Cubs lose again. Lame!
Lilly was decent (three earned runs allowed in seven innings), the offense was not (two runs scored, both knocked in by The Team Carrier (see below)), and Starlin Castro had a really rough night in the field (three errors -- egads).
Let me ask you something(s):
- Do you understand that ALFONSO SORIANO has been CARRYING this team? 3-for-4, two RBIs, a runner gunned down at home -- he's only hitting .340 with seven home runs now.
- Why did Xavier Nady hit fourth tonight? Seriously, why?
- Why did Derrek Lee hit third tonight? I guess he's hit before, but the guy is not having a good year. And yes, it's likely he'll turn it around, but maybe we could hit him lower until then?
- Do you feel like booing Starlin Castro? I know I don't. Yes, it was a rough night for the kid, but let's give the kid a chance to settle down.
- Did any of Lou's actions tonight change your opinion about his ability to manage? Do you feel Lilly was managed appropriately (yes, hindsight is 20/20!)? Did you like his line-up? Does he take any blame for the double steal that was completed against his team?
Answers to any and/or all questions posed are welcomed in the comments section.
You know who's not a very good pitcher? Charlie Morton.
Maybe, going into last night's game, Charlie was saying to himself:
"Listen. You are garbage, self. But so is your team. So you know you're gonna be out there for at least five innings. Let's give these guys a bunch of crap to hit, not walk anybody, and hope they suck enough where they don't rally or anything. I'll give them all the singles they want, but no extra-base hits, and no walks."
And it worked!
The Cubs collected neither walk nor extra-base hit in this piece of crap game.
Awards for suckitude go to Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome for failing to get on base ever, and to everyone on the team for sucking generally.
In all honesty, the Cubs aren't this bad. But they're also really not that much better, either.
Let's have your predictions for number of games this team will win this season in the comments section, please.
The Pirates got off to a 7-5 start but have gone a more Pirate-like 3-10 since. Their recent slide is not the result of bad luck--the fact is, they don't do much of anything well. They've scored just 86 runs this season (second-worst in the NL) while allowing more than twice that many (175, worst in the NL). This amazingly bad run differential puts them on pace to be outscored by nearly 600 runs this season. While that's really, really unlikely to happen, it's clear that Pittsburgh is really, really bad.
Which is nothing new, of course. The Cubs went 10-4 against them last year after going 14-4 the year before. Though the Cubs will be away from home, they really need to start the road trip off right by winning--if not sweeping--this series. Fortunately, using the transitive property, we can see that the Pirates have been outscored by an average of seven runs per game in their six contests with the Brewers this year, while the Cubs have outscored the Brewers by an average of four runs per game; therefore, the Cubs will outscore the Pirates by an average of 11 runs per game in this series. That's science.
Tuesday, May 4--Ryan Dempster (2-1, 2.78) vs. LH Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.83)
Dempster has been on fire lately, even if he did lose his last start. He beat the Pirates twice last year, but had a modest 4.66 ERA against them. While it's still early, Dempster's road split is actually better than his home split so far this season--he has a 1.32 ERA in two road starts, with three walks and 13 strikeouts.
Maholm's last two starts were almost identical: 7 IP, 4 ER in both. His one start against the Cubs last year was the reverse: 4 IP, 7 ER, though the Pirates won that game 10-8 (look who got the win). He struggles against righties, so Xavier Nady is likely to get a start here against his former team.
Wednesday, May 5--Ted Lilly (1-1, 4.91) vs. Charlie "Holy crap look how bad my numbers are" Morton (0-5, 12.57)
These two matched up last September 30, with Morton throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout. In mid-August, however, Morton lasted just one inning against the Cubs and gave up 10 earned runs. Morton has been downright awful this season: he's allowed at least three earned runs in all five of his starts, given up seven long balls, and has allowed more than two hits and walks per inning pitched (2.17 WHIP). Go get 'im, boys.
It was probably unfair to assume that despite having just come off the DL, Lilly would stay in the groove he was in when he faced Milwaukee. He struggled with his control and gave up several long balls in his second start of the year last week against Arizona, giving him one great start and one terrible one on the season. Lilly was 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA against the Pirates last year. Andy LaRoche is the only current Pirate with a home run off Lilly, while Ryan Doumit is 5-for-15 in his career against him.
Thursday, May 6--Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45) vs. LH Brian "TBD" Burres (1-1, 6.00)
The Pirates have not yet announced Thursday's starter--someone needs to fill in for the injured Ross Ohlendorf. Burres did so admirably last week with 5.1 scoreless against the Dodgers, and seems a likely candidate for the series finale. Only Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady have faced him more than three times--Nady is 2-for-7 against him while Byrd's one hit off him was a home run. Recently recalled Brian Bass would seem to be the other potential starter for this game (9.00 ERA in 2 IP).
Wells had his worst start of the season on Friday, though he still got the win. He had success against the Pirates last year, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Andrew McCutchen is 3-for-5 against him.
Lets start with the positives. Hendry signed two of our three best starting pitchers through free agency, and both have wildly exceeded our expectations. Terrible Ted Lilly has been worth 10 WAR since he began his Cubs career in 2007. For comparison's sake, Yovani Gallardo has only been worth 5.5 WAR over the same period of time. Ted has been very, very good.
Ryan Dempster has been even better. In the two seasons since he returned to the rotation, Dempster has been an ace. He's put up 8.7 WAR in that time period, and was able to accumulate 3.6 WAR last season even though he missed a month of the season with a broken toe. Since he joined the rotation, Ryan Dempster has been the Cubs best pitcher.
That's about the extent of the positives. Here are the negatives, in lazy list form: Alfonso Soriano @ 8 years, $136 million with a no trade clause. Kosuke Fukudome @ 4 years, $48 million with a no trade clause. Milton Bradley @ 3 years, $30 million. Jacque Jones @ 3 years, $15 million. Jason Marquis @ 3 years, $21 million. Bob Howry @ 3 years, $12 million. Aaron Miles @ 2 years, $5 million. John Grabow @ 2 years, $7 million. Etc.... These players have a ton in common. Most were coming off a career year. (Jones is a notable exception.) Most did not contribute enough WAR to justify their salaries. All were seemingly signed for too many years. The Cubs roster has been an elephant's graveyard of declining players being paid a ton of money for their past contributions to other teams.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Most MLB team's have gotten smarter about keeping their young, high WAR players away from free agency. The majority of players who reach free agency are players that their original teams didn't deem worth extending, because their likely salaries would exceed their likely contributions. In short, free agency isn't a smart way to try and build a ballclub. Jim Hendry has spent a lot of money in free agency and usually hasn't gotten his money worth. The bad, long term contracts on this Cubs squad have hamstrung him in his efforts to improve the team going forward. The Cubs are older, maddeningly mediocre, and expensive. This team won't contend in 2010, and it won't contend in 2011 either. Because of his nasty habit of making it rain on every flavor of the week free agent who comes a knockin, Hendry should be fired.
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While the big league club was once again taking its lumps, a beacon of hope in the name of Ted Lilly was shining in Peoria, making his final rehab start before (likely) rejoining the team on Saturday in Milwaukee. By my unofficial count, Lilly threw 89 pitches (63 for strikes) over 7 solid innings, leading the Chiefs to a 2-1 victory over the Burlington Bees.
Not only did Lilly pitch well, mixing pitches and speeds with ease, but he contributed at the plate as well. This was a bit odd, as the Midwest League uses a DH, but apparently that was waived for the Chiefs on this night. Lilly got a solid basehit to left center his first time up, and was then thrown out trying to steal 2nd (???). Your guess is as good as mine as to why he was trying to steal a base, but he gets bonus points for his great Pete Rose head-first slide. In his 2nd AB, he drew a 4-pitch walk. Fear Ted Lilly at the plate?
The following is his inning by inning linescore. Note that in his first 15 pitches or so he threw almost exclusively fastballs, and eventually one got squared up...
1st Inning - BB, K(FB), 3B (off wall in LC), K looking (great curve), K (Curve) - 23 pitches.
2nd Inning - K(FB), 1B (LF), F3, pickoff @ 1st - 8 pitches
3rd Inning - F7, 4-3, 1B (LC), F9 - 12 pitches
4th Inning - F8, F4, E4 (bobbled), F8 - 13 pitches
5th Inning - K (3 straight curves - batter was never close), F9, 6-3 - 10 pitches
6th Inning - K (FB), K (CB), K (CB) - 12 pitches
7th Inning - K (FB), F3, 6-3 - 11 pitches
Lilly got stronger as the game went on, and while the radar gun work at O'Brien Field was shaky, it was working enough for me to note that he got his fastball up as high as 91, and his curve was sitting in the 67-75 range. He looked good, and the big league club could definitely use the help. In other Peoria Chiefs news, Hak-Ju Lee impressed both in the field and on the basepaths. Lee, a consensus top-10 prospect for the Cubs, made a couple very nice plays at short, ranging into the hole and showing off a nice arm. His delivery does have a little bit of a hitch in it, but it seems to work for him. On the basepaths, Lee stole 2nd and 3rd twice, for 4 SB total on the game. He was getting great jumps and showing blazing speed. He's definitely one to keep an eye on this year.
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.
What Sully has done is gathered some of the legal facts about Cub contracts, compared them to some of the statements that have been made, and thrown in some wishful thinking on his part, and come up with the following: if the Cubs suck this year, we will have a new manager, GM, third baseman, first baseman, no Ted Lilly, and tons of money to spend.
If you want to know what he thinks about it, go click on the links. But do you know what I think? First of all, I do not hope we suck this year. I hope we win the World Series. I do not think we will, not without a true Ace starter, a true leadoff man, and what has to be regarded as total uncertainty about the health of Alfonso Soriano. I think we will suck this year. But if you read this and come away with the notion that I WANT us to tank 2010 so we can rebuild, forget it. That's stupid, just plain stupid, to wish for us to waste a whole year in the careers of Zambrano, Soto, Theriot, Marmol, etc.
But what if 2010 turns out to be another typical year of frustration at Clark and Addison, only with the majors' third largest payroll, and new owners burdened with stifling debt in an uncertain economy? If we don't win the NL Central this year, here's what might happen:
- Jim Hendry - Sully thinks he won't be back in 2011. I think he will. I don't think the Ricketts want to look for another GM, and with the farm system looking better than it has for many years, Hendry isn't going to be held responsible for the failure. Jim can just blame the 'go for it now' edict from Sam Zell as a twisted sort of justification for saddling us with our nastiest contracts - "it wasn't my idea, it was his".
- Lou Piniella - Lou will most certainly be back in 2011 if we play well this year, and will most certainly will NOT be back if we do not. Fact is, even though this lineup is not built to win a pennant, it could and probably should finish on top of the Central, unless crippling injuries and/or clubhouse strife take place. If it does, it will be another trying season for the manager, and I was surprised Lou lasted all of 2009. He won't make it another year like that.
Who takes his place? Sadly, it won't be Ryne Sandberg. I am cynical enough to believe that Hendry and Crane Kenney have been stringing Ryno along this whole time, in a perverse PR move to boost minor league attendance. Somehow, I believe Joe Girardi has been the plan all along amongst the braintrust. The fact that the Yankees won it all last year just made it all the more convenient to give Lou one more year. Chances are, the Yanks will not repeat, Girardi will take the fall, and end up in our pinstripes in 2011.
- Ted Lilly - his contract is up this year. Sully thinks he won't be re-signed if the Cubs tank. Based on his past 4 years, he will be paid handsomely. Yes, he is rehabbing at the moment, but unlike some other recent Cub hurlers, he will not look back at the winter of 2009-10. It would be a mistake not to retain him.
- Derrek Lee - his contract is also up this year. Sully also thinks he will not be asked back, perhaps under any circumstances. Lee is the leader of this team. That works AGAINST him if we do not win this year. What also works against him is the bumper crop of first base free agents available next off-season. In my honest opinion, if you love Derrek Lee, enjoy him now, while you can.
- Aramis Ramirez - he has a player option for 2011. Sully thinks that if we suck, ARam will not exercise his option to return. I disagree entirely. His option is for over $14MM next year. No way he gets that anywhere else. Plus, you never hear about his desire to play anywhere else. You don't hear about any friendships with any other players in the league. He is a Cub, folks. We are not going to get his money to spend on someone else.
- Kosuke Fukudome - Sully doesn't mention him at all, but he has one more hefty year left after this year. However, if we suck, it will most likely be due to his inability to repeat his Japanese success here. Cubs fans have turned on him, as bad or worse than they ever turned on Milton Bradley. I don't think he comes back for one more year of this, even for the last huge payday. Ichiro comes back year after year, because although his team sucks, he himself performs at an all-star level. There isn't any dishonor in his game. The Fooker has not been as advertised. I can see him retiring, turning his back on his last $12 million. So maybe we save some money there.
- Carlos Zambrano - as big as his contract is, he is not untradeable. If the Cubs are not leading the division or close to it by the deadline, the media pressure on him will be intense. Last year, he made statements that he wouldn't deal with that kind of pressure from the Chicago media ever again. He just might demand a trade, putting us in the unenviable position of weakness. If I have judged the Ricketts correctly, I don't think they will appreciate Zambrano doing that to them any more than once. They will accommodate him if this comes up again.
So, although the lava on my volcano pours down differently than on Sully's, the Apocalypse may come this winter. The parts are all in place.
I know we've all been the Mark Prior Watches, the Kerry Wood Watches, even the Aramis Ramirez Watch, all the towel drills and all the false starts so typical to Cub World. But make no mistake, Ted Lilly will come back in 2010, one-hundred-percent, as good as he ever has been.
Lilly, rumor has it, maintains a complex of hydroponic chambers in the basement of his lavish wintertime estate, in which he raises a type of sub-human creature. Several times a year, when one becomes ripe, he harvests the being, sucking out its lifeblood from its marrow. Whatever the reason, Ted Lilly has the biggest balls on our pitching staff, and if any pitcher is apt to recover fully and without reservation from offseason shoulder surgery, it is he.
He will come back, and when he does, he will throw strikes. He will challenge hitters, occasionally leaving too much over the plate. Balls will be struck in the air, and most times, the outfielders will be able to haul them in. Frequently, they will not. But since there won't be a lot of guys on the bases due to walks, the homers he gives up won't be as harmful on the scoreboard.
Or, to his psyche. Because Lilly is not some fragile little flower, unlike a certain former Cub pitcher with swollen calves and an equally swollen opinion of himself. Major League hitters have taken him downtown before, and they'll do it again. Lilly will just draw upon some store of bravado deep down inside himself, maybe from his intellect, maybe from the marrow of the sub-creatures he ravishes in his lab. But he knows that the real damage doesn't come from the first big hit you give up, but from the second, third, and so on. His job is to hold it together in the face of adversity.
Big league hitters are paid to hit. Big league pitchers are paid to adjust, improvise, to stay one step ahead of the hitters. Unlike Zambrano, for example, Lilly understands this part of the game, and having Greg Maddux around, a like soul, will only improve his command and his confidence in his own instincts.
It is ironic that Jim Hendry's best free agent signing ever was accomplished from his hospital bed after his infamous heart surgery during the 2006-2007 Winter Meetings. Alas, unlike all the other free agent signings, Lilly's contract has passed far too quickly, and 2010 is his 'contract year'. In the words of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, if you think he'll let it go, you're mad. Lilly will pitch this year, and when he does, he will pitch his guts out.
The only question is, when does Lilly's season start? Most reasonable people would consider May 1st ambitious, and this was before his bout with the Swine. He himself is still aiming for Opening Day, because he has the hot blood of subordinal creatures flowing in his veins. The Cubs Training staff, naturally, can't or won't give us a date.
Our offense will carry the day in 2010, and once Lilly gets out there, he will be excellent. The only problem is, when will that be, and will too much of the season be out of our control by then? I myself think not, I am as confident that he will come back in time, as confident as I was that Mark Prior would not.
But I will admit to you right now, that my hunch is based on nothing other than my faith in the man.
The Cubs did have one player this season that exceeded my expectations this season, and that is Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. What can you say about the lefty that isn't good? He plays hard, pitches well and leads in the clubhouse. That is just about the perfect player in my book. Now, if Jim Hendry's other moves would pay off like Lilly did. Well, maybe Hendry could end up the ER while signing players, because it seemed to work this time.
Lilly only won 12 games, but much of that was because of his time on the DL in July. He ended up with a 3.10 ERA and an even more impressive 1.06 WHIP. That's just insane for a guy, who just turned 33. He lowered his ERA by almost an entire run this year, and it's just too bad the Cubs wasted another player's career year (or at least one of the best of his career).
The Cubs have a problem now. I can't imagine that Lilly will be as good as this next season, but nobody expected him to be this good this year. It goes without saying that he won't be any better next season, because that just doesn't happen in the non-steroid era.
One thing I love about Lilly is that he is clearly a clubhouse leader for the Cubs. It's not beneath him to argue an Ump on a day off, or lobby for Reed Johnson
by wearing a T-Shirt. Kurt argued the merits of team aces yesterday, and I think Lilly is the closest thing to an ace the Cubs have right now. He makes his starts and is vocal. Also, he seems to get better as the years go on, but can he continue this trend in 2010? Who knows, but of all the problems the Cubs have in the starting rotation, I don't think Lilly will be one of them next year.
It's amazing what a difference a few extra words mean.
In all the daily Chicago newspapers, overshadowing the pathetic Pirate sweep, lead stories picked up on Ted Lilly's choice of undergarment yesterday. Namely, a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "With Reed We Will Succeed". I made the mistake of first reading the Sun-Times article, which states that Reed gave the shirt to Lilly. Self Serving, much? But doing due diligence, I checked GoatFriend Paul Sullivan, who noted that Reed was given the t-shirt by a flight attendant, and, embarrassed to wear it himself, gave it to Lilly, known for his lack of pretense when it comes to free stuff. Much different story there.
So, even in the face of a miserable performance, the Cubs clubhouse is once again a harmonious home for our wayward jock heroes.
My question today to you, Cub fans and Goat readers: is the fact that Ted Lilly wants Reed back, and presumably other teammates do, too. Is this enough?
In my mind, Reed does not add anything significantly that Fukudome doesn't already have, and in fact is not a great deal better than Sam Fuld - except his batting average with runs in scoring position. I mean, Fuld has played in over 60 games without an RBI?? For all you Fuld Fanz, let me break this to you gently...Sam sucks! I know he plays hard. Hey, I can find you ten guys in the aisle next to me that will run full-out for the major league minimum. Doesn't make them major league ballplayers.
So the fact that Reed Johnson isn't substantially better than Sam Fuld tells me that it is wasted money if you pay him much more than the minimum. Great guy, probably. Nice 25th man. His teammates love him. Is that a good enough reason to keep him? Or would you rather have Hoffpauir and Fox, two guys who are nearly the same player, will hit .250, hit double-digit home runs?
Johnson, Fox, or Hoffpauir. Pick two of the above for 2010. Or one or none, if you wish. We don't have room for three, unless you are planning on starting one of them. And if you are, then we are in big, big trouble.