All Change

Because this season terminates here? Well, the last few days might suggest as much, because you don't need me to tell you that 4-6 against the Giants, Diamondbacks and Phillies just doesn't cut it. Then again, there's still some reason for hope: today the Cubs activated Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson from the disabled list, disabled Jerry Hairston, demoted Sergio Mitre to Triple-A Iowa, and designated Mike Remlinger for assignment. Is it enough to save this team? Not in my opinion.
These moves though hold many positives. Garciaparra will play today and Sunday, with Neifi giving him a hardly much-needed day off tomorrow. Still, if Nomar can manage to play two thirds of the games from here on out, hitting the ball squarely, showing decent range and throwing accurately, we'll be getting upgraded production from the shortstop position. Damned with faint praise. Meanwhile, Ronny Cedeno bizarrely remains on the roster, now as the third shortstop. Since June 28th, the Cubs have handed him just 39 plate appearances from the major league bench. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. There's one thing worse than a youngster being left to rot, and it's not Enrique Wilson: it's the starter hitting .227/.244/.319 all that time. The honeymoon period is over: hopefully Dusty can now at last tell Neifi to sleep on the couch. The Cubs aren't losing much in the bullpen. Sergio Mitre has been criminally underused since the All-Star Break, throwing just 6 innings of extremely ineffective relief. This sinkerballer belongs in a rotation, any rotation. Personally, I still believe the Cubs ought to have traded him when the memory of his complete game start against the Marlins was fresh in the mind. He's still a useful pitcher even now though, and projects as and probably even is right now a decent back of the rotation guy, but it's hard to remember that when he every fifth day he's allowed to go just the one irrelevant inning. He'll be better off in Iowa for now. As for Remlinger, he's past it, regardless of whether or not he goes on a streak of consecutive scoreless outings as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. Past it. He serves as a lesson both that throwing money at middle relief, particularly elderly middle relief, is unwise, and that Dusty doesn't know a reverse split from a banana split. Whether Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson will be a big upgrades remains to be seen. In limited time against rather feeble (and impatient) minor league opposition, Kerry Wood looked excellent, regularly throwing both a high-90s fastball and a slider for strikes. As long as he can continue to do that in the major leagues, he ought to be a premium reliever. Heck, he ought to be a premium starter. But the Cubs have come to a dubious conclusion that this same old Kerry Wood will succeed as a reliever where he's too often failed as a starter - regularly spotting his pitches and staying healthy. It's a gamble, and if Wood reinjures himself the Cubs may well live to rue delaying the arthroscopic surgery that he apparently requires on his right shoulder to clean up fraying of the rotator cuff muscles. While Kerry Wood awaits his surgery, Scott Williamson is recovering from his. Last year's Tommy John rescue is doing reasonably well as the Cubs' closer this year, but a healthy Williamson features far more dominating stuff than Dempster even, so Hendry did exceedingly well to pick him up at the same price. Williamson's recovery from the surgery has been miraculously fast, one of the quickest in the history of the procedure (he went under the knife on October 11th last year, with the surgeon memorably commenting that "it looked as like a grenade had gone off in there"). Practice makes perfect, I guess you could say, for this is Williamson's second Tommy John. All the same, if Williamson can eventually get back to his best, he'll be one of the best Cub relievers in a long time. In the immediate future, don't expect quite that much though, because neither his velocity nor control are all the way back yet. As for Hairston, his elbow injury, a tiny tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his non-throwing arm that he sustained as he attempted a diving catch on Wednesday, is a blessing in disguise, as callous as it may be to say it. His defence in centre field has largely been a liability, and since being moved permanently into the leadoff spot about six weeks ago, his bat has been icy cold too. It's a slump for his bat, rather than a more permanent malaise, so given time things would have improved. I'm not sure I can say the same for his jumps on flyballs. Anyway, there's presently no real timetable for his return beyond the official mutterings of "we hope he'll be back in a few weeks", which has been known to roughly translate as "out for the season". We'll see. No-one has yet been called up to replace Hairston, which leaves the Cubs with just Murton, Lawton, Burnitz, Hollandsworth and Macias as outfield options. Brace yourselves, for Jose Macias could be seeing a lot more playing time, even though an outfield of Murton, Burnitz and Lawton, from left to right, would clearly be the better choice. But, in a way, standing pat isn't the worst decision, because it's possible the Cubs for a while considered recalling Corey Patterson. Such a move would be a mistake. The Cubs sent Patterson down in order that they could work on his game and get him to the stage where he could once again be a good major league hitter. While Corey has reportedly been working on the processes - being more selective, laying off the high fastball, going the other way and not pulling everything, and so on - the results as yet haven't been entirely forthcoming. His walk and strikeout rates have importantly both headed very much in the right directions (7 walks and 15 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances), but he's still not hitting the ball particularly well, as evidenced by his .234 batting average. Given that we've heard all this talk about Patterson working on his game before, in camp this spring for instance, waiting until Corey's supposed new processes are yielding exactly the kind of results that'd make even Corey sit up and take notice is the right way to go. It's only that way that the processes will stick and the confidence return. And confidence is crucial. It's the single best thing any player can have going for him, an unflappable belief in his own ability. For a long time this year, Corey didn't have any of that. Personally, I'd have sent Cedeno down, and recalled Adam Greenberg, who's playing again at Double-A (and I'd also still be looking for an opportunity to purchase Jermaine Van Buren from Iowa, though in fairness the Cubs are still carrying twelve pitchers as it is). But these are good moves, if not good enough. This team stands at five hundred after exactly two thirds of the season, dead in the division and not far from that in the wild card. It's going to take something quite a bit more shocking to get this team back to life. Like a defibrillator. Charge! Stand clear!
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Comments

Well said, JH.

If we'd fired dusty a month ago it might have had the proper salutory effect on this team.

Now, it's probably too late. It wouldn't hurt to try, though.

Absolutely agree that not recalling Kpat was the right move -- he needs to re-earn that privilege. Greenberg is a good call, definitely would prefer him over Macias.

I don't think Greenburg is seeing straight yet.

Do you think they are waiting for Pie to get healthy then call him up? I know it wouldn't make sense to call-up a guy who has been out for a month to play at a level two steps higher than where he's played at. This would have been the perfect time to recall C-pat he has been tearing it up for a week, and with Nomar, Wood, and Williamson coming back it would take some of the focus off him. Everyone will want to see how Woody does out of the pen or if Nomar returns to form. If he did struggle it would be as much as a irrelvent as it could be. Maybe Hendry did this to force Murton to get more PT. Any thoughts?

Between Wood, Garrciaparra, Williamson, Lawton, & Hairston... that's 1/5 of the team being swapped out in the last week.

Yikes.

Remlinger is clearly well past his prime and no longer earning his contract, but the reverse split thing still bothers me.

Top three Cubs relievers vs righties by OPS
Player A: .221/.302/.312/.614
Player B: .230/.318/.327/.645
Player C: .210/.289/.420/.709

Players A and B are Dempster and Wuertz. Player C is, you guessed it, Remmy. He is second on the entire team behind Zambrano in BAA by righties. He's given up a few more dingers this year than in the past, but I've got to believe a manager with a little bit of strategic sense could find a use for the guy. Let's throw another righty in the mix for comparison:

against RHB:
Remmy: .210/.289/.420
Novoa: .279/.355/.471

I know Remlinger supposedly can't pitch back to back days any more, but it bothers me that we're eating his salary and running him out of town when he could still be a useful weapon on Dusty's 12-man pitching staff. That is, if Dusty and Larry actually paid any attention to this kind of thing.

Remlinger is clearly well past his prime and no longer earning his contract, but the reverse split thing still bothers me and I don't necessarily agree with the DFA.

Top three Cubs relievers vs righties by OPS
Player A: .221/.302/.312/.614
Player B: .230/.318/.327/.645
Player C: .210/.289/.420/.709

Players A and B are Dempster and Wuertz. Player C is, you guessed it, Remmy. He is second on the entire team behind Zambrano in BAA by righties. He's given up a few more dingers this year than in the past, but I've got to believe a manager with a little bit of strategic sense could find a use for the guy. Let's throw another righty in the mix for comparison:

against RHB:
Remmy: .210/.289/.420
Novoa: .279/.355/.471

I know Remlinger supposedly can't pitch back to back days any more, but it bothers me that we're eating his salary and running him out of town when he could still be a useful weapon on Dusty's 12-man pitching staff. That is, if Dusty and Larry actually paid any attention to this kind of thing.

they sure are taking their sweet time to release lineups tonite...geez...

John Hill, nice article. Thanks for the good insight.

Chifan, I disagree a bit with taking the spotlight off of Patterson if he returned now. Cub fans are fickle, and when the Cubs are back at Wrigley for 7 games next week, the first time he strikes out, fans would berate him with boos again. If Hairston's stay is only 15 days, I believe Corey will stay in Iowa until the September call ups.

But, I do love the idea that Hendry is forcing Dusty's hand to play Murton, but I think that we will be seeing more Macias than we'd all like. I'm frustrated, because I'm uncertain to what else does Murton has to do to earn quality playing time. Further, and perhaps this is just a tad towards nostalgia than fact, but doesn't his swing and ability to hit the ball to right field remininicent of Sandberg? Murton has the talent to lay down a nice bunt (like Ryno did--as he was the self-described best bunter in the team) and hits behind the runner, two of the most important qualities of a two-hole hitter. Further, he has above average speed, making him tough to double up.

Often times, most managers agree line-ups create themselves; they fall together without much managerial input. It would seem that Dusty is trying to over-manage, relying instead on a John Wayne-like bravado that he's going to manage the Cubs to a World Series, when, as the Red Sox can attest to, the team simply needs to play itself to a World Series.

Our hitters aren't hacking enough. Come on. We're the Cubs! We are known for losing games 23-22! Let's at least get some runs.

M. Lawton lf
T. Walker 2b
D. Lee 1b
A. Ramirez 3b
N. Garciaparra ss
J. Burnitz rf
J. Macias cf
M. Barrett c

I blame this line-up on Hendry. He should have called-up C-pat or DFA'd Macias.

Not bringing up Korey tells me that they really do think they can fix his problems AND Hendry is starting to think about next year, without yet completely giving up on this year.

I'm sure they all see Jose's glossy .320ish average since April and think he'll suffice, Unfortunate that once we got rid of one black hole of suck on offense, another one has to show up.

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