Archive | Rich Harden

Bankruptcy Court Gives Tribune Co. to Proceed with Cubs Sale to Ricketts Family

Posted on 16 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs win scoreboard

All hands on deck.  The completion of the Cubs sale to the Ricketts Family is inching closer and closer to fruition. Earlier this week, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled that the Tribune Co. can proceed with the sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts Family for the whopping sum of $845 million. The 1-day bankruptcy filing took place to protect the Ricketts Family from future lawsuits by Tribune Co. creditors who might try to seek a claim against the Chicago Cubs entity.  Now that the courts have ruled that the Tribune Co. and the Cubs can proceed with the sale, things should move along quickly.

Yippee!!!  As I have said before, the Cubs really need to get the Ricketts Family on board before the start of the free agency period (which begins 15 days after the end of the World Series) if the Cubs are to have any chance of making a tiny “dip” (definitely not a big splash) in the free agent market.  With the departure of Rich Harden and hopefully Milton Bradley (even if we have to eat some of his salary), that should free up a little money from which GM Jim Hendry can add a piece or two. The Cubs clearly won’t be able to land a Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, but the Cubs do have some holds that need to be filled.  Having the Ricketts family in place to give guidance to Hendry by the end of October will be a huge step in the right direction.

Go Cubs Go!

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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

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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…

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

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

Posted on 28 September 2009 by Lou

cubs

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!!!

chicago cubs win scoreboard

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Rich Harden Showing Why Cubs Should NOT Re-sign Him to Long-term Deal

Posted on 17 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Rich Harden is a streaky pitcher, and right now, he is in one of those streaks where it is clear to me that the Cubs should not re-sign him in the off-season.  In Wednesday night’s loss, Harden needed 72 pitches to labor through 3 innings.  Harden gave up 5 runs (only 2 earned), but he suffered his 9th loss of the season.  5 hits and 3 walks in just 3 innings is never a good line, and he works way too many counts way to deep in order to be an effective pitcher over the course of a long MLB season.

In addition to this poor line, check out his last 3 starts:

Cubs 6-4 win over Reds on 9/11 – 4 innings, 1 ER, but 2 hits and 5 walks with 6 strikeouts – 104 pitches.

Cubs 5-3 win over Mets on 9/5 – 5 innings, 1 ER, but 7 hits and 1 walk with 10 strikeouts – 102 pitches.

Cubs 5-3 loss to Astros on 8/31 – 5 innings, 5 ER, but 5 hits and 6 walks with 9 strikeouts – 98 pitches.

While his strikeout numbers are impressive – 171 K’s in 141 innings – his 67 walks and high 1.34 WHIP really don’t help him or the team in the long run.  With those numbers comes high pitch counts.  And with high pitch counts comes short outings.  This usually means a tired bullpen and more late innings losses throughout the season because the bullpen gets over-worked too early and too often in the season.

Not having to re-sign Harden to a long-term deal should free up the $8-9 million that the Cubs paid to him in 2009.  That money could be used to find another more “productive” back-end starter or for a full-time starting 2nd baseman since the Mike Fontenot/Aaron Miles experiment failed miserably. Let’s just hope GM Jim Hendry hears what we’re talking about.

Couple of bright spots in last night’s loss:  Aramis Ramirez hit his 13th HR of the season; Geovany Soto had 2 more hits; and Ryan Theriot had 3 hits and a walks in 5 at-bats.  Not great, but not all that bad either…

Randy Wells looks to pick up win #11 in the series finale against the Brewers at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon.  His ERA is still under 3 (@ 2.96), so he looks to keep that number low as well.

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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Dempster, Marmol, Lee – Different Night, Same Story

Posted on 15 September 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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…

Brewers Cubs Baseball

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

Posted on 11 September 2009 by Lou

Reds Cubs Baseball

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

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

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

Reds Cubs Baseball

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Cubs Starters, Marmol Continue to Shine Down Stretch…

Posted on 10 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Pirates Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cubs Pirates Baseball

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Weekend Update – Disappointing Series Loss Against Mets in NYC

Posted on 07 September 2009 by Lou

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

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

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

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

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

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Lilly, Marmol Shine – Offense Still Lifeless…

Posted on 03 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

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

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

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

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

Astros Cubs Baseball

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