We’re not even two full weeks into the season, and the Cubs are already performing better and worse than most of us expected.  The front end of the rotation looks shockingly legit, but some of our veterans left their bats in Spring Training–and not the ones I expected (Marlon Byrd has a bright future as a magician–his disappearing act is incredible!).   Tonight Chicago brings their surprising starters, anemic offense, and shaky-but-improving bullpen to baseball’s new home in Miami.  How will they match up against the Marlins?  Will the light-hitting Cubs take advantage of the cavernous dimensions of Miami’s new field?  Can Ozzie Guillen find a new way to offend and alienate large portions of Miami’s potential fanbase?  Will Carlos Zambrano find a way to insert himself into the action, even though he’s not scheduled to make a start?  And will the Marlins offer up adequate sacrifice to pacify the Home Run Idol in center field, or will it lash out in bloodthirsty rage?  Get the answers to almost none of those questions in our series preview!

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS AND SCOUTING REPORTS

Tuesday 6:10pm CT – Ryan Dempster vs. Josh Johnson

Johnson is coming off a 2011 season severely shortened by injury–he only appeared in nine games before he was shut down with shoulder issues.  Coming into this season, the re-branded Marlins had high hopes for their under-the-radar ace.  So far, he hasn’t lived up to them.  In just under ten innings of work spread over two starts, he’s already given up 21 hits.  Let’s hope the Cubs are able to strike first and strike hard (no mercy, sir!), as that has been their recipe for what little success they’ve had so far.  They ought to get some help from Dempster, who has surpassed most people’s modest predictions to start his season.  Maybe it is just the return of Contract Season Ryan Dempster, but the 1.88 ERA and 15 K’s he’s posted over fourteen innings have kept the Cubs in both his starts.  Now if he could just get some run support, he might post his first win of the season.

Wednesday 6;10pm CT – Matt Garza vs. Mark Buehrle

Buehrle has put together two quality starts in his early Marlins career, and come away with two losses.  Honestly, I’m not sure anything would surprise me tomorrow night–he could come out and throw a no hitter against the Cubs, or he could get shelled and not make it out of the first inning.  This is his first start in his new home ballpark, so we’ll see if his new surroundings suit him.  On the other hand, Garza is the picture of consistency, picking up right where he left off last season.  He was one bad throw past first (and high into the seats) away from a complete game against the Brewers, and he gave the Cubs six good innings against the Nationals.  At this point, I have little doubt that he’ll be able to keep the Cubs in most of his games–my concern is that they’ll repeat the trend of last season and provide him sparing run support, and continue to give away winnable games.

Thursday 11:40am CT – Jeff Samardzija vs. Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco is one of the pitchers the Cubs sent to the Marlins in the Juan Pierre debacle trade, and he’s served them well for the last few years.  He’s looked solid for the most part this season, be he needed all of 90 pitches to get through only 5 innings against the Astros.  This would be a good game for the Cubs to exhibit some of their fleeting patience at the plate.  He’s facing off against Samardzija, who seems determined to make me and many other Cubs fans eat our words about his potential as a starter.  And I’m all for it if he can–no one’s as happy as me to have my cynicism concerning the Cubs proven wrong.  But I’ll need to see more consistency from him before I sit down for the plate of crow.  His last start has me a little worried–5 runs on 10 hits through only 5 innings is no way to go through life, son.

NOTES FROM THE ENEMY

Courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell from Marlins Daily

Through the first 10 games of the season the Miami Marlins are at a somewhat disappointing 4-6 and sitting at the bottom of the National League East. These are small sample sizes but the slow start is largely thanks to an all-around poor performance which includes some horrible fielding, bad base running, slow starts, and very little patience at the plate.

Only five teams in the entire Majors have a lower walk rate than the Marlins’ 5.7% rate. Gaby Sanchez has yet to walk in 37 plate appearances and Chris Coghlan has not drawn a walk in 21 plate appearances. Giancarlo Stanton is still without a homerun and only has one walk to his name in 36 plate appearances on the season. Omar Infante, surprisingly, leads the team with four homeruns, half the entire team total, but also only has one walk in 36 plate appearances.

The Marlins have a team Bsr of -1.1 and only five teams have a worse base running value. Sure, the Marlins are tied for the Major League lead with 10 stolen bases but they have also grounded into 12 double plays which is the most in the National League and second worst in the Majors.

The Marlins defense has a Major League worst -6.8 UZR and their 10 fielding errors are also the highest. It is also worth noting that their team fielding percentage is the fifth worst in the Majors. Marlins’ catchers have only thrown out 2 of the 20 potential base stealers against them. The infield trio of Hanley RamirezJose Reyes, and Infante have a combined -3.3 UZR.

It has been well noted that Stanton has yet to homer but Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio are both still without an extra-base hit to their name.

But not all is lost. Sure, Josh Johnson has an ERA of 8.38 but his FIP is 2.80. Ricky Nolasco finally has an ERA lower than his FIP and xFIP. The rest of the rotation is off to a solid start and the bullpen has a 3.19 ERA on the season.

Remember, these numbers are only after ten games; that is just over six percent of the season and there is still a lot of season left to play. If some of these numbers continue when we reach June then you might want to start worrying but until then just enjoy the success on the mound, wait for the offense to turn itself around, and pray the defense gets better.

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