As the calender changes to August, the Cubs find themselves trying to stave off a sweep at the hands of a good Rockies' club that was struggling before the Cubs came to town. Today marks the likely debut of Blake DeWitt. I haven't seen the lineups but I'd bet DeWitt is in there even against the LHP. Jeff Baker will likely be playing third base with Aramis resting his nagging thumb injury. The Cubs should conisder giving Carlos Gonzalez the Albert Pujols treatment.
Today's Matchup: Carlos Silva (107.2IP, 3.76ERA, 3.90xFIP) vs Jorge De La Rosa (43.2IP, 5.15ERA, 3.61xFIP)
Just a point about Carlos Silva. Much is made about his great control and it is the key reason why he has been effective when he's effective throughout his career; having said that, Silva's success this year has been due to his career best K rate. Silva's K rate has never been above 5 but this year, mostly because of the use of the change up, Silva's K rate is over 6. He likely is going to regress somewhat in this second half but he's been a pleasant surprise and while I don't totally expect it to keep up, he has shocked the bejesus out of me.
Who's Hot: He hasn't really been "hot" per se but did you catch that game tying jack that Derrek Lee hit last night? I think his next two months will see him lift his batting average over .270 and get him up to around 22 or so HR. The Cubs are not making the playoffs this year so I will spend time seeing if guys like Lee can regress to the mean (in a good way) the rest of the year. I still think he could be back in 2011 for one more year.
Who's Not: Aramis has really cooled off and it's pretty clear his thumb is bothering him again. They are sitting him down but I say just let him rest on the DL for 15 days again. Last time he did that, he turned into Barry Bonds on steroids for a few weeks.
Conclusion: Let's get an easy win today and give the bullpen (and especially Sean Marshall) a chance to get their bearings straight. DeLaRosa is no pushover, despite the ERA, so we'll see. Go Cubs!
The Cubs go for the sweep against the Cardinals. I hope the Cubs beat the Cardinals every time they play them this year but I have a personal animase towards the Reds based mostly on the personalities of the current team. Johnny Gomes, more than anyone else, just rubs me the wrong way. I don't want to see Dusty Baker win again either. For that reason, alone, I hope the Cardinals beat the Reds... but if the Reds do beat the Cardinals, I hope it's partly because the Cubs beat down the Cardinals every time they played them! Let's see the Cubs sweep today's series and turn a good home stand into a great one!
Today's Matchup: Chris Carpenter (141.2IP, 3.05ERA, 3.72xFIP) vs Ryan Dempster (133.2IP, 3.70ERA, 3.85xFIP)
One of the reasons why the Cardinals have not fallen from grace is the relative health of Chris Carpenter over the last two years. Carpenter seems to have gotten a little more wild this year than he has been in the past. That being said, he is still very good and with Wainwright and Jaime Garcia doing their part, the Cardinals have a nice 1-3. Still, Ryan Dempster has been almost as good as Carpenter this year. His great gift is the ability to strike people out, but he is more wild than Carpenter even.
Given the relative closeness of the two starting pitchers, this will turn into a question of who has the better offense, bullpen and luck. Here's hoping the Cubs win those factors.
Who's Hot: Starlin Castro is now sporting a snazzy .343 wOBA as a 20 year old shortstop. Not half bad. To put into context, Aramis Ramirez has a career wOBA of .357. Castro, as a 20 year old, is performing not that far below an average Aram season. His season is mildly BABIP influenced, as Castro has a BABIP of .348 but as a guy with decent speed who hits a ton of line drives and ground balls, he likely to maintain a BABIP well over .320 for his career, making his .348 BABIP this year only slightly above his eventual average. I'd have been happy with him if he were hitting .270 with an SLG of .360 or so but this .308/.358/.449 stuff is exciting beyond belief.
Who's Not: Well, speaking of Aramis, ever since his 3 HR game, he has gone 3 for 12 with 2 walks and no Xtra base hits. I know that would count as a good stretch throughout most of the season, but after Tuesday's performance, I figured we'd see him keep it up. He has a five game hitting streak so I guess I shouldn't be complaining but hey, come on Aramis! You spoiled us the last couple of weeks!
Conclusion: Dempster pitched in that same game where Aram hit his 3 jacks and he wasn't great. I hope he can limit the Cardinals and especially Albert Pujols tonight. Including the last game against the Phillies, Pujols has gone 0 for 10 with 2 walks in his last 3 games. Let's keep him off the scoreboard again tonight, enjoy the sweep and move on to Houston.
This was from the gamecast comments from yesterday:
" I'm sure we annoy you Cubs fans plenty, but I believe it has to do with the fact that we (Cardinals) have had such great success over the years, and especially in the last decade, whereas you Cubs have had huge disappointments even in your best recent years, and of course the whole 102-year drought thing. Those two very different histories make us Cards fans sound smug and obnoxious when we think we are only teasing you guys; and conversely even your actual angry talk doesn't bother us much because your team hasn't been able to back up your talk. It's like the little brother that hates the big brother's teasing, whereas nothing the little guy says even phases big brother.
I suppose my pointing this out sounds smug and obnoxious to most of you, but I actually don't mean it to. It would be a LOT more fun if the Cubs were in the position of the Reds this year. Even though I generally pull for whoever is playing the Cubs, I simultaneously dream of the possibility of the Cards and Cubs playing for the pennant some year. THAT would be putting all the chips in the pot, eh?
As I post this, the Cubs are beating the Cards 5-zip in the opener, so my smugness is currently in check..."
Here's the deal, Token, I don't give a flying f&ck about the Cubs' 102 year "failure" as you guys like to throw in our face daily. That "history" has zero to do with this team and this organization. The Cubs may be playing somewhat poorly right now but this isn't your father's Cub organization. This team has zero connection to, for instance, the 1978 team that was the first team I followed as a young bright eyed eight year old. The truth is, going forward, the Cubs are going to be winning more championships than your Cardinals. Why? Because the Cubs can spend money you guys can't and at the moment, we also have a better farm system. This has more to do with reality than some stupid curse that only people like you like to perpetuate. Very few Cub fans actually believe in the "curse" or like to talk to about 100+ years of losing. That just has nothing to do with us today or our team. You may as well be teasing our team for playing in a stadium with vines on the walls. That is why I am annoyed by you guys. It's tired. We've heard it. We don't enjoy the losing. Your opinion of both the current Cubs organization and Cubs fans is just wrong. Find a new way to "tease" us.
Today's Matchup: Blake Hawskworth (59.1IP, 4.85ERA, 4.41xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (80.2IP, 3.12ERA, 4.02xFIP)
Whew, after that rant, let's preview this game. It's already going but I will pretend it hasn't started yet. Gorz has been very good since coming back into the rotation. The key to his game is not to walk more than a batter or so every three innings and keep blowing people away. Hawksworth is nothing more than a mediocre middle reliever. Mediocre middle relievers rarely become decent starting pitchers. Dave Duncan, after Suppan yesterday, and Hawksworth today, doesn't look like such a miracle worker.
Who's Hot: Alfonso Soriano hasn't had too many of his patented hot streaks this year but so far, he's producing at a .380 wOBA, which would be a career high, and he's stayed healthy. Like Soto, he probably should be moved up in the order but it's kind of amazing to me how much better the Cubs' offense would be had Ramirez and Lee just had normal seasons this year.
Who's Not: Coming into today the Cardinals offense has gone two straight games without scoring a run. That's the first time in 15 years that has happened. That that occured after an eight game winning streak is beyond unlikely. I doubt this continues but it would be nice if Gorz could put another big zero on the board today.
Conclusion: A win would be nice. I ranted above and mostly about the Cubs but I wanted to point something out. In the last 3 years, the Cubs have won 2 division titles, the Cardinals have won 1. Just saying.....
Ryan Dempster (8-7, 3.57 ERA) vs. Wesley Wright (0-0, 5.59 ERA)
Well, I ate my words. To paraphrase AJ: regression sucks. Regardless, the world has not ended and there are still games to be played in this series. I am a bit late on the uptake with this entry, so I'll just get to the meat of it: Cubs need to win this game to even the series up so they can set up a series win. That it. It's all about winning series' and becoming respectable. So far, it looks like the team is up to the task.
Carlos Silva (9-3, 3.45 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (6-11, 4.97 ERA)
Well, that was a phun time (see what I did there? I know, I know!). The Cubs showed the Phillies the way to I-55 and now welcome the AAA version of the Astros to town. The Astros would likely have more turnover from their opening day roster to now if they actually had any sort of depth in their farm system. For now, that depth is being showcased by a cast led by Chris Johnson and Juan Castro (the lighter-hitting, catching brother of Starlin).
Carlos Silva looks to continue his quest of hiding a horseshoe up his... jersey. If the cloud cover holds up into the evening, it would be a benefit to the big man and keep him a little bit cooler in this high humidity, high-temperature front and hopefully allow him to go a bit longer in the game.
On the other hand, Wandy Rodriguez tries to stop being an epic failure (guess who drafted him in 3 fantasy leagues this year!). At home, the Magic Wandy has been serviceable. On the road, Wandy has been attrocious. On the road, he is 2-6 with a 5.79 ERA and WHIP of 1.636. Moreover, his K/9 is drastically lower on the road (8.6 at home, 5.1 on the road). I expect this trend to continue when he toes the rubber at Wrigley.
Who's Hot- I'm going to go with Starlin Castro. Watching him recently, I have been quite impressed with his approach at the plate, his ability to inside out a pitch, and his blazing speed (ok, maybe I really liked that "steal" of home). Gents, I think we are looking at our leadoff hitter. He's fast, he gets on base at a decent clip (.350) and he just LOOKS like a leadoff guy (yep, the good old eyeball test reigns supreme). (Runner Up: Geo Soto)
Who's Not- Cubs relievers. The past two days have not been pretty for the Cubs relief corps. First, there was the Marmol Fiasco. Last night, I wasn't very happy with what I saw out of Cashner and Russell. I get it, there was a big lead. Still, I'd like to see cleaner appearances. I'm picky. Plus, the nature of the "who's not" column is to pick something I don't like.
The Astros are coming to town at the right time for a somewhat hot Cubs ballclub. It'd be nice to have even more momentum built up before the weekend series against the Redbirds. Outlook is positive considering the Cubs avoid Roy O this series.
If you hear anyone suggest that anyone other than Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in the NL right now, don't believe them. The Cubs have a tough task tonight. Halladay does with his does by keeping the ball down and in the strike zone. Think of him as a much better version of Carlos Silva. He doesn't blaze fastballs at 98 MPH through the top half of the zone. He just doesn't walk anyone and he allows a ton of grounders when he's not racking up his 7.5 or so K's per nine. Plus he is extremely durable and likes to complete his games.
Tonight's Matchup: Roy Halladay (148IP, 2.19ERA, 2.95xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (74IP, 3.19ERA, 3.93xFIP)
Halladay is leading the NL in xFIP and is second in the all of baseball in that category (There's an AL pitcher in first in that category, but he's extremely underrated so without looking up, I don't think you can guess who it is). Gorzelanny is no pushover, however, and given that he is basically the Cubs' 3rd or 4th starter (depending on your opinon of Carlos Silva), it says nice things about the Cubs' pitching staff. I've said it before, watch how many walks Gorz issues. If he can limit himself to 1 walk max per 3 IP, this is going to be a nice pitcher's duel. Otherwise, it will be another long Sunday night.
Who's Hot: It was suggested by one of my colleagues here at Goat Riders that Starlin Castro be sent back to Iowa on one of his patented "Do Something" posts. I for one think he will never see the minor leagues (except on an occasional injury rehab assignment) again in his career. Castro is hitting .333/.400/.556 in July and making a case for some rookie of the year votes. On top of that, he has shown all of us Cub fans what a real shortstop looks like and even has a steal of home. He's only 20 and his existence, if nothing else, on this team makes me very excited for the future.
Who's Not: I don't really have a problem playing Tyler Colvin over Kosuke Fukudome if the Cubs want to do that but I do think it's debateable whether or not Colvin is actually a better player than Kosuke right now. Colvin is hitting a pitiful .213/.275/.404 in the month of July and needs to, at the very least, be removed from the top of the order.
Conclusion: Tonight would be a big win for the Cubs, one of the biggest of the year. Beating Roy Halladay and winning the first series of the second half would be huge. I am still a believer that the Cubs can and should try to give a good showing in the second half. I acknowledge that losing will mean some good things also, like a draft pick, but I just can't root for my Cubs to lose and refuse to do that. Let's beat the Phillies tonight and remove the taste of Marmol's blowup yesterday.
(Sorry for the lateness of this gamecast, work requirements got in the way on this very warm Saturday morning in Southern California)
The win yesterday was very nice and it's good that the Cubs have ensured at least a split against the two time defending NL champions. It's obvious that the Cubs are playing better but it's important that we, as Cub fans, keep this all in perspective. Yesterday was a one run game and with the Cubs on top, luck played every bit as much of factor in this game as did skill.
Still, it's nice to win and I hope it continues. We play the Phillies again today and I hope the Cubs can win the series today instead of having to do it against Roy Halladay tomorrow. Cole Hamels is good but Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball.
Today's Matchup: Cole Hamels (112IP, 3.78ERA, 3.86xFIP) vs Randy Wells (105.1IP, 4.61ERA, 3.71xFIP)
Hamels is a good pitcher and he's someone the Cubs should target once he hits free agency but Randy Wells has been the Cubs best pitcher according to xFIP this year. This is true even though some of his results (media based things like won/loss record and ERA) haven't been great. He has a 7.09/2.39 K/BB ratio and a 45% ground ball rate. As usual, the key for Wells is getting out of the first inning. If he does get out of the first inning, I think we can expect a very nice, long good day out of him.
Who's Hot: Aramis Ramirez has heated up just as the Cubs' offense has and now has a .220/.278/.411 triple slash line for the season. At one point, I was hopeful that he would finish the season at .230 or higher, now, I'm hoping for .260. I just hope the Cubs' brass remembers his first half this year, he'll be getting $16 Million in 2011 and the Cubs will probably need a 3B in 2012, Ramirez is an option but I don't see the Cubs giving him more than $10 Million to do that job (and a 1 year contract at that).
Who's Not: it's time for Derrek Lee to follow the Ramirez example and start popping the ball. Lee's month of July? .244/.320/.356. Imagine how well the Cubs would be doing if he got hot!!!!!
Conclusion: I still maintain that it's too late for the Cubs to make a playoff run but I hope they can get back to .500 this season. Winning today is important because of the task ahead of them tomorrow, facing Halladay. Wells is at least as good a pitcher as Hamels so let's hope the Cubs do it.
The Cubs played well last night. The final score doesn't totally show it but the Cubs crushed the Phillies. Tonight they face another stinky pitcher named Joe Blanton. Makes you wonder why the Phillies, upon acquiring Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays would then dispatch Cliff Lee and his rather cheap contract to the Mariners. As Arsenio used to say, things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Today's Matchup: Joe Blanton (80IP, 6.41ERA, 4.60xFIP) vs Ted Lilly (97IP, 4.08ERA, 4.75xFIP)
My take on today's starting pitchers is this. They both stink. Blanton is significantly better than than his ERA has been but is still bad. Lilly is mildly worse than his ERA is and is also bad. I hope Lilly has "good" or even "lucky" outings for the next two so the Cubs can turn him into a prospect. He has been uniformily the worse pitcher in the Cubs' rotation this year. I know it's not likely but I hope the wind is blowing in today. Lilly is an extreme fly ball pitcher. Typically it's very hard to win longterm with a ground ball rate well under 40%. Lilly has successfully done that over time while pitching in Wrigley Field. He's likely to give up a HR or 3 today, I just pray he doesn't walk people before the HR or get unlucky on balls in play. Today would be a good day to go with an outfield of Colvin/Byrd/Fuku to increase the chances of balls to the outfield (which will be many) being caught.
Who's Hot: Geovany Soto's wOBA is now 20 points higher than it was in his rookie year. He is close to his rookie season ISO (.219 then vs .206 now) and is crushing his rookie year walk rate. In the month of July, he's hitting .343/.410/.629 and has as many extra base hits as singles on the whole month. His defense is questionable these days but it's not like he's Mike Napoli. Today is a day game after a night game which is the only day he should be resting though with the all star break just concluded and Soto getting to rest 3 straight days, if I were Lou, I'd start him today. He's simply too important to our offense to sit.
Who's Not: Ryan Theriot is not a leadoff hitter and even though he's had an ok month of July batting average wise, he still doesn't come close to walking enough and has amonthly OBP of .313. That number is serving to kill the Cubs' offense. Mike Fontenot would be so much better in this role. Play Fontey at second base and hit him first unless you're "showcasing" Theriot for a trade. If the Cubs are playing to win, Theriot is, at best, on the bench.
Conclusion: If the Cubs had a better starter going, I'd call today a likely win but I'd say it's a toss up. I think the Cubs win this game at home with this matchup about 52% of the time. Hopefully Lilly can keep the ball from flying onto Waveland or Sheffield and we can fly that W flag.
Jamie Moyer (9-8, 4.51) vs Ryan Dempster (7-7, 3.61)
Well, the most boring sports day of the year has passed (yesterday). Hope you enjoyed the ESPYs. At least we got this little gem out of it. That aside, it's nice to have baseball back on the air (making it one of the few sports on the air today at a reasonable hour... unless you wake up a 3AM CST for the British Open). We had our laughs and shouts of joy to the great play of Marlon Byrd during the All-Star Game, but now it's back to business. The Cubs are 10.5 games out of first place in the division and things look pretty bleak. However, don't tell that to the team, who was out in the field early today taking fielding practice. It looks like motivation isn't lacking at this point.
I honestly don't know what to expect out of this team in the second half. On the plus side, Aramis started to rediscover how to hit a baseball, Byrd has been a delight to watch, and there are some young kids (Castro, Cashner, sometimes Colvin) that have been fun to watch. On the other hand, we have some aging vets that are barely hitting their weight (Lee, Koyie) and a lack of that "x" factor that seems to pull teams together. In all honesty, I just want to see a better second half than the first.
To test out how this team's second half will start, the Cubs will face their kryptonite: and aging lefty junkerballer. The Phillies are struggling as well and are missing 1/2 of their opening day infield, while their star shortstop still isn't confident in running on his strained calf at 100%. This smells like an opportunity for the Cubs to get off on the right foot and win a 4 game series at the outset.
Call me an eternal optimist at times, but I have a feeling this can be a fun second half, and will at least produce some watchable baseball. What are your expectations/predictions for the second half?
Cubs got a good win with a decent performance from Gorzelanny on Saturday. They finish off the pre all star break season with a prime time game on ESPN. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the Cubs "get" to play these get away games on ESPN on Sunday night just before the all star game quite often. Anyway onto the last game of the first half:
Matchup: Carlos Silva (100.1IP, 2.96ERA, 3.82xFIP) vs Vicente Padilla (47.2IP, 4.72ERA, 3.73xFIP)
Today is a much closer matchup than it appears on paper. Padilla has a really high K rate and has been hurt for much of the first half. He is actually a pretty good pitcher and the Cubs should play with that in mind. He does give up a lot of flyballs aned the key for the Cubs tonight is to get the ball up and over the wall against him.
As for Silva, he has given the Cubs more than they could have ever hoped for in the first half. He's nursing a leg injury but the Cubs have decided to let him go out and get a short outing tonight. I hope it doesn't blow up in the Cubs' face. Silva's key is the same as always. Don't allow too many hits. Try to fan around 2 every 3 innings and don't walk a second batter. Other than that, it should be all about the bullpen tonight. I expect to see Cashner, Marshall and Marmol even though they all pitched on Saturday.
Who's Hot: I don't think people realize how good Geovany Soto has been this year. He is, perhaps, the best hitting catcher in baseball. His power has returned almost completely back to 2008 levels. He continues to take walks like Eddie Joost and is even hitting for a somewhat BABIP inflated batting average. I don't expect him to wOBA over .390 the rest of the season but I don't see why he can't continue to wOBA over .365 or so. He's been awesome.
Who's Not: Why, oh why does Lou Piniella keep Ryan Theriot and Tyler Colvin at the top of the order. Colvin is a perfect #6 hitter and Theriot is a, yeah, ok so Colvin is a perfect #6 hitter. The Cubs need to bury Theriot deep on their bench and go to a full out Fontenot/Baker platoon at second base and possibly in the leadoff spot of the order. The lack of production from the 1/2 spots is hurting the Cubs. I love Theriot's spunk and thought he was a better defensive shortstop than the Cubs gave him credit for but he's falling off precipitiously and wasn't particularly good to begin with!
Conclusion: It would be nice to finish the season with a win. The Reds are scuffling at the moment and just got swept in four games in Phlly and the Cardinals haven't exactly set the world on fire this year so the Cubs still might have a shot in this week division. I don't think a loss is the end of the world though and we all need to philosophical about this game and this season. Still, a win would be real, real nice.