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Too Many Errors, Too Many Runs Allowed: Cubs vs. Reds Preview, Saturday 8/28, 6:10 CT

This is not a math problem. What number does not belong in this sequence:

20, 23, 28, 29, 30, 30, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 38, 40, 40, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 48, 49, 50, 55, 58, 60, 61, 61, 63, 73, 82

Actually, two numbers don't, but the one I'm looking at is 82. That is the number of unearned runs the Cubs have allowed this season, a frighteningly large number and 62 more unearned runs than the MLB leader, the Padres. (The "73" belongs to the Nationals, who are second in baseball in errors as well.)

Unearned runs don't simply come as a direct result of errors, although the Cubs lead the major leagues in that category too (103, more than twice the MLB's best, the Padres with 51). They come when an error is made and a pitcher can't shut down the offense after that. Example: say a team records the first two outs in an inning and then an error is charged on what would have been the third out -- then the team batting scores nine runs. All nine runs are unearned.

The Cubs actually had an inning almost that bad earlier this year against the Reds at Wrigley on July 2. In the seventh inning of a close game with the Reds leading 1-0, Ryan Dempster walked the first two hitters, followed by an error to load the bases. After a strikeout, Dempster walked in a run and was replaced by Brian Schlitter, who walked in another run (which was unearned because of the error).

Then Schlitter got Orlando Cabrera to pop up. That should have been the third out and ended the inning with the Cubs trailing only 3-0, but Schlitter and Bob Howry could not get that third actual out until five more hitters had reached base and seven more runs had scored, all unearned. Instead of still being in the game down only 3-0, the Cubs trailed 10-0 and the game was essentially over.

There is a high correlation, at least this year, with few unearned runs and contending. The top seven numbers on that list belong to, in order, the Padres, Twins, Reds, Rays, White Sox, Giants and Yankees -- all contenders. The bottom seven belong to, in order, the Diamondbacks, Indians, Brewers, Mariners, Astros, Nationals and Cubs, all far out of playoff races.

As of this morning the Cubs are underperforming their Pythagorean projection by one game. The MLB average of team unearned runs allowed this year is 43. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Cubs were a MLB-average team in that category this year and thus, had allowed 43 fewer runs.

That would equate to a Pythagorean winning percentage of .458, or a W-L record (after 129 games) of 59-70, five games better than the current actual record.

That still isn't great, but it would be a start. Better defense, better relief pitching = more wins. It's obviously not the only thing that needs to be fixed on this team, but it would be a good beginning. Whoever the next Cubs manager is, if he can instill this in his team, good things will follow.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
vs. Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo
5-12 W-L 14-7
4.56 ERA 3.82
120 SO 91
50 BB 55
17 HR 20
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

2010 - Randy Wells 5-12 26 26 0 0 0 0 154.0 169 83 78 17 50 120 4.56 1.42

2010 - Bronson Arroyo 14-7 27 26 2 0 0 0 174.1 149 76 74 20 55 91 3.82 1.17

Bronson Arroyo has faced the Cubs twice this year, both at Wrigley Field, and not allowed them a single run in 13 innings. In those 13 innings, he has given up seven hits and three walks and struck out ten. Clearly, we are doomed. Maybe the results will be different in a different ballpark, but current Cubs are hitting only .213 (37-for-174) against Arroyo.

Randy Wells had one of his better outings of this year on August 7 at Wrigley Field, but the Cubs lost anyway. How often have we said that this year? Though Randy's overall numbers aren't great, he has posted a 3.76 ERA in 11 starts since June 28. The Cubs have gone 2-9 in those games, perhaps largely because of the ten home runs he's given up. The only current Red who has homered off Randy is Drew Stubbs, who is hitting .311/.326/.733 against the Cubs this year with five HR in 45 AB.

Also, Happy Birthday to Randy Wells, who turns 28 today.

Lineup via tweet from Carrie:

#Cubs lineup for Sat nite vs #Reds 2B DeWitt, SS Castro, CF Byrd, 3B Ramy, 1B Nady, LF Colvin, RF Fuke, C Hill, P Wells

Reds lineup via tweet from the Reds official Twitter account:

8/28 Reds Lineup Bruce RF Valaika 2B Votto 1B Rolen 3B Gomes LF Hanigan C Subbs CF Janish SS Bronson Arroyo P

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Ohio. Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 6 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 7:15 pm, 8:15 pm and 9 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.