Archive for April, 2011

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

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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Game 17 and 18 – A Split = A Series Win

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Cubs 2 – Padres 1

Cubs 4 -Padres 5

Box Score (Game 1 or Game 2) / Video Highlights (Game 1 or Game 2)

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza was much improved in game one. If you take out the 6th inning, he was flat out dominant. I’m still a big believer in Garza. I still see him winning 16+ games and finishing with an ERA in the high 2’s or low 3’s
  • Jeff Samardzija struggled with his command, but he got the job done in a crucial situation in game one. Despite walking three men, he managed to log two scoreless innings of relief in the 10th and 11th and get the win.
  • Reed Johnson hit a home run to lead off the 11th in game 1. It’s always more fun when it’s a walkoff edition.
  • Alfonso Soriano hit a two run bomb late in game 2 to try to give us a chance. Fukudome would reach base, but Darwin Barney couldn’t keep the rally going in the 9th.
  • Despite losing the 2nd game of the DH, the Cubs managed a series sweep and sit tied for 1st in a very yucky NL Central.

What Went Wrong

  • The James Russell as a starter experiment went wrong and continues to go wrong. At some point we need to pull the plug on the idea and get someone else in there. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s not Russell and it’s not Samardzija. I’m going to watch Trey McNutt pitch tonight at the AA level, but I don’t think he’s the answer at this point simply because of a lack of experience. If we’re going to move in a different direction in the rotation, my first choice continues to be Sean Marshall and if not Marshall, then probably a guy like Ramon Ortiz and pray for a lot of rain outs on his day to pitch.
  • This was one of the few times I can remember seeing Starlin Castro finish this poorly in the box score at the plate. He was a combined 1-for-9.
  • The Carlos Pena experience continues to be one that leaves you less than satisfied. It’s kind of like that mini tootsie roll you eat. It’s really good, but you just don’t get enough from it to leave you walking away with a feeling it was worth it.

Game 1 Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Matt Garza (.377 WPA)

2nd Star – Reed Johnson (.354 WPA)

3rd Star– Jeff Samardzija (.291 WPA)

Game 2 Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Heath Bell (.214 WPA)

2nd Star – Ryan Ludwick (.205 WPA)

3rd Star– Aaron Harang (.178 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-4 (.556)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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Chet’s Corner: The Prospect Rule

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A while back I shared my formula for “assigning blame in a loss” (AKA “who to credit for a win.) Not sure if you remember, but it was the whole concept that a game hinges on a five run benchmark, or as I refer to it in some circles “the greater then or less then five rule”.

Well, I have another rule that I carry, and I am pretty sure that it will meet a round of boos, but I’m gonna share it…..


When a prospect fails to find significant time on the big league club within four years of starting his minor league career in “A” ball, then said prospect probably won’t be a star player.

There are two things we need to define in this rule…..

1) “Significant Time” means a starting position or damn near close.  This is not a September call up.

2) I am not including time spent in Rookie ball or any other developmental stage.  For our purposes the minor league career starts at low A.

3) A star player is somebody a franchise is built around.  An All-Star not once or twice but perennially.

I created this rule because I got sick of hearing about all of the once uber talented prospects now toiling in the minors.  The fans wait and wait and wait……well I don’t anymore.  You get four years max.

Now for a challenge to the readers……

Find me one star player who spent more then four years in the minors to start their career.  I am sure there is one out there somewhere and people love to prove a writer wrong.  So fire away!

I thought about this while considering the recent success of Starlin Castro.  He shows no signs of sophomore slump, or the evil darkness that smothers young future star ballplayers.  Tyler Colvin is fighting the evil darkness as we speak… game winning hit at a time.  Keep up the good fight Tyler!

Odds and Ends…..

-Mike Leake stole six t-shirts.  Rumor is he put all of them on at once and forgot he was wearing them…..walked right out the front door Lohan style.  That was joke,  I am here all night folks.

-File this away in bizarre minor league nicknames.  I am referring to the team that beat the Smokies.

-Randy Wells is playing catch.  As long as I don’t see him whipping a towel around I will hold out hope.

-Did anybody know that we actually drafted Tim Lincecum?  You learn something new everyday.  Apparently he felt going to college and trying to boost his draft status was a better option…….jerk.

– Marlon Byrd is hitting .150 with runners in scoring position.  He only has 4 RBI’s.   He is our number three hitter……..nuff said…….

-…….which is why the Cubs are thinking Castro may be a good fit for the number three spot.

See you all next week!

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