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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I hate bunting.
- 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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