Archive for April, 2011

Game 13 – Offensive Power Outage

Saturday, April 16th, 2011


Rockies 5 – Cubs 0

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs offense could not figure out Jhoulys Chacin.  They were shutout for the second time this season.  Chacin went the distance, allowing six hits and striking out seven.
  • Matt Garza was rocky once again.  He has not been terrible in any of his three outings, but he has not done enough to keep the Cubs in the games.  They have dropped all three of his starts, but the first one was a blown save by Carlos Marmol and he has received a grand total of zero runs of support in his last two.  Still, his 0-2 record and 6.27 ERA must be improved upon quickly.
  • The Cubs really only threatened to score once in the game, when they had two men on base in the scoreless game in the top of the second.  Tyler Colvin bounced into an inning ending double play.
  • The left handed hitters have not been very productive for Mike Quade this season.  Tyler Colvin and Carlos Pena will be leaned on to provide some thump.  Tonight Colvin saw his average sink to .135 with an 0-for-3 performance, while Pena managed a single and a walk to improve his average to .200.
  • Garza allowed the first three batters in the Rockies half of the second inning to reach.  Then, Chris Ianetta lined a triple just over the glove of Marlon Byrd.  With three runs already in on the play, the throw to third from Starlin Castro was wild, allowing Ianetta to scamper home to make it 4-0.  After this blow, the Cubs were never in the contest.

What Went Right

  • Aramis Ramirez was the lone Cub to make some noise at the dish.  He recorded the only Cub extra base knock of the evening and totaled three hits.
  • The Cubs bullpen did its job.  After “Bullpen Day” was a total failure on Tuesday, some questions were raised about the middle relief core.  James Russell and Jeff Samardzija both made bounce back outings, working three up, three down frames.  Samardzija finally had good control, striking out two of the three men he faced.

News and Notes

  • First base umpire Jerry Layne was nailed  in the right ankle by a foul liner off the bat of Carlos Pena in the second inning.  Layne left the game and a three man crew was used for the rest of the night.
  • Kosuke Fukudome is expected to return to the lineup soon.  He took batting practice and did some light running before the game today.  Kosuke has been out with a strained left hamstring.
  • Today was Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball.  Every player on the Cubs and every other big league club sported number 42 on his back in honor of Robinson.

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

1st Star – Jhoulys Chacin (.303 WPA)

2nd Star – Chris Ianetta (.196 WPA)

3rd Star– Todd Helton (.083 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Joe 3-3 (.500)

Mark 1-1 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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Cubs / Rockies Preview

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Matt Garza vs. Jhoulys Chacin

There’s been a strange symmetry to Garza’s starts. In his first one, he struck out 12 and gave up 12 hits, both career highs. In his second, he struck out eight and gave up eight hits. Garza says he’s getting beat on his soft stuff. Chacin struggled but still earned the win against the Pirates on Sunday. He threw seven scoreless innings vs. the Dodgers in his first start, but he didn’t have consistent fastball command in either start.

Casey Coleman vs. Jason Hammel

Coleman expected to make his first start of 2011 for Triple-A Iowa but instead was called up to sub for Randy Wells, who was placed on the DL with a strained forearm. In his first start Sunday, Coleman gave up nine hits and two homers to the Brewers. Hammel pitched six solid innings in a no-decision in a 7-6 victory over the Mets in his last start. But he gave up a first-inning run and is challenging himself to be better at the start of games.

Ryan Dempster vs. Alan Johnson

Dempster has a high career ERA of 6.79 against the Rockies, but a winning record at 5-4. In his last outing at Houston, Dempster allowed only one run in six innings before faltering in the seventh by giving up three runs. After winning 20 times over the last two seasons at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Johnson, 26, a non-drafted free agent signing in 2005, will make his Major League debut. Johnson relies on mixing pitches and throwing strikes.

Logan Burdine’s Scouting Report on the Rockies

Who’s Hot – Since September 1st, Troy Tulowitzki has hit twenty-two homeruns in 166 at-bats.  For the mathematically challenged, that’s a dinger every 7.54 at-bats.  During this week’s four-game series, The Mets tried everything to get Tulo out, but nothing worked.  It didn’t matter if they pitched him inside or outside, he hit the ball out of the park.  Arguably, he deserves the Barry Bonds treatment right now.  New York manager, Terry Collins, was second guessed all series because he chose to pitch to Troy in several key situations and the Mets paid a heavy price.

Who’s Not – This season, the Rockies have put a lot of trust in Chris Iannetta.  Initially, he looked like a new man at the plate.  He even added a beastly Fu Manchu.  However, Iannetta went on a 0-14 streak and his batting average is now below .200.  Fortunately, he’s done a terrific job of handling the Rockies’ pitching staff.  As long as players like Seth Smith and Todd Helton are contributing, the Rockies don’t need Iannetta to be an offensive force.

Interesting note – Troy Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in baseball, but his taste in music is atrocious.  This year, Tulo’s initial pick for his walk-up song was Katy Perry’s “Firework” – much to my chagrin.  After an 0-8 start at the plate, he switched to Justin Beiber’s “Baby”.  Not that his current selection is any better than “Firework”, but he has been on a Babe Ruth-esque tear since making the change.

On Monday night, the Mets inadvertently played “Baby” just prior to Tulo’s eighth inning at-bat.  He promptly hit a two-run game-winning homerun.

I can proudly say that I’ve never listened to a track by that rich little punk, and when it comes to Canadian imports, I much prefer Strange Brew and Steve Nash.  However, if Tulo stays on pace to hit 80 homeruns this season, you can count me among those afflicted with Beiber Fever.

Prediction for the Series - My prediction? I turn, look into the camera, and, in my best Mister T voice, say……Pain!

Pardon me for stealing from the great Clubber Lang, but I wouldn’t want to be the Cubs right now.  The Rockies are a focused baseball team with the best record in baseball – at least as of Thursday afternoon.  They are off the best start in franchise history. Incredibly, they’ve achieved most of their success on the road and without Ubaldo.

Obviously, the Rox are very hard to beat at Coors Field, but they’ve been particularly tough on the Cubs.  The Northsiders have lost nine of the last eleven contests in Denver.  I think that trend will continue with the Rockies taking two out of three in this series.

Aside from Jhoulys Chacin, the Rockies don’t have their best pitchers going this weekend.   Jason Hammel has struggled with command and Alan Johnson was just called up from AAA to make a spot start on Sunday.  However, it hasn’t mattered who’s on the mound for the Rox lately.  This team is just clicking.

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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VFTB Prediction Contest Update and Week 3 Questions

Friday, April 15th, 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 Last Week

We have our first qualifier for the playoff edition, the winner of week 1, Koby. He was about as accurate as you can get, scoring a combined two points off the answers. Here are the week 1 results for the top finishers.

Koby – 2
walterj – 3
alex – 4
Mike Mahon – 4
Eric Rolfsen – 4
Scott cambrin – 4
Steve – 4

View Complete Results for Week 1

Week 3 Questions

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30 Years at Second Base

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

In 1982, the Chicago Cubs shipped Larry Bowa to the Phillies for Ivan DeJesus and a young Ryne Sandberg. Two years later, Ryne put up his MVP season and helped the Cubs to the NL East championship. Year after year Sandberg consistently exhibited stellar offense and excellent defense from second base, pulling in nine gold gloves, seven silver sluggers, and  ten all-star recognitions. By the mid nineties, he was a Wrigley mainstay and a lock for Hall of Fame enshrinement upon hanging up his cleats.

Sandberg retired in 1997, carrying a legacy as the one of the best second basemen of all time, with multiple records at his position and a reputation as man who played for the true love of the game. For all of those that support the Cubs, Ryno’s retirement was bittersweet. Cubs fans were united by the common belief that they had witnessed a remarkable career come to a close and thanked Ryne for his time. Shortly after, however, our gaze fell on an unfamiliar and unsettling sight: the gaping hole left at second base, with enormous cleats to fill. In the thirteen years to follow, the Cubs would fill the void with a number of players, but obviously none have reached the heights of Sandberg’s career. Here’s the breakdown of Cubs second basemen, starting in 1998

Mickey Morandini

Year     G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
1998   154 93 172 20  4  8  53 13 .296 .380 .385 .765  100
1999   144 60 110 18  5  4  37  6 .241 .319 .329 .648   67

Eric Young

Year     G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2000   153 98 180 40  2  6  47 54 .297 .367 .399 .766   97
2001   149 98 168 43  4  6  42 31 .279 .333 .393 .726   92

Mark Belhorn

Year     G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2002   146 86 115 24  4 27  56  7 .258 .374 .512 .886  133

Mark Grudzielanek

Year     G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2003   121 73 151 38  1  3  38  6 .314 .366 .416 .782  103
2004    81 32  79 12  1  6  23  1 .307 .347 .432 .779   98

Todd Walker

Year     G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2004   129 60 102 19  4 15  50  0 .274 .352 .468 .820  108
2005   110 50 121 25  3 12  40  1 .305 .355 .474 .829  112
2006    94 38  88 16  1  6  40  0 .277 .352 .390 .742   88

Mark DeRosa

Year     G   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2007   149  64 147 28  3 10  72  1 .293 .371 .420 .792  101
2008   149 103 144 30  3 21  87  6 .285 .376 .481 .857  117

Mike Fontenot

Year     G  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2009   135 38 89 22  2  9  43  4 .236 .301 .377 .677   73

Ryan Theriot

Year    G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2010   96 45 110 10  2  1  21 16 .284 .320 .327 .647   70

This crew didn’t play all of their games at second base, but more or less could be considered the starting second basemen for their respective years as Cubs. Others would pass quickly through the revolving door as well; utility players like Jerry Hairston Jr. and Bobby Hill put in 40-80 games when needed. Since the Sandberg Era, the Cubs mostly reaped the skills of guys who could hit for decent average, could score runs, and apparently liked to shoot the gaps (they averaged over 25 doubles per year). And the only player to stick around more than two years was Todd Walker, who was arguably consistent at best. The same could be said about the defensive capabilities of these eight players as well- nothing special, but they got the job done.

Once the bayou boys were shipped off to the West Coast in 2010, second base was left in the hands of Jeff Baker and newly acquired Blake DeWitt. Enter Darwin Barney and we have our 2011 trio. Baker is currently smashing lefties, and DeWitt might be the closest to an everyday player. Barney looks like he could collect some hits and runs, and is evolving on defense (ha). Will any of them ascend to parallel Sandberg’s career? Probably not. But could they surpass, whether individually or as a trifecta, the performances of the Cubs second basemen since Ryno’s departure? Let’s hope so.

Discussion Questions

  • Which previous Cubs second basemen do you think Barney, DeWitt, and Baker will mirror in performance in 2011?
  • Who will play second in 2012?
  • Who has been the best second basemen since Ryno’s reign?
  • How in blue blazes did Mark Bellhorn hit 27 home runs in 2002?
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Game 12 – A Night to Remember

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Cubs 9 – Astros 5
Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Right

  • Top of the order continues to produce – I’m not completely sure how I feel about Starlin at the top of the order just yet, but you have to praise the job he and Dawin Barney have done in the first two spots in the order. I could have never imagined that Barney in particular would be as good as he’s been so far this year. Tonight, in five at bats, the guy got on three times, scored and drove in a run and saw 26 pitches.
  • Carlos Zambrano Started Well – Before the 6th inning it looked like Zambrano was going to turn in the best outing from the rotation so far this season. When all was said and done, not so much. He did his best to give the game away, but thankfully had the game winning RBI with his home run in the 6th (428 ft). If you take out his 6th inning, the Zambrano start was good.
  • Back of the bullpen – We got one pitch from Mateo to get out of the 6th and then the big three got the job done in about the easiest way possible. It was a low drama last three innings of work.

What Went Wrong

  • Tyler Colvin – His struggles are becoming a little alarming to me. I’m a Colvin guy, but I wonder if perhaps he’s better served playing every day in AAA to continue to work on his craft. After tonight, he’s hitting .147. Yuck.

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

1st Star – Jeff Baker (.199 WPA)

2nd Star –Matt Downs (.183 WPA)

3rd Star– Alfonso Soriano (.135 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Mark 1-1 (.500)

Joe 3-3 (.500)

Brandon 0-1 (.000)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

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Chet’s Corner: An Eye Opening Experience….

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

After last night’s game, let’s take a break from the Cubs for a moment.

Two Weeks back, in this space,  I informed the readers of VFTB that I would be following a team from each division in baseball.  My declaration was met with a myriad of responses.  Some people doubted me, some said I must have no life outside of gluing myself to the boob tube, and a few assumed I wasn’t married, or was without children and a job for that matter.  I did get some positive responses laced with doubt, and believe me, the doubt is deserved as this is a mountain of a task.

Well, I am happy to inform you guys that the quest is moving along at a decent pace.  The best part?  I can honestly say, I am getting something from this.  Now, I am not becoming worldly or anything like that, but I am getting a look at how the other half live….in baseball terms.

While my experiment is young, and I am certainly not an expert on any of these teams, watching “other” baseball has been somewhat enlightening.  Keep in mind, I am not becoming a fan (yet, at least) of other teams, just following and learning about them.  I use all modes of media, from twitter to local papers, and yes,  a major chunk comes from the broadcasts.

I have never really done this before (I know, I sound like that girl who doesn’t want to come off slutty.)  I have always sided with monogamy in regards to sports.  What I am learning , however, is if you get a “subscription package” of some sort from a cable or internet service, one hell of a baseball orgy can ensue on any given night of the week. 

For those that are not aware, Last week I asked our readers to give me an idea of who I should follow in each division.  Below are the results…..

* all of these teams were chosen and finalized before the season started

** The Chicago Cubs and The Detroit Tigers were a done deal, as they are my favorites and I always follow them, therefore they were the automatic teams from the AL Central and the NL Central.

AL East = Baltimore Orioles

AL West = Texas Rangers

AL Central = Detroit Tigers

NL East = Washington Nationals

NL West = San Francisco Giants

NL Central = Chicago Cubs

Here is a quick look at what I have learned outside of Cubby Nation …..

Baltimore Orioles and the AL East:

First of all, one of the key qualities to “following” a team is their “watch-ability”. This team is very watchable.  One of the main aspects of watch-ability is the ballpark a team plays in, and Camden is awesome.  It can help when a turnout is less then stellar, which I am learning, along with the rest of baseball, that this is a league wide epidemic.  Small crowds can crush the ambiance if a ballpark and a game (I will touch on this later when I talk about the Nationals games I caught.)  Having a good ballpark atmosphere helps the viewer “stay tuned”.

Baltimore has a young and exciting pitching staff.  If you have not had the chance to catch Zach Britton do it, now!  Before long he will be the new Pitcher Du Jour, if he isn’t already.  At least do it before his arm falls off a la Steven Strasburg.  Yes, some have even compared the two.

Former Cub Felix Pie patrols the outfield in more then capable fashion.  At the plate he is a miss as far as prospects go, but he was good enough to beat out Corey Patterson for the position a year or so ago…..he has that  going for him.

Derrek Lee is hitting .219 with a dinger and 2 RBI’s.  He has yet to hit into a double play.  The announcers for the Orioles (Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer) have high hopes for Derrek.

Don’t utter the name Peter Angelos (Orioles owner) to any Oriole fan.  Their head will spin and your discussion will end abruptly.

Texas Rangers and the AL West:

Josh Hamilton is large.  I don’t want to point fingers, and I am just a lowly fan watching the games, but what are the chances this guy tests positive for something in the PED arena?  I love him though, every time he takes a huge cut at the ball I cover my testicles.  It’s reactionary, I can’t help it.  He swings with such force.  I feel like he may swing through the television set and blast my jewels into the right field seats!

Part of “following” a team is signing up for all the twitter feeds of pertinent people involved with said team.  CJ Wilson is an avid tweeter….you can follow him at @str8edgeracer for you twitterites.  Apparently he wants to be a race car driver.

AL Central and The Detroit Tigers:

Mario Impemba and Rod Allen make this difficult.  I love watching my Tigers but Rod Allen reminds me of Joe Carter in the booth….remember him when he called a season or two with Chip Caray? Yah, that bad.

I watched Verlander pitch against the Rangers this past week.  The powerful Tiger offense could do nothing against Alexi Ogando. Verlander on the other hand was his usual awesomeness….still taking the loss.

Oh and by the way, Miguel Cabrera is still lights out at the plate….sauce and all.

Washington Nationals and the NL East:

Ladies and gentlemen I give you my unicorn.  This will be a tough one to follow, especially when they play the Marlins in Florida.  The Nats stadium is nice, and the announcers are entertaining enough, but the teams in this division induce vomiting.  The Mets and Marlins make me gag at first site.  I tried to watch the nats play the Marlins in Florida the other day and I turned it off an inning in.  That stadium is terrible and I am pretty sure nobody in Florida even knows they have a team.  I think there were four people there….maybe five.  I would rather watch bees hump on National Geographic then this empty cavern of teal and orange.

All of this, and Ryan Zimmerman, my favorite Nat, is hurt….again.  Finally found a third basemen more injury prone than Aramis Ramirez.

San Francisco Giants and the NL West:

Lincecum pitching in Petco is unfair.  The Padres had no solution and at times he looked like he was toying with them.  One thing about Tim Lincecum, his delivery reminds me of Dontrelle Willis.  Not saying anything, just saying something.  Maybe he won’t be toiling in AAA five years from now…..who knows?

Here is an interesting article from the NY Times on Tim and his eating habits, etc….

Pablo Sandoval runs well for a fat man.  He swings wildly in the spirit of Randall Simon.  He runs the bases like a Panda on crack with reckless abandon….or at least he appears too.  Yes, they call him panda.

AT&T park  is awesome too….but most of us have watched at least one game or another at this park.  An interesting fact…..they serve sushi!

Chicago Cubs and The NL Central:

One glaring little detail that I noticed watching the other games….. while Wrigley has watched attendance drop it is far from a problem.  When Wrigley looks like Sun Life Stadium (Home of the Marlins) on a Saturday I would start worrying.  Our worst crowds are average to above average by MLB standards.

Outside of that, the Cubs look World Series bound! There is no way Pena and Colvin hit below .200 all season and Dempster will become the dominant ace we need.  Done and done. Right?

In Conclusion:

I promise not to make these updates a regular thing, or at least as long.  We will go back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.  Just wanted everybody to know that one week in and I am still following the teams, still married, and still have a job.

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Game 11 – A Night to Forget

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Cubs 2 – Astros 11
Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

It’s a good thing I don’t work for a newspaper because it’s tough to fit everything into a limited amount of space after tonight’s loss. I could probably fill up at least 2,500 words with what went wrong tonight, but I’ll try to summarize as best I can while trying to at least keep you semi-interested.

  • Defense was putrid – I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a team play worse defense than tonight. Just about every inning seemed to contain at least one play that was either misplayed or turned into way more of an adventure than needed and no one was exempt. The box score shows three errors, but that doesn’t do the game justice. If you watched, and for some reason I did till the end, you saw what equated to a minor league effort put up by what is supposed to be a Major League team. It’s not the reason we lost, but it certainly didn’t do much for making the team look respectable against one of the worst teams in the league. Mike Quade was livid about sloppy defense early in spring training and I’d guess that some guys are going to be lit up for their effort out there tonight.
  • James Russell Mission Failed – Faced with a pitch count of right around 55-60 pitches and the task of not only facing the Astros ace, but someone who notoriously pitches well against the Cubs and routinely goes into the 6th inning, Russell’s main goal was to get through four or five innings to minimize the taxation on the pen. In the end, a 1.2 IP night partially due to defense and partially due to a simple lack of skill meant the pen showed it’s face early in the game. That puts a ton of pressure on Zambrano to come out strong tomorrow in the series finale. I don’t know that Russell is the answer out of the 5th spot, but I can’t say that guys like Ramon Ortiz or newly signed Doug Davis are either. At this point, looking at the 40 man roster, the only alternative is Thomas Diamond and he got tagged for 9 ER in his start tonight for Iowa. Perhaps now would be a time to seriously give consideration to resurrecting the starting pitching career of Sean Marshall. Not only would he give you a lefty in the rotation, but he would hopefully shore up one of the spots vacated right now by Wells and Cashner. At this point it does no good to have a quality setup man if he’s got nothing to setup.
  • 20% of the team is completely worthless – I mentioned this on twitter and I thought I’d share it with you. I hadn’t realized the math until tonight, but when you take a look, 20% of this current roster is complete and utter garbage. Koyie Hill brings no value other than the occasional spot start for Geo in which he calls a good game but doesn’t get a single tally in the offensive score book. Blake DeWitt, who was brutal in limited action tonight in the field, can’t hit and doesn’t seem to show any hope of living up to where he was drafted. John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija can’t get hitters out…period, and Reed Johnson is 76 years old and seems to have misplaced the lightning he trapped in a bottle a few years ago when he came over from Toronto. When you have one or two bad guys on your roster, you can hide them. When 20% suck, it’s hard not to notice.
  • Carlos Pena’s Start to the Season – I don’t want to be too hard on the guy. Lord knows he’s suffered some harsh comments so far on the site, but it seems like he’s pressing too hard. Everything he swings at is with a swing for the fences. It’s as if he’s trying to show the Cubs he can be the run producer and mash 40+ home runs instead of just staying back and working with the pitch he’s given. About the only thing that’s been positive with his approach at the plate is the ability for him to get on via the walk. Aside from that and some nice defense, he needs to relax and just quit trying to do too much. I’ve not given up, but I’m also ready to see him lower in the order.

What Went Right

How do you find things that went right in an 11-2 loss? It’s not easy, but I found a few.

  • Marlon Byrd’s Improved Hitting – Byrd took a lot of crap about a week ago from people that criticized Quade’s choice to put him in the 3rd spot in the order. Byrd has now hit in nine straight games and has the average hovering around .400. I’m not ready to anoint him as a run producer, but he’s a good hitter and needs to at least be given some respect. The problem is that we really don’t have a # 3 hitter. Byrd’s doing the best he can in a spot he really has no business being placed in.
  • Some of the bullpen looked OK – Marcos Mateo came in and pitched really well. Jeff Stevens came in and pitched well. That made up a little for the ugly outings we saw from Samardzija and Grabow. I’m a fan of both Mateo and Stevens. I think both show a lot of promise for this pen. It was nice to see them both pitch well.
  • We Stopped Carlos Lee – Here is where I dig deep for a positive. Lee is a legendary Cub killer. Tonight we held him to a very pretty 0-for-5. That has to count for something, right?
  • It Only Counts as One Loss in the Tally – No matter how poorly we played, it’s worth the same amount of losses as a 3-2 nail biter. It’s important to forget this one, learn from it, and try to win this series tomorrow.

News & Notes

After his most recent start, Matt Garza was openly critical of…someone. The problem is that he didn’t really address anyone in particular. The Sun Times had this quote

After getting hit hard by the top half of the Milwaukee Brewers’ order in a 6-0 loss Saturday, Garza was angry with himself, especially because he gave up most of the hits on offspeed pitches instead of his prized fastball. ‘That’s not my style, and that’s not who I am,’ he said after the game. ‘And that’s something that’s going to change.’ ~ Sun Times

My first thought was that it was a direct shot at Mark Riggins and that made me a little worried that yet another pitcher was openly questioning Riggs. Now, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if he was openly questioning Geo. He’s the one behind the plate calling the pitches, not Riggins. No matter what, it’s something that needs to be worked out and figured out quickly.

Speaking of being critical, I’m not sure if you had a chance to catch Kevin Millar’s comments about Lou recently that appeared in the Sun Times as well as in an interview on ESPN 1000′s Waddle & Silvy show.

“Nothing against Lou Piniella, he managed a lot of years and you get to the point where you don’t think about those things, but it was a little frustrating from the player’s side period, that there were no lineups. Lou didn’t know who was playing and who was going in and it gets old. So then what happens is, you get guys in bad moods and then what happens is you’re kind of like, ‘whatever.’ That’s the way the Cubs kind of played to an extent.” ~ Chicago Tribune

I want to believe that players need to just shut up and show up ready to play, but the fact is that these days the majority of athletes are whiny babies that need to be cuddled and coo’d to stroke their egos. Kevin Millar, shut up and go back to your broadcasting job.

The Cubs have signed former Brewer, Doug Davis to a minor league deal with incentives that could total as much as $2 million according to a tweet by Ken Rosenthal. This goes along with the Ramon Ortiz signing to add some depth to the upper farm system should more injuries come about. People complain about it, but to me it indicates that there aren’t many names Hendry feels confident in plugging into that rotation should something happen.

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

1st Star – Bill Hall (.165 WPA)

2nd Star –Brett Myers (.138 WPA)

3rd Star– Hunter Pence (.127 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Mark 1-1 (.500)

Joe 2-3 (.400)

Brandon 0-1 (.000)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

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Game 10 – Nothing Like A Quick Start

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Cubs 5 – Astros 4
Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Right

  • The Cubs came out swinging  against Astros starter Nelson Figueroa. Alfonso Soriano delivered two RBI’s with an opposite-field double in the first inning. Barney and Byrd had nice at bats to each drive in a run in the second.
  • Hitting at the top of the lineup, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney reached base their first three times at bat.
  • Starter Ryan Dempster gave the Cubs six solid innings, then ran out of gas in the 7th frame. With Casey Coleman’s shaky outing on Sunday and reliever James Russell slated to start on Tuesday, Dempster had to gut his way through 115 pitches.
  • Other than throws in the dirt by Castro and Ramirez, the Cubs flashed some timely leather on Monday. Dempster and Pena both looked very sharp defensively. Colvin had a nice running catch in deep RF.
  • Marlon Byrd’s hot streak continued with two more hits and two more RBI’s in Monday’s game. Keep making me eat my words, Marlon!
  • Castro gave the Cubs their first stolen base of the season, swiping second in the 4th inning. His head-first slide was a little awkward, but we’ll take it.
  • The Cubs were extremely patient at the plate, drawing six walks against the hapless Houston hurlers.
  • Carlos Marmol navigated more trouble to notch his 4th save.

What Went Wrong

  • Aramis Ramirez came back to Earth, going 0-4 with a walk in the ballgame.
  • Dropped to the eight spot, Geo Soto failed to reach base. The good news is that he hit the ball hard twice. His average is now below .200, but there’s no need to panic. Soto will be just fine when it’s all said and done.
  • Tyler Colvin continues to struggle at the plate. His 0-3 night sunk his average to .115. At least he drew a base on balls. Better days are ahead for Tyler as well.
  • Carlos Pena went hitless again, dropping his average to .174. The good news is he drew two more walks, bringing his season total to seven.
  • Koyie Hill is still on the team. Sorry, I should really keep comments like that to myself.

A few minutes before the game started, I thought, “It wouldn’t be much fun to be an Astros fan these days.” You don’t believe me? Here’s the starting lineup Brad Mills trotted out to the field on Monday:

  • M. Bourn
  • A. Sanchez
  • H. Pence
  • C. Lee
  • B. Wallace
  • C. Johnson
  • J. Inglett
  • H. Quintero
  • N. Figueroa

Not exactly the Killer B’s, but they did produce four runs. Dempster faded late in the game, giving up three in the 7th. However, he took advantage of the 5-0 start from his offense and collected his first win of the short season.

It goes without saying that Dempster must produce at a high level if the Cubs are going to contend this year. Ryan has exceeded nearly every expectation as a Cub starter, and my money is on him putting together another solid season (assuming health of course).

So the Cubs start the road trip was a victory and run their record to 5-5. Though the sample size is VERY small, here are a few interesting items to ponder (in no particular order):

  • Going into Monday’s contest, the Cubs had a team on-base percentage of .336, good for sixth in the National League.
  • Three Cubs have on-base percentages over .400, led by Kosuke Fukudome at .500.
  • Three Cubs are slugging over .500, led by Jeff Baker at .632.
  • Starlin Castro has already scored 10 runs. Marlon Byrd is right behind him with eight.
  • Going into Monday’s game, the Cubs team ERA was a disappointing 4.67.
  • Matt Garza has allowed 23 base runners in 12.2 innings. At least he’s keeping the ball in the park. Zero homers so far.
  • Sean Marshall is picking up where he left off in 2010. He’s looked very sharp in 5.0 IP, despite giving up two scratch hits Monday night. His breaking ball has been outstanding so far.
  • Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol have walked seven and struck out 14  in 10.1 combined innings. Mitch Williams would be proud.
  • John Grabow has fanned four in 3.1 IP. Enjoy it while it lasts!

The Cubs will need to keep the offense rolling with James Russell on the hill Tuesday. I’ll take another quick start with the bats and four or five walk-free innings from Mr. Russell. How about bombs from Pena and Colvin, too? You can call me “greedy” if you like.

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

1st Star – Carlos Marmol (.312 WPA)

2nd Star –Bill Hall (.176 WPA)

3rd Star– Alfonso Soriano (.172 WPA)

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Cubs / Astros Preview

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Probable Pitching Matchups
by MLB.com

Ryan Dempster (0-2, 6.59 ERA) vs. Nelson Figueroa (0-1, 10.13 ERA)

This would’ve been Andrew Cashner’s day, but he is on the DL. Dempster, the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, will be pitching on five days’ rest because of an off-day. In his last outing Wednesday against the D-backs, he gave up 10 hits over seven innings. Figueroa, who earned the fifth spot in the starting rotation late in Spring Training, labored through 5 1/3 innings in his season debut on Wednesday, allowing 10 runs, six earned. He walked one and struck out two.

James Russell (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (0-0, 2.03 ERA)

Russell will be the starter, but this will be a game where all arms are expected to be available. Russell was stretched out in Spring Training, but only for 56 pitches. It will be the lefty’s first Major League start. On Thursday in Cincinnati, Myers pitched well into the seventh inning before allowing Scott Rolen’s game-tying solo home run. Meyers gave up two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.

Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 5.25 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 6.55 ERA)

Zambrano is looking for his 10th straight win. His current nine-game win streak, dating to last year, matches his career high. He extended the run against Milwaukee in his last start, giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. Rodriguez rebounded from a poor start to begin the season and held the Marlins to one run on eight hits over seven innings on Friday, but got a no-decision. He’s 5-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 16 starts against the Cubs.

Austin Swafford’s Scouting Report on the Astros

Who’s Hot – The starting pitchers. You wouldn’t know it just to look at their lines, but the rotation has been great the second time through, and they really have a knack for pitching at home. In their second starts, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ have three quality starts and a combined ERA of 2.67. And they’re not just doing it on the rubber, they’re doing it at the plate. Their five starters are batting .412 (7-for-17) with two doubles and three RBIs.

Who’s Not – Bill Hall. The Astros went and got Hall and Clint Barmes in free agency to do something about their power vaccum in the middle infield. Things have not gone according to plan as Barmes is on the DL with a broken bone in his hand, while Hall is batting .188 with a .548 OPS and striking out at an appalling rate — 11 Ks in 29 at-bats.

Interesting note – I expected the bullpen to be solid this year, but so far, they’ve struggled juuuuust a little bit. They have a combined ERA of 5.40 and have just one save against two blown saves. If the Cubs can get to the starters early, the Astros will be in serious trouble.

Prediction for the Series – With the way Nelson  Figueroa pitched in his first start and the record Ryan Dempster has against the Astros, I would be shocked if the Astros won the first game. However, I like Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez at home against the Cubs. Last year, they were 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA vs. the Cubs. The Cubs were one of the few teams against whom the Astros had a winning record last year, going 11-6 and winning every series until the last one in October. I expect the Astros to continue their winning ways against the Cubs and take their first series of the 2011 season.

Austin blogs about the Astros on the Astros 290 blog and can be followed on twitter @Astros290

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