Archive for May, 2010

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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In the News: Aramis to the DL?

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. What say we warm up for today’s (Thursday) afternoon contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers with the some riveting team news? Or, if you’re reading this after the game, how’d things work out for us? Did Manny go for 0 for 5 again? Hope so. Oh, wait – I just saw that he’s out of the lineup. So he almost certainly did go hitless again. Yes! Anyone else think Manny is looking more and more like the creature from “Predator” and less like a baseball player? But I digress…

Aramis got a cortisone shot in his pinky today. But should the Cubs go further than that? I keep thinking back to last season and Soriano’s lingering knee injury. The results weren’t pretty. Is the team going to let history repeat itself? Why not put Aramis on the 15-day DL, which could be backdated to his last in-game appearance (5/22 vs. Texas)? He could get some more rest, perhaps stop by the optometrist, do a rehab game or two. I know players hate to do this but we’re careening toward June and deuces are wild in Ramirez’s wOBA: .222 (173 PAs). That’s just staggeringly awful for one of the best third basemen in Cubs history. Make it so.

Tom Gorzelanny: Your future is uncertain. 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. (Although he still managed to strike out a batter per inning pitched.) Tom may have hurt his trade value a bit, but he may have made the almost inevitable move to send him to the pen a little easier. Gorz doesn’t want to go, but someone has to. Hey, whatcha gonna do?

OK, maybe I was wrong about Andrew Cashner. Rumors that Cash Money could be headed to the Cubs bullpen very soon are picking up steam. For the life of me, I don’t understand why the Cubs would take a guy who’s stretched out as a starter and put him in the pen when Jay Jackson has already been pulling relief duty in Iowa, but…I’m sure I guess they have their reasons. Personally, I’d keep Cashner on track as a starter for the time being and save his call up for the if/when circumstance of the team getting back in contention.

You know who’s already in the bullpen – and is filthy? Carlos Marmol, of course. Check out this Wall Street Journal (yep) article on how Marmol’s unbelievable whiff rate is putting him on a collision course with history.

The Toyota Sign is a go. Earlier this week, the City Council unanimously approved the sign – which I kind of wish they’d just put up so I could stop following this story. To get Alderman Tom Tunney’s begrudging support, the Ricketts agreed to not put up any more outfield signage for the next four years. Expect the Toyota logo to be up and glowing by the start of the Cubs-Sox series on June 11. (And don’t even get me started on the BP Crosstown Cup.)

The Cubs step aside for the Blackhawks…on the radio. In one of the cooler stories this week, the Cubs announced that they would cede radio airspace on WGN to the Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Well played, Tom Ricketts/Crane Kenney/whoever. The Cubs June 2nd and 4th games will be on WIND. And their June 9th game could be as well.

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