Throw It Like a Ballplayer

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Archive for the ‘Game Commentary’ Category

Pirates 3, Cubs 2; Miles called up to Cards

Posted by dannmckeegan on June 1, 2010

To get it out of the way:  St. Louis called up washed-up grinder Aaron Miles from their minor leagues on Tuesday.  Why, the world may never know.  Perhaps he knows how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.  I bet that’s nagged at Tony and Dunk a long time.

It was interesting to see Lou Piniella run out a lineup on Tuesday that was even more scrub-tastic than a “Sunday lineup.”  While Lou has shown hints of doing so earlier this season, Tuesday night was the first display of a full-on “Eff You” lineup directed at the media.  He sat his starting catcher, first baseman, third baseman, center fielder, and putative second baseman (who started the season as the shortstop).

You think Lee sucks?  Well here’s Xavier Nady (4-4, with a double and a 2-run homer).

You want more Tyler Colvin?  Guess what.  He’s the damn cleanup hitter (0-3, 2 K, 1 BB).

You want Ramirez out of there?  Enjoy Jeff Baker against a right-handed starter (0-3, 1 K, 1 BB).

Castro should move up in the order?  Done; he’s hitting second (0-4, 3 LOB).

Again, Lou probably left his starter in for too many pitches.  Lilly threw a fine ballgame, and a starter can never be blamed for losing a game in giving up 3 runs on 6 hits through 7.2 IP.  Simply put, the offense is to blame.  Against winning pitcher Joel Hanrahan in the 8th inning, Soriano (2), Fontenot (4), and Baker (1) saw a combined 7 pitches.  Seven.  In the 9th against Dotel, pinch hitter Lee (2-0), double-switched Byrd (1-0), and Fukudome (2-0) each had advantageous counts.  The result?  Strikeout.  Strikeout.  Foulout.

This can’t keep going on.  Jeff Baker isn’t really doing much to keep his spot here any more than he previously did with Colorado.  Quick – name something good he’s done this year outside of his two home runs early on.  Koyie Hill actually got a hit in the game; bully for him!  But with Welington Castillo at Triple A (.244 BA, but 6 HR in 24 G; reputedly a defensive +) and Robinson Chirinos at Double A (.347/.406/.628 with 13 doubles, 7 HR, 25 RBI, and 13 BB/11K in just 34 games), at some point shouldn’t the team consider making a few more minor tweaks with the bottom of the roster?  The only Koyie concern is his handling of Silva.  I’d hate to lose that.  But still…

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The home run/steroid/current era write-up is taking way longer than expected.  Hopefully I’ll have it by Friday.  As a note, I had to stop trying to read The Baseball Economists.  I respect arguments that disagree with my beliefs.  I respect arguments that oppose conventional wisdom.  But reasoning from false premises is not worth the hours of my life.

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On Comes Cashner

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 31, 2010

Aramis Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez explains his philosophy of making in-season adjustments and working hard to overcome adversity.

I don’t quite think that “easing him in” as a younger player, as Lou more or less put it, includes multiple men on with two out and a 1-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Yet big righty Andrew Cashner has the good fortune of facing Ronny Cedeno, who for some reason decides to swing away on the kid’s first pitch as a major leaguer.  Pop-up to short, threat over.

On to a 9th inning with Soriano, Soto Colvin, and Castro scheduled to hit.  A strikeout well-earned by Dotel, a sawed-off pop by pinch hitter Colvin that couldn’t find a hole, a lucky flare by Castro, and another strikeout against Theriot, overmatched by anyone and everyone in the midst of his slump.  Dotel has been especially tough on the Cubs this year.

An interesting and painful game to watch.  Randy Wells came back and threw 5 solid innings after an awful Friday against the Cardinals.  Bob Howry had a pretty decent inning again.  Jeff Stevens and Andrew Cashner each got the one out that was asked of them.  Today, it was the often-solid lefties James Russell and Sean Marshall who couldn’t hold back Pittsburgh.  But it’s hardly fair to give James Russell or Sean Marshall the brunt of the blame for this game.

The blame goes to the offense.  One run on FOUR hits (Soriano’s triple in the 2nd; Fukudome’s infield single in the 3rd; Soto’s single in the 4th; and Castro’s single in the 9th).  Fukudome, Byrd, and Lee each drew a walk.  Randy Wells reached on an error on the hardest hit ball by a Cub in this game.

If Aramis Ramirez wasn’t just standing around holding his cock (see inset above) instead of hitting the baseball, the Cubs probably would be .500 or above instead of 4 games below at the end of May.  I do have numbers to back me up.  Specifically, I’m looking at Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. Now, a Replacement-level player at 3B is essentially a backup/fill-in type, as opposed to a truly marginal major leaguer. In 2009, Greg Dobbs had a +0.1 WAR and Brendan Harris had a -0.1 WAR, so that’s “replacement-level,” essentially.  They suck for the most part, but you understand that they can hang on to an MLB roster spot.

From 2004 through 2008, Aramis’ annual WAR stats were 4.8, 4.1, 4.5, 5.3 and 4.7. In 2009, in only 82 games, his WAR was 2.6. So far in 2010, Aramis Ramirez already has a WAR of -1.1 through 42 games played and 51 team games.

So Ramirez, despite his injuries, has comfortably been worth about 4.5 wins above a replacement-level player, while this year has already cost the Cubs 1 win compared to even Chad Tracy (+0.1 WAR). He’s on pace to be worth a 7- or 8-win swing for a full season.  And I mean that in a negative sense.
I’ve generally been patient so far this year.  I’ve understood the team’s unpopular experiments, even if I thought they were odd.  But time is running out.  Cincinnati has Volquez and Chapman at Triple A to bolster their staffs.  St. Louis may or may not be in the market for some upgrades.  And outside of Houston, Milwaukee, Arizona and Pittsburgh, there isn’t a single “Bad” baseball team in the National League.  This is going to be a rough and tumble season for a good while longer.  It’s time to stop being patient.  If Aramis won’t get his proverbial hand out of his pants, then he needs to make his way to the DL.

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Blowin’ in the Wind…

Posted by dannmckeegan on May 1, 2010

…or, why good pitchers who throw 88-92 beat bad pitchers who throw 88-92.

Try to keep the ball in the ballpark and commit to winning an 8-6 ballgame.

I’m paraphrasing retired pitcher Mike Bielecki, who joined Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the radio booth during the bottom of the 6th before singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th inning stretch of Friday’s game between the Cubs and Arizona.  Bielecki’s point was apropos of the playing conditions at Wrigley Field today.  In the midst of a 3-game slide, the Cubs did what they did for 70% of 2009 and plan to do for the near future: rely on their ace to put an end to the bleeding. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Resurgent Alfonso Soriano

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 28, 2010

Soriano, 2010

Alfonso Soriano follows through after making contact. 2010 has been friendly in that regard for Sori.

Having the luxury of living in Chicago and seeing (or occasionally listening to) almost every inning of the Cubs season so far, I have to say that Alfonso Soriano is looking like a much different hitter in the box than he has for the better part of his first three seasons with the club.  He has been a much more patient hitter than in the past, forcing pitchers to work into the count against him.  This being the first season he’s been out of the leadoff spot from the season’s commencement, it’s no surprise that he’s had to change to be effective.  The bigger surprises are that he’s actually done so and that the NL’s pitchers have been there to help him. Read the rest of this entry »

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$20 Million Dollar Bullpen

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 21, 2010

Carlos Zambrano Is Going to the Bullpen

As Harry Caray would have said, HO-LY COW!  WSCR-670AM Chicago is reporting and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com is confirming that Carlos Zambrano will be moved to the bullpen on Ted Lilly’s return from the disabled list this Saturday.  Zambrano, the Cubs opening day starter, is in the middle of a 5-year, $91.5 million contract.  Lou Piniella has reportedly said that the move is not based on Zambrano’s early season performance, but rather that he has the best stuff to succeed in a bullpen role.  Knobler’s blog proceeds to describe the move as “temporary, designed to give general manager Jim Hendry more time to find an adequate setup man in a trade.” Read the rest of this entry »

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All’s Wells That Ends Well

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 16, 2010

I had the privilege of going to the Chicago/Milwaukee game this Wednesday past.  Third base line, 7th row, right at 3rd base.  I had a chance to see my favorite Cubs pitcher work.  Wells was far from his best, but the Brewers are not the kind of team you are trying to shut out.  Of his 104 pitches, 70 were strikes (16 looking/12 swinging).  He allowed 10 hits, but 3 were infield hits, and one of 3 doubles was a poor defensive read.  In baseball as in life, I must agree with P.J. O’Rourke that age and guile are not to be discounted.  Wells may only be a 2nd year player, but he is 28 and a damn smart pitcher.  He is appointment TV/radio/live action. Read the rest of this entry »

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