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PIT/PA Watch

May 15: 3.55
Season: 3.61
NL Average: 3.73
Cubs' NL Rank: 15th

Cubs Season Record 22-15 (--)

This Series
May 14-May 16

Cubs Sweep 3-0



Final Score: 6-1

Final Score: 7-5

Final Score: 4-2


Next Series
May 18-May 20

AT

May 18: Clement (5-2, 2.78) vs
Schmidt (3-2, 3.79)


May 19: Zambrano (4-1, 1.82) vs
Rueter (1-4, 5.52)


May 20: Maddux (3-3, 4.44) vs
Hermanson (1-2, 4.67)



Last Series
May 11-May 13

Dodgers Win 2-1



Final Score: 7-3

Final Score: 4-0

Final Score: 7-3


Know Your Enemy - The Series
Part 1 - The Reds
Part 2 - The Pirates
Part 3 - The Brewers
Part 4A - The Cardinals - Position Players
Part 4B - The Cardinals - Pitching and Bench
Part 5A - The Astros - Position Players
Part 5B - The Astros - Pitching and Bench

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 Archives
08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003
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05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Big Red C is Dead! Long Live The Big Red C!

I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've finally gone and done it. The Big Red C is moving, and you can find it at www.bigredc.com. From now on, all new postings will appear at the new site. This spot will remain operational until Blogger decides to make it go away, which likely means it'll be around in perpetuity, so if you'd like to check out any posts from before today, this is the place to go.

I hope you'll all come along, and if any of you have links or bookmarks to this site, I'd be endlessly appreciative if you would update them. Thanks again, Long Live The Big Red C, and Long Live the Chicago Cubs!

UPDATE: The link above was funky for a while, but it's fixed now. Sorry, folks!

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Posted by Derek @ 10:33 AM

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

Of Times Come and Gone

I've never had a problem with the Padres. Lately, I've even liked them a bit. I don't have any hard feelings about their comeback victory in the NLCS 20 years ago, mostly because I was young in my Cubfandom at the time, so my personal investment level wasn't nearly as high as it is now.

However, something about seeing them sport the uniforms they wore in 1984 - the year they dashed Cub fans' hopes of a World Series - seemed purposefully spiteful. It was an attempt to reopen and rub salt in the old wound, to take the opportunity during the one time the object of that year of yore's humiliating defeat came into town to make sure they and their fans didn't forget who owned them way back when. Like I said, I've never had a problem with the Padres.

But now I want their heads.

Thankfully, the Cubs went out and provided for me, serving Padre noggins on a nice, shiny platter in their 6-1 victory last night, which had the added benefit of bringing them to within one game of the first place nemesis, Astros. I only saw the last couple of innings, but here's what I took away:

  • I know it's not a news flash, but Corey Patterson may be the worst bunter I've ever seen (at least among those who might regularly attempt them), and his bunt single in the ninth was perhaps the most pathetic successful attempt at a bunt hit in recorded history.

    Look, it's no secret I'm not a "small-ball" guy, but there's a difference between bunting for an out and bunting for a hit. One is valuable in very rare circumstances, while the other can be of great value on any number of occasions.

    Of course, for a player to be a consistently good risk when bunting for a hit he must have two skills - great speed, and the ability to control a bunted ball. Players who don't have the first are SOL - either you're fast or you're not, and no amount of work or wishcasting will make you speedy enough if you weren't so gifted to being with. The second skill, however, can be learned, so anyone who is already blessed with great speed is only giving themselves another offensive weapon if they take the time to master it.

    But not only has Corey obviously refused to take the time to avail himself of this possible addition to his arsenal, he seems openly disdainful of it. He fancies himself a power hitter, and that's fine, because he is. The disconnect is in the assumption that being a power hitter and a dangerous bunter are mutually exclusive propositions.

    I don't know if anyone will ever be able to make him understand what could be possible if he would only work to acquire the ability to bunt, but if someone does get it through his thick skull, they'll be getting a big thank you from me.

  • In 272 AB's last season, Jose Macias had two triples. Last night, he had two in consecutive innings, scoring after the first, and driving in three runs with the second. When he came up with the bases loaded in the ninth I thought to myself what a waste it was, and of course, he gets the three-bagger. This sort of performance reminds me of being at the rain-delayed opener of the five game Cardinals series last September, as I spent every Tony Womack at bat lamenting his presence and relating to my friends just how deeply he sucked, while watching him go 3 for 5 with a double, RBI and stolen base. Ah, sweet irony.

  • Any thoughts that Joe Borowski's early exit from the end of the final game of the Dodgers series was indicative of a usurpation from his Closer's throne are premature. Not only was JoBo warming up during the Cubs' half of the ninth while it was still a save situation, but when he pitched the bottom of the frame, he had his best outing of the year. It only took seven pitches to get through the 1-2-3 inning, and for the first time while I've been watching, he had some sharpness to his stuff. He only threw two sliders, but both were among the best I've seen from him this season. It's way too early to say he's back, but this was the first indication I've seen all year that a return to form is even possible.

Memory Lane

One of baseball's great appeals is the romance of recollection. More than any other sport, the National Pastime allows a unique opportunity to form visceral, lasting memories that evoke, not just a particular game, but an entire period in your life, a relationship, an emotion.

I had an experience like that as I followed the final game of the Dodgers series over the internet. Nomo's wild performance gave me a powerful attack of deja vu, as a realized I'd borne witness to a similar outing from the same man at Wrigley Field once. The details had escaped me, but a quick trip to the invaluable Retrosheet.org refreshed my baby-addled mind.

It was April 18, 1998, and Hideo Nomo was starting for the visiting Dodgers. He wasn't in the game for long, though, as his final pitching line looked like this:

IP H HR R ER BB K
0.2 3 0 8 7 5 0

That's super ugly, and you can see why it would jog my memory, but that wasn't the significant part of the day. Here's a list of firsts on that day, some baseball and some personal:

  • Kerry Wood's first start in Wrigley Field
  • Kerry Wood's first Major League hit
  • Kerry Wood's first Major League RBI
  • Kerry Wood's first Major League run scored
  • Kerry Wood's first Major League win
  • My wife's first National League ball game
  • My wife's first trip to Wrigley Field
  • My wife's first baseball game with me

In case you hadn't guessed, this was a good day, and one can excuse me if I have a bit of a Kerry Wood fetish as a result. It had been a good week anyway, as my wife (or really, for accuracy's sake, my wife to be) had been in Chicago for a mere eight days. That I got her to attend a Cub game in April (although, according to weather history it was a fairly balmy 60 degrees), speaks volumes of her fortitude.

It's days like this that keep me in it, even when things look dark. There's always a chance that, even if something significant doesn't happen on the field, something even more significant will happen off it, something that you can hold dear and treasure for the rest of your life. It happened for me on April 18, 1998, and who knows when it might happen again? That's why I'll stay in the game, because when something like this comes around again - and it will - I don't want to miss it.

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Posted by Derek @ 2:30 PM

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Counter-Intuitive

This is the team fielded by our boys today, in the order they appear at the plate.

Goodwin CF
Macias 2B
Alou LF
Ramirez 3B
Hollandsworth RF
Lee 1B
Martinez SS
Bako C
Zambrano P

Is this some sort of twisted challenge lineup? Dusty says, "Well, Carlos, you had our best start of the year last time out, so let's see if you can win with this offense! Don't complain, I'm trying to get you to the point where you can win the games all by yourself. Just go out there, hit a solo homer, and shut them out. You'll thank me later."

I know you have to rest your starters sometimes, but this is ridiculous. Did I miss Todd Walker getting hurt? He didn't play last night because of the lefty, so there's no reason other than injury to hold him out today.

I'll stop there, since I'm obviously in a mood to complain. Besides, as I'm writing this, the bases are loaded for the Cubs with no out in the second, and Paul Bako just hit a run-scoring single to put us up 2-0.

On second thought, maybe I should keep going. Perhaps my negative energy will guide us to an offensive onslaught the world has never seen. Come on, boys, make me look stupid (it's good work if you can get it)!

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Posted by Derek @ 2:44 PM

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Avoidance

Have I mentioned that I hate the SoCal trip? I just can't bring myself to comment on the travesty unfolding in the Silicone Valley, so I'll get after some odds and ends.

Two Out Wha?!?

There's been a lot of gabbing on the Cubs' television broadcasts about the team's "two out magic," so I thought I'd take a moment to use the considerable angst I've built up over the last couple games to rip this idea a new one.

Overall Team Batting Line .265/.332/.457, 1146 AB
Two Outs With RISP .237/.351/.382, 131 AB
RISP .235/.334/.396, 293 AB

Is there something wrong with me that the magic is not readily apparent?

I'm not trying to make a case for or against clutch hitting, nor am I trying to say the Cubs as a team are choking. This is simply a focused vendetta against a blatant inaccuracy being perpetrated by the Cubs' broadcast team. It's not in the least bit important, but I'll be damned if it doesn't get my knickers in a twist every time I hear it. Yes, switching to decaf might be a more efficient way of addressing the issue, but you try going off the hyper-juice while living with a one-month old.

You want to know who's really got the magic in those situations? The Houston Astros.

Overall Team Batting Line .280/.357/.444, 1123 AB
Two Outs With RISP .301/.415/.524, 143 AB
RISP .316/.411/.511, 323 AB

They lead the National League in each part of each batting line, except OBP with two outs and RISP, and overall SLG, coming in 2nd and 5th respectively. As one would expect, they also lead the NL in runs scored.

That's where the magic is right now, and that's what we're up against, folks. The Astros are the best team in the league as of this writing, and while I wouldn't expect them to keep up the torrid pace with runners on, even when they regress to the mean they will still be the most balanced offensive team in the NL.

Time Machine

If I could go back to any year in my life, I'd never choose 1986. I didn't like being fifteen the first time around, and my hair alone - "You mean I can have a perm and a mullet?! Where do I sign!" - would be reason to avoid a replay. But that's not stopping Roger Clemens from posting his best OPS allowed since his MVP/Cy Young season (.553 this year vs. the stunning .515 in the year of "Where's the Beef?").

He's also posting his best K/9 since 1998 (10.32 vs. 10.39), his best ERA since 1990 (1.99 vs. 1.93), and his best BA allowed ever at .182. The "best since" figures I quoted also happen to be the second best of his career.

It was reasonable to assume that Clemens would help the Astros - after all, he was still a fine pitcher for the Yankees over the last five seasons - but there was no reason for anyone to think that when his 41st birthday rolls around this Saturday that he would be in the middle of this resurgent performance. I don't like that he's doing it for the Astros, but there's something about a historic performance one has to respect.

As Long As I'm Fretting

After 33 games, the Cubs are 18-15, three back of the Astros at 21-12. From our side it's deja vu all over again, as the 2003 Cuddle Bears put up an identical record over those first 33 contests. The worry comes when looking at our nemesis' record over the same time period last year. They were 17-16, four games worse than the mark they've put up thus far in 2004.

I know it's a small sample size, and I know a lot can happen over the remaining 129 games, but I can't help feeling concern. I like to keep positive, but after a while, even I need some reasons to keep my head up.

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Posted by Derek @ 2:07 PM

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Double Whammy

Is it coincidence that the day after Kerry Wood experiences "tightness" in his triceps that my copy of Saving The Pitcher arrives?

While there may have been a game played last night - one in which the Cubs were thoroughly spanked - Wood's injury was the story of the contest, and unfortunately, I don't have much to add to the cacophony except to say that we should all follow the advice of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on this one. There are any number of different things that could be wrong, but in this moment of uncertainty, I choose to latch onto the semantics involved in the quotations from Wood and the Cubs.

Only two words were used to describe the injury in any of the accounts I've read: tightness and soreness. One never wants to hear anything is wrong with a pitcher like Wood, but if you have to hear something bad, those are the words you want slipping into your ear. Tenderness was not a word used, nor were there any descriptions of noises or moments where a pop was felt. There is still the possibility that something catastrophic occurred, but the descriptors in this case are more likely to indicate a relatively innocuous injury than any others they might use.

That being said, I'm so far from expert in this field, I couldn't see it with the Hubble. Keep an eye on the Cub Reporter, as Christian has emailed injury guru, Will "Don't Call Me a Guru" Carroll, about the situation, and as they are label-mates over at all-baseball.com, he's pretty likely to get a quick response. I also imagine Mr. Carroll will be mentioning something in his UTK column over at Baseball Prospectus. I'll pass on anything I find out, but my information is likely to come from those resources, so I suggest you cut out the middle man if you can and patronize them directly.

I see no point in speculating about the impact of this injury on the team until the full extent is known. Hopefully, it's nothing serious, and the team will simply have Wood drop his appeal of his suspension and skip a start as a precaution. That's likely the best case scenario, so let's start saying our prayers for it now.

PS - Blogger has added a comment feature, and I've decided to experiment with it. If anyone has a preference, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just see how it works and make a call from there.

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Posted by Derek @ 1:20 PM

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Back In The Saddle

I'm in a bit of a post-familial-visit-haze, and I saw very little of the four games since my last post, but here are a couple of things I noticed in my side-view mirror.

  • It's still too early to say this for a fact, and his 5 for 5 game has clouded the picture a bit, but Derrek Lee's .406/.513/.625 in the first nine games of May is making me think he's turned his annual corner. This is countered, of course, by the .176/.200/.265 line Moises Alou has put up during the eight games he's played over the same period, and the .200/.359/.400 line Aramis Ramirez has put up in his nine game month. However, if A-Ram can get his average up while exhibiting the same patience that has netted him 7 walks in his last 39 PA's, that would be some lovely progress, and another data point in the column marked "Reasons to re-sign Aramis."

  • I am officially no longer worried about the long term effects of last year's usage patterns on Carlos Zambrano. I still reserve the right to become concerned about how he's used this season, but if six starts of a 2.18 ERA, 30 hits over 41.1 innings - only one of them a homer - and a 35/11 strikeout to walk ratio won't allay the fears brought on by his catastrophic failures in September and through the playoffs, then perhaps I should explore prescription-based options. Dusty could still break him, but right now it looks like this kid is truly something special.

  • Others have made similar statements, but I feel obligated to weigh in, even at this late juncture. When I saw that Shawn Estes was scheduled to pitch the first game of the series with the Rockies, I must admit, I got a little knot in my stomach. I could think of fewer more humiliating single game scenarios than being shut down by that paragon of pitching paucity.

    When I finally had a chance to check in around the eighth inning, the smile on my face could have been mistaken for the work of the Ace Chemical Factory. Add in a complete game by the aforementioned Big Z that came in under 100 pitches, and I couldn't have been more tickled if I took a three hour feather bath.

  • Game 2 of the series was an illustration of the infuriating aspects of the team's offensive attack. A three homer day is usually an indication of some decent run scoring, but in this case, all the shots were solo, and whenever anyone got on base by other means, attempts to get them home brought to mind the eternal labor of Sisyphus. Nothing more clearly evoked the Corinthian's fate than the ninth inning when, with one out and Tom Goodwin at first, a wild pickoff throw from Shawn Chacon allowed the speedy outfielder to reach third, only to watch this prime opportunity to tie the game spoiled by strikeouts from Todd Walker and Corey Patterson. I don't get overly concerned about strikeouts in the general sense, but there are situations where they do indeed hurt, and this was certainly one of them.

  • The end of Saturday's game was the first missed opportunity for Patterson. The second came in the bottom of the sixth of game 3 with two out. The contest had just been tied and an intentional walk to Damian Jackson (Damian Jackson!?!) had just loaded the bases. As if the ignominy of preferring to face him over Jackson wasn't enough, Patterson struck out on four pitches, every one of which was at least a foot outside the zone.

    But you know what they say about the third time and its charms. Fast forward to the bottom of the 13th, where there are two out again, and yet another intentional walk is issued to the now thoroughly confused Jackson (his two IBB on the day increased his career total by 25%), once again loading the bases for Patterson. Luckily for Corey, redemption is just around the corner, and so is Jeff Fassero. All it took was a high pitch grooved down the middle for our hero to launch the ball to the right center field wall, bringing home the run, the victory, and the series (a three game set won, in no small part, due to the lackluster efforts of two former Cub pitchers, making the whole deal strangely sweeter).

Back in the present, today sees the beginning of the Cubs' annual SoCal road swing, spending three days in Chavez Ravine, followed by a sojourn to the shiny new Petco Park.

On paper, I like the matchups against the other boys in blue, but we're catching them at a time when the team is playing over their heads offensively (the team is hitting .277/.334/.442 after collectively posting a .243/.303/.368 line last season). True, they've added Uber-Nutbar Milton Bradley, Shawn Green has gotten some of his power back, and Adrian Beltre seems to have finally figured out whatever it was that needed figuring, but there are some sizeable chinks in the armor.

Beltre has been blistering thus far, but there's no way he can continue to hit .385, let alone do so while only walking twice in 122 at bats. Paul LoDuca will become another victim of the law of averages, as his .364 average - unsustainable as it seems on its own - is likely to fall victim to the August and September dropoffs that have plagued him over the last two years. Plus, the team continues to start Juan Encarnacion at an outfield corner, while allowing Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora to play, period.

However, that's the long term outlook, which doesn't help the Cubs much in the near term. Although, if there's a group of pitchers likely to start an overachieving team on the long slide to its natural level of production, its the trio of Wood, Clement and Zambrano that Jim Tracy's players will face over the next three days.

Hey, slides are fun. How 'bout we give those nice Dodgers a shove.

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Posted by Derek @ 9:57 AM

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Game Notes 27: Snarky

I'm tired and cranky, so I'll take some time to wonder aloud about the apparent decision to use the Cubs' offense in a remake of Swing Kids. I hear Bill James will be assuming the Kenneth Brannaugh Memorial Sneering Nazi Villain role, as he attempts to oppress the Cubs' swinging ways and force them to control the strike zone. Corey Patterson will reprise Robert Sean Leonard's masterful turn as the Kids' kingpin, Peter, with his mother (forcibly wooed by James) played by Dusty Baker (with apologies to Barbara Hershey). I can see it now, as young Peter is being carted off by James' PDP (Plate Discipline Police), and the film rises to its climactic moment when our hero leads the other Swing Kids in a rousing chant of "Swing Heil! Swing Heil! Swing Heil!"

If only. As an actor, I can understand the need to subvert certain parts of your life in order to make your screen dreams reality. The more ambitious among my ilk will live an itinerant lifestyle, forgo various financial and creature comforts, even neglect important relationships in the pursuit of their goal, so failing to see a few extra pitches in a ballgame would seem a paltry price to pay for shot at some full screen flicker time.

Unfortunately, I can ascribe the recent flailings to no such alterior motive. This is a team that likes to let 'er rip, and they don't care if it frustrates me, or anyone else. I'll have to learn to live with it, I suppose, but that doesn't mean I won't write about it, if for no other reason, so I can let off some steam. Hopefully, Elmer Dessens will be the victim of some pent up Cubbie rage today, and I can rest my bilious pen for a time.

Speaking of resting pens, due to baby related long-distance family visitation over the next few days, posts here will be light to nonexistant. Keep checking back, because I just may sneak something in, but don't be too disappointed if things remain as is through the weekend. In the meantime, enjoy the ballgames, and feel free to send me any reports. Go Cubs!

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Posted by Derek @ 12:25 PM

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