Archive | Angel Guzman

Does Jeff Samardzija Have What it Takes to a Starter at the Major League Level?

Posted on 12 October 2009 by Lou

jeff samardzija iowa

Jeff Samardzija still thinks he has what it takes to be a starter in the Cubs rotation in 2010 – now he just needs to go out and show it.  After a rough 2009, he’ll have even a tougher time than he had in Spring Training this past year given the competition.  Samardzija appeared in 20 games for the Cubs during the course of the 2009 MLB schedule (including 2 starts).  He had a 1-3 record with a hefty 7.53 ERA (29 ER) and 1.76 WHIP in 34 2/3 innings pitched.  Teams batted .329 against Samardzija with 7 home runs and his strikeout to walk ratio was not great – 25 to 21.  Compare that to his 2008 numbers in his rookie year, and there is a stark contrast:

1-0 record; 2.28 ERA (7 ER) and 1.41 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings pitched; .226 opponents’ batting average with a 25-15 strikeout to walk ratio; 1 save with 3 blown saves.

So what went wrong in 2009?  Was it simply a sophomore jinx, does he not really have what it takes to pitch at this level, or at the age of 24, does he still need more minor league time to work on developing more pitches like a changeup or cutter that will keep batters more off-guard?  It’s unclear right now, but Samardzija will continue to work on throwing this offseason, playing winter ball in the Mexico league for Triple-A manager Bobby Dickerson.

Manager Lou Pinella had good things to say about the youngster: “The kid needs to pitch winter ball.  He’s on the right path… He just needs to work on the things he’s working on and get more consistent with it, and winter ball will give him that opportunity… Starting-wise, I think he’ll be able to throw all of his pitches and I think he can get better quicker.  When you pitch out of the bullpen, you’re only pitching an inning, two innings at a time, so you basically go after the hitter with one or two pitches.  Starting-wise, you have to develop all of your pitches and repertoire.”

The Cubs are pretty much locked into 4 starters in 2010 – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells.  The 5th starter role will likely come down to Tom Gorzellany, Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman.  Gorzellany made some nice starts in 2009 after coming over in a trade from the Pirates; Marshall won the 5th starter’s role in 2009, but Pinella moved him to the bullpen after Neal Cotts’ was hurt because the Cubs needed a lefty reliever out of the pen; and Guzman pitched well in the bullpen in 2009 and will likely serve a similar role in 2010.  So it will be interesting to see how it all pans out in Spring Training in 2010.  Samardzija can improve his chances with a good showing in winter ball in the Mexico League, so we’ll keep you posted how he is throwing later this month…

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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…

Astros Cubs Baseball

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Chicago Cubs Almost Done with August – It’s About Time!

Posted on 31 August 2009 by Lou

Mets Cubs Baseball

The Cubs have one more game left in a dreadful month of August – it’s about time. Let’s take a look back at what transpired.  On August 1st, the Cubs were 7 games over .500 with a 54-47 record.  The Cardinals were just 8 games over .500 with a 57-49 record.  The Cubs only trailed the Cards by 1/2 game in the NL Central race!

The Cubs split the first 4 games of the month, but then fell into a downward spiral quickly and painfully.  Heading into tonight’s game against the Astros in what will be the final game of August, the Cubs have an 11-16 record.  The Cubs are just 2 games over .500 and at 65-63, they trail the Cardinals by 10 games in the NL Central race.  While the Cubs were floundering away, the Cards were riding Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday on a 4-man wrecking crew, annhilating anything that stood in their path.  The Cards finished the month with a 20-6 record, and are 22 games over .500 with a 77-55 record.  During the month of August, the Cards never had a 2-game losing streak and lost twice in a week only once.  They are just a 1/2 game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the NL.  Talk about 2 teams heading in different directions.

Bad, bad, bad on the north side.

Carlos Zambrano suffered his 2nd straight loss since coming off the DL with a sore back.  He looked awful early and often – laboring through 75 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings of work.  Big Z gave up 3 ER (4 total) on 11 hits.  The one positive – he didn’t walk anyone.

The Cubs bullpen actually pitched well, and kept the Cubs in the 4-a game from the 4th through the 9th innings.  Tom Gorzelanny pitched 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief.  Sean Marshall retired 6 of the 7 batters that he faced, giving up just a lone single.  John Grabow pitched a perfect 8th inning and Angel Guzman did the same in the 9th inning.  With the year all but hopeless – in terms of playoffs – it’s nice to see guys still putting forth a solid effort, trying to build some momentum for 2010.  But that is certainly hard to do when you start a big 10-game home stand by losing 3 of 6 games to the 2 worst teams in the National League – the Nationals and Mets.  Bad, bad, bad.

Oh yeah, the Cubs managed just 7 hits and 2 walks off of Nelson Figueroa (1.66 WHIP and 4.50 ERA after the game) and 2 Mets relievers.  Bad, bad, bad…

Mets Cubs Baseball

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Wheels Quickly Falling Off Cubs Wagon on West Coast Trip

Posted on 21 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Dodgers Baseball

The Cubs went back to their losing ways in Los Angeles, dropping the opener of a 4-game series to Dodgers 7-2.  A disastrous 4-run 6th off of Angel Guzman brought a slow end to the night.  Guzman replaced Tom Gorzelanny who had allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits over 5 innings of work.  Guzman gave up back-to-back singles to Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake to start the inning.  After a sacrifice bunt moved runners to 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out, Manager Lou Pinella decided to intentionally walk James Loney to pitch to Russell Martin with the bases loaded.  Boy did that move backfire – Martin crushed a grand slam to deep center field and the game was basically over.

One pitching positive – demoted closer Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect 8th inning.  Yeah!

The Cubs managed 8 hits off of 4 Dodgers pitchers – Kosuke Fukodome was the big start, going 3 for 3 with a solo home run, 2 singles and a walk.  Derrek Lee had 2 hits in defeat, but his batting average is now all the way up to .295.

Not really sure what else to say about this Cubs team.  It just gets uglier and uglier.  Cubs get good pitching, the Cubs offense goes quiet and they lose 2-1.  Cubs pitchers struggle and the offense either mails it in after a few innings or hits well, but not enough to win.  The Cubs are creeping backwards towards the .500 mark again – 61-58 – and trail the Cards by 7 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Technically they still have a pulse, but it is definitely getting harder and harder to feel and hear…

Cubs Dodgers Baseball

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Another Day, Another Loss – Cubs Can’t Beat the Good Teams

Posted on 12 August 2009 by Lou

Phillies Cubs Baseball

The Phillies defeated the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  How do you out hit a team 10 to 3, but lose 4-3?  Unbelievable…

Kevin Gregg took the loss when he served up a Ben Francisco solo home run in the top of the 12th inning.  It was his 4th loss of the season, as his ERA rose to 4.02.

Rich Harden had another great start against the Phillies – 7 innings, 2 ER, 2 hits, 2 walks and 6 K’s – but came out with a no decision in place.

Carlos Marmol had another crappy outing.

The Cubs failed to lose any ground to the Cards who lost to the Reds.  Yeah!  This is getting really really old…

Phillies Cubs Baseball

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Cubs Doing Their Best to Avoid 2009 Post-Season Play

Posted on 10 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

I was just way too irritated to even do a post on Sunday.  This could be one of the most frustrating Cubs teams to follow in the last few years.  No clutch hitting, no concentration, no desire to win, no emotion, no nothing.  Unless the Cardinals lose the rest of their games, I don’t see how this team will be able to win a 3rd straight NL Central crown.

The Cubs actually showed some grit in Saturday’s 6-5 win.  The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the 4th inning on a Kosuke Fukodme double and a Ryan Dempster walk, only to have Dempster give back 4 runs right away in the bottom of the inning.  But the Cubs responded with 4 runs in the next 3 innings to take a 6-4 lead.  As they had done so many times earlier this season – Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Greeg worked relatively easy scoreless innings of relief to preserve the 6-5 win.

Looking to build off the big win after losing Friday night, the Cubs looked to Randy Wells to put forth another solid start.  Wells had one of his worst outings of the year, and although the Cubs generated numerous scoring chances against Jason Hammel early in the game, they could only push across 3 runs in the game’s 1st 5 innings despite racking up an incredible 11 hits.  No clutch hitting once again, and the Cubs found themselves trailing 8-3 by the end of the 6th inning.  Wells ended up giving up 5 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks in 5 1/3 innings, while Jeff Stevens got lit up for 4 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk in his 1 inning of work that spanned the 6th and 7th innings.  All in all, it was bad day for the Cubs.

The loss pushed the Cubs 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central.  The Cards took care of business sweeping a weekend series over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Carlos Zambrano is back on the DL with lower back soreness that could have been aggravated by over-swinging during batting practice before Friday’s game.  Does Big Z realize he is a pitcher 1st and that the Cubs already have starting pitcher Ted Lilly on the DL?  Obviously not.  Big Z is scheduled to come off the DL on Friday, August 21st and Jeff Samardzija will likely make 2 starts during Big Z’s absence.

Aramis Ramirez has been dealing with right shoulder soreness from his early season dislocated shoulder.  Ramirez left Saturday’s game early and Jake Fox started for Ramirez on Sunday.  It is unclear if Ramirez will miss anymore time.

With Kosuke Fukodome batting great in the lead-off spot, I’m extremely confused as to why Manager Lou Pinella all of a sudden decided to re-jigger the lineup in Colorado.  Pinella had Ryan Theirot leading off, Milton Bradley batting 2nd and Fukodome batting 5th.  The players produced in the new lineup (Ryan Theriot had 3 hits on Saturday and 2 hits on Sunday; Bradley had 2 hits on Saturday and 4 hits on Sunday and his average is up to .266; & Fukodome had 2 hits in each game), but it seemed odd that Pinella would mess with a good thing, especially when the Cubs had already found themselves in so many poor hitting droughts several times during the 2009 MLB schedule.

Pinella did his best to motivate the club by getting thrown out of the game for arguing a horrible call at 2nd base on a double play ball that thwarted a Cubs rally, but in the end, the Cubs players looked like they wanted to join Pinella in the showers early instead of trying to win a baseball game.

The Cubs are still just 2 games behind the Cards and the Giants and Rockies for the wild card race, and they have even played 4 fewer games than the Cards and 2 fewer games than each of the Giants and Rockies, so there is room to gain ground.  But this team is too inconsistent, too prone to give up way too soon, and too apt to follow a 3-game winning streak with a 5-game skid.  I have officially given up – I’ll still root for the Cubs and report on the positives and the negatives, but at the end of the day, this is a middle of the road team, not a division leader…

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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Aramis Ramirez Gets Hot, Cubs Vault to NL Central Lead

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

So Aramis Ramirez goes, so the Cubs go.  It took a couple of weeks for Aramis Ramirez to get back into the “swing” of things after his 2+ month stint on the DL, but he is “back and better than ever” to quote “Mike & Mike” in the morning.  Ramirez’ hot hitting has coincided with the Cubs catapult into 1st place in the NL Central race with a 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.  Who knows how long they will be there, but it must have come as a welcome relief to know that they have it in there despite all of the poor play and injuries that have plagued the Cubs ball club during the 2009 MLB schedule.

Aramis Ramirez has been on fire since Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia.  In that game, Ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 walks, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  He had home runs in Friday’s and Saturday’s wins and 2 more hits in Sunday’s sweep of the Reds.  Overall, in his last 4 games, Ramirez is 9 for 16 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles, 7 RBI’s and 4 runs scored.  His batting average is back up over .330 and his on-base percentage is just under .400 at .394.    When Ramirez starts hitting, it seems like the rest of the team starts hitting and developing more scoring chances.

Alfonso Soriano has really turned it on as of late.  Soriano has a modest 9-game hitting streak, and his batting average is back above .250.  Soriano has 5 multi-hit games during that stretch, with 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and 5 runs scored.  If the Cubs can get a more consistent and productive Soriano down the stretch in the 6-hole, the Cubs should be able to stay in the NL Central race for the duration of the 2009 MLB schedule.

The Cubs open a big 4-game series against the 3rd place Houston Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field.  Carlos Zambrano will start the opener against Wandy Rodriguez.

Reds Cubs Baseball

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Will Cubs be able to Build off Momentum from 10-5 Win over Phillies?

Posted on 23 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

Will the Cubs be able to build off the momentum of Wednesday’s 10-5 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia?  That is the $50,000 question.  The Cubs avoided the sweep with the win, and although it wasn’t always pretty, a win is a win.  Carlos Zambrano came up with a big start in a must-win situation to avoid the sweep at Citizens Bank Ballpark, and although he got tagged for 4 ER on 10 hits and 3 walks in 6 2/3 innings, he did his job and gave the bullpen an 8-5 lead at the time of his departure.  The bullpen struggled a little bit as well as Angel Guzman and Kevin Gregg had some control issues, but each pitcher got the Cubs out of a bases loaded jam in the 7th and 8th innings and the rest was history.

The Cubs bats finally lit up in one of the friendliest ballparks in the big leagues.  The Cubs scored 10 runs on 13 hits.  After drawing just 1 walk in the 1st 2 games of the series, the Cubs drew 9 walks on Wednesday.  It’s about time.  Milton Bradley was back in the lineup after getting a few days off, and he responded by going 2 for 4 with an RBI, a run scored and a walk.  It was great to see Aramis Ramirez back in the lineup in a day game after a late night game – maybe his shoulder is OK?!  ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI’s, 2 runs scored and 2 walks.  Ryan Theriot had 3 hits, 2 runs scored and 3 stolen bases, Derrek Lee went 1 for 3 with an RBI, 2 runs scored and 3 walks, while Alfonso Soriano stroked 2 hits to bring his batting average back up to .245!  Hip hip hooray!!!

As the Cards got swept in Houston, the Cubs find themselves just 1 game out of 1st place in the NL Central.  For as bad as they have looked this 2009 MLB schedule, the division is still there for the taking.  How will they respond?  Will they take it to the Reds (44-50) and Astros (also just 1 game behind the Cards) on the upcoming 7-game home stand at Wrigley Field?  Or will they revert to their losing ways after showing some (little) signs of getting their act together?  I’ve seen too much bad baseball from this club in 2009 to think that they will get it together.  Don’t get me wrong, I hope they can string together a good stretch of wins to put some pressure on the Cards, Astros and Brewers to have to perform well on a daily basis.  But if recent history is any indication, we’ll probably see a mediocre 4-3 or 3-4 homestand with the Cubs trailing the mediocre Cards by a game or two in the mediocre NL Central…  Anyone see a mediocre pattern here?

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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Shockingly Good Pitching From Harden; Shockingly Bad Hitting by Cubs Offense

Posted on 22 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Phillies Baseball

Where did it all go wrong for GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella with this frustrating 2009 Cubs ball club? The Cubs lost to the Phillies 4-1 in 13 innings on Tuesday night as Jayson Werth’s 3-run HR off of Jeff Samardzija gave the Phillies their 10th straight win.  That wasn’t surprising.  What was surprising was how good Rich Harden looked and how bad the Cubs bats are on a daily basis.

First Harden – as I wrote yesterday, I expected the Phillies to knock Harden around, but he threw a season high 117 pitches in 7 solid innings.  Harden gave up only 1 ER on 4 hits and 2 walks and the lone run scored on a Jimmy Rollins solo home run way back in the 3rd inning.  Harden also had 6 K’s.  The rest of the bullpen was up to the challenge too – Carlos Marmol worked 2 scoreless innings, Angel Guzman tossed a scoreless inning and Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman combined for a scoreless 11th inning.  Jeff Samardzija even looked good – he retired the 1st 5 batters he faced over the 12th and 13th innings, but got into trouble when he walked both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with 2 outs in the 13th.  Not a good move – because walks always come back to haunt you.  Then Samardzija served up the game-winning HR to Werth and the Cubs had dropped the 1st 2 games to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

But the big issue is the Cubs hitting.  After knocking around one of baseball’s worst pitching staff’s against the Nats in DC over the weekend, it was back to the “real-world” for the Cubs.  The Cubs should have felt good as Citizens Bank Ballpark is one of the best hitter park in the big leagues.  Batters improves their statistics each night they get to play in the ball park.  But not the Cubs hitters.  In 22 innings, the Cubs have managed just 2 runs off of the mediocre Phillies pitching.  Worse than that, they managed only 6 hits in Monday’s loss and only 5 hits in Tuesday’s loss.  After drawing only 3 walks on Monday, the Cubs didn’t walk once on Tuesday night.  Not 1 walk in 13 innings!?  How can that be?  Only 3 Cubs players had hits in both games – Alfonso Soriano had 3 hits on Monday and 1 hit on Tuesday, while Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukodome each had 1 hit in each game.  Derrek Lee is a combined 1 for 8 while Aramis Ramirez is a combined 0 for 7 in the series.  What makes it even worse is the fact that the Cubs seem to waste good pitching outings with horrible hitting performances.  Rich Harden’s Tuesday night start was another quality start for the Cubs starting rotation.  The Cubs now have 57 quality starts on the season, but only 47 wins to show for it.  When you don’t win quality starts, you are not going to be near the top of your division.

This team is only still in contention because the rest of the NL Central is so bad.  The Cubs are 47-45 and are tied with the Brewers and Astros for 2nd place behind the Cardinals.  I feel like I’ve given the team (and Hendry and Pinella) the benefit of the doubt in 2009, but after 92 games, it’s time to step up and take accountability for your play on the field.  Stay tuned for some more critical posts about the state of the Cubs and what they need to do to make sure the team can stay competitive for the forseable future…

Cubs Phillies Baseball

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Cubs Beat Nationals 6-3 to Open 2nd Half on High Note

Posted on 17 July 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

The Cubs defeated the Nats 6-3 at Nationals Park in Washington DC on Thursday night.  The win moved the Cubs within 3 games of the idle Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central. Rich Harden evened his record at 6-6 with a solid outing – 6 innings,  3 hits, 7 K’s and most importantly no walks.  The only run Harden allowed was an unearned run in the 6th inning.  Angel Guzman and Carlos Mamrol each worked scoreless innings of relief and Kevin Gregg closed out the game despite giving up a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the 9th inning.

Derrek Lee kept up his hot hitting.  He went 3 for 4 with a solo home run.  Reed Johnson had 2 hits and an RBI in the leadoff spot.  Ryan Theriot had only 1 hit, but 2 RBI’s.

Let’s hope the Cubs can pull off 3 more wins against the lowly Nats the rest of the weekend.

Cubs Nationals Baseball

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