Mark Twain once said: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Weather aside, the trip to the Bay Area has been cold so far for the boys in blue. With the Cain to the Cub's Abel on the rubber today, it looks to get considerably colder. At least with the subtraction of Mike Fontenot the average height of the team has increased considerably.
This afternoon the Cubs run into the scoreless innings train that is Matt Cain. Sure, he doesn't have a current innings streak going after giving up runs against the Braves in his last start. However, remember that series preview I wrote that said Matt Cain owns us? Well, this ain't no urban myth. In his last three starts against the Cubs (from 2008-2009) Cain has put up the following line against the Cubs: 23 IP, 0 R(earned or otherwise), 27K. Yeah... so there's that scoreless inning streak. If those numbers don't scream "Cub Killer" I don't know what does.
Looks like it should be a fun afternoon. At least it's Thursday. And Thursday means good happy hours. Take solace in that, Cubs fans.
Cub starter Tom Gorzelanny sucked at the outset of last night's game: single, walk, single, RBI ground out, single, K, single, fly out. That gave the Giants an early 3-0 lead, and while the Cubs came close to surmounting it, in the end the task proved impossible, with Justin Berg allowing a game-winning solo shot in the eighth (I guess Cashner/Marshall/Marmol were unavailable?).
This isn't the first time this year Gorgonzola has struggled in the first inning. In fact, Tom has posted a 6.88 ERA in his 17 first innings pitched this season. His second innings are a little better -- he has a 4.50 ERA in those. And once he makes it to the third inning, he's solid, with ERAs of 2.00, 1.59, 3.24, and 3.75 in each of the next frames.
And before you go off on small sample sizes, check out Tom's career ERAs in each of the first six innings of a game:
I guess there's some selection bias here; obviously, if Tom doesn't have his good stuff in the first, he likely won't make it to the sixth. And teams will usually put their best hitters at the top of the order, so you face the best to start the game. But check out the ERAs by inning for Jon Garland, a decent pitcher whose name I just yanked out of my butt (ew, gross):
So maybe Tom needs to focus on getting off to a good start to become a better pitcher. He seems to have a better handle on batters his second and third times through the order as opposed to his first. And his ERA as a reliever -- 5.40 ERA in 23.1 IP, with 14 BB -- seems to support that, too. But what do I know?
Other quickfire notes on last night's game: Tyler Colvin hit his 18th home run, and Starlin Castro went 2-for-4.
You mean to tell me the Cubs won last night?
I thought it was pretty funny myself. I was using them Twitterdecks last night when the game started, and when Kosuke hit his bomb into McCovey Cove to put the Cubs up 4-0, EVERYONE had the same response, which was some variation of, "Who are these guys, and what have the done with the Cubs?"
Then again, when the inning ended, another rampant bout of groupthink -- tweet after tweet asked, "How quickly will Demp give this lead up?"
The defense tried its best to lose the game last night, with errors from Blake DeWitt, Micah Hoffpauir, Starlin Castro (his 17th) and Tyler Colvin (not a centerfielder). But somehow we came through.
Castro had a nice night, going 2-for-5 with three RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base. Kosuke's blast into the cove in the first was super, and Mike Fontenot contributed a late pinch-hit two-run double that would give Carlos Marmol much-needed insurance for later in the game.
Ryan Dempster was hittable (8 H in 6.2 IP) and didn't blow it past anyone (3 K, 2 BB) but managed to post yet another quality start (4 R, 3 ER). Cashner, Marshall, and Marmol closed the game out, striking out three and walking one in 2.1 innings of relief (Marmol allowed two runs on four hits but managed to secure the win eventually).
Finally, last night's Photo of the Night, brought to you by the Associated Press:
Don't worry about the errors, folks -- this guy is for real.
Ryan Dempster vs. Tim Lincecum
Baseball is one of those sports where when things are going great, its amazing. However, when your team is doing everything wrong down to the basic fundamentals of the game, it can be one of the longest and painful things to watch. In the past three years, the Cubs have exemplified this sort of fall from grace much to the chagrin of the fans. I'd include the players in that latter statement, but as of lately, I'm not sure they really care.
What Lou really needs to do... or someone, I don't care who, needs to do is this. I don't care that the season is basically done for the team. Baseball is a really simple game that tends to get really complicated when you are losing. To end the season, the Cubs need to stop letting their brains spill all over the field, get back to fundamentals, and just play the game. Will we finish higher than fourth place? It's doubtful. However, it might lead to some watchable baseball, and that's something I can get on board with.
End of rant. Go Cubs. Drive Lincecum back to his bong in shame.
A few days ago I tweeted a quote I saw in an article about Carlos Zambrano's soon-to-be-triumphant return to the Cubs rotation:
"Like Larry Rothschild said, I have to throw the ball no matter what and don't try to locate it," said Z.
It's fairly obvious that Carlos meant what he said at that time, as the man walked seven batters in five innings last night. I guess his start actually ended up turning out OK, as he only allowed two earned runs during his start (although one of those came on a wild pitch). But that sure doesn't seem like a sustainable strategy going forward, right?
This one came down to a battle of bullpen depth, as the game stood tied at three runs a piece after nine innings of play -- and we all know how much depth the Cubs have in their bullpen (hint: < 0).
Indeed, after Alan Trammel burned through Justin Berg, James Russell, Andrew Cashner, and Sean Marshall in the first nine innings, we were treated last night to the debut of the Cubs' latest Iowa callup, Marcos Mateo. Mateo almost lost the game in the 10th, but was saved by a pair of good throws from Tyler Colvin and Mike Fontenot. Fortunately, Marcos was able to finish the job in the 11th, guaranteeing the Cubs a loss.
Now, our best hitter is on the DL, and our starting first baseman is an even worse hitter than Derrek Lee. But maybe Wellington Castillo can save the season? At any rate, he should replace Koyie Hill on the roster when Soto comes back.
The only thing colder than San Francisco in August is the play of a certain North Side Chicago baseball team. The Cubs look to bring a little bit of a warm front through the Bay Area by re-inserting hot-head Carlos Zambrano back into the starting rotation for the opening game of the four-game series. In a series likely dominated by Bob Brenly stories of his time on the Giants to take the minds of the fans off the product on the field, the Cubs at least have a chance to play a bit of the spoiler to a Giants team in need of a series win.
Monday, August 9, 2010- Carlos Zambrano (3-6, 5.61 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 3.20 ERA)
Welcome back Big Z. In an attempt to build some value for the services of Carlos Zambrano in the offseason, the Cubs have brought the big righty back into the rotation to audition in Silva's absence. That's the good news. The bad news is that most scouts that saw Z pitch in his rehab starts said he looked like a middle-of-the-road starter at best and had mediocre stuff. His time out of the pen since then has confirmed this.
Madison Bumgarner is a top prospect of the Giants that seemed to have lost his way. Initially a fireballer with upper-90s heat on his four-seamer, Bumgarner mysteriously lost the fire and struggled to break 90 at the end of last season. Featuring a low-90s fastball with less develolped change and slider. Despite some success at the major league level, it seems that the lefty lacks the bulldog confidence he once had when his velocity was up. While he is highly deceptive to left-handed hitters, the same cannot be said against righties. Right handed batters are hitting .282 against the young lefty, while lefties are hitting only .196.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010- Ryan Dempster (9-8, 3.76 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (11-5, 3.15 ERA)
Demp is coming off a win against the Brewers where he gave up three unearned runs over six innings. It seems at this point in the season that Demp is the most consistent start the Cubs have right now and will tend to at least keep the team in the game. Whether the offense shows up for their end of the bargain has been the challenge all season.
Lincecum is a pitcher you might have heard about. Most likely you've heard of him because of his offseason antics through TMZ or People Magazine. Outside of that, most people around baseball only know about the diminutive righty because he won some award or something for being popular with sportswriters. I expect he will fare decent against us.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010- Tommy G (6-6, 3.51 ERA) vs. Barry Zito (8-6, 3.35 ERA)
Tommy put up his 9th quality start up in his last outing allowing only three earned runs over seven innings. I still contend that the G-man was a great throw in on the otherwise terrible Grabow deal and the continued dividends he's given the club are proof.
Barry Zito is also a lefty that likes to surf, write music, and long walks on the beach. While getting paid millions to be a waste of space in San Francisco, Zito magically realized how to pitch again and is doing so with quite a fair amount of success this season. In his last outing he struck out 10 batters and only allowed 2 earned runs on four hits. Since the All-Star break, Zito has a 2.02 ERA.
Thursday, August 12, 2010- Randy Wells (5-10, 4.37 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (9-9, 3.06 ERA)
Despite having a terrible start to the season, Wells has been pretty consistent as of late. In seven of his past nine games he has given up three or fewer earned runs. Despite a quality start against the Reds in his last outing, Wells was hung with another loss because the Cubs are terrible at supporting their starting pitchers.
Cain is a pitcher that has more or less dominated the Cubs in his young career. Every time he seems to toe the rubber, Cubs hitters look baffled. Given the fact that most of the Cubs hitters would look baffled if I took the mound against them this year, this is not a good omen. Cain has a 5-2 career mark against the Cubs while toting a 2.41 ERA in that span of eight starts.
In what should be a long series, the Cubs have a chance to play hard against a contending team and prove they aren't just mailing it in along with their lame duck manager. It would be nice to see some life, if only to give me hope for the prospects of next year. I've said it once, and I'll likely have it be my mantra for the rest of the year: Entertain me and prove to me that you deserve a spot on next years club.
In no particular order:
-Esmailin Caridad pitched two innings last night to bring his major league ERA down to 1.65 for the season. He also nabbed three strikeouts over the course of the outing. That seems like a good thing!
-Tom Gorgonzola had another five-inning outing, needing 95 pitches to get 15 outs. Serviceable fifh starter? I think so -- especially for a team with an already gargantuan payroll headed into next year.
-Jake Fox keeps hittin'. He's got a .280 average, and 43 RBIs on the season. I've gotta believe the Cubs will work his arse off this offseason trying to teach him how to play passable defense. He needs to play every day.
(Just like Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot deserve every day spots...? Whoops.)
-Sam Fuld went 1-for-3 with two walks. The plate patience part is definitely there; if he can keep flippin' singles with any sort of regularity, how can the Cubs spend $3 million on ReJo for 2010?
-Aramis Ramirez is still good at hitting, even with one shoulder. But then again, why hasn't he had surgery yet?
All in all, a nice win. Nice job playing spoiler, whether or not the Giants secretly suck.
Either way, the Cubs have successfully spoiled the crap out of the Giants. It's about a sure-bet that the Rockies will be in the post season this year, thanks to the beat-down Chicago has dealt San Francisco.
Today's game, though, was the death rattle for the Giants, as they were able to step up and win against a -- I will continue to argue -- worn out Randy Wells.
Offensively, the Cubs managed only 5 hits and 3 walks, but Randy Wells got his ass kicked. Wells surrendered 10, walked 2, and only struck out 1. In fact the Cubs only run came in the 9th, thanks to a Bobby Scales triple.
I'm just going to call this a pity win. Clearly the Cubs feel sorry for San Fran, and so they threw them this empty victory.
Anyway, tomorrow's the last off day, and then it's a 4-gamer against Pittsburgh.
How impressive has Randy Wells been? Look at the very basic line comparing him with Matt Cain -- probably any team in baseball would take the Giants stud without qualms, but in reality his numbers are no better than Randy's. Perhaps Wells has been even better than we give him credit for.
Probing deeper, let's compare exactly how well Randy is doing pound-for-pound through the amazing power of projections.
Matt Cain -- through 204.2 innings -- 13-7, 175 hits, 22 HR, 70 BB, 158 SO, 1.20 WHIP.
Randy Wells -- projected through 204.2 innings -- 15-12, 203 hits, 19 HR, 54 BB, 124 SO, 1.27 WHIP
Not bad, not bad at all.
Now, one of the most interesting questions we'll be asking this off season is whether or not Wells is a one-year-wonder, or if he is a future staple in the Cubs rotation. Jim Hendry -- should he be back next year -- will be taking a fairly big roll of the dice in assuming that both Randy and lefty Tom Gorzelanny are big league material.
Regardless, he is very close to having -- minus the 20 strikeout game and high SO totals -- a comparable-if-not-better rookie season than Kerry Wood in 1998. And he is now poised to finish an improbable sweep of the Giants while cementing the Cubs third consecutive winning season -- and sixth of the decade -- not that it means too much.
The funny thing to me is that there have been a fairly large number of hardcore fans -- and some bloggers -- who have hated this season, who are practically giving up on the franchise because of this season, but all things considered this year has mostly just been mundane. It hasn't been horrible, it hasn't been great. All it has been is average at a time when we want anything but. Really, that's not so bad, and it's on par with my expectations of the Cubs organization. They won't reach the playoffs every year, but they should compete. Even Yankee fans couldn't ask for much more than that.
15 wins, 9 losses. That's the Cubs record so far in September. Of course, we all know it came too little, too late, hot on the heels of a morbid 11-17 August.
Maybe it's because there's no pressure anymore. Maybe it's because this is how the Cubs should've been playing all along. Or maybe that's just it -- without the pressure, the Cubs are playing up to their talent level. Whatever it is, Chicago is two wins away from finishing at .500 for the third straight year, and it looks as if they will have completely squashed the Giants' playoff hopes along the way.
Hey, we'll take it.
Last night we saw a reminder about why we love Big Z. He outpitched his opponents, he outhit them, and between innings he very well may have saved a small child from a burning building somewhere. It was just one of those nights for Carlos, one of those tantalizing, why-can't-he-do-this-all-the-time nights.
We've argued it back and forth here, but I'm pretty sure GROTA is unified in wanting Zambrano to return next season. Even Rob never said he wanted the Moose gone, he just felt -- understandably -- that Zambrano's not the Roy Halladay of the Cubs. Because he's not. If he ever writes a follow-up to his smashingly successful auto-biography, he can probably title it Too Volatile to Win 20, the Carlos Zambrano Story. But on a solid team with 5 pitchers who will more often than not win their games, we can probably live with the knowledge that Carlos will have his seasonal ups and downs but will always, always buckle down and be there to win games in October. Lest we forget that he's served the role of "ace" on more playoff Cub teams than any other Cub living or even recently dead.
Back to the game at hand, Barry Zito used to be an ace and Tom Gorzelanny wants to pitch us his belief that he can start next year. We get to find out how likely his chances might be in just 30 minutes or so. Go Cubs.
Does anyone know where to look for the stat that records “Most Baseball Games Won Singlehandedly?”
I’ve got to imagine Carlos Zambrano is at the top of that leader board.
He was at it again last night, knocking in two runs and giving up only one over the course of a complete game two-hitter. ‘Los walked one, and struck out eight.
That’s kind of been the story of Z’s career, in that: WE KNOW HE CAN DO THIS! The no-hitter, last night’s game, his performances in the postseason (do NOT pin the ’08 game on him, after he got five freakin’ outs in the inning) are all evidence that he’s got ace talent.
But we also know he lacks ace composure.
You might say Z is at his best when the game matters least. I for one would argue that maybe he’s not good in somewhat meaningful games, but in the Huge Games with Major Implications (read: postseason) he’s money.
So where does that put us on the whole “Trade Z” debate? For me, he’s a top pitching talent, with one of the best bats at his position in the league (…), and that’s someone you want to keep on your team. Maybe as he
ages he’ll get less crazy? Or maybe not.
Oh yeah, and the offense still sucks.