What a Week … Notes after the Cubs First Six Games

The first six games of the season were anything but boring for the Chicago Cubs. On the field, the Cubs played decent ball at times but the first six games were filled with inconsistency and miscues.

The Cubs offense struggled for the most part, especially with runners on base, with the exception of Starlin Castro. Castro picked up where he left off in the spring and posted a .400/.444/.640/1.084 slash line with two doubles and two triples (10-for-25 with six runs scored). Castro made several highlight reel plays on the field as well as ones that proved he is a 21-year old learning to play the game at the big league level.

Matt Garza had a wild debut and Ryan Dempster lost his first two starts of the season. Unfortunately, the first week of the 2011 season will be remembered for the Cubs placing Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells on the DL … on the same day.

As Mike Quade pointed out, the Cubs were in every game and could easily be 5-1 instead of 3-3. Here are a few random notes and observations from the first six games …

Alfonso Soriano had a solid week at the plate (.273/.333/.682/1.015, 6-for-22). Soriano hit three home runs (all three led off an inning) and walked twice with four strikeouts. Soriano hit the ball to right field, which is a good sign. In the field was another story. “The Misadventures of Alfonso Soriano in Left Field” continued and added a couple of ugly chapters.

Randy Wells was the only starter to post a win and looked sharp. Hopefully Wells can pickup where he left off in a month … or so.

Carlos Pena was as advertised … excellent glove and patient at the plate. The clubhouse philosopher walked (3) as many times as he struck out (3) and just missed a grand slam last Sunday. Pena is also hovering at the Mendoza Line with a .200/.357/.300/.657 first four games in a Cubs’ uniform.

The Cubs scored 26 runs in the first six games … they also allowed 26 runs.

All six games were decided by three runs or less and they are 1-1 in one-run games.

The most runs the Cubs scored in a single game was six … the most runs they allowed in a single game was six.

The Cubs were charged with six errors, tied for second most in the National League. Q’s squad also turned six double plays, tied for fourth most in the National League.

Cubs pitching struck out a league leading 55 batters.

Matt Garza struck out a career high 12 batters in his Cubs debut … Garza also allowed a career high 12 hits. Garza was in line for the win but Carlos Marmol could not find the strike zone.

Tyler Colvin looked good at first base. Colvin hit a homer and notched a single in 15 trips to the plate.

The Cubs are the only team in the majors without a stolen base. Darwin Barney made the Cubs only attempt on Opening Day and was thrown out at second base.

Starlin Castro did not swing and miss a ball until the third inning of Wednesday’s game.

The backend of the pen appears it will be solid despite Marmol’s blown save. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall did their jobs for the most part. Unless the offense and defense improves, all three figure to rack up high stress innings all season.

Geovany Soto was very good behind the plate.

Jeff Samardzija still cannot throw strikes … but at least he realizes it and worked on his mechanics following Tuesday’s outing.

James Russell is very good against left-handed hitters … right-handers not so much.

Aramis Ramirez was very good at the plate over the first six games (.333/.440/.524/.964 with a double, a home run, four walks and no strikeouts). On the bases and in the field, that’s another story.

Andrew Cashner pitched the way the Cubs hoped he would … and hopes he does again in the very near future. Cashner was excellent in his first big league start.

Ryan Dempster 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP to start the season, really?

.357/.526/.357/.833 slash line for Kosuke Fukudome in his first five games of the season.

Cubs Team Page on Baseball-Reference

The Cubs begin a difficult nine-game road trip (three in Milwaukee, three in Houston and three in Colorado) Friday night. The Cubs were 40-41 on the road last season. How will Q’s squad perform away from Wrigley Field this year?

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Quote of the Day

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else." - Charles Dickens
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  • Tom U

    An Opening Night sweep (sort of):

    Peoria Chiefs 2 Cedar Rapids 2 (game suspended)

    D-Cubs 3 Brevard County 2

    Tennessee 12 Chattanooga 4

    I-Cubs 12 Round Rock 9

    Line on Hayden Simpson:

    3.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 1BB

    • Matt

      How did Brett Jackson and a Josh Vitters do yesterday Tom?

      • Aaron

        I know you asked Tom, but thought I’d post:

        Vitters:3-for-5
        Jackson: 2-for-4
        Flaherty: 2-for-3

        • Aaron

          Here are some other notables:
          Burgess: 1-4, 1 hr, 1 RBI
          Cerda: 3-5, 1 double, 2 RBI
          Szczur: 1-4
          M. Smith: 2-4, 2 RBI

          Curiously absent from Opening Day in the minor league season was Trey McNutt. I thought for sure he was the Opening Day starter at AA. I’m starting to wonder if the Cubs have plans for him to take one of Wells or Cashner’s spots…..or, the more likely thing is he’s still hurt. Even today, the probable for the Smokies is listed as TBD….which makes the Garza trade look even worse if that’s the case.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Aaron, Gillispie said last night that Rafael Dolis and Trey McNutt will follow Chris Rusin in the Smokies rotation.

    • Matt

      How did Brett Jackson and a Josh Vitters do yesterday Tom?

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Matt, I know you asked Tom … Jackson also walked a couple of times and Vitters made a fine defensive play at third. I listened to Mick Gillispie’s call on the Smokies new iPhone app. Clevenger played a good game as well.

        • Aaron

          free app?

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Yes. Available on iTunes. The Chiefs have one as well.

          • Matt

            What is the name of that app Neil

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Go to iTunes and search the app store for Tennessee Smokies and Peoria Chiefs. They will pop up

        • cubtex

          Nice to hear Vitters made a good defensive play! It would be nice for him to stick at 3rd and be the Cubs 3rd baseman next year!

    • Tom U

      Sorry for getting back so late, but I thought I would post those results before I went to work.

      Thanks to Aaron and Neil for picking up the ball.

      Aaron, it wasn’t that curious about McNutt not starting on opening day. It was safe for a new manager to start an experienced player in that spot.

      Brett Jackson did bat lead off.

      The most impressive night might have been from the I-Cubs’ Ty Wright. Wright went 3-4 with a HR, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI.

      In an interesting development, the Chiefs are lining up converted outfielders Greg Rohan and Anthony Giansanti at third base.

  • paulcatanese

    Neil,very informative post to say the least. You have pointed out what appears to be a typical Cub beginning for the year. Up and down with no consistancy. It is ironic how the numbers match, good and bad, but then the Cubs wouldn’t have it any other way. Soriono,and this is a stretch,,he seems to be off to a decent start (not his defense) with the bat. Why not when he has to play, place him in the leadoff spot. Again he seems to be on a tear leading off the inning? I know this is a stretch and just a thought. Pedro M is another.

    • nick_ss

      Paul, I know many on here will not agree, but I am completely agree with you. In ’07 & ’08 when Sori lead off we made the playoffs, since we have moved him out of that spot we haven’t. Obviously I know that there are a Ton of other factors that have kept us out of the post season, but in my opinion, unless we bring up Jackson or put Castro there, he would be our best option. I guess I just don’t see how it could hurt!

    • cubtex

      What about Casro until Jackson is ready? I would rather have Castro lead the team in at bats than anyone else on the team. He went 3-4 with 2 triples one game at leadoff and Q took him out of that spot. Huh? Put Byrd in the 2 hole and if Rami won’t move to 3, try Colvin and leave him there for a couple of weeks. Colvin will get pitched to since Rami is hitting behind him and will see more fastballs.

      • paulcatanese

        That would be great, and I agree with Castro in the leadoff spot, but then Quade has optioned not to go that way. Fukudome is the other, but thats the same as Soriono there an on again off again thing. Of course if Jackson is here he would be my first choice,but who knows when the Cubs think he is ready. I think the state of the team right now,today would be a good time to bring him up. Until then, given that Castro is not being offered that spot,Soriono and Fukudome are the best options.

      • Aaron

        Finally something we agree on. I couldn’t agree more with you on your comments. 3-4 with 2 triples in one game at lead-off, I was wondering the same thing, and even said it’d be sooooooooooo Cub-like for Quade to move him down the next day, which is PRECISELY what he did.

        I cannot stand Byrd in the 3-hole. #1, he doesn’t have enough power to hit out of there, and he almost never sees a pitch he doesn’t like. In that spot, you either have to be a patient hitter, or you better have some power, and he has neither.

        Given everything the Cubs have, I think the best lineup might be (in April):
        Fukudome-RF (b/c you have to get the best of him early before sitting him)
        Castro-SS
        Pena-1B
        ARAM-3B
        Colvin-LF
        Soto-C
        Byrd-CF
        Barney-2B

        *bench is: Hill, Baker, Soriano, Johnson, and DeWitt

        In May, the Cubs should switch to this:
        Castro-SS
        Byrd-CF
        Pena-1B
        ARAM-3B
        Colvin-RF
        Soto-C
        Soriano-LF
        Barney-2B

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

        He started as a leadoff guy against a LEFTY that Fukudome would not have started against anyway. I think that the Baker experiment against a left hander is done and now it will be Castro in that spot until Jackson is ready.

        I do not think that Jackson will be brought up and automatically put in the leadoff spot. He will bat in the lower 3rd until he proves he can handle big league pitching. So we might see a lot of Castro leading off if they move Koske.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Sam Fuld had a good game vs. White Sox yesterday. Walked and stole second and third in the first inning, and in the third inning, he singled and stole second base. He also made a fine defensive play on Paul Konerko in the OF. He has only had 9 AB, but he has 4 SB and 0 CS.

    • paulcatanese

      I really thought he got a bum rap with the Cubs, the best defensive outfielder they had when I watched him play. I realize he didn’t have the power taht the Cubs looked for,but he would have certainly helped with the leadoff spot that they desperately have a need for. I am happy he is doing well. You have been posting on him on a regular basis, thank you for that,I liked him also.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Spilled milk. Who cares what Rays players do?

      • Last_ginger

        he also misplayed a ball that lead to 2 runs

        • paulcatanese

          Well beat me bloody with a wet noodle. I stand corrected as I have never seen a Cub outfielder mis-play a ball. Actually take your’e choice, they all have. Plus Fuld has more stolen bases in one game than all the Cubs put together.

  • studio179

    “Jeff Samardzija still cannot throw strikes … but at least he realizes it and worked on his mechanics following Tuesday’s outing.”

    I for one am glad he realizes he can not throw strikes. But still working on mechanics…yet again? Do that in the minors. But since he is out of options, we are stuck watching a minor leaguer in the bigs. Samardzija is not a starter and not a closer. He is not a set up man or even a long man. He is a one to two inning middle reliever at best. Right now, not even that. Yet, he was drafted and paid to be much more. So the Cubs are trying to squeeze every ounce of hope that he gets it and everything clicks. I just do not have any more faith that Samardzija puts it together. At least not here with the Cubs, maybe elsewhere.

    I understand management is not going to cut the guy in April. He does not belong on the roster, but I get why they want to exhaust all opportunities on their investment. I just wonder how long they feel they can carry him. It’s to the point that if I see Samardzija pitch (or if they call up Berg again) I will do something else but watch the game. I don’t wish ill will on the guy, but enough already! At this point in his career, he gets it or not.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Shark should only pitch if we’re up by 10 or down by 10…

      • Ripsnorter1

        Correction: Only if we are down by 10 in the 8th . . . .

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          True…never with a lead

    • paulcatanese

      The Shark isn’t the only one that is being paid for poor performance, dont forget Grabow and of course Hill.

  • Ripsnorter1

    It’s a fact: Marquez Smith can hit the ball.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

      That was never in doubt I just hope he learns to field it. He should have made the club this spring though.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Aaron,
    Let’s go get Lastings Milledge and cut Johnson

    • Aaron

      I agree, but not going to happen. That opportunity passed them by as soon as Hendry signed Johnson….even to a minor league contract, which, I think everyone would agree they knew was an almost certainty he’d make the team, and we now know, based on comments by Hendry and Quade that had Ojeda and Wellemeyer not been injured, they would’ve made the team…..so there’s almost no chance the Cubs, at least under Hendry, will ever sign players in their mid 20’s to minor league contracts with an invite to Spring Training.

      As I said at the time, which would you rather have?

      Looper or Jay Jackson?
      Wellemeyer or Casey Coleman?
      Ojeda or Scott Moore, Tony Thomas (this was prior to the trade), or Matt Camp?
      Johnson or Milledge/Hermida/M. Cabrera/Franceour/Chris Carter?
      K. Hill or Castillo/Clevenger/Ramirez?

      Obviously this is all hypothetical, but it is my firm belief that if you took a poll of fan’s across baseball, and you presented the same options to them, they’d almost certainly choose the younger players. Why? Because the veterans have already reached their ceilings, and are on the downside of their career either due to performance or injury issues.

      Milledge would be a great option, and I don’t buy the fact that he’s a poor performer or has attitude issues. He might’ve had attitude issues in the past, but the White Sox (and even the Pirates whom he played for last year) had nothing but good things to say about his attitude and his effort.

      Hell, the same people that have bashed me for wanting Milledge and cited attitude issues in the past, are the same people who supported the Garza trade when he had attitude issues in the past (and still does, as we saw in Spring Training). . You can’t have it both ways.

      Milledge vs Johnson….I take Milledge EVERY time. If it were Johnson around 26-27 years old, I’d take him, but he’s 34 years old now, and clearly on the decline.

      If you want to give Soriano or Byrd a break, are you really comfortable putting Johnson out there? I guess you could make a case that in the early going this year with Fukudome having his annual hot start in April, you could put Colvin in LF or CF to give them a break, and you wouldn’t need Johnson, but once Fukudome cools off in May, it’d probably be wise to have someone that can get the job done, and fill in on a daily basis if necessary. Milledge would be great for that.