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Name That Double-Play Combo!

Cubs fans, an opportunity presents itself that we cannot afford to ignore.  The starting middle-infielders on our team are:

  • Short
  • Skinny
  • "Scrappy"
  • Teammates since college
  • Own last names that rhyme with each other
  • Are generally just sort of adorable

And, someone surprisingly given Hendry's penchant for gathering unto the Ark two of every no-hit utility man, these guys are, most importantly

  • pretty good baseball players!

It's time to give Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot their own nickname.  Something that, after the Cubs win the World Series this year, will echo throughout the marbled halls of Cubs lore like "The Daily Double." 

More important, it should be something we can slap on a T-shirt and hawk outside of Wrigley, allowing the yet-unknown Adam who names this new creature in the Cubs garden to take home a generous 3% cut of TCR's profits on the venture.1

Of course, there already is a nickname in circulation, "The Cajun Connection."  That nickname however

  • is the name of several businesses
  • sounds like it could be a Sourthern escort service
  • is a bit of a mouthful
  • seems to have first been used by Paul Sullivan in a 2007 article
  • hasn't yet caught on to the point where it's cemented as their nickname

Follow me below the fold, wordsmiths, to discuss nicknames for our mighty middle infielders.

Game 4 Recap: Cubs 3, Brewers 4

Blown.
W - Villanueva (1-0), Poorly designed stadiums

 

L - Gregg (0-1), the three and a half hours I could have spent grading, that now need to be repaid.

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1.  Harden is just fine, thank you.
Harden hit 96 a couple times, sat at around 92, and gave up three hits, two walks (one intentional) and one earned run on a Hart solo homer through six innings.  He also struck out ten with a nasty changeup and a well placed fastball.  It's pretty cool to see that sort of line and think "yeah, that's about what we expect from our fourth starter."  The other run against Harden was an unearned run in the first.  (A slightly high Theriot throw pulled Lee off the bag, and eventually Braun drove in a run on a single.)

 

2.  Likely and Unlikely HRs.
Bradley got off the O-fer with a huge solo homer, and Hill hit a go-ahead two-run homer that put Harden in line for a win.

 

3.  But...
Lou hard to burn through his bullpen in the seventh and eighth, using Heilman, Cotts, Marmol, Marshall, Vizcaino and Gregg to preserve the lead going into the ninth.   He also pinch hit with Miles with a chance to drive in an insurance run from third with one out in the eighth, when Hoffpauir also was available, and Miles gave us an inning-killing GIDP.

 

4.  So...
A walk, a ground out, a Weeks game-tying double, and another walk into the ninth, and Gregg finds runners on first and third with one out in the ninth.  Braun hits a medium-to-slow roller three steps to Theriot's right.  Theriot chooses to try for the out at home instead of the double play, and Weeks just does get his hand on home in front of the tag.  Brewers win the game.

 

The second-guessing begins, below.
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Game 1 Recap: Cubs 4, Astros 2

Perfect Season?
W - Zambrano (1-0)
L - Oswalt (0-1)
S - Gregg (1)

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1. Zambrano is Sharp
Zambrano cruised through six before getting into a bit of trouble in the seventh.  He got pulled before he could get himself too far into a jam, Heilman immediately induced a GIDP, but a run then went onto Z's account when Bourn "drove in" a runner from third with a 40 foot chopper up the first base line.  For Zambrano it was one measly run, 6 Ks, 3 BB, a bunch of ground balls and a very efficient first six innings, 98 pitches total.

 

2. Cubs Get to Oswalt Early
Soriano and Ramirez led off the first and second innings with solo home runs to left: Soriano's a bomb to deep left-center, Ramirez's a liner into the boxes more down the line.  Oswalt settled down and also induced one grounder after another through an efficient seven innings. The Cubs added two more runs with a Theriot sac fly scoring Fontenot in the 6th, and a Hoffpauir single scoring Fontenot in the 9th.

 

3. Bullpen works as planned
Heilman and Cotts got the Cubs out of a seventh-inning jam, allowing Marmol and Gregg to cover the eighth and ninth.  The run against Gregg came after Bradley had the ball pop out of his glove on a tough-but-ought-to-be-caught effort at a sinking line drive.  Overall, about all one could hope for on Opening Day:  The big bats hit a couple homers, the middle infielders got on and got around, the pinch-hitter pinch-hit, Z was Good Z, and set up the bullpen to execute their assignments.

 

The undefeated details follow.
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Worried

I'm worried.

I'm worried that our best hitter and best pitcher are two of the most injury-prone players in the game

I'm worried that we signed Dempster back before the economy completely tanked, and wound up over-paying.

I'm worried that the Dempster overpay caused us to trade away DeRosa, which, I worry, has greatly weakened our bench.

And, I worry, has greatly weakened our chemistry, whatever the hell that is.

I'm worried that Carlos Marmol will tire of his experiment living
amongst humans, and decide to return to his normal, alien form, go back
to the mothership, and report to the Martians that no, the earthlings
do not offer any worthy baseball competition.  Marmol the Martian will
then leave us as he explores other worlds in search of competition.

I'm worried that Carlos Zambrano is on the Livan Hernandez Career Arc.

I'm worried that you, gentle reader, won't follow me below the fold...

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Backstop Backups

Time for that Player A, Player B, Player C contrivance, using the average of the five different 2009 projection systems available at FanGraphs.

 

  Ave.  Obp.  Slg.  OPS
 Player A  .277  .311  .412  .723
 Player B  .212  .285  .301  .585
 Player C  .229  .292  .363  .655

 

Player A also has 13 Gold Gloves, 12 All-star Game appearances, an MVP award and a World Series ring.

Player B also has...  well...  uh...  A Funny Middle Name.  He's 7 months younger than player A, too.

Player C also has... well...  uh...  A Funny First Name.  And middle name.  He's hurt just a bit in this comparsion because he's so incredibly anonymous that he didn't get included in Bill James' projection system, which usually has a tick or two higher offensive projections than the other four projection systems.

If you haven't figured it out yet...

 

Head in a Word Cloud.

Perhaps you have run into "word clouds," a visual device that represents how frequently different words appear in a text.  As a historian I love it, as I can do fun things like compare Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention nomination acceptance speech with McCain's from the Republican National Convention.

That's useful stuff.  I can show word clouds like those to my students, and ask them what the clouds do (and do not) reveal.

But who cares about utility.  Let's use some word clouds to navel-gaze, and check out our favorite baseball-related websites.

 

Game 32 Recap: Cubs 2, Astros 0

Holy Moses! Wood K's 20, Parts Red Sea


W - Wood (3-2), History. Fastballs over the outside corner.  Generous outside corners.

L - Reynolds (2-3), any losers who didn't see this game live because they were out in the rain and cold shooting a bad round of golf.  Trying to come up with an adequate term for that freaky breaking pitch of Wood's.

Box Score, Photos, Standings

 

Things to Take from This Game

1. Wood Strikes Out 20, Two Batters Reach in Complete Game Shutout

From the first few pitches of the game it was clear that Wood had a potentially history-making fastball and breaking stuff working today.  Wood K'd his first five,and gave up his only hit on a grounder by Gutierrez off of Orie's glove.  This won't make me the most popular guy around here, but yeah, it was a hit.  It also was a play that Orie probably makes more often than not.  Tough luck for everyone involved. The only other runner came on a curveball that got away from Wood and beaned Biggio.  The performance is every bit as dominating as the box score will indicate.  Almost without exception, the Astros looked completely helpless.

2. Cubs scratch out 2 runs against Reynolds

Reynolds threw a complete game gem, himself, with 10 Ks and 1 ER in 8 innings.  The Cubs' scores came on a Grace "double" in the second, on an incredibly generous ruling where third-baseman Howell got completely devoured by a bouncer.  Grace then advanced to third as left-fielder Dave Clark throws away the potential play at second base.  Oh Henry! drove him in with a sac fly to Alou in deep center field.  They added another for good measure in the eighth; Morandini and Grace singled, with Morandini scoring on an attempted 5-4-3 double play that was too slowly turned and resulted in a fielder's choice.

3.  Greatest Game Ever?

A traditional recap can not adequatly contextualize this game.  The central question at this moment, just minutes after witnessing this gem, is not "what do we take from this game?" but "where will this game place among the all-time great games ever pitched?"  Larson's perfect game came in a far more important context.  Haddix's perfect game through 12 innings kept more hitters off base for longer.  Clemens has two 20-K games to his record, but as I thumb through the pages of my favorite baseball encyclopedia, I see that Clemens gave up five hits in his 1996 gem, and a run on three hits in 1986.  The 1996 Tigers and 1986 Mariners, furthermore, were no 1998 Astros.  IS this the greatest game ever?  If only we had some sort of pitcher's in-game dominance statistic, and a place that compiled every statistic from every game ever played.  Then we might have a more objective idea of where this game ranks on the list of all-time great pitching performances.  In the meantime, here's hoping that Wood's career is as successful and distinguished as the Rocket's.

4.  Looking to the Future...  All the way to the Year... 2000...

This has to portend well for the Cubs.  If Wood can stay healthy and anchor a rotation with Trachsel, and another talented young arm like Geremi Gonzalez or Terry Adams or Telemaco emerges as a compliment, we could have a dominant rotation for a decade to come.  We just need Wood's health to hold, and though we know he was worked hard in high school, he seems to be a very well built young man, and hopefully can keep his strength up.  The Cubs winning a world series may be about as likely as a black president or a second Great Depression, but Wood may have the arm to get us there.

The if-this-is-his-rookie-year, just-imagine-the-things-to-come details, below.

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Spring Training Narratives: The Mad-Libs Edition.

I was meaning to write a nice update of spring training storylines like Rob has done in the post below, but I'm too busy reading rejection letters from Universities being chased by spurned Valentines to scour the globe for the informative content that you, the reader deserve.

Then I remembered that it's spring training, and the stories write themselves.

So here are your Mad Libs that need filling in.  The story itself is below the fold.  (No peeking until you've entered your words!)

 

1. A Cubs Player

2. A number

3. A celebrity

4. A food

5.  A gerund (a verb + ing) 

6.  A noun

7. A Cubs Player

8.  A body part

9.  A medical procedure

10.  A number

11.  A roster position

12. A Cubs Player

13. An adjective

14.  A Cubs Player

15.  An Adjective

16.  A player from another baseball team

17.  A sports reporter

18.  A retired player

19.  An adjective

20.  A roster position

21.  A feature of Wrigley Field

22. +  23.  Two corporations

24.  An occupation

25 + 26.  Two Celebrities

27.  A tragedy

28.  A Cubs Player

29.  A noun.

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  • video of Maddon.

    http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561343809737202839-4

    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 1 hour 7 min ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 1 hour 12 min ago view
  • http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561339391889382475-4

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 1 hour 17 min ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 1 hour 29 min ago view
  • If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?

    Craig A. 1 hour 40 min ago view
  • #Cubs plummet to 19-5 in August.

    Fun with FIP

    • J. Hammel   3.07 ERA/4.27 FIP (3.68 FIP last year)
    • J. Arrieta     2.62 ERA/3.05 FIP (2.35 FIP last year)
    • J. Lester     2.81 ERA/3.67 FIP (2.92 FIP last year)
    • K. Hendricks  2.19 ERA/3.37 FIP (3.36 FIP last year)
    • J. Lackey     3.41 ERA/3.72 FIP (3.57 FIP last year with Cards)
    Rob G. 2 hours 5 min ago view
  • zastyryzryzryzny put in 3.2ip 1h 0bb 3k

    he's great when his control is "on"...problem is it's rarely "on" consistently. he could vault up the cubs prospect list if he ever gets better with that aspect of his game.

    crunch 2 hours 45 min ago view
  • JD's take was just trying to get in a lefty to better deal with mostly lefty Dodgers lineup.

    My second thought was what you came up with. My first thought was he was trying to light a fire under Hammel.

    Jackstraw 3 hours 57 min ago view
  • Maybe he was trying to spare him another brutal road start? NY, Colorado...

    billybucks 4 hours 14 min ago view
  • joe got a pitcher up for hammel at nearly the 1st sign of trouble in the 3rd...pulled after 2.1

    not injured and though it wasn't his day so far he wasn't looking like a pure disaster.

    really short leash on him. zastryznzryzryny in.

    crunch 4 hours 19 min ago view
  • Russell and Soler can attest that Urias has a pretty good curve/slider - two big strikeouts looking to get out of that jam in the first.

    Eric S 5 hours 3 min ago view
  • Classic Scully - great stuff.

    Thank God we'll still have Hawk next season. (cricket cricket cricket)

    Eric S 9 hours 54 min ago view
  • Here's Scully's call on Bryant's 10th-inning homer:

    "And it's a long fly ball, a mean fly ball, and a gone fly ball."

    VirginiaPhil 11 hours 8 min ago view
  • When the Cubs were the old, hundred-year Cubs, one bad hop did not undo their opponents.

    VirginiaPhil 11 hours 11 min ago view
  • If only he was clutcher. More clutcher.

    Jackstraw 12 hours 30 min ago view
  • cubs win...bryant with 7HR in his last 8 games.

    crunch 19 hours 42 min ago view