Fun with numbers at the Cubs' halfway mark


Fun with numbers at the Cubs' halfway mark

The Cubs are currently at the exact halfway point in the 2012 season. They're on pace for a 62-100 record, which is nine games behind the 2011 team that finished 71-91.

Let's have some more fun with numbers:

2012 (Pace)

Runs scored: 596
Runs allowed: 738
Run differential: -142
AVGOBPSLG: .246.300.384
HR: 134
ERA: 4.37
Quality Starts: 84
WHIP: 1.37
Fielding percentage: .981
Errors: 112

2011 (Final)

Runs scored: 654
Runs allowed: 756
Run differential: -102
AVGOBPSLG: .256.314.401
HR: 148
ERA: 4.33
Quality Starts: 76
WHIP: 1.41
Fielding percentage: .978
Errors: 134

The 2012 Cubs appear to be pretty close pitching-wise, but they've improved a whole lot defensively over last season.

Offensively, Dale Sveum's squad appears to be a notch below Mike Quade's 2011 team. Anybody who's seen more than a couple games this season could attest to that. Losing Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena figured to have an impact there. Maybe a full season of Anthony Rizzo would have changed the 2012 pace a bit.

Offensive numbers (sorted by OPS)

Anthony Rizzo: 1.053
Bryan LaHair: .907
Alfonso Soriano: .808
David DeJesus: .753
Reed Johnson: .744
Starlin Castro: .733
Luis Valbuena: .696
Steve Clevenger: .693
Joe Mather: .683
Jeff Baker: .681
Darwin Barney: .680
Tony Campana: .613
Geovany Soto: .568

Anthony Rizzo will not keep this up. That OPS is out of this world and only Joey Votto (1.097) currently has a higher OPS among qualifiers in the Major Leagues.

Other notable offensive statistics:

--Castro is on pace for 192 hits and a .291 average. My guess is he turns it on in the second half and winds up over .300 with a second-straight 200 hit season.

--Soriano is on pace for 30 home runs and 92 RBI. Not bad numbers at all.

--LaHair, in his first full season in the big leagues, is on pace for 28 homers and 60 RBI. Pretty solid, though the RBI total is down for a guy that could approach 30 homers.

--Campana is on pace for 50 steals. If any of the Cubs veteran outfielders are dealt, Campy may actually reach that total, but as it stands right now, he is not getting enough playing time to net 25 more steals the rest of the way.

Pitching numbers (by ERA):

Manny Corpas: 1.54
Ryan Dempster: 2.11
James Russell: 2.27
Jairo Asencio: 2.84
Shawn Camp: 2.93
Travis Wood: 3.05
Matt Garza: 4.01
Paul Maholm: 4.62
Carlos Marmol: 4.74
Jeff Samardzija: 4.77
Rafael Dolis: 6.75
Casey Coleman: 7.32
Chris Volstad: 7.94

Corpas and Asencio have been good additions to the bullpen, though Asencio's 1.58 WHIP indicates his ERA probably won't stay below 3.00 for long.

--Camp is on pace for 86 innings. Talk about a rubber arm.

--Wood has been a revelation in the starting rotation. Unless he completely tanks, figure to see him in the rotation for the rest of the season. The Cubs need to see what they have in him and if it's anything like what he's shown in the first half, Wood may be a piece for the future.

--Samardzija had a horrible June, which help explain his inflated numbers. He is on pace for more than 188 innings. Given the Cubs are in the midst of a lost season, they probably won't let his innings total climb that high. Though, if he's pitching well enough, he may force their hand.

--Garza's 1.16 WHIP is star-worthy, but his 4.01 ERA leaves a little to be desired. He's on pace for only 160 strikeouts and 179.1 innings, but he has the first start of the second half Thursday night in Atlanta.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade


Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."