Archive - Apr 2007

April 30th

Game Chat Rich Hill vs. Zach Duke Lineups:
Soriano LF Duffy CF
Theriot SS Wilson SS
Lee 1B Sanchez 2B
Ramirez 3B Bay LF
Murton RF Doumit RF
Barrett C Bautista 3B
DeRosa 2B LaRoche 1B
Pie CF Paulino C
Hill P Duke P

The sad story of Josh Hancock’s crash Saturday night conjured the inevitable comparisons to Darryl Kile’s death at the Westin Hotel in Chicago in June, 2002. It also reminded me of an item which appeared in Jon Weisman’s Dodger Thoughts last week, a link to an L.A. Times story about the family of Tim Crews, who died along with a Cleveland Indians teammate during a spring training boating accident 14 years ago. The piece, written by Bill Plaschke, is quite good and quite sad. The gist of it is that for all of the teammates and all of the baseball officials who gathered around the family at the time of Crews’ death, none have kept in touch or helped keep the Crews children connected to a game that their father loved and played for six Major League seasons. (Crews was a Dodger from 1987 through ’92. He signed with the Indians as a free agent in January of ’93, dying before he ever actually played in Cleveland, thus the story’s relevance to the L.A. Times.) As for Josh Hancock’s team, the Cardinals, it seems unlikely they will be able to regain their focus anytime soon. On the other hand, the same seemed true of the ’02 team which had to deal with the loss of Kile, a veteran who was, by all accounts, a beloved teammate and part of the emotional center of the squad, not to mention a major contributor on the field. At the time of Kile's death, the Cardinals stood at 40-31, two games ahead of Cincinnati. Over the rest of the year, they went 57-34, finishing first in the NL Central and winning their Division Series against Arizona, before they were beaten in the NLCS by Dusty Baker’s Giants.

In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, the Cubs will likely shuffle their rotation a bit. Angel Guzman was scheduled to be called up tomorrow but Lou is now leaning towards Sunday May 6th against the Nationals as he wants to split up Rich Hill and Ted Lilly from going back to back days. So the rotation will likely be: Today @ Pittsburgh: Rich Hill May 1st @ Pittsburgh: Ted Lilly May 2nd @ Pittsburgh: Jason Marquis May 4th vs. Washington: Carlos Zambrano May 5th vs Washington: Rich Hill May 6th vs Washington: Angel Guzman May 8th vs. Pittsburgh: Ted Lilly May 9th vs. Pittsburgh: Jason Marquis May 10th vs Pittsburgh: Carlos Zambrano May 11th @ Philadelphia: Rich Hill May 12th @ Philadelphia: Angel Guzman May 13th @ Philadelphia: Ted Lilly and so on... In actuality, the Cubs really don't need a 5th starter until May 12th as they have two more scheduled off-days between now and then on May 3rd and 7th. Lou could stick with the plan to have Guzman go tomorrow and still break up the lefties but Angel isn't quite stretched out completely as a starter and PNC is usually friendlier to lefty pitchers, so waiting until May 6th makes some sense and gives Angel one more AAA start and an easier 2007 starter debut versus the Nationals. Also, Bob Howry should be 100% by tonight after injuring his back moving a barbecue grill over the weekend. Too many jokes, too little time.

April 29th

Tonight's game between the Cubs and Cardinals has been canceled due to the tragic death of STL RHP Josh Hancock in a traffic accident in St. Louis early this morning. He just turned 29 a couple of weeks ago, and worked three innings in yesterday's 8-1 Cubs victory. Hancock was reportedly traveling westbound on I-64 west of Compton Avenue at about 12:30 AM when his Ford Explorer SUV plowed into a tow truck parked on the side of the road. Hancock was pronounced dead at the scene. The tow truck driver told police he was assisting a stranded motorist, and was seated in his parked truck in the far left lane of the highway with the wrecker's emergency lights activated. He said he saw the SUV coming up behind him, but it did not slow down before slamming into his vehicle. The tow truck driver was not injured. Hancock played college ball at Auburn, and was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 5th round of the 1998 June draft, making his MLB debut with BOS in 2002. The Red Sox traded him to the Phillies for 3B Jeremy Giambi during the MLB Winter Meetings in December 2002, and then Josh was dealt to CIN in a trade deadline deal where RHP Todd Jones went from CIN to PHI on July 30, 2004. Hancock started nine games for the Reds over the last two months (August-September) of '04, but spent most of the 2005 season on the 60-day DL (groin). Hancock was released by the Reds in February 2006 when he reported to Spring Training overweight and out of shape, but was subsequently signed by the Cardinals as a FA, becoming an important cog in the Redbirds '06 World Series Champion bullpen (3-3 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 62 games). Our prayers are with Josh's family and friends.

April 28th

April 27th

Game Chat Jason Marquis vs. Anthony Reyes Lineups:
Soriano LF Eckstein SS
Theriot SS Duncan LF
Lee 1B Pujols 1B
Ramirez 3B Rolen 3B
Barrett C Edmonds CF
Murton RF Wilson RF
Derosa 2B Kennedy 2B
Pie CF Molina C
Marquis P Reyes P

With Angel Guzman scheduled to get the start next Tuesday at Pittsburgh, but with a 5th starter not needed again until May 12th at Philadelphia, here is what the Cubs should do to give themselves a little bit of an edge, although they probably won't:

April 26th

A compelling aspect of Wednesday’s Cubs-Brewers game, apart from the fact that the Cubs actually won, was Lou Piniella’s decision to start Ryan Theriot at short. As Lou explained:
"We need a lift. We need somebody who hopefully can get us going a little bit. I've been trying to figure out where to play him. He's been getting work at shortstop. We'll put him out there at shortstop and let him play."
Theriot, naturally, was elated to get the opportunity and said he wasn’t intimidated about moving over from second.
"The only [difference] is the throw. It takes a little getting used to. Two years ago, that's where I was every day. It's something I'm comfortable with and excited about."
In fact, during minor league stops at Daytona, Lansing and West Tenn, Theriot played a fair amount of shortstop, 189 games total, handling 777 chances successfully, but making 40 errors. That adds up to a woeful .951 fielding percentage. For comparison’s sake, National League shortstops had a combined .972 fielding average last season and the Cubs haven’t had an everyday shortstop who fielded anywhere near .951 as far back as I had the energy to check. Could be because shortstops with .951 fielding percentages soon cease to be shortstops. Theriot clearly gives the Cub offense a boost that Cesar Izturis and Ronny Cedeno are incapable of providing. But to justify his place in the lineup Theriot is going to have to dramatically improve his glovework. Or be one helluva hitter.

April 25th

Dr. Joseph Hecht with hopefully his very last Mark Prior update ever... UPDATE: Will Carroll stopped by in the comments to clear up a few matters and there's a follow-up by our doctor. -------------- I know, we’re all tired of reading about Mark Prior’s injuries. Now that we have diagnoses that match his symptoms, hopefully we can just move on. Cubs.com site says that Mark Prior’s surgeon, Dr. Andrews, did a debridement of Prior's right rotator cuff, as well as repair the labral and capsular injuries in his right shoulder. Sounds accurate enough to me. Will Carroll has an unfiltered update on Mark Prior if you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription. I wanted to try sort through the terminology and implications.

Game Chat Ben Sheets vs. Ted Lilly Lineups:
Weeks 2b Theriot SS
Hardy SS Floyd LF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Estrada C Barrett C
Mench LF Jones RF
Hart RF Derosa 2B
Graffanino 3B Pie CF
Sheets P Lilly P
We've got a RUMORED radio report from reader WPZ that he heard Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 saying that Mark Prior will announce that's he's going to be out 12-18 months following yesterday's surgery. UPDATE: Len just read a Cubs press statement on Prior, but my MLB.tv decided to freak out just as he read it. So here's what I heard...
Prior underwent.........debridement of the labrum.....also a capsular...lab????....won't pitch this year.
Thanks to MLB.tv for that thorough update. UPDATE #2: Cubs.com has the press statement up now and some readers heard a clearer version if you want to trudge through the comments.
During the arthroscopy, Dr. Andrews performed a debridement of Mark's right rotator cuff as well as repair of labral and capsular injuries in his right shoulder.
The tarp is off and game time has been set at 2:30 pm CST.

April 24th

Game Chat Jeff Suppan vs. Rich Hill Lineups:
Weeks 2b Soriano LF
Hardy SS Pie CF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Mench LF Barrett C
Hart RF Jones RF
Miller C Derosa 2B
Graffanino 3B Izturis SS
Suppan P Hill P
Rich Hill has a 17 inning scoreless streak going and leads the league in ERA among "qualified" starters.

While much of the focus has been on the Cubs bullpen blowing these extra-inning and close games, there has been another culprit. Cubs Offense Innings 1-6: .290/.333/.459 66 Runs National League Average: 258/330/404 56 Runs Top Performers: Aramis Ramirez: 429/457/810 Derrek Lee: 400/492/520 Michael Barrett: 308/370/641 Ryan Theriot: 467/467/533 Mark Derosa: 244/279/634 Cubs Offense from the 7th Inning on: 212/299/288 21 Runs National League Average: 247/331/382 26 Runs Note: Only the Giants have a worse offense from the 7th inning on in terms of OPS. The Cubs have the 7th most plate appearances from the 7th inning on but the third least amount of runs scored. Top Performers: Jacque Jones: 368/478/421 Bottom Feeders: Michael Barrett: 200/273/200 Aramis Ramirez: 150/227/150 Ryan Theriot: 150/227/150 Floyd, Murton, Izturis and Soriano all have OPS' under .600 after the 7th inning as well. The bullpen is 0-6 this year, 7th in ERA and 4th in innings pitched and tied for 2nd worst with three blown saves (none by Ryan Dempster though who has curbed his walks to 3 in 11 innings pitched so far). While the bullpen has certainly not been spectacular and Scott Eyre has been particularly awful, as a whole they've been forced to do more than they should thanks to an anemic late-game offense that cannot muster any runs in our 3 extra-inning losses, nor has done much of anything to pad our leads.

April 23rd

Some folks in the chat mentioned that Lou said as much in the pre-game interview and cubs.com has this quote (emphasis added):
 "The only difference between left and right is the spin of the ball coming off from the right-handed hitter or the left-handed hitter," Piniella said. "Outside of that, that's where we're going to be able to use [Matt] Murton and Floyd. Soriano is going to be a fixture in left field."
First, the only other differences are that misplayed balls in right field turn into triples and the throw from right to third base usually requires a stronger arm. Plus right field in Wrigley is a far worse sun field than left during the day. So Lou's oversimplifying a bit for my tastes. Second, this should create quite a mess between Jones, Pie, Murton and Floyd getting playing time. I guess that's why Lou gets the big bucks.  A trade seems imminent, and my pick is Jones for a fifth starter but who knows if that's available and what quality of fifth starter. Moving Murton either in a trade or to the minors causes a lot of problems when there's a lefty on the mound, whether a starter or a reliever. Having Floyd in RF is just a problem. Sending Pie down is still an option as well. Good news is that the Cubs don't need a fifth starter until about May 2nd versus the Pirates, so they have about a week and half before they have to make another roster move.

Mark Prior is going under the knife for exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder tomorrow in Birmingham. The procedure will be done by Dr. James Andrews and IF he finds any damage, he's expected to repair it on the spot. Hopefully our resident doctor will be along to let us know what Prior can expect tomorrow.

Game Chat (You can now register your username here and then revisit the same link and go to "log-in to change your settings" to change the password they give you) Claudio Vargas vs. Carlos Zambrano Lineups: (Courtesy of Reader MadTown)
Weeks 2b Soriano LF
Hardy SS Floyd RF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Estrada C Jones CF
Jenkins LF Derosa 2B
Gross RF Blanco C
Counsell 3B Izturis SS
Vargas P Zambrano P
Numerous radio reports say that Rocky Cherry has been called up and Wade Miller has been sent to the disabled list with back spasms. I guess that's the medical term for "excessive amount of suckage". UPDATE: Here's the confirming link from cubs.com; "middle back spasms" are the culprit.

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