Archive for May, 2008

Farm Report

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

News & Notes Free Willy download

  • Yusuf Carter hit 2 home runs
  • Tony Thomas hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Eric Patterson was 3-for-5
  • Felix Pie hit 2 extra-base hits

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Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Won vs. Memphis (10-3)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (8-3)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Jupiter (6-8)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – No Game

(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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Best Record in the Majors….Does This Still Apply?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I got this E-mail from a reader and told him I’d post it. Discuss among yourselves as we celebrate being on top of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs should sign 40-year-old veteran outfielder Kenny Lofton. The East Chicago-native hit .296 last season with 31 extra-base hits, 23 stolen bases and he walked more than he struck out.

All season, the Cubs have been looking for another left-handed bat, and Lofton may be the answer. Kenny hit .313 last season against righties with a .838 OPS. Lofton can fill the platoon with the right-handed Reed Johnson if Jim Edmonds (3-24, .125) continues to struggle.

What the Cubs are hoping Edmonds will provide that Kenny won’t, is power. Piniella has been batting Edmonds 5th and 6th in the order, and last night ahead of Geovany Soto who is amongst the team leader’s in RBI’s.

Piniella has also started Edmonds in center in every game against a right-handed starter since he joined the team, and Lou has said he needs to start hitting.

If he doesn’t start hitting, and the low-priced Edmonds is waived, Kenny Lofton should be an option the Cubs consider.

And Kenny wants to play…

“Everybody says, ‘Why doesn’t anybody sign Barry?’ I say, ‘Why doesn’t anybody sign Kenny?'”, said Kenny Lofton.

Kenny still has good speed and is a good hitter. He can still cover ground in the outfield, but doesn’t have much of an arm, in which case you can use Reed Johnson as a late-inning defensive replacement if need be. He may not still be able to steal that base in a tight spot, but he’d still be a threat to run.

He got the job done last season and in the playoffs for Cleveland, where he was easily the most popular player on the team. You would also assume the Chicago-native would be well received by Cubs fans after collecting 16 hits (.308 average) in 12 games during the Cubs magical playoff run of 2003.

And in the season where the Cubs are chasing away the ghosts of the last 99 seasons, who better than Kenny Lofton to win a Championship with?

Is there an individual player who has endured more heartbreak than Kenny Lofton?

Kenny was a part of a great Cleveland Indians team (Thome, Omar, Belle, Manny in his first full-season, Eddie Murray in his last hurrah, Sandy Alomar) that lost Game 6 of the 1995 World Series in Atlanta giving the Braves their only Championship of their non-dynasty.

In 1997 he was traded to Atlanta, but the Braves lost the NLCS in 6 to the upstart Florida Marlins who went on to shock Cleveland.

The next season he was traded back to Cleveland, and after beating Boston they lost the 1998 ALCS in 6 to the record-breaking 114-win New York Yankees.

After first round divisonal series losses in 1999 & 2001, Kenny was traded to San Francisco. In the season after Barry Bonds set the single-season home run record with 73, Barry, with his obscene 268 OPS+ (greatest single season in baseball history) carried the Giants to the 2003 World Series where they blew a 3-2 lead and lost to the Anahiem Angels in Game 7.

The next season he was traded to Chicago in July and hit .327 in 56 games for the Cubs. Chicago lead the 2003 NLCS three games to one, Kenny experienced the Game 6 Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, Kyle Farnsworth meltdown, and watched the Florida Marlins win three in a row and then shock New York in the World Series.

In 2004 Kenny signed with the New York Yankees…

Finally last season Kenny was the spark that got the Cleveland Indians hot and into the 2007 ALCS where they had a 3-1 lead, only to have Boston win three straight and sweep the World Series.

Seven times he’s lost to the team that won the World Series. If the Cubs are due after 100 years, maybe Kenny is too.

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Series Preview & Farm Report

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
Series Tale of the Tape

Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

Jeff Francis displayed rushed mechanics and no fastball command — which eliminated his changeup — during a five-run, 37-pitch first inning in Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Mets. Francis gave up just one run the rest of the way, and he lasted six innings. He finished by tying his season high with eight strikeouts. Still, innings like the first on Saturday are not what the Rockies need from their No. 1 pitcher, who says he feels healthy but is making mistakes in his windup and delivery.

  • Throws his low-90s fastball with pristine command. His curveball can also be nasty and he throws it all with a quick and easy motion.
  • Needs to build endurance and continue to work on the consistency of his secondary pitches.
  • Quickly filling out his ace potential.
  • 1-2, 8.47 in last 17IP

Jason Marquis had beaten the Pirates twice this season, but he couldn’t pull it off a third time. He did not get a decision in his last start against Pittsburgh, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings. Against the Rockies last year, Marquis was 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA. Pitching at Wrigley should be a little bit of an advantage for Marquis, who is winless in four road starts. He’s 2-2 with a 5.14 ERA in five home games.

All Scouting Info taken from and

News & Notes

  • Jeff Samardzija only allowed 3 runs and 2 hits over 6.0 innings pitched
  • Jose Ceda only allowed one hit over 4.1 innings pitched yesterday
  • Marquez Smith was 3-for-4
  • Tony Thomas hit 2 extra-base hits

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Organizational Roundup

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

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Lost vs. Carolina (1-8)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Brevard County (4-7)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Lost vs. Cedar Rapids (3-5)

(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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Who Doesn’t Love Fonsie?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Last I left you, Gentle Cub fans, I was bashing the little league play of Soriano and the ineptitude of the umpires. Well, tonight I sing all their praises, as Fonsie, relieved of having to deal with left field bleacher hecklers, showed why he gets the big bucks by staying on a nasty slider and blooping it down the left field line to score Mike Fontenot and firing up the Steve Goodman. Go, Cubs, Go!

For 8+ innings it was a rather hard game to watch. The offense could do nothing against Derek Lowe, Zambrano was stingy but seemed to often be in trouble, and we had to listen to ESPNs Rick Sutcliffe and Chris Berman fill the air-spaces. Not too fun. But then Takashi Saito couldn’t find the plate and allowed the Cubs to manufacture a run to tie it up in the ninth. One inning later, Fontenot, the 76th man to come to the plate in this game, earned the first and only extra-base hit of the contest. Soriano was the next up, and I didn’t know what to think when he took two fastballs down the middle (don’t hold your breath to see that one again); however, he came through off of Chan Ho Park and our Cubbies completed a sweep of a good Dodger team.

Let’s go to the notes:

  • Before I bash him, I do want to say that I was always a big Sutcliffe fan, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He was a very good pitcher, of course, and it was touching to hear him come back from his time off for treatment for colon cancer. He sounded like a man truly appreciating what was in front of him, and it was great to see him get a warm ovation while singing the seventh inning stretch.
  • That out of the way, I really don’t like him as an announcer (don’t get me started on Berman, who is awful beyond words). I was specifically worried when Steve Stone left that we were going to be stuck with either Sutcliffe or Joe Carter as the color commentator. I’m not the biggest Bob Brenly fan in the world, but he’s light years ahead of those two guys.
  • At the beginning of the game, he stated the Cubs “really aren’t a good defensive team” with a derisive tone that suggested they were really bad. This is demonstrably false. Going into tonight’s game, the Cubs ranked 6th in MLB in Defensive Efficiency, which is simply a measure of what percentage of balls in play they convert to outs; and they are closer to 1st place than 7th. This is the best measure of team defense, and they are clearly near the head of the class. If you like more traditional stats, they rank right smack in the middle of the pack in MLB in errors and fielding percentage, hardly bad. And if nothing else, Sutcliffe should believe his eyes and what he saw the previous night (which he called as well) when the Cubs made numerous solid and spectacular defensive plays. Tonight they responded by turning several double plays behind big Z.
  • For two straight nights he has proclaimed how the league has now figured out Dodger centerfielder Matt Kemp, a prospect who has gotten significant at bats each of the past three seasons. In his first at bat tonight, exactly the time Sutcliffe was saying this, the graphics crew threw up his line for the year – he’s batting .310 with a .358 OBP (and is slugging .450). Boy, if that is “figured out”, whenever he makes any adjustments he’s going straight to the Hall of Fame.
  • Speaking of Hall of Fame, when Jeff Kent’s name came up, Sutcliffe quickly dismissed him as worthy of the Hall. I’m not saying he should be a shoe-in, but he is clearly one of the 10 best offensive second baseman of all time, and probably in the top 15 all around. He has a career OPS+ of 123 while playing a demanding defensive position, won an MVP award in 2000, is the all time lead for home runs from his position, and he does very well on some tests for HOF worthiness. He’s in, or, at least, should be.
  • The dramatic comeback was necessary only because Big Z seemed to lose it momentarily in the top of the 4th. After getting the first two men up in the inning, two hits and a HBP were followed by a Blake DeWitt 3-2 walk. Zambrano would pull a similar stunt in the 8th except that he escaped without giving up a run (but did run his pitch count up to 130! – what was he doing still in there?) Berman and Sutcliffe kept talking like he didn’t have anything tonight; he clearly did not have his best stuff, but he was far from bad, obviously, going 8 innings and giving up only the one run. He did give up eleven baserunners and did benefit from three double plays – but there are few guys who do as well with their so-so stuff than Carlos.
  • I love ESPNs dead-center camera and K-Zone. I remember when they experimented several years ago with doing the whole game with those features. If I remember correctly, they quickly did away with that as I seemed to be the only one who liked it. I just enjoy seeing an undistorted view, and I like knowing how the umps are doing on every pitch. Am I alone here?
  • Speaking of the umps, great call by the first base umpire on Fukudome’s single in the ninth that loaded the bases. I was sure he was out in real time, but it was revealed the ump got it right only after several angles. The reason I think it was so good is that the ump seemed to be in the worst position to make that particular call correctly, and yet he still got it right. It really is amazing how often those guys get the call at first base right.
  • ESPN broke into the Red Sox-Mariners tilt while Cubs were batting in the 8th. Manny Ramirez was going for his 500th home run, and proceeded to be at bat for over six minutes! I was annoyed at the time, but no worse for the wear as Jonathan Broxton struck out the side on 13 pitches. But still, 6+ minutes?
  • Finally, in other baseball news, Bret Boone announced his retirement today. Which is good to know, since he hasn’t played baseball since, you know, 2005. Thanks for letting us all in on the secret, Bret. (Actually, Boone attempted a short comeback this spring.)
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Daily Roundup – 5/28

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

Derek Lowe’s winless streak hit the one-month mark, but he showed significant signs of improvement in a 2-0 loss to the Cardinals. He allowed five hits over seven innings, stung by a two-run homer from Ryan Ludwick, but otherwise effectively implemented a slower delivery that ensured a better arm angle and release point and kept his sinker sinking.

  • Is among the best in MLB at getting hitters to beat the ball into the ground and rarely over the fence, thanks to one of the top sinkers in the game.
  • Has a lot of trouble keeping runners honest and is a little weaker from the stretch position. Hitters can pound his first pitch.
  • A strong mid-rotation starter.
  • 0-4, 7.62 in last 28.1IP

Carlos Zambrano set a career high with four hits in his last start — that’s four by himself. He already had a three-hit game this season, and is batting .343. But let’s talk about his pitching. Big Z held the Pirates to two runs on six hits over seven innings and struck out six. He’s off to the best start in his career and has reduced the number of walks issued. As Lou Piniella said, when Zambrano has confidence in his pitches and is aggressive, he’s effective.

All Scouting Info taken from and

News & Notes

  • Sean Gallagher only allowed one run in 7.0 innings pitched

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Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Won vs. Memphis (10-8)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (8-7)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – No Game

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – No Game

(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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