What the heck has happened?
The gutless, useless, overrated, overpaid, uninteresting Chicago Cubs have ... gotten good? What The Fizz?
These guys are 8-1 on their road trip. They are beating good teams badly, including a sweep of their recent opponents, the Florida Marlins. Let's take a look at what happened.
Friday, September 17th - Cubs 2, Marlins 0 (Ryan Dempster; 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K, for his 14th win of the season)
All the Cubs did was shut down the Marlins offense and provide just enough of their own to be effective. Dempster looked great, and now appears almost a lock to be a 15-game-winner. The bullpen looked alive, throwing 2 innings of 1 hit, 3 walk baseball.
The offense looked tepid, but so what? Soriano and Soto both had run-scoring doubles, and that was all she needed.
Saturday, September 18th - Cubs 5, Marlins 3 (Casey Coleman; 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 3 ER, for his 2nd win of the season)
Coleman is really making a pitch to be in the rotation next year. His stuff doesn't appear overpowering by any means, but he's effective and has pitched well for a month now. And he was again supported by a strangely-reliable bullpen: the Cubs pen pitched 3 innings, allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 (Cashner struck out 3 all by himself!)
The Cubs offense had 7 hits from 6 different players, 8 walks, and demonstrated what a "team effort can do." Blake DeWitt is looking good as a Cub. Dare we say he may actually be a good choice for second base next year?
Sunday, September 19th - Cubs 13, Marlins 3 (Jeff Samardzija; 6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 ER for his 2nd win of the season)
I'd still be reluctant to trust the Shark with winning so much as a game of checkers, but his last two outings haven't been "awful." This is clearly a make-or-break year for the guy -- he's about 8 months away from entering into the realm of "non-prospect" status. If Samardzija has any hopes of an even somewhat memorable major league career, then the lightbulb needs to go on now.
Oh, and the Cubs bullpen? 3 more innings of work, 0 hits, 3 BB, 5 K's. In other words, all told, the Cubs pen pitched 8 innings, gave up 3 hits, 7 BB, and struck out 13 this series, while allowing 0 runs to score. We'll take it!
Offensively, yesterday's game was pretty great. 13 runs. A homerun from the Cubs new starting catcher Wellington Castillo, who'll be filling in for the soon-to-be surgically repaired Geo Soto. A 2 RBI game from Brad Snyder, who'll be filling in for Tyler Colvin, who was apparently mistaken for a vampire and got staked during yesterday's game. Staked!!
So, just like that, the Cubs have given us a September to remember. They've crushed the dreams of Cardinal fans everywhere, and they'd have to lose pretty much every game for the rest of the month to not go .500 or better in September.
And the best part -- they've done it on the backs of young players who have a lot to prove. That's great news for Cub fans. If the team has any hope of competing next year, it'll have to be because those young guys have actually met some of their potential. Players like Colvin, Coleman, and Castro will have to deliver, even as veterans like Dempster, Soriano, and Ramirez fade into mediocrity.
Now, Rob has posted his thoughts. Mike Quade for manager, 2011 and beyond. I say, nah. He's getting wins in garbage time, and that's cool, but as long as Hendry GMs, my vote still goes to Sandberg.
Raise your hand if you thought Silva would start the season 4-0 for the Cubs. Outside of those of you who are habitual liars, I don't think any of us saw this coming. So far, Silva has had a (mostly) strong start to the tune of a 3.40 ERA and a nice 26:9 K:BB ratio. As a "pitch-to-contact" pitcher, he's going to have rough days, but luckily today was one of the good ones to snap a four-game skid.
Silva turned in a quality start by going 6.1 innings and allowing only two earned runs on seven hits. Even better, the Cubs offense showed us that good things can happen when your team can score 4 or more runs in a game. The four-run benchmark seems to be an arbitrary guideline, but more often than not a team that scores four or more runs puts a W up.
I am going to have to give Marlon Byrd the offensive star award for his go-ahead double in the 5th that drove in Fukudome and eventually led to the Castro run after a wild pitch by Volstad one batter later. Castro, Byrd and Lee all had two hits in the game and Soriano went 1-for-3 with (another!) walk. I don't know how much Lou plans on trotting out the same configuration, but I really liked seeing Fukudome leading off against a righty with Castro as the 2 hitter. Hypothetically, with the 3 and 4 hitters actually hitting, Castro should be seeing some good pitches to hit in that spot if he stays there.
The bullpen was just good enough today as Marmol came in during the eighth for a four-out save. He was shaky in the ninth, giving up a run, but kept his composure and got out with the save after striking out Hanley Ramirez with runners on first and second.
It feels like it's been far too long since the Cubs have put one in the "W" column. Today felt nice. Even with the drama of Aramis "I dont need a hitting coach" Ramirez, this offense is just too good to be held impotent. I expect a good series this weekend when Pittsburgh comes to town.
Carlos Silva (3-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (3-2, 4.12 ERA)
Today's form of the Gamecast will be in madlibs form, because of time and lack of quality material to talk about.
Once again the Cubs were 1.______________ to come up with the big hit. Randy Wells was 2.___________ by the long ball.
Today the Cubs will 3.______________ on the final game of the series. The hitters are taking 4._____________ batting practice to help 5._____________ runs.
The pitchers will 6.____________ the Marlins from scoring runs. The defense will 7._______________ 8.__________ and 9._______________ defense.
10._____________ - is showing promise or at least is not as 11.______________ as Aramis Ramirez.
12._________________ is 13. _____________ so bad it might be time to 14.___________________.
15.______________________________ (Give a phrase here).
Post your answers in the comments and we will try and post the best one at some point.
Randy Wells (3-1, 4.86 ERA) vs.
Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 4.08 ERA)
Three errors and a HR, not to mention a fourth loss in a row. This is getting ugly for all of us. I think a few things are coming from this losing streak.
1. Jim Hendry could very well be on his way out of town.
2. Lou Pinella is probably going to retire and enjoy a life on TV.
3. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly's time as Cubs are coming to a close
4. The Cubs should get younger.
5. 2011 might be very interesting.
6. 2010 might get really ugly.
Teams playing the Cubs - Need a winning streak? Well, playing the Cubs can help.
Starlin Castro's Defense - Ehh, I didn't see the errors last night, but it read very ugly.
Better times will come and I'm sure the Cubs will play some ok ball at some point this year.
Cubs lose again. Lame!
Lilly was decent (three earned runs allowed in seven innings), the offense was not (two runs scored, both knocked in by The Team Carrier (see below)), and Starlin Castro had a really rough night in the field (three errors -- egads).
Let me ask you something(s):
- Do you understand that ALFONSO SORIANO has been CARRYING this team? 3-for-4, two RBIs, a runner gunned down at home -- he's only hitting .340 with seven home runs now.
- Why did Xavier Nady hit fourth tonight? Seriously, why?
- Why did Derrek Lee hit third tonight? I guess he's hit before, but the guy is not having a good year. And yes, it's likely he'll turn it around, but maybe we could hit him lower until then?
- Do you feel like booing Starlin Castro? I know I don't. Yes, it was a rough night for the kid, but let's give the kid a chance to settle down.
- Did any of Lou's actions tonight change your opinion about his ability to manage? Do you feel Lilly was managed appropriately (yes, hindsight is 20/20!)? Did you like his line-up? Does he take any blame for the double steal that was completed against his team?
Answers to any and/or all questions posed are welcomed in the comments section.
The Cubs, who are presently 14-18, are hosting the 14-17 Marlins. It's pretty much a moot point as to whether or not Chicago can pull together a successful run -- win or lose, they are still a mediocre team.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are one of the few teams I really dislike. I will always have a pretty bad taste in my mouth over '03. Here's how the series looks like it might play out...
Monday, May 10th, 2010 - Ted Lilly (1-2, 5.29 ERA) vs. Nate Robertson (2-3, 4.85 ERA)
If things continue as they are, this is Ted Lilly's swan song as a Cub. He's nearing the end of a contract that, despite his performance, is unlikely to be extended. Therefore, how he pitches in the next 30-45 days will probably have a pretty big impact on what the Cubs get in return for him. Here's to hoping for some ass kicking, like the days of old.
Nate Robertson, meanwhile, has nearly 20 more losses than he does wins, having spent most of his career in Detroit. The Cubs can make it 20 even tonight. Go get 'em, boys.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 - Randy Wells (3-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (2-2, 4.08 ERA)
Wells is coming off his biggest ass-whippin' of the season. He blames having become a little too cocky for his own good. If that's true, then a focused, buckled-down Wells should kick some serious Marlin ass tomorrow night.
Ricky Nolasco, though, is about the best pitcher Florida has. It won't be easy for Wells, even though Nolasco has only modest success this year -- a 4.08 ERA despite a 1.13 WHIP.
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 - Tom Gorzelanny (1-4, 2.83 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (3-2, 4.12 ERA)
If Gorzo gets his ass handed to him, it might be the final necessary blow to get Zambrano back in the rotation. Then again, Tom has been pretty hard-luck as of late and, based on his numbers, is probably a more deserving candidate to stay in the rotation than a luckier pitcher like Carlos Silva. Regardless, this game will be a big one for him.
Chris Volstad is 23 years old, went 9-13 last season, and looks to be on pace to do a lot better this year. But it's early, he's young, and the Cubs just might crush him.
Lordy, I hope the Cubs sweep. Realistically, Chicago has been just about totally hit and miss this year, and they are overdue to do some hitting.
One other note -- as I mentioned, I probably won't be around for a day or two while we switch internet providers. Consequently, I would like to jump the gun and welcome Allen (known in the Reader Blogs as Sayers40) to the fold. As our new gaggle of writers falters and falls off (we've already lost Phil after only 3 posts), I've offered Allen the chance to step in and contribute as a Goat Rider. Here's to hoping he lasts longer, and does as good a job as he's done as a Goat Reader.
(Of course, he hasn't actually accepted my invite to join the team yet ... so, uh, I may be jumping the gun a bit...)
Ted Lilly (1-2, 5.29 ERA) vs.
Nate Robertson (2-3, 4.85 ERA)
Wow, the Cubs are historically bad right now with the exception of one good game on Friday. They just went 1-5 against the Pirates and Reds. That is not good.
I will not be long today, because I have to meet the wife at her doctor's appointment. We are preparing to bring the newest Cub fan into the world in a few weeks. Hopefully, the Cubs will be better by the time Ben enters the world.
Ted Lilly goes today, and hopefully he starts to build a little trade value, because that is what the Cubs should be worried about now.
Marlon Byrd - Man this is guy is good. He's the perfect player for most teams, but the Cubs haven't been able to support his fast start.
Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Xavier Nady - None of these guys are hitting much and it is no surprise to see the Cubs record reflecting that fact.
It's a long season, and things can turn around. This is important, because I don't want to seem totally negative. I like to see bright side, but it is really hard right now.
Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.
2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.
Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty. He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.
Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.
Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.
2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.
Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.
2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!
2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.
Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.
The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood. Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.
As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.
2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.
Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.
2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off. These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.
Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.
2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.
This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.
2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.
WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.
2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.
Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.
Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece. Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.
Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.
2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.
And the Trixies wept.
2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.
Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.
Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals. Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.
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Ryan Dempster (5-5, 4.31 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (7-7, 5.24 ERA)
Well, Games 1 and 2 have been very interesting to say the least, but the Cubs still have a chance to win the series. To do that, the Cubs need a better performance out of Ryan Dempster.
Dempster was not sharp in his last outing, but of course he was just coming off the DL. According to Lou, Dempster had to take that start, because the Cubs did not have another option. Hopefully, one start was enough for Dempster to get tuned up.
Nolasco has been sharp of late, Since being recalled in June, he's lowered his ERA almost 3 runs. In his last two starts, he's given up 2 runs in 13 1/3 innings.
In other news, ESPN is slowly becoming my most hated network. They are now coming up with a new Documentry about Steve Bartman.
I mean, can we please give this story a rest? It is pretty crazy that this is still going on six years later. There is no way that game came down to Bartman.
The Cubs were dealt a couple blows last night with Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez leaving the game early. The Cubs say there was nothing wrong with either guy. It probably means Jake Fox will get a start today at 3B.
Derek Lee - Lee had four hits and three RBI yesterday, including the game-winning HR in the 10th.
Ryan Theriot - Theriot came off the bench last night and picked up two hits, including his 2-run triple in the 9th.
Jeff Samardzija - AJ said this morning that he expects Jeff to shipped to Iowa, and I think he's right.
Kevin Gregg - That was a rought outing for the closer. He gets a couple runs of support and then gets the first two outs in the inning. Well, Carlos Marmol is not really breathing down his neck, so lets hope that it was just a one game blow up.
Unless you live in Chicago or Miami, you will not be seeing today's game thanks to Florida's crazy 5 p.m. start of the game. That means it gets blacked out on MLB Extra Innings. The Cubs could really use a good start to the trip before heading up to Ohio.
Well, that was fun.
A lot happened in last night's game. Working backwards: Soriano saw time at 2nd and 3rd in the 10th inning; Derrek Lee hit his 21st home run in the top of the 10th inning, after Kevin Gregg blew a three-run lead despite getting two outs and two strikes on the third hitter; of Carlos Marmol's first 17 pitches in the 8th inning, three were for strikes (he would get two strikeouts from that point); and Jeff Samardzija gave up three notable runs in 1.2 innings pitched in relief of an injured Carlos Zambrano.
Oh yeah, and the Cubs won.
This was a pretty wild game, a game that puts the Cubs in a bit of a bind today. With almost everyone in the 'pen having gotten some serious work, it seems like we can almost guarantee appearances from Jeff Stevens and Sean Marshall in today's game.
Speaking of guarantees, I can also almost guarantee that Jeff Samardzija will be sent to Triple A Iowa as soon as the Cubs add newly-acquired SP Tom Gorzelanny to the active roster. Furthermore, I hope he stays there for the rest of the season and figures out how the hell he's supposed to pitch. It's clear that this kid is not ready for the bigs, and in that case, why is he here?
Other storylines we'll need to keep an eye on going forward: what's up with Big Z's back? Zambrano left last night's game after three innings with back tightness. He claimed it wasn't serious at the time, but who knows what effect this will have on an already thin rotation?
Another injured Cub in last night's game was Aramis Ramirez. Rammy got dizzy after being hit in the "meaty part" of the forearm with a pitch. The dizziness thing sounds more like exhaustion or dehydration than anything serious, so we'll see if he plays in today's game.
Ideally, Ryan Dempster pitches seven innings today, Stevens and Marshall close it out, and the offense scores a bunch of runs. For some reason, I have a feeling it'll be a little more exciting than that.