Saturday, April 22

The image that broke a million blue hearts

D-Lee, April 20, 2006

This is it, people. This is the iconic image, forever burned into our bruised psyches, coming one year to the day that Nomar provided us with a litany of jokes [and a ton of disappointment] as he tore his groin running to first. Will this day become such a dark anniversary for years to come? One hopes that the schedule will furnish us with an off-day on April 20, 2007.

Nomar, April 20, 2005

Having had time to digest somewhat, we have to look at what this ultimately means for the Cubs. I think it's safe to say we should be thinking long-term as opposed to this season, for it will be almost impossible to replace a man of Lee's calibre with bat and glove for such a period of time while still remaining competitive.

Lee led the Cubs in almost all major offensive categories last season [BA, SLG, OBP, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, R], a feat that has not been achieved for some time. So without him, our lineup is suddenly a lot less intimidating. The addition of Pierre thankfully provides some bite in 2006, but we're a lot easier to pitch around. Ramirez will get nowhere near as many chances to hit without Lee's protection in the lineup [think how impotent Manny would be without Ortiz in front], and the shaky infield arms of Cedeno and Walker are now a vulnerability thanks to the loss of Lee's gold glove defense at 1st.

If Walker moves over, Neifi or Hairston would have to become everyday players again. Michael Restovich, a RF, moves into the 25-man roster, although I struggle to see what long-term effect he could have on the lineup. So our lineup could look something like this, similar to what we saw last night:

Pierre, CF
Hairston Jr., 2B
Walker, 1B
Ramirez, 3B
Barrett, C
Jones, RF
Murton, LF
Cedeno, SS

Not threatening in the slightest. Teams now have the easy option to pitch around Ramirez and Pierre [and take their chances with Barrett], and in that lineup, both Jones and Ramirez are batting badly so far this season [A-Ram: .200, 2 HR, 5 RBI//Jones: .207, HR, 4 RBI].

It doesn't bode well. With Prior and Wood about a month away, and Lee out for "8-to-12", our pitching staff will have to work fucking hard to give the Cubs any chance of success in 2006. It doesn't help that we have Glendon Rusch and Jerome "I just got bitchslapped AGAIN by the Cardinals" Williams in the rotation, along with rookie Marshall. I like our bullpen, but it's a lot to ask of them when our starters are getting knocked out in the 4th or 5th inning [last night: Williams threw 1 1/3 IP] on a daily basis. Zambrano doesn't even have a win yet!

The Cubs have had shitty luck for the second April 20 in a row, but this is a much deadlier blow. It's going to be a tough month, but let's see where we stand after this weekend. Keep the beer and the cyanide pills close at hand.

Today's Starters
STL: RHP Sidney Ponson [1-0, 3.97 ERA]
CHC: LHP Glendon Rusch [1-2, 6.60 ERA]

Glendon Rusch career vs. STL
18 GS, 6-6, 4.77 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .274 BAA


At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

I agree that Ramirez or Walker might get pitched around once in a while. Heck, if Jones continues his struggles, Barrett might get pitched around too. But Pierre will not be "pitched around." Why? Because nobody wants him on base. You don't "pitch around" a base stealer. This offense still hinges on Pierre's ability to get on base. Lee's absence just means that we may have a few more times that Pierre doesn't score after a leadoff single.

Hairston's presence in the lineup means we have two fast guys 1 and 2, but it also means that there will be 12 foul balls every time he comes up, which could be trouble for Pierre. I hope to see Hairston change his approach at the plate a little bit.

The running game is going to have to pick up, and the starters are going to have to pitch better. Maddux will have to continue his success, Z will have to start pitching more innings and giving up fewer runs, and no one can afford to get chased in 1.1 innings.

The weird thing about Williams's game last night, is that he was throwing pretty well until that Molina at bat. After all those foul balls he just imploded and lost his control. Even the home run pitch to Pujols was a good pitch (at the knees, inside corner). But he doesn't seem to have the makeup that some of the other pitchers do. I hope he proves me wrong, but I think he may be running out of opportunities.

Wow. Long comment. Okay, let's just hope Rusch and the offense pick it up today.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger DS said...

"let's just hope Rusch and the offense pick it up today"

...excuse my pessimism but it looks like the Cubs are gonna drop two in a row for the first time this season.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

We'll see. 1-1 in the fifth right now, but Rusch is on the verge walking the bases loaded to bring Pujols up, or getting a miraculous 3rd out.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Jim said...

The sad thing about Saturday's game is that the Cubs out hit the Cards.

Giving up just four runs isn't too bad, although it's far from great. The offense has got to get going. I did like seeing Cedeno batting second today. And he stole a base.

I was more worried about the defense with Lee out. But Friday and Saturday's games didn't show that as a weakness. Sunday's game should be a greater test with Maddux pitching. There should be plenty of ground balls for the infield to test their throwing accuracy against the ability of whoever starts at first ability to dig low throws out of the ground.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Walker actually made some pretty good plays at first base on Friday, including tacking out Eckstein on when Cedeno's throw pulled him off of the bag.

Yeah, we're back to getting hits but not scoring runs. Hopefully that will change soon. Murt' is being a little too patient at the plate with 2 strikes, and Jones is jumping out of his shoes at everything. I'm still not entirely sure what is up with Aramis. If two of those guys can come around, our offense will come to life. Actualy, if Pierre can get hits and Aramis gets hot, we should score runs.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Looks like Williams blew it. Guzman is now the 5th starter. I'm honestly surprised it wasn't Hill they brought up, since he's had better numbers in AAA than Guzman.


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