Cubs Now!
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
  I'm Back...
I'll post more later later about the wedding etc. later, but watching tonight's game spurred me to notice a big failure in common statistics.  Reliever's ERA is really an unreliable stat.  Kent Mercker has a 2.2 ERA, but he fails so often in his role that it's hard to describe him as a strong reliever.  Case in point, he enters with 2 on and 2 out.  He walks a guy to load the bases and then throws a wild pitch.  He gets out of the inning, and his ERA goes on. 

WHIP seems like a better stat for relievers.  Inherrited runners stranded would be good, but if the reliever comes in with a guy on third and no one out, you can't really count that against him.  Perhaps the best indication would be first batters faced.  When you get that guy out as a reliever, you're doing your job.  Just my thoughts.  More later.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
  Going, Going...

Regular readers of this site (all 40 of you) may have noticed a sparsity of posts. Well, I'm getting married next Saturday, and I've been running around on that. I'll be in Michigan until Sunday and then off to Hawaii for two weeks. Postings will be next to non-existent until late July.

So, for my sendoff and at just one game after the half-way mark of the season, here are my takes on your 2004 Chicago Cubs.

First Base--Derrek Lee--.304/.378/.517--Derrek Lee at times looks too non-chalant (slide, Derrek, slide!), but Lee has had a very nice season to date. April and May were fairly mediocre for Derrek, but his June was fantastic and helped the Cubs overcome the injury to Sosa. On defense, Lee is second to no one at first. Others may have compared him to Fred McGriff, but there couldn't be a worse subject to compare Lee to. Lee makes every scoop and shows incredible range at first. Overall, a fine pickup for the Cubs.

Second Base--Todd Walker--.283/.368/.500 Walker has gotten most of the playing time at second with Grud out. Walker's OBP was over .400 for a decent stretch of the season, but his OBP is still very good. More notable, though, has been his surprising power (11HR). Again, a nice addition.

Short Stop--Ramon Martinez/Alex Gonzales--Alex (.244/.261/.411) simply isn't a good hitting shortstop and neither is Ramon (.262/.332/.358). Both have the advantage, however, of not being Rey Ordonez. Shortstop remains the Cubs biggest weakness.

Third Base--Aramis Ramirez--.326/.374/.550--Aramis has been the Cubs most productive player this year. Aramis' defense has greatly improved as well, though a good portion of the credit has to go to Lee at first. Aramis is the sole remaining legacy from the Cubs trades to Pittsburgh, but he has more than made the deal worthwhile.

Catcher--Michael Barrett--.286/.337/.483--Many Cubs fans hoped for a Pudge signing, and in retrospect, that would have been nice. But it could have been a lot worse. The Cubs are getting more production from Barrett than from any catcher in recent memory. Hendry wanted Barrett for a long time. Another quality pick-up.

Left Field--Moises Alou--.335 .522 .858--Moises has cooled off since a red hot May. He's avoided injury and played a passable left field. He can't throw or run, but he played big with Sammy on the bench.

Center Field--Corey Patterson--.277/.334/.456--Corey went through a stretch that frustrated every Cubs fan. He had no command of the strike zone, and he was popping everything up to the left side of the infield. Corey seems to have turned the corner. In fact, Corey has drawn more walks this season than ever in his career. Corey's at his best when he shortens his swing and lines the ball. Let's hope he digests what it takes to be successful.

Right Field--Sammy Sosa-- .271/.366/.547 Sammy's injury has obviously limited his effectiveness. Like last year, Sammy won't get a full season, but I expect that he'll come back with a 30+HR/100 RBI season. Incomplete at this juncture.

Super Sub--Todd Hollandsworth--.318/.392/.547--Todd is the smartest position player on this team. No one else on the Cubs knows how to run the bases, and no one else can come off the bench and hit like Todd. Hollandsworth, prior to his injury, plugged the whole when Sammy went down, and has pinch hit at about a .500 clip. I'm a big Hollandsworth fan. Another solid offseason pickup.

Okay, I'm tired.

Starting pitching. Carlos Zambrano has been outstanding in the first half of the season. I'm not sure how he's doing it. He's given up more home runs this year and he's not getting as many ground outs as last year. But he guts everything out, and there's no one more fun to watch than Z. Matt Clement shows why win/loss record is a pretty worthless statistic. When you have an ERA of 2.83 and a WHIP of 1.16, you'd expect a nice record. Instead, Clement is 7-7. He's getting no run support at all, and that's just sad. Yesterday, Clement was wild, but he minimized the damage and gave up just one run in seven innings. Get the guy the damn win. Didn't happen. Actually, Kerry Wood has a 2.82 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP and has a 3-3 record. Come on, let's give these guys some run support. Maybe then my Sox fan friends wouldn't have much argument when they argue that Buehrle is better than Matt or Kerry.

Prior's injury has been the big story of the season. The Cubs overcame it, but it's nice to have him back. Again, Prior's 2-3 with a sub-3 ERA. He's getting stronger, but he hasn't been able to get the whipe out pitch that he had in the second half of last season. Greg Maddux has pitched decently, but inconsistently. On occassion, you see the old Greg, but then he comes out with slow fastballs on the inner portion that end up 400 feet away. Greg will get his command in the second half. Glendon Rusch has done everything and more that you could ask of him. He's minimized the injury to Wood, and kept the Cubs in every game. Again, when someone throws up win/loss record as the vital pitching statistic think about his game against the Sox on Sunday. 8 scoreless innings, and Hawkins gets the win after giving up a homer. Glendon sports a respectable 3.84 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Better than anyone could have asked.

The bullpen has been inconsistent at best. Put aside the early season disaster of Andy Pratt, Michael Wuertz, and Joe Borowski. Mike Remlinger has been hurt most of the year. Kyle Farnsworth has been at times brilliant and at times dumb as a post. LaTroy Hawkins, too, has looked great, but blown more saves than you'd like. Kent Merker has nice numbers, but you never feel comfortable with him in there. Jon Leicester has been a very pleasant surprise. Francis Beltran walks too many damn hitters and gives up too many dongs, but is a promising pitcher.

I left off my opinion about the rest of the bench because...well, they're not good. Bako, Ordonez, and Macias are marginal players at best and the less said about them the better.

What's been frustrating about this season is the inconsistency of the offense. They can explode for a huge game and then get shut out. The Cubs have been shut out a ridiculous 8 times. The offense is dependant on the home run, and when it's not there, they're in trouble. Still, despite the injuries, the inconsistent offense, and the shaky bullpen, the Cubs remain atop the wild card race (albeit 5 games out of first in the Central). I remain confident about the team's chances to make the playoffs, but the Cubs have to get healthy and discover a way to score when they aren't hitting homeruns. Go Cubs! and see you in August.

Sunday, July 04, 2004
  Going For the Sweep

After yesterday's rain-delayed, 5 and a half-innings, shortened game, the Cubs and Glendon Rusch attempt to sweep the White Sox tonight. I was at the game yesterday with my friend and Sox-fan Ron. The crowd ribbed him a little, but there was nothing that crossed over into bad taste. In fact, the crowd was pretty easy-going and good-natured.

Not sure if that'll be the case tonight. I'm taking my fiance out to dinner up by the ballpark and then heading to the game. I'm hoping it stays within bounds of decenty, and expect the security to be very tight. I think we'll get out of the area as soon as the game's over.

But tonight is a big game for the Cubs. The Cardinals have bounced back from getting swept by the Pirates (who have won eight in a row). The Cubs are up two games in the wild card, but there are several teams within striking distance. As such, the only thing the Cubs can do to improve their lot is to keep on winning.

The Cubs are coming to the end of what looked to be a very, very tough stretch of games. They've played over .500 against some very good teams. Now's the time to finish strong.

Go Cubs! and I hope I get home safe tonight.
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