First preview series repeat, normally I would not bother but I found out some info on Dar Bar and Pena, and I couldn't wait to write about the home run tendency's of the first two pitchers we will face. When we last faced this staff a mere 10 days ago, the Dodgers torched the pitching staff for 27 runs in only three games. The Dodgers have scored more then seven runs only twice and both those games were against the Cubs.
Season Series: Dodgers 2 - 1
Manager: Mike Quade (12-15) Lifetime (36-28)
No longer are the Cubs doing the great lose one, win one dance, as they have gone 2 - 4 since we last saw them.
1st Base- Carlos Pena is still not hitting, has one extra base hit in 81 plate appearances. He might be the only 1st baseman who can make James Loney look good in comparison. Fangrapsh takes a look as his dismal start to see if they can find any clues.
Pena falls into the category of a three-outcome hitter. So far, two of the outcomes are there. Pena’s 15.6% walk rate is consistent with what we’ve seen from him over the past few seasons. His 36.5% strikeout rate is a bit elevated, but striking out one-third of the time is not uncommon for him; zero home runs, however, and one extra-base hit is not only different, but rather scary. In fact, if you go back to the final two months of 2010, Pena has just five home runs in his last 237 plate appearances.
2nd Base- Darwin Barney is now firmly entrenched as the Cub 2nd baseman and is doing a solid job. Heck at this point more then a solid job with an OPS at .809. Rotowire's Bernie Pleskoff highlighted Darwin last week.
Barney is a 5-foot-10, 188-pound grandson of a Korean grandfather and a Japanese grandmother. His nickname is Dar Bar. He plays the game in a manner similar to Boston's Dustin Pedroia. Although he doesn't have Pedoria's bat, he comes to each game with high intensity and a desire to win. He was so intent on improving his chances to make the big league club that he spent the offseason in Arizona working closely with the Cubs hitting guru, Rudy Jaramillo. Barney worked on his pitch recognition, while shortening his stroke and overall mechanics under Jaramillo's guidance. During the winter Barney added 18 pounds of muscle to his frame.
Shortstop- I love Starlin Castro; the 21 year old prodigy is a good reason to watch the Cubs. He had a four hit game against us last week and continues to be one of the better offensive shortstops in the NL, however in 2011 he's been an error machine with seven so far.
3rd Base- Aramis Ramirez is healthy and doing his normal good work. At 33 he might never see a full season OPS of .900 again but he should still be an above average offensive 3rd baseman for them this year.
Catcher- The 2008 ROY Geovany Soto had a big bounce back season in 2010 and didn't seem to get much attention. He's struggling so far in 2011and Cub fans have to hope he's not going to start doing that odd/even crap.
Left Field -Alfonso Soriano has a joke of a contract but he is hitting home runs again, knocking out ten so far in the young season. At 35 years old Soriano has hit 324 career home runs. With 54 Million still to run on his contract after the 2011 season, Cub fans have to hope he's got a lot more left in him.
Right Field- Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin split time here. Fukudome is off to his typical fast start, hitting .375 but with only two XBH. Colvin was the 13th player picked in the 2006 1st round and came up last year to quickly became a fan favorite by pounding 20 home runs in only 394 plate appearances. However in 2011 Tyler Colvin has been a huge bust, with a .532 OPS in 58 PA's.
Center Field- Marlon Byrd evolved from one of the better platoon center fielders into a solid all around full time center fielder. A little more power against LHP is the only thing differentiating his splits. One of the better bargains in baseball, he is signed through 2012. In 2011 Marlon is struggling big time. In his last 16 games, his TSL is .227/239/.273. Yikes
Bench: Should be familiar to Dodger fans as it is riddled with old friends. We have Blake Dewitt chewing up splinters as his bat was not deemed good enough to offset his below average defensive skills at 2nd base. Reed Johnson fills in around the outfield and pinch hits. Koyie Hill is still their backup catcher. Moving on from ex-Dodgers we have Jeff Baker who can handle 2nd/3rd/1st and this is it. Might even see Baker start at 1st base for the struggling Pena.
Starting Pitching for our Series:
Game 1:James Russell appears to be a lousy pitcher. His team is 0 - 3 in his starts, his pitching TSL is 8.31/8.75/4.73. The big left hander has given up six home runs in only thirteen innings. That can't keep up can it? Warm night in Dodger Stadium might just be what the Doctor ordered for the Dodger bats.
Game 2: Ryan Dempster has been a mainstay of the Cub rotation for a few years now but he's getting rocked in 2011. His ERA is a mind boggling 9.58 due to the nine home runs in 31innings. Have these guys been pitching to Babe Ruth?
Game 3: Carlos Zambrano is more fun to watch hit then pitch. He now has hit 22 career home runs. Pitching wise he still is a force but he's never been as good a pitcher as his rep. Don't get me wrong he's good but that walk rate has kept him from being great. According to FanGraphs he's only hitting 89 on his fastball but he's got five different pitches he uses, and he uses all of them.
Bullpen: Carlos Marmol is the closer and is the true three outcome pitcher. Last year Marmol struck out 138 in 77 innings while walking 52. Clearly hitters have trouble making contact against him. Not as exciting but just as effective is Sean Marshall. The 6'7 lefty came into his own last year and is now the main setup man for Marmol. This year Marshall has been even better with one walk so far this year with 12 K's in 12 innings. The big name in the bullpen is Kerry Wood but he's a far cry from the Kerry Wood who showed up here in 1998 and wowed the baseball world as a hard throwing 21 year old. He's ditched his nasty slider for a cutter; the velocity of the fastball is still intact, but he still has control problems. Filling out the bullpen Jeffrey Alan Samardzija, Marcos Mateo, Jeff Stevens, and lefty John Grabow.