Archive | Lou Pinella

Harden, Heilman Remain Cubs; Harden Lacks Focus in Monday Night Start

Posted on 01 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

The Cubs decided to keep Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman because they “we still feel we have a chance in the Wild Card race, and we’re going to go after it” according to Manager Lou Pinella. Yeah right!  Gotta love the optimism, but it is way to late for pep talks right now, Lou.

GM Jim Hendry echoed Pinella’s sentiments when asked about Harden and Heilman potentially being moved in a trade: “I can honestly tell you we never gave it any substantive thought to deal the two.  We certainly would never give up unless we were out of it.  If we were 15 back, we might look at it differently…We’ve got a shot at the postseason, but we need to really play well the rest of the way.  So far we haven’t shown the ability to maintain it for a long time, and we need to do that.”  Makes you want to go out and catch the next Cubs game at Wrigley Field – doesn’t it?!

Unbelievable.   Hendry hasn’t given Pinella the right roster to win games on a consistent level at all this season.  And now we’re expected to think that the Cubs are going to flip a switch and go -0 during the month of September.  What a joke.

Harden did pitch against the Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field… it wasn’t pretty.  98 pitches, 5 innings, 5 ER, 5 hits and 6 walks.  He did strike out 9, however, so that was a plus.  The bullpen shined again though, so at least we can take solace in that.  Aaron Heilman pitched 2 scoreless innings, although he did give up 2 hits and a walk.  Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless 8th inning with 2 K’s.  John Grabow pitched a perfect 9th inning with 2 K’s.  Grabow looks like a keeper – someone the Cubs will have to pay in free agency to keep.  In 15 Cubs appearances, Grabow has not allowed a single run and opponents are batting just .081 against him.  He has a miniscule .089 WHIP.

Ryan Theriot broke out of a mini-slump, going 2 for 4 with 1 RBI.  Jeff Baker also had 2 hits and a run scored in defeat.  Baker has also played well since being acquired by the Cubs – .316 batting average, .374 on-base percentage, 12 RBI’s and 15 runs scored in just 98 at-bats.  Not bad.  Well’ keep a close watch on some of these players that are playing well – they could see significant game action in 2010 with the Cubs unlikely to make many big moves in the off-season with the new ownership in flux.

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Bradley & Soriano Bumbling Fools in Outfield, But Cubs Rally to Win 5-2

Posted on 29 August 2009 by Lou

Mets Cubs Baseball

What is it with Milton Bradley?  Bradley is a wreck in the field and didn’t really start to hit until the Cubs were completely out of playoff contention the last few weeks.  Bradley also likes to speak his mind, which makes his poor play even harder to handle.  Although Alfonso Soriano sucks in the field too, at least he doesn’t go off bitching to the press and hasn’t really complained too much about being demoted to the 6th spot in the batting order during the middle of the season.

Check out a few of Bradley’s comments from this week:

Bradley has only been charged with 3 errors in  2009, but there have been countless other balls the he either misjudged, misplayed or didn’t see that weren’t counted as errors.  Take the game back in June when he didn’t realize there were only 2 outs in the inning and he tossed the ball into the right field bleachers.  Take yesterday’s game where he calls off 2nd baseman Jeff Baker on a soft fly ball to right, and he lets the ball skip off his mitt for a hit.  That should have been an error, but the official scorer was in a very forgiving mood.

Bradley has played well of late – .  But at this point, it is just too little too late.  I hope I can forgive him this off-season and give him a clear slate for the 2010 MLB schedule.  But I have a feeling that will be tough to do.

The Cubs showed some guts yesterday, rallying to win 5-2 with a 4-run 8th inning.  After the Cubs allowed a run to the Mets in the top of the 8th inning (Alfonso Soriano misplayed a single that turned into a double (no error) and then allowed a line drive to left skip off the top of his glove to allow the go-ahead run to score (again, not an error, but an average-defensive outfielder would have made the play), the Cubs responded with 4 of their own in the bottom of the inning.  Bradley led off with a double to right and then scored the tying run on Aramis Ramirez’s single to right field.  After Jeff Baker walked to prolong the inning, Alfonso Soriano approached the plate a midst a chorus of boos.  But Soriano quickly silenced the boo-birds with a game-winning 3-run HR to left center field.  And despite a lead off walk to Oliver Santos in the 9th inning, Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 9th inning with 2 K’s to record his 2nd consecutive in as many chances since being named the Cubs full-time closer.  All this over-shadowed another solid outing from Ted Lilly – 7 1/3 innings, just 2ER on 6 hits and 2 walks.  Since coming off the DL, Lilly has given up just a total of 4ER in 3 starts (19 1/3 inning), but is just 0-1 to show for it.

Yeah – Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!  This is painful…

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Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman Claimed Off Waivers, Cubs Fall to Nats 5-4

Posted on 28 August 2009 by Lou

The good news – Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman were claimed off of waivers this week.  Why is that good?  Well, as I discussed in my post yesterday, Harden has had a great 2nd half of 2009.  Give certain factors (limited payroll flexibility, new ownership team, Harden’s injury risk), the Cubs are unlikely to sign Harden in free agency to a long-term lucrative deal, especially since other teams will likely pursue Harden with a big deal that the Cubs won’t be able to match.  Now that Harden has been claimed off of waivers, the Cubs have 72 hours to negotiate a trade with that team, pull Harden back or release him.  Seeing that the Cubs weren’t going to get anything for him anyway if he signed with another team in the off-season, it would be great if the Cubs could trade him to acquire a young prospect now.  This late in the season, it’s unclear how much a team might be willing to give up for Harden, but if they can get something for him, that would be great.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.

As for Heilman, who really cares.  Nice guy, bad performance in 2009 with a 2-3 record and a hefty 4.55 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 57 appearances.

The bad news – in Thursday’s game, the Nats defeated the Cubs 5-4 and took the series from the Cubs 2 games to 1.  Heading into the series, the Nats were the worst team in baseball, winners of just 44 games and only 17 games on the road.  Figures they would take 2 of 3 games from the Cubs at Wrigley Field and destroy all hopes of a 3rd straight playoff appearance for the north siders.  Randy Wells had an uncharacteristic off day – giving up 5 ER on 5 hits and 4 walks in only 6 1/3 innings.  Wells suffered his 7th loss of the season and his WHIP rose to 1.22 and his ERA rose to 3.06.  Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez were the only 2 good hitters for the Cubs in the loss.  Lee went 2 for 2 with a home run and 2 runs scored.  Ramirez went 3 for 4 with a 2-run home run and 3 RBI’s.

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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Harden Serves Up Another Good Start – Should Cubs Re-Sign Him?

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

Although Rich Harden took a no decision in Wednesday night’s 9-4 win over the Nationals at Wrigley Field, he turned in another stellar start in a very impressive 2nd half of 2009.  Harden worked through a shaky 1st inning and held the Nats to just 2 ER on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings.  His pitch count was a bit high – 96 pitches – but it was his 8th straight since the all-star break in which he has not allowed more than 2 ER in an outing.  Very impressive for someone that entered the 2009 MLB schedule with a lot of question marks.

Harden now has 22 starts on the season and if he stays healthy the rest of the way, he should get at least another 7 starts before the season ends.  I remember most Cubs critics and fans saying that if Harden made 25 starts for the Cubs in 2009, that would be a huge success.  Harden has 8 wins and his ERA is under 4.00 (at 3.99) for the 1st time since April 26th after he held the Cardinals to just 2 ER in a 10-3 Cubs win in St. Louis.  Harden has made at least 22 starts in a season only 2 other times – back in 2004 (31 starts) and 2005 (22 starts).  With his 2009 performance, and his ability to prove to all other MLB clubs that he can stay healthy for a good portion of the year, he will likely be pursued hard in the off-season.  And that’s when the question becomes – should the Cubs sign him to a long-term deal?

A few things work against the Cubs on this one.  With the tenuous ownership situation, who knows when the new ownership team will be in place to determine a course of action for the off-season free agency period.  The Cubs will likely be at a disadvantage against other clubs as a new team might not be able to give GM Jim Hendry adequate guidance as to whom he can and cannot pursue this off-season.  Further, with close to $150 million already committed to athletes locked in for the 2010 MLB schedule, there will be little room to add significant payroll this off-season, especially with the new ownership group getting adjusted to life as a MLB team owner.  Lastly, there still has to be some concern with Harden’s health as a major league starter.  Harden spent some time on the DL at the end of 2008 with a “tired arm” and he had a stint on the DL again this past May-June and missed about 5 starts over a 3-week period.  Given past problems with pitchers with histories of arm woes – Mark Prior, Kerry Wood – I have a feeling that the Cubs won’t gamble on signing Harden to a long-term deal.

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly are all locked in for 2010.  Randy Wells has emerged as a legitimate major league pitcher – 19 starts, 120 1/3 innings pitched, 1.20 WHIP, 2.84 ERA and will likely serve as the team’s 4th starter in 2010.  Sean Marshall can also return to a starting role and Jeff Samardzija, despite his struggles in 2009, is also seen as a viable starting pitcher down the line.

As for the 9-4 win, Koyie Hill was the Cubs offensive hero, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Hill scored the go-ahead run on Milton Bardley’s fielder’s choice groundout in the 7th inning and he broke the game open with a 2-out, 2-run double in the 8th inning that gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.  The Cubs went on to score 6 insurance runs in the 8th inning.  Milton Bradley went 1 for 3 with a 2-run home run that gave the Cubs their 1st lead of the game in the 3rd inning.  Bradley had 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored on the night.

At 63-61, the Cubs still trail the Cards by 9 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7.5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Not good…

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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Big Z’s Big Embarassment – Cubs Lose 15-6 @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

I really didn’t think that things could get any worse, and then Carlos Zambrano got back on the mound last night after spending time on the DL for the 2nd time during the 2009 MLB schedule.  Aside from a solo home run that tied the game at 1 in the 3rd inning, Big Z was awful.  This was a make-or-break homestand for the Cubs against the lowly Nats, Mets and Astros and the Cubs showed why they don’t have what it takes to qualify for post-season play in 2009.

Zambrano could not have looked more out of sync on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field – makes you wonder if they should have given him another rehab start before bringing him back up to the big league level.  Big Z issued a walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the 1st inning, but no runs.  The Nats touched up Big Z for the 1st run of the game with 2 singles and a sac fly in the 2nd inning to take a 1-0 lead.  The 3rd inning was the only inning in which he had a 1-2-3 effort.  The wheels started coming off in the 4th inning.  After a solo home run by Josh Willingham, the Nats tacked on another run on consecutive hits by Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes.  The Nats may have even scored more runs, but they ran themselves out of the inning on a failed suicide squeeze attempt.  Manager Lou Pinella finally saw enough from Big Z in the 5th inning when his pitch count reached 95 pitches.  A hit batsmen started the rally, followed by 2 singles and 2 walks.  Although Aaron Heilman served up the grand slam that broker the game open to give the Nats a 9-1 lead, 3 of the runs that scored were charged to Zambrano.  In 4 1/3 innings, Big Z gave up 8 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks to one of the NL’s worst hitting teams.  Big Z’s WHIP rose to 1.38 on the 2009 MLB schedule.

You have to expect more from the “ace” of your pitching staff.  The Cubs have invested a lot of money and commitment in Zambrano and he really needs to put together a dominating season like other aces – Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Chris Carpenter – have done.  Until then, Big Z is really just an over-paid, over-glorified 2nd or 3rd starter on a club that needs an ace.

The lone positive from Tuesday night – – Milton Bradley went 4 for 4 with a solo home run and 2 runs scored.

I’ve been writing about how good the starting pitching has been, and Big Z just threw that right out the window with one atrocious outing.  The frustration with this 2009 Cubs club continues and it will be a gift to all of us when this year finally comes to an end on Sunday, October 4th…

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It’s Do Or Die for Cubs with Upcoming 10-Game Homestand @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 25 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

It’s do or die time for the Cubs with a HUGE 10-game homestand at Wrigley Field.  As I wrote yesterday, the Cubs are one of the better home teams in the National League (35-22).  The Cubs are 7.5 games back of the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race and 8 games back of the Cards in the NL Central race.  The Cubs have an “easy” 10-game homestand “teed up for them” to crush 350 yards straight down the fairway – 3 games against the Nationals (44-81); 3 games against the Mets (57-68) who will be without ace Johan Santana for the rest of the season; 3 games against the Astros (61-63) and 1 make-up game against the White Sox (63-62).

The Cubs have all 5 starters back and healthy – – Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Randy Wells, Ted Lilly & Ryan Dempster.  Now all they need to do is win – a tough task for this frustrating, struggling 2009 Cubs ball club.

The Cubs have the 5th best team ERA in all of baseball at 3.88 – take out the relievers ERA and the Cubs starting staff has the best ERA in the big leagues.  But when you look at the offensive stats, the numbers are “startlingly” bad…  Tied for 3rd worst with a .253 batting average; 9th worst in runs scored and RBI’s; and 12th worst in slugging percentage and on-base percentage.  This coming from the team that led the National League in run production in 2008.  Awful seasons from Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot, and long stints on the DL for Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson have contributed to the Cubs futility this year at the plate.  Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukodome are the only 3 players who have had somewhat consistent years at the plate.

It’s time for Manager Lou Pinella to give some more playing time to some of the Cubs young stars like Sam Fuld and Jake Fox.  Fuld (.283 batting average; .397 on-base percentage) and Fox (.305 batting average; .355 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s; 19 runs & 34 RBI’s) have been hitting the ball well and most importantly, they have been playing hard, unlike some of the efforts we’re seeing from Bradley and Soriano all season long.  If Pinella and the Cubs are serious about making a run before the end of the 2009 MLB schedule, the time is now.

Here’s hoping Pinella wakes up and smells the coffee and that the Cubs can actually mount some sort of offensive attack against the weak-hitting Nats and Mets in the next 6 games at Wrigley Field.  Big Z has a chance to prove why he is the Cubs “ace” – a good start tonight will go a long way in determining whether or not this team has what it takes to make the 2009 post-season…

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Big Z’s Back & He’s Bigger Ummm… Better than Before

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Lou

carlos cubs

The Cubs are anxiously waiting the return of their ace Carlos Zambrano.  Big Z – after admitting he is lazy and doesn’t like to do his ab work – is scheduled to face Garrett Mock and the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  Hip Hip Hooray!  Big Z needs to focus more on throwing strikes and getting guys out than giving piggyback rides in the dugout and eating bon bons.

Big Z has been dealing with back pain and back spasms since the beginning of August.  Zambrano tossed 5 scoreless innings at Triple-A Peoria on Thursday night and is ready to go against the Nats this week.  Big Z has a 7-4 record with a 1.35 WHIP and a 3.35 ERA – definitely the numbers you’d expect from the ace of your staff.  Mock has a 2-5 record with a 1.83 WHIP and a 5.10 ERA.  Think there was a reason the Cubs held him back to start Tuesday against the Nats and then Sunday against the Mets instead of this past weekend against the Dodgers in L.A.?

As for the Cubs game action on Saturday and Sunday…

About the only thing Cubs fans have to look forward to in 2010 is good starting pitching…

carlos zambrano

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Cubs Waste Another Great Randy Wells Effort

Posted on 22 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Dodgers Baseball

Talk about your cursed pitchers in 2009 – Randy Wells pitched 6 2/3 innings of 7-hit, 2-walk ball against one of the better hitting teams in the NL and did not allow a single earned run, but still lost. With 2 outs and 1 on in the 2nd inning, Aramis Ramirez’s fielding error allowed Orlando Hudson to reach base to preserve the inning for the Dodgers.  Wells made a mistake to pitcher Randy Wolf who hit a 2-run double to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.  Game over…  With Wells’ sparkling 2.84 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, it is shocking to think that he has a 9-6 record.

The Cubs answered in the top of the 3rd inning after a Sam Fuld walk, a Wells sacrifice and a Ryan Theriot RBI single – their only hit of the game.  But that would be the only offensive threat that the Cubs mustered against Wolf and 2 Dodgers relievers.  Bad, bad, bad.

The Cubs are just 2 games over .500 now at 61-59.  They are just 26-37 on the road during the 2009 MLB schedule – how does a team like this play that bad away from Wrigley Field?  They trail the Cards by 7 games in the NL Central and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Game Over!!!

We believe this will be the last post that we’ll do that focuses specifically on game action.  From now on, we will give you results and how far the Cubs have fallen behind the Cardinals and the NL Wild Card leaders, but we’ll focus out attention on the future.  How the Cubs will deal with the disappointing 2009 campaign, what moves could be in store in the off-season, how the new Ricketts ownership will manage the Cubs organization, etc.  We hope you enjoy the new focus as our beloved Cubs fall into oblivion…

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Carlos Marmol Replaces Kevin Gregg as Cubs Closer

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

Manager Lou Pinella finally made the switch – Carlos Marmol will be the Cubs closer the rest of the year.  Kevin Gregg will serve as a late inning reliever.  Pinella probably would have made the switch sooner if he had a more viable option from within.  While Marmol has electric stuff, he has struggled with his control all season long – in 56 1/3 innings, Marmol has issued 52 walks!  With a .163 batting average against, Marmol really just needs to throw strikes.  Marmol has a 3.51 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP.  He has a 2-2 record with 4 saves, 27 holds  and 4 blown saves.  He also has 67 K’s.

Gregg finally forced Pinella’s hand after a disastrous August.  In 8 August appearances, Gregg has a horrendous 11.25 ERA.  Gregg blew 3 of his 5 save chances in the month and took the loss in 3 games by issuing game-winning home runs to the opposite team.  Not good.

Pinella had these comments about the move:  “We needed to try a different approach.  We’ve been very patient, if you want to use that word.  We’ve lost some tough, tough ballgames.  M<armol deserves an opportunity, so we’re going to give him that chance…This wasn’t something that just cropped up overnight.  That’s a tough job for anybody and he’s had some success, obviously, but lately he’s been struggling.  We decided to make a change and hopefully it worls out best for our ballclub.”

Gregg took the demotion like a true diplomat: “I don’t blame them.  We have to go with the hot hand right now.  That’s the life of my job.”

It’s probably too little too late right now.  The Cubs are 6 games behind the Cards in the NL Central race and 5 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.  The Cubs offense is average at best, but more often inconsistent and “non-clutch”.  It has been a brutal, frustrating year for the Cubs and Cubs fans, and I’m sure Marmol will have some rocky moments along the way during the final 40 games of the 2009 MLB schedule.

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Cubs Hitting Rock Bottom in San Diego – Lose to Padres Again

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

Ouch – how the “mighty” have fallen.  It looks like the Cubs – the best team in the NL in 2008 –  have given up on the 2009 campaign.  In a lackluster effort, the Cubs fell to the Padres 6-3.  They are now 60-57 and they trail the Cards by 6 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 5 games in the NL Wild Card race.  These leads are by no means insurmountable, but when you look at the Cubs body language these days, you know it’s over.  Wait until next year Cubs fans!

A telling sign – the Cubs faced a rookie pitcher – Cesar Carrillo – in his 2nd major league start.  Carrillo had given up 8 ER on 4 hits (3 HR’s) and 2 walks in his 1st major league start just 6 days ago in Milwaukee.  Just the type of pitcher the Cubs needed to break out of their offensive woes on the west coast.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  The Cubs managed 7 hits and 4 walks against Carrillo but never got the big hit that blew an inning wide open.  The Cubs had 2 runners on in 4 of the 6 innings Carrillo pitched, but they never scored more than 1 run in an inning.  Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster had 2 of the Cubs 7 hits on the night and one of the Cubs RBI’s.  Gimme a break! Derrek Lee and Jeff Baker each had 2 hits, which means that only 1 other Cub player had a hit – that was Alfonso Soriano who got lucky on a bloop single to left field that scored a run in the 5th inning.  Talk about futile.  After the Padres took a 4-3 lead on Adrian Gonzalez’ solo home run in the bottom of the 5th inning, you could just see the wind get sucked out of the Cubs’ sails.  From the 6th through the 9th innings, the Cubs managed just 1 base runner – a Milton Bradley walk to lead off the 7th inning.  Not good.

Ryan Dempster didn’t help matters with another sub-par outing – 4 ER on 8 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings.  He did have 10 K’s, but when you lose your 7th game against only 6 wins, does it really matter?  Angel Guzman gave up 2 insurance runs to the Padres in his 1 inning of work – on an inside the park home run off the bat of Kyle Blanks that hit off the top of the center field fence and bounced away from center fielder Kosuke Fukodome.  Of course, Milton Bradley did a poor job of backing up the play, and Blanks scored easily to give the Padres a commanding 6-3 lead.

The Cubs needed to sweep the Padres this week.  The Padres are 51-70 and in last place in the AL West.  On paper, the Cubs are clearly better than the Padres, but when you don’t produce on the field, you’re not going to win.  The Padres swept the Cubs at Petco Park in a 3 game series back in May, and it looks like they’re going to do the same in August unless Rich Harden throws a complete game shutout tonight against the Padres.  I won’t hold my breath…

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