Chicago Cubs: 5 Unexpected Facts about the Club Through 29 Games
The first year of the Epstein/Hoyer/Sveum era has been... well, odd. In spring training, guys such as Joe Mather and Steve Clevenger, who were considered to be ticketed for AAA Iowa, forced their way onto the ball club.
During the regular season, Matt Garza threw away a shutout—literally. Darwin Barney was the first Cub of the year to hit a home run.
For those of you who love statistical anomalies and oddities in baseball such as myself, then this is the list for you.
Ryan Dempster Leads MLB in ERA, Has Fewer Wins Than Baltimore's Chris Davis
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Through his first four starts, Ryan Dempster has been good. Really good.
The veteran workhorse has allowed just three earned runs through 28.1 innings, to the tune of a league-leading 0.95 ERA
Sadly, this success hasn't translated very well onto the stat sheet, as Dempster hasn't won a game since August of 2011.
Over in Boston, Baltimore's infielder/DH Chris Davis was called upon to pitch in an extra-inning marathon game. Davis went two scoreless innings, striking out Adrian Gonzalez on three pitches to get the win. The outing was Davis' first pitching appearance as a professional. His two innings have garnered him more wins than Dempster's 28.1.
Bryan LaHair Is Out-Performing Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder
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By now, if you're paying attention to baseball, you know that Albert Pujols has struggled mightily in Anaheim, to the tune of a .196/.236/.291 slash line with one homer and nine RBI. However, in Detroit, Prince Fielder hasn't failed to live up to expectations, hitting .308/.381/.452 with four homers and 14 RBI.
Add up the stats of the two, and in terms of slugging percentage and home runs, Bryan LaHair is still the superior bat. Finally getting a true chance at the major league level, LaHair has seemingly been possessed by the ghost of Ted Williams, producing a .388/.479/.800 slash line with eight homers and 17 RBI.
Most people would have been happy with an OPS of .800 from LaHair. While it's extremely unlikely that he'll continue to rake at this level for now, Bryan LaHair has arguably been the second best hitter in baseball behind Matt Kemp.
Joe Mather Has More Home Runs Than Pujols
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This season, Albert Pujols will make 24.5 times as much money as Joe Mather. Mather, who fought his way onto the roster with a ridiculous spring and quality defense at many positions, has been the more valuable player thus far.
As I detailed in my last slide, King Albert's crown has gone from being one of gold to a paper one found at fast food establishments. With the exception of RBI and walks, Mather has been the more productive player to this point in 2012 than Pujols in every category.
Mather has also appeared at four different positions for the Cubs thus far, while Pujols has manned only first.
One of the Team's Best Relievers Was Demoted to AAA
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2011 Minor League Pitcher Of The Year Scott Maine did all he could possibly do in his stint with the Cubs while Kerry Wood was on the DL. He's the bullpen leader in WHIP, second in ERA and is one of the few pitchers on the team who has yet to give up a home run.
Yet, when Wood's shoulder was feeling better, Maine got optioned back down to AAA. While it's a small sample size, Maine has the look of a very good left-handed reliever out of the pen. This is especially good news for James Russell if he's looking to get some save opportunities.
Backup Catcher Steve Clevenger Is Hitting .500
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Yes, he's on the D.L., but Steve Clevenger's season started off amazingly. After beating out Welington Castillo for the role of backup catcher , Clevenger went 11-for-22 at the plate with five doubles and a pair of RBI.
Once he recovers from what is now known to be a cartilage fracture, Clevenger will try to maintain his hot start to the season. While being the next great offensive catcher is unlikely, if both he and Welington Castillo can hit well by mid-July, it could force the Cubs' hand on Geovany Soto's future with the team.