Archive for May, 2013

Game 43 – Wood Not Enough

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Juan Lagares – .349 (WPA)


Travis Wood
You may have heard, Travis Wood has been really good in 2013 so far. I don’t care if peripheral stats tell you it won’t last (like there’s anything that can be done about it one way or the other anyway). On Sunday he pitched his 9th quality start to begin the season. Enjoy it! The Cubs haven’t had someone do that since Mordecai Brown in 1908. Not Greg Maddux. Not Fergie Jenkins. Not Rick Sutcliffe. Not Charlie Root. “The quality start is a meaningless stat” perhaps you’ll say. I would largely agree-it’s an arbitrary threshold-6 IP and 3 ER doesn’t exactly get me excited. But Wood is averaging 6.2 IPs and less than 2 earned runs allowed per start. THAT gets me excited. And of course it’s unlikely to last for 35 starts, but that’d be true of almost anyone not named Clayton Kershaw.

On Sunday, Wood was very good again. Wrigley wasn’t exactly a pitcher’s park in the series finale; evidenced by the fact that the Cubs’ southpaw deposited a home run onto Waveland against the Mets. He gave the Cubs 7 IP, surrendered 3 ERs, but also contributed a 2-run HR of his own. It was the rest of the lineup that had difficulty against the Mets.

Middle Of The Order
Castro & Rizzo were the void in the Cubs’ lineup. They were a combined 0-for-8 and 0-for-4 with RISP. Twice Castro hit a sacrifice fly with DeJesus standing on 2B, while Rizzo struck out 3 times. I’m not going to belabor the point, but the Cubs seem to have scattered success at the plate. With 4 doubles and 2 HRs the Cubs should’ve been able to cobble together a bit more than 3 runs.

Replay?
Part of the reason for that struggle to score was this play. Sweeney hit a sure double into the RF corner, former Cub Marlon Byrd horribly misplayed it at first and Sweeney understandably wanted to take advantage by turning it into a leadoff triple to start the 4th inning. Byrd recovered well, and the relay was on target, but even in real time it looked to be late.

Sweeney biggest problem was his awkward slide. But there’s a time-tested practice of umpiring that says if the player is going in headfirst and gets tagged on the shoulder, he’s probably safe. Third base umpire Manny Gonzalez would’ve done well trust 100+ years of umpiring. Instead he allowed his eyes to fool him. Whatever he thought he saw, he didn’t; Sweeney was safe and the Mets announcers even thought it was a bad call before seeing a replay.

I don’t understand why Sweeney and then Sveum (or even third base coach David Bell) had no argument. He’s leading off the 4th inning of a scoreless game – certainly it’s worth an argument? Instead no one protested and the Mets quickly retired the next two batters.

This is part of the game that’s becoming increasingly obnoxious to me. The camerawork and technology of 20-30 years ago wouldn’t have provided quick help in many situations. But today, a call such as this could’ve been overturned before Sweeney even got back to the dugout. MLB needs to find a way to expand and hasten the replay process.

And don’t take this a complaint that the Cubs were somehow screwed out of a win against the Mets. Nothing with the Cubs is nearly that cut & dry (zero confidence they would’ve driven Sweeney in from third – less than zero confidence the bullpen would’ve held a lead that might’ve been given to them). Besides I do believe these bad breaks tend to even out over the course of 162 games. It’s just an unnecessary detriment to the game; I don’t want to see a guy trot around the bases if the ball went foul; I don’t want to see a guy trot back to the dugout if he’s safely slid into a base. What’s your suggestion for instant replay changes in 2014?

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Game 42 – A Horselike Performance on Preakness Day

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Scott Feldman – .271 (WPA)


by Holden Clark

Scott Feldman earns this one with his work horse effort today. Although his peripheral stats suggest he is just getting lucky, when watching him pitch you can see a man that is doing a great job of making his pitches.  Stats in baseball are interesting; everyone assumes that you will regress back to the mean.  In Feldman’s case he is “due” for a regression.  Yet, as he showed again today, his stuff continues to keep his head above the proverbial waters.

A lot of stat heads will tell you that baseball is a game of cycles.  Yes a particular pitcher or batter is seemingly dominating, but wait; he’ll come back down to earth.  On the other side of the argument you have the fan boy (I am admittedly one) who watches the game through “holy crap” goggles.  With the two views seemingly at odds, we find Scott Feldman standing on the corner of the crossroads at an early point in the season.

Watching Feldman pitch today it was rare to see him labor through any batters.  He got in to a couple jams but never appeared to shake from his confidence or command.  Scattering seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, Feldman didn’t give up an earned run.  He struck out six and walked one in the game.  His current advanced statistics suggest he has been good but not great, with a FIP of 4.33 on a BABIP .218. Yet, to the untrained eye he has been dominant of late.

So, did Feldman just figure something out and become an excellent starter by simply flipping a switch?  Did he finally live up to the dominant pitcher that his ominous frame on the mound would suggest?  I’m not sure that he flipped a switch but he has been getting harder breaks on his breaking balls and more life on his fastball.  He has had more control and more confidence.  Simply stated, he has taken the ball with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he deserves a spot in a pretty darn good Chicago Cubs starting rotation.  He was not going to the pen for anybody, there was never even the suggestion he be booted.

So as I watched the game with my “holy crap” goggles on, I began to wonder if we were going to see this the rest of the season. I know the stats say he will come back to earth, but when you watch you can see it.  I am fairly confident I loathe the next word I am about to use to describe his presence more than anybody. He appears, on the mound (and at the plate as shown by him breaking down that back leg and digging a low pitch out and hammering it for a double), that the man has gone to the store and bought himself some “swag”.  I apologize to everyone for using that term.  I was going to go with mojo but I didn’t think that was an accurate description.

The confidence is coming from building on the last great start, using the same stuff, and having the respect and confidence of a team that assured him he wouldn’t be looking over his shoulder when it came to a spot in the staff.  So is that what built it up, Theo and Jed promising Scott that he was going to get his spot in the rotation if he signed with the Cubs?  After his first few “meh” starts and he continued to get the ball, did he settle into his role and pitch up to his ability?  Is he going to regress?

Who cares!  The guy is on fire.  The guy is pitching with confidence.  Regardless if the stats say one thing or the other, right now the holy crap meter says it’s time to celebrate another raising of the “W” flag.  He is building confidence across the board, just like Travis Wood whose peripherals say he has been more lucky than good.  Right now, those advance stats don’t matter because both are pitching great and winning ball games.

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Three Up, Three Down

Friday, May 17th, 2013

I’ve really wanted to have an opportunity to write about Dan Vogelbach since we started these pieces a few weeks ago. I was hoping he’d explode with just a massive week or two and he’d fit neatly into the Three Up segment. But, despite having a solid year, he hasn’t done anything to improve his prospect status. So in this edition of Three Up, Three Down, we’ll be looking at three players instead of six. Specifically, these are players who, on first glance, might look to be up. However, a deeper examination at least shows that they have done little to nothing to improve their prospect status since the start of the season. As a note, all statistics are through Thursday, May 15.

Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, age 20, Low A
158 PAs, .292/.363/.438
5 2Bs, 5 HRs, 17 BBs, 21 Ks
.366 wOBA, 126 wRC+

There is a lot of good with Dan Vogelbach’s full season debut to this point. Specifically, he is hitting for a high average, walking, and not striking out. Despite showing excellent plate discipline, there’s still a problem: due to Vogelbach’s limited defensive abilities, he needs to dominate on the offensive end. And that includes hitting for power. As Vogelbach is averaging an extra base hit about every 3 and a half games, he just isn’t doing that yet.

Now, it’s early, the Midwest League is a pitcher’s league, and the Midwest League in the nasty weather of a spring across the north central portion of the United States is particularly nasty on hitters, but Vogelbach was a guy some were pegging as a prospect who could jump into Top 100 lists and fly through the system. At this point, I’d be surprised to see him in Daytona before August, and he probably won’t do enough to be considered a truly big time prospect prior to next season.

Matt Szczur, OF, age 23, Double A
162 PAs, .301/.370/.385
4 2Bs, 1 3B, 2 HRs, 13 SB, 3 CS, 15 BBs, 21 Ks
.354 wOBA, 120 wRC+

Before Vogelbach was the darling of the non-elite Cubs prospects, Matt Szczur filled that role. As a person, Szczur has 80 character, and is a fantastic athlete who probably would have been a mid-round NFL pick out of Villanova as a slot receiver and punt returner.  In his second shot at Double A, Szczur has hit for average, walked a good amount and not struck out this season. The problem is that his notoriously slappy swing is hitting for no power, and as Szczur is approaching his 24th birthday in July (he’s actually older than Anthony Rizzo by a few weeks), his time to start adding power is limited.

Quite simply, it’s hard to be a slap hitting, singles only, right handed regular in the big leagues. Szczur’s inability to add any power means he’s almost certainly a fourth outfielder down the road, and not a big time prospect today.

Dustin Geiger, 3B/1B, age 21, High A
143 PAs, .286/.357/.397
5 2Bs, 3 HRs, 25 BBs, 13 Ks
.348 wOBA, 115 wRC+

I’ll admit, Geiger’s cheating a bit on this, as he’s never been considered a significant prospect. However, as a 21 year old in High A Ball, he’s not a nobody either. The unfortunate thing for Geiger is that, despite the healthy OBP, to play in the majors he’d need to hit for power. And he hasn’t done that yet.

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GirlieView (05/16/2013)

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of 2013 = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • Katie should be allowed to use a real picture as her avatar instead of whatever that thing is.
  • Next time you get discouraged by our rebuilding process and the lack of talent, watch a Marlins game and be encouraged.
  • I believe Villanueva’s mustache deserves a Lizzie all by it’s self.
  • I know maybe one person that has ever tuned in to that event.
  • Pull a Buddy and tune in somewhat drunk.
  • You know it’s bad when watching a Fantasy Baseball draft has more appeal…
  • Sappelt must have incriminating photos of Svuem or Theo or both.
  • Kameron Loe has quite the streak going. 9 IP, 9 HRs. I’ll be tuning in just for that excitement
  • Carrying 12 pitchers is ridiculous. It leads to some guy getting burried and forgotten at the end of the bullpen bench and as a result, rusting like the tin man.
  • I fully support Ian Stewart. I wish him a long career as a member of the Iowa Cubs
  • I’d even go as far as to root for them as Ham Fighters. Murton and LaHair could always use some new wacky neighbors…
  • I believe this means I am no longer a Lizard Virgin. I have become a man.
  • I still say Jedi and Norm are the same person.
  • Shit, Buddy is on to me.
  • I would say the team that scores more runs usually wins but if Dusty wants to go with 2 out hits to win so be it.
  • I extend my condolences to whomever has been charged with summarizing the piece of shit game that followed this piece of shit game.
  • I dined at home, but very much alone. Neither of the Swanson girls wanted anything to do with that sandwich.
  • At least the Cubs didn’t call up Rafael Dolis. Um…nevermind.
  • Teams that aren’t winning don’t need to stand pat with the status quo. When things aren’t working, try new things.
  • Who else thought at 9-0 in the 9th, we could lose this?
  • Whenever I start sliding past “scruffy looking” my wife starts giving me the side eye. Since she is the unquestioned dictator of this particular establishment, what she says goes.
  • The problem with those chicks, well beside the very low tooth-to-tattoo ratio, is that they tend to have a neck beards themselves.
  • To me that seems like a highly unusual decision for a guy who ought to be trying to work his way back to the majors.
  • I was merely listening to tonight’s game’s audio feed, but it sounded like Wood was throwing hard.
  • Wood had Wood?
  • Schier Joy
  • Carlos Marmol had another decent (and by decent I mean he didn’t surrender the 1-run lead) outing
  • And by sweet I mean frozen-chocolate-malt-in-a-cup-with-a-little-wooden-spoon sweet.
  • I had a dream last night that Gregg blew a save against the Cards. Closers have infiltrated my dreams. There is no hope.
  • Those are called nightmares.
  • Gregg is arguably our ace. Sleep soundly.
  • Overall, I feel there are four qualities that separate a winning baseball team from one that sits on middle ground or lower: defense, timely hitting, starting pitching and bullpen.
  • Timely Hitting is simply a product of 1) having good hitters, and 2) having players that can get on base. The Cubs lack these.
  • Kevin Gregg continues to be the lone bright spot in the pen. Prepare yourselves for the coming apocalypse.
  • I was in line with Castro at Disneyland and he said he says his most difficult hurdle is his last name. He thinks the constant knee-jerk criticism derives from the fact that his last name is most closely associated with communists and child molesting pervert brothers.
  • Any good mom would allow / encourage punching Pierzynski in the face.
  • Any good mom would punch Pierzynksi in the face herself.
  • Including Mrs. Pierzynski.
  • I’m not saying it’s time to trade Samardzija – but it’s certainly time to stop listing him as an untouchable.
  • To me it seems that Gregg’s pitches have more movement than the last time he pitched for the Cubs. It could also be that I do not want to remember his first stint with us.
  • I’m not a Valbuena guy either…but the .272/.385/.489 he’s put up so far is pretty damn solid.
  • Edwin?
  • This is a typical Cub situtation, the outcome if past experience is repeated is that we will make the best player unhappy, and the remainder will pitch poorly, and eventually be replaced by the unhappy player who will then pitch poorly, because he is not happy.
  • If you had to pick today, [Wood is] the Cubs’ All-Star and it’s not really close.
  • at least I can wear my “WE GOT WOOD” shirt again…
  • You used sporting and Wood in the same sentence.
  • I know that the history between these two franchises is inescapable, and that regardless of who comes out on top, the victory will be all the sweeter because of who they’ve beaten.

Lizard

  • 22 years ago today at 5:23 p.m. my daughter came into this world. Tonight at 5:23 p.m. my daughter and I will be at Wrigley Field prepping for the game. Life is good, even if the Cubs aren’t.

Shout Outs

A big shout out to the following readers who submitted their first 2013 Lizzie this time around. We’re happy to have you here!

  • Dave
  • The Whole Damn Show

MVL

Congratulations to jswanson, the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around!

Top Ten of 2013 (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Seymour Butts
3. Eddie von White
4. Doc Raker
5. Jedi Johnson
6. Joe Aiello
7. Chuck
8. Buddy
9. Doug S.
9. Jeremiah Johnson
9. Noah Eisner

Chit Chat

I’ve got nothing, so please throw out a topic of your choice for chatting, and see if anyone bites!

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Game 40 – “Let’s Get Some Runs!”

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Rockies 3, Cubs 6

Box Score / Highlights

If you’re like me, you usually appreciate the optimism of the Harry Caray-instituted post-seventh inning stretch cry, but you readily acknowledge that it’s probably misplaced. This season in particular, I don’t get the sense that these Cubs are prone to late-inning heroics. I spent most of Tuesday afternoon in driving to and from LAX, and didn’t get to hear much of the game. I did manage to stream a few minutes, but when I heard the Cubs were down 7-1 late in the game, I knew there was little reason for hope. Sure, they managed to tack on a couple late runs, but they never really threatened to get back in it.

That same pessimism shows up when they let an opponent hang around too long, like it seemed there were doing Wednesday evening. After a lead-off homer from David DeJesus in the first and a two-run bomb from Jeff Samardzija–a surprising show of power for the Dread Pirate–the Cubs nursed a two run lead through the early innings. And while Samardzija looked strong for most of the evening, I never got the sense they were going to put the Rockies away (they did load the bases with two outs in the fifth inning, but that little rally was over before it began). A pinch hit homer for Reid Brignac (who?) in the sixth did nothing to calm my fears.

Then in the bottom of the seventh, the bats woke up again. With Darwin Barney on third base (after a walk, a steal, and a Samardzija sacrifice) and DeJesus on first (HBP), Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo both singled to right, driving in runs and chipping away at the Rockies’ hopes. After a pitching change, Alfonso Soriano grounded into a run-producing fielder’s choice to widen the lead. And although Colorado managed to push across a late run in the ninth, the game was basically over after the seventh (and yes, I’m temporarily sidestepping my misgivings about Kevin Gregg’s closing abilities).

Did the Cubs respond to the “Let’s Get Some Runs!” cry? Of course not. In fact, my guess is the players regard that particular bit of optimistic groupthink as little more than a repetitive nuisance.

But in a game that depends so much on good timing, it was a pleasure to see the Cubs have it working on their side Wednesday night. And it seems like more and more lately, this team has been a pleasure to watch. Stick around–they might surprise us yet.

Parting Shot: And speaking of good timing, here’s another semi-annual reminder that Soriano has a gun.

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Out of the Park Baseball 14, iOOTP13

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

From 2006, when EA lost the rights to make MVP Baseball, to 2011, I was an MLB: The Show guy. I got a PS3 instead of an X-Box 360 specifically for the Show. But as I played the game through the 2011 season, I tired of the Road to the Show mode, and found the Franchise mode underwhelming and lacking depth. The greatest frustration was with Sony’s miserable “potential” rating. A prospect’s trade value was entirely tied to his potential rating, but said potential rating had absolutely nothing to do with his skill level or age, and the game limited how much any one player could improve. So not only was it annoying, but it was a major exploit.

As a result, I started looking for a new game to play, and quickly found Out of the Park Baseball. OOTP is entirely in a website style HTML window, and the games are text based. If you’re looking for the on the field type of simulation provided by the Show or MLB 2K, OOTP is not for you. If you’re looking for a game that lets you experience what it’s like to run a franchise, though, OOTP is like manna from heaven.

I won’t pretend to say that I’ve played all the modes available, but you can develop a custom league, play a historical league, or play online leagues in addition to a standard MLB league with 2013 opening day rosters. In a standard MLB game, you’ll control the MLB team, Triple A team, Double A team, High A team, Low A team, Short Season A team, Rookie League team and an international complex. In other words, you control the entire organization, from the 16 year old Dominican signee to your biggest superstar.

The big improvement to the game last year was in the user interface, significantly modernizing it to make it look more like a modern web browser. This year the UI was more a cosmetic improvement, but improvements have been made elsewhere.

OOTP13 appears to have a more realistic international scouting setup than prior versions, where you basically had to luck across international prospects. It also seems to have scouted current minor leaguers a bit better than prior versions.

With that said, there are still exploits, particularly against the computer. You can pretty much always trade a terrible bench player for a high potential reliever (for example, I was able to trade Brent Lillibridge for Carter Capps). You’ll also see some pretty good young, high potential relievers hit the waiver wire. I’d bet it’s a coding in the software that makes team err on not designating for assignment significant salary amounts, which probably is the proper way to err.

The one negative to this season is that it’s been a buggier run than prior versions, with some mid-game shut down issues upon release. However, it seems that the developer has gotten a hold on that through patches.

Overall, OOTP is still by far the best franchise running experience in gaming. If you’ve ever wanted to feel what that is like, go out and buy it.  It is available for $39.99 on Windows, Mac and Linux here.

There is also an iOS version of the game, iOOTP Baseball 2013, which is available on the App Store for $4.99. I honestly think the best description of iOOTP is as OOTP light. You only get one minor league team to run, and they don’t play games. They’re more a supplemental roster. It’s a great game to get as either a trial version of OOTP, due to the lower price, or if you have long train commutes or are traveling.

Aside from it being a lighter version of OOTP, my only complaint about the iOS version, which I have only played on an iPhone, is that it can be difficult to make some roster moves due to the amount of information that needs to be posted on a small screen. You need to move some pretty small buttons around. That’s likely a necessary evil to put a game with this much information on an iOS device.

If the money isn’t an issue and you know it’s for you, I’d suggest getting OOTP. If you want to try it out for a lower cost or have a lot of time alone with your iOS device, get iOOTP. Either way, you’re getting the best baseball game available on that device.

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Game 39 – The Rotation Question Answered?

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Eric Young – .185 (WPA)


by Sean Powell

Everyone is speculating about who will leave the rotation once Matt Garza returns (throwing aside suggestions of a six-man rotation for now). Although one bad start won’t decide things, it’s not looking good for Carlos Villanueva. Scott Feldman and Travis Wood have been destroying hitters lately, and Villanueva has regressed back toward the mean in the last few starts (with a “leap” back tonight). His peripheral stats suggested that a correction was coming, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise. Villanueva has successful experience in the swing role, and it was a role he was signed to fill in the first place.

There have been arguments made that Edwin Jackson should be the pitcher sent to the bullpen – at least until trades are made. The argument is that Jackson is not a trade candidate this season (since he signed to a four-year deal), and it would be better to let Villanueva stay in the rotation to build maximum value before the trade deadline. While that argument makes some sense, I just don’t see Villanueva sustaining his early-season success (although it’s a small sample size, his performances of late support this) – and he will have more value if he’s effective out of the pen as the long man/sixth starter than he will if he is scuffling in a rotation role. Also, Jackson’s peripheral stats suggest that he has pitched better than his “baseball card” stats suggest: coming into tonight, Jackson had a 3.50 FIP vs. a 3.91 FIP for Villanueva (Villanueva’s FIP rose to 4.28 tonight).

The Cubs offense continued their struggles against left-handed starters as they made Jeff Francis look like Travis Wood. Despite struggling all year (especially against righties), Francis kept the Cubs hitters off-balance all night. The only run against Francis came on a Darwin Barney golf-shot homerun (yes, you read that correctly). Darwin may be creeping out of his slump with a three-hit night that also included an RBI double in the ninth.

[Random thought: I always remembered Francis as having a beard. Maybe I’m thinking of Jeff Reardon.]

On another note, it was interesting to see David DeJesus get the start in the leadoff spot against a lefty. He’s had a good year at the plate only playing against righties. Sveum’s experiment of having Starlin Castro lead-off against lefties seems to have been short lived.

The Rockies tried to give us back the game in the eighth, with a couple of mental-lapse errors, and we had the obligatory fake rally in the ninth, but the deficit was just too large.

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Rivalries and Playoff Runs

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Last Thursday night some friends and I sat in a tiny restaurant in Burbank* and happily watched the Chicago Blackhawks advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the booth next to us sat a cab driver named Elmer who grew up on the south side of Chicago. Over the course of the game, he and I chatted about the Blackhawks’ playoff chances, how much the team has improved this year, and the other Chicago teams we root for (Elmer was a Sox fan, but he didn’t seem to harbor any malice for us Cubs fans). Mostly we discussed who we wanted to face in the next round and why.

*The restaurant is called Taste Chicago, and it’s owned by actor and Chicago native Joe Mantegna. The story goes that he and his wife couldn’t find a place to get good Italian Beef or Chicago-style pizza, so they opened their own. It’s not much more than a hole in the wall, but the restaurant serves as an unofficial gathering place for former Chicagoans. I stopped by in December for the Bears’ last game, and the place was packed to the rafters, with Mantegna in an orange and blue Bears wig leading the singing of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” after every touchdown. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a stop.

Elmer was eager to march through the San Jose Sharks and face off against the Anaheim Ducks on the way to the Cup Finals. He was looking for revenge–the Ducks went 3-0 against the Blackhawks this season. His contention was that Anaheim had lucked out by facing us when we were dealing with injuries, and that they needed to be put in their place during our playoff run. And while I agree that we probably should have been able to handle them in a seven-game series, I honestly wanted no part of the Ducks in the postseason. In my book, the sooner they were out of the playoffs, the better.

Fast forward to this past Sunday night when I gleefully watched the Detroit Red Wings stomp to death the Ducks’ postseason hopes. And while I’m thrilled the Blackhawks won’t have to deal with pesky Anaheim, they’ve exchanged one potential hurdle for another.

The Red Wings are one of the most consistently skilled, smart, and well-constructed teams in the league. They often play with a freakish efficiency, and they rarely seem to struggle to fill spots in their roster with more top-flight talent. And as the Blackhawks’ oldest rival, they hold a 389-313-84 advantage in the all-time record against Chicago. I’m not sure the Blackhawks won’t have a tougher time against them than they might have had against the Ducks.

But I do know that this series will matter in ways a series against Anaheim never could. I know that the history between these two franchises is inescapable, and that regardless of who comes out on top, the victory will be all the sweeter because of who they’ve beaten.

And maybe that’s where this connects back to baseball. Given the historic lack of postseason success on the Northside, maybe we shouldn’t be picky. But if when the Cubs make their next playoff run, would you want it to go through St. Louis? Would playoff glory be that much sweeter against the Cardinals? Is it better to stare down and conquer your greatest foe, or would you rather take on the pesky team that’s bothered you all season?

If he had his druthers, I think Elmer would have chosen both.

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Game 38 – Wood Good Again

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Travis Wood – .278 (WPA)


Travis Wood
My last recap wasn’t terribly complimentary of Jeff Samardzija. Conversely, I have nothing but great things to say about Travis Wood. If you had to pick today, he’s the Cubs’ All-Star and it’s not really close. Even if Castro or Rizzo (or anyone else for that matter) winds up being selected for the team, Wood is making a strong case that he belongs. Eight starts in 2013, eight quality starts. He has surrendered 3 earned runs one time; it’s been 0, 1, or 2 in each of the other seven starts. He’s thrown more than 100 pitches just twice, even though he’s AVERAGING 6.2 IP. He’s been phenomenal; perhaps his best performance was Monday night against Colorado.

Not only did he pitch 7 innings, no runs, and only two hits; he was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. The Rockies haven’t had difficulty hitting LHP in 2013, either. Sporting a .277 team average against lefties, it didn’t matter; they couldn’t get to Travis Wood.

Offense
Timely hitting has returned to the Cubs in recent days. They were 6-for-18 on Monday with RISP, including some unlikely hits from the aforementioned Wood and Darwin Barney. Six different Cubs had 2 hits apiece and DeJesus and Castro each reached base on 3 occasions. It all led to nine runs, which was more than enough with Wood on the mound.

Relief
You may see that Marmol gave up a run in the ninth that cost the Cubs the shutout. I say he had a good outing though – it was a solo HR, and in part it was because he was throwing strikes. Of his 16 pitches, 11 were strikes – and with a 9-run lead, I can forgive a solo homer. It was the first run he’s given up since May 4th, and that means he’s only given up 4 runs total since being demoted from the ‘closer’ role.

Kyuji Fujikawa also pitched. He also threw strikes. And he has also looked good lately – returning to the Cubs on the 10th.

Improvement
The Cubs are 12-13 since staring 4-9 and currently on pace for 68 wins. The Rockies were their fifth different opponent in 8 days, with a weekend trip to Washington coming awkwardly in the middle of a homestand. With the next 5 at Wrigley and then a trip to Pittsburgh, the Cubs are again set up nicely to rack up a few wins. When you get a good start like the Cubs did on Monday night from Travis Wood, it makes you a bit more optimistic…

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