Rich Harden (2-1, 5.11 ERA) vs. Mike Hampton (1-2, 4.88 ERA)
Apologies because this one will be short. Pitching for the Cubs is Rich Harden, a guy with million-dollar stuff and a 10 cent arm. As Jason noted, Harden has been psyching himself up for this match-up against Mike Hampton by listening to - among others - Bitter Sweet Sympathy by the Verve and by watching reruns of the first season of Dawson's Creek.
Their first match-up of the season resulted in a Cubs series victory. Since then Houston has rocketed to the basement while the Cubs have sipped the sweet nectar of mediocrity.
Mike Fontenot, Derrek Lee, and Ryan Theriot have combined for 8 homeruns and 21 RBI over the last 7 games. Lee's AVG has still been down, but you'll be shocked to know that he hasn't hit into a double play yet this year. (Then again, his neck is still bothering him and he's not playing tonight. So, er, nevermind)
Kosuke Fukudome - batting .182 in the past 7 games, Alfonso Soriano is also hitting weakly, batting .200. Maybe May is the new April for the Fonz and the new September for Fuku.
Mike Hampton? Pitching? Filed in the "Kurt is epically wrong" department, I was soooo pissed when the Cubs didn't sign Hampton back in the day. Anyway, if the Cubs can't destroy Houston and their attempts at a 90's revival, then I've got nothing for them.
And I promise. I swear. Zambra-0-Meter to be updated immediately following tonight's game.
Tim Lincecum (2-1, 3.16ERA) vs. Sean Marshall (0-1, 3.32ERA)
Two consecutive wins is nothing. Three is a trend. Four is a streak. And five? Five is usually the start of something special, which is exactly what the Cubs are playing for today. Lawd knows they have their problems. Shall I outline them for you?
- No, I shall not. You already know all about them.
But despite those issues, the Cubs have the potential to continue to play well. I particularly am looking forward to watching the team play with an actual backup third baseman on the roster - BOBBY SCALES! - and my fingers are crossed that the 31-year-old rookie will play well enough to warrant a tough decision by Hendrinella at a later date.
For me, the interesting subject of now and the future is the gameplay of the Questionable Quartet. Fittingly, all four have begun to show the signs of shaking out the cobwebs - Lee, Fontenot, Bradley, and Soto all had big games in the last series against the Marlins. Maybe it's not a coincidence then that, at last, the Cubs are playing like a winner.
Koyie Hill - 9 for his last 24, Hill's batting .375 in the past 7 days
Ryan Theriot - Geezus, what has Theriot been drinking? Before this season Theriot had never hit more than 3 homeruns in a season, be it his 134 at bat season in 2006, or his 537 at bat season in 2007, or his 580 at bat season last year. In fact, before the start of this season TheQuietRiot had 7 career homeruns. He's well on his way to doubling that total having hit 3 longballs in the past week alone. Cherish this moment Cubs fans, because for now Theriot is on pace to hit 19.
Mike Fontenot - It would be somewhat petty of me to remind you that Mike Fontenot will never be as good as Mark DeRosa. So far this year, DeRo is batting .241 with 5 homers, 19 RBI, and a .738 OPS. Meanwhile Fontenot is now batting .266 with 5 homers, 14 RBI, and an .852 OPS. I'll take the younger one that bats lefty, although now that Lil' Babe is producing, people are now expressing the ridiculous wish that DeRo was the team's first baseman rather than DeePee.
Angel Guzman - I appear to have been wrong. In his last 7 appearances, Guzman has had an ERA of 3.12. Not exactly stellar, but for a long reliever it's pretty damn good.
The Chicago Bullpen - While Guzman has found balance to his season, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Dave Patton, Jeff Samardzija, and Neal Cotts have come undone. The Cubs pen looks horrible right now, but as somebody who recently took a stand to say that the lineup couldn't be as bad as they appeared, I will do so again now and say that the bullpen can - and will - turn things around.
Kosuke Fukudome - He's still doing better than the Questionable Quartet, but Fuku's last week has been, er, weak. In his last 24 at bats Fukudome is batting .250, although he's hit a homer and has 5 RBI in that span. I suspect it's nothing to panic about.
Four is galore but five would be ... a hive? Eh, I dunno. I'm pretty impressed with the Giants pitching but a Cubs team that stays patient, works the counts, draws walks, and gets epic homeruns from pantywaste shortstops is pretty hard to beat. Today's game should be a good one.
The Cubs are riding a three-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game against
the Giants. After a week of bad baseball, it was nice to see the Cubs do something good for a change.
The major story-line of the night is how will Aramis Ramirez look after taking forever off to
rest his calf (I know it hasn’t been forever, but really he needs to start playing again)?
The Cubs got pretty good pitching during the Marlin series, sans Rich Harden’s walk
fest, but they now turn back to last year’s most consistent pitcher Ryan Dempster.
Dempster hasn’t been the same since his seven-walk playoff game. But did we really
expect anything different? The Cubs signed him to a huge four-year deal, and he promptly turned into the pitcher I thought he would be
Mike Fontenot – In the last seven days, “Little Babe Ruth” has lived up
to the name. He has four home runs, 8 RBI, and a 1.179 OPS. This has
raised his overall average to .263. It looks like his little slump is over for now.
Derrek Lee – Ok, to be honest Lee isn’t really too hot, but he has hit two home
runs in the last two days. You have to start somewhere. We can only hope those 1-for-4’s with a HR turn into 3-for-4’s pretty soon.
Cubs Pitchers – Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall looked really solid in
their starts against the Marlins. Now we need Carlos Marmol to get his act together.
Milton Bradley – See the last 50 billion posts on Mr. Crazy. In the last seven, he is
4-for-20. He can only go up for here? At least I hope so.
Alfonso Soriano – After Soriano’s quick start, we knew this was coming. Now, he
does have two home runs in the last seven days, but he is only hitting .206 (6-for-29). With Soriano you have to take the good and bad, and right now he is on one of those bad streaks.
The Cubs are still 3.5 back heading into this series, and the Cubs really need to take Game
1 against Sanchez. It is really important since Tim Lincecum is up tomorrow afternoon. Getting Ramirez back will be a boost, and hopefully the Cubs will continue their run producing ways.
Of course the Giant offense isn’t great, so a few runs will go a long way.
There should be a Series Preview a little later, but I neede to go ahead and get this posted, because I need to grade about 50 research papers (Hopefully I can get to at least five).
Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 6.92 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 4.64 ERA)
Can the Cubs finally win a series, and a four-game one at that?
Can Ryan Theriot hit a third home run in as many days?
Can Carlos Zambrano be dominating on the mound?
These all things that I’m looking for as the Cubs try take 3-of-4 from the Florida Marlins. Well, maybe not the Theriot home run, but that would be really nice. After scuffling for over a week, the Cubs are back over .500 with a 12-11 mark. A win today, and the Cubs would have honest-to-God winning streaking heading into a two-game series against the Giants.
If the Cubs are going to compete, the Cubs need Zambrano to start throwing some dominating innings. He has pitched better in each of last two starts, and it would be nice to see that trend continue.
Ryan Theriot – as long as Theriot keeps hitting home runs and triples, he will stay on the hot list. The man’s on fire after he doubled his home run total from last season, on May 2nd no less. Call me crazy, but he just might hit three or four this season.
Mike Fontenot – Don’t look now but the other LSU grad has a 1.000 OPS in his last seven days. During that time he is hitting .292 with eight RBI. If anything good has come out his early season slump it is that Aaron Miles didn’t take the chance to take his job.
Zambrano – Big Z has four hits this week, including his first bomb of the year. He also has pinch hit in three straight games, which means his timing is ready for today.
Aramis Ramirez’s calf – As nice as it has been to some Cubs hit better, we need to have Ramirez back in the lineup. From what I read it looks like tomorrow might be the day. I would rather see him sooner rather than later.
Milton Bradley – Not to beat a dead horse, but Bradley still hasn’t really started hitting. He is improving (he’s got 4 hits in his last 15 at bats). His average still stands at .128 on the season, but with a .320 OB. He didn't play yesterday, so maybe he is ready to bust out.
The Cubs are playing better, and it has translated into wins. Lets go out there today and get a third in a row. I won’t be able to catch today’s game, because I’m heading to the Braves game to hang out with friends. If there isn’t a recap when I get home, I will post one a little later tonight.
After falling below .500 on Thursday, the Cubs came back yesterday, down 5-1 at one point, and defeated the Marlins 8-6 thanks to power-hitting Ryan Theriot. Was anybody really hoping for the Grand Slam there? At best, maybe a bases-clearing double or something, but “The Riot” got a hold of his one for the year and gave the Cubs a spark.
Today’s game pits Lilly, a two-time almost no-hitter, and Sanchez, a one-time no-no, together in a crucial game for the Cubs. With the Cardinal juggernaut steam rolling the Nationals, the Cubs really need to stockpile some wins to stay within 4-5 games.
Sanchez started the year by throwing five-innings of shutout baseball against the Mets, but they got too him for six runs in six innings on Monday.
Of course things aren’t going much better for Lilly, who couldn’t locate on Monday in Arizona. He was tagged for five runs in five innings of work, which included four walks. The Cubs have to find ways of walking people, or I have a feeling Lou Pinella might need to visit a specialist for some high blood pressure.
Ryan Theriot – I know he’s only hitting .267 in his last six games, but he had the biggest home run of the year yesterday. So, we’ll give him a little wiggle room to get heated up.
The two-hit wonders – Derrek Lee, Reed Johnson, Geovanny Soto and Mike Fontenot all had two hits yesterday.
The Bullpen – The Cubs pen got a win and save yesterday, but they also walked five and gave up two hits. Granted, all of those free passes and hits only resulted in one run, courtesy of our “closer” Kevin Gregg. On the flip side, David Patton and Neal Cotts both worked scoreless innings. I know it was a better result, but I would like to see some clean innings, before I'm ready to move them up to the hot list.
The Cubs really need to string a couple wins together. It is still too early to worry, but it would be nice to start playing better baseball. Lilly has been solid this year, and hopefully he can put Monday’s start behind him to lead the Cubs to first back-to-back wins since April 17-21.
Most of use won’t get a chance to see the game today, because of the blackout rules, unless you live in the Chicago area. For the rest of us, it will be MLB.TV or XM or constant updates on the web. I will be do my best to post a recap later today.
As you can see, I'm not as good at Photoshop as Kurt. So, I did the best I could and spray painted the numbers out of yesterday's graphic. Maybe I can get a few lessons this summer. Well, enjoy the game today and go Cubs.
Image update update from Kurt
Ironically soon after Chris posted this article I sent him the GameCast graphic for today. I guess he didn't see it, so I've gone in and imputed the proper image. As far as the Game Recaps go, once I get home from my trip I will do them up.
Point is, even if every Cub regular only had "average" years - not career years, not exempliary years, but just avearge ones - then they'd still kick the crap out of the other teams in the NL Central. Seriously. They're stacked. The problem is they haven't shown they can kick ass yet. Blame the slow starts, the nagging injuries, the poor roster management, and so-on if you want but it's just excuses. Pretty soon the excuses need to stop and the Cubs need to start talking with their bats again. Who's Hot Who's Not
Taylor (0-1, 9.82) vs. Harden (2-1, 3.86 ERA)
The Cubs descend into mediocrity and their fans descend into madness. I love you guys in a non-gay (or, if you are in fact female then in a non-threatening) way and I respect your right to panic. But deciding that this team doesn't have the keys to get 'er done just because they're 10-11 to begin the year with may be a logical route to take until you consider that more than half the team is not just underperforming below their career norms but are doing so dramatically.
Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot had decent days yesterday. Theriot got on base via two hits, and Fontenot hit his 3rd homerun in 4 games.
Everybody else, it seems. Also: Aaron Heilman needs to take a day off, come in tomorrow, and efficiently own the Marlins after the beating they dealt him.
It's not what we expected at the beginning of the year, but baseball rarely is. The good news is the Cubs are facing a rookie pitcher who's so fresh that I couldn't find a photo of him and was forced to improvise. He got his ass kicked in his first start not too long ago, so maybe his fatty meatballs are exactly what the Cubs need to pound on in order to get into the groove.
Point is, even if every Cub regular only had "average" years - not career years, not exempliary years, but just avearge ones - then they'd still kick the crap out of the other teams in the NL Central. Seriously. They're stacked.
The problem is they haven't shown they can kick ass yet. Blame the slow starts, the nagging injuries, the poor roster management, and so-on if you want but it's just excuses. Pretty soon the excuses need to stop and the Cubs need to start talking with their bats again.
Chris Volstad (2-0, 2.70 ERA) v. Sean Marshall (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
First, an announcement
Tomorrow morning at roughly 6:30AM central, I will be appearing for a segment on Miller&Deace In the Morning on 1460 KXNO radio. But if you don't want to get up early and listen to me shake out the cobwebs live on the air then you can tune into it later in the day on their podcast page (I think Jon said it would be up and available by noonish). I have a pretty clear idea on the things I plan to talk about and I can promise you I'll be doing my best to entertain. So tune in!
It turns out that you make the most fantastic focaccia bread in the world. It's a long-standing, handed-down family recipe that your father made you swear to guard with your life. Then one day the prestigeous cook of a five-star restaurant tastes your amazing bread and offers you on the spot a job to work in his kitchen. But 3 hours into your first shift your bread isn't cooking right. The dough is too tough. It isn't rising properly. It turns out that your glorious bread - which tastes like heaven when you have time to prepare it - turns into doughy shiz when you have to churn it out regularly. You know why?
Because you lack consistency, my friend. Just like these Cubs.
Right now we can come up with these tremendous reasons - no, let's call them excuses - for why the Cubs are tanking. Players are hurting. The team lacks balance. The #3 hitter hasn't found his stroke. The replacement right fielder looks like a lawn gnome out there. The newly-rich 17-game-winning ace is pitching like crap.
But these are all just excuses. Good teams find ways to win no matter what their day-to-day situation. I still believe the Cubs are a good team. They have time to turn into a consistent winner in 2009. But when? When will it happen?
Note to the Cubs: make it happen starting tonight.
The Cubs just got shut out. The only one who's "hot" is the poor bastard who lit himself on fire yesterday rather than face another season of crushed hopes and broken dreams.
The Cubs just got shut out. Until further notice, the entire team has been dumped onto the NOT HOT list. I don't know if that list actually exists - although if it did Roseanne Barr would be holding down the fort - but it should and the Cubs belong there.
I'm feeling emotional! I'm feeling angry! I'm just some schmuck who writes about them mostly for free on the internet! Imagine how Lou feels!
But you know what? While I'm sure he's other-than-happy right now, we've yet to see a story about a big blow up. This could be from one of two reasons. A) Lou's too old to get fired up anymore and maybe it's time to put him out to pasture. 2) Even Lou is not worried yet.
And if the most tempramental, angriest manager of our era isn't red faced and yelling yet, then what the hell are we doing getting so worried so soon? Just a thought.
Series Preview - Marlins at Cubs
I'm hardly a genius and I am especially not mathematically inclined. But here's what I understand about statistical probability in reference to the Cubs:
Two games ago, the Cubs scored 2 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their inability to score runs was not an indication that they would be unable to score runs the following night as evidenced by their 11-run barrage of Arizona.
Last night the Cubs scored 11 runs against the Diamondbacks. Their ability to score runs is not an indication that they will be able to score runs this afternoon.
Based however on the composition of the Cubs lineup, using the large sample size of their individual offensive performances of not just last season but the past several, it's fair to conclude that they will likely score a large number of runs on average over the course of the 2009 season. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that they are capable - if not likely - to score a large number of runs today.
Actually that's more philosophical theory with a hint of statistical evidence, rather than statistical theory. Regardless, I'm not wrong. The Cubs are neither likely to score only 2 runs or to score 11 today but they are likely to score a lot. But what I really wanted to take from my little adventure into probability discussion is this key fact - and yes, it is a fact - small sample sizes are irrelevant in predicting future performances. The only relevant samples we can take are from the large ones, and from June of 2007 until now the Cubs have been a run-scoring, game-winning force of nature. So I say again that all this panic and concern over small sample sizes (unfortunately occuring under the microscope of the start of the season) is probably a case of jumping the gun.
Take last night's offensive outpouring. Clearly the Cubs are like the kid forced to participate in sports even though he really wants to dance. They're just itching to bust out, dying to show off their steps, and a team as bad as we're afraid they are wouldn't be very likely to flat-out pummel another team in the way the Cubs did yesterday. The Cubs are playing for consistency more than anything else. A win today would be a good step in the right direction, and what's more it would be a step the team is entirely capable of taking as they have a good pitcher on the mound.
And that is my understanding of how statistics prove the Cubs should be a good team.
Everybody had hits yesterday, but the biggest and the best came from Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot (and Carlos Zambrano, but he's unlikely to hit today). Both players have now hit homers in consecutive games. At one point last night Lil' Babe Ruth got his batting average up to .250 before watching it drop back down, but everybody's favorite lil' shawty now has a .351 OBP and .780 OPS and is - at least briefly - on pace to hit 26 doubles, 26 homers, and to draw 85 walks. And just for the record, the guy he replaced is batting .235 for Cleveland with an OPS of .720, although he's actually on pace to hit more homeruns - at least for now.
By the way, Kosuke Fukudome drew 3 walks yesterday and at this time has an OBP of .482. I'd categorize him as the team's biggest mystery. Will he flounder like last year when pitchers get a second look at him? Or has he finally figured out major league hitting. If it's the latter then the Cubs have the potential for an even better offensive season than what we'd expected ... even while Geo Soto and Milton Bradley hit like little leaguers.
Geo Soto is sitting down for a few games while Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are still not at 100%. Not to mention that Milton Bradley will have to do a lot more than get his second hit as a Cub before he escapes the "who's not" section of this article.
I'd love to see the Cubs build on yesterday's performance with another solid smack-down of the D-Backs. Then again, while statistics dictate that the Cubs could and should do well today, there's no reason to expect it. After all, this team has been very much hit and miss. But a road series victory following the harsh road series defeat at the hands of St. Louis would be incredibly nice and, hopefully, evidence that this season is faaaaar from over.
...where a guy who never played anywhere but first base before he turned 28 is starting in right field....
...where the only lefty reliever on the team has failed to have a single no-hit, no-walk outing...
...they play to do more than just survive. They play to WIN. It's DeathCub 2009 - The Bloodening!
The good news about tonight: Milton Bradley is apparently ready to return to the lineup, or will be ready to do so soon. Just one small request to Cub fans: when a guy has hurt legs/testicles, DON'T EFFIN' BOO HIM FOR NOT RUNNING OUT A HIT BALL. Idiots! YOU try running out a ground ball with a throbbing-not-in-the-fun-way groin!
Anyway, earlier I posted an article about the "crazy" roster moves I'd make to give the team better balance. One such "crazy" move would be promoting a legitimate backup third baseman and shortstop to the team at the cost of a guy who is essentially the team's sixth outfielder and one of the team's seven relief pitchers, three of whom appear to totally suck ass. But before you jump aboard the "crazy Kurt" train keep in mind that the team's only backup third baseman is their starting second baseman and he had something like two errors in one game yesterday. That's not good. Just sayin'.
Alfonso Soriano - he hit homerun #6 yesterday. Incidentally the Fonz was given up on by Lou Piniella after a 1 for 8 spell as the #3 hitter. Thankfully Lou's not so quick to give up on other players who only go 1 for 8.
Mike Fontenot - despite his second homerun of the season last night Fontenot had 2 defensive errors at third. He's got some makin' up to do.
Dave Patton - He's been getting hammered as of late after giving up 2 more runs - 1 earned - last night. How much longer until Lou cuts the cord?
Between the two of them, I'd probably bet on Carlos Zambrano to have a better game than Yusmeiro Petit. But it's no sure thing -- the Moose has shown moments of brilliance amid instances of crappiness.
But if ever there was a game I'd like to see the Cubs win, it's tonight's.
Probably the most interesting thing - besides wondering whether or not the Cubs will actually win - is the continued lineup juggling. In case you're not up to speed, here's the latest ...
Derrek Lee missed yesterday's game due to neck spasms.
Aramis Ramirez missed yesterday's game because of a nagging leg injury.
Alfonso Soriano didn't miss any time despite taking one to the noggin.
Milton Bradley remains "a long ways away" from returning from a groin made sore in an Other Than the Fun Way.
Carlos Marmol probably won't be ready just yet to return to action out of the bullpen.
Neal Cotts pitches as though he has a bladder control problem.
That's five players on the 25 man roster who may be playing at less-than-100%, assuming they play at all. Did we mention that, for some reason, the Cubs aren't putting any of their walking wounded on the DL? Can't wait to see how that story plays out.
Alfonso Soriano - Sori looks like he may finish the month of April with a better-than.300 AVG. That would be a first for him in his career as a Cub.
Ryan Theriot - Theriot is back to batting in the #2-spot, where he spent some time last year. I can't exactly figure out how, but Yahoo Sports has him scoring 3 runs in yesterday's game despite having reached base only once, via a hit. (A closer inspection reminds me that he reached twice more, once by error and the other by fielder's choice)
Kosuke Fukudome - The birthday boy didn't hit his 4th homerun last year until June 5th. So far this year he's on pace to hit 38. Remember back in Spring when everybody was all "ooooh he sucks, it's painful to watch him swing a bat," well, like, how do you feel about that NOW? Awww snap!
Micah Hoffpauir - All mocking aside, Hoffpauir is doing exactly what you'd hope to see from the team's top bench player/pinch hitter. He's putting up monster numbers in limited at bats while reminding us defensively why he's better off saved for those key situations.
Reed Johnson - On a day when the anemic Cubs offense couldn't be contained, Reed Johnson responded by having a big ol' 0-fer. I'm wondering if he'll play tonight or if, should Lee return to the lineup, Reed will return to the bench for Hoff to move to RF and Fukudome to CF. (Man, the Cubs juggling act is kind of insane)
Geovany Soto - Here's a crazy thought. You know how he missed some time because of a sore shoulder? What if his shoulder is still sore and it's affecting his swing? Just thinking aloud.
Neal Cotts - Cotts appears hell-bent on putting together the worst streak in baseball. He seems to want to give up 1 hit, 1 walk, or 1 run (or more) in every single outing. So far this year he has yet to have a perfect inning, or even a perfect outing. The "closest" he's come is April 10th against the Brewers when he pitched 0.0 innings and surrendered 0 hits, 0 runs, and 0 walks. Of course, he did hit the one guy he faced...
Dave Patton - Has the Patton experiment ended yet? Perhaps soon?
Arizona kind of sucks, so we've got that going for us. Ted Lilly has been the steadiest starter on the team, which is funny if you think about it since he got his ass kicked in the first game he pitched against the Astros.
Maybe the one thing we should really be looking for is consistency. The Cubs have completely lacked in that so far - aside from consistently having some very nagging injuries.
And I'd like to add one other thing ... if the Cubs lose tonight, it reallllly doesn't mean much. So please don't panic, unless of course Soriano, Fukudome, and Ramirez have a three-way outfield collision that sends them all to the DL. Then - and only then - the Cubs are screwed.
Series Preview: Cubs at Arizona