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What Goes Around Comes Around
by Derek Smart
What Greg Maddux did to the Dodgers over eight innings on Monday night, Derek Lowe did to the Cubs in seven innings last night, darting his sinker all over the place, keeping the Cubs' hitters guessing, befuddled, and generally ineffective. That he was followed upon his exit by a graduate of the Japanese School for Oddly Deceptive and Barely Legal Deliveries, just made the evening progress from bad to worse.
The Cubs were simply outpitched. It's not pleasant, but it happens, and in this case I think a tip of the cap is in order. Lowe and Saito got the job done.
Speaking of Saito, while he didn't have a lot on his fastball (it appeared to top out at 89, and live more in the 86-87 range), he clearly gets a lot out of the way his delivery effects hitters' timing. Nearly every Cub batter who faced him had a pitch to hit, but they were so completely unable to figure out when the ball would actually arrive in the hitting zone, leading the encounters to result in late whiffs.
It just goes to show you, there are a lot of ways to get hitters out, and with the way Saito seems able to disrupt batters' internal clocks, along with consistently throwing strikes, I'd expect him to do pretty well the first time around the league. However, his fastball looks pretty hittable, so once guys get a bead on him, he could be in for some rough outings.
Let's do a list of good things and bad things about Z's outing:
He walked five men in six innings
He only struck out three
It took him 112 pitches to get 2/3 of the way through the game
He only gave up four hits
He only gave up one run
He had at least two distinct opportunities to have a meltdown, but kept himself composed
I'm actually encouraged by this. The three bad things are all related to the kind of stuff he had last night, which was alright, but not his best. That he was able to work through it and have success is perhaps the most positive thing we've seen from him all year. Factor in that the one run he did allow came to be due to an unusually positive result on Rafael Furcal's truly awful bunt, and that's one more thing to be happy about.
Will Ohman's outing goes to show you that just because probabilities are stacked a certain way, doesn't mean the actual outcomes will match them (it's why they're called "probabilities" and not "facts").
Jose Cruz Jr., a switch hitter, led off, and has been significantly better against lefties over the last few years. He grounded out to short. Rafael Furcal, another switch hitter, has been essentially even in his splits. He struck out swinging. Kenny Lofton hits exclusively left-handed, and has been significantly worse against lefties over the last three seasons. He walked. J.D. Drew is still good against lefties (.837 OPS from 2003-2005), but not nearly as good as he is against them starboard fellas (1.002 OPS). He had the game winning hit.
In other words, the guys whom Bob Howry probably should have stayed in to face were the ones Ohman handled without issue, and the ones Ohman should have been (and was eventually) called upon to get out, fixed his wagon but good. Probabilities ain't facts, kids, probabilities ain't facts.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Cubs are in a tough position tonight, sending Sean Marshall to the hill against Brad Penny. I don't think we can expect a Maddux-esque performance out of the youngster, so it'll be up to the offense to win the series, which gives me significant pause. All appropriate paired appendages will be crossed, since I'd figure the fate of not just the series, but the road trip as a whole, rests on tonight's outcome.