The only "impact" hitter the Cubs possess, past, present, or future, is Alfonso Soriano, and his category is, of course, "past". So, even if he has his current "typical" .800 OPS year, and even if every other member of the offense has an above-average statistical year, the Cubs will still finish in the middle of the pack offensively in the NL. Considering the salaries being paid, that's not OK, but otherwise, that would be acceptable if we had solid pitching and defense to back that up.
AJ pointed out the other day that, except for third base, the defense isn't going to lose us any games. The past year or so, an effort was made to replace Soriano in left during late innings. It might be time to, instead, consider doing that for Ramirez. It was different when ARam was our most consistent late-inning run producer. It was also different in his younger days when he was characterized as 'lazy'. At this point in his life, he may honestly just be this slow. It is the manager's job to address this situation, and hopefully Quade has these types of late-inning defensive thoughts.
Which leaves the pitching, and well, damn. I consider myself to know more about hitting than pitching, but I don't think we are very well equipped going forward.
I think we have Dempster, a #2 starter. If we are to go with his last 10 starts last year, Zambrano is a nice #3 starter (the slot he held during the "glory" years mid-decade), but there's a catch, and it isn't just that he makes Ace Money. Personally, I love to watch the man play, but if we are talking about winning, we need consistency and excellence that can be relied on. You cannot rely on this Toro. If your lawnmower crapped out as often as Z does, you'd push him to the curb.
I thought Hendry was going to do just that last month. The right whispers were there. Nothing has happened on that front. Maybe, though, now that Cliff Lee is now with Philly, the Yankees will need to do something big, because that is what they do. Maybe we'll hear some new rumors soon. (UPDATED)
What else do we have? One more year of Silva the Hutt, who reverted to his true blobular self in the 2nd half. There's mediocre lefty Gorzellany, who is being shopped. There's noted nightlife lover Randy Wells, who early this year I compared to Greg Maddux because he doesn't have a 'big arm', but seems to know how to pitch when all is right. Wells can be part of a staff if he prioritizes. To me, he is worth more in a trade than on our staff.
There has been word lately of efforts to get Matt Garza from the Rays. This would be more exciting if there was, like, any chance in hell it could happen. The question came up - why would the Rays make this deal? If it could make their team better! If somehow the Rays and Jim Hendry could hammer out a good old-fashioned "value" trade, where we sent them something of roughly equal value to what we would receive.
The problem is, to my knowledge, the last time Hendry was involved in a true "value" trade was the big Nomar deal in 2004. All of Hendry's trades since have either been: desperation dumps of Sammy Sosa and Milton Bradley; favors to players like Ted Lilly and Greg Maddux; or the occasional fire-sale swap with the Pirates. I doubt Hendry has the ability or the stones to make a straight value-for-value trade, where he gives up, say, Wells and/or Gorzellany, along with top prospects, or something that involves one of our young players with experience, like Colvin or Castro. At least, I don't trust him to do it right.
I fail to see what is so special about Casey Coleman. I have never seen why the Shark was worth the money he has been paid, although I grasp the concept it had to do with the eventuality that he might have opted to play football instead, it doesn't justify why it was given to HIM. It is a hope of mine, though, that the new pitching coach has a rapport with him that Rothschild never had.
In the best of situations, we need two of the afore-mentioned starters to step up. However, we are going to need three, because we don't have a staff Ace. Therefore everyone steps up a rung. And, if sometime between now and spring training, Zambrano opens up his ugly mouth and says something unforgivable, which COULD happen at any given moment that he is awake, then Hendry will be forced into another of his patented 'addition by subtraction' dumps, and all we'll have is Dempster and dumpster.
Bullpen? Thank God for Sean Marshall. This is about the time of year, typically, when the "Marshall is a good soldier, he deserves a chance to start" refrain is sung. This year, though, nobody dares. He has to stay in the pen. Otherwise, we rely on surgi-zombies Grabow, Caridad, and Guzman, along with Andrew Cashner and Rafael Dolis, two guys with huge arms and absolutely no idea about how to pitch.
Then of course we have our closer, the Harry Potter of the majors. Carlos Marmol set records last year for both percentage of pitches swung at and missed as well as strikeouts per nine innings. Honestly, I thought the 1977-79 Bruce Sutter was the most unhittable force of all time - Marmol crushed his stats, simply crushed them. Thing is, though, both Sutter and Marmol pitched for fifth place teams. I have always maintained that the secret of his success is how hard he concentrates on his task. Can he keep up that level of concentration to close games that matter? Nobody knows, do we?
So that brings us to the point where we go get some pitching help. I will come back soon with some possible candidates, but one of them is not Kerry Lee Wood. Now, I love me some Wood. Great guy, historical guy, diabolical stuff, cute, perky wife. Great in the community, loves the Cubs and Chicago. But he also represents something we need to get away from: unrequited Cub Hope.
The Ricketts need to pull a 180 in terms of historic direction. I am afraid Wood represents the way things used to be done here: work hard, not smart. When at first you don't succeed, throw harder; tear yourself apart, go on the DL. Suffer the crush of over 100 years of Cubs karma; resign yourself to your fate. I feel that happened to Wood, as it happened to Grace, Sandberg, Banks, Williams, and on and on.
If the Cubs are ever going to win it all, it will need to be with new blood. Could it be Castro? Soto? Marmol? The Korean kids in Peoria? I dunno, but it won't be with Kerry Wood, God bless him and his 20 Ks and his Game 7 loss and his tattered shoulder and the burden of 102 years on top of him. We need to find some help elsewhere.
When Jeff Samardzija won his last start, I wrote about how you shouldn't buy into the kid's long-term stock. Despite shutting his opponent out, the kid with the constant control problems throughout his minor league career gave up four walks and six hits -- against just one strikeout -- in 5.2 innings.
Of course, it's only fitting that Jeff would win his next start as well. This time, he limited the hits to three -- although two were home runs -- but continued to give up walks, allowing another four this time around.
Maybe Samardzija can succeed at the major league level despite a high walk rate and a low ratio of strikeouts to walks (he has just five Ks against his seven BBs in his last two starts). Indeed, the Cubs already have a starting pitcher who has shown he can do just that. (You know who I'm talking about, don't you?)
I'm still not sold myself, but maybe you are.
Also of note in yesterday's blowout win: we got to see a former Cub prospect who's been sort of off the map for a while pitch for an inning. Remember when we traded Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg? Looks like a NBD-move for now.
There are only two reasonable conclusions that can be reached from Carrie Muskat's various analyses of Jeff Samardzija's start last night. Either she is disingenuous, and a liar, or she does not understand what it means to be good at baseball. "#Cubs Jeff Samardzija impresses with offspeed stuff to get 1st win as a ML starter," she tweeted last night.
Who exactly did he impress? Six hits, four walks, and only one strikeout in 5.2 innings pitched? Sorry, but no thank you, I'll pass on Samardzija once again.
Of course, the Cardinals' piece of crap offense is exactly the sort of team you could pull this sort of thing off against -- that is, a team built around three great hitters, one halfway decent one, and four godawful ones (one of which they actually traded for recently!!).
But yeah, don't be fooled by crap like this, again from Muskat, this time in her Cubs.com recap:
"No matter what happened Monday night in his first big league start of
the season, Jeff Samardzija will be considered for the Cubs' 2011
rotation. And the right-hander gave the Chicago front office something
to think about."
I pray to God that Jeff comes nowhere near the starting rotation for next year. Ideally, he can keep his ERA below three for the rest of the month with a few more starts, and he can be shipped off to Kansas City or Baltimore or something.
The day 1 draft pick of Hayden Simpson caused an uproar all throughout the Interwebs in both Cub and Non Cub sites. Let me go on record that I don't mind the pick, per se, just where Simpson was picked. I think the Cubs should have waited until the 3rd round to select him. I am hopeful that Simpson will turn into a useful player but unless he turns into a near stud, I don't think good teams gamble like this in the first round.
Having said that, it actually kept me up last night trying to figure out what Tim Wilken was doing with the pick. I have concluded this. All of the players available to the Cubs had some flaws. They were asking too much money. They needed to be moved from their current position. They had command issues. They lacked power or speed or they had a hole in their swing. They threw too many pitches in college and were injury risks.They didn't have great stuff. Selecting any of them would have been somewhat risky also. I am referring to guys like Alex Wimmers, Asher Wojciechowski, Anthony Ranuado, Zach Cox, Josh Sales, Justin O'Connor.
Now each of those players profiled as a first round pick and I'd have gone that route but each of them has some flaws in their game. There were no slamdunk picks at 16 here. So I think Wilken looked at Simpson. He saw someone who was refined, could throw hard and had a ton of success in college and decided he wanted him. He figured, hey, all the other prospects here have issues that are making us not take them. Why not take Simpson? I think the fact that he heard rumblings about the Angels, who had like 86 first round picks, considering taking him forced his hand.
I don't like the pick, but that's the justification I'm going with.
Today is Day 2 and they will be picking through the 30th round. I will enter picks in here with some commentary from Andy Seiler's Bonus Baby Site as the Cubs make their pick. I will stop after round 10. Maybe the second round pick will be a highly projectible player who has big time signing bonus expectations like AJ Cole, Stetson Allie or Austin Wilson. I'm done speculating on what the Cubs will do.
Round 2: Reggie Golden OF Wetumka HS (WA): Here's some video from MLB.com. I like this pick a lot more than the first round choice. Golden is a high risk, high reward player. Judging by his size, he has compared to Ron Gant. In the video you can see him popping a HR at Wrigley Field. Feels right. Just saying.
Round 3: Micah Gibbs C LSU: Switch hitting catcher who is quite good defensively. He showed big time power this last year but there appears to be a question about whether or not he will have the bat speed necessary to play catcher regularly in the majors. I'm happy with him and will have some video soon. I think the Cubs needed catching depth in their system. Unless you're a Wellington Castillo fan (or God help you, a Robinson Chirinos fan), Gibbs immedietely becomes the top catching prospect in the system.
Round 4: Hunter Ackerman LHP Louisburg Junior College (NC). I'll copy and paste the scouting report from Andy Seiler here:
“Hunter Ackerman is a short left-handed junior college pitcher from Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina. Ackerman originally came to Louisburg from Cosby High School in Midlothian, Virginia, which is just outside of Richmond. He wasn’t much of a prospect at all coming out of high school, and most teams barely gave him a second thought last spring, so he went undrafted. He landed at Louisburg, where he’s put together an excellent freshman campaign. That campaign has gotten him more scouting attention, and he’s no longer an unknown name. As with most junior college freshmen, the leverage he has is enormous, so he could easily fall down draft boards, but there’s plenty of reason to think that he could start his career as soon as the draft is over. He has a ceiling as a possible number five starter or middle reliever, and that is quite obtainable in fairly short order. His fastball is an average pitch that sits 87-89, and he gets good sink on it, making him a groundball pitcher. He adds in a potential average curveball that needs more zip behind it, and his last pitch is a potential solid-average changeup, meaning he shouldn’t be useless against right-handed hitters if he ends up having a career in the bullpen. This is no LOOGY. He has built up enough draft stock to become a seventh to twelfth round pick on talent, but if his leverage as a freshman comes into play, he’ll likely be a late-round pick with interest for next year.”
Not sure what to think about this. I do think this is where you pick the players you fall in love with. Ackerman may be a signability question mark here. I think if he asks for too much, he isn't the guy you throw Samardzija money at.
Round Five: Matt Szczur OF Villanova. Now this is what I'm talking about. I knew nothing about this player prior to the draft (just like Haydon Simpson) but this is a Simpson-esque pick. He is fast and hit really well at Villanova. He was a wide receiver on the Villanova football team so this article asks the obvious questioin and appears that not only does Szczur consider himself a baseball player, he says he only considers himself a baseball player. Going in the fifth round, he might get higher than slot money but who cares, the Cubs can afford it.
According the article, he was considered by Baseball America to be the second fastest runner among all college positon players eligible to be drafted and he put up some gaudy numbers. This is my favorite pick of the draft and to think the Cubs got this guy in round five....
Round Six: Ivan DeJesus OF Cupeyville School (PR) Puerto Rican OF with the famous name. Here is a picture of him and notes from his commitment to UAB to play baseball. My read on him is that he is very raw with quite an upside if the Cubs can sign him away from UAB. This is the second high school player the Cubs have taken in the draft after Reggie Golden.
Round Seven: Ben Wells RHP RHP Bryant HS (AR) Can't find too much on him yet. Seems to be a big right hander out of high school. Picked seventh, my gut tells me he doesn't sign. Who knows. Only comment from Andy Seiler was "I don't like this pick at all". I'll see what I can get when I do a complete wrap up in a couple of days.
Round Eight: Cameron Greathouse LHP/OF Gulf Coast CC (Fl) In my cursory look, this is a better selection than Wells. I did see video of him and I'm no scout but I think this guy needs to really clean up his motion or else he's going to hurt his shoulder. Apparently he's also an outfield prospect with a little upside there also.
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.
The team lost on Opening Day, in a game where Carlos Zambrano decided to stop pitching and start throwing fastball after fastball. Presumably, the idea was to generate a bunch of contact early in counts, and hope batted balls turned into outs instead of towering home runs to right field.
We all know how that went.
Carlos will have a chance to bring his ERA down from 54.00 on Saturday, in Game 2 of this upcoming series with the Reds. In fact, if he manages to allow one or fewer runs in 7.2 or more innings pitched, it'll come all the way down to below 9.00. For what that's worth.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Game 1: Carlos Silva vs. Homer Bailey
I thought all along that Silva would be stashed in the 'pen as a long reliever, and that Gorzo and Marshall would take over starting duties until Mr. L-to-the-Illy came back. But here we are on the fourth game of the 2010 season, with Silva the Hutt slated to start.
Whether he wins or loses, Silva will probably give up several hits -- maybe six or seven in six innings pitched. He won't strike many batters out, and the difference between winning and losing may come down to how many walks he gives up. We want singles and ground ball outs, not walks and fly balls. A lot like Randy Wells, actually.
Also, Alfonso Soriano has three hits in as many at-bats against Homer Bailey. Just saying.
I bet the final score is 6-4. One team will win and the other will not win.
Game 2: Carlos Zambrano vs. Aaron Harang
So like I was saying, Big Z gets a chance to redeem himself on Saturday, as he faces Aaron Harang for the billionth time in his career.
I'll predict Carlos gives up four in six, Harang gives up three in seven, and that Jeff Samardzija puts this one out of reach for the Cubs, allowing two or three runs himself in an inning of relief.
Game 3: Tom Gorzelanny vs. Mike Leake
Again, I find myself saying, "As long as he doesn't walk a bunch of batters he'll be fine." No doi, AJ. But it's really true of Gorzo, also. He's not gonna rack up strikeouts, and he has OK stuff. His problems always seem to happen when he walks five or six batters in the midst of a five or six inning start.
I'm gonna guess he walks three, and gives up several runs -- but that it won't matter, because the Cubs are facing a rookie right-hander, a class of pitcher that always seems to confound them. They might not score more than two runs against Leake.
For pessimism's sake, I'll suppose the Reds win the first game, giving the Cubs a second consecutive series loss and a 2-4 record by the time they get home.
I'll be especially pissed if Theriot strikes out four more times or Grabow issues three more walks, but I'll probably be able to forget absolutely everything bad about this series if Tyler Colvin stays hot and does some cool stuff.
Yesterday, we talked about how Jim Hendry gives out big contracts. Well, today's subject is no different. Jeff Samardzija was given a huge deal out of Notre Dame to skip the NFL entirely. It was a great deal for Jeff. For the Cubs? Well, that verdict is still out.
Samardzija has been tossed around more than a toddler would a Raggedy-Anne doll. The Cubs don't seem to know what they want him to do. Starter-Reliever-Starter-Reliever-Starter-----no back to Reliever....you get the point. It really showed last year when "The Shark" was all out of whack. Samardzija threw 34 2/3 innings last year with a 7.53 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP, which was, well, terrible for any pitcher. Even more so for one being paid like a Major Leaguer.
Samardzija really hasn't pitched great at any level, expect two years ago with the Cubs. Most of that was probably because the hitters hadn't seen his stuff. He has struggled with his control, which will keep him from reaching his goals if he can't locate pitches.
This season the Cubs are going to let him battle for one of the two starting spots open with Ted Lilly still rehabbing his shoulder. He pitched the other day and threw two scoreless inning, but gave up a walk, a hit and hit somebody as well. I still think that Samardzija's best place will be in the pen, but he still has to learn control. WIth Guzman out of the picture now, it looks like he will at least break camp with the Cubs.
Even though the Worldwide Leader was providing video to a national audience, I have to say--this game was difficult to watch. I myself was done around the same time as Samardzija was.
Since I didn't watch the entire play-by-play, let's look at the box score, which should be telling enough.
Samardzija: 3.1 IP, 7 ER
Marshall: 3.1 IP, 5 ER
Not surprising. Having said that, it's almost infuriating how much this team is jerking around these two quality young arms. Fact: Jeff Samardjiza is not ready to pitch in the major leagues! Fact: Sean Marshall is a reliever! Guh.
Here's another good one, related to pitch count:
Pitches-strikes: Marmol 12-9
At least we know the kid's CAPABLE of throwing strikes. Now if only he could chill the eff out and do it when the game is on the line. I wonder if Marmol will get any better when the Cubs have a new manager (read: next year).
On offense, no one really stood out. Theriot got three singles; Fuld got a hit in his pinch hitting appearance; Fukudome had another double. A bunch of "meh," really.
So here we are, another game back. That whole thing I mentioned yesterday about "running out of time?" Yeah, that's still in effect.
Following yesterday's Fuld-for-Miles move, the Cubs have another roster swap to announce.
According to ESPN.com, the Cubs will send Jose Ascanio back to Iowa, and will recall fan favorite Jeff Samardzija to replace him. Samardzija will operate out of the bullpen for the Cubs.
In terms of pure stuff, it seems like Samardzija should have Wells' rotation spot, and Wells should be in the 'pen. But Wells has done nothing but succeed while pitching as a starter, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Jeff's issue has always been control, and if you check his player page with the Iowa Cubs, you'll see that he's still been walkin' dudes, even in his past few games. Hopefully he's able to throw strikes at the major league level.
As a refresher, here's our current bullpen:
Getting Guzman back from the DL will make that a pretty serviceable group, if you ask me.
Editor's note: This article was originally going to be written by Byron, who chose instead to go MIA. I'm calling him out for shirking his duties as a part of our new cruelty policy.
Meet the next generation's Kerry Wood -- conditional upon a whole bunch of statements that start with the word "hopefully." Like, Hopefully, Jeff Samardzija will be able to dominate NL hitters the same way that Kerry Wood used to before his arm tried to make a runner. Hey, speaking of that, Hopefully, Jeff Samardzija won't suffer from all the debilitating arm injuries that Kerry Wood had. Hopefully, he's ready sooner rather than later. Hopefully.
One of the things I really appreciate about the Shark is that he really wants to be a Cub. He's like us, but with an arm that can throw lightning and luxurious hair. When he decided to be a baseball player for the Cubs, he demanded a no-trade clause. And he has so much potential that the Cubs gave him what he wanted.
In his first major league season, the Shark was a late-season call-up and he immediately joined Carlos Marmol in the ranks of awesome setup man. In 27.2 innings, he went 1-0 with an ERA of 2.28 and 25 strikeouts. The only point of concern is his control, or lack thereof. There were times - especially toward the end of the year - where his control evaporated and he wasn't at all effective. In September alone, Samardzija threw 8.1 innings, and he walked 8 while only striking out 6. Ugly.
This year, it looks as if he's going to start the season in Iowa. That's fine with us. His 5 strikeouts and 2 walks in 8 innings of work are respectable; his ERA of 6.75 isn't. He has options, though, and it won't be a bad thing for the Shark to get at least a few starts under his belt against Triple A hitting before he either steps in for Rich Harden or replaces an ineffective Sean Marshall/Aaron Heilman/whomever.
Either way, Samardzija will probably - or at least hopefully, anyway - play a big role on the Cubs for the next long while. But for the sakes of our stomach ulcers, it's probably not a bad thing that the Cubs are so deep in pitching that they're not relying on him. Carlos Zambrano aside - and really, he sort of snuck up on us - the last few Great Pitching Hopes have either somersaulted into failure (Harkey) or just plain never lived up to the hype (Gonzalez, Wood, Prior, Cruz, etc. etc. etc. etc.). Samardzija definitely has his own share of hype to deal with, but for once the Cubs are already strong without their future prospective ace. For once, this guy is not the cake but instead may be the icing.