Archive for May, 2011

Interview with top 3B Prospect – Josh Vitters

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011


(Photo Credit: Adam Kline)

It’s Tuesday, but for a lot of folks, it feels a lot like Monday. How about a quick edition of Minor League Monday….on Tuesday.

Today’s edition features an audio interview with Cubs prospect, Josh Vitters, who was kind enough to take a few minutes out for us before a recent game.

MINOR LEAGUE MONDAY
by Mark Sherrard

We are now about one third of the way through the minor league season and its time to take a look at some of the performances for the Cubs minor leaguers that have exceeded expectations.  These are either players who appear to be on their way to a breakout season or who are showing skills they have not shown in the past.

Here are the early surprises to date:

Ryan Flaherty, OF, Tennessee – the 41st overall pick in the 2008 draft, Flaherty’s name should be familiar to many of you who follow Cubs’ prospects.  He has had a couple good years in the minors, but nothing spectacular.  His best year came in 2009, when he hit .276/.344/.470 with 20 homeruns in class A Peoria.  However, this year it appears to all be coming together for Flaherty.  He is hitting .317/.389/.599 with 11 homeruns in just 167 AB’s.  This is by far the most power he has shown in his young minor league career.  A top 10 prospect (by Baseball America) after his 2009 season, he dropped out of the top 10 after 2010.  But, if he keeps this up, he could very well push himself into the top 5.

Rebel Ridling, 1B, Tennessee – Ridling has never been highly thought of as a prospect.  He was selected in the 25th round in 2008 and has remained unranked by Baseball America, despite a solid year at Peoria in 2008 (.310/.357/.466 with 16 homeruns).  However, he too is having a breakout year with AA Tennessee, hitting .329/.395/.544 with 9 homeruns in 158 AB’s.  He is a little old for a prospect (25 as of May 22nd), but could still push himself into true prospect status.

Robert Whitenack, P, Tennessee – An 8th round pick in 2009, Whitenack has not posted an ERA below 4.15 in his brief minor league career, until now.  So far this year, he has posted a combined 7-0 record with a 1.93 ERA across 2 levels.  He was lights out for high A Daytona, with a 1.17 ERA and just 12 base runners allowed in 23 IP and followed that up with a 2.37 ERA in 7 starts at Tennessee.  He is not a high strikeout pitcher (only 7 K’s per 9 this year), but keeps the ball on the ground (a career GO/AO ratio over 2.0).

Justin Bour, 1B, Daytona – In just 191 AB’s, Bour has already surpassed his career high in homeruns with 13 (surpassing last year’s 12).  Bour is another player who has been under the radar so far in his career, but with a slash line of .330/.390/.623, so far, he should be getting some attention now.

Junior Lake, SS, Daytona – Lake has gotten some attention from Baseball America in the past, ranking as the Cubs’ 29th best prospect prior to the 2010 season and 27th this year, however he has not produced on the field, until now.  In 49 games with Daytona, Lake has hit .315/.336/.498.  He leads the team with 19 stolen bases, while also smacking 6 home runs.  He is not a very patient hitter, as his 49/6 K/BB ratio can attest, but he has the ability to be a 5 tool player.

Austin Kirk, P, Peoria – Kirk, a 3rd round pick in 2009, has had trouble staying healthy, only pitched 64.1 innings last year, but he is making up for lost time this year.  In 52.1 IP so far, he has a 2.06 ERA and 45 K’s.  He has also allowed only 34 hits and 10 walks. Although he is one of the higher draft picks on this list, he has yet to crack Baseball Ameirca’s Top 30 prospect list for the Cubs.  However, that should change after this year.

Mark blogs about the Cubs on the Billy Goat Blog

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Game 52 – Another Game to Forget

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Cubs 7, Astros 12

Box Score / Highlights

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • After spotting the Astros two runs in the first, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro came through to cut the lead in half. Carlos Pena followed with a two-out, two-run homer.
  • The Astros gave the Cubs their fourth run with a throwing error in the second inning.
  • Blake DeWitt just missed a home run, driving in the Cubs fifth tally with a triple off the wall.
  • The generous bunch from Houston handed the Cubs another run with a botched fly ball in right field by Hunter Pence.
  • The Cubs stole five bases (not a typo) in one game. Apparently hell has frozen over.
  • It didn’t rain. Maybe I can cancel my ark-building plans.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • To almost nobody’s surprise, Rodrigo Lopez looked shaky on the mound, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings. For the record, Lopez is the ninth starting pitcher the Cubs have used this season. With Lopez and Doug Davis on the roster, the Cubs seem committed to the “washed-up-starter” plan. Can Steve Trachsel be far behind?
  • The bullpen wasn’t much better, giving up six more runs after Lopez was knocked out.
  • The Cubs defense kicked the ball around again, committing three errors.
  • Jeff Baker went to the DL, which obviously hurts the lineup vs. LHP.
  • Alfonso Soriano left the game with a leg injury.
  • Soto was hit on the hand in his first game back. Does that mean more Koyie Hill? Will this madness ever end?
  • After scoring six runs against Houston starter Aneury Rodriguez, the Cubs were shut down by the Astros bullpen.

It’s hard to stay positive about the 2011 Cubs. A rash of injuries and a mediocre offense point to big trouble for Quade’s crew. Somewhere Ryne Sandberg is thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t get the manager’s job in Chicago.

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

1st Star– Hunter Pence (.311 WPA)

2nd Star –Blake Dewitt (.157 WPA)

3rd Star–Enerui Del Rosario (.150 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Joe 11-10 (.524)

Buddy 3-4 (.429)

Brandon 1-5 (.167)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

 

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Cubs / Astros Preview

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Scouting reports provided by MLB.com

Rodrigo Lopez vs. Aneury Rodriguez

Lopez will make his first start since being acquired from Atlanta on May 26. He was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Gwinnett and has a 4.85 career ERA in the Majors. Lopez, 35, throws four pitches but won’t overpower hitters. Rodriguez registered career highs with six innings and five strikeouts as Houston beat the Dodgers, 2-1, Wednesday. He has allowed just three runs in his last 11 1/3 innings, but lacks a winning decision this season.

Carlos Zambrano vs. Jordan Lyles

Big Z picked up his first win at home in his most recent start with a win over the Mets. He’s now 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA in five starts at Wrigley Field. Zambrano beat the Astros in Houston on April 13. Lyles is expected to make his Major League debut with Wandy Rodriguez headed for the DL. The 20-year-old righty was the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and is 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2011.

Doug Davis vs. Brett Myers

Davis was unable to go five innings for the second straight start in his last outing against the Pirates on Friday, walking six over 4 2/3 innings. Davis needs to throw more strikes inside against right-handed batters. All four runs Myers surrendered Friday against Arizona were courtesy of first baseman Juan Miranda, who smashed two home runs. Myers left with a 6-4 lead but the Astros lost, 7-6. Myers doesn’t have a winning decision in May.

Trace Levos scouts the Astros

WHO’S HOT – This is a rather tough call, as no one on the Astros can truly be considered “hot” at the moment with the team playing the way it is, but if I were forced to pick a couple guys, I’d have to say Aneury Rodriguez and Hunter Pence. Rodriguez has looked quite strong in his last few starts, and while he’s still winless, his tough arm angle and decent stuff are making him harder and harder for hitters to solve. Pence has obviously been the bat that’s carried the ‘Stros so far this season, and while his average his risen 20 points in the last 10 games, I’m singling him out more because of his defense of late. He’s always been an average to above-average right fielder, but lately he’s been making spectacular sliding and leaping grabs, saving runs for a rotation and bullpen that’s downright ghastly. Funnily enough, with how bad the Astros’ defense is, it still looks like Houston might have two gold glovers in the outfield.

WHO’S NOT - Man, lots of choices here, but the big picture points towards two key players whose deep slumps are affecting the team in the worst way possible. Brett Myers and Bill Hall were two guys that were signed (in Myers’ case, re-signed) to the club to bring veteran experience and talent. Myers’ first few starts aside, both have been horrid throughout the entire season. Myers looked fabulous in the first 5 innings of his last start against Arizona, but then proceeded to let the D’Backs get back into the game by surrendering two 2-run homers to Juan Miranda. The Astros later lost that contest after giving up the 6-run lead that they had staked out. Myers’ ERA subsequently ballooned to 5.11. And what is there to say about Hall? He’s been atrocious all year at the plate, averaging more than a strikeout per game, but two of his recent errors have cost the team EIGHT unearned runs. Thankfully, with Jeff Keppinger back from the DL, Hall should see his playing time cut into considerably.

NEWS / NOTES - For many Houston fans, the upcoming series against the Cubs will probably be the most exciting one so far in what seems to be a lost season. Highly-touted prospect Jordan Lyles will make his major league debut on Tuesday against Carlos Zambrano at 7:05 pm. Lyles was promoted from AAA Oklahoma City when Wandy Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day DL because of a fluid buildup in his pitching elbow. While his injury is a bit depressing as he was the best pitcher on the staff so far this season, the excitement of seeing the best prospect in the Houston farm system finally come to the big leagues is palpable. Lyles probably won’t throw more than about 80 pitches, especially since he’s likely to be sent back down once W-Rod is healthy, but it should be thrilling nonetheless to see the youngster pitch his first game in the Show.

SERIES PREDICTION – The Astros hit the wall hard against Arizona after having won consecutive series for the first time this season when they took two out of three from Toronto and Los Angeles. However, the pitching (sans Brett Myers and the defense) has been rather pleasing to watch of late, and the bats should be able to get a few runs off of the equally unimpressive Cubbies starters. Still not enough for me to predict a series win, however. I’ll say the ‘Stros take one out of three, and I’ll say it’s Aneury Rodriguez who finally gets a win against Rodrigo Lopez.

Trace is a contributor on Austin’s Astros 290 Blog, part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network

Joe’s Thoughts on the Series

I said it in yesterday’s recap post and I’ll say it again. The only way I come away from this series at all satisfied is for the Cubs to come away with a sweep. Look at the pitching matchups. It can be done…right? Now it’s time to execute.

I worry a little when we have relatively no experience against a starting pitcher. It seems like we’ve struggled so I decided to run the numbers since 2000 on pitchers making their ML debut against the Cubs to see how we’ve fair. Here are the results, sorted by game score.

Rk Player Date Tm IP H R ER BB SO Pit Str GSc
1 Brett Myers 2002-07-24 PHI 8.0 2 1 1 1 5 90 57 78
2 Josh Beckett 2001-09-04 FLA 6.0 1 0 0 3 5 85 54 72
3 Rob Bell 2000-04-08 CIN 7.0 3 3 1 2 9 91 63 70
4 Travis Wood 2010-07-01 CIN 7.0 2 2 2 3 4 91 56 66
5 Junior Herndon 2001-08-02 SDP 7.2 4 3 2 3 3 114 67 61
6 Mike Leake 2010-04-11 CIN 6.2 4 1 1 7 5 106 57 60
7 Brandon McCarthy 2005-05-22 CHW 5.1 4 2 2 1 6 78 49 57
8 Matt Maloney 2009-06-06 CIN 6.0 6 2 2 1 4 89 58 55
9 Sean Burnett 2004-05-30 PIT 5.0 5 1 1 3 3 93 52 53
10 Wandy Rodriguez 2005-05-23 HOU 5.2 6 4 4 1 6 77 49 46
11 P.J. Walters 2009-04-17 STL 4.0 6 3 3 2 7 98 59 43
12 Adam Ottavino 2010-05-29 STL 5.2 5 4 4 6 5 99 52 42
13 Brad Hennessey 2004-08-07 SFG 4.2 7 4 4 1 5 89 55 38
14 Dave Pember 2002-09-03 MIL 3.2 4 4 3 5 1 86 42 35
15 Alan Johnson 2011-04-17 COL 4.0 6 5 4 3 3 93 53 32
16 Logan Kensing 2004-09-10 (2) FLA 2.0 8 5 5 0 0 49 31 20
17 Ben Diggins 2002-09-02 (2) MIL 1.1 4 8 7 6 2 65 29 12

 

For the most part, it’s going to be the case in two of the games this series. While it’s not Rodriguez debut, very few of the Cubs have seen him before. It’s not going to be an easy series. The Cubs will need to work for it, but I’m confident that if we don’t beat ourselves, we can get a sweep.

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A GirlieView Farewell

Monday, May 30th, 2011

It’s was kind of ironic that Chet’s job got in the way of his column last week, so Joe unexpectedly took over and happened to talk about his bucket list. Ironic because at the time I was contemplating how to tell Joe that my job was getting in the way of writing my column, and that my free time on the weekends was being filled up by the pursuit of my own bucket list. Yet, that’s what’s happening. And believe me I’m not complaining. I have a wonderful job which gives me the ability to fund said bucket list. It just doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing.

It’s been my pleasure to present this girlie’s view for the past two+ years. Really I should be thanking YOU, the VFTB readers, because you essentially wrote this column every single week. Without your input, there would be no GirlieView, and for that I am grateful. I also want to express my thanks to Joe for giving me a voice here even when I said or did things he didn’t love.

If I can leave you with one final thought it would be this. Don’t take yourself or your baseball team too seriously. It’s just a game. So when you talk about that game, remember to do it with respect, passion, humor and kindness. If you do that, everyone will enjoy hearing what you have to say, whether they agree with you or not.

I will be contacting the top five finishers in the (abbreviated) 2011 Season Lizzie Contest with your prize. Everyone else, thank you for playing. VFTB would be nothing without you! xxxooo

Final Lizzie Contest Standings (total points shown)

1. Buddy = 33
2. jswanson = 28
3. Doc Raker = 26
4. Chet = 22
5. Seymour = 19
6. cap’n = 17
7. Aaron = 15
7. Chuck = 15
7. Rich Beckman = 15
10. Kris = 14
11. JoeA = 13
12. DavidMBeyer = 11
13. Dragon = 10
14. chris in Illinois = 9
14. MJ = 9
16. Deezer = 8
17. Jesse = 4
17. walterj = 4
19. Benjamin = 3
19. Doug Bagley = 3
19. Doug S = 3
19. Eric = 3
19. Mark = 3
24. Randy = 2
24. Wes = 2
26. BLC = 1
26. Brandon = 1
26. DannyB = 1
26. Dustin = 1
26. Flyslinger2 = 1
26. greg = 1
26. GV Hub = 1
26. Larry Sproul = 1
26. Mac = 1
26. Mark in Toronto = 1
26. Ryno = 1
26. Tim = 1
26. Tony = 1


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Game 51 – Saved From A Sweep

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Cubs 3, Pirates 2

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Aramis Ramirez hit a line drive homerun to left field in the 2nd inning. It was his first home run since April 6th and just his second of the season.
  • Koyie Hill got the job done with the bat, hitting a sac fly that scored Carlos Pena. It was one out with Pena on third and Tony Campana on 1st. The only question I had at the time was why Campana wasn’t on the move trying to get into scoring position with Ryan Dempster coming to the plate after Hill.
  • Very nice fundamental inning that would excite the small ball enthusiasts extremely. Kosuke led off the inning with a double and was bunted over to third by Darwin Barney. Starlin Castro then came up and promptly hit a long sac fly to RF and put the Cubs ahead by a run. It turned into the winning RBI
  • Koyie Hill was successful in the only attempt at a stolen base by the Pirate baserunners.
  • Two nice defensive plays on at bats for Brandon Wood. Koyie Hill got him in the 7th with a diving grab on a popped up bunt attempt and Starlin got him in the 9th with a barehanded grab and throw on a ball he charged hard.
  • Dempster rebounded from a two run opening inning in which he walked two straight hitters with two outs. Both would score to put the Pirates up 2-0. Demp was able to shut them down from that point on and get through six innings with the lead.

What Went Wrong

  • Alfonso Soriano was the only Cub starter without a hit. That ended his hitting streak at 9 games

News / Notes

  • Before the game, the Cubs made a few roster moves. Geovany Soto was activated from the DL, with Wellington Castillo being optioned back to Iowa to make room. Reed Johnson was placed on the DL, replaced by Brad Snyder. To open a spot on the 40 man roster for Snyder, Andrew Cashner was moved from the 15 day DL to the 60 day DL.
  • There have been rumors that D.J. LaMahieu is being called up, but I don’t see why that would be true.

The Takeaway

With two of the three series complete on this homestand, the record for the team is 3-3. The only thing that would make that anywhere near acceptable is for the Cubs to sweep Houston. Simply winning the series makes it a very disappointing homestand. It’s becoming more and more evident that this is, at best, a .500 team. No more, no less. You can blame injuries to the starting rotation, but the fact remains that every team has injuries. Good teams have depth to weather that storm and continue to win. We saw it in the NFL this year with the Packers. This year the Cardinals lost one of their top arms before the season even started. What have they done? Continued to play winning baseball in the NL Central. I’m a Jim Hendry guy, but you have to assign some of the blame to him for the lack of depth at key positions. Last year it was very evident that third base was a position with little to no depth. This year it’s been the rotation. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m just not confident in the talent that is ready for the Majors from a pitching standpoint.

While we’re on the topic of Hendry, the move to call up Brad Snyder is a curious one to me. One of the reasons the Cubs sent Tyler Colvin down to AAA was the lack of playing time available with the big club. Now, with both CF on the DL, there is a clear spot open for Colvin to get regular at bats at the Major League level. CF is a position he’s played more games at than any other of the OF positions in the Minors so it’s not a comfort level. Couple that with the fact that Tony Campana, while fun to watch, doesn’t bring run production to the lineup. He’s a luxury player that brings speed and defense, but for a team that isn’t scoring, that’s a luxury we can’t afford. It should have been Colvin called up today, not Snyder.

I’ve also got to fire a dart at Mike Quade as well. Why, on a day when Geovany Soto is activated from the DL, is Koyie Hill starting behind the plate? I understand that the Koyie Hill story is a feelgood tale that will someday make it’s way to the Lifetime Movie network. I get it, he cut off his fingers, battled back and is holding down a Major League job. He even produced both offensively and defensively today. Ultimately, Geo is the star behind the plate. If he’s healthy and rested, he needs to catch. End of story.

Sorry to really rain on the parade of a win, but I’m tired of getting all happy go lucky when we win a game. It’s time to win at least three more in a row and put together a winning streak for once. Today was the start. Now let’s keep it going.

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

1st Star– Ryan Dempster (.174 WPA)

2nd Star –Carlos Marmol (.172 WPA)

3rd Star– Sean Marshall (.125 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Joe 11-10 (.524)

Buddy 3-3 (.500)

Brandon 1-5 (.167)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

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Game 50 – Wells Return Goes Not So Well

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Pirates 10, Cubs 0

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Randy Wells was bombed in his return to the rotation.  In his first start since early April and just his second start of the season, he allowed five earned runs in four innings.  The big blow was a long three run homer by former Cub Ronny Cedeno.
  • The Cubs made Paul Maholm, who entered the game with a 1-7 record, look like Cy Young.  The Cubs did not get a baserunner until Alfonso Soriano doubled in the fourth.  They totaled just three hits against the veteran lefty, who turned in a complete game shutout.
  • Four Buccos homered to lead the rout of the Cubs.  James Russell struggled again, serving up two home runs in the sixth inning.
  • The Pirates scored twice more against Scott Maine to turn it into a blowout before tacking on a ninth inning tally against John Grabow.  The pitching staff has been terrible as of late.
  • The Cubs are now 1-4 against the Pirates at Wrigley Field this season entering tomorrow’s series finale.  In order to climb their way back into contention, the Cubs must find a way to beat fellow bottom dwellers such as Houston and Pittsburgh.

What Went Right

  • After homering in the ninth yesterday, Alfonso Soriano notched the only Cub extra base knock today.
  • Jeff Baker pinch hit for the Cubs in the ninth inning.  Although he was retired, it is still good to see some of the injured Cubs back in action.

News and Notes

  • Before the game, the Cubs sent Casey Coleman to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Wells on the roster.
  • Rodrigo Lopez, who was acquired on Thursday from Atlanta, will enter the Cubs rotation.  He will start against the Astros on Monday.
  • Geovany Soto will catch at Double-A Tennessee in a rehab game tonight.  If all goes well, he could be activated tomorrow.
  • Top prospect Brett Jackson is rehabbing from an injury in Mesa.  He will rejoin the Tennessee Smokies on Monday, but Oneri Fleita has said that Jackson is not far away from the big leagues.

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

1st Star– Paul Maholm (.234 WPA)

2nd Star –Neil Walker (.153 WPA)

3rd Star– Ronny Cedeno (.111 WPA)

Official Recap Standing

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Buddy 3-3 (.500)

Joe 10-10 (.500)

Brandon 1-5 (.167)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

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Cubs / Pirates Series Preview

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Scouting reports provided by MLB.com

Doug Davis vs. Kevin Correia

The Red Sox had the edge in Davis’ last start as he fell behind hitters. He served up eight hits and walked three over 3 2/3 innings. The good news is he’s healthy — just looking for that first “W.” Correia heads back on the road, where he is 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA. He’s finished at least six innings in eight of 10 starts and beat the Cubs in Chicago on Opening Day. Correia allowed two earned runs in six hits that day.

Randy Wells vs. Paul Maholm

This will be Wells’ first start since April 4. He’s been on the DL with a strained right forearm since then and has made two Minor League rehab starts. In his last outing, he threw 68 pitches over four innings. Ignore Maholm’s record because it has everything to do with run support. Maholm continues to be competitive each time he takes the mound, but the Pirates have scored just 13 runs in the 61 2/3 innings he has been on the mound.

Ryan Dempster vs. Jeff Karstens

Dempster posted his fourth quality start in his last five games against the Mets, giving up one run on seven hits over seven innings. He’s doing better at home, picking up back-to-back wins for the first time since July 15-Aug. 4, 2010. All questions about whether Karstens will stay in the rotation have ceased. In his best start yet, Karstens allowed the Tigers just three hits and one run in six innings on Friday. He retired the first 14 hitters and threw only 75 pitches.

Pat Lackey scouts the Pirates

Who’s hot:
Despite going one for his last nine, Andrew McCutchen has been tearing the cover off the ball lately. He’s on a .289/.379/.556 run since April 29th. Jose Tabata has heated up a bit lately as well, batting .325 in his last 12 games. The bullpen, especially Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras, and Daniel McCutchen have all been excellent of late.

Who’s not:
There are still quite a few holes in the team’s offense right now. They’re having trouble filling in third base with Pedro Alvarez’s absence; Brandon Wood has been pretty terrible this year and Ronny Cedeno had a brief hot spot but remains Ronny Cedeno. The bench is incredibly thin right now, with Wood, Xavier Paul, and Matt Diaz all struggling mightily. Since the Pirates have quite a few platoon players (Garrett Jones and Lyle Overbay), the bench can be stretched pretty thin against lefties because Steve Pearce, the one guy on the bench that’s hit well, can only play one position.

News and notes:
Besides Alvarez being on the DL and Pedro Ciriaco being up in his place, the only other real transaction news of late is Evan Meek’s return from the disabled list. He’s only thrown one inning since coming back, but he did strike out all three hitters he faced. In general, the Pirates were playing very well in taking four straight against the Reds and Tigers, but the offense bottomed out over the weekend and they’ve now lost three straight and only scored two runs in doing so.

Prediction:
You know, the Pirates have played awfully well on the road except for places named Miller Park. Kevin Correia, tonight’s starter, has been particularly good away from PNC. Paul Maholm, Saturday’s starter, is due for some run support (he’s 1-7 despite a 3.65 ERA). I’ve got a good feeling about the Pirates this weekend, so I’m going to be a homer and pick the Pirates to take two out of three

Joe scouts the series

Here is my quick and dirty scouting report on what I’m looking for this series.

  • A quality start in two of the three games in the series – My guess is that it will be the Doug Davis start that prevents us from doing it in all three games, but if he can get the series started with a good outing, it takes a lot of pressure off of Wells to come back full force in his first start back.
  • Hitting with runners in scoring position – We got it done yesterday, so it can be done. This team is one of the better hitting teams, in terms of pure batting average, in the NL. It’s time to translate those hits into timely ones.
  • Give Paul Maholm another loss – He’s got seven so far this year and like the scouting report said, it’s due to run support. Let’s jump on him early to give him that feeling of “here we go again”. Then step on their throat, kick ‘em in the groin and get ready for either a series sweep or a series win.

I need to see at least two wins in this series and then a sweep of Houston. That would mean a 7-2 homestand and a team that took advantage of the winnable games. Let’s make it happen.

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VFTB Weekly Prediction Contest – Enter to win $100

Friday, May 27th, 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 Friday post each week, with winners being notified via e-mail to confirm and claim their prize.

Update From Last Week

The winner is: Dragon

Here are the top 10 finishers:

Dragon – 81
Mike Mahon – 88
greg dean – 101
Andy Steinberg – 108
SusanK – 111
odie – 112
Mr. David M. Beyer – 113
BuckeyeLakerCub – 116
Timo – 117
Zach Fisher – 128

Here is the link to the full report

Enter to Play This Week

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Game 48 – Big Z’s Big Day

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Cubs 9, Mets 3

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Hitting with runners in scoring position – It’s been a problem for this team all year long and today they got the job done when it counted. What was really good to see was guys at the bottom of the order doing it. Zambrano drove in a run, Koyie Hill drove in one by making an out (can you expect anything more?), and even Carlos Pena hit a two run home run.
  • Taking advantage of an early exit by a SP – Anytime you’re able to get the opponents starting pitcher out of the game before the end of the 5th inning, you need to win the game. R.A. Dickey left early with an injury to his heel and I thought to myself that the 4th inning was a key inning for the Cubs. They were down 1-0 at that point and it was the heart of the order coming to the plate against a middle reliever. I say it all the time, middle relievers / long men are in that role for a reason. They’re not good enough to be starting pitchers and their not good enough to be end of the game type guys. That means those are the guys you need to score on. The Cubs did just that with a crooked number against a very wild Pedro Beato that included a the home run by Pena to give the Cubs the lead.
  • Zambrano’s outing – Carlos pitched effectively, despite starting the game off throwing in the low 80′s and showing a little frustration at some poor fielding early in the game. The velocity gradually crept up to the 90 range, but where he did the most damage was at the plate going 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and a double, driving in one. That makes him 4-for-4 in the series if you include the pinch hitting performance the other night.

What Went Wrong

  • Fielding – darwin barney had such a bad day in the field that I think we need to type his name with all lowercase letters as punishment. He’s been so good this year that it’s tough to rag on the guy, but he did make two errors on one play and had three on the day and a mental error on a throw to second trying to make a play he had no business making. He made up for it at the plate, but this team can’t afford to be bad defensively and yet we see it time and time again.
  • Zambrano Neck Tightness – It was tweeted after the game that Zambrano wasn’t available to the media because he paid a visit to the team doctor due to some neck stiffness. Apparently it’s nothing to worry about, but I’m sick of seeing injuries, especially to our rotation.
  • Poor General Managing – I don’t know if it really deserves to get lumped in with the game notes as something that went wrong, but it’s going there anyway. After the game, it was announced that the Cubs traded minor league pitcher, Ryan Buchter for veteran pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez. It’s not the trade that bothers me. It’s the announcement that he’ll immediately be pitching out of the pen. He’s never been a reliever in his career and has been pitching really well for the Braves AAA team. Maybe Jim Hendry hasn’t noticed, but some of the names we’ve run out there while Cashner and Wells have been out have been brutal to watch. When James Russell has taken the mount as a starter, you can pretty much just mark it down as a loss. Why not slot Lopez in there as a starter? Could it hurt?

Questions for Discussion

  • On days that Carlos Zambrano pitches and Koyie Hill catches, is it better to hit Zambrano 8th and Hill 9th?
  • Which would be easier for the average fan if called upon: 1) Pitching a full inning of shutout baseball OR 2) Getting at least one hit during a major league game as a hitter? I tend to think it would be getting a hit because as a pitcher you are so different from what the hitters are used to seeing in terms of velocity that you may just be able to junk ball your way through it.

This was a big series to start a very big home stand. It’s put up or shut up time for this team with this homestand consisting of nine very winnable games. Anything less than six wins on the stand is unacceptable, with the goal really being 7+.

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

1st Star– Carlos Pena (.190 WPA)

2nd Star –Carlos Zambrano & R.A. Dickey (.111 WPA)

3rd Star– Jose Reyes (.094 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Buddy 3-3 (.500)

Joe 10-10 (.500)

Brandon 1-4 (.200)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

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