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I Returned to TCR to recap THIS?!?!

 

Box Score, Play Log, Game Graphs, Photos

 

W-  Lowe (1-0), calls for instant replay, people making their team or career debuts

L- Zambrano (0-1), dignity. 3 hours of my life

 

Things to Take from This Game

1.  Not So Good: Zambrano, Samardzija

Zambrano got knicked by a series of softly hit singles before giving up a 3-run home run to Neo Heyward.  Some throwing mistakes and a McCann homer in the second chased Zambrano from the game, having given up 8.   The fourth reliever in, Samardzija, walked three in a one third of an inning.

2.  Good:  Byrd, Marshall, Russell.

Byrd gave the Cubs a very early and short-lived lead with a 3-run homer in the first.  Marshall and Russell gave the Cubs a chance to get back in the game with a Ramirez 2-run Homer, as they pitched 4 and 2/3 of scoreless relief, before turning things over to Samardzija, Berg, and Grabow

3.  McLouth Lies like a Dog.  And Fakes It.  And Just Isn't Very Nice. 

Down 8-5 with Ramirez on 1st, Byrd smoked a liner to left center.  McLouth made a diving catch with the ball popping out on contact with the ground.  But McLouth faked the catch, threw it in, and the umpires, missing the call, declared Ramirez doubled off of first.   We went from having the tying run at the plate with no outs, to no on and two outs.  After Soriano predictbly ended the inning; it was all downhill from there.


 

The gory details, below

 

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Hoping to understand Alfonso Soriano's hot and cold streaks this year, I turned to the incomparable Fan Graphs to break down his present and historical success against different pitches.  The results suggest that Soriano is losing the skill that made him one of the more feared hitters in the game, but that he might have found a method to compensate for this loss.  Below is a chart showing the percentage of fastballs Soriano has seen each year since 2005, with 2009 broken down per month. It also shows his ranking among hitters seeing the fewest fastballs, his "runs above average"  number on fastballs, (wFastball) and how high he ranks among all hitters, and his overall OPS. (As in, not specific to fastballs)  The most important thing to notice here is his wFB rank.

 

Date  Fastball%  FB% Rank  wFastball wFB Rank  OPS
2005  47.9  147/147  27.6  15/147  .821

2006

 54.1  150/159  23.7  25/159  .911
2007  54  150/161  23.3  27/161  .897
2008  53.2  134/145  17.9  38/145  .876
April 2009  45.9  196/197  3.3  55/197  .965

May 2009

 43  185/185  3.6  60/185  .657
June 2009  49.1  180/184  2.4  72/184  .585
July 2009  44.8  190/190  .7  112/190  .992
August 2009  36.7  179/190  -.6  156/190  .220

 

You probably have noticed a couple of striking trends going on here.  First, Soriano has progressively moved from being one of the most effective hitters in baseball against the fastball to being quite pedestrian. Second, pitchers have not noticed and adapted to this change:  They contiue to avoid throwing fastballs to Soriano as if he were the same hitter he was in 2005.  He's not.

So how do we explain Soriano's April and July, when he hit like the hitter for whom the Cubs offered that premium contract?

Finding  that answer requres looking at Soriano's results swinging at sliders.

Snark is the blogging equivalent of pennies:  easy to throw around, but no matter how much is thrown, it doesn't buy much.  Using too much of it in one place is a real jerk move, but when one just don't have any currency more valuable to offer, for a short while you can make due with each.

That weak analogy aside, let's snark up the Cubs sports media.  From the headlines at the Sun-Times, I learn...

Bench player doesn't mind the opportunity to play every day

Pitcher has a tired arm, therefore he will rest it.

Player would prefer not to hold an unflattering record.

 

How satisfied are you with the performance of Lou Piniella?

How satisfied are you with the performance of Jim Hendry?

How optimistic do you feel toward the remaining 2009 Chicago Cubs' season?

Just Need an Better Extra-Point Kicker.
W - Wells (7-4), pitching to contact, GIDP chances
L - Hampton (6-8), pitching badly to contact

Things to Take from This Game
1.  The batters hit well.
Hampton didn't have much control or stuff today, giving up 9 runs in 4 innings.  The game was over after the first, which saw the first nine batters either get hits or advance a runner on a sacrifice, resulting in  six runs.  No one on the team had more than two hits, and only Soriano got to three RBI, courtesy of the home run in the first.  Among the hitters only Fukudome, who replaced Johnson early in the game for reasons yet unknown, failed to get on base. (Update: As Cubster reports in the second and thirty-eighth comments, Johnson has a fracture in his foot.)

 

2.  The batters don't hit Wells.
Randy Wells only had one strikeout, on a generous check swing call.  But the Astros didn't hit much of anything hard, recording just six singles.  The Cubs seemingly had a GIDP opportunity in every inning and converted four of them.

 

3.  First! (s)
The game featured Wells' longest outing in the majors to date, eight innings, and in consecutive at bats, the first major league homer and triple for Blanco and Hoffpauir.  Mitch Atkins made his major league debut in the ninth, pitching a scoreless inning.  It's also my first game linking to the awesome FanGraph's Game Graph pages, too.  Oh yeah: we might regain first place, depending on the Cards' game tonight.

 

The nothing-to-complain-about details, below.
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The Phillies Don't Go to 11.

 

W - Zambrano, (7-4), "working" from home and watching afternoon Cubs games, ending someone else's winning streak.
L - Moyer, (9-7), making the same reference to the same movie that everyone else always makes.
S - Gregg, (19)
Things to Take from This Game

 

1. A Balanced Attack
Seven different Cubs had RBI today, without benefit of a home run.  Bradley, Soriano and Ramirez all had two-hit games, Theriot had both 3 hits and stolen bases.  Perhaps most interesting, Bradley's five ABs were all with a runner in scoring position; he went 2-4 with a walk and an RBI. None of the hits were rockets, but I'll take it.

 

2. Well-pitched early...
Moyer had the Cubs fooled for the first three innings, and Z pitched well through the first five.

 

3. ... tense moments late.
The Phillies left the bases loaded in both the seventh and the eighth.  Marshall faced one batter, Dobbs, who singled in two runs that got charged to Z.  But Guzman then escaped from the inning, and eventually turned the game over to Gregg who escaped from the eighth and pitched an uneventful ninth for an impressive save.  The Cubs also finally did some damage to the Philly relievers, getting to both Durbin and Lidge, allowing our relievers some breathing room.

 

The 5-2 Roadtrip details, below.

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Illegitimate.
W - Rodrigo Lopez. (2-0) (Seriously)

S - Chad Durbin (1)

Things to Take from This Game
1. Aspirin.

 

2. Well, the bullpen pitched well. Mostly.
Lilly never looked comfortable.  His 6/2 K/BB line looks good, but he fidgeted on the mound, was consistently wild in the strike zone, and it resulted in 7 ER in 4 IP.  A 3-run HR by Ibanez in the first, and a 2-run job by Ruiz in the second, and the Cubs were out of it.  Stevens and Heilman pitched well, before Guzman gave up a solo HR to Howard in the ninth.

 

3. Rodrigo Lopez, wtf?
The Cubs were shut down by Lopez, who departed for Chad Durbin and the embarassment of the three-inning save.  I can't begin to understand the combination of events that led to the cubs being six-hit by this pairing.

 

4. Oops.
Soriano watched a routine fly ball clank off of the heel of his glove for a run-scoring error.  You just don't see professionals miss fly balls in this manner; he didn't lose it in the lights, slip, get distracted, or anything.  Just missed it.  He then seemingly responded to the Phillies fans' mocking applause after he caught the next ball, by making an overly exaggerated graceful hop-catch on the ball after that. He did have three of our six hits, at least.

 

If you really want to, the details follow. 
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