Archive for September, 2011

Game 146 – LaHair’s Tear

Monday, September 12th, 2011

What Went Right:

  • Bryan LaHair had one heck of game. His defense was good in left field and his hitting was stellar. He got off to the right start with a double in the first, then went on to draw 2 walks and hit another double. The Cubs have not been patient at the plate this season, so it is nice to see someone take some walks.
  • Pena also had a decent game, drawing a walk and having two hits.
  • Quade played the young players. It was so refreshing and exciting to see LeMahieu at third despite Ramirez’ hot bat. He showed some solid defense even if his bat was quiet. Colvin brought his average up with 2 hits and Campana got the start in center (even though he has Aunt Mable’s arm).
  • Castro has a 12 game hitting streak.
  • Soriano with a 2-run double in the top of the 11th put the Cubs up 7-4 to seal the deal.
What Went Wrong:
  • Garza had a shaky first inning. His pitching was good for inning 2-6, then he got shaky in the 7th again. Marshall pitched 1/3 of an inning. Then Samardzija came in and scared the living daylights out of any decent Cubs fan by giving up a run on a throwing error. Then he decided to load the bases in the 9th, almost give up the winning run, and strike out the batter to end it and send the game to extras.
  • 10 men left on base.
  • DeWitt.
The Takeaway:
If the young guys can get it together and keep it together, next year won’t be too bad. Hopefully Cashner and Garza will be good, and hopefully the rest of our pitching gets a makeover. Our batting should be decent if these past few games are indicative of anything. To say the least, I’m kind of excited about next year.
Remembering 9/11:
The pre-game ceremonies were excellent. New York servicemen and women lined the infield foul lines, and both teams stood next to them with a child of a 9/11 victim by their sides. The National Anthem was sung by Marc Anthony, who did a fantastic job. It looked like each attendee received an electric candle to turn on during the moment of silence. The crowd broke out into chants of “USA”. It was awesome to see people coming together, 10 years after the terror attacks on our nation.
I’m sure everyone who is able can remember where they were and what they were doing that morning. I was in fifth grade, about to start my history lesson, when the school administrator came into our classroom and took us to the only TV in the school. I remember seeing the smoke billowing out of the North Tower and the 2nd plane hitting it.
As devastating as those events were (and still are), baseball brought many people together and distracted them from their worries, even for a few moments. ESPN replayed the home run that Mike Piazza hit on September 27th. He was emotional and candid in his interview, and it was encouraging to see such an icon show some heart and compassion, even though he was not directly involved in the incident.
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GirlieView

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

As we remember the tragedy of this day 10 years ago, let us be truly grateful to those that gave their lives in defense of our nation. I hope everyone is enjoying the day with loved ones, counting their blessings for all they still have.

One thing that will always be there is this sport. Even with football season among us, the passion for baseball that runs through our veins is what brings us pure joy. Sure, we rant and rage over the Cubs, but honestly, baseball has been with us through the years; it has been an escape from the daily grind and overwhelming stress that so easily consumes us.

Alas, let us move onward for some comedic relief with this week’s edition of the best of VFTB.

The Wizzies

  • Both of those guys have been trying to vie for talent with less funds and a much less desirable team to attract players.  Then again, I am not sure if that personality would fly with Tom Ricketts.  He seems to care about what his fans want…..at least where food is concerned.
  • Nova and Colon are pitching out of their asses. Sort of reminiscent of when Demp and Wells were both unhittable. A.J., Soriano, and Mo all have Hendry-like contracts. Pretty sure Mo gets to fill in his own paycheck, but those other two are ugly.
  • All or nothing Pena got all of that one off a lefty no less. He isn’t hitting .000 off of lefties so the blind squirrel will find a nut now and then. Good for Pena, good for the Cubs.
  • Why is my anti-spam word “heroin”? Is it saying something about my relationship with the Cubs and this site? VFTB, you complete me.
  • Always a great idea to swing hard, in case of contact, Pena. Somewhere Mike Hargrove is fiddling with his cup, then his batting gloves, taking 3 dozen practiice swings, fiddling with his cup again, and digging his back foot into a batters box. It was niice to hear that Hargrove did something in the big leagues besides take FORFREAKINGEVER to hit.
  • Nice to see Colvin getting that playing time they talked about when Fukodome was exiled to Ohio.
  • Tony Plush ought to take one in the ribs with a side of honey BBQ sauce.

Top Wizzie Contributors

Buddy-27

Doc Raker-24

jswanson-24

Doug S.-20

PackerCubBull-20

Seymour Butts-18

Aaron-17

Chet-11

Larry Sproul-8

Rich Beckman-7

Eddie Von White-7

Question of the Week

Will the Brewers win the NL Central? Who will take the wild card spots in both leagues?

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Game 145 – The Mets Chose… Poorly

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Cubs 5, Mets 4

Box Score / Highlights

Game Notes

  • Defense made the difference today.  The left side of the Mets’ infield spotted the Cubs some extra runners with four errors–two for David Wright and two for Jose Reyes.  Three of those errors proved particularly profitable for the Cubs, since they either allowed a runner to score, or they let on a runner who would later come in to score.
  • The Cubs didn’t offer the Mets any extra outs, playing errorless baseball in a game where it clearly made a difference.  In fact, there were a couple nice defensive plays worth singling out.  Starlin Castro made a great barehanded play to retire Jose Reyes in the first inning.  And DJ LeMehieu cleaned up a hard grounder that ricocheted off Carlos Pena’s glove to get the last out of the ninth and close out the win.
  • Apparently Randy Wells has figured something out.  He pitched seven solid innings for the Cubs, and looked to be in line for another win before things fell apart in the eighth.  He and Kerry Wood combined to give up four runs in the inning, surrendering a lead late in what briefly looked to be another wasted opportunity for this Cubs team.  That is, until the Mets made their fatal mistake.
  • It’s simple: don’t pitch to Aramis Ramirez when you don’t have to.  Especially when the light-hitting Tony Campana is standing in the on-deck circle.  The top of the ninth was already going the Cubs’ way.  Geovany Soto reached on an error, and was immediately removed for a pinch runner (a rare sighting of intelligence in the Cubs’ dugout).  Then Bryan LaHair pinch-hit for Wood, and smoked a double to left field.  The Mets retired the next two Cubs to bring Ramirez to the plate.  And then rather than giving a free pass to one of the hottest hitters in the game and take their chances against a diminutive outfielder who swings a novelty bat, the Mets pitched to Ramirez, who thanked them by pounding the second pitch he saw into right field to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs.
  • Apologies for the abbreviated recap today–it was my nephew’s second birthday, and I skipped watching the game to celebrate with him and his parents, which meant tagging along on trips to Toys ‘R Us and Chuck E. Cheese’s.  It’s been a few years since I visited the giant singing mouse for pizza and skee ball, and I was shocked to find out that they’re now serving alcoholic beverages.  I’m no prude, but watching negligent parents try to play Pop-a-Shot without spilling their plastic cups of beer and wine while their sweaty, shoeless children scream for more tokens took the afternoon to a weird, disturbing place.  In spite of that, it was a lot of fun.  Happy birthday, little man!

Stars of the Game

Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Aramis Ramirez (.578 WPA)

2nd Star – Jason Bay (.518 WPA)

3rd Star – Bryan LaHair (.346 WPA)

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Game 144 – Playing Out the String

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Cubs 4, Mets 5

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

First Time Through The Order – Casey Coleman started the game strong, blowing through the Mets lineup the first time he faced them. True, New York isn’t an offensive juggernaut. However, aside from allowing a Jason Bay double in the 2nd, Coleman was flawless through the first three innings.

Return of Cashner– Andrew Cashner, who left his first start of the season after 5 1/3 innings, made his return to the Cubs with a relief appearance in the sixth. Cashner showed great velocity and pitched what should have been a 1-2-3 inning (if not for a throwing error by Aramis Ramirez).

Clutch Hits When it Counted (Finally) – The Cubs got two-out singles from the Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney in the top of the ninth to tie the score, which ultimately afforded the Cubs an opportunity to lose the game in walk-off fashion.

 

What Went Wrong

Second Time Through the Order – The second time through the lineup was not quite as fruitful for Coleman. After allowing just one base runner during the first three innings, Coleman gave up two straight singles to open the fourth en route to a 4-hit, 3-run inning that tied the score. Another run from the Mets in fifth inning was all that was needed to send Coleman to the showers.

LOBbing it up – It’s true that Castro and Barney came up with a couple clutch hits to keep the Cubs in the game in the ninth inning, but previous to that it was the same old story that has plagued the 2011 squad. Chicago set the tone for the evening by loading the bases with just one out in the first inning and failing to score a run. By the end of the night the Cubs had gone on to leave16 men on base.

Casey Coleman’s Beard – ‘Nuff said.

 

 Misc. Notes

  • I seem to get a lot of fill-in announcers for games that I recap. In this case, I have to say that I really didn’t mind Todd Hollandsworth (who was sitting in for Bob Brenley). He was very relaxed, didn’t get too talky and provided some good insight from time to time. Much like his playing career, he was serviceable but not spectacular.
  • Starlin Castro continued his march towards 200 hits with a 2 for 4 night that featured bookend singles in the first and ninth innings.
  • The Cubs first two runs of the night came courtesy of a deep bomb by Carlos Peña into the centerfield seats. 
  • Bryan LaHair hit his first career triple in the fourth inning. Note that I didn’t say he earned his first triple, as replays showed he was clearly tagged well before making contact with third base. Karma would come back to bite him soon after, however, as he was called out at home while attempting to score on a fly ball only to be erroneously be called out.

 

The Takeaway

I’ve got to level with you, loyal View From The Bleachers readers…I took bit of a break from the Cubs during the couple weeks since my last recapping duty. It appears not much has changed while I was away. The Cubs found themselves with an early lead, left a ton of runners on base, and then had the game slip away in the blink of an eye thanks to balky starting pitching.  As an added bonus, they threw in a little heartache as well, losing in the bottom of the 9th after tying it up with a two-out rally in the top of the inning. Sounds like the 2011 season in a nutshell, no?

 

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

1st Star – Justin Turner (.563WPA)

2nd Star – Jason Bay (.280 WPA)

3rd Star – Carlos Peña (.217 WPA)

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Memories of 9/11, Sosa, and the Home Run that Almost Wasn’t

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Since this article was Jedi’s idea, it’s only fitting that his Carlos Boozer-lookin’ icon be up here too.

That’s better.

The Brothers

Jedi:  If you’ve been living in your Y2K bunker or just generally avoiding the media, perhaps you’re not aware that Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  That particular date means a lot of things to a lot of people, but for Cubs fans it likely conjures up images of a certain right fielder during his “beisbol has been berry, berry good to me” days.

Jeremiah:  Even for non-Cubs fans or non-sports fans in general, major league sports had a big hand in bringing life back to normal post-9/11.  From the advent of football field-sized American flags to Bush’s ceremonial first pitch strike to begin the World Series in New York, sports went a long way to helping us feel normal again.

Jedi:  This particular post seems as good a time as any to come out of the closet–the brotherly closet.  For those who haven’t already made the connection, Jeremiah and I don’t just share a last name.  About 18 months separate us, which means that our parents were constantly disciplining one while the other was getting into mischief that would soon lead to discipline for himself–a vicious cycle.

Jeremiah:  “Brotherly closet?”  Let’s try to top that.  (Cue Ron Howard’s voice: “They never did.”)

Jedi:  So why bring this up now?  Because as the Cubs’ then-hero and future-malcontent Sammy Sosa was snatching an American flag from the outstretched arm of Billy Williams, we both had literal front row seats to the action.  You can see it here.  I am to the camera’s right of the usher in a red jacket and yellow shirt; Jeremiah is on the immediate left of the usher in a bright yellow jacket.  Two seats over is the ruffian who snagged the ball–we’ll get back to him in a minute.

The Trip

Jedi:  We grew up for the most part on the West Coast.  In 2001 however, Jeremiah was at college in Chicago while I was at college in Los Angeles.  I couldn’t bear the thought of my brother being homesick.  So I periodically visited him; always when the Cubs were in town!

Jeremiah:  It’s true.  Jedi’s criteria for a visit were essentially:  1) Are the Cubs in town?  2) Who are they playing?  3) What seats are available?  4) What are the cheapest flights?  Etc.  My work and school schedules did not figure heavily–if at all–into the decision.

Jedi:  The 2001 Cubs showed promise.  Enough promise that when the dates were set for me to visit Chicago, it was still reasonable to hope I’d be attending a meaningful, late-season home stand.  As the summer wore on, the Cubs predictably toyed with us.  They were close enough to keep hope alive, but not close enough that one bad week wouldn’t completely dash those hopes.  By September 10th they were 6 games back and sitting in third place–less than ideal.  Considering their final home stand started on September 27th, the Cubs would need to be a lot closer than third place and 6 games back by the time I arrived.  Little did I know that September 11th would alter the schedule and turn that final home stand into something more meaningful, regardless of the standings.

9/11

Jeremiah:  Like most people living downtown in major cities on 9/11, the first several hours of my day were a blend of horror and panic.  I woke up late that Tuesday morning to a phone call from my mom, who quickly explained what was happening through her tears (that was not the day you wanted your son to be thousands of miles away, in a major metropolitan area).  I got dressed in a hurry and headed downstairs, stopping briefly in the dorm lobby just as the first tower collapsed.  The rest of that day was a blur, spent huddled around TV’s with friends while anyone with a car or anywhere else to go left the city.

By Wednesday, Chicago was essentially a ghost town.   That afternoon I took the train out to the suburbs for a church meeting, and during what would usually be rush hour, on a two-mile walk through downtown to the Metra station just outside the Loop, I saw exactly eight people, one cab, and two police cars.  It took weeks for the city to fill up again.

Jedi:  I woke up that morning, like many people on the West Coast, with family members calling to alert me of the tragedy that was still unfolding.  With classes immediately canceled, my roommate and I wandered down to the house of a professor who lived near campus, where we spent the balance of the day watching the world change, remote-in-hand.

Like everything else, baseball stopped immediately, and the Cubs would not play again until September 18th–on the road.  By that time it was obvious, assuming I had no trouble with the increased security at the airport, my brother and I would be in attendance (bleacher seats of course!) when the Cubs returned for the first games at Wrigley Field after 9/11.

The Seats

Jeremiah:  The bleachers seats at Wrigley might be my favorite place in the world–definitely in my top five.  Whenever possible, that’s where Jedi and I preferred to sit.  I think it’s probably in our blood, or at least it was ingrained in us from an early age.  It’s where we always sat as children–in full Cubs uniforms–every time our family vacations took us back to Chicago.  Stretching back even further, it’s where our parents had their first date.  You can keep your CBOE front row seat auctions and your dugout boxes.  Give me a seat in the bleachers any day.

Jedi:  I know everyone has their own opinion–mine is that no seat in all of sports is more enjoyable than the general admission ticket to the bleachers at Wrigley Field.  I don’t even mind waiting for hours in line to be sure I’m not sitting in the middle of a row just beneath the scoreboard.

That day included intermittent showers; wet enough to be obnoxious while never truly threatening to rain out the game.  We opted to sit in RF and found that there was actually room left down in the front row.

Jeremiah:  I remember there was a lengthy pregame ceremony that night.  The details are a little fuzzy–I know there was a huge American flag displayed, and a parade of police, firefighters, and other first responders on the field.  The one thing that stands out to this day from the pregame ceremony was when the Pipes and Drums of the Chicago Police Department marched onto the field.  Bagpipe music has a unique ability to choke people up, and there weren’t many dry eyes in Wrigley by that point.  The tension and the grief felt across the packed house gave way to euphoria and pride when Sosa sprinted out to RF carrying a small American flag and saluted us fans.

Sammy Sosa

Jedi:  Remember, this is the heyday of Sammy Sosa.  He would hit 64 homers that year, and drive in a ridiculous 160 RBIs (I know, I know–it’s a team stat).  His craziness was still a novelty instead of the tired excuse for his petulance.  His sprint to right field followed by the salute to Cub fans was hotly anticipated before the start of each game.  This day was no different, especially when he ran out with an American flag before the first pitch.  Even the egotistical Sosa understood the gravity of what had happened and the power that our collective courage could wield.  Whether he took the flag with him that day as a shrewd PR move or simply out of love for the country in which he had become famous, I frankly don’t care.  His reason will never be important, even if it was purely self-serving; it was and still is a powerful image.

Jeremiah:  Sammy was a lot of things, but he wasn’t stupid.  It’s hard to remember now, after the steroid scandals, his smashed boombox, his flameout in the AL, his sudden inability to speak English in front of Congress, and the dramatic fluctuation of his skin pigmentation, but there was a time when Sosa was perhaps the biggest, most beloved name in baseball.  After he and Mark McGwire staged a multi-season home run derby to resurrect baseball from the ashes of the strike, Sosa was everywhere.  He had an innate charm that Big Mac lacked, allowing him to lead the league in endorsements and public appearances (I know it’s an unscientific stat–just go with it).

Remember also that America had temporarily jettisoned (for the most part) our ironic detachment and cynicism.   We were all living on the ragged edges of grief and fear, and all it took was a bumper sticker or a flag t-shirt to make many people well up with patriotic pride and resolve.  So in a moment that wouldn’t fly at virtually any other point in American history, a foreign-born athlete used his astounding charisma to turn a pre-planned gesture into a moment that felt spontaneous and electric.  No matter what you think about Sammy now, remember that no other player could have pulled that off.

The Home Run

Jedi:  Predictably, Sosa came to the plate in the bottom of the first with no score in the game and launched his 59th homer of the season (on a 3-0 pitch–typical Sammy!).  It’s tough to tell from the video, but the ball actually wasn’t going to clear the basket. The kid who snagged it was well past the reach of the basket when it hit his glove.  The usher right there knew what had happened, so did Orlando Merced (the Astros’ RF).  Merced briefly raised a fuss and then realized it was probably better to shut up instead of instantly becoming the most hated man in Chicago.

It wasn’t a home run, but it NEEDED to be a home run.  Sosa had already arranged for Cubs first base coach Billy Williams to hand him the flag as he rounded first in the event that he was able to get one to leave the yard (like I said, egotistical!).  One inning, two flags, Sosa’s message was clear–the country was all that mattered.  During inherently individual moments he wanted the focus to be on the country.

Jeremiah:  Obviously you have to wonder what would have happened if the fan doesn’t reach out and turn a double off the vines into homer.  Does Sosa–who thought most of his hits were homers–grab the flag from Williams on his way to second base?  Or does it stay with Williams until Sosa does get one to clear the basket?  I don’t remember ever reading anything about the behind-the-scenes plans for that evening, and certainly nothing from Williams.  As part of the MLB’s 9/11 memorial, Carrie Muskat wrote an article that gives Sosa’s and Williams’ side of the story, and how the whole thing almost didn’t happen when Williams couldn’t get the flag out of his sock.  It’s nice to know the Cubs legend had Sammy sign the flag for him after the game, and that he still keeps it at his home.

The Impact

Jedi:  A mere 17 days after 9/11 and most people were still somewhere between reeling and looking for an escape.  Sammy’s bomb was that escape for 38,154 fans, two teams, and four umpires (if you believe Bruce Froemming has a heart).  Countless more watched on TV or caught the highlight that seemed to run for days.

Jeremiah:  Did Sosa’s flag-waving home run trot change anything?  Of course not.  But it was a gratifying, uplifting moment at a time when the country was in dire need of them.  It wasn’t Rick Monday rescuing a gas-soaked American flag from a couple of protestors, but it had that kind of feel in the moment.  Tens of thousands of baseball fans in attendance that night and countless more watching at home took a small step toward recovering from our collective grief over the tragedy of 9/11.  It was a privilege to be in the stands that night with Jedi–one I won’t soon forget.  Even if the game itself was less than memorable.

Jedi:  The Cubs would lose the game (Shane Reynolds was pitching for the Astros, what did you expect?), and Kevin Tapani would remove most of the suspense in the early innings.  But Sosa’s home run transcended that single game.  It’s a memory I’ll forever share with Jeremiah, front run seats to Sosa’s home run–that wasn’t really a home run–and watching everyone forget about the turmoil of the previous two plus weeks, if only for a brief second.

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MVP and Cy Young Discussion

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The A.L. MVP and Cy Young are no-brainers. Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander. I know what you’re thinking about the A.L. MVP. The Blue Jays aren’t contenders. Well, there’s nothing in the MVP voting criteria about the winner coming from a contending team. That’s something sports writers have created and crammed down our throats. They’ve made the MVP award nothing more than “the All Star player with the best teammates.” For me, it’s pretty simple. Bautista is clearly the league’s best player. And how can you be more valuable to the league than being the best player in the league? The N.L. is tougher. If you put a gun to my head, I would pick Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. However, any number of candidates would be fine choices: Braun, Berkman, Upton, Votto, Fielder, Halladay, Lincecum, Hamels. These races should come down to the wire. ~ Buddy

AL MVP: Jose Bautista. He is the best offensive player in baseball this year. He leads in both OBP and SLG (in OPS by nearly .100) and he plays passable defense at third base in addition to right field. A good case can be made for Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Curtis Granderson, but as of this writing, I’ll go with Bautista, whose offense is just too good. A month from now, I could very easily see Jacoby Ellsbury getting the nod.

AL Cy Young: I think Justin Verlander is the clear winner at this point. He leads in innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, hits per 9 innings, and strikeouts. He is near the top in walks allowed, home run % allowed, and K/BB ratio.

NL MVP: For me it comes down to the important positions that Matt Kemp and Troy Tulowitzki play and today I’m giving Matt Kemp the edge because of his offense. He’s top 5 in AVG, OBP, SLG, SB, HR, and leads the league in total bases. A month is a long time, so Tulowitzki could pass him, and you can make a good case for Joey Votto and Ryan Braun.

NL Cy Young: Going into this award, I thought Roy Halladay would be the easy choice. But a number of other pitchers are also putting up spectacular numbers. Johnny Cueto has the best ERA, but his innings pitched are significantly lower, so that rules him out. I’m stuck between Halladay, Kershaw, Lee, and Hamels. They are so close together that the next month is going to play a significant role, but right now, I’m going to lean Halladay because he currently edges out Lee and Hamels, and because of a slightly tougher hitters park to put those numbers up compared to Kershaw. And if I had to pick one pitcher to start a game for me today, he would be the guy. I’m rooting for Kershaw though, as he’s my favorite pitcher in the game today. ~ Norm

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Game 143 – Pena Powers the Victory

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Cubs 6, Reds 3

Box Score / Highlights

For the second night in a row the Cubs get a late inning home run, this one by Carlos Pena for the lead, and Carlos Marmol finishes the Reds for a Cub victory.

What went right:

  • Carlos Pena had a good night capped off by a three run homer off of left hander Bill Bray to put the Cubs up 6-3. How many of you were cursing Quade for not bringing in a right handed hitter at that point? I know I was.
  • Quade actually started TWO players that were recently called up in Lemahieu and LaHair. Will that continue? LaHair had a rough go with three K’s but added a hit and DJ had a couple hits and an RBI.
  • Starlin Castro added two more hits to give him 180 on the year. It looks like he’ll hit the 200 mark which will give him the 8th most hits in a players first two seasons in the last 50 years. And if he keeps his average over .300, he’ll be one of only four players in the last 50 years with a .300 average in each of his first two seasons joining Ichiro, Pujols, and Mike Hargrove. (Mike Hargrove?)

What went wrong:

  • Nothing that was too bad, but they still do the ‘special guest’ 7th inning stretch. Please end this already.

Notes:

  • Here is a Podcast by Jonah Keri with Len Kasper found over at ESPN.com
  • The Reds are stacked with good home grown players. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Yonder Alonso, Devin Mesoraco, Drew Stubbs. Then they have the major league ERA leader in Johnny Cueto leading the pitching staff. I think they’ll trade Alonso for pitching this offseason, and I think they’ll be competitive for at least a few more seasons with this home grown group.
  • My favorite Cubs beat writer, Bruce Miles, writes for the Daily Herald and they are now charging $19.99 a  month(!) for access to their website. I’ve never been a big fan of the other Cub writers, but any suggestions?


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

1st Star – Carlos Pena (.379 WPA)

2nd Star – Jay Bruce (.238 WPA)

3rd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.217 WPA)

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Chet’s Corner: Five Burning Questions

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

As we watch a fairly uneventful Cubs September decend upon us lets look forward.  I don’t think a single pitcher got called up that we can call a potential future starter.  Even better, aside from Bryan Lahair, I’m not sure any of the call ups are a “new” commodity.  We’ve seen them on the big league club  in some capacity over the last season or two and we pretty much know what we are getting.   Worse, it doesn’t seem like much.

So, while I stare at my television set in wonder as to how we got here, I have some questions for the VFTB faithful.  For those of you who have played before, you know the drill, leave your answers in the comment section.  No answer is wrong…just opinion.

 

1) What pitcher in the Cubs system, under the age of 23, has the best chance of being a future starter?

- Andrew Cashner is the youngest pitcher on our major league roster at the ripe age of 25.  I want know if we have any young guns in our minor league system who show great promise.  Pitching is important, and lets be honest, we have no true ace and really nobody who warrants anything more then a third spot in a good rotation, what is our future at this position? Who is our best young pitcher?

2) Would you rather see Brett Jackson play for Team USA or in the Arizona Fall Leagues? 

-I don’t have any opinion.  I am more curious to see if anybody knows or thinks there will be a difference in the experience. For those not paying attention, Jackson chose to play for Team USA.  My line of thinking is that the Team USA experience will be more intense, but like I said, what do I know.

3) Do you ever want to see Carlos Zambrano in a Cub uniform again? 

- Carlos its been real, but I think this relationship has…..well…. expired!!!! That’s a no.

4) If you could hire any GM to take over the Cubs from the potential list or lists, who would it be?

-I like Andrew Friedman of the Rays.  If he does not get the nod I am a fan of Billy Beane and Brian Cashman.  Those who follow Friedman say he makes moves to better his team, regardless of whether the fans approve or not.  He could also supposedly care less what people think of him.  I would be curious to see what he or Beane could do with the Cubs funds and resources, not to mention the clout that playing for the Cubs holds.  Both of those guys have been trying to vie for talent with less funds and a much less desirable team to attract players.  Then again, I am not sure if that personality would fly with Tom Ricketts.  He seems to care about what his fans want…..at least where food is concerned.

5) Of the current lot, who could be next spring trainings breakout player?

-Two Springs ago it was Starlin Castro, this past spring it was Darwin Barney. I am putting my money on Bryan Lahair or Brett Jackson. I know these are not much of a stretch but  wouldn’t it be nice? 

 

Your turn folks…..what are your thoughts on the above?

 

 

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Game 142 – LaHairs Bomb is Wasted

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Cubs 2, Reds 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Bryan Lahair was one of the first Cubs to get into a hitter’s count and crushed a 2-0 pitch and also crushed Mike Leake’s dream of a 2 hit shutout. With 2 strikes and 2 outs in the 9th and nobody on Starlin Castro beat out an infield dribbler to 3rd and that allowed LaHair come to the plate.
  • Cubs bullpen didn’t give up a hit for 5.2 innings until a bunt single to Paul Janish by John Grabow, he got out of it but then imploded in the 13th by giving up a hit to anyone who wanted one.

What Went Wrong

  • For 8.2 innings Mike Leake dominated this game. Threw 91 pitches in the nine innings gave up 3 hits and struck out 6. He didn’t have a hard hit ball off him until LaHairs bomb. Cubs were doing a lot of early chopping at pitches and hitting them right at the fielder.
  • Grabow
  • There was a horrible call in the 13th where Tony Campana was safe by a foot to lead off the bottom of the 12th and you know a leadoff single by Campana might as well be a leadoff double because he is always going to steal.

Take Away

Not much happened this game; Cubs had only 6 hits in 13 innings and were pretty lucky that Leake gave a gift 2-0 pitch to LaHair. A minor leaguer who has been up for a couple of days, of course he was sitting on that pitch. The game was a strike away from being a 2 hour game then went on for 2 more hours of the Cubs wasting opportunities like in the 10th. Bases loaded with 1 out, next at bat is a double play.

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

1st Star – Bryan LaHair (.487 WPA)

2nd Star – Sam LeCure (.337 WPA)

3rd Star – Aroldis Chapman (.262 WPA)

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