This is just another set of 3 games in a season that's lost pretty much all meaning. I'm convinced Lou has thrown in the towel, and most of the veterans are just playing out the string. The only thing this season has left for me value-wise, is the development of our young players. Colvin, Castro, Cashner, Diamond, even young veterans like Soto, Wells, Marmol, Gorzellany, and DeWitt. They need to play as often as possible, and it wouldnt hurt to take a look at some other guys in AAA. I'm thinking Jay Jackson, John Gaub, Wellington Castillo (backup C next year?), and yes, even Jeff Samardzija. His contract is running out, and with him out of options next year, we won't be able to send him back to AAA without him clearing waivers, which he won't. I'd like to see him again before too long. However, that's getting a little far ahead of ourselves. Here are the matchups for the upcoming series against the first place Cincinnati Reds.
Friday: Bronson Arroyo (11-6, 4.01) vs. Tom Gorzellany (6-5, 3.48)
Gorzo the Magnificent made his last start on Saturday against the Rockies, and didnt pitch well (shocking, no one pitched well in Coors last weekend, except Silva - he only allowed 2 hits). He allowed 11 baserunners in 6 1/3, as well as 5 ER in a game the Cubs ultimately lost 6-5. Despite that, he's been pretty solid for the Cubs as a starter this year, keeping the club in most games, despite his penchant for wildness, as he's walked 46 batters in 93 innings, far too many. Arroyo is doing his smoke and mirrors act again this year for Dusty Baker's Reds, only this year, he's getting wins out of the deal since the team behind him is winning games. He's hittable, he's beatable, and I like the Cubs chances this afternoon.
Saturday: Edinson Volquez (2-1, 6.35) vs. Randall T Wells (5-9, 4.40)
The up and down season for Wells took another sharp down on Monday night as he was the starting pitcher for the 26 hit debacle against the Brewers. He gave up 10 of those hits in just over 4 innings. He'll be looking to bounce back on Saturday - which is an early 12:05 start. I love those games. Early afternoon baseball as I wake up from my brown-bottle induced malaise is the best. Volquez has taken a sharp fall since he was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball in early 2008 after joining the Reds in the Josh Hamilton trade. He wasn't as good in the second half of '08 or in the first few months of '09, and then he had to have Tommy John surgery. Then he was suspended for violating the drug policy, which he got to serve while he was rehabbing. Now that he's back, he's been hit hard. He did get his 2nd win of the season last time out, despite being all over the strike zone, walking 5.
Sunday: Travis Wood (2-1, 2.42) vs. Thomas Diamond (0-1, 4.50)
Couple of rookies highlight the finale of the series. Wood's been very good for the Reds, and was dowright dominant in a start against the Cubbies in early July. He's held up pretty good since then, as his sparkling 2.42 ERA shows. Diamond will be making his 2nd start. He had a perplexing first start. His fastball wasn't overwhelming, but his changeup looked good and he had his breaking pitch moving as well. But he fell behind too many hitters and gave up some unneccesary hits to the 8 and 9 hitters, as well as walking too many. But he K'd 10, which was impressive. I'm intrigued by him.
Ladies and gentlemen, your new leader in batting average for the Chicago Cubs is Starlin Castro.
By going 4-for-5 in yesterday's game, Castro (.318) took the lead over from Marlon Byrd (.315, 1-for-4). Other Cubs with multiple hits yesterday included Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, and newcomer Blake DeWitt.
DeWitt seems to enjoy playing for Chicago, having gone 6-for-16 with a double and a homer in his first four games with the new club. He obviously won't hit .375 for the rest of the season, but I doubt it's hurting his psyche to be doing well early on.
I don't have anything else to say about Derrek Lee, but I will point out for Soto that he leads the team in OPS this year by just about 70 points. His OBP is at .398, his slugging at .519... dude, what a year. He may well get to 20 home runs by the end of the year.
Another factoid for ya: since coming off the 15-day DL on June 25, Aramis Ramirez has posted a .302/.338/.627 slash.
Cubs pitchers did well yesterday. Ryan Dempster posted a quality start (3 R, 0 ER in 6 IP), and Sean Marshall, Mitch Atkins, and soon-to-be-starter Carlos Zambrano each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
So that's nice!
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.
Holy crap, I was wrong. I was so wrong it looks pathetic! And it's not even the FUN kind of wrong where everybody who is more optimistic than me is able to say "ahah, Kurt, you douchebag, you were wrong!"
See, about a week ago I posted my opinion that the Cubs could finish the season with a .500 record. I know, it was a far cry from the days when I used to say things like, "the end is nigh! The Cubs are going to win the World Series!" But, I thought it was realistic.
Then, the Cubs bullpen colluded to strike, the Cubs offense took an early vacation, and the remaining Cubs fans were left holding the bag. Quite painful.
So -- here's how things look now: the Chicago Cubs are only 9 games out ... of last place. I'm pretty sure it was somebody on Desipio who suggested that a total, flat-faced collapse would be almost more comforting than any kind of assembled effort to finish the year on a middle note, because like the insanely bi-polar Mel Gibson the Cubs deserve to be hated. They deserve to be punished for the crap they've put us through.
I mean, Jeezus. Look at the last 6 games (all losses). The Cubs have scored 17 runs -- a total that their opponents have, in a single game, eclipsed twice. TWICE!! All told, the Cubs have allowed 63 runs to their 17 in those 6 straight losses. It makes me want to throw up in my mouth, swallow, and throw up again. Horrible.
But, hey! They're only 9 games behind the Pirates for the most losses in the NL, and they're 13 games back from overtaking the Orioles. If any team can lose a lot of games quickly, it's these Cubs! It's like 1999 all over again!
So, normally this is the part where I write about the upcoming matchups. Cub 27-year-old rookie Thomas Diamond makes his first ever major league appearance tomorrow. Ryan Dempster looks to stop the bleeding the day after that.
But the truth of the matter is, despite the Cubs having spent hundreds of millions of dollars amassing the best players money can buy, regardless of the fact that they have now had a decade under Jim Hendry's guidance to build the best farm system in all of baseball, ignoring Hendry's dogged pursuit of Lou Piniella and the best crack coaching staff he could possibly get, the Cubs are an embarrassing team. They are humiliating us right now.
Don't worry, though. Tom Ricketts has already assured us concerned Cub fans that Hendry would be back to try again next year.
Thanks, Tom. While you're at it, would you like to kick us in the balls?
Oh wait. You already did.
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.
Is it time to get out of Denver or what?
I thought about naming this one "DeWitt's Debut," as the Cubs' new man at the keystone managed to do well -- and against a lefty, no less. DeWitt went 3-for-4 on the day, including an RBI double early on.
Other than that? A slogfest. Carlos Silva's heart earned him today's headline, with his having thrown just 15 pitches before needing to visit the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. James Russell relived Silva, and was a bit wild, but pitched well enough considering the circumstances, including a 1-2-3 third inning. And Carlos Zambrano did nothing to inspire confidence, allowing four hits, two walks, and two runs in his two innings pitched. All told: eight runs given up in the first five innings.
Marlon Byrd joined Blake DeWitt on the three-hit train, including a ninth inning triple off Huston Street. And it was cool to see Lou bat Geo Soto 4th with Aramis on the bench. Other than that, not much to say about the offense.
Speaking of "slogfest," I have a feeling that's what the rest of this season is going to feel like, too. Starlin Castro will probably hit closer to .270 than .300 by the end of the year; Derrek Lee will finish up around .250 or so; Tyler Colvin will strike out a bunch more, and will struggle to stay above .270 himself; the starting rotation will continue to confirm our fears that their best days this season are already behind them; and we'll get to watch several Iowa Cubs struggle, as the shuttle bus to Des Moines continues to roll.
So this is what rebuilding feels like, huh? Not as fun as I thought it would be.
For the first time since 2006, the Cubs are focused on the future rather than the present. Though we've known it for months, Saturday's trade made it official: this year is over, and Cubs fans must once again wait 'til next year.
I'm just happy it's next week after a 1-5 week that pushed the Cubs' record to a season-low 13 games under .500. They lost two of three to the Astros for the fourth time this season and then gave up 31 runs in three games while getting swept by the Rockies (though 12 of those runs came in run inning--I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse).
In addition to truly losing Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot, the Cubs may have lost Carlos Silva for awhile after he left yesterday's game with an abnormal heart rate. Hopefully he'll be all right even though his team has been anything but all right here in 2010.
Ryno of the Week: While Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin combined to go 13-for-41 with a home run, eight runs scored and three RBI, I'm going with the sentimental choice: Ted Lilly. Knowing he was likely making his final start as a Cub, Lilly threw 5.2 scoreless innings in Houston but suffered yet again from a lack of run support in a 6-1 loss.
As a Cub for the last 3 1/2 seasons, Lilly made Jim Hendry's decision to sign him four years ago look like a very good one (in an offseason with many bad signings; see: Zito, Barry and Suppan, Jeff), winning 44 games in his first three years in Chicago. He has been one of the best and most consistent Cubs since 2007, and I wholeheartedly wish him well in L.A.
Goat of the Week: I have zero choice but to go with the entire bullpen. Holy crap. Cubs relievers were forced to throw 22 innings last week, and boy was that unfortunate. They allowed 31 runs in those innings, which works out to a ... carry the three ... add the six ... 12.68 ERA! When even Sean Marshall can't get anybody out, you know it's going to be a bad week for the bullpen.
If nothing else, the Cubs have continued to provide their fans with some variety over the past two days: after getting walloped on Friday night, they managed to keep it close late in the game on Saturday, only to lose yet again.
I'd like to tell you about the bright spots for the Cubs, but there really weren't any. Derrek Lee hit a three-run homer yesterday, so that's good, but it's his only hit so far in seven at-bats.
The only Cubs to have registered hits in both games were Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin. Colvin tripled on Friday night, and singled last night. He also walked once. Four bases in seven at-bats plus three trips to first in eight plate appearances is representative of a .946 OPS, which is to say that he's been behaving nicely lately. Both of the Byrd's hits were singles, so that's good for a .500 OPS. I suppose those are your three star Cub hitters for the last two games. Joy!
The best pitching appearance of the last two games goes to James Russell. Three strikeouts in two innings, one hit, no walks, no runs... yeah, fine. For the season, Russell has shown pretty excellent control, with 25 strikeouts against just four walks in 31 innings pitched this year. No wonder the Diamondbacks were interested. Going forward he'll have to learn how to limit the long ball (nine allowed this year), which may involve walking a few more batters. But he seems to have the command needed to pitch well into the future.
All in all, a pair of games to forget. From a karmic standpoint, you might say the Cubs and Rockies are even, given their role in one of the most memorable games of 2008.
Now, I'm going to write something about the Cubs' handling of the trade deadline.
Well, I am a bit late on the turnaround with this preview due to a pool-induced bout with Jeff Baker temporary blindness syndrome. For the sake of not wanting to re-live the carnage of last night, I will instead treat this like a two game series and also fill you in with the most relevant Cubs-related trade news.
On the trading front:
- Carlos Zambrano is open to being traded and the Cubs have rejected a trade offer from the Mets for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. All I can say is: thank god.
- The Twins, Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers have varying degrees of interest in Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. Last night, it sounded like Lilly was basically destined for LA according to various talking heads on local Chicago sports shows.
- The Diamondbacks have offered the Cubs Kelly Johnson in return for James Russell and Ryan Theriot. WHY HAS THIS DEAL NOT HAPPENED YET? Johnson is the arbitration eligible player I'd much rather have at this point.
- The Red Sox made a run at Sean Marshall a few days ago, but were quickly shot down by the Cubs.
I'll try to keep everyone posted about what goes down throughout the day as the trade deadline is my Christmas in July.
Now, back to the task at hand of looking at this series in the Mile-High City.
Tom Gorzelanny (6-5, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (7-6, 4.34 ERA)
Tommy G is going to get the role of "stopper" today after that atrocious performance by the bullpen (again). It just seems like it's one of those deja vu weeks where we get the joy of watching those same bullpen implosions that really destroyed the team out of the gate. Since returning to the rotation, Tommy has been pretty damn good, going 4-0 with a 2.83 in five starts. I once again reiterate that the John Grabow trade will forever be tied with the Alfonseca trade in the "getting a much better piece as a 'throw in'" lore.
Hammel has had an up and down season. Hammel features a low 90s fastball, a pretty strong overhand curve, and a serviceable changeup. While Hammel started strong and had great success at the start of the season, he has been hit pretty hard lately. In his last three starts, Hammel has allowed 12 earned runs over 19.2 innings. Hammel does well when he keeps the ball down, because his career success has been snakebitten in the past by the long ball.
"Good" Carlos (10-4, 3.76 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 5.15 ERA)
De La Rosa was supposed to be sort of the "co-ace" of the team this season before going down with a torn flexor tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand. Since coming back, his peripherals haven't looked all that great: 1.40 WHIP, 4 HR's allowed in 16.1 innings, and two losses in three starts to show for it. That being said, he is averaging a strikeout per inning. He is coming off a good start against the Pirates where he went seven innings and allowed only three earned runs.
Silva sort hit an epic roadblock in his momentum train the two starts before he faced the Astros, not making it past the 2nd inning in both of those previous starts. Those days are hopefully gone as now he has to resume being "good Carlos" with the fiery, anger-managed, trade-bait Carlos is back on the roster to be the ying to Silva's yang.
I am going to be glued to my computer and the television until the trade deadline passes. Hopefully, the Cubs will be vigilant and try and acquire some good pieces for the next few years while dumping some salary in the process. That Kelly Johnson trade would be a good start.
Oh, and as for the current roster? I honestly think we can take the next two games and win the series. De La Rosa was at one point a dominant guy for Colorado, but this season he hasn't been (also, it feels like he's been in the league forever...). Same goes for Hammel. Two wins are possible, boys, make it happen.