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The Trade Machine: Part Deux

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

As the Cubs continue to sleep walk through the 2012 season, the Trade Machine has been churning out projections and possibilities about impending decisions the front office faces.

It has been well over a month since the last installment of the TM, which was written just a day after the Marlon Byrd trade went through — we know how that turned out so well — and anticipated the most available

Cubbies. There has been some movers and shakers in the top 5 since then, although it remains to be seen whether or not any of them will be moved.

 

1. Ryan Dempster –  Dempster is up two spots from the April edition because of his incredibly consistent performance to start the season. He finally recorded his first win last week –and somehow got his second too– despite sporting an ERA well below three for much of the season. Contract Dempster has been on full display and other teams seem to be taking note of his personal success. A few articles have been churned out saying that the Dodgers and Tigers would be interested in his services. Personally if a trade happened, a National League team would likely be the better fit for his pitching style. Dempster has already said that he’d likely waive his no-trade clause if a contender came calling his name with a good deal. If Chicago can get a little more than they did for Lilly a few years ago, then I would pull the trigger in an instant.

 

2. Alfonso Soriano – Could it be that Soriano has value on the open market? Even though Soriano has been feasting on left handed pitching of late and has the most home runs in the bigs in the last 30 days, his suitors will be limited. The reason he’s been raised this far up the list is a mixture of recent successes and cost it would take to obtain him. Ideally Soriano would be an every day DH for a contender, forced into the outfield when in a bind. His price tag was low during the offseason with Chicago willing to pick up a huge portion of his salary through 2014 and the team not asking for any big league quality talent in return. With Soriano playing better, his market could gain a little steam leading up to the deadline.

 

3. Bryan LaHair -  I’ll preface this by saying LaHair won’t likely be traded. He’s being seen as a late bloomer ala Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista. I wouldn’t put LaHair in the same position just yet, but if a team was willing to pay a price similarly to what they would pay for those two. Bye, bye LaHair. Personally I want to see LaHair switch to the outfield when Rizzo gets called up in a few weeks. The team needs as many big bats as they can get.

 

4. Carlos Marmol –  Crazy arm hasn’t been AS wild as he was in the beginning of the season, although I’m not sure any team would trust him in the closer role at this point. Marmol still has value to a contender as a power arm out of the pen. World Series caliber teams have gambled on much riskier relievers during a pennant campaign season in the past, so Marmol should garner some interest.

 

5. Matt Garza - Garza has tumbled down to the end of the list because I believe Theo and Co. are realizing that this is a guy they need to build their staff around. When teams weren’t willing to offer their top prospects for Garza, Theo pulled back and has had “closed-door meetings” with Garza’s agent. I’m optimistic that a new contract or extension will be agreed to before too long.

 

 

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Game 53: The Urban Legend of the Run

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Cubs 0 @ Giants 2

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Bigfoot. El Chupacabra. The Loch Ness Monster. Cubs Runs Scored.

I’m not quite sure I have to explain the above, but just in case you are running a little slow with a case of the Monday’s I will give you a little help. No one really knows if any of those things actually exist.

The game followed a similar path of the last ten or so away games for the boys in blue, which I guess should prepare me for these games. However, this is never the case. The Cubs have batted in 27 innings during their lovely stay at the Bay and if you subtract the 9th from Friday, they have scored a single run in the other 26 innings. If that doesn’t cause some kind of nausea then I need an email with whatever stomach ailment medicine you guys are taking before the first pitch.

LaHair and El Panadero

If you speak Spanish, then you know  I’m talking about the dilemma at first base. I’m not sure if it was just a weird week, but we  seemed to see quite a few lefties which of course means more of Mr. Baker. LaHair has struggled since the beginning of the twelve game losing streak three weeks back and really hasn’t gotten any better against lefties. I understand this notion. However is Jeff Baker really doing any better on south paw days to warrant him taking the one power bat out of the lineup a couple days a week? The lineup is bad enough with LaHair in there, but it’s absolutely sickening to see what we trotted out on the field today. What a hodge podge of underwhelming talent. Enough of the flipping back and forth Sveum, let’s put what little talent we have on the team out there every day.

Sore-iano

The guy does not look healthy enough to be playing right now. Len and Bob pointed it out on several occasions during the game, but any person casually watching the game could easy see his physical struggles in the field. Soriano was at fault for both runs that scored today. In the fifth he struggled to get to a well hit ball by Angel Pagan that would have been caught by any other outfield on the team. Not only did he not make the catch, but then he couldn’t stop himself from running into the wall which allowed Pagan to advance standing up. In the 8th, it took him nine steps to collect himself after gathering the ball and then made it worse by throwing the ball to second allowing a guy to score from first on a single. I know Phonz is hitting pretty well, but he’s become even more of a liability in the field. I’m fine with a Reed Johnson, Campana, DeJesus outfield for the time being or my real hope of a Rizzo call-up and LaHair in the outfield.

Knock on Wood

The consistency from start to start still isn’t there, but I’m hoping we have finally found our fifth starter for the season. With one Wood (Kerry) departing from the team, the new Wood (Travis) has been a breath of fresh air from the disaster that has been Chris Volstad every fifth day. He had a no-hitter going until the Soriano misplay  Pagan double and continued to pitch well despite the fluky run. If Wood pitches this way for a majority of his starts, then he’ll finally find the wind column. Then again Ryan Dempster still doesn’t have a win with a sub three ERA and it’s already June. So anything is possible on this team.

Just a Stat

Cubs entered the day batting .106 with RISP in their last ten road games. They went 0-1 today, which brings them below the .100 mark on the road in this recent stretch. What’s the line below the Mendoza line? Can we call it the Koyie Hill line? I think that would be fitting.

Cubs hope that they aren’t a part of their sixth straight sweep, although one was their own doing. Monday should be a good matchup between Voegelsong and Shark in the always popular 12:45 week day local start time. Next week will be a pleasant change of pace with six road games against the Brewers and lowly Twins. If that doesn’t get the run juices flowing, then I don’t know what will.

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Game 44: The 2012 Cubs Walk Into a Bar…

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Cubs 1 @ Astros 5

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

You know how this joke ends and it isn’t funny.  No amount of sarcasm or dry wit added to this joke could crack a smile on my face.

It’s one of those jokes used to torture  people who’ve forgotten how to laugh.

I’m not sure if I’m just being cranky because it’s past my bedtime and or because I have to watch this pathetic team continue to show no emotion or heart on the field. Or maybe because the bullpen continues to pitch like a bunch of t-ball dads. Or maybe because the team wouldn’t knock in runs even if they started with a handicap runner at third to start each inning at the plate. Or maybe it’s just because of the fish tacos I had for dinner.

Whatever it is, this team has become hard to watch with no sign of change in the near future.

By the Numbers

- The Cubs out hit the Astros 27-21 in the series yet were out scored 15-6.

- The Cubs are 6-4 against teams with winning records in the month of May. They are 1-11 against teams with losing records.

- The Cubs have the second longest current losing streak of the four major professional leagues. Only the Charlotte Bobcats top them with 23 straight.

Dolis

I understand they wanted to get him work tonight, but why in the world leave him in for so long. This is the conversation that took place in my head between Sveum and whoever was listening to him at the time.

Sveum: “Wow this got out of hand quickly. Weren’t we just winning?”

Phone: “Nope you were actually losing, but I like your optimism.”

Sveum: “He’s a little rusty and we’ve already lost 8 in a row. What’s one more?”

Phone: ” Yeah mean….uh this is John Buccigross on Sportscenter. I think you have the wrong number.”

The Sharktank

This guy has been a baller this season and one of the few bright spots that turns my frown upside down. A dumb move by Barney changed the pace and outcome of the game. It’s a shame that Shark had to take the loss and ultimately get the hook after the sixth, the last thing I want to do is watch t-ball daddy’s come out and pitch. The team is now 6-3 in his starts, but could easily be 8-1. Jeff has fallen to some of the same run support issues that has plagued Dempster for three years, but that’s been everyone. Sidenote, I had forgotten that Campana had pinch hit for him in the top of the 7th and I didn’t see James Russell come out. I asked him wife if Sharkman had gotten a haircut during the break and she gave me a weird look and said it wasn’t the same guy. How observant.

I’ll wake up in a few hours for work and have forgotten the game, but getting swept for the third series in a row struck a nerve reaction that I haven’t felt in awhile; Cubs related angst. I understand the thoughts about rebuilding and all that mumbo jumbo, but I still want to see a MLB quality product on the field. The two weeks of “success” now look like a flash in the pan and excuses have crawled out of every corner imaginable. Is it really that much to ask for a team that is watchable?

Because as of right now I can’t say the Cubs are much more than a brunt of a bad nightmarish joke.

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Game 34: The Shark Strikes Again

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Cubs 8 @ Brewers 2

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

First of all I’d like to wish a happy belated Mother’s Day to all you Cubs lovin’ moms out there. I hope your day was well spent with the people that love you the most.

Second of all I’d like to thank the Cubs for winning for the first time this season in a game that I am recapping. For that I am eternally grateful, especially when it means not getting swept by the Brew Crew.

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of today’s game.

Hot Off the Starting Block

The 1-2-3 hitters in the Cubs’ lineup combined for over 50% of the hits accumulated by the team today. DeJesus and Castro each had two hits in five at-bats, while Campana added three singles of his own. Each of them started out with a few line outs, but all three were a major part of the run parade in the final half of the game. Campana’s speed continues to be a major asset for the team, as he’s almost always guaranteed to be in scoring position after a bunt single. It’s a great weapon to have and one that we haven’t had consistently for some time. His ability to leg out infield hits is going to continue to prove fruitful as long as he keeps getting playing time.  For Castro it was just another day at the office, knocking in his twentieth RBI of the season. DeJesus also continued his impressive series, raising his average fourteen points with five hits and five RBI over the weekend.

Shark Attack

Mr. Samardzija was probably the one pitcher in the rotation who everyone was skeptical about entering the season. The body of work he had put in as a reliever was nothing to marvel at and some rocky starts at the minor league level didn’t exactly inspire confidence that he could be a big league starter either. However the Cubs are now 6-1 in Jeff’s seven starts. Digest that for a moment. He is now tied for the lead in wins on the team with uber consistent Paul Maholm. I like to refer to Samardzija as the anti-Dempster, because as long as he puts in a quality start the team comes through with the win. Maybe Dempster should try the matted hair tornado hair-style as well. I didn’t agree (at the time) with Sveum taking him out after the fifth, but I understand it. He was due up first and had thrown 91 pitches to the point, but with the way the bullpen has been throwing, I’d have been terrified to pull him that early. Obviously it worked out because Reed Johnson came in to pinch hit and immediately hit it out to right center. Also the bullpen wasn’t terrible, so there’s that.

Returning the Favor

One day after losing 8-2 in another Volstad bomb job, it was nice to reciprocate on the final day of the series. The Brewers have been the toughest team on the Cubs this season, having taken 5 of 7 games thus far into the season. The Cubs have only been swept in a series once this season, by the Marlins in middle of April, but the Brewers have threatened to do so in both series this year. The Cubs have managed to outscore the Brewers 16-2 in the final games of each series to avoid the brooms. They won’t see the Brew-makers again until the second week of June, when hopefully they can return the favor by tying up the season series at 5.

Closing Statements

Bob couldn’t stop laughing all game about the poor Italian Sausage’s misfortune on Saturday. I hope that guy/gal had some ibuprofen on hand because that had to hurt. Somehow it didn’t come in last, which leads me to believe that the beer brat was running backwards.

The Cubs have a weird week ahead with 2 two game series in St. Louis and at home against the Phillies before their first matchup with the South-siders. Dempster will likely have two chances to get his first win of the season this week, but tomorrow will be his tougher test with the Cards playing good ball.  That game gets under way at 7:05 ET.

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The Trade Machine

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Saturday’s trade of Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox  marked the start of what should become a busy season for the Cubs’ front office.

When I turned on my computer that afternoon, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the Byrd story atop the front page of MLB Trade Rumors. The slow start at the plate, combined with the lack of future with the Chicago organization made Byrd an easy target for trade as early as this past off-season. I’m guessing Theo and Co. were hoping to see Byrd rebound from his scary injury last year to increase his value in the trade market, but the guy just hasn’t looked the same since the May beaning in Beantown. Byrd made his debut batting ninth in the Red Sox lineup last night going 1-4 with a single in the top of the seventh off of former Cub Jason Marquis.

Meanwhile, the Cubs designated Rodrigo Lopez for assignment to make room for Michael Bowden, the reliever acquired in the Byrd deal. Depending on the situation, Bowden could make his debut on the mound tonight. I’ve seen Bowden pitch when he was at AA Portland and nothing about him is spectacular, but he should provide an upgrade in middle relief over Lopez.

With Byrd gone, we can now focus our attention to be who could be gone next in this installment of “The Trade Machine.”

1) Matt Garza - I’m putting Garza first not because I think he should or even will be traded, but instead because Theo hasn’t shown a commitment to him yet. Garza has pitched very well in four starts this season and would likely gain a haul on the open market. I’m not going to talk much more about him because Noah will likely hit on a bunch of stuff tomorrow, but Garza remains the top trade chip for rebuilding. Personally I’d like to see a new contract or extension pushed across to the Garza camp in the coming weeks because he’s the type of pitcher I want on this team, but I have a feeling it won’t happen.

2) Geovany Soto - Soto hasn’t lived up to his good year, bad year billing in 2012 as he continues to bat severely under the Mendoza line. Soto’s defense is pretty good, but it isn’t good enough to overlook how badly he is performing at the plate. Steve Clevenger has played very well in limited duty and anything we’re getting out of Soto right now, we can get out of Wellington Castillo if he got called up. There are a few teams looking for catchers at this juncture, mainly the Rays that could be in play for Geo. I know it would make Lizzie very sad to see her stallion behind the plate get shipped off to a foreign land, but I think he’s in play here.

3) Ryan Dempster - If the Cubs had to trade one starting pitcher, it would be Dempster and not Garza. I know he wouldn’t garner as much compensation in the market as Garza would, but Garza is a starter the Cubs should build their team around and not Dempster. Contract Dempster, named by Jedi, has shown up once again in 2012 after a three year hiatus.  In three starts Dempster is 0-1 despite having a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings, a huge improvement upon his start last year. If Dempster continues to pitch this well once he gets off of the DL, there could be a pitching hungry playoff contender that might look Dempster’s way to fill a middle rotation spot. If that opportunity arises, the front office better be all over that.

4) Carlos Marmol - Marmol’s been straight up tuuuurrrrible to start the year, but many teams would welcome the flame-thrower to the back end of the their staffs. I haven’t been able to exactly pinpoint any interest in Carlos, but if Theo and Jed decide to put Marmol on the block I don’t think he’ll be there long. Dolis is green and a little bit wild, but let him work through learning the closer role in what is a season of grooming players.

5) Alfonso Soriano -  He would be first by a mile if this community had their way, but the bloated contract attached to his price tag scared teams away. The Cubs even offered to pay a huge portion of his salary for someone to take him off of their hands to no avail. If the front office really wants to dump Soriano, they are going to have to go the Byrd route and pay close to 80% of his salary the next two seasons for him to play elsewhere. Is it worth it? Absolutely because it will give his playing time to someone who actually deserves it. Now it is just a matter of finding a team foolish enough to do such a deal.

Let’s see some lists of who you feel could be traded in the coming months.

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Game 12: A Cure for Insomnia

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Cubs 1 @ Marlins 9

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

I have honestly spent the last fifteen minutes since the game ended trying to think of a witty title for this game re-cap, but my mind went to sleep somewhere around the fifth inning. The last few nights I have been tossing and turning throughout, but I’m glad that I have finally found a cure to my sleep ailments: watching this team play baseball.

Most people who don’t like baseball will tell you that it is too long or too slow for them to get in to unless they are physically at the game. I’ve never debated that fact and mixed in with the long season, I can understand how baseball plays second fiddle to the NFL in terms of popularity. But this Cubs team is redefining sleep-inducing baseball.

We’ve all seen bad teams before, none of that is new to this fan base. However I can’t remember a time in recent seasons where it was this hard to watch a baseball game without getting bored. Even in the close games this season, the Cubs have never felt in it. I’m not sure if I can attribute this to being an eternal pessimist or that this team is really this hard to watch play the game.  Never mind winning, this team doesn’t even lose in interesting fashion any more. It is the same script every night except with a different lineup to add a slight flavor of pizzazz.

The errors can be seen coming from a mile away, the ball rarely gets hit out of the infield and the bullpen innings are like a comedy that isn’t funny. The best word that I can find to describe the first twelve games of the Cubs 2012 season would be: stale.

Garza Struggles

One of the few things I dislike about Garza is that he has too many of these kinds of starts over the course of an entire season. He started off pretty sharp in terms of velocity and pitch location, but by the fourth he was hanging way too much over the plate. Major League hitters are going to crush the kind of pitch he gave to Donnie Murphy, regardless of who they are.  He did seem to be getting a little frustrated about not getting strike calls on outer-plate sliders, but I could have been imagining things. At least the offense didn’t waste a good start from him today, which is about the only positive thing I can say at the moment, albeit a backhanded “compliment.”

Back Order Disaster

The back third of our lineup reminds me of a joke my second grade teacher told. Why was six afraid of seven? Obviously because seven ate (eight) nine. Well right now seven, eight and nine are as lame as the joke. Byrd collected a hit tonight to drive up his average to an impressive .081 on the season and Soto was hitless again. I made a joke on Twitter (@jcstats) about how the Cubs should hold a fan contest for fans to bat in the final three slots because we wouldn’t be getting any less production. I’m not even sure it was funny –it isn’t–but I got a few laughs out of it. Until these guys start hitting, we’re essentially giving three outs in a row. Not a recipe for run scoring.

Bring Up the Kids?

I know it is too early, but how long can we watch this stagnant team? As a fan base the expectations were never high to begin with, but let’s at least try to put an entertaining team on the field. I’m not sure if bringing up AAA super star Anthony Rizzo up soon would really do much of anything, but why not? The kid is tearing it up at Iowa and can’t be any worse than what we are putting out there at 1st and 3rd every other night. Guys like Keith Law and Buster Olney were predicting July/August call-ups for Rizzo and Brett Jackson, but every passing game makes me think it could be much sooner. Then again, there is a reason why I’m sitting on my couch writing this article instead of sitting in a player personnel meeting.

Relief Catchers

As the game became increasingly out of reach, Len and Bob turned their sights to talking about youth pitch counts. Apparently two high school pitchers in Louisiana combined for 25 IP and 347 pitches in a game this week. As ridiculous as that was, it wasn’t half as ridiculous as what came out of Bob’s mouth after. He said since we put pitching counts on pitchers, we should put them on catchers as well. They can only catch a certain amount pitches before a “relief catcher” needs to come in. Is there really no other material out there to make lame jokes about? We’ve been relegated to bad baseball AND listening to jokes about “relief catchers?” (Sigh).

Mad Libs

(Complete the blanks)

The _______ (place) Marlins of Florida have turned ________ (numerical) the number of double plays as the Cubs have _______ (baseball term) in this series.

The Cubbies hope they can maintain their streak of winning one game per series, as Ricky Nolasco and two-win (crazy) Jeff Samardzija duke it out at 12:40 ET tomorrow.

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Game 9: A Rainy Loss on Ring Day

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Cubs 1 @ Cardinals 5

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

THE GOOD

  • Alfonso Soriano continues to play well in all aspects of the game. He’s now reached base safely in all nine games this season, which is nice change of pace considering how many O-fer’s the Cubs endured from him last season. His strikeouts remain high (25% of at-bats) but that is something that will never change with Sori. The fact that he is getting on base a couple of times a game and hasn’t, to this point, been a detriment in the field is a major positive for this club. At worst Soriano is raising his trade value a little bit after seeing not a single team interested in his services via trade this off-season.
  • I thought Shawn Camp pitched pretty well in the 7th and 8th innings. He gave up the one home run to Jay, but that was his only hit allowed and he didn’t walk anyone. The Cardinal hitters were letting him off the hook a bit by swinging early in the count, but he only threw 17 pitches to get six outs. Of those 17 pitches, 14 were strikes.

THE BAD

  • The change of scenery hasn’t helped Chris Volstad’s confidence one bit. The guy hasn’t won since last spring and it almost looks like he is physically carrying the weight of that while he is out there pitching. He has incredible stuff, but he has no command because he has no confidence in his abilities. There is a reason he was a first round pick in 2005 and I’m hoping that he can start to rekindle some of the confidence he had during his rookie campaign in 2008.
  • I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for the conversation between Sveum and Castro after his second throwing error of the afternoon. Castro too often lets his natural athleticism take over on close plays. Sometimes it works, but too often it does not. The two errors today were prime examples of this and I’m sure it is making the coaches crazy. I’m sure they have harped on it all spring with him. He has got to listen and eliminate the errors.
  • Volstad getting hit in the fourth was scary, especially how long that inning was for him. He looked fine pitching in the the final two innings, so I’m guessing he’s alright.
  • LaHair didn’t have an error today, but he has had some weird plays in the field to start the season. There was the play against the Nationals and there were two more strange plays today. It’s almost as if he assumes someone is there to back him up at all times. He was lucky that Barney got to that grounder early in the game and should have easily caught the pop foul in the 6th. Not quite sure what the issue is.

THE UGLY

  • The Cubs continue to get nothing from the bottom of the lineup and considering the bottom of the lineup is Soto and Byrd, this is an issue. If you had asked me before the season, I would have had both these guys batting in the top six of the lineup. Instead these two have five hits in 53 at-bats with a couple of walks and have been relegated to the basement. If Byrd continues to struggle, we’ll be seeing more of Reed Johnson over the next few series.

We’ll see if Paul Maholm can rebound from his horrendous Cubs debut as he matches up with Jake Westbrook. The current Cubs lineup hasn’t faired too well when matched up against Westbrook, with DeJesus having the only documented success during their American League days. Westbrook has had issues with walks early in games, but has managed to get himself out of  jams. The Cubs will need to capitalize on such opportunities early on if they want to come away with their first series win of 2012.

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Game 6: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Brewers 2 @ Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Cold temperatures and the early start ensured a lot of empty seats for the Cubs 2-1 loss against the Brewers, a game that matched the two team’s aces against each other.   Ryan Dempster pitched well enough to win for the second time this season, but another offensive outage left him with none.

THE GOOD

  • David DeJesus leading off the game with a double was a pleasant surprise. DeJesus scored two batters later on a sac fly by Starlin Castro to give the Cubs the early lead.
  • Dempster pitched well once again, a complete 180 from his brutal April in 2011. He was one bad pitch away from likely getting out of through the seventh unscathed and setting himself up for the win. His ERA is 1.88 and he has 15 K’s through 14.1 innings pitched with a (0-1) record to show for it. Unfortunate.
  • Soriano continues to make solid plays in the outfield. I’m sure this won’t last throughout the entire season, but it seems like he has taken to some advice from new OF/1B coach Dave McKay. It wasn’t pretty, but Soriano made a great grab in the fifth inning to save a base hit by Carlos Gomez.
  • Steve Clevenger came in for a pinch hit double in the ninth. I have a feeling we’ll see more of him in the later innings moving forward because of the raw power he possesses.
  • Aside from the daily walk by Carlos Marmol, the bullpen pitched very well. The combo of James Russell, Kerry Wood and Marmol went 2.1 innings with 6 K’s and no hits allowed. Wood entered the day with one strikeout and three walks given up, but he struck out the side in the eighth.

THE BAD

  • The early run was nice, but the offense sputtered to get anything going after that. DeJesus’ double was the only extra-base-hit until Clevenger’s last gasp two bagger in the ninth. That’s not going to get it done.
  • The lack of consistent power in this lineup was well documented leading up to the season, but it looks even worse now that we are a few games in. I know home runs aren’t the end all be all in terms of run production, but the Cubs currently have three through six games. There are currently seven players with the same amount, including David Freese. DAVID FREESE!
  • There were a few at bats today that absolutely baffled me, specifically those by Byrd and Soto in the seventh. I get that the team is going with the aggressive approach at the plate, but both players had similar at bats to the one Castro had to end the game the other night. They swung at pitches way out of the zone on the first few pitches and THEN became patient. Geo struck out swinging on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, but Byrd just sat and looked at a pitch that was clearly on the corner. If you are going to be aggressive, be aggressive.

THE UGLY

  • Byrd is now 1-21 on the season. His only hit was in his second at-bat of the season when he drove in Ian Stewart for the first Cubs run of the season. Just looking rather quickly, I believe this is Byrd’s worst start to a season in his career.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

Things aren’t going to get any easier tomorrow for the Cub batters as they face Zack Greinke. As terrible as this sounds I’m hoping for one of two things: Matt Garza pitches out of his mind and the batters get to Greinke early or Garza pitches awful. I can’t stand to watch them waste another great outing by a starting pitcher.

I actually missed the last two innings of the game because I’m moonlighting at a movie theater until my new job starts in May. Since I couldn’t check the score on my phone, I set my score updates to a specific vibrate to let me know if someone had scored. I didn’t receive any mini tremors in my pocket because the Cubs forgot to bring out the thunder sticks.

Here’s hoping they pull it off tomorrow. I can’t stand getting swept, never mind to a division rival.

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Paul Maholm: Third Starter to the Rotation Party

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

When Paul Maholm signed a one year 4.75 million dollar contract with the Cubs in early January, the response of the fan base as a whole was similar to the type of pitcher he is: uninspiring.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh with my description of Maholm, but he’s not exactly the type of pitcher that is going to provide a spark in the middle of the rotation. The pitcher has never had a season above .500 in his seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he qualified for the league leaders. He’s also never had a season with more than ten wins, which I recognize is more of a reflection of the organization he was a part of.

I am no expert on the play of Paul Maholm other than the occasional start against the Cubs over the last six years, but I’ve seen enough to cast an opinion of him. He’s the type of pitcher that will never win you a game, but rather the guy that has the chance to keep a team in a game. For this team, I’m not completely sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. In 26 starts in 2011, Maholm gave up one or no runs in eight starts. On the flip side he only really bombed three starts (Yes this is something I arbitrarily made up while writing this), which I determine as allowing 6+ runs in at least 5 innings of work.

Again I don’t mean to rail on Mr. Maholm, because I think he can an effective starter at the three spot as long as our expectations for him are in line with what we’ll see. Expectations that I believe that are mild across the board.

Maholm is an inning eater that will get through 5+ innings in every start barring injury. In fact Maholm only had one such start last season, a 6-0 loss to the Marlins in early April where he gave up six earned in 3.2 innings. The Cubs haven’t had that kind of consistent inning eater at the three spot since Lilly was traded to the Dodgers in 2009, albeit Lilly is a much better pitcher than Maholm.

A major reason why Maholm consistently gets a healthy does of innings is because he takes so few pitches to get an at bat result. He averaged only 3.57 pitches per at bat in 2011, which was third in the National League. This is a good thing and bad thing for Maholm. His average amount of pitches lends itself to not giving up too many walks — 50 in 2011 — but when he does get deep into counts, walks follow.

Another positive to Maholm is that he has good control over his stuff. He doesn’t have any pitches that will wow you, but he’s effective enough to get outs. According to the 2012 Bill James Handbook, Maholm threw his fastball 52% of the time.  His average speed on the pitch is around 87 MPH, but rarely hits above the 89 MPH mark. He splits the rest of his pitches predominately between a change up and slider, although he doesn’t throw either above 20% of the time. This to me means he’s picking his spots with his fastball in hope for ground balls, which is something we should see a lot of during his starts.

The Rotation

While Dempster and Garza duke it out for the top dog spot (I expect Garza to pull it out), Maholm has been assured that he’s no longer pitching for a spot in the rotation.

“He’s done well and he’s slated to be one of the starters,” Sveum said Tuesday. “Right now, with the year he put up last year and the way he’s throwing the ball, I don’t see him not being in the rotation.” (Source: Chicago Cubs Report by Doug Padilla)

I do expect Maholm to bounce back record wise in 2012, but I can’t help but feel that the rest of his stats will take a step back. 8-10 wins with a 4+ ERA and 1.50 WHIP are reasonable expectations for him in conjunction with general expectations for this team.  If he can pitch any better than that, then I will believe the FA signing was a success.

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