Archive - Sep 2008

September 25th

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SP Rich Harden SP Pedro Martinez
(NL) 5-1, 1.66, 85 K, 25 BB, 65 IP
5-6, 5.50, 78 K, 40 BB, 103 IP
       
LF *Felix Pie SS #Jose Reyes
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Daniel Murphy
1B *Micah Hoffpauir 3B David Wright
CF *Jim Edmonds 1B *Carlos Delgado
2B *Mike Fontenot CF #Carlos Beltran
3B Casey McGehee RF *Ryan Church
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 2B Ramon Martinez
C #Koyie Hill C Robinson Cancel
P *Rich Harden P Pedro Martinez

 

The Cubs play their last-ever regular season game at The House That Jesse Gonder Built. In 44 years of play at Shea (the Mets played their first two years in the Polo Grounds), the Cubs have a 146-164 record.

Mark DeRosa and his strained calf muscle will enjoy tonight's game from the bench. Rich Harden makes his first-ever start against the Mets and Pedro Martinez, who is making his first start against the Cubs in 11 years, when he was still with the Expos.

A Cub win will give the team 97 wins for the first time since 1945.

WIth last night's extra-inning battle taxing the Mets' bullpen, Jerry Manuel has said he would consider using starter John Maine out of the pen tonight if/when he has to lift Pedro, who has only won twice in his last 11 starts.

I can't wait for all of these exhibition games to end so we can get down to real baseball.

You just can't put too much stock into any of the games the Cubs play this week, even if they're against potential playoff opponents playing for everything as the Cubs play for nothing. But if you consider them the practice tests before the Cubs have to take the ACT's next week, I think a few members of the Cubs need to do a cram session this weekend.

- Ronny Cedeno continued to impress with his baseball instincts yesterday. He attempted a sac bunt and failed miserably and then was slow to get to first on a sacrifice bunt attempt to first by Jose Reyes. In isolation these events wouldn't mean much, but the pattern has been there for as long as he's been with the Cubbies. I can't wait until the game is on the line in the playoffs and it's up to Cedeno to come through. Sadly, the Cubs have little choice but to put him on the playoff roster. He's the only backup shortstop on the team (no Mark DeRosa does not count) and the Cubs can't risk Ryan Theriot getting hurt early in the series and not having a viable defensive option to play there. And even if you thought DeRosa counted, he's now nursing a left calf strain that you probably don't want him testing at an unfamiliar defensive position as demanding as shortstop.

- The bottom of the 8th inning sure was a weird one last night. I can excuse Samardzija for giving up hits to Carlos Delgada and Carlos Beltran, they're good hitters and well that's just gonna happen from time to time. All pitchers get themselves into trouble, it's their ability to get out of it that sets them apart from the pack.  And Samardzija executed wonderfully on Ryan Church for the strikeout and then got the clog-footed Ramon Castro to ground out. And this is where things got weird.

Lou decided to intentionally walk Endy Chavez for some reason. Now I understand wanting to face the right-handed hitter, but it's Endy Chavez. A career .270 hitter that's hitting .280 against righties this year. On top of that, Samardzija has actually done better versus lefties this year - .170 BA vs .268 BA for right-handed hitters in nearly the same amount of plate appearances. And the true crime of the intentional walk was that it completely cut-off Samardzija's escape route. He was now forced to throw strikes to Ramon Martinez, something that he's been struggling with over the last month.

I'd like to believe that Lou was just testing Samardzija to see if he can throw strikes and get an out when absolutely needed. In which case, Samardzija failed worse than I did on my high school trigonometry exams. But it's more likely that Lou thought he was playing the percentages when he really wasn't. Samardzija still should be able to get that out there, but it certainly wasn't putting your players in the best position to win.

- On the flip side, the Mets are terrible. The Cubs tried to give them a gift and even tore off half the wrapping paper and the Mets still couldn't guess what was inside. Three times the Mets got a runner on third with NOBODY out and could only score run out of it. And that one run was thanks to the previously mentioned poor managing/poor execution by the Cubs.

Fukudome at bat after the 10th inning ARam HR. Click on the link to enlarge the fan behind the home plate ump.

September 24th

The Brewers took advantage of four errors and seven walks to defeat the Cubs 10-1 at Maryvale Baseball Complex Field #7 in AZ Instructional League action this afternoon in Phoenix.

While the main purpose of "Instructs" is to provide lots of coaches and instructors and a less-pressurized, more low-key environment that allows pitchers to work on a new pitch or on their secondary stuff and position players to try a new position, make adjustments as a hitter, or improve their baserunning, the fact is somedays the Cubs youngsters look better than they do on other days. And today was just not one of the good days.

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SP Carlos Zambrano SP *Oliver Perez
14-6, 3.77, 128 K, 68 BB, 184 IP
10-7, 4.10, 168 K, 97 BB, 184.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS #Jose Reyes
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Daniel Murphy
1B Derrek Lee 3B David Wright
3B Aramis Ramirez CF #Carlos Beltran
RF Mark DeRosa 1B *Carlos Delgado
CF Reed Johnson RF *Ryan Church
2B Ronny Cedeno C *Brian Schneider
C Henry Blanco 2B #Argenis Reyes
P #Carlos Zambrano P *Oliver Perez

 

After a lifetime spent listening to ballgames on the radio, I have come to associate certain parks with a certain tone, a certain pitch in the crowd sound. Obviously, my ear is well attuned to the way that Wrigley Field crowds come across on-air. Same with Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, and the Metrodome. (Loved hearing all those Twins fans Tuesday night!)

Shea Stadium is another one of those parks. Unlike what you hear over the radio from those other parks, however, the crowd sound that goes out over the airwaves from a raucous Shea isn't one of collective joy. It's much more coarse, much more dangerous, a wild, unruly roar—like the sound of inmates rooting on two guys aiming to shank each other in the middle of the yard.

One of the many toys at Baseball Prospectus is something they call "Secret Sauce". BP has successfully cracked the code to playoff success and nailed the last 45 World Series winners. What? How have you never heard of this amazing prediction system? Because I made that last part up, but nevertheless a fun tool to look at as we await our playoff opponent.

I looked back through 2000 and BP did predict three World Series winners and six of the 16 participants in the World Series correct. You scoff, but what's your playoff prediction success rate?

The formula is simple enough and rather intuitive to what is commonly believed among baseball folks that power pitching, a good closer and good defense wins in the playoffs. In this case, BP uses FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average), EqK9 (Equivalent Strikeout Rates per 9 innings) and WXRL (Win above Replacement Pitcher for the team's closer) and comes up with a score.

Their predictions and the 2008 rankings after the jump.

September 23rd

Junior Lake drove in three runs, Matt Cerda had three hits, and Brandon Guyer belted a solo home run, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 5-2 this afternoon in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.

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SP *Johan Santana SP *Sean Marshall
14-7, 2.65, 187 K, 58 BB, 217.1 IP
3-4, 3.62, 50 K, 19 BB, 59.2 IP
       
SS #Jose Ryes LF Alfonso Soriano
2B #Luis Castillo SS Ronny Cedeno
3B David Wright 1B Derrek Lee
CF #Carlos Beltran CF Reed Johnson
1B *Carlos Delgado 2B Mark DeRosa
C Ramon Castro 3B Casey McGehee
RF *Ryan Church RF *Kosuke Fukudome
LF Nick Evans C Henry Blanco
P *Johan Santana P *Sean Marshall

 

You'd think Lou would let his regulars get some hacks against Johan, since they may see him in the first round, but he seems to have gone the opposite route and sits most some of his regulars. Curious.

The Cubs want to try and take 2 of 3 or at least 1 of 3 from the Mets and hope the Brewers take 2 of 3 from the Pirates or sweep them. That would set up a tie between the Mets and the Brewers heading into the final weekend and increases the odds of them having to use their aces (C.C. or Johan) late in the season. That's more of a concern with the Mets when it comes to the Cubs playoff situation, but the more innings C.C. racks up now, the better chance he'll be less effective by the time the Cubs may face him in the playoffs. The Cubs also need to win 5 of 6 for 100 wins assuming the Monday make-up versus the Astros is not played.

Well there isn't much to do this week but speculate, so let's take a look at the potential Cubs first round playoff opponent. There's a poll at the end of the post.

- Sean Marshall will start Tuesday and Rich Harden will start Thursday. Letting Marshall start Tuesday means he'll likely get the start for the likely season finale on Sunday as well. Lou also said he won't be lightening any workloads for Harden or Zambrano this series. Pushing Harden to Thursday also means Lilly will get moved to a Saturday start.

Phil Rogers suggests this all means an NLDS rotation of Dempster, Harden, Zambrano and Lilly - a plan that I fully endorse.  Rogers also provides some useful information that all four possible playoff opponents are less productive (judged by OPS) against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. Bruce Miles has some other thoughts on the rotation and Lou himself said he's not making any announcements until this weekend.

- Rogers also reports that Jason Marquis will likely head to the pen and a long relief role for the playoffs although there are no specific quotations attributed to anyone. For some reason, I thought he was left off of last year's playoff roster, but he was just bumped from the rotation.

- Congrats to Micah Hoffpauir and Mitch Atkins, the Cubs Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Year.

- The Cubs claimed outfielder Brad Snyder off waivers and designated Adam Harben for assignment. Snyder was the 18th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

- The Cubs made some changes to their AFL roster. Pitcher Justin Berg will go to the Venezuelan Winter Leagues instead and be replaced by righty Jessie Estrada. Also, catcher/infielder Steve Clevenger and infielder Esmailin Caridad have been added to the Mesa Solar Sox bringing the total Cubs players up to 8 (Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, Nate Spears, Donald Veal and Rocky Roquet being the other 5).

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September 22nd

Brandon Guyer slammed a two-run homer and had three hits, and six pitchers combined to throw a three-hitter, as the Cubs defeated the A's 6-2 in AZ Instructional League Opening Day action at the Papago Sports Complex in Phoenix this afternoon.

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SP *Jon Niese SP Jason Marquis
1-0, 4.09, 9 K, 6 BB, 11 IP
10-9, 4.39, 87 K, 65 BB, 160 IP
       
SS #Jose Ryes LF Alfonso Soriano
LF *Dan Murphy 2B Ronny Cedeno
3B David Wright 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado 3B Aramis Ramirez
CF #Carlos Beltran C Geovany Soto
RF *Ryan Church RF Mark DeRosa
2B #Luis Castillo CF Reed Johnson
C *Brian Schneider SS Ryan Theriot
P *Jon Niese P *Jason Marquis

 

Remember when we were all mortified by the schedule and the impending final road trip to New York and Milwaukee? Good times. Now it's nothing more than a really expensive scouting trip and a chance to play spoiler. Looking at the Mets lefty heavy lineup makes it look like Ted Lilly could be a key contributor in a possible playoff series and that Sean Marshall would make the playoff roster if we play them down the road. 

Speaking of spoiler, the best case scenario for the Cubs is that the races stay close until Sunday or possibly extend into tie-breakers so the teams are forced to use their aces late in the season and can't arrange their rotations the way they like. For example, Johan Santana is scheduled to start tomorrow and then again Sunday. Let's say the Cubs take three of four from the Mets and the Brewers can scrap together two of three from the Pirates. They'll be tied heading into the weekend and the earliest either could clinch is Saturday then and more likely Sunday, if not later.

Sit back and enjoy some tension-free baseball,
although the Cubs do need a win or a Phillies loss to secure homefield advantage.

It's going to be a pretty laid back way week for the Cubs as they ready themselves for the playoffs. The only kink in that plan is they're playing two of the teams fighting for a playoff spot. Lou has already indicated that you wont' be seeing anymore lineups like Sunday:

"I can't let these guys all sit," Piniella said. "We have to use them
to keep them as sharp as possible. We'll play our regular lineup in
these games [against New York]. The worst thing that can happen is
Major League Baseball calls us and tells us, 'Hey, you people have a
responsibility,' and we're going to honor that. 

I'm not exactly sure that's the worst thing that can happen, the worst thing that could happen is that Soriano gets nailed with a fastball or Ramirez shreds a hamstring, etc, etc. But Lou is right that you just can't sit them for a week.  As I discussed last week, I think Lou should be weary of using his starting pitchers versus the Mets. When it comes to the question of unfamiliarity between a pitcher and a hitter, I think the advantage goes to the pitcher. The less a team has seen a pitcher, the bigger the disadvantage. Now I don't worry much about Jason Marquis going tonight since he's been in the league long enough that many of the Mets hitters have seen enough of him already and he probably won't pitch against them if they are the Cubs first round opponent. But the rest of the week has Harden vs. Johan, Zambrano vs. Perez and Lilly vs Pedro. First, let's applaud the Mets for having two pitchers who are simply known by their first names.

Second, I understand that you don't want to completely sit your starting pitchers and risk getting them rusty, but I do hope Lou sticks with a plan to limit them to 5 innings and no more than two times through the lineup. If you look at some of the numbers, Harden has only faced one Mets hitter at least 10 times and that's Carlos Delgado. Lilly is in much of the same boat, with only Delgado and Luis Castillo getting more than 10 AB's. Zambrano being a native National Leaguer, has faced most of the Mets lineup quite a bit more, including a one-run effort earlier in the season. 

All in all, it's probably not a big deal, but what else are we going to worry about this week?

Some random notes after the jump....

September 21st

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SP Braden Looper SP Ryan Dempster
12-13, 4.06, 96 K, 43 BB, 186 IP
16-6, 3.02, 182 K, 75 BB, 196.2 IP
       
CF *Skip Shumaker RF *Kosuke Fukudome
RF Ryan Ludwick SS Ronny Cedeno
1B Albert Pujols LF *Micah Hoffpauir
2B #Felipe Lopez 1B *Darye Ward
3B Troy Glaus 2B *Mike Fontenot
LF Nick Stavinoha CF *Felix Pie
C Jason Larue 3B Casey McGehee
P Braden Looper C #Koyie Hill
SS #Cesar Izturis P Ryan Demspter

 

Nothing like the post-clinch lineup...although you have to feel a little bad for Dempster who is trying to get win number 17 and retake sole possesion of the wins lead on the team. Cubs magic number to secure best record in the NL and homefield advantage is two. A loss by the Philles and Mets and a win by the Cubs would make the season ending road trip mostly irrelevant.

September 20th

Cubs Clinch Division, First Back-to-Back since 1907-1908, Earliest since 1932

W - Lilly (16-9), You, Me, Santo, Harry, 104-year-old-dude-who-threw-out-the-first-pitch, all Cubs fans.

L - Pineiro (6-7), the rest of the NL Central

S - Wood (32)

Box Score, Photos

Things to Take from This Game

1. A bases loaded three-run single for Soriano

Well, two rbis and an error leading to the third run.  In the bottom of the second Soriano lined a single right at Brian Barton in left. The ball kicked off his glove and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases.  The Cubs raced out to a 3-0 lead.

2.  More fielding problems, more runs.

The Cubs got two more runs in the fourth, as Soto began the inning by smashing one through Glaus at third.  DeRosa hit a double high off the ivy to score Soto, and after advancing to third on a Fukudome ground out, scored on a nicely executed suicide squeeze by Lilly.  5-0 Cubs through four innings.

3. Glaus homers in 4-run Sixth

Lilly looked great, very economical, through five. In the sixth Felipe Lopez gets an RBI single on a smash up the middle off Theriot's glove, and Glaus unloads a no-doubt three-run home run into the left field well.  Suddenly we had a close game.  5-4 through six.

4.  Lilly Recovers, Marmol and Wood close it out

Other than a leadoff walk to Glaus in the ninth, the last three innings passed uneventfully as Lilly pitched the seventh, with Marmol and Wood doing their jobs to close out the game.  A soft fly out to Edmonds off the bat of Aaron Miles ended the game, and a happy Cubs team celebrated between the pitcher's mound and first base.

 The Back-to-Back NL Central Champion Details, below.

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