Although the Cubs roster may look different than in years past, the story is still the same. In two games, the Cubs are 0-13 with runners in scoring position. They have left a total of 10 men on base. Tonight, the Cubs had the bases loaded with only 1 out and failed to get a run across. The probability of scoring a run in that situation is 67%. Eventually, one would think the odds would be in the Cubs’ favor.
A few points from tonight’s game:
1.) Edwin Jackson looked pretty good in his Cubs debut. He struck out 5 and induced 8 groundouts, telling me he was keeping the ball down.
2.) Anthony Rizzo was able to stay in the game after getting hit by a pitch, which looked much worse at first glance.
The Cubs’ Opening Day win against the Pirates reinforced what we already knew about the Cubs from last year, good and bad. Here are a few of my points from Monday’s game:
1.) If you put any stock into one Jeff Samardzija performance, he is picking up right where he left off. Samardzija threw 8.0 innings of two-hit/one-walk baseball Monday, throwing 110 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. In my opinion, his most important stat is that he got 13 groundouts and 0 flyouts. If Samardzija gets good defense from his infield this year, this ratio will lead to another successful year.
2.) Anthony Rizzo crushed a three-run homerun to right-center in his first at-bat Monday, providing two of the Cubs’ three runs. In my preview for Rizzo this year, I projected Rizzo having a great year and many believe he will have a breakout year. Hopefully Rizzo heats up as the weather does this season. Defensively, Rizzo also made a great play in the seventh.
3.) Also picking up right where he left off, unfortunately, was Carlos Marmol. Marmol threw 19 pitches, with 9 of them being strikes. He threw 8 pitches to Garret Jones before earning a swinging strikeout on a slider in the dirt. Then, Marmol hit Andrew McCutchen with the second pitch of the at bat. After Marmol allowed a single to Pedro Alvarez, Chris Bosio visited the mound and whatever Bosio had to say must not have worked, because Marmol then walked Gaby Sanchez on five pitches.
If any teams were thinking about trading for Marmol, it would have happened by now. Today’s performance just reinforces what people have been saying about Marmol and the fact that he cannot be trusted to get the last three outs of a game. I would hope the Cubs decide to give Marmol’s job to Kyuji Fujikawa who came into the game and got Russell Martin out with two pitches. If you’re keeping track at home, Fujikawa got as many outs as Marmol with only one-tenth of the pitches. Dale Sveum says he is sticking with Marmol for now. As Cub fans watch Marmol continually walk batter after batter this year, they need to remind themselves that he has the fourth highest salary on the team. As executive watch Marmol this year, they need to remind themselves, “This is why you don’t pay closers a lot of money.”
This is the most exciting preview of any that I’ll do this Spring. In fact, this might be the only exciting one. Anthony Rizzo is going to continue to progress this year and surpass Starlin Castro as the face of the Cubs franchise. I have no idea who will play first when Rizzo isn’t standing there, but that isn’t going to be more than 20-25 games.
Again, I ran a simple linear projection for Rizzo and it is in the table below.
I feel that the runs, hits, home runs, and RBI’s are projecting low. This projection assumes that Rizzo performs at the same rate as last year, and that won’t happen. I feel all of his power numbers will be up, and because of that, his average will go down. I also believe he’ll have fewer walks and more strike outs, but he’ll be crushing the ball. Looking at Rotochamp, they also see Rizzo’s power numbers going up.
Defensively, it would be nice to see Rizzo build on what he was starting to build last year. He had a 5.3 Fangraphs UZR last year in 730+ innings. Among players with 730+ innings, he ranked 7th last year in the majors. He will also need to continue to dig out throws from Darwin Barney and Castro.
Overall, Anthony Rizzo will be the guy to watch for Cub fans this year. It will be fun to see pitchers make adjustments and him to reciprocate. I’m interested to see how his body holds up over an entire season and how he reacts to hitting slumps. Given that the Cubs are going nowhere this year, he’ll have every opportunity to learn the position and adjust to major league pitching.