Archive - 2008

October 1st

Gyeh.

 

W - Lowe (1-0)
L - Dempster (0-1)

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

1.  Cubs out to an early lead

DeRosa lofted a home run down the right field foul line for a two-run homer in the second.  His first swing in a week.

2.  Dempster's wildness catches up to him

Dempster looked really sharp in the first, but the Dodgers didn't chase the splitter out of the zone, the umpire didn't call fastballs just off the corners, and Dempster lost progressively greater command of his fastball.  Seven walks by Dempster alone, three of them in the fifth inning, and after nearly, nearly, nearly escaping with a near-strike out of Loney on a foul tip, Loney lined a grand slam out to center.
 
3.  Not much good to report from there
Manny Ramirez hit a remarkable home run on a pitch at his shoelaces, and Martin also hit a shot into the basket.  Wrigley was quiet most of the second half of the game, save when a few fans found the energy to boo.
 

The worrisome details, below...

Tags: 

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Ryan Dempster SP Derek Lowe
17-6, 2.96, 187 K,76 BB, 206.2 IP (2008)
14-11, 3.24, 147 K, 45 BB, 211 IP
    (Playoffs) 5-4, 3.34, 43 K, 23 BB, 67.1 IP
LF Alfonso Soirano SS #Rafael Furcal
RF *Kosuke Fukudome C Russell Martin
1B Derrek Lee LF Manny Ramirez
3B Aramis Ramirez RF *Andre Ethier
C Geovany Soto 1B *James Loney
CF *Jim Edmonds CF Matt Kemp
2B Mark DeRosa 2B *Blake DeWitt
SS Ryan Theriot C Casey Blake
P Ryan Dempster P Derek Lowe

 

The calender page flips to October and the Cubs are in the unfamiliar position of being the favorites. Well maybe not the favorites to win it all, I think that honor belongs to the Angels or Red Sox, but certainly the team to beat in the National League. TBS will wax poetic about curses and goats and I'll set the over/under line on a Bartman clip at top of the third. And I'll roll my eyes with each and every mention. 

But here we are, on the cusp of the playoffs with a Cubs team that is as good as many of us have ever seen; on the heels of a season that exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. Is this the team to break the drought? I don't know, but I sure do believe it is. 

As for today's game... 

Here is this year's Ex-Cub Factor update:

 

Philadelphia Phillies: 3 -- Scott Eyre, Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs

Milwaukee Brewers: 1 -- Jason Kendall

Chicago Cubs: None

Los Angeles Dodgers: 3 -- Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Juan Pierre

Chicago White Sox: None

Tampa Bay Rays: 1 -- Cliff Floyd

Boston Red Sox: None

Los Angeles Angels Etc.: 2 -- Gary Matthews Jr., Justin Speier

A quick reminder: the Ex-Cub Factor, as coined by Ron Berler, popularized by Mike Royko, and brought to the Web by yours truly, says that no team with three or more ex-Cubs can win the World Series. Based on the numbers, then, only the Phillies and Dodgers are out of luck this year.

But I've been thinking abut the Factor recently and I wonder if it is as strong (and unfailing) as it used to be. The factor was originally born out of the idea that there is an ineffable "Cubness" (these days some might call it "Cubbery"), a stink of loserdom that works its way into the psyche of any player who toils on the North Side. Even after they leave the Friendly Confines, the theory goes, those players carry this Cubbie essence with them, and if you get a critical mass of ex-Cubs on one team, their combined futility is enough to deny their team the ultimate prize.

The Factor has been pretty strong; only twice (in 1960 and 2001) has it been defeated, and in each case it took walk-off hits in the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game (both times against the Yankees, no less) to overcome it.

The thing is, though, that I wonder if what it means to be a Cub hasn't changed over the last few years. After decades of management that ranged from boneheaded to non-existent, the team's corporate overlords seemed to wake up and realize they owned a baseball team in a major media market. They started increasing payroll to attract free agent talent; they hired some smart people to work on drafting and in the minor leagues; and they started bringing in proven talent at manager: first Dusty (a disaster, but still) and now Uncle Lou.

The net result has been three playoff appearances in the last six years. A casual fan might not think that's a big deal, but any Cub fan knows that's equal to the number of playoffs appearances the team had made in the previous 57 years.

It's more than just the playoff appearances, though. There has been a change in the feeling that surrounds the team. It's not like we're all suddenly, automatically, expecting the Cubs to be winners; it's hard to shake a hundred years of futility. But I think most Cub fans feel differently about the team's general prospects now than they did even a decade ago -- while we still acknowledge the problems of the past, and worry about them out of proportion with reality, we (or at least I) no longer default to the worst possible outcome when I start thinking about what's ahead.

As far as I know, Ron Berler never talked about what it would take to end the reign of the Ex-Cub Factor. I think a World Championship this year would probably do it; a pennant might be even be enough. But even if neither of those things happen, I feel like the Factor is on its way out. Being traded to the Cubs no longer means years of toiling for a second-division team, playing meaningless games in the best park in baseball and hoping for a ticket out of purgatory; I don't think it's a stretch to think that players can leave the employ of the Chicago National League Base Ball Club and no longer be branded losers from there on out.

Maybe the factor will come into play this year (although I hope it doesn't, because that would mean the Cubs aren't in the Series). If it does, it's possible that the Dodgers or Phillies will lose the Series, and the Factor will be said to have claimed another victim. But whether or not that happens, I have a feeling that, as time goes by, we'll hear less and less about the Lovable Losers and the effect playing for them has on the rest of players' careers.

Go Cubs!

When no clear answer presents itself, go with the most obvious..

LDS:
Cubs over Dodgers in 4

Phils over Brewers in 3

Angels over Red Sox in 5

Rays over White Sox in 5

LCS

Cubs over Phils in 6

Angels over Rays in 7

World Series

Cubs over Angels in 5

Past the time until first pitch by doing some ball hawking.The playoff roster has been announced as well.

C - Blanco, Soto

INF - Lee, Ward, Fontenot, DeRosa, Theriot, Cedeno, Ramirez

OF - Soriano, Edmonds, Johnson, Fukudome, Pie

SP - Demspter, Zambrano, Harden, Lilly

RP - Wood, Marmol, Samardzija, Cotts, Marshall, Howry, Marquis

With DeRosa limping, the Cubs needed someone who could play the outfield when Lou needs to pinch-hit for Fukudome or the couple dozen other late-inning possibilities. Hopefully the only time we see Bob Howry is if the Cubs are nursing a 13-0 lead after Sutcliffe and the Penguin homer.

Cubs Offense vs. Dodgers Pitching and Defense

Let's finish the preview and see what the Cubs pitching can do against the Dodgers bats.

Dodgers Offense vs. Cubs Pitching and Defense

Dodgers Hitting: .264/.333/.399 .732 OPS(11th in OPS), 126 SB's at a 75% success rate (3rd and 5th respectively)

Cubs Pitching: .242/.316/.395 .711 OPS, 3.87 ERA (1st in BA, 3rd in ERA, , 2nd in the rest,)

Dodgers Hitting vs. Right Handers: .260/.326/.390 .716 OPS

Dodgers Hitting vs. Leftt Handers: .275/.350/.419 .769 OPS

Cubs Pitching vs. Right Handers: .237/.302/.385 .687 OPS

Cubs Pitching vs. Left Handers: .249/.336/.409 .745 OPS

Dodgers are 53-57 when a right-handed pitchers starts the game, 31-21 when a left-handers starts.

Cubs Defense: .706 DER (1st in NL), .832 RZR (6th in the NL)

Cubs Rotation: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly

September 30th

Brad Boyer put the Giants on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the bottom of the 6th and the Cubs were held to just three singles, as the Giants shutout the Cubs 2-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale this afternoon.

RHP Billy Petrick, hampered by shoulder weakness since the start of Spring Training and on the Daytona Cubs DL since the end of May, got the start for the Cubs today, and he looked OK. He was removed with one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning after throwing 20 pitches (15 strikes), during which time he allowed one hit (a harmless single) and no walks, with one strikeout, a pop-up, and two ground outs.  

I'm a little under the weather, so bear with me and this rather bare bones preview...all the substance, none of the fluff.

I never understood the positional breakdowns that many folks do for a series or playoff preview. I understand a team is only as good as the sum of its parts, but Derrek Lee will never have to battle against James Loney at any point in the series. It's more about how one team's pitching and defense will fare against the other team's lineup.

Cubs Offense vs. Dodgers Pitching and Defense

Cubs Hitting: .278/.354/.443 .797 OPS(1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd), 87 SB's at a 72% success rate (8th in NL)

Dodgers Pitching: .251/.315/.376 .691 OPS, 3.68 ERA (1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd)

Cubs Hitting vs. Right Handers: .274/.350/.443 .793 OPS

Dodgers Pitching vs. Right Handers: .239/.300/.361 .661 OPS

Dodgers Pitching vs. Left Handers: .268/.334/.396 .730 OPS

Cubs are 64-48 when a right-handed pitchers starts the game.

Dodgers Defense: .693 DER (9th in NL), .825 RZR (12th in the NL)

Dodgers Rotation: Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Greg Maddux

--At the Baseball Analysts, Ross Roley explains why the Cubs have a 22% likelihood of winning the World Series. That's the marginally bad news. The good news is, that's the highest probability for any of the competing playoff teams, according to Roley. The Brewers come in second at 16%. The Angels, with the best record in baseball, weigh in at just 13%. Predicting the result of a short series is an inexact science at best. Still, it's nice to see a headline that reads, "Why the Angels Won't Win the World Series (and the Cubs Will Win It All)."

--At ESPN.com, Tim Kurkjian poses Five Questions relevant to the Dodgers/Cubs series and so as not to ruin it for you, I'll just provide the answers here: considerable, yes, very, as much as possible, and a good thing. Kurkjian likes the Cubs in five games.

--Tim Dierkes at The Hardball Times also likes the Cubs in five, pointing to the Cubs' superior hitting and fielding over the Dodgers' miniscule edge in starting pitching.

--There was a lunchtime rally of Cubs fans today in Daley Plaza with Jim Belushi "among the luminaries," according to the Tribune. I must have missed the last luminaries election, but I wouldn't have voted for Jim Belushi.

September 29th

Matt Downs clubbed a grand slam home run to cap a nine-run 2nd inning, and the Giants coasted to a 9-4 victory over the Cubs in AZ Instructional League action this afternoon at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa. 

September 28th

How the Cubs and their NLDS opponents stacked up in a variety of statistical categories. (Team's National League rankings appear in parens; "DER" refers to Defensive Efficiency Ratio and "RZR" refers to Revised Zone Rating. Throughout, * means stats are through Saturday, 9/27. ) 

CUBS
  L.A.
 Hitting
855 (1st) RS
700 (13th)
184 (5th) HR
137 (13th)
.355 (1st) OBP
.333 (6th)
.445 (1st) SLG
.400 (13th)
 800 (1st) OPS
733 (11th)
     
 Pitching
668 (2nd) RA
645 (1st)
3.87 (2nd) ERA
3.68 (1st)
2.30 (3rd) K/BB
2.51 (2nd)
711 (2nd) OPS vs.
691 (1st)
66% (4th) SV %
65% (5th)
     
 Fielding*
.706 (1st) DER
.693 (9th)
.832 (6th) RZR
.825 (12th)

 

Here's another interesting set of numbers—the performance of the Dodgers offense before and after the acqusition of Manny Ramirez:

Game times have been released for the first three games of the NLDS:

5:30 pm CST for Game 1 @ Wrigley on Wednesday, October 1st

8:30 pm CST for Game 2 @ Wrigley on Thursday, October 2nd

9:00 pm CST for Game 3 @ Dodger Stadium on Saturday, October 4th

I imagine they'll wait to see how the other series are doing before they announce game times for games 4 and 5. I'm a little surprised they could get clearance for such a late start on Thursday at Wrigley, but so be it. Stock up on your favorite stimulant and stay up late to enjoy your Cubs.

It's all settled, the Dodgers and their league-leading pitching staff will roll into Chicago starting Wednesday. The Cubs were 5-2 against them this season, including a three game sweep at home in three low-scoring games. They split a four game set in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers ride into October with a 17-7 record, albeit it against an extremely easy schedule (Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Pirates).

I think the Cubs are the far superior team, but the Dodgers do have a good staff and the games will probably be close and low-scoring. That means a lucky break or two and the Dodgers can make this interesting.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Angel Guzman SP *C.C. Sabathia
0-0, 7.04, 6 K, 4 BB, 7.2 IP (NL)
10-2, 1.78, 121 K, 24 BB, 121.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soirano CF Mike Cameron
SS Ryan Theriot 2B #Ray Durham
1B Derrek Lee LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Prince Fielder
CF Reed Johnson SS J.J. Hardy
RF *Micah Hoffpauir RF Corey Hart
2B Ronny Cedeno 3B *Craig Counsell
C Henry Blanco C Jason Kendall
P Angel Guzman P *C.C. Sabathia

 

First, Paul Sullivan writes that despite his recent travails (5.40 ERA in September), Jeff Samardzija has made the post-season roster and that Chad Gaudin will likely be a spectator.

As for today's game, Mark DeRosa (calf strain) was hoping to get in a few swings so he
didn't have to go into the playoffs cold. Alas, he is not in the starting
lineup. Geovany Soto (sore hand) is also sitting.

The Brewers begin play tied with the Mutts for the Wild Card, with a one-game tiebreaker tomorrow at Shea in the teams' futures if things don't get settled today. (As I post this, the Marlins and Mets are waiting out a rain delay at Shea.)

 

"It's not going to matter because, well, it is going to matter but it's not going to matter,"

Translated into English, it means that Lou Piniella decided that Carlos Zambrano would not pitch the first inning or two of today's regular season finale at Milwaukee and Angel Guzman will.

Translated into Sullivanese...

September 27th

Tony Campana had four RBI, Logan Watkins scored three runs, Josh Vitters had two doubles and a walk, and Jake Optiz smashed a double and a triple, as the Cubs rallied from a 7-3 deficit to defeat the Angels 9-7 in AZ Instructional League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa. 

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP *Ted Lilly SP Ben Sheets
16-9, 4.17, 180 K, 63 BB, 198.2 IP
13-8, 2.98, 157 K, 45 BB, 196 IP
       
RF *Kosuke Fukudome CF Mike Cameron
SS Ronny Cedeno 3B Bill Hall
1B *Micah Hoffpauir LF Ryan Braun
LF *Daryle Ward 1B *Prince Fielder
CF Reed Johnson SS J.J. Hardy
2B *Mike Fontenot RF Corey Hart
3B Casey McGehee 3B Rickie Weeks
C Henry Blanco C Jason Kendall
P *Ted Lilly P Ben Sheets

 

A Brewers win and a Mets loss (Mets currently up 1-0 in the 3rd) and the Brewers would clinch and the Cubs would know their opponent for the NLDS. To honor the occasion, Lou has trotted out the "B" squad. The game should be on Fox for most of the country I believe.

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