Archive for September, 2012

Game 159: 99 Problems But Being Worst Ain’t 1

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Cubs 7 @ Diamondbacks 2

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Cubs sit at 60-99 after the win on Sunday. As Jeremiah correctly pointed out in Saturday’s recap, the Cubs must win out to avoid 100 losses. On Sunday they took the first step in that direction. The win over the Diamondbacks separated the 2012 Cubs from the 1962 & 1966 versions of this club that each posted 59-103 records. They also secured (though I think it was official a day or two ago) the 2nd to worst record in the MLB this year. They cannot finish below the Astros, and the Astros are the only team that can finish below the Cubs. Before you conclude the inevitability of 100 losses, just know that the Cubs host the aforementioned Astros for the final series of the season. And yes, the Astros have been better in September (11-14), but they have posted only 30 wins since May 25th. That’s 30-83. A .265 ‘winning percentage’. The Cubs are 45-69 in that same stretch, with 7 wins against the Astros.

Ok, So It’s Not All Good News
In their final opportunity of the season, the Cubs snagged a win AT an NL West park. That’s right, if you live in Denver and all points west, the closest geographical Cubs win to you this year took place today. The Cubs had not won in the Pacific or Mountain time zone. They will have to do better than that next year – the new interleague schedule has them out west quite often!

The Game – Bad
We’re going to get this out of the way…this play was HORRIBLE! Valbuena can’t field it bare-handed. Ok, not the end of the world. So he decides to overrun it by 30 feet and never give it a second thought. Moronic. Rusin yields to Valbuena, and also continues to run well into foul territory as if he’s backing up a throw from the outfield to third base. Castro is correctly moving to cover third base on the play (albeit a bit lackadaisically), but none of that matters unless someone fields the ball!! Finally Rusin stops, turns, fields the ball and fires home. Only Recker can’t handle the throw, which would’ve gotten Upton nailed at the plate. The ball kicks away and though it never left the infield, two runs scored and the remaining runners were at 2nd and 3rd. Inexcusable. (The great injustice of baseball scoring by the way, heartthrob Recker was saddled with the only error on this play).

The Game – Good
Almost everything else. With the exception of that play, Rusin looked really good. Five innings, only 68 pitches, mostly around the strike zone. He gave up three hits, two walks, and just two runs (1 earned). Castro, DeJesus, Rizzo, and even LaHair all had a big day at the plate. And the Cubs even benefitted from some bang-bang plays at first that helped score runs. The bullpen was great too, only 3 hits, 1 walk, no runs and 5 Ks in the span of 4 innings. If the Cubs want to finish with only 99 losses, they’ll need to pitch like that against the Astros. I don’t really believe that 100 losses is a terrible stain worth avoiding, but I applaud the Cubs for setting goals (however insignificant or unnecessary) and still attempting to foster a desire for winning. Some teams (the Dodgers!) have completely mailed in the games that don’t matter. Of course, the Cubs have been playing those meaningless games all season, but still…

Final three games at Wrigley. Will the Cubs get a sweep? Even end the season on a series win? Or will the Astros leave the use their final series as part of the NL to embarrass their division foes? I have no idea, but team lackeys for both sides will certainly be busy scheduling a LOT of tee times.

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Game 158: Whoops

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Cubs 2 @ Diamondbacks 8

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Apologies for the tardy recap. I didn’t watch the game last night (can you blame me?), and forgot it was mine to cover.

From what I can tell, the Cubs were a collective no-show at the plate until Soriano’s two-run bomb in the ninth. Justin Germano and the cast of cast-offs in the bullpen through eight innings of batting practice, so the game was long over before Soriano broke up the shutout.

So to avoid losing 100 games, the Cubs need to run the table the rest of the way. Word is that manager Dale gave the team an impassioned pre-game speech before today’s game. Fortunately, VFTB has unbelievable clubhouse access, and we’ve obtained this exclusive video.

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Minors Report – Stock Down

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Overall it was a good year for the farm system. Anthony Rizzo led way and will be a fixture in the Cubs lineup over the next few years. Management added free agent Jorge Soler and Juan Carlos Paniagua and traded for their new #1 pitching prospect, Arodys Vizcaino, in addition to the players added in the June draft.

But not all was good:

Everyone knows the story on Brett Jackson by now. He simply will not succeed unless he makes more contact. The 42.9% K rate in the small sample is bad enough, but the 33.8% in AAA is worse than any player in the majors! I saw a comment on this site yesterday referencing “Korey” Patterson, but Patterson only had a 20% K rate in his career. If you thought “Korey” was bad…wait until you see a full season of Brett Jackson. At this point, I’d be surprised if he turns into a .220/.300/.400 hitter.

Back when the Cubs traded for Matt Garza before the 2011 season, I was happy that it was Chris Archer and not Trey McNutt that was the main pitcher in the deal because I liked the K/BB rate McNutt put up. Well, he’s regressed since then. Significantly. He was put in the bullpen this year where he’ll try to carve out a career as reliever. I’m not hopeful. It wouldn’t shock me if Chris Archer, with all of 27 innings thrown, might have already¬† had a better career than McNutt will ever have.

I had higher hopes for Rhee than most. 2011 saw his second season back from injury and a nice increase in strikeouts while maintaining a decent walk rate. But, like most Cub pitchers it seems, Rhee hit a wall in AA and saw a massive drop in strikeouts. If you can’t strike out batters in AA, you’re going to have a hard time making it to the majors. I think it’s safe to say that Rhee won’t be on 2013’s Top 20 prospect list.

Although Gerardo Concepcion isn’t a guy I was very high on coming into the season, his stock is still way down. Nearly into the non-prospect range. With the new CBA putting a cap on the amount of spending for international free agents, many were fooled by the high dollars the Cubs gave Concepcion. But he has a hard time hitting 90 mph on the gun and ended the season with more walks than strikeouts. The Cubs will tell ya he’s still learning how to pitch and he does have the potential for a good breaking ball, but his reputation for being advanced wasn’t validated by his numbers.

All in all, not many disappointments in the Cubs system this year, but I think that’s because there wasn’t much to be expected of the farm to begin with.

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Game 157: Pitching Stung In The Desert

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Cubs 3 @ Diamondbacks 8

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Alfonso Soriano
The resurgent Soriano walked not once, not twice, but three times against Arizona on Friday night. THRICE! Just how rare is that for Soriano? He’s done it only 4 other times in his career – but two of those four times, he received intentional passes to record two of his three walks. Tonight, no intentional passes, just superhuman plate discipline.

Darwin Barney
Carrie MuskRat had the remarkable stupidity to celebrate Darwin Barney’s errorless streak in this column on Friday. Barney entered the day tied with Placido Polanco for consecutive errorless games in a season at 141. So naturally Barney committed a throwing error on Friday night. It came on a very difficult play with Justin Upton running. The only way Barney gets an out is by throwing the ball off balance as he did, but that made it hard for Rizzo to handle and it skipped past him. Tough break for Barney…and in the 8th inning no less.

The current pitching staff is deplorable. Of the guys we regularly use, only Camp, Marmol, and Russell have sub-4.00 ERA. Three of our current starters have horrible 6.00+ ERAs. One of the best pitchers currently being trotted out was Friday’s starter, Travis Wood. He got shelled, by a very pedestrian .500 team. I’m not sure the Yankees’ infamous Murderer’s Row could win games with this crappy staff.

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Diamondbacks Series Preview

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of

Friday at 8:40pm CT – Travis Wood vs. Ian Kennedy

Wood lasted only five innings in his previous start but didn’t pitch all that poorly. A bases-loaded jam in the first inning hindered his pitch count, but he allowed only one run. He is 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA in his career against the D-backs. Kennedy pitched better than his numbers would indicate last time out against the Rockies at Coors Field. Kennedy allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. In his two starts before that, Kennedy allowed one run in 15 1/3 innings.

Saturday at 7:10pm CT – Justin Germano vs. Trevor Cahill

Germano lost his last time out, giving up four runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Cardinals. He’s pitched into the fifth inning in all but one of his 10 starts. The righty has a 5.24 ERA in five career games (four starts) against Arizona. Cahill took the loss in his last start as he allowed two runs in six innings against the Rockies at Coors Field. Prior to that, Cahill had won three straight starts and had a 2.79 ERA in those games.

Sunday at 3:10pm CT – Chris Rusin vs. Josh Collmentor

Rusin will try to end the 2012 season on a positive note as well as give the Cubs something to remember when thinking about next year’s rotation. The lefty gave up six runs over 3 2/3 innings in his last outing vs. the Rockies at Coors Field. Collmenter started in place of Tyler Skaggs last Tuesday against the Giants and earned the win allowing one run on two hits over five innings. Collmenter has made 10 starts this year and 17 relief appearances.

Our Take

I really expected a better performance in Colorado. But rather than show a little fight in the waning moments of the season, the Cubs decided to pack it up early and race to the top of the draft board. At this point they’re just running out the clock.

There aren’t words to express how I feel about the apparent inevitability of losing 100 or more games this season. Fortunately, there is this video.

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