Archive | September, 2009

Ramirez, Bullpen Sharp in Cubs 6-4 Win Over Reds @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 11 September 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

The Cubs definitely like playing at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs improved their home record at Wrigley Field to 41-27 with Friday’s 6-4 win over Dusty Baker and the Reds.  Too bad the Cubs are an atrocious 9 games under .500 on the road in 2009.

Aramis Ramirez was the offensive hero for the Cubs in the win.  Ramirez went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  His 2-run single in the 3rd inning broke a 1-1 tie; his RBI single in the 5th inning broke a 4-4 tie; and his run scored on a Bobby Scales pinch-hit double in the 8th inning gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run.  His numbers are down because he has only played in 65 games with the dislocated shoulder injury, but he is still hitting .315 and he has a .391 on-base percentage.  The Cubs are clearly a much better hitting team with Ramirez in the middle of the lineup.  He has 51 RBI’s and 33 runs scored, more than some of the every day regular players like Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano who have not missed the time that he has.

The Cubs bullpen also looked good, with the exception of Jeff Stevens.  Despite giving up a 3-run HR to Johnny Gomes in the 5th inning – his only inning of work – Stevens picked up his 1st career major league victory.  The rest of the bullpen picked up the slack for Harden (104 pitches in just 4 innings, 1 ER on 2 hits and 5 walks, with 6 K’s) and Stevens, however.  Aaron Heilman pitched 2 perfect innings, even striking out the side – Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen – in the 7th inning.  Late-season call-up Esmailin Caridad – future set-up man?! – put forth his 4th straight good outing, pitching a perfect 8th inning with 1 strikeout.  And Carlos Marmol made it 8 for 8 in save chances since being named the Cubs closer.  Although this one wasn’t as pretty as the rest – he gave up a frustrating infield single to Ryan Theriot and then followed that up with a walk to put 2 runners on with only 1 out – he buckled down with a big strikeout of Joey Votto and a week fly out to right field to end the game.  No runs given up by Marmol since becoming the Cubs closer, and he seems to have that swagger back.  Look out in 2010…

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Cubs Starters, Marmol Continue to Shine Down Stretch…

Posted on 10 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

I know I keep harping on this, but with the Cubs so far out of it (11.5 games behind Cardinals; 8.5 games behind Rockies), we’ve gotta cling to something.

Overall, it has been a productive season for the Cubs starting pitchers.  And Carlos Marmol has really gotten his act together since Manager Lou Pinella promoted him to the closer’s role.  The number’s don’t lie:

Carlos Zambrano picked up his 8th win on Wednesday afternoon.  He pitched 6 strong innings, giving up just 2 ER on 5 hits and 3 walks.  If Kosuke Fukodome had made that incredible diving catch in center field on the 2-run double, it would have been 6 scoreless innings for Big Z.  Zambrano is 8-6 overall – he has made 24 starts, with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.  Too many walks – 66 in 143+ innings, but the under 4 ERA and 123 K’s are nice.

Randy Wells – we’ve been on his badnwagon since he made his 1st Cubs start back in May.  What’s not to like – 10-8 record; 22 starts; 139+ innings; 2.84 ERA; 1.22 WHIP.  Gotta love the 35 walks and 84 K’s.  The lower walk and K numbers mean less pitches and longer outings, which means good things for your bullpen and the team.  Let the other team put the ball in play and make outs.

Ted Lilly – talk about consistent.  11-8; 24 starts; 156+ innings; 3.17 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  Think Lilly likes pitching in the NL as opposed to the AL East where he pitched for the Yankees and Blue Jays for 6 seasons?  His strikeout to walk ratio is incredible – 130 to 32?!  WOW.  Not much else to say.

Ryan Dempster – although it has been a disappointing season for Dempster, especially after his 17-win season in 2008, he has had enough really good starts to make his numbers look adequate.  9-8; 26 starts (leads team); 163 innings (leads team); 4.03 ERA; and 1.38 WHIP.  While his bonehead broken toe injury in July hurt the club, and his inconsistency was tough to explain at times, Dempster is a good starter to have on your staff.  Let’s hope a few good outings down the stretch here in 2009 will give him a little confidence to keep his head during a rigorous off-season workout regimen.

Rich Harden – although he will likely be gone in 2010, Harden has been a valuable cog for Pinella and the Cubs. 9-8; 24 starts; 134 innings; 4.10 ERA; and 1.30 WHIP.  His numbers are eerily similar to Dempster, but his high walk (59) and strikeout (162) numbers always lead to high pitch counts.  Not good for Harden who has had a history of arm issues or for the Cubs bullpen.  Harden’s outings are usually 5 or 6 innings, and that can take its toll over the course of a long MLB season.  Harden pitched 7 innings only 5 times all season long.  That’s not enough.

What’s scary about these numbers is that the Cubs will likely end the season with 5 starting pitchers with 10 wins each.  With a team as bad as they are in 2009, that is a pretty impressive stat.  Makes you wonder what would have come of this team if Kevin Gregg hadn’t blown so many saves, and if the Cubs offense had been even just a little bit more consistent.

We’ve already highlighted Carlos Marmol a bunch of times since Pinella promoted him to closer, but make it 7 for 7 save conversions for Marmol with Wednesday’s save in Pittsburgh.  Marmol now has 11 saves on the season, and he has 12 K’s and 3 walks in save situations (7 1/3 innings).  Pretty damn good.

Let’s hope the Cubs can keep it up the rest of the way – even though it will be tough to deal with the disappointing 2009 season, maybe they can take some solace in the fact that there were some bright spots along the way…

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Cubs Tie Record with 7-Run 1st Inning; Lee, Baker Raking @ the Plate

Posted on 09 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

The Cubs tied a major league record on Tuesday night when the 1st 8 batters all reached base on hits (6 singles and 2 doubles).  The Cubs scored 7 runs in the inning en route to a 9-4 win.  The Cubs were the 1st team to accomplish the feat way back in the 1920’s.  The New York Yankees were the last team to do it in September 1990.

Ryan Dempster picked up his 9th win of the season.  It was not a great outing – 6 1/3 innings, 4 ER, 8 hits and 2 walks, with 4 K’s – but a win is a win at this point of the season.

2 Cubs players have quietly put together solid seasons thus far.

After a slow start in April (a .189 batting average at the end of the month), Derrek Lee has been the Cubs most consistent hitter all season long.  With 2 hits in the win, Lee’s batting average is now right at .300.  He has a .379 on-base percentage and a .573 slugging percentage.  Lee leads the team in HR’s (31); RBI’s (96); and runs scored (74).  He has even dealt with neck/upper back spasms for much of the season, but has still managed to play in 122 games and hit 464 at-bats.  Especially with Aramis Ramirez missing 2 months with a dislocated shoulder and the under performance by several key players – Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto – the presence of Lee in the lineup each and every day has been invaluable.

Mid-season acquisition Jeff Baker has also been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs in the infield.  Since coming over from the Rockies in July, Baker has played in 47 games, getting 126 at-bats along the way.  Baker has played 3 infield positions – 2nd base, 1st base and 3rd base.  Baker has a .341 batting average with a solid 399 on-base percentage.  In a limited role, Baker has hit 3 HR’s, driven in 13 runs and scored 18 runs.  Baker has had 3 multi-hit games in the last 5 games played and at age 28, he is making a case that he could be the Cubs starting 2nd baseman of the future.

It’s great to see some of these guys still giving it their all day in and day out down the stretch here in 2009.  At 70-67, even though the Cubs still trail the Cards by 11.5 games and the Rockies by 8 games, these guys still realize there is a lot to play for – at least personally.  Good luck!

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Lilly Lights-Out Since Return from DL; Marmol Loving Closer Role

Posted on 08 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

Ted Lilly is on a mission.  In 5 starts from returning from the DL on August 17th, Lilly has allowed just 6 total ER on 19 hits and 6 walks in 33 1/3 innings pitched.  IMPRESSIVE!  With Monday afternoon’s 4-2 win over the Pirates, Lilly is 2-1 during that stretch and he is now 11-8 on the season.  Lilly has a 3.17 ERA and a miniscule 1.07 WHIP.  AMAZING!  Lilly is definitely proving to the rest of the club, and the rest of MLB for that matter, that he still has what it takes to be a dominating pitcher in the National League.

In 3 seasons with the Cubs, Lilly has made 34, 34 and 24 starts, respectively.  Lilly has also won a total of 43 games over the 3 seasons.  2009 has been his best year by far, mainly because he has limited his walks – only 32 total walks in 156 1/3 innings, as opposed to 55 and 64 in 2007 and 2008, respectively.  His season ERA has not been higher than 4.09 and his season WHIP has not been higher than 1.23 during this span.  Lilly has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers the last 3 seasons, and the Cubs will be fortunate if Lilly can pick up where he left off when 2010 starts next April.

Carlos Marmol has also thrived since being promoted to the closer’s role.  Marmol has converted all 6 save opportunities he has been presented with, giving up just 2 hits and 3 walks, with 11 K’s, during those6 1/3 innings pitched.  Talk about effective.  Although there really isn’t too much pressure on the club these days, it is a good sign that Marmol has been on his game since becoming the closer.  Marmol has also only given up 1 HR all season long, so it is imperative for your closer not to be prone to give up the long ball on a regular basis.  His ERA is a solid 3.34, and while the WHIP is still high at 1.44, it has gotten better since he became the Cubs closer.  Let’s hope Marmol’s late 2009 success will carry over into 2010 as well…

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Weekend Update – Disappointing Series Loss Against Mets in NYC

Posted on 07 September 2009 by Lou

The Cubs lost the weekend series to the Mets in NYC.  Here’s a brief re-cap:

Friday 9/4 – Mets 6, Cubs 2.  Mets blew game open with a 5-run 8th inning to break a 1-1 tie.  Carlos Zambrano finally looked good – 1 ER (a solo HR by Corey Sullivan on 3 hits and 3 walks in 6 innings.  Kevin Gregg (2 ER on 2 hits) and John Grabow (3 ER on 4 hits and 1 walk) did not retire a single batter in the 8th inning.  Jeff Baker had 3 hits and an RBI in the loss.

Saturday 9/5 – Cubs 5, Mets 3. Rich Harden picked up his 9th win of the season – 1 ER on 7 hits and 2 walks and 10 K’s in 5 innings.  Carlos Marmol picked up his 9th save and 5th straight save since being named the club’s closer.  Derrek Lee was the offensive hero – 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, 3 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.

Sunday 9/6 – Mets 4, Cubs 2.  Randy Wells 1 ER on 7 hits and no walks over 6 innings.  Kevin Gregg was awful in relief – 2 ER on 3 hits and 1 walk in just 2/3 of an inning.  Cubs manage just 6 hits and 2 walks.  Geovany Soto had 2 hits and 2 RBI’s in the loss.

Cubs are 68-67 and they trail the Cardinals by 11.5 games in the NL Central and the Rockies by 8 games in the NL Wild Card race.

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Great Article on Randy Wells…

Posted on 06 September 2009 by Lou

Randy Wells has been one of the Cubs most reliable pitchers all season long, and he suffered another tough luck loss today, 4-2 to the lowly Mets at CITI Field.

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Cubs Invade New York City for 1st Games Against Mets @ CITI Field

Posted on 05 September 2009 by Lou

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Let’s hope the Cubs fare better at CITI Field than they did at the New Yankee Stadium during spring training back in late March.  The Yankees pummeled the Cubs in 2 contests at the New Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Cubs are looking to exact some revenge on the city of New York during a 3-game weekend set against the Mets.  It has been a disappointing season for each team.

The Cubs are 67-65 and they trail the Cards by 10.5 games in the NL Central division.  They still have a slim shot at the NL Wild Card race – trailing the Rockies by 6 games – but that is more of a “technical” shot of still making the playoffs.

The Mets are 60-74 and they trail the Phillies by 18.5 games in the NL East race.  Ouch.  Injuries to all of their big stars have cost the Mets a successful inaugural season at CITI Field.

Carlos Zambrano will battle Bobby Parnell in the series opener on Friday night.  The Mets roughed up Big Z for 4 runs on 11 hits last Sunday at Wrigley Field.  Big Z has struggled since coming off the DL 2 weeks ago.

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Cubs Offense, Defense Wastes Another Good Start in 5-0 Loss to White Sox

Posted on 04 September 2009 by Lou

White Sox Cubs Baseball

Can it get any uglier?  Well, yes.  Although Ryan Dempster did not have his best stuff, he still should have come away with nothing worse than a no decision.  Instead, because of shoddy defense and the continued inability of the Cubs to manufacture any offense whatsoever, Dempster dropped his 8th game of the year.  Dempster gave up 9 hits and 1 walk, and all 3 runs scored off of Dempster were unearned.

In the 2nd inning, Jake Fox failed to catch an easy pick off attempt from Dempster, allowing a runner to reach 2nd base with 2 outs.  That runner scored on the next pitch on a single by Alexei Ramirez. One unearned run.

In the 8th inning, the disaster that is Alfonso Soriano strck again.  With Gordon Beckham on 1st base, A.J. Pierzynski hit a lazy fly ball down the left field line.  Soriano got to the right spot and was about to make the catch, but for some reason, he just slipped.  Beckham scored all the way from 1st base and Pierzynski reached 3rd base on the Soriano error.  Pierzynski then came around to score on Paul Konerko’s soft single to left field.  2 more unearned runs.

Bad, bad, bad…

Dempster lowered his ERA under 4 with the 7 “scoreless” innings to 3.96 – giving the Cubs starting rotation with 2 pitchers under a 4.00 ERA and 1 pitcher under a 3.00 ERA.  Good, good, good.

But more bad please – the Cubs offense.  The Cubs squared off against Carlos Torres.  In his only 2 previous major league starts (in July & August of this year), Torres was lit up for 7 ER on 9 hits and 9 walks in just 7 1/3 innings of work – good for a 6.75 ERA and a 2.50 WHIP! Any other team would tee off on this guy, or at least work the count to make him throw more pitches and potentially get himself into trouble.  But not the Cubs.  Torres pitched 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 5 hits and no walks.  Jake Fox had 2 of the Cubs hits, but was thrown out at home in the bottom of the 7th inning on a great throw by DeWayne Wise on Jeff Baker’s single to right field.  3rd base coach Quade probably should not have sent the slow-running Fox home on the single to right field, but in any event, the Cubs can never seem to do anything right in 2009.

Not that anyone probably cares anymore, but:

The Cubs trails the Cardinals by 10.5 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Technically not out of it, but really not any closer than the Nationals who are “technically” 28 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race…

White Sox Cubs Baseball

White Sox Cubs Baseball

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Lilly, Marmol Shine – Offense Still Lifeless…

Posted on 03 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

If baseball rules didn’t require you to score any runs to earn a win or earn points, the Cubs would be one of the best teams in baseball with their solid pitching effort in 2009.  After Wednesday’s 2-0 shutout over the Astros, the Cubs still had the 5th best team ERA in all of MLB at 3.90.  If you took out their relievers numbers, the Cubs are close to the top of the list for starting pitching ERA numbers in 2009 (Randy Wells 2.90; Ted Lilly 3.17; Carlos Zambrano 3.91; Ryan Dempster 4.15; & Rich Harden 4.19).  At least that gives the Cubs some solace for turning things around in 2009…

Ted Lilly threw 8 shutout innings and would have been in line for a complete game shutout had he not topped 100 pitches after the 8 innings.  Lilly allowed only 4 base runners all day – 2 singles and 2 doubles (none in the same inning), no walks – so he was never in any real trouble all day long.  Lilly had 5 K’s.  And congrats to Carlos Marmol for picking up his 4th save in 4 chances since taking over the closer’s role.  Marmol did issue a 1-out walk to Hunter Pence, but it was a good at-bat for Pence who really worked the count on Marmol.  And even though Carlos Lee singled to make it 1st and 2nd with only 1 out, Marmol buckled down to get Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum on flyouts to end the game and preserve the Cubs 2-0 win.

As for the offense, or lack of it, the Cubs managed just 4 hits and 3 walks, and never really had any real scoring chances.  Lilly even had one of the Cubs hits.  If not for Derrek Lee’s home run after Andres Blanco’s double in the 4th inning, the 2 teams might still be playing.  The Cubs offense is a complete joke – their .254 team batting average has them tied for 3rd worst in all of baseball with 3 other teams – the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks.  Only the Cincinnati Reds (.244) and San Diego Padres (.242) have worse batting averages.  Not good my friends.

Here’s hoping for a healthy pitching staff in 2010 and a LOT of shutouts…

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Wells Notches 10th Win; Wells & Marmol Soldifying Starter & Closer Roles for 2010

Posted on 02 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

Randy Wells notched his 10th win on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, defeating the Astros 4-1.  Wells pitched into the 7th inning giving up just 1 unearned run.  Wells gave up 7 hits and 2 walks, but struck out 5.  John Grabow got Wells out of the 8th inning after a 2-out walk to Jason Michaels with 1 run already in in the inning.  Wells is clearly a man on a mission in 2009.  Wells has made every start (21 total) that has been asked of him since a May 8th start against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee.  He has pitched 133 1/3 innings, striking out 82 while walking just 35.  He has pitched at least 5 innings in all but 1 of his starts.  If not for 4 no decisions when he left the game with the lead, we could be looking at a 15-game winner here in a shortened season.  The Cubs have got to be thrilled to have the devlopment of Wells during an otherwise frustrating 2009 MLB schedule.  Wells just turned 27 years old and he has a lot of good years ahead of him.  It would be wise for Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to keep a close eye on his pitch counts during his last 5-6 starts of the season.  That’s probably why they took him out of last night’s game after just 94 pitches.  Good move in the long run.

Ted Lilly and Wells have been the Cubs most consistent pitchers in 2009.  While Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster have had off years (just 15 wins combined after the 2 combined for 31 totals win in 2008), Zambrano and Dempster are proven veterans capable of returning to the form that warranted signing each of them to long-term deals in 2008.  If Zambrano and Dempster show up in 2010, the Cubs will have a nice starting 4 locked in for the 2010 rotation.  The Cubs will likely not sign Rich Harden, as we have discussed before, so they will be in the market for a 5th starter to round out the starting rotation.

Keeping on the pitching front, Carlos Marmol appears to have settled right into the closer’s role.  Since taking over for Kevin Gregg at the end of August, Marmol has converted each of the 3 save opportunities given too him.  In each of those saves, he has not allowed more than 1 runner to reach base in the 9th inning.  He has 9 strikeouts in his last 4 innings pitched, and the confidence just seems to keep building and building.  His only bad outing since taking over the closer’s role was when Pinella threw him into a non-save situation against the Nationals when the Cubs blew open a 3-2 lead with 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning as Marmol was warming up to enter to save the game.  Instead of opting to use someone else (Marmol hadn’t pitched in 3 days leading up to that game), Pinella stayed with him to give him some work.  Marmol ended up giving up 2 ER on 3 walks and a hit, but finished the inning.  It would be great to see Marmol to finish on a positive note during the rest of the 2009 MLB schedule.  That will take out some of the uncertainty with the closer position heading into spring training.

And who knows, this could be a huge move for Kevin Gregg as well – not having to pitch in the pressure position as the closer.  Since his demotion, Gregg has not allowed a single run, pitching 6 innings in 6 appearances, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk along the way.  He has 5 K’s during that stretch.  If Gregg can get comfortable in the 7th or 8th inning set-up role, the Cubs could start to put together a strong “re-vamped” bullpen with John Grabow and Angel Guzman as well.

Hate to start to think positive thoughts for 2010, but as bad as it’s been this year, you would have to think that things can only get better…

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