Archive | Carlos Zambrano

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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Cubs Looking for Answers…

Posted on 10 October 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs will be looking for answers in 2010.  Let’s hope the Ricketts family has their act together before the end of the World Series.  The Ricketts family will need to be on the same page with GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella before the start of free agency in late November.

Pitching-wise, the Cubs are set with a starting rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny.  The Cubs will likely say goodbye to free agent pitchers Rich Harden and Kevin Gregg, but will look to sign John Grabow soon to serve as the team’s set-up man for Carlos Marmol.  The Cubs will also probably like to try to re-sign Reed Johnson despite his 2009 injury issues.

After signing Grabow, the Cubs certainly need to find a way to trade troubled outfielder Milton Bradley.  Not sure who is going to be willing to take him, but the Cubs will likely have to pick up some of the $20 million still owed to him over the next 2 years.  Not good – but it is what it is.

GM Jim Hendry will also need to figure out who is going to start at 2nd base and center field in 2010.

So while there are some voids that need to be filled in 2010, the Cubs can take a more cautious approach this off-season to see if the team can right the ship after an under-achieving 2009 MLB schedule…

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Randy Wells Shines, Ryan Dempster Stumbles @ Wrigley Field over the Weekend

Posted on 05 October 2009 by Lou

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It was a tale of 2 final starts for Randy Wells and Ryan Dempster in the final 2 games for the Cubs over the weekend at Wrigley Field.

Wells picked up his 12th win of the season as he dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks over 7 innings of work.  Wells threw 107 pitches and struck out a career-high 10 batters.  He gave up just 3 hits and 1 walk during his outing.  Top top off the excellent showing from Wells, Esmailin Cardidad and Carlos Marmol continued their hot pitching with 2 perfect innings of work to preserve the 5-0 win for Wells.  We could be seeing a lot of Cardidad and Marmol in 2010 for the Cubs, as well as a lot of Wells.  Wells has been the Cubs most pleasant surprise of 2009.  He made 27 starts for the Cubs, an amazing number given the fact that he did not get his 1st start until May 8th.  He finished with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, and he gave up just 56 ER in 165 1/3 innings pitched.  The 12 wins and 3.05 ERA were team highs.

Ryan Dempster did not fare so well in his final start of 2009.  Dempster was also going for his 12th win of the season, but he gave up 5 ER on 6 hits and 1 walk in just 5 innings of work (he did have 10 K’s). He was on a roll of late – going 2-0 while pitching at least 7 innings in each of his last 4 starts – but he didn’t have it on Sunday.  Overall, Dempster finished the season with a 3.65 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  Dempster struck out 172 batters while walking only 65 in 200 innings pitched, but he was just too inconsistent all season long.  The strikeout and innings pitched numbers were team highs.

If Wells can repeat his 2009 performance in 2010, the Cubs will have a formidable starting rotation once again with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Wells.  The Cubs finished with the 5th best team ERA in all of baseball in 2009.  GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild should feel good knowing that they will have 4 quality starters coming back in 2010 he pitched very well in 2009 despite being on an under-achieving team.

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Lilly, Zambrano, Cubs Struggle in Double-header Loss to Pirates at Wrigley Field

Posted on 01 October 2009 by Lou

APTOPIX Pirates Cubs Baseball

This image of Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir colliding in the outfield sums up the Cubs 2009 MLB schedule perfectly. Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano each struggled in their final 2009 starts, as the Cubs dropped a double-header to the Pirates at Wrigley Field on Thursday.  Guess that really sums up what a bad 2009 the Cubs organization has endured.

In the opener, Lilly gave up all 4 runs in the 1st inning.  After that, he settled down and pitched 7 innings, giving up just a total of 5 hits and 2 walks.  He struck out 8.  Lilly will end the year with 12 wins, a 3.10 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.  The sad part was that the Cubs bats were silenced by rookie Charlie Morton.  Just 5+ weeks ago, the Cubs lit up Morton for 10 ER on 7 hits in just 1 inning of work.  How he goes from that to a complete game 4-hit shutout against the same team is mind-boggling.  Just proves how inconsistent the Cubs have been at the plate in 2009.

In the nightcap, the team did not fare much better.  Zambrano pitched just 6 innings because of a high pitch count (117 pitches).  Big Z walked 4 and ended up giving up 4 ER and 6 hits.  Zambrano suffered his 7th loss of the season, and it will be the 1st time in 6 seasons that Carlos does not end up with double-digit wins.  Very disappointing from your supposed ace.

Esmailin Caridad had another perfect inning of relief work and now has a 1.56 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.  Carlos Marmol, on the other hand, continued to struggle when not in a save situation.  Marmol gave up a leadoff  home run in the 9th inning and 2 walks before recording the 27th and final Pirates out of the night.

Jeff Samardzija will make another spot start in the series finale against the Pirates on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs are still stuck on 82 wins…

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Cubs Take 3 of 4 From Giants, but Can’t Sweep as Wells Falters

Posted on 29 September 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs took 3 of 4 from the Giants in San Francisco, but could not pull off the sweep as Randy Wells suffered his 10th loss of the season.  Wells struggled all game long, pitching just 5 1/3 innings, giving up 5 ER on 10 hits and 2 walks.  His bid for a season with an ERA under 3.00 is in jeopardy as his ERA rose to 3.18 with the loss.

There was little else to cheer about in the finale as Matt Cain held the Cubs scoreless through the game’s 1st 8 innings.  One bright spot – Justin Berg – who pitched another scoreless inning in relief.  In 7 September appearances, Berg has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just 5 hits and 1 walk during that span. The 25-year old is showing off his stuff in an effort to steal aspot in the 2010 Cubs bullpen.

The Cubs pulled off the dramatic win on Thursday night with Jeff Baker’s 2-strike, 2-out, 2-run HR off Giants closer Brian Wilson that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.  Carlos Marmol made it 12 for 12 in save chances since being named the Cubs new closer at the end of August.

Carlos Zambrano finally lived up to his “ace” status with a dominating win over Tim Lincecum on Friday night.  Zambrano pitched a complete game shutout, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8.  Zambrano even drove in 2 of the Cubs’ 3 runs with a ground out in the 7th inning and a double in the 9th inning.  Zambrano threw just 98 pitches as he was on his “A” game all night long.

Tom Gorzelanny picked up his 7th win in 2009 with a nice 5-inning outing on Saturday.  He gave up just 1 run on 5 hits and 3 walks with 5 K’s.

The Cubs have 7 more games to go in this frustrating 2009 MLB schedule.  Let’s hope they finish on a positive note.  At 81-74, one more win guarantees the Cubs a 3rd straight non-losing season….

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Cubs Gear up for Final Homestand of 2009 MLB Schedule @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 September 2009 by Lou

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While it has been a disappointing 2009 MLB schedule for the Cubs, they will still look to put on a show and preserve a winning season record with their final 7 games at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will play 4 games against the Pittsburgh Pirates from Tuesday through Thursday at Wrigley Field.  The day-night double-header on Wednesday September 30th is part of the make up game from Sunday August 16th that was postponed because of rain.

The Cubs will close out the season with a 3-game weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks from Friday October 2nd through Sunday October 4th.

Both the Pirates and Diamondbacks have losing records, so the Cubs should be able to end the season on a positive note.  It will be the last chance for Cubs fans to see starting pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells in 2009, and maybe the last time they see soon-to-be-free-agent Rich Harden pitch in a Cubs uniform.

Keep your heads held high Cubs fans – if the Cubs do pull off a winning record in 2009, it will be the 1st time the Cubs have had winning records in 3 straight MLB seasons since the Cubs posted 6 straight winning seasons from 1967 through 1972…

Go Cubs Go!!!

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Cubs Not Giving Up – Lee, Baker, Marmol Prople Cubs to Victory

Posted on 25 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

The Cubs are not going down without a fight!  Jeff Baker’s 2-strike, 2-out, 2-run home run off Giants closer Brian Wilson gave the Cubs a dramatic 3-2 win over the Giants in San Francisco.  After Lee led off the top of the 9th inning with a walk, he stole 2nd to get in scoring position with 2 outs.  Luckily, there wouldn’t be a close play at home plate, as Baker crushed Wilson’s pitch deep to left field to put the Cubs up 3-2.  Baker (and the Cubs) had been down to their last strike.

Carlos Marmol picked up his 12th save in 12 chances since being promoted to the closer’s role in place of Kevin Gregg at the end of August.  It wasn’t pretty – he gave up a single and a walk – but he struck out Aaron Rowand and Fred Lewis with 1st and 2nd and only 1 out to preserve the win for the Cubs.  Manager Lou Pinella annointed Marmol the Cubs 2010 closer – “I see that, yes.  I really do.  I think he’s done enough and shown enough.  We have confidence in him enough going into spring training next year.  It’s his job.  We’ll leave it just at that.”

Ryan Dempster gave the Cubs another solid starting effort down the stretch.  Dempster threw 112 pitches in 7 innings of work, giving up just 2 ER on 7 hits and 1 walk.  Dempster had 6 K’s and he lowered his ERA to 3.68 and his WHIP to 1.33.

Should a fun match-up tonight in San Francisco – Carlos Zambrano in search of win #9 against reigning Cy Young Award winner – the Freak Tim Lincecum…

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Cubs Suspend Milton Bradley; GM Jim Hendry Should be Next to Go

Posted on 21 September 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs milton bradley jake fox 1

Wow – with the meaningless weekend series between the Cubs & Cardinals, at least Milton Bradley and Jim Hendry gave us some lively action to sink our teeth into.  The Cubs officially suspended Milton Bradley for the rest of the 2009 MLB schedule on Sunday for his adverse actions and statements made regarding the Cubs organization.  Yippee – it’s about time…

Here’s what GM Jim Hendry said to the media on Sunday:  “There have been a lot of issues that we’ve lived with during the year but the last few days became too much for me to tolerate, to be honest with you.  I’m not going to let our great fans become an excuse, I’m not going to tolerate not answering questions from the media respectfully.  Whether you feel like talking or not, it’s part of our jobs.  I’m not going to allow disrespect to other people in that locker room and uniformed personnel. The only real negativity here is his won production.”

Among many issues raised by Bradley all season long – racism, means fans, injury issues – it all came to a head when Manager Lou Pinella pulled Bradley during Wednesday night’s game against the Brewers during a double-switch.  I guess Bradley did not like being pulled by Pinella, so in Thursday’s series finale against the Brewers, Bradley pulled himself from the games with an apparent “knee injury” to “get back at” Pinella.  Can you say “baby”?!  Then Bradley refused to answer questions about the knee injury, he pulled himself from Friday night’s game in St. Louis right before the 1st pitch to put Pinella and the Cubs in another bad position, and finally proceeded to bad-mouth the Cubs organization and fans.  Here’s what he said:  “It’s just not a positive environment.  I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment.  There’s too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly.  Everyone is just bashing you.  You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it.  It’s just negativity.  And you understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here, because it’s negative.  It’s what it is.”

The Bradley signing was a bad move in November, it was a bad move during spring training, it was a bad move when he injured himself during the first few weeks of the season, and it was a bad move all season long.  And it’s taken the man in charge of player personnel 10 months to realize that.  Let’s look at the numbers:

In 393 at-bats in 124 games, Bradley hit .257 with a .378 on-base percentage.  Bradley hit 12 HR’s and 17 doubles and drove in 40 runs while scoring 61 runs.  He had 66 walks and 95 strikeouts.  Now without comparing him to every single player on the Cubs, let’s simply compare him to Jake Fox – a young player who helped the Cubs in numerous positions and is the consummate team player.  In just 189 at-bats in 74 games, Fox hit .286 with a .335 on-base percentage.  Fox hit 11 HR’s and 14 doubles and drove in 42 runs while scoring 26 runs.  Fox also makes a LOT less than the $10 million Bradley is set to make under his 3-year deal with the Cubs.  In half the number of at-bats, Fox had more RBI’s and 1 less HR than Bradley.  How can this be?

Throw in the horrendous fielding in right field, the numerous dropped/misplayed balls, and the fact that Bradley is not a “good” clubhouse guy, this was a disaster waiting to happen.  Most people saw this, and the man in charge of player personnel decisions should have seen this day coming too.  It’s time for Hendry to get the boot too.

Three years ago, I thought Hendry did a great job re-inventing the Cubs model after reliance on injury-prone pitchers (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior) came back to haunt the Cubs year-after-year.  Hendry signed middle-of-the-road pitchers Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly because he knew they were innings-eaters who would make 25-30 starts a season.  He added Mark DeRosa – a solid ballplayer who was a great clubhouse guy who would produce day-in-and-day-out.

But after these “conservative” moves, Hendry started making some questionable moves that undermined his new game plan.  The Alfonso Soriano signing was exciting, but why the 8 years for a player that would be over 30 years at the start of his 1st season with the Cubs?  Soriano’s 2009 numbers – 477 at-bats, .241 batting average, .303 on-base percentage, 20 HR’s, 55 RBI’s, 64 runs & 118 K’s. Why 4 years (and close to $50 million) on an unproven major league player from Japan – Kosuke Fukodome – who would be handed the everyday right field job? Fukodome’s 2009 numbers – – 462 at-bats, .253 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, 11 HR’s, 52 RBI’s, 71 runs & 103 K’s (these numbers are nearly identical to his 2008 numbers whcih were considered a huge disappointment).  And most recently, why 3 years and $30 on Milton Bradley?

Coupled with those moves, Hendry had to unload the likes of Mark DeRosa and Marquis who once again had productive years in 2009 without causing any issues in their respective clubhouses.  DeRosa has a combined 21 HR’s, 72 RBI’s and 74 runs scored while playing for the Indians and Cardinals in 479 at-bats.  Marquis is 15-11 in 30 starts pitching half his time for the Rockies in Coors Field in Denver.  Marquis has a 3.84 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP and will likely be pitching in the post-season for the 6th straight year.

Hendry has mortgaged the outfield with the signings of Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley for the next few years.  The Cubs will have little room for the free agent market during the off-season following the horrible 2009 MLB campaign.  And we haven’t even mentioned the signing of Carlos Zambrano to an extension during the 2008 MLB season – and now we’re hearing rumblings that the Cubs will try to move Zambrano in the off-season to dump salary.  Does this guy even have a clue or a plan?  How do you sign a player to a 4-year extension because he is so important to your team, and then – less than 1 year later – decide that you can’t have this guy on your ballclub anymore?  It just doesn’t make sense to me and it is a downward trend that is becoming more and more evident with Hendry if you truly analayze the moves he has made the last 2-3 years.  I hope the Ricketts family takes a very close look at Hendry and makes an informed decision on whether or not he is the man to lead this the organization to a World Series.  There was a time where I thought he had what it took to do the job, but right now, I firmly believe that Hendry must go too…

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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…

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