Monday, April 6, 2015

Cubs Drop First Game of 2015

While an eye surgery prevented me from being online much for the past month or so, I guess it really just helped me to avoid wasting a bunch of time writing and talking about Kris Bryant and Scott Boras. But the season has now begun, and even with a 3-0 Chicago Cubs loss in the opening game, I'm so glad spring training is finally over.

Below are a few thoughts about the Opening Night disaster:

Adam Wainwright. First and foremost, he deserves all credit. The Cubs lineup is going to struggle against the league's top pitching, and he's as good as anyone else. This Cubs team is going to have games with double digit strikeout totals, so last night's 12 is not surprising at all. Clearly, Wainwright was ready. On the other hand...

Jon Lester wasn't ready. I know starting on Opening Day is an honor and is symbolic of much more than just the one start. But Lester clearly needed a little more time. Jake Arrieta easily could've filled in. I don't know if Lester should've just started on the DL or simply skipped a turn, but I guess his next start will give us a better idea. I hope he gets into season shape soon, but if that's a bad start for Lester, it's still exciting.

This Cubs bullpen is serious. It wasn't all bad last night, and we got a great look at how scary the pitching staff can be for opposing lineups. When you can bring in Coke, Motte, Ramirez, Strop, and Rondon, you have to feel pretty confident that you will be able to shut teams down on a fairly consistent basis. The bullpen gave the offense every chance to come back. Of course, the Cardinals bullpen was just as good.

So... How will Maddon adjust? The Cubs had chances, and one loss will not end the season. But what will the team do differently now? In four of the first five innings, the Cubs led off the inning with a hit. Only one hitter (Soler) managed to successfully move a runner over on the next plate appearance. One out of four is unacceptable, and it negates any edge you're trying to give yourself through strategies like hitting the pitcher in the 8th spot. In the NL particularly, moving those runners over is crucial. Obviously, if Maddon helps these players make adjustments, then the loss last night is a helpful learning tool.

Can the Opening Night lineup really work? Personally, I didn't love it, but I'm not paid millions to manage the team. I'm OK with hitting the pitcher 8th, but I still think Coghlan would be better hitting 2nd, pushing Soler, Rizzo, and Castro each back one spot. Of course, adding Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the top six spots in the lineup would also help, although I'm sure I'll write a lot about that as the year goes on.

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