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That’s back-to-back wins, for those keeping track at home.

Jason Hammel pitched excellently on a night that was simultaneously good for pitchers (cool, wind blowing in) and tough for pitchers (sufficiently cold that finding your grip couldn’t have been easy). His outing didn’t quite match that of Travis Wood the night before, but he did match the seven innings and just one run.

Although Hammel couldn’t pull off the three-run homer trick tonight, MIKE OLT! served as Travis Wood’s substitute, wrecking one the other way (into the wind). Continuing his odd stats trend, Olt’s other at bats included a fly out and two strikeouts. He has been something of a “two outcome” hitter this year so far.

Starlin Castro had a standup double and a solid single, but he easily could have had another hit as well. In the field, he looked fantastic. The young man is really having a fine start to the year, which is all the more impressive given that he missed essentially all of Spring Training, and was very slow out of the gate.

To me, though, tonight’s game belonged to Luis Valbuena …

april 22 box

Full box score.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Whoa. That’s a two color EBS. Season first?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Really wanted to emphasize. :)

      • N8theGr8

        +40

      • dsgn1

        Rizzo saw 34 pitches. Can’t say I remember numbers that high… 34 and 40

      • GEEVEE

        EBS is still my favorite part of this site. Just sayin’…..

  • waittilthisyear

    if olt starts walking like his history shows he should, we may have found something

  • CeeDeeVee

    I really like that RR played the lefty platoons tonight. Getting them some ABs to warm up for Miley. I see a bomb HR by Lake coming tomorrow.

  • Picklenose

    TV announcers were asking for a nickname for Mike Olt. Is Eye Drop too cruel? I thought it might be funny because he has overcome the vision problems.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I like The Oltimate Warrior, but I’m admittedly not completely satisifed with that nickname and am still at the drawing board attempting to find a better one.

      • Brocktoon

        Plus not the best timing for that nickname

        • dshea

          How about My Colt? (Get it?) I love oronyms!

  • Rebuilding

    It’s pretty amazing Valbuena doesn’t have better stats at the end of each year. He has some of the most professional at bats you’ll ever see

  • Seth

    Rizzo now has 12 K’s and 12 walks on the year. Sporting an OBP of .440. I know its early, but his approach this year has been crazy awesome.

  • Rebuilding

    In other news. How long until Kevin Towers and/or Kirk Gibson get fired. 5-18 and Towers cleaned out their farm system other than Bradley

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Maybe the Cubs can convince Towers that all he really needs is another shortstop first.

      Barney for Bradley. Think about it Towers… another shortstop to sit on your bench! How can you say no?

    • bbmoney

      Crazy thing is I think they tacked a year onto tower’s contract this offseason. Maybe I’m wrong on that….. But if I’m not….. Man I bet they’re kicking themselves about it. Unless they turn it around quick he might not last until Memorial Day.

      • Eli

        They gave both Towers and Gibson a one year extension. The Arizona radio hosts still don’t think he will make it more then two more weeks.

    • 70’s Cub

      Towers put Upton on the trade block for like 3 plus months, Braves are very happy w/that trade. This year he gets a big right handed bat DH to play left and gives away young pitching for it. I was just hoping the Cub FO would be able to swing a Shark deal with this dumb ass.

  • bonger0493

    40 pitches in 5 plate appearances? Pardon me but holy shit

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Didn’t it take Juan Pierre about 40 PAs to see that many pitches?

    • N8theGr8

      Yeah, but how many bat-flips did he have???

      • N8theGr8

        That’s for bonger or DocPete. Speaking of which, anybody know what Valbuena’s Batting Average To Flipped Lumber Index Projection is? I read somewhere that Carlos Gomez’s is coming up recently as a BATFLOP.

  • willis

    I said during the game he was having great at bats. And that’s what he does (although, tonight is kind of ridiculous). He needs to be the starting 2B and Olt the 3B. Just let it roll RR.

    Castro has seemed so good this year. In the field he’s been strong and at the plate he’s hitting.

    Awesome start by Hammel tonight. Keep the ball in the zone, let the conditions play to your favor.

    • Crockett

      Precisely.

      • KHRSS

        I concur.
        Lake at LF as well. I’ve had enough of Sweeney and Kalish. Hopefully they can trade Schierholtz this year.

  • Rebuilding

    With so many pitching injuries I could see us getting something pretty useful for Hammel. He looks good and will keep you in a game

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Sample size is still a little small on Olt (44 PA), but he’s only striking out 31.8% of the time. Given his .512 SLG, that’s actually moderately acceptable.

    Here’s the fun part, though. His BABIP is .174, and that looks low. This could qualify as a slow start.

    Not bad for a guy coming off a horrible season a year ago.

    • Rebuilding

      Speaking of sample sizes and OBP – Almora is now up to 67 plate appearances without a walk. That’s really hard to do in A+ ball

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Even harder to do is have an OBP .023 higher than your AVG without a walk. Almora’s line is .283/.306/.400.

        • KHRSS

          If I remember correctly he actually had quite a few walks last year, right?

          • jp3

            I think he 17 BB in about 250 PA. It’s really amazing he hasn’t been given an intentional one yet being there hasn’t been much other production in the lineup otherwise.

    • 70’s Cub

      Olt now has hit a HR to right, left field line, left center and today right center on a cold night. What is not to like he has MLB middle of the order Power? If he makes it the Cubs will have a good one RR needs to protect him and continue to break him and pick his next 100 AB’s.

    • Kyle

      He’s not going to be able to keep slugging .518 with that kind of contact rate.

      I mean, I know people aren’t going to want to hear it, but the peripherals are all still pretty brutal.

      But here’s hoping he can be better than he’s been so far, because the power is so legit.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Scanning last year’s stats, there were a few guys striking out in same vicinity as Olt and holding SLG that high or higher.

        Chris Davis. Brandon Moss. Maybe a few others.

        But not many. Then again, with just 44 PA and his history, I’m not sure how much confidence I’d have in that contact rate just yet.

        • Kyle

          Contact rate stabilizes crazy fast.

          HR/FB rate doesn’t. Olt’s power is good, but he’s also had pretty much every one of his decently deep fly balls leave the park. That won’t happen forever.

          • waittilthisyear

            every ball that goes over the fence is a homerun kyle.

            • Kyle

              a) That made no sense.

              b) That’s not technically true.

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

              This is a misconception about statistical analysis of baseball players. That somehow, sabermetrics wants to take things away from/hate on players.

              It’s about determining how likely is Player X to perform at Level A for Y period of time.

    • Jason P

      I think it is too early to take anything away from his K-rate. If he goes 4 at bats w/o a SO tomorrow, that rate drops to 29.2% the discussion is changed somewhat.

      Of course, the BABIP will rise, and we know he’s got more walks in him. He’s seen quite a few pitches in his at bats.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Man, the DBacks seem to exist just to make other teams’ run differentials look good! They single-handedly pushed the Mets RD from bad to mediocre, and now they are doing it to the Cubs.

    But, then, the DBacks are 2-1 in close games, so I suppose that they DBacks must be fundamentally very sound…..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Wow.

      The D-Backs have the worst run differential in baseball at -62. Houston has the second worst: -36.

      143 runs allowed, and in recent off seasons they dealt both Bauer and Skaggs. Whoops.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Yeah, -62 is an awful month: and they’ve got a week plus to go. And they cannot even blame the schedule: the Cubs and the Mets are supposed to be parts of the “easy” month!

        And that Bauer for a backup SS trade would look bad if Bauer’s arm fell off tomorrow….

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Oh, and I am less upset about the Cubs missing out on McCarthy than I was 15 months ago. Sadly, I suspect that liner took something out of him.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          That Bauer trade still annoys me.

          If Towers was that desperate to give that guy away, surely the Cubs could have found something to lure Bauer into the system with.

          • BT

            Towers wanted a shortstop, and the Cubs didn’t have a spare (unless you wanted to give him Baez).

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              I suspect Darwin Barney and change would have given him pause, but the Cubs may well have offered that for all I know.

              With Towers, there is just no knowing.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              And Towers also wanted a SS who’s fielding could be compared to Derek Jeter’s. Had I been faster on the draw, I would have sent him my coffee table and donated Bauer to the Cubs….,

      • Crockett

        That’s an enormous whoops. Sold extremely low on both too.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The best description I have read is that Towers deals players based on how he values them, not on how baseball in general values them. Thatis bad enough, but he then compounds the problem by valuing players in part based on “character” issues that do not affect performance.

          I just hope that the Cubs manage to fleece him before he goes!

          • CubFan Paul

            “I just hope that the Cubs manage to fleece him before he goes!”

            Delgado.

  • mjhurdle

    It is always fun to watch games when the offense is actually hitting. Hammel looking like another good “scrap heap” pickup, and Castro looks like he wants to make everyone forget about last year. a lot to like about the game tonight.

    unrelated side note: congrats to Albert Pujols for hitting his 499th and 500th HRs tonight.

    • willis

      He should be thanking the cubs.

  • Medicos

    BULLS EYE

    wIZARDS—-101 bulls–99

    WIZARDS UP IN SERIES 2-0

  • tobias

    MLBTR has an article about that the Padres are in active trade talks involving C Nick Hundley. I wonder if the Cubs would be in on Hundley. The Cubs would upgrade the backup catching position plus the obvious connection with Jed Hoyer. He’s had a better start to his year than in the previous couple years.

    • cubzfan

      Hundley has been identified as one of the worst at pitch framing in the majors. I hope they can upgrade from Baker, but think it’s unlikely they go after Hundley.

  • Medicos

    I think Jr. Lake could possibly become a Soriano type hitter in that in early weeks of the season when the weather is crap for hitters to get a real good grip on bat home runs are few. But as the weather improves so did Soriano’s HR production. Every year was the same and hopefully Lake’s HR power will become more evident. He just looks like an athletically gifted HR hitter. No more platooning and let him stay in LF.

    • Thiscantbegood

      I wouldn’t mind seeing that, especially given everyone is talking about him being a 4th OF when the Cubs are contenders in a couple years. Right now I would prefer to see him in the lineup daily along with Olt, unless they need rest. This is the year we find out what Olt and Lake have, if they can be MLB players consistently. Also, we find out if Rizzo and Castro can take it to the next level. Thats really all I’m watching with the Cubs until Baez and Bryant come up. When Ruggiano, Baker, Sweeney and Barney are batting I have to find something else to watch.

  • cubzfan23

    The stat I like most is Cubs scored 7 of 9 runs with 2 outs and 5/14 RISP. That was nice.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The former really is not a good stat. Scoring runs with no outs is the hallmark of a good offense: that requires good slugging and good OBP to do often. Indeed, we expect bad offenses to score the highest proportion of their runs with two outs for much the same reason as we expect bad teams to have most of their victories in close games: they aren’t good enough to do things successfully by comfortable margins!

  • Ivy Walls

    I think we are seeing the influence of Mueller in some AB approaches on this team, and now a few dividends are starting to emerge.

    Naturally Valbuena, always a good eye and a player willing to go deep into the count but Rizzo also is doing his bit, not giving in to 3-2 counts and willing to take walks while also willing to take what is given when they over shift.

    Castro’s approach is different, looking to whack a fast ball in his zone earlier in the count.

    As for Olt, he does take a whack at FB’s too but he has find a way to get a dink or snort once in a while.

    Cubs sweep the D Backs and they can actually tie the Pirates, as long as the Buc’s don’t play anymore games this week!

  • Blackhawks1963

    Along the lines of Maholm and Feldman, TheoJed look like they once again hit short-term gold with Hammel. Impressive.

    Ricky Renteria is impressing me as a damn good manager in the making. He’s got a rotten 25 man roster to work with, but he seems to be strong in the strategy department and doesn’t kow-tow to certain players. I like Ricky more and more.

    • SamuraiJock

      Its interesting that there always seems to be decent pitching available at a reasonable price. Obviously none of the guys like Hammel/Feldman are guarantees, but it sure doesn’t seem that hard to find guys to fill out the rotation with some upside. Obviously the aces aren’t in the same position, but rotation depth seems pretty easy to pick-up.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Arizona has imploded. The rah-rah macho management style of Kirk Gibson has officially worn thin, and Kevin Towers has nosedived that club in Jim Hendryesqe style. Both guys strike me as dumber than a hockey puck too.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Let’s give Towers credit here. I don’t think Hendry ever pulled off a transformation this stark, this fast.

      A couple seasons ago Arizona had three of the best young pitching prospects in the game and looked set. And then Towers happened. And now they don’t.

      • bbmoney

        And what’d they get back for unloading two of those pitching prospects. A SS prospect most people don’t think will hit and a DH with huge power but not much else. Plus they lost a promising young CF in the process.

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

        A good go would have been able to dual – front an unbuild and contention!

  • ame1908

    I still can’t understand why Castro is getting crushed by advanced fielding stats…. Other than a couple of early errors, his defense has looked solid to me. He’s certainly not on Andrelton Simmons’ level, but to me, it looks like he has played league-average D (if not better).

  • JCubs79

    I absolutely love the way Rizzo is approaching every AB. He may not have all the power numbers showing up yet, but if he continues this approach, the HR’s will come.

  • ced landrum

    +1

    • ced landrum

      Well geez good work Ced. Suppose to be a plus 1 to JCubs talking about Rizzo.

  • CubsFaninMS

    Anyone else see Barney beginning to get squeezed out of the infield? I suspect his days are numbered. He’s had three weeks to “put up or shut up” and his bat has grown largely silent. Barney will always produce and have decent at bats, but not at an acceptable rate to make him a starter in the MLB. He’s a standup guy, but his role will be better served in another organization.

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