season in 2013. Thirty-five saves would be the highest for a Cubs closer since Carlos Marmol saved 38 games in 2010.

Catchers

The Cubs went against the grain by keeping three catchers on the big-league roster to open the season, but that experiement has worked out for them.

Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo have combined to post an .877 OPS, tops in the NL and third in all of baseball. The trio have combined for nine doubles five homers, 19 RBI, a .282 AVG, .377 OBP and and even .500 slugging.

Odds and ends

—Travis Wood has a 9.4 K/9 ratio through six starts, which is way above his career 7.0 mark coming into 2015. In fact, even in the minor leagues, Wood only managed an 8.4 K/9 ratio.

—Wood has also been a nonfactor at the plate in the early going. He hit six homers and three doubles the last two seasons with 18 RBI, but has only two singles in 20 at-bats in 2015, good for a .200 OPS. His OPS in 2013 and '14 was .639 and .700, respectively.

—With 27 errors in their first 32 games, only two teams - Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A's - have made more miscues than the Cubs. Joe Maddon's squad is on pace for 135 errors; they made 103 errors as a team in 2014.

—The Cubs have struck out the most of any team in the NL with 321 whiffs, almost 40 more than the next closest team (Milwaukee).

—Rizzo, Mike Trout & Justin Upton are only three players in Majors with at least 7 HR and 7 Stolen Bases this season.

—All of last season, the Cubs had four first-inning homers at Wrigley Field (they didn't hit their first until Aug. 19th). They have already matched that total in 2015, including two on Monday.

—In 202 PA vs lefties 2014-15, Anthony Rizzo is hitting .323/.443/.524 with 8 HR. He is 11-24 (.458/.581/.625) in 31 PA in 2015 alone.

—Lester's first four starts: 0-2, 6.23 ERA, 21.2 IP, 29 H

Last three starts: 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 20.0 IP, 15 H

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—Lester now 0-for-52 career at the plate

—Arrieta is now 18-10 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.030 WHIP and 252 strikeouts in 253.1 innings in 41 starts with the Cubs.

He was 20-25 with 5.46 ERA, 1.472 WHIP and 277 strikeouts in 358 innings spanning 69 games (63 starts) with the Baltimore Orioles to begin his career.

(H/T to CSN Stat Guru Chris Kamka for help with stats/info)

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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USA TODAY

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

The Brewers are looking overseas to address a rotation that has been one of their biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.

According to multiple reports, Milwaukee is signing 32-year-old Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal. It’s worth $9.125 million but can max out at more than $18 million, should Lindblom hit certain bonuses, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The Cubs also had discussions with Lindblom, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, before he reached a deal with the Brewers.

Lindblom has pitched in parts of five big league seasons since 2011, most recently with the Pirates in 2017. The right-hander holds a career 4.10 ERA in 114 games (six starts) but he remade himself during a successful stint pitching in South Korea in recent seasons.

From 2018-19 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom went 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 346 batters in 363 1/3 innings. He was named MVP of the KBO in 2019. Some of Lindblom's success can be attributed to the splitter he featured in his repertoire.

Lindblom’s name doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s a low-cost addition for the Brewers and is returning stateside an improved pitcher. Milwaukee finished 14th in starting pitcher ERA in 2019, but that figure was a not-so-great 4.40. They traded mainstay Zach Davies — who had been a rotation mainstay since 2016 — to the Padres two weeks ago.

Lindblom joins a rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer (acquired in the Davies trade). The Brewers also have 25-year-old Corbin Burnes and 23-year-old Freddy Peralta as starting options. The duo struggled in 2019 (Burnes: 8.82 ERA, 32 games/four starts; Peralta: 5.29 ERA, 39 games/eight starts), so the guess here is the Brewers aren’t done shopping for pitching.

Cubs meet with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a potential solution to multiple needs

Cubs meet with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a potential solution to multiple needs

The Cubs have met with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, according to WSCR’s Bruce Levine.

Akiyama would help the Cubs address multiple needs: center field and the leadoff spot. The 31-year-old holds a career .376 on-base percentage in Japan’s highest level of baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball.

Eleven Cubs led off at least once last season, posting a .212 average and .294 OBP (both last in MLB). In 143 games with the Saitama Seibu Lions, Akiyama hit .303 with a .392 OBP and 20 home runs.

Five Cubs played center field in 2019, posting a combined .232/.305/.388 (.693 OPS) slash line. Those figures were second-worst among all Cubs positional groups, behind second base. League-wide, Cubs center fielders ranked 20th in both average and OPS.

Money aside, adding Akiyama would all but rule out Nicholas Castellanos returning to the Cubs next season. The former would slot into center field, moving Jason Heyward back over to right. Heyward became the team’s full-time center fielder after the Cubs acquired Castellanos at the trade deadline.

The Cubs prefer to play Heyward in right, where he’s won five Gold Glove Awards in his career. From left to right, a Kyle Schwarber-Heyward-Castellanos outfield is formidable offensively, but together they make up a below-average defensive trio.

Akiyama would likely not cost much on the open market, but as Levine notes, there are other suitors for him beside the Cubs.

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