Tagged: Angel Guzman

Pitching In

It’s really good to see the improvement in the Cubs pitching as a whole.  Including the 7-0 win today against the Dodgers, the Cubs have allowed only six runs in their last five games.  In fact,  going back 19 games to May 10th, the Cubs have only allowed more than three runs in a game four times.  If you hold a team to three or fewer runs, you should win.

Let’s look at the Cubs pitchers’ ERAs.
Starters
Zambrano  4.22
Lilly           3.50
Dempster   4.48
Harden (DL) 4.74
Marshall      3.70
Wells          1.80
Relievers
Guzman      2.82
Marmol        3.27
Heilman       4.98
Gregg          4.87
Patton         6.91
Ascanio       3.86
The ERAs are definitely going down.  Carlos Marmol and Angel Guzman have been really dependable out of the pen.  Sending Neal Cotts and his 7.36 ERA to Iowa has certainly helped the makeup of this pen.
While the pitching is getting back on track, it has been the offense that has disappeared.  Sure, there have been games like today when the Cubs score seven runs, but today’s outburst has been an aberration as of late.  The Cubs have been struggling to score runs.  I’m not worried as much about the offense.  The Cubs will hit.
A four game series win over the Dodgers would be a huge confidence builder for the Cubs as they head into June.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that however erratic the Cubs have been in April and May, they are only 3.5 games out of first place.  No worries, right?

Strange Brew

Right after school yesterday, my friend Packer Pete and I headed straight up I-94 to Milwaukee to catch the Cubs vs. the Brewers.  This is certainly a blossoming rivalry now that both teams are among the better teams in baseball.  Since the Brewers moved to the NL in the 1990’s, these games were just another set of games on the schedule.  After the Cubs near World Series appearance in 2003, tickets to Wrigley Field became harder and harder to get.  So many Cub fans who could not get tickets to Wrigley, started buying up the tickets to Miller Park.  This started the rivalry.  The Brewers were not good at this time, but their fans began to resent the F.I.B.S. that started overrunning their stadium whenever the Cubs came to town.  What’s a F.I.B.?  Well, the “I” stands for Illinois.  The “F” and the “B” stand for two words I can’t print here because kids may be reading this.  Use your imagination.  Thus, the Cubs/Brewers rivalry was based more on Wisconsinites’s disdain for people from Illinois taking over their city and stadium than it was on baseball.  That has changed in the past three years.  The Cubs and Brewers are now rivals in the standings and these games have taken on a real spirited atmosphere.  I always saw the Cubs/Cardinals as a friendly rivalry.  The Cardinal fans knew their team was superior to the Cubs and the Cub fans were just happy to be out at the game and maybe see their Cubbies embarrass the Cardinals a bit.  After the game, everyone would go out together.  Yeah, I don’t see that happening with the Cubs and Brewers.  This rivalry is a lot more jaded.

So it was with this backdrop that we headed up to Miller.  I was sporting my Cubbie gear and Pete was sporting his Brewer gear.  
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He also brought the infamous goat dressed up in a Brewer uniform.  He said he brought it to “curse” the Cubs.  I’ve never heard that before.
DSC04541.jpgSee what Cub fans have to put up with?  
Going into this game, I expected the Cubs to lose.  They were starting Randy Wells, a pitcher they called up from Iowa to replace Zambrano.  Wells made his first start in the majors last night.  He actually pitched well.  He went five scoreless innings.  Sure, he got into a few scrapes, but he managed to induce a double play or something in order to get out of it.  Heck, he pitched better than some of our regular starters have this year.   When Piniella took him out after five and put Guzman in to pitch in the sixth with the Cubs leading 2-0, I told Pete that the Brewers have an excellent chance of winning this game.  Guzman gave up a solo homer to JJ Hardy.  Heilman came in to pitch the eighth.  Perhaps I had a premonition of pending poopiness about to occur in the game, but I decided to go to the restroom and then get something to drink. Yeah, I didn’t actually see the four pitch walk and the two run bomb hit by Ryan Braun.  I could just hear the explosion of the Brewer fans and the ensuing fireworks that rocked Miller Park.  I didn’t need to see this.  I’ve been seeing it all year.  Stupid bullpen.  The scoreboard after the game told the tale.

DSC04567.jpgI do have “Hells Bells” by AC/DC stuck in my head as the Brewers continue the Trevor Hoffman tradition of blasting this entire song when he comes into the game.  

The Brewer fans can gloat.  For one day, at least.
DSC04564.jpgThe goat had nothing to do with it.
Boy, things just keep getting worse for the Cubs.  In the third inning, Aramis Ramirez dove along the third base line after a ball hit by Ryan Braun and apparently injured himself.  From where we were sitting on the first base upper deck side, we couldn’t tell what exactly happened to Ramirez.  Did he get hit in the face with the ball?  Did he land awkwardly on his wrist?  We only saw Theriot sprint up to him and the trainer and Piniella sprint out of the dugout.  Ramirez stayed down for a long time.  They finally got him up and walked him straight into the clubhouse.  Not good.  I’ve always said that Ramirez is the one guy the Cubs could not afford to lose for any lengthy amount of time.  After they got him in the clubhouse, I called my wife to ask her what she saw on T.V.  She said it looked like a shoulder injury.  Sure enough, the news from the Cubs is that Aramis Ramirez separated his left shoulder and will get an MRI today.  He was placed on the DL and will be out 4-6 weeks, at minimum.  Ramirez suffered a similar injury back in 2000 with the Pirates.  He missed six weeks.
I did hear that the Cubs have traded Joey Gathright to the Orioles for Ryan Freel.  Freel will be a much needed utility player for the Cubs.
I enjoy Miller Park.  Here are some more pictures from yesterday’s game.
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The hot dog eventually won.
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It’s times like these that test the mettle of a team.  We’re going to find out a lot about the 2009 Cubs in the next six weeks or so.

Did the Cubs make the April grade?

April has come to an end.  Twenty-one games are in the books.  Being a teacher, I’m used to grading my students’ performance.  I’m going to take this opportunity to grade the Cubs players’ April performance.

Outfielders
Alfonso Soriano, B
        He’s personally won at least two games this year.  His batting average has started to
        dip.  I’s now .284.
Reed Johnson, C+
        Outfield play has saved Cubs on a number of occasions.  Great attitude and seems to
        be a great team guy.  He is hitting only .216, though.
Kosuke Fukudome, A
        Solid start to season with his .338 average.  He leads team with 15 RBI.  We’ve seen
        this before, however.  Can he extent the hot hitting after the All-Star Break?
Milton Bradley, F
        Should be an incomplete, as he hasn’t played much.  His attitude and distractions
        earn him an F.
Joey Gathright, INCOMPLETE
        One hit in nine at bats.  The jury is still out.
Micah Hoffpauir, B-
        .303, two homers, nine RBIs.  Sloppy defense at times.
Infielders
Derrek Lee, C-
         Good defense.  Some timely hits, but still hitting only .189.  Time to move down in the 
         order.
Aramis Ramirez, B+
         When he’s in there, he’s the Cubs most dangerous hitter.  .358 with 14 RBIs.  Has
         battled injury issues thus far.  The Cubs CANNOT afford to lose him for any extended
         length of time.
Ryan Theriot, B+
         Hitting .317.  Plays hard and is dependable.  Base running gaffes are a weakness.
Mike Fontenot, B-
         Hitting only .232, but has four homers and ten RBIs.  A good team guy.  His defense is
         better this year.
Aaron Miles, C+
         Cubs are getting what they should have expected from this light hitting infielder.
Catchers
Geovany Soto, F
         This saddens me.  Slow start, hitting .109 with only five hits on the season.  Is he
         still hurt?  Can’t throw out any base stealers.  A Cubs Rookie of the Year off to a slow              
         start the following year.  Anyone remember Jerome Walton?
Koyie Hill, B
         A solid backup.
Starters
Carlos Zambrano, C+
         Can be inconsistent.  Still will let his emotions take over at times.  4.64 ERA.
         36 hits allowed in 33 innings along with 13 walks.
Ryan Dempster, C
         29 hits allowed in 30 innings along with 14 walks.  5.40 ERA.
Ted Lilly, C+
         2-2 with a 3.80 ERA.
Rich Harden, B
         If you take out the awful game I saw him pitch against Colorado, he’s probably been the 
         best of this bunch so far.  2-1, 3.86 ERA.
Sean Marshall, B-
         3.32 ERA is best among the starters.  He keeps the Cubs in the game.
Bullpen
Aaron Heilman, C+
         I was actually ready to give him an A- before todays game because of his 0.82 ERA.
         I’m so mad after tonight, I’ve downgraded him.
Angel Guzman, C-
         His 3.97 ERA now actually looks good in this bullpen.  Sad.
Kevin Gregg, F
         11 hits in 9.2 innings pitched and a 5.59 ERA is not going to get it done as a closer.
Davis Patton, F
         Threw a home run derby pitch to Pujols with the bases loaded.  Has a 9.35 ERA.
Carlos Marmol, C+
          Mr. Reliable started out strong.  Even he has struggled of late, even before his injury.
          6.00 ERA.
Neal Cotts, F
         Only because there isn’t a grade lower than F.
Jeff Samardzija, F
        You see Jeff Samardzija, I see Kyle Farnsworth.  6.75 ERA.
The Overall Grade = C
The Cubs finish April at 10-11.  They are a very average team right now with a lousy bullpen.  
They’ve scored 97 runs and given up 104.  They are 4-5 at home and 6-6 on the road.  The Cubs face a challenge right now.  They trail St. Louis by five games right now.  St. Louis has three more games against the woeful Washington Nationals this weekend.  The Cubs have three more games against the first place Marlins.  The Cubs don’t want to start digging themselves too deep of a hole.  There’s an old baseball adage that says while you can’t win a pennant in April, you can lose a pennant in April.  Thank God it’s May.