Archive for May, 2008

Paging Brant Brown, Paging Brant Brown…

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

So the Cubs squeak out just enough runs to take a one-run lead to the ninth with their best reliever on the mound, one night after a heartbreaking marathon loss. He gives up a walk but has the Pirates down to their last strike before their best hitter lifts a long lazy fly ball to their superstar left fielder who camps under it. Cubs win and go home with the series win…

…except, the superstar can’t find it in the sun, the ball falls to the ground, the game is tied and Pittsburgh goes on to win in 11 innings. This blows.

The play, of course is very reminiscent of that fateful play 10 years ago where Brant Brown made himself infamous in a similar situation. Here’s some trivia for you guys out there: who hit the ball that Brown dropped? Who did the Cubs receive in the trade of Brown that occurred shortly after that play (hint: he figured prominently in today’s game)? And if you need something to make yourself smile after such an ugly loss, you can listen here to Ron Santo’s famous meltdown after the drop.

As if there is not enough talk about instant replay already, replays showed conclusively that Luis Rivas’ 1st-inning shot never actually left the park. The arguments against replay continue to baffle me. They amount to three different arguments really, only one of which means much to me. The need to preserve the “human element” in the form of judgment errors and the case that all reviews aren’t always conclusive – I just don’t get it. I’m all for preserving the human element – as in, I like to see the humans with gloves and bats decide the game by how well they play it. Call me old-fashioned. And the need to hold replay review to a standard of perfection is absurd. Now, the time issue is a real concern, but we have to realize it takes just as much (if not more) time for Sweet Lou to waddle out to the base umpires to argue these calls. In that time, the proper call would be made.

All the other sports leagues have instituted some sort of replay, with much success. Even in football, where the calls are much harder, even after replay. In fact I find the replay spectacles in both football and tennis very compelling as a spectator. Baseball should go beyond home runs (which is a given now, with all the talk about it) and institute it on base safe/out calls as well. The biggest problem that will arise is two-fold. First, would all plays be reviewable, or would there be a finite challenge system, just like tennis and football. Secondly, and probably more importantly, how do you deal with the problems with changed calls? For instance, in this game, Rivas was not taking anything for granted and running hard to third before he slowed up. Imagine a replay system was in place but the umpires had signaled home run, stopping both he runner and the fielders from continuing play. Then the replay overturns the home run – where do you put the runner. I am not arguing that this should stop replay’s implementation, only that there are many of these difficult questions to answer before it can be done well. (And I am not confident that the people running baseball will be able to answer them well enough to make this necessary improvement to the game – much the worse for baseball.)

– Having said all that, it does not really need to be said that a Luis Rivas at bat should never end with a home-run controversy, replay or no. This guy has a career OPS+ of 78, and Lilly could not retire him in 3 plate appearances and two home runs. For that reason alone, Lilly deserved to lose. Marmol and Lieber reminded us all that he is, indeed, Luis Rivas, by each striking him out on a pitch greater than a foot out of the zone.

– While Lilly probably deserved less luck than he got, Maholm pitched a very good game, and deserved a much better fate than he got. He was consistently ahead and really had just one bad inning. But his extended outing, while looking like it was heading for a loss in regulation, put the Bucs’ bullpen in good position heading into extra innings.

– I may be wrong on this one, but I think Xavier Nady’s name is pronounced like “Zavier”, not “Ex-zavier”. I find that annoying.

– I agree that Marmol got a tough earned run and a tough blown save, but in the 9th inning, he threw 30 pitches, and only 13 went for a strike. He wasn’t exactly dominant. What was Lou doing bringing him back out for a second inning?

– In fact his use of the bullpen is often questionable. You have a long game the night before, your bullpen is already short, and you need Eyre and Howry to go through the bottom of Pittsburgh’s order? Speaking of those two, I like how they seem to have their stuff together now – they will be valuable the rest of the season taking pressure off of Wood and Marmol.

– I’m to the point now where I was mad when Marmol walked Sanchez in the 9th, mostly because it meant that Nate McClouth would get a chance to tie it up. Here’s a trade that might make sense – Cubs offer Felix Pie and an advanced pitching prospect (Gallagher?) for McClouth. Would the Pirates do that?

– Here’s a note apropos of nothing – on MLB 2K8 for my Nintendo Wii, Fukudome’s name is Kazuhito Fortunado. What’s up with that?

– Some players are actually better than their statistics suggest, always doing little things and making the right plays when it matters. Their value is often over-rated by baseball management and sports commentators, but those skills have value nonetheless. Fukudome is possibly the prototype whose value exceeds what his stats would suggest. Well, behold Alfonso Soriano, the anti-Fukudome. Now, I like him as a player and am glad he is on the team. But, you just have to look only at his triple crown stats to see what he does for the team, especially now that he runs so gingerly. He is liability in the field, he does not get on base any other way, and he is not a good baserunner. What you see is what you get with him.

– It’s a little disconcerting that the Cubs have played so well, yet look at the possibiltiy of going into Memorial Day in second place (Go Dodgers! – today, anyway). They now look into a much more difficult part of the schedule over the next month, with nary a Pittsburgh series to be found. The pitching needs to step up, because the offense can’t be counted on to get 5 runs every single game.

– Have a great and safe holiday, everyone!

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Soriano Must Sit

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I had a few notes from last night’s game, but I didn’t want to tread on Dan’s turf, since he was recapping the game. Before I mention those, I did want to draw your attention to the fact that we now have star ratings at the bottom of each post where you can give us some feedback without making a comment. Don’t be lazy. Get your rate on. On to my thoughts.

  • Did anyone else see the crazy kid in the 8th inning that was sitting behind the plate that was dancing like a crazy man? Len and Bob were loving it, and I have to say that it beats seeing morons waving while on their cell phones. I’ll take a dancing 5 year old any day of the week.
  • If it were me, I would have pulled Soriano the first time I was him limping after his first at bat. He can tell you all he wants that it’s not an injury, but rather a lack of comfort in going hard on the leg. I’m not buying it. You don’t all of a sudden start limping like that out of nowhere unless something is still wrong. He wasn’t doing that when he came back from the DL and all of a sudden he’s doing it last night. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying his stories. Sit his butt on the bench and give the starts to a Hoffpauir, Johnson, DeRosa platoon.
  • Carlos Zambrano = WOW!!!!
Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

Jason Marquis loves facing the Pirates. Both of his wins this season have come against them. In his last start, he held Pittsburgh to two earned runs in six innings to snap a three-game losing streak and drop his ERA below five as the Cubs closed out an 8-2 home stand. He registered a season-high seven strikeouts in an earlier six-inning, one-run win against the division foe in April. If the Cubs can get Marquis on a roll, they could have one of the finest top-to-bottom rotations in baseball.

Phil Dumatrait, simply put, didn’t have any command his last time out. He walked seven Chicago hitters in 4 2/3 innings and threw more balls (53) than strikes (52) before being pulled. Both he and his manager were unable to pinpoint any particular mechanical problem, saying bluntly that Dumatrait’s location was just off. On an encouraging note, though, the lefty extended himself to the 100-pitch mark for the first time this season and said afterward that he didn’t fatigue.

  • Is a typical crafty lefty, with pretty good command of his pitches and an understanding of how to pitch in tight spots.
  • May not have enough of an arsenal to pitch every five days at the big-league level. Must always be pinpoint with his control.
  • A back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever.
  • 0-1, 5.90 in last 10.2IP
All Scouting Info taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca

News & Notes

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  • Randy Keisler struck out 7 batters and pitched 8.0 scoreless innings
  • Mario Mercedes hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Blake Lalli hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Christopher Robinson was 3-for-4
  • Kevin Kreier allowed one run in 4 innings pitched

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 – Won vs. Oklahoma (1-0)

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

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Tampa (8-12)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Won vs Wisconsin (5-2)

(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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Smokies Break Losing Streak

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Sevierville, TN – After an impromptu exorcism behind home plate after a loss to the Mississippi Braves last night, the Tennessee Smokies righted the ship with a convincing 8-3 win in front of 4,516 energetic fans.  The win improved the Smokies record to 17-32 on the season, and was the first win of the series against the Braves.

Several Smokies players stayed after the game last night to burn a few bats and batting gloves behind home plate for good luck in ending a four game skid.  Whatever was done and said apparently worked, as the Smokies offense erupted for five runs in the first three innings of the game.  Sam Fuld got things started with a leadoff double in the first, then came around to score on a Matt Craig RBI single for a 1-0 lead.

Tennessee struck again in the bottom of the second off Braves starter Tommy Hanson (1-2).  Chris Robinson, who was 3-4 on the night, led off the inning with a single, and later scored thanks to an RBI single down the left field line by Fuld.  The real damage was done in the third inning, however, as the Smokies plated three runs to take a 5-0 lead.

That would be all that Smokies starting pitcher James Russell (2-0) would need, as he was very effective on the mound tonight.  Russell went five complete innings, yielding just one run on four hits and fanning six Braves batters.  Robinson exacted more damage on the Braves in the bottom half of the seventh, when he delivered with a bases loaded two-RBI single to put the game away for the Smokies.

The Smokies bullpen took care of the rest of the game for Russell, with three pitchers combining to throw four innings, giving up just two runs on two hits and striking out five batters.

The Smokies will finish their series against Mississippi on Saturday night at 7:15 pm.  The Smokies will send right-hander Mitch Atkins (2-4, 3.91) to the mound to face off against Braves right-hander Jerome Gamble (0-1, 3.28). Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz is also set to appear at Smokies Park at some point during the game in what promises to be a fantastic night of baseball in East Tennessee.

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Daily Roundup – 5/23

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I’d like to get your feedback on a few things today as we anxiously await the weekend beatdown of the Pirates. Here are a few questions for you. Please take two minutes to leave me some feedback.

  1. In the last game, I posted a link to my scorecard. Is that something you enjoyed and would like to see in the recaps? I’m working on being able to embed the PDF right in the post.
  2. Would you like a link to things on the internet that I’m reading and find interesting each day? Google reader allows me to link to things in a nifty little page. Here is a sample. Is this something you’d be interested in?
  3. Have you listened to the podcast yet? What are your thoughts for how we can improve it?
  4. Did you know that you can suggest topics for us to write about in the left sidebar? It’s simple and we’d love the feedback.
Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

“Big Z” had his worst start of the season, getting pulled with no outs in the fifth in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to Pittsburgh on May 17. Zambrano gave up three runs in the inning and was off-kilter from the start. He gave up seven hits and five runs (four earned), walking three and striking out three. He hasn’t lost since April 11, when he gave up five runs in six innings against the Phillies. He also broke a bat over his right knee after striking out at the plate.

Zach Duke – Despite leaving with a lead, Duke didn’t pick up a decision in his last start. He allowed three runs early, but settled in to allow just one in his final five innings of work. The left-hander will be facing the Cubs for the second consecutive start and will take the same approach into this game as he did into the last. Duke mixed up his pitches and limited the number of first-pitch fastballs that he threw in order to keep the free-swinging Cubs off balance.

  • Has a wicked curveball that left-handed hitters have trouble handling. His fastball tops out at around 93 m.p.h. Keeps a quiet focus while on the mound.
  • Needs to improve his change-up, which will help him against right-handed hitters. Tends to get hit hard in the early innings of his starts.
  • A decent mid-rotation starter.
  • 1-0, 2.92 in last 12.1IP
All Scouting Info taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca

News & Notes

  • Nathan Samson was 3-for-4
  • Brandon Guyer hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Jose Ceda allowed one run in 5 innings pitched

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. Omaha (3-8)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Lost vs. Mississippi (0-6)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Tampa (0-5)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Won vs Quad Cities (7-1)

(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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The Pitch – Podcast

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Just when we thought we took baseball personally, Jim Leyland erupted over a former player’s criticism of the struggling Tigers just in time for the Thursday edition of “The Pitch.”

Hosts Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage share the audio from Leyland’s awesome display of profanity and intimidation against the backdrop of a streaking division-rival White Sox team.

The show also catches up with Jon Lester’s no-hitter, with a focus on perhaps the most under-appreciated component of a no-no: Four-time catcher in no-hitters Jason Varitek. The guys then poke fun at Albert Pujols‘ unintentional massacre of the Padres’ battery after a game in which he drilled a ball off San Diego pitcher Chris Young Fallen Angel movie download

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’s face and spiked Padres catcher Josh Bard.

The show also reloads a fresh round of “The Pick-Off,” sorts through listeners’ e-mail and gives away a copy of John Fitzgerald’s “The Emerald Diamond” DVD — all while wrapping more of the week’s notes on LaTroy Hawkins, Pedro Martinez‘ possible retirement and ghastly trivia.

Enjoy and interact via e-mail at thepitch@mvn.com or via phone at 360-450-MVN3.

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