Archive for May, 2005

Opinion on this?

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

Today I just happened to run into an article written by Teddy Greenstein. It compares Santo and Huges to Rooney and Farmer and gives a split screen of the calling the game. Here is a snip of the article. Be sure to click the link and the end and read the whole thing. Then, let those comments fly on your opinions of Pat and Ron or John Rooney and Ed Farmer.

It’s difficult to spell a lot of what comes out of Ron Santo’s mouth. How exactly do you represent the sound of a groan? Is it “awwwww” or “arghhhhhh” or “ohhhhh”? Or does it deserve to go in capital letters? It’s easy, though, to translate Santo into winning and losing. His words—and his sounds—don’t even matter. It’s all tone and volume. You don’t even need to hear a score to know whether the Cubs are on top. That’s the beauty of Santo. But the flip side can be a bewildering lack of preparation. In the sixth inning of Sunday’s game, Santo asked partner Pat Hughes, “Did [the Sox] have [Tadahito] Iguchi last year?” The question makes you shake your head. Then you remember that Santo is one of a kind. As always, Hughes provided a perfect yin to Santo’s yang.

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A Very Brad 8th

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

So one day you are showering with a bunch of Big League wannabes and the next day the opposing pitcher you face is the 8th Wonder of the World, Roger Clemens.

Such is the life of Sergio Mitre.

Mitre

The pride of San Diego City College went toe to toe with the future Hall of Famer Tuesday night but in the end it was Clemens’ groin that did him in and forced an early exit for the Rocket after five innings of 2 hit ball.

The first lucky break for the Cubs.

A bad break comes in the top of the fourth when after walking the lead-off man, (always a bad sign), Sergio serves up a Craig Biggio fly ball that Jason DuBois misjudges at the wall and before you know it, the Astros have a 2 run cushion that looks like it just might stand up.

As the 8th inning begins, I am still trying to figure out what in the world Nascar phenom Jeff Gordon was doing in the press box. First he refers to his surroundings as “Wrigley Stadium” then he laughs his way thru the song instead of leading the crowd. I shake my head, longing for Ditka. Gordon receives about 20,000 boos and then the WGN crew ignores the situation, choosing to talk about Nascar instead. Give me a break! I know Stoney and Chip would have kidded Gordon about it.

Back to the game. It doesn’t look good in the top of the 8th. Ohman’s first hitter, Willy Taveras doubles down the left field corner. Next up, Self bunts Willy to third which of course makes it a (drumroll, please) a Self-Sacrifice!

Hey, I thought it was funny. Anyway, that’s it for Ohman. In comes Michael Weurtz to face Biggio who is 2 for 3 in the game thus far. The situation looks ripe for Craig’s first rbi on the road this year. But Weurtz brings his “A” game and proceeds to strike out both Biggio and Berkman to give the Cubs a punchers chance in the bottom of the frame.

Jason atones for his earlier miscue (yea I know it was ruled a hit) with a lead-off double. Recently acquired Enrique Wilson, starting in place of a hurting Corey, flies to left instead of moving Dubois to third and there is one out.

Up to the plate steps Todd Hollandsworth, who puts a smile on his loyal if not misunderstood fan club by driving in his replacement. Good sport, that Todd is.

Uh oh. Phil Garner goes to his pen and brings in Brad Lidge, closer extraordinaire. We now have a battery of Brads, Lidge and Ausmus. But the two Brads can’t get it together and so we have a smattering of wild pitches and near wild pitches, sandwiched around two walks and some timely hitting with 2 out by Monday’s hero, Jeromy Burnitz. All in all, four runs score and now it is the Cubs who head into the ninth with a 2 run cushion.

Ryan Dempster comes in and closes out the game, again. Cubs win. Yes!

I don’t care who it is that the Cubs beat. Don’t give me gloom and doom tonite. I don’t care how pathetic the opponent is. Good things happened. The team came from behind and the pitching was superb. And perhaps most impressive, the Cubs had zero home runs and Superman couldn’t find his cape. Derreck Lee settled for Clark Kent status and his teammates picked him up for a change.

They just have to keep it going. Borowski is back, Walker will be back any day now and Wood can’t be far behind.

Go get ‘em tonite, Greg.

Joe’s Misc. Thinkings From the Game

  • At the beginning of the game, I looked at the conditions and the situations involved in the game and I thought to myself “This game may go 20 innings without a single run being scored.” Between the Astros pathetic ability to score on the road, the Cubs pathetic ability to score anywhere without the HR, and the wind howling in, it did not look promising. It’s actually kind of funny because I was, once again, getting sleepy at the lack of Cubs offense. So, I paused the TiVo and decided to take a little nap mid at bat in the 4th. I woke up and 1am and hit play to resume where I left off (ahh, the miracles of TiVo). When the Cubs were down 2-0 in the 8th, I really thought about just turning the game off and going to bed. We get a man on and the Cubs DO NOT bunt him over. Even Bob Brenly questions the move by Baker, which eventually becomes a dead horse no longer in need of beating when the Cubs bust out for 4 on Astro mistakes.
  • Jeff Gordon is an idiot. Why would you not prepare for something as big as singing in front of not only 38,000+ but also a huge TV audience? As a result, he screwed up and enters the 7th inning stretch hall of fame, joined by the only other members, Mike Ditka and Ozzy. For your enjoyment, i’ve provided a link to listen to Ozzy’s rendition.
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Meat Tray Vs. The Vegetarians, and other stories

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Sergio Mitre came up from the minors, giving up five hits and a walk in seven innings while striking out five.

Nice to see, but before we say “put Woody in the bullpen” let’s remember that he faced the team ranked 30 out of 30 in runs scored. The Astros have scored 162 runs in 45 games while posting a .310 OBP.

(The Cubs? 183 R in 43 G with a .321 OBP. Currently #26 in runs scored…)

Okay, so Sergio benefitted from a Globetrotter-Generals matchup. We’ll take it. Give Dusty (I guess) credit for using Meat on this day.

OPEN UP THE PEN AND LET ‘EM ALL ESCAPE
Baseball Prospectus runs some really cool stats. The one that applies here is Bullpen Support Statistics for starting pitchers. Here it is broken down by team, and it shows something interesting. The stat gives a positive or negative number showing whether a starter has benefitted (positive #) or been hurt by (negative #) the relievers who enter a game after him. There’s only one team without a single starting pitcher in positive numbers: our Chicago Cubs.

A cool find, but not particularly damning…at this point a small data sample skews the results. But still…it’s cool.
The Cubs’ pen is 21st in MLB in OPS (.752) vs. 11th in starters’ OPS (.734).
The pen is 14th in ERA (3.89) vs. 10th in starters’ ERA (4.07).
They’re 8th in the league as starters in WHIP (1.3) vs. 24th as relievers (1.50).

That tells a tale; the relievers are doing as well as the starters in an inning-to-inning comparison (ERA) but the rest shows that they’re giving up more hits, WHIP, and runs than starters. So it’s probable that they’re allowing a lot of starters’ inherited runners to score.

BUT IS THAT THE WHOLE STORY?
Regardless, the most interesting thing to me is that the Cubs’ starters are right around 10th in the league in everything. That ought to be the place where they dominate. They are not, and the weak offense and weak bullpen are highlighting that the starters are NOT as good as advertised. If the starters were up in the top 3, the Cubs would be 2 or 3 games over .500 and 3 or 4 games out instead of 7.

Do injuries explain it? The Cubs have used 7 starters total. Assuming a five man staff, here are the league’s number of starters beyond its “assumed staff,” and for the purposes of simplicity I have selected the top 5 starters on each team as the assumed staff.
—–
Arizona 0
Texas 0
Toronto 0
Baltimore 0
Detroit 0
Pittsburgh 0
St. Louis 0
Florida 0
——
Oakland 1
Atlanta 1
Chicago Sox 1
Cleveland 1
Colorado 1
——
Seattle 2
LA Dodgers 2
Minnesota 2
Philadelphia 2
——
Houston 3
Kansas City 3
——
Boston 4
Milwaukee 4
Anaheim/LA/California/flavor of the week 4
—–
NY Yanks 5
San Diego 5
Tampa Bay 5
Chicago Cubs 5
Cincinnati 5
—–
San Francisco 6
Washington, D.C. 6
—–
NY Mets 7

So the Cubs are in the bottom third of missed starts. If, perhaps, the Cubs had won 2 more of those missed starts they’d be 23-20 instead of 21-22. Whoopee. So injured starters ain’t the reason the Cubs are currently in a position to start golfing in early October. Those teams in the zero department are bound to lose someone eventually, but there’s nothing to say that the Cards will implode.

The bullpen’s a nice scapegoat (9 of 17 save opportunities converted), but they’re not the real problem. The Cubs can NOT SCORE RUNS. Quality innings out of the bullpen is much, much, much, much more important than the magical power to get the last out in a game, and the Cubs ain’t got that.

Admittedly, the Cubs don’t have the wizard to get that last out. BUT I expect that, if the Cubs hang around the middle of MLB in bullpen efficiency as they have, that 9/17 stat will move toward league average no matter who’s closing, and more eyes will be cast toward the Cubs’ offense.

Corey is where he ought to be — a supporting player in the 6 hole — and a key OBP guy is about to return (Walker). Dubois is an improvement over Hollandsworth, and Burnitz is still contributing. But Barrett is league-average and Neifi! is below league-average, and the useful Hairston has no place to play when Todd W. comes back. So I see a marginal improvement in the Cubs’ offense in the near future. This is the kind of offense that can complement a dominant pitching staff. The Cubs do not have a dominant staff this year…at least so far.

Let’s hope a couple of guys will feel an uncomfortable heat in the pants region and find that, instead of the result of an all-too-close relationship with Dr. Tightpants, that heat is a fire under their butts that gets them going for the rest of the season, because we’ll need that to assume our destiny as the 2005 World Champions.

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Rampant Speculation

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

Could the result of the Cubs/Sox series have been any worse? Had the Cubs swept or taken 2 of 3, it could have served as a confidence boost, and a jumping off point to a winning streak. Had the Sox swept, it would have underscored just how flawed this Cub team is, and possibly spurred some major move by the front office. Instead, the Cubs played well enough to win 2 of the games, while only actually winning one, thus giving some hope that this team is a few small moves from contention (we held our own with the best team in baseball!) without giving us the satisfaction of winning the series from a rival, or gaining any ground in the division (St. Louis is now 7 games up). The Cubs are a little closer to the Wild Card, but the problem there is they would have to leapfrog at least 8 teams (including the entire NL East) to get it.

Meanwhile, we’ve hit the quarter mark of the season, so it’s time for trade rumors to start heating up. Today in Chicago, ESPN 1000 reported that the Cubs are working on a deal for a left handed outfielder and a middle relief pitcher, in which they would give up the exact same thing. Assuming there’s any truth to this rumor, I would have to think that Patterson would be the outfielder in question, with either Hawkins or possibly Remlinger also included. This would then appear to be a trade where the team dealing with the Cubs is hoping that a change of scenery is what these two players need, and the players coming back would likely be in the same situation, or possibly just be terribly overpaid. There are so many guys out there right now that might fit this bill that I can’t even begin to figure out which team the Cubs might be dealing with, but some of the teams that have fallen out of the race with left-handed CF’s are Oakland(Kotsay), Philadelphia(Lofton) and Tampa (Crawford-drool).

Of course, in other bullpen news, Danny Graves has been designated for assignment by the Reds. Remember all those “experts” who at the beginning of the season thought that the Reds had improved so much that they might finish 3rd or even 2nd in the Central? Oops. It’s gotten so bad in Cincinnati that the usually frugal (read: cheap) Reds are now cleaning house, having dumped D’Angelo Jiminez and now Graves as well. While Graves isn’t great by any means, the Cubs bullpen could use any help it can get. If Graves clears waivers, I’d expect Jim Hendry will give his agent a call, otherwise forget it, the guy is making 6.25 million this year. Maybe if Cincinnati’s payroll is hamstrung by having to eat all this salary, they’d be more receptive to trading a guys like Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns or Ryan Freel.

Finally, the Cubs won tonight, beating something called Wandy Rodriguez 4-1. Once again the offense proves to be one dimensional, with 3 of the 4 runs coming on homers. I know it’s dumb to complain that the Cubs hit too many homers, but it would be nice to see them just string a few hits together and win a laugher. It seems like the team hasn’t done that since the first game of the season against Arizona. Also, does anybody else get the feeling that Bob Brenley is phoning it in? I never heard Brenley before this year, so I can’t say if he’s always been this bad, but right now he brings absolutely nothing to the booth. At the start of tonight’s game, rather than read through the Cubs lineup he said something to the effect that Dusty was basically putting out the same lineup tonight that he’s gone with all year. What?!? Off the top of my head I can tell you that the lineup was different because: Michael Barrett was starting for the first time in 3 games; Jason DuBois is now starting in left, after a solid month of the Todd Hollandsworth Experience; Corey Patterson, Jerry Hairston and Neifi Perez are constantly batting in different spots in the order. Here’s hoping that Bob gets that job in Kansas City.

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Miscellaneous Thinkings

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

So the Cubs win again. That makes me glad I picked them in MLB Survivor for today. I guess I live to pick another day. I’ll have to think on tomorrows before committing again to the Cubs. In the meantime, show some love via the comment section in response to my thinkings. Before that, I have a question for the readers. Do you find yourself bored by this season? For some reason, I’ve gone in spurts. Lately, i’ve been jazzed up, but there have been times this year where I have fallen asleep watching what turns out to be a good game, but the lack of early excitement has just lulled me to a pleasant nap. Granted, things have not gone as planned this year, but I really don’t feel that is the source of my boredom. I think it really steps from the lack of early offense. It seemed like in 2003, the Cubs were always quick to jump on the board in the first inning or at least by the third. This year, it seems as if all the runs are coming later in the game. I’ve not actually crunched the numbers, but I bet a higher percentage of our runs this year are coming later in the ballgame.

  • Everyone says that Jerry Hairston Jr. is a great option at leadoff. However, to this point, I’ve just not seen it. He really hasn’t done enough to impress me. Sure, he’s better than Patterson in that spot, but is he really worth the title of good leadoff hitter? I think not.

  • Mr. Rodriguez looked pretty good tonight in his MLB debut. He pitched well and had good command. He handled the bat really well, and fielded his position exceptionally. Not a bad night if you ask me. I’m just glad the Cubs came out on top.
  • Sergio Mitre will get the start tomorrow. I’m glad about this one, because I’d like to see him get another shot. Could he really be as bad as he looked the last time he made some starts for the Cubs? I don’t think so. He’s aged since then.
  • Personal Note – I shot my best round of 9 holes today ever. I will not reveal the score until that best ever number gets a little lower. Just know that I AM improving.
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Everyone Wants to Help the Cubs!

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

How do we ìfixî the Cubs? Seems everyone and his barber has a solution. Including my barber but he’s a Cardinal fan so we won’t consider his help.

As I sit in the car waiting for the women folk to finish their shopping, I happen to catch the Reds post-game call in show. We Cub fans think weíre desperate! They are absolutely apoplectic down in Cincy. The fans and studio wonks alike are ready to clean house and in the ensuing discussion my ears perk up because they want to unload Danny Graves on the Cubs. ìHeyí they say, ìThe Cubs need a closer!î

No one ever says who they want in return but they are ready to say bye-bye to O Danny Boy.. In his last three appearences, Danny has thrown 2 and 2/3 innings and given up 9 earned runs. How sweet of those Reds fans wanting to help the Cubs so much. I am verklempt.

Graves

To be fair, this was Saturday afternoon, just moments after Zambranoís masterpiece went by the boards due to bullpen implosion and Graves had not at that point given up five runs on Sunday to the Indians.

Later that evening, the ladies all snug in bed, exhausted from all their shopping, I am wide awake so I tune in Baseball Tonight. There is Jeff Brantley, again, giving free advice to the Cubs as to how they can right their ship. His solution?

Make Carlos Zambrano the closer.

As ludicrous as this may sound on the surface, Brantley gave some pretty sound reasoning.
a. Zís temprament is that of a fiery closer
b. Zís ability to strike out a batter in a must situation.
c. When Kerry returns, the rotation of Prior, Maddux, Wood, Dempster and Rusch frees Z up for the pen.
d. The Cubs need to do SOMETHING!

All I can add is that this would put lower stress on the elbow and Carlos could resume talking to his brother on-line for hours.

The Next Series

This series with the Astros may not be the cakewalk many Cubs fans may hope for or expect. The last time these two met, Maddux bested Clemens in the opener and then the Cubs promptly lost the next two. The Astros were flailing before that series as well. When I was in college I took a class in billiards. When I played my fellow scrubs I was usually sloppy and ineffective. But when I played the good players in class, my game improved. I was seldom victorious but my concentration was sharper and shots cleaner. The Cubs might fall into similar patterns this week so we’ll just hold our breath and see what happens.

Oh and thank you for removing the graffiti from the header. The yellow was getting on my nerves.

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Kind of makes you long for the Dave Groeschner Era…

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

From Espn’s website:

Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano has been told to cut back on his computer time because the hours he’s spending typing could be contributing to his elbow problems.

Zambrano said he had been logging about four hours a day communicating via e-mail with his brother.

“I have to spend one hour and take it easy,” Zambrano said.

Zambrano looked fine Saturday, allowing just one hit in seven innings against the White Sox.

“It’s not carpal tunnel, but if you don’t watch it, who knows what it can lead to? We are trying to alleviate it,” Cubs manger Dusty Baker said.

The Cubs were told after Zambrano had to leave his May 14 start against Washington early with a sore elbow that was the result of a non-pitching condition and activity. So they also told Zambrano to lighten up on his batting practice.

“I feel completely healthy,” Zambrano said.

Is that really the most likely possibility for Zambrano’s tender elbow?
From Baseball Prospectus 2005:

We’re trying not to be Pitch Count Nazis, but if there’s one pitcher who deserves a petition for clemency, it’s Zambrano, who is simply too good and too exciting to let go to waste.”

From the Bill James Handbook 2005, in an article entitled “Can We Really Predict Injuries?” by Sig Mejdal of Baseball Info Solutions:

That somehow youth and usage create a significant negative effect while usage and youth alone do not, is a tad concerning. In my experience, interactions (youth and usage) without the main effect (youth or usage) are quite rare. Still, I will be watching Carlos Zambrano’s season with interest as he was the youngster with by far the most high-pitch outings last year.

That’s a guy who’s skeptical about the pitch-count-hurts-young-pitchers debate, and STILL he’s worried about Z.

Zambrano’s pitches per outing this year: 106, 111, 108, 118, 105, 96, 136, 64, 108.
9 starts, 952 pitches, about 106 pitches per outing.
2nd in MLB in Pitcher Abuse Points, after being 3rd in the league last year and 10th the year before. And he’s always the youngest guy in the top ten.

So is it really that he’s screwing around on a computer for 4 hours a day that made him miss a start, or is that there are few guys in major league baseball whose arms have been abused like his over the last few years?

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Classless Act

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Sometimes I wonder how people have no common sense whatsoever. I just so happened upon the post you see below. After reading it, I was so disgusted that someone would be that classless to even THINK the post would be remotely appropriate. After leaving my comment in disgust, I was going to just never return to the site. However, the more I thought about it, the more angry I became. Cancer is a very serious issue and one that is not a joking matter. To infer in a post that it’s unfortunate that cancer did not take Dusty Baker’s life is irresponsible, and heartless, regardless of if it was meant as a joke. I would like to publicly ask that the writer of the post would not only apologize publicly on the site, but make a donation to the American Cancer Society in Dusty Baker’s name. I would urge everyone that reads this post to leave their comment in show of support of my donation and apology request. The post that angered me is listed below.

CHICAGO–In a rare physically visible appearance, Prostate Cancer apologized yesterday for claiming the lives of so many loving, caring, knowledgeable, and valuable human beings, while leaving Dusty Baker alive. Noted contributors to the human race claimed by Cancer are Don Ameche, Bill Bixby, Sir Alec Guiness, Johnny Ramone, Telly Savalas, and Frank Zappa. All of Cancer’s famous victims had made the world a better place to live, which is exactly why Cancer did not claim Baker’s life.

“You know, you knock off someone like Obi-Wan Kenobi, David Banner, or Kojak, and people stand up and take notice. You knock off Dusty Baker, and who gives a crap?” Cancer said. “I’m just not going to waste my time with that guy. Plus, his prostate was weird-looking.” Cancer manifested itself in the lovable form of a Zodiac crab consisting entirely of undifferentiated cells, much to the delight of the children in the area.

While Cancer would not reveal plans for future victims, it did express its sorrow for claiming so many good people, while refusing to take Baker. “Why do bad things happen to good people, and not to total idiots? Don’t ask me. I’m a genetic mutation, not a philosopher,” Cancer said.

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Sox Series not My Fantasy

Friday, May 20th, 2005

Forget about everything written ad nauseum about the Cubs-Sox series this weekend. (With notable exception to my colleagues at the View.)

How is todayís game going to affect me?

I joined a fantasy baseball league at seasonís dawn and up til now it has been rather harmless because it is an all AL set-up. But now we are complicating my life with Freddy Garcia facing Greg Maddux. How was I to know Garcia would be in this position when I drafted him as the ace of my staff back in March? Sure I knew the schedule but when you have all of 90 seconds to make a decision you donít mull over all of the ramifications.

Normally I would be all for a repeat of opening day, a good ol 16 run onslaught. But not against my Freddy! He’s lost back-to-back games as it is. Can we wait til tomorrow and Sunday to pummel the Sox?

This is not to say I hope the Sox win. I am still a Cubs fan, after all. That will never change. ButÖ. Could we perhaps have an extra-inning victory where Garcia strikes out 12 Cubs and exits the game with the score 0-0? Then Derreck Lee can crack the game winner in the 10th and everybody goes home happy. True, I wonít get 35 points for the victory but I wonít lose points, either.

Repeat the above scenario for every fantasy pitcher on my roster. Letís see, who else do I have? Matt Clement. Hmmm all sorts of mixed emotions there being ex-Cub and all. Did somebody say we donít face Baltimore this year? Good, cuz I have two of their starters, Chen and Bedard.

In other action this day I have Kenny Rogers and his 30 inning scoreless steak going against the Astros so gamble away, Kenny! By dayís end, be my guest to make it 39!

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