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Game 2: Cardinals 4, Cubs 0

Oct
10

Almost forgot to do this already. The last few hours have been slightly crazy. I’ve also gone crazy; I think about making a lot of trips I never actually make, but I’ve talked myself into driving to St. Luis for (proper) Game 2 of this series. I got no one to ride with, I got a 4.5 hour drive, I got an eTicket from a company I didn’t know existed a half hour ago, and I got plenty of things to occupy my time if I opted to stay home. But, you got to take your chances – and I don’t take enough of ’em – because you don’t really know when you’re going to have another. I’m not getting into Wrigley unless my name comes up in a lottery. New York and Los Angeles seem a fair big longer drives. There may be other years, but there might not. For them or for me.

The Cubs couldn’t take their chances tonight because there weren’t really many of them. I was shocked when the Cardinals took Lackey out of the game, because he was over matching the Cubs and seemed to show no sign of weakness. It’s a one run game and it’s understandable to be cautious, but he was pitching better than Arrieta on Wednesday. This, in a lot of ways, was like being the Pirates on Wednesday – the score was close but the Cubs never felt particularly close to being in it, you had to keep reminding yourself that one hit could tie it up. That hit wasn’t really coming. They made it fun in the ninth, but they never got a run across.

Saturday’s game strangely doesn’t seem like must win. It’d be really great to win, but they have Arrieta on Monday and that seems so certain to get it to 2-1. Lester losing means one of the Other Guys is going to have to win a start, but it’s more about hitters on the team doing a little better. It was only the two guys who hit Cole, and it was not even two guys who hit Lackey on Friday. Hendricks should be okay. I’m more concerned about the bats. Garcia’s not going to be easy.

They did dump Berry, which I was wrong about. They’re going with the conservative route on the rotation, which I was wrong about. Hope I’m not wrong about this trip.

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K, bye

Nov
14

I had a whole post about walking around Wrigleyville a few Sundays ago – the Sunday that would’ve been Game 5 of the World Series, a home game – and how desolate and empty and depressing the area was, and how I was still despondent and not ready to ride the rollercoaster again. The thing is, I think I was not ready to post about it either. It sucked, it still sucks, and it will continue to suck for a long time. Occasionally, I hope to find things that stumble me into feeling again.

Like yesterday.

This whole Kerry’s gone this is weird. You’d this is a situation where Kerry’s agent said he wanted a multi-year deal, the Cubs had to pass, and that was the end of that. No no on – Kerry was willing to take another one year deal, whatever it took to stay, and Hendry is pushing him out the door because he likes him so much he wants Wood to get a multiyear deal. I understand what Hendry is trying to do for Kerry, but I can’t think of another situation where a valuable player wanted to stay with a team, was willing to take a below market contract and was well liked by that team, and the team didn’t want him.

I think everyone who’s been a fan of the Cubs wants to see Kerry do well where ever he ends up, and I’m sure he’ll get one of the biggest ovations of the year when/if he returns to Wrigley. It’s just strange how it ends. If anything, this breakups indicates Hendry was worried about Kerry being a (bigger) injury risk or drop off candidate in ’09, and he wanted Kerry to get his money while he still could. Hopefully other GMs don’t feel the same way, because the closer market is busy enough. (And really really hopefully, the best offer doesn’t come from Milwaukee or Saint Louis, who both could use him.)

I’m not a Kevin Gregg fan – he seems like an average reliever who just happened to be the guy handed the ball for a year of saves and benefited from being in the one position in the bullpen with a counting stat people believe in. I heavily doubt he’ll be the closer with the Cubs; heck, I doubt he’ll even be the setup guy, if Gaudin can pitch as well as he did. Gregg is fine for a year, fine for not getting stuck with a 3yr/8mil Howry type pitcher in his spot, but I think he’s only better than the usual alternatives, not actually good.

The trade sounded a lot better when I thought it was Kevin Greed for Jose Ascanio, and not Jose Ceda. I guess Hendry was going thru withdrawal, not having built up the Marlins pitching with the best Cubs prospects for a couple of years.

on Jason Kendall

Jul
17

(I wrote this yesterday, but forget to hit the publish button. I’m beginning to hate that button.)

What the A’s fans are saying about “losing” Jason Kendall

Jason, I never hated you, how could I hate someone who would put his face in front of some jagged cleats to win a game? I just got tired of watching you hit.

Blez @ athleticsnation

In my wildest dreams, I had a hard time visualizing a situation where the A’s would get something for Jason Kendall.

Melissa Lockard @ Athletic Supporters

Will miss Kendall’s grit and pitcher handling, though his hitting is no longer at a major-league level.

SF Gate’s A’s blog.

I can’t see a downside to this deal

– Len Kasper @ WCIU last night (perhaps somewhat paraphrased – but this killed me because Len’s normally so smart, and he and Brenly were marking out for this deal. What was worse was when they were quoting statistics to prop up the deal, obviously having seen the bad offensive numbers and choosing to ignore it. I know you’re employed by the home team and are going to be biased, but c’mon. That was credibility damaging.)

The coverage of this deal, from a Cubs perspective, has been mindboggling to me. Perhaps I was a slight bit biased, having immediately called a friend after hearing about the deal, and screaming “226!“, which left me little tolerance for differing opinions (as seen on the-w.) You can read the A’s perspective above – to them, this is a great move, getting rid of a player they were sick of watching to open up a door for a player they wanted to see and – bonus! – they got a couple free players and some salary relief out of it.

Look, I think this was a horrible deal. I think the Cubs would’ve been better of making no move than this move. Much like Cesar Izituris, I think the Cubs have traded for a player who’s having a bad time of it and may well be done as a major league regular, but they’re hoping they can fix him (/spread some magical pixie dust) and all of his problems will be gone. It didn’t and hasn’t worked with Izituris, and the Cubs have spent a lot of outs to find that out. I’m very upset to see the same process repeat itself again. I think Rob Bowen had proven to be a bad move (and a bad trade, Z’s hot streak or not) and Koyie Hill is the wrong direction, but Jason Kendall is probably just going to be another mistake and more time wasted going the wrong way instead of trying more promising directions.

The original thought, when this happened, is Pinella had campaigned for a better catcher after tiring of Hill and Bowen’s inability to hit. That may or may be solved by picking up Kendall, but it’s not actually what happened. When you start to read the A’s side coverage, it becomes pretty obvious this was an A’s idea to start with.

“When he told me about his plans for the young catcher they have, we tried to fall in as best we could and make the deal.”

– Jim Hendry, quoted in the San Fransico Chronicle, and a generous, generous man. Hendry’s also quoted hyping up the major league prospects of Jerry Blevin, who’s pretty much be ignored in this deal on the Chicago side. Hendry sounds like he belives this is a steal for his team, and he’s trying to make sure Beane doesn’t get killed by the A’s fans for helping him out. It’s a pretty warped perspective from reality.

Phil Rogers’ short article on the trade was one of the worst I’ve read. Using Jason Marquis, the guy who’s completely fallen apart over the last six weeks, as a proof of the Cubs scouting being smarter than statistical evidence shows either cluelessness or obliviousness. I’m also not sure how much scouting could’ve actually been done, if the Cubs were not looking for catchers (as the SFGate article states), this deal was proposed on Sunday, and Kendall didn’t play on Monday. I think this deal was done 99% based on Jason Kendall name recognition while ignoring all evidence that he – like a lot of catchers when they reach they get into their 30s with a ton of games caught – might be done.

The defense I’ve heared about Kendall’s woeful hitting stats – that’s 226 AVG, 261 OBP, 281 SLG – is that he’s hit better lately. If you accept that, you’ve got also accept how horrible Kendall must’ve been doing earlier for a hot streak to take him to 226.

April (95 PA): 169/221/180
May (85 PA): 213/247/225
June (97 PA): 295/326/432
June (35 PA): 229/229/286

So yes, he did get hot in June, and even show a little bit of power. That was June. It’s July, and he’s back to what he’s been the rest of the season. Do you want to believe the 1 month, or the 2.3 months?

I’m actually more distressed about those on base numbers. Jason Kendall strength, when he was someone you’d want to sign, was his ability to get on base at a leadoff man’s rate. Some of it was because he hit 300 7 seasons, but it was equally about his ability to take pitches and get on base via the walk. While your swing may slow down, an aging player should retain his ability to identify the strike zone and walk his way on base.

Look at those splits agian. Even in his hot month, Jason Kendall’s walks added no more 30 points to his OBP. He’s yet to walk in July. Last season, Kendall’s Isolated Walk was 70, which is where it’s been about for his career. That’s a lot of walks to go missing, and walks that have consistently been missing this year. There’s two explanations for that

* his eyesight is going, so he can’t identify balls anymore
* pitchers have figured out a reliable way get Kendall out, and don’t feel the need to waste any pitches out of the strike zone. Kendall’s not walking because the pitchers don’t fear him making contact.

If it’s the latter, I expect Kendall will get a brief surge, as he faces NL teams that are going off old scouting reports and don’t know how to challenge him. Word gets around fast, and I think the NL will figure out whatever the AL has, and what Kendall has been unable to correct.

I should note that signing Jason Kendall makes all the talk about Barrett being traded for his defense seem like complete bunk. Kendall’s known as a guy you can run at will on. Bowen and Hill seemed to be keeping people relatively honest, but no more.

SBA/G (2007)
Kendall .888 (with the As)
Hill .43
Bowen .59 (with the Cubs)

The big catch here, the big unknown, is how much everyone’s paying for Kendall’s salary. It was $13 million, $5 mil still paid by the Pirates. (What an awful deal for the Pirates.) Season’s 91 games over, and even though it doesn’t exactly work that way, we’ll say that means 56% of the salary has been paid so far.

Kendall’s got a rep as being a good game caller – but he’s also the 5th different catcher the Cubs have used this season. It’s tough to believe any pitcher has a particularly good connection with any catcher at this point.

$5.72mil left in the contract
$2.20mil left to be paid by the Pirates (assuming the Pirates pay over the year and not in a lump sum)

$3.5mil split by the Cubs and As. If the A’s are paying $3.25 mil of it, so the Cubs are basically paying Bowen’s salary for Jason Kendall, well, I guess you’re rolling the dice and hope that Kendall has a better shot to improve than Bowen.

I still rather the Cubs find out what they have in Soto first. If the Cubs internal scouting was correct, the Cubs would be out of it now – Theriot and Fontenot’s hot hitting would’ve never helped out the ball club because the scouting didn’t think they were worth anything. Maybe they’re right to about Soto, and he can’t be a Major League catcher, but wouldn’t you have a little doubt after the other guys you said couldn’t make it have been a valuable assets.

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Game 77: Cubs 6 – Rockies 4

Jun
28

Cubs 38-39, 7.5/6
Rockies 38-40, 6.5/6.5

POTG: 3B Mark DeRosa (2 H, HR, 2B, 3 RBI)
Runner Up: 2B Mike Fontenot (3 H, 2 R, RBI), Z! (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 8 K, W [9/73])

It may be tempting fate to bring this statistic out, since things divebombed last time, but I’ll risk it.

after 77 games
2007: 38-39
2006: 29-48

Whatever this team has been thru, it’s a 9 game improvement. I know the expectations were high, and probably deservingly so, but if this team ends up 18-20 wins better, I think it’s some measure of success even without the playoffs. Or, it’s some sign about how bad the 2006 team was flawed, I’m not totally sure.

This was the least Z start of the run, but it was plenty enough for this day. Just a week ago, Rockies were getting some hype about maybe finally making it thru the desert and coming out a playoff caliber team the other side. They looked quite like the same old Rockies thru this series.

It’s impossible for Fontenot to keep this up, but it’s sure the right move putting him out there until he can’t. They’ve just got to be prepared to move on when it’s time.

It would seem like future ex-Cub Jacque Jones has played in his last home game at Wrigley, but the constant theme to trade talk about him this year is things are always taking much longer than anyone figures. My original thought was “the longer they wait, the less they’ll have to eat of Jacque’s salary”, but with Jacque glued to the bench, they’re just eating it in a less straightforward way each and every day. The only thing they can keep holding out for is more the other teams offering to take more money, but I can’t imagine that number increasing while Jacque’s playing time disappears. So we may be stuck here a while.

No Dempster till after the All Star break, and you get the impression Lou may just go by committee, though never actually saying that word. Hopefully it won’t be too interesting.

Game 76: Cubs 8 – Rockies 5

Jun
27

Cubs 37-39, 7.5 GB
Rockies 38-39, 6 GB

POTG: LF Alfonso Soriano (2 H, 2 R, 2B, SB, OF Assist [10/32]
Runner Up: RF Uncle Cliffy (HR, 2 IBB, intense terror of oppositon – or everyone thinks DeRosa sucks, not sure), SS Fontenot (R, 2B, RBI, BB, SB, no problems at odd position), C Koyie Hill (2B, 2 RBI), RP Michael Wuertz (2 IP, H, 3 K, WP)

Dan B asked me to mention Shawon-O-Meter, so I will. I think someone needs to start a Pie-O-Tron – what with the speed and the gun and the wild swinging, he’s the modern day successor.

Weird but true: With Milwaukee’s surge and the NL West teams knocking each other around, the Cubs are actually closer to the Wild Card lead (6.0) than the division number I’ve started to put up there. They’ve just got more teams to past that way; a win today puts them ahead of Rockies into 5th. Far more important, at the moment, is how close they are to being 500. They haven’t been two games under since May 20th. Last time they got to one under, it was Z on the mound, same as it’ll be today.

When Tulowitzki’s ball ricocheted off the left field wall, just before the indent, I thought it was actually a bad bounce. The ivy stole energy, and the ball seemed to die a bit short of where Soriano was expecting. And he still picked up, fired to second, and DeRosa got it so quick, he had time to trip and still put down the glove for Tulotwitzki to slide into it. That was as amazing as any home run he’s hit this season. I don’t know why people are still running on Alfonso, but it’s cool to see them pay.

Floyd’s really starting to grow on me. Getting a regular spot has helped, I think, but he’s just generally on fire – 342/419/526 this month. The Pagan/Floyd timesharing arrangement is working great, much better than Floyd/Murton/Jones was going.

It was nice of WGN to show a shot of Jacque in the dugout near the start of the game, not just to let us know he didn’t get traded, but to generally reminds us he still exists. He’s so the forgetten man on this roster. At least he’s had plenty of time to think about what he’s going to say when he leaves; yesterday was a chance to work it over in his mind for a few hours. Just for Jacque’s own sanity, they’ve got to make a deal in the next couple of days. Heck, I’d prefer it to be Thursday, just so he can leave on the off day instead of being hassled.

The end of this game started to mirror the previous game, with the bullpen starting to blow. I think I would’ve been more worried if Monday’s game didn’t also feature a big comeback, but I think that’s also what motivated Lou to pulling Marmol rather than let him work out of his own jam.

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Game 75: Cubs 10 – Rockies 9

Jun
26

Rockies 38-38, -5.5
Cubs 36-39, -7.5

POTG: 2B Mike Fontenot (5 H, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, CS)
Runner Up: 1B Derek Lee (3 H, R), RF Mark DeRosa (3 H, 3 RBI, R), CF Angel Pagan (HR, 3 RBI, BB), LF Alfonso Soriano (H, 2 RBI), SS Ryan Theriot (2B, SB, 2 H, 2 R)

To be honest, I watched this game (and had earlier gone to see the Cougars game) but I wasn’t much focused on it. It was on my TiVo, I kinda paid attention, I sometimes drifted off into other things and realized I’d been watching 3 minutes of commercials. Early on, I got a “I want to go crazy over what just happened, but I can’t because you’re watching on tape” phone call, so I figured something weird happened at the end. I just couldn’t figure out what it could be, because the Cubs were cruising for most of the game. Every time Marquis got into trouble, I figured that must be it, but he kept squirming out. After Eyre bailed out of Wuertz’s jam in the 7th, I was completely confused and figured it must’ve been a freak play rather than a close finish.

And then the 9th happened, and all heck broke loose. There’s gotta be something wrong with Scott Eyre. Either he’s hurt, or he’s done. It’s late June, he hasn’t come around, it’s time for some sort of action. You can tell Pinella has given up on him, because he’s only been in 4 games of the last 20. It doesn’t make sense to keep him on the active roster at this point.

I’m giving up Howry more of a benefit of the doubt, even though he was more horrible. It was his third day in a row, his fourth in five games, and his fifth in a week. That kind of workload will kill you. The Cubs really needed another arm down in the pen last night. Howry will almost surely get tonight off, and Marmol’s probably the closer for the night.

My guess is Eyre and Dempster go on the DL. This would allow the Cubs to circumvent the “can’t call back up for 10 days” rule to call up at least Gallagher, and whomever else. Bringing in two fresh arms will allow them to push back going to twelve relievers for another couple days. Perhaps that’ll get them enough time to do something with Jacque.

Nice of Soriano take my stats with runners on and stick them back in my face. I’m more than willing to be wrong about those sorts of things, just didn’t expect to be so rapidly wrong.

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Game 74: Cubs 3 – White Sox 0

Jun
25

Cubs 35-39
White Sox 29-41

POTG: LF Soriano (HR, 3 H)
Runner Up: 2B Mike Fontenot (2 H, SB), 3B A Ram (2 H, 2B, R), LF Uncle Cliffy (2 H), SP Sean Marshall (6.1 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K, W [4/10]

The White Sox are an awful team.

It STILL would be nice for Soriano to get a home run with a man on base. Soriano has 15 home runs now, and only ONE with runners on base. (A three run shot on June 4th.) 4 are leadoff home runs, so that’s 10 homeruns with no runners on and a possibility to do so. To be fair, he’s had twice as many plate appearances with no runners than men on, but compare these numbers…

Men On: 103 PA, 239/340/341
None On: 211 PA, 342/370/663

Something’s off. Weird how he takes so many more walks with men on; if you factor out the IBB, it’s 300, but he’s still walking twice as often. The power is none existent with men on. Perhaps we DO want Soriano leading off!

For his career, Soriano loses 22 points off his average and 66 off slugging with men on, but the different in on base is tiny compared this year. It’s a thing with him.

How did Ryan Dempster hurt his oblique? We’ve never found out, and it seems a bit important. If Mamrol wasn’t hot and Howry wasn’t solid, they’d be in trouble right now. Well, as much as trouble as team already 7.5 games out could be.

After hearing so much about it, I’m kinda sad I missed Hawk losing his mind about the obstruction call and being totally incorrect about it the whole way. WGN totally kicked Comcast on production for this play and this game, and it wasn’t close. They’re the real winners here.

Stalled out on writing this, because it sure sounds like a move is coming down today, and there’s gotta be a 5% chance it’ll be JJ day. Lou wants to add another pitcher. Ward, Fontenot, Pagan and whichever is the backup catcher today aren’t going down. That leaves Jacque and the Riot, and while it makes sense to send down the guy who’s 0 for his last 19, it’d be an awful lefthanded bench.

Even though there’s potential to be a firestorm is Ryan goes down while Jacque stays, I think sending down Theriot is the right move. Releasing Jacque while still paying all of his salary for the 1 2/3rd more seasons for nothing isn’t the right move. Just not certian they’ll make it.

Game 73: Cubs 2 – White Sox 1

Jun
24

Cubs 34-39, 8.5 GB
White Sox 29-41, 13.5 GB

POTG: 3B The Riot (SQUEEZE)
Runner Up: SS Cesar Izturis (3 H, SB, E), LF Soriano (HR), Bullpen as a whole (3.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K)

I think some of the pitching success this series is do to Cubs pitcher, but a lot of it has to do with the White Sox being absolutely terrible. I don’t think I really understood how bad they were till now. I’ve been thinking they were just an average team in a tough division, but I think that may be an overstaetment. They seem plain bad, to the point where today’s ESPN scroll – “White Sox will trade Mark Burhele” – seems way too obvious to be news. Outside of trades, their season is pretty much over on Sunday regardless of who wins. There’s not much left to play for.

The Cubs lack of offense worried me, but at least they’re executing well. Even with Brenly pointing it out many many times during the broadcast, it’s tough to accept that they’re actually playing good fundamental baseball. I didn’t think such a thing was possible.

Marmol’s really taken to his role in the bullpen. I’m kinda okay if they don’t ever start saving him for saves, because he’s by far the best guy to have in tough situations.

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Game 72: Cubs 5 – White Sox 1

Jun
24

Cubs 33-39, 8 1/2 GB
White Sox 29-40, 12 1/2 GB

POTG: Z! (8 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 12 K)
Runner Up: LF Soriano (2 H, HR), 3B A Ram (2 H, HR, 2 RBI), CF Felix Pie (H, 2 RBI)

Carlos Zambrano is the awesomest thing ever. Brian Kendrick should change his finisher name from Sliced Bread #2 to Carlos Zambramo, because he clearly is the greatest thing since. If the team sale means Z doesn’t get resigned, I may have to buy Extra Innings, change the name of the website and throw out half my t-shirts. You MUST pay this man.

I was driving and eating a pretzel dog when the game was going on. I figured I was going to be too late to the Chicago area to hear this game live on WGN (and I was right), so I just turned my iPod on for the trip and waited till I got home to find out any of this (though I did get a phone call indicating it was going to be worth my time.) This was a great call.

Interesting but not particularly surprising they put Bowen behind the plate for the first Z start they could. I don’t think they want Carlos to be attached to Koyie (and to be fair, he probably is only attached to non-Barrett pitchers), but Bowen didn’t seem to be the different maker here. You’re not going to look good the first time you catch Z’s stuff, and Bowen sure looked like he was catching Z for the first time. It worked, so no complaints.

He’s like 2 more of these away from an All Star Birth, right? 10 wins, ERA may be under 4…

Some of those Soriano home runs would look really nice with runners in front of him.

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Game 71: Rangers 6 – Cubs 5

Jun
24

Cubs 32-39, 8.5 GB
Rangers 28-44, 17.5 GB

POTG: 1B D Lee (3 H, 2 RBI, R, HBP)
Runner Up: LF Soriano (2 H, 2B, R, IBB), 1B Darryl Ward (2 H, R, BB), LF Angel Pagan (3 H, RBI), CF Felx Pie (2 BB!, SH)

This was a killer series for the slim playoff hopes. The Brewers have gotten unstuck, and the Cubs lost 2 of 3 to a horrible team. Which kinda makes the Cubs a horrible team. 8.5 might as well be 50 at this point.

I didn’t see or hear any of this game – I tried to get GameDay Audio working on my laptop, but it wasn’t working. I hate my laptop – I think there’s a defective RAM stick or something. It’ll just randomly blue screen of death after being on an hour or three. Don’t know when, don’t know why (guessing it’s a heating issue.) I would like to get a new laptop, and probably a Mac at that, but I don’t want to deal with the same sort of problems from something else. Right now, I’m just using programs which can autosave every five seconds.

It’s probably good I didn’t see this game, because just reading the description would’ve killed me. The bullpen has generally been better of late. Not this game. Offense should’ve done more with 13 hits and 6 walks, so I say it’s a group loss.

Even though the box score numbers don’t look good, Lilly did a good job keeping the Cubs in it and saving the bullpen by making it 7 innings. He didn’t give up a run after the 3rd, a hit after the 4th, and finished with 3 strikeouts. It’s totally an AL thing – he would’ve been lifted for a pinch hitter in the 4th or 5th in the NL

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