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, Cubs.com 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 Cubs.com 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.
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 Cubs.com 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.
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.