August 2008

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SP Jason Marquis SP Charlie Morton

7-7, 4.73, 67 K, 47 BB, 123.2 IP
3-5, 5.70, 32 K, 22 BB, 53.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano RF *Gregor Blanco
RF *Kosuke Fukudome SS Yunel Escobar
1B Derrek Lee 3B #Chipper Jones
3B Aramis Ramirez C #Brian McCann
CF *Jim Edmonds 1B *Casey Kotchmann
2B Mark DeRosa LF Omar Infante
C Geovany Soto CF *Mark Kotsay
SS  Ryan Theriot 2B *Kelly Johnson
P *Jason Marquis P Charlie Morton

 

UPDATED UPDATE: Marquis will start the first game in today's day/night doubleheader with our man Harden going in the nightcap. Otherwise the lineup remains unchanged from last evening.

UPDATE: Nevermind, the game has been called.

The Cubs try to stay North of the standings as they head South to play the Braves and Marlins on a six game road trip. Fresh off a 6-3 homestand, where they managed to lose a game and a half in the standings, the Cubs will look for their sixth straight road win tonight. 

A quick look at how some of our minor leaguers are doing with less than a month to go on the minor-league season. My apologies in advance for any typos in the stats.

Iowa - AAA (70-52 1st place by 6 games)
(note: assuming they hang on, it's likely that most of the September call-ups will wait until the Iowa Cubs playoff run is over, although I think Koyie Hill will get called up immediately to give the Cubs a 3rd catcher.)

Name Age BA OBP SLG OPS PA HR SB
Micah Hoffpauir 28 .362 .384 .751 1.135 237 19 0
Jason Dubois 29 .323 .417 .715 1.132 218 22 1
Josh Kroeger 25 .305 .374 .520 .894 412 13 9
Felix Pie 23 .289 .332 .478 .810 276 8 7
Koyie Hill 29 .281 .355 .492 .847 355 14 3

Pitchers

Name Age IP K BB HR ERA
Justin Berg 24 83 43 45 10 5.75
Randy Wells 25 97.2 82 29 13 4.74
Michael Wuertz 29 12.2 20 6 2 4.97

Notes: Hoffpauir was just named PCL player of the week. Felix Pie was out with another injury to his hand for about a week but has recently returned. He has hit .359 over his last 10 games played. Justin Berg was acquired in the Matt Lawton trade to the Yankees in 2005.

When you start writing a sports blog, there's a little handbook handed out to everyone that tells you how to drive up your traffic. The list includes posting drunken photos of players, hot women (they don't even have to be sports-related), making up trade rumors and top ten lists. The criteria for this post was the top ten moments I could remember off the top of my head...I only came up with five.

#5 - Michael Barrett grand slam home run at Wrigley

There wasn't a whole lot of hope entering the 2006 season, but there still was some if EVERYTHING broke the right way. And if Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were healthy ($5 to the TCR tip jar for uttering that phrase). The Cubs started off splitting two against the Reds on the road and then came home for three against the Cardinals. By the time Sunday rolled around, they had won the first two and were looking for blood - Cardinal blood!!

Sean Marshall got the first start of his career and put the Cubs in a quick two-run hole after giving up a first-inning blast to Scott Rolen. The Cubs battled back and by the eighth it was 4-3 Cardinals. After Ricardo Rincon walked Todd Walker to leadoff the inning, God's-gift-to-managing Tony LaRussa went to his closer Jason Isringhausen for the two-inning save. He promptly walked Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez  to load them up for Michael Barrett. Barrett then nailed a 2-2 pitch deep into the Sunday night air, way out in left field to give the Cubs a 7-4 lead. They added an insurance run and won 8-4.

The Cubs made it through April with a 13-10 record and then lost about 25 straight to start May and maybe another 15 or so to end May and I think there were a few 10 and 8 game losing streaks as well in June and July. But for one magnificent evening, Michael Barrett made us feel like champions (cue theme song from "Rudy").  

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SP Chris Carpenter SP Ryan Dempster
  0-0, 1.00, 4 K, 2 BB, 9 IP   12-5, 2.93, 133 K, 59 BB, 150.2 IP
       
CF *Skip Schumaker LF Alfonso Soriano
LF Joe Mather RF *Kosuke Fukudome
1B Albert Pujols 1B Derrek Lee
RF Ryan Ludwick 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B Troy Glaus CF *Jim Edmonds
C Yadier Molina 2B Mark DeRosa
2B
*Adam Kennedy C Geovany Soto
P Chris Carpenter SS Ronny Cedeno
SS #Cesar Izturis P Ryan Dempster


Amazing game, this baseball.

Just two days ago, we were aglow over the possibility that this weekend set could end with the Cardinals nine games behind the Cubs and all but out of the NL Central race. Then on Saturday the league's highest-scoring road team bludgeoned the Cubs' nominal pitching ace and suddenly, St. Louis has a chance to win this series and close to within five games of first place with the Brewers once again also breathing down the Cubs' necks.

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SP Todd Wellemeyer SP Carlos Zambrano

8-4, 4.01, 87 K, 41 BB, 128 IP

12-4. 2.76, 98 K, 47 BB, 146.2 IP
       
CF *Skip Shumaker LF Alfonso Soriano
2B *Adam Kennedy SS Ryan Theriot
1B Albert Pujols 1B Derrek Lee
RF Ryan Ludwick 3B Aramis Ramirez
LF #Felipe Lopez CF *Jim Edmonds
3B Troy Glaus 2B Mark DeRosa
C
Yadier Molina RF *Kosuke Fukudome
P Todd Wellemeyer C Geovany Soto
SS #Aaron Miles P #Carlos Zambrano

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SP Braden Looper SP *Ted Lilly

10-9, 4.29, 65 K, 32 BB, 134.1 IP

11-6. 4.35, 129 K, 50 BB, 140.2 IP
       
LF #Vince Coleman LF Alfonso Soriano
CF #Willie McGee SS Ryan Theriot
2B #Tommy Herr 1B Derrek Lee
1B Jack Clark 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF *Andy Van Slyke RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B #Terry Pendleton C Geovany Soto
C
Mike Heath CF *Jim Edmonds
SS #Ozzie Smith 2B Mark DeRosa
P *John Tudor P *Ted Lilly

UPDATE: Screw LaRussa, I have to get back to work. Let's see how he does with Mike Heath in the lineup from 1986.


(I'm posting this without a Cardinals batting order. Based on what Bernie Miklasz is reporting here, Tony LaRussa is waiting to see if Rick Ankiel and his strained abdominal muscle are ready to go before he posts the lineup.)

At around 8:45 this morning, I saw a middle-aged couple walking hand-in-hand in downtown Chicago, wearing matching St. Louis Cardinals t-shirts. This reminded me of two things: first, that the Cards were in town to play the Cubs, and second, that middle-aged couples should never wear matching t-shirts.

As for baseball, all of the analysis of the Cards' unexpected success this season has overlooked the obvious—Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are witches.

It didn't take long to find a home for Scott Eyre and Jim Hendry does him the favor of putting him in another pennant race. Eyre goes to the Phillies for minor league RHP Brian Schlitter (thanks to reader Chifan for the tip). 

Schlitter stands 6-5" and was a 16th round pick of the Phillies out of College of Charleston. Similar to the Cubs recent first round pick, Andrew Cashner, Schlitter considered returning to school for 2008 to improve his draft status, but eventually decided to enter pro ball. He ended up pitching for the Phillies Hi-A affiliate in Clearwater this season and compiled a 2.22 ERA in 34 relief appearances. He struck out 58 batters in 48.2 IP while walking 21 for a 10.73 K/9 rate and a 2.76 K:BB ratio. He's 22 years old.

Scout.com had Schlitter as the #63 ranked Phillies prospect in their preseason rankings, but tabbed him as a potential "closer of the future". He features a fastball and a slider and sounds like he's yet another righty power arm for the bullpen one day.

...it's like Friday Notes, but on Thursday...and on 'roids.

Alright, I've been compiling links and notes for about three weeks now and finally had a chance to get it all down today, so plenty of diversions for the off-day today before we knock the silly out of the Redbirds this weekend. And yeah, some of this stuff is old.

- Let's go back in the time machine and talk about home field advantage for the All-Star game. I think most of the sentient baseball universe realizes the absurdity of awarding home field advantage for the most important games of the year to the league that wins an exhibition contest. MLB says they can't do the rational thing of awarding it to the team with the best overall record, as it won't give them enough time to plan and book events in the potential cities. I call SHENANIGANS!!!

When do they start booking these hotels and start planning? Using the current All-Star method, you know that after the season ends, one of four teams could be hosting the majority of the games. After one round, it's down to two teams. If they use the best record, there are seven teams that could host the majority of the games (throw out the playoff team with the worst record), and after the first round, it would be down to three cities (once again throw out the record of the worst team left). This doesn't seem like such a scheduling catastrophe as MLB makes it. And the NBA and NHL seem to have figured it out.

Today's double-barreled day off for the Chicago and Iowa Cubs seems like a good time to assess how the two teams' fortunes intertwine as their respective seasons round third.

Like their parents the Iowa Cubs enjoy a five game bulge over their nearest divisional pursuers [the Cardinal proteges in Memphis]. Since the PCL regular season ends on Labor Day [Monday, September 1], the I-Cubs are only a couple dozen games away from a likely playoff spot. That likelihood makes the annual speculation about September call-ups a little less idle than in most years.

Here's a quick summary of guys who figure to get some consideration as extras in the claustrophobic dugout at Wrigley:

1. Micah Hoffpauir - What's there to say? The guy's hitting .350+ with 73 RBI's in 49 games! A question of when, not if.

2. Jason Dubois - 20 HR's in 179 AB's figure to get him a few shots when a late-inning PH with power from the right side is called for.

3. Koyie Hill - Got hot along with the weather to get the BA north of .280; also gunning down about a third of enemy base-stealers. A third catcher who switch-hits is a given.

4. Casey McGehee - Has steadily, quietly amassed 76 RBI's while primarily manning 3B; might spell Aramis a time or two if the Chicubs clinch with any room to spare.

5. Felix Pie - Still listed on the active roster but hasn't played in August since he retwisted his testicle or whatever.

6. Andres Torres - Can there be such a thing as a poor man's Angel Pagan? Torres is a switch-hitting OF @ .303 BA, .397 OBP & 17/20 SB's. Remember him in case Felix can't get his balls unknotted.

7. Michael Wuertz - His season has only Wuertzened since the demotion. Despite one gaudy outing of 3 perfect innings that included 7 K's, he's racked up a 6.30 ERA in 10 Iowa innings so far.

8. Mitch Atkins - Not likely, but just so you'll know, this guy is 5-0 with a 3.90 ERA since coming up from Tennessee. His last start read as follows: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K's.

At some point there will be decisions to make about how many battle fronts the organization wants to fight on simultaneously. Troops may have to be pulled from the PCL playoffs to enable a September surge in the NL Central or simply to give the frontliners some R&R before the REAL playoffs begin in October.

I'm a relatively patient person - a dog, twin 3-year old daughters, the Angel-fan wife and being a Cubs fan do that to a person. But the antics of Bob Howry have grown tiresome. And yeah, I'm probably the last on that bandwagon (see above about being patient).I mean, he was good for us in 2006 and 2007. Not great, but good; as he posted ERA's of 3.17 and 3.32, along with respectable win probabilty added scores of 0.93 and 1.73. So I think some of that patience was warranted - unfortunately so does manager Lou Piniella.

Lou's consistent reliance on Howry out there in crucial situations, even with a depleted bullpen of late, is near Dusty-level stupid. The decision to let Bob Howry pitch to notorious Cub-killer Carlos Lee with first base open yesterday, is Andy McPhail-stupid.

Let's take a look at what could be troubling Howry...

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SP Brandon Backe SP Jason Marquis

6-10, 4.72, 100 K, 56 BB, 129.2 IP

6-7. 4.68, 64 K, 45 BB, 117.1 IP
       
2B #Kaz Matsui LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Hunter Pence SS Ryan Theriot
1B #Lance Berkman 1B Derrek Lee
LF Carlos Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS #Geoff Blum CF *Jim Edmonds
3B Ty Wigginton 2B Mark DeRosa
CF *Darin Erstad RF *Kosuke Fukudome
C Humberto Quintero C Geovany Soto
P Brandon Backe P *Jason Marquis

 

What a surprise!

I returned Tuesday night from a wonderful vacation on the East Coast, and based on the news mix I got from the all-sports radio station in Boston, I assumed all of MLB had gone on hiatus while the Red Sox negotiated their divorce arrangements with Manny Ramirez.

Turns out the Cubs had, in fact, stayed busy, eviscerating the Brewers and taking two-of-three from the Bayless Bucs while building a 5-game lead in the Central. This afternoon they try to even up their season mark against Houston—currently they're 5-6—while capturing yet another series win. In 18 series so far this year at Wrigley, the Cubs are 14-3-1.

Jason Marquis, winless in his last six starts (0-4, 5.25), goes for the home team. Brandon Backe, the losingest pitcher on Cecil Cooper's staff, has an ND and loss against the Cubs this season.

Hey, I see the Cubs are stumping for permission to play some of their home night games on Fridays and Saturdays. Why not? Then Erin Andrews could cover the games in a cocktail dress.

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SP Rich Harden SP *Wandy Rodriguez

1-1, 1.11, 39 K, 8 BB, 24.1 IP

6-4, 3.61, 83 K, 27 BB, 92.1 IP
LF Alfonso Soriano 2B #Kaz Matsui
SS Ryan Theriot SS Miguel Tejada
1B Derrek Lee RF Hunter Pence
3B Aramis Ramirez LF Carlos Lee
CF Reed Johnson 1B #Geoff Blum
2B Mark DeRosa 3B Ty Wigginton
RF *Kosuke Fukudome CF *Darin Erstad
C Henry Blanco C Humberto Quintero
P *Rich Harden P *Wandy Rodrguez

Apparently the new trend for the Cubs is to get shut out the first game of a series. I can't say I approve. The amazing Rich Harden goes for the Cubs who saw his strikeout rate go down after striking out nine in seven innings in his last outing. He'll oppose Wandy Rodriguez, the Astros ace, who seems to have figured out how to pitch on the road this season - a 4.03 road ERA vs 3.31 home ERA. This compared to his 2007 split of a 6.37 road ERA vs a 2.94 home ERA.

The weather looks a little nicer today and I do hope all of our Chicago readers are safe and sound after yesterday's storm. Sure, the clear skies means there will be baseball, but it also means we won't see a repeat of Elvis sliding on the tarp. Suspiciously, the Astros' "Fat Elvis" - Lance Berkman - is out of the lineup today.

One of our reliable readers listening to Bruce Levine of ESPN1000 out of Chicago, is hearing that Kerry Wood will be activated before the game and Scott Eyre will be designated for assignment. The Cubs will have 10 days to release or trade Eyre and will likely get nothing more than a low-minors prospect.

We'll see if Wood jumps right back into the closer role or is eased into it after a few appearances. I think after such a long layoff and pretty good odds that his control won't be there, that it might be best for Lou to give him a few low-pressure situations and let resurgent Carlos Marmol keep closing.

 Speaking of Marmol, whatever was ailing from about the middle of June to before the All-Star Break seems to have cured itself. There certainly wasn't a shortage of theories on why he struggled, ranging from overuse to the struggles of a young player, it seemed the most obvious answer was just a "dead arm" period. Marmol's slider still had its snap, most of the time, but he started hanging it every once in awhile while getting away from locating his fastball that didn't seem to get above 92 mph. There were never any whispers of an arm injury and Lou certainly didn't let up on the gas during any of it, choosing to go the "just pitch through it" route. But since the All-Star break, he's thrown up a goose egg; 9 IP, 15 K's and 0 ER, although a bit wild with 7 BB's. He was hitting the mid 90's in the last two appearances that I've witnessed.

So welcome back Zeus and Kerry, you were both missed. And goodbye Scott Eyre, I shall never forgive you for contributing to Derrek Lee's broken wrist in 2006.

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SP Ryan Dempster SP Brian Moehler

12-4, 2.90, 126 K, 58 BB, 145.2 IP

6-4, 4.23, 50 K, 26 BB, 93.2 IP
LF Alfonso Soriano 2B #Kaz Matsui
2B *Mike Fontenot SS Miguel Tejada
1B *Daryle Ward 1B #Lance Berkman
3B Aramis Ramirez LF Carlos Lee
CF *Jim Edmonds RF Hunter Pence
C Geovany Soto 3B Ty Wigginton
RF *Kosuke Fukudome CF *Darin Erstad
SS Ronny Cedeno C Humberto Quintero
P Ryan Dempster P Brian Moehler

No time for love today, Dr. Jones, but if you see Geovany Soto visit the mound, know that he is just mocking you...the television viewer.

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SP Carlos Zambrano SP Ian Snell

12-4, 2.80, 96 K, 46 BB, 141.2 IP

4-8, 6.04, 90 K, 62 BB, 110.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano 2B Luis Rivas
SS Ryan Theriot 1B *Doug Mientkiewicz
1B Derrek Lee CF *Nate McLouth
3B Aramis Ramirez C #Ryan Doumit
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 3B Andy LaRoche
2B Mark DeRosa LF *Brandon Moss
CF *Jim Edmonds RF Stephen Pearce
C Geovany Soto SS Jack Wilson
P #Carlos Zambrano P Ian Snell

The Cubs go for the series win and Zambrano goes for lucky win number 13. A win today and the Cubs go 14-3-1 at series in Wrigley and their current 40-15 mark at home is their best start at Wrigley since 1916...which is when Wrigley opened. Some more fun with game notes...

  • Cubs center fielders have combined for  a league-leading .368 OBP and the Reed/Edmonds combo at center field has combined to hit .304 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI's.
  • The Cubs haven't committed an error in 7 straight games.
  • When the Cubs win, they've averaged 7.1 runs per game, when they lose: 2.6.

 

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SP *Ted Lilly SP *Paul Maholm

10-6, 4.49, 124 K, 47 BB, 134.1 IP
7-6, 3.79, 96 K, 36 BB, 140 IP




LF Alfonso Soriano 2B Luis Rivas
SS Ryan Theriot SS Jack Wilson
1B Derrek Lee CF *Nate McLouth
3B Aramis Ramirez C #Ryan Doumit
CF Reed Johnson 3B Andy LaRoche
RF Mark DeRosa RF Stephen Pearce
C Geovany Soto LF *Brandon Moss
2B Ronny Cedeno 1B Chris Gomez
P *Ted Lilly P *Paul Maholm

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SP Jason Marquis SP Jeff Karstens

6-6, 4.69, 62 K, 44 BB, 111.1 IP (AAA) 6-4, 3.80, 55 K, 15 BB, 68.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano 2B Luis Rivas
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 1B *Doug Mientkiewicz
1B Derrek Lee CF *Nate McLouth
3B Aramis Ramirez C #Ryan Doumit
CF *Jim Edmonds 3B Andy LaRoche
C Geovany Soto RF *Brandon Moss
2B *Mike Fontenot LF Jason Michaels
SS Ronny Cedeno SS Jack Wilson
P *Jason Marquis P Jeff Karstens

The Cubs take a five game winning streak back to the Friendly Confines and a chance to extend their five game lead in the Central with 19 of 28 games at home through the month of August. Marquis goes against the third best offense in the NL, but that was before the trades of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady.

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