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   1. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: May 11, 2009 at 06:09 PM (#3174481)
I'll give it a shot, even though I've been the most vocally negative fan of the Cubs this season.

- The Cubs, despite suffering more injuries to key players than even the Prior/Wood era, are still above .500. They haven't fielded their opening day roster since the the first week of the season.
- Soriano, though cooled off, has been a surprisingly consistent hitter for the team. He's taking more pitches, too. He'll never be the most patient guy at the dish, but he's given the Cubs about all they could hope from him at the plate.
- Fukudome is still hitting. He's been quiet, but he's still walking and still hitting enough to justify hitting third.
- Bradley looks to be picking it up, and is back to utilizing his uncanny eye for pitches.
- Zambrano should be back soon.
- Lilly's been excellent.
- Marshall's been a good fifth starter.
- Dempster has had two good outings in a row. The two homers during his last inning should be blamed on the pen being so shitty that Dempster had to go out there on fumes.
- Marmol, despite his wildness, has still be effective.
- Hoffpauir is hitting better than Lee.
- Angel Guzman has quietly put things together the last couple of weeks.

Still plenty to ##### about and I expect things to be a struggle in the weeks and months to come. But this division doesn't have a world class team that is going to run away from the Cubs if the Cubs can keep playing decent-good baseball.
   2. Cabbage Posted: May 11, 2009 at 06:30 PM (#3174510)
How about them Blackhawks!
   3. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 11, 2009 at 07:00 PM (#3174561)
How about them Blackhawks!

Indeed. I was more forgiving of the Cubs when the Bulls were still around and the Cutler trade was fresh in my mind. Now the sports distractions are limited, and I find myself thinking about the Cubs more. On the surface, there's still lots of reasons for hope (most of which are covered in Walks' post), but I think there are deeper problems and I haven't seen enough this year to make me think they'll overcome them (defined as winning the WS; I don't think another division title/first round exit is good enough this season).
   4. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 11, 2009 at 07:17 PM (#3174593)
I told you guys Guzman was good.
   5. Weeks T. Olive Posted: May 11, 2009 at 07:24 PM (#3174601)
When you consider all that's gone wrong for the Cubs, that they're only 2.5 games behind the Cards and 0.5 games behind the Brewers is reason enough to be optimistic, I think.

Long term, the only things I see to worry about are Ramirez and the pen (which I think will work itself out to be adequate sooner rather than later).
   6. Walt Davis Posted: May 11, 2009 at 07:59 PM (#3174657)
A bright spot is Scales is hitting so far and while we can't expect him to keep hitting that well, it does raise the possibility that when Freel is healthy, Miles will be gone. (Looking at Scales' AAA numbers, it's hard to believe he's never even gotten a cup of coffee before. Not saying he'd have been more than a bench/AAAA player, but a career AAA line of 290/377/455 for an IF should get you some ML time.

Anyway, as others have said, the main bright spot is they've had lots of problems but are still 17-14. Hoffpauir's been a savior, Theriot's showing a little power and Hill's still doing a nice job. Marshall's been great for a 5th starter. And the bullpen ... ummm ... well ... they're still striking out lots of guys! :-)

At best, it's gonna be a win ugly kinda season. But, y'know, win ugly teams have done surprisingly well in the playoffs in recent years. So if we can squeak over that line ...
   7. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: May 12, 2009 at 03:25 PM (#3175780)
While I won't make excuses for the team, I will also say it's difficult for us, as fans, to watch this without getting antsy. We were (knowingly) spoiled by a damn near magical 2008 season packed with career highs, numerous comeback wins, and few injuries. It was likely even with a healthy roster that this Cubs team couldn't quite match what last year's squad did during the regular season.
   8. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 12, 2009 at 04:19 PM (#3175870)
Noise is being made that Marshall will be banished to the pen once Zambrano returns. I understand Lou realizing Cotts isn't the left answer in the pen, but Marshall has a 112 ERA+ and a 2-1 K/BB ration. I'm hardly thinking he belongs in the bullpen.

I cannot believe the bullpen is the mess it is - I honestly thought it would be a season-long strength, as we had a lot of good arms this spring, and even with the expected Cotts implosion, I thought we'd easily go 3 or 4 guys deep... so much so that even Lou wouldn't need to burn out Marmol this year.
   9. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: May 12, 2009 at 05:03 PM (#3175927)
The problem is Patton's spring was a terribly inaccurate indication of how he'd fare in the bigs. Kevin Gregg has been better lately, but he hardly generates much confidence at this point. BPJ was really disappointing during his brief call up. These three things have made for a really shaky pen.

Perhaps I'm just optimistic, but I can't see the pen being this awful all year. Guzman has looked much better. Gregg, believe it or not, has been better. Marmol, though a bit more dramatic this season, has still come through more times than not. Patton will probably stick around, if for no other reason than to come in and mop things up. Cotts is truly awful and you have to believe that if this continues, Hendry will be gunning for a lefty before the trade deadline.

I'm not a huge believer in the importance of roles, but one of the big problems with the Cubs pen right now is that there aren't a lot of defined roles. No one's performed well enough to be dubbed the "_____ guy." You have Gregg closing, Marmol setting up, but it's a crap shoot before that.
   10. Meatwad Posted: May 12, 2009 at 06:05 PM (#3176041)
ascinco up to the bigs
   11. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 12, 2009 at 07:58 PM (#3176250)
I'm assuming he's coming up for Fox, and they buried Fox's arm under the bullpen bench.
   12. Weeks T. Olive Posted: May 12, 2009 at 08:04 PM (#3176260)
Yeah - I think they actually called him up before Sunday's game (not sure if he was actually at the park or not, though). I know Fox was placed on the DL prior to Sunday's game.
   13. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 12, 2009 at 08:19 PM (#3176283)
The added bonus to moving Marshall to the pen is that we're helping to kill his trade value, so we can't trade him at the deadline for Peavy.
   14. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 13, 2009 at 11:47 AM (#3177329)
After 102 ABs, Jake Fox is hitting .402/.483/.941 in Iowa. That's 14 home runs with a .400 batting average. At what point do we start to take him seriously?
   15. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 13, 2009 at 01:20 PM (#3177381)
After 102 ABs, Jake Fox is hitting .402/.483/.941 in Iowa. That's 14 home runs with a .400 batting average. At what point do we start to take him seriously?


When he can play a position beyond the one Hoffpauir should be playing instead of Lee.

Besides, what's he complaining about... Hoff's 29. Scales is 31. Fox is only, what, 26? He's just a pup in Cub farmhand years.
   16. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 13, 2009 at 02:31 PM (#3177473)
I wonder how effective a 1b platoon of Fox and Hoffpauir would be.

If Scales can back up all of the MI, then Miles is useless (should I say, even more useless) and a bat like Fox on the bench would be interesting (perhaps this is more likely for a playoff roster, if we're lucky enough to get there).

Bradley is definitely heating up. That was quite the bomb last night. Did anyone else see him cup his ear to the crowd so he could hear the cheers? Good for him, taking the crowd to task for all the booing.
   17. Bunny Vincennes Posted: May 13, 2009 at 02:42 PM (#3177491)
We were very happy for Bobby Scales last night. Good for him. He has to be having a blast right now. Pitchers will adjust to him, but I hope he enjoys it while it lasts.
   18. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: May 13, 2009 at 07:02 PM (#3178002)
The Cards have hit a bit of a rough patch. They lost the series in Cincy this past weekend, and probably would've been swept if Jerry Hairston knew how to bunt. Ryan Ludwick was placed on the DL this morning. St. Louis usually deals with adversity pretty well, but these things should help the Cubs from falling too far back in the race.
   19. Adam M Posted: May 13, 2009 at 07:14 PM (#3178029)
This is as good a place to ask as any: how serious a prospect is Darwin Barney?

There was an article about him in the local rag, and he said he was trying to change his approach at the plate to see more pitches and draw more walks. My impression of him in college was that he was a great glove, but that he didn't hit well enough to have a shot at the majors.

He also said that the focus on walks was something the Cubs encouraged as a organization. It sounds like good things are happening at the minor league level.
   20. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:27 PM (#3178375)
He also said that the focus on walks was something the Cubs encouraged as a organization. It sounds like good things are happening at the minor league level.

I don't know anything about him, sorry. But hearing this makes me happy.
   21. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:38 PM (#3178387)
Link

IIRC, the Cubs viewed him as a utility player at best heading into the season, but his performance this year may have altered their view somewhat.
   22. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:41 PM (#3178393)
I didn't realize it until I saw the Tribune story today, but Bradley's appeal decision *still* hasn't been announced. They expect it today, but his hearing was a week ago (not to mention he appealed the suspension almost a month ago). That's ridiculous. And not surprisingly, Dempster didn't get fined or anything for his pitch that "hit" Braun.

SSR, I'll edit your post so the link works...
   23. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:44 PM (#3178397)
Sounds a lot like Theriot.
   24. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:44 PM (#3178398)
That is, Theriot plus defense.
   25. Bunny Vincennes Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:49 PM (#3178403)
Was it just me or did Theriot have a historically bad defensive series in Milwaukee last weekend? Saturday in particular.
   26. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 13, 2009 at 09:59 PM (#3178415)
Jack:

Please. Theriot is not a real shortstop. He looks the part but simply does not have the range. He's Jeter Lite.

Craig Counsell is old as dirt and a better SS.

I remain surprised Lou accepts this situation. But being smart if he doesn't have an option toughs it out.

Subpar defender, poor baserunner. If his OBP ain't .360 plus this is a bad player.

Just my three cents
   27. Bunny Vincennes Posted: May 13, 2009 at 10:02 PM (#3178417)
Counsell can still play SS. I wouldn't want him out there every day but he does more than fake it. I marvel at his odd career at times.
   28. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 13, 2009 at 10:40 PM (#3178460)
Jack:

Agreed.

He puts on a show at times during drills.
   29. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2009 at 02:14 PM (#3178726)
For all that has gone wrong for the Cubs they are only a half game back and only 6 teams in all of baseball have a higher winning percentage than the Cubs. Not bad, to me that indicates that one of two things will happen. Either the Cubs will work it out and win a bunch of games or the Cubs won't work it out and the Cubs will start to lose games at a worse pace then they are now. I would lean towards the Cubs getting better since I think Bradley and Soto will get at least somewhat better and I think between Hoff, Lee, and Fox the Cubs will get at least decent production out of the first base spot. Plus hopefully Aramis comes back healed but I kind of doubt it. I think this will be a lost season for Aramis.

Lilly is pitching really well and Harden has been good for most of his starts. Throw in Sean and a healthy Zambrano and the Cubs have a very good rotation even if Dempster becomes the 5th starter.
   30. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 14, 2009 at 02:34 PM (#3178745)
There was a nice article in the Trib yesterday catching up with Blanco. Koyie Hill has been a pleasant surprise, but I still don't understand the thought process behind replacing Blanco with Bako. He has some thoughts on Soto, too, and it probably wouldn't be a huge surprise if Blanco has something to do with Soto righting himself.

For all that has gone wrong for the Cubs they are only a half game back and only 6 teams in all of baseball have a higher winning percentage than the Cubs.

Yeah, that's crazy. Of course, 3 of those teams are in the NL Central. I just can't see Cinci sticking around all season, and I have to think St. Louis is going to continue to cool off, especially with Ludwick on the DL (although Carpenter might be back soon). But it's something that most Brewers and Cardinals fans are glad with their hot starts and we're complaining about our slow start.
   31. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 14, 2009 at 02:36 PM (#3178746)
Don't look now, but last night makes it 9 of 12.

Soto is also hitting about .300 in May.

Just a bit of defense of The Riot... While I agree he's stretched at SS range and arm-wise, he is relatively sure-handed and not prone to bad throws. Sure - I would trade another half dozen boots for a few more feet of range to either side - but there are worse gloves at SS. I'd also offer up a slight defense on his baserunning -- I'm not saying he's a good baserunner by any means, and I know SB/CS isn't the be all and end all, but his career rate has been fairly good beyond last year. In 30 or so attempts -- that can be skewed pretty heavily by busted HnR and such.
   32. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 14, 2009 at 02:47 PM (#3178759)
I'm not saying he's a good baserunner by any means, and I know SB/CS isn't the be all and end all, but his career rate has been fairly good beyond last year. In 30 or so attempts -- that can be skewed pretty heavily by busted HnR and such.

I'm with you on the defense. He's not good, but he's not as bad as Harvey is saying. However, I disagree on the baserunning. He's a terrible baserunner, and it's not just the CS or the multitude of pickoffs. How many times has he run into an out at 3rd over the last couple of seasons? And his pickoffs or baserunning outs always seem to come at the most inopportune times, which makes me question his baseball instincts. That, and he's not as fast as he looks (or as fast as he thinks he is). He grounds into a lot more DPs that you'd expect.
   33. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2009 at 02:53 PM (#3178763)
Very quietly and without much fanfare Alfonso is on pace for 55 homers this year.
   34. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 14, 2009 at 03:13 PM (#3178783)
Loudly and with much fanfare Ryan Theriot is on pace for 25 homers this year.
   35. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 14, 2009 at 03:19 PM (#3178792)
That means Soto is on pace for 5.
   36. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 14, 2009 at 03:45 PM (#3178817)
You are right about the expectations game, McCoy -- for all the gnashing of teeth over the start... even with Soto basically hitting worse than Mario Soto, even with Bradley touching on all his lowpoints in April, even with Lee looking increasingly cooked, even with Rameriz starting his injury woes early, even with Dempster regressing... I don't think the Cubs have actually been under .500 all season.

I am surprised by both the Brewers and the Cards. I honestly thought that their rotations would doom them by June, but that doesn't look like it's gonna happen.

I know Harvey mentioned in another thread that the Brewers D has been underrated - and at this point, I have to agree. Cameron is still every bit the ballhawk he ever was, Hardy is Hardy, Weeks has gone from near Juan Samuel levels to actually being a plus defender, and Jason Kendall seems to have had an arm transplant. With Gallardo taking a step forward this year, I can see the Brewers sticking around not just in the WC periphery.

The Cards, I have no idea how they're doing it... If you'd have told me that Carpenter would exit for 2 months after his first start, I'd have expected it -- and if you'd have told me that Lohse would be the opposite of how good he was last year --- and I'd have also thought the Cards would be 5 games under by this point.
   37. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: May 14, 2009 at 03:55 PM (#3178828)
I don't think the Cubs have actually been under .500 all season.

Only once. They were 10-11.
   38. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2009 at 05:37 PM (#3178954)
I don't think the Brewers are going to go away. I think the Reds will and the Cardinals will be interesting because as long as they have Pujols and that offense they will be in contention. Fortunately for the Cubs everybody in the NL looks to be mediocre or worse and the best team lost Manny for 50 games. The Cubs should be able to win 95 games this year and if they get Soto and Bradley to produce and their bullpen straightened out they can still win 100+ games.

Years of being a Cubs fan doesn't allow me to be that optimistic but I do think the Cubs will get to at least 90 wins this year.
   39. Bunny Vincennes Posted: May 14, 2009 at 06:43 PM (#3179067)
That is more optimistic than I am, McCoy, but I do think they will still win the division without Ramirez. The loss of ARAM saddens me. They will again get to the playoffs but I don't have any hopes there.
   40. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 14, 2009 at 07:18 PM (#3179136)
I think the Cubs starting staff helps hide Theriot's issues because of the fewer balls in play. The Cubs have given up the third fewest hits in the league and lead the NL in strikeouts. If you look at Theriot in isolation relative to available balls in play dollars to donuts he grades out as poor. If the Cubs didn't have the current makeup the matter would demand greater attention because it would be far more obvious.

I will also mention that the Cubs are 10th in the league in OBP.
   41. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2009 at 10:10 PM (#3179549)
The great thing about Lou is that there always seems to be a Bobby Scales player on the roster with him. Whereas with Dusty and past Cubs managers there always seemed to have a bench full of Aaron Miles. Lou isn't afraid to play the hot hand and he doens't care where it comes from.

In 2007 it was Theriot and Fontenot. In 2008 it was Soto, Reed Johnson, and Jim Edmonds. In 2009 it looks to be Hoff and Scales so far. Granted Lou doesn't have a lot of choices right now but I'm pretty sure someone like Baker would not have gone to Scales.
   42. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 14, 2009 at 10:25 PM (#3179571)
#### MLB. Bradley's appeal ruling came down today, and his suspension was reduced to 1 game. Which he'll serve tomorrow. WTF? They couldn't have announced this yesterday? I bet he wouldn't have gotten the day off today had the Cubs known this.

I will also mention that the Cubs are 10th in the league in OBP.

Lee, Soto and Bradley are really pulling the team down there (so is Fontenot). IF (when) those guys start hitting the way they should, it'll jump back up. They're all still walking, they're just not hitting.

BA/OBP
Lee .194/.270
Soto .193/.316
Bradley .194/.341
Fontenot .218/.319
   43. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 14, 2009 at 10:34 PM (#3179584)
I think this was MLB's clever idea of appeasement. We'll reduce Bradley's suspension, but we'll announce it on a day he has off. We've been hearing for the past week+ that the ruling would come down today. Seems like quite a coincidence that it happened to come down mid-game that Bradley sat out.

</tinfoil>
   44. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 14, 2009 at 10:45 PM (#3179598)
Moses:

And Fukudome, Theriot and Ramirez arr/were all great.

Agreed there is more "up" potential than down.

If Parra does what I expect Milwaukee is in it for good.

He's the difference maker
   45. SouthSideRyan Posted: May 15, 2009 at 12:02 AM (#3179714)
I'm not quite sure what the difference between Manny Parra and Sean Marshall is.
   46. NTNgod Posted: May 15, 2009 at 12:31 AM (#3179732)
I know Harvey mentioned in another thread that the Brewers D has been underrated - and at this point, I have to agree.

FWIW, they've been tops in the NL according to Hardball Times' RZR rankings for a while.

If they want to ride the old STL method of getting good mileage from mediocre pitchers by running a good defense behind them, that works for me.

The Brewers learning how to draw walks, to go along with hitting all those homers, doesn't hurt, either (2nd in MLB in walks so far).
   47. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 15, 2009 at 12:38 AM (#3179736)
SSR:

It's subtle but Marshall's strikeout rate in the minors hasn't followed him in the bigs. He went from 8.8 to 6.2. He also has seen his hits per nine innings go up 2. Manny's strikeout rates are similar and the hit rates are similar. His problem is the walk rate.

They both have ability. I just happen to think Parra is going to be better.
   48. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 15, 2009 at 02:33 PM (#3180268)
I will also mention that the Cubs are 10th in the league in OBP.


I'm not worried about the OBP - as Moses mentions, Soto, Bradley, and Lee are still sporting decent walk rates (the Cubs are an admittedly disappointing 6th in the NL in walks) -- but when you have 3 1/2 regulars (4 now, I guess with A-Ram out) hitting under .200 (or close to it), no amount of plate discipline is going to overcome that.

Like I said, Soto seems to have found his stroke this month and Bradley is likewise showing signs of life. Lee, I'm starting to get really worried about - I never expected to see 2004 again, and while Lee doesn't seem the type that suddenly go Big Papi/Andruw Jones, his swing just looks a lot slower. Maybe the results are tainting my view, but that's the way it looks to me.

Fortunately, he's only got one more season after this one on his current deal -- and while Hoff isn't a 23 yo wunderkind, Lou is also the type of manager that wouldn't seem to hesitate sitting a high priced starter in favor a 29 yo rookie hitting well. Lee is also the type of player who, while he certainly wouldn't be happy with a demotion, isn't going to become a clubhouse cancer over it.

I was always under the impression that Manny Parra was considered a top flight prospect - but an oft-injured one. The only start I watched of his this year was a Philly game last month, where he looked none too good... I see he's turned in 3 straight quality outings, though.

On pure talent, I make take Parra, but with 2009 shaping up to be a year of injuries in Chicago -- I think I'd actually prefer Marshall under the current circumstances... strictly because Marshall, at least in his young career, has been a lot more durable.
   49. Moses Taylor loves a good maim Posted: May 15, 2009 at 03:05 PM (#3180305)
Here's a great story about Bobby Scales. I can't but help liking and rooting for the guy.
   50. And You Thought Zonk Was Terminated? Posted: May 15, 2009 at 03:25 PM (#3180329)
Yeah, I like Scales a lot.

"He's one of the classiest people I've been around," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said, expressing a sentiment heard throughout baseball.


That's certainly how he's come across in the interviews I've heard -- he's also very well spoken. It's not cliched "I'm just happy to be here" stuff, either - he genuinely comes off as a sharp guy (he was a walk-on at Michigan per Moses' link - so I guess he's got to have something going on upstairs).

Normally in a situation like this, I'd be annoyed that we don't have 20-something 'prospect' to call up in such situations, but not in this case. I hope he sticks around all year and has a nice little career for himself.

Who knows... if this is the year, maybe Scales playing a key bit role makes some sort of karmic sense.
   51. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: May 16, 2009 at 01:01 AM (#3181007)
Marshall's also got pitch efficiency, a lack of WP and fewer unearned runs per inning in his favor. Parra's main advantages are K-rate, talent and a hope of BABIP regression in the future.

The Cubs are 4th in IsoP, 5th in BB/PA and 13th in batting average. That seems like the profile of a good offense that's hit into some bad luck so far.

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