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Game 62: Anything Else on TV?

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

There was not much to feel good about watching tonight’s game. To be fair there hasn’t been much to feel good in Cubs-Reds games for much of the last three seasons, as the Reds have taken 18 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams. Oof.

Matt Garza was in a giving mood on Tuesday night, offering up two home runs early to put the Cubs in an early 3-0 hole. An Alfonso Soriano sac fly allowed the boys in blue to get one run back in the bottom of the fourth, but Garza just couldn’t shake his kindred spirit. The Cubs “ace” surrendered another bomb to Cub-killer Xavier Paul in the sixth to finish off an impressive eight-spot performance.

Paul was an okay player with the Dodgers, but developing into a nice player in the back half of the lineup with the Reds. Quick story about Paul, I had a friend who pitched against him in high school and he gave up two home runs to him in one game. He swears by the fact that Paul hit one at least 550 feet over the center-field wall. I have no video evidence to confirm nor deny this story.

The Cubs ran into a bit of hard-luck in the second and third innings when Joey Votto turned into the best fielding first baseman of all time. He robbed Wellington Castillo and Starlin Castro of hits on back-to-back plays overlapping the two innings. If you have a chance to go back and watch them, they are pretty impressive plays.

Not to be outdone on the defensive front, defending Gold Glover Darwin Barney flashed some good leather in the third, including a diving stop on an inning-ending double play. Other than the Cody Ransom home run (Ransom scored both runs), Barney’s nifty glove was about the only other thing the Cubs had going for them.

Also kids, want to see how NOT to play a sinking liner in the outfield? Go watch Joey Votto’s “triple” to right field. An embarrassing play for Scott Hairston.

The only other Cubs-related event exciting enough to talk about is the Ian Stewart twitter-debacle. CAPS mentioned it briefly in the comments section of yesterday’s recap, but Stewart essentially aired his dirty laundry with the organization. He had choice words for Dave Sveum and virtually asked the team to release him so he can pursue other opportunities.

The fact that he thinks he’ll be handed a big-league job in another organization is laughable. The twitter drama violated some language in his contract with the team and according to Theo, Stewart will be suspended without pay until they decide what to do with him.

Everyone knows what is coming, it is just a matter of dealing with the MLBPA at this point and I’m not sure they will have much of an argument against the decision. Stewart is probably sprucing up his resume as I write this wonderful recap.

Well done Ian and good luck!

Sidenote: The moment of the Dodgers-Dbacks fight when Matt Williams, Kirk Gibson, Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire were all tied up was priceless. Find a gif of that, you won’t be disappointed.

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MLB Draft – How To Make It Interesting

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The three-day NFL draft ended with pomp and circumstances on Saturday night with one of its most successful runs yet. Ian Rappaport of NFL Network reported during the second round on Friday night that over 20 million households tuned into an exciting first round in primetime on Thursday. Considering there was a lot less star power in this draft in comparison to past years, the NFL’s premeire event drew eye-popping numbers.

Amateur drafts have become more and more popular with each passing offseason. The NFL got things kicked off in the 1980’s and the growth of the NFL as the most popular sport in the the United States has helped build their draft’s brand.

The NBA lottery is a heavily watched event besides being one of the most boring half hours of television in sports during the year. Their draft follows suit with impressive numbers, mainly due to college basketball’s deep following. It also helps that they have a two-round, one-night affair that is easy to keep track of.

Without doing any research, the NHL draft is held around the same time as the NBA draft, but I know maybe one person that has ever tuned in to that event.

Bud Selig–or the minions under Selig–have tried to make the MLB event a more popular one since the inception of the MLB network, but with mixed results. It doesn’t help that World Series ratings have lowered significantly in the past decade, especially in championship series that have mid-market pulls.

While the focus is placed on football and basketball as the premiere sports in college athletics in terms of television contracts, baseball is a bit of the forgotten love. Unless you enjoy watching the Big 12 or SEC network, you probably aren’t sitting down to watch any of the top college teams play.

An even bigger up-hill climb for Major League Baseball is that half of their big-name prospects come from the high school ranks. ESPN started showing the occasional high school basketball when King James was still ballin’ in Ohio as an 18-year-old, but high school baseball hasn’t caught on as a luxury, late-night watch.

There is simply not enough known star power for the MLB to build upon their tv rating numbers for the draft anytime soon.

I always enjoy the live chat that happens during the MLB draft with guys like Keith Law and a few of the Baseball America guys, but even watching the first round on MLB Network is a snoozefest. Most of the analysts don’t study baseball prospects the way that NFL “draftniks” nerdily scout players all the way down to the small-school level.

So I ask you, the VFTB peanut gallery, what would you do to change the MLB Draft and make it more watchable?

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Game 17: Live and Die by the Feldman

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Ryan Braun (.289 WPA)

I have been recapping Sunday games for the better part of the last year or so, and it never ceases to amaze me the ways that this team can lose a game on the first day of the week. Then I remembered that no day is safe from the bad baseball that is the Chicago Cubs.

Errors once again ruled the day with Scott Feldman throwing an errant ball to first that would have ended the fifth inning without any damage. The next at-bat Ryan Braun hit a three-run jack to make it 4-2 and the rest is history.

How many games has this team lost this year that they should have won? I know “should have” is a subjective term depending on who you ask, but take away a few errors and a bad relief appearance and this team is hovering or above the .500 mark. Baseball is a cruel and unusual game.

Now I know taking away plays to prove reversed fortunes of the Cubs is not the most logical of defenses, but in a round-a-bout way I am getting to the point that the Cubs have been in more games than I thought they would be, this early in the season. Without looking at the schedule, I cannot remember a single game where the Cubs were getting the snot beaten out of them.

Starting pitching has been good if not great. Relief has had good days and bad days, but they could be a lot worse in terms of production. Timely hitting has not been there, but that was to be expected.

Overall, while the ever-growing loss total is frustrating from an interest stand-point, I am not so sure that there is not some part deep inside of me that is somewhat pleased with the way things are headed.

Pinch me now if I am being a hopeless optimist.

Still, it does not help the frustration that the Cubs once again lost a lead that they should not have. The Brewers only posted three hits and one earned run, on a ground-out by Alex Gonzalez in the fourth. No team should ever lose a game 4-2 while only surrendering three hits.

Until the Cubs eliminate their egregious mistakes in the field, these are the unfortunate results that we are stuck with.

One Huzzah

Feldman pitched effectively enough for victory.

Two Huzzahs

I could only watch the game on the MLB condensed feature.

Three Huzzahs

Anthony Rizzo remains hot. He makes me smile every time I look down on my phone and see A. Rizzo HR/S. Castro scores from ESPN. I drafted both players in fantasy knowing the Cubs have to score SOME runs. So far the strategy has worked.

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Game 12: Extra, Extra Cubs Blow a Save and Lose

Sunday, April 14th, 2013


Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Nick Noonan (.246 WPA)


So, I’m not even sure how to start today’s recap. We’ll just get right into the meat of things.

The Wild, Wild Pitch

Once again another impressive pitching performance ruined by the lack of control in the middle innings. I noted on Twitter in the fourth inning that Edwin Jackson, albeit having a good day, had a high pitch count early in the game like Jeff Samardzija did last Sunday. By the time Jackson reached the top of the sixth, he had zero control of his slider, which led to three walks and two wild pitches. Jackson left the game with a 4-3 lead and two runners on base attributed to him. Michael Bowden kindly replicated Jackson’s fun inning with three wild pitches of his own, which improved the total to five in the inning. For the sake of comparison, the Cubs had eight wild pitches in 11 contests coming into the game. They nearly matched that total in sixth.

7th Inning Stench

What happened today? Was Julia Sweeney on something during her interview and whatever she was doing during Take Me Out to the Ballgame? There have been plenty of bad guests for the stretch, but that might be a Bottom 10 of recent memory. Yikes.

Navarr-oh Boy

While Jackson and Bowden were a major part of the issue in the sixth, Navarro had a day behind the plate that he will want to forget. His bat has been zoned in during a couple of recent pinch-hit attempts, but his err…zone was lacking on defense today. Five wild pitches and three passed balls contributed to five of the six runs scored by the Giants in the early innings. Sveum might be hard pressed to trot Navarro back out in the field too much this season. Hopefully nothing happens to Wellington Castillo.

Marmol, Fujikawa, Camp…..Next?

Shawn Camp was the latest Cubs’ pitcher to be victimized by the ninth-inning plague. Camp rolled through the first two batters and then with a 1-2 to Hunter Pence, he left a slider over the corner of the plate. The rest is history. Inferiority in the bullpen is a hard thing to overcome for a team that struggles to score many runs consistently.

Tweet of the Day

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Game 6 – The Rise of Shark…….Tank

Sunday, April 7th, 2013


Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Tim Hudson (.258 WPA)

Shark on the Loose

For five innings Jeff Samardzija allowed Cubs fans to forget whatever transpired in the final two innings last night. He put together a scintillating 13-strikeout performance through five and two-thirds innings on a breezy day in Hotlanta. Shark struck out 11 of the first 16 batters in the game, including two one-two-three innings done with K’s.  The only baserunner to reach base against Samardzija in the first four innings was B.J. Upton, who led the game with a single before walking in the third. As the strikeout count rose, so did the stir on social media sites about the prospects of Samardzija challenging Kerry Wood’s single-game record.

Despite Shark’s ability to make Braves’ hitters look silly in the first five innings, he was far from being economical in the process. Entering the sixth inning, Samardzija had thrown 87 pitches to record 15 outs and by the time he was knocked from the game, there were 105 pitches credited to his right arm.

The 13 strikeouts were fun to watch and made me feel like I was about to be a part of something special, but Shark got cute in the later innings. I’m not sure if he felt that maybe the Braves’ hitters were starting to catch up to his fastball, but he was still missing bats with 97-MPH pitches in the sixth. The hits by Upton and Ramiro Pena were both on change ups on the outside of the plate. His off-speed pitches also accounted for the two wild pitches in the fifth that led to Atlanta’s first run.

There is no questioning that Samardzija is on the cusp of becoming a top of the line starter, but he needs to A) control his frustration on the mound when things do not go his way and B) go with what is working more.

What’s a Hit?

Even with the hit parade in last night’s loss, the Cubs still only have two players batting above the Mendoza line –Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz. We knew that the Cubs were going to struggle from the plate, but the early returns are a bit harsher than the perceived reality. Maybe I was naive to think the bats would be a little bit better this year.

The Cubs have only outscored two teams this year, the Pirates (8 runs) and Giants (12 runs). San Francisco has played one less game, which will be evened out by tonight and the Pirates are 1-5. My bet is for the Cubs and Bucks to be bottom of the barrel by evening end.

Tweet of the Day

This series could be just what the Cubs need. The Brewers are struggling worse than the us. After winning on opening day, the Brewers have lost five straight, including a sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks that ended with an 11 inning loss that saw five members of the bullpen used. This is a series, if we play well, we can win.

Monday – 2:20pm EDT (WGN) – Edwin Jackson (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (0-0, 7.20 ERA)

Jackson will get the assignment in the Cubs’ home opener. The righty took the loss in his Cubs debut, giving up two runs on three hits and striking out five over five innings vs. the Bucs. He has a career 1-2 record in three starts at Wrigley. Estrada will seek to control his adrenaline and his breaking pitches in the Cubs’ home opener. The latter escaped him in his season debut, though Estrada did manage to strike out eight Rockies hitters in five innings.

Tuesday – 8:05pm EDT (WGN) – Travis Wood (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (0-1, 6.75 ERA)

Wood had an impressive first start, holding the Pirates to one hit over six scoreless innings. He was able to locate his pitches, and didn’t get in any trouble. He can only hope for a better season at Wrigley, where he’s 3-6 with a 4.36 ERA. Peralta set the tone for a long season debut when he threw a first-pitch ball to six of the first seven Rockies batters he faced. With his 95-96-mph sinker, Peralta knows he would be better served challenging hitters with Strike 1.

Wednesday – 8:05pm EDT (CSN+) – Scott Feldman (0-1, 7.71 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

This will be Feldman’s Wrigley Field debut. He threw 102 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in his first Cubs start, and only topped 100 pitches seven times last season. Feldman struggled with his command in his first outing against the Braves. Lohse barely had a Spring Training, yet he was the only Brewer to deliver a quality start in the first turn through the team’s five-man rotation. After an 87-pitch debut, he should be cleared to top 100 pitches in this game.

All scouting notes taken from

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