Friday, April 29

The Hawk weighs in...finally

ESPN Boxscore

I had the pleasure of watching this one from beginning to end. With all the hype surrounding it, I figured I’d use it for my first LB post. Here goes…

Things didn’t look good early as Clemens made short work of Hairston, Perez and Patterson. Also, Maddux got off to a shaky start throwing over twenty pitches in the first and giving up one run. At this point, I was thinking he would be lucky to last six innings (I’d love to see our starters going at least 7 but it doesn’t looks like it’s going to happen on a regular basis).

The Cubbies had Clemens’ number in the second with Burnitz and Hollandsworth each driving in a run giving the cubs the lead. Clemens retaliated in the bottom of the second with a single the ‘stros were unable to get any real offense together. Even though the Cubbies took the lead in the top of the second, the inning could have been so much more. The cubs had runners on second and third with no outs and failed to bring either runner home.

There wasn’t a whole lot of excitement from the third on (save for Burnitz hitting the game winning dinger in the 7th) as the pitching duel picked up so I’ll spare you my inning by inning thoughts and go straight to the pro/con breakdown.

Pros: Offense offense offense. This is a welcome change from last year. Who thought after losing Sosa and Alou that the Cubs’ offense would actually be more productive. The Cubs are leading the NL with 29 Homers have had at least ten hits in each of the last four games. Pretty sick production. Also, Lee extends his hitting streak to 11 games (22 hits in those 11 games).

Novoa: Fresh off the Iowa Cubs and bringing heat (99 mph consistently). The big Dominican only worked 2/3 of an inning but I’m looking forward to seeing more of him as a set up man and our bullpen can definitely use a fresh arm.

Hawkins: That’s right, I’m putting him in the pro section. He protected a one run lead through the Ninth and got his fourth save of the year. Good stuff.

Cons: Base running. Clemens picked off Hairston in the 5th and Lee should have been picked off in the 8th but Springer made a bad throw. This is inexcusable in my opinion. Runners shouldn’t be picked off! Wake up!!

Other than the base running, I can’t find much to complain about. Patterson did go 0-4 but I’ll let that slid since he had the walk-off wednesday night.

Wrapping it up: Solid one run win for the cubs. Maddux technically won this “duel” but Clemens was the better performer he just doesn’t have any offense behind him.

So that’s my first Lingering Bursitis post…anyone care to comment??

Weekend Preview -- Cubs vs. Astros

There are many good storylines surrounding this weekend, enough for Ryne to give this game his "Double" approval in his latest Yahoo! Sports column for series to watch. Perhaps the most high-profile of all surrounds Clemens and Maddux. Tonight's game marks the first time since 1987 that two pitchers with more than 300 wins take the mound to face one another, and both teams have a lot to prove.

The Astros are hitting horrendously so far this season - OF Jason Lane leads the team is almost every offensive category: .313 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 12 R is the benchmark for Houston so far this season.

In contast, the Cubs have been lighting up the scoreboard more consistently, and have several players who are capable and reliable for serious damage in Minute Maid Park: Lee, Perez and Burnitz to name just 3.

However, the Cubs key player might be Aramis Ramirez, who is batting .600 lifetime vs. Clemens with a HR and 3 RBI. Given the non-existent run support Clemens has received so far this season (4 starts, 1 ER in 28 IP and 1-0 : 3 NDs), it might not take much to ground the Rocket. Also look to Grieve possibly getting the start in LF given his career success against Clemens.

It is not all good news, however, as several Astros have the edge on Maddux with the bat. The saving grace is that Berkman, the most destructive to Greg's stats, is still inactive on the DL after knee surgery.
Notable Career stats

Cubs vs. Clemens
1. Aramis Ramirez - .600, HR, 3 RBI
2. Derrek Lee - .467, 5 2B, RBI
3. Ben Grieve - .300, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI
4. Jeromy Burnitz -.278, 2B, HR, 3 RBI

Astros vs. Maddux
1. Lance Berkman - .400, 2 HR, 3 RBI
2. Brad Ausmus - .364
3. Jeff Bagwell - .304, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 15 K
4. Craig Biggio - .302, HR, 5 RBI, 10 K
Series starters:

CHC: RHP Greg Maddux • 0-1, 4.50 ERA in 2005 • 2-1, 3.50 ERA in 2004 vs. HOU
HOU: RHP Roger Clemens • 1-0, 0.32 ERA in 2005 • 2-1, 4.15 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC

CHC: RHP Kerry Wood • 1-1, 5.79 ERA in 2005 • 0-1, 10.39 ERA in 2004 vs. HOU
HOU: RHP Brandon Backe • 1-1, 6.17 ERA in 2005 • 0-1, 6.30 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC

CHC: RHP Mark Prior • 3-0, 0.95 ERA in 2005 • 2-0, 2.49 ERA in 2004 vs. HOU
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt • 3-2, 3.25 ERA in 2005 • 2-3 , 4.11 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC

I feel like the Cubs can take 2 out of 3 in this series. Their bats have been far more consistent this season to-date, and despite Wood's 2004 performances against Houston (10 ER in 8 2/3 IP), the Cubbies still have enough to get past these pitching problems. Hopefully we'll see three evenly-matched pitching duels, with the Cubs' bats providing enough offense to take the series.

Wednesday, April 27

The Cubs Bullpen - fasten your seatbelts

There has been a lot written and a lot of agonizing over the Cubs bullpen of late. After heartbreaking losses like Tuesday's 11-9 defeat to the Reds, and several tight, anxious wins with our relievers at the helm, it is time to take a look at the people upon whose shoulders the Cubs' fortunes rest.

There are some new faces, given the spate of bullpen injuries and DL trips (3 to be precise), and some old hands. Rest assured, some are more reliable than others, so without further ado, the 'pen.

(Apologies for some possible discrepancies in stats provided - different sources like, and Yahoo! all have slightly different numbers)
0-0, 2.35 ERA
7 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K

Bartosh, acquired in the off-season from the Cleveland Indians, is an unknown quality. Having spent the majority of his baseball career in the Minor Leagues, Dusty is rather selective about using his services. He has already said that he would be used predominantly in situations "against batters uncomfortable with the breaking ball", and most appearances have either come in extremely limited relief during close games, finishing out the final 1/3 of an Inning, or late in games where the outcome is virtually decided (e.g. pitching the final 2 Innings with a 7-1 lead vs. the Reds).

Nevertheless, he has been steady despite high walk totals in his outings, and he might well prove to be a nice short relief option in the long run.
1-1, 3 SV, 4.00 ERA
9 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

In contrast to Bartosh, a lot is known about LaTroy. Dominating the Cubs' headlines recently for more negative reasons, a solid 9th Inning outing tonight vs. the Reds (a tie game at 7, struck out 2 of 3 batters faced) might show his ability to forget what has come before.

Baker has a closer problem on his hands, largely due to 2 blown saves by Hawkins, and the situation is still unresolved. Fox tried it once successfully, and then suffered a possible career-ending aggravation to recurring elbow injuries. Wuertz is still a little fresh out of the minors, and Dusty's always shown more of a preference to look to senior players in the most important roles (I can see that as the only earthly reason why Macias continues to see at-bats as a PH late in games). That being said, Hawkins was steady tonight, and might still prove to be the best option in an ailing and tired bullpen.

LaTroy looks better and more comfortable in that 8th Inning set-up role, where guys like Tom Gordon and J.C. Romero have earned their wages fairly consistently, but he might have to swallow that desire and keep appearing in the 9th until any kind of deal occurs for a bonafide closer.
NOVOA, Roberto - RHP
0-0, 9.00 ERA
IP, 2 H, ER, BB

Fresh out of the minor league, Novoa entered tonight's game and gave up a run in the 7th, the last the Reds would score in the contest.

Novoa pitched in 16 games for the Tigers in 2004, going 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA in 21 IP.

He is an unknown quantity along with Bartosh, and I have yet to figure out what he will bring to the rotation (brought from Detroit as part of the deal that sent Farnsworth packing), but I already prefer him to Chad Fox and Jon Leicester.
OHMAN, William - LHP
0-0, 0.00 ERA
1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, K

Ohman, owner of perhaps the best pun-able name on the Cubs roster, is another unknown. Brought up due to injuries and general bullpen boredom, the German-born lefty provides the relief corps with yet another unstable pitcher with an extensive personal injury history. Ohman has been with the Cubs organization since 2000, but last pitched in the Majors during the 2001 campaign.

Where was he between 2001 and today?

Well, funnily enough, he was inactive for the 2002 and 2003 campaigns due to - you guessed it - rehab and recovery from two major surgeries on his pitching elbow. In 2004, Ohman went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA for AAA-Iowa, striking out 75 batters in 52 1/3 IP. Well done there, Will.

Ohman is relatively unknown and irritatingly vulnerable to inflammation, future injury, and bursitis in that bionic left arm. Expect to see him in that pitching role whereby he comes in, faces one batter, records the out or lets him on base, and then departs. Watch this space.
0-1, 6.75 ERA
6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Another lefty! But finally someone we can write about!

Remlinger: that creep can roll, man. 14-year veteran of MLB, the man has pitched incredibly well for some incredibly successful teams (here's looking at you, Atlanta Braves).

With a career line of 51-49, and a 3.79 ERA, ol' Mike is a valuable asset to the Cubs bullpen. Remlinger is the glue holding together the tired arms of his colleagues, and expect to see him used in just about every situation imaginable - possible spot-starter if everything goes downhill (he can go 3 or 4 Innings if all else fails), long relief for someone like Dumpster, short relief in close games or even bit-part closer (18 Saves in 40 Opportunities lifetime, not great but we'll take it).

The man has seen it all, and with the Cubs again in 2005, he'll probably see it all again.
RUSCH, Glendon - LHP
2-0, 2.19 ERA
14 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 9 K

Lefty mania in Dusty's Chicago!

Rusch, perhaps the happiest man on team photo day, is another solid, reliable option in the Cubs stable. With numbers like that to date, no wonder a smile covers his entire face.

Glendon, like Remlinger, is versatile and can be used in any wacky situations - pinch-runner for Macias or Perez, batboy, Dusty's laundry, spot-starter or everyday, every scoreline reliever. Rusch's command has been steadier than in recent memory (1-12, 6.42 ERA for the Brewers in 2003, lifetime 50-78, 4.90 ERA just for reference after a solid 2004 for the Cubbies), and Dusty will no doubt extract as much from his pitching control and selection as is humanly possible.

I like Glendon, and see him being a steady achiever in relief.
WUERTZ, Michael - RHP
1-1, 2.70 ERA
10 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 10 K

The future Golden Child of the relief staff, Wuertz's reliable rise from the farm system has seen him take pride of place next to the likes of Prior and Zambrosia on the dugout bench. Still a little rough around the edges, Baker will take his time (as much as he has left @ Wrigley) to slowly and carefully groom him into possible closer material.

Wuertz has a solid, strong arm, pitching more than 150 Innings of work in a season 4 times in his career. (Career high: 171 1/3 IP for A-Daytona, 2000).

If Dusty plays his cards right (and those cards don't have "Remove Wuertz from game, send in Hollandsworth to pinch-hit"), Wuertz will be a key figure in any aspirations for success for the 2005 Cubs.

04-27-05 -- Hypo's Take - Cubs 8, Reds 7

ESPN Boxscore

Today the Cubs beat the Reds to win the series 2-1. And what a game it was! It had its ups and its downs, but today the Cubs came out on top! I thought it was absolutely great yesterday when they came back from being down 5-1 to take the lead 8-6, but today they decided to do even better. After Ryan Dempster gave up a grand slam in the top of the 3rd inning (with two outs) to put the Reds up 6-1, it looked as though the Cubs might have been in for a whalloping today... but they had different ideas. The Cubs battled back to 6-4 and had the tying run on base in scoring position in the bottom of the 6th with one out, but it was not yet to be. In the next half-inning, Roberto Novoa -- the newest addition to the Cubs bullpen -- gave up another run to the Reds making it 7-4. But the highlight of this game had to be the bottom of the 7th inning. The Cubs again got the tying run to the plate in the form of Hairston, Jr at 3rd, Perez at 2nd, and Lee up to bat. Lee hit a ball out of the park for his second homerun of the game, tying the game at 7 apiece! Who knew the Cubs had so much fight in them? It has been awesome to watch the Cubs battle back from these defecits the last two days. The offense in general has been exciting to watch this whole series -- our beloved Cubbies scored 27 runs agains the Reds in this series, averaging 9 per game! This game ultimately ended with a walkoff homer by Corey Patterson in the bottom of the 9th.

--- Pointers from the game ---
** First and foremost:
Derrek Lee's stats... there isn't much I can say about his game, as the stats pretty much speak for themselves: 4/4 with 2 Runs, 6 RBIs, 2 HRs. Wow!

** Next and nextmost:
Most of the lineup hit pretty well today, notably Neifi Perez continuing with his hot bat in a 2/5 day (2 Runs) and Corey Patterson going the final distance to win the game. He was 3/5 today with a couple runs scored and 2 RBIs as well.

** Pitching:
Dempster pretty much didn't have a good day today, the grand slam being the largest evidence of that, but every starter is going to have a sub-par start once in while, just like Zambino did yesterday (notice I didn't rag on Zambrano once yesterday, as he is allowed a poor outing once in a while!). Ohman came in to relieve Dempster in the 6th and did much better than he did yesterday, getting the final two outs and walking one. The new guy (Novoa) could have had a much worse first day than he ended up having, so we'll let him off the hook for his one ER (he pitched the 7th inning). For Rusch it was business as usual in the 8th as he put the Reds down 1-2-3. Hawkins, Hawkins, Hawkins. I am pretty sure I have this guy figured out. He is a good pitcher with great stuff, but there is something wrong with his head when he has a lead to hold -- mostly only when it's a 1 run lead -- and he is pitching the 9th. For some reason he has no problem pitching the 8th inning with a lead or even the 9th inning when it's tied. That was the situation he was in today in the top of the 9th, and he also had a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two. It goes back to what I said the other day about him not being able to bridge the mentality gap between being a setup guy and a closer. That's the bottom line. That being said, he is a great setup guy and had a solid performance today, so Latroy, I salute you.

** Final Sign-off:
Cubs win! Cubs win! Amazing offense today guys, picking up the tough win! Here's to tomorrow!!!

Hypo -- Closing Arguments

Interesting stuff about the bullpen, closers, and more. (Taken from the Cubs homepage) -- Check out what it says about Hawkins' career closing stats towards the bottom... interesting stuff.

Tuesday, April 26

4-26-05 -- Hypo's Take - Cubs 9, Reds 11

ESPN BoxScore

This one was kinda like a punch in the face... if you have to take it, you'd rather be drunk. There are a lot of positives about this game regarding the Cubs offense and their ability to fight back when losing; today it was fighting from being down 1-5 to 3-6, and then taking the lead 8-6. Unfortunately however, the bullben blues and some questionable managing decisions continued tonight.

----From Z to well, the end----

Top 5th inning, two outs -- Zambrano gives up a solo homerun to Adam Dunn, extending the Reds' lead to 6-3, and then hits the next batter. He is then ejected in oh-so-Zambino style. Glendon Rusch comes into the game to secure the final out.

Bottom 5th inning -- Cubs heroics! 5 runs were scored in this inning in a fireworks display of Cubs offense, 2 of the runs coming on a two-out homer by Jason Dubois! Cubs up 8-6! For a little while anyway!

Top 6th inning -- Rusch has a bit of a shaky inning, allowing one run on a sacrifice fly by Ken Griffey, Jr. Cubs still lead 8-7.

Bottom 6th -- Dusty Baker decides to lead this inning off by pinch hitting his bathroom buddy Jose Macias, taking Rusch out of the game. No offense to Macias but... we kinda think he sucks! I could understand if there were runners in scoring position because the Cubs are only nursing a fragile one point lead at this point. But by pulling Rusch, Baker forces himself to pitch with Wuertz in the top of the 7th. Now hear me out, I know Rusch had "a bit of a shaky inning" by my own account, but he has proven himself as the one bright spot of the bullpen so far this year, and we all know he can pitch 5-6 innings if need be. PLUS, wasn't Wuertz supposed to be our next option at closer??? Assuming Wuertz pitches well in the 7th and then Hawkins raps up the 8th, who does Dusty Baker plan on closing out the 9th? Suck Leicester? Broken-Arm Fox? I guess he was thinking Remlinger for the 9th, which maybe would have worked out, but let's see how this plan to pinch hit with Jose "the Red-Hot Bomber" Macias plays out: He grounds out, followed by two quick outs by Hairston, Jr and Patterson.

Top 7th, Cubs still up 8-7 -- Oh, I got the blues! Wuertz gives up a lead-off single and a walk to start this inning. Baby I got the bullpen blues! He then registers back to back outs with a strike-out and a fielder's choice leaving runners at the corners. Oh I got the why-can't-my-bullpen-pitchers-get-the-final-out blues! Runners at the corners? That's no fun! Let's get Aurilia in scoring position by throwing a pitch in the dirt during the next at-bat! Oh I got the I'd-rather-stick-a-fork-in-my-eyes-than-watch-this-game-cause-my-brain-hurts-when-the-relievers-come-in-drunk-and-blindfolded-tyring-to-get-guys-out-and-I-wish-we-had-just-one-single-half-decent-Bullpen-PITCHER BLUUUUEEEESSSS!!!! That's right ladies and gentlemen, kiss that tenuous lead goodbye and have another beer! What followed was a two-run single and an error by Patterson advancing the batter to second. Remlinger then replaced Wuertz and gave up a run-scoring single (not an earned run) before finally locking down that pesky third out. Reds 10, Cubs 8.

8th inning -- The eighth inning involved no scoring, so I'll mostly skip it, except to note the arrival of Will Ohman (that's right, who???). Either way, Ohman loaded up the bases with two singles and a walk in between getting two outs before being relieved by Leicester who got out number three to keep it at 10-8.

The rest of the game didn't really matter too much in retrospect, Leicester gave up another run in the 9th extending the Reds lead to 11-8. This upset me very much and I now have a broken cell phone as a result. However, the Cubs only amassed a single run off of Graves in the final half-inning (even though they managed to get the tying run in scoring position) so I suppose the last run that Leicester gave up doesn't matter all that much. Final tally: Reds 11, Cubs 9.

---- Final Bullpen Tally ----

4.1 IP, 5 Runs, 4 Earned, 8 Hits, 5 BB. (That's a WHIP of 3.17!!!)

Headlines/Tonight's Starters

Cubs notes: Wood is fine (Thank God), Borowski throwing (

Something funny: Don't call him "Lusty Baker" any time soon (Sun-Times)

Nomar takes the easier surgery road (Sun-Times)


CIN: LHP Eric Milton• 2-2, 4.98 ERA in 2005• 0-0, 12.00 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano• 2-0, 3.04 ERA in 2005• 2-0, 1.35 ERA in 2004 vs. CIN

I love Z-bravo in this matchup. He's pitching like a man possessed (and probably is), not to mention the fact that Milton loves HRs: giving them up, not hitting them, that is. He's given up 198 HRs in a 7 year career, including 43 in 201 IP (ERA: 4.75), 2nd most in the Major Leagues (Seattle's Jamie Moyer allowed 44 HRs in 2004). The Cubs are hitting well and should continue to against Milton.

4-26-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 10, Reds 6

Well, heartache and heartbreak still follow the Cubs, regardless of finishing off a determined Reds team with a thumping 10-6 win. It appears that the new Closer du Jour, Chad Fox, had suffered yet another arm injury, perhaps an aggravation of a career's worth of injuries:

1999 - Fox pitched six games for the Milwaukee Brewers before ending his season through elbow injury.
2000 - Fox never threw a single pitch that season due to a fractured right elbow.
2004 - For the Florida Marlins, Fox managed appearances in 12 games until his season ended with ulnar neuritis in his arm (basically speaking, a trapped nerve in his pitching elbow).

Nothing is certain about the rest of his season, and it continues to put pressure on a bullpen and a roster already rough with serious injuries. A bright spot still burns in the form of Joe Borowski, the durable reliever who is making excellent progress back from a broken bone in his arm.

I know I wasn't the only one lamenting as Fox's inability to finish the 9th Inning without giving up runs, and now we all know why.

Let's move on to a recap of the game. I'm sure there will be future posts today regarding Fox and his latest misfortune.

ESPN Boxscore: Cubs 10, Reds 6

++ Mark Prior
He continues to show excellent command of all his pitches, as well as the kind of good health that is essential in holding together an ailing pitching staff.

Throwing 106 pitches over 6 strong innings, he struck out 10 batters and walked 2, allowing 2 earned runs in the process. He looked good - velocity, location, pitch selection, pitch command - and his success has to be a positive factor in a tired dugout. The season is barely 3 weeks old, and 3 key players have fallen foul to the injury bug. Prior's good form is a sign of hope.

++ Barrett, Hairston Jr. - finding comfort at the plate
Aside from the blazing hot sluggers (Lee, Perez - never thought I'd mention Neifi in this category!), these 2 have been struggling to find consistency with the bat so far this season. That might be changing, however, as both recorded multi-hit games (Hairston Jr: 2-4, 2B, 3 R/Barrett: 3-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI) and showed signs that they can contribute where necessary this season.

++ Perez, Lee - always up to the challenge
Neifi continued his blazing streak in the starting lineup, going 2-5 with a huge 3-run HR in the 8th Inning to seal the game (4 RBI total for the evening) - need we say more? Perez's form has been a consistent surprise to all of us here at LB, and we have completely forgotten about the guy he's replaced. Almost.

Interesting note: Perez has already equalled his HR total from the entire 2004 season, and we're only 3 weeks in. Keep it up, Neifi.

Derrek was also steady, going 2-4 with a double and 2 RBI - 19 so far on the season.

++ Bringing runners home
Only 6 men left on base tonight - the Cubs brought home 10 of 16 who made it to 1st, which is a welcome change from previous double-digit LOB games. It's good to see the Cubs hitting well, and given that a tough week is on the cards (Highlight: Maddux vs. Clemens, Friday night), it's good to see solid swinging and patient at-bats.

-- Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
Patterson was a late scratch due to the stomach flu, replaced in CF with Hairston Jr. (Macias got what I hope is a rare start at 2B, batting 8th).

The big news was Chad Fox - leaving the game in the 9th with his arm hanging awkwardly by his side, a 30-pitch 1/3 Inning allowing a 3-run Adam Dunn HR - we can only hope his injury is not a serious recurrence of previous season-ending injuries within the first month of a season. The bullpen is struggling right now - Remlinger is slowly finding rhythm, Williamson and Borowski are still on the DL, and LaTroy is, well Latroy: struggling to close games, thus losing the 9th Inning job. Wuertz might be the next guy to try his hand with the save duties. Watch this space - if I dig up any articles today, they'll be posted this afternoon.

Either way, Dusty has some actual managing to do.

Monday, April 25

Hypo - I think of good titles

Ok, I don't think of very good titles... but this post is to talk about the new "closer-by-committee" in Chicago. Chad Fox got the nod yesterday in the win over the Pirates and he picked up the save. The thing about closers is that you need a special mentality to be able to be successful in that role. This is the main problem with Hawkins, as he has great stuff and his talent is excessive. He has always been much more comfortable -- and effective -- as a setup guy with both the Twins and the Cubs. And his problem at closer isn't his talent; it has something to do with him being unable to bridge the gap from the setup mentality to the closer mentality.
At any rate, he is out now, and some other guys will start to get some opportunities, starting with Chad Fox. I don't know Fox that well, so forgive me if I am wrong to think this way, but I don't have the utmost confidence in him as a permanent guy for this role. I also know we are all eagerly awaiting the return of Joe Borowski as well. Now there is a guy who does have the right mentality for being a closer, but I wonder if his injuries the last two years will have affected him -- physically, mentally, or both -- to the point where he'll simply be another step that collapses as soon as the Cubs try to put any weight on it.
Again, I'm really not pessimistic, hopefully Chad Fox will turn out to be great as a closer and keep the job the whole year. Maybe with Hawkins being moved down in the bullpen, that frees up Glendon Rusch (who I have been extremely impressed with this year) for the closing role. Or maybe, just maybe, Jim Hendry will put together a decent trade whereby the Cubbies pick up a time-tested closer (Ugueth Urbina, anyone? I have to look to see what he's up to these days, but he was a solid closer, and last I checked he was hanging out in Detroit's bullpen on a daily basis. Let's go after him! Or someone else!).

Summary of my ramblings: For the immediate future, Chad Fox will be under our collective scrutiny, so let's get some feedback on this guy as the next week passes. Here's to a 6-save week for Fox!

Headlines/Today's Starters

Cubs Notes: Hawkins hammered, would Wuertz be worse?, killing time for Borowski (

Kerry Wood doesn't like the cold (Sun-Times)

Dusty looks to the committee to bring blown saves to a close (Sun-Times)

Neifi provides a bright spot in the post-Sosa Cubs (Sun-Times)

Ben Grieve enters the fray (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)


CIN: RHP Paul Wilson• 1-1, 5.63 ERA in 2005• 1-0, 3.86 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Mark Prior• 2-0, 0.00 ERA in 2005• 1-0, 0.00 ERA in 2005 vs. CIN

Cubs Up, Cubs Down

This might well become a more regular feature over the coming weeks, where we look at the fortunes of various Cubbies based on their performance. There is always a lot to say about the Cubs, and it isn't difficult to see who is playing well and who is not living up to scratch.

Cubs Up
// Neifi Perez - SS Supreme
This utility/platooner/journeyman/everyman has been continuing to erase the proof that Nomar is a Cub with surprising offense and solid defense in the middle infield. It's nice to know that when a player gets hurt, someone can jump in and perform well, and given the recent run of injuries to, oh let's see, several guys who were to be essential to success this year, his good fortune at the plate is even more welcomed.

His stats were excellent, as noticed on the right, and he is the unanimous LB Player of the Week.

// Mark Prior - pitching like it's 2003 (aka his Best Year so far)
Prior looks good, and when Prior looks good, the likes of hitless Hairston Jr or RBI single Ramirez look even better. Dominant in the starts we've seen thus far, and has a lot of upside regarding his health - this is even more crucial given Wood's latest battles with bursitis after yesterday's Pirates game.

7 IP, 0 ER last week vs. the Reds (7-1 win), 13 scoreless innings thus far: Prior is displaying the kind of form that'll get Bea Arthur wet between the wrinkles.

// Jeromy Burnitz - Right Man for Right Field
Burnitz is looking like he's getting comfortable within the offense and within the Cubs Organization, and soon I feel Sosa might be a distant memory. A good week with the bat - doubled his season RBI totals, added a pair of important HRs into the mix, and just showing that he's not allergic to getting on base (OBP .348, SLG .682).

There's life in this old dog yet, and with his potentially potent offense, the Cubs can still contend for the playoffs.

Cubs Down
\\ Dusty Baker - managing to screw things up
Unexplained bullpen switches, his incomprehensible fondness for Jose "Making Money doing Nothing" Macias, and general inadequacies put him at the top of (rather the foot of) the list for tailspinning Cubs.

The best examples concern pitching changes, and the recent blowups by Hawkins, Leicester and Remlinger are more the by-product of "wrong player, wrong place" than any technical flaws in their pitching.

Regardless, Dusty's already led us to 4 losses by 1 run, and if these stupid substitutions continue, that number might well skyrocket.

\\ LaTroy Hawkins - closing the door on his bullpen chances
If at first you don't succeed, try someone else. LaTroy Hawkins, everyone's favourite heart-attack inducer, has been struggling a little of late, and the kind heart of Dusty (a "faith-based" manager) has decided to look elsewhere in his bullpen for a closer.

This past week has not been entirely kind - 18.00 ERA, 1 IP, 2 ER in 2 games - and so it has come to the fragile Chad Fox to take the closer's seat for the next day or two.

LT needs to find his confidence, and find it fast. He has some of the necessary ingredients for a closer, but performances like this will not be tolerated.

For the season: 0-1. 5.14 ERA, 3 SV, 2 BSV

\\ Todd Hollandsworth - Holland's worthless
For a somewhat reliable player filling Moises Alou's sizeable cleats, 5 RBI this season is not considered Moises-esque. This past week saw him collect 3 hits in 14 at-bats, and yet still inexplicably find time as a pinch-hitter (used in lieu of a 2-3 Jason Dubois one day, if I remember correctly). Pinch-hitters are supposed to replace batters who are not batting well, not be the bad egg that follows in the "clutch". He should clutch his bat a little tighter and perhaps work on that swing a little more. I still harbor hope in his turnaround, but at 9-9, guys like Hollandsworth need to be that missing link from previous seasons' powerful lineups.

Last week: 3-14 (.214), 2B, 0 RBI, 0 R
Season: 12-50 (.240), HR, 5 RBI, 3 R

Week 3 in Boxscores

Week 3 in the books, and another break-even week at that. 3-3, including several ups and some irritating downs.

Player of the week to come, as well as write-ups of the weekend 2-game set with Pittsburgh.

4-17-05 -- Cubs 4, Pirates 2
4-18-05 -- Cubs 6, Reds 7
4-19-05 -- Cubs 7, Reds 1
4-20-05 -- Cubs 3, Cardinals 1
4-21-05 -- Cubs 0, Cardinals 4
4-23-05 -- Cubs 3, Pirates 4

Friday, April 22

Headlines/Today's Starters

ESPN Boxscore: Cubs 0, Cardinals 4

Baseball Perspectives: Cubs vs. Cardinals is always familiar (

Cubs Notes: Middle Infield pressures, Derrek Lee, Zambrano (

Rhino weighs in on the Nomar issue (Yahoo! Sports)

Can Perez be a long-term SS? (Sun-Times)

Let's hope the Cubs don't have to face Carpenter again (Sun-Times)

Cubs hitting goes AWOL vs. Cards (San Jose Mercury News/Chicago Tribune)


PIT: LHP Mark Redman• 1-1, 2.33 ERA in 2005• 0-1, 3.68 ERA in 2005 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Greg Maddux• 0-1, 5.63 ERA in 2005• 0-0, 3.00 ERA in 2005 vs. PIT

4-22-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 0, Cardinals 4

This was, in the scheme of things, a difficult game to watch. The two teams dourly batted and pitched their way through 7 1/2 Innings of a 1-0 game until the Cubs' bullpen gave the Cardinals the cushion they needed to breathe easier.

There are more negatives than positives today.

++ ESPN showing the game
This is definitely one of those "clutching at straws" positives that I've struggled to find in summarizing this game. Steve Stone, along with the regular ESPN cast, made this game a lot more entertaining with a higher-than-average amount of insightful, "technical" commentary - stats about specific situations, batters' preferences and scouting reports - and it made the game a lot more tolerable. Sorry Ron Santo, today I bedded with a different mistress.

++ Dempster
He started rather shakily, but ended up posting another commanding and promising performance for the starting rotation. 6 IP, 4 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K - he managed to get himself out of any difficult situations his walks put him in, and when he left the game for a pinch-hitter in the 7th, he had done just enough to keep the Cubs in the game and with plenty of chances to win.

-- Dusty's Decisions
There were no real indications or reasons offered for that 8th Inning switch, pulling Michael Wuertz in favour of Mike Remlinger to face a slow and slumping Larry Walker. Wuertz, who needed only 19 pitches to get through 1 1/3 Innings of hitless ball, only to be pulled for the veteran. What Stone mentioned right before the switch made the pitching change seem all the more baffling - Walker, despite his poor season to date, was batting roughly .450 with a couple of HRs against Remlinger in his career. The substitution made, and sure enough, Walker belted the 4th pitch over the wall in deep right center field. 4 pitches, 0 outs, 1 ER for Remlinger.

In came Fox, who proceeded to sweat his way through the rest of the inning, allowing a Pujols double off the deep right field wall, and then a 3-2 pitch to Rolen that he dispatched with ease over the left field wall. Cardinals 4, Cubs 0.

I really have no idea why Wuertz was pulled. He looked comfortable, controlled, and more importantly, unthreatening to the scorer's box. If I can find anything in the papers this morning or online, I'll post it later. I'm sure Dusty has his reasons.

-- Blind Bats
Carpenter pitched well for the win, and yet the Cubs had several opportunities to take control. In the 6th Inning, after a Catcher's Interference call on young Yadier Molina, a Carpenter wild pitch in the dirt allowed Neifi Perez to advance to 3rd and Patterson to 2nd. 1 out, runners in scoring position. Aramis Ramirez struck out swinging, and Burnitz flied out to Edmonds in center field. This was really the breaking point - it couldn't have been set up any better.

In the 5th Inning, with Derrek Lee on 3rd and Hollandworth on 1st with 1 out, Blanco grounded out weakly, forcing out Lee at home. 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, and not surprisingly, Dempster couldn't force in a run.

In the 1st Inning, two singles put Perez at 2nd and Patterson at 1st with 1 out. Ramirez then grounded into the double play to end the inning.

Despite a solid pitching performance, there were 3 clear moments where the Cubs could have blown apart the box score, and for whatever reason, on this day they couldn't get it done.

Thursday, April 21

Nomar No-more

According to early reports from, Nomar Garciaparra has a "ruptured" groin. The muscles in his groin have torn, at least partly, away from the bone, meaning he's off to the 15-day DL. The results of the MRI are not entirely known, but he will miss roughly 2-3 months (according to Yahoo! Sports), meaning the Cubbies will be missing their first-choice middle infielders Nomar and 2B Todd Walker until at least June.

So what does this mean? Let's see what happens. Jerry Hairston Jr., the man brought over in the Sosa/Orioles trade, needs to have an impact as an everyday 2B, something he's flirted with over the last couple of years. I'm not so worried about Neifi Perez - he's shown some grit since coming into the lineup, and regular play will only help his batting improve to the level of his steady and reliable defense in the hole.

Let's see what happens - middle of the 1st in St. Louis, Ramirez ended the inning with a double play, squandering a pair of singles by Perez and Patterson respectively. 0-0, Bottom 1.

Hypo's Take

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately but don't worry, I've been reading. I would say more about last night's game (Cubs 3, Cardinals 1), but JT pretty much covered everything. All I will say about it is that Zambrano is RIDICULOUS! As time goes by, I'm sure it will become more evident who each of our favorite Cubbies are, but I'll go ahead and say for myself right now that Zambrano is definitely one of mine and has been for at least a year now. I love his heart, his attitude, his adrenaline, and his nasty 'stuff'. In fact, parts of JT's praises even look like they could be paraphrases of one or more of my previous rantings! He's great! So let's heed Jim's suggestion and make with the nicknaming! I'll open the discussion...

Z! (I put the exclamation point to emphasize the single letter nickname, but why not? Yahoo!)
Z-no (too much like J-lo? how about Zeno, like the beloved tavern at PSU?)
Zambino, or The Great Zambino

I kinda like the last one, but maybe they all suck... So click "comment" and rip mine apart! Give us your better ideas! All ideas from anyone are welcome here!

Headlines/Today's starters

Cubs notes: Lee on fire, Corey can jump, Joe-Bo on the mend (

Nomar - like we don't know by now (

Borowski!!! Two to three weeks!!! (Sun-Times)

Sun-Times Column: Rolling Steve Stone


For those of you, like me, who will be lucky to be around a TV today, the Cubs/Cardinals will square off again this afternoon.

STL: RHP Chris Carpenter• 2-1, 6.35 ERA in 2005• 4-1, 4.24 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Ryan Dempster• 1-2, 5.74 ERA in 2005• Did not face STL in 2004

Carpenter had the measure of us last year, but let's see if Dempster can pitch a "Zambrano" for us.

4-21-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 3, Cardinals 1

4 wins in 5 games!

The Cubs love being on TV. Like some rag-tag bunch of troubled teens, they shook off any issues surrounding their season so far and took on the evil, well-dressed and menacing Cardinals lineup. While the St. Louis starter, Jeff Suppan (Career: 79-85, 4.79 ERA) didn't provide the biggest threat, the Cubs took him on and Zambrano took on the monstrous task of facing Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen every 3 innings or so.

As it stands, Zambrano did not care.

++ Carlos Zambrano
As of today, LB will begin a nationwide search for a quality nickname for this legend, this brilliant ballplayer in blue and red. He was phenomenal again last night, going 8 2/3 Innings and scattering 5 hits and a Pujols solo HR out amongst 118 pitches (88 for strikes, an incredible ratio). In addition to pitching heroics, the man himself added a 1-3 night at the plate including an RBI triple in the 2nd Inning.

Leaving the game due to a burst blood blister on his pitching hand (a by-product of his two-seam fastball grip), he received a mild ovation even from the die-hard Cardinals fans for his performance. Copying his point-to-the-sky as he left the field, one definitely got the impression that he acquitted himself well in the most hostile of environment. What St. Louis would do for a pitcher like Zambrano, I can only imagine.

I like him so much because of his heart. He pitches on emotion, whatever those emotions are. With Zambrano, there is no cool/calm/collectedness that other top pitchers covet - he wears his heart on his sleeve and that almost always translates into inspiring outings against the toughest teams at crucial times.

Kerry Wood - wake up and take notes!

I'll leave the final word to Cardinals RF Larry Walker:
"He pitched good and we didn't hit. So, it was a bad combination."

Thank you, Larry.

++ Nomar
Now, this might not seem sporting of me, but his injury is a good thing. I agree with Jim on this one... he could use some time away from the field to get himself back in the frame of mind to play baseball. In a post-game interview, Dusty sounded sorry to see him hurt, given the selflessness of Nomar to volunteer moving down the order, but it really isn't that bad.

In his place, Neifi Perez, who has been hitting solidly and making excellent plays in the field (9th Inning Wednesday, made a tough grab and throw for the out @ 1st to keep Pujols off base, although was 0-5 in the game), and he will be a more-than-able substitute for Garciaparra in the interim.

Nomar has been struggling so far this regular season, hitting .157 with 4 RBI, 9 K and 23 LOB, and some time in the rehab room might help settle his mind and allow him to refocus on what it is he needs to do - take some of the self-imposed pressure of being Nomar off his shoulders, and just get back to fitness on his own terms. He will be a force for the Cubbies this season, depending on his return, but some quiet time to reflect away from the spotlight might help him more than seeing him struggle at the plate night after night.

++ Derrek Lee
For the record, voting for the All-Star Game has begun, and this man deserves all our votes. Spread the word, D-Lee needs to be an All-Star.

He batted 3-4 with 2 doubles and a stolen base on wednesday, menacing the Cardinals and scoring 2 of the 3 winning runs. When you put yourself on base, you give your team a chance to win. Burnitz and Ramirez brought him home and gave the Cubs the necessary cushion for victory.

-- RISPs
I know I am clutching at straws here, but with good reason. When Hawkins entered the game, Scott Rolen was at 2nd base and John Mabry was at the plate. Mabry got hold of a pitch and drove it deep into center field. I could feel my life flash before my eyes. Would LaTroy squander Zambrano's hard work? Thankfully enough, Corey Patterson caught it at the wall, his back pressed up against the padding, ending the game and allowing me to breathe again.

So why is this negative? The final margin of victory was 2 runs, and one hit almost erased that. Looking at the game as a whole, the Cubs left 7 runners in scoring position with 2 outs. That might seem fairly benign, but when the the Cubs were in Arizona in the opening series, the D-backs scored 7 of their 8 runs in an 8-1 win with 2 outs. Those stats can seem fairly banal and unimportant, but no doubt we would have been chastizing the batting lineup this morning if Mabry had managed to add just 6 or 7 feet to his long fly-out that ended the game. It could have been a tied game, but when you knock in the RISPs regardless of how many outs are left, these things don't even enter yr mind.

Wednesday, April 20

Headlines/Today's Starters

Cubs notes: Rusch, Nomar, Dusty laments (

Can you say 1 for 27? Barrett's found the ball (Sun-Times)

Nomar throws add to woes (Sun-Times)


Starters this evening:
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano• 1-0, 4.00 ERA in 2005• 1-1, 2.78 ERA vs. STL in 2004
STL: RHP Jeff Suppan• 1-1, 3.65 ERA in 2005• 1-1, 3.79 ERA vs. CHC in 2004

I know it's hard to say there's such a thing as a "must-win" game after only 14 this season, but it will be the real litmus test to see how well the Cubs can matchup this year with their arch-rivals for the NL Central Pennant. These two teams have kicked lumps out of each over in recent times, and tonight is an excellent, nationally-televised opportunity to see how the new-look Cubs can match with the Cardinals. Zambrano will have to keep his cool against a lethal St. Louis lineup.

4-20-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 7, Reds 1

A comprehensive win for the Cubbies last night, moving them back to .500 and showcasing the danger they pose in the NL Central (no joke - did you see Prior? Lee?)

++ Prior lack of restraint
Prior was unbelievable again last night. He held nothing back, scattering 4 hits over 7 innings of work. It could have been oh so different for Mark - the 4 batters he faced in the 1st inning were connecting well with the pitches, and Corey Patterson made two unbelievable catches in center field, one robbing Joe Randa of a HR (slamming into the wall), and another leaping catch to rob Ken Griffey Jr. of his 1st HR of the season.

From then on, it was lights out. His control was solid - 2 BBs, 6 Ks - as well as an admirable pitch-strike count of 98-66. The only run surrendered came off a Nomar throwing error to first that let the runner score from 2nd, and Cliff Bartosh came in for 2 innings of scoreless, hitless relief to round it out. Not only that, but Prior went 1-3 with the bat, scoring a run in the 3rd Inning.

The rotation is looking steadier by the day. Granted, Wood has some work to do, and there is always the potential for shakiness, but all it takes is a little help from the field like Corey displayed in the 1st Inning. Confidence will grow, arms will get looser, nerves will get easier. I'm not giving up on Kerry yet by any means, for that would be foolish, but looking at Prior, I feel a lot more comfortable in general about the rotation improving into the season.

++ Michael Barrett
I bet you our beloved catcher reads this site, as that 2-4 performance with a HR was all for us here at LB. I can tell, he wanted that one to shut us up, and well he will. I know it's only one game, but it broke a 9-day hitless streak and showed the Reds that they need to respect all the way from 1-9 in the lineup. Barrett will get better and this is proof that he might be seeing the ball a bit better than in the first two weeks.

++ C-A-D (Corey, Aramis, Derrek)
LB can never say enough good things about this triumvirate of terror, but in case they see this, they might appreciate the kind words. Corey, for his HR and his amazing fielding heroics on back-to-back outs in the 1st, we salute you. Aramis, for your HRs in consecutive games and yr 2-5 2-RBI performance, we salute you. Derrek, for yet another HR and yr 17th RBI, we salute you too.

I have a feeling we will be writing more about these three as things continue.

-- Let's leave this empty for today.

Tuesday, April 19

Today's Starters/Headlines/Some season stats so far...

CHC: RHP Mark Prior • 1-0, 0.00 ERA in 2005• 0-0, 1.00 ERA vs. CIN in 2004
CIN: LHP Brandon Claussen• 2-8, 6.14 ERA in 2004• 0-1, 17.18 vs. CHC in 2004

Car hit's woo-woo, leaves him with boo-boo (Sun-Times)

Cubs notes: Walker's rehab, Perez's hot start (

Cubs notes II: Nomar, the Pattersons, Kerry Wood (

Starting Lineup Season Stats (up to 4-19-05)
C Michael Barrett -- .124, HR, 5 RBI
1B Derrek Lee -- .375, 3 HR, 16 RBI
2B Neifi Perez -- .379, HR, 5 RBI
SS Nomar Garciaparra -- .182, 4 RBI, 7 K
3B Aramis Ramirez -- .250, 3 HR, 9 RBI
LF Todd Hollandsworth -- .225, HR, 5 RBI, 12 K
CF Corey Patterson -- .298, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 13 K
RF Jeromy Burnitz -- .283, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 13 K

SP Mark Prior 1-0, 0.00
SP Kerry Wood 0-1, 6.38
SP Greg Maddux 0-1, 5.63
SP Carlos Zambrano 1-0, 4.00
SP Ryan Dempster 1-2, 5.74

RP Glendon Rusch 2-0, 2.08
RP Mike Remlinger 0-1, 6.35
RP Michael Wuertz 1-0, 1.35
RP Jon Leicester 0-2, 6.75
CP LaTroy Hawkins 2 SV, 3.00

4-18-04 -- Thoughts from JT - leicester's loss, our loss

Cubs 6, Reds 7 -- Boxscore of Disappointment

Jon Leicester. The second time he's broken our hearts this year, sending us to our third loss of a 13-game season by one run. One run losses are the back-breaker of any spirited team, and the Cubs are no different. Despite some excellent early Inning offense from the bats of Patterson, Ramirez, Lee and Burnitz (Jeromy! That one was for me, right?), Kerry couldn't hold it, gave Dunn 2 HRs and an inflated sense of self-esteem, and the rest is history.

Despite a solid inning from Bullpen Beast Glendon Rusch in the 7th, they pulled him for the righty Leicester in the 8th, who did the damage (see Hypo's take for the gory details).

This is not the first time this season - against the Brewers in Week One, Leicester walked 4 in 2 1/3 Innings, giving up 3 runs and condemning the Cubs in 12.

On the positive side, the 4 big Cubs bats found base-rounding success against the starter Belisle. It was a good confidence boost for the guys NOT named Derrek Lee, and we can only hope gone-from-ahead losses like this do not become a motif. Keep swinging, and success with follow. Burnitz, I'm sorry for what I've said before, today you were fantastic. Jon Leicester, RHP, it's your turn to make amends.

Monday, April 18

4-18-05 -- Hypo's Take - Uuuggh...

The questions are swirling in my head!
Why was Jon Leicester allowed to finish the 8th inning when he walked two batters on balls and then hit a third batter before registering a single out? Forget that, why wasn't Rusch still on the mound after a very efficient 7th inning? He wasn't pulled for a pinch hitter. He is certainly capable of pitching multiple innings. Why wasn't another pitcher ready to come and relieve Leicester? Is his middle name "Suck"? Jon Suck Leicester... has a certain ring to it in my mind. What was Michael Barrett thinking when he tried to throw the ball back to Aramis Ramirez after the runner approaching third base was already out? If he hadn't, and the runners had stayed at 1st and 2nd instead of 2nd and 3rd, would Suck have been able to get out of the inning with zero runs scored? Even if he had only given up one run on the ensuing hit, would the Cubs still have scored one off of Graves in the ninth? Would they then have gone on to win? Why do people come to me to die?

And finally...
How sick was the double play in that same inning!!! Kudos to Aramis Ramirez on the defensive play of the game, even though it wasn't enough to completely foil the plans of Suck in giving up the game.

Sorry: if you weren't watching, the bases were loaded with 0 outs after 3 straight walks by Suck, who was absolutely having control problems tonight. Rich Aurilia came to the plate and hit a high chopper to 3b, where a leaping Ramirez caught the ball and stepped on 3b for the force out. In one seemingly fluid motion, he then threw the ball to Barrett at homeplate; a throw that had to be around/over the baserunner in order to get there. It was a perfect throw and Barrett was blocking the plate for the tag-out. The problem was that he then threw the ball (for some unknown reason to me) back to Ramirez, but it was a shade (4 feet or so) out of reach for the unsuspecting Ramirez. The runners who should have been at 1st and 2nd advanced to 2nd and 3rd on the error and both scored on the following at-bat by LaRue, who doubled over Corey Patterson's head in center. The Cubs got one back in the ninth, but it wasn't enough, even with a runner at 3b with two outs.

Anyway, that's all for now, apparently all I'll remember from this game was the nightmarish 8th inning and a barrage of questions for which I'll probably never have answers. Damn you Suck Leicester!!!
(comma left out of final sentence for insertion where the reader sees fit.)

The Week Ahead/Headlines (Sun-Times Edition)

A full slate of games through the end of the week. Thankfully for this Brooklyn writer, ESPN will be showing the big Cardinals games, meaning no long nights crouched around my Streaming Radio connection through the Cubs website.

Monday: Cubs @ Cincinnati (ESPN)
CIN: RHP Matt Belisle• 1-1, 3.52 ERA in 2005• 0-1, 7.36 ERA in 2003 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Kerry Wood• 0-1, 5.84 ERA in 2005• 2-1, 4.79 ERA in 2004 vs. CIN
Tuesday: Cubs @ Cincinnati
Wednesday: Cubs @ St. Louis (ESPN 2)
Thursday: Cubs @ St. Louis (ESPN)
Friday: Cubs vs. Pirates
Saturday: Cubs vs. Pirates

Chicago Sun-Times Headlines --
Derrek Lee is finding himself in a unusually good April

Kerry Wood aka The Cincinnati Kid

Aramis Ramirez: Fielding in 2005 isn't as easy as 2004

4-18-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Stealing 2 from the Pirates

A solid weekend from the Cubbies. After losing friday night to a rather unfortunate blowup by the Bullpen (Remlinger in particular) in the 8th Inning, they rebounded strongly and stole two close games 4-3 and 4-2 respectively.

Sunday's Boxscore - Cubs 4, Pirates 2

++ Pitching Staff
As is the Cubbies' penchant for slow offensive starts and games in which it falls on one man to provide the RBIs for the day, the pitching staff was solid and superb this weekend. Aside from the 8th Inning on Friday (3 go-ahead runs for the Pirates in the 8th Inning, providing the final margin of victory, 8-5), the starters and bullpen provided the kind of tight pitching that keeps them in the game. Given the anaemic offense at times, it is crucial to their chances of success that the pitchers keep the other team close, close enough for those late-inning clutch hits that Derrek Lee (GW 2-RBI single in the 8th Inning yesterday) and Neifi Perez (GW RBI double in the 7th on Saturday) have been heroes for.

Weekend's Staff Heroes:
LaTroy Hawkins - 2 IP, H, K (2 Saves)
Glendon Rusch - 1 2/3 IP, H, K
Greg Maddux - 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 K

++ Part-Time Players
Jason Dubois, Neifi Perez, two guys who will get playing time but at the moment aren't necessarily figuring as everydayers at their positions, gave excellent accounts of themselves during the at-bats they saw.

Dubois, a platoon outfielder being used mostly as a swap with Hollandsworth in LF, was 1-2 with a 2-run HR in Friday's 8-5 loss. Neifi Perez, batting .417 since Walker's injury, hit the game-winning RBI double on Saturday, not the first clutch hitting performance he's enjoyed this week (In the Padres doubleheader, Perez went 6-9 with 3 runs).

It is good to see some competition at their positions. Hollandsworth has been slow out of the gate so far this season with the bat (.250, HR, 5 RBI, 12 K in 11 games), Nomar is trying too hard (.182, 4 RBI, 7 K after an amazing spring) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (2B/CF: 5-18, 0 RBI) is suffering from the "New Man on Campus" feeling. What was once a steady lineup might soon enter a bit more competitive flux given the bench making the most of limited opportunities.

-- Catchers not catching fire at the plate
Michael Barrett is suffering through a hit-less week, going 0-13 in the 4 games he played (including 0-6, 6 LOB vs. the Pirates). Henry Blanco went 0-4 in Sunday's win, striking out once, and has yet to record a hit so far in this young season (0-11, 3 K in 3 starts).

Considering the bulk of Pirates' 8 runs on Friday came from the 7 & 8 spots (3B Bobby Hill and C David Ross: 5-8, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI), it demonstrates the importance of scratching up some offense from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Right now, all offensive threats stop at Lee, and opposing teams are resting easy in the knowledge that there are 3 easy outs once Derrek's back in the dugout.

Sunday, April 17

Week 2 in Boxscores

4-16-05 Cubs 4, Pirates 3
4-15-05 Cubs 5, Pirates 8
4-13-05 Cubs 3, Padres 8
(Gm 2) Cubs 8, Padres 3
4-11-05 Cubs 0, Padres 1
4-10-05 Cubs 6, Brewers 5

Not a horrendous week, but not entirely great either. The redeeming quality of the NL Central so far this season is that everyone's roughing each other up, splitting series and not really establishing control over one another, leaving all 6 teams within 1.5 games. No clear favourite, no clear disappointment. Whether this means all the teams are of an unusually high quality or are irritatingly average remains to be seen (although really, I fear, the answer is pretty clear - don't look for a World Series winner in this mob based on early-season evidence)

Highlights/reviews/notes from the weekend series at Pittsburgh coming soon - been a long weekend so far, and will recap on Monday morning when the dust has inevitably settled.

Also, headlines will follow in due course.

Saturday, April 16

Today in Cubs History

April 16, 1948 -- WGN-TV televised a baseball game for the first time. It was an exhibition game at Wrigley Field with Jack Brickhouse doing the play-by-play. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 4-1.

But also...

April 16, 1997 -- The Chicago Cubs set the mark for worst start in National League history, making three more errors as they extended their losing streak to 12 with a 4-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Chicago broke the modern NL record of 0-10 set by Atlanta in 1988 and the overall NL record of 0-11 by the 1884 Detroit Wolverines.

More Proof that The Cubbies are America's Team (

"Wrigley is the kitchen of baseball," Mr. Wiltgen said, thoughtfully sipping a beer as he watched the Cubs tangle with the Milwaukee Brewers. "When you go to somebody's house, you want to be in the kitchen. It's homey, it's nostalgic, it's where it's all going on. This is as close to how baseball used to be as you can get. You can't get any closer. "

Friday, April 15

Cubs Hitting the Road

Well, after an off-day and losing 2 out of 3 to the Padres, the Cubs are on the road, visiting Pittsburgh for 3 games, Cincinnati for 2, and St. Louis for 2. It's not too early to panic, given that their August and September hopes are largely defined by early-season matchups. Obviously, every game is important, and the NL Central has been roughing each other up lately, keeping things wide open and leaving no club with too much cause for concern.

Nevertheless, the Cubs hit the road to play 7 games against their immediate rivals, and after a hit-and-miss performances against the Brewers, it's time to see how they measure up this year to their Division rivals.

Today's Pitching Matchup:
PIT: LHP Oliver Perez • 0-2, 11.00 ERA in 2005 • 0-2, 4.74 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano • 1-0, 2.25 ERA in 2005 • 5-0, 1.02 ERA in 2004 vs. PIT

Points of Interest:
Pirates OF Jason Bay is 5-11 lifetime against Zambrano - 3 HRs, 2 2Bs, and 9 RBIs. According to a report on the Cubs website, Zambrano kept a baseball card of Bay taped in his locker during spring training to remind him of Bay's success against his pitching. Let's see how it pans out today.

Conversely, against Pirates ace Oliver Perez, Aramis Ramirez is 4-8, Michael Barrett is 2-7, and Patterson is 3-13 with a HR.

Corey Patterson's 9-game hitting streak to open the season is the first Cub to open the season like that since Brian McRae in 1996.

(Some statistical information taken from report by Carrie Muskat, Cubs website)

Thursday, April 14


Dusty is a holy man... with Holy Water (

Don't worry Jerry Jr., we still remember you (Sun-Times)

Cubs Notes (Cubs website)

4-14-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs/Padres Doubleheader

A long and emotionally up-and-down day for the Cubbies. The games has a sort of Jekyll and Hyde quality for both squads - each got to taste dominance, each got to taste suppression. I will tackle these games as one big entity, for the major points are relevant to both.

Game One:
Cubs 3, Padres 8
W - J. Peavy (1-0) L - K. Wood (0-1)

Game Two:
Cubs 8, Padres 3
W - M. Prior (1-0) L - B. Lawrence (0-2)

+ Wood and Prior
Despite the box score line for Wood in Game 1 (6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), it's good to have him in the rotation. I like to call it (well at least now I do) the "Curt Schilling" syndrome - it's better to have him on the mound even though he's haunted somewhat by recent injuries than to have him sitting in the dugout for 2 months or more of the season. Early control problems really set him back - when you consider he threw 112 pitches in his outing, about 40 of those came in the first inning. So did 4 of those 6 runs. Before the game, Ron Santo mentioned how it was a "pitcher's day" due to the swirling winds that would keep long fly balls in the park and convert them into long outs. This was not the case for poor Kerry, giving up 3 Home Runs (1 to 3B Geoff Blum, 1 to Brian Giles, who is 6-7 vs. Wood, 5 of those hits being HRs, and 1 to Ryan Klesko) during his outing. He will improve, and with a steadily-improving offense (who would have noticed Corey Patterson is running a 9-game hitting streak?), Wood's numbers will settle to a more respectable level.

In contrast, Prior blew me away yesterday. I did not expect this, although I imagined something close. I even benched him on a couple of Fantasy Baseball teams because I wanted to watch closely and not risk a performance similar to his last rehab outing in the minors (giving up 7 ER or so over 6 IP I think - feel free to correct me if anyone knows the specific numbers). Regardless of this, he was stellar. 6 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K, 92 pitches. He was leaving the Game 1-potent Padres offense in the lurch, stunning them with his full range of pitches: fastballs, breaking balls, his nasty slider. This is extremely promising, as it seems to be widely acknowledged (ESPN's baseball experts, for example) that the Cubs have little to no chance without Wood and Prior in the rotation. I think Prior's successful return will have a positive and galvanizing effect on the rest of the pitching staff, and we know what a strong starting 4 or 5 will mean. I can see it now....

Prior, Wood, Maddux, Zambrano

.... who could face that lineup week in, week out?

++ Selected Offense
Despite suggestions that Jerry Hairston Jr. would be the everyday replacement for the injured Walker, how about Neifi Perez? The 2B/SS backup went 6-9 in the doubleheader, scoring 3 runs. He might be a valuable asset as an everyday player, whether spelling Nomar (1-4, K, 2 LOB in game One) or as a regular 2B. Either way, it's nice to know that the depth in the middle Infield is there - we didn't get to see too much of the recently called-up Fontenot (scored a run in Game One as a PR, 0-0 and walked in Game Two), but this gives us hope that Walker's absence will not leave too big a hole to be filled.

Derrek Lee had another hit spurt, going 3-6 with a 2B, HR, and 6 RBI to boot through both games. Good to see him swinging and swinging well.

Corey Patterson also had a HR, and maintained his hitting streak (9 or 10 games) by reaching base safely in both (went 2-9 for the day). It's important that the Cubs have a solid lead-off man who is making it on-base (Corey's OBP is .341 for the year so far), and Corey might be the guy again.

++ Fielding
Thank you Jeromy! A couple of excellent plays in the field today, including a diving catch to rob Giles of extra bases. Looks like he is understanding the foibles of playing right field at Wrigley Park.

Not only that, but C Michael Barrett threw out another base-runner stealing second, this time LF Ryan Klesko. He was unable to stop Loretta stealing twice in the game, but he is still looking sharp behind the plate nonetheless.

-- Errors
4 errors overall today, compared to 0 for the Padres, all of them through rushed throws and off-balance attempts to make the big plays. In the overall scheme of things we might not know whether or not they would have made a huge difference (although 3 did come in the Game One 8-3 loss), but it doesn't help your team get back in the game from an early 5-0 hole in the 2nd Inning. I'm sure this won't be a huge problem throughout the season, but it is still something to think about.

Wednesday, April 13

Cubs Fans "Too Happy"

This is a New York Times article from last Saturday about the author of the movie "Fever Pitch." The Cubs get a pretty entertaining mention half-way through it, although you might need to create a free user account to access it.

Tuesday, April 12

Prior gets another day of Rest

Well, with today's rainout, the Cubs and Padres will meet twice tomorrow afternoon. Prior and Peavy will have their duel in Game One of the Doubleheader.

Game Two Starters tomorrow:

Kerry Wood (ChC) - 0-0, 3.18 ERA
5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 7 K vs. Brewers (ND, 3-6 12 Inns.)

Brian Lawrence (SD) - 0-1, 2.57 ERA
7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K vs. Pirates (L, 3-2)

EDIT -- Prior and Peavy will start in Game Two of the Doubleheader, not Game One. First pitch for Wood vs. Lawrence is scheduled tentatively for 1.05pm ET.

EDIT #2 -- Wood will face Peavy in the first game tomorrow, with Prior taking the mound against Lawrence in the second matchup. Apologies for not getting this right the first time. Is San Diego scared of Mark? One wonders...

4-12-05 -- Cubs Headlines

The next 2B star? Walker's roster replacement has a good pedigree (Slidell Sentry-News, LA)

Burnitz will bounce back, and he's learning the ins and outs of Wrigley (Chicago Sun-Times)

Mark Prior - comeback no. 3, and we're all holding our breath (Chicago Tribune - may require subscription to read)

Chicago Sun-Times round-ups: Walker, Sosa, Playboy and more


Today's Starters:

SD: RHP Jake Peavy• 15-6, 2.27 ERA in 2004• 0-0, 1.80 ERA in 2004 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Mark Prior• 6-4, 4.02 ERA in 2004• 0-1, 21.00 ERA in 2004 vs. SD

4-11-05 -- Chicago Sun-Times Headlines

Nomar's trying hard... almost too hard

Maddux going through the motions - the slow-start motions
(but the Cubs aren't worried and neither am I)

Monday, April 11

Thanks Rhino!

This isn't really anything of great note, but Ryne Sandberg is now doing Baseball coverage for Yahoo!

In his first installment of "Top 10" and "Bottom 5", he still puts the Cubs in at number 9 despite a 3-3 start. Good to know someone with MLB experience gives us a chance.

Check out his extremely early season rankings here.

4-11-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 0, Padres 1


Yesterday's Hero, Today's Villain

Burnitz's sixth-inning error, failing to catch a low-line drive from Brian Giles, led to the only run scored in this swift defeat at the hands of the San Diego Padres. His error, followed by Klesko's double off the right-field wall and Hernandez's fielder's choice RBI single, was the difference between two well-matched teams and even-tempered pitching performances.

One big play decides the game, and this one goes the way of the Padres.

Tomorrow Prior will take the mound against Jake Peavy, who, if you weren't already aware, led the National League last season in best ERA (15-6, 2.27 ERA in 166 1/3 IP). It will be an acid test for the Cubs, who need to see that Prior is fit and ready to contribute in 2005.

With Walker confirmed out of action for at least 4-to-6 weeks ("the best case scenario"), the pitching staff needs to be the glue holding their record together.

4-11-05 -- Hypo's Take - Cubs 0, Padres 1

ESPN Box Score

Another difficult game to take. A blindfolded midget with one arm standing on his head could muster more hits than the Cubbies do in an average game. Ok, that's a little harsh, but come on... zero runs scored!?! Still, I am confident the cubs will get it together this year, but it's like when my mom comes home from work and tries to cheer me up with, "You'll find a job and move out of this place eventually!" Sure I know that time will come, but it's hard to get excited about my 30's right now. Here are a few pointers from the game:

-- Swinging Sammy... I mean Jeromy...
Burnitz went 0 for 4 today, striking out swinging 3 times and stranding 5 runners. I guess he was just working on the mechanics of his swing today, and thought the guys standing on base were awestruck admirers. It's ok though, after the heroics yesterday, maybe we'll let it slide this time.

-- Hitless No-more
Nomar was hitless in the previous two games, and has only managed 2 hits in his last 23 AB's, but today was 1/3 with a walk. If you're scoring at home, that makes his OBP .500 today. Perhaps he's coming out of his rut?

-- Catch that thief!
Barrett for the second day in a row caught two base-runners trying to steal second with gunshot quick throws to second. Nice work from a guy who is growing up to be a great catcher. Opponents will start to think twice before trying to steal second in the future, I gaurantee it.

-- The pitching once again was very good today, spreading out 4 hits and 3 walks total throughout the game. It's just a shame our lovable Cubbies couldn't back it up with even a LITTLE bit of offense. Let's just say I've had more runs after eating a not-so-spicy burrito than we managed to score today.

Oh well, here's to tomorrow...

Monday's Headlines - Hot-rod Edition

Hot-Rodd Todd Walker - 2B may be out a while... say it ain't so (Chicago Sun-Times)

Even Cubs victories are painful (Northwest Herald)

Walker's injury puts damper on Cubs' victory (San Jose Mercury News)

Thank you to Carlos Lee, whose wholly inelegant slide into 2nd base, doing his best impression of a 300-pound Thanksgiving turkey drifting across an iced-over pond, could have cost the Cubbies dearly. I'd rather have a healthy Todd than a 12 Innings 6-5 win.

UPDATE: According to both and the Chicago Cubs website, despite the negative MRIs and the fact that he did not tear any knee ligaments, he will miss somewhere from 4-6 weeks on the DL with a hyperextended and sprained left knee. Jerry Hairston Jr. will most likely be the everyday starter at 2B until his return.

4-11-05 -- Hypo's Take - Adrenaline Rusch

I thought Glendon Rusch had a pretty good performance in yesterday's game. He is a valuable asset to this bullpen, since he has the ability to pitch for an inning, pitch long relief, perform as a spot starter, and could even "be our closer," according to Ron Santo. He got himself into quite a few jams as this game went to extra innings, and made me as nervous as a hooker at confession at some points, but there is something to be said for his efficiency in getting out of those jams.

And come on... he's got such a nice smile too!

Sunday, April 10

4-10-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 6, Brewers 5

This was a tough game to listen to. Endless squandered opportunities on base for both teams, scrappy defense and long streaks of ground outs and fly outs. Is this how baseball is supposed to be?

+ Fielding
For the most part, this was an excellent element to the Cubs' victory today. Barrett threw out two base-runners trying to steal second, and Nomar had several excellent plays to keep the Brewers scoring in check (top 2nd - bases loaded with 0 outs, Nomar fields double play ball that allows 1 run but is the only score in the inning//top 6th - turns tough double play to end the Inning).

However, on the negative side, 2 errors - Maddux fumbling the ball in the 2nd, Rusch failing to field in the 10th - thankfully, they didn't prove costly this outing.

+ Burnitz, Ramirez, Hollandsworth
Thanks! 8-16, 5 RBI, including 4 2Bs and a 3B from big man Jeromy. Good, timely hitting from these three much-needed bats helped propel the Cubs to the win.

+ Bullpen Bravery
Wellemeyer, Wuertz, Remlinger, Rusch
7 IP, 7 H, ER, 2 BB, 7 K
(ER off Wellemeyer in the 6th, the last Brewers run of the game)
These guys kept the threatening Brewers lineup out of scoring position for the most part, enabling the Cubs to finally pluck up the courage to win the game.

- Todd Walker
A key figure in the Cubs' hopes for the season ahead, he left the game with a sprained left knee after a nasty collision with the baserunning Carlos Lee. His injury, after a negative MRI scan, leaves a huge hole in the starting lineup and forces backup Jerry Hairston Jr. (2004: 2 HR, 24 RBI, 29 K in 86 games/287 ABs) into the everyday starting 2B role for the foreseeable future. Walker joins Borowski and Prior on the injured list (although Prior should start Tuesday vs. San Diego), and with a troubling lack of quality depth, the Cubs can't afford too much time without them.

(note to Dusty: try and sign Jorge de la Rosa. Thank you.)

Week 1 in Boxscores

4/10/05 - Cubs 6, Brewers 5 (12 Innings)
4/9/05 - Cubs 4, Brewers 0
4/8/05 - Cubs 3, Brewers 6 (12 Innings)
4/6/05 - Cubs 3, Diamondbacks 8
4/5/05 - Cubs 4, Diamondbacks 5
4/4/05 - Cubs 16, Diamondbacks 6

Saturday, April 9

4-9-05 -- Hypo's Take - Cubs 4, Brewers 0

Well the Cubs put together a good one today. It was exciting for them to snap the 3 game skid they were in the midst of, but the game ball has to go to Carlos Zambrano in this one. 4-0 seems a slightly dominating victory for a team, but without Carlos, it could have been only 2 runs offensively (he scored once -- after sliding head first into third coming from first -- and hit an RBI as well), and most likely the Brewers would have accrued a total hit count of something greater than one. Ok, there's a little sarcasm for that ass, of course they would have done better, Zambrano was completely dominating! Talk about one player taking over an entire ball game.

-- Highlight for me
Zambrano waving the trainer back into the dugout in the 8th, as the trainer approached to check on Z's elbow. He's got a big fastball, a large heart, but a gigantic competitive spirit. He should be (and should have been most of last year) the Cubs #1 starter, but we'll see.

-- Positives
LaTroy Hawkins gains some momentum (although no save), shutting the Brewers down in the 9th in a 'relieving' 1-2-3 inning.

The all around defense of the whole team, but namely Derrek Lee, who had a number of great plays, including his catch of a line drive that first was deflected into the air off of his glove.

-- Negatives
You could cite the slightly anemic offensive production today, but (going back to my "Top 5") the one time that they had runners on 2nd and 3rd with less than 2 outs, they managed to score them both on a double by Hot-Rod Todd Walker.

4-9-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 4, Brewers 0

What a game. Listening to all 2 hrs of it, I was convinced that the Cubs have something to work with this season.

-- Zambrano!!!
Amazing today. Collected more hits for himself that he gave up to the other team. Went 7 1/3 innings, giving up 1 hit (a Russell Branyan single in the top of the 2nd), threw 111 pitches, 2 BB, 6 K. Looked solid all day, and he played with the kind of fire that the rest of the team needs to catch. 2-3 with the bat, including a 2-out RBI single in the 2nd to kick off the scoring = truly dominant today. In the 1st inning, after striking out the lead-off hitter Brady Clark, he appeared to have some elbow troubles and after a brief conference with the trainers, he never looked back. Are you paying attention starting rotation? If Carlos can do it, so can you Greg, Ryan, Kerry, Mark, and whoever else starts over the course of the year.

-- Timely plays
Burnitz, having endured a rough opening week with the bat, finally found his swing, clubbing a solo HR in the 6th inning, his first for the club and his first for the season. As I wrote before, he needs to be a big-time producer for the Cubs this year, and this is a promising sign of his talent and the reason they went after him in the off-season.

Aside from Burnitz, with the game hanging in the balance, star 2B Todd Walker delivered the killer blow with a 2nd pitch double to deep right in the bottom of the 7th, scoring two runs and giving Dusty enough of a cushion to ease Zambrano out of the game. He's been delivering the hits lately, and his improved batting eye can make him a crucial piece of the puzzle as the season progresses.

These are also the kinds of clutch moments that eluded the team last year, especially during that awful streak at the end of the season, losing 7 of 9 to miss out on the wild card.

-- Pitch Counts on the Batter's shoulders
Before essentially cruising to the shutout victory, a negative aspect of the win comes from the quick innings from the Cubs batting lineup. The kind of patience that tires opposing pitchers and gives relief to their own was absent for large parts of the day, and against a stronger team it might prove costly.

1st Inning - 7 pitches (including a lead-off single, 4 batters faced)
5th Inning - 8 pitches

In contrast, the 1-hit, shutout Brewers:
1st Inning - 15 pitches
2nd Inning - 20 pitches

Slow it down, guys. More patience, more reward on the whole is the general rule. Like I mentioned before, against a better team, the Cubs will be punished for such overenthusiasm. (I'm trying to ignore the obvious exception to my rule whereby Walker's 2-RBI double came off his second pitch faced, and Burnitz's HR was his second pitch).

4-8-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 3, Brewers 6

-- The return of the Kerry (Wood)
Good to see him back on the mound. According to the radio feed, he was feeling no niggling injury flare-ups, and he seemed to be healthy. However, as with everything, there was the downside: 5 2/3 innings pitched, 102 pitches, only 52 strikes. Kerry walked 5 and struck out 7, which says not only a lot about his pitch selection and control, but also about some of the Brewers' hitting (Geoff Jenkins 1-6, 4 K, 8 LOB is the best example of that). It is promising that he's back, but the strike count needs to get higher and fast, given the state of the rest of the starting rotation (see Hypo's 5 keys for more about that).

-- Burnitz
Better than in the Diamondbacks series, but still a little sluggish. How much will playing away from the Colorado thin air affect his slugging and overall batting production? All signs initially point to "a lot." It's only week one, but already there is a little anxiety - losing Sosa and Alou as two prime run producers (Sosa: 103 RBI in 2003, 80 RBI in 2004//Alou: 91 RBI in 2003, 106 RBI in 2004) means guys like Burnitz, brought in to fill the void, have to live up to some kind of expectations. He did get an RBI double in the game, but went 1-5 overall.

-- Bullpen Blues
Jon Leicester. 2 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, K. 53 pitches, 24 strikes. For a reliever and a shaky one at that, it simply won't do. At numerous points in his outing was he evidently struggling - top of the 11th, he walks the lead-off runner, gets a lucky double play for 2 quick outs, and then walks the next two batters faced. Not on 3-2 pitches, but on 4 straight balls. At one point, he threw 9 straight balls, (he threw 8 straight between top 10th and leadoff top 11th) and the cheer from the crowd when he finally found the strike zone was perhaps some of the loudest applause all game long.

LaTroy blew a save, giving up a game-tying double to Lyle Overbay with 2 outs (another point made by Hypo, the 2-outs dilemma).

Remlinger looked solid in the 1 1/3 innings he was allowed, and he came out with the Cubs looking set in the top of the 9th. The rest, as they say, is history.

I could go on, but it's pointless. Let's see how they perform this afternoon on a warm day with Zambrano (arguably, at this point, the best starter in the rotation) against *gulp* K king Ben Sheets.

My top 5 keys to the season coming up later. Enjoy the game.

Hypo's "Top 5"

The five things the Cubs need to do to get to the playoffs...

1) Win more 1-run games than they lose.
Last year the cubs were 19-30 in games decided by one run. If they had been 25-24 in these games, however, they would have finished 3 games ahead of the Astros instead of 3 games behind them. Note to those who have taken a serum to forget last year's wild card race: the Astros are the team that won the NL wild card.
Current watch: At 0-1, it looks like the Cubs may mimic their performance in these games from last year, but it is still very early.
2) Keep the lead in the close games!
LaTroy Hawkins alone blew 9 save opportunities last year. I know that it is going to happen once in a while, but again, even if he had blown a much more reasonable 3 possible saves, the Cubs would once again have finished 3 games up from the Astros, not down.
Current watch: Again, I know it is very early in the season -- when "blown saves are as common as rain on the PGA tour" -- but LT may be chasing the wrong stat from last year (he's already blown 1 save in as many tries). Saves, buddy, chase the saves number...
3) (Forget the health of our pitchers! Let's skip right to...) Starters need to pitch deeper into the game than the 6th inning.
On a team whose closer is already slightly suspect, it doesn't help to have a weak bullpen. Losing RH middle reliever Kyle Farnsworth is going to hurt the Cubs this year more than they think (if he can't strike you out, he'll just straight up tackle you!), unless the starting pitchers can make it into the 7th inning without their arms spontaneously decomposing. It would be nice if they could accomplish this without throwing 250 pitches per start, so we'll see if Dusty works on getting some of these strike-out pitchers a little more efficient with their pitch counts early in a game.
Current watch: Zambrano - 4.2 IP, Maddux - 5.0 IP, Dempster (who cares) - 3.2 IP, Wood - 5.2 IP -- Forget the 7th inning, let's make it to the 6th for dolomite's sake!
4) Score runners from 2nd and 3rd base with less than 2 outs!
I don't feel like looking up any more stats, but the cubs are notorious for having runners stand on 2nd or 3rd base and watch one, two, three outs before strutting back to the bench thinking "I did my part" so they can strike out the next two at-bats! Let's see some fucking runs besides the ones you guys score in your bi-weekly blowout!
5) Keep me from ever writing a post this long again. Come on, if they do that, then they're doing something right!!!

Friday, April 8



Sun-Times Round-ups

Lessons from the Diamondbacks Series

1. Todd Walker is seeing the ball better. With 7 hits from the series (7-12), he needs to perform well this year in terms of getting himself on base for the big bats behind him in the order.
2. Derrek Lee can pick up the slack of not having Sosa.
3. The bullpen looks like it could have a solid year.

1. Burnitz is a bit suspicious thus far. Strikeouts, 0 RBI even in the 16-6 win, not really getting on base. Despite the early form of Lee and Ramirez, losing Sosa and Alou is a lot to make up for.
2. Starting pitching. Zambrano was the best of a slow-starting bunch. 8K's in 4 2/3 innings (although walked 4) before getting ejected. Maddux (5 IP, 5 ER) and Ryan Dempster (3 2/3 IP, 7 ER) need to step it up. I know it's only one start each, but it's easy to get discouraged. Kerry's pitching tonight and Prior is slated to start against the Padres on Wednesday, and regardless of their health and performance, the rest of the rotation needs to be strong.
3. Finish the job. Game 3, an 8-3 loss, saw 7 Diamondback RBIs with 2 outs. The math is pretty obvious.

Thursday, April 7

News of the Day

Ryan Dumpster - "Stepping up" as #4 in the rotation...

Burnitz's imaginative solution to being the new guy in RF

ESPN Recap

Our take to follow - the first season series in the books, and what (if anything) do we know?