Thursday, June 30, 2005

A respectable june (14-13)

The Cubs loss to Milwaukee snapped the 4 game winning streak. The Northsiders finished 1 game above .500 for the month. Coincidently, the Cubs finished April and May 1 game over each month. 3 months, 1 game over each month. My public school math tells me the Northsiders are 3 games over for the year. They stand at 40-37. It's not as good as we would like but not as grim as many of us (including me) predicted.

Highlights from June:
  • Derrek Lee continued his hot season. Lee hit .431 with 13 doubles, 7 HR's and 19 RBi's.
  • Aramis Ramirez heated up in June. Aramis hit .367 with 7 HR's and 23 RBi's.
  • Ryan Dempster went 7 for 7 in save opportunities. He posted a 1.54 ERA in June.
  • Mark Prior's return on Sunday was good news for Cub fans. Prior looked like his old self allowing just one hit to the Sox.
  • Kerry Wood's return on Wednesday gave Cub fans even more to be excited about. Wood had great stuff and looked to be healthy.
  • The sweep in LA
  • Taking 3 of 4 from San Diego
  • Winning 2 of 3 against the World Champion Red Sox
  • Taking 2 of 3 from the White Sox at U.S. Comiscular
  • Todd Hollandsworth began to break his season long slump. Hollandsworth hit .351 in June and drove in 15 runs.
  • Patterson's defensive play on Tuesday night to save the game.
  • Despite an ERA over 5. Greg Maddux won 4 games in the month and won big games against the Red Sox and White Sox.

The Lowlights
  • Why did Dusty Baker ever put Korey Patterson back in the leadoff spot?
  • Patterson hit .167 in June, his season average stands at .237. His OBP for the month was .213. Patterson only scored 9 runs and drove in 5. During the month Korey struckout 35 times and took 6 base on balls. The guy needs some time on the bench.
  • Joe Borowski was unable to return to his 2002 and 2003 form. The Cubs designated Joe for assignment when Kerry Wood returned
  • Todd Wellemeyer pitched himself back to Iowa. Todd's ERA was 10.24 for the month in 9.2 IP. He walked 8 hitters in those innings .
  • Getting swept in New York by a struggling Yankee team.
  • Losing 2 of 3 to both Toronto and Florida at home.
  • Neifi Perez really cooled off in June. Neifi hit .230 for the month.
  • Jason Dubois looks like a rookie. In just 17 games Dubois hit .227 striking out 16 times and only taking two walks.
  • Cliff Bartosh we hardly knew ya.

The Cubs season stands at a crossroads. They already lookup and see the Cardinals running away with the NL Central. The Cubs now have to find a way to stay in the NL Wild Card race. If they keep dancing around the .500 mark it will not be enough. Jim Hendry has one month to make the moves that will put the Cubs in contention. I'd suggest he start by doing something with the centerfielder.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Chicago Style

Well, it's kinda late to vote early. But you can still vote often! I know Albert is a terrific player, but this is DLee's year. We've got one day left to vote online, and we can all do our part by supplying 25 votes. The margin is only 50,000 votes or so.

Is this silliness? Is it juvenile? Does it reek of Cub Kool-Aid?

Sure it does! But so what? The guy deserves it.



If any of you were in New York for the Yanks series, you know the humiliation that we went through sitting out in the bleachers in Yankee Stadium...not to mention losing 3 games in a row!

First of all, King George was able to shut out Chicagoans from getting tickets in any other part of the park except for the bleachers. Anyone who wanted to sit in an area other than the OF had to get their tickets on Ebay or Stubhub. The result was that about 60%-70% of the fans in the bleachers were Cub fans.

On Friday night, when the Cubs got rolling, we started our "Let's Go Cubbies (boom, boom, boomboomboom)" chant. This thunderous cheer lasted about two innings, until the Yanks came roaring back to take the lead.

Then, the dagger to the heart....Yankees fans began the chant, "Ninteen-Oh-Eight! (boom, boom, boomboomboom), "Nineteen-Oh-Eight (boom boom boomboomboom), and any wind that was left in Cub fans sails die like a Corey Patterson bunt attempt.

Perhaps the greatest humiliation of all, though, was the fact that there were no beer sales in the bleachers; no alcohol of any kind! Can you just imagine sitting through 3 games in the bleachers
....with NO BEER!

It got so bad that I would sold my soul for a sip of Old Style!

davis threatens baseball

from ivy chat and wapo -- ownership will get a chance to regret 1922 yet. virginia republican congressman tom davis threatens the antitrust exemption because george soros might buy the team.

"Why should politics have anything to do with who owns the team," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) asked. "So Congress is going to get involved in every baseball ownership decision? Are they next going to worry about a manager they don't like? I've never seen anything as impotent as a congressman threatening the baseball exemption. It gets threatened half a dozen times a year, and our batting average threatening the exemption is zero."

i'm sure the legacy of kenesaw landis will live on, but many congressmen have decided to become increasingly involved in the machinations of baseball in their neverending search for publicity -- and use the exemption as pretext to throw down any fiat they wish.

live by the sword, die by the sword. they should never have asked for government protection in the first place.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Henry Blanco Love

So the Cubs are 13-7 when Hank starts. Anyone think Barrett can play LF?

wildcard gut check

as mentioned by the estimable corncobdress in this very space, the cubs need to wreak some havoc on their swing through the NL east over the next two weeks if they're going to entertain thoughts of october. it's essential to deal some losses to these teams, who will be the cubs competition for the NL wildcard.

at least as importantly, the cubs need wins to prove they belong in the race. two over .500 at the break is not beyond all reason -- even in the past four seasons, two of the four wildcards held breakeven records at the all-star break (2001 saint louis and 2004 houston), as did the division-winning 2003 cubs. winning the wildcard sometimes simply means getting very hot in the second half, which is something the cubs schedule might allow for.

looking at the all-star-break alignments of the wildcard races in years past, there's good reason to think the cubs would still be in it at 3rd and 2 losses back. in 2004, houston was looking up at eight teams and sat four back in the loss column only to become the most unlikely wildcard winner of all. the 2003 marlins were fifth in the wildcard and six losses back. and in 2001, the cardinals lounged 5 back in the loss column and in fifth. all three put together furious second half runs.

nonetheless, such entries into even the bottom rung of the playoff ladder are the exception to the rule. the average record of the eventual NL wildcard at the break has been 7.2 games over .500. every win the cubs can pile up in this last difficult run of their hardest 39 game stretch is critical.

the majority of cases -- the 2002 giants (2nd, -2), the 2000 and 1999 mets (1st, +1 and 2nd, -3, respectively), the 1998 cubs (2nd, -2), the 1997 marlins (1st, +2), the 1996 dodgers (2nd, -4) -- involve being close at the break. the cubs simply cannot afford to fall apart here if the playoffs are the goal.

(a bit of an oddity: the 1995 rockies led the dodgers in the west by five games, but ended up losing out by a game to take the wildcard. the dodgers stood fourth and six back in the wildcard at the break that year.)

while still holding out reasonable hope of deliverance, i still think this team looks, walks and quacks like a .500 ballclub or slightly better. the difference between runs scored and runs allowed has fallen back to +8, with the cubs sitting mid-pack in both totals. the cubs have three everyday positions posting a near-.300 obp -- good teams rarely have such glaring weaknesses.

one might talk about the problems of wood, prior, nomar, walker, borowski and fox as having disproportionately afflicted the cubs -- but their troubles haven't been greater than those of atlanta (who are currently missing chipper and three of their front four starters, not to mention furcal's nightmare season and johnny estrada's start), though they are slightly more challenging than florida's (with lowell and pierre struggling mightily, ismael valdes and alfonseca having missed everything, castillo a month, and beckett now on the DL with blisters). washington, for their part in all this, are getting jose vidro and antonio osuna back and have used nine starters this year. if the cubs are finally putting together their complete team only now, the same can certainly be said of the braves. on the whole, it's hard to plead injury as a reason to expect to gain on these teams now.

what rings more true to me is that the cubs need to take some steps -- particularly in the outfield, bullpen and shortstop -- to improve their club and make it sharper if they think they can do something. but, to be able to think so optimistically, the cubs have to be in a position at the break that justifies making moves before the july 31 deadline.

this is a gut-check for the 2005 cubs. make up ground on the braves, marlins and nationals now, and there's reason to start thinking big.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

June Roller Coaster

The Cubs brought their June record back to .500 with the win on Sunday. The Northsiders are 12-12 this month. Surprisingly, they have taken 2 of 3 from the World Champion Red Sox and the best team in baseball the White Sox, meanwhile the Cubs have stumbled against the Blue Jays and a very mediocre Yankee team. I guess that's baseball.

Despite all of the teams flaws, the Cubs are still very much alive in the NL Wild Card. They will have games in early July against the Braves and the Marlins. They'll face the NL East leading Nats this coming weekend at the Friendly Confines. If the Cubs are gonna make a move and take control of the Wild Card they'll have the opportunity to do so in the next few weeks.

National League Wild Card NL Standings
Team W - L PCT GB
Atlanta 41 - 34 .547 -
Florida 38 - 34 .528 1.5
CUBS 38 - 36 .514 2.5
Philadelphia 39 - 37 .513 2.5
Arizona 39 - 38 .506 3.0
New York 37 - 37 .500 3.5
Los Angeles 35 - 40 .467 6.0
Milwaukee 35 - 40 .467 6.0
Pittsburgh 34 - 40 .459 6.5
Houston 33 - 40 .452 7.0

I'm not happy about the Cubs being out of the NL Central race. They have been forced to look to the Wild Card to make the postseason. Still you just have to make the postseason. I feel really good about the Cubs chances with a healthy Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. The Prior that we saw on Sunday at Sox Park was nasty. It looked to me like he was back to his form from earlier in the season. I'll hold my breath on Wood. We'll know a little more on Wednesday.

The Hall of Famer joined Len and Bren in the booth on Friday and Sunday. I am still trying to figure out why the Cubs and Comcast did this. Sandberg added nothing to the broadcast. Of course Brenly hasn't added anything to the broadcasts since he made the Catfish comment in Pittsburgh.

The Cubs will have an off day on Monday. The Brewers will come to town for three and the Washington Nationals will visit Wrigley Field over the weekend. The Cubs will have to make a move before they activate Wood for Wednesday's game. I vote Joe Borowski off the island.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

how bad is it?

really, really bad. take a look at the month of june in the NL, and who's the least productive everyday player? you guessed it.

the klown's brilliant slump has come at a bad time, of course, when the cubs are trying to make a deal to ship him out. but i doubt his value has really declined all that much for it. the klown is an extreme longshot at best now -- and every GM in the majors that's worth a shit knows it.

let's be clear: the klown has over 2000 major-league at-bats now. that's more than players like adam dunn, brad wilkerson, carl crawford, marcus giles and hank blalock -- all guys who have firmly established their major-league personalities. the klown has shown us what he's got. the chances of him being that one guy that metamophosizes in into a great player now, after all this time, are spectacularly small -- there are at least a hundred players who quietly crap out of the majors for every one that transforms himself into a good player after building such a record as korey has.

you would have to be a fool to give up more than equal current value for k-pat (which is, of course, very little). there is almost no "promise" left in a guy with 2149 ML plate appearances. he is what he is. that's a fact. and while i hope there's an idiot among the GM pool out there who thinks that, in spite of it all, that the klown is that one diamond in the rough, there probably isn't.

UPDATE: i happened to peruse the NL active career stats this weekend -- did you know that there are 222 active players with more than a thousand at-bats in the national league?

and did you further know that, of those players, those with a career obp less than korey's .299 who are on a major-league roster right now number just eleven -- tom glavine, henry blanco, alex gonzalez, greg maddux, pedro feliz, mike matheny, deivi cruz, eddie perez, luis lopez, juan castro, and cesar izturis.

note that, among the eleven, there are two pitchers, three catchers (two of whom are backups), two shortstops and four backup utilitymen. not a single outfielder, much less starting outfielder.

Friday, June 24, 2005

laugh a minute

i know straight reprints are no fun, but this sequence from the patient, intelligent and eminently readable derek smart should be plastered all over the web.

My vote for most hilarious sequence of the game goes to the top of the seventh, when after Ben Sheets had given up a tie-breaking double to Michael Barrett, a pinch-hitter was called upon. The man brought to the plate was Jose Macias, but that's not the funny part.

What left me in stitches was when Macias sacrificed Barrett to third. This puts Barrett in a position, with one out, to score on any number of balls in play. All the next hitter needs to do is make contact. The next hitter was Corey Patterson. Who had already struck out three times. And promptly made it four. Comic. Genius.

folks, if that isn't dusty's rollicking cub-klown experiment/disaster in a nutshell, i dunno what is. i'm glad to see my appreciation for korey's genius isn't mine alone.

might i say that i might even miss him if the rampant mark kotsay rumors come to fruition. we've all known for a while that the klown is on the block, so i hope we've all had time to make the break in our souls.

kotsay, for his part, is a splendiferous fielder who'd eat the klown's lunch patrolling center in the confines. yet better, he's a career .342 obp who's posted .366, .359 and .370 in three of the last four years. he's not an excellent base stealing threat -- but hey, neither is korey, because you can't steal a base from the frickin' bench. on the whole, he'd be a big asset if the cubs are going to try to build a team that's strong up the middle.

and he'd have the added value of not being preston wilson, who is exactly the kind of player -- a hundred homers, a thousand strikeouts, and nary a walk to be found -- this team has too many of.

i'd be wary always of what beane & co. are asking for, especially because they know the cubs have to do something if they have any hopes of factoring into the playoff picture. but kotsay is the kind of player who can help a club go somewhere.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

we are in the presence of genius

by god, this must be it. my sides hurt from laughing for having watched klownie's leadoff trainwreck. if this isn't rock bottom, having come on the heels of this abomination unto the earth, i have no more context for imagining what rock bottom might look like than i do heaven or hell.

despite having to get to the third strike four times today, k-pat only managed to see 19 pitches -- and not to swing at only six. yesterday, he saw only 16 in five, managing to just watch only five.

this is the definition of sublimity. the klown has transcended the material plane and reached ethereal, metaphysical, eternal awfulness. i, as a trapped mortal, am in awe. it takes a mad genius to be this perfectly bad.

what's wrong with z?

probably nothing. i didn't see a lot of crushed balls (excepting el caballo's shot) in zambrano's disaster inning last night.

however, this is the third straight troublesome outing for z, and i don't think that's just nothing. z is not locating like he should. it isn't that he's all over the place. to take a closer look: june 11 he walked four throwing 62% strikes; june 17, six while throwing 57%. that isn't so terrible, really -- during his amazing may, he tossed 63% strikes.

but his control in the strike zone isn't quite what it was. he's leaving balls over the heart of the plate more frequently. while his extraordinary movement keeps those balls from getting drilled, he is getting hit -- 21 hits in his last 13 innings, to be exact. even earlier in june, derrek lee noticed, "His stuff is so electric... He didn't have his best command, but he knows when he needs a pitch how to get it done."

one would like to blame it on zambrano's turf toe, which forced him out on june 11. but lee's remarks came in the previous start, and zambrano had labored through 98 pitches in the five innings he pitched that day before the slide and injury.

this kind of loss of fine control can be a symptom of simple fatigue -- and god knows z might be fatigued, as the second-most-abused pitcher in baseball this year. particularly insidious, i felt, was the june 17 start in which he tossed 116 pitches in just five difficult innings. so perhaps it's not surprising that, on his very next time out, zambrano didn't have much going. quite a similar thing happened in the aftermath of that notorious may 8 136-pitch complete game, which was followed by a truncated outing and an mri. (oh, but that was internet-related -- email. yeah. right.)

if one had to point a finger at a moment where things seem to have turned, in fact, it might be in the aftermath of his brilliant 124-pitch eight-inning effort of may 31. zambrano has since racked up an 8.10 ERA, yielding 24 hits and walking 14 in 20 innings.

was that a bridge too far for zambrano -- the last straw of the haystack of pitcher abuse whose weight destroyed wood and prior in previous years? hard to say. this could be just some more paranoia on my part. even if i'm right, maybe last night's shortened 51-pitch start will provide some relief. but zambrano, along with every cub starter under dusty's management, bears watching for signs of wearing down and falling apart.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Definition: an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking.

Well that's what I had after seeing Joe Borowski's stats tonight. Everyone (except for maybe Dusty) knows that Remlinger can't seem to get out LH hitters. Well it seems as though JoBo is his righthanded doppleganger. Joe just can't get out righties, but lefties were hitting a miniscule .071 against him going into tonight. So instead of cutting him, let's try him as the designated LOOGY and only use Rem against righties (RH BAA = .163).

Not that this would ever happen. Oh wait, it could if only Borowski or Remlinger would suggest it to Dusty. He seems to do whatever his players ask. Corey leading off again? Haven't we heard that song before? Hey Dusty, your ride just pulled up outside (short yellow bus honking in background).

A square peg in a round hole

So let me get this straight. After a conversation with Vince Coleman, Corey Patterson went to Dusty Baker and told him that he wanted to be the Cubs leadoff hitter. I guess Patterson finally realized he won't be in the third spot anytime soon, or maybe he's hearing Felix Pie's footsteps. If that's what Corey wants fine. The crazy part of this whole story is Baker listened and inserted Corey in the leadoff spot for Wednesday nights game.

Usually in the work force you perform jobs you are qualified to do. What evidence do the Cubs have that Corey Patterson is qualified to be a leadoff hitter? He can run and he plays CF. That's fine. Besides speed the guy does not have any of the qualities associated with Rickey Henderson, Willie Wilson, Maury Wills or any of the great leadoff hitters. Why do Dusty Baker and the Cubs continue to try and put Patterson into this spot? He is not capable of it and never will be.

1060west's very own Thunderclap Newman told you who should be leading off for the Cubs. Todd Walker is your guy Dusty. Put Patterson in the seventh spot and leave him there. Better yet put the guy on the bench and let Hairston play CF for a few weeks.

Shoring up the roster

Much has been said and written about who the Cubs should acquire and what holes they should fill. Many are speculating which Cincy OF (or how many) will be moved. The list has all of them possibly available...


To be honest I'd take any one of these guys in LF, but there's one other Reds player I'd like the Cubs to go after. We all know the Cubs bench doesn't even rise to the level of putrid. They don't have a good defensive option off the bench since Neifi has to be in the everyday line up. The answer is Rich Aurilia. This guy can likely be had for a song. He can play all the infield positions and seems to have a little pop left at the plate (6HR, 24 RBI), unlike the dyanmic duo of Macias and Wilson. Aurilia would make both of these stiffs obsolete and allow Dusty to keep his requisite dozen pitchers and still have an opportunity to add another bat. Heck the Reds may even take Macias for Aurilia straight up. I know this isn't a move that turns the Cubs into the Central division champs, but little things like this can make a big difference late in the summer. If nothing else it would free up a 40/25 man roster spot for either Nomar or Scott Williamson when they come off the 60 day DL.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Out of options

The Cubs finally joined the wave of teams that have been outrighting or DFA'ing veteran players this year. Cliff Bartosh was the first victim. So how long until the next piece of 25-man roster fodder gets jettisoned? And who will it be? The odds on favorite is for Sweaty Joe to receive his pink slip before the end of the month. I assume he may accept an outright to AAA in an attempt to keep his career alive. Or will he mysteriously break his pinky between two chairs???

Currently the Hawkins trade is looking pretty sweet. Two young arms with decent upside for a guy with an elbow injury. One half of the receipt looked fairly good in AAA Iowa and is going to bump tonight north of the "Cheddar Curtain" against the Milwaukee Dairy Fairies. The other half is throwing well at AA West Tenn (still walks too many hitters). If the Hawkins injury turns out to be serious, I doubt Mr. Sabean will be taking Jim Hendry's calls for a while.

This is the type of deal that Hendry excels at completing. He is able to identify what player a team has given up on and gets him for a pair of used tube socks and a container of IcyHot. Although we all want to win now and would have liked to see the Cubs make some huge offseason moves, much of the talent was way overpriced. Hendry has been able to acquire a very good allotment of talent the last couple years. Not all of the moves have panned out perfectly, but none of the pieces (Francis Beltran, Brendan Harris, Hee Sop Choi, etc.) he has traded away are doing much. Where would this team be without Lee, Ramirez, & Barrett? Lee and Ramirez are legit cornerstones to build the lineup around and Barrett is the best hitting catcher in the NL (his defense is improving which I chalk up to Hank White, their throwing styles are amazingly similar). In my humble opinion, Hendry is an extremely good GM. He hasn't reached Schuerholz or Jocketty status, but just may over time.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A journey into enemy territory

With the Dodgers in town on the southside for the first time since the 1959 World Series, I decided to make my once every three year journey to the southside.

I'm not really a big fan of the Sox, but I do appreciate that they are playing winning baseball. With the opportunity to sweep the Dodgers, I decided to revisit Comiskey Cellphone Ballpark. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly from last night's game

The Good:

Food, glorious food - This year Wrigley started using the same food vendor as Comiskey and the choice of an artery hardening bill of fare is widespread. I only grabbed a burger which was pretty good, but there were plenty of stands which could keep you from missing a good majority of a game

Tickets- There are fans going to the ballpark to watch a first place team, but vast stretches of the famed upperdeck are still empty. The lower level was filled though and with the exception of the upcoming Cub series, tickets can be bought easily at the park or on-line. One cool thing that was featured for ticketmaster customers was a kiosk that could print out your will call tickets without having to wait in line. Took about 30 seconds for me to get my seats.

The bullpen bar - After sitting in the reserved bleachers for a couple innings, we decided to walk to the bullpen bar in right field and catch the remainder of the game. The nice thing about the bullpen bar is the field level view and getting to listen to the hecklers get after the opposing right fielder.

The Bad:

Who are you playing? - Ok, going to open up the floodgates. Couldn't help but notice that the anti-Cub feelings are alive and well on the southside. After overhearing a 6-8 year old kid say how he hated the Cubs, I just couldn't believe fans are more focused on the Cubs than their opponent. In the bullpen bar where mother alcohol had set up shop, the feelings were even stronger.

I'll never understand it. Sox fan's hate the Cubs and Cub fans don't care about the Sox and hate the Cardinals. I just went to watch a little baseball my self, but had a good baseball conversation with one of the more rational Sox fans there and had a good time.

Bullpen Bar Outside Seating - Just confusing. With a couple empty tables outside, we made a move to get a seat. Security gives you a pass to go out there and you take empty seats that are available. The confusing part came when we went to an empty table and were turned away from security and told to double up on seating with two other people. Not very bad, but just a confusing arrangement.

The Ugly:

Player Heckling - Dodger right fielder Jayson Werth was taking a bit of abuse at the hands of the Sox fans and it was pretty funny hearing some of the comments. The ambiguous rules of heckling a player are don't swear, and don't make references to the player's family. Pretty simple, but apparently it went a bit overboard for the Dodger RF. Security actually came over and told everyone that the section would be emptied if it got any worse. Confused by the exchange, but undaunted, the heckling took a funny turn with fan's making comments to the new right fielder (Werth was actually moved to LF) such as "You're the little engine that could."

I think security was a little oversensitive because of ESPN being there and the number of mics on the field. I'm sure some exec was getting nervous hearing the commentary from one of the mics and had to do something.


I had a baseball jones that needed to be fufilled and with the pathetic performance in the Bronx by the Cubs, watching a 4-3 comeback win in the bottom of the 8th by the southsiders satisfied me. With the Cubs out of town and some pretty good baseball being played, it was a fun overall experience. Keep the Cub paraphenalia at home to avoid the jackasses and its a pretty good time.

Hey, I'm the new Cubs manager!

Since most of the commentary in the Cubs blog-o-sphere lately has revolved around who should Hendry trade away/for, I'd like to take a stab at a few things I would do as manager with the current team. I think it was Chuck at Ivy Chat (or one of his readers) that stated the only time the Cubs have gone to the playoffs they've had a very good 1-2 punch at the top of the line-up, e.g. Dernier/Sandberg. It seems to me that Neifi is reverting to his career form at the plate and is not the solution at the top. It's also crystal clear that Patterson cannot be placed in the top half of the order. So what is Dusty to do? What is the optimum 1-2 on the 25/40 man roster?

A - No change (trust in Lord Neifi! and Korey/Holly in the 2-hole).
B - Neifi then Walker 1-2.
C - Get Hairston back in the line up nearly everyday by rotating him in CF, 2B, LF, & maybe even SS. This makes a Hairy then Walker/Neifi 1-2 combo.
D - None of the above.

My vote goes for D, None of the above. Thunderclap Newman's everyday top of the line up would be...


The reasoning, you ask? Walker is obviously a good hitter and showed he can handle the leadoff spot last year. He is also a good baserunner and is reaching base at a .360+ clip. We all know Barrett is not patient at the plate but since Walker can't steal the patience requirement for the 2-hitter is not as critical (of course I want every hitter to be patient) as it could be with a legit base stealing threat at the top. The big reason why I love the idea of Barrett in the 2-hole is that he strikes out less that one time every 10ABs (the best among all the regulars except for Walker). The hit and run becomes a viable option with him at the plate.

Now to the middle of the order. I've never been a big proponent of the right-left-right-left thing. Staggering your hitters this way is a luxury that should only be used if it doesn't hurt your line up construction. Although I'm a big fan of Burnitz's play this year, right now Lee and Ramirez are raking. These two guys have to hit back to back.

So now we have the top constructed...


What to do at the bottom? Here's my choice.

6th - insert LF here Holly/DuBois
7th - Patterson (swing for the fences, big boy)
8th - Perez

With one out or less maybe Perez will get some decent pitches batting in front of the pitcher and he can start hitting like he did in April. Hopefully with 2-outs, he can be patient and take a few BBs.

Well, now that the everyday lineup is constructed, I'll move to the 25-man roster. This is something that Dusty has plenty of control over. First off, the "extra" pitcher is gone. The last two guys in the pen are rarely on the mound and are mostly ineffective. Bartosh and Borowski (thanks for the memories) are DFA'd to make room for Grieve and Wood. Rich Hill goes back down when Prior returns.

I'd also seriously contemplate cutting Wilson and bringing up Cedeno for an extended look, i.e. start him regularly. This would allow Neifi to become the supersub and get some rest which I think he deserves and also very much needs. After his first three weeks of regular play, Neifi has pretty much stopped hitting (sans a good west coast swing). If/when Garciaparra comes back, Cedeno can go back down to AAA.

That about wraps it up. Come on everyone, jump in and shoot a bunch holes through this "plan" or state what your action plan would be if you were the Cubs manager.

the cub has landed

after being dumped into the staten island landfill over the weekend, it's official: the cubs have definitely come back to earth.

it's easy to continue to beat up on patterson, but i have to admit i hardly want to -- it only makes me nauseous -- and don't have to anymore. the entire world has taken it up. even this old cub in sunday's radiocast continued on long after k-pat's third-inning at-bat, bemoaning patterson's clueless approach, his inability to work a count, the way he is now missing even fat pitches -- including the 2-0 fastball that he popped into foul territory just then. all that after we got to watch the supposedly good centerfielder in saturday's first inning play sheffield's single into a double, and then turn a-rod's single into a circus act to let sheffield score without a throw -- and then go 0-for-4 all day to boot.

discipline remains, of course, korey's major issue. in going 2-for-12 on the series -- with a walk! -- he saw just 41 pitches; a-rod, for contrast, saw 27 on sunday alone. three one-pitch at-bats; two two-pitch at-bats; two three-pitch strikeouts. ronnie kept reiterating how the coaches are trying to work with him every day, to change his mindset and make a hitter out of him. but it all is simply to laugh -- he's a klown, after all! what can anyone expect? at least dusty had the good sense to finally hit him eighth on sunday.

that said, this team's problems run deeper than their worst everyday player. the deficiencies of the cub pitching staff without prior, hawkins and wood around have been mercilessly uprooted and put on display since prior went on the DL and hawkins was traded away on may 28 -- some guys are being asked to contribute more to this staff than they're capable of giving. the cubs are giving up 5.0 runs a game since that day, despite some heroic individual efforts, particularly by mitre.

the cub offense has done as well as it can over that span, scoring a deceiving 90 times in the last 17 outings. i say deceiving because three outbursts constitute 43 of the 90 runs -- in the other 14, the cubs plated only 3.4 runs a game, with six outings of two runs or less. burnitz, ramirez, walker, hollandsworth and lee have all swung well this month, but it simply hasn't been enough nor consistent enough to overcome patterson, dubois and neifi (a much more neifi-like .247 obp in june so far) and produce reliable offense. it's been particularly troublesome to watch dusty hit neifi leadoff and patterson second -- roles which neither are suited for -- while the higher on-base percentage of hairston sits the bench.

the upshot is that the cubs are 8-9 this month and looking at seven games against milwaukee bracketing three in sox park. the brewers bring a limited but more consistent offense to compliment some really outstanding young pitching, which now includes tomo ohka, who's coming off a complete game shutout in his brewer debut, building on his very nice start in washington. he fills out a staff of sheets, davis, capuano and santos -- all under 30, none having allowed more hits than innings pitched. this club is hardly a powerhouse, but they are patient offensively and pitching-strong -- and for a team like the cubs, that walks too many and can't wait to swing, they present an interesting matchup -- which might be why the cubbies have dropped four of six to them already this year.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Cubs smoked in SMOKE FREE NYC

I had the good fortune of spending the weekend in New York. The bad part of the whole deal is I had to watch the Cubs, the good part is I only saw them lose one game, the game on Saturday. I spent Friday night enjoying dinner with my wife followed by drinks at a couple of bars in Manhattan. On Sunday afternoon we went to the theatre. When I was planning the trip I really wanted to see two games. I am thankful I only wasted Saturday afternoon watching the Northsiders.

One of the things that I noticed as we jumped around to a few bars in Manhattan was the fact that all bars here are smoke free. According to the locals they have been for a couple of years now. So I started thinking about this. New York and Boston now have smoking bans in bars and restaurants. California has had a similar ban for sometime now. It's just a matter of time until this smoking ban sweeps through and hits all of us in flyover country including Chicago.

For the record I am not a smoker. I have to admit that I have learned how to tolerate second hand smoke spending most of my 20's and early 30's in Midwestern bars. It's hard for me to imagine going into Lottie's or Rich's First One Today and not smelling cigarette smoke. Isn't smoke part of the ambiance of the Chicago neighborhood tavern?

One of the first things I noticed on Friday night, as I sat down to enjoy a cold Rheingold, was that the bar lacked the second hand smoke, I expect with my average night out. I asked the owner what he thought of the ban. He said he liked the fact that his clothes didn't smell after a night working, but overall his business had suffered.

It made me wonder, is there a market for smoke free bars? If there was wouldn't we already have them scattered throughout Chicago and the rest of America? Wouldn't the laws of supply and demand force bar owners to hang "no smoking" signs without being told to by local government? You would think. I think the average bar patron could care less about smoke in a bar, tavern or pub.

So, the smoke free bar is on it's way Chicago. It's going to make those of us who enjoy taverns a whole lot healthier. Because taverns are all about good health!

The Yankees really exposed the Cubs as a team with too many holes.(The Cubs now trail the Redbirds by 9-1/2) The Cubs were not playing the 1998 Bronx Bombers. This Yankee team went into the series only a game above .500. Still they have talent and players that know how to play the game the right way. Over the three games series Yankee hitters saw 108 more pitches than Cub hitters (479-371). Is anyone in the dugout or in Cub management paying attention to this? Anyone? ANYone? ANYONE?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Protecting the home field

When Roger Craig took over the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 1985 season, he told his players that he didn't want to hear any more complaints about Candlestick Park. Candlestick was a nightmare for many a player. The winds that came in off of the Bay would take away home runs and make defenders look foolish on routine popups. Candlestick was Wrigley Field on acid and the juice, all at once . Craig let his players know that playing at the 'Stick would be to their advantage. Under Craig the Giants won the NL West in 1987 and again in 1989. As most of you already know the man that succeeded Craig in San Fran was our current skipper Dusty Baker.

Baker has not taken Craig's approach with Wrigley Field. The Cub manager has allowed his players to complain about the parks unpredictable weather conditions and the fans. Recently he said that at times it is easier for the Cubs to play on the road than at Wrigley Field. The 38,000 fans that pack the park everyday mean nothing. I guess the last at bat means very little to "the Mesiah" as well.

A Self Fullfilling Prophecy
After the Cubs had a 6-1 West coast swing, and Dusty and the boys had complained about the Northside Park, they came back home and went 4-5. Considering they took 2 of 3 from the World Champion Red Sox, the final outcome is disappointing. The Cubs are 19-17 at home for the 2005 season. That is not going to get it done if this team wants to contend.

The Cubs need to start dominating teams at Wrigley Field. They need to understand how to play at Wrigley Field better than their opponents. It's real hard for me to figure out how this team does not have a better record at home. Every game is sold out, the fan support is tremendous, the quirky schedule with so many day games should be to their advantage, visiting players have to be tempted by Rush St. Still for some reason Dusty and his players don't seem to use any of these things to their advantage.

The Cubs are gonna have to play 81 games at Wrigley Field. If they have to put someone up in scoreboard with binoculars to steal signs or something, DO IT! Do something to have an advantage playing at Clark and Addison.

homemade pie

as the patterson death-watch continues, much attention has been paid to one felix pie, who is having a very nice season in centerfield for the cubs' double-a affiliate at west tenn. a lot has been said and written about pie (pronounced pee-AY, a la francais), but what should a cub fan make of him?

well, i hate to be the eternal pessimist -- or maybe i don't -- but he's quite possibly patterson part deux. check his lines against patterson's lines in the minors, and you'll see there isn't as much difference as one might hope.

for example, tell me who is who:

230 g, 42 hr, 71 sb, 70 bb, 200 k, .292/.346/.543
291 g, 16 hr, 68 sb, 102 bb, 262 k, .295/.357/.441

got a guess? yep, k-pat on top, pie on bottom. or compare the klown's 2000 west tenn season against pie's current run, which is his best in the minors (so far -- only half a year, after all). you can mentally double the numbers if you like, but pie's power surge might fade a bit -- he's never hit for this kind of power before, and in 58 games it might be just an aberration.

118 g, 22 hr, 82 rbi, 27 sb, 45 bb, 115 k, .261/.334/.491
58 g, 11 hr, 25 rbi, 13 sb/9 cs, 16 bb, 51 k, .305/.350/.551

the things to note about pie -- 11 homers and 25 rbi isn't such a problem because he's leading off most nights, whereas the klown hit third. but how about a more than 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio? the kid has a very slight .045 differential between average and OBP. and how about being caught stealing 41% of his attempts?

1060west pointman marino pointed out andrew jackson's buried contribution to the patterson deathwatch:

One reason the Cubs haven't gone out and tried to make a major move for a much-needed leadoff hitter is that they think Felix Pie, who who has a .353 OBP, .914 OPS and 32 extra-base hits in 56 games at Double-A, may get his toes in the water in September and possibly be ready to play next year. "He is still a little raw, but he has great athletic talent," says one Cubs official. "The fact that he's played a lot of winter ball has sped up his development."

but i'm afraid that the cubs might be wrong about pie being The Answer in center when The Problem is korey.

the guy down there that's really worth something is matt murton, currently going .352/.421/.492, 26 walks against 24 fans with 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts, who has hit at all levels. probable future leftfielder for your chicago cubs, but it may take another year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jerome Williams

Jerome Williams was acquired from the Giants for LaTroy.

ESPN Radio 1000's Bruce Levine is repoting...

The Cubs will take a look at Jerome Williams start at Iowa tonight. If he has a good start, Williams will make his Cub debut Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

I am not sure what this means for Cub lefty Rich Hill who made his Major League debut in relief against the Fish during the Cubs 15-5 loss at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Sergio was smiling as were Cub fans on Tuesday night.

It could just be two great outings in a row. I hope it is more than that. I hope that we are watching the lights go on inside young Sergio Mitre. For the second consecutive game Mitre was nasty. He scattered 5 Marlin hits as the Cub offense came to life in a 14-0 win. The win was Mitre's second in five starts this season. It was his first career complete game and shutout.

Just like last Wednesday (against Toronto) Cub infielders had to be on their toes. Mitre got the Marlins to hit the ball into the thick Wrigley Field infield grass. Mitre recorded 18 groundouts, 6 flyouts and 3 strikeouts. He threw only 99 pitches and did not walk a single Marlin.

Aramis stayed hot. He hit two bombs on Tuesday as the Cub offense exploded for 14 runs.

You could not ask for a better performance on a night when the ball was flying out of Wrigley Field. If Sergio can keep pitching like this he'll be a great pitcher for Wrigley Field on any day. While the Marlins bats were silenced by Mitre the Northsiders hit 4 bombs. Ramirez hit two and Lee added his 18th, on the night he went 4 for 5 his BA is now .386.

Still Lee trails Pujols in All Star voting by over 200,000 votes. Start stuffing the ballot box Cub fans. Lee is having his career year and deserves to start the game in Detroit.

coming back to earth

with the winning streak and their impressive road trip now a fading memory, it would seem the cubs of april are starting to reassert themselves in typical fashion.

it's the style of the moment to talk about the cubs with optimism -- dropping their 15-5 run almost got to be a bit tedious in the hype of the boston series. but a look at the ensuing homestand is reason to think that this team (as we said during the run) isn't quite as good as all that.

after last night's loss, the cubs are 3-4 on the homestand, starting sergio mitre against josh beckett tonight and maddux against a.j. burnett tomorrow. the offense is averaging 4.3 runs in those seven thanks only to a 14-run outburst. the cubs managed 2 or fewer runs in four of their last seven games -- during their prior 9-1 stretch, they managed so few only twice. perhaps just as disturbing, however, has been the pitching. the cubs are allowing 4.6 runs a game in june despite a few exceptional individual performances, a pace much more reminiscient of april than may (and of losing than winning).

in the end, one has to look at the cubs performance thusfar and view the future with some expectation of mediocrity. they were 12-11 in april, 14-13 in may, and 7-5 so far in a month that remains very difficult sledding. i'll be happy if the cubs come into the break at .500, frankly -- thanks to their little winning run, i doubt that the 8 to 10 under i had previously been eyeballing is something that they can fall to in the next 26 (8 under would mean 7-19 between here and there).

and that would be a success for this team, i think. i haven't looked very analytically at the schedule after the break, but it isn't as bad as what we're seeing. it's even possible that, if some weaknesses (the outfield, the bullpen, leadoff) are shored up by hendry, that the cubs could get some momentum going in late july and put on a run at something more -- and make me eat crow for proclaiming the season over!

Monday, June 13, 2005

25 Man Roster - Pitching

So I had a little time to contemplate all things Cubs while the Marlins were putting a TD on the board tonight. It seems evident to me (even prior to his inning tonight) that the Cliff Bartosh experiment needs to ends and that the Polish Prince doesn't have anything left in the tank. Although I'm not sold on either Koronka or Mitre as potential big league starters, I do believe both could be quite serviceable in the bullpen. Instead of sending Koronka down to make room for Wood later this month, I'd suggest DFAing Bartosh and moving Koronka to the pen. Hopefully we'll see Prior back on the bump sometime in July and JoBo can be given his walking papers too. I know this would make the pen very young, but I think it would give the Cubs a better chance for success. I'd also be inclined to option Koronka back to AAA after both Wood and Prior return (and show they are healthy) to make room for another bat.

Although from my seats I couldn't see the gun readings, I thought Remlinger looked sharp. He hasn't pitched much this year but his three outings this month have been good (4IP, 2H, zero BB, zero ER). Having Rem able to pitch regularly with success would take a lot of pressure off the young arms in the pen and give Dusty that veteran arm he so desires. Hopefully this is the start of a return to Alanta form for him.

Also wondering what the blog readers think about Jim Brower who was just released by the Giants? He threw a lot of innings for SF in 2003-2004 (193IP), nearly all out of the bullpen (5 starts) with decent middle reliever type numbers. If he clears waivers maybe Hendry should see if he's willing to sign a minor league deal.

Well that's all I've got for tonight.

Today's NL WildCard Standings

It's never to early to look at the Wild Card!

This morning the Cubs find themselves a game and a half behind the fighting Phils. Florida comes into Wrigley Field this week only 1.5 games behind the Cubs.

Philadelphia 36-28 .563 -
Chicago Cubs 33-28 .541 1.5
LA Dodgers 33-29 .532 2
Arizona 33-31 .516 3
Atlanta 32-30 .516 3
Florida 31-29 .517 3
NY Mets 32-31 .508 3.5
Pittsburgh 30-31 .492 4.5
Milwaukee 28-34 .452
Houston 26 - 35 .426 8.5
Cincinnati 26-36 .419 9
San Francisco 25-36 .410 9.5

Sunday, June 12, 2005

the daily patterson rant

just to keep up the drumbeat -- take a look at the hardest men to walk in the national league. at least neifi goes off for a month every year.

and, of course, you know who's the league bottomfeeder in walk-to-strikeout ratio....

the man's an offensive sabermetric disaster. and, of course, his range factor continues to languish in the bottom third of major-league centerfielders.

i don't suppose his non-play on that ball that doinked him in the head yesterday changed any minds on what kind of a defensive player korey's devolved into -- and he has really regressed since his early days -- any more than that ball he airmailed into the pressbox last week to get a runner that wasn't running. but it's quite sad to watch a player take his lack of focus, which is so evident at the plate, into the field the way korey does. along with baserunning, it's a place where your concentration can really pay off regardless of the other guy's performance that night -- and when you're never on base, it's really the only place. he's hit and miss on the great plays, we know, but it's the balls he isn't getting to -- despite his speed, even adjusting for the cubs' pitching -- that sink his quality. for what it's worth, he's even managed to get himself to the bottom in fielding percentage.

Friday, June 10, 2005

don't let the door hit you

the good people over at ivy chat noted today that the trib sports website auspiciously ran this sidebar article on korey the klown:

My 10-year-old son and I recently attended a Cubs game. We arrived early to obtain an autograph from his favorite players in Jason Dubois, Corey Patterson, Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster.

Dubois signed his ball and even spoke to my son. It's a moment he will always remember.

However, Corey Patterson will be remembered for his complete and utter arrogance. He motioned to my son to wait until he finished his wind sprints before he could sign the ball. My son waited patiently not wanted to disturb him while he stretched and ran.

After about 10 minutes, Patterson turned his back from my son and walked to the dugout ... no signature, no wave, no smile, nothing.

My son was devastated.

"What did I do?," asked my son. "I waited like he wanted Dad, is he mad?"

i am rolling on the floor laughing, folks. that's an awful tale of woe, but it is sweet music to my ears -- because it means the cubs are shopping patterson.

remember all that lot that went on around sammy last winter, not even waiting for the season to end before the attack dogs were unleashed? and how that was followed by a certain deal of some note? remember how they had done the same thing to sammy in 2000 when his contract negotiations were pending? remember the "corked-bat" fallout with mark grace that tainted the legacy of another of the great cub players of the last twenty years?

any player the cubs invest time, money and hype into must be destroyed before leaving town. why? it's the defense of the collective. the tribune knows it has a good thing going, and cannot afford to let fans be distracted by personal sympathies to individual players when they count on them to buy tickets from the team.

to reduce the chances of fans being alienated from the team by any personnel moves, the cubs' marketing efforts have assiduously promoted wrigley field over the years as the star of the show. but that's not enough, of course, in the age of individual heroism in sports, and the cubs do market individual players as well. but they own a certain kind of insurance against that in the world's greatest newspaper and all its media tentacles.

the mother ship makes sure to turn its engines of popular influence against any key player when a difficult contract negotiation approaches or the player becomes the object of negotiations with another team. any minor incident will do to become the center of a media firestorm which sullies the player, turns the fans against him and ensures that the team will play the role of the good guy in dumping him.

the autograph-denied-to-a-little-angel story the trib today ran is to korey what leaving early on the last day was to sammy and the corked-bat joke was to grace: the death knell.

chances are that patterson will be moved before the deadline. keep an eye on the story; if more korey-in-a-black-hat tales show up in print, it gets all the more certain.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cubs vs. Red Sox

Well, here comes the series the media will hype up as if it's the World Series in June. The Cubs and Red Sox. Something about this series just is not the same as the excitement back in 2003 when the Yankees came to Wrigley Field (that's just my opinion).

The media will come up with a whole bunch of stupid comparisons. The reality is the Red Sox may have a more painful history but certainly not as pathetic a history as the Cubs. A 35 year old Red Sox fan has watched his team in the series three times. A 55 year old Cub fan has never viewed his team in the Fall Classic. Them's the facts.

View from the Bleachers' Joe Aiello had a chance to watch Felix Pie, Matt Murton, Brandon Sing, Jae Kuk Ryu and the rest of the Cubs AA team play the Carolina Mudcats. Check out the photo's Joe took!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Stopper is:

SERGIO MITRE? This afternoon at the Confines an alien life form entered the body of Sergio Mitre. Sergio was transformed into the 1992 version of Greg Maddux.

Mitre out pitched arguably the AL's best pitcher Roy Halladay. In doing so, the Northsiders avoided a sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays, with the World Champion Red Sox coming to town.

Only time will tell whether today was the day that Sergio figured out how to pitch in the majors or today was his career game. We do know that this was the best start Mitre has had as a big leaguer. It came on a day when the Cubs really needed it.

Mitre pitched seven scoreless innings allowing two hits while fanning six Jays. Sergio only walked one hitter on an 86 degree steamy day in Chicago. Mitre even impressed at the plate with an RBi double in the third.

Mitre's recipe on Wednesday was perfect. His sinker influenced hitters into 15 groundouts, 6 strikeouts and NO FLYOUTS. Those are Greg Maddux numbers from the early and mid 90's! You don't have to worry at Wrigley Field which way the wind is blowing when players are hitting the ball into the thick infield grass. If this was Sergio's "Glory Day" as a Cub it was great. Hopefully it is not, and this is the beginning for the young sinkerball pitcher.

korey must go

it's been awful enough to watch him over the last few years destroy any hope that might have been invested in him by the organization or the fans. to watch him struggle at the plate year after year now without hope for improvement. to watch him play without thinking in every aspect of the game.

maybe it was last night's irrational throw into the broadcast booth to catch a runner that wasn't tagging that finally tripped me. or maybe its his june "start" -- 5-for-28 (.179) with 9 fans and one RBI in eight games. or it was his two Ks tomorrow, and the two the day after, which it seems we can almost automatically add to that ever-expanding total.

but, one way or another, the conclusion has congealed and is now set in stone. i will not rest easy until korey the klown is gone.

his insipid offense has been the subject of much diatribe here. but there's something less talked about, and that is the poor quality of his defense. most assume that korey's speed means he's a good outfielder. but the numbers tell a different story.

by any measure, k-pat is an average defensive centerfielder at best. his career numbers coming into this year show his range factor per centerfield game (that is, assists and putouts per game played in center) to be 2.02 -- which is to be compared to the centerfield league-average number over that span of 2.19. that means korey makes a play on 10% fewer balls than the average major-league centerfielder. you can also compare it to jim edmonds' 2.52, ken griffey's 2.52, kenny lofton's 2.44 or andruw jones' stellar 2.75. he doesn't have a great arm -- compare korey's average 7 assists a year with the 12-14 that a young griffey or lofton put up, or the 11 that edmonds regularly notches even now.

(UPDATE: an observant comment motivated me to calculate korey's range factor as adjusted for the cubs' staff high strikeout rate keeping balls from getting into play -- korey's team-strikeout-adjusted range factor is 2.23, which can be compared to the league average 2.19 to see that korey is merely average in center.)

where exactly am i supposed to get impressed with patterson's defense? so much for that myth.

folks, there's no denying that this outfield -- k-pat, burnitz, dubois, hollandsworth -- is one of the worst in baseball. average to subpar defensively at every spot, hitting a collective 174-for-675 (.257) with an OBP of .307, slugging a group .426 -- does it get worse? could it?

there isn't one of them i wouldn't flush, with the possible exception of dubois. but the first to go -- along with all the false promises -- has to be korey. he can be improved upon with a number of centerfielders sitting on benches in backup roles or caught in platoons around the majors who could help the cubs now and later make way for felix pie. and the sooner, the better.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

heaven forfend!

i'm just watching the game here and -- please indulge my cub-fan paranoia -- i'm worried about derrek lee.

lee's year has been nothing short of awesome -- he's leading in all three triple-crown catagories coming into today's game. one can't praise him enough, and i've no idea where the cubs would be without him.

but lee has an uncharacteristic four strikeouts in the last four games. yeah, i know -- he's also 6-for-18 with three doubles, 2 rbi and 2 runs scored. and he went 16-for-33 on the road trip just past. but watching him tonight has been disturbing.

lee went looking on three pitches in the first.

then -- on a 3-0 pitch with two on and one away -- he dribbled one out in front of the plate, enabling greg zaun to get out from behind the plate and toss him out.

his third look at josh towers was even more strange. lee worked a 2-1 count, and towers offered a pretty meaty fastball over the outer half -- the kind of ball that lee has made a living driving to the rightfield gap this year. but lee flicked at it, harmlessly fouling it away. the frustration was immediately apparent in lee's reaction. and before i could stop myself, i unconsciously muttered, "he's struggling."

looking back at his gamelog, you can see how he began to flatten out a bit after the first week of may. in fact, from may 7 to 26, lee hit just .216 with 18 strikeouts over 60 at-bats -- he is human, after all. while his recent streak began on may 27 and cleaned up his may splits, it came against two pretty weak pitching staffs in colorado and los angeles, the comeback start of woody williams and lefty torch darrell may. with tougher pitching ahead, it's not beyond speculation to say that this might be the last hurrah for the kind of production that has allowed lee to singlehandedly carry the cub offense.

i think any rational observer has to look at lee's astounding start and realize that -- whatever one wants to happen, however good he is (and he is quite good) -- this can't last. derrek lee simply isn't going to hit .385 and hit 50 home runs while driving in 150. and i think his return to earth may have begun -- at a pretty inopportune time.

lee's batting for the fourth time now, worked a 3-1 count -- and fouled off two straight fat fastballs that came right down main street from pete walker before fighting off an offspeed pitch into shallow left for his first hit tonight. each foul came with more headshaking and frustration.


Cubs go pitching heavy in draft

The Cubs began restocking their organ-eye-zation with pitching on Tuesday. The Northsiders added arms with their first 4 picks and 11 of their first 18 picks. Left handers Mark Pawelek and Donald Veal were the Cubs first two picks. Pawelek becomes the first left handed pitcher selected by the Cubs since Lance Dickson in 1990.

I have no idea how you are supposed to evaluate the MLB Draft. I just like the number of pitchers the Cub selected versus position players. The injuries to Angel Guzman, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have shown us how fragile pitching is.

dusty's managerial pedigree

i was amazed last night at one of dusty's unpredictable and inept in-game moves which exactly opposed what i imagined he should do. down by four in the bottom of the eighth, the young lefty chacin -- who really sparkled -- had been lifted for vinnie chulk, a righty. with the top of the order in hairston coming up, i thought the cubs might be set up for a rally.

instead, dusty lifted hairston for korey the klown.

in the eighth down by four, you need an extended rally. rallies consist of men on base. hairston gets on base -- at a .385 clip against righthanders this year. the klown, of course, does not get on base against anyone. this is old news.

if there's two guys on and one out, then sure -- i understand taking a chance on klown power. (and when that very freakin' situation arose in the ninth, korey's punchy stick had already been wasted.) but to lead off the inning? what for? to steal a base? you need four runs! you're not running anyway!

patterson did what he was destined to do -- three pitches, two swings (including the first goddamn pitch he saw -- natch!) and a grounder to second. at least he didn't fan.

as an aside -- it is still shocking to me somehow to see how little intellectual bearing patterson brings to the plate. there's utterly no plan. i've come to the conclusion that he's just too stupid to maintain an idea at the plate. he must have been told to have an idea up there a million times by now. why doesn't he? why is he swinging at the first pitch he sees off the bench? why is he swinging at the first pitch a new reliever throws out of the pen? why does he consistently go down swinging on the fastball at the eyes that we all know is coming? because, despite almost 2000 major-league at bats, despite endless remedial coaching, despite witnessing derrek lee's disciplined approach and amazing year, he hasn't figured anything out. too dim. and that's why his on-base percentage has crawled to an arid .301 with few prospects of ever getting significantly higher.

anyway, all this seems to be more evidence that dusty is a quite poor game manager who still, despite decades in the game, does not understand basic offensive concepts. he thinks that he didn't take a walk, so no one has to. ever.

dusty only played under walter alston for one year for the dodgers, and lasorda ran him out there for the better part of a decade. tommy's teams in the baker era were heavy on power and only average on walks, relying heavily on pitching. remind you of anything? just a coincidence? i think maybe not.

but can't someone remind dusty that the best dodger teams of those years, the 1977-78 back-to-back NL west champs, were second in the NL in OBP over that span? that even the strike-shortened 1981 club was fourth? and that the 1983 club he probably remembers so well may not have taken a walk, but didn't score just too damn much either?

i suppose no one's going to teach an old dog new tricks. after all, he's still of the mind that if tommy john, don sutton and burt hooton can toss 240 innings a year, so should mark prior, kerry wood and carlos zambrano -- and forget what the doctors say. but the cubs really suffer sometimes for this "players' manager" who lets his team run out of control -- and i'll be happy to see the back of him when the day comes.

Monday, June 06, 2005

where should they be?

i've made the assertion here many times that the cubs are a .500 club, even when they occasionally masquerade as a destitute loser and a playoff contender. it begs the question a bit -- why should they be average? why not better? or worse?

the answer to that question is two-fold. i've made the assertion by looking at winning and losing streaks thusfar that the cubs are likely to fall within a few games of .500 on the basis of their longest streaks in either direction so far this year. of course, the cubs could start a longer streak of some kind later this year and we'd have something new to talk about -- but, on the basis of what we know, even is likely.

secondly, we can assert that the cubs' pythagorean winning percentage -- which is figured from runs scored and allowed -- should give us an idea as to what level they'll play to.

 Posted by Hello

we sorted the NL by divergence from their pythagorean percentage -- so the brewers have underperformed their predicted winning percentage and could reasonably expect to have a better record than they do, and should fare better in the future than they have in the past, all other things being equal. we see that the cubs aren't getting cheated on this measure -- their record is very close to what would be expected.

the most obvious thing that could be said, however, is that the cubs pythagorean percentage is a lofty .562 -- and over the magic .556 that translates into 90 wins and wild-card contention. so why the continued view of a .500 outcome?

in short, the schedule. the cubs -- if they really are a good baseball team despite the manifold flaws we've articulated here -- are going to have to show it over the next several weeks. they've seen the weakest part of their schedule in april and may, and weak competition has probably swollen their net runs scored -- which is third-best in the NL at the moment. now they get the hardest in june and early july, and it will probably suppress their runs scored and inflate their runs allowed.

i have to say that the cubs performance in huge petco park against a really solid and streaking padres club -- taking three of four in style, outscoring them 22-11 -- was impressive. while wins against colorado and the dodgers could be pooh-poohed, this was something different. but then, neither four games nor ten games (in which the cubs are 9-1) nor 24 games (17-7 -- but who's counting?) do a season make.

if, at the all-star break, this cub team has managed -- in spite of the schedule, in spite of the injuries -- to keep scoring significantly more than their opposition, it might be time to re-evaluate the forecast i've put forward.

until then, though, i remain firmly in the .500 camp.

Interleague Play - Use of the DH

Just read that in the offseason, MLB will entertain the idea of using the AL rules in NL & NL rules in AL parks during interleague games. This got me thinking about who the Cubs will use as DH in the coming weeks when they have 6 games on the road vs. AL teams. It seems like Dusty is moving towards a straight platoon situation in LF while giving the nod almost exclusively to Walker at second. With that in mind, will Dusty...

- use these road interleague games as opportunity to get Hairston in the line up to lead off
- use Dubois exclusively in the DH role
- slide Ramirez to DH to give his aching back, groin, etc. a rest
- or none of the above

Friday, June 03, 2005

Breaking News: Corey moves the walkathon

San Diego, CA - Corey Patterson has finally reached double digit walks this season. On Friday night Patterson took 4 bad ones from Padre starter Adam Eaton. With two out in the sixth the Georgia native took 2 balls, fouled a pitch off, and took two more balls! Following his strikeout in the 8th Corey now has 47 K's and 10 walks this season.

Corey's walks come in bunches so keep your eyes peeled this weekend.

cub winning streaks

back when the cubs were taking a seven-game header, we posted a study of cub losing streaks as a means of putting what was happening into some kind of context -- and maybe giving us a peek at what might become of the cubs this year. the conclusion then was this:

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.

well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander -- what the hell does seven straight wins historically mean for this squad? here's the chart.

 Posted by Hello

what does it mean? well, folks, allow me to analyze:

-- of the 104 cub teams charted, 55 won at least seven straight (53%) and 36 won at least eight straight (35%).

-- of the 19 teams which won a maximum of seven straight, 12 were winners and 7 losers; however, only five won at a pace that would yield 90 wins in a 162-game schedule (ie., .556).

one would have to say, on the basis of this winning streak alone, that the cubs stand a good chance of being a winning team this year, but still face only a 1-in-4 chance of managing the 90 wins that has been the minimum to take the wildcard in 8 of the 10 years it's been in place. in other words: keep winning!

perhaps the more comprehensive analysis of the cubs streaks, however, is to use both the max win and max loss streaks in a ratio, and then compare this to winning percentage. while many of the best cub teams didn't go on extended winning streaks, very few of them ever lost more than three or four in a row at any point, keeping their streak ratio (wins:losses) over 2.0 in many cases. (the greatest ever cub team, 1906, won 14 straight against a longest losing streak of just 3 -- a 4.67 streak ratio, second best to 1935's 21:4.) conversely, some of the abysmal teams of yore may not have lost more than 8 or 9 straight, but likewise never won more than 3 or 4.

 Posted by Hello

i included a logarithmic line of best fit as well, to illustrate how the regression manages to cross an even ratio (1:1) almost exactly at a .500 winning percentage. exceedingly few cub teams which couldn't manage a winning streak to match their longest losing streak -- just 3 of 50 -- got to even on the year; from a statistical point of view, these last seven games have reinstilled much of the promise that the losing streak removed.

but that promise remains only .500 -- for now. twenty-nine past clubs have run maximum winning and losing streaks that fall within a game in duration on either side of each other. the average winning percentage of those 29: .502. and only four of them -- a dismal 14% -- finished with a winning percentage greater than .556.

hopefully, the cubs rattle off another few to give me something more optimistic to talk about....

Looks like Hendry will have to buy

For a while now, we have been discussing the fact that Jim Hendry may look to sell as trade talks heat up this summer. It looked like Hendry started selling last Saturday when Hawkins was dealt to the Giants for two good pitching prospects. Who would have thought the Cubs were two games into a seven game winning streak? Today the Cubs wake up in the middle of NL Wild Card race and shockingly only 5.5 games behind the hated Cardinals.

Although the Cubs looked buried 3 weeks ago, the past week they have looked like world beaters. The Cubs season, up to this point, is still is a shade of gray. As bad as the Cubs looked in the 7 game losing streak in early May, they were not that bad. The same can be said for this winning streak, as good as the Cubs look now, they are not this good. I am not taking anything away from the streak and how the team has played. Lee, Perez and Ramirez have been outstanding offensively. The defense has been solid. The pitching. What can you say about the job Rusch, Zambrano and Maddux have done. The young middle relievers have surprised all of us. Ryan Dempster has had decent control so far as closer. There are still many holes on the club at this point.

This winning streak shows Jim Hendry that despite all of the injuries Dusty Baker and this group of Cub players have not given up. Aggressive GM's like Hendry love this stuff. This means he can add a couple of players and (as Dusty says) have action. What will Hendry go after? A leadoff hitter, an outfielder, starting pitching, a reliever or two? When you have a team that stays close a few additions can make a big difference.

In the short term I would like to see Jerome Williams called up to take either Koronka or Mitre's spot in the rotation. I would also like to see Hairston leadoff and play leftfield 3 or 4 days a week. Nothing against the job DuBois has done. Nearing 100 AB's the book is out around the NL on how to handle DuBois. Having him and Corey bat back to back has been real trying on me as I watch these games from Calif.