9 Observations from Opening Day: Rizzo, Castro, Samardzija and more

9 Observations from Opening Day: Rizzo, Castro, Samardzija and more

Opening Day results don't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.  After all, had the Cubs won 11-0, would that have meant they were an offensive juggernaut?  Nah, it's just a game.  And while I do worry about the offense a little bit (or maybe a lot) this year, we have to keep in mind that there were a lot of well-pitched games over the past two days.  It was pretty much par for the course.

I'm not going to be doing game recaps -- we'll get that from both sides of our brain with Felzz's unique look and also a data driven look from Adam Brown -- but I do want to point out a few things from the Cubs first game:

  1. Jeff Samardzija seemed more willing to pitch to contact in what is an effort to keep pitch counts down.  In that respect he was successful, needing just 88 pitches to go 7 shutout innings.  He also only walked 2 batters.  It's a sign of maturity for the big RHP who has often had the Kerry Wood mentality of trying to blow everyone away all the time.  It made for some dominant performances but also for a great deal of inconsistency.  I like the change, especially since we know that Samardzija can save up, rear back, and hurl his filthiest whenever he needs that strikeout.  Perhaps we get the best of both worlds here.
  2. Starlin Castro played a good game -- yet was hitless.  That is another sign of maturity.  It's natural when you're young to measure success in terms of results, particularly hits when you're a hitter, but the truth is Castro consistently put up good ABs yesterday even though he failed to make hard contact.  I think that was mostly due to not having his timing back yet after the layoff -- but that will come.  His good play showed up at shortstop where Castro was noticeably focused and attacking the ball on defense, even alertly faking out the runner to help the Cubs double him off on a line drive to CF.   As someone who enjoys amateur scouting, you don't always get to see results, so sometimes you have to focus on process and how a player approaches the game -- and I liked Castro's approach yesterday.
  3. Anthony Rizzo looked awful, there is no way to sugar coat that but let's consider context here.  A) it's one game and B) he was facing Francisco Freaking Liriano who's filthy slider is anathema to LH hitters.  Collectively they hit just .130 off of him, slugged .146, and struck out in 28% of their ABs last year.  Let's not panic here, when he's on (and he was on) Liriano makes a lot of lefty hitters look like they belong in short-season ball.  Some examples: Jay Bruce is 0-11 with 6 strikeouts, Joey Votto is 2 for 10 with 2 singles, Jason Heyward is 0-3 with 3 Ks, Carlos Gonzalez is 0-4 with 2 Ks, Matt Carpenter is 2 for 11 -- and guys like Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman simply get the day off when Liriano is on the mound.   So there you have it - some of the best LH hitters in the NL and they are a combined 4 for 39 with one extra base hit and 16 strikeouts.  I'm giving Rizzo a pass on this one.
  4. Darwin Barney put up consistently good ABs yesterday and I was actually slightly disappointed to see them pinch-hit for him with a man in scoring position yesterday.  He was working counts and squaring up well.  He's done a lot of work and I realize this is still a light-hitting 2B, but if he keeps up what he did yesterday, he may at least hit the way he did earlier in his career.
  5. Emilio Bonifacio can be a weapon for this team at the top of the order but I think he tried to do too much on the bases yesterday.  He was picked off in a key situation and would have also been picked off earlier had the 1B not dropped the ball.  I don't blame him for being thrown out at home because that was a contact play -- and he showed his veteran savvy by getting hung up long enough to get Castro into scoring position.  I want to see him up there often as he seems to find a way to get on base -- he didn't walk but he seems to find the holes in the defense and has the bat control to slap it through that spot.   Kind of an old school table setter type.  He's not ideal, but he's probably the best they have for that role right now.
  6. Justin Grimm's stuff is just plain filthy.  He showed easy mid 90s heat and mixed in a sharp breaking curve that even chopped down the great Andrew McCutcheon.  If this kid can throw strikes, he's going to be a beast out of the bullpen.
  7. The Cubs went 0-11 with RISP which is about the most frustrating thing for any fan to watch, but let's face it:   They stunk (and much of that credit goes to Liriano).  Take out Emilio Bonifacio and the Cubs were 2 for 27 overall.  They weren't just helpless with men on.  They were helpless -- period.
  8. I hate bunting.
  9. I don't like the day after Opening Day.  You get me primed up for baseball for 6 months, play one game -- and then take the next one off?  Baseball, why must you tease me so?

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  • I know Liriano is death to lefties but I was more upset about how Rizzo looked in those at bats. Its only one game, but just like last year, he was trying to pull everything Liriano was throwing him. Striking out Rizzo is just the reversed version of how you struck out Soriano for years....throw him off speed or breaking stuff away and he'll swing right through it. I was hoping to see him stay down on balls and at least attempt to take pitches the other way or up the middle. But whiff, whiff, whiff....trying to pull every pitch. Frustrating.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Very frustrating. If he continues to try to pull everything, it will be a long year for Rizzo.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    better keep Vogelbomb for a while.

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    Great write up. #1 & #2 were actually the two things that really struck me about the game too.

    3Ks with a low pitch count seems so anti-Shark. But in a good way. It's nice that it was a stellar performance, too. If he can learn to dominate without getting too high into pitch counts or walks his value goes up (to us OR in a trade.)

    And Castro taking a walk? Be still my heart.

    BTW, great stats about Liriano. I knew he's a beast vs lefties but I didn't know he was THAT dominant. You talked me off the ledge there.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I'll take that kind of outing from Shark any day this season, or next, or the next,.....

    K's are great,..... easy outs and going into the 7th inning consistently are better.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I hear you. If he consistently does that we have a TOR SP.

  • if he refuses to go to L/C against lefties his time as a full time starter in Chicago is ticking away , no other way to put it . Needs to accept the fact that making contact the otherway against tough lefties is a good thing .

  • I'm not crazy about bunting, but one run wins a will pitched game. It made sense yesterday.

    O-11 with risp is disparaging because of the Cubs recent history. It's just too painfully familiar, but there was a lot of good things going on.

  • I'm not quite as willing as you are John to give Rizzo a 'pass' on this game - but for this point in particular.

    Yes - Liriano has been heartburn against the NL the last couple of years for Lefites - period. But - if Rizzo is going to be an everyday guy he's at least got to do marginally better on the days a decent lefthander is going to be on the mound to start. He was horrible against them last season, and we need to see some improvement against them this season - or Rizzo is going to become somebody that needs a 'platoon partner' and not quite as valuable in the long-term to this team.

    Heck - I would be happy with him IF he could bat over 0.200 and get some walks against Lefties as long has his defense remains solid. But man he looks weak against Lefties at this point in his career.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Even the great Joey Votto is 2 for 10 with 2 singles -- and none of the best LH hitters in the game can touch him. I don't think we can judge Rizzo on this game.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And not John,.... I didn't judge him on this game. I'm seeing the continuation of last year's pattern based on this game continuing that trendline.

    He breaks the trendline against other Lefties of slightly lower quality than Liriano appears to be - I'll be more than willing to reconsider my opinion.

    But until then,.... he's going to have to demonstrate that improvement.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I agree there -- he does need to improve vs. LHP. I just hope we see it vs. more hittable types.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "And not*e* John,.... danged fat fingers,....

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Im not gonna argue against Lirianos stuff, John. My point(and many others here) is that Rizzo should sit against a nasty lefty like Liriano. We will likley see Liriano 2-3 more times this year and really need to put up better ABS against him. The top of the order guys actualy did well against him(Lake at least made him throw pitches), but Rizzo, Olt and Beef were horrid against him, particulary in there approach. These guys looked like theyve never seen a changeofpace pitch in there lives.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    look at Rizzo's carreer #s against lefties , He flat out cant hit them whaether in a Padres uni or Cubs uni . i am pulling for him but at this point i think he is the long side of a platoon type player .

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    In Rizzo's defense (and everyone's), the camera angle yesterday really showed the movement Liriano has on his pitches. He had great movement on everything, even his FB, with what I would call a wipeout slider that looked unhittable by a LHH. He was also hitting spots with his stuff, something he has struggled with in the past.

    I didn't observe Liriano much last year, but he just looked outstanding on Monday.....great command, great movement

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I'd rather hang his ABs on Renteria. Knowing how hard Liriano is on lefties, maybe Olt should have been playing first.

  • I'm glad that Samardzija only struck out 3, because it was one of his best games. We may have something here after all, but we'll see what he does next time. Liriano is one heck of a pitcher when he's on, and he was on, but , IMO, Samardzija out-pitched him.

    One game, one pitch. Way too early to hang the head. Like John says, there was a lot of positives in this game.

  • It's true that Opening Day is the most over-analyzed game, but it's fairly substantial when it comes to analyzing a new manager. And I was not pleased with what I saw from Renteria.

    * I hate taking the bat out of a guy's hand and giving a team a free out. If Renteria did that twice yesterday, we're bound to see this all season long. I know sac bunts have their constituency, but I really hate them.

    * I didn't like the decision to let Valbuena hit for Olt in the ninth, even though it may have worked (Valbuena walked). For one, it's a win-now move that could screw with the confidence of one of your best prospects. For another, it reeked of conventional wisdom (Righty pitcher? Aha! I have a lefty batter!), when the reality is that Valbuena hits about the same clip versus both lefties and righties.

    * I didn't like the decision to pinch-hit Barney, who saw a lot of pitches and looked like he was pretty locked in. Again, Renteria appeared to obey the conventional wisdom, benching his right-handed hitter for a lefty. Sweeney, who had a miserable spring, popped out.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Sweeney was red hot at the end of ST. Give Ricky some time before you jump on him. It is a long season.

  • First spring in a while without a bunting tournament and the Cubs go bunt crazy in the first game. Some old school baseball on day one! What's next, pre-game on-field medicine ball workouts?

  • In reply to baseballet:

    LOL! I think you may have hit upon something. Not enough medicine ball.

  • I thought Strop looked very good.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    That slider is really something.

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    That Lake bunt pissed me off. I was happy with how the game was managed, even the decision to have Villanueva come in for the 10th. He has a good track record against the Pirates and it made sense to have him out there. But c'mon Rick! Lake has a real opportunity to drive in a runner from 2nd, especially since Bonifacio gives pitchers fits at 2nd. Even a hard hit ball through the hole in right scores him... Instead, you have a rally killer. I hope this isn't Renteria's philosophy going forward.

    !!!STOP BUNTING!!!

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Lake is a high percentage strike out guy. I was hoping he'd bunt and give Castro a chance to hit a routine fly ball to win the game, or maybe Rizzo gets a hit. It was the right call, except in hindsight.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I didn't watch the game live yesterday. I know Lake bunted for quite a few hits last year and wondered if maybe he was after a hit.
    Found a funny bunting article on the player with the most bunt hits (the best part is that the Astros led the league last year).
    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/18/5222814/leonys-martin-best-bunters-mlb-baseball

  • In reply to TTP:

    Im more POD with Castro and his terrible decision to swing at an offspeed pitch half a foot outside and try to pull it. Thats a pitch begging to be hit to the right side.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    I hate having position players bunt almost all the time, but there is one instance where it can be a good idea.

    Since very few games are decided by a 1 - 0 score, it is usually a bad idea to give up an out for a possible one run. However, yesterday's game was different. With Pittsburgh's relievers following Liriano, and Samardzija pitching the way he was, a 1 - 0 lead suddenly looks pretty good. If he had scored from third, the Cubs would have won the game.

  • All the other lefties John mentioned are everyday guys too. He even said Bryce Harper, a rising star sits on days Liriano pitches. He went 4-12 off lefties in spring training

  • "Ricky" Renteria gave away 3 outs on SAC Bunts and a runner should have been picked off twice...that completely contradicts any type of "moneyball" Ive ever seen or read about. meet the new boss, same as the old boss

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    In reply to ChiTownD:

    Except Dale would have given away outs by letting .197 hitters swing for the fences. At least Rick was using a different approach and later took Darwin Mendoza down for a PH. It may have been an uninspiring L, but it's not same as the old boss, for sure.

  • Old school here. In a 0-0 game, you do what you have to do to win. Sac bunts are entirely appropriate in this situation, so Renteria is using his head.

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    John-I agree on every point. I could see Rizzo being dropped to 6 or 7 in the order vs lefties...

    Castro looked great. I think all his brain fuzz was in his hair-glad he cut it.

    I expect Ruggiano to hit in the middle against lefties-that should make diff.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Ha! The reverse Samson effect.

  • I'm giving Rizzo a pass obviously, it's only one game. But did anyone notice the first pitch he saw of the game? He got into the box with his toes literally almost over the line on the inside half, got a straight fastball right down the absolute heart of the plate and stuck his elbow out and spun backwards like it was going to hit him. The next pitch he set up towards the middle of the box as usual. It was just really awkward and I wondered if I was the only one who noticed it.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Yeah, that was pretty ugly.

  • "another sign of maturity...I liked Castro's approach yesterday"

    Not at the plate for me. He's still disagreeing with balls/strikes by shaking his head with attitude/disagreement to the ump.

    It started last year when things weren't going well & apparently he's going to keep doing it.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    You can single out Castro, as people often do, but that ump got a lot of puzzled reaction from hitters yesterday. He was pretty inconsistent.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Castro's bad attitude at the plate is pretty consistent, something I thought he would get away from over the offseason.

    Maybe Renteria/Theo&Co noticed too and someone will talk to him, because consistently shaking your head at the ump never ends well.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    When you think Castro is displaying a bad attitude, look at the Umps eyes. You can't hear what is being said. but the umpires eyes will tell you what he's saying.

    As an umpire, I can tell you that lots of interactions between a player and umpire aren't what they seem to be with an untrained eye...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I was thinking the same thing. Sometimes a guy shakes his head because he's frustrated with himself -- and may even mutter something to that effect. We really can't tell from TV. I sit behind home plate a lot and I agree with what you say here. One example is Vogelbach. He is very demonstrative both visually and verbally but he very rarely shows up the ump -- but if you saw it on TV without hearing what's going on, you may think otherwise.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I know the difference. Castro was/has been showing up the ump.

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    In reply to CubFan Paul:

    Can you also tell me what the winning lottery numbers are going to be? Come on, there is no way you could positively know why Castro gets angry. It could be at himself (which is very common) or at the umpire (who was atrocious yesterday).

    If you don't like Castro, that is fine. But to bash him without any merit or facts... well then you mine as well be an ESPN broadcaster.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    "you mine as well be an ESPN broadcaster"

    ...says the guy with the Dickie V. avatar.

    I'm not bashing Castro. I'm just saying: Castro gets visibly upset on bad calls (roll eyes & shakes his head in disbelief).

    Just because you haven't seen a large enough sample size of it doesn't make it not true.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    OH Yeah. had a very large strike zone, particulary down and away on righties. Seemed to be giving Liriano the slider that wraps around the plate as a strike.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    This isn't unique to Castro. Many, many players do it. I don't have a big problem with it, However, a smart player will question the umpire in a friendly manner about the pitch location and get his input. It accomplishes the same thing. The same pitch location sometimes gets a different answer using the latter approach.

  • I know it doesn't have much to do with anything about the first game, but one of the things that I've liked about Renteria already is that he actually smiles. That has to be a heck of a difference for the players. His predecessor was an ol' bitter lemon. In less than two months, we've seen Renteria smile more than Sveum did in two years.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    It is good to see. I don't know what affect it has but it can't hurt.

  • Nice summary John. Glad to hear positive thoughts on Castro, while I picked up on the good ABs for Barney I didn't pay enough attention to Castro. RISP was a heart breaker but you've shown some things to look forward to.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Barney had the best ABs, in my opinion, but Castro was solid. His timing looks off, though. He's probably a bit rusty.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Castros spring training is going to be the first 2 weeks of the regular season. Can we afford to wait 2 weeks for him to get his timing back?

  • John, I agree on all points for the most part.

    1). I really am hoping that Shark finally takes that next step in his development. Early indications (not just yesterdays performance) are that he is. If he does, I think we re-sign him and this will be the easiest way to a secure a legit a #2.

    2). I almost expected Castro to struggle with the bat given his St situation. He didn't exactly hit against the minor league teams either so.... WHY put him in the 3-hole to start? I did love the play where he faked out Marte and got him doubled off.

    3). I think Rizzo needs to pull a Bryce Harper and take a day off vs tough LHP. With Olt as his only viable b/u right now, it makes it tough to shuffle everyone around though.

    4). this is not the same Darwin Barney we saw last year. Thats been evident most of ST. Limited expectations, but still good to see...

    5). I like Bonafacio, but he will also disappear at times.

    6). fingers crossed on Grimm....

    7). I drank 5 beers during the game and started taking bathroom breaks during the game vs commercials because the constant barrage with the class action lawsuit for the transvaginal mesh commercials left me less frustrated than our lack of offense did...

    8). It has a place. This is not hindsight here... Can someone please explain to me why, with the speedy Bonafacio at 3B, less than 2 out late in a 0-0 game and a guy who has made weak contact all day and limited ST exposure, no rhythm, etc (Castro) up to bat we DID NOT exercise the most basic of baseball situation fundamentals and squeeze Bonafacio home to win? I'm sorry, strike ONE Ricky.... I didn't care for Junior trying to bunt for a hit with 2 outs... Show us the power Junior...

    9). I agree... what to do today? lol

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    On your #1 Hoosier, If Shark pitches like a #2, EJ pitches like a #3 and we get a #1 through Free agency, we really have something there as I think we'll have some really good 4s and 5s, especially if that's where Travis Wood falls.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I like Masterson the best out of the big 4 SP FA's next off-season. But I think he's like Shark (assuming Shark's more consistent) as a great #2 but not really a #1. I don't expect Lester to see FA. Masterson may not. Shields will be 33 and IDK if at 30yo Scherzer will bring any value if he's looking for a long term deal...

    Ironically, Theo & Co drafted & traded Masterson...

    But I do think two great #2's (Shark & Masterson) and two solid #3's (E-Jax & Wood) to go with a high upside #5 (like CJE) could be very competitive...

  • O/T, but former Cubs Manager Don Baylor, now the LAA hitting coach broke his femur catching the opening pitch from Vlad Guerrero? Crazy stuff...

    get well Don

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Still can't avoid getting hit by the baseball, it seems.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Still padding his OBP.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Difference is, back in his MVP days, Baylor didnt do David Ortiz or Barry Bonds and go to the plate wearing armor over every important joint.

  • For the Cubs, it was probably more important for Shark to pitch like an ace than it was for them to actually win the game. Not easy to accept, but I've given in. A dominant Shark could bring a prospect haul at the summer trading deadline.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    A dominant Shark could mean we have one of our TOR SPs that we need too.

  • I read once that the day off after opening day is in case of inclement weather -- they don't want to have to rain check a sellout crowd (and all of the corporate sponsors who put bigger money than usual into this game).

    What I don't get is why they play spring training games right up to the start of the season...seems like 2-3 days off would be a good idea.

  • In reply to andrewthak:

    That makes sense.

    But I still don't like it ;)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    retractable domes in cold weather cities could make the point moot.

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    Based on my statistical analysis of yesterday's game, I am going on record now stating that the Cubs will not score a run in 2014.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Haha :) That's fine work!

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The over-whelming evidence solidly supports your conclusion.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's funny, but the cold hard truth is that no matter how good the Cubs are with the other factors of the game, if the team continues their pathetic hitting with runners in scoring position with less than two outs we are doomed. It's not just a problem, it's become the problem as it separates winners and losers in close games.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Based upon my statistical analysis of the schedule, I am going on record to say that the Cubs pitching will not yield a run today. Furthermore, there will not be any bunting.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Ha! Have you guys hacked the Cubs computer system?

  • Iam totally against bunting. but with how the game was going yesterday I didnt have a problem with the bunts yesterday. with that its one game. I wont over magnify things,,, yet

  • John, I couldn't agree more about point #9!

    Is it just me, or is Samardzija's arm slot lower this year?

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    My concern with Rizzo yesterday wasn't so much that he looked bad -- as you say Liriano makes lots of lefties look bad -- but that he looked so much worse than even Nate Schierholtz, who has a reputation of being unable to hit left handers. Rizzo could have faced Liriano 100 times yesterday and been lucky to make contact once.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Nate Shierholtz career vs. lefties .266, vs. righties .264

    Anthony Rizzo career vs. lefties .192, vs. righties .257

    1) Shierholtz IS NOT unable to hit lefties
    2) Rizzo IS worse than Shierholtz against lefties

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    In reply to Letsplay2:

    You're kind of making my point. However, regardless of what you think, Schierholtz *does* have the reputation of being a platoon player, which is why the Cubs platoon him. The BA numbers are a little deceptive, as he slugs .438 against righties and .367 against lefties.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Rizzo slugging against righties .439, slugging against lefties .344. Worse than Shierholtz.

    The fact that Shierholtz is being used as a platoon player doesn't mean he should be.

    The fact that Rizzo isn't being used as a platoon player doesn't mean he shouldn't be. (Although I sincerely hope he pans out. He is young yet).

    BTW - Shierholtz did have a hit against Liriano.

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    In reply to Letsplay2:

    I'm not even sure who you're debating because this backs up my original point.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    OK, sorry, I wasn't intending to debate you. I am disagreeing with those who say that Shierholtz is unable to hit lefties - not saying that was you.

    And, I am agreeing with you that Rizzo looked worse than Shierholtz - possibly because he IS at this point of his career. Hope that changes.

    IMO it is a matter of their approach. Shierholtz, yesterday, gave up something to make contact and came away with a hit. Rizzo, it seemed, was simply trying to hit it out. The difference between youth and experience possibly?

  • Excellent research John on the Liriano statistics. It makes the embarrassment a little easier to take.

    As for bunting, look at Edwin Jackson's hip and chest orientation in his attempted bunt! They were facing toward 1B all the way to contact. That means that bat is deep in the zone, not out in front where they can see the ball contact the bat. I see this all the time in baseball, and quite frankly I find it disgusting that millionaires can't bunt. But my problem isn't with their talent, it is their skill level, and the hideous mechanics I see them execute. I know I am a fastpitch coach, but you would never see this kind of failure in our sport.

  • Excellent run down of opening day!

    I was especially impressed with Samardzija. He seemed very poised and relaxed and in control. He keeps that up and he really will be special.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Thanks Richard! Agree -- I think it's always been more about refining his approach with Samardzija.

  • John, I was with you 100% until I hit that #8. Funny that you dislike bunting and are such a proponent of plate discipline and working a walk. To me, they are all vital parts of the game. Nothing better than to see a well executed drag bunt or one dropped precisely down the third base line. It keeps the defense off balance and prevents them from positioning themselves in extreme defensive alignments. I marvel at teams that have beaten the Cubs in close games via small ball. Get the leadoff guy on, have him steal second., bunt him to third, and bring 'em home with a flyball. Baseball art.
    However baseball has morphed into an over-reliance on the long ball. People want thumpers. Many laughed at Sveum's bunting contest. But if teams paid more attention to nuances like bunting, it would make a difference. It's not the bunt but instead that no one knows how to loft a sacrifice fly or hit to the opposite field to advance a runner. Those are game killers.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    I don't mind the drag bunt from hitters who have speed and are pretty good at it (i.e. Junior Lake), but I don't like sacrifice bunts. There are a finite number of outs in a game and to give them up doesn't make sense to me - and it has been shown that sac bunts actually decrease your chances of scoring in any given inning. I can see maybe where it has it's place in certain situations, but I think it's use has to be limited.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Many agree with you. Sure you have a limited number of outs, but if you are struggling to score/get hits bunting is an effective way of getting a run across. I watched the Cards work it twice last year to perfection.
    I look at it this way, if you can move a guy over, it only takes 1 hit to get him in. If you don't advance him, it takes two. It's not the bunt it is the execution.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    The Cards actually have an Alan Craig or a Yadier Molina who know how to go to the opposite field when a pitcher is throwing them away and away. They actually know how to work a count. Who on the Cubs right now does that consistently?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good news John. Earl Weaver didnt like sacrifice bunts either, and ended up in the hall of fame. Your in good company.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    outs or giving up outs greatly reduce your chances of scoring. so preserving outs should be a huge priority

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Sorry, UT. I'm not buying it. Outs are precious but so are chances to score when your offense is struggling. Why would you risk hitting into a double play or pray to get two hits to score him from first?

  • In reply to xhooper:

    I think I'm with you hooper in certain situations. Fact is, giving up an out decreases your chances of scoring. But stats are only right when they work.

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    In reply to xhooper:

    http://www.billjamesonline.com/stats33/

    With a man on first and no outs, the expected number of runs per inning is about .9 runs. With a man on second and one out, the expected number of runs is about .7. For every ten times that you bunt in this situation, you lose about two runs. That's significant.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    How can we get the stats to have an idea at the probability of us getting 2 hits within the same inning? That or an extra base hit is what it would take to score him from 1B.

    IDK if the numbers support sacrificing him over and getting one hit, or safeguarding all of the outs in an attempt to get 2 hits or 1 extra base hit. But regardless, our biggest challenge seems to executing the fundamentals...

  • In reply to SKMD:

    The analysis is nice but does it take into account games when you are struggling against a tough pitcher to get a hit ? Sometimes you have to grab what you can that day...and that something may be just moving the man over in the hope that one hit leaker through the infield will bring him home. Getting 2 hits to do the same thing from first is even more significant when a team is deficient offensively.
    Stats often mislead depending upon variables. A manager can make the decision based upon game situations...who the pitcher is, who is batting, and how the team is doing offensively. The stat book ought to be there to assist not govern game decisions.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    late in games like yesterday where 1 run probably wins the game. I really didnt have a problem with it.

  • Another great analysis John, which is typical for you.

    And as far as all the hand-wringing I've seen from posters throughout the blogosphere about Rizzo and the 0-fer with RISP, it's Opening Day for crying out loud. During a month of ST in AZ, there wasn't a single pitcher that could throw breaking stuff even remotely close to what Liriano was dealing yesterday. It's no wonder the Cubs struggled at the plate.

    Let's also keep in mind that the Brewers lead the NL Central in runs scored with TWO. I wouldn't doubt if that's ever occurred after every team in the division has played a game (especially after playing each other) and underscores just how tough it is to win against those teams.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Thank you Paulson. Good points too on the breaking balls. The good pitchers aren't in there long and even when they do, they limit their breaking balls. They have the advantage right now.

  • Great work John. I agree with your last point. I know someone brought up the reason for it but still don't understand why the Cubs have 4 days off in the next 3 weeks. A buddy of mine a Red Sox fan was moaning about the fact they have a day off today then has to play Thurs night in Baltimore then have their home opener at noon in Boston on friday against the Brewers who have Thursday off. I would think MLB would want a few off days scheduled for the dog days of July and August.

  • When the Cubs dont bunt they seem to always hit into a double play, it would be better if they could hit better with men in scoring position. Also I know it was opening day and Ruggs could not play, but RR needs to put all righties up against somebody like Liriano.

  • Holy cow - its just the first game, and the comments are pouring in. Oh wait, its a Cubs forum....now I remember.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    this just in. we are the worst team ever. lol

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    You weren't around for the very first Mets team, I guess...............

  • Jeez, if Liriano is that good against lefties, why even start any lefties yesterday?

    I know it's Opening Day, but a win is a win and a loss is a loss.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Ruggiano was the only righty that didn't start and he was hurt. It was the best lineup they could put out there.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Is Valbuena a lefty? If not, couldn't you have put him at third and Olt at first?

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Yes, Valbuena bats lefty.

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    Another small observation on Rizzo. Last year Dale had him implement the toe tap as a part of his load in an attempt to help him see the ball better and go the other way with more consistenty which in turn would help his avg but it ended up doing the exact opposite. He was late on everything and tried to pull everything.

    I noticed this spring that he seemed to have dropped the toe tap in favor of his load from 2012 with his hands starting a bit higher(they started getting way too low in 2013).

    And of course he had a great swing with these changes...

    Yesterday it was like Dale called him before the game and he went right back to the 2013 toe tap load. And the results were the same. Strikeouts and weak contact to the right side.

    He need to get back to what he was doing this spring and scrap the tap. Facing Liriano at his best definitely did not help either.

  • My concern isn't one player or one loss, it's the carryover from last year of a team unable to put together any quality at bats with risp. It took the thrill out of opening day.

  • Is it just me or does it seem like Pedro Strop is as exciting as Marmol in his prime. The big difference seems to be that unlike Marmol, Strop has an idea where the ball is going when he throws his electric fastball. This guy is gonna be someone I enjoy watching.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I could do with the hat cocked off-center ala Fernando Rodney... otherwise, he looked great out there!

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Strop's slider is really good. But Marmol's was better. Every hitter knew Marmol's slider was coming and they knew most would end up outside the strike zone and they still couldn't hit it and still chose to swing at it too. The Cubs pitcher I've seen throw a better slider than Marmol was Kerry Wood in 1998.

  • Good summary and comments, not much that hasn't been covered.

    I agree John, Grimm has a very nice fastball-curve combo (although he did hang one to McCutch that he hit a long way foul). I was impressed that he came back and got him swinging with that curve later on, showed confidence. He also had a little late run on that 94-95 fastball too.

    Samardjiza's last pitch was 95 in the 7th, and he was pumped after getting that last K. He's fun to watch when he's locked in.

    Castro made a hell of a stab on the double play on Alvarez after the intentional walk to McCutch. Nice defensive position by the coaches, but also great instincts to snare that 'hot smash' for a run-saving DP.

    There were many positive things on display, and the offense can only get better.

  • In reply to JC 2012:

    Really, I didn't see many of those topics covered anywhere else. I know they were things I personally talked about and started conversations about on Twitter during the game, so I guess I wouldn't be surprised if someone else talked about it in their pieces. I also saw a similar piece written well after this one was published.

  • John, I agree about the off-day being a killer today. I'm feigning for some Cubs. Jason Parks' chat held a nugget to cheer me up though, "Q: Over or under 700 career HRs for Baez and Bryant combined. A: Jason Parks: Over." I hope he wins that bet. Also interesting that he mentioned he'd rank Torres over Jimenez (though he obviously hasn't seen much of either).

  • In reply to Da Ivy:

    Interesting. I know that there are some who do like Torres better. I picked Jimenez over him on sheer ceiling, but if I had to bet who would reach their potential, I'd bet on Torres.

  • One game isn't enough to judge Rizzo or Castro but I'd still like a change in the batting order. I'd drop Castro to 5th and Rizzo to 7th. Like many I wonder whether Rizzo is carrying his pattern over from next year. If he is, than we have to take a closer look at Vogelbach this year. With Castro I think he'd be better off in not being 3rd in the lineup. He couldn't hit 3rd last year so why put undo pressure on him to hit 3rd this year.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    You're right. One game isn't enough to judge Rizzo or Castro. Or anyone else for that matter...

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