Pat Misch (0-1, 4.09 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (3.40 ERA)
The Cubs still suck....so we are moving on to the second part of our series on the Cubs players returning (AS OF NOW) to the 2010 Chicago Cubs, because we have nothing better to write about.
Starting Pitcher - No. 2 Starter (Ted Lilly)
Contract 2009: 13 Million
Contract 2010:13 Million
Stats 2009: 9-8, 3.40 ERA in 135 innings. 116/27 K/BB Ratio with a 1.11 WHIP
Ted Lilly has more strikeouts and less walks than Carlos Zambrano. I understand the walks, but how are the strikeouts possible? That was the really a telling stat with me, not to mention Ted's 1.11 WHIP. I really think the Cubs were dealt their biggest blow this year when Ted hurt his knee, which led to his hurt shoulder. At the time, he was mowing people down and keeping the Cubs in contention. Then, the Cubs lose him for about a month, the wheels come off. As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story."
For all of Jim Hendry's move like trading for Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, there where moves like Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano. He's really hit and miss. I was SURE that Ted Lilly's signing was the dumbest thing he has ever done, and that included getting Jacques Jones. There was no way this signing would work, but Ted's that lefty every team needs. He keeps you in games, throws strikes and wins. He's not going to win 15 this year thanks to his time on the DL, but I expect him to really be out No. 1 next year (Don't forget he makes about five million less than Big Z). Hopefully, he will be heathly all next year and lead us to the World Series. The best thing is that Lilly does not get a crazy raise next year. He makes another 13 million, which is still a lot of money. It just so happens our next pitcher will make 13 million next year, and he really needs to improve to earn it next year.
Payroll for 2010: 30.9 Million (Two Starting Pitchers)
Aramis Ramirez - This is just a lost year for Aramis with the shoulder issues. I won't be surprised if they shut him down in a few weeks to let him get his shoulder scoped. That way he is well over 100% at the start of Spring Training next year. Anyway, he's hitting .374 in his last six games with four RBI.
Koyie Hill - Hill's batting .500 in his last three games and is cleary the better hitter right now. Geovany Soto just needs to head to winter ball and find his swing.
Alfonso Soriano - It's time to shut him down just for sucking so much. Come back next year and lets try this again. He's 1 for 10 in his last four games.
Ryan Theriot - He's 4 for 24 in his last six games with a .240 OBP. Can say you are going to score many runs with that number. Guess What? The Cubs aren't scoring many...hmm...I might be onto something.
Ted Lilly rocks, and he is going to pitch a gem today. Mark it down, folks...No David Wright, no Jose Reyes, No Jeff Francoeur....oh wait we wouldn't mind him playing...well still the Cubs will probably find a way to lose 1-0 with Angel Pagan hitting an inside the park home run to right.
Do you remember where you were for the first game of the 2009 season? I was at a bar (big surprise) in Champaign watching the game with a few close friends. Soriano hit a lead-off home run, Zambrano was dealing for six innings, Ramirez smacked a dinger, Fontenot had three hits, a unicorn was born, and everything was right with the world.
Now only a few months later, we’re playing mop-up games against the equally disappointing Mets after losing a series to the worst team in baseball at home. Eff-in-a.
If you read past the title of this post, then I commend you. I know many of you have given up on 2009 (myself included), so I’m surprised you’re taking the time to read on as opposed to buying Jay Cutler Fatheads.
There really isn’t much to look forward to as NYM rolls into town. The Mets are throwing what has essentially become a minor league squad onto the field as most of their stars are hurt.
Still, there is some value in these games. First, you could drink yourself silly in public if you happen to be attending (Remember, beer in stomach and not on Hawaiian people). Second, you can teach children sitting nearby that being a Cubs fan will most likely result in their early deaths due to stress-related issues. Or third, you can start over.
Since I believe the Cubs will have an extremely similar lineup in 2009 as they will next season due to some untradeable contracts, let’s start getting ready. Welcome to Opening Day 2010.
August 28th – Pat Misch and Ted Lilly
Misch will be making his first start for the Mets this season and his first start since last season. He isn’t exactly known as a strikeout pitcher (13 K’s in 18.2 innings), so the Cubs should be able to make contact all day. Also, Misch is from Northbrook. To the people of Northbrook: your mall sucks because it’s too clean. That freaks me out. Stop it.
TRL has been a beast at home this season going 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA. His goal in this game should simply be to shut down the Mets like I want to shut down those stupid ass Shaq/Ben Stein Comcast commercials. This game is all about focus and mental toughness for Lilly.
August 29th – Bobby Parnell vs. Ryan Dempster
Of all the starters the Mets will be featuring in this series, Parnerll has the most experience (and I use that term lightly) with 62.0 innings pitched. Too bad he has an 8.82 ERA as a starter in 2009. Woof. Lefties have a .389 OBP against Parnell and opposing hitters have a .404 OBP when he pitches on the road. That might have something to do with the ERA. Just saying.
Although Dempster’s ERA is just barely above 4.00, the guy has really struggled this season. Some attribute this suckery to the fact that Dempster has never pitched back-to-back successful 200-inning seasons. Speaking of which, Dempster has thrown 143.2 innings of baseball this year (the most on the team). The guy just isn’t a horse and he can’t be relied on as such.
August 30th – Nelson Figueroa vs. Carlos Zambrano
It’s almost insulting the lack of talent New York has on their team. Could you imagine if we were Mets fans? I’m not sure if we’re better off though. Most of the major contributors on the Cubs are healthy yet they still suck. No excuses there. Anyway, Figueroa enjoyed success against the Fish because he said they were unfamiliar with all five of his pitches. Cubs have seen Figueroa a bit and he is 0-4 against them. Rut Roh.
Many will argue that Milton Bradley has been the biggest distraction on the 2009 team, but I’m going to give that honor to the Sullivan-branded Lay-Z-Boy. Bradley’s a nice player with a lot of talent that I like, but Zambrano’s stuff is just untouchable, yet he is unable to maximize even half of his potential. I would say Z should have a good game against this pea-shooter lineup, but who knows what will happen after the Nationals incident.
I’ve never considered myself a “Wait ‘til Next Year” type of guy, but I think we’re all resigned to the fate of this team. Unlike most teams that don’t reach the playoffs though, I don’t see the Cubs making any big changes in the offseason. Aside from a few bench spots, a couple bullpen roles, and perhaps a rotation gig, this team is pretty much set for next season.
So why not start treating it like next season? Say hello to your 2010 Chicago National League Ballclub.
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The playoff roster roulette table keeps on spinning, and tonight Micah Hoffpauir made his statement against Pedro Martinez and the Mets. Hoffpauir went 5 for 5 tonight against New York, with a double, 2 homeruns, 5 runs driven in, and after the game he reportedly cleaned the Augean stables and captured the girdle of Hippolyte*. But, alas, the Cubs were doomed to lose anyway, thanks in part to Lou responsibly saving his top relievers for games that matter.
(*For Googlers of the Labors of Herakles, welcome. Thanks for the clicks. Sorry about not being what you were looking for. But for a great resource on Greek Myth, consult the Perseus Digital Library ... although if you want to be blown away by verifiable modern-day myth, just Google Micah Hoffpauir. Dude jacked 2 in one game tonight.)
Speaking of roulette*, Neal Cotts worked tirelessly to get onto Lou Piniella's shiz-list tonight with a rocky 8th inning. He was last seen being chased from the mound by Piniella, yelling "but you need me!" as he ducked into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. Bob Howry quickly joined Cotts by giving up 2 RBI hits upon relieving the inept lefty.
(*For Googlers looking for rules about the game of roulette ... ehhh, forget it. You came to the wrong place. I mean, you Googled "roulette." Why the heck did you click on a link that said "Goat Riders of the Apocalypse?" Did you think it was some witty play off the term "let it ride!"? And if so, how the heck could you justify the Goat and the Apocalypse part of our name? I mean, seriously!)
No worries. While the Cubs are now incapable of winning 100 this year, they remain poised to win all the games that actually matter. What's more, they are in an excellent position to spoil the hopes of the hapless Milwaukee Brewers, who are on the brink of completing their Wild Card collapse. All they have to do is beat them, and that's something the Cubs have enjoyed doing all year long.
The Playoff Roster
While we continue to debate Hoffpauir's inclusion, and while we ponder the image of Neal Cotts sneaking into Lou's hotel room at night and feverishly whispering "you need me!" over and over again as our skipper slumbers, it has been confirmed by ESPN that the Game 1 starter will be Dempster.
Clownsevelt will also apparently get one final tune-up before the end of the season, although he will be limited to a mere 75-80 pitches against the Brewers tomorrow night. While Brandon Webber has to be the hands-down favorite to win the Greg Maddux Award this year, Dempster should get more than a few votes.
You are still focused on the frightening image of Neal Cotts whispering into the ear of Lou Piniella. Well, here's a fun fact for you to think about once you get over the convulsions...
The New York Mets, desperate for a playoff spot and fighting two teams to earn one, were barely able to split a series from a Cubs team that batted back-ups and call-ups 80 times in the 4 game series.
C'mon. How can you not feel good about this team? And Smitty - where are you, man? I want a recant!
Tonight's game was one of thrills and disappointments. Cub fans were thrilled to see an offensive outburst, including a 4 run 5th inning that would bring the team back from a serious deficit. Cub fans were disappointed that Carlos Zambrano continues to make up for his September moment of brilliance with yet another mediocre and stress-inducing start. We were thrilled that after going into extra innings, the team scored 3 runs in the 10th to capture the win. We were disappointed, bizarrely enough, by Bob Howry's buckling down and escaping a dangerous 9th. We were thrilled that Kerry Wood had a 1-2-3 10th to get his 34th save of the season. Some of us were disappointed, again bizarrely, because the Mets lost and the Brewers still have a shot of getting into the playoffs.
But as I said in the shout box, don't worry. The Cubs can beat the Mets again tomorrow - in fact, I hope they do - but it means little to the Brewers, because Chicago will be their final obstacle this season. Considering the crappy luck Milwaukee has had against the Cubs so far, I have a pretty strong suspicion that they won't have an easy sweep this weekend.
Now, to break it all down...
Yes, Cub fans, Mark DeRosa left the game after a 2 for 3 start (including a homer, a double, and 3 RBI) because, as GA Hill noted in the Shout Box, he's got a strained calf. Lou Piniella has noted that DeRosa was scheduled to rest the next couple of days anyway, and it seems unlikely that he'll be at risk to miss time in the playoffs.
Furthermore, the Cubs saw good offensive days from a few other guys, too. The Fonz went 2 for 5. Theriot went 3 for 6 and will probably finish the year with a better-than-.300 AVG and the second-highest total of hits for any player on the team. Oh, Reed Johnson also had a good game, going 2 for 5, and Aramis "Nail in the Coffin" Ramirez got some Big Game Hit practice tonight with his 10th inning 2-run homer.
On the pitching front, forgetting about Carlos, Neal Cotts struck out 3 in 1.1 innings of work, Jeff Samardzija had another rough inning, Bob Freakin' Howry nearly blew it in the 9th, but managed to hold on for a Kerry Wood save in the 10th.
Let's spend a moment on Howry. Apparently unconcerned with actually winning, Lou brought Bob in and Mr. Excitement surrendered a leadoff triple, struck out David Wright, intentionally walked the next 2 guys to load the bases, forced Ramon Castro to hit into a fielder's choice ground out, and then struck out Ryan Church to escape. Cripes, that's not the kind of baseball I had in mind tonight.
Anyway, with 4 games remaining the Cubs accomplished 2 things tonight. 1) They have matched their highest win total of any year since 1945. It seems likely-if-not-certain that the Cubs will reach the post season with the best record that most of us have seen in our life-times. 2) They've ensured that, at the worst, they will have split the season series with the Mets this year.
I've said a few times now that Pat Hughes is calling these games on his own because Ron Santo hates NYC. In fact, I suspect that he's had a few experiences there in his life time that could easily have been the basis for one of the greatest Simpsons episodes of all time - The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson, best known for how Homer left the city while driving a car with no windshield, behind a garbage truck which was spewing trash all over him:
Lisa: Oh, Dad, I loved it there! Can we come back someday?
Homer: Maybe we will, sweetie. Maybe we will.
Tomorrow morning, we'll post my first podcast in months. In that hour-long monstrocity, you'll hear me say "I think one of the playoff spots should go to Chad Gaudin." I may have even called it a "no-brainer, if his back is up to it." I probably even said "aside from one bad outing when he was Lou's whipping boy, he's been lights out." Oh man, I was wrong.
In just 16 pitches, Chad Gaudin probably hard-tossed his way right out of Lou's post season plans. He took what had been a tied game and turned it into a route. They could have put a cage in front of the mound and given Gaudin a bucket full of baseballs, and it would've been identical to what you might see before the start of most games. It was brutal.
But, hey, on the bright side, the Cubs scored 2 runs on Johan Santana in 8 innings of work. Actually, perhaps the best thing they did was rattle off 7 hits, which doesn't seem like a lot until you remember that Santana is a force of nature on the mound. Johan got his 15th win of the season, the Cubs got good days from Kosuke Fukudome (surprisingly) and Reed Johnson (predictably, as he seems to be the only guy in baseball who regularly hits effectively against Santana). Derrek Lee had his 40th double of the year, Sean Marshall went 5 innings and struck out 7 on 71 pitches, and Mets stay alive to fight another day.
A few minutes ago, Goat Friend and Iowa broadcaster Jon Miller voiced an opinion that I have shared on numerous occasions. The Mets in the playoffs is a good thing, because wherever they go, they are followed by a fleet of ambulances. A team as injury prone as the Mets cannot be seen as a serious threat in the playoffs, and for that reason alone they would make good first round opponents against the Cubs.
- Nobody, especially Ron Santo, wants to see the Cubs get eliminated by the Mets. It could theoretically be very stressful.
- Johan Santana is dominating and in a 5 game series, he'd see 2 starts. Hell, the Mets might even pitch him in Game 4 if it comes to that.
- I sure was excited to see the Cubs face the Marlins in '03. They were my preferred NLCS opponent. I was so painfully wrong.
Moments of panic aside, the Mets really would be "good" playoff opponents. While Santana is a true threat, there are other good teams out there with even better pitching. If they manage to sneak in, pity any team that has to face Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, and Dan Haren, and Johan won't win a series on his own.
Besides, Lou Piniella is a student of the rope-a-dope, and I'd expect the Cubs to step up and score more than 2 against Santana the next time they face him. Maybe I'm being a little ridiculous, but I just have a feeling that next time, the Cubs will use better players than Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee, Henry Blanco, and Koss-kay, while the Mets will be trying to recover from the burn-out factor of not cliching until the last few days of the season.
Ok, you might think that I have gone mad. I haven't been around here since last week, and I haven't read any of the blogs. I know, ten lashes.
So if this 'theory' has been thrown out there, my apologies and there was no plagarism intended.
But here is my thinking; don't we want to play the Mets in the first round of the playoffs?
Of all the possibilities, hosting the Mets is the best, at least to me. Keep me away from the Dodgers in a short series, and I want nothing to do with the arms of Arizona. Philly's power scares me in a short series, too.
The Mets entered the game with a one game lead over the Brewers for the wild card position and two and a half games behind Philadelphia for the NL East title.
So now, with a Mets win, they stay ahead of the Brewers...now, the Phillies lost, so that lead is just one and a half now.
So here is how I see it the rest of the way....Go Mets, Go Phillies, Brewers, you just keep doing what you do...this way, we can root, root, root for the Cubbies the final three games of the year, and get that post season groove back on, and welcome the Mets in October, the most beatable playoff contender out there.
Just think of the embarrassment. Think of the shame. Your name is Jon Niese. You're running hard, making your first cup of coffee count. You're thrust into the key position of starting the first of a four game series that very well may determine if your team reaches the playoffs. You are playing a team with a history of getting their asses handed to them the first time they face a left-handed starter.
And then, you give up a granny to their pitcher who isn't Carlos Zambrano. Aw, snap. The humiliation. The Cubs took the Mets for a ride tonight, and Jon Niese was the bus they rode on. Were it not for the Marquis 4th inning smacker, the Cubs would have been offensively meh-diocre tonight. Their first two hitters combined to go 0 for 10, but the bottom of the Cubs lineup delivered. 10 of the team's 14 hits came from hitters 5 and after. Middle infielders Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot had 3-hit games. Derrek Lee smacked his 20th of the season.
Oh, and with 6 likely games remaining, the Cubs have locked in home field advantage, and are 2 wins away from the most they've had since our oldest readers were children. The Cubs won 96 games in 1984, and that was the most since they won 98 in 1945. I think it's fair to suggest that the Cubs could go 4-2 the rest of the way out and finish with 99 wins. Which would be appropriate and perhaps predictable, since they would never play that last, 162nd game. But I digress.
We have to give props to Jason Marquis. Up until the 7th inning, he had the Mets tied up in loops. He won his 11th this season, and while he finished the game having surrendered 4 earned runs on 8 hits and 4 walks, he got 'er done. I think it's fair to say that the Cubs wouldn't have won without him. ::cough::grandslam::cough::
Now, here's the interesting thing. After having taken a ridiculously comfortable lead, Lou Piniella turned to his 3 best relievers - Samardzija, Marmol, and Wood (who got save 33 tonight). This befuddled some of us - GA Hill included - although I maintain that regardless of the situation, Lou needs to keep his Cubs pitchers fresh. He can't let them get rusty just because the Cubs don't technically need to win another game this year.
That said, I'll be disappointed to see any of those three pitchers throw tomorrow. Save them until Wednesday. Then, on Wednesday, regardless of the situation, pitch at least 2 of them. Then, skip them on Thursday. Maybe close a game or two with Samardzija. This is the time to take steps to prepare for all kinds of post season situations, am I right?
Anyway, the Cubs have clinched home field advantage, but more important is this - the distance between them and any other team is wide, and it's getting wider. It's not even close. I know I've said it before, and I'll say it now: these guys are good.
Four years ago this week, one of the best Cub teams of my lifetime stopped for a series in New York en route to what appeared to be their first consecutive post season appearance in almost 100 years. The Cubs were in control of their own destiny, they were looking solid and ready, and then the Mets ripped out their effing hearts and stomped all over them on consecutive days. I saw both of those games in person. The Cubs went 1-7 in their last 8 and miss the playoffs that year.
This year, the pressure is off, although the Cubs will still be taking on the Mets with the intent of beating them into a pulp. In fact, the Cubs are now playing the part of spoilers, as their final 7 games will be against teams that are competing for a spot in the post season.
Personally, I find the whole playoff picture so bloody confusing that it makes me dizzy, so I'll refer instead to the writings of Desipiot TJ, who summed it up like this:
4 vs. Cubs 2-2
3 vs. Marlins 0-3
3 vs. ATL 0-3
3 vs. WAS 0-3
1 @ CIN 1-0
3 @ WASH 3-0
3 @ Mets 3-0
3 vs. PIT 2-1
3 vs. Cubs 1-2
3 vs. CIN 3-0
3 vs. ATL 2-1
1 vs. CUBS 1-0
3 vs. SD 2-1
3 @ SF 0-3
4 @ STL 2-2
3 vs. COL 3-0
I guess anything is possible. Me, I want to see the Mets make the playoffs for one simple reason: wherever they go, ambulances follow. So many Met players are hurt that I don't see them as a serious threat in October. However - you knew there'd be a however, right? - if the Mets are the wild card, they'd play the Cubs in the first round, and I would fear for Ron Santo's health.
Enough pre-amble. Let's get to it:
Monday, September 22nd - Jason Marquis (10-9, 4.39 ERA) vs. Jon Niese (1-0, 4.09 ERA)
Jason Marquis is doing more than simply battling to win more games than he loses in 2008. He's also ... battling for his soul. (Sorry, couldn't help myself). Actually, Marquis is probably on the bubble to be the guy in Lou's post season bullpen who Lou turns to when the Cubs are either winning by 8, or losing by 8, but never in between. He faces stiff competition from Bob Howry for the gig, though.
Jon Niese is a left handed 21-year-old who the Mets are apparently turning to out of desperation. Niese very well might be a respectable starter someday - he's 34-26 in his minor league career with a 3.72 ERA, and in 7 career starts at Triple A, the youngster is 5-1 with a 3.40 ERA. If this was 2004-2007, I'd be worried, because the Cubs historically get killed by lefty starters they've never faced before. But this is '08 and Niese is batting practice.
Tuesday, September 23rd - Rich Harden (10-2, 2.03 ERA) vs. Johan Santana (14-7, 2.65 ERA)
Rich Harden has been exactly as advertised. He's a front-line pitcher with game-changing stuff and a questionable arm. He's also in all likelihood the Cubs #3 starter in the post season. He'll be facing Johan Santana, the Mets ace. It's a tough day for the Mets when their ace pitcher is squaring off in his home park against another team's #3 guy and yet he's the under-dog. But Santana should keep his chin up. Harden is likely to be allowed only 70 or 80 pitches. On some days, he won't get out of the 4th with that much restraint.
Wednesday, September 24th - Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.77 ERA) vs. Oliver Perez (10-7, 4.10 ERA)
Oh, Carlos, how you tease us. With you, teams either score 8 or they score 0, there's no middle ground. Consequently, you've got my riddled with jitters.
This is likely the Big Moose's last tune-up start before the playoffs. He's done well when limited to pitch counts in the past - very well, in fact - and I suspect he'll do well this time, too. How well probably will determine if he's the #2 or #1 pitcher in the post season.
Oliver Perez is not exactly a frighteningly good pitcher. However, he'll be a guy with a mission on Wednesday, as the Mets are fighting for a playoff spot. I suspect he'll pitch better than his numbers convey.
Thursday, September 25th - Ted Lilly (16-9, 4.17 ERA) vs. Pedro Martinez (5-6, 5.50 ERA)
Once upon a time, Pedro Martinez was awesome. Lucky for the Cubs, that time is long passed.
Also once upon a time, the Cubs were aching for a reliable left-handed starter. In fact, it was akin to the Santo Curse. Much as the team went three decades between good third basemen, the Cubs also went just as long between talented lefty starters. Lilly has worked on changing that. And, while he probably won't be with the Cubs for more than a few more seasons, he's already done something that we haven't seen since before Nixon resigned from office - he's won 15+ games in back-to-back seasons for the Cubs as a lefty. It sure would be awesome if he finished the year with 17, and it's a strong possibility on Thursday.
Predictions: It could go either way. The Mets are a team with a lot on the line. The Cubs are a team with nothing left to prove.
There's actually a fine balance here. Lou wants to save his starters for the playoffs, and so they will be unlikely to pitch past the 5th. But he also can't be looking to over-use his playoff relievers. I suspect we'll see a lot of non-essential pitchers this series, and that may effect how the Cubs do in the wins column. However, if the Mets press, then Chicago just might bury them right there in Shea.
Considering that the Mets would be Chicago's first round opponent if they won the wild card, I have a feeling that the Cubs will try to set the tone early in the series by pounding on them. At least, that's what I hope will happen. There should be no free rides in baseball, and if New York is going to see the post season, they should have to earn it.
But hey - if they do indeed face Harden, Zambrano, and Lilly, even if in a semi-limited capacity, then it won't be easy. Ultimately, that's all I ask.
Update: Looks like I'm already wrong. The Cubs are moving Harden to Thursday's game, and Sean Marshall will be starting on Tuesday. So, uhm, go Cubs.
Ron Santo would punch me in the face if he read this, but I am strongly advocating for the Mets to pull it together and reach the post season over the Phillies. Mostly, I think this would be a good thing for one simple, essential reason - the following key Met players are on the DL:
Billy Wagner - 2.30 ERA, 27 saves
Orlando Hernandez - 24 starts, 9-5, 3.72 ERA
John Maine - 25 starts, 10-8, 4.18 ERA
Moises Alou - .347 AVG in what little playtime he had this season
Fernando Tatis - .297 AVG, 11 HR, 47 RBI
At the rate they're dropping, it'll be a miracle if they make it. And if they make it ... soft prey.