July 28th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Chicago 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2   6 13 0
Cincinnati 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   0 3 0
W – C. Zambrano (14-7)  L  - M. Belisle (5-8) S – None
Homeruns: D. Lee (11)

Box Score

Imagine how nice it would have been to come back and get that win on Friday which would have given us the sweep of the Reds. Instead, we’ll come home riding a two game win streak and face the NL East.

Carlos Zambrano tossed another gem to become the NL’s first 14 game winner this year. He’s been ridiculously good since the fight with Barrett and has begun to make a legit case for why he is the 2007 NL Cy Young leader. He predicted at the beginning of the season, as he did last year as well, that he would win the award this year. After the brutal start, it was looking as if he was on crack. Now, you have to wonder what winning a Cy Young in a contract year would do to the price tag he’s going to command. How much does it raise per season? $1 million? 2? I mentioned a few months ago that I wanted to see Zambrano traded because I was tired of him. I want to apologize and say that I was a moron. This is a contract that needs to get signed. With the departure of Michael Barrett, who figured to be the other big contract that was expiring, it’s vital that the Cubs pony up to keep this guy in a nice Cubs uniform. The key will be when the team sale takes place. If it happens early, the owner will probably want to make a splash of some sort to show the fans the serious commitment to winning. Signing Zambrano long term would be a just that move. On the other hand, if the team gets sold later in the off-season calendar, it could spell doom for re-signing Zambrano for the simple reason of who wants to wait around. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Not only was big Z dominant on the mound today, he got the job done with the bat, picking up three hits at the plate in four at bats. I was curious about who the best hitting pitchers in the Majors were this year, so I decided to take a look. I used a minimum plate appearances of 50, which means you’ve really had a chance to show your stuff. 12 guys met that requirement coming into today’s game. Here is how they’ve looked:

It looks like Zambrano is the best hitting in the NL as of right now. When he’s in the lineup, it’s almost as if we are playing with a DH. I really wish that he would stop trying to field every line drive with his pitching hand. He’s out there playing with reckless abandon, and we can’t afford that. He did it again today, but missed, thankfully. Len and Bob mention it every time he does it, and I think they’d like to see it stop just as much as I would.

Aramis Ramirez had another nice game, and you have to wonder where we would be had he not re-signed this off-season. He’s quietly making not only a case for the MVP award, but also for his first gold glove award. He’s not their yet, but he’s close. He’s third in fielding percentage behind Pedro Feliz (SF) and Scott Rolen (STL). He’s committed just 5 errors, one behind Feliz and Rolen. The problem is, there isn’t a good way to definitively measure defensive play. It’s not just a matter of least amount of errors or highest fielding percentage. As we all know, the gold glove also takes into account what you do at the plate (don’t ask me why). I don’t think Ramirez will win it this year, but next year is definitely a possibility. How cool has it been to see his transformation into a legit gold glove candidate compared to where he was when he came to Chicago in 2003. Like Zambrano, I still have a criticism on Ramirez. He’s propensity to admire his long doubles is getting to the point where it’s turning into a Sammy Sosa-esque annoyance. Toward the end of the road, Sosa would hop and then bolt to 2nd only to be thrown out or narrowly be called safe. Ramirez is falling into that same trap and it’s going to end up getting him hurt.

Alfonso Soriano seems to have broken out of his slump, but I’ve convinced myself that he’s just a streaky type of hitter. I have no statistical proof, and I’m too lazy to go looking for it today, but you have to admit that when he’s on, he’s hot as hell. When he’s off, he’s cold as ice. Hopefully, we’re in line for another one of those hot streaks, basepaths included. He picked up two steals today, and probably should have picked up a couple RBI’s on a homerun that was called a double due to fan interference. The replays were inconclusive, but I’m giving the hitter the benefit of the doubt. What was frustrating to me about the play was the baserunning mental lapse by Zambrano.

RULE 3.16 – When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

The idea of the umpire nullifying the interference essentially means that they give the baserunners the amount of bases it’s assumed they would have reached. For Zambrano, he was given third, but would have been given home as well had he not held up on the fly ball with two outs. My only guess is that he was either admiring it or really forgot how many outs there were. Thankfully, it was a play was didn’t factor into the outcome.

Finally, Derrek Lee continues to make the critics stick it where the sun don’t shine as he’s got his power stroke back. He’s now hit 5 homers in the past 8 games and is up to 11 on the year. It’s not the 40 that I think we were all hoping for coming in, but at this point, it gives us the power we’re needing in the middle of the order.

Misc. Notes

  • It appears that Al Yellon has changed his tune after calling for a trade of Sean Marshall for Jon Garland. After Marshall throws yet another solid game, suddenly he’s become valuable to Al. Come on Yellon, have a spine and stick to your beliefs for more than a day. (Source)
  • The Red had Scott Hatteburg in the leadoff spot today, which made me salivate. He’s one of my favorite hitters and I would love to see a guy like that hitting leadoff for us. I’m not saying we should go out and get him, because I would have no idea of where to put him, but his hitting approach makes me giddy. He takes walks and works deep into a count. MMMM, Walks!!!
  • Lou Piniella was flirting with Ken Griffey last night during the game. Griffey looked over into the Cubs dugout and Lou caught his eye. Lou stuck his tongue out and smiled. Isn’t that what you do when you like a girl and want her to notice you? Maybe Lou’s working his magic. Lou, can you pull A-Rod’s ponytail as well?
  • Changes have finally come to the veteran’s committee voting process, but unfortunately for Ron Santo, one of the changes was not to give him a complimentary induction to Cooperstown or to vote every year. Sorry Ron, better luck in 2009.
  • Jason Jennings got rocked today for the Astros, giving up 11 runs in just 0.2 innings of work.
  • Kerry Wood could be back as early as Thursday if all goes well this week in his rehab work.
  • Homeplate umpire, Ed Rapuano had a tough day today. He took a shot to the chest twice in areas that weren’t protected. Hopefully he has the day off tomorrow. He deserves it.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Carlos Zambrano (42.3%)
  • Second Star – Aramis Ramirez (13.6%)
  • Third Star – Derrek Lee (10.3%)
  • Turd of the Game – Mike Fontenot (-9.0%)

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    Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail