Tag Archive | "Tyler Colvin"

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Cubs Trying to Upset Reds while Managerial Search Heats Up – Cubs, Reds – 8/27/10 Great American Ballpark

Posted on 27 August 2010 by Lou

While the Cubs are riding high after a 3-game sweep of the Nationals, the Cubs managerial search has heated up for a number of reasons. The Cubs invade Cincinnati this weekend to take on the Reds who are led by former Cubs Manager Dusty Baker.  Baker has a bright, young pitching staff and a high octane offensive unit that have the Reds leading the NL Central.  After an up-and-down tenure with the Cubs – he had 1 NL Central division crown and playoff appearance that ended with the disastrous collapse against the Florida Marlins in Game 7 of the NLCS – a series that the Cubs led 3 games to 1 – the Cubs replaced Baker with another older, experienced manager – Lou Pinella.  Pinella was more fiery than Baker ever was, and he was definitely NOT a “player’s manager – but he was an old school guy like Baker.  Although Pinella led the team to 2 straight NL Central Division titles and 2 playoff appearances, but when the Cubs exited each October with a 3-game sweep at the hands of an NL-West ballclub, those losses really seemed to take a toll on Pinella.  He never achieved that success in his final 2 seasons and he finally retired this past Sunday to take care of personal matters.

Now the question looming is – what kind of manager do the Cubs and the Ricketts Family want to lead the Cubs into the future?  Do they want an older manager in the mold of Baker or Pinella or do they want to find that young diamond in the rough who will be innovative and creative in leading the Cubs back from the disastrous 2010 MLB schedule?  There are choices on either side of the fence.

Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre are all at the end of their contracts with their respective teams.  The Cubs just interviewed former Indians Manager Eric Wedge and have indicated that Bob Brenly (currently in the Cubs broadcast booth) will also be a candidate at some point down the line.  These former managers all have experience and they have all experiences success with World Series titles (save for Wedge), but is this what the Cubs really need to invigorate the system and a frustrated fan base.

On the other side of the fence, you have Cubs great – Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.  Sandberg has done everything that the Cubs have asked him to do and is in his 4th year managing in the Cubs minor league system.  Sandberg wet his feet in his 1st 2 seasons managing, but really blossomed the last 2 seasons, leading the Double-A Tennessee team to the playoffs in 2009 and currently managing the Triple-A Iowa team to the best record in their league.  He knows the Cubs minor league talent better than anyone, so does it make the most sense to move Sandberg up to the major league level even though he had never managed at that level?  And then you also have a former Cubs catcher – Joe Girardi – who has managed 2 different teams at the major league level with great success.  He even won a World Series with the Yankees just a year ago.  The focus on Girardi has grown even bigger because the Yankees are in town to take on the White Sox on the south side this weekend. He has said all the right things:  “My focus is here…  I have a responsibility to the organization and to the guys in that clubhouse and that’s where my focus is. I’m very happy here. This organization has been great to me.”  But what else can he say.  He never specifically said that he would definitely be back in NY in 2010 and he has always indicated that the Cubs managerial job would be a dream job for him.  So who knows.  It seems unlikely that the Yankees would let him go or that the Cubs would be willing to pay him enough money, but if the stars align, we could see Girardi in charge of the Cubs in 2010.

My gut tells me that Girardi will turn down the Cubs and then it will be Sandberg’s job to lose.  Bringing in an older, “set-in-his-ways” Manager like a Cox, Torre or LaRussa doesn’t seem like the best long-term move to make because the Cubs have so much rebuilding to do (even though they won’t come out and say it).  Plus, unless the Ricketts Family is really willing to jack up the 2011 payroll, the Cubs are not in a position to be a player in free agency for at least another 2 seasons because of the exorbitant contracts still on the books for Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Kosukue Fukudome, Carlos Silva (via Milton Bradley) and Aramis Ramirez.  That leaves little ability for the Cubs GM to add veteran free-agent talent to complement the growth movement that the Cubs are trying to do with Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Geovany Soto and some of their young pitchers.

As for the weekend series against the Reds, Tom Gorzelanny will make the start tonight against Johnny Cueto.  He has 7 wins on the season with a nice 3.70 ERA.  He is still out to show Cubs brass that he can be a durable starter in the Cubs rotation in 2010, so Gorzelanny has a lot to prove over the final month.  Starlin Castro has continued his hot hitting, taking a modest 5-game hitting streak into the Reds series.  He is hitting .315 on the season, and once he gets the requisite number of at-bats, he should find himself in the top 5 for National League hitters in batting average.  Tyler Colvin started 2 of the 3 games against the Nationals under Mike Quade, so look for Colvin to see more action the rest of the way.  After the weekend series in Cincinnati, the Cubs will return home for a nice 9-game homestand at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field from August 30th through September 8th.

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Can the Cubs Trust Carlos Zambrano in 2010? – Cubs 5, Nationals 4 – 8/24/10 Nationals Park

Posted on 25 August 2010 by Lou

Can the Cubs trust Carlos Zambrano for the 2010 MLB schedule?  It is a great question.  Zambrano continued his surprisingly good return from his anger management treatment with a 4th straight positive start.  This one was clearly his best as his control – both mental and physical – were clearly on display.  Big Z has yet to let up more than 2 ER in any of his last 4 starts, and although his control has been suspect in 2 of the starts (7 walks in 5 innings against the Giants and 6 walks against the Padres in 6 innings), he is putting the Cubs in position to win ball games.  He is 2-0 in the 4 starts.  In last night’s 5-4 win, Zambrano worked into the 8th inning, striking out 8 batters along the way. He ran out of steam in the 8th inning after giving up a 1-out hit to Nyger Morgan on his 108th pitch.  Manager Mike Quade (I’m still having trouble saying that) decided to go with the usually-reliable Sean Marshall who promptly loaded the bases with walks to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.  So Quade had to call upon Carlos Marmol to put out the threat, which he did when he struck out Ian Desmond.  Marmol made things interesting in the 9th inning when he loaded the bases on 2 walks, a balk and hit and then gave up a bases-clearing double to Adam Kennedy to turn a 4-run lead into a 1-run lead.  But he got Zimmerman to fly out to right field to end the game and preserve the win for Quade and the Cubs.

It would have been interesting to see Big Z’s reaction had Marmol fully blown the save with his disastrous 9th inning. Would the “old-angry” Zambrano have erupted if the Cubs ended up losing the game, costing Zambrano a win.  Or would we have seen the “softer-compassionate” Zambrano give Marmol a hug after he blew the game, consoling him with words of kindness and “Go Get ‘Em tomorrow kid.”  While I’d like to think that Zambrano would have been “fine” with a loss, part of me can’t help but wonder when the next “Z-eruption” will occur.  He is 5-6 on the season, but it’s tough to judge his 1.68 WHIP and 4.64 ERA.  He had so many poor starts early in the season and a few bad relief outings which has really skewed his numbers.  The recent walk issues haven’t helped his WHIP at all either.  I guess we’ll have to see how he pitches the rest of the way.  He is dealing with a sick nephew in Venezuela who could die at any moment from an infectious disease, so Big Z’s focus could be a bit limited over the remaining 6 starts or so, but it would be nice to see him continue to pitch well down the stretch.  It wouldn’t completely convince me that the Cubs need to keep Big Z on the roster in 2010, but it would make that decision that much tougher.

I guess if Big Z’s trade value improves with more good starts, then I would be open to dealing him, but only if the Cubs don’t have to pay a good chunk of his salary.  But if a team is only going to take him IF the Cubs take on 50% of his salary (he is owed just under $40 million over the next 2 seasons), I would advise against it.  For as much of a headache as he can be, he is still young at 29 years of age and if he can give the Cubs innings and wins over the final 2 years of the deal, it may be worth it to keep him and then use him as a trade chip for a contender in July 2012 – the year before he becomes a free agent.  Sure, Big Z is clearly not worth the $91.5 million GM Jim Hendry agreed to pay him in his new deal back in 2008, but to get pennies on the dollar for Big Z in an off-season move now, might not be the best move for the Cubs for the 2010 and 2011 MLB seasons.

Alfonso Soriano and Tyler Colvin continued to respond to their new spots in the lineup under Quade.  In the 7-hole, Soriano crushed a 3-run home run to deep left field that gave the Cubs an early 3-0 lead in the 2nd inning.  In the 4th inning, Colvin extended the Cubs lead to 5-1 with a 2-run homer to deep right that scored Soriano (who had reached on an error).  Colvin was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit on the night.

Ryan Dempster and the Cubs go for the sweep over the Nationals tonight in Washington, DC.  They will take on their former teammate Jason Marquis who has yet to win in 2010 – he has lost all 6 of his starts during the 2010 MLB schedule, pitching 5 innings only once all season long.  He has a hefty 11.39 ERA and 2.25 WHIP as he is still dealing with elbow surgery recovery 3 months ago…

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Coleman Helps Quade Earn 1st Win as Cubs Manager; More Lou Memories – Cubs 9, Nationals 1 – 8/23/10 Nationals Park

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Lou

Casey Coleman looked sharp in his 2nd major league start and the Cubs gave Mike Quade his 1st win as the Cubs skipper with an easy 9-1 win over the Nationals in Washington, DC.

Coleman worked into the 7th inning giving up just 1ER on 3 hits and 2 walks.  Coleman wanted to make it through the full 7 innings, but he gave up a single and a double to start the inning and then an RBI ground out to Ivan Rodriguez which plated the Nationals only run.  After Coleman walked Willie Harris to put 2 men on and only 1 out, Quade opted to go with Andrew Cashner to get him out of the jam.  Cashner came through with a double play groundout to end the threat and then pitched a perfect 8th inning as well to give him his most efficient outing in a while.  Hopefully both Coleman and Cashner take the positives from last night’s game and build some confidence before the end of the season.  Guys like Coleman, Cashner, Diamond, Berg are the future of the Cubs pitching staff, so it would be great to see them finish strong after such a long and brutal 2010 campaign.

The bats also came to life for Quade. Quade didn’t waste any time making some immediate changes to Lou Pinella’s lineup.  He moved Blake DeWitt into the leadoff spot (he has had a .392 on-base percentage since he joined the Cubs); he inserted Tyler Colvin back into the lineup in the 6-hole (Pinella inexplicably kept Colvin out of the lineup for most of the last homestand because he was in a hitting slump – gimme a break Lou – what Cubs hitter wasn’t in a hitting daze all season long?); and he dropped Alfonso Soriano into the 7-hole.  Each move paid off.

DeWitt went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI’s and a home run.  He is now hitting .284 on the season and looks to be a fixture opposite Starlin Castro in the middle of the infield.

Colvin had a 2-run single in the 3rd inning which increased the Cubs lead at the time to 3-0.  He did end up striking out 3 times, however.

And Soriano went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI’s and a run scored.  His 2-run triple in the 5th inning helped open up the game to 5-0.

Castro had 2 hits, Xavier Nady had 3 hits and 2 runs scored and Kosuke Fukudome had 2 more hits and an RBI after coming into the game for Marlon Byrd who was hit by a pitch on the hand.  X-rays were negative, but he will likely miss a game or 2 to make sure he is fully healthy.

As for the end of the Lou Pinella era, it was a mixed back for the 67-year old manager.  In his 1st season as Managers, he lead the team to an 85-77 record in 2007 and an NL Central Division crown.  His club faced the #1 seed Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st round of the playoffs, however, and his questionable early removal of Carlos Zambrano in the 7th inning of Game 1 of the series paved the way for the series sweep.  The Cubs finished 97-64 in 2008.  The Cubs had the best record in the National League during the regular season and another NL Central Division Crown.  Hopes were high for a trip to the World Series and the unthinkable World Series, but the Cubs pitching and hitting deserted them as they were swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers in 3 games.  The Cubs finished 83-78 in 2009.  When Lou announced his departure after the game on Sunday, the team’s record was 51-74 through the first 125 games of the 2010 MLB schedule.  Not the best way to leave his legacy, but it is what it is.

His best years were probably 2007 when he turned the team around after a horrendous start to the season.  After a slow start, Pinella jump-started his team by getting tossed from a game by the 3rd base umpire in a May game.  He also helped orchestrate the departure of disgruntled catcher Michael Barrett who got into an altercation with Carlos Zambrano.  Barrett was clearly a disruption to the rest of the clubhouse and Lou didn’t want him around anymore.  GM JIm Hendry worked a deal to move Barrett to the San Diego Padres, and after that the Cubs were one of the best teams in baseball through the final 2/3 of the season.  Pinella helped lead them all the way to the division crown that season.  In 2008, everything went right for the Cubs – great hitting, great pitching; lots of come-from-behind wins; lots of close wins, so to say that was his best year is probably an overstatement.  When things go that right, there are usually other things going on other than the Manager.  In 2009, even though the Cubs trailed the Cards by 7.5 games in the NL Central and the Rockies 8.5 for the wild card spot at the end of the season, Lou did an amazing job with his rag-tag bunch of players.  Lou had no Aramis Ramirez for over a third of the season and he had to deal with the Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano nightmares for good chunks of the season as well.  It was team that was falling apart at the seams and Lou did his best to keep it together, leading the c lub to a 3rd straight winning season – the 1st time that had been done since the organization had 6 straight winning seasons from 1967 through 1972.  Lou kept the Cubs in contention until the end, even though the team had big problems getting clutch hits and winning close games – they were 16-22 in 1-run games in 2009.  The year took a toll on him and that clearly carried over into the 2010 season.  In 2010, the Cubs were just 28-38 at home and 24-35 on the road under Pinella.  Even worse, the Cubs were a miserable 15-30 in 1 run games.  Take a look at teams who have played around 44 1-run games in 2010 — and you can see how much better they fared than the Cubs – the lowly Royals are 23-24 in their 47 1-run games; the Rays are 22-22 in their 44 1-run games; even the 2 worst teams in baseball play better than the Cubs in 1-run games – the Pirates are 41-84 overall but 17-19 in 1-run games and the Orioles are 44-81 overall but 22-18 in 1-run games.  When you can’t win close games and when you can’t come through with clutch hits on a regular basis, you are not going to win a lot of games.  And that’s just what happened in 2010.

Well enough of my blabbering and statistics.  I was planning on throwing in some Lou quotes, but maybe I will save that for tomorrow.  Stay tuned…

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Rookies Not Getting It Done in Prime Time – Cubs 1, Padres 5 – 8/18/10 Wrigley Field

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Lou

The Cubs used 6 pitchers in the loss and ALL 6 pitchers were rookies.  It is believed to be the 1st time since 1957 (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) that a team has done that before the September call-up of minor league players.  Casey Coleman started the game and took the loss — 3ER on 6 hits and 3 walks in 4 1/3 innings.  James Russell and Justin Berg each recorded the only batters that they faced.  Thomas Diamond (who was replaced by Coleman in the starting lineup after 3 bad starts) – tossed 2 scoreless innings allowing just 1 hit while striking out 2.  Andrew Cashner gave up a run on 3 hits in the 8th inning and Marcos Mateo gave up a run on 2 hits and a walk in the 9th inning.

The 2 biggest surprises for me are Andrew Cashner and Marcos Mateo.  Cashner started his season on fire – he did not allow a single run to score in his first 7 appearances.  Then he went through a rough – but somewhat unlucky stretch – where he allowed a run in 4 straight appearances and suffered a blown save and 3 consecutive losses.  From July 7th through July 26th, Cashner seemed to have turned it around again – allowing just a total of 2 runs to score in 8 appearances.  But since then, Cashner has really struggled.  He gave up 6 ER in each of 2 straight outings against the Astros on July 27th and the Rockies on July 30th.  And now he has given up a run in each of his last 3 outings.  His ERA has risen to 6.15 and his WHIP now stands at 1.78.  Not sure where it all went wrong for the young stud, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild really needs to work with the kid to make sure he doesn’t lose too much confidence during this rough rookie campaign.  Hopefully Greg Maddux can even re-assure Cashner that this is all part of the growing process and he will get more consistent and effective as his career catapults on.

Mateo is just awful.  Mateo gave up a run on 2 walks and a hit.  His ERA is now 12.46 and his WHIP is 3.00!  That means he let’s at least 3 runners on base every single inning that he pitches?!  Isn’t there someone else in Double-A or Triple-A who can offer more than this guy.

Now I know that the Cubs were bit by the injury bug with Jeff Gray all having season-ending injuries throw the bullpen into a tizzy, but you have to be prepared for something like that.  And clearly GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs weren’t.  It is great experience for these young pitchers to see so much major league action this early in their careers, but it is really making an already painful season to watch that much more excrutiating.

Oh yeah – it wasn’t only rookie pitchers seeing a lot of game action yesterday – outfielder Tyler Colvin, Catcher Wellington Castillo, 2nd baseman Darwin Barney and SS Starlin Castro were all in the game at the same time.  Castro and Barney each had singles, while Castillo went 0 for 3 and Colvin did not get a hit in his pinch-hit at-bat.

Alfonso Soriano was the only Cubs starter to have more than 1 hit and Jeff Baker had the Cubs only RBI with a double that plated Soriano.

FYI – Padres just completed the 4-game sweep of the Cubs with the 5-3 win today.  Not surprising that Matos shut down the pathetic Cubs offense, but what is surprising is that Sean Marshall blew the 2-1 7th inning lead that Carlos Zambrano handed to him when he allowed 3 ER in the inning to suffer his 4th loss of the season.  If Marshall and Carlos Marmol start to have issues, there truly won’t be anything good left to watch on this 2010 Cubs lineup…

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Another 1-Run Loss for Cubs – No Team is Even Close to their 29 1-run Losses in 2010 – Cubs 7, Giants 8 – 8/12/10

Posted on 13 August 2010 by Lou

WOW – I was shocked to see how high the number of 1-run losses has climbed in 2010 for the Cubs.  After dropping the 8-7 finale to the Giants on Thursday’s get-away day (all 3 losses to the Giants in the series were by 1 run and this is your wild-card leader Cubs fans), the Cubs are now 13-29 in 1-run games.  That means that 42 of the Cubs 115 games played (48-67 record) in 2010 have been decided by 1 run or less.  That’s more than 1/3 of their games being decided by such a close margin.  It is unbelievable.  No other team has played as many 1-run games as the Cubs in 2010 and only 4 other teams in the entire major leagues have lost more than 20 1-run games in 2010 (Royals – 23; Mets – 22; Blue Jays – 22; & Mariners – 21).  When you factor in losses in games decided by 2 runs or loss (which I have not had the time to do), I’m sure the numbers get even more mind-boggling.  The Yankees (13-9) and Astros (10-12) have only played in 22 1-run games in all of 2010.  That’s 20 games less than the Cubs.  In the Yankees case, it means that they are crushing a lot of teams and in the Astros cases, it means that they were losing a ton of blowouts.  But for a team to lose 29 games decided by 1-run or less, it takes a lot.  It means you’re not sooooo awful that you are going to get blown out a lot,  but it also means that you don’t have what it takes to win on a consistent basis in the major leagues.  For the Cubs, it has largely been due to an inconsistent offense and having too many young players play and pitch throughout the entire regular season.

Randy Wells had another rough start after being staked to a 3-1 lead.  Wells gave himself a 2-run lead with an RBI double in the top of the 4th inning, but being on base too long may have cost him.  In the bottom of the frame, he served up solo home runs to Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval.  Then in the bottom of the 5th inning, he served up a Grand Slam to Burrell.  Just like that, a 3-1 Cubs lead turned into a 7-3 Cubs deficit.

You have to give this Cubs team a little credit, however.  A Kosuke Fukudome double scored Starlin Castro in the 7th inning.  Then in the 8th inning, the Cubs rallied to tie the game on

Castro finished the day with 4 hits, 1 RBI and 2 runs scored.  He is now hitting .320 on the season, surpassing Marlon Byrd as the Cubs best hitter.  Fukudome has started to look better as well (after his typical midsummer swoon) racking up 5 hits in his last 11 at-bats.  His .262 batting average is pretty bad for a $12 million man, but you have to like his .370 on-base percentage (45 walks and 51 K’s in 252 at-bats).

The Cubs weren’t able to dash any of the hopes of the Giants for the playoffs push, but let’s hope the Cubs can do some damage to the Cards in St. Louis this weekend.  The Cards hold a 1-game edge over the Reds in the NL Central race after their sweep in Cincinnati this week, so the Cubs can do some damage by winning the series.  They get Jake Westbrook tonight, Chris Carpenter on Saturday and Jaime Garcia on Sunday.  The key is tonight – if they can find a way to pick up a win in the 1st game of the series against the mediocre Westbrook, they could end up stealing the series from the Cards with Big Z and Ryan Dempster on the hill on Saturday and Sunday.  Whatever happens, it should be an interesting series in St. Louis.

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Gorzelanny Struggles as Cubs Lose to Giants – Cubs 4, Giants 5 – 8/11/10

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Lou

Tom Gorzelanny put the Cubs in an early hole with a 3-run 1st inning.  Although the Cubs would rally to tie the game at 3 in the 6th inning and then again at 4 in the 7th inning, they would end up losing 5-4.

Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin homered for the Cubs in the loss.

This just in – Cubs lose finale in San Francisco as well 8-7.  Andrew Cashner suffered his 5th loss of the season by giving up a 1-out bases loaded single in the bottom of the 9th inning…

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Cubs Top Lincecum – You Betcha?! Hey Lou (or Alan) – “It’s Time to Rest Marshall & Marmol!” – Cubs 8, Giants 6 – 8/10/10

Posted on 11 August 2010 by Lou

Pitcher’s duel between Ryan Dempster & Tim Lincecum?  Not a chance as each team racks up 14 hits as Cubs win 8-6.  It was a rare impressive offensive attack for the Cubs as Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome led the way.

Although Colvin has struggled recently, you have to like what he brings to the table every day.  And Starlin continues to shine night in and night out.  Take the 1st inning for example — Colvin led off with a single and stole 2nd base.  Castro drove him in with a single and then stole 2nd base too to get into scoring position.  Ramirez then drove him in with a single and then scored on Fukudome’s home run.  Now I know it doesn’t happen like that too often, but you had to like 4 runs on 4 hits and still only 1 out in the 1st inning.

Colvin and Castro also came through in the 4th inning for the Cubs.  Colvin earned a 2-out walk with the bases loaded and then Castro came through with the clutch 2-out single that plated Koyie Hill and Ryan Dempster to extend the Cubs lead to 6-2.

Ramirez ended up with the best night – 3 hits, and RBI and a run scored.

And Mike Fontenot came through with a clutch 2-run pinch-hit double in the 8th inning that gave the Cubs a much-needed 8-4 lead (see below).

Dempster pitched “OK”.  The Giants are not the best hitting team, so when you’re staked to a 4-0 1st inning lead against a pitcher like Tim Lincecum, you cannot give back lone runs in the 1st 2 innings of the game.  Sure one of the runs was unearned, but Dempster has to be better.  He gave a light-hitting Giants lineup way too many chances to score with 8 hits and 2 walks over 6 2/3 innings.  He gave way to Andrew Cashner in the 7th inning after he gave up a single and a walk with 2 outs.  Cashner gave up Buster Posey’s 2-out double which cut the Cubs lead to 6-4, but he buckled down to strike out Pat Burrell to end the threat.

Sean Marshall struggled again with a walk and a hit in the 8th inning, but he kept the Giants off the scoreboard.

And Carlos Marmol gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in a non-save situation in the 9th inning.

Marshall and Marmol have been so good all season long, but they have made way too many appearances because the rest of the bullpen was so bad.  Marshall has made 59 appearances – 6-3 record, 1.11 WHIP, 2.45 ERA, 69 K’s and 19 walks.  In all of 2009, Marshall appeared in just 55 games (with 9 starts).  Marmol has appeared in 52 games – 2-2 record, 1.24 WHIP, 2.75 ERA, 96 K’s and 34 walks.  Marmol appeared in 79 games in 2009 and 82 games in 2008, but there is NO reason to throw him that many times in 2010.  Lou or Alan – whoever is managing the club day in and day out – please rest Marshall and Marmol!

Tom Gorzelanny battles Barry Zito in Game 2 of the series.  It should be another good picther’s duel, right?!

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Zambrano Rusty as Cubs Free Fall Continues on West Coast – Cubs 3, Giants 4 – 8/9/10 – AT&T Park

Posted on 10 August 2010 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano made his “much-anticipated” return to the starting rotation against the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Monday night.  At 1st glance, when I saw that Big Z had tossed 4 scoreless innings to start the game, I got a little bounce in my step.  Maybe Zambrano would be able to pitch well down the stretch.  Maybe he would even be so good that the Cubs might consider keeping him for the duration of his contract, or maybe another team would be more interested in agreeing to a trade for the hefty Venezulan this off-season.  I started to get excited.  But since I turned the game on with 2 outs in the bottom of the inning, I didn’t really get a full feel for how Zambrano was pitching.  And when I looked at the box score, my positive thoughts were quickly dashed.

Big Z was laboring as his control was atrocious.  He ended up making it through 5 innings with the score tied at 2.  He gave up both ER in the 5th inning as he ran out of steam.  He gave up only 4 hits, but he walked 7 batters and he threw 96 pitches in the process.  Not exactly what we were looking for.  I’m not exactly sure how he even lasted that long without giving up more runs.  The 2nd inning was a perfect example of sheer luck.  He walked Pat Burrell to start the inning and then gave up a hit to Pablo Sandoval.  Luckily Juan Urube grounded into a double play sending Burrell to 3rd base with 2 outs.  But then Big Z issued 2 straight walks to load the bases.  Only a Andres Torres strikeout allowed Zambrano to get out of the inning unscathed.  He issued 1 walk in each inning that he pitched and his leadoff walk to Torress in the 5th finally came back to haunt him on a Buster Posey double.  Zambrano then allowed another run to score on a wild pitch.  When you are wild, you’re going to throw lots of pitches and you’re going to get into loads of trouble.  It is a recipe for disaster and that’s exactly what happened to Zambrano.  Now I know it was his 1st start since June 25th so we have to give him a little time to get back into the starter’s mind frame.  But he doesn’t have much time – only another 8-9 starts the rest of the way, so he really needs to come out firing on all cylinders in his next start – time is of the essence if we want to show the rest of the league that Big Z still has some value.

Marcus Mateo – another young Cubs pitcher struggling in his major league debut – flirted with disaster in each of the 10th and 11th innings.  He gave up a single and a double in the 10th inning but avoided giving up a run when Colvin threw out Travis Ishikawa at the plate.  But in the 11th, Mateo didn’t get so lucky as he failed to retire a batter.  He gave up 2 singles and then walked Posey to load the bases with nobody out.  Then Burrell hit the game-winning sacrifice fly to deep center to drive in the winning run in walk-off fashion…

The Cubs offense was actually better than I thought it would be.  The team racked up 11 hits, but once again, clutch hits were lacking.  Starlin Castro, Xavier Nady and Marlon Byrd each had 2 hits.  Tyler Colvin, Byrd and Alfonso Soriano had the 3 RBI’s.  And hey, all 3 runs were earned, so at least we did something to deserve the runs, right?

Great match-up tonight in Game 2 of the series.  Ryan Dempster gets the honor of facing the 2-time defending Cy Young Award Winner – Tim Lincecum.  Yippee!

In any event, this is getting pretty ugly as the losses keep piling up.  The Cubs have now lost 4 in a row and 11 of 12 games.  Their record is 47-65.  They trail the Cincinnati Reds by 16.5 games for 1st place in the NL Central?!  This is a team that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 & 2008.  My how fast the might have fallen.  With the Reds stockpiling amazing young pitchers who continue to improve each year and with the Cardinals trotting out Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday day in and day out, it is hard to imagine how the Cubs will even compete in the division during the next few seasons.  The Cubs will wither have to get lucky and win the Adrian Gonzales sweepstakes this off-season or hope that their competitors suffer multiple season-ending injuries as the 2011 MLB schedule approaches.  WOW – is this going to be a frustrating few years.

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My Prediction Was Right (Mostly)!!! Cubs 0, Reds 3 – 8/6/10 @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Lou

While I thought the Reds would push across more than 3 runs today, how right was I about the Cubs offense?!  After their 15-run attack against the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, you just knew that the Cubs would lay an egg today against Bronson Arroyo and the Reds.  I was right on the money!

Arroyo improved to 12-6 by scattering 5 hits and 1 walk over 7 scoreless innings.  50-year old Arthur Rhodes even got into the act for the Reds by pitching a 1-2-3 8th inning to preserve the Reds 3-0 lead.  (By the way, I was just kidding – Rhodes is “only” years old).  And even though Reds’ closer Francisco Cordero walked 2 batters in the 9th inning, he struck out Derrek Lee and Marlon Byrd and got Blake DeWitt to ground out back to the box to end the game.  Ho-hum – another dull Cubs loss at the Friendly Confines.

The Cubs did have a couple of opportunities throughout the game, but like usual, they never came through with the clutch hit.

Example 1 – In the 4th inning, the Cubs squandered back-to-back 2-out hits by Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd as Kosuke Fukudome grounded out to end the inning.

Example 2 – In the 5th inning, the Cubs wasted back-to-back leadoff singles by Blake DeWitt and Geovany Soto.  Both men moved up to 2nd and 3rd base on a wild pitch with nobody out, but were stranded as Tom Gorzelanny struck out, Tyler Colvin popped out and Starlin Castro struck out.

Example 3 – See 9th inning discussion above.  2 walks and no runs – what else is new?!

The Cubs have their best shot at a win on Saturday afternoon.  Randy Wells beat the Reds back in July and he looks to do so again against Edinson Volquez who has been mediocre at best since coming off the disabled list after the All-Star Break…

Go Cubs Go!!!

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Another Series Loss to Lowly Astros – It Keeps Getting Clearer That Wholesale Changes are Needed on North Side – Cubs 1, Astros 8 – 7/28/10

Posted on 29 July 2010 by Lou

Another week, another series loss to the 42-59 Houston Astros – ha, ha, ha!  How does a team take 3 of 4 from the Philadelphia Phillies and then 2 of 3 from the St. Louis Cardinals, but then lose 4 of 6 games to the Houstonj Astros in a span of 9 days.  It just doesn’t make sense.  But then again, nothing about this 2010 Cubs team or this Cubs organization makes any sense these days.  It is becoming more and more clear that wholesale changes are needed on the North Side of Chicago is we expect to see the Cubs win the World Series “any time soon” – whatever that means.  Let’s look more closely at the 2 Astros series.

Last week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs lost 5-11, won 14-7 and then lost 3-4.  This week in Houston, the Cubs won 5-2, but then lost 1-6 and 1-8.  In the 6 games, the Astros outscored the Cubs 38-29.  How is that possible, especially when the Cubs didn’t have to face the Astros best pitcher – Roy Oswalt in any of the 6 games?  It is simply embarrassing and unacceptable.  Today’s loss can be summed up in 1 inning – the 1st – when the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out.  Ryan Theriot led off with a single, Starlin Castro reached base on an error and Tyler Colvin walked.  But as has happened so many times this season, instead of the Cubs breaking the game open with a 4 or 5 run inning, the Cubs settled for 1 lousy run on a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez.  When you have chances like that and you only push across 1 run, you are not going to win a lot of games.  After the Ramirez out, Xavier Nady struck out, Kosuke Fukudome walked to load the bases again, but then Jeff Baker struck out.  What a joke…

Theriot had 3 hits in the loss; Castro had 2 hits and Colvin had 1 hit and 2 walks.  The rest of the team??? 2 walks by Fukudome and 1 hit by Koyie Hill – that’s it.  No more hits, no more walks and because of that, no more runs. The 2-7 Bud Norris with the dazzling 1.61 WHIP and 6.08 ERA manages to hold down the Cubs to just 1 unearned run on 4 hits and 3 walks in 6 strong innings.  It is just too funny.

Randy Wells was cruising along until things started to unravel in the 6th inning.  A Hunter Pence RBI double tied the game at 1 and then a 2-run homer to Carlos Lee gave the Astros the lead for good in the 6th inning.  A 3-1 lead should not really be a big deal at all, but to this Cubs squad, it is almost insurmountable.  Then when you have 2 relievers toss batting practice in the 7th and 8th innings, you are all but assured another loss.  Brian Schlitter gave up 2 ER on 4 hits in the 7th inning and now has a 12.00 ERA and a 2.33 WHIP.  Bob Howry then gave up 3 ER on 4 hits before being replaced by Justin Berg who easily got the last out of the inning.  Why are Schlitter and Howry even on the 25-man roster?  Isn’t there anybody else down in Triple-A or Double-A who can do a better job?

I am getting increasingly frustrated with the product on the field for the Cubs.  It’s a start, with the “indifferent” Pinella leaving after the season, but we have to take a deeper look at what Jim Hendry has done.  All the Cubs “trade-worthy” players all come with a catch.  Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva (because of the bad Milton Bradley contract), Alfonso Soriano – we’d all love to move these over-paid, under-producing bit players, but no team in their right mind will take them because of the crazy dollars still owed to each guy over the next year to 4 years.  And who’s fault is that?  Jim Hendry.  The last 3-4 years have been miserable to Jim Hendry in terms of his off-season moves, and it’s time for the Ricketts Family to take a close look at the guy who runs the team’s baseball operations.  Jim must go – and as soon as he does – this Cubs team will get better in a hurry…

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