Tagged: Carlos Marmol

Random Thoughts on the Cubs’s Bullpen, Pete Rose, and Steroids

As bad as Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol have been, the Cubs should start praying for rain in the seventh inning if they’re winning. 

Tom Gorzelanny, the Cubs’s trade deadline acquisition, makes his first start tonight against the Reds.  Can he close?

I find it rather interesting that Bud Selig is once again reconsidering his decision whether or not to reinstate Pete Rose.  I, for one, have always felt that Rose should be in the Hall of Fame based on his play.  Baseball should not let him hold a job in the game anymore.  I think the reason that this is coming up again is that baseball needs to pave the way for the steroids guys to get in the Hall of Fame.  Many of the greatest players of this generation may not get voted in because of steroids.  Some people may say how can you let them in and not let in Pete Rose.  If Pete Rose is allowed to be voted into the Hall of Fame, then the steroid guys may not seem so bad either. 

Speaking of the steroid list, should all the names be listed at once?  I think that they are being leaked one at a time to soften people’s reaction.  There seems to be less furor each time a name comes out.  It’s almost like people are like, “another player on steroids…whatever.”  Leaking the names on at a time is numbing people’s reaction to the accusations.  It’s a P.R. move, I think.


The Curse of Being a Fan

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, but I’ve just been totally consumed by the Lakers.  Since they clinched last Friday, I’ve been pretty much thinking and worrying day and night about how they’re going to win this title.  They have to win.  Well, they rewarded me tonight with their second best effort of the playoffs (the closeout of Denver was still more dominating).  Apparently, the Lakers are interested again, which is good for me because I can at least sleep good the next couple of nights.  I know it’s silly, but those of you that are obsessive about your teams will understand.  I think.  One not so humorous thing about tonight.  Well, it’s something I’m sure we’ll look back and laugh about.  Tonight is the eve of our fourth anniversary, the fruit anniversary.  My wife went out and got her hair done.  Our son was staying with my parents today, so I went to pick him up and take him home.  They live 40 miles from us, so I did not get home until the player introductions for the game.  My son was cute, because he knew Kobe right away (I’ve taught him well).  Well, when I came in and put my son down, I became consumed with the game and did not notice my wife’s hair or make a comment about it. (She looked beautiful, but then again she always does).  Finally, when the Lakers started to open it up in the second quarter, I noticed.  I apologized profusely.  My wife understood.  She blamed Kobe.  I am so sorry, honey.  I did bring home a dozen roses, however.  And I did plan a great outing on Saturday to celebrate.  It still doesn’t excuse it, though.  Why do we get so consumed by a game on TV played far away by people who don’t know us?  It’s the curse of being a fan.

The Lakers success has taken some of my attention away from the Cubs.  Right now, this may not be a bad thing.  Where do I begin?  Let’s recap the rain shortened series against the Braves.
The still suspended Carlos Zambrano misses the team flight to Atlanta on Monday.  Way to go, Carlos.  Lou said he gave him a talking to.  Big Z was supposed to pitch today, but that game was rained out.  He’ll go tomorrow in Cincinnati instead.  I have a bad feeling about that.
Milton Bradley got hurt again.  Yawn.  However, the Cubs just call him day to day again and won’t put him on the DL.  They can’t say when he’ll play, though.  Are they serious?  You know, I would not care if they just cut him and ate the two years remaining on his contract.  There is a silver lining to his injury.  It means Reed Johnson will get to play more.  The Cubs are better with Reed Johnson then they are with Milton.
With the injury to Ramirez and the injury of the week to Bradley and others, the Cubs are becoming a team of Triple A players.  Andres Blanco, Bobby Scales, Jake Fox.  These guys aren’t young, either.  Scales is 31, Fox is 27, Blanco is 25.  Micah Hoffpauir is 29.  I admit, I liked the Bobby Scales story, but if the Cubs are going to depend on these three guys for a long stretch of time, they are not winning the division.  To remain in the minors until your 29 or 30 tells me there are some fatal flaws to your game, otherwise they’d be up sooner.  The other teams will figure the flaw out and exploit it.
Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg turned in a tag team effort to blow Tuesday night’s game.  Poor Randy Wells had a no hitter into the seventh inning and left leading 5-0.  Marmol gives up 3 runs in the eighth and Gregg gives up two in the ninth to force a sure win into extra innings.  In the twelfth, Heilman provided the cherry on top by giving up the winning run.
The next night, the Cubs blew a 2-0 lead and had the game go into extra innings.  Fortunately, they won this game to stay one game over .500.
Now the Cubs start a big series with the Reds, who are a game ahead of them.  Now would be a good time to start a winning streak.  OK, Big Z, your the ace.  Go and pitch like one.

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.
Zambrano  4.22
Lilly           3.50
Dempster   4.48
Harden (DL) 4.74
Marshall      3.70
Wells          1.80
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?

Just when things are starting to look up…

The Cubs were in action today looking to keep their perfect May going.  Things are starting to look better.  Players are getting back into the fold after injuries.  Bats are heating up.  Power is coming from unlikely places.  The bullpen is actually holding onto late inning leads.  They were actually looking to win a four game series against a first place team.

Along with being a Cubs fans comes a sense of cautious optimism.  You never really want to get too high, because you know the other shoe will most certainly fall.  Being a Cubs fan is an emotional roller coaster.  Today was a perfect example of this.
Today began on a high note with the retiring of number 31 in honor of Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux.  
Tribune photo
by Scott Strazzante / May 3, 2009 

Congratulations to both Fergie and Mad Dog.  This honor couldn’t happen to two classier men.  What a great day it turned out to be for such an event!  Maddux’s flag is on the right field foul pole and Fergie’s is on the left field foul pole.

Fast forward to the fifth inning with the Cubs and Marlins tied at two.  Zambrano leads off and lays down a bunt.  He caught the defense off guard and he legged out a hit.  What a great weapon Zambrano is!  The crowd is going crazy.  


Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / May 3, 2009 

But wait.  Is that Zambrano limping?  Is that the trainer coming out of the Cubs dugout to go talk to the ace pitcher? 


Scott Strazzante,
Chicago Tribune / May 3, 2009

Apparantly, Zambrano strained a hamstring.  Initially, Zambrano wanted to remain in the game.  I think Piniella wanted to pull him out and err on the side of caution.  When Piniella went back in the dugout, Big Z signaled that he needed to come out.  Oh, boy.  See, the Cubs are finally getting their walking wounded back, bats are heating up, Zambrano legs out a bunt hit, and what happens?  We can’t get too high because our ace pitcher is probably headed to the DL.  See how it works?  And who did Lou have pinch run for Big Z?  Let’s see, who’s on the bench?  Joey Gathright.  Nah, too speedy.  How about Rich Harden?  Exactly.  Lou put in Rich Harden to pinch run.  Harden, a pitcher who the Cubs should thank their lucky stars isn’t already on the DL this year.  Let’s risk him getting hurt on the base baths.  Lose two starters in the same inning to base running injuries.  Yeah, our bench isn’t weak, right?  The inning continued with the Cubs loading the bases for Derrek Lee.

Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / May 3, 2009 

Derrek’s starting to heat up!  Lee smoked a grand slam to deep center giving the Cubs a 6-2 lead.  All was right with the world!

Until Carlos Marmol came in with the score 6-3 to drop the proverbial other shoe.  First batter he faces launches a homer to make it 6-4.  Then he walks the next batter.  Something isn’t right with Marmol.  Hopefully it’s only rust he needs to work out.  Well, he righted the ship and got out of the eighth inning.  


Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / May 3, 2009 

Gregg pitched the ninth to preserve a 6-4 Cubs win.  So many ups and downs.  One thing for sure, the Cubs are starting to play better.  They’re starting to hit.  The bullpen looked better in the last three games against Florida.  We’re ready for the Giants!

Photo credits:

A Riot at Wrigley

This was a game the Cubs needed to win.  Having already lost the opening game of a four game series with the first place Marlins due to their imploding bullpen, the Cubs found themselves five games behind the Cardinals.  This weekend, the Cardinals are padding their stats against the Nationals.  So when the Cubs fell behind 5-1 to the Marlins Friday, the prospect of digging a huge hole in the division for them loomed large.  

Rich Harden struggled.  He didn’t make it out of the fourth.  Harden’s low point was hitting a batter with the bases loaded to force in a run with two out in the fourth to make it 5-1.  Harden’s ERA has blown up to 5.11.  Not a good way to start May.  The Cubs added a run in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 5-2.  It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth.
With the bases loaded and two out, Ryan Theriot stepped to the plate.  The Riot promptly launched his first career grand slam to put the Cubs ahead 6-5.  It was great to hear Ron Santo going nuts on the radio.  For those of you who have never heard Ron Santo on WGN radio, you’re missing something.  Santo is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and he lets it all out, good and bad.
Velasquez/Chicago Tribune / May 1, 2009 
Yesterday was a great example why Ryan Theriot is my favorite Cub.  He always comes to play.  He’s dependable.  Sure, he may lack some baseball smarts on the base paths at times and he doesn’t have all the God given gifts other players have, but whatever he lacks he makes up with heart.

Velasquez/Chicago Tribune / May 1, 2009

Some Game Notes

The bullpen struggled with control again.  Marmol walked the first two hitter he faced.  He did pitch out of it in the eighth.  Kevin Gregg made it more interesting than it needed to be in the ninth, but he held on to the Cubs’ 8-6 win.

Everyone knows I criticize Neal Cotts a lot on this blog.  Today I have to give Cotts his props.  After the Cubs took the 6-5 lead, Neal Cotts was warming up in the pen. “Please, no!”  I said to my self.  Well, I actually used more colorful language than that, but you get the idea.  Cotts came into the game in the top of the seventh and promptly did what he seems to do best, the four pitch walk to the first hitter he faced.  On the radio, Ron groaned.  The Cubs quickly got Marmol warming up, but would he be any better?  They finally got some offense going and got the lead on my favorite player’s grand slam and now they were going to blow it!  Cotts then retired the next three batters, including two on strikeouts.  I almost drove off the road.  I have to say something I never thought I would.  Good job, Neal!

Some Cubs who had been previously struggling at the plate showed some signs of snapping out of their funks.  Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto, and Reed Johnson each had three hits apiece.  Keep it up.

Aramis Ramirez came in to pinch hit, so hopefully we’ll see him in the lineup today.

Today, it will be Ted Lilly vs. Anibal Sanchez in a 12:05 start at Wrigley.

Photo Credits:

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.

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.
Derrek Lee, C-
         Good defense.  Some timely hits, but still hitting only .189.  Time to move down in the 
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.
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.
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.
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.

What is it they say about April Showers?

Where to begin?  The Cubs’ weaknesses came to the forefront tonight in an extra inning loss to the Marlins.  Weak, inconsistent offense and a bullpen that may be the worst in the National League right now allow the Marlins to win 8-2 in 10 innings tonight at Wrigley.  The Cubs led this game 2-0 until the seventh thanks to back to back homers by Milton Bradley and Mike Fontenot in the fifth.  The Marlins, as they’ve done all year, chipped away with a run in the seventh and a run in the eighth to tie the score.  Carlos Marmol looked terrible again in allowing the tying run in the eighth.  It remained 2-2 until the top of the tenth when Aaron Heilman came in to pitch.  Heilman came into the game with a 0.82 ERA.  He had been the bright spot in the Cubs bullpen.  No one else in the Cubs bullpen had an ERA under 4.35, so Heilman was definitely a bright spot.  Well, maybe he wanted to fit in with the rest of his bullpen mates and bring that ERA up.  Six runs later, five of them earned, Heilman left with an ERA of 4.91 and a 8-2 Cubs loss.  The Cubs do not have a bullpen right now.  Every game it seems like someone different implodes.  Yesterday, it was Marmol.  Today, it was Heilman.  Who will it be tomorrow?  Larry Rothschild has his work cut out for him.