How we’ve gotten here: Infield edition

The tumbleweeds have been rolling through the barren wasteland that’s been Redline Roundup the past few months. And although Cubs baseball has continued to go on, it too has been a barren wasteland.

But as the unofficial second half of the season gets underway, Redline Roundup is back. As we look to repopulate the site and turn it into a bustling Internet metropolis of Cubs content, let’s look at what has gone on with the infield so far this season.

You can’t know where you are going unless you know where you’ve been, even if it’s the bottom of the NL, right?

First base
Starts: Bryan LaHair (50), Jeff Baker (20), Anthony Rizzo (16), Steve Clevenger (3)

Comment: Even though a 2012 NL All-Star first baseman is among that foursome, his isn’t the name that certainly caused sheer excitement to pump through your veins a moment ago upon seeing it. Yes, Jeff Baker Anthony Rizzo has been the biggest story this year, even before he put in two solid weeks of play.

If you’ve read this far into this post you’ve read, heard and thought about Rizzo enough already and we won’t go into him again here. Suffice it to say that whether he continues to play well or not, he is the Cubs first baseman the rest of the way. LaHair was a good placeholder (in April), and a more than adequate one the rest of the first half. Baker has shown life against lefties lately, so he’ll likely find his way into the lineup, but not at first.

Second base
Starts: Darwin Barney (80), Adrian Cardenas (4), Blake DeWitt (4), Baker (1)

Comment: Second base has been cut-and-dry, Barney is the man there and it appears he will be the rest of the way. He has good range and a 76-game errorless streak going right now. His OBP and SLG are below league average and his AVG is barely above it. But he may be trending in the right direction as he’s cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walk rate this year. Ideally, Barney probably backs up the middle infield on a contender. But for now he is far from the problem for the Cubs.

If the future unfolds the way we all want it to, Cardenas will have a significant distinction: it was his roster spot that Rizzo took when he came up at the end of June. DeWitt finds himself in Iowa and likely won’t be heard from again.

Starts: Starlin Castro (88), Barney (1)

Comment: Here’s another position where there this nothing to say, and shouldn’t be for many years. Castro was an All-Star for the second year in a row and is a foundation piece for the team. But there are concerns.

The next step in his offensive development is and has been patience, but Castro’s walked rate has actually decreased the past two seasons. He’s also experiencing a bit of a power outage. Last season he hit 36 doubles, but more than halfway through this season he’s got only 10. So everything is not peachy with the man who was Anthony Rizzo before Anthony Rizzo.

Still, Castro is in the top 10 in hits in the NL (103) and with a hot couple of months could again top 200. And he’s 22, let’s not forget that.

Third base
Starts: Ian Stewart (49), Luis Valbuena (26), Joe Mather (13), Cardenas (1)

Comment: Through 89 games the Cubs are no closer to finding a permanent third baseman than they were when Aramis Ramirez left. Whereas the “change in scenery” trade has actually worked for Tyler Colvin (.294/.329/.527, 13 HR’s), it has not for Stewart (.201/.292/.335, 5 HR’s). A few of his home runs (his calling card) did go a long way, but they were few and far between. He’s apparently done for the season with a wrist injury that plagued him last season as well. We’ll see if the Cubs give him another chance next season. He does play solid defense.

Valbuena has been an upgrade over Stewart offensively, but that isn’t saying much. He is probably more suited as a backup second baseman and pinch hitter, as he does have fairly good pop for a middle infield-type.


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