There are only two reasonable conclusions that can be reached from Carrie Muskat's various analyses of Jeff Samardzija's start last night. Either she is disingenuous, and a liar, or she does not understand what it means to be good at baseball. "#Cubs Jeff Samardzija impresses with offspeed stuff to get 1st win as a ML starter," she tweeted last night.
Who exactly did he impress? Six hits, four walks, and only one strikeout in 5.2 innings pitched? Sorry, but no thank you, I'll pass on Samardzija once again.
Of course, the Cardinals' piece of crap offense is exactly the sort of team you could pull this sort of thing off against -- that is, a team built around three great hitters, one halfway decent one, and four godawful ones (one of which they actually traded for recently!!).
But yeah, don't be fooled by crap like this, again from Muskat, this time in her Cubs.com recap:
"No matter what happened Monday night in his first big league start of
the season, Jeff Samardzija will be considered for the Cubs' 2011
rotation. And the right-hander gave the Chicago front office something
to think about."
I pray to God that Jeff comes nowhere near the starting rotation for next year. Ideally, he can keep his ERA below three for the rest of the month with a few more starts, and he can be shipped off to Kansas City or Baltimore or something.
I promise I tried to find a database of all game scores recorded by starting pitchers against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, but I came up empty. The reason I was looking for it should be obvious: there's a pretty good chance Ryan Dempster's performance yesterday was the worst of all starters facing the Pirates in 2010.
Demp went three innings, gave up seven hits and three walks, which translated to seven earned runs. In other words, most of the batters Dempster faced yesterday reached base (ten on base, nine outs). That's understandable for a reliever, but really bad news for a starter.
Ryan is actually having a pretty solid year regardless, with 182 innings pitched and a 3.71 ERA. He's posting the highest walk rate he ever has as a starter for the Cubs, but the K's are up slightly as well. When all's said and done, it looks like he'll be worth something near three wins above replacement, which is worth what, between $12 million and $15 million?
Koyie Hill went 3-for-4 yesterday, and hit his first home run of the year. But he still sucks. Maybe someday his OPS will approach .600. Not today, however.
Starlin Castro is still contending for the batting title, but Joey Votto is gonna be tough to overtake.
We scored 9 (one, then three, then five), they scored 16 (seven, then two, then seven). We made three errors, they didn't make any. We had seven extra-base hits, they hit eleven (I think).
I would say the only pitcher that really stunk it up was Tom Gorzelanny. The Gorz allowed three home runs in his start: two to Jay Bruce (they're both left handed aren't they? what the hell?) and one to Chris Valakia (his first career bomb). For some reason, Cub lefties who look good everywhere else somehow end up sucking at the Great American Ballpark (Ted Lilly, Jon Lieber in 2008, etc).
Speaking of lefties, Sean Marshall's one inning of relief was not a good one. He allowed four hits, two runs (one earned), and took the loss in the rubber match on Sunday. He has struggled in the second half (albeit in a relative sense), with a 4.79 ERA compared to his 2.03 from the first half of the year. But that's mostly due to a change in BABIP -- .288 before the All-Star Break, .379 after. He's still getting a ton of strikeouts (26 in 20.2 innings) and not giving up many extra base hits (14 all year!).
I would say the only Cub hitter that merits mentioning would be the Fukster, Mr. Kosuke. On Saturday and Sunday, Fukudome went a combined 3-for-6 with two jacks. He's now hitting .274 on the year with an .835 OPS.
Anybody think we should keep him around for next year instead of trading him and eating half his salary for a 21 year old pitcher or two in exchange?
That's a shutout and a sweep for the Cubs. Why can't we play the Nationals every game? (And why couldn't we do this to the Pirates??????????????????)
We had a scoreless tie in the top of the eighth before TyCo took a walk (see? better pitch recognition!), stole 2nd (see? he's fast!), and was driven home by The Great Starlin Castro.
Guys, hold on for a second, we have to pause here. Starlin Castro deserves our appreciation. Of course, this is the Cubs we're talking about, so it's probably better to assume that the kid will peak as a solid starter. But really, when you watch this kid play, isn't it safe to assume that the sky is indeed the limit on his talent? Yes, the errors are discouraging; yes, he's obviously still figuring out how to steal bases at the major league level (I think he's 6-for-12); and yes, the power isn't all there yet. But the kid has RANGE, and an ARM. And he hits EVERYTHING. And he's 20 years old!!!!!!
Watch out, boys and girls. Castro could really, truly, honestly, seriously end up as a perennial All-Star at shortstop.
And speaking of young kids, it seems Tyler Colvin has developed nicely this year, no? Plenty of pop, improving eye, super speed, decent glove. Very toolsy. But then, as faustus mentioned in a recent comment, why isn't he getting more playing time? Why does Kosuke keep leading off?
You know why Kosuke's playing more recently? Because he's the better player.
Colvin's defense is good, but Kosuke's is better. Tyler can hit for power, but Kosuke is probably the best option we have at leadoff; even though he hits in the .250-.270 range he gets on base at a .369 clip.
Of course, the Fukster can't hit lefties. And he's on the wrong side of 30 -- just like our other two starting outfielders. It'd be perfect if there were a way to only play him sometimes, while at the same time possibly giving a break to the other outfielders... maybe we could call this new position a "4th outfielder..."
Joking aside, Tyler Colvin really ought to be a 4th OF. He's a fine hitter, and a reliable outfielder in any of the three spots. But you don't need to bench a .370 on-base guy for a little more pop from the left side every single day. And maybe it's a symptom of small sample size, but it looks like Colvin hits lefties better than righties anyway. Why not try dividing playing time more evenly among the four, rather than going 100% with one or the other like we seemed to do for the first four months of the season?
Off day tonight. Take this extra time to actually comment on something here!
...and what I mean by that is:
- A hoss-like start from Z
- Some general wildness from the 'pen
- Three strikeouts plus a loading of the bases from Marmol
- All of our scoring coming via home runs
Before the game, I thought to offer an over/under of 4.5 walks from Carlos Zambrano for the start, but I guess if the Nationals offense can make Casey Coleman look good, it stands to reason that Z could easily resemble an ace facing them.
And that's pretty much what he did, getting 22 outs on just over 100 pitches. And his batted ball stats looked just like Coleman's from the night before: 10 ground balls, seven flies, and just one line drive.
Tyler Colvin and Alfonso Soriano drove in two and three runs each on their home runs last night, and we'd end up needing every one of those runs after Marmol went nuts in the ninth.
Since you probably already knew all of that, I'll leave you with one more thing to think about: has Tyler Colvin's pitch recognition improved this season? Seems like his ratio of walks to strikeouts has been improving for the past lil' while:
Casey Coleman followed his game plan last night, and fortunately it worked just about as well as you could expect it to.
The 22-year old Coleman is not a K-machine, but he doesn't walk many batters either. Indeed, Casey showed solid control last night, keeping the ball down against Washington hitters, inducing 11 ground balls against eight flyballs and just one line drive. He's no ace, and doesn't exactly project to ever become one, but a career 3.73 ERA in 321.1 minor league innings at age 21 is nothing to sneeze at. I look forward to watching him in his next start.
The offense came through as well, collecting 15 hits against Nationals pitching. Xavier Nady, Blake DeWitt (each with three), Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Starlin Castro (with two) all had multiple hit nights. Aramis Ramirez walked twice, while Geo Soto walked three times (probably because he was hitting eighth).
Speaking of the offense, I thought Mike Quade did a pretty nice job filling out the line-up card. If DeWitt sticks with the team as a starter (and he should), he's a pretty solid leadoff candidate. The only person better suited would be Kosuke, but we all know he's on the trading block. Other than that, I guess some folks thought Soto should bat higher, seeing as how he leads the team in OPS. I guess I agree with that, which means I guess I'm saying the first baseman should bat eighth, be it Xavier Nady or Micah Hoffpauir -- actually, yeah, that pretty much makes sense.
Nice job by Andrew Cashner pounding the strike zone, getting five outs on 11 pitches (nine strikes). And Thomas Diamond got two strikeouts and a ground out in his inning of relief, also on 11 pitches. Coleman does appear to have higher upside as a starter, whereas Diamond doesn't seem to fit there. In fact, against the 11 batters he's faced as a reliever, Diamond has allowed one single, zero walks, and nabbed four strikeouts. Certainly a small sample size, but better than Justin Berg maybe.
Although that's not saying much, I guess.
Note: This is gonna be a bit of a doosey. If you want to get past the bad news (the Game Recaps) and get to the more interesting stuff, I won't hold it against you.
Cubs 5, Braves 4
Thus proving that not even the Cubs can lose every game, Chicago held on -- despite 3 late inning Atlanta runs -- to win yesterday's affair by a score of 5-4.
Props go to Tom Gorzelanny (yes, I just started a sentence with the word "props," proving that my heart isn't in this) who went 7 strong innings, striking out 9 batters and walking only 2 in order to get his 7th win of the year.
Poops go to Andrew Cashner, who surrendered 3 runs in a third of an inning. Hmm, Props and Poops. This could become a regular segment here. I actually kinda like it..
Offensively, Aramis Ramirez continues to try like hell to get his batting average up to .250 on the year (after all, what else does he have left?). A-Ram went 3 for 4 all singles, while driving in 2 of the Cubs runs.
All told, Chicago managed 10 hits and 4 walks, reminding us of what a good offense looks like.
Braves 16, Cubs 5
Props:Starlin Castro, Marlin Byrd, and Aramis Ramirez -- the heart of the Cubs lineup went 10 for 14 on the day, with Castro hitting 2 doubles, and Ramirez hitting his 19th homerun on the season.
Poops: Pretty much every other Cubs hitter, since they all combined to go 3 for 25 on the day. I'm looking at you, Barney&Baker, you 0 for 8 douches who struck out 5 times. Good job, guys!
Oh, and Poops -- heh, I keep saying "poops" -- to Randy Wells, who gave up 7 runs (5 earned) on the day. No wonder you canceled your Facebook account!
Also, Justin Berg continued the bullpen tradition of allowing many, many runs in few opportunities. 5 earned in 1.1 innings of work. Fan-freakin'-tastic!
On Lou Piniella
First of all, Rob is not alone in his views on Lou. I'm sure a lot of Cub fans blame Lou's old age, or his incontinence (heh, I said "incontinence") on the mediocre showing of the last two seasons.
And I'm sure that every time Rob or people like him pass even a portion of the blame onto Lou, Jim Hendry feels grateful.
Look. Honest to God. A good manager's greatest virtue is the fact that he will rarely cost a team games through stupid decisions. But these guys don't win games. The most genius managers of all time, be they Joe Torre, or Tommy Lasorda, or Casey Stengel, or whomever ... these guys weren't geniuses because they "knew how to win." They were genius managers because, on the contrary, they knew how to not lose. (Or, hell, they just happened to be the beneficiaries of talented GMs who constantly re-stocked their teams with ever-ready players. Unlike Lou Piniella, who got stuck with Jim Hendry.)
In reality, the Motivational "Win One for the Gipper/Every Time We Win A Piece of Clothing Comes Off" Speech doesn't exist. It's FICTION. If anybody here honestly believes that Lou Piniella could've fixed the 2010 Cubs by throwing a fit on the field, or giving a motivational speech, or forcing them to take more practice, or ANYTHING, then you are a victim of FICTION.
There was nothing wrong with Lou Piniella in 2009 or 2010. There was something terribly wrong with the team he was stuck with. That's the truth of the situation -- Lou was carrying the burden of a 150 million albatross, and it doesn't matter where you bat Kosuke Fukudome, there's no getting around having crappy, expensive players and a poorly managed, crappy farm system. There was nothing that Lou Piniella could have done.
So, now he's gone. Again, it's not a big deal. The next guy -- whoever he is -- will do no better. He could do worse, however, because it is possible for managers to lose ballgames.
I'll be honest and admit I was wrong about Lou, and I'll miss him. Originally, I thought he was going to be a wasted pick. I thought he would continue to express the same shoddy managerial mentality that'd gotten us into the mess of 2005/2006; that he was going to be another Old School Manager like Dusty Baker. I didn't know he was going to be a calm, resourceful skipper whose flaws -- while not minor -- were no worse than any other manager. (Because they all have flaws. Really.)
Of course, I'll also be honest and say that I've been calling for Lou to be fired since the middle of last year. But I've also been calling for Jim Hendry to be fired. And the reason for that is a simple one -- Lou was never going to hang around for long enough to lead the next competitive version of the Cubs into the playoffs, and Jim is never going to be the guy who builds that team. By axing them both, it would be possible for the Cubs to begin a new, hopefully better rebuilding movement.
But we all know that Jim Hendry is still around, and probably will remain for another year or two. So instead of a rebuilding movement, we get just another movement. That's bad news for Lou, though, since he already apparently has incontinence.
Just when you thought it was safe to wear your Cubs jersey...
The Cubs combined yesterday for 10 hits, including doubles from Fukudome and Aramis, who also hit a homer. But despite that, and regardless of Ryan Dempster's 8 innings of pitching dominance -- where he held the Braves to 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs -- Carlos Marmol managed to come in and squander the lead for his 5th blown save.
In fact, he posted quite an interesting line. 1 IP, 1 hit, 3 SO, 3 BB, 3 ER. Fantastic. Thus, just like that, the Cubs managed to double the hits of their opponents and still lose by 2 runs.
That's just so ... Cub. Especially in this, the year of epic losses.
That is all. More after today's game.
Tom Ricketts should know that his grace period ends the day he officially retains Jim Hendry.
I realize that I'm not a baseball genius. Never claimed to be one, I'm just a fan with a pulpit. (And even that isn't so big a deal, anybody can have a blog with a silly name.) But I guarantee you that, if you gave me the Baltimore Orioles and a 150 million budget for 2011, I could turn them into an incredibly competitive team. I wouldn't need to revise my front office, I could hire a the World Cup Octopus to be my manager, I wouldn't need a single prospect to actually develop into a talented major leaguer ... I'd just need a modestly strong free agent market to throw my money at.
That's basically what Jim Hendry did to save his ass before the start of the 2007 season. At the time, we all knew that today was coming. Sooner or later, his expensive players would bust -- you can't sign guys on the wrong side of 30 to multi year deals without expecting it to happen. We knew that Soriano would become an albatross, that Fukudome was probably going to be a disappointment, that no starting pitcher in the history of baseball has ever signed a contract as big as Zambrano's and stayed healthy/successful for the duration, and then some.
We knew all that, and yet here we are, furious at a mediocre-at-best 2010 season, watching the Cubs get swept at home in a four game series (something that probably almost never happens) to the Padres.
Blame the shoddy bullpen for this one. Sean Marshall managed to go a third of an inning, squandering the lead Carlos gave him. He surrendered 4 earned runs off of 4 hits and a walk, and that was all she wrote. The Cubs, who collected 7 hits and 3 runs, could have kept their offense home for the day. (They pretty much did, anyway.)
The old Carlos would've met Marshall in the tunnel and beaten the crap out of him. Somehow, that's no worse than what actually happened.
Anyway, this crappy series has ended and now the Cubs face another playoff caliber team -- the Braves. Derrek Lee returns to Wrigley Field, yadda yadda. I'll have the Series Preview up in a few minutes.
Just when you thought I forgot...
So, where to start. The good: uh, I'll get back to this one.
The bad: Casey Coleman, 4.1 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 3 earned runs.
The ugly: Team LOB - 8; with 18 total scoring opportunities undelivered upon. This. Is. CHICAGO!
Not much else to say about this game -- the Cubs gave us nothing to be excited about. Apologies, then, for he length of this short and depressing game recap -- the one after today's game will be MUCH longer (by maybe as many as five whole words!).