Archive for April, 2011

Cubs / Rockies Series Preview

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Matt Garza vs. Esmil Rogers

Garza is still searching for his first win. He ranks among the National League leaders in strikeouts, with 34 in 24 2/3 innings. He faced the Rockies April 15 and gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. Rogers will try to bounce back from a rough start his last time out, when he gave up eight runs in just three innings in an 8-1 loss to the Giants. Rogers is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA on the road this season.

James Russell vs. Jorge De La Rosa

This will be Russell’s third big league start, and this time, the Cubs will make sure he throws a side session before the game. Before his last start, Russell made two relief appearances. He’s 1-2 with an 8.00 ERA. De La Rosa continued his strong start to the season with a four-hit, two-run performance over seven innings in the the Rockies’ 10-2 win over the Giants. The lefty is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his career against the Cubs.

Casey Coleman vs Jhoulys Chacin

Coleman was roughed up in his last start, 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 in the shortened outing, including 51 in the third alone. In his last start, Chacin struggled with controlling his fastball. He allowed the first batter in each of the first four innings against the Marlins, and the 23-year-old took his first loss.

Logan Burdine’s Scouting Report on the Rockies

Who’s Hot – Todd Helton went 4-16 last week.  While a .250 batting average is far below standard for Helton, all four hits were doubles.  In addition to the doubles, he hit several balls on the screws.  The solid contact is a good sign for an aging player with back trouble.  So far this year, he’s been on the field and productive.  Currently, he’s hitting .315/.377/.463 with five doubles and a homerun.

Who’s Not – Carlos Gonzalez is mired in a wretched 1-20 slump.  He’s been swinging at everything in sight and making very little contact.  Also, he’s been struggling against lefties – 2-23 on the season.  It’s a little early to start worrying about CarGo, but it would be helpful if he was able to get something going against the Cubs.   The good news for Rockies’ fans is that CarGo had a much better game on Sunday.  The left-fielder pieced together four solid at bats.  He was 0-2, but one of those outs was held up by the wind and would’ve been a line-drive run-scoring double in most stadiums.  He also worked a walk and had a line-drive sacrifice fly.  For the first time in over a week, it’s looking like he might bust out soon.

Interesting Note – In three of the Rockies’ last six games, the opposing pitcher has taken a no hitter into at least the sixth inning.  It’s not surprising that the Rockies lost all three contests.  The first was by Giants’ ace, Tiny Tim “Mitch Kramer” Lincecum.  Last Monday, he dominated the Rox, holding them hitless until the seventh inning.  On Friday, Anibal Sanchez didn’t allow a hit until the ninth inning.  And, yesterday, Josh Johnson took a no-no into the sixth inning.  Needless to say, I’m tired of watching hitless baseball.  There has been far too much of it over the last week.

Prediction for the series – I’ve heard that there is a 100% chance of rain in Chicago on Monday; I’m predicting rain delays.  If they get all three games in, the Rockies should take two of three.  I’m guessing that most Cubs’ fans know this, but the pitching matchups on Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t exactly in their favor.

Logan is the Lead Writer/Editor for RoxPile, a Colorado Rockies blog on the Fansided Network.
You can follow him on Twitter @Logan_Burdine.

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GirlieView (04/25/2011)

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Happy Monday! Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. We’re here to recap last week’s chit chat on VFTB, really good stuff and some movement in the season-long contest standings. First, let’s have a look at this week’s Lizzies.

Lizzies

  • So here McNutt is pitching in the big leagues for the first time and proud to have but what else, a three ball and no strike count on the hitter.
  • Trey McNutt is the best baseball name this side of Dick Pole.
  • ASININE… As in, what my wife thinks of my fantasy sports teams.
  • I have the full team set of dentist, tax attorney, b-list comedian, billy goat sound-alike rock star, chemical engineer and cardio thoracic surgeon bobbleheads that Doc Raker played against at 2007 Cub Fantasy Camp where he named himself Doc Raker after hitting .450 off a machine with real live bobbleheads playing defense. Only the Eddie Vedder replica has any value.
  • Sometimes one good hit is all it takes to get of the schnide.
  • Little Bip was a fixture at the top of my Earl Weaver Baseball lineups for many years.
  • If James Russell fans 10 tomorrow I’ll eat my keyboard.
  • I’ll cover mine with tabasco and eat it if he strikes out 7.
  • I never understood why a manager would trot out a middle-of-the-bullpen guy in a late and tied game and be surprised when he promptly gave up a run.
  • I’m no genius but can’t Buddy pick up the pace some and change the schedule to say work the next 146 games or so?
  • Not a whole lot of difference aside from the 160 points of slugging.
  • Pena still has his appendix.
  • Reminded me of Milt…maybe he’ll snap a bat over his knee next time
  • If I lose the .500 slugging wager, you can bet that I’ll be sending Doc Raker a Carlos Pena jersey. I may even get it signed.
  • if you lose that bet, send Raker a Pena jersey signed by Jeff Baker.
  • I’d like a Samardzija jersey…one with his name on the back. All of that tackle-twill alone would make it worth a lot.
  • I see your genius at work, once Pena signs it it becomes worthless and you can pick it up for $5 of the discount rack at Wrigleyville Sports, you are a genius.
  • Damn! My plan is foiled! I’ll have to move on to jswanson’s idea.
  • Rumor is he put all of them on at once and forgot he was wearing them…..walked right out the front door Lohan style.
  • Not to talk in the 3rd person but the Dragon mentioned the drafting of Lincecum in the comments section last week.
  • I’m curious how time in the Randy Hudley League factors into this equation. Some of those guys can really rake.
  • And this is just cruel–my security word is “zambrano.” True story.
  • The best thing about the Shark throwing two innings in game one is that we likely won’t see him in game 2.
  • The only good thing about James Russell starting the game is that he’s not available in the bullpen that day.
  • two things to remember..1) We are .500 and only have 3/5 of our starting pitching. 2) Soriano and Ramirez look like they came to play this season. Not sure I have witnessed this quick of a start from either guy in their entire Cubs career to date.
  • re: the 5th starter, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be Doug Davis soon. It’s kind of like that feeling you get 4 hours after you eat taco bell — the feeling that something awful is about to happen.
  • I can’t believe I’m saying (typing) this, but I’d rather see Doug Davis starting than James Russell. I think I’d rather see Jeff Russell, Kurt Russell, and Nipsy Russell too.
  • how many SBs did we give up yesterday, like 18?
  • I’ll bite. So far our slugger has slugged out one double and eight singles, for ten total bases. Z has a single, double, and a long ball for seven. Awesome.
  • Finally, for now on, anytime I’m frustrated, disappointed, or just plain angry, I will be describing myself as Grabow. Like, Jeff Sa-garbage-bija makes me Grabow. Wing sauce that makes wings too hot to eat makes me Grabow. And John Grabow makes me want to Grabow someone square in their Grabows.
  • Anyone willing to defend Pena at this point is obviously someone I would enjoy playing sandlot ball against and be playground captians , you can even pick first. Your pick: I will pick Billy, he hits 1 HR every 100 AB’s, really far HR, really cool. Ok, my pick: tha guy who get’s hits almost everytime up. Your pick: Tommy, stikes out a lot but hit that double last June. My pick: Jimmy- .385 avg. Your pick: That kid who hit 40 bombs back in 4th grade. My pick: the kid that’s going to hit 40 bombs today.
  • The Mudcats give me media credentials, though it’s rare that I use them to conduct any interviews, primarily because I’m too lazy to wade through naked men in the clubhouse to get cliche answers to my questions.
  • I think one question would suffice. Or a glance.
  • Normally anything mentioning Grabow goes in the next section according to the memo I sent out to everyone about writing recaps, but today that wasn’t the case.
  • What went wrong: The game didn’t get rained out.
  • Letting Russell start a game is basically giving up.
  • As for Russell’s next start, I’m with Buddy. Hell, let COLVIN pitch.
  • Maybe Byrd or Pena could take Russell’s next start?? I’m normally a Hendry defender, but having Russell start ‘two actual MLB games that count in the standings, you know the standings that determine who plays baseball in October and who doesn’t’ is inexcusable.
  • One start I can live with, everyone gets caught off guard from time to time especially with two starters going down on the same day. But immediately following pitch one of Russell’s first start (and allowing time to down two Old Styles and three Advils), Hendry should have been moving Heaven and Earth to prevent pitch one of a potential second start.
  • I want to see [Russell] finish the season with about 70 games and 33 innings pitched.

Lizard

  • Darwin doesn’t have to work hard to be a good hitter. He naturally selects good pitches.

Lizzie Standings

Each week I’ll post the cumulative standings for the Lizzie contest. Remember you get one point for each Lizzie and three points for a Lizard. We currently have 25 commenters with points. I’ve decided I’ll go ahead and give everyone some love instead of just the top 10, at least until the list becomes unmanageable. Great job everyone!

1. Buddy
2. jswanson
3. Doc Raker
4. Chet
5. Chuck
6. cap’n
6. Seymour
8. Aaron
8. JoeA
8. Rich Beckman
11. chris in Illinois
12. DavidMBeyer
12. Dragon
12. MJ
15. Deezer
15. Kris
17. Benjamin
17. Doug S
19. DannyB
19. Eric
19. greg
19. Mark
19. Randy
19. Ryno
19. Tim

The Weekly Aura

Our weekly aura took a nosedive this week, dropping from B to C. Each week I’ll tell you the previous week’s aura, and ask you to rate how you are feeling this week. When we’ve got a few weeks under our belts I’ll post a graph so we can watch how we’re feeling as the year progresses.

How are you feeling about the Cubs right now?
a.) Good. We’re on the right track.
b.) Ok. I’m still confident.
c.) Fair. I’m concerned.
d.) Poor. We’re in trouble.


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Game 21 – Rotation Woes Continue

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Dodgers 7 – Cubs 3

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Carlos Zambrano allowed five runs in the top of the first.  Falling behind that early in a game makes it difficult to win.  Z left after allowing six total runs in five innings.  His ERA is now 5.28 as all five Cubs starters continue to struggle.
  • Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd all struck out in the first inning.  The Cubs scored twice in the frame but had a chance for more.  When Soriano struck out with runners at second and third to end the inning with the Dodgers leading 5-2, it was an early turning point in the game.
  • Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro each committed errors.  Castro’s blunder led to an unearned run.   Miscues at the big league level are never a good thing, but when these two guys commit errors it makes Cubs fans particularly uncomfortable.
  • Castro went 0-for-4, his worst performance of the season.
  • Former Cub Aaron Miles posted three hits to help set the stage for the middle part of the LA order.

What Went Right

  • Darwin Barney had another solid day at the dish, going 2-for-5 with an RBI.  He now has driven in 11 runs this season and has boosted his average to .329.
  • Justin Berg retired the side in order in his season debut.  After a rough spring training, it is important for the right hander to get off to a good start with the big club.
  • The Cubs offense was not silent in the thrashing.  It totaled ten hits, with multi-hit Easter Sundays turned in by Kosuke Fukudome, Barney, Ramirez and Marlon Byrd.

News & Notes

  • Today was Zambrano’s first loss since last August.
  • It  is not official, but it looks like the Cubs are leaning toward giving James Russell another start on Tuesday.  He worked a side session this weekend and be treated more like a starter this time around.  The Cubs hope that this will lead to better results.
  • The Cubs are now 0-4 on Sundays this season.  However, they are 3-0 on Mondays entering tomorrow night’s battle with the Rockies.
  • Quade showed a little fire today, arguing with third base umpire Jeff Nelson about whether or not Jerry Sands legally tagged on a fly ball before scoring in the first inning.

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

1st Star – Aaron Miles (.155 WPA)

2nd Star – Hiroki Kuroda (.091 WPA)

3rd Star– Matt Kemp (.090 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-2 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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The Minor League Week in Review

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Prospect Spotlight

Name: Brett Jackson
Age: 22
How Acquired: Drafted by the Cubs in the 1st round (31st overall) of the 2009 Amateur Draft

This week we shine the light on the top prospect in the system, in my opinion, Brett Jackson. He’s shone brightly to start the year and has many believing that he will be in the Majors sooner than expected. Perhaps as soon as June or July. I’m not ready to go there just yet, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of Jackson to this point.

Jackson’s quick bat, loft in his swing and plus speed should make him an annual 20-20 threat in the Majors. He could stand to cut down his strikeouts, but he doesn’t swing and miss as much as some teams feared and should hit for power and average. Jackson gets good reads and jumps, has average arm strength and makes accurate throws. He’s not a true five-tool player or a pure center fielder, but Jackson does a reasonable impression of both. The Cubs are counting on him to crack their lineup in 2012, if not sooner” ~ Pre-2011 Scouting Report on Jackson from Baseball America.

So far, Jackson has hit the ball well and has improved the plate discipline. My only note would be that he’s in AA and not AAA. Not sure why the Cubs left him in AA this year, but my guess is that won’t be for long:

Year     Lev   G  PA   R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
2010   A+-AA 128 580 103 32 14 12  66 30 11 73 126 .297 .395 .493  .888
2011      AA  15  67  18  4  2  3  11  6  2 12  11 .404 .515 .731 1.246

News & Notes

  • Rafael Dolis left his most recent start early due to a back injury
  • Brian Schlitter was returned to the Cubs after an injury voided the waiver claim of the Yankees and the Phillies
  • Trey McNutt and Jay Jackson both returned from the DL this week. Jackson made his first start of the season and instantly needs to be considered for the empty spot in the Major League rotation.
  • Mark Prior was placed on the AAA DL with a groin injury. Oh wait, he’s not our problem anymore.

What They’re Saying

Each week, Jim Callis and Matt Eddy of Baseball America host a chat for readers to post questions. Here were the Cubs highlights from this week:

Q – When Matt Sczcur signed his contract with the Cubs in January you said if he were available in this draft he would be a first round pick. Now that we have seen the amount of depth in this draft do you still hold this opinion? Thanks

Jim Callis – This draft is loaded. But my point was is Szczur played as well this spring as he did last summer in his pro debut (translate his 347/414/465 line to college and what do you get?), he would have been a first-round pick with his combination of outstanding athleticism and performance. That kind of season and those kind of tools would put him in Mikie Mahtook territory somewhere in the middle of the round.

Q – Best case scenario for Brett Jackson…a healthy Grady Sizemore?

Matt EddyI really [like] Cubs Double-A CF Brett Jackson’s well rounded game, but I think a Sizemore-in-his-prime comp is a bridge too far. I’m tempted to say that Jackson could be a Curtis Granderson type as a lefty hitter who’s athleticism and defensive range might be a bit undersold. Granderson had similar over-the-fence power at Jackson’s age. Oh, and the strikeouts are always going to be part of the package.

This Week’s Discussion

his week, as part of the look at the farm system, I want to list the guys at each position that I root for most from a developmental standpoint. These are guys I really want to see be successful. I’d like to hear yours as well.

C – Steve Clevenger

1b – Rebel Ridling

2b – Bobby Scales

SS – Ryan Flaherty

3B – Marquez Smith

OF – Brett Jackson

OF – Tony Campana

OF – Matt Szczur

SP – Hayden Simpson

RP – John Gaub

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Game 20 – Cubs Win a Wild One

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Cubs 10 – Dodgers 8

Box Score / Video Highlights

My thanks for Joe for letting me write about this one – I flew in yesterday from Austin, TX and was itching to get back into the baseball season.  This game had something for every Cubs fan – some timely hitting, a little life on the basepaths and some downright persistence by the Cubs – they didn’t give up.  Some highlights of the game and observations:

What went right:

  • Castro and Barney are both hotter than a pair of two dollar pistols:  Combined they were 7 out of 10 with 4 runs scored and 6 RBIs.  Will these guys one day become a Daily Double?  One can only dream.
  • Aggressive baserunning:  I liked how Quade initiated the double steal in the third; later on Castro got caught dead to rights on a steal but he put his head down and went into second.  Loney pitched the ball to second and Starlin was safe, I hope a few young ballplayers saw this play and the wisdom of just running the play out instead of giving up.  Amusingly Barney was caught in the same situation later in the game but made the wrong choice, he stopped dead in his tracks about fifteen feet from second.  Fortunately James Loney blocked Barney’s return to first and Darwin was rewarded with a free pass to second on the Dodger first baseman’s error.
  • Quade made a smart decision going with an all righty lineup against Teddy Baseball – the Cubs executed 11 hits during Lilly’s 5 1/3 innings.  Mike also made a smart substitution in the ninth putting Carlos Pena in as a defensive replacement – he made a fine play to get a throw from Darwin Barney who went deep in the hole to steal a base hit away from the Dodgers.
  • The Cubs showed us a “never quit, never give up” attitude.  Their tenacity was rewarded with a win.

What went wrong:

  • Keystone Cubs:  The North Siders have to shore up their defense.  The first defensive lapse was by Castro – he appeared to intentionally drop a ball to get a double play.  The umpire then enforced the rule book calling a dead ball foul which gave the Cubs one out instead of two.  Starlin will improve on defense, that much we know.  Soriano also flubbed a play in left and there was a question in my mind as to why Quade didn’t substitute for Soriano after Lilly was pulled.  The Dodgers don’t have any lefthanded relievers and Soriano had already struck out three times.  C’mon Mike, you’re a hands-on manager!  Later in the game Soto had a throwing error on a stolen base attempt – the runner moved on to third and scored after a weak relay throw by Castro to the plate on a subsequent play.
  • Dempster is still running out of gas in the fifth and sixth and Mike Quade needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  Were I the Cubs manager I would have Ryan on an extremely short leash in the fifth – Dempster let LA get right back into the game and one bad pitch by Marshall resulted in a two run Dodger lead.  Fortunately the Cubs’ offense fought back.

Thankfully the Cubs came back and salvaged the win in rather spectacular fashion, it was a great game to watch and the Cubs will play the Dodgers again tomorrow for a shot at a rubber game victory.  The game will be televised on TBS as well as CSN.

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

1st Star – Starlin Castro (.373 WPA)

2nd Star – Jeff Baker (.245 WPA)

3rd Star– Andre Ethier (.238 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-2 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

 

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Stat of the Week: Best Defensive Teams So Far

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The Indians, Royals, and Rangers feature the three best records in the American League. Not coincidentally, they also feature three of the top-rated defenses thus far in 2011.

The 2010 AL Champion Rangers are hardly a surprise considering the addition of former Fielding Bible Award winner Adrian Beltre, but the Royals were supposed to be battling for the AL Central cellar, not the division lead. Kansas City upgraded defensively this offseason with Jeff Francoeur and Alcides Escobar. Though it’s still April, the moves appear to be paying off.

The Colorado Rockies sit on top of the National League, both in Wins and in Runs Saved. Last year’s Fielding Bible Award winner at shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, has done it all on both sides of the ball.

Here are the top defensive teams of the young season:

Best Defensive Teams- 2011
Team Runs Saved
Rangers 14
Rockies 10
Royals 9
Cardinals 7
Brewers/Orioles 6

The Mets and Phillies rate as the worst defensive teams thus far. Only Angel Pagan and Pedro Beato have positive Runs Saved totals at this point for the Mets, who have cost themselves an estimated 26 runs (over two wins!) just with poor defense so far this year. An aging infield of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, and Wilson Valdez has struggled in the field, making Fielding Bible Award winner Chase Utley’s absence all the more conspicuous.

Worst Defensive Teams- 2011
Team Runs Saved
Mets -26
Phillies -18
Mariners -17
Diamondbacks -16
Cubs -14

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Game 19 – It Poured, But Not the Way That Would Have Helped

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Cubs 2 – Dodgers 12

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Right

  • Kosuke Fukudome had a nice day, reaching base four out of five times with three hits and a walk out of the leadoff spot. That spot in the order continues to be one of the most effective not only for our team, but it the league. In 19 games this year, the Cubs lead the Majors by a ton in the leadoff on base percentage. Currently Cubs leadoff men have posted a .511 OBP. The problem is that it hasn’t transferred into them being above everyone in the leadoff runs. Hopefully that will come.
  • Carlos Pena didn’t strike out. Sad that this makes the list, but it’s all about some baby steps for Carlos in his quest to be a valuable hitter in the offense. Thank God he plays well defensively.
  • John Grabow pitched….OK. Normally anything mentioning Grabow goes in the next section according to the memo I sent out to everyone about writing recaps, but today that wasn’t the case. He was the only guy to actually pitch effectively in the game and that means he’s probably not available in Saturday’s game.

What Went Wrong

  • The game didn’t get rained out. I recorded the game, went out for dinner with my family after working, and then turned on the game only to be greeted by a rain delay. I wonder if I had set the DVR long enough in case they started. Now, I wish I hadn’t.
  • Casey Coleman had a rough outing. Mark commented that it was time to get him out of the rotation, which I think is ASININE (Like the spam word use in the post?) Have we forgotten that Coleman went 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA last year in the eight starts to close out the year and has only had one terrible outing of the three this year? James Russell is a different animal. I’m gonna be patient with Coleman for now.

I don’t like to dwell on a loss, so let’s come out in the Zambrano start today and get back on the trail of winning the series. We’ve done a good job with that this year so let’s do it again.

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

1st Star – Andre Ethier (.134 WPA)

2nd Star – Chad Billingsly (.117 WPA)

3rd Star– A.J. Ellis (.086 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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Cubs / Dodgers Series Preview

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Casey Coleman vs. Chad Billingsley

Billingsley didn’t get the win, but he proved to be the stopper Sunday with eight shutout innings as the Dodgers’ losing streak ended at five. Billingsley fanned 11 with only two hits allowed and showed he can be dominant with an expanded repertoire. Coleman picked up the win in his last start Saturday at Colorado. He held the red-hot Rockies to one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. Manager Mike Quade didn’t want to cut Coleman at the end of Spring Training, and the righty is showing why.

Ryan Dempster vs. Ted Lilly

Lilly turned it around for his first win of the year with seven scoreless innings against the Braves. The game against Atlanta was the first in which he looked like the crafty lefty the Dodgers thought they were getting with a three-year contract. Dempster hasn’t looked sharp in his four starts this year and has given up at least four runs in each. He’s also been hurt by one big inning, and in his last start vs. the Rox, it was the first. Says Dempster: “I’m a better pitcher than that.”

Carlos Zambrano vs. Hiroki Kuroda

Zambrano is riding a 10-game winning streak, dating back to last year. He didn’t get a decision in his last start but deserved a “W” as he held the Padres to three hits over eight scoreless innings. He is winless in two starts at home. Kuroda bounced back with a solid effort Tuesday against the Braves. Kuroda started the game with five shutout innings, but he gave up solo home runs in the sixth and seven en route to his second loss.

Eric Steven’s Scouting Report on the Dodgers

Who’s Hot – Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are red-hot right now, carrying the Dodgers offense. Ethier has a 17-game hitting streak, the longest in MLB this season, during which he is hitting .415/.472/.600. Ethier was hitting a ton of singles and only had two extra-base hits in his first 14 games, but he has five doubles and a home run in his last five games. Kemp has been on fire all season, and is hitting .426/.500/.632 so far. Dodger starting pitchers have been great of late as well, allowing just three runs in 30 1/3 innings over their last four games.

Who’s Not – The bulk of the offense outside of Kemp and Ethier are in the “Who’s Not” list. Regulars James Loney, Juan Uribe, and Rod Barajas are flirting with the Mendoza Line, with Loney hitting .204/.267/.310 in 92 games since the 2010 All-Star break, with five home runs and 33 RBI. Also, the bullpen has been horrendous so far, dead last in the NL in several categories. Dodger relief pitchers have thrown a first-pitch strike just 53.0% of the time (NL average: 59.3%). Hong-Chih Kuo is on the disabled list, and pretty much outside of Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawsworth the healthy relievers have struggled. Vicente Padilla, however, will be activated for this series (he had surgery to free an entrapped nerve in his forearm in February), so expect to see him in a multitude of late-inning roles.

News & Notes – The Dodgers called up outfielder / first baseman Jerry Sands, their organizational player of the year in 2010. He hit 35 home runs last season between Class A and Double A, and hit five more home runs in 10 games in Triple A this season. Sands will play most days, mostly in left with the occasional start at first base against lefties. Backup catcher Dioner Navarro is currently on a rehab assignment with Double A Chattanooga, and is expected to join the Dodgers on this road trip, although he likely won’t join the club until Monday in Florida. Until then, A.J. Ellis backs up Barajas at backstop.

Prediction for the Series – If the Dodgers’ starters (Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly — in his triumphant return to Chicago! — and Hiroki Kuroda in this series) can continue pitching like they have been, I like the Dodgers’ chances at Wrigley Field. However, the Dodger offense has been the worst in the league so far, at 3.3 runs per contest, so they will have their work cut out for them. If forced to make a pick, I’ll guess Padilla brings a bit of stability to the bullpen and the Dodgers manage to take two of three this weekend.

Eric Steven is an LA Dodgers Blogger for True Blue L.A. and can be followed on Twitter @TrueBlueLA

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VFTB Prediction Contest Update and Week 4 Questions

Thursday, April 21st, 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 2

Adam Liberty – 11

cap’n obvious – 13

Andy Steinberg – 19

Mike Quinn – 19

Joe Putzer – 21

Doc Raker – 23

Mike Hoerger – 26

Holly Danks – 28

Rich Beckman – 29

Susan Hardesty – 35

Here is the link to the PDF of the full results:

Week 4 Questions

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