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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


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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08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003
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Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, August 29, 2003


Another very solid outing by a Cubs starter goes out the window, although some of the blame could be laid at the feet of Zambrano himself for his sixth inning throwing error which eventually led to the Cardinal's first run of the game. Obviously, there's no way to know how things turn out if he doesn't toss the ball into the dirt on Matt Morris' would be ground out, but it's reasonable to assume that the Cubs still have the lead in the ninth. To me, this is the crux of the game. Yes, Remlinger gave up the game tying homer to Kerry Robinson (Kerry Robinson ?!?!?), but at least Dusty left him in the game after he had a quick and effective eighth inning. The decision was defensible, and sometimes guys just throw a bad pitch.

My only quibble would be with bringing Remlinger into a tie game in the first place. He's walked a lot of guys, and given up a bunch of homers. In a game where one run kills you, I don't think he's a good fit. I have to bring up the name of Mark Guthrie again. He has been greatly underutilized to this point, making appearances in 54 games while only throwing 33.2 innings. He's being used like a LOOGY, when his career numbers make it clear that he is equally effective against all hitters. He's had better control this year, and given up homers at a lower rate. If the game is on the line, like it was last night, I'd much rather see him in the game than Remlinger.

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Posted by Derek @ 7:23 AM


Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Real Problem

Last night the Cubs bullpen blew a two run lead in the 8th inning. Well, let me alter that statement a bit. The management of the Cubs bullpen blew a two run lead last night.

Look, I don't want to pile on Dusty, but I just can't understand the decisions that were made last night. First, Alf was brought in. Unless you have at least a five run cushion, this is not a good idea. However, despite my belief that he wasn't the best option, he did not pitch badly. Or, I should say, his one pitch wasn't bad. Pujols pounded it into the ground, which is exactly what you would like him to do in that situation. Problem is, it happened to go up the middle where nobody could get it. Not Alf's fault. However, now he's failed to get his man, you have to take him out. Edmonds is up next, and lefties have pounded Alf to the tune of .341/.424/.435. He's got to go.

Fine, he's gone, so in comes Guthrie. But for a couple of close calls he would have had Edmonds, but the calls didn't go his way, and Edmonds got the hit. This is where I really get lost. Guthrie is not a LOOGY. His lifetime splits are nearly even, and this year he's actually fared a little better against right handers. But the point is, not only has he fared well against right handers, he's fared well against everybody. So, when Guthrie loses Edmonds, despite throwing well to him, what does Dusty do? He yanks him and brings in Farnsworth, he of the 5 walks, 4 hits and 4 runs in his last 5 outings. Don't get me wrong, I like Kyle. But I like him at the beginning of an inning where he has some margin for error. This is not his type of situation. Particularly when he hasn't been throwing well lately.

Anyway, I won't go through the rest of the moves. Dusty basically stumbles through the rest of the inning just trying to find anyone who will get somebody, anybody out. If the Cubs had wanted that kind of bullpen management, they would have tried to hire away Tony LaRussa.

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Posted by Derek @ 7:09 PM


Monday, August 25, 2003

Stretch Run

There's a lot of talk around here (Chicago, that is) about the great races we have at the end of the year involving both of the city's teams. The Cubs are in a three-way race with the Cardinals and Astros for the NL Central title, and winning the division is probably the only way any of the three will make the playoffs. The White Sox are in a three-way race with the Royals and Twins for the AL Central title, and it's certainly the only route for any of those teams to taste the postseason. But these are a races to mediocrity, limps to the finish, contests to see who is least unqualified to play into October. So, while the last thirty odd games that these teams play may be compelling to their fans, there's something missing for everyone else. If you want to see excellence vs. excellence, you have to look elsewhere.

Specifically, you have to look at the triad of Oakland, Seattle and Boston. Earlier today, Boston completed an impressive four game sweep of the Mariners, never scoring fewer than six runs, and holding the Mariners to just one run in each of the last two games. If the A's can win tonight's tilt against the Blue Jays, all three of these teams will have matching records. Big deal, you say, you have a nearly identical situation in the NL Central: two teams with the same records (Cardinals, Astros), and one team that's a half game back (Cubs). What makes this AL West/Wildcard race any better?

The better teams do. In the NL Central you have two teams at a respectable, but pedestrian 68-62, with the other team a half game back. Assuming the Cubs were to win the game less that they've played, that's three teams with a .523 winning percentage, which if we round up, puts them on pace for an 85-77 campaign. Decent? Yes. Compelling? Well, lets look at the alternative. If we assume that the A's win tonight, locking them in a dead heat with Boston and Seattle, that puts them all at 76-55, or a .580 winning percentage. These teams are on pace to have a 94-68 season. That's three very good teams vying for two playoff spots. If I were a dispassionate viewer, I know which one I'd rather see.

Of course, if one of your favorite teams is involved in one of the Central divisions' wars of attrition, by all means keep your eyes glued to your boys. Especially for us Cubs fans, it's not very often we get a chance to see our fellas playing as the leaves turn orange and gold. So keep watching those games, get to the ballpark if you can, and root until you're hoarse. Just consider keeping a bit of your energy in reserve, and paying some attention to another great race. You don't have to care who wins. Sometimes it's enough to just watch them play.

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Posted by Derek @ 8:17 PM


Sunday, August 24, 2003

That's gonna leave a mark

I've really reached the end of my rope with Shawn Estes. Okay, that probably happened in May, but the point remains the same. Yet again, we see Estes get his hat handed to him, and coincidentally, see Antonio Alfonseca get spanked even worse in the same game, thus cementing my opinion that both of these guys need to be nowhere near the postseason roster (that is if the Cubs don't obviate the need for a postseason roster in the first place). Of course, both of these guys need to go now so they don't find a way make the last 34 games a waste of time, but I don't have the confidence that the Cubs brain trust understands this. Dusty Baker was quoted in the Tribune this morning as saying "He threw the ball as good as he's thrown the ball. They found some holes there." Now, admittedly, during the first three innings, Estes actually looked pretty good. He was locating his curve, and was able to hit the outside corner with pretty much everything. However, attributing the six runs scored on six hits and a walk during his last inning and a third to luck seems a little silly. Especially when 4 of those hits were doubles. I'll grant that if Alfonseca does his job in the fourth (he's got men on first and second with one out, not the best situation, but still something that can be kept under control), Estes' outing doesn't look so bad, but 5 runs (4 earned) in 4 1/3 is still a rotten outing.

I wish I could have some confidence that the Cubs will realize what they have to do, and get it done. However, this is a team managed by a man who thinks that the insertion of Tony Womack and his .255 OBP into the two spot in the order (hell, ANY spot in the order) is a positive move. Don't get me wrong. I can actually see the short-term logic of bringing Womack on board. With Grudz being out until sometime in early September, and the only other option for a back up infielder begin Augie Ojeda, acquiring Womack as a backup for Ramon Martinez and Alex Gonzalez makes at least a modicum of sense. The problem is that Dusty doesn't seem to understand that Womack shouldn't be starting for anyone, let alone a team that has a chance to win its division.

For this team to retain a shot at the division, and thus a shot at the postseason, Juan Cruz needs to take Estes spot in the rotation. Ideally, Alfonseca is released as well. He's only being used as a mop-up guy anyway, so why not release him, bring up Cruz to start, and send Estes to the back of the bullpen. The Cubs don't have anyone who resembles a swing-man in the bullpen right now anyway, so it could be an ideal situation. Someone has a two inning outing, giving up six runs to start the game, and you need someone to come in and take the rest of the beating and save the bullpen for another day. Enter Estes, who probably gives up four runs himself, but he pitches five or six innings and keeps the rest of the bullpen from having to get involved.

The Cubs offense isn't going to get any better. It will be the pitching staff that carries the day, and if they get to the postseason, they've got a great shot at shutting the other team down in a short series. But they need to give themselves every opportunity to win in the 34 games that remain, and they can't afford to effectively hand over the six or so games that Estes would be starting the rest of the year. The division is too tight, and winning the division is their chance to play in October. Let's hope someone in the front offense figures this out.

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Posted by Derek @ 9:35 AM


Friday, August 22, 2003


Curt Schilling struck out 14 Cubs in 8 innings tonight, but he wasn't the most dominating pitcher at Bank One Ballpark. Carlos Zambrano's first eight innings were super efficient, getting through the first 24 outs on only 72 pitches, before he stumbled though the ninth inning on his way to a 4-1 victory with big implications in the NL Central race.

The Cub offense came from the longball, Sammy Sosa contributing two bombs, and Aramis Ramirez providing a solo shot of his own. It was a typical Schilling performance: a couple of dingers, and a bunch of guys just looking silly. When they weren't hitting homers, the Cubs hitters were flat out overmatched against Schilling, particularly when he threw that wicked splitter. Sometimes, the splitter wasn't even the out pitch. On one of Randal Simon's at bats, he swung at and nearly made contact with a ball that, if it didn't hit the dirt, came awfully close, only to be struck out on a thigh high fastball on the inner half of the plate. Leave it to Simon to swing at the ball he can't possibly hit, and let the hittable pitch go by.

That doesn't matter, though, as the story of the night was Carlos Zambrano. It was so nice to see a Cub pitcher, any Cub pitcher, throw a complete game that didn't make me feel like his arm was in jeopardy. Despite a 21 pitch ninth inning where he walked a man and gave up a run on two clean hits, Carlos finished the game with only 93 pitches. Carlos had a no hitter through 7 2/3, and while it looks like he was the victim of a questionable call on the first hit of the game, the fact is that both Ramirez and Simon had to make fantastic plays to even make it close. Who knows what would have happened in the ninth if Carlos had been given the benefit of the call. However, when the ninth did roll around, he gave up two clean, hard hit balls that led to the D'Back's lone run, making it seem a little less like he got robbed.

And while the story may have been Zambrano's effort, the deeper meaning of the game is revealed with the rest of the evening's results. Both the Astros and Cardinals lost tonight, putting the Cubs in second place, 1/2 game behind the Astros and tying them in the loss column. This was a big deal, what with the Astros getting to theoretically beat up on the lowly Reds (a team they have owned all year) in their home park, where they've been dominating all season, while the Cubs had to content with facing one of the most dominating pitchers of the last couple of years in his home ballpark. The Cubs came out on top, gained some ground, and hopefully set the tone for the weekend.

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Posted by Derek @ 10:57 PM