Thursday, July 14

Wrigley welcomes the Swashing Bucklers

As mentioned yesterday, the Pirates are in town now for a 4-game set. Some intriguing pitching matchups, including the Bucs' supposed saviour (don't worry Pittsburgh, once he gets to Schmidt-like status, you'll trade him for a bag of cashews and Luis Sojo) Zach Duke against old-time swinger Greg Maddux on saturday. How about that for a perfect game of Vice Versa? Let's hope it doesn't devolve into Freaky Friday where Maddux loses his rag and Duke pitches like a man with 300+ wins.

However, there is more pressing news. But first, the Corey Patterson Daily Quote. I swear, this man makes Deion Sanders look like Johnny Wallflower.

"When you have an approach, stick with it," Patterson said. "Don't think about three or four different things. Just know yourself as a player and a person, and know what you can do.

If the day ever comes where Korey takes his own advice, the league had best quiver and tremble in subjugation to the Cubs' most vocally self-important player since hot dogs were a nickel and I was a glint in my pop's eye.

But seriously, moving on, had the glory of producing the Midterm review. In my opinion, there's a remedial class looming for this bunch, but despite more uses of the word "mercurial" than I've seen since reading anything John Madden ever wrote, there have been some bright spots.

Thankfully, the Review managed to pick them out - DerrekLeeDerrekLeeDerrekLee. While others have come along periodically and added small sandcastles of offense, none of it quite compares to the Bellagio-like output of Mr. Lee. He has been outstanding, surprising everyone including himself. It makes Hendry look like Nostradamus in shipping off Hee Seop Choi, and we're indebted to him for having a 43-44 record. Without him, I shudder to think a. what our record would be, and b. how many AA guys would be seeing regular time in the Wrigley lineup.

So what should we be thankful for besides Derrek?

- Aramis Ramirez. He has performed more consistently than most in the shadow of Da Lee. On course for another 100+ RBI season, his post-Pittsburgh output is enough to make even the toughest Roethlisburger-eating fan weep.

- Ryan Dempster. While his save totals are nowhere near the likes of Chad "My Washington Bullpen is scary" Cordero or Joe "Fast Food" Nathan, he is a huge upgrade from Borowski and Hawkins. They blew more saves than Henry VIII murdered his wives, which is no mean feat.

- Greg Maddux? OK, so I am pulling a lot of these from the list, but I'm trying hard to find other ways. They list Maddux as the "model pitcher" of the team, despite that permanent semi-drunk, semi-comatose look while on the mound. His 8-6 record is a little rough, but it is the best we have (I'm looking at you El Toro, Prior, Wood) at the moment. He is dipping a little bit given that the twilight of his career is near (his career ERA is now at or above 3.00 for the first time in some 10+ years) - his 2 seasons with the Cubs, with ERAs of 4.02 and 4.67, are the worst seasons he has had since 1987 - but you can count on him to grind out the wins whether he goes more than 5 innings or not.

What do we need in these apocalyptic post-All Star days? Apologies if these all sound a little obvious.

- Bullpen
Duuuh. This is perhaps the most blatant of all. If Novoa could spell "catastrophe", he'd understand what a quagmire we're currently fighting through.

Novoa: 2-2, 4.20 ERA
Mitre: 4 ER in 6 1/3 IP since moving to the bullpen (2-4, 5.26 ERA overall)
Ohman: 2-1, 2.14 ERA but doesn't nearly pitch enough (33 games, 21 IP)
Remlinger: 0-2, 4.88 ERA
Rusch: 8 ER in 4 IP since moving to the bullpen
Wuertz: 4-2, 4.38 ERA

Fix it fix it fix it. Free Jermaine Van Buren from AAA, rush Aardsma into the fray, and let's roll the dice a little. Will we just continue to watch the 'pen blow games apart, or might we be a tad daring and attempt a trade? Meanwhile, the likes of the Nationals and Athletics make more moves than Disco Stu, becoming scarier in their respective divisions. The Astros have finally found their stride, and it won't take many more losses to become co-shittiest team in the NL Central along with the Cincinnati Reds.

- Lead-off Spot
I've thrown more than enough stats at this to prove why Patterson should never bat 1st again. There's a reason Lee probably won't win the Triple Crown, and that's because when he steps to the plate, the basepads are as clean as they were before the game. No sign of Walker, no trace of Neifi, no outline of JH Jr, no hint of Patterson. Solo HRs won't win you an RBI race.

So what can we do? I honestly have no solutions. Kotsay is staying put, Wilson is in Washington now (not that he would lead-off anyway in a park where flyballs go to die), and I'm not sure who else might be attainable with a trade who we could throw to the lead-off lions.

In-house, Walker might be the best option. Why? Because he can actually draw a walk (granted he's only walked 14 times in 150 ABs given his injury, but Patterson only walked 2 more times in twice as many at-bats.), or get on base. His OBP is hovering at that borderline .350 mark, and with Neifi slowly evolving back into the real Neifi, Walker has to be given a chance to do the job.

I know it's a tough position to play, and I'm sure Patterson will eventually be a good player at some indeterminate point in the future, but right here, right now, Walker should see that spot from here until season's end.

These are the two glaring points I see, so I'll leave it there and spread out my words over the next few days, weeks and months. Check out for their review, and feel free to disagree with it all.

As for today, it's Mark Redman vs. Mark Prior (see yesterday's post for the stats). None of the current Cubs are especially stellar against Redman (Burnitz is 4-18, Blanco 3-13, Barrett 2-9), but I would hope that we can overcome.

Redman is built like a linebacker but throws like a kicker: despite his massive frame (6-5, 245), his fastball is softly in the mid-80s and is augmented with a reasonable repertoire of curve, split-finger and change-up. It's enough to make Korey wish he were recalled, so he could then strike out twice against him.

In our favour, Redman has been absolutely LaTrocious lately, losing his last 4 games and coughing up 21 runs (20 earned) in his last 24 innings pitched. So let's jump on him early, get him out, and then hopefully beat the waste-disposal bullpen long into the afternoon.

Series Prediction:
I would like to think the Cubs could nab 3 of the 4 games considering what we just did to the "contender" Marlins last weekend, but in a realistic world, I expect us to split the series losing at least 1 of those games from the bullpen. Please, Cubs, let me be wrong for once.


At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

The series will depend, as the season will, on the success of a few hitters, and the effectiveness of our starting pitching. The bull pen IS NOT THAT BAD, provided that the starters can go innings. Any bullpen becomes more vulnerable when you talk about using 4 relievers in a game instead of 2. There are no fantastic relievers out there looking for a new team, and rookies usually give up runs, so I'm not worried about the team making moves to strengthen the bullpen. I'm worried about the starters going seven so that our bullpen can be effective.

Cubs have to play good baseball for the rest of the season. 4 game series have to be won, not split. That means 3-1 or 4-0. 3 game series have to be won or swept too. Especially against teams like the Pirates, the Reds, the Brewers, and the over-achieving Astros.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo, I completely agree about the things our season will depend on. However, I disagree slightly about the bullpen. They're not terrible pitchers, but they're pitching terribly, if you see what I mean.

It's unrealistic to expect the starters to go 7 innings every night, so there needs to be a bit of trust in the bullpen to pitch those 6-9 innings if needs be, and because they're not pitching too well at the moment, there's little trust, and so on... it goes round in circles.

We have a good closer, we have a reasonably good set-up man in Wuertz and/or Ohman, but the rest need to whip into shape in order to not let the side down, especially if the starters have a good outing (look to the Atlanta series last week, where we gave up 5 or 6 runs in the 8th inning after being ahead at that point in the game).

But for the most part, I agree. It is that simple. There's no magic bullet, magic solution or whatever. Baseball is a simple game, in essence: you win by hitting well, fielding well, and pitching well. If you f*ck up one of the three, you might not win.

But if it were that simple all the time, a giant rambler/talking head like me would have nothing to talk about, and thus, today's post was born.

PS. how about Prior today? 8 innings (so far), 10 strikeouts! That creep can roll, man!

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Aside from the top of the lineup, this team is relatively well constructed. It is the sub-par performances from about eveyone on the club besides D-Lee and A-Ram. I know that there is a lot of Dusty bashing going on, but he has mismanaged everything that has been handed to him. Just my $.02.
I enjoy the site and will be checking back often.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Jim said...

A manager puts a player in, and the player comes through: the manager's a genius. He puts a player in and the dude doesn't produce, the manager's an idiot. That's always been the way. It's not fair. But it's the way the fans perceive things.

If you want a guarantee on the outcome of your entertainment experience, go to the movies. It'll probably cost less money and the theater will be air conditioned.

Dusty's been a pretty good manager the past three years. He falls into the same trap almost every other Cubs manager has: he plays for the big inning.

At 11:50 PM, Blogger JT said...

I read an "interesting" article about the Cubs and their injury woes. The jist was that all of our losing streaks and average form is because of injuries.

I will leave that hypothesis alone, but the funny part was that the article opened with an image: Dusty waking up in the middle of the night and sketching his Opening Day lineup on a piece of paper by his bedside.

That's just hilarious. Of course it's not the way he manages, but it's definitely a funny simile. Does Dusty manage like he's half asleep?

I'm not sure where I stand on that, and you are both right, Eric and Jim: Dusty has mis-managed somewhere along the line, and at the same time, it's definitely the easy thing to point out as the cause of all ills.

Like I said before, this game should be simple but it's not, and as for Dusty, this team seems put together in such a precarious way that if a couple of injuries might come along, the lineup might fall apart.

Is that true? Have we had sufficient depth all this time? Did we begin this season with championship-winning depth on the roster?

At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

I agree about the the big inning thing, Jim. And I think if you want to look at whether a manager is good or not wins and losses are as good an arbitrary statistic to look at as any other (arbitrary because so many other things go into the games other than managing, such as; who's on the team, injuries, who's hot, what ownership is willing to spend, ability and performance of other teams, etc.) So lets look at that. The Cubs are possibly on track for their third winning season and possibly their third season in which they will be in contention for a post-season spot. So I find Dusty to be a success as a Cubs manager, as well as ownership's current attitude, and Jim Hendry as a GM. Good job guys.


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