Baseball. It's back! The Cubs kick off the season with a warmup four game set against the Marlins, widely expected to be a disaster this year. Derek Jeter's calm eyes have overseen a PR debacle as the Marlins sold off everything that wasn't nailed down, only because they couldn't find a buyer for the nails. The only surprise is that JT Realmuto is still wearing a Marlins uniform, though I guess anything can happen in the 12 hours between my writing this and the start of the game.
Based on 2018 fangraphs projections
- OBP: Anthony Rizzo (.391)
- ISO: Rizzo (.256)
- HR: Kris Bryant (34)
- R+RBI: Bryant (211)
- wOBA: Rizzo (.385)
- BSR: Javy Baez (0.9)
- SP K/9: Yu Darvish (10.93)
- SP BB/9: Kyle Hendricks (2.26)
- SP FIP: Jose Quintana (3.17)
- RP K/9: Carl Edwards Jr (12.80)
- RP BB/9: Brandon Morrow (2.90)
- RP FIP: Justin Wilson (3.18)
- WAR: Bryant (5.9)
- OBP: Justin Bour (.343)
- ISO: Bour (.221)
- HR: Bour (21)
- R+RBI: Starlin Castro (130)
- wOBA: Bour (.345)
- BSR: Cameron Maybin (1.7)
- SP K/9: Caleb Smith (8.43)
- SP BB/9: Wei-Yin Chen (1.98)
- SP FIP: Chen (4.34)
- RP K/9: Drew Steckenrider (12.03)
- RP BB/9: Junichi Tazawa (2.70)
- RP FIP: Steckenrider (3.32)
- WAR: J.T. Realmuto (2.5)
Injuries, Transactions, Vengeance Pacts, etc.
The Marlins are down two quality-ish starters in Wei-Yin Chen, who is recovering from a partial UCL tear and should return in May, and Dan Straily, who is out with forearm inflammation. Also on the DL are JT Realmuto, who has a bone bruise in his back, Martin Prado, who had a setback in his return from knee surgery last year, and SS JT Riddle, recovering from last year's shoulder surgery.
For the Cubs, the only player officially on the disabled list is Drew Smyly, who will hopefully be an impact reliever late in the year as he recoveres from TJ surgery. Pedro Strop was dealing with a calf problem for most of spring training but felt well enough to make the opening day roster.
Projected K%, BB%, ERA listed for each pitcher
Thor's Day: Jon Lester, LHP (22.6%, 7.3%, 3.92) vs Jose Urena (16.4%, 8.9%, 4.88), RHP, 11:40 AM CT
Lester is looking to bounce back from his first down year as a Cubs pitcher as he moves into the back half of his deal. His strikeout rate was right in line with his past Cubs seasons, but his walk rate jumped from 6.5% to 7.9% and much like the rest of the league he was tagged for more home runs. He also threw to first a few times! I think Lester should be okay to good this year, but he might be the fourth best pitcher on this starting staff, which is strange to say.
Urena has a big fastball and not much else. That's enough to make him the 'ace' of the Marlins staff even if Dan Straily weren't hurt, which says a lot about this Marlins rotation. He posted a 3.82 ERA last year, but his peripherals were terrible (5.20 FIP, .249 BABIP). The Cubs are a pretty good fastball hitting team so this could get ugly pretty quick.
Freya's Day: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (19.6%, 6.7%, 4.05) vs Caleb Smith, LHP (21.1%, 9.7%, 4.31), 6:10 PM CT
Hendricks lost a few ticks off his fastball last season but still somewhat sneakily posted a 3.03 ERA on the season, which I completely forgot about. He worked on a new curveball in the spring to some success, which could help him out a bit – DeRosa knows he needs more tools to work with if he's going to keep getting hitters out with his stuff. He's proven he can do it the past few seasons, let's just hope he keeps it up. We shouldn't expect much from him until later in April, as his arm may be tired from doing everyone's taxes before the deadline.
Smith has all of 18.2 major league innings under his belt, based on two starts and seven relief appearances with the Yankees last year. He had a solid year in the minors but was lit up in his short sample of the bigs. And he's now a number two starter following Straily's injury. It's hard to say much abut his stuff – he averaged 94 on his fastball and also throws a slider and changeup, but tough to say how well they play in the bigs.
Saturn's Day: Yu Darvish, RHP (28.0%, 7.6%, 3.61) vs Odrisamer Despaigne, RHP (14.8%, 8.9%, 4.86), 6:10 PM CT
It took a while, but the Cubs got their guy for the rotation. Darvish should be a ton of fun to watch, if only for his vast arsenal of pitches. As we all know he got rocked in the WS last year after tipping his pitches – hopefully the Cubs pitching staff has this shit figured out. Though given how many kinds of pitches he throws you'd think batters would still be halfway through the tipping recognition steps when the pitch crossed the plate.
No one is more excited for this Despaigne start than Pat Hughes. He may be the only one that's not a member of Despaigne's immediate family. He somehow posted a 4.01 ERA last year despite a career low 4.78 K/9. It looks like the main factor was that unlike pretty much overy other pitcher in the league he saw his HR numbers drop. That may regress somewhat this year.
Sunday Sunday Sunday: Jose Quintana, LHP (24.2%, 6.8%, 3.51) vs Dillon Peters, LHP (18.0%, 8.5%, 4.02), 12:10 PM CT
I'm not sure why Quintana didn't get the ball earlier, but whatever. He remains an underrated pitcher signed to a great deal – the Cubs are only paying him $8.5m this year and have club options at $10.5m for each of the next two seasons. He significantly underperformed his FIP for whatever reason last year but we should see things move in a better direction this time around.
Peters is one of the Marlins top prospects, a short lefty who throws in the low 90s but is mostly a command guy. He was called up from AA last year for a taste of the bigs and got wrecked. Walking 19 batters in 31 innings will do that. His walk rates were quite good in the minors so that might be a little bit of the jitters, but he also had terrible control this spring and was sent to minor league camp before being called back following the Straily injury.