Friday, September 30, 2005

Concerns about Prior

Wednesday's 2005 home finale showed all of the Cubs warts. In the bottom of the ninth the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out. You know the rest... Patterson struckout (surprise, surprise), Grieve whiffed and the Gremlin popped out. Game over, home season over, time to rip down the bleachers. My concerns, though, do not lie in the outcome of the game nor in the Cubs offensive failures. I am very concerned about what we saw out of Mark Prior.

Prior's day was all to typical of his starts this season. He threw 97 pitches in only 5 innings. Along the way he allowed 6 hits, and (gulp) 4 walks, 3 runs of which only one was earned. The number of pitches and the walks are not what we expect from Prior. Still this year he has had more outings like this than the dominant starts we have come to expect from Mark Prior.

In Prior's five starts in September he went 6, 6.2, 5, 6, and 5 innings. Since he was hit on the right elbow on May 27th, Prior has not looked right. His starts have been fine for a number four starter, but that is not what the Cubs need or expect from #22. Here's what he said about his performance:
"I was out of sync," Prior said. "I felt out of sync all day. I never was able to get into a groove, for whatever reason -- I don't know. The ball never felt comfortable coming out of my hand today. My breaking ball was awful. Some days you show up and for whatever reason it doesn't line up."

So as we look ahead to 2006 what should we expect from Prior. Can he be the ace that he was in 2003 or will he be the injury-prone pitcher we have seen over the past 2 seasons.

A Good Sign?
I was surprised to read in today's Bright One that Jim Hendry recognizes that the Cubs need some help in the starting rotation.
"But we would look into [acquiring another starter] if we could, if you find somebody that's the right guy and could make the staff deeper. I'm happy with the way [No. 5 starter] Jerome Williams has pitched at times. But we need to augment the pitching.''

Starting pitching, relief pitching, outfielders, a leadoff guy, some speed, the list goes on and on... Jim Hendry is going to have alot of work in front of him. I for one do not want to go into another season counting on Wood and Prior to anchor this pitching staff.

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