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Crosstown Rivalry: White Sox Get to Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano1After taking two out of three games in their first series against the Cubs, the White Sox were able to rattle Carlos Zambrano’s cage enough to give him a mental breakdown and get him taken out after one inning and an altercation with Derek Lee in the dugout.

In the first inning, the White Sox were able to put four runs on the board, mostly thanks to Carlos Quentin’s three run homer that brought in Alex Rios and Paul Konerko.

Zambrano was noticably livid heading into the dugout, the episode ending in being taken into the clubhouse by Lou Piniella and Alan Trammel and being taken out of the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Cubbies Finally on A Roll And Zambrano Back to the Rotation

Rockies Cubs BaseballLast night, Carlos Silva got another quality start, pitching six innings and allowing two runs to drop his ERA to 3.35 and improve to 5-0 on the season.

On a night when we learned that Carlos Zambrano will be returning to the starting rotation shortly, a different Carlos was able to steal the show by pitching six scoreless innings before allowing a two-run home run without recording an out in the seventh and being taken out.

After going 2-9 in an 11 game stretch, the Cubs have been able to pull off three strait wins after taking the finale against the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates and sweeping a two game series against the Colorado Rockies. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Can I Blame For The Season So Far?

97635769JB032_Chicago_Cubs_One week ago the Cubs were 13-13, coming off of a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks and looked to be back on track to get the most out of their team this season.

All was well in Wrigleyville.

Fast-forward to present day and the Cubs are 14-20 and coming off of being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates (14-19) and about to suffer the same fate against the Florida Marlins (16-17) pending tomorrow’s matinee as the Cubs try to stop their four game slide.

So one big question continues to pop up in my mind, as I always love to play the blame game. That question is… Read the rest of this entry »

News and Notes From Spring Training

chi_u_lilly_576Sorry for the three-day delay with posts, there is just very little going on. With that in mind, I will try to squeeze out whatever stories are happening and give you some updates on the Cubs.

Here are a few stories that have happened over the past few days.

Aramis Ramirez returns to the diamond

Ramirez has missed some time this spring because of a sore right tricep, but he returned on Tuesday against the Royals as a DH and went 2-3 with an RBI. He hasn’t played since March 13th, but he looked like he hadn’t missed any time in his three at bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Position Breakdown: Starting Pitching

Randy WellsThis is going to be the first in a four part series breaking down four positions for the Chicago Cubs.

Part one is going to be break down the Chicago Cubs’ pitching, after this article I will be taking on the infield, outfield and bullpen.

The Cubs have been known for having solid starting pitching, and this season should be no different. Here is the expected rotation:

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ted Lilly
3. Ryan Dempster
4. Randy Wells
5. Tom Gorzelanny
Others who could start games: Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Silva. Read the rest of this entry »

Cubs Tie Season Series With Win Vs. White Sox

APTOPIX White Sox Cubs BaseballAlfonso Soriano has been horrible as of late, bad enough for there to be rumblings of him being benched for a couple games.

His batting average over the past five games has been a measly .095, and he hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 15 at bats.

However, today, he went 2-5 with one gigantic RBI.

The Cubs started the day locked in an outstanding pitching duel between ace Carlos Zambrano going up against White Sox stud Gavin Floyd. Read the rest of this entry »

Inconsistency Could Lead to a Dissapointing Season

17The Chicago Cubs came into this season with the expectation of at least contending for a World Series title.

However, they have struggled mightily this season and they have been unable to live up to the high expectations that accompanied a seemingly unstoppable pitching rotation and batting order.

As of late, the Cubs have been even worse, as they have gone 3-5 in the month of May.  What the problem has been for the Cubs is an inability to be consistently strong.

When they have great offensive days, they have been accompanied with great pitching days, and bad offensive days have been accompied with dismal pitching.

In the Cubs three wins this month, they have scored 7, 10 and 11 runs in each game, but in their five losses, they scored 0, 1, 3, 2 and 2 runs.  Compare that to the 2, 3 and 3 runs allowed in the three wins and the 3, 7, 4, 8 and 7 runs in the losses.

The Cubs need to be able to put together more wins, and that starts with both sides of the ball being held responsible when both sides are dismal in the same game.

One of the main reasons for the Cubs woes so far this season is the awful offensive production by players who were looked at as people who needed to contribute for the Cubs to be strong.

Mark Bradley, who was brought in to give the Cubs a strong left handed bat, isn’t averaging a hit for every 10 at bats, and has hit just one home run in a Cubs uniform.

Derek Lee is hitting just .200 with only one home run so far this season, he also has just 10 RBI’s and hasn’t stolen a base this season.

Last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Geovany Soto, is batting just .111 and hasn’t hit a home run.  This adds to the fact that he has missed five full games this season and has accounted for just five runs (2 RBI’s, 3 runs).

But their hitting isn’t the only problem for the Cubs this season, their pitching has been just as bad, if not worse, than the hitting.

More Cubs have an ERA over 6.00 than one under 3.00 (four to two).

And, the Cubs vaunted starting pitching, which was supposed to be one of the best starting fives in the MLB hasn’t lived up to the hype.

Every starter has an ERA over 3.00 and the Cubs top two pitchers are pitching the worst in the lineup.

Despite a quality start last night, Carlos Zambrano’s ERA is 4.64 and Ryan Dempster’s is 5.40.  This is the opposite of what you want from what was supposed to be one of the best starting lineups in all of baseball.

The two “quality pitchers” in the Cubs bullpen, who were in the heated closing competition all spring, are both having dismal seasons.

Carlos Mamol’s ERA is 6.75, and Kevin Gregg’s is 6.23.  Who knew that Neal Cotts would be having a better season than both of these two.

The only pitcher with over 10 innings pitched and an ERA under three is Aaron Heilman, who has a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work.  He also has as many wins as Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly, and more wins than Ryan Dempster.

The Cubs need to finally get their stuff together, and they need to start playing up to their full potential.  The Cubs are a team that needs a lot of production out their power spots in the lineup, and they just haven’t gotten that this year.

Without the pitching to make up for it, the Cubs may be in line for a mediocre season without much winning.

Then again, there are 142 games left for the Cubs, and anything can happen.

-Joe Willett

Thoughts on the Chicago Cubs

111It’s Easter, and the Cubs will be playing in about an hour in the rubber match against the Brew Crew.

Fresh off of a Blackhawks shutout over the Detroit Red Wings (I had to watch hockey today with my family) the Cubs will try to add another win for Chicago tonight.

I have been pretty dormant lately and I figured I could offer a few thoughts on the Cubs through the first five games of the season.

We are only 3-2 and the start has not been that impressive

Sure, we could easily be 4-1, but that will be talked about a little later. This Cubs team can look amazing (see the eight run first two innings against the Astros) but they haven’t been able to put together a full game yet.

I am a little scared that we haven’t been able to pull together a dominant performance even with the stout pitching and amazing hitting we have on paper.

Milton Bradley may only have one hit, but he has been impressive

If you look at Bradley’s raw hitting, it isn’t too impressive, but when you take into account each time he has walked to the plate, he still almost always finds a way to get get on base.

Despite being one for 16 at the plate, Bradley has an OBP of .318 thanks to five walks and a hit by pitch. He also has scored three runs thus far this season.

Oh, by the way, his one and only hit was a solo home run.

Besides Lilly, the starting pitching has been fantastic

Cubs starters continue to put up quality start after quality start thus far this season.

Carlos Zambrano has started two games this season, pitching 12 inning, allowing four runs, for a 3.00 ERA. Ryan Dempster’s last outing was strong, with six innings pitched and just two runs scored, he had a very successful showing in his season debut.

Rich Harden was lights out in his debut, allowing just one earned run on three hits in six innings.  Harden even struck out a ton, as usual, fanning 10 in an impressive start.

The only bad outing has been thrown by Ted Lilly, who was backed up by 11 Cubs runs, allowing him to avoid the L despite allowing five runs in five innings.

Kevin Gregg scares me as the closer

Listen, he had a great Spring Training, and I am trying to take nothing away from his ability, I just don’t trust him to hold down the fort in the ninth inning.

He has already blown one save this season as the Brewers were able to tear him apart in the ninth inning two nights ago, and the fact that he led the majors in blown saves last year is a big red flag.

I think that Sweet Lou should start throwing Carlos Marmol in the ninth and moving Gregg into the eight inning, everything would probably go a lot smoother and everybody would pitch better under those circumstances.

Kosuke Fukudome anybody?

The man was looked at as a possible major liability to this team, with a monster contract and seemingly not enough talent, the Asian Sensation was seemingly done in the MLB.

Then, something crazy happened, he had a great spring. Then, unlike Gregg above, he brought that momentum into the regular season.

Fukudome is batting over .400 with two home runs, three RBI’s, and one stolen base. More good news for Fukudome, Piniella just announced that he will no longer be lifting the surprise player for defensive purposes.

-Joe Willett

Just Two More Weeks Until Opening Day…How Are the Cubs Looking?

4105_featureThrough 27 Spring Training games, the Chicago Cubs have been motoring as they try to get themselves ready for the season.

When the Cubs are on, they are one of the better teams in the majors, and that has been shown throughout the spring, even though the players aren’t playing full games.

They have won two of their last three games by over 10 runs (13-2 over the White Sox and 20-5 over the Athletics) which is quite a staggering number, and with players playing longer and longer each game, each of these games become more and more of a prediction of how the season will go.

Carlos Zambrano pitched just two games ago for six innings, striking out six and not allowing a walk in a 5-3 win over the Mariners.

The Cubs are, at the time of this article, 13 days and 20 hours away from their first game in Houston against the Astros, and they are starting to get their players accustomed to playing full games, which is exactly what they are doing.

Cubs players, however, are ready to get to Houston and start playing games that count.  Derek Lee has said that he wants to shorten the current Spring Training schedule, which consists of 39 games.

“I don’t think anybody needs that long to get ready. So it’s nice that soon there’s some games that are going to count,” said Lee of the current Spring Training system.

Sweet Lou Piniella has said that he is getting ready to start shortening his roster, as he plans to have the team down to 30 players by Tuesday, which is when he will start playing his starters with much more frequency.

Piniella has also said that he wants Ted Lilly back to the team as soon as the World Baseball Classic is over, and has him slated to pitch a simulated game the day after the WBC finale.

The Cubs fear that he is falling behind on his workouts and would be better off with the team, Lilly hasn’t pitched since March 17th.

The closer position, which seemed to be suited better for Carlos Marmol, is now looking more wide open, as former Marlin Kevin Gregg hasn’t allowed a run this spring, but the fact that he led the majors in blown saves last year leaves the Cubs weary of handing him the reigns.

A much more slept-upon position battle is for the second catcher spot on the team.  Paul Bako, a former Cub, is back with the team and has plenty of experience, but Koyie Hill is batting over .400 this spring and has looked fantastic.

Piniella has said that he doesn’t feel that the decision on that spot needs to be made anytime soon, however, and he might wait a while before choosing who gets to stay in the majors.

The Cubs are playing well, and they look like they could have a great season.  Are they World Series ready?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

-Joe Willett

Chicago Cubs Expectations Based on Talent, Not Crushing the Curse

For years Cubs expectations have been based on them being overdue to win a championship. We’ve all heard this phrase, “It’s been 90+ years and the Cubs MUST win a championship this year.”

For the record, it’s now a 100+ years but the Cubs are expected to play deep into October because they’re one of the most talented teams in all of baseball.  The expectations have nothing to do with their World Series drought.

There’s no doubt that playing for the Chicago Cubs comes with a lot of pressure and high expectations. That said, the 2009 Cubs are as talented as they’ve ever been.

The fans, media, and front office are not asking the Cubs to do something they’re not capable of doing.  The 2009 Cubs have a surplus of talent and very few question marks.  The Cubs could certainly use another left-handed arm in the pen, but that will likely be addressed sometime down the road.

Assuming everyone plays to their expectations and stays healthy, this should be a great season for the Cubs. One through five their rotation is one of the best in all of baseball.

Some will argue the Cubs don’t have a legitimate number one starter.  I tend to disagree with that, I am comfortable with calling Zambrano my number one starter.  With a career record of 96-61, it’s difficult to say big Z is not a number one starter.

For years, number one starters were identified by 20 game winners.  There are very few 20 game winners in today’s baseball. All I know is Zambrano has thrown the ball extremely well in the postseason the past two years, despite going 0-1.

The Cubs pen will miss Kerry Wood, but the addition of Gregg will prove to be a solid addition.  Carlos Marmol and what appears to be a healthy Kevin Gregg are battling for the closer spot.  Gregg has a total of 61 saves the past two years. He struggled mightily last August while battling a knee injury. Gregg is throwing the ball well this spring and appears to be close to 100 percent.

The other option is Carlos Marmol.  Marmol spent much of last years second half as both the Cubs setup man and closer picking up th slack for Wood who was sidelined for over a month with a blister. Marmol had 4 saves while giving up just 12 hits in 35 innings during the second half last year.

Despite winning 97 games in 2008, Cubs GM Jim Hendry went out and made a very right-handed lineup much more balanced.  The moves have been debated all offseason, but the reality is the Cubs went out and spent a lot of money to become much more balanced.  Some have called it careless spending, while others have applauded Hendry for being aggressive.

The Cubs opening day lineup will feature three left-handed bats.  Milton Bradley, Mike Fontenot , and Kosuke Fukudome will likely be in the opening day lineup.  The Cubs will certainly miss the versatile Mark DeRosa, but they’re confident they can get that versatility from Miles.

The switch hitting Miles hit .317 in 2008 starting at third, second, short, and left field. The Cubs will look to Bradley and Miles to replace DeRosa’s offensive numbers.

Bottom line, the Chicago Cubs have one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball.  They have one of the highest paid managers in Lou Piniella, to go along with 10 all stars on their 25 man roster.  If that’s not enough, the Cubs will make another major move at the trade deadline.  While most baseball teams find themselves subtracting, the recession proof Cubs continue to add on.

Other then major injuries, there’s no reason why this team shouldn’t be playing come mid to late October.  There’s a lot of pressure, but that comes with the territory.  This Cubs team can beat you so many different ways.  They can out slug you 10-8, beat you 1-0, or beat you with small ball.

There’s a lot that goes into winning a World Series Championship, but there’s no reason why the Cubs shouldn’t be part of the conversation.

-Pat DeMarco