Archive for July, 2010

Game 96: So Long Ted…We’ll Miss You

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

First Star – Jason Michaels (.411 WPA)
Second Star – Brandon Lyon (.281 WPA)
Third Star – Pedro Feliz (.244 WPA)

Ted Lilly has been traded to….That’s the way I’m going to be starting a post real soon. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if that post came today, on an off day. I don’t like that I’m going to have to type those words, but that’s what happens when your team under performs, with the shining example being yesterday. It started to make me think about how crappy it would be to get traded. All of a sudden yiu’re forced to pack up everything and move to somewhere you’re probably not familiar with at all. I know when I moved from Chicago to North Carolina, it took getting used to. There are subtle differences. For example, in Chicago the groceries stores are Jewel and Dominicks. Here, we have Food Lion (which my parents call the Lion King) and Harris Teeter (Something wrong sounding with that name). It doesn’t seem fair when you get traded. I wish Ted all the best, because I have a feeling this was the last time we’ll see him pitch in our uniform.

STRIKE ONE – If ever there was an example of why Jim Hendry needs to start selling it was yesterday in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings. All three featured prime scoring opportunities. You can tell by looking at the graph and seeing all the red marks that show how critical / game changing various situations were. The game was a sleeper until the late innings and the Cubs failed miserably to capitalize.

In the 9th, Fukudome started it with a leadoff single, but Koyie Hill couldn’t get him to 2nd after striking out and broke his bat over his knee. Side note: I’ve been waiting for Koyie Hill to do that for a long time. If anyone on this teams like the tough guy type, it’s Hill. After all, dude sawed his fingers off and still plays. Theriot came up next and singled to put the Cubs in business with just one out. When you’ve got a guy at third with less than two outs, you’ve got to bring him home. Instead, Soriano flied out and Colvin struck out and we ended the 9th.

STRIKE TWO – In the 10th, Castro led off with a double and you got the feeling this was the inning it was going to happen. The heart of the order was coming up and we only needed a single to use Castro’s speed for the winning run. Lee’s fly ball got Castro to third and once again we had two outs to make it happen. A-Ram gets walked, which is the obvious choice based on how hot he’s been, but Marlon Byrd can’t come through with a single and instead, walks. That loads the bases and brings Fukudome and Hill up. A cork screw swinging stikeout, pinch hitter and fly out later and we’ve screwed up the 10th.

STRIKE THREE – The 11th inning was more of the same with Theriot reaching base to start the inning and getting to second on a sac bunt by Fontenot. Colvin gets intentionally walked, which makes me laugh. Normally that would get you even closer to the heart of the order, but apparently our heart doesn’t scare many people. We need a heart transplant. Castro and Lee fly out and we’re done in the 11th.

The Astros, sick of waiting for us to finish them off, take care of business in the 12th and the red phone in Jim’s office with the glass box housing it labled “Emergency” starts ringing. It’s time, Jimmy Boy, it’s time. Make the calls and let’s start moving.

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Morning Wake Up: The Hitless Man

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

In case you missed it, Ted Lilly got a hit yesterday. He’s been mired in a pretty embarrassing streak of ugliness that was starting to boarderline on funny. It got me thinking about who holds the record for most at bats in a season without getting a hit, which led me even further. I found some disturbing results.

Most At Bats in a Season w/o a Hit

Rk Player AB H Year Age
1 Bob Buhl 70 0 1962 33
2 Bill Wight 61 0 1950 28
3 Ron Herbel 47 0 1964 26
4 Karl Drews 46 0 1949 29
5 Randy Tate 41 0 1975 22
6 Ernie Koob 41 0 1916 23
7 Jason Bergmann 40 0 2008 26
8 Joey Hamilton 40 0 1994 23
9 Ed Rakow 39 0 1964 29
10 Darryl Kile 38 0 1991 22
11 Harry Parker 36 0 1974 26
12 Hal Finney 35 0 1936 30
13 Steve Stone 34 0 1971 23
14 Vicente Palacios 33 0 1994 30
15 Ed Lynch 33 0 1982 26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2010.

Most At Bats in a Season w/o Reaching Base (via H, BB, IBB)

Rk Player AB H HBP BB IBB Year Age
1 Jason Bergmann 40 0 0 0 0 2008 26
2 Hal Finney 35 0 0 0 0 1936 30
3 Vicente Palacios 33 0 0 0 0 1994 30
4 Miguel Batista 32 0 0 0 0 1998 27
5 Ellis Kinder 32 0 0 0 0 1952 37
6 Don Carman 31 0 0 0 0 1986 26
7 Rick Wise 30 0 0 0 0 1966 20
8 Karl Adams 30 0 0 0 0 1915 23
9 Bill Stafford 29 0 0 0 0 1965 25
10 John Fulgham 27 0 0 0 0 1980 24
11 Dan Warthen 27 0 0 0 0 1976 23
12 Sandy Koufax 26 0 0 0 0 1957 21
13 Von McDaniel 26 0 0 0 0 1957 18
14 Jason Smith 25 0 0 0 0 2009 31
15 Chris Short 25 0 0 0 0 1960 22
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2010.

Chin up Teddy. it could have been a lot worse.


What’s On Tap

No game today (Thank God) so it’s a day to dwell on the loss and look forward to playing the spoiler role for the rest of the year, starting with a weekend series against the Cards. Today on VFTB you’ll be getting:

AM – Comments on Yesterday’s Loss

PM – In the News with dat_cubfan_daver

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Projecting the 2011 Cubs – Volume I

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Really? We’re at this point already? It’s not even August yet and we’re already predicting the 2011 roster? Unfortunately, that’s the case. Obviously it’s early and we’ll know more as the next few weeks pass, but is it really even too early to look forward to a new season? This will be the first of my projections for the opening day roster for 2011 and it will probably be just a smidge off. Forgive me.

Catcher – We know Geo will be back, but the question will be who will back him up. Koyie Hill is set for arbitration eligible year # 2. At this point, I would think we’d be better off giving a shot to Wellington Castillo or Robinson Chirinos with the advantage going to Chirinos for a cheaper price than Hill with a higher offensive ceiling. Hill made $700K this year. The Cubs are able to offer 80% of the previous year’s salary if it went to arbitration, but typically the Cubs don’t go the arbitration route. That being said, you’d have to think we’d at least offer the same salary, if not a bit of a raise should we decide to bring Hill back. I’d rather save the half million and use Castillo or Chirinos for the minimum.

Infield – There is a legit chance that we could be almost completely different from an infield perspective come 2011. Derrek Lee will be gone and should Aramis Ramirez choose to leave, the Cubs would be without cornerstone corner infielders for the first time in quite awhile. We’ve seen trade rumors about Theriot and Fontenot, so the potential that one or both of those guys are gone is very legit. About the only given at this point is Starlin Castro.

Outfield – One thing is for sure. We’re stuck with Soriano and we’re keeping Colvin. Beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. That’s the exciting thing about this year. Anything goes. At this point, it’s hard to see anyone taking Fukudome’s contract for what they’ll get in return. It’s also hard to see him getting the starting job at any of the three outfield spots again next year with the emergence of Colvin. There is potential to deal a guy like Byrd, but I’ve not heard his name mentioned once at this point, and that confuses me a little. At this point, the OF looks basically the same with the exception being the loss of Nady.

Starting Rotation – I’m going out on a limb with this one and predicting that the 2011 rotation will not include pitcher with the first name of Carlos. Sorry Mr. Marmol, you’re stuck as the closer. In all seriousness, I truly believe both of the Carlos starters will be pitching elsewhere come opening day. Zambrano will be dealt this off-season and Silva will either pitch himself into a trade or be designated for assignment. He doesn’t seem happy here and has been regularly critical of Lou’s decisions concerning the length of his outings and future starts.

Bullpen – Who knows what will happen with the bullpen! Do you? I certainly don’t.

The 2011 Opening Day Roster (Based On In House Players)

C – Geovany Soto
1B – Tyler Colvin
2B – Ryan Theriot
3B – Aramis Ramirez
SS – Starlin Castro
LF – Alfonso Soriano
CF – Marlon Byrd
RF – Kosuke Fukudome

C – Robinson Chirinos
IF – Mike Fontenot
IF – Darwin Barney
IF / OF – Bryan LaHair
OF – Brad Snyder

SP – Ryan Dempster
SP – Randy Wells
SP – Tom Gorzelanny
SP – Jay Jackson
SP – Andrew Cashner

MR – John Grabow
MR – Jeff Samardzija
MR – Sean Marshall
MR – Esmailin Caridad
MR – Justin Berg
MR – Jeff Stevens
CL – Carlos Marmol

I don’t know about you, but that roster scares the hell out of me.

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Morning Wake Up: Best Homeless Man Strategy

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Everyday when I come home from work there is a “homeless” man that stands by the Walmart intercection with a sign that he needs money. The problem I see is twofold. First, he’s there everyday yet is always wearing different clothes. Second, he’s always smoking a cigarette. If he’s got a wardrobe and money for cigs, why is he on the street corner. He should be out working instead of being a lazy loser. I’m not trying to be unsympathetic or anything. Sometimes you see a guy with no legs sitting in a wheelchair and you know he’s probably got limited options for income. This guy doesn’t fit that category in my book. My question to you today is this:

What is the best way to be a bum and make the most money?

In other words, if you were forced to do that to make your living, what tactics would you use? What would be your gameplan to maximize your income? I have to say that this one is one of the more creative ones I’ve seen and I’d like to meet the guy that came up with it.

What’s on Tap?

Brett Myers (7-6, 3.85 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (3-8, 4.07 ERA)

The Cubs go for another series win before a big series with the Cardinals. It could be Ted Lilly’s last start as a Chicago Cub so tune in to wish him well.

Lilly rebounded from two bad starts to strike out 10 Phillies over seven innings in his last outing. He made some mechanical tweaks and they worked. His starts are being watched by teams looking for help.

Myers is one of 53 pitchers since 1920 to begin a season with 19 straight starts of six-plus innings. Dan Haren did the same last year, and Myers can be the first to make it 20 in a row to start a season since Pedro Martinez and Mark Buehrle in 2005.

Strengths -A confident righty, he can change speeds effectively with two- and four-seam fastballs in the 90s. Has a terrific curveball and plenty of endurance. Is effective as both a starter or reliever.

Weakness – Can get rattled on the mound if he doesn’t keep his emotions in check. Also battles control issues that lead to big innings against him. Doesn’t trust his stuff enough. (Scouting Info taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca)

Today on VFTB

AM – Chet’s Recap of last nights crazy win (Link)

Lunchtime – Joe takes a look at projecting the 2011 opening day roster

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Game 95: A Win for Lou!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

First Star:  Aramis Ramirez  (.201 WPA)

Second Star: Geovany Soto (.187 WPA)

Third Star: Derrek Lee (.147 WPA)


Have you heard the news? Lou is retiring at season’s end!  We got to hear about it every inning tonight and then some.  It only got mildly annoying.  The funny thing is once the Cubs started playing better they mentioned it a little less.  If you watched this game, you know what I mean.

Around the sixth inning this game went through a lobotomy and changed course on a dime.   If you take a look at our trusty graph, compliments of Fangraphs, you will see what looks like a roller-coaster.  This game required shoulder harnesses at all times to keep us buckled in.  At one point I wanted to jump out!   At any rate, I decided to continue my detailed game recap strategy as some seemed to enjoy the information timeline.

Pitching:

Ryan Dempster……. 3.57 Era…. 8-7 record…..throws right

Wesley Wright ………5.59 ERA ……0-0 record……..throws left

Wind blowing out to left center…..Bob Brenly says this is a “hitter’s wind” (yah think?)

1st:

  • Dempster’s opening inning was like a breath of fresh air in comparison to Carlos Silva and his first inning adventures from the series opener.  He threw 13 pitches for 10 strikes and three balls andputs them down one , two, three……with a little help from Starlin on a nice grab in shallow left for the first out of the game.
  • Len Kasper and Bob Brenly mention how accommodating and helpful the Cubs coaching staff was to them throughout the tenure so far.  I like Lou and his staff and I feel like they have dealt with a serious amount of distractions each season…..just thinking out loud….back to the game.
  • Castro gets on base with a nice piece of hitting as he drove a change up into left, but Lee and Ramirez follow up with back to back strikeouts.  Just a little memoir from the first half I guess.

2nd:

  • Clouds over Wrigley look ominous and I am hoping that there is no rain delay…….
  • Astros grab the early lead as Johnson smacks a ball past Castro.  Carlos Lee scores on the play from second.
  • On what should have been a inning ending double play, Theriot makes a poor throw to second with Castro covering and it ends up in left field.  A run scores because of the error.  I can see why Lou needs to retire.  This play almost defined the word frustration…….it certainly defined the word “crap”! If I was Lou I would drink myself to death in the dugout every night while watching this stuff.
  • The wind is blowing out so hard that the flags on the scoreboard in center field are horizontal.
  • Oops, bases loaded and Dempster plunks Angel Sanchez.  There’s another run…….the Astros should just show up and let the Cubs beat themselves…..oh wait, that is exactly what they are doing.
  • The Merry go round keeps going as Dempster walks Berkman and another run scores.  Thats four runs this inning so far, it should have been one.
  • No Joke, I got up to relieve myself at the commercial break and then put in a load of wash. By the time I got back the Cubs half of the inning is already over.  Leadoff man (Byrd) got on…….Soriano = double play…….Soto pops out after two pitches. I give you Cubs baseball, The 2010 edition!

Houston 4

Cubs    0

3rd:

  • Ahhhh, back to normal as Dempster has a rather uneventful third inning.   By the way, this has officially become the Lou Piniella game. It is literally all they are talking about. I guess when the team stinks this bad you have to deflect the attention.
  • Second inning in a row where the leadoff man gets on base but the offense can’t capitalize.   I will give Dempster credit for bunting him over however Colvin looked puzzled after his strikeout and Castro, well Castro swung at the first pitch and grounded out.  Nuff said?

4th:

  • The sky is looking more peaceful as we move into the fourth.   Oh and in my last recap I spoke of the second half bandwagon.  Well, it is on the side of I-94 somewhere with smoke pouring out of the hood. If you want it, you can have it.
  • I am pretty sure Starlin Castro just chased a pop fly to the warning track.  He kind of tried too hard on that play???? Byrd had to pull up and the ball dropped in. CASTRO, DON’T TRY SO HARD!!!!!!!
  • Pence drives a ball past Castro and Sanchez scores.  The Astros must be in first place, right???
  • Carlos Lee scores Berkman on a shot up the middle…..Where’s the booze?
  • Aramis launches a ball into the left field seats!!!!   As I watched it clear the basket and travel into the bleachers I could not help but notice they are half full. Tickets anyone?

Houston 6

Cubs 1

5th:

  • Chris Johnson cleared the Juniper bushes in center field for his second homerun in the bigs. His first one came yesterday against the Cubs.   Awesome.
  • Dempster just crossed the 100 pitch mark in the fifth inning.  Outside of Lilly, do we have or have we ever had any pitchers who are efficient?
  • Len and Bob just mentioned Lou’s impending retirement keeping their “mention Lou’s retirement at least once per inning” quota going.
  • The wind is howling straight out……I think I just saw the Marlins flag tear from the flagpole and fly away!!!! Yet we have all of one run.
  • Hmmmmm….second base has been like The Bermuda Triangle tonight……Keppinger just pulled a “Theriot” and threw the ball into left field on what should have been an easy double play. Cubs mounting a rally with two runners in scoring position and no outs!!!!
  • Nady swung and missed but so did Jason Castro (the Astro catcher) and the ball got by him scoring Soto from third.  Funny thing is Nady didn’t even try to run to first.  It was a pass ball on the third strike!!!!! Take first!!!!!!  Sometimes I feel as though there is a disconnect between the brain and the ability on this team.
  • Theriot scores on a well placed ground out by Castro to the right side of the field.
  • ARAMIS!!!! Three run shot to left center in the basket!!!! We got a ballgame!  Well, at least  Aramis is taking advantage of the wind.

Houston 7

Cubs 6

6th:

  • Andrew Cashner comes on in relief of Ryan Dempster.  Dempster ended the night after giving up four earned runs over five innings.
  • Derrek Lee snared a ball down the right field line and flipped to Cashner covering first.  Beautiful play by Lee and critical to keeping the Astros at bay to start the inning.
  • Starlin Castro dives for a line drive and makes the catch.  All of the sudden we have defense? I have never witnessed this type of schizophrenia on a baseball team!!!
  • Behind some great defense, Cubs reliever Andrew Cashner has the shortest half-inning of the night.
  • Soto drives a ball to dead center on top of the Batters Eye Lounge.  Crushed and we have a tie game!!!!! Startin’ to feel the wind, be the wind, BE THE WIND!!!!!  I don’t know what that means but it excites me.

Cubs   7

Houston   7

7th:

  • They don’t call him Cash Money for nothing!  Andrew Cashner puts ‘em down in order in the seventh and it’s stretch time!!!!  Two solid innings out of Cashner tonight.  The more I see this guy pitch, the more I like him.
  • Starlin Castro opens the inning with a double off the wall  to left center that misses clearing the basket by about an inch.
  • Derrek Lee doubles to left center and drives home Castro…..is this really happening or is the rubbing alcohol I drank earlier starting to take effect?  Cubs take the lead!!!!!

(On a side note, Lee was called safe at second on the play even though the ball beat him to the bag.  The tag did not make contact with him until after he touched the bag.  Obviously this makes him safe but you would be shocked how many plays like this go the other way.  It has become common place to call the runner safe or out based on whether he beats the throw to the bag and not whether he gets tagged before reaching the bag.  It is a huge pet peeve of mine and I salute the second base ump for making the correct call! Don’t be half way about it, make the tag!)

  • Scott Sanderson is one of the better seventh inning stretch conductors in recent memory.  Not because of the singing but the banter about the game of baseball during the inning.  I eat this stuff up!
  • Lee scores on Soriano’s single to center.  Insurance runs are huge here!!!!

Cubs  9

Houston 7

8th:

  • Sean Marshall picks up where Andrew Cashner left off.  A seven pitch inning and you know where we are headed right? Marmol Time!!!!!  C’mon, positive thoughts people!!!!
  • Derrek Lee knows the importance of insurance runs. He knocked a two run single that brought in Fukudome and Colvin.  Len mentioned that up to this point the Cubs had scored the last ten runs in the game.
  • Aramis Ramirez hit his third homerun of the game, a three run shot!!!!!!  That makes it a curtain call night for Aramis.   Correction, The Cubs have scored the last 13 runs in the game.  Be the Wind!!!!!!
  • It’s 14-7 and the Cubs still have Marmol warming up…..why am I scared?

Cubs    14

Astros    7

9th:

  • Ahhhhhh, I can breathe again.  Marmol was nothing short of perfect.

FINAL

Cubs    14

Astros    7

In closing I would like to turn it over to you guys.  If you watched this thing, you have to have an opinion……let it fly!

Danny’s Notes from the Game

What’s growing on me:

Colvin and Castro batting 1st and 2nd. There’s multiple layers in the explanation as to why this is a smart move to tinker with. First, the Cubs still lack a leadoff hitter. Theriot insists on grounding the first pitch he sees to the shortstop everyday. And I’m pretty sure Fukudome flies back to Japan in the end of April and sends in a body double for the remainder of the season. I liked these guys as 1-2 coming into the season, but after a good look, I say we hold off on this option until given reason otherwise. That leaves Colvin and Castro (sorry, Soto’s not ready for the leadoff spot just yet). As young players, I think it is important to stress the fundamentals to these guys- getting on base, taking pitches, sacrificing runners, and so on. Rather than cultivate these players as .260 hitting, free swinging power hitters- which it seems the Cubs could easily do- let’s start them on the basics while they’re still young. Piniella, you made a good move here- granted you don’t rescind on it by the end of the week.

Moving Carlos Silva to the bullpen. No, this isn’t a “welcome back” bid to Zambrano. In my eyes, he should still be sitting in the corner without dessert. But I’m worried about Silva’s second half. He hasn’t pitched a full season in quite some time. He struggling mentally, not physically; this calls for louder alarm bells. It may not be the best solution, but if he can’t give the Cubs a chance to win before they even get up to bat, then something has to be done. I’m not saying banish him to the pen for the rest of the season. But we need a long reliever, and a man named Jay Jackson just knocked on the door and is asking to come in.

What I don’t understand:

How Bob Howry still has a job. This man wakes up and his ERA rises. Why was he even signed? I think this is a mean joke on Hendry’s part. Hey, you know how you dared me to find someone worse than John Grabow? Check this guy out. I’ll admit, Howry wasn’t too bad his first time around with the Cubs. But when I read that they re-signed him this year, I was shocked- and I still can’t find any logic behind this move. And everyone sees what’s going on here, except for Hendry. I swear he has some type of bet going on this.

Why Lee and Ramirez bat third and fourth EVERY DANG BLASTED NIGHT. Umm, what other team has their three and four hitters with lower batting averages right now? Is it in their contracts that they cannot occupy any other spot in the order? Marlon Byrd should be our three hitter, case closed. Sure, Ramirez is the best fit for the cleanup spot, but I like Soriano there when he’s hot, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t give Soto a shot. All I’m saying is that when you have a team that struggles offensively, you shuffle the deck. And it’s not considered shuffling the deck if you don’t change the two biggest spots in the lineup, and instead keep the two players in there that have struggled all season.

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Hopefully Aramis stays hot and Lee reclaims his stroke. This is actually a solution that should have been pursued last month. Not only could it have sparked the offense, but Lee and Ramirez may have come out of their slumps sooner. Now it looks like they’re back. Still, your three hitter should not be so prone to the double play. The Cub’s three hitter should have been Marlon Byrd since May, period. Anyway, Ramirez is proving me wrong as I write this- he just sent another homer sailing into the bleachers, bringing the Cubs within one run of the Astros, with about four innings left. The Cubs may actually defeat a team within their division- stay tuned.

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In the News: Should Cubs fans brace for a PED scandal? (Oh, and Lou announces his retirement!)

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Greetings from the VFTB Newsroom, Cubs fans. Just ignore that guy behind me. He’s not really looking at porn – just shopping for a bathing suit for his girlfriend. There are a number of interesting items coming across our teletype machine, so let’s get right to it:

Marlon Byrd takes supplements. Now, that in and of itself, probably isn’t news. I’m guessing almost every baseball player takes vitamin supplements of one sort or another. But that Yahoo! sports article by Steve Henson from today reveals that Marlon’s supplements come from a controversial (and rather shifty-looking, if I do say so myself) gentleman by the name of Victor Conte. The article also reports that, a little over a year ago, Byrd was called to New York to discuss his supplement use by Major League Baseball. Apparently, neither the trip nor an agreed-up follow-up phone call ever happened.

Now Marlon is an All-Star having a remarkable – and I mean, really remarkable – career year for our Chicago Cubs. And though Henson’s article makes no accusations, it does come with a worrisome undertone that this story won’t end here. Could we see Byrd’s 2010 season go down in the fiery flames of controversy? Could we see Marlon finally lose his cool if a couple of our tactless local beat writers pick up the story and start running with it? I guess we’ll have to see.

It would seem absolutely ridiculous for any ballplayer to dare indulge in a banned substance in this day and age. But, as Jane’s Addiction famously sang, “Nothing’s shocking.” I hope Marlon is in the clear. If there’s one thing Cubs fans don’t need more of this season, it’s disappointment.

In other controversial news, the Cubs have gone to war with Time Magazine. At issue: Time’s portrayal of the team’s baseball training facility in the Dominican Republic. A writer for the venerable news publication criticized the Cubs compound for cramming prospects into small dormitory rooms. Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita vociferously denied the accusations and offered clarifications to the story. In addition, the Time writer allegedly showed up unannounced and made no effort to get the proper credentials.

Big Z in the AZ. In case you didn’t hear, Carlos Zambrano threw one inning of scoreless baseball yesterday, striking out one hapless AZL Royal on three pitches. (“I’m Carlos Zambrano and you’re frakkin’ out!”) Big Z’s anger management therapy apparently worked, too, because he was all smiles and chummery in the dugout. (I’m pretty sure I just made up the word “chummery.”)

Fearless prediction:We’ll see the Cubs’ two Carloses switch places in the not-too-distant future. Carlos Silva will, eventually, go to either the DL or the bullpen (or both), with Carlos Zambrano (again, eventually) reassuming his place in the rotation. And, barring a trade of either, we start the whole dance over again in spring training next year.

Speaking of the bullpen, something is going to change … soon. Multiple mainstream media sources are reporting that the Cubs will make a roster move today to bring a fresh arm up for its ailing, addled bullpen. You could really take your pick of Atkins (who’s pitched only seven innings under difficult circumstances), Berg and Russell at this point. I might give Berg a little more time as he seems to be striking out a few more batters this time around and hasn’t given up home runs to quite the extent that Russell has. The Cubs could also simply release Bob Howry, who’s had a few decent outings but looks remarkably old all of the sudden. Oh, and let’s not neglect to mention that his overall numbers are just ungodly bad.

I wonder whether we’ll see a resurfacing of the Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija. For the season, Samardzija is 6-1 with a 2.85 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched. Are the Cubs ready to give him yet another shot? Or maybe it’s Jay Jackson’s turn? We’ll see. Getting back to Samardzija, check out this interesting football piece on whether he might just return to the gridiron after all once his Cubs contract is up.

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat tweets that Mitch Atkins has been sent down and Jeff Stevens recalled from Iowa.

And finally today … the Cubs’ first round draft pick kissed a girl. Or maybe Hayden Simpson got mono some other way but, bottom line, the diminutive and much-maligned hurler won’t be playing baseball this summer. That should keep his arm fresh for his September call up next season.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Cubs manager Lou Piniella officially announced his retirement today. Here is the Cubs official press release on the matter.

####

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Game 94: Now I Remember Why I Don’t Bet

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

First Star – Carlos Lee (.097 WPA)
Second Star – Aramis Ramirez (.084 WPA)
Third Star – Hunter Pence (.079 WPA)

It was January 3, 1993. The Buffalo Bills hosted the Houston Oilers in the first round of the NFL playoffs. I don’t recall the dollar amount, but I confidently placed a bet (for recreational purposes only) on the “Run and Shoot” Oilers. You see, Jim Kelly was injured late in the regular season, which meant Frank Reich was playing QB for the Bills. Even Mother Nature was smiling on me that day. Buffalo in January usually meant bad news for visiting teams, but the game-time temperature was a balmy 40 degrees. This would be easy cash (pretend money of course).

To my delight the Oilers struck early and often, building a 32-point lead against the shell-shocked Bills. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. Reich led a record-breaking comeback in the final 20 minutes, forcing overtime. Houston won the coin toss but lost the game when Warren Moon threw a costly interception in the extra period. Steve Christie’s field goal iced the contest and emptied my wallet.

Seventeen years have passed, and I haven’t placed a wager since. However, if I felt like betting, the July 19th Cubs game would have qualified as a “no brainer.” Here’s how I saw it:

1) The Cubs just swiped three of four from the defending NL champion Phillies
2) Surprise ace Carlos Silva is on the hill for Lou Piniella’s squad
3) Tonight’s visitor is the lowly Houston Astros (37-55, -135 run differential)
4) Silva’s mound opponent is the struggling Wandy Rodriguez (6-11, 4.97 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
5) Houston slugger Carlos Lee is having the worst year of his career (.235, .282, .387)
6) There are 12 cold beers in my fridge

Now if that doesn’t say “the stars are aligned for a Cubs victory,” what does? Unfortunately, nobody mentioned my list to Brad Mills and the mighty Astros. Final score: Astros 11, Cubs 5. I found myself hoping for a rainout almost immediately. Instead, we got an unpleasant dose of Carlos Silva meatballs and spotty offense.

Ah, you can’t beat fun at the ol’ ballpark. What’s the line for tomorrow’s game?

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Morning Wake Up: Tuesday Trivia

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

An interesting trivia question for you today about longevity and consistency.

Q: – From 2000 to 2009, only one pitcher won 10 games in every year. Can you name him?

Remember, no searching on the internet for the answer. Just have fun and guess off the top of your head in the comment section.

Today’s Pitching Matchup

Ryan Dempster (8-7, 3.57 ERA) vs. Wesley Wright (0-0, 5.59 ERA)

Dempster opened the second half on strong note, striking out nine Phillies. He’s now five Ks away from reaching 1,500 in his career. But he’s also served up 17 home runs; he gave up 22 in 200 innings last year.

Wright will make the first start of his Major League career after Felipe Paulino suffered a recurrence of right shoulder tendinitis during his side session Friday. The 25-year-old has made six relief appearances for the Astros this season.

Strength – Can be deadly against left-handed hitters and owns the ability to strike batters out in key situations. Is effective on consecutive days.

Weakness – Does not have the ideal pitchers’ frame. Isn’t nearly as effective against right-handed hitters. Needs to curb his penchant for walks.


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Great Moments in Cubs Bust History: Mel Rojas

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Forty years on this planet have taught me a few things…

1) All reality TV is lousy (except for maybe “Deadliest Catch”)
2) There is no such thing as a bad beer or a bad meal
3) The most frightening words in the world are “The Cubs have acquired…”

The list of rotten Cub trades and signings is longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet. Over the next few weeks, we’ll revisit some of those stomach-turning transactions (some might call this exercise “therapy”).

MEL ROJAS (signed by the Cubs in December of 1996): Nothing scares true Cub fans like a new closer. In 1996, Mel Rojas saved 36 games in 74 appearances for the Montreal Expos. He allowed only 56 hits and five homers in 81 impressive innings, striking out 92 and walking only 25 (unintentionally). So when the Cubs signed Rojas the following offseason, I was actually excited. Sure, previous closer moves had tanked like that “Cavemen” show (see Calvin Schiraldi, Goose Gossage, and Dave Smith), but this was different. Rojas was a powerhouse reliever in the prime of his career. What could possibly go wrong? It didn’t take long to find out. Rojas was so bad that he didn’t even finish one season in Chicago. After 55 innings, 30 walks, and 11 homers allowed, the Cubs cut their losses in the summer of 1997 and shipped the former bullpen ace to the New York Mets in a deal for Lance Johnson. Two years later, Rojas was out of baseball.

So what’s the moral of this story? Appearances can be deceiving? Look before you leap? Know which way the wind blows? Never pet a burning cat? I’m not really sure. However, I do know this…Every time the Cubs acquire a relief pitcher, another year ticks off my life.

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