Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Breaking News: It's the Fans' fault

Just when you thought Dusty Baker was coming to his senses, he has reverted to his old self. Recently, Dusty was showing signs of life when he openly criticized Corey Patterson for not playing up to his potential as a premier lead-off man.

But, never fear sports fans, the dim-witted, cantankerous Dusty is back! Now we know why LaTroy didn't succeed here in Chicago. It was the fans! It's all the negative energy, man. They brought him down.

I guess a lot of Cubs fans were harrassing him in the Shea Stadium bullpen at the end of last season, huh? Or, perhaps LaTroy just couldn't shake the memory of those heartless Cubs fans down the 3rd base wall taunting him time and again.

Get a grip, Dusty. Seven of LaTroy's thirteen blown saves since 2004 have come on the road. Stop making excuses, dude.

moving on

the tribune today printed a paul sullivan piece which is the unmistakable trial balloon that signifies the change in tone from 2005 to 2006. hairston, garciaparra, walker, burnitz, hollandsworth and the entire bullpen get mentioned as possible bait for contending teams.

and i have to say, bravo! for this cub team isn't going anywhere. while a four-game win streak, a peek at .500 and a good week from aramis is enough to induce euphoria among the faithful, the fact remains that the 2005 cubs got weaker in trading hawkins and have done nothing, nada, zero to address any of the team's manifold failings.

indeed, if the cubs hadn't managed to put up 28 runs and 44 hits in four games against colorado at home, it would've been yet more damning. but colorado is still the worst road pitching staff in the NL. is it really an accomplishment when the rockies are coughing up an average of 5.8 runs and 9.2 hits a game? only when your offense is as questionable as the cubs is.

so take it all in, cub fans and readers -- this lofty peak of one over even is probably the highest high for the remainder of this year. dead ahead -- the june swoon and a man named jon koronka.

Random thoughts

- The game last night was simulcast on two TV stations, ESPN and Comcast, and I would rather listen to the radio call. Kasper could be a stunt (vocal) double for Chip and Brenly is basically non-existent. Haven't heard a decent nugget of analysis from him in weeks.

- Does anyone like listening to Joe Morgan? Last night he claimed that sources have told him Maddux has been using a foreign substance during his career to help get movement on his pitches. He refused to reveal the names when his partner in the booth, Jon Miller, questioned him. What a complete asshead.

- Hope this trend from Aramis continues. Seems to be scalding the ball lately, even when he makes an out.

- Let's bring up Cedeno and let him play short everyday. By now we all know what Neifi can provide. Enrique Wilson can be cut and Macias can take his spot as the 25th man. Neifi can ride the pine and get the occasional pinch hit currently afforded to Macias.

- Boy, Alyssa Milano looked soooo good. Wish they would have shown her more last night.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Jer0my Spoken

Burnitz grins following his three run bomb in the Cubs 5 run sixth Sunday.

It's a shame the Cubs can't play the Rockies and Astros everyday.

The Northsiders are back at the .500 mark! The Cubs ended their 10 game homestand with an 11-6 win over the Rocks on Sunday. The Cubs went 5-2 in their 7 games with Houston and Colorado. Now the Cubs will head west to LA and San Diego, gulp.

24-24 is not where we wanted this team to be at this point in the season. If you consider the injuries it could actually be worse.

Now we prepare for the June Swoon! The schedule sets up perfectly for the Cubs annual collapse.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

hawkins gone

in what might be the first step toward dismantling this team, latroy was dealt to the giants for jerome williams and david aardsma. a reliever with latroy's stellar statistics should command a reasonably good price from a contending team will bullpen problems like san fran, and it looks like the cubs did pretty well.

opinion on aardsma seems to be warily optimistic. a two-pitch reliever with a low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball and a knucklecurve that can be great but has been inconsistent, he was seen as a first-rank prospect to contribute in 2005 for the giants. aardsma seriously struggles with control, as many younger (born in 1981) guys do, but his hits/9 and the fact that he simply doesn't give up the long ball indicate major-league quality stuff.

williams had been considered one of san fran's Big Three Pitching Prospects, along with jesse foppert and kurt ainsworth. things have changed, as one might suspect, but williams' numbers in the majors have been very impressive on the whole. he's 24 and already has 277 major-league innings in with quite respectable numbers, and can easily be considered the most successful of the three. in fact, san fran had expected him to be a reliable starter for them this year -- and there had been whispers of a breakout season after the high style he finished 2004 in. but he's suffered a relapse of sorts this year, has been sent down to triple-a fresno -- and now moved out. many would consider that just part of the trials and tribulations of being a young starter.

this seems quite a handful of potential to get for hawkins, who is an excellent reliever -- the best the cubs had, certainly -- but has his drawbacks. at least it would seem that hendry has taken reasonable risks with a proven reliever.

more importantly, the trade demonstrates clearly, i think, that cub management has come to the same comclusion this blog and others have -- the cubs year is over -- probably was over already, but prior's trip to the disabled list destroyed any remaining doubt.

2006 has started for this club.

Snake bit

I keep wondering what will be next in the horrible 2005 Cub campaign. On Friday a line shot back at Mark Prior put a lump in all Cub fans stomachs. That line shot made the rest of the game unenjoyable, despite the fact that the Northsiders hit 4 homeruns and demolished the Rocks. I really got pissed when I saw that idiot wedding party doing the congo line throughout the stands at Wrigley Field. Those are the morons that give Cub fans a bad name.

Anyhow, our worse fears were recognized last nite when ESPN, the Score and every other media outlet reported an MRI showed a hairline fracture in young Prior's right elbow. What else can happen to this team?

This injury answers the question about whether the Cubs should buy or sell at the trade deadline. I would be selling off the veterans now. It's time to see what the youngsters can do. Dubois, Cedeno, Wellemeyer, the young bullpen, etc... What does it hurt to spend the rest of the season seeing what these players can do when the team is not going to catch St. Louis?

Friday, May 27, 2005

what a winner looks like

 Posted by Hello

just in case we'd all forgotten -- or never knew.

a fractured elbow

and that's the ballgame, folks. thanks for tuning in. the abyss we were on the edge of this team was just catapulted into.

prior knocked out...

... in the fourth after being drilled by one back through the box. hit him in the right arm.

you almost have to laugh.

Dusty reminds me of _________

Not sure why this topic recently entered my mellon, but before I disclose my answer I'll note some comparisons to this mystery person.

On the positive side, both are seemingly likable fellas. Neither is over-emotional or hot-headed. Each one's players love them and support them through the good, bad, and absolutely horrible. Each one's Chicago team has had one "miracle season" where they exceeded the expectations significantly.

Now the negatives, each one's team has consistently looked ill-prepared, un-emotional, and sometimes downright stupid (incredible amount of mental errors). They both lack the ability to motivate their teams/players. Both seem to have trouble around the media. Dusty because he can't keep his foot out his mouth. The other because he wasn't a great communicator (very soft-spoken).

The answer...

Dusty is the MLB version of Dick Jauron. Dick was a competent coordinator, but when entrusted with the top spot, failed pretty miserably. I think Dusty is very similar. If given a lesser role, he would probably be an asset to any team. I think bench coach is likely optimal for him. He could befriend all the players (I mean, dudes) and be "good cop" when a competent manager plays "bad cop". Now I'm not suggesting the Cubs coaching staff be shuffled. I'd be for dumping nearly the entire lot. Speier may actually deserve his job and Dick Pole, well enough said.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the edge of the abyss

not that we can afford to look past the rockies, but i'm compelled to take a peek around the bend at what's in store for the cubs over the upcoming weeks.

it's something of a nightmare, folks -- more like a stare into the abyss, considering how this team is making it competitive with houston and colorado.

this lot ahead is tough. not a losing team to be found between here and the all-star break -- a 39-game stretch. let that sink in for a minute. the cubs haven't taken a series from a winning team all year; in fact, against teams with a winning record right now, they're 5-10. and they spend the next six weeks playing nothing but.

it's not just that our cubbies play a couple good teams here and there, either, or some flash-in-the-pan fast starters. the weighted winning percentage of the teams the cubs play between here and july 12 is .562. in no particular order let me mention: atlanta. four with san diego. the white sox. seven against florida. the yankees. boston. and seven against a milwaukee club that has already taken four out of six against them.

i'm not really sure what to say about this, except... except... well, except that, all false dawns aside, this season is over. the cubs, as likely as not, will likely be 15 back or more of the cardinals by the break and probably 8 to 10 games under .500. there's little reason to believe otherwise. wood and nomar won't return until it's too late to make a difference, and i doubt that they could turn this flawed team around.

as the trade deadline approaches, i'm increasingly convinced that the cubs should be a seller. they have assets that competitive clubs will want which are not fundamental to next year -- hawkins, maddux, a healthy and rested remlinger, hairston, walker, burnitz and maybe even hollandsworth. the openings left could help give the cubs a better read on what they have in players like dubois, mitre, van buren, fontenot, brownlie, pie, murton and others.

the trib paid a mint for this sorry club, and should shed expenses while it can. next season will be free and clear of the sammy debacle, and hendry (if he survives this) will have money to go fishing with. that's about the best this club can do for themselves now.

don't even think about it, dusty

i was really encouraged last night as, despite todd walker's return to second base for the cubs, jerry hairston made his debut in centerfield, displacing the human strikeout. hairston duly went 0-for-2 with a walk and a whiff, grounding out and lining out, setting his OBP for the year at a squad-second-best .365.

i muffled my dissent when dusty pinch-hit patterson for hairston in the eighth with one on and no one out, down by four runs. not to sit around and second-guess dusty (i would need a paid staff of dozens to do it well), but clearly what you need in that situation is a sustained rally and hairston is your man to try to get aboard and put a man in scoring position with nobody out. however, dusty followed his anima and patterson fulfilled the deathwish by fanning. neifi then continued his widely-expected fall from grace by grounding into the inning-ending double play.

today's opener of a four-game set against the hapless rockies finds hairston on the bench with patterson back in center, hollandsworth in left and neifi leading off. i sincerely hope this isn't indicative of the future. the cubs are already struggling to get aboard and score.

removing one of your most effective base-cloggers makes little sense in this context. sitting eight back and trailing 4-1 in the eighth as i write, making arsonist jason jennings look like the greg maddux of old (jennings has tossed just 80 pitches to 27 batters!), it's hard not to be disconsolate. the schedule gets much tougher now, and the cubs haven't won a series against a winning team yet. the cubbies are gonna need all the help they can get at the top.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dead last in patience

--I apologize 1060westers for sounding like a broken record.--

In the sixth inning of tonite's game the Cubs trailed 2 to 1. They had runners at first and third with only one out. Burnitz came up and swung at the first pitch and popped up to second. Ramirez (now batting .226) came up and swung at the first pitch and flew out to center. The Cub hitters had Brandon Backe as close to ropes as he would get all night. The 4th and 5th place hitters didn't take a single pitch.

When Ron Santo's talking about it you know it's bad. Cubs patience at the plate has finally reached rock bottom in the National League. The Cubs now rank dead last in Walks and pitches per at bat in the NL. I thought this was why the Cubs got rid of Sammy!

Looking at the lack of patience a little deeper, the trend is quite apparent. In 2002 the Cubs were sixth in the NL in walks. Following 2002 Dusty Baker came to town. Along with Dusty came Sarge Matthews and Gene Clines. In 2003 the Cubs finished 14th in walks. They did the same in 2004. Today they are last in the NL in walks.

Pitches per A/B shows much of the same. In 2002 the Cub hitters saw 3.72 pitches per at bat (7th in the NL). In 2003 Dusty came to town and the Cub hitters saw 3.68 pitches per at bat (10th in the NL). In 2004 Cub hitters saw 3.63 pitches per at bat (15th in the NL). This year the Cubs are seeing 3.53 pitches per at bat (dead last in the NL).

Dusty wants his hitters to be aggresive, but the current situation is just plain stupid. Teams with lesser talent like the A's have built division winners playing Money Ball. The talented 2004 Boston Red Sox won a World Series seeing pitches and taking walks. Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker have decided to ignore this style of play, as long as they do the Cubs will be destined to lose.

The Jeff Gordon 7th Inning Stretch Fiasco

If you missed the ballgame on Tuesday night, not only did you miss a Cub comeback win, you missed one of the worst renditions of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" by a Guest Conductor. NASCAR's very own Jeff Gordon did the honors. Click Here to see the debacle!

Why I dislike Dusty

I was just in the john (where all my serious thoughts emanate) thinking about the first quarter of the Cubs season. A current record of 21-22 may be acceptable to some people, given that they've had some significant injuries and that they lack enough talent, but not to me. So if we can put the "Hendry blew it in the off-season" argument aside for a moment, I believe Dusty's arrogance, ignorance, and stubbornness has cost this team several wins. I'm not even going to speak to the questionable in-game management, but just list the large line up card mistakes. These are not in order of importance...

1 - Penciling in Corey as the leadoff hitter. IMO, Walker was the obvious choice and still is unless Hairston is also in the line up.

2 - Choosing to start Hollandsworth over DuBois. This decision weakened your bench and your starting line up.

3 - Anointing Hawkins as the closer. 3 strikes and your out, Hawkins should never be asked to close another game in his career.

4 - Choosing Dempster over Rusch as the 5th starter. Rusch was and is more deserving of the opportunity.

These decisions are why I believe Dusty should be sacked. In summary, he's made an average team a lot worse.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

the danny graves experiment

in a morally admirable move yesterday, the cincinnati reds designated their closer danny graves for assignment, the first step to dumping him from their squad. graves' behavior has been a sticking point with cincinnati management, and follows a catastrophic may for the pitcher (9 IP, 20 H, 4 HR, 11.00 ERA).

this cub team is as direly situated for bullpen help as any in the league, and i for one believe that it needs to take some chances to improve. almost no one in baseball is going to deal meaningful players in may when they know that, by hanging on to the seller's market of the trade deadline, they can drive up the value of their assets. that makes the availability of a veteran player like graves at this point in the year all the rarer.

but it must be said that graves isn't perfect -- he openly admits that an experiment with starting in 2003 took several miles an hour off his fastball. he saved 41 for cincy while posting a 3.95 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, but that deceives from the nature of his problem. his splits from last year are more telling:

pre-asb: 49 G, 33 SV, 49.2 IP, 48 H, 29 K, 2.72 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .253 BAA
post-asb: 19 G, 8 SV, 18.2 IP, 29 H, 11 K, 7.23 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, .349 BAA

overuse from 2003 compiled with 49 first-half appearances in 2004 have probably ruined graves' arm for a while to come. he is just probably not an answer for this year, i'm afraid. what he likely needs is time off, not to be tossed into the closer's cauldron to work it out.

if the cubs go and get graves, i'll be happy they did -- the cubs need to take a chance. but there's no way to expect him to jump into the ninth for this team and produce. there's a ten-day period in which the reds have the right to trade him, following which they are obligated to release graves. the cubs will then be free -- if no one trades for him -- to bargain for his services without having to adopt his $5.75mm 2005 contract. graves doesn't have much of a leg to stand on and will come cheap.

the cubs should be the team he comes to. but cub fans should be prepared for him to end up in iowa or worse.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

continued struggling

i'm happy to report that mark prior's complete game saved the cubs from being swept, but this weekend was another picture of frustration for many a cub fan only made more acute by being juxtaposed with the white sox.

for starters, let's look at the starters:

maddux 7.0 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
zambrano 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
prior 9.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

how in the hell does that kind of quality go into a near-sweep, averted only by a two-out wind-aided mistake to jason dubois? in a word, offense.

the cubs were rarely a threat all weekend. on sunday, the cubs never put a man in scoring position with less than two out. indeed, doubles by blanco and hairston in the 8th on saturday constituted the only instance in the three games where the cubs got into that situation. both runners scored.

the sox, by comparison, did so not only in the 8th and 9th that day to win, but in three other innings in the series. they used podsednik's speed once to get them into that situation, and should have again to avoid a crucial 8th inning double play that i'll bet ozzie would like to have back. it was part of the tone of the sox team right from the outset with iguchi.

dusty was admirable in his efforts to move men up on the whole -- three stolen bases and lee picked off leaning on saturday, for example. but the cubs failed to get aboard early in any inning -- part of their general failure to get aboard all this year -- and a struggling offense was the result, managing just eight runs in three games.

a lot of this returns to shopworn criticism of the cubs offense in these parts. wuertz reinforced more of our diatribe as well. and hairston earned his qualified praise by reaching in 5 of 13 plate appearances against good sox pitching.

but it doesn't feel good to be right -- it feels good to win. the cub schedule lets up a bit this week with a couple of direly challenged offensive teams in houston and colorado. the cubs' problems remain -- and will remain until jim hendry does something pretty drastic to fix them -- but will look a lot better in comparison to these two squads.

anything less than five wins will be disappointing, imo -- and maybe lethal. the cubs are seven back, with the division-leading cards facing pittsburgh, washington, colorado and houston over the next two weeks.

Friday, May 20, 2005

why hairston is corey's equal

over at our very nice neighbor in the cubs blogosphere, ivy chat, i got into a discussion about the corey patterson, jerry hairston and the nature of the cubs offensive struggles.

a big criticism of hairston among some cub fans is his lack of power. runs correlate to OPS, the argument goes, and therefore corey is a better offensive player than hairston because he hits for power. besides, corey hit 24 jacks last year.

i can't emphasize enough the speciousness of this argument. many baseball fans understanding of the game has been warped by the power-mad game that has developed in the last twenty years -- but especially since 1998 -- into a simple assertion that whoever hits it hardest and farthest is best. this is simply not so, and why is a matter of nuance that takes some discussion.

first of all, using OPS as a simple predictor for scoring is certainly valid in general. i espouse it myself. but there are yet better approximations, and they highlight why OBP [(hits+BB+HPB)/(AB+BB+HBP+sacfly)] is the more important component of OPS. an astute commenter to that thread noted that the regression analysis of [(2*OBP)+SLG] was even closer to runs scored than standard OPS (which is simply [OBP+SLG]). if we reductively apply this analysis to the recent histories of both hairston and patterson, we see that hairston is actually a more favorable option:

hairston (since 2003): 612 AB, 83 R, 46 RBI, 4 HR, 174 H, 62 BB, 21 HBP, 6 SF, 231 TB, .366 OBP, .377 SLG

corey (since 2004): 785 AB, 114 R, 88 RBI, 32 HR, 207 H, 54 BB, 5 HBP, 1 SF, 350 TB, .314 OBP, .446 SLG

these lines yield a slight OPS advantage for c-pat (.760 vs hairston's .743) but a slight disadvantage in [(2*OBP)+SLG], where hairston edges him 1.109-1.074.

one can further examine runs produced per plate appearance, with runs produced being (r+rbi-hr). over the timeframe above, hairston manages 0.178 per PA, patterson .201 -- what seems an advantage for c-pat. but runs produced is a highly conditional stat, particularly sensitive to your place in the batting order. both hairston and patterson have taken a high number of their at-bats in the leadoff position -- 41% of c-pat's ABs, 48% of hairston's. however, when patterson isn't hitting leadoff, he's hitting second (30%). hairston has been buried in 7th, 8th or 9th (34%) -- and mostly ninth (19%). if one examines instead simply their leadoff lines over the span, the difference is much closer -- patterson's 0.200 vs hairston's 0.192.

these numbers are best contextualized by those of a good leadoff hitter, such as johnny damon in 2004 (0.279) or kenny lofton in 1996 (0.253) -- neither hairston nor patterson is anything like a great leadoff man. but the cubs have to make do with what they've got for now.

individual statistical analysis, of course, is not comprehensive in measuring what a player does for his team offensively. and here is where patterson might be shown to have his greatest deficiency. is there any player in baseball more prone to empty outs than patterson? i wonder. the simple fact is that corey strikes out every third at-bat, and sometimes more. those outs are wasted -- the runner isn't moved over, errors aren't forced, energy isn't expended by the defense. hairston is, on the other hand, going that way only every tenth at-bat. this is a major problem for patterson. making outs is bad enough, but wasted outs are the absolute death of offense.

patterson sees an average of 3.43 pitches (2934 pitches over 854 plate appearances). compare that to hairston's 3.85, which is just behind derrek lee's 3.87 and jeromy burnitz's 3.88 (since 2004) as the most patient hitters on the team. hairston makes pitchers work more, which can be especially valuable in the leadoff spot, both to expose the pitcher's stuff and to wear him a bit before getting to the heart of the order.

things can also be said for patterson -- notably his speed on the basepaths and his range in center field. i wouldn't disagree with either of these. but beyond all i've rambled about, however, is a concept of team construction. as walter alston used to say, "get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in." patterson inability to make contact at the top of this order violates the first part of this maxim appallingly -- he's simply not aboard very often to be driven in by lee, burnitz and ramirez. what this costs the cub offense is hard to say, but a lack of high-percentage players is a significant flaw in the way this team is built. a power-based offense -- which is what the cubs purport to have with dubois and patterson seeing regular action -- can be dramatic but is often plagued by inconsistency and one-run losses. hairston hitting first or second could be a means of at least dampening that weakness.

anyway, the upshot of all this is not to show what a great player hairston is -- he's not, and never will be, an above-average ballplayer. what strikes me about this analysis is more how bad corey patterson really is -- how the promise of his potential and a few homers still exaggerate for many fans the reprehensible offensive player he is. hairston is patterson's equal not because hairston is good, but because corey is pretty bad. given the particularity of his weaknesses, it would be best for dusty to bury him in the seventh slot and give hairston -- who at least gets aboard -- an extended run at the top of the order in an effort to improve scoring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

a bullet dodged!

and the worm still turns!

the worm is turning?

or is that just cap anson spinning in his grave i hear? anyway, dusty may have finally come to his senses and done the one of the few things he can for this hapless lot -- hit hairston in front of lee. it paid off in the fifth and the critical ninth, with our two heroes being the sum of the cub offense on the night, with lee driving in hairston twice and himself twice more. ryan dempster then defied all expectation by tossing a smooth ninth to slam the door. even a blind squirrel, after all.

lee is now the cub leader in average (.372), homers (12), RBI (37), runs (28) and stolen bases (8). he's also in the top three in the NL in the triple crown categories, looking like an early leader in the NL MVP race if the cubs' record doesn't drag him down. still a long way to go, but... well, goddammit, isn't he just dreamy? i'm a married man, but i definitely get a rick astley vibe when he steps into the box. "together forever", d-lee, "i'm never gonna give you up"! (in a perfectly platonic manner, of course. and only until you go wear the collar in five trips with two gamewrecking errors to boot.)

perhaps its just d-lee's radiance i'm feeling, but something in me says the worm has turned. things got pretty near rock bottom a little while ago -- desperately bad, really, even unbelievably. but the cubs have quietly -- almost secretly -- won four of their last six. zambrano is hurt but it isn't scott-rolen hurt. and as irrefutable evidence that the luck has changed, folks: will ohman has picked up two wins in the last week.

i'm not saying it's all wine and roses from here on out. this is a .500 ballclub, after all, if we're lucky. but, by golly, this is a .500 ballclub -- and that means we got some winnin' to do!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cubs/Pirates Tuesday LIVE Blogcast 6:05 CT

Cubs at Pirates
PNC Park
6:05 start

Radio: 720 AM or XM 188

Mark Prior (3-1, 2.77) VS. Josh Fogg (3-2, 3.96)

PREVIEW: You cannot beat wasting 3 more hours on the 2005 Cubs. But that's what we'll do tonite. Prior will have to pitch good to keep the weak hitting, poor fielding Bruins in this game. Pittsburgh is a game ahead of the Cubulas in the standings.

3:55 NEW CUB: Al Yellon at Bleed Cubbie Blue is reporting Enrique Wilson is the mystery infielder the Cubs have added! Hurray! I smell a turn in the Cubs luck! Oh wait that was a natural gas leak.

6:00 It’s 62 degrees at Gametime according to Pat Hughes.

6:06 Fogg gets ahead of Hairston 1 & 2. Jerry grounds to Wilson and we are off and running.
6:07 Neifi Perez is 7 for his last 50, OUCH. He rolls out 4-3 on a 1-1 pitch. He rolls out on a 1-1 pitch to second.
6:08 Lee hits a double over the head of Jason Bay. That’s his 13th two bagger this year.
6:09 Dusty has Burnitz hitting cleanup tonite. Tapper to Cub Killer Mackowiak at third. He bare hands and makes a nice play, but Burnitz beats it out. You couldn’t place a ball in a better spot.
6:10 The Cubs have runners on first and third with two outs. Aramis, first pitch swinging, flies to center.

6:14 Lawton works the count full and k’s
6:16 Wilson grounds to Hairston
6:18 With two out Jason Bay walks
6:21 Ward drounds to Hairston. That was a 25 pitch first inning for Prior.

END OF 1st

6:24 Patterson lines to Bay
6:25 Dubois groundsout 6-3. That’s a quick two outs.
6:26 Barrett K’s and Fogg is rolling early.

6:29 Mackowiak whiffs on a bender from Prior.
6:30 Castillo grounds out 4-3
6:31 Tike Redman hits a ball down the thirdbase line. Aramis makes a nice play to save a double, but he can’t throw out Tike. There goes the No-Hitter.
6:32 Redman runs and Cota hits one into the LF corner. Redman will score, Cota to second. Pirates lead 1-0. A double for the damn eighth place hitter. Jeez.
6:33 Fogg hits one to Lee. Lee saves another double with a diving play. He feeds Prior and the inning is over. Two out damage for the Bucs who lead 1-0

END OF 2nd
Bucs 1- Bruins 0

6:36 Prior grounds back to Fogg
6:37 Hairston swings at the first pitch and pops to first. (Show some patience somebody!)
6:38 Neifi pops a bunt past Fogg. It’s in no man’s land! Neifi has a bunt single.
6:40 DLee singles to left. Two on two out for Burnie.
6:42 Burnitz lines to left. He hit it hard and the Cubs still can’t get a two out hit.

6:44 Lawton flies to DuBois
6:45 Hairston makes a nice defensive play on Wilson, take that “Hard Bake”
6:46 Bay flies to Burnitz. Three up three down for Prior.

END OF 3rd
Bucs 1 – Cubs 0

6:51 Ramirez and Korey with back-to-back singles.
6:52 DuBois grounds into what should be a 3-6-1 Twin killing. The ump calls DuBois safe at first. Looks like a break for the Cubs. Korey’s out at second, but the Cubs have men on the corners with only one gone.
6:53 Barrett bounces into a DP. THESE GUYS SUCK!

6:56 Ward flies to Korey
6:58 MackCubKiller singles. DuBois bobbles the ball on the pickup. He throws MackCubKiller out trying to stretch the single into a double.
7:00 Castillo singles
7:01 Redman lines to Burnie.

END OF 4th
Pirates 1 – Baby Bruins ZIPPO

7:04 Prior works the count full and whiffs.
7:05 Hairston singles to CF. That’s the Cubs seventh hit.
7:06 Hairston stealing, Neifi singles to center, Jerry to third. The Cubs best hitter coming up!
7:08 Lee hits a sac fly to RF. RBi #34 for DLEE. That leads the NL. More importantly the Cubs have tied the Battling Bucs 1-1.
7:09 Burnitz with two outs and Perez at first. He singles to left, Neifi to second.
7:12 C’mon Aramis. He works to count to 3-1. This is when you gotta nail Fogg. He walks.
7:14 Bases drunk for Korey. We need a big hit from Patterson. Forget that. Korey strikes out looking. This guy is BAD!

7:18 Cota whiffs
7:20 Fogg 6-3
7:21 Lawton 6-3

End of 5th
Cubs 1 – Pirates 1

7:25 DuBois hits a tapper in front of the plate. Cota grabs it and throws him out.
7:26 MBarrett flies to Bay
7:27 Prior lines softly to Jack Wilson

7:29 Wilson pops to Jerry
7:32 Ward K’s looking
7:35 Castillo singles. Larry to the hill. (Prior’s at 87 pitches)
7:37 Grounder to Hairston who flips to Neifi. That’s the inning. The DAMAGE IS DONE.

End of 6th
Pirates 3 – Cubs 1

7:41 Hairston flies to Lawton
7:43 Neifi pops to third
--Pitching Change Mike Gonzalez is in. Bobby Hill to third. MackCubKiller to CF.
7:49 Jer0my walks. Wow two Cubs walks today.
7:50 Aramis flies to Lawton in RF. First fucking pitch after a walk to the tying run. What the hell is going on? I thought the Cubs weren’t gonna do this stuff this year.

7:53 Cota whiffs.
7:56 Bobby Hill k’s looking
7:58 Lawton flies to DuBois

End of 7th
Pirates 3 – Baby Bruins 2

7:59 Corey swings at a ball over his fuckin’ head. Next pitch he takes one right down the middle. Who is pitching Sandy Koufax? If Patterson has an approach he may want to change it. He strikesout on a high fastball that was in on him. He looks really bad up at the plate. He needs a week or three on the bench.
8:02 DuBois grounds to Hill
8:04 Barrett (another 0 for 3 so far) Macias is on deck to hit for Prior. Mark deserved better than this. Barrett with a two out single.
8:05 Macias will hit. Spin Williams to the mound to talk with Gonzalez. He gives him this scouting report on Macias
“throw it right down the middle, he sucks.”
Gonzalez listens and Macias grounds to Jack Wilson.

8:11 LaTroy Hawkins is in. Jack Wilson grounds to second.
8:13 Bay walks. (Dusty to the hill. Will Ohman coming in)
8:16 Ohman gets the 4-6-3 twin killing. Onto the ninth and Jose Mesa….

End of 8th
Pirates 3 – Baby Bruins 2

8:19 Mesa’s in. Hairston doubles to LF. A leadoff double!
8:21 Neifi with a sac bunt, Hairston to third.

8:23 Burnie grounds to Castillo. That was Mesa’s first blown save in 23 chances. Why did they pitch to Lee?)
8:25 Ramirez pops to Castillo. 3 outs to go! Who will close?

8:28 Dempster is in. MackCubKiller is up. A nice play by a drawn in Ramirez he throws to Lee. One away!
8:31 Castillo fans on a splitfinger fastball that was way outside. Two in the wagon, one still draggin’.
8:32 Pinch hitter Freddy Sanchez taps to Ramirez. He throws to Lee. Three up three down for Dempster.


DLEE & CUBS 4 – Pirates 3

Scott Boras' baseball complex!

I found this funny tidbit over at McCovey Chronicles a great SF Giants blog. Enjoy!

Welcome to Washington D.C.

Here's a few photos from the trip:

 Posted by Hello

Good OLD RFK Stadium.

 Posted by Hello

A view from the top.

 Posted by Hello

Got to like the deep outfield. Definitely a pitcher's park.

 Posted by Hello

Something that was witnessed only once... A Cubs Win.

Weekend in the District...causes Monday Morning Hangover followed by Depression

Welcome to the National League Washington D.C., now you too can participate in the NL tradition of beating up on the Addison Street Nine.

I got together with a group of old UW friends out in DC this past weekend. We had a great time out and about in Washington and Baltimore. I wish the outcome of the games at RFK had been as good. At this point it's starting to feel quite useless to invest any real emotion in these ballgames.

DC as a Baseball Town
If you get a chance to go out to D.C. to see the Cubs in the next few years you really should. Washington has a lot to do. You can do tourist stuff all day long with the kids and family. Or you can hit the great night spots and restaurants. Baltimore is only an hour away so if you wanna see ball in two parks you can and catch a game at Camden Yards (We actually took the ride north to Baltimore to bet the horsies on Saturday at Pimlico. A day at the track followed by a ballgame-- does life get any better?) Back to D.C., the Metro (probably the cleanest city subway system in America) makes it real easy for you to get to and from RFK.

If you wait until after 2008 the Nats will be in a new ballpark. The only bad part about seeing the Cubs in D.C. is the area around RFK. There is literally nothing to do. You have to go up a couple of stops on the Metro to the Capitol Hill bars to enjoy a beverage or three. You can also find plenty of places to drink in Georgetown and Foggy Bottom.

Now the Depression: Cub baseball, 2005 style
Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse... it did. Not only did the Cubs lose 2 of 3 to the Nats, now Zambrano is having an MRI. This just highlights the troubles that this team has had. This one falls right into the lap of the Cub braintrust. Dusty Baker and Larry Rothschild for allowing the big three to throw too many pitches and innings. 136 pitches on Mothers Day? Jim Hendry has to share in the blame for not giving Dusty and Larry any sort of bullpen to work with. Wood, Prior and Zambrano were the foundation of this franchise. Well, the foundation is falling down, it has a big crack, waters pouring in, and somebody needs to pay the price.

The Sloth's eulogy, over 10 days back, hit the nail on the head.

BTW: Thanks to United States of Baseball for mentioning this site in a recent post. Check them out. They have some great posts, including some stuff on the Sox and Brewers you may find interesting.

Monday, May 16, 2005

zambrano's arm and dusty's head

reports of elbow "tightness" and a pending mri for cub ace carlos zambrano after leaving early from friday's tilt utterly infuriated me this weekend to the point where i decided to calm down until today before writing anything.

zambrano is fifth in the league in pitches thrown with 844 in eight starts -- itself signal enough of strain. but one has only to look back to may 8 and his 136-pitch outing to see where a spot of injury trouble might come from.

let me say this much in measured tone: dusty baker is an idiot. in case no one has alleged it, i allege it now. he is a moron, lucky enough to fall into a line of work where an affable moron can be employed and even revered. it may not be his fault that this cub team is painfully weak in the bullpen. but it is nothing less than high stupidity to confront that fact, even in the desperation of a losing streak, by recklessly endangering the only young starting pitcher you haven't already destroyed with past reckless management and overuse.

it could easily be argued -- and has been -- that wood and prior still haven't recovered from baker's regrettable decision-making in 2003, in which they were two of the three most abused pitchers in the game. (indeed, it can be speculated that wood may never recover.) now, in 2005, zambrano ranks second behind only the indefatigable rubber-arm of livan hernandez as the most abused pitcher in baseball, as measured by baseball prospectus, following a 2004 in which he was the third-most abused such pitcher. you can bet that prior and wood -- had they been able to stay healthy enough despite baker's 2003 indiscretion -- would have ranked there with him.

god help this cub squad and dusty baker if zambrano is discovered to have sustained damage in that golden arm. he is arguably their only reliably great pitcher at the moment, one of the two or three players this team can least do without. if he is put under the knife, cub nation will have baker's insane dugout antics to blame -- and blame him they should, with his job as forfeit. as is, it increasingly appears that dusty's primary legacy in chicago will be to have irretrievably wrecked one of the great young rotations the game has seen in the last twenty years, and with it the cubs' hopes of long-overdue success.

Friday, May 13, 2005

getting the right lineup

reading derek smart got me fired up again about one of my pet peeves about this cub team -- the total indifference to getting on base as a means of scoring runs. dusty's kids continue to languish in 14th in the NL for on-base percentage and 10th in runs scored.

last monday i wondered aloud about the debut of jason dubois and whether or not he was really capable of helping a team with this particular obstacle, a point examined in more detail today by john hill at cub reporter. but it's hard to begrudge dubois his shot when todd hollandsworth(less) is the other side of the coin.

it's easier, however, to get upset about jerry hairston hitting seventh and eighth -- which is exactly where he's been in the last four games -- especially when corey patterson is flailing wildly about, swatting flies in the leadoff spot and missing steal signs on the bases.

it's not as through hairston has done poorly at the top of the order. in his 68 at-bats there this year so far, the guy has managed a .370 obp (compared to patterson's .329 and neifi's .336). it's true his speed isn't all you'd want: hairston's been caught in four of seven steal attempts. but getting on base is ultimately the primary prerequisite of being driven across the plate.

would it help to move him up? an interesting parallel case is to be found in the atlanta braves thusfar this year, who rank 13th in team obp but 3rd in runs scored. they don't have a particular power advantage -- team slugging .430 and 36 homers are good but less than the cubs.

the difference, however, is in who is getting on and where they're hitting. chipper jones is roughly analogous to derrek lee, hitting a hot third. but the braves have marcus giles -- sporting a .387 obp -- batting second and leading the team in runs scored. they've also got help from andruw jones, with an obp of .360 and slugging .516 in the fourth and fifth spots. even with rafael furcal suffering a terrible start in the leadoff spot, brian jordan jumping around the middle of the order and raul mondesi at the mendoza line, the braves are scoring runs with these three high-percentage players strung together. giles, jones and jones are 1-2-3 in runs scored for atlanta.

the cubs, in contrast, not only aren't stringing hairston and lee together -- they don't have three regulars with an obp over .350, and probably won't until todd walker comes back. this only serves to underscore how important it may be to continue to play hairston -- probably in left -- when walker reclaims second base. a first three of hairston/walker/lee might stand a chance of really improving the cubs scoring potential.

will it happen? beats me, cub fans. who knows what dusty's thinking as he shuffles the order around, seemingly at random? but for my money, hairston should be hitting first and patterson fifth or sixth on this team.

Garland and Willis

Adding insult to the Cubs slow start. You have to pickup the paper everyday and see former Cub farm hands Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland are both off to 7-0 starts. That's the best in their respective leagues.

I watched Garland take on the Orioles last night. It sure looks to me like the light has finally went on for Garland. Frankly, I am surprised the White Sox have stuck with Garland so long. I guess it shows that patience pays off.

Willis had a great rookie season in 2003. His sophomore year was more of a struggle, but decent. This year he's off to another quick start. The frustrating thing about Willis is the Cubs have nothing to show for that deal. This from an organization who has not developed a left handed starter since Jamie Moyer.

What's next, will Kyle Lohse be the Twins ace soon?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

back spasms

great year, followed by massive contract, followed by a lacklustre start (.258/.331/.492) -- and then that lovely catchall of the injured reserve, back spasms.

have we heard this all before? man, i hope not. but aramis looks suspiciously like he's come back to earth -- earth being his career numbers. a line of .273/.324/.468 with a homer every 22 at-bats is still as good as the cubs have got out of the hot corner in a generation -- since ron cey, at least. is that worth what's he's pulling in? i leave that exercise to the reader.

but at least we should be able to start to back away from the more hyperbolic praise of aramis that was (unfairly, i think) raising expectations in a manner very similar to what befell kerry wood after that magical year of 1998. aramis is a pretty good third baseman -- not an every-year mvp candidate, and probably not even the cubs best position player (an honor reserved for a different corner infielder who will have to come back to earth one of these days). if expectations are moderated to that level, the cubs and their fans can hopefully be happy about having him for years to come.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The Cub bullpen self destructed again Wednesday afternoon. Today it wasn't LaTroy, it was Dusty's new closer (Cub fans latest public enemy #1) Ryan Dempster. Dempster hardly qualifies to be a big league mop up man. On the 2005 Cubs he is your closer.

With the wind howling in it was a great day to pitch at Wrigley Field. Mark Prior was nasty through seven. Will Ohman got through the 8th. The scene was set for Dempster. All I can say is Joe Borowski is gonna be back in the closers role before we know it.

So it was a great day to pitch. Until the bottom of the tenth when DLee crushed a ball into the second row of the left field bleachers. The chilly Cub fans, that stuck around, got to leave with warm feelings of a Cub win!

I ask again, Where would the Cubs be without DLee? Scary, huh.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hawkins tipping pitches?

Bowa says Phillie hitters knew what was coming from Hawk in '04.

This morning, on MLB This Morning on XM 175 former Phillie Skipper and Cub SS Larry Bowa had this to stay about Cub fan favorite LaTroy Hawkins:

"Last year with the Phillies we knew every pitch that LaTroy hawkins was throwing. I'll just leave it at that."

Dusty and Rothschild tried to play spin doctors this afternoon. Cub fans can believe what they want to. I hope Bowa was giving the Cubs some info they needed to know. If they already knew it and Latroy was still tipping pitches, shame on them. If they didn't know it, shame on them. Hopefully they can get Hawkins back to the 8th inning form he had with the Twins.


it's rare that our decisions in life are so quickly and thoroughly exposed as the malformed and idiotic mental effluent they are as has happened to dusty baker in the last few days. one almost must be moved to pity. no sooner had he installed dempster as closer and leicester to the rotation than the utter silliness of the notion was laid bare before millions on television over an appropriately dismal background of falling rain.

i want, in an existential vein of indifference brought on through emotional battery compounded by extreme cynicism, to say that i don't blame either player or even baker himself. these people are small actors on a larger stage. i don't want to go mystical on you, but did anyone imagine that a boston world series ring would be followed synchronistically by excellence on chicago's north side? the gods are benevolent; but they have their limits, and desire entertainment in the bacchanal of man's futility as well as that of his success.

leicester clearly isn't a major league starter. as was pointed out before, the novelty of the kid wore off in july 2004. now that teams have seen him and the book is out, leicester simply doesn't have the material for success. since august 1 of last year, he has thrown 31.2 innings, given up 26 runs (25 earned) and 39 hits with 21 walks against 27 strikeouts. that's a WHIP of 1.89 and an ERA of 7.10. the most surprising aspect of leicester's numbers is frankly the innings pitched. why is he still in the majors?

just as bad -- and maybe worse -- ryan dempster clearly isn't a major league starter *or* reliever. dempster has had 1019 major-league innings to testify before god and everyone that he isn't very good. an affable personality has perhaps kept him in clubhouses -- but, even granting that, he can be personable between long relief appearances. it's bad enough to give him the rock every fifth day. but to hand it to him in the fragile ninths? the notion transcends lunacy into sadism. it cannot be fathomed that the cubs options are so few as to necessitate giving ryan dempster a significant role on this pitching staff. and yet, this is where we are.

i noted yesterday that this team was conceived and constructed without the potential to score consistently. but that's only half the story. jim hendry also neglected to provide the team a bullpen that could win games. it's essential to understand that the injury to borowski is a mere sidelight of this problem. indeed, even if he had been healthy and effective, this team was still destined to rely on the toss of the dice for some 200 critical supporting innings from the start. menander's "alea iacta est" broke the roman republic, but it's a poor philosophy of general management.

fox's elbow injury was utterly predictable, as was dempster's futility -- and beyond them lay only shaky kids like leicester, wuertz, novoa, wellemeyer and bartosh.

this was an experiment destined to fail because it was poorly constructed. where the second tier of the bullpen was stocked in 2004 with solid relievers like mercker and beltran -- perhaps not great pitchers but players with a real chance of success -- this year's edition was designed to rely on these inexperienced and subpar performers. it was almost a no-brainer to start calling for bullpen help wherever it could be had even in march.

hendry and the cubs are now rumored to be eyeing help along the lines of felix rodriguez to danys baez and jorge julio to jose mesa to darren oliver. what's wrong with rod beck you ask? i don't know. the cubs aren't in a position to rule people out, seems to me.

Monday, May 09, 2005

for the good of this team

it begins tonight for jason dubois, as the kid gets his chance to play everyday -- and cub nation rejoices. it's hard to believe that dubois can't do something to contribute which will exceed what the cubs have gotten out of todd hollandsworth thusfar (.221/.295/.337 through 86 AB), and given the overall quality (or, rather, lack thereof) in the outfield (the other members of which have managed a paltry collective .298 obp), this is probably the time to see what he can do.

just what he can do is another question. dubois' start seems nice on the surface -- .300 with 3 HR and 9 RBI in just 30 at-bats. he's demonstrated apocalyptic power, which gets everyone interested. but offense is more than how far you can launch it, and dubois' shortcomings are going to be apparent (if familiar) early.

the kid's got a young man's swing, full of holes -- and pitchers know it. dubois has fanned 20 times in 53 career big league at-bats, a rate that puts even patterson to shame. worse still, whatever eye he exhibited in the minors hasn't transferred to the bigs -- just two walks stand against all those Ks. for all they hype, dubois isn't likely to get on base very much at all. not for a while, at least, while he learns to adjust to what pitchers are doing to him.

on a team with a lot of people getting aboard, few wasted plate appearances and in need of some pop, starting dubois would be a positive move. but on the 2005 cubs -- a team 14th in the NL in on-base percentage, where only one regular (derrek lee, of course) sports an obp over .350, but is already surfeited with power -- dubois is quite frankly more of what is already drowning the cubs.

this team was misguidedly constructed without a core of players who get on base consistently such that they can score consistently -- and the difficulties in scoring runs are not going to abate until players are found who can make consistent contact and take a walk.

as such, the guy who really needs to see more at-bats for the good of this particular team isn't dubois -- it's jerry hairston. hairston will be infamous foreverafter as the man who was traded for sammy sosa, and he's far from perfect -- or maybe even good -- but he is part of a solution for what ails the cubs. in his last 587 at-bats, hairston has struck out just 68 times and walked 61. he is seeing the field plenty with nomar and walker down, but that isn't enough. when walker comes back (rumored to be around may 20), hairston should continue to see the field daily and hit leadoff for this club. that means eventually sitting dubois down.

whether or not this actually happens is another thing. and possibly dubois will surprise and tear through NL pitching the way he did the florida state league. but if he does not, hairston should be ready to claim left when walker returns -- for the good of this team.

cub losing streaks

now that the cubs have snapped their slide on the 135-pitch back of carlos zambrano, i think it's finally safe to talk a bit more about it. in the grand scheme, a seven-game slide isn't the end of the world. but it may be significant. there's a sabr paper i haven't read by a man named keith karcher -- which is too close to "karchner" to contemplate -- titled "winning streaks, losing streaks, and predicting team performance" (included in this compilation). if anyone out there has read it, feel free to comment.

i can only suspect that the news isn't good. looking at the list of longest NL losing streaks, articulated on page 3 herein, one can see it (sensibly) is rare for good teams to suffer prolonged droughts. but digging into the cub archive from 1970 on, one finds that, even if a seven-game skid doesn't have to mean the end of a team, it does severely stack the deck. five of the ten winning teams and two of the four playoff squads since 1945 have suffered such an event; but, of the 23 teams since 1970 to slide seven consecutively, only 5 posted a winning record in the end.

 Posted by Hello

the unvarnished truth is that only ten cub teams in that span have gone over .500 -- what cub fans painfully know to be a small sample size. one has to dig deeper into cub history for winning teams to become plentiful enough to paint a more meaningful picture of winning teams and losing streaks. between 1900 and today, there have been 48 such cub clubs -- and plotting their longest losing streaks against their winning percentage gives some idea of the maximum potential of this club in light of recent events.

 Posted by Hello

only twelve of the 48 winners suffered as many as seven straight losses, and only three of those 12 surpassed a .556 winning percentage -- the equivalent of 90 wins.

taken as the whole this means, on the basis of this losing streak alone, the 2005 squad has something like a 1 in 4 chance of being a winner, and only a very minute chance of reaching 90 wins. if we were to compound this probability with their overall record to this point, i suspect the odds would get yet worse.

so dig in and hunker down, cub fans -- this isn't very likely to be a winning season anymore. but there's always the chance of an unlikely comeback and, barring that... next year.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Jon Leicester will start on Monday vs. the Mets

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Cubs are as desperate as they come. According to cubs.com, Jon Leicester will start the Monday nights game against the Mets at the Friendly Confounds. Leicester takes Ryan Dempster's spot in the rotation. Dempster is now the new Cub Closer.

Your new Cub closer, for the moment, is Ryan Dempster

So the Cubs now have a second year player taking the ball on Monday night that has never started a game in the bigs. They also have a closer who has a career ERA of 5.00. Dempster has walked a batter more than once every other inning over parts of 7 MLB seasons. As crazy as this all sounds it probably is the only choice for Baker. What else should he do? The bullpen is not big league quality and Dempster has never performed as a starter. For the minute this is the plan. Maybe the Cubs can find something in Dempster. I won't hold my breath.

Speaking of desperate
On Sunday, Dusty Baker had Carlos Zambrano throw 136 pitches in the Cubs win over Philadelphia. The Cubs needed the win badly. But throwing Zambrano that many pitches is risky. If something were to happen to Zambrano, who would move into the rotation next?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Inventing New Ways to Lose

Latroy says "The baseball gods are testing us."

I made the mistake of taking in the ballgame on Friday afternoon. When DLee homered in the bottom of the 8th it looked like Lady Luck was finally gonna shine on the Cubs and end this losing streak. Not so fast my friend, these are the Chicago Cubs.

Losses like Friday's guarantee it will not be the Cubs year. Latroy Hawkins has now etched his name in Cubs lore alongside the likes Mel Rojas, Dave Smith, Antonio Alfonseca and all of the other failed Cub closers. the frustrating part of this is LaTroy has good stuff. What can you say. The pictures above seem to tell the story best.

Friday, May 06, 2005

it isn't as bad as all this

my, my, my. now mired in a five-game losing streak, following a brewer sweep which included two of the more painful late-inning losses you'll see this year, the cubs have been dumped into what is effectively a five-team tie for second place in the central at 12-15 and six back of the redbirds.

saint louis is in control -- once again, they are solid, talented and playing well. they've gone out to 18-9 without much of a start from scott rolen, reggie sanders or larry walker and jason isringhausen visiting the DL. there is room for optimism, of course -- anything can happen -- but the wildcard is probably coming from the east this year, and that means catching the cards is the only avenue to october.

can it be done? possibly, remotely. as has been noted elsewhere, the cubs would now have to play .577 ball the rest of the way just to win 90 -- a winning percentage they haven't managed over a season since 1984 -- whereas saint louis now would have to cruise at a .533 clip, a rate they've managed in four of the last five years.

but what is almost certain is that the cubs are not quite as bad as all that we've seen in the last week.

the pitching staff -- for all its trouble -- heads the league with 222 strikeouts (though having issued 119 walks, second-most, leading to the third-worst team WHIP at 1.51). given the difficulties of kerry wood -- not to mention the incendiary nature of ryan dempster and unproven youngsters like wuertz, leicester, novoa and wellemeyer -- much of this was perhaps, if not predictable, at least not beyond the bounds of reasonable expectation.

but the cubs are also a surprising fourth in the NL in runs scored and lead in slugging (even as they languish in 13th for on-base percentage, a sore point). the upshot of derrek lee's scalding start (now hitting .404 with eight homers in just 99 at-bats), burnitz's fine effort and neifi perez's nomar garciaparra imitation has been to balance the teams 130 runs allowed with 131 runs scored.

this differential of virtually nil is the picture of a .500 ballclub. the hot hitting start -- especially for a club expected to be offensively dysfunctional -- has balanced a pitching staff which has underperformed even lowered expectations and really should get better. this lot is far better than the awful cub staff on the dismal 65-win team of 2000, which posted a 1.49 WHIP. as they revert to form, this cloud should lift a bit for cub fans. even if the cubs aren't headed for the second season, this sort of suffering should be short-lived.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

after the first month

after over 25 games, a lot of what we are going to find out about this year in baseball has already been revealed. sure, there will be surprises and changes -- who thinks the yankees will finish last in the AL east? -- and there always are. but the shakeout of the first month tells us all a lot about how things will be in the end.

so what can we say about the cubs and the central? 6th in the NL in runs scored, but 11th in pitching makes for 12-14, two games under .500 and six back of the cardinals, good for third in a weak division.

many must be utterly aghast and surprised at this faltering, and indeed some of it is really unforseeable -- nomar's injury, for example, or todd walker's. but what of the rest?

the cub bullpen rates about the middle of the NL pack, but have issued a league high 55 walks in relief. leicester and wuertz have had difficult appearances. wood and prior have been hurt or pitched as if they are. ryan dempster is a disaster at 1-3 with a 5.35 era and 22 walks in 33 innings, failing to replace matt clement. aramis ramirez has played more like his 2002 self than his 2004 incarnation, hitting just .240, while barrett too is looking less like yogi berra every day. patterson continues to be frustrating, striking out 23 times next to four walks with an obp of .292 -- despite hitting leadoff half the time. the cub outfield is hitting a collective .265 with 157 total bases -- a bit better than expectations, but hardly stellar despite burnitz.

in other words, a lot of stuff we talked about before the year began. and performance has been about as expected. a torrid derrek lee, a nice month by burnitz and neifi perez playing out of his shoes in nomar's absence have lifted the cub run production temporarily -- but that's been nicely countered by the underperformance of the pitching side.

many would (and will) point the finger at injuries and claim that all we have to do is get healthy, etc. etc. but i think the honest upshot is that this is your 2005 chicago cubs. they were never going to be great, and they aren't. i don't think one can expect radically more than what we've seen -- and shouldn't have to begin with, so any disappointment is limited only to whatever irrational optimism you adopted before april began. 82 wins remains a reasonable target for this team to hit -- but playoffs seem a distant possibility, more distant than the prospect of a deeper slide into the second half of the NL.

BREAKING NEWS: Patterson takes second walk in two days.

Milwaukee, WI - In the top of the seventh inning Thursday afternoon Corey Patterson took his fourth walk of the season. The patience for Patterson was amazing. It was his second free pass in two days! The Cubs trailed Milwaukee 4-3.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cubs slide continues

Tonite's 4-1 loss to the Brewers put the Cubs losing streak at 3. The Cubs are now a game below .500 and they have fallen 5 games back in the NL Central. At Miller Park the only offense the Cubs could muster was a HR by Henry Blanco.

Blanco's homer in the third gave the Cubs the early 1-0 lead. For a time it looked like Carlos Zambrano might make that lead stand up.

The 6th inning did the Cubs in on Monday. In the top of the inning Patterson hit a ball to Hall who made a great play and fired to first. The replay showed Corey was safe but he was called out. Patterson threw his helmet toward the umpire and was ejected from the game. Aramis hit a ball to rightfield that Jenkins made a great ctah on. Ronnie told the WGN Radio listeners this was the turning point.

In the bottom of the inning Zambrano gave up a single and three doubles (one on a grounder that Aramis played horribly). The Brewers scored three and the Cubs never threatened. Zambrano's good outing was wasted. He struckout 10 Brewers.

Ramirez(0-4 tonight) is playing like he did for the Pirates. After getting the huge contract on Opening Day, Aramis is now hitting .228. He has 4 homers and 14 RBi.

Cub hitters did not take a walk on Tuesday night. So far this year the Cubs have taken 68 walks. That ranks 14th among all the NL teams (26th in MLB). On the other side of things Cub pitchers have issued 110 free passes. That's second onlt to the Rockies in the NL (4th in MLB).

So Cub hitters won't take walks and Cub pitchers are more than happy to issue them. That is a recipe for real problems. Did anybody in the Cub front office read Moneyball?

In Nashville Joe Borowski threw a scoreless inning of relief. Joe didn't walk anyone or allow a hit. He struckout 2. The I-Cubs lost 6-1.

President Andrew Jackson Supports... "Vote for Neifi"

President Jackson will back Neifi in his bid to start at short in Detroit at the Midsummer Classic.

My fellow countrymen and countrywomen, as the Seventh President of this Great Country of ours I call upon you for your support and help in a great cause. As you know in recent years I have stayed away from politics. Now I must come off the bench to support the man who got the Cubs the one game playoff in 1998. Neifi Perez.

Our friends at Bleed Cubbie Blue and The Cub Reporter are leading a campaign to get Chicago Cub SS Neifi Perez voted in as the starting NL shortstop at the 2005 All Star Game.

This is a great cause and comes with the utmost urgency. You see Neifi is not on the ballot. He is the ultimate underdog. Please write in Neifi Perez on your 2005 All Star Ballot. Here's more information:


Neifi needs your support!

The Cub Reporter, in partnership with Bleed Cubbie Blue, would like every single Cub fan out there to write-in Neifi Perez as the starting shortstop of the National League. Apathy is not an option here folks. This is a call to arms, a call to all Cubs fans to rise and be heard, to flex our collective muscle and rock the baseball world.

Check out the entire article here:


GET INVOLVED! What can you do to support Neifi?

Vote early and vote often.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Two Young Cubs Tearing up the Midwest League

Two Cub prospects from last summers draft are off to fast starts at Peoria. The Chiefs will visit Kane County this coming weekend.

Cub farm hand, Peoria Chiefs righthander Sean Gallagher is tearing up the Midwest League. On Sunday, Gallagher did not allow a hit through 6 IP. The Chiefs one-hit Kane County. Gallagher struck out 10 Cougars while walking 2.

Now the scary part. Gallagher, who was selected in 12th round of the 2004 draft, has not allowed an earned run this season. Yes his ERA is zero-point-zero-zero (0.00). Through 5 starts he is 2-1. The kid has pitched 29 innings, struck out 37, walked 6, he hit 3 batters, he has allowed 6 runs (all unearned).

Eric Patterson
Corey's little brother is off to a fast start at Peoria. Patterson, selected in the 8th round in 2004, is hitting .417 in 18 games. He has scored 19 times! Unlike Corey, Eric has patience at the dish. The youngster has taken 13 walks while striking out 10 times. Patterson also has 10 stolen bases.


Looking back on the first month of the season, I am surprised the Cubs are even at .500. The injuries have been devastating, the bullpen awful and the starting staff has been below mediocre.

The Cubs have not played good ball. If DLee had started out with his normal awful April this team would probably be 9-15 or worse. The good news is Lee had a terrific offensive month and somehow the Cubs were able to escape the monthof April 12-12.

The Cubs enter May in second place 3-1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Many media members are already predicting that the Cardinals will run away and hide in the central. If that happens the Cubs are gonna really have their work cut out for them in the Wild Card chase. The Marlins and Braves are gonna win a bunch of games and the NL West is improved. I'd bet the Wild Card comes from the East.

If the Cubs can keep themselves afloat until Jim Hendry makes a deal or two that might be the best realistic Cub fans can wish for. I don't see this Cardinal team putting up the wins they did last year, but I always underestimate the Redbirds. As much as I hate to say it, The Genius does a pretty good job with the talent he has. It is possible St. Louis runs away with it, but I don't think they will.

If the Cubs can just stick between 2 and 5 games back until the break, I expect some small market teams will be ready to start dumping players. Hendry can make his deals and the Cubs can try to make a run similar to 2003. It won't be pretty, but the Cubs never are pretty.

As for May, the Cubs just need to stay afloat and not get buried. Dusty needs to figure out the right roles for his bullpen. The starters need to start eating up some innings so the bullpen is not dead by July 15. Baker also needs to figure out what the deal is with Hollandsworth and Barrett. The Cubs expected offensive help from these two and have gotten very little.

The Cubs goal for May is simple, stay within shouting distance of the Cardinals before help arrives in June and July.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Go sell cars!

What a sad story it is. The amount of cash that this guy is stealing from the club. Go to his profile on baseballreference.com. The most similar players by age are...

Similar Pitchers through Age 27
Stan Williams (957)
Ernie Broglio (956)
Chan Ho Park (954)
Kirby Higbe (952)
Pete Harnisch (949)
J.R. Richard (948)
Jack Morris (948)
Wilson Alvarez (942)
Jim Nash (941)
Al Downing (941)
Don Robinson (983)
Mike Torrez (977)
Wayne Simpson (959)
Chuck Estrada (976)
Jack McDowell (956)
Stan Williams (957)

How stupid could we all be?