Alfonso Soriano stalks improbable RBI title
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com September 26, 2012 10:22PM
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 26: Charlie Blackmon #8 of the Colorado Rockies slides home to score as catcher Welington Castillo #53 of the Chicago Cubs takes the throw on double by Jordan Pacheco #22 of the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field on September 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:41AM
DENVER — The Cubs don’t have many milestones to shoot for down the stretch — beyond that trying-to-avoid-100-losses thing.
Or maybe Darwin Barney’s errorless streak at second base, which reached 140 games in Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies. He can tie Placido Polanco’s major-league record for longest streak at the position in a season on Thursday.
But the most impressive achievement watch over the last week might involve Alfonso Soriano’s attempt to win the National League RBI crown playing for the fourth-lowest-scoring team in the majors.
Soriano, who went 0-for-4 Thursday, never has come close to leading a league in RBI. His 105 is a career high and only his third 100-RBI season. With seven games left, he trails Ryan Braun (110) of Milwaukee and Chase Headley (109) of San Diego.
“Those guys in front of me are very good,’’ Soriano said. “We’ll see what happens the [last few] games. I’m feeling strong, but I’m not even thinking about that.’’
At 18 percent, Soriano entered the day having driven in a higher percentage of his team’s runs than anyone in baseball.
“Throughout the league, the season he’s having obviously is going to be unnoticed a lot because of the wins-and-loss record we have,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “But it’s almost more amazing because sometimes the people in front of him, the on-base percentages [haven’t been great].
“What Sori’s done with men in scoring position over the course of the year — and to do all he’s done after May 15 [31 homers, 88 RBIs] is more impressive.’’
Soriano is hitting more than 20 points better with men in scoring position than overall this season,
General manager Jed Hoyer said commitments haven’t been made yet for next year’s coaching staff.
The biggest decision might involve the status of interim hitting coach James Rowson, who replaced the fired Rudy Jaramillo in June.
“We’ll have a lot of conversations over the next week, with all the coaches, some with just Dale, some internally,’’ Hoyer said. “We’re not in position right not to give answers on that one.’’
The Cubs plan to look at third-base options outside the organization, with Ian Stewart expected to be non-tendered. And Sveum said Luis Valbuena could return in a prominent role there again if the front office doesn’t sign a bona fide starter.
◆ The Cubs were 0-15 against the National League West after the loss on Wednesday.
◆ Hoyer said he has mixed feelings about the significance of avoiding 100 losses this season. “I’m not going to feel any better about a 96-loss season or a 98-loss season or a 100-loss season,’’ he said.