Has the league finally figured Randy Wells out?
Wells has never struck many batters out, and he doesn't walk too many, either. He's a control guy that pounds the corners with pitches that move, hoping to get lots of ground balls into the gloves of his defenders. In 2009, he was able to do that with great success, posting a 47.9 GB%.
Unfortunately, Randy has been allowing many more base hits lately. In his last six starts (including an appearance against the Cardinals in which he was unable to record an out), Randy has allowed 45 hits in 28.1 innings pitched.
I know what you're thinking: a ground ball pitcher allowing more base hits must mean Randy's BABIP allowed is out of whack. And indeed it is; this year, Wells has a .361 BABIP allowed, compared to last year's .294.
But it's not ground balls that are turning into hits; it's squared-up line drives. Randy's line drive percentage is up nearly 40% this year relative to 2009, and now stands at 24.7% -- which puts him at the top of the leaderboard among qualified pitchers.
Curiously, however, Wells isn't the only NL Central pitcher to see his LD% spike up this season. The same thing has happened to Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo, whose LD% stands at 23.1%.
So if batted ball statistics are to be considered useful, how is Gallardo managing a 2.59 ERA this season while Randy's ERA is up at 5.21?
The answer likely lies in LOB%, or strand rate. For Yovani, 20.9% of the base runners he allows come around to score; for Randy, that number is more than doubled -- 44% of the batters that reach base against him eventually score.
Will Randy's strand rate come down? Convention says yes; historical data shows that LOB% rates tend to be closer to Gallardo's rate than Wells' over the course of a season for most major league pitchers. But with recent reports about Larry Rothschild working with Randy on his mechanics with runners on, I'm not so sure this is something that will just go away as Wells pitches more innings.
Oh yeah, and about last night's game: Cliff Lee is really good, Tyler Colvin is pretty great too, and the Cubs are bad. Boom, game set match. Now go watch the World Cup.
The Cubs won their series against the Athletics last night behind the bat of Kosuke Fukudome who, after having to wait until the eighth inning for an at-bat, eventually both scored the tying run and later drove in the winning run.
Randy Wells pitched seven pretty decent innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk, while also collecting six strikeouts. And fortunately, it only took him 128 pitches to do so.
(Grumblegrumble... EVERY DAY this team feels more and more like it's being managed by Dusty Baker instead of Lou Piniella... grumblegrumble)
Andrew Cashner was the first guy out of the 'pen to relieve Wells, and he did well in his first inning of work. But a leadoff single advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a groundout, forcing Lou to bring in the Strikeout Machine That Is Carlos Marmol to prevent the Athletics from scoring the go-ahead run.
The plan worked, albeit without anyone striking out against Marmol, and the Cubs had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, which they did, as Geo Soto walked, Castro bunted him over, Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot walked to load the bases, and then Kosuke singled to drive in Soto.
Heads up to the Athletics: you deserve to lose any game in which you walk both Koyie Hill AND Ryan Theriot while the game is tied.
And for today's Young Cub Update: Starlin Castro has a four-game hitting streak going on.
Good times, go Cubs!
This isn't really working for me right now. It hurts me more than you to say this, but I'm just not really enjoying our time together. I mean, 1-4 against the Pirates and Astros? Those are two of the four National League teams that are worse than you. That's right, there are only four teams worse than you. Your 25-31 record would put you last in the NL East and ahead of only the Diamondbacks in the NL West. Sure, you've wedged your way into third in the crappy NL Central, but you're 7.5 games behind two teams while being just 3.5 games ahead of last-place Houston.
But honestly, Cubs, it's your offense that really got me to thinking. You're on pace to score 677 runs, 30 fewer than last year. You're 13th in the league in runs scored, ahead of only the Giants, Astros and Pirates. And let me remind you that you are 3-11 against the Astros and Pirates. Watching your offense through an entire game is like watching Britney Spears's career arc: it's painfully long and drawn out, and you know it's not going to end well.
Sorry, now I'm just being mean. What I'm trying to say is that our relationship isn't fun like it used to be. Do you know how it makes me feel to see Aramis Ramirez batting .169? Do you know what it's like to see that Geovany Soto has just one more RBI than he did on June 7 of last year? Can you possibly understand the pain that comes with knowing there's one bad Carlos on your team, and his last name isn't Silva?
But I digress. Look, you know that I'll always watch you. I've watched you ever since we first met, and I'll keep watching you no matter what. But you're driving me into the arms of TiVo, and you're starting to make me think that we need to make some serious changes. I'm talking about trading Lilly, Lee, and any other veterans that other teams will take off your hands. It's just that I think this version of you might be bad for me. In fact, I think you might just be a bad team, plain and simple.
There, I said it.
I'm sorry if that hurts, but it's how I feel. I needed to get some of these things off my chest, and I hope you understand where I'm coming from. Hopefully we can somehow make this work.
Ryno of the Week: Per usual, there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about on the offensive side. Nady is heating up as he went 5-for-7 with a homer and three RBI; Byrd was on fire in Houston and went 7-for-16 on the week; and Koyie Hill had two big hits in Houston and was 4-for-10 on the week with three RBI.
On the mound, both Jeff Stevens and Bob Howry threw 2.1 scoreless innings--neither pitcher has allowed an earned run as a Cub this season. And the Cubs' bullpen overall was a bright spot last week: they allowed just one earned run in five games. The award goes to the newest member of the 'pen, Andrew Cashner. He tossed three scoreless innings of relief in three appearances, and his considerable talent was readily evident in his smooth delivery and mid- to high-90s velocity.
Honorable mention: Ryan Dempster
Goat of the Week: I'm going to go with Randy Wells. He made two starts last week because he failed to get out of the first inning against the Cardinals on May 28. He did not go more than 5.1 innings in either start and had more first inning trouble on Sunday. Through 12 starts, Wells sports a 4.86 ERA. Through 12 starts last year, he had a 2.72 ERA. Would you like fries with your sophomore slump?
Dishonorable mentions: Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Carlos Zambrano
Multiple reports have Gorz 'pen-bound, with Wells sticking to the rotation. I would imagine the team doesn't want four lefties in the bullpen, so that means James Russell is likely on his way to Iowa, with Jeff Stevens sticking around with the big league team.
And after yesterday's performance, I guess Carlos Silva is now the staff ace? That gives us a rotation of Silva, Demp, Lilly, Z, and Wells.
And in the 'pen: Howry. Grabow. Gorz. Stevens. Cashner. Marshall. Marmol.
Finally, guys in Iowa that have appeared in the bigs this season: Russell. Berg. Caridad. Gray. Samardzija. John Gaub probably isn't too far behind from making an appearance, either.
But seriously, nobody wants to make a trade with the Cubs? Don't we have the depth to do something?
So we've split the first two games. Randy Wells looked awful (and bullpen-bound?) in his start, and Carlos Silva struck out 11 in seven innings (not bullpen-bound) in his.
Whether the Cubs win or lose this series, it'll feel a heckuva lot more important that it actually is. But screw sensibility; let's win on Sunday and ride the momentum all the way to the freakin' pennant!
How 'bout y'all readers contribute to this here combined recap? What are your favorite moments from the past two games?
Last night's effort to score runs got little help from most of our veteran regulars. Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez each went 0-for-5, and Marlon Byrd and Geo Soto were also hitless.
Instead, it was Alfonso Soriano and... the... Sorianettes? that got most of the work done. The Fonz himself blasted a two-run homer, Darlin' Starlin Castro added a solo shot to the opposite field (...!!!), and Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome came off the bench in the top of the tenth inning to lead off with back-to-back hits, with both eventually scoring to give the Cubs a two-run lead, all of which Carlos Marmol would end up needing.
Randy Wells posted a solid performance, allowing three earned runs in 8.1 innings, with six strikeouts and only one walk, seemingly solidifying his position in the rotation while Carlos Zambrano pitches a simulated game on Monday.
In Carrie Muskat's article that explained that Z would be throwing a sim game, Lou was quoted as saying he didn't know what his rotation will be once Z comes back into it. Frankly, I can't figure it out either.
Since the greatness that is The Cubs Management Think Tank can't think of anything better, allow me to hit you with some knowledge: the foolproof, sure-to-work Cubs Rotation Attack Plan for Starters (CRAPS).
Note: This idea is nowhere close to original.
Let's call Andrew Cashner ready-to-go as a big league starter. And we know Sean Marshall has started previously as well. So if we add those two guys, plus Everyone Loves Carlos Zambrano, to our current rotation, we have eight dudes that can go multiple innings.
Next, let's group those eight into two four-man camps: hosses and non-hosses. Hosses are guys who can definitely throw 100+ quality pitches a game. Demp and Z are locks for this group, and in my humble opinion Wells and Lilly are the next best candidates. By default, that puts Silva, Gorz, Marsh, and Cash in our non-hoss group.
Finally, the pairings:
Dempster - Marshall
Lilly - Silva
Wells - Gorzelanny
Zambrano - Cashner
The first three pairings match righties with lefties, while the last one gives Cashner the hossiest of hosses on which to rely for his appearances.
I think you can see where I'm going with this: every fourth day, we start with a hoss, cut him off in the 85-90 pitch range, and then hand over the next two to four innings to our non-hoss. Out in the 'pen, you of course have Marmol, and then either two or three other guys to serve basically as ROOGYs and LOOGYs for the transition from one starter to the other.
This would work, right?
Well, that's as bad as it gets. At least, I hope that's as bad as it gets. A 1-5 road trip against the Pirates and Reds in which the Cubs got outscored by 20 runs despite winning a game by seven. Looking at the current standings, the best team the Cubs have played all year is the Washington Nationals, who are 17-14 (same record as the Mets). And yet the Cubs are just 14-18 and have been outscored by their opponents overall. The ship is sailing in the wrong direction, to put it mildly, and Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez (hitting a combined .184) are at the helm.
Ryno of the Week: Perhaps I'm just caught up in his first-ever major league game fireworks, but then again, Starlin Castro did drive in six runs in one game while the Cubs scored 10 runs in the other five games on the road trip combined. Castro committed an error as well, but that's the kind of week it was--even the good players weren't that good.
Goat of the Week: It's nice to have options, I guess. I'll go with Randy Wells, who lasted just two horrific innings against the second-worst offense in the National League and raised his ERA from 3.45 to 4.86. It was not a good week for Cubs pitching in general, but Wells' game was over before it started.
Lou Piniella gets a special dishonorable mention for leaving Ryan Dempster in yesterday instead of going to Sean Marshall with Joey Votto coming up. Lou warmed Marshall up, Dempster got into a first-and-third situation, a power-hitting lefty came up, Lou went to the mound, and ... Marshall stayed in the bullpen. While Dempster served up a three-run bomb. Nice call, Lou.
Dishonorable mentions: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Justin Berg, John Grabow
Brandon also writes at Wait 'til this year! Check him out over there!
Today's recap is brought to you by Lou Piniella and Randy Wells, courtesy of quotes lifted from Carrie Muskat's latest article.
"It wasn't a good series and today wasn't a very good game -- three errors," Piniella said. "We didn't pitch good today, we didn't hit good and we certainly didn't play good defense."
"It's hard to win when you don't score many runs," said Piniella.
Piniella said he'll have a little talk with the players prior to Friday's game in Cincinnati.
"I'll say something tomorrow," Piniella said. "What am I going to say? You should be able to look in the mirror pretty easy after something like this." "I would think, out of the 28 games we've played, our starting pitchers have given us a chance to win in 20 of them, maybe a couple more," Piniella said. "That's a pretty nice percentage. I can't remember too many games that have gotten away from us early."
"It's terrible," Wells said. "Unacceptable. Everything I've ever preached about why I'm successful, what I do to be successful, I totally got away from.
"I came in too cocky, too confident," he said. "Warming up in the bullpen, I don't think I missed a pitch. I'm laughing, joking around with [catcher Geovany Soto] before the game. I went out there and was all out of whack and let it get out of hand.
"When we needed a win the most to stop the bleeding, I got lackadaisical, wasn't on top of my game.
He didn't even take a breath in his monologue.
"That's pretty much all that happened," Wells said. "I can't throw strikes with the fastball, can't get ahead of hitters. You're flipping [bad] sliders in there, and not throwing strikes with your best pitch, which is your changeup, and that's the kind of stuff that happens. It's time to get back to work and have a reality check and realize what my job is here and what my main focus is, and that's to win ballgames.
"All that other [nonsense], [being] 3-0 and pitching for the Chicago Cubs doesn't mean [anything]," he said. "I'm here to win ballgames. As far as I'm concerned, after tonight, I'm no better than anybody. It's time to get back to work and have a good side."
Kudos to Carrie for some excellent quote-getting. Her full recap is available at the Cubs' website.
We feel your pain, Cub fans, because it is also our pain.
I know that, justifiably, Rob has emotionally quit on this team. I can't say that I blame him. I also can't say I've yet to be emotionally invested at all.
But. Are the Cubs "done?" Can Jim Hendry start breaking the team apart, selling them for scrap, and building for next year? Or for that matter -- can they just fire his ass already?
The answer is probably "no." It pains me to write this, but I believe the Cubs are good enough to play .500 ball for most of the year. They might even rattle off some serious winning streaks every once in a while. Some days, they're going to blow out teams by 10 runs. Other days, they're going to get shut out worse than a geek on prom night.
But remember what I said at the beginning of this series ... the Cubs were closer in record to the Pirates than they were to the Cardinals. Now, the Pirates are closer to the Cardinals than the Cubs are. St. Louis is bound to run away with it (damn you Poo-holes!) but the rest of the Central may be a season-long cluster-bomb.
So, as the Battle for Second Place begins, we must ask: can the Cubs win?