Archive - Jul 30, 2015
Jon Lester has already given up 30 stolen bases this year, eight more than his career high of 22 set in 2010. His inability to throw to first has been much maligned in the media and by fans. But how much does it matter? It turns out, not really that much. Sure, it would be better if Lester held runners closer and gave up fewer stolen bases, no one is arguing otherwise, but the facts demonstrate that the failure to contain the running game has had a negligible effect on Lester and the Cubs’ overall performance. Moreover, it appears that opposing teams are becoming too aggressive and running into outs—Lester already has more runners caught stealing (6) so far this year than all of last year (5).
The game-by-game breakdown below shows that only 5 runners the entire season who stole bases off Lester eventually scored. Most notably, Billy Hamilton has scored 3 times after stealing off Lester. But Hamilton, who leads the majors by a wide margin with 47 stolen bases already, tends to do that to everyone—and on one he stole 3B and would have scored from 2B on the following hit anyway. Charlie Blackmon, who is 4th in the majors with 27 steals, also scored following a stolen base in the game yesterday. Finally, Jason Heyward (15 stolen bases on the year) stole 2B to get himself into scoring position and later scored on July 6, though he should not have been on base anyway since he reached on an error. In other words, in 132.2 IP, Lester has given up just 4 earned runs that can be partially attributed to stolen bases—three to Hamilton and one to Blackmon, players who had a good chance of stealing those bases even if Lester were good at holding runners (and that counts the Hamilton steal of 3B where he would have scored from 2B anyway). Finally, of the 6 runners caught stealing, at least 4 likely cost the opposing teams runs, including Jimmy Rollins caught inexplicably trying to steal 3B with runners on 1st and 2nd to the end the 2nd inning on June 25th.
Overall, the effect of the running game on runs given up by Lester appears very normal. Jake Arrieta, for example, has given up 14 stolen bases on the year, including 3 in one game twice. And while I am not going to do a full breakdown of all of his games, runners who stole bases in both of those 3-stolen base games scored. Full game-by-game breakdown for Lester after the break.
Evan Marzilli (on AAA Reno 7-day DL) singled twice, walked, stole a base and scored a run, and four pitchers combined to hurl a five-hitter, as the AZL Diamondbacks defeated the AZL Cubs 5-1 in Arizona League action Wednesday night at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.
LHSP Eric Jokisch (on Iowa 7-day DL with a strained oblique) made his first game appearance in almost two months, getting the start and throwing 2.1 IP (38 pitches - 24 strikes - 4/1 GO/FO, with one GIDP). He allowed three runs (all three runs were unearned) on three hits, a walk, and two WP, but he was the victim of bad infield defense (three errors) and a fly ball that was misplayed into a double.
RHP Dylan Cease had his worst outing of the year, getting just two outs in the 5th before being relieved. (He was scheduled to work three innings). He allowed two runs (both earned) on two hits and two walks and a WP, and could not throw strikes (28 pitches - only 11 strikes). His fastball velocity was OK (94-97 MPH), but he was unable to command his pitches (fastball or curve). Cease might need an extra bullpen side-session or two before he gets into another game.
LF Angelo Amendolare (Cubs 2015 27th round draft pick - Jacksonville U.) had a night to forget, misplaying a routine fly ball into a double in the 3rd inning, grounding into an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP in the 7th, and getting thrown out attempting to steal 2nd base with two outs in the bottom of the 9th with his team down 5-1. (For some unknown reason, Varonex Cuevas decided to steal third-base--and he just barely made it there safely--earlier in the inning). In Amendolare's defense (at least as far as the misplayed fly ball is concerned), he was a second-baseman in college, and may not have ever played LF before this past week.
AZL Cubs third-baseman Carlos Jimenez committed two more errors in the game (this time they were both throwing errors), for a total of four errors in two nights (his two errors Tuesday night were both fielding errors).