Archive for September, 2011

Game 157 – Soriano’s Blast Eliminates Cards From Central Race

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

Starlin Castro – he removed the suspense in the first at-bat of the game, singling solidly to left field for his 200th hit of the year. He collected his 201st in the 9th inning on an RBI single to center. Since 1959, only one player has had more hits than Castro in a single season at age 21 or younger. Alex Rodriguez. It might be a mere numerological milestone, but seeing as how only one other person has done it at Castro’s age or younger in 50+ years it’s fairly significant – congrats Starlin!

Pena – this is the Pena we’d been told we were getting. A game tying RBI double into and over the shift, 3 walks (one intentional). Carpenter didn’t have any clue how to get him out.

Barney – scored the tying and go-ahead runs in large part due to his aggressiveness on the bases. He scored from first on Pena’s rocket to RF; a play on which lot of our guys wouldn’t have attempted to score. Then he led off the 8th with a standing triple in part because he busted it right out of the box. The fact that he was on third instead of second to start the inning put the Cards immediately on edge – yeah, Soriano hit the bomb so Barney would’ve scored from second as well, but Barney’s occupation of third seemed to make McClellan uneasy on the mound.

Soriano – a timely three-run bomb to untie a 1-1 game in the 8th. There was little doubt when he hit it.

What Went OK

Ryan Dempster – a glance at his box score and you might imagine he had a really good game. His result was really good; the course he charted was a bit treacherous at times. He walked six batters, but also stranded 10 and held the Cards to 0-for-8 with RISP.

For once he didn’t look overmatched against Albert Pujols either. His slider was effectively wild; it wasn’t particularly sharp, but when he was missing it was way outside – not on a platter over the heart of the plate.

It wasn’t ever comfortable, but the fact is he surrendered a single run on a squeeze by the pitcher. He also ended a bases loaded threat in the bottom of the sixth with a double play (5-2-3) from Ryan Theriot. The result was fantastic – the performance was ok.

What Went Wrong

Nothing – not anything worth discussing.

The Takeaway

Don’t…Get…Eliminated! I believe I mentioned this a few weeks ago when the Cubs were in San Francisco pushing the Giants further out of the NL West race. Last year the Cubs managed to march into San Diego on the second to last series of the season, and steal three of four from a Padre team that was fighting for the playoffs. Once the Cubs left, the Padres needed to go to SF and sweep the Giants for their ticket to the playoffs – they couldn’t and the Giants went on to win the World Series.

Last night the Cubs & Cards were roughly an inning behind the Brewers & Marlins (playing in Milwaukee). With the game tied 1-1 in the 8th, Ryan Braun launched a 3-run homer that catapulted the Brewers to a 4-1 victory. As John Axford was pitching to the eventual final batter of the game, Miller Park erupted in excitement as they saw the Cubs take a 4-1 lead over the Cards in the top of their 8th inning. Soriano’s bomb in the 8th did for the Cubs what Braun’s had done just minutes before for the Brewers.

Why does it matter? When Marmol slammed the door on the Cards, the Brewers clinched the NL Central crown (their first division title since Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982). And with the Braves beating Stephen Strasburg and the Nats, the Cards now sit 3 games in arrears for the Wild Card. With a bit of luck, the Cubs will head for San Diego on Sunday as St. Louis prepares their Thursday morning tee times.


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

1st Star – Chris Carpenter (.263 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Pena (.260 WPA)

3rd Star – Darwin Barney (.251 WPA)

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“And now, the end is here…”

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Apologies for the short, tardy post today.  For the last couple weeks, I’ve been getting up much earlier than usual to exercise with a couple friends–one of whom is a former Navy SEAL.  For someone like me, whose  usual exercise regimen consisted of periodic laps between the couch and the fridge, it has been a shock to the system to say the least.  The good news is that I’m slowly becoming slightly less of a lazy slob.

Just a few scattered thoughts as the Cubs enter the last weekend of the season:

  • A lot has been said and written this week about the future of Mike Quade.  While his contract guarantees he’ll be paid for the job next year, it seems like a forgone conclusion that he won’t be the Cubs’ manager next season.  No serious Cub fan would argue that he was dealt a winning hand this season.  But even if you strip away all the ineffectiveness on the roster, all the injuries, and all the mistakes made by his bosses, he still didn’t do much to help the team win.  Just how much difference can a manager make in the course of the season?  Between writing up the lineup card, putting players in the best position to succeed, monitoring his starting staff, making shrewd use of his bullpen, executing timely pitching changes, defensive switches, and pinch hits, and policing his players on the field and off, the manager can and should make a significant impact on his team.  Looking over that list, there’s not one area Quade didn’t occasionally fall short in throughout the season–including some where he never excelled.  As a manager, he makes a great third base coach–which is good news, since Ivan DeJesus never really got the hang of that job, either.
  • And Quade’s hits just keep on coming!  The controversy-that-isn’t (yet?) over him ordering suggesting that Matt Garza strike out to secure one more at-bat for Starlin Castro on Wednesday is a bizarre punctuation for the season.  What strikes me is that if Garza chose to strike out of his own accord, we’d probably laud him as a good teammate (he grounded out).  But Quade stepping in makes the whole thing unpleasant and divisive.  No one’s individual achievement should supersede the game, and I’d hate for any of our guys to be ordered to take dives for Castro or another player.  The whole thing reminds me of the game where Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record for consecutive games played.  I forget which inning it was, but the Orioles stopped the game and brought out a parade of gifts, like a new car, a pool table, and some other stuff I can’t remember.  Then Cal took a lap around the field.  It was a great achievement to be sure, but I can remember thinking that it must have been miserable for the rest of his team who had to keep playing once the celebration was over.  Even if Castro getting one more at-bat isn’t nearly as much of a distraction, you still don’t want your manager putting one guy before the rest of the team.  Especially when he’s got six more games to get his 200th hit.  Not smooth, Quade.
  • Somebody asked me the other day when I thought the Cubs would hire their new GM, and I was surprised by how little consideration I’ve given it since Hendry was fired.  It seems like the same set of names has been circulating almost form the start: Gillick, Hahn, Friedman, Epstein, Byrnes, Colletti, etc.  Some of those guys are about to wrap up their seasons, while others can expect at least a few more weeks of intense work as their teams head to the playoffs.  My point?  While Ricketts doesn’t seem to want to show his hand too much, expect the wheels–which have hopefully been in motion for months now–to speed up now that the season is coming to an end.  The Cubs have a laundry list of needs (pitchers, 1B, 3B) and pressing issues (Zambrano, Ramirez, Pena), so expect a decision sooner than later.  I hope the new front office will be up and running in time for the winter meetings, but it might take until then to get the new guy in place.  Any longer than that and it might officially be time to panic.
  • There hasn’t been much to cheer for this season, especially the last couple months.  But the baseball schedule has given us one more meaningful weekend of baseball to close out the season (surprise!).  The Cardinals sit two games out of the wildcard, and start a three-game series tonight against the Cubs in St. Louis.  Maybe you don’t harbor the same animosity I do for the Cards, but the chance to knock them out of the playoffs is enough to get me excited.  And before you think I’m mimicking the White Sox fan’s attitude of “I don’t care if we lose, as long as you lose, too,” let me say that I think the Cardinals’ potential playoff run has far-reaching implications for the future of the NL Central.  Specifically, I think keeping the Cardinals out of the playoffs significantly decreases their already-low hopes for resigning Albert Pujols.  For starters, they’ll miss out on the bonus postseason revenue, shrinking their ability to give him the kind of raise he’s looking for.  But it also gives him an extra two or three weeks (or more) to be away from his team, to weigh his options, and to watch as more successful teams fight for pennants and rings.  I know Cubs fans are divided about whether or not to sign Pujols, but what we can all agree on is that we don’t want him to return to St. Louis.  Keeping them out of the playoffs might go a long way to send him off.  I know I’ll be watching.
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Game 156– Garza Turns Out the Lights at Wrigley

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Cubs 7, Brewers 1

Box Score Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

Garza’s Gem – Matt Garza, the undisputed ace of the Cubs’ staff this season, closed out his first season at Wrigley Field with one of his best performances of terrific season. Garza pitched his second complete game as a Cub striking out 10 and allowing only an unearned run in the third. Garza hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his last nine starts.

Offensive Output – The Cubs offense produced from the top of the lineup to the bottom with each starting position player tallying at least one hit. Soto led the way with three of his team’s 13 hits, including an RBI double that closed out the Cubs’ scoring for the day. Marlon Byrd hit the big blast of the day, pounding a Randy Wolf cutter into the left field bleachers for a 3-run homer in the 6th inning.

One More for the Road – With two hits, Starlin Castro put himself just one hit away from 200 with six games left to play. His hits came in the first three innings of the game but, thanks in part to two walks, he was unable to reach the milestone in front of the home crowd.

What Went Wrong

Castro’s Miscues – There wasn’t too much to complain about on a day when the Cubs recorded a six-run win over the NL Central Champs-in-waiting Brewers, but if I’m going to nitpick I have to point at two miscues by Castro in the early innings – one on the base paths and one in the field. He led off the game with a drive into the left field corner then attempted to stretch an easy double into a triple, only to record the first out of the game at third base. That mistake was followed by an error in the 3rd in which he errantly flipped a ball to Baker in an attempt to start a double play. That error, his 28th of the season, allowed the only Brewers run of the game to score.

Misc. Notes

• Third baseman Aramis Ramirez made it clear that he has probably played his final game in a Cubs uniform at Wrigley Field, stating before the game that he will opt for free agency this off-season, leaving a huge question mark at third for the Cubs next season.

• 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.

• Congratulations to the Cubs marketing staff on eclipsing the 3 million mark for season attendance for the 8th straight season. As someone who is in the business of marketing sports and entertainment events, I can guarantee you this is the hardest they have had to work in a long time.

• They Cubs begin their final home stand of the season on Friday in St. Louis and the opportunity to play spoiler to the Cards’ post-season hopes makes me positively giddy.

The Takeaway

This winter when I think back on the 2011 Cubs season and my mind starts to replay all of bad days, I’m going to close my eyes (really tightly) and try my best to remember this game instead. The sun was shining, the bats were smoking, and Garza was dealing…it was a perfect memory for an otherwise forgettable season. It was exactly the type of day that spawned the Cubs fan’s eternal “Wait ‘til next year” optimism, now we’re left only to hope for many more days like this in 2012.

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

1st Star – Matt Garza (.272 WPA)

2nd Star – D.J. LeMahieu (.192 WPA)

3rd Star – Starlin Castro (.080 WPA)

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Chet’s Corner: Hot Corner…or not so much?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

The Cubs are lacking a serious replacement at both First Base and Third Base for the 2012 season. 

Aramis wants a multi-year deal and Pena, well, one word……Boras.  I hate the idea of loading up on either one of these guys.  I am hoping whoever gets hired as GM will hate the idea as well.  Then again, maybe Tom Ricketts will take care of that little chore for the next GM and just lock each one of them up for the next 4 years! (I am just kidding, I hope)

As we did last week with pitchers,  I figured we would take a stroll on over to Cot’s Contracts and see who might be available for the corner spots through free agency….

First Basemen

* represents player with an option on contract

Lance Berkman STL
Russell Branyan LAA
Jorge Cantu SD
Prince Fielder MIL
Brad Hawpe SD
Eric Hinske ATL *
Ross Gload PHI
Nick Johnson CLE
Derrek Lee BAL
Xavier Nady ARI
David Ortiz BOS
Lyle Overbay PIT
Carlos Pena CHC
Albert Pujols STL
Jim Thome MIN

Third Basemen

Wilson Betemit KC
Casey Blake LAD *
Eric Chavez NYY
Mark DeRosa SF
Greg Dobbs PHI
Edwin Encarnacion TOR *
Wes Helms FLA
Melvin Mora ARI
Aramis Ramirez CHC
Miguel Tejada SF
Omar Vizquel CWS


As you can see,  this is a tale of the have’s and have not’s.  The Third Base outlook being the “Have not’s”.

Without a trade, we have to choose between the market, which you see above, and our club internally.  I would not be totally against the signing of Aramis for a year or maybe two, but he is said to be looking for something in the neighborhood of four years and it does appear that he has a desire to test the market.

Once again, play GM for the day, what do you do? Do any of the above look like good options? What about our system as a whole, anybody worth trying there?

*Update (4:15pm): In regards to Aramis….




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Game 155 – Not so Wells

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Cubs 1, Brewers 5

Box Score / Highlights

The final 2011 night game at Wrigley saw the soon-to-be playoff bound Milwaukee Brewers knock around Cubs starter Randy Wells and get strong pitching from Shaun Marcum as Milwaukee beat the Cubs 5-1.

What went right:

  • Starlin Castro hit his 10th home run of the year to extend his on-base streak to 33 games. The hit also gave Castro 336 in his first two seasons, surpassing Glenn Beckert’s Cubs record of 335 in 1965-66.
  • The bullpen pitched well, getting 4 good innings by Ramon Ortiz, Andrew Cashner, and John Grabow.
  • We’re one game closer to the end of Mike Quade.

What went wrong:

  • Randy Wells. In the third inning he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits. He left most of his pitches up in the zone that inning and Milwaukee teed off. In the fifth inning, he unleashed two wild pitches with Nyjer Morgan on base who would go on to score on a fielders choice. Wells final line was 5 innings, 6 hits, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.
  • The offense knocked a total of 6 hits to go along with 10 strikeouts and zero walks and was 0-5 with runners in scoring position.
  • Ramon Ortiz and John Grabow pitched instead of guys with a future on the team.


  • Aramis Ramirez left the game with a mild right quad strain. It might have been his last home game with the Cubs.
    *Update on Ramirez, he was asked after the game if this would be the last. Here are some of his quotes:
    “Probably,” he said. “There’s a good chance. I’m a free agent and I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it looks like I’m going to hit the market.”
    “We don’t have a GM, so I don’t know who you talk to,” he said.
    “I think we’re ready to move on”
  • Bob Brenly on Monday night’s Campana caught stealing: “CB Bucknor usually blows one routine call per game, and that was it.”
  • The Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts told scouting director Tim Wilken that he will be back in 2012. Longtime scout and Jim Hendry confidant Gary Hughes has told the Cubs he will not be returning next season.

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

1st Star – Shaun Marcum (.286 WPA)

2nd Star – Nyjer Morgan (.171 WPA)

3rd Star – Corey Hart (.068 WPA)

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