Archive for the ‘General’ Category

5 Things a Cub Fans Needs to Know on Aug 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

So…..About Last Night

CUBS 5 @ PIRATES 7 – In the abbreviated series finale with the Pirates, the Cubs messed up the chance for a mini-sweep by playing minor league baseball. Lots of things went wrong in this one, but the most frustrating ones to me were the defense, particularly the left side of the infield, which looked like a comedy of errors. Only one shows on the box score, but our infield didn’t look it’s best last night, Throw in Dan Haren making his debut for the Cubs as a waiter and serving up filet of long ball and you’ve got a recipe for a frustrating night.

On the plus side, Kyle Schwaber continued to do Schwaber things, hitting a two run bomb to bring the Cubs within one run that was so loud it produced on solo shot echo off the bat of Anthony Rizzo just a minute later to tie it.

At that point, I felt good and felt like this could be a nice night after all, then the bullpen happened. Travis Wood came in and couldn’t get anyone out, which caused Joe Maddon to go to Pedro Strop an inning earlier than he probably would have wanted to. By the time the 6th was done, the Pirates had the lead again. Jason Motte came in to pitch a nice 7th inning, but for some reason Joe brought him out in the 8th. Motte is not a two inning pitcher at this point, not because he doesn’t have the physical ability to do it, but because he relies too heavily on his straight as an arrow fastball and more than one inning gives hitters too good of a look at the velocity and movement on it. He’s almost turning into ROOGY, which is not a valuable piece of a bullpen.

Tough loss last night, but we split with the Pirates. No ground lost, but no ground gained.

Soriano On the Shelf and Richard Back

Prior to the game, the Cubs made a roster move to place Rafael Soriano on the 15 day DL with a shoulder issue and re-sign Clayton Richard, who was designated for assignment on Monday after pitching Sunday. Richard cleared waivers, but refused the minor league assignment so he was granted his release but quickly re-signed with the Cubs when the Soriano injury went down.

At times, the roster moves and technical jargon can be a little confusing. Here is a good article AZ Phil put out this week about it.

I don’t see Richard sticking in the pen as a reliever. There is no need for both him and Wood to be in that pen. We could be headed for a Brian Schlitter sighting very soon.

Baxter Stays

Mike Baxter was designated for assignment, but cleared waivers and accepted a minor league assignment. It’s good to see he will stay with the team. Depth is good.

Down on the Farm

  • Javier Baez – 0 for 5 with 2 K’s and an Error (not what you want to hear, I know)
  • Tommy LaStella – On rehab assignment in AA went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored

What’s On Tap?


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1930 – During the Waco Cubs’ 18-run eighth inning eruption at Katy Park, Gene Rye hits three home runs in one inning. The Texas League outfielder’s round trippers in the minor league game include a solo shot, a two-run homer and a grand slam.

1972 – The second game of the Midland Cubs and Amarillo Giants minor league doubleheader is postponed when thousands of grasshoppers begin appearing everywhere at Christensen Stadium. The massive clusters of insects, who swarmed from their nests behind the center field wall after the ballpark’s light were turned on, made play impossible when infielders couldn’t see their outfielders through the hordes of fluttering invaders.

1988 – Goose Gossage becomes the second player in major league history to record 300 career saves when he faces one batter and gets the final out in the Cubs’ 7-4 victory over Philadelphia at Wrigley Field. The future Hall of Fame right-handed reliever joins Rollie Fingers, who reached the milestone in 1982.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for August 5

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 5-0)

This marks 6 wins in a row, and quite a turnaround after the rough stretch that included a sweep at home against the Phillies. Jake Arrieta, who has a win in 6 of his last 7 starts, pitched excellently once again, going 7 full innings with 5 strikeouts and only giving up 2 hits. His opposite on the mound, newly acquired Pirates pitcher J.A. Happ, was not so fortunate, not making it out of the 4th inning before giving up 4 runs. He did get 6 Cubs to strike out, to his credit. Tommy Hunter pitched another scoreless inning in the 8th, and then Justin Grimm came in for the 9th and pitched a scoreless inning as well in a non save situation. In all, there can be no complaints about the performance of our pitchers.

At the plate, every starter got a hit except lead off man Dexter Fowler, who went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts. Chris Denorfia and Anthony Rizzo both particularly had great nights at the plate, going 3 for 6 and 4 for 5, respectively. The biggest surprise at the plate might have been Starlin Castro, however. He was 2 for 5 last night with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and a run scored. I hate to get my hopes up this late in the season, but if he can even start to hit slightly better than what he has been, this is a huge gain on offense.

Tonight we will see the debut of Dan Haren as a Cub as he takes on lefty Jeff Locke.

2. What if Castro is heating up?

This is probably the Castro apologist in me getting way, way ahead of myself, but he has been having such an uncharacteristically bad season that I have often wondered if he wasn’t due for a rebound. I don’t expect him to bring his numbers back to what he usually does, but he has pretty much been in a steady drop since the middle of May. What’s interesting is if you look at his numbers for the months of April and at least the beginning of May, he was hitting like he usually does, but somewhere around the second week of May everything started to drop, and it has not really stopped since then, leading to what could end up being a career worst season, far worse than 2013 was (.245/.284/.347). I’m not sure what led to this drop, but given Castro’s level of major league experience, it is possible that before this season ends, he might figure it out. Perhaps it’s been the pressure of having Addison Russell there and some Baez guy in the minors threatening his standing as the team’s shortstop, maybe it was the fears of being traded, maybe it was the impending birth of his second child. The point is, these guys are human, and things get in the way of them doing as well as they should. I’ve been ready to say that maybe Castro should be benched, but if he starts trending in the other direction, I like what this means for our offense. Most of all, let’s not draw conclusions based on last night’s game, but he looked better enough at the plate to at least garner some more attention.

3. A check on the standings

I found it refreshing to be watching on WGN last night and seeing scores of the Giants and Cardinals games. It’s been too long since we’ve been in a hunt like this. The 6 game winning streak has taken us from being 2.5 games behind in the race for the second wild card spot (on July 28), to a half game ahead of the Giants for that spot. The brutal reality for the 2015 Cubs is that we are in easily the toughest division in baseball right now. Both the Cardinals and Pirates would be leading nearly every other division in baseball pretty easily, and the Cubs would be leading the NL East. Going into tonight’s action, the Cubs are 3 games behind the Pirates, and my hope is that we can chop another win off of that total before returning to Chicago to play the Giants. Enjoy this ride, because these wild card spots will not likely be settled until very near the end of the season.

4. Rotation shift/Montero rehab

After the rain postponed Monday’s game, Jon Lester will now pitch on Friday against the Giants instead, and the rest of the rotation shifts a bit to accommodate this. Kyle Hendricks will have his start pushed back by a day and start on Saturday, and then Arrieta will go on normal rest on Sunday.

Miguel Montero, who has struggled some during his minor league rehab work, is still expected to make his return this weekend at some point. Montero has just 1 hit in 7 at bats while with AA Tennessee. He struck out 3 times on Monday night, and the Smokies did not have him in their lineup last night.

5. Down on the farm

At this point, I feel like I would be remiss not to mention Javier Baez in some way. Many of us are preoccupied with wondering when he will return to the Cubs since starting the season out of spring straining with AAA Iowa, and the picture is not really any more clear at this point. Meanwhile, he just keeps hitting. Last night, he hit homerun number 11 of the season, and did not strike out in 5 at bats. Keep a close eye here, because the offense he can potentially offer the Cubs will be too hard to keep in the minors as the last weeks of the season approach. He’ll be up with the 40 man roster expansion regardless, I would have to think, but I fully expect that he’ll be back before then.

Another rehabber, Tommy La Stella (who will only complicate the middle infield logjam further) looks close to being ready to return to the majors after recovering from an injury that has kept him out since early April. In his 6 rehab games with AA Tennessee, he is hitting .333 and without a single strikeout in 22 plate appearances. La Stella may be back pretty soon, but the trick will be finding chances for him in the lineup. If Castro stays cold, the easy solution would be to give La Stella starts at 2B and shift Russell to SS, but that’s assuming Baez stays in Iowa for a while longer.



THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1975: At Veterans Stadium, Cubs starter Bill Bonham gives up a major league record of 7 hits to the first seven Phillies he faces. Without retiring a batter, the former UCLA hurler is replaced by Ken Crosby, who promptly gives up a single to Johnny Oates.

1985: Darryl Strawberry belts three home runs, helping the Mets beat the Cubs, 7-2. The victory propels New York into first place in the National League East.

2000: Sammy Sosa becomes the first Cubs’ player to reach 100 RBIs six consecutive times. Hack Wilson did it for five straight seasons from 1926-30.

2007: At Wrigley Field, Tom Glavine, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, becomes the 23rd player in major league history to win his 300th victory. The crafty southpaw, the fifth lefty to reach the milestone, limits the Cubs to six hits and a walk in 6.1 innings as the Mets bang out 16 hits and beat Chicago in a nationally televised ESPN Sunday night game, 8-3.

2012: Darwin Barney becomes the Cubs’ all-time leader for second basemen when he plays in his 91st consecutive game in a single season without committing an error. The 26 year-old Chicago infielder, en route to setting the National League mark with a 127 straight errorless-game streak, surpasses Ryne Sandberg‘s team record that the Hall of Famer established in 1989.

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5 Things A Cub Fan Needs to Know on Aug 4th

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Rain Rain, Go Away

I settled down last night after a very long day and was excited to be able to watch the first game of a big wild card week only to be greeted by a deathly long rain delay that finally resulted in the game being postponed. Major buzzkill. A quick check of the radar tonight shows that we should be just fine for baseball. No makeup date for last night’s game has been announced, but I would guess it will be Mid-September, which is the next time the Cubs come to Pittsburgh.

Hail Szczur

Before the game yesterday, the Cubs made a roster move to recall Matt Szczur from AAA Iowa and designate Clayton Richard for assignment. For Richard, we knew he was up for one start and would then be designated, but you have to imagine it still stings a little for him. There were some that thought perhaps that Javier Baez might get the call up instead of Szczur, especially with Kris Bryant leaving the game on Sunday early after sliding into 2nd, but Bryant was just fine and Szczur gets the call to come off the bench in the OF.

Mr. Rowen, We Hardly Knew You

Ben Rowen, the submarine reliever that the Cubs claimed off the scrap heap a little while back and recalled to the Majors recently only to designate him for assignment, was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. Since you never were able to see him pitch, I took to You Tube to give you that opportunity.

Down On the Farm

Our farmhand of note from yesterday is once again Baez, who went 3-for-6 with a double, a triple, and three RBI. It was great to see the location of those extra base hits as well. The double was down the right field line and the triple was down the left field line. Spraying to all fields is a nice touch. Baez is really close to coming up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s during the series with San Francisco. I’m not sure where he’ll play, but if he can hit, Joe has to consider sitting Starlin Castro or at least platooning him and moving Addison Russell to SS. No more fooling around. We have a legit playoff shot and we need to take it.

What’s On Tap?


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1948 – Ernie Harwell, filling in for Red Barber, who is recovering from a bleeding ulcer, calls his first major league game as the Dodgers beat the Cubs at Ebbets Field, 5-4. To obtain the future Hall of Fame broadcaster, Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey trades minor league catcher Cliff Daper to the Atlanta Crackers.

1955 – At Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Ernie Banks hits three home runs as the Cubs out slug the Pirates, 11-10. The Windy City’s first baseman goes deep off three different Buc hurlers.

1982 – After driving in the winning run in the Mets’ 7-4 victory over the Cubs, Joel Youngblood, who is traded to the Expos during the game, flies to Philadelphia and singles for Montreal to become the first player to have a hit for two different teams on the same day in different cities. The 30 year-old All-Star collects his two historic hits off two future Hall of Famers, a single off Ferguson Jenkins in Chicago and gets his other knock off Steve Carlton in the City of Brotherly Love.

2000 – Joining Dave Kingman, Frank Huelsman, Willis Hudlin, Paul Lehner, Wes Covington, Ted Gray and Mike Kilkenny, Dave Martinez ties a major league record as he appears for his fourth team in a season. In the past four months the veteran outfielder/first baseman has played for the Devil Rays, Cubs, Rangers and now the Blue Jays.

2008 – At the start of the rain delay during the Astros and Cubs game at Wrigley Field, fans are advised to take cover in the concourse due to a tornado warning being issued by the National Weather Service for downtown Chicago. The game resumes in 2 hours, 45 minutes, but approximately an hour later more thunder and lightning and another 39-minute stoppage cause the contest to be called in the bottom of the eighth, with Houston credited with a 2-0 rain-shortened victory.

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Looking Back at Week 15 of MLB

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

The Mets do very Mets things but still come out on top, the Blue Jays go all in with their deadline moves and the Cubs are getting hot ahead of some big upcoming series. Kyle Schwarber is here to stay, so let’s recap:

Big Names Move at Deadline 

The Trade Deadline passed on Friday the 31st, marking the end of teams making trades without the waiver wire being used. The Blue Jays and Royals made the biggest splashes leading up to the deadline. Toronto acquired superstar stop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies, and traded for Tigers’ ace David Price soon after. The late July change of scenery is the second in back-to-back years for David Price, as he was shipped from Tampa Bay to Detroit last season. Price is a free agent following this season, and will have a price tag that is expected to only be feasible for a handful of teams. Alex Anthopolous is going all in on this season, with his Jays 6 games out of first in the American League East. Kansas City has a slightly bigger window, though they chose to trade for Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto and Oakland’s super utility man Ben Zobrist. The Royals have an 8 game lead in the AL Central, and have the second highest win total in baseball (62), trailing only the Saint Louis Cardinals (67).  Another big deadline move had Cole Hamels going to Texas in return for several prospects, one of which was catcher Jorge Alfaro.

Schwarber to Remain with Big League Cubs

Cubs’ fans have been wondering since his most recent call up just how long Kyle Schwarber will stay with the Major League club. Reports surfaced on Saturday that once catcher Miguel Montero returns from injury, Schwarber is to remain with the team. Schwarber was called up to take over catching duties while Montero was on the shelf with a sprained thumb. Schwarber has been brilliant in his two Major League stints this season, after being drafted just last year. He is currently sporting a .338 average, with four home runs and 13 runs batted in. The question now becomes where he will play, as the team will likely not be inclined to move Montero out from behind the plate. The most likely destination would seem to be left field, where Chris Coghlan is currently stationed.

Mets’ Deals Fall Through, Still End Up With Cespedes

The Mets had one can only be described as a hellacious 24 hours earlier this week, as trades and leads fell apart in spectacular fashion. On Wednesday, Carlos Gomez to the Mets story broke, only to be called off due to medical issues. Wilmer Flores was supposed to be part of the deal, and learned about the trade during the game. Flores began to cry on the field, presumably due to his leaving New York (he may have been really excited to leave). Ironically enough, in Friday’s contest against the Washington National’s, Flores hit a walk-off home run. A Jay Bruce for Zach Wheeler trade was reportedly on the brink, but that didn’t happen either. The Mets’ eventually acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers just before the deadline on Friday, sending Michael Fulmer Luis Cessa in return.

Correa a Rising Star

Carlos Correa in his first 184 Major League at bats has blasted twelve home runs and has 32 runs batted in, already positioning himself among rookie leaders in numerous offensive categories. Saturday, Correa had his first career multi-homer day, which game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Correa’s 12 big flies in 46 games surpass George Springer’s mark of 10 in the same stretch last season, Chandler Rome of MLB.com writes. Meanwhile, Matt Duffy leads all rookies in hits with 99, and Joc Pederson is maintaining his home run lead, with 21. Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant left Sunday’s game after being injured sliding into second base. There is no word yet on the severity of his injury, though he has been key in the team’s recent stretch.

Cubs Win Five Straight 

Chicago has had an enjoyable week to say the least, winners of five straight and six of seven. The recent four game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers takes some of the sting out of the sweep suffered against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, despite not doing an overwhelming amount in the Wild Card ace. The deadline passed without the team making much of a splash, with the exception of adding veteran pitcher Dan Haren. Haren’s first start was a success, allowing one run over six innings in Milwaukee. Conflicting reports emerged about the availability of Starlin Castro. Some media outlets reported the Cubs’ telling Castro he was not a trade candidate, while other sources, such as NBCSports, claiming that Castro was being aggressively shopped. Whatever the case may be, Castro is not going anywhere for now. In the coming week, the Cubs face off against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and then return home for a series with the Giants. If the Cubs can keep this hot streak going, they have the opportunity to make a huge push in the Wild Card chase.


MVP of the Week: Lucas Duda blasted seven home runs this week, and had two multi-homer games. The Mets’ first baseman is sporting a .246 average with 20 home runs after his most recent stretch.

Cy Young of the Week: Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw eight scoreless innings on Saturday, stretching his scoreless streak to 37 innings.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 4-3)

This was one of those wins where it feels a little bit like you got away with something. Against a better team, we would surely have seen the bottom of the 9th inning go much, much differently. Thankfully, the Cubs were able to stop a 3 run lead that had turned into a 1 run lead in that half inning from going any further. Yesterday’s win caps off a 4 game sweep of the Brewers and sees the Cubs with a 5 game winning streak going into a very important week of games (more on that later).

In yesterday’s game, Clayton Richard was recalled from AAA Iowa to get the start and he did exactly what you would hope for a pitcher like him to do in that sort of a situation: He threw 6 complete innings and gave up just 1 run, putting the game in a very winnable position as the bullpen took over in the 7th. At that point, the Cubs were already up 4-1, so things should have been a breeze. They were, up until Hector Rondon‘s 9th inning. James Russell and Pedro Strop had both pitched scoreless innings (and Strop had 2 strikeouts), but Rondon was not able to keep the 9th inning scoreless. To be fair to Rondon, a Starlin Castro error proved to be nearly devastating to the game’s outcome, but thankfully Rondon was able to get the last out before the damage got any worse.

At the plate, Addison Russell hit his 7th homerun of the season in the 2nd inning, and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant contributed an RBI as well. Our starting pitcher even chipped in an RBI double himself. Otherwise, Jorge Soler went 1 for 4 with a run scored, and he has had at least 1 hit in 7 of his last 9 games.

2. Bryant Leaves Early

After a scary headfirst slide in the 5th inning that left him feeling dizzy, Bryant left yesterday’s game early and underwent concussion protocols. He said he was feeling better after the game, but this could make his status unclear for a very important stretch of games coming up this week. The 7 day concussion DL is an option if there is concern that it is serious at all, but this would be a very unfortunate stretch of games to lose Bryant’s bat on offense even though the month of July was not kind to him at all. If he did go to the DL for 7 days or more, it could mean more time for Jonathan Herrera at third, or even a call up of someone like Mike Olt or Christian Villanueva. The other possibility might be a callup for Javier Ba…no, I won’t say it.

3. Wild Card Week

At least that’s what I’ve decided to call this stretch of games coming over the next 7 days that starts tonight. They’ll have 3 games on the road against the Pirates followed by what could be the most important series of the regular season with 4 games at home against the Giants. Depending on how this goes, the 3 game series at home against the Brewers could be a good opportunity for the Cubs to lick their wounds.

For the Pirates series, Jon Lester goes up against Francisco Liriano tonight, Jake Arrieta takes on newly acquired J.A. Happ on Tuesday, and then new Cub Dan Haren is expected to make his Cubs debut on Wednesday night in the series finale against Jeff Locke. The good news is that we should have 2 (maybe 3, depending on how Haren does) of our best starters going in this series, but the bad news is that our matchups against San Francisco won’t be as strong. If Jason Hammel is feeling healthy and Kyle Hendricks can be the good professor that we love him to be, then I like the Cubs’ chances a little better.

Going into tonight’s game, the Cubs are 10 games above .500 for the first time since 2008 and they sit 4 games behind the Pirates in the wild card race. They are tied with the Giants for the second wild card position, but the Nationals and Mets are just 2.5 games behind them.

4. Montero Rehab Game/Roster Moves

Remember this guy? Miguel Montero‘s thumb injury led to the early return to the majors of Kyle Schwarber, who has apparently earned the right to stay even after Montero returns, but Montero is close to returning after beginning his rehab assignment in AA Tennessee yesterday. He went 1 for 3, and it is possible that he could be back with the Cubs by Thursday to begin the series against the Giants. Joe Maddon has made it clear though, that he will work to keep Schwarber in the lineup even after Montero returns, so expect to see more starts for Schwarber in the outfield when that time comes. It also means that Ross will likely go back to starting only when Lester is pitching. I am glad to see that Schwarber will be staying, and a series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular next weekend will provide an opportunity for Maddon to use him as a DH for those 3 games.

Prior to yesterday’s game, Yoervis Medina was optioned to Iowa, and Taylor Teagarden was designated for assignment. Though it is not a surefire prediction, I would guess that Teagarden accepts the assignment and will return to Iowa as well.

5. Down on the Farm

As I alluded to earlier, one of the questions on the minds of many Cubs fans is when we will see Javier Baez return to the majors. Though he is still striking out quite a bit (let’s be honest, he probably always will), he is really hitting well since returning from a thumb injury, which is forcing the question, especially as we see Castro continue to struggle. The word now is that there is no rush for Baez to return, though my hope is that he comes up prior to the 40 man roster expansion on September 1. Also in Iowa, Tsuyoshi Wada has not looked strong, especially in his last start, and his status for returning in 2015 seems even less clear.

In South Bend, Jeffrey Baez has been on a bit of a hot streak lately, and he might perhaps be showing signs of improving as a hitter and Gleyber Torres continues to shine.

One of my favorite prospects going into the season, Mark Zagunis, is having a quality season in high A Myrtle Beach so far (.274/.408/.409). Notice the OBP, and especially the difference between his batting average on his on base percentage. He is drawing a ton of walks. And if you look at what he did last year across three levels of the minor league system, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as that’s what he’s always done.

 


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1967: At Wrigley Field, the Braves set a club record by hitting seven home runs in a 10-3 victory over the Cubs. Tito Francona, Joe Torre (2), Clete Boyer (2), Denis Menke, and Hank Aaron all contribute to the record.

2013: The first-place Dodgers set a franchise record, winning their 13th consecutive game on the road with their 3-0 victory over the Cubs in Chicago. The Giants established the National League mark in 1916 when the team won 17 straight games away from the Polo Grounds.

 

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5 Things A Cub Fan Needs To Know on August 2nd

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

I went to the birthday party yesterday and at the party, they had just recently purchased MLB 15 The Show on PS4. I’m not much of a video game player anymore, but this game looked really really good. We played a home run derby with 8 of us and I went to the finals with Bryce Harper only to come one home run short and lose to Miguel Cabrera. If you haven’t checked out video games lately, you’ll be amazed at how deep they are graphically. Now, on to what you need to know.

One Game Away From A Sweep

After a crappy series against the Phillies and a less than pretty series win against the Rockies, I was about ready to jump off the wagon for this season. After all, a four game series against the Brewers, a team that seemed to have our number early this year, didn’t bode well, but we’ve come out and roughed them up in the first three games of the series.

Yesterday it was Kyle Hendricks on the mound, so you never know what you’re going to get. We got good Hendricks. He went seven strong and only allowed a single run. I’m not sure what to make of Hendricks. He has the ability to pitch better than a 4th or 5th starter, but doesn’t seem to be able to put it together on a consistent basis to be counted on as more of a back end guy. I like him a lot, but I’m not sure I believe in him. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in the future and if he’s part of the core of this rotation or if he’s moved as a piece to get better.

Anthony Rizzo hit a home run again last night, which gave him a home run in each of his last four games. In case you’re wondering, the record is eight in a row, owned by Dale Long (1956) and Don Mattingly (1987). I remember the buzz around Mattingly going for it, and I wasn’t even a big sports fan at that point, as I was just nine years old. It would be pretty cool to see Rizzo get close.

If you missed the game, you should also check out the catch Jorge Soler made in the 9th inning to rob a home run.

Did We Find Our Closer?

I ask that completely in jest because of how fickle baseball and Joe Maddon can be when it comes to the closer. One thing I think we know right now is that Jason Motte is probably not the guy. He was given the opportunity last night and got pulled before he even had a chance to cough up the lead completely. Instead, Joe went to his new toy, Tommy Hunter who came in an uncorked  a 99 mph heater to start and was notching the save before you could even finish writing his name down in the scorebook.

Right now, I think Hunter and Hector Rondon are probably the leaders in the club house for the role, and if you go to the post-season, ideally you’d want that defined if for no other reason than guys like to know how to prepare themselves mentally. I subscribe to using the best guy for the job at hand, regardless of inning, but that’s not how baseball is played right now.

Getting the Sweep is Going to Be Tough

While the Cubs made a trade to help anchor the end of the rotation by bringing in Dan Haren, he isn’t available to pitch today because of rest. As a result, we put the sweep hopes on Clayton Richard, who was recently demoted to AAA. He’ll be called up before today’s game, but it will be interesting to see what happens to make room for him. Currently the pitching staff is at 13 guys, which is far too many. You can’t in good conscience go to 14, can you? No one on the staff can simply be optioned with out some sort of difficulty. All have enough service time to make it difficult, so you would have to think that since Richard is a temporary player on this roster, the Cubs would either have to go through the process of potentially losing a guy (looking at you, Travis Wood), or they can designate Taylor Teagarden for assignment and go with the 2 catcher concept again, then DFA Richard after his start and recall someone like Matt Szczur for some outfield depth.

Could Another Bat Be On the Way?

If a report from the Sun Times is to be believed, the Cubs may have interest in acquiring Chase Utley this month for a late run. While I can see the upside of bringing someone like that in (veteran presence that has been there before and done it successfully), I would rather take my chances with Javier Baez at second down the stretch. I have a feeling Utley’s issues were bigger than just the leg injury. I think father time has caught up.

Down on the Farm

Speaking of Baez, last night he went 3-for-6 with a double and five RBI. Granted, he did strike out in the three at bats that didn’t produce a hit, but I’d gladly take that production. Since coming back to Iowa this year, he’s hitting .313 / .389 / .558 with 10 HR’s and 10 doubles in just 163 at bats. He’s going to be here sooner than later, so Starlin Castro better be watching his back.

Bonus Things To Know

  • SB Nation’s Minor League Ball had a breakdown grading “All” the trades at the deadline. The problem? They didn’t break down the Hunter deal which is, in my opinion, just as important as the Haren trade.
  • Miguel Montero will begin a rehab assignment with AA today and could be back in action with the big club very soon.
  • Mike Baxter, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, has cleared waivers and been assigned to Iowa.

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1932 – Cubs GM Bill Veeck, Sr. announces Charlie Grimm will take over for Rogers Hornsby, who was fired today as the skipper of the second-place club. The popular ‘Jolly Cholly’, who inherits the job in part due in part to his predecessor’s indebtness to his players to cover gambling debts, starts by winning 20 of 25 games as the team’s player manager, will lead the team to National League pennant this season.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for Aug. 1

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

1. Haren joins the rotation

The back of the rotation has become a glaring weak spot for the Cubs, so before yesterday’s non-waiver trade deadline passed, the Cubs made a trade with the Marlins for Dan Haren, in an attempt to solidify that last part of the rotation. The move came as a bit of a surprise, as the Cubs had been heavily linked to Tyson Ross and even Carlos Carrasco, but neither of those deals materialized. The Cubs had been rumored to be likely trade partners with San Diego for several days leading up to the deadline, but a trade never happened. It sounds as though the asking price from San Diego was just too high.

Haren, who is in his 13th major league season, should provide a nice veteran presence to the roster and he has been pitching well for Miami this season since being traded from the Dodgers during the offseason. In 21 starts this year, Haren has a 3.42 ERA, a WHIP of 1.093, and 88 strikeouts to 25 walks. He does not throw hard, but is effective in missing bats and getting outs.

Initially, I was not terribly excited about this trade, but the Cubs were able to get him for cheap, and he should solve what has been the Cubs biggest problem. In exchange for Haren, the Cubs sent minor leaguers Ivan Pineyro and Elliot Soto to the minors. Pineyro is a potential fill in starting pitcher one day, and maybe even back of the rotation pitcher, and Soto seems likely to be just organizational depth. He is excellent defensively, but has never hit well.

2. Hunter added to the ‘pen

The other move that the Cubs made at yesterday’s deadline was to bring Tommy Hunter over from the Orioles to help bolster the bullpen. Hunter is also an experienced veteran and should help keep runs off the board in the late innings. Hunter has spent his whole career with the Rangers and Orioles, and after dabbling as a starter for several seasons, he seems to have found his niche in the bullpen for the last 3 years. This year, he has 44.2 innings in 39 appearances. In those innings, he has 32 strikeouts to 11 walks, but has also given up 41 hits. His WHIP is a little high at 1.164, but his ERA is relatively low (3.63), so the hope is that he can contribute a solid inning in relief as needed.

The Cubs were also able to get Hunter for relatively little, as they sent OF Junior Lake to the Orioles for him. Lake is a familiar player to most Cubs fans, I would think, but while he is someone I have rooted for in the past few seasons, I have the suspicion that he may be a “AAAA” type of player. Fine for brief call ups as needed, but not likely to be a hitter to regularly contribute in the majors. I wish him well and hope that I am wrong, but I think the Orioles just added some depth to the 40 man here, and that’s about it.

3. Trades not necessarily over

The non-waiver deadline of July 31 always gets the most attention, but it is important to remember that it is not the end of trading for the season. This deadline is simpler, in that teams can work one-on-one with each other to make a deal, but plenty of swaps can still happen between now and August 31, which is the waiver trade deadline, and the final end to trades for the 2015 season. From now until the end of the month, teams can place players on waivers, and wait to see if another team puts a claim on them. If that happens, the two teams can discuss a deal for that player. If no one claims the player, or the two teams do not agree on a deal when a player is claimed, then no trade happens. Often, a team will use this deadline to gauge interest in a player in advance of the offseason, and it is very common for teams to put several of their players on waivers. So don’t be surprised (and don’t read too much into it), when you hear that the Cubs have put quite a few of their players on waivers. You may even here that other teams have put a claim on one or two of these players. It is still very possible that no trades whatsoever result from this. This is not to say that significant moves aren’t made at this deadline, but they are less common than the July 31 deadline. After the 31st, the rosters expand from 25-40 as September starts, and those are the players they work with as the season comes to a close.

4. Trade deadline thoughts and reaction

I think it is tempting to let the trade deadline get to you, and when you see other teams making big trades like acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, or Yoenis Cespedes it is can make it looks as though your team hasn’t done anything. The big trades like those make all the news, but often a team can do the best for itself when it sticks to its primary needs and doesn’t get caught up in making a big splash. The best thing the Cubs did at this trade deadline is not get swept up in pursuit of players like Ross or Craig Kimbrel and lose important pieces of their future in the process. So if you’re feeling as though the Cubs “lost” this trade deadline, the consensus does not really agree, and keep in mind that the Cubs front office has made clear from the beginning that if they were adding rental players (as Haren could very well be), then they were nto going to let the cost get too high. I respect the fact that the stuck to that plan and didn’t let a team like the Padres or Indians steal away valuable pieces of our farm system or young talents who have yet to establish themselves in the majors.

Many, and possibly myself among them, were probably hoping to see Starlin Castro get moved yesterday, but it just didn’t happen. He was in discussions with the Padres, but I think they asked about Javier Baez instead (or in addition?) and that could be part of where things fell through. I had hoped that the Cubs could add an offensive presence coming off of the bench like Wil Venable, but it didn’t work out. This means we are likely to be trusting our very young offense to carry us to that last wild card spot. Realistically, this is a team that is building for much greater success than just the wild card in 2016 and beyond, so I think the approach to this deadline was smart.

5. Game Notes (Cubs win, 4-1)

Ordinarily I put this first, but the trade deadline was the biggest news of the day, so this gets the last spot for this morning. Jason Hammel got his 6th win last night against the Brewers, going 5.2 innings and giving up just the one run in the first inning on a Ryan Braun homerun. From the end of the 6th inning, the bullpen came in and locked things down, and Hector Rondon took the save in the 9th for his 15th of the year.

At the plate, the biggest contribution came from Anthony Rizzo, who hit his 19th of the season off of Neal Cotts in the 7th inning, and also added another hit and scored a run last night. Addison Russell went 2 for 4 and drove in a run, and Jorge Soler  was also 2 for 4 and has been showing a lot of signs of more life at the plate lately. Castro added a 2 RBI single as well. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound tonight against former Cub Matt Garza at 6:10, which means that the spot in the rotation that Haren could take comes up in the last game of this series on Sunday afternoon, but after just pitching Thursday, this is unlikely, so we may not see him until later next week.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1924: Dazzy Vance strikes out seven consecutive batters to establish a major league record when the Brooklyn Robins defeat the Cubs at Ebbets Field, 4-0. The future Hall of Famer, who will compile a 28-6 record for the Brooks this season, will lead the National League in strikeouts with 262.

1933: Carl Hubbell‘s 45.1 consecutive scoreless innings streak ends when Randy Moore strokes a two-run single in the sixth inning of Giants’ 3-1 loss to Boston at the Polo Grounds. By blanking Boston for the first five frames, the future Hall of Fame southpaw surpasses Ed Ruelbach’s National League mark of 44 innings established in 1908 with the Cubs.

1957: In a 12-3 win over the Cubs, Gil Hodges hits his 13th and last career grand slam in Brooklyn Dodger history. The first baseman’s bases-loaded shot off Dick Littlefield establishes a new National League record previously shared by Rogers Hornsby and Ralph Kiner.

2011: After popping out in a pinch-hitting appearance, Craig Counsell remains without a hit in his last 45 at-bats, tying the longest single-season hitless streak by a position player in history, established by Brooklyn backstop Bill Bergen in 1909. The major league record is 0-for-70 established in 1970 by Bob Buhl, a pitcher who toiled with the Braves and Cubs that season.

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Trade Deadline Open Thread

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Rather than writing about “news”, which is nothing more than rumors about what could and probably won’t happen, let’s use this post to talk about the deadline today which is at 4pm EDT.

While you do that, enjoy this photo of Cap’n Obvious.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 30

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 3-2)

It was a bit of a relief to see the Cubs win with relative ease yesterday afternoon after the mild embarrassment that was Tuesday night’s game. Jon Lester was absolutely the highlight of yesterday afternoon’s game, recording 14 strikeouts in 8 innings and giving up just 2 runs. It is worth noting that after pushing many Cubs fans to the brink of frustration, Lester has put together a very nice string of starts lately. In his last 7 outings, he has pitched an average of 7 innings each game and has 55 strikeouts in those 47.1 innings. He also has had a 0.87 WHIP during that span. Lester’s next start will likely come in game 1 of a very important series against the Pirates next Monday. After Lester left the game following 8 full innings, Hector Rondon pitched a very nice 9th inning to get his 13th save of the season.

On the offensive side of things, Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo combined to drive in the 3 runs the Cubs needed to win the game, and Addison Russell had an excellent day at the plate, going 2 for 3. Russell has hit safely in his last 4 games. He got the start at shortstop yesterday, giving Starlin Castro a day off. After Castro was pulled early on Tuesday night and then wasn’t in the lineup on Wednesday, this fueled some obligatory speculation about a trade. It was clear before the game started, however, that his day off was not because of a trade.

It was also worth noting that Kyle Schwarber got his first career start in LF yesterday, and his first start in the outfield since A ball in 2014. It was good to see the effort in keeping him in the lineup, even on a day when David Ross was a given behind the plate with Lester pitching. Schwarber had an excellent day at the plate, going 1 for 2 and drawing 2 walks.

2. Trade Updates

Another top pitcher is off the market, as Cole Hamels is heading to the Texas Rangers. I had somewhat high hopes that the Cubs might be able to put together the right offer to get him, but the Cubs front office has made it clear that they are looking to build for more than just 2015 at this trade deadline, so I would assume that that placed a cap on what they were willing to offer the Phillies.

After the Padres had expressed interest in a trade involving Castro earlier this week, it appears that Javier Baez is also in the discussion. This obviously, would mean that Castro would be staying here, which is probably not the popular outcome these days. In either case, a trade that brings Tyson Ross to the Cubs and sends the Padres one of our middle infielders seems very possible.

With just today and tomorrow left of the trade deadline, the Cubs have stood pat so far. I still don’t expect them to do nothing, but as more of the bigger names on the market head to other teams, it seems less likely that the Cubs are going to make a big splash. David Price is still out there, but the Cubs have not been considered favorites lately.

3. Roster Moves

Mike Baxter was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for the call up of Ben Rowen, who was brought up to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. Baxter will have time to decide to either accept the assignment or pursue free agency. Yoervis Medina and Dallas Beeler were also optioned back to AAA Iowa.

4. Injury Updates

No major news here, other than the disappointment of learning that Neil Ramirez is headed back to the DL after experiencing soreness in his abdomen. This is not long after returning from being gone for 2 months because of shoulder issues. This is a frustrating development, and a surprise even to Ramirez, because the bullpen has been used heavily lately, and his arm is much needed as the season heads into its last 2 months.

Otherwise, Tommy La Stella is headed to AA Tennessee to begin his rehab again. He had barely made it into the second week of the season, going down with an oblique injury on April 8. If he can return soon, he would provide some much needed help off of the bench and would provide better flexibility with the middle infield.

5. Down on the Farm

The excitement and attention is focused on Baez right now, not only because he could be a trade piece, but also because he has done so well since returning to game action in Arizona and then to AAA Iowa. Baez did go 0-4 with 3 strikeouts last night, but he was able to draw a walk and score a run.

In Eugene, a surprise early exit from the game for Eloy Jimenez fueled a great deal of speculation that he was a part of a trade yesterday morning, but so far no news has come to that effect. The Emeralds shared that he was pulled because of shoulder discomfort, thus killing (for now) rampant speculation that he is a part of a trade package.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1933: Dizzy Dean sets a modern major league record, striking out 17 Cubs. Cardinal teammate Jimmie Wilson, the club’s catcher, also sets a new mark by recording 18 putouts.

2003: The Cubs obtain center fielder Doug Glanville from the Rangers in exchange for cash and outfielder/first baseman prospect Jason Fransz, who will not appear in a major league game. The Chicago flychaser will play in only 28 games, hitting just .235 for his new ball club.

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