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Posts Tagged ‘Rich Hill’

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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The Mental Aspect Of Baseball

Posted by sportsmaven on April 4, 2008

The Chicago Cubs played their 4th game of the 2008 season today and already, it seems that destiny’s team is off to a slow start for the second year in a row. Cubs manager Lou Piniella stated early this spring the importance of the Cubs to get off to a strong start this season because the 2008 schedule is front loaded with early home games and light with home games in September. Four games into the beginning of this season, the Cubs have seemed to pick up where they left off last season. Lack of hitting, timely hitting, scoring runs, timely pitching, and poor execution and fielding have contributed to the Cubs 1-3 start.

Against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs salvaged the final game of the opening series, but looked overmatched by the bold, dynamic play of the youthful Brew Crew. The most surprising part of the beginning of this Cubs season is how mentally unprepared the Cubs appear.

The Cubs possess all the physical skills to be World Champions, but mentally, the Cubs have so far come across as the 90 pound weakling. P Kerry Wood imploded in his first game as Cubs closer. He hit a batter, gave up hits in a tie game, in the 9th inning. Game 2 of the season looked like something you would expect from a team just starting spring training. The defense was terrible, the situational hitting was atricious. The pitching was abominable.

Today’s game was lost by an 8th inning fielding error by Cubs 2B Mark DeRosa, booting a ball hit right to him with nobody on base, and then 2 batters later, Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano badly playing a Miguel Tejada double into a triple, on a play that should have been an error, but was gifted as a triple by Tejada, scoring Lance Berkman. In today’s post-game press conference, Cubs P Rich Hill admitted a lapse in concentration in the 4th inning, walking Mark Loretta then giving up a home run to the 8th hitter, Astros C J.R. Towles.

Mental mistakes and lapses in concentration are what held the Cubs back last season. Yes, the Cubs won the National League Central Division last season with an 85-77 record. The favored Cubs were then promptly swept out of the playoffs by the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks. For the Cubs, the series was punctuated by what we have seen so far this season: lack of situational and timely hitting, poor defense, and huge mental lapses at critical moments. The mental aspect of baseball is perhaps the most difficult of skills to master. If the Cubs do not grasp this concept immediately, next year will be 101 years of championship futility.

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Chicago Cubs Pull One Out Of The Fire

Posted by sportsmaven on August 21, 2007

The Kid was dealing it tonight.  I said that to myself after every missed swing and strikeout.  Down and hard with nasty movement.  Giants P Tim Lincecum was bringing the heat and was virtually un-hittable tonight, shutting out the Chicago Cubs on 3 hits through 8 innings.  Then came the 9th inning, the three hardest outs in baseball.  Lincecum deserved better tonight, but he got hit in the 9th, hit by Ryan Theriot, Jacque Jones, and Derrek Lee.  By the time Cliff Floyd and Jason Kendall were through, the Cubs were on their way to a 5-1 victory and Lincecum was hung with a loss.  By the way, is it just me or does Lincecum look like the long lost twin of Ferris’s best friend, Cameron Frye from the movie Ferris Buehler’s Day Off?  Talk about pulling one out tonight, the bats looked dead, Cubs P Jason Marquis looked like a hard luck pitcher.  Marquis threw a wonderful game, escaping time and time again from the 5 walks he issued.

Cubs Pull One Out Of The Fire

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
With the St. Louis Cardinals winning earlier tonight against the Florida Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers taking it to Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs needed this win badly and came through in the clutch.  Wins are at a premium now, with less than 40 games left in the season, the Cubs are finding ways to win.  With OF Alfonso Soriano set to return in the next two weeks, the Cubs surely have another good run in them with their envisioned lineup intact.  Tomorrow’s matchup is a dandy, with Cubs LHP Rich Hill facing Giants LHP Barry Zito….stay tuned for more magic…….

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Chicago Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away

Posted by sportsmaven on May 14, 2007

My posts on the Chicago Cubs this season have generally not been glowing. Tonight’s post will not enter that territory either. The reason being is that the Cubs are headed for a mediocre at best season. Tonight’s game against the New York Mets is a prime example of that. Too many Cubs seasons have either begun with a flourish only to be bogged down by the realities of the level of talent, injury, or futility. Since the division winning season of 2003, the Cubs have been flat, and fundamentally flawed. There have been too many games where the Cubs failed to get bunts down, advance runners, hold runners from advancing, throwing to the correct bases, making too many mental errors, the list goes on.

Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away to Mets

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

This year, the problems again happen to be the same as other years — the bullpen has to be one of the worst in baseball. The Cubs bullpen is 3-10 this season. Ten losses in the first 36 games due to your bullpen. Tonight, 3 walks in the 9th inning, walking in the winning run, by P Michael Wuertz, up to now, the most reliable pitcher in the pen outside of Ryan Dempster. The timely hitting which seemed to appear at the turn of May has given way to the maddening inconsistency that dogged the Cubs in April.

The Cubs can ill afford to hover around the 2 games under .500 mark with roughly 25% of the season already in the books.  On Saturday, the Cubs bullpen gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th after scoring 6 runs in the top of the inning to take a 7-5 lead, ultimately losing that game 11-7.  Some changes need to be made and quickly for this team. The surplus of outfielders might be a good start in picking up some reliable bullpen arms. The latest injury to 1B Derrek Lee is also a great concern. It was about this time last season that Lee was injured in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent the Cubs into a downward, last place spiral for which they could never overcome. Losing Lee again would be a huge blow for this team’s chances. The Cubs have wasted brilliant starting pitching from Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill. The time for this team to come around is now. Excuses are running out, and so is time on a successful season at the rate it’s going now……

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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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