Ladies and gentlemen, your new leader in batting average for the Chicago Cubs is Starlin Castro.
By going 4-for-5 in yesterday's game, Castro (.318) took the lead over from Marlon Byrd (.315, 1-for-4). Other Cubs with multiple hits yesterday included Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, and newcomer Blake DeWitt.
DeWitt seems to enjoy playing for Chicago, having gone 6-for-16 with a double and a homer in his first four games with the new club. He obviously won't hit .375 for the rest of the season, but I doubt it's hurting his psyche to be doing well early on.
I don't have anything else to say about Derrek Lee, but I will point out for Soto that he leads the team in OPS this year by just about 70 points. His OBP is at .398, his slugging at .519... dude, what a year. He may well get to 20 home runs by the end of the year.
Another factoid for ya: since coming off the 15-day DL on June 25, Aramis Ramirez has posted a .302/.338/.627 slash.
Cubs pitchers did well yesterday. Ryan Dempster posted a quality start (3 R, 0 ER in 6 IP), and Sean Marshall, Mitch Atkins, and soon-to-be-starter Carlos Zambrano each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
So that's nice!
Chris Narveson (8-7, 5.90) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-0, 0.00)
Not much else could go worse that didn't last night. Well, I guess that isn't entirely true. Ken Macha is currently trying to make last night haunt the Cubs just a little bit more by petitioning the official scorer for another hit in the 26-hit beating. I guess when you finally get a victory to build on, you need to take the opportunity to beat your opponent over the head with it. Repeatedly.
The infusion of new blood to the major league roster continues tonight as Thomas Diamond makes his major league debut for the Cubs. A first round pick of the Rangers in 2004 (10th overall) was supposed to be a piece in a dominant "DVD Trio" Rangers pitching staff along with Edinson Volquez and John Danks. Diamond was once ranked as high as 52 in the Baseball America Top 100 in 2005 Diamond was the last of the three pitchers to leave the organization after being DFA'd by the Rangers in September. Part of the reason Diamond didn't stick with the Rangers is due to his fragile nature so far in his career.
Since joining the Cubs, Diamond has been healthy and even made the PCL All-Star team this season. Under Ryne Sandberg in Triple-A Iowa, Diamond went 5-4 with a 3.16 ERA with 104 strikeouts over 108 innings. Despite the fall from grace since his days with the Rangers organization, scouts still contend that the right-hander has a hard-nosed and intimidating mound presence. He features a low 90's fastball, a plus change-up, and a good slider. While he no longer projects to be a top of the line starter, with a solid string of outings combined with some showing of durability, Diamond could find himself featured in the back end of the rotation for the Cubs in 2011.
Speaking of rotation spots, Lou said today that Big Z will get consideration for a rotation spot when the rotation turns over. Honestly, this is good news as I'm not sure if I could deal with seeing someone else implode on the mound. I'm not saying Z won't, I'm just saying that at least then he's earning his money.
In a bout of creativity, both teams are rolling out the exact same lineup as last night. Hopefully this time, it will play out with different results for the Cubs. Congrats to Diamond on his debut and finally making it, and I hope to talk about his succes tomorrow morning rather than the need to fill yet another glaring hole by 2011.
Let's take a certain discussion from the comments to the front page.
On the "What do we owe?" post, Chief says like it or not, the Cubs will be forced to spend some money this offseason. The Cub fan base demands investment, and a $120 million payroll (that includes my rough estimates at arb raises) simply will not do.
So let's get wild here. Here's the link to 2011 free agents; who could the Cubs sign for next year? I suppose Everybody's Favorite Option would be to spend $100 million over five years on Cliff Lee, so for the sake of creativity let's look at alternatives. Here's everything I can see from going down the list:
IN THE FIELD
1) Sign Victor Martinez and move either him or Geovany Soto to first base.
2) Sign Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena to play first base.
3) Sign Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Juan Uribe, Cristian Guzman, or Aaron Miles to play second base, move Aramis Ramirez to first base, and move Blake DeWitt to third. Apparently DeWitt's glove plays well there.
4) Sign Adrian Beltre, Ty Wigginton, or Miguel Tejada to play third base and move Aramis Ramirez to first base.
5) Sign Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford to play right field and move Tyler Colvin to first base.
ON THE MOUND
1) Move Randy Wells and/or Tom Gorzelanny and/or Carlos Silva and/or Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen and sign one or more of:
Jorge De La Rosa, Justin Duchscherer, Ted Lilly, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Ben Sheets, Javier Vasquez, Brandon Webb, and/or Jake Westbrook.
I'd argue relievers can't make a .500 team a 90-win team, but maybe you disagree.
I'd rather put all we can towards the 2012 free agent class, which has some players with much higher ceilings. But if you like any of these ideas, then by all means.
Since no one wants to talk about last night's game, I thought I'd expand on a comment left by George about the Cubs' prospects for winning any number of games in the near future.
George points out that the Cubs have lots of large contracts left on the books next year, even after Derrek Lee walks. Indeed, before arbitration raises the team has guaranteed $103 million in 2011 salaries, as well as $62.5 million in 2012 salaries (only Alfonso Soriano's $19 mil-a-year goes beyond that, out until 2014).
But let's not get ahead of ourselves, folks. Even this year, we are paying some horribly untalented individuals some serious amounts of money. For today's moment of fun, I thought I'd direct your attention to those incidences. For example:
- We are paying Aaron Miles $1,000,000 this year.
- Jeff Samardzija is getting paid $3,000,000 in 2010.
- John Grabow makes $2,700,000.
- Xavier Nady: $3,300,000.
- The $700,000 paid to Koyie Hill is a relatively small issue, but I'd like to point out that Geo Soto is making $575,000.
- Chad Tracy is making $900,000.
- And last but not least: Luis Vizcaino is getting paid $500,000.
There's a cool $12 million straight down the tube. Could we bring back Jason Marquis already?
Holy crap, I was wrong. I was so wrong it looks pathetic! And it's not even the FUN kind of wrong where everybody who is more optimistic than me is able to say "ahah, Kurt, you douchebag, you were wrong!"
See, about a week ago I posted my opinion that the Cubs could finish the season with a .500 record. I know, it was a far cry from the days when I used to say things like, "the end is nigh! The Cubs are going to win the World Series!" But, I thought it was realistic.
Then, the Cubs bullpen colluded to strike, the Cubs offense took an early vacation, and the remaining Cubs fans were left holding the bag. Quite painful.
So -- here's how things look now: the Chicago Cubs are only 9 games out ... of last place. I'm pretty sure it was somebody on Desipio who suggested that a total, flat-faced collapse would be almost more comforting than any kind of assembled effort to finish the year on a middle note, because like the insanely bi-polar Mel Gibson the Cubs deserve to be hated. They deserve to be punished for the crap they've put us through.
I mean, Jeezus. Look at the last 6 games (all losses). The Cubs have scored 17 runs -- a total that their opponents have, in a single game, eclipsed twice. TWICE!! All told, the Cubs have allowed 63 runs to their 17 in those 6 straight losses. It makes me want to throw up in my mouth, swallow, and throw up again. Horrible.
But, hey! They're only 9 games behind the Pirates for the most losses in the NL, and they're 13 games back from overtaking the Orioles. If any team can lose a lot of games quickly, it's these Cubs! It's like 1999 all over again!
So, normally this is the part where I write about the upcoming matchups. Cub 27-year-old rookie Thomas Diamond makes his first ever major league appearance tomorrow. Ryan Dempster looks to stop the bleeding the day after that.
But the truth of the matter is, despite the Cubs having spent hundreds of millions of dollars amassing the best players money can buy, regardless of the fact that they have now had a decade under Jim Hendry's guidance to build the best farm system in all of baseball, ignoring Hendry's dogged pursuit of Lou Piniella and the best crack coaching staff he could possibly get, the Cubs are an embarrassing team. They are humiliating us right now.
Don't worry, though. Tom Ricketts has already assured us concerned Cub fans that Hendry would be back to try again next year.
Thanks, Tom. While you're at it, would you like to kick us in the balls?
Oh wait. You already did.
Yovani Gallardo (9-5, 2.77) vs. Randy Wells (5-8, 4.10)
Welcome to the battle for third place. It's a lonely front, filled with disillusion, disgust, and general indifference at times. However, it's still baseball. This means that I will be avidly watching to root on the Cubs despite the dismal record. Now it just means I will be more keen to watch my fantasy players. Speaking of which: after being written off as a complete loss last year and all but having his effigy burned all over Milwaukee, Corey Hart has net himself a 3 year, $26.5MM extension. Good for him. Maybe now he can afford some type of facelift/surgery to make him not be the most awkward looking player in baseball.
The pitching matchup should be an interesting one at least. Gallardo came off the DL last week and faced the Reds with results that were Silva-esque. El Chupacabra allowed 5 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings and struggled from the get-go. That being said, Gallardo is a damn fine pitcher and it likely won't be the same story tonight. Wells is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA with 16 punch outs over the span of 3 starts and 19 2/3 innings. His last start in Houston was uncharacteristic as he issued five walks over the 5 2/3 innings he was on the mound. I expect this result to turn around as well.
Who's Hot- Blake Dewitt. In his debut in a Cubs uniform, Dewitt went 3-for-4 (against a lefty no less) and tallied an RBI in his first at bat. While I need a lot more convincing that he could be decent piece for the future, I am hoping his beautiful swing can produce good results under Jaramillo's watchful eye.
Who's Not- The final spot in the rotation. Silva's exit, although health related, is his third early exit in 4 games. I get that we are likely bottom-dwellers of the division this year, but it'd be nice to see some more stability in the rotation. Hell, even a pissed off Carlos Zambrano provides more stability on the mound that Silva and his lack of conditioning. My vote is keep Diamond in the rotation and slot Z back in the rotation to let him work out the many, many wrinkles in his game right now.
I don't know what else to say, and my last "prediction" went horribly awry. Hopefully the rivary juices keep flowing, and the new-look Cubs bring their A-game and play competitive ball. You're auditioning for next year boys... fight for my favor. EDIT: Here's what tonight's lineups look like:
El Chupacabra, P
It looks like Soto's cleanup gig is up with Ramirez back in the lineup. Outside of that, this seems to be Lou's "well, I've used it before and I forgot to fill out a lineup card today" pick. Just had to cross out "Theriot" and put in "that new young fella we got from that one team."
Game kicks off in a half hour. Enjoy.
Is it time to get out of Denver or what?
I thought about naming this one "DeWitt's Debut," as the Cubs' new man at the keystone managed to do well -- and against a lefty, no less. DeWitt went 3-for-4 on the day, including an RBI double early on.
Other than that? A slogfest. Carlos Silva's heart earned him today's headline, with his having thrown just 15 pitches before needing to visit the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. James Russell relived Silva, and was a bit wild, but pitched well enough considering the circumstances, including a 1-2-3 third inning. And Carlos Zambrano did nothing to inspire confidence, allowing four hits, two walks, and two runs in his two innings pitched. All told: eight runs given up in the first five innings.
Marlon Byrd joined Blake DeWitt on the three-hit train, including a ninth inning triple off Huston Street. And it was cool to see Lou bat Geo Soto 4th with Aramis on the bench. Other than that, not much to say about the offense.
Speaking of "slogfest," I have a feeling that's what the rest of this season is going to feel like, too. Starlin Castro will probably hit closer to .270 than .300 by the end of the year; Derrek Lee will finish up around .250 or so; Tyler Colvin will strike out a bunch more, and will struggle to stay above .270 himself; the starting rotation will continue to confirm our fears that their best days this season are already behind them; and we'll get to watch several Iowa Cubs struggle, as the shuttle bus to Des Moines continues to roll.
So this is what rebuilding feels like, huh? Not as fun as I thought it would be.
As the calender changes to August, the Cubs find themselves trying to stave off a sweep at the hands of a good Rockies' club that was struggling before the Cubs came to town. Today marks the likely debut of Blake DeWitt. I haven't seen the lineups but I'd bet DeWitt is in there even against the LHP. Jeff Baker will likely be playing third base with Aramis resting his nagging thumb injury. The Cubs should conisder giving Carlos Gonzalez the Albert Pujols treatment.
Today's Matchup: Carlos Silva (107.2IP, 3.76ERA, 3.90xFIP) vs Jorge De La Rosa (43.2IP, 5.15ERA, 3.61xFIP)
Just a point about Carlos Silva. Much is made about his great control and it is the key reason why he has been effective when he's effective throughout his career; having said that, Silva's success this year has been due to his career best K rate. Silva's K rate has never been above 5 but this year, mostly because of the use of the change up, Silva's K rate is over 6. He likely is going to regress somewhat in this second half but he's been a pleasant surprise and while I don't totally expect it to keep up, he has shocked the bejesus out of me.
Who's Hot: He hasn't really been "hot" per se but did you catch that game tying jack that Derrek Lee hit last night? I think his next two months will see him lift his batting average over .270 and get him up to around 22 or so HR. The Cubs are not making the playoffs this year so I will spend time seeing if guys like Lee can regress to the mean (in a good way) the rest of the year. I still think he could be back in 2011 for one more year.
Who's Not: Aramis has really cooled off and it's pretty clear his thumb is bothering him again. They are sitting him down but I say just let him rest on the DL for 15 days again. Last time he did that, he turned into Barry Bonds on steroids for a few weeks.
Conclusion: Let's get an easy win today and give the bullpen (and especially Sean Marshall) a chance to get their bearings straight. DeLaRosa is no pushover, despite the ERA, so we'll see. Go Cubs!
Every baseball fan's favorite deadline has come and gone, and as you well know, the Cubs' roster is constituted a bit differently today than it was a week ago. You may be wondering what my opinion is on all that's happened. (Or maybe you aren't wondering, in which case: Congratulations! You're sane!)
At this point, the names of the players exchanged in the Cubs' lone deal have been so widely disseminated that stating them again here borders on worthlessness, but for the sake of cohesion I'll do it: the Cubs gave up starter Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot, in exchange for infielder Blake DeWitt, A-level starter Brett Wallach, and A-level reliever Kyle Smit.
Furthermore, there are two other names that, as far as I can tell, have been omitted from the discussion despite the fact that they probably shouldn't be. Those are Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker.
Every time Theriot started at second base and/or led off leading up to the end of July, folks may have been asking themselves, "Wouldn't a Fontenot/Baker platoon be more effective than this?" And if they had asked me, I would have said to them, "Yes, it would." It would probably be a half-decent option for next year's team, too.
But Fontenot and Baker have each been in the majors for a few years now, meaning they're eligible for some pay raises. And then there's the obvious fact that a platoon requires two rosters spots, which may block a better bat from being available in pinch-hitting scenarios.
With yesterday's trade, I expect the Cubs to non-tender both Baker and Fontenot in this upcoming offseason, giving Blake DeWitt the keys to second base on a full-time basis. Since DeWitt is not yet arbitration-eligible (at least I'm pretty sure he's not), he'll only cost the team about a half-million dollars. Baker plus Fontenot plus additional raises would have cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, I'm guessing, so, look at that! I just found the money we sent to the Dodgers in this recent deal -- not to mention our new 2B is 25 years old rather than 30, which most baseball folks interpret to mean he may still yet increase his skills. And as a member of the 2011 Cubs, by all means he should have every opportunity to do so.
(An aside: You may have your arms in the air right now, saying, "I thought Starlin Castro was going to slide over to second when The Cubs' Other Franchise Player, Hak-Ju Lee, took over at short?!" Not so, my friends; if Castro is to be moved from SS, I think his strong throwing arm plays much better at third base than at second. That'd be one young, talented infield, no?)
One final point: there's a pretty long list of Cubs that weren't traded this weekend that don't exactly fit with the current team, which is very much in rebuilding mode right now. That list includes, but is not limited to: Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady, the aforementioned Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker, Carlos Silva, and perhaps even several established veterans like Ryan Dempster, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Zambrano.
Remember: there's no guarantee these players will finish the season as Cubs. Likely, most of them will be placed on waivers, which is a-whole-'nother ball game from trades entirely, but it suffices to say that the process could result in some or all of those players being moved.
For now, though, I'm pleased with the return obtained by Jim Hendry in yesterday's deal, and am excited to see the team finally take at least one small step in the direction of a youth movement, rather than patching up our aging roster with 31-year-old, left-handed hitting right fielders.