Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rich Hill Does Not Dig the Long Ball

The Cubs continue their recent stretch of failures with today's game against the Phillies. After a very uplifting stretch where the team 8-1, they've now lost three of their last four games and everything is changing. Jason Marquis becomes the ace of the staff, Alfonso Soriano actually hit for power, Felix Pie is sent down for someone whose name is a religious contradiction, and Rich Hill gives up too many home runs en route to a 7-2 loss. Captain Lou needs to right this ship quickly or we are going to have some serious issues.

Game Summary for May 11th, 2007

  • Score: Cubs are crushed by the Phillies, 7-2.
  • Player of the Game: Alfonso Soriano. Went 2-for-5 with a solo home run in the 3rd inning. Looks like he's finally starting to get back into his groove.
  • Subject of Lou's Wrath: Rich Hill. The prodigy is not performing well as of late, and today was no different with 5 earned runs given up in 5 innings. Even with this latest setback, however, he's still sporting an impressive 2.51 ERA.
  • Comments: Unlike Big Z, Hill actually started off very well in the first three innings. Even afterwards, all of this carnage was due to two bad pitches to Pat Burrell. The Phillies outfielder rocked Hill for two home runs, one with two men on in the 4th and one with 1 man on in the 6th. These two bad pitches accounted for all of the earned runs Hill gave up, so there is still hope. Not much, but just a glimmer.
  • Magic Number: 136. Apparently all the Brewers needed was some stiff competition, and the Mets gladly obliged.

Tomorrow's game is on FOX at 2:45, so that's pretty exciting. The kid Angel Guzman tries to prove that his 1.80 ERA outing last game wasn't a fluke, and the Cubs prepare to take a bite out of former White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia. Should be exciting.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sunburns are Overrated

There is a yearly tradition I adhere to each year when I venture out to a day game in the bleachers. I am genetically fairly pale, Conan O'Brien style. That's what you get for being over half Swedish and 1/16th Irish (I just found that out, so now I have a good reason to celebrate St. Patty's day). So every year I head out to the bleachers and wear a sleeveless Cubs t-shirt, with no sunscreen at all. I like to think that will help me get a tan. And every year I come home with extremely bright red ears, nose, and upper arms. A couple years ago it was severe enough that I think it was medically considered sun poisoning, but that hasn't happened for a while. Therefore, I assume my attempts to get darker are working.

Yesterday was another one of these days. RFS was in town so we decided to get some cheap bleacher seats. It was beautiful out, I sat in the sun for a solid 4 hours, and the Cubs lost the series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. I'm feeling the sunburn right now, and all I can say is I hope it worked this time. If not, I'm sure I'll try it again within a month or so.

Game Summary for May 9th, 2007

  • Score: Cubs shutout the Pirates, 1-0.
  • Player of the Game: Jason Marquis. Pitched a complete game shutout and carried a perfect game into the 6th inning. Best performance of the year thus far.
  • Subject of Lou's Wrath: Don Kelly on the Pirates, who broke up Jason's perfect game. If Lou was Santa, you would be getting a lump of coal this year Mr. Kelly.
  • Comments: Marquis pitched a beaut of a game, allowing only 3 hits and lowering his ERA to a dominating 1.70 ERA. We needed it too, as the only offense the team could muster was a lead-off home run by Soriano, his first of the year and 34th of his career.
  • Magic Number: Still 137. The Brewers appear to be unstoppable at the moment.

Game Summary for May 10th, 2007

  • Score: Cubs of course lose the game I went to against the Pirates, 6-4.
  • Player of the Game: Michael Barrett. Came in to pinch hit in the 8th and did his job, hitting a two run home run. One of the few people to do his job this game.
  • Subject of Lou's Wrath: Carlos Zambrano. The man just can't get out of a first inning without trouble. If those three runs in the first hadn't happened, the cubs win this game. His ERA has ballooned to a 2006 Jason Marquis-esque 5.83. So much for being the ace of the staff.
  • Comments: The power came back to the Cubs in this game, as all four runs were scored on homers by Ramirez, Barrett, and Angel Pagan. Speaking of Pagan, he was brought up for this game as Felix Pie was sent back to Iowa. The reasons given in the Tribune article are solid, but I'm still sad to see him go. When he was in the game he gave the team a spark and Cubs fans hope, and that will be sorely missed.
  • Magic Number: Sitting at 137. Brewers are on a 6 game winning streak, and the Cubs are starting to revert to their old ways. Not a good sign.

The Cubs just lost to the Phillies as Rich Hill completely fell apart. I'll discuss that later, I can only do so many of these in one sitting.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


So I forgot to put up a game summary for last night's game, and I don't have time to do it right now because I'm on my way out for today's game. I'll be back later today with both summaries. All you need to know for now is Jason Marquis is a man among boys. Let's hope Big Z can follow in his footsteps today. Go Cubs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I was bored

This is what happens when Cubs games go 15 innings. I love this guy.

Baseball is a Marathon, Even the Games

The Cubs played in the longest game ever tonight, and they couldn't hold things together against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Errors mounted, pitching fell apart, and the offense couldn't get anything going. A five game winning streak was snapped, and the Milwaukee Brewers once again refuse to lose. This was the kind of game that drives people to drugs and depression. Lou could have at least gotten himself ejected to spice things up a bit.

Game Summary for May 8th, 2007

  • Score: Cubs lose a four and a half hour ordeal to the Pirates, 4-3.
  • Player of the Game: Ryan Theriot. Went 3-for-7 and made an impressive double play to prevent a run from scoring in the earlier innings. It was all a waste though.
  • Subject of Lou's Wrath: Ryan frickin' Dempster. Could have saved us all an hour and a half if he would have just finished the inning like he was supposed to. Or at least have given up another run to end it sooner.
  • Comments: I'm tired and I don't have much to say about this game. Once again Lou used every position player and every relief pitcher. Jason Marquis being used as a pinch hitter meant that we only had three men left on the bench: Zambrano, Guzman, and Hill. I really don't like this trend.
  • Magic Number: Still 138. I absolutely hated this game.

Marquis pitches tomorrow against someone with a name I cannot pronounce or spell. I don't care what happens as long as it ends in 9 innings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Ryno is Off to a Good Start

There are a number of different ways you can measure a person's success as a manager. Some people look at their win-loss record, success in the playoffs, year by year improvement, or how well the players like them. I consider most of those to be useless, especially the player popularity (Dusty Baker anyone?). I think what's most important for a manager is having passion for the game, which is why my favorite statistic for a manager is the number of ejections they have incurred.

This season marks the beginning of Ryne Sandberg's foray into the baseball managing world. He is managing the Cub's Class A minor league team, the Peoria Chiefs. At this level of the game the focus is more on developing talent than winning ballgames. That combined with the cheap accommodations and long bus trips makes it hard to understand why this Hall of Fame player would waste his time here. It seems as if it would be hard for anyone to get emotionally involved in this low level of baseball, which is why I'm pleasantly surprised that Ryno was ejected from a game last night.

It was actually Peoria's pitching coach David Rosario that impressed me the most. Angry with the home plate umpire's selective strike zone, he was ejected while arguing from the dugout and proceeded to walk out on the field and cover home plate with dirt. A classic angry coach move. Never mind that the umpire only has to take a few seconds to brush it off, and he actually has a brush for that exact purpose.

After this incident the home plate umpire came over to talk to Ryne and ejected him as well. Nothing flashy here, but I'm assuming Ryne insulted his mother or something along those lines to get tossed that quickly. Stealthy yet effective. The team, inspired by the passion of their manager, went on to win the game 10-4. Hey Lou Piniella, this upstart manager is beating you at your own game. You've been harsh on your team and with the media, but you have yet to lash out at the umpires. I want to see it tonight sir, or else by my standards Ryne is doing a better job than you are. Get out there, punt first base into the crowd, and defend your legacy.

By the Numbers

Baseball, more than any other sport, is obsessed with statistics. There are literally hundreds of them to choose from, and the individual nature of the sport means that many of these depend on nothing else other than the skills of the player or the team. One statistic that is most often a good indicator of how well a team is doing is the run differential.

It is this statistic that sticks out about the Cubs right now. So far this year the Cubs have scored 142 runs and have only given up 108. Major League Baseball uses a formula to determine what a team's record should be based on their runs scored and runs against. This early on in the season it won't always be accurate, at the moment the expected record only matches the actual record for 8 teams, but as the season progresses this statistic should be closer and closer to reality.

According to this expected W-L record, the Cubs should have an 18-11 record right now which would be good for 3rd in all of baseball if everyone else had their expected records as well. So why the discrepancy? Why are we 15-14? As I mentioned in this game summary, it's because the Cubs like to score their runs in chunks. When we win, we win by a lot, and when we lose, it's usually by one or two. The law of averages says that this won't continue, and soon enough the Cubs' record will match their run differential. Of course that same law of averages says that the Cubs should have won a couple of World Series titles in the past 98 years, so maybe I'm just full of it.

Tonight's game is at 7:05, let's see if we can get that 6 game winning streak and work on this mediocre record. Summary will be up late tonight.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Benchwarmers to the Rescue!

Funny thing happened during today's game. As I was relaxed comfortably on the couch, the Cubs were up 2-1 and Scott Eyre was pitching. Shortly thereafter, I woke up from an unintentional nap and we were down 3-2 with Bob Howry on the mound. That is not what you want to wake up to.

The Cubs were not to be kept down however, as a 9th and 10th inning rally served to tie the game, and then win it, respectively. This victory marked the completion of our first three game sweep of a team all season, as the lowly Nationals behaved as expected: rolling over and playing dead. Adding on to our recent list of accomplishments, today's win stretched our winning streak to five games, it is the first one-run game we've won all season, and the team has won 8 of their last 9 games. Impressive indeed.

None of this would have been possible without some risky managing decisions and clutch hitting by our bench. In the 9th, Cliff Floyd came in to pinch hit for Cesar Izturis and he drew a walk. Due to Floyd's ailing back, Jason Marquis reprised his role as an emergency pinch runner and took Floyd's place on first. Daryle Ward then came in to replace the pitcher, Neal Cotts, and he reached on a single to left. Normally he would be taken out here for a pinch runner, because he is the slowest man alive, but Jason Marquis was already busy. Theriot then comes on and pulls off a clutch single to drive in Marquis and tie up the game. Somewhere in that inning Soriano, Ramirez, and Jacque Jones all failed to get hits. If even one of them had the game would have ended right there.

In the 10th inning, Matt Murton, who had earlier replaced Mark DeRosa in right field, led off with a double. Michael Barrett then grounded out, bringing up the intrepid Henry Blanco. Hank hit a bloop single to right that should have scored Murton, but the redhead hesitated at third base. Again, the game should have been over at this point. So up comes Daryle Ward, who would have normally been replaced by a pinch runner already but we ran out of non-slow people in the 9th. About five seconds before the pitch, Bob Brenley mentions that the left fielder is playing way too shallow. So Ward of course lofts a fly ball over his head. Game, set, series.

Notice in all of that two inning rally that won the game for us, the only person who started the game that got a hit was Ryan Theriot. Our bench finally pulled through in the clutch. Awesome.

Game Summary for May 6th, 2007

  • Score: Cubs defy all odds to beat the Nationals, 4-3.
  • Player of the Game: The entire bench. We used the whole thing, and needed every single player that played.
  • Subject of Lou's Wrath: Bob Howry. I fall asleep and the guy gives up two runs, but gets charged with neither of them. Bad form sir.
  • Comments: Angel Guzman pitched surprisingly well considering his stats in Iowa, giving up one run over five innings. Lou always talks about trying to conserve his bullpen/roster, but did none of that here. In the 7th inning when Washington scored two runs, he used 4 different pitchers to get 3 outs. The number of players used in this game was an astonishing 21, everyone except Zambrano, Lilly, Rich Hill, and Rocky Cherry. I guess I can't complain much when we win a game, but for just a 10 inning game that seems a little ridiculous. Things were so messed up that Soriano ended up playing 2nd base for an inning, a position he hasn't played since 2005.
  • Magic Number: 138. Cubs just swept the Nationals, and the Brewers just swept the Pirates. Now we're swapping opponents. I don't see us gaining much ground in the next three games.

Cubs have the day off on Monday, then resume their homestand with Ted Lilly facing off against Ian Snell and the Pirates. Snell has very good stats, but come on it's the Pirates. I'm expecting good things. I'll pop in sometime tomorrow with an explanation on why the Cubs should actually have the third best record in baseball.