What have we learned so far in the two games the Cubs have played? Not a ton, but there are some things about how the games have gone so far that stuck out to me.
1) Scoring runs is going to be an ordeal more often than we’d like.
The Cubs have scored four earned runs in two games and been handed four other unearned runs. The Cubs aren’t always going to face the Pirates and their terrible defense, so the Cubs are going to have to score some runs on their own if they want to win games. They have 19 hits in two days, so getting on base hasn’t been the problem. The top two men in the order have reached base in 10 of 19 plate appearances, so the problem hasn’t been guys not getting on in front of the meat of the order. The problem is that the 3-4-5 hitters have one RBI between them in two games with runners on base all over the place. That can’t continue. For what it is worth, I don’t expect that to be as pronounced an issue as it has been the first two games.
2) It’s good Dempster and Zambrano were flip-flopped in the rotation.
Yes, Dempster’s results weren’t all that good, but he gets a pass because he’s Ryan Dempster. At least, the media hasn’t seemed to jump on him for giving up a booming grand slam after getting himself into a mess via the walk (as he did in a certain playoff game). The narrative seems to be that Dempster pitched OK, but didn’t execute a few key pitches. Last year, Zambrano had to deal with the Lollipop Guild as his middle-infield defense that allowed weak grounder after weak grounder up the middle to get into the outfield, and then didn’t execute a pitch to Jason Heyward on a homerun that has just left the solar system. The media couldn’t wait to blame Zambrano for not being an Opening Day calibre pitcher and things went downhill from there. So I’m glad it was Dempster giving up the bomb this year so we got spared that narrative.
3) Starlin Castro is really, really good at baseball.
This kid just keeps getting better and he is growing up right in front of us. Enjoy it. He’s special.
4) Carlos Pena is pretty good at defense.
He has snagged a number of throws that I’m sure Xavier Nady (or Colvin) would have just waved at as they bounded on by. He may never be the bat we want him to be, but at least he can catch the ball and help out our infielders in preventing runs.
5) I haven’t had to swear at the bullpen yet.
Pretty much every reliever has looked OK, with the exception of Samardzija and that is shocking to nobody. Even Grabow looked effective. Again, it is difficult to extrapolate anything from it, but it certainly is nice to be saying that when they’ve been effective instead of trying to make ourselves feel better after craptastic outings like some of the other NL Central bullpens have had to do already.
6) It took four fewer games to get a win against Pittsburgh this year.
Let’s just breathe a sigh of relief on that one.
That’s what I’ve taken from the first two games, anyway.