Tuesday, August 16

Old Habits Die Hard / Where are they Now?

williamson and ensberg
Cubs pitchers struggle to define their pitch location, themselves

The title of today's miscellany has a double-meaning, you know, like the things people say in sitcoms for the cheap laughs. Not only "Old Habits Die Hard" the title of the Rolling Stones' latest "single", perhaps the shittiest piece of music ever composed (and written specially for Shrek II, which never compromises yr artistry one bit), but it is the motif of our schizophrenic ballclub.

Some fools among us, including yours truly, felt that a microcosm of our season could be found in this weekend's series with Satan's Redbirds -- timely offense, potent pitching, an air of unflappability. Not only did we command and hold our leads, but we showed some punch if the Cardinals got any momentum going.

Last night's game in Houston served to undo all of that, and proved once again just who the Cubs really are: a streaky team with temperamental arms, and little reason to fight back when things get tough.

Perhaps this is too harsh, but last night gives me no reason to rethink my opinions. In Glendon Rusch's necessary return to the starting rotation, he couldn't escape the 4th inning and coughed up 5 runs on 10 hits, striking out 2 and walking 4. Walks have been the bane of our pitching staff for a while now, and last night was no different: 7 free passes for the 'Stros who also managed 16 safe trips to the bases all by themselves! Nice work Houston!

Their entire starting lineup got a piece of the action:
Taveras: 4-6, 2 R
Biggio: 1-3, R
Berkman: 1-4, RBI, R
Ensberg: 4-4, HR, 3 RBI
Lane: 1-4, RBI
Everett: 2-5, HR, 2 RBI
Burke: 1-3, HR, 3 RBI
Quintero: 1-5, HR, 2 RBI
Rodriguez: 1-3, R

Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez picked up the win despite giving up 4 runs over 7 innings; Astros run support in his starts is averaging around 6 per start. Imagine what Maddux's record would be with that kind of backup!

The closest we came was in the 4th, when we pulled the score to 5-4 on Korey's triple and score on the throwing error. Matt Murton tried leadoff and hit his first major league HR, and our other scoring came on a Hot Rodd solo jack and a Barrett RBI single.

Tonight we face Pettitte and Wednesday brings Oswalt, so I'm not holding out for anything from this series.


But enough about recent woes. Have you ever stopped to wonder how recent Cubs have been doing in their new homes far away from Chicago? Wrigley has been a revolving door over the since the beginning of 2004, much like any other team, so it was only fair to take a look at all the deadweight we've shed in our quest for NL Central subjugation.

We'll start at the top and work our way down. Way down. Here's a foursome of former Cubs.

1. SAMMY SOSA - RF, Baltimore Orioles
.226, 14 HR, 44 RBI, SB
The once-jewel in the Northside crown, his career has nosedived considerably since ending steroids, video game endorsements and trips to the Navy Pier. Sosa's ghost lingers periodically over Wrigley reminding us of his once-ubiquitous presence (I hate the word ubiquitous, and I use it begrudgingly here), but Burnitz has filled the gap admirably, learning the play of the field, the wind, and outhitting Sosa in almost every category (except Ks: Sosa has 79, JB 76). I don't miss Sammy one bit, and I'm glad that Baltimore has become the new de facto MLB retirement home, pushing the Yankees and Giants for the honor of having the most old, quickly fading players in their dugout. Palmeiro and Sosa, a double-team for the ages.

2. MOISES ALOU - LF/RF, San Francisco Giants
.328, 13 HR, 43 RBI
He gets to play for Daddy now out in the Bay Area, and good luck to him. While our LF position has been harder to fill than Courtney Love's forged prescriptions, Alou was becoming a burden rather than a help. Statistically he was steadfast for the Cubbies, hitting 76 HRs and 258 RBIs during his 3 years in Chi-town, but with his age and his contract, it was time for some young blood. I found it amusing that we'd been linked with him during the trading period as a possible acquisition, but that was not to be. Alou's kinda happy in San Francisco, although he's missed some 30 games with miscellaneous injuries. Oh, and you should have caught that foul ball in 2003 (joking!)

3. KYLE FARNSWORTH - RP, Atlanta Braves
1-1, 2.53 ERA, 58 K, 20 BB, 6 SV (53 games)
After a 2-year period where he was passed around more than Houston at a wifeswap, the Farnz has finally found a home at a real contender. How he made it, I do not know, but we could sure use his fiery temperament right now on a pitching staff filled with ruddy cheeks and blank stares. Farnsworth was rewarded for his ability to live in Detroit with a first-class trip to Atlanta and a solid chance of winning the closer's chair. If he's not making the saves, he'll be more than happy to set-up in the 7th and 8th with his team actually holding a lead, as opposed to late-game innings-eating and garbage patrol.

He's been solid this season despite a trip to the DL, giving up 13 earned runs in 46 1/3 IP (as opposed to 35 ER in 6 2/3 IP in his last full year @ Wrigley). He is not the only pitcher to find success since leaving the Northside behind, I should note.

4. JOE BOROWSKI - RP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
1-0, 2.73 ERA, 18 K, 5 BB
The Big Bearded Kahuna himself, this injury-plagued reliever returned in late-May to much fanfare, only to stifle the Cubs' success with a shit-storm of terrible pitching: 11 G, 11 IP,12 H, 8 ER, 5 HR, BB, 11 K, 6.55 ERA. That erratic eleven was enough to see him sent packing, designated for assignment and snagged by the TBay team in mid-July as a free agent.

Since then, he's undergone the kind of renovation normally reserved for TLC or HGTV makeover shows, pitching his way into Floridian hearts with 14 scoreless relief appearances for the club. His numbers are cute: 1-0, 15 1/3 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, .120 BA. Compare these with his Cubs numbers this year, and you'll be baffled as to his turnaround. Thanks, Joe, for saving your best for someone else. We do appreciate the 33 saves in 2003, and the 8.02 ERA in 2004, but it's good you've found a good home somewhere else in the dumpy confines of Tropicana Field (translation: it's not good that you've found a good home somewhere else.)

Tonight's Pitchers

CHC: RHP Greg Maddux • 9-9, 4.54 ERA in 2005 • 1-1, 4.61 ERA vs. HOU in 2005
HOU: LHP Andy Pettitte • 10-8, 2.62 ERA in 2005 • 0-1, 8.44 ERA vs. CHC in career

I joined the Make-A-Wish Foundation and asked for a win tonight. Fingers crossed.

Astros hitters vs. Maddux:
Brad Ausmus: 14-38
Craig Biggio: 33-113
Jose Vizcaino is 4-32

Cubs hitters vs. Pettitte:
Michael Barrett: 1-4
Jeromy Burnitz: 1-8
Matt Lawton: 13-48
Corey Patterson: 3-4
Aramis Ramirez: 2-4
Nomar Garciaparra: 13-39 (12-35 since returning from the DL)

*Sigh* these numbers are so meaningless.

Dusty Quote of the Day

"At this point, you've just got to beat everybody."
- commenting on the Wild Card race


At 11:40 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Cubs win! Cubs win! You gotta get a Cubs shirt if you want the team to win, and wear it. Both times I wore mine, the team won.

Let me be the first to say "I told you so" about the Farns and Borowski. Maybe not here, but I did say a trade would bring them to life.

Correy's back, and he's looking much improved. Maddox was the Mad Dog of old tonight.

I hated to see Wood go the the pen, but he's been mighty mean there.

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...


Maddux looked spectacular, and although he is sometimes criticized as being past his prime, or just being a mediocre pitcher whom the umpires happen to like, you cannot deny that that sinker was diving and tailing like a fiend tonight. He may be but a mere mortal in the first half of the year, but coming down the stretch he is a machine. Anyone who thinks that he is not valuable enough to have in the rotation next year is a fool.

Wood looks determined coming out of the bull pen. Sometimes I would even say he looks mean. Which I love. If he's healthy, I want him starting next year, but if he's got to be a reliever, then we've got one of the best in the game, or at least it looks that way.

Corey has done great since coming back from the minors. He's been making a lot of contact, and rarely has chased bad pitches. His front foot goes towards the mound on the pitch, and thus he's made more contact, and is capable of hitting line drives to left. He looked a little lost against Pettite today, but most lefties do. We've got a great player if Corey can keep his mechanics similar to how they are now, or if he can refine even more over time.

Finally, somebody move Derrek to the 4 spot. I wan Nomar third, Derrek fourth, Aramis fifth. Nomar is not searching for his swing. He's found it. Derrek will have more RBI opportunities batting 4th, and the cubs will just score more runs. To be honest, I would mind seeing Barret bat second, and Walker to bat in more of an RBI spot, but that's not a big issue.

Also, congrats to Matt "Big Red" Murton on his first home run.

At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Ps. Your slogan about Macias needs to change. He's hitting, my friend. He's hiting.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo! Jim! Good to see you guys back, I thought we'd lost you for good after that missing 10 days from the blogger servers, but I'm glad to see that's not the case!

Lots of catching up to do:

Jim - Yes, I do have my cubbies jersey but I'm afraid to wear it (it's got ernie's signature on the back)... so this one will be in a frame shortly.

Yeah, I agree - Farns and JoBo were not in a good place, and Chicago's a tough home to hold when yr struggling. I think if Rusch keeps this up, and we're still somewhat in the wild card race, do you think he'll make it back to the rotation?

Maddux would be a Cy Young contender if he had the run support, for sure -- despite giving up a lot of hits, he's been pretty damn consistent. Losing by 2 runs is a tough loss, but hey, if yr throwing 7 innings of 2-run ball, yr doing yr job just fine.

Lazlo - I'm still a little on the fence about Corey. We've seen this sort of flash before, and I want to make sure it's the real deal. His strikeouts still outnumber his walks 4-to-1, but he is hitting to both sides of the park, and even managed a Homer with someone on base.

I too would like to see DLee in the 4 hole - it could maybe work like the ARod effect. He bats behind Jeter, Cano and Sheffield and if Sheffield doesn't knock them in, ARod gets them in next out.

Really good to see you both back!

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Jim said...

JT: It turns out that you have to wear a particular shirt. Many years ago, I bought a Cubs T-shirt, and every time I wore it, the team lost. So I saved it to work out at the gym with. This year, my kids got me a golf style shirt, and it's done the trick.

Corey is the real deal. I'd hate to live through another Lou Brock fiasco. One in a life time was bad enough.

At 1:58 AM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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At 5:47 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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At 8:44 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza said...

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