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 Pale Hosers come into this series having won 9 in a row. They just dispatched the formerly red-hot Atlanta Braves three games to none, so while the first few wins came against awful teams (like Pittsburgh – who the Cubs can’t beat), the last 3 wins were no joke. While the offense for the White Sox still probably isn’t good enough, the pitching sure has been. They’ve allowed 12 runs in the last 6 games. Also – the Cubs can’t score any runs. This could be a recipe for disaster. As bad as this season’s been for the Northsiders, I sure don’t know if I can handle a sweep at the hands of the White Sox. We’ll have to see what happens. On to the pitching matchups.
Friday June 25th: Carlos Zambrano (3-5, 5.10) vs. Jake Peavy (6-5, 5.07)
In 2008, this would have been a matchup of two of the best pitchers the NL had to offer. This afternoon, it’s a matchup of two overpaid guys with bloated ERA’s over 5. To be fair – both have been pitching much better of late, especially in their last starts. On Sunday, Z went 7 strong, allowing 8 hits, more importantly only walking 1, in getting the victory. The game was a laugher, a 12-1 win, the last time the Cubs scored more than 3 runs – and Z could have got the win even if he’d pitched poorly. It was good to see him bear down, and pitch like the Zambrano we gave the big extension too. Peavy had an absolutely disastrous start to the 2010 season. His last time out he fired a 3-hit shutout against the Nationals. Apparently his fastball had more life in that game, and his stuff is hands down better now than it was 6 weeks ago. If that continues, he’s gonna beat the Cubs today.
Saturday June 26th: Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01) vs. Freddy Garcia (8-3, 4.85)
Silva got his start pushed back a couple days due to injury, so he gets matched up tomorrow evening against Sweaty Freddy..an exciting matchup over beefy Venezuelans who 12 months ago were thought to be completely washed up. Now both of them have 8 wins and are doing a solid job of holding down spots in pretty decent rotations. This baseball, it’s a crazy game, huh? Silva was supposed to start against his former teammates in Seattle, but the injury that knocked him out of his last start against the Angels got him pushed back. Last time out, Garcia gave up 3 runs in 7 innings. In his last 5 starts, Garcia has failed to go at least 7 innings only once. This will be the Cubs best chance at a W, if Silva’s healthy and effective after the hamsting issues.
Sunday June 27th: Ryan Dempster (5-6, 3.56) vs. John Danks (7-5, 3.23)
Dempster had one bad inning in Seattle, allowing a 2-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez, and that was it – but it was enough in a 2-0 Cubs loss. Dempster’s been solid all year for the Cubs, and he’ll need to continue that on Sunday against the lefty Danks, who’s been real good for the Pale Hose in 2010, lightyears better than he was last season. He’s allowed just 6 HR in 14 starts and his WHIP is a tidy 1.17. He beat the Braves on Tuesday in his last start. We’ll need a combination of good pitching and hitting to beat Danks.
I’m feelin the Cubs dropping 2 of 3 here. Picking us to win Saturday is the easy call…so I’ll say Z comes up big today, and we snap the Sox’ winning streak at 9, but then drop the 2 weekend games. You guys feelin the love?
Not even Carlos Silva could stop the Cubs' most recent slide.
He certainly tried his best, and pitched well enough to win for most teams: seven innings, six strikeouts, and just two runs allowed. Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol each contributed a scoreless inning of relief to the Cubs' pitching effort, as well.
But Mark Buehrle and the White Sox were better. And now, in two games, the Cubs have lost a 10-5 shootout and a 2-1 pitcher's duel.
Strange that the Cubs were only able to score one run in their more recent loss when the leadoff man went 3-for-5 and their cleanup hitter was 3-for-4 -- except, not really strange at all, because this is the Cubs we're talking about.
Speaking of which: this is what Rob and I are talking about when we don't buy your optimistic analyses, Sayers. Of course, I encourage you to continue carrying the banner for us all, and I appreciate your enthusiasm, I truly do. But with Derrek Lee going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, Alfonso Soriano posting the same line, and Chad Tracy striking out in both of his at-bats, where do you see the unlucky break for the Cubs? It's one thing to aggregate stats and say the 10% should really be a 40%, but I see nothing on the field of play to suggest the Cubs are suffering from just some bad breaks.
And now the Cubs are eight games back from .500. We're about to be enter "Root for one player" mode, where instead of getting pissed off every other day about another stoopid loss, you pick your favorite guy and track his stats independently.
Game on ESPN tonight. Can we prevent the sweep?
The Cubs and Sox will now play their annual interleague series (plural) with the Crosstown Cup on the line, an actual, literal trophy that will go to the team winning the majority of the six match-ups.
I never cared about the back-and-forth, intense, heated games that the Cubs and Sox have played ever since 1997, but I will now! A trophy, you say? Will it be gold? Will the players be allowed to carry it around with them for a day like they do with the Stanley Cup? Does Tom Ricketts have anything better he could do with his time?
And here's the worst thing: if the teams split the six games, as they have done four of the 10 years in which they've played a home-and-away format, the team that wins the last game gets the trophy. How is that fair? I say, for this year, give it to the team who outscores the other (if there's a tie), and in the future, when they split 3-3, the team that "owns" the trophy simply keeps it. Until the other team can take it away by winning a season series, it stays wherever it is.
But now I've spent a full two paragraphs analyzing this absurd, Little League-style award that none of the players will give a damn about, and that makes me angry. This isn't technically a BAD idea, just a pointless one. I hope I never hear someone utter the words "We won the Crosstown Cup!" even if it's a Cubs fan saying it.
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Let's be honest for a second. The Chicago Cubs -- versions 2007 and 2008 -- would have never made the playoffs had it not been for Alfonso Soriano. In the first two years with the team, despite nagging injuries and cold starts to the season, Soriano was an offensive sparkplug and a defensive secret weapon in left field. It's true that he would bungle the occassional catch -- and I believe that that's easily fixable if Lou spoke with him about using both hands -- but Soriano's cannon arm effectively ended more than one threat when players tried to test him. This season, though, he's been a disaster. He started out with the hottest bat on the team, but probably since May it's been a long, unending slump. He's dropped more than his fair share of fly balls and people are worrying that in the third of his eight-year contract he has already degraded into the Bust Status that he's inevitably headed toward no matter what. Or -- I know it's crazy -- maybe there's more going on with him than we know about. Perhaps his knee injury -- something that has become increasingly noticable in the past month or so -- has affected his offensive and defensive game. Maybe his inevitable bout with surgery this winter will repair these problems and he'll revert to his former role of offensive juggernaut next year. Or you can just declare him a bust, voice your hatred for a guy who has been playing hurt all year long -- you might as well wrongly toss in terms like "selfish" and "team cancer" while you're at it -- and act like the kind of blame-assigning douchebag who would also probably turned on Derrek Lee for going into a slump when his daughter went blind in '06. Either way, coupled with the defensive bunglings of Jake Fox, Soriano's outfield error yesterday resulted in a Cubs loss. Ryan Dempster -- known also as The Unluckiest Pitcher On Earth -- went 7 innings and allowed 0 earned runs (but 3 unearned). All told it was a route, and the Cubs offense had its belly rubbed and was put to sleep -- they managed only 6 hits and 0 walks. Just remember that this was all Alfonso Soriano's fault.
Let's be honest for a second. The Chicago Cubs -- versions 2007 and 2008 -- would have never made the playoffs had it not been for Alfonso Soriano. In the first two years with the team, despite nagging injuries and cold starts to the season, Soriano was an offensive sparkplug and a defensive secret weapon in left field. It's true that he would bungle the occassional catch -- and I believe that that's easily fixable if Lou spoke with him about using both hands -- but Soriano's cannon arm effectively ended more than one threat when players tried to test him.
This season, though, he's been a disaster. He started out with the hottest bat on the team, but probably since May it's been a long, unending slump. He's dropped more than his fair share of fly balls and people are worrying that in the third of his eight-year contract he has already degraded into the Bust Status that he's inevitably headed toward no matter what.
Or -- I know it's crazy -- maybe there's more going on with him than we know about. Perhaps his knee injury -- something that has become increasingly noticable in the past month or so -- has affected his offensive and defensive game. Maybe his inevitable bout with surgery this winter will repair these problems and he'll revert to his former role of offensive juggernaut next year. Or you can just declare him a bust, voice your hatred for a guy who has been playing hurt all year long -- you might as well wrongly toss in terms like "selfish" and "team cancer" while you're at it -- and act like the kind of blame-assigning douchebag who would also probably turned on Derrek Lee for going into a slump when his daughter went blind in '06.
Either way, coupled with the defensive bunglings of Jake Fox, Soriano's outfield error yesterday resulted in a Cubs loss. Ryan Dempster -- known also as The Unluckiest Pitcher On Earth -- went 7 innings and allowed 0 earned runs (but 3 unearned).
All told it was a route, and the Cubs offense had its belly rubbed and was put to sleep -- they managed only 6 hits and 0 walks. Just remember that this was all Alfonso Soriano's fault.
Alright, I didn't actually see the game today as the Gay Pride Parade conflicted, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing to say about a 6-0 loss. If any other Riders would like to add to this "recap", feel free. Instead of a classic recap, I thought I'd pass along some stat fun.
The Cubs offense has been bad. Real bad. And, of course, this is
nothing new to our loyal readers, but I thought I'd just throw out a
few numbers to highlight the tremendous badness of the Cubs' offense.
Why do I do this? Most likely because I hate our readers and want them
to suffer. Or, at least, that my current working theory. Anyway,
here's a list of notable figures:
- Abraham Lincoln
- Joe Cocker
Hmm, not as elucidating as I had hoped. Sorry about that. Let's try a list of stats generated by the woeful Cubs' offense:
- The Cubs have exactly two starters with OPS's above average: Lee
and Fukudome. Yes, despite all Fukudome's efforts to destroy his
leading performance indicators, he still has been above average for
the season. Everyone else? Below average. And if you take out
Theriot (OPS+ of 97), nobody's within 10% of league average
- Of the Cubs non-starters, only Jake Fox, Reed Johnson and...Bobby
Scales have been above average. That's one guy who's been up for a
week, one guy who's on the DL, and one guy who's performing for
farmers. Aaron Miles? He has an OPS+ of 30. 30. Thirty.
Thiiiiiirrrrrtttty. Hey Aaron, the suck store called and they're
running out of you.
- But that's okay, because Ryan Freel's their all time best seller
with an OPS+ of -22. NEGATIVE TWENTY TWO. I don't even understand
these numbers but I'm pretty sure that translates to a VORP of GO HOME.
- Ted Lilly has hit better than Ryan Freel.
- Honestly, so have I.
Get well, Aramis. You are missed. A lot.
So there's your recap. If anyone else who like to share their favorite The Cubs' Offense Sucks moment, feel free to chime in.
None of today's pitchers were particularly effective. Sucks. Dempster threw 104 pitches, 55 for strikes. That means he threw a lot of balls--49, to be exact. (See what I did there? Subtraction is fun!)
I guess the hitting was pretty good, though. Remember that game where the Cubs had eleven hits, seven walks, and three runs? In today's game, the Cubs had fewer hits, less than half the walks--and more than twice the runs. Something about timely hitting, maybe, since the Cubs only had one extra-base hit (a double from Soriano).
At least Marmol didn't walk anybody? Eh. Whatever.
Congratulations, Kurt. Go Cubs!
News flash - if you start a new job somewhere and before your first day all your new co-workers are claiming that you won't work out there, that you will be a problem, and that it will ultimately end badly, then you're in a lot of trouble. If, on your first week you accidentally break the espresso machine, nobody will be surprised. If you nearly come to blows with the mail guy because of a screw-up, everybody will have seen it coming.
In other words, maybe we've made Milton into this monster.
Blame Bradley for his past, and for his "the world is against me" attitude, and for reading his own press and anticipating the boos. But you are a dirty liar if you say you weren't anticipating them, either.
Still, the Cubs won. Jake Fox went 3 for 4 with a double and a homer. Geovany Soto went 2 for 4 on his quest to bat .420. The bullpen was a little shaky but Randy Wells got his second win a lot easier than it took to get his first.
But Bradley has shown us that he is not able to stand up to the pressure. Chicago is not, nor has it ever been a land of loving fans and their losers. The atmosphere there can be great when the Cubs are winning, but Cub fans would turn on their own mothers if she was on the team and batting .220. Nobody -- except maybe Lou -- is immune.
Milton's not immune, either. But I don't think he's the virus they are painting him out to be. He has my sympathy for now, my patient understanding, but let's be honest. If he keeps up with the floundering he will get nothing from me but scorn. Milton, it's time to put on your man pants. Grow the f!_!(k up, kid.
Randy Wells (1-3, 2.57 ERA) vs. Jose Contreras (2-6, 5.23 ERA)
Here we go again. The Cubs win four in a row, and follow that up with four straight losses. During that time, the Cubs have only lost 1 game in the standings so how. IF there is any saving grace it is that the entire NL Central is pretty bad right now.
The Cubs travel to "The Cell" this afternoon for a chance at redemption, among other things. I don't have much to say thanks to a paper I have due. I never thought going back to Grad School would take so much time.
Randy Wells picked up a win in his last start, so maybe he can find a way to win two in a row.
Jake Fox - I say Fox stays in the lineup for a few days. Just a hunch, but he can hit.
Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano - Both of the slump guys got two hits yesterday. Maybe they can find two more hits today.
Milton Bradley - Lou's finally had enough and has benched Milton for a few days.
The Cubs are in bad need of winning streak, so why not today?
Looks like Jason didn't get 'er done this morning (I blame Rob) and I have no time to do it. So, graphics only ... feel free to add comments to make this worth its existence
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