Archive for May, 2010

In the News: Howry doin’, Cubs fans?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

What’s up, Cubs fans? Just a couple hours until game time here, so I’ll get right to the point. The Cubs are doing better and, well, most of the goings-on regarding the team remain centered on guys who throw the ball really hard at the catcher. What are they called again? Oh, yeah – pitchers! And there was a bombshell of sorts dropped last night that caused me to restart my laptop (which I’d just shut down), log back into my Twitter account and tweet two simple words before finally heading off to bed…

BOB HOWRY?! Yes, CSN Chicago apparently broke the story last night that Jim Hendry has reportedly “come to terms” with former Cubs reliever Bob Howry (veteran of the ’06, ’07 and ’08 campaigns), who was recently released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Really, Jimbo? Really? Wasn’t it pretty clear two years ago that Howry’s fastball had flattened out to the point where it was really just a batting practice pitch that major league hitters waited on and crushed?

I mean, some of Howry’s numbers did look better last season. He posted a quite respectable 3.85 FIP (though a 4.95 xFIP, the highest of his career) and kept his HR/9 to a scant .71. Then again, he was pitching for the Giants at their pitcher-friendly park. Plus, I get the distinct impression from the Giants bloggers/fans I follow on Twitter that Howry was still viewed as a pariah out of the pen.

In all fairness, Bob Howry seems like a standup guy, so I don’t take any joy in ripping on him. I’d imagine Hendry will probably cite his “veteran leadership” as a plus for the team’s young bullpen. But when your veteran leaders are John Grabow (who got blasted for a couple hits and gave up a run last night) and Bob Howry…I’m really not sure how effective that leadership is. It’ll be interesting to see how and how often Lou uses Howry if this deal does, in fact, go through.

Caridad DL’d, Jeff Stevens called up. In case you missed this news yesterday, Esmailin Caridad, who seems intent on challenging Angel Guzman as the Cubs most oft-injured pitcher, was put on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. That explains the four-pitch walk in Tuesday night’s game. Right-handed curve ball specialist Jeff Stevens, who came to the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa deal, is Caridad’s replacement. Stevens struck out 21 batters in 17.1 innings with the Iowa Cubs so far this season, which sounds good to me.

Big Z to play the Sims on Monday. Oh, sorry – that should be, “Big Z to pitch a simulated game on Monday.” This is because apparently there’s a rumor going around that CARLOS ZAMBRANO WILL BE RETURNING TO THE STARTING ROTATION. Really? You mean he’s not going to be vying for a spot on the All Star Team via the highly coveted long reliever’s role? Shocking.

Welcome to Wrigley Field brought to you by Viagra! We could be seeing a sign like that at Clark & Addision sometime in the not-too-distant future. Tom Ricketts told Bruce Levine this week that naming rights are “a real possibility.” My guess is the Ricketts wouldn’t let a corporation completely rename Wrigley Field, just add itself to the Friendly Confines’ sobriquet somehow.

The Toyota sign is just about ready to go. So reports Greg Hinz in his Crain’s blog. Apparently making the sign “more horizontal than vertical” helped convince Alderman Tom Tunney to back off. Interesting political stuff in this blogpost.

Mark Prior injured pitching batting practice. That may sound like something you’d read in The Onion or The Heckler, but it really happened to Ol’ Number 21. Hey, could be worse – he could be headed for the Cubs bullpen.

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The Curse of Wrigley Field

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Section 102 at Wrigley Field, the last section down the left field line that serves beer (101 is the family section…no alcohol), is a hidden gem. I have been attending games at Wrigley since I moved to Chicago in 1997 and I can honestly say this is a unique vantage point. The section sort of rises up as the seats gradually turn inward toward the field, similar to the start of a banking turn at Bristol Motor Speedway, making its way to Waveland Avenue and stopping abruptly at the foul pole.

It appears on a seating chart as though you are miles away from the action but nothing could be further from the truth. While the angle and pitch puts you at a perfect sightline to view the infield, one also has the action in the bleachers to your left and the bullpen is down just a bit …..yep, right there next to the famed Bartman seat and spitting distance from where Ferris spent his day off.

The surprise in the Cracker Jack box is the view of the stadium as a whole. In my thirteen years and over 100 visits to Wrigley I had never sat in section 102. For various reasons it struck me as an isolated island off in the yonder too far from the action. I could not have been more pleased with my new discovery. The view allows for the entire picture inside Wrigley, from the press box to the bleachers, to be taken in and enjoyed.

While entranced in the game and its surroundings from this vantage point I started reflecting on the stadium’s every nook, blemish, and oddity and how its history and character bring throngs of baseball fans from all corners of the country gawking in amazement.  As I pondered, I asked myself a few questions: Does Wrigley Field represent a deal with the devil?  Would you trade Wrigley Field for a Cubs World Series Title? Would it be the same?

Do you really believe in Curses?

Sometimes I get a sneaky feeling in my gut. I get the feeling that I have placed a bet on a horse in the Kentucky Derby that, no matter how well it runs, can’t win the race. Only to find out after placing the bet, that the horse made a deal with the devil. The deal was to remain 3 years old for the rest of its life and never age, keeping it eligible to run the race every year (under a different name each year of course), since the rules state only three year olds can run the Kentucky Derby. The devil’s end of the deal was that the horse could never win.  It could come close, dangerously close, but never place first.

The Cubs = The horse. Wrigley Field could be construed as the deal with the devil. It is really beautiful if you think about it. You get a timeless ballpark to play in devoid of the obnoxious amenities that plague the newer stadiums such as neon ads flashing in your face and loud bass booming over the P.A. system. You get the purity of baseball in a stadium that shows more character then any other by using less. The biggest gift of the package…..every game is close to a sellout if not all the way. Players will feel a playoff like atmosphere in mid June and they will describe a proximity to the fans that no other park can replicate. All you have to give up is a chance to win the World Series.

If you believe in curses then this one has some legs. Forget the black cat, or the goat, or even Bartman. Wrigley came before all of them and this team has not experienced a World Series title since it started calling the stadium its home in 1916.

You can’t have one without the other ……….

Let’s come back to earth now……On my two block walk home from the stadium I had about enough time to come up with some quick answers to my original questions. First of all, I do not believe in curses. You can call it 100 + years of bad luck but a curse….no.

The toughest question to answer is also the most important….would I trade Wrigley for a World Series title? If I had to, yes. I would go kicking and screaming hanging on to the “W” flag as the bleachers sank into the pits of hell and disappeared, but if it guaranteed a title, then yes.  It is the true fans answer to that question.  For a Cubs fan it could be one of the more difficult.  This question is also up there with “which child is your favorite” and “If you could, would you do life over again from the age of 12 knowing what you now know”.  I understand these questions are subject to many situations for all different people but they are better left unanswered and never asked.

I do, however, think it would be an abomination to ditch Wrigley Field. After watching the Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series and do it while playing in Fenway, a park that represents that team in the same iconic way that Wrigley does the Cubs, I can’t imagine it any other setting. It wouldn’t feel right watching the Cubs celebrate a World Series title in the lights of “(insert your favorite corporate sponsor name here) Field” out in Schaumberg or some other burb on the north side. So the answer to that is no, it would not be the same.

The Cubs and Wrigley are a package, one that I would rather see pull through and succeed together, but if I have to make a decision, then give me the trophy and I will imagine the rest. I wonder what the rest of Cub Nation thinks?

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Game 41: Hallelujah!!

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

There is a saying, maybe you’ve heard it: “Youth and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.”  As the game started, I was asking myself whether the wily 47 year old former Cub Jamie Moyer would prove to be too much for the youthful Tom Gorzelanny and the enthusiastic Cubbies.

But the Cubs came to Philadelphia to play, and Tom Gorzelanny came to pitch. Gorzelanny pitched 6.2 strong innings before he was injured.  I have to say that up to that point he was going strong.  In his 6.2 innings Gorz allowed no runs and 3 hits. He struck out 5, walked 2, and hit 1 batter.

The Cubs scored their first run in the third inning.  With 2 out Ryan Theriot singled, stole second, and scored on Starlin Castro’s single to left.  The Cubs scored their second run in the 7th.  With 2 out Alfonso Soriano doubled to center, and Jeff Baker (who started in RF) drove him in with a single to left.

The Phillies scored their only run in the 8th off of John Grabow.  Placido Polanco doubled, Chase Utley singled, and Ryan Howard drove in the run with a fielder’s choice hit back to the pitcher.  At that point Big Z was brought in.  With the help of Starlin Castro Big Z retired Jason Werth, the only batter he faced.

The Cubs racked up two insurance runs in the top of the 9th.  Phillies reliever Chad Durbin, who pitched a strong 8th inning, was kinda wobbly in the 9th.  He walked DLee, hit Marlon Byrd with a pitched ball, and walked Alfonso Soriano.  With two out pinch hitter Xavier Nady doubled to center, driving in Lee & Byrd.

With the Cubs leading 4-1, Carlos Marmol was brought in to close the ninth inning.  He made it interesting – too interesting for comfort!  After inducing Jimmy Rollins to tap a soft floater to Ryan Theriot, Marmol walked Raul Ibanez and hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch.  He struck out pinch hitter Ross Gload, then faced switch hitting Shane Victorino.  Although Victorino ultimately struck out, Marmol almost walked him and almost hit him a few times.  In fact, on the third strike Victorino appeared to be ducking more than swinging.  Fortunately Carlos Marmol and the Cubs survived the 9th inning.

Looking back on it, Carlos Marmol pitched the way I’ve come to expect Big Z to pitch, and Big Z pitched like I’ve come to expect Marmol to pitch.

Tom Gorzelanny was injured (and subsequently left the game) with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, when he was struck by a comebacker off the bat of Carlos Ruiz.  The batted ball caromed off of Gorzelanny, and,impressively, he had the presence of mind to retrieve the ball and shovel it to DLee (for the out) before collapsing to the ground.  I truly hope he’s OK, that he heals quickly and is back pitching soon.

The Cubs extended their winning streak to 4 games against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies and Jamie Moyer, and they looked very impressive doing it.

Hallelujah!!

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Series Preview: Cubs / Phillies

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jamie Moyer (5-2, 4.57 ERA)

Maybe being on the road will get Gorzelanny on track. The lefty has not won away from Wrigley Field yet but has a 2.50 ERA in his three starts. At home, he’s 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. In his last outing, which was at home, the lefty did not get a decision, giving up a season-high five runs on nine hits over five innings. He did strike out seven. Gorzelanny has made one start in his career against the Phillies and lost.

Moyer allowed four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in a victory Friday over Milwaukee at Miller Park. Moyer has pitched fairly well this season. He has kept the Phillies in almost every game he has pitched, which accounts for his 5-2 record after seven starts. Moyer allowed three homers to the Brewers, giving him 501 homers allowed in his career. That is second in baseball history. Only Robin Roberts has allowed more with 505, but that is a mark based on longevity more than anything.

Strength – Still a wily veteran, he gets hitters out with great location, a wide range of speeds and overall deception. He has seen it all so he doesn’t get rattled.

Weakness – Has to be too pinpoint all the time, since he cannot give in with the fastball. At this stage of his career, he is more prone to surrendering the a scary amount of long balls.

Heat CheckMoyer is hot (2-0, 2.35 in last 15.1IP).

Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.49 ERA) vs. Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.49 ERA)

Dempster got off to a rough start in the first inning of his last game, against the Pirates. He threw 30-plus pitches in the first and ended up with the loss, giving up three runs on four hits over seven innings. It was the right-hander’s fourth straight loss. However, three of those losses have been quality starts. So far this month, Dempster is 0-3 with a 4.71 ERA. He’s 4-4 with a 4.99 ERA in his career against the Phillies.

Blanton looks at his 5.49 ERA and wonders how he got there. He actually has pitched better than his ERA has indicated. In Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee at Miller Park, Blanton allowed five runs in seven innings. But he had allowed just two until Corey Hart hit a three-run home run with two outs in the seventh. If Blanton hadn’t allowed that homer, he would be entering Thursday’s start against the Cubs with a much improved 4.11 ERA. That said, he can’t change that and hopes to have everything working Thursday.

Strength – Throws darting low-90s heat, a slider and curveball–all with tremendous command. Has great endurance and is able to log a boatload of innings.

Weakness – Doesn’t have a dominant pitch, so he is somewhat limited in striking batters out. Can be a little too hittable and serves up too many gopher balls. Must always keep his weight in check.

Heat CheckBlanton is cold (1-1, 5.54 in last 13IP)

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

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Cubs Top Prospect Stats Update

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

It’s been awhile since we’ve updated stats on some of the names to know in the system. I’ve updated the list to make it a little more exhaustive. All stats were generated on May 18th, so they’re current through the games on Monday.

Hitters Stats

Age Lev PA R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
James Adduci* 25 AAA 126 22 6 1 0 4 6 5 9 28 .261 .320 .330 .650
Darwin Barney 24 AAA 153 23 7 2 1 15 2 2 5 21 .297 .320 .393 .713
Kyler Burke* 22 A+ 153 15 10 2 0 9 1 1 11 36 .207 .268 .307 .575
Welington Castillo 23 AAA 78 10 3 1 5 15 0 1 9 18 .239 .338 .537 .875
Matthew Cerda* 20 A 142 21 4 2 2 19 1 0 21 24 .235 .348 .353 .700
Robinson Chirinos 26 AA 120 21 9 0 7 23 1 1 13 11 .337 .408 .625 1.033
Ryan Flaherty* 23 AA,A+ 121 14 7 1 1 14 1 0 12 21 .233 .317 .350 .666
Sam Fuld* 28 AAA 82 12 2 2 0 5 3 1 13 5 .254 .378 .343 .721
Brandon Guyer 24 AA 81 15 4 2 1 7 8 0 13 8 .262 .400 .431 .831
Brett Jackson* 21 A+ 142 19 6 3 0 11 6 4 23 23 .331 .444 .432 .876
Hak-Ju Lee* 19 A 150 19 7 3 0 9 10 2 12 20 .252 .315 .348 .664
D. J. LeMahieu 21 A+ 153 8 4 1 0 17 2 1 7 15 .243 .275 .286 .561
Rebel Ridling 24 A+ 81 6 3 0 4 9 2 2 5 15 .224 .272 .421 .693
Marquez Smith 25 AAA,AA 84 9 6 0 1 10 0 0 10 18 .214 .313 .343 .656
Matthew Spencer* 24 AA,A+ 97 10 4 0 5 16 1 0 7 19 .318 .361 .534 .895
Tony Thomas 23 AA 95 16 5 1 0 9 2 0 18 19 .247 .400 .342 .742
Josh Vitters 20 A+,AA 142 17 11 0 3 14 4 1 8 25 .298 .348 .450 .798
Logan Watkins* 20 A 131 19 3 3 0 7 4 4 10 27 .282 .336 .359 .695
  • Really dissappointed in what we’ve seen from Burke so far this year. He was the player of the year in the system last year after finally showing some of the promise that made him a first round pick. Instead this year we’ve seen him get crushed at the plate. He’s not drawing walks and needs to get things going in a hurry to remain relevant in the conversation.
  • Brett Jackson was a guy a few people mentioned would not be as good as people thought when we was drafted in the first round last year by the Cubs. Since then, he’s shown he can hit the baseball. I’ve not had a chance to see him play in person, but I’m looking forward to him being promoted to AA so I can catch him when he comes to town.
  • Robinson Chirinos is going to put pressure on Koyie Hill for the backup spot on this team. He’s shown he can hit the baseball and the pitchers I talked to in Tennessee really like throwing to him. My guess is that something would have to happen to Hill for Chirinos to get a shot this year, because the Cubs like how he handles the staff, but it could happen next year.

Pitching Stats

Age Lev W L ERA G GS SV IP HR WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
Jeffry Antigua* 20 A 1 2 4.78 8 7 0 37.2 5 1.354 8.1 1.2 4.1 7.4 1.82
Christopher Archer 21 A+ 1 1 3.72 7 6 0 29.0 2 1.414 7.8 0.6 5.0 9.0 1.81
Jeff Beliveau* 23 A,A+ 0 1 2.79 13 0 0 19.1 2 1.397 7.9 0.9 4.7 14.0 3.00
Christopher Carpenter 24 AA 1 1 4.35 5 5 0 20.2 1 1.597 10.5 0.4 3.9 7.0 1.78
Andrew Cashner 23 AA,AAA 4 1 2.57 7 7 0 42.0 1 0.976 5.8 0.2 3.0 10.3 3.43
Casey Coleman 22 AAA 3 3 3.57 7 7 0 45.1 4 0.993 7.5 0.8 1.4 4.0 2.86
Thomas Diamond 27 AAA 2 0 2.17 7 7 0 37.1 3 1.179 6.5 0.7 4.1 7.5 1.82
Rafael Dolis 22 A+ 1 2 2.43 7 6 0 33.1 1 1.320 7.3 0.3 4.6 5.4 1.18
John Gaub* 25 AAA 0 1 3.60 12 0 2 10.0 1 1.700 8.1 0.9 7.2 10.8 1.50
Jay Jackson 22 AAA 2 3 2.29 9 5 0 39.1 5 0.915 6.4 1.1 1.8 5.7 3.13
Kenneth McNutt 20 A 2 0 2.18 7 7 0 33.0 0 1.273 7.1 0.0 4.4 9.8 2.25
Blake Parker 25 AAA 1 1 1.10 12 0 1 16.1 1 1.224 6.1 0.6 5.0 8.8 1.78
Brooks Raley* 22 A+ 0 3 5.52 7 7 0 29.1 1 1.943 12.9 0.3 4.6 10.1 2.20
Dae-Eun Rhee 21 A+ 2 4 3.86 8 7 0 35.0 3 1.229 8.2 0.8 2.8 5.4 1.91
Christopher Rusin* 23 A+ 0 2 5.50 6 3 0 18.0 1 1.222 10.5 0.5 0.5 7.5 15.00
Nicholas Struck 20 A 2 4 4.33 7 6 0 27.0 2 1.074 6.7 0.7 3.0 7.0 2.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2010.
  • I’ve decided that I’m now a believer in Andrew Cashner as a starter. He just made a start, so click his name to see his updated numbers. The problem the Cubs have is a lack of space for him in the rotation. The key is going to be sticking with him in the starter role if that’s the role they want him in. There is no reason to putz around with moving him to the pen like they’ve done with Samardzija. Pick a role and stick with him. If you want to make room for him, move someone like Tom Gorzelanny.
  • The Thomas Diamond off waivers from Texas move is looking great so far. He’s pitched outstanding in Iowa and probably joins Jay Jackson and Cashner as guys just waiting for their shot. Imagine what we could do with these kids if we could move Zambrano and Gorzelanny, perhaps even Silva.
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Game 40 – Things Are Looking Up!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The Cubs completed a sweep of their two game series with the Colorado Rockies tonight. Carlos Silva improved his record to 5-0 for the season. And the Cubs extended their win streak to three in a row.

Carlos Silva lost his no hitter to the first batter of the game, Carlos Gonzales, but he pitched really well. The second batter of the game, Seth Smith, hit into a double play, allowing Silva to record a 3 up and 3 down top of the 1st.

The Cubbies got 2 men on in the bottom of the 1st but couldn’t score. After getting out of that jam, Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin seemed to get stronger. The Cubs went 3 up and 3 down in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

The Rockies put men on base in the 2nd and 4th innings but couldn’t score. The Rockies went 3 up and 3 down in the 3rd, 5th & 6th innings, and Silva was rolling.

The Cubs scored 3 runs in the 4th on two walks and 3 hits. The 4th inning also featured a suicide squeeze attempt with Silva batting. The Cubs had 2 base runners on in the 6th with no outs but couldn’t score. Silva looked shaky in the top of the 7th, issuing his first walk of the evening to the first batter he faced. The Cubs Trainer and Pitching Coach both came out to the mound after the walk was issued. They should have pulled Silva then, because the next batter, Todd Helton, jacked a 2 run homer to right, his first 4 bagger of the year. Score 3-2, Cubs.

Esmailin Caridad came in and walked the next batter on 4 pitches. Exit Mr. Caridad. Enter James Russell, who got the next 3 batters out. In the Cubs 7th, DLee stroked a one out double to left, but didn’t score. Sean Marshall was brought in to pitch the top of the 8th. He issued a single, but then recorded 3 consecutive outs.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs scored 3 insurance runs on a walk and 3 hits. With the score 6-2, Carlos Zambrano was given an opportunity to pitch the top of the 9th. He was lights out, striking out two and inducing an infield ground out.

There was much to be happy about in this game.

  • Kosuke Fukudome drew a walk, stole a base and provided an RBI single. Once again, his defensive play was stellar.
  • Ryan Theriot got 2 hits, including a single to right in the 8th which drove in 2 runs.
  • Although he struck out 3 times, DLee stroked a double in the 7th inning.
  • ARam drew a walk and ran the bases well.
  • Marlon Byrd got a single in the 4th and scored a run.
  • Tyler Colvin had 3 hits, an RBI, and a stolen base.
  • Geovany Soto, whose OBP was .467 entering the game, drew 3 walks and scored a run.
  • Starlin Castro got a hit and 2 RBIs.
  • Carlos Silva, James Russell, Sean Marshall, & Carlos Zambrano all pitched well.
  • And the Cubs overall aggressive posture, baserunning, and defensive play were superb.

Tomorrow night the Cubs will face Jamie Moyer and the Phillies at Philadelphia. Tom Gorzelanny will start for the Cubs. I sure would like to see the Cubs continue their winning ways.

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In the News: O’Neal Puts Big Z Back in Rotation

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Wake up and smell the madness, Cubs fans. What a wacky 12 hours or so, no? Last night (Monday), our guys played a tense game against the Rockies during which my attention was somewhat diverted by the site of Carlos Zambrano sitting (glumly?) in the dugout. Then Aramis’ walk-off filled me with joy as only an Aramis walk-off can (not saying other walk-offs aren’t fun, but there’s always something special about his). And now, the morning after (as I write this), I’m left wondering just what will become of this team and whether it will be able to redeem itself in any small shape, fashion or form. Here’s today’s “In the News” stories*:

Big Z makes telling remark in discussing his apparent return to the rotation. By now, you’ve probably caught wind of the fact that, as alluded to above, Carlos Zambrano was not available out of the bullpen last night. And you’ve likely read, heard or seen some of Lou’s terse post-game remarks regarding Z’s “change in roles.”

What caught my attention, however, is what Carlos Zambrano told Bruce Levine. To wit: “We had a long conversation with the pitching coach. The trainer put me back in the rotation. I just want to help the team.” [Emphasis mine.] Here’s a video of the conversation.

Carlossaywha? So Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal put you back in the starting rotation? This quote, combined with Lou’s emphasis on “stretching Zambrano out” and “building up his arm strength,” tells me that Z’s questionable results as a reliever (6.23 ERA in a scant eight innings pitched) may not be the only thing prompting his apparent return to the starting staff. The team may also be greatly concerned about Carlos’ well-being pitching in relief. Maybe shivering in the chilly environs of various bullpen areas, hurriedly warming up and then trying to air out his arm in high-stress situations just doesn’t agree with Z. And it’s not hard to understand why, considering the big guy started the season as a starting pitcher and has been one for the previous seven.

Sigh. Like I said at the time the move was announced, moving Z to the pen was a decision that will likely go up there with the College of Coaches as a strange, high-risk and desperate act that won’t look particularly flattering in the cold light of history. And I know the Cubs had/have bullpen problems, but run production is still the greater issue. So let’s just pretend the whole thing never happened and hope Carlos can still battle his way to a decent season out of the rotation.

Oh, and by the way, the Cubs have a set-up man. His name is Sean Marshall. Today’s USA Team Report points out that Marshall is leading the bullpen with 20 relief appearances – and his numbers are straight-up sick. 11.3 K/9, 4.60 K/BB ratio, 2.21 ERA (1.32 FIP !!!, 2.47 xFIP). I know the Cubs have been looking for that right-handed, prototypical power-armed set-up guy, but sometimes you have to roll with what you’ve got – and Sean Marshall has been damn good. His career splits vs. righties and lefties aren’t all that different either, so he doesn’t really profile as a LOOGY anyway. (John Grabow does.) Yet another reason to put this whole Big Z bullpen thing to bed and finally give Sean “Tall Smooth” Marshall the recognition he deserves.

Andrew Cashner likely to remain a starter. In other bullpen – or perhaps non-bullpen – news, Bruce Miles quotes Cubs minor league director Oneri Fleita as saying this week that the team intends to keep RHP Andrew Cashner on the path to the starting rotation. I was hopeful this spring that Cashner might emerge as the right-handed set-up guy the team seemingly so desperately needed, but I now think this is right call. The Cubs need to develop talented, low-cost starting pitching and Cashner seems to be on his way. Fleita did mention, however, that RHPs Jay Jackson and Casey Coleman could be candidates for the big league bullpen this year. (I think I may have mentioned that last week. I’m not repeating myself already, am I?) Oh, and Jeff Samardzija is developing a cutter. So he’s got that going for him.

Robo-thal speculates about Sweet Lou’s dismissal. This is another big story this week. When a national baseball writer floats the idea that a manager could get the boot, it becomes news. (Even if it’s not, y’know, really news.) Naturally, Jim Hendry responded yesterday with the dreaded Vote of Confidence. Personally, I don’t think Lou is going anywhere. If Dusty Baker was allowed to ride out the awful 2006 season, then Lou will be permitted to see this one (which, the Baseball Gods willing, will be far, far less awful…please!) through. He just has far too much stature in the game to be easily disposed of. Would firing Piniella spark the team? Yeah, maybe. But I think some big, timely hits from Aramis (he’s on it!) and DLee might do the same thing.

Geo still looks to Hank White for inspiration. Geovany Soto’s breakout, Rookie-of-the-Year season in 2008 was partly attributed to the mentorship of one Henry Ramon Blanco – a.k.a. Hank White. Check out this article that reveals the two are still in touch, and Henry is still giving Geo some needed support. I’d like to see the Cubs invite Hank White back into the organization after he decides to retire. (He’s currently a backup catcher for the New York Mets and, hey, hitting rather well – .814 OPS in 39 PAs.)

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*Reddish text = hyperlinks.

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Game 39: Yeah, Baby!!! Yeah!!

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

First Star: Randy Wells (.333 WPA)
Second Star: Aramis Ramirez (.311 WPA)
Third Star: Sean Marshall (.281 WPA)


Well, that was a lot of fun.

Watching the game on CSN; keeping a scorecard; participating in ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Live Blog; writing the recap; the whole nine yards.  Trading Ferris Bueller references, dealing with Yankees/Red Sox fans, and keeping the faith.

Lou loaded the lineup with lefties tonight (Fukudome, Colvin, Fontenot & Hill, with Zambrano available on the bench), and it paid off.

The game started with gale force winds blowing IN at Wrigley and 2 sinkerball pitchers on the mound, portending a pitcher’s duel.  And so it was until the wind shifted and Aramis Ramirez connected for a walk-off 2 run blast in the 11th, giving the Cubs a 4-2 victory.

Kosuke Fukudome led off the bottom of the 1st with a double to left.  Two outs later our clean up hitter drove him in with an RBI single. The Rockies tied the score at one in the top of the 3rd, with a double by Carlos Gonzales followed by a single from Seth Smith.

The Cubs regained the lead in the 4th.  Tyler Colvin walked, advanced on an error, and Koyie Hill provided the RBI single.

The score remained 2-1 until the top of the 8th when John Grabow gave up a single and 2 walks.  Carlos Marmol came in to put out the fire, but walked in the tying run first.

In the bottom of the 8th, Starlin Castro’s sac bunt attempt became a fielder’s choice with the pitcher throwing out Kosuke Fukudome at second.  Starlin proceeded to steal 2nd and took 3rd on a throwing error.  Unfortunately, young Mr. Castro didn’t score in the inning.

Carlos Marmol struck out the side in the 9th, and Sean Marshall (the Cubs new setup man) struck out the side in the 10th.  Although Marshall induced only one K in the 11th, the pitching team of Marmol & Marshall did go through the Rockies lineup like a hot knife through butter: 11 up and 11 down in three and two thirds innings.

Starlin Castro opened the bottom of the 11th with a single to right.  DLee was robbed by the shortstop, and Aramis ended the game with the walk off 2 run jack.

The Cubs Stagger is over – The Cubbie Swagger is back.

The Cubs now have a 2 game win streak going.  If they can string together 99 more consecutive wins, Lou Piniella will get his 1,900th career managerial win this season.  And the Cubs will go to the playoffs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The Cubs will attempt to extend their winning streak to 3 games tomorrow night against these same Colorado Rockies.

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Series Preview: Cubs / Rockies

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Aaron Cook vs. Randy Wells

Cook has not pitched with the expected consistency through his first seven starts, but he is coming off a positive effort. Cook held the Phillies to three runs in six innings and kept the Rockies close in a matchup with Phils ace Roy Halladay. The Rockies won in extra innings. Although Cook has been able to fight his way through rough times with a four-seam fastball and a breaking pitch, he needs to get on a good streak with his sinker.

Strength – His nasty sinker keeps the ball on the ground consistently. Is a reliable work horse who can lead a pitching staff.

Weakness – Isn’t great at putting hitters away when he’s ahead in the count, so he tends to surrender too many hits. Left-handed hitters can thrive against him.

Wells showed he’s a quick learner. On May 6 against the Pirates, he gave up seven runs over two innings. In his last start Tuesday against the Marlins, Wells notched his fourth quality start, going eight innings. He joked that he was happy to get an at-bat. He’s made only one start against the Rockies and lost. He’s also fared better on the road, compiling a 3.86 ERA compared to 5.31 at home.

Jhoulys Chacin vs. Carlos Silva

After pitching scoreless ball for his first 15 1/3 innings this season, Chacin gave up six runs in five innings against the Nationals on Thursday night. Five of the runs came on two Ryan Zimmerman home runs, and each of those came on poorly located sliders. In the fifth, he couldn’t put the inning away with two outs. It was not the best day for Chacin, but for the most part he stayed in the strike zone and didn’t become flustered when things went wrong.

Strength – Possesses an explosive arsenal of pitches, and gets great late movement with most. Can dominate a batting order. Is comfortable pitching as a starter or reliever.

Weakness – Needs to show greater refinement of his stuff, as well as more stamina, in order to maximize his big-league potential.

Silva is on a roll. The right-hander notched his fifth quality start in his last outing against the Marlins. The last time he began a season this well was 2004 when he opened 5-0 with the Twins. The Cubs are 6-1 when Silva starts. The key? “He throws a lot of strikes,” catcher Geovany Soto said.

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