Star of the Game – Darwin Barney – .231 (WPA)
I’m of two minds about Jeff Samardzija so far in 2013. The optimistic side of me says that games like Monday night are what suggest Jeff can be an ace before long. It’s critical for an ace to be able to fight through a game with less than his best stuff – on Monday night, Samardzija definitely didn’t have his best stuff.
The pessimist in me (wants to cannibalize the optimist) believes that outings like Monday night occur too frequently for the former Notre Dame standout to ever be truly considered an ace. Except his first start of the year, which was truly great, Samardzija’s appearances since have been somewhere between solid and bad – but the common theme is they are too short. He’s simply not pitching deep enough into games.
He needs to throw more strikes – tonight he walked 4, struck out 8 but took 5 innings to plow through 101 pitches. It’s becoming a theme, last time out it was 6 innings 104 pitches; his second start this year was 105 pitches in 5.2 innings, and the third start was it was 100 pitches in 6 innings. The only time since Opening Day that he’s pitched into the 7th was against Milwaukee where he completed 7 innings, but gave up 5 runs in the process. It’s like someone had him study game tape of Rich Harden.
It’s especially worrying because the bullpen is so terrible; I pity Edwin Jackson. He can expect zero help tomorrow night after he is pulled from the game.
Scott Hairston & Cody Ransom
The former Padres hit back-to-back jacks in the 2nd against their former team. The Cubs were buoyed all night by the bottom of the order particularly with Ransom and Darwin Barney. The 6-7-8 spots produced all the runs for the Cubs and it’s a good thing, because…
…leadoff ‘hitter’ Dave Sappelt sucks at this game called baseball. He’s started hitting leadoff 7 times so far this season, seeing 11, 7, 17, 19, 20, 10, 10 pitches in those respective starts. So only in 3 of 7 starts has he seen more than 11 pitches. He’s jumping at pitches, hacking wildly – almost hoping it sometimes seems, that his bat will miraculously make contact. *Nate Schierholtz saw 7 pitches in one PH at-bat tonight; Sappelt saw 10 pitches in 4 PAs.
With two out in the second, on the heels of a Samardzija sac bunt, Sappelt decided to swing at the first pitch and ground into the final out of the inning; because who cares if Jeff gets a chance to collect a breath? (it’s commonplace for even a mediocre leadoff hitter to drag their feet in such an at-bat – giving their pitcher every opportunity to catch his breath and ready himself to pitch again).
He led off the Cubs half of the inning in each of his other three at-bats, weakly grounding out to the left side every time. If he was hitting the ball, the lack of patience would be less problematic; but even Ian Stewart has been heard mocking Sappelt’s ability to get a hit. And Sappelt’s swing is too long and disjointed for a guy who doesn’t posses middle-of-the-order power. He’s merely a pedestrian fielder; the Cubs can do better with his roster spot.
So as not to be too much of a downer, I’ll say the bullpen was quite good tonight – especially Gregg. That has me highly suspicious of tomorrow night, but we’ll leave those troubles for tomorrow. Also, if the recap makes it feel like we lost this game, just know that it was the combination of Hairston, Ransom, and Barney and the bullpen work that pulled out the win. The rest of the team left a lot to be desired whether it was overall impatience at the top of the order (1-4 in the lineup), Castro’s odd error, or Samardzija aforementioned uninspiring performance, the Cubs scratched and clawed for this one, and not in a good way.