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Chicago Cubs: Reactions to the Opening Night performance

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Hitting with men on base; the hardest thing in baseball?

So if you simply watched the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Night game on television, you might not have been aware of the debacle that was the Wrigley Field bathrooms. Also referred to as a “peeasco”. You can read a little more

here

. The fans couldn’t get to the bathrooms, the Cubs couldn’t score. It was a no win for everyone involved. And sadly the latter is a familiar story.

Much of the talk seems to have been focused on Jon Lester, his unwillingness–or uncomfortableness–to throw to a base, as well as his lack of effectiveness. It was clear he wasn’t sharp, and the questions about his readiness were valid. But even with his struggles and inability to slow the Cardinals on the basepaths, the real story comes back to the Cubs absolute ineffectiveness with runners in scoring position.

As they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” How true that seems to be.

The Cubs went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They had more than a fair amount of opportunity–even with Lester at less than 100 percent. Add to that a few lapses on defense (more of the same from last year), and you get a 3-0 Opening Night loss to your division rival. Mind you, a very good rival with their ace on the mound as well. No, the Cubs didn’t look good–but the world isn’t ending. 161 games to go.

Cubs skipper Joe Maddon is still getting to know his players. He’s a smart man, he’s done his research and knows the inadequacies from last year. It’s why he will continue to tinker with the batting order throughout the year. It’s what he likes to do, but this is out of a necessity as he looks for the best mix.

As for Lester not throwing over, this isn’t something that was exposed last night. This is who Lester is. This post over at Fangraphs from last September – h/t Jeff Sullivan, highlights the fact that he simply doesn’t use a pickoff move. And while teams are successful when they do steal, they don’t try often because of how he manages it. It will surely be addressed by Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio, but this wasn’t news to the Cubs organization.

There wasn’t really one player who stood out in the loss, but I want to focus on Starlin Castro. Clearly there’s a lot of talk about Mike Olt and Chris Coghlan–and which will lose his job with the arrival of Kris Bryant. But Castro needs to be wary, Addison Russell is coming. On two separate plays, Castro went after short fly balls, but never seemed to be determined to get to them, always looking at the outfielder to call him off.

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In his rookie season, he may not have been the best fielder, but he would venture out into left field (ala Shawon Dunston) for any ball hit. Now he seems afraid. Now isn’t the time for him to play scared when more than one Major League scout say that Russell appears ready with his bat–as well as already being considered a better glove.

It’s one game, and there’s no reason to hit the proverbial panic button. This team is going to experience a lot of growing pains this season. While they should be an improved team over last year, the overly high expectation put on this team–whether by the media or themselves–will be tough to meet out of the gate. But it’s a long season. And at this moment, I mean that in a positive way.

Next: Is Lester a liability with baserunners?

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