Archive | September, 2009

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball – - Cubs v. Cards?! Why – Please Spare Us the Embarrassment…

Posted on 20 September 2009 by Lou

carlos zambrano OD

Why?  Isn’t there any better game MLB could have picked? Giants @ Dodgers? Tigers @ Twins? Angels @ Rangers?  Phillies @ Braves?  And while none of those games are so compelling, at least there are more implications in each of those games than in the Cubs – Cards match-up in St. Louis.  It will likely turn into another embarrassing national television loss for the under-achieving/over-rated Chicago Cubs.  It will feature the man who constantly predicts he will win the NL Cy Young Award – Carlos Zambrano – against the man who like likely win the NL Cy Young Award in 2009.  Gimme a break…  Is this a joke or a cruel trick being played on the Cubs and their “loyal” North Side fans? Or did Tom Ricketts – the next owner of the Cubs – shell out whatever cash he had left to beg ESPN to broadcast his team on national television one last time in 2009 to try to promote his ball club even more than it already is.

Whatever the case, I for one will not be watching this game.  Big Z will probably blow a gasket (or his hamstring) in the 4th inning.  Adam Wainwright will likely 2 or 3-hit the light0hitting Cubs en route to his 19th victory of the season.  The lone Cubs run will come courtesy of a Derrek Lee jack to right field.  Cards 5, Cubs 1.  Cards 10 game lead in the NL Central race, with a magic number of 4.  Wait until next year Cubs fans!!!

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Cubs Clubhouse in Disarray – What is Going on on the North Side?

Posted on 19 September 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs clubhouse randy wells

Gotta love this.  Not only has this been a disappointing season for the Chicago Cubs, now things are getting bizarre in the clubhouse.  This piece by Chicago Tribune Cubs beat reporter is “enlightening”.  I know I’ve been ready for this damn season to end for a while, and now it looks like the players and coaches are too.  This latest clubhouse twilight zone is a good indication that Manager Lou Pinella has lost control of this team.  Is it too late to re-group for 2010?  Will Lou be back in 2010?  Who will GM Jim Hendry trade in the off-season – Carlos Zambrano, Milton Bradley, Kevin Gregg?

It should be fun watching this mess unfold in the off-season.  Can’t wait to hear all the gossip leaked out after all the players go back to their respective homes for the winter…

Cubs Padres Baseball

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Randy Wells Struggling Down Stretch…

Posted on 18 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Randy Wells has struggled down the stretch here during the 2009 MLB schedule.  The Cubs 38th round draft choice in 2002 has logged 147 innings in 24 starts, so it’s not surprising that he’s experiencing a little arm fatigue right now.  Manager Lou Pinella played it right yesterday.  After just 4 innings of work – 5 ER on 5 hits and 5 walks in 80 pitches – Pinella pulled Wells for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning.  Micah Hoffpauir came through with a clutch 2-out double that cut the Brewers lead to 5-4.  The move got the Cubs closer in the game, and gave Wells a little extra rest here.

The Cubs have now dropped 5 of Wells’ last 6 starts.  Not all of it has not been Wells’ fault, but he has not been as crisp as he was at the start of the season.  In 3 of the starts, Wells gave up 5 runs with all but 2 of those runs being earned.  The Cubs lost all 3 games.  In the other 3 starts, however, he gave up a total of 5 runs with only of the runs being earned.  Wells and the Cubs went 1-2 in those 3 games.  The bigger concern is watching Wells lose some of his command.  In the 6 starts, he walked 2, 4, 2, 0, 3 and 5 respectively.  Not good for someone who has had a WHIP in the low 1.20′s for most of the season.  Regardless of how it all shakes out here, Wells has been a pleasant surprise in 2009 and has likely earned him a slot in the 2010 Cubs starting rotation.  Let’s just hope the Cubs can get the rest of their act together before the start of spring training 2010.

Oh yeah, the Cubs lost 7-4, and Milton Bradley left the game with left knee inflammation after a single in the top of the 6th inning.  The Cubs trail the Cards by 9 games (Cards magic number is 8) and the Rockies by 7 games.  Yippee…

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Rich Harden Showing Why Cubs Should NOT Re-sign Him to Long-term Deal

Posted on 17 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Rich Harden is a streaky pitcher, and right now, he is in one of those streaks where it is clear to me that the Cubs should not re-sign him in the off-season.  In Wednesday night’s loss, Harden needed 72 pitches to labor through 3 innings.  Harden gave up 5 runs (only 2 earned), but he suffered his 9th loss of the season.  5 hits and 3 walks in just 3 innings is never a good line, and he works way too many counts way to deep in order to be an effective pitcher over the course of a long MLB season.

In addition to this poor line, check out his last 3 starts:

Cubs 6-4 win over Reds on 9/11 – 4 innings, 1 ER, but 2 hits and 5 walks with 6 strikeouts – 104 pitches.

Cubs 5-3 win over Mets on 9/5 – 5 innings, 1 ER, but 7 hits and 1 walk with 10 strikeouts – 102 pitches.

Cubs 5-3 loss to Astros on 8/31 – 5 innings, 5 ER, but 5 hits and 6 walks with 9 strikeouts – 98 pitches.

While his strikeout numbers are impressive – 171 K’s in 141 innings – his 67 walks and high 1.34 WHIP really don’t help him or the team in the long run.  With those numbers comes high pitch counts.  And with high pitch counts comes short outings.  This usually means a tired bullpen and more late innings losses throughout the season because the bullpen gets over-worked too early and too often in the season.

Not having to re-sign Harden to a long-term deal should free up the $8-9 million that the Cubs paid to him in 2009.  That money could be used to find another more “productive” back-end starter or for a full-time starting 2nd baseman since the Mike Fontenot/Aaron Miles experiment failed miserably. Let’s just hope GM Jim Hendry hears what we’re talking about.

Couple of bright spots in last night’s loss:  Aramis Ramirez hit his 13th HR of the season; Geovany Soto had 2 more hits; and Ryan Theriot had 3 hits and a walks in 5 at-bats.  Not great, but not all that bad either…

Randy Wells looks to pick up win #11 in the series finale against the Brewers at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon.  His ERA is still under 3 (@ 2.96), so he looks to keep that number low as well.

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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Sorry-ano End to Alfonso Soriano’s Sorry 2009 Season

Posted on 16 September 2009 by Lou

Mets Cubs Baseball

Talk about your bad free agent signings.  Cubs GM Jim Hendry might be at the top of the list.  Back during the 2006-7 MLB off-season, there was probably a reason (in fact, numerous reasons) that no other MLB GM offered a big blockbuster contract to Alfonso Soriano.  Too bad Hendry didn’t see the signs.  The 8-year, $136 million contract that Soriano signed with the Cubs before the start of the 2007 MLB season could go down as one of the worst free agent signings ever.

Now granted, the Cubs did win back-to-back NL Central division titles in 2007 and 2008 (for the 1st time in over 60 years), but it wasn’t all because of Soriano.  In fact some might argue that the Cubs did it in spite of Soriano being on the team.  Soriano has spent time on the DL in each of his 3 seasons with the Cubs.  His numbers have also declined in each year.  Soriano just underwent season-ending knee surgery to repair

Let’s look at the stats:

In 2007, Soriano had 579 at-bats in 135 games.  A .299 batting average, .337 on-base percentage, 33 HR’s (his 2nd lowest total in 6 years), 70 RBI’s (his lowest total in 6 years), 97 runs scored and 130 K’s.

In 2008, Soriano had 453 at-bats in 109 games.  A .280 batting average, .344 on-base percentage, 29 HR’s (his lowest total in 7 years), 75 RBI’s (his 2nd lowest total in 7 years), 76 runs scored and 103 K’s.

In 2009, Soriano had 477 at-bats in 117 games.  A .241 batting average (his lowest batting average in 9 years), .303 on-base percentage (his lowest on-base percentage in 9 years), 20 HR’s (his lowest total in 8 years), 55 RBI’s (his lowest total in 8 years), 64 runs scored (his lowest total in 9 years) and 118 K’s.

Do we see a trend here?

I really don’t need to go on.  The arthroscopic knee surgery supposedly was successful, and Soriano should be fully healthy by spring (he will rehab with the Cubs during the final 3 weeks of the season and then again at home in the Dominican Republic).  But until he actually shows some consistency in 2010, I’ll expect the same over-paid, under-producing outfielder that I’ve grown accustomed to the last 3 years in left field at Wrigley Field.  April 2010 can’t come soon enough…

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Zambrano’s Messy 5th Costs Him 9th Win; But Lee Leads Way Again

Posted on 16 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Carlos Zambrano – what in the world are we going to do with you?  Big Z is simply an enigma.  If somone could work with him to get his head on straight, Zambrano could be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Instead, we get Carlos Zambrano being Carlos Zambrano.  The 2009 version – 8-6 record in 25 starts.  A good 3.94 ERA, but a startling high 1.43 WHIP.  132 strikeouts in 148+ innings, but also 70 walks.  Not the numbers of the ace of your staff, someone who is set to make $18 million per season for the next 3 years.  It’s not bad enough that the Cubs are locked into bad contracts with Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley and Kosuke Fukodome.  But now we have to worry about how many stints Big Z is going to spend on the DL trying to swing the bat too hard.

Uggghhhh – - it is so frustrating.  Last night, the Cubs offense took advantage of a wild Brewers staff – 11 hits, 12 walks, 3 HBP, 2 wild pitches – and took a 4-0 lead by the end of the 4th inning.  But for some reason, Big Z crapped the bed in the top of the 5th inning.  After getting the 1st 2 outs, Zambrano gave up a hit to the pitcher Giovanni Gallardo and he lost his cool.  Zambrano followed that up with a walk, 2 hits, a wild pitch, another walk and then an error by Ryan Theriot at shortstop that would have ended the inning.  We know how Big Z feels about his teammates making errors, so he let the next batter get a 2-run single to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead.  Now granted, the last 2 runs should not have scored because of the Theriot error, but come on.  Five runs on 6 hits and 4 walks over 5 innings of work – 105 pitches ???!!! – is not acceptable from your alleged ace.  Someone has gotta get through to this guy.

Luckily the Cubs offense rallied the troops for a come-from-behind win, and the Cubs bullpen (save for Jeff Samardzija who has had just a brutal 2009 – 1-2 record, 7.89 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 26 ER on 41 hits and 14 walks in just 29 2/3 innings) turned in another solid 3 innings of scoreless relief.  Aaron Heilman pitched a scoreless inning of relief and has now given up just 2ER in his last 9 outings (12 innings).  And can you see the 26-year old Esmailin Caridad setting up for Carlos Marmol in 2010?  After a rough major league debut in Colorado on August 10th, Caridad has been lights-out in his next 6 appearances.  And since being called back to the major league level on September 8th, Caridad has pitched 4 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2.  I know he is raw and young, but a good off-season could solidify his spot on the 2010 Cubs.

As for the bats, the Brewers pitching was just awful.  But give Derrek Lee some credit.  Lee was patient at the plate – 2 for 2 with 3 RBI’s and 1 run scored.  He also walked 4 times.  Geovany Soto’s bat has shown some of the pop from his 2008 Rookie of the Year campaign – 2 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored, including his 11th homer of the season.  Ryan Theriot’s bat has cooled off a little bit of late, but he had 4 walks as well on Tuesday night and scored 3 runs.  Theriot also stole his 18th base of the year.

Not a lot to get excited about, but we’ll take the positives where we can get them…

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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Dempster, Marmol, Lee – Different Night, Same Story

Posted on 15 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Seems like the Cubs have developed a winning recipe long after the season is over…  Good outings by the starting pitcher and Carlos Marmol and a clutch hit by Derrek Lee. I feel like I am writing the same thing over and over when it comes to recent Cubs wins.

I guess I should be happy.  The starting pitching has been solid all year long.  With Ryan Dempster’s win on Monday night (2-0 over the Brewers), the Cubs now have 3 starters with at least 10 victories.  With Carlos Zambrano sitting on 8 wins and Rich Harden sitting on 9 wins, that number should be 5 when the season ends on October 4th.  Dempster had his best start of 2009 on Monday night – he looked like the Ryan Dempster of 2008, focused, throwing strikes, hitting his spots.  Dempster needed just 108 pitches to throw 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 walk.  Yeah!

Carlos Marmol rebounded from his non-save situation loss on Saturday afternoon, pitching a scoreless 9th inning with 1 walk and 1 strikeout.  Make it 9 out of 9 for Marmol in save situations since being named the Cubs closer.

And as for Derrek Lee, he just keeps on hitting.  Lee had 2 hits in Monday’s win, including his 33rd home run of the year.  He is hitting .304 on the 2009 MLB campaign and he has his OPS up to .966.  Aramis Ramirez also came through with 2 hits and he now has his batting average up to .324.

Although it is definitely too little too late, I am very happy with the performance by some of these guys down the stretch.  As I have said before, the pitching staff has been mostly good all throughout the 2009 MLB schedule (the team’s 3.85 ERA is still he 5th best ERA in all of baseball).  Even in a year in which the bats completely deserted the club for long stretches at a time, the pitchers never really lost focus, and the team has still managed to win 74 games to date.  The Cubs offense still has the 5th worst batting average in all of baseball.  I’m not sure what the Cubs can do in the off-season to tweak the lineup (with the new ownership situation and limited payroll flexibility) to improve the offense.  But one would think that with a move here or there, and with more productive seasons from Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto, there have gotta be a few more wins out there to put the club back into a playoff contender in 2010.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe, but at this point, we gotta do something…

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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Ted Lilly & Derrek Lee Red-Hot Finish in 2009

Posted on 14 September 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee keep providing solid efforts down the stretch here in a frustrating 2009 MLB season for the Cubbies.

Lilly notched his 12th win of the season, pitching 6 scoreless innings.  His pitch count was very high – 119 pitches – so Manager Lou Pinella took him out after the 6 innings.  Lilly gave up 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7.  With the outing, Lilly lowered his ERA to 3.17 and his WHIP to 1.08.  Pretty sweet numbers in 25 starts in 2009.

Derrek Lee, meanwhile, kept on raking at the plate.  Lee increased his batting average to .302 with a 3 for4 4 performance at the plate.  He had 1 RBI on a solo home run in the 7th inning and he scored 2 runs.  Lee continues to lead the Cubs offense in most categories – HR’s, RBI’s, runs scored.

Andres Blanco has also put together a few nice games for the Cubs here down the stretch.  Blanco had 3 hits and 2 RBI’s on a single in the 4th inning that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.  Could we see a Jeff Baker / Andres Blanco platoon at 2nd base in 2010?

Aramis Ramirez also had another solid game – 2 hits and 1 run scored.  Ramirez is now hitting .322 with a .382 on-base percentage…

In what should have been a meaningful September series with playoff implications, the Cubs battle the Brewers in 4 meaningful games at Wrigley Field this week.  At 73-68, the Cubs are 9.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central race and 7.5 games back of the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  At 69-73, the Brewers are 14 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central race and 12 games back of the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  Talk about bad – especially for the 2 teams that battled down the stretch in 2008 for the NL central division title.

Reds Cubs Baseball

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Crazy – - Carlos Marmol Not Good in Non-Save Situations…

Posted on 13 September 2009 by Lou

Manager Lou Pinella has quickly learned 1 thing about Carlos Marmol – he does not pitch well in non-save situations.  And let’s face it – a lot of closers are like this because of the lack of mental focus.  Carlos Marmol’s control problems in the 9th inning wasted a valiant Cubs comeback.

Trailing 5-0, the Cubs rallied for 3 runs in the 6th inning on an Aramis Ramiez single, a Geovany Soto double and a Bobby Scales sacrifice fly.  And with the bases loaded in the 7th inning, Geovany Soto’s double to deep center field plated Kosuke Fukodome and Derrek Lee to tie the game at 5.  But when 3rd base coach Mike Quade sent Ramirez home to try to score the go-ahead run, but he was thrown out at the plate.

Then came Marmol’s disastrous 9th inning – 2 walks to start off the inning and then a 2-run double to right field by pinch hitter Drew Sutton that gave the Reds the 7-5 win over the Reds.

Randy Wells had a rare bad start -

The Cubs try to win the series on Sunday with Ted Lilly on the mound…

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Cubs, Squirrels Looking to Sweep Reds @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 12 September 2009 by Lou

APTOPIX Reds Cubs Baseball

The squirrels were on the Cubs side in Friday’s 6-4 win over the Reds at Wrigley Field.  Will they make it 2 for 2 in Saturday’s matinee?

Randy Wells looks to pick up his 11th win of the 2009 MLB schedule, trying to tie Ted Lilly for the club lead in victories.  Wells has pitched well as of late in his last 4 starts (6 ER over 25 2/3 innings), but only has 1 win to show for it.  Wells is 2-0 with 1 no decision against the Reds in 2009.

Go Cubs!!!

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