Archive for May, 2010

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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Game 47: Lights Out Before It Was Even Over

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

First Star – Mike Fontenot (.158 WPA)
Second Star – Casey Blake (.146 WPA)
Third Star – Jonathan Broxton (.143 WPA)


There are games that when you’re watching, you know they’re over before they end. Last night the lights went out in Wrigley Field before the game was over and caused a minor delay. That was just a picture of the night for the Cubs. The lights were out on them before the game was even over. It was just delaying the inevitable. When you let yourself get down 5-0 early and haven’t been scoring in bunches, it’s basically a sign you’re going to lose. That’s exactly what happened.

  • Tom Gorzelanny’s performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for him. With Carlos Zambrano slated to come back to the rotation as early as next week’s series with Pittsburgh (ugh, do we really have to play those guys again?), Gorzo’s spot in the rotation is a little on the bubble. More than likely the Cubs will not move Gorzo because of the fact that he’s left handed, but you can bet that Hendry has been trying to move him via trade to make room and last night didn’t help that case. I’m not sure if he’ll get the start on Monday, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this rotation situation shakes itself out.
  • Marlon Byrd had a quote on his blog the other day “I think our defense has been pretty good all year long.” When I read that I almost wet myself. Is he watching the games he’s playing in? Does he know that the Cubs have made 37 errors (3 more last night) this season? Does he know that those numbers put them just 1 behind the Angels, Tigers, and Marlins for last in the Majors? Does he know that a team like the Twins have only committed 9 all year? Last night the error by Mike Fontenot on an air mailed throw from third base cost the Cubs two runs. All three of the IF last night, with Derrek Lee being the only exception made errors. This team has to get better in the field. That is a vital part of run prevention and winning baseball.
  • Lee seems to be coming out of the funk. He had another nice night at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. His bat looks quicker and he seems like he’s hitting the ball a little better. I have a feeling his bust out games are right around the corner.
  • Starlin Castro had a rough night. He made another error, though it’s his first in a few games, and he left six runners on base. It was also his first game as a pro where he failed to reach base. You had a good run kid. Go get ‘em next game.
  • 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.
  • I screwed my Beat the Streak run last night by picking Marlon Byrd. He didn’t start, which I didn’t have a chance to check, but came in for just two at bats late. Grrrr. On a side note, if you’re not playing Beat the Streak with us, why not? Give it a try.
  • Please take a minute and make your predictions in our contest for the month of June. There will be prizes and all you have to do is pick some Cubs stats for June. Play June Stat Madness now.

I didn’t expect us to win both of the games to start the series against some tough pitchers for the Dodgers. We took one so now it’s time to jump on a guy in John Ely who has pitched above his head. Beat him and we’ve got ourselves a series win against a very good Dodger team.

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Wednesday Would-You-Rather

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

It’s Would-You-Rather Wednesday! I’ll post some options, you decide which you’d rather. Please weigh your options, explain your choices and most of all have fun as we await the second of three with the Dandy Dodgers!

  1. Would you rather the Cubs be competitive all season and miss out on the playoffs by a game or two, or would you rather they be out of it completely by August?
  2. Would you rather fire Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella, neither, or both?
  3. Would you rather watch the season finale of Dancing With the Stars, or stick your arm into an oscillating fan?
  4. If you had to choose one or the other and you were getting the same return regardless, would you rather trade Carlos Zambrano or Carlos Silva?
  5. Lee DeWyze or Crystal Bowersox?

Can’t wait to hear your “rathers!”

For something more challenging, be sure to play our June Stat Madness game. And for everyday fun don’t forget our ongoing Beat the Streak contest here.

Enjoy tonight’s game!

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June Stat Madness

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

I got this idea from Baseball Reference and decided to copy it and make it Cub focused.

All entries must be received before the first pitch on June 1. Enter your guesses for each question. Every amount you’re off in your answers will net you a point. Lowest total score wins a prize at the end of the month from our fabulous bag of prizes.

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Game 46: Who Needs Middle Relief?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

First Star – Ryan Dempster (.579 WPA)
Second Star – Derrek Lee (.285 WPA)
Third Star – Clayton Kershaw (.168 WPA)


It looked like many of the other games Cubs fans have witnessed over the first quarter of the 2010 season. In the fourth inning it stank of a potential wasted pitching performance and more missed opportunities for the offense. 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. For a guy who couldn’t stop rolling over pitches and grounding into double plays, all the while adding credit to his “DP” Lee nickname, tonight was a step in the right direction.  Add a beautiful masterpiece by Ryan Dempster, who kept Dodger hitters fooled with good pitch selection and pinpoint control, and sprinkle in some errors by the Dodger infield and you have a 3-0 win for the Cubs. Without further ado, here is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly……

The Good

  • Derrek Lee and his bat for starters. He went 3 for 3 with a walk and three RBI’s. He was selective with his at bats and hit the ball into the left center power alley twice. He followed that up with a 2-run opposite field shot over the wall in the eighth to seal the deal.  This may have been one of three really clutch performances Cubs fans have seen all year. When Lee is going good this is his recipe for success.
  • Ryan Dempster has been starving for run support all season. His record is not very indicative of the quality season he is having and tonight’s eight shutout innings were proof that if he gets just a drop of help the Cubs have a chance to win when he takes the hill. Three hits, seven strikeouts and a walk over eight innings sounds like a Tim Lincecum line. Last night that was Dempster and he looked like he could have taken it the distance as he rung up two batters in the eighth and there looked to be no quit in his engine. His pitches hovered around the strike zone for most of the game and he had that look like he was toying with hitters at certain times.
  • Carlos Marmol got his tenth save and their was no drama. 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! (2 k’s to close it out doesn’t hurt though)
  • Len and Bob called Manny Ramirez out for his lack of power this season and how it could be related to a certain suspension last year. One of the better exchanges between these two and so true.

The Bad

  • Manny Ramirez. need I say more. This guy looks as if he could care less in the outfield. I have not seen this level of nonchalance in a professional sport in my whole life. His total lack of effort and dogging it after Lee’s first hit of the game made me wonder how his coaches keep from going insane.
  • Xavier Nady went 0-3 and left 5 on base. I am not sure this experiment is working out. When you couple that with an 0-3 from Jeff Baker the bottom of the order looks frightening. I am not sure this lineup is the solution and would almost rather see Aramis get out of his funk and hack away, at least we know there could be a payoff in the end.
  • Starlin Castro battled in his first at bat of the game only to get screwed on the call at first base. He clearly beat the pitcher to the bag on the replay and they called him out.
  • Lee Smith’s 7th inning stretch was one I would rather forget. I almost thought he was going to lip sync it

The Ugly

  • I only have one ugly thought tonight and it goes to Sweet Lou. Tyler Colvin must have done something seriously wrong to get the treatment he is getting. The guy gets benched for just about anybody. I am waiting for Lou to pull a guy out of the crowd to play right instead of Colvin for tomorrow night. I could just see the exchange…..”hmmmm, a young guy who hits and has a good glove or the gentlemen selling malt cups?”…..decisions, decisions.

Well thats about it for me. What are your thoughts?

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Series Preview – Cubs / Dodgers

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 3.23 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.73 ERA)

Kershaw could have put himself into Pitcher of the Month consideration if it weren’t for his first start in May, a 1 1/3-inning, seven-run disaster. Everything since then has been gold. He’s allowed just two runs in 22 1/3 innings and struck out 23 in three starts, all wins. The key for Kershaw has been controlling his emotions early in the game. Opponents still have a .353 batting average against him through his first 15 pitches.

Strength – Has a great pitchers’ frame and impressive strikeout ability, especially due to a good fastball and impressive slow curve. Can dominate on the hill.

Weakness – When he gets into trouble, it’s because he loses control of the strike zone and thus walks too many batters. Needs to display more consistency.

Heat CheckKershaw is hot (3-0, 0.81 in last 22.1IP)

Dempster has lost four straight decisions, and did not get a decision in his previous start, against the Phillies. He’s been roughed up this month, going 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA after compiling a 2.78 ERA over five April starts. He’s 6-3 in his career against the Dodgers, including two wins last year.

Chad Billingsley (5-2, 3.66 ERA) vs. Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 3.09 ERA)

Billingsley, along with Clayton Kershaw, has given the Dodgers a one-two punch in their dominant May as the team has soared up the standings. Billingsley has gone at least seven innings in his last two starts, and he’s allowed just one run and eight hits combined in that span. He has wins in his last three starts, and he’s maintaining a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than two-to-one (44 strikeouts and 21 walks). Billingsley was an All-Star and incredibly consistent in the first half of last season, and the change he’s made that seems to have him back on that path is a focus away from sinking his fastball. He said he was trying to be something he’s not, and has gotten back to his bread-and-butter: his four-seamer and his curveball.

Strength – A true power pitcher with mid-90′s heat, he also boasts a fantastic slider. Has a warrior mentality and the ability to rack up impressive inning totals.

Weakness – Lacks consistency with his command, which can lead to underachieving numbers. Could use a more effective change-up, since left-handed hitters fare better against him.

Heat CheckBillingsley is hot (2-0, 0.63 in last 14.1IP)

Gorzelanny had to leave his last start against the Phillies after getting hit on the left hand with a pitch. X-rays were negative and he was not expected to miss a turn. The Cubs do have an off-day Monday, which gives the lefty one extra day of rest. Against the Phillies, he threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out five.

John Ely (3-1, 3.41 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (1-4, 4.30 ERA)

Ely has been “found money” for the Dodgers in manager Joe Torre’s eyes, and it’s hard to argue. The rookie right-hander was called up at the end of April because the Dodgers were desperate for pitching, and all Ely’s done is throw strikes. He went 89 batters without issuing a walk until the first inning of his last start, against the Tigers. That was his only walk in his last four starts. He went six innings, allowed two runs on eight hits and notched his third straight win. All five of Ely’s starts have been six innings or longer. His velocity sits in the high-80s, but he’s striking out batters too: 28 in 31 2/3 innings.

Strength – Boasts a good arm and pretty good stamina, so he is able to log a lot of innings. Throws strikes with consistency. His change-up is an above-average pitch.

Weakness – Sometimes, he doesn’t trust his stuff enough in pressure situations. Perhaps he relies too heavily on his off-speed stuff.

Heat CheckEly is hot (3-0, 2.45 in last 25.2IP)

In his previous start, against the Rangers on Friday night, Lilly pitched 6 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on six hits with four strikeouts in a 2-1 loss. In five career starts and one relief appearance against the Dodgers, Lilly is 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA. In three starts at home this season, he is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA.

All scouting information provided by MLB.com and TSN.ca

Golden Dodgers Nuggets

  • Casey Blake grew his beard back last week and won our player of the week honors. Dodgers fans are wearing “In Beard we Trust” t-shirts. It was a bit unreal how he went off right after he started growing the beard back.
  • Furcal is being activated for the series but the drama will be who gets sent down or DFA’s. Starting 2nd baseman DeWitt with Carroll moving over to take his spot, or DFA the useless Nick Green.
  • The starting pitching as been awesome during the winning streak as long as Ramon Ortiz is not on the mound. I don’t think they have given up more then three runs in any start, not started by Ramon Ortiz.
  • John Ely continues to befuddle hitters even with his FB barely topping 90MPH.  We love the White Sox for taking Pierre and actually giving us a pitcher of value.

Notes provided by True Blue LA Dodgers blog.

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In the News: Big Z shall return!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Hey, Cubs fans. Heat, glorious heat has returned to the Chicago area - and I’m lovin’ every minute of it, Jerry! There’s something about a hot day that screams baseball. I want to watch it. I want to play it. I want to…oh, crap…I’m at work. I can’t do a damn thing but pass along these riveting Cubs news stories:

Big Z gets stimulated – er, I mean, simulated. I just can’t get enough of the simulated game jokes. I was even contemplating writing a parody post in which Carlos gets tossed from the game but The Heckler beat me to it. In any case, Z threw 73 pitches yesterday to Tyler Colvin and Jeff Baker. (Balls and strikes info was not recorded, according to Carrie Muskat.) And he’s on track to return to the Cubs rotation this weekend against the Pirates.

In the meantime, we’re left to debate the merits of a six-man rotation or otherwise bide our time before Tom Gorzelanny is either DL’d with a sore pinky or sent to the pen. I don’t put that much stock in pitchers’ win-loss records, but I believe MLB coaching staffs still do – and the 6-0, multimillion dollar Carlos Silva ain’t goin’ anywhere. Nor are Demp, Lilly or Wells.

Andrew Cashner: Still not leaving Iowa anytime soon. In a related story, there’s been some chatter in the baseball press that the Cubs simply must put Cash Money, who’s dominating in Triple A, in their rotation this season. Well, er, no they don’t. And with the rotational gridlock that’s still in progress, we’re going to have to wait a little longer to see the Pacific Coast League’s Player of the Week. My guess – and it pains me to say this – is that Ted Lilly will be allowed to walk after his contract ends this season and Cashner will take his spot in the rotation heading into 2011. The future is now, folks.

Ricketts buy Sheffield Ave. rooftop. On Friday, the news broke that the Ricketts family bought an interest in a rooftop seating business located at the top of building on Sheffield Ave. The move could be seen as the final move in the Cubs “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” relationship with the rooftop owners over these many years.

Hey, maybe the Cubs aren’t so bad at drafting. Johnathan “Hold The” Mayo of MLB.com posted a study yesterday of which MLB teams have done the best over the years at drafting young talent. Cynical Cubs fans with visions of Corey Patterson dancing whiffing in their heads might assume we’re at the bottom of the list. But you might be surprised how high the Cubs ranked. Off the top of my head, I’d guess they fared well because of their pitching prospects over the years.

Want to buy some Wrigley dirt? Well, now you can. A company called Steiner Sports sells it in small vials. It’s too bad they don’t sell the dirt in bulk. I’d consider buying several tons, ripping all of the grass out of my lawn and then reseeding my yard with Wrigley dirt and Scotts Wrigley Field Grass Seed Mix.

On a related note, I had a dream last night that I was a member of a contingent of cheerleaders who run into the outfield during Cubs games and hurl baseballs and small bats into the Wrigley bleachers. It must’ve been my first day on the job, however, because, upon entering the field, I fell to my knees and screamed, “Oh my God – I’m actually on Wrigley Field!” Then I rubbed my hands in the grass, which was surprisingly damp and muddy. Perhaps they should check on that drainage system.

And, on that note, I bid you adieu.

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Tuesday Trivia – Old Man Shutouts

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

It’s been a long time since we busted out the trivia, so we’re a little overdue. For those unfamiliar with how this works, all guesses should be put in the comment section. Please refrain from using google searches. I’ll update correct answers as I get a chance throughout the day.

Q: Since 1960, five players age 35 or older have pitched a shutout for the Cubs. Please name all five. (Note: One player did it three times, two players did it twice, and two did it just once.)

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Cubs By the Numbers

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The ERA of the Cubs bullpen this year. That puts them ranked 26th in baseball, ahead of only the Reds, Brewers, Angels and Diamondbacks. I feel like the group has improved since the showings we saw early in the year, but not by much. I’m a fan of the bullpen by kids approach and wish Hendry would be a little more patient with some of the young arms we have in the system before going outside for help. All we’ve seen with hired help is guys performing for a period only to completely bomb out. Think recently and remember names like Remlinger, Howry, Eyre, Hawkins. Need I go on? Give these kids a chance. On a positive note, Milwaukee’s ERA out of the pen is 6.22 and the Diamondbacks are sporting a very sexy 7.70 ERA. It could definitely be worse for us.

The number of saves by former Cubs closer, Kevin Gregg. You’ve got to be Gregging kidding me. How is it that this bum pitched well in Florida, sucked here with every straight meatball he threw, and then goes to Toronto a saves games like it’s going out of style? Something is wrong with that. Do you think it’s a fluke or was it something about his time here? I think he’ll come back to normal and we’ll begin to see the blown saves pile up for Gregg. Until then, I’m gonna be angry.

The number of walks drawn so far this year by a guy I simply wrote off all off-season. Geovany Soto has changed his approach at the plate and is turning himself into an on base machine. The 30 walks drawn so far this year puts him tied for 4th in the NL and just three off the lead. I’ve heard people make the case that the main reason for the increase in walks is primarily due to the fact that he’s spent the majority of the time hitting in the 8th spot, which sees him being pitched around in favor of the pitcher. I want to believe that isn’t true. I’ve called for Lou to bat him higher in the order and will continue to do so until it happens.

The on base percentage of what many would have considered our best hitter coming into the season. That .225 OBP makes him the lowest on base hitter in all of baseball when you look simply at guys who have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title right now. I don’t know what the problem is and I don’t know what the solution is. Right now, no one does. I’ll tell you what the solution is not. The answer is not to boo Aramis out of town every time he strikes out. It’s not to bench him because he’s simply not trying. Do you really think we’re better with Jeff Baker in there? Aramis Ramirez, in spite of the awful hitting, gives us the best chance to win because his ceiling is the highest of all the hitters on this team. Lee and Ramirez will hit. In the meantime we have to be patient and let them work out their issues lower in the order, not on the bench.

The number of pitches seen per plate appearance by Derrek Lee. One of the worst things to see with a guy who is struggling at the plate is a lack of patience. Lee has shown patience at the plate and is making the pitcher work. He’ll start seeing mistake pitches and will capitalize on those soon. I believe that. That patience ranks him 14th in all of baseball when it comes to the number of pitches seen each at bat. Ramirez ranks 40th with a 4.07 P/PA number. Be patient Cub fans. Good things are coming with these two.

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