I posted yesterday in my 10 bold predictions that I felt like it was certainly a possibility that the Cubs would finish the season with a record of 81-81. Not quite a winning season, but certainly a huge improvement on the road toward respectability. After sitting down later and thinking about that statement, it occurred to me that I never really thought about what I’m actually expecting to see this team do in 2014. Sure, bold predictions are fun and they generate readers, but when it comes right down to it, it’s a lofty goal and may not happen. That said, what should be the acceptable result when all is said and done in 2014? Allow me a short semi-political rant to explain.
As many of you may or may not know, my day job is as an independent insurance agent. One of the things I help people with is health insurance with Blue Cross & Blue Shield. Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last six months, you’ve undoubtedly seen that the deadline to enroll in a new plan was yesterday. People have known this deadline was coming for months and yet they still waited to the last minute. One such case was a guy who came to me for assistance around 4pm. I try to help everyone, but this joker was the straw that broke this camel’s back. As I patiently tried to guide him through the process, we got to a place where he had to establish a username and password for his online account. Thankfully, this was early in the process so I didn’t waste a whole lot of time with this guy. When I asked him what password he wanted to use, he replied “Deeznutz”. Annoyed, I asked him how he would like to spell that. He spelled it out, with no realization at the fact that may not be the best password or that the person helping may be annoyed with him. At that point, he needed to verify his account in his e-mail. When I asked him to do that, he said he didn’t know the password for his e-mail. Needless to say, that guy probably is not going to get coverage by the end of the day today, because I can’t fix stupid.
Where I’m going with that is this. When I talked to that guy, I had an idea based on observations and social clues what I could expect from him. The Cubs in 2014 seem to be a lot like that. I look up and down the team and know not to get too excited. The question then becomes: What can we accept? When we go into the season knowing the team is going to still be bad, can we accept worse than 2013 when everyone says 2015 is the year we’re supposed to compete? What is acceptable this year? For me, I think 75 wins is a realistic mid-level goal, but for me, the worst I would accept is 72 wins. That’s six more than last year and it’s my floor. What about you?
- Overall, I thought the pitching looked good. Jeff Samardzija didn’t disappoint. What I liked the most about his start was his ability to work seven innings with only 89 pitches. Usually when we’ve seen great pitching performances by Samardzija, they’ve been laced with strikeouts. Today’s game was different. He didn’t have the overpowering stuff that Francisco Liriano had, but in my opinion, he had the better outing because he was more effective. If we can see this kind of stuff from him consistently, I’d be thrilled. From the bullpen, I will say it again. Pedro Strop will be the eventual closer of this team and he looked fantastic today. Facing Starling Marte, he made him look silly in the first two swings and misses.
- I was disappointed in the lack of offense. By no means to I expect this to be a team that puts up crooked numbers on a regular basis, but there were several opportunities to jump out to a lead and we simply could not capitalize and a lot of that blame falls on the heart of the order. 3-4-5 in the lineup combined to go 0-for-10 with 5 K’s. Unacceptable.
- I was a little confused by two moves by Rick Renteria today. The first was the batting order. I was OK with Emilio Bonifacio getting the not in the leadoff spot, but what confused me was why Junior Lake, a guy not even average when it comes to making contact, is hitting in the 2 spot. Castro is much more suited for that role given the difference in each one’s contact %. The second move that confused me was the move to use Villanueva in the 10th. It’s not a matter of Monday morning QB’ing it, I generally don’t agree with the move. I understand why he did it, but I don’t think it was the right call. Villanueva has relatively little to no experience in that role. Use a guy who has experience there.
Grade the Umpire – A look at the accuracy of the judgement pitch calls.
John Hirschbeck is our first victim. We started this last year a little. I want to look at how the ump did on pitches that were not swung at. These are pitches the umpire had to made a decision on. League average on correct calls is 88%. Our boy Hirsh had himself an 85% correct call rate today, which would be considered worst in the league if he did that every game. Here is a breakdown of his rate by zone.
Off day today so we leave you with a video from one of my favorite bands, Nickel Creek, who have a new album out today.