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travis wood beardOne of our cats is feverishly licking my desk, right next to my computer as I sit here and type this. Why are you doing that, cat? What could possibly be on the desk? Is it delicious? Should I try it, too?

  • Cubs starting pitchers now have four quality starts in five games. The lone exception was Edwin Jackson’s first start, which was a very good one – but lasted only 5.1 innings (a quality start requires at least six innings, and three or fewer earned runs allowed). That’s a hell of a great start for the rotation, if you’re looking for early season bright spots. (And, hell, the pitching staff as a whole has a sparkling 2.45 ERA.) Carlos Villanueva will hopefully keep that run going today. He’ll be getting a handful of starts in place of …
  • Jake Arrieta made his first rehab start last night for the AA Tennessee Smokies. He went three innings, throwing 40 pitches, striking out three and walking one. He did allow one unearned run, which was aided by a wild pickoff throw. All in all, it was a good first start for Arrieta, who’ll need at least a couple more to build up his pitch count before returning to the big league rotation.
  • Javier Baez’s rough start to the AAA year continued last night with another couple strikeouts, one of which was on a check swing that Baez argued, and was promptly ejected. Through three games, Baez has 10 plate appearance with one walk, no hits, and six strikeouts. That’s obviously bupkis for a sample size, but it probably does tell you that these AAA pitches are coming in with a clear game plan for Baez, and executing it (including a lot of low and away junk). Good players adjust, and Baez is a good player. He’ll always strike out a lot, but probably not 60% of the time.
  • (Worse, in that game, Kyle Hendricks started and was blasted, and Neil Ramirez pitched an inning of relief and was blasted. Luke will hook you up with the full minor league fix from the weekend tomorrow morning.)
  • Sahadev Sharma wrote up yesterday’s post-game at ESPN Chicago, discussing the Cubs’ lack of timely hitting – a familiar trope from last year. In the clubhouse, guys say they aren’t pressing, and Ricky Renteria says you just have to keep on reminding yourself that, in those situations, it’s the pitcher who should be feeling the pressure. It’s just five games, so this whole thing can be squashed quickly. But, you know, it would be nice if it happened soon.
  • And Sahadev on Anthony Rizzo’s previous struggles against lefties, and how that could change going forward.
  • I just can’t imagine why the Cubs have tried to distance themselves from Billy Cub, the non-mascot that walks around the park on game days.
  • dumbledoresacubsfan

    I’m going to be at the Smokies home opener.

    Any BNers gonna be there?

    • http://waittilnextyear.net NateCorbitt

      I’m considering it. I’m in Asheville, NC. Where are you coming from?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharingaspare mysterious4th

    Baez’s early struggles to me is sort of a good thing. We knew it would happen (or should happen) so Theo, Jed, and the rest of the offices can see him adjusting at the plate. Lets hope he can adjust and hop over that hurdle. I personally would rather see it now than the middle of the season.

    • 5412

      Hi,

      There is an old saying, “when the student is ready to learn, the teacher shall appear.” Baez is not noted for being humble. Being confident is a good thing until you stop listening. If he continues struggling he will become very coach able. I don’t have any inside knowledge here but rather he should go through this process in the minors. He is a good athlete and should work through it.

      This is totally unlike what happened to Castro who was doing well and they tried to “improve parts of his game”.

      Wasn’t Willie Mays something like 0-56 when he came up with the Giants?

      It will be interesting if Bryant stays hot. Brett and Luke can address the maturity issue. Add in Bryant’s college experience and he could be right there.

      Regards,
      5412

      • ChrisFChi

        In regards to Mays getting his first MLB hit, it was on his 13th plate appearance. I do agree with you that AAA pitching will humble Baez.

  • CubChymyst

    I say lick the desk, give it a try. An experiment is the only way to know for sure.

    Through yesterdays game the Cubs are the only team with an OPS under 0.300 with runners in scoring position at 0.263. The next two closest teams are the Padres at 0.322 and Cardinals at 0.388. They are towards the middle of the pack for at bats with runners in scoring position, which is a good sign.

    • ChrisFChi

      My cat licks my PS3. I have no clue why, and I know there’s nothing delicious on it.(that is, unless dust is tasty!)

  • baldtaxguy

    Hopefully Baez steps in the right direction from his ejection and hopefully someone had a conversation with him. He’s young, so understood in part, but it wasn’t a smart move taking himself out of the game. The first dismissive wave and chatter at the first base ump was allowed, but he continued and the second waive got him tossed. A pro will come back and get his head in the game and get to business – let’s see today.

  • Ballrock20

    Castro batting 6th today…I like that spot in the order for him

    • baldtaxguy

      Really? Where do you see the lineup? Thanks!

      • Ballrock20

        I always check rotowire mlb daily lineups

        • baldtaxguy

          Thks.

  • baldtaxguy

    I didn’t understand Ruggiano in the 3 spot. I get the prior success against lefties (and Lee?), but I like Lake, Rizzo, and Olt as 3-4-5 much better. Maybe early season and first yr mgr lineup variations is expected, but I would prefer a bit more continuity in the line-up.

  • candyland07

    AVG /OBP /SLG/ OPS then MLB rankings. The Cubs bats have produce .216 /280 /284 /564 =.23/25/29/29 out of 30 teams.

    Although its a small sample size the importance it is compared against the league. putting together a 25 man roster is no easy task for Team Epstein when ( now insert any excuse)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hate the Cubs and everything about them, but I sure do love complaining!

      • candyland07

        Your half correct as always, I hate that the Cubs after 3 years simply can not get on base and then to blame it on pure bad luck because I have a man crush team Epstein is getting old.

        • YourResidentJag

          I’m going to hate the fact that if Castro and Rizzo are what they were last year and Olt doesn’t emerge this year that we won’t have 1-3 WAR players I was hoping for from all of them. We those guys to surround Baez, Bryant, and Almora.

          • willis

            We’ll never truly know what we have in Olt the way he is being handled. A strict platoon with him isn’t going to show any of us (or the FO) anything.

            • Kyle

              When he’s not hitting lefties, I’m not exactly dying to see him get shots against righties.

        • newsguy23

          Agree candyland

        • ChrisFChi

          I’ve seen them get on base, I believe the problem is driving in those base runners

      • Carlos M.

        I call out complainers, but I sure ignore posters who employ sexist ad hominems and openly ask to be banned!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Did I miss something?

          • Patrick W.

            I can fill you in.

  • Lou Brown

    With usual SSS caveat, Villanueva is having a nice start in Iowa. He is the top 3b defender in the entire system. If he keeps hitting, that could create an interesting situation. One plus defender, one plus plus at third. Olt hasn’t hit well, but then again neither has the entire roster outside of bonafacio. Again SSS, but I am looking for any topic to distract me from watching the mlb product…

  • ssckelley

    The ICubs are off to a horrible start and Baez is not the only one struggling. But one player who isn’t is Vitters, if he keeps hitting I wonder how long they will keep him down.

    Another prospect who could earn an early promotion is Hannemann who is off to a good start at Kane County.

    • miggy80

      Vitters looks like a man on a mission and to my eye it appears he is leaner than last year.

  • Kyle

    From the PAs I’ve seen on MiLB.tv, Baez is getting destroyed by pitchers changing speeds. It seems to be playing havoc with his timing this year.

    He’ll adjust. He hit a HR in his first AA PA then went 0-for-20. Within another 150 PAs he was crushing the league in every offensive category.

    • miggy80

      I see Baez has the day off. One thing that isn’t talked about much. Iowa has a great coach, Marty Pevey.

      • ssckelley

        Might be a little teaching going on with Baez sitting.

      • 5412

        Hi,

        We can say Baez is young and that is true. Understand in his first season he had an “incident” also with the other team. I spoke with someone who knows him very well and was quite familiar with what happened.

        I was basically told that the Latin players really get little respect. It is not uncommon for them to get all kinds of harassment. If they respond to it, then it comes in drovers. You can be sure after this ejection the word will get around the league and the umpires will be itching for anything to teach the young man a lesson. Just one of the unwritten rules and Baez is probably close to the youngest player in the league.

        That is where guys like Soriano shine as mentors. They have to learn how to develop a very thick skin. An umpire should never acknowledge the crowd because it will just antagonize them. Just like umpires, players like Baez have to become tone deaf when it comes to insults, it is just another way to throw him off his game. Veterans are worth their weight in gold teaching those kinds of lessons.

        regards,
        5412

        • Jon

          Was that when he screamed “I do whatever the F’ I want to do” at the other team? I love the kid , he’s got swag

    • Darth Ivy

      The way baez usually struggles at first at the new level makes me not worry about not getting him in fantasy, and and it’s something everyone who does have him should keep in mind.

  • Boys of Zimmer

    I dont like what Renteria is doing so far. You can’t keep changing the line-up with young prospects. Leave Olt in and bat him 5th. Leave Lake in and bat him 6th. Let this young guys get use to the MLB. i dont think we have had the same line-up once. Sweeney is a guy of the bench let Kalish play. Castro is still very young and he is batting 2nd and 3rd. There is huge difference between batting 2nd and 3rd.
    1. Bonifacio 2B
    2. Castro SS
    3. Rizzo 1B
    4. S-Holtz RF
    5. Olt 3B
    6. Lake CF
    7. Castillo C
    8. Kalish LF

    • candyland07

      To blame Renteria for line up changes is wrong, This 25 man roster was assembled by the Front Office and Renteria is getting paid to coach the Cubs not actually manage the team. Team Epstein has assembled a team that on paper produces the best matchups in a platoon situations but it is not paying out dividends in the first week. I highly doubt that this type of early lineup selections is created by Renteria. The line up is almost most certainly approved if not given prior to each game to him.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “You can’t keep changing the line-up with young prospects.”

      Why can’t you? What empirical support is there for the assertion that this has any negative effect on young players?

      “There is huge difference between batting 2nd and 3rd.”

      Castro’s (and every other player’s) red & blue zones are the same when he’s batting 2nd, 3rd or 7th. That is what determines how pitchers throw to him. Tactically, you maximize run-production batting your best hitter second: which means that Rizzo (probably) should be the #2 hitter, anyway.

      “Leave Olt in and bat him 5th. ”

      Chances are pretty good that they are sitting Olt in some cold games because of his shoulder. If that coincides with some tough righties, then so much the better for all concerned.

  • willis

    The strict platoon of Lake and Olt is on. That’s a great way to see what you have in two young players…wait a second.

  • Diehardthefirst

    The team lacks a fiery leader like Bowa was or quiet leader like Sandberg was and their leadership now benefitting Phillies- Bryant could be the next leader and serious consideration should be given to calling him up in September to get ready for 2015

    • Jon

      Branch Rickey wouldn’t be afraid to call up both Bryant and Eloy Himeniz today

      • Diehardthefirst

        Another BN citizen with vision

    • candyland07

      Bowa and Sandberg ? Those two players are polar opposites and I would imagine that their managerial style are different as night as day as well. I think what the Cubs lack is true Manager that instills his personality on the team rather than an extension of the Front Office, and when that happens a Team manager only becomes a coach. I think that is why leadership in the dugout is lacking, Sevum and Renteria are both capable in leading a team except the team is run by the front office. Not blaming the managers The Front Office selects its managers with the understanding that they control the chess pieces on the playing field in an overall method.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        “Leadership in the clubhouse” as zero impact on a the lack of slugging and the fact that the Cubs have gotten horrible production from the #3-#9 hitters.

        Here is the gory breakdown:
        #1-2: 0.478/0.510/0.522
        #3-9: 0.132/0.188/0.208

        The Cubs lack of “clutch” hitting is simply a symptom of a lack of hitting: the #1 & #2 account for almost half of the Cubs walks and hits. However, as there is no slugging out of the #1 & #2 slots, they basically are going to be left on base.

        It’s been 5 games. The error bars encompassing plausible expectations around most probable expectations are huge. So, don’t try to explain things that don’t need explanation!

        • ssckelley

          Right, we need a good RBI guy in the middle of the lineup.

          /hides

          • DocPeterWimsey

            well, what the Cubs have needed through the first 5 games is slugging. If you want to call that “Good RBI guy” (it is), then knock yourself out! Obviously, the weather has had some role: but the opposition has posted higher slugging (and higher OBP) despite posting lower BA. Out-singling the opposition (by itself) isn’t going to win many games.

            • ssckelley

              Anybody that can get some hits with RISP. Like RR said the pressure should be on the pitcher in those situations so hitters should get good pitches to hit.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                And that might be part of why BAwRiSP is marginally higher than it is otherwise. Of course, an even simpler explanation is that bad pitchers allow more guys on base and thus have higher probabilities of: 1) pitching with men in scoring position and 2) giving up subsequent hits.

                When a team doesn’t get hits with RiSP (like the Cubs are doing now), then it almost always reflects big chunks of the lineup simply not hitting. For example, if your #3-#9 hitters have a 0.132/0.188/0.208 collective slash line, then you don’t expect many hits with RiSP.

            • Picklenose

              Is there a percentage of runners moved along stat, or percentage of risp scored stat? That might allow “RBI guys” to be compared or evaluated to some degree while reducing the dependence upon his teammates getting into scoring position.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Yes, particularly for #2. These have been used to demonstrate that: 1) RBI correlate extremely strongly with runners on base when guys bat; 2) RBI correlate more strongly with #’s of runners in scoring position than it does with BAwRiSP; and, 3) how a guy does one year does not predict how he will do the next year.

                This came up in particular in discussion of James Loney, who was (?is) a player that old-schoolers loved and saber-types hated. Loney always got a lot of RBI despite not having a lot of power; old-schoolers kept saying that it must be his BAwRiSP, but that never was much different (and sometimes worse) than his overall BA. So, it must be that he was really good with guys on 2nd & 3rd, right? Actually, Loney was also stranding more base runners than the vast majority of batters, and he lead the league in that.

                They do keep track of runners advanced, too, and they have for a while. I remember people ridiculing the stat back in the late 1980′s, when it was just becoming vogue for guys to deliberately ground out to 2nd to advance guys.

                • Picklenose

                  Thanks, Doc. Interesting as always. Side point, when I googled BAwRISP to make sure I was reading correctly, one of the first few “finds” was the myth of clutch hitting on snopes.com.
                  So basically the correlations show that BA wRISP does not deviate much from overall BA?

  • Medicos

    ssckelley: what u stated is absolutely correct. Last year the Cubs were among the leaders in doubles, but had few players to drive in the runs. The days of Aram, Sori, Alou, DLee, etc are long gone. The only player on the roster with any chance of driving in at least 75-runs is Rizzo.

    • ssckelley

      I have bought into most sabermetrics I get why BA, wins, loses, but I still like RBIs.

      • DarthHater

        I have bought into chemistry. But I still like phlogiston.

  • C. Steadman

    Good job by Rizzo and bad job by Brown, terrible route and didn’t get behind the ball

  • mjhurdle

    Castro!

  • cub4life

    I don’t know if anyone heard this or not but I just read that apparently Darnell McDonald announced his retirement on twitter last night.

    • ssckelley

      Perhaps Darnell will move on to coaching.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    C’mon, Phillies, save some of these hung breaking balls and mis-located fastballs for the Pirates staff next week….

    • ssckelley

      Riggggght, no way the Cubs hitters are hitting good pitches.

  • Medicos

    Nice win #2: Situational hitting—bunch of walks, HP, Sac. flies, a couple of decent line drive hits, etc. This how this roster is comprised to win a few games this year. RR doesn’t have a lot of star power on this team, but hopefully he’ll be able to mix and match and hopefully wind up with around 70-victories if the starting pitching continues to control the games.

  • DarthHater

    The Cubs need some of Billy Cub’s belly fire!

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