Winning a series in St. Louis when the Cardinals are having their World Series celebration would make for a pretty good mid-April peak. Today’s game is a big one, for all of those ethereal, irrational reasons.

  • Chris Volstad’s explanation for his rough fourth inning yesterday sounds a lot like Jeff Samardzija’s explanation for his rough fifth inning on Friday. “I just kind of stopped executing, [throwing] pitches over the plate that were up a little bit,” he said. “I needed to take a deep breath and get back to what I was doing the rest of the game.”
  • As for Starlin Castro and his two errors, it sounds like he’s in his own head a bit too much. “Sometimes I think too much, and on the [second error] I tried to be too perfect,” Castro said. “When you think a lot, that’s when the mistakes come.” We heard all of Spring Training that Castro was working hard on his defense and improving, so the errors are understandably frustrating for him. “It’s very frustrating because I have been working hard a lot [this offseason] in the Dominican and here,” Castro said. “Those kind of things aren’t supposed to happen. It’s happening because it’s the game and everybody makes errors. If it happens one time that’s [OK]. Two times? When you know that can happen in the game I don’t stay with that in my mind. I keep playing.”
  • Dale Sveum says he was never worried about Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, who’ve looked better their last couple times out after struggling to open the year. “That’s like a hitter going 0-for-8 the first two games,” Sveum said. “Are you going to take them out of the lineup? These things are part of the process. Like I always say, people on the other side of the field get paid a lot of money to score runs and beat your closers and setup guys, and sometimes that’s just going to happen.” I’d say the comparison would be apt if that hitter went 0-for-8 *and* looked absolutely lost in doing so, striking out at least six of those eight times, flailing haplessly.
  • Luke is on the road today, so your Minor League Daily comes in the form of a long Bullet with the bare essentials: Travis Wood had a mixed start in Iowa’s loss yesterday. He struck out seven in five innings and allowed just three runs, but gave up eight hits and three walks. Welington Castillo is now hitting .500, and Brett Jackson had another homer. Anthony Rizzo did not homer, which is actually newsworthy at this point. The Tennessee Smokies won behind a solid Brooks Raley start and a big night from borderline prospect, Michael Burgess, who singled, doubled and homered in four at bats. (BN’er Nate added some first-hand accounts from the game last night, including: Raley’s breaking stuff was making hitters look silly, Logan Watkins hit a long bomb of a homer, and Jae-Hoon Ha’s walk up music is “Sexy and I Know It.”). The Daytona Cubs were stomped yesterday, thanks primarily to Zach Cates’ second straight rough outing. Matt Szczur and Ronald Torreyes are slumping to start the year, sporting lines of .125/.317/.125 and .188/.278/.219, respectively. At least the IsoD’s are nice, right? The Peoria Chiefs lost in the 9th after a good start from Ben Wells, who gave up a few runs early, but then dominated (he gave up just three hits and a walk in 5.2 innings while striking out five … ok, so he also hit two guys). Zeke DeVoss hit his first homer.
  • Joker

    It’s funny that, just yesterday, I finally got around to watching the Cubs version of the MLB Network’s “30 for 30” preview show. In it, they had a 3 minute piece of Harold Reynolds talking with Starlin on the things he was doing to improve his defense. It’s clear that Dale has been in the young man’s head daily from the start of spring training. That’s a good thing, in my opinion. I pretty sure Quade never registered as more than an afterthought to most of the kids last year.

  • Nate Corbitt

    I posted some pictures from the Smokies game on a public Facebook album:

    • Nate Corbitt

      Oh, and the measured Watkins HR at 404 feet.

    • Brett

      Great pictures, Nate!

  • ferrets_bueller

    …and here it is again: He’s just like every other young SS. Just needs to get comfortable.

    • Falselife

      Yes. It’s just a bad situation to have to develop under the spotlight. The Cubs could end up regretting their haste in bringing him up. I know he is young, but I see him making the same mistakes he was making in his first year. Inconsistent mechanics and lazy footwork. I think his first game up with the Cubs is still a curse. I will continue to say it until they do it -They need to start developing him at third.

      • djriz

        Don’t think they regret bringing up their best offensive player. We are just going to have to be patient with his defense, and hope for the best.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          And it ignores the lesson of Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, etc.  The runs lost to a substandard shortstop pale in comparison to the runs created by a good hitting shortstop.  It is the unfortunate “baseball is one part hitting, one part pitching and one part fielding” adage, which manages to make baseball the only sport that is 2/3rds defense!

  • cubfanincardinalland

    I am going to the game today with my Cardinal fan son(how could I have failed so miserably as a father), look for me in the 14th row behind the Cards dugout. Going to bring home a winner, Mather will hit a dinger today against his old mates. Maholm to bounce back, he is the kind of pitcher who can drive the tweetiebirds crazy.

    • Brett

      Hope you’re right, and hope it’s a blast. Enjoy the game.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Forgot to mention about Castro, I saw an interesting article that quoted Alex Gonzalez, shortstop for the Brewers, who is one of the best fielders in baseball today.
    He said Castro reminds him of himself at 22 years old, thinks he will eventually be a gold glove type of shortstop. Talked about how he has incredible ability, just takes time and practice to refine it.

  • Ryan

    Soto and Byrd are starting to become 2 glaring holes in that lineup.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Against right handers, they are pretty much automatic outs at this point. What is glaring is how teams are going right after them. In the past Soto was good at working walks at least, now they are just challenging him right in the zone.
      His on base percentage this year and last year against right handed pitching is now around .235, striking out more than a third of the plate appearances. I think the front office is being a bit delusional in thinking he has much value. Other teams can do math.

      • Ryan

        Got a couple of nice replacements in Wellington Castillo and Brett Jackson waiting to take their place. Cant really do much worse.

        I would even take Clevenger to replace Soto, heck Bob Brenly has to have something left lol.

  • Chad

    I finally got a chance to see Castro’s errors from yesterday (Stupid blackouts). I find it interesting that nobody has called out LaHair. I think the second error was clearly on Castro, but that first one sure looked like it should have been pulled down by LaHair.

    • djriz

      I agree that LaHair didn’t do him any favors, but they were still bad throws.

      But I do have a question for all you diehards out there. Has anyone noticed that Lahair seems to come off the bag at first a little early? I know umps typically are loose on that call, but if I were managing the opposing team, I sure with bring it up.

  • Spencer

    Do you take a guy out of the lineup if he has two hits through nine games?

    • art

      how big is his contract?

  • berselius

    Seven starts.

  • ISU Birds

    Odds that Maholm gets out of the 4th inning today? I’m saying 30:1.

  • JK

    If you want to know why Castro throws erratically, place a ball in your hand and mimic the still position of Castro in the picture Brett posted as accompaniment to this article. From that position with a cocked wrist headed in the wrong direction while the elbow is bent, tell me how one can throw a ball normally/consistently/successfully. The problem is as plain as day and people are talking about confidence and footwork and working with Dale Sveum. Holy Cow! This is killing me! This is as ridiculous as a batter lifting his plant foot during the pitcher’s delivery and everybody talking about the batter not getting his hands through quickly enough. YOU DON’T LIFT YOUR PLANT FOOT AND HIT WELL! YOU DON’T CURL YOUR WRIST IN THE WRONG DIRECTION WHILE YOUR ELBOW IS BENT AND THROW WELL!!! Can one of you pass this along to your bud, Theo, so we can resolve this sooner than later? Brett, you’re buds with Theo, right? Well, I mean you said you met him at the convention…

    • Pat

      It all starts with footwork. Quarterbacks, catchers, pitchers, position players. If you don’t have consistent and proper footwork, the rest of the motion will never be consistently good.

    • ty

      I know for a fact Sanderg wanted him at second base and so did Alan Trammel but they are gone. What is a bit worrisome is he had the same mechanics in rookie ball and it is not changing. He has put in hours of work with some darn good infield coaches and yet he reverts come game time. He played third a lot as a rookie with Junior Lake at shortstop and I recall he did well. He is a quiet intense youngster-not the lackadasical athlete some media tend to portray him.

      • art

        yeah, but did they stay on Castro as we hear Dale has? as Mckay does with Soriano. were the Cub coaches as bad as Q? always felt the Cubs whole system was not 1 unit. working hard alone & working with a pro is very different. i’ve said from day 1 Castro should be moved to another position. great talent.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Time to give Clevenger some add’l starts. Soto to me represents to much of the past. He reminds of Ramirez and Lee at the plate in the early going. SLLOOWWWW STARTS.. I’m just not a fan of his or Byrd. Seems like there are a lot K’s with runners in scoring position with one out or no outs and we are failing to get even a single run. LaHair, Stewart, Soto and Byrd are guilty of this. These are critical in game mistakes and worse. Than an error. Its a lack of discipline and regard for situational hitting. Someone needs to take the bull by the balls and put a stop to it. Hit the damned ball and get a run scored. Watching that missed execution pisses me off. That’s fundamental baseball and non of these guys are beyond playing solid fundamental ball first and foremost. Yesterday they made the cardinals look good when they should pushed a. Drunk across and cut the lead. Hope Scrum can

  • SirCub

    So four errors in nine games is, admittedly, atrocious. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still take a big step forward this year defensively. If he is able to keep the total number below 20 this year, I’ll be pleased, and I think he is capable of doing that if he continues to make adjustments and listen to his coaches.

  • JK

    I agree Pat. If I saw a batter with some subtle flaws in footwork and he was tomahawking every pitch, I’d want to start at the ground up as you said. But I’d want to address the tomahawking at some point. No matter how well you do with the footwork, a tomahawking batter will never reach his potential. That’s what is frustrating regarding Castro. I have never heard anyone mention his flawed throwing mechanics. If someone said they were working on his footwork AND his grip/delivery/throwing mechanics, I’d be singing hallelujah!

  • chris margetis

    I’m 100% sure there’s some sort of metric for this, but does anyone know if Castro gets to a greater amount of balls than the average SS? And does he possess a much better than average throwing arm? I only ask as if he is indeed better at both (which I assume he is) than wouldn’t the additional opportunities somewhat offset the additional errors (over the league SS average)?


    • DocPeterWimsey

      There are metrics for it, and they get fairly detailed in terms of the different aspects of range.  Castro’s range is very good into the hole, but a little below average up the middle.  Interestingly, it seems to be going up the middle that has the steepest learning curve: good range into the hole typically precedes good range going up the middle.  It might simply have to do with SS’s all being natural righties.

      The thing with fielding range data is that it’s clear that you really need 2-3 years of it to really summarize a guy.  There is a lot of variation that simply comes from day-to-day health, playing conditions, etc.

      You can get a lot of this from FanGraphs, by the way.  Bill James site (which requires a small subscription fee) has a lot, as well as essentially research-quality papers on this and other topics.

  • Kevin

    The manager is accountable for putting the best players on the field to give the Cubs their best chance to win, if this is not happening then something else is going on behind the scenes.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Leo Durocher is still vilified for putting his best team out every day in 1969 and wearing them down.  Quite frankly, Lou probably cost the Cubs the 2008 playoffs by putting his best team out there every day in August of ’08.

      So, no conspiracies are needed: many managers realize that you rest your regulars once in a while AND you get your bench guys occasional starts to get them 4-5 PAs.

      • Pat

        Exactly. That was my biggest complaint with Lou. He wanted to win every single game so badly, that he rarely looked at the bigger picture. Not only in 08, but with that 116 win Mariners team as well.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Well, there were some extenuating circumstances in ’08.  Remember, the Cubs and Brewers were locked in a pretty good race still in August.  It’s easy to forget that after the Brewers monumental collapse in September, and Lou had no way to anticipate that.  In fact, a lot of people were pointing to the Brewers “cupcake schedule” in September and thinking that they could easily overtake the Cubs even if the Cubs played well in September.

          And rainouts earlier in the year resulted in the Cubs played 20 games in 20 days.  (There was an off-day, but also a doubleheader).  Everyone else had 2-3 days off in that time.  That was just crap luck.

          Sometimes, it’s almost a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation!

  • Josh Z

    What! No HR from Rizzo. That’s disappointing. I really like the addition of the minor league daily Brett. Adds another aspect to the site.

  • JK

    That’s a good question, Chris. I think if the errors are coming from mental mistakes (i.e. rushing to throw after reaching the ball that others wouldn’t normally reach) then your point is valid. But if the errors are physical mistakes (like the two routine plays yesterday for Castro), the physical/mechanical problems should be addressed.

    DPW: Interesting that the learning curve is longer for range up the middle than in the hole. I’m not sure what you mean by natural righties being a potential cause for being better in the hole than up the middle. Going into the hole requires the backhand for a right-handed thrower whereas going up the middle allows for more natural forehand maneuvers. It also seems counterintuitive with regards to the velocity of the ball. It would seem that a hit in the hole is going to tend to come at the shortstop quicker (most hitters are right-handed so the hitter would be pulling the ball). Anyone have any insights on this one?

    • Corey

      I played shortstop for about 3-4 years in Jr. High and High School and I think it’s easier playing a ball in the hole than a tough ball up the middle. I think a lot of it has to do with your feet and the position of your body. When it’s in the hole, your feet are either already set, or you can pull off a jump-throw and have your body squared up with 1st base.

      On a tough ball up the middle, it’s likely that you’ll kind of stumble over your own feet, and then your body is facing RF, so you have to square your body up with 1st base, and then make the throw. Put that all together and it’s kind of an awkward motion.

      • ty

        Agree Corey. I played short through college and one season of class D that does not exist any longer. As you relate coming through second you have to tuck in and it is such an awkward throw. Although to fans the backhand or deep play looks more difficult it is not. I can tell you played a lot of ball.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, you work on pushing off with your left leg all the time running the bases.  A SS going up the middle is like running the bases backwards in terms of the muscle reflexes that you are using most of the time. That’s probably why SS’s need to work on this more than going into the hole: they are working on going into the hole every time they are on base.

  • JK

    Corey, Ty, DPW, Strong insights that answered what I failed to see. Thanks.

  • JK

    I said I’d be singing hallelujah if I heard any mention of someone working on Castro’s throwing mechanics. Just read this from yesterday article…Doug Padilla – ESPN Chicago

    “The [second error] was more of a mechanical thing with his wrist when he’s throwing the ball,” Sveum said. “We talked about it. Sometimes you’re still going to have some of those errors. Unfortunately right now those are still part of the process.”

    HALLELUJAH!!! HALLELUJAH!!! HALLELUJAH!!! The first time I’ve ever heard anyone mention Castro’s flawed throwing mechanics.