Archive for September, 2011

Game 161 – Staggering Toward the Finish Line

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Cubs 6, Padres 2

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza finally collected his tenth win of the season, finishing the year with a record of 10-10.  Garza gave up two runs early, and a couple times throughout the night it looked like he might be done.  But instead of sitting down and hoping for at best a no-decision, Garza fought to stick around through seven fairly solid innings–long enough for the Cubs to take the lead and give him the win.  Garza’s win-loss record would be much better if the Cubs have given him even a little more run support throughout the season.  Tonight looked like another chapter in that same story.  Instead they held on to get the win for the Cubs’ current and future ace.
  • Starlin Castro led off the game with a hit–the first of two he recorded tonight for an NL-leading 206 on the season.  Perhaps more impressive is that he’s now reached safely in 39 consecutive games.  Castro’s been one of the few bright spots in a fairly dismal season for the Cubs.  Here’s hoping he can pick up next season where he’s leaving off now, and that rest of the lineup around him can follow his lead.
  • Aramis Ramirez hit a deep solo home run to center in the top of the fourth inning.  I can’t help thinking it’s going to be his last in a Cubs uniform.  Often in his tenure with the Cubs, he’s provided the only offensive spark, and tonight it seemed like that might happen again.  I’m glad he was able to heal up enough to play tonight, and that he got to round the bases one more time to the loud cheers of Cubs fans.
  • Alfonso Soriano provided the late-inning offense Garza was hoping for.  With one out and two on in the eighth, he belted a long home run to center to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead.  We’d add on two more runs in the ninth, but Soriano’s long bomb provided the lift the Cubs needed, allowed Garza to leave the game, and turn things over to the bullpen.

What Went Wrong

  • About the bullpen, though; it was once again less-than-great.  Marshall got out of an eighth inning jam by being his usual, stellar self.  But the jam was created by Jeff Samardzija, who walked the first batter he saw, then gave up a single to advance that runner to third base, and then gave up a stolen base to leave the game with only one out and runners on second and third.  After Marshall got out of the eighth unscathed and the Cubs added on two more insurance runs, Carlos Marmol came in to close out the game.  No surprise–he was unreliable and unwieldy, needing 31 pitches to get out of the ninth (he face five hitters in all).  When he walked his second hitter of the inning, I half expected Garza to charge out of the dugout and tackle him.  I don’t have much faith in him or Samardzija, and I wouldn’t be devastated if either (or both) of them had pitched his last game in a Cubs uniform tonight.

The Takeaway

  • Despite the meaninglessness of the outcome, it was nice to see the Cubs fight for a win again.  I wish it had been that way when the games still mattered.  And no, I’m not just talking about the early part of the season–it would have been nice to see the team put up this kind of fight as recently as this past weekend, instead of laying down for St. Louis.  And although the Cubs are only playing out the last bit of the string tomorrow, there will be meaningful baseball.  Going into the last day of the season, the Cardinals and Braves are tied for the Wild Card.  The Rays and Red Sox are tied for the AL Wild Card spot, as well.  So if you can’t stomach one final slap fight for the Cubs, flip over and cheer for the Astros and Braves to keep St. Louis out of the postseason.  That might only be a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Stars of the Game

Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Alfonso Soriano (.508 WPA)

2nd Star – Sean Marshall (.248 WPA)

3rd Star – Cameron Maybin (.180 WPA)

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Game 160 – The Kids Aren’t Alright

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Cubs 0, Padres 2

Box Score

What Went Right

Casey Coleman – kind of a raw deal for Coleman tonight. He’s pitching a great game, shutout through 5; then he breaks up Mat Latos’ no-hitter in the top of the sixth with a one-out triple! In the process he tweaked something (it seemed to be in his leg/ankle). He gave up two runs and only got two outs in the sixth before being removed.

What Went Wrong

Mike Quade – was there any doubt he’d be here? Remember when we traded Fukudome and EVERYONE said the lion’s share of playing time in RF would go to Tyler Colvin. Here we sit, two months later and Tyler Colvin has 27 starts to his name since that day. No, Colvin hasn’t been tearing it up – but by the same token he’s only once started as many as five games in a row during the last two months. Colvin has been stuck on the Mike Quade yo-yo, especially in September.

Likewise, John Gaub was called up during the first week of September. Why? So he could pitch in four games. The Cubs brought up Steve Clevenger and Rafael Dolis when the AA season ended…a week ago. Both made their MLB debut in the 160th game of the year.

It’s embarrassing that we had 3 baserunners all night and our pitcher had the only extra base hit. But even more embarrassing is that after glancing at the schedule, Quade would decide to finally use most of the call-ups in perhaps the baseball’s best pitcher’s park. It’s the equivalent of giving a pitcher his MLB debut at Coors Field in Colorado.

These “kids” should have been getting more regular starts & appearances over the last three weeks so that when they got to the best pitcher’s park in the league they weren’t short on confidence and/or battling nerves.  It was simply too easy for Latos and the Padres; the Cubs’ “kids” were overmatched in nearly every facet of the game.

Quade’s defining characteristic as manager has been a remarkable ability to set his players up for failure, repeatedly.

(As an aside, Aramis Ramirez is a career .299 hitter with 5 HRs at Petco Park…in just 24 games – for Petco, those are MVP-like numbers. I’m all for playing the “kids”, but a PH appearance for Ramirez would’ve been a welcome sight. Instead, Aramis sat on the bench all night.)

The Takeaway

Wild Card Indeed I’m not a big fan of this usually (it IS a Cubs’ blog after all), but the Cubs’ game was a complete dog and the action around baseball was quite exciting.

First, baseball’s anti-hero Ozzie Guillen was “traded” to the Marlins. As I write this the details are still a bit sketchy. But the basic story is that Guillen wanted to be something other than a lame-duck when next season started; that means he needed an extension. The White Sox were unwilling, so he asked to be let go and put them on notice that he was quitting a couple of games early. They hastily arranged some sort of deal with the Marlins – where Jack McKeon was busy announcing his 174th retirement from baseball. More details to come on this I’m sure.

Then the Braves were battered around by division foe and the potential postseason kingmaker Philadelphia Phillies. On cue, the Cardinals tied their game in Houston and it looked like a mortal lock to have a tie atop the NL Wild Card with 2 games to go. Only the AAAAstros fought back in the bottom of the 10th and rallied to keep the spread at 1 game.

And while Joe Girardi spent far too much time whining and moaning about how the postseason schedule was affecting the use of his bullpen (what a problem!), the Rays beat the Yankees while the Cubs’ farm team in Baltimore was able to defeat the Red Sox and create a tie in the AL Wild Card standings.

 

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

1st Star – Mat Latos (.382 WPA)

2nd Star – Will Venable (.153 WPA)

3rd Star – Casey Coleman, hitting (.114 WPA)

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Game 159 – Oh Wells…

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Cubs 2, Cardinals 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

All’s Wells That Ends Wells  – Let’s see how many Wells puns I can make in one post… In all seriousness, after a rough first half of the season, Randy Wells finished the year looking like the kind of pitcher we can expect him to be. He’s a serviceable end of the rotation guy who can get guys out without looking spectacular. We’ll get to the bad soon enough, but most days when you get eight innings and just three runs allowed out of Wells, you’re going to be happy.

Defensive Wizardry – Ok, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that I’ve had ample opportunities to bag on the Cubs’ defensive problems all season. Today, however, Chicago didn’t record an error. Let’s hear it for lowered expectations!

Triple-Double – On a day when the Cubs managed just eight base runners, it is tough to find too many bright spots on the offensive side of the ledger. However, if we’re looking for the silver lining, Carlos Peña, Blake Dewitt, and Marlon Byrd were the only north-siders each reached base twice, accounting for 75% of the Cubs total baserunners and 100% of the team’s runs scored.            

What Went Wrong

Not Digging the Long Ball – Wells kept the big boppers in the Cards line-up from hurting him on Sunday, as Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday were a combined 1-10. It was the little guys doing the damage instead, with Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal hitting game-tying and game-winning homers in the 7th and 8th innings. This hasn’t been rare this season in games between these two teams, as Molina hit four of his career high 14 home runs against the Cubs.

Token Questionable Qall – I’m not sure what I would have done, but in hindsight, it sure is easy to question Mike Quade’s decision to trot Wells back out for the eighth inning. Heading into that inning, he was sitting on 96 pitches and had just given up the lead on a mistake pitch in the seventh. I’m not going to kill Q for that decision though, but it just seems like even when it’s a toss-up, he has made the wrong choice this season.

Missed Opportunities – The Cubs had opportunities to get a couple insurance runs in this one, but going 1-6 with runners in scoring position isn’t going to get the job done. Outside of Castro’s go-ahead single in the 7th, the Cubs batters couldn’t find a hole when they needed it. Randy Wells did account for two of those six at-bats, so a little bit of bad timing was also in play on Sunday.

Misc. Notes

  • Quade indicated that Monday’s series opener in San Diego will feature a “Kid’s Day” line-up, including the first MLB start for Steve Clevenger behind the plate.
  • Castro’s 7th-inning single was his 203rd hit, which should be more than enough to become the youngest player in history to lead the NL in that category. Matt Kemp sits 12 hits behind him.
  • Pujols received a nice ovation from the home fans in each of his at bats in the last regular season home game for St. Louis. I expect he’ll be hearing very similar cheers in the home opener at Busch Stadium next year.
  • With the Braves’ 3-0 loss to the Nationals, the Cardinals are just one game out of the Wild Card. Hooray…

The Takeaway

After the series opener on Friday, I was feeling pretty good about the opportunity to see the Cubs put an end to the Cardinals’ post-season aspirations. Of course, I didn’t count on Chicago simply handing two games to St. Louis while the Braves were struggling against Washington. So much for moral victories. Hot stove season officially starts in three days.

 

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

1st Star – Rafael Furcal (.220 WPA)

2nd Star – Yadier Molina (.215 WPA)

3rd Star – Jason Motte (.153 WPA)

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GirlieView

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Another week gone, and with it, let us send the many trials and tribulations we have suffered throughout the 2011 season. As this last weekend comes to a close, let us say farewell to the boys of summer the best way we know how.

The Wizzies

  • Darwin Barney and Alfonso Soriano walked in the same game! Isn’t that one of the seven signs of the apocalypse?
  • To say Ramirez was running to first base is an abuse of the word run.
  • Manager Mike Quade, on the other hand, announced that he’s planning to be back managing the Cubs next season. Unlike Ramirez’s announcement, this proclamation probably isn’t founded on reality. As it turns out, I also plan to manage the Cubs in 2012.
  • I think if you put a bowl of cottage cheese up against Quade, I’d still vote for the moldy dairy.
  • Do you think if the Brewers have a deep playoff run and Tubby Veggy carries them he’ll add $$$ to his contract? His agent is Bora$
  • I always like Tubo Tofu for Fielder.
  • I go more for the Marla the ball girl back in Harry’s day. Soto needs to lay off the chorizo.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-31

Doc Raker-29

jswanson-25

Doug S.-20

BLPCB-21

Seymour Butts-19

Aaron-17

Chet-11

Jedi-9

Eddie Von White-8

Larry Sproul-8

Poll of the Week

Which interleague series in 2012 are you most looking forward to and why?

a) @ Twins

b) vs. Tigers

c) vs. Red Sox

d) White Sox

 

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Game 158 – Welp, So Much for That.

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Cubs 1, Cardinals 2

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right:

  • The First Three Pitchers: Lopez pitched a stellar 6 innings, giving up zero runs on 4 hits. Cashner threw a scoreless frame, as did Marshall. It’s nice to see our pitching come together like that. I’ve covered Lopez’ last 2 starts, and he’s been pleasantly surprising by keeping his opponents on a short leash. Hopefully Cash will be a solid rotation guy for us next season (and stay un-injured).
  • Defense: There were three plays that stood out from this game – Marlon Byrd’s diving catch to rob Skip Schumaker of a base hit, Pena’s awesome stop at 1st base in the 4th, and Soriano’s rocket throw to third to snag Holiday. Soriano is by no means a great outfielder, but that throw was spectacular.
  • Soriano’s Bat: He had our only RBI today. He was the hero last night. Way to show up 100 games too late.

What Went Wrong:

  • Marmol: Carlos Marmol has never been so infuriating as he was today. HE WAS SO TERRIBLE! If a pitcher gives up a hit and proceeds to walk the next 2 batters, TAKE HIM OUT!! It’s only natural for him to walk in the tying run, then throw a wild pitch to lose the game. Obviously.
  • Quade made some bad decisions today.

Notes:

  • I’m not going to complain about DeWitt today. He was not productive, and he was not that great at third, but he was not directly detrimental to the team. So for that, I will give him a pass.
  • Castro is everyone’s favorite Cub.
  • Every time Soto was up to bat, I couldn’t help but wonder why Lizzie finds him so attractive. To each her own, Lizzie! :)

The Takeaway:

Today’s game was a decent summary of what the season has been for the Cubs. Disappointing. As much as I love the Boys of Summer, summer is over, and today put the nail in the coffin for that realization. The game looked good for the first 8 innings; my hopes were high for a win! But Marmol blew it. It’s time to rebuild. We’re a step in the right direction.

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

1st Star – Ryan Theriot (.391 WPA)

2nd Star – Rodrigo Lopez (.381 WPA)

3rd Star – Adron Chambers (.346 WPA)

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