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wrigley field from right bleachersTravis Wood closes things out today against young stud Gerrit Cole. Each team is looking for the series win, but, for the Cubs, it would be their first of the year. So, they need it more (hashtag narrative).

Check out that lineup, which features both Mike Olt and Junior Lake in there against a righty. Now, before you go claiming that Ricky Renteria is overreacting to a couple homers last night from Olt and Lake (or before you go saying, “See! RR understands that you’ve got to play the youngsters no matter what!”), keep this in mind:

  • Gerrit Cole career versus righties: .251/.299/.341
  • Gerrit Cole career versus lefties: .251/.301/.330

The sample is sufficiently small that it could be a fluke, and he’s pretty much been great against everyone (keep that in mind today). But, as you can see, Cole has no platoon split. If you’re going to pick a day to start the young righties against a righty, today’s the day. This is contrasted strongly with some of the righties the Cubs have seen already this year who are particularly tough on righties and susceptible to lefties (like Charlie Morton, twice).

Today is also the debut of Junior Lake in center field for the Cubs. He looked rough there last year (but was brand new), reportedly played well there this Winter, looked good enough in Spring, and then looked fantastic defensively in left in the first week of games. Medium-term, I still really would like to see what Lake could do in center, though I completely understand why he hasn’t started there yet this year.

My only gripe about the lineup is that I don’t love the consecutive lefties up there and consecutive righties down there, but it’s a pretty minor complaint when you consider that the goal is to score runs early, making the bullpen games later on less effective (and it’s not like RR doesn’t have bench options of his own).

Today’s lineup is emblematic of what I love about this roster: I hate not seeing Luis Valbuena in there against a righty … but I couldn’t tell you where I would start him. There’s no spot for him today, and that’s a great sign.

Game Info

Pittsburgh Pirates (5-3) at Chicago Cubs (3-5), 1:20 CT on WGN/MLBN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. 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

Gerrit Cole (2.57 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 4.16 xFIP; 1.50 K/BB)

versus

Travis Wood (4.26 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 2.48 xFIP; 8.00 K/BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

1. Starling Marte, LF

2. Jose Tabata, RF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B

6. Tony Sanchez, C

7. Neil Walker, 2B

8. Clint Barmes, SS

9. Gerrit Cole, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B

2. Ryan Kalish, LF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Nate Schierholtz, RF

5. Junior Lake, CF

6. Starlin Castro, SS

7. Mike Olt, 3B

8. Welington Castillo, C

9. Travis Wood, P

  • JakeMac

    Wait, no gripe this time about the pitcher hitting in the 9 spot? Especially when it’s Travis Wood. Interesting…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not in this particular lineup, no.

      • JakeMac

        Sorry, just couldn’t resist. I’m indifferent on it, personally.

  • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

    This is my favorite line up yet

  • BlameHendry

    ayyye!! that’s what I like to see.

    Watching the replay of Lake’s HR last night… my god did he murder that ball. Such a beautiful swing, such a bomb. The kid just looks like he has potential to be a 30+ HR guy. I know I’m probably over-estimating but with that swing, I could see it.

    • TWC

      Though he’s not as crouched in his stance, his swing on that pitch looked like Alfonso Soriano to me. As did the half-second of admiring the flight of the ball.

      • C. Steadman

        I thought it was very Soriano-esque as well.

    • Jon

      His bat profiles pretty nice in CF as well. I’m just about done with Ryan Sweeney, never got the love. If Vitters keeps hitting, I’d like for him to take Sweeneys spot in the outfield rotation with Lake having more full time role in CF.

      • JacqueJones

        the love from ryan sweeney comes from his numbers last year. Look at them, he was a good player. He still is a good player, it is just hard to tell because he has been unlucky with a .143 BABIP

        • wkranz

          We look at BABIP way too much for this early in the season. Have to use a little eye test, Sweeney simply has not put the ball into play hard at all this season…It is nothing like Rizzo who started slow but seemed to be lining the ball hard right at outfielders.

          • JacqueJones

            the problem is that baseball is a game of inches. The difference between hitting the ball hard and hitting it softly is a matter of inches difference. Thats why it takes awhile for batted ball data to normalize. The things that don’t take long to normalize are things like pitch recognition. Sweeney so far has had a good approach (albeit a small sample, but it is basically in line with his career numbers). He has taken a couple walks, not struck out too much etc. Lake on the otherhand, is striking out wayyy too much so that is something to be concerned about.

      • Funn Dave

        I’m so done with Sweeney. Time to see what someone else can do. I don’t care what we owe him, compensation-wise.

        • JacqueJones

          ahh its so fun to overreact to small sample sizes. Forget about how productive he was last year, he is bad in 8 games so far! Sweeney will maintain his .143 BABIP all year and Lake will maintain his .417 BABIP all year. It’s so fun to make rash conclusions without actually looking into the numbers more carefully!

          • Jon

            He hasn’t been an impact player since 2009. Since he’s been a replacement level player. That’s just a fact.

            • JacqueJones

              that is the opposite of a fact actually.

              2013 Sweeney: 0.266/0.324/0.448 in 212 PA. That was good for 1.1 WAR.

              • Jon

                Which is pretty much a replacement level player

                • JacqueJones

                  no that is not. a league average player puts up about 2 WAR over the course of 550 PA or so, or about 1 WAR in 275 PA. Sweeney has been basically a league average player for 3 out of the last 4 years

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Perhaps you are conflating “replacement level” player with “average” player. They are not the same thing.

                • JCubs79

                  Considering the fact that WAR is wins above replacement a 1.1 WAR is not pretty much a replacement level player.

                  • brickhouse

                    Scrub 0-1 WAR
                    Role Player 1-2 WAR
                    Solid Starter 2-3 WAR
                    Good Player 3-4 WAR
                    All-Star 4-5 WAR
                    Superstar 5-6 WAR
                    MVP 6+ WAR

                    • Jon

                      Thank You. Sweeney is a backup at best. If you are satisfied with a player that can toss up a 1.1 WAR then fine by me. I think the Cubs can and should do better.

                    • C. Steadman

                      I’m not being pro-Sweeney, but I’m am going to come to his defense on his 2013 numbers.(So maybe I’m being pro-2013 Sweeney?) But he provided 1.1WAR in only 70 games and 212 PA…the table you copied had a context from Fangraphs that said those are guidelines for fulltime players which Sweeney wasn’t last year. Putting 1.1 WAR in only 70 games puts him in the solid starter category or upper echelon of the role players.(last year)

                    • C. Steadman

                      ” If you are satisfied with a player that can toss up a 1.1 WAR then fine by me.”

                      If that player puts up a 1.1 WAR in 212 PA, then yeah I’m satisfied.

                    • Jason P

                      2.0 is average over the course of an entire season. Sweeney posted 1.1 in 212 PA. That’s a 3 WAR pace for a full season.

                    • Jon

                      But he didn’t put up a 3WAR and he didn’t play a full season. Those are just hypotheticals.

                    • C. Steadman

                      Then you can’t use that table to prove the point you’re trying to make, because it is to judge fulltime players.

          • Funn Dave

            “ahh its so fun to overreact to small sample sizes.”

            I wouldn’t know; my comment had nothing to do with his at-bats this year. They reflect what I’ve seen of him in the past, what we have in him compared to other players on the roster and, like Jon said, the fact that he is a replacement-level player overall.

            • JacqueJones

              Not facts though.

              2010: 0.8 WAR in 331 PA
              2011: -0.2 WAR in 199 PA
              2012: 0.7 WAR in 219 PA
              2013: 1.1 WAR in 221 PA

              That is an above replacement level player

              • Funn Dave

                “ahh its so fun to overreact to small sample sizes. Forget about how productive he was last year, he is bad in 8 games so far! Sweeney will maintain his .143 BABIP all year and Lake will maintain his .417 BABIP all year. It’s so fun to make rash conclusions without actually looking into the numbers more carefully!”

                As you can see, your comment had nothing to do with whether Sweeney is or was a replacement-level player. It had everything to do with your trying to berate me for basing an opinion off of his early-season numbers for this year–which, as I demonstrated, I wasn’t doing at all to begin with.

                • JacqueJones

                  no you demonstrated nothing except that you dont know what a replacement level player is. Sweeney is an above replacement level player

                  • Funn Dave

                    Again, I never said that Sweeney was a replacement level player. You’re conflating my comments with Jon’s. Not that you seem to care whom you’re responding to or even what you’re arguing about, just as long as you can retain your opinion that 2013 Sweeney was a god among men.

                    • Funn Dave

                      Actually I guess I did agree with Jon there. But 2013 Sweeney was just a hair above being a replacement-level player. In every other season, he was either just above or just below replacement-level. For all intents and purposes, he’s just the tiniest step up from replacement-level.

                    • C. Steadman

                      ” just a hair above being a replacement-level player.”

                      1.1 WAR in 212 is way more than just a hair above replacement-level

                    • Jon

                      You are splitting hairs over hairs.

                    • C. Steadman

                      212PA*

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

                      No, Jon, you are wrong.

                      You are not adjusting your WAR standards. Possibly because you don’t know that WAR is a counting stat.

                      It’d be like bitching that Player X only hit 10 HR last year so he isn’t a power hitter but you gloss over that he did it in 100 PA.

                    • JacqueJones

                      No I never confused what you said. You said ” like Jon said, the fact that he is a replacement-level player overall.”

                      I never said he was a god among men, I’m saying he is a solid player to have on a roster and needs to start games against a good portion of righties. he is not a hair over replacement. He probably isn’t a starter, but he is a good player for what they need him to be, i.e. the left handed side of a platoon. He adds wins to a roster cheaply, which is valuable.

        • MightyBear

          I like Sweeney. He has hit some balls hard that haven’t found spots. He has a good approach at the plate and takes a lot of pitches. He plays plus defense in the outfield.

          Lake didn’t look good in CF in spring IMO. Lost one ball right at him that he started back and couldn’t come in fast enough. May have been the AZ sky and sun which plays havoc on the best of OFers. We’ll see. If Lake gets hot in the first half, I hope Theo deals him. Sell high.

  • Scombs

    “Now, before you go claiming that Ricky Renteria is overreacting to a couple homers last night from Olt and Lake”…remember that Len on WGN said before the game even started last night that RR planned on starting Olt and Lake today against Cole.

  • Featherstone

    I thought the same thing too Brett. I immediately wondered why Valbuena wasn’t in the lineup vs a righty.

    Then I broke down where he could play and it became apparent.

    • JacqueJones

      wouldnt mind him at 2nd base with Bonifacio replacing Schierholtz in right.

  • WernerT

    As much as early May games can feel important, this one feels that way. If they can take this series and then travel to the NL and AL Death Stars and win just a couple, then come home and .500 seems possible with a homestand against Reds and Diamondbacks. I like to dream.

  • MattM

    I don’t understand the Barney love either! Valbuena at second makes this lineup so much more competitive….. Takes away that black hole.

    I definately am not understanding why if you have a platoon you would platoon Valbuena with Olt and not Barney. Valbuena provides such an offensive improvement over Barney, but with Olt it’s just about even. Makes no sense.

    Hopefully it was just a quick experiment and the lineup with have Valbuena and Olt in it more…

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      In fairness to Barney, I have been incredibly impressed with his at bats in the Spring and early on this year. Yes, it is SSS, but so far in the Spring and early 2014 he has 14 walks to just 7 strikeouts. He has also made some very hard contact that has resulted in outs early on. He won’t even be a great hitter, but if he can get on base at a high clip and continue his gold glove defense, that is a very valuable player.

      • cooter

        Agreed.

  • JAllman

    I wish RR would bite the bullet and start Valbuena at 2B. Move Lake to left and put Boni in CF. I do like seeing Kalish in there so I can’t complain too much but it seems Like Valbuena is considered strictly a 3B on this team.

  • CubFanBob

    Barney helped win that game last night with a few key defensive gems

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      That play he made up the middle was fantastic

      • Q-Ball

        He’s good, and on the flipside, advanced metric’s doesn’t much love Bonifacio at 2B or CF. He’s below average in both.

        • CubFan Paul

          Bonifacio looks above average at 2B, CF, and SS…

          • MightyBear

            I agree. Don’t know about the metrics but he’s looked solid defensively where ever he’s been. Not as good as Castro or Barney though.

            Castro’s defense has improved tremendously. If he can cut down the errors on the routine plays this year, he could have gold in his glove.

  • willis

    We’ll have to see how he feels, but some more good news is that Arrieta just finished another rehab start. Went 3.2 with 3H, 2BB and 0 ER. 66 pitches thrown today. I’d say if he feels good after this, he’ll get one more in TN or Iowa and he’ll be ready for Chicago after that.

  • Dustin S

    It’s really the best offensive lineup with the roster right now, at least in composition (still have to hash out the best order). Valbuena and Barney will still get plenty of time and starts. There are just a lot of interchangeable parts on this roster.

    With Barney, it’s kind of tough to measure how many hits he saves with his glove vs. someone else at 2B. I kind of have a feeling it’s less than people think. But the web gem plays tend to stand out. Boni, Valbuena, or soon Baez will be out there diving for line drives too though.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      It’s not hits, but In 2012 his DRS (defensive runs saved above average) was 28 and in 2013 it was 11, good for 1st and 3rd in the MLB, respectively.

  • FFP

    “My only gripe about the lineup is that I don’t love the consecutive lefties up there and consecutive righties down there”
    Yup. (But I have lost track with what shape Pirate’s bullpen is in.)

  • cubsluver22

    Lineup I would like to see:

    Chicago Cubs Lineup

    1. Boni, CF
    2. Kalish, LF
    3. Nate, RF
    4. Olt, 3B
    5. Rizzo, 1B
    6. Castro, SS
    7. Lake, CF
    8. Castillo, C
    9. Pitcher

    I really like Castro in the 6 hole and I think Rizzo is better suited for the 5 hole.

    • Medicos

      Hey Cubsluver22: Like your choices for the Cubs lineup especially with some speed in the 1st 2 s. Who’s going to play 2B?????

      My lineup:

      1. Bonifacio—2B
      2. Kalish—LF
      3. Rizzo—1B
      4. Olt—3B
      5. Schierholtz—RF
      6. Castro—SS
      7. Lake—CF
      8. Castillo—C
      9. Pitcher

      • cubsluver22

        Haha Boni my bad. I like your lineup as well.

  • Jon

    Stop giving away outs Bonifacio.

  • Kyle

    This is a great first inning to watch for those who like to wax philosophical about smallball.

  • Jon

    what the fuck a bunt and a TOOTBLAN, what is this shit?

    • Kyle

      That was frustrating but it wasn’t a TOOTBLAN

  • Medicos

    Based on what I’ve observed concerning Bonifacio’s base running antics since Game #1 I can understand why he’s been on so many different teams during his MLB career.

    Still Boni adds an element to the Cubs lineup that the Cubs haven’t had for many years (Denier-Sandberg era ).

  • lnfihDeL

    Does Castro look bigger to anyone else this season?

    • cubsluver22

      Yes he does and I for one like it

  • Jon

    WIth 6+ runs scored 3 out of the last 4 games, can anyone tell me why Happy thinks it’s a good idea to give away outs? This crap is going to get old fast.

    • C. Steadman

      No one should ever bunt in the first inning…

      • C. Steadman

        *sac bunt

      • Jon

        I really don’t see the point of Kalish even being part of a platoon if he is going to bunt this much. It defeats the entire purpose of a platoon.

        • C. Steadman

          It defeats the purpose of having a position player hit 2nd…NOONE should sac bunt in the first, even if the pitcher gets up it means the other guy is getting rocked and might as well let him swing away too.

          • Unlucky 13

            I completely disagree. If the leadoff man is on second with no outs, I’m totally in favor of having the #2 hitter bunt him over to third. Man on third with one out and the #3 & #4 hitters up gives great odds to score a run.

            • Jon

              with emphasis on “a run”. Singular.

            • C. Steadman

              It’s the first inning, don’t play for just one run, especially at the top of the order…don’t take the bat out of Kalish’s hand…the runner is already on 2nd, he’s one hit away from scoring…

              • Unlucky 13

                Different perspective. My mindset is to always play for one run. If you get an extra base hit, it could lead to more, and thats great, but 1 run four or five times gives you a good shot at a win.

                • C. Steadman

                  Run Expectancies…Runner on third with one out is 0.8939, while Runner on second noone out is 1.0499…that should make your decision for you…never play for one run early in the ball game

                  • TWC

                    Numbers don’t matter to small ball advocates.

                    • C. Steadman

                      I’m some what of a small ball advocate, but not in the first inning with no outs and a runner already in scoring position…

                  • Unlucky 13

                    I guess we’ll agree to disagree. To me its situational depending on whos coming up to bat. Obviously the strategy is more likely to work with the #3 hitter coming up than the #8 hitter. I don’t like to let numbers dictate my thinking or how I go about things.

                    • C. Steadman

                      Why not just tell Kalish to hit a grounder to the right side? It’ll move the runner over with a chance to get another runner on,

  • MightyBear

    I really want to see a W today.

  • willis

    Two run Javybomb in Iowa.

    • Jon

      [img]http://25.media.tumblr.com/394252b7643b95e64d4d26a74838d379/tumblr_mnohmcQvmv1rt6sqoo1_400.gif[/img]

      • willis

        That’s tremendous.

    • Jon

      Hendricks also redeemed himself a bit in Iowa today, too..nice to see

      7IP 5 Hits, 1ER, 5K

  • MightyBear

    Lake and Olt with a K and double play respectively. Should have platooned. Valbuena and Sweeney probably would’ve had back to back jacks.

    • Jon

      or back to back sacrifice bunts.

      • Kyle

        With nobody on base

  • Medicos

    White Sox Garcia out for the entire year. With all these MLB teams having major injuries to star players, Baseball is starting to look like Monday mornings after the Sunday NFL games!!!!

    • Jon

      Not to be a dick, or minimize the injury, which sucks big time for him, but when has Avisail Garcia been a star player?

      I partly ask because much of the talk on the radio has been about what a future star he is going to be. His numbers in the minors have always been fairly pedestrian.

      • C. Steadman

        “when has Avisail Garcia been a star player?”

        According to White Sox fans?…once he became a White Sox.

  • Kyle

    Hmm. Maybe Castillo wasn’t nice enough to the umpire to get that call just now. 3-2 count, pitch-FX shows it clearly in the strike zone, walk.

    • Isaac

      Ah, don’t worry; let’s just relax and focus on those four top 100 SP’s Edwin Jackson is sure to bring in a July trade.

    • JacqueJones

      I think the problem is that pitch framing seems almost impossible to really teach. To me, that didnt look like a bad job of framing and is how Id expect that pitch should be framed, but aparently not. The problem is it is all percentages, 80% of the time that pitch caught that way is probably a strike. the problem is that a good framer, gets that like 90% of the time, so it’s hard to say when it is done well and when it’s not

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Seriously?? Pitch framing can absolutely be taught. It’s pretty much just body positioning and wrist action.

        • JacqueJones

          ok then show me a player that has learned it if it can be taught.

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            Every single player in baseball. They didn’t come out of the womb being good pitch framers

    • E

      Much more logical than, “derp, he wasn’t holding his head in the right place”

  • lnfihDeL

    Man, I wish we could get a live chat box on this here website.

  • willis

    Well this has turned into quite the shit show.

    • TWC

      Not so much.

  • lnfihDeL

    NASTY pitch Wood.

  • BlameHendry

    Walking the opposing pitcher, and then striking out McCutchen. Wut.

    • lnfihDeL

      “Walking”

      He struck him out lol.

  • lnfihDeL

    Nicely done Wood, nicely done.

  • ThatCubsGuy

    Big time pitching!

    • WilliamGlass721

      Last year, that inning would have been disastrous! Great pitching beats great hitting! :-)

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