Monday, September 21, 2009

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Hope you are all enjoying the new site, I know some links on the sidebar don't work right now. I'll have them fixed tomorrow afternoon. Go ahead and join up the forums too, where I'll put any extra stuff I have.

Cubs win tonight in a pretty dramatic game while the Sox fall to the Royals.

Cubs win. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox lose. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Milton suspended for season. Reaction from players. More.

Premature Cardinal celebrations. In brief. On deck.

Peavy feeling fine after start. Hudson to start vs. Twins.

Royals squeak by. Sox in brief. Struggle with math. On deck.

Cubs Win Despite Dirty Play by Cardinals

Going into the bottom of the ninth I fully expected the Cardinals to win on their third walkoff in as many days, but the baseball gods had other thoughts after Matt Holliday's dirty slide almost ended the game in the ninth. Ryan Ludwick hit a double play ball to Andres Blanco, Blanco tossed to Theriot who made a bad throw to Derrek Lee signaling the end of the game. However the second base umpire ruled that Holliday was out of the basepath and that the runner at first was out.

This meant the game would continue and the Cubs were able to win in the 11th on a two-run homer by Jake Fox, no doubt a shot at St. Louis from the baseball gods. The Cubs added another run on a wild pitch by Brad Thompson to make it 6-3. Carlos Marmol came in and worked a perfect ninth to end the game and keep the Cardinals magic number at 4.

Carlos Zambrano came out and had a dynamite start on the same day fellow whipping boy Milton Bradley ended his Cubs career. Z went out and threw six innings of five hit two run ball. He did walk three, but struck out six, an effort that deserved a win. Still the Cubs bullpen didn't feel like giving Z a win as Kevin Gregg came in a blew the game for the seventh time of the season.

Sean Marshall allowed a hit to the only batter he faced and needed Aaron Heilman to bail him out before giving way to Esmilian Caridid. Caridad is close to clinching a spot in the bullpen next season, and hopefully gets a start before the season ends so we can see his entire repertoire.

One final note about the Cardinals. No doubt they are a good team, but manager Tony LaRussa's act is really bothering me at this point. Tony flipped out after Z grazed Brendan Ryan with a pitch early in the game dropping a few F-bombs and stalking around the dugout. I know LaRussa and the Cardinals consider Z to be only a notch above the devil, but he really needs to cool it. Z didn't even come close to purposely hitting Ryan and LaRussa didn't need to overreact like that.

Good, fun win tonight. Next up is another series against the Brewers, this time in Milwaukee. I'll have a preview up in the morning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Milton Bradley Suspended for Season

With this Milton Bradley's season, and most likely his Cubs career have come to an end. Jim Hendry sent Milton home and seems fed up with some comments Milton made to the media yesterday regarding the team being negative and him not enjoying his time here.

Honestly this doesn't shock me, and I can't really defend Milton's latest comments if the organization doesn't like them. I think a lot of what he said is true, especially since he's been baited by the media, but I can understand the Cubs being pissed off. Sadly this means Milton will be playing elsewhere next season, and most likely the Cubs will get nothing more than a David Patton-like prospect.

To those that hate Bradley, congratulations you've succeed in running him out of town. Enjoy Micah Hoffpauir in right field next season. I fully admit Milton has been a disappointment this season, but he could have flourished next season. He isn't the reason this team struggled and he shouldn't be the scapegoat the media is making him. Oh well, it's too bad Hendry will overreact this offseason, but I do admit Milton brings a lot of this onto itself.

Recap up after the loss and sweep tonight.

The Cubs Seem To Know Samardzija isn't Good

The season is winding down and any playoff hopes being long gone, it seems like 2010 preparations should be made. That means giving some guys who might help in the future more playing time, giving some pitching prospects a start or two, and shutting down some banged up veterans. Why is it that the Cubs are doing none of that?

The main case here is former top prospect Jeff Samardzija. The Shark has been discussed by me quite a bit not only for how disappointing he's been this season in AAA and the majors, but also for the way the Cubs seem to jerk him around. They make him a relief pitcher in the big leagues, then have him start in the minors. His development suggests that he's better off in the bullpen, but his salary and expectations demand he start. What I don't understand is why the Cubs aren't having him start a couple times before the season is over. I've already written at length about this, but the choice still boggles my mind. Why call him up if he's just going to mop up in blowouts?

Now don't confuse my desire to see Samardzija start with my thinking he's going to be successful, I just think he needs to be given the chance to start a few times so the Cubs know why his future his. Recently though I've started to think the Cubs already know what they are going to do with him, and he isn't in the future plans much. Tom Gorzelanny is taking over the slot that Rich Harden occupied, and Lou mentioned that Esmilian Caridad was his second choice to get a start.

This Sun-Times article barely even references Samardzija other than to say "They Cubs also want to find a spot start for Jeff Samardzija". For a guy who is supposed to be the future of the rotation, it sure seems like the Cubs don't care for him very much. I think all involved realize that Samardzija will probably never develop enough pitches to become a real major league starter, and that his control issues prevent him from ever being a dominant reliable reliever.

With a number of strong pitching prospects moving up the organization, Samardzija will soon be just another failed Cubs prospect, albeit one who was given quite a bit of money. The organization will look bad for giving so much money to a guy simply because of his local roots and big name. All will look worse, and the real shame of it is Samardzija would have been a perfect guy to trade this past offseason had he lacked a no-trade clause. Perhaps he can be convinced to waive it this winter and be moved in some sort of deal while he still has a hint of value.

Mid-Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Cubs lose on another walkoff for St. Louis, the Sox win in Jake Peavy's debut.

Cubs lose. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox win. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Big Z! No excuses. Smokies lose in playoffs.

Milton Bradley doesn't like Chicago. Personally I don't blame him.

Normally I don't link Phil Rogers, but this Ryno piece is interesting.

Carrasco waiting to get in rotation. Ears aren't working. Sox in Brief.

A good start for next season. Offense erupts for Peavy.

DeRo open to returning. Almost finished. Cubs in Brief.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Matt Holliday's Walk Off Homer Beats Cubs

There really isn't any other way to say it. Tonight the Cubs received the typical great start from Ted Lilly who worked 7 2/3 innings of 2-run ball before being pulled. The offense came out and scored two runs in the first inning, things looked really good.

A funny thing happened though, Lou Piniella tempted the fates one too many times. First by bringing in Kevin Gregg to face Albert Pujols, and then by bringing in Aaron Heilman to face Matt Holliday. Gregg was able to get Pujols to hit a grounder to shortstop, but Heilman wasn't as successful. He last one batter, Matt Holliday, who lifted a walk off homer to right field. Game over, Lou pays for using his two worst relief pitchers to the two best hitters the Cardinals have.

I'll give Ted Lilly tons of credit, he was awesome tonight and has always been great against St. Louis. His ability to dominate that lineup should give Phillies fans lots of hope should they meet the Cards in the playoffs. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are both better left handed pitchers than Ted, and both are looming. That should give St. Louis fans nightmares.

The offense did a good job in the first inning, or more realistically Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez were good. They combined with Kosuke Fukudome to hit three doubles in a row, scoring the only two Cubs runs of the day. It looked good then, but John Smoltz overcame some major fastball issues to pitch a really good game. The Cards bullpen was solid today too aided a bit by our favorite shortstop.

Ryan Theriot went 2-5 today. That was the good. He struck out three times and was picked off first in the ninth to end the inning. That was the bad. Theriot also misplayed a grounder late in the game, something that didn't matter in the outcome but was still frustrating. Not only is Theriot a bad fielder, but his baserunning has become down right horrific and cost his team the game tonight.

No links in the morning, early tailgate and all. They will be back Sunday morning. Enjoy the game tomorrow, though I would advise some college football watching instead.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cubs-Cards Preview: Try and Not Get Swept

This morning's links post was the 500th post in TCB history. Kind of blew off that meaningless milestone, I'll have to invent something better for 1,000.

The Cubs move down I-55 to take on bitter rival St. Louis in a series that at one point was supposed to mean something but now is just an excuse for Cardinal fans to mock me. I would really prefer the Cubs not get swept, but with the way the Cardinals moved their rotation around for us it doesn't look good.

Friday- Ted Lilly (12-8 3.05) vs. John Smoltz (3-6 6.53)
This represents the Cubs best chance to win as noted badass and Cardinal beater Ted Lilly faces off against an old retread who has a bum shoulder. Ted is continuing his effort to lower his season ERA below 3, though he hasn't been quite as good on the road. Still Ted has been pretty good about shutting down the Cardinals lineup since coming to the Cubs. This also serves as an important game for St. Louis because Ted is a preview of the Cliff Lee-Cole Hamels monster looming in the playoffs.
Smoltz came to St. Louis and made two solid starts before struggling his last few outings and having shoulder issues. For some reason this game represents a lot for Cardinal fans and that pressure falls on Smoltz's shoulder. That bum shoulder. If his control isn't there the Cubs can go nuts, if it is we might have some issues.

Saturday- Ryan Dempster (10-8 3.84) vs. Chris Carpenter (16-4 2.45)
Dempster had his best outing of the season against the Brewers this week and led to me praising him. Hopefully he has just as good of stuff this time out against a lineup where he can be victimized with his bad control. He has started three times against the Cardinals this season and hasn't earned a win yet. Interesting stat the Cubs made up- Dempster and Smoltz are the only two pitchers to have 3 straight 20-save seasons followed by two 10 win starting seasons.
Chris Carpenter is still defying his arm issues and pitching this late into the season, though his arm did look tired when he got lit up last start. Rather than give him some extra rest with the division in hand, the Cards are calling on him to try and beat their rivals. Hopefully we can beat him up some more and see if he is really able to last until mid-October.

Sunday- Carlos Zambrano (8-6 3.94) vs. Adam Wainwright (18-8 2.59)
Big Z has had great success against the Cardinals before but the last few years the wheels have fallen off. He still gets lots of them out, and has been good against Pujols when not giving up homers to him. Big Z is really having a tough season with the media and his own head, I would recommend Andres Blanco starting at short this game to prevent Theriot from pissing off Z.
Adam Wainwright is a Cy Young possibility who is coming off a real tough loss. Wainwright is being given the start on the big stage, a stage he already dominated the Cubs on once this year. Really I see no way the Cubs win this game, but hopefully they can take a hit to his ERA. He won't win the Cy Young anyway while Tim Lincecum is still in the NL.

Hitters to watch
Albert Pujols- .333/.450/.689/1.139 47 HR 127 RBI 197 OPS+
There really isn't much to say about Pujols. He's a great hitter who is having his best season ever, however allow me instead to give some perspective. Last night we were thinking about how you would pitch to Albert in the playoffs and the point was made that he makes more outs than get does get on base. A very true point, but in a four year stretch from 2001 to 2004 Barry Bonds didn't do that, in fact 18 times in baseball history that hasn't happened. 18 times, wow.

Matt Holliday- .311/.389/.522/.910 23 HR 102 RBI 143 OPS+
Holliday is the piece that the Cardinal fans really wanted and he is producing. He has been hitting the crap out of the ball and protecting Pujols in the lineup. He is also a free agent after this season and will most likely be taking big money from the Red Sox or Yankees.

This series is going to be an ass kicking for the ages. The Cardinals are a better team than the Cubs and have their two best pitchers going. The Cubs will be lucky to win one game, and will likely get swept away. At least they can't clinch.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Cubs and Sox both lose making the already dead playoff hopes even more dead. Fun times.

Cubs lose. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox lose. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Harden done for 09? He says no. Cubs need to improve defense.

Ceremony for medal recipients. Bradley leaves early with bad knee.

Cubs embark to face Cards. Lou wants staff back. Dunston blocks sale.

Peavy trade not defined by this year. AJ gets better. Rare Sox feats.

Sox AA team having nice season. Ozzie pissed. Sox time running out.

Floyd missing next start. Shut down? Buehrle might get shut down.

Lou's bad day. Strange postgame locker room.

More on Ozzie's anger. Recap. On deck. Ozzie promises lineup changes.

Prospects get a start? Recap. Next up Cards. More on Milton. Will we ever win.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just Pathetic Sox, Pathetic

There is a perfect example of why this is not the year for the Sox. A game is there to win, Sox choke it away. A series is there to win, Sox choke it away. 2 games are there to be gained, Sox choke it away.

In the last 6 games the Sox have had an opportunity to pick up 4 games on the Tigers. In those days, the Sox end up picking up 0. 4 of 6 was not unfathomable on this trip. 4.5 games back (and even less if they really wanted to) is not insurmountable. But 6.5 with this few games left leaves the Sox all but a 6 game sweep from moving on this year.

Peavy back Saturday. No Grienke. Twinks vs. Tigers. This is a must sweep. I should be giving up hope, but I'm not.

Cubs Lose in a Strange, Strange Game

It seems like any time the Cubs are about to head out on the road something bizarre happens at Wrigley Field. Today we reached yet another boiling point for the season in the Cubs 7-4 loss to the Brewers. Randy Wells took the start today and was back to his dumb pitching ways, he took an at-bat off against Dave Bush and it resulted in a Jody Gerut grand slam.

Not that it really was Well's fault to begin with since his season should be over like Rich Harden's is. Wells is nearly 50 innings over his career high innings total and his pitching has fallen off because his arm has never been used this much. The rookie of the year is gone thanks to his recent string of crap starts anyway, so the Cubs have no excuse to keep him active. If they really want him to pitch some more then he can move to the bullpen and get a couple more appearances.

The offense was actually not terrible today, Micah Hoffpauir had a two run double to make the game 5-4, but when the pitching sucks the offense doesn't always matter. I'd get up in arms about not scoring any runs and not beating up on Dave Bush, who is a bad pitcher, but Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker both started today. Koyie Hill was the catcher. These aren't names of great offense performance. It was getaway day so I don't blame Lou for resting some big guys.

The cause of the postgame hysteria in the media was Milton Bradley leaving the game after getting a hit in the sixth inning. Milton felt something in his knee and didn't want to hurt himself further. Naturally the media (see Paul Sullivan) made this the focus of the game and attacked Milton in the locker room with questions. Once again the media makes Milton the story when other things are going on.

Next up is St. Louis, who has a magic number of 8 right now. They can't clinch this weekend but they can sure come close. They shuffled their rotation so that Smoltz, Wainwright, and Carpenter face us. Nice to know they care that much. I'll have a preview up in the morning for what is sure to be a disaster.

Rich Harden The Mystery Continues

After yet another problematic start for Rich Harden last night his impending free agent contract took another hit. This time his three inning 78 pitch effort probably cost him a three year deal, and possibly even a two year one. I maintain that the Cubs should shut Harden down for the rest of the season, the guy isn’t capable of pitching effectively large amount of innings. That is the evil you accept when you take Harden on your team, and an evil that looks more and more like the Cubs problem everyday.

At this point it would be irresponsible for Harden to turn down arbitration from the Cubs. It would give Harden another one-year contract at about $10 million. Harden and his agent may want to go out and get more money, but considering the way Harden has pitched this season staying with the Cubs might be the best move. The question is do the Cubs also want to continue with Harden?

I consider pitchers like Harden to be poison to a team. When he is throwing strikes there isn’t a better pitcher in the game, his changeup is unhittable and his fastball blows hitters away. He racks up strikeouts and pitches, but his stuff is so effective that nobody really cares. The problem is when Harden doesn’t have control. The fastball looks more hittable, the changeup sneaks up in the zone, and that solo homer he gives up in the third inning turns into a three run homer because of walks. Starts like last night kill a bullpen, and put unnecessary pressure on the other starting pitchers to go longer into games.

Is there a magic formula to prevent Harden from having too many of those three inning outings? I have an idea or two, starting with the fact that Harden needs to be on the DL a lot. Notice how his issues come after he goes through the rotation five or six times in a row. His arm gets tired and his control goes away. Perhaps putting Rich on the DL after he makes more than 10 consecutive starts gives his arm the rest it needs. Maybe those DL stints need to happen more often and for more than just 15 days.

Of course that previous paragraph is the reason why a lot of teams want to stay away from guys like Harden. Pitching is the most important thing in baseball, starting pitching is impossibly hard to come by and asking a team to assemble a five man rotation is hard enough let alone having to have a backup starter because one of your rotation guys isn’t capable of handling the grind of pitching every fifth day.

I really do think Rich Harden has value to any team in baseball, he is capable of wonderful things on the mound, and his love of cold weather (no joke) is especially beneficial if you think you are going to play late into October. I just don't know how many other teams in baseball are prepared to pony up big cash for a player who they can't rely on. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe there is a team out there stupid enough to give Harden a big time contract even after watching his arm crumble in September. In the end, I think Rich will be back here again next season playing on another one year contract, and giving me nightmares half the season while making me want to see him more the other half.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Cubs fall to the Brewers on Rich Harden's worst start as a Cub. The Sox fall to the Mariners in Seattle. I'll have Cubs recaps back up again tomorrow.

Cubs lose. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox lose. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Z thing blowing over. So Taguchi called up. Soriano reflects on surgery.

Bartolo Colon is out. Floyd leaves early. AJ and Garcia nearing milestones.

Mesa feeling pressure to keep Cubs. Sandberg's ejection last night.

Fuld update. RBI History. Official rule for Soto. Big Z lessons. Injury updates.

Fields done guessing future. Ozzie looking ahead. Beckham making strides.

Sniff and a whiff. Cubs recap. In brief.

In brief. Fundamental shift. Today at Mariners.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Possible Trade Opportunities For the Cubs This Offseason

The papers have been overflowing with trade rumors about the Cubs this coming winter, mostly revolving around two players- Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley. It has gotten to the point where I believe Milton Bradley is all but gone, something I don't agree with but have come to accept as a reality. I'm not discussing the trading of Zambrano again until I have to, just remember I don't like the idea of it.

Instead I want to look at some players the Cubs could consider trading for this offseason in an effort to improve the team without closing the current championship window. I will concede right now that most of these trades won't happen, but all of them come as a result of real rumors.

Idea 1: Trade for Jose Reyes
The Mets owner is broke, the Mets need to get some good young talent into their system, and the Mets don't have the money to give Reyes a big contract. Reyes is a free agent after next season, and the Mets might want to max out his value this offseason. The Cubs make a good match for the Mets I think, we need a real shortstop that can steal bases and play the position, they need young players.
I would build a package around Josh Vitters and Jay Jackson. Vitters can learn to play first for the Mets and fill their first base need within 2 years, Jackson is about a half season away from being a major league ready starter. I would throw in Ryan Theriot to fill the Mets SS hole and perhaps Sean Marshall as well. This provides each team with what they want- Vitters and Jackson are young talents and top prospects, Theriot can already play in the big leagues along with Marshall who can either start or go into the bullpen.

Idea 2: Trade for BJ Upton
The Rays have a ton of young talent in the majors and minors. Tops among that talent (or near the top) is outfielder Desmond Jennings who can run really fast, hit really well, take walks, and play defense. Jennings is about ready to break into the major leagues meaning that the Rays have to make some room. BJ Upton has had some issues with Rays management this season, and his performance at the plate has been less than stellar, still he has immense talent and plays a dynamite centerfield.
The problem here is that the Cubs and Rays don't match up that well as trade partners. The Rays have tons of young talent and no money, meaning they probably won't be able to make a deal, but I'll try anyway. Again I start with Vitters- he would move to first and take Carlos Pena's spot after the 2010 season when Pena is a free agent. The Rays could use some pitchers for their bullpen- Sean Marshall and/or Angel Guzman might do it, and then I would include some lower prospects too. Would the Rays take that deal? Who knows but Upton brings a nice speed/power element to the Cubs.

Idea 3- Trade for Curtis Granderson
The Tigers are in a bit of a hard place with Magglio Ordonez's 2010 option vesting the other night. They are on the hook for a lot of money next season and need some middle infield help. Granderson is having a tough season and in the midst of a slump meaning his value isn't the highest, but he is probably the most tradable player as far as value.
An Angel Guzman, Ryan Theriot, and Jeff Baker package is probably too much fringe major league and not enough talent. Perhaps Marshall and Vitters instead would give the Tigers talent, but wouldn't provide the major league middle infielders that the Tigers want. Either way Granderson would be the fifth hitter that Lou wants, hitting for power and having some speed too.

Any other trade ideas? As you can see I'm focused mostly on getting rid of Theriot, Marshall, and Vitters. Theriot has worn out his welcome in my baseball world even if the Cubs somehow think he is good. Marshall clearly isn't valued highly by the Cubs, but other organizations probably like his stuff and the fact that he could be a solid starter. Vitters has struggled with his promotion to High-A and has shown no ability to take a walk (sound familiar Corey Patterson fans?). He still has lots of value and the Cubs should take advantage of that before other teams see this fatal flaw.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Cubs and Sox both win. Low playoff chances remain on both sides of town.- I'll add Sox links when I wake up.

Cubs win. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox win. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Soriano has successful surgery, out for season. Reed wants to come back.

Schedule mania on both sides of town. Cubs. Sox. 5 key Cubs series. Sox.

Peavy to pitch Saturday. Tough decisions looming for Sox.

Floyd pleased with progress. No hitting means no hope.

Cubs want more innings from Harden. In Brief. Z could be moved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When You're Wrong, You're Wrong: Ryan Dumpster Edition

I thought about waiting another start or two from my favorite Dumpster before writing this so it didn't seem like a reaction to one start. However I realized that pretty much I've judged Dempster on a start to start basis all season so it's only fitting that I write this now and then take it back in five days when he gets shelled by St. Louis, heck the reason I don't like Dempster is based on one start last October (and his time as Ryan Dumpster: Chicago Cubs closer).

This past offseason the Cubs signed Ryan Dempster to a four year deal worth $52 million. I hated the deal at first, but understood it as a necessary evil. Dempster was coming off a career year which just happened to be his contract season, and there was a lot of luck involved in his season (.288 BABIP, .61 HR/9). Still the Cubs couldn't just let a starter like Dempster walk away and a portion of this contract was a reward for his loyalty to the Cubs.

It looks like, despite some questionable starts, Dempster has shown that he didn't have a fluke season last year. His ERA is 3.84, his ERA+ is 114, and his 2009 performance would be worth $13 million on the open market. Considering that his salary is only eight million this year, big win for the Cubs. I can safely say that for this season, and given his remaining commitment to his fitness (something he has slacked on in the past), the rest of his contract Dempster will be a solid pitcher for the Cubs. I was wrong.

This doesn't mean I won't be here after his next start whining about his long counts, walks, and amazing ability to suck. Dempster has proved to be a reliable starter who effectively eats up innings and does it without being truly awful (Livan Hernandez style). I still have an issue with how his DL stint was handled, and why he was there to begin with, but that has more to do with the media than Dempster himself. Be happy Cubs fans we were able to turn a marginal reliever into a reliable starting pitcher. Not too bad for a scrap heap pickup coming off Tommy John Surgery.

Peavy to Start Saturday

Funny thing is that a post with this name already exists on this site, but this time I think it's actually real. Peavy will pitch this Saturday against the Royals.

I expect him to be on a real tight leash. Somewhere around 75-80 pitch limit wouldn't surprise me. but if I'm the Sox, I unleash him. Let him try and go as far as he can without a set pitch limit.

I'd love to see him go out and be great to give us some peace of mind for next year. There are still a lot of people out there that think he isn't going to be able to pitch in the Cell, or even in the AL as a whole. I don't think we have any shot of getting back in this thing this year, but it would be awfully nice to go into next season knowing we have two aces instead of just the one.

Cubs 2010 Schedule Released

Insert "wait till next year" joke here. Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at the 2010 Cubs schedule also known as the road to redemption. It starts on the road in Atlanta and then on to Cincinnati for week one, I like starting the season on the road because that means one less week of bad weather at Wrigley. Of course I'd prefer the first month of baseball be played in domes and below-St. Louis cities. Cold weather baseball games at the start of the season just cause injuries.

The home opener is against the Brewers, a homestand that also includes a series against the Astros. All told major league baseball was kind enough to give the Cubs 16 games against the Reds and 15 against the Pirates. How kind of them.

Living in Cardinal territory those are always must circle series, especially the random early season one that sets bragging rights for a while. This year it doesn't start until the last weekend of May, meaning this weekend will be the last Cubs-Cardinals series I get to share with the lovely "best fans in baseball". There are two series in the last month with the Cardinals- one in each park- that very well could determine the division.

Finally the Cubs-Sox series are both on the weekend again. At Wrigley June 11-13, and at the Cell June 25-27. Allow we to propose a new way of doing this, because quite frankly this is boring to me. Put all six games right in a row, starting Tuesday and going to Sunday. Alternate home parks each night, and but the DH at Wrigley while having the pitchers bat at US Cellular. This way Cubs-Sox has some new life, goes for one intense week, and then is done. Alternating home parks each night isn't hard to do, since they are right down the street from each other.

A Quick Look at the Sox 2010 Schedule

The Sox will start the 2010 campaign at home playing the Indians and Twinks for 3 each. They then travel north to the Rogers Center for the Blue Jays home opener followed by 3 more with Toronto.

From the looks of it June has a chance for the Sox to make a real run. 9 straight at home against the Rangers, Indians, and Tigers to start the month, then 3 at Wrigley, and 6 in Washington and Florida. Sox then return home for 6 against the Braves and Cubs before finishing the month with 3 in Kansas City. That's going to be a critical month for the Sox to get hot and take control of the division.

Similar to this year the Sox have a brutal stretch to start the month of September. At Cleveland, Boston, and Detroit for 10 road games in 11 days. Right after that trip will be a homestand against the entire division except Cleveland before the Sox head west as they are doing right now this year.

All in all, the schedule looks similar to the one we saw this year. It's going to be critical for the Sox to get off to a good start and make a run and have a nice lead by the break. The month of September is going to be rough, as it always seems to, so the Sox need to have a nice little lead going in. The Interleague schedule looks good with road games in Pittsburgh and Washington and home games against the Marlins and Braves. We are still a long way from that, but I expect good things out of the Sox early. Can't wait.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Cubs start a 4 game series against the Brewers with a win while the Sox enjoy a day off. Bad news though because the Tigers had a comeback win to extend their division lead. The Cardinals won to put their magic number at 10. As long as the Cubs keep winning we can stave off elimination this weekend.

Cubs win. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Minor league players of the year. Cubs MVP. Talking with Fuld.

Tribune mailbags. Cubs and Sox.

Rios "can get you fired". Hudson's rapid rise. Getz thrives in shadow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ryan Dempster Dominates, Cubs Beat Brewers

For all the crap I give Ryan Dempster (could be another "I was wrong" coming) he was really good tonight. He had his best start of the season allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out four over eight solid innings. It earned Ryan his 10th win of the season in a 2-0 Cubs win.

The offense was just about as bad as could be expected, but a Derrek Lee homer in the fourth and a Kosuke Fukudome sac fly in the eighth provided Dempster with all the support he needed tonight. Still there is some things we learn for next year from games like this. For example Ryan Theriot should be a backup, he did take a walk tonight but was 0-2 and is now hitting .179 this month. He doesn't have the stamina to play a full major league season. Also be sure to pay attention the the situations with Fukudome and Jeff Baker, who both are experiencing some tough times themselves.

A guy who didn't have a tough day was closer Carlos Marmol. Lou named him the 2010 closer and he was able to notch his 13th save despite not having control of his fastball. Bottom line is Marmol continues to get the job done and isn't serving up homers like Kevin Gregg was. That alone makes him the 2010 favorite, though I won't be upset if we go out and try to sign a free agent closer to set-up Marmol.

Even with the team safely out of playoff contention it's really fun to watch the Cubs win games, especially against the Brewers. Notching our third winning season in a row would be a tremendous accomplishment for the Cubs, even if expectations were higher.

A Year Ago Today: The Carlos Zambrano No-Hitter

With the way the Cubs season has gone it's time to forget 2009 for a few minutes and remember Big Z's no hitter. 365 days ago Z came off the DL to start a game against the Houston Astros in Milwaukee. The game was in Miller Park because Houston was playing host to a hurricane.

Z answered any and all questions about his health for one night. He finished the game with a line of 9IP 0H 0R 0ER 1BB 10K. He dazzled the Astros hitters and had his sinker working like it never has been before. Complete MLB coverage is here, and the video of every out here.

Take five minutes and enjoy the greatest moment in the career of one of the best Cubs pitchers ever, and easily the best Cubs pitcher most of us will ever see. With any luck we will get to see Big Z toss another no-hitter or two before he retires.

Cubs-Brewers Preview: Keep the Magic Number Above 6

The headline tells you the mission for the week, the Cardinals magic number is 11 right now. Next weekend we meet in St. Louis for a three game series which is expected to clinch the NL Central for the Redbirds. That is why the Cubs need to keep the magic number at 7 going into Friday. The Cards play three against the Marlins while the Cubs have four against the Brewers. Winning 3 of 4 assures us of not having to watch the Redbirds celebrate on our watch.

Monday- Ryan Dempster (9-8 4.03) vs. Jeff Suppan (6-9 5.05)
Dempster looks to get his 10th win of the season against a lineup that he is very familiar with. Dempster had some issues in May with the Brewers hitters (Ryan Braun) who really just overreacted to Dempster being bad at controlling his pitches. The key for Dempster remains to throw strikes with his fastball to setup his slider and split-finger. Ryan didn't have good stuff last time out against the Pirates, but was able to get the win because of a seven run first inning.
Jeff Suppan was the opening day starter for the pitching starved Brewers and has been bad all season. He really isn't that good and has the control problems that the Cubs hitters love to face. Patience and getting the big hit or two should lead to Suppan getting beat pretty good.

Tuesday- Carlos Zambrano (8-6 3.77) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-11 3.59)
Big Z has been back to getting lots of outs and not giving up runs again. He appears fully recovered from his back injury and shouldn't be limited in his innings. Z has been taken out after six innings his last two starts and didn't like it, Lou promised he can throw 200 pitches in this start. Let's just hope he doesn't need that if he goes all nine innings.
Gallardo is a great pitcher that will be around for a long time, but he is currently on innings watch. Usually Gallardo struggles with his pitch count and that is something (like I keep saying) the Cubs can exploit. The problem is Gallardo has such good stuff that he gets out of it more often than not. Expect this to be the lowest scoring game of the series and more than likely become a battle of crappy bullpens.

Wednesday- Rich Harden (9-8 4.04) vs. Braden Looper (12-6 4.77)
Harden is back in a stretch of bad pitching, and this tends to happen after he makes too many starts in a row. The Cubs should think about skipping him a start or four rather than have him injure his arm going into free agency. I expect Harden to get hit pretty hard by the Brewers in this start, and probably not make it to the fifth inning again. His control is leaving him again, meaning bad news for the bullpen.
Looper is gone away from the magic Dave Duncan cure for crappy relief pitchers that makes them respectable starting pitchers. He isn't a good pitcher, he can't throw strikes and the Cubs owe him about 20 runs scored after he pulled some shutdown games against us last season. Expect lots of runs in this game from both teams because neither pitcher is very good.

Thursday- Randy Wells (10-8 2.96) vs. Dave Bush (4-7 5.85)
Randy fell victim to a number of bad defensive plays last time out, most of them involving a certain shortstop who may or may not be my least favorite player. Randy was still getting lots of grounders that should have been outs, but whatever it happens. I still want him shut down for the season soon, but the Cubs seem not to care. Sort of refreshing in the midst of some downright strange Joba Rules, but I would rather we not tempt the fates here.
Dave Bush is clearly not a very good pitcher at all. The Cubs should crush him.

Hitters to watch
Prince Fielder- .301/.411/.595/1.006 39 HR 126 RBI 162 OPS+
Prince has become the second best hitter in the National League this season. He hits for sick power still, but now takes more walks and gets more hits too. He is enjoying his best season ever and certainly is a cornerstone to build around. The Brewers pitching is the only reason he isn't among the MVP favorites this season.

Ryan Braun- .308/.377/.547/.924 29 HR 99 RBI 140 OPS+
Braun is the quickest player to 100 career homers ever. He is a great hitter and an imposing force at the plate. He isn't quite as good as Prince, but don't let that fool you. With Braun and Prince the Brewers have a fearsome 3-4 that may be the best in the NL. Braun is also a bad fielder and a douche, his bug-eyes bother me and his little homer stunt in May against Ryan Dempster was one of the more douchy things I've ever seen.

Cubs need to take three of four, I think they can do it. Pitching always favors us, and hopefully the offense gets just enough runs to win the games. Keep that magic number at or above 7.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

The Cubs win and take a series from the Reds while the Sox lose their series against the Angels. The Tigers ended their losing streak at the wrong time for the Sox, putting them six back.

Good news first. The Cubs AA Smokies won their best of 5 series 3-1 today.

Cubs win. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox lose. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Soriano to have surgery this week. No more leadoff. Open competition.

Starters give Cubs chance. Johnson frustrated. Brewers preview.

Peavy has best bullpen session. Ozzie doesn't want to be counted out.

Ozzie looking for big bats. Lou wants more from 5 spot.

Lilly keeps the faith. Soriano taken care of Tuesday.

Peavy starting against Royals. Rios says not pressing. Not looking good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Was That Angels Series Good?

My initial inclination would be to say no because the Sox are in the exact same place we were in before the series started, and we are running out of time. But in the same right, the Sox played the Angels on the road while the Tigers and Twins each played bad teams at home.

So now the E# is 14 with 18 games remaining on the schedule. There are 6 opportunities where the Sox have control of their destiny, but they still have a huge hill to climb.

I'm sticking with we are in huge trouble, but I'm refusing to give up until at least the end of the first Tigers series. I would like to see the number of games behind at 3 or 4 by that time, but I'm really afraid it will be something like 5 or 6, so it looks bleak. But with 6 head-to-head games left, I'm not calling it quits yet.

Oh yeah, and someone tell the Twins to just go away.

Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee are at it Again

For the third time in a row Ted Lilly has had a start assisted by a Derrek Lee homer. It was Ted's 12th win of the season and another brilliant Wrigley Field effort for the best pitcher in the history of the world. Ted's ERA is now down to 3.05 on the season which is right behind Randy Wells 2.94 for the team lead. For Derrek it was his 32nd homer and his 97th RBI. He is having a very good season and remains the lone bright spot on an offense that quite frankly sucks. Had Derrek had this season in 2007 or 2008 he would have won the NL MVP award, oh well perhaps he can steal a vote or two anyway.

Most of the rest of the offense is in 2010 audition mode. The audition is really being aced by light-hitting Andres Blanco whose defense alone should earn him a spot on the team, but his bat showed up today making me hope it becomes more of a trend. Blanco had three hits and two RBI today while playing more solid defense at shortstop. I think that it's safe to say Blanco will be backup infielder next season, his bat isn't close to good enough to start at second or short which is too bad because the upgrade over Theriot on defense would be awesome.

Koyie Hill is also cinching his spot on the team next season, Geovany Soto has been improving lately and is the starter, but Hill is a very capable backup. I think he should go back to Sunday duty instead of splitting time this season, but I doubt Lou does that simply as a way to reward Koyie for his strong play.

One bullpen guy who is looking more and more like a 2010 guy is Esmilian Caridad. So much so that I have to learn how to spell his first name. Caridad had another solid inning of relief today allowing only one hit in his inning. Cardid is a control pitcher, which would be a welcome sight for the Cubs walk-heavy pen. Kevin Gregg had a perfect inning with two strikeouts, but hopefully he will not be part of the 2010 bullpen.

The Cubs and Reds are done playing this season now, the Cubs won the season series 10-5. The Reds have a number of good young players and pitchers, but as long as rusty Dusty is in charge it isn't going to work out. Next up is a home series against the Brewers, look for the preview tomorrow morning.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sox Give Golden Opportunity the Golden Shower

What a chance this was. To take the leap into second place and find yourself just 5 games back with 11 games before the first Tiger series. But not on this day say the the White Sox.

Instead they were out classed in every facet of the game and further proved why they do not belong on the same field as good teams.

I continue to get my hopes up about this team because I know the talent they have, I know ho good they could be, and most importantly, I know how much the Tigers and Twins do not want to win this division. But every time they have an opportunity to take a huge positive stride, they play a terrible game. Every chance it looks like they can pressure the teams ahead of them, they instantly relieve that pressure and prove to the rest of the division why they are not over .500.

I don't like to keep looking back, but had the Sox won just 1 or 2 more games during that brutal road trip, or won tonight, or the one against the A's, they would be right in the middle of this thing. If the Sox were .500, they would be 5 games out of first place, 1 game over, you're 4 games out, but no. The Sox continue to stumble over their own feet, and look like a team who doesn't belong each and every time they head to the road.

If at any point they put together a 5 game win streak from here on out, they will be within 2 or 3 games of the Tigers (closer if 3 of the 5 are against them), but we all know, every time the situation arises, they won't get it done. Pitching match ups, history, streaks can all be in the Sox favor, but when they absolutely need a win, they just can't seem to figure out a way to get one. I'm not going to give up yet because the Tigers refuse to let me do that, but this team wants to die, the AL Central is just not letting them do it.

Peavy Situation Starting to Get Ridiculous

He's ready to go, I just can't tell you when he will go says Don Cooper. I don't get it. He pitched fine in the bullpen session today, fine in the last one, he says he's ready to go, Coop say he's ready to go, let him go.

But they are afraid to do it, and I have a sneaking suspicion they are waiting to get him a home start to get the attendance figure up for that day. Well guess what, if we win a few games in a row here, there is going to be a lot better reason to go to games, we will actually be in the race.

So he's my thought. Torres is technically scheduled to pitch on Tuesday (opener in Seattle), the idea that is being thrown around is to throw Freddy in that spot and go with a 4 man rotation until the 5th guy is needed. In that case, Peavy doesn't pitch until the middle of the KC series (7 games from now). Why?

Throw him Tuesday, leave the rotation in order, actually try to win this thing. Half healthy Peavy is a lot better than fully healthy Torres, and probably even Garcia. So put him in there, test him out, if it fails, make the decision from there. If it's successful, the Tigers are going to be doing a lot of looking behind their backs from here on out.

Aramis Ramirez Loves Wrigley, Leads Cubs to Win

For a game that started as interestingly as today's 6-4 Cubs win did, it sure seemed rather blah to me. Still the Cubs were able to overcome Rich Harden's shocking wildness and scored just enough runs to extend their winning streak to 4 games. Start the parade down Michigan Avenue now!

Rich Harden's arm is clearly exhausted, and after a brilliant stretch coming off the all-start break Rich is reminding all of us why the Cubs should do their best to stay away from a long-term deal. Harden threw 40 pitches in the first inning, and was out after 103 in four innings, meaning the Cubs bullpen had to pitch five innings. To his credit Harden only have up one run in his start with six strikeouts, but he walked five guys with a whole lot stressful pitches. I think it's time the Cubs give Harden a start off and work Samardzija in. Harden's arm is about to fall off anyway and Shark needs major league innings for better or worse.

The hitting star today was Aramis Ramirez, not really that surprising considering that Rami is roughly Babe Ruth at home while hitting more like Ryan Theriot on the road. He drove in three runs today on two go-ahead RBI singles and played more solid defense at third. Geovany Soto showed some signs of life today as well with a sac-fly in the second and a solo homer in the fourth. Geo has had three good games in his last three starts now, and I think we can put him back in the everyday lineup now. He needs to build back confidence for next season, we learned this year how important his bat is to the lineup. Bobby Scales finished the scoring with an RBI double in the eighth to drive in Aramis and give the Cubs a much appreciated two-run cushion.

Jeff Stevens three-run homer to Johnny Gomes aside the bullpen did a good job today. Aaron Heilman was the unsung hero of the day with two shutout innings (OMG) and little known Esmailin Caridad worked a perfect eighth. I can't say enough about how important those two were to the win today, the Cubs are really scrambling for a set-up man on days when Angel Guzman needs to rest. The Carlos Marmol show went for save number 12 on the season and got it despite some control issues and bad fielding from a certain shortstop. Carlos got Brandon Phillips to fly out to Milton Bradley for the final out of the game.

Just another good win for the Cubs, they have really beat up the NL Central this season to the tune of a 40-24 record. That is better than even the mighty Cardinals. While nothing is guaranteed in baseball, it certainly seems like 2009 will end with a winning record. Not at all what we were hoping for, but not the worst thing.

For those keeping track Aaron Miles 4-3 groundout today lowered his batting average to .179, funny stuff. Tomorrow Randy Wells starts against Johnny Cueto in an effort to tie Ted Lilly with the team lead in wins. Hopefully this is one of Randy's last starts of the season because his inning total is getting pretty high.

The Worst Player in Baseball

I've been saying it as a joke for most of the season, but now it's true. Aaron Miles is the worst player in baseball. Not the second worst, not kind of the worst, THE worst.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

Neither team played, but there were some articles so I'll toss up this short post.

Sox-Angels Preview. Reds-Cubs.

Three takes on the Cubs. Sox.

Bud to blame for Cubs? (this is BS btw). Will Carlos Quentin ever have fun?

Theriot focused on strong finish (I might go FJM on this tomorrow). Sox still like Alexei.

Draft pick updates for Sox.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cubs-Reds Series Preview

If you were looking for the definition of meaningless September baseball, here it is. The Cubs and Reds face off in a three game series at Wrigley, which will look more like three AAA games based on the expected lineups of the Reds. Of course we know this series is just a MLB mandated Cubs record inflator. The pitching matchups look bad for the Cubs, but perhaps some home cooking will continue the Cubs Pirates-induced hot streak.

Friday- Rich Harden (9-8 4.10) vs. Justin Lehr (4-1 4.43)
Harden will look to get this tenth win of the season against a lineup that he has dominated most of the season. In his career Harden is 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA against the Reds, but he lost his last time out 4-0 a game that included a homer by Scott Rolen and control issues for Harden. If Harden gets his command early it will be a long night for the Reds, if not Rich better hope for some BABIP luck.
Lehr had the definitive "Cubs have never seen this strike thrower before" start earlier this season in the previously mentioned 4-0 Reds win. Lehr dominated the Cubs by throwing crap over the plate and getting the aggressive Cubs hitters to swing. It will be Milton Bradley's job to make sure he takes some pitches and show the rest of the Cubs exactly how to deal with a bad pitcher like Lehr.

Saturday- Randy Wells (10-8 2.84) vs. Johnny Cueto (9-10 4.39)
Wells looks to make another strong case for rookie of the year by shutting down another NL Central team. The Reds did benefit from Wells worst pitch of the season which resulted in Aaron Harang hitting a three-run homer. No other Red has an extra base hit off Wells. His 2-0 2.70 ERA against the Reds this season makes the Cubs the favorites in this game.
Cueto was having a brilliant first half of the season and then went through a "Dusty arm" period where he got lit up every time out. It seems like he has most of his issues under control now, his last two starts off the DL (Dusty list) have been pretty solid. Cueto's problem is controlling his pitches and not walking too many people, which usually is a good sign for the Cubs offense. Still Cueto is a solid pitcher and this will most likely be a really good pitching matchup.

Sunday- Ted Lilly (11-8 3.17) vs. Homer Bailey (5-4 5.60)
What can we say about Ted? Ted will try to get his 12th win of the season and continue his march towards a sub-3 ERA. The Reds have beaten up on Ted in the past, but his last effort against them was solid. The key for Ted is to keep his stellar control going so that when his standard homer to Joey Votto occurs it won't result in more than one run. Ted at Wrigley Field=Money in the bank, the question is the offense.
Homer Bailey is a failed prospect that has been going his best the past month to earn a 2010 rotation spot and perhaps live up to his potential in the end. After having just a horrific start to the season Bailey has gone 3-0 with a 1.67 in his past four starts. His last start he had a Dusty-dream like 117 pitches in just 5 2/3 innings (really Dusty I think he had 100 more in him) which means even if he is pitching well the Cubs can get him out early. Bailey's main issue is control, which means that if the Cubs are smart they can take lots of walks and hit drive some guys in.

Hitters to watch
Joey Votto- .296/.391/.522/.914 21 HR 68 RBI 135 OPS+
Every Cubs fan knows about Votto, heck the Cubs are responsible for 28% of his career homers. Much like Adam Dunn and Carlos Lee before him Votto will get at least one homer in this series. Odds are he ends up with two or three. He has had lots of problems with anxiety this season, which has caused him to miss some games and his chance at a major breakout season.

Brandon Phillips- .271/.326/.452/.778 19 HR 85 RBI 23 SB 100 OPS+
Phillips is probably the Reds best player, and certainly one of Dusty's favorites. Brandon seems to hate walks and has been known to take plays off (Dusty is in love). He is a threat every time he bats thought because he has great power and speed. Given a proper manager and batting coach Phillips would be a 30-30 guy every season.

Scott Rolen- .278/.360/.380/.739 2 HR 10 RBI 93 OPS+
Don't let Rolen's numbers fool you he is a solid hitter who loves to hit against the Cubs. He homered against Rich Harden earlier this season and should be expected to do the game Friday night. The good news is the Cubs usually bring out the worst in Rolen's glove which will hopefully make up for any damage his bat does.

The Cubs are at home which means Aramis turns back into Babe Ruth. The Cubs are playing the Reds which means major league baseball has mandated wins (got to keep the Cubs winning right). Two of the Reds pitchers can get wild on the mound, and the other is due for a good butt kicking from Milton Bradley's bat. I'll say Cubs take two of three despite losing on Friday afternoon on another Justin Lehr gem.

This Minor League Season is Ovah!: Daytona Cubs

In the interest of hoping they do well in the playoffs I'll skip over the AA Smokies right now. Today we wrap up the season of the High-A Daytona Cubs home of plenty of exciting prospects. This version of the Cubs finished in fifth place in their division with a 30-38 second half record. For the season they went 64-71 which was still good enough for fifth place.

Daytona was the home to many of the Cubs top prospects for large portions of the minor league season. Starlin Castro was their to start the season before moving up, Josh Vitters was promoted to Daytona mid-season, Jay Jackson was demoted for unknown reasons, and Andrew Cashner spent some time here before moving up.

Three of those four prospects were so good in Daytona that they moved up to face better competition, Josh Vitters however found a lot of difficulty in the Florida State League. Vitters .238/.260/.344 line leaves some questions to be asked as we go forward, but I'll get to that when I do individual player pages.

Next season looks to be another very interesting on in Daytona. 2009 first round pick Brett Jackson is probably headed there after he tore up Low-A, fellow pick DJ Lemahieu might join him. Josh Vitters will have to start the season there, but hopefully he starts producing so he can get back on track to the majors. Son of Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenley, Michael Brenley, will most likely play in Daytona next season as well.

Morning Cubs and Sox Links

The Cubs finish off the sweep against the Pirates while the Sox walk off with the win against the A's.

Cubs win. Tribune. MLB. AP. Sox win. Tribune. MLB. AP.

Fox looking to get chance. Santo has memories of hit parade.

Lou and Z. Hoffpauir's big day. Starters still doing their job.

Sox minor league playoffs. Talking with AJ and Dye.

Williams not happy with season. Recap. Peavy promises top form.