Tagged: Chicago Cubs

Monday’s Pre-Gamer: #Cubs Come to Town with Their #1 to Face Yusmeiro Petit and Company

Wrote this morningabout what the NL West standings look like coming into today and which pitchers Giants fans should look forward to see in the coming week. The Chicago Cubs (18-30, 8-17 away) have alternated winning and losing games since last Tuesday, and are on pace for a win with Jeff Samardzija on the hill today. The Cubs, in the middle of a ten-game road trip, had four against the Padres, have this series against the Giants, and then will go to Milwaukee before a day off brings them back home. Some things to know about the sub-.500 Cubbies before the Giants engage in a three-gamer with them:

  • The speed: Emilio Bonifacio, Spring Training pickup, has eleven stolen bases
  • The Cubs have a 3.38 FIP as a pitching staff, fourth-best in the MLB. Their 71.7% LOB% is not as good, ranking at twenty-third.
  • The Cubs have a .295 wOBA, and a .299 OBP, fourth-worst in the MLB. Their 80 wRC+ is second-worst. They and the Giants both have a .286 BABIP, T-24th highest.
  • Set-up man Neil Ramirez in 10.2 IP: 45.0% K%
  • Cubs have 38 shutdowns, T-sixth fewest, also have 29 meltdowns, which are second-most in the majors. I wonder how much this comes into play with the Cubs having the sixth-fewest runs scored in the bigs.

How I’d translate this: bad hitting overall, pretty decent pitching from the rotation. I think Giants fans can relate to that.

      Remember, when Matt Cain had his bullpen session, they cut it short and a day later announced Cain would not start. Yusmeiro Petit starts in his place and must keep the Cubs quiet since his competition in Jeff Samardzija is pretty good.

As for the performance against the pitches of the Shark:

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LHH are doing a lot better against the sinker and cutter, and I count four players in the lineup that can bat left-handed in the Giants lineup. Get better soon, Brandon Belt.

On the flip side, here’s how Petit has fared this year, both screen shots courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

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In past broadcasts, it’s been discussed that Hector Sanchez will lose strikes for his pitchers with the way his receives the ball. If there is (relatively) a lot of that combined with one of Petit’s pitches — especially between the fastball and curve — not showing up, that should easily put the Giants behind, even against a weaker hitting squad.

First pitch on this holiday Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM PST.

Lineups Posted: Maybe someone will issue a walk today

The series finale in Chicago happens today as the Cubs look to split the series with the Champs and the Giants look forward to a day off tomorrow after playing ten straight games. It’s early in the season, so I’m sure the players are looking forward to it.

After three straight games with a total of no hits, a couple walks, and a HBP, Buster Posey gets a day off today on a Tim Lincecum start.

Lincecum has walked 20.8% of the batters he’s faced so far, so every fifth guy in the order here in the Cubs lineup will probably be looking forward to a walk:

Of course, Edwin Jackson (12% BB%) is also known for his ability to walk players, and although his percentage isn’t the one-in-five Lincecum’s is, it’s still higher than the single digit percentage he’s put out over his career, and single digits is what you’d like to hit anyway. Lincecum’s career walk rate is 9.4%, so he’s way above that right now.

A lot of the talk that comes with Tim Lincecum goes to why can’t Posey catch him and Hector Sanchez always being his unsaid “personal catcher?” It looks like this is just the way it’s going to be, and we have to hope Sanchez is always improving with his ability to receive pitches and keep himself disciplined at the plate. Looking at the pitch log from Lincecum’s two starts (where Hector also caught), maybe there’s reason for hope in a small sample size:

vs. Dodgers

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Look at all the balls called well inside the strike zone. While the umpire needs to recognize the strike zone, the catcher needs to help his pitcher out as well in receiving and framing, even if Lincecum has the off-the-wall command he does. Sanchez said he reviewed some tape and changed his footing so that he may better receive the pitches from Timmy before his second start. The pitches from the last game against Colorado:

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Lincecum really misses high and inside a lot to RHH (these are from the umpire’s point of view), which is kind of scary. But in this plot, there are four balls just inside the zone that were missed, and one touching the zone that was called a ball. That could be a little Hector and a little umpire, but it is progress in the right direction for Timmy not suffering as much in missing strikes. The anti-personal catcher crowd tends to put Hector under a microscope, so look for how Hector catches and tries to frame pitches today. For me, that’s the most important thing. I expect a couple of strikeouts on pitches out of the zone, and maybe a base hit if he’s in the lineup. We’ll see how it goes today… but I advise you not to take a drink today every time a batter is walked by the starting pitcher. This would not be a good day to do it.

Game time is 11:20PM PST.

Lineups for Darwin Barney Gold Glove Day; another Cubs closer goes down

Following a pretty good comeback yesterday afternoon by both squads, the Giants and Cubs meet up again for their third game of their four-game series on national television on FOX. All the regulars are in the lineup, and since today’s starter Jeff Samardzija throws with his right hand, Blanco’s in.

Just kidding, Angel Pagan (sore wrist) got scratched. Says he’s fine, but a new lineup gets posted:

Well, at least Blanco has a career .350 OBP. Could be a lot worse, I guess.

Bench players Dave Sappelt, Alberto Gonzalez, get a start while Scott Hairston gets the platoon start while Schierholtz sits today. At least the Cubs will have a couple decent options off their bench for a pinch hitting role. Not sure I’d put a guy like Sappelt who pretty much as a career .300 OBP as your leadoff guy though. Thank you, Dale Sveum.

Also, some injury news for the Cubs:

Carlos Marmol ousted, now Kyuji Fujikawa on the DL. Shawn Camp and James Russell now get closer duties, but that bullpen is losing more effectiveness by the day.

In looking at the different ways you can quickly scout pitchers using Brooks Baseball, I’ve found this way is my favorite. Madison Bumgarner‘s ratios for pitch utilization:

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For both sides, he really liked that fastball-slider combination, with the curveball an option except when the batter’s ahead and the changeup sparingly used. Looks like that when the batter gets ahead into fastball counts, it’ll be a coin flip between the fastball and the slider.

And Samardzija’s:

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Talk about a “kitchen sink” type of guy, he really likes to use the split-finger fastball for his strikeout pitch, and will look to start the AB usually with either the four-, or two-seamer. There are a lot of patterns to keep in mind here, but these ratios really force hitters to stay honest about being able to recognize the pitch, see if it’s going to be in the strike zone, and then go at it. All in less than a second. And with the average velocity ranging from 83-96, you can see why that could pose a problem for Giants hitters.

Early start, the game is at 10:05AM PST on FOX.

Lineups Posted: Noonan’s first start comes at Wrigley

It’s raining lightly at Wrigley Field now. We’ll keep you posted if today’s game time is affected by the weather.

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 11, 2013

Well, the weather hasn’t been California-style in Chicago, especially since yesterday when their final game against Milwaukee had to be postponed due to rain. As I look at weather.com, the zip code doesn’t say anything about heavy rains, although there is a chance of precipitation. Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 8.48.45 AMMeanwhile, at the ballyard, we have lineups posted. For the visiting Giants, you’ll notice Nick Noonan is getting his first MLB start, and that Brandon Crawford is batting second. Marco Scutaro is getting the day off, but that doesn’t mean a middle infielder needs to bat second. I’m not going to get into a full-rage rant over this since this is one game, and it could even work out (see Ryan Theriot DH-ing in Game 4). For the Giants:

Nate Schierholtz gets a start against his old mates, and he’s getting his share of starts, too, which is what he wanted during his prime years. Nate should be getting his ring some time this year but…

I would expect he gets it in late July at the very latest when the Cubs come to town, where I’d expect him to receive a lukewarm reception.

As you may have heard, Carlos Marmol is not the closer in Chicago anymore, a role now occupied by Kyuji Fujikawa.

Looking at today’s starter, going to take a look at how each pitchers pitches fared in 2012. First for the visitors, Ryan Vogelsong:

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Vogey has done a pretty good job of not letting everybody take advantage of his off-speed stuff, although perhaps his defense helped him out as you look at that BABIP. The Great Equalizer of the four-seam variety fared pretty well last year also.

And next, for the home team, Scott Feldman:

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Not much use of the four-seamer, and more so of the sinker-cutter for balls in play or on a pitch that ended a plate appearance. Plenty of homers off of the cutter and the changeup, especially for the ratio of AB to HR for the changeup.

The game is scheduled to begin at 11:20PM PST, unless we hear about some postponements or anything.

NL Central Division Preview: Red, Yellow, Blue

The regular season begins this Sunday at 5:05PM PST when the Texas Rangers play the Houston Astros in that famous AL West rivalry, which means this week is all about previews, bold predictions, and message board put downs. I will say I am not good at predicting things, so let’s get that straight. Like everybody else though, I have an opinion on the matter of how events will play out. As I preview these divisions, I’ll tell you a little of what sport betting sites see, what computer simulations see, and what I see. The teams will be previewed in the reverse order I expect them to finish. Let us preview the NL Central where if you’re predicting a team to win the Central wearing some shade of red, you’re bound to get a lot of approval from the national scene. The Houston Astros aren’t available to kick around on a 12-18 game basis anymore, so they’re just going to have to find someone else to beat up on. Hello,

5. Chicago Cubs

Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 20/1, 40/1, 75/1

PECOTA’s projected three highest Wins Above Replacement Player for 2013: Starlin Castro (3.1), Matt Garza (2.9), Scott Baker (2.3)

Stuart sees: A team that finishes third at best, but lacks the on-paper sexy to get me to consider they’ll finish better than last in their division. The lineup in its top four spots is good enough for me, especially if Castro, Alfonso Soriano, and Anthony Rizzo are swinging the bat, but after that, you’re just hoping they’ll do well. The starting rotation doesn’t even get to start off with Garza, who will probably be back in May, but if Jeff Samardzija is solid and Edwin Jackson keeps his walks down, they could form a legitimate 1-2-3 core that people will not be excited to go up against. People are waiting for Carlos Marmol to kick himself out of the 9th inning role, and we’ll see what Kyuji Fujikawa has to offer. Just like the starting rotation though, after the names, you’re left with hoping that work can get done.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 13/2, 22/1, 50/1

PECOTA’s projected three highest Wins Above Replacement Player for 2013: Ryan Braun (5.8), Yovani Gallardo (3.1), Norichika Aoki (2.6)

Stuart sees: himself getting a lot of screaming for putting them below the third place team, but this 3-4 order is my bold prediction for this division, and maybe even the whole league. Braun is subject to a witch hunt by MLB that he’ll be in the middle of for what I’ll guess is the majority of the season. Will they be able to suspend him though? Who knows. Their lineup is ehhhhh and it would help matters if Corey Hart‘s knee would heal quicker so they’re not playing Alex Gonzalez at 1B. Jean Segura could have a pretty interesting year. I could see this team hitting their way to second place in the division, but their starting pitching is what they’ll need to hold themselves together, yes, even with Kyle Lohse now on the squad. He, Mike Fiers, and Gallardo can’t do all the work themselves. I’m actually not that confident in Lohse to begin with, so, that’s not helping their predicted finish. I am not bullish on that bullpen doing a lot to help Milwaukee. This offense will have to score a lot of runs, a lot of the time if it wants to see the playoffs return to Miller Park.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 10/1, 33/1, 66/1

PECOTA’s projected three highest Wins Above Replacement Player for 2013: Andrew McCutchen (4.7), Wandy Rodriguez (2.2), Neil Walker (2.1)

Stuart sees: a team that will surprise people and possibly hit .500 for the first time in the 21st century. Sometimes, baseball does things we can’t explain, and the Pirates are my team for that happening, and with the calling up of Gerrit Cole happening in June (hopefully, please), they can kick out an underperforming pitcher in their rotation. What if Spring Training invitee Jonathan Sanchez does well this season? No? Yea, I don’t believe that either. The rotation does seem a little underwhelming a la Milwaukee minus one really good pitcher, but it’s a little different in that this lineup looks made to mash (although the amount of mashing is what is in question). Garrett Jones, Russell Martin, and then this guy Pedro Alvarez had 30 homers last year (yea, I know, I missed that, too). Just a slew of low batting average, higher homer count dudes. Like most of the other NL Central teams I’ve talked about, their bullpen also needs a little work.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 9/4, 10/1, 20/1

PECOTA’s projected three highest Wins Above Replacement Player for 2013: Matt Holliday (3.6), Adam Wainwright (3.4), Carlos Beltran (2.8)

Stuart sees: a solid team that just needs a rotation to not be dragging it down. Most of the guys that brought this team to the NLCS are still there, and they’ve officially added top prospect Shelby Miller to the rotation mix, but how healthy can their roster stay? Rafael Furcal (Tommy John surgery), and Chris Carpenter (nerve problem) are already done for the season, with other role players like David Freese, and Jason Motte doubtful to start the season healthy. Should one of their elder outfielders go down (looking at you, Beltran), another top prospect in Oscar Taveras can swoop in to save the day. This club has enough to replenish its major league roster, although some of its pieces may be more important than others (e.g., Yadier Molina). The best this team could do, I believe, is have the second best record in the National League, but I don’t think they’ll hit that ceiling.

1. Cincinnati Reds

Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 5/7, 6/1, 12/1

PECOTA’s projected three highest Wins Above Replacement Player for 2013: Joey Votto (6.0), Mat Latos (4.3), Shin-Soo Choo (4.0)

Stuart sees: a team that had an eventful offseason to cement their spot as a favorite to reach the NLCS. Having Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos lead your team is a pretty solid 1-2 punch, with 3-5 being decent, and their bullpen from the 7th inning on in a lead situation will be tough to break with Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, and Aroldis Chapman standing in your way. The Reds traded for six-games-of-experience-in-center-field Choo, and counting on him to make up for his defense with his bat and his legs. The lineup is good to go, and if Votto’s back to full strength, his power will be a welcome boost to what was missing in the last month of 2012. This team can make a deep run, it’s just a matter of what kind of luck they run into in a short series. Any time this squad goes up against the Washington Nationals (and maybe even the Dodgers), you need to drop whatever you’re doing and change the channel.

Are my predictions like yours for this division? Tell me in the comments section (politely) why you agree or disagree!

Dave Sappelt (@SappySappelt6), the poor @Cubs OF that Twitter is harassing

It’s a pretty slow day in the baseball off-season, but every now and then someone says something and doesn’t realize what they say. It involves Cubs OF Dave Sappelt and his comments about women which weren’t really supposed to be about women.

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Yea, this is a pretty dangerous statement to make on a social media site that reaches out to millions upon millions of people, especially a pretty good chunk of people that care about the perceptions of different populations of human beings.

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This certainly is not helping things, further providing evidence for people thinking he has a set view towards women and what “they do.”

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This is just an epic tweet because he doesn’t know which “they’re” to use, and how to spell “sexist,” but instead uses favorite adjective of mine in “sexiest.” In his defense, I’m sure his mentions have been blowing up of late.

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People are better off not trying to advocate for the image of other people! Long live the stereotypes!

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He would provide some context to his “woman driver” tweet that he was making a reference to his girlfriend, although never apologized, or wrote about any regrets to the wording of his tweet.

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It’s an excellent question asked by Matt Lindner. Dave Sappelt must realize he’s done something wrong, hopefully it’s just a matter of time before he apologizes.

Sappelt has blocked those critical of him, so if you plan on presenting your opinion to him, get it all in one tweet. Until then, we wait on the Chicago Cubs or his agency to let Mr. Sappelt know he will be required to issue a statement of apology or something along those lines, even if his views on what he said never change.

A Yesterday/Today Post: Two Major Blocks Off the FA Market

I had this article sitting on ice yesterday. Was just waiting for a certain pitcher to get off the market, but didn’t happen until this morning.

Announced around noon PST yesterday, news out of Anaheim (not Los Angeles) shocked just about everyone when they signed Josh Hamilton to a 5/$125MM deal and right now you can see him slotted in between Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales here. We’ve heard Torii Hunter may be a little unhappy with that organization, and while the Angels may have gone two more years further than anyone else for Josh, there’s no doubt that in 2013 at least their lineup is pretty formidable. Now they just need to strengthen that starting rotation. My feelings about the contract are that this could be good for about two to three years, and then a whole lotta blah. Good for the Angels for going for it, though. This is also great for non-LA/OC area fans because now everyone will be rooting against any team with the name “Los Angeles” in them, and that’s never a bad thing, although this probably makes both LA/OC teams their respective division favorites on paper. Word has also been spreading that the Angels will face the Reds and Rangers first, two of Hamilton’s former teams.

Underrated Free Agent Anibal Sanchez is finally off the market, after the Detroit Tigers matched the Cubs’ offer in years and then added a few more dollars to give him a 5/$80MM contract. Sanchez and his agent gave the Tigers one last shot to match the 5-year deal from the Cubs, as Bob Nightengale reportes that Detroit initially offered him a team friendly 4/$48MM deal, and then raised it to an about market value deal that was reached by both sides. In the end, it appears Anibal Sanchez really wanted to be with an organization that had the image of being in the contenders role for more of the five years in his deal, and I know a lot of people see a lot of logic in that, myself included. Writing yesterday about the 5/$77MM the Cubs offered, I said that the Cubs should get most of the value of Anibal from that deal, and so the same goes with a 5/$80 with the Tigers. In the playoffs, Anibal Sanchez was the #3 pitcher behind Doug Fister and Max Scherzer.

As for major free agents still left? We’re still waiting on Michael Bourn to find a home, and teams that could employ him are looking for cheaper options, like that of Peter Bourjos and Dexter Fowler.