Archive for June, 2013

Game 73: Three-run Leads are Hard to Hold

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

 Box Score /Highlights

I turned the game off in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Cubs went up by three runs and Travis Wood pitching like his normal 2013 self. With a project of building my wife’s kitten a cat “castle” awaiting me on the back deck, I felt safe leaving the fate of the game in Wood’s very capable hand. He was facing the Astros, although I don’t feel we are in any position to be overlooking any team aside from maybe the Marlins.

If Joe’s proposition of yesterday’s win only counting as half of one, does this mean that a loss on Saturday counts for two times a loss? I guess that only seems fair, especially in a game where the Cubs looked like the better team for the majority, which isn’t saying much. That’s like saying the Bills are a better team than the Jaguars.

Wood had only given up a pair of hits at the time my television went into the rest position, but a couple of two-out singles in the sixth inning put him in a vexing situation. Wood has looked comfortable getting out of the few jams he’s pitched into this year, but J.D. Martinez hit his seventh homer over the year over the left field wall to tie the game at three.

According to ESPN.com, Martinez’s home run was the exact distance as Nate Schierholtz’s knock in the bottom of the fifth, just to the opposite side of the field. Both were registered as 406 feet and started my mind wandering about determining distances on home runs. Just how accurate are these numbers and who are the people calculating them? Is this part of the NSA’s new deal? Watching every home run and feeding government-funded information back to media groups for higher taxes?

Okay that was a joke, I am sorry.

In a roundabout segway to Schierholtz, Katie’s man-crush be darned, seemingly every time I look at a box score he has done something in the run-scoring categories. There has been at least one guy over the last few seasons that has been a solid, bargain pick up that can be flipped for something before the deadline. As much as I like Mr. Nate, I think he becomes that guy this year like Maholm was last year. If the Cubs’ brass sells high on a few pieces in July, the team will be unwatchable by August 1st, but I think they are already at that point for some of you.

Back on track, Kevin Gregg got his first loss as a Cub in 2013 on a pair of sacrifice bunts in the top of the ninth. Ronny Cedeno stuck it to his former team with a squeeze play back to Gregg to score Justin Maxwell from third and the rest is history.

In other news, the Blackhawks won at home to make it 3-2, just in case you haven’t heard. This makes CAPS sad because a few months in Boston has made him a Bruins fan according to his Facebook page. Poor CAPS.

Would you rather have the ‘Hawks win Game 6 on the road or Game 7 at home? Does it matter? Discuss.

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Game 72 – Should This Win Count For Half?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Box Score / Highlights


The Cubs came out and took care of business and won game one of the series with Houston after being embarrassed by the Cardinals last series.

June hasn’t quite gone as I had planned for this team. I thought we had a shot to be around .500 for the month base on the schedule and the better play we saw in May. Unfortunately things have been bad. This series we get a reprieve from the difficult games and play perhaps the worst team in all of baseball. It’s defintely between them and the Marlins. I got excited about that and then I looked at the standings and realized we’ve gotten very close to overtaking them for that crown. I don’t believe this team is as bad as their record shows, but until we see results, you are what your record says you are. On Friday, the win said we played well.

Matt Garza tossed a strong, eight inning, outing. It comes on the heels of the seven inning, no run performance he turned in for his last start. At this point, you have to figure Garza will get roughly eight or nine starts before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. If that ERA can be below 4.00 and he continues to show the ability to work into the 7th and 8th inning of starts, the Cubs should have suitors lined up outside their door to discuss potential deals. I’m not one that believes we should invest in a long term deal for him, so I’m holding my breath and hoping for a big-time haul of young talent coming back in return for Garza.

Lineup Construction – Just so no one is accusing me of complaining when things are down, I’m going to complain about the lineup construction and I’m gonna do it on a day that Darwin Barney had three hits out of the leadoff spot. Why in the world is Barney in the leadoff spot? He’s sporting an OBP less than .300 and that’s after the three hit day today. He has no business that high in the order unless he’s playing in a lineup full of pitchers, and even then I’d have to strongly consider Travis Wood over him. I continue to marvel at how dumb managers and GM’s came be in these areas. So many fail to see common sense logic and so many fail to think outside of the box. You want as many men on base for the best hitters that come after them. Just because a guy is short and “scrappy” does not mean he automatically gets penciled in to the leadoff spot. It’s as if people don’t know what to do with that spot so they use it as a catch all for guys that aren’t very good hitters. At this point, with David DeJesus on the DL, guys like Ryan Sweeney or Dioner Navarro would have been better options in this game based on the numbers they have put up this year.

It’s hard to end a win on a complaint (don’t even get me started about the ignorance that is a 13 man pitching staff), but that’s what you get when you’re this far under .500, that’s what you get.

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Three Up, Three Down – 1st Half Movers

Friday, June 21st, 2013

THREE UP

All Stats Through Thursday, June 20

Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B
Age 21, AA
70 G, 295 PAs, .283/.361/.469
16 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 18/20 SB
10.2% BB rate, 21.0% K rate, .341 BABIP
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 15

Alcantara will likely be the Cubs #5 prospect going into next season and  has a chance to be in many of the guru’s Top 100 lists. Both Baseball American and Keith Law were the only national publications to put Alcantara in their Top 10’s and they appear to be right.
Double A is usually regarding as the biggest leap in competition from the previous level, and Arismendy has stepped up. He’s young for the league, he’s showing power (with a career high in HR’s already), showing speed (will likely shatter last years 25 SB’s), and he’s nearly doubled his walk rate (already equaling a career high) all while keeping his K rate under control. To top it off, he’s a switch hitter that’s better from the left side of the plate. He is the biggest success story outside the Top 3 of Baez, Almora, and Soler.

Kyle Hendricks, RH SP
Age 23, AA
78.1 IP, 2.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 64/16 K/BB
20.4K%, 5.1BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: NR

The biggest leap among pitchers belongs to unranked Kyle Hendricks. He won’t knock you out with his stuff (87-90 mph fastball), but he gets the job done with command and a good feel for 5 pitches, his best arguably being a changeup and a new pitch this year, a cutter. Hendricks doesn’t have ace potential, but I could see him ending up as another Travis Wood type. I have to think he’ll be in next year’s Top 10.

Pierce Johnson, RH SP
Age 22, High A
69.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 74/22 K/BB
25.0K%, 7.4BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 7

I went with Johnson here because, honestly, there isn’t much else to get too excited about in the system this year outside of the Top 3 and the two mentioned above. He won’t be moving too far off the # 7 spot, but that’s more a testament to how great I think Alcantara has been and the addition to this year’s #1 draft pick, Kris Bryant. I can see Johnson as the 5th or 6th best in the Cubs system, and another with a chance at the Top 100.  This is becoming a Top 3 farm system in the game.
Johnson is showing a good strikeout rate, and limiting his walks…the two stats I look at most for minor league pitchers. He was promoted to Daytona this week, and he probably should have been there earlier being a guy with college experience, but so far so good. All he needs to do is stay healthy. Next year in AA will be the big test for him.

THREE DOWN

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Age 22, DL
No stats
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 4

Vizcaino won’t be pitching for anyone until 2014 (we hope), and that’ll be the first time since 2011 that he’ll be throwing in meaningful action. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and the hope was that he’d begin his way back to a potential starting pitcher later this year. But he had to have arthroscopic surgery on that elbow to clear out a calcium buildup and those plans have been derailed. At this point we can only hope he can stay healthy in 2014, but I wouldn’t be able to take him over any of the other Cubs Top 10 or 15 prospects.

Brett Jackson, CF
Age 24, AAA
60 G, 239 PAs, .217/.295/.358
6 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 7/11 SB
8.8% BB rate, 31.8% K rate, .305 BABIP
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 5

I remember some fans keeping the hope alive after a strong 17 at bat spring training and Jackson’s “new swing”. Well, the results in AAA have been miserable and perhaps its best to just go back to the old swing. He may still provide value off the bench as a cheap 5th OF…maybe a 4th. He just strikes out too much to be an offensive asset.

Dillon Maples, RHP
Age 21, Single A Kane County
24.1 IP, 8.51 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 24/23 K/BB
19.4K%, 18.5BB%
Preseason Top 20 Ranking: 9

An overslot signing from the 14th round of the 2011 draft, Maples is finally pitching in an advanced league after years of injury issues. Maybe “throwing” would be a better word than “pitching”. He’s only 21, so there is plenty of time for him to find success, but he’s walking as many as he’s striking out and he either hits a batter or throws a wild pitch about every other inning. While velocity was a strong point, supposedly hitting 96, he’s also had some issues there with inconsistency. He’s not hopeless, but he’s not a Top 15 guy in this system either.

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Game 71 – Nothing To Write Home About

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Cardinals 6, Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights

The Cubs and the Cardinals faced off in what would be a yawner of a finale, with the Cubs losing 6-1. Feldman looked a little rusty, earning 5 runs, one of them a Matt Holliday solo home run. His performance tonight makes me wonder if he was having flashbacks to the 2011 World Series. That Game 6 has scarred me for life, and I wasn’t even a part of it. I can’t image what it would have been like to be a part of that Texas Rangers team.

Other than Castillo’s second home run of the season (first since April 8!), the offense was quiet and left 6 men on base. I was really hoping for an offensive breakout late in the game, and was thrilled when Hairston came in to replace Schierholtz in the 8th (there was sarcasm in there somewhere). Unfortunately, Hairston struck out looking and my hopes of an offensive resurrection were dashed.

It seems like this Chicago/St. Louis rivalry is much less intense than I remember it being in the past. The past couple years have been anticlimactic, but I’m not upset about the lack of tension between the teams. With the number of brawls taking place around the league lately, I’m glad the Cubs aren’t involved in them for a couple reasons: 1) The whole team would get injured and land on the DL, and 2) Nobody would be available to trade due to injury, except for Marmol and Camp. Everybody knows that nobody wants those guys on their team.

On the downside, the television broadcast of the game was pretty unenthusiastic. I muted the TV and turned on Pat and Keith on the radio. It amazes me how Pat always has something to talk about and it’s somewhat interesting. He manages to call the game, keep Keith from rambling about obscure details, and incorporates Judd’s scoring reports all while discussing his top five favorite musicians. And people say that men can’t multitask.

The Cubs leave St. Louis tonight to turn around and face the Astros tomorrow afternoon at Wrigley at 1:20 PM. Maybe the short turn around will put some fire into their bats. Or maybe it will just make them tired and their woes at the plate will continue. We’ll find out this afternoon. Aren’t you excited?!

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Game 70 – Somebody Plunk Yadier

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Cubs 1, Cardinals 4

Box Score / Highlights

Yadier Molina is currently the hottest hitter in baseball. Let that wash over you for a second. One of the most infuriating players on one of the most infuriating teams in the game is having a career year. It’s utterly sickening. Coming into Wednesday night’s game, Molina had already been a major contributor in the first two games of the series. He’d spread five hits over those two games, driving in a total of three runs. He only added one hit Wednesday night, but it was a big one–a two-run homer in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie and give the Cards a lead they’d never surrender. There was a time not that long ago when Molina’s hitting was considered spotty–in fact, he was sometimes one of the few easy outs in the St. Louis lineup. Today he’s hitting an insane .365, by far the league lead.

I ‘d like to suggest a solution for our Molina-shaped problem: plunk him. Dale needs to go old school on him, and throw a little fear into each of his at-bats. He’s seeing the ball too well lately; making productive contact with alarming ease these days. He’s even got some of his teammates prematurely talking MVP. Let’s give him something to think about on our way out of town. Frankly, I think this Cubs team could benefit from getting into a skirmish or two. And if you’re going to start something, you might as well do it by going after the best player for your arch rival.

Because as it sits right now, there’s not a lot of life in this team. Wednesday night they were held to just two hits, and wouldn’t have scored at all if it weren’t for Anthony Rizzo knocking the ball away from Molina to cross the plate after a Darwin Barney sac fly.

In fact, when I read about the Cubs’ poor performance Wednesday, I was even more pleased with my decision to watch the Blackhawks vs. Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals instead. The game was incredible–thanks for asking. Lots of momentum swings, and lots of scoring and hitting. The Hawks pulled out the dramatic win in overtime to even the series at 2-2 as they head back to Chicago for Game 5 Saturday night. If you’re interested, you can see the highlights here. It was certainly as conversation-worthy as the Cubs’ meager efforts last night.

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