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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 »

News and Notes From Spring Training

chi_a_castro_576The Cubs have completed 12 games thus far in Spring Training, and through those games they are 8-4, which doesn’t mean much, but it does mean that they have been getting good performances from a lot of people.

Here are the stories that are important so far in Spring Training: 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 »

Don’t Look Now, But The Cubbies Might Just Have What It Takes

1A little over half way to the end of the season, the Cubs have finally jumped past the St. Louis Cardinals and stole the division lead.

Before the All-Star Break, the Cubs split a four-game series with the Cards. Since the break, however, the Cubs are 8-2. The Cardinals are 4-6 since the break, including losing two of three against the Phillies in their most recent series.

The Cards now go from facing the defending champions to facing this season’s best team, the L.A Dodgers, in a four-game series. The Cubs face the Astros, and have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Cubs Quick Hits: Lilly, Dempster and Ryan

1According to Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan, the Cubs’ lone All-Star is likely heading to the disabled list.

“Oh gosh, we were just talking about getting [ Ryan] Dempster back,” manager Lou Piniella said. “We were happy about that, and all of a sudden, the Lilly situation [comes up]. It seems like every time we get a player, we lose one. But let’s see what the MRI says on Theodore, and we can go from there.”

Lilly has been the most consistent Cubs starter this season, going 9-7 with a 3.59 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »

Cubs Put Together All The Pieces Against The Astros

Cubs Astros BaseballIt was a big night for the Cubs’ Mike Fontenot, who was celebrating his 29th birthday in style.

Fontenot went 4-5 with two runs, one RBI and a home run.  Not a bad night for the birthday boy.

But Fontenot’s night was just a footnote on a night when the Cubs were finally able to break out of the funk that they have been in all season and pull out a 7-1 win over the down-trodden Astros.

The Cubs were finally able to capitalize on a strong pitching performance, giving Ted Lilly plenty of room to sit back and pitch without pressure, and he responded well to the run support.

Lilly allowed just three hits, two walks and no runs over six and 2/3 innings.  Lilly’s strong performance was yet another quality start for one of the most consistent pitchers in the Cubs starting lineup. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Come to Think of It…Cubs Take 2 of 3 from Astros

cubs_win_feature

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has a simple strategy for his players: just win each series.

While that may be a bit optimistic, his team followed their leader’s instructions to the letter by defeating the Houston Astros 11-6 on Wednesday night in the rubber match of the series.

After splitting the initial two games, the Cubs bats got off to a blistering start against Astros starter Brian Moehler. They batted around in each of the first two innings and built an early 8-0 lead.

Even on a night when Cubs starter Ted Lilly didn’t have much going for him, the offense was enough to stave off the Houston bats. Despite four Houston homers, including consecutive shots in the third inning, Lilly was able to get through five innings to qualify for the win.

Koyie Hill started at catcher for the Cubs, in place of Geo Soto, who was nursing a sore shoulder. Otherwise, they had their normal lineup against right-handed pitching.

And that lineup includes Mike Fontenot, who continued his fast start to the new season with two hits including a home run, and Aramis Ramirez added four hiits of his own. Both drove in four runs on the night.

Even Kosuke Fukudome got into the act—he got his first hits of the young season by going 4-for-5, with a home run.

Milton Bradley still has no hits in a Cubs uniform, though he did get on base four times.

Derrek Lee continued to demonstrate why he shouldn’t be hitting in the third slot as he went 1-for-6, stranding five runners.

The Cubs chased Moehler with two outs in the second inning. They scored four runs in the first inning, despite leaving the bases loaded, and four more again in the second.

They added three more runs against fifth starter Russ Ortiz in his three innings of work, including Fontenot’s homer.

Rule V pickup David Patton’s major league career didn’t get off to a good start, at least initially. He gave up a homer to his first batter, Hunter Pence, in the sixth inning.

Patton showed poise, however, as he came back to get the next three hitters, and then he threw a scoreless seventh inning.

After Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless 8th, Angel Guzman got in his first action of the new season. He closed out the game with a scoreless ninth, as the Cubs beat Houston.

So they won their first season series. If they keep up this pace, winning every series, they will win at least 113 games, come to think of it.

-Bob Warja

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