(with the graphic hopefully coming soon)
In yesterday's GameCast, I wrote that a gassed-out Randy Wells might "get lit up tonight worse than a bum with a fresh bottle of anti-freeze at hand." Wells responded by pitching 6 innings, allowing 7 hits, walking 0, and striking out 5 while surrendering only 1 earned run.
Wells now looks certain to finish the year with a winning record and has a shot at hitting 12 wins on the season, which means he now has a good shot of finishing the year with more wins than his ROY competition in JA Happ. But upon further review, Happ is having a helluvayear. They've both pitched about 153 innings; Happ has surrendered 130 hits to Randy's 152, but he's walked 52 to Randy's 43, and Happ has 105 strikeouts while Wells has 93. To me, it looks as if Wells should at least get several first place votes, but he'll be lucky to get any.
Offensively, the Cubs combined for 8 hits and 5 walks, with 4 of those coming from Derrek Lee (he was 3 for 4 with 1 walk). Lee and Ramirez drove in the motherload of Cub runs, with Derrek elevating his homerun totals on the year to 35 and RBI stats to 109. Seriously -- Lee saves his best for years the Cubs kind of suck. What's up with that?
The Cubs play today for a series win.
This is the reason why the Brewers are a middling, .500 team-at-best -- their pitching sucks. The same Cubs offense that struggled to scratch together more than 3 runs against the playoff-bound Cardinals went off on the Brewers like Milton Bradley at a press conference, scoring 7 runs in the first 2 innings.
Probably the best story of the night -- at least for this Derrek Lee mark -- was the continued production of M.V.Lee. Think about it like this -- four years ago, Lee had a season for the ages, batting .335, hitting 50 doubles and 46 homeruns, and he still only managed to drive in 107 RBI. So far in '09, in about 75 fewer at bats, Lee has had about 40 fewer hits, 17 fewer doubles, 12 fewer homeruns, is batting about 30 points less, and he's still managed to hit the 107 RBI mark. Somebody find Dusty Baker and ask him: how the hell does that happen?
The Cubs easily outpaced the Brewers tonight, with strong offensive nights from Lee, Aramis Ramirez (who followed a Lee homerun in the second with a homerun of his own), and Jeff Baker, who went 2 for 5.
On top of the hits, Tom Gorzelanny continued to make an argument for his inclusion into the rotation next season by way of surrendering 6 hits in 5 innings, walking 1, and striking out 9 while allowing only 2 earned runs. He was relieved by Aaron Heilman who managed to allow 5 runners on base in 2 innings of relief without surrendering a single run. Go figure.
All told it was just another pointless-but-fun night of baseball. Props to Lee for his bat mastery, and to the Cubs for winning in the face of ass-hattery.
Let's take a moment to talk about what happened with the Cardinals, before moving back on to how bad Milwaukee sucks.
It's nice saving face and avoiding the sweep, especially when your team is starting to look more and more like the New York Mets.
Apparently, all a $2 trillion payroll gets you these days is an outfield of Bobby Scales, So Taguchi, and Micah Hoffpauir; a middle infield featuring Mike Fontenot and Andres Blanco; and a win for perennial All-Star Esmailin... Caridad? Whatever.
As we end the season series with the Cardinals, we have one last moment to talk about the Tale of Two Teams. Because really, on top of the storied history of this rivalry, things went really well for one team, and poorly for the other.
Call it a lesson in how to handle a bad economy in professional sports.
While Jim Hendry was giving himself (another?) heart attack this offseason. He signed Aaron Miles (after the Cardinals let him walk; RED FLAG!). He traded Mark DeRosa. He got Aaron Heilman. He signed Ryan Dempster, and of course, he signed Milton Bradley.
While on the one hand, that looks like a lot of moves, the Cardinals appear to have done more at this point in the season.
They added Matt Holliday. They grabbed John Smoltz. They acquired Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo. In the end, the Cards did just as much to reshape their team this year as the Cubs did. They just did it at the right time.
What does this mean for next year, when the economy may or may not rebound? Does it make sense to trade Milton Bradley as quickly as possible? Should we pay Chone Figgins whatever it'll take to get him here? Do we sign Doug Davis before Spring Training begins?
Or should we start the season with what we have, and let things play out?
The Bradley thing may be a non-recoverable situation. But for a team that has been weighed down by enormous contracts for the past few years, maybe it makes sense to exercise a little restraint before we let Jim start writing a bunch more checks.
Just saying. And oh yeah, go Cubs!
Record: 76 - 72
Playoff Chances: real slim
Cranky Right Fielders Suspended: 1
Worst We Can Do: Have to wait one more year. But we're good at that, aren't we!
Yesterday's one-run loss got me thinking. How many 1-run losses have the Cubs had this year where their opponents won by scoring, say, 5 runs or less in a game? (I'm using 5 as my number because most good teams will average slightly more than 5 runs per.)
The answer is 17, and of those 17 games only 2 actually came to the final score of 5-4. All others were actually games in which their opponents scored 4 runs or less. But remember -- these aren't all the times the Cubs lost to teams they held to 5 runs or less. The number 17 represents all the times they lost by 1 run, like they did yesterday.
In other words, with a half-competent offense, it's probably safe to bet that the Cubs could have won some of those games. Imagine if they'd even only won 10 of them, right now Chicago would be 85-62, right in the thick of it. And that's still assuming they would never have won any of the other games where their bats simply puttered and died. Of course, it's all spilled milk.
During yesterday's GameCast I wrote about the bad luck of Ryan Dempster, but ultimately surmised that he's been good enough against the Cardinals to win "assuming the pansy-ass Cubs offense can figure out how to hit Carpenter."
Sadly, they didn't. Dempster and Carpenter both pitched 8 innings, both allowed 8 hits, with Ryan striking out more, walking less, but unfortunately continuing in his bad habit of surrendering just a few too many homeruns in '09 -- this one to Brendan Ryan, who apparently has Dempster figured out as he collected 2 of the Cardinals' 8 hits.
It would have been another ridiculous Cubs shut-out had Jeff Baker not evened the score in the 9th with a sacrifice fly, but Carlos Marmol proved his unreliability again in the 9th by giving up 3 hits and getting only 1 out before St. Louis closed the door on the game thanks again to Brendan Ryan who singled home Mark "Why'd It Have to Again Be" DeRosa.
The Cubs all told managed 10 hits and 2 walks, failing to capitalize on 17 opportunities to drive in runs. I don't know how a manager teaches "timely" hitting -- in fact I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be something where "clutch" is an overrated, made-up statistic -- but the Cubs may need to figure something out.
Besides, much as LaTroy Hawkins taught us that good relievers sometimes cannot close, players like Corey Patterson and Sammy Sosa (particularly the 2004 versions) taught us that if clutch is an illusory statistic, then "anti-clutch" is as real as gravity. The Cubs have had there fair share in that category this year, particularly with guys like Milton Bradley.
It's true that the real idiots out there will try to argue that Milton's been great and just hasn't had as many chances to drive in runs, but the reality of it is that he's been pathetic with runners in scoring position. But we'll save that for a Monday or Tuesday article.
The Cubs collected 3 of their 7 hits and both of their 2 runs in the 1st inning yesterday, and were then shut down by John Smoltz and the Cardinals for the next 8 innings. And while Ted Lilly delivered an extremely solid 7.2 innings of work, he melted down in the 5th surrendering 2 runs -- including an RBI triple by Mark "Why Did It Have To Be" DeRosa. Then in the 9th inning, Aaron Heilman surrendered a walk-off homerun to Matt Holliday and that was all she wrote.
There's a saying in baseball about how good teams find ways to win and bad teams find ways to lose. It's a cliche because it's true, but the Cubs aren't really a bad team. They're just a not good enough team, there's a difference. And in a year that seems to belong to the Cardinals, the Cubs are busy at making sure that their fans will have this October free for other things, like vacations, football, and dentistry. Yay.
But hey -- there are teeny, tiny positives in this. Derrek Lee is batting over .300 and has more than 100 RBI. Jeff Baker has, minus a few droughts, been a worthy pickup at least for this season. Aramis Ramirez managed to come back from a serious shoulder injury to have a very productive second half. Oh, and the team got sold.
All these things are worth feeling The Positive about. But the overall play of the Cubs on the field? Not so much.
Actually that pretty well sums it up. We've been writing for a while now about how gassed Wells likely is having pitched more innings than ever before, and it seemed to take the toll on him today as he only lasted 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, 5 walks, and 5 earned runs. The funny thing about how over-looked Wells has been is that a recent ESPN article about rookie pitchers getting gassed late in the season actually omitted him on their list. Douchebags.
Offensively the Cubs nickled and dimed their way into four runs, but really the hitters just didn't seem to have it. So it goes.
Still, I'd like to see Wells pull it together for another win or two, but the likelihood of that happening is on the same level of the Cubs reaching the playoffs. Which, if you notice the tombstone, isn't something we consider to be possible at this point (sorry, Token). But hey -- we've got about 10 more Cubs 101 articles to come, including a whole whack about the Cubs of the last 3 seasons. So, yay?
A day after the Cubs beat the holy hell out of the Brewers, Milwaukee came back with a barrage of hits and runs against the soon-to-be departed Rich Harden. The Cubs surrendered 9 runs off of 13 hits, with all the runs coming over the span of 4 innings. But as bad as Harden was in being chased early, Balkin' Dave Patton was the true culprit of mediocrity in that he surrendered 4 earned runs in his 1.1 innings of work. Who wants to bet he never pitches regularly in the majors again after this season?
Other culprits of mediocrity were Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto, both of whom were responsible for errors in the third and fifth resulting in 2 unearned runs. But hey, Aramis and Geo also combined to go 3 for 9 with 2 runs scored, 2 runs driven in, and 1 homerun hit between them. So, y'know, it kind of balances out. ...sort of. In the meantime, the Rockies are on the way toward beating the Giants tonight, although they've got a long way to go before victory is assured as the game is only half over.
On a side note, I'd like to address further what has already been written about the growing Chicago hate for Carlos Zambrano, hot on the heels of hatred for Milton Bradley and, by some, Alfonso Soriano. First, while Rob and I have a split opinion on the value of Carlos, I know we both love the guy (minus his faults) and don't want him off the Cubs. We just want there to be another guy who's better heading the rotation.
But ignoring that, while I think Milton Bradley is a freaking idiot, I still believe that he'll be a Cub next year and therefore I hope he'll be a productive Cub. More to the point, I think he should be one. Hating Milton for struggling or not getting a hit every time he's got an RBI opportunity is, dare I say it, stupid.
Even worse, though, to me is the stupid hatred toward Soriano. The Fonz has demonstrated no selfishness, but instead probably has a bit of a low baseball IQ. That's not a crime worthy of hate. He's also struggled all year while battling a knee injury. Based on our shared opinion of Mark "Mary" Prior, playing hurt is an extremely admirable characteristic. And belittling his past success in '07 and '08 as "one month of hitting well" is pretty ridiculous. If the Cubs are a successful team in 2010, the massive, powerful bat of Alfonso Soriano will probably be a big reason for it. And I suspect that if his knee is repaired, then his defense should be a shade better than shitty.
So get over the Cub hate. We'd be stupid to think that Carlos, Milton, Geo, and Alfonso are happy to have sucked so much. And in the case of the Big Moose, Soto, and Sori, we'd be ignorant to forget how successful they've been not just in the past, but as recently as last season. I get that being a Cub fan means, by our nature, that we are often swimming in the negativity, but give me a freakin' break!
I have to admit I'm getting more than a little tired of the Chicago media and their stir tactics. Honest to God, if they hadn't written their "will Milton Bradley be a douche in 2009" series back in March, chances are decent that he wouldn't have been. And now Carlos is under the scope, fueling the fire that Rob has already lit here on GROTA.
With apologies to Rob -- but none to the Tribune writers -- Carlos is not a problem and does not need to be traded. But don't take my word for it -- Bruce Miles wrote this epic that very effectively points out why we're a bunch of douche-bags for criticizing Zambrano but giving passes to the other dopes who act like he does.
As for the game last night, the Cubs had the most unusual bout of offensive supremacy I've seen all year. They scored 13 runs, and 6 came from Things Other than Hits -- a sac fly by Carlos in the 4th, a bases loaded Hit by Pitch in the 6th, a fielding error in the 6th, a bases loaded walk in the 7th, a bases loaded Hit by Pitch in the 7th, and then a bases loaded walk in the 8th. Weird.
In total, the Cubs had double digits in hits -- 11 -- but, more impressively, they actually had more walks, with 12 for the day. Every Cub got on base at least once, yes Madisoncubaholic, even Milton Bradley, and 8 total Cubs had RBI.
In the meantime, Carlos had a pretty good game, but an incredibly ugly 5th inning. He let the Brewers do all their damage on 2 outs, but he would have left with having allowed 3 earned runs -- and in line for the win -- had Ryan Theriot not botched a play that would've ended the inning.
So, because Carlos had a bad inning, does that add fuel to the Trade Zambrano fire? I say no. I understand Rob's frustration about the situation, even as I question his concept of what an ace pitcher does -- and with Clemens at the top of the list, I could rattle off a long list of "aces" who do not, nor did they ever, fit his description. I understand that we all hoped, nay, expected greater things from the Big Moose in 2009, and after an on-and-off year in '08 we've now forgotten how well he pitched from '03-'07, as if he'll never be a 15 game winner again.
Anyway, with the Cubs win last night they now find themselves 5.5 games behind the Rockies in the Wild Card, and 4 games out in the loss column. Just thought I'd point that out, too.
The unluckiest pitcher on the Cubs won his 10th game this season, making him a too-little, too-late lucky bastard after all. Ryan Dempster has been beaten up pretty badly at various points this year -- surely not many of us expected Clownsevelt to be a double-digit, sub-4.00 ERA pitcher by the time September rolled around. And yet that's exactly where he's at after carrying a no-hitter into the 5th inning. Dempster went 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, walked 1, and got his ERA down to 3.84 in one swift win.
Offensively, though, it was a nail-biter. With a ridiculously crappy bullpen, I doubt many Cub fans felt safe with the 1-run lead the Cubs had until the 8th (thank you Derrek Lee for your 33rd homerun of the year hit in the 4th), and the Fukudome sacrifice fly didn't do much to create a safety buffer. And yet when Carlos Marmol pitched in the 9th, he managed to walk "only" 1 on the way toward his 13th save of the year.
At this moment, the Giants are beating the Rockies 3-0 in the 3rd, which is good except even the Giants have fewer losses than the Cubs this year. Still, it'd be better for our non-existent hopes for the Rockies and Giants to beat each other up a bit.
Scratch that ... it'd be best for the Rockies to lose every game for the rest of the year.
In another universe, the Cubs just swept the Reds, are 74-67 right now and are only 5 games behind the Rockies in the Wild Card. Then again, in that same universe I'm a flame-throwing rap star who, at this very moment, is snorting cocaine off of Eliza Dushku's ass. Since neither of those things will ever occur in this universe, though, let's just return to reality and assess what we're stuck with.
We're stuck with a ridiculous bullpen, a lefty starter who is trying his hardest to reach 15 wins for a third consecutive year, and an aging first baseman who wants to have at least one more glory year in a Cubs uniform before he eventually fades away.
Ted Lilly won his 12th today, allowing 6 hits and 0 runs while striking out 7. He was then relieved by a bullpen mired in a streak of suck. In the past week alone, the Cubs pen has thrown 24.0 innings, and they've surrendered multiple runs 5 times to the tune of a 4.50 ERA. Today's goat was John Grabow, who surrendered 2 9th inning runs.
On the offensive front, the Cubs combined for 11 hits, 3 walks, and 5 runs. The best of the best, again, was Derrek Lee who went 3 for 4 with his 32nd homerun of the season.
Tomorrow the Cubs start their 4 game series with the Brewers. Since Milwaukee has sucked -- but have a shot at finishing at .500 or better -- it should be an interesting series.
Current Record: 73-68
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 9.5 games out
Best Possible Record: 94-68
Worst Possible Record: 73-89
Record needed to win 90: 17-4
On Pace For: 84-78