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A Look Towards The Weekend

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

As we approach the all-star break and the Cubs sit one game below .500, I cannot help but feel pretty good about where the team stands. Seriously, despite how things look in the win/loss columns, the fact of the matter is that the Cubs are in a pretty good position to enter the break within striking distance of Milwaukee. A series win versus Milwaukee and a successful road trip versus two teams that the Cubs should beat up on, could result in the Cubs being 45-42. Hopefully within 5 games of the Brewers come July 10th. Mark my words. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself.

All of this week’s excitement has been great, but now the real build up starts. Don’t get me wrong, the last seven days have been a wild ride for the Cubs and their fans. The Sox sweep was a much needed confidence boost, and the “The Comeback” was a terrific momentum builder. While the Cubs fought their way back into that game, I think we know that we all owe a large “Domo Arigato” to Kaz Matsui. Yet in the grand scheme of things, it is the upcoming weekend that now looks bigger than ever. So let’s take a little peek ahead.

The probable pitchers look to be:
Friday: Yovani Gallardo, RHP (1-0, 2.70) vs. Rich Hill, LHP (5-5, 3.13)
Saturday: Ben Sheets, RHP (9-3, 3.09) vs. Sean Marshall, LHP (4-2, 2.44)
Sunday: Dave Bush (6-6, 5.06) vs. Jason Marquis, RHP (5-4, 3.46)

The Cubs are 5-4 versus the Brewers this year, 4-2 in Milwaukee and 1-2 at home. Overall we have outscored them 51-41.

The importance of this weekends games cannot be overstated. After this series, the oppurtunities to take head-to-head games versus the Brewers comes down to one more 3 game set in late August. There may not be a better time for the Cubs to be hot. Yet the Brewers are pretty warm themselves. They come in off of a sweep of Houston and winning 13 of their last 15. Buckle up folks, this should be a great series to watch.

Back to the Brewers pitching. While the Cubs have enjoyed a reasonable amount of success against Dave Bush and Ben Sheets this year, and in the past, they have never seen Gallardo. Gallardo is billed as a “rookie phenom”, and games versus new pitchers are always tough. I visited a few different baseball sites to try and get the book on Gallardo. I pooled and condensed what I read, and here it is.

Gallardo was called up June 14 to replace Cris Capuano after Capuano went on the 15 day DL. Gallardo was drafted by the Brewers out of high school and has enjoyed a fast rise through High A and AA thanks to a combined 188 Ks last season. This year Gallardo has been having a pretty good year, already amassing 110 Ks in 77 2/3 for AAA Nashville. Gallardo supposedly has 3 very good pitches. A mid 90′s fastball, high 80′s slider, and a very good curveball that has been called the best in all of AAA baseball. He also has a developing change up but supposedly lives on steady use of his fastball and curve. Scouts say that he is very mature in his approach and uses all of his pitches to set up hitters. They also say that he uses drastic changes in speed and various arm slots to keep hitters off balance. His first major league start was a win versus SF, although his numbers were a little less than phenomenal. In 6 1/3 he gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 4. He was charged with 3 earned runs and gave up 1 solo HR. Gallardo’s second outing was a little more impressive. In 7 innings of work versus the Royals, Gallardo gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 8. He gave up one earned run. The jury is still out on whether to call him a power pitcher or a finesse guy. Apparently he has the ability to us both approaches. A lot of sites did mention the fact that he is a fly ball pitcher and can be beat up with the long ball.

Looking over the Brewers last month of games, it is obvious that the name of the game for them is run support. Their pitching gives up plenty of runs, but their powerful hitting usually compensates. So really the key to this series has to be the Cubs pitching. The starters continue to do a pretty good job, but the Cubs bullpen is a mess and the Rockies series showed just how vulnerable ANY lead can be going into the late innings. That will have to change for the Cubs to have any success against the Brew Crew. I guess we will find out tomorrow if this day off has helped the bullpen get some rest. If the Cubs hot hitting continues. If Jacques Jones remains a Cub. Most importantly, if “Big Mo” is still hanging around Wrigley. I can hardly wait!

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Very Interesting

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I added my personal comments about Soriano to the Mastrick’s recap from last nights game. Now this from the Sun Times. Which made me want to revisit a topic.

Earlier in the Spring a few of us discussed the lineup and whether Soriano should hit leadoff. I don’t profess to have all of the answers but my personal opinion then was “no”, and it hasn’t changed a lot. I never necessarily thought that Soriano couldn’t do it, I simply thought that maybe someone else might be able to do it better. Along with the fact that Alfonso would/could be more effective in an RBI producing capacity. At the time, I really thought that the only current player capable of taking that spot was Theriot. Not rocket science or some sort of revelation, simply logic. Although, I have to admit that I really thought it would take a trade or new player to move Soriano. Not an injury.

So now we get to see what can happen over the next couple of games. Last night, Theriot did his part. If only Soriano had done his part and gotten a few hits, he could have picked up some RBIs and made me look really smart. Obviously one game doesn’t truly answer any questions about the long term. Naturally, with the way the Cubs have played this season, Theriot will go 0-fer tonight and Soriano will light it up. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s been that kind of Spring. Regardless, I like that Lou is trying out different combinations and not letting the players personal feelings dictate his strategic decisions. I’m sure he respects Soriano and what he brings to the team, but I get more of the “Shut up and play” feel from uncle Lou…and I like it. I guess now we’ll find out if Soriano gets his undies twisted over this.

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Aye Dios Mio!

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Far be it from me to kick a man while he’s down, but I couldn’t help it. I often turn to sarcasm and humor when I am angered to delirium. Like I was yesterday. Like I am today. I was having some crazy thoughts, and I mean C-R-A-Z-Y thoughts…I’ll share a few.

Does anyone remember the movie where those two idiotic overzealous sports fans kidnap the greedy basketball star for not living up to his abilities? I think it had Damon Wayans, as the basketball star. Anyway, I not only had visions of doing the same thing to Carlos Zambrano, I actually have a plan. After we hit him with the tranquilizer darts, we drag him off to some undisclosed location where we make him read anger management pamphlets and watch constant replays of his 2004-06 starts. We feed him nothing but the healthiest of food, make him run 3 miles a day, AND lift some weights. We don’t let him go until he can throw a simulated game with a 75%-25% strike to ball ratio AND he has to be able to strike out 3 minor leaguers…IN A ROW. Who’s with me!?!? Why do I hear crickets?

I also thought that we could probably use this lady’s help right about now. That, or we could start a new version of an old game. Better yet, we can all print a few of these out and put our phone numbers on them. Then hang them up around your neighborhood. You never know there might even be a reward!

Just thoughts. Here’s to hoping praying for another good weekend series.

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Game 30 – So close, yet so far away

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007


May 8th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 R H E
Pittsburgh 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 14 1
Chicago 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 14 3
W -  J. Bayliss (3-2)   L - N. Cotts (0-1)  S – S. Torres (10)
Homeruns: None

Box Score

Ted “Tough Luck” Lilly goes 7.0 innings, with 2 earned runs on 7 hits.
While he didn’t take a loss, he should’ve gotten the win.

Well, for anyone who watched the game, there is not a lot that needs to be said. A good weekend versus the Nats was a confidence boost, but I’m afraid it was merely a mirage to anyone who thinks that the Cubs have turned “the corner”. The Cubs had chance after chance to win the game last night and they simply gave it away. Poor play and poor decision making gave the Pirates all the help they needed. The only credible thing, was the accountability after the game. Two guys who stunk up the joint took credit, or blame, however you’d like to look at it.

Derek Lee stated it simply enough, “I was just bad tonight.” For a guy who is so good, most of the time, I think he’s entitled to a bad night every now and again.

Jacque Jones also stated, “I didn’t execute a couple of times out there, that probably cost us” In fairness, he wasn’t alone. The 3-4-5 positons in the lineup were a combined 2-19 and stranded 10 baserunners.

Okay, I’m normally a little more positive, so I’ll make note of two other guys who were bright spots. Ryan Theriot continues to be a gamer. Not a stud, by any means, but a guy who is always in the game and conributing. Despite his late baserunning mistake, his RBIs and defense kept the Cubs in the game. He tried to get rallies started and kept getting stranded.

Ted Lilly for whatever reason has become the new Matt Clement of the Cubs. A guy who goes out and does his job well, but gets so little offensive support that it sort of gets lost in the shuffle of his losses.

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NL Central: Bad division or really competitive?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

This question has been plaguing me all pre-season. Now, we are fifteen games in and it has begun to bug me even more. Maybe because the entire division hovers around .500 and stand within a few games of one another. Maybe it’s just because I’m cranky.

From the moment that professional sportswriters started writing about the 2007 major league baseball season, there has been a very common theme. Anyone can win the NL Central this season. Because the teams are so closely matched? No! Mostly because nearly everyone in the baseball world seems to think that the division, as a whole, stinks. Check around. Go back and read the season previews. According to the sporting world, the NL Central is a horse race of mediocrity. Up for grabs, mostly because there isn’t a team good enough to take it. Almost every analyst and expert picks a different order of finish for the NL Central. The fans seem to think the same things too. Check blogs, message boards, and public forums on any sports site, including this one. You’ll find that the whole baseball world seems to agree. The NL Central is BAD!

Well, I disagree. I prefer to think of the NL Central as competitive.

As a Cubs fan, I guess I kind of have to think of the division as highly competitive. It does make the reality of not making the post season for the last four years a little easier to deal with. Personally, it makes me feel a little better to consider your division tough rather than just bad. Don’t get me wrong. The Cubs have been bad, and unlucky in recent years. However, its hard not to think that the division draws a certain measure of respectability due to the fact that the NL Central has been represented in the last five consecutive NLCSs. In two of those NLCSs the NL Central had TWO teams playing. Not to mention the fact that in both of those cases, and the last three years in a row, the NL Central has been in the World Series. So I can’t help but wonder how it is so easy for sportswriters and most of the rest of the free world to write off the NL Central as a whole.

Sure it looks bad on paper. When you factor in, the fact that last year all but two NL teams had winning records versus the Central division. Also, that the Cardinals 83 win-first place record, would have placed them in 3rd place (or worst) in every other division in baseball. On paper, that looks bad no matter how you write it.

So, If you’ll pardon an old cliché: Its a damn good thing they play games on grass and not on paper.

The fact of the matter is this. In the last five years, teams from the NL Central compete for the wild card and beyond. They sometimes even win!

I don’t defend the Cardinals often, but I heard a lot of sour grapes this past winter about how bad they were last season. How lucky they were. It went on and on. The plain truth was, they won it all. Eighty-three measly wins to take 1st place in a crap division. Yet they took on the best teams in baseball during the post-season, and won. The NL Central isn’t bad. The teams within it just spend a lot of time and energy beating the tar out of each other. At least that’s what I choose to believe.

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Your 2007 Chicago Cubs

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

With the last of the cuts made yesterday, the 25 man roster is set. Enough talk about Prior and Wood. Let’s talk about this years Cubs as they stand right now.

Lou Piniella announced his opening day lineup for Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. Alfonso Soriano, Matt Murton, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Jacque Jones, Michael Barrett, Mark DeRosa, Cesar Izturis and Zambrano.

About a month or so ago, I remember reading some article that questioned why the Cubs would want Soriano’s numbers at the top of the lineup. At a glance, it seems to make some sense. He doesn’t fit the stereotypical lead-off hitter role. His numbers point to maybe a 3-spot hitter. Regardless, I like to have information as ammunition for arguments. So I went out and Googled the Internet for some research. What I found is that this is a pretty fervent argument, all over the web. Published columnists, bloggers, and every day Joes in public message forums all have something to say. There are a ton of differing opinions about the Cubs lineup! Most specifically at the top of the order. So I was curious to see what all of you think. Should Soriano be leading off? Some hard core stats guys say he shouldn’t. Too many strike outs and too many solo home runs. Others say that your best player should get the most at bats per game. That’s why he is where he is. Some simulators show that the the Nationals may have lost out on something like 25-40 runs last year because of Soriano hitting lead-off rather than a more RBI producing position in the lineup. There are numbers to support both sides of the argument. To me, it really is interesting to see all of the different viewpoints. So my question is: If these 2007 Cubs truly were your Cubs, how would they line up for you come Monday?

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Today and Tomorrow

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Today:
I am not a huge numbers guy, but I do find some of the modern statistical analysis to be mind blowing. Here’s an interesting item that I stumbled across today. Enjoy!

Tomorrow:
A wrap up of my weekend in Cubs camp. It took me this long to get over my hangover and return my brain and liver to normal function. Sorry.

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The First Cut Is The Deepest

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Well, here we are on March 13th, 2007 and the Cubs have made the first round of cuts to the Spring Training roster. Nothing too shocking for those who were cut, but a pleasant surprise to see that Felix Pie is forcing the Cubs to give him a little further consideration. My lone bold prediction that comes from all of this is that I think that Jeff Samardzija will make a fairly fast rise through the farm system. Uncle Lou gave the kid a nickname already and everyone, from the top down, seems to love him. Everything that I have heard this Spring has said that his being cut is a pure matter of baseball semantics. His stay in Daytona will be short. His time in Tennessee will probably be determined more by what the Cubs big league staff is doing in late Summer rather than whether or not he has the talent to be in Iowa by the end of the year.

On a different note, this posting on mlbtraderumors.com is reporting that the Cubs are “looking to deal”. While I don’t find this web site to be incredibly reliable in it’s rumor mongering, it is good for a laugh every now and again. They have caught on to what most of the Cubbie nation already knows: The Cubs probably want to make one more impact move this season. Supposedly the Cubs scouted a game between Atlanta and Toronto. So now everyone is trying to predict what the Cubs are looking for from either of those two teams. They invited their readers to make their thoughts known in the comments section. Needless to say, it makes for some INTERESTING reading. Some are informed opinions, and some are really ‘out there’. I only posted it, because I’d love to hear what some of our regulars have to say about the multitude of possibilities put forth. Not to mention the fact that I have been dying to see what my caricature head looks like!

ADD ON:
If you really need a laugh read this posting. Posted yesterday on that same site. Not only does it not make any sense, but it’s downright dumb.

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Developing Story

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Good Friday morning to you VFTB fans.

Who wants to have a little fun today? First, a little required reading?. Then we debate. Go!

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