Archive for April, 2012

Game 18 – Soriano Snatches Series Win For Cubs

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


Cardinals 2 @ Cubs 3 (10 innings)

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Series Win: Perhaps the most important thing to come from this game – the Cubs finally won a series, and tomorrow they’ll aim for their first sweep of the season. It also marks 3 wins from the last 4 games. You could say they are surging.

Samardzija: He really had the splitter working tonight. When he can get that kind of action AND throw in the high 90s, it takes so much pressure off of his other pitches. He wasn’t nearly as sharp with his secondary stuff, but the action he had on the splitter had the Cardinals fooled most of the night. Nine strikeouts is great; 90 pitches through 6.2 IP is even better.

Soriano: He still needs to be jettisoned from the roster ASAP, but on this night he was integral to the win. He was fairly patient at the plate and it paid off with a 3-for-5 night and the GWRBI. His 4th inning double set the table for a big inning that never materialized – because even the win couldn’t keep the bottom third of the order from being terrible.

LaHair: His last two HRs have been opposite field bombs. Why should Baker EVER see the starting lineup at 1B again? Don’t overthink it, he shouldn’t.

DeJesus: This team needs all the help they can get, and DeJesus gave it to them in the form of taking a good look at a lot of pitches. DeJesus saw 27 pitches (he led off in four different innings), and I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but the 1-5 hitters combined for 9 hits and all 3 RBIs.

Stewart & Barney: The 4th inning at-bats from Stewart & Barney were horrible. If ‘lucky’ is being fortunate enough to face two complete idiots, then Wainwright was lucky. Stewart, for whatever reason, doesn’t like to swing at strikes. He struck out on 3 pitches; watched one strike and swung at two balls. Barney’s at-bat was, remarkably, worse. With first base open and Soto then Samardzija following him, Barney got a healthy diet of balls off the plate away. He apparently felt they were on the corner because he kept swinging and fouling them off. If Barney hadn’t moved the bat from his shoulder, he’d have been standing on first base (which is exactly what Soto then did before Samardzija popped out to end the threat).

Cardinals Griping: Manager Mike Matheny was not a happy man on this evening. From DeJesus’ slide to score the Cubs first run (he didn’t tag the plate, Molina didn’t tag him either – in fact if you watch the replay DeJesus is about to dive back for the plate just as the umpire calls him safe. DeJesus DID tag the plate on his way back to the dugout) to Campana’s ‘steal’ of 2B in the 10th, the Cards felt they got the shaft at important junctures. Campana was out, that’s not really up for debate. But after watching Molina smugly chastise the umps on both plays, I won’t shed a tear for their misfortune. Molina is a Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag away from unseating AJ Pierzynski as the guy I most enjoy watching get screwed by the umps.

Marmol: It couldn’t all be sunshine and lollipops. I’m still confused as to why Sveum yanked Dolis in the 8th with 2 out and one on. Marmol hasn’t even close to mastered the 3-out save, why reach for the 4-out save? If the answer is that Dolis didn’t look great…well, ok – but it wasn’t like we brought in someone who inspires confidence. I didn’t like the move and I doubt Sveum will make that mistake again anytime soon. Marmol gave up a go-ahead HR to the first batter he faced, and walked the next batter Beltran. In an attempt to pick off Beltran he launched the ball into the tarp behind first base. He came in with a one-run lead and a runner of first, before he recorded an out he had created a one-run deficit and a runner on third. Some closer.

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The Trade Machine

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Saturday’s trade of Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox  marked the start of what should become a busy season for the Cubs’ front office.

When I turned on my computer that afternoon, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the Byrd story atop the front page of MLB Trade Rumors. The slow start at the plate, combined with the lack of future with the Chicago organization made Byrd an easy target for trade as early as this past off-season. I’m guessing Theo and Co. were hoping to see Byrd rebound from his scary injury last year to increase his value in the trade market, but the guy just hasn’t looked the same since the May beaning in Beantown. Byrd made his debut batting ninth in the Red Sox lineup last night going 1-4 with a single in the top of the seventh off of former Cub Jason Marquis.

Meanwhile, the Cubs designated Rodrigo Lopez for assignment to make room for Michael Bowden, the reliever acquired in the Byrd deal. Depending on the situation, Bowden could make his debut on the mound tonight. I’ve seen Bowden pitch when he was at AA Portland and nothing about him is spectacular, but he should provide an upgrade in middle relief over Lopez.

With Byrd gone, we can now focus our attention to be who could be gone next in this installment of “The Trade Machine.”

1) Matt Garza – I’m putting Garza first not because I think he should or even will be traded, but instead because Theo hasn’t shown a commitment to him yet. Garza has pitched very well in four starts this season and would likely gain a haul on the open market. I’m not going to talk much more about him because Noah will likely hit on a bunch of stuff tomorrow, but Garza remains the top trade chip for rebuilding. Personally I’d like to see a new contract or extension pushed across to the Garza camp in the coming weeks because he’s the type of pitcher I want on this team, but I have a feeling it won’t happen.

2) Geovany Soto – Soto hasn’t lived up to his good year, bad year billing in 2012 as he continues to bat severely under the Mendoza line. Soto’s defense is pretty good, but it isn’t good enough to overlook how badly he is performing at the plate. Steve Clevenger has played very well in limited duty and anything we’re getting out of Soto right now, we can get out of Wellington Castillo if he got called up. There are a few teams looking for catchers at this juncture, mainly the Rays that could be in play for Geo. I know it would make Lizzie very sad to see her stallion behind the plate get shipped off to a foreign land, but I think he’s in play here.

3) Ryan Dempster – If the Cubs had to trade one starting pitcher, it would be Dempster and not Garza. I know he wouldn’t garner as much compensation in the market as Garza would, but Garza is a starter the Cubs should build their team around and not Dempster. Contract Dempster, named by Jedi, has shown up once again in 2012 after a three year hiatus.  In three starts Dempster is 0-1 despite having a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings, a huge improvement upon his start last year. If Dempster continues to pitch this well once he gets off of the DL, there could be a pitching hungry playoff contender that might look Dempster’s way to fill a middle rotation spot. If that opportunity arises, the front office better be all over that.

4) Carlos Marmol – Marmol’s been straight up tuuuurrrrible to start the year, but many teams would welcome the flame-thrower to the back end of the their staffs. I haven’t been able to exactly pinpoint any interest in Carlos, but if Theo and Jed decide to put Marmol on the block I don’t think he’ll be there long. Dolis is green and a little bit wild, but let him work through learning the closer role in what is a season of grooming players.

5) Alfonso Soriano –  He would be first by a mile if this community had their way, but the bloated contract attached to his price tag scared teams away. The Cubs even offered to pay a huge portion of his salary for someone to take him off of their hands to no avail. If the front office really wants to dump Soriano, they are going to have to go the Byrd route and pay close to 80% of his salary the next two seasons for him to play elsewhere. Is it worth it? Absolutely because it will give his playing time to someone who actually deserves it. Now it is just a matter of finding a team foolish enough to do such a deal.

Let’s see some lists of who you feel could be traded in the coming months.

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Farm Report: April 23, 2012

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Triple A- Memphis 6, Iowa 2

The I-Cubs played an early game on Monday, starting just after noon. It appears they might have needed a bit more sleep, as they never led. Starter Jay Jackson had a rough start, giving up five runs (four of which were earned) in five innings. The only Cubs to reach base more than once were Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.  Jackson had two singles, a stolen base and a run scored, while Rizzo added a single, a double and a walk. Right handed reliever Frank Batista had a solid debut in Iowa after being called up from Tennessee, going two scoreless innings.

Double A- Chattanooga 4, Tennessee 5

Dallas Beeler decided that he wanted be like everyone else and not pitch very well, giving up four runs in five and two-thirds innings. The good news was that the bullpen was great, with four pitchers combining to go six and a third innings in this twelve inning affair. Jonathan Mota played eleven innings in left field, getting on base in three of his five plate appearances including a solo home run. Then he went on to pitch a scoreless twelfth inning and get the win. First baseman Justin Bour knocked in third baseman Nate Samson for the walk off single.

High A- Lakeland 7, Daytona 2

Starting pitcher Zach Cates had another rough night in Daytona, giving up three runs on six hits in just four innings. The sad thing is that performance solidly improved Cates’ ERA, which is currently sitting at 15.12. Outfielder Matt Szczur went one for three and was hit by a pitch. Left fielder John Andreoli reached base in three of his four plate appearances, compiling a single and two walks. However, Daytona only logged three hits for the game, all of which were singles.

Low A- Lansing 7, Peoria 3

Jose Rosario continued the day’s trend of bad starting pitching among the minor league starters, giving up four earned runs and one unearned run in five innings. On the offensive side of the plate, third baseman Wes Darvill had a solid game, posting a single and two walks. Second baseman Zeke DeVoss added a single and a walk as well. While shortstop Marco Hernandez logged a hit in three plate appearances today, his season numbers continue to stand at an atrocious .117/.154/.183. With 2011 first round pick Javier Baez reportedly looking like a man among boys in extended spring training, it would not be a surprise to see Hernandez and Baez switch places in the near future.

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Game 17: Patience Pays Off (Bigtime!)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Cardinals 2 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right:

  • Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro both reached base on infield hits in the 1st inning, and Barney scored on a sacrifice fly from Alfonso Soriano.
  • Matt Garza was his usual, solid self for six of the seven innings he pitched.  In the 1st through 3rd and the 5th through 7th, he was stellar, holding the Cardinals to two singles and a walk, along with five strikeouts.  If not for the fourth inning, this would have been a career start for Garza.
  • Tony Campana stole two bases in one at-bat.
  • The Cubs came up against Cardinal closer Jason Motte in the bottom of the 9th, down a run and not showing many signs of life.  Soriano struck out swinging to lead off the inning, and the Bryan LaHair pinch hit for Jeff Baker.  LaHair’s patient at-bat was spectacular.  He saw twelve total pitches, including six straight foul balls after the count was full.  And then…
  • Before I go on, I want to stress how game-changing LaHair’s walk really was.  I’m not sure I can overstate its importance.  Seriously–it was the kind of at-bat opposing hitters usually have against the Cubs.  You know the ones, where it feels like we might be able to hold on, but then you can feel it slipping away with every foul ball.  When the batter is totally locked in and he refuses to miss anything.  Those at-bats are infuriating if your team’s in the field.  I wish I could have watched it unfold in a room full of Cardinals fans.
  • Anyway, back to the bottom of the 9th.  Geovany Soto came up to bat after LaHair, and drew another quick walk from Motte.  Then Steve Clevenger pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot and grounded to first, moving both runners over.  And then Joe Mather, who already had a hit and a walk on the night, and who may have descended from the same super-utility bloodlines as Mark DeRosa, smacked a single up the middle into centerfield and punched a couple million (roughly) Cardinals fans in the gut.

What Went Wrong:

  • LaHair’s patience in his lone at-bat was particularly uncharacteristic for the Cubs tonight, who freely swung at everything Jaime Garcia had to offer.  A staggering 61 of his 85 pitches were strikes, and he threw first pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.  Garcia looked good tonight, and the Cubs were happy to help.
  • So, about that sub-par 4th inning for Garza.  Here’s how it unfolded: IF single, double, run-scoring groundout, hit-by-pitch, run-scoring sacrifice fly, walk, wild pitch (both runners advanced), walk, fly out.  Not what you’d call vintage Garza.  Fortunately for him, LaHair, Mather, and Co. found a way to bail him out.
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Cardinals Series Preview

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Cardinals are coming to town today, which means now would be a PERFECT time for the Cubs to break through and finally win a series.  The Cards bring with them an 11-5 record, an NL-best +36 run differential, and a 4-game lead over the rest of the division.  But they’ve had some injury issues already–we still won’t see Fat Elvis Lance Berkman, who is now on the DL.  Can the Cubs string together enough hits to be competitive?  Will the Carlos Beltran continue to treat Wrigley Field like his home-away-from-home?  Can Rafael Furcal continue to defy age and reason for another year?  Will Joe Mather or Tony Campana get the starts in CF?  What can new reliever Michael Bowden do to help steady the Cubs’ shaky bullpen?  (And not that it matters to many of you, but can the Blackhawks win in regulation at home tonight and force a Game 7 against the Coyotes?  Because I’m about one more OT away from a heart attack.  Seriously.)

Probable Pitching Matchups and Scouting Reports

Monday at 7:05pm CT – Jaime Garcia vs. Matt Garza

Garcia brings 2 wins and a 3.06 ERA to Wrigley, but he has yet to throw 90 pitches in a game.  A little patience at the plate tonight might help us get past the Cardinals number two starter–who Jonah Keri considers one of the 10 most underrated players in the bigs–in his first start against the Cubs this season.  And since he’s St. Louis’ only lefty, expect Dale to go with a right-handed lineup tonight behind Garza.  With Dempster on the DL, Garza gives the Cubs their best chance to hold back the Cardinals’ offense.  Let’s assume the two 2-run bombs he gave up in Miami were an anomaly, and that he’ll be back to his usual lock-down self back in the Friendly Confines, where he’s only surrendered 2 runs in more than 14 innings of work this season.

Tuesday at 7:05pm CT – Adam Wainwright vs. Jeff Samardzija

The last time the Cubs saw Wainwright, they tattooed him for 8 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks over 3 innings.  I would be ecstatic if he could cough up another such performance tomorrow evening.  If he wasn’t a Cardinal, I’d have sympathy for him and his struggles returning from Tommy John surgery last year.  But he is, so I don’t.  He’s facing off against the converted pirate reliever, who has something to prove again after his last couple outings.  So far this season he looked great against the Nationals, sketchy against the Cardinals, and downright awful against the Marlins.  Considering the weakness of our relief pitching, if the Shark can’t go deeper into games with more success, he might eventually find himself back in the bullpen.

Wednesday at 1:20pm CT – Lance Lynn vs. Chris Volstad

Lance Lynn is another one of those infuriating, St. Louis-patented, come-out-of-nowhere surprises.  It was supposed to be a good thing that Chris Carpenter started the season on the DL.  Instead, Lynn pops out of the bullpen to become one of the league’s most dominant starters.  So far this season, he has surrendered 3 runs on 10 hits, or the equivalent of one or two innings of work for Volstad.  I expect this one to be ugly.  Like break-up-the-no-hitter-in-the-5th ugly.  It’s almost a mortal lock that Volstad will still be looking for his first win since last July 10 when he makes his next start.

Notes from the Enemy

Courtesy of Matt Philip from Fungoes

Jaime Garcia vs. Matt Garza

The lone lefty in the rotation, Garcia has started 2012 impressively, with a 2.83 FIP. His strikeout rate is a bit down (5.09 in 2012, 7.03 career) as is his groundball rate (45.6%, 54.5% career). The key has been that none of his flyballs have left the park, something he’ll have to be concerned about in Wrigley, where he hasn’t been as sharp (.350 OBPA).

Adam Wainwright vs. Jeff Samardzija

Although the Cubs pounded Adam Wainwright on opening day at Busch Stadium and he now has an unseemly 9.88 ERA in his first three starts of 2012, he has an expected Fielding-Independent Pitching of 3.18, lower than his career number. That’s in large part because he has been unlucky with fly balls (35.7% HR/FB; career: 8.1%) and runners left on base (46.7% LOB; career: 76.6%).

Lance Lynn vs. Chris Volstad

Lynn has been the team’s most pleasant surprise. Filling in for Chris Carpenter, the right-hander is second in the rotation with a 4.25 K/BB and leads in line-drive rate with a meager 13%.

Who’s hot

Shortstop Rafael Fucal has a .500 OBP over his last seven games.

What to watch for

Carlos Beltran enjoys the friendly confines of Wrigley, bashing Cub pitching over the years with a .488 OBP and .743 SLG. He has hit nine home runs in 122 plate appearances.

Odds and ends

The Cardinals will be without Lance Berkman, who went on the DL (backdated to Thursday, April 19). But Skip Schumaker has returned from his disabling.

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