Archive for May, 2006

Could this finally be the end?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

As I write this, the Cubs are seemingly in control of their game against the Giants (4-1 lead in the 6th inning). Will this be the night they finally snap the losing streak? In the mean time, I wanted to address something. A few Cub fans I know are wondering why Jacque Jones is taking such a beating from the fan base for his slow start, while Juan Pierre, who has been even worse than Jones, seems to be getting a pass. Well, let’s take look at the way both players reacted in the paper to a dumb play each of them made.

Jones’ quote comes after he was doubled off second base when he took off on a line drive that was easily caught by the left fielder. Keep in mind, this was the second time in a week that Jones had made this mistake:

You know what? If you’re not aggressive, then they say you should be,” Jones said Thursday. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. When things aren’t going well, you always try to make something happen.”

Jones thought Neifi Perez’s sinking fly to left in the series opener would drop for a hit, so he broke from second with an expectation of scoring for a club that is struggling for runs. But Luis Gonzalez made a diving catch and doubled off Jones at second.

“That’s how I was taught to play the game,” Jones said. “You play it on instinct. You don’t want to be silly, but you want to play with controlled aggression. You play the game with what you feel.”

Hmm. Jones sounds like a certain manager than many Cubs fans have taken a dislike to.

Now here’s Pierre’s quote to a question about being picked off 2nd base during the Arizona series:

Center fielder Juan Pierre blamed himself for Thursday’s loss, pointing to getting picked off second base by Arizona catcher Johnny Estrada in the first inning.

“It was like, ‘Here we go again,’” Pierre said. “As a leadoff hitter, that’s inexcusable, and I think that set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Now that’s something we haven’t seen in a while, a Cubs player actually taking ownership of a mistake. Doesn’t Juan know that when you’re on the Cubs you need to blame the light air, or the clubhouse food, or jet lag or something?

I’m not saying this makes the fans treatment of Jones fair, but in light of the fact that we’ve been watching Dusty Baker protect his players regardless of what they’ve done the last few years, it certainly might help explain why the fans are being tougher on Jones than Pierre.

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Game 33: Today is the day!!!

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Today, the Cubs will end their hellacious losing streak and begin the road to recovery. I guarantee it. In fact, I have come up with the top 5 reasons you can bet your life savings on….The Cubs winning tonight.

  1. Carlos Zambrano – He has said that he found the flaws in his pitching motion and has made the necessary corrections. As a result, he dominated in his last start but got a no decision in a 1-0 loss. Tonight, the Cubs help the poor guy get his first win of the year.
  2. Matt Cain – The Giants starter has been anything but impressive so far this year. If ever there was a guy to tee off on, this is it.
  3. Executioners are calling – People are beginning to get antsy for a new manager. Writers are writing, DJ’s are talking. You know the team reads and hears it. Tonight, they begin to shut them up.
  4. Ryan Theriot – The Cubs have said that they want to give time at 2b and in the OF for the youngster. He’ll want to impress and stay on the roster so he’ll do whatever it takes. He’ll probably be in the lineup today and could be just the spark the team needs.
  5. Derrek Lee – The Cubs have received news that Derrek Lee is getting his first cast off and will be getting a smaller one. That jolt of good news will be a boost.

Granted, I am probably reaching on a few of these, but when you’re in the middle of a desert, you reach for any drop of water available to give you strength. So, those are five reasons I just got off the phone with the bookie.

On a side note, congratulations to everyone who e-mailed me with the correct solution to the baseball puzzle yesterday. I have randomly drawn the winner from a hat and it is: T.J. Brown from Niles, IL. Congratulations T.J., i’ll get your information via e-mail and have the book shipped out to you right away.

Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Zambrano 0-2 4.43 1.60 ND Splits
Cain 1-4 6.27 1.52 ND Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Giants Series
10:15 EDT Comcast 14-18 16-17 Giants 1-0

Scouting Report on Matt Cain
Cain comes off a poor performance in a four-inning, six-run nightmare, giving up four homers and nine hits. Locating his fastball was his chief problem, as the favored pitches zoomed mainly over the middle of the plate. The Giants are sticking with the 21-year-old rookie, giving him a chance to recover his control at the big league level rather than send him to Triple-A Fresno. (MLB.com)

Weather Report

Temperature: 68o
Wind: 10 mph out to the RF corner

Farm Report
David Aardsma and J.K. Ryu both pitched well for the I-Cubs last night. Here is the box score.

Over / Under
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being definite, is your confidence in tonight’s win over or under 7.5?

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Game 32 wrapup: T minus 130 and counting

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Chicago vaudeville comedian said it best Cubs fans: “Did you ever get the feeling the whole world’s a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes?” He’s also the guy that said: “My uncle was the town drunk, and we lived in Chicago.”

We can’t win for losing can we! Pierre continues to be pathetic at the plate, although he did make a spectacular catch in center. Neifi’s way under .200 but he’s Dusty’s guy at second – it seems Ryan Theriot was brought up to be a cheerleader on the bench. We just don’t have much going for us now, what we need now is a pitching mismatch so we can break this losing streak.

No sense in belaboring the obvious, this funk shall eventually end. In the meantime, there’s a lot of strange happenings around the league. Surprisingly, the Tigers are solidly in second in the AL Central, Cincinnati leads the NL Central, Colorado leads the NL West and the Mets are seven games ahead of the Braves. Who woulda thunk it!

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Game 32 Preview

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Is it wrong to want your pitchers to throw at a player’s head? I know it’s a terrible thing to ask or even think, but you have to wonder how many pitchers and managers have had it cross their mind this season. Now that it’s all but proven that Bonds cheated, he is continuing to chase the HR record, which I think is a joke. Personally, I struggle with what I think should be done to him. Privately, everything in me wants desperately for him to get injured severe enough for it to end his career one HR shy of Babe Ruth. Then I think about if that is the morally right way to feel and I am thrown back into reality. The fact of the matter is this. Barry Bonds will pass the Babe very soon, perhaps tonight. However, the fact of the matter is, Barry Bonds will not have the stamina or physical health to reach Hank Aaron. He knows it, and all of baseball knows it. Perhaps that is why we haven’t seen many come in high and tight. My guess is, if he sometimes gets to 750 or so, that could change drastically.

Alright, now that I’m done venting, here are some nuggets for you to chew on as we head into a successful series with the Giants (gotta love my blind optimism).

Hot and Cold

Who’s Hot in the month of May

Name TM AVG OB% HR RBI Runs SB
Cedeno .333 .333 0 1 0 3
Jones .300 .344 1 2 1 0
Feliz .344 .344 3 6 4 0
Matheny .346 .333 1 4 2 0
Finley .320 .393 0 3 3 0

Who’s Cold in the month of May

Name TM AVG OB% HR RBI Runs SB
Whole Team .228 .294 3 9 10 11
Winn .161 .257 1 3 5 0

When you look at this table, there are a few highlighted notes

  • Ronny Cedeno, despite getting on base, is not getting driven in by the rest of the lineup. That is a major problem. If you have guys at the top that are reaching base, you have got to do anything it takes to get them in.
  • Steve Finley just knows how to hit and get on base. His OBP is almost at .400 which is exceptional for a non leadoff guy.
  • Randy Winn, as cold as he has been has 1/2 the runs our team has scored as a whole in the month of May. OUCH!!!!

Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Hill 0-1 11.25 2.00 L Splits
Schmidt 2-2 3.77 1.19 W Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Giants Series
10:15 EDT WGN 14-17 15-17 0-0

Scouting Report on Jason Schmidt

Schmidt had a sparkling five-hit, complete-game shutout in the Giants’ 2-0 win over Milwaukee last Wednesday, with the big right-hander mowing down seven Brewers on Ks and dealing a troublesome mix of fastballs and changeups. Schmidt had pitched fairly well this season but seemed doomed by three-run homers. Perhaps this smooth, 112-pitch effort will turn his year around. (MLB.com)

Pitching
Many players call Schmidt the most feared starter in the National League. He not only throws hard and has a nasty slider, but he has developed a changeup that is among the best in the game. Rather than nibbling at the corners as he did earlier in his career in Pittsburgh, Schmidt comes at hitters with a fastball clocked as high as 98 MPH. Schmidt had a 12-game winning streak from April 26 to July 17 in which he established himself as the top starter in baseball. He threw two one-hitters during the streak, each against high-powered offenses (Cubs, Red Sox).

Defense & Hitting
If there is a drawback in Schmidt’s game, it’s his fielding. His 6-foot-5 frame and high-energy delivery put him at a disadvantage with the glove. He committed three errors last season. An elbow injury in 2003 hindered Schmidt at the plate. He has four homers in his career, however, with 17 RBI. Although at times he can look awkward at the plate, he has sneaky power. (Fox Sports)

Weather Report

Temperature: 65 degrees
Wind: Out to right center at 12 mph

Over / Under
0.5 HR for Barry Bonds tonight with the wind blowing to RF

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Game 31 Recap & Puzzle

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

WE STINK!!!! Well, I think that about sums it up. I haven’t had the urge to stay up for these west coast games because this team is giving me no reason to. Tonight, the ONLY really i’ll attempt to is just to see if Barry Bonds hits a home run. I’ll be working on the game preview later today, complete with the who’s hot and who’s cold table for both teams. In the meantime, I figured I would give you the opportunity to take your mind off the horrible losing and onto a puzzle of logic. I posted this puzzle last year and no one could solve it. This year, I am offering a prize. It is a Cub related book. If you would like to try to solve the puzzle, good luck. E-mail me if you get a solution. Remember, your solution should fit ALL of the clues.


MUDVILLE BASEBALL

When this year’s Muddville High Marauders took the field on opening day, it was a special occasion for the fathers of six of the starters: not only were their sons playing for the 2002 team, but 25 years earlier, they had opened the season as high school players on the only Muddville squad to win a state championship. As it turned out, the six sons collectively were playing the same positions as the fathers: pitcher (P) and catcher (C) and the four infield spots, first base (1B), second base (2B), shortstop (SS), and third base (3B). From the lineup card entries that follow, you should be able to determine the full name of each father and son (the dads’ first names are Bill, Hank, Joe, Mickey, Ron, and Stan and the boys’ are Alex, Brian, David, Jason, Peter, and Tony) and the position each played on Muddville Marauder opening day then and now.

Clues
1. The six Muddville Marauder father-son pairs are Ron and his son, the Benches, Alex and his dad, the father who started at SS and his son, the dad who played 3B and his son, and this year’s 3B and his father.

2. Schmidt, who isn’t Stan, and his son played different infield positions on the opening days.

3. Stan, who isn’t Yount, isn’t Brian’s dad.

4. The son of the 1977 squad’s P plays 2B on this year’s team.

5. Ron and Carlton were co-captains of the state title team.

6. One father-son pair started at C on the two teams; a second pair also played the same position on the squads; the
father and son of each of the other four pairs played different positions.

7. Neither Mickey Mays nor his son played SS for the Marauders.

8. Brian isn’t one of this year’s infielders.

9. Carlton and his son both played the same opening day position; they didn’t play C or SS.

10. David, who isn’t the Bench boy, put a picture of his dad as the 1977 Muddville starting P inside his baseball cap for luck.

11. The Palmer teen isn’t this year’s starting P.

12. Joe, who isn’t Bench, and his son played the same position on opening days then and now.

13. Hank isn’t the 2002 SS’s father.

14. Peter, who isn’t Schmidt, isn’t the son of the state championship team’s 2B.

15. Jason isn’t Bill’s son.

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Game 31 preview: Time to fish or cut bait

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Okay Cubs fans, we need this one! Tomorrow’s a work day so I’ll be lucky to finish the game tonight but here’s my read. The Cubs brought up Theriot to try to make things happen. No poor reflection on Restovich seeing as how he didn’t really get a chance to play – Hendry and Dusty are making moves now just to make it look like they’re doing something. Hendry had a chance to do things in the offseason, he won’t really get another bonafide chance until we get closer to the trade deadline. Let’s hope the Cubs are within 8 games of the wildcard when that time comes.

Our ace goes to the mound tonight – Maddux has been very Maddux-like, posting a 2.35 ERA in 38 1/3 innings pitched. I just can’t say enough about this guy, it brought tears to my eyes when he came back. Maddux has averaged one baserunner per inning, which is exactly where you want to be, he’s in top shape physically and should be re-signed for 2007 and 2008. He wears his age well and I’d be willing to wager it isn’t about money at this stage of Greg’s career. Greg likes Chicago and Chicago likes Greg – let’s get ‘er done!

I almost forgot the over/under. Cubs 3 runs – I pick over.

Update:

Well enough for fishing, time to get the paring knife out. Let’s accept it Cubs fans, we’ve got a long season ahead to endure. I seriously think it’s time to consider sacking the management and bringing Quade up. We also need to *consider* rebuilding with an eye toward 2009, that might involve trading some of our better players for top talent. Players like Lastings Milledge and Jeremy Sowers, not chump change. I’m starting to give up on this team, it appears as though they’ve given up on us.

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Game 30 wrapup: Do not disturb, freefall in progress

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

Well if yesterday was about humility then today was about frustration. Frustration with a team that appears as hapless as Don Baylor’s 2002 team, it seems we can’t win regardless of whom the other team starts. Today the 2006 Cubs racked up their sixth consecutive loss – the good news was that the offense actually scored three runs. The bad news is that in the last six games the Cubs have scored a total of five runs. And that ain’t gonna cut it with this pitching staff.

Speaking of the 2002 team, only Carlos Zambrano remains when it comes to the current twenty-five man roster. At some point the Tribune is going to have to hold it’s management team accountable for the team’s results. I’m not naming names but I’ve got a pretty good idea where the buck should stop…

Note From Chris:

The Tribune is reporting that Ryan Theriot has been called up from AAA. Mike Restovich was sent back down.

Update from Mastrick:

The editorialists are starting to turn up the heat: Jay Mariotti wrote a piece critical of Hendry in today’s Sun-Times and a fan from Minnesota had some things to say about Dusty Baker in the Chicago Tribune’s ‘View from a Cubs fan.’

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Game 30 Preview

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

Sometimes you have to just swallow some pride and admit you stink. Right now, the Cubs hitters just flat out stink. What will turn that around? The only thing I can think of is to be extremely patient at the plate. Take some walks, bunt some guys over and maybe a few breaks will go your way. Just to put this severe drought of runs into perspective a little. Here are some depressing stats.

Over the Last 7 Days

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are hitting .180 as a team. The Cubs are hitting .208. The difference is, Pittsburgh has scored 18 runs, good for about 2.5 per game. The Cubs have scored 4.

I’m not sure what it will take, but rest assured, the Cubs will hit better than this soon. My advice is this. If you do not have the patience right now, watch some NBA playoffs and take a break from baseball. Sometimes that is the best cure for frustration. Or, if all else fails, wash that lucky Cubs jersey of yours that you haven’t washed in the bartender game in hopes of an eventual World Series title. Perhaps that is why the Cubs stink so bad.

Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Guzman 0-1 5.91 1.78 L Splits
Williams 2-1 3.06 1.18 W Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Padres Series
4:05 EDT Comcast 14-15 15-15 San Diego 2-0

Scouting Report on Woody Williams

Solidifying his reputation as a quality starter after a rocky 2005 season, Williams continues to deliver consistently sound performances, his most recent effort enough to beat the Giants. Moving his fastball around and keeping hitters guessing with a changeup and knuckler to go with his breaking stuff, Williams has had 40 baserunners in 32 1/3 innings, walking 11 while striking out 21. His command is better than it was at any time last season when he was 9-12 with a 4.85 ERA in 28 starts after an oblique strain cost him a month. (MLB.com)

Pitching
Williams has an assortment of ways to get batters out. He relies heavily on a good cut fastball, which he can throw in the 89-92 MPH range. Though the cutter is often his bread and butter pitch, Williams also has an effective curve that he often employs as a strikeout pitch. In addition, Williams has outstanding command of a good straight change. He loses velocity and effectiveness in a hurry, so pitch counts are an issue with him. He pitched past the seventh inning only twice last year. Williams is a team leader who will battle in every start, even without his best stuff.

Defense & Hitting
Lacking a good pickoff move, Williams tries to vary his delivery in order to freeze runners. However, he was still nicked for 10 stolen bases last year. Williams is a poised, heady defensive player, but he did make three errors last year. He is also a good hitting pitcher, so confident with the bat that he tried to argue Tony La Russa out of using a designated hitter in Game 1 of the World Series in Boston. (Fox Sports)

Weather Report

Temperature: 66 degrees
Wind: 11mph in from left field

Over / Under

Until the Cubs start playing better, the over under is set at 2.5 runs for the offense. I’m taking over every day.

Minor League News Update from Chris
Mastrick has previously mentioned how unimpressive Bobby Brownlie(0-3 10.80 ERA) has been thus far for Iowa. The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Brownlie has been demoted to AA West Tennessee.

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Game 29 Preview

Saturday, May 6th, 2006
Starting Pitchers
    Record ERA WHIP Last Start Compare
Marshall 2-0 3.45 0.87 ND Splits
Peavy 2-3 4.58 1.19 W Splits
Game Information
Game Time Television 2006 Cubs 2006 Padres Series
10:05 EDT WGN 14-14 14-15 San Diego 1-0

Scouting Report on Jake Peavy


Peavy finally got some run support — he’d been given two total runs in his three previous starts — and was able to relax in San Francisco. Mixing his breaking stuff and changeup with his mid-90s fastball, Peavy was economical and effective, throwing 105 pitches, 74 strikes, in eight commanding innings. The NL’s 2005 strikeout king has 28 Ks and eight walks in 39 1/3 innings. He’s in a nice groove and expects to stay there. (MLB.com)

Pitching
With a loose-armed, three-quarters delivery, Peavy delivers a fastball that ranges from 92-96 MPH. He also has a plus change, a two-plane slider and a curve he’ll throw in any count. His changeup arguably is his best pitch. He’s an intense competitor with great focus, and he rarely lets hitters escape with a mistake once he gets ahead.

Defense & Hitting
If Peavy has any flaw, it’s that he sometimes focuses too much on the hitters and completely ignores the men on base. Big league basestealers are 26-for-28 when he is on the mound. He’ll never win a Gold Glove, but he does an adequate job of fielding his position. When Peavy is at the plate, he takes good-looking swings although it’s rare anything comes of it. He’s an adequate bunter. (Fox Sports)

Weather Report

Temperature: 63o
Wind: 10mph left to right

Game Notes

  • Including Derrek Lee’s, who is the only guy on the Cubs with any success against Peavy, the Cubs are batting a collective .162 in 68 at bats. That doesn’t signal a good result tonight. To me, that says No Hitter.
  • I wonder if the Cub starters are feeling extra pressure with the offense not producing. You would think that they have to. Hopefully that doesn’t come into play tonight with Marshall on the mound.
  • Bynum better not be anywhere near that field today or I’ll go off. He played himself out of the lineup in one game last night.
  • I want to see small ball the first chance we get. I don’t care that we’re sacrificing the chance for the big inning. Right now, one run would he historic. I want to see leadoff men on and stealing at will. Lots of bunting runners over as well.

Over / Under
2.5 runs of offense against Jake Peavy

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