Week 2 is in the books and it yielded another pair of series losses. While that is disappointing, there is always something to be learned as you watch the games unfold. Let’s get right to it.
The Offense Is Not As Bad As We Thought – A big issue in week one was the inability for this team to put up runs. That really wasn’t an issue this week, which was encouraging especially given the caliber of pitching we faced in the Cardinal series. By no means do I think this team is ready to compete offensively with the big boys, but I also didn’t think they were as bad as we saw in week one. What is of particular encouragement is the start to the season by both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. For both, this was a year to show they belonged and deserved the money they were given to lock them up through their arbitration years. There were a lot of pundits and fans who had given up on one or even both before the season. Both have answered the call early and that is encouraging.
The Starting Pitching Is Not As Good As We Thought – After week one I was all a glow about how well the starting staff did. Even Carlos Villanueva, who looked so bad in relief in two outings rebounded to have a nice first start. Week two was a little different. Watching the games on Saturday and Sunday, which featured a start by Villanueva and then Edwin Jackson, I felt like I was in hell. It really should be against the rules to have to run these two jokers out there in back to back games. We’ll get into the Jackson start in just a little bit, but let’s just say that this was not a fun weekend of watching Cubs starting pitching. The return of Jake Arrieta will hopefully help ease some of the burden, because it forces Villanueva out of the rotation and, if it were up to me, off the roster completely. The issue of having to see Jackson out there every fifth day still remains and all we can hope is that he gets his mess together or a bullpen that I feel could be a strength of this team is going to get taxed really quickly.
12 Man Pitching Staffs Are Incredibly Stupid – I wouldn’t say I learned this one this week, but rather confirmed it again. I have long been a critic of the way the Major League roster is assembled these days, with pitching staffs consisting of seven man bullpens. There just isn’t enough work to go around with the seven man pen and you end up with guys like Wesley Wright making his first appearance in nine days today. That kind of crap is unacceptable in my opinion. It doesn’t allow for a guy to stay sharp and simply wastes a roster spot that could either be used to allow for a pitch hitter late in the game or the ability to carry a third catcher. What really set me off about it this week was the fact that the Cubs made a move on Saturday to recall Chris Rusin (which I was fine with) because Rick Renteria said they had really taxed the pen. If I’m Wright, I’m interrupting that answer to the press and introducing myself to my manager because apparently he had forgotten Wright was even on the team. It sucks for Brian Schlitter, who was sent down to make room for Rusin, because he wasn’t able to be recalled right away and has to stay down there a little now when he wasn’t even pitching poorly.
MVP – Kevin Siegrist (.246 WPA)
- We talked about Jackson’s start briefly, but let’s look at it a little closer. First, he allowed at least one base runner every inning he pitched, most of the time via a hit of some sort. When you do that and you’re a pitcher who notoriously struggles with control and had a tendency to walk hitters in excess, you’re asking for trouble. His WHIP is now up to 1.88, which is grossly unacceptable and needs to come down. Each and every inning he pitched himself into a jam of some sort. It was painful to watch and it’s not getting better. Take one run off the board and he’s got a quality start, which tells you everything you need to know about how stupid that stat is. It seems like each time he’s on the mound, the Cubs offense gets him some sort of help only to see him cough it right up and give it back in excess. About the only positive thing I can say about the outing was that he was able to come back and pitch a few innings after the rain delay to save the pen. Jesse Rogers had a nice piece on what to do with Jackson going forward.
- Rizzo helped the team get off to an early 2-0 lead with a home run in the 1st. Overall the offense as a whole looked really effective in the inning, seeing a lot of pitches and coming away with a lead before the Cardinals even had a chance to take to the plate. Unfortunately that was about all from Rizzo at the plate, but I can’t complain about the day. He accounted for runs and that’s what you’re looking for.
- Castro saw his mini hitting streak snapped with an 0-for-4 day at the plate.
- We saw the season debut of a guy I thought should have made the club out of spring training, Blake Parker. Parker came in to pitch in relief and made me rethink my opinion. The two runs he gave up proved to be the difference in the game. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs recall Schlitter after his mandatory 10 day stay in AAA or stick with Parker until Arrieta returns.
- Wright somehow made it into the game, though only for three pitches. Chin up, Wes.
- Javier Baez was placed on the 7 day DL due to ankle soreness stemming from an issue on Friday when he was fielding pre-game ground balls. That puts 2 of the big 4 prospects on the DL early in the year, as Jorge Soler has been there since day 1.
Off day on Monday, which means we can’t possibly lose. It also means we get to stew over yet another series loss. Keep an eye out this afternoon for a look at the comings and goings in the rest of baseball with a post by Brian and don’t episode 11 of VFTB Radio due out around 9pm. It should be a good day. Feel free to send us a mailbag question to address on the show. It can be serious or silly.