Monday, September 7, 2009

Cubs win in historic fashion

By beating the Pirates 4-2, and handing the Bucs their 82nd loss of the season, the Cubs played a minor role in history. With today's loss, the Pirates have secured their 17th straight losing season, which ranks as longest streak of futility in any of the four major professional sports in America. Not since Barry Bonds left the team in 1992 have they won more than they have lost. 1992...geez. As a Cub fan you certainly feel you have it rough at times, but something like this really puts it in perspective.

The game itself featured the two major Cub contributors that have actually lived up to expectations this continuing not to disappoint. Lilly turned in another quality start, going 6 innings while giving up 2 runs and striking out 7. Derrek Lee drove in 3 runs while hitting two home runs, upping his season total to 31.

Coming into the season I never thought Derrek would be able to hit 30+ home runs again. He has proven me wrong, and the wrist is clearly healed as he is hitting the ball out to every field. At 34 and having shown he has bounced nearly completed from the broken wrist, I wouldn't doubt that he can continue to provide power until his contract runs out after next year.

The trio of Guzman, Grabow, and Marmol combined for a perfect final 3 innings. Guzman and Grabow have shown that they can relied on as relievers. From a pure numbers standpoint, Grabow has been one of the better mid-season pickups Hendry has ever made. He has not given up a run in 18 out of 19 appearances. I really hope Hendry has made resigning him a priority.

At this point there isn't much that can make you happy as a Cub fan. However, Carlos Marmol should be making Cub fans happy. Since becoming the closer following Kevin Gregg's meltdown in Petco on August 17, Marmol has been a perfect 6/6 in save opportunities. More importantly, his K/BB ratio has been 13/6. Half of those walks came in a rusty outing against the Nationals. It would appear his command is returning, and I believe it is a confidence thing.

Right before the All-Star break last year it seemed like the wheels began to fall off for Marmol. From June 19 until the break, he gave up 15 runs raising his ERA to to 3.61 after registering a 2.09 ERA before that. After the break he got back on track, lowering his ERA to 2.68 by the end of the year. So what happened? The confidence from his surprise All-Star selection to replace Kerry Wood appeared to have an effect on him. The following is from an article Paul Sullivan wrote for the Tribune following Marmol's selection:

The news obviously was a big boost to Marmol's confidence, which has been lagging of late due to his recent slide since the start of June. Marmol said the confidence "is going to be there. I'm excited about it. When you're there, you think you're an All-Star."

Even though Marmol continued to assure Lou he was fine and not lose trust in him during his struggles this season, all the walks and hit batsmen had have token a toll on his confidence. I think gaining the closer position (which Marmol has made clear was his desire all along), had a similiar effect. We still haven't seen how he will react to his first rough stretch as closer, but Cub fans have to feel pretty good about who will be on the mound in the 9th inning in the coming seasons.

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