Two Cubs need to man the eff up. They are Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd.
Demp got the nod from Quade to start on Opening Day, and he has responded by allowing 20 runs in his first 25 innings pitched. The teams he has faced are Pittsburgh (?), Arizona (??), Houston (???!?!?) and Colorado (eh, understandable).
Demp gave up four walks against Pittsburgh, and has allowed nine on the year over his 25 IP. The 26 Ks in 25 innings sort of makes the walks justifiable... but the five home runs allowed make the free passes absolutely sting.
It's really just that last thing that's killing his numbers: Demp has got to figure out how to keep the freakin' ball in the freakin' ballpark. The SABR community says a pitcher's home run-to-fly ball ratio tends to settle in right around 10%, and I'm inclined to believe them. But Dempster needs to figure out how to freakin' do it. Freakin' freakin' freakin'.
OK now let's whine about Marlon Byrd. No one's updated their season stats yet, but rough math tells me that Byrd's slugging percentage is now below .400 in 2011. Also: in the second half of last year, Byrd's SLG was .361, and his OPS was .682.
There are some things that Byrd can do: he can hit for a solid average, and he makes some great plays in centerfield. But he is also extremely aggressive at the plate, and that approach hurts his ability to hit for power; rather than wait for a pitch he can drive, he often tries to jump on a pitcher early, and that leads to a bunch of singles, no walks, and few extra base hits.
Is there a place on this team for a centerfielder who can hit for a high average? Sure! By all means, welcome aboard! But do you have to hit him third? I say no.
Personally, I'd rather have Rami batting third and Alfonso Soriano batting fourth at this point. I know that's probably not a stance with which everyone will agree; our own Wilky tweeted me today to say he doesn't want Soriano anywhere near the 4-spot. But my argument is this: it's obvious who's hot and who's not, isn't it? Why not take advantage of Soriano's hot streak while it lasts, and then slide him back on down once he starts striking out in every other at-bat?
Or leave Byrd and Pena in the 3 and 5 spots respectively and call it a day. Whatever you want.
Cubs go 4-5 on the road trip, and come home to host the Padres, Dodgers, and Rockies. Could be a real fun two weeks. Yippee!!!