Tagged: Neal Cotts

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?
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A Throw Away Game

What was going on in Lou Piniella’s mind?

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AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Gathright, CF
Miles, SS
Fukudome, RF
Lee, 1B
Hoffpauir, LF
Fontenot, 3B
Scales, 2B
Hill, C
Marshall, P
This was the Cubs starting lineup today.  What?  And, by the way, they were facing Tim Lincecum, perhaps the best pitcher in the National League.  I guess one could figure Lou wanted a lot of lefties in the lineup against Lincecum.  If that were the case, why not play Milton Bradley?  He was supposed to solve the Cubs need for a left handed power bat.  This would have been the perfect situation to take advantage of him.  Bradley certainly didn’t need a day off.  He’s been out all year.  Lou probably figured he needed to give some starters some time off.  Sure, players need a day off here and there, but half the starters at the same time?  Against the reigning NL Cy Young winner?  Lou had to figure he wasn’t going to win this game with this lineup.  Maybe that was the idea.  It almost seems like Lou knew his team couldn’t beat Lincecum (Lincecum was 2-0 against the Cubs last year), so he sent the bench out there to create an excuse.  Oh, we lost because we had the bench out there.  Maybe Lou didn’t want to embarrass Soriano, Bradley, Ramirez, & Soto out there against Lincecum.  I don’t know.  It was certainly a curious lineup.  Soto was starting to look like he was coming out of his slump.  Why sit him now?  As a fan, I feel the Cubs just gave a game away.  The Cubs did just that, losing 6-2 to the Giants.  Their four game winning streak is now over.
What’s going on with Aramis Ramirez?  He’s not on the DL, but he’s not playing, either.
Congratulations to Bobby Scales on getting his first major league hit!
Jeff Samardzija does not belong in the major leagues right now.  Other teams have him figured out.  He can throw 100 miles and hour, or whatever, but so can Kyle Farnsworth.  Samardzija reminds me of Farnsworth.  It’s really funny how people have just latched on to this guy.  You already see people with Samardzija T-shirts and jerseys.  I don’t get it.  What would possess someone to wear something like that.  He hasn’t done anything yet, except get pummelled out there.  I haven’t seen anyone wearing a Neal Cotts T-shirt or jersey.  Why Samardzija and not Cotts?  They both get about the same results out there?  My wife and I think we’ve figured it out.  It’s solely because Samardzija went to Notre Dame.  It’s the Notre Dame bias that exists out here in Chicagoland.  People around here lose their minds over that Indiana university.  If Samardzija went to almost any other college no one would pay attention to him.  The fact that he played football for Notre Dame makes him an icon in some peoples eyes.  
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                                  AP Photo/Joe Raymond

I just see a pitcher who looks lost out there.  Some of it is not his fault.  The Cubs have been messing with him pretty good.  First he’s going to be a starter, then he was put in the pen, then he’s sent to Iowa to work on being a starter, and now he’s back in the majors and thrown back into a sub par bullpen.  His head is probably spinning.
Next up is Houston for two, then on to Milwaukee.
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.
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                            Phil
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.

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Phil
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.

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.
         

The Cubs/Cardinals Wager Is Set

My father and I have finally agreed to a wager!  It was a long, drawn out summit meeting today, but we have finally agreed to the terms of our Cubs vs. Cardinals wager.  I wagered my father that the Cubs would have a better head to head record against the Cardinals this year.  The Cubs and Cardinals play each other 16 times, so 9 wins by either team will win the bet for one of us.  If each team wins 8 games, then it is a wash.  So far, the Cubs lead 2-1 with the next round of three games coming this weekend.  The terms of the wager are as follows.  If the Cubs win 9 or more games, then I win and my father will wear a Chicago Cubs replica road jersey in front of Wrigley Field and pose for a photograph to appear on this blog.  If the Cardinals win 9 or more games, then I will wear a Cardinals T-shirt or jersey and hat in front of Wrigley Field and pose for a photograph to appear on this blog.  There was much negotiating in coming up with these terms.  Originally, I wanted to have my father wear a Cubs floppy hat.  He completely refused.  We finally settled on the Cubs road jersey, because there is no Cubs logo on it.  It only says “Chicago” across the chest.  I accepted this.  My father also requested he wear a Cardinals t-shirt under the jersey, so the jersey would never have to touch his skin.  I agreed to this as well.  This concession on my part reminded me of a bet I made with my Packer fan friend at the school we teach at.  I bet him once the Bears would finish ahead of the Packers and when they did, he had to wear a Brian Urlacher jersey all day at school.  Under the jersey, he wore a Packers turtleneck so he wouldn’t get any Bears cooties from the jersey.  The funny thing about this was he didn’t realize it was yearbook pictures the day he wore the jersey.  He had to have his yearbook picture taken wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey.  So, the wager with my father is on!  Go Cubbies!

The only place the Cubbies went tonight was the loss column as Johnny Cueto and the Reds shut them out 3-0.  Ted Lilly did not pitch too bad, but he made two costly errors.  Milton Bradley made his long awaited return to the lineup and contributed an 0-4 night.  I can’t single him out.  Derrek Lee, Soriano, Fukudome, and Ramirez were the only Cubs to get any hits.  None in the clutch, either, as the Cubs went 0-4 with runners in scoring position while leaving 7 men on base.  I say tip your cap to Cueto and let’s go get Harang tomorrow in the rubber game.
Just in time for the weekend series with the Cardinals, the Cubs are going to call up pitcher Jeff Samardzija from Triple A Iowa on Thursday.  From what I read on Cubs.com, the plan is to use Samardzija in the bullpen to “bridge the gap” to Marmol and Gregg.  Luis Vizcaino will reportedly be the odd man out.  I think it should be Neal Cotts, but because he’s the only lefty in the pen right now he stays.

Cubs Win!

Tonight the Cubs used productive fifth and sixth innings to topple the Reds 7-2 in a showdown for first place.  The win pushes the Cubs to a game and a half over the Reds.  Of course, the Cardinals won so the Cubs are still tied with them atop the division.  All in all it was a good win for the Cubbies.  Rich Harden went six strong innings, striking out eight.  Micah Hoffpauir continues to produce when given the chance.  Hoffpauir hit a homer and delivered a sacrifice fly.  Even though Hoffpauir did not make it to the majors until last season when he was twenty-eight, I believe that he will be a valuable member of this team as the season rolls on.  He always seems to deliver when given the chance.  Aramis Ramirez was the other hitting star with his three RBIs.

As I was watching the seventh inning of the game tonight with the Cubs up 7-2, WGN showed the Cubs bullpen and Neal Cotts was warming up.  I threw my hands up in frustration, nearly spilling my beverage.  The only thing that could stand in the way of a Cubs victory tonight was…Neal Cotts!  I’m sure every team has at least one reliever who makes you want to turn the channel when you see them warming up.  When you see this reliever, you just know something bad is about to happen.  So, I turn the channel and start watching the Dodgers-Astros game on MLB Extra Innings.  After some time, I turn the Cub game on and it is in the top of the eighth, there are two men on and Carlos Marmol has just come into the game.  How did the two men get on base?  Well, Neal Cotts, of course.  Right now, the only way I want to see Neal Cotts in a game is if the Cubs are up by double digits or if they’re losing by ten runs in the second inning and you need someone to come in just to take one for the team.  When Neal Cotts comes into the game at Wrigley, they should play that wobbly trombone music from the Brady Bunch they played when Cousin Oliver kept causing bad things to happen and he thought he was a jinx.  They could play that, or just play a sound clip of Ron Santo grunting.  When Neal Cotts comes into the game, something bad is going to happen.  Does every team have one of these pitchers?  I just don’t understand it.  He was so good for the White Sox in 2005.  It’s not fair to Carlos Marmol that his role on the team has become cleaning up Neal Cotts’s mess.
Speaking of the Cardinals, I’m still working on that wager with my father.  I will see him tomorrow and I WILL have a wager agreed to.  We must because this weekend is round two of Cardinals-Cubs.

A Great Time to be a Fan!

This is such a great time for me to be a sports fan!  My Blackhawks are up 2-0 in their series against the Flames, my Lakers start their road back to finals tomorrow, Jimmie Johnson is creeping closer to the Nascar points lead, and my Cubbies just took care of the Cardinals for the second straight day with their dramatic 11th inning win today!  Aramis Ramirez got the job done today with a two run blast with two out in the bottom of the 11th.  The Cubs are developing a penchant for the two out rallies this year.  Let’s hope they keep it up.

A lot of positives in today’s game.  Kevin Gregg going two perfect innings.  Hopefully, his knee is feeling better.  He looked dominant today, as a top notch closer should.  Marmol cleaned up the mess left by Neal Cotts in the seventh.  Man, Cotts has been terrible.  This is a concern because he is their only lefty reliever.  I think the White Sox caught lightning in a bottle with him in 2005.  Another positive was that Derrek Lee actually came through in the clutch today, delivering a two run double in the fifth.  Aaron Miles also stung his former team for an RBI single.
I know my father has said he will not agree to the wager and wear the floppy hat when the Cubs win the season series with the Cardinals.  I wish he would agree to it.  I think a lot of people would like to see this wager agreed to.  Please comment if you would like to see out wager agreed to.  If the Cardinals win the season series, I will wear Cardinals gear and post my picture on this blog.  If the Cubs win, then my father has to wear a Cubs floppy hat and have his picture taken.  I don’t think it’s too bad of a wager.  I could ask that he wears oversized Harry Caray glasses for a day.