The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
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Tuesday, May 31, 2005
 

Damaged Goods

The Cubs swapped LaTroy Hawkins for David Aardsma and Jerome Williams on Saturday. I've written extensively about Hawkins before. He was an excellent reliever last year who happened to have some hits drop between fielders at inopportune times. His peripherals slipped some this year, particularly in the last couple weeks (i.e. after the abuse from the fans really ratcheted up, not that I can show their behavior was responsible.) He leaves with a 2.76 ERA as a Cub (3.32 this year.)

Even if I'm right and short-sighted management and fans did push Hawkins out the door early, all is not necessarily lost. Jim Hendry managed to pick up two young arms while getting Hawkins' salary off the books. Let's take a look at their numbers and try to see if we might have gotten a nice baby or two in return for the one that went out with the bathwater.

David Aardsma
YearAgeLevelTeamIPERAHR%BB%K%
200220NCAARice59.03.512.0%5.5%20.7%
200321NCAARice57.72.971.3%7.9%19.2%
200321ASan Jose18.31.962.6%9.2%36.8%
200422AAAFresno55.33.090.8%12.0%22.0%
200422MLBSan Francisco10.76.751.6%16.1%8.1%
200523AANorwich46.02.931.0%6.7%15.4%
200523AAWest Tenn5.01.80.0%21.7%21.7%

Aardsma was a college closer. Historically top major league releivers have generally come from a background of starting, but in recent years there have been more examples of releivers developing as relievers and still finding success. Aardsma's control left him last year, as he posted abnormally high BB rates both with the Giants and in AAA. He seems to have reigned that in while working in the rotation in AA this year, but reports are that his mechanics and velocity have taken a turn for the worse.

Jerome Williams
YearAgeLevelTeamIPERAHR%BB%K%
200119AAShreveport130.03.952.6%6.3%15.6%
200220AAAFresno160.73.592.4%7.4%19.3%
200321AAAFresno57.02.681.3%6.7%16.7%
200321MLBSan Francisco131.03.301.8%8.8%15.8%
200422MLBSan Francisco129.34.242.5%7.9%14.4%
200523MLBSan Francisco16.76.482.7%5.3%14.7%
200523AAAFresno30.79.391.9%10.9%9.6%

Jerome Williams was a first round pick and pitched well at every level of the minor leagues. He had a strong rookie year at age 21, but after a solid first two months of his sophmore season things took a turn for the worse. All his peripherals went south in June leading up to an elbow scope in July. He returned to make one good start in a key pennant-race game in September, and kicked things off this year with a strong start against the Padres. Felipe Alou used an off day to skip Williams' next start, used him in one shaky relief outing, and returned him to the rotation where he was shelled in two starts. The Giants elected to send him down, a move he wasn't happy with. After a few poor outings, Williams picked things up showing improved mechanics and velocity before the trade.


So we have three pitchers. Each has shown good reason to think they can be above average major league pitchers. Each has also shown reason at least to some to think they may be ready to flame out and disappear. I think Hawkins is the most likely of the three to be a major league contributor, but he comes with a larger price tag and as a reliever his upside is limited compared to Williams'. On paper I think this deal is at least a draw, with the Cubs receiving more talent and winning the deal if Williams proves to be healthy. Considering the corner Hendry was backed into concerning Hawkins status with management and the fans, I am surprised he was able to get this much in return. Its a shame the fans forced Hawkins out the door, but if he had to go its nice to get this much in return. Considering the Sosa deal, getting value for players the fans have buried seems to be a skill of Hendry's. With the way the Mariotti's and sports talk callers like to bury Cubs players, its a skill that Cubs GMs seem to need.

And now I am going to concentrate on listening to Ronnie drool over former Who's the Boss star "Alyssa Romano". Good times.


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Monday, May 30, 2005
 

Chicago Roundup

Like a latter-day Ferris Bueller, I ditched work and took my native-Chicagoan father to Wrigley and points beyond this weekend. Here are the highlights, sans subjects to save you time and because the predicate-only approach gives that you-are-there grittiness. You know you love it.
Thursday
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAwoke at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first AirTran flight of the day to Chicago. Landed, picked up the rental car, and motored over to River Forest where we visited the apartment Dad lived in from birth to age 14, had an ice cream cone at his old neighborhood hangout, saw Ernest Hemingway's birth home and about a dozen Frank Lloyd Wright houses, walked through his old elementary school and junior high, and finally had lunch at Russell's BBQ. (I see the absurdity in leaving Georgia and heading to Illinois to have barbeque, but this was a trip for Dad so I didn't say anything.)

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usDrove towards Wrigleyville, passed my grandfather's high school, and parked almost a mile from the park because I didn't realize we could've gotten closer. Walked down Addison to the stadium, arriving just in time to get our tickets from Al Yellon through the gate and make it to our seats for the national anthem. Sat through an entirely mediocre performance from our Cubs against one of the weakest teams in baseball. Cast two all-star ballots for Neifi in honor of the two good things he did during the game. Did get my fifth in-person meeting with a Cubs blogger, as Byron of The Cubdom happened to be visiting Al's corner of the bleacher's as well.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usLeft the park and zipped over to our ritzy downtown hotel, the Palmer House (thank you, Priceline!) All I could think was that I was staying in a hotel named after the president. Changed clothes, hit the Art Institute for a couple hours, then proceeded onto Symphony Center for Bruckner's 9th from seats behind the orchestra. (Dad's a bit of a musician himself and has a special affinity for the CSO.) Capped off a full day with dinner at an outside table in a cafe on Michigan Avenue, marred by two different bums entering the cafe area to interrupt people's dinner's with requests for money as well as listening to the guy at the next table berate his girlfriend on the cell phone. Other than the loss and the dinner, a great day.

Friday
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWoke at 6:30 and drove to New Trier High School. I've spent my whole life trying to supress the urge to vomit each of the countless times I've heard Dad brag about his wonderful high school, but its his trip so I had set up a tour with their alumni office. (Yes, the high school has an alumni office with a full-time staff.) Saw the famous meeting clock, the home room where Dad through paper airplanes out the window at the girls' home room across the courtyard, and the room where the AP newswire teletype told Dad's class Kennedy had been shot. Left the car at the north end of the El (Linden Station) and took the train down to Wrigley.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usDid some shopping at the best Cubs merchandise store I know (and sponsor of the CBA Prediction Contest), had lunch at a Wrigleyville bar/restaurant, and proceeded to meet Al and the gang in the bleachers. Saw good Cubs pitching, superb Cubs hitting, solid Cubs defense, and a thoroughly entertaining Cubs win, all except for the part where Mark Prior broke his arm. Sigh.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usTook the El back to the car and drove on to the school at which my parents met. Walked around campus and saw Dad's dorm, Mom's dorm, various classroom and administration buildings, places where Dad aided, abetted, or participated in various misdemeanors, and the school's share of the Lake Michigan beach. Ate dinner at the campus pub, interrupted by running outside to see the sharpest, brightest, largest, most colorful rainbow I had ever seen. (The picture doesn't do it justice. For one thing it was a double, for another the picture gives no sense of the scale as it spanned the sky, and finally you don't get the atmosphere of people leaving their dinner tables to run out in the street and gawk.) Drove back to the hotel, stopping at a Home Depot to pick up a plant as a gift for the next morning. Blogged briefly, checked the soccer weather for Saturday, and went to sleep.

Saturday
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWoke at 7, packed, and drove out to Wilmette to meet my dad's mother for the first time. It was a bit strange, but she was friendly and bought us a very tasty breakfast which always helps break the ice. (I had some sort of apple pancake topped with ice cream. I like just about anyone who buys me something topped with ice cream.) Saw her neighborhood and house, bid our adieus, and headed back in town.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usParked the car in a tiny garage a mile from Soldier Field and walked to the stadium. Made it with ten minutes to spare before game time. Took spots in the middle of the Sam's Army section before spotting people I knew and moving down to the front with them. Saw us commit a stupid foul and saw England bury the free kick to put us down 1-0 almost immediately. Saw us give up another goal to a glaringly open English striker right before the half to go down 2-0. Saw Landon Donovan beat the keeper but hit the post with a gorgeous free kick, and then miss an empty 70% of the net when he got 1 on 1 with said keeper later. Saw us get one back on a second-half scramble at the other end, and seem to create the majority of the chances the rest of the way while failing to put enough shots on goal to get the equalizer. Left the game, endured condescending comments from England fans on the street, made it back to the airport, endured condescending comments from English fans in the airport, vowed to root for Argentina next time, boarded the plane and flew home.

If you allow for the fact that the three games I saw were a loss, the breaking of Mark Prior's arm, and another loss, it was one fantastic trip. My career undefeated record at Wrigley Field has now dropped to 5-1, but as one of Al's pals pointed out that's still better than any of their records. It irked me losing to those patronizing English snobs, but I am convinced we can beat them, and next time we play them in a game that matters I think we will. Its funny- we lost in Mexico, to a country with far more reason to want to beat the US and with far more soccer pride having been lost at our hands in recent memory, and everyone I talked to afterwards was cordial and (within reason) elected not to rub it in. Lose a friendly (exhibition) to England and you're hearing about it in the most condescending manner imaginable from every one of their portly middle-aged wannabe hooligans. Ah well, still a great trip.

Back tomorrow with my thoughts on the recent hot streak and the LaTroy Hawkins trade.


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Saturday, May 28, 2005
 

I killed Mark Prior

And we lost to the Rockies, and I lost my validated parking pass the hotel already charged me $25 for so I now have to buy a $30 version tomorrow, and I can't figure out how to upload the pic I took of Byron, Al, and myself in the bleachers, and I have no idea how I am going to get from the hotel to my grandmother's to Soldier Field to the airport all in ten hours tomorrow. Other than that, its been a great trip! Back with more as soon as I get home.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005
 

Six in a row


What does the headline represent? It is not the number of Cub wins in a row - although playing the Astros and the Rockies could easily get the Cubs to that mark. It is not the number of days I have hit the treadmill - that number is more like zero. It is not even the consecutive ABs in which Patterson has swung at a ball over his head. Six in a row represents the number of batters Dempster has retired thus far in the Astros series.


Yankee fans don't get excited about their closer doing his job day in and day out, but six in a row is a gift from the heaven's above for this ballclub. The team has lost so many heartbreaking games this season, so it is finally nice to see them not only comeback in games but be able to hold down the lead. Dempster looked great last evening mixing his fastball with a little backup sinker and nice slider. He made the second batter of the inning look silly on a pitch that practically bounced to the plate.


Rumors abound in the paper that Hawkins is trade bait. I am not sure this is the smartest move for the team since it could be argued from the neck down he has the most talent in the bullpen. I suspect the part above the neck is the main concern for Cubs' brass and maybe a good ol' challenge trade would be good for him. Certainly I hope they get fair value if he is indeed traded. It would be a shame if someone fleeced the Cubs under the guise of damaged goods. Again, I have no clue if he will be traded, but it is telling when Wuertz is summoned in the 8th inning to put out the fire and not Hawkins. He is clearly without a role at the present time.


Last night's game was the first time in about a month that I truly thought they were going to win. I think the crowd sensed the same thing. Lee got his walk and I was just sure Burnitz would come though. It was nice to have that feeling again. Teams go through good and bad stretches during the season - maybe the Cubs just decided to get their bad stretch(s) out of the way early. They certainly have the immediate schedule in their favor to end the homestand a few games above .500.


The end of 24


24 concluded its 4th season Monday night. I would have to say it was the best season thus far. The story was tight, the action was good and the suspense was off the charts. There were a few odd things as always (like why did Tony and Jack have a locker room meeting at the end of the episode when they were both at CTU on a provisional basis. Did they just keep their lockers from previous seasons?), but overall it was a very good season. I thought the ending was good (I will not spoil) although I was surprised they ended the terrorist plot so soon in the last episode. The world was spared destruction with 30 minutes left in the season. I was wondering if the last half hour would be Jack in the bathroom - after all he had not been in 24 hours.


Speaking of 24, I am reading a book at the moment that uses 24 as an example of the overall upgrade in the intelligence of television and other popular culture. It is a really interesting read. The author comes to the conclusion that people not only benefit from television and mediums that require active thinking, but they seek them out. This is why complex games are popular as well as television shows with multiple plot lines and sitcoms with old inside jokes like Seinfeld or The Simpsons. He also argues that video games actually help develop core essential skills that are overlooked when people lament about children wasting their time playing them. If you disagree with curmudgeons that state television and popular culture today is nothing more than mindless garbage, then this is worth checking out.


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I'm glad she's taking all his money

I don't follow NASCAR, but I knew when I saw him doing Pepsi commercials he couldn't be trusted. He told an interviewer Sunday that he was worried about singing Tuesday because he didn't know the words. Well he had 48 hours! And there aren't that many words!

Oh, and we won our third in a row on a night when we sent out Sergio Mitre, Clemens started and dominated, and we trailed by two in the eighth. Color me surprised, in a good way. I'd write more, but I stayed up to watch my Spurs roll through the Most Valuable No-Defense Player and his Phoenix teammates so I need to get to bed. Greg Maddux goes for the sweep against Brandon Backe tomorrow, and I pack for my Chicago jaunt. If Maddux can win, my automatic two wins Thursday and Friday will put us on a six-game win streak. Lets do it.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
 

A Grave Mistake

Sometimes I have to really scratch my head to come up with a headline, but sometimes the mediocre pun just leaps out at me. Reds reliever Danny Graves was designated for assignment yesterday, meaning the Reds have ten days to trade him or allow him to become a free agent. Graves' 7.36 ERA is presumably the underlying reason for the DFA, but the last straw was when he flipped off a fan while leaving the field after giving up five in the ninth Sunday. With the Cubs' bullpen struggles well documented, its not surprising that both the Trib and Sun-Times have the Cubs showing interest. Is Danny Graves a part of the solution to the our relief woes?

YearBB%K%HR%G/FERADERA
199910.415.32.22.323.083.48
200010.013.92.12.212.562.92
20014.814.82.11.994.154.06
20024.714.41.72.23.193.25
20035.78.24.11.365.335.31
20043.214.14.21.693.954.77
20059.48.34.20.977.367.90

I've chosen to look at HR, BB, and K as a percentage of total batters faced, as well as groundball/flyball ratio, ERA, and DERA. I normally wouldn't bother looking seven years into the past for ideas about how a pitcher is likely to perform this year, but I think here its worthwhile to see what sort of pitcher Graves was before and after his one-year stint as a starter in 2003. Through 2002, Graves had settled into a groove as a decent albeit unspectacular releiver. His strikeout rates were always low, but he compensated by keeping the ball in the park. In 2002 the Red Sox asked Derek Lowe to start, and when the Reds saw Lowe's sucess they followed suit with Graves in 2003.

As a starter, things went south for Graves in a hurry. His G/F ratio went from a steady 2.0 to the low 1's. With everything being hit in the air, his homer rate doubled. What's worse, his already low strikeout rate cratered to 8.2% (a dreadful 3.2 K/9 IP). His ERA shot up to 5.33, the experiment was deemed a failure, and Graves returned to the bullpen where he lived happily ever after.

Or not. In 2004 Graves strikeout rate recovered and his control actually improved a bit, but his G/F and homer rate remained at their new ugly levels. His ERA was a decent 3.95, but a DERA of 4.77 indicates that the improvement was largely superficial.

So far this year, things have only gotten worse. Graves' K-rate has fallen back to the low of 2003. His walk rate is up, and his homer rate and G/F have stayed high. ERA and DERA agree, this is a bad pitcher. The Cincy newspaper says Graves' velocity has fallen from 93 to 87 since entering the starting rotation with no recovery since returning to the pen. A loss of velocity could indicate a nagging injury, but considering the evidence of Graves' performance the last three years its enough to say he is no longer a good pitcher without needing to speculate as to the cause.

Trading anything of value to the Reds for the right to pay Danny Graves' salary would be a mistake. There is no reason to think bringing Graves on board would do anything but exacerbate our bullpen's flamability. I wouldn't be opposed to giving him a shot at Iowa to see if he could get it back, but I suspect he'll catch on somewhere in the majors so AAA won't be an option. Its just as well, because Graves wasn't that good at his peak and is far worse now.

Or, as Dennis succinctly put it in the comments, "vomit."


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Sunday, May 22, 2005
 

So what's up with Scott?

Today I am posting a bunch of random stuff that's been on my mind and/or going on with me lately. Wait, wait, don't leave! I don't have a choice! I mean, this wouldn't a blog if I didn't write self-indulgent garbage that's irrelevant to anyone but me. So here's what I'll do to keep it interesting- somewhere in the post I'm going to talk about the Cubs... but I won't tell you when! You'll just have to read through every excruciating detail of my mind to get there. Its Being Scott Lange and it starts now:
  • The big news on the Scott front is a return to being in some kind of respectable physical shape. On New Year's Day, I weighed 250 pounds and hadn't run more than one mile in seven years. Today I weigh 192 pounds and yesterday I ran 10k (6.2 miles) in 1:02. I say this not to brag... well, yes, I say it to brag. I am beside myself with glee over how well things have gone. I suffered a pretty severe injury December '98, and for a long time afterwards I didn't really expect to ever be in any kind of shape again. Its a tremendous feeling to be pretty much back to my old self.
  • I've become a season ticket holder for a sports team for the first time in my life, purchasing two tickets for every Atlanta Silverbacks home soccer game. I always assumed when I was a grown up that I would be buying Braves season tickets, but at some point I learned that they don't give you any kind of discount. You buy a twelve-pack of Coke, you get a discount. You buy the family size at Sam's Club, you get a discount. You buy 81 baseball tickets, you pay full price and have to buy a few pre-season exhibition tickets at full-price to boot. For the Backs, I'm paying half-price for 14 men's home games and getting free parking and free tickets to all seven home games for the women's team as well. Not too bad.

    Anyway, the Backs are Atlanta's entry in USL Division 1, the professional league one step down from MLS. Their management has made a real commitment to building a quality franchise the last couple years. They are building a 5,000 seat SSS (Soccer-Specific Stadium) for the team as well as a training complex, hotel, and team-themed bar/restaurant on-site. They've made being a minor-league soccer season ticket-holder a chance to be part of a happening, and I couldn't be happier.

  • My baby arrived last week. You can see a cute picture here. Gazing at the darling thing, I feel a joy in my heart unequaled in recent memory. I never really got the whole "baby" thing, but now that I have one of my own I see why people are willing to devote so much of their lives to one. I mean, you can see every blemish on Marv Albert's face. Every single one!
  • And the Cubs. See how I left that till the end? Its called a tease, and its how we professional media types get you to stick with us till the good stuff comes. Today the good stuff was Mark Prior, walking one and striking out seven en route to a 4-3 win to stave off the sweep. There can be too much of a good thing though, and Dusty went looking for it as he kept Prior in after throwing 110 pitched through eight, and then continued to keep him in after Paul Konerko hit the White Sox third solo homer of the day with one out in the ninth. While I stand by my claim yesterday that we should still be playing to make the playoffs, I'd still rather see a reliever once Prior has 110+ pitches and seems to be losing some effectiveness.

    But I can't say I am dissapointed with the end result. Getting swept by the Sox would've been a real blow to morale, both of the players and the fans. With the win, we now enter a soft stretch in the schedule with a chance to get things moving in the right direction. Tomorrow night, the Astros send Wandy Rodriguez to the mound for his major league debut. He had a 3.69 ERA in eight starts at AAA Round Rock. His numbers show good stuff (48 K and 16 BB in 46.1 innings) but a tendancy to give up the long ball (7 HR allowed.) Let's hope the Cubs get some baserunners on before Lee inevitably goes deep.

    Lets go Cubs!


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Saturday, May 21, 2005
 

Wuertz for closer!

Sorry, I know that's not funny. I just don't know what else to say after the pen not only failed to close the door, but made sure the door was shut again behind the White Sox after they walked through it. The Cubs comeback thus fell short, and its another day, another loss, another game further behind St. Louis.

Tomorrow is another day, and it will see Mark Prior face Orlando Hernandez. The El Duque Experience finally hit a bump in the road his last start. Until Monday night against the Rangers, Hernandez had been walking a ton and not striking out many at all, but keeping the ball in the park and getting key outs. Then Texas visited the Cell and by the time he was lifted in the third, Hernandez had seen his ERA jump a full point to 3.91.

As lousy as things have gone so far, and as little faith as I have in Baker's (and increasingly Hendry's) ability to find some solutions, its still too early to throw in the towel. BP's estimator says we are around 11% to make the playoffs, so teams have certainly dug themselves out from bigger, darker, uglier holes than this. No better time to start the comeback than tomorrow.

But hey, if we do lose it should bring down the market price for my tickets Thursday and Friday.


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Friday, May 20, 2005
 

Sox 5, Cubs 1

The opening round goes to the Southside. I got home in time to catch the last three innings, which featured a few faint stabs at a rally but when you call on Enrique Wilson as your top bat off the bench, you pretty much deserve what you get. Greg Maddux had his usual "keep us in the game" performance, allowing a walk and a solo homer but striking out only one Southsider. His strikeout rate has slipped some this year, and losing K's leads to hits which leads to runs. He's still serviceable, but we're going to have to get him some runs most times out.

Tomorrow a hopefully healthy Carlos Zambrano faces the senior Senor, Jose Contreras. I heard straight from Ronnie's mouth that he likes our chances, so take it to Vegas: Cubs win tomorrow.


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Back from the dead

The Cubs have sprung to life with two ninth-inning wins over the Pirates this week, and my Northside Lounge career is likewise springing back to life. I've decided to leave The Cub Reporter in the capable hands of Christian and his posse and resume full-time blathering here at the good old Northside Lounge. They run the best ship in the fleet, but it was hard for me to motivate myself working for someone else's baby so I'm coming home. Please, send cash rather than boxed gifts. Unwrapping is so much hassle.

So what have I missed? The dawning of the Enrique Wilson era, for one. I'm going to assume its Dusty calling this particular shot, largely because I don't want to think Hendry feels like he needs a guy whose OPS this millenium has ranged from a high of .639 to a low of .519. I also missed the opportunity to talk about Big Z's injury the other day. I don't believe you can be certain about drawing causation between his 136 pitch outing and the injury in his next start, but I'm at the point where I'll take any evidence I can get that helps draw the Dusty era to a close.

On deck for the Cubs, a visit from the Pale Hose. I often find Frank Deford overblown, but he had a point the other day. Nice nickname notwithstanding, they are still the obnoxious faux proletariat whiners from the other side of town and it would be awfully nice to knock them off their pedestal. This series marked the beginning of the end for the Cubs hopes a few years back and it would be lovely to return the favor. The Old Man with the C on his cap goes for the home team and its Freddy Garcia for the Sox.

There are about a million odds and ends I want to talk about, but I'm going to save them for a bullet point post over the weekend. One piece of personal news: I'm taking my father to Chicago next weekend as a combo Father's Day/birthday present. He grew up in Chicago but has only rarely gotten to go back and we've never ben together, so I am very much looking forward to seeing the sites. Plus, I've never gotten to make fun of his wildly overrated alma mater while actually standing in front of it, so that's something. We'll be at the Cubs/Rockies games Thursday and Friday and then the US/UK friendly at Solider Field on Saturday. Hopefully the Cubs roll will continue through the White Sox and right on into our visit.

Lets go Cubs!


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Wednesday, May 11, 2005
 

Cubs get back on track


It is hard to describe May games as must win, but with the Cardinals not losing much and the Cubs far under .500 games are becoming important quickly. With that in mind Greg Maddux came out and pitched one of his best games since returning to the Cubs. He struck out 10 batters and combined with the bullpen to shut down the Mets. The offense sparked to life with the long ball and posted the victory 7-0. They go for the series win this afternoon (and homstand split) with Mr. Prior on the mound against the Mets version of Zambrano. He is the one with more hair and less pitching ability.


Yesterday I talked about how bad the Cubs have been at getting on base. Today I decided to dig up some work on the other side of the ball - namely the pitching. The bullpen has been terrible early in the season and the main reason is the rate at which they are putting runners on base.


The Cubs relievers (according to ESPN.com as of yesterday's game) have walked a league leading 59 batters thus far this season. Now, that is not the far and away leader in raw walk totals since Cincinnati has given up 56 free passes, San Francisco 56 and Colorado 55. The sad part of this is that the Cubs have walked this many in drastically less opponent ABs.
Using a crude approximation for plate appearances (AB + BB), the Cubs have walked a batter in 14.1% of their opponents plate appearances. This is easily the largest in the league. Comparing to a league average of 11%, the Cubs walk batters 28% more often than average. Florida is the best in the league walking batters 21% less frequently than average.


Baseball can be a simple game at times. Hits and errors happen but pitchers should be able to control walks and minimize the damage of those hits. Putting runners on base especially late is a recipe for disaster. Disaster is what has happened a few times already this season.


I finally found a copy of Cubs Nation at the local bookstore and have read the first two months (chapters). It is a lot different than I expected, but a wonderful read thus far. It really focuses on the people around the Cubs: players, fans, employees, media types and not necessarily the games of last season. The games just serve as the medium to keep the stories going. I will write more about it when I finish.


The Amazing Race Finale


The Amazing Race concluded its seventh season last evening. Amber and Rob of Survivor fame looked like they were going to win easily before the eventual winners Uchenna and Joyce were let onto a plane with them and beat them down the stretch. I enjoyed this season a lot more than the others because of Rob and Amber. No one wanted the famous couple to win, but they schemed and played their way to the top. Just some great moments along the way. I am a fan of both Survivor and The Amazing Race, but this season proved why Race is a better show (in my opinion).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005
 

Oh the humanity


Another comeback effort, another tying homer, another soul crushing - bullpen depleating defeat yesterday to the Mets. Barrett tried his best to play the hero last evening smacking a three run homer to tie the game only to have LaTroy serve up a LaDinger to former teammate Doug M(too lazy to look up how to spell his name). LaTroy has taken the L in his last three performances. The Cubs have now dropped 8 of their last 9.


This team needs a few things: a shakeup somewhere, definitely some better bullpen pitching, but most of all some freaking offense. The Cubs have eight players with enough PAs to be counted among lead leaders. Here are the OBPs of this murderer's row: 290, 326, 333, 485, 337, 273, 283, and 347. That is one stellar performance 4 around the league average and 3 nearly automatic outs. One of the average OBPs belongs to Neifi Perez and it surely will not last - although I hope it does.


I am not sure what to think of Patterson. His OBP this season is 290 mainly becaue he swings at pitches he would need a step ladder to reach. This will be his fourth full season and he has never topped an 330 OBP. Part of me wonders if we should trade him for an arm and maybe get someone who can get on base. As it stands now, he should not lead off, his below average SLG makes his crappy for the middle of the lineup and Dusty will not drop him lower. That leaves the team struggling for runs.


Cruising the stats, I certainly was not surprised to see some low OBP numbers, but one really struck me. Hollandworth is batting 211 and getting on base at a 283 clip. He is basically proving that he is better served to be a left handed power man off the bench. I cannot understand why Dubois is not getting a shot. Maybe Dusty feels that if failure is to come and his job is on the line then he will go out with veterans. Of course, those vets might be leading to his demise.


All in all a frustrating night for the Northsiders although interesting game for me. Aaron Heilman is actually from the same small county in Indiana as me, so I try to follow his career. Not much comes from Cass County so it is good to see him in the majors. Of course, I would have loved to have seen him take the L last evening. Maybe things will go better this evening as the Cubs try to get back on the correct side of the ledger.


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Friday, May 06, 2005
 

I am without words


It can't get any worse, can it? Try to have a nice weekend.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005
 

Wonderfully average


I will share a little secret with the readers, or reader (Hi Dad), of The Northside Lounge. I am not really enjoying this season or this team at this moment. If I had to describe them in one word it would be vanilla. They just don't seem to care about much. Due to injuries and management decisions, they are playing 2-3 people per night who would be better served to come off the bench, the bullpen is awful and only one or two players a night try to hit.


Plus they have not played a real tough schedule to this point. The Cardinals are doing what they should be doing - beating bad teams - while the Cubs find ways to lose games and battle the .500 mark. I have to admit this is one of the more frustrating seasons I have encountered. I just hope they are not 10 games back at the break.


After last evening's walk off walk the Cubs are 12-14 and mired in third place behind the Cardinals and the freaking Brewers. They are already six games off the pace. As mentioned before, the real bad part is the number of those games which were easly winnable. I decided that I would go through the losses and try to assess how many of them should have been wins. Truly this is an exercise that will leave me depressed, but maybe they are getting all the bad losses out of the way early.



  • Loss #1 5-4 D'backs - Maddux got nailed twice by Gonzalez and Russ Ortiz wiggled off the hook quite a few times in this game. The Cubs had the tieing run to the plate late and could not score. These sorts of games happen from time to time.
  • Loss #2 8-3 D'backs - Dempster makes his first start of the season and gets torched. Troy Glaus is the star of the game and the Barrett is the Cubs only offense. Blowouts do happen from time to time, so not that devasting of a loss.
  • Loss #3 6-3 Brewers - This is the first gut punch of the season. LaTroy gives up a two out single and then a double to knot the game. Adding to insult to injury, Hollandsworth had a shot at the double and could not pick up the ball. Leicester gives up three in the 12th and the home opener is ruined.
  • Loss #4 1-0 Padres - Burnitz would have earned goat horns for this game, but goats are not allowed in Wrigley. His error led to the only run of the game - unearned. He also struck out twice late stranding runners. Again, this is a game the Cubs should have won.
  • Loss #5 8-3 Padres - Wood has a terrible day giving up 5 runs in the first 2 innings and the Padres cruise. Again, bad outings happen from time to time, so this is not a real bad loss.
  • Loss #6 8-5 Pirates - The Cubs held leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 in this game befofre letting the Pirates chip away and steal the game. Ex-Cub Bobby Hill's two run double in the 8th provides the cushion the Pirates would need.
  • Loss #7 7-6 Reds - The Cubs got 4 two run outs in the first and held leads of 4-0 and 5-1. Wood never got comfortable on the mound and let the Reds chip away. Leicester came into the game and loaded the bases only to almost escape the inning before a Jason LaRue double plated two runs in the eighth. This one hurt a lot.
  • Loss #8 4-0 Cardinals - The Cubs decided to have sleepy time on the offensive side of the plate giving the Cards a split of this abbreviated series. Remlinger also gave up an insurance homer to Larry Walker in the 8th. Of course, everyone knows that righties hit worse off him, right?
  • Loss #9 4-3 Pirates - Clinging to a one run lead in the ninth, the Cubs trotted out LaTroy Hawkins to seal the deal. He failed. Jason Bay hit a homer to tie it Freddy Sanchez hit a triple to win the ballgame. This was the game that finally convinced Baker to give Chad Fox a shot at closing.
  • Loss #10 11-9 Reds - A Jason Dubois homer in the 5th gave the Cubs a 8-6 lead in this ballgame, but errors by Dubois and Patterson helped the Reds get on the comeback trail. Valentin's two run single in the 7th gave the Reds a lead they would never lose. Good teams have to hold leads against bad ones and the Cubs refuse to do it.
  • Loss #11 7-5 Astros - Another loss and another Wood early exit. He gave up three in the first and left in the third. Luckily for young Bartosh, the Cubs tied it up so he was hung with the loss. I would say this was more of a run of a mill loss, which is not all that bad considering some of the others this season.
  • Loss #12 9-3 Astros - In an inning eerily similar to the Bartman inning in 2003, Mark Prior could not stop the bleeding in the 6th. The Cubs were staked to a 3-1 lead off Roy Oswalt, but Prior loaded the bases with 1 out. He struck out a man for the second out and got to 0-2 on the next batter. He made a mistake and boom, grand slam, lead gone. Compunding the issue, he walked the next two and gave up a three run homer to the next guy. 4 batters - 7 runs and ballgame over. The Cubs never recovered.
  • Loss #13 4-1 Brewers - Another offense sleepy night as the Cubs only obtained one hit in the final six innings. Their only run came on a Blanco homer which can mean a lot of things - none of them good. Zambrano pitched reasonably well but had one bad inning. Of course, if Ramirez does not misplay a ball into a double down the line, the game could have been different.
  • Loss #14 4-3 Brewers - The Brewers and the Cubs went back and forth all night and the game was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Young Novoa came in the ninth to try and force extra innings. The Cubs opted to walk a red hot Lyle Overbay to load the bases for weak hitting Damien Miller. Seems like a decent strtegy if your bullpen can throw strikes. This one cannot, and the winning run strolled home four wayward pitches later.

Reasonably, the Cubs should have 5-6 more wins. Of course they do not have those wins. I am worried this will become sort of a season long epidemic. I am also worried that they will miss the playoffs by two games leaving fans with another winter of nothing but sad thoughts of another lost season.

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Monday, May 02, 2005
 

Roids: All the Rage

At first, it was just the youngsters fooling around with them. Then they got Alex Sanchez, but he was just a Devil Ray. Now they've nailed Juan Rincon, an actual major league baseball player.

I'm going to make a prediction: this isn't going to end without one or more Cubs being caught up in it. Trading the guy who hit all the homers doesn't mean we get a free pass, whether or not Rick Reilly's gutless implications were close to the mark. One of these days I'm going to fire up my web browser and read that Michael Barrett, or Derrek Lee, or Mike Remlinger, or some other Cub has tested positive and been suspended.

And then what? Will I still cheer for the Cubs? Sure. Will I still root for the player(s) in question? Probably. I suppose I'll be angry and feel a bit betrayed, but chances are I'll be willing to forgive and forget. I think its best that I think about this now though, rather than waiting until I am taken by surprise some afternoon down the road. I'd like to start the healing process by building up a thicker skin now.


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You know you want to

Click here to find out how and why. Just do it. It will feel so good...

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Sunday, May 01, 2005
 

CBA Prediction Contest Update

I've got the standings through the end of April for you. Ken Kocanda of Die-Hard Cubs Fun leads the contest with a whopping 108 points, despite not picking Derrek Lee to lead anything. He's getting his points from accurate predictions on wins and pitching categories. Jeff Biddle leads all readers with 105 points, getting a lot of points from wins and runs allowed.

I also have prize announcements. First, the good folks at Wrigleyville Sports have agreed to sponsor the 2005 Contest! You may have been inside their store at 959 W. Addison, right across the street from Wrigley Field. I've purchased three jerseys from their website over the years and always gotten top-notch service. Now I am not claiming that the money I spent on my Hee Seop Choi jersey in 2003 was a wise investment, but I can't blame that on Wrigleyville Sports. At any rate, here are the two prize packages:


The Wrigleyville Sports Package
$100 in gift cards for Wrigleyville Sports
The Ron Santo Package
1961 Topps Ron Santo Rookie Card
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1969 Sports Illustrated- Ron Santo Cover
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1971 Ron Santo Appreciation Day Pin
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Ron Santo Bobblehead
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2003 Topps Ron Santo Autograph Card
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The highest score among all bloggers will win one package and the highest score among readers will win the other. The highest overall score will get to choose which package they receive. Without further ado, the standings:
RankNameRepresentingPoints
1Ken Kocandahttp://cubsfun.blogspot.com108
2Jeff BiddleReader105
3Paul Gibsonhttp://1060west.blogspot.com/100
4Jason Steffenshttp://www.cubsnet.com95
5Michael RothReader94
6Alex GartonReader92
6Mike WeberReader92
6Chris ButlerReader92
9Kurt Evanshttp://www.cubnation.facetious.org/90
10Chris Yarbroughhttp://yarbage.blogspot.com/89
11Todd Andrewshttp://endthedrought.blogspot.com/88
12Ned Maceyhttp://manofleisuresports.com87
12Brian StephensReader87
14Eric HanauerReader85
15Jeff HajdukReader84
15Brian PackReader84
17John Quellehttp://www.cubbycorner.blogspot.com/82
17Phillip DauerReader82
17Joe DiMariaReader82
17Patrick LindseyReader82
21John Hillhttp://www.all-baseball.com/cubreporter/81
21Joe Aiellohttp://www.viewfromthebleachers.com81
21Michael KenneyReader81
24Rob Glowackihttp://www.all-baseball.com/cubreporter/80
25Michael GrottanoReader79
25Chris TrohaReader79
25Kevin CreutzReader79
25David M. GeiserReader79
25Kermit FrancisReader79
30Joel WilsnackReader78
31Scott Langehttp://northside.blogspot.com77
31Jason Riegerhttp://graceandwayne.blogspot.com/77
33Shawn Killianhttp://www.wrigleyfieldjail.blogspot.com/76
33Graham Funkhttp://acubfanrants.blogspot.com/76
35Derek BruinoogeReader75
36Al Yellonhttp://www.bleedcubbieblue.com74
36Dave MiyakeReader74
38James Crocketthttp://northofwrigleyfield.blogspot.com/73
39Joel Reyeshttp://cubsfun.blogspot.com71
39Cody CahillReader71
39Jay RudakReader71
42Greg HarperReader70
43Rob Letterlyhttp://uncouthsloth.blogspot.com/69
44Brian OlmsteadReader68
45Byron Clarkehttp://www.thecubdom.com/67
45Michael Jansenhttp://oldstylecubs.blogspot.com/67
47Christian Ruzichhttp://www.all-baseball.com/cubreporter/66
48Dave Lowitzkihttp://cubs.brendoman.com65
48Danial BognichReader65
50Bob Sandheinrichhttp://www.bobohilario.blogspot.com/64
50Doug PapentheinReader64
52Jason ColeReader63
53Aaron DavisReader61
54Tony ScottReader60
54Dave RehmReader60
56Full Servaishttp://discowolf.blogspot.com/58
56John WrightReader58
58John Marcushttp://www.cubs4breakfast.blogspot.com/57
58Sean HoganReader57
60Jessica RosnerReader50
61Scott G. F.Reader44
62Dan SchillerReader42
63UnknownReader39
64Mike Donohuehttp://www.nadablog.com/94yac/37
65Caroline Basilehttp://baseballmadness.blogspot.com 24


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