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It’s the Angels again today for the Cubs, though this time the Cubs head to Tempe. With just three Spring Training games left, we won’t see any more of the Cubs’ regular starting rotation, as they’ll each work a Minor League game and/or side session to get ready for the season. So, instead, today’s starter is Iowa rotation member Chris Rusin. The 25-year-old control lefty is a theoretical possibility for the back-end of a big league rotation one day, but he’s not one of the Cubs’ top prospects.

Today’s game is a 3:05 CT, and it’s being broadcast on Fox Sports West (so you can catch it on MLB.tv) and as audio via MLB.com.

On the positional side, unlike with the starting pitcher, we get a mostly regular lineup, with Blake DeWitt subbing for Bryan LaHair (achey back) and both catchers getting into the game via a DH:

1. David DeJesus, RF

2. Darwin Barney, 2B

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Blake DeWitt, 1B

6. Ian Stewart, 3B

7. Marlon Byrd, CF

8. Geovany Soto, DH

9. Steve Clevenger, C

  • Kevin

    Option 3 is good as long as they have the Cojones to follow through.

  • Cubs217

    This to me looks like what I expect to see from the opening day lineup (with LeHair instead of Dewitt) and no DH (obviously). Do you think Barney will be the Opening Day #2 hitter? I would rather see Byrd or maybe even Stewart in that spot.

    • Cubs217

      Nevermind, just saw the ESPN article about our Opening Day lineup. That’s what I get for checking (and posting on) Bleachernation before looking at ESPN I guess.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        It was also on here on Friday, when Sveum suggested that the lineup that faced the Dodgers was probably the Opening Day lineup. Sometimes it’s safe to check BN before ESPN… :)

        • Rick Vaughn

          They still cover actual sports at espn? I thought it was strictly a soap-opera channel now.

    • DocWimsey

      I agree that I would rather seen anybody than Barney there. Ideally, it should be Castro. Regardless, you want someone with good OBP and good power in your #2 slot. That’s Barney, except for the ability to get on base or drive the ball….. :-(

      • Brady

        I have a feeling Sveum sees the potential in Barney to be a servicable #2 in our lineup (seeing as out lineup isnt going to be all that traditional). Barney has had a good spring so you never know. I am going to go with what Sveum thinks is right until this crew has gotten enough games under their belt to start making opinions on whether or not it was the right move.

        • DocWimsey

          Why would Barney having a good spring be relevant? He’s not going to magically transform into a guy who can get on base or drive the ball. We can project that batting Barney #2 instead of #8 (or, better yet, as a bench player) will cost the Cubs a few runs over the season now based on his minor league and MLB performances. So, why wait?

          • Jay Anderson Jr

            Either spring counts, or it doesn’t. I not big on spring either, but Barney has shown he has ability, now he just needs to show consistency, and substainability(if that’s a word).

            • Kyle

              I vote doesn’t :)

            • DocWimsey

              Barney’s minor and major league performances both demonstrate that he does not have “ability,” at least not the ability to get on base 35+% of the time or post #2 level slugging. Those six weeks to start last year were not “ability”: they were Barney being Barney, but with more grounders sneaking past or dying between infielders, and with more bloops landing just out of fielders’ reaches.

              However, you are correct about one thing: it is always true that either X counts or X does not count. Booleanism makes life easy!

              • Jay Anderson Jr

                What the Hell is booleanism.

                • DocWimsey

                  Seriously?

                • Jay Anderson Jr

                  Nevermind. It’s something that has 2 values, true or false, but not at the same time. Ok. Got it.

                  • DocWimsey

                    Well, except for Schr√∂dinger’s Cat’s pajamas, of course….

                    • cubchymyst

                      at least until you determine the results with an observation.

                    • DocWimsey

                      Except that the act of observing changes the Cat’s pajamas!

                    • cubchymyst

                      what type of duality does the cat’s pajamas have? my guess is stripped and polka dots

              • art

                Doc, of the guys on this present team, who would you rather hit 2nd and play 2B and why? just asking.

                • DocWimsey

                  As for who I want to play 2nd (and bat 8th) from this roster, well, that’s like asking if I’d rather than the overcooked frozen broccoli or the underheated tofu patties. Still, I’d take DeWitt given the choices. DeWitt’s OPS (0.715) is much higher than Barney’s OPS (0.655), and there is no way that Barney’s better fielding makes up for 0.05 OPS. That is the difference between a team of Indians and a team of Twins.

                  As for who I would bat 2nd, that’s a no-brainer: Castro. As has come up a few times the last couple of days, the paradigm about who should bat 2nd and 3rd probably is backwards.

          • FromFenwayPahk

            Did Barney put on some muscle mass over the winter? I am not implying magical transformation, but I thought I read that he put on 20 pounds and was driving the ball harder than last year. How does he look compared to last year?

            • MaxM1908

              Subjectively, it does appear he’s driving the ball more this Spring than last year. I’ve only listened to the ST games on the radio, but he sounds like he’s had a few bounce off the wall or land squarely in the gap. He’s also had some bloop hits as Doc suggest, but overall, I’d say he is driving the ball much better than last year. It remains to be seen whether that will follow him north, but for the Cubs’ sake, I hope it does.

              • DocWimsey

                Barney hit a ton of grounders last year and throughout his miLB career, so he’ll have to adjust his swing to drive the ball much. However, the bigger problem is his propensity to put any pitch near the strike zone (including “pitchers strikes”) into play. That results in a lot of unsolid contact, i.e., grounders and bloops.

                People have tried making comparisons to Ryne Sandberg, who supposedly went from a slap hitter to driving the ball. However, Sandberg had an excellent batting eye (he walked 10+% of the time as a minor leaguer), and he actually had his swing altered to “just make contact” in the majors. So, he always was very different from Barney.

                • MaxM1908

                  Well, I hope Barney improves his power, but I understand that’s likely wishful thinking. Regardless, I’m sure enjoying his glove at 2nd. It sounds like he’s already made two highlight reel plays today and it’s only the third inning. What he lacks in run production he may more than make up for in run prevention.

                  • DocWimsey

                    I do not think that anybody disputes that Barney can “pick it.” However, this gets back to some of our discussions of Castro, Jeter, etc.: although a really good bat more than makes up for an inadequate glove, a really good glove cannot make up for an inadequate bat.

                    Still, Barney would be a very good utility player. He fields well, and you can use him as a pinch-runner. In a big way, the fact that it’s even an issue of what to do with Barney demonstrates just how poor the Cubs player development has been.

                    • MaxM1908

                      How is that determined? I would be curious to see the metrics. Obviously baseball is a game about scoring more runs than the opponent. Over the course of a season, I’d be curious to see the run creation differential attributable to Barney’s bat as it is, and where it would need to be to silence his critics. On defense, I’d like to see the run prevention of a Barney-glove versus that of a lesser defender at 2nd. While I’ll never argue that Barney should be considered a very valuable asset to the Cubs, I would perhaps take the position that his defense makes up for his bat. Let’s remember that he’s not a BAD bat, per se–Just probably not a #2 hitter.

                    • MaxM1908

                      BTW, Barney just had an RBI triple. Quote: “Barney continues to hit for power!”

                • Brady

                  There was no magical transformation but he did say in an interview that there were times he was trying to draw a walk on say a 3-0 count and layed off a good pitch. Sveum told him that if he see’s a good pitch to drive he should do it. I think he is learning that the new approach for him will help him drive the ball better. I am not saying he is going to be an all star but I think he will fit nicely in the #2 spot this year and his solid defensive play makes him a good starting 2nd baseman. (Only the 4th inning of todays game and he has made some very good plays already)

                  • DocWimsey

                    Geez, so his transformation is going to be to take even fewer walks? Talk about being careful for what you wish!

                    Seriously, contrast Barney with Pedroia, a guy who is (if anything) even smaller than Barney. The big difference is not Peedy trying to drive 3-0 pitches. Instead, there are two big differences. One, Peedy has an excellent idea of where the pitch will cross home-plate when it is 10′ from the pitcher’s hand. Barney does not. Two, Peedy takes pitches that he cannot drive and then cuts loose with a “he didn’t get cheated” swing. Barney swings at anything near the plate with a shorter, “quicker” swing that transfers much less momentum.

                    The big problem is #1: you cannot teach that.

                    • Brady

                      That is not what I said at all. More that if you see a good pitch you should take advantage of it rather than trying to draw the walk by just taking it. He will still take walks and I bet his paitence will improve however Sveum’s “selective hitting” approach that he is trying to instill is one that can work very well. Punish pitchers for bad pitches but be smarter about what you swing at. I believe Barney has the tools nessesary to improve, just needs a little coaching.

                    • Mrp

                      I think one reason Barney didn’t take a lot of walks is because he wasn’t dangerous enough for pitchers to even worry about going out of the zone (unless they just missed their spots). If all I have to worry about is Barney getting a single off of me, I might as well just go right after him and throw strikes, right? No need to really nibble the corners.

                      With that being said, if he has bulked up a bit and adjusted his swing to hit more line drives then he might make pitchers worry a little more. If that is the case, they might not just go right after him as often. It’s a chain reaction that could result in more walks for Barney.

                    • DocWimsey

                      Actually, Barney almost certainly would create more runs for the Cubs taking the 3-0 pitches. What Barney needs to change is his selectivity on 0-0, 0-1, 1-1, etc. If Sveum manages for Theo the way that Tito & Little managed for Theo, then they will stress doing this for all counts in all situations. (That’s pretty much how the Sox and Yanks play).

                      One key tool for doing this is excellent pitch recognition. I do not think that Barney has this.

                      Regarding pitchers not being afraid of Barney, a lot of guys with his power take a ton more walks than he does. They do it by not swinging at bad pitches. Barney was among the league leaders in putting pitches outside of the strike zone into play last year. Again, this gets back to Barney lacking a key tool: pitch recognition.

                    • Jay Anderson Jr

                      How many walks did guys not name Pena take last year. Could it be that they were being taught aggressiveness. Now they are being taught patience. While I don’t think you can turn an aggressive hitter into a patient one all together, you can at least nudge him in that direction. This approach will not only net more walks, but also more hard hits, which will in turn, create more walks.

                    • Jay Anderson Jr

                      Also, swinging at a 3-0 pitch will produce more runs then taking a walk, and even more so if the runner is in scoring position. If there is a runner on 3rd and 1 out, I want my guy swinging. A walk puts runners at 1st and 3rd, with 1 out, and a double play ends the innings. Even if barney grounds out in the situation, he produces a run. I know some guys play for the big innings, but a manager should never do this. Big innings just happen, they are not coached. They have more to do with a combination of Luck and talent in the lineup. Since our lineup is not Very talented, I say play for the sure run and let’s win 3-2 instead of trying to win 8-5.

                    • MaxM1908

                      “Barney was among the league leaders in putting pitches outside of the strike zone into play last year. ” Where do you find these statistics? Is there a specific stat that tracks that?

                    • Mrp

                      Barney also doesn’t strike out very much. I’d be curious to know what percentage of his O-Swing and O-Contact were with 2 strikes.

                      To Maxm1908: You can find peripheral stats like we are referring to at places like fangraphs.com.

                    • MaxM1908

                      Thanks, Mrp. I’m new to the whole game of advanced baseball statistics, and I’m always wondering from where people are basing their performance assertions.

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Barney will be good at the 2. Dont be surprised if he hits close to .300. I also suspect with patience being preached, his OBP will be higher. He’ll move down the order once Jackson arrives, as I think he is our best option at 2.

  • MaxM1908

    I know Rusin is not meeting the cream of the Halo’s lineup, but I’m impressed with his five innings of work.

    • Brady

      Completely agree he looked pretty solid. Going to be exciting to see him develop a little more and hit the big league club one day. I’ll have to go check Luke’s post to see what he thinks his ETA is, unless someone else wants to chime in with it off hand.

  • Tarheel Cub

    Based on the personnel of this team, I can see Barney batting second until his numbers start dropping with each passing month. If he begins next season batting second, our rebuilding process will receive a failing grade.

  • JoeSchmoe

    Wow, the Cubs’ batboy looks like Campana from the back.

  • Kyle

    The idea that a runner on 3rd and 1 out is less preferable than runners on 1st and 3rd with one out is provably false.

    • drew

      Theres no question its false, unless you ask Dusty Baker.

    • MaxM1908

      Provably false because of the double play probability? I just want to make sure I understand your statement.

    • Jay Anderson Jr

      That’s is false. But a scored run with an out is probably more preferred then a possible run without the out. Don’t twist the language.

      • DocWimsey

        Gene Mauch would agree. However, Earl Weaver (a big detractor of Mauch) countered “play for 1 run, score 1 run: play for 3 runs, win the game.”

        Ultimately, your main premise boils down to “taking walks with men on base is bad.”. This is easily falsified by the data. High run scoring teams draw lots of walks with men on base. Guys who do this both drive in AND score a lot of runs. Where good offenses stand is in having high runs scored by the middle of the order.

  • die hard

    Castro to CF after Byrd trade?…Saw column in Sun Times couple days ago saying this…gotta get him out of the IF

    • Brady

      There may be a time when he may have a place in the outfield (doubtful on CF maybe RF, maybe) but that time is not now. Who would play SS? We have fillers for CF we dont need to force the situation. Currently our backup for SS is Barney and if he moved over it means we are starting a bench player at 2nd anyway. If Castro gets moved out of SS someday I think he will be moved to 2nd if a better defensive SS comes up through the system. That being said, Castro has all the tools to succeed at SS but is young and needs coaching in the fundementals (something which is happening and the results are starting to show).

      • Ryan

        Yeah the Cubs have a pretty deep CF prospect list and so unless they don’t pan out I don’t see any chance of that happening

    • JoeSchmoe

      Oh yay…. Die hard is back….

    • DocWimsey

      Yeah, I mean, look at how many years that Jeter’s fielding kept the Yankees out of post-season. Would they ever have won anything without moving him to CF?

      • Bric

        Doc, that’s an April fool’s joke, right?

        • DocWimsey

          I should have saved it for April Sarcasm day….. :cool:

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