Today the Cubs will try to get their Spring record back to .500 against the San Francisco Giants.

The game today is at 3:05 CT, and the audio will be available via Matt Garza gets the start for the Cubs, and is still looking for his first quiet Spring outing.

We’ve got a Game Thread going at the Message Board for both games, here.

The lineup is missing the injured trio of Ian Stewart, Darwin Barney, and Blake DeWitt (x-rays were negative, by the way):

1. David DeJesus, RF

2. Marlon Byrd, CF

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

5. Joe Mather, 3B

6. Steve Clevenger, C

7. Dave Sappelt, LF

8. Adrian Cardenas, 2B

9. Matt Garza, P

  • CubFan Paul

    I’m really digging the Joe Mather v Jeff Baker position battle.

  • Luke

    Hopefully Cardenas can take advantage of Barney’s injury to show off a little.  I’d like to see Barney have a little more competition at second.

    • baseballet

      I’m hoping that the reports of Barney getting stronger in the offseason are true and that he hits with more authority this season. I’ve read that he wore down last year so that could help explain his anemic finish. A little more bat and continued improvement on defense could keep DB in the starting lineup for a few years. I’m feeling irrational optimism for DB right now.

      • DocWimsey

        Adding muscle obviously will help, but pitch selectivity is more critical. There is a good correlation between selectivity and isolated power, after all. Barney can add muscle, but he cannot add a batting eye.

        • baseballet

          I’ve read that Barney doesn’t walk a lot because pitchers throw him strikes at one of the highest rates in the league. They throw him strikes because he didn’t have extra base power. If he improves his strength, they may have to respect his bat a little more, and he’ll get on base at a higher rate.

          • DocWimsey

            This is a common explanation but it puts the cart before the horse. Although most guys who take walks have good power, there are enough examples of guys without much power who work a lot of walks to falsify the notion that pitchers just “relax” and throw strikes to powerless guys. If powerless guys don’t swing at bad pitches, then they take walks.

            Watching Barney, this is pretty clearly the case: he puts a lot of pitches that would be called balls into play. Those pitches are charted as “strikes” when they tally the balls vs. strikes by the pitchers: but they did not have to be.

            • Noah

              I actually discussed this regarding Barney on another blog, in this post:

              Brett, if you don’t like people linking to other blogs in the comments, many apologies and please feel free to delete this.

              • Brett

                Not a problem in the least when it’s a part of the discussion.

            • paradox mental state

              Barney has no power . Any good manager would instruct any pitcher to throw strikes to Barney. Barney bat is solid enough for, a single and genie wishes are granted when he extends those hits too doubles , triples and the seldom homeruns. Pitcher throw a league high 55 % to 56 strikes when he bats. If barney could muster a dozen or more doubles then his walk ratio would increase.. No need to hide the ball from Barney, throw the kid strikes and let your infielders throw the kid out. Also his swing rate at balls are average.

              • Noah

                Darwin Barney did see the highest number of pitches in the strike zone of qualifying hitters last season, but that was at 51.2% according to FanGraphs. Michael Young, J.J. Hardy and Josh Willingham, all hitters with power, were within 2.6% of that rate. However, his O-Swing% (percentage of balls he swung at outside the strike zone), was 66th highest out of 145 players at 31%. Most interesting, though, is that his O-Contact%, which is the number of those pitches he makes contact with, is a huge 84.9%, the sixth highest percentage in baseball last season.

                The bigger issue with Barney isn’t that pitchers pound the zone with him, but that he swings at an above average number of pitches out of the zone and makes contact with a huge proportion of those pitches. He makes weak contact in those situations, leading to easy outs.

                • Rick Vaughn

                  Someone buy this man a beer. Great stats!

                  • Noah

                    Thanks much! Unfortunately the beer would have to be gluten free. But fortunately gluten free beer is surprisingly pretty decent.

              • DocWimsey

                20 years ago, Brett Butler pointed out that despite the fact he had no power, a lot of pitchers could not throw 3 strikes before they threw 4 balls. He’d swing if the ball was in the strike zone and he could handle it: but he wasn’t helping out the pitcher by just trying to make contact with anything near the plate. (When Butler did chase, then you know that the pitcher fooled him.)

                Most decent pitchers are trying to throw strikes on almost every pitch; the ones that try to get you to chase pitches outside of the strike zone don’t last to long in MLB. However, it’s just not that easy to throw strikes!

                • paradox mental state

                  Bret Butler (lol) I liked him. Rod Carew type of hitter. No power kings of the slap hitter-s those men could slap a ball foul if it was close to the strike zone ,but dont compare Barney inability to draw a walk to them . Players like Butler extended the strike zone because they could control close pitches out of the strike zone- Butler if he got on base – most of the time it was like giving him a double. The man had speed and if he hit a single sometime he could run that into a double- and doubles that guy could turn the corner on second.AND EXTEND that to a triple.

                  You are correct these type of players could draw walks without power yet they had speed and great bat control to force the pitcher to keep throwing outside the strike zone. If i was pitching to Butler i would not want to throw him a strike nor would i want too walk him cuz he will be on second . BUTLER was the kinda player that could extend his pitch rate until the pitcher walked him . poor Darwin has no power and Avg speed .for a second baseman and he can not extend the pitch count. So throw Barney strikes if he connects what ever base he limps into is the base he usually stays on. no power no great speed – and poor bat control – but good contact rate- you simply throw stikes. and yes it is hard to throw strike its the reason he walks sometimes.

                  • DrWimsey

                    But as Noah showed, Barney gets himself out by putting non-strikes into play. Butler didn’t do that: he’d take 3-2 pitches just off of the plate for (usually) walks.

                    I’m not sure that Butler was much faster than Barney, either: Butler had good speed and he accelerated well, but he was not a blazer.

                    EDIT: I just checked and Butler was a really bad base stealer: he got caught a third of the time. For a lead off hitter, that actually was negative production! He did get a lot of triples, but his doubles production was unspectacular, so he was not stretching singles that often.

    • Noah

      I think the Cubs are going to be too groundball oriented to not start Barney most of the games at 2B unless Cardenas’ defense is much better than advertised. While Garza was a flyball pitcher in Tampa, he forced an above average level of groundballs last season. On top of that, 4 of the other 6 main competitors for starting spots rely on inducing above average groundball rates for success (Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Wells). But Cardenas or DeWitt should start whenever Wood or Samardzija are on the mound.

      • DocWimsey

        Ultimately, it should come down to whether Barney can save more runs with his glove relative to Cardenas than Cardenas can create with his bat relative to Barney.

  • Cliffy

    a good base running lineup today. expect some aggressive base running. Maybe a few walks.

  • Da Doc

    I am waiting to see a real possible opening day line up to get a glimpse at our season. I understand the whole battling for bench positions but I really wanna see one game with the starters for a few innings in the batting order they would most likely be.

  • Curt

    anyone know anything about Frankie de la Cruz cubs just picked him up off waivers from the brewers.

    • Kyle

      Mediocre stuff, sort of potentially usable at the very back of a bullpen or an emergency starter. Think Casey Coleman/Rodrigo Lopez/Doug Davis.

    • Dustin S

      Did some digging and although reports say he has a decent arm, his 1.409 WHIP at AAA last year in 137 innings doesn’t impress much. He has definitely bounced around alot.

      • Luke

        League average WHIP in the PCL last year was 1.545.  His 1.409 isn’t too shabby in that context.  His career walk rate of 4.1 BB / 9 is high for my taste, but that still isn’t too bad.

        I think he’s another Rodrigo Lopez insurance type guy, but I am a little surprised the Cubs claimed him off waivers and used a roster spot for him.  That puts the roster back at 40 (I believe), meaning someone has to be cut for DeWitt (if he makes the team) or Soler (when/if he is finally able to sign).  Given how many pitchers the Cubs already have in camp who are apparently similar in ceiling and stuff to De La Cruz, I wonder if there something else brewing on the side that might reduce the Cubs pitching depth just a little.

        • Joe

          I thought there were two spots open on the 40-man…

          • brittney

            No it stood at 39. They brought it down to 38 but with the signing of the cuban pitcher was made offical his deal was a major league deal and he was added to the 40 man and now with waiver claim of de la cruz it puts it at 40.

            • hansman1982

              If you go by the 40 man is sitting at 34 members.

  • ty

    Fun at HoHoKam. Last week I bought two Italian Ice and had the vendor deliver them to a couple friends away from my seats–he told them courtesy of Theo and pointed up to press box. So here they are sucking down those icees and turning every few minutes to look at the press box. Today I will see them and if they tell me about it somehow I have to control myself. These bad boys have been had!

    • Andrew

      that’s awesome

    • hansman1982