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Today the Cubs host a split squad Dodgers team, and it’s Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster on the hill, making his final start of the Spring. The game is at 3:05 CT, and it’s available as a free audio broadcast on Cubs.com.

Since it’s a free audio, Friday afternoon game, how about a game thread? Here it is, at the Message Board.

The lineup today is a likely preview of the Opening Day lineup, according to manager Dale Sveum. It’s as good as any other configuration right now, given how guys are performing right now, and given the balance (though I’d still prefer Castro batting 2, Barney down at 8, and Soto up a couple spots):

1. David DeJesus, RF

2. Darwin Barney, 2B

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Bryan LaHair, 1B

5. Alfonso Soriano, LF

6. Ian Stewart, 3B

7. Marlon Byrd, CF

8. Geovany Soto, C

9. Ryan Dempster, P

  • TWC

    “(though I’d still prefer Castro batting 2, Barney down at 8, and Soto up a couple spots)”

    This.

    • djriz

      It seems that you, Brett and I are the only ones who believe Castro should not hit 3rd. I wish all the ‘Saber’ guys would look at Castro’s 2011 splits and realize this. The man hit in the low 200’s in the 3 spot. His OBP was .370 leading off, and .356 batting second. Please don’t ruin this kid.

      • Smitty

        I agree with you guys as well about Castro. For whatever reason he doesn’t bat as well at the #3 spot as he does in the 1 or 2 spots. Kind of confusing that this management team uses all these stats to make decisions but they ignore this one.

        I really do not like that they keep batting Soto 8th. I understand trying to rest him between innings, but he is arguably our 3rd best hitter. We are wasting him

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        I don’t think “saber guys” care about splits in the 3 spot vs the 2 spot or 1 spot. They (we?) want the best hitters in the top of the lineup, period. Castro should be hitting 2nd, IMO.

        • DocWimsey

          What the saber guys have noted is that you really want to flip the #2 and #3 guys relative to the conventional thinking. However, it’s not a huge difference in terms of expected runs per year for most teams. (EDIT: Noah details this a little below.)

          Oh, and they also would tell you that the difference in Castro’s splits are entirely in line with sampling error.

          • SirCub

            So basically, you are supposed to bat your best hitter second?

            Hmm, let’s see who we have there… *scrolls up* … crap.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        For me, it’s not just how he hit batting 3rd last year (I think he put too much pressure on himself), I just think his skill set translates better to 2nd right now. It also gives him just a handful more at bats.

        • djriz

          Doc..sampling error….really? Over 200 PA’s in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd spots.

          Brett is right. Castro, at this point in his career, does not have the mental makeup to handle the 3 spot. I don’t have fancy numbers to back this up, but, if my memory does not deceive me, Castro tried to pull everything when he hit with men on base. Tried to power up. That is just not his game…at this point in his career…anyway.

          • Drew

            I agree with Doc. 200 PA at each of those spots doesnt convince me that he doesnt have the ability to produce in the 3-spot. Thats a sampling of a couple of months, and I think we all know even the greatest hitters in the game have had more than 1 bad 2 month stretch in their careers.

            That being said, I still think the offense, though abysmal regardless, is better served with Castro batting 2nd.

            • DocWimsey

              I agree with that, but, then, I think that the #2/#3 paradigm probably is backwards!

              One other thing to remember is that the new regime (probably) will try to end any mental aspect of batting #1, #2, etc., that might exist. With the Sox, Theo & Hoyer had coaches preach (in minors and Boston) a single approach: look for a pitch you can drive, then cut loose. This was for the leadoff hitter and the cleanup hitter. You did this with men on base and with nobody on. You did this with a man on 3rd and less than 2 outs or a man on 2nd and no outs. You did it when winning by 10 and when losing by 1. (Well, OK: Tito might have you bunt to kill a rally if you were up by 10. :cool:)

              That was part of the reason why Sox leadoff hitters put up “middle of the order” slugging while the middle of the order guys routinely scored 100+ runs a year. (Of course, having better hitters helped….)

              • Drew

                Good stuff, I guess I dont get why my paradigm is backwards though. If that approach is taken, (which, by the way, is really hard for my HS players to grasp!) then wouldnt you want to maximize the PA’s for your better hitters? If so, batting Castro 2nd would be better than 3rd, right?

                • DocWimsey

                  That is part of the justification for moving the “best” hitter to #2. It’s a trade off between maximizing his plate appearances in total and also maximizing PAs with a guy on base.

                  Noah can correct me, but I seem to recall reading that it is more true for NL teams than AL teams. Pitchers have awful OBPs, so it’s much less probable that a #3 NL hitter can bat with bottom-of-the-order guys on base than a #3 AL hitter. Moving him up to #2 gives him more PAs with the #7 & #8 hitters on base. (Even a good #2 hitter will make an out 60% of the time, and that’s often the 3rd out if the pitcher already batted.)

                  If you use a DH, then it’s going to matter a lot less: your #9 hitter is an NL #8 hitter and your #3 hitter is going to get more PAs with bottom-of-the-order men on base.

                  • Noah

                    I don’t know everything about this, but the idea is generally are these two considerations:

                    (1) Every spot down the line up you move, a player will get about 25 less plate appearances per year. Since there is a distinct correlation between ability to get on base and runs scored, you want to focus your high on base players early in the line up, preferably in the first two spots.

                    (2) The number of times a hitter will come up with runners on base increases all the way up to the 4 spot. It starts out quite low in the 1 spot, peaks at I believe something like 52% in the 4 spot, then more slowly declines from there back to the low at the 1 spot. Both the 3rd and 5th hitters I believe have something like 47% of their plate appearances with runners on. So you want your best power hitter on when he’s most likely to have runners on base.

                    So you have to balance those considerations. Your best power hitter should bat 4th. Your best on base guy should bat 1st. Your second best on base guy should bat second. If your best on base guy is also your best power hitter, you should usually err towards the power and bat him fourth.

                    One thing is clear: the guy who bats 3rd should probably be your fourth best hitter.

          • Mike

            Currently, Casto is better suited in the 2 hole. Looking towards the future I would assume his power numbers will go up and if we are lucky he can be in 20 HR range (maybe wishful thinking). If this is the case and he realistically will project as a #3 hitter, why not allow him to grow him into the role now when expectations are low? This year will be a huge growth year for the Cubbies and is exactly the time to give players the chance to learn (Samardzija in the starting rotation as a prime example) If Castro continues to struggle in the 3 hole, then we learn he is not meant to be there and can perform in the 2 hole.

          • Kyle

            200 plate appearances isn’t very much at all. If you split up his season into chunks of 200 randomly, you’d expect quite a bit of variation.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              For me, the 2011 results are less important than (1) how he looked when approaching an RBI situation as opposed to a bases empty situation, and (2) his high-contact, low-SLG style right now. Plus, I tend to buy into the “get your best batters more at bats” mentality. I know there isn’t a huge difference in that regard between 2 and 3, but as a tie-breaker, I’ll take it.

          • Bric

            More sampling discussions? Doc, I say good day to you, sir!

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      I also agree that Castro should hit second.

  • http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=14080749 steve

    Swap Byrd with Brett Jackson and Lahair with Anthony Rizzo and i like it. also i dont like barney at #2

    • Brady

      Maybe switch it up so Barney 7, Castro 2, Bjax 3? or just flat out put bjax 2 and move barney to 7 for vacancy. I like byrd at 7 but wouldnt like leaving Jackson at that.

  • Spencer

    Barney needs to get his OBP up about 40 points before I like him at 2. We’ll see how it goes though. Not a lot of high OBP’s in that lineup, so tough to complain too much.

    • Noah

      My concern with this is that is shows Sveum may cling to old school lineup configuration instead of what the newer metrics say is important. He put the guy who is his probably his best all around hitter in the 3 spot, which is either the fourth or fifth most important positions. And then he has a guy who doesn’t get on base in the 2 spot. While this isn’t going to be a good offensive lineup any way you do it, I’d put Barney to 8, move numbers 3-6 up to 2-5, and hit Soto 6th. So my lineup would be:

      RF DeJesus
      SS Castro
      1B LaHair
      LF Soriano
      3B Stewart
      C Soto
      CF Byrd
      2B Barney.

      I’d also be perfectly fine with Byrd being the 3 hole and everyone else being pushed down. This idea that your best hitter should bat 3rd is as archaic as thinking RBIs are an indicator of a good player.

      • hardtop

        this ^ seems so obvious to me, and many of us here. why does management continue to ignore Castro’s numbers in he 3 hole and current metrics for creating a lineup. if Castro struggles early, ill pretty pretty disappointed in our new manager and gm.

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          because those numbers represent a small sample size and if the 3 hole is where you want him to bat in the future, you might as well get him into that slot in a year like this. If he proves that he can’t hit in the 3 hole after 2-3 months of being their every day, then you shift him back up to the 2 slot.

      • Spencer

        The only thing with Byrd batting 3 is that he was TERRIBLE with RISP last year.

        • DocWimsey

          Byrd is a really good example of how meaningless BAwRiSP is. Byrd’s BABiP was 0.230 with runners in scoring position and 0.351 without. Both numbers are unsustainable: he was getting unlucky with men on base and lucky without. Moreover, his isolated slugging was not much different: 0.110 vs. 0.125. The only thing really different was his K rate: 16% vs. 21%. Still, you expect one guy in 25 to deviate that much given a constant “true” rate by chance alone.

          Upshot? It has no predictive value for this season.

          • TWC

            Ah, DocWimsey… Bleacher Nation’s own Cliff Clavin!

          • Spencer

            i don’t know much bout all them there fancy numbers, but i do know last season byrd sucked at hitting the ball where no one was standing when one of his friends was standing on second or third base.

            • DocWimsey

              Oh, sure, he didn’t get many hits. However, that was bad luck: 23% of balls hit into play are singles, but only 18% of Byrds were. Luck (good or bad) never carries over.

              The flip side of this is that it is very improbable that Byrd will have a 0.350 BABiP (with a 0.280 “singles” average) in “non-clutch” situations next year!

              • David

                I wonder if 10 years from now we will be talking about how they’ve come up with a way to quantify things that now are being attributed to “luck”. The latest metrics are fascinating, and are obviously more useful than what we had before, but being the latest doesn’t make them the last word.

                A guy who presses in what he perceives to be a run-producing spot in the order and tries to pull everything will wind up getting a lot of outside pitches that he grounds weakly to his natural side. While that may make him look unlucky by some standards, he is creating his own bad luck in his approach.

                • DocWimsey

                  Well, some correlation does exist between BABiP and speed metrics like steals. However, performance in “run producing” situations varies so wildly from one year to the next for individual players that it’s tough to pull out any correlates.

                  Here is one that should open eyes regarding Castro: his K rates: 14.4%, 14.2%, 14.6%. That’s what he did batting 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If his approach was so much worse batting #3, then shouldn’t his K rate have gone up?

                  Now, Castro’s HR rate did drop: but his doubles+triples rate went up! So, he was getting extra base hits at the same rate batting 1st, 2nd & 3rd.

                  What changed? Castro’s singles rate plummeted when he batted 3rd.

                  • David

                    I’m in no way saying I have all the answers, Doc, and I appreciate what you contribute. I just don’t believe that as many things are attributable to luck as we’re being led to believe.

                    I believe that many good pitchers have the ability to jam hitters, inducing weak ground balls. Those weak ground balls will lead to outs more often than most batted balls, but babip attributes that to luck, where I believe it’s a skill.

                    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                      BABIP doesn’t attribute it to luck.
                      It says there is SOME luck, how much, we don’t know. But there is some and a ridiclulously low or high BABIP will regress regardless of the factors that are not luck like weak contact on a jammed swing.

                    • DocWimsey

                      Well, remember that people figured out the “luck” component of BABiP by finding that it varied quite a bit for guys like Pedro and Maddux.

                      For individual hitters, it really reflects how frequently grounders are getting through or “duck snorts” are dropping. (Castro’s speed was the same wherever he was batting.)

                      And that is the key to Castro’s low BA while batting 3rd: a lot fewer of the balls that were getting through for singles when he batted 1st or 2nd were getting through when he batted 3rd. He was getting extra-base hits at the same rate, which contradicts the idea that he was not hitting the ball as wheel while batting 3rd.

    • DocWimsey

      It’s actually better than a lot of recent Cubs lineups for OBP, at least for the isoD part. If nothing else, then DeJesus, LaHair, Stewart and Soto will make pitchers throw a few more pitches than Joe Cubs

  • chris

    perfect. Love Barney at number 2.

  • Chris

    This means I’m in the running for winning the Bleacher Nation Opening Day Lineup Contest!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Did you have the rotation order right, too? If so, you might very well be the only person. I’m thinking Maholm at number 5 is going to screw most folks.

      • Spencer

        no one got it.

  • Kyle

    That is such a horrible offense. Just really, really bad.

  • Richard Nose

    Dear Baseball Wizards,
    What effect would batting 8th have on a guy like Geo? I’ve envisioned this lineup, of course as Sveum confirmed he may go with what’s hot, i.e. Barney. Id prefer sliding Barney to 8 and moving everyone else up a spot, but if he’s hot, a beast like Geo in 8 hole can’t be bad. (‘beast’ might be a stretch, but Im hoping not). Gotta think he’d look bad against junk balls.

    • djriz

      A few years back Geo hit extensively in the 8 hole and had a team leading OBP. That being said, with this teams lack of power, how can you not him anywhere from 5-7. Can’t have one of you most powerful players getting walked ALL the time, can you?

      • SirCub

        Don’t they sometimes call the 8-spot the “second cleanup hitter”? Conventional wisdom was to put a power hitter there (but not your best one) because he would have a good chance of coming to bat with men on base in the second inning.

        • Noah

          If that was the conventional wisdom, it shows why the conventional wisdom should never be followed.

          First, your 5-7 batters are not going to get on base as much as your 1-3 batters, unless your manager is terrible at lineup configuration. Second, in the National League, the pitcher is behind the number 8 hitter. So the number 8 hitter can be easily avoided with runners on base, especially with two outs.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Soto, I think, does well in the 8 spot, actually, because he lays off the crap pretty well.

  • Richard Nose

    I agree with both, gotta like a solid hitter like him hitting a little higher. But if handles the 8 hole well, and Barney hits 70 points higher when he’s not in the 8 hole (I still don’t like him), but might make for a better lineup.

  • Cheryl

    Just heard Campana’s been sent to Iowa.

    • MichiganGoat

      If true let the Campana Whine Fest begin: 1-he’s really fast 2-he’s really,really fast 3-he’s really, really, really fast 4-go back to number 1 repeat.

      • Sweetjamesjones

        But he is scrappy!!! I like scrap. Scrappy scrap-scrap.

  • Cheryl

    Has DeJesus shown that he can handle the number one spot? Isn’t there someone else available that is better there? Castro would be better off second. Put Barney first and if you have to play DeJesus bat him eighth and switch Sota to third

    • http://bleachernation.com RicoSanto

      Cheryl Honestly I was just going to write that I agree

    • CubFan Paul

      Go look at Dejesus’s career numbers batting leadoff. He’s the best we got

      • hardtop

        Paul did say career numbers, but last year batting leadoff:
        .125/.314/.150
        I hope 2011 is a fluke rather than an indicator of things to come.

        • DocWimsey

          That’s 40 ABs and 48 PAs. If you think that Byrd was unlucky in the clutch, then he had nothing on DeJesus batting leadoff: DeJesus’ BABiP was 0.102!

          If you do buy into tiny sample sizes, then you’ll love his 8:1 BB:K ratio (er, actually 8 BBs to 1 K total!) while leading off…. :cool:

          • BeyondFukudome

            But what was his BAddaBiNGBAddaBOom?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Ha.

    • DocWimsey

      DeJesus always has been a good (albeit no spectacular) OBP guy with decent pop: you have a good shot of a leadoff double or even an occasional homer to stir the pot. So, he’s shown that he’s good for it. However, I’d stress that he’s *good*: he’s not “very good” or “great.”

      Barney would be a nightmare leading off as his OBP is awful.

  • hill really sucks

    Agree with most here, Castro should be batting 2nd. Its scary when Lahair and Soriano are your 4th and 5th hitters… yikes…

  • Leo L

    I like castro 3. with expereince he shoudl be able to handle the RBI situations. he makes good contact on the ball and is not a guy that walks much. if he walked more then i would agree with the 2-hole. but since he is a cotnact guy with hopefully some power then 3-hole

    • DocWimsey

      Again, do not worry about the “handle RBI situations” aspect. That’s just not a real trait, as guys relative successes oscillate wildly from one year to the next. A Theo/Hoyer team is going to stress treating every situation as the same. Hopefully, the days of “situational hitting” (which is a mantra for guys like Hendry) are behind us and “selectively aggressive” is the present and future.

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    I must agree this lineup looks anemic on paper. So many intangibles will have to go our way to compete – timely hitting, good base running, “small-ball” runs… not to mention some good old fashioned crazy luck once in a while (which I don’t think can be computer calculated). Oh well, always a fan and hoping for a miracle!

  • Leo L

    I guess i dont understand what situational hitting means. So when there is a man on second and no outs de we not try try to hit to the left side or if a man on third with no outs and it is late in the game shoudlnt they try to hit the ball in the air? I do agree with selective agressive. i like the idea of running the count on starting pitchers. and there are guys like marlin byrd that seem to struggle in rbi situations. I think some of the arguments against starlin htting third is that he has struggled there. if every situation is the same then what difference does it make if he hit second or third except that you might want the better hitter second to get more at bats. which ofcourse goes against my support of batting third for castro but i guess i dotn see much difference with 2nd and third and think it is improtant enough for the first time through the order

    • Kyle

      I wouldn’t recommend changing your approach in those situations.

      I mean, if it’s a runner on third, nobody out, bottom of the ninth of a tie game, then maybe you want to go for the fly ball.

      But most of the time? Just do your best to get on base. Getting on base in those situations is so, so, so much better than making an out (even if it advances the baserunner) that it should be your only goal.

      In generally, yes, you want your best hitter to bat second. It maximizes his at-bats while still giving him a decent chance of batting with someone on base.

    • DocWimsey

      When Theo ran the Sox, they did not try to hit the ball to right field to advance the runner. Papi tells a funny story about that. On the Twins, he slammed one off of the LF wall with a man on 2nd and nobody out. Tom Kelly chewed him out: he was supposed to reach and pull the ball. Early on at Boston in the same situation, he did that: instead of driving the ball to left-center, he hit a feeble grounder to 2nd. Instead of getting high 5’s in the dugout, Grady Little took him aside and explained: “that’s not how we play baseball here.”

      Indeed, if Youk grounds out to the right side with a man on second, then run: he’s probably going to smash the bat rack!

      Oh, and, yes, that is the basic idea: treat every PA as the same and it really does not matter where you are batting in the order, does it?

      • Leo L

        well i guess i disagree with that. Im sure there is a difference between papi and Dejuses at bat and lets say castro is batting next with a man on second and no outs in the ninth adn tie game

        • DocWimsey

          Again, this is how Theo’s Sox preached batting up and down the organization. It’s Earl Weaver’s mantra of “outs are bad.” The Sox always are at the the top of the AL in runs scored and this has a lot to do with it: they do not give away ABs advancing runners, etc. This is what “selectively aggressive” means, so I think that Theo means to implement it here, too.

          (Amusingly, they do well for sacrifice flies: because they are always trying to drive the ball, if there is a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs, then there is a good chance that a “mistake” turns into a sacrifice fly.)

          • JustSwain

            I think both the Lineup, and the off season acquisitions point to you being right about the style of play they are going for. This lineup isn’t built like most NL lineups, its more like an AL lineup, with hitters up and down. Soto is batting 8th because he is likely to get pitched to there with runners on and less than two outs, and because his power helps to mop up anyone on base when the pitcher hits. The team avoided signing a big name power bat to hit 4th, instead looking to add two quality bats in Dejesus and Stewart. They also held on to Byrd, a player who hits for high average which fits in well with that style. The guy they got rid of, Colvin, strikes out quite a bit making him unsuited for that sort of lineup. Now, the big question becomes, with the pitcher slot to work around, does an AL style lineup translate well to the NL?

  • Leo L

    did that make sense? sorry Brett for all the grammer, spelling and punctuation errors. more of a science than language guy. Didnt mean to ruin your site.

  • Kyle

    With Darwin Barney second and Starlin Castro third, there will be roughly 18 times this year when the game ends with Castro stuck on deck while Barney takes our last out. A lot of those will be close games. And it will suck every time.

    • DocWimsey

      Also, there will a lot of times where Barney will make the 3rd out of an inning with the #7 or #8 hitter on base. Having an almost automatic out in the #9 spot (especially if men are on base) really exacerbates that.

  • Leo L

    That is more than i expected. Thanks for info Kyle

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    I think Barney and Castro 2/3 is the best situation. We don’t have to many power bats, and Castro is one of our best. I predict a .320/20/90 type of season. This year will be his transition into power hitter year.

    I also would bat Soto 6th with Stewart and Byrd 7/8 in either order, unless Stewarts goes to the 2 spot with Barney at 8.

    • DocWimsey

      In which case, you do not want to deprive him of numerous ABs with men on base every year by batting Barney in front of him…..

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Which is why Stewart moves to the 2 hole. But I expect good things from Barney this year, I’m think he will be a pretty decent hitter.

  • Kyle

    Ian Stewart with his second home run of the spring. I’m sold on this guy!

  • JustSwain

    Wow, Corpas just doubled his ERA with one pitch. Gotta love Spring Training.

  • Tim

    Hey Brett , what ever happened to to the rabbi & dj Ellis

    Hunnington cubs

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