Archive for August, 2011

Game 129 – Heyward Smash

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

What Went Wrong

  • Runners left on again, the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th Cubs had at least one runner in scoring position with less than 2 outs and came up empty and left 9 on base. The Braves are the second best team in the national league for a reason; they have great starting pitching and the best bullpen in baseball.
  • Casey Coleman was absolutely cruising thru 3 and 2/3 of this game he even had a 5 pitch 3rd inning. Then Dan Uggla hit a weak grounder to Ramirez and he unnecessarily tried to bare hand it when it looked like he had plenty of time to use his glove. Chipper Jones then of course singled to right followed by back to back walks which plated a run. Jason Heyward then crushed a grand slam to left center.
  • Tyler Colvin bailed Quade out after looking god awful in his at bat to the end the game. If Colvin would of got a single and Aramis gets nailed at home with Tony Campana sitting on the bench, one would wonder WHAT THE %&$# is Quade thinking. Down one and two outs I don’t know what he was saving Campana for.

What Went Right

  • I wish I could just say Aramis Ramirez and leave it at that, he is playing so freaking great right now. This was his first career five hit game and his second one with 4 or more hits on the season, it was unfortunately wasted because the rest of the Cubs only got 5 hits themselves.  Aramis even had a rare (for the Cubs) two out and two RBI double.
  • Other than the 4th Coleman and the bullpen pitched decent baseball tonight. The 8 innings not counting the 4th, they scattered 6 hits, walked 1 and didn’t give up any runs.
  • Alfonso Soriano took the first pitch of 5th and planted it into the bleachers; Soriano also got a hustle double in the 6th. Side note my computer just asked me if it was a mistake for having the words Soriano and hustle in the same sentence.

Take Away

Each team had a bad inning each, Cubs gave up five in the 4th and Braves fall short of topping Cubs and only gave up 4 in the 5th. I’m sure the Braves will take it and also the victory. Cubs lose their 3rd in a row and fall 5 games under .500 …. at home. Aramis Ramirez is really good and since June 1st has been one of the top 5best players in baseball, it’s a shame that we don’t have any pitching because we should be better.

Watching Michael Bourne get on base and then steal makes me wish the Cubs actually had a leadoff hitter; Cubs have 46 steals on the year while Bourne has 47. Ughhh

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Potential September Callups

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

With September 1st just around the corner, I thought I would take a look at the potential callups for the Cubs to see if there is any reason to get excited about watching the Cubs close out the season.  Here are the players I think might get the call.

Most Likely

These are players who have already spent some time in the majors this season and will likely get the call.

  1. Justin Berg
  2. Chris Carpenter
  3. Scott Maine
  4. Welington Castillo
  5. D.J. LeMahieu
  6. Lou Montanez

Of the above players, I would most like to see Castillo and LeMahieu get an extended look.  Given that the Cubs are out of contention, there is no reason to give Koyie Hill any playing time down the stretch.  Castillo should be given at least 2-3 starts per week.

As for LeMahieu, unless you plan on picking up Aramis Ramirez‘ option for next year, give LeMahieu a chance to show what he can do at third.

Probable

These are players who should get the call, based on their performances, but might not due to other factors.

  1. Brett Jackson
  2. John Gaub

Although he is not on the 40-man roster, you’ve got to think that the Cubs will make room for Jackson and call him up.  He is hitting well at Iowa and the Cubs need to get their future center fielder some major league experience.  As for Gaub, the Cubs will be looking for another lefty in the bullpen when John Grabow‘s contract expires after this year.  Gaub has posted some nice stats this year in the hitter friendly PCL (although the walk total is a little high) and should get his first taste of the majors.

Other Possibilities

  1. Angel Guzman
  2. Rafael Dolis

Guzman has pitched pretty well coming off a potential career-threatening shoulder injury.  He’s not on the 40-man roster, but calling him up would be one of those feel good stories that the Cubs need to help remove some of the stench from this season.

 

Dolis has pitched well in relief at AA Tennessee and the Cubs may want to get him some major league experience.

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Game 128 – Cubs Can’t Cash In

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

 

Braves 3, Cubs 0

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Usually whenever I do a recap I include “missed opportunities” on the what went wrong list.  Failing to score with runners in scoring position seems to be a recurring theme for the Chicago Cubs.  Tonight they loaded the bags with one out in the first, but Marlon Byrd bounced into a double play.  In the fifth, the Cubs got three straight singles, but no runs.
  • Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman both went deep against Ryan Dempster.
  • Jair Jurrjens shutout the Cubs in 6.1 innings even though he allowed eight hits.
  • The theme of the night continued when the Cubs worked back-to-back walks to start the ninth inning before strike outs by Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd.  Alfonso Soriano hit a fielder’s choice bouncer up the middle to end it.

What Went Right

  • Ryan Dempster turned in another solid outing but once again did not earn a W.  He was sharp through six innings, with two of the three Braves runs scoring on solo bombs.
  • Tony Campana picked up a pinch hit bunt single.
  • James Russell worked a perfect inning.  I enjoy seeing Russell pitch well because I think he has a chance to be a part of the Cubs future.  If it weren’t for the Cubs trying to make him into a starter he would have much better numbers this season.
  • Jeff Samardzija also continued a good year (3.25 ERA) by retiring the side in order in his frame.  Kerry Wood struck out the side in the ninth.  Cub relievers did not allow a base runner in three innings tonight.
  • Aramis Ramirez reached base four times via three singles and a walk.

Other Notes

  • Starlin Castro was not in the Cubs lineup tonight.  He received a “mental day” off.  Mike Quade said before the game that he was disappointed with Castro’s lapse of attention during yesterday’s game.  He also said that youth is no longer and excuse for Starlin.  Blake DeWitt played second base and Darwin Barney moved over to shortstop.
  • Pat Hughes was not in the broadcast booth tonight.  He took a scheduled day off, the fourth time he has missed this season after missing just three games (all due to illness) in his first 15 years as the voice of the Cubs.  Dave Eanet filled in tonight and called the game with Keith Moreland.  This was Pat’s final scheduled day off this season.
  • One year ago today the Cubs and Braves were playing each other at Wrigley, just like tonight.  That game was Lou Piniella’s last one as the manager of the Chicago Cubs.
  • Koyie Hill has become a personal catcher for Ryan Dempster.  Hill caught Dempster the fifth straight time tonight.
  • The Chicago Tribune issued a report before the game that said that the Cubs have been trying to contact Greg Maddux since Friday but he has not returned their calls.  They would like to keep him in the organization, but he was very close to Jim Hendry.
  • Carlos Pena is rumored to be among the Cubs placed on waivers.

The Takeaway

The Cubs continued to struggle in RBI spots tonight.  They stranded 15 on base and wasted a good effort by the pitching staff.  The Cubs had men in scoring position in seven different innings, but they failed to scratch out a tally.  Jurrjens has good stuff, so tonight you just have to tip your cap to him and go back at it tomorrow.

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

1st Star – Jair Jurrgens (.353 WPA)

2nd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.154 WPA)

3rd Star – Freddie Freeman (.112 WPA)

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Game 127 – Sweepless in Chicago

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Cubs 2, Cardinals 6

Box Score / Highlights 

What Went Right

Hot Corner – Aramis Ramirez was the lone standout for the Cubs on an otherwise rough night against the Cards, driving in the team’s only two runs in the game. In the 3rd inning, he came to the plate with two runners on and delivered a single that allowed Geovany Soto to score from second. In his next appearance, Ramirez hit a long fly ball on the first pitch that, while not quite finding the bleachers, was more than deep enough to get Starlin Castro in from third. Overall, A-Ram was 2-3 and has now hit at a torrid .487 clip over the last ten games.

Bullpen (mostly) – Aside from James Russell’s brief appearance that saw him give up a run on two hits in just 1/3-inning, the bullpen once again looked sharp. Jeff Samardzija, John Grabow and Ramon Ortiz stopped the bleeding and kept the Cardinals off the board for the final 3 2/3 innings.

 What Went Wrong

 Meatballs – Rodrigo Lopez got absolutely hammered, pretty much from the start of the game. Four of the first seven batters hit the ball either two the wall or over it, the latter being the case on two consecutive pitches to John Jay and Yadier Molina in the second inning. Lopez grooved pitch after pitch and should consider himself lucky to have only surrendered four home runs (numbers three and four came off the bats of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, again – not in that order).

 El Hombre – I’m sure fans of most National League teams feel like Albert Pujols kills their team every time he faces them…but man, it sure seems like Pujols kills the Cubs every time he faces them. Pujols had a routine 4-5 night, including the fourth home run of the night off Lopez in the sixth.

 The Molina Brother – St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina isn’t exactly known for being a power hitter (he has just 52 home runs in 7+ seasons in the Majors), but reputation doesn’t matter when Lopez is throwing fastballs over the heart of the plate. Molina put two of Lopez’s offerings into the bleachers in just his second career multi-home run game.

 E6 – Starlin Castro added to his season error tally and very nearly had a second later in the game. In both cases the Cubs’ shortstop make great grabs deep into the hole only to deliver less than ideal throws – one that nearly ended up in the stands and another that ate up Carlos Peña at first as he tried to dig it out of the dirt. His biggest sin, however, was the crucial role that he played in Bobby Valentine’s inning-long diatribe about Castro not playing the game correctly. He may have been right, but pretty much just repeated himself over and over and over for about 20 minutes.

 Misc. Notes

  • Bobby Valentine – I almost put Bobby V. into the “What Went Wrong” category. I tend to complain quite a bit about announcers, but Bobby Valentine may get on my nerves more than anyone else in the business not named Joe Buck. His burying of Castro was overbearing and repetitive and actually caused me to mute the TV briefly.
  • Pujols ain’t coming – Can we stop with the “The Cubs would really like Pujols” storyline? Of course they would, as would pretty much every other team in Major League Baseball. I don’t think there is any chance he ends up as a Cub next year though. I’m looking at you Mr. “Custom Pujols Cubs Jersey Wearing Guy”…he’s not coming, move along.

 The Takeaway

In the long run, it really doesn’t matter if the Cubs won this game or not. A sweep against the Cardinals would have been great, but at this point, I’m ready for September to get here so we can get some MLB at-bats for guys like Brett Jackson and see what happens. Sunday night was pretty much the same performance as the previous night, with the notable exception being the quality of the starting pitching.

Speaking of starting pitching, Tom Ricketts made an appearance on the ESPN broadcast for a half-inning and was asked if he could see Carlos Zambrano pitching for the Cubs again. He admitted that he would “have a hard time seeing it”, which pretty much says all you need to know about the future of Big Z in Chicago.

 

 

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

1st Star – Yadier Molina (.256WPA)

2nd Star – John Jay (.178WPA)

3rd Star – Albert Pujols (.172 WPA)

 

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Game 126 – One Inning Wonders

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

 

Cubs 3, Cardinals 0

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • The Goatee – Who knows what Mike Quade actually said to Matt Garza, but whatever it was it seemed to work. With the bases loaded and just one out in the first inning, the Cubs manager made an early visit to the mound for a short conversation (or monologue as Mark Grace called it, repeatedly) with his starting pitcher. Garza then induced a 6-4-3 double play and didn’t look back from there. He would not find himself in serious trouble again until the 7th inning as he cruised to a shutout win. There is no denying that Garza has been the Cubs’ best starting pitcher this season, and his 6-9 record doesn’t reflect how well he has pitched for much of the year. He has been particularly strong in August, posting a 2-1 record with a sharp 1.82 ERA.
  • 4th-Inning Cycle – Starlin Castro (single), Aramis Ramirez (home run), Carlos Peña (triple) and Marlon Byrd (double) combined to hit for the cycle for the Cubs in the fourth inning, providing all the offensive fireworks Garza would need on Saturday.
  •  Perfect Bullpen – My apologies to Colonel Hannibal Smith, but I love it when a plan comes together. The rotation on the mound for the Cubs today went exactly as you would have drawn it up back in April. Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Marmol followed up Garza’s strong start by pitching two perfect innings and slamming the door shut on the Cardinals.

What Went Wrong

  •  Quiet bats – The Cubs had four hits in the fourth inning…and two hits in the other eight innings combined. If not for that stretch of five batters in the fourth, this looked eerily like a lot of other Garza starts this season with the Cubs providing him with little run support. Fortunately for the Cubs, all nine innings count towards the final score.

 Misc. Notes

  • The Cubs are now 13-5 in August bringing Mike Quade’s career record in the eighth month to 18-8. Well done Mike, well done.
  • The Cubs will be looking to sweep the Cardinals at home on Sunday for the first time since April 2006. Much like this year, Chicago was terrible that summer. Also similar to this year, they capped the disastrous season by firing their manager.
  • Mark Grace was in the booth today for Fox, and while he’s not the greatest announcer in the game, it was fun to hear him clearly having a good time being back in Chicago. I’m not sure that he completely redeemed himself for the awkward Justin Timberlake interview at the All-Star Game though.
  • Thanks to MLB’s awesome blackout rules on their MLB.tv package, I got to enjoy this game on a three-hour delay.  I found myself confused on a couple of occasions as to why it didn’t appear to be getting dark at Wrigley.

 The Takeaway

Aside from the bottom of the fourth inning, there wasn’t much action in this one. However, no matter what kind of season the Cubs are having, I’ll take a shutout win over the Cardinals any way we get it. Having an opportunity to push the Cards even further out of the playoff race makes it that much sweeter. Coupled with the Brewers win amidst an inferno at Citi Field, St. Louis is now 8 ½ games behind Milwaukee in the division race and an equal distance behind Atlanta for the Wild Card. As for the Cubs, don’t look now but they are just four games behind the Pirates, which is very exciting if you ignore that Pittsburgh has been playing like Pittsburgh for the last month.

 

 

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

1st Star – Matt Garza (.373 WPA)

2nd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.163WPA)

3rd Star – Geovany Soto (.051 WPA)

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