Saturday, June 30, 2007

Don't look now, but the Cubs are rolling (part 2)

Regular readers of my blog may remember the post that I made on May 2. It had the same title as this one.

The Cubs were coming off of a double victory on that day and pulled within 2 games of the .500 mark. They also pulled within 5 1/2 games of the first-place Brewers. What we didn't know at that time was that nearly two months later, the Cubs would never get closer than 5 games.

After sweeping Washington and peeking their heads above .500 at 15-14, the Cubs dropped 17 of their next 24, including a season-low six game losing streak. Funny thing is that we only lost two games in the standings, and stood 7 1/2 games back at that point.

Since snapping that streak, however, the Cubs won 17 of the next 25, including the current seven-game streak to get back to the .500 mark. During that time, we only picked up one game, managing to remain 6 1/2 off the pace. It seems like we've been winning when Milwaukee has been winning and we've been losing when they've been losing.

It's interesting to look at some of the things that were on the May 2 post and see how what I thought about the Cubs stacks up 52 games later:

"Derrek Lee is 19 for his last 32 in the past eight games and has doubled at least once in each one of those games, raising his season average to .415 and his OPS to a staggering 1.092. That number is especially outstanding when you consider the fact that Lee has homered only once so far. He's doubled 17 times though."

The season average and OPS were going to drop. But Lee's managed to keep them at a level that is still outstanding. His .346 average is second-best in the league and his .932 OPS is impressive, because he's hit just 6 homers all year. Lee's kept his doubles pace up -- he now has 26.

"Alfonso Soriano, despite missing over a week due to the hamstring injury has still recorded 84 official times at-bat and collected 26 hits (.310 average) and 11 doubles (.512 slugging)."

His on-base percentage at the time was .341. It's gone up to .353 now. The average has risen to .321 and the slugging to .552 as he now has 42 extra-base hits, including 15 homers.

"You can't help but thinking how good this team will be once Zambrano, Howry, and Eyre start pitching well and when Soriano and Lee start hitting homeruns consistently. Knowing the Cubs luck though, Marquis, Hill, and Lilly will forget how to grip a baseball at that point."

Let's do a before-and-after comparison, shall we?

Carlos Zambrano:
Up to May 2: 2-2, 5.77 ERA
Since May 2: 7-4, 3.51 ERA
Note: Since June 2: 4-1, 1.43 ERA

Bob Howry:
Up to May 2: 0-2, 3.29 ERA; 4 holds, 0/1 saves
Since May 2: 5-2, 4.68 ERA; 5 holds, 2/5 saves
Note: 4 earned runs allowed in last 16 innings (2.25 ERA).

Scott Eyre:
Up to May 2: 0-1, 12.27 ERA
Since May 2: 0-0, 4.82 ERA
Note: 2 holds since May 2, none before.

Alfonso Soriano:
Up to May 2: 2 HR in 84 AB
Since May 2: 13 HR in 226 AB
Note: 14 of 15 HR's this year with bases empty.

Derrek Lee:
Up to May 2: 1 HR in 106 AB
Since May 2: 5 HR in 177 AB
Note: Pro-rating his "since May 2" numbers over 630 AB produces only 18 HR.

Jason Marquis:
Up to May 2: 4-1, 2.10 ERA
Since May 2: 1-3, 4.42 ERA
Note: All quality starts before May 2; only two QS since.

Rich Hill:
Up to May 2: 3-1, 1.77 ERA
Since May 2: 2-4, 3.94 ERA
Note: Allowed four or more earned runs 1 before May 2, 4 times since.

Ted Lilly:
Up to May 2: 2-2, 2.82 ERA
Since May 2: 4-2, 4.80 ERA
Note: Lilly supported with four runs or more (in entire game) 7 times since May 2.

Chicago Cubs:
Up to May 2: 12-14, 5 1/2 games behind
Since May 2: 27-25, lost 1 game in NL central

It's pretty interesting to see how things turned out the way they did. I mean, all of the players had track records and we all knew that they would turn around (good or bad), eventually but it's interesting to look at the numbers side-by-side.

"As long as we keep pace with the Cards and Astros, we're good, because Milwaukee can't run away with the division, right? Or can they? We've been trained to think that the Brewers are not a good ball club for so long that it's stuck, but it's time we start jumping on a horse to catch those pesky Brewers."

We're 3 games in front of St. Louis and 6 games in front of Houston. Still trailing the Brewers though, who stand at 46-33...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The most important pitcher's stat

Not really something that applies to current events in baseball right now, but I've been asked so many times about this recently, I've decided to create a single post to address the issue.

No statistic is perfect. Especially for pitchers. But, I feel as though the most effective way to measure a pitcher's ability is the record for starting pitchers and holds and saves for relievers. I understand what the majority opinion on this is, but the ERA and WHIP can be just as unreliable for measuring pitchers.

The objective of the game is to win. Teams make the playoffs based on wins, not based on earned runs allowed or baserunners allowed. There's no question that the WHIP statistic is not the best way to measure success; a good pitcher is able to pitch effectively with runners on base. Good pitchers don't give up hits in bunches, they scatter them. So, measuring the timing of hits would be a better indicator, not the number of hits.

Arguing against the earned run average is a little harder. It seems logical that a pitcher should not be held accountable for runs that wouldn't have scored but for a defensive error. It also seems logical to not reward pitchers based on the amount of run support that they recieve. But the ERA is not without its flaws either, and there are equally compelling arguments for wins and losses.

Any runs that score after the inning would've ended are considered unearned. A pitcher should still somehow be held accountable if he implodes on himself and is unable to "stop the bleeding" after an error. Similarly, the timing of when he allows runs should also be considered.

The pitcher's main responsbility is to keep his team in the ballgame. If the pitcher consistantly leaves the game always trailing, even if it's only by a run or two, it says more about his ability to pitch in tight ballgames, whether the score is 10-9 or 2-1.

A pitcher that goes four games with the following numbers would have a respectable 4.15 ERA.
8 IP, ER
5 IP, 5 ER
6 IP, 4 ER
7 IP, 2 ER

But his pitching was severely inconsistent and really only gave his team a chance to win two of the ballgames. A pitcher that consistently goes 7 innings and allows 3 runs however has a 3.86 ERA but has pitched considerably better. Over 200 innings, a short good stretch is enough to really alter the ERA.

Imagine a pitcher that has allowed 90 earned runs in 190 innings. He would have a 4.74 ERA. Say he has one good start and pitches a complete game shutout, adding 9 more innings to his tab. The ERA jumps down to 4.52. Has he really improved his entire season performance that much? He's really only helped his team by one potential game out of 162. (I say potential, as there's no way to really tell if his team would've won had he allowed 5 runs.)

There are two reasons why the W-L record is so essential.

A good pitcher alters his style of pitching, based on situation. Do not punish the pitcher that throws strikes with a 7-run lead and gives up a solo homer here and there; that's what he's supposed to do. Instead, punish the pitcher who risks flooding the bases with runners by nibbling on the corners. (But only if he blows the lead.) For the same reason, relievers and closers should be measured similarly for their ability to hold a lead, not the number of earned runs they allow. A closer with a three-run lead is expected to come out firing strikes. Everyone knows that, yet it's still the right thing to do.

All pitchers pitch in different conditions. On a given day, there are so many variables that have an impact on the game being played on the field. The most obvious choices include the ballpark dimensions, the wind, and the umpires, but other things such as the mood and pace of the game also need to be considered. Don't compare a pitcher pitching in Coors Field with the wind blowing out with a pitcher who's pitching in Atlanta. Instead, compare him with a pitcher that is pitching in similar conditions -- the other pitcher in the game.

W-L is resistant to outliers. A few bad starts here and there can really hurt a pitcher's ERA. If you're down by six runs, does giving up another three-run homer really hurt your team? How about giving up single runs in three different tie games? Both effect the ERA in the same manner, but one hurts the team a lot more than the other. No matter how poorly or how well a pitcher pitches, it only (directly) effects the outcome of one game. So let's consider a statistic that measures a pitcher's ability to pitch well in more games, not a statistic that measures a pitcher's ability to dominate in fewer games.

There are flaws with the W-L record as well. The main is that people will still claim that those pitching for teams with a good offense will have more favorable numbers. While that's true, shouldn't a pitcher pitching for a team that can hit be more aggressive within the strike zone? Isn't that smart pitching?

Another argument I've heard is the bullpen. Why penalize the pitcher with a no decision when his bullpen fails to hold a lead that he worked so hard to create? Well, perhaps that is a flaw that could be corrected; maybe there should be a stat like "number of games left with lead".

But since all pitching stats are flawed in one form or another, why not put more emphasis on the one stat that matters at the end of the day? Winning ballgames...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jones remains with Cubs -- for now

The Cubs and Marlins had agreed on a deal that would've sent outfielder Jacque Jones to Florida for a low-level minor leaguer.

The Cubs tried to get the deal done before Tuesday's game so that a roster spot could open up for right hander Billy Petrick. Instead, the team had to send Ryan Dempster to the disabled list, a move that put the Cubs' closer out for the rest of the first half. To make room for Petrick on the 40-man roster, Wade Miller was transferred to the 60-day disabled list, despite the fact that Miller had started 2 games with Iowa (AAA).

So why did the deal fall apart? According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Sam Zell, who had agreed to purchase the Tribune Company, blocked the deal thirty minutes before Tuesday's game, because he disagreed with sending nearly $7 million to the Marlins to complete the deal. Cubs' GM Jim Hendry, however, denied those allegations.

"At the end of the day, I just wasn't going to be rushed into it and make a deal that I didn't think was good for us," he said. "We just couldn't kind of round it off and finish it."

Lou Piniella, when asked about the trade, even started talking about Jones' tenure with the Cubs in the past tense.

Jacque Jones was ready to leave, as reporters gathered around his locker less than 45 minutes before first pitch. But when Jones was approached by reporters after the game, the troubled outfielder insisted his main concern was the Cubs. "Unless you want to talk about the game, I got nothing I want to talk about," said Jones. "I'd like for this team to keep playing how they're playing, winning games."

One thing is for certain though, after the position that Jim Hendry put Jacque Jones in, it would be best to try to trade Jones immediately. This means that his value has dropped considerably on the market and getting Eric Gagne from Texas is now highly improbable, though the Rangers, along with the White Sox, are expected to be the teams most interested in Jones. Designating him for assignment might be best as this would open up his roster spot and give the club ten days to either trade him or expose him to the waiver wire.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lashing out at Hawk Harrelson

I always knew what kind of demographic White Sox fans were. I always knew what kind of demographic that the team tried to cater to. After all, they were using terms such as "grill" and "pickle" to describe a person's face and a rundown situation. Terms that are used only by the uneducated, unsophisticated, and uncultured. But, after this weekend's happenings in the series against the Cubs, Hawk Harrelson made it clear. The White Sox organization needs to do something about the comments made on the air and address the issue. If not, it can only be assumed that the team does not have any problems with the commentary.

After the Cubs scored the go-ahead run in Saturday's ninth inning on a suicide squeeze, Harrelson's comments shocked me. The video of the play can be seen from the link posted below.

He actually advocated Bobby Jenks putting a fastball right into Ryan Theriot's head! What is the 10 year old watching the game supposed to think? It's okay to put an opposing hitter's career and life in jeopardy if it means you are trying to save a run.

Never mind the absurdity of his suggestion to drill Theriot in the head, the move doesn't even make sense from an in-game point of view! There are other ways to deal with the suicide squeeze. Ways that don't involve giving the batter first base. Ways that don't involve risking a wild pitch by throwing the ball more than five feet away from where your catcher was expecting the ball.

I was furious when I heard his comments initially, but I was willing to let it go without posting about it. His reaction (along with DJ's) in Sunday's eighth-inning debacle, however, forced my hand. The play and Guillen's ejection can be seen by following the link below.

Now, those of you that didn't see the play as reported by Len & Bob on WGN still may not know what happened, as Comcast Sports Net never showed the reason for the runners being put back as they were. As R1 (Pagan) was rounding second base, he was obstructed by F6 (Uribe), and thus the play should've been killed immediately after defense tried to put out R1.

Let me address a couple of issues about the play before moving on though:
* I'm sick of people saying that Uribe interfered with Pagan. He didn't. Uribe obstructed Pagan. The term "interference" only refers to a fielder illegally hindering a batter's ability to hit a pitched ball (i.e.: catcher's interference) or a runner illegally hindering a fielder's ability to field a batted ball. The term "obstruction" refers to a fielder illegally impeding the progress of a baserunner. The two terms are completely opposite of each other; the difference between the two is larger than the difference between a fair and foul ball.
* Joe West's crew handled the situation perfectly. The play ended up being the best case scenario for the White Sox. If anyone had an argument, it should've been Piniella. Under OBR Rule 7.06(a), Pie (R2) could've been awarded the plate and Pagan third.

Comcast Sports Net never showed the obstruction, probably because they weren't sure whether or not Hawk and DJ were smart enough to be able to react. Either that or because they were too irresponsible to show the fans the truth. (CSN has been a cancer to baseball, well all of sports, since it was created.) Meanwhile, Len & Bob pointed out the obstruction as it happened, alerting the fans immediately of what happened off-camera. Then, they showed numerous replays of the obstruction and the call made by both the second-base and third-base umpires.

Hawk and DJ assumed that they knew the rulebook better than 30-year veteran Joe West. Hawk and DJ assumed that a little rundown situation confused the umpires and they didn't know where to place the runners. Hawk and DJ kept repeating that the result of the play was simple, and didn't bother to think why the umpires had delayed the game for literally ten minutes trying to sort through what had happened.

Hawk and DJ yelled at Pagan to "run to any base, because he would be called safe anyway" when Pagan was caught in another run down later in the inning. They continued to complain into the next inning, when Len & Bob tried to inform their fans and obtained information from the one guy who knows more about baseball rules than everyone else at the ballpark combined, a guy who happened to be literally next door to the TV broadcasters (in the press box) -- decorated former big league umpire Rich Garcia.

It never occured to Hawk and DJ that perhaps they were wrong. It never occured to them to walk fifty feet between innings and ask Garcia what had happened. It never occured to them that perhaps the umpires knew what they were doing, and instead repeated over and over again that "the call was B.S." and the umpires "missed their responsibility."

The White Sox organization needs to save their reputation. The White Sox organization needs to address their TV crew and apologize to the fans for their behavior. The White Sox organization needs to force Hawk Harrelson to publicly apologize for saying he didn't understand why Bobby Jenks didn't bury a fastball into Ryan Theriot's head.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Trying to make sense of the rundowns

Pie on second. Pagan on first. No outs.

DeRosa lines a pitch over Dye's head in right field. Pie holds up, as the ball might have been caught while Pagan rounds second and is obstructed by Uribe. DeRosa rounds first on his way to second. Felix Pie was held at third by third base coach Mike Quade, because of his late start.

As the throw returns to the infield, Pie is standing on third with Pagan halfway between second and third and DeRosa standing on second. The defense goes after the runner caught in between the bases. Pagan retreats to second base and DeRosa heads back to first base to give the base back to Pagan.

Pagan is out at second and now DeRosa is caught is caught in a rundown between first and second base. Pie sees this and attempts to score, but the infielders see this and catch Pie in between third and home. Pie is eventually tagged out as DeRosa coasts into second base safely.

So the White Sox 9-3-6-3-2-5 double play. Or did they?

So what the hell happened here. To be honest, I would've mis-applied the rule. I would've still had an out, as Pagan would've been in no man's land had he not been obstructed with. The umpires in the game handeled the situation poorly, but got the final call right, by loading the bases and erasing all of the outs.

A play was made on the obstructed runner. That's type "A" obstruction, persuant to Rule 7.06(a). The ball should have been killed immediately. The umpires made it confusing by allowing the play to continue.

I found Ozzie Guillen's reaction interesting. His first words to crew chief Joe West were "I'm not here to argue," but his actions were definitely different from his words. Guillen went out there to get himself ejected. How do I know? After leaving the dugout and halfway to the umpires, he stopped, took a couple of steps back towards his own dugout, pulled out his lineup card and threw it to his assistant. Then, he continued out on the field and proceeded to tell West that he wasn't looking for an argument.

OBR, Rule 7.06(a):
"When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal
"Obstruction." If a play is being made on the obstructed runner ... the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Molina was Cubs' primary target

Those of you expecting another move by Jim Hendry: stop.

Many speculated that Hendry wasn't done after shipping Michael Barrett away to the San Diego Padres. "What? Rob Bowen and Koyie Hill can't be our catchers?!?" they shouted, but it looks like Bowen and Hill are the options behind the plate for the year. That is, unless the team decides to promote Soto or Fox.

Why is this the case? Because the Cubs' main target was not Rob Bowen. It was Yadier Molina.

Before his last start against the Padres, Carlos Zambrano made some cryptic comments that scared some Cubs fans. Many tried to dismiss the comments as Carlos just being Carlos. It was easy to forget about it, but there was no real explanation as to why Zambrano said what he said. No real explanation until now.

When a reporter saw a pair of red catcher's shin guards in Zambrano's locker, the Cubs' ace responded by saying, "It's a gift from my new catcher, Yadier." He did not mention however whether it was he that was going to the Cardinals or Molina coming to the Cubs. Now, we know the answer.

This revelation also makes another thing crystal clear.

We all knew that a large part of the Barrett trade was because of the dugout incident on June 1 with Carlos Zambrano. We all knew that, even though Cubs' officials said it had nothing to do with the fight. Those of you that doubted it, there's proof. The Cubs went so far as to get Zambrano's opinion on shipping Barrett and probably told him that the main target in the deal was Yadier Molina.

It's not to say that Hendry won't make another deal now. But, the initial plan in motion was not one that involved Rob Bowen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sosa homers as Cubs give game to Texas

For those of you think that the Cubs are actually trying, all you have to do is analyze Wednesday's loss against the Rangers. Those of you that claim to think that the Cubs are trying, I understand why you have to say that -- you have to justify why you continue to watch the team. But, you and I both know in our hearts that Lou's boys don't care. And if you honestly believe that the Cubs are trying, you know nothing about the game.

The Rangers did everything they possibly could to hand the Cubs the second game of the series. Not only did they go 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position but they committed a clutch error and Gerald Laird showed an effort in baserunning that was the worst that I had ever seen. And that's saying a lot.

The Cubs lost because they went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and comitted three errors. That's not a lack of effort, but a lack of talent, you might say...

How about Jason Marquis who keeps pawing at the dirt after walking batters? How does that help? (You wonder why the defense was struggling.) If the mound is bothering you, get it fixed! If the mound is going to bother you every time the opposing pitcher is five inches taller than you, you're not a Major League pitcher.

Need even more proof? In the 3rd inning, Mike Fontenot long hops Derrek Lee while attempting to turn a double play on Sosa. Fontenot didn't have to rush the throw; Michael Young peeled off after he was retired at second base and Sosa was still several paces away from first base.

What else? Not a single argument from the Cubs after Michael Young reached on an infield hit in the third inning. That play wasn't even close and James Hoye blew the call...yet no one bothered to plead their case. Fine, Lee has an appeal pending, but that doesn't mean that he should roll over when the umpires blow a call as clearly as Hoye did.

Need even more? Pagan is smiling after striking out for the second out in the ninth inning and Ryan Theriot doesn't so much as flinch when he is called out on a check swing appeal to end the game.

Addition by subtraction?

The Chicago Cubs traded catcher Michael Barrett to the Padres this morning for backup catcher Rob Bowen and 19-year-old Kyler Burke.

A couple of things that a lot of you immediately considered when you saw this deal:
* What can Rob Bowen bring to our team?
* Why did we give away Michael Barrett's bat?

I think it's important to think about where the rest of Michael Barrett's season was headed. In the last three years, his on-base average was rising and his AB/HR ratio was getting better progressively, until he finally finished last year with a .307 average, .368 on base percentage, and 16 homeruns in just 375 at-bats.

It, however, looks like that Barrett was not on that same path this year. He's got 9 homeruns, so he's on pace to match that total, but he's got only 18 extra base hits, which means he will fall well short of the 50 extra-base hit per year average. His on-base percentage thus far has been a miserable .307 and his OPS fell from an impressive .885 last year to .734.

As far as Rob Bowen is concerned, his bat isn't anything too special. He's got a respectable .268 batting average and an outstanding .371 on-base percentage, but that's over 82 times at-bat. Bowen was the backup in San Diego and he probably won't be the regular catcher with the Cubs. So, Bowen's the defensive catcher, right? Wrong.

In just 515 innings behind the plate in his career, Bowen has comitted 6 passed balls and 6 errors. He's also managed to throw out just 10% of baserunners that have tried to run against him. Exactly how bad is that, you ask? In 475 innings this year for Michael Barrett, he's allowed 8 passed balls and committed 5 errors. Barrett has thrown out 18% of base stealers so far in 2007, which looks good when placed next to Bowen's numbers.

How is this addition by subtraction then? That's because Bowen will not play as much as Barrett. Hill is not as much of a defensive liability.

(So, Koyie Hill is our starting catcher?!?)

I don't know. But the extended injury to Blanco and now the trade of Barrett makes things a lot more interesting for the catchers in the farm system and there are a lot of good ones. Geovany Soto, Koyie Hill, and Jake Fox were all catchers within the orgnization that had their future blocked by the Barrett/Blanco tandum. Now, they're going to get their chances.

I'm still not sure whether or not this was a good move. It may take me a couple of more months (or years, if Burke turns out to be anything) for me to figure that out. But, the team was playing .464 ball, and that was unacceptable. If this move hurts the team, it certainly couldn't have decreased this team's chances at winning the division.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Marshall yanked after 4+

Recently, I seemed to have lost sight as to the reason why I created this blog. It wasn't so that I could report on Cubs' news. If you want Cubs' news, go to It was for me to weigh in on the Cubs games and give my opinions about the Chicago Cubs, mainly Lou Piniella. I was so sick of ranting to everyone about Dusty Baker every time he made a dumb move that I decided to create a single blog that everyone can look at to get my opinions.

As most of you should know, a win doesn't mean that the manager did everything right. A loss doesn't mean that the manager did everything wrong. The wrong guys could step up and cover up a mistake and make the manager look like a genius. What am I talking about? How about Izturis' game winning bloop double about a week ago? I was screaming at my TV to use Ryan Theriot in that situation, but Lou let Izzy hit for himself anyway...

Now, coming off of a game in which the Chicago bullpen retired all fifteen batters that it faced (including nine strikeouts), it's time to again second-guess the Cubs' manager on a win. After 76 pitches and 4 runs, Marshall was pulled before he could record an out in the fifth inning. Sure, Marshall had given up three homeruns, but he had only allowed five hits -- just three in the first four innings.

If Marshall is gonna get pulled after his fourth run on every outing, the bullpen is going to be real busy. Let's not kid ourselves, Marshall isn't going run quality start after quality start out there every time, so why not let him pitch through some adversity? What better time to do it then when you're in a bandbox like Arlington? What better time to do it then when you're playing by AL rules?

Yes, only one run was scored by the two teams combined in the final four innings of the game, but did you really expect that? If you knew that was coming, then you're a genius and pulling Marshall would've been the right move. But, I certainly didn't know that was coming and neither did Lou!

Piniella brought Marmol into the game too early, but Marmol covered for his manager's error by throwing three dominating innings.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lee suspended for five games

Chicago Cubs' first baseman Derrek Lee was suspended for five games following his participation in Saturday's fourth inning incident in a game against the Padres.

After Chris Young hit Lee with a pitch, the slugging first baseman took a couple of swings at the pitcher, causing both benches and dugouts to empty out onto the field. Chris Young also got a five-game suspension, while Cubs' hitting coach Gerald Perry is suspended for three games.

Though sources initially indicated that the suspension to Lee and Young were six games, more credible sources have reported that the suspension was indeed five.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have optioned down left-handed reliever Clay Rapada to Iowa (AAA) to make room for Daryle Ward. Ward will likely serve as the team's first baseman during the suspension, though DeRosa will become a candidate when Ramirez returns on Friday.

I'm still sure why the Chicago Cubs are handling their pitchers the way that they are handling them. First of all, Pignatiello should've gotten the call ahead of Gallagher and it should've been Gallagher that got sent down, not Rapada. Rapada spent just four days on the big league roster and faced one batter before being sent down to Iowa. Besides, Gallagher is a starter.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cubs sweep Padres?

The Chicago Cubs will sweep the San Diego Padres this weekend. The series with the Padres has not even started, yet, I know. Hell, the series with Seattle isn't even over yet, but I know! How do I know?

It has nothing to do with the pitching matchups. It has nothing to do with the Padres ballclub. In fact, it hardly has anything to do with Cubs baseball at all.

My flight into Raleigh on Friday is during the series opener against the Padres. My flight back to Chicago on Sunday is during the series finale. What about Saturday's game? Yup, you guessed it. Right in the middle of my umpiring clinic. That means I will not be able to watch or follow any of the games in any capacity. So what does this have to do with the Cubs?

Well, the Cubs seem like a totally different ballclub when I don't watch. It's actually kind of eerie, but the Cubs are better than .800 in games that I don't watch. Yes, .800.

Eight hundred.

Simple probability tells that there is a better than 50% chance that the Cubs will sweep and almost a 90% chance that the Cubs will win the series. Of course, if the Cubs do end up sweeping the Padres, it means that I will have some serious consideration to do. But, I'll gladly take the sweep and worry about the future later. Eamus Catuli!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Numbers Game

Oh, the things you can come up with when you're bored.

Sean Marshall has been the most consistent starter for the Cubs in the last three weeks. Most of you know that each of his starts have been quality starts. But, exactly how consistent has he been? Well, this is freaky.

home: 1-1, 2.08 ERA
road: 1-1, 2.08 ERA

vs. lefties: .208 average allowed (5-24)
vs. righties: .208 average allowed (15-72)

Not only are his lefty/righty splits equal, but they match home/road ERA!

Here are a few more comparisons that aren't identical, but still pretty close.

after first pitch strike: .182 average allowed (8-44)
after first pitch ball: .196 average allowed (9-46)

1st game: loss; 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, HR, 2 BB, 8 K
2nd game: loss; 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, HR, 2 BB, 6 K

3rd game: win; 6.2 IP, 6 H, ER, 0 HR
4th game: win; 6 IP, 4 H, ER, 0 HR

In both of his losses, Marshall walked two batters. Marshall has gone 6 innings, 6 1/3 innings, 6 2/3 innings, and 7 innings in his starts so far and has given up exactly 1 or 2 earned runs on 4 or 6 hits. (Note the pattern: 2-2-1-1 and 4-6-6-4.) He's allowed a homer in each of his losses and not in each of his wins.

Also interesting to note is the fact that both of Marshall's wins came against Lance Cormier and the Braves. The first win was a 10-1 final and the second was a 9-1 final. In both wins, the Cubs have scored first. So I guess the moral is to score early and often. Where have I heard that before?

Along the same lines: in the two losses, Soriano went 1-for-4 and 0-for-5, respectively. In the wins, Soriano went 3-for-5 and then 4-for-5. Soriano has also homered in each of Marshall's wins and not in his losses.

What? You want even more? Well, how about Marshall's numbers in Triple-A?

with AAA: 2-0 in 4 starts; 24.2 IP, 17 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 8 BB; 1.01 WHIP
with ML: 2-2 in 4 starts; 26.0 IP, 20 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 7 BB; 1.04 WHIP

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So we Cubbed up another game...

The online dictionary defines a catcher as "a person that catches". Obviously, Michael Barrett hasn't read that definition of a catcher.

In the 13th inning of Tuesday's game Jose Vidro gave the Cubs every oppotunity to tag him out at the plate before scoring the go-ahead run. Despite hesitating around third base, Vidro tried to score and missed the plate on his first try. Michael Barrett couldn't handle Jones' four-hopper to the plate though.

The Cubs have now lost five extra inning home games this year, and their sixth extra inning loss overall, which leads all of baseball. Why we were in extra to begin with?

Well, take your pick:
* Rich Hill balks in the first Mariner run.
* Washburn, an American League pitcher, drives in a run.
* Cubs waste a bases loaded / 0 outs situation in the 8th...for the second time in four days.

I've got to imagine that Michael Wuertz was unavailable. It would explain why Ohman was left out there so long and why Gallagher replaced him. It would also explain why Eyre was warming up in the bottom of the 13th.

The most surprising thing after all of this. We're just 5 1/2 games out of first place. It's a sad National League central...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cubs notes: Vitters, Floyd

Looks like no one will be headed to the minors or the DL just yet. With the injury to third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs were left with just four infielders on the team: Lee at first, Theriot at second, DeRosa at third, and Izturis at short. If one of those infielders were to get injured, the Cubs would've had to rely on Matt Murton, Alfonso Soriano, or Koyie Hill to play one of the infield positions. Sure, the flexibility of all four starting infielders (yes, even Lee has played some third base before) makes it possible to place any of the emergency infielders in whatever position they prefered, but it was still a less than ideal situation.

The two main options for the Cubs were to either place Ramirez on the disabled list or send Angel Pagan to Iowa (AAA), so that Mike Fontenot, another infielder could be called up. Now, Fontenot will be called up without either of those happening, as Cliff Floyd was placed on the bereavement list after he flew back to Chicago to care for his sick father.

Floyd must stay on the bereavement list until at least after Sunday's game in Atlanta, but can remain on the bereavement list an additional four days if necessary. With Ward and Floyd now off of the team, the left-handed options off of the bench would be Pagan (switch), Hill (switch) and Jones, if Murton starts in right.

When Floyd does return, I don't aniticipate Mike Fontenot to be sent back down. That wouldn't solve the problem. Instead, Angel Pagan, who would be the club's sixth outfielder, should be moved to the minor leagues so he can see some more consistent playing time.

Bigger news surrounding the team, however, deals with the newest additions to the organization, 17-year-old Josh Vitters and forty-nine other players drafted in this year's amateur draft. The rather surprising pick of Mike Moustakas by the Kansas City Royals left the door open for the Cubs to take virtually anyone in the draft, but the club was locked in on Vitters.

Vitters, a senior at Cypress HS in California, is a defensive liability at third base and would most likely be moved to a corner outfield position. While Vitters is believed to be able to contribute decent average and power numbers at some point, taking a guy that you HOPE turns into a .280 average, 20 homerun left fielder is not someone you should take third overall.

I know that Matt Wieters wanted a large bonus and the Cubs weren't necessarily in a position to need more pitching, but left handers Daniel Moskos and Ross Detwiler could've been left-handed pitchers that bring help to the major league club potentially as soon as late next year.

Taking a high school player with an above average ceiling doesn't appear like a good decision.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Gallagher up, Pignatiello ignored

I'm not quite sure why lefty Carmen Pignatiello is continuing to be ignored.

Pignatiello has thrown 6.2 scoreless innings in Tennessee (AA) early this year, before being promoted to Iowa (AAA), where he's thrown 19.2 innings and allowed just two runs on 14 hits. In his combined 26.1 innings in the minors, Pignatiello has a 0.68 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP.

Nonetheless, after reliever Angel Guzman was placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow strain, it wasn't the 24-year-old left hander that was called up to the big club. Instead, right hander Sean Gallagher got the nod.

Don't get me wrong, Gallagher has thrown the ball well in Tennessee (AA). In 11 starts, Gallagher has a 7-2 record and a 3.39 ERA. But he's a starter, Pignatiello is not.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Piniella ejected in 8th

When will TV broadcasters learn? It doesn't matter whether Pagan actually beat the tag. The ball beat him, he's out. Why show the replays?

After Angel Pagan, representing the tying run, doubled to lead off the eighth inning, he was thrown out at third base attempting to advance on a potential wild pitch. Mike Quade and Pagan immediately starting arguing Mark Wegner's call, but Lou Piniella quickly stole the stage. With a slam of the cap, Piniella was immediately ejected and several minutes and several kicks of the cap later, Piniella left the field.

Len and Bob brought up the point that Wegner was wearing dark sunglasses so all Piniella could see was his own reflection. Hmmm, I should think about that...

Perhaps Piniella was upset for the bone head move he made in the last half inning. Ohman's splits are no secret and I've mentioned it time and time again on this blog, but Lou decided to stick with him against a string of three righties, despite the fact that he had Howry up in the bullpen.

Nonetheless, I like that Piniella tried to fire up the team. His players weren't producing and he's not allowed to play himself, so this was the next best thing. Dusty was either too scared to do that or too lazy to get off of his ass.

Too bad the team is still lazy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Barrett, Zambrano fight in dugout

After Michael Barrett sought out Carlos Zambrano in the Cubs' clubhouse, both players were sent home.

Zambrano approached Barrett at the end of the fifth inning and the two exchanged punches in the dugout before Zambrano was sent to the showers. An inning later, Michael Barrett left the game and got into another altercation with the Cubs former ace, which resulted in the catcher recieving a bloody lip.

Pinella has promised disciplinary action for both players. Here's what I suggest.

With Henry Blanco placed on the 15-day DL, Koyie Hill was called up. Why not send Barrett down the minors and bring up Hill's teammate Geovany Soto? The fight is not the only reason why I'm calling for Barrett's head; it has more to do with his 7 passed balls, 22% caught stealing percentage, 5 errors, and a .290 onbase average.

Zambrano should miss a few starts so he can get himself focused. Who's going to take his spot? Well, that's easy. Sean Gallagher has a 6-2 record and a 3.67 ERA in Tennessee (AA).