Tagged: Sean Marshall

Two Stinkin’ Runs?

A huge series against our biggest division rival and all we can muster is two stinkin’ runs?  No one to my knowledge as figured out a way to win a baseball game without scoring a run, so it really doesn’t matter how good your pitching is.  The Cubs wasted three very strong outings by Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Sean Marshall.  If you give up only eight runs over three games, you should expect to at least win one of them.  A maddening thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs over the past five years or so is that they are prone to long streaks when absolutely no one is hitting.  Sometimes one or two guys are slumping, but a couple of other guys will step up and pick up the slack.  With the Cubs, the whole team slumps together.  I did notice a few other things about the Cubs while watching this painful three game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.

1.  Mike Fontenot is not an everyday player.  One thing about Chicago fans is that they tend to elevate a moderately OK player to Hall of Fame status is they have a good weekend.  I’m not saying that anyone has ever suggested that Mike Fontenot is a Hall of Famer, that would be silly.  However, last year when he’s get a pinch hit home run or would have an occasional 3-4 game, a lot of people would rave about him and say he should play more.  Mike Fontenot is hitting below .200 right now.  While he is not that bad, I am saying that I would not expect Fontenot to hit anything over .250 if he plays every day.  Sure, he’ll end up with 15 or so homers because he does have some pop in his bat, but that pop should be reserved for the bench.  He’s an above average utility/bench player.  He’s not an everyday player.  I know he has to play third because Ramirez is out.  Getting rid of both DeRosa and Ronny Cedeno looks real bad about now.
2.  The Cubs still struggle against teams that have all right handed starters.  The Dodgers had an all right handed staff and that doomed the Cubs in last seasons postseason.  This year, the Cardinals have an entire right handed starting staff, and the Cubs are now 3-6 against them this year.  The Cubs thought they addressed the problem of lack of left handed power by signing Milton Bradley and having Fontenot play every day.  Yeah, that’s really not working out as they planned right now.  Milton Bradley is hitting .184 with 4 homers and 9 RBIs.  Raul Ibanez is hitting .349 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs.  Bobby Abreu is hitting .300 with a .400 on base percentage.  Not to beat a dead horse, but the Cubs could have had either of these two instead of Bradley.  Makes me sad.
3.  I’m now down 3-6 in my wager with my father.  I’m getting a little worried.  The Cardinals have to win only three more games against the Cubs for my father to have won the wager.  I’m getting used to wearing red by wearing my Blackhawks t-shirt.

Vintage Gregg

Randy Wells has had a pretty remarkable start to his career as a starter.  In two starts this year, he has pitched 11 shutout innings.  He actually has pitched 16 and a third shutout innings if you go back to his relief appearances last year.

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                                      Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

Despite his success, he has no record this year.  In both of his starts, he left the game with the lead only to see the bullpen lose that lead.  Yesterday, the Cubs led 4-0 going to the top of the ninth.  One would figure Wells would get his first big league win.  One would figure that.  Enter Kevin Gregg.

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                               Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

Let’s recap yesterday’s ninth inning.  For those of you not familiar with the work of Kevin Gregg, yesterday was “Vintage Gregg”.

Lance Berkman – Home run to right center field.
Carlos Lee – Home run to left field.
Miguel Tejada – Single to left.
    Pitching coach Larry Rothschild comes out to have a “chat”.
Hunter Pence – Single to center that was deflected off of Gregg.
Geoff Blum is hit by a pitch.

Five batters, four hits, one hit batter.  Cubs lead is cut to 4-2.  Bases loaded.  None out.  Gregg’s looking better each outing.

Gregg exits stage left.  Aaron Heilman to the rescue!

Ivan Rodriguez singles to left scoring Tejada and Pence to tie the game.  Two on and no out.  What a game!

Heilman gets Michaels and Matsui both the fly out to Fukudome.  What, is Aaron Heilman auditioning for the role of a relief pitcher?
Heilman walks Michael Bourn to load the bases.  Maybe not.

Heilman exits for Sean Marshall who gets Lance Berkman to ground out with the bases loaded.  The Cubs escape complete disaster.

In the ninth, Soriano bails out the Cubs with an RBI single scoring Bobby Scales with the game winning run.

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                              Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

And there was much rejoicing!

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      Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

I think that Alfonso Soriano needs to take Kevin Gregg out to dinner at Gibson’s just to thank him.  Hey, if Gregg wasn’t the worst closer in the National League, Soriano wouldn’t have all these chances to be the ninth inning hero.

The Cubs will have a decision to make when Carlos Zambrano comes off the DL and goes back into the rotation.  I think that they should consider keeping Randy Wells in the rotation as the fifth starter and move Sean Marshall to the bullpen.  Marshall’s had success out of the pen before.  He would give the Cubs another lefty arm out of the pen.  Marshall could also act as a long reliever on those days when Rich Harden can only pitch three innings or when Carlos Zambrano has to leave in the second inning because he decided to slide head first into first base or something.  Just something to think about.

The good news is the Cubs have won five in a row!  Today, Rich Harden will try to bring hom
e a series shortened sweep of the Astros.  I’m thinking that Alfonso Soriano may be secretly hoping that Kevin Gregg gets to pitch the ninth inning again.

Photo credit:

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.
         

Limping Home

Yesterday, the Cubs played one of their most lackluster games of the year.  They could not solve Doug Davis, managing just two hits in a 10-0 loss to the Arizona D-Backs.  The Cubs dropped the midweek series two games to one and ended their most recent road trip at two wins and four losses.  Theriot and Miles were the only Cubs to record hits.

Game Notes

Derrek Lee returned to the Cubs lineup.  Lee went 0-3 with a walk.  He’s now hitting .200.  Lou had him hitting cleanup.

Carlos Marmol also returned to action yesterday.  Marmol came in during the five run seventh when Arizona put the game away.  Marmol faced five hitters and walked four of them, one intentionally.  The one batter he did retire sacrificed runners to second and third.  Marmol looked rusty, not able to find the strikezone.  Ron Santo, on WGN radio, said he expected Marmol to be rusty because of his layoff.  We all hope he gets going again.  He is the key to the Cubs bullpen this year.

Im worried about Geovany Soto.  Not only is he not hitting, as evidenced by his .111 batting average, but his defense has been lacking.  When was the last time Soto threw out a would be base stealer?  Arizona swiped two more bases on Geo.  Teams have thirteen stolen bases against Soto, while only being caught three times.  He also had a passed ball yesterday as well.  A sophomore slump?  Is his shoulder still not right?  Let’s hope he can get it going.

Aramis Ramirez was said to have gone for an MRI today on his left calf.  If he should be sent to the DL, then the Cubs will call up 31 year old Bobby Scales from Iowa to replace him.

Next up for the Cubs, a big four game weekend series at Wrigley vs. the tough, 13-8 Florida Marlins.  The Marlins are 8-4 on the road this year.  Tonight, it will be Sean Marshall vs. Chris Volstad.  The Cubs have several players who have hit Volstad well, including Mike Fontenot (.600), Reed Johnson (.667), and Derrek Lee (.400).