Wow, what a difference a trip to Milwaukee can make for a club. The Cubs were done and gone. The fire-sale was about to commence, Jim Hendry and Lou Pinella were on their way out the door.
So what changed? Well, the Cubs moved one pitcher to the pen,sent one to Iowa and activated one off the DL. All of this led to a sweep of the Brewers this weekend. I'm serious, well it was part of it at least.
The Cubs now take on the much improved Washington Nationals, who are currently 10-9 on the short season. Thankfully, the Nats have kept their phenom in the minors and he won't no-hit this week.
Tonight, Cy Young Award canidate Carlos Silva will toe the rubber for the Cubs. Granted, Roy Halladay will probably win the thing, but Silva's going to be a close second. Of course, it would be justified after dealing with MB for an entire year. Do you think the Mariners would be knocking their heads against the wall if it were to happen?
The Nats counter with John Lannan, who is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against the Cubs. Both of those wins came in 2008. The Cubs will likely use Xavier Nady and Jeff Baker today with the lefty on the mound.
Cub starters - The Cubs haven't a really bad game in a while now, which makes me kind of worried about the upcoming games.
Geovany Soto - Who saw this coming after his start? I was starting to get worried after the slow start, but Geo's mashing right now to the tune of a 1.064 OPS.
The only batters/semi-regulars below .295 right now are Aramis Ramirez (3 HR, 9 RBI), Derrek Lee (4 HR, 11 RBI), Jeff Baker and Xavier Nady. Obviously, the Cubs need Lee and Ramirez to hit more to win, and I think it is a matter of time before that starts to happen.
The Cubs are in a good spot right now. They are currently all alone in 2nd place behind the Cardinals. I know this season has been far from perfect, but there is still a chance to do some good. Hopefully, tonight will keep the winning streak alive.
Hot on the heels of a road series sweep, the Cubs return to the friendly confines where they take on the only team in baseball that makes the Brewers look good: the Washington Nationals.* Except the Nationals aren't so bad just now. They're 10-9, only 1.5 games behind the defending National League champion Phillies.
(*known in some circles as the Modern Day 1950's Chicago Cubs)
Nevertheless, the Nats have been treading water since April 17th, which was when they lost the ability to put together two consecutive wins -- or losses. And they've been at home for the duration of their streak of mediocrity. That's good news for the Cubs.
Let's take a look at how this will all play out...
Monday, April 26th - Carlos Silva (2-0, 0.95 ERA) vs. John Lannan (1-1, 5.82 ERA)
John Lannan is a soft-tossing lefty* who has a career ERA of 4.01, but is 10 games under .500 since he first threw a baseball in a major league park. (The perils of pitching for the Nationals.)
His opponent is Carlos Silva, a fat, angry, obnoxious Venezuelan man who has convinced many fans to conveniently forget the "small sample size" mantra with his outstanding start. So let's see if I've got it right ... soft-tossing lefty faces Cub pitcher who's off to a ridiculously good start?
Crap. 0-1 for Chicago.
(*I write this confidently, not based on my detailed knowledge of his pitching velocity, but because the dude struck out 89 batters in 206.1 innings last year)
Tuesday, April 27th - Tom Gorzelanny (0-2, 2.40 ERA) vs. Livan Hernandez (2-1, 0.75 ERA)
Tom Gorzelanny is a soft-tossing lefty who's actually managed almost a K an inning so far this season. But because he pitches for the offensively challenged Chicago Cubs, despite his admirable start, Gorzo is winless.
His opponent is Livan Hernandez, an ancient, fat Cuban pitcher who is the perfect example of a "small sample size," what with his amazing start to the '10 season. (Although, concernedly, he's got 7 walks and only 9 strikeouts in 24 innings.) Therefore, because Gorzo is due and Livan is overdue...
1-1 for Chicago.
Wednesday, April 28th - Ryan Dempster (2-0, 2.60 ERA) vs. Luis Atilano (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
The debate rages on -- should Ryan Dempster be called "Clownsevelt" or something that makes slightly more sense to the layman? Here's my stump for the preferred "Clownsevelt" moniker -- over the past few years, he has regularly pitched immediately before, or directly after, Ted Lilly. Lilly's full name is "Theodore Roosevelt Lilly." Roosevelt. Clownsevelt. C'mon! It's perfect!
Anyway, the Cubs will be sending in the clown to take on rookie pitcher Luis Atilano, who defied the odds and won his major league debut by pitching 6 solid innings of 5-hit, 2-walk baseball. In other words ... Dempster vs. A Rookie Who's Not a Lefty?
Tres win. 2-1 for Chicago.
Theoretically, the Cubs are better than 9-10, and the Nationals are worse than 10-9. Therefore, this series should end with both teams having an 11-11 record! Book it!
I'm too lazy to look, but it's a fair guess that Wells has probably never thrown so many innings in his career. Then again, he's in his mid 20's and while endurance/conditioning might be an issue, his arm should be able to handle the load. Nevertheless, the last month of the season will be interesting if only because he might be getting gassed out. But at least the Cubs bullpen managed to pitch 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Small victories, folks. That's what we're left with.
Offensively, the Cubs saw homeruns from Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the two of whom were responsible for 5 of the team's 6 hits. Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, and yes, Milton Bradley combined to go 0 for 13.
Speaking of Bradley, since he's a hot topic of debate these days...
When he signed with the Cubs last winter, like a lot of fans I was supportive of the idea. I was impressed with his offensive production in Texas, and knowing full-well that he'd struggle to ever play at 100% for a full season I believed that he would give the Cubs more offense in the time he was healthy than any other option on the market. And yes, I knew that he was volatile and fragile, but my argument was that if he started the year out well then the fans would never turn on him and it would be a good situation.
Of course, he started the year something like 1 for his first 23. But even before then, the story-hungry press had already written plenty about whether or not Bradley would be able to handle the fans in Chicago. It's kind of like if you started a new job and from the first day there were people in the office reminding you not to lose your temper when the paper jams. You could be a very well-constructed individual, and yet, after a few months the steady warnings to not lose your temper when the paper jams, you might be inclined to do just that. It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the media made this an issue long before it was one. I like a lot of the guys who cover the Cubs clubhouse, but they need to owe up and acknowledge that while they didn't build the car they certainly turned the ignition.
Anyway, all of that said, Milton Bradley is a prick. He is a giant, turgid dildo (and I would love to be quoted saying that in a venue he might read -- c'mon, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, don't let me down). He is, quite frankly, a chip-on-his-shoulder idiot.
Milton, sir, the fans have booed you and treated you with hostility because you have sucked. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or where you come from. I speak as a person whose all-time favorite player is Andre Dawson, whose first baseball jerseys were those of Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa, whose current favorite pitcher is the tempromental Carlos Zambrano, whose wife would probably leave him for smooth-looking Derrek Lee. I don't think you're an asshole because you're black. I think you're an asshole because you're an asshole.
Like Todd Hundley before you, and Will Ohman after Todd Hundley, and yes, like LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones, you are an excuse-making jackass who has come nowhere near earning the contract you've signed. And like Hawkins and Jones, you would rather play the race card than acknowledge that we can't stand you because you are a miserable person.
As somebody who supported Bradley and defended his signing, I recognized at the time that this could be an issue but I was hopeful his play would prevent that from happening. I was wrong. And if I should happen to find myself in the right field bleachers anytime over the next two seasons where Milton remains a Cub, so long as he continues to complain, pity himself, and cast off the blame, I will boo the ever loving shit out of him. He will be the first Cub I have ever actively booed at a game, and he has earned it.
Today, instead of rehashing the same old GameCast, we will start a series of looks at different players that are signed for next year, and some of the free agents. I will take a quick look at their preformance and some overall contract numbers. Feel free to debate the mertis of the players in the comment section.
Starting Pitcher - No. 1 Starter (Carlos Zambrano)
Contract 2009: 17.8 Million
Contract 2010:17.9 Million
Stats 2009: 7-5, 3.80 ERA in 128 innings. 105/60 K/BB Ratio with a 1.38 WHIP
Carlos Zambrano is paid like his is the ace of the staff. While he is a prefectly fine pitcher, it doesn't seem like he is going to win too many Cy Youngs in the future. 2009 will be the second year in a row where Big Z. does not pitch 200 innings, and his strikeouts have fallen once again. At least his opposing OPS has not really taken off, so people are not hitting him hard, but he has a tough time getting the K when he really needs it.
His contract is pretty big and the good thing is that it does not really jump any higher over the last three years. The problem is that he is getting almost 18 million. Ted Lilly has pitched better and thrown more innings, but makes six million less than Carlos. That being said, Carlos has the ability to turn things around and become one of the best pitchers in the NL if he starts to train a little bit more. Hopefully, he is serious about losing weight in the offseason and that will make him a better pitcher.
If you look at Carlos, he is really a great snapshot of the Cubs' season. He's been up and down, and the Cubs certainly been up and down. Carlos has three years left on his deal, and baring a trade he will finish up his deal at Age 31, so there is still time for him to turn in a few more solid years. Tomorrow will look at Ted Lilly and what is probaly Jim Hendry's best FA signing ever.
Payroll for 2010: 17.9 Million
Milton Bradley - Can you believe it? When the games become basically meaningless, Bradley heats up and drives in three runs.
Koyie Hill - Don't look now, but Koyie's average is up to .242 after a three-hit night last night. It doesn't hurt that he is playing the Nationals, but hey I don't see Geovany Soto hitting.
Carlos Marmol - The Cubs got a nice seven-run lead, before Marmol walked the bases loaded. I still say the Cubs might want to look for some relievers in the offseason.
Aaron Miles - I know he laid down a sac bunt in the 7th, but he still sucks and he didn't get a hit.
The Cubs finally won last night, but didn't gain ground since Roy Oswalt decided to give up three runs in an inning. A win today would be nice, because winning is better to deal with.
A day after Milton Bradley re-confirmed what we already knew about his being a giant, turgid dildo, Cub fans got to witness last night his continued ability to produce after it stops mattering. In other words, he is the Fred McGriff of the '09 Cubs, and his ass-eating, empty calorie production is nothing more than a big F.U. tease. More on that in a minute.
Speaking of not producing until it stops mattering, Rich Harden delivered another solid six innings of work last night, lowering his ERA to 3.99. At his worst, his ERA was 5.47 as recently as his July 10th start, but in 8 starts since then he's tossed 51 innings, allowing 10 earned runs (and no more than 2 on any given start) while striking out 61, walking 16, and posting an ERA of 1.76.
Naturally this has caused some Cub fans to call for a contract renewal, but that's a fairly bad idea. It's not that Harden isn't good; he just happens to be a lot like a car with a bad transmission. That car might get you to and from work for a while -- maybe even for years -- but you'd be stupid to take it on a long car trip and sooner or later, no matter how much care you give it, that tranny will drop out on you.
Incidentally, it was a meaningless outing but it remains concerning nonetheless that new Cubs closer Carlos Marmol pitched a 1 inning, 1-hit, 3-walk, 2-run 9th inning. I'm sure he'll stop missing the strike zone in outings that matter.
Back to Bradley, he led last night's 9-run charge driving in the first 3 runs the Cubs scored. He's now batting .259 on the season, but with an OBP of .391. Since the All Star Break he's batting .289 with 5 homers and an .870 OPS, but I don't think that even the stat-head apologists would be able to justify his poor production particularly in situations that matter. Impossible as this may have sounded back in late July when he was just a .238 hitter, Bradley's line might actually look half-respectable by year's end. Yay?
Anyway, Rob wrote yesterday that Milton is a cancer whose attitude and actions have a negative impact on the clubhouse. This opinion expectedly caused some debate, primarily because people who measure play soley by statistics have trouble accepting that intangibles can have an impact on numbers. For example -- is Bradley's crappy attitude causing players like Alfonso Soriano to struggle? Probably not, but if the clubhouse mood is hostile, if people don't want to be there or aren't enjoying the company they are forced to keep in those small confines, then it's absolutely conceivable that there's a minute impact.
In professional sports, a lot of success stems not only from physical ability but also from ability to focus, or at least that's what the athletes will tell us. Think back a job you hated compared with a job you love ... if we're being honest, it's probably fair to say that it's a little harder to focus and do your job as perfectly as possible when you're busy not being able to stand the presence of that douchebag who complains all the time and, on top of it all, makes more money than you. (Incidentally, other intangibles might include things going on in a player's personal life -- how many athletes have struggled horribly in years they are getting divorced, or having long, painful contract negotiations -- and work out regimens. Just saying, these things do impact play.)
But even if all the other players on the team dislike Bradley, I'm not sure that it it would hurt clubhouse chemistry. It'd be pretty easy for them as a team to just ignore the douchebag and let him brood silently. Still, I have no doubt that Bradley's bad attitude has impacted his play. His overall production is dramatically down this year, or in obnoxious geek talk his wRS in 2008 was 101.0; this year he's on pace to land at 75.4. If his production last year was worth 10 million a year, then we can probably agree that his failure to even come close to duplicating that output this season makes him -- for at least his first year -- a bust.
Back to the game -- although Harden pitched well, and Milton Bradley got the Cubs ahead early, the game remained close until the 8th inning. That was when the Cubs offense EXPLODED!!! for 6 runs, thanks predictably to the bats of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez -- who respectively doubled and singled home 3 runs -- and shockingly thanks also to Three Finger Hill and Mike Fontenot, both of whom doubled home some runs. It was a 13-hit, 4-walk day for Chicago, and they play today for the series win against the hapless Nationals.
The Cubs are dead, or about as close as they can be and still be alive. Any way, starting tomorrow I'm going to start looking at breakdown of what the Cubs have coming back for next season. I figure that might spice up the gamecasts a little bit more, since there is not a lot of positive things going on during these posts these days.
Did anybody else know that Livan signed on with the Nats? I misssed that one, and I follow a ton of baseball. I'm sure he will find a way to grind out six solid innings, while Rich Harden pitches for next season and that big contract.
Milton Bradley - He had four hits last night, but only 1 RBI, which came on his HR.
Ryan Theriot - On a night where the Cubs had 12 hits, Theriot went 0 for 5.
This is the time of year where we need to be working on other thigns, becuase the Cubs are pretty tough to watch. For once I'm glad I have a thesis to work on for grad school, because it actually gives me something to get my mind off the Cubs. Check back tomorrow for the first in a series of looks into next season.
Let's talk about some guys who seriously do not belong on a major league team that came up with some star performances last night.
Mike Fontenot is broken. Last night, he made a throwing error, and failed to get a hit. He's now hitting .179 in August. It's really too bad, because his 2008 was really, really encouraging. Now he appears suited for Triple A, a "fresh start" type like Joey Gathright before him.
Aaron Heilman sucks. I'm sure the total and absolute lack of confidence in his abilities exhibited by his manager doesn't help, but at the end of the day you've gotta get the job done. If it's any consolation, Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson both still suck too.
Also, call me quick to judge, but I may have demoted Tom Gorzelanny, from "I'm OK with him being in the 2010 rotation" status to "It'd be fine with me if this guy started the year in Iowa."
As Rob pointed out earlier today, Milton Bradley had a nice evening for himself. I'm rooting for MB for the rest of the year, if for no other reason than to maximize his trade value this offseason.
Great game, huh?
The Cubs are facing the very real fact that they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Baring a 10-game winning streak, the Cubs will have a tough time overtaking the 8-game lead the Cardinals have in the NL-Central and the 7.5-game lead the Rockies have in the Wild Card.
That being said, the Cubs have a great chance to gain some ground with the Nationals in town. The Cubs really need to sweep, and hopefully pick up a few games. In reality they need to be within 4 games when the Cardinals series in St. Louis takes place. That means they need to pick up four games over thier next 22. Since the Cubs have played four less games, that means they really need to win all of those four, and find a way to pick up two more games. Will that happen? We've seen bad play after bad series, but the Cubs are probably playing their weakest stretch of opponents of the season with dates against the Mets, Astros, Pirates and Reds, not to mention this series against the Nationals.
I'm not one who likes to give up hope, because we've all had plenty of bgad memories to go around in our Cub Fan lives. So, why not hope they can turn it around? The Cubs get a boost tonight when Carlos Zambrano returns to the mound. In other news....well there really is not much other news.
Jake Fox - He provided some needed hits in the Cubs lone win against LA. Can he see some playing time? Probably not with Alfonso Soriano making all that cash in left.
Take your pick - Aramis Ramirez, Sam Fuld, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot and Soriano all hitting .227 or worse in thier last six games. No wonder the Cubs went 2-5.
The fat-lady is warming up and she is about ready to head on to the stage. The only way this turns around is the Cubs go on a winning streak for the ages, and I just have a tough time seeing this team do something like that.
NL Team #1: 13th BA, 10th OBP, 10th OPS, 7th BB
NL Team #2: 3rd BA, 2nd OBP, 4th OPS, 3rd BB
Based on these numbers, who would you think is the team with a record above .500 and who is the worst team in all of baseball? That’s right my friends. NL Team #1 is your Chicago Cubs and NL Team #2 is the Mighty Nationals of the District of Columbia of Washington.
While I’m just as tired as you are of watching the Cubs get knocked around like a Tijuana prostitute, they can’t think they are just going to roll over the Nationals (yes, I did just type that despite their 44 wins) because they can hit suckas.
Cubs pitching actually did a decent job for the most part over the road trip, but the offense needs to catch up. Scoring against the Nationals should be easy. The operative word of course being “should.”
August 25th – Garrett Mock vs. Carlos Zambrano
It appears that Mock has been used in relief for most of the season aside from the last month. He started against the Cubs on July 19 in DC and gave up 7 runs (4 earned) over 3.1 innings. However, Mock is 2-1 in August and has allowed 6 earned runs over the last 21 innings. Then again, three of those four starts came against the Pirates, D-Backs, and Reds.
While Big Z vowed to take his abdominal workouts more seriously in order to combat the back spasms that have kept him on the DL for much August, I think we’re much more likely to see Zambrano walking around with a 6-pack inside of his stomach than with one under his shirt. I’m feeling a short outing in this one despite Z's success when coming back from the DL.
August 26th – J.D. Martin vs. Rich Harden
John Dale Martin is a rookie. He has only pitched against one team with an above .500 record this season. He gives up lots of homers (7 in 34 innings). John Dale could become a very close friend of the Chicago Cubs.
On July 4, Harden gave up 7 earned runs in one game. Since the All-Star Break, Harden has only allowed 7 earned runs total. On July 4, Harden struck out one batter. Since then, he has struck out at least six in every start. I don’t know what has gotten into this guy, but Rich has got his groove back.
August 27th – John Lannan vs. Randy Wells
With his 4.03 ERA, Lannan is the “best” starting pitcher the Nationals have this season. After a dominating June and a decent July, Lannan has finally remembered what team he is on. Lannon has given up at least four earned runs in his last three starts (7,4,5). Opponents are hitting .299 with a .885 OPS against Lannan when he is pitching on the road.
After I called out Randy last week for not pitching particularly well against above .500 teams, he goes out and throws a solid game against the Dodgers. Unfortunately the Cubs were only able to get one hit and Wells got the loss. Just like old times, right? This will be only the second time Wells pitches at Wrigley this month. He hasn’t lost at home since July 12.
Of the final 24 games the Cubs play at Wrigley this season, 23 come against teams with losing records. I would think the Cubs NEED to win at least 20 of those games to even have a chance of sniffing the postseason.
Tonight’s starting lineup is as such (via Twitter)… riot, milt, lee, rami, fuky, sori, soto, font, Z.
Can’t say I agree with keeping Fuld, Fox, and Baker out of the lineup, but if these guys can’t score runs against the friggin Nationals then it we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
Tip for Purchasing Tickets Online
Most online brokers and marketplaces in the secondary market charge a service fee during checkout regardless of what you are purchasing, such as Chicago Bears Tickets, Chicago Cubs Tickets, or anything else. Typically you can walk through the first few steps of checkout to find out if there will be any additional charges.. From your friends at Neco.com, the home of transparent pricing.
(with even more great pics complimentary of Yarbage)
Four games into the second half of the season and the Cubs stand alone in second place, tied for first in the loss column, despite 3.5 long months of mediocrity. Either the NL Central is terrible or the Cubs are just that goo-naw, the NL Central just plain blows. But at least they aren't the Nationals.
So far this year, Washington has managed a .286 winning percentage -- that makes them rivals with the Detroit Tigers from a few years back as being The Single Worst Baseball Team In the History of the Modern Era. Therefore you are right, Caustic Cub Fans. Sweeping the Nats doesn't mean much. But losing to them even once might have said a lot about the Cubs.
Instead, yesterday at least we found a Cubs team that could not be stopped by Nationals pitchers. The offense combined for 16 hits and 5 walks, resulting in 11 runs. Among the heavy hitters were Kosuke Fukudome, who has at least temporarily shaken off his mid-season druthers so far this second half. Yesterday he went 2 for 4 with 2 walks, hitting his 19th double, driving in 1 and scoring 1 more.
Also impressive were hitters without gloves Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir, who both went 3 for 5. Part of Fox's 3 for 5 day included a 3-run homer and he finished the day with 4 RBI.
On top of that, Alfonso Soriano went 2 for 3 with a walk, a double, and a homer -- his second straight day with a long ball -- and Mike Fontenot went 3 for 5 with a double as well. All told, 8 Cubs collected at least 1 hit and 7 Cubs drove in at least 1 run.
On the pitching front, Kevin Hart collected his first big league win of the season, pitching 5 innings, surrendering 5 hits, and walking 5 Nationals. Still, he only surrendered 2 runs, so ugly win or not I'm sure he's happy.
Since Hart was unable to last past 5, though, Lou tried to rest his over-taxed bullpen by allowing the seldom-used Jeff Samardzija to pitch 3 innings, with Jeff Stevens finishing the game in the 9th. In their 4 innings of relief, the two Jeffs combined to allow just 2 hits and 1 walk.
The Cubs will be in Philly tomorrow, taking on the best team in the NL East. For a lot of Cub fans this is the true gauge -- will the Cubs get hammered, or will they be the hammer? Not to be a parade-rainer-onner, but sweep or be swept it won't mean much as far as October is concerned except in the standings. In other words, it won't decide the season and it will not serve as an accurrate predictor of how the Cubs would do against the Phillies in the playoffs. These games don't have implications of future failure or success, except that the Cubs won't get a shot at success if they keep getting their asses kicked by teams like the Phillies. But at least they have "sweeping the worst team in baseball" down pat. That's one less thing to worry about.
Current Record: 47-43
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 2 games out
Best Possible Record: 119-43
Worst Possible Record: 47-115
Record needed to win 110: 53-9
On Pace For: 85-77