Archive for April, 2012

The Farm Report: Free Anthony Rizzo?

Friday, April 20th, 2012

TRIPLE-A: Iowa 4, Albuquerque 3

For the second time this season, Anthony Rizzo went yard twice in a game. Last night he went 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs and a walk and now leads the PCL with seven homers on the season. There have been many that have been screaming for the Cubs to call up guys like Rizzo and Brett Jackson to make the season more interesting to watch, to which I reply: If you want to watch these guys, watch the Iowa Cubs. There is no reason to call them up at this point. Let them continue to develop. I’d rather them spend just a tad longer in the minors than they should than to see them come up and play meaningless games. It’s hard to be patient, but it’s very important. Jackson when 0-for-4, lowering his batting average to .254. The good news is that he didn’t strike out. Travis Wood got the start and went 6.1, giving up four earned runs and picked up the loss.

DOUBLE-A: Tennessee 7, Huntsville 9

Late runs allowed by the bullpen foiled the Smokies as they couldn’t generate a winning streak. Ty Wright, since being demoted from AAA, is hitting .444 / .444 / .888 in his three games with the Smokies thanks to a 2-for-5 night. It actually made his average go down. I like Wright. He’s one of the prospects in the system I’m rooting for. I’m hoping he doesn’t get discouraged with the demotion as he’s spend the last few years splitting time between AA and AAA. Only other interesting note is that Nate Samson went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a home run.

HIGH-A: Daytona 2, Tampa 5

My last recap there was a Matt Szczur is alive alert. Unfortunately he flat lined last night going 0-for-4 and lowering the average to .176. It’s been a bit of a disappointing start for our center fielders as a whole with this organization. Marlon Byrd has struggled. Jackson has struggled in AAA and Szczur has struggled terribly. I still believe in all three, but I’ve not been encouraged. On a positive note, we’ll throw out some bullpen love to Ty’Relle Harris, who has pitched 8.1 scoreless innings so far this season over five appearances out of the pen for the Cubs.

LOW-A: Peoria 4, Great Lakes 11

Oliver Zapata is off to the tremendous start to the season in his five games played. He’s gone 10-for-19 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI, and 5 runs scored thanks to a 3-for-5 night last night in the losing effort. Ben Wells made the start for the Chiefs and has not looked good this season. He got hit hard again, allowing 10 runs, six earned, on nine hits. He walked one and struck out three. On the season he’s 0-1 with a 6.28 in three starts. In the bullpen, my man crush, Kyler Burke pitched 3.2 innings in relief and allowed one earned run. That was just his second run allowed in 11.1 innings out of the pen. He’s struck out nine and walked just two. He’s showing good development as a middle of the pen guy that can pitch more than one inning in an outing. Plus he can hit as a converted OF.

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Game 13: It’s Not Getting Any Easier

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Cubs 3 @ Marlins 5

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game


  • Not very much. Darwin Barney drove in three runs, which probably hasn’t happened since Little league. Geo Soto and Ian Stewart each picked up two hits in a losing effort.
  • Starlin Castro didn’t make an error!
  • The bullpen did a nice job mopping up for the Shark.
  • I was stuck in the office today, so I didn’t have to watch this mess.


  • Jeff Samardzidja looked more like the pitcher I remember. Five walks and eight hits in 3.2 IP led to an early shower.
  • The offense continues to struggle. If you’re playing along at home, the Cubs have scored just 43 runs and hit only five dingers in 13 games.
  • Marlon Byrd…What else can I say?


I think most of us agree Miami Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen outdid himself with the recent Fidel Castro comments. Instead of rehashing the past, here are a few handy statements he might consider next time around:

1)      I eat breakfast 300 yards away from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me.

2)     I’m taking my talents to South Beach.

3)     (Singing) The rhythm is gonna get you.

4)     We’re talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. Practice.

5)     I know it was you, Fredo.

6)     I’m going to turn this team around 360 degrees.

7)     Coming up after the ballgame, it’s “Red Sonja” on “Dinner and a Movie.”

8)    Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin. Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin. Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin.

9)     To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit.

10)  Did anybody catch “Mad Men” last night? I just love that Don Draper.

11)   Pete and Repeat were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?

12)  There’s only one other place I’d rather be…French Lick.

13)  (Crying) He’s my teammate. Sniff, sniff. He’s my quarterback.

14)  Soon I defeat real champion. If he dies, he dies.

 You stupid *%$@#*$% writers can just #$@!*&#$*%#!!!! Also, I don’t like dictators. Never have. No sir, not me. USA, USA, USA!

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GirlieView (04/19/2012)

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I like to keep things positive. Chet talked about his positives yesterday and we’ll continue in that vain today!  As of the writing of this column, the Cubs are in last place. That’s not very positive. So let’s see. We’re not quite as bad as the San Diego Padres. That’s positive! If we were in the American League Central we wouldn’t technically be in last place, we would just be tied for last place. That’s positive! Hmmm. Maybe let’s just move on.


  • One of the exciting things about the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod regime coming to run the team is that they have a proven track record of building strong farm systems.
  • For me, its the rookies.
  • For me, its the Cubs.
  • Lizzie probably has more heat than me but I can locate that curve ball.
  • I’m looking forward to watching the Miami Marlins implode in epic fashion.
  • Not sure how any of that makes Buehrle nuttier than the chinese chicken salad that is Ozzie and Z.
  • It’s Opening Day!!!! Get your Cubbie on!!!!
  • Dear Ian: I’m sorry.  I should never have doubted you.  I hereby declare my undying loyalty and love for you.  Please forgive me.  I was weak.
  • I don’t care if they lose, I came into the season with low expectations. But I did have expectations that there would be better decision making.
  • We’ll be fine once Rami heats up.
  • At least the bullpen is in mid-season form.
  • there are 161 other opportunities starting tomorrow, and none of them will start with Zambrano on the mound for the Cubs.
  • I just assumed “Ace” Davis got the ball last season…that dude was gangbusters
  • If Vitters develops some plate discipline, he’ll be back in the Cubs top prospect picture. Of course, if I was 12 inches taller, I’d be in the NBA.
  • I wonder if Wells is trying to grow out his hair in Iowa.
  • the Cubs are set to face off against the division-rival Brewers and Ryan Braun’s superhuman testosterone levels
  • That crappy small ball and those lousy one run innings.
  • Yeah, one run an inning would only be 9 runs a game. Who can win on that?
  • If the bullpen is still the biggest problem with this team come August, I bet they will have a better record than anyone could have imagined.
  • My goal for the season is to have everyone throwing properly and not having 5 kids fight over the ball in the field.  Good times.
  • If you had “Ozzie Guillen Suspended” before “Dodger Fan Gets Knifed On Opening Day” in your pool, then you’re the winner.
  • And thus we complete our exercise in circular reasoning.
  • Bryd’s mission this year is to make Campana seem an attractive option.
  • Look who has a two game winning streak and is the hottest team in the division. That’s right, us.
  • It is refreshing to see Soriano actually seem to put effort into his play
  • If we’re sitting guys because they need rest, we need new guys.  There’s not even a game tomorrow.
  • Remember when the Braves wanted Marlon Byrd, but Hendry couldn’t answer the phone as he vacated the premises?  Ah, the good days…
  • That’s right, a home run for Tony Campana
  • Even when the Cubs suck, I always find myself enjoying well-played post season games regardless of who is in the dance.
  • Only one thing will ever take the Cubs from me…my death.
  • I can’t think of anything. I’ve suffered for this long, so what’s the point of cutting bait now?
  • Buddy and the Bait Cutters…might be time to re-matriculate
  • Carrie digs the long ball and 48 year old Optometrists that can rake.
  • Ever notice when someone says “not to mention”, they do anyway.
  • That’s like when people say: “in all due respect” you can be sure none is coming.
  • Get the answers to almost none of those questions in our series preview!
  • Did the Marlin guy realize there is an upcoming series with the Cubs when he wrote the above?


  • no matter how bad they are, no matter how things might be going in my own life, wgn in the afternoon, or wrigley on a hot summer day, is a constant. It’s the only thing I can truly count on.

2012 Standings (1 point for each Lizzie, 3 points for the Lizard)

  • jswanson – 40
  • Jeremiah Johnson – 38
  • Doc Raker – 36
  • Seymour Butts – 32
  • Jedi Johnson – 31
  • cap’n Obvious – 30
  • Buddy – 24
  • Chuck – 23
  • JoeAiello – 16
  • Chet – 10
  • Dustin Godsey – 10
  • Doug S – 9
  • Noah – 9
  • Kris – 8
  • Norm – 7
  • Eddie Von White – 6
  • gymjok – 5
  • Rich Beckman – 5
  • (32 others < 5. I’ll post the full list every month or so.)

Shout Outs

Congrats to the following folks who got their first  2012 Lizzie this week!

  • Gerg
  • mrbaseball2usa
  • Smitty

Lizzie’s Kitchen

If you have leftover ham from Easter still in your refrigerator, please throw it away. If you happened to remember to freeze it you’re in business! Here’s something tasty to make with it.

Chit Chat

Give us your tips for staying positive about the Cubs in a year such as this one. There are positives, even in the midst of all the losses. Chet likes Bryan LaHair, Starlin Castro, and the Dempster/Garza/Samardzija top-of-the-rotation. What do you think about to stay positive?

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Farm Report: April 18 – Offenses lacking

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Triple A – Iowa 4, Albuquerque 6
Iowa was able to jump out to a 3-2 lead in the third inning after Luis Valbuena connected for his second home run of the year, which came after a Brett Jackson double. After the home run,  Isotopes pitcher Fernando Nieve hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch and was ejected from the game. Welington Castillo would follow that up with a double which scored Rizzo. But Jay Jackson was unable to hold the lead and gave up his second homer of the game in the sixth inning. On the night, Jackson threw 5.2 innings, giving up six hits, with three walks and 5 K’s to take the loss. Valbuena and Castillo are still hitting over .400 on the young season, while Rizzo isn’t far behind at .377 after an 0-3 night with two K’s.

Double A –
Game 1: Tennessee 1, Huntsville 2

Game 2: Tennessee 1, Huntsville 0

Pitching ruled the day in Huntsville as the two teams combined to score four runs in the double header. Dallas Beeler started game one and gave up an unearned run in 5.2 innings. He did give up nine hits, however, and the Smokies offense was held to one run on six hits in the game. Jonathan Mota was the only Cub farmhand with two hits and Michael Brenly knocked him in with a double in the second inning. Game two was decided in the second inning when Ty Wright homered for the only run of the game. That was enough for the win as Ryan Searle, Casey Weathers, and Frank Batista combined on the shutout. Searle started, went four innings with five K’s, no walks, and two hits. Batista collected save number five after closing out the final two innings.

High A – Daytona had the day off.

Low A – Cedar Rapids 5, Peoria 2
Cedar Rapids scored a run in the first inning off starter Jose Rosario and never looked back. They’d add four more runs before Peoria scored a pair in the seventh inning. Oliver Zapata doubled to score Paul Holiman and, later in the inning, Marco Hernandez would have an RBI groundout to score Zapata. Oliver Zapata is a 19 year old switch hitting outfielder that was added to the team when Reggie Golden went down with an injury. He is 7-14 so far with two doubles and two home runs.
No update yet on Golden’s injury.


Both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have updated their statistics and we now have the ability to filter the stats by team, league, Overall Top 100, Team Top 30’s, etc. Here is the link to BA which is a little more up to date than BP.

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Game 12: A Cure for Insomnia

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Cubs 1 @ Marlins 9

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I have honestly spent the last fifteen minutes since the game ended trying to think of a witty title for this game re-cap, but my mind went to sleep somewhere around the fifth inning. The last few nights I have been tossing and turning throughout, but I’m glad that I have finally found a cure to my sleep ailments: watching this team play baseball.

Most people who don’t like baseball will tell you that it is too long or too slow for them to get in to unless they are physically at the game. I’ve never debated that fact and mixed in with the long season, I can understand how baseball plays second fiddle to the NFL in terms of popularity. But this Cubs team is redefining sleep-inducing baseball.

We’ve all seen bad teams before, none of that is new to this fan base. However I can’t remember a time in recent seasons where it was this hard to watch a baseball game without getting bored. Even in the close games this season, the Cubs have never felt in it. I’m not sure if I can attribute this to being an eternal pessimist or that this team is really this hard to watch play the game.  Never mind winning, this team doesn’t even lose in interesting fashion any more. It is the same script every night except with a different lineup to add a slight flavor of pizzazz.

The errors can be seen coming from a mile away, the ball rarely gets hit out of the infield and the bullpen innings are like a comedy that isn’t funny. The best word that I can find to describe the first twelve games of the Cubs 2012 season would be: stale.

Garza Struggles

One of the few things I dislike about Garza is that he has too many of these kinds of starts over the course of an entire season. He started off pretty sharp in terms of velocity and pitch location, but by the fourth he was hanging way too much over the plate. Major League hitters are going to crush the kind of pitch he gave to Donnie Murphy, regardless of who they are.  He did seem to be getting a little frustrated about not getting strike calls on outer-plate sliders, but I could have been imagining things. At least the offense didn’t waste a good start from him today, which is about the only positive thing I can say at the moment, albeit a backhanded “compliment.”

Back Order Disaster

The back third of our lineup reminds me of a joke my second grade teacher told. Why was six afraid of seven? Obviously because seven ate (eight) nine. Well right now seven, eight and nine are as lame as the joke. Byrd collected a hit tonight to drive up his average to an impressive .081 on the season and Soto was hitless again. I made a joke on Twitter (@jcstats) about how the Cubs should hold a fan contest for fans to bat in the final three slots because we wouldn’t be getting any less production. I’m not even sure it was funny –it isn’t–but I got a few laughs out of it. Until these guys start hitting, we’re essentially giving three outs in a row. Not a recipe for run scoring.

Bring Up the Kids?

I know it is too early, but how long can we watch this stagnant team? As a fan base the expectations were never high to begin with, but let’s at least try to put an entertaining team on the field. I’m not sure if bringing up AAA super star Anthony Rizzo up soon would really do much of anything, but why not? The kid is tearing it up at Iowa and can’t be any worse than what we are putting out there at 1st and 3rd every other night. Guys like Keith Law and Buster Olney were predicting July/August call-ups for Rizzo and Brett Jackson, but every passing game makes me think it could be much sooner. Then again, there is a reason why I’m sitting on my couch writing this article instead of sitting in a player personnel meeting.

Relief Catchers

As the game became increasingly out of reach, Len and Bob turned their sights to talking about youth pitch counts. Apparently two high school pitchers in Louisiana combined for 25 IP and 347 pitches in a game this week. As ridiculous as that was, it wasn’t half as ridiculous as what came out of Bob’s mouth after. He said since we put pitching counts on pitchers, we should put them on catchers as well. They can only catch a certain amount pitches before a “relief catcher” needs to come in. Is there really no other material out there to make lame jokes about? We’ve been relegated to bad baseball AND listening to jokes about “relief catchers?” (Sigh).

Mad Libs

(Complete the blanks)

The _______ (place) Marlins of Florida have turned ________ (numerical) the number of double plays as the Cubs have _______ (baseball term) in this series.

The Cubbies hope they can maintain their streak of winning one game per series, as Ricky Nolasco and two-win (crazy) Jeff Samardzija duke it out at 12:40 ET tomorrow.

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Chet’s Corner: Lost In Transition

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of this underachieving Cubs team, lies a winner.

Yes, we are only 11 games in to what is suppose to be a “developmental” season.  It is a small sample size for sure.  However, the play thus far has shown little change from a season ago.  A season riddled by errors, lack of timely hitting and sketchy pitching (I will get to the pitching part later).  Another thing I have also noticed and felt might show change, yet it is only blind faith that led me to think this,  is that Dale Sveum is no miracle worker.  Mike Quade made his share of bad decisions and felt the wrath, I will be interested to see how people respond to Dale and his decision making over time, and how much of the responsibility fans decide to lump on him for this teams failures.

My overall sentiment to the play so far is this….we still have a lot of the past 7 years to crap out of our system before we turn any corners and show the world our might.  It’s a lot like stomach flu, we just need it to pass.  That being said, here is a look at some positives from the past two weeks…..


  • The top three of the starting rotation have been lights out against some pretty stiff competition. Garza, Dempster and Shark have a combined 2.14 ERA.  The starting staff is fourth in the majors with 7 quality starts.  Volstad and Maholm are disasters but I didn’t have high expectations for either.  The dissappointing stat is that we only cobbled together 3 wins out of 7 quality starts because our bullpen (which was a strength last year in a tallest midget sort of way) and offense is suspect…..oh hell, why not throw in the defense too! 
  • Back to the positive…..Bryan LaHair! I know it is irresponsible to evaluate, positively or negatively, with such a small sample size, but I love what I see from LaHair.  He plays a good first base and is sporting a 1.128 OPS, .360AVG, and leads the team in home runs with 2 in 11 games.  He also has an OBP of .448, which you guessed it, leads the team.   It looks like he isn’t quite ready to hand over his opportunity to Mr. Rizzo quite yet.  Can we find an outfield spot for this guy in the future? Pretty soon we are going to be writing posts entitled, What To Do With Bryan LaHair.
  • Starlin Castro!  Okay, so his fielding is less then desirable, but the guy has 7 stolen bases already and his hitting hasn’t changed.  I keep waiting for the pitchers to adjust to him but it ain’t happening and we are three seasons in.  That being said, let’s keep him out of the clubs.

I’ll save my breath on the negative stuff as we talk about that all the time.

On another note, will somebody tell me what happened to Marlon Byrd?  He looks not well. Is he ill? Was there a spring training back story on him that I missed explaining his weight loss?  Oh, and there is always the fact that he can’t hit now.  Did he part ways with Balco? Just sayin’!

One last thought…..could the Cubs play a tougher April schedule?  Tell me I am wrong, but I don’t remember starting off with this many good teams all at once.  Usually there is a nice sprinkling of Pittsburgh or something to give us a breather.  We get Washington (9-3) who is on fire, St. Louis (8-3) who are trying to prove that life without Pujols is no problem, and Milwaukee (5-6) who, even when they suck (not saying they do), are a challenge because of their little brother status.  Now we get Miami in their new stadium and they are looking to prove that they are better than a .500 team.  Have no fear though, the rest of April should be easy with Cinci and yet again St. Louis,  followed by an always fun trip to Philly!!!! If we even win four more games in the month of April I will be shocked.


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The Farm Report: April 17 – Hayden Simpson is Bad Again

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Triple A- Iowa 6, Albuquerque 13

The I-Cubs played an ugly defensive game, with three errors contributing to five unearned runs. Starter Nick Struck only last one inning and gave up six runs, although only two of them were earned. Frankie De La Cruz was strong in relief, giving up just one earned run in four relief innings. For some reason, the I-Cubs are intent on pitching Nate Robertson every time my turn for these write-ups comes up, and he proceeds to be terrible. Last night was no exception, with Robertson giving six runs, five of which were earned, over three innings. Offensively, the I-Cubs were led by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Adrian Cardenas and shortstop Luis Valbuena, all of whom posted two hits. Brett Jackson added a triple, which was his only time on base in five plate appearances. The strikeout prone center fielder also added two more Ks to his season tally.

Double A- Tennessee’s scheduled game against Huntsville was postponed due to rain.

High A- Daytona 7, Dunedin 8

So Hayden Simpson had some decent results in his first two starts, posting a 3.60 ERA over 10 innings. But the reports from the games were far less flattering. Simpson’s velocity was apparently down in the same vicinity it sat in during his disastrous 2011 campaign. His results tonight were far more in line with what would be expected from the reduced velocity. Simpson gave up six hits, four walks and six runs in just two and two-thirds innings. Matt Szczur was also unable to repeat his strong performance from the prior night’s action, going 0 for 5. John Andreoli, Greg Rohan and Rubi Silva continued to be offensive bright spots for the Cubs. Each of them reached base at least twice. Rohan added a home run. The bullpen was strong again as well. Joseph Zeller, Ty’Relle Harris, Brett Wallach and A.J. Morris pitched five and one-thirds innings and only gave up two runs, one of which was unearned. But the Daytona Cubs were never quite able to catch up to the hole Simpson put them in. Also, Ronald Torreyes has not played the last two games. I have not heard any news of any injury, but we will keep you posted.

Low A- Cedar Rapids 6, Peoria 7

Unlike their Florida State League counterparts, the Peoria Chiefs were able to make up  a late deficit by scoring five of their seven runs in the fifth through seventh innings. Outfielder Oliver Zapata continued his hot start, adding three hits. The nineteen year-old Dominican Republic native is now hitting .600, albeit in extremely limited action. Taiwanese center fielder Pin-Chieh Chen also had a strong game, hitting a double and a triple, as well as drawing a walk. The Chiefs’ pitching was pretty poor throughout the game, but Yao-Lin Wang pitched a scoreless final two innings of the game.

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Game 11: Cubs Throw Away Another Gem

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Cubs 2 @ Marlins 5

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Ryan Dempster: contract year Dempster was at it again. Hitting spots and generally keeping the Marlins off-balance (combined with a little luck from some horrendous baserunning). He threw 100 pitches in six innings largely because he recorded 8 Ks on the evening. But he threw it all away (literally) in the 6th inning. With one out and a man on second in the 5th, Josh Johnson chopped a pitch to the third base side of the mound, Dempster corralled what would’ve been a much easier play for Ian Stewart, turned and launched the ball over LaHair and into the stands. So Dempster gave up two “unearned runs” – both resulting from this ill-advised toss to first (Johnson eventually scored).

Starlin Castro: if you’re curious to see all that’s good about the Cubs, go watch the 4th inning at-bats of Barney and Castro. With Johnson painting the outside corner, Barney managed to fight off a series of pitches eventually earning an infield single. He then harassed Johnson during Castro’s at-bat by threatening to steal second. Castro fought off Johnson’s pitches in a similar manner, eventually squeaking a single back through the middle. Barney went first to third on Castro’s single and with the first pitch to Soriano, Castro swiped second easily. THAT is how this team can succeed this year. Whatever changes Castro made to his base-stealing methodology are paying huge dividends, he’s basically taking bases at will.

Steve Clevenger: Joe must be thrilled, backup catcher Steve Clevenger has shown a bunch of skills that starter Geovany Soto seems to have lost or never had to begin with. In the 7th inning alone he showed the ability to get on base, to run faster than moleasses, and to execute a slide into home plate that tied the game for the Cubs. I’m not ready to cut ties with Soto yet, but let’s just say that Clevenger is trying to make that a much easier (and quicker) decision.

Bryan LaHair: might be our worst baserunner – he definitely had a blunder last night. After he tied the game in the 7th, delusions of grandeur found him on the basepaths. Johnson picked him off, and if Ozzie hadn’t been on his best behavior after his Castro comments I’m sure he’d have been tossed. Granted a reprieve by a horrible call from the first base ump (who didn’t believe that Johnson had picked him off) LaHair persisted in taking too big of a lead and eventually started off for second on what must have been a hit-and-run except Johnson hadn’t made a move toward the plate. He stepped off and LaHair was easily tagged out…end of small potential for a rally.

Eighth Inning: Back to the fielding ugliness. Barney can’t field a ball, Clevenger lets one roll past him, and Dolis clearly can’t handle adversity. You get the idea, it wasn’t pretty and then Hanley Ramirez capped it off with a 3-run bomb. Game over.

Other Bits: There was a lot else going on last night, it was Ozzie’s first game back after his suspension for voicing support for Fidel Castro. It was the first time Carlos Zambrano took in a Cubs game in something other than a Cubs uniform. Also it was the Cubs first trip to the Marlins new park. And the game ended with Heath Bell’s first save as a Marlin.

It’s easy to question in retrospect why the Cubs didn’t walk Ramirez in the 8th after Bonifacio stole second – but Ramirez hadn’t done anything up to that point in the game offensively. I tend to think that in that situation the Cubs would’ve found a way to cough up at least one run, so I’m not sure it really matters that much. Get used to it folks, the entire year is shaping up like a choice between the lesser of two evils.

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Marlins Series Preview

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

We’re not even two full weeks into the season, and the Cubs are already performing better and worse than most of us expected.  The front end of the rotation looks shockingly legit, but some of our veterans left their bats in Spring Training–and not the ones I expected (Marlon Byrd has a bright future as a magician–his disappearing act is incredible!).   Tonight Chicago brings their surprising starters, anemic offense, and shaky-but-improving bullpen to baseball’s new home in Miami.  How will they match up against the Marlins?  Will the light-hitting Cubs take advantage of the cavernous dimensions of Miami’s new field?  Can Ozzie Guillen find a new way to offend and alienate large portions of Miami’s potential fanbase?  Will Carlos Zambrano find a way to insert himself into the action, even though he’s not scheduled to make a start?  And will the Marlins offer up adequate sacrifice to pacify the Home Run Idol in center field, or will it lash out in bloodthirsty rage?  Get the answers to almost none of those questions in our series preview!


Tuesday 6:10pm CT – Ryan Dempster vs. Josh Johnson

Johnson is coming off a 2011 season severely shortened by injury–he only appeared in nine games before he was shut down with shoulder issues.  Coming into this season, the re-branded Marlins had high hopes for their under-the-radar ace.  So far, he hasn’t lived up to them.  In just under ten innings of work spread over two starts, he’s already given up 21 hits.  Let’s hope the Cubs are able to strike first and strike hard (no mercy, sir!), as that has been their recipe for what little success they’ve had so far.  They ought to get some help from Dempster, who has surpassed most people’s modest predictions to start his season.  Maybe it is just the return of Contract Season Ryan Dempster, but the 1.88 ERA and 15 K’s he’s posted over fourteen innings have kept the Cubs in both his starts.  Now if he could just get some run support, he might post his first win of the season.

Wednesday 6;10pm CT – Matt Garza vs. Mark Buehrle

Buehrle has put together two quality starts in his early Marlins career, and come away with two losses.  Honestly, I’m not sure anything would surprise me tomorrow night–he could come out and throw a no hitter against the Cubs, or he could get shelled and not make it out of the first inning.  This is his first start in his new home ballpark, so we’ll see if his new surroundings suit him.  On the other hand, Garza is the picture of consistency, picking up right where he left off last season.  He was one bad throw past first (and high into the seats) away from a complete game against the Brewers, and he gave the Cubs six good innings against the Nationals.  At this point, I have little doubt that he’ll be able to keep the Cubs in most of his games–my concern is that they’ll repeat the trend of last season and provide him sparing run support, and continue to give away winnable games.

Thursday 11:40am CT – Jeff Samardzija vs. Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco is one of the pitchers the Cubs sent to the Marlins in the Juan Pierre debacle trade, and he’s served them well for the last few years.  He’s looked solid for the most part this season, be he needed all of 90 pitches to get through only 5 innings against the Astros.  This would be a good game for the Cubs to exhibit some of their fleeting patience at the plate.  He’s facing off against Samardzija, who seems determined to make me and many other Cubs fans eat our words about his potential as a starter.  And I’m all for it if he can–no one’s as happy as me to have my cynicism concerning the Cubs proven wrong.  But I’ll need to see more consistency from him before I sit down for the plate of crow.  His last start has me a little worried–5 runs on 10 hits through only 5 innings is no way to go through life, son.


Courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell from Marlins Daily

Through the first 10 games of the season the Miami Marlins are at a somewhat disappointing 4-6 and sitting at the bottom of the National League East. These are small sample sizes but the slow start is largely thanks to an all-around poor performance which includes some horrible fielding, bad base running, slow starts, and very little patience at the plate.

Only five teams in the entire Majors have a lower walk rate than the Marlins’ 5.7% rate. Gaby Sanchez has yet to walk in 37 plate appearances and Chris Coghlan has not drawn a walk in 21 plate appearances. Giancarlo Stanton is still without a homerun and only has one walk to his name in 36 plate appearances on the season. Omar Infante, surprisingly, leads the team with four homeruns, half the entire team total, but also only has one walk in 36 plate appearances.

The Marlins have a team Bsr of -1.1 and only five teams have a worse base running value. Sure, the Marlins are tied for the Major League lead with 10 stolen bases but they have also grounded into 12 double plays which is the most in the National League and second worst in the Majors.

The Marlins defense has a Major League worst -6.8 UZR and their 10 fielding errors are also the highest. It is also worth noting that their team fielding percentage is the fifth worst in the Majors. Marlins’ catchers have only thrown out 2 of the 20 potential base stealers against them. The infield trio of Hanley RamirezJose Reyes, and Infante have a combined -3.3 UZR.

It has been well noted that Stanton has yet to homer but Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio are both still without an extra-base hit to their name.

But not all is lost. Sure, Josh Johnson has an ERA of 8.38 but his FIP is 2.80. Ricky Nolasco finally has an ERA lower than his FIP and xFIP. The rest of the rotation is off to a solid start and the bullpen has a 3.19 ERA on the season.

Remember, these numbers are only after ten games; that is just over six percent of the season and there is still a lot of season left to play. If some of these numbers continue when we reach June then you might want to start worrying but until then just enjoy the success on the mound, wait for the offense to turn itself around, and pray the defense gets better.

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