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.
OK, World Cup over, but Futures Game on now! Turn on ESPN to watch Brett Jackson, rising Cub star, who is starting in center field!
But I do owe you a recap, so, quickly: Tom Gorzelanny, super, with 7 K against just 1 BB in 6 IP. Hittingwise, Geo Soto went to town, posting a 3-for-4, including a home run and three ribs. Other players collecting multiple hits include Darlin' Starlin Castro, Derrek Lee, and The Resurgent Aramis Ramirez. That's Aramis' fifth or sixth consecutive mutli-hit game, IIRC.
With yet another home run in last night's game, Ramirez' post-DL OPS continues to climb above one. I'll have it updated after tonight's game (also on ESPN, FYI). But for now, Brett Jackson! (And eventually, Hak-Ju Lee at SS for the World team!)
The Cubs failed to score yesterday, as Pirates Mike Lincoln, Joel Hanrahan, and Octavio Dotel combined for the shutout. Having said that, let's review the Cubs' best scoring chances from yesterday:
- In the second inning, Derrek Lee reached on a hit-by-pitch, and advanced to 2nd on an Aramis Ramirez ground out. Alfonso Soriano grounded out, and Koyie Hill lined out.
- Mike Fontenot singles to lead off the fourth. Marlon Byrd strikes out, and Derrek Lee lines into a double play.
(Through four, the Pirates faced 13 batters, one above the minimum.)
- In the fifth, Aramis Ramirez led off with a single. After a Soriano fly out and Koyie Hill strikeout, Starlin Castro hit a double, advancing Ramirez to third.
This was probably the best chance of the night. Castro's fast, so a base knock could easily have given the Cubs two runs. No pressure for pinch hitter Tyler Colvin, who quickly went down 0-2 after swinging at two decent-looking low sliders, fought back to 3-2, and then swung at another low slider. Hey, he battled, guessed strike on 3-2, was wrong, and missed. Sucks.
- Quickly: Fuk led off the sixth with a walk, but the next three batters grounded out; Aramis led off the seventh with a single but Hill GInonforceDP, and Byrd singled with one out in the ninth before Lee and Ramirez flew out.
The moral of the story: you need more than singles, a couple of walks, and some productive outs to score runs. (And apparently, some guys need more than a double to score from first with two outs -- I'm just sayin'.)
Tom Gorzelanny started the game, and his control wasn't top notch, but what can you expect from a guy who's spent the last month or whatever it's been getting rusty out in the bullpen? Regardless, he pitched 3.1 solid innings last time the Cubs called his number, and in last night's game he managed to post five shutout innings, with five strikeouts. Furthermore, his velocity chart at Fangraphs shows that he touched 95 last night, and managed to average something in the 93mph range. They say the team receiving the best player wins the trade, and if that's true, I'd happily give up Jose Ascanio, Kevin Hart and I think there was one more guy? for Gorzo 10 times out of 10. I hope he sticks around for a few years, he's a talented dude.
Andrew Cashner got a sort of tough luck loss last night -- unlucky in part because his team hadn't scored AT ALL before he came in, and in part because the two runs he gave up were unearned. He did allow a single and a double, so it's not like it wasn't his fault at all, but it woulda been nice if Aramis Ramirez could have avoided making an error, too.
Well guys, that's about all she, or, I, rather, wrote. At least Tom Gorzelanny is good!
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?
When asked if the constant chatter about the Cubs' oversupply of starting pitchers had affected his performance in last night's game, Tom Gorzelanny answered, "No."
"But you read it."
Of course you read it, and of course it affects you. Tom was clearly off his game last night. In the game's first at-bat, he had Rafael Furcal in a 1-2 count before giving up a single, and then followed that up with a dreaded four-pitch walk to Russell Martin. Three runs would eventually score.
In the second inning, he started the at-bat against Dodgers' starting pitcher Chad Billingsley with three straight balls, before eventually walking him. It's little things like that that make you think, "Something's not right."
Pressured or not, however, that's probably that -- Gorz will likely head to the 'pen, and James Russell will likely head back to Iowa. Having said that, I know it would not at all be fair to Tom, but I'd almost be in favor of sending him to Iowa to have him continue to start games, with the understanding that the Cubs would soon trade either him, Lilly, or Silva for either some relief help, or some quasi-talented young players. But what do I know?
On offense, there were some blown opportunities, sure, but five runs are five runs, definitely enough to give your team a chance to win. Perhaps more importantly in the long run, I don't know who looked worse last night: Kosuke Fukudome or Tyler Colvin.
I think it's pretty clear that, with Soriano and Byrd carrying most of the load on offense so far this year, Kosuke should be feeling the most pressure in terms of being replaced as an everyday starter in favor of Colvin. But for Tylermania! to replace anyone at all, he has to earn it, regardless of how poorly the Fook performs in May (.254/.338/.397 as of right now).
Colvin looked ugly in his first inning at-bat, swinging at two super-low breaking pitches to strike out. He walked in the third, but then didn't take the bat off his shoulder in the fifth, striking out again. So, yeah, he isn't seeing the ball real well lately. And it's not like he ever has -- the kid didn't walk once in spring training this year. But you know what might help improve his eye? Maybe some regular playing time. But again, what do I know?
The Cubs go for the series win this afternoon. Theo gets the start against some young guy. Have fun with that.
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?
The most valuable player for the Cubs in Sunday's game was almost certainly Edwin Jackson. That young kid has a good heater, but apparently not much else.
Regardless, Tom Gorzelanny should get some credit for yet again putting himself and his team in position for a win. Nice enough for him, he got the decision this time.
It's Gorzo's first win of the year, which must be why ESPN said something like, "Finally he's doing well," when they went over the highlights on him. Of course, you and I know that this is Tom's third quality start of the year, and he was one out away from a fourth against the Mets on 4/22, AND that his only other start was the one where he took a liner off his shoulder. So, thank you very much, Tom's been doing quite well all season.
But here's a question for you: Will it continue?
I'm sure the media is really enjoying all this Carlos Zambrano drama (and when I say I'm sure, I mean I'm POSITIVE), but neither Gorzelanny nor Carlos Silva will keep his ERA under 3 all year. When the wind starts to blow out more and a few extra home runs leave the park, I think Lou might change his mind about the value of keeping Z in the 'pen.
But even with a few more home runs allowed, Tom might still figure to be rotation-worthy. Fangraphs likes him enough to predict that he'll finish the year with nine wins and a 3.91 ERA in 28 starts. I buy that, mostly because I'm liking Gorzelanny's ability to get strikeouts -- like the 10 he got yesterday, a new career high.
Speaking of yesterday's game, way to go Alfonso Soriano, who had two home runs and a double. The guy is looking pretty good right now, but allow me to quote MSD from the Shout Box:
"I hate to talk negative but soriano will carry the cubs now and then
bringem down later lol"
This feels mostly correct. In fact, even last year, Soriano posted two
months better than his April from this year OPS-wise (he was at .900 in
April '10, .955 in April '09, and .992 in July '09). For him, it's not a
question of getting hot; it's a matter of staying better-than-tepid. Or
But for now: Cubs win! Good stuff.
So much for a five game winning streak. Given the run support the Cubs have given Gorzo, after the Nats put up two in the top of the first inning, the book should have been closed on the game.
In what is becoming a familiar story, another Cubs starter had a quality start. Gorzo went seven strong innings while allowing only two runs on five hits. Despite the quality start, Gorzo dropped to 0-3 on the season. It seems like the Randy Wells Award for No Run Support has been passed on to Tommy. In four starts this season, Gorzo has only given up 6 earned runs total over 22 IP (a 2.45 ERA) and hasn't allowed more than 2 runs in any of his starts. Over those four starts, he has gotten a total of 9 runs in support. Granted, the bullpen has had a bit of say in his losses as well. Welcome to Chicago, Tommy.
Speaking of the bullpen, Gorz's trade-mate John Grabow entered the game in the 8th and gave the Wrigley faithful a taste of just how much fans will come to regret the gaudy contract he signed this offseason. Grabow came into the 8th and immediately had a throwing error trying to get Nyjer Morgan out on what would have been a bang bang play. Morgan then stole second and scored on an Ian Desmond RBI single. I pray for the day where Grabow has a clean inning.
Despite the lack of offense tonight, Soriano and Soto continued on the path to redemption by getting hits tonight. Once again, notably lacking from the world of productive hitting were offensive centerpieces Derrek Lee and A-Ram. Lee seems to be hitting the ball solidly as of late and this was evidenced tonight by the hard line drive he hit to left field that Willingham just barely caught on the run. Ramirez, on the other hand, just seems lost. In the 8th, A-Ram stepped up to the plate with men on second and third and two out and didn't come through in the clutch once again. Perhaps this is a bit of a harsh expectation, but Ramirez has been very successful in those situations in the past. This year it just seems that he isn't executing in those situations. All in all, the Cubs went 0-8 with men in scoring position and stranded eight men on base.
I don't know what it is, but Livan always seems to have the Cubs number. Plus, he has just been in a zone so far this year. Regardless, I expect the team to rebound tomorrow and get the series win with Dempster toeing the rubber.
The Cubs have yet to win a game started by Tom Gorzelanny, but he deserves very little of the blame for this unfortunate trend--the Cubs have scored two, three, one and one run(s), respectively, in those games while Gorzelanny has posted a 2.45 ERA.
Though Gorzo allowed two runs last night almost before the pregame show was complete, he settled down after the first and notched a (everybody together now) quality start. He came just one out away from a QS his last time out (and would have had one were it not for an error by Mike Fontenot), and was knocked out, literally, of his previous start after three innings. Those two starts represent the only games in the last 12 in which the Cubs starter did not post a quality start. In fact, don't look now, but the Cubs have the sixth-best ERA in the National League. And yes, that includes the bullpen!
But Livan Hernandez, whose season has started as inexplicably well as Carlos Silva's, shut down the Cubs with his 85 mph fastballs and grab bag of random pitches that have no business working in the major leagues. The end result was one measly unearned run for the Cubs, giving Gorzelanny another loss and bringing the Cubs' record to 0-4 when he has taken the mound.
Hernandez lulled the Cubs offense to sleep even though they should have been energized by the opportunity to climb over .500. It was the fourth time this season the Cubs have had a chance to get their heads above water, but now they'll look to Ryan Dempster on Wednesday as they attempt to even their record at 11-11.
Though Aramis Ramirez was just 1-for-4 with a single, I think he's about to break out of it. He had a line drive single on Sunday as well as a hard line out to center. On Monday, he smoked a double in the first inning and later hit what would have been a home run on most days. And along with his single last night, he drove a ball to the warning track in center. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think Ramirez is almost there.
Read more from Brandon at his blog Wait til This Year