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Where’s the Cubs Speed?

By bullpenbrian at 09.05.2011 6 comments.

As much as we talk about the Cubs’ lack of clutch hitting, adding speed to the lineup should be another point of emphasis this winter.

Speed is so valuable on both sides of the ball helping to create runs and taking them away. It’s a pressure point that rattles the opposition, forces mistakes and wins games.

While speed never seems to be undervalued, it’s often over-looked and underused, at least offensively. The good news, however, is as baseball further departs the steroid era the more the running game is being resurrected, which is exciting for baseball overall.

The Cubs stole four bases on Sunday leading to a 6-3 win against Pittsburgh. But it’s not very often we see the Cubs swiping bags. Chicago ranks 27th in stolen bags. Not very good.

Tony Campana is already a prolific base stealer having swiped 18 bases in 19 attempts, which is good for a 95% success rate, tops in the majors. Unfortunately, Campana isn’t a very good hitter, which keeps him on the bench most of the time.

That leaves Starlin Castro as the Cubs best everyday base stealer, his 20 swipes leading the club. But after Castro and Campana there’s a steep drop in the Cubs’ stolen base department.

Darwin Barney is third with 8, Marlon Byrd 3 and Soriano is tied with Reed Johnson with 2. All totaled the Cubs have 59 steals this season, that’s less than 0.5 steals per game.

Stealing bases has more to do than just speed, however, it’s a mentality. It’s an aggressive approach that bears a lot of risk–no one is safe all the time–but could also pay big dividends for a team like the Cubs struggling to score runs.

Adding more speed in the offseason is just half of the puzzle. Deciding to run more often is the other, which should certainly be taken into consideration when the Cubs choose it’s next GM and manager.

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6 Comments

  1. chris says:

    What about Reyes…. I believe his contract is up. If were not in full rebuilding mode get Reyes… move him or Castro to 2B. TradeBarney while his stock is high. That move alone completely changes the look and feel of the team…..

    REYES
    CAMPANA
    CASTRO
    RAMIREZ
    PENA (FIELDER???)
    BYRD
    COLVIN
    SOTO

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Interesting, Chris. However, I’m not sold on Campana being an everyday player…Barney, I think, still could be, which is one reason why I wouldn’t deal him…affordability being the other. Meanwhile, Reyes will be on most team’s radar this offseason…and presenting the same conundrum for each club: does his potential talent outweigh his injury history and high salary? It’s a huge gamble even despite the fact he was putting up MVP numbers until suffering his latest leg injury. My gut feeling is the Cubs will shy away from Reyes because of the risk factor. And, the last thing Ricketts needs is a newer, younger Alfonso Soriano. That said, Reyes brings a lot of what the Cubs need to the table–speed, defense and energy. Can’t say I wouldn’t be excited if he suited up for Chicago next season! And if he did, Castro should be the one making the position change.

  2. You gotta be able to steal at 70% or better to make it worth while. Campana can do that, but like you said, he has to get on base first. Castro is at 80% which is great, but I don’t think the Cubs have anyone else that can meet that 70% thresh-hold over the long hall.

    But as a strategy, I’ve never been a big fan of the SB.

    I love to watch it when it happens, and there are times when you just have to attempt a SB. But I don’t agree with the run to just run policy. SB’s are not needed to win. Last seasons World Series winner SF was 30th in SB’s. This season only 3 of the probable 8 playoff teams are in the top 15 of 30 in SB’s.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      @Wrigley Regular: Hey, great research. Love that:) I see your side of the story…you don’t need to run to win.

      However, I think a running strategy scares most managers. When a team runs they temporarily lose control of the scoring situation. It’s high risk, high reward…and that’s something a manager and his team has to live with in a running game. It’s just like living and dying by the 3-pointer in basketball.

      But when you have a team that runs well it adds pressure to the defense that quite often they’re not use to dealing with. I think it also sets an aggressive mentality for the offense that they’re going to force the issue and score runs, leaving the defense to stop them. But if the Cubs can reach the postseason without swiping a single bag, I’m all for that , too! And maybe there’s a little middle ground we can agree on–stealing is good, just not all the time!

  3. Campana, like a lot of rookies, has to learn the pitchers. If he can draw walks (he has shown some discipline in many AB’s this year) and maintain an OBP in the .350-.380 range, he can be a difference maker as a leadoff man. He is the fastest player the Cubs have put on the field ~ maybe ever. Just having him be a prolific base stealer isn’t going to be enough. I see Barney as the best possible #2 hitter going into next season. I think that Castro is going to grow into his body and become a major run producer ~ in the tradition of, say, a Hanley Ramirez. He may have a few years where he could be a 30-30 guy, but then eventually drop off in steals (like players at this level classically do).

    Regardless of what they do in their lineup, it still comes down to pitching and catching the baseball and at this point, the Cubs are ill-equipped to contend. The new GM will inherit quite a challenge.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      @JD: I like your comparison of Castro growing into a Hanley Ramirez. I fully agree we haven’t seen the terrific player Castro is going to become. His offense is already there, the power will soon follow…but defense is definitely key for Castro to be considered a super star player at his position.

      I love the energy Campana brings to the roster. But I have my doubts he’ll develop into an everyday guy. Next spring will be very telling for him. But his speed and left-handedness are two things that will give him a great chance at remaining on the big league roster…maybe long enough for him to learn how to hit?

      If there’s any one benefit for the new GM it’s that the Cubs are lacking in so many areas. This will allow him the choice in deciding which method is best to rebuild the club quickly, outside of starting pitching of course. Personally, I like defense over hitting. Forget the high-priced Prince Fielders of the world and get some guys who can catch and field the baseball.

      Nonetheless, it’s one big mess the new GM will be inheriting. And messes are always bigger to clean up than they appear.

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