Game 2 of 3
Well, it finally happened! On June 26, just over a week ago, RIZZOMANIA arrived in Chicagoland!!
Kevin Goldstein now has an extra 3 hours of his day back (only to be replaced by questions about Junior Lake, I suppose...or twice as many questions about Brett Jackson), and the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo in the lineup. And this is pretty exciting stuff.
Sure there are lots of expectations for Rizzo in Chicago, and the pressure is certainly on. There were also expectations for Rizzo in San Diego last year, but the shoes he was expected to fill were pretty darn big (Adrian Gonzalez) for starters, his eventual thumb injury didn't help batters...but the story is quite different now. I don't think even the most psychotic of Cubs fans expects Rizzo to be the key to a World Series any time over the next 5 years; at best his presence at first will fill a void some fans found vacant when Derrek Lee was traded, a void that even Carlos Pena couldn't fill. Only time will tell how that's going to work out, but for now, Rizzo is here and he's a great deal of fun to watch.
Rizzo's debut in a Cubs uniform was, incidentally, against the Mets at home. He was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI and the Cubs beat the Mets 5-3. So, this is what hope is about: Randy Wells started that game (and couldn't finish it) against Dillon Gee. 10 days later, the Cubs are in New York, Gee is on the mound again, and Wells is back at AAA (he was sent there immediately following the June 26th outing, also known as "Randy's Last Straw"), and this is the first time I am seeing Rizzo in action with the Cubs.
With Wells gone, Samardzija is here to face Gee; this time the tables are turned and Gee turns in an amazing performance, 8IP, 7H 1ER, 4K. Samardzija seems to be rushing his delivery a bit, and gets tagged for 2 HRs, from which all 3 of the Mets runs were scored. Still, the Shark goes 7 innings, walks 2 and strikes out 4 (3 of those were swinging). One would like to look at this outing and think he didn't do all that poorly...well, but Gee had the upper hand, and that's that.
But, hey...who in the hell is Jordanny Valdespin??
This guy was truly shocking, could this be the dawning of the "Valdespin Era" for Mets fans? I was surprised to see him in the lineup, as I really honestly didn't know who he was. Found out quickly who he was when he tattooed a solo shot waayyyy over in right-center field on a 1-1 pitch in his first at-bat of the game, 2nd inning.
Valdespin moved up rather quickly in the Mets system, so quickly over the past couple of years that between the last time I saw the Buffalo Bisons in Louisville last season, he was in Binghamton...he was called up to Buffalo in August, and barely hit the ground there to start the AAA season in April when he made his Mets debut in April 23. Mostly making spot starts and appearing in primarily pinch-hitting roles, but the more PAs he started to get, the better his results...through May 30, he was .095/.136/.238, 1HR and 3 RBI (WPA 0.147) in 22 PA. By comparison, in June he was .286/.302/.524, 1HR and 9 RBI (WPA 0.281) in 43 PA. Kinda sexy stuff.
However, you may be asking yourself...how are the Mets doing with Valdespin's performance during these two distinct periods of time? From April 23 through May 30, the Mets were 8-8 in the 16 games Valdespin played in. From June 3 through June 23, the Mets were 7-10 in the 17 games Valdespin played in; about the same amount of games, just about twice as many PA. I guess that's why they call it "win probability added"...sure, it's higher during his better offensive period, but his offense isn't the single most contributing factor to the team's winning games. One month in comparison to another is also two sample sizes that are almost too small to call...even with more PA, Valdespin averaged 2.47 AB per game (2.53 PA) during June. It will be interesting to see how he does with more playing time...and how that playing time contributes to what could be a great season for the Mets.