Monday, June 20, 2005

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.

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