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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on Aug 21

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Righting The Ship

BRAVES 1 @ CUBS 7 – After a frustrating three game losing streak that caused me to question all that is good in life (being in contention will do that to you), the Cubs corrected their course and got back to winning ways in game one of the series with the Braves. I watched most of the game, but shut it down in the 7th. At that point, I felt like the game was in hand enough with a nice lead that I could safely go to bed. I was happy to wake up to see I was correct. Is it just me or does it feel like this is a completely different team when Jake Arrieta is on the mound. It’s almost like we go into the game expecting to win and expecting to win easily. I feel know fear when he takes the mound, which is why I think I need to start him in game 163 if we get to that point. Once again he tossed a quality start, going six innings and not allowing a run. He was tested early, but out of any jam he got into. It’s fun to watch him pitch. My only disappointment with last night was the slight lack of pitch count efficiency. It would have been nice to see him go seven or eight innings to take some load off the pen, but I’ll take the result nonetheless.

Offensively, the bats continue to be good and Dexter Fowler continues to get on base. That joker is sporting a crazy high OBP, one of the top in all of baseball, since the All Star Break and is a big reason for this offensive success.

Lots of Awards Coming?

The more I look at it, there is a chance the Cubs could be taking home a lot of hardware when all is said and done. Arrieta is 4th in pitcher WAR in the NL, so he’s at least in the discussion for the Cy Young. Anthony Rizzo is 6th in WAR as a hitter. While he probably won’t have a shot at the MVP award, it’s not out of the possibility that he could have a hot month and a half and things could happen. It’s possible. Throw in Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to the Rookie of the Year conversation and then Joe Maddon into the Manager of the Year award running and you’ve got a lot of potential, but that’s not all. What about Theo and Jed? There is a lot to smile about right now.

Scoreboard Watching

The Cardinals won last night, but what else is new. At this point, winning the division seems like a lost cause. Pittsburgh and San Francisco play each other this weekend, so I don’t know who to root for. The Pirates won game one, which allowed us to keep pace with them while raising our lead on the Giants to four games. I guess I’ll take that.

A New Arm Enters The Organization

The Cubs are trying to add veterans down the stretch who could possibly help in some way. Trevor Cahill signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and will head to the minors. He’s 27 years old, so it’s a lottery ticket, but we’ve seen what the Cubs have done with lottery tickets in the past. This will be his third team this season, so it’s not likely, but you never know.

What’s On Tap?

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How Are You Feeling As a Cub Fan? – Open Thread

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

This morning I want you guys to share your thoughts on how you feel as a Cub fan. Maybe you want to look at it on a micro basis and look really detailed at the current team or even last night’s bad loss. Maybe you want to take a more macro approach and look at the state of the team in the future. Maybe you want to focus on a player.

Whatever is on your mind, let’s hear it, because I have nothing good to say after last night.

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Quick Thoughts After the Streak Ends

Monday, August 17th, 2015

All good things must come to an end, and yesterday they came to an end at the hands of Chris Sale  and the White Sox pitching staff, who completely owned the Cubs hitters. It sucks, but it just means we need to start a new streak tomorrow. I had just a few minutes this morning to tap out some thoughts, so here they are in rapid fire.

  • Sale is really good. That’s the first time I’ve been able to watch him pitch and that joker is good.
  • I’m not sure what to do with Starlin Castro at this point. If you missed the game, he made a great tag on a runner to catch him stealing, but dropped a little league throw from Addison Russell at 2nd that almost cost the Cubs a run. I just don’t know anymore.
  • I’ve yet to see anything from Dan Haren that we couldn’t have seen from Tsuyoshi Wada or someone like that down the stretch.
  • With 46 games to play, the Cubs can play .500 ball the rest of the way and win 90 games. Crazy, right?
  • Anthony Rizzo got hit again. I have to imagine his whole body is bruised. I’ll leave it to Lizzie to fantasize about it, but it can’t be pretty.
  • Theo Epstein is done with his contract after next season. Let’s get him re-signed immediately.

That is all for today. Enjoy the day off and get ready for the Tigers tomorrow.

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5 Things Cub Fans Need To Know on August 16th

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

The Streak Keeps Building

CUBS 6 @ WHITE SOX 3 – The Cubs are turning into appointment television now. I got home yesterday from a day with the wife and kids and found that my internet was down with an hour to go before the Cubs game. I raised hell with Centurylink and got that messed fixed and only missed the first inning. With yesterday’s win, the Cubs have now won nine in a row and 15 of their last 16. I feel like a total moron after saying on Twitter that this team is done after being swept by the Phillies. Since then this team is on fire.

Jake Arrieta got the start and struggled a bit early, but in the end he did Jake things and managed to pitch into at least the 7th inning and only allow three earned runs. I think he has a legit shot at competing for the Cy Young award this year if he can keep up this run.

Offensively, we did enough to keep winning. No home runs, but everyone except Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan contributed in some way offensively. Defense was a different story. There were times yesterday between Arrieta’s over throw to first or Kris Bryant‘s drop of a ball at third when they had a runner in a pickle that made you shake your head and think they were going to blow the game.

In the end, the White Sox are not a good team. When you play bad teams, it doesn’t take as much to beat them.

With the streak now at nine for the first time since 2008, the Cubs next try to get to 12, which was something they did in 2001.

Braves Sign Jackson

An old friend signed a deal yesterday with the Atlanta Braves. They signed Edwin Jackson to a deal for the rest of the season. The reason this is newsworthy is because Jackson was still scheduled to be paid next year. There may be questions as to who picks that contract up. Unfortunately, it is still the Cubs. Edwin will be paid the pro-rated minimum by the Braves this year and his $16 mil for next year will be paid by the Cubs. If he is on a roster next season, the salary he is paid comes off the $16 tab owed by the Cubs.

Pitcher Rehab

There has been word this weekend on both Rafael Soriano and Neil Ramirez. In my opinion, both are bad news. Ramirez doesn’t appear close to being able to begin a rehab assignment, which means the Cubs would possibly be without him the remaining part of the year…bad news. Soriano appears close to starting a rehab assignment, which means he would be close to returning soon…bad news.

Down On The Farm

Some nice starting pitching outings last night down on the farm. Carlos Pimentel tossed seven innings for the Iowa Cubs (AAA), allowing just one run on four hits while striking out six. He’s now 10-5 on the year with a 2.95 ERA.

Ryan Williams got the start for the Smokies (AA) and went six innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out four. He’s 8-2 with a 2.60 ERA this season.

Paul Blackburn contributed a quality start as well, going seven innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out nine for Myrtle Beach (A). He’s 6-5 with a 2.99 ERA on the season.

Be encouraged by the farm.

What’s On Tap?

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4 Predictions for This Weekend’s Cubs Series Against the #WhiteSox

Friday, August 14th, 2015

I’m going to go with something a little different this morning. Instead of 5 things you need to know, I’m going to make 5 predictions for the series.

1. Castro Will Start At Least One Game at SS

To be honest, there really is no reason for Starlin Castro to be in the lineup at this point, given the fact that the offense is clicking and the team is on fire, but if the Cubs want to be able to move him this off-season, and you can bet they do, they have to at least give him some time in the lineup. I think he gets one start to give Addison Russell a day off and I think it comes Sunday against Chris Sale. My reasoning would be that Castro has seen Sale before, while Russell has not, and it would give the Cubs a chance to keep from having Russell up there against such a good pitcher. Mark it down, Castro starts on Sunday.

2. Soler Goes Ballistic

I don’t have any evidence to back this one up, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Jorge Soler is about to get really hot and I think it starts this weekend. I look for him to have at least two home runs this weekend and go on a mini-run to show what he’s capable of. I think a lot of people have lost a little faith in him and consider him tradeable. This weekend, you get a picture of the future.

3. Samardzija Gives Us The Finger

While I don’t think Jeff Samardzija will physically give us the middle finger, though how cool would that be, I do think he has had this start circled on his calendar all week. I think it’s going to be his playoff game today and it scares me to death knowing that all we’re throwing out there is Kyle Hendricks. I fear the win streak ends today after an eight inning outing of less than two runs allowed and the Sox take game one.

4. Cubs Win Two of Three

While I don’t think game one goes our way, this team is too hot to lose this series to a team that has been mediocre all year. I think Jake Arrieta comes out and does Arrieta things on Saturday and we tie the series and then I think Dan Haren shows why Theo and Jed wanted him and outduels Sale on Sunday to give us the series win.

What are your predictions for this series?

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Odds to Win the Brewers Series – August 11-13, 2015

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Every game is crucial from here on out for the National League Wild Card contending Cubs, thankfully the next few are against Milwaukee. Chicago has been very solid against the beer enthusiasts this season going 4-0 in Wisconsin earlier this month. The Cubs not only swept the series but brought their bats, outscoring the hometown Brewers 17-8 at Miller Park.

If the first game MLB betting line in the series is any indication, then it looks like the Cubs should be sitting pretty heading into the weekend. I think the icing on the cake will come on Thursday though, when Jon Lester (7-8, 3.22 ERA) dismantles Tyler Cravy (0-3, 5.40 ERA).

Lester is 3-0 over his last four starts with 19 hits given up through 29.1 innings of work. The big stat though of course, is his 30 strikeouts in that time as well. He put up a great effort in his last start against San Francisco, but the city is still reeling over that July 29th game against the Rockies. Lester burned 14 strikeout victims resulting in a 3-2 Cubs win.

Heading into this three-game swing with the Cubs, the Brewers are 7-13 since July 22nd. They’ve been outscored 82-56 in that span and were also shutout on five of those occasions as well. Meanwhile, the Cubs are a team on a mission. With an NL Wild Card spot directly in their sights, the team has gone 12-5 since the 22nd heading into this three-game set.

The Cubs have had one of their hottest August starts in team history going 7-1 against the Brewers, Pirates and Giants. Fortunately for Pittsburgh their August 3rd game with the Cubs was postponed to a later date. I say fortunate for them because Chicago was riding a five game win streak and shutout the Bucs at PNC 5-0 the following night.

 

I think August is going to be a great month for baseball in the Windy City. Following their Brewers series, we get ready for another Crosstown Classic with the struggling White Sox this weekend. The team will then meet the Tigers, Braves, Indians, Giants, Dodgers and Reds before September. More good news for Cubs fans, only two of those teams (Giants and Dodgers) are above .500.

The power is kicking in, the pitching is there and the schedule throughout August and into September is also on our side. It all starts with a strong showing though against Milwaukee this week.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on Aug 10

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Sometimes Sweeping Can Be Fun

GIANTS 0 @ CUBS 2 – Sweeping is not a fun chore at the house or anywhere else. I remember when I was in high school, I worked two summers with my dad doing carpet and tile installation. One of my jobs in the commercial buildings we were working in was to go into the room with a hand broom and get on my hands and knees to sweep the room so fine that you could eat off it and still be dust free. As you might imagine, it was not a fun job. Sweep jobs like Sunday, however, can be delightful. Jared said the other day that he felt like it might be getting a little greedy to desire a sweep, but he got what he wanted. As wonderful as it is, it was 100% necessary as the Pirates also completed a sweep of the Dodgers last night. All we could do was simply keep pace.

To be honest, it was all Jake Arrieta in this one. He turned in his 10th straight quality start, going 7.2 innings and not allowing a run and even scored a run on a long triple off the right field wall. Essentially, he was a one man wrecking crew. I was a little surprised to see Joe Maddon call his number to pitch the 8th, as he had over 100 pitches through seven, but he did. It’s not the move I would have made, but it worked nonetheless. We are quickly inching toward a one game playoff with the Pirates, to which I ask the question: Who would you start on the mound for that game? Would you go with Arrieta because of how good he’s been or do you go with Jon Lester, who you paid so much to and let Arrieta be ready for game one of the next round should you win the one game playoff. I actually think I go that route.

Bomb Threat at Wrigley

I’m not even going to try to make this funny, because it’s not. These days, I think we take things way too seriously, but stuff like this is not a joking manner. Shortly after the game, the Cubs received a phoned in bomb threat to Wrigley Field. The remaining people in the stadium were evacuated quickly and dogs were brought in to give the all clear. Thankfully nothing went down. I always wondered why someone would call in a threat. If you planted a bomb, which means you’re deranged, wouldn’t it accomplish things more if people didn’t know it was there and could have time to take corrective measures? I’m just thankful nothing happened, but I fear that one day, some stadium is going to have something tragic happen.

Aoki Used His Head

Unfortunately it was not used correctly. There was a scary moment in the game when Nori Aoki was hit in the head by an Arrieta pitch. The ball appeared to hit Aoki in the brim of the helmet, which is very scary how close to his face that was. It was a total mistake pitch by Arieta, but again, you have to wonder if we’re going to see tragedy again one day at a ballpark. I think we will, unfortunately, but I think it will be a pitcher and not a hitter that will be the unfortunate victim.

Down on the Farm

Javier Baez Watch – He played SS and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. I think we’re going to see him stay in Iowa until the September 1 roster expansion and then go from there. That gives him like 3 more pressure free weeks to continue to work and have success. Then, when he comes up, I don’t think it would be an everyday job for him.

What’s On Tap?

Nothing for today. An off day from Cubs baseball, which couldn’t come at a better time as today is my 13th wedding anniversary. What’s crazy is that we’re also creeping up on the 13th anniversary of the start of VFTB as well. Enjoy the day off and get ready for the Brewers on Tuesday.

 

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on Aug 9

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

So….About Last Night

GIANTS 6 @ CUBS 8 – While the game wasn’t quite played last night, per se, I like the title anyway. I was able to catch most of the game, but came into it in the bottom of the 2nd inning. I was little worried about the possible outcome with Kyle Hendricks taking the mound against Matt Cain, but then I remembered that Cain hasn’t been all that good (just like Hendricks). My worries and fears proved to be irrational. The Cubs knocked the Giants starter out of the game before the 5th inning for the third straight game in the series. Hendricks wasn’t a rock star out there, but did what he need to do until the 6th when he had to be bailed out by Travis Wood. Yes, you read that correctly, Wood bailed him out with 1.2 innings of solid relief. Overall, the pen was a little shaky, though. James Russell got hit around. Jason Motte continues to throw nothing but fastballs, and it’s concerning me. If I’m a hitter, I’m up there sitting fastball every time. This year, Motte has used his fastball 84.8% of the time, compared to his career average at 76.6% (which includes this year’s usage). He just doesn’t trust that other stuff and he’s starting to cost him. I can’t see the Cubs offering him a contract at year’s end. Offensively, the team just seems to be clicking. Joe Maddon is pushing the right buttons right now and we’re scoring runs. I remind you that no offense is as good as it looks when it’s hot or as bad as it looks when it’s cold (except in the case of the Mets), but it’s a fun little ride we’re on right now since losing that series to the Phillies. With the win, the Cubs playoff odds are now up to 78% and I’m starting to get excited.

Ross Down, Szczur Up

This is a temporary move, but prior to the game, the Cubs announced that David Ross was placed on the bereavement list and Matt Szczur was brought back to take his place. Ross will take some time off to be with his family after the passing of his grandmother. He’s expected to be away till at least Tuesday.

Castro Benched

I tell you what, September 1st can’t get here quick enough. We’ve got depth coming out of our ears and no place to put some of these guys. With Starlin Castro taking a seat on the bench, Maddon has decided to keep Chris Coghlin in the lineup and shift him to second base. Tommy La Stella is due back from a very long DL stint very soon and Javier Baez is on standby. It’s not looking good for Castro’s chance to get back into the lineup in the near future. If he wants to play, he’s going to have to impress. I just don’t see that happening. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling we’ll see him moved in the off-season as part of some sort of package to improve the team.

Down on the Farm

  • Baez Watch – Javy went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks, a run scored and an RBI
  • Pierce Johnson turned in a great outing for the Smokies, going 7 IP, while allowing just 3 hits and 1 ER, striking out 7. I’m excited about Johnson. He’s probably my favorite pitcher in the system right now.

What’s On Tap?

Bonus Things

  • Sam Fuld is potentially on the Cubs radar for a waiver deal, to which I say: No Thank You. We’ve already tried a former Joe Maddon Guy in Rafael Soriano and that didn’t work.
  • I watched this video this morning and was in awe. I can’t even hit a ball that far the right way.

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1963 – One loss shy of tying the major league record of 19 consecutive defeats, Roger Craig switches his uniform number to 13 in an attempt to change his luck. The move appears to work when Jim Hickman lofts a short fly ball in the ninth inning with two outs and the bases-full in a tie game, that just ticks the upper-deck overhang in left field at the Polo Grounds for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Mets an improbable 7-3 victory over the Cubs.

1963Lindy McDaniel becomes the second pitcher in major league history to give up a pair of game-ending grand slams in the same season when Mets pinch-hitter Jim Hickman goes deep, giving the Mets a dramatic 7-3 victory over the Cubs at the Polo Grounds. The Chicago right-hander, who also allowed Houston’s Bob Aspromonte to end a game with a bases full walk-off round-tripper in June, joins Satchel Paige (1952) in accomplishing the infamous deed.

1988 – After 5,687 consecutive contests take place during the day at the Chicago Northside ballpark dating back to 1914, the first official major league night game is played at Wrigley Field with the hometown Cubs taking a 6-4 decision from the Mets. The historic event was scheduled for last night, but the contest against the Phillies was rained out after the third inning.

2008Micah Hoffpauir ties a modern Pacific Coast League record by homering in his first four at-bats in the Iowa Cubs’ 15-3 rout over the Round Rock Express. The 28 year-old slugging first baseman becomes the third player in the history of the storied PCL to go deep in four consecutive at-bats and the fifth to accomplish the feat in one game.

 

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5 Things a Cub Fans Needs to Know on Aug 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

So…..About Last Night

CUBS 5 @ PIRATES 7 – In the abbreviated series finale with the Pirates, the Cubs messed up the chance for a mini-sweep by playing minor league baseball. Lots of things went wrong in this one, but the most frustrating ones to me were the defense, particularly the left side of the infield, which looked like a comedy of errors. Only one shows on the box score, but our infield didn’t look it’s best last night, Throw in Dan Haren making his debut for the Cubs as a waiter and serving up filet of long ball and you’ve got a recipe for a frustrating night.

On the plus side, Kyle Schwaber continued to do Schwaber things, hitting a two run bomb to bring the Cubs within one run that was so loud it produced on solo shot echo off the bat of Anthony Rizzo just a minute later to tie it.

At that point, I felt good and felt like this could be a nice night after all, then the bullpen happened. Travis Wood came in and couldn’t get anyone out, which caused Joe Maddon to go to Pedro Strop an inning earlier than he probably would have wanted to. By the time the 6th was done, the Pirates had the lead again. Jason Motte came in to pitch a nice 7th inning, but for some reason Joe brought him out in the 8th. Motte is not a two inning pitcher at this point, not because he doesn’t have the physical ability to do it, but because he relies too heavily on his straight as an arrow fastball and more than one inning gives hitters too good of a look at the velocity and movement on it. He’s almost turning into ROOGY, which is not a valuable piece of a bullpen.

Tough loss last night, but we split with the Pirates. No ground lost, but no ground gained.

Soriano On the Shelf and Richard Back

Prior to the game, the Cubs made a roster move to place Rafael Soriano on the 15 day DL with a shoulder issue and re-sign Clayton Richard, who was designated for assignment on Monday after pitching Sunday. Richard cleared waivers, but refused the minor league assignment so he was granted his release but quickly re-signed with the Cubs when the Soriano injury went down.

At times, the roster moves and technical jargon can be a little confusing. Here is a good article AZ Phil put out this week about it.

I don’t see Richard sticking in the pen as a reliever. There is no need for both him and Wood to be in that pen. We could be headed for a Brian Schlitter sighting very soon.

Baxter Stays

Mike Baxter was designated for assignment, but cleared waivers and accepted a minor league assignment. It’s good to see he will stay with the team. Depth is good.

Down on the Farm

  • Javier Baez – 0 for 5 with 2 K’s and an Error (not what you want to hear, I know)
  • Tommy LaStella – On rehab assignment in AA went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored

What’s On Tap?


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1930 – During the Waco Cubs’ 18-run eighth inning eruption at Katy Park, Gene Rye hits three home runs in one inning. The Texas League outfielder’s round trippers in the minor league game include a solo shot, a two-run homer and a grand slam.

1972 – The second game of the Midland Cubs and Amarillo Giants minor league doubleheader is postponed when thousands of grasshoppers begin appearing everywhere at Christensen Stadium. The massive clusters of insects, who swarmed from their nests behind the center field wall after the ballpark’s light were turned on, made play impossible when infielders couldn’t see their outfielders through the hordes of fluttering invaders.

1988 – Goose Gossage becomes the second player in major league history to record 300 career saves when he faces one batter and gets the final out in the Cubs’ 7-4 victory over Philadelphia at Wrigley Field. The future Hall of Fame right-handed reliever joins Rollie Fingers, who reached the milestone in 1982.

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