Archive for April, 2006

Game 20 Preview: Bring on the Sweep!!!

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006
Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Guzman ML Debut 0.00 0.00 N/A N/A
Olsen 1-1 1.50 1.67 W Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Marlins Series
2:20 EDT WGN 12-7 5-13 Cubs 2-0

Scouting Report on Scott Olsen
A graduate of Crystal Lake South High School in Illinois, Olsen grew up a big Cubs’ fan. Even when he was in the Marlins’ Minor League system in 2003, the left-hander was standing outside Wrigley Field when the Marlins beat the Cubs in Game 6 of the NLCS. Now, Olsen is in line to pitch in Wrigley Field for the first time. Fresh off an impressive win at Philadelphia, Olsen is seeking his third straight solid start. In beating the Phillies, he gave up two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings. A key for him is walks allowed. He walked two at Citizens Bank Park. (MLB.com)

Weather Report

Temperature: 58o
Wind: 10 MPH blowing from Left to Right

Cub Notes

  • The Cubs have not swept the Marlins at Wrigley Field since July 12-14, 2002
  • The Cubs lead the league with a .315 batting average with runners in scoring position.
  • The Cubs rank 2nd in the league with a .450 batting average with the bases loaded. Man, .450 is only 2nd?
  • Angel Guzman is making his Major league debut today. The last game he pitched was in AAA where he allowed 7 earned runs. Scott Olsen has limited experience as well. Two young guys means whichever team can jump out first will probably win the game. If you can rattle a guy early, you can probably get in his head.
  • Jerry Hairston will be starting at 2b again.
  • Jacque Jones is 2 runs away from 500 for his career.
  • Michael Barrett jammed his finger last night when he slid into 2b. Odds are he’ll get the day off. That should mean Blanco would hit 8th and Hairston 7th.
  • Matt Murton has been a great addition to this lineup. He is 2nd to only Aramis Ramirez in BB with 8 and has an on base % of .370. Last night he was clutch with 2 RBI.
  • Rotoworld mentions that Jerry Hairston should be hitting in the 1 or 2 spot in the order. Personally, I really don’t think he’s a good everyday guy. Stick with Ronny and we’ll be fine.
  • Cub fans are starting to Boo Jacque Jones which is ridiculous. Give the guy a chance. Is he the best RF? Certainly not, but booing him doesn’t help. It gets in his head and makes him press. Support him and he’ll be fine.
  • Sean Marshall was AWESOME last night. When I looked at the pitching matchups and saw Marshall / Willis, I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited about our chances. Sean Marshall proved me wrong and took big advantage of the wind blowing in. His breaking ball was wicked and he kept the ball in the strikezone. The one bad note was that guys were stealing at will on him.
  • Last night was Dontrelle’s 5th start in Wrigley. Up to that point, he was masterful. His career ERA is 1.60. We caught a break last night.
  • If you’ve never seen John Sickel’s minor league site, you’ll need to check it out here. He has a cool feature called prospect retro. The other day the subject was Corey Patterson and can be read here. The closing paragraph pretty much says it all:
    In retrospect, Patterson’s problems with strike zone judgment ended up overriding his other tools and skills. He’s shown no real skill growth for three years now. It seems likely that part of this was because he was rushed to the majors before he had solved the problem at the lower levels, although his pure athleticism was so good that he could do well in the minors even without good discipline. At age 26, he still has some time to turn things around, but the early returns in Baltimore are hardly positive, and at this point he has to be regarded as a major disappointment.

  • If you missed Ron Santo singing the 7th inning stretch the other day, Len and Bob have it on video on their blog here.

OVER / UNDER – 5 IP for Angel Guzman in his ML debut.

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Game 19: Marshall and smartball stop the Marlins

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

BOX SCORE – Again, another enjoyable win for Cubbie fans everywhere! Marshall threw seven innings of two-hit scoreless baseball, fanning seven batters in the process. He had his big bender spot-on, he was able to throw it for strikes at will and set the curve up beautifully with his fastball. I almost jumped out of my couch when the Cubs executed a perfect squeeze (thanks Hairston) and Michael Barrett did a great job of bunting a runner over. Hopefully Barrett didn’t hurt his left hand too bad on the headfirst slide into second, it looked like he got spiked. Look for Hank White to start at catcher tomorrow, as it is a day game after a night game. That will give Barrett a couple of days off in case there’s any pain tomorrow morning. Matt Murton snapped out of his little funk with some timely hitting and a perfect three for three.

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Game 19 Preview

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Marshall 1-0 6.28 1.12 ND No Data
Willis 1-0 2.92 1.26 ND Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Marlins Series
8:05 EDT Comcast 11-7 5-12 Cubs 1-0

Scouting Report on Dontrelle Willis
While the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field might scare most pitchers, Willis has no problem there. He is 2-0 with a 1.01 ERA in four career appearances in Chicago. He logged both wins last season, including a 2-1 nail-biter in which he allowed six hits and one run in 7 1/3 innings. (MLB.com)

Many predicted it would be easier to hit Willis with each successive turn through the league, and that proved to be at least somewhat true. He began the year seeking to smooth out his herky-jerky delivery, but eventually realized that the added deception of his impossibly high leg kick was something he simply could not sacrifice. Willis still dominated lefties, but righthanders fared almost 40 points better against him in his second season. Part of the problem was Willis’ difficulties in improving his average changeup. He still relied almost exclusively on an 89-92 MPH fastball that he must locate to have success. His slider is a plus pitch, but he must get to two strikes for it to be most effective. He rarely throws the slider for strikes.

Willis is such a good hitter that Marlins manager Jack McKeon used him as a pinch-hitter nine times in 2004. He generates surprising bat speed and managed four extra-base hits with his take-no-prisoners plate approach. Willis has a decent pickoff move but could stand improvement in that area. Very athletic, he made numerous leaping plays on the mound and pounces on sacrifice bunts quickly enough to gun down lead runners. (Fox Sports)

Weather Report

Temperature: 44o
Wind: 15 MPH in from CF

Game Notes

  • Jerry Hairston will get the start at 2b in tonight and tomorrows game. There is no word on where he’ll bat in the lineup, but if I had to venture a guess, it would be the 8th spot as long as Barrett is catching. If Blanco is behind the plate, he may bat 7th. I say that because so far, Dusty seems to like the production from Cedeno in the 2nd spot. He’s laid down sac bunts and played pretty well. I’d like to see him steal a little more.
  • No one beside Jerry Hairston and Michael Barrett have seen much of Dontrelle Willis. Hairston and Barrett each have at least 10 Ab’s in their career. Everyone else has very few. That could mean bad things for the first time through the lineup. Hopefully Juan Pierre has some success having seen a lot of Willis in the past and can impart that knowledge to the Cub hitters.
  • Angel Guzman is scheduled to make his first big league start tomorrow in the series finale as long as his arm doesn’t fall off from now until game time.
  • Friday the Cubs will celebrate Babe Ruth’s called shot by giving away 100 road 1932 Babe Ruth jerseys. It’s seems kind of stupid to give away jerseys from another team at your game, but whatever works, I guess.
  • Augie Ojeda, who is playing SS at Round Rock had to pitch an inning of relief work the other day.

Player to watch
I look for Juan Pierre to have a couple of hits tonight off his buddy Dontrelle. He’s seen him before and should know what to expect.

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Game 18: Sometimes you just get lucky!!!

Monday, April 24th, 2006

BOX SCORE – There are times when you just need to take a win where you can get it and realize you didn’t deserve it. That was the case tonight against the fish. I almost turned the game off in the 7th. We were just getting taken to school by the Marlins in all aspects of the game. Vargas was pitching a gem and the hits we were getting, while right on the button, seemed to be right at someone or robbed by a great defensive play. It was getting frustrating. I came into the game fully expecting the Cubs to take advantage of the wildness of Vargas and jump all over him early. Instead, they waited until the end to pull some runs out of Jacque Jones butt for the win.

Game Notes

  • Todd Walker hit the ball hard all night and really should have been on base all four times to the plate.
  • Carlos Zambrano was striking out guys left and right. He pitched well after a shaky start in the first inning. It was nice to see him finally compose himself enough to throw strikes.
  • What was up with the back breaking by Zambrano. Someone needs to tell him that might be a bad idea when three of our pitchers are on the shelf.
  • Neifi Perez was not overly impressive tonight and I am beginning to wonder why Dusty has been Jerry Hairston reluctant. He is scheduled to start on Tuesday and Wednesday so hopefully he’ll make something happen.
  • Mike Winters called a great game behind the plate tonight. He was very consistent throughout.
  • Miguel Cabrera almost beat us by himself. He’s a machine.
  • The Marlins looks tremendous in the field today. For a young team, they made some great defensive plays.
  • Hanley Ramirez is going to be the real deal in this league. Watch out for him and get him now in your keeper leagues.
  • Jones comes through in a big way.
  • Ramirez needs to quit pressing so much. Relax, take a few walks and lead this team.

Not much else from me. It’s hard to find too many positives when we should have lost. I’ll take it though. We’ve got a tough assignment tomorrow in the D-Train.

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Game 18 Preview

Monday, April 24th, 2006
Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Zambrano 0-1 3.97 1.59 ND Splits
Vargas 1-1 7.20 2.00 ND Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Marlins Series
7:05 EDT ESPN 10-7 5-11 N/A

Scouting Report on Jason Vargas
Because of Saturday’s rainout in Philadelphia, Jason Vargas had his start pushed back from Sunday to Monday. The Marlins are skipping Brian Moehler in their rotation and going with the left-handed Vargas, who has had his struggles this season. Mainly, Vargas has had a problem with walks. He has issued 13 bases on balls in 15 innings. In two road starts, he is 0-1, giving up 10 runs in nine innings. (MLB.com)

Weather Report

Temperature: 66o
Wind: 8 mph in from LF

Misc. Game Notes

  • The Cubs hit .327 in Florida last season as a team.
  • Felix Pie will not be getting the call up now that Lee is on the shelf for a good amount of time. Hendry has said that.
  • Carlos Zambrano has given up the third most walks in the majors so far this season. Jason Vargas is not far behind ranking 9th.
  • Over the last 7 days, the Cubs rank 27th in OBP as a team. That needs to improve in the Cubs are going to score enough runs to stay in it.

Over / Under

4 Walks for Carlos Zambrano

Note From Chris
Reportedly, the Cubs have claimed SP Zach Day off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. However, Day is disputing the validity of his release, because he claims the Rockies should have placed him on the DL with an arm injury instead of designating him for assignment. The kid’s a natural for the Cubs.

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Game 17: Maestro does it again

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

BOX SCORE

.99

Any guesses what that is? That, my friends, is Greg Maddux’ earned run average after four quality starts in 2006.

Go ahead, Chris, be my guest. Burn me and good on how insignificant I thought such statistics mattered a year ago when Greg’s era was over 5 but still pitching rather well.

This year all cylinders are clicking.

This 7-3 win over St. Louis was big. The Cubs prevented a sweep in their nemesis’ new digs. They finish a road trip 5-4 before coming home to face the Marlins, Brewers and Pirates. In 2005 the problem wasn’t winning on the road. The problem was winning at home. The Cubs have a great opportunity to build some momentum after the devastating loss the team suffered when Derrek Lee went on the DL for the first time in his stellar career.

Back to Maestro. My favorite part of the game was when the umpire came out to check the ball. Sure, ump. Go ahead and examine it. Throw it out if you want. I can make the next one do funny stuff, too. Then when Edmonds looked bad on strike one, the ump looked at another ball from Maddux. Same story. At the conclusion of yet another scoreless frame, Greg walks back to the dugout with a little smile on his face. A priceless image imbedded in my mind.

And Big Al is now 0 for 6 against Maestro in 2006.

This was supposed to be a big matchup for starting pitchers as Marquis was also 3-0 going into this game. Jason didn’t quite have it today. Sloppy defense behind him didn’t help.

As for the offense, much of the excitement was initiated by Pierre and Cedeño. Cedeño tripled in the first. Then Pierre doubled and was safe on an error in the 3rd and 5th. Both times Cedeño sacrificed Pierre over and he scored. Between them, 4 hits and 4 runs.

Jacque Jones and Aramis Ramirez both broke out of a slump by going deep. Let’s hope this is a harbinger for the homestand.

Ryan Dempster’s scoreless inning streak was snapped. These were the first runs he has given up since August 12 of last year but they came in a non critical situation so everyone can now relax.

Todd Walker stepped up to show real leadership in Lee’s spot in the order. He is now hitting .408 after going 2 for 3 and collecting 3 rbi’s.

Matt Murton has cooled off considerably in the last seven games. Smokin’ against Pittsburgh the first two games of the roadtrip (4/8) he has just 2 hits in his next 22 at bats and has seen his average dip from .342 to .250 in that span.

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Game 16: Stay the Course

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

BOX SCORE – The choice is up to you right now. You can either jump ship in April or stay the course and understand that this team is not that bad. If you decide to jump ship, good riddance. We don’t need you. If you’re staying the course, let me give you the top 5 reasons why this team is good enough to overcome this injury to Derrek Lee.

  1. We have 3 pitchers coming back – Now before you rant and rave about the fact that we can’t put all of our eggs in the Mark Prior and Kerry Wood basket, let me remind you that there are THREE pitchers on the DL. Even if one of them hits the shelf again, which would probably be Wood, that would leave two pitchers for less than a full year of work. Getting those guys back would help immensely.
  2. Ramirez hasn’t hit yet – We have been playing reasonably good baseball so far this season and it has been without the aid of Ramirez bat. He has hit under .200 so far. When his bat comes alive, that makes up for some offense we’re currently missing. When you look at the season to this point, we have gotten production from 1 of 2 of our sluggers, Derrek Lee. Once Ramirez gets hot, we’ll again get production from 1 of 2 of our sluggers. That would put us right where we have been to this point.
  3. The Lineup still isn’t that bad – When you look at the lineup as a whole, it really is much improved from last season. With Hairston in the lineup at 2b on days that Walker plays first, the lineup is a much more patient and speedy. Pierre came into the game one steal behind Ryan Freel the Reds pest of a leadoff man for the NL stolen base lead. Hairston can draw a walk out of the 2nd spot. Walker can drive in runs and hit with a little power. Ramirez is an all star. Murton is a great hitter that is only going to get better. Cedeno is hitting great so far this season, just like he did all off-season. Barrett is one of the top hitting catchers in the majors and that only leaves Jacque Jones, who very well could come around to the form he was in when he played for the Twins. The lineup is much improved and people need to understand that. It’s just a matter of learning to play scrappy smallball while Lee is out.
  4. The Bullpen is solid – The Cubs came into the game today with an ERA of 3.12, which is 3rd in the majors. If the starters can simply give us 6 or 7 innings, the pen can carry the load when needed.
  5. The Injury is NOT season ending – Keep in mind that when mid July hits, Derrek Lee comes back to the lineup. With the wild card in place in baseball now, no team unless they are the Royals are ever out of the race in July. If the Cubs can stay afloat by playing slightly above .500 ball, they will get a huge player back in mid-July and be poised for a run at the wild card or maybe even the division.

The choice is yours. My advice? Stay the course and understand that it won’t be as bad as people think.

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Game 16 Preview

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006
Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Rusch 1-2 6.60 1.33 W Splits
Ponson 1-0 3.97 1.15 W Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Cardinals Series
2:15 EDT Comcast 9-6 10-6 Cubs 3-1

Scouting Report on Sidney Ponson
So far, so good for Ponson as he attempts to rejuvenate his career with the Cardinals. Ponson wasn’t pleased with his mechanics, but delivered 6 1/3 innings and limited Cincinnati to two runs in his last start. Ponson’s big goal in his next start is to consistently get ahead in the count. That was something he failed to do against the Reds. (MLB.com)

When Ponson is pitching well, his fastball can reach 92-94 MPH, but he often works in the 90-92 range. One reason for the drop in velocity is a lack of conditioning that also affects his stamina. The key to his 2003 success was an improved slider. When he’s able to throw a sharp slider with good command, it helps set up his other pitches. He’s not afraid to throw inside to keep hitters off the plate. Ponson used to throw an average forkball, but recent elbow and shoulder woes have forced him to abandon the pitch. Without the forkball and the velocity he once had, he needs to keep the ball down in the strike zone to stay out of trouble. Poor control and pitches high in the zone were a problem in 2004.

Due to his large frame, Ponson is slow getting off the mound to field his position. When he reaches slow rollers in front of him, he handles them without problems. He is average in getting over to first base when the ball is hit to the first baseman. His move to first is deliberate and barely keeps hitters honest. (Fox Sports)

Weather Report

Temperature: 73o
Wind: 10 mph out to LF

Over / Under
Today’s over under is 3 HR given up by Rusch in his outing this afternoon.

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Nothing to see here…Cards 9, Cubs 3

Friday, April 21st, 2006

BOX SCORE – This is supposed to be the wrapup for tonight’s game. But instead of depressing you with the gory details, we’re going to ignore this one. There was no game tonight. The Cubs didn’t get beat 9-3. Jerome Williams wasn’t lifted in the 2nd inning after giving up 7 runs. None of it happened. Instead, we’re going to start the post-Derrek Lee Wrist Injury Era tomorrow, with Greg Maddux on the mound, and see how it goes from there. Who’s with me?

In all seriousness, it’s hard to take anything from tonight’s game, other than Jerome Williams may be quickly pitching his way back to Iowa. The Cubs looked a bit flat in their first game after D-Lee’s injury, but it didn’t help that Williams wet the bed, unable to get more than 4 outs in his start. The only real bright spot came from Michael Barrett, who went 3 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBI.

Cubs News:
There was good news and bad news on the injury front, as Mark Prior pitched to live batters but Kerry Wood felt tightness in his side while warming up, and thus was unable to pitch in his scheduled simulated game.

Wade Miller was placed on the 60 DL yesterday to make room on the 40 man roster for Michael Restovich. It would appear that our pitching reinforcements are a bit futher off than we had hoped.

Man, this isn’t making me feel any better. Let’s just get ‘em tomorrow.

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