Running Into Trouble in Des Moines
After losing 5-4 yesterday to their neighbor and nemesis, the Omaha Royals, the Iowa Cubs are languishing in the cellar at 9-14. They are a league worst 1-7 in one-run games and have now dropped nine straight to the Royals.
Thomas Diamond has been one of the bright spots amongst the pitchers. After Sunday’s no-decision he has allowed only 16 hits in 27 innings to the tune of a 1.65 ERA and a .170 BAA.
Right with Diamond has been Jay Jackson. Jackson has surrendered just 19 hits in his 29 IP while walking only seven to go with 20 strikeouts. His ERA stands at 2.48 with a .188 BAA.
The offense has yet to get untracked for more than an occasional game. RBI machine Micah Hoffpauir is hitting below .200 and journeyman Jason Dubois has seen his assault on the club’s career home run record stalled by back spasms that have him doing a stint on the DL. After starting the year one for his first 18, Brad Snyder has gotten hot and was named the PCL Batter of the Week for the stretch from April 19-25.
Ryne Sandberg has been managing somewhat on the aggressive side to try and offset the team’s sluggish start at the plate [until Bryan LaHair‘s 7th inning homer yesterday the team had gone 24 innings between extra base hits], but the team is a poor 17-27 so far in the stolen base department, a figure that may improve now that Sam Fuld has been activated after nursing an injured thumb for most of April. Yesterday, with the team trailing by a run in the bottom of the 9th and Jim Adduci on 2nd after a sacrifice bunt, Sandberg called him to 3rd from his coaching box on a short passed ball with one out. Adduci was out easily.
On the other side of the SB department, Wellington Castillo has nailed five out of the eight who’ve run on him. Last year he led the Southern League by catching 44% of those trying to steal on his watch. Castillo also has four homers.
Attendance so far is running a modest 4% ahead of last year’s pace. If Sandberg is to have much of a positive impact in terms of either the standings or the turnstiles, the stretch between May 20 and July 11 will be telling. Between those dates the weather will warm and the I-Cubs will play 34 of 52 games at home in Des Moines.
Darwin Barney hasn’t done much to block Starlin Castro’s climb up the ladder. 19 of his 22 hits are singles, he’s fanned more than three times as often as he’s walked and his OBP is sub .300.
Frankly, if it’s true that a team reflects the personality of its manager, the I-Cubs to this point have been as collectively vanilla as Sandberg used to be off the field until his acceptance speech at Cooperstown. Usually it’s the players whose development you’re monitoring in the minor leagues, but in this case the manager too is openly auditioning for a ticket to the big leagues.
Too soon to tell in that department.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.