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pnc parkAnd away we go!

The first game of the 2014 season, and the first game of the Ricky Renteria era as manager. How does that first lineup look against lefty Francisco Liriano? Pretty fair, though you’re likely to point out the inclusion of lefty Nate Schierholtz. I’m going to assume that’s because Justin Ruggiano’s ankle is still bothering him. It’s a bummer, since the Cubs start against a lefty, but he’ll presumably get today and tomorrow off before returning on Wednesday or Thursday (when the Cubs face another lefty in Wandy Rodriguez).

You’ll also notice that, with Emilio Bonifacio in the outfield (probably going to be a regular thing against lefties), he plays center field and Junior Lake slides to left. I guess, even as a utility guy, Bonifacio is better in center than Lake when the games really count. A mark against Lake, or a compliment to Bonifacio’s extreme defensive versatility?

There’s a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, and Starlin Castro ends up slotting in the three-hole, with Anthony Rizzo behind him. It’s not a bad group against Liriano, but it’s really not overstating it to say that Ruggiano may have been the biggest threat in the lineup against Liriano (career .256/.328/.506 against lefties). The good news is that, based on the way Ruggiano described his ankle issue, he could theoretically be available to pinch hit (I’m just guessing, mind you).

Oh, and a head’s up that you’ll notice in Pre-Gamin’ posts this year, as well as Series Previews: the W/L stat for pitchers no longer exists to me. It’s stupid, misleading, and a terrible reflection of performance and ability. I’ll breath no further life into it, thankyouverymuch.

Game Info

Chicago Cubs (0-0) at Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0), 12:05 CT on WGN and ESPN.

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 lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Jeff Samardzija (4.34 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 3.45 xFIP in 2013, 2.74 K/BB)

versus

Francisco Liriano (3.02 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.12 xFIP in 2013, 2.59 K/BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

1. Starling Marte, LF

2. Travis Snider, RF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

5. Russell Martin, C

6. Neil Walker, 2B

7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B

8. Jordy Mercer, SS

9. Francisco Liriano, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF

2. Junior Lake, LF

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

5. Mike Olt, 3B

6. Welington Castillo, C

7. Nate Schierholtz, RF

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Jeff Samardzija, P

  • terencemann

    Do you think Schierholtz would be playing if it weren’t opening day? In other words, would we normally see Ruggiano in this lineup vs. LHP?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes, we would. I think it’s just the ankle issue for Ruggiano.

      • joejoe234

        It’s not a great stat but it is still interesting to see a W/L record even if it doesn’t mean a lot. It’s a stat that has been around the game forever, I don’t think it should be considered stupid just because it’s not a great indicator of individual performance. Still means something to most fans of the game.

        • roz

          “Still means something to most fans of the game.”

          I think that says more about most fans than it does the stat ;)

        • JAllman

          I agree with Joe. I understand this stat is not a reflection of the players ability but it does reflect their results. You can qualify those results in your way but why ignore the information?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            It doesn’t reflect the pitcher’s results. That’s the problem.

      • ced landrum

        I saw the lineup and immediately thought of Ruggiano’s ankle. Then I started thinking about it and the fact that Nate said at the beginning of spring that he wanted to face more lefties. I wonder if this is a nod by RR to give Nate the opening day start even against a nasty lefty.

        • C. Steadman

          That could be, but we’ll probably never know unless RR states that Ruggiano could’ve started but wanted Nate in…b/c we’ll probably see a Ruggiano pinch hit against a lefty, even if the ankle bothers him a little. My guess it’s to rest the ankle by not having Ruggiano play the field

      • terencemann

        I didn’t realize Ruggiano had an issue. That makes sense why I haven’t seen a lot of him lately.

  • jh03

    “the W/L stat for pitchers no longer exists to me. It’s stupid, misleading, and a terrible reflection of performance and ability. I’ll breath no further life into it, thankyouverymuch.”

    ::applauds::

    • C. Steadman

      as we saw last night with both Cashner and Ryu throwing gems while neither getting a decision

    • joejoe234

      It’s not a great stat but it is still interesting to see a W/L record even if it doesn’t mean a lot. It’s a stat that has been around the game forever, I don’t think it should be considered stupid just because it’s not a great indicator of individual performance. Still means something to most fans of the game.

      • jh03

        But…. the point of stats is to indicate a player’s performance, right? So why should we use it if it tells us nothing about that player’s performance?

        • jh03

          are*

          • Funn Dave

            You had it right the first time. “Point” is singular.

            -BN Grammar Douche

            • jh03

              I was going back and forth in my head on that.. Thanks!

              • Funn Dave

                Any time.

        • C. Steadman

          Bingo

      • itzscott

        I agree…

        For us infinitely less statistically sophisticated (by choice) it gives us an idea of who is likely to be a factor in a win or loss for their team.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        “I don’t think it should be considered stupid just because it’s not a great indicator of individual performance”

        Isn’t that pretty much exactly why we should consider it stupid?

        Team wins and losses matter. The pitcher “win/loss” stat, as it is defined, is stupid, meaningless, and misleading.

        • VittersStartingLF

          I hope you reconsider decision about W-L records for pitchers. You may think it is worthless but others maybe still want to know. My question is was this site made for the readers or not? If enough readers want info, why not include it?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            The site is for readers, you’re quite right. But it’s also for the advancement of baseball entertainment and knowledge. The pitching stat W/L is a terrible, terrible stat. It’s easy enough to look up if you want to find it, but I’m not going to play a part in furthering its use. There are literally dozens of better ways to reflect a pitcher’s performance.

            • joejoe234

              I agree it’s not a good indicator of overall effectiveness of a pitcher. Most people though like to see it as a reference point to how the team has done when they have started. I love advanced stats but it’s also nice to see the old ones with them. Why not get the whole picture? If a pitcher was 20-0 with bad advanced stats shouldn’t we still know he’s 20-0 on the year?

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                “If a pitcher was 20-0 with bad advanced stats shouldn’t we still know he’s 20-0 on the year?”

                Because that would be misleading.

                • blublud

                  It still depicts a story. Yes, he sucks, but for some reason his team scores a shit load of runs for him. Coincidence. Probably. But it still tells a story. BTW, I do think Wins are stupid.

                  • blublud

                    Actually I think wins are pretty cool. :-D just not when attributed to one person.

                • joejoe234

                  Misleading for his individual performance, but still tells us how the team has performed in his starts. I think it’s still interesting, even if it doesn’t mean a lot towards the pitchers individual performance.

                  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                    “Misleading for his individual performance…”

                    So why tie it to him at all? It’d be like evaluating pitchers based on their team’s OPS.

                  • Funn Dave

                    To me, the issue is that not all fans realize how unimportant the stat is. And it does seem to factor into decisions about things like Cy Young awards, which it really shouldn’t. As for the earlier point about this site being for its readers, I have seen far more commenters decry the W/L stat for pitchers than commenters in favor of its continued use.

              • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                That’s a situation that will be so incredibly rare as to not factor into the argument.

                You’re saying something is useful because of a one-in-a-million chance of something happening that, still, doesn’t even describe the pitcher.

            • Sandberg

              Stay strong. Don’t give in to the luddites.

    • The Nefi Perez Plan

      By itslelf wins are not a great stat but I have watched baseball enough to see pitchers who would let up with big leadd or clamp down in close games and always seemed to win such as David Wells or pitchers who always seemed to pitch just bad enough to lose no matter the score such as Matt Clement.

      I think completely diregarding pitching outcomes and clutch hitting are two major blindspots in sabermetric thinking right now. And until somebody comes up with a way to quanify the ability to pitch or hit in tight situaions, wins and losses will still carry some meaning.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        One reason I completely disregard wins/losses for pitchers and his name is Felix Hernandez

        • The Nefi Perez Plan

          I guess I am not arguing so much for wins and losses but rather that they need a valid replacement versus just dropping them.

          • The Nefi Perez Plan

            And I meant dropping them as a statistic. I have no problem with Brett dropping them here.

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            They have been replaced by advanced metrics. W/L answers a question to which no one has ever asked:

            “How many times has a pitcher left the game with a lead, that was held by subsequent pitchers, where he was the starter and went 5 or more innings or came in as a reliever and left the game with the lead (even if he was replaced in the lineup when his AB came up the following half-inning) and that lead held through the end of the game?”

            People have decided that W/L answers the question: “How good was pitcher X?”. To which is does not answer.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That’s it, right there. Pitching W/L answers a question in which we should have no interest in the answer.

              “How well did Samardzija pitch today” is the question you want answered. W/L doesn’t answer it, because he could have pitched shittily and got the win, or pitched very well and got the loss.

              When you hit a home run, you actually hit a home run, and you get 1 HR in your stats.

              • The Nefi Perez Plan

                When you drive in a run, you actually drive in a run and get an RBI. And the RBI is another statistic that is not believed to have worth in the advanced statistical world. And in general I don’t have an issue with that. I do believe the RBI is a stat that has been better accounted for by the advanced statistics out there.

                I am a informatics guy and I am not trying to be contrarion (although I do enjoy the discussion). I just think that fans are latching onto the new advanced statistics withought recognizing that they are still incomplete. We are still somewhat in the infancy of advanced statistics and I think ten years from now people will be looking at some of the advanced statistics people are taking as gospel now the same way people are looking at RBIs and wins now.

                • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                  That is probably true. 10 years ago OBP and OPS were advanced stats. Now they are a part of the puzzle.

                  With W/L and RBI they are stats that rely on other players to earn.

                  • The Nefi Perez Plan

                    It could easily be argued all statistics depend on other people. What do Rizzo’s stats look like last year if he is still with the Red Sox, has Ortiz hitting behind him, and he isn’t being looked at to be the man on offense? You can’t tell me the pressure put on him because of who else is on the team didn’t adversely affect how he performed.

                    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                      Eh…Rizzo had Soriano and a hot-swinging Schierholtz batting behind him last year.

                      Lineup protection exists for guys like Bonds or Stanton in Miami last year but for someone like Rizzo, with capable power hitters behind him, it doesn’t.

                      In the end, stats like OPS and wOBA and K/BB rates aren’t impacted by the performance of others to the degree that W/L and RBI are.

                    • Karl Groucho

                      Re: lineup protection…http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/what-would-lineup-protection-look-like/

                      The other point is interesting re: pressure, but I don’t know how much I buy it. How can we quantify different amounts of pressure? And is it fair to say that pressure is only applied to some players and not others? If I can throw out a few types of “pressure” I imagine works on a player — only good hitter in lineup, rookie with a lot to prove, walk year, playing in NY/LA, injury recovery, playoff chase, position battle, star prospect breathing down neck, etc.

                      It seems to me that players are *always* under pressure — that’s kind of why we watch them, to perform well in tough situations while we cheer. I don’t know if it’s fair to give one type of pressure more or less leeway, or to understand one player differently due to “pressure.” In fact, if a player performs less well under pressure I might be skeptical about his overall skill level, because again “performing under pressure” is kind of what he has to do.

                      Obviously there are fluctuations based on soft factors that are often overlooked by stat-side analysis, and learning how to get players to be their best is probably more important than we let on. But I don’t know that it’s fair to toss out some things as certain when they don’t appear quite so sound.

                    • The Nefi Perez Plan

                      I’ll accept the non – certainty argument as a flaw but it can hardly be argued that if you look at the people you know in life they handle stressful situations differently for better or worse. To pretend that doesn’t happen with ballplayers as well seems a stretch. There is enough data available to do that but it hasn’t been done yet.

                      And as far as lineup protection that article is correct but definitely small sample size. And it doesn’t look at the batters in front of you. How often does a batter come up with runners on base or in scoring positio on a good team where there is more pressure on the pitcher? How often does a batter come up when his team has a decent lead and there is less pressure on him to perform? And of course thete would be other questions. I just think we are looking at an unfinished puzzle here.

                    • Karl Groucho

                      You raise a really interesting point here, TNPP. Relational stats are generally seen as the next wave of analysis, but I wonder how much is going on at the intersection of stats and psychology. Not exactly bedfellows, so I’d imagine very little. (The biggest problem I see is in just how individualized response to pressure is. What motivates one player might freeze another, so even if we can divine trends they may not be all that useful for prediction.)

                      All this, obviously, can still be said to have impacted a player’s performance — regardless of stats. But I don’t know that we can say much about it from where we are today: the player might not even be cognizant of what’s affecting him, let alone we as observers! And I feel as though it can’t *absolve* a player even if we knew it; playing under pressure, again, is an important skill in baseball — just like plate discipline or contact. If he can’t take being the lineup’s best hitter, how will he handle the WS? (Or even more: the first Cubs WS in over a century!)

                • The Nefi Perez Plan

                  Of course it does not absolve him of his problems but might it make him more likely be successful to succeed with a change of scenery than someone with the same statistical profile with the Rangers? I don’t know the answer to that but it certainly seems possible and it would be cool to know what the statistical probability of that.

                  I do know that the Rangers have turned more all stars than the Royals despite how well thought of the Rouals prospects were (I know the Rangers players in general were well thought of also). I do mot know if that is purely a minor league development plan thing or if coming into a good to great lineup helps.

                  I am not saying I have the answers, otherwise I would be doing something making a lot more money than I am. But there are lots still to be discovered.

                  • Karl Groucho

                    You’re certainly right about that. If you have the time, you should throw something together for the fangraphs community page! I’d read it.

            • The Nefi Perez Plan

              There is a reason the A’s have put so much money into scouting after Moneyball came out, the current statistical models including the advanced stati have many blindspots still. They are much better than the traditional statistics but not perfect. 5 years ago Bill James was saying there is no such thing as clutch hitting which has now been proven to exist but has yet to be properly quantified.

              My argument is that there is a statistical value in leaving the game with the lead, just as there is a value to pitching deap into games such ad Roy Halladay did which allowed him to accumulate both more wins and more losses. The sample size of one pitchers starts over the course of a year is small and looking at a pitchers record without context or to take it as a representation of a pitcher’s worth would be foolish in the modern game.

              But I think that saying that current advanced statistics have taken in to account how a pitcher perfoms within a close game are imcorrect, if anything they have removed the game from the equation.

              • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                “…which has now been proven to exist but has yet to be properly quantified”

                Where is this study at? The only studies I have seen have acknowledged that clutch performances exist but clutch as a thing does not.

                • The Nefi Perez Plan

                  Look at Tom Tango’s website (hired by the Cubs). He has a study where it shows a small affect (just a couple of runs) but then states that it could be bigger. Grain of salt but in the SI baseball preview they have an article on the Cuban sabermetric revolution and they are working on a stat named “clutchness”. Also I believe but I could be wrong that Bill James in the last year or so stated that his research that disproved clutch hitters had been fouled up. I think Nate Silver had a study proving that clutch hitting exists as well.

                  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                    Well I’ll be…learn something new everyday.

                    • The Nefi Perez Plan

                      It’s partially exciting because it is evolving.

    • ame1908

      Replace with TWTW, right C. Steadman?

      • C. Steadman

        TWTW…I guess Ryu or Cashner didn’t have it even though they pitched really well…maybe it was just Wilson having TWTL that did it in for Ryu

    • SalukiHawk

      I stopped caring about W/L after Nolan Ryan’s 1987 season: 2.76 era (lead the league, 276 K’s (lead the league), and a WHIP of 1.13. The guy was dominant, and in a down pitching year, I thought he should have been given more consideration for the Cy Young. But his record that year: 8-16. Guy pitched into some of the worst luck ever. It wasn’t as though Houston’s offense was terrible. He finished 5th in the CYA voting (won by closer Steve Bedrosian…grr).

  • cub4life

    YAY its almost game time.

  • willis

    Ruggiano is still dealing with a bum ankle.

    Liriano absolutely killed the cubs last year. He owns this team so when they get shut out today, don’t everyone get too upset.

    • BlameHendry

      Who was the Pirates opening day starter last year? Whoever it was, the Cubs won that one.

      • Fishin Phil

        AJ Burnett

      • willis

        AJ Burnett. And I’ll never forget Rizzo taking him yard in the first. It was pretty awesome.

        Unfortunately he isn’t the starter today. I’m hoping Liriano’s arm fall off, but that’s probably hoping too much.

        • Jason P

          With that Rizzo home run, I remember thinking, “wow, this year is going to be different than 2012. It’s going to be fun watching Castro get on base and Rizzo knock him in all year.”

          So much for that.

      • Jason P

        AJ Burnett.

        • Jason P

          Wow I should have refreshed.

  • Beast Mode

    Maybe he gives Shierholtz the nod beacase he is more of a “regular”. I have heard atehleyes have egos.

  • jeff1969

    Looking at that Pirates lineup, um, well, not so great huh? But that will be changing for the better for them soon, Polanco, Hanson, & that crop of pitchers. Makes the Cubs future a little scarier imo. As for metrics, since we’re getting rid of W-L records for pitchers, how about for the team as well. We could have a wonderful season if we can just drop that metric.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Pittsburgh is bursting with talent. Not to the level of St. Louis, but my goodness to think about a future that includes Cole, Taillon, Alvarez, McCutcheon, Walker and Polanco.

    • itzscott

      >> As for metrics, since we’re getting rid of W-L records for pitchers, how about for the team as well. <<

      Excellent idea!

      Standings should not be based on wins, but maybe something else that indicates how well a team participated so every player feels good about themselves regardless of the outcome.

      • Drew7

        I feel like this post could be considered *the* definition of a strawman.

        • BT

          which one?

          • Drew7

            Sorry, this one:

            “As for metrics, since we’re getting rid of W-L records for pitchers, how about for the team as well. We could have a wonderful season if we can just drop that metric.”

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      “As for metrics, since we’re getting rid of W-L records for pitchers, how about for the team as well.”

      Where is that picture of the cat pushing the watermelon out of the lake.

  • jp3

    No more watching Baez (kicks rocks). Yay mike OLT!

  • Blackhawks1963

    Good lineup card by Ricky. Best he can do with the resources at his disposal. Not wild about Schierholz playing against a tough lefty, but Ruggiano isn’t healthy enough to play the outfield.

  • Steve

    Dang… I just thought of Harry.

    I’ll dig a Budweiser out of the back of the fridge just for you.

  • EB

    Go Cubs Go!!

    • C. Steadman

      +infinity

  • CeeDeeVee

    I love the speed at the top. We really need that in general, but especially vs lefties.

    AND I chose Rizzo in a snake draft over evrry other first baseman! Who cares about LeftyVSLefty!! Let’s go Cubbiesssss

    • Beast Mode

      Rizzo has looked a lot better vs lefties this spring:)

  • ced landrum

    The Iowa Cubs roster looks to be about done on their site, minus the fact that Baez isn’t on there yet.

  • ChadThompson20

    I’m liking this lineup. I like the speed and athleticism at the top and I think Schierholtz and Barney could surprise at the bottom of the order. Castro, Rizzo, Olt at 3,4, 5 is certainly exciting. Like others have mentioned Liriano has done well against the Cubs previously, but with the start of a new season there’s always the chance that he’s not as hot as he was last season. I just hope Samardzija can maintain control, keep his pitch count reasonably low, and give us a chance in today’s ball game. Go Cubs Go!

  • Medicos

    It’s true Win-Loss records for a pitcher aren’t that important in evaluating individual success as a hurler. Years ago, I used to check: if pitcher could double strikeouts vs walks given up and pitching more innings over hits allowed. I’ve found the better pitchers usually meet those indicators.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Fans complain about the cubs lineup. Yet a division contender opens with Travis snider hitting 2nd, jordy mercer at Ss, and the great Travis Ishikawa at first. Now he will probably hit 2 homers after I dog him.

  • Korean goat

    HI CUBS FANS and welcome back baseball season
    i think this year will be very interesting season so i hope everybody enjoy games
    GO CUBS !

  • Cubsfankevin

    i am scared during Lake AB’s

  • JAllman

    New road unis or just for opening day?

    • lnfihDeL

      According to Muskat, new roadies.

  • Patrick W.

    That’s a new number for Bonifacio, no?

  • Mr Gonzo

    I dig the new road uniforms.

    • Patrick W.

      +1

  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

    If nothing else, the Cubs are making Liriano work.

    • mjhurdle

      i was thinking the same thing. 34+ pitches through 2

    • ssckelley

      That was a nice at bat by Barney, 8 pitches to retire him.

  • lnfihDeL

    The new threads are killer!

    Retroish

  • rabbit

    ahhhh baseball….how I have missed thee

  • David

    When is Baez’ 1st game???

  • Funn Dave

    Is it too early to say we finally have a legit leadoff hitter? It is, isn’t it.

  • rabbit

    is it too early to have a man crush on bonifacio?

  • Beast Mode

    Love him at the top of the lineup.

  • Ron

    Can only watch MLB gameday….is Samdzja getting sqeezed? Pitch framing!!

  • lnfihDeL

    Omg, Bonifacio with the PERFECT throw.

    I love this guy on the first day, haha.

  • Ron

    Thanks, on gameday it looks like he is not getting call on the corners just trying to see how accurate it is.

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