Archive for July, 2011

Game 107 – Busch League Loss

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Cubs 5, Cardinals 13

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Top of the first inning. You might think that while scoring five runs, the Cubs looked impressive. You would be wrong. It was perhaps the most unimpressive five run inning possible. Here is what it looked like:
  • Error, SacBunt, BB, BB, Popout, 2B, HR, K
  • More than anything we took advantage of Lohse’s wildness and then made him pay with an opposite field double from Soto and a high pop fly that snuck out near the corner for Soriano. But give the Cubs credit for taking advantage of what was gifted to them.
  • Quade got tossed. It was nice to see Quade out there fighting vehemently after Holliday’s “slide.” It might’ve been “legal” – but it was definitely dirty. For a moment I found myself verbally praising Quade…then I washed my mouth out with soap.

What Went Wrong

  • Bottom of the first until the final out. A two-out homer to Pujols in the bottom of the first was a harbinger of things to come.
  • ESPECIALLY the fifth inning. Here is what it looked like:
  • Groundout, 1B, 2B, IBB, BB, Fielder’s choice, BB, 1B, IBB, BB, 2B, K

The Takeaway
The top of the first was more about the Cubs not messing up their good fortune and seizing upon the moment. Castro’s error/hit could easily have been an out, and it took 6 hitters before we made solid contact. We only had two hits in the inning, and only one more (in the ninth!) in the rest of the game. Basically, the offense felt they’d done their job for the day after the first three outs – with some help from Kyle Lohse. Still, it was nice to see two big hits with RISP.

The fifth was rough – bad luck all around. Lopez created the trouble with hits that forced walks and left the Cubs with no margin of error. Samardzija entered and did his job, got a groundball with the bases loaded…

Holliday went in hard on Castro at second, and that’s an understatement. McCarver’s red-shaded glasses convinced him that Holliday’s hand was over the bag…not bloody likely. The original camera angle was the best, and it showed that Holliday’s slide STARTED at the bag and to the right. To call it a late slide is also an understatement. His momentum was taking him towards centerfield and his “slide” took him about 8 feet PAST the bag. He might’ve been able to grab the bag – if he was a gymnast – so it’s arguably the right call, by the rules. But it was unquestionably a dirty slide.

The replays showed that Holliday’s right leg was doing the can-can in an attempt to trip/injure Castro. Holliday should’ve had one in his back during his next at-bat (instead we walked him!). Freese was the batter, and the replays also seemed to indicate that a good throw would’ve gotten him.

Castro’s not without fault on this play. The “slide” surprised even him, and as he leisurely dusted himself off, Pujols scored. This moment of the game can’t be underestimated. Turn two, end the inning 5-4; instead it was already 5-5, and the inning ended at 10-5 with the game effectively over. It clearly rattled the Cubs and they never regained their composure (Castro made an error corralling a relay later in the inning, Soriano got the credit).

Later in the inning, LaRussa hollered up to his pinch-hitter to “take a strike” with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Everyone heard and saw it; Samardzija could’ve groved a BP fastball for the first pitch. Presumably, LaRussa wanted to provide his reliever with enough time to warm up – he wasn’t ready at that point to pull Lohse. So what does Samardzija do? Four straight balls. That’s your 2011 Cubs!

It bears repeating, things didn’t go our way; but we lost the game when/because we lost our composure and lost focus mentally.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are terrible – that is all.

Trade Talk
Byrd is rumored to be a target of the Braves, among others – with Pence (the Phillies almost have their own All-Star team) off the market Byrd would be in demand. Jayson Stark says he won’t be traded.

Pena was inquired about again by the Pirates. Buster Olney says that he won’t be traded.

Hendry asked Aramis what he wanted to do, Aramis said he wanted to stay. Jim Hendry say Aramis won’t be traded.

So the untradeables are now at least: Castro, Marmol, Garza (presumably), Byrd, Pena, Ramirez, Dempster, Wood, Marshall, Barney, Baker (explicitly), Soriano and Zambrano (obviously).

In the midst of all of this, Hendry has said that the team needs rebuilding, not a complete overhaul (according to Gordon Wittenmyer). I wholeheartedly disagree. And I’d point to the VFTB podcast question about how many current Cubs will remain when this franchise again revisits the playoffs. Only about 5 or 6 names were bandied about – this team needs an overhaul. As long as we’re not sending a ton of cash with these guys in a trade, I’d love to save the payroll.

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Game 106 – We Stinks

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Cubs 2, Cardinals 9

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I sat down to watch the game on Friday after a crazy day at work, perhaps the busiest day I’ve ever had. I looked at the pitching matchup and was excited to be able to recap a game that Matt Garza was pitching. He’s my favorite guy on this staff right now. Couple that with the fact that one of my favorite Rays, from the days I maintained a Rays blog, was on the mound for the Cardinals and I figured I was in for a great game. Instead, Garza got hit hard. The Cubs failed to take advantage of a key early opportunity to put up a crooked inning, and I end up going to bed after the 6th inning. Not quite the way I wanted to spend my Friday night, but what can you do. That being said, here are some things that were on my mind last night.

  • I really enjoyed the camera angle that WGN had behind the pitcher. At Wrigley, and so many other parks, the camera provides and off center view so it’s hard to judge a ball on the corners. Last night’s angle was perfect.
  • I don’t know what the problem was, but I counted at least three slips on the field by players before I retired for the evening. It was as if the game was being played at Soldier Field. That got me thinking. Since Northwestern played at Wrigley last year. Would it be possible to host a game at Soldier Field. I’ve never looked at the dimensions, but I wonder if it could work. After all, the Marlins play in a football stadium. That might be a fun place to see a game.
  • My disdain for Geovany Soto is well documented so I have to take a shot when I can. He exhibited some terrible baserunning in the third inning that cost the Cubs a really nice inning. Instead of 1st and 3rd on a line out by Tyler Colvin, Geo was gunned down by a mile at third. Marlon Byrd beat a throw home from third so there is no reason Geo shouldn’t have made it on his tag from 2nd. He waited too long to tag and got hung up. That, my friends, is an example of a bad baseball team, which is what we have right now.
  • Albert Pujols hit into his 23rd double play. Let the record show that 23 leads all of baseball. Derrek Lee only has 13.

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

1st Star – Edwin Jackson (.205 WPA)

2nd Star – David Freese (.165 WPA)

3rd Star – Matt Holliday (.104 WPA)

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Northside Archives: Dave Kingman

Friday, July 29th, 2011

July 28, 1979; Cubs vs. New York Mets @ Shea Stadium

Cubs slugger Dave Kingman becomes only the sixth player (at that time) in baseball history to hit 3HRs in a game for the second time in one season.  The Mets win 6-4.

Kingman, in his second year with the Cubs and 9th season overall, was enjoying what would be the best year of his career.  He finished with a league leading 48 HRs, .613 SLG, and .956 OPS.  He also led the league in strikeouts with 131.  He finished 11th in NL MVP voting – behind even his teammate Bruce Sutter.  That about sums up the career of Dave Kingman; he was Adam Dunn before Adam Dunn was born.

The first time Dave Kingman hit 3HRs in a game that year was against the Phillies, in the legendary 23-22 loss at Wrigley.  A Cub has accomplished the feat 37 different times, not surprisingly with Sammy Sosa turning in 6 such performances.  After Kingman, it would be an 8 year wait to see another Cub hit 3HRs – Andre Dawson, 8/1/1987.

Kingman’s all or nothing approach at the plate earned him a well traveled baseball career.  Starting in San Francisco, he would play for 7 different teams (including two stints with the Mets) before finishing his career across the bay in Oakland after 16 seasons.  In 1977 he played for 4 different teams.  Though he led the league in HRs twice, he also led it in strikeouts on three occasions.  And other than his 3 seasons with the Cubs, he had only one more full season in which he hit for an average higher than .238 – he was a lifetime .236 hitter.

500 different times a player has hit at least 3HRs in a game – 19 different players have done it twice in the same season.  Kingman is the only one of those 19 players to have his team lose both of his 3HR games in the same season.  In fact, of those 39 games (Sosa hit 3HRs, on 3 different occasions in 2001) the player’s team is 30-8-1; the Cubs record is 3-4 (we lost 2 of the 3 games in 2001 when Sosa accomplished the feat, but won both times Aramis Ramirez did it in 2004) – ouch!

Kingman would go on to hit 3HRs in a game one more time in his career, for the 1984 A’s.  Though he finished with 442 career HRs, the man they called “Kong” would never sniff the Hall of Fame.  He received only 3 votes in his first year of eligibility, removing him from all future ballots; he became the first player with more than 400 HRs to miss out on Cooperstown.

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Fukudome is an Indian

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The height of Kosuke Fukudome’s popularity in Chicago might just be Opening Day, 2008, his very first game as a Cub. Down 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th, Fukudome comes up with two men on base and blasts his first career home run. The Cubs would go on to lose that game, but for Fukudome, it was a 3 for 3 day and the first of 37 home runs for the rightfielder, described as a cross between Ichiro and Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, those 37 home runs would be his career total, and with him being traded to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, that comes out to about $1.3 million per home run.

His strength is his ability to take a walk, but teams don’t pay rightfielders $48 million to take a walk. Teams don’t pay rightfielders $5 million to take a walk. They need to hit and, ideally, hit for power. Because of this there weren’t many suitors for his services. But being a free agent with a good OBP, he’ll make a good injury replacement in Cleveland’s lineup and give them a modest improvement over what they have now, at basically no cost to them.

In return, the Cubs get a relief pitcher in Carlton Smith and an outfielder in Abner Abreu.

Smith is a 25 year old in his second AAA season. He’s got a low 90’s fastball and a slider but is only useful against right handed hitters. He’ll probably get a cup of coffee but won’t be much more than a 10th or 11th man in the pen unless his uptick in strikeouts this year is for real.

Abreu is, in the words of Keith Law, the lottery ticket. He’s got a great arm in a corner outfield spot and good bat speed, but his approach is Cub-like. He doesn’t walk, he strikes out a lot, but he’s got some power and he’s got some speed (19 of 22 stolen bases this year). Sounds similar to January’s trade of Tom Gorzelanny where they received Michael Burgess in return (that trade is looking mighty bad, by the way).

The reaction will probably be “what a terrible trade”. But this is what Fukudome is worth. He’s been on the market since last offseason, the 29 other GM’s all knew Fukudome was available, and it just so happened that none would part with anything more than this.

“So why make the trade?!” you may ask. “Why NOT make the trade” is my answer. What were the Cubs going to get by keeping him? Zilch. The “prospects” might not be much, but they’re under team control for 6 years each. You may as well take the chance that they’ll contribute SOMETHING more in that time than Fukudome would contribute in the next two months.

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Game 105 – The Three Game Streak We’re All Too Familiar With

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Cubs 2, Brewers 4

Box Score / Highlights

Before The Game
Kosuke Fukudome was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for two prospects, neither of particular renown. The Cubs also sent Kosuke to Cleveland with a bag full of cash for his new employer. So we paid to dump Kosuke, and we got next to nothing in return. What is especially sad is that we really can’t hope that any other potential trades will go differently.

Hendry is allegedly still picking up the phone if a team calls about Soriano, Zambrano, Pena, Ramirez, and Byrd (there might be more, but no one that we expect would produce a notable return). It’s quite possible the Cubs would have to send each on their way with similar cash considerations…we’re even BEGGING teams to take Soriano or Zambrano and offering to pay “a substantial amount” of their remaining salary.

Seeing as how we paid 80% of what remained to rid ourselves of Fukudome, I shudder to think of the cost to trade any of our remaining players. It says less about today’s trade, and more about the great free agent binge of the last 5 years or so. We REALLY need to shed payroll, unfortunately this trade didn’t really accomplish that objective (and it doesn’t look like any future trade will either).

The Game
It’s been a rough go of it offensively in Milwaukee. Until Soriano drove in a run in the 6th, only Aramis Ramirez had managed to collect an RBI (three actually) for the Cubs in this SERIES!

The sweep in Milwaukee was the first since 2005 – and that’s also the last year in which we lost the season series to the Brewers. The biggest difference in this iteration of the Brewers is their pitching, especially in the bullpen. We got nothing on any reliever in any of the three games – that includes, unbelievably, LaTroy Hawkins.

It’s the sixth paragraph, and that means I’m overdue for some Mike Quade hate. First inning – you know, the inning that Cubs pitchers (especially Randy Wells) have struggled with all year – Wells gets the first out and then loads the bases. The WGN production crew had a better feel for the game at this point; they flashed shots of both Riggins and Quade who weren’t anywhere near one another (in case they might want to discuss what Wells could change to get a second out!). Riggins is sitting casually on his hands seemingly daydreaming. Quade is hiding behind a wall, clapping his hands in encouragement. No, Wells hadn’t been particularly wild, though he did walk Fielder to load the bases. But Wells HAD been deliberate, slow even. He needed to pick up the pace, and we can thank the Brewers for swinging early and often at the next couple of offerings. They got two runs and the lead, and thanks to an amazing relay from Castro that’s all they got. Someone should’ve been out to get Wells’ head straight and have him pick up the pace – even if it was just Soto.

Castro’s relay was stunning. Betancourt hit a bullet to the left-centerfield wall. Byrd corralled it, turned and fired almost instantly. Byrd gets credit for the assist, but Castro made this relay. Castro caught, turned and fired from about 160 feet on a line to Geo. Even though it was Fielder that was thrown out, it required a perfect throw. I hope Castro quickly improves his defense on the routine plays, I love him as a SS and I hope we don’t wind up needing to move him to another spot.

Braun was the difference – basically beating us alone. He had the pivotal at-bat in the first where after going 0-2 he worked out a single, then a HR in the 3rd and an RBI double in the 5th. He ended just a triple sort of the cycle (Soriano would’ve been happy to oblige I’m sure).

Samardzija put together a surprisingly efficient two innings, 19 pitches in all. Proving yet again that his best work is often in our losses. Hendry is drafting an extension while we speak, I’m sure.

There was a lot to like from individual at-bats, the hitters were working counts and we put several guys on base in multiple innings. Especially early in the game it seemed to happen after we already had an out or two in the inning. But collectively, we can’t get the big hit – going just 1-for-15 in the series with RISP.

After The Game
The Chicago Tribune quoted Aramis as saying, “(General manager Jim Hendry) hasn’t talked to me about trading me. Or, who’s that other guy — (team President Crane Kenney)? Or the Ricketts’ (family)? Nobody has talked to me (to ask) about if I’m willing to waive my no-trade clause.” I love Aramis – I only wish I could’ve heard it in his magnificently high voice with my own ears. That other guy!

I believe it’s Buster Olney who typically ends his columns with the line “and today will be better than yesterday.” I’ve always found it a weird way to be optimistic – what if your kid dies or you lose your job – today won’t necessarily be a better day. For the Cubs, today wasn’t any better than yesterday, and I don’t have any hope for tomorrow either. We’re 1-5 against the Cards this year, and our last trip to STL was…I don’t even want to bring it up. About the only thing we’ve got going for us is the pitching matchup. But seeing as how we’ve screwed Garza so many times this year, we could probably produce the recap for tomorrow’s game in advance of the first pitch.

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

1st Star – Ryan Braun (.208 WPA)

2nd Star – Shaun Marcum (.169 WPA)

3rd Star – John Axford (.080 WPA)

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