Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Game Notes 15: Sorry, We're Out of Kingdoms, But We've Got A Fiefdom, a Viscounty, and a Couple of Petty Duchies
Note on the sidebar how many pitches the Cubs saw per plate appearance last night. You're not hallucinating, it indeed says that the club saw 4.48 balls every time at bat. Again, let me say that this is not a predictor of success on an individual game basis (an example from last night, the Astros saw 3.90 PIT/PA to the Cardinals 3.59 PIT/PA, but still lost 12-6. As I said when I introduced this feature, sometimes in a single game a low PIT/PA means a team is impatient, and sometimes it means the pitcher they're facing is meat.), yet it is still heartening to see from a team that is not, and shall not be notable for its patience.
Another point of interest; up until last night, the Cubs had 149 hits, and of those, 76 were for extra bases. That's 51% of all the team's base knocks going for two bags or more. That, my friends, is unlikely to continue, which is just one more reason to be pleased by the club's ability last night to string together hits and walks to score, smacking only 5 of 15 safeties for multiple bases, and not one of them a homer.
The handling of Josh Fogg was virtuoso, starting with a nine pitch walk from Todd Walker, and ending on a long double from Derrek Lee. When Fogg left the game, he had coughed up two walks, two doubles, a single and a free base resulting from a Craig Wilson error. Even with the defensive hiccup, the Cubs were Itzhak Pearlman to Fogg's Stradivarius, and if anything, the fact that no one had been retired by the time Lee sent the ball screaming for mercy into the gap may have reduced the Cubs' offensive output in the inning by hastening Fogg's departure. It's a counter-intuitive statement, and probably blatantly false, but poor Mr. Fogg was so bad that leaving him in there to face Gonzo and Barrett might have resulted in something considerably worse than a couple of singles.
As if there wasn't enough good offensive news, the night also featured Patterson and Gonzo going to the opposite field for extra bases. Both of these men are exponentially better at the dish when they are willing to send outside pitches the other way where they belong, and they have a fine example to learn from in Sammy Sosa if they're only willing to take heed of the lessons to be learned through simple observation. Keep watching fellas, you can only benefit.
A final bit of happiness was the solid outing, made to look excellent by the super twitchy Pirates lineup, from Sergio Mitre. Although he deserved it before now, this start marked Mitre's first foray into the vaunted "winning pitcher" territory, and that's just nice to see. Even though I'm no fan of the pitcher win as a stat, I'd imagine that there's still a large degree of mystique attached to it for the players themselves, so that the earning of one's first Major League Win would be a significant event, even if your offense had done enough work to make the victory earnable through five continuous innings of consciousness. Congrats, Sergio.
Two things about tonight's contest: First, I fully expect to see the Cubs' string of games with massive run totals to end, thanks to the underrated Kip Wells. He's been very good the last two years, excellent to start this season, and owned the Cubs over the last three years, going 3-0 over 8 starts, and posting a ridiculous 2.05 ERA in 52.2 innings. Second, this means the Cubs will be relying on the arm of Kerry Wood to give them a shot at the series sweep.
I hope I'm wrong about what we can expect after Wood's last outing, especially since I don't think Dusty will respond to positive or negative reinforcement regarding the usage patterns he applies to those he considers "aces" or "horses." For Baker, a bad outing just means Wood has more to learn to get to the next level, and a good one means he's made progress. Either way, next time he has 110 pitches after eight innings, he's going out for the ninth, so we may as well hope for the best.