- I’ll say up front that, due to family activities, I missed the vast majority of Jason Hammel’s outing today, so I can’t tell you much in the way of “stuff I saw with my eyes.” Based on secondhand accounts, though, the ugly line (4.1 IP, 9 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 4 K) was earned. Hammel came into today’s game with a 1.20 ERA over 15.0 Cactus League innings, and, if you weren’t going to say that it was a reason for special optimism heading into the season (I certainly wasn’t), I don’t quite think it makes sense to say, today, that you’re suddenly concerned (I certainly am not – no more than before, anyway). If the Cubs’ pitching staff struggles in the early going in the regular season, I’m sure I’ll hear a lot of grief from the doomsayers who are currently crying out that everything happening in the last week portends trouble. Of course, if the Cubs’ pitchers are fine, it’s not like anyone will say, “Oops, I was wrong to panic!” That’s the rub with fake, small sample baseball in March. It’s almost impossible to know if bad performances predicted bad regular season things (or good, good), or if they were just a fluke of the environment and sample, and then bad performances followed for their own reasons altogether. Take Hammel, for example: we already know he can go through stretches of dominance, and stretches of awfulness. Neither his great first four starts this spring, nor the clunker today, give us any kind of real evidence about what he’ll do in the regular season, since we already know it can go so many ways. Trying to back-fill after the season starts (if he’s good: “see, that one was just a fluke!”; if he’s bad: “see, that one was a sign!”) isn’t even good hindsighting. It’s just finding spurious connections.
- So, then, about Hammel: as I said, I’m no more concerned today than I was or wasn’t yesterday. He can be excellent when he’s commanding his fastball and slider, and he can get crushed when he’s not. I’m hopeful that he’ll be more of the former than the latter this year, and we’ll see what’s what when April and May roll around. Coming into today’s start, I hadn’t seen anything with my eyes that concerned me, so I may have to go back and watch some of today’s game.
- Spencer Patton finished off the fifth inning after Hammel left, and kept his Spring ERA at 0.00. He’ll see time with the big league team this year.
- Trevor Cahill took the next three innings – he’s been dubbed the team’s sixth starter (i.e., emergency guy), so he’s staying relatively stretched out – and gave up three earned runs on four hits and two walks. Adam Warren finished off the game with a clean ninth inning and two strikeouts.
- Dexter Fowler homered to lead off the Cubs’ half of the first inning, and then promptly exited with a side issue. Other homers came from Jason Heyward, Addison Russell (his fourth), and Matt Szczur.
- The only starter not to notch a hit today was Kyle Schwarber, who also had a passed ball behind the plate.
- Outfield prospect Mark Zagunis got quite a bit of playing time after Fowler exited, playing in right field, with Heyward moving to center. Zagunis tripled and walked in three plate appearances.
- Robinson Cano homered three times in the game, twice off of Hammel and once off of Cahill. So maybe he was the problem.
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