Archive for May, 2011

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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Game 47 – Hurry up and rain!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Cubs 4, Mets 7

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The following is a recap from guest contributor, Norm Bothwell.

What went right:

  • Cubs come out of the gate with guns blazing, scoring four runs in the first. Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena each had a walk (who else?!) and both came around to score. Reed Johnson and Alfonso Soriano came through with runners in scoring position and two outs, each hitting a double and collecting two RBI.
  • James Russell pitched 3.2 innings and gave the fans a sarcastic cheer by throwing a first pitch strike in the wake of the Berg disaster. He ended up giving up a run off a few singles and a sac fly by the Mets pitcher, Dillon Gee

What went wrong:

  • Cubs offense got ONE more hit (and zero walks, of course) after that first inning outburst.
  • Casey Coleman was hittable and Quade gave him the quick hook in the 2nd inning. His line ended at 1.1 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs, all earned, 1 BB with no strikeouts. He has more walks than strikeouts on the year.
  • Two of those earned runs scored thanks to Justin Berg, who replaced Coleman and proceeded to throw twelve (TWELVE!!) consecutive balls, allowing two men to score, and gets replaced without throwing a strike. Berg’s doesn’t strike many out, he walks too many, and he’s rather hittable. The only positive is the lack of home runs he gives up. He won’t be a major league pitcher for very long.
  • The rain came too late.

Draft thoughts:

Baseball America came out with their Top 200 prospects for the upcoming June draft. I’ve noticed that a few of the experts see the Cubs taking high school Mr. Everything, Bubba Starling, with the ninth pick who BA has ranked as the #2 hitter behind Anthony Rendon. He’s a five tool athlete who is committed to the University of Nebraska to play centerfield in the Spring and quarterback the Huskers in the Fall. An up-the-middle, raw, athlete? Yup, sounds like the Cubs. He’s expected to fall to number nine due to his expected bonus demands. The draft is strong this year with college pitching. A name I’ve seen linked to the Cubs is Sonny Gray (#12 overall prospect), a short right hander the Cubs selected in the 27th round of the 2008 draft. If you like him you see a top of the rotation pitcher with a 94 mph fastball and hammer curve, arguably the best 1-2 punch in the draft. If you don’t like him, you have a shutdown closer. Most reports currently have him falling out of the top 10.

A pitcher I’m interested in is Texas junior, Taylor Jungmann (#8). A 6’6” right hander that controls the strike zone with a 93 mph fastball and a 78 mph curveball. Imagine, a Cub pitcher that doesn’t walk many guys. A man can dream!

Tom Ricketts said they are going to build from within through the farm system. With this years draft reported to be the strongest in years, it’s time to walk the walk and not be afraid to pay what it takes to get Starling if he falls.

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

1st Star– Carlos Beltran (.219 WPA)

2nd Star –Reed Johnson (.163 WPA)

3rd Star– Daniel Murphy (.146 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Buddy 3-3 (.500)

Joe 9-10 (.474)

Brandon 1-4 (.200)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

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