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Book Review: "Chicago Cubs Yesterday & Today"

Steve Johnson, Chicago Cubs Yesterday & Today (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press) 2008. 144pp. $26.95

Any new addition to the collection of Chicago Cubs anthologies, encyclopedias and coffee table books is faced with the elemental problem of distinguishing itself from the dozens of other works competing for your beer money. In the case of Steve Johnson's Chicago Cubs Yesterday and Today, published by Voyageur Press, the pitch is twofold. First, instead of a chronological ordering that begins in the past and proceeds linearly towards the present, Johnson organized Yesterday and Today topically, juxtaposing pictures from different eras in Cubs history for side-by-side comparison. Hence the title. Second, Johnson presents an extensive and diverse selection of historical photos, many in color, from the archives of the Chicago Historical Society, the Hall of Fame, and private collections. While the execution of the whole "then and now concept" was about as consistent as a young Kerry Wood - full of promise, if alternatively brilliant and off target - the photo selection is more Greg Maddux - consistently great.

 

Game 35 Recap: Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 1

Pitchers Duel


W -
Lilly (3-4), batter's interference calls


L-
Haren (4-2), jerks who didn't start Lilly in their fantasy leagues

S - Wood (6)


Box Score
, Photos

 


Things to Take from This Game

1. Lilly Comes Through

Facing the best offense in baseball, one dominated by right-handed hitters, Lilly shut down the Diamondbacks to the tune of three hits, two walks, one earned run on a Chris Young Home Run, and ten strikeouts. He spotted the fastball well, with more velocity as the day went on, and had his harder curve and/or slider working for him. A really remarkable performance for Lilly.

2. Haren's good, not great

Haren also pitched very well. The key moment came in the fifth, when with a runner on second and two outs, he walked Johnson to get to Lilly. Lilly then singled through the middle for an RBI, and Soriano dropped a double in down the left field line. Lee added a home run off of Cruz in the eighth, completing the day's scoring

3. A Dominant Ninth for Wood

Wood threw nine strikes in the ninth, completely overpowering Young, Jackson and Upton. Easily the most dominant I've seen Wood, this year.

The this-is-what-I-get-for-not-being-a-fantasy-baseball-homer details, below.

 

 

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Game 34 Recap: Cubs 0, Reds 9

This Ain't Pleasure.


W -
Volquez (5-1), Mascots and umpires getting injured in funny ways


L -
Lieber (2-2), 3+ hours of my life


Box Score
, Photos

 


Things to Take from This Game


1. The Votto (and many others) Game.

Here is a list of Reds starters who did not hit home runs: Patterson, Griffey, Encarnacion, and the pitcher, Volquez. Joey Votto was the worst at not hitting home runs, as he failed to not hit home runs three times, against three different pitchers, to three different parts of the ball park.


2. Lieber? We barely saw 'er.

Lieber was terrible in his first start of the year. The second inning featured four home runs, to Votto, Dunn (back to back), Bako and Hairston. Just didn't have much in the way of stuff, with spotty command inside of the strike zone. It's not like Marshall or Gallagher were any better in relief


3. Can't Hit Volquez.

Volquez issued four early walks (and a couple late ones), but the Cubs couldn't hit him and he settled in after the first couple innings. Ten K's through seven, no runs, four hits.

4. Dusty, Dusty, Dusty....

What an idiot! Here we have one of the most talented young pitchers in the game, part of our core for the next several years, and with a 9-0 lead, and it's raining, and he's thrown 90-plus pitches, Dusty lets him come out for the seventh? With a rested bullpen? And there isn't even anyone up at the beginning of the inning, in case he struggles? What is he thinking? You're telling me there isn't a reliever who can cover a 9-0 lead for three innings? Of course, the young stud struggles through the inning, is painfully, clearly, visibly tired, and needs pitch number 118 to finally get through the inning??!?!

 

Oh, wait. Dusty is the Reds' manager, now? Nevermind.

5. Did I mention it rained?

And there was no one at the park, and it was deathly silent. What a wretched game to watch.

 

The all wet details, below.

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Game 31 Recap: Cubs 3, Cardinals 5

Three wasted hours, reviewed

 

W - Wellemeyer (3-1), Sunday Night Baseball "BINGO"
L - Marquis (1-2), trying to live-blog double-switches, HDTV on acne scars
S - Isringhausen (10)

 

Things to Take from This Game

 


1. Marquis = Hill?

Jason Marquis walked three in the first, but only gave up one run due to a terrific catch by Lee on a bases loaded, line-drive rocket off the bat of Duncan. He gave up five runs and five walks in five innings, with pretty weak command throughout the night.

2. Everyone = Hill? The only pitcher on either side to strike out more batters than he walked was Isringhausen, and his strikeout came on a "let's hurry up and get out of here" called strike three on Lee to end the game. Between the double switches and the walks and the Joe Morgan, it was a tough game to follow. Seriously, could Miller and Morgan stopped talking about Australian aboriginal farming techniques just long enough to call the game?

3. No Clutch Hitting
The box score shows 23 LOB for the Cubs. Among the more egregious innings were the first (two on, one out, no runs) the fourth (leadoff double doesn't score) and the seventh (bases loaded, one out, one run scores)

4. Soriano Looks Lost
Soriano started out his first ABs by going 0-2, 0-1, 0-2, 0-2, and 0-2. Besides two strikeouts, he did get a single and an RBI sac fly out of all that. But still...

 

The hum-drum highlights follow....

 

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Game 18 Recap: Cubs 13, Pirates 6

First Place

Box Score, Photos

W - Dempster (3-0), Ivy
L - Duke (0-1), Bullpen mounds

 

Things to Take from This Game
1. The Fifth Inning
After giving up two hits to start the game, Dempster cruised through the first four innings before falling apart in the fifth. The Cubs entered the inning with a 5-0 lead, but Dempster gave up 3 on a hbp, two walks, a couple singles and a double. He recovered a loss of command to strike out LaRoche with the bases loaded. (LaRoche just had a horrible game, all around.)

The bottom half of the inning featured five Cubs runs, two Pirates errors, and a Ramirez two-run homer. It put the game away at 10-3.

2. The Cubs Outfield
Remember when the outfield was supposed to be Soriano, Pie and Fukudome? WIth an outfield of Murton, Johnson and DeRosa, the Cubs still scored 13 runs. Johnson scored three times, Murton had a couple of RBI ground-outs, and DeRosa... well, he didn't break his neck in right field while stumbling over the Pirate bullpen, so that counts as good.

3. Cubs Patience
Another day, another 7 walks, with just three strikeouts. Really, it was just an all-around strong offesnive performance, with everyone reaching base safely other than Dempster, Howry, and pinch-hitters Fontenot and Pie.

The Cards and Brewers both lost, so guess who's in first? The happy, three-and-a-half-hour details, below.

 

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Game 6 Recap: Cubs 3, Astros 2

Up to .500

 

 

W - Zambrano (1-0), outfield arms, broad strike zones, Derrek Lee
L - Villarreal (0-2), Budweiser shills
S - Wood (3), the home-stand

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1. Cubs pitchers cruise
Zambrano
pitched 7 relatively strong innings with 7 Ks and 2 ER. His worst
trouble came in the first, which began with runners at 2nd and 3rd
before Erstad struck out and Lee flew into a 7-2 DP, with Soriano
nailing Bourn at the plate. Cubs pitchers didn't allow a walk,
and Zambrano cruised through the middle third of the game with 9
straight outs. No one reached base against Marmol or Wood in the
8th and 9th

 

2. Derrek Lee is crushing the ball
Lee
finally made an out, and even that was a lined shot that might have
cleared the wall on another day. His go-ahead home run off of
Villarreal was hit about as hard as a person can hit a ball.
Everything is getting smokback up the middle of the field.

 

3. Soriano helps out
Soriano's
throw home in the top of the first was perfect.  He also hit one out,
just scraping over the basket in the left field wall to give the Cubs a
2-1 lead. Hopefully it's the start of better days ahead.

 

After a shakey start to the homestand, we at least walk into Pittsburgh as a 3-3 team. Details below.

 

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Game 5 Recap: Cubs 9, Astros 7

It's... It's.... It's.....
Cubs Game Recaps!

W-
Hart (1-0), the Lees, extra-base hits
L- Oswalt (0-1), relief pitchers
S- Wood (2), hope for this homestand

Things to Take from This Game


1. No easy innings

Other than the sixth
and the half-inning ninth, no inning went without someone scoring a
run. Marquis struggled through five and a third, featuring
rolling sliders and fastballs that kept moving back over the plate, but
getting out of potentially disasterous innings with 3 GIDPs.
Oswalt gave up ten hits and a walk without striking anyone out in six
and two-thirds.

2. The Lees

Derrek
and Carlos combined for seven hits, five runs, four rbis, three
doubles, two home runs, and awful defense. Derrek dropped a ball
at first that started a 2-run sixth inning for the Astros. Carlos
Lee wandered about aimlessly in left field, occasionally drawing stray
baseballs closer to him by virtue of his gravitational field.

3. More love for Fukudome

KF's
day featured a fine running catch, a bunt single that surprised the
whole ball-park, and the go-ahead, two-run double in the five-run
seventh inning.

4. Then, there's Soriano...

Whose 0-5 with 5 LOB day leaves him with a .045 average to start the year.

That je ne se qua of mine that you didn't know you missed until you saw it again, the dinge an sich goodness inherent in a recap, below

 

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Cubs 2007 Pitch Tracking: Pictures Worth a Thousand Curves

One of the latest and most exciting developments in baseball research is the measurement and analysis of individual
pitches. For instance, the Pitch f/x system created by the
company Sportvision
tracks the in-flight movement of pitches from two different cameras,
thereby assessing a pitch's velocity, horizontal and vertical
movement. A bit less than 1/4th of all pitches from last year were so
assessed, and MLB has made the raw contents of that data available at this location. Better yet, there are several bloggers who, unlike me, have the
talent and dedication to transform that heaping mess of data into
meaningful findings. Most notable, Josh Kalk
has been developing player cards,
a la what's available at baseball-reference or fan graphs or baseball
cube, except with graphs incorporating this incredible new source of
information on pitch selection and pitch behavior. He also has
developed a remarkable application where you can select any
player and any pitch with just about any limiting parameter you could
want - say, Bob Howry fastballs to right-handed hitters on 0-2 counts with a velocity above 93 MPH that resulted in swinging strikes - and then view the results on a handy X/Y graph.

As if that's not enough, there's the more user friendly if less revolutionary pitch data commercially available at Baseball Info Solutions which is being applied by the talented folks at Fan Graphs.
Fan Graphs now offers data on individual players' pitch selections and
velocity, all thoroughly sortable. For instance, Tim Wakefield
and Chad Bradford feature the two slowest average fastballs in the
major at 74.2 and 78.6 MPH, respectively, while no one threw a changeup
with greater frequency last year than Matt Wise, at 54%

There's a gold mine of potential information available at our
fingertips, with The Baseball Analysts and The Hardball Times leading
the way in this sort of analysis. With far less sophistication than
what those guys can offer, let's see what it can tell us about the
Cubs' staff.

2007 Batting Order Results

Or, how Baseball-Reference will be the death of me

 

The latest ridiculously interesting tool released by baseball-reference.com is its Batting Order Position Outcomes page. Plug in a team, a year, and a position in the batting order, and it will break down that position's results by the player batting in that slot.

 

For instance, did you know that on the 2007 Cubs team, Cesar Izturis logged the most games (41) and plate appearances (154) in the 8th spot in the order? He put up a .254/.314/.300/.614 line while hitting 8th, and the Cubs went 18-23 in games where he batted 8th. With Koyie Hill hitting 8th, the Cubs went an impressive 14-7. No thanks to Hill, necessarily, who hit .141/. 203/.211/.414 in those games. In stark contrast to Hill, Ronny Cedeno hit .368/.369/.737/1.052 in nine games there, and the Cubs went 2-7.

 

Other interesting but perhaps entirely meaningless discoveries include...

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