Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Cubs: Shark watch, winning for losing, and Darwinian theory

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A few thoughts and leftovers from late Friday results:

1. Dale Sveum says it's time ``monitor'' Jeff Samardzija as the guy the Cubs plan to build a rotation around seems to have hit a mid-season wall during his first full season as a big-league starter.

Samardzija sailed through three innings Friday night against the Diamondbacks before laboring to get three batters into the sixth (walk, walk and triple to those three). He hasn't gone more than 5 1/3 innings in any of four June starts after going six or more in six of seven (seven or more in four starts during that run).

Samardzija (5-6) said after Friday's loss that his arm/body feels better than it did earlier in the season, and Sveum admittedly isn't seeing any velocity drop.

But something's going on with Samardzija (83 innings so far) as he nears last season's 88-inning total as a reliever.

``I've been noticing about the 80 pitch mark the ball gets up,'' Sveum said. ``Even though there's no [loss of] velocity, the ball's getting up. That's when the walks start coming in.

``So we're going to have to monitor that, because it's definitely getting to be a pattern.''

2. ESPN stats people point out Cubs' awful 70-game start this season surpassed in failure by only two previous Cub teams: 1901 and 1966, both of whom began 22-48 - with the '66 team going on to match the franchise record for losses (103).

The good news: If the Cubs are going to be this bad, they might as well go all the way. And when they lost to Arizona Friday, while San Diego was beating Seattle, they took a step in that direction - dropping behind the Padres again for worst record in baseball.

With 92 games left, the race is on for the top overall pick in next year's draft, with the leader board looking like this entering play Saturday (top 5 2013 draft order if season ended now): 1, Cubs; 2, San Diego (½ game back); 3, Colorado (2 ½); 4, Houston (4); 5, Minnesota (4 ½).

3. Can we call Darwin Barney a potential core player for the Rizzo-Castro next-generation Cubs contender the new front office plans? Sveum says he thinks so - especially if Barney continues making strides driving the ball.

One big reason: Good enough skills and focus in the field to give Barney a 57-game (471 1/3-inning) errorless streak entering Saturday night's game. The last Cubs' middle infielder with a streak that long was Mike Fontenot in 2008 (90 games) and Fontenot didn't reach as many balls.

``When you're playing second base, and you have to turn double plays and have relay throws and all that stuff where some of the errors come in, to get to 50 games is pretty impressive,'' said Sveum, a former middle infielder. ``It doesn't happen too often with middle infielders.

``And he's got good range, especially to his left. He's got tremendous range to his left. He's sucked up a lot of left-handed balls to the hole and done a great job. Far and above what I saw from the other side of the fence. He's done an unbelievable job at second base.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on June 23, 2012 2:44 PM.

Can Cubs' Castro play Theoball? was the previous entry in this blog.

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