Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Pirates – 04/01/13

Opening Day – Game One: Cubs (0-0) vs. Pirates (0-0)

  • Game Time – 12:35pm CDT
  • Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channels 185/844
  • Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh

Jeff Samardzija (0-0, -.–/-.–) vs. A.J. Burnett (0-0, -.–/-.–)

Chicago Cubs Baseball is on the Air! Spring Training is over … It’s Opening Day!

Weather permitting … The Cubs and Pirates kickoff their 2013 campaign this afternoon. Even if the rain holds off (30 percent chance) highs are expected to be only in the low 40s.

For the first time since 2010, the Cubs will have the same manager in the dugout on back-to-back Opening Days. Dale Sveum and his coaching staff received mixed reviews in their first season, and Sveum made changes in the off-season to his staff with the additions David Bell (third base coach) and Rob Deer (assistant hitting coach) and the Cubs removed the interim title from hitting coach James Rowson. The message and teaching will be the same for the team this season, which can only be seen as a plus.

The team itself is much different from a year ago when the Cubs hosted the Nationals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs will hand the ball to Jeff Samardzija this afternoon and Anthony Rizzo will man first base. The bench and the pitching staff as a whole is an improvement on paper from last season, now the trick is to translate the on-paper improvements to the field.

With Darwin Barney unavailable for today’s game with a trip to the DL very likely in his near future, Dale Sveum is expected to run out the following lineup:

  • David DeJesus – CF
  • Starlin Castro – SS
  • Anthony Rizzo – 1B
  • Alfonso Soriano – LF
  • Nate Schierholtz – RF
  • Welington Castillo – C
  • Luis Valbuena – 3B
  • Brent Lillibridge – 2B
  • Jeff Samardzija – P

Several Cubs are on an Opening Day roster for the first time. This will be an unforgettable day for Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Hector Rondon, and Dave Sappelt.

The Cubs have struggled with the Pirates in recent years but managed to split their 16 games (8-8) with the Battlin’ Bucs last season … and something could likely give this afternoon because the Pirates have never beaten Jeff Samardzija while A.J. Burnett has dominated various Cubs teams over his career and owns a 6-1 mark in eight starts against the Chicago Cubs.

Thanks to the schedule makers and the Cubs shutting him down in September last year, Jeff Samardzija will make his first start of the year on the same mound in which he ended his 2012 campaign. Samardzija is coming off a breakout season, and he is looking to prove that last year was not a fluke.

Samardzija posted a 9-13 record in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. Samardzija was inconsistent at best during the first half and seemed to figure things out after the break. Samardzija was just 6-8 in his first 17 starts with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP (100 strikeouts, 37 walks and 101 hits allowed in 101 1/3 innings). After the break, not only did teams hit more than 50 points lower against Samardzija (.261/.210), but he dominated lineups to the tune of a 3-5 record with a 2.58 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (80 strikeouts, 19 walks and 56 hits allowed in 73 1/3 innings).

For as good as Samardzija was a year ago, he struggled on the road (5-9 in 16 starts with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP) and that is one area he must improve on in order to take the next step in his career.

Jeff Samardzija makes his third career start this afternoon against the Battlin’ Bucs. Samardzija is 3-0 in 13 games, two starts, with a 1.16 WHIP and a 0.77 WHIP … at PNC Park, 2-0 in two starts with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.41 WHIP. Both of Samardzija’s starts against the Pirates were at PNC Park last season.

Pirates Career Numbers against Jeff Samardzija

  • Pedro Alvarez – 2-for-7 with a double
  • Clint Barmes – 0-for-7
  • Josh Harrison – 0-for-1
  • Garrett Jones – 1-for-8 with a double and a walk
  • Starling Marte – 0-for-3
  • Russell Martin – 1-for-1
  • Andrew McCutchen – 3-for-10 with two walks
  • Michael McKenry – 0-for-3
  • Gaby Sanchez – 1-for-7
  • Jose Tabata – 1-for-2
  • Neil Walker – 1-for-7 with a home run and two walks

A.J. Burnett is coming off an excellent season with the Pirates after being dealt from the Bronx to Pittsburgh. Burnett is clearly the best starter, for now, on the Pirates roster and recently said he might hang ‘em up after this year. Burnett posted a 16-11 record in 31 starts a year ago with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Burnett reached the 200-inning plateau for the first time since the 2009 season and only the second time since 2005. For as good as Burnett was, the veteran right-hander was even better at PNC Park. In 17 games, Burnett posted a 8-6 record with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.

Burnett has learned how to pitch. Burnett no longer tries to blow his fastball by hitters. Burnett has always had excellent breaking stuff, and that continued last year. Burnett struck out 180 batters in 202 1/3 innings.

A.J. Burnett has had his way with the Chicago Cubs over the years. Burnett  owns a 6-1 mark in eight starts with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP … last season, 2-1 in three starts with a 1.40 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

Cubs Career Numbers against A.J. Burnett

  • Darwin Barney – 2-for-7
  • Starlin Castro – 6-for-13
  • Steve Clevenger – 1-for-6
  • David DeJesus – 4-for-26 with a double and four walks
  • Scott Hairston – 2-for-3
  • Brent Lillibridge – 0-for-3
  • Dioner Navarro – 6-for-29 with a double
  • Anthony Rizzo – 1-for-6 with a walk
  • Nate Schierholtz – 2-for-4
  • Alfonso Soriano – 5-for-22
  • Luis Valbuena – 0-for-7 with a walk

Let’s Talk Cubs Baseball …

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Don't wish it were easier. Wish you were better." - Jim Rohn

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trevor-Petersma/565104388 Trevor Petersma

    A W on April 1 counts the same as the rest of them. Let’s start it out right! Glad to be back watching baseball, and happy there is a great forum to talk Cubs baseball. Thanks Neil and everyone else! Go Cubs.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you … and Happy Opening Day

  • cloycub13

    Happy opening day to the CCO! Another great offseason Neil and team. Always the best day of the year. Here’s to mother nature throwing us a bone and letting the snow/rain hold off for about 3 hours. As always, and most importantly today, GO CUBS GO!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you Paul

      • 07GreyDigger

        Looking forward to spending my time on this site all year. Best Cubs blog out there!

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

          Hear, hear! Will be lovin’ the chat during my work day…

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Thank you

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    It has stopped snowing in Pittsburgh, game looks to start on time according to reports.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Barney was placed on the 15-day DL, Alberto Gonzalez was added to the 40-man roster. Robert Whitenack was designated for assignment. See earlier post

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Theo met with the media a short time ago.

    Theo’s understanding is today’s a true hard deadline to reach Wrigley renovation deal and get promised improvements in time for 2014 season.

    “They’re working hard on it as we speak. Parallel fronts, I guess.”

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Today’s lineup:

    DeJesus – CF
    Castro – SS
    Rizzo – 1B
    Soriano – LF
    Schierholtz – RF
    Castillo – C
    Valbuena – 3B
    Lillibridge – 2B
    Samardzija – P

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Bruce Miles: Theo: “I feel the organization’s really unified compared to a year ago at this time.”

    • calicub

      is that a shot at some of the guys they let go, Jamarillo and Flieta?

  • paulcatanese

    And now it begins, for real. Thanks Neil for an entertaining off season, best blog on the internet.

  • paulcatanese

    Theo’s message, “A true deadline”. How cool would it be if the Cubs built a dome top stadium at another location?
    Not likely, but people can dream.
    Change the whole thing, new stadium, uniforms, and no stinken curse, everything else is new, mangement, owner,I say go for it, a complete down to the hot dogs, get it done.
    “if they build it, they will come”.

  • cc002600

    is it my imagination, or has the cubs record on opening days in the last 10 years or so been awful ? It seems to me they are always dropping the opener these last few years.

    Let’s hope for different result today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.york.52 Craig York

    Thanks Neil for getting me through the offseason! I got three words…… GO CUBS GO!!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      You’re welcome.

  • texcubnut

    Let’s do this, fellow Cubs!!!!

  • nickss

    Happy Opening Day!!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Great to hear from you Nick!

      • nick_ss

        Thanks Neil, how have things been?! Hoping to post a lot more! How have you been!

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Nick, I’ve been well. How’s the family?

          • nick_ss

            Great to hear Neil! They are doing Great, thanks!

  • John G

    RIZZO!!!!!

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Rizzo with a bomb … first homer in a Cubs’ uni this year

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Barney’s absence already felt

  • Aaron

    Happy Opening Day everyone! I’m excited for this season, and especially the draft. It won’t be long til the Cubs are competitive again…Theo and the rest of the front office, all the way down to field management are far too competitive to let the losing last very long. If they bomb in the draft/int’l signings, they’ll scrap it, and sign/trade for productive veterans, that much you can count on.

    A lot of people don’t understand the addition of Gonzalez instead of Watkins, and in year’s past, you could’ve counted me as one of that group.

    However, I trust in Theo and company, and here’s what I believe is going on…

    Gonzalez will NOT finish the season on the roster.But the Cubs have this stated goal of ensuring their position players have at least 500 ABs at AAA. If they’d gone with Watkins, not only would they have disrupted that plan, but what happens if he falls on his face at the MLB level? Then you get into the problem of the old regime where they keep burning through options, instead of signing veteran “filler” types that they can keep the whole season, then discard when hey need to do so later in the year in August or September to give a prospect a shot.

    But, here’s the caveat that I see….it seems to only apply to guys that are considered “core” or “future core” players. The reason I say that is Campana didn’t even have that, and got promoted. Whether or not they see Watkins as “core”, I really don’t know, but that appears to have been answered, as I don’t believe they would have brought up Gonzalez if he was considered core.

    I want to switch gears, however, and discuss another topic in the news of late….

    I’ve already mentioned this, but the Cubs should just abandon their plans to renovate Wrigley. Both Yankee Stadium and Wrigley were built around the same time, and the Yankees discovered the same thing the Ricketts are right now (probably), and that’s the fact that it might be less costly in the long run to build a new stadium than renovate a nearly century old ballpark. Now, you can point to the Red Sox as an example of maintaining an old park instead of building a new one, and doing it very well. And you can point to the White Sox as an example of building a new park after replacing an old, charming one, and doing it the wrong way (with a very futuristic looking park), but I highly doubt they would do it wrong.

    Like so many fans, I really appreciate the history and the feel of Wrigley. I’ve been to a lot of different parks in both the AL and NL, and with the rooftops, ‘L’ traing, view of the lake, and neighborhood, there really is no other park quite like it. Having said that, unless you take the ‘L’ train to the park (which is often overcrowded anyway), you likely have the same complaints as residents do about traffic. The neighborhood is nearly impossible to navigate through on game days if you’re driving, and parking sucks to boot.

    So, like I said, it would benefit the Ricketts, the players (getting out of an old, cramped, and crumbling park), and fans if they relocated to another area.

    My #1 choice would be Evanston, or elsewhere on the northside. All you’re doing if you choose Rosemont is replace one problem (neighborhood) with another (airport noise). Then, the park becomes just like the Mets experienced with their old stadium.

    Anyway, it’s great to start a new year filled with hope. I sincerely believe the Cubs will improve their record from last year…after all, they can’t do much worse, right?

    And btw, doesn’t it just make too much sense that our first error of the year comes at 2B with Barney out….Oh well

    • DWalker

      Thank you for the insight on Gonzalez/Watkins issue, That makes sense. I also pretty much agree with everything you wrote.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trevor-Petersma/565104388 Trevor Petersma

      Nice write-up Aaron .

    • Bob52

      Aaron, I told Neil that I have really enjoyed reading your intelligent and informed posts the last couple years. I am amazed at the research you do! I’m glad to hear you believe we are the right track to “sustained success.” I have been a Cubs fan every second of my life and can’t wait to get there.

  • Aaron

    Wow, Samardzija=Houdini

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Samardzija pitched out of the jam

  • Josh Man

    Soriano swinging at balls for strike three. Yep, baseball is back. To be fair, though, AJ appears to have some deceptive stuff today.

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

      AJ is throwing BB’s, luckily so is Shark…

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

    Runners on 1st and 3rd no outs, Valbuena strikes out. Get used to it unless Stewart comes back…

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Castillo with his second double. Good job of hitting

    • Josh Man

      The base running on the other hand…

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Well …

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

        Lol…yes

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Excellent diving stop by Lillibridge

  • GaryLeeT

    Castillo had trouble with right handed pitchers last year, so it was nice to see him put some good swings on a decent pitcher like Burnett.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Good to see him go to right as well, only went the opposite way once last year with an extra basehit.

  • GaryLeeT

    If Samardzija is on a pitch count, I wonder what it is. 100?

  • Aaron

    I really hope the Cubs find another solution at 3B early on. Valbuena is not the answer. He plays good defense, and he occasionally (strong emphasis on that word) hits the ball hard, but he is NOT a very good hitter. I still don’t understand why the Cubs haven’t claimed Zach Cox. I guess his defense might be scaring them off. But the Cubs can ill afford to keep going with glove-men at a premium offensive position. They already have Stewart (all defense at this point in his career), Valbuena, and Lillibridge for 3B. None of them offer much of anything offensively.

    Vitters will be released or traded if he doesn’t perform early on, and Baez is at least a year away from being brought up, so they need to look outside the organization for a young 3B.

    • Bredstik

      I too am hoping they’ll give Cox a look. I remember being disappointed when the Cubs didn’t draft him and he went a few picks later to the Cardinals.
      That being said, I’m thinking there must be a reason that he’s been released by 2 organizations already at such a young age.

      • Aaron

        re: the trade to the Marlins, the Cards were trying to make the playoffs and got reliever Mujica from the Marlins. The Cards needed a reliever for the stretch run, and had to make that deal, plus Cox was really struggling at AAA at the time (well, in comparison to what the Cards expect…if he were on the Cubs, it’d be a different story). The MarlinDFA’d him, I believe because he had to be on the 40-man, and they didn’t think he could cut it. With the Cubs, he’d be an instant upgrade over what they currently have, but the reality is, he probably needs more time at AAA

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Rizzo with an excellent play

    • calicub

      Rizzo’s been absolutely solid today

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Castro with a good play, didn’t rush his throw

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Another excellent play by Castro

    • Josh Man

      And great stretch by Rizzo.

  • John G

    The Shark is pitching really well. But I’m surprised he’s still in there. 100+ pitches, this early in the year and in this cold weather, may not be a good idea, even though he is pitching strong.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      He threw 110 pitches in his first start last year

  • John K

    So does he pitch the 9th as well?

    • John G

      Marmol — Arrrrghhhh
      I’m not sure I can watch this.

      • John K

        Don’t – it’s less painful. … They’ve already scored a run.

  • GaryLeeT

    Great stats a plenty from Samardzija, but 13 ground outs, and zero flyouts? Wow.

  • Josh Man

    Great start by the Shark! Looked like an Ace!

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

    Sounds like Shark has been an absolute beast. As of the end of the 8th, Moreland could think of one hard hit ball…

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Dominant

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Very good debut for Schierholtz – reached base all four times

  • Josh Man

    Please, Marmol, throw strikes!

  • Aaron

    I know it’s not exactly rocket science, but I’m predicting a Marmol implosion today, and if that happens, he will be released/traded very early on this season, even if they have to eat 99% of his contract….

    As always with him, I hope I’m wrong, but the last 2 years would appear to make me spot on

    • John

      Aaron,
      It’s only the 3rd batter, but you are already right. … If another guy gets on they better yank him.

  • BosephHeyden

    Hey look, it’s Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. This usually works out, right?

  • John K

    Thank you G. Jones for swinging at that 45 foot pitch!

  • John G

    How predictable is this?

  • Dorasaga

    Marmol’s the Man. They blasted Soriano on the back; he paid them back on their cleanup hitter… Well, that wasn’t a good pitch, oh well, 2 runs to cushion.

    • BosephHeyden

      That didn’t seem intentional…it just seemed like a really bad pitch.

  • Josh Man

    Ugh!!!

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Get Marmol out of there … sorry everyone, would not have the patience to leave him in.

    • Josh Man

      I wish we had already traded him. I’ve never felt this unsure of a 3 run lead in the 9th. For every other closer in baseball it is practically guaranteed, for Marmol no lead is safe.

    • BosephHeyden

      I thought they signed Fujikawa for this sole reason: fill in when Marmol eventually imploded. Russell just doesn’t seem like the best choice here. I know Walker sucked against lefties last year, but that was not a great sample size.

      • John G

        You were right. I hope to see a lot more of him.

  • John G

    My guess is that Samardzia is arrested later today for assault and battery on a teammate.

  • John K

    THANK YOU!!! … Hopefully it wasn’t done too late

    • Aaron

      I think it might’ve been done too late

  • Aaron

    Amen! Even if they lose, Sveum finally showed balls and yanked Marmol before he had a chance to walk the bases loaded, walk in a run, then give up a grand slam, which strangely seems like a memory from last year. The Pirates will probably still win, as I predicted, but at least the rest of the team did their job with defense and starting pitching…the hitting still sucks balls (remember runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs?)

  • Denver Mike

    I can’t stream mlbTV on my work computer so I’m listening to the WGN feed and I’m so thankful I don’t have to watch this. Didn’t Marmol blow Game 1 last year too?

  • John K

    Cubs have a new closer … that’s all I needed to see.

    • Dorasaga

      Showdown with Kyuji the Baseball Kid!

  • John G

    QJ!! Our new closer.
    Get the balloons out.

    • Dorasaga

      I never liked the balloons. But Japanese cleaning crew always has the best efficiency on field. Baseball Kid cleaned up Senior Nasty’s mess this time :-)

  • Josh Man

    CUBS WIN!!! CUBS WIN!!!

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Cubs beat the Pirates 3-1 on Opening Day – Jeff
    Samardzija: 0R, 2H, BB, 9K in 8IP (110 pitches, 71 for strikes); Rizzo: 1-4, HR, 2RBI; Castro: 2-4, R, SB;
    Castillo: 2-4, 2 2B, RBI; Schierholtz: 1-2, R, HBP, BB, SB; Fujikawa with the
    save

  • Aaron

    I believe the save should go 1/3 to Russell, 1/3 to Fujikawa, and a big 1/3 to Sveum…I thought about giving 1/2 to Fujikawa and 1/2 to Sveum, but Russell did a great job as well. The clock on Marmol’s career is officially counting down. Not one single team was interested in him this offseason, other than the Angels, who wanted to dump a broken pitcher on the Cubs. I bet Theo and Jed would like to have that decision back at this point, considering what’s happened to their rotation with Baker and Garza out, and a giant question mark with Feldman.

    • John G

      Is there a stat that shows what Marmol almost did? Can’t he get 1/2 a blown save, or something?

      • Dorasaga

        Yes, John, WPA/LI. It basically measures how much a mess a pitcher created. The more baserunners and late inning implosion WHILE the less the pitcher created a share of the win of each game, the more negative this number (win-probability added divided by leverage index).

        And Marmol ranks one of the last in 2012, a whopping -0.69 for the Cubs, only ahead of the “C.C.” Coleman and Corpas.

        FYI, Mariano Rivera’s WPA/LI was a positive 6.13 between 2009-2012 (he didn’t play last year due to injury).

        Marmol was 1.11 for the same span. Clearly, the WPA/LI favors the Hall of Famer.

  • GaryLeeT

    I’m glad to see the “sink or swim with Marmol in the 9th” era is over.

  • BosephHeyden

    “Marmol is still our closer” is the new “Rex is still our quarterback”.

  • John G

    Neil, I know this sounds stupid, but when was the last time the Cubs were in 1st Place?

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      If memory serves, the Cubs began a 3-game series in Cincy on August 1, 2009 tied for first place/

      • John G

        I looked it up. It’s hard to believe, but we were actually in first (or tied) on April 20, 2011.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tintin.rex.73 TinTin Rex

    La Nacion Representa, Ganaron Los Cachorros!!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/tintin.rex.73 TinTin Rex

      First place and unbeaten ha!

      • http://www.facebook.com/tintin.rex.73 TinTin Rex

        BTW: The FB login gives me a makeover but I’m still Agustin Rexach

        • SuzyS

          Thank God for that!!!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Good to hear from you Agustin, I knew it was you.

  • SuzyS

    First Place feels good…even if it is only for a day!!!
    Go Cubs!!! Thanks for all the great comments…and Neil…Thanks for the great site!!!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you Suzy