Archive for April, 2007

Game 14 – Cubs lose seventh of their last nine

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007


April 18th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago 1 0 1 0 0 2 2 0 0 6 9 0
Atlanta 4 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 8 11 1
W -  O. Villarreal (1-0)   L - S. Eyre (0-1)  S – B. Wickman (5)
Homeruns: DeRosa (4) Francoeur (3) Thorman (2)

Box Score


(AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

The Cubs proved they could give away yet another game tonight as they literally handed the ballgame to Bobby Cox and his Atlanta Braves 8-6. The Chicagoans did a great job of catching up with and passing the Bravos in the six and seventh, getting Carlos Zambrano off the hook for yet another poor pitching performance. Zambrano finished the game after six innings pitched; he gave up eight hits, five walks and five runs. He now sports a Mark Prior-like ERA of 7.77.

But Scott Eyre really underwhelmed the Cubs faithful, coming in and giving up three runs in two-thirds of an inning. Why did Uncle Lou stick with Eyre with the game on the line, what was he thinking? C’mon coach you’ve got to do better than that. Eyre was awful in spring training and now in the regular season he sports a 14.40 ERA. The Braves took a two-run lead against the hapless pitcher and never looked back.

Mark DeRosa hit his fourth homerun of the season and D Lee and Ramirez combined for three hits and two RBIs; Neil Cotts looked strong again in his one inning of relief. The Cubs play the Braves again on Thursday; the game will be televised at 6:35 CDT on WGN.

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NL Central: Bad division or really competitive?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

This question has been plaguing me all pre-season. Now, we are fifteen games in and it has begun to bug me even more. Maybe because the entire division hovers around .500 and stand within a few games of one another. Maybe it’s just because I’m cranky.

From the moment that professional sportswriters started writing about the 2007 major league baseball season, there has been a very common theme. Anyone can win the NL Central this season. Because the teams are so closely matched? No! Mostly because nearly everyone in the baseball world seems to think that the division, as a whole, stinks. Check around. Go back and read the season previews. According to the sporting world, the NL Central is a horse race of mediocrity. Up for grabs, mostly because there isn’t a team good enough to take it. Almost every analyst and expert picks a different order of finish for the NL Central. The fans seem to think the same things too. Check blogs, message boards, and public forums on any sports site, including this one. You’ll find that the whole baseball world seems to agree. The NL Central is BAD!

Well, I disagree. I prefer to think of the NL Central as competitive.

As a Cubs fan, I guess I kind of have to think of the division as highly competitive. It does make the reality of not making the post season for the last four years a little easier to deal with. Personally, it makes me feel a little better to consider your division tough rather than just bad. Don’t get me wrong. The Cubs have been bad, and unlucky in recent years. However, its hard not to think that the division draws a certain measure of respectability due to the fact that the NL Central has been represented in the last five consecutive NLCSs. In two of those NLCSs the NL Central had TWO teams playing. Not to mention the fact that in both of those cases, and the last three years in a row, the NL Central has been in the World Series. So I can’t help but wonder how it is so easy for sportswriters and most of the rest of the free world to write off the NL Central as a whole.

Sure it looks bad on paper. When you factor in, the fact that last year all but two NL teams had winning records versus the Central division. Also, that the Cardinals 83 win-first place record, would have placed them in 3rd place (or worst) in every other division in baseball. On paper, that looks bad no matter how you write it.

So, If you’ll pardon an old cliché: Its a damn good thing they play games on grass and not on paper.

The fact of the matter is this. In the last five years, teams from the NL Central compete for the wild card and beyond. They sometimes even win!

I don’t defend the Cardinals often, but I heard a lot of sour grapes this past winter about how bad they were last season. How lucky they were. It went on and on. The plain truth was, they won it all. Eighty-three measly wins to take 1st place in a crap division. Yet they took on the best teams in baseball during the post-season, and won. The NL Central isn’t bad. The teams within it just spend a lot of time and energy beating the tar out of each other. At least that’s what I choose to believe.

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Game 14 – Open Thread

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano is coming off a strange outing. He hit his first homer of the season as well as a double, but blew a 5-0 lead as the Reds rallied on Friday at Wrigley. Big Z gave up six runs on six hits and four walks over four innings while striking out two in an Opening Day rematch against Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang. The Cubs’ ace is 1-0 in two games at Turner Field, giving up one earned run over 12 innings.

Kyle Davies – Other than the back-to-back, two-out second-inning homers he surrendered, Davies was nearly perfect in his season debut against the Mets on Sunday. The 23-year-old right-hander matched a career high with eight strikeouts and issued just three walks. He has regained the confidence he lacked when he came back from right groin surgery to make six forgettable September starts last year. Since altering the placement of his hands during his windup three weeks ago, he’s shown an ability to find more consistency with his location.

View the Cubs career numbers vs. Kyle Davies – ESPN Splits


Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

Casey McGehee (AAA) 2-4, 2B, HR, RBI, R, (.154avg)
Ryan O’Malley (AAA) 7IP, 0ER, 5H, 3K, (1.15ERA)
Matt Craig (AA) 3-3 (.367avg)
Brian Dopirak (AA) 1-2, HR, RBI, (.212avg)
Mark Holliman (AA) 7IP, 1ER, 3H, 2BB, 3K, WIN (0.69ERA)
Mitch Atkins (High-A) 5.2IP, 0ER, 2H, 2BB, 6K, (1.69ERA)

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Game 13 – Stupid Free Baseball

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007


April 17th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 R H E
SD 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 14 1
Chi 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 1
W -  D. Brocail (1-0)   L - W. Ohman (0-1)  S – T. Hoffman (3)
Homeruns: None

Box Score


AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

I’d like to start out with a question for you. In the bottom of the 14th inning, with the Cubs down by a run, Piniella brings in pinch runner Jason Marquis to run for Daryle Ward. Ward came in on a double switch and was the last position player on our bench, assuming that Soriano was unavailable. With that being said, what happens if Ronny Cedeno is able to get a single and Marquis comes around to tie the game? Do we come out in the 15th with Marquis in RF and Theriot moving to the IF? I’m assuming that Lou had thought that through, but it would have been nice to see it play out and see what he had up his sleeve. It seems like a big risk for a very small reward. How much faster can Marquis really be? Is it worth risking defensive problems in the 15th?

Felix Pie
I’ve got to wonder how you will be able to send Pie down in a week or so. It would be like taking a baby’s toy. Fans are going to scream. They’ve heard about this guy as if he was the second coming of Willie Mays and now that he’s not only here, but contributing with the bat and his arm, the fans may not let him go. Jacque Jones needs to start on a hot streak or his Cub days could be numbered.

Wade Miller
This guy is not the answer. You can say what you want in his defense, but I don’t want Miller on this team. He doesn’t have any movement on his fastball, and it’s topping out in the 88-90 mph range. That doesn’t win games in this league. When it’s time to recall Angel Guzman from AAA, i’d like to see him get a shot at the job. He has pitched well out of the pen, which can be tough if you’re used to being a starter. He’s earned a shot and I’d like to see him get it.

I don’t have much else right now, because I’m pretty frustrated at this loss today. It was a game I really felt like we were going to win. I didn’t expect to win going into it, with our 5th starter on the mound, but when we were still in the game after both starters were removed, I felt we had the better pen and would be able to push across a run to win. Now we’ll need to go to Turner Field a look for a sweep against a Braves team that’s off to a good start this season. We’ve got to be on a streak when we come home to play the Cardinals. It’s very important.

On the way out, I found this “Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before the game that Ohman simply ‘needs more work.’” – ESPN.com God help us if he wasn’t saying that as a joke.

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Game 13 – Open Thread

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
Greg Maddux – Maddux looked like the Maddux of old on Wednesday against the Giants, allowing six hits over six scoreless innings in winning for the first time in 2007. Maddux’s fastball had a lot of life on it, and he pounded the strike zone (75 pitches, 55 for strikes). He also struck out six.

Wade Miller – Miller will be starting for the first time since April 8. Such is the life of a fifth starter. The right-hander gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks over four-plus innings in his first and only other start against the Brewers. The good news was that Miller felt strong at the end. He made five starts last season, his first since shoulder surgery in September 2005.

View the Cubs career numbers vs. Greg Maddux – ESPN Splits


Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

Felix Pie (AAA) 2-4, 2B, RBI, R, (.444avg)
Micah Hoffpauir (AAA) 2-4, 2HR, 3RBI, (.432avg)
Angel Pagan (AAA) 3-5, R, 2SB (.273avg)
Chris Walker (AA) 2-5, HR, 3RBI, (.281avg)
Chris Amador (High-A) 3-4, RBI, 2R, 2SB, CS, (.357avg)
Joel Santo (High-A) 6.2IP, 2ER, 5H, 1BB, WIN (2.31ERA)
Wellington Castillo (Low-A) 3-4, R, (.316avg)

Update The Cubs sent Angel Guzman to Iowa and brought up Felix Pie. Soriano has not been placed on the DL, and expects to be back in 7-10 days.

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Game 12 – Time Out For Poetry

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007


April 16th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Diego 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 4 7 1
Chicago 2 0 0 1 4 5 0 0 X 12 14 0
W -  J. Marquis (1-1)   L - C. Hensley (0-3)  S – None
Homeruns: C. Floyd (1) M. Barrett (1) M. DeRosa (3) M. Giles (2)

Box Score

I don’t want to jinx this team by writing too much into this win, so I’ll just present a small poem.

Homeruns are nice
Homeruns are good
Homeruns are the spice
That put me in a good mood

Let’s go beat on Greg Maddux today.

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Home Plate’s Expanding Waist Line

Monday, April 16th, 2007

“The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.”

That’s the exact definition of the strike zone from Major League Baseball’s Rule Book. That’s the area over home plate. Then why, oh why, has the strike zone suddenly been tipped over on it’s side? It’s clearly stated in the rule book. Why has it been so open to interpretation, and why does it have an waist line that’s expanding like an someone with a hunger for supersized meals?

Nothing disturbs me more in pro sports than rule bending. I can hardly watch the NBA and it’s blinder wearing officials that seem to miss the most obvious violations. Taking three steps on a wqay to a show stopping dunk, or the always present moving of the pivot foot. It takes the sport out of the sport, and gives someone a diecided advantage. These ridiculous “fat” strike zones are starting to rank right up there with my aggravation.

Granted, there are some times when the wide strike zone is merited. The league I’m in, has to squeeze seven innings games into a two hour and fifteen minute window. Pitching is not always a premium for some teams, thus a wider, larger zone is needed. Then again, we’re not professionals, and we don’t expect umpires that are making $60-70 to be the cream of the crop. That’s not an insult to the umps we deal with either, we’ve got some pretty darn good ones that take our games pretty seriously.

I tip my hat to guys like Greg Maddux that have shown over the years that they can consistently keep the ball within an acceptable range of the strike zone year in and year out. But guys like Kyle Lohse? 12 K’s? Please, let’s get back to the basics oh great man in blue. We’re no longer respecting the game or the class act of pitchers. You’re taking the bat out of the hands of the offense, and making a mockery of what should be the clearest set of rules in the baseball rule book.

Shoulders to knees, width of the plate….maybe with a little fudge factor. That’s all I ask.

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Game 12 – Open Thread

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
Clay Hensley – The blister problems that have troubled Hensley were as much of an issue Tuesday as were the miscues that he and his teammates committed. Mike Cameron lost a fly ball in center, Marcus Giles was charged with an error on a grounder and Hensley himself didn’t throw home on what would have likely been a sure out at the plate in a two-run second inning. In losing for the second time this season, Hensley allowed six runs (four earned) with two walks and four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Jason Marquis – Marquis will be making his third start and second at Wrigley as a Cub. The right-hander went five innings in his last game against the Astros, and gave up four runs, three earned, on four hits and four walks while striking out three. His opponent, Chris Sampson, needed 64 pitches over five innings, Marquis threw 91. Against the Reds in his first game, April 4, Marquis gave up one run on three hits over seven innings but did not get a decision.

View the Cubs career numbers vs. Clay Hensley – ESPN Splits


Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

Felix Pie (AAA) 2-3, RBI, BB, CS (.438avg)
J.R. Mathes (AAA) 6IP, 2ER, 5H, 1BB, 3K, WIN (6.43ERA)
Matt Matulia (High-A) 2-2, R, 2BB, 2PO, (.361avg)
Brian Pettway (Low-A) 3-4, 2(2B), RBI, (.360avg)


Cubs Line-Up: According to 670AM The Score, Murton will be batting 4th and playing Right Field and Jones will be in Left.

Soriano CF
Theriot 3B
Lee 1B
Murton RF
Barrett C
Jones LF
DeRosa 2B
Izturis SS
Pitcher

~ Nick Bettilyon
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Game 11 – K-Fest

Sunday, April 15th, 2007


April 15th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cincinnati 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
W -  K. Lohse (1-0)   L - T. Lilly (1-1)  S – D. Weathers (5)
Homeruns: None

Box Score

Starting Pitchers Dominate
I’ve really been enjoying the days that Lilly pitches. He seems to know the importance of a quality start and goes out each game and makes it happen. Today was no exception, but Lilly’s line was a little deceiving. Granted, he did strike out 10 Reds hitters and limited base runners to a meager three, but the fact is, Lilly was effectively wild today. He went deep in counts often to the Reds hitters and as a result, left the game after six innings of work and 101 pitches. He did seem to be the benefactor of a fairly wide strikezone all day by home plate umpire, Doug Eddings. With that start, Lilly’s ERA is now at 2.37, which is much nicer than I think most would have expected coming into this season. Jim Hendry took a lot of grief for bringing in Lilly and Marquis as his answer for addressing the pitching needs and so far, the critics appear to have been bound and gagged.

On the same note, Kyle Lohse surprised me today by one upping Ted Lilly in his performance. Lohse was much more efficient with his pitches, and while he did allow more Cubs to reach base, he did what he had to do to get out of those situations remain unblemished in his line. Oh, and he had 12 strikeouts on the day as well. This is Lohse’s third start, second against the Cubs this year, and we haven’t seemed to figure him out quite yet. Hopefully that will change next time around because this is a kid with a career ERA just a shade under 5.00 in his career before this year.

Wasted 6th Inning
I hate to go SABR on you two days in a row, but the 6th inning mess just burned me up. With a runner on 2nd and no men out, the Cubs should have been able to come away with 1.1 runs in the inning, before Theriot singled and increased it to an expected total of 1.5 runs. Instead, Jacque Jones decides that it would be a great and noble idea to swing at a pitch breaking down and away around ankle level and Derek Lee gets caught up in the moment of Jackie Robinson day and forgets to swing the bat in his strikeout. He looked at all three strikes. Come on Derrek, be a clean up hitter. On a day when the starting pitcher is virtually unhittable unless your name is Ryan Theriot, you’ve got to capitalize on a situation like the 6th. The Cubs failed big time in this one. You will notice in this fan graph how important that 6th inning was.

When Ryan Theriot hit his single, the game shifted drastically in the Cubs favor only to take a nice dip back down from then on. The bottom graph shows the importance of each situation and you can see the height of the green bars is almost the highest they were all game. This was a situation that had to be taken advantage of and it wasn’t.

Fan Giveaways
Yesterday was a Cubs engraved iPod Nano and today was Lou Piniella bobble head day. Those are some great promotional days. You have got to give some props to the promotion and marketing department for coming up with some good ones. The one that made me laugh, and I couldn’t find it anywhere on the promotional schedule on the Cubs website but it was mentioned on the telecast was Baby Ruth day. I like the idea of getting a free Baby Ruth for coming to the baseball game. Maybe a nice king size hunk a chocolate mixed with peanuts on a hot day would be a good thing. However, the Cubs have decided to not go the king size route. Heck, they’re not even going the regular size route. Nope, leave it to the Cubs to go cheap and go the “Fun Size” route and only to the first 10,000 fans. Shame on them.

Michael Wuertz
This guy has been money out of the pen in the last few days. Today was no exception as Wuertzy came in to pitch the 7th and 8th innings and retired all six hitters in order. None of the Reds got good wood on the ball and he struck out two of them. If the Cubs can get through six innings with the lead this year, you can almost put it in the books as a win. This pen is going to be outstanding once Howry and Eyre get their groove going. Don’t doubt them. It will happen.

Jackie Robinson Day
I don’t have too much to say on this one. I wasn’t alive with Jackie Robinson played or when he was even alive. What I do know is that he changed the game of baseball and sports in general by breaking the color barrier. I’m glad that baseball is celebrating his accomplishment each year. With that being said, here is a link to one of the best baseball songs of all time.

Conclusion
This was a tough one for Lilly to take the loss on and a tough one to stomach when you look back at that 6th inning. Gotta look forward and get ready for San Diego tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing our old pal Greg Maddux in this series.

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