Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Dodgers – 08/03/12

Game One Hundred Four: Cubs (43-60) vs. Dodgers (56-50)
Game Time – 9:10pm CDT
Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channel 185/914
Location – Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Jeff Samardzija (7-8, 4.19/1.31) vs. Chad Billingsley (6-9, 3.89/1.35)

After a stretch of 29 games dating back to June 25 in which the Cubs posted a 19-10 record, the Cubs dropped the final two games of the homestand to the Pirates. The Cubs showed life at the end of Wednesday’s game and will look to get back on track tonight.

The Cubs begin a very difficult six-game West Coast trip with the first of three against the Dodgers. The trip concludes Wednesday after with the last of three in San Diego. The Cubs played good ball against both the Dodgers and Padres earlier this season at Wrigley Field.

Dale Sveum’s team took two of three from the Dodgers at Wrigley in May (May 4-May 6) … but they will face a much-different Dodgers’ team over the next three days. Matt Kemp was also hampered during the series and was unable to play in Sunday’s finale. After surviving and thriving for a majority of the season with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and the rest of the roster, Don Mattingly can now fill out a lineup card that includes Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino. The Dodgers enter play tonight a half game back of the Giants in the West. The Dodgers are 29-23 at home this season while the Cubs are only 16-36 outside of Wrigley.

The Cubs have not fared too well against the three starters they will face this weekend. After tonight’s matchup of Jeff Samardzija and Chad Billingsley, Chris Volstad will oppose Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night with Justin Germano facing Aaron Harang in the finale on Sunday afternoon.

Matt Garza was penciled in to take the hill in tonight’s opener against the Dodgers but after a bullpen session, and with missing time for the birth of his fourth child, Garza has been pushed to at least Tuesday. With Garza unable to go, Dale Sveum will turn to his next best option Jeff Samardzija.

In other news … According to multiple reports, Dale Sveum and the front office were expected to discuss the roster during Thursday’s off day. Several reports suggested that Josh Vitters and/or Brett Jackson could soon be called up from Triple-A Iowa. The shuttle between Iowa and Chicago should be very busy over the next month before rosters expand.

A report from the Sun-Times late Thursday afternoon indicated the Cubs could be looking at adding Derek Lowe to the roster. The Indians designated Lowe for assignment earlier in the week and the Cubs have very few starting pitching options … plus there is an obvious relationship between Lowe and the Cubs’ front office.

Tonight it all starts with Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija is coming off a no decision in his last outing. Samardzija gave up two runs on three hits to the Cardinals and was lifted after six due in large part to issuing a season-high six walks and striking out seven batters. Samardzija has pitched a lot better of late but still needs to work on his consistency. While Samardzija has only one win to show for his efforts over his last three outings (1-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP), the Cubs have won all three games.

After just a miserable June (0-4 in five starts with a 10.41 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP), Samardzija posted a 2-1 record in five starts last month with a 1.91 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

Samardzija missed the Dodgers back in May at Wrigley and is 1-0 in two career relief appearances against the Dodgers with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.00 WHIP … five strikeouts in 3 1/3 perfect innings. Samardzija has pitched in just one game, two innings, at Dodger Stadium in his career.

Dodgers Career Numbers against Jeff Samardzija

  • Andre Ethier – 0-for-2
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. – 0-for-1
  • Matt Kemp – 0-for-1
  • James Loney – 0-for-1
  • Hanley Ramirez – 6-for-12 with a double
  • Juan Uribe – 0-for-2
  • Shane Victorino – 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run and a walk

Chad Billingsley had a good month of July and will make his first start at Dodger Stadium in just over a month tonight. Billingsley tossed 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball in his last start against the Giants. Billingsley gave up just four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out two.

Billingsley posted a 2-2 record in his last four starts with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP … in his last two, 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Billingsley has been much better on the road (5-5 in 11 starts with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP) than at home (1-4 in nine starts with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP) this year.

The Cubs beat Chad Billingsley back on May 4. The Cubs scored four runs on eight hits over six innings (three walks and four strikeouts). For his career, Billingsley is 4-4 in 11 career appearances, nine starts, against the Cubs with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.

Cubs Career Numbers against Chad Billingsley

  • Jeff Baker – 2-for-3 with a double
  • Darwin Barney – 3-for-10 with a double
  • Tony Campana – 0-for-2 with a walk
  • David DeJesus – 3-for-4 with a double and a triple
  • Bryan LaHair – 0-for-3
  • Joe Mather – 2-for-3 with a home run
  • Anthony Rizzo – 1-for-5
  • Alfonso Soriano – 5-for-23 with a double and two walks

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …

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Quote of the Day

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  • Tom U

    Hello to everyone at the CCO, back from some quality time with the family. Here are tonight’s minor league starters:

    Boise – Jose Arias (2-2, 3.21)
    Peoria – Yao-Lin Wang (3-3, 3.13)
    Daytona – Kyler Burke (1-4, 4.38)
    Tennessee – Nick Struck (11-10, 3.71)
    Iowa – Ryan Rowland-Smith (2-3, 4.44)

    News and other comments:

    Congratulations to Iowa pitcher Brooks Raley and Peoria SS Javier Baez for being named minor league pitcher and player of the month respectively.

    A belated congratulations to Greg Rohan on his promotion to Iowa. If anyone has truly earned a promotion, it is Rohan.

    A response to cc002600: I mentioned Logan Watkins about a week ago as one of 5 players that have deserved a promotion (along with Justin Bour, Frank Batista, Rubi Silva, and Matt Loosen). His numbers are more than comparable the teammate Junior Lake, and he is considered an outstanding defender at both 2B and CF, as well as above average at SS.

    I’m happy with all the trades, because, from my perspective, they are addition by subtraction.

    Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity, Tim Saunders is batting .310 for Daytona in the absence of Arismendy Alcantara.

    I like what I see from Mesa’s outfield of Shawon Dunston Jr., Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler. Ditto for the DP combination of Carlos Penalver and Dan Lockhart.

  • Tom U

    Dillon Maples starts his second game for Mesa tonight.

    • DWalker

      Who does CB have incriminating photo’s of that he keeps his job?

      • BosephHeyden

        It’s called “tenure”. It’s a great concept for some lines of work, but with major league umpires, it simply means the guy who should’ve been fired years ago will continue to have a job he’s drastically under-qualified for until he decides otherwise.

        • Neil

          Nice turn on the double play

          • Ripsnorter1

            I was just perusing LaHair’s stats….

            277 AB with 102 K’s for the year! It is utterly amazing that his BA is over .200. It really is.

            He hit just .194 for July in 62 AB…..1 extra base hit all month long, a HR, with 3 RBI for the month….

            His BA has dropped each succeeding month as well as RBIs…

            It would be nice to see someone else get a shot at playing. What other AAAA player do we have that we might watch for awhile?

        • paulcatanese

          Agree Boseph, and he totaly was gutless on the ball
          that LaHair hit down the right field line, clearly foul,
          didnt have the guts to overule the 1st base ump.

  • Neil

    LaHair with a leaping grab against the wall … nice reaction from Samardzija

  • RynoTiger

    unfortunately Lahair and Clevenger together in the lineup is simply saying “here’s 2 automatic outs”…such a shame

    • paulcatanese

      Agree Ryno, LaHair has not been the same since moving to the outfield, and Clevenger lost whatever stroke he had after his injury.

  • Ripsnorter1

    While LaHair is a veritable strikeout machine, Rizzo has fanned a mere 14 times in 117 AB. That’s fantastic. Looking at his splits I find he is hitting LHP at just a .216 clip in 37 AB….meanwhile he is raking vs RHP at a .363 clip with a .414 OBP to boot.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Valbuena….had an awful July. It was refreshing, when he first arrived from AAA Iowa, to have a 3rd Baseman who could actually hit the ball on occasion. Stewart was so very bad that it felt like we had an All-Star at 3rd base for a few weeks….then July happened….176 BA with 0 HR and just 4 2Bs…the opposing scouts have found his weaknesses.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Castro had one of the worst months of his entire career in July. .235 was the worst month since Sept, 2010, his rookie year. He hit .215 in 79 AB that year. .264 in June, 2012 with his .235 in July, 2012, represent his very worst two months ever. He’s never gone more than one month not hitting .300+ for the month.

        Castro’s entire offensive game is off right now. He didn’t even steal one base in July. He stole 10 in April, 5 in May, and only 1 in June. He’s been gunned down his last 5 tries….

        He is not walking more, either. 6 BB in July is not his all-time high. He did fan “only” 14x in July, down from 20 K’s in June.

        • Tony_Hall

          I guess it depends on how you look at the numbers…here is a breakdown I found on Castro’s year, that shows how even though his average is lower he has made improvements in other areas, that show that he is developing just fine.

          “Starlin Castro’s offensive output has been falling since Opening Day. By month, his OPS is down from .784 in April — which is already almost not that good — to .763, to .711, to .687 in July. So much for Anthony Rizzo helping him out over the past 31 days.
          That said, I think Castro is improving his core skill set as a hitter this year, and love what I see in a few key trends. How can this be when his OPS has simultaneously fallen from decent to, uhh, no thank you? Let’s look at five key stats, all viewable in graph form here: (Thanks, Fangraphs!)

          1. ISO
          This is the biggie. For those unfamiliar, ISO measures raw power by removing singles from a hitter’s slugging percentage and isolating extra-base hits. To calculate ISO, one subtracts AVG from SLG, leaving only the extra bases earned with the bat. The most powerful hitters can approach .300; for example, David Ortiz is batting .316 this season, and slugging .609, giving him the league’s second-best ISO at .294. Hitters without power tend to be at or below .100; Ichiro’s .095 ISO this year is a good example.

          So where is Castro on this scale? In short, he’s climbing the ladder. His ISOs this season by month: .100, .148, .145, .173. And to be even more selective about my small sample, since the break he’s at .203. Like I said, climbing. This is especially good to see because he put up a .108 in his rookie year, and a .125 in 2011. And if he’s going to be a formidable hitter he needs power. I’d love to see him maintain that .200-ish ISO over the balance of 2012, as I’m sure would the guys in the Cub front office and the other fans in the stands.

          2. K and BB
          These two we can discuss at the same time; let’s start with strikeouts. When Castro was only putting up .108 in ISO, it was important that he cover the plate well and frequently put the ball in play to maintain his offensive value. Fortunately he was able to achieve this in 2010, putting up a 14% K-rate on the year, just under Derek Jeter (Juan Pierre was just above 6%, but most of the league leaders were between 9% and 14%). That rate went down a hair in 2011, before climbing this year — through June 16 (an admittedly arbitrary date), his rate was up above 18%, with 51 Ks in 281 PAs.
          You might think it a consequence of his adding power — except that over the past month and change the trend has reversed. Maybe it’s too small a sample size to take anything from, but since that game on June 16 Castro’s K rate is down to 11.6%, with just 18 Ks in 155 PAs.
          Meanwhile, his walk rate — which fell from 5.7% in 2010, to 4.9% in ’11, to 3.7% over 2012 — is up to 8.3% over those same past 155 PAs. Both encouraging stuff.

          3. BABIP and GB%
          There’s never been any reason to worry about Castro’s BABIP; he was up near .350 for about 1,000 PAs to start his pro career. But over the first four months of 2012: .380, .333, .310, .238. A .238 in July! That’s bad! He was above .333 in every month in 2011 save one (.305), and did put up a couple of .270s in his rookie year. But .238! It stands out.
          The culprit appears to be a result in batted balls, with Castro’s groundball rate climbing dramatically over the last several weeks (refer back to the graphs at Fangraphs, unfortunately I can’t find this in number form split up into months). I don’t know if that’s a random thing? I’m not that smart. But maybe it is? On the full year, anyway, Castro’s batted ball types for 2012 are essentially identical to 2012. So maybe he’s just been unlucky this month — which would explain the decreased output in terms of OPS, despite the fact that his power is increasing and his K/BB numbers are both moving in the right direction.
          Those are, I think, the numbers behind the final output statistics that matter more. I hope you agree that there are some encouraging signs here, despite the fact that Castro’s OPS has been in decline since day one of this season.”

      • Ripsnorter1

        Derek Lowe….why?

        I don’t care who is his friend…..119 IP with 156 H….hitters mashing his offerings at a .321 clip…LHB hitting .353 off of him and slugging .538…..Wrigley in August should be perfect for him. The man has walked more batters than he has fanned all year..45 to 41…..1.689 WHIP.

        Let’s compare him to Doug Davis’ stint with the Cubs’ last year….

        BAA….Davis was better at .314 vs. .321
        RHB….Davis was better with .310 clip…
        LHB…Davis was better with .326 clip…
        BB/K…Davis was better with a 26/36 ratio…
        WHIP….Lowe was better 1.689 vs 1.861….
        Slugging…Davis was better .404 vs .440

        I hope they don’t sign this guy.
        And yes I’m tired of Rodrigo Lopez, Casey Coleman and Chris Volstad. But Lowe has no future, so why bother?

        • J Daniel

          He will help in obtaining the top pick in next years draft. Also shows they are tired of Lopez, Coleman, and Volstad.

  • Neil

    Good hustle by Barney and nice double from Valbuena

  • Neil

    Soriano is having a rough game … two mental mistakes in the sixth.

    • Neil

      Cubs lost 6-1 to Dodgers on Friday night – Jeff Samardzija:
      5R,8H,0BB,3K,5.1IP; Darwin Barney: 1-for-4,R; Luis Valbuena: 1-for-3,2B,RBI; Cubs: 4H, 4BB

      • paulcatanese

        Classic: Barney after scoring from first base was sitting in the dugout next to LaHair gasping for breath, Brently;” theres Barney
        sitting in the dugout breathing the brown air to get his breath back”.

  • Neil

    Tonight’s lineup:

    DeJesus – CF
    Castro – SS
    Rizzo – 1B
    Soriano – LF
    LaHair – RF
    Clevenger – C
    Barney – 2B
    Valbuena – 3B
    Samardzija – P