Tuesday, May 24

Hey, we could be playing the Royals instead...

So, the first Interleague series is in the books. It might be better if it wasn't, as the weekend allowed the Cardinals to open up a little more breathing room given their fierce competition against the Royals at the same time.

The Cubs series was punctuated with the season's hallmarks so far: 2-out RBIs, bullpen collapses, and Dusty Baker's enigmatic managerial style. Rather than go through game by game straight-up, I've got some winners and losers for the weekend. But first, to warm up, some beloved stats and observations.

- Scoring
The series scoring broke fairly evenly, with the White Sox on top 13-8. Of the 11 series runs coming with two outs, the split was 6-5 Southside.

- Starting Pitching Fun
The Cubs trio (Maddux, Zambrano, Prior) threw an average of 14.74 pitches per Inning, while the White Sox (Freddy Garcia, Contreras, McCarthy) tossed 13.35 PPI.

As it breaks down:
White Sox - 258 pitches, 168 strikes, 76 batters faced (Avg. 3.40 pitches per Batter)
Cubs - 339 pitches, 212 strikes, 89 batters faced (Avg. 3.80 PPB)

So what does all this mean? It could mean a plethora of things, depending on your interpretation. The Cubs 3 threw 23 innings of work compared to 19 1/3 from the White Sox, the difference coming on Sunday when McCarthy left after 5 1/3 while Prior tossed a complete game.

Dusty seems to be gravitating more towards an old-school approach - screw the concept of middle relief, and let your starters go as deep as their arms will allow, while completely disregarding the pitch counts. (If you count Rusch's effort vs. Houston last night, which I will get to later on, he went 8 Innings, throwing 108-69, facing 29: 3.74 PPB ... not bad for a part-time starter and bullpen guy)

While it could be a smart move in the interim to ride the hot pitching and get the team back on track, the idea of exhausting the starting rotation because you don't necessarily trust your bullpen on a daily basis isn't entirely wise. The only way to improve their confidence and collective team faith in their abilities is to let them pitch and figure it out, as opposed to hiding them in the dugout all night while Glendon Rusch pops his tendons out with every change-up.

It's just something to think about - I'm curious to hear any other interpretations of this emerging trend. Look for LB to bust out the PPB and PPI stats a bit more from now on, if they mean anything at all.

Winners and Losers : Jimi Hendrix "Cross-Town Traffic" Edition

1. Paul Konerko, 1B
The burly White Sock socked more than his fair share over the series, batting 5-12 with a HR, 4 RBI and 2 R. It represented the best of a balanced Southside offense, and it also showed Konerko's best D-Lee impression (2-9, RBI, R this weekend).

2. Joe Borowski, RP
Return of the Joe! The Massive Messiah himself took the mound for real on Friday night, and managing to give the Cubs something to cheer about on an otherwise disappointing evening. He pitched a scoreless, hitless 9th inning, tossing 14 pitches (9 strikes) in a 1-2-3 outing. While the Cubs still lost, Borowski's assured and fire-throwing performance gives the bullpen a new saviour, and hopefully one that can perform and even close in tandem with the steadying Ryan Dempster.

3. Mark Prior, SP
Despite excellent pitching performances all round this weekend on both sides

Freddy Garcia: 7 IP, 5 H, BB, 3 K
Jose Contreras: 7 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 4 K
Carlos Zambrano: 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 8 K (Took a no-hitter into the 5th)

to name but 3, Mark Prior is the 3rd Foxiest Lady this series witnessed. Surrounded by a scrappy and gutsy performance by the offense, Prior saw just enough runs scratched out by the Cubs lineup to keep him in the hunt, tossing the complete game (6 H, 3 ER, 7 K) to steal a win from the Southside. He was calm, he was fiery, he was Zambrano-esque, pitching with emotion and heart and getting himself out of any trouble he cared to get himself in for the full 9 innings. Simply superb, and I hope that Wood and Wuertz were watching and taking notes before they turn it around.

1. Juan Uribe, 2B/SS
Poor Juan. Perhaps the only Sock to Suck with the bat overall, he enjoyed a wonderful 0-11 performance, striking out 3 times and leaving 5 men on base during his time at the plate. Perhaps a call from an equally lacklustre Jose Reyes in Queens, NY might help -- the two could learn a lot from each other.

2. Michael Wuertz, RP
Leave it to the Cubs bullpen to produce the ugliest line of the series:

2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER

Wuertz relished his time on the Wrigley mound, taking 22 pitches to undo the stellar work of El Toro's 108-pitch flirt with perfection. Squandering the Cubs lead, he gave the undeserving White Sox yet another win and gave the Cardinals a little bit more breathing room in the division standings.

His outing had it all - strikeouts, two consecutive infield singles to Hairy and Neifi respectively (wake-up, Guys) before Konerko brought them home with a single that actually cleared the infield. Leaving the game immediately thereafter, Will Ohman gave Wuertz something else to think about, allowing the inherited runner to score on a Carl Everett double and adding more misery to Michael's precious stats.

The Inning ended with a third pitcher used, and gave the White Sox 4 runs on 5 hits, enough to win and ruin Zambravo's hard work.

3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Perhaps still troubled by spasms and nightmares of being replaced by Jose Macias in the lineup, our tubby Third Bagger suffered through a difficult weekend, going 1-10 and leaving 5 on base in the process. His average slid to .238 on the season, and the specters of the "Moises Alou/Sammy Sosa Farewell Party" are still hovering a little. Perhaps. His offense is struggling, and as we've all said before, the fate of the season rests on shoulders like his. This slump won't last (3-19, 0 RBI last week), but it doesn't help when you're playing "The Best Team in Baseball" (shhh, I hope I never have to say that again).

Still to come this afternoon, perhaps:
- Cub o' the Week -- whose cuisine reigned supreme?
- The Cubs week Ahead: (Houston + Colorado)*Wrigley = Easy?
- News (if I can find any)

Comment away!


At 2:18 PM, Blogger Jim said...

To be fair, Rusch threw 108 pitches, and that's about how many pitches Dusty has been allowing pitchers to throw regardless of the number of innings they pitch, as long as they've got the lead or the game is very close. Add to that they fact that Rusch can handle the bat well and you've got a recipe for eight innings. But I'd like to see our starters going deeper more often.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger JT said...

Oh man, believe me I love the Rumblin' Rusch-ian, that wasn't a crack at him at all.

Do you think that is the way forward for the team? Try and wring 8 Innings/105-110 pitches from our starters every game?

Oh, and the Zambrano troubles, that is a little funny, don't you think? Possible symptoms due to too many emails to his brother?

Just seeing that quote from Dusty about the dangers of the Internet and how addictive it can be was hilarity enough... let's go Sergio tonight!

At 2:35 PM, Blogger JT said...

Here it is...

"The thing I've seen about people on the computer and the Internet is that it's addicting," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We told him not to get on it, and you turn around and he's on the computer."

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I believe it. And it's good to see zaniness back in baseball, although I hope Zambrano takes care of that forearm.

Baseball needs a Dizzy Dean, what with the drugs and all. Players could learn a lot from those old guys like Dean, who told a different story to every reporter because he "wanted them all to have a good story."

Dusty should study Case Stengel. The Yankee's great manager talked in circles whenever he was interviewed, giving the sports writers absolutely nothing to quote. The writers thought him a complete idiot who benefitted from managing a team that needed no manager. They were astounded to learn that he ran a string of banks in California and was a multi-millionaire.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Burny! Burny! Burny! Burnitz is Bat Man! Oh, yeah, old time baseball is back in Wrigley. Strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.

Even Ramiriz played a solid role tonight, prolonging his last at bat until the pitcher threw one away, allowing the fourth run to score. Then he stepped up in the field to grab a ball destined for left field and throwing the runner out for the final out of the game.

And how about that Dempster!


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