Series Preview: Braves at Chicago
Y'know, sometimes blogging can be a chore. It's tough spending what can amount to hours a day every single day writing for free, even if it's on a subject you love. That is why it is easy to find the innumerable carcasses of dead blogs anywhere you look, and I'll be completely honest - sometimes I just don't feel like writing. Sometimes I feel like it's pointless - if GROTA turned to dust tomorrow and faded away, there'd be a dozen other Cubs sites you could visit to get your fix and you'd probably forget all about us fairly quickly. Sometimes, it's hard to be a blogger.
Today is not one of those times.
I spent a weekend away from the Cubs, and I'm now hungry and ready for tonight's start of the Braves vs. Cubs series. The last one, against the Dodgers, was not pretty. The Cubs offense struggled and they only managed to split their four games with Los Angeles. Looking quickly at the team, I can't help but notice a few trends that I don't love. Like:
- Derrek Lee, who was batting .360 as of May 1st, is now batting .284. Point of fact, D-Lee batted .234 for the entire month of May, and he's batting .185 a week into June.
- Kosuke Fukudome was batting .350 as of May 1st. He is now batting .292, primarily because he's batting .136 this month.
- Geovany Soto was batting .330 on May 1st. In May, he batted .271. So far this June, he's batting .091. Ouch. Ugly.
- Ted Lilly, who went 4-0 in the month of May, also had a 4.72 ERA that month. Not what you want from your assumed #2 pitcher.
Despite all of that, the Cubs went 18-10 last month.
After going 4-3 on their most recent road trip, the Cubs have landed home for a 3-game series against the Braves. They then will travel onward to Toronto (where I will watch a couple of games) and Tampa (which will turn out to be an unlikely World Series Preview. Remember, you read it here first). All that said, onward to the pitching match-ups.
The Pitching Match-ups:
Tuesday, June 10th Theodore Roosevelt Lilly vs. Thomas Jefferson Glavine - Rage vs. Age
Ted Lilly still has a long way to go this year before he calms my concerns about his performance. (That's about as obvious a statement as, it's warm in summertime.) Lilly's numbers this year have been unimpressive - 5-5, 5.23 ERA, and he's only on pace for 182 innings pitched as a starter. All of these things are fine and good ... if you're the #4 guy in a rotation. Lilly, however, began the year as a presumptive #2, and he's been pitching like Number Two ever since. But don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to rail against the guy. I like Lilly, and I believe that he'll get his ERA close to 4 before the end of the season. I just don't think he's the kind of pitcher I'd count on in a short series in October. Sound familiar? It should - I say it every time I talk about the guy, and I'll keep saying it until he gives me a reason not to.
For the record, I don't think that Glavine's actually named "Thomas Jefferson." I was just going with the presidential thing because of Lilly. I appreciate Glavine. Being the Hall of Fame homer that I am, in the past I have tossed out the idea of the Cubs signing Glavine and Maddux to help get the team to the Series. Like my five-year relationship with Charlize Theron, that was never reality, though. Besides, Glavine has been pitching like an old man this year, and I think I'd rather have Lilly. All that said, in the past three years Glavine has been ineffective-at-best against the Cubs - 2-2, 5.12 ERA - and I have high hopes that the slumping Cubs offense will tee off on Tommy G. like it's the Home Run Derby at the All Star Game.
Wednesday, June 11th Ryan Clownsevelt Dempster vs. Jair "Funniest Name in Baseball" Jurrjens
Dempster remains a pleasant, happy, wonderful surprise. I don't think I expected him to win 7 games all year long, so for him to be the most successful pitcher in the rotation through early June is a shocker. I have to believe that he will eventually come back down to earth, but this is a contract year and Dempster just might surprise us all with the best season of his career.
Jair Jurrjens. 22-years-old. Born in Curacao. Jair Jurrjens. ::snicker::
Thursday, June 12th Sean Gallagher (I hope) vs. Tim Hudson
Sean Gallagher needs to start this game. He needs to. Why? Because, if he does, then Carlos will pitch on Friday in Toronto. I haven't seen Carlos pitch since last August, in a rain-shortened game against the Cardinals that did not count in the standings. Before that, I saw the Big Moose pitch against Houston in '03 in a huge game that, if you look at it from a certain perspective, put the Cubs in the playoffs that year. Anyway, there was a nice article about Gallagher in the Trib recently, in which it was noted that Sean has played well, is earning the respect of his teammates, and may be in the rotation for some time to come. Who better to beat Tim Hudson, then, besides the great Sean Gallagher?
Hudson, meanwhile, is pretty much the last arm standing from the great Oakland Trio of years passed. Mark Mulder is a smoldering pile of turds, and Barry Zito has gotten so efficient at sucking that he could probably get a golfball through a garden hose. Hudson, meanwhile, has been a stable, reliable arm for the Braves, and he will almost certainly lead them in wins this year. However, the Cubs could and should beat him without having to match him up with Carlos. You hear that, Hendry? You don't need Carlos to win this game!!!
The Cubs have dominated at home, while the Braves are underwhelming at best - especially without the incredible Chipper Jones, who may miss the entire series. Atlanta is a ridiculous 7-21 on the road, the Cubs are a ridiculous 26-8 at home, and it should be a highly entertaining series to watch. One point of concern is that the Cubs offense has been slumbering as of late, but let's not forget that 1) they were batting in two pitchers parks on the west coast and 2) four of those offensively atrocious games were against the Dodgers, whose pitchers seem to own our hitters. While the Cubs will be facing the heart of Atlanta's rotation this series, I have a feeling that their offensive struggles will soon be over.