April 2007

Game Chat Rich Hill vs. Zach Duke Lineups:
Soriano LF Duffy CF
Theriot SS Wilson SS
Lee 1B Sanchez 2B
Ramirez 3B Bay LF
Murton RF Doumit RF
Barrett C Bautista 3B
DeRosa 2B LaRoche 1B
Pie CF Paulino C
Hill P Duke P
The sad story of Josh Hancock’s crash Saturday night conjured the inevitable comparisons to Darryl Kile’s death at the Westin Hotel in Chicago in June, 2002. It also reminded me of an item which appeared in Jon Weisman’s Dodger Thoughts last week, a link to an L.A. Times story about the family of Tim Crews, who died along with a Cleveland Indians teammate during a spring training boating accident 14 years ago. The piece, written by Bill Plaschke, is quite good and quite sad. The gist of it is that for all of the teammates and all of the baseball officials who gathered around the family at the time of Crews’ death, none have kept in touch or helped keep the Crews children connected to a game that their father loved and played for six Major League seasons. (Crews was a Dodger from 1987 through ’92. He signed with the Indians as a free agent in January of ’93, dying before he ever actually played in Cleveland, thus the story’s relevance to the L.A. Times.) As for Josh Hancock’s team, the Cardinals, it seems unlikely they will be able to regain their focus anytime soon. On the other hand, the same seemed true of the ’02 team which had to deal with the loss of Kile, a veteran who was, by all accounts, a beloved teammate and part of the emotional center of the squad, not to mention a major contributor on the field. At the time of Kile's death, the Cardinals stood at 40-31, two games ahead of Cincinnati. Over the rest of the year, they went 57-34, finishing first in the NL Central and winning their Division Series against Arizona, before they were beaten in the NLCS by Dusty Baker’s Giants.
In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, the Cubs will likely shuffle their rotation a bit. Angel Guzman was scheduled to be called up tomorrow but Lou is now leaning towards Sunday May 6th against the Nationals as he wants to split up Rich Hill and Ted Lilly from going back to back days. So the rotation will likely be: Today @ Pittsburgh: Rich Hill May 1st @ Pittsburgh: Ted Lilly May 2nd @ Pittsburgh: Jason Marquis May 4th vs. Washington: Carlos Zambrano May 5th vs Washington: Rich Hill May 6th vs Washington: Angel Guzman May 8th vs. Pittsburgh: Ted Lilly May 9th vs. Pittsburgh: Jason Marquis May 10th vs Pittsburgh: Carlos Zambrano May 11th @ Philadelphia: Rich Hill May 12th @ Philadelphia: Angel Guzman May 13th @ Philadelphia: Ted Lilly and so on... In actuality, the Cubs really don't need a 5th starter until May 12th as they have two more scheduled off-days between now and then on May 3rd and 7th. Lou could stick with the plan to have Guzman go tomorrow and still break up the lefties but Angel isn't quite stretched out completely as a starter and PNC is usually friendlier to lefty pitchers, so waiting until May 6th makes some sense and gives Angel one more AAA start and an easier 2007 starter debut versus the Nationals. Also, Bob Howry should be 100% by tonight after injuring his back moving a barbecue grill over the weekend. Too many jokes, too little time.
Tonight's game between the Cubs and Cardinals has been canceled due to the tragic death of STL RHP Josh Hancock in a traffic accident in St. Louis early this morning. He just turned 29 a couple of weeks ago, and worked three innings in yesterday's 8-1 Cubs victory. Hancock was reportedly traveling westbound on I-64 west of Compton Avenue at about 12:30 AM when his Ford Explorer SUV plowed into a tow truck parked on the side of the road. Hancock was pronounced dead at the scene. The tow truck driver told police he was assisting a stranded motorist, and was seated in his parked truck in the far left lane of the highway with the wrecker's emergency lights activated. He said he saw the SUV coming up behind him, but it did not slow down before slamming into his vehicle. The tow truck driver was not injured. Hancock played college ball at Auburn, and was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 5th round of the 1998 June draft, making his MLB debut with BOS in 2002. The Red Sox traded him to the Phillies for 3B Jeremy Giambi during the MLB Winter Meetings in December 2002, and then Josh was dealt to CIN in a trade deadline deal where RHP Todd Jones went from CIN to PHI on July 30, 2004. Hancock started nine games for the Reds over the last two months (August-September) of '04, but spent most of the 2005 season on the 60-day DL (groin). Hancock was released by the Reds in February 2006 when he reported to Spring Training overweight and out of shape, but was subsequently signed by the Cardinals as a FA, becoming an important cog in the Redbirds '06 World Series Champion bullpen (3-3 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 62 games). Our prayers are with Josh's family and friends.
Game Chat Jason Marquis vs. Anthony Reyes Lineups:
Soriano LF Eckstein SS
Theriot SS Duncan LF
Lee 1B Pujols 1B
Ramirez 3B Rolen 3B
Barrett C Edmonds CF
Murton RF Wilson RF
Derosa 2B Kennedy 2B
Pie CF Molina C
Marquis P Reyes P
With Angel Guzman scheduled to get the start next Tuesday at Pittsburgh, but with a 5th starter not needed again until May 12th at Philadelphia, here is what the Cubs should do to give themselves a little bit of an edge, although they probably won't:
A compelling aspect of Wednesday’s Cubs-Brewers game, apart from the fact that the Cubs actually won, was Lou Piniella’s decision to start Ryan Theriot at short. As Lou explained:
"We need a lift. We need somebody who hopefully can get us going a little bit. I've been trying to figure out where to play him. He's been getting work at shortstop. We'll put him out there at shortstop and let him play."
Theriot, naturally, was elated to get the opportunity and said he wasn’t intimidated about moving over from second.
"The only [difference] is the throw. It takes a little getting used to. Two years ago, that's where I was every day. It's something I'm comfortable with and excited about."
In fact, during minor league stops at Daytona, Lansing and West Tenn, Theriot played a fair amount of shortstop, 189 games total, handling 777 chances successfully, but making 40 errors. That adds up to a woeful .951 fielding percentage. For comparison’s sake, National League shortstops had a combined .972 fielding average last season and the Cubs haven’t had an everyday shortstop who fielded anywhere near .951 as far back as I had the energy to check. Could be because shortstops with .951 fielding percentages soon cease to be shortstops. Theriot clearly gives the Cub offense a boost that Cesar Izturis and Ronny Cedeno are incapable of providing. But to justify his place in the lineup Theriot is going to have to dramatically improve his glovework. Or be one helluva hitter.
Dr. Joseph Hecht with hopefully his very last Mark Prior update ever... UPDATE: Will Carroll stopped by in the comments to clear up a few matters and there's a follow-up by our doctor. -------------- I know, we’re all tired of reading about Mark Prior’s injuries. Now that we have diagnoses that match his symptoms, hopefully we can just move on. Cubs.com site says that Mark Prior’s surgeon, Dr. Andrews, did a debridement of Prior's right rotator cuff, as well as repair the labral and capsular injuries in his right shoulder. Sounds accurate enough to me. Will Carroll has an unfiltered update on Mark Prior if you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription. I wanted to try sort through the terminology and implications.
Game Chat Ben Sheets vs. Ted Lilly Lineups:
Weeks 2b Theriot SS
Hardy SS Floyd LF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Estrada C Barrett C
Mench LF Jones RF
Hart RF Derosa 2B
Graffanino 3B Pie CF
Sheets P Lilly P
We've got a RUMORED radio report from reader WPZ that he heard Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 saying that Mark Prior will announce that's he's going to be out 12-18 months following yesterday's surgery. UPDATE: Len just read a Cubs press statement on Prior, but my MLB.tv decided to freak out just as he read it. So here's what I heard...
Prior underwent.........debridement of the labrum.....also a capsular...lab????....won't pitch this year.
Thanks to MLB.tv for that thorough update. UPDATE #2: Cubs.com has the press statement up now and some readers heard a clearer version if you want to trudge through the comments.
During the arthroscopy, Dr. Andrews performed a debridement of Mark's right rotator cuff as well as repair of labral and capsular injuries in his right shoulder.
The tarp is off and game time has been set at 2:30 pm CST.
Game Chat Jeff Suppan vs. Rich Hill Lineups:
Weeks 2b Soriano LF
Hardy SS Pie CF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Mench LF Barrett C
Hart RF Jones RF
Miller C Derosa 2B
Graffanino 3B Izturis SS
Suppan P Hill P
Rich Hill has a 17 inning scoreless streak going and leads the league in ERA among "qualified" starters.
While much of the focus has been on the Cubs bullpen blowing these extra-inning and close games, there has been another culprit. Cubs Offense Innings 1-6: .290/.333/.459 66 Runs National League Average: 258/330/404 56 Runs Top Performers: Aramis Ramirez: 429/457/810 Derrek Lee: 400/492/520 Michael Barrett: 308/370/641 Ryan Theriot: 467/467/533 Mark Derosa: 244/279/634 Cubs Offense from the 7th Inning on: 212/299/288 21 Runs National League Average: 247/331/382 26 Runs Note: Only the Giants have a worse offense from the 7th inning on in terms of OPS. The Cubs have the 7th most plate appearances from the 7th inning on but the third least amount of runs scored. Top Performers: Jacque Jones: 368/478/421 Bottom Feeders: Michael Barrett: 200/273/200 Aramis Ramirez: 150/227/150 Ryan Theriot: 150/227/150 Floyd, Murton, Izturis and Soriano all have OPS' under .600 after the 7th inning as well. The bullpen is 0-6 this year, 7th in ERA and 4th in innings pitched and tied for 2nd worst with three blown saves (none by Ryan Dempster though who has curbed his walks to 3 in 11 innings pitched so far). While the bullpen has certainly not been spectacular and Scott Eyre has been particularly awful, as a whole they've been forced to do more than they should thanks to an anemic late-game offense that cannot muster any runs in our 3 extra-inning losses, nor has done much of anything to pad our leads.
Some folks in the chat mentioned that Lou said as much in the pre-game interview and cubs.com has this quote (emphasis added):
 "The only difference between left and right is the spin of the ball coming off from the right-handed hitter or the left-handed hitter," Piniella said. "Outside of that, that's where we're going to be able to use [Matt] Murton and Floyd. Soriano is going to be a fixture in left field."
First, the only other differences are that misplayed balls in right field turn into triples and the throw from right to third base usually requires a stronger arm. Plus right field in Wrigley is a far worse sun field than left during the day. So Lou's oversimplifying a bit for my tastes. Second, this should create quite a mess between Jones, Pie, Murton and Floyd getting playing time. I guess that's why Lou gets the big bucks.  A trade seems imminent, and my pick is Jones for a fifth starter but who knows if that's available and what quality of fifth starter. Moving Murton either in a trade or to the minors causes a lot of problems when there's a lefty on the mound, whether a starter or a reliever. Having Floyd in RF is just a problem. Sending Pie down is still an option as well. Good news is that the Cubs don't need a fifth starter until about May 2nd versus the Pirates, so they have about a week and half before they have to make another roster move.
Mark Prior is going under the knife for exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder tomorrow in Birmingham. The procedure will be done by Dr. James Andrews and IF he finds any damage, he's expected to repair it on the spot. Hopefully our resident doctor will be along to let us know what Prior can expect tomorrow.
Game Chat (You can now register your username here and then revisit the same link and go to "log-in to change your settings" to change the password they give you) Claudio Vargas vs. Carlos Zambrano Lineups: (Courtesy of Reader MadTown)
Weeks 2b Soriano LF
Hardy SS Floyd RF
Fielder 1B Lee 1B
Hall CF Ramirez 3B
Estrada C Jones CF
Jenkins LF Derosa 2B
Gross RF Blanco C
Counsell 3B Izturis SS
Vargas P Zambrano P
Numerous radio reports say that Rocky Cherry has been called up and Wade Miller has been sent to the disabled list with back spasms. I guess that's the medical term for "excessive amount of suckage". UPDATE: Here's the confirming link from cubs.com; "middle back spasms" are the culprit.
If Carlos Zambrano can pitch 21 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings tonight--striking out 17 while walking four--he’ll have the same pitching line in ’07 as he did five appearances into 2006: 3.94 ERA, 33 K, 20 BB, 25 Hits Allowed. You remember 2006...when Carlos got off to such an awful start.
NL Central Standings (as of April 23, 2007)
Team W L .PCT GB
Chicago 10 8 .556 0
Houston 9 8 .529 .5
Milwaukee 9 9 .500 1
Cincinnati 8 11 .421 1.5
St. Louis 7 11 .389 2
Pittsburgh 6 11 .353 2.5
Let's add a couple of columns
Team W L .PCT GB RS RA
Chicago 10 8 .556 0 83 72
Houston 9 8 .529 .5 77 73
Milwaukee 9 9 .500 1 90 87
Cincinnati 8 11 .421 1.5 74 85
St. Louis 7 11 .389 2 62 74
Pittsburgh 6 11 .353 2.5 62 80
Now if only baseball was played on a spreadsheet we'd be leading the NL Central. Of course in the real world, we're four games back of the Brewers who we face-off against tonight. Most of this is thanks to our 0-4 record in one-run games, so it's good to know that there's a few pieces in place to indicate we won't be sucking all summer. If you want to look for another silver lining, we're tied for the fifth spot in the 2008 draft at the moment with the Devil Rays. Too soon?
Game Chat (You can now register your username here and then revisit the same link and go to "log-in to change your settings" to change the password they give you) Adam Wainwright vs. Wade Miller Lineups:
Miles SS Theriot 2B
Duncan LF Floyd LF
Pujols 1B Lee 1B
Rolen 3B Ramirez 3B
Edmonds CF Barrett C
Spiezo RF Jones RF
Kennedy 2B Cedeno SS
Molina C Pie CF
Wainwright P Miller P
Game Chat (You can now register your username here and then revisit the same link and go to "log-in to change your settings" to change the password they give you) Anthony Reyes vs. Jason Marquis
If you haven't had a chance to see or hear about how the Cubs game ended today, let me explain. Mark Derosa singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth and was replaced with Ronny Cedeno on the bases (you'd think Felix Pie would be the choice but whatever). Jacque Jones was up next and worked a 3-2 count before an Isringhausen cutter missed off the inside part of the plate. Now here's where the trouble starts. The ball was clearly inside but as we learned last Sunday with the Kyle Lohse/Ted Lilly duel, balls clearly off the plate are called strikes every once in awhile. In this case though it was called a ball except that the home plate umpire did nothing to actually acknowledge that this was the call. So Jones just stood there, the ump didn't do anything which apparently is the universal sign for a ball and a walk and Ronny Cedeno who was stealing on a 3-2 count wasn't sure if it was strike three or ball four. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina not sure of the call either did the smart thing and threw the ball down to second and David Ecsktein, also not sure of the call tried to apply the tag. Now Cedeno actually beat the throw and this is where it gets really sketchy. He slid head first into the bag and his left foot ended up oversliding and Eckstein kept the tag applied. Walk or not, once Cedeno touches second base, he's in play and once he overslid and the tag was applied, he was out. Now the second base umpire wasn't even sure about the call but after Eckstein and Larussa argued and the umpires huddled, the right call was made and Cedeno was out. So my issue isn't with the umpires for making the wrong call because it was clearly the right call and it's not really with Cedeno, although he should really have stayed on the bag if he thought the play was still going. My issue is with how balls and strikes are called and the procedure that allowed this to happen. Shouldn't there be some sort of hand gesture or obvious way of demonstrating that a walk has been issued? Shouldn't the second base umpire be signaling the players around the bases like an air traffic controller to let them know what's going on? Games should not be decided on confusion. Of course, there's plenty of other reasons we lost, most of them associated with an offense only able to muster a single run off Braden "F******" Looper. But we now have have our 2007 version of the Barrett boner in Philly, the Latroy helmet bounce and the Neifi 2-errors on a single play to let a runner score from second base on a sacrifice fly.
Game Chat (You can now register your username here and yes you have to do it again...last time...promise) Braden Looper vs. Ted Lilly Lineups:
Eckstein SS Theriot 2B
Duncan LF Floyd LF
Pujols 1B Lee 1B
Rolen 3B Ramirez 3B
Edmonds CF Derosa RF
Wilson RF Jones CF
Molina C Blanco C
Kennedy 2B Izturis SS
Looper P Lilly P
Lou's getting whackier by the day with his lineups, not that it's an entirely bad one, but Floyd in the #2 spot is a bit odd.
A quick tour of the Wonderful Wide World of the Web... - If you're a scouting junkie or just a masochist who enjoys enduring the bitter downfall of Mark Prior, the good folks at The Hardball Times put together a wonderful breakdown of Prior's pitching mechanics over the years. - MySpace isn't just for picking up under-aged girls (use your inner voice, Rob), it's also good for showing off your man-love of Cubs players. The latest is for Ted Lilly. If you check out his friends you'll find a number of other Cubs pages as well. Our (former) fearless leader Christian sent me some links for actual Cubs players' Myspace pages once upon a time, I'm going to have to dig that out soon.
Game Chat Rich Hill vs. Mark Redman Lineups:
Theriot 2b Johnson 2b
Derosa RF Renteria SS
Lee 1B C. Jones 3B
Ramirez 3B A. Jones CF
Barrett C Francoeur RF
Murton LF Diaz LF
Cedeno SS Wilson 1B
Pie CF Pena C
Hill P Redman P
As Len & Bob's blog points out, a matchup of the league's best starter in terms of ERA versus the worst (with at least two starts). Also looks like Piniella remembered that Derosa has played the outfield before.
Now that our new wonder-kid centerfielder is up with the big club, and since he's spent his entire minor league career being unfairly compared to our last wonder-kid centerfielder, I thought it would be appropriate to continue the unjust association. So let's see how the major league debuts of Corey and Pie match up.
Yesterday was the last Cubs EXST game for two visitors from another country, two aspiring baseball players who have been working out with the Cubs Extended Spring Training contingent at Fitch Park in Mesa the past couple of weeks. The National Baseball Team of the Peoples Republic of China arrived at Scottsdale Community College for Spring Training last month, led by head coach (and ex-Cub manager) Jim Lefebvre and pitching coach (and ex-MLB LHP) Bruce Hurst. They played games against various minor league ST squads and college teams in Arizona, before having their team split up and sent to various MLB EXST camps, with the team's players (and Chinese translators) assigned to the MLB clubs who expressed an interest in the program. The Cubs EXST contingent at Fitch Park was lucky enough to get two of China's better players, outfielder Qi Ze (pronounced "Chee") and catcher Hao Guo-chen (they call him "How").
I’m really looking forward to the Opener tonight down in Atlanta. I think Hill is going to be a terrific #1. I’m hopeful that Lilly and Marquis can hold their own as numbers 2 and 3, and make all of their regular starts, as has been their history. I figure Miller is a short-timer in the #4 spot—Guzman has GOT to fill that role—but Zambrano is, no doubt, the best fifth starter in baseball. Maybe the best fifth starter ever. Drag that Soriano will miss the Opener, but sounds like he’ll be back by the season’s second week and in the meantime, we can at least get a sample of what Pie’s capable of. I think it’s going to be a fun year.
Game Chat Carlos Zambrano vs. Kyle Davies Lineups:
Pie CF Johnson 2b
Derosa 2B Renteria SS
Lee 1B C. Jones 3B
Ramirez 3B A. Jones CF
Floyd LF McCann C
Barrett C Francoeur RF
Jones RF Thorman 1B
Izturis SS Langerhans LF
Zambrano P Davies P
After yesterday's marathon, might be good to take a look at who's available in the pen. The Cubs used all six of their relievers yesterday and here are their pitch counts: Cotts: 26 Wuertz: 35 Eyre: 2 Howry: 21 Dempster: 26 Ohman: 22 Ohman threw 14 pitches on Monday as well.
What player stole the most bases with the Cubs in the 1990s?
As always, try to answer without a web search.
Game Chat Greg Maddux vs. Wade Miller Lineups:
M. Giles 2B Pie CF
B. Giles RF Theriot 2B
Cameron CF Lee 1B
Gonzalez 1B Ramirez 3B
Greene SS Murton RF
Sledge LF Jones LF
Kouzmanoff 3B Cedeno SS
Bowen C Blanco C
Maddux P Miller P
The Felix Pie era begins on the Northside and for the second day in a row we get an "interesting" lineup. At least Aramis is back. UPDATE: Pie up, Guzman down. He wasn't getting  much work as is thanks to the unexpected decent starting pitching we've been getting for the most part and the way Lou seems to burn through his bench coupled with the lingering injury issues (Ramirez, Soriano and Derosa) seems like the smart move.
The good doctor, Joseph Hecht, gives us the latest on Soriano's hamstring injury.... -------- April 19th has been a painful day for Cub players and fans for two years running. I painfully remember Nomar Garciaparra falling in a heap near home plate when he ripped his adductor muscle off the groin. Derrek Lee’s wrist fracture needs no instant replay for me to remember it. So when April 16th produces another injury to a star player I think we should just petition the powers that be to start playing the schedule May 1st. Len Kasper and Bob Brenly live on Comcast TV, after Alfonso Soriano grabbed the back of his left thigh, immediately recognized that he “tweaked” his hammy.
The Tribune is now reporting that Pie will lead off and play center for today's game in Chicago. As of this hastily written post in response to the briefest of announcements at ChicagoSports.com, there is no explanation of how the roster will be worked to fit Pie. Soriano reports he is feeling much better, and the MRI is negative. (No indication of a torn hamstring)
Here's the way it works: every degree over 50 is good for 1.5 runs. Sunday gametime temp--50; runs scored--0. Monday gametime temp--58; runs scored--12. Tuesday gametime temp (forecast)--62; runs scored (forecast)--18.
Game Chat Clay Hensley vs. Jason Marquis ---- I'm not sure I'll be around to post lineups although WSCR and Steve Stone claims this will be the Cubs lineup tonight: Soriano CF, Theriot 3B, Lee 1B, Murton RF,  Barrett C, Jones LF, Derosa 2b, Izturis SS, Marquis P I'd love to hear some theories on why Murton plays right tonight and Jones moves to left.
I'm not much into the daily post-game reviews, far too easy to be overly-reactionary about one play or one moment that doesn't really say much about the team or individuals in generals. But now that we're two weeks and eleven games into the season, let's discuss a few trends and other tidbits that have caught my eye.
Game Chat Kyle Lohse vs. Ted Lilly Lineups:
Freel CF Soriano CF
Phillips 2B Theriot 3B
Hamilton LF Jones RF
Conine 1B Lee 1B
Griffey Jr. RF Barrett C
Encarnacion RF Floyd LF
Castro SS Derosa 2B
Ross C Izturis SS
Lohse P Lilly P
For the series win...
Game Chat Bronson Arroyo vs. Rich Hill Lineups:
Freel CF Soriano CF
Phillips 2B Theriot 3B
Dunn LF Jones RF
Conine 1B Lee 1B
Griffey Jr. RF Barrett C
Encarnacion RF Floyd LF
Castro SS Cedeno 2B
Ross C Izturis SS
Arroyo P Hill P
We need a win.

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