Box Score / Highlights
Star of the Game – Eric Young – .185 (WPA)
by Sean Powell
Everyone is speculating about who will leave the rotation once Matt Garza returns (throwing aside suggestions of a six-man rotation for now). Although one bad start won’t decide things, it’s not looking good for Carlos Villanueva. Scott Feldman and Travis Wood have been destroying hitters lately, and Villanueva has regressed back toward the mean in the last few starts (with a “leap” back tonight). His peripheral stats suggested that a correction was coming, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise. Villanueva has successful experience in the swing role, and it was a role he was signed to fill in the first place.
There have been arguments made that Edwin Jackson should be the pitcher sent to the bullpen – at least until trades are made. The argument is that Jackson is not a trade candidate this season (since he signed to a four-year deal), and it would be better to let Villanueva stay in the rotation to build maximum value before the trade deadline. While that argument makes some sense, I just don’t see Villanueva sustaining his early-season success (although it’s a small sample size, his performances of late support this) – and he will have more value if he’s effective out of the pen as the long man/sixth starter than he will if he is scuffling in a rotation role. Also, Jackson’s peripheral stats suggest that he has pitched better than his “baseball card” stats suggest: coming into tonight, Jackson had a 3.50 FIP vs. a 3.91 FIP for Villanueva (Villanueva’s FIP rose to 4.28 tonight).
The Cubs offense continued their struggles against left-handed starters as they made Jeff Francis look like Travis Wood. Despite struggling all year (especially against righties), Francis kept the Cubs hitters off-balance all night. The only run against Francis came on a Darwin Barney golf-shot homerun (yes, you read that correctly). Darwin may be creeping out of his slump with a three-hit night that also included an RBI double in the ninth.
[Random thought: I always remembered Francis as having a beard. Maybe I’m thinking of Jeff Reardon.]
On another note, it was interesting to see David DeJesus get the start in the leadoff spot against a lefty. He’s had a good year at the plate only playing against righties. Sveum’s experiment of having Starlin Castro lead-off against lefties seems to have been short lived.
The Rockies tried to give us back the game in the eighth, with a couple of mental-lapse errors, and we had the obligatory fake rally in the ninth, but the deficit was just too large.