What the heck has happened?
The gutless, useless, overrated, overpaid, uninteresting Chicago Cubs have ... gotten good? What The Fizz?
These guys are 8-1 on their road trip. They are beating good teams badly, including a sweep of their recent opponents, the Florida Marlins. Let's take a look at what happened.
Friday, September 17th - Cubs 2, Marlins 0 (Ryan Dempster; 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, for his 14th win of the season)
All the Cubs did was shut down the Marlins offense and provide just enough of their own to be effective. Dempster looked great, and now appears almost a lock to be a 15-game-winner. The bullpen looked alive, throwing 2 innings of 1 hit, 3 walk baseball.
The offense looked tepid, but so what? Soriano and Soto both had run-scoring doubles, and that was all she needed.
Saturday, September 18th - Cubs 5, Marlins 3 (Casey Coleman; 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 3 ER, for his 2nd win of the season)
Coleman is really making a pitch to be in the rotation next year. His stuff doesn't appear overpowering by any means, but he's effective and has pitched well for a month now. And he was again supported by a strangely-reliable bullpen: the Cubs pen pitched 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 (Cashner struck out 3 all by himself!)
The Cubs offense had 7 hits from 6 different players, 8 walks, and demonstrated what a "team effort can do." Blake DeWitt is looking good as a Cub. Dare we say he may actually be a good choice for second base next year?
Sunday, September 19th - Cubs 13, Marlins 3 (Jeff Samardzija; 6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 ER for his 2nd win of the season)
I'd still be reluctant to trust the Shark with winning so much as a game of checkers, but his last two outings haven't been "awful." This is clearly a make-or-break year for the guy -- he's about 8 months away from entering into the realm of "non-prospect" status. If Samardzija has any hopes of an even somewhat memorable major league career, then the lightbulb needs to go on now.
Oh, and the Cubs bullpen? 3 more innings of work, 0 hits, 3 BB, 5 K's. In other words, all told, the Cubs pen pitched 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, 7 BB, and struck out 13 this series, while allowing 0 runs to score. We'll take it!
Offensively, yesterday's game was pretty great. 13 runs. A homerun from the Cubs new starting catcher Wellington Castillo, who'll be filling in for the soon-to-be surgically repaired Geo Soto. A 2 RBI game from Brad Snyder, who'll be filling in for Tyler Colvin, who was apparently mistaken for a vampire and got staked during yesterday's game. Staked!!
So, just like that, the Cubs have given us a September to remember. They've crushed the dreams of Cardinal fans everywhere, and they'd have to lose pretty much every game for the rest of the month to not go .500 or better in September.
And the best part -- they've done it on the backs of young players who have a lot to prove. That's great news for Cub fans. If the team has any hope of competing next year, it'll have to be because those young guys have actually met some of their potential. Players like Colvin, Coleman, and Castro will have to deliver, even as veterans like Dempster, Soriano, and Ramirez fade into mediocrity.
Now, Rob has posted his thoughts. Mike Quade for manager, 2011 and beyond. I say, nah. He's getting wins in garbage time, and that's cool, but as long as Hendry GMs, my vote still goes to Sandberg.
Tom Ricketts should know that his grace period ends the day he officially retains Jim Hendry.
I realize that I'm not a baseball genius. Never claimed to be one, I'm just a fan with a pulpit. (And even that isn't so big a deal, anybody can have a blog with a silly name.) But I guarantee you that, if you gave me the Baltimore Orioles and a 150 million budget for 2011, I could turn them into an incredibly competitive team. I wouldn't need to revise my front office, I could hire a the World Cup Octopus to be my manager, I wouldn't need a single prospect to actually develop into a talented major leaguer ... I'd just need a modestly strong free agent market to throw my money at.
That's basically what Jim Hendry did to save his ass before the start of the 2007 season. At the time, we all knew that today was coming. Sooner or later, his expensive players would bust -- you can't sign guys on the wrong side of 30 to multi year deals without expecting it to happen. We knew that Soriano would become an albatross, that Fukudome was probably going to be a disappointment, that no starting pitcher in the history of baseball has ever signed a contract as big as Zambrano's and stayed healthy/successful for the duration, and then some.
We knew all that, and yet here we are, furious at a mediocre-at-best 2010 season, watching the Cubs get swept at home in a four game series (something that probably almost never happens) to the Padres.
Blame the shoddy bullpen for this one. Sean Marshall managed to go a third of an inning, squandering the lead Carlos gave him. He surrendered 4 earned runs off of 4 hits and a walk, and that was all she wrote. The Cubs, who collected 7 hits and 3 runs, could have kept their offense home for the day. (They pretty much did, anyway.)
The old Carlos would've met Marshall in the tunnel and beaten the crap out of him. Somehow, that's no worse than what actually happened.
Anyway, this crappy series has ended and now the Cubs face another playoff caliber team -- the Braves. Derrek Lee returns to Wrigley Field, yadda yadda. I'll have the Series Preview up in a few minutes.
The Cubs lost to the Reds three times this weekend. Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells both pitched well enough to win, while neither Thomas Diamond nor Casey Coleman were capable of such a feat.
Meanwhile, the offense didn't do very much of anything. At the same time, the defense was pretty busy -- at sucking!! Ohhhh!
Seriously I've waited this long to write this recap because there's nothing fun to write about. So can we just call this even now? Feel free to vent all you'd like in the comments. Hopefully the Cubs do something inspiring in San Francisco and we can have fun again sometime soon.
So often in baseball, with its epically proportioned regular season, a team can shrug off a single game, or a series, or even a bad month. "It's just one loss," you might say, or, "That team is on fire right now," or, "The Cubs are always miserable in June."
At the same time, a single game, or inning, or play -- or in this case, 30 seconds' worth of off-field antics -- can dramatically reshape a season.
It's fitting that Carlos Zambrano's latest meltdown -- the one that may well be his last in a Cub uniform, if standard Chicago media outlets are to be believed -- came on a weekend where the Cubs got their first taste of Kurt's dreaded Number of Death, as the Bears in Blue momentarily went ten games below .500 for the season. As Kurt went on to suggest, these latest events may finally bring about the changing of the guard that this team appears to need so badly.
Having said that, there were some bright spots for the Cubs against the White Sux this weekend.
Take the starting rotation -- that is, the pitchers that comprise the Cubs' starting rotation as of today. Following Ted Lilly's successful bounceback in Seattle, three of the Cubs' other four starters -- Carlos Silva, Ryan Dempster, and Tom "The Phoenix from the Ashes" Gorzelanny -- looked good, combining for 16 strikeouts to just three walks in 16.1 innings pitched.
The Cubs' pair of young, potentially star-powered position players impressed, as well. Starlin Castro went 3-for-6 on the weekend and, perhaps more importantly, didn't strike out once. And Tyler Colvin hit a home run off of a left-handed pitcher (and it was a decent one at that in John Danks), going 3-for-9 on the weekend. Also, speaking of young Cub position players, Geo Soto went 3-for-4 today, and while his .259 average may not impress you, his .398 on-base percentage should.
On the farm, the Cubs have promoted some prospects to higher levels, most notably moving Brett Jackson to Double A Tennessee. So, yeah, the youth movement is on, and it is going pretty damn well. It will be interesting to see how many long time Cubs -- including the 29-year old Carlos Zambrano -- are kept around to see it through.
It's hard to forget how, several weeks ago, the baseball season started to high expectations but low drama. Despite our greatest hopes, the Cubs just kept crashing and burning, leaving our playoff hopes dashed before they even managed to escape from the month of April.
...wait, this is only the 3rd game, and the Cubs won 2-0? What with all the gloom (and hints of doom), I would've thought they were 10 games under .500 by now. Nevertheless, Randy Wells and a surprisingly effective Cubs bullpen shut down the dangerous Braves in order to avoid a season starting series sweep.
The pen pitched 3 innings of relief, allowing 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 3. Only John Grabow continued to serve up shit sandwiches, walking the one guy he faced in the 8th.
Offensively, the Cubs continue to give Rob concerns. They only managed 4 hits and 3 walks, and taking a page from the Dusty Baker days they scored both their runs off of solo homers -- Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd delivered.
So. The Cubs are now 1-2. They limp out of Atlanta, away from the blown calls, missed chances, and defensive mishaps. They managed to score 9 runs, the bullpen looked awful twice (well, once was all Samardzija, but that's like saying our national debt isn't so bad if we ignore how we're 9 trillion in the hole).
We'll have a Series Preview for you bright 'n early tomorrow. Maybe this next one will be a bit better.
Current Record: 1-2
Position in the NL Central: 5th place, 1.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 160-2
Worst Possible Record: 1-161
Record needed to win 120: 119-40
On Pace For: 54-108 (relax, it's way early)
The Milton Bradley saga continues! After Jim Hendry suspended him for the remainder of the '09 campaign, there was some talk that the union would contest it. But then - then! - the Cubs decided not to withhold the $400,000 Bradley would have been set to lose, and so Milton and the union have accepted it without complaint.
At the same time, M.B. issued an apology to the team and fans. I think that if he was sincere in his sorrow, then he would indeed admit he does not deserve the $400k still owed to him. I and a lot of Cub fans would have respect for the man if he actually ask Jim to keep the money that he has not earned. Or better yet -- if he was a smart worker, he would take that remaining cash and donate it to a couple of major charities (perhaps even Cubs Care) as a way of winning over the fans.
No matter what, Bradley needs to start the healing if he means to play in Chicago next year, and cheap words will not get it done. A gesture like a $400k donation, and perhaps seeking psychiatric help, would go a very long way.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand -- the Cubs failed to sweep Milwaukee, although it wasn't due to the better effort of Jeff Samardzija. The Shark shocked me by pitching 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, striking out 3, and allowing 3 runs off of 2 homers. He also hit a homer himself, although his offensive stroke was about all the Cubs had tonight.
Thus, the Cubs failed to sweep. Still, they're only 4 wins away from finishing at .500. It's gonna hai!
Since then, Gregg completely imploded (although some Cub fans probably wish he'd do us a favor and explode his way right off the team), Milton Bradley went totally insane (as did some of our readers), and the Cubs fell from contention. Still, Chicago managed to sweep the Pirates, which is about as surprising as rain on a cloudy day.
It all happened primarily thanks to a Cubs offense that combined for 13 hits and 7 walks, including multi-hit days from 5 different players. In particular, Micah Hoffpauir had a too-little, too-late performance to remember: he hit his 9th double and 10th homerun of the season while drawing 2 walks to boot. After the game, Cub players were scouting nearby town houses with the hopes of moving into Pittsburgh permanently so they could tee off daily on the crappy Pirates pitchers.
Carlos, meanwhile, gave the Cubs 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs while striking out 8. Naturally the bullpen held strong, except for one Kevin Gregg who served up a 3 run homer to Ronny Effing Cedeno. Hey, Gregg, when you're giving up homeruns to that jaggoff, it's over.
The Cubs are off tomorrow before traveling back to Chicago where they get to take on the mediocre Reds. Can you believe that Dusty still has a job there?
Current Record: 71-67
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 11.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 95-67
Worst Possible Record: 71-91
Record needed to win 90: 19-5
On Pace For: 83-79
Randy Wells didn't have his best stuff ever today, as he surrendered 7 hits in 6 innings and 95 pitches, but he was effective enough that he should have gotten the job done. Instead, the Mets appeared to rub the belly of the Cubs offense, which promptly rolled over and continued its slumber.
Of course, Kevin Gregg did his best to continue the ruination of his season -- nay, his career -- by getting slapped around in the 7th, putting it out of reach. More than the departure of DeRosa, or the acquisition of Crazy Milton Bradley, Gregg's trade from Florida to Chicago has to be Jim Hendry's biggest blunder of this past off season. I regret ever having defended that ball-tossing turd.
The one good thing from today's game: Geovany Soto, his season long since wasted (much like he himself is in the off season), collected two hits, both doubles, and was responsible for driving in both Cub runs.
So, the Cubs are out of New York, off to play the Pirates, and we can only wish them the best of luck. Not that it'll help -- this team needs more than luck to win baseball games.
Current Record: 68-67
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 11.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 95-67
Worst Possible Record: 68-94
Record needed to win 90: 22-5
On Pace For: 82-80
Nobody predicted it at the time, but Ted Lilly is perhaps the best free agent pitcher signing the Cubs have ever made and last night he continued his domination of the Houston Astros. Lilly -- who, last I heard, is going to have shoulder surgery this off seasson -- pitched 8 innings, allowing only 4 hits, walking none and striking out 5. He improves to 10-8 on the year, and has a chance of getting his ERA below 3.00 before the year's over. In the 9th, Carlos Marmol held the lead for his 8th save of the year, causing one Goat Reader to remark that he's been a great closer this year and might be able to do the job next season without trouble. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, though, but Marmol's outing last night was hardly great and he's only been closer for a couple of weeks. Even Kevin Gregg -- who proved to be a dud -- looked good for a couple of months before devolving into a rancid pile of dung. At one point last night Marmol had surrendered 1 walk and 1 hit with 2 outs needed and the heart of the Astros lineup in front of him. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the job next year in my opinion. It's probably not surprising that the Cubs won last night, but considering that they faced the inept Felipe Paulino, maybe we should continue to feel annoyed -- not concerned, there's no point -- by the offensive bumblings of the team. The only 2 runs came from a Derrek Lee homerun, his 27th of the year. With about a month of play remaining, he needs 10 RBI to hit 100 for the second time of his career. All told, it was hardly a dominating series win but with the ridiculously weak schedule remaining the Cubs have a chance to play a very good September and finish with a respectable -- if not pointless -- winning record.
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 10.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 98-64
Worst Possible Record: 67-95
Record needed to win 90: 23-6
On Pace For: 83-79
Nobody predicted it at the time, but Ted Lilly is perhaps the best free agent pitcher signing the Cubs have ever made and last night he continued his domination of the Houston Astros. Lilly -- who, last I heard, is going to have shoulder surgery this off seasson -- pitched 8 innings, allowing only 4 hits, walking none and striking out 5. He improves to 10-8 on the year, and has a chance of getting his ERA below 3.00 before the year's over.
In the 9th, Carlos Marmol held the lead for his 8th save of the year, causing one Goat Reader to remark that he's been a great closer this year and might be able to do the job next season without trouble. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, though, but Marmol's outing last night was hardly great and he's only been closer for a couple of weeks. Even Kevin Gregg -- who proved to be a dud -- looked good for a couple of months before devolving into a rancid pile of dung. At one point last night Marmol had surrendered 1 walk and 1 hit with 2 outs needed and the heart of the Astros lineup in front of him. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the job next year in my opinion.
It's probably not surprising that the Cubs won last night, but considering that they faced the inept Felipe Paulino, maybe we should continue to feel annoyed -- not concerned, there's no point -- by the offensive bumblings of the team. The only 2 runs came from a Derrek Lee homerun, his 27th of the year. With about a month of play remaining, he needs 10 RBI to hit 100 for the second time of his career.
All told, it was hardly a dominating series win but with the ridiculously weak schedule remaining the Cubs have a chance to play a very good September and finish with a respectable -- if not pointless -- winning record.Current Record: 67-64
Unsurprisingly, the Cubs were shut down by another crappy fringe starter today. Also, Carlos Zambrano got rocked. All in all, a great day for Cubs fans!
It's not usually easy to get double digit strikeouts in a game as a starting pitcher, but somehow Nelson Figueroa managed to do it today. He must have been pitching against a really bad offense. Honestly, how did this guy make it to the eighth inning?!
Milton Bradley is creeping even closer to the .270 mark; he went 1-for-2 in today's game. And Derrek Lee somehow managed to leave three men on base despite going 2-for-4. That kind of year, I guess.
As for the pitching, it sounds like Carlos is not quite right yet. When you give up 11 hits in less than four innings, there's something you're not doing correctly. From the stuff I read after the fact, it sounded like it was a mechanical issue, with Carlos opening up his shoulder for too long, or maybe too soon, or something. Anyway, I wouldn't really worry about it as a long term thing, but it'd be nice if he could remember proper pitching mechanics sometime soon.
The Cubs ended up winning the series this weekend, which is nice--but it seemed like they were trying their best to lose it. Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa combined to allow just two runs in 14 innings, for Christ's sakes.
And now the Cubs are ten back. Rest easy, Kurt--things really are that bad!
Current Record: 65-63
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 10 whole games out
Best Possible Record: 99-63 (hahahaha)
Worst Possible Record: 65-97
Record needed to win 90: 25-9 (hahahahahaha)
On Pace For: suck