Spring Training countdown: Chicago Baseball is all in the numbers

With 48 days to go until opening day, here are 48 fun facts for cubs and sox to help us count down

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Just like ballplayers need to get into shape for the coming season, fans do, too. Fortunately, we don’t mean playing shape. We mean mental shape. It’s time for your mind to start focusing on baseball’s numbers, players and the Cubs and White Sox.

There are 48 days until Opening Day. Here is a stat-a-day countdown calendar for you.

  • 48: As we get closer to the season, let’s talk about No. 48 for the Sox, Alex Colome, the closer who last season had 30 saves in 33 chances. “Closer” to the season and “closer” for the Sox are homographs, words that are spelled the same, have different meanings and sound different. Now you know.
  • 47: The Cubs hit 47 home runs last August. That was their second-highest monthly total, behind their 51 in May.
  • 46: The most recent Cub to hit more than 40 homers in a season is Derrek Lee, who hit 46 in 2005 while leading the National League with a .335 batting average. 
  • 45: Look at the retired numbers for the Sox, and you’ll see No. 4 in honor of Hall of Famer Luke Appling, who played 20 seasons for them, had a .310 lifetime batting average and hit 45 career homers.
  • 44: The Cubs had 44 pinch hits in 2019, the fewest in the NL. Cubs pitchers had 38 hits, sixth in the NL.
  • 43: Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada led the Sox by striking out at least twice in 43 games each.
  • 42: Everyone knows that baseball retired No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, but not everyone knows that the last player to wear No. 42 for the Cubs was Glenallen Hill in 1993 and for the Sox was Scott Ruffcorn in 1996.
  • 41: In the last five seasons (2015-19), Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks lead the Cubs with 41 losses apiece.
  • 40: In 1990, Ryne Sandberg led the NL with 40 homers. Ryne should not be confused with poet Carl Sandburg, who was born in Galesburg, Illinois, and never led the league in homers but did win three Pulitzer Prizes.
  • 39: You wouldn’t think that hitting 39 homers is that unusual, would you? But Paul Konerko is the only player in Sox history to hit 39 in a season (2010). Kris Bryant, Moises Alou, Rogers Hornsby and Hack Wilson each did it once for the Cubs.
  • 38: Kyle Schwarber led the Cubs with 38 homers last season. He had only one multihomer game, meaning he went deep in 37 games, the most on the team.
  • 37: The Cubs made 37 infield throwing errors in 2019, their most in the last five seasons. They made 32 in 2018.
  • 36: Three pitchers totaled 36 victories in their Sox career: Jake Peavy, Sad Sam Jones (I guess he was sad because he had 46 losses) and Monty Stratton (who was played by Jimmy Stewart in the eponymous bio flick about the pitcher losing his lower leg in a hunting accident and coming back to pitch).
  • 35: I will lay a big hurt on you if you don’t know Frank Thomas’ retired number with the Sox is 35.
  • 34: Jon Lester has 34 career hits, all while pitching for the Cubs. He has boosted his lifetime batting average to .107. Who says the NL should adopt the DH?
  • 33: The Cubs’ Yu Darvish and the Marlins’ Caleb Smith led the NL with 33 homers allowed. You have to stop doing that. I mean you, Yu.
  • 32: Since 2017, the Cubs’ leader in saves is Wade Davis with 32. The trouble is that Davis picked up all those saves in 2017. The Cubs’ leader in saves in 2018 and ’19 is Pedro Strop, who had 23.
  • 31: Jose Quintana appeared in 32 games last season, but he made 31 starts. Quintana has appeared in 32 games in each of the last six seasons.
  • 30: Ferguson Jenkins won the NL Cy Young Award in 1971, when he led the league with 24 victories and had 30 complete games in 39 starts for the Cubs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Until Larry Walker’s election this year, Fergie was the only Canadian-born player in the Hall.
  • 29: In 1909, Hall of Famer Mordecai ‘‘Three-Finger’’ Brown set a Cubs record with 29 victories, yet he still didn’t lead the NL in that category. The Giants’ Christy Mathewson went 37-11 that season.
  • 28: Albert Almora has 28 career homers, the same total as Joe Tinker of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame.
  • 27: I think Anthony Rizzo’s walk-up music should be Pat Benatar’s classic “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Rizzo was hit by 27 pitches last season, the third time since 2015 that he has led the NL in that category. Rizzo also hit 27 homers in 2019.
  • 26: We think of Hall of Famer Goose Gossage as a great Yankees closer (which he was), but let’s remember he started with the Sox and registered an MLB-leading 26 saves in 1975.
  • 25: Phil Regan led the majors with 25 saves for the Cubs in 1968. And while he’s not a Hall of Famer, he was the Mets’ pitching coach last season at 82.
  • 24: Knuckleball pitcher Wilbur Wood twice won 24 games for the Sox, in 1972 and ’73. In 1973, he also lost 20 games.
  • 23: After joining the Cubs last season, Craig Kimbrel appeared in 23 games. He allowed 15 earned runs in 20‰ innings. But he did have 16 scoreless appearances (always look on the bright side of life).
  • 22: Glenn Beckert was a four-time All-Star, Gold Glove-winning second baseman in nine seasons for the Cubs from 1965 to ’73. Beckert never exceeded five homers in a season and finished with only 22 in his 11-season big-league career.
  • 21: Sox outfielders made 21 errors last season. Cubs outfielders made 17.
  • 20: The Cubs played 20 games last season in which they had at least 10 hits and 10 whiffs; they went 15-5. The Sox led the majors with 33 such games; they went 20-13.
  • 19: Arguably, the two teams that made the most improvements this offseason have been the Sox and Reds. The last time they played in the World Series was in 1919, when the “Black Sox” threw games in a gambling scandal. They still won three of eight games in the best-of-nine series.
  • 18: The Cubs were 18th in the majors last season with a .264 batting average with the bases loaded. The Sox were 19th with a .263 average with the bases loaded.
  • 17: Leon Durham and Kris Bryant are tied for 16th on the Cubs’ all-time homer list with 138. But once Bryant hits his first dinger of the season — assuming he’s still a Cub — Durham will be 17th.
  • 16: The Sox had only 16 games in which they hit at least three homers in 2019, 14th in the American League and tied for 27th in the majors with the Giants. The Cubs had 39 such games, second in the NL and fifth in the majors.
  • 15: Javy Baez had the Cubs’ longest hitting streak last season at 15 games. Yoan Moncada had a hit in 14 consecutive games for the Sox.
  • 14: Why hasn’t there ever been a movie about Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, No. 14?
  • 13: Last season, the Sox finished 13th in the AL in runs scored with 708. The last I checked, if you score more runs than your opponent, you win more games. They finished 13th in the AL in homers against lefties and 13th in the AL in homers against righties.
  • 12: The date was Oct. 1, 1932. In the fifth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, with the score tied at 4 and the count 2-2, Babe Ruth made a gesture toward center field. On the next pitch, that’s where he hit the ball, deep into the Wrigley seats. The Cubs’ pitcher was Charlie Root, No. 12 on your scorecard.
  • 11: Javy Baez led the Cubs with 11 stolen bases last season.
  • 10: What a difference 100 years make. In 1920, Happy Felsch led the Sox with 14 homers (fifth in the majors) and Dave Robertson led the Cubs with 10 (tied for 14th). Ruth introduced the Roaring ’20s, leading everyone with 54 homers, 35 more than runner-up George Sisler.
  • 9: The Sox blasted nine grand slams last season, good for second in the AL. That number is all the more impressive when you see that the Sox had 122 slam opportunities, 13th in the AL.
  • 8: Yankees, Rays and Sox pitchers were tied with 53 quality starts last season, good for eighth in the AL. However, the Rays’ starters had a 3.64 ERA, the Yankees’ starters had a 4.51 ERA and the Sox’ starters had a 5.30 ERA. Watch this number this coming season.
  • 7: The Sox haven’t had a winning record in seven seasons. The last time they made the postseason was in 2008.
  • 6: The Sox and Indians led the majors with six complete games in 2019. The Sox’ Lucas Giolito and the Indians’ Shane Bieber led the majors with three apiece.
  • 5: The Cubs have had five victory totals of 100 or more in their history, winning 116 games in 1906, 107 in 1907, 104 in 1909 and 1910, 103 in 2016 and 100 in 1935.
  • 4: Only one player wearing a Chicago uniform has hit four home runs in a game. On July 18, 1948, in the first game of a doubleheader at Shibe Park, Pat Seerey blasted four homers for the Sox against the Philadelphia A’s. Seerey’s homer in the top of the 11th inning gave the Sox an 11-10 victory. At the time, he was only the fifth player in history to have a four-homer game.
  • 3: The Cubs and Sox each have won three World Series.
  • 2: Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu led the Sox with 36 two-hit games in 2019. Anderson had 51 games with at least two hits, and Abreu had 49. Javy Baez led the Cubs with 35 two-hit games in 2019. He had 45 games with at least two hits.
  • 1: “We’re No. 1!” Since 1901, the Cubs have finished first 17 times and the Sox 11 times.

March 26 —The earliest Opening Day ever has the Cubs in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, and the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field to host the Royals.

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