Cubs

Wrapping up a wacky week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Wrapping up a wacky week in Chicago baseball

Welcome to “Who Knew?”, a weekly roundup of fun statistical oddities and fun facts in Chicago Baseball. Every Monday, I'll dig into the previous week’s games (Monday-Sunday) to present a collection of things you may not have noticed and answers to questions you may have never thought to ask.   Let’s get started!

Double Digit Delight

Monday at Oakland, Reynaldo López recorded ten punchouts, the first 10+ K game by a White Sox pitcher this season. Prior to López, the last Sox hurler to reach double-digits was Lucas Giolito back on Sept. 3, 2016 against the Rays.

So, as it stands, the last two White Sox 10+ K games were by pitchers acquired in the same Dec. 7, 2016 trade:

Reynaldo López, Lucas Giolito & Dane Dunning acquired from Nationals for Adam Eaton.

Also interesting about the López & Giolito games – each of the last two 10+ K games by White Sox pitchers have been by righties. Prior to Giolito, each of the Sox’ previous 48 10+ K games had been by southpaws (all by Sale, Danks, Quintana and Rodón). The previous 10+ K game by a White Sox righty had been Jake Peavy April 14, 2013.

(Un)Lucky Seven?

Tuesday at Wrigley Field, Tyler Chatwood posted a rare statline:

4.2 IP, one hit, two runs, seven walks, seven strikeouts.

It was a fairly good job of damage control, all things considered. And it was the first time a Cubs pitcher posted seven-plus walks and seven-plus strikeouts since Kerry Wood did it twice – two months apart – in 2001. 

But Chatwood did it while allowing only one hit. The last time a Cubs pitcher allowed seven-plus walks and seven-plus strikeouts with one or fewer hits allowed? 

Burt Hooton’s no-hitter (with seven walks and seven strikeouts) April 16, 1972.

Go On, Yoán

Wednesday was another wild one at the Oakland Coliseum. The White Sox used 10 pitchers in a game for the first time in their 118-year history, but let’s focus on Yoán Moncada.

It was his second game in a row with a home run and a stolen base, something no White Sox player had accomplished two games in a row since Ray Durham in September 1998.

Furthermore, Moncada’s home run on Wednesday was a grand alam.  At age 22 years, 326 days, he is the youngest Sox player to hit a 4-run 4-bagger since Kevin Bell (20 years, 345 days) on June 22, 1976. But since Bell’s was an inside-the-park home run (and the first homer of his career), you could go even further back and say Moncada is the youngest Sox player to hit a grand slam over the fence since Carlos May (age 21 years, 16 days) on June 2, 1969.

Overall, he’s the fifth youngest player in White Sox history to hit a grand slam.

20 years, 198 days Johnny Callison September 26, 1959 at Detroit
20 years, 345 days        Kevin Bell   June 22, 1976 at Kansas City
21 years, 16 days   Carlos May    June 2, 1969 at Boston
22 years, 115 days      Bibb Falk May 22, 1921 vs Washington
22 years, 326 days Yoán Moncada April 18, 2018 at Oakland
22 years, 331 days    Carlos Lee May 17, 1999 vs Cleveland (off Bartolo Colón!)

Double Duty

Friday, James Shields started the game after relieving in the 14th inning of the previous game.

He was the first White Sox pitcher to start:

  • after relieving the previous game since Matt Albers on July 23, 2016
  • after relieving and finishing the previous game since Gene Nelson April 29, 1986
  • after relieving the previous game with a decision in both since Tom Seaver May 9, 1984

       (Seaver earned a Win in the completion of a 25 inning marathon prior to his win in the May 9 start) 

Thanks to STATS LLC for the Nelson/Seaver notes.

Big start for Báez

166 players have at least 15 hits this season (entering Monday, April 23).

Of those 166, here are the highest percentage of extra-base hits:

Player Hits Extra Base Hits Percent
Javier Báez 21 15 71.4 percent
A.J. Pollock  20  14 70 percent
Eric Thames  15 10 66.7 percent
Gregory Polanco      15 10 66.7 percent
Didi Gregorius  22 14 63.6 percent

The extra-base output for Báez isn’t just confined to home runs. He has seven home runs and three triples through the Cubs’ first 19 games this season.

Through the team’s first 19 games of a season:

He’s the first Cub to have three triples and three home runs since Ernie Banks (three of each) in 1964

He’s the first Cub to have three triples and six home runs since Andy Pafko (three triples, six home runs) in 1951

He’s the ONLY Cub to have three triples and seven home runs since at least 1900!

His 23 RBI is the highest total by a Cub since Billy Williams (26) in 1970

Two of a kind

On Sunday, José Quintana became the first Colombian-born pitcher to reach 1,000 career strikeouts. Next to do it will most likely be the Braves’ Julio Teherán.  But take a minute to compare the two pitchers:

José Quintana 1,004 strikeouts 59 career wins Career 3.60 ERA MLB Debut: May 7, 2012
Julio Teherán 887 strikeouts 59 career wins Career 3.60 ERA MLB Debut: May 7, 2011

Going Forward

The Cubs are 10-9 this season and have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, and 9-9.  Back in 2011, they continued the pattern all the way to 10-10.

That’s as far as they have ever gone, and they have been in the National League since 1876.  We’ll keep our eyes out for that. 

Until next week…

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Cole Hamels' dominant start to his Cubs career continued on Friday in stellar fashion, and with some considerable help from his infield.

The 34-year-old veteran not only pitched seven innings of five-hit ball without allowing a run, but induced five ground ball double plays. The Cubs finished with a staggering seven double plays in a 1-0 win at the Pirates on Friday.

The last time the Cubs turned five double plays was in 1985. 

All five hits Hamels gave up were groundball singles. The 16 groundballs induced is the most for a Cubs pitcher this year.

After Hamels exited after seven innings, the Cubs got double plays in the eighth, on a line drive double play with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, and ninth, on a groundball induced by Jesse Chavez to end the game.

Hamels was initially brought in to provide depth to a struggling rotation and ease the pain of Yu Darvish being unavailable. But Hamels has now started an honest debate over who should be the Cubs' starter in Game 1 of the postseason. He has been otherworldly since joining the Cubs, with an 0.72 ERA, three wins and one no-decision (the Cubs won and he had nine strikeouts). 

The 1-0 win over the Pirates gives the Cubs more breathing room in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, pushing the Cubs lead to 4.5 games in the division.

And the Hamels hot-streak comes at an excellent time for the North Siders, who took in Jon Lester's gem of an outing on Thursday, where he went six innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts in a win against the Pirates. The Cubs starting pitching seems to be turning the corner, and with three straight series against sub-.500 teams following their series in Pittsburgh, this could be the beginning of a great run of outings that carries the Cubs confidently into the postseason.

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.