Archive for July, 2005

How Much Longer?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

After last night’s loss, I have thought of a few things that I am tired of waiting for. It’s growing very frustrating to wait and wait for a few of these things to happen. So, how much longer….?

Till we see Matt Murton starting everyday? – Is there a reason Dusty has not given the everyday left field job to Matt yet? This kid just knows how to hit. After last night’s game, he is hitting .462 with an OBP of .531. He gets on more than every other at bat. Granted, he’s only had 25+ plate appearances, but his knowledge of the strike zone has been very evident thus far. In 2004, Murton was “Named by Baseball America as the best hitter for average and as having the best strike-zone discipline in the Cubs organization” (Link) At this point, the Cubs need to figure out the LF spot and they have 5 days to do it. If they are going to get a LF, then by all means, play whoever best matches up that day until he gets here. However, if you’re not able to get a LF, do you have any choice other than give Matt Murton the shot he’s earned? Dusty Baker appears to be afraid to hurt Hollandsworth’s feelings by benching him in favor of a rookie, but if you remember when Hollandsworth signed, it was knowing he’d be the 4th OF. The other day, I was listening to the Score online, which up until 2 weeks ago could not be done, and they had a caller that wanted Holly to get the everyday job in LF. He claimed that Hollandsworth had been great for the Cubs this year and has put up big numbers. Let’s take a look at those numbers:

April – .250 avg., .329 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 15 K
May – .111 avg, .179 OBP, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K
June – .360 avg, .372 OBP, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K’s
July – .220 avg, .288 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 6 BB, 8 K’s

So basically if you take out Hollandsworth’s hot June, which appears to be the only time he has been hot all year, you get these numbers:

.208 avg, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 34 K’s

That seems like a marginal bench player at best. Certainly not the everyday Left Fielder for a team that is in the hunt for a wild card spot.

Till we see a suicide squeeze? – The last 2 losses the Cubs have faced, they have given up a run due to a suicide squeeze bunt. Dusty Baker has got to notice that this has worked. How long until he tries it? Granted, it’s not a move you want to use all the time, but it’s one that I have never seen Baker use since he has come to the team. It’s in baseball for a reason. It works at times and should be used. Baker seems stubborn toward it. In the 8th inning, the Cubs had tied the game on a HR by Michael Barrett to lead off the inning. Burnitz walks and gets to 2nd on a sacrifice by Perez and then reaches 3rd on a WP. At that point, it’s a tie game with runners on 1st and 3rd and only 1 out. If you lay down a suicide, there is a chance that it works and the Cubs have the lead and tons of momentum going into the 9th. If it doesn’t, you still have Murton at 2b with Macias at the plate and 2 outs. Take a chance Dusty!!!

Till we get Austin Kearns? – I’m not sure what the holdup is, but I think it’s inevitable. Kearns wants to be here and I don’t think Cincy can really afford to keep 4 guys that are capable of playing the OF when they so desperately need pitching. The Cubs have pitching to offer, so I think this deal will get done and will get done for less than Cincy is asking. Hendry has a way of talking up our junk and selling it for more than it’s worth (i.e. – Alex Gonzalez, Brendon Harris, Francis Beltran)

Till Macias is off this roster – Dusty Baker values this guy so highly and he can’t justify it other than his versatility. Last night, Dusty Baker brings in Macias in the 8th inning as a defensive replacement in CF for Hairston. At that point in the game, Hairston had been to the plate 4 times and reached base in 2 of those plate appearances. That’s a .500 OBP. Macias then proceeds to not get the job done at the plate in the bottom of the 8th. In the 11th, Macias boots a ball in the OF that is hit on the ground to him. Usually when you bring in a defensive replacement, they are supposed to play better than the guy they replace. Why not wait to replace Hairston till he had hit in the 8th? Macias must go and Dusty shouldn’t be far behind for playing him.

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Not Funny

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Sorry steal Joe’s thunder here, but I just wanted to post this item from tonight’s D-Rays/Red Sox game:

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Matt Clement was carted off the field after being hit by a line drive on his head in Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field

I always liked Clement when he was with the Cubs. He went out and did his job, and never complained about anything, be it lack of run support or being moved out of the rotation in 2004. By all accounts, he’s also a genuinely nice guy, and I know he has a wife and young children. Here’s hoping that Matt is going to be okay.

the link

Update

Good news, it appears that Matt will be okay. A CT scan came up negative, and he never actually lost consciousness on the field.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2117345

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Interesting

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

David Pinto had this observation that made me laugh:

DHs Make History

Dan Johnson and Jason Dubois both played DH and batted ninth last night. That’s the first time both DH’s batted ninth in a game.

The point of the DH is to have a great offensive player in the lineup. If they’re going to bat ninth, they can’t be that great an offensive player. The pitcher can hit ninth. More DH’s should be like David Ortiz; player’s whose whole career is about hitting.

David Pinto ~ Baseball Musings

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Mad Dog & 3,000

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

OK boys and girls. who will be Greg’s 3,000th victim and what inning? No prizes, just fun.

I predict Moises Alou in the 3rd.

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A Thank-You Note

Monday, July 25th, 2005

For once, Dusty’s ridiculous Aramis-batting-fifth, alternating lefty-righty lineup paid off, but only because he was up against an opposing manager who made even more ridiculous alternating lefty-righty pitching changes. The bottom of the eighth inning lasted a whopping twenty-three minutes from first pitch to last out, with Felipe Alou trotting out a staggering FIVE different relivers involving TWO double switches. The inning ended with the fifth reliever giving up a hit that scored a runner put on base by the first reliever – oy. I think I heard Al Yellon breaking his pencil in frustration out in the bleachers trying to figure out the scorecard on that one.

I think the real reason for all the pitching changes was to trick the Cubs fans watching at home into thinking the game was in San Francisco. Hey, if they can’t start at 9:00 PM Central, might as well try to make the game drag on until midnight anyway.

Really, what was Alou thinking on this one? It’s a one-run game — if the game becomes tied (which thanks to Neifi!, it was), the Giants stand no chance in extra innings with a depleted bullpen.

And then in the ninth, inexplicably, he replaced his CLOSER with a 4.00+ ERA lefty, who right on cue, gave up the game winning sac fly to Jeromy Burnitz. It’s almost like he realized that his bullpen was depleted and figured he should just get the game over with and let the Cubs win.

The platoon differential is real, but sometimes you should just leave the better pitcher out there.

Jeromy Burnitz was asked after the game about all the pitching changes:

It’s not my job to evaluate the pitching moves, but [I'm] just glad he brought the guy in to give me something to hit to center field.

We’re all glad. Thanks, Mr. Alou.

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Four Play

Monday, July 25th, 2005

Having just swallowed my 4th hot dog at the 4th Annual Church Cookout (held indoors this year cuz the temp feels like 400 degrees), I glance at my watch and notice that the Cubs-Cardinals game started four minutes ago. So I politely excuse myself from the four remaining people who have their eye on a plate of four brownies baked by none other than Mrs. Foreman, a local celebrity of sorts who has won four national bake-offs.

As I sprint home four blocks away I canít help but notice that I dropped mustard all over my 444 Jeans. Oh wow, I think. Itíll take four washings just to get out the stains. As I skip up the four steps to my front porch all thatís goin thru my mind is ìI sure hope ESPN doesnít black out this game as they have the last four times the Cubs played.”

I turn on the game just in time to see ace Mark Prior give up his 4th extra base hit in the bottom of the 1st inning. At least this was only a double. Color analyst Joe Morgan, with his IQ of four, mentions the three home runs I have mercifully missed. Oh golly, I moan to myself. This is going to be four hours of sheer torture.

During the commercial I flip around and see that The 4400 is coming on soon. Hmmm, tough choice. I grab a tape, program the ole VCR and get back to the game.

Actually the game turns out to be pretty good, not at all the massacre I originally feared. Prior settles down and gives up just one more hit (on a play where he doesnít hustle to cover first).

Blanco

Meanwhile the Cubs chip away, thanks in large part to a 4-hit breakout performance by Henry Blanco. The team scores their 4th run to take a slim lead in the 8th, thanks in part to D-Lee walking on 4 pitches (In fact, Lee collects 4 bases on balls during the contest) and a clutch 2-run blast from Aramis Ramirez.

The Cubs send 4 men to the plate in the 9th but do not score.

Bottom of the 9th. Dusty calls upon his 4th reliever of the night. Ryan Dempster. Solid to the core for the bulk of his outings as the teamís closer, I wonder to myself if this is the game when he will hiccup. Here, in Busch Stadium against these hated Cardinals. One good sign is that in 63 innings this season Ryan has only given up 4 homers, second best ratio on the staff (Novoa leads).

Hiccup. After 2 are out and down to their last strike, after a 1-2 count, pinch hitter Seabol walks on a slider. Eckstein and company tie the game on a series of small ball plays that drives an opposing manager crazy. In my gut I concede that this is what the Cubs must do in the next nine weeks if they want to be taken seriously as a bonafide contender for post-season.

Top of the 10th. Reyes pitching. Todd Walker doubles to right. Finally! The series has not been kind to the Cubs second baseman til now. Lee is intentionally walked. Burnitz sacrifices, a play as rare as the headline ìMan Bites Dog.î La Russa countermoves by walking Aramis intentionally. Michael Barrett pinch-hits for Dempster. Barrett strikes out.

Neifi GS

Up to the plate strolls Neifi, hitless in his four previous plate appearences. Neifi, who has endured the slings and arrows of Cub fans for four months, slams the first pitch, embedding it into a chain link fence over the right field wall. Walker scores, Lee scores, Ramirez scores. Neifi scores. A 4-run swing, unknotting a 4-4 tie to give the Cubs a 4 run victory.

Kinda reminds me of Reggie Jackson in the late 70ís. And what was his number? Oh yeah, 44.

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More Wood

Monday, July 25th, 2005

One of our readers, Greg, made a very good point against sending Kerry Wood to the bullpen this year. Wood’s worst inning is almost always the first. His numbers for that inning are terrible compared to the rest of the game. So that would put a damper on bringing him into a game to pitch only one inning. I don’t really have a great argument against that, other than it’s possible that with Wood knowing he’s only going to pitch one inning, he’d have a different mindset and wouldn’t have to pace himself. Either way, though, I still don’t think Wood should be put back into the rotation. And now the Tribune has posted this little piece of news.

So Kerry Wood may need shoulder surgery. I can’t say that I’m very surprised by that. However, there’s one quote in the article that stood out for me:

He(trainer Mark O’Neal) said Wood would not risk further damage to the shoulder by pitching the rest of the season without the cleanup of his shoulder.

In other words, the question isn’t really how severe is the injury, the question is, can Kerry Wood pitch through the pain in his shoulder? It seems clear at this point that Wood can’t pitch effectively when the shoulder pain flares up. And he can’t carry the load of a starting pitcher without having the pain come back. The Cubs are too deep into the season to experiment with Wood’s shoulder in the starting rotation anymore. If Kerry needs surgery the team should shut him down now, and he should have the procedure, and hopefully come back ready for the start of 2006. Then maybe the Cubs can salvage the final year of his contract.

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Knock On Wood

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

The Cubs have announced that one again, Kerry Wood’s shoulder hurts. He received a cortisone shot on Thursday, and will miss 1-2 starts, according to the team. I think it’s safe to assume that Wood will likely be put on the 15 day DL and miss 2-3 starts, before being re-evaluated and then rehabbing before he returns again to the starting rotation. And I’d like to suggest that Wood NOT be returned to the rotation at all this year. The Cubs have several choices on who will take Kerry’s spot. Glendon Rusch, who has been very consistent as a starter; Sergio Mitre, who has alternated between being very good and quite bad; Rich Hill or Todd Wellemeyer, both of whom are doing decently at AAA Iowa; or some combination thereof. My first choice would be to put Glendon Rusch back in the starting rotation, calling up either Wellemeyer or Hill for the bullpen, as Glendon will probably have to stretch his arm out again, so he won’t be able to go deep into games yet. And once Rusch is in the rotation, leave him there for the rest of the season.
pulp-best of download

When Wood is ready to return, the team will be in one of two situations: either they’ll be in a dogfight for the Wild Card, or they’ll be totally out of the playoff hunt. If the Cubs are out by that time (and I don’t think they will be) it’s a no brainer to shut down Wood for the season, and hope that just maybe he can get healthy for 2006. But if the Cubs are still in the hunt, it gets trickier, because Wood is definitely a more talented starter than Rusch or Jerome Williams. But while the talent is nice, the Cubs need more than that now. They need consistency. They need to know that their starting pitcher is going to take the ball on the fifth day and pitch six, seven, even eight innings. They cannot afford to have a guy start and then leave after 3 innings with “discomfort”. The Cubs bullpen is simply not good enough to be exposed for that many innings, especially considering that Greg Maddux is normally not going to give the team any more than 6 innings himself. If you have to pencil in your bullpen to throw 10 innings every five days, without even factoring in the starts of 3 other pitchers, you are not going to win.

I’ve said it’s insanity to pay a middle reliever 9.5 million dollars, but at this point, that’s what I think the Cubs will have to do. If Wood is able to come back and pitch this season, he needs to do it from the bullpen. I’m not suggesting that he be made the closer, and I’m not suggesting that this be permanent, Kerry can be put back into the rotation next year. Something that might help more this year is keeping Kerry stretched out as a 2 inning setup man in front of Ryan Dempster, or just having him ready to go on days when Maddux is pitching. Can you imagine what it would be like for batters to face Maddux’s offspeed stuff for 5 innings, and then have to contend with Kerry Wood’s fastball and slider for the next 3? Wood may someday blossom into the starter we all want him to be, but for the remainder of this year, he does the team more good in the bullpen.


Joe’s Farm Report

Hey Guys, I just wanted to add to the end of this post so i didn’t steal Chris’s thunder. Here are some stats I noticed down on the farm the last few days.

Todd Wellemeyer (SP) – 7 IP, 3 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 BB, 6 K’s and a 3.31 ERA in AAA

Mark Pawelek (SP) – 4 IP, 2 Hits, 1 Run, 1 BB, 3 K’s, and a 0.56 ERA so far in Rookie Ball

Corey Patterson (CF) – 2 for 5 with 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 RBI, a home run and 2 SB. Hitting .286 in AAA


Is it just me or does A.J. Burnett’s face look weird? It’s all bubbly

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Thru Cub Eyes: Rick Sutcliffe

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

For some players I have had a rather difficult time finding enough interesting material to share in this forum. Not this time. Our Friday feature player has many stories and few of them are brief. After the season I may include more from Mr. Sutcliffe. For now enjoy this excerpt from Carrie Muskatís fine compilation Banks to Sandberg to Grace. Next week look for an extended excerpt from Ryne Sandberg!

sutcliffe Rick Sutcliffe

If Zim had hair, it wouldíve been red like mine. Heís like a father to me. Weíre both opinionated. What made us so close was our desire to win. Sometimes that desire got us in trouble. Managers arenít supposed to win games; theyíre not supposed to lose games for you. He won 25 games for us in í89, just the stuff he did.

The biggest story was right after the All-Star break. I pitched against the Dodgers and threw a complete game on Friday. I wasnít named to the team but that was because of Lasorda. I got a call to replace Mike Scott, who got hurt. The manager picks the pitchers but when someone gets hurt, itís the commissioner or league president, and they picked me. I said ìNo, Iím not going.î

He said ìEverybody knows you deserve to be there.î So I go and pitch an inning. It was at the All-Star game when I knew Iíd hurt myself again.

After that I threw four or five games and none were good. Zim calls me into the office, and he starts airing me out. He says ìI can call a better game than you.î

I said ìIf you think you can call a better game, you call it.î

He didnít talk to me for four days. He didnít say a word. All of a sudden weíre in Shea Stadium and Iím in the trainerís room getting a pregame rub. Zim said ìCome into my office when youíre done.î

He says ìI ainít calling pitches.î I said ìWait a minute. Four days ago, youíre the smartest son of a bitch on earth.î He says ìYou want me to call pitches? Iíll call them.î

Joe Girardi is catching. The first pitch of the game, Zim calls a change-up. I never throw a change-up on the first pitch – - not even the first inning. I threw it, and everything went perfect.

Three innings, nine up, nine down. We score a run in the fourth. In the fifth, they get a base hit, walk a guy, bunt single. Bases loaded, Darryl Strawberry, in his prime, at the plate.

Here comes Zim out to the mound and he gets out there, and Girardi pulls his mask up. Zim puts his hand over his mouth which means heís going to cuss. He put his hand over his mouth because he didnít want people to see that on TV.

He says, ìIíve got one thing to say ñ youíre on your own.î And he walks back to the dugout. Joe and I are laughing. I heard that Harry said on the air, ìSteve, I donít know what they are laughing about. This is a pretty tense situation.î Strawberry pops up and Kevin McReynolds hits into a double play.

Joe and I go back to the dugout and I said ìBoys, we donít know if weíre going to win or not, but weíre on our own.î

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