Archive for April, 2011

Game 26 – A Needed W for Garza and the Cubs

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Cubs 5, Diamondbacks 3

Box Score / Video Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza allowed only three runs in eight solid innings.  He was in  complete control for most of the game.  The Cubs offense was able to support him with more than four runs for the first time this season.  Garza notched his first win in a Cubs uniform.  He fanned ten to move his season K total to 51, which leads the NL.
  • Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney continued to play key roles.  Who knows where the Cubs would be without those two.
  • Alfonso Soriano stayed red hot.  After two long balls on Friday night, he homered again and added a run scoring single on Saturday.  Sori totaled ten dingers in the month of April, the most in his career.  No other player on the ballclub has more than two home runs, while Alfonso has already reached double-figures.
  • Marlon Byrd picked up two hits.  He was dropped to the seventh spot in the lineup and is off to a rough start.
  • Carlos Pena came off the bench and made two nice picks at first in the ninth inning.
  • Carlos Marmol it down for his seventh save.  Marmol’s stuff was electric in the ninth inning, although the D’backs did bring the tying run to the plate.

What Went Wrong

  • Kosuke Fukudome cooled off with an 0-for-5 day at the plate.  He still had a very good month of April, but his usual June swoon is right around the corner.  If Tyler Colvin, who’s hitting .137, doesn’t heat up, the Cubs could be in trouble in right field.
  • Jeff Baker left the game in the top of the eighth inning with a shoulder injury.  He started at first base for the second straight day, but went 0-for-4.

News and Notes

  • In the top of the ninth inning, Geovany Soto attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but was unable to get the job done.  Marlon Byrd was out at second on the fielder’s choice.  Mike Quade argued with second base umpire Dan Bellino about the call, and ended up notching his first big league ejection.  Pat Listach managed the conclusion of the game while Q watched from the clubhouse.  On the replay, it looked as if Bellino made the correct call.
  • The Cubs are looking at other rotation options.  Doug Davis pitched in a rookie league game in front of Jim Hendry, while Todd Wellemyer is scheduled to start for Triple-A Iowa in the next week.
  • Soriano’s blast hit off the scoreboard, becoming the first player to nail the board in Arizona since Richie Sexton in 2004.
  • Alfonso’s ten blasts in April is also a club record.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Darwin Barney (.299 WPA)

2nd Star – Gerardo Para (.221 WPA)

3rd Star– Matt Garza (.177 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 6-6 (.500)

Mark 2-3 (.400)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 1-3 (.250)

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Game 25 – Soriano Calls His Shot

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Cubs 4, Diamondbacks 2

Box Score / Video Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Carlos Zambrano started out the game by walking the first hitter he faced allowing that runner to score on a two-run bomb of a home run to Justin Upton. They say it went 455ft, but I’m not buying. I’m gonna go with 480 ft. At the time, I was almost certain the game was going to go sour early and it was going to be another blow out. Zambrano settled down and was pretty dominant from that point on finishing with a final line of: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 K. I don’t need to see a lot of strike outs racked up by Carlos. What I look for in his starts now is that he’s effective with his pitches, throws ground balls, and gets through six or seven innings. Last night he got the win and looked decent doing it, but he still has work to do.
  • The Cubs rebounded from the 2-0 deficit with a back to back home run series from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. It’s the first time the Cubs have gone back to back this season according to the broadcast on CSN. That probably has something to do with the fact that you typically need two hitters to be able to hit a home run to make that happen. This year we’ve only had Soriano. Before the game, I had a conversation with Chet who called Soto out for sucking. He told me to watch his approach at the plate. I know what he was saying, but it made me laugh that the day that conversation happened, Geo went deep and had Lizzie begging for more. The funny thing about the Soriano home run was that when he came into the dugout, he was confident that he was going to do it again. You could hear him say it. Bob Brenly even pointed it out twice on the broadcast before Sori hit the 2nd homer in the 7th. Why is it that Soriano is the only one that doesn’t appear to have lost his power stroke? Does it bother anyone else that, as a commentor pointed out, Koyie Hill has more home runs than Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd combined? Those are our 3-4-5 guys in the order!!!
  • Darwin Barney came up big in the 8th with a nice leadoff triple over the head of Chris Young in CF. You don’t typically see a little guy like Barney hit one over someone’s head, but he did and it yielded a nice insurance run in the 8th to give the pen some cushion to close it out without incident.
  • Starlin Castro was OK after being hit by a pitch the very next at bat.
  • Len and Bob pointed this out on the broadcast and I didn’t notice it until then. Kosuke Fukudome has made subtle changes to his approach at the plate as the pitch is coming it. You can see he’s adopted the Jaramillo toe tap and doesn’t appear to be bailing out of there like he used to. Everything seems more balanced in his approach. It’s hard to know if his success this season is due to that or if it’s his typical April dominance, but it’s working for him right now.
  • It appears that the condensed version of the game, something that was exclusively for MLB.tv subscribers is available free now. Please let me know if it works for you if you don’t have a subscription to MLB.tv in the comment section. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go under the picture above and click the condensed game link.

What Went Wrong

  • Zambrano issued two walks to Chris Young, who had only drawn three walks all year to that point. That means Zambrano has now issued 40% of the walks Young has drawn. (Insert sample size reference here)

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Alfonso Soriano (.238 WPA)

2nd Star – Sean Marshall (.177 WPA)

3rd Star– Justin Upton (.138 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 6-6 (.500)

Mark 2-3 (.400)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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Week 5 Prediction Contest Questions

Friday, April 29th, 2011

The VFTB Weekly Prediction Contest
Official Rules

  • Each week, on Friday morning, we will open the ballot for predictions on five questions for the games running that Mon – Fri. Questions will, for the most part, be Cubs related but may vary based on what is going on in the season. Each entry must be completed in full with guesses for each of the five questions. Ballot locks Monday morning at 7am Eastern time.
  • Stats will be compiled based on the total number someone is off on each of the five questions. The entrant deemed to be the closest cumulatively among the five questions will be awarded the weekly prize from the VFTB prize pool and be entered to compete in the playoff edition come October for the grand prize, a $100 gift certificate to the Wrigleyville Sports online store.
  • You may win more than once over the course of the season, so continue to play. Each time you win it gives you that many more chances to play come playoff time for the grand prize.
  • Winners and questions will be announced in the Funtastic Friday post each week, with winners being notified via e-mail to confirm and claim their prize.

Update From Week 3

The winner is Doug Bagley.

Here are the top 10:

Doug Bagley = 14
Adam Levine = 15
Jerry Wachs = 15
Thomas Paukovitz = 16
Eric = 17
Andy = 19
Chris Weiner = 20
Glenn Posner = 20
greg dean = 20
Mike Mahon = 20

Here is the link to the full report:

Week 5 Questions

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Game 24 – What is there to say?

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Cubs 2, Diamondbacks 11

Box Score / Video Highlights

I could sit here and type out what went wrong and what went right, but what’s the point is what should be the heading. After last nights loss, I’ve got a few things that I want an opinion on. Don’t be shy. Maybe you’ve never left a comment, but now is the time.

  • Cubs starters have an ERA of 5.91 which puts them last in all of baseball. I truly believe some of that should be chalked up to the fact that Larry Rothschild is not here anymore. People grew tired of his towel drills and things like that, but the fact remains that he’s a quality pitching coach and the staff never looked this bad under his tenure, especially not with the talent we have in that rotation.
  • Situational hitting for this team is brutal. In the leadoff spot, Cubs hitters are producing at a .485 / .535 / .631 clip and yet still rank near the middle of the pack in runs scored. Why? Because the middle of the order, particularly the 3rd spot in the order has sucked. Through 24 games, the # 3 spot has produced .236 / .257 / .302 with just 6 RBI. People always say that each season you’re going to win 60 and lose 60. It’s the other 42 that matter. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll win the 60 that are supposed to be a given. If the middle of the order continues to suck like this, we may not.
  • Since April 16th in Colorado, Carlos Pena is hitting .071 with strikeouts in one-third of his plate appearances. Why he continues to be anywhere other than the 7th spot in the order is beyond me. The dude can’t hit. I was a Pena backer when we signed him, but I’m off the bandwagon.

I don’t know where this team goes from here. You can’t blame everything on the loss of Cashner and Wells when we see the other three starters pitch like garbage and the hitters not hitting. It’s just a bad team right now. I’m not giving up, but I’m losing hope fast.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Stephen Drew (.154 WPA)

2nd Star – Chris Young (.083 WPA)

3rd Star– Barry Enright (.076 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 5-6 (.455)

Mark 2-3 (.400)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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Cubs / Diamondbacks Series Preview

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Ryan Dempster vs. Barry Enright

Maybe being on the road will get Dempster back on track. He is 0-2 with a 7.91 ERA in three starts at Wrigley and 1-0 with a 7.15 ERA in two games on the road. He lost to the D-backs on April 6, giving up 10 hits over seven innings. Enright struggled to finish off innings against the Mets in his last start. All five of the runs he allowed came with two outs. Enright had trouble locating his breaking stuff early, and was missing his spots throughout the 5 2/3-inning stint.

Carlos Zambrano vs. Armando Galarraga

Zambrano’s winning streak ended in his last start against the Dodgers. He had gone 10-0 since last Aug. 14, but was rocked for five runs in the first. He is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six games vs. the D-backs. Galarraga struggled with his location against the Mets in his last outing on Sunday and paid the price, allowing six runs and lasting just three innings. Four of the runs were unearned due to an error behind him.

Matt Garza vs. Ian Kennedy

Garza is still looking for that elusive first win with the Cubs. In his last start against the Rockies, he gave up five runs — one earned — on three hits over six innings. For the season, he’s struck out 41 over 30 2/3 innings. Kennedy pitched the game of his life in his last start, striking out 10 in a complete-game shutout of the Phillies. He commanded all of his pitches, especially his curveball.

Casey Coleman vs. Daniel Hudson

Coleman, whose previous start was rained out, was roughed up in his last start on April 22, giving up six runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings. All of the hits and runs came in the third inning. He threw 90 pitches, including 51 in the third alone. Hudson gave up at least one run in the first inning for the fifth time this season but showed poise in his last start against the Phillies to earn his first win of the season.

Jeff Summer’s Scouting Report on the Diamondbacks

All that was needed was a big helping of home cooking.  After a rough road trip in New York against the Mets the Arizona Diamondbacks returned to Chase Field to face a tough Philadelphia Phillies squad. Arizona took the first two games from the defending NL East champions beating Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt in consecutive nights.

With the conclusion of the Phillies series the Diamondbacks welcome the Chicago Cubs for a four game series in the Cubs only visit to Chase Field this season.  The Diamondbacks will continue to look for more consistent starting pitching.  Going into the Cubs series the Diamondbacks starters have an atrocious 5.85 ERA.  The only consolation is that the Cubs have a worse ERA at 6.06.

Who’s Hot – Infielder Ryan Roberts continues his hot month and hopes to build on the success he has had.  With the injury to third baseman Melvin Mora, Roberts has been a pleasant surprise.   Second baseman Kelly Johnson is rebounding after a slow start and is becoming more of a base stealing threat after swiping two Tuesday night against the Phillies.

Who’s Not – Center fielder Chris Young continues to struggle at the plate.  He seems to be pressing especially against breaking balls.  Manager Kirk Gibson is standing behind first Baseman Juan Miranda giving him every opportunity to show he deserves to be starting.

Interesting News/Notes – Closer J.J. Putz wife gave birth to their fourth child on Tuesday one day after starter Ian Kennedy’s wife gave birth to their first child (also a girl).  These two births mark the fourth and fifth babies born to Diamondbacks players since Spring Training began.

Prediction For the Series – The Diamondbacks bats are beginning to heat up with the Phoenix temperatures.  Given the Cubs pitching struggles of late the Diamondbacks have an opportunity to steal a rare four-game series but given both teams inconsistent play I’m expecting a 2-2 split.

Jeff Summers is the editor for Diary of a Diehard, a blog about the Diamondbacks.
Follow him on Twitter @AZJazzyJ

Joe’s Prediction for the Series

I’m expecting Ryan Dempster to bounce back at some point and something tells me it’s tonight. I’m expecting a 7+ inning outing from Demp with under 2 runs allowed and a game one win. I think the Zambrano / Galarraga matchup is a winable one as well. The last two games are a crap shoot. Like Jeff, I think it will probably be a series split, but it’s doable to win the series if we can get the first two.

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