A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Offense: David DeJesus-RF, Tony Campana-CF, Starlin Castro-SS, Bryan LaHair-1B, Alfonso Soriano-LF, Ian Stewart-3B, Geovany Soto-C, Darwin Barney-2B. Bench: Joe Mather-UTIL, Reed Johnson-OF, Welington Castillo-C.
CHC R/G: 3.68. CHW R/G: 4.00.
David DeJesus has been his remarkably consistent unremarkable self. He's good at getting on base, but he's never been much of a power threat. He's by no means bad (I advocated the White Sox signing him this offseason), but he's the type of player that a team like the 2012 Cubs really have little business holding onto. He's not young and is not going to make this trainwreck of a ball club into a contender. David's historically been good defensively, especially in the corners. So Tony Campana is actually a starter now, huh? You'd think such a tiny fellow (5'8") would have little problem drawing walks, but Tony strives to be different (5.1% career BB%). He's very fast, which appears to be his only actual gift. He has no power and relies heavily on BABIP to keep his OBP from cratering. Expect his triple slash line to take one hell of a tumble when that .411 BABIP regresses to the mean. The wee one covers a lot of ground in center but has an arm like that of vintage Johnny Damon. Tony is always a threat to steal a base in the 4/5 of plate appearances he doesn't strike out.Starlin Castro. If that's not a player you just want to dislike, then you are nothing like me. Why must you be the Stevie Nicks to my Lindsey Buckingham? I do not enjoy his smugness nor the amount of hype he gets. Yes, he can hit for a high average and appears to have added the ability to steal to his rather limited repertoire. Things he cannot do: hit for power or actually play shortstop. One of those two is much more important than the other. If you want to make the argument that he'll grow into his power, then you have to admit that he's going to outgrow a position he already can't field. He feasts on curveballs and changeups. Bryan LaHair is certainly making the most of being given a chance to help keep Anthony Rizzo's service clock paused. He is currently sporting a .424 BABIP to go with his 10 homeruns, so while the power is very real, the batting average above .300 isn't. He'll likely hit around .280, but with his power and ability to draw walks that's going to make him a very useful player. Will they trade him or try to shift him to a corner outfield slot when Rizzo is ready? INTRIGUE! Oh yeah, and those ten homeruns account for 20% of the Cubs' team total.
Alfonso Soriano is the expensive gift that keeps giving back to everyone except Cubs' fans. His speed and batting eye have long since abandoned him, leaving him only his power. What's that? His ISO is currently .106? Whoopsiedunkles! And watching him in left is incredibly fun. Ian Stewart is half reclamation project/half place holder for the eternally unprepared Josh Vitters. Stewart isn't good defensively and appears to have forgotten what limited hitting skills he at one time had, other than power. He can draw walks but holy shit does he like to strike out. Man, going through this offense is depressing.
Geovany Soto and his eerily-sculpted eyebrows continues to be enigmatic. Is he the All-Star level catcher that he was in 2008 and 2010 or the average backstop of 2009 and 2011? I'd bet on closer to average. He has good power for a catcher and should finish somewhere in the teens for homeruns. He draws his share of walks and is a bit below average at throwing out runners. I'd be willing to guess Alejandro de Aza attempts at least two steals this weekend. I'll bet Colin's flowing ginger locks and hideous thriftstore sweater (it's ugly). Darwin Barney is a slightly lesser Gordon Beckham, but without the heartbreaking pedigree. Barney plays a good second base (and everywhere else for that matter), though his bat leaves a bit much to be desired.
Pitching: Ryan Dempster-RHP, Matt Garza-RHP, Jeff Samardzija-RHP, Chris Volstad-RHP, Paul Maholm-LHP, Rafael Dolis-CL.
CHC R/G: 4.47. CHW R/G: 4.08.
Ryan Dempster is finally in the last year of his contract and one has to think he'll be shipped off to a contender come July. Despite humorously having no wins, Dempster is off to a very good start that has been more than a bit luck aided. His HR/9 of 0.22 is bound to regress, as is the .259 BABIP against. He's still good for a K/BB around 2.5 with 200 IP. Dempster has been throwing more sliders than anything this year, as well as a low-90s four-seamer, a sinker, a cutter, and a splitter. That's a lot of fastball variants. Matt Garza has become super Clayton Richard on defense. If we play him in the next series, I want everyone to just hit comebackers for my entertainment. Garza is another pitcher I wouldn't be shocked to see move on to a better place soon. But yeah, he's a pretty good chucker. Since moving to Wrigley, Garza has gotten hitters to put the ball on the ground which is a pretty smart strategy. Matt has thrown his mid-90s four-seamer 38% of the time, which is weird but it's a good pitch. He also uses a slider, a sinker, a curveball, and a changeup.
Jeff Samardzija is another Cubs player incredibly easy to dislike. Look at him! He looks like he follows the Dave Matthews Band all over the country. That's not someone I'd like to associate with. Also, Shark is a stupid nickname for someone not named Mark. He somehow put it all together this season, somehow learning to not walk hitters. If you're one to believe such things happen miraculously overnight, then I have beautiful property to sell you in Kansas. It's lush and verdant and not overrun with white supremacists. Anyways, I think Jeff can keep the strikeouts up but sincerely doubt he'll manage a K:BB over three all season. He mainly uses a sinker and a four-seamer in the mid-90s, along with a splitter, a slider, and a cutter. Chris Volstad was the Cubs return from the Miami Marlins for Carlos Zambrano. Volstad is a bucket of underwhelming, but he's a live arm so I guess he has that going for him. He's a groundballer who doesn't get a ton of strikeouts and walks a few too many. He relies mostly on a low-90s sinker, a four-seamer, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball.
Paul Maholm is the sole lefty in the North Side rotation. Lucky Paul got to move from one NL Central cellar dweller to another! Hooray lateral movement! Maholm gets even less strikeouts than Volstad, but gets even more groundballs. He uses a sinker, a slider, a four-seamer, a curveball, and a changeup. Rafael Dolis took over as closer after Carlos Marmol continued to shit the bed, as he is so wont to do. Dolis' control isn't much better than Marmol's, and he strikes out far fewer hitters than the not-so-effectively wild Marmol. Really, Raffy isn't the answer. He throws a mi-90s sinker, a four-seamer, and a slider.
Outlook: Both teams are going to be bad this year. Fortunately, they're going to be worse than us. 4-2 season series.