Archive for April, 2010

Minor Details: Cubs Get Adrian Gonzalez

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
  • Project Prospect mentioned Starlin Castro in their latest “10 Up, 10 Down” article:
    “Castro is fresh off a 10-game hitting streak, with multi-hit games in nine of them — he went hitless in a double-header on Sunday. While he could stand to be more patient, his Double-A line to date is very impressive.”
  • Baseball America did something fun in their “Ask BA” section. When asked to do first round draft with all the players picked from 2000 to 2009 based on their Major League production so far, they came up with an impressive list. The Cubs pick in this imaginary draft? Adrian Gonzalez.
  • I forgot to answer my own question as to if the Cubs would use Samardzija out of the rotation or the pen down in AAA. His recent outing for the Iowa Cubs answered that question. He’s being used out of the pen, which is the best possible move they could make for his development.
  • Brad Snyder won PCL player of the week honors and had this to say:
    “Cubs farmhand Brad Snyder hasn’t played in the Majors despite an expanded-roster callup with the Indians in 2006 and seven seasons of Minor League experience under his belt. His performance over the last week, though, shows what he’s capable of, and if he hits consistently late into the summer, he may be hard to keep in Triple-A. Although he started the season cold, he’s shaken off that 1-for-18 funk, hitting safely at least once in every game since his slump-busting 2-for-4 day on April 15. On Wednesday, he homered twice and missed the cycle by a triple, driving in four runs. He drove in two more, doubled, stole a base and scored during a 3-for-4 outing the next day.”

Top Players from Monday

  • Tony Thomas was 3-for-4 with 3 RBI for the Smokies. He’s not getting the full time starts due to a split with Ryan Flaherty and has now begun to play a little OF
  • Ryan Flaherty was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI for the Smokies. He’s a favorite of mine and probably of Marks due to the fact that he’s a Vanderbilt product. I’ve been very dissappointed in his play early on. I had a lot of hope for him to be a guy that could see big league time this year on the infield. He’s gotta step his game up to make that happen.

Just the Smokies last night, which is why the list is so short today.

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Game 20: Stupid MASN

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

First Star: Carlos Zambrano (.251 WPA)
Second Star: Aramis Ramirez (.183 WPA)
Third Star: Marlon Byrd (.158 WPA)

Guess how much of the game I was able to see? About three batters. I settled in to watch the game, had my pencil and scorecard ready and recorded the first out. At that point the video feed went out on MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) and all I had was audio feed. The broadcasters mentioned that they were working on it and would have it fixed shortly. I paused the game, went in the other room to watch TV with Mrs. VFTB and promptly returned about 45 minutes later. Still no picture at that point. Normally I would switch to a different feed on my Extra Innings package, but because the Nats and Orioles are my “hometown teams”, the Cubs feed was not available in my area.

My question for MLB is this. If I pay for my package and I decide I want to watch the Cubs feed, does you blacking that out make me suddenly want to go to the game? It’s garbage. If your reasoning is that it pushes me toward the Nats broadcast and their commercial ads, that’s fine, but why not let competition rule. We live in a world that is embracing the concept that everything has to be fair and equal for everyone. No competition allowed because we may hurt people’s feelings. It’s scary how quickly we’re moving toward a socialistic society. Anyway, on to notes from the box score.

  • Carlos Zambrano was extremely fired up when he made his exit from the mound after getting the job done. I like seeing the fire from him in the new role.
  • I’m beginning to think Carlos Silva really is Batman.
  • Don’t look now but our 4 game win streak has us being the hottest team in baseball.

That’s all I’ve got. Instead I’ll take this chance to remind you to vote in the roster approval rating survey each week. You can find it in the right sidebar. Take the 60 seconds to cast your vote of approval or disapproval toward our roster.

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Cubs / Nationals Series Preview

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Probable Pitching Matchups from

Carlos Silva v. John Lannan

Lannan kept the Nationals in the game in his last start on Wednesday. However, he continued to have problems against left-handed hitters, who went 7-for-9 against him. Carlos Gonzalez had four of the hits, while Brad Hawpe had two and Jason Giambi collected a knock. Lannan threw 107 pitches. Asked why he has been having a tough time getting left-handers out, Lannan said his off-speed pitches are not working. If the pitches are not working, the left-handed hitters are not going to have problems getting on base.

Silva has been stellar so far. The right-hander has given up two earned runs over 19 innings for a 0.95 ERA, and opponents are batting just .152 against him. He also was efficient in his last start, throwing 87 pitches over six innings. If there’s been one problem it’s hitting. Silva has spent the last six seasons in the American League and he injured his right wrist in his first at-bat of his last start Wednesday against the Mets. He says he’ll be fine to face the Nationals, but don’t expect him swinging too much.

Tom Gorezelanny v. Livan Hernandez

It was the long ball that did in Hernandez against the Rockies on Thursday. He gave up a homer to Miguel Olivo in the second inning and another to Ian Stewart five innings later. Hernandez lasted eight innings and gave up the two runs on five hits. Rockies manager Jim Tracy was impressed with Hernandez’s performance. To Tracy, it looked as if Hernandez and catcher Ivan Rodriguez were playing catch in the backyard.

Gorzelanny deserved better in his last start. Against the Mets, the lefty did not give up a hit until there was one out in the fifth. He retired the first 10 batters and should’ve been able to go deeper, but an error in the sixth led to two runs and that was it. For the game, Gorzelanny struck out seven. He has made only one start at Wrigley this year and that was April 17 against the Astros, when he was hit on the left arm by a line drive and knocked out after three innings.

Ryan Dempster v. TBA

Dempster is coming off a win over the Brewers in which he held Milwaukee to one run on seven hits over 7 2/3 innings. The right-hander did not face the Nationals last year, but does know Adam Dunn very well. Dunn has a .364 lifetime average against Dempster, including one home run. So far, Dempster has posted a better ERA on the road than at home. At Wrigley, he’s given up six earned runs over 14 innings; on the road, he’s been charged with two over 13 2/3 innings.

My Take on the Series

I think it’s important to note, after a complete drudging of the Brewers over the weekend, that no team or player is ever as good as they look when they’re on a hot streak or as bad as they look when they’re in a slump. We’ve seen both with this team early and right now we’re in the hot streak. Suddenly the offense is producing and it becomes a little less frustrating to watch this team play.

The key for this series will be to not take the Nats for granted and take care of business at home. Your first inclination when you hear the Nationals are coming to town is to automatically assume a sweep. While that’s entirely possible, we can’t go into the series assuming. This team has a good number of talented hitters that are capable of beating you. I’d like to see no less than 2 of 3, considering we’re at home and hot with a sweep a definite, achievable goal heading into the end of the month.

From a lineup standpoint, I want to see Tyler Colvin get two starts, including one in the series opener. I want to see Geovany Soto moved up from the 8th spot in the order and Ramirez moved to 6th. I want to continue to see Marlon Byrd in the second spot and perhaps even a game with Fukudome hitting leadoff.

Golden Nationals Nuggets

The Nats Blog chimes in with some notes on his team:

The start of the Nationals season has been completely overshadowed by the top ranked Washington Capitals and their journey for a Stanley Cup. With no one in D.C. watching, the Nationals have done something no one would have expected them to do, win more ball games than lose. While setting record lows in attendance along the way, the Nationals have looked like a completely different team than last season while opening to a 10-9 record. What have they changed? The club is hitting .266/.351/.425 as a group, all three of which rank in the top 10 in the National League, and the clubs bullpen has been lights out. While this may all seem very basic…it’s the Nationals.

In all seriousness, the few Nationals fans in D.C. are starting to get very excited. Washington has won 7-of-their-last eleven games and they’ve done it relatively short-handed. Ryan Zimmerman has missed eight games already due to injury, the clubs big off-season acquisition Jason Marquis pitched three terrible starts before the Nationals realized he was hurt, and Ivan Rodriguez has been battling back spasms. Despite the set-backs that normally would have Washington headings towards another 100 loss season, the Nationals have received surprise performances from Livan Hernandez, Craig Stammen, Scott Olsen, and now Luis Atilano. Those starters plus a great start to the season from Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have put the team in position to win games.

At the plate the team is just starting to heat up. After a slow start from Nyjer Morgan and Adam Dunn, the two have rallied in recent games to combine for 13 hits, five runs, and seven RBI in the clubs last four games. Anchoring the line up has been Josh Willingham (.321/.487/.554) and Ivan Rodriguez (.434/.456/.566), and despite his injuries, Ryan Zimmerman has produced while healthy, producing .341/.386/.659. While all of those numbers are well above each players career average, Nats fans are hoping that their hot hitting will maintain until the club picks up Stephen Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang, and Jordan Zimmermann later this summer.

Nationals Baseball chimes in with the following:

The Nats come into the Cubs series with all the possible good feelings a team 1 game over .500 can have. Can they continue the “dream season” against the Cubbies?

Despite Pudge singling like it’s 1999, the Nats offense shouldn’t be much of an issue. Outside of a couple players, they don’t walk much or slug much, and their best hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, hasn’t played since Wednesday. Oh, they usually put together couple of runs this way or that, but they haven’t scored more than 8 runs in a game yet this year, so a blowout loss for the Cubs is unlikely. They’ll scratch out runs with singles from Pudge, who leads the league in hitting at .411, Cristian Guzman, and the heating up Nyjer Morgan, but if the Cubs can keep the Adam Dunn from continuing his groove and socking a couple homers, (and Josh Willingham remains cold) then they’ll score 4-5 runs tops.

The pitching on the other hand is where the Nats get you. Well… sometimes get you, but unfortunately for the Cubbies it looks like these three games might be “sometimes”. Livan Hernandez, a guy ANY TEAM could have had, has been fantastic. He’s got a 0.75 ERA and will eat up those innings like he eats up ballpark franks. At some point he’s going to get tired and go back to being just an innings eater but there’s no reason to think that’s going to happen this week. The Cubs get him in game 2. John Lannan, who pitches in game 1, can be gotten, but his weakness is lefties. Which is odd, because he’s a lefty, but that’s just the way it’s always been. Lefites are killing him to the tune of .542 / .538 / .792. But unless I miss my guess the Cubs are pretty right-handed. Those guys hit .265 / .350 / .353 against John. So unless Fukudome and Fontenot (the F&F Connection?) can carry the Cubbies, game 1 might be a problem. Game 3 is a question mark. It’ll most likely be Luis Atilano, a former first rounder who won his last start. Hard to know what he’s going to do. The real key to beating the Nats, other than getting the one out of three horrific starts they put out, is to get into the pen. The Nats only have two guys who have pitched well. The rest have stunk. Knock the starter out before the 6th and get a lead so you can avoid facing Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps (Both have ERAs under 1.00) and you should run away with the game.

Federal Baseball checks in with a preview of the series from his perspective.

There’s a scene in David O. Russell’s 1999 movie “Three Kings” in which Mark Wahlberg’s character, American soldier Troy Barlow is being interrogated by Saïd Taghmaoui’s character, an Iraqi Captain, who unsettlingly begins the conversation by asking Troy, “My main man. Tell me something,OK? What is problem with Michael Jackson?” And that’s all I could think of last night when looking towards Washington’s three-game series in Chicago this week and wondering exactly had happened to former Yankees, Rangers and Nationals’ slugger Alfonso Soriano since he signed with the Cubs. “What did Chicago do to Alfonso Soriano?” The Nationals let their one-year-rental walk after a 41 double, 46 HR and 95 RBI ’06 season in which he hit .277 with a .351 OBP and .560 SLG for a .911 OPS, and ever since his numbers have declined significantly culminating in last year’s .241/.303/.423 campaign in which he hit just 25 doubles, 20 HR’s and collected just 55 RBI’s…Maybe it’s the wind coming in from the outfield in Wrigley, or the simple fact that he’s aged, but thinking that Chicago’s paying Soriano $18M this year while the current Nationals’ left fielder Josh Willingham is making just $4.6 million this season while hitting 29 doubles, 24 HR’s and collecting 61 RBI’s in ’09 with 4 doubles, 3 HR’s and 11 RBI’s, a .321 AVG, .487 OBP and .554 SLG so far this season. Maybe that Jim Bowden guy wasn’t so bad after all…

Bowden sure doesn’t think so, he sent a Tweet out yesterday via his @JimBowdenFMFOX account which asked Nationals fans if they could at long last see fit to to give him “…a little love for the [Luis] Atilano, [Tyler] Clippard, [Josh] Willingham (and) [Scott] Olson [sic],” deals he made while running things in the nation’s capital and the reason he asked is because the Nationals are out to a 10-9 start this season, the first time the Nats have been above .500 this “late” in a season since they were 10-9 April 24, 2005, and they just beat the LA Dodgers in 2 of 3 games this weekend with wins from starters Atilano and Olsen who received help from the Nats’ so-far-untouchable reliever Tyler Clippard and the hard-hitting Hammer. In fact, with Adam Dunn slumping and Ryan Zimmerman recovering from back-to-back injuries to one then the other hamstring it’s been some of the relatively unknown Nationals like Atilano, Clippard, Ian Desmond and Justin Maxwell and their newly-acquired veterans like Pudge Rodriguez and Adam Kennedy who’ve made the difference thus far for DC.

As Adam Dunn told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore last night (@AdamKilgoreWP), as reported, again via Twitter (DC does Tweet a lot), the team headed to Chicago this week is not the same 100-loss team that’s toured the majors the last few seasons, or in Dunn’s own words, “…”All the negative crap is pretty much behind us. This team didn’t [lose] 102 games. That was last year.” Former Cubs’ skipper Jim Riggleman’s running a tight ship in DC, and at the very least he has the Nationals believing in themselves, and the fact that they can compete with any team in the major leagues. The win yesterday over the Dodgers completed a 6-4 homestand for DC against Milwaukee, Colorado and the Los Angeles and it’s back to the top of the rotation with John Lannan due to start game one in Wrigley tonight. Without Jason Marquis in the rotation, as he went on the DL with an elbow injury recently, it’s going to be Lannan, Livan Hernandez and Atilano again in the next three starts. It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to play as well on the road as they have at home in Washington…

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Minor Details: Top Prospect Breakdown

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Misc. Notes

Baseball America listed a host of our kids in the April 25 edition of Prospect Hot Sheet

Josh Vitters – The Florida State League isn’t an easy circuit to hit home runs in. Just ask Vitters, who hit just three in 50 games after being promoted to Daytona last year, and he had been homerless in his first 14 games of this year. Vitters was already having a pretty good week, having gone 7-for-20 with three doubles through six games, but he went out and earned his place on this week’s Hot Sheet by slugging his first two home runs of the year and going 3-for-4 Thursday night against Tampa. His four walks on the season might not sound like a lot either, but it doesn’t look too bad when you consider he only drew five in his FSL stint last year.

Starlin Castro – Castro made a case for making the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. A .404/.426/.649 start to his Double-A season isn’t going to slow down the calls for Castro to be promoted to the big leagues. He is a very complete player whose glove is just as good as his bat. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he just turned 20 in March. The jury is still out on whether Tyler Colvin has made significant improvement or is playing over his head, but Castro is one prospect Cubs’ fans can dream on.

Jay Jackson – It’s only April, but we probably won’t see many pitching performances this year better than Jackson’s last outing at Nashville, where he two-hit the Sounds over eight scoreless innings. Jackson didn’t put up big strikeout numbers, but he was remarkably efficient, throwing just 86 pitches and 74 percent for strikes. Jackson kept the ball down and relied on the Cubs’ infield defense, getting 12 groundouts compared to just two fly outs. That hasn’t been Jackson’s typical M.O., as his low- to mid-90s fastball and two above-average breaking balls usually have him missing more bats. Either way, he’s one of the best pitching prospects in the minors and not far away from being big league ready. (Source)

Matt Swain of Wrigley Bound took a look at three names who have potential to pitch this year out of the bullpen for the Cubs. I disagree with what he says about Gaub’s status. I think he’s more on the radar than you’d think. (Source)

Top Prospect Breakdown

Darwin Barney 24 AAA 66 10 2 0 0 5 1 2 3 11 .242 .273 .274 .547
Kyler Burke* 22 A+ 74 7 4 1 0 5 0 1 7 16 .194 .270 .284 .554
Welington Castillo 23 AAA 34 4 1 1 3 8 0 0 4 7 .179 .303 .607 .910
Starlin Castro 20 AA 66 13 6 4 1 15 4 3 3 7 .426 .455 .705 1.159
Ryan Flaherty* 23 AA 42 5 0 0 1 5 1 0 4 8 .167 .238 .250 .488
Sam Fuld* 28 AAA 8 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 .400 .500 .400 .900
Brandon Guyer 24 AA 65 13 4 2 1 7 7 0 11 5 .314 .453 .529 .983
Brett Jackson* 21 A+ 78 10 2 2 0 5 2 2 14 10 .302 .436 .397 .833
D. J. LeMahieu 21 A+ 72 4 1 0 0 7 0 1 7 5 .254 .324 .270 .594
Hak-Ju Lee* 19 A 65 9 2 1 0 6 7 1 3 11 .267 .297 .333 .630
Marquez Smith 25 AAA 42 4 1 0 0 2 0 0 5 7 .171 .286 .200 .486
Josh Vitters 20 A+ 73 10 6 0 2 10 2 1 4 14 .279 .329 .456 .785
Logan Watkins* 20 A 57 8 0 0 0 1 2 2 3 14 .264 .304 .264 .568
Christopher Archer 21 A+ 0 1 8.18 3 11.0 2 5 11 1.818 12.3 1.6 4.1 9.0 2.20
Christopher Carpenter 24 AA 0 0 3.00 1 3.0 0 1 1 1.000 6.0 0.0 3.0 3.0 1.00
Andrew Cashner 23 AA 1 0 2.60 3 17.1 1 4 25 0.635 3.6 0.5 2.1 13.0 6.25
Casey Coleman 22 AAA 0 2 4.82 3 18.2 1 2 9 0.964 7.7 0.5 1.0 4.3 4.50
Thomas Diamond 27 AAA 1 0 2.25 3 16.0 1 7 14 1.000 5.1 0.6 3.9 7.9 2.00
Jay Jackson 22 AAA 2 1 2.00 3 18.0 3 3 12 0.667 4.5 1.5 1.5 6.0 4.00

Organizational Offensive Leaderboard

Game Recaps

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Round Rock starter Gustavo Chacin (1-1, 1.74) threw seven and one-third innings and gave up a lone run to lead the Express to a 5-1 win at Principal Park Sunday afternoon. Chacin stifled the Cubs offense, surrendering just five hits while striking out three and walking one. With the loss, Iowa drops to 7-10 and Round Rock improves to 6-11.

Chacin was in control for most of the game and managed to escape some trouble in the eighth. Bryan LaHair doubled to lead of the inning and Jim Adduci singled with one out to put runners on first and third. RH Gary Majewski took Chacin’s spot on the mound and killed the Cubs would-be rally by striking out pinch-hitter Marquez Smith and getting Darwin Barney to ground out.

Cubs starter Jay Jackson (2-2, 2.35), coming off his two-hit gem against Nashville, was out-dueled by Chacin. Jackson pitched well, giving up only two runs on five hits over five innings with four strikeouts, but lacked support from his offense.

Iowa’s only run came on Welington Castillo’s home run in the bottom of fifth to cut Round Rock’s lead to 2-1, but the Express outscored the Cubs the rest of the way, plating three unanswered runs. The homer was Castillo’s fourth of the season. Brad Snyder singled in the fourth to put his hitting streak to 10 games.

Iowa and Round Rock will play two tomorrow, starting with game one at 5 p.m. RH Thomas Diamond (1-0, 2.25) gets the call for Iowa and will oppose LH Andy Van Hekken (1-1, 1.53) in game one. RH Casey Coleman (0-2, 4.82) will start game two for the Cubs while Round Rock will send out LH Polin Trinidad (0-0, 2.45).

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Following the end of their seven-game winning streak in a 4-3 Game 1 loss Sunday, the Tennessee Smokies’ rebounded with a 9-7 win in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader with the Birmingham Barons. The split at Smokies Park puts the Smokies at a still minors-best 14-3 record on the year. Birmingham goes to 3-13.

The Smokies got off to a promising start Sunday, as Southern League “Hitter of the Week” Robinson Chirinos clobbered a three-run home run in the first off Barons starter Matt Long. However, the Smokies offense failed to deliver much else for starter Andrew Cashner, as Long and relievers Miguel Socolovich (1-1) and Rick Brooks (S, 1) kept the Smokies in check for the rest of Game 1.

Cashner (1-1) lacked consistent command in his fourth start of the season, allowing four runs on nine hits in a complete-game Game 1 loss. The Southern League’s strikeout leader fanned four Barons on the afternoon.

Robinson Chirinos kicked off a six-run second inning for Tennessee Game 2 with a run-scoring single off Barons’ starter Anthony Carter. Chirinos would reach base five times Sunday and extend his hit streak to 12 games.

Two costly errors would prove to be the difference late in Game 2, as Tennessee took advantage of multiple Barons’ miscues in the bottom of the sixth against Barons reliever Joe Torres (0-1). Jake Muyco (1-0) picked up the win with Dustin Sasser (S, 2) earning his second save of 2010.

Ty Wright continued to pulverize opposing pitching with four hits and two RBIs on Sunday. The left fielder leads the Southern League with 20 RBIs. Starlin Castro’s 10-game hit streak came to an end in Game 1, but the Cubs’ top prospect still leads all Southern League batters with 26 hits.

The Smokies and Barons continue their five-game series with Game 3 Monday night at 7:15. RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx (0-1, 7.50) gets the start for the Smokies, while the Barons will counter with RHP Charlie Shirek (1-0, 0.47).

Peoria Chiefs (Low A) – The Peoria Chiefs collected just three hits over 14 innings on Sunday and were swept in a doubleheader by the Quad Cities River Bandits 3-1 and 1-0. The losses give Quad Cities a sweep of the three-game series and the Chiefs have their first three-game losing streak of the season

In game one, Peoria had chances to score against Eric Fornataro in the first and second innings but left runners in scoring position both times. Hak-Ju Lee led off the game with a walk and Matt Cerda walked with one out to move Lee into scoring position. Greg Rohan flew out to the warning track in left and Justin Bour bounced into a fielders’ choice to keep the game scoreless. In the second DJ Fitzgerald led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout by Mario Mercedes. George Matheus moved Fitzgerald to third with a groundout but Francsico Guzman struck out swinging to end the inning.

Chiefs’ starter Nick Struck retired the first nine Bandits he faced before D’Marcus Ingram reached on an infield single to start the fourth. Struck picked Ingram off first base before Ryan Jackson doubled to left-center. Niko Vazquez worked a walk and with two down Devin Shepherd walked to load the bases. With a 0-2 count, Ryde Rodriguez got Quad Cities on the board with a three-run double to the wall in right-center.

The Chiefs came back with an unearned run in the top of the fifth. Mercedes reached on an error by Luis Mateo at second and moved to second on a groundout by George Matheus. Mercedes advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Francisco Guzman to cut the Bandits’ lead to 3-1.

The Chiefs brought the tying run to the plate in each of the last two innings against reliever Jesse Simpson but fell short both times. Jose Valdez walked to start the sixth but was caught stealing second for the first out. Bour walked to start the seventh and pinch-runner Logan Watkins moved to second in a one-out groundout by Mercedes. Matheus struck out looking against Simpson to end the game.

Struck (1-2) took the loss after allowing three runs on three hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked two. Andres Quezada threw one perfect relief inning and struck out a batter.

Game two started with the Chiefs again leaving runners on base as Cerda singled with two outs and Rohan walked. Bandits’ starter Jorge Rondon beat Bour to the bag for an inning ending groundout to strand two Chiefs runners.

Quad Cities took advantage in the bottom of the first and jumped on top again. With one down Jason Stidham singled off Jeffry Antigua and barely beat the throw to the plate as Niko Vasquez doubled to the wall in left-center. Antigua bounced back to retire Edgar Lara and Freddy Parejo and end the inning with the Chiefs down 1-0.

The Chiefs put two on with an error and a two-out walk in the second but Lee flew out to left to end the threat. Peoria never mounted much of an attack until the seventh inning against Rondon or reliever Michael Blazek.

With two down in the top of the seventh Blazek walked Valdez. Valdez stole second and went to third on a throwing error by the catcher Robert Stock. With the tying run 90 feet away, Blazek struck out Guzman on a 3-2 pitch to end the game with Quad Cities winning 1-0.

Antigua (0-1) took the game two loss despite allowing just one run on three hits over five innings. He struck out two and walked three while also picking a runner off first base. Jordan Latham walked two and gave up a hit but struck out a batter with the bases loaded in his one scoreless inning.

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Coffee Talk: The Six Man Rotation

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Weekend one of the double barreled Carlos bullpen has come and went. Ted Lilly has made his return and we’re ready to move forward. What I can’t help but wonder is why Lou didn’t go with the six man rotation rather than move Z to the pen. To me, it makes the most sense for a couple reasons.

1. It allows your starters to work deeper in games

The whole reason and justification for this move to the pen is to “give the Cubs an 8th inning guy” to get the ball to Marmol. Right now I see no problem with James Russell and Sean Marshall being the guys to get the ball to Marmol in the 9th. Obviously you can’t pitch them every day of the season, but if you simply had to alternate them in the 8th, you’d need your starter to go seven innings each start. That would probably involve 120+ pitches in each start, which on the whole sounds terrible. When you think about it for a second, the six man rotation means an extra day in between starts and less starts overall in the season from 32 to 27. Less overall workload.

2. It keeps people in their natural roles

Pitching out of the bullpen is a completely different animal. It takes some time, especially for a starting pitcher, to get used to pitching out of that role and having to warm up on short noticed. Carlos Zambrano has never pitched out of the bullpen. Tom Gorzelanny has, but was unsuccessful to say the least. That leaves Ryan Dempster who not only has said he prefers to be a starter, but is also our best starter, and Carlos Silva who is pitching out of his mind. It’s really not fair that any of the six arms be sent to the pen to pitch in a role that none are really ideal for.

3. It prevents the hostility and hurt feelings

Tom Hanks said it well when he said “There’s no crying in baseball”, but unfortunately we see it every day. Players don’t get the at bats they think they deserve. They don’t get the call up when they feel it’s warrated and they get shipped to the pen when it’s far from their wish. We saw this last year with Carlos Marmol. After serving his time behind Ryan Dempster as the setup man, he was then asked to compete with Kevin Gregg for a spot as the closer that he felt was promised to him. The result was erratic command and what looked to be a loss of confidence in his ability to make hitters look bad at the plate. When this move came out last week, Carlos Zambrano was under the impression that it was temporary (it still may be). When asked to clarify, Lou has continually danced around the question and refuses to give an answer as to the length of Z’s stay in pitching purgatory. You can’t tell me that the non-committal attitude from Lou mixed with Zambrano’s volatility isn’t a recipe for one heck of a mixed drink. I can’t see it ending well if Zambrano is in that pen for more than a few weeks.

What are your thoughts? Would a six man rotation work?

From now on, Coffee Talk will only be M/W/F with Dave bringing us the news on T/TH. Enjoy the day and let’s get a win tonight.

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Roster Approval Ratings: Week 2

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Week two of the roster approval ratings look a little healthier for some guys, but there are still a few that confuse me.

Thoughts? Make sure you cast your vote this week. We’ve even added a question about if the Cubs are going to make the playoffs.

Oh, and for you stat geeks out there, this week N=416

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Game 19: Sweep!!

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Cubs sweep!! They did many things right in this series and when things begin to go your way, everything seems to go your way. Such was today’s game! What is the opposite of “When it rains, it pours”? You would think I would know this, as someone who subscribes to a glass-half-full notion of life. But I don’t know, and neither does Google. No matter, the Cubs know the feeling!

Theriot led off with the first of his five hits (anyone think he’s not looking over his shoulder at Starlin Castro?) and by the end of the first we were already ahead 3-0 courtesy of a two run double by Tyler Colvin. Speaking of Colvin, how do you like to pronounce his last name? Everyone I’ve heard say it, says a long O like coal except for Bob Brenly who says it like call. So, is it Coal-vin or Call-vin? Either way he had a fabulous game at the plate, a triple short of the cycle and three RBIs. Kosuke also needed a triple to complete his cycle. That’s good hitting, when you’ve got two guys close to the cycle in a single game! Randy Wells pitched another beauty, lasting 7 innings and giving up 7 hits. If the starting pitching stays as wonderful as it has been, and the bats stay even half as lively as they were today, it won’t matter who’s in the bullpen because this team will be fine. Fingers crossed that this was the start of a more consistent offense.

Win Probability

First Star: Tyler Colvin (.191)
Second Star: Kosuke Fukudome (.167)
Third Star: Randy Wells (.105)

Here are some other random thoughts from throughout the game:

  • I don’t like to see anyone get hit by a pitch but if someone has to I suppose Ryan Braun is my favorite choice. Guess how many RBIs Braun had in this series? ZERO. Guess how many Prince Fielder had in this series? ZERO.
  • Home runs today for Fukudome, Colvin, Soto, DLee. Even Aramis got a base hit today, and also two sharply hit line drives that were caught. He looked better all around. Like I said (or tried to): “Opposite of when it rains it pours.”
  • One small Colvin criticism, I watched him catch a full FOUR fly balls in center field with one hand. That scares me a little bit. But at least he doesn’t hop.
  • I’ve decided I would like Bob Brenly to take Lou Pinella’s place as the Cubs coach next year, and then I can take Bob’s place as the color man.
  • Even Randy Wells got in on the fun, with a double in the top of the 7th! At that point Soriano was the last Cub needing a hit (even though Brenly claimed he already had one. That’s why I should be the color man.) Soriano did get a hit in the 8th, completing another full lineup of hits. They did this on Friday too (sans Dempster).
  • Ryan Theriot’s foul ball “hit” in the top of the seventh again proves that when things are going your way, everything does.

Beat the Streak

As promised, we’ll recap the Beat the Streak standings in each Sunday game’s recap. Here’s where you stand! If you’re not on the list, your streak = 0.

5 – Rich Beckman
5 – y2kansas
4 – bawhite2
4 – Doug Bagley
4 – GV Hub
4 – Lizzie
1 – Chaise Kahlenbeck
1 – Ginger Russ
1 – Joe Aiello
1 – Lord Alastair Dimwitty III
1 – Nick Francone
1 – Terrelle Pryor 2

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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The Blind Side

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The title is “The Blind Side – Evolution of a Game”. It was published in 2006. The author is Michael Lewis.

It was the author’s name “Michael Lewis”, which drew me to this book. I recognized him as the author of “Moneyball”, which was about the application of sophisticated statistical analysis to the game of baseball, as opposed to “gut feelings” &/or anecdotal “evidence”. I enjoyed reading “Moneyball” very much.

I was blissfully unaware of “The Blind Side”, despite the fact that it has been made into a major motion picture, and despite the fact that Sandra Bullock recently won the “Best Actress” Oscar for her role in that movie.

This book is about football in general, and about the importance which the offensive tackle position has taken on in protecting the quarterback in professional football.

it is also about one specific person, Michael Oher, who wanted to become a professional athlete, and the route he took, through his freshman year in college, to realize that dream. Mr. Oher is currently a starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

In the early chapters the author describes Lawrence Taylor’s defensive work, and how that type of linebacking increased the value of the Left Offensive Tackle position.

The author quotes his friend, Sean Tuohy, who is featured prominently in the book: “What I learned playing basketball at Ole Miss,” he said, “was what not to do: beat up a kid. It’s easy to beat up a kid. The hard thing is to build him up.”

It is also in chapter three that the author describes what a quarterback’s ”blind side” is, and why it’s important to protect it.

The author describes the process whereby high school All-American athletes are wooed by college athletic departments, a fairly vulgar process in my humble opinion.

The author also includes a black view of white people which is very accurate.

This book is all about the Southern United States. The SEC. Memphis, Tennessee. Oxford, Mississippi. It’s a foreign world to me, but I enjoyed reading about it.

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Game 18: Couldn’t Have Gone Any Better

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

A whole lot to be happy about with this one. I don’t think you could have scripted the win any better. Everything went right for this team and then find themselves on the cusp of not only sweeping someone, but having that someone be a division rival. Just a few days ago that would be considered unthinkable.

First Star: Ted Lilly (.379 WPA)
Second Star: Marlon Byrd (.156 WPA)
Third Star: Carlos Zambrano (.092 WPA)

  • Ted Lilly was just plain awesome considering the fact that not only did he come back after just two minor league starts, but he’s also back earlier than the early to mid-May timetable we were originally given. He started out a little rusty with his command and left a good amount of pitches up in the zone. That had me worried when I looked at my lineup card and kept reading the names Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder coming up. They couldn’t take advantage of the wildness early and Lilly kicked it into gear from there to go six strong, while not allowing a run. He completely dismantled Fielder’s game at the plate, striking the big fella out all three times he came to the plate. Lilly wasn’t overpowering, but he did show shades of brilliance with the curveball and pitched far better than you could’ve expected. His contract is up at the end of the year and Len mentioned in the broadcast that it’s been one of the better contracts for both sides that Jim Hendry has signed via free agency. There is no question in my mind that I want Lilly on this ball club next year.
  • Carlos Zambrano made his debut out of the pen tonight and didn’t fail in stealing the spotlight. Coming into the game in the 7th, Zambrano was immediately thrust into a situation that Lou envisions him helping out in. After John Grabow wet the bed, Zambrano came in to get Ricky Weeks out on a check swing grounder on two pitches. He came up and in on Weeks who couldn’t keep the bat back and made contact to end the inning. The show stealing part, as if his one at bat relief appearance in the 7th wasn’t enough, came in the form of comic relief and clutch insurance. Coming up to hit in the 8th, Zambrano hit a deep drive to right field that scored an insurance run. The funny thing was the fact that as Z was following through on his swing, he came out of his shoe….literally. His shoe was left in the box and Zambrano ran to first. Overall, the outing for Zamrano was acceptable. He did give up a run, which is not what you want to see, but I have to believe that may have been due to the fact that he had a decent lead to work with. The pressure was off at that point. When it was on in the 7th, he did the job and I think you grade day 1 as a success.
  • You can bash Soriano for continuing to hop, as some have, but the fact of the matter is that he’s one of the few .300+ hitters on the roster right now. He grabbed another hit today and also reached base on an error by Casey McGehee. I think we need to lay off him as well as Geo Soto for awhile. Both players, especially Geo, have played a lot better than they did last year so far this season. Geo just looks locked in at the plate and seems so much more patient this year in his approach. I’ve gone from cringing when he comes to the plate to looking forward to watching him take his at bats. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved up to the 7th or even 6th spot in the order real soon if his hot hitting continues.
  • Aramis Ramirez snapped an 0-for-21 streak tonight with an RBI single in the 6th and suddenly it was all love for him in the booth. I wouldn’t go that far, but we need Ramirez to start hitting. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but his first at bat just missed being a homerun to deep center by about 10 feet. I think his bat is going to come around and come around real soon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a big game tomorrow night against Jeff Suppan, despite his career struggles against him.
  • Bob Brenly mentioned something I’ve thought of quite a few times in the 7th inning. Lou sent Ted Lilly up to the plate with the sole purpose of laying down a sac bunt. He already had it in the plans to pull Lilly after the at bat in favor of a reliever and Lilly failed to get the bunt down. Why not, in that situation, use Ryan Dempster to get the bunt down. Lilly looked horrible at the plate all night and Demp is one of the best in the business at laying down a bunt. I’d have used him instead in that situation.
  • Did you know that Zambrano has just six walks taken in his entire career? That’s over 600 plate appearances and just six freakin walks. Couple that with 206 K’s and you’ve got a crazy ratio.
  • Thumbs down to Xavier Nady for leaving the bases loaded in the 3rd against Doug Davis, who was on the ropes. You need to take advantage of those situations when you’re team is struggling and you’re charged with hitting 4th in the lineup.
  • Holy cow was the Blackhawk’s game today, awesome. If you didn’t see it, you missed a crazy good finish.

We go for the sweep tomorrow against a pitcher that Brew Crew Ball considers “the textbook definition of atrocious.” I like our odds.

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