Every year at this time it happens.
Teams around major-league baseball begin campaigning for their players to be voted into the All-Star Game.
Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park
TV: WGN Friday and Sunday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jake Arrieta (1-1) vs. Roberto Hernandez (2-4) Friday at 6:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (4-6) vs. David Buchanan (1-3) Saturday at 2:05 p.m.; Travis Wood (6-5) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-5) Sunday at 12:35 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs opened their home season against the Phillies in April and dropped two of three. This is a battle of two teams that entered Friday last in their respective divisions. Ryne Sandberg's Phillies went into Thursday 12th in runs scored and 11th in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. They were 12th in home runs hit, and their pitchers were 13th in ERA. The Cubs were 14th in OBP and just marginally better than the Phillies in most of the other key stats. Chase Utley led the Phils in average (. 314) and hits (74). Ryan Howard led in homers (11) and RBI (41) while onetime Cub Marlon Byrd was second on the team in homers (10).
Next: Miami Marlins at Marlins Park, Monday-Wednesday
-- Bruce Miles
The Cubs have begun a low-key effort to tout the all-star-worthiness of first baseman Anthony Rizzo. They would be right in doing so, but it looks like it's going to be an uphill fight to get Rizzo to Target Field in Minneapolis for the Mid-Summer Classic, at least as a starter voted in by the fans.
In the most recent balloting released by Major League Baseball, Rizzo doesn't even crack the top 5, even though his stats are right there with or better than some of the leaders.
Entering Thursday night's rain-soaked 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, Rizzo was at or near the top of several offensive categories.
Your top five vote-getters: Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers), Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks), Freddie Freeman (Braves), Justin Morneau (Rockies) and Brandon Belt (Giants).
It says here that at this point, three candidates deserve a trip to Minnesota: Goldschmidt, Rizzo and the Nationals' Adam LaRoche.
Here are how the three stack up:
• Rizzo went into Thursday with a line of .282/.407/.509 for an OPS of .916. He had 13 homers and 36 RBI. According to fangraphs.com, Rizzo led first basemen in wins above replacement, at 2.4.
• LaRoche was at .310/.418/.512 for an OPS of 930. He had 8 homers and 33 RBI.
• Goldschmidt was at .308/.372/.551 for an OPS of .923. Goldschmidt had 13 homers and 48 RBI.
Gonzalez wasn't anywhere near those numbers at .250/.326/.463, although he did have 12 homers and 39 RBI. Freeman's numbers were pretty good, at .279/.368/.488 with 11 homers and 35 RBI.
Rizzo's down season last year and the fact that he plays for a last-place club in the Cubs no doubt hurt him, but he should be in the mix.
Speaking of possible all-stars, Jeff Samardzija started Thursday for the Cubs. His ERA of 2.54 was sixth in the National League despite his 2-5 record.
Samardzija pitched into the seventh inning, but was charged with 4 runs on 9 hits as his ERA rose to 2.77 as he took the loss. The Pirates scored 2 in the fourth and 2 in the fifth against Samardzija.
The Cubs lost their leadoff hitter in the first inning when Emilio Bonifacio fell down in the batter's box as he hit the ball. He left the game, and the Cubs later said he had suffered a right-rib-cage injury. The Cubs had chances in the game, but went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.