Blackhawks

Examining the Cubs' offense after 10 games

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Examining the Cubs' offense after 10 games

The Cubs are 10 games into 2012 already and though they boast a 3-7 record, there are some positive signs. Unfortunately, not many of those are on offense.

We've already taken a look at the success of the starting rotation so far and there's not much point in looking at the numbers of relievers, since it's such a small sample size. But the offense has been a point of discussion over the first part of the season and hasn't seen the same success so far.

Below are statistics for the Cubs offense after 10 games. In parentheses are MLB ranks.

--40 runs (18)
--5 HR (27)
--.236 AVG (22)
--.301 OBP (22)
--.342 SLG (25)
--.643 OPS (24)
--8 SB (6)
--83 K (28)

As you can see, this team does not have much power and strikes out far too often. The .236 average is abysmal and is greatly affected by five players hitting below .200.

Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto, Blake DeWitt, Joe Mather and Marlon Byrd are a combined 10-for-93, good for a .108 batting average. Of course, Mather and DeWitt have just 10 at-bats each and Baker has 13, so it is far too early to get on their case about anything. Byrd's struggles are well-documented, but Soto's have not been discussed much.

The Cubs catcher is just 4-for-29 at the plate, but does have a double, triple and homer. He has hit a couple of balls hard, just right at people.

Steve Clevenger has been a pleasant surprise, going 6-for-10 to start the year after beating out Welington Castillo for the backup catcher spot. Clevenger is also 2-0 in starts this season, while Soto is just 1-7.

Starlin Castro is one of the few bright spots on the offense, hitting .359 with three doubles and a league-leading six steals in six tries. He has been awfully aggressive on the basepaths so far and may very well steal 30-40 bags this year.

Newcomer David DeJesus boasts a stellar 6:7 walk-to-strikeout ratio and leads the team with eight runs. He has a .300.432.367 line and has been great at the top of the order.

Sluggers Bryan LaHair and Alfonso Soriano are also off to hot starts. LaHair has a 1.119 OPS and is the only Cub with more than one homer. Soriano doesn't have an extra-base hit yet, but his .313 AVG and .343 OBP are welcome signs, as is his 7 RBI out of the cleanup spot.

This Cubs team won't out-slug anybody and will rely on timely hitting to pick up victories. If they can average 4.0 runs per game the rest of the way, that will be a win.

Though, I'm sure new manager Dale Sveum and front office executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would also like to see hitters increase their plate discipline and cut down on their strikeouts as the season wears on.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks blank Blues to end losing skid, give Jeremy Colliton first win

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks blank Blues to end losing skid, give Jeremy Colliton first win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Jeremy Colliton's first NHL win

For the first time since Oct. 25, the Blackhawks are back in the win column. A weight has been lifted off their shoulders after going winless in their previous eight games (0-6-2).

But it was an extra special night for the Blackhawks, who helped Colliton earn his first victory as an NHL head coach and celebrated by giving him the game puck.

"I’m just here to help them," Colliton said. "So it's kind of awkward, actually. But I do appreciate the gesture and for me, it’s just, hopefully we can get some momentum going and build on it."

2. Corey Crawford puts up a goose egg

Going into the game, Crawford had a 3.07 goals against average and .901 save percentage, which are below average numbers. But he certainly hasn't played that way. He was often the Blackhawks' best player during their losing streak and has deserved better fate than he's gotten.

By stopping all 28 shots he faced, Crawford earned his first shutout since Nov. 4, 2017 when he made 24 saves in a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild.

"It's nice," Crawford said. "That's the goal, not let any in. But I thought everyone contributed to that. ... We've been waiting a while, kind of forgot what it was like to win there for a bit."

3. Power play breaks through

Finally. After an 0-for-10 drought, the Blackhawks scored a power play goal on their first try of the night and didn't need much time to do it.

Just 35 seconds into a Vladimir Tarasenko hooking penalty, Brent Seabrook cashed in after his shot trickled past Jake Allen and went in off a Blues defenseman's skate to make it 1-0 at 4:05 of the second period. It was the only goal of the game, proving to be the game-winner. 

The Blackhawks finished 1-for-2 in that department against a Blues team that came into the game with a 27.6 percent success rate, which ranked fifth in the NHL.

"It's a good feeling," Seabrook said. "It was nice to hear some music when they came in here after the game tonight. The boys are all fired up. The way we played going into the second period, being able to score a goal, hold onto the lead I think the way everybody played. Everybody stuck with it. Everybody stuck with the game plan. Everybody worked hard. It was a real team effort. ... It took all 20 guys out there tonight to get the job done."

4. Playing the right way leads to results

For six periods in a row, the Blackhawks have been either the better team or it was evenly matched. Giving up two power-play goals in 66 seconds to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday was basically the difference in that game and special teams played a major role in this one as well. 

Colliton felt like the Blackhawks were, overall, trending in the right direction despite not getting the end results over the previous three games. He got both against the Blues, which was fitting considering the losing streak started vs. St. Louis.

"That was the part of the package that was missing," Colliton said. "Happy for the guys to get rewarded. It’s not a lot of fun to see the results add up. Very happy for the group, they battled really hard, especially in the third when the game was on the line. We found a way to get some pucks out and win some 50-50s and got a couple saves and hopefully that relieves a little bit of the tension in the team and they can play a little more free. Because we’ve been talking about it, but it’s easier said than done."

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

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USA TODAY

Mitchell Trubisky establishing durability standard; Bears not quite taking shots back at John Fox

Probably bad luck to mention this:

Mitchell Trubisky’s start last Sunday against the Detroit Lions was his 21st in a row, passing Jay Cutler (20) on the list of most consecutive starts by a Bears quarterback in the past 40 years. Among quarterbacks since George Halas retired, Trubisky can pass Vince Evans’ 26 (1980-81) and match Jim Harbaugh’s 28 (1991-92) if he starts the remaining 2018 games, but will need next season to catch Bob Avellini’s 42 (1975-78).

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If there was an underlying frustration in the wake of John Fox being ousted as Bears coach, it might best be described as a shadow of disappointment at what might have been. Or should have been.

“This may sound weird,” said left tackle Charles Leno, “but with the guys we had last year, moving on to this year, you knew the culture was changing. We just had to click. We have got a great group of guys in here, I'm talking all across the defense, all across the special teams. Great group of guys. We just needed an extra push.

“Matt [Nagy] brought this.”

Leno is qualified to render an opinion. He has been through three head coaches in five NFL seasons, drafted under Marc Trestman, becoming a starter under Fox, and then came this year under Matt Nagy. Meaning: Leno was inside Halas Hall when the organizational culture plummeted under an offensive coach, started to improve under a defensive coach, then stalled and now has undergone a culture re-launch.

Whether the culture has changed with winning, or the winning is a reflection of the change in culture is largely academic to a team that is 6-3 after a second three-game win streak in its season. But the winning has produced – and resulted from – a buy-in that was absent on the offense under Dowell Loggains the past two seasons.

“We got the right head guy in here,” Trubisky said. “Coach Nagy is definitely leading the charge and we just have the right guys in our locker room to change the culture around.

“Just the belief and the trust in each other and coming to work every day, putting the work in and then just going and executing it on Sunday to be able to produce wins. It's a great vibe around the building now. The culture has definitely changed and there's a better vibe around the city in how people view the Bears and how they see us.

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So-what award?

How much Trubisky knows about Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson, or the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, is difficult to pick up in a press conference. But the young quarterback subscribes to some of their thinking.

Thompson placed zero stock in awards that were voted on, vs. something that was won. Kipling’s poem “If” offered a guide to some level-headed thinking, famously noting that:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
         Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
         But make allowance for their doubting too… .

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
         And treat those two impostors just the same…

…you’ll be a Man (or NFL quarterback), my son.”

Trubisky on Wednesday was awarded the honor of NFC offensive player of the week, the week after he was roundly ripped by certain national NFL writers. He wasn’t particularly phased by the negative and he wasn’t especially interested in the positive, either.

“I don’t know, really,” Trubisky said. “You get recognized, it’s cool, but people talked so bad about me last week, so why should this week be any different?

“So I got recognized for playing well."