Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Happy halloween everyone. Here's a treat from the Cubs old PBP announcer.

What a douchebag he is.

Friday, October 19, 2007

this one's for you, brightside

hope things are good in bourbonnais or wherever the hell you are now -- bottom of a lake again? good luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Torre Sticks Finger In Stienbrenner's Eye!

Joe Torre's refusal to accept a one year deal with the Yankees signals what for our Cubs?

We know most players only care about the Benjamin's, but could the absence of Joe Torre help facilitate the departure of Posada, Rivera and A-Rod?

Could Pinella's ties with A-Rod signal his opting out of NY for a deal with the Cubs?

Would the new Cubs owner be willing to make an offer sweet enough to lure A-Rod?

Do we really expect or want our new owner to blow up the team and rebuild? Or worse, stay on a Tribune track and go for meaningless middle of the road acquisitions and say all we need is a little fine tuning to win a World Series?

The new Cub's owner, whoever that may be, will know going in how his predecessor backloaded the shit of the present Cubs roster's payroll. Therefore his only acceptable course of action will be to spend the money, acquire A-Rod and another stud for the rotation.

root root root for the indians

the bosox are the long-imagined brothers-in-futility of the cubs, to be sure, and i'm sure many a cub fan latently pulls for the sawks. but i'm compelled to say -- karmically, i want the cleveland indians to win it all.

why? aligning stars, i suppose, or something equally meaningless. but the tribe hasn't brought home the hardware since 1948.

a few years ago, the list of the longest-deprived teams in the majors read like this:

  1. 1908 -- chicago cubs
  2. 1917 -- chicago white sox
  3. 1918 -- boston red sox
  4. 1948 -- cleveland indians

the sawks removed themselves in 2004. so did the southsiders in 2005.

should cleveland come away with the big one in 2007, that list looks radically different.

  1. 1908 -- chicago cubs
  2. 1954 -- new york/san francisco giants
  3. 1961 -- washington senators/texas rangers
  4. 1962 -- houston colt .45's/astros

that is -- there will be the cubs, the giants at a distance of nearly half a century, and then the beginning of the expansion franchises that haven't really existed long enough to merit the statistical expectation of a world title in my view.

the drought is just as sad/funny/absurd still if one looks at league pennants, regardless of how the redskins come out. the giants won the nl in 2002; cleveland the al in 1997.

  1. 1945 -- chicago cubs
  2. 1961 -- washington senators/texas rangers
  3. 1969 -- montreal expos/washington nationals

one shouldn't, i suppose, trivialize the futility of the texas rangers. 47 years without a pennant is a long time. and yet, the cubs' 63 years is some 35% longer a period.

and isn't it interesting that, without cleveland to kick around, the cubs are heading lists otherwise populated by itinerant (in either name or location) franchises?

anyway, i'm all for relieving the suffering of the people of cleveland -- and if there is some sort of cosmic scorekeeper, maybe that'll be one more scratch on the postiive side of the ledger. go tribe!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

colorado sweeps d'backs to win nl pennant

ah, what could have been... if only the cubs had, rather than being swept by the arizona diamondbacks in three games, moved on!

then they could've been swept in four by a colorado club that has now won 21 of 22 and is steamrolling all before it.

good luck to helton, holliday, hawpe & co. as they take on the still-to-be-decided american league winner.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

As I See It

When the division playoff series started hopes we high for all of the contenders. But how realistic were each teams fans?

3 of the 4 series were sweeps and the fourth was damn near, so what did that tell us?

Were all the teams that lost really that inferior to their foes? I think not, but what rang true in almost every game was that old cliche, "Good Pitching Trumps Good Hitting Every Time."

When a team like the Yankees, who exemplify the gold standard in offensive discipline and production can only squeak out one win, upset Cub fans should cut our men in blue a little slack.

The Cubs pitching was sub par to the D-Backs period, and that was the biggest reason for their ouster.

Are their problems with the Cubs roster? Of course their are but with no real dominant team in the National League, a roster more disciplined at the plate could have made a huge difference. Still, a lock down rotation must be the first issue addressed this off season.

If the Cubs are truly going to play with the big boys, the team is going to have to go and get another stud starter, preferably J. Santana.

This team has enough big name players that are in their prime that anything short of a fire sale dictates bringing in the best free agent pitcher available.

Their is some salary that could be unloaded to ease our new owners sticker shock with acquiring Santana. Marquis, Dempster, Ohman/Eyre and Jones should be moved asap, in order to maximize whatever value they may bring.

K. Wood throwing 98 MPH in game 3 of the playoff series should be validation enough to give him every opportunity to start next year as the closer, with Marmol and Howry in the 8th. and 7th. inning respectively.

K. Hart should be groomed to compete for the 5th. starters spot next season and if he wins the job move the frail Marshall into the bullpen.

You can't continue to have a team that finished near the bottom in the majors in walks this year have a leadoff man with 130 K's. The first 2 hitters have to able able to work the count and the Cubs have a few options with The Riot, DeRosa, Murton and possibly Fontenot that could help set the table for the middle of the lineup.

There has been much debate on Soriano seeing more fastballs in the leadoff spot and that he is more comfortable hitting there.

To address the comfort issue first. Do any of you give a flying fuck if he feels more comfortable or not? Soriano is being paid top dollar to play and hit wherever he's told to. So just give me a fuckin' break about being comfortable.

As far as Soriano seeing more fastballs hitting leadoff. Wouldn't Soriano see more fastballs with Ramirez/Lee or Lee/Ramirez immediately hitting behind him? Let's face it, over half of Soriano's hits are for extra bases and he could be an RBI machine hitting down in the order.

Of course the roster could be upgraded so many different ways but not to address getting another Ace in the rotation would most certainly be the biggest misstep in assuring the Cubs go deep into the playoffs.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I have decided that there is not much reason to discuss the details of the Cubs 3-0 series loss to the Diamondbacks. But let's look at the outcome of the 2007 NLDS and 2007 Cubs season. To do that I wanna quickly flashback to the last game of last season. On that Sunday afternoon the Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies to finish the season 66-96. Behind the scenes the real action was taking place. Andy MacPhail was fired and John McDonough took his place. McDonough made a bold statement that day. Here it is:

"My goal is singular. The purpose of why I have been asked to do this job is for the Cubs to win the World Series. Not win the wild card or win the division or win the pennant, but it's time to win. It's time to win the World Series. And I think we need to reward these tens of millions of fans who have waited for a long time."

What McDonough said in that statement indicates that, despite the NL Central title and playoff appearance, this season was another in a long line of failed Cub seasons. The Cubs did not reach the goal that McDonough stated. So while I enjoyed moments during the 2007 season, unlike division championships past, I am not willing to say 'they had a good season'. It wasn't.

Over the past few months I have heard so-called Chicago Cub fans talk about 'faith' and 'belief' ad nauseum. Fans use these words as if a spiritual belief will win the Cubs a World Series. If that were the case the Cubs would have won as many championships as the Yankees. To the fans who use the words 'faith', 'belief', 'it's gonna happen' I beg you to find a different way to express your Cub love. Maybe a little tough love would be a start. I really believe that turning Cub fandom into a cult-like religion is ruining the experience for many of us. Anyways, just a thought I felt like sharing.

So as the offseason begins, and the Tribune era ends, I will not look back on this season any differently than I do other Cub seasons.

THANKS TO YOU: As the baby bruins head for hibernation, I'd like to thank all of the readers of the crappy/unpopular blog who stopped by the site this season. I'd also like to thank anyone who took the time to comment on something we wrote. IMHO it is the comment threads that really make this blog. My posts will be alot less frequent this winter as I will spend more time with my family. If the Cubs make some news someone will be around to discuss. I hope everybody has a good and safe offseason.

All the best,


Friday, October 05, 2007

all is not lost

i was going to sink all this into the comments of ccd's post from earlier today -- and maybe i should to avoid later embarrassment -- but goddammit, if the season is ending i'm going down posting!

no one, i'm sure, comes to me for optimism. i've called this club a blunderingly-lucky .500 outfit all year. but if i have to judge from the tone of the papers and the comments around the cubosphere, i'm probably the most optimistic cub fan now living in chicagoland.

the cubs lost game one to the best pitcher in the national league on a day when his stuff was working. many people have focused on lou piniella's lifting of carlos zambrano on 85 pitches for carlos marmol as some kind of mistake, but the truth is that when you score one run you aren't in a position to win. the key non-move, in my opinion, was not lifting him an inning earlier for daryle ward when brandon webb was in the only serious trouble of his evening. a hit in that situation would've changed the game radically. but you can't undo it, and you shouldn't expect to beat webb anyhow.

i warned about game two in the comments yesterday.

i think sam holbrook is the plate ump tonight -- not sure because of the line umps, but he did first last night and that's the usual rotation.

holbrook is one of the most egregiously tight umpires in the majors. he ranked 9th of 85 in baserunners/9 and 14th in bb/9 -- 8th of 83 in br/9 and 4th in bb/9 in 2006 -- and 7th in br/9 in 2005.

both pitchers were going to be vulnerable to holbrook; it was likely to be a high-output night. ted lilly caught the short end of that. i personally watched the bottom of the first with a smirk and went to bed in the top of the second -- i actually didn't see young's homer until this morning's coffee. some of that is a concession to the dementia of consecutive weeknight 9pm start times combined with a two-year-old at home, but it also seemed to me baked in that lilly was going to be hurt badly when holbrook got him for two walks in the first three batters. it was a bad night and a bad umpire with which not to have your good control.

doug davis was plenty squeezed as well, but he was plainly attacking the plate early. it cost him on the soto homer, but the truth is that alfonso soriano, derrek lee and aramis ramirez are generally not going to thrive on a big-curve pitcher like davis. they need to be fed fastballs, and when davis came out throwing his bender for more strikes than not and working ahead in the main, the cubs were in trouble. the cubs' big three is now 4 of 27 with 12 fans over the last two games.

so what's to be optimistic about? after all, game 3 in chicago will bring greg gibson behind the plate, and he's an even more offensive-minded umpire than holbrook. livan hernandez is nothing if not a junkballer. and in the end, even if things go well, it all comes back to brandon webb in arizona next tuesday, doesn't it? moreover, did you see the body language on the cub bench?

hey, it's true there's no margin for error now. the nlcs isn't the probable outcome.

but look at games 3 and 4 and there's compelling reason for rational hope. livan hernandez is a bad pitcher, and he's taking the ball saturday. here are the cub career lines against him -- and true to form, lee and soriano don't like him much. but aramis has killed him, as have cliff floyd, jason kendall, mark derosa and daryle ward. moreover, livan has experienced a steep decline in his abilities, which shows up in fewer and fewer strikeouts (just 90 in 204 innings) and more and more home runs allowed (34, including 18 in 89 post-asb innings). with gibson's aid, the cubs should score early and often. the trick will be rich hill keeping the ball in the park, something he's done very well since july. if he does that, the cubs should go to game four easily and provide themselves some much-needed momentum.

micah owings is bob melvin's game four starter, and he's a 24-year-old rookie who didn't make the roster until randy johnson broke down. what's essential to understand about owings is one of the concepts that has vexed readers of the blog all season -- batting average on balls in play. owings solidified his job in the d'back rotation not by getting lots of strikeouts or being very fine but by getting pretty lucky.

it was really a tale of two halves for owings. in the first, he posted a 4.84 era over 16 appearances with an elevated .313 babip. the second half picture, however, improved markedly -- owings has managed since the all-star break a 3.72 era, with his control ticking up (19 bb in 72.2 ip) despite an increasing vulnerability to the long ball (16 in his last 16 starts). however, and most encouragingly for the cubs, this came on a .233 second-half babip -- indeed, most if not all of owings' improvement is the product of luck on balls in play, which was particularly incredible in september (.161 babip over 4 starts).

in short, while not a bad pitcher on the order of livan, owings isn't nearly as good as he sometimes seems. his approach is also encouraging to the cubs fastball-loving core -- a low-90s heater is his primary pitch, with a slider and changeup that are still works in progress. the cubs saw him twice in 2007, so there's not much matchup data. he lasted four innings on 95 pitches on july 21, and took the loss august 24. he's had a lot of trouble with lefthanded batters, so expect good things of jacque, floyd and ward. (owings is, however, a fine hitter -- just tossing that in there. melvin wouldn't be dumb to hit this kid fourth, and he'll have a future a la rick ankiel if the arm gives out.)

again, the critical aspect: zambrano -- can he come back on three days rest after a short outing, can he keep the demons at bay in front of what is sure to be an energized crowd, and can he suppress the walks? if the answers are yes, the cubs should do well -- and he's likely to get some help in the form of game 4 plate umpire mike everitt, one of the most pitcher-friendly umpires in the majors. that'll help owings too (though probably not nearly as much as loose corners will help big z) and it might be a low-scoring affair, but the cubs should definitely be favored.

now of course there's no crystal ball in any of this -- but if the cubs can take these two in chicago, they should be riding considerable momentum back to arizona to face webb. that gives them a chance -- after all, the d'backs lost in 12 of webb's 34 starts. but the overarching point is simply this: contrary to simply projecting the last two games forward, the cubs should be heavy favorites in both the next two games.

NLDS: Outclassed

Photos from the Chicago Tribune

Well, it didn't take long for the Cubs to find themselves on the brink of elimination. As a matter of fact by the end of the second inning it began to feel that way. The walls started closing in at that point. You know the drill Cub fans: it doesn't stop, it doesn't get any better. The ending is never good.

This series hasn't even been close. The young Diamondbacks have outpitched, outhit, outran, outplayed and outclassed the Chicago Cubs. Last month I called the NL Central the worst race imaginable. There was not a team in the NL Central that deserved to make the playoffs. Guess what? The Cubs have proved that. I made the mistake of letting my imagination go following last weekend when the Cubs clinched in Cincy. This team was not good enough all season. They are not good enough now.

There was so much blame to go around tonite. It all began with piss poor starting pitching from Ted Lilly. There was the poor managing by Dust...errr I mean Lou Piniella, who left Lilly in long enough to ensure that the Cubs struggling offense wouldn't come back. And what about that Cub offense. Well three players in particular, the three superstars Lee, Soriano and Ramirez are 4-27 in the series with 12 strikeouts. Then there were all the little things that the Cubs did wrong a the D-backs did right. Pitchers that can't bunt an outfielder that's afraid of the wall. Just pathetic. So the Cubs have had the grand slam this series bad pitching, bad hitting, bad fundamentals and bad managing. That's a recipe for a sweep.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

NLDS game 1 recap

photo from the Chicago Tribune
A pair of aces faced off in the desert on Wednesday nite. Both aces pitched up to their fans expectations. Carlos Zambrano went 6 innings, allowed 4 hits, 1 walk, struckout 8 and only allowed 1 earned run on a homerun by Stephen Drew. Brandon Webb matched Z plus one inning. He threw 7 innings, he too allowed 4 hits, walked 3, struckout 9, while allowing only one run on a bases loaded infield single by Ryan Theriot.

In the bottom of the seventh, Lou Piniella turned to his bullpen and rookie Carlos Marmol. Marmol has been awesome this season and saved the Cubs in so many situations. Tonite was not the youngsters night. Marmol gave up a leadoff homerun to Mark Reynolds, after striking out Jeff Salazar he walked Chris Snyder (who the fuck are these guys?) and the great Auguie Ojeda doubled. Conor Jackson hit a sac fly to center and the D-backs had a 3-1 lead after 7 innings played.

In the 8th Brandon Lyon got flyouts on two well hit balls by Ramirez and Floyd amd Mark Reynolds made a sparkling play on DeRosa. At this point you should have just gone to bed because Jose Valverde was warming up in the D-back bullpen.

The Cubs offense had chances throughout the nite to get more runs off of Webb. They had a leadoff double by Z in the third and he never moved. In the fifth Ryan Theriot reached second on a throwing error by Mark Reynolds. As opposed to sacrificing, Piniella let Z swing away and he lined out. Soriano flied to center and the Cubs had missed an opportunity to score a run. With two outs in the sixth the Cubs loaded the bases and Theriot got their only run in on his infield hit. The Cubs would leave the bases loaded when Z struckout. The Cubs big three (Soriano, Lee and Ramirez) were a combined 1-13 in this game. The Cubs as a team were 1-10 with runners in scoring position. Webb and the D-back pen deserve alot of credit for that.

So the Cubs are down 1-0. The good news is they were not supposed to beat Webb. The bad news is now they have to win the next three ballgames. We also start to see how the Diamondbacks won all of those games. Oh well. It's never easy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

it's time to play some baseball

sentimentality has so often been the unperceived enemy of this team and the fans who unwittingly embrace it -- in december and in march and in june.

it's been the source of a thousand excuses, a thousand faults, a thousand failures for this ballclub that has done nothing so well since the second world war as exploit the siren song of baseball fantasies past as a shallow and derivative substitute for baseball reality present.

but there's also simply no denying that, once they're in the playoffs -- in october -- every cub fan is not only right but bound to survey what has happened, and to hope for what might finally happen. what is in ordinary times mere maudlin escapism can, in extraordinary moments and on the precipice of true achievement, become something quite different. what has been dissipative can suddenly lend focus. what has been destabilizing can now act as ballast. what has divided and scattered can collect and unite.

chuck over at ivy chat presents this bit of art from the hand of vin scully that strikes now with resonance where just weeks ago it could so easily have echoed hollow. now is the time -- that rare time -- to take a moment to immerse yourself in the current of emotion and gain from it a deeper understanding of what is happening that no analysis can provide.

it's times like these that my weaker aspects most pity the people who spend their every day, season after season, trying to drown themselves in sentimentality and emotionalism through this team. a part of me is inclined to wonder if they can at all appreciate the truly exquisite quality of this moment, or if it is just another bigger hit from the same old pipe lost and diluted among so many others.

and yet my better nature realizes that it somehow hardly matters -- what has divided and scattered now collects and unites.

it's time to play some october baseball for all cub fans everywhere, all of us harboring honest hope for what might finally be happening -- the fulfillment of lifetimes of anticipation, to for once see a final act not of tragedy but of triumph.

NLDS Preview Roundtable

Following the joy that was the Cubs NL Central title last week, the 1060west crew sat down to discuss the season and preview the upcoming playoffs. Here are the thoughts:

Q: Alright, with the 2007 regular season in the bag what surprised you about the Cubs?

Vehere: First the positive - No significant injuries to the starting staff and Lou did a great job un-Dustifying this team. Negative - A bit suprised at the lack of power and the offensive droughts that followed.

John Dooley: Believe it or not, I really felt Lilly and Hill were capable of putting together a solid '07. What I was most surprised about was Jason Marquis stability. Say what you will, the man will never be mistaken for Cy Young, BUT, the man in high socks gave us a Jaime Navarro-like plus 30 starts.

Jack: My biggest surprise with this year's club was the lack of power. I honestly expected to see Soriano, Lee and Ramirez all finish with at least the 30 home runs. Other than that I'd say the emegence of Ryan Theriot. While he faded pretty bad down the stretch (.202/.257/.263 in September), there's no way I saw him earning as much playing time as he got this year.

CCD: I am surprised how healthy the starting rotation stayed. When you get the number of starts the Cubs got from Z, Lilly, Hill and Marquis you will probably have a good season. I was shocked by the teams resilience. Most Cub teams would have packed it in after June 1st. That's what I expected this team to do.

Goldwater: Ted Lilly’s emergence as a frontline starter. At the age of 31 he discovers how to throw strikes? Prior to 2007, Lilly consistently averaged about four walks per nine. In 2007, he lowered that to 2.5 while maintaining his excellent strikeout rate. Lilly’s 3.2 K/BB was good for sixth in the NL. I’m not sure who is responsible, but someone needs to find him and introduce him to Donnie Veal.

gaius marius: the luck of the pitching staff! someone crammed a horseshoe up larry rothschild's ass.

Q: How do you compare(or rank) this regular season compared to 84, 89, 98, & 03?

Vehere: I'm a little less excited and more cautiously optimistic for '07. This is exactly the type of tea that can win it all if the pitching and defense gets on a roll like we've seen from WS teams in the past couple years.

John Dooley: Hate to say it, buccos. This team reminds me more of the 98 squad than anything else. Crazy wins, good times, etc. The 1984 squad was by far the best of the five. The 1989 squad may have been the luckiest in the history of baseball. They are too inconsistent to TRULY rank above any of the four teams.

Jack: This regular season reminds me most of the '98 season. Not that I necessarily think we'll get swept in the first round, but I both teams were mediocre clubs that benefited from playing a weak schedule. At this point though there really is no reason to get hung up on that because if recent history has taught us anything it would be that anything can happen in the playoffs.

CCD: Playoff appearances were tougher to get in 84 an 89. Only two teams made it from each league so those two were bigger. Also at the time the Cubs hadn't been to the postseason since the series in 1945. So 98, 03, and 07 are great fun, but these teams have to have success in the postseason to even make the final four. Personally, I am tired of playoff appearances without success.

Goldwater: Personally: 89 > 03 > 07 > 98 > 84In ’84 I was blissfully unaware of the impending painful addiction that is Cub fandom. 2003 appeared to be the emergence of a dominant squad, whoops (special thanks to Dusty Baker for abusing that young staff like Zambrano abuses his keyboard).

gaius marius: unfortunately last so far -- little of the drama or quality of 1984, 1998 or even 2003 -- but that may change as the playoffs go on....

Q: Is there a moment in the regular season that you will remember as the greeting card moment for the 2007 side?

Vehere: Lou's blow up against the umps when the Braves were here. I think that really helped focus some of these guys who had been sleepwalking at that point.

John Dooley: Obviously, the Ramirez homer. But I have a close #2.
It's a game that people have suspiciously forgotten about. The Rain Delay Game in Pittsburgh. The Cubs came to bat down 6-1 (?), and through a barrage of doubles and Cliff Floyd's mammoth shot, the Cub took the lead. I hadn't seen a Cub team win like that since '03. It was damn impressive and helped me fall in love with this group.

Jack: Without question I think Aramis' walk-off shot against Milwaukee was the defining image of this year's season. It was the rubber match of a three game set we had against them at Wrigley and it probably served as the turning point of the season. Had the Cubs failed to reach the postseason I think we could rest assured that this would've gone to either Barrett and Z coming to blows, or Piniella kicking dirt on the umpire the next day.

CCD: Aramis walk off homer against the Brewers because it showed the Brewers had a major weakness in the pen. The arrival of Carlos Marmol as a bullpen presence. IMHO Marmol is this teams MVP.

Goldwater: August 22nd, 4-2 win in 10 versus the Giants. I watched with a buddy of mine in Vancouver who hadn’t followed the Cubs all year long; it was his first experience seeing Marmol (2 IP, 4K) make people look silly, and he reacted about the same way we all do, giddily.Honorable mention to June 1st, when Michael Barrett’s mental illness was first diagnosed by the masses.

gaius marius: barrett and zambrano knocking skulls, and piniella's tired old vaudeville act the next day -- i'd have bet you a million dollars that team was going in the tank!

Q: If you were making the Cubs NLDS 25-man playoff roster would these guys make it? Kevin Hart? Jason Marquis? Sean Marshall? Will Ohman? Henry Blanco? Ronny Cedeno? Mike Fontenot? Craig Monroe? Felix Pie?

Vehere: Hart and Pie definitely. Marquis is a tough call, in a short series, I don't trust him, especially with what he did the last few weeks of the season. Marshall would be nice to keep around, but I'm not sold.

Fuck Will Ohman and his barking shoulder. He and his can of gas can stay at home.

I'd love to see Hank White behind the dish, but the way Soto is playing, he'd be left out on my roster.

Cedeno, Fontenot, and Monroe - not everyone has to play like litle league, right? Off, but if there was room, Monroe would stick as my RH bat off the bench.

John Dooley: Will Ohman, Henry Blanco, Ronny Cedeno, goodbye. No backup shortstop? No problem.

Jack: I don't think there's a chance in hell Blanco will be on the roster. Soto has just been too good to not give him a spot, and obviously there's no room for three catchers.

Hart, Ohman, and Marshall belong for sure. Hart throws strikes and has been huge down the stretch, and even though Ohman hasn't been great this year, at the very least he can serve as a lefty specialist. I still think he's been mismanaged for the better part of this season, but if he can see strictly lefties I think he can be effective. Marshall belongs because he's probably the 4th best starter on the team, and at the very worst he can be a good back-up plan in case someone (proabably Marquis) has a short outing.

Cedeno will probably be on the roster simply because he's the only other feasible option at short, and given Theriot's slow finish and questionable health, we might see Cedeno. For what it's worth, he raked in 23 September ABs (.391/.417/.696). As huge as Fontenot was earlier this year, I think it would be a big mistake to put him on the roster. He's been (predictably) pretty awful since the ASB (.215/.307/.262), and since he can really only play second he'd be a waste of a roster spot.

Lou has said he won't platoon Jones this postseason which probably means there will be no room for Monroe. He hasn't hit much at all since coming over (.204/.291/.347) and Pie is undoubtedly the better runner and defender. With that said, I think Pie belongs for sure. It just wouldn't make sense to cut your fastest runner and best outfielder.

CCD: I would keep Kevin Hart and Jason Marquis on the roster. Personally, I'd keep Ronny Cedeno as far away from this team as possible? Monroe and Pie should stay too.

Goldwater: Hart = yes
Marquis = sigh
Marshall = no
Ohman = yes
Blanco = no
Cedeno = yes
Fontenot = no
Monroe = no
Pie = yes

gaius marius: do any of them have to? pie as a defensive replacement/pinch runner; marshall over marquis as fourth starter

Q: How do you feel about the matchup with Arizona?

Vehere: I think the Cubs should do well against them, but it hinges on their pitching. They are going to need the best starts from Z, TLR, and Hill. Oh, and they have to remember to pack the bats they used against Pittsburgh and not the bats from Miami.

John Dooley: Brandon Webb. We have struggled with The Snake for YEARS. Why should I feel that things should change? I don't. I have Zona winning this thing 3-1. But, I hope to be proven wrong.

Jack: I'm not going to lie-- I'm nervous about the matchup with Arizona. Almost all the experts are picking the Cubs in this one, but this D-Backs team reminds me a lot of the '03 Marlins. It's a group of relative unknowns who have quietly played pretty well all year. They have a few guys who can wreck havoc on the basepaths, and in Juston Upton they have a young rookie phenom just like Miguel Cabrera in '03.

CCD: What really scares me about this matchup is I think the Cubs should win. That means they are doomed.

Goldwater:Hopefully, the team that defied Pythagoras is due for a letdown. Obviously, getting to their starters is paramount. Overall, this seems like a very nice draw.

gaius marius: pretty good -- this is a team the cubs can beat.

Q: Besides Brandon Webb, is their a particular D-Back that you are concerned about in this upcoming series?

Vehere: Chris Young gives me a little fear, but only because
of his speed on the basepaths and his defense.

John Dooley: Mr. Young seems to have a personal vendetta against me. I don't feel good about him one bit. Oh yeah. Doug F'n Davis.

Jack: Other than Webb, I'm scared of Chris Young. He had a hell of a series against us in Chicago this July, and he's clearly the biggest power threat on the team. Arizona didn't score much this year, but he's one guy who can put runs up in a hurry. That and he can impact the game in a big way on the basepaths (27 SB).

CCD: If the Cubs are down heading to the ninth inning it will be game over. Jose Valverde has been lights out this season. Rally off of their pen in the 6th, 7th and 8th because the 9th is pretty much locked down.

Goldwater: Let’s hope that Justin Upton’s coming out party is postponed until next year. Pitch around Owings!

gaius marius: chris young -- potential game-changer.

Q: Historically the playoffs are filled with bit players that stepup and make a big contribution in the playoffs, who will that be for the Cubs this series?

Vehere: Cliff and Soto are my picks to click.

John Dooley: Daryl Ward will be healthy. He is the Jeffrey Leonard
of the serie de ano.

Jack: I'm gonna go with Geovany Soto on this one. I have a feeling we'll see a lot of him, and I think he has a chance to have a big series. The jury is probably still out on Soto around the league considering he's only had 54 ABs coming into the postseason, so Arizona probably won't have a specific game plan against him. That and if he can keep Young and Byrnes from running all over the place (because I doubt Kendall can) he'll have an even bigger impact.

CCD: I think Jacque Jones might have a big series.

Goldwater: Ronny Cedeno’s projected OPS (a THT estimate based on batted ball data) is about 200 points higher than his actual OPS. He’s due. Put him on the roster.

gaius marius: i'll spin the wheel to select... ryan theriot.

Q: Will Piniella have an impact on this series from the bench?

Vehere: Lou's been doing a pretty decent job so far, so I'd expect that he'll be more of a help than a hinderence to success in the playoffs.

John Dooley: Sleeping impacts nothing.

Jack: I think the biggest impact Lou will have from the bench will have to do with the lineup he runs out there. Not to beat a dead horse or anything but I think we have to hope he writes in Soto's name for the majority of the series. Other than that a few good pitch-out calls could go a long way.

CCD: At this point I think Lou's work is done it is up to the players. One thing that I would keep an eye on this Lou using the squeeze in a key situation. He did it against the Sox earlier this year and that brought back memories of when he pulled that stunt in the ALDS for the Mariners against the Sox in 2000. Keep that play in the mind throughout the playoffs.

Goldwater: Let’s hope not. Now is not the time for conventional wisdom regarding playoff small-ball. The D-Backs are very good in close games in large part because of their bullpen, but Chris Snyder is no slouch behind the plate (45% caught stealing; league average is 25%). No need to get clever.

gaius marius: god i hope not -- if he does, it's probably a fuck-up.

Q: Are you rooting for a specific team in the other NLDS?

Vehere: None.

John Dooley: Yes. I'm rooting for the Yankees to play the Red Sox. I don't care what anybody thinks. More exposure for baseball, the better.

Jack: In a word: No. The Phillies and Rockies are hotter than hell right now, and the Padres' pitching scares me. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are, but I dont' think we've fared well against any of those teams this year. Not that we were much better against Arizona (2-4).

CCD: There are other series'?

Goldwater: No

gaius marius: colorado -- they're the lesser team, imo.

Q: Will the Cubs win this series? How many games? If they elected a series MVP (I don't believe they do in the NLDS) who would it be?

Vehere: Cubs in 4 games. Soto and Cliff tied for MVP.

John Dooley: The Cubs will not win the series. The series MVP will be Brandon
Webb. Via his two-hit shutout in Game 1.

Jack: I hate to say it, but I don't see the Cubs coming out on top. The D'Backs have home field, Brandon Webb, a filthy dirty bullpen, and a lineup full of hungry kids. Like I mentioned earlier, Arizona played us really tough this year, and unless the Cubs can keep up the recent power surge, I think it'll be Arizona in 4, with Brandon Webb earning MVP honors with two series victories. But hey-- hopefully I'm wrong.

CCD: I think the Cubs win this series in 4. If it goes 5 I do not like their chances against Brandon Webb in the desert. Either way, stealing a game from Webb would go a long ways in sending the Cubs back to the NLCS. Series MVP will be Fonzie.

Goldwater: Cubs in five. Soriano.

gaius marius: cubs in four, following aramis ramirez.

Q: Any other random thoughts you have on the season or this playoff matchup?

Vehere: FU Steve Trachsel and Go cubs.

John Dooley: This will be the best playoffs since 1986. Trust me.

Jack: For the Cubs to stand a chance, I think two things will have to happen. 1) They'll have to strike early and often against Arizona's starters. Their bullpen is so tough (led the majors in saves with 51), that it's almost impossible to claw back after the 6th inning. 2) Carlos Zambrano is going to have to bring his A game .He'll be matched up against Brandon Webb, and if he melts-down like he did for most of September, this will be a short series.

Goldwater: Chris Young has the second lowest line drive rate among qualified NL hitters.

gaius marius: can you believe that this could be the club that breaks The Drought? they aren't good enough... are they?

CCD: Thanks to all of you guys for participating. I don't think this series will be easy, but I think it is winnable for this team. Anything can happen in five games.

Monday, October 01, 2007

beating arizona

here it comes. that dour old bastard gaius marius is going to shit all over the cubs even in their moment of victory. the rest of the world is rallying, and here's this guy, what a sad, sad man.

given the expectation, let me get the bile out of the way first: i have to admit that i can't recall seeing a rally staged in this town for a club that hasn't won anything yet. as a measure of pure fan desperation, it doesn't get a lot more sorry than that.

but i'm having a hard time fulfilling expectations on the rest.

the cubs are on their way to face the arizona diamondbacks this wednesday, taking what everyone hopes is just the first step of many between here and november. while the cubs finished with just the sixth best record in the league at 85-77, arizona finished a league-best 90-72 in a year without any extraordinary team performances. that usually isn't cause for hope.

but it's hard to position the diamondbacks as a fearsome club. though they were the most consistent team in baseball while posting winning records in five of six months (and going 13-13 in july), they also scored just 712 runs while allowing 732. that the best team in the league was outscored this year is testament to both the unexceptional quality of teams in the national league overall and the freakishness of this season. if the cubs defied the gods by riding improbably strange babip to the playoffs, arizona one-upped them by going 32-20 in one-run games.

what they were pretty good at was pitching. they allowed the fifth-fewest runs in the league at 4.52 per game. but it has to be said that outperformance in this department is heavily concentrated on two aspects of the club: brandon webb and the bullpen.

webb is a force of nature. though his august was babip-aided, even in the remaining normal months he was very impressive. with just 12 home runs allowed in 236.1 innings, he collapses the oppostion power game. when combined with good control and being very hard to hit... well, the cubs should not expect to win any game he starts. the d'backs were 22-12 in them.

they have also shortened games with a bullpen built around jose valverde, brandon lyon, lefty doug slaten, juan cruz and tony pena. pena and slaten, however, have been vulnerable since august, and cruz has a history of volatility. lyon moreover has an era that rather defies the physics of runs allowed, being neither particularly hard to hit nor getting a lot of strikeouts. as a group, this lot has outrun expectations all year and isn't as intimidating as its earned run average would seem to indicate.

arizona figures to go with doug davis, livan hernandez and micah owings behind webb in a four-man rotation. davis is a lefty, but an unexceptional one and the cubs have done quite well against left-handed pitching this season. i find it interesting that they have chosen to start him at home -- davis has struggled somewhat at chase field (4.75 era, 111 h in 96.2 ip) and been stronger on the road (3.75 era, 100 h in 96 ip), which could be a function of the famously thin arizona air. livan has been battered most of the year, particularly in the second half, is very susceptible to the long ball and is not a good starter. owings is a 24-year-old whose sparkling second half is completely a function of abnormally low babip; he's a reasonable control pitcher who does not dominate with strikeouts. he's been somewhat stronger at home (3.81 era) than on the road (4.96 era), and probably should change places with davis -- but it ain't my decision.

if you find all this unimpressive, you can join me. against these guys the cubs will send a three-man rotation of carlos zambrano, ted lilly and rich hill, coming back with a short-rested zambrano in game four to face owings. you can't expect to win the first game against webb, but the cubs put superior pitching matchups on the field for the following three games.

to help cub pitching, what arizona was not particularly good at was scoring. arizona placed 14th in the nl, managing just 4.40 runs/game. much of this, however, should be seen to be a function of a depressed first-half babip. in a more normal second half environment, the offensive output of the club was a more respectable 4.73 rs/g and 253/327/428 team line. this is a decently powerful ballclub with 171 home runs, despite only chris young having exceeded 30 homers as an individual. the first base platoon of conor jackson and tony clark hit 32 combined, 23-year-old third baseman mark reynolds hit 17 in just 366 ab, and every full-season regular hit at least 10. but it is not a patient team, and strikes out plenty (particulary reynolds and young, who normally hit fifth and first).

anyone who has read this blog all year understands that i think the cubs are a .500 ballclub masquerading, with the help of a lot of luck, as a playoff team. i think the same can be said of the arizona diamondbacks. webb is their sole standout player, with the club around him being best described as competent. the cubs can and should beat this team in a best-of-five, primarily by winning the games webb doesn't play in. if they can win game one behind zambrano, it should go even more smoothly.

luck is going to play a huge role of course, but it's going to be up to the cub offense to stand out and the cub bullpen to hold together. the cubs went 17-12 in september to help themselves to the division crown, and they did it on the back not of great pitching but of a resurgently powerful offense. many wondered all year where the anticipated power in the cub lineup had gone, but in september the home runs flooded in like late mail. the team hit 45 home runs in those 29 games, including alfonso soriano's 14; they won't keep that pace up. but they also walked 95 times to boost their september obp to a season-high .351 in the month. if the walks can be combined with some continued power -- probably not against webb, but against davis, livan and owings -- the runs should be more than enough.

provided, that is, that the likes of bob howry, carlos marmol, kerry wood, scott eyre and ryan dempster -- particularly dempster -- don't blow up. bullpen luck is perhaps the biggest variable in any five-game series, and there's no predicting it. but with some more kind glances from that pretty old dame fortune, it seems to me that the cubs should be moving deeper into october.