Yeah, it's another gamecast as the Cubs look for the sweep of the Mets. Maybe I should just change this to Starlin-cast because really that's the only thing I care about regarding the Cubs these days. Starlin is now hitting over .320 and Mike Quade had him bunting in the 8th inning!!!! Come on Mike, you need your best hitter to swing the bat. I officially am opposed to making Quade the fulltime manager. I'm squarely in the camp wanting to see what Ryne Sandberg could do.
As for Starlin, he's now hitting .321 and his secondary skills, while not great, haven't exactly been Alcides Escobar-eque either. He's slugging over .440 and closing in on 30 doubles for the season. I think it's going to be tough for him to win the NL batting title but he's currently 3rd in the NL in batting average behind two candidates for the NL MVP. And I think it's fair to say that he's been one of the top 3 or even 2 best shortstops in the NL. He's truly been awesome and his presence on the Cubs makes me very optimistic about the future.
Dempster vs Niese today of course. Ryan has been generally very good this year but is coming off a bad start. Here's hoping he goes out and gives the Cubs a chance to win today just as he's been doing all year. We'll see. Go Cubs!
Despite the muttering and anger that many of us have experienced in the last two years, I am happy we had Lou Piniella at the helm for the last 3+ years. He is calling it quits today. I, for one, am happy he was here and I think he is leaving at the perfect time. More on Lou's Cub legacy in the offseason.
Tomorrow begins the Mike Quade era, I guess. I am surprised that Alan Trammell isn't taking over as the manager. The apparent dissing of Trammell means it's unlikely he will be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. I believe this means Ryne Sandberg is very likely to be the man next year. I know other writers on this site have bemoned the possibility but I, for one, believe that Ryno is the only guy for the job. I welcome his ascension to the job of Cub's manager.
This is a gamecast and the time to discuss legacy is the offseason so here is today's matchup:
Today's Matchup: Mike Minor (12IP, 3.75ERA, 4.25 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (148IP, 4.44ERA, 3.97 xFIP)
The awesomeness of the Cubs' pitching in the first half has faded greatly in the second half and with it the team's chances have gone right down the toilet that they were lodged pretty deep within anyway. Ah well, anyway, Wells has been generally decent. I think a lot of what I wrote about Tom Gorzelanny yesterday applies to Wells. Wells should be back next year and isn't even close to getting expensive. He has been generally effective this year and has an upside as an above average #3 starter or passable #2. Given how little he's being paid, that's an important member of the team.
As for Minor, he's drawing comparisons to a young Barry Zito. I'm not completely convinced in his eventual greatness but I am impressed at how quick he rolled through the Braves' minor league system when he was supposed to be a signability pick. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch.
Who's Hot: His batting average has been dropping but Starlin Castro has drawn 3 walks this week. Who'd thunk? His batting average is down to .309 and he is up to 373 plate appearances so it's just a matter of time before he shows up on the top 10 list at ESPN in batting average. Personally, I think he is the key to the Cubs' future.
Who's Not: Hey, the Cubs won a game yesterday! Of course they did it despite the pitching of Andrew Cashner. I am very impressed with Cashner's stuff and I don't think the Cubs have anything to lose by just running him out there day after day. It is interesting to me that so far Cashner has gotten a pass that the Cubs didn't give the Shark. This is despite the fact that their numbers are very similar. I think this is a sign that the Cubs are higher on Cashner. If he can figure out how to pitch this offseason, the Cubs could have a rather awesome bullpen next year. This should be a project for Larry Rothschild (assuming he's coming back).
Conclusion: Even if the Cubs are out of it, it'd be nice if teams didn't look at them as a gimmee on the schedule. The Cubs need to win today to send Lou off on a happy note. They need to beat a rookier lefty for once. Let's go Cubs!
There are some great stories happening these year. The Cubs, as a team, aren't one of them. Sigh. Yesterday's lost must have sucked, I was already at work when it all went down. Ryan Dempster (who should absolutely, positively not be traded!) pitched great again; but Marmol had a rare bad outing and the Cubs ended up losing.
In next year's draft, the Cubs are currently looking at the fifth pick in the draft. I doubt they end up there but I do think it's going to be interesting whom the Cubs draft next year. They have an extremely high pick. I don't want to see the Cubs keep losing but if they do, there are multiple silver linings.
Today's Matchup: Tommy Hanson (148 IP, 3.41 ERA, 4.02 xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (112.1 IP, 3.85 ERA, 4.36 xFIP)
As if we needed more reason to trust xFIP, I present Tommy Hanson. Hanson has had a 4.03 xFIP in 2009 and has a 4.02 xFIP this year. For those who look at traditional stats, it may appear as though Hanson has regressed this year but his peripheral stats just don't agree. He is a solid pitcher who probably will see his K rate go up a tick in the future and see his ERA drop to the 3.00 level.
As for Gorz, his problem has been walks along with a K rate that has been moving in the wrong direction. It has resulted in a rising xFIP and poor performance in the second half. I consider Gorz to be a fair #3 starter and a good #4 starter. This is especially so because he costs next to nothing to the Cubs. Once he starts making real money, I think his time with the team may become shortened. I like him. There's something happy about his constantly red face but I have to admit he's not a difference maker.
Starlin Watch: Starlin now has 369 PA on the season and would need 381 PA to qualify for the batting title. He's getting there and should be able to qualify by the time we make it to September. His batting average has dipped of late, he's now hitting just .309 and for some reason, his WAR has suddenly dropped at Fangraphs. I happen to believe Starlin is a very good defender but for some reason, UZR suddenly disagrees.
Joey Votto is leading the NL in batting average at .320 so if Castro gets hot again, he could challenge that.
Who's Not: I don't think this is relevant anymore. The Cubs need to just play as hard as they can and see what happens.
I won't be able to watch the game today thanks to Fox but Go Cubs anyway!
Derrek Lee, Bobby Cox, Braves, Ryan Dempster.... Blah.....
Starlin Castro is hitting .312 now which is little back of the league lead. He's not quite qualified for the batting title. That's the only thing I care about right now except some of the other Cubs who are my fantasy team. Just in case you're wondering, that'd be the following players:
Believe it or not, I'm in first place. What a country! Go Dempster, pitch a no hitter!
The Cubs play the Giants tonight. And Mike Fontenot will be on the other side of the diamond.
Fontleroy was traded to the Giants this evening. In exchange, the Cubs receive Evan Crawford, a center fielder at the single A level that just turned 22 (happy birthday, your new team sucks!). In 156 career games, Crawford has a .706 OPS. This year, the man has 12 doubles, 12 triples, and four home runs, plus 24 steals in 477 plate appearances.
But before you get too excited, let Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus wake you up with a little dose of reality. Says Goldstein on Twitter:
"If anything was special about Evan Crawford, he
wouldn't be coming over in a post-deadline deal for Mike Fontenot."
Well said, Kevin!
Darwin Barney is on his way up from Iowa. He will replace Mike Fontenot on the major league roster. That gives us: Berg, Cashner, Coleman, Diamond, Mateo, Russell, Castillo, Castro, and Colvin -- NINE rookies -- on the active roster right now.
Ryan Dempster vs. Tim Lincecum
Baseball is one of those sports where when things are going great, its amazing. However, when your team is doing everything wrong down to the basic fundamentals of the game, it can be one of the longest and painful things to watch. In the past three years, the Cubs have exemplified this sort of fall from grace much to the chagrin of the fans. I'd include the players in that latter statement, but as of lately, I'm not sure they really care.
What Lou really needs to do... or someone, I don't care who, needs to do is this. I don't care that the season is basically done for the team. Baseball is a really simple game that tends to get really complicated when you are losing. To end the season, the Cubs need to stop letting their brains spill all over the field, get back to fundamentals, and just play the game. Will we finish higher than fourth place? It's doubtful. However, it might lead to some watchable baseball, and that's something I can get on board with.
End of rant. Go Cubs. Drive Lincecum back to his bong in shame.
Yesterday's gamecast was thrown together very quickly while a five year old Princess (admittedly the most beautiful young lady on the planet, FWIW, and most sweet and, ok, I'm boring you now...) was breathing down my neck. I hope to spend a little more time today. The Cubs, as we all know, are playing poorly right now. They are losing the blowouts (except for one) and the close games, also. They are the double threat!
Today's Matchup: Travis Wood (44.2IP, 2.42ERA, 4.09xFIP) vs Thomas Diamond (6IP, 4.50ERA, 2.63xFIP)
Two severe fly ball rookie pitchers going today. Wood has a nice shiny ERA built on HR luck but he has a ground ball rate of less than 30%. To put that in perspective, that makes him a much bigger fly ball pitcher than Ted Lilly was. Diamond is a noted fly ball pitcher also. I, for one, am hoping Diamond can duplicate his strike out ways from his last start. If the wind is blowing out today, this could be a slugfest.
Who's Hot: Today's Starlin watch. Castro is hitting .312 on the season. His current triple slash number is .312/.360/.449 which gives him a beautiful wOBA of .346. He does have a mildly inflated BABIP of .352 which should come down. I also think his K rate (currently 14.4%) will drop also. That .312 batting average is for real and the power is great for a slick fielding 20 year old shortstop. I also found his realization that he could have gotten Ramon Hernandez yesterday on that great play he made moving to his left to be quite promising. He's learning but I think it's possible that in about 30 years, there will be a statue dedicated to him somewhere around where the Cubs happen to be playing at that time.
Who's Not: I've been pointing out all year how unlucky the Cubs have been and they have been unlucky but they have also been bad. Unlucky+Bad=5th place (gulp!) in the NL Central. Still, after yesterday's loss, they have now played 39 one run games, most in the NL, and have lost 26 of them. Now, I know it's hard to believe this because we've been watching them lose these games all year but a team's record in one run games is usually more luck than skill related. Most teams hover around .500 in one run games.
Both the Reds and the Cardinals are .500 in one run games. The Pirates are 16-17. The Astros are 10-12. The Brewers have the best record in the NL in one run games at 18-11. If the Cubs were .500 (or a game under because they have played an odd number of them) in one run games, they would have six more wins than they do. Their record would be 53-57. Now that's not great and I'm not suggesting that the Cubs would be in contention but there would be less concern and worry in the land of the Cub than there is today.
Conclusion: A win would be nice boys! When that fourth run scored yesterday I removed myself from the TV room and went into the laundry room to pound the wall for awhile. I know it's a small thing but it was at that moment that the frustration finally bubbled over for me. I am still focused on baseball with a left eye still on the Cubs but it's getting harder to watch them. There are good things happening on this team and I hope they can prevent the Reds from sweeping them today but I have to admit, it's becoming torturous to watch. Enjoy the game today and remember, baseball is supposed to be fun so win or lose, I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Sunday!
Oops,sorry for the lateness of this post. The Cubs suck donkey balls. We all know this. I hope they can beat the Reds today and tomorrow because I will always root for them, no matter what. Cubs are an amazing 13-25 in one run games but, of course, they are also getting killed pretty often (See Milwaukee) so their pythag now matches their crappy record. I look at the talent on this team up and down and I am dumbfounded. I don't get it. Ah well.
Today's Matchup: Edinson Volquez (17IP, 6.35 ERA, 4.80 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (129IP, 4.40ERA, 3.81 xFIP)
Wells is coming off of a bad outing. He has been very good this year, much better than either his won/loss record (which is completely meaningless) and ERA. Volquez is still trying to work things out after missing half the season recovering from ligament replacement surgery (and serving a suspension for PED's). He has struggled big time with his control this year and the Reds are on the verge of replacing him in the rotation as they find themselves in a pennant race.
Who's Hot: Boy aren't those Bears looking good down in Bourbannais! Johnny Knox looks like a shoe in to be the starting WR! Oh, this is a Cubs blog. Yeah, Cubs suck. No one's "Hot" per se. Having said that, I am going to turn this into the "Starlin" watch. Right now, Starlin is hitting .313 in 309 plate appearances. Castro would be 7th in the NL in hitting if he qualified for the batting title. He needs 338 PA's to qualify. He should crack the top 10 in hitting in a couple of weeks.Not that I think batting average is a good stat or anything. I just find it fun.
Who's Not: Cubs 15 games below .500 now and it doesn't look likely that they are ever getting back. They stink and I think it's becoming more and more possible that Jim Hendry will end up losing his job at the end of the year. Heads have to roll. Heads other than just Piniella. There is no good reason why the Cubs should be this bad. Was there a chance they weren't going to contend this year? Perhaps. But give me a freakin' break.
Conclusion: Yeah, Yeah. Go Cubs. Sorry I'm late. It's 1-1 right now. Cubs are leaving runners on base all over the place Ho Hum.
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.
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.