Archive for August, 2007

Game 123 – Preview

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Scouting Report on todays starters from
Kip Wells – Wells appears to be trusting his stuff, and that’s a key. When he gets too fine, he gets in trouble. When he simply throws pitches with movement down in the strike zone and doesn’t try to pinpoint perfect location, he looks good. Wells has been as good as any pitcher in the St. Louis rotation lately, and for once that’s not damning with faint praise.

Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano was named NL Pitcher of the Month in July but is still looking for his first win in August – and his 15th of the season. The right-hander gave up 13 hits in his last start against Cincinnati, and failed in his third try at win No. 15. In his past three starts. Big Z has given up 23 hits and 12 walks over 17 2/3 innings. That’s a lot of baserunners. What’s wrong? Hard to say – he may be trying to do too much. Against St. Louis this year, Zambrano is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA.

View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information including how our guys have faired against today’s starter, bullpen rest report, and much more.

What To Watch For – If ever there was a time to watch for a Carlos Zambrano no-hitter, tonight is the night. Fresh off his big contract extension and on the national stage of Sunday Night Baseball, Big Z will try to keep the winning ways going for the Cubs. I fully expect him to have one of his most dominant starts of the year, but my fear is that he’ll come out too hyped up and be wild early, which will run the pitch count up early.

News and Notes

  • The tracked player report now includes the level each player is currently assigned to. That is a very nice improvement that First Inning has set up.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 6, Memphis 7
  • AA – Tennessee 10, Chattanooga 4
  • High-A – Daytona 2, Palm Beach 9
  • A – Peoria 0, Clinton 4
  • Short Season – Boise – No Game
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs 8, Athletics 8
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs – No Game

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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  • Game 122 – A Tale of Two Innings…and Rain Delays

    Sunday, August 19th, 2007

    August 18th, 2007


    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    St. Louis 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0   3 8 1
    Chicago 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 X   5 4 2
    W – S. Marshall (6-6) L – A. Reyes (2-12) S – R. Dempster (19)
    Homeruns: J. Encarnacion (8) B. Ryan (4) A. Pujols (27) D. Ward (1)

    Box Score

    Due to their win yesterday the Cubs entered today’s game with sole possession of first place for the first time in a long time. With the win in game one of the series the Cubs accomplished a few things other than jumping in front of the Brewers. They cooled off the surging Cardinals and extended their lead over them to three full games. They also won the first game of this series, which on paper looked like a probable loss facing Braden Looper who has been very strong against the Cubs and seemingly unbeatable in day games. That puts the Cubs in position to do real good things this weekend and amazing things if Sean Marshall could do the job today…with Big Z throwing Sunday and Lilly throwing on Monday.
    This weekend was also the air and water show in Chicago which means that fighter jets will buzz Wrigley Field numerous times during the weekend causing batters, umps, and hitters ducking and covering. This is usually humorous except for the time that Steve Trachsel was pitching for the Cubs and had a strike three called back because the hitter was too frightened to swing. Trachsel who had been in control of the game, had a melt down and gave up run after run in a Cubs loss.
    When Trachsel was pitching for the Cubs he often took criticism for pitching and working too slowly. Sean Marshall is cut from the same cloth. He takes a long time to work and especially so if he gets into trouble.
    As Joe mentioned in the preview today’s game presented us an interesting (In the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest…disgustingly intriguing sort of way) pitching match up. Sean Marshall has been unreliable and sometimes really bad in recent outings only pitching 13 innings in his last three games. His opponent was Anthony Reyes. The winner of World Series game 1 last year started this year at 0 and 10. He was sent down to the minors and has been pretty good since his return.

    Interesting (Maybe) Preliminaries
    Jacque Jones has been hitting .360 since the All Star break with 26 RBI. Lee and Ramirez have 12 RBI COMBINED.

    Albert Pujols has a .659 slugging percentage since the All Star break. I have heard it said that great hitters seem to bat more than one time in the line up. I often find myself counting innings ahead to see when Pujols is due up again and what situation he might be hitting in.

    Can we stop hearing about the brilliance of Tony LaRussa for batting his pitcher eighth? If this were some great idea people would have been doing it for years. In the game today the Cardinals had runners at first and second with one out in the second and the pitcher Anthony Reyes due up in the eighth spot. The announcers Matt Vasgersian and Joe Girardi talked about how LaRussa’s strategy worked great because this was a perfect sacrifice situation. But this meant that a true hitter would now bat with two outs instead of one. Even though one runner would have moved into scoring position it does not make up for the lost out. With good hitters failing seven out of ten times, you would rather have a true hitter batting with one out rather than two.

    When the lineups were finally announced after the rain delay they were announced by representatives of the teams, which is how FOX often does it. However, this time a bat boy for the Cardinals announced their team and Jimmy Farell the retiring Wrigley Field umpire’s room attendant announced the Cubs. While Jimmy Fallon or Will Ferrell would have been entertaining…Jimmy Farell was not. Farell mispronounced Ryan Theriot’s name (Tear EE OTT) as well as Jason Kendall (Ken DELL). Attaboy Jimmy!!! You must have learned from Lou who calls our left handed reliever “Steve Eyre.”

    Rain Delay 1
    I thought there would be two redeeming aspects of this rain delay. First, being able to see Roger Clemens pitch a little. Second, to hear some of Joe Buck calling a game. (There probably is a little manly sports related infatuation with Joe Buck since he called both the World Series and Super Bowl by the time he was 35). I enjoy hearing Joe Buck because I think he calls a great game, his success is not merely due to nepotism. Sadly, Joe was not there because he announced a football game last night.
    I figured we would have Dick “Adolpho Soriano” Stockton calling our game but instead we got Matt Vasgersian and Joe Girardi. Pretty bad. Vasgersian might be remembered for being in the Padres booth for Rick Sutcliffe’s drunken rant a few years ago. (If you can find this on youtube check it out.) Sutcliffe was invited to return to the Padres booth, where he used to work with Vasgersian, for a half inning. Sutcliffe was so out of it that he began commenting on the fact that Vasgersian had been rumored for many jobs over the previous off season. “Matty. Whaddya still doing in San Diegooo?” One of the jobs that Vasgersian was up for was following Chip Caray into the Cubs booth. He was one of the final candidates…and thank goodness they chose Len Kasper.
    (By the way Steve Stone worked with Hawk Harrelson on White Sox broadcasts last week. There are rumors that the Sox might be interested in hiring Steve Stone and moving Darrin Jackson to the radio booth. Stone and Hawk got stellar reviews.)
    Vasgersian will always be remembered for being on one of the two primary announce teams for the XFL. How legitimate was the XFL? The two main announce teams were comprised of Vasgersian teamed with Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Jim Ross teamed with Jerry “The King” Lawler. Three wrestlers/ wrestling announcers and Vasgersian. While I would guess that Matt does not like that this is on his resume he had some great XFL type commentary when Daryle Ward hit is grand slam in the third inning. Vasgersian called it “A Chicago Style Salami”. Dirty jokes aside…commentary at its’ worst.
    The team also went on to opine that the crowd’s excited response to the grand slam was partially due to their understanding that Ward was playing in place of Cliff Floyd who attended his father’s funeral this morning. Heartwarming but probably false.
    (On a real side note I was saddened to hear that “Adolpho” Stockton has been replaced by Kenny Albert on FOX NFL’s “B” team. The Bears get the “B” team a lot because the “A” team is often at NFC East games. I don’t love Stockton, but Kenny Albert does not speak “big game” to me.)

    The Two Innings
    The Cubs Third
    Kendall led off the third with a walk.
    Marshall flailed and failed at a sac bunt but Kendall advanced when strike three got away from the catcher Molina.
    Theriot walked.
    A big play in the inning came when Jacque Jones beat out a double play ball at first base keeping the inning alive.
    Derrek Lee lined a ball into the opposite field scoring the first run. He was 3 for 4 today and hit the ball hard. He should have had a first inning double, but So Taguchi played a quick bounce off the wall and held Lee to a single.
    Ramirez who is hitting .349 with runners in scoring position walked the bases loaded.
    Just when I was questioning why Lou is batting Ward clean up instead of Murton or Kendall he hits a long fly ball grand slam into the center field bleachers. His first Cub home run. Cue the XFL tryout comments and the Cubs are up 5-0.

    The Cardinals Sixth
    Marshall began the sixth by walking Pujols. Even though he only had thrown 70 pitches Lou pulled Marshall. 5 inning for Marshall with only one walk, five hits and two solo home runs. I like that Lou pulled him so quick. Marshall seems to fall apart real fast in the fifth or sixth. Today he didn’t have that chance.
    Marmol came in and things got weird.
    Marmol was erratic and walked Encarnacion.
    Rolen came to the plate representing the tying run. He flew out and Pujols advanced on a sac fly.
    Then Marmol threw a wild fastball that bounced off the bricks. Kendall made an athletic play to grab the rebound and flip it to Marmol who was covering home making a play on Pujols trying to score. The ball beat Pujols but he clearly slid under the tag. The Cubs got a break and he was called out.
    Then I saw a play I have never seen before. Chris Duncan struck out on a pitch that hit him in the thigh. It got by Kendall but Duncan could not advance on a dropped third strike because the ball had hit him.
    Inning over. No damage done. Except for those who like watching good baseball.

    Rain Delay 2
    Bob Howry gave up a solo shot to Pujols in the eighth.
    Encarnacion singled and Duncan stepped up representing the tying run again.

    Duncan has a lot of power and hits righties hard. The rain came down real fast as the Cubs rushed to warm a leftie as fast as the rain. Howry got to 1-2 on Duncan working the outside corner. He then took his time, drying his hands and walking around the mound until the umps had no other choice than to call out the groundscrew for the second rain delay.

    One hour later a warm left handed Carmen Pignatiello throws one curve ball to strike Chris Duncan out looking. Just like you write it up.

    The Cards outhit the Cubs 8 to 4.

    The Cards hit three homers to the Cubs one.

    This was one of those games that the Cubs only scored in one inning and allowed the other team to claw back in it.

    But the Cubs only walked two and the home runs were all solo shots.

    In Conclusion
    Remember how great rain delay theater used to be. Reruns of This Week in Baseball and The Baseball Bunch. Today we had to sit through many minutes of Jeanne Zelasco, Kevin Kennedy, and Erik Karros holding court. Long live Mel Allen’s voice!!! How about that !!

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Daryle Ward (20.2%)
  • Second Star – Derrek Lee (12.3%)
  • Third Star – Carlos Marmol (11.6%)
  • Turd of the Game – Anthony Reyes (-20.3%)
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    Game 122 – Preview

    Saturday, August 18th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from
    Anthony Reyes – It’s as though Reyes is a different pitcher since his late-July recall from the Minors. He’s taking a bit more of a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, getting away from a tendency to overthink things early in the year. Reyes needs to locate his fastball and throw it even when he has runners on base, then work off the heater with his curveball and changeup.

    Sean Marshall – Marshall pitched well enough to win on Sunday in Colorado. He gave up three runs on five hits and avoided the big inning that often plagues pitchers at Coors Field. His biggest mistake was trying to go low and inside against Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth inning. The ball caught some of the plate and all of Tulowitzki?s bat, sending it into the left field bleachers.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information.

    What To Watch For – The Cubs have had a hard time staying above water when they move into first place. It’s important for them to show that they can begin to widen the gap between them and the rest of the division. Sean Marshall hasn’t pitched out of the 6th inning since July 28th, so hopefully he can give the Cubs a quality start.

    News and Notes

  • Donald Veal’s latest journal entry has been posted. This edition talks about the dog days of summer and the prospect of September Major League call-ups. (View Journal)
  • John Manuel of Baseball America took some time to do a draft chat the other day. Here were a couple of questions asked regarding the Cubs draft. (Source)

    What position do you see Josh Vitters playing for the Cubs? And how long before he is in the big leagues?

    For me, his best comp is Pat Burrell–amateur 3B, probable LF in pro ball, possible 1B.

    What was the reason for the delay of the announcement of Vitters’ signing until the last second? He wasn’t considered to be a tough sign.

    Seemed like they were waiting for Moustakas to announce; hard to come down on the Cubs for going over slot if Moustakas got $4 million, but at the same time, the Cubs wouldn’t have given Vitters $3.2 million had Moustakas signed for the $3.15 million slot that was assigned for No. 2.

    What do you think of the cubs draft overall, and is it possible for Vitters to make it to the bigs in less that three years?

    It’s solid, nothing extravagant, good college players, big Josh Donaldson fan and have really come around on Darwin Barney, just a winning player.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 5, Omaha 9
  • AA – Tennessee 2, Chattanooga 1
  • High-A – Daytona 4, Palm Beach 6
  • A – Peoria 4, Cedar Rapids 6
  • Short Season – Boise 3, Spokane 2
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs 3, Mariners 8
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs 7, Indians 6

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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  • Game 121 – Rich Hill Has Returned?

    Friday, August 17th, 2007

    August 17th, 2007


    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    St. Louis 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0   1 4 0
    Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 X   2 4 0
    W – R. Hill (7-7)  L  – B. Looper (10-10) S – R. Dempster (18)
    Homeruns: A. Pujols (26) J. Jones (5)

    Box Score

    (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
    Big Z Gets Paid!!!

    Today was a game that I mentioned in the preview as one that would help the Cubs to begin to knock the Cardinals out of the race. They’ve been playing extremely well over the past few days, sweeping the Brewers and have had me a little nervous. We got a great performance from the pitching staff and just enough offense courtesy of Jacque Jones to get a win to start the series. Let’s get into some specifics.

    New Features
    Over the past few days, I’ve added a couple new things to the site. The main two that I’d like to mention are the standings on the side and the red words you’ll see from time to time in my posts. The standings widget is auto-updating at the completion of each game using the standings page. It saves me a ton of effort and really makes the page more of a one stop shop. We’ve also added the ability to toggle it between each of the six divisions. Unfortunately, no wild card standings are available as of yet, but just know I’m working on it. As far as the red words, this is just a friendly helpful tool for you when I use words or stats that you may not be familiar with. When that’s the case, I’ll use red text. Anytime you see red text, mouse over it and a bubble should appear explaining or defining the term.

    Shhhh, I’m taping the game
    One of my biggest pet peeves as a sports fan comes when I am not able to watch a game live and have to set the TiVo for it. When I lived in Chicago, it was incredibly hard to go about the day and not hear something about the particular game being recorded because it’s on the radio, the TV and in the conversations of most around you. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve found it a lot more DVR friendly because most around here only care about the ACC and generally don’t follow baseball. With today being my first day back to work since summer break ended, I had no idea Zambrano had signed his extension or what the score was in the game when I called Matt. When he picked up the phone, I asked him if he could take care of the recap for Saturday, which he couldn’t, and then made some small talk. I mentioned that I was on my way home to watch the game and that I was recording it on TiVo. No more than a minute later, I was informed by Matt that the score was 0-0 and there were only a few hits in the game. Now, I don’t mean to pick on Matt. My frustration comes in the fact that this always seems to happen to me and it drives me insane. Once I was car shopping with my wife in the middle of Asheville, NC and some guy comes up to me out of nowhere, sees my Cub hat and proceeds to tell me they lost. Longtime friend and designer of the VFTB website, Andy Rut, posted something very similar on his blog awhile back. He even came up with a T-Shirt design.

    Zambrano Gets Paid
    This was a move that had to get done. My question to you as the reader and a fan of the team is this. Would you rather have Zambrano locked up long term beginning next year OR have a down year without Zambrano next season and then make a hard and fast run at Johan Santana for 2009? It’s a tough question and one I’m not sure where I stand on.

    Our Manager is better than your manager
    This series pits my two favorite managers against each other. It got me thinking about the fact this series features probably two of the five best managers in the game today. My list, with order not being important is:

  • Lou Piniella
  • Tony LaRussa
  • Jim Leyland
  • Bobby Cox
  • Ron Gardenhire

    I know I didn’t mention Joe Torre. I did it on purpose. He’s going to be in the hall of fame someday, but I think Gardenhire has done a better job with the talent he’s been given over the long haul. Torre has always had a virtual all-star lineup at his disposal with the Yankees. With Atlanta, his record was .529. With the Mets he was just .405, and with the Cardinals just .498. Sure it takes a lot to manage egos, but it takes more in my book to manage the Twins to consistently good play.

    I heart Jacque Jones
    I’m running out of ways to serve up crow for people to eat about him. He was a huge part of this win today and continues to be one of the best hitters in this lineup since the all star game. Today he hit the game winning homerun in the 6th to center and made a tremendous catch to save a run as he sprinted straight back and then bang into the brick wall. Hats off to ya, Jacque!!

    Rich Hill says “Please Score For Me!!!”
    Unfortunately the Cubs didn’t answer the plea. Rich Hill continues to be the least supported starter in all of baseball, coming into the game with an average run support of 2.91 in games he starts. The Cubs have now scored three or less in those starts 18 times. That’s just wrong. You have to wonder what his record would be if he just got more behind him. Baseball is funny like that sometimes. Someone always just seems to be the hard luck pitcher on the staff. This year it’s Rich. He pitched well enough to get his 7th win today, despite being squeezed multiple times on his curveball early and his fastball late.

    Diving back into the rule book
    Today the rule book came into play again when Jason Kendall was impeded from throwing to second base to get Albert Pujols. Kendall’s hand slammed into Rolen’s shoulder on the strikeout and the throw went wide of second. Pujols was then declared out due to interference by the batter for the third out of the inning. Later in the game, a similar play happened when Molina tried to make a throw after Derrek Lee swung and missed. No interference was called on the play. Let’s take a look at why that was the case.

    Rule 7.09d – It is interference by a batter or a runner when any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.

    Because Lee did not really impede Molina’s throw, seeing as it beat the runner to the base, no interference was called. LaRussa argued, but was denied.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Rich Hill (28.4%)
  • Second Star – Jacque Jones (25.9%)
  • Third Star – Ryan Dempster (16.8%)
  • Turd of the Game – Juan Encarnacion (-15.3%)
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  • Game 121 – Preview

    Friday, August 17th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from
    Braden Looper – Looper’s coming off a strange start where he get very few groundouts but still pitched deep into the game and got a win. He won’t be able to pull that often, though. The right-hander needs to get the ball on the ground to be effective. He’s turned in two excellent starts against the Cubs this year, which is definitely encouraging going into a critical four-game series.

    Rich Hill – Hill pitched well through his first five innings in Colorado on Saturday, limiting the Rockies to two runs on six hits. But he became rattled in the sixth, loaded the bases and yielded a grand slam to Jamey Carroll — only his second homer of the season. Hill said he executed well but just made the one mistake to Carroll.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information.

    What To Watch For – It’s incredibly important for the Cubs to get off on the right foot and knock the Cardinals off their pedestal right now. They think they’re in the race and it’s time to end those thoughts.

    News and Notes

  • The Peoria Chiefs in conjunction with the Chicago Cubs announced that 2007 draftees Ty Wright and Marquez Smith will join the team in Cedar Rapids while Clark Hardman has been sent to Mesa.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 4, Omaha 6
  • AA – Tennessee 5, Chattanooga 2
  • High-A – Daytona 6, St. Lucie 13
  • A – Peoria 1, Cedar Rapids 11
  • Short Season – Boise – No Game
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs – No Game
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs 9, Giants 2

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

    Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: