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Game 23 – Cubs fall to three games below .500

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Cubs 3, Rockies 4

Box Score / Video Highlights

I’ve been watching this season with a sense of growing apprehension, particularly because of the Cubs starting rotation. Going into 2011 the Cubs looked to have one of the better starting staffs, at least one that was better than average. But the results so far have been slightly less than abysmal – going into this evening’s game the Cub starters sported a combined ERA of 5.81, last in the majors. Tonight Jeff Russell did nothing to improve that and the Cubs lost the game 4-3.

What went right:

  • The top of the order impressed once again – Castro and Barney are the new daily double. Don’t you love these guys? If Starlin can just shore up his defense the Cubs appear to be set up the middle for years to come.
  • Jeff Baker continues to impress: I’m surprised but he’s hitting both righties and lefties. This is really big because so far Carlos Pena appears to be a big bust – the Cubs first base version of Corey Patterson. Thank goodness he’s a rent-a-player.
  • The Cubs bullpen is hot – they’ve pitched over sixteen innings of scoreless baseball, at least when it comes to earned runs. Berg, Marshall, Woody and Grabow all had effective relief innings tonight.
  • Soriano homered which is always a good thing.

What went wrong:

  • Jeff Russell continues to be unimpressive as a starter – I’m finished with Russell after being patient, this guy doesn’t presently have what it takes to start at the Major League level. For example: Gopher balls thrown to Helton and Wigginton – these guys can hit, why did we throw pitches they could jump on? I can excuse Helton’s first home run but not the next two. Mike Quade has been patient – he’s the team manager. But my patience has run out – send this guy down now, not tomorrow.
  • The wind was blowing out tonight, why didn’t our hitters hit more line drives? Quade did the right thing and loaded up the order with right handed hitters but the hitters didn’t respond. If the Cubs want to be one of the two top teams in the division rank and file players have to produce – we have what we need in the one and two holes, what about three through eight?

So the Cubs go three games below .500 and look to avoid a sweep tomorrow. The game will be televised on CSN and begin at 1:20 CDT. The Cubs have now lost four out of five to the Rockies and I’ll be glad to see them leave town.

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

1st Star – Jorge De La Rosa (.257 WPA)

2nd Star – Todd Helton (.139 WPA)

3rd Star– Ty Wigginton (.139 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-1 (.750)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-3 (.400)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-3 (.000)

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Game 20 – Cubs Win a Wild One

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Cubs 10 – Dodgers 8

Box Score / Video Highlights

My thanks for Joe for letting me write about this one – I flew in yesterday from Austin, TX and was itching to get back into the baseball season.  This game had something for every Cubs fan – some timely hitting, a little life on the basepaths and some downright persistence by the Cubs – they didn’t give up.  Some highlights of the game and observations:

What went right:

  • Castro and Barney are both hotter than a pair of two dollar pistols:  Combined they were 7 out of 10 with 4 runs scored and 6 RBIs.  Will these guys one day become a Daily Double?  One can only dream.
  • Aggressive baserunning:  I liked how Quade initiated the double steal in the third; later on Castro got caught dead to rights on a steal but he put his head down and went into second.  Loney pitched the ball to second and Starlin was safe, I hope a few young ballplayers saw this play and the wisdom of just running the play out instead of giving up.  Amusingly Barney was caught in the same situation later in the game but made the wrong choice, he stopped dead in his tracks about fifteen feet from second.  Fortunately James Loney blocked Barney’s return to first and Darwin was rewarded with a free pass to second on the Dodger first baseman’s error.
  • Quade made a smart decision going with an all righty lineup against Teddy Baseball – the Cubs executed 11 hits during Lilly’s 5 1/3 innings.  Mike also made a smart substitution in the ninth putting Carlos Pena in as a defensive replacement – he made a fine play to get a throw from Darwin Barney who went deep in the hole to steal a base hit away from the Dodgers.
  • The Cubs showed us a “never quit, never give up” attitude.  Their tenacity was rewarded with a win.

What went wrong:

  • Keystone Cubs:  The North Siders have to shore up their defense.  The first defensive lapse was by Castro – he appeared to intentionally drop a ball to get a double play.  The umpire then enforced the rule book calling a dead ball foul which gave the Cubs one out instead of two.  Starlin will improve on defense, that much we know.  Soriano also flubbed a play in left and there was a question in my mind as to why Quade didn’t substitute for Soriano after Lilly was pulled.  The Dodgers don’t have any lefthanded relievers and Soriano had already struck out three times.  C’mon Mike, you’re a hands-on manager!  Later in the game Soto had a throwing error on a stolen base attempt – the runner moved on to third and scored after a weak relay throw by Castro to the plate on a subsequent play.
  • Dempster is still running out of gas in the fifth and sixth and Mike Quade needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  Were I the Cubs manager I would have Ryan on an extremely short leash in the fifth – Dempster let LA get right back into the game and one bad pitch by Marshall resulted in a two run Dodger lead.  Fortunately the Cubs’ offense fought back.

Thankfully the Cubs came back and salvaged the win in rather spectacular fashion, it was a great game to watch and the Cubs will play the Dodgers again tomorrow for a shot at a rubber game victory.  The game will be televised on TBS as well as CSN.

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

1st Star – Starlin Castro (.373 WPA)

2nd Star – Jeff Baker (.245 WPA)

3rd Star– Andre Ethier (.238 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 3-0 (1.00)

Joe 5-5 (.500)

Mark 2-2 (.500)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)


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Game 15 – No lead is safe in Coors Field

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Cubs 5 – Rockies 9

Box Score / Video Highlights

Tonight the Cubs gave it their all and fought back from a 4-1 deficit, only to give up the game in the eighth. It’s never fun to go to Coors in my estimation and the North Siders lost the series 2-1 after barely holding on last night.

What went right:

  • The Cubs played very scrappy baseball; after falling behind by three runs in the first they came back. So far this team shows a propensity to give their best even when they are behind, they don’t give up easily.
  • Both Castro and Barney continue to scald the ball at the top of the order, I think we’re on to something here. Continued strong play from these guys means that we could free up a roster spot currently owned by Baker or DeWitt and possibly get a righthanded 1B/OF backup to come off the bench.
  • Ramirez continues to impress me with his early season hitting, he looks like a totally different hitter this year. He’s hitting the ball where it’s pitched, laying off pitches he doesn’t like and hitting line drives to all fields.  A resurgent Ramirez and Soriano could put the Cubs into playoff contention this year.

What went wrong:

  • Another shaky outing by Dempster, he kept himself in the game but he’s been leaving too many balls out over the plate and that is never a real good idea in Coors, even during the “humidor era.” His problem today seemed to be hitting his spots and getting behind in counts.
  • Pena continues to have trouble with making contact. From what I’m seeing he’s flying open and not keeping his head down and right shoulder square. He’s also trying to pull everything and makes some judgement errors on what he swings at. Will Jaramillo make an impact with Carlos? I don’t think he will, he’s pretty set in his ways just like Corey Patterson was. He is what he is and that’s what you get.
  • Mateo blew up in the 8th giving up the winning run plus three more in the 8th.

So, the Cubs fall back to one game below .500 and come home to face the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies in a nine game homestand, tomorrow night’s game being televised on WCIU. Both Cashner and Wells are going to be examined tomorrow and this team is in need of some good news.

On this date in baseball history:

  • In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat a group of Cincinnati amateurs 24-5, it was the first ever fielding of a professional sports team. Later in the year the Red Stockings beat the Mansfield Independents 48-14, which was the first-ever baseball game between two professional teams.
  • Red Barber called his first game in Crosley Field in 1934.
  • In 1951 Mickey Mantle had his first major league at bat. Two years later on the very same date he hit what many consider to be the longest-ever homerun in baseball history, a 565 foot shot that left Griffith Stadium.
  • On this date in 1976 Mike Schmidt hit four consecutive homeruns, powering the Phils to an 18-16 win over the Cubs. Sadly I remember this game as well as another Phils win over the Cubs that had an even larger score. These factoids courtesy of as well as a couple of other sites.

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

1st Star – Seth Smith (.225 WPA)

2nd Star – Dexter Fowler (.222 WPA)

3rd Star– Jeff Samardzija (.176 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Buddy 2-0 (1.00)

Joe 4-3 (.571)

Mark 1-2 (.333)

Chet 0-1 (.000)

Brandon 0-2 (.000)

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Game 5 – Down Goes Cashner

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Cubs 6 – Diamondbacks 5
Box Score / Video Highlights

Today’s game was a real see-saw – fortunately the Cubs never gave up and held on to beat the Diamondbacks 6-5. My Three Stars for the game are as follows:

  • Third star: Willie Bloomquist for the D-Backs, he had 2 RBIs and he has been a pain in the rear on the basepaths so far this year;
  • Second star: Andrew Cashner, who threw five plus innings and gave up one run before being pulled due to shoulder soreness.
  • First star: Tyler Colvin, who hit a two run homer and got a third RBI later in the game on a walk.  Honorable mention goes to Marlon Byrd who went three out of four with one RBI.

Sean Marshall got the save and the Cubs used Samardzija, Mateo, Russell and Marshall so the pen could really use a quality start from Dempster in tomorrow’s game. Here are the game highlights:

  • Bottom 2nd: Barney singles to right-center with one out. Koyie Hill takes a walk. Cashner bunts both runners over, men on second and third two outs. Ball four to Fukudome, Miguel Montero doesn’t have his thinking cap on, tries to catch Koyie Hill napping at second. The throw bounds into center field and Barney scores from third. Men on first and third nobody out. Castro lines one into the gap between left and center, Hill walks in, Fukudome runs through a last minute stop sign from DeJesus only to be gunned down at the plate to end the inning. That was clearly on DeJesus, you can’t wave a guy in like that and then throw up the stop sign when he’s two feet from the bag with his head down.
  • Top 3rd: Cashner serves up a middle of the plate gopher ball to Ryan Roberts to lead off the third, 2-1 Cubs. This turned out to be Cashner’s only major mistake in the game.
  • Bottom 3rd: Marlon Byrd starts the inning off with a single. The first pitch after Bob Brenly mentions that one of the Cubs’ lefthanders is going to take Enright deep Tyler Colvin does just that, a two run homer that puts the Cubs up 4-1. Soriano follows with a single to left, Enright is pitching both right and lefthanders inside. Barney grounds into a double play to end the inning.
  • Top 6th: Cashner walks his first man, the trainer, pitching coach and Quade immediately come out to the mound. Cashner is immediately pulled with a possible injury to his pitching shoulder. Samardzija relieves Cashner. This is when I’m real happy about how things worked out with Silva. Preliminary report on Cashner is “tightness in his right shoulder;” Samardzija pitches out of the inning.
  • Top 7th: The Shark gets in trouble and walks two, Quade pulls him and brings in Mateo. Good move, both Dusty and Lou had too much of a tendency to let their pitchers get in trouble before calling to the pen. Mateo immediately walks his first batter loading the bases up with just one out. Base hit scores the man from third, bases still loaded with one out Cubs lead 4-2. Quade double-switches and brings both Jeff Baker and Jeff Russell into the game. Russell gets a big K against pinch-hitter Russell Branyan. Base hit by Bloomquist ties the game up 4-4.
  • Bottom 7th: Jeff Baker leads off with a single, Castro singles men on first and third with one out. Double by Byrd scores Baker, men on second and third one out Cubs lead 5-4. Paterson comes in to face Colvin and throws four straight balls, 6-4 Cubs. That is also Colvin’s 3rd RBI of the game.
  • Top 8th: Great job by Russell getting the game to Marshall, he froze his last batter ending a three up, three down inning of relief that was sorely needed!

Some final thoughts: Cashner looked good as a fifth starter, let’s hope the shoulder tenderness doesn’t develop into something worse. I’m always a bit wary about shoulder issues, compared to a Tommy John, it’s an inexact repair and oftentimes pitchers come back missing 5 mph on their fastball. Right now I have two friends rehabbing shoulder surgeries and I’m looking at the possibility of having to do one myself. Cashner will undergo a MRI on his pitching shoulder tomorrow.

Our catchers have both impressed me thusfar with their ability to block balls in the dirt, in fact the Cubs have not made the kind of bonehead plays in the field that had many shaking their heads in the pre-season.

Quade was real eager to get our key bullpen guys some time two nights ago, tonight it came back to haunt us as we had a lot of guys unavailable in the pen. It would have been nice to have had either Woody or Marmol available.

Tomorrow the Cubs go for the sweep.

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

1st Star – Marlon Byrd (.266 WPA)

2nd Star – Tyler Colvin (.169 WPA)

3rd Star – Andrew Cashner (.159 WPA)

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Game 3 – Marmol blows one

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Cubs 4 – Pirates 5
Box Score
/ Video

I love watching rubber games – if I weren’t a Cubs fan I’d consider being a Pirates fan. They’ve had some glory years, they play in a wonderful stadium in a city that used to be the pits but now it’s coming back. No longer a cesspool of air and water pollution Pittsburgh has turned it’s fortunes around (although nothing can be done about the weather or Steelers fans.) Durng the last few days I’ve gotten to see a young team that’s turning the page – if upper management keeps the rudder on the same course this team could compete in as short as three years, they’ve certainly got the nucleus of young players upon which to build. Some further thoughts regarding today’s game:

  • Speaking about young players how about this guy Tabata? He was not drafted by the Bucs but he shows every indication of being Nyjer Morgan’s replacement (minus the clubhouse problems.) The Pirates gave up on Morgan way too early and now the Nats have traded him despite being a major annoyance on the basepaths – this fella Tabata was acquired in a trade and he looks like the real deal. So far this year he’s hit .455 against the Cubs. We’ve also seen what McCutcheon and Neil Walker can do against the North Siders. Pedro Alvarez has also been a pest – I like this kid because he’s a former Commodore, he looks a lot like Aramis Ramirez did as a Nashville Sound in the Pirates system. Will we get him for a shoeshine and a smile when he becomes arbitration-eligible like we did with Aramis?
  • The fourth inning turned out to be great for the Cubs, in the fourth the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs. Ramirez has impressed me so far this season, he’s hitting the ball on the screws and soon those balls will tend to drop. I’m also glad to see that he’s hitting the ball to all fields, last year he seemed to be pulling too much. So who steps up to the plate and creams one? Carlos Pena! I love it when he clobbers the ball but I sure wish he could do that once or twice to left field. Tie game 2-2, men on second and third nobody out. Ramirez played it safe on the passed ball which is good because he would have been thrown out at home. Colvin walked, Garza gets called back to the dugout for some words. Is the squeeze on? I’d do it in a hearbeat, the guy’s an American Leaguer. But the Cubs didn’t do it and the inning ended with the bases juiced.
  • Fifth inning: Garza got in trouble and put men on second and third after allowing the go ahead run. Fortunately he was able to get out of the inning with minimal damage. 3-2 Pirates. Garza needs to be on a very short leash early this season, it’s way too early to worry about getting to the 7th or 8th. Matt now has 10 strikeouts in 5 innings pitched, a good start after a very mediocre spring training.  He finished the game with 12, a career high.
  • Soriano had a nice homerun to put the Cubs back in front in the 6th. Should we expect a 30 homerun season? I’ll be happy if he hits .290 with 20 homeruns and a bunch of doubles. Castro hit two triples today, the last one made me nervous because of the way he bent that right knee.
  • 8th inning: Kid K gets in trouble and Pena bungles a ball; this is how you lose games. So what happens? Colvin nails Jaramillo at the plate! Kerry Wood owes Colvin a dinner for that assist, it was right on the money on one bounce. Might I suggest steak and lobster at The Palm?
  • 9th inning:  Carlos Marmol melts down, something we probably won’t see a lot of this year.  A 4-3 lead turns into a 5-4 deficit and that’s how it ended.

So the Cubs lose two out of the first three and they lose to a team they’re supposed to beat.  With 159 games to go we’re still in the race.   That’s what I love about baseball – you don’t have to win most of ’em, you just need to win a lot of ’em. In this game if you win five out of nine games you play you’ve had a pretty good season, you might just even make the playoffs.

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

1st Star – Pedro Alvarez (.418 WPA)

2nd Star – Starlin Castro (.283 WPA)

3rd Star – Joel Hanrahan (.214 WPA)

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I’m gonna miss you Ronnie

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Today I went to the Chicago Tribune’s website and got punched in the stomach. Ron Santo had died – I then went immediately to View From the Bleachers and fortunately Joe had already posted an article.

As a kid I grew up in Clarendon Hills, IL – we moved there in 1968 when I was a fifth grader. Ron Santo became an immediate favorite – he was a vacuum cleaner at third and he, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert and Ernie Banks were probably the best defensive corps in the National League. They made so many unbelievable plays that you got used to them. And got spoiled by them too. Ronnie might have alienated other players when he clicked his heels twice after Cubs victories in Wrigley – something that might have cost him his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Some players felt that this was disrespectful but Ron was just showing his own jubilation in front of the fans that he loved. And they loved him too.

Years after he retired I began listening to him on WGN – he was not a “professional broadcaster” per se but he spoke to us who were long term Cubs fans. He felt what we felt and then some. We watched the Cubs for years and many of us would mute the TV coverage when road broadcasters were on so we could listen to our friends Pat Hughes and Ron. I would even hit the pause button on my DVR so that Pat and Ron would be “in sync” with the broadcast. Two classy guys and I hope that Pat and Mark Grace will be doing it next year! I’ll betcha if Ronnie could have picked his replacement it would have been Gracie!

I decided to break out “This Old Cub” tonight to celebrate this fine man’s life – I cried several times and, at age 53 it feels odd crying when a sports figure dies. But Ronnie was in my living room for many years – I celebrated with him, I commiserated with him and I shared with him as a fellow diabetic. Ron fought it his whole life – I look down at my feet and realize that soon I might have to have my toes amputated. Some of my organs don’t produce the chemicals they should and my body seems to reject many of the drugs I take after a while. So it’s an ongoing thing, I know how Ronnie felt in that respect.

His reaction to what was happening was to fight, he also made the best out of the cards he was dealt. He gives me inspiration, he was a good Cubs fan. I hope I will be one too.

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Management updates

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Earlier in the week Joe reported on an interesting interview that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had. In this interview Ricketts seemed to indicate a course change insofar as the direction of the team. Rather than continue the trend of higher and higher spending on team salaries, it appears that the Cubs will attempt to grow more of their own talent and augment their needs (less) in free agency.

I’m in favor of this new approach – recently we’ve seen the Cubs throw money at players and what to we have to show for it? The best ballplayers we got were good deals – Ted Lilly and Myron Byrd to name two. And look at the guys we shelled out big bucks for – Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva (translate Milton Bradley.) Have they contributed anything near what their salaries seemed to command? No way.

There comes a time when management has to wright the ship – the Cubs must get better bang for their buck when it comes to their development system. Every year the Twins field a competitive team and they don’t do it through free agency. Here in Nashville we have a hockey team that has made it to the playoffs every year since 2003 with one exception – they do it by watching their wallets and developing players. Why can’t the Cubs do that? They won’t have to trade eleven players to stay under the salary cap like the Blackhawks did, they just have to develop the talent. So I’m in favor of Tom Ricketts’ approach – if what you’re doing doesn’t work then try a different approach. So let’s give the new ownership a few years to straighten this team out.

In other news it appears that Eric Wedge is going to accept the Seattle Mariners’ job and Bobby Valentine is on the outs. Phil Rogers has speculated that the Cubs are holding out to see what Girardi will do, but Will Carroll predicted that Mike Quade would be named next week as the Cubs manager and that Ryne Sandberg will be promoted to bench coach (Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmeyer disputes this prediction.) It’s very likely that Sandberg is holding out for a managerial job, as well he should. But would it be in his best interests to take the Pittsburgh or Toronto job if offered in instead of an internal promotion inside the Cubs organization? Methinks not – managing the Pirates is as close to career suicide as one can get and I don’t like the Blue Jays’ chances in the same division as the the Yanks, Rays and Bosox. Ryno should heed the advice of Kenny Rogers (the singer, not the ballplayer:) You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. I like Ryno but it’s not his turn to manage the Cubs; hopefully he’ll play his cards right and sit next to Quade next year in Wrigley Field.

Update (Saturday 10/16:) It is being reported that Ryne Sandberg is being considered for the Toronto job.

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Morning Cup O’ Mark

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Many of you have seen Phil Rogers’ article which seems to indicate that Hendry has all but chosen Joe Girardi to be the next Cubs manager and is quietly playing a waiting game and holding all of the other candidates pending a Girardi right of refusal. How many of you out there think that’s what’s going on? I seriously doubt it – the only reason the Cubs are currently in Girardi’s plans are to use them to bid up his new contract with the Yankees (and the Steinbrenners will pay.) Anybody here think that Tom Ricketts will outbid the Yanks for Joe Girardi’s services? I doubt that’s the direction this team is going – if anything the Ricketts family will want lower salary costs and more bang for their buck. And who can blame them after this year…

I was also amused to see that former Cubs pitcher Rich Harden has been designated for assignment by the Rangers. Should the Cubs take a flyer on this guy? Given this year’s question marks in the rotation it might make sense. Harden was not a good buy after last year but he might be after this year. Were I the GM I’d give him a chance if the price was right.

In other news Bob Brenly is again being mentioned prominently with regard to the opening in Milwaukee. Brewers GM Doug Melvin denies that anything is imminent with respect to Brenly moving north but I think that this move makes sense for both Brenly and the Brew Crew. Milwaukee has not gotten as much out of their team as they should be getting and Brenly might be the best man to take them to the next level. But who would give up a sure fire $900K a year job for another chance at glory…as much as I’d hate to see it I think Brenly just might want another shot in the dugout and Milwaukee would be a good match. Recently Brenly withdrew his name from consideration insofar as the Cubs job was concerned, my opinion was that there wasn’t the right kind of mojo between Brenly and Cubs GM Jim Hendry. But things might be quite different with Doug Melvin and the Brew Crew has a solid nucleus to build around. It’s also driving distance from Chicago which might be advantageous to Bob. And who knows? He might be a perfect replacement for Bob Uecker when the day comes for that legend to retire.

Finally former Cub Davey Martinez indicated his interest in the upcoming Cubs’ managerial vacancy. Martinez has spent the last few years as a bench coach for Tampa Bay; there have been claims that Martinez left the Cubs years ago amidst some personal issues with Cubs’ Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Without going into details I think the chances are very low that the Cubs will ever renew their association with Davey and certainly not under Sandberg’s tutelage. If anything Ryno probably owes him a knuckle sandwich for his loyalty as a teammate. Stay in Florida Davey, that’s where you belong.

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2010 Cubs Report Card: Catchers

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Hello Cubs fans,

This off season we’re going to have a little fun and grade the Cubs organization on a position by position basis. I’ll start out with the catchers:

Overall grade: C+

When it comes to Cubs catchers one has to start with the major league team. Some teams have a prospect or two that seems to eclipse the players’ potentials on the big team but Geovany Soto (B+) is as good as it gets for the Cubs. Geo rebounded nicely after a very moribund sophomore year; he came to camp in great shape and finished his year 4th on the team with a .280 batting average; he had 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in just 105 games for the Cubs. His .890 OPS ranked second-best on the club. Geo was shut down because of a throwing shoulder injury and it will be interesting to see how this affects his ability to gun down runners in 2011 as he has traditionally had issues with this aspect of his job, throwing out just 25% of those who attempt to steal against him.

2010 27 105 387 47 90 19 0 17 53 0 1 62 83 .280 .393 .497 .890 132

Soto’s backup Koyie Hill (C-) did his normal credible job as Soto’s backup, from a defensive standpoint he shines and this is the only reason he’s a major league catcher because his ability at the plate is less than mediocre. I don’t see Hill coming back next year; rather it seems that I-Cub Wellington Castillo will take that job. The Cubs’ pitching staff is on pace to finish the season 10th in the league with a 4.20 ERA and they are 13th in the league with an opponent’s batting average of .256.

2010 31 77 231 18 46 13 1 1 17 1 0 12 61 .214 .254 .298 .552 45

Iowa: This year the I-Cubs largely went with a catching tandem of Wellington Castillo (B) and Chris Robinson (C-.) In 69 games Castillo put together a .255 13HR 59RBI line and compiled a very respectable .805 OPS. Castillo also had 7 errors, striking out in 24% of his at bats. He threw out 40% of the base runners thus far in his minor league career which is tied for the best percentage in the organization. I would not classify Castillo as a diamond in the rough but he could certainly be an opal. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and was a Futures game player in 2008 and a Southern League All Star that year as well. Chris Robinson was obtained by Detroit for Neifi Perez and has my respect if only because he played a part in liberating us from the Dusty and Neifi Show. He was a FSL All Star in 2006 and a PCL All Star in 2009, his numbers dropped somewhat in 2010 as he compiled a .248 2HR 26RBI line in 67 games played. Chris strikes out in just 15% of his at bats and only made 2 errors in 2010. However he is challenged when it comes to holding runners, throwing out only 23% of his base runners. Iowa pitchers had a combined ERA of 4.45 in the PCL (8th) and were 3rd in the league in WHIP at 1.37.

Tennessee: This year the Smokies were third in Team ERA (3.71) also third in WHIP (1.37.) The catching tandem of Robinson Chirinos (B) and Steve Clevenger (B) held them in good stead and helped catapult the Smokies to the Southern League playoffs. Chirinos is a converted middle infielder and was signed in 2000 as an undrafted free agent; he was a FSL All Star in 2009 and a Southern League All Star in 2010. His .318 15HR 64RBI line and .991 OPS in 77 games was nothing less than torrid and Robinson struck out in only 13% of his at bats. On the defensive side Chirinos made 7 errors but has thrown out 40% of opposing runners which ties him for first in the organization. Look for Robinson to promote to Iowa if he stays with the club. Steve Clevenger put together another solid year at the plate, hitting .317 5HR 47RBI in 88 games, putting up a nice .829 OPS. Steve strikes out in just 10% of his at bats, he committed 4 errors and has thrown out 29% of the guys who steal on him. Clevenger is also a converted middle infielder and was drafted in the 7th round of 2006. He is 23 years old and has been named a 2010 Southern League All Star.

Daytona: When one thinks of the Cubs A ball catchers the name that most often comes to mind is Michael Brenly (C+.) Michael was selected in the 26th round of 2008 and has promoted quickly within the Cubs minor league system. This year Brenly put together a .270 5HR 35RBI season in 102 games played; he struck out in just 15% of his at bats. He committed just 3 errors and has thrown out 29% of his base runners and was named a 2010 FSL All Star. I project Michael to be a solid backup catcher, a chip off the old block. His battery mate Mark Reed (C-) was drafted third by the Cubs in 2004 and has not progressed very quickly as a Cub prospect. Reed hit for a .245 2HR 20RBI line was mediocre at best, he strikes out a lot at 25% of his at bats. Defensively he committed 3 errors and has thrown out 30% of his base runners. I will be surprised if Reed is in a Cubs uniform next year and if he is I don’t see him promoting up. All told Daytona pitchers compiled a 3.54 ERA (6th) and they were fifth in the league with a 1.28 WHIP.

Peoria: This year the Chiefs played three prospects somewhat equally – Jonathan Mota (B,) Mario Mercedes (C-,) and Luis Flores (D+.) Mota hit for a .281 2HR 24 line with just one error, he struck out in just 13% of his at bats and has thrown out 38% of his runners. Mario Mercedes struck out in just 9% of his at bats and hit .261 0HR 20RBIs in 51 games. He threw out 33% of opposing base runners, both he and Mota were signed as undrafted free agents in 2003. Luis Flores was a 7th round selection in 2008 and hit just .216 while committing 4 errors. Peoria had the 7th-best ERA and WHIP in the Midwest League which ain’t saying much since there are only 8 teams.

Boise: If there’s a trend going on here it’s that the Cubs catchers become weaker and weaker as we go downward in the ranks. Both of the Hawks’ catchers had terrible years at the plate; Micah Gibbs (D-) was drafted in this year’s third round and put together an anemic .203 0HR 13RBI effort at Boise. His battery mate Jeff Vigurs (F) was drafted in this year’s 22nd round and if the Cubs had 22nd catchers that’s where I’d rank him. Hitting is not his forte and he hit .165 and only caught 25% of his base runners. The only thing these guys have going for them is that they are first year players; their performance this year calls for a good drunk and completion of college courses if that hasn’t already been done. After all, there are only so many Budweiser trucks to drive.

To conclude, the Cubs have a solid major league catcher in Soto and quality prospects in Castillo, Clevenger, Chirinos, Mota and Brenly. At this point the rest seem like run of the mill minor league guys who may or may not be back next year and likely won’t wear Cubs pinstripes in the foreseeable future.

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