miCubs Monday (Tuesday Again)

By Jordan Bernfield       Follow @miCubs and @JordanBernfield on Twitter.

  1. NEWS AND NOTES: In a season with positive moments coming few and far between, the Cubs have played an excellent last week of baseball.  Heading into the final six games before the all-star break, the Cubs have won six of their last seven contests, winning consecutive series against the Mets and Astros before taking the first game against the Braves last night.
  2. WEEK IN REVIEW: The week began with a bang, with Anthony Rizzo earning his highly anticipated call up to the major league Cubs.  Despite the astronomical expectations for him and thoughts he's the franchise savior, he's hit .304 with a pair of home runs and five RBI, three of which were game winners.  And while it's admittedly a small sample size, Rizzo's addition seems to have given the Cubs an extra pep in their step. The team is 5-1 with him on the roster.  While fans hope Rizzo may one day be an all-star, the Cubs have two representatives in this year's mid-summer classic.  Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair will both be in Kansas City as reserves.  Castro comes as no surprise to many, as he ranks among the league leaders at his position in most offensive categories.  His .292 average is second only to Arizona's Willie Bloomquist (.295), his 94 hits rank first, and his 16 stolen bases rank 3rd.  As for LaHair, his numbers have significantly declined since a wonderful month of April.  But his overall line, .284/.362 with 13 home runs and 28 RBI compares reasonably well to most of his peers at 1st base, where he played most of the 1st half.  It's a nice story for the 29-year-old, who fought for many years to get an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, and now he'll represent the National League in the All-Star game.
  3. THIS WEEK:  The Cubs play three more games in Atlanta before finishing the first half of the season in New York at Citi Field for a weekend set with the Mets.
  4. STAT OF THE DAY: In Cubs wins this season, they've averaged 5.4 runs per game.  In their losses, they've scored an average of 2.6 runs per contest.
  5. SABR STAT: Through Sunday's action, Anthony Rizzo had produced a 5% walk rate, 15% strikeout rate, a .267 BABIP, and a .826 OPS. Admittedly, this is too small a sample size to conclude much.
  6. THE QUOTE:  On last night's latest "Starlin Castro appears not to be a focused shortstop play", Anthony Rizzo said the gaffe's on him.  "I took full blame," Rizzo told the Chicago Tribune.  "It's my fault, in my opinion.  I told him before to give me a little time.  That's just me, not knowing Uggla's speed.  I thought I had time."
  7. MINOR LEAGUE STAT: After a slow start, Matt Szczur is swinging a hot bat for Advanced-A Daytona.  Over the last week, he went 11-for-24 with 10 runs, four doubles, a home run and 10 RBI.  He also racked up five stolen bases while drawing six walks.
  8. PITCHING PROBABLES:  Today the Cubs 4-game winning streak is in serious jeopardy with Chris Volstad (0-6 7.46) on the bump, opposite Jair Jurrjens (1-2, 6.07).  Jurrjens has been bad after a great 2011.  Volstad has also been quite bad, and will be continually reminded of his personal winless streak (19 games) until he gets off the proverbial schnide.  While in Triple-A this season, he's pitched better, posting a 2-3 record with a 4.44 ERA in 8 starts. But that's still nothing to write home about.  It'll be interesting to see how he throws tonight.
  9. QUICK TAKE:  From my standpoint, the Cubs have been far more interesting to watch since the call-up of Anthony Rizzo.  His plate appearances are a glimpse into the future and I find myself very interested in what he does each time he steps in the batters box.  As for the latest Castro controversy last night, while Rizzo took the blame for the play, Castro was STILL flat-footed after fielding the ball.  If he wants to be the elite shortstop fans hope he becomes, he must improve his defense.  That play was disappointing, regardless of Rizzo's explanation or lack of ability to cover first base in a more timely manner.