Archive | Rich Harden

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…

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

Posted on 01 September 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 27 August 2009 by Lou

Nationals Cubs Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 25 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Milton Bradley Risk 1

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

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

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

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

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

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Call Me Crazy – But Maybe the Season Isn’t Over?!

Posted on 24 August 2009 by Lou

cubs

Call me crazy, but maybe the 2009 Cubs season isn’t really over…  The Cubs are 62-60 and they trail the Cards by 8 games in the NL Central race and the Rockies by 7 games in the NL Wild Card race.  Now don’t get me wrong – the Cubs are a bad baseball teams as a whole.  After a great start to the post-All-Star Break stretch run in July, they are just 8-13 in August, and they have lost 10 of their last 14 games.

But if you look at their schedule and where they play the vast majority of their games, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.  The Cubs have 40 games left on their 2009 MLB schedule – 24 of those games are at home at Wrigley Field where they are 35-22.  The other 16 games are on the road, and 7 of those road games are against 2 teams they are chasing to make the playoffs – the Cardinals (9/18-20) and the Giants (9/24-27).

Take it a step further, and you see that of the 40 games remaining, only 8 games are against team with winning records:

9/3 White Sox 63-61 – home game;

9/18-20 Cards 72-54 – in St. Louis; and

9/24-27 Giants 67-57 – in San Francisco.

The other 32 games breakdown as follows:

Washington Nationals 44-80 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

New York Mets 57-68 – 3 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at CITI Field;

Houston Astros 61-63 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Pittsburgh Pirates 51-71 – 3 games in Pittsburgh & 4 games at Wrigley Field;

Cincinnati Reds 52-71 – 3 games at Wrigley Field;

Milwaukee Brewers 60-63 – 4 games at Wrigley Field & 3 games at Miller Park; &

Arizona Diamondbacks 55-70 – 3 games at Wrigley Field.

Now don’t get me wrong, do I really think the Cubs have what it takes to pull this off?  No.  But with the schedule and the fact that the Cubs starting pitching – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster & Randy Wells – is still top 5 in the entire major leagues in 2009, anything is possible.  If the joke of a Cubs offense actually puts up 4 or 5 runs every so often, the Cubs might actually put a little streak together.  The Cubs will need a lot of help from the Rockies, Giants, Braves and Marlins to start losing, but if that happens, the last week of the season could be interesting with the Cubs playing 7 games against the struggling Pirates and Diamondbacks at home to end the 2009 campaign…

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

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Lou

carlos cubs

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

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

As for the Cubs game action on Saturday and Sunday…

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

carlos zambrano

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Cubs Finally Win in San Diego, Top Padres 7-1 behind Dominant Harden

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

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.

Cubs Padres Baseball

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

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou

Cubs Padres Baseball

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

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

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

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

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Rich Harden Looks to Continue Solid Pitching against Lowly Pirates @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 16 August 2009 by Lou

rich harden spring

Rich Harden has been one of the Cubs most reliable pitchers in the 2nd half of the 2009 MLB schedule and he looks to keep that going against the last-place Pirates in Sunday’s series finale at Wrigley Field.  Harden has not allowed more than 2 earned runs in any of his 6 post-All-Star Break starts.  Unfortunately, he is only 2-1 in the 6 starts and the Cubs have actually lost 4 of the starts – – pretty indicative of how bad things have gone for the Cubs in 2009.  Harden beat the Pirates in his only start against them on June 29th in Pittsburgh.  Harden gave up 9 hits, but only 1 ER in 7 innings of that game as he continually worked out of jams by striking out 9 batters.

Harden will square off against Ross Ohlendorf on Sunday.  Despite having a 1.32 WHIP and 4.32 ERA, Ohlendorf actually shut down the Cubs offense by tossing 7 scoreless innings against them in a 3-0 win back on June 30th.  Ohlendorf gave up just 4 hits while striking out 8 in the game.

The Cubs free-fall continued last week with 6 losses in 7 games against the Rockies and Phillies.  The Cubs continue to trail the Cardinals in the NL Central race and the Rockies and Giants in the NL wild card race.  Time is beginning to become a factor as the Cubs only have 47 games in which to make up ground.  A weekend series sweep of the Pirates would go a long way to making the ride a little less bumpy…

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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…

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