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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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Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, September 26, 2003

That'll Learn Me

You just wait. The next time I have reason to express optimism about the Cubs, not only won't I say anything, I will remain convinced that doom is just around the corner. A fifteen game lead in September will only be proof of their imminent demise. Clinching a division title would simply be an indication of how little we really understand this "new math." And winning a World Series will only mean that the next gap between titles will be twice as long.

Okay. End of rant. Breathing now.

Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus has just begun publishing a weblog (if you like his work over at BP you should check it out), and after Estes' start on Wednesday he issued an "Amber Alert" implying that Shawn was kidnapped sometime before the game and an imposter had taken his place. Well, taking the events of the past week into account, I believe I know where he is.

He's in Carlos Zambrano's body.

I have good evidence for this. Stay with me.

Freaky Friday is a movie about a teenage girl and her mother who magically switch bodies with hilarious consequences. Carlos Zambrano's last start was on a Friday against Pittsburgh, also with hilarious consequences. Zambrano's pitching line from that game:

4.2IP, 8H, 9R, 6ER, 3BB, 3SO, 2HR

Looks a lot like a Shawn Estes pitching line, doesn't it? Sure you could write it off as a bad outing, or make some excuse about Carlos being tremendously overworked during the season resulting in a combination of nagging injuries and fatigue, but I think there's something else afoot. Consider this: Zambrano's regular turn in the rotation would have been this Wednesday, but who took the ball? Shawn Estes! Just look at his pitching line:

9IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 5SO, 0HR

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? If not, then answer me this: Does this look like the line of a 30 year old left-hander with questionable control, who gives up a hit and a quarter per inning and has an unfortunate propensity for tossing the gopher ball? Or does it look like a 23 year old sinker-balling right hander who coughs up less than a hit per inning, strikes out 7/9IP, and had only given up 7 home runs in his first 204.1 innings this season? I think we all know the answer to that.

This only leaves us with the question of what to do? While it may be tempting to keep Carlos in Shawn's body, thus totally bushwhacking any opposition that might face him, I'm an advocate of returning Carlos to his rightful home. While there is nothing in the rules expressly forbidding the mystical transfer of spirits between earthly vessels, there are plenty of other things, like stealing signs, that are still thought of as cheating, despite the lack of a clear prohibition in the rule book. If the Cubs make the playoffs, I'd like them to do so without the stench of the cheater following them around.

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Posted by Derek @ 10:58 AM


Thursday, September 25, 2003

I Don't Know What Happened, But I Like It!

Other than laying claim to some sort of higher understanding because of my "prediction" (which I didn't really make) using "science" (which I know nothing about) that Estes would have a great outing, thus following the highly statistically relevant two game trend when his ERA was truly awful, but still better than his opponent, I have no explanation for last night's complete game four hit shutout. If anything, I think we were privy to a combination of Dusty Baker's motivational acumen, a Reds lineup that was quadruple-A at best, and a skosh of luck for good measure. Doesn't matter really, I'll take what I can get.

More Than a Feeling?

I have a good feeling about tonight's Astros/Brewers tilt. Doug Davis is not a great pitcher, but during his current tour of the National League, he has bewildered anyone seeing him for the first time. He's had seven starts for the Brewers, six of which against opponents who were getting their first look at him in a Brewers uniform, and in those six starts, he's had an ERA of 1.70, giving up more than two runs only once, that being a 3 run outing against the Giants. Davis may not be a world beater, but he is facing the Astros for the first time, while Houston is sending Tim Redding to the mound with his not completely healed blister. With our rival's matchup, and the Big Z heading to the mound, despite my natural incination to stifle any positive feelings, I don't feel half bad about the prospects for this evening's contests.

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Posted by Derek @ 11:51 AM


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Fun With Shawn

Tonight's start by Shawn Estes will mark only the sixth time in 28 starts that he will go into the game with a better ERA than his opponent, and the first time since May 30. Here are the previous five starts with the ERA of Estes and his opponent entering the game, along with the game's final score, just for kicks.

April 15 vs. Cincinatti, Estes 5.40, Graves 7.59, Cubs win 11-1

April 20 at Pittsburgh, Estes 3.50, Fogg 3.66, Cubs lose 8-2

May 7 vs. Milwaukee, Estes 6.53, Rusch 7.18, Cubs win 2-1

May 18, Estes 5.08, Simontacchi 7.41, Cubs lose 6-3

May 30, Estes 4.88, Miller 5.34, Cubs lose 9-1

No predictive value here (obviously). I just thought it was fun to look at.

It's interesting to note that among this group, the only pitcher who currently has an ERA worse than Estes is Glendon Rusch, who is currently at 6.67 (a big improvement, by the way, from his mid-season nadir of 8.61 on June 18, thanks to an ERA of exactly 3.00 since coming back from triple-A and the disabled list at the end of August). Note, also, that there is only one of these previous five games where you can say that Estes ERA was not only better than his opponent's, but was decent, or even acceptable, on its own. And he got pummelled in that game. In fact, the three games where Estes ERA was just bad and not totally appalling, he got rocked. The two games where his ERA was larger than Rush Limbaugh's eyes at an all you can eat buffet, he only allows one run. Whatever.

I've stopped trying to figure this guy out, and simply decided that a victory in any game he starts is a bonus. And you know what? Cubs fans are due for a bonus.

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Posted by Derek @ 1:54 PM


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Pedro Feliz is My New Best Friend

I don't know why I didn't look at the Giants record in Minute Maid Park leading up to their series with Houston this week, but it's probably a good thing I didn't. If I had taken a peek I might have gotten too excited for my own good.

With last night's victory (did I mention that I'm very fond of Pedro Feliz right now?), the Giants stopped their losing streak in Houston. Their one game losing streak. The one game losing streak that came ahead of 11 straight victories in the Juicebox. San Francisco is now 12-1 in the Astrogoths homage to fruit-based liquid refreshment, and in these games, they have outscored Houston 94-52. For those of you without calculators, that's an average score of 7.2 to 4.

I'm not sure I have a point here, except to say that if the Cubs can handle their end of the bargain, good things could happen. Of course, I was watching Curse of the Bambino while following the webcast of the game, so my excitement and enthusiasm are tempered with the fear of abject, soul-crushing disappointment. Welcome to my life.

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Posted by Derek @ 10:07 AM


Monday, September 22, 2003

The Franchise

After getting pounded for 27 runs in the first three games of a critical series against the Pirates, the Cubs turned to the ultimate pitching luxury, Mark Prior, to set things right. Boy, did he ever. Prior threw a fantastic game, striking out 14 over 7 2/3 innings and giving up only one run (of course, it took 131 pitches, but at this point in the season I'm just sick of being worried about it. I'll save my concern for the Hot Stove). Then to make the day perfect, the Astros, Marlins and Phillies all lose, allowing the Cubs to gain ground everywhere they could. The Cubs are off tonight, but the Astros and Marlins play the Giants and Braves, respectively. The Cubs need some help, and who better to provide it than the two best teams in the National League.

Next Up

The whisperings from the clubhouse this weekend say that Shawn Estes is most likely to get the start on Wednesday in Cincinatti. I have mixed feelings about this. My negative feelings come from the undenyable fact that Shawn Estes sucks like (insert tasteless metaphor here), and blows like (insert more tasteless metaphor here). My positive feelings come from the realization that he may be the (shudder) best option available. Juan Cruz has been Estesian in his last two starts, posting this ugly combined line:

9IP, 18H, 4W, 7SO, 12ER, 2HR.

Neither pitcher inspires much confidence, but with Cruz looking like he wants his mommy out there, and your only other options being a couple of talented but very raw double-A pitchers, suddenly it looks like the California recall election, where if I'm given the choice between the predictably incompetent (Gray Davis) and the unpredictably incompetent (Arnold Schwarzenneger), I'm going to have to give the nod to the devil I know.

Which begs the question, whether some form of postseason glory is attained this year or not, of who gets the five spot next year. Frankly, I think the offense is a source of greater need, but that can be addressed at a later date. On Wednesday we're confronted with a bad situation involving the back of the rotation and a huge need for a win, so this is as good a time as any to look at the options for next year. The problem is, there doesn't appear to be much available on the free agent market. However, one interesting possiblity does exist. Kirk Rueter's contract in San Francisco is up at the end of the year, and as long as he's over the injury problems he's had this season, he might be what the Cubs are looking for while they wait for one of the young guns in the minors to get ready. He's likely to throw about 180 innings with an ERA around four, and while he's far from the kind of crazy hard throwing strikout machine the Cubs have in their other rotation slots, that might serve as a sort of advantage. Imagine having to face Rueter after one of the other four starters. One game the opposition can't catch up to anything, the next they have to sit back and wait for everything. It seems like it would be a difficult adjustment for hitters to make, and while I don't have any evidence that this sort of arrangement would increase Rueter's efficacy, it sure seems like it could (hmmmm, topic for research anyone?). Add in the fact the Dusty likely has a comfort zone there after managing him for 6+ seasons in San Francisco, and things start to look interesting. I don't think Rueter is a long term solution. That will be found with whoever survives among folks like Angel Guzman, Chadd Blasko, Andy Sisco, Jae-kuk Ryu, Robert Brownlie, Todd Wellemeyer, Sergio Mitre, and even Juan Cruz. But a couple years of Kirk Rueter while we wait for the next generation wouldn't be bad.

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Posted by Derek @ 12:31 PM


Wednesday, September 17, 2003


After last night's 3-2 victory, that makes it two games in a row where the starter really gutted it out. Okay, so it's kinda scary when you allow eight hits, a walk, two runs and strike out thirteen over eight and two-thirds innings and it can still be said that you were struggling a bit, but Mark Prior is a different animal. After throwing 83 pitches through the first five innings, I thought he was going to go six, maybe seven, even with Dusty's annoying tendency to stretch him out every chance he gets. It looked like guys had a bead on his fastball, and while the only real problem had been Roger Cedeno's solo homer, he still looked like a pitcher who was getting close to 200 innings for the first time. Just a little tired, and a little frustrated at being a little tired.

Then he turned it on. After getting Jason Phillips to fly out, he struck out the next four men he faced, finally ending the seventh by getting Cedeno, who had hit him hard all game, to ground out to first. He almost got the complete game, but after giving up an RBI double with two out in the ninth, and having racked up 124 pitches, Dusty went and got him and let Borowski wrap things up.

As for the first game of this series, I've got to hand it to Matt Clement. Not only did he throw a great game, only allowing 3 balls to leave the infield (all outs), three infield hits, one unearned run (on a wild pitch that could have been called a passed ball), all over seven innings, but he did all of this with his groin still causing him some discomfort (at least the last couple of innings he was out there, he had a pretty decent limp going). The amazing thing is, he did a great job on a couple of balls hit to the right side, getting over to first to cover the bag in plenty of time (and receiving picture perfect throws from Randall "The Man With the Golden Arm" Simon).

In fact, the whole game was a relief from some of the freakish ball we've been getting lately. Cubs go up early, shut down opposition, never really get threatened. I like those types of games. They lessen my chances of having a stroke. Last night was a little hairier at the end, but still a far cry from the games against the Reds, which bore closer resemblance to Rocky movies than baseball games.

If the Cubs take care of business today, it puts them in a decent position going into the weekend. Despite the thumping they gave the Rockies last night, Houston has consistently struggled to win at Planet Coors, and that combined with having to follow with a series in St. Louis gives the Cubs a reasonable shot to gain ground if they take care of their end of the bargain.

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Posted by Derek @ 9:45 AM


Monday, September 15, 2003

Don't Panic

At least that's what I kept telling myself last night. After all, there was good news. Despite that day's 1-0 loss, the Cubs had won their series against the Reds. They had shown a lot of fortitude, and despite giving up large leads in the first two games, came back and won the day both times. The problem, of course, was that the Astros didn't just win their series against the Cardinals, they swept them in convincing fashion, allowing them to score only six runs over the entire series, five of those coming in a 14-5 drubbing in game one.

So, now the Cubs sit two games back of these surging Astros. But as long as the Cubs take care of business, all is not lost. The Astros are going to Denver.

The Astros have won exactly two series in Colorado: July of 1999 when they took three of four and June of 2000 when they took 2 of 3. Over the entire history of the matchup, Houston's record in Colorado is 13-32 (take out those two series and they went 7-30!). From 1993-2002, Colorado was 427-350 at home for a .550 winning percentage. Their winning percentage when playing Houston at home over the same period is .711. The Astro's poor play in Denver is out of character, since between 1993 and 2002, Houston was 841-714 (.541) overall, and 395-380 (.510) on the road, both good for sixth in the majors over the period. Something just didn't click for them in the Mile High City. They were very good, but they just couldn't win in the thin air. Here's hoping they still can't.

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Posted by Derek @ 7:43 PM


Friday, September 12, 2003

Crazy Talk

In looking around at other writings yesterday, I saw some folks opining that if the Cubs don't make it to the post season, they can look back at the blown lead against Montreal as a final straw of sorts. Well, I have two words for that, and the first one is bull. The second word is "pucky".

It's silly to blame single games for season-long outcomes, but even if doing so made sense there are other candidates to choose from.

May 6 vs. Milwaukee - Cubs lead 6-3 going into the top of the 8th at home. Guthrie, Cruz and Remlinger combine to give up 6 runs over the next two innings, sending the Cubs to a 9-6 loss.

June 25 vs. Milwaukee - Cubs lead 5-1 going into the top of the 7th at home. The game is tied at six by the end of the eighth, and a six run top of the tenth seals the deal for the Brew Crew. Cubs lose 12-6.

June 26 vs. Milwaukee - Cubs lead 3-2 in the ninth, but a three-run, no out home run by Geoff Jenkins gives the Brewers a 5-3 lead. The lead holds, Brewers get the W.

August 2 vs. Arizona - Cubs lead 3-2 in the ninth again. This time, it's an Alex Cintron solo shot to tie, and a Raul Mondesi RBI double to win. D-Backs take it 4-3.

August 27 at St. Louis - Cubs lead 2-0 going into the bottom of the 8th. This is the game where Dusty Baker morphs into Tony LaRussa, using five pitchers to give up 4 runs. The Cards win 4-2.

Gee, the Cubs sure did blow some games they should have won. Gosh, maybe it's because of all of these bad losses that the Cubs are in the position they're in today! Except...

April 13 vs. Pittsburgh - Cubs are down 3-2 in the bottom of the 8th. A Corey Patterson RBI single and a Troy O'Leary sacrifice fly put the Cubs up 4-3. Cubs down the Pirates 1-2-3 in the ninth to secure the victory.

July 5 vs. St. Louis - Cubs are down 5-0 going into the bottom of the 2nd. They score six unanswered runs, the final one in the bottom of the ninth, to take the 6-5 win.

August 1 vs. Arizona - Cubs are down 3-1 in the bottom of the 11th, but score two, tying it up. The bottom of the 14th sees the Cubs score the final run in a thrilling 4-3 victory.

September 3 vs. St. Louis - Cubs are down 6-0 after the top of the sixth, but outscore the Cards 8-1 over the rest of the game, resulting in a stunning, clutch, 8-7 victory over their division rivals.

September 4 vs. St. Louis - Cubs are down 5-3 after the top of the fifth, but come back again to defeat the Red Menace 7-6. An exciting cap to the most important series of the year to date.

Wow, Derek, that was exhausting and boring. What's your point?

Point is, that these things even out, and just because the Cubs blew a game toward the end of the season doesn't make it any more important than any of the games they blew earlier, or any of the games they stole, for that matter. There are larger issues at work. Positive things like the yeoman-like work of Prior, Zambrano and Wood or the motivational excellence of Dusty Baker. Negative things like the anemic offense and macabre fascination with Shawn Estes. When the season is over and laid out on the dissecting table, it's the larger issues that shed light on the outcome, not the game by game results.

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Posted by Derek @ 2:37 PM


Thursday, September 11, 2003


I went into last night's game expecting to lose. No, this wasn't the typical Cubs fan outburst of self pity ("Omigod it's September and now everything will fall apart because we're cursed! Cursed, I tell you! Currrrrrrrrrrrrrsed!"). I was looking at the matchups, and while I felt that, as usual, Clement had a good chance to keep everything close and give the Cubs a decent shot at winning, that this would be the night the offense would start to fizzle a bit against the resurgent Livan Hernandez and his newly found arm-angle.

My expectations quickly changed. The Cubs hit three homers off of Hernandez and Clement was throwing a no-no through five. The score was 4-0, and it didn't look like anyone for the Expos would be figuring Clement out this time around. His slider was wicked, and even the lefties were having bad swings against him. All the stars seemed to have aligned for the lucky seventh consecutive win.

But the full moon had something to say.

Five consecutive walks and one sharp single to center later, Clement was gone, Mark Guthrie had come and gone, and now Dave Veres was standing on the hump with the bases loaded, nobody out, a slim one run lead, and Vladimir Guerrero staring him down from the box. My expectations changed again. Now I figure the Cubs will be lucky to get out of this with the game tied, or even down by a run.

Wrong again! Veres gets Guerrero to pop out, and then strikes out the next two men he faces to get the Cubs out of a sticky situation with their lead intact. Things are looking up. The game is close, but now I begin to expect a Cubs victory. After all, they've managed to get out of a very tough spot, and now all they have to do is hold them down for the rest of the game. Plus, the Expos have gone to their bullpen, which hasn't been the most reliable group of late. Once again, the stars have come together and put themselves in a lovely pattern. All is well in Cubbie land.

And then that pesky full moon shows up again.

Bottom of the eighth, Expos have men on first and third, two out, Farnsworth on the mound. He gets his man to hit a little pop-up into short left center. Alou, Lofton and Gonzalez are all converging on the ball. All of them have a chance to catch it. I expect that one of them will.

Apparently, I need to stop expecting things, because while all of them could have caught it, none of them seem to call for it, and the ball bounces off Alou's glove, allowing the tying and go ahead runs to score. Farnsworth is badly shaken by this and gives up three more runs in the inning to give the Expos an 8-4 lead. This is terribly depressing. The Cubs only have three more outs to score at least four runs, and I fully expect the Cubs to fail.

Figures. NOW I'm right.

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Posted by Derek @ 11:29 AM


Friday, September 05, 2003


Well, I don't know about you, but that wore me out. Five fantastic games (well, the first game wasn't competitive after the fifth, but the results were still fantastic!), in what was truly the most intense and exciting regular season series that I've ever seen. I've seen playoff series without this level of tension. Lots of them. Kudos to both teams for fighting hard all the way, and particular congratulations to the Cubs for their very important 4-1 series victory. But besides the ground gained in the division, was there some knowledge gained that could help the Cubs in their push for October?

Lesson 1: We'll start with the easy stuff. Shawn Estes stinks. Okay, for most of us this wasn't knowledge gained in this series, but if the Cubs are going to have a chance to finish on top of the division, someone in management needs to have finally learned the lesson. He's hands down, the worst starter in the Major Leagues, and after yesterday's start, his ERA is a spectacular 6.06! The Detroit Tigers, the worst team in baseball, a team that could set the mark for most losses in a season ever, don't have a regular starter on their current roster with an ERA over 5.66 (that's Jeremy Bonderman, a 20 year old who before this season had pitched a whopping 157 minor league innings, all of them in A-ball or lower). There is no excuse for keeping a pitcher like this on your team, especially if you have the arms that the Cubs have in their system, and in particular, the arm of Juan Cruz. The problem is, Dusty Baker doesn't seem to get it. After yesterday's game, Baker was quoted as saying, "Shawn has had probably the worst luck and the weirdest things happen to him." Yeah, those 79 walks in 142.2 innings were pretty unlucky. So were those 177 hits. Oh, and those 20 home runs, too. I'd certainly call his .283/.347/.434 line against lefties (the folks he was signed to get out!) wierd. It's particularly weird since it's a worse line than that of any of the other four Cubs starters, who are all right handed! How long can this wierdness last? I'll say, the rest of Shawn Estes' career. I just hope the Cubs have learned Lesson 1 so I don't have to watch it.

Lesson 2: Moises Alou is good when he's angry. He's so good, in fact, that I think that everyone in the Cubs organization needs to step up and piss Mo off as much as possible. Bonuses could be issued to players and coaching staff alike for getting Alou's goat. I believe there has to be at least one incredibly aggrevating thing that happens to him every day, and if feasable, blamed on that game's starting opposing pitcher. A typical exchange could go something like this:

"Hi, Mo!"

"Hi, (player's/coach's/beat writer's nickname)."

"Say, Mo, have you ever been called a @%&$* $*&#!@?"

"Why, that's the most offensive phrase I've ever heard. Of course, I've never been called a @%&$* $*&#!@."

"Well, you have now, because that guy (pointing to opposing starting pitcher) just did."

Alou would then go 5 for 5 with a double and two homers. Later, they would have a hearty laugh in the shower after another Cubs blowout victory, as the story of how, once again, Mo was duped into a fit of highly productive rage was related to all who would listen. "Oh, (player's/coach's/beat writer's nickname)," Alou would say, "you so crazy!"

Lesson 3: Prior, Zambrano and Wood: human lawnmowers. Talk about three pitchers you wouldn't want to face in a short series. In 22 combined innings, these fellas gave up 9 walks, 13 hits and only 3 earned runs. Impressive under any circumstances, but against the second best offense in the NL, downright staggering. These pitchers stepped up in three huge games against extremely stiff competition, and while it's nothing new to say that if the Cubs made the playoffs they would be very tough in a short series, these performances served notice to the rest of the league that it's not just idle talk.

So, now that we've learned something, on to Milwaukee to stave off a letdown and take the division!

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Posted by Derek @ 1:56 PM


Thursday, September 04, 2003

Now THAT'S Impressive!

You know, I turned the radio off after J.D. Drew hit a grand slam off of Felix Sanchez in the top of the sixth to give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead. Well, that's it, I thought. But something made me peek back a minute later. I saw that Sammy had lead off the bottom of the inning with a double. Now it's him on second, nobody out and Alou coming to the plate. Oh well, it can't hurt to listen a little more. I'm awful glad I did.

One of the great things about this game was that the Cubs scored late. Prior to yesterday's game, the Cubs hit at a .267/.329/.426 pace in the first six innings, scoring 424 runs in the process. However, in the seventh inning or later, they've hit .239/.313/.380 and scored only 173 runs. Most teams experience a dropoff in the late innings (partially explained by extra inning contests with long scoring droughts, and also by the constant massaging of matchups out of the bullpen), and the Cardinals are no exception. They hit .283/.350/.470 and scored 506 runs in innings 1-6, but only hit .268/.343/.424 and scored 235 runs in the seventh or later. However, if you look at the differences in OPS (a simple statistic, I know, but for these purposes, good enough) between those two periods in the game, the Cardinals experience less of a dropoff. The Cubs go from .755 in the first six to .693 at the end, a dropoff of 8.2%. The Cardinals go from .820 at the top to .767 at the end, a dropoff of 6.5%. That's a significant difference, and without seeing what the league does as a whole, implies that they might just be worse at hitting at the end than other teams in the league (I'll try to take a look at this soon so that I'm not just tossing out conjecture). So, the point is, I was pleased to see the Cubs finally go against that trend a bit and hit them hard in the final frames.

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Posted by Derek @ 3:42 PM


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

8 1/2 Hours is a Long Time!

So, I actually got to go to the game yesterday. Cubs/Cardinals is always a lot of fun, so some friends and I managed to get some decent seats and decided to take in a ballgame on a lovely Labor Day afternoon. At least, that was the plan. The four hour seventeen minute rain delay took a little bit of steam out of the day, and since I had arrived at 12:30, I was actually in the ballpark for five hours without seeing any baseball. Don't cry for me, though. I got to hang out in Wrigley Field and just talk about baseball, and plenty of other subjects, with good friends. That would have been enough to make it a good day, but since we stuck out the weather, we got to see a fun ballgame as well. Talk about icing on the cake!

The Cubs really played a sharp game (if you don't count all the men left on base in the first couple of innings). While it didn't look like Mark Prior had his best stuff early on, he really started to get it going in the middle innings, and the Cardinals, as a result, never looked like they were threatening much. The only issue I had with this game was Prior's pitch count. We were commenting in the stands that he seemed to have thrown a lot. We weren't keeping score, and there's nothing at the park to tell you where anyone's counts are at, so we didn't have a good idea of where he might be while we were there. Needless to say, I was horrified this morning to find that he had 131 pitches in his eight innings. Look, I'm not a pitch count alarmist, and I certainly hope that there aren't any ill effects from this outing in the long or short term, but I'm really starting to become concerned about Prior's next few years. Yes, he has fantastic mechanics, and yes, he seems to be able to stay strong deep in games, but I just worry that in a couple of years his shoulder or elbow will give out, and while we won't be able to trace it to outings like this, I'll definitely have my suspicions.

The Cubs have a shot at winning their division, admittedly, an opportunity that comes along fairly rarely. However, Prior is the key to their hopes of winning for the forseeable future, and since he's come off the DL, he's thrown 116 or more pitches in 4 of his 6 outings (one of which, the first one back, he was on a strict pitch count during). Someone in the Cubs front office needs to decide how much they are willing to pay in the future, for the hope of success today.

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Posted by Derek @ 12:12 PM