View From The Bleachers

March 31, 2008

Game 1 Notes

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 6:45 pm
Stars of the Game
1st: Kosuke Fukudome
2nd: Carlos Zambrano
3rd: Ben Sheets

If this was NCAA football, the season would officially be over. Thank God it’s a long year because I really think this team will win the division by double digits. That being said, I’d like to take some time to share my notes from today’s game. I’m going to probably go with a more bulleted list of notes this year as opposed to the long, drawn out recaps of action you watched along with me. Feel free to add your own notes as well and remember that the diaries are always available to share your thoughts with the whole community. That being said, here are the notes:

  • Thank God we saw a great start from Kosuke Fukudome because I was really worried that he would start out the year similar to the way he played in spring training and the boo birds would be out early. There’s no question all the crazy plays on his name the bleacher fans would have come up with had he gotten off to a poor start. Instead, I came away hugely impressed with what he can bring this team. Be careful not to get too excited about the home run power, because he’s not going to be a 30+ guy. My guess is that 20 is more likely. Ultimately, I see Lou using him in the second spot in the order like Bob Brenly mentioned in the game. His skill set is a perfect match for that spot.
  • Carlos Zambrano looked really good today before suffering the usual suspect, cramps. My question, to no one in particular, is why can’t he beat these cramps? If dominating on the mound is as important to him as his emotions indicate it is, he should be taking any measures possible to make sure cramps didn’t derail his outing. Aside from that, I was pleased with his outing, especially compared to April starts of the past.
  • There are two types of fans that will come out after today’s game. First are the fans that will bash Kerry Wood and call for Carlos Marmol after today’s wonderful outing in the 8th and poor outing in the 9th. Then there are the folks that will stay the course with Wood (I’m in this category). One game should not decide the fate of Wood. I’d hang tight with him until at least mid to late May. Let’s try to remember that Marmol is still very young and has to earn it.
  • The Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot experiment didn’t go so well today, but like the closer, it’s a situation that needs to sort itself out. One thing is for sure. With Soriano unable to really test the wheels, he doesn’t need to be the leadoff guy. I’m fine with Theriot getting a shot before we try other options.
  • You can’t blame Fukudome for being caught in a rundown in the 7th. It was a wild pitch gone wild, if there is such a thing. He clearly had a good read on the fact that the ball was going to be a pitch in the dirt and he was being aggressive. There was no way to project that after Kendall blocked it, it would hit directly off of Soto and back into Kendall’s possession.
  • I really hope Ben Sheets gets injured soon. Yes, I really did just wish an injury on someone. He’s just that good. We need him out of there.
  • Mark DeRosa hit the ball well today, but for the most part came away with nothing to show for it. He also made a great diving grab in the third on a soft liner by Gwynn.
  • Is it just me or does anyone else get nervous when pitchers turn a 180 and fire the ball to second? I’m always afraid that the ball will get there before the fielder. Today it worked great, but I always wonder if it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I know you have to keep the runners honest, but I get worried.
  • One game in and I’m already tired of the WGN baseball in 2008 commercial. I really hope it’s not a commercial that is going to run all year.
  • I’m super excited about the fact that MLB Extra Innings has now figured out that it would be beneficial to have both the home and away television feeds available. Wonderful, now I don’t have to sit and listen to Vin Scully drone on at 1 AM.
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Series Preview: Milwaukee @ Chicago

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 9:12 am

Probable Pitching Matchups

Game 1 – Carlos Zambrano vs. Ben Sheets

Game 2 – Ted Lilly vs. Jeff Suppan

Game 3 – Ryan Dempster vs. Dave Bush

Scouting Report on Milwaukee’s Pitchers

Sheets – With a fastball that can reach the upper-90’s, he keeps hitters off-balance by mixing in a hard breaking curve. Has tremendous control and can work inside. Has a wealth of injury and durability issues that continue to wreak havoc with his career. Hitters also have a lot of success on his first pitch. An ace starter when healthy.

Suppan – Has a workhorse mentality on the mound and bears down in the clutch. Uses his excellent curveball as his out-pitch. Is a tremendous leader. His fastball is somewhat straight and hittable. Throws too many strikes and doesn’t fool hitters enough. Needs to avoid the big inning to be successful. A decent No. 4 or 5 starter.

Bush – His solid fastball sits in the low 90’s and he adds a quality curve ball and decent change-up and slider. Throws everything with good command and poise. Needs to avoid big first innings in order to survive as a starting pitcher. Gets shaky with runners aboard. Must avoid more bats with regularity. A decent mid-rotation starter.

Miscellaneous News & Notes

  • The 25 man roster was set on Sunday afternoon and figures to stay the same until Scott Eyre returns from the DL.
  • Derrek Lee has hit Sheets well in his career (.341 / .333 / .727)
  • Aramis Ramirez has not hit Sheets well in his career (.204 / .236 / .347)
  • Jon Lieber will celebrate his 38th birthday on Wednesday

Fearless Prediction for the Series

The Cubs will take two of three to start the year. I’d love to go on record and say that Zambrano will finally get the monkey off his back and be good on opening day, but I’m not quite ready to commit to that year.


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March 30, 2008

Ernie Banks Statue to be Revealed Monday

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 4:39 pm

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today announced Opening Day activities honoring Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.

Festivities officially begin at 10:00 a.m. when the Cubs unveil a statue of Ernie Banks – “Mr. Cub” – in a ceremony to take place at Clark and Addison outside of the ballpark. Much of the day is dedicated to honoring the legendary Cubs infielder. Banks will be recognized in an on-field ceremony prior to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2008 Chicago Cubs baseball season. He will also be singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the Seventh Inning Stretch.

In addition to Opening Day activities honoring Banks at the ballpark, the Chicago City Council has declared Opening Day, March 31, 2008, Ernie Banks Day in the City of Chicago. A complete copy of the resolution will be available Monday.

Banks batted .274 with 512 homers and 1,636 RBI for Chicago while his 47 home runs in 1958 set the N.L. single-season mark for long balls by a shortstop. He was the first Cub to have his number retired by the franchise. His No. 14 was retired August 22, 1982.

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13 Lucky Predictions for the 2008 Season

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 12:27 pm

Each year sportswriters from around the world spend lots of time making their predictions for the season. With that in mind, here are mine, though the spending lots of time thing did not happen.

  1. Kosuke Fukudome will shorten the name  on the back of his jersey to just the first four letters to give the finger to RF fans after they begin to boo him for his poor start to the season.
  2. The Cubs will win the NL Central by at least 10 games.
  3. Lou Piniella will be ejected from four game throughout the course of the season, but will not be issued a suspension.
  4. Rich Hill will, once again, lead the staff in strikeouts.
  5. Jon Leiber will replace Jason Marquis in the starting rotation after Marquis is traded to the Red Sox. Lieber will promptly get injured and open the door for Sean Marshall to step in.
  6. Derrek Lee will fail to drive in 100 runs or hit 30 home runs, but will win the gold glove.
  7. Kerry Wood will make one trip to the DL this season, and will finish the year with 22 saves.
  8. Alfonso Soriano will have one of his legs fall off during the season and be forced to play the rest of the year on one leg. This injury will finally cause him to go to Lou and ask to be put in the fifth spot to avoid the pressure of stealing bases on one leg.
  9. Aramis Ramirez will be thrown out at first by a right fielder one time during the regular season.
  10. Fukudome and Geovany Soto will finish second and third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Joey Votto of the Reds.
  11. The sale of the team will not take place during the season.
  12. Ryan Theriot will cement his spot at the top of the order will a breakout season at the plate.
  13. The St. Louis Cardinals will finish last in the division and the Pittsburgh Pirates will finish fourth.
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March 27, 2008

Two Outs With The Bases Loaded…

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 7:29 pm

Over the past month or so, Brandon and I have been previewing each team with bloggers on the podcast and closing by asking them if they were in that situation with the game tied in the bottom of the 9th if they would pinch hit for their star to bring in a midget. Most say no, but a few said they would, based on how midgets have performed in the past (1 plate appearance and 1 walk)

I decided to use Baseball Reference’s tool Play Index to take a look at how our stars have faired with two outs and the bases loaded, regardless of inning, in their career. Here were my findings:

(Plate Appearances / HR / RBI / AVG / OBP / SLG)

Soriano: 45 / 3 / 28 / .262 / .311 / .500

Ramirez: 52 / 2 / 34 / .255 / .327 / .511

Lee: 51 / 2 / 24 / .152 / .235 / .326

Jones: 55 / 1 / 34 / .291 / .291 / .400

Ouch, if there is such a thing as being clutch, it doesn’t seem like we’ve got guys that fit the mold in that situation. Let’s compare them to someone widely considered to be clutch, David Ortiz. Here are his career numbers in that same situation:

Ortiz: 66 / 4 / 57 / .317 / .379 / .650

What does this mean for this season? I have no earthly idea. Draw from it any whatever conclusions you will. I just found it interesting and thought I’d share.

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Carlos Zambrano Hits the Small Screen

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 4:26 pm


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Does Fantasy Mirror Reality for the Cubbies?

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 6:36 am

I love my PS3. I also love my newest addition, MLB 08 The Show. As any Cub fan would do, the first thing I did when I got the game was start a new franchise with my beloved Cubbies. I’ve run through about 20 games of the season, so I thought I’d share a few things that stand out…

  • Despite going 15-5, the Cubs are in 3rd place behind the Brewers and get this, the Reds
  • Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly have combined to go 5-0 with an ERA around 2, while the rest of the starting rotation is 4-3 with an ERA in the mid-4s.
  • Ryan Dempster, who is the Cubs closer in the game, has already blown 2 saves, has an ERA of 7.00, and is no longer my closer as of last night. Kerry Wood will be my closer as I must match reality as closely as possible.
  • Tom Jung, aka Kosuke Fukudome, has been just OK, hitting around .250 with a couple homeruns, but does have two game winning hits already.
  • Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee lead the team in home runs with 7 a piece, while Soriano has the best batting average of any regular, hitting .337.
  • The bullpen has been very good with the trio of Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry, and Kerry Wood all competing for innings. Scott Eyre, whose virtual shoulder is healthy, has yet to give up a run in 10 appearances.
  • Felix Pie is hitting in the low .300s with 4 stolen bases.

Those are the highlights, and I’m sure all of us will be thrilled if the Cubbies jump out to a 15-5 start. Curious about other’s performances? Just ask!

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March 25, 2008

Cubs Sign Reed Johnson & Other Fun Tales

Filed under: Media Releases — Joe Aiello @ 1:53 pm

MESA, AZ – The Chicago Cubs today announced the club has agreed to terms with outfielder Reed Johnson on a one-year contract.  Johnson, who will wear uniform number 13, is scheduled to be in the Cubs line-up for this afternoon’s game against San Francisco in Scottsdale.

Additionally, the club today announced its fifth round of roster cuts.

The Cubs optioned outfielders Sam Fuld and Eric Patterson to Triple-A Iowa and assigned left-handed pitcher Les Walrond and infielders Micah Hoffpauir and Casey McGehee to minor league camp.

Also, the Cubs today placed right-handed pitcher Angel Guzman on the 60-day disabled list with status post ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction of his right elbow.

Johnson, 31, is a career .281 hitter (585-for-2083) with 114 doubles, 14 triples, 42 home runs, and a .342 on-base percentage in all or part of five major league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays (2003-07) covering 610 games.  He has excelled in his career vs. left-handed pitching, batting .308 (216-for-701) with a .371 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage vs. southpaws.

The right-handed batter and thrower has batted in the leadoff spot in 394 games, batting .290 (443-for-1526) with a .353 on-base percentage, and batted in the second spot in the order in 104 games, posting a .273 batting average.  He has seen action in 398 games in left field, 197 games in right and 64 games in center.

In his last full major league season with the Blue Jays in 2006, Johnson batted .319 (147-for-461) with 86 runs scored, 34 doubles, 12 home runs, a .390 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage in 134 games, all career bests.  The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder missed more than three months last season due to surgery on April 17 to correct a herniated disc in his lower back.  He batted .236 in only 79 contests, though still hit .325 (25-for-77) with a .381 on-base percentage vs. left-handed pitching.

Following today’s moves, Chicago’s spring roster of 32 players consists of 17 pitchers (including Guzman and non-roster invitee Chad Fox), two catchers, eight infielders (one non-roster invitee) and five outfielders.

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March 24, 2008

Jose Ceda has a (Not So) Secret Admirer

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 10:09 pm

If ranking Jose Ceda the Cubs #4 prospect wasn’t enough evidence, Jim Callis and Baseball America have yet again stated that they are high on hard throwing reliever in their latest edition of Ask Baseball America.

Callis is asked which players could move up the top 100 lists the most…

My leading candidates to make a significant surge from the bottom half of the Top 100 are Athletics righthander Fautino de los Santos (No. 60), Pirates third baseman Neil Walker (No. 61), Marlins righthander Brett Sinkbeil (No. 68), Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden (No. 80), Angels righthander Jordan Walden (No. 81) and Phillies lefthander Joe Savery (No. 90). And going off the board with prospects who couldn’t make the Top 100, I’ll take Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra, Cubs righthander Jose Ceda, Pirates righty Brad Lincoln (I picked him last year, right before he needed Tommy John surgery), Orioles third baseman Bill Rowell, Braves lefty Cole Rohrbough, Braves righty Julio Teheran and Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick.

Ceda is also mentioned again in another question regarding the Cubs possible interest in Brandon Inge…

But if the Cubs do want Inge, they’re loaded with catchers who might interest the Tigers. Projected starter Geovany Soto and 2007 supplemental first-round pick Josh Donaldson aren’t going anywhere, but that still leaves Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Carlos Perez as possibilities. Likewise, Chicago wouldn’t part with Jose Ceda, but they have a number of relief prospects, including Billy Petrick, Alex Maestri and Jose Ascanio.

Ceda has already had quite an interesting spring, getting invited to camp with the big club for the first time and then subsequently getting hit quite hard. Hopefully, the experience will serve as a benchmark for Ceda going into a season where the Cubs’ brass expect improvement.

Going into the season, there have been multiple reports that say that Ceda will actually begin the season in the starting rotation, likely with the Tennessee Smokies. Doing so will allow Ceda to work on his secondary pitches, instead of relying on his dynamite fastball, exclusively.

As a result, don’t be surprised if Ceda’s numbers suffer a bit early in the season. It will be important for the organization to communicate with Ceda in regards to his goals in expanding his arsenal of pitches, while not being discouraged by any struggles that might occur.

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