Archive for May, 2010

A Look at the Wrigley Field Ground Rules

Monday, May 31st, 2010

One thing I’ve learned in all this time of maintaining a blog about the Cubs is that there are people who read who are more knowledgeable than others. That being said, I present to you the ground rules for playing in Wrigley Field.

OUTFIELD AREA

  • Fair bounding ball striking railing or screen attached to bleacher wall and rebounding onto playing field: In Play.
  • Fair bounding ball lodges in screen attached to bleacher wall: Two Bases.
  • Fair batted ball lodges in vines on bleacher wall: Two Bases.
  • Fair ball enters vines on bleacher wall and rebounds onto playing field: In Play.
  • Fair ball lodges in or under grates in left or right field: Two Bases.

BULLPEN AREA

  • Ball lodging on, under or in the bullpen seating area: Out of Play.
  • Ball enters the bullpen seating area and rebounds out of the seating area: In Play.
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Series Preview: Cubs / Pirates

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Randy Wells (3-3, 4.79 ERA) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (0-3, 5.11 ERA)

Wells threw 16 pitches to six batters in the first inning of his last start on Friday against the Cardinals and was pulled before he retired anyone. All six Redbirds got hits. It was an “embarrassing” outing, Wells said. He was assigned to the bullpen on Saturday as a backup. So far, he’s 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA at home and 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA on the road. He faced the Pirates on May 6, and was roughed up, giving up seven runs (six earned) on five hits in two innings. Pittsburgh scored five runs in the first.

Since Ohlendorf has been back from the disabled list at the beginning of May, he’s had mixed results. He’s coming off a solid performance Wednesday vs. Cincinnati when he allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings but took the loss, and against Chicago on May 16, he pitched six innings and gave up four hits and two runs. But he’s also had a couple of rough outings as well. Ohlendorf hasn’t won a decision this calendar year (0-3 in the regular season and 0-3 in Spring Training), so he’ll look for a change of pace vs. the Cubs.

Strength – Owns the ideal pitchers’ frame. Can throw an array of pitches but his best is his nasty sinker. Can be used as both a starter and reliever.

Weakness – When his sinker doesn’t sink, batters tend to tee off on him. Therefore, he must keep the ball down and limit his long balls against.

Ted Lilly (1-4, 3.63 ERA) vs. Jeff Karsens (1-1, 4.78 ERA)

Lilly threw seven shutout innings in his last start against the Dodgers, giving up three hits and striking out five. But he did not get a decision as the lefty exited when the game was tied. The Dodgers felt Lilly tried to get an edge by positioning himself in front of the rubber a little bit and even asked the first-base umpire about it. But no fine was levied and there was no penalty. Expect the umpires — and the Pirates — to watch Lilly’s footwork very closely in this game.

Karstens is expected to take Charlie Morton’s start against the Cubs on Tuesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Strength – Is versatile enough to start or relieve as necessary. Has proven capable of pitching effectively in the rotation in the minors.

Weakness – Is far too hittable at the major-league level and also lacks the ability to strike batters out with consistency.

Carlos Zambrano (1-6, 6.12 ERA) vs. Zach Duke (3-5, 5.09 ERA)

This will be Zambrano’s first start since April 20. The right-hander moved to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Ted Lilly and also to give the team a potent setup pitcher. He was effective until May 14 against the Pirates, when he gave up three runs on four hits over one inning. Zambrano then said he wasn’t comfortable in the role and wanted to go back to the rotation. Since that game against the Pirates, he has given up one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Big Z tuned up with a 73-pitch simulated game last Monday. In four starts, Zambrano was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA. He’s made 13 relief outings, including Saturday, when he needed just two pitches to get a double play and end the eighth against the Cardinals.

Duke has lost five of his past six decisions after winning his first two, with the Pirates giving him little run support. He allowed just one earned run in his previous two starts, getting a win and a no-decision, before allowing 12 hits and seven runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss Friday in Atlanta. Although Duke is 1-2 at home, he has a 3.57 ERA in his six starts at PNC Park this year, and he is the all-time wins leader there with a 27-26 record. Duke will be facing the Cubs for the first time this season. He has allowed 85 hits in 63 2/3 innings, including seven homers, while striking out 40 and walking 23.

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Game 51: Grim and Grimmer

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

You know we’re in trouble when the best part of watching the game today came when the redhead in the Corona ad shook up his gal’s beer after she was watching a hottie, and she opened the other one instead. That, my friends, was the happiest part of my whole afternoon.

The game was nearly overwith by 1:27pm when Pujols hit his first home run of the game straight out of the ballpark and onto Waveland Avenue. Were it not for Geovany Soto’s solo shot in the 8th, this would have been all the Cardinals needed in their 9-1 win over the Cubs. Adam Wainwright pitched very well but as usual the Cubs weren’t without opportunities to score. It’s just that, as usual, they didn’t cash in on those opportunities.

Win Probability

First Star: Adam Wainwright (.314 WPA)
Second Star: Albert Pujols (.276 WPA)
Third Star: Alfonso Soriano (.129 WPA)

Random Tidbits

  • Actually this first tidbit comes from before the game started. Did anyone see the CSN pregame interview between Dave Kaplan and Albert Pujols? Interesting. Apparently Pujols is not a big fan of Wrigley Field. No modern training facilities and the field is in terrible shape. Huh? Maybe it got lost in translation. I’ve heard about the disappointing player training facilities but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone say the field is in bad shape.
  • Another pre-game bit: If you were lucky enough to see the National Anthem you may have seen Challenger, the free-flying eagle (who also flew during the Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis), take a flight around Wrigley during the last few bars today. Challenger was accidentally blown from his nest at 5-weeks of age and subsequently trained as an ambassador for the American Eagle Foundation. Eagles are marvelous birds, one of my very favorites. To learn more about Challenger you can visit www.eagles.org. For a fantastic look at a live eagle nest, check out an Eagle Cam at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia hosted by WVEC here. This year’s clutch of three is just about ready to leave the nest but you may still be able to catch a glimpse of them.
  • Can you tell I don’t really want to talk much about the game itself?
  • Ryan Dempster wasn’t nearly as sharp as his last outing on Tuesday when he shut out the Dodgers through eight innings giving up only three hits. But, he didn’t have a bad game here either. Pujols just happened to have a better one going 3 for 3 (all hits were home runs) with two walks (one intentional), four RBIs and four runs scored. So there you go.
  • The Cubs had only two real opportunities to score. The first came in just the second inning. Believe it or not Ramirez started it off with a single to right (yay!) He moved to second on a ground out by Byrd, and Soriano walked on four pitches. Soto struck out. This brought up Starlin Castro, who singled up the middle. CSN’s “technical difficulties” prevented me from seeing this live, but apparently Ramirez was thrown out handily at home trying to score. You probably caught it on the replay even if you didn’t see it live. I don’t disagree with the decision to send him, with two outs and the pitcher on deck. But (and Kasper/Brenly commented on this later) he just doesn’t seem to be moving as well this year as he has in years past. They concluded when you’re in as bad of a slump as Ramirez is, it affects your whole game and your whole life. If that’s true (and I’m sure it is) then maybe he should have been held at third pitcher on deck or no pitcher on deck.
  • The only other scoring opportunity for the Cubs came in the bottom of the fourth. After Ramirez struck out to start the inning, Byrd singled, Soriano doubled, and Soto walked to load the bases with only one out.Castro swung at the very first pitch to ground into a double play. End of opportunity. And when I say that, I mean for the entire remainder of the game. That was it. (Other than Soto’s solo homer later.)
  • Pujols hit his second home run (also completely out of the ballpark) in the fifth inning, for two runs. By this time the score was 4-0, and things were already looking grim. When Frick and Frack began warming up in the bullpen in the top of the seventh, things got even grimmer. Is grimmer a word?
  • Frick came on in the seventh and gave up a run. Frack pitched a good eighth but was true to form in the ninth, giving Pujols his third home run of the game, this one remaining inside the park. However two batters later David Freese sent one out of the park to complete the loss.
  • Len and Bob had a bit of a discussion sometime during the grim (not yet grimmer) part of the game about whether they think the Cubs are out of it. They chatted this back and forth a bit before they decided they simply didn’t know. Hmmm.
  • In the post game interview, Lou made mention of some lineup changes. He said he’ll worry about it tomorrow. What lineup changes would you propose?

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and try not to think about anything other than the Corona.

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Game 50: Seventh Heaven for Silva, Cubs

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

First Star : Carlos Silva  (WPA .343)

Second Star: Mike Fontenot  (WPA .151)

Third Star: Marlon Byrd (WPA .137)


The Cubs defeated the Cardinals today by a score of 5-0. I could stop there and most of our readers would smile, walk away, and spend the rest of their night happy, but that would be doing this game a deep injustice. There were quite a few highlights from todays game at sun splashed Wrigley and very few them involved the Cardinals in a positive light. We got to see a Cubs squad hit with runners in scoring position, a few web gems for the Cubs defense, a sensational performance by Carlos Silva, and all of this happened on a Fox Game of the Week Broadcast. We never seem to play well when Fox is here! Without further ado, here is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly……

The Good:

  • Carlos Silva became the first Cubs pitcher to go 7-0 since Ken Holtzmen achieved the feat in 1967. He went 7 innings and gave up 2 hits while striking out 11. By the way, thats a career high in K’s  for Carlos. He had steady command of his pitches and mixed speeds all day. The sinker and off-speed stuff was far too much to handle for the Cards hitters. This is almost making up for the fact the we signed Milton Bradley in the first place….almost.
  • With the wind blowing in for most of today’s game the Cubs did not hit one homerun, which means they manufactured all 5 of their runs. Not bad for a team that seemed to be living and dying by the homer.
  • Mike Fontenot, filling in for Razmirez at third, had two Triples today in the right center gap….the second one drove in Byrd from second base. Aramis who?
  • Marlon Byrd made a diving catch in the second inning with a man on base and one out and Starlin Castro made a highlight reel play on a short hop linedrive smoked by Albert Pujols in the fourth. To watch Castro snare that ball was a glimpse at the defensive prowess he brings.
  • As if the defense wasn’t enough Byrd and Castro both went 2-4 at the plate and each batted in a run.

The Bad:

  • The Cardinals defense. They had two errors and a host of other sloppy plays in the field. Both of the errors helped add to the Cub run total.
  • Derrek Lee managed to kill yet another inning in the fifth with a double play. The leadoff man gets on and lee hits into a DP. He has looked better lately but it kills me how I can predict when he will hit into a double play!
  • Adam Ottavino made his first career start in the majors and registered 6 walks. The perplexing thing was that the Fox announcers seem to think he pitched well. I think the Cubs poor offense in the first three innings helped the kid look good.
  • Marshall had a rare bad appearance giving up two hits in the eighth. He got pulled for Zambrano who cleaned up his mess with a quick double play ball.

The Ugly:

  • The end of Adam Ottavino’s Major League debut came when he walked Carlos Silva on four straight pitches. The worst part, he managed to load the bases. The second worst part, there were two outs. The ugly part……Mitch Boggs came on in relief of Ottavino and walked the first batter he faced (Fukudome) creating the Cubs fourth run!
  • Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. These guys are so bias to the Cardinals it sours my view of these Fox broadcasts. McCarver also couldn’t figure out the difference between the Hancock and the Sears (Willis) tower.

Well, thats about it for this fairytale ending. Dempster will try to lock down the series for us in the rubber match tomorrow. Something tells me the Cards wont be such a pushover in game three. What do you guys think?

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GirlieView (05/28/2010)

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Well lookee here, the first L-O-N-G weekend of the budding summer and the Cardinals are in town! And it looks like it’s going to be beautiful weather too. Can’t beat it! That is, unless we won today. Oh well. Tomorrow’s a new day.

My bit o’ babble this week is about the flip-flopping kind of results we are seeing so far this year. Who’d have predicted we’d lose two series to Cincinnati and another two to Pittsburgh, but win the Los Angeles series, the Texas series (in Texas no less), both against Milwaukee, and split the two games with the Phillies? This is encouraging to me in an odd sort of way. Make no mistake, those losses that should have been easy wins mean just as much today as they will in September. But for now, I’ll take whatever we can get! How do you feel? For more on flip flopping, check out Chet’s post from yesterday about our emotions as Cubs fans! Good stuff!

Enough from this Girlie, let’s move on to the week’s best. A whole lot of great stuff to choose from this week!

Lizzies

  • everyone’s favorite source for infallible information, Wikipedia
  • Maybe I’m glad I didn’t see those fielding errors, my heads been in my hands enough.
  • Disappointed to see Theriot only see 11 pitches out of the leadoff spot in 5 plate appearances. Not what you want to see from that spot.
  • Look out people, now that I’ve started playing this game, you’re all going down.
  • Getting cocky is the sure prologue to a miss.
  • my mother could fill out a better lineup card….
  • Maybe we should have them both split the first inning of games so they are not in the pen anymore… any takers?
  • I don’t want Lou fired, I just want him to change the gd line up.
  • Maybe I’m the only person feeling this way, but despite the fact that over the last week the Cubs have played better, I still feel rather lukewarm about our team.
  • we dodged the bullet aimed squarely at our series win that Lou fired from his double barreled bullpen suckage gun.
  • It’s a legit possibility that he could be the better Carlos in the rotation this year. How crazy is that?
  • Props to the Blackhawks for winning today and moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • Lou’s lineups this series have been mind-boggling. The second game in particular was just ridiculous. You have Soriano, a prototypical DH who justifies his salary 100% exclusively with his bat. He starts in left field all three games. You have Nady, a guy whose arm isn’t at full strength just yet. He starts in right for two straight games. You have Ramirez, a good defensive third baseman who has looked like Ted Lilly at the plate. He gets put in the DH spot, retaining his atrocious bat but losing his solid glove. You have Baker at third, representing both a defensive downgrade AND another middling bat in the lineup. And then you have Colvin, a rookie who the team allegedly wants to get more playing time. He would be a defensive upgrade over either Soriano or Nady if one of them were used as DH, and he would be an offensive upgrade over any of the guys used as DH, so naturally Lou had him riding the bench. Utterly mind-boggling.
  • Here is the big problem….when he goes to the pen what does he have to choose from?
  • Blame Hendry for the pitching, Lou for the lineups.
  • the Diamondbacks are sporting a very sexy 7.70 ERA. It could definitely be worse for us.
  • At this point it’s not a funk, it’s a trend. Be it mental or physical, perhaps a 15 day rest would do him good.
  • Big Z gets stimulated – er, I mean, simulated.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but we look kinda boned.
  • Is it bad when I hear that Lee hit a homer, and my first thought is, “Good, everyone can stop b*tch#ng for awhile.”
  • A dark cloud started hovering over Wrigley in the fifth inning and the circus music was being cued. Just as the clown car got loaded up and prepped for yet another comic ending to a beautiful evening…….the music stopped, the cloud vanished and Derrek Lee returned to form.
  • I don’t really need to write anything else about this because when Carlos saves a game and doesn’t flirt with throwing it away that goes in the good section!
  • Tyler Colvin must have done something seriously wrong to get the treatment he is getting.
  • One of those indellible memories is of stupid human tricks on the Letterman show, where a guy stopped a moving fan blade with his tongue. Safe in one direction, messy in the other.
  • LEE-he’s a cubs fan!
  • The lights were out on them before the game was even over.
  • This team has to get better in the field. That is a vital part of run prevention and winning baseball.
  • Bob Howry Alert: 1 IP and 0 Runs. Pardon me while I look out the window to see if I can spot any flying pigs.
  • Give Castro a break. This was his first “bad” offensive game. He has exceed expectations thus far (aside from all the errors) and plenty of other Cubs have left plenty of runners on base. It’s a team problem.
  • That ain’t the way to win a championship, boys.
  • a championship? I’m hoping for 3rd place right about now…
  • Anyone else think Manny is looking more and more like the creature from “Predator” and less like a baseball player?
  • I can’t decide whether Da Gorz did the Cubs a favor or a slight by turning in a rather rocky pitching performance last night.
  • He isn’t doing much good sitting on the bench taking up a roster spot right now.
  • I’d rather see [Tracy] at third base than Fontenot.
  • The Cubs should know by now that anything, any injury of any kind, should put Aramis on the DL.
  • Hoffpauir sucks. Check the stats.
  • Player development on top of Nady’s lack output makes that a no-brainer for me.
  • I think we see Cashner by the end of June at the latest….out of the pen.
  • Who else loves seeing ManRam strike out in the 9th?
  • Marmol made him look silly.
  • Sometimes I hit the button after the third game of the season…..don’t lie you’ve done it too!
  • The Cubs are so weak, they can’t even spell WAR.

Lizard

  • How about a happy ending this time?

Looking for some fun? Join in our June Stat Madness game (only a few days left to make your predictions!) It’s fun and easy! Or, if you prefer to streak, our daily Beat the Streak game might be more your speed. Either way (or both ways!) have fun!

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Game 49: Momma said there’d be days like this

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Today the Cubs got eight great innings of pitching – the only problem was that they gave up seven runs in the other inning as officially scored.  Randy Wells lasted six batters giving up five runs without a single out. He was relieved by James Russell who pitched four innings of no run baseball.  The other Cub relievers got the team to the ninth inning without giving up a single run and that’s when the Cubs brought in Grabow who showed his expertise by giving up a two run homer and the Cubs lost to the Cards 7-1.  Rumors are flying around that the Cubs might be bringing up Cashner in a relief spot this week but who are you going to take off the roster?  Russell is pitching well as is Stevens, my candidate for demotion is Grabow.  Designate him for assignment, if another team takes him so be it.  Let’s eat his salary and move on.

Win Probability


First Star: Chris Carpenter (.176 WPA)
Second Star: Jason Motte (.114 WPA)
Third Star: Ryan Ludwick (.094 WPA)
Honorable Mention: James Russell (.086 WPA)

Highlights for today’s game:

  • The Cards got six straight hits off of Randy Wells and scored five runs, which is all they needed.  Wells didn’t look like he had his head in the game and left the ball up, his ERA jumped from 3.99 to 4.79.  This comes at a bad time as Carlos Zambrano is tentatively penciled in as a starter during the next trip through the rotation.  Which makes me wonder if the Cubs will be trading a starter. If so who will it be?  There’s no room for Cashner in the bullpen unless somebody goes so it looks to me like the ball is in Hendry’s court. I would DFA Grabow and go from there.
  • Carpenter was effective today and his breaking ball impressed me. It had that 12-6 rotation that Kerry Wood once had.  Jason Motte came in at the end and pitched in the mid to high nineties, dude can bring it!
  • Byrd is in a funk and has hit 4 for his last 36.  I really like Byrd, he is a clubhouse leader and gives you all that he’s got.  That notwithstanding I’d like to see Colvin get a couple more starts in center. Despite a part-time role Tyler is still hitting over .300 and he golfed one into the stands today resulting in the Cubs only run.
  • Needless to say I was not happy seeing a .160 hitter in the four hole today.  But I’ve got to give him credit for taking a walk in the first and he actually had a heads-up baserunning play when he legged out a pop-up which got lost in the sun and earned a double in the bottom of the sixth.
  • The Cubs got two great defensive plays in the outfield, one by Byrd and one by Soriano.
  • Late in the game Theriot got drilled in the ribs. For those of you that have never gotten bruised or cracked ribs it is a real experience.  Four weeks of constant pain followed by two weeks of itching.  Cubs need to keep an eye on Ryan with two other second basemen available.

Lou Piniella said that Zambrano would be available tomorrow and that Colvin is forcing him to put him in the lineup. Hopefully we’ll see both actions in the rest of the series.  Tomorrow the Cubs and Cards will match up in a nationwide game on FOX, let’s hope they can recover from game one and tie this series.

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Series Preview: Cubs / Cards

Friday, May 28th, 2010

If ever there was a chance for us to grab some ground on the Cardinals, this series is it. Both Kyle Loshe and Brad Penny have been placed on the DL for the redbirds, leaving them turning to a AAA pitcher in game two of the series against a hated rival. We’ve also been winning some games, albeit barely, against some good teams since the rough patch that ended with a series loss to the Pirates. Derrek Lee is slowly coming out of his slump, hitting the Dodgers hard all series and could be ready to help contribute to some wins.

The strangest issue around this team was the injury news yesterday. Carlos Zambrano was taken to the hospital with what they thought was appendicitis (turned out to be bad gas from the leftovers he ate in the clubhouse fridge – J/K). Word is that he’s available today out of the pen as he preps for what appears to be a start against Pittsburgh next series.

The other injury issue was Jeff Baker, who lost vision in one of his eyes. He’s been examined and we’ll know more soon. Maybe it’s just me, but we seem to have some weird injuries. Kerry Wood slipped in the hot tub. Felix Pie twisted his testicle (God only knows how). Mark DeRosa had irregular heartbeat issues. Sammy Sosa spazed out his back after he sneezed. Jose Cardenal had his eyelids swollen shut when he woke up one morning. Zambrano had a case of internet elbow. This is just another weird one. Let’s hope Baker is OK, because all I can think of is what happened to Kirby Puckett and his gradual degeneration that led to virtual blindness.

This should be a series we’re capable of winning if we take care of business in game two and squeak out a win against one of the birds good pitchers in game one or three.

Chris Carpenter (5-1, 3.09 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (3-2, 3.99 ERA)

Carpenter was let off the hook in his last start after allowing five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings against Anaheim. The team rallied for an extra-inning victory on a walk-off hit by Felipe Lopez, thus removing Carpenter from the decision. Two home runs spoiled Carpenter’s outing, although he said afterward that his command felt good. He walked two and struck out four and has surrendered nine home runs so far this season after giving up only seven all of last year.

Strength – An efficient starter with a tremendous frame, he induces tons of ground balls. Is an intense competitor. Owns a tremendous curve and dominant stuff, overall.

Weakness – Injuries have placed a slight damper on his career. As a result, his durability and stamina aren’t quite where they could be.

Wells did not get a decision in his last start against the Rangers but had a stellar outing. He gave up three runs on seven hits and went 8 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the year. Wells also struck out six. He’s learning — he was able to work quickly, get ahead of batters and the only mistakes were two pitches, which Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz both launched out of the Ballpark at Arlington.

Adam Ottavino (AAA) vs. Carlos Silva (6-0, 3.52 ERA)

This is the spot that Kyle Lohse would normally occupy, but Lohse was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and will undergo forearm surgery on Friday in Los Angeles. No timetable has been set for his return. Meanwhile, while the team has yet to make a formal announcement, manager Tony La Russa indicated that Triple-A Memphis right-hander Adam Ottavino will be called up to make the start in Chicago. Ottavino last pitched on Monday for the Redbirds and picked up the victory after allowing one run over five innings. In eight starts with Memphis this season, Ottavino has gone 4-3 with a 4.17 ERA.

Silva is off to his best start ever at 6-0. He picked up his last win over the Rangers, giving up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was a short start, primarily because of the heat and humidity. The more Silva wins, the more confident he gets. He’s already picked up more “W’s” in his first nine starts than he did in 34 starts the last two years with Seattle.

Adam Wainwright (6-3, 2.38 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-4, 3.31 ERA)

No scouting report on what to expect from Adam Wainwright from MLB.com, so I’ll tell you a little information that I know. He’s good. He’s very very good. He’s a former 1st round draft pick by the Braves that won 19 games last year, tops in the NL. He’s a four pitch guy (FB, SL, CB, and CH) but his fastball speed really isn’t all that impressive. He generally hovers right around 90 mph. I can’t remember the last time I saw him pitch, so I’d imagine he locates that pitch really well and gets good movement on it to compensate for the lack of speed.

Strength – Has good, sinking action on a fastball that can hit 93 m.p.h., as well as a great overhand curve, decent change-up and slider. Can dominate when on the bump and he’s also a workhorse.

Weakness – Doesn’t always have great command of his breaking stuff, which gets him into trouble. Left-handed hitters do better against him than righties, in general.

Dempster will close the Cubs’ six-game homestand and hopes to end the way he started it. Last Tuesday, he threw eight shutout innings and snapped a personal four-game losing streak in the Cubs’ 3-0 win over the Dodgers. Dempster was able to avoid the one bad inning that has snuck up on him this season. Last year, he was 0-1 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. He’s 6-6 with a 4.35 ERA in his career against St. Louis.

Scouting reports taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca

Golden Cardinal Nuggets

Notes provided by Matt over at our sister SweetSpot Network blog, Fungoes

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not
Hot: David Freese has been the team’s most consistent offensive catalyst over the last month with an OBP of .389 and a SLG of .463. Felipe Lopez has rocked opposing pitching in nine games since returning from the DL (.385/.515).

Note: Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan has lost playing time to Lopez due to flakiness in the field and at the plate. Colby Rasmus started strong but his initial good luck has caught up to him (.306/.329 in May).

Team Drama
Tony La Russa’s lineup tinkering was an exercise in futility and ultimately contributed to and culminated in a tiff between Albert Pujols and the manager last Friday when the two exchanged heated words (Pujols has been back in his customary #3 slot ever since).

Injuries to 40% of the starting rotation have pressed prospects PJ Walters and Adam Ottavino into action. The loss of Brad Penny hurts, but the Cardinals won’t see much drop off in performance between Lohse and either of the AAA callups. Ottavino, who will face the Cubs Saturday, was the team’s first-round pick in the 2006 draft but has stalled in his last couple of years in the minors, with a 4.95 FIP in 2008 and 4.55 FIP in 2009.

Interesting Nuggets
Although Jason Heyward has received all the Rookie-of-the-Year love, the Cardinals’ David Freese is third among all NL third basemen and second among rookies to Heyward (1.9) in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), with 1.6. Fellow Cardinal Jaime Garcia leads all rookie pitchers with 1.4.

Trash Talk
The Cubs are so weak, they can’t even spell WAR. (Sabermetric Joke)

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Too Early for the Panic Button?

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The 40 game mark in a baseball season is a rather important milestone. Within about 10 games either way a manager usually knows what they have as a team, and what they still need in order to have a shot at the post season.

The 40 game mark is also important for the fan. It’s typically the time at which many hit the panic button. Baseball fans, in general, are neurotic troubled souls who flip flop back and forth between optimism and pessimism. They can do a one eighty and go from hatred to love within a pitch sequence. Most likely in the not to distant future they will hate again and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Have you ever taken a good look at a fan whose team has won the World Series? I am not talking about right after the final out or even that night, more like days later. They still have that perma-grin slapped across their face but it comes with sighs of relief and a look of exhaustion. Sort of like a marathon runner, so proud to have made the finish line and reached the ultimate goal, but relieved they avoided dehydration, heart failure, or diarrhea (apparently it happens). There are so many things that can sneak up on you inside of 162 games and to avoid the pitfalls is difficult for the best of teams. It is no wonder the ride can cause lunacy for those watching it unfold. Imagine 162 chances to experience every emotion humanly possible.

I turn into Sybil…..

Through a baseball season I am a seesaw of emotion. One day optimistic enough to think that the Cubs are post-season bound and the next denying that I watch them and declaring that I refuse to do so until they attempt to put a winning product on the field. The moment I come back to the “optimistic” side a nice slap of reality usually lands across my face. Around the 40 game mark pessimism is the devil and the panic button is its cold mistress.  Hell, sometimes I hit the button after the third game of the season…..don’t lie you’ve done it too!

I would say this season is no different. I would actually go as far as the seesaw almost broke. Yup it was right after the sweep we endured at the hands of the Pirates. When the seesaw breaks it can be roughly translated as, I stop watching ….for the rest of the season.  However the boys rode into Philly and stole the first game which forced me to pull out the duck tape and put the seesaw back together again. I got out the hammer and nails after the Rangers series to reinforce the thing and low and behold the dodgers come to town and we get another win off a first place team.

Can we believe?

Is there reason to believe in this team? If they can beat some of the top teams in the league does that mean there is promise?  Here are a few examples of the lunacy we experience…..

The optimist looks at Carols Silva and says what a steal! We dumped a total head case and got a sinker ball pitcher in return who is rolling at 6-0. Admit it, in any other situation, if Hendry signed a big name pitcher in the off season to $12 million/year deal and he started 6-0 we would laud him for his managerial cunning and ability to get the owners to spend.

The Pessimist is waiting for either Silva to eat himself off the roster or at some point spontaneously combust while on the mound leaving a crater for the rest of the pitching staff to crawl out of.  In a way sending him back to the hell that better represents his days in Seattle and explain their desperation to trade one headache for another.

Another example would be Aramis Ramirez. The pessimist says Ramirez’s star has faded at 32. He is aging and washed up with power numbers on the decline for 3 seasons now. This recent injury is another in a long line to come. Somebody get ready to call up Vitters! We need youth!

The optimist digs up that one stat and rides it. In the seven seasons with the Cubs Ramirez has not batted under .289…yup, that’s the lowest. Baseball players have a way of living up to their averages. He will get it figured out and be back in our good graces in no time!

(Unfortunately if he continues the futility at the plate through the all-star break this means Aramis will need to hit upwards of .380 in the latter half to prove this theory….might not happen…..not saying it wont but you know where I am going)

This is the birthplace of crazy….

The first quarter of the season is over and there are 114 games left. Maybe jumping ship is drastic at this point. Maybe, just maybe, we can sit back and give the team a chance…..or at least until the all-star break. Then again if we have even the most remote chance at that point, a new insanity called a trade deadline will begin. The never shocking yet always stupid comments like,  “Hey, we need a third baseman, why doesn’t Hendry trade Grabow for Alex Rodriguez?” will start popping up on message boards and blogs around Cubbie nation. I can’t wait as this years edition should be extra nuts!

There is no sport that gets picked over and analyzed as much as America’s pastime.  Because of the stats, the length of the season, and the need for immediate gratification baseball breeds the insane. Throw in the fact that your team has failed to win a championship in over a century and you have a whole new level of crazy, the kind that makes you give up out of self preservation before the race even begins….the kind that makes a grown man ride a seesaw.

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Game 48: Cubs edge Dodgers, take series

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

First Star – Ted Lilly (.448 WPA)
Second Star – Mike Fontenot (.217 WPA)
Third Star – Tyler Colvin (.163 WPA)


Today the Cubs didn’t score much, but they did score once and that’s all it took to give Sean Marshall the win. Marshall now has a 1.83 ERA in his new role as late inning setup man. Carlos Marmol came in and struck out the side in the ninth to give the Cubs a 2-1 series edge against the Dodgers on a day when the wind was blowing in. Ted Lilly was effective and threw seven innings of no run baseball and the Cub pitchers combined to hold the Dodgers to just five hits.

Today’s highlights were as noteworthy for what didn’t happen as much as what did:

  • Xavier Paul made an outstanding catch in the Dodger’s bullpen in the bottom of the third. That in no way made up for a miscue on a double that turned into a triple hit by Fontenot in the eighth.  Later that inning he also played a ball wrong off the wall that was ruled a double and an E9 – that miscue resulted in the only Cubs run, scored by Fontenot.
  • Both starting pitchers were effective and tended to get ahead in their counts.
  • Derrek Lee did a great job of hitting the ball where it was pitched in the bottom of the fourth. At the time of the double he was 7 out of 9 for the series with two walks.  Lee is emerging from the funk that has characterized the start of his 2010 campaign. Despite the lack of timely hitting, Lee still sports a .343 on base percentage.  The inning ended when Fukudome was robbed of an RBI by a shoestring catch in left by former Cub Reed Johnson.
  • Lilly got in trouble in the fifth when he loaded the bases, but he kept his composure and got Paul to pop out to Castro to end the inning.
  • Theriot made a great over the shoulder catch in the Dodger bullpen to get the Cubs out of the sixth. Since Castro has taken over at short, Theriot has been nothing less than superb at second. He’s playing as though it were his natural position (and perhaps it is.)
  • The Cubs made a couple of bad baserunning plays, beginning with what appeared to be a blown hit and run in the 7th.  Lee was looking at home the whole way and was thrown out by a mile by Martin. Either Lee read the sign wrong or Byrd missed the sign.  Later in the 8th, an aborted squeeze resulted in a pop out by Ryan Theriot to the right side of the infield. Colvin was glued to third base and fortunately this kept the Cubs out of a double play, which is what would have happened had Colvin started for home.
  • The eighth inning was where the Cubs cashed in their victory – Colvin got the game-winning RBI knocking in Fontenot.  Colvin had previously come in in the top of the 8th as a defensive replacement for Nady who is now hitting .228.  I’m starting to wonder if Colvin should be given more opportunities against left-handed pitchers. He looks like a totally different hitter than the one I saw in San Francisco last year.
  • Marmol did his normal thing in the 9th. He struck out the side, but also showed signs of wildness.  From what I’ve seen, Carlos should be used exclusively in the 9th with bases empty – he doesn’t do as well when he inherits runners.

It was a good Cubs win.  Today I decided to watch the Dodger’s feed and I believe Eric Collins did the play by play. The color guy was definitely Steve Lyons.  They were interesting to listen to and showed on video how Ted Lilly pitches from the first base side of the rubber against lefties. Lilly lines up on the third base side of the rubber against right-handed hitters.  I believe this makes him more effective against lefties because of arm angle, which enables him to use the inside part of the plate more effectively against righties.  Tomorrow the Cubs begin a three game home stand against the Cardinals. It will be televised beginning at 1:20 on WGN.  A sweep could put the Cubs back in the mix of things.

Update: In injury news, Jeff Baker was pulled out of the game inexplicably. It has also been reported that Carlos Zambrano has been taken to the hospital with possible appendicitis.  It looks like Gorzelanny’s return to the pen may be postponed; The Iowa Cubs are now using Cashner out of the bullpen. Think what you will with that.

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