Archive for May, 2007

Wake up, Mr. Hendry.

Monday, May 28th, 2007

I stood all I could, and I can’t stands no more.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that, or possibly Popeye. Either way, the phrase surely fits for any Cubs fan who has been watching the 2007 version of the team. While this year’s version of the Cubs is not nearly as atrocious as say, last year’s, they are exceedingly more frustrating. Perhaps it’s the way they are in every game, and always seem to find a way to lose it at the last minute (like hitting a guy with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning, for example). Or that our bullpen cannot seem to hold a lead of less than 5 runs. Or that Jim Hendry has put together one of the most oddly constructed rosters I’ve ever seen. Regardless, my point is this: we have played a quarter of the baseball season, and the Cubs have scored 224 runs, while giving up 197. According to the formula for calculating Pythagorean record this should result in a record of 27-21. In reality, the Cubs have a record of 22-26. Some people think this is just the result of bad luck, and that eventually this situation has to even itself out. However, those who have been watching the team play know that this is no fluke.

Despite Lou Piniella’s best efforts, the Cubs are still playing dumb baseball. Bad base running, botched rundowns, and lead-off walks still plague the team, just as they did under Dusty Baker. And while I’m glad that Lou is at least willing to try new things and play the players who are actually producing, it’s clear that something more needs to be done.

That’s where Jim Hendry comes in. As I’m sure he’s aware, the Cubs are going to be sold this offseason. Most new ownership groups want to put their own General Manager in place, the only thing that might stop them is tremendous success by the current regime. I’d say puts Hendry on the spot, basically, he needs to win the NL Pennant or he’s gone. The good news is the NL Central may be worse than it was last year. Currently, the only team over .500 is the Brewers, and after a fast start in April, they appear to be plummeting back to the pack. The bad news, of course, is that the team has some gaping holes. Let’s look at the most immediate problems:

The Bullpen
This was supposed to be a strength this year. While Ryan Dempster and Michael Weurtz have been solid this season, the rest of this group has ranged from questionable at best to putrid at worst. In particular, Hendry’s big buys of 2006, Eyre and Howry have been terrible. Neal Cotts has already been sent to AAA, and Will Ohman somehow managed to escape the same fate after a terrible April. Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol are still unknowns. Oh, and bullpen addition Kerry Wood has yet to fire a baseball in anger this season. Already 10 saves have been blown this year, mostly by setup men. This unit urgently needs an upgrade, and I don’t mean waiting for Wood to come back healthy and pitch.

The Outfield
Only the Cubs could play and outfield that consists of a 2nd baseman in left, a right fielder in center and 2 leftfielders in right. Soriano’s been the best of the bunch defensively, while the rest have been disappointing (with the exception of Cliff Floyd). The outfield defense is definitely terrible, with Jacque Jones’ throwing problems continuing, and Matt Murton butchering plays in right. You could justify poor outfield defense if these guys were hitting, but they’ve been mostly below average at the plate, and when they do manage to get on base, they often run themselves into inexplicable outs. Cliff Floyd has been pretty good, but counting on him to play a full season is almost as crazy and depending on Wood and Prior to anchor your starting rotation. Basically, the team needs to either acquire a real, live centerfielder and use a platoon in right, or try to get a good right fielder and call up Felix Pie to play center.

Catcher
Michael Barrett is described as a good offensive catcher. This is code for “bad defensive catcher”. Unfortunately, Barrett’s numbers are down a bit this year, and even worse, he’d need to be hitting .340 with 15 homers to make up for his rock-headed play this season. Every offseason, Barrett goes somewhere to work on his defense, and while I admire his work ethic, it’s clear he’s simply not going to get any better. Even worse than his defense though, have been his mental errors. Barrett’s been playing dumb baseball this year. There’s no other way to describe it. In yesterday’s game alone, he made the third out of an inning when he was caught trying to steal 3rd(!!!) and later in the game botched a rundown by throwing to the base behind a runner, allowing him to advance. These aren’t isolated incidents. On top of all this, Barrett is now on the wrong side of 30, a time when catchers start to break down. If the Cubs can sell another team on Barrett’s offense and use him to facilitate a trade, they need to do it.

Obviously, there are other issues with this team, but these seem to be the most glaring. As to what the Cubs can trade, only the starting pitchers, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez should be considered irreplaceable. Every other player on this team should be trade bait for the right deal. And while Jim Hendry has usually been loath to trade his prized minor league prospects, now is the time for him start considering it. That is, if he wants a chance to keep his job.

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Game 48 – Guns Don’t Kill Teams…Walks Do

Sunday, May 27th, 2007


May 27th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 R H E
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 7 0
Los Angeles 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 4 1
W -  C.  Billingsley (3-0)   L  - A. Guzman (0-1)  S – None
Homeruns: A. Ethier (4)

Box Score

Rich Hill
I get a kick out of all the people that suddenly jumped off the bandwagon after he had a couple tough starts in a row. Cub fans are way too fickle, and I can only attribute that to the long drought for a championship. The fact is, every pitcher makes a bad start or two once in a while. There are reasons why guys have losses, even the great ones. If I could impart one piece of advice, it would be to get on the bandwagon again now, and stay on for the rest of the year. Don’t be afraid. Rich Hill is a good one and will continue to get better.

Today, he showcased a new pickoff move after going through a lot of issues keeping runners in check. He spilt time between a small slide step and a delay in his leg kick that at one point fooled Furcal and enabled Hill to pick him off. That delay seems to be boardering on a balk, but I’ll take it if they’ll give it to us. If you haven’t seen it, he brings the leg up and holds it for a split second while looking the runner at 1st down. That pause seems to mess with the runner enough to get him to tip his hand on whether or not he plans to run, which is exactly what Furcal tipped in the 1st. I think it will be an effective move if the umps continue to give it to him because it’s deceptive, especially from a lefty.

Hill was very effective with his pitches today, getting a good number of one pitch outs up and down the lineup. Twice he did it to Furcal, whose whole job is to see a good number of pitches as the leadoff man. When he was finally pulled for a pinch hitter, it wasn’t because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, but rather that the Cubs had a shot at scoring and needed to take a chance. You could argue that had Lou been patient and kept Hill in the game, the Cubs would have scored in the 8th and Hill probably could have went the distance. Excellent observation courtesy of those special hindsight glasses. They always seem to make our vision so clear. If only managers could wear them during the game. I like Lou’s decision to go for the run with the pinch hitter in that situation. It was a run that could have won the ballgame, the way it was going. If it was a different day, it wouldn’t have been the move to make, but every game is so different and needs to be managed accordingly. Hill finished the game with a pitch count of 66, which is fine with me. That should mean he’ll be extra strong next time out.

Scott Eyre
I don’t know what the Cubs can do with Scott Eyre, but the fact of it is, he’s really struggling this year. His confidence is probably extremely low right now and at 35 years old, a demotion to AAA is not the answer. Guys that age don’t go down with the mindset of getting right and working themselves back up mentally. Guys that age begin to think even more pessimistically and consider themselves on the way out. Eyre is making $4 million this season and has a player option for another $4 million next year. In other words, it’s Scott’s choice if he wants to come back next year and make another $4 million. Basically, it means the Cubs are on the hook for $8 million and I can’t see them eating that to release this guy. Their best bet at this point would be to place him on waivers, which that may have already done, and see if anyone bites. Through the course of the year, a lot of guys get placed on the waiver wire and either get pulled back or clear and we never hear about it. If the Cubs put Eyre on waivers, it simply means anyone can have him and immediately takes over his services and his contract. If he clears waivers, the Cubs can demote him to the minor leagues, assuming he accepts the assignment.

I can’t tell you what is wrong with him. All I know is that for the last few years, he’s been a pretty good reliever, so maybe he’ll figure it out.

Walks = Bad
You can’t expect to win games, especially late in the game when you walk guys and give the opponent a chance to put guys on base without the benefit of a hit. Guzman and Marmol, two guys being considered for the closer spot, did just that. A loss in the late innings is tough, but the Cubs need to keep plugging away. This division is very winnable and we have the best team in it.


STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Randy Wolf (.363)
  • Second Star – Rich Hill (.363)
  • Third Star – Jonathan Broxton (.286)

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  • A time for triumph

    Sunday, May 27th, 2007

    At times I’ve been accused of being masochistic – after all, what man in their right mind would be both a Chicago Cubs and Vanderbilt Commodore fan? Today the Commodores improved their record to 51-11 as they defeated Arkansas 7-4. In doing so they added the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship to their regular season conference championship and the Dores are likely to capture the top seed in the national tournament. It is also quite likely that Vandy will enter the college tourney as the #1 nationally-ranked team, just ahead of Rice and Florida State.

    Commodore pitcher David Price (10-0, 2.76 ERA) leads the team with 164 strikeouts and 29 walks in 118 innings pitched. He is likely to be the #1 overall draft pick in this year’s MLB amateur draft. However, he may be too expensive for Tampa Bay or Kansas City and could fall to the #3 Cubs. The team’s offense is lead by sophomore third baseman Pedro Alvarez and outfielder Dominic de la Osa, who combined for 32 homeruns and 110 RBIs. Alvarez is likely to be a top ten amateur draft pick next year.

    The Commodores in all likelihood will host a regional bracket in my neighborhood beginning next week; I’m told that the school is adding bleachers to accommodate extra fans. Let’s go Dores!

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    Game 48 – Open Thread

    Sunday, May 27th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Rich Hill – Hill needs to turn the calendar, and quick. In April, the lefty was 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA. This month, he’s 1-3 with a 5.87 ERA. In his last start against the Padres, Hill struck out eight but also gave up five runs on six hits and two walks — and four of those hits were home runs. At least they were solo shots. It’s just a matter of better location.

    Randy Wolf – Wolf became the club’s first six-game winner and exceeded his victory total for last season by beating the first-place Brewers, avenging an opening-week loss in Milwaukee. Wolf scattered only three hits over seven innings and both runs he allowed reached base via walks. He’s 2-5 lifetime against the Cubs.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Randy Wolf – ESPN Splits


    Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

    Eric Patterson (AAA) 3-5, 2(3B), 4RBI, 2R, (.331avg)
    Geovany Soto (AAA) 2-4, 2B, HR, 3RBI, 3R, BB, (.297avg)
    Wade Miller (AAA) 5IP, 1ER, 5H, 3BB, 4K, (4.09ERA)
    Casey McGehee (AA) 2-4, HR, 5RBI, R, (.288avg)
    Donald Veal (AA) 4IP, 7ER, 9H, 4BB, (7.21ERA)
    Jeff Samardzija (High-A) 5IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 2K, LOSS (4.82ERA)

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    Game 47 – Superman Returns…..maybe

    Saturday, May 26th, 2007


    May 26th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0   4 10 0
    Los Angeles 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0   2 10 0
    W -  C. Zambrano (5-4)   L  - M. Hendrickson (2-2)  S – R. Dempster (11)
    Homeruns: A. Ramirez (12) M. DeRosa (5) W. Betemit (5)

    Box Score

    Obviously, the story for today was Carlos Zambrano. Carlos went a strong 7.2 innings, striking out eight, walking one, and giving up two runs. Today was the Carlos of old, which probably means Carlos of 2007 will rear his head during his next start. His control was spot on, with a wicked slider. FOX had him top out at 93 mph for his fastball which ranged anywhere between 89-93 all game, nowhere near his velocity of last year. His arm slot is definitely lower as well. His high mark was 94, on the pitch immediately after giving up the home run to Wilson Betemit.

    The key of the game came with “The large mammal” beating out a check swing bunt for a basehit in the fourth inning, which eventually led to two runs, as the offense went stagnant after Mark Hendrickson left the game.

    Today also saw that Lou is terrified of using his bullpen. He kept Big Z in as long as he could, and only had Dempster warming up for most of the eighth. I thought he almost brought in Ohman with his eyes closed and begging for the gods to get him through one hitter. It paid off.

    Dempster was shaky after an impressive strikeout. Two back-to-back singles made it interesting once again. Thank goodness for the double play.

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    Game 47 – Open Thread

    Saturday, May 26th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    “Jose Lima” – Zambrano is coming off a loss against the White Sox, yielding seven runs on six hits and four walks over 6 2/3 innings. He seems to have his mechanics straightened out. Now, he needs to work on concentration.

    Mark Hendrickson – Hendrickson didn’t pitch as badly as it sounds, with five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, but it was bad enough for his first loss of the season. He was done in by a three-run sixth inning, although only one of four consecutive hits was squarely struck. Nonetheless, after stepping in for Jason Schmidt with four starts in which he allowed no more than one earned run, he’s been charged with seven over his past two starts.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Mark Hendrickson – ESPN Splits

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    Why I Failed Science

    Saturday, May 26th, 2007

    I’ve been lamenting for years that since the inception of interleague play, the Cubs or Sox’s season hinged on their first series. It had seemed to me that which ever team won the first series, started on a roll, while the other faltered to mediocrity. Perhaps my warped little mind had too much Old Style flowing when I came up with this theory.

    As I listened to the series last week, I thought for sure this would be the turning point in the season. The Cubs took two of three, and were surely on their way now. As this past week progressed, I did a little research. What I found was that I need to stop coming up with theories.

    Year Wins Losses vs. Sox W/L before series W/L after series
    1997 68 94 1-2 27-40 40-51
    1998* 90 73 3-0 34-24 53-49
    1999 67 95 2-4 32-24 35-68
    2000 65 97 3-3 25-35 38-60
    2001 88 74 2-4 36-21 50-51
    2002 67 95 3-3 26-38 38-56
    2003* 88 74 2-4 39-32 47-40
    2004 89 73 4-2 40-32 48-39
    2005 79 83 3-3 18-20 59-61
    2006 66 96 2-4 17-23 48-71

    Basically, what I learned is that one series cannot determine the outcome of a season. We may think the Cubs/Sox series is a big deal, but it really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. The Cubs have managed two series wins against the Southsiders. 2004, being the only season we expected a playoff, and possibly a World Series run, and we all remember how that turned out. The saving grace in 2003, was the Cubs impressive 19-9 record in the month of September. Otherwise, it was a .500 club, which certainly solidifies the theory of one or two good months can make a season. The rest of the year is .500.

    In the meantime, I’m going back to creating some hair brained theories while under the influence. I wonder what creative genius Bud will make me…..

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    Game 46 – Enough Already

    Saturday, May 26th, 2007


    May 25th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 0 0   8 13 0
    Los Angeles 1 0 2 0 2 0 0 4 X   9 12 2
    W -  R. Seanez (2-0)   L  - W. Ohman (0-2)  S – T. Saito (15)
    Homeruns: J. Kent (8)

    Box Score

    I’m not sure if the Cubs deserved to win this game or not. When you go down 5-0 and rely on a 7 run inning, do you really deserve to win? I don’t think so, but the fans don’t deserve another epic bullpen meltdown like last night. I’d like to highlight the comment section from the open thread. Hopefully it says it all. Keep in mind that it is not edited for spelling or grammar.

  • Jock Jones could not throw a strike from the outfield to home plate if his life depended on it. If I were an opposing 3rd base coach, I would run on him every single freaking time I had a chance!
  • I think they do run on him every single freaking time.
  • I am watching the biggest meltdown …I can’t even talk/type. Fire them all.
  • I hate being a Cubs fan!!! This bullpen is full of a bunch of overpaid losers.
  • Time to send a message and hold someone accountable for this mess now, Lou, before it is really too late. How long are we going to put up with this level of suck?
  • Thanks again for the infamous bullpen of Howry, “Bad Omen” Ohman, and the rest, my day has been ruined…Lou; please make some drastic changes now. Otherwise it will soon be too late.
  • I can’t believe I stayed up to watch it. What a waste of time!

    Gotta win the next two to finish .500 for the west coast trip, which was my goal.

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  • Game 46 – Open Thread

    Friday, May 25th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Ted Lilly – Lilly hung on long enough for the win in his last start against the White Sox. The lefty gave up three runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out six. Lilly leads the National League in strikeout/walk ratio, fanning 54 while walking just 10. His start was pushed back because the Cubs didn’t want to have their three lefty starters going back to back to back.

    Derek Lowe – Lowe suffered through an unlucky three-run fifth inning against the Angels in his most recent start. All five hits that inning were ground balls, three not leaving the infield, but it was enough to beat him. He leads the league in complete games, but both were losses as his club scored one run total on his behalf. He struck out six without a walk.

    View the Cubs career numbers vs. Derek Lowe – ESPN Splits


    Notable Performances From Down On The Farm

    Josh Lansford (Low-A) 2-4, HR, 2RBI, 2R, (.281avg)
    Russ Canzler (Low-A) 2-4, 2B, HR, 2RBI, 2R, (.273avg)

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