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Another freaking one-run loss to the Pirates. And it was a brutal one at that. Another series loss, too, when it easily could have been a Cubs sweep. Same thing was true the last damn series against the Pirates.

Travis Wood threw a freaking gem, dominating Pirates hitters all day, and the Cubs took advantage of some Pirates miscues to score early and often. The Cubs even played nice defense, too.

But their 4-0 lead evaporated in an ugly 7th inning from Brian Schlitter and James Russell (don’t make the easy, obvious Schlitter joke, man). The Pirates scored five in the frame, and that was it for the day. Commence expletives. People are going to complain about using Schlitter and Russell there instead of, for example, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon, who each pitched later and each looked dominant. But, it was a 4-0 game in the 7th, which is a perfectly reasonable time to use Schlitter (who has actually looked good at times). And then you’ve got Russell, who is supposed to get lefties out, and failed to do so. I can’t pin this one on the bullpen usage – just on the poor bullpen performance.

The one RR decision I will question is bringing in Luis Valbuena as a pinch hitter with men on first and second and no one out in the 9th, and asking him to sacrifice bunt. Valbuena fouled a ball off trying to bunt, and then struck out swinging. From there, the Cubs’ rally became the obligatory teaser rally. Game over.

april 10 box

Full box score.

  • Jed Jam Band

    I refuse to overreact. I’m gonna remain in the rational corner over here.

    • Kyle

      What’s the rational stance? That a team with low-70s win talent has started the year 3-6 and thus is now even less likely to do any better than a low-70s win total?

      Hooray.

      • DarthHater

        No, i’m pretty sure the rational stance must be to sit in your basement tracking your team’s season-win-probability on an hourly basis and bitching into the internet ether at everyone who does not react to it in the same way you do.

  • Drew7

    I’m *really* getting tired of all these bunts.

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    I hate bunts as much as the next guy, and I’ll probably get grilled for this, but that is one of the few situations that I actually am ok with a bunt.

    • Drew7

      I guess I don’t hate the bunt as much as I hate that it was Valbuena -with his hefty total of 5 career sac bunts – trying to do it.

      • Kyle

        When he’s already got one strike on him. If you’re gonna bunt, do it immediately.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Agreed, it’s on valbuena in the end though, gotta get it down

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The problem is with “gotta get it down” is that there was a force at 3rd. That means that you have to get the bunt down into a very particular place, or it’s an easy force at 3rd, and possibly a double play *unless* the other teams screws up. (Remember, they get to practice this play in ST; batters don’t get to do this until real baseball starts.)

  • CubsinCarolina

    Not trying to hate on our current bullpen i really like the guys in there, but out of curiosity is there any timetable for Parker or Rosscup to come up? I am assuming they are the next up for the bullpen if anything happens.

  • CeeDeeVee

    I too was okay with the initial bunt idea, BUT not when Grilli is lost trying to throw a strike in a 2-1 count. Valbuena could of hit that ball onto Sheffield.

  • Sandberg

    What about the bunt in the first inning? I mean this is absolutely ridiculous. Theo and Jed need to send down some reading material to ol’ Ricky.

  • ssckelley

    My question is had Valbuena gotten the bunt down would the Pirates have walked Castillo to load the bases? If so then Barney’s walk would have tied the game and Bonifacio’s tough ground ball to first base might have won the game, on a drawn in infield might have been a hit.

    I know the pitch sequences change and all but the bunt was not a bad move in that situation just poor execution on Valbuena’s part.

    • Drew7

      I don’t think it works like that.

      • ssckelley

        Drew, what do you mean? Are you saying the Pirates do not walk Castillo? I am not sure if they wood have or not, the logic seems to make sense in that situation to create a force out at every base.

        • Drew7

          No, they almost certainly would have. It’s your assumptions following that AB that I’m referring to.

          • ssckelley

            True, I did say it would have changed the pitch sequences but whose to say that Barney still would not have walked? He rarely strikes out so unless he hits into a double play I like the Cubs chances in at least tying the game.

    • Soda Popinski

      I think the bunt was a fine call in that situation. Maybe should have had Barney bunt in Valbuena’s spot if he’s the better bunter and vice versa. I don’t know that to be true, though.

      • ssckelley

        Barney was already in the game at that point so they could not have used him to put down the sacrifice.

  • renegade4196

    It’s just frustrating that the part of this team that was “fixed” this offseason is once again the part that’s struggling. Russell has grossly regressed, and today’s loss doesn’t happen for a team that can improve. Winning a third of our games is certainly no progress. Also, I would like to see Blake Parker come up, and Rondon has looked stunning this year.

  • Soda Popinski

    Love that .342 on Castro. And .371 for Rizzo, too.

    • Travis

      Agreed. Both of them batting .500 for the home stand is great!

  • willis

    There are some really good arms in Iowa’s pen and one good one in Daytona’s pen who will be in Chicago, hopefully soon. The Russell, Schlitter, Wright crap is unbearable to watch. Rosscup, Parker, Ramirez and Vizcaino all have better arms than the three mentioned. Trade value this and winning isn’t important that, as a fan though I’d like to see the best arms available in the bullpen. So far that is not the case.

    Wood was awesome.

  • Kyle

    Platoons was always the right move. Lake and Olt have *major* problems making contact and letting them bat against righties only exacerbates it.

    Let’s see:

    Schlitter in the bullpen over multiple more qualified righties (I gave them the benefit of the doubt on this, but as always, I get burned when I do that).

    Multiple attempted sac bunts

    Starting two bad, whiffy right-handers against a whiff-inducing right-handed pitcher

    Then we lose by one run. I don’t know, it’s probably Jim Hendry’s fault.

  • Spoda17

    I said it the other day… but… and I know it’s early… butttttt…. Ricky may be a great communicator, a great teacher, bilingual… great developer… and I am a fan of his, I supported the hire… but these decisions are making me very nervous. I know he has to learn too… but just cuz you give a great hug and dudes love talking to you about baseball doesn’t mean you can make strategic baseball game decisions… So far he is a great number two… and has not showing he has the decision making skills of a number one…

    • Kyle

      It feels like pretty much every move this offseason was made with the intent of keeping players happy in the face of an likely awful season. We’ve got a roster full of happy-to-be-heres and the manager to match. Samardzija’s the only likely malcontent, and I think that’s a contributor to why he’s so likely to be traded.

      • Spoda17

        I don’t know how you [anyone] can be happy with this start.

        • Kyle

          Where did you get that from?

        • Mike F

          Why would people be unhappy, what did you expect. The owner is focused on payroll and things other than winning now. That’s the long and short of it. They have gave the standard illusion to winning, but anyone in their right mind knew it was going to be a long season with the Cub’s more likely to get the 1st pick than a .500 team. They will be sellers too soon.

          But that said, I can honestly say I am in some areas more pleased than I thought I would. I don’t know I buy all the good ship lollypop crap, but Castro and Rizzo are doing better. They have payed more fundamentally sound, not where they need to be necessarily, but as a team making progress. Make no mistake this a team with limited talent, but however difficult to perceive and faint, there has been progress.

          All that said, until the owner steps up and commits to winning and takes the shackles off the front office, this will continue, I’d say 2016 at earliest.

  • http://kempfintl.com pfk

    I agree about the use of Valbuena bunting. As for Russell? He just doesn’t have it anymore – righty or lefty makes no difference. He hasn’t had it since mid season last year -if then. The previous year he was awesome but for a long time he just keeps serving up meatballs like its batting practice.

  • mportsch

    The Cubs are now 1-4 in one-run games, and 2-2 in other games.

    The good news is that the Cubs have played like a .500 team (or just below .500) against a tough start to the schedule.

    The bad news is that this 3-6 start counts; you don’t get those one-run losses back. A team that needed some good luck is already behind the eight ball.

    I was hoping this team could have the peripherals of a .500 team AND catch some good luck to keep things interesting, with the cavalry set to arrive from the minors later this summer.

    The first part seems to be happening, but the Cubs can’t catch a break so far in one-run games. It’s going to take a really nice stretch just to get back to .500 now.

    • Kyle

      This isn’t a tough start to the schedule.

      • Coop

        Agreed – Pirates are plenty beatable and the Phillies are not very good, either. Tough stretch is coming up, though – which should result in further sadness.

      • Mike

        Yes it is. Playing 6 out of 9 with a 90+ win team is a tough schedule. Either you’re being intellectually dishonest or you’re an idiot.

        • Kyle

          Or maybe I understand that how many games a team won last year isn’t necessarily indicative of their strength this year.

          The Pirates aren’t a bad team this year, but they aren’t exactly an insurmountable fearsome rival either.

          • Mike

            So you’re not very smart then, got it. The Pirates are a great team regardless of what you think of them. Oh great baseball analyst, please break down for me why they aren’t a great team this year. I’m dying to hear it.

            • Kyle

              They got unsustainable performances from their bullpen last year (it’s good, but not as good as it looked last year). They also lost AJ Burnett without replacing him. The offense is bad and they did nothing to upgrade it.

              Cool it with the name-calling.

              • Mike

                Aww, did I hurt your feelings? Do you feel bullied? You realize several people could probably say you do the same thing on a daily basis.

                FYI, their bullpen is great again this year. Technically Gerrit Cole is replacing AJ Burnett. If you recall, Cole wasn’t up until midseason. Therefore that is an improvement. They are a great team again this year. Stop trying to reshape the facts to fit your narrative. For a guy that seems to preach logic, you are sorely lacking in it with this explanation.

                • Kyle

                  They can say what they wish.

                  You’re still wrong, but at least you *attempted* to defend your opinion with some sort of information.

                  The Pirates project to be the 4th best team in the NL this year, the Phillies the 13th best. We’ve had six of our nine games at home.

                  That’s not a tough schedule.

                  • Kyle

                    (should note: That’s using Fangraphs projections)

                    ESPN’s SOS rating has our schedule at slightly below average in strength going into today.

                    Baseball-Reference’s SOS rating has our schedule at -0.1 runs per game below the average strength of schedule as well.

                    • Mike

                      I stopped reading when you said ESPN.

                    • Kyle

                      How convenient for you.

                  • Mike

                    Hello brick wall, good to see you again. I get the Phillies aren’t good. I’ll agree there. Don’t sit there and tell me that the Pirates aren’t great though. You just said yourself that they are a playoff team. Next we get the Cardinals, are you going to tell me that they are just merely ok as well? Come on man, you’re better then that. Just admit that the Pirates are a great team.

                    • Kyle

                      There’s 15 teams and 5 make the playoffs. Merely playing a back-end playing team does not make your schedule “tough.”

                      After we’ve finished playing the Cardinals, yeah, our schedule will be tough. But it hasn’t been to date.

                    • Kyle

                      6 games against the 4th best team in the NL and 3 games against the 13th best team in the NL averages out to a 7.0. 7.5 would be an average schedule. And that’s even before you factor in that we’ve had 6 home games out of 9.

                      It’s a completely average schedule.

                • Canadian Cubs Fan

                  Sorry Mike, but I’ll have to agree with Kyle about the Pirates. They’re an 84 win team this year. Maybe.

                  Their offense is weak at best. Rotation isn’t as strong. Bullpen is good, but we’ll see how Melancon and Grilli do with another season of heavy usage.

                • Drew7

                  FWIW, Personal attacks and overall douchiness usually don’t help make a point.

                  • Mike

                    Sorry are you referring to the one time that I have done it or the multiple times a day that Kyle does it?

                    • Drew7

                      I’ve never seen Kyle do those things, at least not without provocation.

                      What I have seen from him are facts supporting his position, something I haven’t seen from you.

                      Just my observation. Take it as you will.

                  • Mike

                    Actually where did I call Kyle a name? I inferred that he wasn’t all that smart if he thinks the Pirates are a bad team this year. I guess that is name calling now?

                    • Kyle

                      He didn’t say “called a name.” He said “personal attacks.”

                  • Mike

                    My bad, that was Kyle that said it was name calling. Scroll up if you forgot already.

                  • Mike

                    So disagreeing with Kyle is a personal attack? Can you please elaborate?

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Can I get you guys a ruler?

                    • Drew7

                      If you really need me to do that, you probably don’t get along with very many people.

                  • Mike

                    You need something longer than that for me. Sorry, just frustrated with Kyle. I usually don’t do this but he struck me as more obnoxious than normal today. I presume the tough loss has something to do with it.

                    • Kyle

                      It can be very frustrating to deal with someone who knows more than you on a subject you are passionate about and tells you that you are wrong. I understand and sympathize.

                    • Mike

                      You’re right, you’re much better than me at being a colossal d-bag. It’s hilarious that you think the Pirates are a back end team though. Those are your words, scroll up if you missed it.

                    • Jason P

                      Back-end PLAYOFF team. As in the 4th or 5th best team in the NL and the 8th-10th best team in baseball.

                    • Kyle

                      I said “back-end playing team,” which was the autocorrect version of “back-end playoff team.”

                    • Don Eaddy

                      dude, look at pittsburghs lineup…it isnt that good. McCutchen and Alvarez., then who scares you? Marte? the pitching staff isnt gonna carry them and the bullpen doesnt look as good as they were last year. they could drop to around 75 wins. wouldnt shock me at all.

                      and i know a few other have touched on it, but resorting to calling someone dumb is just lame.

                    • Mike

                      You know nothing about me Kyle. I’ll just leave it at that. Go ahead and continue to call me some internet guy if that makes you feel better about yourself.

                    • Kyle

                      Precisely. I know nothing about you. So you’re going to have to do better than just saying “scouting” to explain why you think the Pirates are more than the 4th or 5th best team in the NL when objective measures disagree.

                    • Mike

                      I gave you reasons why I thought the Pirates were better or just as good. I already posted these, but here you go again.

                      I think Marte takes a big step forward this year. Mccutchen will still be a beast and seeing as he was the MVP last year he will be right there again this year. Alvarez will still be in the top end in the NL in home runs. Walker is a top ten 2B with good power for the position. Swapping AJ Burnett with Gerrit Cole is a net gain. Their bullpen will still be one of the best in the league.

                      I gave you my thoughts there, not what a projection is telling me that I should say. Do you not see how both of these are subjective?

                    • Jon

                      Marte is Junior Lake with a few extra HBPs. It’s true. Compare the #s

                    • Mike

                      I said I think Marte takes a big step forward this year. Projections and past performance don’t account for personal improvement.

                    • Drew7

                      Projections dont account for improvement? Are you sure?

                    • Mike

                      Yes, I am. Are you? Please tell me, in depth, why PECOTA or another projection includes personal improvement and how it does it. I’d also like to hear how it wouldn’t be subjective. The subjectivity is the key here and it is what you guys seem to be missing.

                    • Jason P

                      “PECOTA relies on fitting a given player’s past performance statistics to the performance of “comparable” Major League ballplayers by means of similarity scores. As is described in the Baseball Prospectus website’s glossary:[8]

                      PECOTA compares each player against a database of roughly 20,000 major league batter seasons since World War II. In addition, it also draws upon a database of roughly 15,000 translated minor league seasons (1997-2006) for players that spent most of their previous season in the minor leagues. . . . PECOTA considers four broad categories of attributes in determining a hitter’s comparability:

                      1. Production metrics – such as batting average, isolated power, and unintentional walk rate for hitters, or strikeout rate and groundball rate for pitchers.

                      2. Usage metrics, including career length and plate appearances or innings pitched.

                      3. Phenotypic attributes, including handedness, height, weight, career length (for major leaguers), and minor league level (for prospects).

                      4. Fielding Position (for hitters) or starting/relief role (for pitchers). . . . In most cases, the database is large enough to provide a meaningfully large set of appropriate comparables. When it isn’t, the program is designed to ‘cheat’ by expanding its tolerance for dissimilar players until a reasonable sample size is reached.”

                      So basically, PECOTA is *designed* to account for individual progression/regression.

                    • Mike

                      It’s still a guess, an educated one, but still a guess. Therefore, if it is a guess, it is subjective.

                    • Kyle

                      That’s not what subjective means.

                    • Jason P

                      “You don’t have a crystal ball that can prove me wrong, so therefore my opinion is right”

                    • Mike

                      So are you telling me there is no human element to a projection where it could be influenced by the projector’s interpretation or opinion?

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      You type in the numbers, then you get your expectations. Basically, P=aX^i + bY^j + cZ^k etc. now, there might be errors in the data and there will be error bars on the performance prediction. However, the projections can be completely repeated.

                    • Drew7

                      You just had PECOTA’s methodology spelled out for you. Where do you see subjectivity?

                    • Mike

                      “You type in the numbers” is the part I’m getting at. There has to be a starting point with a human element in this case, correct? Is that not where it can become subjective? The starting point?

                      Where exactly does that take into account someone changing their approach with 2 strikes and cutting down their swing? How does it incorporate someone making an adjustment and not swinging at the slider low and away off the plate? How does it incorporate mental makeup in which one is more likely to make positive adjustments? How could it take those into account without having some human element to it?

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                      That’s not exactly how statistical analysis works. I think the perception is that we take a giant database, and then use various metrics to sift through it, eliminating more and more data with each new metric in the equation until out pops the information we want.

                      That’s not what is happening in this sort of analysis.

                      Instead, we’re taking the database and looking at mathematically. We’re trying various baseball stats against the data as possible explanatory factors and getting rid of the ones that don’t explain anything. The result has effectively no room for subjective tinkering. We can’t really choose to include a particular variable even if the analysis shows it explains nothing just because we like it. And we can’t really throw out variables that explain a lot just because we don’t like them. Both paths lead to mistakes, and those mistakes would be found by everyone else who also crunches the numbers.

                      At the end of that mathematical modeling, we have an equation that correctly, per the data and not human assignment of values, weights each correlating statistic. That forms the basis of the model.

                      To build PECOTA projections, then, we insert the stats for a particular player into the model we’ve constructed,let the computer do some math, and out pops the result.

                      And actually, in the case of PECOTA (and many others) it gets somewhat more complicated, and also even further removed from direct human tampering. What I described here is essentially linear regression modeling, a useful is somewhat limited tool for large data analysis. PECOTA goes a fair bit beyond just linear regression.

                      The perception is that statisticians can make statistics say whatever they want, but that really isn’t true. Statistics will say what they say regardless of how badly we want them to say something different. It’s the language people, the speech writers and editorial people and so forth, who can use language to disguise and confuse what the statistic is trying to say to the point that no one understands it (unless they ignore the words and go straight to the math – something few are comfortable doing).

                  • Mike

                    Fair enough, at least you admitted that you said it. I can’t imagine that you really believed that they were a back end team.

                    • Jason P

                      But anyway, playing the 9th best team 6 times and the 25th best team 3 times at home amounts to only about an average SOS.

                    • Mike

                      Subjective information is subjective. 9th best team according to what? Projections Facts. Your argument is no better than mine. We are sharing opinions right now, not facts. Mine is based off of scouting and yours and Kyle’s seems to be based off of projections.

                    • Mike

                      Projections aren’t equal to facts.

                    • Kyle

                      We could use actual record to date. We could use record last year. We could use any projection model you want.

                      What would you prefer we use?

                    • Kyle

                      Scouting is code for “I can make up whatever I want and you can’t disagree because it’s scouting.” At least in this case.

                    • Mike

                      Go ahead and use last season’s record. They sure as hell were better than ninth. 94 wins isn’t good in your book, I get it man. Stubborn much?

                      Wow, dissing on scouts now too? I’m not shocked to hear that come from you though. I didn’t say you couldn’t disagree, I just said you were wrong.

                    • Jason P

                      Red Sox
                      Rays
                      Tigers
                      A’s
                      Braves
                      Cardinals
                      Dodgers

                      There’s 7 teams right there that are definitely by the Pirates. So at best, you could say they are 8th, but that doesn’t change my point about the SOS.

                      The next group of teams includes the Yankees, Indians, Royals, Rays, Nationals, Reds, Giants and Pirates. Depending on how you order that group, one could make the argument that the Pirates are as low as 11th or 12th.

                      By run differential, the Pirates were the 10th best team last year.

                      However you want to compare, we keep ending up in the 8th-10th range for the Pirates.

                    • Kyle

                      I’m not dissing scouts. I’m dissing a guy on an internet message board saying he’s using “scouting.”

                      Going by last year’s record (do you really think that’s the most accurate way?), the Pirates were 5th/30 and the Phillies were 24th/30. Double-weighting the Pirates for being the team we faced twice as often, and that’s an average of 11.3. Average would be 15. Throw in the extra home games, and that’s still barely above average. Hardly rises to the level of “tough.”

                    • Mike

                      Braves – injury plagued rotation.

                      A’s – Jared Parker out for year

                      Tiger’s – Questionable as to whether they are as good as there were last year with the subtraction of Fielder. I’ll give you this one though

                      Red Sox really didn’t do much to improve and many have said they might take a step back.

                      Why all the Pirate hate? AJ Burnett isn’t that big of a loss. Marte may very will take big steps forward this year. Mccutchen is a fricken beast. Alvarez led the NL in homers. Walker is a top ten 2B.

                      If they add a piece or two at the deadline this team is dangerous. I guess we will just have to come back to this later in the season as arguing about it now is futile.

                    • Kyle

                      I wouldn’t call it “hate” to say they are a back-end playoff team.

                      They’re probably going to be above .500. They have a chance to win 90 games. But that’s true of about half the teams in the NL. Playing them doesn’t mean the schedule has been brutal, especially when you get three with the Phillies mixed in.

                  • wkranz

                    Can’t figure out why we are still arguing about whether the Pirates are elite or just good? This seems really silly.

            • waittilthisyear

              mike- as a disinterested (between the parties involved) observer, and someone who has gotten into a spat or 2 with kyle myself, i just want to let you know that you are, and have been, out of line this whole time. you’ve never done this shit before, so this isn’t me chastising you but hopefully just bringing you back to reality.

  • Funn Dave

    Deep breaths, Brett.

  • willis

    Putting Schlitter in with a 4-0 lead in the 7th I think is inexcusable. It’s snatching a loss from victory. Go with your best arms there. It would have been a great series win.

    I don’t mind the bunt as much as some…the idea was ok.

    • Kyle

      If there’s a guy in your pen you can’t trust with a 4-run lead, he doesn’t belong in your pen. You can’t manage a bullpen around the idea that four-run leads are hard to protect. That can’t be on the manager.

      • willis

        I agree with the first part of that, but didn’t you make the point above about bringing in Schlitter when there were better options? That’s what I’m saying. He wasn’t the best option there. Whether or not we think he can be trusted with a four run lead or not, there were far better options.

        • Kyle

          I meant better options on the roster.

          4-run leads are where you *should* use the worst pitcher in your pen.

          • willis

            Got it. Misunderstood your point.

          • wkranz

            Don’t know if I agree with that. Wood pitched a gem you have the two best power hitters right around the corner, you really can’t afford to put men on base there and they bring in Shlitter? This was for our first series win against another NL Central opponent. Same reason many teams still bring their closer in on a 4 run lead. Grimm had the day off yesterday…get the W there.

    • Don Eaddy

      Schlitter looked decent up until the today.

  • 5412

    HI,

    Let’s not over analyze this. We could also ask why the runner did not attempt to steal third in the 9th. Most every pitch, the pitcher did not look back to even check the runner.

    The unwritten rule is you play to tie at home and win on the road. That would be the justification for a sacrifice bunt, get the guy to third where a sacrifice fly ties the game. This is where I wish Maddux was on the roster, he would have got the bunt down.

    When you looked at the pitching charts, what I came away with was their closer never put the ball anywhere close to the center of the plate and he got a lot of marginal calls for strikes. From the pitcher standpoint that is the way it is supposed to be.

    I bet I am not the only one who saw what started out in the 7th and just knew they would find a way to blow the game….and ugly. When that becomes our expectations, I can’t imagine that the players don’t feel the “here we go again” sinking feeling also.

    regards,
    5412

  • Funn Dave

    Bonifacio’s under .500. Get that scrub outta here.

  • Jon

    It’s time to get Rosscup up here.

    • willis

      No shit. He’s got great stuff and is ready.

    • dAn

      I’d like to see Rosscup, too, as I don’t have any confidence in the Cubs’ current LH bullpen arms. But, they’re not just going to jettison guys like Russell and Wright this early in the season, and Schlitter has been decent for the most part and deserves a shot. Also, Rosscup seems to get jittery and wild every time he faces MLB hitters (last SEP in this spring). To Schlitter’s credit, he at least throws strikes most of the time, and he throws hard and has good movement. IMO Schlitter will be good if they stick with him.

      The guys who scare me in the Cubs pen are Russell, Wright and Veras. And those guys are going nowhere anytime soon (unless it’s to the DL). So, bringing up guys like Parker and Rosscup is just musical chairs, it’s not going to fix the problem. Wright and Veras will probably settle down though at some point–even if they aren’t legit back end types. Russell looks like he completely lost it last July and has done nothing since to convince otherwise. But he can’t be optioned and they’re not going to dump him until he really stinks up the joint a la Shawn Camp last year.

      If I were Renteria, I might be tempted to bring up Rosscup at some point and go with 13 pitchers (sending down either Olt or Kalish to get everyday playing time). Bonifacio can be both the 6th INFer and the 5th OFer, and Travis Wood can PH and PR, so they could go with 13 pitchers and it would still feel like they had a full bench.

      They’re really going to need to sort out the lineup thing pretty soon, too. There’s too many people vying for starts right now. IMO the solution is to let either Kalish or Olt play everyday in Iowa until the deadline, and to relegate Sweeney to PH duties and as a defensive replacement for Lake.

  • Medicos

    This is a Cub team that just isn’t going to score many runs per game. Playing small ball (hitting to the opposite field, stealing bases, moving runners up, bunting, forcing the opposition into making mistakes, walking, sac flies, etc) is only way runs will appear on the scoreboard. RR is just playing with hand he’s been dealt.

    Hopefully the bullpen will be able hold the lead in these close games because the vast majority of the games are going to be decided by 2-3 runs.

    • Jon

      They scored 7 runs yesterday by hitting the shit out of the ball.

      • Medicos

        Jon–That ain’t gonna happen to often.

      • 5412

        Hi,

        The Pirates out homered them. There was gale force winds blowing out.

        Regards,
        5412

    • Drew7

      The vast majority of all baseball games are decided by 2-3 runs.

    • dAn

      “Playing small ball…is only way runs will appear on the scoreboard. RR is just playing with hand he’s been dealt.”

      I’m not sure I agree with that. It’s still early and we’ll find out as the season progresses, but the Cubs have some decent power in guys like Rizzo, Olt and Lake. Castillo should hit more HRs this year and Castro has bulked up a bit and looks pretty strong. This team could hit some HRs this year. The problems are more OBP and RISP hitting.

      I don’t know if they have enough contact hitters and speed to really be an effective small ball team. Plus, long term, Bonifacio is probably not going to be an everyday player. I just don’t see them–for the whole season–starting a 28 year old with a career 320 OBP and no power over a guy like Kalish (who is 26, has big potential, and is LH).

  • WilliamGlass721

    We should have traded Russell when he had the chance.

  • TSB

    I know conventional wisdom says you bunt with runners on first and second with no outs. But this is the Cubs; they are quite capable of living runners on 2nd and third with one out. So I say let ‘em swing, and let the chips (an hopefully the ball) fall where they may…

    • Spoda17

      Only if it’s 1970…

  • WilliamGlass721

    Snyder should never hit a homerun against us.

  • diamonddon

    Same story as last year!! Lack of clutch hitting and a bullpen that is bad. This results in one run losses. We will lead the league in one run losses this year. Feel bad for our starting pitchers who have pitched very well. Can’t wait for the prospects to arrive (Baez, Almora, Soler and Alcantara etc). Maybe then we’ll have some HR pop and players who can hit in the clutch like the Pirates did today.

  • candyland07

    tough loss. Good pitching from Wood. Good hitting overall. bullpen fell in a pothole. Just a tough loss all around. Good game / entertainment value high.

  • candyland07

    Just a thought , the schedule might not be considered tough if the Cubs were a better team.
    I find it ridiculous that people would look for an excuse; we lost cause its a tough schedule?.. No the Cubs lost because they are a weak team and when the Cubs can beat more teams consistently then the schedule will be easier, if their is such a thing in a 162 game schedule.

  • http://BleacherNation blewett

    On the positive side, Grimm and Rondon continue to look really good….better than Veras and Strop (and Schlitter, Wright, and Russell).

    • GabeAthouse

      Rondon has looked good. Live fastball. His slider is dominant, but enough to keep guys off balance. If he can hone that and come up with a splitter or change piece, he will be a great set-up guy.

    • Jason P

      Veras, Strop, and Wright will be fine. Russell and Schlitter, on the other hand, suck.

  • Bric

    Yep you can micro manage/analyze all the bunts and balls in play and WHIPs and WAR and all these other stats that prove other stats that supports these stats which means those other stats but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that any team that blows a four run shut out in the 7th inning at home when trying to get a series win is a bad team. A really bad team that doesn’t deserve to win. Good teams usually win by one. Bad teams usually lose by one.

    Yes, Schlitter appears to have nine lives as a Cub and Russell should’ve been traded when he actually had value but I’m pretty confident the answers don’t lie in Parker or Rosscup. Makes you think that Thedstein wasn’t really serious about 2014 or they and the ownership would be more on the same page as far as winning now. It is 2014, after all. Now what?

    • candyland07

      Its a tough loss , The Cubs should have won and that is what makes it more frustrating but overall I was please with the offense and the starting pitching . Until the Cubs can prove that they can get on base and hit with runners in scoring position this team will fail. And the Cubs have improved in the last 3 to 4 games. Frustration should not take away the good the Cubs did in this series. The Cubs were competitive and that is a start.

    • Drew7

      “Good teams usually win by one. Bad teams usually lose by one.”

      Pretty sure this isn’t true at all.

      • Bric

        You’re right, my bad. Good teams usually lose by one. Standings are meaningless. And the Cubs are actually in first place if you go by the run differential column ‘cuz they haven’t really been blown out yet. Woo hoo!

        • Kyle

          Good teams usually blow out their opponents.

          Record in one-run games is pretty evenly distributed among good and bad teams.

          Example: the 43-119 2003 Tigers were 19-18 in one-run games.

        • Drew7

          Yep. Exactly. That’s exactly what I meant.

          Grow up, dude.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      That actually is backwards. When good teams lose, they don’t lose by much. When bad teams win, they don’t win by much.

      Over the last decade plus, we have had multiple pennant winners with sub-0.500 records in 1 run games and multiple 90+ loss teams (including the ’03 Tigers) with winning records in 1-run games. The actual pattern is a horseshoe: good teams and bad teams *play* in relatively few 1-run games (neither the ’04 Sox nor the ’03 Tigers were significantly different from 0.500 teams in 1-run games) whereas mediocre teams (of which there are a lot) *play* in greater numbers of 1-run games.

      (The only other relevant pattern is that the few teams making post-season with records in 1-run games that we expect 1 or fewer teams than 30 to have given their record in 2+ run games almost always get eliminated in the first round, with the 2012 O’s being the most recent example; in the last 18 years, only the ’07 Mets made it to the 2nd round; of course, the sample sizes here are tiny!)

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Whoops: in between typing and finally hitting “send,” Kyle and Drew summarized it more succinctly than I did!

  • Dustin S

    I thought it was pretty awesome that Dempster and his wife were in the bleachers today. Nice to see him come back as a fan. It looked like he got pestered a bit which was frustrating to see, let him enjoy the game for the love of all things holy. I found myself wondering what it would be like for him spending all those days on the mound and then coming back to the perspective from the LF bleachers.

  • Jason P

    At the very least, unlike last season when we sucked and there were no silver linings, this year Castro, Rizzo, Samardzija, Wood and a few of the young bullpen arms have gotten off to good starts. Even Castillo’s started hitting a little better, and I think he should be fine long-term in the 8-hole.

    Since we aren’t making the playoffs this year, what’s more important than the games right now are the games that will be played in the second half. By then, we should have Baez, Alcantara, Vizcaino, Rosscup, Vitters, Hendricks, and maybe a couple others.

    As long as the core pieces continue to play well, I’ll consider this season a success. Next year we’re going to have to start winning.

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