Archive for the ‘General’ Category

5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know on October 3

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Game Notes

In Jake Arrieta’s last start before the wild card game, he led the Cubs to a 6-1 win to push the team total to 95 wins on the season. In the process he was able to continue his dominance and state his Cy Young case. The Cubs limited Arrieta to just 6 innings to make sure he’s fresh for next Wednesday, even though at that point in the game he was throwing a 2-hit shutout. The Cubs scoring was provided by an Anthony Rizzo home run, his 31st, hits from Tommy La Stella, Dexter Fowler, Starlin Castro and a single by Rizzo. The lone Brewer run was scored on a home run by Khris Davis in the 7th inning off of Trevor Cahill.

Arrieta’s Final Regular Season Stats

Now that Arrieta’s regular season for the record books is, well, in the books, let’s take a look at some of his numbers.

Arrieta finished with a 22-6 record on the season, the most of any pitcher in Major League Baseball this season, and the only other pitcher to hit 20 wins was Dallas Keuchel, the likely AL Cy Young winner. Arrieta’s earned a final ERA of 1.77, second best in the league behind Zak Greinke. Arrieta finished with 236 strikeouts, which is good for third in the NL. Over the second half of the season, Arrieta’s 0.76 ERA gives him the best second half ERA in the history of major league baseball. Keeping on the history topic, on August 30th, Arrieta threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers. It was the Cubs first since Carlos Zambrano in 2008. Even if Arrieta doesn’t win the Cy Young, he still produced one of the best pitching seasons in Cubs history, and it was a pleasure to witness it.

Wild Card Standings

As you know the Cubs won yesterday, but the Pirates also won in 12 innings over the Reds. With the Cubs still 2 games back, they will have to win both games and the Pirates will have to lose both games. Hope is not completely gone for the Wild Card game being held at Wrigley.

In the AL, there is one spot still up for grabs in the postseason. The Astros are in as of right now, but the Angels are just 1 game back and the Twins are still alive at 2 games back. It’s October baseball, anything can happen.

NL Central Dominance

With the Pirates and Cubs both winning yesterday, it can now be said that the NL Central boasts the 3 best records (well, with ties for now) in baseball for the regular season. If they can take the 3 best records without ties, it will be the first time ever that the 3 best records in baseball will be from teams in the same division.

What’s On Tap?


1954 - Dennis Eckersley is born

1981 - Matt Murton is born

2002 - The ax continues to drop as a total of six managers have been fired since the end of the regular season three days ago. Jerry Royster (Brewers) joins Bobby Valentine (Mets) and Jerry Narron, (Rangers) who were dismissed yesterday as well as Bruce Kimm (Cubs), Luis Pujols (Tigers) and Hal McRae (Devil Rays), who were let go earlier in the week.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know on October 2

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 5-3)

And with that, a sweep. Somehow this sweep feels insignificant, although there’s still the possibility of moving past the Pirates in the standings. If that happens, next Wednesday’s wild card game could be at Wrigley instead of PNC Park.

Jason Hammel took his start yesterday afternoon through 5 scoreless innings, which was somewhat encouraging, given his struggles in his last start on Saturday against the Pirates. All three of Cincinnati’s runs game against Fernando Rodney in the 7th inning, though none of them were earned runs (so don’t shoot flaming arrows at Rodney just yet). From there, Pedro Strop got his 27th hold of the season and Hector Rondon earned his 29th save.

Kris Bryant had the day off for rest, and Javier Baez played third base in his place and went 2 for 4 (but with 2 strikeouts). Kyle Schwarber played behind the plate for the first time since September 23. His last full game at catcher was on August 31.

Really, the star of the day was Austin Jackson, who hit a three run bomb in the third inning off of Reds starter John Lamb. Jackson is the hot hand right now, as the has had two very phenomenal games in a row.

2. Passing Pittsburgh?

I feel like we’ve been asking this question for a very, very long time, but as the last few opportunities to do so are here, the possibility of actually passing the Pirates in the standings is growing more and more slim. Currently, the Pirates are 2 games ahead of the Cubs going into the final series of the regular season. Basically, the hapless Reds would have to somehow sweep the Pirates and the Cubs need to do the same in Milwaukee this weekend.

The Cubs completing a sweep against the Brewers does seem like a real possibility (which would, by the way put them at 97 wins for the regular season. Just insane), but I have strong doubts that the Pirates will not do the same to the Reds. Cincinnati might be able to take one of this weekend’s games, but that obviously won’t be enough.

3. Wild Card viewing party shut down

Earlier this week, the possibility of Wrigley opening up for a massive one game playoff viewing party was floated, but yesterday the news broke that those plans had been scrapped.

Details are sparse, but the most clear reasoning for this that I found was this:

But Julian Green, Chicago Cubs Vice President of Communication and Community Affairs, said in a statement that the team decided against doing so.

He said the team would not be able to “successfully execute an exceptional guest experience while actively preparing for potential postseason play and home.”

Green said he was confident Cubs fans would find a great place to watch.

This just sounds like they expect to be having games at Wrigley in the NLDS, and they want to ensure that the field is ready for that. In the event that the Cubs won Wednesday’s game, they’d be starting the NLDS on Friday, October 9, but in St. Louis. The first NLDS game that would be at Wrigley wouldn’t happen until Monday, October 12.

4. Arrieta among top pitchers in Cubs history

If Jake Arrieta wins his last start of the regular season today, then he would finish with 22 wins, a mark that hasn’t been reached by a Cubs pitcher since Ferguson Jenkins in 1970 Just for fun, look at Jenkins’ 1971 season – 24 wins, 325 IP, 263 Ks (to give some perspective on how great Clayton Kershaw has been this year, he has 294 strikeouts in 229 innings this year). At 21 wins now, he’s the first Cubs pitcher since Hippo Vaughn in 1919.

If you’re curious, the Cubs all time leader for wins in a season is John Clarkson, who had 53 wins in 1885. He made 70 starts that year, back when it was common for teams to carry just two starters, and he threw 623 innings that season. This is delving into a different topic, though one that I have personal interest in, but Clarkson had a 12 year career in which he pitched over 4,500 innings. Granted, pitchers didn’t throw as hard as pitchers do today, but it leads me to wonder about the treatment of pitchers today and also about what impact throwing that many innings had on pitchers after those careers were over.

5. What’s on tap?

Tonight, the Cubs start their last series of the regular season in Milwaukee with the aforementioned Arrieta on the mound. Arrieta has not lost a decision since July 25 against the Phillies (remember that series, when we thought all was lost?) He has the opportunity to get his ERA below 1.80 tonight as well.

For the Brewers, Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.91) takes the hill. Pena made his major league debut on September 5 against the Reds and this will be his 6th start in the majors.



1932: The Yankees win their 12th consecutive World Series game and sweep the Fall Classic for the third time. At Wrigley Field, the Bronx Bombers bang out 19 hits as they club the Cubs, 13-6.

1940: The Sullivans become the first father and son to have played in a World Series when Billy Jr. is the Tigers backstop in Game 1 of the Fall Classic at Crosley Field. The Detroit catcher’s dad, Bill Sr., appeared in the postseason in 1906, playing the same position for the White Sox when he went 0-for-21 in the Hitless Wonders’ six-game triumph over the Cubs.

1952: Carl Erskine strikes out 14 Yankees in Game 3 to establish a new World Series mark. The Dodger hurler’s performance bests the record of A’s Howard Ehmke, who struck out 13 Cubs in Game 1 of 1929 Fall Classic.

2001:  Slugging Sammy Sosa becomes the first player in baseball history to slug 60 home runs in three seasons. The Cubs’ outfielder connects off Reds starter Lance Davis to reach the milestone.

2006: Chicago’s veep and GM Jim Hendry announces that the Cubs have declined to renew Dusty Baker‘s contract to return as the team’s manager. During his 4-year reign in the northside dugout, the 57-year old skipper compiled a 322-326 record, including a 66-96 NL worst record last season.

2012: In a matchup of 100-loss teams, only the second occurrence in major league history, the Astros (55-105) beat the Cubs (60-100) at Wrigley Field, 3-0. In 1962, the woeful 58-101 Chicago club played host to the expansion Mets, sporting a 39-118 record en route to setting the all-time modern era record for futility.


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GirlieView (10/01/2015)

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2015 Season = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.


  • Blame genetics or the deity of your choice.
  • The Castro hate is so tired and old.
  • History (and playoff format) says 50% of wild card teams go home after one game.
  • I don’t know any of them well enough to assess their lay ability, but I would give a nod toward Cindy Sandberg.
  • Question about Hendricks for those of you smarter than me – What the heck is wrong with him?
  • I think you meant to say: “What the Sam Heck?”
  • Mr. Heck told me never to use his first name…
  • Did I mention I know a kid named Sam Heck?
  • Actually, his name is Sam Hell, but they made him change it to Heck because of the “rules of the blog”
  • We have the talent out there, but there is an old expression about chains and weakest links…and there is not a better example of that in sports than a bullpen.
  • It has been a solid 7 years since September baseball was so important.
  • Before we get to the five things, I wanted to take a minute and thank everyone for reading this blog. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and we don’t do enough to say thank you. I could try to come up with something witty and try for a Lizzie, but instead I truly want to say thank you.
  • Lester picked a guy off and actually threw to first! If nothing else good happened in this game, that was epic.
  • So, what’s the strategy? Arietta, Lester and pray for rain?
  • I might not be opposed to the idea of a “bullpen game” in between starts from Lester and Arrieta in a playoff series.
  • Doc and Len Kasper are now forever linked in my mind.
  • Playing conventionally has not exactly reaped great rewards for the past century or so.
  • Where is our morning fix? That afternoon quickie has worn off already.
  • I have more trust in Travis Wood than Hammel, Hendricks or Haren at this point.
  • The sweet mystery of youth – swing for the fences when a base hit will do…
  • For any of you who want to see Castro get traded, Castro’s AB’s are much better than Soler’s and Baez, the rookies still have to learn patience and pitch recognition. Down and away slider and they are done.
  • People complain Lester doesn’t get much run support when he pitches – that’s because he can’t hit and neither can Ross. It’s hard to score runs when you have two automatic outs in the lineup.
  • “Ross has picked off 4 base runners this year, that can be very helpful in post season play.” Blah blah, so can getting hits be helpful.
  • I’d leave Soler off, too. He hasn’t learned situational hitting and in the playoffs brains matter.
  • The question thus becomes “would you rather play 1 game against the Pirates and a best-of-five against the Cardinals or 1 game against the Cardinals and a best-of-five against the Pirates?”
  • Just the thought of the Cubs eliminating the Cardinals in post season play whether it be the wild card game or divisional series gives me the goose bumps.
  • I like the idea of keeping both Baez and Castro, and running out all of the bats with Bryant in RF.
  • back in 08 while broadcasting the Cubs Dojers playoff series they kept hoping for Michael Jordan to appear in some form or fashion so they could talk about someone they actually know.
  • The part of me that I’m less proud of is already bracing myself for the inevitable excuses that will come from some members of the Cardinals fanbase when they falter in the playoffs, which I expect that they will.
  • The perfect hitter’s response – anticipating what the pitcher might do, and just trying to make solid contact. He’s not trying to end the game – he’s trying to hit the ball hard…get on base, maybe shoot a gap…
  • I wonder where we’d be if Dale Sveum or Ricky Renteria were still managing the Cubs?
  • Watching preseason hockey.
  • I think there were 5 fans left in the stadium after the rain delay.


  • just focus on enjoying the fact that we’re in, and few of us expected to be.

Shout Outs

  • Big shout out to Kac for his first 2015 Season Lizzie!!!! Thanks for being here!


  • Congratulations to Doc Raker, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go Doc!

Top 10 of the 2015 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie von White
2. Doc Raker
3. Seymour Butts
4. jswanson
5. Joe Aiello
6. Sherm
7. Doug S.
8. Jedi
9. Dork
9. Jared Wyllys
10. Bryan

Chit Chat

  • Construct your Wild Card Playoff Game lineup!
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5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know On October 1

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Game Notes

The Cubs took care of business again last night against Cincinnati, this time winning 10-3. Jon Lester produced a quality start in his last appearance of the regular season. Lester went 8 innings allowing 3 hits and 1 earned run, along with 9 strikeouts and 0 walks. The offensive stars of the game were Austin Jackson and Starlin Castro. Jackson hit 2 doubles and collected 5 RBI’s. Castro went 4-5 and hit his 11th home run of the season. Castro also made an amazing diving stop, which earned some applause even from the opposing players. The win brought the Cubs to 93 wins on the season and kept them within 2 ½ games behind Pittsburgh.

Playoff Update

The Cardinals and Pirates split yesterday’s double-header, which caused the top of the NL Central to stay relatively the same as the day before. Elsewhere in baseball, the Astros reclaimed their spot in the second wild card over the Angels. Since the NL playoff spots are basically already locked, the AL playoff race is a little more interesting. If the season ended today, the Astros and Yankees would play in the wild card game at Yankee Stadium, the Blue Jays would face the winner, and the Royals and Rangers would play in the other division series.

Random Stats To Make Us Happy

With 4 games left in the season, Kris Bryant is 10th in all of major league baseball in WAR, even above Anthony Rizzo. Now that is how you show your worth. Also Addison Russell is 8 in the National League in pitches per at-bat. That is a stat that you love to see from a young player who can be so mentored.

Rizzo Honored With Award

Rizzo was honored with the Heart and Hustle award. He is well known for his charity work and of course the passion he plays baseball with. Rizzo spend a lot of time and money on cancer research. Needless to say, he is most definitely deserving of such a great award.

What’s On Tap

Today is the last game of the series against Cincinnati before ending the season in Milwuakee. Jason Hammel is slated to start tomorrow against John Lamb of the Reds. A win would be great to continue putting pressure on Pittsburgh for that first wild card spot. Don’t forget, the Cubs own the tiebreaker with the Pirates.

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5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know on September 30

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015


If I would have known there would be an Aroldis Chapman appearance going into last night’s game, my assumption would have been that the Cubs lost. Instead, Chicago defeated Cincinnati 4-1 after a lengthy two and a half hour rain delay.

This game turned out to be settled in the first frame. The Cubs jumped ahead to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first behind RBIs from Tommy La Stella, Miguel Montero, and Javier Baez. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to see. Dan Haren started for the Cubs and twirled his best game since joining the team at the trade deadline, going 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, and striking out six.

Kyle Schwarber and Montero each had two hits. Carl Edwards Jr. made a rare appearance out of the Chicago bullpen and looked sharp (1 IP, 0 H, 1 SO) given the lack of action the rookie has seen since coming up in September. Cincinatti’s Chapman threw a scoreless ninth inning, as the fireball throwing closer hasn’t seen much action during the Reds’ current ten game losing streak.


Luckily, Joe Maddon has been here before. Next week won’t be the 61-year-old skipper’s first time in a do or die wild-card battle, as his Rays defeated the Indians in 2013 to advance to the ALDS against Boston.

Maddon has reached the playoffs four of the past seven seasons, and similarly to those occasions, he will need to make some crucial decisions regarding his roster. Perhaps the strongest concern is the starting pitching: who follows Arrieta and Lester in October?

Since you asked, here’s what I’d do. Assuming Joe drops the No. 5 slot, he’d have two spots to fill behind our top guns–that’s where it gets interesting. Myself, I’m going with young Kyle Hendricks and my wild-card candidate (no pun intended) Trevor Cahill to fill the vacant slots. Hendricks has had the hotter hand (12 IP, 3 ER in last two starts) as of late, and I think the thought of carrying momentum into the postseason is appealing. Cahill may be a stretch, but his performance since joining the team can’t be understated. The burly 27-year-old is sporting a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings with the team. Also, don’t forget his brilliant performance in St. Louis on Sept. 19 where he dazzled in 3 1/3 innings of scoreless work. As for Hammel, I’d insert him into a long-reliever role in the bullpen and possibly turn to him if Hendricks shows signs of struggle early in his outing.

But, I’ll leave this one to Joe. That’s why he makes the big bucks, right?


Last night, Anthony Rizzo joined Don Baylor as the only players in baseball history to be hit by a pitch 30 times and hit 30 home runs in a single season. Rizzo, known for crowding the plate, reached the peculiar feat in the top of the first inning when Cincinatti starter Josh Smith plunked him with a pitch. Rizzo also has 30 long balls on the season, three shy of his career high. To say the least, this is an exclusive club, and maybe (just maybe) it is worth the bruises that must be up and down his tall frame.


Let’s face it: Dan Haren didn’t turn out like we hoped. Cubs brass thought the addition would bring the rotation a reliable veteran arm, but the 35-year-old has certainly been underwhelming, posting a 5.00 ERA in nine starts with the club. Last night was probably Haren’s last appearance with the Cubs, and possibly the last of his 13-year career. I can’t remember a time Haren has been in the media for negative reasons and he seems like a down to earth, genuine guy. His career’s glory days were definitely during his time in Oakland and Arizona, earning a spot on the All-Star team three times. So, Mr. Haren, you went out on a high note. Congratulations on a solid career.


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5 Things for Cubs Fans to Know on September 29

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 1-0)

In their last home game of the season (a makeup from a Saturday game in May that was rained out), the Cubs went 11 scoreless innings with the Royals until Chris Denorfia launched a solo shot to left on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the 11th.

Starter Kyle Hendricks made his best case for being a useful and reliable piece of the playoff rotation last night, throwing 6 scoreless innings and only giving up 2 hits against a very potent Kansas City lineup. He also struck out 9 Royals batters in those 6 innings.

Our bullpen went on to put together 5 scoreless innings, 2 of which came from Trevor Cahill, who struck out 3 himself. Cahill’s stock seems to be rising of late (heck, in my eyes at least), as he has allowed just 3 runs since joining the Cubs. After his first start of the season, he had an ERA of 15.43 (while still with the Braves), and he brought that down to 7.52 during his time with them. As a member of the Cubs, he has gone from that number to 5.40 as of last night. So when he makes his next relief appearance and your meatball friend makes a remark about his ERA, give them a smack in the back of the head and direct them to his Baseball Reference Game Logs page, so they can see the progress for themselves.

2. Cardinals – 3 @ Pirates – 0

I have to be honest and say that I spent more time watching this game last night than I did the Cubs. During the game, the Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty suffered a pretty bad head injury, the extent of which was unclear while I was writing this, but I do know that he was taken to the hospital with a head contusion. I’m not linking the video of the collision because it’s hard to watch, to be honest. He was able to wave as he was being carted off of the field, so the hope is that the injury is not too severe:

He’s an exciting player and I wish him well. I truly hate to see a guy get hurt like that, and especially at this point in the season. The part of me that I’m less proud of is already bracing myself for the inevitable excuses that will come from some members of the Cardinals fanbase when they falter in the playoffs, which I expect that they will.

3. Bryant at first?

I suspect that this is just Joe Maddon tinkering with his defensive options, but Kris Bryant got the start at first base last night, a position he hasn’t played since his college days. Last night was kind of a “throwaway” game, coming on the heels of clinching over the weekend and facing an American League opponent. Not that I think that our manager or players go into a game not looking to win it, but this is the kind of game in which Maddon can experiment a little.

Having this kind of defensive flexibility can prove very, very useful come playoff time, or it might even just have been a way to keep Bryant in the lineup while giving Anthony Rizzo the night off.

Bryant also spent time in both CF and RF last night before moving to 3B.

4. Cubs opening Wrigley for one game playoff?

As things stand right now, the Cubs will be headed to Pittsburgh for the one game playoff next Wednesday, so many Cubs fans around Chicagoland will be looking for a good place to watch the game. It’s possible that they may be able to head to Wrigley Field to do that:

And, if you live near Des Moines, Iowa, you could head to Principal Park to possibly see the game there:

Right now, the event is not being pitched as a place to watch the game, but the timing of it along with the fact that they have a new videoboard just seems a little too perfect for this opportunity.

5. What’s on tap?

The Cubs are in Cincinnati for 3 games now after their one game makeup last night. The Reds have been out of the race for a while, sitting 30 games below .500 and likely looking forward to this season’s end so they can look ahead to 2016. Though these games mean almost nothing for the Cubs at this point, I would still like to see them get to 95 wins overall, which would be exactly 10 more than I expected that they would coming into the season.

Tonight the Cubs will send Dan Haren (2-2, 5.00) to the mound against Josh Smith (0-2, 7.23). Let’s hope our offense comes out firing and provides Haren with a lot of insurance.


1935: Augie Galan, who makes a league-leading 748 plate appearances while playing the full 154-game schedule, ends the season without hitting into a double play. The Cubs center fielder did line into a eleventh-inning triple play in the team’s 3-2 loss to the Reds in April at Wrigley Field.

1945: Paul Gillespie becomes the first of only two players in baseball history ever to hit home runs in their first and last big league at bats. The wartime Cubs reserve catcher went deep against the Giants at the Polo Grounds on September 11, 1942 and ends his career homering at the spacious Forbes Fields, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

1986:Mike and Greg Maddux become the first siblings to start a game against one another. In the rookie match-up, Cubs’ righty Greg beats his older brother and the Phillies in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, 6-3.

1987: Don Mattingly sets a major league record by hitting his sixth grand slam of the season, surpassing the mark shared by Ernie Banks (1955 Cubs) and Jim Gentile (1961 Orioles). Remarkably, the Yankees first baseman will not hit any other round-trippers with the bases juiced during his entire 14-year career.

2001: Astros’ starter Dave Mlicki gives up homers on three consecutive pitches to Fred McGriff, Rondell White and Todd Hundley. The back-to-back-to-back homers, which come in the first inning with two outs, enable the Cubs to beat Houston at Wrigley Field, 6-2.

2002: On the last day of the season, the Braves use 24 players with the Mets using 21 to tie the major league record for the most players employed in a nine-inning game. The Expos and the Cubs also combined to use 45 players on September 5, 1978.


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5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know on September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Ace Arrieta

Sunday’s 4-0 shutout win against the vaunted Pirates came, once again, in a Jake Arrieta start. In 7 innings, the Ace threw dominant 1-hit baseball against a formidable Pirates offense, losing his perfect game bid in the seventh inning. He did so against AJ Burnett, too, who is having a comeback season in his final season. The offense was not underwhelming, but was not overwhelming, either. Starlin Castro, who has been undergoing a personal and professional renaissance it seems since his relegation to utility second baseman/shortstop in favor of the prodigal Addison Russell, more than provided. He went a solid 2 for 4, with a double and 2 RBIs. However, Jake could not stand to see any sort of spotlight taken from him, it seemed – he hit a solo homerun in the second inning off of the aforementioned Burnett, adding more luster to his already shining performance on the mound. The game belonged to Jake Arrieta, as has become the custom whenever he finds himself on the mound.

Final Regular Week

This week marks the final time any Cub fan has to refer to any forthcoming games as “regular” – as in, “regular season.” Going into this final stretch, the Cubs floundered somewhat against the Pirates this weekend, but were then graced with the ultimate silver lining: a playoff clinching. With a make-up game against the Royals, followed by series against bitter division rivals in the Reds and Brewers, the following week looks to be anything but a walk in the (ball)park. However, Joe Maddon has said he will not be changing anything about the normal, day-to-day routine – as has been his routine throughout the season – which bodes well for the health of the players and coaches.

Rizzo – Award-Winner

Anthony Rizzo was named the Cubs’ 2015 Hustle & Heart winner, which, according to, is an award that is “handed out annual by the Major League Baseball Players Association to a player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball, and best embodies the values, spirit, and tradition of the game.” In this breakout year for the young and restless Cub team, it has been Anthony Rizzo who has provided a young, rare brand of leadership so seldom seen throughout major professional sports. At 26, he is one of the more valued veterans of the team, able to provide motivation and perspective to the younger players experiencing what he did three short years ago. Without his constant presence, the Cubs would look vastly different as a team, and would certainly not be in the favorable position they find themselves in as the, at the very least, second Wild Card team.

Playoff Scenarios

To shamelessly play the redundant “IF the regular season ended today…” game, all one must do is look at the most current standings. As I write this, the Cubs sit a total of 7.5 games back of the Cardinals for the division lead – a deficit that looks insurmountable – and 4.5 games behind the Pirates. This latter deficit is one that, while seemingly insurmountable, is not one that can be completely ruled out as one to make up in the final week. As the Pirates enter final series with the Cardinals and Reds in the final week, absolutely anything can happen, as divisional games possess a sort of unpredictability not seen in other, non-divisional series. If the Cubs are able to beat the Royals – who have found themselves struggling in the final stretch run of the season – and follow that up with series wins against both the Reds and Brewers, they could find themselves in the very thick of the race for the first Wild Card spot. However, this scenario requires the Cardinals to beat the Pirates, or vice versa, in a sweep; each team would then have to lose the following series also. Again, while this is seemingly unlikely, there is an element of unpredictability as all three of the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs only have series against divisional opponents. It makes the final week all the more exciting, especially with the Cubs having already been assured a playoff spot. In the words of Bane, Batman’s archenemy/the Cardinals’ supervillain personification: “Let the games begin!”

What’s on Tap?

The Cubs will play the Royals for the final regular season game at Wrigley today as a make-up game. Kyle Hendricks (7-7, 4.23 ERA) will aim to settle in early against the young, hard-throwing Yordano Ventura (12-8, 4.40 ERA).

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5 Things for Cubs Fans to Know on September 27

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs lose, 4-0)

This is a weird spot to be in, because yesterday’s loss doesn’t really mean much, and may actually work in the Cubs’ favor somehow. I am inclined to actually root for the Pirates in this afternoon’s series finale because that will bring them a little bit closer to passing the Cardinals in the NL Central standings. This would change who the Cubs play in the one game playoff, of course, and would likely pair them up against Pittsburgh in the NLDS, should it come to that.

I was at yesterday’s game with my son, and had forgotten what the atmosphere there can feel like it late September when the Cubs are a playoff team. That said, they were essentially dominated by Francisco Liriano. In any other context, I would have loved to have been able to see him do what he did in person, but against the Cubs on a very beautiful Saturday afternoon, it was a bit of a damper. Our pitcher, on the other hand, just didn’t have it. Jason Hammel looked pretty good through the first four innings, forcing several groundouts and pitching very efficiently. In the fifth inning, however, he looked like a different pitcher. Half a dozen straight hits forced him out of that inning without having earned an out and having given up 3 runs.

Kris Bryant had a nice day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Outside of that, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler were the only other Cubs to reach base via a hit. Russell also had 2 walks.

2. Cubs have clinched

We know this, of course, but it casts a different light over this final week of the regular season. Do we root for the Cubs to somehow pass the Pirates, even though those odds are increasingly slim? Do we root for the Pirates to keep winning and change the landscape of the NL playoffs?

Whatever does happen, with one game left against Pittsburgh and then three against the Reds and the Brewers on the road (not to mention a one game makeup at Wrigley tomorrow against the Royals), the Cubs should be able to cruise relatively easily into the postseason while collecting probably somewhere around 92 or 93 wins on the year (and probably 9 or 10 more than I thought they’d have in 2015).

In all, just focus on enjoying the fact that we’re in, and few of us expected to be.

3. About that rotation

I mentioned in it this post, but the question of the playoff rotation still lingers after Hammel’s performance yesterday. I’m kind of with Joe on this one:

The idea of a bullpen start is more and more appealing, and I have faith in guys like Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard (who looked pretty good yesterday) to put together a decent start.

4. Tides turning on Starlin?

This is strictly speculative, but after being in the stands yesterday and hearing Starlin Castro applauded when he was announced as the starter and each time he came to the plate, I’m wondering if the sentiment surrounding this player has shifted again. Since being benched, he’s returned as a role player who plays like a star. This is almost a week old, but no less interesting:

Even opposing beat writers are finding things to like about him:

Ultimately, the question of what to do with our middle infield is one that is unclear. The biggest need the Cubs might have going into 2016 and that will hopefully be addressed during the winter is the lack of reliable starting pitching after Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. I will safely go on record as guaranteeing that Addison Russell is not traded this offseason, so that leaves Castro or Javier Baez. And really, I feel like I change my mind every day with who I’d rather trade between those two, if I had to. Not that I think they must trade either of those guys, but as a piece in a deal that brings a quality SP back, they are probably the surest bet.

5. What’s on tap?

Today is the series finale against the Pirates, and the last time the Cubs will see them this regular season before a possible one game playoff showdown.

For the Pirates, they’ll send A.J. Burnett (9-5, 3.15) to the mound. Burnett has not looked good in his last 6 starts, giving up 25 earned runs in 32 innings. He has not gone 6 innings in a start since July 20 against the Royals. Burnett missed the month of August and has made three starts since returning. He’s gone, 5, 5.1, and 5.2 innings respectively in those starts, but it should be noted that, even when pitching poorly otherwise, he still strikes people out at a high rate.

The Cubs will send Arrieta (20-6, 1.88), and as I said a couple of days ago, I think we see his 21st win here. The pitching matchup is favorable, and he has just been so dominant lately. His workload has been high lately, which concerns me a bit, so my hope is that the Cubs can put a lot of runs on the board early so Joe Maddon feels comfortable turning it over to the bullpen relatively early.


1930: In a 13-8 victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field, Hack Wilson hits two home runs, establishing a new National League mark for homers. The Cub outfielder’s total of 56 for the season will stand until Mark McGwire breaks the record in 1998.

1935: With their 21st consecutive win, the Cubs clinch the National League pennant. Chicago beats the Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader sweep to punch their ticket to the World Series.

1942: On the last day of the regular season, the Cardinals clinch the National League pennant as sore-armed hurler Ernie White throws a five-hit complete-game, beating the Cubs in the first game of a twin bill, 9-2. The Redbirds also win the night cap to finish the season with 11 victories in their final 12 games.

1967: Ferguson Jenkins posts the first of his six 20-game win seasons when the Cubs beat the Reds at Crosley Field, 4-1. The Canadian right-hander will lead the American League with 25 victories after Chicago deals the future Hall of Famer to the Rangers in 1974.

1993: In a 7-3 victory over the Dodgers, Cubs’ reliever Randy Myers becomes the first National League pitcher to record 50 saves in a season.

1998: Padres’ reliever Trevor Hoffman ties the National League saves record as he gets three straight outs in a 3-2 victory over Arizona. His 53rd save (out of 54 chances) matches the standard set by current teammate Randy Myers, who did it for the Cubs in 1993.

2002: In his first full season as closer, John Smoltz, preserving a Braves’ 3-1 victory over the Mets, converts his 54th save of the season to establish a new National League mark. Randy Myers (Cubs -1993) and Trevor Hoffman (Padres – 1998) had previously shared the record.

2003: Cubs’ slugger Sammy Sosa blasts his 40th home run to establish a National League record by reaching the plateau for the sixth consecutive season. The Chicago right fielder, who had previously been tied with Ralph Kiner and Duke Snider, needs another season of at least 40 homers to equal Babe Ruth‘s major league mark of seven seasons set from 1926 to 1932.



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Yesterday’s News: No passing the Pirates this weekend, playoff rotations?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

No passing Pittsburgh just yet

Curse those Rockies. We needed them to win yesterday in order to give the Cubs a chance to pass the Pirates in the standings during the weekend (although not losing to the Brewers on Wednesday night would also have helped…), and now it looks as though even if the Cubs can sweep the Pirates in the next three games, they still won’t be able to pass them in the standings until sometime into next week.

And it’s not as if next week is a “gimme,” either. The Cubs have a makeup game with the Royals on Monday the 28th, and then a 3 game series in Cincinnati starting next Tuesday. All this before a final regular season series in Milwaukee next weekend.

Nonetheless, though a sweep is probably unlikely (sorry all, I’m going to Saturday’s game and my track record isn’t so good. Also, I’ll be in section 240 if anyone else is going – come say hi), I would like to see the Cubs pass the Pirates soon and use the upcoming week as an opportunity to secure their lead over them. Hosting that wild card game is much, much more appealing than heading to Pittsburgh.

Speaking of the Pirates…

This weekend is going to be a fun one, no matter what happens. The Cubs host the Pirates, and while everything else is going on surrounding the playoff race, I do want to note as an aside that Aramis Ramirez will likely be making his last appearance at Wrigley, as he is possibly looking to wrap up his career:

I, for one, will be grateful for what Ramirez did here in Chicago, and he will always be a favorite of mine. But that aside, I want the Cubs to destroy his new team this weekend. Here are the pitching matchups.

This afternoon:

Gerrit Cole (17-8, 2.64) vs. Jon Lester (10-11, 3.46)

This is going to be an interesting game to follow. I suspect whichever team can manage to get to the bullpen sooner is going to come out on top in this one (as is almost always the case in games like this). To be frank, I trust the Pirates bullpen more than I trust ours, so I am hopeful that Lester can give us 7 or 8 innings today.


Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.41) vs. Jason Hammel (9-6, 3.79)

Obviously favors the Pirates here. Hammel hasn’t been terrible, but the second half of the season has been more bad than good, largely due to injury problems. Unless our offense can really pour it on, I fear we may lose this one.


A.J. Burnett (9-5, 3.15) vs. Jake Arrieta (20-6, 1.88)

I’m really hoping this is Arrieta’s 21st win. The way he’s pitched in the last 7 weeks or so, I’m convinced that he can beat anyone, so I am actually pretty confident about Sunday’s game.

Playoff rotation?

This question is arising more and more frequently as the Cubs and their fans are feeling increasingly confident in the likelihood that they will survive the wild card play-in game and advance to an NLDS against the Cardinals. Though I work hard not to get ahead of myself when it comes to things like this, the question is still being asked as to what kind of rotation we might see from the Cubs in a division series. Fox Sports tweeted a speculation about this last night, addressing what would be the potential rotations for both the Cubs and Pirates:

When I look at this possibility, I have to say that I much prefer Kyle Hendricks over Dan Haren (I mean, well duh), but I am also at the point where I think I question even the use of Hammel in a playoff game. The chance to have Lester go twice in the NLDS if needed is encouraging, but I am tempted to think that instead of Hammel, the Cubs might be better served to use a “bullpen start” and have Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill combine for the first 6 innings or so. I trust them both to do about as well, and possibly better, than Hammel at this point.

Maybe I am being overly harsh on Hammel, but his last truly good start came back on July 3, when he threw 7 scoreless innings against the Marlins. He’s had a couple of decent starts since then, but nothing, in my opinion, to merit entrusting a high stakes game in his hands.


1930: With four games remaining in the campaign, Cubs skipper Joe McCarthy (442-331) ‘resigns’ and is replaced by Rogers Hornsby, who was recently named by owner William Wrigley Jr. as Chicago’s player-manager for next year. McCarthy, who was not offered a contract for the upcoming season with his team still mathematically alive in the pennant race, will agree in October to manage New York, where he will win seven World Series in his 15 seasons with the Yankees.

1966: For the first time in the five-year history of the franchise, the Mets will not end their season in last place. The Amazins, who will finish ahead of the Cubs, clinched ninth place by beating Cincinnati at Crosley Field, 8-4.

1997: Eleven years to the day that the club won their last title, the Astros clinch their NL Central Division by beating the Cubs, 9-1. Houston manages to capture the flag despite being only five games over .500.

1997: NBC’s hit TV show “ER” airs live and includes the Cubs telecast in the background of various scenes to authenticate its claim of not being pre-recorded. The medical drama cuts to the game just as Brad Ausmus hits a three-run homer, much to the delight of the Astros’ catcher, who is taping his favorite program to watch later, not knowing he would be part of the cast.

1998: With a 6-1 win over the Devil Rays, the Bronx Bombers set an American League record with their 112th win. The 1906 Cubs, who went 116-36, are the only team with more victories than the 1998 Yankees.

1998: By hitting a 462-foot blast at the Astrodome, Sammy Sosa hits #66 (and his final homer of the season) to take the lead in the HR race. Less than an hour later, however, Mark McGwire also hits his 66th in the Cardinals’ 6-5 victory over the Expos to tie the Cub outfielder in the historic home run race.

2003: Sammy Sosa becomes the first National Leaguer to have at least 100-RBIs nine seasons in a row. The Cubs’ right fielder surpasses Mel Ott and Willie Mays, who had accomplished the feat eight straight seasons, and joins Rafael Palmeiro and Jimmie Foxx as the only players in major league history to hit 35 home runs and 100 RBI for nine consecutive seasons.


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