Cubs Lose Jake Arrieta’s Start

The Chicago Cubs finished their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 2nd. The Cubs won three out of the four games against the Dodgers, but failed to take advantage of a Jake Arietta start in their one loss. Arrieta went seven innings giving up no runs.

The Cubs lost the game in the last two innings. After seven innings, the game was scoreless, but two runs were scored off pitcher Clayton Richard in the eighth and three runs were scored off pitcher Adam Warren in the ninth.  The Cubs lost 5-0.

The last time the Cubs lost a game when Jake Arrieta started a game was in July of 2015. The game was officially a no-decision for Arrieta so it didn’t affect his win-loss record.

On June 5th, however, The Arizona Diamondbacks managed to put up three runs on Arrieta. The Cubs offense only managed to put up two runs in that game. The final score was 3-2, giving Arrieta his first loss in eleven months.

Best Rotation in the MLB?

As of June 4th, the five starters of the Cubs rotation all have an ERA under three. John Lackey has a 2.88 ERA, which is the best among starters. The average ERA of the five starters is 2.55, the best statistically in the MLB as of June 4th.

Hot Streak

The Cubs have won ten of their last twelve games as of June 5th. This comes after the Cubs had lost eight of twelve at one point in May. The Cubs are hitting especially well in their current stretch.

The home run ball has especially helped the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit one out to right field on the on June 4th and Kris Bryant has hit 400-foot home runs on consecutive days this past week. Dexter Fowler recently hit his 3rd leadoff home run.

Fowler has been especially good against opposing fastballs. According to an infographic posted on Inside Edge’s twitter account, Fowler has a .405 batting average when a fastball is thrown to him. Five of his home runs have also come off fastballs.

Looking for Relievers?

According an article published by ESPN’s MLB Rumor Central, the Cubs are possibly looking for a lefty reliever on the trade market. The news come in the wake of Clayton Richard’s struggles. Richard has an 8.00 ERA in sixteen appearances as of June 3rd.

The article specifically mentions Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees as trade targets for the Cubs. The Cubs have recently done business with the Yankees, trading Starlin Castro this past winter. The Cubs got Adam Warren in return, who has a 2.75 ERA as of June 5th.

Will the Yankees will be willing to trade one of their relievers? It is not guaranteed. The Yankees are currently six games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but could improve their standing as the summer goes on. It is too early in the year for the Yankees to give up hope on the postseason.

Chicago Cubs Early Season Recap

The Cubs are now 25 games into their regular season and with their most recent win, a 7-1 win over the Pittsburg Pirates, have improved their overall record to 19-6 which is still good enough for best in the Major League.

Once again showing his magic on the mound was Jake Arrieta. Pitching seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits against the Pirates, Arrieta once again dominated. This has become the norm for Arrieta even against superb competition like the Pirates who are the 5th best team in ESPN’s most recent power rankings.

It’s not just Arrieta that’s having a great season so far. Several Cubs players have contributed to the team’s success.

 

Pitching

The Cubs rotation is among the best in the league. Lead by Cy Young Winning Pitcher Jake Arrieta, Cubs starters have a combined 16-4 record. After their win against the Pirates on May 3rd, Arrieta now leads the league in wins for a starting pitcher along with Chicago White Sox’s Pitcher Chris Sale.

In addition to Arrieta, starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel have an era below 2.00. Only John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks have ERAs above that mark, 4.32 and 3.52 respectively. Hendricks is the only Cubs’s starter with a losing record at 1-2.

The relievers are also performing at high level. Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Travis Wood, and Adam Warren have ERAs below 2.00. Trevor Cahill, who helped seal the victory against the Pirates has a 3.86 ERA.

The only Cubs pitcher with an ERA above 5.00 is Clayton Richard at 6.75.

 

Offense

The Cubs are loaded with offensive talent. Dexter Fowler is currently leading the regular starters with a .352 average, 31 hits, and a .473 on base percentage. Given a one-year deal in the offseason after searching for a long term deal in the open market, Fowler is proving his worth.

Anthony Rizzo normally has a higher average than his current .242, but he now has sole possession of 1st place in the RBI standings with 26. Rizzo also leads the team in home runs with 8.

Former Rookie of the year Kris Bryant is hitting above .300 again after Tuesday’s game. He also has 17 RBIs and I second on the team in hits at 29.

Free agent acquisitions Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are hitting .211 and .253 respectively. While Heyward is not performing poorly, his number are down from last season’s career highs with the Cardinals.

 

Coaching

Not much needs to be said here. Joe Maddon is one of the best coaches in baseball and was the National League Coach of the year in 2015.

 

Fielding

Out of 27 qualifying players, 18 Cubs’ fielders have a 1.000 fielding percentage, and another 5 have at least a .900 average. Only Adam Warren hasa fielding average below .700.

 

Injuries

In the third game of the year, the Cubs lost outfielder and catcher Kyle Schwarber to a season ending leg injury. Since then the Cubs have not missed a beat and continue to be a powerhouse without the young phenom.

More recently, Jason Heyward is dealing with a wrist injury. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs are hopeful that Heyward can be back in the lineup Wednesday May 4th in the series finale against the Pirates.

Matt Szczur is also injuried. Gonzles is reporting that Szczur has a right hamstring injury and has been put on the 15-day disabled list. His temporary replacement on the Cubs roster is Ryan Kalish.

 

Expectations

The Cubs are considered the best team in Major League Baseball. Going forward they have to keep winning in order to keep steady in the rankings. After finishing their series with the Pirates, the Cubs will travel back to Wrigley Field and face the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are currently 18-7 and are the number 2 team in the ESPN power rankings. The Nationals should be a good test for the Cubs and a means to test expectations going forward.

 

The Cardinals Become First Team To Clinch A Postseason Birth

On Saturday the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team in Major League Baseball to clinch a postseason birth despite losing to the Chicago Cubs 5-4 because of a loss by the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals own a dominant 94-56 record on the season despite injuries to key players such as Adam Wainwright and more recently Yadier Molina, who has a partially torn ligament in his thumb and could miss the last few weeks of the regular season. The Cardinals have banded together and been the best overall team in baseball thanks to great team play and help from a very good starting rotation led by Michael Wacha.

St. Louis has a team ERA on the season of 2.90, which is first in all of baseball, with the next closest team (Pittsburgh Pirates) at 3.20. The Cardinals have the best pitching in all of baseball and their starting pitchers John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia have ERAs of 2.79, 3.28, 3.08, 3.01 and 2.45 respectively.

Barring a major collapse the Cardinals will enter the playoffs with the best record in the National League and will likely end up playing the winner of the Pirates and Chicago Cubs wild card game. Either matchup will be fun to watch and the Cardinals own an 8-8 record against the Pirates and an 11-8 record against the Cubs.

The Cardinals will be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs because any of their starters could start game one and it is likely that at least one of their starters will be used for long relief out of the bullpen if needed. Adam Wainwright is also expected to return to the bullpen for the Cardinals in the playoffs and the last time he was used in that role the red birds won the World Series in 2006.

With the Cardinals likely to enter the playoffs with the best record in the National League it will be the daunting task for teams to beat the red birds on the road. The Cardinals own the best home record in baseball at 51-24 and for a team to advance past the St. Louis ball club they will have to beat them at Busch Stadium.

The two teams that will have a shot at knocking the Cardinals off in the National League Division Series both could clinch playoff spots in the next two days. The Pittsburgh Pirates will clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight and if the Cubs win tomorrow they will also clinch a playoff spot. The Kansas City Royals of the American League are the third team that could clinch a playoff spot if they win tomorrow.

The playoffs are drawing nearer with each day and the Pirates and Cubs will have tough decisions to make when they play each other in the wild card game. For either team to beat the Cardinals in the National League Division Series they will have to win at least one out of the two opening games in St. Louis.

The two teams will have to decide whether they want to use their game one starter in the wild card game, or if they want to gamble and hope that their number two starter can win the wild card game allowing them to use their ace in Game one against the Cardinals. No matter what happens it is set to be a great postseason for baseball and the road to the World Series will lead through St. Louis.

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The St. Louis Cardinals Keep Winning Despite Losing Their Ace Pitcher

(Photo courtesy of Bleacherreport)

A winning week with 7 games against division rivals

Shortly after getting the news that they had lost ace Adam Wainwright for the season, the Cardinals entered a stretch of ten straight games against the two teams in the National League Central expected to be their top competition this season.  Michael Wacha has stepped into the role of being the ace of the Cardinals’ pitching staff, and with veteran pitchers to back him up, the team has not missed a beat so far.  After sweeping the Pirates with three straight walk-off victories on the first weekend of May, the Cardinals welcomed the Cubs into town for four games for the first time on the 2015 season.  The Cubs’ offense seemed to gain the upper hand early in that series, but back to back come from behind victories had the Cardinals in position to take at least three out of four games with veteran starting pitchers in line to start the next two.  Lance Lynn and John Lackey have provided the Cardinals with a stable presence behind Michael Wacha at the top of their rotation in the absence of Adam Wainwright.  Young phenom Carlos Martinez has already experienced some peaks and valleys this season, but by leaning on his superior talent, he has been a strong contributor for the Cardinals pitching staff.  A further look at what the Cardinals have in place, and what they could put in place for the rest of the season, will help to determine if St. Louis has what it takes to overcome the loss of their veteran ace starting pitcher.

Cardinals meeting offensive expectations early

The Cardinals have complemented a strong middle of the lineup this season with another strong showing from the top of their order.  Whether it is Matt Carpenter or Jon Jay batting leadoff, the team has consistently gotten quality at bats from their first batter in the order.  Both of these left handed hitters do a great job of using the whole field, while displaying the plate discipline to foul off pitches often enough to work their way on base at a high rate.  Kolten Wong has occupied the second spot in the batting order for most of the Cardinals’ early season schedule, while displaying most of the same skills that make St. Louis leadoff men such a tough at bat for opposing pitchers to face.  Matt Holliday continues to anchor the middle of the Cardinals’ order from the third spot in the lineup, while Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams alternate roles in the cleanup spot depending on the pitching matchup that night.  Peralta hits left handed starting pitchers quite well, and Matt Adams regularly displays his power against right handed starting pitching.  With Jason Heyward and Yadier Molina both batting towards the bottom of the order, the Cardinals have proven they have the lineup depth to compete offensively at a high level.  Even though the Cardinals’ bench does not feature as much offensive depth as it has in the past, a strong starting lineup leads what should be a sufficient offensive attack throughout the 2015 season.

Will the pitching staff hold up?

Michael Wacha takes over the role of staff ace for the Cardinals now that Adam Wainwright is out for the season, but he has yet to pitch a full season in his MLB career.  So far this season, Wacha has embraced the new role by pitching very well against the opposition’s best starting pitchers.  His inability to generate many swings and misses is a cause for concern though, as Adam Wainwright was able to maintain the role of staff ace for the Cardinals for so many years on the strength of his significant strikeout rates.  Wacha’s superior stuff as a big right handed pitcher, should allow him to register significant strikeout rates, but so far that stuff has led to an elevated ground ball rate against him rather than significant strikeout totals.  The numbers early this season have him striking out only 4.4 batters per nine innings, after striking out 7.9 per nine innings in 107 innings pitched last season .  If Wacha is going to be the Cardinals ace this season, that strikeout rate will need to climb throughout the rest of 2015.  With Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Carlos Martinez all being pitchers with significant MLB experience, it is Marco Gonzales who becomes the second most pivotal pitcher in the Cardinals’ starting rotation behind Michael Wacha.  After pitching only 34 and one-third innings at the MLB level last season, Marco Gonzales retains rookie status for 2015.  As a rookie this season, Gonzales’ efforts could go a long way towards stabilizing the back end of the Cardinals rotation, with an above average effort.

Can the Cardinals compete for a title without Wainwright?

Even though the Pirates finished up their stretch of ten straight games against divisional opponents, with their first series loss of the season, they were still able to go 7-3 during that tough portion of the schedule.  Carlos Martinez scuffled some during those games against divisional opponents, but after a low scoring weekend leading into that stretch, the Cardinals’ offense was able to take over some ballgames the following week.  Even with two losses to finish out last week, the Cardinals still have the best record in baseball with a six game lead for first place in the National League Central.  Michael Wacha will need to start striking out more batters if the Cardinals hope to make a run at another National League Central division title, but even without Adam Wainwright, this team is still very likely to make the playoffs.  If Marco Gonzales is able to pitch like a middle of the rotation starter for the Cardinals, the Cardinals will likely take their third straight division title with another season where their pitching staff shows its depth.  Michael Wacha still needs to prove that he can get through a full season, however the Cardinals are in good hands with plenty of veteran leaders on the club to help the young guys get the job done.

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Best Starting Rotation In Baseball?

(photo from foxsports.com)

The St. Louis Cardinals have gotten off to a great start in the 2015 season.  The Cardinals are currently 8-3 following a 3 game sweep of division rival, the Cincinnati Reds .  They are currently leading the National League Central division by 2 games.

One of the main reasons for the early season success is the starting rotation.  The starting rotation has some eye opening stats.  The team is first in Major League Baseball with a 2.02 ERA.  They have allowed the fewest runs with 17 and the fewest earned runs with 14 through 11 games.  The rotation is in the top 5 in walks allowed with 12 through 62.1 innings.  Lastly, the Cardinals’ starters have a .204 batting average against them, which is second in the league in this category.

Though it is early in the season, each of the starters have gotten off to a good start.  The ace of the staff, Adam Wainwright is 2-1 after 3 starts.  He has thrown 21 innings and has an ERA of 1.71.  Wainwright has 14 strikeouts to just 3 walks, which is a great ratio for a starter.  He put together an excellent start against the Cincinnati Reds to finish the sweep, allowing 1 run through 8 innings of work.  Wainwright is continuing to put up number 1 starter numbers and his teammates are following suit.

Lance Lynn has been overlooked for a few years, but continues to post good stats.  After a great year last season, he is keeping up his solid work.  After 2 starts, Lynn is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA.  He has 13 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 11 innings thus far.  He will look to keep it going with a start on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

The third starter in the rotation is John Lackey , who the Cardinals are happy to have.  Lackey has completed 2 starts and is 1-0 on the young season, with an ERA of 2.77.  Through 13 innings, he has 9 strikeouts and only 3 walks. After a shaky first start, Lackey dazzled in his second appearance.  He threw 7 scoreless innings with 8 strikeouts and a victory.  The veteran has pitched very well for the Cardinals and hopes to continue doing so.

Michael Wacha was a question mark coming into the season after an injury plagued 2014 season.  His shoulder looks strong after 2 starts.  Through his 2 starts, Wacha has an ERA of 1.35 and is 2-0.  He has 6 strikeouts and 2 walks thus far, but has found other ways to get hitters out.  Wacha has the tough task of going against Washington Nationals’ ace, Max Scherzer , on Thursday.  Wacha has the capability to be another ace in an already great pitching staff.

Carlos Martinez was put into the starting rotation to start this season and has done nothing but pitch well.  He made a 1 inning relief appearance on opening day against the Cubs to get some work in and did not allow a run.  Martinez has now started 2 games and is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA.  Through 13 innings, he has posted 13 strikeouts and 5 walks.  He will look to continue his success moving forward.  If he continues this path, the Cardinals will have a tough decision to make if the injured Jaime Garcia returns.

St. Louis is off to a hot start and will attempt it rolling this week.  The Cardinals will head to Washington for a 3 game series with the Nationals and will finish the week in Milwaukee.  If the rotation stays on this path, they will be tough to beat throughout the season.

Zepp

Cardinals Rotation Ready for 2015

(Photo From espn.go.com)

The St. Louis Cardinals  approach spring training with a few questions about the starting rotation.  The Cardinals have two young kids competing to be the 5th starter in Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales.  With those two being in question on whether they can be major league starters, there are also many that wonder whether Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha can stay healthy after having injuries in 2014.

Adam Wainwright’s elbow seems to be doing better as he is throwing already in spring training.  Coming off of a minor surgery, there are some questions whether it will be a factor this year or not.  All signs point to the idea that he will be ready to go, even after a minor abdomen strain.  He may get a smaller work load this year to protect him as much as possible.

Michael Wacha who has potential to be the number 2 starter and even a second ace.  He also is coming off an injury with his shoulder.  The hope is that he can be healthy and produce as much as possible this year.  He will be on a training program to help prevent the stress reaction from returning.  He is throwing and feeling good so far this spring and will continue to strengthen his shoulder.

Lance Lynn is a work horse for the Cardinals.  Last season, he threw 203.2 innings and posted a 2.74 ERA, which is his best as a starter in the MLB.  After posting his best season in the majors, he is set to have another big year in 2015.  He will once again be looked at as the steady piece in the rotation.  Going in, he will be viewed as a very important piece in the Cardinals chance at repeating in the division.

John Lackey is a relatively new face for the Cardinals.  He was picked up late last year to help the run to the post season.  He agreed with the Cardinals to honor his contract this year.  In 2014, Lackey threw 198 innings between the Boston Red Sox and the Cardinals.  He recorded a 3.82 ERA, which is respectable for a 4th starter in the rotation.  He provides some more stability, even in his older age.  Lackey will be a key part to the Cardinals rotation.

This bring us to the two young guys.  Carlos Martinez is the favorite to win the job to start the season.  He has a major upside and was one of the top prospects in baseball a couple years ago.  He provides a lot of potential with the ability to throw 100 mph.  He has a nasty slider and is working on developing his change up.  He was given the nickname Mini Pedro, as he is compared to the great Pedro Martinez.  That is high praise for a kid who has pitched mostly out of the bullpen in his major league career.  If he produces, he could be an excellent 5th starter for the Cardinals.

The other kid that has the chance to start this year is Marco Gonzales . He was given a few opportunities last year with the Cardinals.  In 34.2 innings, he posted a 4.15 ERA, which is pretty good for a 22 year old.  He came out of the bullpen in the post season and did a good job.  Gonzales has the ability to get both right and left handers out, which allows him to start.  He also has a lot of potential and could see some opportunities in the 2015 season.

While, there are some questions about the rotation.  The Cardinals have a lot of depth at the position.  I’ve mentioned 6 potential starters and this doesn’t even include the potential for a return of Jaime Garcia from injury.  St. Louis could have 7 guys who are capable of being in the 5 man rotation.  The team seems to be in good position to take a run at the division and even the World Series.  The Cardinals are built to win now and have the ability to do so with this roster.

 

 

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