Did you hear about the Cubs game? The starter posted a quality start, the bullpen gave up another run or so, and the offense was terrible. Weird, huh?
The Cubs easily should have lost yesterday's game, as their pitchers allowed 16 hits, while the offense could only manage to collect five of their own. But somehow, they found themselves down only two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out recorded in the inning.
Red reliever Nick Masset managed to get two strikes on Tyler Colvin, the second coming on a tight curve thrown up and in that Tyler refused to swing at. But rather than go back to the off-speed out of the zone, Masset threw a 93mph sinker in the middle of the zone, which Colvin managed to rap into right to score Theriot and Castro, and tie the game.
Things would get better before they got worse: a single from Mike Fontenot in the next at-bat put runners on the corners with one out. But then, the "worse" part, as DP Lee came back from the dead to end the threat on a double play. Ihatewhenmajorleaguerscan'tscorerunnersfromthirdwithlessthantwoouts!!!!!
And then the Cubs lost. So, that's what happened!
Ted Lilly was his usual self last night: he challenged Pirates hitters, gave up a home run and a walk, struck out a handful, topped out at about 86 mph on the heater, and went seven innings. And this time, he even won the game. Bravo, Theodore.
Not that the Cub offense really did all that much to get him the W, of course. But Alfonso "Streaky McStreakerson" Soriano is back into "hot mode," and hit two homers last night, which turned out to be enough to get Lilly the favorable decision. Also, kudos to Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol for their shutdown innings in relief. Each of their ERAs remains just a touch above 2.00.
Also of note: as a team, the Cubs threw 93 of their 127 pitches for strikes last night, a 73% ratio.
As far as positive offensive performances beyond Soriano's, Koyie Hill went 2-for-3 with two doubles, and Starlin Castro went 1-for-1, doubling in his only at-bat (walked intentionally and brought in a run with a sac fly in his other plate appearances).
Cubs win! Yippee skippy. What's more (less?), they play again in two hours. Go Cubs!
Three points, plus a link:
1) Our offense sucks. Who knew?
2) Grabow back to the DL. Thank the Lord for that balky knee -- and maybe it is the knee that's been causing him to pitch poorly this season, but if you look at his numbers historically (specifically walks and hits allowed regardless of handedness of batters faced, plus lack of strikeouts), then you shouldn't be surprised to see him pitching this way even if he had a clean bill of health.
3) As for Randy Wells sucking: lately, despite maintaining a good K/BB ratio, Wells has been giving up too many hits. So I liked last night's strategy of throwing more balls outside the zone; even if it led to a few more walks, at least it was something new. And in the end, the guy's line was pretty darn good: 6 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 1 ER (and yes, four walks).
Link) Last night, Cubs fans were introduced to Brian Schlitter -- well, unless of course the fan in question was already a regular GROTA reader, because if that were the case, they'd already know who the kid is! That's because Former GROTA Contributor Kyle (now with the Tribune, I do believe) interviewed Schlitter for a GROTA article not too long ago. It's worth another read now that Brian has pitched in Wrigley: http://www.goatriders.org/brian-schlitter-chicago-cubs-minor-league
So often in baseball, with its epically proportioned regular season, a team can shrug off a single game, or a series, or even a bad month. "It's just one loss," you might say, or, "That team is on fire right now," or, "The Cubs are always miserable in June."
At the same time, a single game, or inning, or play -- or in this case, 30 seconds' worth of off-field antics -- can dramatically reshape a season.
It's fitting that Carlos Zambrano's latest meltdown -- the one that may well be his last in a Cub uniform, if standard Chicago media outlets are to be believed -- came on a weekend where the Cubs got their first taste of Kurt's dreaded Number of Death, as the Bears in Blue momentarily went ten games below .500 for the season. As Kurt went on to suggest, these latest events may finally bring about the changing of the guard that this team appears to need so badly.
Having said that, there were some bright spots for the Cubs against the White Sux this weekend.
Take the starting rotation -- that is, the pitchers that comprise the Cubs' starting rotation as of today. Following Ted Lilly's successful bounceback in Seattle, three of the Cubs' other four starters -- Carlos Silva, Ryan Dempster, and Tom "The Phoenix from the Ashes" Gorzelanny -- looked good, combining for 16 strikeouts to just three walks in 16.1 innings pitched.
The Cubs' pair of young, potentially star-powered position players impressed, as well. Starlin Castro went 3-for-6 on the weekend and, perhaps more importantly, didn't strike out once. And Tyler Colvin hit a home run off of a left-handed pitcher (and it was a decent one at that in John Danks), going 3-for-9 on the weekend. Also, speaking of young Cub position players, Geo Soto went 3-for-4 today, and while his .259 average may not impress you, his .398 on-base percentage should.
On the farm, the Cubs have promoted some prospects to higher levels, most notably moving Brett Jackson to Double A Tennessee. So, yeah, the youth movement is on, and it is going pretty damn well. It will be interesting to see how many long time Cubs -- including the 29-year old Carlos Zambrano -- are kept around to see it through.
The Cubs scored three runs last night! WOW!
Of course, they couldn't do it in just nine. The team ended up needing 13 innings, topped off by a leadoff walk from Alfonso Soriano in the final frame (he'd be brought home by a Marlon Byrd single). Also, much thanks to Mariners starter Felix Hernandez for hitting Xavier Nady with a pitch in the seventh, and then allowing him to advance to 2nd on a wild pitch, all so CHAD THE MAN TRACY could drive in the second Cub run.
And then there was the pitching. If this morning, you woke up, read the box score, and immediately splashed a full glass of ice water into your own face to assure you of your sanity, I wouldn't have blamed you: last night's W went to JOHN GRABOW, and Tom Gorzelanny got the one-out save, after BOB HOWRY got the first two outs of the bottom of the 13th. Wacky stuff!
Ted Lilly started the game and pitched rather effectively, allowing one earned run over six innings, nabbing six K's, and allowing just five hits, along with zero walks. Carlos Marmol did his best to make the game interesting, walking the bases loaded in the 10th, but he also struck out the side to preserve the tie. And Andrew Cashner's scoreless streak is over; his ERA has now skyrocketed to 0.87.
In short: The Cubs still suck, but at least we know how to win every once in a while.
Has the league finally figured Randy Wells out?
Wells has never struck many batters out, and he doesn't walk too many, either. He's a control guy that pounds the corners with pitches that move, hoping to get lots of ground balls into the gloves of his defenders. In 2009, he was able to do that with great success, posting a 47.9 GB%.
Unfortunately, Randy has been allowing many more base hits lately. In his last six starts (including an appearance against the Cardinals in which he was unable to record an out), Randy has allowed 45 hits in 28.1 innings pitched.
I know what you're thinking: a ground ball pitcher allowing more base hits must mean Randy's BABIP allowed is out of whack. And indeed it is; this year, Wells has a .361 BABIP allowed, compared to last year's .294.
But it's not ground balls that are turning into hits; it's squared-up line drives. Randy's line drive percentage is up nearly 40% this year relative to 2009, and now stands at 24.7% -- which puts him at the top of the leaderboard among qualified pitchers.
Curiously, however, Wells isn't the only NL Central pitcher to see his LD% spike up this season. The same thing has happened to Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo, whose LD% stands at 23.1%.
So if batted ball statistics are to be considered useful, how is Gallardo managing a 2.59 ERA this season while Randy's ERA is up at 5.21?
The answer likely lies in LOB%, or strand rate. For Yovani, 20.9% of the base runners he allows come around to score; for Randy, that number is more than doubled -- 44% of the batters that reach base against him eventually score.
Will Randy's strand rate come down? Convention says yes; historical data shows that LOB% rates tend to be closer to Gallardo's rate than Wells' over the course of a season for most major league pitchers. But with recent reports about Larry Rothschild working with Randy on his mechanics with runners on, I'm not so sure this is something that will just go away as Wells pitches more innings.
Oh yeah, and about last night's game: Cliff Lee is really good, Tyler Colvin is pretty great too, and the Cubs are bad. Boom, game set match. Now go watch the World Cup.
The hundred million dollar Cubs offense -- we'll just call them El Juggernaut for short -- capitalized on a weak Seattle team last night, and managed to drub up 6 hits and 3 walks, scoring an undeniably impressive 0 runs in the process.
Wait ... six hits? Three walks? Seriously, folks. C'mon!
These Cubs are just about as impressive as the last few rag-tag efforts of the Dusty Baker era. They are just another shining example of what happens when you give hundreds of millions of dollars to a GM with a baseball IQ of about 80, who, like a magpie, is attracted to the Bright and Shiny rather than the talented and enduring.
Sorry, but Bright and Shiny does not win championships. Neither do the Cubs. The Chicago offense wasted the otherwise impressive performance of Ryan Dempster, who threw a rare complete game loss last night -- he went 8 innings, struck out 8 batters, reduced his ERA to 3.56, and dropped to 5-6 on the season for his efforts.
This comes hot on the heels of talk that Lou might be gassed out as a manager, that Ryne Sandberg may be clamoring to replace him, and that the team is hopefully just a busy week away from being deconstructed. It can't happen fast enough for me, although I continue to even mistrust Hendry's ability to firesale appropriately.
Nevertheless, I'll just end today's recap with an unrelated thought -- Ryne Sandberg should not manage the Cubs. Unless his autobiography was ghost written by Dusty Baker, then Sandberg has a concerningly similar baseball philosophy to the "you gotta earn it" mentality that Baker espoused. Therefore, here's to hoping that, as Lou and Jim leave, true baseball men fill their slots.
Otherwise, it'll just be another half decade of Bright and Shiny baseball in Chicago...
I owe you two recaps: one for a blowout loss, and one for a blowout win. Let's go with the revisionist's take on the weekend, and only highlight the Cubs that impressed.
- Carlos Zambrano. Seven innings, eight hits, just one walk, and seven strikeouts. Brilliant. This is what we want from our bull-like horse-pitcher.
(I guess that makes him a minotaur? Kurt, photoshop please?)
- Andrew Cashner, Carlos Marmol, and - yes - John Grabow each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Marmol struck out two of the four batters he faced.
- Derrek Lee went 2-for-7 over the two days, driving in four runs.
- Actually, Tyler Colvin was the only other Cub to drive in more than one run, with two RBIs on Sunday via pinch-hit single. (He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Saturday, but who's counting?)
- Ryan Theriot went 3-for-4 on Sunday, and 0-for-1 on Saturday.
- Others: Byrd, 3-for-10 on the weekend; Soriano, 2-for-5; Baker, 2-for-6; and Carlos Zambrano went 2-for-4.
The real lesson here: Jered Weaver would light up the NL, and Joe Saunders is not that good. And the Cubs are, somehow someway, still kinda sorta almost a team in contention except not really.
Also: think anyone wants to trade for Lilly or DLee as of right now?
World Cup is on, so I recommend you watch that. Also, the Cubs played last night, but they lost, so I wouldn't think about it too much.
In a nutshell: Carlos Silva gave up three runs over six innings, and came out after throwing just 70 pitches, forcing Bob Howry to come on in relief, who was bad enough already (allowed a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick), but had his appearance made worse by two Jeff Baker errors (third time a Cub has committed two errors in one inning), and while the Cubs tried to fight back (three-run bomb from Tyler Colvin in the ninth), it wasn't enough.
So that sucks. But anyways, go Cubs.
The Cubs won their series against the Athletics last night behind the bat of Kosuke Fukudome who, after having to wait until the eighth inning for an at-bat, eventually both scored the tying run and later drove in the winning run.
Randy Wells pitched seven pretty decent innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk, while also collecting six strikeouts. And fortunately, it only took him 128 pitches to do so.
(Grumblegrumble... EVERY DAY this team feels more and more like it's being managed by Dusty Baker instead of Lou Piniella... grumblegrumble)
Andrew Cashner was the first guy out of the 'pen to relieve Wells, and he did well in his first inning of work. But a leadoff single advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a groundout, forcing Lou to bring in the Strikeout Machine That Is Carlos Marmol to prevent the Athletics from scoring the go-ahead run.
The plan worked, albeit without anyone striking out against Marmol, and the Cubs had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, which they did, as Geo Soto walked, Castro bunted him over, Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot walked to load the bases, and then Kosuke singled to drive in Soto.
Heads up to the Athletics: you deserve to lose any game in which you walk both Koyie Hill AND Ryan Theriot while the game is tied.
And for today's Young Cub Update: Starlin Castro has a four-game hitting streak going on.
Good times, go Cubs!