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Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the few Cubs hitting well with runners in scoring position. (Photo by Stephen Green)
On many occasions throughout Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s tenure, he has made it clear that slugging percentage (total bases divided by at-bats) is his go-to number when evaluating a player’s approach at the plate.
On paper, the 2013 Cubs’ power stats look good. The team’s .420 slugging percentage is second best in the National League, largely thanks to the squad’s 48 homers (third in NL) and whopping 101 doubles (15 more than the next-highest NL total). But like many stats, these numbers can be a bit deceiving. While displaying strong power stats is never a bad thing, baseball is predicated on timely hitting. As the graph below indicates, the Cubs struggle with men in scoring position compared with other NL teams.
The Cubs sit in the top five of most common statistical categories with nobody on base, but those same numbers drop drastically with men on second and/or third. It’s interesting to note that their home run and doubles don’t decrease, though the slash line takes a huge hit. We also looked at the eight regular position players to see how they have fared with the bases empty versus with runners in scoring position.
Of the eight regulars, just two are hitting better with runners in scoring position than with the bases empty. And while Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena have a higher slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, the same cannot be said for the rest of the team.
The basic stats make it look like the Cubs have one of the better offenses in the National League, but they’re going to need some more timely hitting for those stats to have an impact in the standings.
Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs was known for his solid glove.
In his rookie season of 1962, the 20-year-old racked up a then-MLB record 78 games and 418 chances without an error. That effort earned Hubbs a Gold Glove Award, making him the first-ever rookie to claim the prize. He was also steady at the plate that season, hitting .260 with 24 doubles. He received 19 of 20 NL Rookie of the Year votes to easily take home that honor. Though his numbers dipped the following season, he was still viewed as a solid player who would stick with the Cubs for a long time.
Ken Hubbs was also known for his fear of flying, which he was afraid would hinder his career as a professional athlete. Ron Santo discussed it in his autobiography, Ron Santo: For the Love of Ivy.
To overcome his fear, Hubbs decided to tackle it head-on. The infielder learned how to fly a plane and earned a pilot’s license in the winter prior to the 1964 season. On Feb. 12, 1964, he planned to fly his friend Larry Doyle from California to Provo, Utah, to surprise Doyle’s wife who was visiting her mother.
A snowstorm came across Utah the morning of the 13th, but Hubbs and Doyle decided to go anyway in the second baseman’s Cessna 172. Just minutes after the plane took off from Provo Airport, it crashed into a nearby lake. Two days later, the plane was found, and both men were dead. Hubbs was just 22 years old.