July 2009

A Bone to Pick

Time for a little rant.

In this era of internet fast - rapid dissemination of information, we've expected our hard-hitting beat reporters to keep asking the tough questions. Yesterday, the reporting on Reed Johnson's foot injury disappointed me. The news was lightning fast. I got a twitter text message from David Kaplan regarding Johnson's X-Rays showing a fracture in his foot. Then before blinking an eye there were links to articles from all of the major beat writers...Tribune's Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmeyer/Sun-Times and Bruce Miles/Herald

Game 99 Recap: Cubs 12, Astros 0

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.

Cubs Win Streak Ends at 5

The Cubs five-game win streak doesn't make it to six and and the loss coupled with the Cardinals win over the Dodgers, drops the Cubs back to second place. Ryan Dempster returned from the disabled list and was nothing short of awful. 5 IP, 9 H, 3 K and 5 ER, 6 total and the error was his own. But at least he didn't walk anyone! With the Cubs catching a huge break when Roy Oswalt left in the second inning with a back injury, the Cubs just needed some decent pitching to stay in this one and they sure didn't get it from Dempster or the bullpen. 


Lucky Number 13

For the second time in a week the Cubs go 13 innings, but manage the win this time to keep a half-game lead in the NL Central as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers (Brewers lost again to drop 4 back). The class of the Central division since June, the Astros waltzed into Wrigley on the shoulder of the über-hot Wandy Rodriguez (4 straight wins and 0.62 ERA in July) and he didn't disappoint, holding the Cubs to a run on 7 strikeouts in 7 innings. Z matched those 7 innings and one run, although with just 4 K's and 4 BB's. That left it up to the bullpens and the Cubs' proved to be just a little bit better tonight

Alfonso Soriano had goat written all over him, going 0/5 with 3 K's and
failing to run on a tap out to third base that he claimed hit his toe.
Then with the bases loaded and 0 outs, he got one more chance and
launched one deep to center on top of the center field restaurant for
the win and give the Cubs the opener.


It's National Rumor Week

It's everyone's favorite time of the year, so gather the kids around the fire and let's speculate away to our heart's content.

Cardinals - Like those annoying folks that get their Christmas shopping done early, the Cards are probably done wheeling and dealing picking up Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. They missed out on the Christmas sales and paid a steep price in prospects, but they should help a team that has basically been riding a 16-7 April to justify the spending spree.

Brewers - They found an early deal getting Felipe Lopez to play second base for them and you know they're searching far and wide for a starting pitcher. They seemed to scoff at adding Doug Davis into that Lopez deal, but looks like they have their sites set on Wisconsin native, Jarrod Washburn.  Considering they have the third worst ERA in the league, and second worst among starters, I'm not sure adding Washburn and his Safeco-aided ERA is really gonna be much of a boost.

The Ted Lilly Chronicles --The Knee Bone is connected to the Shoulder Bone

Bruce Levine reports Ted Lilly goes to the DL, righty reliever Justin Berg (acquired in the 2005 Matt Lawton trade from the Yankees) gets called up from Iowa. Lilly's MRI-Arthrogram apparently didn't show "any significant abnormalities" (possibly showing tendonitis but no structural damage) but as we've all seen what the media gets to report and what the radiologist and orthopods see isn't always identical.

Levine also says Lilly has agreed to having his sore left knee undergo arthroscopic surgery (scheduled for Monday) to clean up Lilly's meniscus (link to anatomy pic), speculating that he can be back in 3 weeks if they do that now.

From a report on Levine's ESPN-1000 radio show, Lilly said the shoulder got his attention the day after the game in Philly. The shoulder felt "a little unusual". Yesterday he tried to throw and had sharp pain. He said he was familiar with it as it felt like his symptoms in Toronto. Lilly said he expects himself to come back in 3 weeks...

Based on my experience, how long it takes to recover from a knee arthroscopy varies greatly and 3 weeks is certainly possible but continuing to push the envelope on these injuries is like playing with fire. This implies the medical staff thinks Lilly's shoulder injury is a cascade problem, meaning that his knee soreness lead to altered pitching mechanics that secondarily lead to the shoulder problem. I found evidence that they connected his knee and shoulder woes when his shoulder took the brunt of the blame in 2005. 

From this mlb.com article on the Bluejays archive circa Spring 2006:

Last year, he said he had a tendency to have a "stiff" landing with his right leg, which put unnecessary strain on his throwing shoulder. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lilly sat out last spring with a shoulder injury.

I did some additional background research on Lilly's shoulder problems from 2005. Back then his diagnosis was biceps tendonitis (link to anatomy drawing). He missed most of spring training and started his season by coming off the DL 4/10/05 but had a rough April and worked through the problem until it flared up at the end of July 05. This lead to a 2nd DL stint lasting 5 weeks. 2005 wasn't kind to Lilly producing a 10-11 record but Lilly is a tough guy and naturally he didn't make his injury an excuse in this end of season interview from the Bluejays site.

"To put it very mildly, I'm disappointed in the way I've gone out there and competed," Lilly said Wednesday after his last start of the season. "I guess, coming into this year, I just expected us to be competitive in this league. And [I expected] myself to really make a push to help us do that."

To be fair, injuries played a large part in his inability to meet those goals. Lilly missed all of Spring Training with a case of shoulder tendinitis, and when he came back, he clearly wasn't ready to pitch in the big leagues.

Regarding the 2009 version of Ted Lilly, his shoulder tendonitis/torn knee meniscus might just take 3-5 weeks if they don't push things and add the knee arthroscopic surgery to his recovery list. Getting Lilly back in September is just like trading for an All-Star for the pennant stretch (slamming head in Rob G's door).

A chronology of the Ted Lilly 2005 biceps tendonitis after the fold...


LeMahieu Shines in Pro Debut

Cubs 2009 2nd round pick D. J. LeMahieu (LSU) made his professional debut tonight at Fitch Park in Mesa, going 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, leading the AZL Cubs to a 4-1 victory over the AZL Brewers in Arizona League action.   

box score

TCR Friday Notes

The big news is that the Cardinals have struck again on the trade market acquiring Matt Holliday from the Oakland A's for 2008 1st round pick Brett Wallace, RHP Clayton Mortensen and OF Shane Peterson. Wallace was a 5-star prospect according to Kevin Goldstein to begin the season and #2 on John Sickels list, with Mortensen and Peterson being "C+" prospects according to Sickels. Apparently being too right-handed isn't a concern for them as they're lineup could be Molina, Pujols, DeRosa, Ryan, Glaus, Holliday, *Rasmus and Ludwick.  Of course Glaus isn't back yet, and he'll probably be given a lot of days off when he does return but that's what their lineup could look like down the stretch.

Good news for the Cubs is that when Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley and Aramis Ramirez really start hitting, it'll be like making a trade.

(slams head in door)

I don't think this guarantees anything for the Cardinals, but it certainly doesn't hurt them this year, so....crap.

Game 93 Recap: Cubs 10, Phillies 5

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.


Cubs May Seek Reliever...Hopefully One That Can Hit

What are you gonna say about last night's game? Rich Harden looked dominating for a second straight game and the offense looked maddening for the about the 60th time this year. There's not a lot of strategy to complain about when the Cubs couldn't even muster a hit. The Cubs need to try to punch through tonight with Carlos Zambrano on the mound versus Father Time to avoid the sweep.

Game 91 Recap: Cubs 1, Phillies 10

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. 

The Second Half Really Begins

To piggyback on Cubby Blue's guest post, now that the Cubs finished that four game warm-up they can start the second half. And before we get too excited about leapfrogging the Brewers and gaining ground on the Cardinals, a quick look at the schedule shows the Brewers still have eight chances to beat down that Nationals piñata and the Cardinals another four, while the Cubs just have a three-game set versus the league slumpbuster.

Speaking of the schedule, starting on September 11th, this is the Cubs last four weeks of regular season baseball in 2009.

Sometimes It Feels As If We're Dropping Like Flies

Saturday, 10 AM UPDATE: Bruce Levine's ESPN AM-1000, Talkin' Baseball radio show from this saturday morning has updates
on Soriano's injury saying it's just a jammed finger and not a
dislocation. Also, Lilly's knee symptoms are related to a meniscus problem
and Dempster may just miss one more start.

Also he interviewed Oneri Fleita (Cubs VP of Player Personnel)
who comments on all things in the Cubs minor league system as well as
the recent rule 4 amateur draft, saying 2nd round pick LSU infielder DJ LeMahieu is close to signing.

A dark cloud seems to loom even with a two game winning streak after tonight's 3-1 win vs the Gnats.  So I ask, is dropping like flies worse than dropping flys?

This is not following Lou Piniella's script for the 2nd half of the season:

1) Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

2) Score runs

The "Road to Wrigley" game with the Iowa Cubs vs the Vegas 51's isn't coming until August 9th but it looks like the Iowa Cubs will be staying with their parent club just a bit longer, as two more Cub starters are possibly out for days and maybe more.




In the friday night 6-2 win against the Nationals, Alfonso Soriano dislocated his right little "pinky" finger (his throwing hand) in a base running mishap during the 4th inning. He singled to center on a play where DLee was on second but Lee rounded third and held there based on a strong but high throw to the plate by Nyjer Morgan. The catcher, Josh Bard caught the throw well in front of the plate then caught Soriano half way between first and second in an 8-2-6-4 putout. On the replay you can see that Soriano jammed his hand sliding into the base and he pulled on the finger right away apparently reducing the dislocated knuckle. The Comcast telecast also showed Soriano getting treatment from trainer Mark O'Neal as soon as he got back to the dugout but he stayed in the game and even batted again (he grounded out to 3B in the 6th and walked in the 9th). This type of injury doesn't swell until a few hours later but once the swelling develops the finger stiffens up making it hard to grip things (like a baseball or a bat).

Deadline One Month Away

The Deadline for signing players selected in this past June's Rule 4 Draft ("1st-Year Player Draft") is a month from today (August 17th). The deadline is normally  August 15th, but MLB has extended it by two days because August 15th falls on a Saturday in 2009. There is no deadline for signing college seniors who have exhausted their eligibilty, but the Cubs have already signed all of the college seniors they drafted this year.

Derby Champ Does Des Moines

Epifanio [Sandy] Guerrero has a new nickname. It’s Derby, courtesy of the apprentice ballplayers he‘s been working with this season.

That, a ring and a late dinner are his rewards for being what I guess you’d have to call the winning pitcher in MLB’s slugging orgy in St. Louis on Monday night.

Guerrero was Home Run Derby champ Prince Fielder’s hand-picked soft-server. His regular gig is hitting coach for the Nashville Sounds, Triple A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Last night I talked with him while the Sounds prepared to face the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines.

Let the Race Begin

This is the time of the year when clever folks hand out arbitrary letter grades to evaluate the first half performance of the Cubs. I prefer the cliff notes versions....underperforming bats + injuries + shaky bullpen equals .500 team despite really good starting pitching. What do the Cubs need to do in the second half? HIt like there suppose to, stay healthy, don't blow games late(don't blow them early either) and the starters need to keep pitching well.

There's some expert baseball analysis in three sentences.

The Cubs All-Star History

As much as I dread the current All-Star break, I was a fan once upon a time. Back before interleague play, having kids and cable television, the Midsummer Classic was a guilty pleasure to get a chance to see how our Cubbies did against the best of the best.

So part of the glacially-paced Wiklifield project, I put together this page that slices and dices the Cubs All-Star appearances. Some fun facts after the jump...

The Dreaded All-Star Break

I can't begin to explain how much I hate the All-Star break and it's three days of nothing I care about.  That's even been stretched to four on occasion as they no longer mandatorily schedule a four-game set after the break. So we sit and twiddle our thumbs waiting for something exciting to happen as the Cubs plan how to make up either 3.5 games on the Cardinals or 5 games on the wild card in the last 76. Some stuff to discuss and think about it or ignore after the jump...

Cubs Send Down Hart and Waddell, Recall Stevens

The Cubs have optioned RHP Kevin Hart and LHP Jason Waddell to AAA Iowa, and have (apparently) recalled RHP Jeff Stevens from the same club. The Stevens move will not be made official until just prior to tomorrow's game, so something could conceivably happen in the meantime to alter things.


Bad News/Good News - Peter's Been Robbed/Paul's Been Paid

Paul Sullivan had a piece in the Tribune on the Fourth of July that noted the heavy lifting being done in Chicago by players who started the season in Iowa. It got me to thinking...

Pending any roster impact that Geovany Soto's obliqueness might have, over half of the Cubs' current 25 man roster came to the NL Central via the PCL American North. Granted, not all of the baker's dozen were original signees of the organization, but each of the 13 have logged significant time in Des Moines on their ways up.

Collectively, you'd have to say that they've contributed more than their fair share to this point of a teeter-totter season. Put another way, the Cubs are getting more than their money's worth from this bunch. If the same could be said for the rest of the bloated payroll, well...

Please stand when I call your name. Hold your applause until the whole group has been recognized:

Sgt Hulka says: It Only Hurts When You Laugh


"I'm gonna go out on a limb here. I'm gonna volunteer my leadership to this platoon. An army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe. And Sergeant Hulka isn't always gonna be here to be that big toe for us. I think that we owe a big round of applause to our newest, bestest buddy, and big toe... Sergeant Hulka."  (Cub fan, Bill Murray as John Winger, Stripes. 1981) 


This team needs a kick in the pants. Unfortunately, it won't be Ryan Dempster to administer the sorely needed swift one.  It's hard to do that when your foot hurts because you acted like a knucklehead tripping over a dugout fence and injuring your big toe. Accidents happen. Anyone with a broken toe knows how painful it is. Typically, they don't need an orthopod to treat this injury and the pain usually subsides in 1-3 weeks depending on how bad the toenail injury is. Of course, running and pitching may be a problem if swelling, which can persists for months, leads to problems wearing shoes. I just hope it doesn't lead to ruining his pitching mechanics and the ever dreaded career altering sore shoulder.

I can't recall an exact comparable injury but I did remember when Sammy Sosa had an infected right big toe nail and had the nail removed surgically back in 2003. He was on the DL from May 10th to May 30th (essentially 3 weeks). Unfortunately it's a little harder to assess how Sammy did upon his return because his corked bat episode happened 4 days later leading to an 8 game suspension.


Recent comments

The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • AZ PHIL- Is Clayton Richard a free agent or not? One site I see he is, on another no. MLB has him listed as a free agent, Cot's contracts says he is a FA, baseball-reference says he's not, but Cubs have him on active roster. I know that he is just short of MLB 6 years service by just like 15 days, but that doesn't always matter.

  • Except that he gave up Russell and McKinney for a half-season of Hammel...

  • Beane cam at least point and laugh at Hammel.

  • The genius Angelo traded Olsen at Martzs request

  • Maybe Theo will sign Shark just so he can call Billy Beane and say: "Let's see...Russell? Check. McKinney? Check. Hammel? Check. Ninja? Check. Any other deals?"

  • To be fair to Emery and Trestman the foreshadowing of last year started happening well before them with the failure or mismanaging of multiple draft classes forcing the team to overspend in a free agency market that is even worse than baseball. Kyle Long seems like a good pick but they traded away another good one in Olson because of Martz's stupidity and inability to change his offense to fit the team talent.

  • HAGSAG: I think Domonic Brown does fit the criteria of a reclamation project, but unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, I don't think the Cubs would be interested given where the Cubs are right now. A couple of years ago? Yes. But probably not now.

    Brown would be better-off going to a club that is rebuilding and re-establish his value there, like Chris Coghlan did with the Cubs. And if he can re-establish his value, he could get traded to a contender at the trade deadline and take it from there.  

  • "they just fade away"

    (Except in the cases of no-fade lefties like Moyer, Orosco and Rich Hill.)

  • Amazing to me how quickly it fell apart under Trestman. Year 1, they were a Chris Conte brain fart away from making the playoffs. Year 2 -- coach, staff and GM all fired.

  • I am sure Jonathon Mota will be signed next.

  • AZ Phil, what is your thoughts on Domonic Brown as a reclamation project?

  • He also played LF in deference to Curtis Granderson.

    Meh... other moves to make...hope to see a move or two soon.

  • I haven't seen much Bears football this year - difficult to watch the games out here, but the game I saw the week before I was watching in shock as I saw them actually make tackles. And Cutler has looked really good, too.

    I guess people can quibble about play calling, but the team I saw is way more than 50% better coached (my only very minor disagreement with your comment).

    Under Trestman, the team didn't do anything right. This team played like a well coached team when I saw them play the Rams.

  • "What is sometimes overlooked about Vogelbach because of his "bad body" and because he has struggled so much defensively is that he is a hard worker, has a great attitude, loves to play the game, and is very well-liked by his teammates, and while that may not seem important, teams do actually value stuff like that. "

    As well they should. Replace a word here and there and you are describing any worker someone would hire.

  • Hak-Ju Lee signs a minor league contract with SF Giants.

    Some closure on the 6 degrees of Separation for Matt Garza/Chris Archer

  • Hahahahaha