Week three is in the books so it’s time to check out what I learned this week. I learned a lot of things this week, so let’s get right to it.
The Cubs Can’t Score For Jeff Samardzija – As long and wavy that Samardzija’s hair is, you’d think it would lead to some sort of scoring. Unfortunately the Cubs just can’t do it. It’s as if the offense is wearing a chastity belt when Shark is on the mound and they expect him to do it all on his own. In four starts this season, he’s posted an ERA of 1.29. It’s not even fair that not only is he winless, but he’s 0-2. I feel like the first win is coming this week against Wade Miley, but even a matchup that you would think would be a given proves to be difficult.
Not Winning The Masahiro Tanaka Signing Sweepstakes May Have Been A Big Mistake – I wrote about it the other day, but it bears repeating. Tanaka has really really good stuff. What I was surprised to see, though, was that two other Cubs have “nasty stuff”. That was encouraging as both Travis Wood and Jason Hammel fit into the future in some way. For Wood, he’ll be here long term and Hammel should be able to bring a decent return before the deadline in a flip, which adds to the rebuild. However, the big question is how much the Cubs will regret not breaking the bank on Tanaka because he’s really good.
I think I’m going to give the nod to Colon, but barely. That said, as bad as Hamilton looked, he looked really fast as he beat Anthony Rizzo to the bag on a grounder to first base. You don’t usually see that, but Rizzo hesitated just a small amount and that was all it took.
Wellington Castillo Can Be Stolen On – He’s just not throwing the ball as well as he was last year. He did get a great throw off in Sunday’s game that should have nailed Hamilton, but Castro flubbed the tag. I think we’ll see improvement soon. He can’t possibly finish this bad.
Jose Veras and Carlos Villanueva Need To Get Off My Roster – I can’t stand watching either of these clowns pitch. Villanueva looked awful yet again today and Veras, who came into the game in a low leverage situation wet the bed again. Carrie Muskat wrote about how Renteria wants to see him win back the closer job. Screw that. I don’t want his tail anywhere near the mound in a key situation.
At what point will this team win a series. I’ve been talking about this all year, but the last time the Cubs won a series, it was the first part of September 2013. Today we had a chance, until you looked at who we had on the mound and then you realized it wasn’t going to happen. What makes me most frustrated is the fact that this team is either all in or all out when it comes to the result lately.
by Ryan Morrison (@InsidetheZona)
Like the Cubs, the Diamondbacks have five wins. Unlike the Cubs, the Diamondbacks have sixteen losses, and have lost eight of their last nine. As National League foes go, the D-backs are not the Cubs’ greatest challenge. In some ways, the D-backs have underachieved as a team: their offense is better than their team 82 wRC+ would indicate, and the bullpen has actually been quite decent, if not at the most critical times. The struggles of the rotation, however, are completely legitimate.
After 21 games and 106 innings, the D-backs rotation sports a 7.42 ERA, more than two full runs worse than the next-worst crew of starters. For the four-game series with Chicago, the Diamondbacks line up with Bronson Arroyo, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley and Mike Bolsinger. Arroyo is no different (or, certainly, not better) than his recent Reds days, and temporary fill-in Bolsinger might be the definition of replacement level (8 ER in 7 IP).
Miley, on the other hand, has been Arizona’s best and most consistent starter this season, pitching like a strong #3 starter. McCarthy’s results in 25.1 IP so far this season have not been good (7.11 ERA), but for what it’s worth, it has appeared as though he’s been burned by some critical missed strike calls and terrible luck with home runs. His 3.38 xFIP indicates that he’s a threat to be taken seriously.
On the offensive side, this is the same team that Cubs fans saw last year, except with a fully healthy Aaron Hill, rookie Chris Owings, and new acquisition Mark Trumbo, who shares the league lead with 6 home runs. Every everyday player not named Paul Goldschmidt is currently struggling to perform at 2013 levels.
With Owings installed at short, the D-backs boast what should be an above-average hitting infield, including Martin Prado at third. It’s the outfield that presents the real puzzle. A.J. “Action Jackson” Pollock and Gerardo Parra are both elite defenders with slightly below average bats, making them well above average overall. But Cody Ross has recently joined in the mix with Trumbo for playing time after being activated just a few days ago, and we’re likely to see at least three different outfield alignments during the series with the Cubs. Parra could get pushed to center field if Ross starts over Pollock, which is unfortunate for Arizona, as a huge part of Parra’s value comes from his throwing arm.
Meanwhile, at the plate, it’s just not clear what Cody Ross can bring to the table at this point, with his surgically repaired hip in his load leg. That makes the outfield an almost unsolvable puzzle, especially with Kirk Gibson favorite and former Cub atony Campana also likely to get work. But the outfield is also the D-backs’ main source of bench offense. Whichever outfielders sit in a given day will be accompanied by Eric Chavez as the D-backs’ main pinch hitting threats, as backup infielder Cliff Pennington offers little with the bat and backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch offers nothing.