Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Cubs Problems

Alot of people have discussed the Cubs inability to situational hit. Even going as far as to saying its a direct problem of Gary Matthews. Yes and no.

You need to have the players to do situational hitting in the 1st place. And the Cubs simply dont have them. Mark Grudz was probably our best contact hitter. But he also wasnt that fast. By placing Alex Gonzalez in the #2 hole the Cubs had no ability to move their runner over to 2nd either thru bunting, or walking. Hit and run also was nearly impossible. It was more likely to end in a strikem out throw em out than actually working. The Only way Mark Grudz gets to 2nd base is if Gonzalez singles. Or about a 20% chance.

Which is why it boggles my mind on why people said Alex Gonzalez should of been moved back to the #2 slot because he was doing great! I guess they dont know that Alex Gonzalez always starts off hitting well in April and then bottoms out for the year. Its just that the league adjusts and he never does.
From May thru June he never had a batting average above .240. And thats unacceptable especially for a #2 hitter. Or nearly 60% of his AB's in the #2 slot.

Sosa and Alou are the RBI crunchers. They are doing what they are supposed to. Driving in runners. Whether they are on 1st base or bases loaded.

But the major problem of the Cubs lineup was the 5-8 hitters. More often than naught they would load up the bases with Sosa, Alou, Ramirez with no outs or one out and fail to score a single run. Why? because the hitters after them have no ability to situational hit. While Karros was pretty decent all year if he hit a ball on the ground it was a double play. He ended so many rallys like that it was heart breaking. All you need is a flyball to get a run. But the options were no better after that as you usually had a combination of Gonzalez and Miller/Bako. None of those players was capable of getting a hit when it was needed.

AmRam helps extend the productivity of the order down to the #5 spot. And it will be interesting to see what his impact on the lineup will be over a full season. If you cant get an offensive force to help extend the productivity of the order beyond the #5 spot atleast fill those spots in with scrappy hitters or hitters that know how to work the count. If nothing else they will make the opposing starting pitcher throw more pitches and you can get to a teams bullpen faster. Another major problem the Cubs had. Many times the Cubs hitters would swing at the 1st pitch and fly out and ground out. And they wouldnt just do this one time around it would be inning after inning for the whole game and some scrub pitcher coming off rehab suddenly has shut us out for 7 innings on 80 pitches.

The whole idea of working the count is to see everything the pitcher is throwing, and how well he is throwing them. How are hitters getting the pitch they want when they are swinging at the 1st pitch no matter what it is?. Now i know Alou and Lofton are great 1st pitch hitters but thats usually only when they are shown a fastball as the 1st pitch. Plus they have the batting averages to pretty much do what they want, i am not so pissed to see them swinging. Its the guys hacking away with .230 averages is what really irkes me. Partly is just because they are lousy hitters and partly its because their own hitting coach isnt doing his job to try and make poor hitters atleast try and see more pitches to help the team out regardless if they are still making the same amount of outs.

This is a reason alot of Cubs fans LOVE Hee Seop Choi. We have rarely seen a player of his style. We are used to guys like Jose Hernandez. Swing and pray. Swing and Pray. Cant walk, cant hit, cant make contact. Can we try something new and fresh? Choi if he never hits above .230 can hurt other teams thru taking walks and working counts. A-gonz couldnt even dream about doing that. And thru that Choi makes the team a little less one dimensional. Because we all know this team lives and dies by the 3 run homerun basically.

I would be much happier with a Craig Counsell type player than an Adam Kennedy type player. I just dont see a scrappy, patient hitter in Kennedy. While this year was a great year for him walks wise he has never really shown great plate awareness. His OBP is solely based on his BA. Much like Simon. If they arent hitting they arent getting on base. Counsell is the type of player the Cubs should be trying to seek out if they fail to land impact free agents. Not that i am saying he is expressly the person i want them to go after but he should be the type of player the Cubs should seek out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Comments on Building an Ass-Kicking Cubs Team

The Cub Reporter has some very good comments on building a strong team for next year.

Much has been written here and elsewhere about Dusty Baker’s use and overuse of the starting pitchers, and I haven't the stomach to review it all in gory detail. In summary, Kerry Wood led the majors in pitcher abuse points (PAP), and Mark Prior came in third. Carlos Zambrano finished 17th. This is in part due to the fact that these guys were actually quite good, but all year long, Baker erred on the side of recklessness and left them in too long. I believe that in the end, this decision-making lost the Cubs the NLCS, specifically in Games 6 and 7, where both Prior and Wood were left in long after it was clear that they were out of gas.

Also if you look at Dusty Bakers starters during his Giants years it was very unusual that any of his starters had good back to back seasons. Dusty has never been blessed with a rotation as good as this but you have to expect some kind of drop off due to the insane workload he put on them this season.

The #5 guy is really the only question mark for the club this off-season in terms of starting pitching. In 2003, Shawn Estes was a bad idea that turned out historically bad last season. He was so bad that he dragged the Cubs' otherwise close-to-best-in-baseball starting pitching to tenth best.

The addition of a strong fifth starter – one who might even surpass Clement or Zambrano on the deprth charts – is something to consider if a special opportunity arises. Back in the 1992-93 off-season, the Atlanta Braves had established the strongest core of young starting pitching in baseball, with more prospects waiting in the wings. That didn't stop John Schuerholz from taking a flyer on Greg Maddux, who was about to turn 27 and, uh, came in handy, if I remember correctly. Is Javier Vazquez, who will turn 28 in July, that kind of opportunity? He might be. And the addition of someone like Vazquez would reduce a lot of the concerns about the overuse Wood and Prior coming to roost in 2004.

While Vazquez would be nice, some small buzz is being heard on the Cubs having an outside chance of getting Curt Schilling. Now i usually dont like to go the rumour mill route but this intrigues me in a couple ways.

1st off the deal does make sense. The Cubs can offer some of the best pitching prospects in the majors who will otherwise rot in our minors.

2nd its about time the Cubs finally invested in some real veteran leadership for the rotation. What Curt Schilling brings most of all is a mentor to Kerry Wood. A power pitcher with exceptional control. Maybe Schilling thru sitting next to him for an entire season can teach him the art of striking out batters without having to strike out every batter.

3rd Playoff experience. If the Cubs happen to make the playoffs again there is no one better to have in your rotation than Curt Schilling. If anything he takes some of that pressure off of Prior and Wood to keep winning. Look at the Yankees, Mike Mussina is their #1 #2 starter and he is what 0-3 with a 4.00 ERA in the playoffs? While their offense helps it has more to do with that the Yankees have 4 starters capable of shutting down other teams.

I know we dont have that confidence in Zamb or Clement yet.

More later........i think........

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

In Kerry we Trust

I get so sick of seeing those signs in Dusty we Trust. I trust Dusty about as far as i can throw him.

I trust Prior, Wood, Zamb, Sosa, AmRam, Borowski, and Lofton a hell of alot more.

Thats why its only fitting that Kerry Wood takes the mound and has a chance to put us in the the World Series. It all started with him, he was the 1st piece of the puzzle of the Cubs putting together a very strong rotation. He is the veteran, he is by most accounts still the staff Ace.

Kerry Wood is a big money pitcher. These are the types of games he has thrived on. When his arm was nearly falling off in 1998 he still pitched great. When he dueled Clemens he showed who was the best Texan in baseball. When we needed him against the Cardinals he stepped up and shut them down. When we have needed him in the playoffs he has pitched lights out. Now we need him in game 7 to put us in the World Series. This is not only the biggest game Kerry Wood has ever pitched in but its also gonna be the biggest game anyone on the Cubs has ever played in. Yes that even means you Kenny Lofton.

Tonight the Cubs make History, mark my words!

Learn from the past

How bad does it look now that Mark Prior went 116 pitches in a 12-2 win? Maybe if Prior was lifted at 80-90 pitches he would of had enough gas left in his tank to get thru the 8th and hand off to Joe Borowski.

We will never know.

Another thing Dusty Baker failed to learn from the past was Kyle Farnsworth. Anyone who has watched Cubs baseball since Farnsworth was brought up should know a couple things right away. Farnsworth is a mental head case incapable of pitching consistently and effectively in close and high pressure games.

Failure to understand the past and your doomed to repeat it.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Red Ivy

This is a tad late but some very cool comments came from this article by Jayson Stark about Cubs baseball in the post season.

"Now, we can always tell the players that follow us down the road that we played red-ivy baseball," said Cubs outfielder Doug Glanville, following the second-most lopsided postseason victory in Cubs history. "We can say, 'You know nothing about the playoffs, because you haven't played in front of red ivy.' "

Hehe, very catchy comment by Doug.

Once word gets out about the power of that red ivy, there's no telling what might happen next. Paul wears a red ivy leaf in his cap, and the Cubs score 12 runs in a postseason baseball game. Paul wears a red ivy leaf in his cap, and Sosa hits a home run that almost lands on the El tracks. Coincidence? We think not.

This is a franchise, remember, that went 95 years without winning a postseason series, had to battle a curse cast by some long-dead goat, and wasn't even allowed to turn on a light bulb in the ballpark until 15 years ago.

So now, if it turns out that the antidote to all those obstacles was a few red ivy leafs, who knows how the populace might react?

"I guess they'll probably have to keep more security around the park," Paul chuckled, "to keep out goats and ivy stealers."

To the power of the Red Ivy!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Cubs Win Big

Its always nice to win 12-3 in a playoff game. But i wanted to make a quick comment about Mark Prior after reading thru The Cub Reporters site.

I am absolutely on the side of what the hell was Dusty Baker thinking to let him go 116 pitches with a 10 run lead? This comes right after i give Dusty some props and makes me look like a fool.

On Sept 6th i posted on how hard Dusty Baker was riding Mark Prior after he abused him against Milwaukee. He had already thrown 100+ pitches thru 6 innings and had a 5-1 lead. Prior didnt come out of the game until the 7th when he had thrown 129 pitches and served up a 2 run HR.

So what with a 10 run lead Mark Prior gets a little break? Only gets 116 pitches? Come on now Dusty are you trying to destroy his arm?

I dont care if the reports on Mark Prior say he has perfect mechanics, he puts very little stress on his arm etc etc etc. Mark Prior is not a robot. Mark Prior is not Superman. Mark Prior doesnt have infinite stamina. Mark Prior is human. Mark Prior can be injured. Mark Prior can be abused. Mark Prior needs to be given a rest when the opportunity presents itself.

These are things that make Dusty Baker a poor game time manager. He is a great manager right up until the game starts. After that Dusty Baker is more of a non-factor than any manager in baseball. He very rarely if ever changes his game plan approach to the game. And more often than not Baker gets out managed in a baseball game when it counts. The classic example of that was wanting to pitch to Mike Lowell instead of Lenny Harris.

Yeah i know its the pitchers job to get out the people he faces but its the managers job to get the matchup he wants.

Cubs vs Marlins

Damn i really wanted to get this post up before the series started. I really wish i could comment more on the playoff games, but work has me tired usually and thoughts dont flow as easily.

In the Braves series i never fully expected the Cubs to beat them. Though as people have said all season, anything can happen if you can get Prior and Wood into the playoffs. And sure enough that anything happened.

People call the playoffs a crapshoot like Bobby Cox said about round 1. After playing 162 games and winning your division by 10+ games you should be able to close out any team in 3 out of 5 games. Your team has been doing it all season whats the diffrence in the playoffs?
The diffrence is which team wants it more. It was clear that the Braves didnt want it as bad, it was just another day at the park no big deal. And they came out flat and played like crap.

No knock against the Cubs, but that flat lousy playing Atlanta team still took us to 5 games as we played error free defense and pitched pretty damn good.

The Marlins series is a much diffrent animal. Just like the Cubs they have battled since virtually opening day to the last day of the season in a pennant/playoff race. Dusty and Jack took over 2 inept franchises and turned them around into playoff teams (yeah thats right i am actually gonna give Baker some credit). And they both have fought tooth and nail in close games all year which showed in Tuesdays game.

To me personally i considered I-rod the x-factor before this series started. Snubed or Ex-Cubs have a habit of taking it personal and screwing us every chance they get. Thome, Kent, Pudge, Castilla certainly did that this year.