One week with the New Cubs. Seven games. Five losses. Why?

One week with the New Cubs.  Seven games.  Five losses.  Why?
Must have been taken yesterday when we actually scored some runs

Or: The Most Important Statistics to the 2012 Cubs - Redux

First of all - A. J. got himself hitched!  Now we're all old married guys!  We can all start discussing mulching mowers and man caves (aka we get a WHOLE room in our houses to OURselves? Who cares if its the basement or garage? Whoo!)

No, it's not a big deal that our 2012 Chicago Cubs are currently dead stinkin last not only in the Central, but in the entire NL.  And No, I am not going to beat the drum for Steve Clevenger to become our starting catcher.  I do advocate our disassociation with Jeff Baker.  Not just because of his worthlessness now, but because of his worthlessness since the day he was born.  I do not and cannot possibly see what managers and GMs have seen in this guy.  He's a no-tool player.  He can't catch, hit, run, throw, or hit for power.  Maybe he always brings in the Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kremes in the mornings.  I thought that was the only reason Jim Hendry kept him around.  I figured the new physically fit regime had no need for a donut boy.  Maybe Baker's the Starbucks runner now.  Triple latte half-caf no foam, screwjar.

So, anyway, yeah, cut Baker.  Now.  On to the rest of the team.  First, a brief Executive Summary of the 2012 Cubs performance thus far:

  • Hitting: batting and on-base percentages are league average thus far.  Our slugging percentage is poor, and what we do lead the league in is strikeouts as well as GIDP.  We remain slow and for the most part mediocre offensively.
  • Pitching: One poor start (Maholm), one mediocre (Volstad), the rest have been good.  Overall, staff ERA is league average.  Near the top in walks.  Got to throw strikes, especially the bullpen.  Basically, the bullpen sucks.
  • Fielding: top 3 or 4 in the league (yay!).  Defense has an actual +2 runs saved rating thus far.

So, as a team, pretty much what we expected.  If Wood and Marmol only blow ONE of the two games they singlehandedly choked away, we would be a 3-4 team.  Shrug.

In an opening day interview, Len Kasper was asked what to watch for this year.  After some big-league tapdancing and political correctness, he basically said the only two things worth watching this year are: waiting for Rizzo and Jackson to come to town; and watching for progress out of Samardzija, Castro and Barney.  The only other development worth following, he continued, is what to do with Matt Garza.  Let's address all of this thus far:

Brett Jackson can come to town anytime, as far as I am concerned.  Not just because Marlon Byrd is hitting his former waist size (.043).  Management was bound and determined to make Jackson start the year in AAA, to keep him under financial control, presumably.  So they did not trade Byrd, as he was looking slim and hitting well in the Spring.  Now?  Basically, we have to keep running Byrd out there until he beats his slump.  Can't trade a guy hitting a blood-alcohol content.  I did mention that the Cubs strike out too much, and one assumes Byrd is a main culprit.  You'd be right, but most of his outs are still balls put in play.  He is also playing a sure and steady CF, although he isn't going to 'rob' anyone of anything out there.  I guess we're stuck with him.

Rizzo?  Crushing it in Iowa.  Good for him.  The first baseman here, Bryan LaHair (by cracky!), appears to be momentarily back-pain-free.  He did hit one about 11 miles the other day.  Of course, that's the only one he's hit thus far.  He to his credit is not pressing to hit home runs.  To me, that's a good sign for his future employment.  Rizzo must come here and play very soon.  So what to do with LaHair?  He could play left or go somewhere else.  Our incumbent left fielder, the $19 million Albatross, is currently healthy and hitting well.  Well for him, anyway, he leads the team in RBI because he hits 4th.  Still not what anyone would call 'impact'.  It seems ass-backwards to wish ill will on someone, but if Soriano were to suffer a painful muscle tear, as 42 year olds often do, then it would provide both Rizzo and LaHair a place to play and hit in the lineup.  Seems like, in the name of progress, if their most expensive player got hurt, it would be a positive. 

That's screwed up.

As for Castro and Barney - I was honestly disappointed that Castro did not come through in the 9th on Tuesday, bases loaded, two outs.  Three pitch strikeout looking.  Backwards K.  Swung at a breaking ball in the dirt - strike 1.  Strike 2 was unhittable, ok.  Strike 3 was a get-me-over, waist high, that Starlin just looked at.  Look, the outcome itself isn't what is important here - we need to see him develop better command over his strike zone, and that at-bat clearly illustrates that he doesn't have it yet.  Sure, he hits lots of mistakes.  But when the pressure was on, and both pitcher and batter were fully concentrating, Castro failed miserably.  We don't need him to hit 25 homers, or even to hit third.  We need him to learn his own strike zone, so he can come through in key situations.  A liner over the infield would have tied the game, probably even won it.  That's what Castro needs to learn how to do. 

Darwin Barney?  Tore up the Cactus League.  Resorted back to his replacement value self in the National League.  Break Even VORP is all this guy is ever going to do.  Middle infield hitters are still at least a year away in the pipeline.  Maybe trading deadline, 2013.  It will be a great day when the Cubs decide to get rid of DeWitt and Baker, and install Barney as the Utility Guy.  That's where he belongs, and I bet he will be good at it.  But, Darwin Barney is not going to be the starting second baseman of the Future World Champion Cubs.

Finally, let's talk Garza.  Even more than the Development of Castro or the Final Exposure of Geo Soto as a Fraud, What To Do With Garza is the most compelling storyline of 2012.  His stats are stellar so far.  I suspect he will always be a guy with a large number of strikeouts, because his stuff is so outstanding.  As with Castro, let's look at his 27th Out Drama:

3 hits, 2 walks, 9 K's, no runs, 111 pitches thrown, and a miserable hitter is all that stands between Garza and his first shutout since his 2010 no-hitter.  After getting ahead in the count, Garza nibbles and runs the count full.  Then he does what he should have done with his third pitch - lays it in there and induces the hitter to squib it right back to him.  From there, what does the Worst Fielder in the Majors 2011 do with it?  Yep, throws it nearly to Sports Corner.  Great grace under pressure there, dude.

So his manager (wisely, because gatdammit, 119 pitches) takes him out, and he goes into the clubhouse and throws a fit.  Last week, after being pulled, he didn't even walk into the clubhouse before having his tantrum.  Over the past year plus, he has been uncomfortably quoted several times, and his manic act on non-pitching days has brought him some league-wide infamy.   Now, one could argue that Garza is 'fiery', 'passionate', and 'competitive'.  I argue that he is emotionally unstable.  He seems to have a similar problem to the Bears' new WR, Brandon Marshall, which is inappropriate emotional reactions to situation.  Marshall takes his out on women; Garza fortunately takes his out on baseball equipment.  Unfortunately, many times the equipment is in the form of baseballs that are still "live" in the field of play.

All winter, Cubs management said they "would listen" to offers for Garza, but none were good enough to pry him loose.  The big story in the first week of the regular season is other clubs signing their arb eligibles to gigantic contract extensions.  Matt Cain, Joey Votto, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, Carlos Santana.  Many MLB observers feel that Garza is probably the next logical extension candidate.  But notice you hear NOTHING from the Cubs about the topic.    Let's consider the last young arb eligible pitcher with dynamite stuff and questionable emotional stability that we signed to a hefty extension?  Now, Carlos Marmol is untrustworthy, untradeable, and plainly a cautionary tale for Theo Epstein when considering whether it is worth it to just hand Matt Garza probably, well, over $50 million for four years.  Probably well over 50.

I personally think the guy is a spazz, and if some team wants to hand us over 3 blue-chip prospects for him, I would do it in a moment, and roll dice with Randy Wells.  Even after his first two outings.  Yes, he is the best pitcher we got, but that's like saying the 20 piece McNuggets  is the best item on McDonald's Value Menu.  The price is right, and they may be tasty to start with, but the last couple will be cold, you'll be out of sauce, and if you force them down anyway, you'll run the risk of queasiness and possible vomiting.   With Garza, he has the physical skills of a Major League Ace, but absolutely NOT the mental skills, and should not ever be confused with the Doc Halladays of the world.  Or paid like them.

I haven't looked at today's lineup yet in StLou.  Is Clevenger starting again?

BTW: under Phil Rogers is a Dope news: it's not "Whale and Bale", you mope.  It's "bail and whale", as in: your front foot steps out of the box (bail), opening your stance, so you can pull (whale) inside pitches.  Take it from an ol' long lean lefty.  It ain't a good way to hit, but when you do connect, it's better than secks.  Oh yeah.

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