Archive for April, 2008

Making It Look Easy

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

First Star – Ted Lilly (.251)
Second Star – Kosuke Fukudome (.186)
Third Star – Reed Johnson (.186)
Top Play – Reed Johnson’s bases loaded single in the 4th. (+.151)


(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Is it just me or does it seem like everything we’ve had a tough time doing in the past is coming easily this year? We’re winning games at home. We’re putting teams away in the game and not letting them get back in it. We’re 5-1 against lefties. We’re taking care of business in extra innings and we’re drawing walks to the tune of best in the National League for OBP. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning Lee’s power surge, Cedeno’s hot play and production from the catching position. It’s getting hard not to get cocky now that this team took care of business against a team that many felt was the best team in the NL coming into the season. The knock was that we hadn’t beaten anyone of consequence, and now we have. Let’s see if we can’t keep the hotness going against Colorado.

Ted Lilly pitched a lot better today, but still struggled with his command at times after starting the game by retiring the first 10 hitters he faced. He pitched himself into and out of a jam in the forth after giving up a double to our old pal, Angel Pagan, who over slid the bag in a retarded slide. After pitching around David Wright and walking Carlos Beltran, Lilly got Carlos Delgado and Damion Easley to pop out on the infield to get out of it without any runs. He got himself into another jam in the 6th and was touched up for the only run of the game. When all was said and done, Lilly had himself a quality start and a lot of exhales from Cub fans around the world. This is a “build on me” start. What I mean by that is that Lilly can build on this start as he goes into his next outing. Use this as confidence that you can still do just fine and begin to work on the walks.

Ronny Cedeno had another big day today, despite not getting a nod as one of the stars of the game. Rob asked the question “Theriot or Ronny”, but I still think it’s a non-issue at this point. We’ve seen Ronny get hot in the past. The question is whether or not this success is finally the sign that he’s figuring things out. Right now, despite the success, he still hasn’t supplanted Theriot in the lineup for me, but I think he has upped his stock over Mike Fontenot. I think he deserves the starts at 2B when Lou would normally think about going with Fontenot. The most important thing I’ve seen from Cedeno over the last few days is the lack of bonehead plays that have so often typified his style of play on the field. If he can get those out of his game, he can be a viable player in this league.

Kosuke Fukudome is my daddy. Five plate appearances today and he was on base after every one of them. I did a quick check to see where Fukudome ranked in the ever exciting pitches / plate appearance stat and found that he’s ranked 4th with 4.44 pitches seen per PA. This guy is the real deal. I think you have to start making the case for him to be an all star as a rookie. I’d love to see the Cubs well represented in July at Yankee Stadium. Who knows, maybe that would actually get me to watch.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Lilly was winless in his last eight starts coming into today
  • Aramis Ramirez has now gotten on base safely in all 20 games of the year.
  • Reed Johnson has only swung at aprox. 1.7% of first pitches this year.
  • Where was Carlos Delgado going on the ball hit by Lilly in the 4th? It was clearly not his play, yet he tried to play it and got himself so far out of position that it allowed Lilly to reach on an infield “hit”.
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Another win and a topic for discussion

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

This is not the recap, that is sure to come later. However, with Ryan Theriot being hurt and Cedeno coming up clutch to put games away the last couple days I was wondering…Is it possible that Ronnie Cedeno could play strong enough right now to move Theriot to second base or out of the starting lineup altogether? Cedeno has been high on the Cubs list in the past and seems to have a higher ceiling than Theriot. I would think undoubtedly that no matter what happens Cedeno has leaped Fontenot as the first infield bench guy.
What do you think? Cedeno or Theriot.

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Probables & Farm Report

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
Scouting Report on Today’s Starting Pitchers

Ted Lilly – Lilly is still searching for the elusive first win. The lefty did post his longest outing of the season in his last start against the Reds on Thursday, but gave up five runs on six hits and three walks over the six innings. His velocity was better but he’s still not right with his location. The three walks he issued snapped a streak of nine consecutive games issuing two or less dating to Sept. 5, 2007. This is the first time since 2002 that Lilly has begun the season 0-3.

Nelson Figueroa – Figueroa is to make his third start in Pedro Martinez?s stead. The Mets couldn?t have expected much more from Martinez than Figueroa has provided. He pitched seven innings, allowing three hits, one a two-run home run by Nick Johnson, and two walks while striking out seven in his most recent start, against the Nationals on Thursday. He has pitched in three games at Wrigley Field, starting one. He has a 2.53 ERA over 10 2/3 innings at Wrigley.

View the stat preview from Baseball Reference here

All Scouting Information taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca


Tracked Player Results

Got a player you’d like to see added to the player tracker? Drop us a line in the comments

Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Lost vs. Oklahoma (1-6)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (6-3)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Won vs. Juniper (4-2)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Lost vs. Lansing (3-6)

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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Role Players Know Their Role

Monday, April 21st, 2008

First Star – Carlos Zambrano (.341)
Second Star – Aramis Ramirez (.224)
Third Star – Carlos Marmol (.083)
Top Play – Ramirez home run in the 4th scoring two (+.181)


Well, yesterday’s recap generated some good discussion so maybe today we need to talk about my views on abortion and the race for the 2008 presidency. Or, how about we compromise and talk about the fact that we beat a team not named the Pirates to continue our hot play.

Starting Pitching – I looked at the probables for the game about three days ago and figured this one would be a good one. With Zambrano pitching the way he has been to start the year and Maine always a quality guy, it had the makings from the beginning for a good game. Granted it’s not as appealing as a matchup that would have featured Santana, but that’s quite alright with me. I’d be fine with never facing Santana all year.

Overall, I thought Zambrano was about as good as we can ever really expect from him. It’s hard to expect him to go out and go nine innings all the time, but if we can get seven out of him with three or less given up, we’re going to win a lot of those starts. To me, it’s on the ace of the staff to go out and rest that bullpen at times. You can’t expect that out of the fifth starter, but definitely out of the top two. To make that happen, walks have to be at a minimum and pitches need to be kept low. To this point, Zambrano has taken care of business in that department. I usually look for the starter to limit the pitches thrown in the inning to no more than 15, which allows them to go seven and throw 105 pitches. With tonight’s numbers factored it, Zambrano is at 15 pitches / IP. That is a career low for him and a good sign that he’s finally putting everything together. Couple that with the fact that he’s only issued five walks in 33.2 inning and you’ve got the makings of a legit ace.

Unlikely Heroes – Both whipping boys came up big tonight with insurance RBI’s in the 8th. For Ronny Cedeno, his two run single came after a good at bat in which he fouled off a couple of pitches to get something he could work with. He’s played well of late and has maximized his playing time. He’s not ready to supplant anyone in the starting lineup on a permanent basis just yet, but he’s making the most of his role and helping the team. For Pie, his homerun put the game away. As soon as he hit it and I saw that it was going to go out, my mind immediately went to the amount of people will be actually be mad at the idea that he hit a home run because it means he’s going to “want to start swinging for the fences”. This is garbage thinking. Sometimes we make too much of home runs. We come out and say that it’s bad when we win with the home run because it means we can’t play small ball. It’s bad when a non-power guy hits the home run because he may think he’s more of a power hitter than he really is. The fact is, I don’t care how Felix Pie drives in runs, as long as he’s driving in runs. I don’t care how we win games as long as we win games. Someone once said “Every team will win 60 games, every team will lose 60 games, it’s what the team does in the other 42 games that decides the season.” That is right on the money. The trick is to get those wins under our belt, regardless of the way they happen and then take out chances in the post season. Tonight, Felix and Ronny helped us do that. Case closed.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Geo should never have attempted to throw the runner out at third on a bunt by John Maine in the 6th. With a 2-0 lead, there is no reason to try to be a hero. Take the sure out and allow the runner to get to third.
  • Lee got his gold glove today before the game and I can’t help but wonder what one of those bad boys would bring on e-bay.
  • Zambrano needs to work with the rest of our staff on holding runners. He does a great job at varying his time in the stretch, throws crazy pickoff moves and has a quick delivery to home plate. Imagine how much pressure that would take off Geo if the rest of the rotation was as good at preventing stolen bases.
  • Luis Castillo has 106 infield hits since 2006. Is it just me or does that seem like an insane amount?
  • Ryan Theriot was scratched from tonight’s game due to back spasms
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Five Questions, Probables & Farm Report

Monday, April 21st, 2008
Five Questions with “Take the Seven Train”

I took some time to shoot some questions to the good folks at Take the Seven Train and these were there responses. They did the same regarding the Cubs and you can read my replies on their site. (View Site)

Q. – Many Cub fans hate the Mets because of what happened in 1969. Is the hatred for the Cubs mutual for Mets fans?

A. – I don’t think it is, especially among the younger fans (under the age of 30) – the Mets had strong rivalries with the Cubs and Cardinals back in the ’80s, but realignment and the unbalanced schedule have wiped those rivalries out. It’s been 15 years since the Mets and Cubs were in the same division, and the two teams currently play just six games a year against one another. A team that only comes to Shea once a year isn’t going to inspire the sort of hatred that the Braves (and now the Phillies) do.

Q. – Omar Minaya took a lot of heat when he signed Pedro without a physical. Can Pedro be a meaningful piece in the Mets puzzle and do they need him to be to have success?

A. – I think Pedro can be a meaningful part of the puzzle – he pitched very well in his return from shoulder surgery at the end of last year, and he’s the kind of pitcher who can get hitters out without the blazing fastball he once had. He injured his hamstring in his first start this year but should be back some time next month. The extent to which they need him will be determined by Mike Pelfrey’s development – the Mets need at least one of a healthy Pedro or a consistent Pelfrey in order for the rotation to be as strong as it can be.

Q. – The Mets have been hot of late, winning their five of their last six. What has been the key to the hot streak and will it continue against the Cubs?

A. – The key to the five-game winning streak was the starting pitchers going deep into games – during the streak, the Mets had only one starter go less than 6 2/3 innings. Going that deep into games against a Cubs lineup that has been hitting so well lately will be a challenge – John Maine is a fairly extreme fly-ball pitcher and could have some trouble if the wind is blowing out tonight.

Q. How has the addition of Brian Schneider affected the pitching staff?

A. – Schneider’s playing time in spring training was limited due to hamstring issues, so he’s still getting to know some of the pitchers (combined with an ill-fated attempt at trying a new mitt, this led to some issues with pitches in the dirt early on). One pitcher in particular who seems to have benefited from working with him is Mike Pelfrey, who gave Schneider a lot of credit after his good starts and struggled last night while Schneider (who had been hit in the arm with a foul tip the day before) was on the bench.

Q. Angel Pagan, a Cub castoff, has been a big part of the offense to date. Is LF his for the foreseeable future or is he still on shaky ground if he begins to struggle?

A. – Moises Alou is currently playing minor-league games as part of his rehab from hernia surgery and there’s a good chance he’ll be back with the Mets by this time next week. Pagan is headed to the bench once Alou returns, but his early-season hot streak in Alou’s absence has been very important to the Mets’ success thus far. I imagine that he’ll get the occasional spot start in the outfield corners – Endy Chavez is the bench outfielder who will get the spot starts in center and serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Alou.


Scouting Report on Today’s Starting Pitchers

Carlos Zambrano – Zambrano matched a career high with three hits, including an RBI single, and picked up the win in his last start against the Reds. He gave up two runs on eight hits over seven innings. The switch-hitter helped himself by hitting singles from each side of the plate, and a double in the seventh. Zambrano is finally doing what the athletic trainers tell him to do as far as staying hydrated to avoid cramps. He’s now fueled by bananas, drinks plenty of water, and avoids coffee.

John Maine – Though dissatisfied with his work, Maine pitched effectively enough against the Nationals on Wednesday night to gain his first victory — five hits, four walks, four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He senses the spring chill had affected his command and wouldn’t be upset if summer paid an early, one-day visit to Wrigley Field on Monday. In three starts, he has yet to approach the level of effectiveness his final Spring Training appearances suggested.

  • His ability to change speeds and pitch with good command is the key to his success. Also adds a decent slider, curve and change. Is a very smart pitcher.
  • Surrenders a few too many home-run balls. Needs to keep his good stuff going beyond the sixth inning. Walks a few too many batters.
  • A strong mid-rotation starter.

View the stat preview from Baseball Reference here

All Scouting Information taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca


Tracked Player Results

Got a player you’d like to see added to the player tracker? Drop us a line in the comments

Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Lost vs. Oklahoma (4-7)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Lost vs. Carolina (1-4)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Won vs. Juniper (3-0)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Lost vs. Great Lakes (0-2)

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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