Tuesday, August 23

Keeping up with the Joneses

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Tagged out at home, and another 3-game losing slide

Question of the Day
How many superb outings by Carlos Zambrano will we waste before he wants to flee Wrigley Field?

I have no idea where to begin with this one, but whatever direction it goes, my thoughts will be brief. There's no point beating a dead horse (or dead coaching staff) for our latest disappointments. Every other Cubs blog out there is in the same boat; we all have our theories and thoughts as to how this could be turned around this year or the next, and we all feel like we have a good grasp on immediate, plausible changes that could be made to the roster or the starting lineup.

Today, it's just not worth it. Inbetween watching National Geographic last night, I caught snatches of this game, and Chipper Jones single-handedly snatched a result from the Cubs last night. That, friends, Romans and countrymen, is the key to a winning team; in a tough spot with the game on the line, someone does something special. In this instance, the "special" was a pair of 2-run HRs, one in the 4th inning when El Toro seemed to be cruising, and another in the 9th of the relieving Kerry Wood. It was a dagger to the heart, and despite DLee leading off the bottom half with a single to left, 2 consecutive fielder's choice force-outs at second put an end to our rally.

This season, Zambrano has made 26 starts for the Cubs, and his record is so deceptive considering just what he's done. Sure, his temper has cost him a couple of games not to mention 4 starts giving up 5 runs or more, but overall, he's been outstanding. Say what you will, but it was his passion that LB tagged (early in the season, mind you) as being vital to the sustenance of this team. Whether or not this has happened is purely a matter of personal opinion.

He has thrown some incredible games and not been rewarded with the win. It seems almost criminal to look at these game lines and think "How on Earth is that not enough to win?" Call it the Clemens syndrome or the Maddux effect, but that trio (along with plenty of other good pitchers who don't get any offense) has suffered greatly statistically at the hands of batting ineptitude. Here are some of his starts that didn't earn him the almighty W, and some that earned him a loss:

May 03 @ MIL -- L, 4-1
7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 10 K
May 21 @ CHW -- L, 5-3
7 IP, H, 3 BB, 8 K
May 26 vs. COL -- L, 5-2
7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
May 31 @ LAD -- W, 2-1 (10)
8 IP, H, R, 2 BB, 9 K
July 03 vs. WSH -- L, 5-4 (12)
7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
July 22 @ STL -- L, 2-1 (11)
9 IP, 3 H, ER, 12 K
August 22 vs. ATL -- L, 4-2
8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 10 K

He has 8 starts with 8 strikeouts or more, and he's definitely a guy you want to keep happy. Keeping your stars happy begins with a win.

Zambrano is starting to peak this season now that our fortunes are on the line, and it's important that we get those 2 or 3 runs we need to win whenever he pitches. By the months, Zambrano's splits have been like the Cubs: up-and-down, up-and-down. However, when it's counted, Carlos has performed time and time again:

APRIL: 2-0, 4.31 ERA
MAY: 1-3, 2.40 ERA (How you can lose 3 of 5 games with that ERA is beyond me)
JUNE: 2-1, 5.79 ERA
JULY: 2-0, 2.11 ERA
AUGUST: 3-1, 1.35 ERA

Reflectively, the Cubs do still have hope - several of them were quoted after last night's game as still having some belief of reaching the postseason, but it will take a lot of good luck and ineptitude from several other teams ahead of us in the race. Perhaps Michael Barrett summed it up best:

"We're going to need a miracle now to stay in this thing. I believe in those... ... It's definitely frustrating, realizing how good a team we have and how we've fallen short. Whenever you fall short of expectations, it's really tough."

Zambrano also had a modicum of wisdom:

"We can't think about frustration. "We just have to keep on going. We have 1 1/2 months to go. The last month will decide it for us. Let's keep fighting."

I agree, Z, let's keep fighting, but you can't do it alone. I still think this season is done and dusted, but it's definitely one opinion about which I wouldn't mind being wrong.


At 9:16 PM, Anonymous lazlo said...

One thing that has bewildered me about the Cubs offense this year is how when they battle and make the pitcher throw a lot in one at bat, 8, 10, 13 pitches, they often end up making an out. Think of any Jerry Hairston at bat. I just saw lawton fould off about two-dozen pitches, and then hit into a double play. It's very odd. When you battle like that, you're supposed to get good results. I don't get it.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous lazlo said...

The Cubs may not get too many this season, but you've got to love the two out rally. Walker walks, Lee doubles, Aramis Walks on 8 pitches, and Burnitz knocks one 400-some-odd feet over the bricks in center. I like it.


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