Last night, I braved the wilds of Chicago-area expressways and tollways to hie myself out to Naperville to have dinner with some friends.
After dropping off the sherpa (how on Earth do people live out there and drive to work downtown every day? It would drive me nuts), we had a nice evening out, my kids babysitting their three-year-old twins. And thus I missed most of the Cubs' 7-1 loss to the Phillies, only the second time all year they've been totally blown out of a game. Ominously, the other one, the second game of the season on April 2, was also started by Ted Lilly.
And that does concern me. A year ago, many of us were making the comparison between Lilly and Bronson Arroyo, who came to the NL Central in 2006 from the tougher AL East, and had a pretty good year. Lilly's 2007 season wasn't very different from Arroyo's 2006 (Arroyo 2006: 14-11, 3.29, ERA more than a run lower than 2005; Lilly 2007: 15-8, 3.83, ERA more than half a run lower than 2006). However, Arroyo regressed in 2007, going 9-15 with an ERA of 4.23, more in line with his career norms. Lilly has looked pretty bad in his first three starts, going 0-2 with a 9.95 ERA, and 19 hits and 3 HR allowed in 12.2 innings.
We might call this "Bronson Arroyo Disease", and if this is what's going to happen to Ted Lilly, the Cubs are going to have pitching trouble... unless Ryan Dempster continues his good early showing. Because if Dempster doesn't do that, that leaves the Cubs with, essentially, one solid starting pitcher (Carlos Zambrano). It is too early to panic. But it is not too early to be concerned.
I'm not even that worried about the offense, which has been pretty pathetic in this series. It'll get untracked; these hitters are too good not to. It's the pitching that worries me. Bad as the last two days have been, win today and it's still a successful road trip at 4-2.
Notes: Thanks to Jason, a sharp-eyed BCB reader in South Bend, for sending me this photo of what is presumably a Cubs billboard there:
If you're new to BCB this year, this will be the type of post you'll see when there's a day game after a night game, both home and road -- a recap combined with the (first) game thread. There will still be an overflow post, which (at least for the time being) will post an hour and a half after the scheduled game time. Now, onward (and Jason Marquis, please try to remember how you pitched in the first two months of 2007, and replicate that. Thank you).
|Today's Starting Pitchers|
I'm sure you've had enough of the "Jamie-Moyer-is-older-than-dirt" comments (he is the oldest player in the majors at 45 and was drafted by the Cubs two months before his current teammate Kyle Kendrick was born), but he has been around long enough that Alfonso Soriano, despite having four HR off Moyer, is only hitting .205/.217/.500 against him (44 career AB). Reed Johnson, who will likely get the start again today vs. the lefty Moyer, is .333/.357/.556 facing him (9-for-27, 3 doubles, a HR). I'd also expect Henry Blanco to get a start today (3-for-9 vs. Moyer, and it's a day game after a night game, and Geovany Soto has started all but one game so far).
Both Geoff Jenkins (.313/.405/.531) and Pat Burrell (.357/.486/.536) pound the heck out of Jason Marquis. Advice: pitch around them. (Yeah, I know, master-of-the-obvious.) Jimmy Rollins is still out, and Shane Victorino was placed on the DL after straining a calf muscle last night, so the Phillies are a bit shorthanded today.
Today's game is available, in case you didn't know, nationally on TBS (TBS coverage will be blacked out in Chicago, where you'll see it on CSN). This is the first year TBS, under the terms of the new TV contract that had them doing the Division Series last year, will carry a non-exclusive Sunday afternoon game. Let's hope they do a better job than they did in the 2007 playoffs. For more see the MLB.com Mediacenter.
MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)
MLB.com Gameday (2008 version)
Baseball-reference.com game preview
Discuss amongst yourselves.