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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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Game 74 – Another One Run Defeat

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011


White Sox 4, Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Mike Quade made a strange managerial decision that may have cost the Cubs the game.  The Cubs had a run at third base (the speedy Tony Campana) with one out in the top of the eighth.  Koyie Hill, whose hitting ability is similar to that of a pitcher, was due up with Geovany Soto available on the bench.  Q elected to leave Hill in the game.  He struck out, as did Kosuke Fukudome to end the inning.  Soto would have been the best candidate to at least come up with a sacrifice fly to allow Campana to scamper home.
  • The Cubs gave the White Sox an insurance run in the fifth inning that proved to be the difference in the game.  Blake DeWitt committed a costly error and Doug Davis walked a man.  Then,with the bases loaded Davis hit a batter to force in a run.  The South Siders scored with just one hit in the inning.
  • Starlin Castro grounded out to end a Cubs rally in the sixth inning.  The Cubs had the bases loaded.  Starlin also bounced out for the first out of the ninth inning.
  • Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-5.

What Went Right

  • The Cubs bullpen was perfect.  Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Carpenter all tossed scoreless frames.
  • Doug Davis did a nice job to keep his team in the game.  The Sox lineup is packed with thunder, and Davis allowed just three earned runs (four total) in five innings.
  • Paul Konerko did not beat the Cubs.  The Cubs finally worked around him for most of the night and brought his five game  home run streak to an end.
  • Carlos Pena stayed red hot.  Although Konerko’s homer streak snapped, Pena went deep to extend his to three. 

The Takeaway

During the last three series, the Cubs have played their best ball of the year.  The bad news?  The Cubs have lost two of those series at the hands of the Yankees and White Sox.  It is frustrating that the Cubs can’t seem to get over the hump and put some Ws together.  Still, the team played fairly well tonight outside of the fifth inning. 

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

1st Star– A.J. Pierzyski (.197 WPA)

2nd Star – Sergio Santos (.172 WPA)

3rd Star – Chris Sale (.144 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: -.463 WPA

Cubs Pitching: -.037 WPA

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