Cubs Game Preview

Cubs 47-63 Rockies 44-67
#Alcantara, CF *Blackmon, LF
Baez, 2B #Adames, SS
*Rizzo, 1B Arenado, 3B
Castro, SS *Morneau, 1B
Ruggiano, RF Stubbs, CF
*Valbuena, 3B Rosario, C
Castillo, C Barnes, RF
Lake, LF LeMahieu, 2B
Wood, P *Anderson, P

It's not only Javier Baez day, but a battle for draft pick status!!! I only have one prediction for tonight, at some point Javier Baez will swing out of his shoes trying to launch one over the mountains. Should be fun...

The Internet ate my homework...let's try that again.

Game 1: Cubs @ Pirates 12:35 PM CST

vs. AJ Burnett

2012: 3.51 ERA/3.52 FIP

vs. Jeff Samardzija

2012: 3.81 ERA/3.55 FIP

*D. DeJesus, CF S. Marte, LF
S. Castro, SS * G. Jones, RF
*A. Rizzo, 1B A. McCutchen, CF
A. Soriano, LF *P. Alvarez, 3B
*N. Schierholtz, RF G. Sanchez, 1B
W. Castillo, C #N. Walker, 2B
*L. Valbuena, 3B R. Martin, C
B. Lillibridge, 2B C. Barmes, SS
J. Samardzija, P A.J. Burnett, SP

The weather is around 40 degrees in Pittsburgh and all the MLB Network cutaways to the park show it snowing. Yet, the weather forecast says it should pass by game time, although I imagine a delay is possibility. If the game does get in, join me(and hopefully others)in Parachat to pass the time.

Before the game, Darwin Barney was indeed placed on the disabled list and he'll join Matt Garza, Ian Stewart, Scott Baker and Arodys Vizcaino to start the season. Alberto Gonzalez will get the active roster spot and pitcher Robert Whitenack was the 40-man casualty as he was DFA'd. Doubtful in my opinion that he'll get claimed by anyone unless the Astros are feeling frisky.

Word is that the wind is blowing out briskly to left, so Sveum has loaded up on the righties to battle southpaw Gio Gonzalez in his NL debut.

Here it is, Opening Day 2012, where optimism reigns...until you see Jeff Baker starting at 1B.

Nationals Cubs
Desmond, SS *DeJesus, RF
#Espinosa, 2B Barney, 2B
Zimmerman, 3B Castro, SS
*LaRoche, 1B Soriano, LF
Werth, RF *Stewart, 3B
DeRosa, LF Baker, 1B
*Bernadina, CF Byrd, CF
Ramos, C Soto, C
Strasburg, P Dempster, P

Bryan LaHair is out today, but claims he should be available off the bench Saturday and ready to start by Sunday, so doesn't look like the disabled list and doesn't look like Tony Campana will be up with the team.

How many strikeouts for Soriano today?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

I'm going to attempt to be in Parachat later, but make no promises. I'll keep the prediction contest open up until first pitch.

It's Christmas time for baseball fans and Santa's delivered the lowly Pirates to the Cubs. Of course, the Cubs went 5-10 against one of the worse teams I've ever seen play baseball last year, so the Cubs have that going for them. Don't forget to join the fun during our in-game chat. Folks come and go throughout the game so if you hang around for awhile, someone is usually sure to pop in.

LF Tabata RF *Fukudome
2B #Walker SS Castro
CF McCutchen CF Byrd
1B *Overbay 3B Ramirez
3B *Alvarez 1B *Pena
C #Doumit C Soto
RF *G. Jones LF Soriano
SS Cedeno 2B Barney
P Correia P Dempster

Undoubtedly Correia is going to throw a shutout today, but generally you have to laugh at a team employing a guy for Opening Day with a career 4.57 ERA and a 4.91 ERA over the last three years, the last two being in Petco Park.

My division predictions after the jump...

Derrek Lee is back, Hoffpauir gets sent back down...okay, why not?

With Soto on the DL, Aramis still out, Colvin in the penalty box and Soriano incapable of moving spots in the batting order without the Earth's magnetic fields being reversed, we get to witness the following lineup featuring Blake DeWitt batting 5th.

Fukudome, Castro, Lee, Byrd, DeWitt, Soriano, Barney, Hill, Diamond

vs.

F. Lopez, J. Jay, Pujols, Holliday, Rasmus, Molina, Schumaker, Westbrook, Ryan

In happier news, Castro is just 17 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title race, in which he'd currently be third, just two points behind Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.

Cubs get to play the role spoilers this weekend or more likely the role of roadkill. Happy weekend everyone!

The things you miss not caring about this team...

The Little Cajun That Could was traded to the Giants yesterday for speedy center fielder Evan Crawford. The two reports I read on him are hardly flattering...beyond his speed.

In terms of pitch selection, Crawford is not afraid to work deep counts. However, I’d attribute this more to laying off all offspeed offerings to hide a weakness and not good pitch selection. Crawford looks for the first decent fastball middle-in and tries to yank it down the line. When he’s forced to fight off pitches with two strikes, I’ve seen curveballs make him look silly in the box.

Considering it was a waiver wire deal, you can't expect much to receive much for Mike Fontenot anyway. Darwin Barney has been called up to take Fontenot's spot on the roster.

Geovany Soto went to the disabled list and Derrek Lee is tending to his grandfather, paving the way for Micah Hoffpauir and Welington Castillo to get called up.

All of this was news to me this morning.

The Cubs are currently the proud owners of the 7th spot in the draft and just 2.5 games from the 4th spot, with a little work I think they could even manage to catch the Mariners for the third spot.

As for today's game, the power hitting, but OBP challenged Colvin is leading off, it's like those two two plus years of Soriano in the leadoff spot never happened:  lf colvin, ss castro, rf fuke, cf byrd, 1b nady, 2b dewitt, 3b baker, c hill, p wells

One last piece of fun, Cubs OBI%(Other Baserunners Driven In) this year via Baseball Prospectus. It really should be the go-to stat when folks talk about driving in runners. If I ever accomplish anything with this blog, it will be making this stat more widely accepted and known. The best in the league will be in the low 20's and anything in the 15-17% range is acceptable to good and just like BABIP or many of the rate stats out there, it does fluxuate widely from year to year, but the power hitters who can put the ball in play will tend to be more consistent from year-to-year. For comparison, here's the Cubs in 2008.

Castro
16.3%
Soto
16%
 Soriano 15.7%
 Ramirez 15.3%
 Lee 14.3%
Byrd
13.9%
Fukudome
13.4%
 Nady 12.9%
Colvin
12.0%
Theriot
10.4%
Baker 9.6%

The real treat here is that Soto has batted 7th or 8th most of the year, while being the best Cubs run producer. I know, nothing ground-breaking in terms of information, but still fascinatingly inept to witness.

The last post is getting a little long in the tooth and a little bitchy, so let's move on to happier things like Andre Dawson's Hall of Fame induction today and the Cubs on the brink of a three game sweep over the Cardinals.

I don't have much to add actually on Dawson's speech today much like anything involving this site lately, but that smiling photo with the plaque classes up the joint.

As for the Cubs, they're third in the league in runs scored in July behind the Giants and Yankees. Who'd thunk? Three guys have OPS numbers north of 1.000 (Castro, Ramirez and Soto) with Byrd, Lee and Colvin around the .800 or above mark, leaving Soriano(.732 but with 5 HR's) and Theriot(.641) to bring up the rear.

Z threw two scoreless last night for Iowa with no walks, a hit and three K's and should join the team this week if he apologizes to his teammates for...giving a shit about losing? And probably for destroying the Gatorade cooler, I hear it was a clubhouse favorite.

Dempster got beat up a bit against the weakly 'Stros last time, but the offense bailed him out of a loss.

Lineup for tonight's game from Muskat's twitter feed:

rf colvin, ss castro, 1b lee, 3b ramy, cf byrd, lf sori, c soto, 2b riot, p demp

The Cubs go for 3 in a row. 3 WINS in a row!!!! It's the start of something big, like starting to trade players away.

Ken Davidoff tweets that the Mets are quite interested in Ted Lilly and the Cubs seem to be smart and willing to pay most of Lilly's remaining salary to get it done. No idea whom the prospects or players might be at this point or how serious the talks are, but Lilly's a good fit in spacious CitiField and the Cubs need to start thinking about some future year where they'll be good again and interesting.

Lou has come to terms with the team being sellers and is already talking retirement. Is that a white flag I see in your pocket?

I'll put the lineups up when they become available.

UPDATE: Fukudome 9/Theriot 4/Lee 3/Byrd 8/Ramirez 5/Soriano 7/Castro 6/Soto 2/Dempster 1

Also Brian Schlitter to disabled list with a shoulder impingement, Mitch Atkins called up.

First, the lineups...

Tabata, LaRoche, McCutchen, Jones, Milledge, Alvarez, Doumit, Cedeno, Karstens

vs.

Fukudome, Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, Colvin, Soriano, Hill, Castro, Lilly.

Now, the news...

From Paul Sullivan in the Tribune:

After Carlos Zambrano returns to the Cubs following his suspension—the Cubs are trying to find out from MLB how long they can be suspend him and whether they'll have to play with 24 men for the duration—he'll be returning to the bullpen. Tom Gorzelanny is returning to the starting rotation.

Also, Lou Piniella and Assistant General Manager Randy Bush were none too pleased that Zambrano had dinner with Ozzie Guillen last night instead of reflecting on what an ass he was yesterday afternoon. I'm thinking that if Carlos was self-aware enough to reflect on his behavior, he might not have acted that way in the first place. Just a thought.

Cubs lineup vs. Freddy Garcia (8-3, 4.85; 4-0, 1.25 all-time vs. Cubs)
Fukudome 9, Byrd 8, Lee DH, Nady 3, Ramirez 5, Soriano 7, Castro 6, Soto 2, Theriot 4

White Sox lineup vs. Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01; 4-11, 5.33 all-time vs. Sox)
Pierre 7, Vizquel 5, Rios 8, Konerko 3, Quentin 9, Kotsay DH, Ramirez 6, Castro 2, Beckham 4

Back on June 13th, after Ted Lilly nearly no-hit the White Sox at Wrigley Field, the Sox' record was 28-34, and the Cubs stood at 28-35. The White Sox haven't lost since, and the Cubs have continued to stumble. They're now eight games under .500 and the same number of games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

On this, his 32nd birthday, Aramis Ramirez returns to the lineup after a stint on the DL with that nagging thumb problem, and Chad Tracy has been DFA'd. Tracy hit .250 (11-for-44) in 28 games for the Cubs.

In the big news of the day...

In the time it took John Isner to beat Nicolas Mahut, the Cubs scored once, lost twice, fanned 17 times while walking three times, dropped nine games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals, fell a season-worst nine games below .500, and went 1-for-16 with RISP. Oh, yeah—that one hit was a double by Alfonso Soriano which came with Geovany Soto on second base but only got Soto as far as third.

The Cubs try to avoid the sweep and hopefully save my little Katie and I from years of humiliation. Colvin sits against another lefty (don't ever go 0/4 again kid), but Baker still gets to play after yesterday's Brook Robinson impression. I should be in chat for most of the game if anyone is around and still cares.

cf byrd, 3b baker, 1b lee, rf nady, c soto, lf sori, ss castro, 2b riot, p zambrano

Have you felt like there's been a lack of timely hitting by the Cubs and wasting good starts by their pitchers? Well reader WISCGRAD was wondering the same thing and calculated the numbers of wins as a percentage of quality starts. Unsurprisingly the Cubs are worst in the NL and third worst in the majors behind the poor Mariners that can't buy a run and the Land of Misfit Cubs Toys known as the Orioles.

Chart after the jump...

The A's make their second-ever visit to Wrigley Field—the Cubs are the only National League never to have played in Oakland—having been swept this past weekend in San Francisco.

The weather forecast is not promising, with Weather.com saying there is a 100% chance of precipitation through the shank of the evening. Is there a rainout-forced doubleheader in these teams' immediate future? If there's anything better than interleague play, it's an interleague doubleheader made necessary by the screwy MLB schedule...which became infinitely screwier when MLB adopted interleague play.

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