Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Groundhog Day (Game Recap: Mets 6, Cubs 1)

Recap
Sweet Lou unveiled the "new look" Cubs lineup today in an effort to ignite a stagnant Cubs offense.  The new look yielded the same results and two all too familiar culprits.

Randy Wells churned out another quality start by allowing an earned run on six hits and two walks over six innings.  It looked like things were about to fall apart in the fifth inning when Wells loaded the bases with two outs and subsequently allowed a run-scoring infield single to Luis Castillo.  However, Wells was able to strike out an over-eager David Wright on three pitches to end the threat and the inning.

Lou went to the bullpen in the seventh inning, and like a match to a powderkeg, the fireworks promptly began for the Mets.  Feeling left out from the rest of the pen, the previously unscored upon James Russell served up a home run to Angel Pagan immediately after beaning Jose Reyes on an 0-2 pitch.  And the fun didn't stop there.  With two outs in the inning, Lou brought in implosion specialist Jeff Samardzija who promptly issued a walk to David Wright and a double off of the wall by Jason Bay.  Even Sean Marshall got in on the fun in the seventh by allowing an RBI single to future Hall of Famer Ike Davis (he has a career batting average of .500!) and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch to the next batter.

There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said about the bullpen woes of the Cubs.  It's thirteen games into the season and the roles in the bullpen are about as defined as they were coming into Spring Training.  The Shark looks like he has no idea where his release point is at and really needs to be put on the first bus down to Iowa to get some substantive instruction (like: how a sinker is supposed to sink).  With Andrew Cashner dominating hitters in Double A (3 GS, 17.1 IP, 5 ER, 25:4 K:BB) and the instability of the club's MLB bullpen, I think it is safe to begin the "Cashner Watch" (in spite of this) He was a very good closer for TCU, and I believe he could be useful at the major league level.

Then again it's not like the offense helped Wells out tonight, either.  On a positive note, the new leadoff hitter Marlon Byrd went 3-4 with an RBI and the oft-criticized Alfonso Soriano went 2-4 (albiet, with a double that could have been streched out if he hustled).  Byrd's comfort in the leadoff spot may have something to do with the fact that he spent a fair amount of time in that spot during his time with the Phils.  It seems that some Chicago sports personalities are against the move, as they believe Byrd is more valuable in a lower lineup spot because he is 'clutch'.  Considering the Cubs could use any spark possible at the top of the lineup, I think Byrd did a fine job of working the count and setting the table; both qualities I attribute to a successful leadoff hitter.

Aside from Byrd and Soriano, all the other offensive statistics are appaling.  The team went 1-10 with runners in scoring position.  The 3-4-5 hitters went 1-11 with two walks.  Aramis Ramirez continued his frigid start to the season with an 0-4 showing which dropped his average to .157.  Even more troubling, Ramirez only saw a total of 14 pitches in his 4 AB's.  It seems like Ramirez is pressing right now and the Cubs as a whole are suffering because of it.

On a positive note, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly allowed only one run over seven innings in his final rehab start for Class A Peoria.  He threw 88 pitches in the outing and stuck out nine batters while only walking one.  Theodore, well aware of the offensive struggles in his absence and always the consummate team player, even attempted a stolen base.  It looks like he will make his first start with the big club on Sunday against the Brewers.

Tomorrow the Cubs look to even the series against right hander Mike Pelfrey.  Lou may not trot out the new look lineup tomorrow, but hopefully the end result will be different.

Bad Team

My first comment!

I've watched several games this year.

This is a bad Cubs' team. I'll be surprised if they are a contender.

Soriano has to go. Playing the spectator when he could have stretched a double into a triple was a disaster last night... not just in terms of strategy, but also for the psychology of the team. What is the rest of the team supposed to think when its highest paid player dogs it? Ron Darling, one of the Mets' announcers, tore into Soriano all night. He stated repeatedly that this play changed the entire game, and that it especially hurt Soto, who could have come up to bat with Soriano on third and a chance for a sacrifice fly. Darling said that Soto could have really used the boost of confidence that that opportunity might have provided.

I watched on the Mets channel last night, so I got a different view of the Cubs than you get when you tune in to the homer announcers. The Mets' announcers tore the Cubs apart. They repeatedly called the team "lifeless," meaning unmotivated. (New Yorkers demand that their teams win, and they pummel the team relentlessly if it loses. Stark contrast to Chicago.)

They also ridiculed Soriano ruthlessly, basically calling him an albatross that the Cubs can't afford to dump. They dismissed Soriano as a player who's career is really over.

Ron Darling picked the Cubs' hitters apart. He said that they've completely lost any plate discipline that they briefly acquired when Fukudome signed. He noted correctly that Cubs' hitters refused to adjust and shorten their swings when they were down two strikes.

I suggest that you listen to the opponent's announcers during a Cub game. It isn't just a rotten bullpen and a batting slump that's deep sixing the Cubs. This team has no motivation, no plate discipline, no three hole hitter who hits for average and it's saddled with a star (Soriano) who's dogging it. The Cubs desperately need to eat Soriano's contract and dump him.

The lack of a three hole hitter, or for that matter any kind of hitter who just seeks to make contact, was highlighted when the Mets scored their first run on a scratch hit. The Cubs had numerous opportunities to score simply by putting the ball in play, and they failed every time.

No 3 hole hitter?!!

Derrek Lee is a pretty good 3 hole hitter. They talked about his batting average with runners in scoring position from 2007-2009 on ESPN. Derrek Lee has batted .330. That is third in the National League I believe. Albert Pujols is second and Aramis Ramirez is first.

On Baseball Tonight, John Kruk ripped Soriano for being lazy. The compared a double by him and one by Adam Dunn to a similar spot in the outfield. Dunn beat Soriano by half a second. Kruk went on to say there was no way that Soriano shouldn't have had a triple. Given the Cubs struggles, the only acceptable excuse is that Sori was saddled by leg injuries,

No 3 hole hitter!

Derek Lee is certainly a power 3 hole hitter.

But, he isn't a contact hitter. His stats for double plays last year were a disaster. Lee is a big swinger.

The Cubs need a guy in the three hole who hits .330, always makes contact, seldom hits into a double play, and hits homers at opportune moments.

Let's put Billy Williams back in uniform.

I wish.

DLee and the DP

I think Derrek is a little bit of both. To say he isn't a contact hitter and then citing his double plays seems to be a bit off in logic. Grounding into a double play usually implies contact in the first place. That being said, Derrek only grounded into 12 double plays in 2009 while putting up a .306/.393/.579 line. You may be talking about his 2008 campaign where he grounded into a grand total of 27 double plays. During 2008, his BABIP was .330, which was actually a touch higher than his BABIP from last year (.327). However, his batting average for ground balls in play was a highly unlucky .232. To put that into a bit of perspective, Pujols had a BABIP for ground balls in 2008 of .320. Part of that disparity is that Pujols is an elite hitter, but the other part of that was Lee was just not finding holes and hitting it right at people. To a degree, the double plays were a result of bad luck.

Moreover, Lee tends to only strike out about 110-ish times a year. Not the best, but it's not Ryan Howard-esque either. In 2008, his "bad season," he put the ball in play in 484 of his 623 AB's. In 2009, he put the ball in play 388 times out of 523 AB's. Is this flawless? No. Are there batters that are better at putting the ball in play? Yes. However, I think this is a pretty acceptable range for a hitter.

Of the requirements you list, basically only Albert Pujols matches your description of a true #3 hitter. A good goal to have, yes... but not a good benchmark.

@Shouting Thomas

The Cubs home announcing team has never come across as "homer" to me. Bob Brenly has habitually lit into players that he feels aren't giving 100% effort. If Kent Mercker had been on the team with Brenly around, he would have ran to the front office to bitch about his poor PR on a half dozen occasions.

But I do agree with you on Soriano. That pose at the plate on his early double was a big, fat f*ck you to his teammates.

Homer announcers

New York just has a different attitude than Chicago... the result of being used to winning.

Criticism is just ruthless in New York. You must perform and win... or we'll get you out of here. Winning is expected and demanded.

There's something different in the way criticism is delivered in Chicago. Winning isn't expected or demanded. It's hoped for.

So, players' egos are babied a bit in Chicago. Chicago announcers hope that players will improve.

The New York attitude is more along the lines of: Hey, this guy better get his act together or we'll go out and buy somebody better. He's lucky he gets to wear that "New York" on the front of his uniform.

It's a subtle difference, but it pays off for New York teams.

There is a concrete difference, too. The Yankees or the Mets would dump Soriano, eat his contract, and pay for a better player.

Yankees Dumped Soriano

Of course, it should be noted that the Yankees cut Soriano loose, despite his obvious potential.

The Yankees are not stupid.

The Yankees didn't dump Soriano

They traded him for Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best player in baseball.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award