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Game 47: Garza & the Cubs Torched by the Pirates

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Cubs 4 @ Pirates 10

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Wrong?

  • The Cubs could not take advantage of a hitter’s day at PNC Park.  It was 88 degrees but Erik Bedard had the Cubs number on a difficult day to pitch.  They did end up with seven hits but most of those came late after the game was already decided.
  • Rafael Dolis continued to struggle.  The hopes of Dolis being the closer of the future have been subdued by his recent performance.  He did not retire a single batter and was charged with two earned runs on no hits and two walks.  The control issues are a major concern.
  • Matt Garza had a bad outing.  He now holds an ERA of 4.22 on the year after giving up six runs (five earned) over five innings on seven hits, three of which left the ballpark.  Pedro Alvarez started the scoring with a three run homer in the first followed by long balls by Andrew McCutchen in the fifth and Garrett Jones just before Garza was pulled in the sixth.  It is very concerning to have two of the only players that could be in the Cubs plans 2-3 years down the road struggle mightily today.
  • No Cubs had multihit games, while Alfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson both went hitless.

What Went Right?

  • The offense showed some signs of life late in the game, scoring three in the eighth and one more in the ninth.  Stalin Castro drilled a much needed two run homer.
  • Blake Parker and Randy Wells each worked scoreless innings.  Although the game was decided at that point, it is important that the Cubs have some middle relievers to count on.  It is especially good to see Parker having success early on in his big league career.

Random Notes

  • Today’s loss to the Pirates was the Cubs 12th straight.  This is now the Cubs longest losing streak since dropping 14 straight in 1997.
  • Cubs radio broadcaster Pat Hughes celebrated his birthday today.
  • Rafael Dolis is now out as the Cubs closer.  Dale Sveum will now lean on James Russell in that role, with Shawn Camp expected to share late inning duties.
  • The Cubs are now 1-9 against left handed starting pitchers this year.
  • The Cubs try to snap the skid tomorrow as they return to Wrigley for a Memorial Day game with the Padres.
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Game 141 – Marmol Bounces Back, Cubs Bounce Reds

Monday, September 5th, 2011

 Cubs 4, Reds 3

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza pitched another strong game.  He has been very impressive throughout the second half of the season, serving as one of the team’s only bright spots.  Today he hurled 7.2 innings allowing just three total runs, two of which were unearned.
  • James Russell has emerged as one of the most underrated players on the Cubs.  He did his job today, retiring the only man he faced to escape the eighth inning.
  • An Aramis Ramirez single with two outs in the fifth to drive in two was the turning point in the game.  Starlin Castro and Reed Johnson scampered home on that play to give the Cubs the lead, before Ramirez scored on a wild pitch to add an insurance tally.
  • Carlos Marmol bounced back from his blown save Saturday by working a perfect ninth.  He notched his 32nd save.

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs had a chance to add to the lead in the bottom of the eighth but they failed to do it.  Bryan LaHair launched a double, but Geovany Soto was cut down at the plate trying to score on the play.  Darwin Barney struck out with LaHair at third to end the inning.
  • Starlin Castro committed his 26th error of the season.  Reed Johnson was also charged with an error on a bobble.
  • Marlon Byrd went 0-for-4, as did Geovany Soto, whose average dropped to .227.

Roster Moves

Right handed pitcher Andrew Cashner was activated from the 60-day disabled list today.  Cashner will be in uniform tomorrow, but he will not pitch until Wednesday at the earliest.  Infielder DJ LeMahieu and pitcher John Gaub are expected to be called up from Triple-A Iowa tomorrow.  More callups will be made after the Double-A postseason, but Brett Jackson is not expected to make his big league debut this season.

The Takeaway

The Cubs were able to win a fairly normal game today.  Carlos Marmol received the ball in a one run game and quickly sent the Reds down in order.  The Cubs offense was able to do just enough to get Garza a well-deserved win.  This series has no impact on the playoff picture, but both teams are hoping to put together some wins in the final month.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Aramis Ramirez (.321 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Marmol (.172 WPA)

3rd Star – Matt Garza (.118 WPA)

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Game 128 – Cubs Can’t Cash In

Monday, August 22nd, 2011


Braves 3, Cubs 0

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Usually whenever I do a recap I include “missed opportunities” on the what went wrong list.  Failing to score with runners in scoring position seems to be a recurring theme for the Chicago Cubs.  Tonight they loaded the bags with one out in the first, but Marlon Byrd bounced into a double play.  In the fifth, the Cubs got three straight singles, but no runs.
  • Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman both went deep against Ryan Dempster.
  • Jair Jurrjens shutout the Cubs in 6.1 innings even though he allowed eight hits.
  • The theme of the night continued when the Cubs worked back-to-back walks to start the ninth inning before strike outs by Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd.  Alfonso Soriano hit a fielder’s choice bouncer up the middle to end it.

What Went Right

  • Ryan Dempster turned in another solid outing but once again did not earn a W.  He was sharp through six innings, with two of the three Braves runs scoring on solo bombs.
  • Tony Campana picked up a pinch hit bunt single.
  • James Russell worked a perfect inning.  I enjoy seeing Russell pitch well because I think he has a chance to be a part of the Cubs future.  If it weren’t for the Cubs trying to make him into a starter he would have much better numbers this season.
  • Jeff Samardzija also continued a good year (3.25 ERA) by retiring the side in order in his frame.  Kerry Wood struck out the side in the ninth.  Cub relievers did not allow a base runner in three innings tonight.
  • Aramis Ramirez reached base four times via three singles and a walk.

Other Notes

  • Starlin Castro was not in the Cubs lineup tonight.  He received a “mental day” off.  Mike Quade said before the game that he was disappointed with Castro’s lapse of attention during yesterday’s game.  He also said that youth is no longer and excuse for Starlin.  Blake DeWitt played second base and Darwin Barney moved over to shortstop.
  • Pat Hughes was not in the broadcast booth tonight.  He took a scheduled day off, the fourth time he has missed this season after missing just three games (all due to illness) in his first 15 years as the voice of the Cubs.  Dave Eanet filled in tonight and called the game with Keith Moreland.  This was Pat’s final scheduled day off this season.
  • One year ago today the Cubs and Braves were playing each other at Wrigley, just like tonight.  That game was Lou Piniella’s last one as the manager of the Chicago Cubs.
  • Koyie Hill has become a personal catcher for Ryan Dempster.  Hill caught Dempster the fifth straight time tonight.
  • The Chicago Tribune issued a report before the game that said that the Cubs have been trying to contact Greg Maddux since Friday but he has not returned their calls.  They would like to keep him in the organization, but he was very close to Jim Hendry.
  • Carlos Pena is rumored to be among the Cubs placed on waivers.

The Takeaway

The Cubs continued to struggle in RBI spots tonight.  They stranded 15 on base and wasted a good effort by the pitching staff.  The Cubs had men in scoring position in seven different innings, but they failed to scratch out a tally.  Jurrjens has good stuff, so tonight you just have to tip your cap to him and go back at it tomorrow.

Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Jair Jurrgens (.353 WPA)

2nd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.154 WPA)

3rd Star – Freddie Freeman (.112 WPA)

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Game 110 – Tape Measure Time

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Cubs 11, Pirates 6

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Right

  • Not only did the Cub offense put 11 runs on the board, but it also tied a franchise record with six home runs in an away game.  This was by far the best the Cubs hitters have looked all season long.
  • Tyler Colvin launched a tape measure shot that bounced into Allegheny River.  It was the 28th ball to be hit on a bounce into the drink at PNC, and the only man ever to reach the Allegheny on the fly was Daryle Ward in 2002
  • Aramis Ramirez’s run scoring single in the first inning put the Cubs on the board.  In his second at bat, Ramirez drilled a three run homer to put the Cubs in the lead for good.
  • Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano connected on back-to-back jacks in the third inning to break the game wide open.  Soriano later homered again.
  • Carlos Pena, Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro all made great defensive plays.
  • Randy Wells held on to the Cubs lead, putting five consecutive zeros on the board after the first inning.
  • Tyler Colvin, whose average is still just over .100, got into the act with three hits tonight.  He was a triple shy of the cycle.

What Went Wrong

  • Randy Wells continued to sing the first inning blues.  Ever since the start of last season, he has struggled in the opening frame.  Wells has an 11.25 first inning ERA this season.  Garrett Jones launched a two-run homer tonight in the first.
  • Wells made a base running mistake in the second inning, failing to advance to third to block Starlin Castro from reaching second while the outfielder bobbled the ball.  However, Ramirez picked him up with the three run bomb.
  • The first pitch Ramon Ortiz threw in the eighth inning left the yard for Jones’ second homer of  the game.  Brandon Wood hit a two run blast later in the inning against Ortiz to cut the lead to six.
  • Geovany Soto made an error in the bottom of the first inning, throwing to second base when nobody was covering and there was no runner stealing.  Andrew McCutchen had bluffed to second, and ended up advancing when Geo’s throw sailed into center. 

The Takeaway

The Cubs totaled 11 runs on 21 hits and six home runs, by far the most productive offensive night of the season.  Although the win does not mean much, the offensive outburst was good to see.  It goes to show you that hitting is contagious.  Hopefully they will extend the winning streak to four games tomorrow night.

Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Aramis Ramirez (.297 WPA)

2nd Star – Garrett Jones (.122 WPA)

3rd Star – Tyler Colvin (.100 WPA)


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Game 103 – The Winning Streak is History

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011


Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Box Score / Video Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning and failed to score.  Alfonso Soriano bounced one to third that could have easily been a double play, but the Brewers ended up only getting the force at the plate.  Then, Darwin Barney went ahead and hit another infield bouncer.  This time, the Crew turned two to end the inning.
  • The Cubs continue to give up runs in the first inning.  Ryan Dempster was hit pretty hard in the first and the Brewers plated three.
  • Chris Narveson settled in and pitched five strong innings after allowing two runs in the first. 
  • The Cubs did nothing against the Brewers bullpen all night long.
  • Blake DeWitt struck out in the ninth to end it with the tying run in scoring position.
  • Mike Quade’s options were limited because Kerry Wood, Koyie Hill and Reed Johnson are all still fighting illness.

What Went Right

  • Aramis Ramirez stayed hot with a first inning two-run homer. 
  • Ryan Dempster settled down after the first inning as well.  He pitched a solid game to keep his team in it.
  • The Cubs’ bullpen was equally as strong as the Brewers’ pen.  Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija both posted zeros on the board.
  • Starlin Castro had three hits and Jeff Baker posted two, including a lead-off single to setup the Ramirez homer.
  • Tony Campana pinch ran in the ninth inning and stole second despite the Brewers pitching out.

The Takeaway

The deciding factor in the game was the sixth inning in which the Cubs failed to score.  This was a frutrating game to watch, but many of the Cubs fans are growing used to it this season.  The loss snapped the Cubs first streak of three straight wins this season.  This was the first game of a difficult ten game road trip.


Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Kameron Loe (.339 WPA)

2nd Star – John Axford (.171 WPA)

3rd Star – Casey McGehee (.150 WPA)


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Game 99 – Worley Whirls a Gem

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Phillies 9, Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Ryan Dempster struggled from the start and lasted only three innings.  He hurt himself by walking three and surrendered six earned runs.
  • Vance Worley helped himself with a two out double in the second with nobody on base.  The Phillies ended up scoring three runs in the inning, which should have been over with two down and the pitcher batting.
  • The Cubs scratched out just one hit in the first six innings against Worley, failing to take advantage of a hitter’s day. It was the first time Worley ever faced the Cubs.
  • Carlos Pena was charged with two errors on a very sloppy play in the sixth inning which led to a Phillies run.
  • Alfonso Soriano bounced into a double play to end the seventh, the only frame in which the Cubs scratched out a run.
  • Jimmy Rollins homered from both sides of the plate to lead the charge.  His longball against Grabow in the eighth immediately made it an eight run game again, just after the Cubs had picked up a run.

What Went Right

  • Ramon Ortiz ate up three innings and did a decent job, allowing two runs, only one of which was earned.
  • Geovany Soto broke up Worley’s no-hitter in the fifth inning.  Later in the game, Geo picked up the team’s only RBI.
  • The Cubs put together a string of baserunners in the seventh and were able to pick up a run.
  • Darwin Barney lashed a double to lead-off the eighth.
  • Kerry Wood worked a shutout inning.

The Takeaway

I know the conditions were difficult for pitching, but I was really disappointed with Dempster’s outing today.  He needs to cut down on the walks and start keeping the Cubs in games with more consistency.   Today was the type of game you expect to see when the best team in the league meets up with one of the worst. 

Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Vance Worley (.146 WPA)

2nd Star – Ryan Howard (.098 WPA)

3rd Star – Michael Martinez (.097 WPA)

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Game 94 – A Gift Win

Friday, July 15th, 2011


Cubs 2, Marlins 1

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • For once the Cubs had some good fortune. Alfonso Soriano hit a fly ball that should have been caught, which dropped in between several Marlins fielders, allowing two runs to score in the fourth inning.  Had the ball been caught, the inning would have been over and the Cubs would have blown a great scoring chance.
  • Hanley Ramirez tried to stretch a single into a double in the ninth inning and was cut down by Marlon Byrd for the second out of the inning.
  • Ryan Dempster pitched a great game.  It looks as if he is starting to return to form after a terrible April.  The Cubs need starters to go deep into games, and so far in the second half they have done just that.
  • Dempster’s good control, which has been an issue for him at times, was key today. He did not walk a man. Ryan gave up just four hits in eight scoreless frames, while recording nine strikeouts.  He also avoided having one bad inning, which has also plagued the right hander this year.
  • Sean Marshall struck out the only man he faced to pick up his second save of the year.

What Went Wrong

  • The Cubs won the game, but the offense did not do much.  If it weren’t for two unearned runs, they would have ended up losing 1-0 .  I would have liked to see the Cubs tack on to the two run lead, but the bats were quiet the entire day.
  • Mike Quade went to Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning again today.  Marmol should at least be given a day or two off to regroup.  Since Dempster gave Q eight innings, both Marshall and Wood were available to come in for the ninth.  With Marmol’s struggles last night, less than 24-hours ago, bringing him in against the same team with the same 2-0 lead was extremely risky. 
  • Marmol was bad once again.  He managed to notch two outs, one of which was on Ramirez trying to stretch his single into a double.  He fell behind in the count to every batter, allowing a run on a walk and two hits in 0.2 innings.  Carlos was yanked in favor of Sean Marshall after allowing an RBI single to make it a one run game.

The Takeaway

It was good to see the Cubs bounce back after what happened last night.  The Cubs have gotten better starting pitching in this series than any prior two day stretch this season.  Let us hope it continues tomorrow with Carlos Zambrano.  The Cubs offense was not expected to do much going into the season, but the starting pitchers have way underperformed.  If Dempster, Garza and Zambrano can all get it together, there is a chance that this team will play .500 ball in the post All-Star Break portion of the season.

Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Ryan Dempster (.507 WPA)

2nd Star – Alfonso Soriano (.167 WPA)

3rd Star – Marlon Byrd (.117 WPA)

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My Plan for Jim Hendry for the Trade Deadline

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The success of the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2013 depends on how Jim Hendry handles the next three and a half weeks.  The trade deadline is right around the corner and the Cubs have yet to make any noise.  If Hendry elects to do nothing, this will be a total failure.  If he works on many deals and gets several of them done, then he deserves some credit.  Trading older players when a team is out of the race accomplishes three things:

  • creates room for prospects and younger players to receive playing time down the stretch
  • saves money
  • nets the seller minor league players that could end up panning out

Here is what I believe should be Jim Hendry’s priority list at the trading deadline.

1.   Trade Kosuke Fukudome

The Kosuke signing was the first in a series of bad ones by GM Jim Hendry.  Fukudome has not been very productive in any of his four seasons since coming from Japan.  Kosuke has partial no-trade protection, but he can probably be convinced to waive that in order to go to a contender in what could be his last MLB season.  He is strong defensively and provides enough offense that he could be a serviceable fourth outfielder and pinch hitter for a contending club.  Since Kouske is not returning to the team anyway, there is no reason to hang on to him if the Cubs can save any money whatsoever by dumping him.

2.   Ask Aramis Ramirez to Waive His No-Trade

Hendry should be doing everything possible to convince Aramis Ramirez to waive his no-trade clause.  In the scenario that Rami agrees to leave, he’s gone.  The Cubs plan to buy him out of the 2012 option anyway, so they might as well ship him to a contender who would love to rent him for the rest of the year.

3.   Trade Marlon Byrd

Since Marlon Byrd is the one guy on the team that does not have a no-trade clause, he should be easiest to deal.  Hendry should be on the phone trying to find a team that needs outfield assistance.  The Cubs will most likely have to pay a chunk of his salary, but if they save some money and receive a few mid level prospects in return it is worth it.

4.   Trade Reed Johnson

The Cubs should actually be able to get a solid return for Johnson, who is hitting a robust .328.  A team will not be concerned about paying what is left of his $900,000 deal.  He will probably garner some interest and net the Cubs a strong prospect or two.

5.   Search for a Taker for Z

Most likely, no team will give the Cubs much for an under-performing pitcher that is signed for another year, with an option that vests if he is healthy at the end of 2012.  Carlos Zambrano has already said that he will waive his no-trade clause if the team asks him to do so.  I really doubt that there is that much interest in Z, but starting pitching is usually at a premium so there is a chance that someone would be willing to take him off the Cubs hands.

6.   Trade Carlos Pena

Signing Carlos Pena, who hit under .200 in 2010, to a one year contract worth $10 million when the Cubs knew they would probably not compete was a huge mistake.  Dumping Pena could easily have been higher on the priority list.  The Cubs will have to send some cash because no team will want to pay the $5 million in deferred money owed to Carlos in January.  There is always a need for left handed thump off the bench, so I bet there will be a taker out there.

7.   Search for a Team that Wants Grabow or Samardzija

Both relievers are in the final year of their contracts, so there is really no need to have them stick around for the duration of this lost season.  I doubt there is much interest in Grabow, but I’m sure there are several clubs after Samardzija since he has been having a solid year.

 8.   Listen to Offers for Dempster and Garza

If teams are willing to take on the full contracts of Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, I do not have a problem letting either one go.  The Garza trade was a huge mistake, and Demp’s performance continues to decline.  My asking price would not be too high for either one of these guys.  If the Cubs can get back half of the talent they lost in acquiring Garza, I will be satisfied.  Dempster could invoke his ten-and-five rights to block a trade, but I have a feeling he would be willing to go to help the Cubs.

Obviously, if someone wants Alfonso Soriano and he is willing to go, he’s gone.  The same goes for Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Randy Wells (depending on the offer) and Koyie Hill.  Here is the list of players that I would not be willing to part ways with.

1.   Geovany Soto

Despite his offensive struggles, I still have hope that Soto could help the Cubs when they become a contender again.  The only way I would pull a trigger on a deal is if a club was willing to give up a top tier prospect.

2.   Kerry Wood

Kerry Wood probably has a lot of value among teams that need a cheap setup man.  However, he wants to stay in Chicago.  He recently started a foundation with his wife and would like to be in town to help run it.  Baseball is a business, but given the hometown discount that he gave the Cubs I wouldn’t want to ship him out against his wishes.

 3.   Sean Marshall

In the scenario that the Cubs return to contention in 2012 or even 2013, I think the veteran left hander could be a key piece to the squad.  He is one of the few guys on the team that could be valuable to hold on to.

4.   Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol has been in a funk as of late.  Trading him now would be similar to selling your stocks when the market hits rock bottom.  Patience will allow Marmol’s stock to increase once he returns to his usually filthy self.  Next season, the Cubs can revisit this and possibly work out a trade or hang on to him.

Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney are the two untouchables.

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Game 90 – Yet Another Tough Loss

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Pirates 7, Cubs 4

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Michael McKenry hit his first career big fly in the eighth inning against Carlos Marmol to give the Pirates the 7-4 lead.  When Marmol entered the game, the Cubbies had the lead with two outs.
  • Neil Walker of the Pirates picked up a rare two-run infield single to give the Buccos a 2-1 edge in the third.
  • Just after the Cubs tied it at two, Lopez made a mistake to Andrew McCutchen, who homered.
  • The two players with the lowest averages in the Cubs lineup continued to scuffle.  Geovany Soto and Carlos Pena were both without a hit.
  • The first pitch Carlos Marmol delivered after entering the game left the yard as ex-Cub farmhand Josh Harrison tied the game with a run scoring single.  Harrison, who had three hits on the evening, was sent to Pittsburgh as part of the package to acquire Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow in 2009.  Marmol failed to limit the damage to just the one run.
  • The Cubs left men on base throughout the evening.  Although it looked as if fours runs were going to be enough, the Cubs could have had three or four more.

What Went Right

  • Darwin Barney came through in a key spot once again.  For the second straight night, he delivered a go-ahead run scoring hit  late in the game. 
  • Marlon Byrd, who has struggled since returning from the DL, posted three hits and reached base four times.  It is good to see Marlon back out there after the scary plunking to the head that he took.
  • Rodrigo Lopez has actually given the Cubs a few quality starts.  Although at this point in the season most Cubs fans would rather see young hurlers from the minors than washed up veterans, still give Lopez credit for doing a solid job.  He worked six innings and surrendered three runs.
  • Aramis Ramirez greeted his former team with a solo homer in the top of the first.  It’s good to see A-Ram swinging the stick again.
  • Kerry Wood tossed one pitch in the seventh inning  and picked up a key double play on a line drive.  The pen did a nice job until the Marshall/Marmol eighth inning.
  • The Cubs showed some dandy defense, turning three twin killings, picking up an outfield assist and playing errorless baseball.  In addition, Kosuke made a great catch to save two runs from scoring early in the game.  However, they failed to turn a fourth double play in the eighth that would have ended the inning without any damage.
  • Carlos Zambrano’s rehab start went well tonight in Peoria.  He is on track to return a week from tomorrow for the third game after the All-Star Break.

Take Away

It would have been nice to see the Cubs pick up another W after their come-from-behind effort last night.  It looked as if the Cubs had this game in their pocket.  There were two outs with just one guy on base in the eighth and two on and two outs when Marshall was yanked in favor of Marmol. 

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Marlon Byrd (.190 WPA)

2nd Star – Danield McCutchen (.176 WPA)

3rd Star – Andrew McCutchen (.143 WPA)

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