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Bryan LaHair gets another start against a lefty, at least partly because Mike Minor has a bit of a reverse split going on (as in, lefties are hitting him just as well, if not better, than righties this year). But I can’t help but wonder if it also has a little something to do with LaHair’s trade value – gotta show the world that he can be an every day starter, even if the numbers say he can’t be.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves (42-39) at Chicago Cubs (31-50), 6:10pm CT on CSN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview for this series lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Matt Garza (4-6, 4.01 ERA, 3.66 xFIP)

versus

Mike Minor (4-6, 6.20 ERA, 4.73 xFIP)

Atlanta Braves Lineup

1. Michael Bourn, CF

2. Martin Prado, LF

3. Jason Heyward, RF

4. Freddie Freeman, 1B

5. Brian McCann, C

6. Dan Uggla, 2B

7. Andrelton Simmons, SS

8. Juan Francisco, 3B

9. Mike Minor, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. David DeJesus, CF

2. Starlin Castro, SS

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Bryan LaHair, RF

6. Geovany Soto, C

7. Darwin Barney, 2B

8. Luis Valbuena, 3B

9. Matt Garza, P

  • @cubsfantroy

    Lets go Cubs. Get that series win. Make sure Volstad isn’t in the dugout or at the game. lol

  • CapnSwiss

    Actually, the Cubs already won the season series against the Braves win or lose. Go Cubs Go

  • Carew

    Nice to see consistency in the lineups nowadays

    • Featherstone

      I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Toby

      Remember the days when fans were clamoring for Sveum to shake things up for the sake of shaking things up?

      • Carew

        I think a lot of that was him learning his team and he has figured it out. Sveum is gonna be good

  • Tom

    I’m actually ok either way tonight (of course I want a win) – but last night clinched the season record against the Braves – which means I won my annual bet with my best friend (and long time Braves fan) So at some point in the future he will be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the middle of our local Wal-mart :) (It’s the little things that keep me going in a season like this)

  • gratefulled

    Two words: Stacy Keibler

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Haha. Indeed.

  • Featherstone

    I hope Garza goes out and dominates the Braves tonight if for no other reason than for the GM of the Braves to stop for a second and think “Gee, I would like this guy to come dominate other teams for us instead.” Maybe, that’s optimistic of me to think, but hey why not.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Jim Callis says about Vitters, “He has made some progress, but his ceiling is solid regular.” That is very disappointing. Vitters will most likely never be a great player that many of us thought he could be even with the progress he’s made lately.

    • @cubsfantroy

      I would be happy if Vitters gave the Cubs a .250-.260 yearly average with 20+ homers and some good defense.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        Vitters defense is still awful no matter what you have read. Yes it has improved but he will never be a good defensive 3rd baseman, according to top analysis like Jim Callis and many others. But Kevin Goldstein says he still has potential to hit for average, and power but his OBP will always be awful because his poor plate approach. If all he gave us in his prime was a batting average of .250-.260, 20 homers, and an OBP of .290-.300 then I don’t want him to be our 3rd baseman because that OBP is awful. And I guarantee you Theo and Jed won’t accept that OBP and he will be gone.

      • Featherstone

        I’ve been hearing its his glove that needs the most work. So I wonder if he will even be a passable 3rd baseman.

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          Could Vitters possibly move to 2nd base? I would more accept .260 avg, 20 hr, .290-.300 OBP from a second baseman then I would a 3rd baseman. If those are numbers if he gets moved to a corner OF spot then that would be unacceptable still on a Championship caliber team

          • Featherstone

            If he can’t play 3rd, then he certainly can’t play 2nd.

            • chirogerg

              False. As someone who has played both positions, I can certainly tell you that playing 3rd is much harder than playing second. Playing 3rd base at a gold glove level may require the most skill out of all positions other than maybe short or catcher. If Vitters can’t play 3rd well enough, the only thing keeping him from playing second is his size, but that didn’t stop the yankees from sticking Cano there.

              • art

                if 3B is harder and i’m not saying it isn’t, range is needed more at 2B and i don’t think he has it or a move would have been made already. just my opinion from playing both.

                • RoughRiider

                  I played a lot of 2b, SS & 3b. Second requires more range, third requires quicker reflexes and a better arm. I don’t know for sure but history and my take is that it’s a lot harder to find a good third baseman than a second baseman.

    • hansman1982

      as such is the case with a lot of prospects. Although, I would not be too bummed about having a solid regular at third for a couple of years.

      • MaxM1908

        There’s always the possibility that he can keep the seat warm until Baez is ready, and then, there’d be the hope that he’d have some trade value.

    • rhino70

      Seems to me a solid regular at 3rd would be a godsend. Love him or hate him, one thing Aramis Ramirez did was make all of us forget the swinging door that 3rd base was in the years between him and Santo.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        I would agree but if we want to win a world series in the next 10 years then it will be unacceptable to have Vitters be our starting 3rd baseman. 3rd base is a position you need good offensive production from

    • MaxM1908

      Is it possible that Vitters has some trade value now? Could we package him with someone else for better prospects? If he indeed is only a bat, than we should consider dumping him while his bat is hot and hope other teams will overlook his defensive woes.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        I don’t think Vitters has much trade value. But if the Cubs could package Dempster, Vitters, and another high upside prospect for the Tigers 3rd base prospect Nick Castellanos I would be jumping for joy!

        • Jeff

          Why does everyone have such a Man Crush on Castellanos?? Let’s see what he does after at least 300 AB at AA before we go anointing him the next Mike Schmidt.
          I’m less inclined to make that trade and would rather see what we have with Baez first.

          • Edward

            A top 50 MLB prospect for Dempster and Vitters would be a great return. I think you are dreaming there…

            We would likely need to send Garza to have any chance at Castellanos. I doubt the Tigers have any interest in Vitters, since they are set at the corners for the next decade.

            I know everybody wants to focus on pitching this trade deadline, but at this point I think it’s best to just get the best prospects we can, regardless of their position. Always take the best player available. If you strike gold twice at the same position, top prospects can always be traded when your team is ready to compete.

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          Lineup 2015:
          CF: Albert Almora
          SS: Starlin Castro
          1st: Anthony Rizzo
          RF: Jorge Soler
          3rd: Javier Baez
          2nd: Nick Castellanos
          C: Gary Sanchez or Wellington Castillo or maybe the cubs get some hot shot catching prospect by then(could come in a trade for Garza)
          LF: Brett Jackson / Matt Szczur

          MY GOD! Could you imagine the fire power in that lineup!!!!!!??

          • djriz

            Gary Sanchez?

            Great Lineup (if, BIG if, everyone reaches their ceiling) but 2015 might be wishful thinking. That would mean Almora and Soler would only have 2 years in the minors, Baez and Castellanos only 3 full years there.

            Where are the pitchers?

            • Richard Nose

              If we have Castellanos and Sanchez, I’m assuming he’ll say our rotation oes something like this: Hamels, Taillon, Huiltzen, Shark, and Maples.

              • Serious Cubs Fan

                Richard Nose: Thanks for the cheap shot. It is wishful thinking but thats what being a cubs fan is about. Respectfully up yours bud. If you want to take a shot at a guy for dreaming for once you could take a hike

                • Richard Nose

                  Just dreamin with ya my man.

          • chirogerg

            there is no way Almora would be in the bigs by 2015. Soler, Baez, and Castellanos probably wouldn’t either, but you never know.

    • djriz

      Would somebody PLEASE go through all the major league starting lineups and tell me what percentage of starters would be considered ‘solid regular’? Bet it’s not as many as you think. So, if Vitters turns into a ‘solid regular’ that would be a plus.

      Can’t disagree on his defense..he needs to get it to at least average…but his minor league track record would indicate a player who will hit 280 or so, with an OPS at about .800 with
      18-25 hrs. Guess what percentage of starters in the majors would equal that?

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        Ya I agree, I would take Vitters being a solid regular at this point. I would definitely take those number for the next couple 3-4years but after that I would like to see cubs get an upgrade at 3rd base when they start to compete for a championship again. Plus his defense is pretty bad so thats another huge factor in why I don’t like him as our future 3rd baseman long term as regular. But that why we have Baez and Jeimer Candelario to replace him by that time hopefully if they pan out. But I would definitely take those predicted Vitters numbers while the cubs are still mediocrity and limbo till we start competing again.

        • djriz

          Yes, I also have high hopes for Baez and Candelario (this Geiger guy is starting out nice at Peoria), something like .300-.320 with 30-35 HR’s, but really, that is not likely. Hope it happens though. But until then, we could do worse than solid regular.

      • Drew7

        He may get to those numbers, but im not sure his MiLB numbers *indicate* it (18 HR is his high and, before this season, he hadnt had an OPS of. 800 since Boise).
        I hope youre right, though.

        • djriz

          On the HR’s, you need to consider the number of at bats he’s had in previous years. Power tends to improve as players mature and it does indicate a projection of 18-25 and .800 OPS. May never happen, but it could.

          • Drew7

            He may very well have the power to hit 20 HR’s one day, I’ll give you that. What I’m skeptical on is his ability to have an .800 OPS. The speed isnt really there to leg out many triples, and his OBP may hover around .325 most years. That makes it pretty tough to slug enough to get to that OPS.

            I would have liked to see his power develope a bit more the last few years, but I could certainly see a couple peak years of .285/.340/.440

            • djriz

              I’ll give you that. He may need to hit .310 to get to an .800 OPS.

  • Josh

    Dale! Why you no start Clevenger?

    • chirogerg

      lefty

  • rizzastro

    First off love this site brett and first time post here. I would not get so down on vitters yet, remember he is still at the young age of 22. He is still maturing and with maturity comes a feel for the game. He is still learning nuances of the game that come with time like being able to work a count to your favor or selective aggressiveness and not being in the box hacking at any ball you can get wood on, it’s all about getting your pitch and driving it as you all know. I found some decently comparable numbers for vitters and if he can become a player like this i would not be disappointed. Take away some bad breaks and injuries and youk is/was one of the best 3b in the league. Remeber what youk was doing his first few years in the minors was at 22 after college seasoning and experience, vitters was 17.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=youkil001kev
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=vitter002jos

    • chirogerg

      didn’t Youkilis walk a ton, though. I remember that from reading Moneyball. That’s why the A’s wanted him. His defense, however, is probably very comparable to Vitters’.

      • ferrets_bueller

        They’re polar opposites, almost. Youk walks a ton, Vitters simply does not walk, AT ALL.

        • Jeff

          That’s not true, Vitters has 21 walks…lol

  • Luke D

    Three home runs for LaHair tonight.

    Leggo.

    • Richard Nose

      Three home runs for LaBraves instead. Shiiiiiiz.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Everyone is to hard on Vitters. The kid is 23 for God’s sake. He has gotten better at every stop. Look at the improvement Castro has made this year over last at shortstop. If every player just said F it and quit because a bunch people who have never played baseball above Pony League have an opinion we wouldn’t have any players in this league. I don’t have much respect for analysts who never played beyond Pony League. They know about as much as a little league mom IMO. If they were so good then they would be professional coaches. Baseball players are held to some kind of gold standard by analysts and numbers crunchers. If he can play the game good enough he will make it. At 23 he isn’t washed up and he certainly hasn’t reached his potential yet. Maybe if Dale Sveum worked with him like has Castro he might get better on defense. God knows he has helped Castro improve. If he totally sucked he wouldn’t have made it to AAA baseball. I hope the kid comes up and plays great and everybody has to drink a can of shut the f*ck up.

    • PKJ

      I think we’re hard on him because he came in with a pretty high level of expectation with the $3.2 million signing bonus without an inning of MLB service time to date. I realize some players are late bloomers, but at the very least, we should expect him to be a major league regular. He may be on this path right now, but it’s hard to say.

    • T Wags

      Couldn’t have said it any better myself. I have a feeling we’re all going to be happy with what Vitters gives us when he makes it to the big show.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Well since there are only 2 gold glove thirdbaseman each year 28 others must all be not rhat good at their craft. The cubs havent had a gold glove thirbaseman. So if Vitters can field any since christ was a corporal.

  • Jeff

    Way to increase that trade value Garza…you stink!!

  • Jeff

    Way to increase that trade value Garza…you really stink a ton!!

  • Cubs2013

    Soto’s two strike calling is terrible

  • die hard

    Vitters slated for OF

    • Drew7

      How many OF’ers do you plan on playing in 2015? I’m pretty sure, at one point or another, you’ve banished every top-25 Cubs prospect to the OF.

      • @cubsfantroy

        We won’t have an infield, we will just hope there are a lot of fly balls out there for 7 people to catch.

  • Jeff

    Garza has 31 pitches in the inning with 9 balls and 22 strikes and he can’t get outs…ugh!!!

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Garza likes pitching for the Cubs doesn’t want to move to Atlanta. Best way to ensure you don’t have to move to Atlanta. Be a pitcher.. Be a pitcher who throws gofer balls. Be a pitcher who throws gofer balls against the team who might have traded for you and you never have to worry about moving to Atlanta. Be a Cub and keep us from winning two series in a row with a garbage 1st inning. Oh Well… Hope tonight it’s HR Derby in Atlanta for Rizzo, Soriano, LaHair and Soto.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Well Garza looks to be getting his work done in the 1st inning. 115 pitches and off to the showers. Garza’s logic. Throw 115 in the 1st inning and my night is over. I can get mad and leave the ballpark early like Big Z.

    • Jeff

      What a complete waste of talent, after tonight I’m not sure Garza is even the third best pitcher on the trading market.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Gosh darn it. Garza is laying another egg. He really is just not having the same year he had as last year. Very disappointing from a trade value stand point

    • rcleven

      League pretty much knows what Garza is and can do.
      Unless there is a injury issue this won’t hurt Garzas trade value at all.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Duh. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to work for us. Our best trade chip craps the bed right before we the chance to sell high. Why didn’t he get a sore neck or pinky finger and go on the DL until we consumate a trade. Damn the bad luck. Well the 2 single A pitchers we get from the Toledo Mudhens will probably pan out 6 years from now. I might just drive up and watch the Mudhens tomorrow and scout their pitchers. Maybe they got something we can run out there every 5 days that can get out of the 1st inning.

  • MikeCubs23

    How is Garza’s velocity? The game isnt televised where I live.

    • baldtaxguy

      91-94 range.  His spots in inning 1 were trending toward the fatty part of the plate.  Last at bat to Francisco was like 16 pitches, a real battle.

    • rcleven

      Velocity is not the issue tonight.
      Command and location suck.
      No movement on his fast ball & up.

  • MikeCubs23

    Well lets hope he gets his act together. I know one start isnt suppose to mean alot but its discouraging the closer we get to trade deadline.

    • baldtaxguy

      Agree.  He’s likely pressing with 7/31 approaching.

  • lucas

    where is bob brenly?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Took a game off to go watch his son play.

  • d.

    Jon Morosi ‏@jonmorosi
    #BlueJays have a scout watching Matt Garza in Atlanta tonight. And he is not pitching well.
    ***

    Ugh.

  • lucas

    hey brett do you think the dodgers would be interested in lahair since they didnt get carlos lee?

  • @cubsfantroy

    Wow, Mike Minor is pitching like a Cy Young candidate. Or are the Cubs that bad at the dish right now?

    • RY34

      definitely the latter. cubs gave up after the first inning.

  • hardtop

    Can someone explain why Maine is allowed to play baseball. I know it doesn’t matter tonight, because garza was serving up meatballs like an Italian grandmother… but I have no idea why Maine is on the roster let alone playing baseball of any kind.

    • RY34

      personally i think he fits right in, especially with him walking minor, the pitcher no less in the sixth inning.

  • Josh

    Castro has the lowest OBP of any regular outside of 3B and Soto

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