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wrigley field from right bleachersIf the Cubs manage to win today, they’ll do something they haven’t yet done all season: win a series.

Carlos Villanueva could be making his last fill-in start for the Cubs, and he draws a tough matchup against Homer Bailey (despite his early season struggles, the dude is good). Villanueva really struggled the last time out against the Cardinals, which was hopefully a blip – he’s not going to dominate you, but Villanueva is usually pretty reliable for a decent, keep-you-in-the-game type start.

Mike Olt – proud owner of some odd early-season stats – gets a start today against a righty. Did I say these would slowly start coming? We’re three weeks into the season, y’all. If you were freaking out about the platoons involving Lake and Olt last week, I dubbed you silly. I still dub you silly. With love, of course.

Indeed, the three homer boys from yesterday – Olt, Welington Castillo, and Darwin Barney – are all in the lineup again today, batting in order. Clearly, back-to-back-to-back is on the way today.

Your hilarious, early-season stat for Homer Bailey: check out his ERA/FIP/xFIP line. Know why that xFIP is so low compared to the other two? Because his HR/FB ratio is 60(!)%. That’s right: of his 10 fly balls this year, six of them have gone out of the park. That’s lulz in the extreme.

How about Villanueva’s whacky stats: .429 BABIP, 49.5% LOB, and no walks yet. I guess you could argue he just hasn’t had a chance to give up a walk yet.

Game Info

Cincinnati Reds (7-10) at Chicago Cubs (5-11), 1:20 CT on WCIU.

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

Homer Bailey (8.16 ERA, 7.19 FIP, 2.70 xFIP; 3.40 K/BB)

versus

Carlos Villanueva (11.57 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 4.29 xFIP; [error] K/BB)

Cincinnati Reds Lineup

1. Billy Hamilton, CF

2. Joey Votto, 1B

3. Brandon Phillips, 2B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Todd Frazier, 3B

6. Ryan Ludwick, LF

7. Devin Mesoraco, C

8. Zack Cosart, SS

9. Homer Bailey, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF

2. Ryan Sweeney, LF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Nate Schierholtz, RF

5. Starlin Castro, SS

6. Mike Olt, 3B

7. Welington Castillo, C

8. Darwin Barney

9. Carlos Villanueva, P

  • willis

    I surely don’t get Barney at 2B and Sweeney in LF.

    I’d love to see a little, well a lot more from CV than we did last weekend. He’s had a lot of rest in between these starts.

    • KHRSS

      I agree. Lake has been much better and should be starting at LF pretty much full time.

      • KHRSS

        I would also like to see Vitters called up soon and maybe move over Lake to CF.

        • willis

          Well, even if one is of the opinion that Lake can barely hit righties, at least if he can square one up, you have the potential for a home run or extra bases. Whereas with Sweeney, getting the ball out of the infield is a challenge. Sweeney’s defense is better, but the bat is very quiet.

  • esruc

    A Sunday afternoon game relegated to WCIU? WGN is airing 2004′s The Chronicles of Riddick this afternoon. After cutting out of a spring training game for a Bull pregame show, less broadcasts and things like this, it’s becoming more obvious that Cubs baseball on WGN is soon to be no more.

    • notcubbiewubbie

      hopefully len kasper is gone too!

      • esruc

        I guess I will disagree with you on that one. I think Len and JD do a great job.

        • esruc

          I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kasper get a national gig in the future.

          • notcubbiewubbie

            i’m praying for that.

      • JCubs79

        Len Kasper is one of the best broadcasters in the game.

        • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

          Disagree Len is very boring and dull during exciting plays
          I’m not a fan
          Just sync radio and tv and have pat do both

          • Eternal Pessimist

            I gotta agree with you…Len has a very dull delivery. I would rather hear more excitement on great plays and earnest frustation on failures that better matches what is occuring on the field. He is OK but no exciting.

            Harry Carry would broadcast in a way that was in tempo with the game w/ voice/mood fluctuations that nicely colored the game.

            • Cubs_Questions

              I’ll always remember that June 29, 2007 game against the Brewers (I think that was the date, it was definitely that week) when Kasper called Aramis’ walk-off home run. It was a great call.

              When the game is exciting, Len is excited. I think he does a great job.

              • Head and Heart

                I agree with you. I have mlb.tv and I watched a lot of games. Len is one of the best in the league for local guys. I am glad he doesn’t get frustrated because watching the Cubs is already frustrating enough right now without having the announcer making it worse. More meaningful games/moments and Len cranks her up. You don’t want to start too high or peak too early and have no where to go.

            • OCCubFan

              “I would rather hear more excitement on great plays and earnest frustation on failures that better matches what is occuring on the field.”

              So, I guess you would like Hawk H.

              • Eternal Pessimist

                No…I didn’t say I would rather have a babbling idiot! Carry knew the game as well as just about anyone, but could still be a great fan of the game.

                He would be speaking the conversation you might have with a buddy (4 budweiser’s into the game) sitting next to you in the bleachers. Hawk has that stiff delivery reminicent of…Len.(but I still believe Len>Hawk due to his better baseball IQ).

          • snakdad

            Totally just run Pat Hughes on both outlets. Len is mediocre at best and JD is about as interesting as refrigerator hum. Meanwhile, I don’t understand how Carlos thinks he should be starting on any team. The guy throws more grapefruits than a fruit vendor. He doesn’t keep you in games—he takes you right out of them.

            • http://bleachernation.com woody

              Let’s face it Brenly was one of the best. You wouldn’t notice Len’s defects as much if he had a decent partner. I like Jd, but let’s face it he’s nothing to write home about.

      • YourResidentJag

        Agreed.

  • Medicos

    HAPPY EASTER!!!!!

    WGN tonite 7-9 Wrigley Field 100-Yr. Old Birthday Celebration. Should be a worthwhile 2-hr show before the candles are lit on the birthday cake on April 23..

  • Illini Cubbie Fan

    Does anyone else think that Joey Votto is the best overall player in baseball? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that patient at the plate before. He’s also great defensively and appears to be an awesome leader.

    • Sabermagician94

      Maybe in the NL, but no way he’s better than Cabrera/Trout

    • Cyranojoe

      He is frustratingly good, that’s true.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Regardless of “best,” Votto certainly is not the most valuable simply because he’s stuck at 1st, and there are other 1Bmen (Miggy Cabrera in particular) who create more runs than Votto does. Now, if Votto could play CF, then his value would be much, much greater: his numbers would contribute a ton more to the team’s run-differential because he’d be out-hitting the other teams’ CFers by a lot more than he is out-hitting the other teams’ 1Bmen.

      That written, I like seeing the Reds bat Votto 2nd. He gets on base and he’s got plus power, and I suspect that he’s not dumb enough to hit to ground out to the opposite field to advance runners….

      • DocPeterWimsey

        And in Votto’s defense, I would add that after year’s of batting #3 behind Dusty Baker’s idea of #1 & #2 hitters (speed and 0BP….), he is very used to batting with 2 outs in the first…..

  • ssckelley

    This sucks, Easter Sunday which is a great day to take in a baseball game and no Cubs! Dish has it on 443, the Midwest alternate channel, but it is blacked out.

    • willis

      I’m getting it locally but it’s the reds’ broadcast. It shall be on mute.

  • KHRSS

    Tigers release SS Alex Gonzalez http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10811835/detroit-tigers-release-alex-gonzalez

    Could they be interested in Barney?

    • cubmig

      Haven’t you heard……Barney’s ceiling just went through the roof after his HR yesterday. Cubs are gonna’ ask too high a price for him, and Detroit is gonna’ be gun shy.

      [snark]

    • Voice of Reason

      I think if we pick up all of Barney’s salary that the tigers will give us castellanos and a top 20 prospect in their system for Barney.

      That home run yesterday put Barney among the elite second basemen.

    • Medicos

      KHRSS: Friday I was sitting near a Tiger scout and kiddingly asked him about a trade of Shark for 2 of their players and he just laughed and said there’s no way Dombrowski would do that. He also added that he was there checking out Darney barney. So you may have had a premonition about our 2nd baseman leaving the Cubs very soon.

      • KHRSS

        Hopefully they can work something out.

  • njmass

    I would bet that Homer Bailey can’t wait for the game today. Time to get those elevated stats back down.

  • willis

    As I said, Sweeney can’t get the ball out of the infield. I have no idea why he starts, ever.

    • KHRSS

      or why he is batting 2nd.

  • cubmig

    Well……..one thing not to worry about is that Castro won’t miss hitting bad pitches…..lol….That last one was… uhh….a wedge shot….

  • cubmig

    Villanueva is on his game. He alone made up for the Rizzo lapse on the Hamilton easy grounder.

  • IndyCubsFan

    Villanueva is throwing the nasty stuff today! *knock on wood

  • Cubs_Questions

    So after Bonifacio’s first hit today, I decided to look at some advanced statistics. His BABIP is .421 which is way higher than his career average, but I think it might be due to a change in approach and we might see some extended success from him.

    He’s hitting more line drives and ground balls this year and less fly balls than he has in the past. So while his ISO is lower, he’s having more success getting base hits and since he can steal bases, that seems to play well with his style. He’s also striking out significantly less than his career average and walking more, which, again, could be the result of a change in approach.

    Or the numbers could even out. Hopefully it is a change in approach and a long-term one at that.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “Or the numbers could even out.”

      Given the tiny sample sizes involved, none of Bonifacio’s numbers are going to deviate from career rates at this point. Really, we would need at least half a season of data (and probably more) to demonstrate real shifts (for good or for ill).

      • Cubs_Questions

        Agreed it’s definitely too small of a sample size to suggest anything definite. Just noticing a trend early on.

    • OCCubFan

      Bonifacio has a career BA of .265 and unremarkable OBP & OPS. I will take the under on him hitting .270 for the season.

      • Cubs_Questions

        I’m not saying he will hit above that, he very well could finish with a .255 average and it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m just saying that early on, his batted ball tendencies have been different than in years past and it’s totally plausible that they could continue to play out that way.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Well, if a guy truly is a 0.265 hitter and if he is hitting 0.358 after 16 games into the season, then we expect him to bat ([16/162] x 0.358) + ([145/162] x 0.265) = 0.274.

          Now, obviously we expect a 0.265 hitter to go 24 for 67 every once in a while: basically, he should have such a hot streak just by chance once every three years if we assume homogeneous pitching, and variability in the scheduling makes it slightly more probable that he’ll get that. There are two edges to this sword: 1) don’t expect Bonifacio to keep doing this; 2) having done it, the probability of him doing it (i.e,. about 0.04 any given month) doesn’t change, and he doesn’t owe the universe a 0.151 month to compensate. So, expect him to bat 0.265 from here on out, with “hot” and “cold” spurts consistent with that.

          • OCCubFan

            You are correct. Furthermore, as Bonifacio cools off, he will start fewer games and thus won’t play in all 145 remaining games. This should give a slightly higher weight to his current .350+ BA.

            My primary point is that he is not a good hitter. His career OPS+ is 80. Only once has he had an OPS+ over 100.

            I’ll still take the under on him batting .270 for the season.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              At this point, I will take the over. Basically, I doubt that Bonifacio is any *worse* than he ever was (which is different from saying that I think he’s good, mind you). Bonifacio doesn’t give back this “hot” start, and I suspect that regardless of how he does, I think it probable that he and other guys like him will lose playing time later in the season when the Cubs call up guys like Vitters, Baez and Alcantara.

              Our best hope is that Boni rolls snake eyes again with another hot stretch, and some statistically ignorant GM gives the Cubs something for Boni. Of course, given that the statistically disinclined GMs aren’t running contending teams (curse the DBacks atrocious start!), that seems improbable.

              • Cubs_Questions

                Totally agree with the statistical analysis of Bonifacio’s start. Simply stating that it is a mere possibility that he could actually have made some adjustments. Also acknowledging that he very likely could regress. Either way, it’s been fun to watch.

          • DarthHater

            “he doesn’t owe the universe a 0.151 month to compensate.”

            Maybe not, but I still says E-Jax owes us something. :-P

  • cubbiehawkeye

    Travis Snyder was socked in the face…it made me smile.

  • willis

    Villanueva is making huge mistakes this inning. That first double was a dying duck pitch, then, with Bailey on deck, he throws the same pitch to Cozart. And both were tattooed. Just bad pitching there after throwing so well the first three innings.

    • Cubs_Questions

      Cozart was hitting .109 going into that at bat. And they were both two-out RBI doubles, which in itself is extremely frustrating.

  • Dustin S

    The funny thing was I was about to say Villanueva is looking good today but with him you kind of are always waiting for the 3 run inning…sure enough…

    • willis

      Well, sure Cozart has struggled, but Villanueva is better and smarter than to give him much to hit there, let alone a piece of shit hanger.

      And now down three. I’d say it’ time to pack it up and go home everyone.

  • cubmig

    Now the game has come back to bite Villanueva, taking away his control. Wlil Bailey be handed the same fate? Stay tuned.

  • cubmig

    ^ Will

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Villanueva looks like he’s throwing batting practice now.

  • GoCubs

    This is not the first time RR has allowed a game to get out of hand against a good pitcher. He must think that the Cubs offense is soooo good, that it will come back and win.

  • The Real Wrigley

    Hey, RICKY…a little late pulling Carlos, ya think?!!???

  • cubmig

    The “Scary Tomorrow” I mentioned yesterday is here……..Villanueva’s good start has been pissed away with the absence of an….any…offense crapping on the day. It’s the 5th, but that may not make a bit of difference. The Goat is having its way.

  • willis

    Man, I’ll admit I was all over the Villanueva to be the 5th starter until Arrieta comes back train. But he has been suck shit awful. Rusin wouldn’t have done much better though. It was a bad situation all around. Hurry up, Jake.

    • Cubs_Questions

      I actually Rusin would have been given a shot. He was serviceable in his 13 starts last season, and I seem to recall him having a string of great starts around August-early September of 2013.

      • Cubs_Questions

        actually wish*

        • willis

          I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but I’ll admit I was wrong. Saying that, Rusin is not having much success at AAA. It was the lesser of two evils I guess.

          • Cubs_Questions

            I suppose so. Though he did look good in his 5 inning relief outing last week.

            • willis

              I think Rusin is set to take one of the LHRP roles as soon as the Cubs can purge what they have right now. His stuff would play better than a starter.

              • Cubs_Questions

                I also like Rosscup to have an LH spot in the bullpen though, so that could cloud things for Rusin. I think that Rusin gives you good emergency depth for a 5th starter, though I agree he would be a better fit in the bullpen.

  • willis

    And what really sucks is if he could have been at least decent this first month, he could have been a decent trade chip as a swing guy. I expected much more out of him.

  • Spoda17

    My new favorite teams to root for are now the Astros and the Diamond Backs… WOOT!

  • itzscott

    As much as I’d love to see the Cubs win every game, the reality is more likely that they’ll win once every three games…. Which is okay by me since that’ll make them a lock for the #1 next year to add to the stable of superstars that’ll bring the dynasty we’ve been waiting for.

    I just hope I’m alive to see it.

  • Spoda17

    good call Len… lol

  • KHRSS

    Veras still sucks…

  • KHRSS

    Baez returned today, 0-4 3 K’s

  • Bric

    Wow- the Cubs’ season realistically over by Easter. That’s gotta be a new record. The sad thing is that Thedstein always talked about 2014 being the season when you see the new look turning the corner. I don’t know what’s going happen in the next 140 games but 1 thing I’m pretty confident in is we’re not going to see any exciting young pitchers come out of nowhere in the next few months which means 2015 is pretty much F’d, too.

    True, they’ve definitely had some success finding and flipping a few castoff pitchers in the last few years but unless Ricketts opens up the wallet its gonna be at least 3 more years before they have the pitching to smell the post season.

    • willis

      They moved the goal posts because the money “isn’t there” to be spent. The goal posts will keep being moved back because there is nothing right now on the way that can immediately help, and they won’t spend to get anyone. So, yeah, 2015 will be horrible too.

  • willis

    Hahaha, Veras. Wow.

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