Posted on 12 October 2009 by Lou
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…
Posted on 31 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs have one more game left in a dreadful month of August – it’s about time. Let’s take a look back at what transpired. On August 1st, the Cubs were 7 games over .500 with a 54-47 record. The Cardinals were just 8 games over .500 with a 57-49 record. The Cubs only trailed the Cards by 1/2 game in the NL Central race!
The Cubs split the first 4 games of the month, but then fell into a downward spiral quickly and painfully. Heading into tonight’s game against the Astros in what will be the final game of August, the Cubs have an 11-16 record. The Cubs are just 2 games over .500 and at 65-63, they trail the Cardinals by 10 games in the NL Central race. While the Cubs were floundering away, the Cards were riding Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday on a 4-man wrecking crew, annhilating anything that stood in their path. The Cards finished the month with a 20-6 record, and are 22 games over .500 with a 77-55 record. During the month of August, the Cards never had a 2-game losing streak and lost twice in a week only once. They are just a 1/2 game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the NL. Talk about 2 teams heading in different directions.
Bad, bad, bad on the north side.
Carlos Zambrano suffered his 2nd straight loss since coming off the DL with a sore back. He looked awful early and often – laboring through 75 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings of work. Big Z gave up 3 ER (4 total) on 11 hits. The one positive – he didn’t walk anyone.
The Cubs bullpen actually pitched well, and kept the Cubs in the 4-a game from the 4th through the 9th innings. Tom Gorzelanny pitched 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief. Sean Marshall retired 6 of the 7 batters that he faced, giving up just a lone single. John Grabow pitched a perfect 8th inning and Angel Guzman did the same in the 9th inning. With the year all but hopeless – in terms of playoffs – it’s nice to see guys still putting forth a solid effort, trying to build some momentum for 2010. But that is certainly hard to do when you start a big 10-game home stand by losing 3 of 6 games to the 2 worst teams in the National League – the Nationals and Mets. Bad, bad, bad.
Oh yeah, the Cubs managed just 7 hits and 2 walks off of Nelson Figueroa (1.66 WHIP and 4.50 ERA after the game) and 2 Mets relievers. Bad, bad, bad…
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?!
Posted on 08 August 2009 by Lou
Carlos Zambrano should have a locker room full of teammates pissed off at him right now. Slated to start the opener of a big weekend series at Coors Field on Friday night, Big Z told Manager Lou Pinella that he couldn’t go 15 minutes before the start of the game. Big Z left his start in the 3rd inning last Saturday because of a mild back strain. He didn’t receive any special back treatment all week, and he told the team that it was nothing to be worried about. But during pre-game warm-ups, Zambrano experienced some back spasms and then told Pinella he couldn’t go. Pinella had this to say about the situation: “When he went out there to warm up, he says after he threw two or three pitches, his back tightened up and he started getting spasms. This is something that happened right before the ball game. If he had been complaining about anything, obviously, we wouldn’t have scheduled him to pitch.”
Not a smart move from Zambrano. Especially since the Cubs had an off-day on Thursday, and the club could have moved Ryan Dempster up a day to start with his normal 4 days’ rest on Friday night. Then Wells, Gorzelanny and Harden could have each moved up a day too, allowing Big Z a few more days off, or giving the Cubs an opportunity to call someone up from the minor leagues. Instead, Zambrano gave the team no indication that his back might be a long-term issue, and forced the Cubs to go with Sean Marshall on no notice to make the start. As it turned out, Marshall did not have his good stuff – 3 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk in 2 innings of work. Jeff Samardzija then had to do a little bit off long-relief work, pitching 4 innings and allowing 2 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk. Not a good way to start a 4-game series in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
The Cubs offense didn’t do much to help out the Cubs pitching staff. The Cubs managed just 2 runs and 5 hits off of Ubaldo Jimenez and 3 Rockies’ relievers. Alfonso Soriano was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit and he also had the only Cubs RBI of the game. The Cubs did draw 6 walks, but never seemed to come through with a big hit to break an inning open. The Cubs had 2 runners on in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th innings, but could only push across 1 run in the 1st and 6th innings. Not good.
The only good news – sort of – catcher Geovany Soto returned to the Cubs lineup after a month stint on the DL. Soto hit in the 5-spot, however, going 0 for 4 with 3 K’s. Not the kind of spark we were looking for.
At 57-50, the Cubs trail the Cardinals by 1 game in the NL Central race and the San Francisco Giants and the Rockies by 2 games in the NL Wild Card race.
Posted on 05 August 2009 by Lou
Terrific Tom – Tom Gorzelanny looked like Cy Young, as he shut down the Cincinnati Reds over 7 1/3 innings en route to a spectacular Cubs debut. Gorzelanny gave up just 1 ER on 3 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 6. The Cubs just acquired Gorzelanny late last week before the trading deadline, and he took over the 5th starter role for Kevin Hart who moved to the Pirates in the trade. Hart had been filling in for Ted Lilly who will be on the DL for another 2 weeks or so.
Gorzelanny and the Cubs should have known it was going to be a good game for the visiting team. First, Kosuke Fukodome led off the game with his 1st ever lead-off home run (his 8th of the season). Then in the bottom of the inning, Adam Rosales tripled to left field on a ball that Alfonso Soriano just missed catching against the wall in left. With the Reds’ 2 best hitters coming up with a man on 3rd and less than 2 outs, things did not look good. But Gorzelanny buckled down, striking out Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to end the threat and preserving the Cubs 1-0 lead. With the lead still 1-0, the Cubs got clutch 2-out singles from Koyie Hill, Gorzelanny himself and then Kosuke Fukodome to blow the game open. The back-to-back-to-back singles plated 4 Cubs runs and the Cubs built a 5-0 lead. Derrek Lee then added an insurance run with his 22nd HR on the year, a solo shot in the 7th to increase the Cubs lead to 6-0.
The only bad news – the Cubs bullpen. After Gorzelanny allowed to batters to reach base in the 8th inning, Sean Marshall gave up a single to Joey Votto that scored the Reds 1st run. And in the bottom of the 9th inning, Angel Guzman gave up 2 runs when he hit the lead off hitter and then served up a 2-run HR to Wladimir Balentien. Not good, especially when Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs are looking to Guzman to step up his game in the late innings with Kevin Gregg dealing with “tired arm syndrome.” Going back to the last 5 road games, the Cubs bullpen has surrendered a total of 11 runs from the 8th inning on (3 in the 8th on Friday; 3 in the 9th on Saturday; 2 in the 9th on Sunday; 1 in the 9th on Monday and 2 in the 9th on Tuesday). This is completely unacceptable, as it cost the Cubs 2 games during the stretch. If the bullpen continues to flounder like this on a regular basis, the Cubs will struggle to stay in the 2009 NL Central and Wild Card race.
Rich Harden and the Cubs go for the sweep over the Reds tonight in Cincinnati. The Cardinals already lost to the Mets at CITI Field today in New York, so a Cubs win means sole possession of 1st place for the North Siders. Lets Go Cubs!
Posted on 28 July 2009 by Lou
Hey Cubs Fans – - it’s never too late to develop a winning formula. Good pitching and timely hitting usually results in numerous wins. The Cubs – at least since the All-Star Break – can attest to that. Except for Ted Lilly’s debacle against the Phillies in Philadelphia on July 20th, the Cubs have had excellent pitching and solid, often-clutch hitting, and the results show. Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs have put together a solid 9-2 record to take over 1st place from the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race. Great pitching, coupled with excellent hitting from Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano has catapulted the Cubs into the lead.
In last night’s 5-1 win in 13 innings over the 2nd place Astros, pitching took center stage for much of the game. Carlos Zambrano put together another solid outing – 7 innings, 1 ER, 7 hits and 4 walks. The lone run scored on Carlos Lee’s home run in the 2nd inning. Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall combined to pitch 4 straight scoreless innings from the 8th throught the 11th innings. And Jeff Samardzija threw 2 scoreless innings and picked up his 1st win of the 2009 MLB schedule when Alfonso Soriano stroked his walk-off game-winning Grand Slam off of Chris Sampson to the delight of the Wrigley faithful.
That’s a perfect lead-in to the Cubs offense. Although it wasn’t all good (Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot were a combined 0 for 12 in the 1-2 spot at the top of the order, while Soriano was 0 for 5 heading into his 13th inning at-bat), Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez continued their hot hitting. Lee hit a solo home run off of Wandy Rodriguez in the 4th inning to tie the game at 1 and also drew 3 walks, 1 of which started the Cubs rally in the 13th. Ramirez notched 3 hits and raised his batting average to .338. Ramirez’s single in the 13th moved Lee to 3rd base and forced Astros’ Manager Cecil Cooper’s hands to intentionally walk Milton Bradley to load the bases to face Soriano. The move back-fired in a hurry as Soriano launched the game-winning shot deep to center field to give the Cubs the dramatic 5-1 win. It was Soriano’s 4th career Grand Slam and he had this to say about the swing – - “I think that’s my best swing I made in the second half.” Id’ agree.
The Cubs increased their winning streak to 5 games and they increased their lead over the Astros to 3 games and the Brewers to 4 games. How long will the streak go – guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
Posted on 27 July 2009 by Lou
With the Cubs continuing to get good starting pitching on an-almost daily basis, the rest of the NL Central better be on notice about the Chicago Cubs. The stellar Cubs pitching has kept the Cubs within striking distance of the NL Central leaders throughout the 2009 MLB schedule. The lack of offense has kept the number of wins down, but with the bats starting to come alive with the resurgence of Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, the wins have started piling up as the pitchng continues to excel.
This weekend was a perfect example.
Randy Wells has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers in 2009. Wells has made 14 starts in 2009, pitching at least 5 innings in all but 1 starts. He has not allowed more than 4 earned runs in any of his starts, and even then, he has done that only 3 times. Wells has a fantastic strikeout to walk ratio (59 to 19) and his low WHIP (1.16) demonstrates that. In Friday’s win over the Reds (his 6th of the season), Wells pitched 6 innings, giving up just 3 earned runs on one bad pitch – a 3-run HR to the Reds pitcher. Wells has won 6 of his last 7 decisions. It would be hard to imagine the Cubs being where they are without the solid pitching of Wells this year. Having Wells in the starting rotation has allowed Manger Lou Pinella to move Sean Marshall back to the bullpen as the Cubs lone lefty in the pen.
On Saturday, Kevin Hart delivered another solid start filling in for the injured Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly. His 6-inning, 1-run, 5-hit performance helped him notch his 2nd consecutive victory. More importantly, Hart walked only 1 batter – in each of his previous 5-inning starts, Hart had walked 5 batters. This is a good sign for the Cubs as Ted Lilly will continue to be on the DL for at least 3 more weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee today.
On Sunday, Rich Harden had one of his best starts of the year. Harden gave up a solo home run to the 3rd batter of the game – Joey Votto – but retired the other 18 batters he faced, including the final 16 batters in a row. Harden needed only 90 pitches to notch his 7th win of the season. Harden has given up only 1 run in each of his last 3 starts. This outing was even more special because of the struggles he has had this year during the day (1-5; 7.38 ERA) and at home at Wrigley Field (2-5; 7.59 ERA).
Carlos Zambrano has been a mainstay in the rotation as well (7-4; 3.48 ERA; 1.35 WHIP), while the Cubs expect to get Ryan Dempster back on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Good news for Cubs fans all across the nation.
Posted on 26 July 2009 by Lou
So Aramis Ramirez goes, so the Cubs go. It took a couple of weeks for Aramis Ramirez to get back into the “swing” of things after his 2+ month stint on the DL, but he is “back and better than ever” to quote “Mike & Mike” in the morning. Ramirez’ hot hitting has coincided with the Cubs catapult into 1st place in the NL Central race with a 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Who knows how long they will be there, but it must have come as a welcome relief to know that they have it in there despite all of the poor play and injuries that have plagued the Cubs ball club during the 2009 MLB schedule.
Aramis Ramirez has been on fire since Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia. In that game, Ramirez went 2 for 4 with 2 walks, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. He had home runs in Friday’s and Saturday’s wins and 2 more hits in Sunday’s sweep of the Reds. Overall, in his last 4 games, Ramirez is 9 for 16 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles, 7 RBI’s and 4 runs scored. His batting average is back up over .330 and his on-base percentage is just under .400 at .394. When Ramirez starts hitting, it seems like the rest of the team starts hitting and developing more scoring chances.
Alfonso Soriano has really turned it on as of late. Soriano has a modest 9-game hitting streak, and his batting average is back above .250. Soriano has 5 multi-hit games during that stretch, with 3 home runs, 8 RBI’s and 5 runs scored. If the Cubs can get a more consistent and productive Soriano down the stretch in the 6-hole, the Cubs should be able to stay in the NL Central race for the duration of the 2009 MLB schedule.
The Cubs open a big 4-game series against the 3rd place Houston Astros on Monday night at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano will start the opener against Wandy Rodriguez.
Posted on 22 July 2009 by Lou
Where did it all go wrong for GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella with this frustrating 2009 Cubs ball club? The Cubs lost to the Phillies 4-1 in 13 innings on Tuesday night as Jayson Werth’s 3-run HR off of Jeff Samardzija gave the Phillies their 10th straight win. That wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was how good Rich Harden looked and how bad the Cubs bats are on a daily basis.
First Harden – as I wrote yesterday, I expected the Phillies to knock Harden around, but he threw a season high 117 pitches in 7 solid innings. Harden gave up only 1 ER on 4 hits and 2 walks and the lone run scored on a Jimmy Rollins solo home run way back in the 3rd inning. Harden also had 6 K’s. The rest of the bullpen was up to the challenge too – Carlos Marmol worked 2 scoreless innings, Angel Guzman tossed a scoreless inning and Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman combined for a scoreless 11th inning. Jeff Samardzija even looked good – he retired the 1st 5 batters he faced over the 12th and 13th innings, but got into trouble when he walked both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with 2 outs in the 13th. Not a good move – because walks always come back to haunt you. Then Samardzija served up the game-winning HR to Werth and the Cubs had dropped the 1st 2 games to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark.
But the big issue is the Cubs hitting. After knocking around one of baseball’s worst pitching staff’s against the Nats in DC over the weekend, it was back to the “real-world” for the Cubs. The Cubs should have felt good as Citizens Bank Ballpark is one of the best hitter park in the big leagues. Batters improves their statistics each night they get to play in the ball park. But not the Cubs hitters. In 22 innings, the Cubs have managed just 2 runs off of the mediocre Phillies pitching. Worse than that, they managed only 6 hits in Monday’s loss and only 5 hits in Tuesday’s loss. After drawing only 3 walks on Monday, the Cubs didn’t walk once on Tuesday night. Not 1 walk in 13 innings!? How can that be? Only 3 Cubs players had hits in both games – Alfonso Soriano had 3 hits on Monday and 1 hit on Tuesday, while Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukodome each had 1 hit in each game. Derrek Lee is a combined 1 for 8 while Aramis Ramirez is a combined 0 for 7 in the series. What makes it even worse is the fact that the Cubs seem to waste good pitching outings with horrible hitting performances. Rich Harden’s Tuesday night start was another quality start for the Cubs starting rotation. The Cubs now have 57 quality starts on the season, but only 47 wins to show for it. When you don’t win quality starts, you are not going to be near the top of your division.
This team is only still in contention because the rest of the NL Central is so bad. The Cubs are 47-45 and are tied with the Brewers and Astros for 2nd place behind the Cardinals. I feel like I’ve given the team (and Hendry and Pinella) the benefit of the doubt in 2009, but after 92 games, it’s time to step up and take accountability for your play on the field. Stay tuned for some more critical posts about the state of the Cubs and what they need to do to make sure the team can stay competitive for the forseable future…
Posted on 20 July 2009 by Lou
The Cubs defeated the Nationals 11-3 on Sunday afternoon and swept the Nationals in a 4-game weekend series at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. In Sunday’s win, the Cubs scored 11 runs, clubbed 16 hits, drew 5 walks and took advantage of 2 Nats errors to complete the 4-game sweep over baseball’s worst team. Jake Fox and Alfonso Soriano each hit HR’s for the Cubs in the win. Soriano finished the game with 2 hits, 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored, while Fox finished the game with 3 hits, 4 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. Cubs clean-up hitter Micah Hoffpauir had 3 hits and 2 runs scored in the win. Mike Fontenot also had 3 hits on the day.
Kevin Hart pitched 5 innings, working in and out of trouble all day long. Hart only gave up 2 ER, but he surrendered 5 hits and 5 walks along the way. Jeff Samardzija had a solid relief outing – 3 innings, 2 hits and 3 K’s, giving up a single run on Adam Dunn’s 24th HR of the year in the 7th inning. Jeff Stevens pitched a scoreless 9th inning for the Cubs – Stevens has not allowed a run in either of his 2009 appearances.
Highlights from the weekend:
Friday night – Carlos Zambrano led the Cubs on the mound and at the plate. Big Z pitched 5 innings of 1 run ball, and although he did not have his best stuff (4 hits and 4 walks), he had 6 K’s and did just enough to keep the Nats away from the big inning. The only run allowed was unearned and came courtesy of a Ryan Theriot fielding error in the 1st inning. Zambrano also hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the 2nd inning to give the Cubs their 1st lead at 2-1. Aramis Ramirez hit his 1st HR since coming back of the DL – a solo shot in the 3rd inning to increase the Cubs lead to 3-1. The Cubs bullpen did a solid job the final 4 innings of the game – no runs, only 2 hits and a combined 6 strikeouts from Aaron Heilman, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.
Saturday night – The Cubs rallied from a 4-0 deficit after 2 innings to win 6-5. Alfonso Soriano hit a go-ahead 3-run HR in the 6th inning to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead. Mike Fontenot’s solo HR in the 8th inning gave the Cubs a much-needed insurance run. In the bottom of the 8th inning, after Aaron Heilman got into trouble, closer Kevin Gregg ended a threat by getting through the heart of the Nationals order. Although Ryan Zimmerman hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly that cut the Cubs lead to 1, Gregg got out of the jam and then pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning to record his 1st 5-out save of the 2009 MLB schedule. Randy Wells did not pitch his best game – 5 innings, 4ER, 7 hits and 1 walk – but it was enough to pick up his 5th win of the season and keep the Cubs in the game to get the big win over the Nats.
The Cubs increased the record to 47-43 on the season. With the Cards winning 2 of 3 games in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks in St. Louis, the Cubs gained ground and now trail the Cards by only 2 games in the NL Central race. The Cubs now occupy sole possession of 2nd place, ahead of both the Brewers and Astros.