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jake arrietaWith an early game yesterday and a late game tonight, we were the beneficiaries of more than 24 hours of beat-the-Cardinals-win-the-series-three-straight-win happiness.

  • Ricky Renteria tells Cubs.com that the plan is to stick with eight relievers on the roster, even after Jake Arrieta made his debut yesterday, pushing Carlos Villanueva to the pen (and Zac Rosscup back to Iowa), and even after Ryan Sweeney went down with a hamstring injury (replaced on the roster by Chris Coghlan, who I suppose offers similar versatility).
  • The Cubs have been carrying 13 pitchers since Justin Ruggiano injured his hamstring 11 days ago. The Cubs’ bullpen was stretched thin early in the year thanks to some ineffectiveness and extra innings, but now it seems like things have swung wildly in the other direction. Having depth in the bullpen is fantastic, but it can be hard to get innings for everyone (and you’re left with a short bench, which is especially tough with all of the Cubs’ platoons and, you know, being in the NL). For example, that one batter James Russell faced yesterday? That was the first batter he’d faced since April 23 – when he also faced just one batter. He has faced two batters in the last two weeks. Part of that could be a changing-of-the-guard situation, and also the acceptance of Russell as a LOOGY, as opposed to a full-inning setup man. But’s also a matter of there being only so many innings to go around. I’m not concerned yet – I just want to make sure that the young guys in the pen are actually going to be given enough innings to keep developing. So far, so good. But 13 pitchers is rare for a reason.
  • I’ll confess that I’m intentionally holding back my exuberance about how good Jake Arrieta looked yesterday. He had the shoulder issue, so that’s one reason. It was just one 5.1 inning start, so that’s another. And I know that he tantalized the Orioles for years with his obvious talent, so that’s a third. But, man, his stuff – both last year, and yesterday – just looks so good. He makes it very easy to see why people have, for years, dropped the front-of-the-rotation label on him, which is not a typical thing, especially for a 28-year-old with a career 5.16 ERA and 4.71 FIP. Is he finally going to turn that corner with the Cubs? Don’t do it, Brett. Hold it back. At least until midseason …
  • Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Arrieta yesterday (Cubs.com): “He had good life on the ball and it just wasn’t one side. He was moving the ball around, had a lot of movement going away from right-handed hitters, and times you could see them taking some uncomfortable swings.”
  • With his huge game yesterday, Junior Lake brought his wOBA and wRC+ nearly up to league average. And better yet, his strikeout rate dropped several percent … to 40.8%. As we’ve discussed, contact issues are a serious anchor around his otherwise robust talent right now, but the fact that he can have a nearly league-average wOBA while striking out 40.8% of the time? That means that when the dude hits the ball, he does serious damage. The contact issues can improve, and it was always possible that the extreme numbers this year were just a small sample size fluke. He’ll always strike out more than you’d like, but the K rate doesn’t have to come down all that far for Lake to be a net valuable player.
  • Something interesting to look for tonight: I’m going to guess that John Baker will start at catcher (Welington Castillo has caught four in a row), which will mark the fourth straight Jason Hammel start that Baker has caught. It might not quite be a “personal catcher” situation, but, hey, it’s been working, right?
  • Tony Andracki notes how much positivity some winning can bring into the clubhouse.
  • More on the win and resisting the urge to get too high from Sahadev Sharma.
  • Holy. Shit. This is the Cubs’ first three-game winning streak since LAST JULY. I knew it had been a while, but, man. I don’t type expletives for nothing.
  • Nicely played, Katie:

  • Lots of fun stuff today: after the Cubs switched several defensive positions at once yesterday, CSN’s cameras showed Ricky Renteria on the mound choreographing the switch, with some comical pointing. BN’er Andy not only GIF’d it, but he also added a little aural humor.
  • David

    My days are just a bit happier when the Cubs win.

  • baldtaxguy

    Thumbs up to Katie. That is gold.

    • Katie

      Why thank you. *bows, falls on mullet wig*

  • cubzfan

    I’ve got to think the extra pitcher is just partly because there’s no position player the team has under its control that they would like to bring up right now. I mean, if the choice is sending out Jason Grimm in favor of Chris Valaika, what’s the point?

    Please, please, please, can we just acquire an outfielder?

  • Spoda17

    It’s kind of funny that at the beginning of the year the NL Central was the toughest in the NL (if not baseball)… it’s early, but it looks like the worst in the NL so far.

  • another JP

    Without many days off over the next couple of weeks carrying extra relief pitching is a great idea and the Cubs have the depth to do it. It also gives RR the ability to use Russell or Wright as loogies if necessary. Thus far the SP is ranked eighth in WAR value and is getting a boost with Arrieta. Scoring runs remains the biggest issue if the Cubs are to continue winning, but it’s beginning to look like there is a path to success. FG has the projected record at 73-89… not too bad if it happens.

  • blublud

    First Saturday in may is always a good time of the year. Boxing’s May Day. First, a win against the Cards, a series win against the Cards and then the night cap. Money Mayweather does it again.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Setting staff up to trade couple starters and then promote 2 bolstered by experienced pen is how I see it

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    I’m fine with 13 pitchers. If having one fewer bat on the bench means we see Lake and Kalish getting more starts and Barney getting fewer, I’m for it.

  • ssckelley

    You know it is still early when someone can have a good game and have their OPS jumps 111 points like Lake did yesterday (from .627 to .738). Is he the next Alfonso Soriano where he looks awful ~80% of the time but is outstanding in the other 20%?

    • another JP

      Having Lake perform as he did against Wacha is very encouraging and if he were to be another Sori that would make me ecstatic. With all the bitching about Olt, it’s interesting that Lake’s BB% & K% are actually worse than Olt’s and they have identical ISO… The only difference is Lake’s BABIP is .395 and Olt has a .167.

      • baldtaxguy

        There is bitching about Olt? Where?

      • ssckelley

        Lake went 3 out of 25 between April 18th through the 27th with 14 strike outs. That is about the worst stretch you can have and still be in the big leagues. Hopefully this hot streak continues.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Wacha and Molina were fool to throw Lake fastballs. He’s painfully demonstrated the inability to hit any breaking ball. And with all due respect his 3-3 on Saturday really changes nothing. He’s not getting better. He’s not figuring it out. He hits fastballs and that is it.

        • ssckelley

          I was busy yesterday so I was unable to see any of Lake’s at bats. My question is why did they throw Lake fastballs, was it because they did not have the scouting report on Lake or is it because Lake actually laid off the breaking stuff and forced them to throw the fastball?

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The report is not (or should not) be “do not throw fastballs.” After all, Miggy sees 49% fastballs. Instead, the iPod shows *where* to throw them. Wacha was “wild in the strike zone” as Steve Stone used to put it: he was missing his spots on his fastballs with Lake, and Lake made him pay. Had Wacha gotten the fastballs where he wanted them, the Lake would have made weak or no contact.

            (Note: with the exception of elite hitters, this is often the case as hitting zones go from blue to red in a couple of baseball diameters sometimes.)

            • ssckelley

              Oh I see, so he missed the locations on the fastball. Makes sense, again I only got to watch the last couple of innings.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                I was listening to the Cards broadcast on Lake’s double, and they noted that the fastball didn’t get as far inside as Wacha wanted.

                But Lake still deserves credit for hitting the mistakes well. For all of his flaws, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ranks very high on the “mistakes clobbered rate” list.

                • drinkpbr

                  Doc please don’t give them ideas for another stat line! I can barely keep up!

        • baldtaxguy

          I’m sure there is a scouting report.

          I recall seeing some swing and misses from Lake as well as a couple of decent takes. Pitchers make mistake pitches and catchers make bad calls as well. I’d venture to say the fast balls were less about Lake working the count and more of a mistake by Wacha/Molina.

          But so what? Lake made those fastballs into a 3-3 day. He’s developing, and if he cannot develop into anything but a fastball hitter, he will not end up not adding that dimension to his offensive game which will limit him.

          I think it is bullshit to not otherwise recognize his effort yesterday – he had to execute and he did successfully. Wacha and Molina were betting he could not hit those pitches, or Wacha f’d up a pitch or two, so let’s give Lake a little bit of credit for taking advantage of it either way.

          • ssckelley

            There are plenty of ball players that had good careers in the majors hitting pitchers mistakes. The only question is can he lay off enough of the breaking pitches to force more mistakes to be thrown to him?

    • blublud

      When Lake makes contact, there is maybe a few players in the Majors that can do more damage. Will Lake maintain a .395 BABIP? No. But he will never maintain a 40% SO rate either. I think somewhere near 26% SO rate and a .350 BABIP with a 5% walk rate is about where you can expect him to be. With his high XBH rate and just 15 homers, he would be a very usable player.

      • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

        Well I think you could say that most players that reach the show “if they mark contact” is true for all player and the important part is how regularly they can hit. Yes Lake has good power but there are many other players that can do the same if they make good contact.

        • blublud

          MG, what you said is not true. When Lake makes contact, he does more damage than almost any other player when they make contact. His career BABIP supports that claim. He can produce a higher SO rate than most players and still be as good. We all know he’s not a 40% SO guy. Even you statheads, in fact, especially you statheads should know this.

  • cubsfaninca

    I agree with Brett about the 13 guys being unnecessary. Carry 12 and then if the bullpen gets taxed, there are plenty of arms to shift up and down from Iowa. It’s more likely that on any given day, you’ll need the 5th guy on the bench as opposed to the 13th pitcher. Find someone who will take Vitters or Jackson, bring up Valaika for an extra bat and promote Bryant to Iowa to play some OF.

  • auggie

    Wacha and Molina kept coming after Lake with fastballs and he made them pay for it.

  • Blackhawks1963

    I think 13 pitchers is a precursor to Samardzija being traded this week. I also think the Cubs really need to deal for a “serviceable” veteran outfielder. This will be a very interesting week coming up. Something big is brewing.

    • brickhouse

      I agree with Samardzija being traded this season but it won’t be next week. Way too soon to get max value. He will be traded the last week of July.

      • Voice of Reason

        You don’t know for sure that you could get max value at the trade deadline.

        What if a team feels they need a starter right now or verlander gets hurt. There are so many situations that could come into play. So, the cubs should pass on a really good package for shark because they have this need to wait foe the trade deadline? Then the team that really needed the starter traded that great package to another team then at the trade deadline other teams aewnt even coming close to offering the same great package.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Can you think of a recent example of one of these scenarios happening? (That is rhetorical: there are none.) This is not to say that it could not happen, only to say that it has not happened in the last couple of decades. Never bet on the improbable!

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      You may be right. another Cub fan site has published a tweet that says Shark will go to the Yankees. Nothing like starting a big fat ass rumor LOL. I kind of doubt it though since the Yankee’s cupboard is kind of bare. I just can’t see them putting together the kind of prospects that would interest the cubs.

      • ssckelley

        But does it have to be all prospects? Could someone like Brett Gardner be in the mix?

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Brett Gardner is 30 and has a contract that isn’t an albatross, but I also don’t think it’s very good for a 30 year old speedster. The Yankees simply don’t have what the Cubs are looking for in a trade for shark.

    • Ivy Walls

      Colorado needs pitching. Let me repeat Colorado leads the league in offense, Cargo is scuffling and is rumored out here to be available, his contract is 14:$10.5M, 15:$16M, 16:$17M, 17:$20M +$1M assignment bonus if traded, where next year is the big jump, plus Cuddyer will be returning to RF soon as Blackman easily moves over to LF. born 10/17/1985 he is 28 and should be entering prime years in that contract. Colorado has a power hitter in AAA and capable subs therefore CO would love to have an arm in the middle relief and a starter, Wonder if they would be interested in Samardzija, Hendricks and Russell in a traditional swap for Cargo who could solidify their offense and LF

      • Voice of Reason

        We’ll take a big time pass on cargo, but thanks for.checking in.

      • Soda Popinski

        Count me out. Cargo’s home / away splits are .328 / .387 / .603 and .265 / .320 / .447 respectively. Plus he’s oft injured. Give me somebody else.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Yes please, I’ve been banging this drum for a long time. Cargo is one of the most balanced and best players in baseball.

        Also, extreme small sample size, but .300/.333/.725 is his slash line at Wrigley (Only 42 PA so this doesn’t mean anything, it’s just fun. I repeat, I know this does not mean anything)

  • Katie

    Holy crap! I’m so excited to make the bullets! Hahahaaa!!! Thanks Brett!

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Well done my dear, well done. Now be sure to wash with bleach to get rid of the stench you have from wearing that shirt.

      • Katie

        OMG my skin was burning wearing that shitty get up. The mullet wig and Cletus teef just topped it off. AND.a Cubs win!!!

  • Ivy Walls

    I thought that pitching was going to be this year’s strength, last year it was starting pitching until August and even then we witnessed one upstart (yesterday’s starter Arietta) show some promise. Depending on the draft and this year’s record to the ASB I definitely see Cubs moving Samardzija (and Villaneuva) but Hammel might be kept. Cubs could make offer arbitration to Hammel and even if he goes FA they could either get a draft choice or negotiate a longer deal.

    Now the bullpen appears to becoming a strength with big young arms throwing BB’s above 95 MPH, this is what Cincinnati did with the beasty boys. Ramirez, Grimm, Strope, Wright, even Schlitter plus Rondon is a formidable crew to shorten the game considerably. The changing of the guard are the veteran old arms, Russell is being groomed and used less to increase incrementally his trade value where he has been overused for years. Veras is simply a DFA waiting to happen and Villanueva a trade where more injuries bring the market to the Cubs. As interesting and promising this is there are more big arms coming up through the system.

    Cubs need more offense. And Lake will play regularly now until Sweeney returns.

  • Patrick W.

    Honest question: is Travis Wood good enough with the bat to get regular pinch hits when all the other right handed options are used? Does that make it slightly easier to have a short bench with a left handed hitting backup catcher (whose Twitter handle is @manbearwolf)?

    • ssckelley

      I would not want to see Wood getting anything more than emergency pinch hit opportunities.

      • 70′s Cub

        Wood, pinch hitting duties not worth the injury risk!

  • JulioZuleta

    That gif is phenomenal.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Severino Clarkin and Ramirez from Yanks for Shark?

  • cubsfaninca

    Samardjza, Russell, AND Hendricks for Cargo? I think not. We’re not trading away Shark’s replacement in the rotation along with him. The hitters are coming. We need more pitching.

  • willis

    Hey Junior, after your remarkable day yesterday, you get to sit today.

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