As a prelude to this series, I figured I should give you a little backstory about me.
First, I have always been intrigued with numbers. I can still remember being a kid riding in the back seat of my dad's Oldsmobile on the Northwest Side, reading the numbers on the light posts as we drove by. I'm not sure why they were so mesmerizing to me, but something about those numbers just made a lasting impression on me, and they still do to this day. Second, I'm a huge fan of Baseball Reference. I use it all the time as a source for my writing, and just about all of the time that I am on BCB I will have BB-Ref open in a separate tab, rifling back and forth between the two as part of some discussion.
As part of my love for all things numbers, statistics, and baseball, I have always been interested in the Cubs' performance across the diamond at every position. We know that, in general, the corner positions are normally the power spots, while the middle infield and center field are generally more designed for speed and on-base ability. This is why I feel that someone like Luis Valbuena is well-suited to second base, but not third base. The purpose of this series is to look at the Cubs' performance at a position-by-position basis, namely to see in more detail where the strengths and weaknesses are. We know that Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have been performing great, and this series will help to see just how well they may (or many not) be doing compared to the rest of the National League at their position.
Oh, and as a postlude, for as much as I love numbers, I have an awful time with naming things. So this series is getting the incredibly bland name of "Positional Performance". That side of my brain doesn't like me as much.
With all of that out of the way, here's a look at the Cubs' performance across the infield. The figures presented below are the standard four-way slash line (AVG / OBP / SLG / OPS), as well as rank in the National League and NL Central. Statistics are as of games played on Saturday, May 3.
Cubs: .250 / .304 / .423 / .727
NL Rank: 9 / 11 / 10 / 10
Division Rank: 4 / 4 / 4 / 4
NL Average: .270 / .336 / .434 / .770
NL Best: Marlins, .316 / .429 / .592 / 1.020
NL Worst: Dodgers, .188 / .270 / .250 / .520
The Cubs' catcher ranks would be significantly higher if not for John Baker who, through 22 plate appearances (almost 20 percent of the Cubs' total at catcher), is putting up a slash line of .100 / .182 / .100 / .282. The only team worse in the division is the Pirates, where Russell Martin, Tony Sanchez, and Chris Stewart are combining for a .616 OPS.
Cubs: .296 / .421 / .520 / .942
NL Rank: 7 / 2 / 5 / 4
Division Rank: 2 / 2 / 1 / 1
NL Average: .275 / .347 / .476 / .824
NL Best: Dodgers, .311 / .387 / .622 / 1.009
NL Worst: Padres, .158 / .192 / .211 / .402
Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub to log plate appearances as a first baseman this year. The Cardinals lead the division in average; the Reds lead in on-base percentage. The Padres' OPS, believe it or not, is 324 points lower than the second-worst team in the NL (Mets, .726). To say that Yonder Alonso is struggling would be a massive understatement.
Cubs: .232 / .345 / .303 / .648
NL Rank: 10 / 4 / 12 / 9
Division Rank: 4 / 2 / 4 / 2
NL Average: .249 / .311 / .361 / .672
NL Best: Phillies, .330 / .392 / .518 / .910
NL Worst: Cardinals, .178 / .234 / .212 / .446
The hitting is obviously not great and the power even worse, but Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, and Darwin Barney have walked 17 times at second base, most in the NL. The Cardinals' struggles are evident here, and one has to wonder how much longer they'll wait to bring Kolten Wong back given that his replacements have been brutal.
Cubs: .186 / .276 / .343 / .619
NL Rank: 12 / 12 / 9 / 11
Division Rank: 5 / 5 / 4 / 5
NL Average: .249 / .312 / .384 / .696
NL Best: Nationals, .310 / .341 / .532 / .872
NL Worst: Padres, .174 / .231 / .266 / .497
What's even scarier than the Cubs' abysmal performance out of the hot corner is that there are three teams in the NL that are hitting worse there (Phillies, .176; Padres, .174; Giants, .168). The four home runs from Mike Olt help the slugging numbers, but his .164 average at third drags everything else down.
Cubs: .316 / .345 / .474 / .818
NL Rank: 2 / 3 / 2 / 2
Division Rank: 1 / 1 / 1 / 1
NL Average: .253 / .313 / .384 / .697
NL Best: Rockies, .384 / .478 / .679 / 1.157
NL Worst: Pirates, .157 / .216 / .176 / .393
Similar to Rizzo at first base, Starlin Castro has started every game at shortstop and has 98 percent of the plate appearances there; Bonifacio has the other two percent. The race for the top spot isn't even close as Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki is putting up numbers that are out of the galaxy (.404 / .504 / .737 / 1.241), incuding seven homers and 21 walks. But second place is still a great place to be.
Coming up next time: The outfield and the pitching staff. Despite the railing that the outfield has been given (especially by me), the numbers there don't actually look bad. Well, at least in two of the three positions.
Thanks again for reading!