Posted on 15 September 2009 by Lou
Seems like the Cubs have developed a winning recipe long after the season is over… Good outings by the starting pitcher and Carlos Marmol and a clutch hit by Derrek Lee. I feel like I am writing the same thing over and over when it comes to recent Cubs wins.
I guess I should be happy. The starting pitching has been solid all year long. With Ryan Dempster’s win on Monday night (2-0 over the Brewers), the Cubs now have 3 starters with at least 10 victories. With Carlos Zambrano sitting on 8 wins and Rich Harden sitting on 9 wins, that number should be 5 when the season ends on October 4th. Dempster had his best start of 2009 on Monday night – he looked like the Ryan Dempster of 2008, focused, throwing strikes, hitting his spots. Dempster needed just 108 pitches to throw 8 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 walk. Yeah!
Carlos Marmol rebounded from his non-save situation loss on Saturday afternoon, pitching a scoreless 9th inning with 1 walk and 1 strikeout. Make it 9 out of 9 for Marmol in save situations since being named the Cubs closer.
And as for Derrek Lee, he just keeps on hitting. Lee had 2 hits in Monday’s win, including his 33rd home run of the year. He is hitting .304 on the 2009 MLB campaign and he has his OPS up to .966. Aramis Ramirez also came through with 2 hits and he now has his batting average up to .324.
Although it is definitely too little too late, I am very happy with the performance by some of these guys down the stretch. As I have said before, the pitching staff has been mostly good all throughout the 2009 MLB schedule (the team’s 3.85 ERA is still he 5th best ERA in all of baseball). Even in a year in which the bats completely deserted the club for long stretches at a time, the pitchers never really lost focus, and the team has still managed to win 74 games to date. The Cubs offense still has the 5th worst batting average in all of baseball. I’m not sure what the Cubs can do in the off-season to tweak the lineup (with the new ownership situation and limited payroll flexibility) to improve the offense. But one would think that with a move here or there, and with more productive seasons from Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto, there have gotta be a few more wins out there to put the club back into a playoff contender in 2010. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but at this point, we gotta do something…
Posted on 11 September 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 09 September 2009 by Lou
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!
Posted on 29 August 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 27 August 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 25 August 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 20 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs got their 1st victory against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego in 2009 last night behind a dominant performance from Rich Harden. Harden threw 7 scoreless innings, holding the Padres to just 1 hit and 3 walks. The Padres had 3 batters reach base in the 1st inning but didn’t score, and Harden was “lights-out” after that. Harden struck out 8 batters on the night and improved his record to 8-7. He is 3-1 after the All-Star Break with 3 no decisions, and he has not allowed more than 2 ER in the 7 starts.
The Cubs will have a big decision to make with respect to Harden in the off-season. Harden has already made 21 starts during the 2009 MLB schedule and should get at least another 7 starts before the end of the year. That would put him at 28 starts. Health has always been a concern with Harden and except for a brief stint on the DL from May 17th – June 13th, has not missed any time because of injury. That being said, he has made 30 starts only once in his career – that was back in 2004 when he threw 189 2/3 innings in 31 starts. The following season he pitched 128 innings in 19 starts (22 appearances) and he missed good portions of the 2 seasons after that with arm issues. It will be interesting to see how he feels in the off-season. When Harden is on – like he was last night and in the 2nd half of the year so far – he is a dominating pitcher that can win a lot of games. It could be worth signing him to a 2-3 year deal, but more than that could be risky. Harden’s off-season regimen in Arizona seems to have paid off big time in 2009. Assuming he continues to work hard in the off-season, it may be worth the shot to try to sign Harden to a long-term deal before he hits the free agent market…
The Cubs offense finally showed up last night as well. Milton Bradley and Aramis Ramirez each hit home runs. Ramirez also had a 2-run double in the 3rd inning and had 3 total RBI’s. Bradley also walked 3 times and scored twice. Ryan Theriot had 2 hits, 2 runs scored and a stolen base. They did strike out 13 times as a team, however, leaving 14 runners on base.
The Cubs have their work cut out for them over the next 4 games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The 1st place Cards took 2 out of 3 games from the Dodgers this week and now move on to the lowly Padres. Not taking advantage of winning the Padres series has put them 6 games behind the Cards and 5 games behind the Rockies for the NL Wild Card lead. It is going to be an uphill climb, as Tom Gorzelanny looks to get the Cubs off to a good start tonight against Jeff Weaver and the Dodgers. The Cubs will finish the 4-game weekend series with Randy Wells, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster.
Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 12 August 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 11 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs wrapped up a dismal 4-6 road trip by losing 3 of 4 to the wild card leading Rockies in Denver. The Rockies outscored the Cubs 33-18 in the series, as the Cubs fell 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 3 games behind the Rockies for the NL wild card lead. Can you say “Game Over”!
Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are out of ideas and probably already thinking about their golf games in October. To make matters worse, with the still-pending sale of the Cubs, there’s really not much that the Cubs will be able to do in the off-season to turn things around for the 2010 MLB schedule. The outfield is set – Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley all have years left on their deals. The pitching staff is set – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster all have years left on their deals, as does Randy Wells who is not even arbitration-eligible yet. The Cubs will have to decide on Rich Harden, but the 5th starter slot could be filled from within – Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny etc. The infield is also set – Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee at the corners, Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Geovany Soto behind the plate. Koyie Hill has established himself as a dependable catcher as well. So the only real question mark in the infield is the 2nd base position, where Mike Fontenot has clearly shown that he is not capable of being a consistent, productive every day player.
Unless the Cubs could pull off a trade to move an outfielder – probably having to assume some of the money that GM Jim Hendry overpaid to each of Soriano, Fukodome and Bradley – the Cubs will be stuck. And that doesn’t mean good things for 2010.
Sorry Cubs fans – hate to be brutally honest, but we could be in for a rough stretch for a few years to come.
Oh yeah – what about the 11-5 Cubs loss to the Rockies on Monday night? Aw, who cares anyway. It was more of the same. No clutch hitting, poor fielding, and bad pitching. Sound familiar?!