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Posts Tagged ‘Felix Pie’

Top 5 Moves To Improve The Chicago Cubs

Posted by sportsmaven on May 2, 2008

After yesterday’s tough to swallow loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs sit 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals after setting a team record for wins in April (17 wins).   The Cubs offense has been way ahead of their pitching with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot and both performed very well in that role.  The Cubs surged to the top of the league in virtually all offensive categories in Soriano’s absence.  Both Johnson and Theriot bring a fiery presence to the top of the order.  The Cubs would be unbelievably formidable in the middle of their order with Soriano batting in the 5th or 6th spot. The Cubs should make this move immediately.

2.  Send LHP Rich Hill to Iowa, move RHP Jon Lieber into the rotation – Rich Hill has been a disaster this season, with tonight’s start the latest gaffe.  Hill’s inability to consistently find the strike zone with any pitch has taxed the Cubs bullpen.  Tonight’s 2/3 of an inning, 27 pitch outing where he walked 4 of the first 6 batters he faced has literally handcuffed Manager Lou Piniella for tonight’s game and possibly for the rest of a very key series against the Cardinals.  Hill needs to work out whatever issues he has in AAA and come back ready to pitch every time out.

3.  Send Of Felix Pie to Iowa and install Reed Johnson as the starting CF – Felix Pie is struggling big time against major league pitching.  He looks clueless at the plate and is hitting just above .200.  Pie needs playing time and not in Chicago.  Reed Johnson was one of the best spring training pickups of the season for the Cubs and provides exactly what the Cubs need – a gritty, hard nosed, all out effort performance every game he plays.

4.  Move Carlos Marmol to the closer role, Kerry Wood to long relief or setup – need I say more after yesterday’s game?  Wood has almost as many blown saves (3) as saves converted (4).  I love Kerry Wood, he is a competitor, a gamer, never complains, takes the ball in any situation.  He’s a man, but not a closer when you have Carlos Marmol and his repetoire of nasty stuff on your roster.  Marmol has been virtually unhittable this season.  He has come into games this season in pressure packed situations and has been completely dominant.  Give this guy the 9th inning and we have at least 3 more wins this season (and 3 less losses).

5.  Continue hydrating Carlos Zambrano – or continue limiting/restricting his caffeine intake.  Whatever the Cubs are doing to keep Carlos Zambrano healthy, focused and dedicated, continue to do it.  Zambrano has been fantastic this season, a true top of the rotation starter since Opening Day.  He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA this season, by far, his best start to a season.  He would have been 5-1 but for yesterday’s 9th inning implosion.  Zambrano needs to have a big year for the Cubs to dominate.  He is well on his way going into May.

This Cubs started the 2008 season virtually the way they wanted to start, with a 17-10 record in April.  Their early season success (and at times, dominant play) have raised expectations even further for the remainder of the season.  With these suggested moves, the Cubs can position themselves to continue their hot start into the meat of their season.

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Chicago Cubs Are An Early Season Disaster

Posted by sportsmaven on April 23, 2007

I was going to refrain from writing about the Chicago Cubs early this season, but after this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals and watching tonight’s come from ahead loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, I can no longer hold my tongue or my typing prowess any longer. I have watched this Cubs team in person for 5 games now (1-4 record for the games I’ve attended) and watched pretty much every other game this season on TV and I have come to the conclusion that the Cubs are an unmitigated disaster.

Carlos Zambrano Loses to BrewersCubs Lose to Brewers 5-4 in 12 innings

(Tribune photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo)

Lets look at some of the numbers, just to make sure the assessment is not without empirical evidence. The Cubs are 3-8 at home. They are 0-3 in extra inning games. They are 0-5 in one run games. They are 0-3-2 in series wins at home. They are 1-4-2 in the 6 series they have played this season and are down the first game of the 7th series of the season. The Cubs are 7-12 overall for the season, 5 games behind the division leading Brewers and fading fast. To highlight how bad it has become for the Cubs, only the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals have worse records than the Cubs (both are 6-13) and both teams have actually been on an upswing as of late. If you take out the performance of Rich Hill, projected to be the 4th starter this season, the Cubs have only 4 wins this season. Four.

Now the naysayers and optimists of the world are saying “C’mon SportsMaven, the Cubs have played only 19 games this season. It’s too early to write them off.” Well maybe so, but the signs are not encouraging to say the least, and when you spend in excess of $300 million in the offseason, 7-12 is not satisfactory at any point in the season.

Just to point out some of the weak points in the Cubs season, you don’t have to look very far:

1. The Cubs outfield situation is a mess. LF Alfonso Soriano gets hurt 12 games into the season (slight tweak of his left hamstring). Felix Pie is called up play CF. That leaves LF and RF for a combination of Matt Murton, Cliff Floyd, and Jacques Jones — until Soriano comes back and management says that he will play LF to protect his hamstring injury. Cubs management also says that Felix Pie will play as well, in CF for the Cubs. That leaves the Cubs with 3 RF’s and a messy rotation in the OF. Pie will eventually be sent back to Iowa leaving the original mess that started the season.

2. The Cubs setup men are a disaster. LP Scott Eyre, with a 15.00 ERA after tonight, giving up the tying runs in the 8th inning on a HR by Brewers 1B Prince Fielder ( a left handed batter) and a couple of hits by left handed batters to score the second run. RP Bobby Howry has given up key hits in the late innings to blow leads and ultimately to lose games. Factor in LP Will Ohman’s 40 ft. curveballs, and walking in two runs in an inning against the Cincinnati Reds to lose that game, the set up men in the Cubs bullpen are losing games at an alarming clip.

3. The Cubs defense and baserunning are atrocious. Soriano has been picked off 3 times in key situations in the last 9 games. Apparently Ronnie Cedeno overuns second base on a WALK and gets tagged out. The Cubs have committed so many baserunning gaffes this season (and mind you, it’s only 19 games into the season) they have already had to dispatch baserunning instructor Bobby Dernier to get this fixed. The defense has been terrible as well. Sure handed SS Cesar Izturis commited 3 errors — in ONE GAME. 2b Mark DeRosa drops a sure out infield popup, allowing an inning to keep going and for the eventual winning runs to score later in a loss to the Reds. Jacque Jones still can’t hit a cutoff man.

4. The #1 starter (Carlos Zambrano) with 16 walks/16 strikeouts and a 7.77 ERA entering tonight’s game and the #5 starter (Wade Miller) with a 10.54 ERA giving up a whopping 24 hits in 13 IP this season. Zambrano will come around, so not as concerned about his early season struggles, but it may be time to move RP Angel Guzman (2.45 ERA) into the #5 slot in the rotation.

5. The Cubs have been killed by lack of clutch hitting, as noted by the one run and extra inning record noted above. Latest case in point — tonight’s game. The Cubs had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 7th and failed to score. Had the go ahead run on 2nd in the 8th and 10th and failed to score. Had a runner in scoring position in the 11th and failed to score. Had the tying run on base in the 12th and failed to score. That’s a lot of failure in the clutch. And that’s just ONE game. This has been a trend in most of the games this season. The hitting, the clear strength of this team, has been a no-show for most of the season.

6. RP Mark Prior is finally having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder…..

Amazingly, the Cubs are losing in the midst of some very strong performances by key question marks, specifically:

1. The “weak” spots of the starting rotation have come up big time: LP Rich Hill leads MLB in wins (3) and ERA (0.41) and batting avg. against ( .192) LP Ted Lilly is the hard luck pitcher in the rotation, 1-2 record with a 2.42 ERA. His 2 losses were a 1-0 decision against the Cincinnati Reds and a 2-1 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lilly is leading the NL (and 5th in MLB) in strikeouts (30). RP Jason Marquis is having an outstanding season so far, with a 2-1 record, 1.88 ERA, including 7 shut out innings against the Cardinals last Saturday.

2. 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Aramis Ramirez have been in the NL Top 10 in batting average all season long, both starting the season hot with Lee hitting .360 and Ramirez hitting .340. SS Ryan Theriot has also been on a tear, hitting .340 as well.

3. RP Michael Wuertz has been completely lights out unhittable….in the Will Ohman walking in runs game against the Reds, Wuertz enterted the game with the bases loaded with no outs and proceeded to strike out the side. Wuertz has a 0.00 ERA, 13K’s in 11 IP. Masterful.

4. The Cubs have scored the second most runs in the division (87) and given up the second fewest runs in the division ( 77) and are still in last place….go figure.

So, 19 games into this wonderful season and the Cubs are on pace for a 56 win season, 10 less than last season’s drive to the basement. Makes you pine for the salad days of Dusty Baker…… the old saying goes “you can’t win a championship in April, but you can certainly lose them in April. If that holds true, we will be in year 100 of the latest 5 year rebuilding plan by Memorial Day.

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Mark Prior Lit Up In Cactus League Opener

Posted by sportsmaven on March 6, 2007

The expectations for Mark Prior have never been lower than they were today. Mark Prior pitched in his first Cactus League game in forever and got lit up. For the Chicago Cubs, they were estatic that Prior finished his outing and walked off the field under his own power. For how the mighty have fallen. It was only 3 years ago that Mark Prior was labeled the next Tom Seaver. He was coming off an 18-win season and nearly took the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945. But since then, Mark Prior has won 18 games total over 3 seasons and has been on the disabled list as much as Kerry Wood, or 100 times, whichever is lower. And now this.

Mark Prior Gets Bombed In Cactus League Debut
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Cubs did beat the Seattle Mariners, 6-5, but Prior did not look sharp today, having trouble thowing strikes and getting behind nearly every hitter he faced today. He gave up hits, he walked batters, and he didn’t have any strikeouts and was pulled before he could finish his scheduled 2 innings of work. After yesterday, at least he didn’t give up any homers. It is still early in the spring, but Prior has to be a concern if you are Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild. After all, Prior is the key to the effectiveness of this Cubs rotation. When healthy, Prior has the stuff of a #1 starter. Having a #1 in Carlos Zambrano and a #1a in Prior takes tremendous heat off the remainder of the rotation. Without an effective Prior, the Cubs rotation has to pick up more slack and is more exposed. The jury is still out on Prior, but the concerns about injury and effectiveness are a constant reminder of the past 3 years for Cubs pitching….The Prior watch continues.

Kerry Wood Dominant In His Cactus League Opener
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

As for Kerry Wood, he was the opposite. He was as dominant as he’s ever been, needing only 12 pitches to complete his scheduled one inning of work for the day. He struck out one and was throwing 95-96 MPH. His line was full of zeroes today; no hits, no walks, no runs. Again, similar to Prior, it’s still early. Lets see how he handles the next few outings, but you have to be encouraged about his performance today. I believe Wood will ultimately wind up in the closer role for the Cubs, but today in middle relief, he looked very strong.

Finally, I wanted to point out that Felix Pie went 3-5 today with 2 runs scored and an RBI. I would love to see Pie in CF this season with Alfonso Soriano moving to RF and for the Cubs to move Jacque Jones. If it doesn’t happen this season, it will by next season, no doubt, but in my opinion, it can’t happen sooner if it happens now, and if I were Jim Hendry, I would be shopping Jones tomorrow morning, regardless of what Pie does for the rest of spring training.

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